Thursday, 31 January 2013

Mixed Challenge

It's hard to believe that last Friday we were out sledging. Since then we've returned to classic wet and windy, though with icy rain as an added wintry touch.

Talking of classic wet and windy, Tuesday was Up Helly Aa and as new tradition dictates I went over to my brother's to watch the webcast of the procession. It was a little laggy but nonetheless enjoyable. It was clearly a pretty wild night weatherwise (and in every other sense come to think of it) in Lerwick so as next-best-thing options go watching the webcast from Glasgow was a pretty good next best thing.

But never mind the weather, I'm indoors now and talking about the Mixed Challenge. The Mixed Challenge is a thing on a Ravelry forum that I peruse and the idea was that in the month of January we'd do try to meet four challenges:

  • Finish a WIP (work-in-progess) - anything lingering that is crafty
  • Photograph an outside flower
  • Write a letter
  • Cook something from a new to you recipe
Just small challenges but to quote the originator of this month's challenge 'The idea is to get you to try something you might not think of doing, but nothing too extreme.' Which seems a very good idea to me! Especially in January when as I've mentioned before I tend to feel a bit Januaryish and in need of things to motivate me.

So finishing a work-in-progress first. I liked that this wasn't necessarily a knitting thing, though obviously I always have things on the needles that need to be finished at some point.  I managed several with this challenge. I finished the circle socks that were hanging over from December.

I started and finished the Fair Isle hat for C's baby - so not a work-in-progress as such but I'm pleased with having had quick project that didn't languish on the needles. And I also started and finished a jam jar cosy, if that's the right name for such an object:

I'd bought a cheap bunch of daffodils the other day and all my vases (all my vases, I sound like Mr Collins - 'I should say all her vases, for she has several!') were either too tall or too narrow-necked. So I used a jam-jar and thought I'd knit a sleeve for it to pretty it up a bit. I've seen this done in crochet but my crochet is not up to it, so garter stitch stripes it was.

I also finished sewing some little felt hearts I'd been making last winter, and now they're hanging up on my calendar looking colourful.

'Photograph an outside flower' was always going to be a tricky one in Scotland in January.  At the start of the month there were still a few of the dyer's chamomile flowers clinging on looking more than a bit sad:

But other than that there was very little. There were some small blue flowers on a plant in my garden - the name escapes me and as it's blowing a hoolie and chucking it down out there I'm not going out to check the label - but I couldn't get a picture in focus. So I cheated and took one of the daffs from the kitchen outside and took a picture of it in the snow, purely because it looked pretty!

The new recipe challenge was an excellent one as I rarely cook from recipes and have a rather stagnant repertoire of Things I Cook. Nice things, but the repertoire could do with expanding. So after much browsing I chose the Fruity Lamb Tagine from the BBC Good Food website, made it and blogged about it last week (in the post 'Things and Stuff' - I'd link but it's only two posts ago so that seems a bit silly). It was very weird browning the lamb and knowing I wasn't going to have anything minty with it - I'm obviously such a creature of habit that the smell of lamb immediately makes me want mint!  Pavlov's cook..   But it was really delicious, it will be added to the repertoire and I'm so glad I had the Mixed Challenge to push me into cooking something new!

My only fail was in the 'writing a letter' challenge. I could do it today, though I've no idea who I would write to, but I've got a cold and to be honest I'm planning on going back to bed for a bit while my jeans dry on the radiator (soaked from the knee down - clammy, lovely..) before getting the kids from school.  And although I haven't written a letter I did have an excellent result from having written a letter in December. With several of my older relatives I put a letter and a photo of the kids in with the Christmas card. A few days ago I had a 'phone call out of the blue from one of these relatives to say thank you for the card and the pictures. Jean is an older cousin of my mum's, in her eighties, and she sends birthday cards without fail to everybody in the family.  I haven't actually seen her for decades, but I send her Christmas and birthday cards and try to let her know what we're up to and so on, and she rang up to say how much she liked the picture of the kids.  It's easy to stay in touch electronically with my contemporaries and in fact with quite a lot of the older generation, but it's good to be reminded that not everyone's online or chooses to be online and that a letter in the post is a nice thing for anyone to get.

I'm intrigued to see what February's challenge will be. I'm guessing not bungee jumping. Hope not anyway, I'm forbidden to in case my retinas detach - you know like I was planning to go bungee jumping.. *rolls eyes*  I leave the insane adrenaline junkie stuff to my brother and, slightly worryingly, to my daughter who seems to take after her uncle rather than sensible people like her parents.

