Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Post Christmas, Pre New Year

This time of year is always a bit strange. Christmas seems to be over in no time and then you are waiting for the New Year and then it's back to work. I never seem to achieve much during the Christmas holidays and yet the time vanishes so quickly.

We had a nice couple of days with my family over Christmas. It was great to see our nieces and nephews and we enjoyed good food. Shona and Sienna came back here on Boxing Day and I took them back yesterday. They had a good time and so did we, but it's always nice to take them back home and have that return to normality.
I knitted only a few Christmas presents this year. Last year's epic was never going to be repeated. My Mum loved her Kaffe Fassett socks, though my sisters did wonder where theirs were. The yarn is: Schachenmayr nomotta Regia Design Line Kaffe Fassett, colour way 4354 Landscape : Amazon.

My Dad also received a pair of socks. These are being modelled by Ezzie and were finished on Christmas Day. Luckily, I didn't see my Dad until the evening so there was time to wrap them and he was none the wiser. These socks were made from the second ball of sock yarn I ever bought. They have been in the stash since January 2007 but when my Dad said he wanted 'a boring colour' I was really pleased that this yarn would get used. Most of my socks are in bright and loud colours, so it is good to remember that they are not for everyone. The yarn is Zitron Trekking Pro Natura. The colour way? Who knows. Boring Blue.

I did make a friend some personalised Irish socks for Christmas. These were made from Schoeller + Stahl Fortissima Socka in colour ways 1001 Natural and 1006 Grass. The orange was supposed to be in the same yarn in colour way 1008 Mango but I couldn't get hold of any so it was substituted for Opal Uni in Orange 6. I think they look great.

It's nice to write about completed projects, especially with socks because they usually get given away and only briefly seen when someone crosses their legs. I actually feel I have achieved something recently.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Needing a break

It's been a while since I posted. Life has been really hard during December and blogging just didn't feel like a priority.

Since my last post about my Auntie Ona, Ezzie's Grandad died. He had been ill for a long time, but it was still a massive blow and deeply upsetting. I went to my Auntie's funeral and then five days later was at Walter's funeral. It's been really hard and so we're not a bundle of laughs at the moment.

As for Christmas, well it does heighten the grief you are feeling. You feel they should be here, spending time with you, but unfortunately they are not. We're going to my Auntie's this year and are looking forward to seeing family and give them their presents.

I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Auntie Ona

On Saturday morning I received the sad news that my Auntie Ona had died. When I tell people this, it just doesn't feel true. I feel everything has changed forever and I'm really struggling at the moment.

Auntie Ona was actually my Great Aunt. I know to some people that may seem like a distant relative, but I always felt really close to her and she has been a major part of my life. Auntie Ona was also my godmother so I've always felt a connection to her.

I know that at 80 she has had a good innings, as they say. She has two children and has had a happy marriage, having recently celebrated her golden anniversary. However, despite reflecting on her great life, I still feel she has gone too soon and I feel incredibly empty.

I only have fantastic memories of her. She was a generous and selfless woman who made you feel great about yourself. She really loved me and knew how to show that love.

When we were younger she and my Uncle John lived in a bungalow with a large garden and fields. When we got to the final traffic lights before the bungalow my cousins and I would spontaneously sing a song where the only lyrics were "Auntie Ona's". It was sheer excitement to get there; you couldn't get there fast enough. I remember once waking up in the car as we pulled onto the drive and being so happy to have woken up there; I'd not missed anything, I'd not missed any time there.

Boxing Day was always spent at my Auntie Ona's and we had great family parties there. I really don't like bananas so she would make the fruit salad without them because she knew how much I loved fruit salad. I remember the first time I ever ate melon was at her house. It tasted so sweet but I think I loved it because it was at her house and everything was great there.

We used to play in the spare bedrooms and there were all her children's toys which were from the fifties and sixties, yet they seemed so much more exciting and enchanting than our own toys.
We played board games, were allowed to use the remote control on the television (ours didn't have a remote) and generally enjoyed each other's company.

My grandma has a photograph of me in Auntie Ona's garden wearing an oversized knitted jumper which she gave to me. It was miles too big and in the photo I'm upset because people have been asking me to take it off for the photo, but I insisted on wearing it. I'm about four years old, but I think I must have loved my Auntie Ona dearly even then.

I cannot believe I'm going to her funeral next week. It just doesn't seem possible. She has been a giant in my life and I cannot believe she's not with me anymore. Last year I knitted her some socks, which she loved, and earlier this week I found the remainder of the wool just to remind myself of how much I loved making her those socks.

She had a great voice and a great laugh and I can't believe I'm not going to hear them again. She meant the world to me. I really miss her.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

What? Finished projects?

Two finished projects are here to show off today. Recently I've felt that I never complete knitting so I'm proud to reveal two finished gifts.

The first is the Wendy Happy 4 ply yarn with bamboo. Last time these socks appeared, the second one was a work in progress. Here they are now being worn by myself.

The non-identicalness does bother me sometimes, but I don't think it will bother the recipient. At least they are not remotely identical, though they did start out life as identical on the leg part.

The next garment will be a Christmas present for my mum. It's a hat made from the yarn I carded at Caroline's with alpaca, merino and nylon. I had hoped the hat would be for me as these are very much my colours. Unfortunately I've messed up on the tension and my mum has a larger head than me. I know she will love it and will be good for when she's walking the greyhound.

The next project isn't finished, but has certainly come a lot closer to being so. This is the second sleeve of the Rowan twisted jumper, Portia. This is the last bit of knitting and then it's the dreaded sewing up. I keep reminding myself that I made great progress after completing a cardigan in the summer. I want to wear it this winter so I am going to have to get a move on. I think it should be completed within a fortnight. That is achievable. If you see me knitting anything other than this, please take the needles from my hands.

The Brioche throw will have to take a back seat for a while. I am going to a knit a couple of Christmas gifts after the jumper is finished, but only for appreciative recipients. I think Brioche will be a nice new year project.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Back to blog

The last time I blogged I had loads of things planned. The bathroom was about to get started, I was going to finish some projects and get some spinning done. The world was my oyster; I had that precious commodity called time at my disposal and I was going to take on the world.

I made all these plans but a couple of days of diarrhoea, sickness and lethargy meant my school holidays were largely unfulfilled. The bathroom did get started, but stopped soon after and I learnt to appreciate what running water, a bath and a toilet mean in your life. I didn't get much done for school and have spent the last two weeks trying to make up for that.

I feel that I am lacking inspiration on so many levels at the moment and the overriding feeling I have is tiredness. I've been going back home most weekends to see how my Grandma is doing, but for the past two weekends I've had to decline going. She is doing much better and does get plenty of visitors. If I go there, I end up having to be all things to all people and I need a rest too at the moment.
Ezzie is also feeling really tired. His Grandad got out of hospital on Thursday after being there for eight weeks. Yesterday I was up there and I had to phone Ezzie because I thought we might be having another trip to the hospital. In the end we watched tv there during the evening and Ezzie stayed over. This morning Ezzie says Grandad's not good and is going to stay tonight as well. I think he might have to spend a couple of nights a week there. The fact is his Grandad needs constant care. A couple of carers come in each day to do his dinners and to help him get washed, but he is so frail and his breathing is terrible. It's a real worry. Realistically, however, Ezzie cannot be a full time carer. He does what he can and I help as well, but we cannot do everything. I know that sounds awful, but it's true. We both have demanding jobs and we cannot put them on hold.

The bathroom was finally finished on Friday. It has been three long weeks of upheaval. Poor Granby has had his routine disturbed as well and each night I've come home I've been subjected to a big telling off from him. He is an incredibly vocal cat and during the last three weeks this has increased further. I truly love the bathroom. It's a bit radical and modern but it is gorgeous and I'm really pleased with the look. Apologies for this rather poor picture. I'm not an estate agent, but I think you get an impression of it. It's so much better than it was. I'm too embarrassed to put a before picture on here.

I recently got rid of a load of wool. I had some stuff I was never going to knit with, so felt it had to go. I love getting rid of things, it's always a relief and I can be quite ruthless when I get into the 'getting rid mood'. The problem has been that I've bought some other things to fill the yarn gaps with.

I've bought some Wendy Happy 4 ply yarn. It's bamboo and nylon and gorgeously soft. I'm making some socks for my friend Gisela in Germany. The only trouble is that the stripe pattern has not been the same on the second sock so the socks are not identical.

