Sunday, January 25, 2015

January

I thought, why make a present for a friend's birthday when I can give her the ingredients to make it herself, and dress it up as a 'learning-to-knit' chance?

So that's what I did, but last weekend no progress had been made on the two starter rows I'd done back in November, so I took the whole thing back and knitted it myself in a week. The wool is Rowan Alpaca, and I love the shade, and the ombre effect. AND, a slight annoyance, the hat only took one skein of wool but the pattern said two, by which time I'd already rolled the second skein into a ball to make it easier to knit with. So, I'm now knitting a second hat and may keep it myself/may give it as a present. 
I baked a loaf of bread for the first time in months. Really enjoyed making and eating it. I wonder if using a dough hook would make it lighter and more elastic though? It has a very short crumb (is that correct? I'm trying to use the lingo of the GBBO). I like it, anyway.
I love this photo of Squeaky Cheese, an Ancona, and Rosie II, a Legbar. They look great against the snow. Squeaky Cheese lays squat, creamy-white eggs, and Rosie lays pale blue eggs. 
My sewathon continues. Apart from the hat, which takes no effort whatsoever, I've been sewing rather than knitting since Christmas. This is me laying the pattern for the Tilly and the Buttons Delphine Skirt. I've finished it yesterday morning and will photograph it and post it later, but I'm really pleased with it. I chose a fine cord, which cost £9 a metre, and one metre is all the skirt requires. I usually sew things in one sitting but I made this over several days, though I could easily have made it in one sitting. Tilly's instructions are super-clear, and I think this may be the best invisible zip I've ever sewn. The only thing I would do differently next time is to sew a stay-stitch along the material that ends up being cut on the bias. So the skirt is an exaggerated A-line, which means the cord s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-s when sewing the front and back together. I even put my walking foot on my machine, but it still stretched one side longer than the other.  
We had a Star Wars film afternoon and our friends and Godson came over. We prepared a small film-picnic. The present in the middle is Lynsey's hat wrapped up. 
I love the contrast of these three eggs: Georgie's (a Welsummer), Rosie or Duck (Legbars) and Squeaky Cheese, (the Ancona). This was the last Georgie egg we got, a couple of weeks ago. She must be laying outside of the henhouse. We did talk about doing a stakeout of the chickens this morning but a lazy morning was more appealing. We have previously followed chickens to discover where they're laying their eggs!
Our break from the world has kind of continued into January. Instead of doing stuff we should be doing on a Friday, we've been going up town, parking and shopping in John Lewis (haberdashery), walking to Wagamama's and having lunch. We have mini-cheesecakes for dessert. Haggis likes the passionfruit one, but I like the white chocolate with ginger sauce! Oh, I could eat a WHOLE cheesecake of that.
I've spent quite a lot of time with our goose, Swann, this weekend. He is an amazing animal. Really good fun. He has lots of little habits and loves company. He has a baby bath that he bathes and splashes around in. And a couple of mirrors to look at his own reflection. He is very vocal and chats away. My favourite thing in the morning when I let him out, is racing with him along the pathway from his home to his bath (about 20 metres). He runs and shouts and flaps his wings and sometimes takes off (just!). And this weekend I think he is going through a frisky phase (I know nothing about the sexual cycles of geese!). Either that, or he has finally come to trust us. On Friday I crouched down to hold a small piece of bread out for him to eat. He ignored the bread completely, walked round to my side and tried to climb on my lap with his feet. I made the mistake of trying to pick him up and was punched in my lip with his wing. I was actually disappointed the following day that I didn't have a thick lip as I was looking forward to telling the anecdote. Anyway, on Saturday I sat on the grass next to him (on a stone) with my legs stretched out in front of me, and he jumped on my wellies and started tugging at my feet. Then he turned round and started trying to climb up my body. I got up quickly because he is big and strong. Anyway, the rest of the weekend he's been letting me stroke him and cuddle him and he follows me around when I do anything near the henhouse. He is just adorable and I wish he (and all of our chickens, and a couple of pigs as well) could live in our house with us. That would be so cool

Friday, January 02, 2015

Holiday

I wanted a holiday from the world over Christmas/New Year, and apart from partaking in Christmas Day familial celebrations that's what I've had.
I've had the best part of three weeks off work, and it was much-needed and SO good. Good to turn off the work chatter and remember who I am. And good to POTTER, and let the days drift.

