Thursday, December 30, 2010

A few months of knitting

I have been knitting busily away over the last few months, I just haven't posted about it. I had to put several projects down to get on with Christmas jumpers for the nephews. I'd stopped knitting for them for Christmas (too much all at once, whereas birthdays in December and May were much more do-able) but with wedding plans earlier this year and the house move birthday jumpers didn't happen, so Christmas it had to be. I bought the yarn and pattern on honeymoon, from Warwick Wools, it's the same pattern - Sirdar kid's cabled sweater with a hood, and both sized age 7-8 (despite one being 4 and the other 6, they're both age 6 in everything!). The yarn is Sirdar Supersoft Aran, which doesn't feel too acrylicky and hopefully should wash reasonably well.

Then a friend had a baby (a girl, she's already got three boys) so I felt that deserved a bright and cheerful baby hat. This is the hat from the Opal baby cardigan set, using about half a skein of Regia Stretch Crazy Color that I had left over from an earlier project.

And which, of course, Monkey insisted on modelling, still wearing his trusty knitted banana stuffed down his vest.

And I finished my Owen socks, started what seems like forever ago. I was making good progress until the nephew jumpers and the Iron Knitter contest took over my time. I really like the cables in this pattern and the yarn (Five Moons Selene, which we were I was given as a wedding present) is a merino/bamboo mixture which feels gorgeous.

Then I knitted a Dalek for the OH for Christmas. This is the Extermiknit pattern I found on Ravelry, knitted with odds and ends of DK in secret at knitting group. It was very nearly all he got for Christmas, after my Amazon order of the DVD of Doctor Who series five for him got delayed by nearly 3 weeks in the snow. I had to do an impromptu trip into work on Christmas Eve to pick it up!
I think the knitted dalek looks rather sweet. Although possibly daleks aren't meant to look sweet?

And over Christmas I've been knitting a cabled tank top for a friend's baby, which is due in February (there must be something in the water at the moment, I know four people who are expecting babies in February!). The pattern is another Sirdar one, which I originally made for Noah back in 2008.

And I still have my Out of Town in London Fog Socks on the go. This was meant to be for the first round of the Iron Knitter contest, at which I was a total failure as I didn't even finish the first round! Again, these got a little overtaken by events and I'm not sure when I'm going to get them finished as I have a lot of baby knitting to do now. There were some really nice patterns in later rounds. I would still like to make: Island Paradise and the Magic Mirror socks. And I also like Moonlight Lattice but suspect it may be beyond me.

I've been thinking about what I'd like to knit in 2011. I have various baby projects in mind for all my friends who are pregnant, and I have promised someone else a pair of socks, and a lady at church a tea cosy. But apart from that I'd like to get on with Isabella, the Essential Cardigan and Lima at some point. And I'd also like to knit a jumper for the OH, but the Knitting Pure & Simple down-down pullover is the only pattern I've found so far that he likes!

Sunday, December 26, 2010


Once again time went hurtling past and I haven't blogged for nearly 2 months! Oops. It has been a busy 2 months though (funny that I thought at the start of the year that once we'd rebuilt the house, moved into it and got married I'd suddenly have loads of spare time!).

But I had a long weekend in Wales, visiting my brother's family, who  moved there last year. It was incredibly beautiful - with plenty of gorgeous sky and views to admire, the kind of thing you don't get within the M25! 

We visited the Centre for Alternative Technology at Machynlleth, somewhere I'd always wanted to go, and which isn't far from where they live. It was very inspiring, with lots of interactive displays of things like solar panels and composting toilets, as well as lovely local food in the café. And, visiting in the first weekend of November, we had the whole place almost to ourselves! Definitely somewhere to return to.

 Oh dear, you can tell I'm a tourist when I find even parking notices in English and Welsh exciting!

Meanwhile, our two new apple trees were delivered from the Royal Horticultural Society gardens at Wisley and I got them planted just in time before the weather went really snowy.
 One is a half-standard Red Windsor, on an MM106 rootstock, which should fruit in September. MM106 doesn't grow too tall, as our garden isn't very big so a massive mega whopping apple tree wasn't really an option.

