Thursday, December 21, 2006

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all of you!!

Monday, December 11, 2006

What would you do?

A while ago (rather a long while ago now) I participated in a Yarn co-op and bought some Fleece Artist custom-dyed mohair yarn. Rather a lot of it, and in three colours: there is a juicy red mohair boucle, and then two huge skeins of single-ply mohair in a mossy green and in a light blue. I love them all, but I have NO IDEA what to do with it!

Here is the blue and the green mohair - pen next to it for scale:

And this is the red mohair yarn:

Any ideas? I was thinking about some basic cowl neck jumper with one of the plain yarns - maybe the blue one - but have no pattern yet, and for the other two I just don't know at all.

Next: some new acquisitions...

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Another chapter closes...

At the end of last week I passed my viva, and with that, the chapter of my PhD is finally drawing to a close. It feels strange, after all, my thesis has occupied me for four years of my life, and the fear of the viva has been with me for almost as long. In the end it was all so much less scary than I thought it would be and 1 1/2 hours later I was drinking champagne and looking dazed while people congratulated me.

Of course it isn't quite over yet - I will have to correct a few typos and the like - but even though I obviously haven't received the 'official' OK from the university yet I have been assured that this is it. I may even get to graduate at the winter graduation, although I may have missed the deadline for that. My most dominant feeling is relief. Such enormous relief. There is elation, sure, and pride as well, and also some sadness that this chapter of my life is now drawing to a close, but most of all I am so glad that it all went well. And I am looking forward to all the things I want to do now.

In fact, the night after the viva I lay awake in bed at 5 am because I was so excited about all the things I want to do next! I do want to get a job, and I want to work on some more publications, and I want to go to a few conferences next year, but right now I want to take some time so enjoy the bean, and to work on the house, and to knit, and to spin, and to finally start the quilt that I have been planning for ages. So many things have been on hold while I was preparing for this last exam, and then there are all those things that I have been waiting to post about but never found the time to. You can expect a lot of activity on this blog in the next few weeks!

But for now, I will make a list - a list of everything I want to do with my life now. :-)

Thursday, November 23, 2006

One Yard Fabric Swap - the Update

I am resurfacing from the ocean of baby-dom to finally post an update - on my life, and on the One Yard Fabric Swap, which, as far as I can see from the blog entries, has been fun. I think by now most people have received their swap parcels, although I know that some of you are still waiting and/or haven't posted about their parcels yet. Hopefully those few missing parcels are on their way to their new owners by now. I, for one, received the most fabulous parcel just this morning. It came from Caro of Splityarn, all the way from Texas!

Such a cute card:

The haul:

Bibs, made by Caro:

She sent me two bibs, sewn by her in the most gorgeous fabrics, a piece of japanese fabric which is just beautiful, some stitch markers with the G and the O of Green Onion, and some Mision Falls merino wool in a lovely blue / green colour. Thank you so much Caro, I'm thrilled!!

And here is the list so far of all the posts with swap pictures that I have been able to find, in gifting order:

Caitlyn was gifting Penny, who blogs about the parcel on 2nd November 2006 (no perma-link).

Penny prepared a parcel for Amanda, who shows her haul HERE.

Amanda was gifting Elizabeth, who writes about it on 14th October 2006 (again, couldn't find a permanent link).

Elizabeth was sending a parcel to Bekka, who blogs about it HERE.

Bekka was gifting Katie, who blogs about the parcel HERE.

Katie was gifting Gem (Jess' mum), who sent me a photograph and a thank you to post on this blog, but I have since seen that she has hijacked Jess' blog to post her thank you there. The post is HERE.

Gem in turn was sending a parcel to Sherrill, who blogs about it on Tuesday 2nd November 2006 (couldn't find a permanent link to the post).

Sherrill was gifting Caro, who shows us the contents of the parcel HERE.

Caro was gifting Iris, who blogs about it in this very post ;-).

Iris was gifting Zonda, who blogs about the parcel in her post of 6th November 2006 (again, no perma-link)

Zonda was gifting Joyce, who shows her parcel HERE.

Joyce was gifting Kaye, who shows the contents of the parcel HERE.

Kaye was sending a parcel to Jess, who is still waiting for it to arrive.

Jess was in turn gifting Diane, who is also still waiting for her parcel to arrive.

Diane was gifting Joni, who blogs about it HERE.

Joni sent a parcel to Jill, who writes about it HERE.

Jill prepared a parcel for Lynne, the post about the contents is HERE.

Lynne was gifting Leah, who posts about the parcel HERE.

Leah sent a parcel to Teri. I couldn't find any post about it on Teri's blog so I assume it hasn't arrived yet. Any news, Teri?

Teri sent a parcel to Erin. I'm not sure if this has arrived yet, as I couldn't find a post about it yet, but I imagine it can take some time for parcels to make it to Singapore.

Erin in turn was gifting Beth, who has received her parcel and blogs about it HERE.

Beth prepared a parcel for Kate. The post about it is HERE.

And Kate in turn sent a parcel to Caitlyn, thus closing the circle. Caitlyn blogs about it in her post on 3rd November 2006 (again, no perma-link).

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Last minute...

Well, my One-Yard-Fabric-Swap parcel made it to the post office in time yesterday, so at least I made it before the deadline. Nobody ever accused me of being too early for anything - well, apart from the arrival of the Bean... 4 days early... totally unheard of! But then, the arrival of the Bean wasn't strictly speaking my doing, or else he would have been 2 weeks late and even heavier than he was (ouch!).

I'm also fairly last minute on other things recently. Of course now I have the excuse of a newborn, but still, is it really necessary to leave things so late that you end up typing letters and filling in forms on the computer with a pillow between you and the keyboard on which the Bean either sleeps or has a snack?! And now I have done it again - yesterday was the deadline for the submission of abstracts for papers for a conference. Obviously I totally miscalculated the amount of time it would take me to even get my fuzzy post-pregnancy brain into gear and start processing information in any shape or form suitable for academic thought, never mind finish a paper proposal, so I had to end the day by writing an apologetic email to the organiser, asking for more time. Do I need to point out how much I hate bothering people in this way? Fortunately they were very nice and I have till the end of the week, so here is hoping that I will have something resembling a coherent idea by then...