I think I am okay with this. Normally this would vex me incredibly but I think I'm too tired to care at the moment. The pattern is from Vogue Knitting The Ultimate Sock Book. Ezzie bought me this book last year and it's the first pattern I've attempted. It's the Zig Zag Sock and I'm enjoying knitting a sock with a pattern other than Monkey or Jaywalkers.

Lorainne recently had one of her gatherings so inevitably I bought some yarn there. It's by Mountain Colors and is called Mountain Goat because there is a lot of mohair in the yarn. The colour way is Sunburst. This is gorgeous yarn, I only hope it doesn't spiral.

I have done a little spinning and dyeing recently of my own. I started spinning this yarn in the summer at Caroline's. It's merino, alpaca and nylon and eventually it will be a hat and fingerless gloves set. I've still a lot of it to spin, but it is nice knowing that it has a destiny. The photo is not colour accurate and hides a lot of the purple, green and turquoise which is actually in this yarn, but I think it shows I am getting a lot better at spinning.

I have started the Brioche Throw for about the tenth time. This time I have added new yarns as Jill allowed me to swap some yarn I had bought from her previously. It's got lots of different yarns in it, including ones not included in the Toast and Marmalade book, but I think that the yarns and colours work well and I am enjoying knitting this.

The yarns are:

Colinette Iona in Summer Berries

Colinette Mohair in Gaugin

Colinette Giotto in Marble

Colinette Mohair in Marble

Colinette Tagliatelli in Gaugin

Colinette Mohair in Bitter Chocolate

Colinette Iona in Gaugin

Colinette Giotto inVelvet Bilberry

I'm not usually so good at putting different colours together, but I think this works wonderfully and at Lorainne's last week lots of knitters commented on how lovely it looks. I'm really pleased with it.

I had never knitted with Colinette Iona before. It is a gorgeous yarn, really soft and springy. In the future I want to knit a garment with it. Caroline did a mini spinning class with me and taught me how to spin bigger yarn. I'm sure I could do it, but I like the colours in the Colinette colours, so I think I will stick with their product.

I did dye some silk to include in the throw. I bought the silk from Wingham's a few weeks ago. I love the colour, but it's not right for the throw so I'm not sure what this will end up as being. I've never dyed silk before but I am pleased that I didn't kill the shine in the silk. That can happen apparently.

At last week's mini spinning class I also had a go at spinning some silk. I had previously struggled, but with Caroline beside me I did manage to succeed.

The final knitting news I have is my progress with the Rowan twisted jumper, Portia. I've now completed the first sleeve and have only another sleeve to go. I'm dawdling with this knitting because it is just monotonous stocking stitch. Mara has kindly lent me her Knit Picks needles to knit this and I am so grateful because without these lovely needles this garment wouldn't be happening at all. The trouble is when I do finish it, there's horrible sewing up to be done and that is something I just hate. Any help and supervisors for that job are gratefully received.

Anyway, enough blogging now. I think I've made up for my absence. Hopefully I will manage to appear again soon, but I'm not promising anything.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

A moment to blog

I've kept trying to find a moment to blog but already it's two weeks since I last posted. This will only be a quick update.

All the webcasting is finally completed. It all ran smoothly and the kids are still talking about it. It is on the internet for them and their friends to see and has gone a long way to raising the self-esteem of many of our students.

The German Exchange was largely successful. There are always some problems, and this year was no exception, but by and large everyone had a good time. On Sunday morning as they departed there were plenty of tears and already plans are afoot for some of them to go back in the summer. I hope they manage to organise this for themselves and the two groups (English and German) did seem to have got on really well.

One more day and then it is the holidays. I have got to do some work in the holidays but in amongst all of that the bathroom is getting fitted. I really cannot wait now. The stuff is bought and in the garage. Now it's just a case of getting it put in the bathroom.

My Grandma is now back at home. She was supposed to have her leg long pot taken off today. I've just spoken to her and the ambulance arrived without a wheelchair and stretcher, so it will now be another week before she can have the pot removed. Suffice to say, she is none too happy. I'm afraid it's another issue for me with the NHS. I know that it has its merits, but surely it is bad planning to have the ambulance booked and not the equipment to do the job. I'm going to see her this weekend. I couldn't go last weekend because I was occupied with work stuff.

In the holidays I'm also planning to do some spinning and knitting. I'm also going to do some reading and I hope to have some lie-ins. Nothing exciting is happening, but that's no bad thing.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Proud as punch

The last time I posted I was talking about work and putting off doing things. After posting I managed to get on with my work. Each day this week I've been at work for 7.30am and today is the first time I've been home before six. I've certainly put in the hours and I'd like to say it's all been worth it.

This week is Local Democracy Week and some of our students have been preparing for this in their Citizenship lessons. Citizenship is one of the many things I am responsible for in school and I was approached June time regarding some webcasting. Basically, a lot of meetings later and I've been taking groups of students to speak to important people in the county regarding public matters. Yesterday they questioned the police, today it was the transport authority and next week it will be an MP. These meetings took place in a conference room with posh equipment to film and webcast the event.

I thought I was going to cry with pride at one point today. The students have behaved so maturely and done themselves and the school proud. The people involved, including local councillors, have commented on their positive attitude and thanked me for my involvement. It's been one of the best experiences of my teaching career and has clearly benefitted the students involved. On a personal note, it's been great to organise something so unique and memorable. I've felt really tired throughout this week, but it's really felt worthwhile.

Next stop will be my German exchange. I've thirty students arriving tomorrow and there are trips organised all next week. Let's hope that goes as well as these trips have done so far.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Putting off the inevitable

I've got to do some work today and I really cannot be bothered so I am doing all sorts of jobs to avoid doing what I need to. It's not a great idea because I'm not enjoying the things I'm doing for guilt of what I should be doing. I've promised myself this blog post and then I'll get on with my work. Let's hope that does happen.

I've finished a hat for Ezzie that I started last year. It was to be a Christmas present but I didn't get it finished, so it sat neglected in my knitting bag for a year until I looked at it on Friday night and thought "it would be nice to finish you." I took it to Esther's with me on Friday night and made good progress completing it. I worked on it a little yesterday and finished it this morning and then took it to the allotment for Ezzie to wear. He looks rather pleased with it. It's Rowan Baby Alpaca and is beautifully soft. I have a few balls left over as it was originally to be a scarf, so I think I might make some house socks for Ezzie with the remaining balls. I'm not sure they will be hardwearing, but they will certainly be warm.

Yesterday I went to visit my Grandma. She is out of hospital and now in a care home, which is a lot closer for my family than the hospital. She looks better, but is feeling as frustrated as ever. It is going to take a lot of time before her knees are mended but at least she is not in the hospital now. I'm not used to seeing my Grandma look frail because she is such an independent and fiery character. Normally we speak to each other just before I go to bed and I'm finding it difficult that I can't speak to her like that at the moment.

This week is going to be pretty manic for me. We have two of the webcasts this week and then my German students arrive on Friday. I'll be so glad when these two projects are completed, it's half term and the new bathroom is completed.

Ok, that's enough procrastinating. Back to the old grindstone.

Friday, 3 October 2008

A war of words

Does anyone else have this problem?

Miserable receptionists at their GP surgery? I am so annoyed by the people working behind the desk at my doctors who are rude, unhelpful and shouldn't be working for a service if they don't like people.

I needed a repeat prescription recently and because I have been working late I would not arrive at the surgery to ask for the prescription. I confess I have lost the form you are supposed to put into the letterbox, but it's hardly the end of the world, is it? So I phoned up and asked if they could ask for the prescription for me. Quite simply, they couldn't. It was too much trouble for them. I explained that I need the prescription and that if she would write it down it would help it along. Still no. I know that they have rules to follow, but the manner in which you are spoken to is unbelieveable. I think these people (and doctors as well, actually) forget that the majority of people work the same hours they do and cannot easily get to the doctors.

Anyway, I was told to write the information myself and put it in the letterbox. So yesterdayI set off for work a little later and to my surprise the door was open. I went in and a receptionist was there and she just looked at me. She didn't even say 'hello' and that is the experience I always get there. How unacceptable is that? I asked her who the head poncho was and I've decided to write a letter of complaint. I think that these people need some humility and humanity. It's the National Health Service; for me that means you'll be working with and working to help people. It gets me so angry that that is the way in which they speak to people and I've seen them do it to other people there.

