Saturday, December 29, 2012

High water

Back in November the Thames got very high and I took some photos, intending to blog about it and never got round to it. This is the path in the local park leading down to the Thames path. The benches and rubbish bins were just about visible (it had been a bit higher than this).

It rained a lot whilst we were away. Up north (well midlands) there were a lot of rivers that had turned into lakes. North of Bedford the Great Ouse had oozed spectacularly for miles on either side of the road. On the Notts/Lincs border the Trent was so wide you couldn't see the other side. We had a day trip to Lincoln on Boxing Day and must have been one of the last cars over Dunham Bridge on the A57 before the road was closed. Our side of the road was clear at that point, but the other side was under water. There's a picture of it on the BBC website totally under water.

And this is what we came back to when we got back home after Christmas away. I couldn't even get close to the no BBQs sign this time.

And the park seems to have turned into a lake.

I don't think this is what was intended by "overflow car park".

Further up the river, this is Staines bridge, and what was the Thames path running outside a pub with seats for people to admire the river view.

And the Thames path a bit further up again. Yes, the river is usually to the right of the trees and lamp posts.

Fortunately most of these places aren't too near anyone's house, although the river's showing no signs of going down yet, and it's been raining all of today. Our house is well away from it.


We had a fairly quiet Christmas, staying with my Mum and eating massive amounts of food (including an entire nut roast just for me. It lasted days). We had a few trips out, to look at kitchen showrooms (!) and to meet up with an old school friend of mine. And my brother's family came over with the nephews, who, of course, are now huge.

I received some lovely presents - some of them are here:

Apron and oven gloves to go in the new kitchen (which we haven't got yet!).
A carving fork to go with the carving knife we already have - I do a roast now every Saturday for the OH and was struggling a bit with the lump of cooked dead animal sliding around on the plate when I attempted to carve it.
Fair trade Palestinian olive oil.
Blackboard style garden labels.

Large box of chocolate toffee (apparently I'm meant to share this with the OH. Hmm. We'll see).
Downton Abbey series 3 blu-ray.
Chocolate shower gel and body butter. (Is there a theme developing here?).

A greetings card organiser (I have big plans to Get Organised this year).
A record book for visiting cathedrals in this country - the idea is that there's some information in the book about each cathedral, and also space to write down details of your visit and your reflections on it. As we seem to visit quite a lot of cathedrals on holiday this seems like a great way of recording our visits!

And a really groovy knitting bag.

Oh, and I realised I'd forgotten to take a picture of my Secret Santa gift at knitting group - some stitch markers:

I got a lot of knitting done whilst we were away, including finishing the first pattern section of the South Seas Stole.

This first part was reasonably straightforward, and I managed to do most of it whilst watching TV (yes, including the Killing with subtitles!), but the charts are now getting more complicated so I'm going to have to concentrate. Luckily I've still got most of a sock to go on the Everyone Outta the Pool socks.

Hope everyone had a good Christmas.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Decisions made!

Thank you for the comments on my last post, I got a few decisions made!

I decided that I did like the Everyone Outta the Pool socks in that yarn, so kept going and finished the first one. I did use the suggested heel from Sensational Knitted Socks, which I definitely like (still cannot fathom why I didn't like it back in 2007), although I want to find the instructions for the heel I did back then, as I liked that one too! ;-) I've done more of the heel stitch on the sole too because of where I wear out socks. I like the way the slip stitches in the pattern have broken up the bands of colour - it's more obvious the closer you look. The yarn colours are also more rainbowy in good light, and not just the pink/yellow/blue it appears in the photos. The weather has been so bad the light hasn't been good for taking photos this year!

I love the cuffs - they are double knitted (the first time I've used this technique), and then grafted together, which gives a seamless finish, and looks rather good, I think.

Meanwhile, I also acquired some beads from a local shop for my South Seas stole - none of the pinks was quite right with the yarn, so I went with clear beads in the end. It turned out I also needed a crochet hook to attach them with, as the pattern called for a US 13 (0.85mm) hook, which doesn't seem to exist here. Fortunately I found a 0.75mm one in another local shop, so I could get on with the project over Christmas rather than having to order one online! As you can see from the photo, with £1 coin for scale, the hook is absolutely teeny tiny.

I also got some buttons to finish off the baby cardigan from the last post, but forgot to take a photo of it, so that will have to wait for now!

Christmas preparations were completed. I made a pencil case for my nephew using some football fabric, as I couldn't find one to buy in the shops. But I forgot to take a photo before wrapping it up, so that will have to wait until he opens it now! I also put marzipan and icing on the Christmas cake, and I'm rather pleased with this year's effort (after last year's wonky holly leaves). The holly is edible and from Lakeland.

