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.

Sunday, May 21, 2017


I have done virtually no sewing or knitting this year. Instead I have been thinking about time, and reading, and writing.
My Granny had bluebells and hydrangeas in her garden, along with trees. I've been thinking of her increasingly over time. She was a very jolly, very loving woman. Kind and patient, with a good sense of humour. She was also a beautiful crocheter and would crochet cardigans for all the babies and toddlers in her life, as well as their dolls. I wish I had been interested in knitting/craft then so I could have learned from her. I would like to resurrect my Granny, and in resurrecting her my mum and aunts would also be resurrected.
For my birthday this year we went to Loudon's again. I love the atmosphere in the place, as well as the food and especially the cakes! And I was pleased my Edinburgh friends could come along to join me.
The older I am, the more I love being outdoors. I especially love being outdoors with my husband. I love seeing nature change with the seasons. There are so many aspects I look forward to each year - the snowdrops, the daffodils, the potato-chitting, the swallows and house martens arriving, the long days and the LIGHT in Scotland in summer, BBQs and blossom and greenery and the smell of clothes dried in fresh air, bicycle rides, and then the cooler weather coming in, the leaves turning and falling, snow, sledging, cosying up in front of the fire. I feel happy outside.  
Two of my favourite younger friends. These two get on remarkably well, regardless of the age range. And they have a special affection for each other too, which is very sweet to watch. They are both amazing.
"Cool girls on bikes."

THIS has become my favourite breakfast meal ever. I have always loved Weetabix, and happily had it every day, until I thought I'd try Weetabix with Chocolate Chips - WOW!! Whoever invented this deserves recognition. I could eat it all day, every day, forever.

Monday, April 10, 2017


I haven't made much recently - either sewing or knitting-wise. I've been doing slow rows on a pair of mittens, but otherwise, nada.

So when I needed a quick fix last night (I like to feel I've achieved something in a day - washing endless dishes doesn't count) I remembered this pair of knickers I'd almost finished but couldn't quite be bothered to elastic all the edges before putting it away last year.

It probably took about an hour to sew the elastic on. I've sewn with elastic before while making my pyjama bottoms so am used to handling it. 

The finished result is ROUGH, but I set out with the intention of them being a test pair so wasn't too bothered. I was more interested in the mechanics of making them than the aesthetic of the finished product (polka dots aren't my thing).

Overall I'm really pleased with them. They fit! And they're fairly jolly. I toyed with adding an embellishment, but for now have left them plain. The elastic on the inside shows the stitching so next time I'll colour match the thread on both sides. And I'll raise the top of the knickers by about two inches! I like my knickers to come up to my waist. I have so many leftover bits of fabric that I will definitely make more. I also bought FOE (fold over elastic) recently so am excited to try that out. I can make a pair of knickers with off-cuts and FOE costing £1.50 per pair, which isn't bad. I could source some cheaper elastic and make each pair for 75p. I'll see. 
The kit I used was this from The Makery. It contains everything you'll need. A fairly hefty price at £15 a box! But I was in need of cheering up at lunchtime one day and John Lewis haberdashery is always guaranteed to do that for me so it was £15 well spent.
Yesterday I wore my daisy skirt with my hand-knitted moss jumper. I really love both of them, and I love being able to wear stuff I've made myself. It makes me so happy! I'm keen to wear all my summer skirts as the weather has been sunny recently but it is still actually cold, so I was glad I'd worn leggings as well.