I know it might seem trivial, but these tablets help me sleep and my sleeping pattern has been messed up now and my prescription won't be ready until Monday and both Ezzie and I arrive home after the surgery is open so getting the prescription is not so easy. I'm really cross about it all. I'm waging war on those people.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Do not squander time

One of the things that I say to the kids at school is: 'Do not squander time for that is the stuff life is made of'. It's apparently a quote by Benjamin Franklin, but my knowledge of this comes from the Gone with the Wind film. The contradiction for me is that at the moment I would really love to squander a bit of time and do nothing. Doing nothing can actually be a really good thing sometimes.

With two grandparents in hospital at the moment mine and Ezzie's time has been taken up by that. My grandma is fed up. She is incredibly independent at home and is finding being in hospital very frustrating. She manages a couple of steps a day with a walking frame, but it's painful and she is making slow progress. We don't know what is going to happen yet, but it's clear to me that it will be a while before she is back home and will have to have some sort of respite care when she leaves hospital.

Ezzie's grandad is feeling similarly frustrated. They have found some polyps which they are doing a biopsy on and we are awaiting the results.

Work continues to be as crazy as ever and the webcasting project starts in earnest next week. I'm starting to feel quite worried about it and hope that everything works out. There have been press releases about it so we should have some local media coverage, which is exciting but also daunting.

Mandarin is proving to be slow progress. It is incredibly difficult. I knew it would be because it is so removed from our own language, but I'm really struggling with pronunciation and the four tones. You can have a word and say it with four different tones to create four different meanings. I've been practising the tones with my neighbour who speaks Mandarin and he just laughs! I'm going to stick at it, but I'm wondering about getting a private tutor so that I can make greater progress and practise what I'm learning in class. I've bought alsorts of CDs and books but I need to practise with a person for it to click.

I have managed to do a little knitting recently, and today we even have photos. Back in May I showed you this wool which Esther bought for me.

They have knitted up into some lovely warm socks which should come in this winter. I had only a little wool left at the end of the second sock, which was luck rather than judgement. I was worried I would have to knit the toes in a different colour, but in the end I pulled it off and am really pleased with them.

These were a particularly enjoyable knitting project because they were the first socks I knitted on my recently purchased Knitpicks needles. I bought these at The Wool Baa and they are nothing short of amazing.

This photo does them no justice; it must have been the light at 5am this morning because in the flesh they are stunning. They are the most beautiful needles ever and I think I am going to buy the set of straight needles I also saw at the 'Baa. A knitter needs a bit of bling from time to time and they are divine in the hands.

At the weekend Ezzie and I also went to buy the stuff for our new bathroom. We chose the suite and tiles a couple of weeks ago and have now made the deposit and are waiting for things to arrive. It is going to be gorgeous and I cannot wait. It's amazing how crazy you can go with a bathroom, but ours is so awful that we want and deserve something nice. I wanted a 'bat cave' with dark slate coloured tiles but I've had to compromise with lighter grey tiles instead. It will look really nice and it looks like it will be fitted when I'm on holiday from school so I can keep an eye on things. I'm really looking forward to it now.

As you can see, no one could accuse me of squandering time and being a layabout but sometimes it would be nice to do nothing. I think when the holiday does finally come some lazing about is definitely in order.

Friday, 26 September 2008

More worries

It seems that at the moment all I ever do is talk about my worries on here. It's not really what I want to do on my blog, but it seems that we are having a really hard time of it at the moment.

This week has been busy again. Unfortunately Ezzie's Grandad went into hospital on Saturday. He has some health problems and has had a mild stroke as well. He's still there and doesn't look to be leaving soon.

That's bad enough, but now my Grandma's in hospital as well. Yesterday at school I was interrupted to be told to phone my mum. Basically my Grandma fell in the house and has shattered one of her knee caps and fractured the other. She fell into a glass door and has also broken her nose. I dashed over to see her in the hospital and she didn't look too great. She is fiercely independent and is generally fit and spritely. Seeing her yesterday was upsetting and being further away as I am makes it worse for me. I know she is having lots of visitors and will have a lot of support because we are a big family, but I feel pretty helpless.

Ezzie and I are going to visit her again tomorrow. I had already planned to visit home this weekend, but this doesn't feel like something to look forward to anymore.

Sorry for the bad news post again but I thought I'd keep you all updated.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

PS I fogot to mention...

that I've started learning Mandarin. My first class was on Monday. It is not going to be easy, but since when did I ever do anything which was easy? I've practised a little with my Singaporean friend and he knew what I was saying (after I repeated things at least three times). I'm certainly going to give it a go.

It's getting hot in here

When we came back from Germany (that was back in July) the boiler had decided to call it a day. We had no hot water in the sinks and no heating. Thankfully we had hot water in the shower, but that was it. Washing up pots meant boiling kettles of water first and it was all rather frustrating but I think we just got used to it.

With one thing and another in the summer we didn't get around to sorting out the boiler. To be perfectly honest we didn't really know where to start and thought that it would be a terrible job and didn't know who to trust. I think we have watched too many episodes of 'Rogue Traders'. Anyway, with the weather turning much colder recently the impetus increased and we found someone to do the job.

Last night I came home from work and walked into a lovely warm flat. It was a revelation. I watched tv last night and didn't have to curl up under a duvet with a hot water bottle. It felt nicer to be home and my teeth weren't chattering.

I've been feeling really out of it recently. There was a knitting meet this week which I didn't even know about because I've not been on the forum for ages. I'm sad to have missed that, though it's unlikely I would have felt up to it. I've been working late at work, we had an open evening on Thursday so I didn't get back until 9pm, and quite honestly I feel like I don't know what I am doing. It is only a few weeks until the German party do the return leg and that is always a lot of work for me. I'm also involved in a webcasting project at the moment. It's really exciting but all I know is that it has generated a huge amount of work for me. I keep remembering that through the project and its organisation I'm becoming more skilful and this can only be a good thing when you're looking for a new job.

On the knitting front, once again there's little to report. I've just finished another pair of the Regia Nation socks in the rainbow colours. They're for a friend who looked after Granby Percival when we were away. I've now got a few balls of this hiding in the wardrobe so that me and Ezzie can have a pair of these eventually in the future. It's amazing the fear the word 'discontinued' creates in a knitter. I'm not making any socks for a while. I'm now back on with the Rowan Twisted Jumper. I really want to be able to wear it this year so I need to get cracking.

I also feel really out of it with blogging and reading other people's blogs. Sorry to all my blogging friends whose blogs I normally visit. It's nothing personal and I'm hoping to get back into it again soon.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

A busy weekend

The first week back at school seemed to go by so slowly, and in typical fashion the weekend has just flown by. My timetable has altered considerably this year with changes to PSHE & Citizenship, so I am no longer just teaching languages. This has meant getting to grips with change for both teachers and pupils, but with the first week behind me I'm now feeling as if I know what I am doing and tomorrow feels a lot less daunting.

I went to the opticians yesterday. Once again my eyes have deteriorated and I'm having to pay a fair bit for ultra thin lenses. I find choosing glasses difficult because my face is so small and narrow. I wanted some designer ones, but had no joy whatsoever. In the end I've opted for some small red ones from the kids section. The shame! I'm not sure they are great, but I'll get used to them. This is always the way with glasses. Ezzie was a star at helping me choose because I can get stroppy at the opticians.

Afterwards we decided to go out for a meal and then to the cinema. En route for something to eat I spied a guy who I'd seen on BBC Breakfast this week (and not just the Look North part, but the actual national section). He and some of his pals forage for food and he was suggesting ways in which people could do this in urban settings. I was interested in the feature because I have been known to forage for bilberries and other berries around Sheffield. Anyway, we ended up speaking to him and his group of people and we ended up going foraging with them. It was really cool. They were looking in new areas for food and about ten minutes in we had found a wonderful apple tree. The fruit was only small but a stunning red colour and the flavour was better than anything bought in a shop, and even more superior to anything ever found in a supermarket.

Eventually we had to say goodbye to make it in time for the film. The film we saw was 'Ben X' about a guy with Asperger's Syndrome. The film was reasonable but I felt it was spoilt from the off because the main character was supposed to be about 18 but looked about 25. We struggled a bit at the end. I always struggle to know what's going on in films but afterwards we pieced it together. It was too late to eat before the film so we went for a curry afterwards, which was nice.

