November!

Did my ironing this morning. All of it. Although I had to do it sitting down, as my stupid back is playing up. Painkillers, ice packs, phone call to osteopath tomorrow to see if I can bring forward the next appointment.

Had the leylandii at the back trimmed, and one of the leylandii hedges at the front cut down by half, so it’s just below the level of the roof of my car, which is an old Ford Ka. The other hedge at the front has been dug up and the stumps ground out. That was quite exciting to watch. Two men, fully kitted up in safety gear/helmets/goggles, with a large noisy machine, took approximately 10 minutes max! Now I just need to get as much of the thuggish ivy out of the soil as I can, weedkiller the rest, and see how it is next spring before I plant some more Photinia Red Robin, to match the little hedge at the front, parallel to the house.

Meanwhile, hubby decided to pollard the willow tree himself. Yes, himself. Worked, hard, all morning, up and down ladders with a saw, despite my bleating about stopping now, and did it all. Cut up the twiggy bits and fitted them all into the green wheelie bin. But he then had (heart) “symptoms”  for three days. I was very worried and a bit cross. It is frustrating not to be able to do the stuff you used to do easily. It is. But still. I’ve had years to come to terms with it (slipped a disc 43 years ago) so I do know how difficult and limiting it is. But harrumph. And of course he’s fine now.

Wasn’t able to knit for a couple of weeks – arthritis in my hands. But I’m ok now and nearly finished the Festival shawl (dark grey Gossypium and white/cream Paradou). It’s lovely and easy enough to knit (though not while I’m watching subtitled Swedish programmes!) and I will be pleased with it when it’s done. Next up, Whelk vest top for hubby, in pale grey Rowan yarn. Need to do a sample tension square, because the pattern is for DK, and the yarn I have is worsted. Not much difference, but enough to check first. Also need to check I’m ok with the pattern . . . . .

Have treated myself, after watching Black Earth Rising, to a cuff earring with two chains attached to a small stud. The heroine of said programme wore one, and looked stunning. I won’t look anything like her, of course, she’s about 6 ft tall, black, muscular and slim. Ah well. I do like it though. Hubby thinks it’s weird. Don’t care.

Christmas – presents all done. Not wrapped yet though. And I need to get my act together with regard to cooking. Planning a Yule Log, so need to practise with an ordinary Swiss Roll (tomorrow). Also need to do a carrot cake and a bakewell raspberry slice. And some mince pies (bought pastry, bought mincemeat, just need to put them together . . .)


Thinking aloud

Well, we bought the Thermomix. I’m going to make some pizza dough with it later on, and hubby has already been using it. It’s wonderful.  It’s an extremely fancy, computerised food processor which can cook as well. Am planning to make a carrot cake next week, and it should be much easier and quicker than it usually is.

Haven’t been able to knit for almost a week now, too tired and my hands are sore. Maybe tonight. We’ve also been watching Breaking Bad, and it’s just too exciting/fraught to knit anything remotely complicated while that’s on. But last night we watched the last two episodes of the final series. Exhausting. Excellent. We’ll miss it though.

And the counselling I’ve been having is going well. The counsellor is a wonderful woman. Understanding, listens to me, and makes me think/reflect about things. I’m able to celebrate all the good stuff in my life. I think I’ve always appreciated the good stuff, but actually saying it out loud really helps affirm it all. She has used the analogy of going up in a hot air balloon, and leaving the bad stuff behind on the ground. I’ve added to that, in my head, so that all the wonderful people in my life are extra/auxiliary balloons, lifting me higher.

I usually go to a knitting group on a Saturday morning – sometimes I go to the Thursday morning one, but counselling  takes up Thursday mornings at the moment- but today I’m not going to do anything. Can’t even be bothered to shower and dress properly. Might walk round the garden in a bit (that takes all of thirty seconds) because it’s a lovely day.

The cat had lost weight when she last saw the vet, so we’ve been feeding her more every day (now two sachets each day) and I need to take her to be weighed again at the end of next week. She looks healthy though and has plenty of energy. Sleek, glossy fur, eating well, killing small defenceless things (a mouse, so she’s doing her job). She purrs loudly, despite initial resistance, when I pick her up to cuddle her and puts her paw gently on my face, so I don’t think she minds too much.