Anyway, back to the One-Yard-Fabric-Swap. I finally had a look round the blogs, and although not all parcels have arrived yet, the ones I have seen so far look fantastic! I am so happy to see the effort that everyone seems to have put into their parcels and they all look wonderful. In the next few days I will post a list of links to people's posts so they can be easily found, and in a week or two I will update it to include the rest of the parcels. I can't wait to see them all!! Which reminds me - if you don't have a blog, please don't forget to take pictures of your haul and email them to me. I will then post them on my blog so we can all properly admire them. ;-)

And now, since I seem to go on so much about my dreadful last minute habit, I will try to actively do something about it and have another look at that abstract...

Monday, October 30, 2006

checking in...

With the bean occupied with a garishly-coloured mobile toy in his moses basket behind me I thought I should at least briefly check in to say that I haven't completely disappeared! So first of all, thank you all so much for the many well-wishes I got from everyone. I had no idea there were even that many people reading this blog!! At some point in the future I will attempt to answer all the comments (or at least those where I can find an email address) personally, but for now, a big fat THANK YOU to you all. :-)

Secondly, a particular thank you to Sherrill, who sent me a beautiful knitted baby cardigan which the bean has already worn. I still haven't got round to photographing it, but I remember Sherrill posting a picture of it a while back... She also included a pack of baby onesies, which are great! Thank you so much Sherrill!!

Thirdly, another particular thank you to Jane, who sent me a really cute baby hat, which even spells 'BEAN'! Thank you Jane, the hat is great and I am sure we will use it a lot this winter!

I am also aware that I still haven't posted a picture of our little bean, so to make up for that, here he is, big bum and all! ;-)

Other than that, there isn't all that much to report. Life with a brand-new bean continues to be both wonderful and rather hard work. I still don't get more than around 5 hours of interrupted sleep each night, but my body seems to adjust to it, so I don't feel quite as sleep-deprived as I did in the first two weeks. I am also more mobile now, so I have been trying to leave the house most days. The bean is doing great too and has already put on quite a bit of weight. We are starting to get the first smiles now!

There has been some knitting, but not much, so I will save it for a later post.

Right, and now I'm off to get the parcel for the One-Yard-Fabric-Swap ready - last minute as ever!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Public Service Announcement

Well, not really, but I thought I'd quickly post to say that the Bean is finally here.

He arrived a few days before his due date on Tuesday 26th September 2006 at 10.37 am after a 9 hour labour. The birth was thankfully smooth and natural, even though he was heavier than I had anticipated - 8 llb 7 oz. D and I are completely in love with him.

Bean and I were able to leave the hospital the next afternoon and have been at home since, but because I am existing in a bit of a sleep-deprived haze right now and because every time I sit down at the computer Bean demands to be fed I don't seem to get round to even answering any emails, never mind update the blog! I have hope that as things settle down into a bit more of a routine it will get better!!

I should resurface in a week or so (I hope), but for now I am off to sleep...


Thursday, September 21, 2006

Look who it is!

It's Henry the Navigator!

You can imagine my excitement when the postman delivered a huge box this morning which was, at a glance, revealed to have come all the way from the US, from the lovely Teyani of The Intrepid Fibrewizard. I was a bit baffled by the size of it, as I had imagined the Yarn Abroad box to be a bit smaller, but that mystery was soon explained when I opened the parcel.

Inside it was this:

Isn't that adorable? The cute not-so-little bear was nestling next to the Henry the Navigator box. I think I shall call him Henry - it seems only appropriate! :-) Henry the bear, a little yarn label revealed, is knitted from Blue Sky Cotton, which is lovely and soft - I can completely understand now why everyone goes on about what a great yarn this is. Bean's first knitted soft toy, so cute!

Next was the yarn abroad box itself:

This is what I found inside:

And unwrapped:

There is some yummy Lorna's Laces in a beautiful and unusual colour combination of green, blue, and yellow - I love it! Further, there is a Fibre Trends sock pattern for 'Peak Experience Socks', which looks perfect for variegated and self-striping yarns, and a pattern for a baby sweater with cables, which I am looking forward to knitting. Then there was a cute little purse made from a baby's sock, with some coins in it. What is the meaning of those Teyani? There was also a little yarn needle and a wooden button, which looks very pretty, but again, I'm not totally sure what it is... Teyani?

Further, there were two postcards from Washington and from Seattle (it looks beautiful), a great fridge magnet which says 'Chocolate is proof that God wants us to be happy' - I obviously agree fully - and finally two delicious chocolate bars, which I am afraid to say are already gone. D found them about 5 minutes after I had opened the parcel and while I was still fondling the yarn and Henry the bear, he had already opened the Lemon fudge bar and had eaten half of it. This immediately prompted me to waddle over there and push the other half of the bar into my mouth before he could eat it... I get very ungenerous and territorial about my food nowadays - I blame it on late pregnancy (This is also my excuse for usually eating more than D now). ;-) The other bar of mint chocolate followed shortly after. Delicious!

What a fabulous parcel - Teyani, I can't thank you enough. And that you even knitted a bear for the bean really touched me. Thank you!!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

We're on! The deadline was on Sunday, and the matches went out yesterday evening. If you haven't received your match, please let me know asap - it's entirely possible that I managed to miss somebody out!

How I matched people up:

Entirely by chance, with some little tweaking to accommodate things like cat hair allergies and not wanting to ship internationally.

All your names went onto little bits of paper, were folded, mixed, and then set out in a line. I then made a note of the order and double-checked to make sure that there weren't any obvious mismatches, such as obvious cat-lovers with 5 cats sending parcels to people with cat allergies and the like, although I cannot guarantee for how well I have succeeded with this as not everybody might post about their pets... If you have cats and have ended up with someone who is allergic and think you may not be able to keep the cats away from the fabric, please let me know as soon as possible so I can try to change things around.

