Thursday, September 01, 2016

FOs and WIPs and such... A Year of Projects...

... Well, in my case more like half a year of projects. Not that I have that much to show for.

I have, however, steadily been working on and I do in fact have one FO. It's been a FO for some time now, but I never got round to posting about it. It's the Scheepjes CAL Dancing in the Rain blanket. I joined the CAL on Facebook and, apart from a few lapses, kept up with the pattern pieces pretty well. Some were tricky, others were not favourites in the making, but mostly they were fun to make, and always challenged my crocheting skills. It's been good to make this blanket, yes, and it's very rewarding to see it used by the boys every day. They really do love their blankets. The first thing they said when we got to our flat when we went on holiday a few weeks ago was 'but there are no blankets on the sofa!!'. I think my enduring love of blankets may be to blame. Clearly it's rubbed off on them...

Anyway, here we go - 'Dancing in the Rain', all complete and such:

The yarn is acrylic, which, considering the near-constant use this blanket is receiving, is probably an excellent thing, and after some initial teething problems I actually got on with it very well. There was a significantly more expensive Merino option for the kit, but I'm glad I stuck with the acrylic - it's soft, and light, and the blanket feels very snuggly.

I'm also slowly making progress on two projects that I've had on the needles for ages - Black Acer, and the Boneyard Shawl. 

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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Photo Challenge, Life Challenge... - Life, Photography, and the Rest...

Photo Challenge 
Day #5 - 'After Dark'
-- in my case, 'At Dusk, in the Garden' --

So it turns out that I'm also not so good with prompts. Or at least not all of the time. Some of the prompts for my personal photography challenge worked well, but others leave me somewhat uninspired. Others still are difficult for me to achieve because they don't fit in well with how this family works. So I rarely traipse around outside after dark, because, quite frankly, I'm totally exhausted and planted firmly on the sofa long before it even GETS dark this time of the year, and the last thing I want to do is head back out there to experiment with nighttime photography.

I'm not ready to throw in the towel, though, because the prompts do give me a way of thinking more about photography again, of using my camera in more experimental ways. It prompts me to look around me more again, and this is something I've been doing far too little these past few months. It's soothing to get out there again, to look around me, and to see the world afresh.

The last few months - heck, the entire year so far - have been difficult. I don't often write about much of a serious nature on this blog, partly because it's public of course, but also because that's just not quite how I use the blog - it's not what it's for. I use it to think about the good things, the fun things, the things that keep me sane, so I don't tend to bring the things that are more difficult into it very often.

But goodness, life just doesn't let up at the moment. There is work, of course, but it's mainly been on the home front that the real challenges lie. Boy #1 has been ill so much in recent months. Nobody quite knows what it is, although a range of blood tests were able to rule out all of the really sinister stuff. The consultant at the children's hospital we were referred to thinks it's M.E (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), which, for a normally very energetic and active little lad, would be pretty devastating. Reading up on the symptoms he is ticking rather a lot of the boxes, though, so it's certainly looking plausible. Needless to say, this worry has occupied a lot of our time in recent months and continues to do so.

In addition to that boy #2 has recently had a diagnosis for Aspergers. It's been long in coming, and we've known for some time that there were things (mainly on the social interaction side) that he was struggling with, so it's not really a surprise but rather a relief that it's confirmed, but again, this has taken, and will continue to take, a lot of our time while we figure out how to best support him.

It hasn't helped in recent weeks that both boy #2 and boy #3 have constantly been low-level unwell with sore throats and general lack of energy. I've been fearing that they were developing the same symptoms that boy #1 is exhibiting with the ME, but it turns out that it's actually a latent case of tonsillitis -  they had a swab and it's been confirmed. I had no idea that this could happen (had associated tonsillitis with raging fever and unbearable throat pain), so both are now on antibiotics. At this point I'm just relieved it's a *something* and it certainly goes a long way in explaining why the past few weeks have been extra special tough around here!!