The guitar playing is improving slowly. I can’t strum and sing. I can strum, or do one chord per note, and sing.  I’ve taught myself one song, and learned four others from the teacher, and practise most days. Almost every day, really, but the last two days I’ve just been unable to even think about it.

So for the next few days I’m not going to do anything big. I might start the next stage of the knitting project (if you’re a knitty person, I need to pick up the stitches for the sleeves – it’s a cardigan knitted top down in one piece, so the sleeves are knitted in the round). May practise the guitar, or maybe leave that till tomorrow.

I currently have the fan blowing cool on my face, a cup of tea beside me, and I think it’s time I did a (quick, easy) crossword. Laters, guys.

Knitting and Me.

This is something I have just sent off to Betsan Corkhill, from Stitchlinks. Thought it might make a blog post. So here it is.

I’m 59. I’ve knitted since I was 6, having learned at school from a very stroppy teacher, who got very cross when I made a mistake. 6-year-olds do make mistakes! But my mum helped, and her knitterly friends helped too, so gradually I built up my techniques and confidence.

I never thought of knitting as anything but fun until I became ill in my forties with M.E. (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) (along with a list of other maladies!) and was medically retired.

At that point it became important to feel useful, even if only in a small way. Knitting provided that. For a long while I couldn’t even do that. I couldn’t concentrate for long enough to even cast on.

Gradually, though, I was able to knit more and more. I mostly knit by hand, but also had a variety of knitting machines over a ten year period. Machine knitting is a whole different skill. Not sociable – too noisy. And you really need to concentrate to make it all work. Once the machine is set up – just so – it’s fine, but then halfway through a piece of work it will knot up inexplicably, or all the stitches fall off the machine, or something else dreadful/terminal will happen. So I used to have to go away and knit in solitude.

Eventually I sold all the knitting machines (I had a maximum of three at one time) and reclaimed the space for a sofa-bed in our spare bedroom. I was able to redecorate the whole room, by myself (over a period of time, of course), reorganise the hand knitting stash, and now I’m back to my “first love”.

Hand-knitting is a very sociable pastime. You can sit and watch tv and knit, chat and knit, drink tea and knit.

It feels so therapeutic to be able to just sit down, pick up the needles and knit something. Even if it’s just one or two rows at a time, it all adds up. I keep my projects relatively small – the largest one recently was an Aran (shortish) jacket in Bergère de France Magic + in turquoise. I absolutely love it. It’s all cabled, and the cabling is done over 2 x 2 rib. Complicated, and took 9 weeks, but that’s ok.

Currently I’m knitting for various small children and babies. Very satisfying to do because nothing takes very long at all. I find it calming, productive, creative, and even when I don’t feel great, I can usually pick up my needles and knit. And if I can’t do that, I can browse Ravelry or my knitting magazines for ideas and inspiration. Lovely.

Eighteen months ago a local yarn shop opened up a seven-minute walk from our house. Excellent! I’m just so lucky. They have Stitch & Sip sessions three times a week – I try and go to one of them at least. I’ve made new friends, learned new skills (knitting with beads, in the round, shawlettes) and I love it.

I even cover the shop on a voluntary basis for the odd half day while the owner is teaching a course. I make cakes for their events and from time to time I bake for the Stitch & Sip sessions too. It’s lovely to feel involved and helpful and useful in the different little ways.

Gardening is important too, for similar reasons, but I’m only a fair-weather gardener. Knitting I can do whatever the weather!

23rd February 2014

Lots and lots has happened since I last blogged. The trick is to remember it all.

Union-wise – I’m going to a Regional UNISON Seminar in Bilston in April, and Retired Members’ Conference in October. It’s ok, it’s one day in April, and one night in October, because we oldies are less likely to party the night away . . .

