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Only in Kenya

For the first time in months I’ve had the twin luxuries of time and energy to do some tasks that I’d been putting off for ages – the main one being to finally finish editing and uploading my photos of our holidays in Kenya!

I’m really, really pleased with the way they came out. I took over 1500 shots over the 10 days we were there, picked out the best ones and did some minor tweaking. I shoot in RAW, so I can correct the exposure and white balance before converting the images to jpegs. Then all I do is make minor changes to the contrast and colour saturation, maybe sharpen a bit, crop and possibly convert to black and white. With monochrome I usually use the “split channel” option and then select the red channel, which I believe gives a similar effect to using a red filter, which is commonly done when shooting with black and white film.

I love shooting in digital. I used to get so frustrated when I would send a roll of film to be developed, and it would come back overexposed or with the colours looking dull and lifeless. There’s a lot that happens in the developing stage, and without a darkroom, one has no control over that with film.  Not to mention the fact that with digital you can take as many pictures as you can fit on your memory card!

Here is a mosaic of some of my favourite Kenya pictures:

I’ve organised my Flickr set and tagged it with each day and location, although I’ve not yet gone through all the pictures and given them titles and descriptions. So if you’re interested in the different places we went to, you can look at the photos for Nairobi National Park, Mountain Lodge, Aberdare, Lake Naruku, Samburu and the place that completely blew me away, the Masai Mara.

It wasn’t an easy holiday – I found it hard to reconcile our status as Western holidaymakers, staying in beautiful safari lodges, with the poverty in which the majority of Kenyans seem to live. Being an active person, I also found it very difficult to be in the van for hours and hours every day. But it was definitely an incredible experience, and I’m really pleased with my pictures!

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Our honeymoon on Skye was incredible. Here are a few highlights:

Sunday

We went for a 10-mile circular walk along the coast from Kilbride, taking in Suisnish and Boreraig, ruined villages that were forcibly evicted in the 1850s during the Highland Clearances. Sometimes the crofts were burnt to the ground to stop the householders returning. This sort of thing is all that’s left:

The reason the crofters were evicted was to make way for the landowners to raise lots of these:

It was a very poignant walk, both considering the hard, isolated life the crofters must have led and the terrible circumstances in which they were thrown out of their homes.

Monday

We set off early in the morning for a much-anticipated ascent of Bla Bheinn, supposedly the most beautiful mountain in Britain.

Considering we are reasonably seasoned hillwalkers, this hill completely kicked out asses, and it was entirely our own fault. Despite being well equipped with compass, GPS, OS map, etc, we misread the directions in the walking guidebook and spent nearly two hours guddling about on a terrifying scree slope before turning back, tired and frustrated, just as other walkers started arriving and merrily going up the correct route. Still, our unfinished business with Bla Bheinn will be a good excuse to go back to Skye!

Tuesday

We visited the Quiraing, a famous and decidedly weird series of rock formations to the north of Portree. While we were there, two white-tailed eagles treated us with a fabulous display right overhead:

Wednesday

We took a walk from Glen Brittle up into the Coire Lagan, a popular starting point for the ascent of some of the famous Black Cuillin mountains. The cloud was low and it was very windy, so we settled for a trip via the Eas Mor waterfall up into the Coire, and then back down again.

Thursday

This was the day we made up for our failure on Bla Bheinn. We left the car at Sligachan Glen, and headed up the path towards Glen Brittle. To our left rose the beginning of the Cuillin Ridge.

From left to right: Sgurr Nan Gillian, Am Basteir (with the Basteir Tooth sticking out) and Sgurr A Bhasteir. Our target was the Fionn Choire, to the right of Sgurr A Bhasteir. We had the vague idea that we might attempt Bruach Na Frithe, the “easiest” Cuillin (although “easy” is a relative term when you’re talking about the Black Cuillin), located on the right of Am Basteir but out of sight behind the peaks in the photo. When we got up the the Choire and looked up at the pass via which one can access Bruach Na Frithe and Am Basteir, the Bealach Nan Lice, we decided it didn’t look too hard:

The Bealach is to the left of the crag at the top, while the summit of Bruach Na Frithe is hidden behind the ridge on the right.

We stormed our way up the Bealach and were soon at the summit, which was absolutely incredible. I just love the buzz of reaching a summit, and this was one of the best. The main ridge was under cloud, but we could see the entire island laid out below us, all the way from Portree to the Old Man of Storr to Carbost to Elgol. And, of course, across to Am Basteir and the exposed peak of Sgurr Nan Gillean. Two to tackle in future, I think…

Friday

We went on an amazing boat trip out of Elgol to the Small Isles of Rhum and Canna. We saw porpoises, a minke whale, Manx shearwaters, distant white-tailed eagles and, best of all, a basking shark.

We left our adorable rented cottage the following morning for a leisurely drive home, stopping off in Fort William to meet friends for lunch and staying overnight at the Clachaig Inn in Glencoe, where we were treated to excellent whisky and live music by a funky blues band called Wolftrain.

Back home now and back to reality with school starting next week! But I do have some knitting to show you and exciting new yarn.