Today I've got on with some work, spent a few hours at the allotment, made a nice Sunday roast, accompanied by six of our own vegetables. I am now about to watch some tv and do some knitting. I've been a bit out of sorts with my knitting recently but need to get back into it. I visited Lucy (Knitbird) yesterday and she was wearing the Rowan twisted jumper which has given me the impetus to get going with it again. There's no excuse really as it is simple and I've done so much of it. Photos later this week.

Monday, 1 September 2008

A farewell to the summer

It's September, so it's all change for me again. The summer is officially over and the reality of work has bitten me hard today. I'm not complaining as I've had a lot of time off, but getting back into the swing of it is always tricky.

Since I last posted I've been to the lovely weddding of my schoolfriend Catherine to Stuart. It was a lovely wedding and she looked stunning. I've been friends with Catherine for eighteen years and it was really moving to see her moving on to the next period in her life.

I don't normally post photos of myself and Ezzie, but here I am, all tarted up. I really love this picture of us. I loved getting dressed up for the wedding, so if anyone else has a wedding for me to attend, please let me know because I just don't have enough events to wear this dress to. My cousin is getting married in 2010. Surely I won't have to wait that long to parade around again!

After the wedding we went on our holidays to Mayrhofen, in Austria. We had a superb time. The weather was fantastic, the accommodation was nice and the food was great. Ezzie and I really needed a break and we just had so much fun. We climbed many mountains, talked lots of German and were feeling fitter by the end of the week.

This was the most difficult mountain we climbed. It's the Brandberger Kolm and took over five hours to reach the summit. The path was precarious at times but well worth the time and effort. We really do love Austria. It seems to bring out the best in us both.

On another walk we came across this little fellow who enjoyed being stroked and fed grass. I really love goats and I had a pet one for a while as a child. One day a small goat made its way into our garden and didn't leave for a few months. We tried to find its owners but had no success so we adopted it because we had a shed for it to live in and a large garden. Eventually someone heard we had it and collected it. It was all really random when I think back to it, but it seemed perfectly normal at the time. As a result I cannot pass them without making a fuss of them. I'm not into horoscopes at all; I think predicting your day to day life by stars is just ridiculous. But, at the same time, I am a capricorn and do identify with goats. They persevere at getting to the tops of mountains and will carry on regardless of knockbacks. I feel like that a bit at the moment.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Results Day

A couple of months ago I was writing on here about my GCSE pupils and their exams. I was worried because I wasn't sure if I'd put them in for the right exams or not and I spent sleepless nights thinking about all of this.

Last night was also sleepless. I felt nervous in the way I did all those years ago receiving my own GCSE results. When I went into work I felt physically sick, but the deputy head was there and gave me the good news that the pupils had done (largely) well. I had put them in for the right exam. A couple didn't reach their targets, but you win some, you lose some.

I'm off on holiday this weekend and I really do need a break before the busy term begins again. I've been working quite a lot during the last couple of weeks but I have managed to tick everything off my list so I feel I can go away and relax. Ezzie and I desperately need a break and we are looking forward to spending some time together.

During the last week I have been on a big decluttering mission. So many books have gone. I'm naturally inclined to hoarde things, but it has been so liberating to get rid of things which I really do not use or need anymore. I found it difficult initially, especially all the university books, but I don't write essays anymore and they need to find new homes. It's helped me think things through and Iput great music on in the background to motivate me. It has been so satisfying.

See you in September.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Where to begin?

For the last week or so I've wanted to blog most days, but then something has prevented me so I do feel quite out of it with regards blogging. I am feeling exhausted at the moment and emotionally quite fragile. Be warned!

Firstly I need to thank two knitting friends. Thank you to Mara for the lovely book which she bought Granby. I have read it to him and he loves it. I love it as well. It's as if it were autobiographical because that cat of mine does love to hide in boxes too.

Secondly, thank you to Caroline who has helped me get my spinning mojo back. Last week I went to her house and we spent the day spinning. It was great and we used the drum carder to put different yarns together. The drum carder was fun! I love the colours here and I am producing a nice sock yarn from it.

I also had the great pleasure of meeting the adorable Pebble and I even got to take him for a walk.

Since last Wednesday's spinning it's been noticeably more hectic. On Thursday Ezzie's mum went into hospital so we ended up looking after her dog, Pippa. Pippa and Granby spent all the time eye-balling one another and playing psychological games. Granby is an incredibly affectionate cat, but he is also insanely jealous. If Ezzie and I are being affectionate he has to interfere. When Pippa's here, he's even worse and he colonises all of the house. Poor Pippa was evicted from her bed and kept having her food stolen.

On Saturday we went to visit my family and came back with Shona and Sienna. This was the first time Sienna had stayed with us and I was a bit worried about whether she'd be ok because she is only three, but she had a great time and was crying when I took her home on Tuesday. On Saturday night she didn't hardly sleep. It wasn't because she wanted her mum but because she was excited; it was like Christmas Eve for her. The next two nights she slept brilliantly. We made marmalade, baked cakes, walked greyhounds, went to the park, went around the charity shops, went to the library.

As nice as it was to have the girls, it probably wasn't the best time to have them because of the dog and Ezzie's mum being in hospital, but on the way to picking up the girls Ezzie received some very shocking and upsetting news. It would be completely inappropriate to go into it here, but it has been deeply distressing and it was tough having the girls here in the midst of all that. The intention had been for them to stay longer but in the end it was best for them to be back home.

Then Ezzie's grandad has not been well for some time. We went to visit him on Tuesday and we thought we'd see how he gets on.

Yesterday Ezzie took Pippa back to his mum's as she was now out of hospital. I decided I needed to go to work and do some bits. On the way home I saw a little terrier dog running across the dual carriageway rather aimlessly. It had no collar and looked doomed to get knocked down. I pulled over, managed to coax it into my car and decided I'd take it to the RSPCA. At this exact moment Ezzie phoned me and asked me to take Grandad to A & E because he really wasn't well. So, I went across town with the dog in my car. I needed a lead but had nothing so nipped into a pet shop. I had no money, just my card and the lady wouldn't help me at all. I explained that I needed to get to Grandad's and that I would give her the money the next day, but all she did was give me a lecture on how I shouldn't have picked up the dog because it would have found its own way home. I offered to give her my watch, my phone, possessions, but she wouldn't have it. I was quite angry about that.

Anyway, I went to Grandad's and kept the dog in the car. His neighbour was outside and helped me out with a collar and lead so I tied it up outside. Once at Grandad's he refused to let me take him to hospital so we had to wait until Ezzie turned up sometime later. He had to finish work and then sort out football because Wednesday is football night in our house and Ezzie sorts the money, bibs, ball so he had to go to one of the guys house to pass on everything. They went to the hospital and I went with the dog to the RSPCA. This is a photo of the dog. Not a great one, admittedly, but it was all rather chaotic. They reassured me it would not be put down and that as it was so cute and affectionate it would most likely be claimed or easily find a new home.

It was a really difficult situation yesterday and I do feel that certain nearest and dearest do not realise how busy we are and that everything cannot always fall to us. There are other people around. That's all I'm saying there.

I then joined them at the hospital and after lots of tests and stuff they gave Grandad some medication and we took him home. We were there hours and home just before twelve. At least I am not working at the moment and can recover but poor Ezzie is at work again early today.

I'm sorry that this is a miserable and moaning post, but I feel so drained. On a positive note I have finished Grandad's next socks. This is from the Regia Nation series and I still love this yarn. Jill told me that it has been discontinued so I bought some last week to make myself some socks in this. I think she is going to order more whilst she still can and I've asked her to squirrel some away for me. This is surely the best sock yarn ever. Why would you discontinue it? If it's not broke, don't fix it.

My highlight amongst all this chaos has been getting on national radio this week. Did you hear me?

Monday, 4 August 2008


It's now week three of the holidays and I just cannot believe how fast the time is flying. I've not done anything amazing, but I do seem to have been busy and up to all sorts of things.