Other than that, I left the matches exactly how they happened to be - I think it's fun to 'meet' people through chance encounters like that. :-)

As a reminder:

Deadline for the sending of the parcels: End of October 2006

Swap rules: HERE

ETA: This is a secret swap - I have not told anyone who will be gifting them (although for myself it was kind of unavoidable ;-)). This is not to say that you can't contact your swap partner. Send them an email or leave a comment on their blog to say Hi! or to ask any questions, just do so anonymously. You can then reveal your identity through your parcel.

I am really looking forward to this - hopefully it will be fun for everbody!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Counting down...

For the sake of keeping a record, I thought I should post a picture of my belly these days. It may not look that big (although... I really think it does!!), but compared to the picture next to it, which is me when I was 2 weeks or so pregnant (I don't think I even knew then) it is quite a difference!

The picture was taken a few days ago when D and I finally got round to taking a few more pictures. Of course this is a far cry from our initial plans - taking pictures every month to monitor the growth of the belly. Instead we have a few pictures of the initial bloatedness of the first 12 weeks, maybe one picture of a 5 month belly and then this set of pictures... I guess it's still good that we managed to at least take a few before the bean is ready to face the world!

~ * ~

Other than that, I have been in the right sort of mood to finish some WIPs. I have been knitting like crazy on the logcabin baby blanket and lo and behold, I only have one round to go before I can call it done. Unfortunately I seem to be running out of yarn for one of the sections, so I may have to make a quick run to the local yarn shop (and hope that they stock the particular yarn I have been using), but even with that little hold-up it should be finished very very soon.

I have also finished the messenger bag that I started sewing a week or so ago. There is no pattern, so the whole thing was a bit of an experiment, and overall it's not as tidy as it could have been. Still, I am pleased with the result, and have already used it to tote the soon-to-be-finished baby blanket around with me when D and I went out yesterday afternoon!

The inside of the bag has two pockets - one for a mobile phone, one a bit bigger, for a wallet for example. Shame on me, though, for not thinking of this earlier - the bag now sports some seams which are visible on the outside of the bag because this being an afterthought I had of course already sewn up the rest of the bag. I also ran out of fabric for the bag straps, so I had to settle for having two thin ones rather than one big strap (you can see this a little on the pictures). I am contemplating sewing them up in the middle to make it look slightly less odd...

Right, onto the next finished WIP - the garter stitch baby cardigan in unphotogenic dark blue. I have finally found and added some buttons:

Predictably, the colours are totally off. The cardi itself is a darker colour than it appears on the picture, while the buttons are a light blue rather than the white that they seem to be here. I am really pleased with this, in particular as it hasn't turned out too tiny and bean should be able to wear it for quite some time.

And last but not least, I have been trying myself at sewing softies. My first attempt isn't much to show for, but I love the result anyway. May I present Manfred the hippo (eyes to come once I can think of some way to not make them look creepy):

Manfred is very very wonky, because, being the lazy thing that I am, I didn't bother stitching the pieces of felt together before I started sewing. Instead I made this up as I went along, with the rather predictable result of poor Manfred being a bit lopsided. I think with my next softie I should maybe take the prep work a bit more seriously! ;-)

~ * ~

One-Yard-Fabric Swap

Well, the deadline was yesterday evening, and it looks like we have a good group of people now! I also have most of the questionnaires back by now (all apart from one! ;-)) so I shall wait for a another day or so to give the last swapper time to send it back and then you can expect to receive your swap partner details on Wednesday or on Thursday at the latest.

As a reminder, details of the swap and the rules are in the sidebar of the blog or else HERE. The deadline for sending the parcels to your swap partners is the END OF OCTOBER, so there should be ample time to get everything together.

I am really looking forward to this and as this is my first attempt at hosting a swap I am so pleased to have such a lovely group of people together. Can't wait to see what people will send! :-)

Monday, September 11, 2006

One fine morning...

There is something incredibly comforting about a hot cup of sweetened tea and some biscuits, possibly accompanied the reading of a newspaper - or, in this case, some vintage sweater patterns that I wasn't able to resist and bought off ebay the other day.

Not that I'm knitting tight-fitting sweaters for myself anytime soon. ;-)

Instead, I have a day of sewing planned for today. I have a Roman blind to finish for the bedroom, which is finally ready to be inhabited! D put on the last coat of oil paint on the window yesterday morning and as soon as the nasty paint smell has somewhat evaporated we will finally move out of our dusty hovel of a bedroom. Right now it looks so crisp and clean that I feel almost sorry to disturb the harmony of the simple and clear lines:

I have also decided to sew another bag - this time of my own design if you can call it that. It's a simple bag with a classic messenger bag look to it, or at least that is what I am envisioning.

In terms of bean preparations, the imminent change in our room situation, brought on by the finishing of the bedroom, also spurred me into action to do something about the huge pile of baby clothes, blankets, sheets, etc. waiting to be washed. Can you imagine that I spent all day yesterday washing baby clothes? And that it's still not quite done?! As D put it, while shaking his head in disbelief: "How many clothes can one tiny lad need?!" I'm pretty sure the answer to that one would be: "not nearly as many as we have for him."

They do look pretty on that washing line, though, don't they?

The reason for the slightly out-of-control baby clothes situation is that a few days ago a friend of ours came round with two huge black binbags full of baby clothes - all for boys, all for newborns. They are beautiful and nearly new clothes and we were of course more than grateful to accept. It has me wondering, though - sure, she has three little boys, but it's not like she had them all at the same time and would have needed three times the amount of chothes. Even if you buy something new now and then, how do you amass such a huge quantity of baby wear? Or is something like 40 sleepsuits and an equal amount of shortsleeved body suits not a huge quantity? Am I being naive?

In any case, I was totally overwhelmed, in particular as they are all so pretty! This means that, with the exception of summer clothes, I am washing them all. Now of course D and I have nowhere to put our own clothes, but never mind that... ;-)

Hopefully there will be sewing and possibly even knitting content to show for by tomorrow!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Getting ready for the bean...

