Friday, January 30, 2015

Plan and Do

How quickly the beginning of this year has whizzed by! January is nearly at its end and I am only now  getting round to contemplating the upcoming months.

I've thought long and hard about what my word for the year ought to be. So many came to mind, and reading about other people's thoughts and their chosen words proved inspiring yet in many ways not helpful (so many worthy and inspiring thoughts!!). 

But looking at the year ahead (and all those things I am aiming to achieve this year!!) and my particular disposition I think it ought to have been obvious what I need my word to be - it's plan, or rather, plan and do, because I think the two of them need to go together to actually lead to anything. 

I'm not naturally an organised person and I'm prone to a fair bit of procrastination too. I have got better since having children, because with children, if you don't get your organisation skills on to some extent, things will come unstuck very quickly, but there are days when it's a real struggle, and it's led to a string of last-minute-panics, missed appointments, and no end of rushing around. These are not good things in anyone's life. 

I have a lot of things to achieve this year, and I'd like to approach them in a mindful and organised manner rather than rushing into them in a headless way. I'll feel better for it, and so will my family.

With that in mind, a few things I'd like to start doing more:
1) pay bills when they come in
2) plan the week in advance (this includes work, childcare, playdates, but also weekday meals for example)
3) pack lunch for work (so much better and also cheaper than the cafeteria)
4) bake and freeze breakfast muffins. I'm thinking of these:
Breakfast Muffins
Raisin Bran Muffins
Banana Oatmeal Muffins
French Toast Muffins
Healthy Happy Banana Muffins
or possibly these:
Breakfast Balls

And for lunch...
I love cornbread, but perhaps I might also try these:
Jalapeno Cornbread Muffins

How did this plan and do post turn into a muffin post? Although if you squint a little I suppose the two are related...

Shared with:
Creative Friday

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

WIP Wednesday and A Year of Projects Update...

It's time for another WIP update - how quickly time passes. So much to do, so little time!

I've been busy this week. Term is about to start and everyone is trying to squeeze one last meeting in before teaching starts. Add to that the usual prep work that precedes teaching and there's just not been enough time in the day! 

That said, I have been knitting. Although I've toted my knitting everywhere it's usually been an evening activity, but even so I have managed to make inroads into both Owls and the V-neck. I'm kind of enjoying them both - what one project has in looks (I love the way Owls knits up) the other has in softness (that GGH might not look like much but it's buttery soft - the oatmeal wool I'm using for Owls isn't!). 

Owls is a very quick knit - if you want to finish a project quickly then 6 mm needles really are the way forward. I've managed to damage my needles, though - they weren't very good quality to start with, and the plastic of the cable is cracking where it's joint to the bamboo of the needles. I'll have to buy some new ones - that'll slow me down a bit...

Good thing then that I have the V-Neck Raglan to knit while I'm waiting for my needle replacement. I love the top-down raglan construction, so clever, and you can even try it on as you go along. Good job I did too, because that way I realised that I needed a bit more room under the arms and was able to make three more stitches as I joined the sides to start knitting in the round. It fits much more comfortably now. 

I think I might be a tad short on wool though because I suspect that some of those balls of GGH weren't complete. I'm planning on 2-coloured sleeves to make sure. I'll knit brown until about t-shirt length (from the top), then continue on in an accent colour. To tie it in more I'll add a row of that colour around the neck and possibly also do a couple of thin stripes at the bottom of the jumper... That ways I won't have to worry all the time that I might run out of yarn, and it might also break up the unrelenting brown-ness of this jumper a bit. I'm thinking of either some orange or some muted turquoise from stash... What do you think?

I think I'm at about the same stage with both projects, even though one is from the bottom up and the other from the top down - both are at around waist-height right now. :)

As for reading - not much time for that this week I'm afraid. I'm currently finishing up The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton, though, which D and I have been reading together at night. 

