Sunday 5 December 2021

November roundup

How is it December 5th already? The end of November flew by with all the grace and speed of a freight train ploughing through 10 feet of snow, passing deadline after deadline as I screamed in vain for it to slow down and just give me a chance. It is my own fault of course. I took on an extra job on October, from a place that I haven't worked with before and therefore didn't want to say no to. This on its own would have been OK, but then my trusty 11 year old computer died. I have a work laptop, but I am too set in my ways to find it easy to use - I am too used to having two screens now. Then the exam board dumped a huge piece of work on me without notice. School has also turned up the pressure so I ended up having just one free this past week, on Friday.

Woe, woe, woe is me. Woe, I say. 

Books read: I read To Miss With Love by Katharine Birbalsingh. She is a controversial figure in the education world but has just been made social mobility tsar, so beloved of the Tories is she, so I thought I had better read it and see what she was about. I guess I surmised that she wants similar things for children to what I want, but she has some very different ideas about the best way to achieve them. Rather than encouraging children to 'talk proper' to improve their life chances, for example, I'd sooner work towards a world in which this no longer matters. But, meh. 

I've started December reading a hefty history tome and a cook book, so I am not holding out much hope for a successful end to the year. But we'll see. 

Metres knitted: Not too many. I've finished the front and collar and I am plugging away at the first Tegna sleeve. This project is dragging, I'm bored and I desperately want to knit something new. 

Pounds lost: 1. I am overjoyed by this, because the weight I dropped during covid has stayed off. It has wobbled around a bit, especially because the calorie tracking lasted all of a week...My Fitness Pal has been sending me increasingly desperate-sounding notifications all month. But, I think the careful planning and prepping of lunches, a habit I have managed to keep up with almost all school year so far, has really helped. As has just not having time to eat anything outside of meal times. 

Sleep: Predictably awful. I've been repeating my unhealthy mantra, 'Sleep is for wimps' this past week. It's definitely not. Sleep is for people who are able to say no to offers of work in months that are always, always too busy. 

This post is all very meh, isn't it? I should be full of the joys of Christmas. I want to be. It's coming very soon. I just have a lot of work to clear before then. I should also say that I decided I was going to make a concerted effort to catch up with more friends this month, I goal I achieved with finesse, having dinners with Tom, Jo, Caroline, Vikki, Kate and a whole weekend in Wales with Rachael plus another Saturday at a conference and long lunch. Plus an in-person knit at Flock. So it hasn't all been gloom. 

Wednesday 3 November 2021

October round up

October has been a weird month. It started with a cancelled ski course, so a surprise free weekend; then I went to London and ran a Tough Mudder ('ran') - my first ever 10k - and then BANG! I got covid. It started with a slight loss of taste on the Sunday evening, but the LFT was negative. Then my sleep was disturbed by fever dreams and I (very unusually) woke up in the night with a raging thirst, went to the bathroom and was unable to smell Mr Z's horrible soap. I woke him up. 'I can't smell the soap,' I said. Mr Z grunted and immediately absconded to the sofa. In the morning I booked a PCR, naively telling the school absence answerphone that I'd probably be in by lunch. Famous last words.

Luckily for me, I couldn't have planned it better, because my last day of isolation was also the last day of term, so I ended up having three weeks of October off, although I did have to spend several of them feeling very unwell and several more not going out. It was a veritable treat when I was sent an antibody test kit and got to walk to the post box to send back the sample. 

That said, all that time certainly helped with the goals...

Books read: Two. I read Ian Rankin's Resurrection Men and then polished off Love After Love by Ingrid Persaud, which a lovely friend sent me when she heard I had covid. Not too bad, considering I also managed to binge watch two seasons of ER. 

Metres knitted: I got through most of the rest of the linen cone on my Tegna; the back is done, just the front, the collar and the sleeves to go. So, maybe another 500m, plus a couple of hexagons I did on my trip to Edinburgh at the weekend. 

Sleep: So much sleep. Covid knocked me for six. The week after I was still getting about nine hours a night without a wake and squeezing in a nap when possible as well. Going back to school has totally ruined all of that, of course, but it was nice while it lasted. 

And probably assisted with the...

Pounds lost: 10. TEN! Thank you, covid. For the first four days I couldn't access the kitchen due to isolating in the spare room, and then I didn't really want to eat without a sense of taste because it seemed like a waste of food. So I am now x-1 stone, 8lbs. Ten is a lot to lose that quickly and I am afraid it will have corrected by December but I have gone back to calorie tracking for this month to try to keep the momentum. 

Monday 4 October 2021

September round up

Books read: I managed one and a half. I finished A Most Peculiar Malaysian Murder by Shamini Flint and am halfway through a Rankin's Rebus I haven't read. I introduced Mother Hand to Rankin's Rebus when I found them in the library in Las Vegas and so every time she has another, she passes it on. I have a big stack. She will be pleased that I'm making a start. 