The last week or so I have been trying to get ready for the impending arrival of the bean. There isn't much I can do about the house itself at this point, although the bedroom is coming along quite nicely, but there is still plenty to do.

Yesterday, apart from the frantic jam-making, I spent most of the day doing paperwork and getting finance stuff in order. I hate doing this kind of work, and by the afternoon I had worked myself up into quite a foul mood. It didn't help that I had to go to the garage *again* to fix something regarding one of our cars. I swear, the guy at the garage is rapidly becoming my new best friend - it seems like I can't do for two days without paying him a visit. First it's MOTs, then my car starts making strange noises, then the radiator starts leaking, then the breaks start packing up on the other car, ... And everytime I need to go there I have to ask MIL to give me a lift. I don't like relying and imposing on others like that, but there is really no way around it.

Still, retrospectively, yesterday was good in a I-got-lots-of-unpleasant-stuff-done kind of way. And today the rest of the jam jars are arriving (another 80 jars or so!), so I will be able to bottle the rest of the jam up AND get started on making apple sauce with some of the apples languishing in the kitchen right now. Other than that, I have another ultrasound today - bean has decided that he rather likes to be head up rather than head down - he's breach. Hopefully he'll still turn on his own (after all, he still has around 4 weeks to do so), but my midwife decided that she wants it checked out anyway.

But back to my preparations. I admit that I have been on a major spending spree. Not that I went out of my way to buy excessively expensive things (in fact, I tried to source a lot second hand), but I am continuing to be amazed at the amount of kit that a baby requires: pram, carseat, cot, moses basket, blankets, sheets, nappy paraphenalia, clothes, ... And that doesn't even touch on all the non-essential yet nice items like little toys or possibly a mobile above the cot. I have been restricting myself to the absolute basics, but have still managed to amass a mountain of baby gear in the spare room (where it is all living for now, waiting to be moved into the yet-to-be-finished bedroom).

We have also decided to do the whole baby thing as green as is feasible for our circumstances. I guess the impulse comes with moving out of the city and goes hand in hand with the jam-making. This means that we have decided to give re-usable nappies a go, at least for at home (if we go on holiday I think we will probably still rely on disposable ones). This opens up another entirely new area of research. Who knew how many types of re-usable nappy were out there?! Not me! I have now ordered a few samples and have also put in an order for other 'green', environmentally friendly baby stuff. The order arrived a few days ago and I felt like an overexcited child at christmas when opening it:

All the exciting new kit! Nappy liners, and cleaning stuff, and changing mats, ... I was a bit baffled by amount of bubble wrap used in the box (not in the picture) - considering this is one of the main green mail order companies in the UK I would have thought they would come up with something a little less plastic-y to wrap the stuff in, but we will re-use all the bubble wrap for our move, so it doesn't matter too much.

Now that I have most of the baby gear together I have also managed to get on with making some items. The knitted cardigan I showed the other day is still awaiting some buttons, but the log-cabin baby blanket is progressing nicely:

It's slow, though. I feel reminded of all the reasons why I don't like knitting blankets and the like - it's boring. This isn't too bad, because at least I get to change colours once in a while, but as the sections grow longer I am becoming more impatient. How big does a baby blanket have to be anyway?!

I have also finally finished the Amy Butler Nappy Bag that I started a while back (I couldn't finish it then because I had run out of fabric for the lining). I am quite pleased with it, although it is rather large. It could also be a great deal neater, but I admit it now - I am terrible at finishing things off neatly. I am too impatient. Especially with sewing this has always been my downfall. Still, I think the bag will do nicely:

Next on the sewing list - a Roman blind for the bedroom window. I have already started it, but need to cut some dowels to size before I continue.

Monday, September 04, 2006

More tales from 'The Good Life'

Do you see that? The picture above? Those are Victoria plums. Delicious and ripe Victoria plums. They are part of our second bumper harvest this year (and I am not even counting the Greengages, which I have already dealt with). Yesterday alone, D and I harvested around 4 buckets full of apples and 2 buckets of plums (add to that another two buckets, which are already transformed into jam and plum cake):

We are drowning in fruit!

Not that I'm complaining - in fact, we are thrilled - but I am ordering jam jars for the second time in a week now. The 36 glasses that I had ordered initially are not nearly enough.

There will be more plum jam (the Victoria plum jam I made with the first crop is delicious and we have managed to give quite a few glasses away to friends and family), more plum cake, a lot of apple sauce, and a friend of mine who dropped by yesterday suggested slicing some of the apples and freezing them like that for cake and the like.

It's a real shame that we can't store some of the fruit for winter without having to turn it all into preserves etc, but since everything is organic and hasn't been sprayed with anything there are quite a few bugs which made their little homes in the apples and plums - not in all of them, but it's almost impossible to tell before you cut them open, in particular with the plums (browsing a few days ago I found that The Pink Iris had the same problem with her plums HERE. I refuse to discard them, though, so we very laboriously cut each one open and cut the infested bit away. Took ages but was well worth it!!)

There will be pictures once I have bottled all the new jam up, but for now I am moving on and away from The Good Life and towards some good old-fashioned knitting content (trying to get back to the roots of this blog here!). A few days ago, a received a little parcel in the post, for which I have of course already sent a private thank you, but which really needs to be shown:

It's a little bib for bean, made by the lovely Mia of Way Past My Bedtime. Isn't it cute? I absolutely love the colour, a dusty blue, and have you seen the cool button? She also added some KnitPicks sock yarn to dye myself (this is my FIRST EVER Knitpicks yarn - I'm so excited!) and some Koolaid to do the dyeing. Thank you so much Mia!!

Then, yesterday the friend who stopped by brought me a little baby cardigan that she had knitted. Here it is, together with yet another cardigan - this time knitted by me (yes, I do still knit, although I seem to have slowed down rather a bit, due to excessive jam production):

Hers is the white one, mine is the dark blob behind it (true to form dark knitting remains impossible to photograph), so far without buttons and hence not really recognisable as a cardigan.

Right, better get back to work.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

One-Yard-Fabric-Swap Update

A bit later than I had planned, but I was delayed by friends who stayed over last week...

