Monday, 1 May 2017

Holibobs

We've recently returned from a holiday in East Lothian.

The cottage we stayed in was lovely, with far reaching views.


The sofa had it's 'back' to this window, so I turned it round and spent the whole week gazing out at the view whenever we were at home. The hill you can see in the distance is Traprain Law, which is about 221m in elevation. It's the site of a hill fort, and was a burial ground as far back as 1500BC. Interestingly, thirteen Exmoor ponies are 'employed' to graze the hill and keep the grass under control!

In our infinite wisdom, we decided to have a torture session walk up this hill. I think we made it about a third of the way up, if that. Little Hare was off like a rocket - he would've gladly climbed all the way to the top I think, if mum and dad had been able to keep up! Actually, dad did keep up fairly well, but mum's legs gave up and turned to jelly - I couldn't take another step. But the views were still pretty spectacular, even if we didn't get right to the top.

That's the road, next to the yellow oilseed rape field in the bottom left


The green arrow is pointing to North Berwick Law, another big hill, and the blue arrow is pointing to the Bass Rock. Bizarrely, we could actually see the top of the Bass Rock from the cottage. I couldn't work out how that could be, but we must have been in a more elevated position than I realised.


This was the first holiday since... I can't even remember, when I - shock! horror! - didn't take any crochet with me!! 😲 But I did take some knitting 😀. I sat on that sofa every evening, looking out at that view, and knitting on the two socks that I currently have on the go until the light faded and my eyes grew tired. Bliss!


My second Spring Meadow sock

My first Mojito sock

I tried to get up early every morning to watch the sunrise - I did see one pretty spectacular one. It was also interesting watching the 'weather' move across the sky, like this rain in the distance


The Bass Rock was 'behind' this tree, although I don't think you can see it in this photo


We had some lovely days out. If you're in Edinburgh, the National Museum of Scotland is always worth a visit - it's free entry and it's absolutely huge so there is bound to be something of interest in there. It has lots of interactive exhibits too, great for kids and adults alike. This was our second visit, and we made it up to the roof terrace this time, which has great panoramic views, including of the Castle.


If you want to avoid the jostling crowds of Edinburgh Zoo, try the Five Sisters Zoo in West Calder. Not as big as Edinburgh, but still a good size with an impressive collection of over 180 different species of mammals, reptiles and birds.

Lemur, sunbathing

Pile of lemurs

That is a bear, in the woods

Scottish Wildcat

This is actually called a 'Fishing Cat'
We also had a visit to the National Museum of Flight, in East Fortune. It was interesting, although obviously it helps if you have a particular interest in planes and other forms of air travel. They have a few planes that you can board, although you can only walk down the centre aisle - no sitting in the seats, or entering the cockpit.

The biggest draw, arguably, is Concorde. The museum has one of the 7 still owned by British Airways.




Strangely, it didn't seem as big as I was expecting, and for what was supposed to be such a superior form of travel, it all seemed very tiny and claustrophobic inside.

I've never flown on a plane, because I have a fear of flying (=crashing), and going on board the planes at the museum confirmed to me that I'm in no rush to do so!

We also visited Butterfly World and Insect House just outside Edinburgh, which is always enjoyable thanks to the very friendly staff, and we went to Blair Drummond Safari Park, but I used a different camera there and I haven't uploaded my photos yet!

All in all, a great relaxing week away!

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Catch Up

Just gone through my recent photos and I'm going to do a quick catch up post, some of these have already appeared on Instagram...


I'm still working on my stash-busting cosy stripe blanket, but I'm not loving the colours that I've chosen and it's very much become an 'in the background' WIP at the moment. I think I've gone too far to frog it, but I'm not over-enthusiastic to finish it either (other than to get it out of the way)...


Phwoar!!
Back in February I had a winding session with the luxury yarns I've bought at Yarndale. I haven't used any of them yet, but I have been trying to find some shawl patterns recently, so they're good to go when I'm ready.



