Sunday 30 September 2012

September Goals Round Up

Love how I thought I'd given myself an easy ride this month because I'd need an easy win by the end of it. The last part of that is at least true.

Finish crocheting the flowery cowl 
I am allowing myself an orange on this because I *am* over half way. I have crocheted 22 motifs out of 38. The fact I cannot keep even tension is playing havoc with my (self-diagnosed) OCD. Everyone has told me it doesn't matter and will block out and won't notice. And I believe them. But it has stopped me from motoring through this at a rate of knots - well, that and the endless re-marks that have consumed my every waking moment. 

Read all of the Ethic of Excellence book I have been meaning to read for over a year 
I'm maybe a third of the way through. In desperation I started carrying it around with me in my handbag so it is now dog-eared, coffee stained and crinkly after a fight with a water bottle. I haven't had time. 

Go on at least ten runs 
I think I managed five but I am not even making this orange because this was just not good enough. I have a nine mile slog to complete in six weeks! The weird thing is that when I get out there and do it, I love it. But getting out there is so hard. Then on Friday it was the school sponsored walk and I have a minced left heel thanks to some horrendous blisters - I didn't even make it round the whole thing, much to my shame, but skipped the loop for the first time in years. But my heel is in bits. I don't know how I am going to run with it like that. Send healing vibes. I need to train!

Do some background reading for new A-level course 
I got a guest pass to Bristol Uni library and also borrowed some books from my local library. I am not very far ahead of the students but I am far enough, and enjoying the course.

Go through the chest of drawers under the stairs and get rid of/remove to another storing place everything in it. 
Nope. Not even a little bit. Not even one drawer.

Epic fail. Perhaps October's goals should involve sitting in my armchair watching TV, going to work and sleeping.

One thing I did do this month, though, which is a good thing, was to collect and put up my new curtains. I bought the fabric for them on knitting group weekend away to Shaftesbury in 2011 so it has taken me a while. They are blue and white batik and the fabric was labelled "Made in Ceylon" which I liked a lot. They make good curtains. I am pretty pleased I finally got round to it. 

Crafty Photo Scavenger Hunt: September

Rachel at The Awesome Lady picked this month's topics. I must admit that I blinked and missed September (blush) so they threw me into something of a panic today when I realised I didn't have anything suitable for any category. ARGH! But, I went looking through my phone for some pictures and I think I have only really properly cheated on one category. You'll tell me what you think.

Something I Made

I started making a Lea Stein collection.

Last September, I went to the Shepton Mallet Antiques Fair with Parpy Jo and Crabby, and I was most impressed with the ladybird brooches. I couldn't, however, find one that was red with black spots. So I went back this year with one thing on my shopping list. Then I thought it looked lonely. I have been drowned in re-marks this month (for those with an interest in education, this is nothing to do with any of the results issues that are in the new and everything to do with me moving to a different, bigger paper and a promoted position this summer) which meant I had lots of "fun" money. Re-mark money must be for something fun because it's the worst bit of the job, in my opinion.So, I went a bit mad.

The picture does not do the colours justice. The blue cat was the last one I bought and should really have stayed behind but the colour just could not be passed up. I remembered how I have been thinking all year about the ladybird brooch and decided I couldn't risk thinking all year about this one.

Ed McKeever's gold postbox is next to the road on which I drive to work every day. A nice way to keep hold of a bit of that Olympic inspiration from the summer.

I have examples of these, but they are at work. I hoped I might get away with this instead.

They are the proofs for my first book! Now a bit grander than the doodles they started out as.

Season's Change
I know autumn has arrived every year when these spiders set up shop in my flower bed. They build their webs one behind the other so I don't know how they stay alive. These two (in the top left and bottom right corners of the picture)are at the front of a row of six webs.

Motif: Music
Really, really stuck with this one. I actually considered taking a screenshot of Songpop (with which I am utterly obsessed, please play me if we are friends on Facebook) but then I found this in my phone gallery -

This is a cocktail I had last weekend when we went out in Bristol to celebrate Cara's 30th birthday. It contains espresso, some kind of honey liqueur, and tequila. It was really lovely and look - I know those are meant to be hearts but they did look a bit like mirrored bass clefs to me and hey, it's prettier than a Songpop screenshot don't you think?

Thanks for a great list of topics Rachie and I'm sorry I haven't really done them justice!

Saturday 29 September 2012

Fave Friday

I am a day late with this one. Yesterday was sponsored walk day - the annual 9-mile trek across the hilliest parts of the school's locality, punctuated with gunshots from the adjacent army firing ranges and screeches of teachers trying to convince students to pick up litter - and I got blisters just walking up to school from the train station, which then meant that afterwards I had to resort to tequila to forget the minced state of my heels. Hence, no Friday post. It would have been about how much I love my friends, and tequila, and I don't think either of those things are particularly surprising.