This is the blurb from Amazon: 
"It is 1866, and Walter Moody has come to make his fortune upon the New Zealand goldfields. On arrival, he stumbles across a tense gathering of twelve local men, who have met in secret to discuss a series of unsolved crimes. A wealthy man has vanished, a whore has tried to end her life, and an enormous fortune has been discovered in the home of a luckless drunk. Moody is soon drawn into the mystery: a network of fates and fortunes that is as complex and exquisitely patterned as the night sky. The Luminaries is an extraordinary piece of fiction. It is full of narrative, linguistic and psychological pleasures, and has a fiendishly clever and original structuring device. Written in pitch-perfect historical register, richly evoking a mid-19th century world of shipping and banking and goldrush boom and bust, it is also a ghost story, and a gripping mystery. It is a thrilling achievement and will confirm for critics and readers that Catton is one of the brightest stars in the international writing firmament."

It's a strange kind of novel, beautifully written, and observant, with lovely character portrayals and capturing that strange frontier feel of the New Zealand goldfields in a way that brings it alive,  but also at times quite convoluted and ponderous. I have enjoyed it but it's not as gripping as many other books I've read. We have around 50 pages left, so things are now coming to a head and many of the  backstories are revealed, and we are picking up our pace a bit as we become more curious if all those mysteries will be explained or not. 

And last but not least, I thought it was time I consulted my A Year of Projects list once more. This is how things look at the moment:

On the needles:

On the List: 
Shalom cardi (Yarn: Olive wool/cashmere blend)
Liesl (Yarn: orange and yellow handspun)
Dietrich (Yarn: sock-weight feltable yarn from stash)
Sideways Grande Cloche (Yarn: Single skein purple Cascade)

Finished Projects

Shared with:

Sunday, January 25, 2015


Another weekend draws to a close. Boy #3 had his first ever swimming lesson on Saturday. The boys were ridiculously excited and wound him up no end. Of course, after all that excitement, the reality didn't quite deliver. He went into the pool just fine, but lost his nerve half-way through and started crying for Mummy... I went to sit by the pool, which I am not sure, retrospectively, was such a bright idea because it really didn't help him pull himself together, but in the end he did manage to stay with the lesson until it was almost finished. 

He got cuddles and praise afterwards, which immediately cheered him up, as did the fact that the was wrapped in a warm towel - he hasn't quite understood the link between staying active and staying warm in the water yet, but his brothers made sure to explain to him that he needs to 'keep bouncing and kicking to keep warm'. :)   We'll see how the next lesson goes - that evening boy #3 was sure to point out to me that he is 'still little' (as opposed to being a 'big boy', which is how he usually perceives himself!) and that he has now learnt to swim anyway, thereby eradicating the need for a repeat visit to the pool.  I've promised him some cool new goggles for the next lesson... 

Upon arriving back home I felt the rare need to bake, so I made some shortbread, which was received with some enthusiasm by the family. D played his banjo, and that's how we spent the rest of our Saturday - playing, knitting, eating shortbread, and listening to D play. Good times. :) 

Sunday we had one of our 'grandma days' - after a leisurely breakfast and some much-needed haircuts for the boys (I wonder when they'll start objecting to me cutting their hair...) they went to grandma for a fun-filled day while D and I got some time to ourselves to recharge. D went into the shed to build another banjo and I divided my time between some weeding and onion-planting at the allotment  (so peaceful and calm this time of year - I really enjoy being out and spending time there getting the plot ready) and painting. My 'red canvas' is morphing into something quite different to what I'd initially intended it to be, but isn't part of what makes painting fun to go with the flow and let yourself be surprised by the results? 

Hope you all had a relaxing weekend too! 

Friday, January 23, 2015

FO Friday - Green Ink Flare

Yes, two FOs in a week! First the Lombard Street Socks, and now Ink Flare

Ink Flare, after being a really quick and straight-forward knit, actually caused quite a bit of high drama at the end. I finished the body and the sleeves very quickly - all in all it can't have taken much more than a week - and I was equally quick to assemble the jumper and sew the sleeves on. I then grabbed my crochet hook and set to crocheting the hem, and that's when all the trouble started.