Metres knitted: I think around 500m. I am 14 inches into a linen Tegna. I'm bored with it, but must finish. The lace around the bottom took ages and it would be a crying shame if it was never blocked and made to look nice. 

Sleep: I've been trying, honestly. I've been going to bed as early as I can on as many nights as I can. It's a bit better than term time usually is at this end of the year. 

Pounds lost: None. went up by 4 and then down by 4. Weird. 

I thought I would blog some more in September, but tbf, it was September. Always a busy month. I have not had the usual re-marks to do but there have been appeals against the summer grades: a new process to learn and, although there weren't that many, they were time consuming. 

I might be counting down to half term, yes, what of it?

Tuesday 31 August 2021

August round up

Books read: Two and a half, go me! I started with The Amber Fury by Natalie Haynes, a novel about a woman teaching Greek tragedy in a PRU, which I devoured in two days flat. I chased it with another Natalie Haynes, A Thousand Ships, which is a retelling of the story of Troy from the perspective of the women. I remembered just enough of the story (and had been reminded of more in my previous read) to make this refreshing and enjoyable. Cassandra's sections in particular were pretty brutal but I thought her ending was written beautifully. 

These stories are so heavily connected to my youth that they stir some quite interesting memories. I gather there is quite the fashion for this sort of retelling at the moment and I've got my eye on The Children of Jocasta by the same author and Circe by Madeleine Miller, but I have held off for now - I will borrow them from the library and space them out a bit, so I don't get Greek mythology fatigue. 

Once I'd finished with that I thought I'd better do some reading for the new A-level so, naturally, most reading progress ground to a halt. I re-started 'An English Affair: Sex, Class and Power in the Age of Profumo' as recommended by Father Hand and it has been quite enlightening about Britain in the first half of the twentieth century, particularly the rise of the tabloid press and the aspects of today's society they managed to create; but it's not exactly bedtime reading. I think it's probably going even slower because it's on Kindle. So I've picked another novel off the shelf to start today. 

Metres knitted: I finished the Gemini tee - let's call that 160m. I knitted a skein of hexagons - another 187m. That's 31 hexagons for this year alone, go me! Not a great monthly total but I have spent a lot of it away on holiday. That brings my total for the year so far to 5300ish - some way off my goal but still a fair amount knitted up. I have just started a new linen top which is a mistake, I should be going into the autumn with a nice woolly 4-ply on the needles, but I will persevere. 

Sleep: very good, of course. My friend Zoe is an early to bed, late to rise person so I ended up naturally sleeping a lot more whilst we were on holiday, even though I went to bed after her and got up earlier. One week this summer, my weekly sleep average was actually over 8 hours. Impressive. 

That said, I struggled to sleep last night. I am hoping that was the bad night's sleep before the new term, as I went into school today. 

Pounds lost: amazingly, three. I have eaten well, all summer long, saying no to neither starters nor desserts, quaffing wine at every opportunity, fuelled on long drives by wine gums. But I have also done a lot of walking and been generally a lot more active. Just as well, as I have stupidly entered a Tough Mudder in October. 

Blogging: I'm in the mood for writing so there might be more of this in September. 

Monday 30 August 2021

Wardrobe clearout: playsuits

I'm participating in a challenge at the moment, where I wear the same dress for 100 days. If I do this and take a picture each day, I get $100 towards a new dress. This is a challenge with many benefits, though the cynical part of me says this is mainly really good advertising for the company that makes the dresses, especially judging by the number of people in the Facebook group that own half a dozen. Benefits for the participant, however, include learning to wear dresses (I don't own a wearable pair of trousers that aren't exercise related); washing clothes less (I don't wash clothes until they smell bad); learning to live with fewer clothes. That's the one for me.

My wardrobe is heaving. I have a lot of clothes I wear, a lot of clothes that almost fit and a lot of clothes I would never wear again but want to keep. The problem is that the volume obscures what is in there: it is difficult to riffle through the rail, for example, because it's quite tightly packed. I've observed that this is a trait I've inherited from Mother Hand, who gets round this problem by buying new wardrobes so that she can retain items of clothing Sib and I wore as children...I cannot become this. 