Still knitting the cable jacket – in fact had a small disaster. I’d finished the back, and almost finished the left front, when I found a huge, obvious, mistake, just above the armhole shaping on the back. So I unravelled it and knitted it back up again.
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Here’s a photo of the mistake. See if you can find it. But it’s all ok now. Then I made a mistake on the shoulder shaping of the left front, and had to re-do that. But now I’m on the right front, and being very very careful.

YD has had a dreadful time at work, but has come out unscathed, and is now angry rather than in bits. Brave soul. She was 30 on Friday. Can’t believe I have two daughters over 30.

Stitch Solihull is having a “knitting-fest” at the end of March, to celebrate their first whole year trading. I’m making a three-tier carrot (birthday) cake. Iced. In the planning stages at the moment.

The garden is looking less bedraggled, and buds are appearing. Snowdrops and primulas are blooming, and the daffodils are budding. Lovely .

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I have new glasses. They’re a very similar style to tme in my new specshe previous ones, but are lighter, a less dramatic colour, and have proper nose pads, which means my nose stays cool and comfortable. Essential (!)

Had another small episode with my back, but the osteopath and 48 hours on Tramadol sorted that out.

And most exciting of all, I’ve been covering the shop. I’ve done it twice now. When either of the young women runs a course on a day she works, they need somebody to staff the shop. And I’ve really enjoyed it. Still not quite used to the till, but am able to offer advice on yarns and patterns, and only had to ask for help twice on Saturday. Several more dates in my diary. It’s voluntary, but it’s just so exciting. Leaves me very tired though, but that’s manageable! and it’s so worth it. Love it, love it, love it.

Next course I’m planning to book myself into is lampshade making. Very excited about it. Not sure when it will be, but it’s definitely in the new course schedule, which should be out by the end of this week.

I also made some dairy free Danish-type pastries. Cinnamon rolls. Bought the puff pastry (dairy free) and made the mixture myself. Delicious. I’ve missed Danish pastries so much!Image

Nearly there.

This week will be busy, busy, busy. All the presents are organised, wrapped, and under the tree, which we put up today. I even crocheted some snowflakes to put on it, which I’m very pleased with. Then forgot to put them on until I’d taken the photo. Oh well. They do look nice. For those of you who haven’t noticed, there is something particular on the top of our tree. Not an angel, not a fairy, but . . .  and yes, we are well aware of the significance!

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Also made some mince pies today. The pastry and the mincemeat are bought from the shop, but there’s just something about cutting out the shapes myself, plonking the mincemeat in, and cooking them in my oven means they do look and taste home-made. I can’t buy the ones already boxed in the shop, they all have butter in them.

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My back has recovered from this morning’s exertions, thankfully. Two paracetamol and three hours’ sleep.

As well as the tree and the mince pies, hubby was having extreme difficulty with his music system, which is complex and computerised. The latest CD he had wasn’t appearing in the list, and when it did appear, wouldn’t play. It’s taken hours and hours of frustration, tweaking, rebooting various parts of the system, uninstalling and reinstalling various apps on the tablet, and eventually, due to some combination of all those things, it finally worked. But we don’t know why. Grr. Luckily he contributes to a forum specifically about such things, so he’s going to mention it there. In the good old days, we just popped a CD in the drive. But the sound wasn’t as good. His music system is his pride and joy, and the effect that listening to music has on him is the same effect that knitting or crocheting has on me.

Busy tomorrow, busy Wednesday, baking Thursday, busy Friday. I shall be glad when it’s the weekend!

Gaaaagh! December already!

Luckily I’m just a tad obsessive and am all ready for Christmas. It’s just hubby and me this year, which will be lovely. Seeing family before and after though, which will also be really nice.

Knitting – going well. The physio is definitely helping my hands. I have exercises to do, and once a week they massage the hands and treat them with ultrasound. Excellent. I’m knitting the last Christmas present at the moment, everything else is done. Just need to sort out the baking I’m going to do. I have the ingredients for the cake (this year it’s going to be the dairy-free, egg-free fruit cake, one with marzipan in the middle for me, one without for hubby). Need to sort out the mince pies pastry and enough flour and eggs for the cakes I’m taking to various family dos. Exciting.

