Wednesday, 11 September 2019

A difficult post......

This has been a very difficult piece to write, over the course of several weeks. It’s also a difficult read and I’ve vacillated on whether or not to post it.
But, on balance, the issues at the heart of it are very important and I feel strongly that people should be aware of them.

Tempus fugit
Time is relative
Time’s up….

Wednesday 26th August

When the phone rang early this morning, time seemed to simultaneously slow and speed up.

3 hours…. The clock is ticking.

12 days ago, my sister-in-law contacted me to let me know that my brother had been admitted to hospital following a fall at home. Early indications that he had fractured his skull and had an intracerebral haemorrhage were confirmed, and he underwent emergency surgery to relieve the resulting pressure in his brain.

Hope the operation is a success.
Hope he regains consciousness
Hope the damage won’t be too bad
Hope he’ll make a good recovery.

Following surgery, he is semi-conscious, and signs are cautiously optimistic.

Then they’re not. 

More surgery and an induced coma, to give the brain time to recover.
Time passes.  Scans, then more scans.  There is damage but the extent won’t be fully known until he wakes up.
During the attempt to bring him round from the induced coma, he has an epileptic seizure and must be fully sedated again.

Hope they can control the seizures
Hope the seizures haven’t caused more damage
Hope they can stabilise him.

Critical but stable.  It doesn’t feel as though those words belong in the same sentence.

Hours are spent, hovering by the phone, waiting for news, trying to comfort and gain comfort.  My sister-in-law is exhausted… the combined effects of overwhelming distress, worry, many hours spent travelling to and from the hospital and the high stress experience of intensive care …. ICU is not a relaxing environment… but she still finds time to update me daily, as we try to make sense of what’s happening.

The fight for life enlists the aid of a battery of cutting-edge technology.  Each problem which arises is carefully assessed, treated and monitored.

Days pass.  Hope fades.

He is no longer in a medically induced coma, but is deeply unconscious and on a ventilator.

For the first time I hear the word ‘catastrophic’.  The brain damage is widespread and irreversible.  He can breathe a little but requires support from the ventilator.  His heart is beating, his body is quietly going about its business, more or less as usual, but the prognosis is devastating.  He will not recover.

Brain stem death is confirmed.

Then, suddenly, things begin to move at a different pace.  He is on the Organ Donation Register. No longer concentrating on treating for recovery, but on organ optimisation. 
He is now on the ‘organ donation pathway’.  It takes time to process this new information.  They will maintain life support while blood and tissue samples are taken and the organ donation team swing into action.
I am no longer in contact with the ICU nursing staff but receive direct updates from the Regional Specialist Nurses in Organ Donation team, (or SNODs)  who are endlessly patient, answering my barrage of questions, and gently comforting, when emotion overwhelms me.

Good news….they have found matches for both kidneys, liver and lungs!

As soon as the specialist surgical teams are in place, they will remove his breathing tube and wait.

3 hours.

In the UK, that’s the protocol, during which time, in order for surgery to go ahead, he must die.  If he doesn’t, the whole surgical team, and the selected organ recipients, will stand down.

7.50 am. The ‘process’ to which the SNODs have been referring for the past two days finally begins and they’ve removed the breathing tube. 

Hope it’s quick.
Hope he doesn’t suffer any distress.
Hope it happens within that crucial 3-hour window.
Hope the phone rings soon.

In hospitals and homes elsewhere, there are four other people plus their families and friends, also waiting, also hoping, but for a different outcome.

Whilst the kidneys and liver will be viable for some time after removal, the lungs are time critical.  I’ve been told that they would be ‘blue-lighted’ to the recipient’s hospital.  Presumably a person in urgent need of lungs is already very poorly, and lungs are rarely available.

9.30am.  Still waiting, but hope is fading.

The one potentially positive thing to come out of this awful situation is beginning to look very remote.
Time slows, and still we wait.

Too late now.  The 3-hour deadline has passed but he hasn’t.  It’s impossible not to feel conflicted…. all the planning, time and effort by so many people.  The meticulous matching and cross-matching, clearing theatre time, assembling surgical teams, organising organ transportation… a logistical triumph, all for nothing.

No longer a potential donor and hope, across the board, is gone. 

He is now on the ‘end of life care pathway’.

Hope he doesn’t suffer.
Hope he’s not aware of what’s happening.
Hope his passing is easy.


Still waiting.