I've spent some of the summer musing over my clothes-hording instinct. I've figured out a few things -

  • Plus sized shopping has been, in the past, very tough. I had a habit of buying things because they fitted rather than because I liked them. This is not a problem any longer, as the next generation swarm the castles of fashion and demand inclusivity, so now is the time to start being discerning about what I buy and really think about what my style is, rather than my style just being 'what fits'. 
  • I keep hold of items of clothing because they have good memories attached to them. I don't need the item of clothing to keep that memory: a photograph of the memory, or of the garment itself in a pinch, is all that is needed.
  • I buy clothes via mail order and then don't send them back, even if they don't fit quite right or aren't what I want. Then I don't want to get rid of them because it is wasteful to pay for clothes I've never worn. I still believe that to be true, no matter which way you slice it, but it is less wasteful to pass the clothes on to someone who will wear them, rather than keep them squirrelled away until they're well out of fashion and nobody will wear them at all. And the best way to avoid this is to not order them in the first place - or, at the very least, to send them back. 
  • Using the cost-per-wear argument or 'the most sustainable garment is the one you already own' argument to justify keeping hold of clothes I don't wear is not the one. While clothes I don't wear take up storage space, clothes I do wear are in neatly folded piles on the floor, getting dusty. 
  • If I like something and it is a flattering item, I will quite often buy it again in another colour, or sometimes even the same colour, so I have a spare. But. I buy good quality clothes (and justify the spend on the basis that they will last) and so they last and last, because I'm wearing each item half as often. I can't expect the clothes I own now to be the ones I will wear for the rest of my life. Wardrobe turnover is normal. Buying two of everything is not necessary. I do not allow Mr Z to order spare food items for the kitchen on the basis that we don't have the space to store them: I should also be applying this logic to my clothes.
  • My clothes are not my car: I do not need to use them until the fall to pieces to make them worth the spend. 

So, as I work through the challenge, my plan is to work through my wardrobe and make some donations. I would like to donate 100 items to charity by the end of the challenge. Ideally these should be wearable items, not things going for ragging. 

To begin with, I went through the box of clothes I weeded out of my wardrobe two years ago, that were in the spare room. These are clothes I don't want to part with but that I don't wear. Having worked through the box, I turned out a pair of shorts and a dress that I put in there for reasons I cannot work out, and reintroduced them to my wardrobe...a fail. But I got rid of half the garments in the box. I then worked through my holidays clothes - tricky, because I haven't been on a foreign holiday for two years so I don't really know what I need, but I went on colour and shape for now - and added to the pile. 

Today, I have tackled playsuits. A big fan of the old TV programme Life Laundry, I pegged them all out on the line to have a look. 

I started wearing playsuits in 2018 when I turned 40. I was overjoyed to find something so comfortable and easy to wear. In 2019 I shopped for them heavily. Since then, I have added to the collection annually, without throwing any out. I am, in truth, searching for a replacement for my very favourite playsuit: a blue floral, button up number from Gap that is rapidly fading. 

The favourite one, pictured here with the assistant head's dog that I unsuccessfully tried to kidnap. 

Hence, I have ended up with this situation - 13 playsuits. Enough to wear one a day for nearly a fortnight. In truth, I wear three of these on rotation. Time to be brutal. 

I started by removing all the playsuits without pockets. 

I'm already sad. One of those, I'd never worn (but it was too big on the chest, a hazard of ordering such a garment as a pear shaped woman). 

One, I wore to my 40th birthday party and my 12th wedding anniversary dinner and to a fancy beach club in the south of France. We had adventures. But no pockets and it was very short and the fabric was quite thick, so it's going. 

Fancy Montpellier beach club (waitress's thumb just seen). I don't think I have worn it since this holiday, to be honest. 

One had a print I just loved, so I swapped it out for another which I had washed with a garment I'd dyed red, inadvertantly turning the white in the print into a sort of grey pink. I reflected and was sad again: I wore this one to work on an inset day and the head said I looked lovely. But she said I looked lovely in the version I hadn't accidentally dyed. Granted, the cherry print is too blousy on the bust, but I can fix that. I swapped it out. 

My final swap was for the other red print. I received this at school, tried it on and wore it immediately to go to teach a taster lesson. It is just about smart enough and long enough to wear to school...but it has a back zip, making it hard to wear, and the v neck has a little rip. I couldn't decide what to put in its place: a plain black jersey with a split back that is good for wearing out, or the patchwork that prompted me to start the playsuit experiment in the first place after I saw it on a plus sized instagrammer. 

I tried them both on and decided to keep the black one. I am sad about the patchwork: the print in it reminds me of a playsuit I had when I was a teenager (and wore the very first time I went clubbing, with DMs, shedloads of black eyeliner on my eyes and in my brows, and a long medallion necklace...ahh, the 90s) and it is light and airy, easy to wear on holiday. But, it spontaneously unbuttons and is a little short in the body. So it is in the charity pile. 

Said garment on our wedding anniversary trip to southern Italy in 2018. I do always allow myself one buy-back from the charity shop bag and it is possible this will be it. 

The remaining seven playsuits fit in their box. Two of them are almost worn to death: a faded navy and a bird print that has holes in the shoulder, somehow; I will aim to retire them next summer. The cherry print will need some adjustments and, if I haven't made them by next summer, I will charity shop that one as well. 

Added to the other pile, that is 27 garments off to the charity shop. A strong start. 

