Thursday, 28 May 2015

Craft - train crochet

A blurry snap of crochet in progress on the train - I've finally picked up the big blanket again.

I love travelling by train - I find a train journey so much more relaxing than a car journey - and a two hour train trip by myself feels like a proper treat. Two hours for crochet, reading, thinking, gazing at the rolling countryside.  If the destination is the seaside it's pretty much perfect.

A few things - I'm currently blogging on my phone which is a bit fiddly and it's hard to add links and stuff. I might put them in later. And I wrote this post yesterday but fell asleep before finishing it  (just in case I write again today and it doesn't make sense).

Monday, 25 May 2015

Run - running through the seasons

A few weeks ago this field was bare earth, and it was hard to see where the footpath should go across the mud.

Now there are bean plants nearly up to my knees, and a neatly worn path leads the way through the field from the gate on one side to a little hole in the hedge on the other.  For me, the rhythm of paths being ploughed over and remade as the seasons change is one of the (many, many) pleasures of running in the countryside.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Craft - crafters' block (and a completed flower garland)

I love having a project on the go but sometimes (often? always?) I have the delusion that I'm much more capable of finishing things than I really am, and end up with numerous things on the go at once. Then I think - wouldn't it be nice to whip up a small hook roll or garland as a present for a dear friend.  Then I start to panic because there's a deadline, and the item inevitably doesn't get made on time, but I can't possibly get on with anything else because I have to concentrate on the present I'm making. Except I'm not actually making it.

This garland (and the hook roll I made a couple of weeks ago) were just this sort of project. I'd been putting off making them - and been busy with other non-crafting (or reading or cooking or running)  stuff - for so long that I'm sure I've been having dreams about them.  But once I knuckled down to making it,the hook roll got finished in one night. Then I made myself do a bit of the garland every evening this week.  And do you know what? It only took a few evenings.

The main problem was not quite knowing how I wanted it to be. First of all I made an enormous butterfly which was too big (and a bit scary) for the delicate garland I had envisaged.  So then I found a lovely small butterfly pattern, and tweaked this flower pattern to make some smaller flowers, and invented (=cobbled together) a new tiny flower pattern (I'm quite proud of that!) and they all seem to go together quite well.

The cotton is lovely - it's Cascade Ultra Pima Fine in Wood Violet, Pansy, Dark Sea Foam, Primrose and Spring Green from Wool Warehouse and was a delight to work with, soft and non-splitty with lovely muted colours with a slight sheen. I used a 3.5mm hook which seemed to be about right.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Run - fun running

Another race today - this time a local 10k which goes through the local countryside that I do most of my training runs in.  I worked out that we must have been coming to this event as a family for the last 10 years - I think it was the second race I ever did after I started running.  Some years I've run the 10k, some years I've run the 2k fun run with one of my children, some years I've run both. I've even run it when 7 months pregnant! Today was very special as my daughter and I ran her first 10k together - I'm so pleased it was this race that she chose to run.

We had such a lovely race - the weather was great, the event was even better organised than usual with a great route (the route has changed several times over the last 10 years but I think it's now the best route), helpful marshals, all-important chip timing which proved it took us a minute or so to cross the start line (and so our official time was under an hour - hurrah!). I'm really proud of the way my daughter tackled the race and dug deep when she needed to - and most importantly we enjoyed running together, so fingers crossed we'll be racing together again. Oh, and there was a very enticing bbq at the end.  What's the point of racing if you can't have a treat afterwards?

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Read - The goldfinch (#9/52)

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt was another book club book,  but I would have read it anyway as I loved Donna Tartt's first novel (The Secret History).  Luckily book club didn't meet in April (our usual date fell in the Easter holidays) as this book really needed more than a month to read.