Wow, what a whingy post! See what I mean when I say I don't like to bring this stuff into the blog? I am still crafting, I promise. Right now I'm struggling to find time to take pictures of WIPs and FOs so that has been delaying my blogging. The weather is good today so I may find some time (and good light) to drag some of the projects out for their photo shoot. :)

I'll leave you with another couple of prompts from the photo challenge:

Day #4 - 'Something Green'

Day #11 - 'Something Blue'

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Photography Challenge Day #3 - Clouds

We spent the day today at the Yorkshire Wildlife Park. Such a good day out, even if most of the animals appeared to be asleep - I can relate to that, I spend a lot of the time wishing I could have a nap. ;)

The theme for today was 'Clouds' but there weren't any particularly spectacular clouds and the sky overall seemed a rather uninteresting pale grey/blue. Still, the lioness was impressive, and some retrospectively added filters helped the sky along. :) 

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Photography Challenge Day #2 - What You Wore

Out with boy #1 today, catching Pokemon, when I remembered that I needed to think about 'What You Wore'... Now, with a bit more time I could have dug up all sorts of "interesting" clothes that I used to wear, but as it is you get a picture of my flipflops! 

I've been wearing them all summer and they are just... perfect! I bought them on a whim, online, because they have moulded orthopaedic soles. My feet, you see, are utterly terrible, collapsed arches and bunions and everything. I'm basically like a duck, waddling along flat-footed. This means that these flipflops, with their arch support, are soooo comfortable. I swear, if they ever break I'll have to order another pair immediately. 

Anyway, there you go - Day #2 complete! 

Friday, August 19, 2016

Friday 19th August is World Photography Day

... or so Facebook told me this morning.

I had no idea previously, but thought it was as good a reason as any to challenge myself to take more pictures and to blog more again. 

With that in mind I've decided to do a 30-day photography challenge. It's an old one, originally from THIS WEBSITE, so I'm not joining any big internet (or real-life) event - this one is just for me (or you, if you care to join me).

Every day I will post a picture inspired by the theme for the day - sometimes I may write a few words to provide context, other times it might be just the picture, but I think it will be a good way to push myself a bit, and also to re-discover good blogging habits because, let's face it, my blogging has been rubbish ever since Christmas!!

So here we go, this is the list: 

Today's challenge is a self-portrait. 

I haven't had much time today because it's of course the summer break and I've had boys at home, and also doctor appointments for boy#1, who's not been too well recently, so I just snapped a quick picture earlier, before I had to rush out to the first appointment. 

Me, today, no make-up, clearly no hairbrush has touched my hair, taken with a Sony Alpha 58 and a 50 mm / 1.8 SAM prime lens.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Oh what a week...

Oh my, the work just doesn't let up. 

Here I am, on a Bank Holiday weekend, on a Sunday morning, sitting at my laptop, preparing a lecture on the Netflix and the Post-Television environment. It's interesting stuff, but I'd still rather do something else on a Sunday.

It's been quite the week, to be honest. There has been work, of course, and hospital appointments, and pottery, but undoubtedly most exciting is the arrival of Betty:

Isn't she a beauty? 

For ages I used to drive past a little pottery workshop on my way to work. Every time I thought 'one day I'll stop and have a look', but of course I never did. Then, one day, a 'For Sale' sign went up on the house, and, well, I might have panicked a bit, because I HADN'T YET HAD A CHANCE TO LOOK AT ALL THE POTTERY! 

D suggested that I just drive there, not on my way to work, when I'm always too busy to stop, and knock on the door, and well, that's exactly what I did, and let me tell you, I'm so glad I did!

It turned out that the workshop was not currently seeing a lot of use, because S., the potter, had had quite a rough few years, with a few close family losses. Because of that she hadn't done much pottery, and now she was downsizing and moving house. As we were chatting she revealed that she was quite anxious about what to do with her two kilns. Kilns are heavy (very heavy) things, and she wasn't sure who'd take them away for her. She also didn't have room for them in the new workshop she was getting ready, so she wanted to be rid of them.

To keep the story short, she offered me both kilns FOR FREE, as long as I was prepared to have them removed from her workshop. I was speechless.

In the end I convinced L. the potter who runs the pottery classes I attend, to take the gas kiln, which I thought was beyond my capabilities, and I decided to keep Betty, who is an electric kiln. 

So far so good, but as it turns out, getting kilns moved anywhere beyond a few inches is really not an easy thing to organise. Kilns are not only heavy, but fragile - they have brittle fire bricks inside, and they can't be tipped onto their side. The drive leading to the workshop was fairly steep, and made of gravel, both not things that are fantastic for pallet trucks. There were trees overhanging the drive - not great for lorries. 

It took me quite a few weeks to find a local company who was brave enough to take the job on, and let me tell you, getting them out of that workshop, and getting Betty unloaded and into my workshop at home was high drama. Initially two guys turned up with a lorry and a pallet truck, but they had to admit defeat and call in help. In the end it took four men and the pallet truck to shift the kilns out of the workshop and onto the lorry and to unload Betty at our end. Apparently unloading the gas kiln at L's was far less dramatic so I'm sure the poor removal guys were very relieved. 