Thursday 5 August 2021

July round up

A little late this month because I've been away in Cornwall. It was lovely but, my goodness, there were a LOT of people there. A lot. I did not find it restful or even particularly enjoyable, but luckily Cornwall is gorgeous. 

Books read: I managed to finish The Return by Victoria Hislop although, strictly speaking, I finished it on August 1st. I'm going to count it anyway though because it's my goals and I can. I really wanted to love the book but I just didn't really. It was a bit too long and started to read more like her retelling of somebody's memories of the Spanish Civil War, and so I was quite surprised to get to the end and find it wasn't. I certainly know a great deal more about the Spanish Civil War, to be fair, but that wasn't really the goal.

Still - that's one more off the bookshelf. I have now fallen into a new vein of fiction, the feminist retelling of ancient Greek stories, which seem to be all the rage at the moment, so hope to have more to report for August even if this doesn't help me clear books off the shelf at home. 

Metres knitted: I've been working on a linen Gemini tee this month and it is going really quickly, in part due to my binge-watching of ER from season 1. I am amazed that I seem likely to get the whole thing out of one cone of C4 linen, and one cone that has already provided a little yarn for another project. My stash notes tell me there was 660m-ish left on the cone but the project calls for more; it's definitely not the DK it's masquerading as. All this means that it's kind of impossible for me to know how much I've knitted in metres without doing something complicated with weighing scales and a WPI measure. I don't want to know that much (my goals, my rules) so I am going to go for a middling 500m. I am disappointed I didn't finish the top in time for the start of my holidays away from home but it should be finished before the next one, in a week. Then I need to give it a good wash to see how much the linen swells, and work out how to wear a pretty sheer linen top. 

Sleep: I've gorged myself on the stuff, mate. There have been some notable fails - the last night of term saw me in bed at 3.30am and up before 8am for a first aid course, a situation I may need to accept I am not young enough to enjoy anymore - but generally I have been in bed reasonably early and slept moderately late, for me anyway. Hurrah for the holidays. 

Pounds lost: this was never going to be a good month for that. It is six on. I'm grateful it's not more. 

Blogging: I have projects to post about but I'm too busy having fun for that. Holidays to the Gower and Cornwall. A wedding anniversary celebration. It's been a great month. 

Thursday 1 July 2021

June round up

Books read: I finished Children of Blood and Bone which was really engaging, so much so that I immediately bought the sequel for my Kindle...and then lost interest. So I powered through The Broker by John Grisham (I don't remember the casual sexism from the books I read in my youth, I used to love John Grisham, but perhaps I am just older and angrier now) and I am about halfway through The Return by Victoria Hislop, set in the Spanish Civil War. Mother Hand is thrilled that I am finally reading all the books she has given me over the past decade.

Metres knitted: Some, but not 1000. I finished Madison, which used 280g of 4-ply in the much Cat and Sparrow left, I could make a whole new project with it. So let's call that 300m. I dutifully picked up a new L&L colour and did five more hexagons, so that was another 190m. And I binged on yet another garter stitch baby jumper in some Smoothie, another 320m (I have a lot of FO posts to be writing). 810m. Not bad. It's been a busy month.

Sleep: see above. That busyness I feel sure has contributed to my inability to sleep this month, along with the heat. I have been lying awake for longer than usual and then having some really vivid and quite sinister dreams just before waking up. Yesterday my brain did this wildly interesting thing where it created pictures to go with the news stories I was hearing on the radio alarm. I wasn't dreaming about news story-adjacent things - I was understanding the radio and my brain was creating a picture reel to go with it. So there was a story about wild boar mating with escaped pigs in Fukushima and my brain conjured a boar, then when the radio said the boars had pig-like features, it morphed it into a slightly chubbier shape and gave it brown piggy spots. 

No cheese before bed, no. I suspect perimenopause. 

Pounds lost: In another tale from the 'my body is weird' archive, I gained and lost 8lbs this month. So I am still x stone 1lb. I've got into an excellent habit of batch cooking lunches, just in time for school to end. Eating when not in a school routine is my next mountain to conquer.

Blogging: No. I don't want to count the hours I've given to the exam board this month because it will just frustrate me. It has swallowed all the joy out of computer time. 

Tuesday 1 June 2021

May round up

Books read: even though my book of choice for May was teen fiction, I didn't finish it. I was just too busy. I was rarely in bed early enough to allow for reading time and when I got into bed I was mostly too tired to be able to read anything. Bad times. Still - I'm about three-quarters done so it should be an easy win for June. 

Metres knitted: about 600m. I have been working on Madison (Rav link), a 4-ply sweater with some Cat and Sparrow yarn I bought back in February. It was surprisingly quick when I had the time to work on it - over the weekend I finished the front, all of the back, the neckband and picked up for the sleeves. Predictably this is not going to require 1450m of yarn, as the pattern suggests - I think I would have got it out of three skeins but the fourth looked a bit different so I have started that one for the sleeves, rather than work through the half skein I have left from the body and then end up with mismatched sleeves. 