Saturday, 26 January 2013


 Yesterday it snowed and snowed and snowed. And snowed. On and off all day, though being wettish snow it didn't add to the existing snow in vast amounts. Just enough. It was lovely watching it fall though. I was watching a programme about art and snow in the afternoon (hang on.. Tales of Winter: The Art of Snow and Ice available in BBC i-player) and it was quite peculiar to glance away from snow on the television to snow falling outside.

Then it was home-time for the Horrors:

For once Miss M didn't complain about walking home. In fact she loved it. 
And the advantage of all this white stuff falling was that there was finally enough snow to go sledging.

The Boy doesn't like sledging (to be more accurate, he doesn't like getting cold and wet) but Miss M was keen, so after a bit of poking a broom-handle at the upper regions of the garage I managed to retrieve a sledge and off we went.

We didn't really stay out all that long as it was still snowing and getting dark but it was worth it to see how much she enjoyed it!  Then it was home for pizza. Haggis may be consumed sometime this weekend, but Friday night is Pizza Night. Carved in stone and strictly enforced by Miss M.

Today has been a l-a-z-y day. There's been a gradual thaw and consequently a rawness about the wind, so aside from brief forays into the outside world (Miss M's gymnastics class, My Beloved going to the supermarket) we have stayed cosily inside. I have sewed things, Miss M has forced Barbie and Ken have adventures, and we've discovered that as Ken has proper feet he can stand while poor Barbie has been forced into ill-fitting plastic shoes all her life and can do nothing unaided, poor lass. My Beloved has made tacos and tortillas and fish-fingers. The Boy has rediscovered Club Penguin (now with added dinosaurs)  The cats have complained bitterly about being inside when they wish to be outside, and vice versa, and then fallen asleep. One's asleep on my feet right now. And I am feeling pleasantly dozy.  *yawn*

Thursday, 24 January 2013

things and stuff

So where have my snow pics been then? Well, truth be told, we've only had a little snow here. It has however been quite chilly. I was going to say bitterly cold, but that's an exaggeration. It has been freezing for several days (lost count), and at times (e.g. when standing in the windswept school playground) it has felt bitterly cold, but bitterly cold is what it is in the Arctic tundra. Not the Central Belt of Scotland.  However the cold weather has meant clearer skies and that has meant sunshine - yay!

I actually quite like a very sparse covering of snow because it lightens up the landscape without making it monochrome. Deep snow can be lovely but a few years ago when we had heavy snow that stayed for a month it got very tedious and I was longing for colour. This January has had loads of colour. My 99p bunch of daffs are still brightening up the kitchen window:

my gorgeously bright stripey thing is progressing nicely:

and my ice-art in the garden is looking a little anaemic:

Still any colour in the garden  is better than none at the moment.   This was inspired by a picture that was doing the rounds on Facebook (and probably Pinterest) last week. The idea is you fill a balloon with water coloured with food colouring. Let it freeze, then cut the balloon off and you have colourful ice-globes in the garden. It turns out that making water-balloons is a messy process. I'd never done it before and had to refer to my mental back-catalogue of Calvin & Hobbes to figure it out. Similarly, adding the food colouring is.. entertaining. Well, my kids were entertained anyway.

It probably all works better in a properly cold country, but here it took days for two of the balloons to freeze to a pleasing egg shape, and the third one hasn't managed yet (a blue balloon, perhaps the colour made a difference). The two frozen balloons turned out not to have frozen quite the way through, so I got a broken eggshell effect which is quite pretty. I'd given up on mixing colours fairly early on so I have one clear ice-egg and one pale yellow one. Yes, the yellow one does make me think of the jokes about yellow snow. But it's still pretty, especially as I can guarantee there have been no huskies in the garden.

I have been cooking with colour too. I tried a new recipe yesterday. By 'tried a new recipe' I mean I found a recipe that looked interesting and actually followed it instead of making something up which is my usual method. It was Fruity Lamb Tagine and it was delish, and will be added to my repertoire. The only thing I omitted was the coriander leaves because they just taste of soap to me. But I did sprinkle the pomegranate seeds on top and very pretty and jewel-like they looked too. This was my first encounter with pomegranate seeds. Some week eh? First water balloon and first pomegranate! Well, I find excitement where I can..

There's no way to photograph food in a domestic setting and make it look truly appetising, but trust me it really did taste nice.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Making Monday - Project Rainbow and a Fair Isle thing

It's been such a knitty-ish week - where to begin?

