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Meall Ghaordaidh

Today was a momentous occasion in Rory’s life: his first Munro. He’s been up lots of hills this year, including three ascents of Ben Ledi! But until today he had never bagged a Munro.

Chris had heard reports of ring ouzel and ptarmigan on Meall Ghaordaidh, and hoped to add them to his Stirlingshire year list. We set off for Killin with our friends Ben and Helen, and headed off up the hill.

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Chris and Ben on the ascent, with Glen Lochay behind.

Despite walking at a fairly leisurely pace, we reached the top in 3 hours.

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Helen, Chris and Ben with Rory at the summit.

Despite a forecast for the weather taking a turn for the worst in the afternoon, we only had a brief shower of rain, and the cloud lifted from the top, allowing us to get a good view to the north.

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Glen Lyon from the summit.

We took a different route down.

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Eventually we got back to the car and celebrated with hot chocolate and cookies.

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Rory has been given a bath and the obligatory tick check and is now lying beside me on the sofa in his favourite position, with all four paws in the air. And I’m afraid Chris didn’t see any ring ouzel or ptarmigan. A good day, nonetheless.

One year on

Remember the tiny puppy who came home with us a year ago? He’s now a fully grown, handsome dog.

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Rory has brought us so much joy and love over the last year. It’s been wonderful seeing him mature from pup to adolescent, while still retaining his energy, enthusiasm, friendliness and love of stealing shoes. He’s been up several hills (I think he’s already done Ben Ledi three times and Ben Cleuch at least twice) and since he’s been a year old and fully grown I’ve started running with him. He’s a wonderful running companion – in fact, he’s even better behaved when I’m running than when I’m walking. He still pulls on the lead and sometimes runs off to investigate things, but for a dog of his young age he’s really very good.

He’s lying at my feet on the patio as I write this, no doubt looking forward to this afternoon’s run!

Woolfest 2012

The school summer term finishes early in Scotland, and this year we finished even earlier than usual, with the pleasing result being that my summer holiday started on Friday! So expect the usual holiday-induced return to blogging for the next few weeks.

I kicked off the holiday in true knitterly style with Woolfest. It’s four years since I last went, and when my neighbour asked if I wanted a place on the bus that the Stirling knitting group had organised I jumped at the chance, and persuaded my friend Tor to join me (which wasn’t that hard!). So it was that I was up at the crack of dawn on the first day of the holidays, instead of a much-needed lie-in, and on a bus leaving Stirling at 7.30.

It was worth it. Woolfest would have been fun had I gone just for the shopping and to see all the sheep, alpacas and angora bunnies, but the people made it fantastic.

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Tor and Antje. (Antje owns The Yarn Cake, Glasgow’s foremost purveyor of yarn and home baking. If you are a knitter, like cake, and live anywhere near Glasgow you should go there!)

Speaking of people, I also got to meet Kate for the first time, despite having corresponded occasionally online for years. Being a bit of a fangirl, I had selected my Manu cardigan to wear because I knew she would be at Woolfest! It was great to finally meet her (and see the original samples of her gorgeous patterns – Rams and Yowes especially!).

Being a little overtired from general end-of-term-itis and the early start, we took a break for tea and knitting, and I managed to finish my current project.

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It’s Age of Brass and Steam, in a Skein Queen merino/cashmere blend I got at the Glasgow School of Yarn. It was a very quick knit, and only took a week. I must get round to blogging (and Ravelling) my recent knitting at some point soon!

I didn’t actually do that much shopping, and I didn’t even buy yarn! I did, however, manage to buy some new stitch markers, a cute project bag, and a yarn bowl.

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There was also a bizarre-but-wonderful art installation, consisting of many, many pompom sheep.

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We headed home after a very full day, and despite some technical problems on the way home (a fuel cap that wouldn’t come off and not enough fuel in the tank to get the bus home!) a great time was had by all.

Ben Cleuch

Yesterday we tackled Rory’s biggest hill to date: Ben Cleuch in the Ochils. We started from Tillicoultry, and walked up the Law. To those who are properly hill-fit, the Law is probably not too daunting, but it is very steep and I’d run 8 miles with the running club before starting out on the walk! All the same, I think we managed a fairly respectable ascent (although I still can’t imagine being able to actually run up it – and people do! There’s a race and everything!).

From the Law it was an easy ascent along the ridge to Ben Cleuch.

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Rory kept diving into the snow and coming up with a face covered with snow.

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In fact, it’s very difficult to take photos of Rory when he’s outdoors because he never stands still.

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From Ben Cleuch we walked down the ridge of Ben Ever and then down to Alva Glen.