I have wicked startitis and keep looking at my queue, making plans, for the time I don't have. 

Pounds lost: I think 4. Yey me! I am x stone 1 lb now. That's a stone off since last summer. 

Sleep: not great although the slower start every few mornings has helped. It also means I can car pool with a colleague who drops her daughter off at 7.30am - another excellent reason to not get up so early. Next term I am going to start setting my alarm for 7am instead of 6.20. I might also try to get a hot yoga class in before school from time to time, which would involve a 5.30am start. Just mixing it up a bit. Sadly my preferred bikram studio was a victim of the pandemic so I have to start somewhere new, but it always helped with the sleeping so probably worth the initial discomfort. 

Blogging: no. There has been enough time at the computer this past month. I'm finding it harder and harder to ignore the people bleating on about how exam boards are doing nothing this year, because I have been really flipping busy for this 'nothing'. 

Sunday 2 May 2021

April round up

Books read: I finished Empireland - the first non-fiction I have read in its entirety for a long time. It was fantastically well-researched (he seems to have written a lot of it during the pandemic so, no surprises there) and extremely readable. I'm chasing it with a teen fiction a student recommended to me that is going down very quickly. 

Metres knitted: The baby jumper was about 400m. I started a 4-ply jumper and managed to knit one skein of yarn into it by the end of the month - another 400m. Then a skein of Lion & Lamb into hexagons - 187m. I basically made it! All I needed was two weeks off work haha

Pounds lost: Yeah, none. Still maintaining my pre-covid weight though. Not too bad. 

Sleep: I am hitting 7 hours more often than not these days. I'm starting to adjust my work schedule a little. I've been aiming to get to school for around 7.15 for well over a decade now, since I had to do it during an inspection and realised that traffic is better and I'm way more productive. When I was getting the bus to school, it was a necessity because I was so anxious about being late. 

Then, when we returned to school after Easter, I had a really spacey Monday so on Tuesday I lay in a bit and went to my favourite bakery on the way to school for a breaktime pastry. I got in by 7.45 and found I was a lot more purposeful in my work before school. 

It makes sense to get in very early when my lessons aren't planned. I can usually get together all my lessons for the day in that hour. But more and more, at this end of the school year, there's just not that much to plan. The bulk of my teaching is GCSE and A-level and I've been teaching those lessons now for five years. So, instead of using the morning time for useful things like marking, I faff around with emails (this week I got my inbox down to 16 emails, satisfying but utterly meaningless) and tidying my desk, ultimately pointless tasks of that ilk. And I could be asleep, instead. 

So, over the next few weeks I am going to make a concerted effort to go in half an hour later at least a couple of times in a week, see how it affects my workrate and sleep patterns. 

Blogging: An improvement. 

Sunday 25 April 2021

Weekend FO

 Presto Chango!

This is my attempt at the Spurs logo, which I charted myself. It is hard to be precise in aran weight over 16 stitches but I don't think I did a terrible job. 

Pattern: Presto Chango, a freebie pattern
Yarn: Rico Essentials Aran, a soft, superwash 100% merino
Needle: a satisfyingly chunky 5mm
Mods: I finished the sleeves with a 3NBO by picking up the cast on stitches to bind off with the live stitches, once the sleeve was finished. I think I did the seam on the wrong row on the second sleeve because the seam looked different, but still very neat, so, meh.

I took the opportunity to try out the bunny cable pattern I've wanted to try for a while now and I am thrilled with how it turned out. I probably prefer it without the colour change as the stitches have a slightly strained look around the edges, but the bunny tail was a particular win. 

The baby's name is Indiana.

This was the original lace panel that came with the pattern. I knitted this one first, to give me a feel for buttonhole placement and number of rows. 

Lovely and quick! 400m out, too. 

Sunday 18 April 2021

Hexagons update

I just realised that I hadn't posted about the hexagons in a while, so here are some updates.

This year I have so far knitted up two skeins of Devon:

This one is all blues but in a strange twist, they're not quite as bright and vibrant as my phone has made them appear here. The variegation is also not quite as subtle as pictured.

Before that, I put to bed two skeins of Beverly:

Lots of green in this one that gave me a real Caribbean feel. I started knitting this yarn up in August whilst on holiday in the Lake District, where I think I managed a paltry half a pinwheel. 

Also last year, I knitted up two skeins of A River Runs Through It:

This looks pretty washed out in the pictures, but is a nice blues-and-beiges mix, like a sunny day in an arid land. 

So, that's 27 pinwheels in the past year, 6 skeins of yarn out, 67 pinwheels in total. I didn't realise my pinwheel hiatus had been so long - these are the first I had knitted since 2017. I am determined to add at least 18 more to the pile by the end of the year, which would mean I'd doubled my pinwheel stash in the space of two years. 