I made Little Hare a jumper from a pattern in one of my crochet magazines. The sizing went up in years - 2 years, 4 years etc - so I chose the 4 years, knowing that it'd be a bit big on him, and it is. The pattern was aimed at beginners, and had a very simple construction - the arms are joined on to the body in a kind of 'T' shape, which means that you get a bunching of material under the armpits - not great, to be honest, I can't see him wearing this much...


On the 10th March - this happened! I watched a couple of YouTube videos showing how to cast on, knit and purl, and off I went! Practiced for a couple more evenings and then...


... actually started knitting a sock! I was naughty though, because I didn't do a tension swatch or even measure my foot - I saw that Christine (Winwick Mum, whose tutorial I was following) cast on 60, so I thought "hmm, she's very slim and has slim ankles, but I don't, so if she does 60, I'll do 80"!! I soon realised that it was going to be massive, too big even to pass off as a bed sock, so I frogged the above effort and started again, after taking the appropriate measurements.

And lo, on the 27th March, just 17 days after I'd learned to knit, I finished my very first knitted sock!



I immediately started the second (in fact, I think I started it before I finished the first)...



... tried not to poke the cat's bum with my DPNs (I was told off on Facebook that these 8inch ones are too long, and I should use 6inch)...

King Cole ZigZag but I don't know the colour

... and then there were two! My first ever knitted pair of socks! The colour isn't very exciting, but it's some sock yarn that I've had for ages so thought I might as well use it for my first pair. I have a few tension issues where I start using the DPNs instead of the circulars, but I didn't really make any mistakes, and even my Kitchener stitch went really smoothly.

So this crocheter who thought she'd never be able to learn to knit, is now a sock knitter, and a slightly obsessed one at that!

I've already finished my third sock (No. 1 of Pair No 2)...

King Cole ZigZag in 'Spring Meadow'
... and No 4 (or No.2) is on the needles. In fact, so is No.5 - I have two circular needles, so I generally have two socks cast on at the same time, but at different stages. I'll work on one until I get to a bit where I really need to concentrate (such as the heel or the toe), and if it's not a good time to do that bit, I'll work on an easier stocking stitch section of the other sock. That way I can usually do some knitting every evening (or whenever I have some spare time), and I'm managing to avoid Second Sock Syndrome!

Whilst I was working on my first sock, I treated myself to the Spring Meadow yarn above, but then a little while later I noticed that there was a Drops Sock Yarn sale on at Wool Warehouse. Well, it would have been rude not to indulge, wouldn't it?




I got the Addi short circular from Amazon, but the yarn was all from Wool Warehouse. Until I looked through my photos a few minutes ago, I'd forgotten that I'd bought the Head Over Heels yarn - it's like the woolly equivalent of finding a tenner in your pocket! Anyway, I haven't used any of this yet, but it's obviously all lined up for socks. The Fabel seems ok, but I'm not sure if I like the feel of the Delight, but I'll see how it works up into socks when I get around to using it.

After buying that little lot, I put myself on a bit of a yarn ban, which was unfortunate because a few days later I went to a new wool show, called Spring Into Wool, which was held at Leeds Grammar School. I presume they're kind of jumping on the Yarndale bandwagon, but hey, I'm all for that! The more local yarn shows the better (even if my bank balance doesn't agree). 

It took about 45 minutes to get to the Grammar School, and I arrived at 9.45 - the show was due to open at 10am. There is a very large car park, and there were already quite a lot of cars there, although there were still plenty of spaces. It turned out there were other things going on in the school which would explain the extra vehicles.

Hooky Hare came with me again :-)

After buying my ticket I was handed some free knitting patterns - the lady asked me "are you a knitter?" and I just automatically said "yes" before adding, "I've only just learned!" It felt quite strange to be able to say that I was a knitter, although looking at the patterns, I'm a long way off attempting them! 

There were a few stalls in the foyer which I had a look at, and then I walked to the main hall. It was only about 9.50 and a lot of the stallholders looked like they were still setting up; I felt like I was the only visitor walking around, and I wasn't sure if I should be in there, so I kind of wandered out and then thought "nah!" and went back in. 

