Stitching for a good cause

Hello everyone! I said in my update post that part of the reason I’ve been quiet on here recently is because work has been busy and I haven’t felt like getting back on the computer afterwards. But the main reason is that I’ve been using up all my free time for something else… namely cross stitching. Only this time it’s not dozens of Christmas cards I’m trying to get finished, but cards for a very different cause…

I first heard of the charity Post Pals about 6 or 7 years ago, thought it was a really nice idea and then promptly forgot about it. When I saw a mention of it again in a magazine recently, I realised that cross stitched cards would be perfect for sending to pals. And now those of you who don’t know post crossing are wondering what I’m on about….

Basically the idea of Post Pals is for seriously ill children to receive some happy mail. Many of them can’t go to school and end up isolated and lonely, so receiving post from all over the world helps them feel connected to other people and makes them smile. Post Pals also encourages people to write to siblings, who often feel overlooked when the ill child is getting all the attention. All addresses on the site are “care of” addresses and the children’s surnames aren’t mentioned, so it’s all pretty safe.

But enough talk… let me show you some of the cards I’ve made so far.

Pirates and flowers and ballerinas, oh my!

One little boy likes tractors and farms, so he got this card:

farm card

I mean, who wouldn’t want a picture of a sheep? 😉

Apparently I like stitching initials… gotta make use of all those alphabets somehow! 😉

By the way, as it happens the pirate and footballs went to boys while the ballerinas, bear, mermaid and lipstick were for girls. All are based on the children’s interests, and soon I will actually be making a unicorn card for a boy and a dragon for a girl… no gender stereotypes here! (It just so happens that most of the boys are not into ballet or butterflies).

I am particularly fond of this next card because I’ve had the book it appears in for ages but never thought I would actually get to stitch it!

Where's Wally card

A couple of birthday cards went out as well:

I thought the little dancing cake was adorable! (Jan’s opinion was more along the lines of corny though…)

And I shall end with one I’m particularly proud of. This little girl is blind, so I found a Braille alphabet and did this:

How’s everyone’s Braille? That says her name! I just hope it’s actually readable… I also stitched the rest using extra thread so it’s nice and thick and can (hopefully) be felt. And if you’re wondering why I bothered with colour… her family aren’t blind and they deserve to see something pretty, right?

You’re probably wondering why I’m telling you all this. No, it’s not because I want you all to think I’m an amazing human being (obviously I assume you already know that 😉 ). This post is partly an opportunity to show you some more of my cross stitching, but mostly to tell you that you too can get involved with Post Pals.

For me, it’s a perfect way of “volunteering”. I don’t have to interact with people face-to-face (scary!) or commit to being somewhere on specific days (I never know I’ll spontaneously have to work longer because something urgent has come in), I get to stitch new and different things, and I hopefully brighten the day of somebody who is so much worse off than myself. Every time I read a child’s story on Post Pals, I am reminded that whatever else may be going on in my life, I am actually incredibly fortunate to be living the life I do.

If you would like to get involved with Post Pals, all it will cost you is the price of a stamp. (Okay, an envelope and paper are involved too, but I’m sure you must have some of those to spare at home!). Just go to the website, click on Find Pals and choose a pal to write to. You can search by interest or just choose somebody at random. They even have a guide to writing post to help you work out what to say. Or, if you prefer not to write, you can always donate – they are currently organising a party and have an Amazon wish list of items they would like or you can just donate money.

So, what do you think of my cards? Any favourites here?

(By the way, can someone who is good at taking photos of cards please tell me your secret!)

Charity auction – sneak preview

Regular readers who’ve been around for a while (are there any of you?!) may remember me telling the story of my friend’s baby, Ellie, a while ago.
For those who don’t, here’s a quick recap.

