Using Will Self as a working model.Kind of. And keeping warm! Because it's so bloomin' cold! Even with the coal fire at full pelt.
I went to the gym this afternoon and was so cold by the time I arrived that I jumped straight into the bath-water-temperature pool instead. It was SO lovely as I had the pool completely to myself, which is one of my favourite things.
And now I'm snuggled under a blanket with a hot water bottle (that Meg kept putting her paw on and looking startled before withdrawing it again) and knitting my green jumper. I've finished the front now. Just got two chunky sleeves to go.
p.s. can you see an important detail in the top left of the last photo?
I cleaned the house today, to ready it for the new year. And while I was at it I planted our chilli and herb presents. So hopefully they will bear a crop.
We took Bette to Stansted yesterday for her return flight to Prestwick. It was very adventurous of her to come down to visit us. Stansted is fairly daunting as an airport and it was lucky we were able to help her negotiate her way out of it! After having her brandy confiscated on the way down (and being totally unimpressed!), she was then frisked on the way back home and she swore at security staff, telling them it was 'bloody ridiculous'. Fantastic. Love that attitude.
I'm almost finished the front of my chunky green jumper. Once I've finished that I'll finish the thumb on my mitten. Then continue with JJ's jumper. I have a few projects on the go again so it shouldn't take too much effort to finish them all.
This is the flaming of the Christmas Pudding yesterday. Bette, Hagos's mother made it, along with the can't-possibly-squeeze-any-more-brandy-into-the brandy butter. She had the brandy she brought with her to flame it confiscated at Prestick Airport on the way down, so we had to make do with using Highland Park whisky to flame it with instead. Both the pudding and brandy butter were delicious.And this is Meg enjoying the wrapping paper from the presents, as she usually does. She particularly took to this piece of paper and slept in it for most of the day.
We had a really lovely, peaceful day. I got a gorgeous pair of port glasses from Hagos, (as well as my electric piano!) and a lovely sewing basket from Bette. In fact, I liked every one of my presents.
I'm glad that's it for another year though. It's all very well, etc, but I do like to be getting on with things.
It's our wedding anniversary today and we had a completely lovely day. In amongst our usual celebrations I whipped up two more toiletries bags! It seems not quite everyone has one yet. Hagos's mother, for example, who we're picking up from Stansted tomorrow for Christmas.I'll give her the one on the left. I made the second one as a back up, because, you never know when you might need a toiletries bag to give away. Actually, I have someone in mind already. I also made some biscuits from dough I already had in the freezer. Cats in honour of Meg, giraffes in honour of my sister who likes giraffes, and elephants in honour of Jo who likes elephants. And the number 6, because it's our 6 year wedding anniversary!
I was really in the mood to sew something today, so it was lucky I had to make a birthday present. It really did me good actually. Sometimes I just have an urge to make something. I especially like making presents. And under the tree every morning, this delightful present.
The fudge turned out very well. It's delicious, and I think I got enough for five bagfulls, though I only need three, so Hagos and I have already eaten our way through one bag :) I've been feeling teary all day. Pretty much everything's been setting me off. Wishing I could help my sister who is feeling the effects of being too busy. Then on the drive into town this morning a man was crossing the road in front of us and he obviously had some neurological problem, and watching the effort of him walking made me teary. Then all the madness of the shoppers pre-Christmas. And in The Guardian today, a feature in the Family section of an 80 year old man whose wife had died and he'd found love and companionship again. I couldn't read the whole feature because it made me cry. His description of having had a good marriage for something like 50 years, and not being ready to lose his wife when she died. And seeing images of the Lockerbie plane crash in the papers the last couple of days. My hometown in Scotland is five miles from Lockierbie, and my sister and her family lived in Lockerbie when it happened. I lived in London at the time, and Hagos and I went up to Scotland for Christmas, and about 20 yards from my sister's front door was one of the plane's engines embedded in the tarmac. And being annoyed that Rachel didn't win Strictly Come Dancing tonight when she was by far the better dancer. I never took to Tom and he came across to me as being smug and self-obsessed.
And sometimes just observing people going about their business makes me sad. It reminds me of the story Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka - the futility of the struggle!
Oh dear, this is very Christmassy, isn't it! On a much lighter note: I bought the above haberdasherry from Anglian Fashion Fabrics, which is round the corner from my work. The paper string I love. It has that Quaker appeal. And it was only 10p a metre! I wanted to buy five metres of each colour but only bought three in case the shopkeeper thought I was being greedy. And the coloured cord is for yet more toiletries bags. I have three in mind. And then, I really do think almost everyone I know will have a toiletries bag made by me and I will have to think of something new to make.