I'd decided to forego the garter hems at the sleeves. The plan was to hem with a crochet chain instead.. Having done it I realised that the end result was... odd-looking. The yarn is so stretchy that the crochet border, even when done very loosely, kind of drew the knitted fabric together in a way that didn't suit the jumper at all. 

So the crochet border was unpicked. Now the sleeves rolled up slightly - much better.

I then went on to crochet the neckline. This turned out to be much more of a problem than the sleeves. Even without the crochet border I'd already had the suspicion that perhaps the neckline is too high / narrow for this type of jumper. I don't mean that there is a flaw with the pattern - it worked just fine for my purple Ink Flare for example - but that for this type of yarn, and this type of open, airy fabric, the neckline needs to be particularly open and slouchy to pull the project together. See, even while I got the correct gauge, the open fabric stretches quite a bit and makes this a very casual knit, wide in the body and the sleeves, and the neckline, I think, needs to reflect that slouchy look. As it was, the neck looked like the only fitted thing on the jumper, making the whole lot appear like it was oversized with only the neckline done to the correct sizing - not a great look! 

So I unpicked the crochet, then tried it on again. While this was better, the neck was still too tight. This is where it got messy. Being the lazy thing I am, I didn't then, like a good girl, decided to de-assemble the jumper to carefully unpick the tops of all the pieces. Nooooo, not me! Instead I decided to do it while it was all still hanging together. 


You can imagine how that went... 

It didn't help that a) the yarn had sort of tangled and didn't particularly wanted to be ripped (it is mohair, after all) and b) that I had already sewn some of the ends in, meaning that I had to unpick as a I went along... 

Great idea, that was... 

I undid what I think was about three rows, then crocheted that border on again, using the leftover yarn from the unpicking (that was another bad choice because there was never enough of it so I had several joins). I cast off, then tried it on. 

Nope, the cast-off, despite  being very loose, was still too tight and bunched the fabric up. More ripping, followed by another, ultra-loose cast-off. Then I crocheted a very very loose crochet chain to finish the now rather messy-looking neckline off more neatly. Tried it on again.

Nope, still not right - the crochet border, once again, pulled the fabric together in a way that made it bunch up. This was quite amazing to me because you can't imagine how loosely I did the crochet border - the loops were HUGE!

So the crochet was ripped once again. Assessing the situation I then decided that I was going to have to go with the flow and just leave that slightly unsightly unfinished border as it was, because at least it meant that the neckline sizing was right. 

I tidied up the sewing where the sleeves attach to the body of the jumper - this looked pretty messy by now but not much I could do about it, and then stuck the whole project in the wash in the hope of levelling out the neckline a little by blocking it. 

Some blocking was required, and it's still not perfect, but hey, the rolling hems do help to hide the unsightly bits!! 

But you know what? I love it.

It's been some journey, this last bit of knitting Ink Flare, but I love the end result. Yes, to the discerning knitter the problems around the neckline and the messy sewing which resulted from the repeated ripping are fairly obvious, but the jumper is cuddly and so so soft, and I do actually quite like how it fits now. The boys like it too - boy #2 has already announced that he wants me to knit a jumper for him now. I'm only too happy to oblige! :) 

Shared with:

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

WIP Wednesday update

I'm on a roll, people, I'm on a roll!

I finally finished my Lombard Street Socks a few days ago. It took some effort to think myself back into that pattern, and as a consequence I think one of my heel flaps is a little too long and also has one error in it - the pattern alternates rows of s1k1 and k1s1 to create the effect of not ribbing but a kind of checkered, textured fabric. Just as I was picking the project up again I must have got it wrong once, because there is definitely a row of ribbing in there. I don't really care, though, because the socks are comfy and I love the muted grey, which makes them so very wearable, even to work. 

The pattern was lovely - easy to memorise lace pattern and clear instructions.