Here is a list of the people who have shown interest in the fabric swap so far:

Sherrill at BaaBonnyBelle
Jess at Scarf-o-Matic
Jess's mum in Holland (I don't know if she has a website - Jess?)
Elizabeth at Lazy Life
Caro at Splityarn
Joni at Union Center Knits
Kate at Apples and Oranges
Zonda at Z Knits... and Sews
Amanda at Clothesknit
Katie at Knits and Grits
Leah at Stress Reaction
Jill at Just Another Creative Thing to Do
Lynne at I Was Knit Together In My Mother's Womb
Penny at Random Thoughts From Another Dilettante
Diane from Lincoln, US (no blog)
Erin at Opportunity Knits
Bekka at Bekka
Caitlyn at Knot Without my Knitting
Joyce at Slateblu
Kaye at Bliss Out
Beth at Felt Like Knitting
Teri at Knitting, With Beads
and of course myself at Once Upon a Time...

That should be everybody, but please let me know if you are on the list but don't want to be or alternatively, if I somehow managed to miss your name off! Also, if I don't already have it, could you please let me have a contact email - I will need it for further communication (there will be a short questionnaire for everyone, and I obviously also need to send you the information about your swap partner). You can email me at

So far, we are 14 people participating. I'm quite pleased with that number - not too small a group, but still small enough to be easily manageable. Which means that my problem of if I should post on Swap Bot has solved itself - I don't think it's necessary, and quite honestly, control freak that I am, I feel more comfortable just keeping it on my blog. ;-). Joni has created the button above, so feel free to post it on your blog, and Amanda has offered to help out if necessary (thanks again to both of you for all your help!!), so if I am not contactable for a few days due to the arrival of the bean, she may be able to help.

As I have said before, I think I will leave the swap open for a few more days. So the deadline is Sunday 17th September 2006. I will then send the matches out in the week following the 17th September, and the deadline for sending the parcels will be Tuesday 31st October 2006.

Here are the rules again:

1) The idea is to send no less than 1 yard of continuous fabric, enough for a little sewing project, and, to make sure that nobody ends up with, as Alex put it, 'some nasty nylon' - cotton only!

2) Only send what you would also love to receive. So no palming off of unloved bits of fabric that you would otherwise stick in the bin! ;-)

3) Include other little presents - sweets, yarn, other crafty things, something you think the other person would like.

4) Suggested spending: around $25 (or around £15) max.

Edited to add:

5) You can use fabric from stash if you want, but see rule no. 2!

6) Please notify me asap when you receive your parcel and post about it on your blog so we can all be nosy and have a look! If you don't have a blog, please send me a picture of what you have received when you notify me so I can post it for you.

Please let me know if you have any questions and if you still want to join, just leave a comment or email me at

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Got Fruit?

Recently, I sometimes I feel like Barbara from The Good Life. Moving out of the city has definitely changed our life - in some ways it has slowed down, but in other ways it has made us very busy indeed. There always seems to be something to do, and I'm not talking the never-ending DIY either!

Last week, we came back from our trip to the old nest, and thought we'd take a look at our little orchard. We'd been watching the fruit grow and change colour for quite some time, and in particular the plums had started to gain in size. As they were still green, though, we thought that they weren't quite ripe, a mistake on our part, as when D picked one he discovered that our yet-to-turn-red non-ripe plums were in fact Greengages, and more than just a little bit ripe!

That evening we picked 5 buckets full of Greengages, all deliciously sweet, and I am not even trying to reconstruct how many we ate there and then. Not that it even made a dent in the amount of fruit piled up on our kitchen counter.

Obviously, we had to come up with a quick solution to that much fruit or we'd have a fruit fly invasion on our hands, and we spontaneously decided to make Greengage jam. I wasn't able to find a recipe for this online (most plum jam seems to be made from Damsons, which we also have but which are not quite ripe yet), so I decided to just make it up. I used several kilos of Greengages (as much as would fit in the pot), some jam-making sugar (about 600g), cloves, a stick of cinnamon, and some ginger. I really wanted to add a bit of Rum, but we didn't have any (still in the old house), so I made do without it. The resulting jam did not quite thicken, at least not through the Pectin, but to make up for it I cooked it for long enough to get rid of excess liquid and removed the foamy residue at the top. This is what we got:

We ran out of jam jars, so had to use one pint glass and a bowl. I have no idea how long the jam will last, so we are trying to work out way though the open glasses as quickly as we can. The taste is delicious - sweet, but not too sweet, with a hint of acidity and just the merest hint of cinnamon and clove.

I hadn't made jam for at least 10 years, so I seriously need to brush up on my jam-making skills. There are still 2 more plum trees, so there is definitely more to come. Also, what do you do with 4 different varieties of apples (there is some kind of bug in them, so I don't think they will store for very long), and 2 varieties of pears?! Any ideas?

This whole self-sufficiency episode has spurred me on to finally do some sewing, and what better way to start than with an apron? Sherrill at BaaBonnyBelle was sewing aprons a while back and is also hosting an Apron KAL. The apron I made is inspired by her basic design, although I changed it a little:

I look huge in this picture! Not having any floor-length mirrors in this house (all this is still in the old house) means that I haven't seen the size of my belly in quite some time - it's enormous!!

But anyway, the apron - it's made from Amy Butler fabric and the design is quite basic. I added a big double pocket at the front, two long bits of fabric to tie the apron, and the tie around the neck is construced with one piece of fabric that is threaded through a button-hole on the other side and then knotted.

I have also started sewing some bags - an Amy Butler Nappy Bag, which is still not quite finished because I ran out of fabric and had to order some more, and a Swing Bag, which I finished last Saturday and which I have already been using all week. Here it is, photographed in our dusty hall:

I love the design. It's simple, neat, and very sturdy, and it can even be turned inside out if I get tired of the blue patterned fabric and want a plain brown bag.

And that is it for today. In case anyone is wondering, I have been knitting, but right now there I don't have much to show for. Maybe in a few days time!

