Friday, December 26, 2014


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


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.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

October 2014

About 2-3 months ago I noticed I could no longer read close-up. I thought it had happened suddenly, however when I went to get my eyes tested a couple of weeks ago the optician told me I was typical for a woman in her 40s.
I have wanted glasses since I was three years old, when my best friend and next door neighbour at the time, Julie McKie, had to get glasses after crashing her face into a glass table in our house. The two events may not have been linked but in my childish mind they were, and for a time afterwards I wondered if I too could get glasses by colliding with the table. I didn't test my theory.

Hagos came with me to the optician, and photographed me trying out lots of different frames. I was beginning to think the perfect frames may not be out there for me, but then I tried on the above pair. As soon as I put them on they just looked right.

Also - PURPLE and GREEN! My favourite, and default, knitting colours. These glasses are so meant to be. My reading has increased as a result of having the glasses, which is great. Reading had become a strain. I still have to master reading-in-bed-with-glasses.
We held a Great British Bake Off final party. I thought I had photographed the table full of cakes, breads and fudge, but could only find the above cake my friend Lynsey made. I don't remember the name, but it is the torte that the bakers had to grill, layer by layer. I was so impressed. It was a fun night, lovely to have all the kids over and excited about baking, and everyone brought a bake. Sadly my attempt at macarons went awry and I had to quickly whip up a batch of chocolate pistachio fudge on the night.
We also had Cider Day weekend before last. I started picking apples at 10.30am and stopped as the light faded at 6pm. I really enjoyed it. Initially I thought the boys had the easy part of staying in the kitchen drinking tea :) but changed my mind when I saw Hagos's black hands from prolonged apple juice contact and realised the scale of how physical the job of macerating and squeezing the apples actually was. I went to bed around half ten; Hagos and Will were in the kitchen until a quarter to midnight.

Hagos bottled half of the cider a couple of days ago and I think we got almost 40 bottles, all looking lovely with green bottle tops. So impressive. 
At the end of October/beginning of November I love the anticipation of winter and Christmas. I go through a brief nostalgia and want to watch Christmas films (above: Meg and I enjoying Elf), read Christmas magazines, look through M&S Christmas food and drink brochures and daydream about my ideal Christmas time. Usually by mid-November I feel a sudden repulsion and revulsion for the gluttonous aspects of Christmas. The over-spending, over-eating, over-drinking, generally over-consumption. At work I introduced the Make-it-Yourself Secret Santa, where we make a present for someone. I used to do this when I worked for Norfolk Constabulary. It's a surprisingly great thing to do and I have to say my new(er) colleagues have taken to it with relish and have been incredibly inventive over the past couple of years.

I've been off work with a sickness bug this week. I can feel I have more energy today than the rest of the week. I hate being ill. I am always busy either with things I have to do, or things I want to do. And being ill means I can do neither. I can't read, or knit, or sew. The TV becomes a noisy annoyance. So, I'm looking forward to feeling healthy again and having energy to do stuff.   

Sunday, October 12, 2014

New phone case

My old phone case, on the left, was beginning to look threadbare, so I decided to sew a new one, on the right.
It took hardly any time. I love this bright pink toggle.
This is the lining - old on the left, new on the right. I thought I might be able to re-use the lining but it, too, was past its best.

The new case is a wee bit tight, but it'll do until I need a new one.

I have so many sewing plans. For my next update I'll show the dress I want to make with material I already have. 

I've been feeling so tired this weekend. Just absolutely washed out. I slept for 11 hours on Thursday night. We've had a run of being busy - work, obligations - no real days off where I also don't have to clean the house and try to establish order for the coming week (clothes for work, etc). I have some days off in December and I'm so looking forward to letting it all go for a bit. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Making the Purse

I find sewing to be a great leveller emotionally. Especially when I'm making something I've never made before. It's so absorbing I don't think about: work, the referendum, friends who are having marital problems.