There were 60 stalls, so nothing like the amount at Yarndale, and it was nice to be able to walk around and look at everything without any jostling, although it did get quite a bit busier (probably about 11.00ish). I think I walked round once, just making note of stalls I wanted to go back to, and trying to compare prices, and then I went round another two or three times, and made a few purchases. 

Since I was on a yarn ban, I'd decided to go more for accessories, mainly stitch markers, possibly knitting needles, and that's mostly what I got. I caved in and bought one ball of West Yorkshire Spinners sock yarn (I think it's Mojito, from their Cocktail range) - I've had my eye on this colour for ages, and I could've got it cheaper online, but hey ho. This is the yarn that I've started Sock No 5 in, I just couldn't wait to see what it looked like. I've only done the ribbing so far. 

So this is my rather modest haul:


Stitch markers from The Woolly Tangle, A Little Bit Sheepish, Homespun Wonders (I think), and the ones in the little tin were from someone called Alice (Alice Yarns?) who was on a stall with The York Makery (I think). The WYS yarn, a couple of knitting accessories and a car air freshener from Tillyflop, which I put in the car straight away, so it's not in the photo. It had a lovely lavender smell, which sadly only lasted about a day.

Even though I didn't buy much, I really enjoyed Spring Into Wool, and I hope it's on again next year.

A few days ago, I put out a plea on Instagram for people to use the hashtag #showusyourshawls.


This is my Virus Shawl, but I haven't worn it yet, because I don't really know what to wear it with! It's black, pink and turquoise, so I feel like I should wear it with those sorts of colours, but when I try it with something blue or pink, it just doesn't look right. It's quite busy too, but I tend to wear patterned tops, so I feel like it clashes with them. It's a bit embarassing admitting that I don't know how to wear it, although I had a couple of people agreeing with me and saying that they had the same problem. I want to make more shawls, but I'm worried that I'm wasting my time (and good yarn!) on something I might never wear. So I was hoping that people might use #showusyourshawls to give me and others some inspiration (but I don't think it's taken off, to be honest).

Anyway, I think that's me caught up for a bit longer.

Bye for now,

happy hooking (and knitting!) xx


Wednesday, 1 February 2017

#WIWOHH

#WIWOHH = What I'm Working On (Hooky Hare) (because #WIWO is well used already).

I'm going to try and post regular updates here and on Instagram about what I'm up to, using the above hashtag (trying to find a # that hasn't already been used thousands of times is quite difficult!).

It's mainly about my WIPs, but I'm also going to include things like what book I'm reading, or what I'm watching on tv.

If you'd like to join in and use the hashtag to show me what kind of crafty projects you're working on, or other hobbies/interests (but, y'know, keep it 'appropriate' 😉) that would be great, otherwise it'll just be me talking to myself!

Something like this:



~ Crochet ~

I've started making a stash-busting blanket using Lucy's Cosy Stripe pattern. I've picked out 15 random colours from all my Stylecraft DK (where I had at least one full 100g ball), and I've used them all once so far, as you can see in the photo:


It's folded up here - it's actually about single bed width
Photo doesn't really show the colours very well, but from bottom to top they are: Raspberry; Sherbet; Lavender; Jaffa; Matador; Bright Green; Fiesta; Aspen; Shrimp; Pomegranate; Turquoise; Magenta; Sunshine; Bright Pink; Candyfloss. Then I'll start all over again with Raspberry.


~ Reading ~

Currently reading The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson.



It's kind of a sequel to Notes From A Small Island, where he travels around the UK making humorous (but mostly affectionate) observations about the places he visits. I'm not getting through it very quickly but it's not that kind of book; each chapter is a bit like a short story so you can just pick it up as and when.

~ Watching ~



The second series of Fortitude. Love it! Managed to download the whole series in one go, and I actually finished watching it on Monday night. Can't really talk about it because *spoilers* but OMG!!! Didn't realise I'd got to the end though, because it didn't feel like the end, so I hope that means Season Three? I didn't really understand a lot of what was going on, but it still had me gripped, although I don't think it was as good as series One. Even though I've seen it now, I'll probably still watch it every Thursday evening. Maybe I'll spot things I didn't see the first time around?