My favourite this week is my amazing fishmonger in Kingswood. It's called Fresco Fish Market and they sell a wide variety of very fresh and very delicious fish, and the service is truly amazing. I went in today to buy some fish pie fish, and the man not only selected me some good fish but also skinned it and cut it into chunks and mixed it for me. While I waited. That is good service. And it's such good fish, too! I mentioned earlier in the year that I am trying to broaden my horizons when it comes to fish but I keep finding fish I really enjoy and not wanting to eat anything else.

I did not take a picture of it today, which was most reticent of me; and no pictures appear to exist online, not even on Google Streetview, which is an old picture and shows the shop's previous occupant. So, you'll just have to imagine - a long counter open to the street with lots of iced fresh fish on it, a cabinet of cockles and whelks and crab sticks and scallops, and some freezers with frozen fish in (though I couldn't tell you what, I haven't looked). They have prepared crab and sometimes live lobsters (make me sad but a good offering nevertheless) and things like razor clams and massive prawns.

I like how helpful they are. They will prepare the fish any way you want it and give advice on the best value and the best type for what you want to make. They also give advice on how best to prepare it and cook it if you're a fish novice like me.

I don't know that I have many (any) local readers but it you are ever in the area - go and buy fish from these people. You will not be sorry.

Friday 21 September 2012

Fave Friday

No picture this week, sorry - I was too busy drinking it.

I've just returned from a lovely evening out with Parpy Jo. We went to a Champagne vs English sparkling wine tasting event at the Hotel du Vin and the English sparkling wine won.

It was Camel Valley wine, made in Cornwall by Bob and Annie Lindo. They were there to introduce the wines and talk us through their history and background, with some really great anecdotes. The Champagne producers, Ruinart, were there also and they had a lot of stories to tell. I learned from the evening that Champagne needs a good chalky soil and that the Chardonnay grape is very difficult to grow; that roughly 330 million bottles of champagne are produced a year but that before the banking crisis there was almost a world shortage; that land in the Champagne region goes for about €1 million/hectare; that during WW2 their cellars flooded and the Champagne was produced on rafts.

The Champagne was nice, but the Camel Valley was just exceptional. I am not a particularly good wine taster - it always just smells of wine to me - but I do know, for example, that I prefer Prosecco to Cava. And now I know I prefer English sparkling wine to Champagne. I think I might need to do a taste test against Prosecco and Cava though, to be sure. That can be my Christmas holiday task. I'll put it on my to do list.

The Camel Valley website is full of information about their wines - my favourite was Annie's Anniversary 2009 - and they even have holiday cottages! Win.

Friday 14 September 2012

Fave Friday

Walks on the beach in Portsmouth with Mother Hand.


I don't know that I need to say any more than that!


Friday 7 September 2012

Fave Friday


I tell people I don't drink tea, and I believe it too, but it's a lie. In fact, it's one of my favourite things. What I mean is, I don't drink traditional British style tea, ie, black tea with milk. It makes me feel a bit ill. However, I love green tea, white tea, all varieties of fruit and alternative tea (nettle being a favourite) and I am branching out into things like Earl Grey and Pekoe. Just not with milk.

Above is a marvellous teapot, from the London Pottery Company, and a big teacup, from Laura Ashley, and a delicious caffeine-free infusion from Whittard's. Though I love the teapot* and cup, the drink is my fave thing here. This one is acerola cherry; I have also tried and loved apple and elderflower. That one is especially nice chilled with some gin. I call it the Sally Iced Tea.

* Teapot would be better if it had an internal basket. It's all very well to use a strainer but those infusions are mighty chunky and impede the flow.

Tuesday 4 September 2012

Tuesday Ten

I went to the library in the town where I work today, to see what books they had from the reading list from the new A-level unit we're starting next week. I was quite excited because I adored my local library as a child and this one is in a big brick building in the town centre, so I thought it was going to be comparable.

Unfortunately, it was not. I should have realised that in a town roughly a tenth of the size, and against the background of cuts from the last few years, the library was not going to be all that. But it was a bit depressing, tbh. They had a very small amount of History books and nothing on Italy, this year's specialist subject.

Driving home, I started to think about all the things I loved about the library as a child.

