Friday, 31 December 2010

It was, of course, inevitable.

If I were a paranoid person I'd be getting suspicious about now.

Yes, we were given a packet of Marks and Sparks cupcakes. They are very pretty, and they taste okay. But they're just little cakey things aren't they?

Anyway never mind that. I am excited! And also feeling faintly guilty. I have ordered a new compact camera. Now I am lucky enough to have a really nice DSLR thanks to a bonus MrBorg got at work a while back - and it's brilliant (and actually I really should get the manual out and learn some more of its technicalities) but heavy. My five-year-old Kodak compact which I carried everywhere as my everyday camera finally gave up the ghost a few months ago. I took it to a place to see if it was fixable but unfortunately they said it would cost more than the cost of a new one to fix! And I was quite sad about this as it was a cracking wee camera that took a lot of abuse one way and another and had charted the adventures of the Boy since his nappy days, as well as covering the arrival of Miss Mouse. It did its duty alright. MrBorg took the opportunity to have a look at its innards - actually I was curious too.

There you go.

But after much searching through Amazon, various photographic review sites and so on, I managed to find something. This was very stressful - I got totally wound up with the details. Which is silly because my old camera being 5 years old, just about anything new I get is bound to be of higher spec than the old one. But anyway, it's on its way. I don't know when it'll get here but I'm hugging that Calvin-waiting-for-his-beanie feeling to me just now knowing it's on its way. I'm so excited. I hope I like it. I hope it likes me.

It's a quarter to midnight now and I have a 'hello from last year' e-mail to send to New Zealand, so Happy New Year faithful reader(s)!

Monday, 27 December 2010

The Cult of the Cupcake

I freely admit I don't get the cupcake thing at the moment. Cooking sections of bookshops full of surprisingly thick books on baking pastel-iced confections. Not to mention cupcake themed curtains and bedding (because that'll tackle childhood obesity so well..). How many variations of a cupcake can there actually be anyway? To me cupcakes (or fairy cakes actually, I've never called them cupcakes in my life, even though fairy cakes should be the ones with the wings on top) are something I make with the kids when I'm feeling like an uber-mummy. It passes some time, we have fun with adding lurid food-colouring to the icing and scattering on sprinkles of various types. The results are just about edible. But it's not a wildly enriching lifestyle thingy. I'm probably missing the point.

I like to bake though. Oh yes. On the whole I'm not madly keen on cake, it has to be said - a decent chocolate cake, yes; intensely darkly fruity and alcoholic Christmas cake, yes. But I like the process of baking a cake and I have favourite recipes.

Last week I was in my local supermarket trying to get various bits and pieces for the Christmas cake - glycerine and blue food colouring for the royal icing (a tiny drop of it in the icing prevents it looking yellowy) and one of those shiny cake board things available in various festive colours for putting the cake on. Normal enough baking requirements I'd have thought. But I couldn't get them - no food colouring at all that I could see, only pre-coloured icing-tubes. No glycerine. And no cake-boards (or whatever the correct name is). There were however umpty-squillion pots of gloopy 'frosting' (ideal for cupcakes!) and cardboard 2-tiered slot-together cake stands in pastel colours though. Oh goody.

Fortunately one of Mr Borg's colleagues suggested a local shop I always forget about - one that sells fancy-dress stuff, craft things and, it turns out, 'cake stuff'. So I went to have a look and came back with a silver cake-board and some splendidly retro Christmas cake decorations:

Remember the Babycham ads from a million years ago?

And, it being a bit of a Tardis-like Aladdin's cave of cool stuff, there were some other bits and pieces I couldn't resist for the wreath that actually I haven't got round to making but never mind that.

So, despite the best attempts of the Cupcake Cultists in charge of stock at my local supermarket, I has a Christmas cake. And mmm, it's rich..


Sunday, 12 December 2010


I'm posting this quickly because Cat1, Toby, is showing an interest in the tree now (it's been up about 4 hours) and it'll likely be wrecked by morning! Actually the other one's poking around it now too. But for a few hours it looked gorgeous!

I usually get a couple of new tree decorations each year - Miss Mouse chose this one.

We haven't got the metres and metres of paperchains up yet - I've put the drawing-pins somewhere sensible and can't find them.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Colour Fail

Well, there's blue. Ice-blue. Lots of. Or as my daughter would say 'lotsen' (as in 'lotsen lotsen toys'). I couldn't even photograph my knitting 'cos I was knitting snowman and polar bear tree decorations!

But but but there's also.. mildly comedic cat moment!

What was going though his head?

