Monday, December 16, 2013


I made these socks for my friend, Fiona. She liked the socks I knitted her last year so much, and has said so, many times, I just had to knit her another pair.
Of course, no shot is complete without the obligatory cat getting in on the act.
The above toiletries bag is Version 1 that I made for my work Make-it-Yourself Secret Santa. It's a gorgeous wool tweed, lined with waterproof material. The finished version - Version 2 - has a toggle. I sewed the hem of the first one too close to the edge, which meant the material bunched up too much to close properly at the top. So I left a larger hem in Version 2, and it closes beautifully. It was our works night out on Friday so we exchanged gifts then.
My Santa made me these - or, I suspect - painted and glazed them. Very cute.

I'm counting down the days to Friday, or Thursday even. Friday is the last work day for two weeks, but I suspect Thursday will be the last public day. Looking forward to a break at home with my husband and animal friends.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Into December

So, the beginning of December finds me grumpily finishing off the accounts. Christmas and accounts don't mix. I'm trying to get shot of them at the very beginning of the month, rather than a week before Christmas, which is when I finished them last year. I have a couple of things still to do and I'll post them off on Friday.

In more exciting news: we think Squeaky Cheese laid an egg!
Squeaky Cheese is the very beautiful chick on the right hand side of the photo. There's only one thing to do when such a tiny and precious egg is laid, and that's make Lemon Curd, or Lemon Cheese as some people call it, or Squeaky Lemon Cheese if it's made with an egg from Squeaky Cheese :)
The first sock for my friend is finished and I'm a third of the way through the second. (It isn't sewn up yet.)

I'm trying not to feel overwhelmed by December. Next weekend I have three days off and I'm hoping they're going to be filled with FUN stuff. Chill out stuff. I'm already scaling down what I feel I have to do - knit a present for my colleague who's just had a baby? I could but I'm not going to. That kind of thing. 

Sunday, November 10, 2013


I like November. I like the crisp, clear sunlight during the day, and then cosying up beside the wood burner at night with my various projects close by (knitting, reading, notebook planning, watching TV).

And I like winter outdoor pursuits. We had a bonfire again this year. And a firework display. I was a wee bit concerned about the animals, but Pete had chosen fireworks that didn't scream or bang too loudly. I spent the morning baking banana and walnut cake, and apple pies and it was lovely to have everyone round to ours first before heading out. I realised, though, part-way through, that I was worrying about Meg. I had expected everyone to stay out once we went out to the bonfire, but there was quite a bit of in and out for various reasons (cold; children) and I started feeling stressed. So I did what I should have done from the outset and locked Meg in upstairs. That meant people could come and go as they liked and Meg would be safely inside. 
Last Wednesday I met my friend Janie in York. It is halfway between where we each live. We headed straight to Betty's Tea Rooms when we arrived and had Elevenses. It was so lovely and very civilised and so busy. When we went back later (I wanted to buy their chocolate pigs) there was a queue right out the door! Amazing.

We had five hours in York and I knew it would pass too quickly. We talked non-stop from when we met to when we parted. I really miss living near to Janie and Ba. They are such good fun and great people. 
Hagos and I went to Whitmuir for coffee and cake on Thursday. Hagos likes to pull funny faces. The chocolate cake was amazing, but I have been over-indulging recently and my body has reached its limit!
I hadn't intended knitting a pair of socks anytime soon (what with five jumpers at various stages of knitting and completion on the go) but my friend hinted so often that she loved the socks I knitted her last year that I started thinking I should knit her another pair. I would need to get her something for Christmas, after all. So I chose the three colours and made it up as I went along. I like to think of it as a crazy-Tweed type pattern. I'm planning to make the toe entirely yellow.

It's been so nice having time off. When I'm working full-time my head is in work mode and is busybusybusy. Too busy. I miss having time to look after my house and family. All the little jobs there isn't time to do. I miss seeing Meg and Hagos and my chickens (particularly in winter as they are in bed by the time I get home from work). And just having the time to make home more homely. My back hallway needs a good clean and clear out. 

