Tuesday, August 21, 2018


I have been on a much-needed two week holiday from work and have spent my time reading, attending Edinburgh Book Festival events, walking, sewing and knitting. It has been FAB.
I made the Merchant and Mills Fielder dress and I absolutely love it. It was such a satisfying make, partly because, finished, it could easily be a Toast creation, which sell for £80+. This cost me £16 in total in materials. The fabric was from Ikea, two metres at £4 per metre, and one metre of funky ribbing from the Merchant and Mills website, which cost just under £8. I'm already dreaming of making more. I'd like a black one next.
The blue is actually more of a petrol blue than the photos have captured. Warmer. And the photo doesn't show, but it also has side pockets. Actually, that's the only thing I would change next time I make it. I will insert the pockets slightly higher in the dress. They are about an inch too low, though still perfectly workable.
I also finished this pair of socks. I don't remember the make of the wool but perhaps I mentioned it in my last post? I will be buying more of it because it was also good value at £8 a 100g ball and I expect to get two pairs out of it. There is nothing like hand-knitted socks. They are the ultimate in cosy.
As a silly, quick project, I also sewed myself reversible bookmarks. I'd like to make more as I often use bus tickets or a post it note as bookmarks and it somehow detracts from the reading experience. I love both of these.
My edge-stitching was better on the second one I made (the snowman/skater one). It's (silly) fun choosing the ribbons for the top too. 
I'm looking forward to Autumn, though for the first time in years I properly enjoyed the warm summer. I went for a walk a few days ago and noticed the cooking apple tree had begun to drop its apples already. The apple trees in our garden are still holding onto all of theirs. The next day I returned with a bag (and my friends and their daughters as helpers) and collected LOADS. We barely touched what was there. I hate seeing home-grown stuff go to waste. I promised the girls I'd make them apple pies, so will do that sometime this week. Part of the objective was having a project for the girls to expend energy, because they have a LOT of energy.
We have LOTS of plums on our plum tree this year, and while I'm pleased to have so many in its third year, I'm disappointed with their size. They're barely bigger than large grapes. Maybe next year.
There are lots of brambles forming, but I found one wee patch that were ripe already, so I picked them and had them with yogurt. Delicious.
I always take the Book Festival off work, and I spent most of the first week attending events. I couldn't get tickets for a few events as they'd already sold out, but I took it as an opportunity to branch out and I'm so glad I did. Val McDermid was the most mainstream writer I saw. I've only read one of her books and should try a recent novel, I think. She's such a good speaker and is always intelligent, good-humoured and insightful.
Hagos bought a 10 foot pool and it was a huge hit with all of our child friends. Even though the water was COLD, they were in the pool for hours! I mostly enjoyed floating on the lilo when it was really hot.

Heading into Autumn I'm looking forward to the new Kate Atkinson novel, Transcription, that is published in early September, as well as Strictly being back on TV, and Bake Off starting. 

Monday, April 16, 2018

Makes, and my birthday

So I turned 50 on Saturday, and I feel good at 50. We had a wee house party, and I ate a lot of cake and sugar and drank Champagne.
I like this photo of me and my wee friend Willow. We are around 46 years apart in age, but very similar in our appreciation of silly fun.
I haven't done much sewing and knitting this year as I'm working on making something else, but this wee chicken was a quick, silly, satisfying make.
Progress on my cherry red cardigan is slow, but every so often I have a spurt of activity and it grows.
I've been looking for sock yarn for ages, and I finally found this in John Lewis in Glasgow one day when I had time after going through for work. This photo was taken at night in artificial light and doesn't at all convey the rich, gorgeous purples/yellows/greens. Plus, it's so lovely to have hand-knitted sock(s) again. I forget how luxurious and cosy they feel. I have one pair of hand-knitted socks left and they are very worn. I love the yarn (I don't remember what it is but I'll be buying more this week). And, self-striping equals no effort so that's a win.

