Sunday, May 22, 2016

Beware of the hunter!

It's been a busy month and a half since I last wrote a blog post and a lot has happened in that short space of time; lots of baking, crafting, worrying about my mum (poor health) and gardening has been taking place.  I seem to have even more flowers this year, most of them started from seed, grown in my little greenhouse and then hardened off, before being repotted outdoors. There is quite an array of colour going on, and I have to say I'm extremely proud of all my hard work.  I  just hope the wet weather stays away long enough so we can see them in their full colourful glory.

Of course, little Bean likes to be a part of the garden action (in the form of a hunter) she's got a real bee in her bonnet about birds.  She can quite happily spend all day staring and jumping up to the sky in the hope that she can befriend one. Well, I'm hoping she wants to be their friend, I'm pretty sure it's just harmless fun as she doesn't seem to have a bad bone in her furry little body.  I just love the shots of her in action, she is totally oblivious of the camera (plant pots, washing posts) and just goes about her thing; one minute she is rolling around, then trotting around and then using the garden as a race circuit. The latter activity usually ends in a warning, three strikes and she's back in the house, she's never hit the three strikes mark yet. Notice I said yet, she has been extremely close.

On the crafting front I've been knitting lace, trying a new craft (Tunisian Knitting/Crochet can't decide on the correct term for it) and swithering on warping my Ashford Rigid Heddle loom. I'm ashamed to say I've never used this guy before, it's only been sitting in it's bag for four or five years so I was thinking it's about time it had an airing, watch this space.  My sewing machine has also been on the go, but only for some garment repairs, I do feel a major project coming on.  I will have to have something on the go, as I'm due to come off for seven weeks summer holidays (this is a first ever in my working life). The schools break up on the 28th of June here, and we don't go back until the end of August, and there is no way I'm sitting around doing nothing for that length of time, as I may go quite mad!


Friday, April 15, 2016

Questions You Should Ask Before Toasting A King!


Yesterday (14th of April) I celebrated my 45th birthday. Seems like only yesterday I was celebrating my 21st. Anway, I was going to write this post yesterday but I didn't have the time, what with opening cards and presents, responding to well-wishers on social media and then getting ready to head up to my favourite city; Edinburgh. The only similarity with turning 21 and 45 is that I spent both birthdays in the capital  (I lived in the city for 8 or 9 years) however, my 45th was a lot quieter and a bit more of a sober affair. I did celebrate this birthday with a few drinks and a meal but I didn't want to ruin my big treat of visiting the Vaults (subterranean city of Edinburgh) through a company called Mercat Tours. I wasn't sure what to expect on this tour and before participating in it I thought I knew a lot about Edinburgh's (dark) history, but boy was I wrong. Starting the tour in 1685 my other half Paul (dressed in blue standing against the wall) and an American friend (Brad) learned the hard way.  You do not toast any monarch during 1685, with a dram or ale, especially the King (Charles II). With jeers and abuse from the crowd, Paul or John (as he had to select a Scottish name of the time) was frogged marched with his friend Brad to a local statue.  Here they were first whipped, salt rubbed into their wounds and then one by one Brad's ears were nailed to the statue,  his spouse was then ordered to pull and tear him away.  Paul (John) suffered a far worse fate; his tongue was placed in a clamp until it started to swell in size and a blood blister formed on the tip (this didn't really happen to him). His wound we were told would then explode showering the crowd in blood. Bleurgh!  If that wasn't enough he was then cut from ear to ear resulting in a grin that would remain with him for the rest of his life. Poor Paul (John) but it does make up for the time I was put on trial as a witch for innocently holding a broom for a woman so she could sort her shoe at the Edinburgh Dungeon.  So back to Mercat Tours, we were then shown the site of public executions; a doorway of the reconstructed Mercat Cross of 1885  that now leads to St Gile's Cathedral. The stairs didn't exist during the time of the executions, which we were told were of a hanging variety (kick the bucket and then custom built gallows).  Saying goes that these stairs are now haunted by a young man who escaped his first hanging when one of the gallows trap doors jammed and the crowd took pity on him and rushed to free his body from his execution.  He was later executed when the crowds were dispersed when met by armed guards from both the castle and church. Now, when I looked at the door during the story telling (19.00) I never saw what I now see in the photo (taken at 21.30); a faint cross in the middle of the door.  How spooky!