I've wanted to make purses for years and have never got round to it. I bought an empty kit from U-handbag, which provides the pattern, the padding and interfacing and frame, but nothing else. I have so many scraps of leftover fabric it's ideal, I thought, I can make lots of purses! 
So reading the instructions is crucial. When it says, "Use lots of pins," it really meant it, but of course sewing the first side I didn't use lots of pins and it was really fiddly. I tacked the second side and that was easier, and the third side I used lots of pins and that worked a treat.
See, more pins.
The most difficult part was gluing the fabric to the frame. I did it late-ish at night. I could easily have researched the best way to do it online, or even watched a U-Tube clip, but I just bashed ahead, got covered in glue, SWORE at the purse (I always know a situation has deteriorated when I swear at inanimate objects (or Phyllis, our chicken)) and was thoroughly ANNOYED with the whole thing by the time Hagos arrived home from a gig.
If you ignore the glue on the frame, which will apparently come off, it isn't so bad. And I've LEARNED a few valuable insights for next time.
I love this time of year. The changing of the seasons. I love slightly cooler weather. I don't mind smirry rain. I love the colour of the leaves, the hoards of blue tits in the garden, Mr Pheasant who comes for his breakfast to the hen house every morning (no sign of Mrs, masters and misses Pheasant this year?), having a hot water bottle in bed at night, the hens going to bed earlier and coming home to light a log fire and cosying up on the couch and reading a book, and knitting, and spending time with friends and family. And looking forward to Cider Making, and Halloween, and Bonfire Night, and my friend Lynsey's birthday, and going to the Country Living Christmas Fair in Glasgow at the end of November, and having quite a lot of time off in December and Christmas and New Year. And all of my sewing projects and knitting projects and all of the books I want to read.

I have been feeling unsettled in the approach to the referendum on Thursday. I felt I had just got into a good rhythm with work (dropping a day) and it being much less frantic for me, and feeling I have much more head space and energy as a result and the work/life balance finally balanced. And wanting to live a peaceful, productive life where I can enjoy all of the above. And now there is an important decision to make. And I have much more research to do (trying to find actual answers without spin or someone else's agenda attached) and worrying about the impact and repercussions of a Yes or a No vote. Not wanting it to have a negative impact on Scotland or England.

So, over the next few days I plan to start work on a proper patchwork quilt. It's another project I've been wanting to do for a while and have never attempted. I don't have the patience to do hexagonals - oh no! For my first quilt I plan to do blocks of rectangles (probably 8x4") from all the leftover fabric I have. So the quilt will be made up of material I've used to make other things. I plan to make it for our bed, but I'd also like a quilt for the couch. I have sourced the wadding and will then just have to decide on the backing material and the bias binding. A long term project.

Saturday, September 13, 2014


I have cut out the outer fabric for the Fortune Cookie Clutch purse. Tomorrow I'm hoping to cut out the lining, interfacing and fleece. I'm looking forward to getting to the gluing stage. 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

A new item to make

As if I don't have enough knitting and sewing to do, last week I ordered this purse-making kit from U-Handbag. This is the same company I bought my bag handles from. I reckoned I would need a purse to match my handbag (once I get round to making it). It's been a while since I made a new pattern so looking forward to trying it out. I got fabric glue as well - something I've never used.
I cycled to Tesco today to buy essentials (chocolate and cat food). There's an almost direct cycle path as I'm not keen to cycle on the road. I love cycling, and it gave me a chance to use my bicycle basket. 

I had a lovely three days off. Looking forward to next Thursday night.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sewing Frenzy

Today I decided to sew together all the outers for my four skirts. I'd already done one, and spent the morning sewing the other three.

I think the material above is my favourite. 
Though I like these orange trees as well.
I'm not so keen on this material, even though it is in my favourite colour combination - purple and green. I bought it because it was half price. A skirt for £7, what a bargain (not including zip and lining!).
I felt like I'd set up a production line. 