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Wondrously well wed

On Saturday, after 11 years together, Chris and I finally got married. It was the most amazing day and everything just came together like magic, despite worries over the food and the weather. It was perfect. The ceremony was beautiful, the weather was gorgeous (despite the fact that it’s been mostly raining for the last week), the hog roast was amazing and the dancing went on till nearly midnight (after which we all went to the pub for an hour!).

I don’t have many photos yet but here are a few that my cousin took:

My Maid of Honour (my sister, Anna), Chris and I walking to the ceremony (I’m modelling Print O’ the Wave!).

Chris and I after the ceremony (Chris is juggling his baby nephew while trying to get something out of his sporran).

The cake, finally assembled!

The wedding party and assembled friends and family!

We are off to Skye on Saturday for our honeymoon – but before we go I may have some yarn to show you…

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The fruit had been soaking in brandy for over a week, the ingredients were all to hand, and after I got back from taekwon-do I had the whole afternoon without a pressing reason to leave the flat (apart from the sunshine, but hopefully that will still be there tomorrow). So it was time to start work on our wedding cake.

My friend Jackie gave me an awesome fruit cake recipe that she used for her own wedding, and I trialled it at Christmas. It was probably the best Christmas cake I’d ever tasted; dark, moist and richly fruity (and alcoholic).  So today it was time to make the real thing. Jackie lent me her cake tins, and I wrote up a spreadsheet in Excel to scale the recipe to the correct quantities for each tin.

Today I made the small and medium tiers – the large tier will require the entire oven to itself. I made up a huge batch of mixture (thank heavens for the large mixing bowl I inherited from Auntie Frida).

From top left, clockwise:

  • Flour, ground almond, bicarb and spices
  • Fruit (soaked in brandy for a week) in a little flour
  • Eggs, treacle, zest and marmalade
  • Butter and sugar

Assembly took some time as it involved folding in a spoonful of flour mixture, followed by some egg mixture, ad infinitum.

But eventually it was spooned out into the tins and smoothed down:

After this, the tins were wrapped in brown paper and placed very carefully in the oven for the whole afternoon. They’re still there, in fact, but they’re nearly done.

In other wedding-related crafting, I am now on the outer border of the Print O’ the Wave. I’ve done 11 repeats – one short edge and a corner. Ironically, despite putting in lifelines religiously, I haven’t needed to frog once (so far!), while Vivian (not wedding related) is totally kicking my ass at the moment. The yoke section of the pattern has no stitch counts at all, and I’ve already screwed up the decreases once and had to rip back (I foolishly didn’t put in a lifeline on the joining row, and couldn’t get one in straight, but as the yarn is aran and pure wool picking up the live stitches was quite easy). It’s further complicated by the fact that I’ve made sleeves 3 sizes bigger than the body, as they were too skinny for my arms.  Hoping someone on Ravelry will reply to my plea for help in the Vivian KAL!

Back to wedding crafting. I have knit 3 little roses out of the purple Fyberspates Scrumptious leftover from my Rose Red beret. I think if I’m going to make all the corsages and buttonholes out of the same yarn I’ll need a new skein – what hardship! Then I need some green yarn to make the leaves. And brooch pins. And a pretty bead to put in the middle of each rose.

I’m also in the process of taking photos for the invitations. We are hoping to get Moo postcards with a collage of meaningful photos on the front. The main one will be of the rings. To this end, I borrowed our friend Ben’s macro lens and spent some time playing around with it the other day.

All I can say is, macro photography is MAGIC. The letters on the engraving are only a few millimetres tall. And you can even see the weave in the pillowcase I used as a background! I’m going to have another photoshoot, hopefully tomorrow, and I plan to make a few changes:

  • Use something smoother (paper?) as a background
  • Stop it up a bit (or should that be down?) – the depth-of-field is a bit too small at F2.8
  • Polish the rings! They look shiny and clean to the eye, but the macro lens reveals all my grubby fingerprints
  • Wait for a time with more diffuse light so I don’t get reflections of the sunny window.

And now it’s less than 3 months to the date (woo!) I can get on with filling out the boring paperwork…

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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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The photography project has been somewhat neglected for the past couple of weeks, so today when we went down to the allotment I grabbed a couple of shots en route.

Fairy Bridge, 23-3-09

The wee park next to the Fairy Bridge, 23-3-09

And Chris took this one of me watering our wedding sweet peas:

Knitting-wise, progress on the Print O’ the Wave continues apace – I’m trying to average one pattern repeat a day and as long and I manage another one tonight I’ll be on target! I was going to take a photo to show you all but the light wasn’t good by the time I’d finished doing my chores.

I’m terribly tempted to buy Ysolda’s Whimsical Little Knits collection. I would probably only make two or three of the patterns (the Hap Blanket is top of my list), but I would like to support Ysolda’s efforts to make a living by bringing us fabulous knitting patterns. Plus, it’s so cute!

EDIT: I was unable to resist and have bought Whimsical Little Knits. I am so going to be curling up next winter on top of my Skye sheepskin, underneath the Hap Blanket…

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We took our neighbour’s dog out for a walk on Sunday and I grabbed a few pictures for my Dunblane project.

7-02-09, Laighills

7-02-09, Cathedral

And of course I couldn’t leave you without a picture of Corrie, the dog:

7-02-09, Allotments

In knitting news, Vivian is going well – I’m just starting the increases for the top of the body. The cables are gorgeous!

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