Some baby knits

Nephew Z's girlfriend gave birth to what I guess is Great-nephew Z (I'm so old) a while back now, 4 weeks early. She apparently went into hospital with terribly itchy skin and came out with a baby. He was a big'un, as is the way of the Zs (all boys, all huge - I think Mr Z was a 10 pounder and Mother Z gave birth to him at home 😲 ) and weighed 7lb 10oz on birth, a month early, so I knitted my favourite garter stitch jumper pattern in age 3-6 months so that he will get some good wear out of it. 

It's knitted in Rowan All Seasons Cotton, a nice variegated blue that I picked up from someone in a swap years and years ago - whoever I swapped with left me this behind the counter at Get Knitted. I've got two balls left and keep stalking other people's stashes of the lemon yellow colourway, thinking they would look good striped together, but equally I have some red Smoothie that would work not quite as well and I should probably use that up instead. 

This is my fifth whirl with this pattern by Debbie Bliss but I do note that it has been a long time (9 years) since I last wheeled it out. I was musing on the fact that this must mean that all my friends are done with the baby-making and I'm now on to knitting for the next generation....

...BUT THEN (it's hard to be dramatic in print)

My very old (as in, we've been friends for nearly 30 years, not that he has massively old) friend Richard popped up on Facebook last week, tagged in a post that announced the birth of his daughter. Richard doesn't really do social media and we haven't seen each other in about 2 years so this was a complete surprise to me. I immediately jumped at the chance to get knitting a Presto Chango, an insanely cute little baby cardigan with a buttoned-on bib front that is interchangeable. 

I knitted this in about 3 days, it was so easy. I've gone with the lace front for my first try and have, since this picture was taken this afternoon, finished the second panel with a navy capital I on it for her name. I'm adding a panel with a bunny cable on it, which I am going to attempt to knit in navy with a white tail (no projects on Ravelry have done this as a colourwork cable so wish me luck) and then finally one with the Spurs logo picked out in navy. Richard is a gigantic Spurs fan so that's really why I picked this pattern, so I can do a Spurs logo attempt and if it is awful then I still have a jumper to show for it. 

It's all worked in Rico Essentials Soft Merino Aran which is lovely to knit with. I had a bit of it stashed for a knit for Lara that I haven't done yet but naturally not enough, and no navy, so had to order more. I think it will be a handy thing to have in stash though, and I think I might still have a ball of red leftover from a previous project: a red, white and navy striped jumper might be just the thing for my next little knit. 

I do also have a 4 ply jumper on the needles but when a good friend has a baby, what can you do?

Sunday 11 April 2021

March round up

And yet here we are, almost halfway through April! I was so exhausted by the end of term that I spent much of last week sleeping - many hours in bed at night, long naps during the day. I don't know how people with children manage. Even when I wasn't asleep, I was basically in a daze. 

March was quite a successful month though, goals wise.

Books read: I finished Caught in the Light by Robert Goddard, which was a real page turner. Then I picked up and finished very quickly Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. This was not at all what I expected: I find I now assume all novels set in mid-20th century southern USA are going to be about race, whereas this was more about class. I stayed up much too late reading it, just to get to the end. What a yarn!

Then the Head of English leant me The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov and, although I read a couple of pages, I put it down again almost immediately because it is quite long (I read Bulgakov's Heart of a Dog during lockdown 1 which was very brief) and also because the Head of English is not a spine cracker and I am, and I was afraid to read it sleepy. So I picked up some non-fiction, Empireland by Sathnam Sanghera, which has been going down a treat. I was wary of going back to non-fiction as I notoriously never finish any of them, but I am nearly done with it. 

A good reading year, so far.

Metres knitted: I finished Garnered though it still isn't blocked and I counted that yarn last month anyway. I knitted a baby jumper for my new great-nephew, born a month early, out of some All Seasons Cotton I've had hanging around for about a decade. 360m. I knitted up two skeins of Lion and Lamb into blanket hexagons - 375m but the second skein was in April, so only 187m for March, really. Let's call it 550m, not so good but oh well. 

I soberingly went through my whole stash in March, too, and came across approximately 2800m of yarn that was not listed in my Ravelry stash. And then I went online to browse for yarn I can use to sew up my hexagons, and ended up buying two skeins in a blues colourway I didn't already have. So with the yarn in from Flock last month, that it about 7200m in, 2100m out. Egads. 

Luckily I have already made a start on a nice 4-ply jumper with some of the new stuff from last month, and I have a plan for a huge, crocheted blanket in some of the chunky I found in my clear out, so perhaps I will manage to come out at a net reduction for the year. 

Pounds lost: I think, 3? I am 4lbs off getting back to my pre-40 weight. Happy with that. I managed the whole of Lent off sugar but had to put up with a few snide comments when I started eating it again the day after Palm Sunday. 