 The other is on another MM106 root stock, but this one is an espalier Red Falstaff, which should fruit in October. It's gone in the raised bed against the back wall.

 We had some friends over to stay for the weekend - it's so nice to finally have a house that's big enough to have people to stay. On the Saturday we went to the Royal Landscape at Savill Gardens for the day, which I'd never visited at this time of year (despite virtually living next door whilst I was at university!). Like Wisley and CAT it's well worth a visit, but the café is massively over-priced so probably better taking a picnic if you go when the weather's warmer!

 They had a squash display in one of the glasshouses, I just hope someone was going to eat them once the display was taken down!

 I attempted to grow some potatoes for Christmas lunch, but this is all that came up! About enough for two of us for two meals...

 And I'd just dug the potatoes out of the ground and got the apple trees planted and the snow started! We had some right at the end of November, which caused some problems getting to work, then a gap, then more snow in the run-up to Christmas. The second time I was very busy at home having 'flu so I didn't venture out for the first few days, and by that time South West trains were running a snow timetable so it wasn't a problem getting to work.
 We've been attempting to feed the birds but keep getting inundated with pigeons - one of which does a humming bird impression hanging off the bird feeder to get the seed! We eventually took the tray off the bottom so it didn't have that to hang onto and it seems to have stopped them for the time being.

I can recommend not having 'flu just before Christmas. I'd just got all the Christmas cards sent, then came down with it the next day and retreated off to bed for five days before staggering off to work for 2.5 days before finishing for Christmas! Fortunately we didn't have to travel anywhere this year as Mum came to us for Christmas.
It's our first "married Christmas" and our first living in the new house, so we had our first tree to put up and decorate. I was still pretty wiped out at that stage as we put it up just before Christmas, so I was hanging a couple of baubles and going to have a sit down to recover. It took ages!

And we managed to do turkey and all the trimmings. This is a plateful aimed at either Mum or the OH. I got a turkey breast from Copas Turkeys, having gone to some lengths to try and find an ethical one. Although Riverford, our veg box company, does do meat, they only did whole turkeys, not just turkey breast, and there's no way we'd have got through a whole turkey! The Copas turkey came with lots of instructions aimed at the totally novice turkey cooker (i.e. me) and seemed to work well, as well as coming from a farm only 15 miles from here!

And my Christmas dinner - all the vegetables and baked bean roast from the Lincoln Cathedral cook book!

That's all for now. I want to do a post about knitting stuff sometime soon, and I'm not back at work until 4th January, so hopefully will have some time this time!

Happy Christmas to those who celebrate it, and here's to more blogging in 2011...

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Salmon fishing

I have bits of half-written blog posts around. I haven't blogged for aagggggeeeessss, life got a bit in the way. Weird how when I had loads of time there wasn't that much to blog about, now that there's LOADS of things to blog about there isn't any time to blog...

Anyway, I was going to review some books, but instead I'll just mention them a bit:
August's reading group book was Paul Torday's Salmon fishing in the Yemen
which I highly recommend. It really is as crazy as the title suggests - who in their right mind would think of going salmon fishing in the Yemen is the whole premise of the book. The story is told from a number of points of view, using a variety of diary entries, email conversations, narrative, letters etc, which I found straightforward to follow but I suspect some readers might not like the jumping around? It's about daring to believe that the impossible can really happen, with some swipes at politics and mad corporate worlds thrown in too. That also makes it sound deadly serious, which it isn't. It's highly amusing in parts, and also very sad in parts. But I think you have to read it for yourself!

I've also read:
Maggie Sefton A killer stitch another of her knitting mysteries. Not serious reading but a lot of fun.
Patrick Gale The whole day through Again, highly recommended. I love Patrick Gale!

Knitting-wise, I've finished one nephew jumper and nearly finished the other one. Still part way through the Owen socks, then I started Iron Knitter, at which I proved to be a total failure due to lack of time and didn't even complete the first round! Plus my knitting got exterminated by a dalek, which didn't help...