When I first moved to Norwich there was a shop on, London Street I think, called Ananas and Dansk. It was a Danish shop on three or four levels that sold gorgeous wooden furniture, and also, just inside the entrance, candles, decorations and things like that. I was upset when the shop disappeared and mortified when in its place - a Baker's Oven! Anyway, I bought the above Danish Christmas decorations in Ananas and Dansk. My friend showed me years ago how to make the paper stars, and pretty much every Christmas I make some fresh ones. Everyone I show them to wants to know how it's done. I have a link to some instructions on my other laptop that I can pass on if anyone's really interested.
I'm planning to make a few more and string them along the window with some hearts I've cut out to sew together from some leftover Christmas fabric. To make the house more Christmassy. After tasting the Chocolate Pistachio Fudge Jo made for Katie in the MIY Secret Santa, I decided to make some myself to give as little Christmas gifts to friends. So I made it tonight.
My dad used to work for Carnation years ago, and the tin is satisfyingly solid, and the condensed milk tastes amazing. I thought it was too amazing to only be condensed milk (because, what else could be in condensed milk?) only to read the label and realise it contains sugar of course. No wonder it tasted so good. I didn't have a square tin to set it in, so used two round tins instead. I'm hoping to get four or five bags worth. I took a couple of hours' annual leave yesterday from work to mooch around town. I wanted to go to a specialist cook shop to look for gift bags for the fudge. I actually wanted plain bags, which I intended tying beautifully with ribbon, but there were none and so I settled for these Santa bags, which I'm now quite fond of.
Love that snowman. I got it from Reepham Station last year, and I think it's by a local artist - there's a stained glass studio behind where I live. Every year I like to buy a new decoration for the tree. I was just thinking in the last couple of days that I haven't bought one this year, and also that I've been without an angel at the top of our Christmas tree ever since Hagos and I have been together, when I came across this in a local shop: It reminds me of Scandinavian Christmas decorations. I like it. She has a knitted hat too - couldn't be more apt. I'm hoping my sister doesn't have internet access at the moment because this is her finished scarf. I made it out of Rowan Tapestry. it's such lovely wool to work with. I used two slightly different colours for the main moss stitch body, working them two rows at a time, then used a ball for 1 x 1 rib at each end to finish it off. I hope she likes it! I have to post it to her tomorrow. I'm trying to keep on top of the housework these days. The house is so much more pleasant and enjoyable when it's clean and fairly tidy. It's good to really live in a place, of course, but continual clearing up is part of that healthy living. I spent a couple of hours clearing out the front yard on Sunday and I really enjoyed it. Clearing up all the leaves, and the pruning that I did at the end of summer but never got round to tidying up.
Meg has been fairly polite to the Christmas tree this year. The bottom baubles have been batted off and chased round the living room and kitchen, and she jumps onto the windowsill and reaches down to gently bat the top baubles, but so far no launching herself full-bodied into the tree, or grabbing the branches in her teeth and shaking it, like she did last year. It has been so cold here for the last week. We need to light the fire earlier each day, and yesterday we used two scuttlefuls of coal. Our house is open plan from the living room, through the kitchen, up the stairs to the top landing/hallway, so there's a lot to heat, though we have storage heaters helping. It was my works Christmas night out last night. I was glad to sit with my jobshare, Katy. We used to sit next to each other at work before we went part-time, and we get on very well, but now we rarely see each other. She hands over to me in an email, and I do the same with her. I miss her because I think we are fairly similar people in our approach to life. We have similar intelligence, and emotional intelligence, sense of silliness, and sense of fairness and right and wrong. So, all in all, it was a pleasant evening out and I left before any embarrassments occurred (pole dancing anyone - or, to be precise, lamp post dancing)! Above is Caroline (top), Katy (left) and me (right).This morning Hagos and I went into town and had breakfast as usual. Then we popped into my new favourite shop - a little music shop next to a favourite cafe, No. 33. I looked at all the music on sale, and bought The Complete Piano Player Christmas. I've played most of them already. It's a good level for me because it's fairly simple, seasonal, and it's making me learn to read the bass stave/clef (I'm still learning music terminology!).
This is what I'm currently learning to play. Look at all those notes! It's the main piece of music in The Piano, the Jane Campion film (The Heart Asks Pleasure First by Michael Nyman). I absolutely love it. So far I can play the first bar, very slowly. But it's an amazing feeling even to play a piece of music extremely slowly - to recognise the tune and the beauty of the notes together.