The day of Palm Sunday itself was probably the most testing time of all: I made chocolate nests with shredded wheat, and Simnel cakes. The chocolate nest mixture was not combining so I got in there by hand and ended up with chocolate almost up to my elbows. Hardest thing I have ever done, not licking my hands. 

Sleep: Clearly still variable. I think I'm getting into better timing habits but probably spending too long reading. 

Blogging: A pathetic failure. Being back in school meant that more things were happening but I was too tired and busy to write about them. Still. Onwards and upwards. 

Sunday 28 February 2021

February round up

Books read: Two halves. I finished Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison and I started Caught in the Light by Robert Goddard, which Mother Hand gave me years ago as it is one of her favourite books, but I've never got round to reading it. Concentrating on fiction is a helpful way of getting myself to read, though I have picked up a bit of non-fiction now and again in between, this past month.

Metres knitted: I reckon it's about 850. I have almost finished the Garnered pullover: just 4 inches of roll neck ribbing to go. It hasn't taken anywhere near the yarn amount expected and I should have about half a ball leftover at the end, annoyingly, but that will still be basically 1000 out of stash, as I won't count the final half ball as part of stash anymore. I really hoped to get it finished today but 1x1 ribbing is really dull and I've had quite a lot of work to catch up on.

I did introduce nearly 4000m into my stash this month, thanks to a virtual Flock event that showcased some gorgeous yarn, but let's not dwell on that. 

Pounds lost: Much like the knitting, this is a tale of two halves. I have lost the required 2lbs. But I gained 3lbs at the start of the month. So not too much celebrating allowed. I have stopped eating sugar (not being a purist about it: mainly no cake, chocolate, sweets etc) for Lent and this has arrested the increase. I'm hoping that things will continue going the other way. It's disturbing how distracted I have been by the desire to eat sugar. I am pleased to say that I have good willpower - I've never been one of these people who can't have anything sweet in the house if they're trying to cut back - but it has been interesting to observe how wheedly my brain has been with myself. 'Give yourself Sundays off!' 'Oh, it doesn't matter, it's only Lent.' 'You'll have to give up when you get back to school and everyone is bringing in cakes, anyway.' 

Sleep: Variable. I've been good about bedtimes but have had some sleeplessness this month. I have been quite sad about not being skiing and it has been difficult to drop off some nights. Nothing too severe, but I am really hoping to get some holidays booked soon.

Blogging: As you see....a barren desert of blog posts. But again - what is there to say? Once a week I go to school. Once a week I go out to exercise. I might occasionally go to the supermarket. I had a Skype and a catch up with my friend Helen in half term. A couple of projects are finally coming to an end and I have been nominated for a thing (it's all on the DL at the moment but it is quite a nice thing), so there are some plus points. But otherwise it's just the same old, same old. Maybe in a cleaner house these days, due to my weird cleaning obsession. 

Sunday 31 January 2021

January round up

Rounding up my progress towards my aims for the year...

Books read: One and a half. I finished the Casual Vacancy (definitely not an uplifting read but I did find it very compelling) and am halfway through Song of Solomon, my first Toni Morrison book. This one isn't flying by as easily but it is intriguing and I find myself thinking about the characters during the day. 

Yarn knitted: I was estimating 840m. I was into the 4th skein on this jumper I am knitting...

...and adding that to the hexagons, meant I was close. Ish. Not too bad, considering how busy this month has been. 

However, I decided I didn't like the fabric of the pink pullover - too loose and open; the body was maybe an inch wider than it was meant to be so my gauge wasn't far off, but I became convinced I just wouldn't get the wear I wanted out of it. So tonight I ripped the whole thing back, made and washed a swatch (I know) and have cast on a needle size down. I'm narrowing the edges of the lace panel by a stitch each side - this pattern was made to be knitted in pieces but I want to do it in the round - and knitting a purl stitch fake seam instead. 

So...I did sort of knit 840m. But then I ripped out 600m of it. Depressing. That said, I never rip things back. It is a feature of my knitting that I plough on through mistakes and bad signs, even if I end up with something I don't really wear. So on a personal growth level, this was a win. 

Pounds lost: three. Some of the Christmas weight, but not all. I made good strides in the first week of January but then, as soon as teaching from home became a thing, I essentially stopped moving around. Happily PT Jenny is still seeing me on the rugby field once a week or I think my whole body would be one chair shaped lump that refused to unbend. I'm still sticking to the same eating hours but eating the same amount as when I'm running around school all day. So I could do some work here...or I could just not, because global pandemic. I'm happy enough that the weight isn't going up tbh. 

Sleep: I've averaged more than 7 hours a night every week since the start of the year: a significant improvement on pre-covid times, when a weekly average of 6h45m was a success. February is for working on a routine bedtime that is before midnight. It's too easy to stay up when I know I only have to roll out of bed at 8am to be in front of the screen in time.