I haven't blogged for so long Blogger has changed the way you upload photos!
This is the yarn I bought at Norfolk yarn on holiday - 900g of Araucania Toconao at half price. It's gorgeous, 100% wool aran weight, all squooshy and soft and I'm thinking about making Amused by Jordana Paige with it.

Then I discovered that FOUR people I know are expecting babies in February or March. Is there something in the water? Haven't started any baby knitting yet but I'm going to have to soon.

A lot of time suddenly disappeared when I discovered that Bloglines, which I've been using to follow blog updates for the last five years was closing on 1st November and I had to shift all my blog subs over to Google Reader. It did give me a chance to go through them (and realise how many people have stopped blogging!) but it seemed to take forever....

We have been doing a lot in the garden. The huge and diseased buddleias have disappeared...

 To be replaced with a nice bit of empty space. I am gradually working my way along the raised bed with the "no dig" method I read about - you put some cardboard on top of the soil, pile compost from the compost heap on top of it and spend the winter drinking tea and eating chocolate in the warm whilst the worms do all the hard work of breaking down the cardboard and mixing the whole lot together.

And a friend of ours gave us two apple trees as a (deliberately) belated wedding present as it is only now the right time to plant new trees. They haven't been delivered yet, but this a picture I took when we went to choose them at the plant centre at the Royal Horticultural Society gardens at Wisley. One is an espalier to go against the back wall, the other a standard shape to go in the lawn.

I think that's all for now. Hopefully it won't be so long before my next blog post, still haven't blogged about more of the books I've read and some of the knitting! I got horribly behind with reading people's blogs whilst transferring all my blog subs over but have been trying to catch up with commenting.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Off to Norfolk for a holiday

We got back a week ago from a week's holiday in Norfolk, but the complete insanity of the return to normal life has stopped me posting until now. Norfolk proved to be an inspired choice of location. We took an apartment about 3 minutes walk from Norwich Cathedral (we hadn’t realised it would be quite so close when we booked it!), right outside the Erpingham Gate to the Cathedral Close.

We spent some time exploring the cathedral, which felt rather tall and narrow compared to a lot of the cathedrals I’ve visited. Still very beautiful though, and with some new facilities built on the side that manage not to look obtrusive – a visitor centre and hostry, plus an education room (where I’d been to a conference a few months ago) and a refectory next to the library. Anyone else think a refectory next to the library is a GREAT idea?!

It was a monastic foundation and has impressive cloisters, including a labyrinth.

As well as a font that used to be used for making chocolate at a local factory. I kind of wish I hadn’t been baptised already so I could be baptised in it.

Apart from the cathedral Norwich itself is stuffed full of medieval churches, some redundant, some still functioning as churches but most of them operating Fair Trade cafés at incredibly reasonable prices. Must have been living in the South-East for too long as I’d forgotten it was possible to buy a cup of tea for less than £1!
This one is St Andrew’s Hall, which is now used for all kinds of concerts, productions, table top sales and other stuff, as well as having a café in the crypt.

And St Julian’s, which has the Julian Centre next door, all about Julian of Norwich who wrote Revelations of Divine Love in the 14th century.

I also liked the winding medieval streets and alleyways, some of them with amusing names.

The 900 year old Norwich Castle keep has been turned into an art gallery, Norfolk museum and natural history museum. Inside the keep itself there’s various exhibits, mainly aimed at children (but they were quite fun for adults too, I made sure I'd checked all of them out)

We had a day out to the seaside at Cromer and Sheringham. We weren’t too impressed with Cromer, but Sheringham, which I used to visit quite often for my previous job, was just as good as I remembered.

As well as the beach we went up to Sheringham Park  for a walk with some beautiful views across the parkland to the coast.

Before finishing off with a walk around Sheringham itself, another cup of Fair Trade tea (it seems to be ubiquitous round there, wish it was like that back in Staines) at the Funky Mackerel café on the promenade and then fish and chips in the evening.

Back in Norwich we enjoyed some evening walks along the River Wensum, which curves its way through the city, including around the cathedral close.