At 28 weeks gestation, Ellie was diagnosed with Autosomal Recessive Polycystic Kidney Disease (ARPKD). As the name suggests, it’s a kidney disease, but it also affects the lungs, heart and other things. At birth, Ellie’s lungs were too small while her heart and kidneys were enlarged. She faced a life of dialysis,, medication, hospitals and transplants. Unfortunately, her lungs were just too weak and at 40 hours of age, Ellie passed away surrounded by her loving family.
After Ellie’s death, her mum, Naomi – a friend of mine from school days – started raising money for charity in her memory. Initially she was collecting for Tiny Lives, a charity associated with the hospital where Ellie was born. After only starting in February 2011, she’s  managed to raise over 4,000 pounds, which I think you’ll agree is amazing! But no Naomi is going one step further and doing something even more amazing (in my opinion). She’s setting up her own charity in memory of Ellie – 4Ellie-Phant. 4Ellie-Phant will “be working to provide children and babies with Magic Memories Keepsake boxes, to help them smile and make sure they capture all the memories they can during traumatic times” (that last bit being a direct quote from the website http://4ellie-phant.webs.com/ ). To help them get started on their way to registered charity status – for which they need to raise 5,000 pounds, I will be holding an online auction of handmade stuff in November, which is why I’ve been making Christmas cards for over a month now! Naturally I’m hoping you, my loyal readers, will dig deep and buy some of my stuff, if only to save me from the embarrassment of ending up not getting a single bid. And because I love you all sooo much I’m even giving you a sneak preview of some of the items that will be for sale. Only cards for now, but there will also be keyrings and jewellery, so watch this space if that’s what you’re interested in! in the meantime, here are some cards. I must apologise for the blurriness of some photos – not sure what went wrong, but I shall sort it out before the actual auction pictures go online! And now, without further ado, I shall let the photos do the talking…

And a good time was had by all

I must apologise to those of you who have been awaiting my tea party report with bated breath (that would be all two of you then!). I meant to do this last Monday, but work and life and things got in the way and I just couldn’t find the time. But better late than never as they say!

So, a quick recap for those of you who’ve forgotten (or just don’t know) what I’m going on about.
My wonderful blogging friend Katy (whose blog you can find here) is raising money for The Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths, in memory of her friend Michelle’s baby boy Keelan. Katy is raising money by hosting tea parties… and having other people host tea parties for her. Could there be a better way to raise money than by eating cake?! Clearly there could not! Which is why I had to get in on the action and host my very own tea party.

I went for an afternoon tea type event. The entire German-speaking world seems convinced that we Brits drop everything at 5pm every day and sit down for a cup of tea and a scone. I have no idea where they get this from! I’m sure most of us would love this to be the case, but do any of you know anybody who actually does this? No? Thought not. Netherless, I decided to keep the cliche going and have people round for tea (and scones and cake and little traingualr sandwiches) at 5pm on 9th July.

I got up nice and early and started cutting teapot shapes out of colourful paper.

You can’t actually see from the picture, but the non-patterned shapes have tea quotes on them.
Having decorated the living room to my satisfaction I headed to the kitchen, where the carrot cake I had made the night before was waiting to be iced.

The Yorkshire Parkin I had baked the week before was still waiting in its tin. Amazingly we had both managed to avoid eating any of it – despite the fact the Parkin is my absolute all-time favourite cake. I love it even more than the richest and most deliciously gooey of brownies – and that’s saying something!

Yorkshire Parkin

I was secretly hoping people wouldn’t be too keen on it so there would be lots left for me, but (alas) it went down rather well. In fact, I saw one guy take three pieces. Success!
The donations tin was placed prominently next to a plate of melon (a contribution from a guest) and, to my surprise, instead of taking the opportunity to get rid of a few coins almost every guest put in a note! We ended up with 76 euros in the tin. Add to that a donation each from Jan and myself, plus the fiver someone who couldn’t make it gave me a few days later and I was able to transfer 95 pounds to Katy’s just giving page! Much more than I was expecting! And I received more compliments on my baking skills on that one day than I have in the entire rest of my life. Conclusion: The tea party was a resounding success!

I love it when a plan comes together…

I am stupidly tired this evening, having only got about 4 hours sleep last night and about 5 the night before. I kept having to go to the loo and splash water on my face at work to keep myself awake. But instead of collapsing into my bed as soon as I got home (which is what I would have liked to have done!) I went ahead with my original plan and made shortbread dough. The first batch is in the ovrn right now – another ten minutes and I can take it out, then it’s bed time for me! The remaining dough is in the fridge, awaiting it’s turn to be baked. That will happen tomorrow. At 40 minutes a time there’s no way I’m doing any more tonight. My bed is calling!

