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.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Wee Chickadee #2

I finally finished knitting my great nephew Curtis's Wee Chickadee cardigan. I only had one sleeve to finish in the lead up to Christmas, but when I discovered I wouldn't be seeing him on Christmas day I stopped knitting. And only started again when I was heading to my great niece's birthday party at the weekend.
I was so happy that I finally found buttons I like, which happen to be a smaller version of the same buttons I attached to my own Chickadee cardigan. My cardigan, and Curtis's, have turned out to be the same design, and I'm really pleased with both of them. 

Meg had to get in on the act when I was photographing them. It's all about her after all.
The secret to my dieting success is all about SNACKS! I'm very interested in my snacks and think about them throughout the day. The Digestive Thins and the Oreo Thins are really great for 1 1/2 syns each biscuit. I could have ten a day if I wanted to. And the mint flutes are great for 1 syn each. I have two with my coffee at work in the morning and they sweeten my mood before the chaos begins! (My work frequently feels like I'm having a bun fight while standing in a hurricane on a moving platform... Sometimes that's fun, and sometimes it's just tiring.)
Our hen Georgie has started laying eggs again, after a break of months! I wonder if it's because we have a cockerel now??? (I don't know anything about cockerels re-invigorating hens, it's probably just a fantasy.) Anyway, she lays gorgeous deep, reddy-brown eggs so they really add diversity to our egg colour palette. Both green egg layers are laying again too, the blue egg layer never stopped laying, and the girls who lay light brown eggs are laying well too. The wee eggs at the front are from my wee pal Tiger, who is a bantam hen. She has just gone broody again, which is a shame as I've been having two tiny Tiger eggs for tea every Friday night. And when I needed 4 1/2 eggs to make a cake recently I used her egg as the half.

Monday, March 06, 2017

Slimming World vs Weightwatchers

I've been doing Slimming World for just over three months now, during which time I've lost 17lbs. It works on a really simple premise whereby certain groups of food are 'free', i.e. rice, pasta, potatoes, beans and pulses, fruit and vegetables. You're then allowed two 'healthy extras' each day - I always choose Weetabix and 350ml of skimmed milk - and everything else has a 'syn' value attached (chocolate, for example), and you're allowed 5 - 15 syns a day. It's an amazingly easy system to follow and I'm never hungry. Above is noodles with stir fry vegetables (all free).   
About 7 years ago I lost 2 1/2 stone with Weightwatchers. I lost half a stone a month, and found the Discovery Points system fairly easy. On Weightwatchers everything is weighed and has a points value attached. When I did the Discovery Points system, I was allowed 16 points a day. Although I found it easy at the time, because I was determined, I felt hungry and had to pace myself through my food allowance for the day. Above is my version of Eton Mess - made with Muller Light yoghourt and Sweet Freedom Chocolate Shot. 3 syns.
I actually tried going back to Weightwatchers a couple of years ago, during which time they had moved onto the ProPoints system, which had more flexibility than Discovery Points. However, I found Weightwatchers no longer inspired me. I was bored of counting and weighing everything, and I was bored of being hungry while trying to lose weight.

So when a work colleague had noticeably lost weight and I asked her how she'd done it, she explained the Slimming World plan to me and I joined soon after.

Between the two systems I much prefer Slimming World. Not being hungry while losing weight is a big bonus! It's also motivated me to cook for the first time. It means planning meals a bit more. With Weightwatchers it was easy to go into supermarkets and pick up a ready meal.

All of my syns go on treats. I don't drink, so don't have to allow for alcohol. Above is a Fibre One chocolate fudge brownie (4 syns) and three Mint chocolate flutes (1 syn each).

I have (temporarily, I hope) become a bit obsessed with following other Slimming World social media instagrammers who post everything they eat each day. It's a good way of picking up ideas and tips, but it's also really motivational to keep on track.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Knitting, sledging, and getting into the new year

It's been a slow start to the year. We were so busy at the end of last year that we've taken every opportunity to rest and slow down in January and February, though there have been busy pockets nonetheless.

I finally cast on the second sleeve of my great-nephew, Curtis's, cardigan yesterday. I haven't felt like knitting or sewing until now. I've been reading more, and writing. I'm knitting it in age 2, and he's currently 15 months' old, so it should fit him still and it won't take long to finish. I finally found buttons I like in John Lewis. I thought John Lewis was winding down its button selection but happily they'd replenished the stock when I went last week.
So the finished cardigan will be exactly the same as my adult Chickadee snowflake cardigan. Same colour, same motif, same (smaller) buttons. I love these transparent, perspex, colour-tinged buttons. 
We've had a couple of snowfalls this month. Last weekend my friends and their girls visited and there was just enough snow left to go sledging! They hadn't been sledging before and they were so excited! We had a few good runs. It doesn't look like there's enough snow here to sledge but actually it worked out well as it wasn't as fast a run as when there is proper coverage. 
And my wee companion. Hagos has been on tour this month, and Meg and I are such good friends. I absolutely love her. She's very cuddly at the moment. This is her exploring my fabric shelf in the kitchen cupboard.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

New Year

We had the most amazing new year at a castle in Northern Ireland. This is the view from the drawing room. It was a friend's 40th birthday. He hired the castle and invited sixty of his closest friends and family.
Our friends Noosh and Rick were also there, along with other people we knew. Tim had also hired an amazing catering company to cater the whole weekend. We were first to arrive for the informal NI Afternoon Tea on the second day. We sat at the table and didn't move until we'd had our fill of soup, meringues, shortbread and cake. 
Our cottage was a short walk from the castle next to a donkey field. The donkeys were obviously used to charming people as they came running to get the apples we fed them. They were very cute.
The first night we had a meal followed by a ceilidh. The second day was FULL of activities, a couple of which we ducked out of to get some rest, as in the evening it was the Rock-aoke! As the birthday boy is a musician, and a few other musicians had been invited, the other guests had all been asked to submit a song request, which the supergroup would play live. Above - Noosh and Rick's rendition of Parklife! 
Hagos, accompanied by Heather and Mike doing a glitter song (with appropriate head gear). In total Hagos played on thirty songs! It was mega.
We are both now recovering from the most horrendous flu ever. Four days of blank existence, punctuated by a hacking cough. 
Noosh and I did a duet on Knowing Me, Knowing You, by Abba. The whole point of doing it was to do this video selfie during the middle eight. Our backing Supergroup consisted of, Hagos (Lodestar/Senser), Tim and Rick (Ash), Nathan (Snow Patrol) and Keith (We Are Scientists). It's all about the Instagram :)