This isn't the only spooky experience of the night. During the Vault visit to one of the rooms my left hand started to tingle and tickle and the hairs on my arm stood on end. I don't know why or how this happened, I just remember thinking- Oh! that's odd.  The second room I entered I kept turning around to look at a particular corner of the room because I could smell something sweet. Paul kept asking me what I was doing but I couldn't put my finger on why the corner of the room was drawing me to look. The tour guide overheard me saying I could smell something sweet (no one was standing beside me) they then announced a young woman had been murdered in the same corner. My face at this point drained of colour and I went quite pale.  But, the last room really freaked me out.  I was the last person to enter and I couldn't stop staring at the ground, I felt a tightness in my chest and I then felt a blinding headache come on.  I really didn't like the room at all and wanted to leave.  We were then told this was the 'blood room' where poor women were made to give birth in awful conditions. As soon as I left the room the feelings subsided and I even managed to down a glass of wine whilst listening to ghost stories at the end of the tour. Would I do one of their other tours?  I most certainly would and will be when the summer arrives.

*** I don't know why I experienced the sensations I did, I do believe in ghosts but I never thought I would be as tuned in as much as I was. Was I scared? I wouldn't say so, but thinking about the last room as I'm writing this I feel somewhat panicky and breathless.  Now that is scary. This is a birthday I won't forget in a long time.


Monday, March 28, 2016

How I Made Easter Special

Usually, my perfectionist's head kicks in, and I find myself planning special holidays like Christmas and Easter down to a fine line.  This year for Easter there was no rushing about, no organising (well, other than the food shop for Sunday Easter lunch) I just relaxed, I didn't make any plans and I went with the flow.  It felt odd, but when you organise and work with little one's every day in an education setting sometimes it's okay to take a step back and breath...right?

So, where did this take me?  Well, I woke up at the crack of dawn (so much for a long lie, my body clock had other ideas) on Friday morning did a bit of cleaning and tidying and then I declared to my other half that I wanted my portapuzzle case brought down from the loft. Don't ask me why I suddenly wanted this, I was into jigsaws in a big way about four years ago, but this request just came out of the blue. I then went out to potter about in the garden while Paul took to the loft.  This is really the first time I've been out in my garden this year and boy, it's been hit very hard by the lousy weather; high winds and thrashing rain, the garden wall has no rough casting left as most of it is lying on the ground, and quite a few of the plants are gone (died off) or are in need of some serious TLC, sigh!  Four hours later my garden started to look a little more respectable; no rough casting on the ground, plants pruned, fed and watered and wall assessed for repair. I then headed back into the house and found Paul had located my puzzle case from the loft but there was no jigsaw box. On opening the case I found 450 pieces (I counted them) of a 1000 piece puzzle. Yip! You guessed it the other 550 pieces are still in the loft and Paul won't go back up for them.

By Saturday, I had forgotten all about the jigsaw and spent a wonderful day with my mum. We went for lunch and I presented her with an Easter pamper gift and then we had a wander round the shops. We got caught being silly by two male members of staff in our local craft shop (I'm sitting chuckling to myself as I write this post). My mum and I were caught making faces at each other through a large crafting magnifying glass, you know, big eyes and lips (easily amused) We were so embarrassed that we slunk down an aisle sniggering and nudging each other like little school girls, with my mum declaring that I'm a bad influence. Eh! What! You're the adult, I'm the kid, it had nothing to do with me. All joking aside, I think my mum was quite impressed that I didn't buy anything from Hobbycraft , I usually come away with a piece of stationary, a sewing or knitting item. In fact, looking back I didn't spend any money that day as I bought my makeup treats through my Boots points card and Paul's Easter Egg using a voucher (I was very thrifty).