They did a fantastic job though, and, throughout the ordeal didn't lose their cool or their good humour. If I ever have any other unwieldy items to move I will definitely contact them again! 

Betty needs a bit of work, and she also isn't connected yet. If I get a chance I'll try to get an electrician to connect her up sometime next week, but really, I'm just glad that the move went OK and she is safely tucked up in the workshop. :)

In other news, I've been crocheting a bit. The CAL has started and unlike some other CALs I've taken part in over the years this one has quite a comfortable pace. There are four squares to complete each week, which, despite my crazy workload at the moment, has been just about achievable. It's quite fun so far. :)  

Not the greatest picture and the colours are a bit off, but it's a grey day today so the light isn't fantastic for taking pictures...

Close up of Week One - popcorn stitches

Close-up of Week Two - star stitches (I loved these - so much fun, and the resulting texture is lovely!)

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Sunday, April 17, 2016

Just pottering about...

Weekends are just great, aren't they?

We have a ritual here, which starts with coffee and biscuits, while the boys are allowed to watch a programme or two on the laptop, all tucked up together in bed. We usually have a cat or two in there with us too, but the more the merrier! ;)

Weekends are for doing nothing much, for enjoying each other's company, for playing, for pottering... Of course there are things that need to get done (like the laundry - though I have occasionally forgotten about that, which gets a bit awkward on Monday morning when you realise that the school uniforms are non-too-clean...), but most of all it's for doing whatever you think is fun.

This weekend we spent some time allotmenting (I had some fruit bushes to plant), and since the weather was good we also played in the garden quite a bit. I also practiced a bit on my concertina. I'm still very much a beginner, but D managed to accompany me on the Banjo for 'Danny Boy', so that is a minor success. It didn't even sound completely awful! 

Most of all, though, I played with clay. After being so busy for so many weeks it was such a joy to spend a few hours pottering. I made a few houses (a commission for a friend), and then continued right on and made some more. 

And last but not least, I managed to plant up this little fella. 

Isn't his new haircut fetching? So trendy... ;)

He was a bit of an experiment, and because of that he isn't at all tidy. As I was planing I managed to break one of his legs off. Oops! 

I like him, though, and as a proto-type he works well. There will be more like him, I think.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Spring is here...

... and I'm back (I think).

Goodness me, that was a long hiatus. And I hadn't even planned on having one! Honestly, it just happened. 

Coming up to Christmas I was so busy, and then we had family over, and after that it was the New Year and I just kept on being really busy. My teaching resumed after the sabbatical that I'd had in the autumn, and then all the little ones were ill, and so were D and I, and well, I think you get the picture.

For a while there I was so busy that I had no time for crafting. None whatsoever.

Fortunately I'm back on a more even keel now and I have, ever so slowly, found my way back to all my projects. There are still a lot of WIPs around here from last autumn, I can tell you that, but I think my crafting mojo is coming back. A mum I know persuaded me to join in a blanket CAL - The Scheepjes CAL for Last Dance on the Beach, which is in memory of the late Marinke Slum, or Wink from the A Creative Being blog . You have to buy the yarn kit from Scheepjes, but the yarn is nice and the kit isn't too expensive, and some of the money will go to a mental health charity, so it's for a good cause. My box of yarn arrived a few days ago - there were three colour combinations to choose from. Since I have a lot of very bright-coloured blankets I went with the most neutral option - Dance in the Rain:

 Unfortunately the box of yarn has already been claimed as a cat bed. I may have a fight on my hands when I come to start the blanket...

In preparation for the CAL I felt that I should at least put one of my crochet blanket projects to bed so I focussed on the Weekender blanket that I had started oh so many months ago. After frantically crocheting and sewing on hexagons for a couple of weeks the blanket is finished. I added a thin dc border to finish it off and it's already in constant use by the boys, who love to snuggle up in the blankets on the sofa. I'm pleased with it, even though it's not a stylish project (a lot of waste yarn went in there, so there is no real colour scheme at all), but if I never crochet a hexagon again it won't be too soon. Honestly, I was so sick of them by the time I finally finished the last one!

Right now I am trying to make some progress on the Spice of Life blanket, also sadly neglected for months now. The new CAL starts on 20th April so I have little hope of finishing the blanket before then, but it would be nice to add a few inches so I can feel that I'm a bit closer to the finish line than before!

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