I think that's it for now. If you want to join in, use #WIWOHH on Instagram so I can see what you're up to (not in a stalking way though 😉)

Bye for now xx

Monday, 30 January 2017

It's Too Early!

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with sleep.

I'm not sure that I have full-blown insomnia, but I definitely have some sleep issues. For a long time now I've suffered from back pain, and certain sleeping positions exacerbate it. I have difficulty 'switching off' my brain when I go to bed, hence the increased interest in planners and bullet journals and to do lists in the last couple of years, in the constant hope of trying to organise my thoughts. I probably don't go to bed as early as I should, and I do like to have a lie-in, but years of getting up early for work (and then getting up early with my son) mean that I'm an early waker, if not always an early riser. I crave sleep, but at the same time, I dread going to bed in case I have a bad night where I can't sleep. I rarely ever allow myself to sleep during the day, even when I can barely keep my eyes open and a nap would probably do me good (obviously not while I'm on childcare duties). To sleep during the day seems like a waste of precious time. I go to bed late because I feel like I have so much that I want to do, so much to cram into my evenings. Yet I know that sleep is good for me, and allowing myself to have a nap or an early night isn't self-indulgent, it's self-care. But I still don't give in to it.

I've been reading a few articles about good sleep practices, and one thing that they all advise is to get up at the same time every day. I mentioned in my last post that I'm trying to do this. For someone who likes to have a sleep in on a Saturday morning, this doesn't seem to make much sense, but apparently, in the long run, it helps you sleep better and feel more refreshed. I only work two days a week, but on those two days I have to get up at 5am. So that means that for the rest of the week, my mornings have to come in line with that, and I need to get up at 5am every day.

It's not easy! If I was having a lie-in, it would only be until about 7am, because Little Hare is usually awake by then, which means I am too. So you wouldn't think that getting up a couple of hours earlier would be that hard. But I am missing that lie-in! Getting up when you know you don't really need to is tough.

Getting out of bed is the hardest part, especially at this time of year, when the house is cold, and it's so dark outside. But actually, once I'm up and dressed, it's nice having a couple of hours of peace and quiet. I can do things like blogging, internet shopping, reading, crochet, things that I don't get chance to do during the day.

When I worked full time I used to daydream about getting up for work, but then realising that I didn't have to go, like if I'd accidentally got up on Saturday thinking it was Friday. Sometimes I'd think how lovely it would be to be able to go back to bed, but other times I'd think it would be nicer to stay up. That's how I'm trying to feel about these early mornings. For a lot of people, we only get up early because we have to, usually to go to work. So I'm trying to enjoy the feeling of being up early and not having to go to work.

As I said, it's hard at the moment because it's still so dark outside. Dark mornings have never bothered me much, but lately I've found that I'm really craving the daylight, more than I ever have before. I want to come downstairs just after 5am and see the sunrise! I want to be able to get up without having to turn any lights on. I know it will happen eventually, as it always does, it'll keep getting that tiny bit lighter a few minutes earlier each day. In the articles that I've been reading they suggest that a good way to wake yourself up on a morning is to expose yourself to daylight as soon as possible, for example, sit outside with your morning cup of coffee. That's not an option for me yet! But I'm really looking forwards to when I can do that.

Of course, it's not just about getting up at the same time every day. It's also about going to bed at a sensible time, and then hopefully falling into a deep restful sleep as quickly as possible, so that you can wake up feeling refreshed. I'm still working on this, but I feel like that might be for another post! For now, I'm just going to try and keep up with the early mornings, and look forwards to my first al fresco cup of coffee!

Do you have any sleep tips you want to share? I'd love to hear about them if you do.

Bye for now xx




Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Happy Birthday To Me!

It's my birthday today!

I was hesitating to say how old I am, and then I thought, why? It's nothing to be embarrassed about, is it? I'm 38 years old, and grateful for every day that I've been alive. Not wanting to put a dampener on things, but I've had a couple of near misses, a couple of touch and go moments where it looked like it was just about all over, so I'm ecstatic to have got to 38!