Since the car passed its MOT I have been interested in buying myself a ring. My friend Catherine is getting married at the end of the month and I have bought a lovely green dress and shoes. I would like to have an emerald ring to match. I don't own any rings but I do have a lot of costume jewellery which I enjoy wearing. I was thinking that at my age I should have some nice rings so I have been visiting lots of jewellers. Lucy Littleblue has been helping me to choose and I think I have made up my mind now. I could pay for it on interest free credit over twelve months, but I could also pay for it in one go, but if I do that I think I'm going to ask for a reduction. They can always say no.

I've been to the allotment a couple of times and it was nice to show the place off to Lucy. The vegetables are doing really well at the moment and it's been nice to cook with so much of our own produce. This evening, for example, I cooked with four of our own vegetables and the taste was brilliant. I'm now waiting for the tomatoes to start being abundant because I'm going to make chutney. More Christmas presents, I'm afraid.

Ezzie and I sold tip sheets at the greyhound track the other night to earn money for the retired dogs and we had a really great evening. We picked up a couple of dogs from the kennels and they were fantastic. Even Ezzie completely fell for them. They are a brother and a sister, faun coloured and just so friendly. When we'd finished we took them for a walk around Hillsborough Park and pretended they were ours. We were sad to give them back at the end of the night, though it was nice to see Granby when we got back home.

I have been knitting, but I don't feel I have much to show for it, and some of these are from ages ago. I made a couple of leaving presents for colleagues at school. The first is some Regia stripy yarn and was made deliberately in Sheffield Wednesday colours. Ezzie was most put out that they were not made for him, but I'm sure I'll make him for his birthday later this year.

These leaving present socks were made from Knot Another Knitter sock yarn in High Voltage, and I really enjoyed knitting with this yarn. The colours are great!

I have made my sister her first pair of knitted socks. They are Monkey socks in a yarn by Natural Dye Studio. I forget the rest of the information. She assures me she will look after them. I'm quite surprised by her because she is not into traditional and crafty stuff at all, but she has hassled me sufficiently to prove she really wants some. I only hope the other two do not start nagging as well. You may have noticed I have only one sock photographed here. I left the other one at my mum's the last time I saw her, but there is a pair and it is a completed project.

On the forum there is a selfish knit along at the moment. I've not started anything new. Instead I'm going to finish the Rowan Twisted Jumper and have it ready to wear in September. Kidsilk Haze can be a tedious job to knit with, but I think I am making some (albeit slow) progress. The throw has been put on hold for a bit.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

That car owes me nothing

The garage has phoned. The car did fail its MOT but only on a bulb, so they've sorted that and it's now passed. How good is that? I'm just about to pick it up. Looks like me and the car will be spending the coming year together.

The Good Life

The school holidays are great because I have lots of free time and don't have to work and can do pretty much whatever I please for six weeks. The first week flew by and already the second is going much the same way.

Shona was here with us last week so we did lots of craft type things, visited the park a number of times and had fun at the allotment. We have a resident frog there who has his own pond. I use the word pond but really it's a large plant pot which has rain water in it and Mr Frog seems to have claimed it as his own. This inspired Shona to make another pond so she dug a hole, put a large bowl in it with rocks for the frog to get out of, and now we are waiting for Mrs Frog to show up. So far, there hasn't been a taker, but I'm optimistic.

The past couple of days I've been busy making jam. Each year the allotment provides more fruit. This year we planted some new strawberry plants and had the best strawberries ever. The strawberries didn't make it into jam jars because they were all eaten before the kettle could be boiled. That's not to say there weren't many, because there were plenty but they were far too irresistible. At the weekend we picked the red, white and black currants and have made jam from these. An allotment neighbour invited me to pick some of her gooseberries so I made gooseberry jam for the first time. I got seriously attacked by the gooseberry bush, but the jam has made it worthwhile. When I was at my Grandma's on Monday she invited me to pick some of her gooseberries and I forgot and I'm gutted about this now because I would love to make some more of this. Today I'm making rhubarb and ginger jam, which I've made before and is quite lovely.

This time last year I was already thinking about Christmas presents and started the big sock mission for family presents. This year I'm not doing that. Instead people are getting jam. Firstly it's cheaper, secondly it's quicker and thirdly I've almost finished already. There will not be the Christmas Eve knitting there was last year. I suppose all knitters have to go through that naive phase of thinking knitting for everyone is a great idea. It starts out as a great idea but ends up being a massive burden and a lot of the recipients did not seem impressed or grateful for the huge effort I had put in. I guess we live and learn.

Anyway, the only distraction from this domestic bliss is the car's MOT which is happening today. I really hope it doesn't cost me a lot of money this time. There is a forum meet tonight at the Wool Baa and I want to go by wheel and not by foot. Even I'm not that retro.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Back safe and sound

I'm feeling really tired today, but I have for the past week during the German Exchange. We got back yesterday evening and the kids had clearly had a great time. There were lots of tears when they left their German partners early yesterday morning and the kids were pretty subdued on the journey back. Two came back with injuries, a broken finger and a broken arm, but apart from that they were fine. One parent had a bouquet of roses waiting for me when we arrived back, which was lovely, and the kids all thanked us when they got off the bus this year. The behaviour was really good and they were great fun to be with.

It has also been a great time for the teachers. We have had some lovely meals in restaurants and at people's homes. One evening we were invited to a vineyard and did some lovely wine tasting of organic wine. We had a tour of the vineyards and learned a lot. Ezzie and I have a couple of vines on the allotment so Ezzie was keen to find out as much as possible. I had to do some technical translation that evening, which is something I am not good at, but I think I managed to get the main points across. The final wine we tasted was the best wine I have tasted in my life. We bought a couple of bottles, one for our host and one for us for a special occasion. It was really expensive and normally I wouldn't spend so much on a bottle of wine, but it was something extra special so we thought we'd bite the bullet. In the end, however, the wine grower said we could have them as a gift because he had never had English people at his vineyard before and we had been great guests. I felt really bad about that and wished we'd chosen something a lot less expensive because we hadn't expected that to happen.

During the trip I managed to complete a couple of pairs of socks. I deliberately wore Rowan Tulip at the town hall so I would have a picture of me wearing it in the local newspaper. In fact, an elderly lady approached me later that same day to ask me if it was handknitted; apparently she had seen it from a far and suspected it might be. Wow!

Anyway, it's not quite back to the grindstone for me. It's the school holidays now. Poor Ezzie is back at work, but at least he will be coming home to a nice tidy house and some great dinners whilst I have these (few) weeks off. I am going to go to work sometime this week to make sure I have a classroom left, but I am definitely going to enjoy the rest.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Auf Wiedersehen!

I've not been blogging much recently. I've also not been knitting much either. It's not that I don't want to, it's just that I don't have time to. Two days of teaching left for me this school year and on Saturday it's the school exchange to Germany.

It's definitely the best week of school for me and the timing is perfect. Kids can be daft at the end of the year and there is a real lull at school as everyone waits for the last bell next Friday. As great as the trip is, however, there's little denying that it is quite a major operation to organise. Tickets, transport, passports, medical cards, insurance, medication, risk assessment, emergency contacts, telephone trees, meetings with kids and parents, money, setting a week's cover work. I love it all once I'm there but it is a faff to sort out and I'm never sure the kids are grateful. Getting off the coach last year as we arrived back at school fewer than half the kids actually said thank you. It was soul destroying but I suppose they were excited to be home and they had so much to tell their parents.

So you won't be hearing from me for a while. I'm going to knit socks (what else?) while I'm away. We spend a lot of time on coaches in Germany and as the kids get restless it's a chance for me to try to convert the kids to knitting, though I've yet to be successful.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008


The last time I posted on here I was in a real pickle with Tulip and seriously questioning whether I would ever wear the thing. Well, since then I have worn it in public twice. Its premier was at the Wool Baa last Wednesday and everyone made a big fuss which made me feel confident and proud as I wore it to school on Thursday. Lots of pupils (some prompted, some unprompted) made nice comments and I was really pleased with myself. The day following my previous post I was lucky enough to be at Mara's with nice knitting people who helped sort me out and gave me lots of advice. It is really great to have finished a project and in the end it looks good.

At the Wool Baa last week I bought a spinning wheel. Jill hasn't branched out into wheels, but Kate was there and is going away so she sold hers to me. I must confess that I haven't used it yet. I have had it out and put it up and admired it, but I'm not used to it yet and need to spend some time bonding with it. I have been spinning, but on Caroline's borrowed wheel. In the midst of the mouse fiasco Caroline managed to teach me to ply three ply to make stripes. I love stripes and had already spun quite a bit of the merino, bamboo and soya and Grandad was keen to see so last Friday I showed him what to do and this is the outcome.