End of life care… not palliative care.  There is a significant difference.
The slide towards death is mercifully technology free.  The person emerges once more, freed from the maze of machines, probes, tubes and wires and the continual clamour of alarms.
He is moved out of ICU and into a private bay, elsewhere in the hospital.
Fluids and nutrition are withdrawn and replaced by the administration of a carefully  calculated cocktail of drugs, intended to reduce potential distress and relieve pain, until, eventually, gradually, a cascade of organ failure overwhelms the body and he slips away.

The sad fact is, that many families, perhaps even yours, will go through a similar experience.  At a time of profound shock, loss and impending grief, there are potentially the added challenges of preparations for organ donation with their attendant stresses, deadlines and protocols.

Obviously, being on the organ donation register is A Good Thing.  There are nowhere near enough donors and often, even those who are willing and suitable, like my brother, don’t succeed.  In fact, there is only a very small chance that your organs would ever be used, as the conditions necessary are relatively rare.

This is why organ recipients face disappointment time and time again, while waiting on the organ transplant list.

It is a widespread fallacy that people who die in road traffic accidents… such as motorcyclists, are the primary source of donated organs for transplantation.  If you die outside hospital, your organs will not be used for transplantation.  Even if you die in A&E your organs will not be used although body parts/tissues such as eyes, heart valves, bone, skin, veins and tendons can be harvested post mortem. 
To be an organ transplant donor, you must die in an ICU and have been ventilated and/or on life support.  ‘Ideally’ you will have had a head injury resulting in Brain Stem Death.  Donation following Brain Stem Death represents the main source of organs for transplant in the UK.

Even if you are not on the Organ Donation Register, if you meet the above criteria, your next of kin will be approached, carefully and sympathetically, and asked to consider organ donation.

Death and dying are not comfortable topics of discussion, especially with those closest to us, but if there is anything which this incredibly sad experience has taught me, it’s that waiting until it’s too late is A Bad Thing. 

My brother and sister-in-law did discuss organ donation and end of life choices so she was able to make sure his wishes were known, and be the very best advocate for him, during his final days.  It’s the bravest, the best, and the most incredibly difficult thing anyone can ever do for a loved one.

So if you, or a family member are on the organ donation register, and even if you’re not, I think it’s really, REALLY important to talk to each other and think about what you want and perhaps more importantly, what you don’t want, in your end of life care plan.

Accidents can happen to anyone.  Anywhere. Any time.
Don’t wait until the worst thing happens.  
Get information, ask questions, make informed choices.


 This is a good place to start

For detailed information on the organ donation process in England, this document is excellent.

Thursday, 22 August 2019

Love triangles......

So.... Yayyyy!  The fabrics arrived for my workroom bunting the other day, so I've been sewing up a storm and the pile of beautifully lined triangular flags has been growing steadily.

There are enough on that little table to make up 4 strings of gorgeous bunting to go all round the walls.

HOwever, I still seem to have quite a lot left over.....

Sadly I've run out of the cotton lining fabric so I can't finish them all off yet.
I'll use the spare ones to do something quirky in the room.... not quite sure what yet but I am sure inspiration will strike at some point.

Buoyed by my success on the bunting front, I'm also determined to finish off the lovely cabinet.  It still needs a knob fitted to the drop down desk flap, plus I want to stencil on the inside of the flap, to frame the area where the leather writing pad was, which I'll also paint in a different colour.

I'm still working on the organisation of the cabinet itself, which needs to be a bit more user friendly.  I find myself surrounded by boxes of stuff from the drawers in the base, which are tricky to access when the desk is open.  Although I have two folding tables which really come into their own while I'm working... the smaller one as an 'ironing table', and the larger one for stuff which needs more working space than the desk flap.

I also need to properly organise the cubby holes and small drawers inside the desk, as they're currently in chaos.  I've re-purposed some empty coffee containers to act as storage for tools but it's all the small bits, which I use all the time, and which I need to have to hand, which are proving more difficult to keep in order.

I've fitted a length of LED strip lighting inside the desk, to better illuminate the working surface, but I need to fit a power socket with integral USB points on the side of the cabinet, so that I can run the lighting, mini iron etc.  

I'm also considering fixing some lightweight storage pockets inside the cabinet doors on one side, and a lightweight pin board/whiteboard on the other.

Things are slowly evolving as I get used to working in a radically different room layout and I'm gradually working out the best place to store things for maximum findability.  It's still a work in progress but at least progress IS being made! 

Saturday, 17 August 2019

Bunting and beyond..........

Busy, busy, busy week, making up and packaging orders from the Mini Miniature Show last weekend.  The last batch went out yesterday and are now winging their way to destinations worldwide.  Thank you to everyone who visited our page during the show!