Sunday, January 07, 2018

la fin de l'année

We were able to hold our Christmas Carol Singalong this year, as Hagos and Rick were both around. I think we last held it three years ago. It is basically anyone who can play an instrument (and I use the term 'play' in the very loosest of terms) accompanying the singers. So we have Hagos playing guitar and trumpet (he can actually play), I play piano, Lynsey plays flute and Pete plays guitar. Rick did play guitar and possibly a drum(?) last time but not this year. We also have jingle bells and shaky eggs etc for the kids to make a racket with.
It was a riot this year! Summed up in Freya's facial expression above. What a cacophony! But it was great fun. 
Hagos and I drove to Dumfries on Christmas Day. My nephew and his fiancée had offered to host this year and they did a great job. It took me a while to adjust to my sister not hosting. For most of my life my parents hosted Christmas, until my sister took over just a couple of years before my mum died. Moving to my nephew's house meant adjusting to accommodate my niece-in-law-to-be's parents as well. It was great to see my great-nephew and great-nieces, and I think my dad really enjoyed it as well.
Christmas dinner was amazing, and Martin and Stacey had obviously gone to a lot of effort to make it lovely for everyone and they did a fantastic job. Everyone loved it.
We also had about four days' worth of SNOW!!! Oh, it was so great to get up in the morning before anyone else was about, and to walk to the top of the hill behind our house and SLEDGE down it. I had such fun. I managed four runs before being unable to climb back up the hill for a fifth go. The view is - just - breathtaking. I love it up there.
Covered in snow at the bottom of the run.
This was the final morning as the snow was beginning to melt. You can see the bottom of the Pentland Hills turning green in the distance.
My friend Janie and I try to meet once a year now that we live so far apart. We became friends when we both lived in Tufnell Park, London many years ago. It doesn't matter how long we spend together we just chat chat chat chat chat, from the second we meet until the second we part. We love meeting in York because it means we can go to Bette's tea rooms. This year we were mega excited to get a table in the window in the corner. Luxury! You can see 'Bette's' reflected in my Champagne glass.
I don't think anything could top last year's new year. BUT, we went to our friends Lyns and Pete's house and started a fairly standard game of Pictionary that ended in a RIOT! There were two teams of three, and one team of two; we all eventually ended up on the last square, where it's an All Play, and the team 'owning' the go wins if they win that All Play. Ownership of the go kept ping-ponging between the McMonkeys' team and Hagos and Pete's team. My team (with Lyns and Jay) didn't get ownership for ages. But when we finally did WE WON!!! At one point it was so tightly contested that an innocent recording I took was forensically examined to determine who had shouted 'nostril' first. I think we watched the clip about eight times.
I absolutely love this photo. It was one of those moments where I spotted the girls sitting in the window of Cocoa Black in Peebles (a sublime chocolate/coffee shop) and had the presence of mind to nip outside to take their photograph. 💚

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Alpaca Mittens

After bumping into a bunch of alpacas while out on a walk with friends, I was pleased to hear the place, BobCat Alpacas, had started selling undyed yarn from their fleeces! I was determined to buy some.

I went with my friend to her daughter's school's Christmas fair where BobCat Alpacas had a stall and after much deliberation decided Petros was the alpaca for me.
I found a basic mitten pattern in my Folk Mittens book and off I went. It took me a while to get the gauge right and I had to opt for the 'large children's' size with a couple of amendments. It was only when I'd finished knitting both mittens I realised I had mis-read the pattern and used 4mm needles instead 3.5mm! (US size 4 = 3.5mm!)
From a 100g ball of alpaca, I have 38g left. The yarn is really soft and beautiful.
I'm pleased with the finished results and will definitely wear my mittens out. Brown isn't really my colour though and I don't have any other matching brown accessories so they'll probably just be worn on local walks.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Slow Knitting

Still not much knitting or sewing around here. I'm aiming to finish the second sleeve of #5 Chickadee cardigan. Then I'll pause it to knit some fun, quick things like Arne and Carlos's Christmas Balls. Maybe some mittens.
My wee friend Willow likes to play Duck Duck Goose when we're in the garden. She likes the fire pit lit too, to toast Marshmallows, - or Marshwillows as she calls them. 
These three get on remarkably well considering the age gaps. Willow, the wee one, adores JJ the biggest one. JJ is so considerate and great with both of the girls. Here he is indulging Willow eating a lot of his ice cream. It doesn't seem that long ago since he was the wee one attempting to eat other people's food.
This toad has been living in our wood shed for about a month now. He has a friend, who hides under a log every time we open the shed up. But this one just stays still. I love all animals so much and love having these two sheltering in our shed. 