In the last few years I've become more sensitised to visual beauty. Colour combinations or patterns can transfix me and there's a depth to the perception I didn't have before. And I think the same is happening audibly now as well. Two notes played together, in a sequence with other notes are breathtakingly beautiful. I think I have mild synaesthesia.
It's a bit like those 3D optical illusions or stereo magic eye pictures that were all the rage a few years ago, where you had to stare cross-eyed at a flat series of lines and suddenly the bottom would fall out of it and a 3D shape would emerge.
We put our tree up last night, after getting it in the afternoon. I really like dumpy little trees. An evening photograph would probably do it more justice but I was so excited by the arrival of my Christmas present this morning that I had to post. It's a keyboard!!! All plans have gone out the window for the day and I'm still in my pyjamas after playing Silent Night and Super Trouper. I haven't played piano for about twenty years, but I boast about having a natural aptitude for music and within two minutes of it arriving I was slowly but surely playing my way through Silent Night. I soon got the treble clef sorted out, just the bass clef I need to get used to. When Hagos and I first moved to London I took piano lessons for a few weeks. I was determined to impress my teacher (for purely competitive reasons) and mastered whatever she gave me to practice during the week, and more.
My urge to play again came about because another friend was given a piano for her birthday last year. I remembered how much I'd enjoyed playing and how quickly I'd progressed. I didn't intend to buy a keyboard, but when I sent Hagos an email asking if we had the means of picking up a free piano from a work colleague, he did some research and came up with this Yamaha keyboard. Lightweight (for when we eventually move), sounds amazing, and it wasn't so expensive that I feel guilty about letting him buy it for me.
Well I'd love to write more, but my keyboard is looking at me and I want to master Silent Night before Christmas. We're going to the library this afternoon to look for more music for me. I'd like more Christmas carols, and the music from The Piano (film). I'll have to go back to the beginning of my The Complete Piano player to remind myself of the basics, but playing and learning music I like is great motivation.
I got the fat quarters pack a couple of weeks ago. Amy Butler of course. Last night I laid one out to see what I could get out of it, and was amazed to find I can get one toiletries bag and a pair of slippers. A headband might be an inch too far, I'll see.
I bought one of the Tilda books last Saturday and it has a pattern for slippers. I'm thinking of making the toiletries bag and slippers for a Christmas present. I will soon have to come up with a different present to make people as several friends now have a toiletries bag. They are very cool. And above, the finished mittens (okay, one thumb still to knit!). I really, really like them.
A friend emailed me at the weekend and said she'd decided to do home-made Christmas presents this year as a stance against consumerism and over-spending. I would much prefer a simpler gift-giving ethos. To scale it all right back financially, and make it more personal and thoughtful by either making the gift or by spending a moderate amount instead of a load of money. A paperback would be ideal.
I was pleased with myself for using the leftover wrapping paper from two years ago to wrap this year's presents. Every Christmas I usually enjoy choosing the wrapping but this year I decided to make do with what I had.
My friend asked if I'd like a home-made present this year, or if I would prefer to forgo giving presents to save on the stress. So I wrote back and suggested we make Christmas presents for each other, with no deadline for giving them. I think this is an excellent idea. You make and give the present whenever you feel like it.
Idealism is all very well but sometimes realism works best.
This is Katie examining her make-it-yourself Secret Santa present, made for her by Jo. I had a piece of the chocolate pistaschio fudge and it was delicious. I think by the end of the day Katie had had eight pieces! She couldn't stop going to the fridge. This is what Katie made for Jo. Jo is mad on elephants. Her computer screen has many drawings of elephants that we've all done for her. Above is a pen holder. Below, a magnificent photo frame. I was really pleased with what they both produced as, though they were eager to take part, they both started off saying they couldn't make anything and only had one idea each.
I'll post again properly soon. Got mittens to show, and fabric ideas. Maybe some thoughts to share.
The phone rang while I was working in my shed just now, and it was only when I took the handset in to Hagos that I realised how dark and quiet it was outside.
I remember when we first moved here from London, and coming home in the evening after being at university, pulling up into our drive and being amazed at the clarity of the stars through the darkness. And how one winter afternoon I took a walk down to the Station (a converted shop/cafe) to browse and drink tea, later emerging into complete darkness and wondering how I was going to get home (about a 15 minute walk). Because, there are very few street lights in the village. Which I like. After living in London it was a surprise. Buses and underground trains every five to ten minutes, street lights everywhere.
I live in a very sweet little place, and I really like it. I just wish we had our best friends living nearby.