1. It was orange. Acres of orange carpet with white walls and orange signage, everywhere. Oddly comforting.
2. It was HUGE. This was Portsmouth Central Library, and it was over four floors, and airy and open plan and light. Nobody could ever run out of things to read.
3. It was one of the few places as a child that I felt I was a success. I graduated from the child/teen fiction basement (with a whole wall of glass windows) to the adult fiction ground floor before I was a teenager and it felt like an achievement. I'd leave every month with my maximum allowance of books, and read them all. I was *so* pleased when a particular birthday came (I forget which one) and my allowance went up.
4. There was a cafe at the top - the Crow's Nest - which was extremely posh. Special Occasions Only. There were rooms up there were I had to go for my piano exams, too.
5. There was a local history bit that you had to check in to, and my friend Jenni and I used to go and look up who had lived in our houses before we did. I found out that our house had been a vicarage for a church that no longer existed. I think this gave me a real passion for history because it's the first time I can remember thinking about the people who had walked on those floors before I did, which is one of my favourite daydreams when I visit a historic place.
6. There were funny little study rooms on the second floor. You had to book them. I can't remember their names - I want to say cartels but that's not it. Anyway. I remember booking one out to study in as an A-level student and feeling so grown up because only university students studied in the central library. By sixth form, that may have been my main reason for going there.
7. By my mid-teens they had a great collection of CDs and this is where I found one of my favourite albums of all time, Jam by Little Angels. I kept it checked out for as many times in a row as I was allowed.
8. I discovered so many great writers there. The one that rises to the top of my mind is Graham Greene. I used to trawl the fiction for new authors, spurned sci-fi and detective novels in favour of what I suppose you'd call literary fiction, and particularly delighted in anything that might shock Mother Hand. Nabokov's Lolita, and Rushdie's Midnight's Children; though I never managed to read the latter.
9. It kept me supplied in cook books of every variety. 
10. It had a revolving door, and was always warm.

I expect it wasn't really that big, not really that airy, I didn't read quite that much and the cafe wasn't really that posh. But really, it must have been my most favourite place as a child because my memories of it are very strong. Mother Hand worked there when she was pregnant with me, so I always felt an affinity with the place.

It's sad that libraries aren't like that for me now. Gone are the days when I can go and check out five or six fiction books and read them in a month - the last time I can remember doing that was when I lived with Father Hand and discovered Ian Rankin. I have no cause to go and study in one and my local one is a bit depressing, though better than the one where I work (even our school library is better than that one, sadly). But, I have decided that if I can't get a book on Kindle and it's not one I need for reference for school, it must come from the library in future - while it still can.

Monday 3 September 2012

September Goals

With a new term and lots of new challenges I should not make this list too long.

  • Finish crocheting the flowery cowl
  • Read all of the Ethic of Excellence book I have been meaning to read for over a year
  • Go on at least ten runs
  • Do some background reading for new A-level course
  • Go through the chest of drawers under the stairs and get rid of/remove to another storing place everything in it. 
It's not many but I might need an easy win by the end of the month!

Now going to bed to read the book...

Weekend FO

Albert's Nautie

Pattern: Nautie from Knitty
Yarn: Leftover Cascade from the Cherry Blossom Bag*
Needle: 3.75mm
Mods: The shell should really be one-row stripes but, really, who has the time or will to do this for a cat toy?

He's stuffed with catnip, and he's very big, but then Albert is a big and vicious cat so I am hoping they will be a good match. Albert belongs to Cara and he gave me a good scratching last time I saw him. He isn't very good at playing nicely. Albert's nautie, indeed.

Good pattern, ingeniously written to avoid almost all sewing but it was a bit fiddly. I couldn't do more than a few repeats without getting tetchy, trying to knit together a live stitch with an old one to form the coil, so it took me about a week to finish.

I have been doing a bit of knitting on a new cardigan of lusciousness but I have fallen quite hard for the old crochet. I reason that this is because the flowers are quick - I made another tonight waiting for the sausages to cook; a proficient crocheter might be even quicker - and also because it is addictive to see what colour the next flower will come out. I was a bit disappointed to end up with two black-navy ones in a row and I might cheat and wind that bit of the skein out a bit next time; but at least my new lamp with the extra-bright spotlight came in handy.

Anyway. I'm about a third of the way through the crochet scarf and, all being well, next week's FO might be The First Crochet! If I don't lose interest or get buried in work, anyway. The re-marks are still rolling in...

* Love that this was my longest running project, back in 2009. Sooooo not my longest running project anymore.

Sunday 2 September 2012

CPSH July: Very Belated Favourites

I'm sorry this is so very late. I really have no excuse, other than my own forgetfulness. Here were the topics...

Something I made
Rachel's luggage labels got me all intrigued.

As a knitter I had to pick Emma's stash picture!

 Art Deco
Jen's lovely sideboard. In a version of my dream house, all the furniture looks like this and I sit in a high-backed cane chair wearing a turban and smoking a cigarette from a long holder without feeling guilty about it at all, because nobody knows how bad for you smoking it yet.