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This was the first outing for some of my new outdoor kit – an OMM Last Drop 10l backpack and a Platypus. Both performed very well (although the plasticky taste of the Platypus will take some getting used to). I’m particularly impressed with the backpack – despite its small size it comfortably fitted in it a litre of water, our lunches, my woolly hat, gloves and cowl, spare gloves, my lightweight waterproof, emergency torch, a map and compass. And I was barely aware of it on my back! I’ve also used it for running part of the way home from school, and it’s perfect for carrying my clothes, iPad, portable hard drive, etc.

I think we’ve done more walking this January than we did the whole of last year. It’s fantastic, and come Spring I think all three of us will be ready to take on some Munros…

King’s Seat

Today was a momentous occasion – Rory’s first hill! We made it a small one – King’s Seat, in the Ochils, from Dollar Glen. We went with my inspiring running buddy Helen and her husband, Ben.

Rory and Chris were on a mission from the start:

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By the time we got to the top it was cold and foggy, but that didn’t dent our enjoyment!

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As you can see, Rory rarely stays still long enough to take a photo of him. He spent a lot of time off-lead, racing around joyfully. He got so muddy we had to give him a bath when we got home. He’s now curled up on the sofa, looking very tired!

Dumyat

This afternoon we walked up a small local hill, Dumyat. We even cheated and parked, effectively, halfway up the hill, meaning that it only took 45 minutes to get to the top. We also had to leave Rory at home, as he ran into something in the dark a couple of weeks ago and is still limping a bit.

Short though the walk was, it was absolutely glorious – the weather was so clear we could see right to the Forth bridges and Arthur’s Seat. It’s definitely whet my appetite for walking! We could have spent the afternoon tidying the house, but true to those New Year Good Intentions we opted to make the most of the (rare) sunshine and get outside! And I’m so glad we did.

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And here’s me looking windswept at the top (yes, the hat is Cairn, and I’m wearing Warriston underneath my funky new jacket):

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At the top we met a couple of people with their dogs, and got chatting to them. Turns out they were hill runners, a sport which I’m planning on trying! They recommended the local hill running club, so I might try one of their training sessions.

All in all, a great afternoon.

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Good intentions

I don’t usually do New Year’s Resolutions, but I do like to start each year with some good intentions for the year ahead (the difference being, I am less likely to beat myself up for not managing a “good intention”).

This year’s Good Intention can simply be summarised as:

Have More Fun.

That’s not to say I was unhappy in 2011 – far from it. I have a great husband, wonderful friends, a fantastic job, and a PUPPY. But as the year drew to a close I realised that I had spent so much time doing stuff that I hadn’t done enough of the things I do simply for enjoyment: hanging out with friends, going hillwalking, that kind of thing. I became used to being constantly busy – if I wasn’t working I was walking Rory (hardly a chore, but time-consuming), cooking, cleaning, or doing some other errand.

In 2012 I intend to try to simply relax a bit more about chores, find ways to spend less time doing them (I got a slow cooker for Christmas, which should help!) and spend more time training and exercising Rory, spending time with Chris and our friends (quality time, not just crashing out in front of the TV or the Internet), and getting outside.

I didn’t particularly enjoy the Edinburgh Marathon, I decided not to do the triathlon I’d registered for, and due to general busy-ness and Rory being so small, we haven’t got a single Munro to our credit in 2011.

This year, I want to get out among the hills much, much more often. I want to bag a few Munros (my wish list is Ben Nevis, the Ring of Steall, Ben Vorlich and Stuc a Croin), but I also just want to walk Rory in nice places and I want to try my hand (or, rather, feet) at fell running. I’m tired of running on the roads!

My race wish list for this year currently stands at:

*The Highland Fling relay (one day, maybe, I’d like to run the whole 53 miles, but not this year!)
*A Spring half-marathon (or two), possibly Loch Leven.
*The Corrieyairick Challenge
*The Kielder Marathon

That’s probably more races than I’ve ever done in a year, but I’m geniunely excited about all of them. With the possible exception of the Spring half, they’re all different to what I’ve done before. They’re all trail races, for starters, and the Corrieyairick has a substantial cycling component. I want to enjoy them, not get hung up about times and PBs.

Finding time to train will be challenging, but that is, believe it or not, all part of Having More Fun. I’m hoping I can manage to cycle to school once or twice a week once the days get longer, take Rory with me on my shorter runs (he’s allowed to run a mile or so at the moment, but he’ll be fully grown in the Spring and able to go for gradually longer runs) and maybe run home from school once in a while.

So here’s to More Fun in 2012!

New arrival

It’s the summer holidays! Woo! The time of year when I am usually cramming in as much crafting, baking and allotmenting as possible. All these things are still going on, but in a slightly more haphazard way than usual, because we have a new arrival to contend with. May I introduce Rory!

Rory is a 10-week-old working Cocker Spaniel. He came home with us a week ago. I now have the rest of the holidays to train him so that he’s ready to go into the office with Chris when I go back to school! He gets his second jab next week and I can’t wait to be able to take him for little walks. I have been carrying him around in a specially made dog carrier, which worked well for a brief while but quickly broke.

I’m waiting to see if I can get a replacement, as we’re off to Skye later in the summer and Rory won’t be up to walking very far! (Also, spot the FO!)

He’s settled in amazingly well. Within a week he was sleeping through the night without crying to go out, he’s been exploring the garden almost faster than we can dog-proof it (and he has a worrying tendency to eat stones!) and he already knows several commands (although he currently views them more as requests). I’m just starting to introduce the whistle – while we wanted a working dog so he would have the stamina to come running and hillwalking with us, I’ve been doing lots of reading about gundog training and I think I’m going to at least try some of the basic exercises. It’s really interesting, and I’m going to have to look into going along to a game fair or something – I’d love to see properly trained dogs working.

Incidentally, his name has always been one of my favourite male names, and I liked the fact that it also contains a bonus Doctor Who reference!

I’ll leave you with a picture of Rory with his favourite toy, Dave the Duck:

 

A lacy conundrum

I decided to make an Annis shawl with the Ba T’at Laceweight that I bought at Knitcamp. I knit it faithfully according to the pattern, and ended up with a crazily curling, skinny scarf:

When I checked my gauge (I hadn’t bothered to swatch properly) I realised that my row gauge was way off. I wore it for a while, but I wasn’t really happy with it.

So I ripped out the whole of the stocking stitch portion, right back to the lace, and re-knit it. This time, instead of adding and extra 3 stitches on each short row, I only added 2. When I got to the end, I added an eyelet row and 3 rows of moss stitch to stop it curling. The result is, I’m sure you’ll agree, much improved!

I worked the nupps using the crochet hook method, and they don’t stand out very well, but that might be partly because of the vibrant colours in the yarn. The only other thing I’d change would be to use a smaller needle. The pattern called for 5mm, and I used 4.5, but with my loose tension that was still too much for laceweight, really. Luckily it’s a heavy laceweight, bordering on fingering weight, so it doesn’t look too bad. I think a 4 or even a 3.5 would have been better, though.

Still, I am very pleased with it!

(And yes, that is my Baby Cables sweater making an appearance yet again. I do own other sweaters, honest! It’s just this one is warm and soft and perfect for allotmenting, which is what I did after these photos were taken!)

Spring FOs

Last summer, when I was in Kenya, I cast on for a Whispy Cardi in Posh Yarn Sylvia. I’d been meaning to knit one of Hannah Fettig’s laceweight cardigans for ages, and when she re-released Whisper (from Interweave Knits) as the Whispy Cardi I bought the pattern.

I knit most of the shrug portion when I was in Kenya, and then abandoned it to hibernation as soon as I got back. In January, when I was packing for Nepal, I picked it up as ideal travel knitting (only 100g towards your luggage allowance for a whole cardigan’s worth of knitting!). I knit in Nepal, and continued when I got home. For a while I thought it was going to turn out far too big, but when I added the ribbing round the collar and waist (and how tedious that amount of K1, P1 rib was!) it really stabilised it. I’m very pleased with the final article, although I would have preferred the sleeves to be longer.

In fact, that’s my only peeve with the pattern. The pattern photos show a cardigan with 3/4 length sleeves, but according to the schematic I should have been knitting sleeves 9″ long. There’s no way 9″ comes anywhere near my elbow, let alone past it! I added an inch or so to the sleeves, but I didn’t dare make them longer as the sleeves are the first part that’s knit and I didn’t want to run out of yarn. As it was I had plenty of yarn left, but no easy way to lengthen the sleeves, as they’d been seamed and one was the cast-on edge. Still, I’m pretty happy with it. But if I were to knit it again, I’d make the sleeves longer.

Notice the skirt?

It’s from a Clothkits kit that I bought in a sale a while ago. I don’t think they sell it any more. In comparison to my Birdie skirt, which took me the better part of 2 years on and off (mostly off), I whipped this one up in about 5 hours total over two days. I’m really pleased with it, although it is a bit big. Despite me cutting out the size 10 and measuring the seam allowances carefully, it’s the same size as my size 12 Monsoon skirt! Still, it’s an A-line skirt, so it’s pretty forgiving.

One other detail from the above photos: the necklace was made by the wonderful Helen from her handmade ceramic beads. Check out her site – as well as jewellery she makes lovely leaf-shaped buttons!

Last, but not least, I’ve been working on a crochet kit that my good friend Tor bought me for my birthday last year. The result:

It was a good bit of crochet practice, and I learnt to crochet rings into the bargain. Aren’t they cute? I think I feel a crochet Cthulhu coming on at some point…