I know I am not supposed to be buying any yarn at the moment, but I have bought a little bit. I was going to knit the Colinette Camomile throw and I had some yarn to do this. I've since consulted the pattern again and I really didn't want to knit with 15mm needles, so I'm knitting another Brioche again. I did have to buy some more yarn for this throw to complement the existing yarn I had. If you are combining new yarn with stash yarn I think it is okay to purchase yarn. The new yarn is helping me use up the stash yarn. I'm loving the colours I've combined so far.

Since I last posted I've had a haircut and gone for a big change. I've got a kind of bob now and I have had some blonde highlights put in. I went to school on Monday and the kids made nice comments so that was great. Yesterday I had a St Tropez spray tan in preparation for the school prom tomorrow. I have a posh frock to wear and was feeling a bit self-conscious about my überpale skin. I'm loving the tanned look. One kid asked me if I had been to Africa. (What? Since Tuesday?) and one kid said I looked "shiny", which I took to me "glowing". I could get addicted to this. In the summer I always get a bit tanorexic and slap loads of fake tan on, but this is much more even and a lot less work.

Before I finish I have to mention the tv drama 'Criminal Justice' on the BBC. I didn't plan to watch it but Wimbeldon overran on Monday and I switched on for the news but this programme was twenty minutes in with another forty minutes to go. It is one of the best programmes I have seen in years. I cannot get it out of my head. My friend Julie and I can't stop talking about it and what's particularly brilliant is that it's on every night this week; you don't have to wait long for the next installment. It has made me think so much about prison. When I used to think about prison it was about the lack of freedom and being in one place, but the real problems are other people and the horrid things that are going on in there. It really should win lots of awards this year. It is superb.

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Well, that's another fine mess...

... I got myself into.

I am going crazy just trying to unpick the sewing up on Tulip. I now wish I had just left the thing alone and finished it but decided never to wear it.

Instead, I got all perfectionist and ambitious and actually wanted to wear the thing. I know that rag and bone men don't really come visiting like they used to, but I wish they would come down this cul-de-sac because they wouldn't be disappointed and then I could be free.

I don't care what anyone says, you just don't get this stress with socks.

Friday, 20 June 2008

Groundhog weekend

Last weekend I spent virtually all my knitting time sewing up Rowan Tulip. The plan was to wear it on Monday to school. The kids have been asking me about it all week. Today even one of the cleaners told me that she has been looking out for it but hasn't seen it yet.

The fact of the matter is that all the knitting and sewing have been done, but not satisfactorily. I feel that the best course of action would be to undo the sewing and start again. It is a hideous thought; I loathe sewing up, but considering the time I've invested in the knitting I think this will be the right course of action. It is irksome doing it all again this weekend, but it is worthwhile.

I have finished the stashbuster socks for my mum and I put them in the post for her today. She's not expecting them, so that should be a nice Saturday morning surprise for her. I was getting quite attached to these socks, but she is probably due a new pair and she is always pleased to receive knitted presents.

I had quite a complimentary conversation with the lady at the post office today.

Lady: "Are they (the socks) going to Australia again?"

Me: "No, these are for my mum."

Lady: "No bright tights today, then?"

Me: "No, it's a bit too warm."

Lady: "You're my daughter's teacher. I described what you were wearing and she told me who you are."

Me: "Wow, who is your daughter?"

She then proceeded to tell me who her daughter is, and low and behold I do teach her. Clearly I must have be very memorable on some day in the winter.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Good old Granby Percival

Just got in from work and Granby is playing with a dead mouse. He is a mouser after all! I'm so proud of him. He is going to get salmon for a week.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Trying not to throw in the towel

Rowan Tulip is perilously close to completion. And I am perilously close to throwing in the towel.

This is undoubtedly the best garment I have ever made. I have learned how to sew shoulders using matress stitch. I have picked up 276 stitches and attached a trim along the fronts and neck and then done the same with the sleeves. I only have the ties to complete now and the thing is finished. And yet, I am really disappointed with it all.

The fronts are puckered and the lovely drape that this had only a couple of days ago has quickly disappeared. I don't think I have knitted it long enough, so when I put it on, it feels short and ill fitting. The sleeves do not resemble in anyway the pictures and one is much tighter on my arm than the other. (That or I have abnormally different arms.) I am trying to remember that this is going to be a huge milestone and that I have learned a lot on the way, but I feel embarrassed by what I have produced. It will be ready to wear in Germany, but I don't think it will end up in the suitcase.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Dying of shame

Even though I am completely embarrassed about what I am going to write, I feel I have to tell the story anyway.

Last night I had some knitters around to knit. We were having a nice time, chatting, knitting, I was even doing some picking up stitches on the Tulip cardigan. Suddenly a couple of knitters noticed a mouse squeeze under the door and run behind the settee.

I just started to panic. I do not like mice. If I see one at the allotment I think it's quite cute, but the thought of them inside and running across me in the night just freaks me out. I felt so ashamed that I had people around and there was a mouse in the flat. I had to leave the room and left the other knitters to sort it out. I'm such a coward.

Where was Granby in all of this? Asleep in his cardboard box in the bathroom. Did he wake up with all this commotion? Nah. Did he sniff out the mouse and catch it? Nah. Honestly, that cat! When we go away he's going to my friend Cath's because she has some mice in her newly purchased house and I've been saying she can have my little mouser. Granby clearly thinks there is such a thing as a free lunch.

Anyway, I decided to phone Ezzie who had to leave the allotment and get the hell over here. He promptly came and with the help of the knitters located the mouse and picked it up. I missed all of this because I was in the little bedroom, hiding and being hysterical. There was an almighty scream at one point from the living room. It turns out the mouse escaped from Ezzie and jumped between Lucy and Jeanette. He did manage to catch it again and then he took it out and let it free.

The living room was a right state, but I found all of that funny. The large yucca plant then fell on Jeanette and periodically Granby tried to come into the living room and see what was happening. It's too late locking the door when the horse has bolted, Granby. I am so disappointed in that cat.

Anyway, on a less embarrassing note, on Thursday at Cocoa Lucy Littleblue undid my original seams and taught me how to do matress stitch. This was a revelation and very satisfying, and even if I say so myself I did a good job. Last night I tried to pick up 276 stitches five times, but still haven't managed to do it. I'm going to divide it up today and be a bit more methodical about this.

Barbara very kindly made me a flower display. All the flowers are from her garden, which is just fantastic. This cheered me up when I saw it this morning.

I am also loving these cacti in a morning. The flowers are so bright and cheerful. I am particularly pleased with them because we have grown these from seed. We planted them three years ago and they look fantastic now. They live in the greenhouse at the allotment but for the flowering season they come here for their holidays where I can enjoy them. I am so ashamed of the mouse last night, but at least I am proud of these cacti.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Do I? Don't I?

A couple of posts ago I was wondering about changing my new mobile phone for one with a more mega pixel-ed camera. Well, I went back to the shop and the assistant told me I would be best off just buying a separate camera, so I went to a camera shop. I ummed and ahhed a bit but I did leave with a new camera. I am loving this new camera; it's easy to use, it's light and the colours seem good. By some people's standards it would be too basic, but so far it's perfect for me. I'm glad I have a phone with a camera for spontaneous moments, but it's nice to have a decent camera for photographic moments and blogging.

I have now completed the bulk of the knitting on Tulip and I've sewn up the shoulders.

The shoulder seams are probably the best I have ever done, but they still don't match up to other people's standards. I am wondering whether I should undo them or not. I really can be indecisive at times. I know knitters who would undo the seams immediately because it has to be right. I would love to be like that, but I just don't have the skill. I really want a decent garment this time, but I need some help, so if any of my knitting friends want to lend a hand and teach me, I would really appreciate it. I think I need to invest in a decent book about finishing things. I know there are some. Any recommendations?

In the meantime I don't want to start the trim because I have to cast on loads of stitches and then I am going to pick up stitches along the fronts and the neck and then I'll graft them together. I think it would be better to pick up the stitches and then do the trim so that if I can't pick up the number in the pattern, I can do my own and fudge the trim. (That might not make any sense, forgive me, my knitting thoughts can be jumbled at times.) I just must make sure that I get this finished shortly while I still have momentum. I would really like to be wearing it sometime next week.