I'm sad to say my thriftiness didn't last, though, as yesterday (Easter Sunday) I decided to have a browse on Amazon (always lethal) whilst watching King of Kings and eating an Easter Egg.  I ended up buying not one but three books.  I've been having withdrawal symptoms after finishing all my Mark Haddon novels and I've been eager to find an author with a similar writing style. I found the Alan Bradley series of books through Good Reads.  I must have been destined to buy the authors books as on picking up the first novel and turning the pages to read, I was faced with this:

 My Christian name printed on the second page.  Now I know this read is going to be awesome.

Happy Easter holidays everyone


(This post is dedicated to my beautiful orange boy 'Cheivo' who we lost on this day two years ago)

Forever in my heart
little man xx

Friday, March 18, 2016

You won't believe...

Our gorgeous little girl is one! I know one! Where did the time go?  It just feels like yesterday that we picked her up to bring her back to her forever home.  She has been such a joy to have around and has fairly kept us on our toes, what with stripping the kitchen wallpaper (we needed to decorate) and chewing the carpet too, there has never been a dull moment. She is the most boisterous and active puppy I have ever encountered, and I have been around large breed dogs; Greyhounds, Labradors, German Shepherds and Dobermans,  since I was tiny. From the moment, she gets up its mischief, mischief, mischief and more mischief and if she's not getting up to mischief she is trying to sit on us. And I can tell you that having a large Rhodesian Ridgeback sitting on top of you is not easy, especially when they wriggle around a lot.  But, do you know what?  I wouldn't change her for the world. 

Happy Birthday my beautiful little girl!
Love from your human Mummy and Daddy.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

How to cheer yourself up in 3 easy steps!

Yarn, chocolate and puppy cuddles. 

I apologise for not posting last week; Mother's Day. It was a bit of a topsy-turvy day in that my mum dropped a huge bombshell in the form of illness, which I'm not going to go into, as it's incredibly sad.  So last week I didn't want to post or I couldn't find the words to, so I decided to stay off the Internet altogether. 

This week, I've been getting smothered by my large puppy; Bean, eating chocolate (bunny paw), joining a new yarn club and trying out some new dpn's.  I bought the shiny new needles a couple of months ago but never got round to using them; they are Knit Pro Zings. I started out using metal knitting pins when I was learning to knit (aged five) then I stopped crafting all together and later returned to the art when I was in my mid-twenties, again, I took to using metal needles. Then, in my mid-thirties, I noticed my hands and fingers felt sore after knitting and decided to research what was happening.  I found that quite a few knitters, just like me were experiencing painful hands with metal pins and their solution was to change to bamboo or wooden pins.  I really didn't want to give up my returning hobby so I thought I would give the Knit Pro Symfonie (beautiful coloured wood) range a go. They've worked a treat not only for my knitting but for my hand pain too.   So, I hear you ask 'Why, have you returned to metal needles?' Well, I don't plan on using them all the time, I've heard great things about them; so smooth to work with, they are stunning to look at; each size comes in a different colour and fingers crossed (I've only started using them) but so far I've had no hand pain (long may this continue).

The yarn club box is from a British seller called Yarny Love UK, this is the first time I have used this seller.  I did have to wait a couple of weeks for my treasure to arrive, but I think I was one of the first people to join.  The contents of the box; Easter theme coloured yarn, a bag of buttons (sewing variety as in the UK we have something called Cadbury's chocolate buttons), a tealight holder and candle, a flower keyring and a Lindt Chocolate Bunny Paw (which I'm ashamed to say I scoffed almost immediately, as I needed cheering up) (my puppy Bean also sensed I needed cheering up, so she dumped her large head on my lap). Sorry, got side tracked; all in all, I think the box was a winner. Would I use this seller again? Most certainly, yes!

Have a lovely weekend, everyone.