So I thought I'd celebrate my birthday with an early morning grocery delivery - oh yes, I know how to live! Actually, it wasn't that early, between 7 and 9am, but I got up at 5.30am. I'm trying to get up early every day, even when I don't have to. Apparently, it helps you sleep better, so there is a method in my madness. I'm going to write a post about it soon.

I came downstairs and made myself a toffee nut latte and had two paracetamols for my breakfast. Did I mention that I had two wisdom teeth removed just over a couple of weeks ago? Jeez, it's been traumatic! The bruising and swelling has just about gone now, but I'm still getting quite a bit of jaw ache. Anyway, whilst sipping my coffee, I did a few puzzles. Every now and again I buy puzzle books and go a bit mad with them for a while, till I get it out of my system. My favourite puzzles are these logic problems, and also the skeleton crosswords where you fill in the answers and the black squares as well.



Once the shopping had arrived and we'd all had breakfast, Little Hare (my son) helped me open my presents - a couple of boxes of chocolates. My main present had actually arrived a couple of weeks ago, but Chris had let me see it straight away, to check if it was ok. Look at this thing of beauty:



Before Christmas, Chris asked me for a list of present ideas, and one of the things I asked for was a wooden yarn bowl. I'd had my eye on one on Etsy for ages, that was quite unique because it was one of the only ones I'd seen which had a lid, but when I finally decided to treat myself, it had sold. I managed to find a picture of it to show Chris, and wondered if he'd be able to find something similar. As it happens, Chris knows someone who does wood-turning in his spare time, as a hobby, and he showed him the photo of the Etsy one, and he made this for me! How awesome is it? It's made from sweet chestnut, and it's silky smooth. Absolutely love it!

This afternoon I made my birthday cake. I could pretend I made it from scratch, but it's actually a Betty Crocker cake mix! Even the buttercream icing is out of a tub! It's a red velvet cake, but it doesn't look very red to me.


We went for an evening meal. and when we came home Little Hare wanted to put candles on the cake, but we only had a 1 and a 3, so I briefly became 7 years younger!


The cake is delicious, I fully recommend Betty Crocker.

So another year older, but not wiser, since I'm minus two wisdom teeth! 😀

Lymphoma

I mentioned in my last post that a relative (my partner's nephew Stephen) has been diagnosed with lymphoma. He's had various chemo treatments, but none of them have worked and he's now at the point where he needs a stem cell transplant. However, they are struggling to find a match.

So, this post is to ask you a huge favour. If you are willing and able, and if you haven't already done so, please could you consider registering to become a donor, and encourage your family and friends to do so?

Unfortunately, due to the fact that I have a congenital heart condition and am on lifelong medication for it, I'm unable to become a donor of blood or bone marrow. So the next best thing I can do is try to encourage those who are well enough, to do so.

DKMS is an international stem cell donor centre. If you are aged between 18-55, register here and if you are eligible you will be sent a swab kit. A quick swab of the inside of your cheek, send it back to them, and you've done it! You've become a potential life saver! How amazing will that make you feel?

If you are aged 16 - 30, you can register with Anthony Nolan - click here to be sent a 'spit kit' to send them some of your superhero saliva for testing!

You can also read more about blood cancer and donating stem cells/bone marrow at Bloodwise, the British Bone Marrow Registry and the Bone Marrow Donor Registry from the Welsh Blood Service.

If you can't or don't want to donate stem cells/bone marrow, perhaps you would consider making a monetary donation to any of the above charities please? The cost of registering one potential donor with DKMS is £40, and £60 with Anthony Nolan, but any amount of money that you could spare would be appreciated.

I know there are other blood cancer charities out there but it's not possible for me to list them all, and whilst I don't like choosing any one over another, at the moment our main hope lies with the specific lymphoma / stem cell charities, which is what I've focussed on in this post.

Please help, if you can.

Thank you for reading.




Saturday, 21 January 2017

Charity Chat

I know, I know, it's not the done thing to talk about 'charidee', is it?

But I'm going to!