I knitted a few Christmas baubles. They're addictive and satisfying.
We spent a few hours over New Year's Eve with our friends at their house. I was the designated driver, so we left around half past midnight. I had a mouthful of prosecco as we watched the Edinburgh fireworks from the upper window.
I had thought I might DO lots of things while I was off, but actually I rambled from one interest to the next: I rediscovered playing the piano and it hasn't taken me long to get back into it. It's so beautiful and meditative and my coordination is excellent.

I have been reading, and sleeping and walking every day; hanging out with the chickens, cuddling Meg at the kitchen table in the morning as I drink coffee; hanging out with Hagos, which has been really great; and SEWING.
This is me hand finishing my Turkey feathers skirt. Meg decided she'd had enough neglect and sat on the skirt in protest. She knows exactly what she's doing.
I have cut out the linings of the three other skirts and hope to finish one or two more by Sunday. I am determined to sew and knit my way through my projects until they are all done. No more wool or material buying until then. It will take me a while! 

A few moments after this photo I grabbed Meg and we went through to snuggle on our chaise longue. She is too adorable.

Friday, December 26, 2014

December

The hardcore Christmas party revellers left at the end of the annual Christmas Carol Concert, where we sing and play our way through popular Christmas carols. I always leave practising the piano until a couple of days before, and barely have my tunes ready in time to play. Luckily there are other musicians present, though this year I did think we could do with an overhaul for next year. A way of engaging the children better, or involving everyone better.
This year I became obsessed by knitting Christmas balls. I was like a woman possessed. I just love everything about them. The silliness, the coolness, the kookiness. They tick all the boxes for me. Plus, the variations are endless. I want to do the reindeer head and the skier, and the PIG. A double-chart is needed for the pig.
My bamboo double-pointed needles are ideal for the balls. And as usual my wee companion helps by keeping me warm and entertained.
This month I got to see two of my favourite far-away friends. This is Joyce, my ex-work colleague from Norwich. We worked together from the beginning of the Witness Care Units in England and Wales. I liked Joyce immediately because she was straight-talking and good fun. I still miss that job. It had extremely challenging moments, but the team was great, very supportive, irreverent humour and Fridays encapsulated 'do-what-you-want-Friday', and the famous Shake 'n' Bake. Oh, and for a while we used to phone in takeaway bacon rolls. 
And this is Janie my London friend. We have started meeting in York once a year (nowhere near enough), which is equidistant between London and Edinburgh. We both used to live in Tufnell Park and spent many gin evenings in Janie's garden. Also many walks on Hampstead Heath finishing up with tea at Kenwood. I wish I could keep all the favourite parts of London and Norwich in my Edinburgh life. If only teleporting existed. 
My favourite day in the whole year is 23rd December, our wedding anniversary. We do exactly the same thing every year, which involves: shutting out the world, lunch out at a favourite cafe/restaurant, and then home for Champagne and watching White Christmas. I LOVE White Christmas. The dancing and singing are just superb. And the manners, and costumes and sentiment.

We had a marathon drive yesterday, as we always do. Our families live in a triangular hour and a half drive from us/each other. We started off at my parents' house, then moved over to my sister and brother-in-law's house for Christmas dinner. It was really lovely, and they had obviously gone to a lot of effort to make everything great. I also got to see my great-nephew, Keigan, who is such a terrific boy. Then a late afternoon/early evening drive to my mother-in-law's. I wish she lived beside us. She is also a great character and was recounting a story of when Hagos and his siblings were children and the family used to go on cycling holidays! They cycled all the way from Annan to Carlisle and beyond. Hagos can remember cycling on the dual carriageway when he was eight years old! On one cycling holiday Hagos and his sister Jill got food poisoning and their dad and brother had to cycle all the way home to collect the car to go and pick them up. 

Today we're heading round to see our friends and Godsons for a mammoth game of Monopoly. Lynsey and I are planning to drive back here to put the chickens to bed and have a walk/break from everyone else. 

Sunday, December 07, 2014

For Willow

I finally sewed together the vest and bootees for Willow last night. I think it's aged 0-3 months and she must be almost a month old now so I'd better hurry up and pass them on! I sewed on little cream roses as an embellishment and to link the vest and bootees. I love the way it adds to the garments but they were a bugger to sew on. Getting them in matching places on the bootees was tricky! And mixing sewing thread and wool isn't great. So, they may not stay on too long but they look good to give.