And now I'm on the countdown to Christmas, and I still have Hagos's accounts to itemise and finish preparing for the accountant. I'll just have to try to pace myself.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

A Catch Up

It's been a busy month. My husband returned home from tour and it's so nice to have him home. The first weekend back we had planned the GREAT APPLE-PICKING day. Collecting apples to turn them into cider! All apple-related pics courtesy of Pete. 
The lower apples were easy to reach. But it was so tantalising to see the higher apples and not be able to reach them. In the end we had a ladder, a mop and a football to try to knock the apples out of the tree. I think the football is still in the tree.
Shaking the tree was a great method to make the apples drop. The kids helped enthusiastically at the first tree. By the second tree they were already getting distracted and sitting on the quad bike instead while the adults gathered, and not long after that they headed off to watch Star Wars and left the adults to it entirely.
The apple press caused much excitement, along with the macerator (not pictured). Boys' toys. It is beautiful though. I love the green.
We collected so many apples. We started at 1.30pm and Hagos and I were still next door at our neighbours' house at midnight! We were so exhausted.
The apple press in action. 
I love this photo of the boys together. Some people ate the apples as we went from tree to tree :)
And a completely unrelated photo from Lynsey's birthday dinner last night at Viva Mexico on Coburn Street. Last year there was a sombrero that she put on and looked very fetching. This year the sombrero was nowhere to be seen (cutbacks, perhaps?) so Lynsey used her placemat instead.

I still have five jumpers at various stages of being knitted/finished off. I wanted to finish them all at the same time and then do a post entitled 'Jumper Tetris'. That's seeming less likely! 

Also in the past month my sister moved house. I went down to Dumfries to help clean the new place one day. It brought back memories of moving from Norfolk to Scotland. Such a major operation!

Today is Whitmuir for coffee and cake. Then tomorrow we're celebrating bonfire night early. I like fireworks but hope there aren't too many that go 'bang'. I don't want the animals (wild or domesticated) to be scared. I like fireworks that fizz gently and turn different colours. And sparklers. I like this time of year.

Sunday, October 06, 2013


Today I thought about making my new handbag, but I ended up just spending time with my animal friends, and RELAXING.

Unscheduled time. Lovely.

The chicks are getting big, and they're the sweetest things. They cheep all the time, and they now run towards me when I approach, along with the big hens, as they know I bring them porridge, which they love. 

When they go to bed, they're all flopped on top of each other, in a bundle. I adore them.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Wool - my favourite material

I'm planning to make a new handbag out of this wool. I love the colours. I'm basing the design on my previous Mulberry bag, which I loved. I considered buying ready-made leather handles to attach - and I might still - but in the meantime I bought some plastic tubing, to cover in material and make my own handles. I also bought bag feet. I like that kind of stuff. 
Might make a bag out of this too. I could've bought half metres of all the wool/tweed in the shop - lovely combinations of colours, checks, herringbone, dogs tooth, etc.
This book has proved very useful.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Relish, Knitting, Chicks and a Cat

I made my annual Beetroot Relish on Thursday night. Home-grown beetroot. I couldn't find my previous recipe so just looked for one online. It's perhaps a little sweet, but still, it tastes so fresh and amazing. It's delicious.
As if I don't have enough jumpers on the go at the moment (another four - three of which just need to be sewn together, one in the process of being knitted still) I decided to cast on this 4-ply Rowan Tweed, which I bought about ten years ago at the Alexandra Palace Stitch and Knit Show. Wow. I got ten balls of wool for about a tenner. I don't know why I haven't used it before now, because it's knitting up beautifully.
I decided just to make my very familiar TV jumper (Vintage Knits, Sarah Dallas) that I've made several times already. It's so good for watching TV as I don't need to pay much attention when knitting. And as I watch 1-2 hours of TV each day that adds up to a lot of knitting. I've almost finished the back already! I love all the flecks of red, yellow, orange and greens.
I bought the above pattern off Ebay. I saw someone who had made it up on their blog and liked it so much I tracked it down. It's a 60s pattern. Looking forward to making it up!
The chicks are getting big. They're so beautiful and sweet. They run away when I first approach them but soon they get brave and act normally. They grow incredibly fast. Wasn't so long ago they were flexing their legs in their eggs!
Meg is interested in the chicks, but thankfully, so far she hasn't tried to grab one. I think she knows they're special, and not run-of-the-mill blue tits or robins. Meg is so beautiful.