Well actually today has not been much about the making, though there was a little wool-winding and a brief bit of knitting this afternoon.   No, the big event of today was visiting my friend and her beautiful baby daughter this morning! And she was lovely - yawning, sneezing, posseting and gazing around in that dark-eyed tiny baby way, with her little hands doing that beautiful stretching starfish thing that newborn babies' hands do... aww..  It really is so much easier to appreciate other people's babies isn't it? I adored my babies but let's face it I was a sleep-deprived zombie at the time!  I can appreciate them so much better in retrospect.

So anyway, my first ta-da is the thing I was casting on last week, which was a teeny tiny baby hat for her:

Baby cashmerino for softness and washableness - that red in fact is left over from a jumper I knitted for my son when he too was teeny tiny. 'Scuse me while I go misty-eyed...

Anyway the hat fits her - phew! It looked so small when I was knitting it but of course we all forget how tiny babies are when they're freshly-minted.  This was so much fun to knit! It was roughly based on the Purl Bee's Giacomo baby hat but I made the ribbing deeper and changed the Fair Isle bit completely.

And then there's Project Rainbow - Nov/Dec Orange finally finally completed:

Also a lot of fun to knit though! I went my own way with the pattern a bit, giving it a different toe just because the one in the pattern (star toe?) didn't sound as comfortable.

And now there's Project Rainbow part three on the needles. Jan/Feb is yellow and I'm making a stripey thing inspired by Flowermouse's amazing stripey things. The 'background' colour will always be the yellow (buttercup yellow Clan) assuming there's enough anyway - I have carefully weighed all the yarn!   And the stripes will be various other bright colours I have. So I started using some of the orange Bonny left over from the circle socks:

These pictures were taken yesterday. Since then I've added some red stripes using the Clan left over from my red Dalkey mitts (Project Rainbow part 1), and now I'm onto some bright green clan which has been sitting patiently in my stash waiting to be used. After that I'm not sure what I'll use, I just now it has to be bright and strong.


I'm not normally into bright colours but I fell in love with the red, yellow and green skeins of Clan at a 'Yarn Yard yarn party' a few years ago. But although the colours called out to me I didn't have the foggiest what to actually use them for. I think this is working out perfectly though, it's just the kind of thing that suits the colours and is the perfect antidote to Januaryness!

Monday, 14 January 2013

Making Monday - casting on

It's Making Monday and I should of course be casting off - I have *cough* several things already on the go after all - but I just need to do this one little thing..

Honestly it won't take long - a few hours maybe...

I love starting new things even though I find casting-on, joining in the round and the first few rows tedious beyond imagining - after that, well, it's all the possibilities isn't it? Especially with Fair Isle which this will be. Haven't even decided the designs yet, the potential is still all there.

Apart from that, look! Look! First (indoor) daffodil!

We did not have snow today (we had a little yesterday, but it melted). Instead we had a very cold but bright day, which means sunshine at my kitchen window, shining through my flowers. I love daffs!

Thursday, 10 January 2013

You can't take the sky from me

We had a frosty start to the day with fog bumbling around, patches here, patches there, but in the fairly immediate vicinity of my hoose in the middle of the day it was sunny and clear, though still cold. So I went for a walk. I tend to forget how close we are to the edge of town, but actually it's only a few minutes walk to where it suddenly stops being a housing estate (and it's almost comical how sudden it is) and starts being rural.

The light was beautiful and the sky amazing. The fog was still billowing around in the distance all the time.

 Birds taking off - I loved the way they swooped around. 

I'd only intended to go out for a quick half-hour in the fresh air but I was enjoying it so much and seeing so much that I just kept walking and was out for over an hour in the end.

Slightly wonky horizon on that one but I like it anyway (and am too tired to sort it in a picture editor).

As well as the big skies I was taken with the little things too - gloriously lush moss on a fence-post..

beautiful neutrals..

 a hedge covered in lichen ..

 and in a bit closer:

 Looking back along the road as I headed back home, still sunshine and blue skies..

..and then suddenly the fog rolled over again - still beautiful but in an eerie way!

Tuesday, 8 January 2013


I'm not a pessimist. Neither am I an optimist really - to me that suggests some kind of insanely positive extravert (which I most definitely am not), thinking that everything will be fantastic. But mostly I think things will work out more or less okay.  I don't have high expectations of them, so my expectations are relatively easily met. I'm like Hobbes wishing for a sandwich.  So I suppose I'm a cautious optimist. Or a realistic one.