I don't know if I've ever mentioned this but I'm fascinated by snow-flakes and ice-crystals and today I got some cracking pictures of them. This one is of ice-crystals on my wheelie-bin - how mundane, but how beautiful :-D.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Splash of Colour: Paper chains

For the first time in years I made paper-chains. My Beloved was working from home and the school was shut so I was trying to keep the kids occupied without disturbing him. So I found a whole lot of coloured paper and we got to work. See how organised my mind is? No random pile of paper strips for me, oh no!

Some of the paper was patterned and the kids decorated some of the plain strips too to liven them up a bit.

We've already put one chain up in the Boy's room, Miss Mouse wants hers hung up in the living-room and I've made another chain for the living-room so the place will start to look quite festive.

I'm loving the results! I always liked making paper chains in primary school but we used gummed paper strips in weirdly un-festive colours (mustard, dark red, brown - yeah, it was the 70s but come on!) so these look brilliantly cheerful. Schools and nurseries are all closed again tomorrow according to the council's Twitter account* so by tomorrow night I may be surrounded by paper chains!

For the truly un-colourful outside pics see my picture-a-day blog.

* Genius
idea! They have all the details on their website too but that crashed briefly yesterday under the strain of people refreshing when it looked like the schools were closing imminently, but the council's tweets kept me informed!

Monday, 6 December 2010

The dinkiest little Splash of Colour

The last ten days have been distinctly monochrome, and then today another load of snow dumped itself on us - so the only colour I saw was this:

The men of our street digging the road out, salting it, pushing cars up. That's my Beloved in the bright orange! And let's not be sexist, the women were out there too - just not when I took the picture.

So, more muted splashes of colour today! Lovely to be cosy and indoors after a somewhat trying day.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Splash of Colour: December

It's the first week of the month so it's Silverpebble's Splash of Colour time (link to the Flickr group as Silverpebble's blog doesn't seem to be working - hope everything's ok!) and here's my little splash of colour! And a tricky one it is too because it's all a bit monochrome at the moment as the outside world is like this:

There was no school or nursery today (and believe me, they don't close them lightly round here) so the kids and I were trying to find some colour. Any colour.

I had a rummage through my yarn stash and my patterns to see what I had in BRIGHT because it's the nursery's Christmas Fair next week and I want to knit a few tree decorations for it. Jean Greenhowe and Alan Dart to the rescue!

Hurray, knitted Santas and penguins here I come! Meanwhile the kids had dug out the Aquadraw and were immersed in their work for, ooh, quite a while actually.

I've just realised that what they're doing is a fairly literal Splash of Colour!


Ah, finally got in to Silver Pebble's blog and we're doing Splash of Colour from Monday the 6th! I'm ahead of myself! Never mind...

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Knitted succour

The last few days I've been very glad of three of my favourite knitted items - my 'Norwegian' hat, Susie's Reading Mitts and Boneyard Shawl. When the weather is like this..

.. and I have to walk up to the school to get the Boy at hometime and I'm feeling all stoic and Captain Oates-y (lol, it's only a bit over a kilometre and in a town), I'm very glad of some wool and alpaca.

My daughter doesn't like her waterproof overtrousers - 'they make a noise'. On the other hand she doesn't like the snow getting in her wellies either. We have compromised - I can pull her on the sledge if she gets tired. Of course then she'll get cold.

I may be some time.


Later: I made it back, were you worried? No? Oh well.
I'm really chuffed with how that picture of my knitting turned out, the colours are Just Right.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

In which I create gold

I'm just a woolly alchemist!

It's been hectic here the last week or so and I've been thinking of blogging but just haven't had the opportunity - for one thing, I've been so tired this week and for another I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here has started again (yay!) and this is my one bit of trashy telly. Three weeks of silliness a year is all I ask! Ah, happy sigh..

But prior to that I did one more batch of dyeing. And isn't it glorious? It just makes me smile whenever I look at it!

This was my second dyeing attempt with onion skins (last attempt blogged here). I'd been saving both brown onion skins and red onion skins for weeks so had loads of them. I stuffed as many brown onion skins as I could into my dye-pan then simmered for an hour and let cool for an hour or so. Then I simmered the yarn (alum-mordanted 4-ply blue-faced leicester) for an hour and let it cool again - and it just shlurped up the dye so satisfyingly. Look, that's it in the pan!