Last year left me - and the vast majority of people, I expect - feeling somewhat unsettled, to say the least. I'm not a political person, but the EU Referendum result and then the news about the successor to President Obama were undoubtedly two huge events which are going to have serious repurcussions for years to come. Then there were all the celebrity deaths, and regardless of how you felt about those people, it just seemed to be an endless barrage of bad news. Not to mention all the war and conflict going on around the world, and the horrifying terrorist attacks.

On a personal level, a family member was diagnosed with lymphoma; he's having treatment, but it isn't going as well as we would like it to and it's a constant source of worry for us all. He's very young, and doesn't deserve this (nobody does - I hate cancer!)

The New Year is always a time for reflection, and thinking about everything that had happened in 2016, I started this year with a feeling of wanting to 'do something'. It wasn't much more specific than that - I just wanted to help others, in some small way (because I can't really do it in a big way).

So I started thinking about charities, and how I could help. Obviously, I could donate money, but I'm not exactly rolling in cash - does a couple of quid really help? It just seems like such a drop in the ocean. I know that's not the right attitude - if we all thought like that then no-one would donate anything, I suppose.

I know of a couple of charities who have set up Amazon Wish Lists for items they need. I think this is a fantastic idea, and I wish more would do it, as it's such a simple way to donate, and you feel like your money is going exactly where it's needed.

I've thought about buying extra items with my grocery shopping and saving them up to deliver to certain charities at Christmas, for example, but the problem I have with that is just where to keep everything? I could take things once a month, but if I'm honest, I just probably wouldn't do that, I wouldn't be able to find the time.

I'm not an 'activist', I'm not the kind of person who gets really fired up and says "Right, let's do this!!" and then goes out and changes the world. I do want to help, but I have to be practical and find ways that suit me, because there's more of a chance that I'll do something then.

So, the first thing I've done, is to start using Ebay's Charity selling function. I'm in permanent 'declutter' mode, so whenever I list anything on Ebay, I'm going to choose a charity and make a 10% donation from my sales. I haven't actually sold anything yet since I started doing it, but I'm going to keep it up all through the year, and hopefully by December I might've made a small contribution to a few charities.

I've been thinking about what kind of charities to support, and obviously this is a very personal thing, so I won't list all the ones I've chosen. However, last year I became aware of an issue which I'm ashamed to say had never really crossed my mind before - the difficulties that homeless women face when having to deal with their periods. The Homeless Period presented a petition to parliament asking for homeless shelters to provide free sanitary products to women, as they already do with razors and condoms for men. They now have a new petition running asking Proctor and Gamble (makers of Always and Tampax) to donate a significant proportion of their products to homeless shelters. I've signed this petition. They don't have any other way of donating, but they ask you to buy sanitary products and take them to your local foodbank, which is still something I'm thinking about.

Similarly, Bloody Good Period aims to provide sanitary products and toiletries to women visiting the North London Asylum Seeker Drop In Centre. This initiative does have an Amazon Wish List, where you can purchase one or more items and have them sent directly to the centre. I've just bought some baby wipes for them.

Another website I discovered was Helping Handbags Worldwide. I like the idea of this, but I'm not sure if it's an official charity yet, and the site and Facebook group are not always up to date (for example, I don't think there is a coordinator local to me at the moment, or if there is I can't seem to contact them). I briefly thought about volunteering to become a coordinator, but again, I have to be practical and think whether I have the time and the space to give to something like this, and unfortunately the answer is that I don't.

I know some supermarkets have collection bins for foodbanks, or sometimes pet rescue centres, where you can buy things with your shopping and then put them directly into the collection bin on your way out. At the moment, we get our groceries delivered so I don't go to the supermarket all that often, but if I find out that they do a regular collection, I might start going in person again so that I can make a contribution.

Anyway, this has turned out to be quite a long post, so I'll call it a day for now. I hope you don't think I'm being 'preachy' or patronising - you may already be aware of the above charities, and you probably have ones that you donate to regularly that mean something to you, so I'm not trying to tell you what to do or anything like that. I'm writing about it for my own benefit as much as anything else, in the hope that it will keep it in my mind throughout the year, and that it won't just turn out to be a New Year resolution that I forget about in a couple of months.

Bye for now!!