Inserting zips into skirts provokes a similar reaction from me as sewing together knitted jumpers - I hate it! Actually, the three I did today are probably three of the best I've ever done. Perhaps I finally have a winning technique. It usually bulges where the seam meets the zip, but today I changed a couple of things and they are all almost perfect.
My first attempt at inserting the zip on this had me sewing it onto the wrong side and having to unpick. It has been a while! 
And to finish, a gratuitous shot of a perfect paw. I have so enjoyed being at home for the past two weeks and being close to my animal friends. I just love my animals. 

I'm back to work tomorrow and am feeling trepidatious. I just have to remember I have every Friday off from now on, so that's a bonus. 

I got quite a lot done in the house, creatively and housework/admin type stuff. And saw friends, went to a few events at the Book Festival. It's been so nice letting my brain wander. And not just have to wade through a load of stuff I had to do. Looking forward to Friday already.

Monday, August 18, 2014


My knitting is growing effortlessly. This is the front. It is such an easy and satisfying jumper to knit. 

I still have a white winter vest/jumper to sew together and knit the neckline of, and the second sleeve of my chunky jumper to finish. I think I have enough knitting to keep me going through winter. I'd also like to knit a cardigan or a dress for friends who are due a baby in November, but I'm not sure if I'll get that together. Could be a quick knit. I've really gone off knitting for other people! When I started knitting I only ever knitted for my Godson, Felix. That was the impetus for starting knitting, when he was born. I think the first cardigan I ever knitted was a blue cardigan for him, and I knitted FELIX in bright green into the back! 
I've been to see a couple of writers at the Edinburgh Book Festival. Above is AL Kennedy. I hadn't initially bought tickets to see her, as I've seen her a few times now, but when I went to see Rebecca Hunt a couple of days before I caught the 'Book Festival' bug and there were tickets left for AL. Both events were great. I miss being in that atmosphere of discussing ideas. That was the best part of the masters degree I did - spending a  whole year talking about writers and books and ideas. 
This is my funny brood of poultry friends. I have grapes in my hands, which is why Duck has jumped onto my back. The chicks are in amongst the older hens, but particularly now (a couple of weeks after this photo was taken) it's difficult to tell the difference in size. I often mistake one of the chicks for a similar-looking hen. And there is Swann, the goose, right at the front. I'm so glad we let her free range. We would probably have got round to releasing her much sooner if the other goose we rescued hadn't made such an upsetting run for freedom (she succeeded) just before Christmas, a day after we rescued her. Such a shame. Anyway, Swann seems happier and has various buckets and bowls of water that she guddles around in with her sticks and mud. 
This photo was taken soon after we released her from her pen. I was still spending a bit of time with her to encourage her to be anchored to the area/us.
We're still waiting to be revealed to us which chicks are hens and which are cockerels, but we think Bread is most definitely a cockerel. I've developed such a good friendship with him, though. He lets me pick him up and cuddle him every day. I pop him on my lap and he settles down and sometimes has a mini-nap and sighs and snores. I think he likes the warmth of my body heat. It isn't too long ago they were all still popping under Delphis for a cuddle/heat up.
We went to the Peebles Agricultural Show on Saturday. I was really looking forward to it, and we had taken a large group of friends and their associated children/relatives. I love the colour of the eggs above. We could definitely win with some of our eggs if we could encourage all of our girls to lay in the laying boxes! Squeaky Cheese's eggs are beautiful.
Always good to see the alpacas. Love the natural colour of their fleeces.
I've been missing Turkey recently. I often wonder what Turkey and Swann would have made of each other. Turkey wasn't keen on any new birds coming into her territory, especially if they were reddy-brown in colour (she particularly seemed to hate the Isa Browns, until they were fully integrated and then they were best buddies, sleeping next to each other on the perch). I think Swann would have won the pecking order game between the two of them though but I don't know. Turkey could make herself puffed up and impressive when she was annoyed. I particularly miss cuddling Turkey. For six months of the year she was in her cuddly phase. I liked putting my face next to hers because she was so HOT. The other six months of the year she skipped away when I tried to touch her. She was an absolutely beautiful creature.