Then I bunged another skein in what was left of the dye but as what was left appeared to be very little I decided to chuck in the red onion skins too. I had no idea what they'd do - one book I'd read suggested that red onion skins yield yellow too (there apparently being no rhyme nor reason as to what colour you get - well, obviously there is rhyme and reason in a chemistry sense but that's a closed book to me), but I'm rapidly learning that there are so many variables in dyeing that it's really a case of wait and see! And this is what I got, a really gorgeous rich brown.

And here they are together.

That's the last of my dyeing fun for a while - I'm out of undyed yarn to work from for the time being so guess what's on my Christmas list! - so I'm pleased to be ending the year on a dyeing high! I now have a whole bagful of yarn dyed by me and just waiting to be turned into balls and knitted up, or maybe even crocheted.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

and as an antidote to all that colour..

Ah, a nice bit of beige!

These are the results of my latest bit of dyeing - above, using the alder 'cones' seen soaking here. I soaked them for a week on the windowsill in what sunshine we had, then simmered the wool (BFL again) in the juice for an hour or so. It's quite a pleasant colour but I probably won't bother again. Fun experiment though!

And below, mint. I have loads of mint in the garden and use very little of it. It's a plant I like though so I thought I'd have go at dyeing this mini-skein with a handful or two of the leaves. Again it's nothing much to write home about, but I do have a nice selection of soft browns to work with now! And actually this one's quite a weird colour which has got me thinking about colour perception because it can look quite different depending on what colour it's next to.

last splash

A last bit of colour for Splash of Colour:November before normal neutral service is resumed! And it's all from my garden - it was a beautiful if chilly morning, but it's turned wet and windy again tonight so I suspect that by morning the last of my beautiful hollyhocks will have been blasted from the stem. But I've they've made me so happy this past summer I can't complain.

Sweetpea is still flowering.

And autumn colour hits my strawberry plant.

It's been said by others, but I'll say it too - when you start looking out for colour like this you become so much more aware of it. I'm also so aware what a nuisance it is that my compact camera is on the blink! I really miss having a camera with me at all times - and no, I don't have a camera on my 'phone. My mobile is the cheapest, most basic thing imaginable but... apparently practically indestructible (touch wood)! Which is a very good thing for me.

Friday, 5 November 2010

A bit of colour, a bit of darkness

A pile of fleeces - 2 jackets and a blanket. Miss Mouse rediscovered the red jacket today. It's actually the Boy's but a bit small for him now, and he got the turquoise one recently. I love how zingy the red and the turquoise look together!

And now for the dark bit..

Ooooh! Aaaah! It's Bonfire Night, when adults suddenly realise they can't remember the details of Guy Fawkes* and wonder why we still care. Truth is, of course, we don't - like so many other celebrations it's an excuse for a laugh! And it's one where you can spot the vintage of the speaker by what they think the night is analogous to: 'It's like Beirut/Baghdad/the Somme out here!'. Well maybe not the last.. Funny how we enjoy explosions though! You wouldn't have thought that was innate.

And sparklers, yay! They terrified me as a kid and actually I still wouldn't want one myself but they're great fun to photograph.

This was my own kids' first go with sparklers and they seemed to enjoy it - and were very sensible with them too.

* And thanks to the utterly brilliant Diana Wynne Jones and Witch Week, I'm even vaguer on it than most.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

keep splashing that colour

My cold was a good bit better this morning and I spent much of the day on the settee, knitting and watching Midsomer Murders DVDs. Between that and the weather, not much of the seeking of glorious colour was happening - above, my knitting, coming along nicely. I'm loving the yarn - 100% acrylic but beautifully squishy-soft and not at all squeaky. Wonder how that happens - clearly All Acrylic Is Not The Same, though you'd (or I'd) think it would be.

And below, a picture from Monday, of my freezer - a work of art. Or several works of art. That's the good bit - further down there are Disney Princess stickers *mutter mutter*.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

splashing a bit more colour about

A gloomier day today so getting actual colour by electric light was a bit tricky, hence the slightly gloomier tone of today's pics. So I'll start with an old picture:

I have to confess that I like that tea-towel hanging behind the cat so much that I've never used it for fear of ruining it!

And onto a bowl of fruit. Mmm, we're into satsuma season - how I love satsumas! See, winter's not so bad!

Those flowers I bought myself the other day - I don't even know what they are but I'm enjoying them.

And zingy colour in the form of my stash of sock-yarn - how gorgeous is that? But to end, a non-colourful picture just because I love it. It's a detail from a picture my son drew of Mrs Pepperpot up a tree, and I particularly love the cuckoo. How do I know it's a cuckoo? 'Cos he told me!