My favourite programme, Strictly Come Dancing, started last night. Looking forward to it beginning properly in 3 weeks' time. The last couple of days have been markedly cooler. Autumn is definitely here.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Silly Sunday

I've signed up to do an Experimental Writing module at the University of Edinburgh in January. It lasts for 10 weeks, one evening a week. Above is my reading list (I do love a reading list).
So, of course, to carry those books around I'm going to need a purpose-made bag. It's a silly bag, but I like it. It took about half an hour to knock up. It wouldn't stand up to any sewing scrutiny but it is functionally fulfilling.
I've started collecting the books to read. It says any five of the core reading, then has recommended reading. I thought I'd start with Max Sebald's The Emigrants. I should really have read more of Max's writing anyway, having had him as my writing tutor at UEA.

Then I might move on to William Burroughs, then Italo Calvino and finally James Joyce. I was also meant to have already read Ulysses during my Masters degree, but somehow I managed to bluff my way through that part of the course. I wish I hadn't.
The bag in action.
Even Ulysses fits, and I didn't think any bag in the world would be big enough for that.

Summer has surprisingly lasted a long time in Scotland this year. The forecast for tomorrow is 18 degrees again. Today is what I think of as a typically Scottish Sunday: dull, overcast, windy with the possibility of rain. I like days like this because walks are refreshing and it's always nice to get back inside the warmth (central heating on) and do an indoor pursuit - reading, knitting, sewing, drinking tea and eating chocolate.

I rarely watch any TV during the summer period. There's nothing on I like. But come autumn, into winter, all my favourite shows return: The Great British Bake Off, Strictly Come Dancing, The Bridge Series 2, Borgen Series 3, The Great British Sewing Bee. I'm sure there are more.

The jumper update I expected to do has been delayed due to it taking much longer to finish them off than I'd anticipated. In the meantime I've cast on another jumper. I can hardly believe it myself, as well as continuing with the chunky white jumper. So, I have THREE jumpers that are all knitted and are now in the process of being sewn together and having their neckbands knitted, and TWO jumpers that are on the needles. I also need to upload the photo of my finished fleece dress. Next weekend.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Some things

I spent some time on Sunday trying to take a beautifully-composed photograph of Turkey (not shown). Sometimes the hens and Turkey pose perfectly and the lines are right and there's something in the look that I really love. And at one point Turkey was in front of the house and she looked MAGNIFICENT and I quickly put my camera in place, pressed the focus - and then she moved! Before I could take the shot.

But this post isn't really about Turkey, it's about how I try to line everything up in my life so it all works well and I'm prepared in advance. I like being prepared. And I need to delegate even more. I had just started practising delegating but I can see I need to do even more of it. I tend to think I can do everything myself and then I wonder why I'm TOTALLY exhausted and not enjoying life.

And then tonight I read one of my favourite blogs, Soulemama, and read that my favourite web cat, Banjo, had died. I've followed stories about Banjo for years. And about the relationship between Banjo and Adelaide, Soulemama's daughter. The photographs of them together are so sweet. They loved each other as a girl and a cat should. Such a beautiful friendship. So now I'm sad.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Holiday crafting

So here is the black fleece dress, without arms. The photo doesn't do it justice at all. I actually love the shape. I'm thinking of making another in white, but I might wait to see how this one wears before making further fabric decisions.
I can't say anything about this photo at all because I'm turning it into a Christmas present (check back after Christmas).
This dress. Crikey. I don't even remember when I started making it. In Norfolk anyway. I got the material very cheaply from Ikea. It's 100% cotton but it has a stiffness to it. Anyway I cut out the front and back of the dress years ago, and only just pulled it out again to cut out and attach the arms. It all came together very quickly, so I don't know why I dragged it out so long.
Our friend Clarence's (Rik's) stuffed marrow. It was the best curry I've ever tasted. Haggis and I had half each, though it was way too much but we ate most of it. Delicious.