Update on the Fabric Swap tomorrow!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


Well, some news re. the One-Yard-Fabric-Swap. We have a button! The lovely and talented Joni of Union Center Knits volunteered to design it, and hasn't she done a fantastic job?

I have already outlined the basic rules in one of the last posts, but here they are again:

1) The idea is to send no less than 1 yard of continuous fabric, enough for a little sewing project, and, to make sure that nobody ends up with, as Alex put it, 'some nasty nylon' - cotton only!

2) Only send what you would also love to receive. So no palming off of unloved bits of fabric that you would otherwise stick in the bin! ;-)

3) Include other little presents - sweets, yarn, other crafty things, something you think the other person would like.

4) Suggested spending: around $25 (or around £15) max.

The sign-up deadline I am aiming for is mid- to end of September, with about a month to get parcels ready, so the deadline for the sending of fabrics would be the end of October. I admit that part of my timing has to do with the predicted arrival of the bean at the end of September, but I think the timeframe is quite convenient anyway. Let me know what you think, though - I'm open to suggestions!

Also, I am still unsure if I should use Swap Bot. I imagine that you would have to sign up there, if you are not already registered with them. If I go ahead, I will do so after the weekend - possibly on Monday or Tuesday.

Anyway, that is all for today - but go ahead and take the button to publicise the swap a bit if you want! :-)

Monday, August 07, 2006

Flooding, holidays, and fibre...

If you can't tell from the heading, this is going to be a photo-heavy, long and slightly disconnected entry. Never mind - who needs coherent and non-rambling posts that load quickly anyway!? ;-)

First of all, I had said I was going to post a picture or two of the flooding that turned our poor house into a slightly leaking Noah's arc. Well, here they are:

Clockwise from upper left: 1) the water level just before the cottage started flooding. 2-4) The rising water level in the yard.

But enough of that! ;-)

Much more fun to think about our holiday. Oh, how lovely it was. As I have probably mentioned, the first two days it was raining quite a bit, but it didn't matter - the lovely room, the yummy food, the beautiful landscape, the complete lack of DIY, ... it was great!

Our hotel was the Newby Bridge Hotel. You can have a look at it HERE. We arrived on Monday afternoon, so that first day we didn't do much apart from enjoy the lovely food in the evening. We had been lucky enough to get a special deal for our stay, which meant that we had room, breakfast, and dinner included for a price that was lower than just room and breakfast. I was so glad it worked out that way, because not only did it save us venturing out in the evening (we were always exhausted from all the driving around during the day), but the food turned out to be a fantastic 3-course meal!

Anyway, on the Tuesday we went on a steamboat cruise around Lake Windermere. A very tourist-y thing to do, but that's what we were after all - tourists! ;-)

I loved the landscape around the lake, but of course I hadn't seen anything of the 'real' lake district yet. That changed the next day, when we decided to drive up to Stainton / Penrith to visit the Alpaca Centre there (can't go on a holiday without some kind of fibre content!). This is the scenery we drove through:

It was breathtaking, even with the rather miserable and cold weather. Even the Alpaca's looked a bit soaked, although, as befitting for members of the camel family, they seemed supremely disinterested in their surroundings. What is it about this type of animal and the staring fixedly at some spot on the horizon?!

But the most exciting thing about the Alpaca Centre was not the Alpacas (although I liked them), but their fleece! We splashed out on 1200g of lovely off-white yearling fleece which had just come in. The yearling, Mistral, whose fleece it was, had just been shorn the day before! No picture yet, but I can't wait to spin this stuff up - the owner assured me that it should be enough for two jumpers / cardigans. Maybe if I try some Navajo plying? It would be a new technique for me and I've been meaning to try it for some time now...

D also had fun. He quite likes the whole process of spinning, but he was most excited to see that there was a wood-turning workshop on the premises. We spent a good 40 minutes hearing all about lathes and wood-turning. Quite interesting, and if D continues being interested in it I wouldn't mind giving it a go at some point.

From there we went on to Keswick for a leisurely lunch and afternoon tea (the whole holiday was VERY food-focussed. I have become quite obsessed with food recently...), and that was day two!

Day three was the probably most fun day of the holiday, not least because we awoke to a beautiful blue sky. We decided to spend the day exploring the lake district hills a bit more, so we headed off into the heart of the lake district, always following the tiniest roads that were marked on the map. The scenery was absolutely amazing, and we took it slowly, enjoying the sunshine, and stopping frequently.

We stopped by a quirky little pub we discovered, which had porch with wicker chairs and overlooked a valley. We basked in the warm sun and enjoyed a simple lunch. This is how the food arrived at our table - isn't that cute?

That's a simple cheese and ham sandwich and a Ploughman's Lunch (in the towel).

After that, we went exploring and ended up driving through a few beautiful valleys and through a mountain pass - the roads were tiny, barely wide enough for one car, and it was high enough to make your ears pop:

It was so beautiful! We arrived back home that day completely exhausted but happy. I'm so glad we had that day, because the next day was already the last and we didn't have time to do much else but pack our bags and set off home.

I shall leave you with one last set of images - what I have been spinning before we went on holiday:

This is the fibre that Sherrill at BaaBonnyBelle sent me a while back as part of the Knitty board Holiday SP Exchange. Not quite sure what it is, but it was wonderful to spin. For quite some time I wasn't sure how to spin it, because I wanted to make it enough for a little knitting project. Eventually I plied it with some grey Romney roving that I still had - it had been part of the first ever batch of fibre I bought, back on honeymoon in New England last year, and there was not that much left. I was glad to have found a way to use both. The end result is a soft and slightly shimmering yarn with muted colours. Initially I was a bit regretful that I would loose the vibrant colours of the dyed fibre, but now I am very happy with the end result. And there might even be enough for a hat or some fingerless gloves!

Saturday, August 05, 2006

First things first!