So..... what now?

Well, I have a To Do list that's currently running to several pages so I will need to multitask like a demon to try to make inroads into it.

However, I still haven't quite finished organising the workroom, since my work cabinet makeover and I've also decided that the room needs more bunting.

Of course it does.

I'm of the firm opinion that almost any room can improved with bunting, because bunting rocks.

And making bunting is one of my very favourite things.

Up till now I've had one string of bunting over the windows.  I bought it years ago during the first workroom makeover and it's not really up to my, now, extremely exacting bunting standards.  The flags are just too small and they're spaced really widely apart so it looks a bit sparse.

Nothing worse than sparse bunting.

So I've taken it down (leaving the windows wall looking VERY bare, despite the sparseness of the bunting which had been there!) and am working on making new, bigger, un-sparse bunting, which I'm hoping will go round two of the walls.

I've ordered some fat quarters of fabrics in various colours, and I've even gone to the length of designing four different fabrics, based on the colours I've used on the cabinet, which I'll have printed onto cotton calico.

This is going to be 'next level' bunting, the likes of which has ne'er been seen....  bunting par excellence,  the crème de la crème of bunting, the epitome of bunting......

It is while I am extolling the virtues of bunting, that I sense a small furry presence behind me.....

Small Dog: *incredulously*  MUUUUUURRRRMMMM!  Stopp with the bunten olreddie!
Me: * resolutely* No SD.  I will not stop.  I am a woman on a bunting-making mission and I will not be denied.
SD: *eye-rollingly* Yue ar beein redikewluss.  Hav yue kno sens of pryoritties?
Me: *airily* Oh yes.  I absolutely DO have a sense of priorities.  I am prioritising designing and making bunting.  It is my raison d'être.  I make bunting, therefore I am....
SD: *dismissively* Bollox.  Fillosofikle clapptrapp.  Yue ar maken bunten as displaismint acktivitie.  The wurkroom is a kompleat mess, yue hav lodes of stuf to doo, and yure waisten tym maken bunten.  Admitt itt!
Me: *craftily* You may think that SD.... but it is a well known fact that working in a beautiful environment increases productivity by a factor of 47%.  My bunting is a motivational tool.
SD: *sceptically*  Humph..... yule be tellen me neckst thatt its tacks deeduktible.
Me: *appraisingly*  You might just be onto something there SD.  I'm fairly sure that bunting making materials might be an allowable business expense.
SD: *resignedly*  Ai dispare.... *sie*


Friday, 9 August 2019

August Online Show.....

Later today, at 5pm (UK time)  the August Mini Miniature Show  will open its virtual doors for dollshouse enthusiasts to browse artisan offerings. 

I've been an exhibitor at every artisan-only show since it first began 10 years ago and have 'met' some lovely people from all over the globe, who have attended my online workshop sessions and visited my dealer page time and time again.

This year, for the first time, I'm not offering a workshop. However..... I have designed and created a brand new, limited edition kit, specially for the show.

Sneak peek?  Oh, go on then......

Hmmmmm.... not much of a clue is it?


Tah dah!

A little Alice in Wonderland toy doll trunk.... with a twist!  

This workshop pack is actually two kits in one.  First the little Alice doll herself.  She's made from china-painted porcelain and has jointed arms and legs.  She's dressed in Alice's trademark blue silk dress with white pinafore apron and comes complete with a tiny 'Drink Me' bottle.

She measures a smidgen under 1 3/4" tall and has a removable doll stand to enable you to display her outside the trunk.

The wooden trunk kit contains everything needed to complete the trunk, including the internal and external graphics, plus additional scenery.

Back of the trunk
Trunk interior

The kit also includes a complete cast of 11 Wonderland-themed double-sided characters which are precision cut and cleverly magnetised so that they can stand unsupported in the left side of the trunk.

Removable 3-D scenery showing Cheshire Cat

Cast of characters, from the White Rabbit to the Dodo

In addition, I have included a separate board, which can be used to create additional scenes, or to store characters.

OFF with his head!!!

This workshop pack includes fully illustrated, step by step instruction booklets, and, if required, email support is only a mouse click away.

Kit cost is £45 plus shipping.

The pack is only available via my online show page HERE. (this link will only work from 5 pm on 9th August)
I only have 10 of these packs and they will not be repeated.

In addition to the items on my dealer page, for the duration of the show (August 9th-12th) we are offering a 10% discount on selected categories on the website

If you also wish to include any items from the online show page, I will deduct the postage and amend your PayPal invoice so that you only pay one lot of shipping.