I woke up early this morning, just in time to hear (or perhaps because of) my cat at the bedroom window. I haven't seen much of Meg over the last couple of days with work and socialising, so I was happy to get up and see her. Then I decided to carry on knitting my mittens. I'm really enjoying knitting them, and watching the pattern emerge. I'm so in love with the colour combination of green and white now. So hopefully it won't be too long before my winter accessories are fully matching. The pattern is from the Folk Mittens book. It's the third time I've knitted them. Sometimes I have the urge to knit with big, chunky wool and needles, and sometimes I love the feel of 4-ply and small needles. Of course, no photo session would be complete without Mrs Ginger Haggarty getting involved. I love how she plonks herself right in the middle of whatever I'm doing. She sits on top of my laptop, on top of books I'm reading. She's great. I really miss Meg when I don't see her for a few hours.
Hagos and I have colds at the moment. His is worse than mine, which is unusual. Still, it's frustrating. However, today we'll be having our usual Haggarty Saturday: town, Ha Ha's for lunch, home, pottering, and in the evening a friend is coming over for dinner and a movie (and Strictly Come Dancing, of course).
It seems surreal that Obama has won the election. How amazing. I normally resist mentioning someone's ethnicity or sexual orientation in relation to their success as I believe people should be judged on their own merits and not in relation to arbitrary factors. However, it is hugely significant and comforting that America has voted to have a black President, and a black First Family. And it gives the world an optimistic outlook for the first time in eight years.
Hagos and I went to Edinburgh on Friday to stay with our friends Pete and Lynsey and their children, Nate and JJ. Above are the boys opening their Halloween bags I made them, after they'd performed their Halloween entertainment for us. JJ sang "We will rock you" very well. His tuning and timing were amazing. And Nate ran around like the superhero Batman he was dressed as. On Monday, while Nate was at school and Pete was at work, Hagos, Lynsey, JJ and I went to IKEA for the day. I used to go to Ikea all the time when we lived in London. It was a fun day out. We went round the entire shop and had meatballs for lunch.
On Saturday Lynsey and I went to Loopy Lorna's, a new tea shop in Morningside. It was really lovely: quirky decor, individual knitted tea cosies on every tea pot. I really meant to take photographs, but before we left the house we gave the boys the option of coming to the "very boring tea shop" with us, or staying behind with Pete and Hagos and having "great fun at home". They chose to come to the teashop with us. And we could only get a table for two so we each had a child on our lap, so it wasn't quite the girly, extravagant experience we'd envisaged, though I have to say the boys are really great and JJ and I took a particular shine to each other and were like conjoined twins for the entire four days we were there. He is the sweetest, sweetest, sweetest child and I absolutely adore him.
It's really nice to be home again, and to see Meg. I missed her while we were away.
I had to make my pom poms the old fashioned way, as I'd loaned my pom pom maker to a friend. It seems a shame to use this gorgeous wool to make pom poms, but I needed my hat to match my scarf, and I'm really pleased with the finished result. I went to bed about midnight last night, as I decided to do a bit of sewing, beginning with finishing off the bag for my make-it-yourself Secret Santa. The thicker interfacing was difficult to work with once I was joining together the lining and outer of the bag. At one point I thought it wasn't going to work as I had to practically destroy the structure when I was turning it inside out, through a small 5" gap. However, once it was finished (and I have to say it looked terrible: shapeless and crumpled) I took it upstairs, pulled the lining out and ironed the front and back and pressed the seams, et voila! the shape returned and it now looks fairly crisp and like a handbag. So, I think that must be the trick to this damn pattern. I just have the button to sew on, in place of my poppy, and it'll be finished. My work colleagues and I have extended the deadline for giving and receiving our MIY SS to 5th November now, as Hagos and I be in Scotland on 31st October, the original deadline. After I'd finished the handbag I turned my attention to making these Halloween bags for Nate and JJ. I used my toiletries bag template as I'm planning to fill them with Halloween sweets but I don't want to make the kids sick by making a huge bag! I was fairly pleased with how they turned out. There's no finish to them as I'm sure the kids will be more interested in the sweets than the bag. I just need to sort out a better drawstring to use. I'll probably chain stitch 4-ply cotton. The cord I tried in the above photo is too thick so the slide action doesn't work. I'm looking forward to an extra hour's sleep tonight! I need it as I was woken up at 6.30am by Meg, first at my bedroom door and then intermittently jumping on my Velux window and miaowing, relentlessly, until I had to get up at 9am feeling tired and grumpy. I don't manage well if my sleep's disturbed. So I gave her her second breakfast, determined to poke and prod her once she bedded down for the day, but she looks so sweet and gorgeous I don't have the heart (of course, my resolve dissipates as soon as I see her).