Inevitably, faced with a standstill with Tulip, I have cast on a sock and am trying to complete this pair of stashbuster socks.
I can't decide whether these are for me or my mum. I think she's due another pair and she is always really appreciative of socks, but at the same time I love the colour combinations. I cannot express how much I love making socks from odds and sods and it is very satisfying when the colours match. These colours don't match, but do they look good together. I have some bits and pieces of my own handspun yarn left over from Shona's pink and purple camping socks. There isn't enough to make a full pair of socks, but combined with similar coloured sock yarn, I think they will look great together.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Socks and locks

On Sunday Caroline and her family hired a canal boat for the day as a birthday treat. Mara and I were lucky enough to be able to go with them and we had a lovely day.

It has been years since I have been on a canal boat and it was the first time I had been to Retford, but with Mara directing us we had no problems getting there. The weather was hot and sunny, but the boat was nice and cool. We chatted and knitted the day away, and generally put the world to rights. We saw the cutest little ducks ever and lots of fish as well.

I knitted the foot of the second Vinca sock that day and the socks enjoyed having their photo taken on a lock. I was really pleased with how normal this seemed. Even the non-knitters on the boat didn't raise an eyebrow at this.

Work and reality just seemed so far away and I went to work yesterday feeling I had not been there for ages, which is always a great feeling. I would definitely like to do this again and was wondering about my birthday. The problem is that I am a winter baby so it might not be the same.

I actually had a go at steering at one (brief) point. I started off okay, but then I got overconfident and panicked, and had to leave it to the experts. I came home and bragged about these two minutes for some time. Daniel, Caroline's son, did a much better job steering on the way back and I was mightily impressed by how well he could hoot that horn.

It was a great way of combining two hobbies, canals and knitting. How civilised.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Technology crazy

I am feeling so pleased with myself and my new phone. I have been taking photographs on the camera and getting to grips with how to use everything. I actually think that the colour is so much truer on the camera phone than it is on the usual camera, which I've always thought made my photos seems quite dark. This is the sock I was blogging about earlier but with the new camera phone and the colours are much more accurate.

And I cannot believe I have got this photo from my mobile onto the computer using Bluetooth. I bought something called a Dongle, and hey presto, I've used Bluetooth.

The only thing now is that I wish I had bought a more expensive phone because I now want the 5 megapixel camera because I wouldn't need a separate camera then. The phone was really cheap in the end. The package was £79.oo which included £20 top up and I asked the lady to shave something off the price and she took £30 off, which I think was fantastic. You can take it back if you are not happy with it within 28 days and I'm actually thinking of doing that for a better camera. What do you think? Have I just become a tech freak or am I still a long way off?

Momentus decision

That title's a bit of an exaggeration, but it feels like a momentus decision to me. I am going to buy a new mobile phone today. My current one is really old. It has a green screen, the game snake, no camera and it's party trick is that it switches itself off constantly, especially when you are mid conversation. Lucy (Knitbird) kindly donated her old phone to me but I couldn't get that working so today I've decided to buy a new one and it's going to have a camera. I can't believe how excited I am about this.

I was also excited last night when I stumbled across this missing sock. It's a stashbuster sock and I finished it a couple of months ago. I've been wanting to start and finish the pair but couldn't find it anywhere to get them as identical as possible. It turned out that Ezzie had put it in the odd socks bag. Technically it is an odd sock, but I have pointed out that I could wrongly have been accused of Second Sock Syndrom because he should have investigated the sock's background before sending it to such a desperate place.

I really love stashbuster socks. This one has the cuff, heel and toe in Lorna's Laces Sweetie and that combined in the body with Lorna's Laces Mountain Creek and some of my first KoolAid handdyed sock yarn. They make a great combination and it is a such a great way of using up those small balls of yarn you are left with at the end of a sock project. I feel it's like getting a freebie sock.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

A blast from the past

I'm really getting somewhere with my promises, you know and I have made great progress with Rowan Tulip. It is over a year since I knitted anything on this cardigan. The back was completed last year and I had knitted half the left side before. But, on Sunday I ripped the left side back and started again with both the right and left side. This was demoralising because a lot of the knitting had been done, but was it was the right thing to do because the fronts will be identical and I only have to work out the badly worded pattern once.

From the photo it's hard to make out, but both sides are on the one needle. I'm going to change my percentage bar shortly to 40%. In terms of area there isn't much to do, but I keep reading a little further down the pattern and the trim looks like it might be a bugger. Woolforbrains did point this out to me once before and when I've been on Ravelry the trim is the real bugbear. But I will not be deterred. This cardigan is going and will be worn in Germany and that won't be July 2009.

I still can't make out I'm a 'starter finisher' person yet though, as I am doing a little sock knitting on the side. However, this is like a snack which doesn't ruin your appetite and is not my main meal at the moment.

What I'm loving about Tulip at the moment is making the two fronts identical. What is driving me mad about these socks is that they are not quite identical. The yarn is Vinca from Peakwool and I like the colours and the colour changes, but because the changes are so subtle, I've slightly misjudged that colour change and so these socks are slightly out. It's driving me mad. Thankfully they are for Ezzie, who assures me this is not a problem. He just loves hand knitted socks. This is good; I couldn't possible give them to someone else as a gift.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

New month, new McKnitty

I cannot believe it is June. How on this earth did that happen? I know it's all to do with the earth spinning around the sun, but seriously, have we done more rotations this year of something?

Instead of feeling all downhearted by the things I have not managed to do this year, I have been feeling surprisingly up beat. I have changed the look of the blog and I am much more pleased with it now. I saw Lucy Littleblue's percentage bars and felt inspired to include the same on my blog. It took me over an hour to figure all that out, but I didn't give up, so I'm pleased with myself about that. I took some gorgeous greyhounds for some nice walks this morning. I've been to the allotment for a little while and my best friend got engaged yesterday, so there was lots of good news around here.

And today I have not done any sock knitting. Instead I have knitted some of Tulip. I actually ripped back all of the left front I started over a year ago and instead caston the left and right fronts on the same needles, but with different balls of yarn, and feel sure that this time I am going to do it. I know people sometimes knit the sleeves at the same time and that it is psychologically uplifting. I know it's the same amount of knitting and will take the same length of time, but I will feel as if the cardigan will be more complete once those two sides are done and at the same time.

I swore this time last year that I would be wearing that cardigan in Germany. Well, July 2007 came and went and the cardigan never saw the light of day again. But, so far so good. I've made good progress and am already onto the decreasing at the front. So with my current determination I should be wearing it in Germany this July.

As much as I hated the baby cardigan thing I showed you yesterday, it was good for my soul. It taught me that I can knit projects other than socks, I can sew things (even though it wasn't great) and I meet deadlines. That little piddly cardigan has done wonders for me and my knitting.

Saturday, 31 May 2008


I have had a great holiday from work. I had my stress thinking about the pupils' grades, but I think I am alright about that now. I've done the maths and they can still get the good grades they deserve.

I have an unwritten rule that I am only allowed to spin at weekends and holidays because it takes away from your knitting time and you need to do it for longer periods to get it even. Doing half an hour here, half an hour there after work is not ideal and that's better for knitting.

I am busy knitting with the Merino Bamboo and Soya and I am so pleased with the colours. I really want to knit these in stripes so I need to learn Navajo plying. I've had a brief go with Caroline and I've looked at some videos on youtube, but it isn't happening yet. I've spun a load of the pink on its own for the cuffs, heel and toes and the rest will be in stripes of different sizes and different combinations. I think they will look great; I just need to learn the technique now.

Promises, promises

Today I had a nice afternoon with Lucy. I met Treacle, the cutest rabbit ever and we went to the markets together. Inevitably Lucy and I started discussing stash and knitting projects and we both quickly realised we had too much yarn and too many unfinished projects. We have promised to complete a number of projects each before we buy any more yarn.

My promised projects are:

Rowan's Tulip cardigan

Rowan's Twisted cardigan from the Studio

Colinette's Camomile throw

I really want to complete these projects because I have all the yarn and these are the projects taking up most room in the stash.

I am knitting far too many socks and as much as I love them, there is more to knitting and I have just had a great sense of achievement with the cardigan. I am also promising too many knitted socks to other people and this has to stop. I've got to start knitting for myself so watch this space a wardrobe may appear.