Blogging: Three posts. Better than last year. Not as good as 2019. But what is there to say? It's January. It snowed. We're in lockdown. Meh. 

A couple of FOs

 These jumpers were both finished in December but I hadn't got round to taking pictures until now. 

Pattern: Cabeladabra (Ravelry link)

Yarn: Mirasol Miski, purchased lovingly a skein at a time from Get Knitted, circa 2008. I had 18 skeins of this wondrous yarn, which looked to be just enough, but turned out to be way too much, so I am left with 4 more skeins for a future project. 
Needle: 5mm
Mods: None, although the choice of yarn means that the FO doesn't look much like the original: it's possible I wasn't getting row gauge (although stitch gauge looked OK) and the yarn is 100% baby llama so it is pretty hefty and drapey. I was concerned, to begin with, that the cable definition wouldn't be good but it is nice and crisp. 

I think it's going to be one of those jumpers that is too warm for me to wear out and about, when any kind of rushing or spending time in warm shops invariably makes me overheat when I've got a coat over the top, so instead it's going to be a cosy, indoors sweater dress. It's long enough to wear over a pair of leggings without worrying about any knicker flashing (as pictured). The neckline is maybe a bit wide; I could always unpick the bind off and add a couple more rows, if it loosens up too much on wearing. 

Pattern: Candy Shop (Ravelry Link)

Yarn: Mr B's Hiddlestone in a one of a kind grey flecked colourway - flecks of purple and green. There was some variegation in the skeins that I didn't really clock until I was knitting with it and like an idiot, of course I didn't knit from two skeins at once, but luckily the skein that was more of a mauve grey was the one that I used for the sleeves. It's got a lovely crisp drape to it and I really love the fleck. I'm not usually a fleck person but they were selling this at a Flock event in 2019 and I could resist. 
Needle: 3.5mm
Mods: Longer sleeves, but other than that, as per the pattern. 

This one was a marvel - it's so clever how the v-neck is just done through paired increases and decreases, and then later evened out with short rows. It got a bit tedious on the sleeves and with the broken rib edgings (it's probably not broken rib, but that's what I'm calling it) which is why it took four months, but I can tell I'm going to get a lot of wear out of it. 4-ply jumpers are (sadly) the way forward. 

Monday 18 January 2021

Aims for 2021

I'm not resolving to do anything for 2021, especially not this late in January, but I have had my usual period of self-reflection and been thinking about what keeps me happy and healthy, and it seems to be making conscious decisions to prioritise my leisure time. This isn't the same as putting myself first: I think I'm probably too good at that; but I enjoy my work and will binge on it too often, and then spend the little time off I allow myself endlessly scrolling under the pretence that this is what I like to do. So here are my intentions, to help with that. Hopefully they are all achievable in a time of covid. 

1. Read one fiction book a month. I was an avid reader before I was a teacher but have somehow convinced myself I am not one any longer. This seems to be because I've been attempting to force myself through endless non-fiction and history texts: not my jam. I picked up a novel from my shelf that I've had for years and finished it inside a week over the Christmas holidays. For January, I chose The Casual Vacancy, which Father Hand gave me years ago, and I finished it today. It leads to less scrolling. I remember how much I enjoy reading at bedtime instead of it being a chore. 

I've definitely got enough unread fiction on my shelf, too.

2. Knit 1000m every month. This one will be trickier to achieve but it is good to have a goal. If I can manage this, I will beat my 2020 yarn total. I'm hoping that this will encourage me to keep plugging away at the blanket hexagons (I'm up to 58 now but have at least as much yarn left as I've used) in between projects. I've done 8 this month and each one uses roughly 40m. Only 760m to go. Better get this post finished and get back to the jumper I've cast on.

3. Lose 2lbs a month. I've been doing intermittent fasting now since October. This essentially equates to skipping breakfast. It was hard at first but isn't anymore. I only have to fast until 10am on the split that I picked, so I can still have it when I feel like it, just later on, and one day a week I sack it off entirely, which usually just means a late night gin and an early-morning milky coffee. I'd lost a stone by Christmas: essentially the weight I'd put on during the last two exam series. 

I know people have Opinions about how other people choose to lose weight so please let me reassure you that you don't need to tell me if you don't like intermittent fasting. Your time is precious, as is mine. 

I'm not in a hurry, I'd just like it to be ebbing slowly away with no great effort on my part. I might need to make a bit more of an effort now we're all confined to barracks, though. Luckily Jenny and I are continuing our sessions, very distanced, in the local park, so I am getting some weekly exercise at least. 

There are a couple of other habits I picked up in 2020 that I'd like to continue, such as taking better care of my skin, going to the gym independently and getting more sleep, and a couple of others that fell off the end, like blogging, but those are a bit more difficult to frame and, anyway, I don't want to overload myself. We are in a global pandemic, you know. 

I'm off to pick another book off the shelf.