I’ve also been crocheting. Nothing large, and no photos yet (don’t want to spoil anybody’s surprise . . .) but I am quite pleased. Results have been blocked, starched, and are currently drying.

Did a bit of gardening this morning – only about 45 minutes. The dead rudbeckias looked horrible, and so did the asters, so they’ve had a severe cutting back. Also dug up an old dead no-longer-ornamental grass, and picked loads of moss off the soil. I’ve filled three large tubtrugs but that’s ok. We need to take a trip to the tip this week anyway.

Saw my great-nephew last week. He is just delightful. Crawling, cruising, almost walking, and such a happy little soul.

Finally, here is a photo of the cat. This is where we find her when we’ve been out, and she’s been in, confined to the kitchen and utility. She has food, water, toys and her tray in there, so it’s like a little bed-sit for a cat. But she just goes into her little bed.

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Bless her little heart.

just a quick one

Nearly finished painting the kitchen. So far it’s taken me 10 days. But I can only do about an hour a day, so it’s taking much longer than I expected, and is much harder work and more complicated than I expected. I needed to use three coats of primer just to cover the horrible peach.

Tomorrow I’m going to retouch the three walls I’ve done, then Tuesday I’m hoping to do the final wall, which is a different colour. I don’t do any at the weekend, because the room is constantly in use, and hubby does all the cooking. (I do all the baking). It’s looking ok so far. Photos when I’ve finished.

We’re expecting a humungous wind and rain storm tonight/tomorrow morning. Trains are cancelled, all sorts of panicking going on.  Headline news. Thank goodness we don’t have to go out in it. We have a willow tree in the garden, but I’m hoping it’ll be ok because I think the roots go very deep to get all the water it needs. I guess it will be much worse at the coast, and my cousin in Cornwall can hear the sea roaring, even though they don’t actually live that near the shore.

Expecting family this week – three grandchildren + ES Thursday – Sunday, other two grandchildren + YS (youngest son) Saturday, and we’ll have all five children to stay over till Sunday, when we’ll return them to Malvern. Exciting. All the beds are made, all the baking is done and in the freezer, and the cupboards/freezers are bulging with food.  😀

That’s it. Photos and news as it happens . . . .

It’s October already?

Goodness how time flies.

Planted up the winter pansies – they’re lovely. Also lifted two lavender shrubs and moved them to a bed with more room.

New project – to repaint the kitchen. And here’s why.

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Note hubby’s expression. Not sure he actually likes it. When he opened the box, he said “Red? . . . . . Red? . . .?”  ha ha ha. He didn’t laugh. I did.

That’s not the only reason, though. I’ve been thinking about it for a while. I’m fed up with the peach coloured walls, and love red. So I’m off to  B & Q tomorrow for some tester pots. I’m not going to paint the walls red, though, no no no. A step too far. Probably a mid-grey. It all needs washing down first though with sugar soap, and in fact there isn’t very much wall to paint really. Updates as it progresses . . . which will be slowly so I don’t crash.

Lovely weather today, and set fair for most of next week too. Excellent. Washing can probably go out tomorrow.

Made a blackberry and apple crumble the other day and it’s in the freezer waiting for the end of the month, when ES arrives to stay for a couple of days with his entourage (girlfriend and his three children). Can’t wait. Cakes to make too and possibly a trifle.

Lost another battle with a spiky tree today and bled profusely.  Looks ugly and bruised and horrible. Long sleeves tomorrow I think.

Had our flu jabs on Saturday so we’re all ready for the winter now. Bring it on!

That’s about it for today.

This and that.

We had our alarm system serviced on Wednesday morning. Wednesday afternoon it went off, all by itself. The man came back and sorted it out. Or so we thought. This morning it went off again, at 6 am. It wasn’t set, hubby was awake and out for a walk. I dragged myself out of bed, down the stairs, and put in the code, and it stopped. Harrumph. So they are coming out again with a special “thing” to stop it doing that on Monday. Fingers crossed for the next three nights . . .