Sunday, August 20, 2017


I've done very little sewing or knitting this year. I've been reading and writing more. Out of necessity, I made these two phone covers for myself and Hagos. Hagos likes the Kaffe Fasset black material, so every time his phone cover wears out I make him the exact same cover. I like to change my phone covers, so when mine wears out I choose from all the scraps I have. I love this material. It reminds me of petals, or pistachios, or ice cream, as my little friend Willow thought they were.
I also did a massive clear out of all of my wool and fabric leftovers. It's been a job I've been meaning to do for ages. It took ages as well and I had to be really honest about whether I would ever use some of the scraps I had left. I think I was fairly realistic with what I would never use again (10 year old Halloween fabric). Sorting the wool has been great though, and it's let me see what I have to work with. I have a few full balls as well as scraps, so will be able to turn those into mittens and socks and Christmas balls! 

I've been on holiday from work this last 10 days. It's been bliss! I had booked a whole fortnight off over the Book Festival, but Hagos ended up being away on tour so I didn't want to use all of my annual leave while he was away, but I really needed a break of more than a few days from work so I took a week, which with my usual Friday off gave me 10 whole days. I went to a couple of Book Festival events - Eimear McBride and Garth Greenwell was the first. It was an event in conjunction with a MOOC (massive open online course) run by Edinburgh University called How to Read a Novel, which I've been doing. Both books were shortlisted for the James Tait Black Memorial Prize (McBride won). The second event I went to was Denise Mina. 
So I've been home alone for the past five weeks. One more week to go before Hagos returns from tour. The photo above is at Shepherd's Bush Empire. You can just see Hagos in the bottom left corner at the mixing desk. This was with Kate Nash. I went to the KN gig in Edinburgh, first time I've seen her live. I was impressed by her vocals (I've been to lots of gigs - not all singers can sing!), and by her audience engagement (some bands enter and exit stage without acknowledging the audience is even there!). 
Hagos then jumped straight onto the Ash tour. Their second gig was at Party at the Palace at Linlithgow, so I went along with my friend Noosh, the drummer's wife, and their daughters. This is us setting off!
It was the first time Willow had seen her dad play a gig. The girls had a friend there too and they all had inflatable microphones to play with, which distracted them for a while, along with the smoke machine, which they loved. Towards the end they were dancing around.
I love this photo Noosh took of Willow with Ricky Wilson from the Kaiser Chiefs. Moments before she had tried to get a selfie with Gok Wan, who was NOT in the mood. But Ricky was very obliging and good fun. I love that Willow just wants her inflatable microphone back. Don't forget who the real star is here, Ricky!
This is me soon after being forced to climb up and then slide down a huge inflatable slide. The girls wanted to go on. The man with the slide assured me Willow wasn't too wee to go on it. Of course she got stuck almost at the top of the inflatable steps and the man said to me, it's fine for you to go and help her! Nothing except rescuing a child or animal in need would have made me climb up those steps but by this point she was stuck in the side of the steps with no way of getting up or down, so up I went, got her to the top thinking I would just get her to slide down and then I'd climb down by myself, but she wouldn't slide down by herself, and there were so many kids piling up the steps and then THROWING themselves down the slide, so down we both slid. Of course as soon as we were at the bottom she started climbing straight back up again, so up I went again, and down we both slid again. Thankfully by this time our time was up as it had taken so long to do two runs! I was starting to enjoy it after the second slide. 

The rest of my time has been hanging out with the animals, and re-watching Christmas Bake Off from last year. Made me a bit nostalgic, it was so good. 

I'm looking forward to Autumn proper. Summer is my least favourite season. I like the light, and I like that I can wear just a skirt and top to go out, but I love Autumn and Spring the best, love seeing the seasons and countryside change, and I like cosying up too. 

Monday, June 12, 2017

Knitting, and Under the Sea

It's been months since I did any real knitting (or sewing). Just lost the urge. But at the weekend I pulled out the Chickadee red plain cardigan I started knitting before Christmas and continued with the sleeve. It's a good TV-watching pattern so I expect to finish it in about a month's time.
On Sunday we went to see my great-niece Lucy performing in her Drama Club's production Under the Sea. She played a jellyfish and her costume was top secret until the day. It was a small theatre with probably around 50 seats, obviously filled with family of the cast, and Lucy's relatives took up two whole rows because she had her grandparents and great grandparents from both sides of the family, as well as aunts and uncles, cousins, siblings and parents. She is such an exuberant, infectiously happy girl. She was at the front for the final dance number and was just a joy to watch. We love her so much.