I am so pleased that I have managed to finish a project other than socks. Here is the child's cardigan and hat which I started many moons ago and which, thankfully, will still fit the recipient (just). I have hated this project passionately and the sewing up is not the best, but it is fine for a baby and I just hope it does get worn and not just sent to a charity shop like I fear.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Worries and fun

A week away from school and you'll never guess what I'm thinking about at past one in the morning... School! I am in a total panic and no matter how much I try to avoid thinking about it, a school worry keeps popping back into my mind.

To cut a long story short, last week my pupils had their Spanish GCSE exams and I entered a small number of them for the Higher Reading exam because they are my better pupils and have been doing really well in reading this year. I could have entered them for Foundation, but I wanted them to go for the higher grades and this is only possible with the Higher paper. They did Higher Speaking and did well and they have good coursework grades. I put them all in for Foundation Listening because this is traditionally the most tricky linguistic skill and they have struggled with this. I felt confident for them the day of the exam, but when the Higher candidates left the exam hall they were all in a panic and I was too after seeing the paper. It was really difficult and some of the questions were very ambiguous. I went through the answers with a couple and they had scored some marks, but my fear is that it won't be enough for them to secure the grades they deserve. I keep doing the maths in my head, but I'm just so worried that I have cost them a decent grade in the subject. Maybe I should have settled for the C grades and entered them for the Foundation tier. I've been to my friend's house for tea tonight and she is a fellow languages teacher. She says her pupils didn't struggle so much, so I fear I have overestimated the kids' abilities. I just hope that other pupils across the country have struggled so the boundaries come down.

I know there is absolutely nothing I can do now but wait until the results come out in August. One of the pupils bought me a lovely bottle of wine this week and the nicest card I have ever received from anyone ever. I feel really awful and I hope that her good thoughts of me don't change come results' day.

In the meantime, I have been enjoying the first days of my holidays. Ezzie, Shona and I have been camping again this weekend and we only got back this afternoon. Bank Holidays really are great things and we were fortunate that the rain held off. It has been very windy, and at times the tent felt very precarious, but it all added to the fun. We went to our favourite place in Lathkilldale again. There is a large campsite there and it's very chilled out. I've been watching the 'Child of our time' programme on the BBC and the kids on there are a year older than Shona, but the clips we see are of last year when they were Shona's age now. (Does that make sense?) Recently they were discussing and analysing play and saying that children might not be getting enough spontaneous, unstructured, adult-free play these days. Well, Shona has done nothing but play this weekend because there are loads of kids on the campsite and there is loads of space for them to play, but they also have some space from adults. There was actually a boy we'd met last time, so Shona already had a friend when she got there.

On Sunday we did a four mile hike, which was lovely. We went to Monyash, which is quaint and has a nice café and a great pub with a fantastic play area. Shona was very impressed with the facilities and spent many a moment on an Indiana Jones-esque aerial runway. Today we've done some more walking around Monsel Head. Our friend Esther was supposed to be coming with us, but unfortunately she hurt her back and couldn't come with us. This was a shame because she would have enjoyed herself. But, there are always other times and we hope to go camping again in a few weeks.

This evening we were invited for tea at Carol's and Kin came as well. Apart from not calming my fears about the kids and their Spanish GCSE, we did have a great time at Carol's. We had fajitas and Shona really enjoyed these, which amazed me because she is a fussy eater. This was followed by Ben and Jerry's ice cream. This was a great meal and we finished the evening watching Shrek 2 and I continued knitting a sock for Ezzie. Life doesn't get any better than than.

Monday, 19 May 2008

The Blog's Birthday

My blog is one year old today. This seems quite incredible. On the one hand I'm pleased to have kept going with my blog and it is a nice record of the things I've done over the last twelve months. On the other hand. sometimes it feels like I've not covered half the things that have gone on and I'm surprised that I've kept going with it for this long. I'd love to be able to post more often, have better photographs, have funny anecdotes, but I guess no one is ever 100% happy with their blog, so what I have will have to do and hopefully, one day, it will improve. I must say that the colour scheme and layout I chose last year are decidedly dull now and maybe I need to get more technically smart and tart this thing up a little.

I have just had such a lovely weekend. On Saturday I went and walked the greyhounds, had a Spanish lesson and spent the afternoon at Mara's with a lovely group of knitters. One knitter in particular I had not seen for a while and it was great to see her and catch up. I really love knitting with other people and since I became a knitter, this has definitely been one of the best things about this hobby. I love seeking advice with other knitters, I like offering advice and expressing my opinions, I like discussing yarns and textures and stitches and colours and needles and there is never a lull in the conversation, whether it be knitting conversation or life conversation. However, I was overwhelmed this Saturday when Mara gave me this:

It is her very beautiful, very colourful, very neat, very soft, very stunning and very appreciated Clapotis scarf. I had seen this when it was only a baby a few weeks ago and loved it then and I still cannot believe she has given it to me. I was almost out of the house because I felt embarrassed accepting such a treasure, especially considering the work she has put in. All I can say is, thank you, Mara. Your scarf could not have ended up with a more appreciative recipient. I wore it all Saturday night and all day yesterday, despite the nice weather. I've already teamed it with other clothes I own and cannot wait for the winter when I'll be able to wear it all the time.

On Saturday night Ezzie and I went to the dogs and sold tip sheets to make money for the retired greyhounds. We had a really good time and did well. It was really nice going there because I've not been to the dogs for years. I always went as a child when we went to Blackpool and I loved it then, although there was one time when I was really sick after eating too much food and the sick was coming out of my nose as well as my mouth. It was really unpleasant and I remember it well because it burned my nose, but apart from that I've always loved it. We had a couple of bets ourselves but foolishly ignored the tips we'd been giving out. We won nothing, although Ezzie felt with my addictive personality this was the best outcome possible.

Yesterday I did more dog walking and went to the allotment afterwards. I saved a cat's life. Well, that's a bit of an exaggeration but I found a cat looking awfully lost and crying. It was only young but it had a phone number on its collar so I 'phoned it and it was ages away from home and near a busy main road. Ezzie and I drove it to its home so we felt like superheroes. It wasn't injured or anything, but I was sure it would have been knocked down had we not intervened. The cat's mum was very pleased to see him again and she couldn't believe how far he had roamed.

In the afternoon I did some school work, knitting, spinning and dyeing wool. I have made good progress on the cardigan I hate. I've only a sleeve and some horrid sewing up to go now. I'm not posting a photo because I hate everything about this project and as soon as I have finished it, it will be blanked out from my own memory. It's taught me an invaluable lesson about knitting gifts. This is a present for someone to give to someone else. Does that make sense? The thing is, I don't really know the final recipient and I don't think she will appreciate it. In the future, I'm just knitting for people I know directly and wish to knit for.

I've spun some of the Blue Faced Leicester, but I really don't like the result. The spinning seems regular and like sock yarn, but when the two strands are plyed, the effect is rather insipid and I don't do insipid. The changes between blue and green are not vivid or different enough. I don't know whether to continue with this or to start something else.

I do have something else in the pipeline because I popped into Wingham's yesterday. It's only a stone's throw from the greyhound place so it makes perfect sense to do a little detour. I found a ten pound note in a pocket of my handbag which I had forgotten about, so I treated myself to some dye. I bought the colour Opal, which is actually more of a turquoise, because I like a lot of this colour in my life. Yesterday I dyed the Merino/Bamboo/Soya in three colours and I am really excited about spinning and knitting socks with these. The colours are turquoise, blue and pink. I've done considerably more than the pink because I want to do some plain pink for cuffs, heels and toes. I want to have stripes with this yarn so I need to practise Navajo spinning and will be getting in contact with a spinner I know for help and advice. (She knows who she is...)

Spinning really is exciting, even when you have disappointments such as I have had with the Blue Faced Leicester. I've just learned that I need to add more dye, create more vibrant colours and see how that works out. A year ago when I started the blog I never would have imagined I could learn to spin wool, so I'm not just McKnitty, but also McSpinny now.
Another four days and I'm on holiday so I am hoping to do lots of spinning then. Shona is coming for the weekend to go camping with us again, which will be lovely. Esther is coming camping again as well, so we will be knitting and chatting outside again. It really is something to look forward to. Let's hope the weather is nice and sunny.