Pattern alterations
I knit my socks on a circular needle and altered the pattern to that effect. This means that I got a bit confused when the instructions asked for needle 2 or 4 and picked up the lace pattern at a different place after turning the heel. I realise that this was to make sure that the lace pattern sits at a particular place on the foot, but I decided to follow my own instinct and just continued the lace pattern on as was, using the starting point at the cuff as the beginning of my row. I also did the toe without really consulting the pattern. 

I'm so thrilled to have finally finished these and with these and, all the socks from Godi, I have some very very happy feet this winter!

Up and on to WIPs...

I've started another jumper. It's on my list for the year, and it's from stash, so it's all good. It's Owls, which is such a pretty pattern. I'm using some of my no-name wool/cashmere blend. It's an odd sort of yarn - I bought it as Aran weight but it's closer to bulky, which makes it ideal for this project, and it's spun as a slightly uneven single. It's supposedly a cashmere blend but so far it's not at all soft. It's definitely wool, because you can feel (and smell) the lanolin in it - there is a lot of that still in there, so I imagine that after washing this yarn will fluff up quite a bit. I'm kind of curious how it's going to turn out to be honest, because this yarn is such a mystery. I do like the colour though, and I think it's going to be perfect for Owls. 

I'm also finally working up the courage to pick up the Easy V-Neck again. I've moaned about this yarn before - it's that sub-standard mottled brown GGH Savanna yarn that I picked up ages ago and never managed to find a project for. I'm not having high hopes for this jumper because I just can't imagine that the yarn is going to suddenly turn into anything stunning once it's knitted up, but I'm envisioning a warm and cuddly winter walk / allotment / cold day at the office kind of jumper, which, after all, is nothing to sneer at either! :)

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A day out in wintery Hull...

A bit after Christmas but before work kicked off again, in that moment between, when everything is calm and you take stock of the things that were and the things that are to come, D and I took a sneaky half day to ourselves. The boys were delivered to grandma and we took ourselves off to Hull, which is the city closest to where we live. Hull has a bad reputation. It was bombed heavily during WW2 and even without that it's not a pretty place, it's not ornamental. Instead of dolls house aesthetics, what you get is a working harbour with all the grittiness that comes with that. It has it's own charm, and in the years that we've lived in this region, Hull as a city, and Hull as a mentality, have grown very dear to me. 

There are pockets of beauty here, moments of poetry, among the honest and rough physicality of the place - what other city can pride itself of a street with the lyrical name 'Land of Green Ginger'? There are places in flux here, like the old Fruit Market, which is about to be redeveloped and will supposedly become a community of arts and crafts and little cafes and restaurants, and there is always the contrast of old and new, destruction and renewal, all placed in front of the backdrop of the sea and the muddy waters of the Humber estuary. 

The day we spent in Hull was crisp and cold. We were going to have a meal somewhere, but the restaurant we had in mind was closed. Instead we walked and we looked and enjoyed having the time to just be. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Liebster Award

Ages ago now, Ayarnyrobin was kind enough to nominate me for the Liebster Award. I was going to do it straight away, because I like the idea of the award as introducing you to new blogs, but then Christmas happened, and then I had the op, and well, it kept sitting there, half-finished. 

The Liebster Award is an online award that is passed along from blogger to blogger in the hopes of promoting new and aspiring bloggers with less than 200 followers. The rules differ a bit from blog to blog - I got mine from Ayarnyrobin's blog so I'm sticking with what she's done:

1) Thank the person who nominated you with a link to their blog
2) Display the Liebster Award button in your post
3) Answer the questions you are given
4) Nominate up to 10 other bloggers with up to 200 followers and inform them by commenting on their blog or contacting them
5) Write 10 questions for the bloggers you have nominated

I am nominating: 

No pressure, obviously, but if you feel like it I'd love to read your responses. I also don't have any way of knowing whether you have over 200 followers or not, so if you do I don't really mind and I'll leave it up to you if you still want to participate or not. :)

Your questions are:
1) What is your favourite pasttime?
2) Who taught you to knit/crochet/craft?
3) Indoors or outdoors?
4) Have you been abroad? Name to countries you've been to.
5) How do you approach your day? 
6) Given the chance to have things exactly as you'd like, what would you change?
7) Name 5 things you are looking forward to today
8) Old our new, which do you prefer and why?
9) Summer or winter? 
10) Share your favourite recipe. 