Today my car has gone to the garage for a service and MoT test.  I take it to Westley Garage, on Station Road, in Acocks Green, and have done for several years, on the recommendation of a friend. They’re good, trustworthy, friendly, and know me by name. The only thing that’s complicated about it is that this garage was my Dad’s. Walking up the forecourt, going into the office, all of it, brings back childhood memories, not all (or even many) of which are happy. In fact, today I got quite tearful as hubby drove me home in his car.

The staff working for my Dad were lovely, kind and funny and nice to my sister and to me. Just the smell of the cars being fixed brings it all back. The guy in charge now remembers when my Dad used to run it. Mm.

Knitting – going well. Have finished Antarktis and am absolutely delighted with it. May well knit another one in the Sweet Georgia Cashluxe turquoise I have. Currently knitting a sock as an experiment for hubby. He wanted plain brown or black, but I just said no, that’s too boring to knit. It’s grey-blue and self-striping, very muted and sombre. If he likes this sock, I will knit him the pair, but am not knitting two socks before he tells me he doesn’t like them. I’ve also bought some Sirdar Chunky yarn to knit him another slipover top. Also fancy knitting another Pimpelliese shawlette.

Sewing – Christmas project all finished now.  I am pleased with it. I don’t sew clothes, just curtains, cushion covers, and oblong or square things.

This morning I’ve baked some chocolate chip cookies (dairy free of course). Hubby is off to do some leafletting – about keeping our NHS public.

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Gardening – I’ve dug up all the aquilegias from one of the beds. I do love them, but they’d gone absolutely bonkers and were trying to take over the world. They’re a pain to dig up, though, they have long tap roots just like dandelions. Now there’s room to plant some daffodils, and when those are in, I have some annual poppy seeds to sprinkle on top. There’s a lovely red ornamental grass with lovely fluffy-looking seed heads which is going in a pot, and I have two pots ready for some miniature daffodils, which, when they start to sprout, can go each side of the front door.

The rudbeckias are lovely. I used to think they were gaudy and horrible, but they really, really cheer up an autumn garden.

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I also pruned two of the buddleias really hard back, and the wisteria which, despite being cut back to its trunk, is going wild again. There’s another buddleia in the front garden which is going to get the treatment next time I’m outside with a pair of freshly cleaned and WD40’d secateurs. And it’s not actually raining.

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Love these Michaelmas Daisies too.

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There are two hydrangeas here, but one of them has flowers in both blue and pink. Love it.

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And love these sedums too.

Just booked the train for a weekend in mid-November to go and stay with ED and her chappie. Can’t wait. They’ve decorated their lounge this year and I really want to see it, and them of course, and their crazy cat JR. I’ll take knitting to do on the train, but can’t knit in their house because JR just can’t cope with it. “what’re you doing? what’s that? why is that stringy stuff wriggling about? what are those sticks doing? can I play?” No. Just no.

More projects and stuff.

The cat needed to go to the vet today. She had an abscess under one eye. It looked like she’d been bitten. The abscess had already burst (on Saturday night while I was wiping it with a tissue!) but she’s had an antibiotic injection and an anti-inflammatory injection too. She doesn’t mind the vet at all, ignores the injection, and is quite keen to explore the surgery. But she hates the car and howls the whole time. Today I sang loudly to drown it out. Worked to an extent . .

I was so excited by the men’s final at Wimbledon, when Andy Murray won, I cried and cried. Wonderful, wonderful match.

The weather is hot, sunny and humid. Mm. Good for drying washing, not so good for people. So we sit inside with the fans blowing cool, and the cat sits in the shade outside.

I’ve done another couple of crocheted granny squares. I try to do one round of crochet each day, and discovered quite early on that I was making a mistake in the treble crochet stitch. So I looked it up in two different sources and am now doing it properly.2013-07-08 11.57.12

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I also made a new project bag – a smaller one.

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This one is for socks. I’m going to learn how to knit socks on Thursday. Exciting.

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It’s reversible, and this is the inside.

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Today I’ve made two carrot cakes – both to freeze. One for Friday when we have family coming over, one just to keep for now.

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