Rachel gets this one for going to the effort of drawing her own! I have hardly seen any ladybirds this summer, I guess the wet weather has not done them any favours.

The Colour Blue
Ruth didn't know it but I'm a sucker for a beach scene...

Thanks everyone for playing along, and for your patience!

Saturday 1 September 2012

Summer Holidays Goals Round Up

Six glorious weeks of nothingness are finally over. I have managed to drag out the final bits of work for my book right to the final day, which irks me as I wish I'd had to motivation to do it all in the first fortnight, but oh well. TBH, the holiday feels like it has gone of for months, rather than weeks, and I am quite ready to begin again.

How did I do?

1. Knit a rose every day for my planned work desk chair revamp. 
No. This was going quite well for a while, but then I ran out of wound Cascade and then needed to concentrate on my mittens during the Olympics. Also, this end of the holiday I have finally learned to crochet and I have been crocheting flowers.  
I only started today and it's fiddly but quite addictive. I have double this number of flowers already.

2. Knit something else during the Olympics. 
Yes. I finished my second pair of thrummed mittens, medalling in WIPs Wrestling. Third time I've competed - first time I've actually finished!

3. Do some gardening.
Yes. Welll...sort of. I hired a gardener. I just had to come to terms with the fact that I did not want to spend my own time doing it.

4. Clean the house properly.
Yes, ready for my birthday party, but it is kind of needing doing again now. I'd like to wash the kitchen floor, too, which I didn't do last time. 

5. Finally, FINALLY go to the tip.
YES!! And then got home, and found half a dozen things I should have taken. 

6. Get a pedicure.
Yes. I have discovered shellac. My nails will never be the same. 

7. Have a birthday party. With lots of cake. And Hendrick's gin.
Yes. I invented a new cocktail and we bought a gazebo that is the size of the whole lawn. Grumpy neighbour will be even grumpier now we can have barbecues all year round. 

8. Get some Australia pictures printed and make a start on the photo album I have planned.
I have submitted them to Photobox and am waiting for them to arrive - so I am halfway. 

9. Get to a total of 30 spinning classes (my NY Resolution was 50 in 2012 and I am currently on...16. Sigh.)
No, but I did get up to 24. I realised I had to do less spinning and more running. I'm not going to make 50 spinning classes in 2012.

10. Have a wardrobe clearout. 
Yes. I got rid of two bin bags of clothes, and removed a bunch of others that don't currently fit to another storage space. 

Not half bad!

Crafty Photo Scavenger Hunt: August

Something I Made


Spoilt for choice this month! As is always the case in the holidays. But here are my finished thrummed mittens. They were my Ravelympics project. I was suffering from second mitten syndrome, mainly because I had to carefully make all the thrums ahead of time to ensure I had enough and I don't like making thrums. It paid off though - in the end I had precisely one thrum remaining.

Bonus inside thrum shot.

Can I use the Olympics two months in a row? Well, I'm gonna.

David Rudisha of Kenya, the first man in history to run the 800m sub 1 minute 41 seconds. This race was INCREDIBLE. There were many incredible moments during this Olympics but this really stood out for me, not just because he beat the WR but because he inspired every other runner in his race to achieve a best of their own. There were some new country records and a lot of PBs. It kind of felt like, they all knew he was going to win AND that he was going to do something amazing and they upped their game, even though they couldn't beat him, because they didn't want to let him down in his big moment.

This is not especially inspiring when it comes to craft, I suppose! But this is my favourite story of the Olympics and I find the whole story very uplifting. Guess what my assembly will be about this year...

I nearly put a picture of me in here, or my birthday cake, as August saw me mark another birthday. I am now officially as old as the years I have left to work before I retire. What a depressing thought. But anyway....


I was having a clear out and found this. It was discovered by my housemate in the junk of the last house we shared together in London. Mr Z declares it is a pipe tobacco tin; polished up it will make a good holder for stitch markers, I think.




This monstrous dragon fly came into the house last week and managed to get stuck between the sliding doors. I did attempt to help but was hampered by my inability to get within five feet of the creature. It had to wait for Mr Z to return; by that point it was right at the bottom and the only way to free it was to slide the door over the top of it. This did not bode well for the thing, but it survived. Freaky. I think that tells us everything we need to know about the deadly nature of these things.

Motifs: Hearts


My oven gloves. The are by Emma Bridgwater; Mother Hand purchased them for us several years ago along with a tea towel. I don't much care for hearts as I think they can be a bit twee but I think this has managed to avoid it.

Thanks for picking the topics this month, Ruth! (And sorry to all of you who took part last month, for not doing a favourites post. It was very remiss of me.)