We got the Christmas tree put up at the weekend too.

I hope you all have a lovely Christmas break and here's to a lot more blogging soon!

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Decisions, decisions

I've sewn together the cardigan I'm making for a friend's baby, due next year:

Still need to get a couple of buttons for it, but otherwise it's finished. The yarn is James C Brett Marble Chunky and the pattern is a James C Brett one, JB013 - Cardigan (imaginative title there). I do like the Marble yarns (it's available in DK as well) as they're reasonably priced, 100% acrylic but don't feel like acrylic, are machine washable and have interesting colour effects. The Chunky also comes in a huge 200g ball, which meant it only took one ball to make the cardigan. The pattern is slightly annoying (having knitted a couple of Puerperiums I am now annoyed with having to sew things together in other patterns). It actually directs you to knit the edging of the cardigan as a strip and then sew it on - I think not, I just knitted it along the edge, so much easier.

Having got that finished, I was now free to decide on what to knit next, which is when the decisions got difficult. I wanted to make one of the three patterns I was given for my birthday, and settled on Everyone Outta the Pool as it's always good to have some socks on the go. This pattern works best for socks in variegated colourways and uses slip stitches to mix them up to avoid pooling. I decided to use some Trekking XXL, bought in Bristol several years ago as I thought the bands of bright colours would look good with the slip stitches.

At first I wasn't sure this was working as the green/blue sections of the yarn make it hard to see the slip stitches, but now I've knitted a bit further I like the effect it's producing. It's been a while since I did a toe-up sock, so I'm enjoying this one. The pattern has a short row heel, but these tend not to fit my feet very well as my heels are narrow and pointy, so I decided to substitute the heel from Sensational Knitted Socks, which I used for my Beaded Rib socks, back in 2007. However, it turned out when I looked at the notes I made on Ravelry for the socks in 2007, that I'd actually substituted a different heel again, this time from the second issue of Yarn Forward, which I think I sold on ebay a couple of years ago. Oops. As I now can't remember why, five years ago, I didn't want to use the heel from Sensational Knitted Socks, I think I'll go with that one and see what happens.

I also decided to start another present pattern, the South Seas Stole, and settled on some yarn from my stash, the Clicky Needles merino silk lace, which I bought on holiday in Gloucester in May. This, of course, meant getting the swift and ballwinder out.

The yarn feels lovely, and I'm really looking forward to knitting with it, but I can't decide whether to put beads on the stole or not. The pattern includes instructions for with and without beads. The yarn is handwash only, so including beads won't affect how I care for the finished item. Part of me things that I'm more likely to use the stole if it hasn't got beads on (with beads it seems more smart/evening/going out type clothing, but then stoles generally would be in that category), but another part of me wants to do more knitting with beads - I've only done a small amount before, on a workshop I took in Nottingham with Debbie Abrahams, back in 2006. I don't have any beads at home that would be suitable, but it would be very easy to get some as there are several local shops that have things like that.

So, I'm still trying to decide about that one.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Garden at the beginning of December 2012

It's looking a lot colder now in the garden and I've done quite a lot of chopping things back as the perennials have died down for the winter. Unlike last year the weather's been much colder with several frosts.

The walnut tree in next year's garden didn't have any nuts on it at all this year (presumably because of the bizarre weather) so the squirrels have been running around looking for things to eat. They dug up and ate my newly planted tulip bulbs so I had to construct this delightful looking garden feature to protect the area near the primroses.

 Constructing raised beds has been one of my jobs now that I'm working part-time and have more time available. I'm also rather proud of the fact that both are filled with home-made compost. The further bed has the remains of the comfrey plants on it to carry on rotting down over the winter. The nearer bed has garlic planted in it (with mini fruit cage to protect from the birds/squirrels/all the things that keep coming into the garden and trying to eat EVERYTHING IN SIGHT).

The apple trees still have a few leaves attached, but it won't be long now before they're totally bare.

Ice on the bird bath.
I love the colours of the leaves in this hydrangea - it's called Hydrangea Twist n' Shout and was one of the first plants I bought for the garden the first year we were here. It was a new variety that year, and I think is well worth growing as the stems are a pretty red colour too. I grow it alongside various heucheras, with purple and green leaves.

And I've sorted out the cold frame for winter - it was so nice to have time to do this properly! I have two fuchsias over-wintering under cover (one tender one has come into the house), cuttings of rosemary, thyme, sage and lavender, plus some sempervivums, four pots of broad bean seedlings just starting out and some penstemon plug plants I'm growing on to plant out next year. I've even gone all Gardeners' World and labelled things!

That's pretty much it for the garden this year. I have a few jobs to do - such as pruning the apple trees and I want to order a HUGE pile of compost to mulch at some point, but that can wait until 2013.