Bye Bye Bread


We had to say goodbye to the cockerels. They had reached sexual maturity and were causing havoc amongst the girls as well as becoming aggressive towards us. As a human female I must say their mating ritual left a lot to be desired. There was no beautiful display, or trying to impress a hen until she was receptive and accepting - oh no. They would sidle up to an oblivious hen, do a sideways stomp and a kind of flamenco move with one wing and then hop on. That was as seductive as it got. Another method was to suddenly spot a hen they fancied meandering round the corner, take a great stomping run and jump and land on top of her. The girls were beginning to look haggard and the worse for wear.

Interestingly, each cockerel had a type of hen it was attracted to. Poor Henrietta was a favourite of Penguin, the most brutish cockerel. She eventually had to be coaxed out of bed in the morning and then escorted past him at night to get back into bed. One time I went round to a lot of squawking to find her wedged between a tree trunk and the wire fence of the run, with her head through the bars, and Penguin from the top of the tree trunk STILL trying to jump on her.

Another interesting and heartening observation was how the other hens would leap to the defence of one of their sisters by pecking a cockerel off. I gave those girls extra grapes as a reward.

The only cockerel I did have a wee cry over was Bread. I know he had to go. He was HUGE. But until he fully matured he was my favourite boy. He would sing to me and settle down while I cuddled him. But in the end even he was looking at me as if about to attack, and his size in comparison to some of the hens (poor, tiny Squeaky Cheese caught his fancy) was untenable. That's testosterone for you.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Winter hat and mittens

My old hat had felted through over-wearing, so I knitted a new one. Above is the finished item. It only took a couple of hours from start to finish. I love it.
Before the ends were sewn in. Ignore the state of the blanket in the background. It's Meg's blanket and therefore filthy.
And then last week I lost my lovely 4-ply Norwegian Star mittens! I think I got out of the car one day while they were on my lap. So I knitted these chunky mittens to match my hat. One mitten per evening. I love quick knits.

They are lovely and warm and bright and cheerful, and they match my current scarf, which will extend my winter accessories another year. I want the colour-scheme for my next mittens, hat and scarf to be lush green and white.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

November

I'm almost finished the vest I'm knitting for my friends' baby. I just have to sew it together, knit the neckband, sew on an embellishment (a fabric flower?) et voila! I'm also knitting matching bootees - a good, fun knit. One done, one to go.
My sister and I met in Glasgow on Friday and went to the Country Living Christmas Fair. It was a good day out. The best part was spending a day off with my sister. The Fair was okay. I was expecting more independent crafters, whereas it was fairly commercial. I also expected it to be Christmassy but it wasn't! And, a real let down was the facilities. There was one small area set aside for two coffee and cake stalls, and one baked potato stall, with far too few chairs and tables to accommodate the hoards of people attending. We ended up grabbing a vege slice off a pie stall and sitting outside on a row of chairs. Not very relaxing or an enhancement to the experience.
So after lunch we went back to our favourite stalls (there was a lovely artist's stall I liked selling animal art on cards, coasters, etc and I bought a couple of chicken coasters), bought a few things and then headed back into Glasgow for a bit more shopping and then COCKTAILS! 

I've wanted to go to the Country Living Christmas Fair for years, and now I have (and will never need to go again).
And this is just a favourite photo of my great-niece Lucy when she visited last weekend. She starts every sentence with, "We need to…", and she hadn't been in the house ten minutes before, "We need to go and see the chickens," and she was out of the door before anyone else could get their coats and wellies on. She's such a sweet girl though, and I love her ginger curls. Delphis was declared her favourite chicken.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Quick knit

I finished knitting my yellow TV jumper, and in true PH style I didn't much fancy sewing it together. I have so many projects on the go - knitting and sewing - but I decided to fit in a quick knit for friends who are due a baby any day now. It's a small vest, and I'll do matching bootees if I have enough wool. I love the simplicity of this pattern. It's designed to keep a baby warm.
You can just see the pattern in this photo. From start to finish it should take me a week. Of course, I'll have to sew this knit together as I made the smallest size, 0 - 3 months to cover winter. 
Hagos has been away for the last couple of weeks, home on Monday. I actually thought he was home a week on Monday - somehow lost track of time. Meg and I have been such close friends. With the dark nights we snuggle up on the couch when I get home from work (once I've showered, put PJs on, lit the fire, made dinner, and gathered EVERYTHING I'll need for the evening close by, because we don't like to move once we're settled). And on my days off we have morning cuddles too, at the kitchen table. She is a great friend.