We've also been devouring Game of Thrones. We watched the first episode months ago and didn't fancy it at all, so discarded it, but running out of any other series made Hagos suggest we give it another go, plus our neighbours are currently enjoying it. And now we're HOOKED! Sometimes we've been doing four episodes a day, and staying up until 1am to watch them. Great rollicking fun. My favourite characters are Tyrion Lanister and the Queen of Dragons.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Sewing frenzy

I've had a sudden urge to sew again, after having a prolonged knitting period. I love dresses, and wanted to find a pattern for a simple, slightly-fitted dress.
I had some black fleece material that I bought ages ago and never did anything with, so yesterday I traced the pattern and cut out the fleece. Unfortunately I didn't have enough material for the arms so I'll have to buy more fleece next week, but I'm hoping to sew what I have together today then add the arrms later. I'm hoping to make further dresses in cord and possibly tweed.
It's the Edinburgh International Book Festival here at the moment. On Monday I went to see AL Kennedy; on Wednesday Hagos and I went to see Alasdair Gray; and last night I saw Denise Mina.

I much prefer Alasdair Gray's fition, and I went to the event knowing it was based on an essay he'd written last year, "Settlers and Colonists." I thought he explained the point, succinctly, within his first answer, however it was dragged out by the Chair and by some audience members later too. Anyway, he is incredible fun and the part I enjoyed most was when he read a section from a work-in-progress of his translation of Dante's Inferno. His rhythm and scanning and various other poetic devices were fantastic. 
We met our friends Rik and Jenny and baby Bramble before the Alasdair Gray reading and Rik gave us the marrow on the right from his allotment. I thought I had to photograph it next to my own courgette for scale. They are small but tasty!

Tomorrow we're off to The Peebles Poultry Show. Much excitement about that.

Hagos is currently supposed to be in Beirut doing a gig, but it was cancelled two days before travel due to the singer injuring her back. I had finally come to terms with him going to Beirut, but I was looking forward to him coming home again. Having read both John McCarthy's and Brian Keenan's accounts of being held hostage there I felt very uneasy about H going. I kept an eye on the Foreign Office's advice to travellers and wasn't sure a gig fitted into the category of 'essential travel only'. Hm. I felt slightly better when the location was moved from Baalbek to Beirut (for security reasons) but, anyway, it took me only a moment to adjust to it being cancelled.

Next post will hopefully include lots of jumper news/progress.

Monday, August 05, 2013

A year and a half's promise fulfilled

A year and a half ago, on a wintry walk in the countryside with our friends and Godsons, I made a flippant offer to my youngest Godson, JJ, to make him a pair of mittens. I'd just made his mother a pair to match my own. I made the offer without thinking, he said yes, we carried on our walk and I thought no more of it. 
Every single time I've seen him since, in the last year and a half (so, on average once a week), he has asked me "How are my mittens coming along?" He asks with such optimism and expectation in his voice - every time! Even when I squirm and pull a face and laugh and say, "Er, not very well." And then change the subject. The very next time I see him he has defaulted back to complete HOPE. 
I had tried re-drafting the pattern of my own mittens in a smaller size, but having not much patience for this I quickly abandoned the project. Then there was a breakthrough. About four months ago he said, "They don't have to have stars on, they could be stripy or have squares or circles." So I made a conscious effort to go looking for children's mitten patterns (I wanted them to have the Norwegian shaping at the top) and I found Norwegian Mittens and Gloves and thanks to Amazon I was able to look inside the book online and I saw they had child's mitten patterns. I asked if he would like reindeers on his mittens, he said yes, et voila! In a relatively short space of time, the mittens are now knitted. He wanted them in the same colour as my mittens. I think they've turned out really well. Now I want reindeer mittens for myself (luckily there is an adult reindeer pattern in the book).

I'm planning to wrap them up, take them round and then WAIT until he asks, "How are my mittens coming along?" And I'll be able to say, "THEY'RE FINISHED!!!"
And this is a sweet photo of our hens, and Turkey, out of my upstairs window. I love when they all hang out together. They're a great bunch, all with their individual personalities.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Easy Sunday

The beginnings of JJ's mittens. I'm not sure what size the finished mittens will be. I might have to up-size them if they're too small. The pattern just says "child's" so who knows.
When I was buying the charcoal wool for the mittens I couldn't resist this Rowan tweed. I love the colour range and could buy them all.
I have a great urge to knit these kneecovers. I don't know why. I don't know if they'd make a practical difference but I love the idea of them. The pattern is from a very old knitting booklet from the 70s. I love the absurd.