I'll be online off and on throughout the duration of the show to deal with enquiries and orders but please bear in mind any time difference if you're not in the UK! 

If you need any additional information on the Alice doll trunk kit, or the online show, please contact me.

Monday, 8 July 2019

Back to work.....

The recent hiatus in posts was due to us being away on holiday in lovely Croatia, which was absolutely wonderful.  A whole week of sea, sun, sand and snoozing, interspersed with trips to Dubrovnik and the surrounding area.

It was our first all-inclusive holiday, so on our return I approached the bathroom scales with a mixture of fear and trepidation as we'd inevitably over-indulged.  Let's just say that if we ever do another I'll be at pains to lose several pounds beforehand to limit the damage.

However, back at work properly today, having finally cleared my email inbox of 500+ messages, and packaging the orders which came in while we were away.

I'm easing myself back into work mode by making a To Do list for the coming month. I still need to finish off the makeover in the workroom, although at least now it's usable, so there's no dramatic rush.  I should definitely be able to complete it over the next few weeks *fingers firmly crossed*

There is a small mountain of stuff on the dining room table which I need to list on the website for my ongoing downsizing exercise, and I also have a few interesting projects in mind which will hopefully come to fruition over the coming weeks.

One of those interesting projects is this....

This wonderful Mignonette Presentation Box came up in my Pinterest feed in May, and I've been on the hunt for a similar octagonal-shaped box ever since.  At the point of peak chaos in the workroom, just before I started work on my cabinet bureau, I found one on Ebay....

A well-packaged box duly arrived.....

Now admittedly, it's not something to which I'd usually ever give house room, but it IS an octagonal shaped box.

Obviously, despite the fact that complete mayhem was unfolding in the workroom, I just couldn't resist starting Phase 1......

So.... I took out the glass insert from inside the lid, and set about removing the pink velvet jewellery pads in the base.

Thankfully, at that point I came to my senses and put it all in a box pending a less chaotic time to concentrate on transforming it into a wonderful doll presentation box filled with wonderful things.

Well that's the plan anyway.  However in the meantime I must get back to that To Do list.....

Saturday, 22 June 2019

Tah Dah......!!!!!

It's finished!!!!!!

It's taken almost a month of toil, blood, sweat and tears but my lovely new work cabinet is finally complete.

Here's a reminder of how it looked before....

And this is how it looks now.....

I've been busily sorting out my storage boxes to fill it....

But of course I couldn't just leave it like that.... could I?

So I made pretty paper inserts to slip inside the boxes so that it all looked much neater.

Yesterday was the first day I actually sat and worked at it, and it is absolutely perfect.  I'm no longer jammed between an oversized desk and the storage units behind me.  The drop-down  desk is exactly the right height for me to work at, and everything I need is within easy reach. 

Removing the big desk has transformed the room and I can now walk from one side to the other without having to navigate around it.

I still have stuff to put away, and I've decided to prettify a few other areas of the room so I'll leave the final reveal till that's all done, but in the meantime I'm really pleased with the results of my labours.  That said, I am never, under ANY circumstances, upcycling a bureau cabinet..... EVER AGAIN!

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Progress report.....

Today started off really quite well.  I completed the first coat of paint on the cabinet and although it looks a bit patchy I'm reasonably confident that the second coat will pull it all together.

While I was waiting for the paint to dry, and unable to get any actual work done, I decided to make the storage boxes to go in the empty cubby holes in the desk.

I thought I had it nailed, but I'd failed to take into account that I didn't have any sheets of card big enough, so I had to go back to the drawing board and radically rethink the whole thing.

Several failed prototypes later (not to mention some fairly colourful language) I think I've finally designed boxes which will fit, although they'll need some strengthening on the inside.  I'll print out some floral papers tomorrow to decorate the fronts, which will be visible inside the desk.

The chaos seems to have overflowed from the workroom, spreading like a miasma throughout the ground floor and I've had to annexe the dining room table for my sewing and cutting machines.  If all goes well I'll be making some  bunting over the weekend which should help soothe my frazzled nerves.

The new chair, which Small Dog declares she fully intends to appropriate, arrives tomorrow so I will be under pressure to dismantle my big desk unit to make room for it.  It will be a shock to the system not having it to work on, but if I'm brutally honest, it's ALWAYS covered in piles of stuff and I generally only have a few square inches of clear acutal workspace.  The working area of the cabinet is really quite generous but I will have to work tidily and clear up after every session.

We'll see how that goes......