We are back from our little holiday - thanks for all your well-wishes, we had a fabulous time! For two days it was raining quite a bit, but even with that draw-back, it was a wonderful holiday and we both got some much-needed rest. Now it's back to reality, though. D is already upstairs, tinkering with our bathroom suite, and it looks as if by tonight we might have a functioning sink and toilet. Yay! ;-)

I have lots of pictures of the lake district, and I know I also said that I would post about the flooding and about my recent spinning efforts, but before I start with that, first things first: Before we went away I finally got my socks from the Sockapaloooza sock exchange. I had thought they had got lost in the mail and had already almost given up hope, but when I went to the PO Box last weekend they were there! I have no idea what happened, because it was apparent that they had been there for quite some time (how lucky they hadn't been sent back!) - I had rung up a few times and had been to check, but apparently, before last weekend nobody had been able to spot the parcel.

Sometimes I am glad that we have moved and I won't be able to use the PO Box anymore from now on!

Anyway, here are the fabulous contents of the parcel:

My Sockapaloooza pal was Sabine (her blog is here: Stricky) and she sent me some lovely blue sock yarn, some Italian soap (which smells wonderful), three themed postcards of Berlin, where she lives, picturing the city at different points in time), and of course the socks. They are the Madder Ribbed Socks from Nancy Bush's Vintage Socks book. There were also some very cute stitch markers, but somehow I managed to miss them out when I took the photograph, and now everything is stashed in the big box I packed to take up North that weekend... Here is another picture of the socks, though, this time modelled by me (please ignore the slightly swollen ankles and the rather pasty-looking skin on my calf, OK?):

Don't they fit perfectly? I'm so thrilled with them. Thank you Sabine, I couldn't be more delighted with the parcel you sent me! :-)

Monday, July 31, 2006

Lake District, here we come...

D, myself, and the bean, are off on holiday for the week. A, as I think, well-deserved 5 day break in a nice hotel in the Lake District. Almost an entire week of pampering! Can't wait. ;-)

Keep well, and until next weekend!


Friday, July 28, 2006

An eventful evening, and One Yard Fabric Swap update

Last night was ... interesting.

After a rather uneventful day, which I spent mainly sweating and wilting in the humid heat and fretting over the non-event that was academic work or any kind of coherent thinking, our evening was one of a kind.

7pm: It all started with the rain. One minute it was hot and humid and the sky was blue, and the next minute it was so dark we had to switch on the light in the house. Then the skies opened. It rained like I have hardly seen it rain before. Our poor old house, it seems, couldn't cope too well, because all that water prooved a bit too much for the rain pipes and within minutes the conservatory/glass outhouse (very old) was flooded.

Then it became apparent that not only the house couldn't cope with the masses of water - neither could the gullies in the road. This meant that what had been a road only minutes before rapidly turned into a river which, joy oh joy, flowed right under our gates and into the back garden. There it spread, the water level steadily rising, until it started to flood the little cottage in which we have been using the kitchen and the bathroom.

By that point, D was trying to shift sand bags to the door of the cottage to stem the flow of the water somewhat, but the damage was done. The street, and half our back garden were flooded, and water was pouring into the kitchen of the cottage. The amazing thing was that the whole thing was over within 20 minutes. The rain eased up, and the water disappeared down the gullies in the road.

I have taken pictures, but since we are in the old house right now I can't upload them. Will post some on Monday, though!

Well, all that happened around 7.00pm. By 8pm we were finally on the road to drive down to the Midlands. Around 30 minutes into the journey, we had a call on D's mobile. It was MIL, sounding rather strange and spooked on the phone as she informed me: "I've had a little accident. I've just swallowed some diluted bleach..."


Needless to say, we turned back. She'd drunk the bleach by accident because it had been in a cup by the sink (don't ask me why it was in that cup in the first place - MIL uses bleach for everything, so she was probably soaking something in there) - had noticed that it tasted a bit 'funny' and had already rung the emergency line, so an ambulance was on the way to her. Arrived at MIL's around 10pm. The ambulance had just left and they thought the bleach must have been quite diluted and that she would be OK. We had a cup of tea with her and she professed that her mouth felt rather strange - kind of like it had been scrubbed clean... No kidding.

That's when we decided to drive down to the Midlands in the morning. It was getting rather late, we were tired and a bit drained after the whole Noah's arc episode and the bleach incident, and all I wanted was to go to bed. Which we did.

Now, roll on 3am, when I woke up with the worst cramp in my leg I have ever had in my life. Ouch!! Honestly, for a minute there I didn't know what to do with myself, it hurt that much. And I'm not usually that fussy. Because I wasn't all that coherent, D got really scared and by the time I had stopped groaning and twitching and had managed to pull my wits together enough to tell him that it was a cramp we were both wide awake.

Needless to say that I am less than wide awake now!


Anyway, that was yesterday and is hopefully not to be repeated anytime soon. Now for something entirely different - the One Yard Fabric Swap!

I have decided to go ahead. A few of you have voiced interest, and I have thought a little about how to publicise the swap further. Joni at Union Center Knits has already offered to post about the swap on her blog (thanks Joni!), and I think maybe that is the next thing to do. Would it be OK if all of you who were interested post about it in their blog at some point over the coming weeks? Again, no hurry - I am not thinking about setting this up tomorrow, but maybe we could aim for something like September or October...

Also, a few of you have asked me to clarify the rules of the swap, as I have it in mind, a little:

1) The idea is to send no less than 1 yard of continuous fabric, enough for a little sewing project, and, to make sure that nobody ends up with, as Alex put it, 'some nasty nylon' - cotton only!

2) Only send what you would also love to receive. So no palming off of unloved bits of fabric that you would otherwise stick in the bin! ;-)

3) Include other little presents - sweets, yarn, other crafty things, something you think the other person would like.

4) Suggested spending: around $25 (or around £15) max.

I am still contemplating using Swap-Bot for this, but in a way I would rather not, simply because it would be nice to keep it relatively confined and small... We'll see.

Preview of what's to come on this blog:
1) pictures of the flooding
2) spinning update with pictures
3) Sockapaloooza socks!! They are finally here!

Monday, July 24, 2006

Two Thoughts...