Sunday, February 28, 2016

You're Doing it Wrong:Stranded Colourwork

I like to think of myself as an experienced knitter; in that, most patterns don't faze me, and I do have some practice of test knitting patterns for a few designers. However, when it comes to stranded colourwork I feel I'm more of an intermediate-level knitter.  I don't work with this technique very often as I find it very frustrating and time-consuming; I have to keep unravelling my yarn as it becomes twisted and wrapped around each other. I also find,  more often than not my knitting looks tight, misshapen and a bit grotesque (and as a perfectionist this is a major bug bear for me).   So, being an Aries I tend to enjoy the thrill of the hunt, I will strive to find a solution; I'm not one for backing away from trial or risk.  Cue lots of video watching,  researching online and pattern reading, after ten minutes I found a new tip; two hand stranding, and then I looked over Erica Heusser's hat pattern again and a bold, underlined sentence jumped out at me "remember to keep floats loose!"  For years, I've been strangling my stranded colourwork by pulling my floats so tight their practically pleading for air.  You see, I don't want holes, holes in my kniting would pretty much mean failure; my knitting would end up on the naughty step for sure.
Armed with this new information I set about trying them in my knitting. I was a bit cautious at first but as the rounds of stranded knitting started appearing and mutiplying I became more confident. So confident that I couldn't put the piece down...can you believe... I finished the hat in one night! This never happens to me!

Excited by my new mastered skill, yes I have been a very busy squirrel,  I decided to finish my mittens too!  I then celebrated my achievement with a hot orange (fighting a chest infection at the moment) and an episode of:

I'm totally addicted to not only the series but the theme tune...and, oh what the heck,  maybe  the lead actors too.

Have a lovely weekend. xoxoxo

Sunday, February 21, 2016

How to use unicorns to stand out in the crowd!

This week I decided to go on an expedition; not anywhere fancy, just into the deep dark cave that is my yarn stash cupboard. Yes, a whole walk in cupboard dedicated to my favourite craft, I like to think of it as my piece of Narnia.  I could disappear in there for hours on end; squidging and stroking all the  treasure I have accumulated over the years. However,  I don't venture in there very often for fear of never returning, but yesterday I had to rummage as my fingers and hands felt restless.  This perpetual agitation seems to happen to me quite alot and when I experience this urgency to make, I do tend to listen and act on it straight away.  Sometimes I find the pattern first, then I look for the materials, however, yesterday was different;  I decided to enter the cave and on doing so I stumbled across a red shiny postal packet, and anyone who is familiar with this will know I'm talking about Knit Crate.  I've been subscribing to this company on and off  for about a year.  I usually go for a three month subscription and then have a rest, I more often than not  miss out on some cool stuff during this time and have to subscribe all over again.  I just wish I could afford an ongoing subscription but with only one wage coming in since Paul was paid off two years ago,  this isn't going to happen anytime soon, sigh!  Anyway, going back to the red shiny packet; I found some yarn I've never used before: Madelintosh Unicorn Tails in antique lace.  So, with my new found treasure tucked neatly under my arm and with much excitment building in my hands that I was about to start something new, I skipped  off to my laptop. An hour later I appeared with a new pattern, yarn and needles tucked under my arm, stitch markers in one hand and a hot chocolate in the other.  "What are you making?" I hear you ask. The pattern is passerine hat by Erica Heusser.  The contrast yarn which is similar to the Unicorn tails in weight and  texture is Schoppel wolle zauberballe-100 in colourwave Blaukraut Bleibt Blaukraut.  I will post more pictures of my progress next week.

Just off the needles and blocking is my manic panic cowl, made from samples and scraps of yarn found in my stash.  I'm looking to join this in a Mobius Twist* this week.  Not sure why I knit it in the straight rather than in the round, but hey hoo!  My mind and the decisons it make are a curious thing in deed.

Have a lovely weekend.

Mobius Twist

 * Discovered independently by the German mathematicians August Ferdinand Mobius and Johann Benedict Listing in 1858. Mathematicians refer to the closed Möbius band as any surface that is homeomorphic (space that is continous) to this strip. Its boundary is a simple closed curve, i.e., homeomorphic to a circle. (Wikipedia: 2016)

Möbius strip: