Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous’ Category

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!


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I went into McAree’s yesterday and immediately got told off by Cayt for not blogging enough. In my defence, I had been meaning to blog for ages, and had been saving up photos. But circumstances (and life in general) kept conspiring against me – I’ve just bought a new Mac, which I adore greatly, but it’s taken a while to figure out how to use iPhoto (can I just say it is my new favourite thing? It reads the RAW files straight off my camera, edits them in quite sophisticated ways, and uploads them as Jpegs to Flickr, which it used to take three separate PC programmes to do!). And then I’ve had router issues which meant that photos wouldn’t upload.But enough excuses; on to the knitting!

A few weeks ago I was in Nepal on a teacher exchange thing. We were lucky enough to get back to Kathmandu with a day to spare before our flight home, and we spent a really lovely day wandering around Kathmandu taking in the atmosphere and doing some shopping. I loved Kathmandu. It’s a fascinating city, incredibly busy and chaotic – to cross the road you have to dodge cars, motorbikes, cyclists and rickshaws – and I found the people to be really friendly. We were staying in Thamel, the most touristy district, and there were lots of shops selling pashminas, knock-off North Face gear, and various souvenirs including brightly coloured Nepali knitwear. My Dad had requested I bring him home a hat, so I ventured into one of the shops to purchase one.

I settled on a traditional Nepali hat in manly greys, and had a wonderful conversation with the owner of the shop about its construction. It was obviously handknit in the round, with a cosy fleece lining hand-sewn into it. I was wearing my much-loved Baby Cables sweater, and the shop owner said, “That’s not a Nepali sweater, is it?” Which led to a conversation about Scottish vs Nepali wool.

And here is the hat in question, which my Dad loved:

I had taken some crochet with me to amuse myself on our various flights (as well as my Kindle, which was fantastic). I decided to make a Calm Cowl, as it seemed relatively straightforward. An over-enthusiastic security lady at Kathmandu airport nearly confiscated it when I was on my way home, as she thought I might strangle someone with the yarn. I don’t think she’d ever seen crochet before, and she wasn’t bothered about the hooks, or even the safety pins I’d mistakenly left in my bag. My yarn and measuring tape, though, were apparently deadly weapons. Eventually, after some discussion, another security lady gave them back to me and I stuffed them back in my bag and scurried away gratefully.

I did get the cowl finished on the plane, and I’m really happy with it:

In the last couple of months I’ve finished off a few other winter accessories. I made a hat for my Mum:

It’s the Sprouting Cloche had from Brave New Knits. I was ill a couple of days after getting back from Nepal and fit for nothing but sitting on the sofa knitting, so I got this finished pretty quickly. The last few rows of the chart are wrong, and the final stitch count is off, but it’s fairly easy to “read” your knitting and work out you should be doing by that point. I sent it off to Mum along with Dad’s Nepali hat and she was really pleased with it. It’s made from Rico Baby, which is 100% acrylic. I’d never normally touch 100% acrylic, but Mum finds animal fibres scratchy, and this particular yarn is very soft. Definitely one to remember for future gifts.

After repairing Chris’s Manly Gloves (or, as friends have nicknamed them, his Fagin Gloves) at least 3 times, I decided it was time for a new pair.

These are the best ones I’ve made yet, in terms of fit. Good old Felted Tweed, and this time I went down to a 2.75mm needle for a nice, dense fabric.

And finally, possibly my greatest knitting achievement to date! Yes, I have finally made a beret that fits.

It’s my second Rose Red beret, this time in Shilasdair Luxury DK to match my Hawthorne scarf. I foolishly didn’t write down what needle size I used, but I think it was something in the region of 3.5mm. Definitely much smaller than my previous Rose Red, which I knit in Fyberspates Scrumptious on 4mms and which turned out far too big.

And finally, while I was looking up at the sycamore tree that towers over our garden with great excitement – it has buds on it!! It must be spring!! – Chris snapped this picture:

3 FOs in one picture! Rose Red, Calm Cowl, and my beloved Baby Cables and Big Ones Too.

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You may recall that I mentioned that last weekend I bought a new handbag. More specifically, an Emily bag from Earth Squared, a company in Edinburgh that sells fairly traded bags, purses and other accoutrements. I’d fallen in love with the funky, multicoloured and polka-dotted bags in a cafe-come-craft shop in Fort William, but I was on the way home from Skye and had spent all my money.  So I was overjoyed to discover that the gift shop on the High Street here in Dunblane has started stocking them.

I have three black handbags, of various sizes and degrees of smartness, so I’d ruled out black (they didn’t have any black ones in stock any way). I was tempted by two shades of brown (but ruled out as boring), red and brown (ruled out as I have a red coat and that would be Too Much Red), and brown and teal (lovely, but wouldn’t go with lots of things). I eventually settled on mustard yellow and grey, as it was just so very pretty. I have very few yellow clothes, but I thought it would look great with my trenchcoat and would jazz up the black or grey winter coat I hope to buy next week. And it’ll look super funky worn with purple accessories, of which I have many.

So I then decided I needed a yellow scarf or shawl to go with it, and a visit to the Posh Yarn website yielded a skein of golden yellow merino/silk laceweight, which matches the bag perfectly:

I am in love with the prettiness. I’m thinking Ishbel for the laceweight, maybe using the small stocking stitch chart and the larger lace chart. Or maybe a Swallowtail. Or maybe something else entirely!

I have also just ordered Whimsical Little Knits 2, because I have been living in my Laminaria shawl and I desperately want a pair of Veyla mitts to go with it! But they will have to wait while I work on my sister’s sweater – I’m seeing her next weekend and I’d dearly love to have the whole thing done by then, but at least I’d like to have the body done so she can try it on properly. After knitting lace and complicated cables I’d forgotten how quickly stocking stitch knits up – but I’m about to switch to ribbing, so that will probably slow me down a bit…

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I’m into Phase II of the great wedding cake baking project. The largest tier is currently in the oven, and I expect it to stay there for at least another 6 hours.  I had to make up the mixture in two batches, as there was absolutely no way it would all fit in even Auntie Frida’s massive mixing bowl.

I haven’t been updating much lately. My photography project has pretty much been abandoned, as has my plan to run the Loch Leven half marathon next weekend. Taekwon-do is happening once a week, and I’m not pushing myself to start training more often just yet. The reason for all this cutting back?

We have accepted an offer on our flat, and had an offer accepted in turn on a gorgeous listed cottage. The big move is still about 6 weeks away and it could all fall through in the meantime, but assuming it all goes to plan we are faced with the prospect of packing up 4 years’ worth of accumulated stuff and shifting it about 200 yards down the road. And about a month after the move we’re getting married.

So I’m cutting back. My priorities at the moment are to keep the allotment under control, keep on top of my work, move house and get married. Everything else is very much Not Getting Done unless I feel like it, and have time. I’m still going to update here with odd photos, knitting projects etc but I’m very deliberately not putting any more pressure on myself!

It’s all very exciting. Please keep your fingers crossed for us that everything goes smoothly!

And just to include a photo – I never did get round to another wedding ring shoot, and I ended up tweaking and using this image on the invitations (which will be going out soon!):

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Kinder Scout

On Saturday we were driving from Staffordshire, where my parents live, to Yorkshire, home of The Fella’s family. As we were passing through the Peak District it seemed only right and proper to stop off for a spot of hill walking.

We took a steep route up out of Edale, following the path up the rocky gorge of Grinsbrook Clough. Running four times a week plus taekwon-do have obviously improved my fitness over the last few weeks because we positively stormed up the Clough, scrambling over boulders and overtaking lots of other walkers. It was fabulous. We got to the top and felt like we could do it all over again! I think I feel a summer of Munro-bagging coming on…

Anyway, this was the view looking back from the top of the Clough (you can’t see the Clough itself – it’s so steep it just falls away to the left of the photo).

Most of the walk was over Kinder Moor, a desolate area of peatland. We briefly walked in front of a group of very loud women who we overheard suggesting that someone should plant wildflower seeds to brighten the place up…so we walked fast to leave them behind (it was either that or subject them to a lecture about the importance of moorland habitats and the acidity of peat).

Then there was the bit that comes during all of our walks…the bit where we lose the path. Despite having a compass, map and GPS, and the fact that we were on one of the most popular hills in the Peak District on a Bank Holiday weekend, we ended up wandering around in the peatbog for a while. We weren’t alone – other groups of baffled people kept popping up on the horizon and wandering around looking lost.

The Fella pondering how to cross a patch of ankle-deep peat. Gaiters would have come in handy.

Eventually we teamed up with some other walkers and their very muddy dog and located the Kinder River, which we followed until we got to our destination: Kinder Downfall. The river was low and as we’d approached the waterfall from above we couldn’t actually see it from the path, but the view was lovely.

Then it was time to descend the well-trodden section of the Pennine Way back down to Edale.

The way back down.

By now our legs were quite tired and we didn’t manage to overtake very many peoople on the way down! In fact, we were overtaken by a family…but they had sticks which The Fella reckoned allowed them to go faster.

Now I’m just itching to tackle Stuc a’ Chroin…

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In addition to Custom Knits, I got another craft-related present for Christmas. My parents bought me this:

I haven’t used it yet – I’m a little scared of sewing – but I do have plans for new cushion covers, and I must finish that Clothkits skirt once the weather warms up (I have little motivation to make a white cotton skirt in the middle of winter!).  It didn’t come with a case, so Mum made the one you can see in the middle photo above. Now I must remember to give the Pfaff one that I barely used back to the Home Ec department at school!

I also received some money from my parents, so a couple of days ago when The Fella and I were in Edinburgh to meet friends for lunch I dragged him off to K1. It really is a wonderful little shop (and it was quite surreal to see some of Ysolda’s knitting on display, when I’m so familiar with her patterns and blog – in fact the lovely shop assistant and I were comparing our Ysolda geekiness – she was wearing a Coraline and I was wearing my Gretel). I was immediately drawn to this skein of utter gorgeousness:

This is Fyberspates Scrumptious in Purple. It is the most delectably soft yarn I have ever had the luck to fondle. I carried it around the shop petting it like a small animal (apparently this is a fairly common response). It’s 45% silk and 55% merino. It has an incredible sheen, as you’d expect with that amount of silk, and a slight fuzzy halo due to its extreme softness. It’s going to be a lace beret – possibly a Rose Red, or maybe a Porom.

I also came away with more purple goodness:

Two balls of Debbie Bliss Donegal Luxury Tweed, to make a fitted Gretel for my parents’ elderly neighbour, Florence. She’s a wonderful old lady and we were comparing knitting over Christmas. She wears a lot of tams and berets, and Mum tells me that lavender is one of her favourite colours. She’s also a fibre snob after my own heart – she scorns acrylics in favour of real wool, and when I visited she was knitting a sweater in some amazing pink 100% alpaca that she’d found in a charity shop!

When I eventually dragged myself away from K1, my squishy purchases were placed, to my great delight, in this bag:

Appparently they’re made in India from recycled paper to raise money to look after street children.

I just wish I lived near enough to Edinburgh to make it to the Thursday knit nights! Maybe in the school holidays I might head over there occasionally…

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In November, I decided to jump on one of the latest pattern bandwagons and cast on for Suvi S’s Baby Cables and Big Ones Too. I got a bag of scrummy undyed pure wool from New Lanark and decided on a self-imposed deadline of Christmas. A hectic last couple of weeks in the run-up to the holidays, and a sickness bug that left me too horizontal and poorly to knit made it a close call, but I cast off on Christmas Day. And I haven’t stopped wearing it since, except to sleep.

And I’d like to mention that, not only has Suvi written a fantastic pattern, but she’s very lovely and helpful. I posted a question about which cast-on method to use for the underarm stitches in the Sexy Knitters Group on Ravelry, and within about 10 minutes Suvi herself had answered! She also gave me some tips about blocking it (which I haven’t done yet, but I think a wet block is in order given that my parents’ Boxer dog spent Christmas drooling on me).

The only mod I made was to add about an inch to the sleeves, as usual. I just love the detailing on this sweater – it’s unusual, but not over-the-top. I think my favourite aspect is the sleeves – the way the cable twists down from the stocking stitch into the garter stitch panel, and the way the garter stitch cuffs flare out just a little.

I also whipped up a pair of Fetchings for my friend Charlotte. I used the last ball of Knitpicks Swish Worsted leftover from my Wicked sweater, and they came out really well. I love the way blocking completely transforms a picot edge.

I didn’t actually do much knitting over Christmas as I was away visiting family, and I realised that I hadn’t read the pattern for my next planned project carefully and I didn’t have the right yarn. However, I did get a copy of Custom Knits from Alithea. I had added it to my wish list because I fell in love with the Lettuce Coat (which I am still planning on knitting sometime). Upon browsing the patterns, however, my eye fell upon Ingenue. Remember the almost-black Kid Classic I bought to knit Flair?

Even though I’d bought the pattern I wasn’t entirely convinced about how well Flair would suit me, and as soon as I set eyes on Ingenue I knew that Kid Classic would work far better for a sophisticated wide-neck fitted sweater than it would for a swing cardigan. So shortly after I got home yesterday I cast on for Ingenue.

I haven’t had Internet access for the last week or so, but I did catch up with reading blog posts yesterday, although I didn’t really have time to comment. So instead of personal Christmas wishes, I hope everyone reading this had a good Christmas, and (because there seems to be a lot of illness about this year) I hope that those of you who were ill are recovered by now.

And, because I mentioned him earlier, it seems churlish to finish without a picture of my parents’ dog, Bryn.

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