I have acquired, at stunning speed*, a cold. I've spent the evening curled up on the settee with a hot-water-bottle, knitting a scarf**, drinking hot toddies and watching the new series of Kirsty's Homemade Home and a recording we had of James May's Man Lab from the other day. If James were a girlie he'd be a knitter. In fact I bet he'd enjoy knitting but Clarkson would never let him live it down.

There are worse ways to spend an evening, though I could have done without the sneezing. And so to bed. With another hot toddy.

* since lunchtime.
**with James C Brett Marble Chunky - so soft! Such a huge ball! And so cheap! If I get the scarf finished by Friday it'll be a retirement present for the Boy's teacher.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Splash of Colour: November

Hello November, hello soothing cosy neutrals on the calendar! But it's the first week of silverpebble's Splash of Colour, so enough with the neutrals and on with the colour.

It was beautifully sunny this morning and I had no kids around so I took the opportunity to go for a walk and get some pictures of the autumn colour which has been tremendous this year! And I'm very glad I did take the opportunity because by school pick-up time it was chucking it down and windy and the Boy's school playground is very exposed and quite high so now I'm looking quite wind-swept.

I'm rubbish at tree/plant recognition so I don't know what these pictures are of.

And now for some of Miss Mouse's loot from guising last night. I just grabbed the bucket on the way out of the house but it wasn't nearly big enough - people are generous! My friend made up bags for the kids who came around and I think another year I'd do that too. We just had a big jug of sweeties that we poured into the bags of the guisers who called on us, but it's difficult to be fair that way.

And finally my utensils pot, looking its best in the sunshine!

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Neepie lantern

Traditionally in Scotland neeps (Swede/rutabaga) are used instead of pumpkins though nowadays most people use pumpkins because they are so so sooooo much easier to carve and are easily available. I tried a pumpkin one year but stick to neeps usually because to me the smell of slightly singed neep is a big part of Hallowe'en, and I want my kids to have that kind of sensory memory. So I don't care about the bruised knuckles - or not much. At least I didn't skin my knuckles this year!

I'm particularly pleased with the wire handle - it was just a bit of wire left over from a piece of fencing we took down in the summer (and I'd saved because, you never know, it might come in handy..). Miss Mouse and I went out guising with some of the other kids (and mums) in the area and I carried my lantern the whole way round with no bother at all. When we came home Miss Mouse had so many sweeties that she looked as if she'd been visited by St.Haribo of the Rotten Teeth :-D.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

magazine treats - it's this or booze

The other day I took the kids to the dentist for their check-ups. The Boy is absolutely fine about this, Miss Mouse less predictable. She has a history of refusing point-blank to open her mouth and for all the poor dentist knew she might have only had two green fangs. Last time we went I bribed her (with a plastic tiara) and the dentist was able to check and count her teeth (20 and white, yay!). This time however she went shy again and was scared of the chair and the big scarey shining-in-mouth light. It took five minutes of coaxing and cajoling before we got her calmed down - in the end I sat in the big chair with her on my lap and she was fine then, though I was tense and stressed by this time and in need of a whisky!

We took a wander round to the papershop afterwards and I got the kids a 'comic' each as a sort of reward (hey, she didn't bite the dentist like my friend's daughter did..), i.e some piece of tv/film tie-in rubbish with a crappy plastic toy attached to it. Naturally the kids adore these but it's a rare treat. I felt thoroughly justified in rewarding myself with something too (in place of whisky!) and to my surprise found the Debbie Bliss magazine.

To put this in perspective I've never seen this anywhere outside of Borders or maybe in the John Lewis knitting/sewing/whatever department. To find it in a wee RS McColl's in East Kilbride was a surprise, though actually the magazine selection in there is really impressive for a smallish shop. I'd never read it before so it was a new experience for me. The patterns were interesting, some unusual stuff in the Scottish Eccentrics 'story' though honestly Argyle patterns and intarsia Scottie Dogs go a bit beyond eccentricity and should be considered a crime against aesthetics. The interview with Anna Wilkinson was fascinating. I don't know if I'd buy the magazine often but I was taken by the Fair Isle stuff as I'm in a Fair Isle mood at the moment.

Miss Mouse looked at the cover earlier and said 'She's very pretty' pointing at the cover. It made me laugh actually when I looked at the cover properly because it reminded me of a sketch in a comedy programme (possibly Smack the Pony?) years ago - 'people who look Irish..' in which a girl with tumbling auburn curls ponced around in the scenery doing the kind of things that models do in fashion shoots with an Irish theme or in adverts for the Irish tourist board. The same can clearly be done with Scotland - 'get someone ginger but not too freckly'..