1) People from blogland keep on disappearing - or is it just that they have moved away to other blog sites? Do any of you know what happened to:

The Woolywarbler
Naive Knitting Blog

I always find it worrying when people disappear like that without leaving a trace. It's different from anyone taking a break from blogging (and I have certainly done the same once in a while) - in that case it's temporary and it's often announced on the actual blog, and most important of all, it doesn't make the whole blog disappear! It's disconcerting when that happens. It makes me realise that, no matter how close we feel to other people in this little community, we know very little of each other.

2) On an entirely more happy note - I have been sewing a bit again (nothing to show for yet, as they were all practice projects and little experiments) and it made me wonder if anyone would be interested in a One-Yard-Fabric-Swap? It could be a kind of secret pal swap, only with fabrics, which is not to say that other things can't be included. What do you think?

No hurry if you need to think about it, but if you are generally interested, leave a comment or send me an email at I may check out Swap-Bot to post it or I may keep it on this blog if any of you are interested...

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Another weekend...

Our friends left this morning at 5.23 am (we had to get up at 4.30 am to bring them to the station - yikes!!) and it's quiet here again. The cats are napping close by, and the bean is restless, kicking and moving around so it looks like my belly has developed corners.

Maybe he picks up on my own restlessness. I want to do things, I want to decorate and clean and garden, but D, spooked by the early arrival of a neighour's first child, due to excessive decorating, which I mentioned in the last post, has begged me to sit down and do nothing. It's hard, in particular as this means that now would be the perfect time to do such unpleasant things like work on my next article, due in at the end of the month, or write some thank you cards for our wedding (which by now is almost a year ago and thus provides a rather clear picture of how organised D and I have been!). Sadly, both options sound very unappealing, especially when the bathroom is so close to being finished now. We have painted the walls and right now D is working on the skirting boards. When they are done he can install the bathroom suite and we will FINALLY HAVE A BATHTUB again! Nothing against showers, but I am missing my long lazy baths...

Being chained to a chair by my suddenly overanxious husband (not that I don't share his concerns - considering the state our home is in we can not afford this bean to arrive early!), I have been surfing craft blogs. Such a lot of lovely blogs out there, it's hard to decide which one's I liked best. I seem to be drawn to a number of things: interesting crafts projects (knitting, sewing, or otherwise), inspiring posts, nicely organised blogs which display correctly on the screen and beautiful photography, count among the most prominent features which seem to attract me. Here are a few little discoveries:

Bella Dia
Little Birds
Knitting Wench
A Bird in the Hand
Liquid Paper
Crafting Japanese
Cherry Tomato
While She Naps

Have a look if you have time - there isn't much that is as relaxing as a cup of tea and some inspiring blog reading! ;-)

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Yesterday it was amazingly, suffocatingly, unbearably hot. I am, in general, not a person who minds hot weather. In fact, I relish summer and I'd rather be hot than cold, but yesterday was even too much for me. Apparently temperatures reached 36 degrees Centigrade, but it might as well have been 56. All day I was lusting after a nice cool Caipirinha. I even looked up the recipe, but for obvious reasons I decided not to give in to that particular craving. It would be delicious, though... Hmmm.

It didn't help that we spent a large part of at least the morning in the car, travelling from Yorkshire back to the Midlands. My friend B and her husband, who have been the most amazing guests, but more of that later, wanted to see our old house, and since yesterday they had also planned to travel to London for a few days of sightseeing, we thought we'd shorten their journey by bringing them to the station in the Midlands rather than in York or Doncaster.

Good thought, only such a misfortune we'd picked the probably hottest day of the year for that car journey!

Still, it was nice to be back in the Midlands, if only for one afternoon. I packed a few boxes, attempted to hoover the house, and realised that if I didn't sit down immediately I would most likely pass out. Maybe pregnancy makes me more susceptible to the heat?

In any case, B and C's departure for London went smoothly, just as the rest of their stay so far has been. They were amazing. Sure, they had announced that they would try to help a bit with our house renovation, but I sure did not expect them to clear half the garden AND paint the bathroom! We even had some more help at the weekend, in the shape of one of D's old university mates, who rang up on the Friday and announced that since his girlfriend was working at the weekend (they are both medics), he was planning on coming up to see us for a spot of gardening. Together the three men were an amazing team - a huge area of the garden is now cleared of brambles and they even managed to bring 4 trailer loads of the stuff to the local recycling centre!

This inspired me to do a bit of gardening myself - I try not to do too much, especially since one of our neighbours just had her baby 4 weeks early because she'd been decorating. With the house looking the way it does we can NOT afford an early appearance of the bean!!

Anyway, I added to the few plants which I had already planted in the neglected border next to the kitchen door:

It still looks chaotic, but I'm ridiculously pleased with myself, simply because it looks like someone is living in the house now. It's strange what a difference just a little bit of care makes to the look and feel of a place...

As a thank you to our friends, we took B and C to Bridlington on the Sunday night. I'd never been, and I'm not entirely sure it's my kind of place. It's too much like the stereotypical English seaside resort, with amusement arcades, fun fairs, and lots of beer-swilling, beer-gutted guys in shorts... Still, for a visit it was fun, and we had a lovely dinner of fish and chips and ice cream. Hmmmm!

On Monday poor D had to work again, so I took our friends to York for a day out. It was already rather suffocatingly hot, so we opted for a leisurely day of shopping rather than a big sightseeing tour. I only showed them the Minster, because even if you don't do any sightseeing I think it's a necessity to at least have a peak into this amazing old building, and then I took them along The Shambles, were we spent an enjoyable hour in the Earl Grey Tea Rooms.

I also managed to sneak into the yarn shop there - Sheepish - which I had looked up a while ago when we started thinking about moving here. It's the cutest little shop and the owner was lovely. Of course I couldn't resist buying something, so I treated myself to this:

I've been meaning to buy this for some time now, mainly because I want to make Butterfly, but there are quite a few patterns in there that I quite like.

And last, but certainly not less importantly because of it, look what arrived on Tuesday in the post:

It's a pair of the cutest little baby socks for the bean, plus a lovely postcard, all from the amazing Sherrill over at Baa Bonny Belle. Thank you Sherrill, the socks are beautiful!!