I didn't have high expectations of January, in fact I had uncharacteristically pessimistic low expectations*, but so far it's going just fine.

The weather is mild, meaning mostly it's grey and wet - the usual dreich January in many ways. But it's so mild that I've been pottering round in the garden, very belatedly planting bulbs. I've been able to get out in the fresh air, walking, running, whatever.  Yes, it's been windy and rainy but the wind hasn't been the cold kind that cuts through you so it's been invigorating more than anything.

I bought myself some tulips and freesias and they're in vases on my kitchen window catching any random rays that appear and brightening things up.

Who could be anything but happy with sunlight shining through tulips, even if it's only for a few minutes?

I love the texture and delicate patterns on the petals.

I also bought a Filofax.  I suppose it was Natalie talking about hers on her blog sometime before Christmas that put it in my mind. I always carry a diary around with me and usually a notebook for my many lists and, having not thought about Filofaxes in years, it began to occur to me that perhaps a diary and notebook in one might be a good idea. I had a non-Filofax personal organiser years ago (it was a Citroen one actually, a freebie when dad bought a car I think), of the standard ('personal') size which was too big for my current needs. But a pocket one is only marginally bigger than the diary I had last year and possibly more practical, though less aesthetically pleasing - and was reduced in Sainsburys, so that was handy. We shall see how I get on with it. I am an inveterate writer of lists, partly because I'm more likely to remember something once I've written it down, regardless of whether I actually refer to the list or not, so this appeals to the way I do things.

Also keeping me sane is one of my Christmas presents from My Beloved - a DAB Radio which I keep permanently tuned to Classic FM, sitting on my bedside table. I can retreat up there with my knitting and happily listen to music while downstairs everyone else is killing orcs, jumping through portals, watching the CBeebies pantomime for the 500th time on iplayer and so forth. It's my little shrine to peace and quiet. Murder mysteries set in the 1920s are obviously an absolutely vital part of 'peace and quiet'...  Oooh, and look at my sock! Coming along nicely, heel turned, though it doesn't look it there, and it's the home straight now.  Woohoo!

* Based on experience - it's always a month that I find hard work.

Saturday, 5 January 2013


I may loathe January but spending New Year with my parents, besides being fun, means that My Beloved and I can abandon the kids to my parents (or vice versa, depending on your point of view) and walk the trail around the village. A lot of people do this on New Year's Day, some take the clockwise route, some anti-clockwise. We chose clockwise, omitting the lower half of the route which, like last year, was under water, and off we set through bog, through bush, through brake, through brier. Also sheep.

It was a beautiful day this year, with only occasional very light showers, and the light was beautiful.

There's not much to say really, the pictures speak for themselves. This bit was particularly boggy, having been partly churned up by grazing animals. Apparently there was an alternative route avoiding this bit, but we were too busy looking at our feet I think and missed the turning for it. Ah well, we managed!

This was about halfway round probably, high above the village, and looking further up. It was pretty cold and breezy at this point and we stopped for a snack:

I hadn't noticed until just now that the wrapper says 'Enjoy Your New Day' - thanks Tunnocks, I did!

Crossing the burn as we started to head back downhill. In summery circumstances I'd be very tempted to stick my feet in the water at this point, but not with snow on the ground I don't think. I have paddled in a glacial lake though (bottom of the Briksdal glacier in Norway, many years ago).

Funnily enough the worst bit of the walk was plodding back along Main Street. I wore my snow boats as they've a waterproof foot part and are padded above. They're very comfortable on uneven ground - bog, heather, grass, any of it - but really uncomfortable on hard surfaces such as tarmac or pavement. But then we were back, and in front of the fire - bliss.

It was a lovely and invigorating start to the year, and a good reminder of what a beautiful country Scotland can be, and how great it is to be out in the fresh air. As long as you're appropriately attired! So I've decided that fresh air is one of the answers to the January blues. Well, it's worth a try!

Another January beginning was that I cast on my second orange sock (I did in fact spend the remainder of 2012 after my last post winding the orange Clan into a ball on a spurtle while eating shortbread and drinking whisky, thus hitting all the cliché targets in one). As I should have finished both socks by now I'm spending every spare moment trying to catch up. I've got onto turning the heel now and once that's done it should be pretty quick. And a good thing too as I'm quite keen to get on to Jan/Feb of Project Rainbow...