Parkin was mae on Sunday. It’s sitting in a lovely tin, and both of us have managed to resist munching on it. This is very impressive, considering it’s my favourite cake and Jan usually can’t be left within a mile of sweet stuff without gobbling it all up. The amount of times I’ve bought biscuits only to find none left when I come to get one is a testament to this! The things we’re willing to do for a good cause 😉 After work tomorrow I’ll be heading in to town to stock up on ingredients for the rest of my baked goods, then more baking shall be done on Friday. It’s all coming together nicely. Now I just have to hope everyone who’s confirmed actually turns up, otherwise we’re going to be living on cake for the next month!

Right, I’m off to get the shortbread out of the oven. Then it’s time to sleeeeeep. Jan can put the biscuits in their tin when he gets back from choir – they should be cool by then.

Feeling hot, hot, hot

After days and days of weird, wintery, can’t-make-it’s mind up weather, with rain one minute, then five minutes of sunshine followed by wind and rain again five minutes later, the sun decided to come back out in full force today. It has been boiling! Too hot for me – as we all know, I get sunstroke at the drop of a hat. I’m definitely a Spring kind of girl! (I do like snow, but winter gets depressing after a while with all its dark nights). It was hot enough in our office, with the fan going full blast, but once I got outside it was so much worse. I had to go into town anyway though, then I had to slave over a hot stove making tea for myself and the boyfriend. Naturally he is not home yet, and his half is still sitting in the kitchen waiting to be reheated. Luckily that task will fall to him – I don’t fancy spending any more time near sources of heat today!

My charity tea party plans are coming together. I’ve actually managed to find a free date for it now, and a few people have already accepted the invitation so there’s no going back! It shall be on 9 July. Now I just have to complete my list of foods and get on with the baking! I’m going to start by making Yorkshire Parkin a week before – it actually gets better if you leave it in an airtight container for a couple of days so there’s no risk of having ruined cake on the day. Although it will require a lot of willpower to stop myself from eating it all! Perhaps I’d better make extra… By the way, those don’t know what I’m talking about should read this post then go over to The Dormouse’s Last Stand to find out how to host their own charity tea party for a rather excellent cause, namely The Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths.

That’s all for today. I have some work that needs to be done before I go to bed.

Here’s one I made earlier…

I was asked to upload some of my handmade cards to this blog (only by one person, as I recall, but I was still asked!) and now that Jan has sorted it out so the compter will recognise my camera again when I plug it in – which it had randomly decided to stop doing – I can actually deliver on my promise and show me what’s been keeping me away from the blogosphere for most of the past two months. Hope you like them!

Teddy bear greeting card with hand-stitched balloon
Wedding card

Make a Wish card

I also branched out and decided to make some keyrings, which  actually worked out better than I expected.

Some of this stuff is already for sale in my friend’s online shop, other’s will be coming soon. And there’s some amazing stuff in there made by other people. You really should check it out! It’s all for a good cause (Tiny Lives) and in memory of a very special little girl. And it would make me ridiculously happy if someone other than my mother were to actually buy something I’d made! Check out http://www.artfire.com/users/MyStarEllie today!

How hard can it be to find a date?

Very is the answer to the question above  judging by the trouble I’ve been having doing just that. I was going to have my charity teaparty on the first Saturday in July, except it turns out a seminar  we’re having for work is being held on that day. This weekend I have visitors who I’ve promised to show round Karlsruhe and the following Saturday there’s a live music performance in my local Irish pub that I really want to see. It starts at 8pm and I’m planning on holding the tea party from 5pm (the five o’clock tea stereotype, remember?) which rules that date out. A tea party that has to end after three hours isn’t a real tea party! So it’s looking like I’m going to have to postpone things til further into July… but not too far in as towards the end things get busy again with Das Fest (Karlsruhe’s big music festival) on the weekend of 24th July followed by another trip to England the weekend after that for the next wedding. I’m not sure where I would fit in time to bake in among all that, never mind hosting the actual party! So another date shall have to be sought. In the meantime, I’m still collecting ideas for stereotypically British tea party food. All suggestions welcome! Recipes too, if you have them…