These are the questions that Ayarnyrobin posted: 

1. If you could have a shop what would you sell?

I've always dreamed of a book and crafts shop with an adjoining cafe and the facilities to screen films in a small venue - so basically a mini arts centre. I think if I didn't have (and love) my day job I'd probably look into ways of making this a reality. 

2. What is the meaning of your name?

Iris is a flower, a part of the eye, and also the name of the messenger of the gods in Greek mythology. 

3.What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

When I was little, my mother told me that being different is not a bad thing and that I should take pride in not being like everyone else.  Growing up I didn't always appreciate it (what kid does...) but the advice got stuck nonetheless and has helped me over the years to feel comfortable in my own skin. 

4. Margarita or Pina colada?

Pina colada - there is a wealth of memories attached to that drink for me! ;)  

5. If you had a super power what would it be?

This is quite a tricky question. I think I'd choose photographic memory, though - can you imagine how useful it would be to never have to look anything up again and again?

6. What is your favourite book?

I have several, but two books that have really remained with me over time are Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go and Jamrach's Menagerie by Carol Birch. Although not at all similar, they are both beautifully written, haunting books that flow in an almost lyrical dream-like way. 

7. win the lottery or work your perfect job?

I think I am basically working my perfect job, but I wouldn't say no to a lottery win anyway, lol! I don't think I'd quit my job, but it would be nice to not have to think about budgets all the time. 

8. Do you have a favourite quote?

No, not really, although at times there are quotes that seem very appropriate at a particular moment in time. So recently this has been Ernest Hemingway - "Write hard and clear about what hurts" ... don't ask...  ;)  

9. what sound do you love?

The sound of the boys talking and playing with each other when they don't know we can hear them. The sound of heavy rain when I'm safe and warm inside. 

10. tell us what your happy song is?

Oh dear, is this where I reveal my strange taste in music? ;)  To be honest, I have several happy songs, depending on my mood, but one song recently that has always made me happy when I've heard it on the radio is Twenty Seven by Passenger. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Out of the house...

Today was the first day that I left the house since the tonsillectomy. I was getting increasingly cooped up and by this weekend I was a little stir-crazy. I love being in the house, don't get me wrong, and especially in the cold months I tend to go into a state of semi-hibernation (if and when I can), but not being able to leave the house is a different thing entirely, and I can't actually remember the last time I've spent a whole week and a bit in the house without leaving it and connecting with the outside world. 

So it was particularly precious to me that today was a fair day, cold and crisp and sunny, and since frosty means that going to the allotment for weeding and digging is pretty much pointless we decided to go to the Kilnwick Percy Buddhist centre instead. We are not Buddhists, but the centre is lovely and peacful. It's located in a stately home, Kilnwick Percy Hall, which is very old (it appears in the Doomsday book, which I find geekily exciting). I have no idea how exactly it became a Buddhist centre, but the Hall has had a long and varied history. You can read more about Kilnwick Percy Hall here and about the Hall and the Buddhist centre there here if you are interested. 

In any case, it's a beautiful place. There are extensive grounds, that you can walk, a lake with a plank walk around it, and an old Norman church which isn't used anymore. It's mainly boarded up, but you can peek inside through one of the doors. It's all quite gothic with the old gravestones leaning at odd angles, and sad too when you start reading the inscriptions on the stones. 

We didn't go around the church today, but we walked through the grounds and down to the lake and then went into the little cafe at the Hall, which bears the grand name 'World Peace Cafe'. It's a cozy little place with a big wood burning stove and just 5 or 6 tables. They serve tea and coffee and home-made cakes and scones, and they have soup and some small luncheon things. There is a box of bricks and jenga for kids to play with. 

Coming back home we lit the fire and spent the late afternoon cozy and together. 

And to top it all - looking out of the window now I can see it's snowing! :)