The whole city has been set up with information boards everywhere about the many historic sites. It is also largely pedestrianised in the centre, which makes it very easy and pleasant to walk around. Although we brought the car on holiday it would be very easy to come here by public transport (all the places we visited were served by both buses and trains, and sometimes steam trains too) and the centre of Norwich itself is compact and easy to visit on foot. In fact much easier than it would be by car, Oxo spent most of the week parked at our holiday apartment!
On the last day we walked to the Catholic Cathedral for a visit, which is just outside the inner ring road (but that’s only a 15 minute walk from the shops in the centre!)

There has been some knitting activity too. I pretty much failed at my Iron Knitter knitting (I am meant to be steaming away on  a pair of socks, but everyone else seems to be much much further on than I am). We also found the time to visit two yarn shops... but I’ll save that for my next post!

I bought the OH a dalek which then tried to ex-ter-min-ate my knitting...

Monday, August 23, 2010

Sorting out the stash

Being a good librarian I decided to re-classify my stash. It was originally stored according to cotton, wool, acrylic and oddments but had long since outgrown this, combined with my Ravelry tags for it which date from when I was living in two different places so I still have yarn labelled "Slough" and "Lincoln" on Ravelry! This was very frustrating to my librarian brain, plus I could never remember where anything was and had forgotten I'd got some stuff. So I got the whole lot out and, with some assistance from Monkey, spread it out on the spare bed. This is the 4ply pile, verging into laceweight at one side:

I've divided it into laceweight, 4ply, DK, aran and chunky, plus an oddments box and it now looks a lot better! And it all fits into one wardrobe...

And it made me feel all inspired to start even more projects. I haven't indulged myself. Yet.

The two projects I have got on the go are coming along nicely. I've nearly finished the first Owen sock. I was going to keep going until I'd used up half the yarn but, after weighing it on the kitchen scales (cue very funny look from the OH) I'm nowhere near that point and don't really want them going much further up my legs! More piccies on Ravelry.

I have also been flaunting the Owen socks on the train as I totally freaked out a couple of men having a very dull conversation about sales targets on the train to work last week. They kept getting distracted by my knitting. In fact, they couldn't take their eyes off it.

And I've finished the front and back of a nephew's Christmas jumper and used the three-needle-bind-off to join the shoulder seams. I've also finished both sleeves so just the hood and a whole other jumper for the other nephew to go now. Heck, it's still August anyway. Oodles of time.

The goodies I ordered at Knit Nation arrived - a matching set of Babylonglegs sock yarn and Vampire on the bus knitting bag from Nicsknots! Aren't they cool?

Yet another colleague had a birthday so I made a chocolate beetroot cake this time. Then forgot to take a picture of it at home so had to take one with my mobile at work! Chocolate beetroot cake is highly recommended, not only is it very tasty, but it's also obviously incredibly healthy as it has vegetables in. We'll ignore the sugar, butter, chocolate etc. Ignore the array of biscuits behind the cake. Another colleague had just returned from holiday and it's obligatory to bring biscuits back from holiday in our department.

And the rose project is continuing apace. All six seeds germinated and have now been potted on into individual pots with seed compost in!

That's it for now. I was going to write up a couple of book reviews too but this is already going to be lengthy. I'll save them for another post.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The rose project

One of our wedding presents was some named rose seeds so with some trepidation we followed the instructions and planted them, and crossed our fingers some would come up. We had six seeds and the instructions were to plant them in a tray of vermiculite and keep moist and between 20 and 23°C (how do you manage to keep the temperature that exact during a British summer?!).

Vermiculite looks worryingly like cat litter! Nothing much happened indoors so we decided to give up on the temperature thing and moved it outside, keeping our fingers crossed again that no local cats would decide to investigate the new toilet facilities. Lo and behold, a seedling emerged within a few days!

Closely followed by four more!

I will post more pictures soon once the seedlings are a bit bigger. We also constructed this over the weekend. A cold frame for my cuttings to go in and to help things acclimatize to outside temperatures - bought in the Lakeland sale.

And some of the free bulbs I got have been flowering. This gladioli is one of my favourites:

 Oh, and I came home from work and discovered the OH had bought me some SHEEP socks. Isn't he sweet?!