It's long, complex, full of twists and unexpected turns of plot - I absolutely loved it! It's so cleverly written in the voice of Theo, who is 13 at the start of the events recounted in the novel, 27 at the end, and tells the story of what happens to him after he is involved in an explosion at a museum. I don't really want to say much more about the plot than that as it was great reading it and being truly surprised and intrigued by all the different elements of the plot.  The characters are brilliantly written and I felt real affection for several of them - we spent a long time at book group discussing who would play each role if it was made into a film (and it would be a great film - or tv series)  - we all had very strong opinions, as the characters had become very real to us all!

It's not without its flaws - I felt there were some slips in historical accuracy when Theo's teenage years were being narrated,  and a few sections could have done with stricter editing.  But overall it's a fabulous book to read - a worthy winner of the Pulitzer prize and wholeheartedly recommended by me.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Craft - my new favourite shop

Today was one of those unplanned days where I managed to seize an unexpected opportunity. I was in London for a work event in Mile End. I was unsure what time I'd be getting home and had made sure all childcare was taken care of, so when it finished just after 3pm I decided to walk from Mile End to Islington along Regents Canal as I'd spotted a sign saying it was 3.5 miles along the towpath. It was a lovely walk through some very varied areas of London, skirting round Victoria Park which looks worthy of a visit on another day, passing this amazing bookshop, seeing all sorts of people using the towpath for their daily journeys.

Eventually (after an hour) I ended up in Islington. I had a quick peer through the window of Loop but decided to visit another day as I really don't need any more yarn right now.  I really don't need any more sewing stuff either but I couldn't resist finding the amazing Ray-stitch which I'd seen mentioned in lots of places.  And oh, it was worth the visit.  The shelves are stacked high with the most gorgeous fabrics, there are notions and trims galore and the staff are lovely. I bought a few items (which I won't divulge just yet as I'm sure they'll be making an appearance in the blog soon) but I could have bought loads more.

  I was too timid to take a photo in the shop, but sneaked a quick shot outside - the windows are too reflective to see properly, but there are lovely dresses on display plus loads of sample items of clothing inside so you can see how the fabrics work with different patterns.  It really is worth a visit - or multiple visits!

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Run - morning running

This morning I managed to go for a rare pre-work run. I'm really not a morning person, and didn't get out quite as early as I hoped, but I managed to fit in 35 mins round my local woods.  They're really close to where I live but I often run through them to get to other places, rather than in them.  Because I was very time limited I decided to see how far a run round the outer perimeter would be.  All went well until one of the paths I was following got narrower and narrower and finally became an overgrown mess of brambles and nettles.  A few stings and scratches later I emerged into this field.

As I scrambled over the stile and found my way back to the proper path, I realised how lucky I am both to have this on my doorstep and to have the time to squeeze in a short run. I've been stuck at my desk for the rest of the day, but I'm still feeling a little bit smug that I missed all the rain that's now pouring down and made the most of the lovely early morning. A great way to start the day and I'm really going to make an effort to run before work more often.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Craft - Completion! A crochet hook roll

It's been a while since I've had any time to sit down and do some uninterrupted crafting - especially sewing, which I always seem to find harder to get started on than crochet. But today I gritted my teeth and once tea was over and the smallest boy was in bed, I dragged out my sewing machine and got to work on an overdue project (the recipient's birthday passed a few weeks ago).

This Crochet hook roll  from the blog Today We Made ended up being very simple to make, largely due to the excellent instructions in the PDF tutorial (some of the pictures on the website are a bit broken, but the downloadable PDF is great). I used a couple of bits of cotton fabric from my large collection of odds and ends, with a green velvet ribbon as the tie - it was very pleasing to find a ribbon that matched so well. I'm also quite happy with how the pattern matches on the inside of the roll - this was in no way deliberate!

The photos are a bit shadowy but hopefully give an idea of what it's like,  and I've broken two self-imposed rules - only using one photo per blog (as I wanted to show both the inside and outside) and only having landscape photos. Who knows where this anarchy might end up - hopefully with more sewing, as once I get down to it I do really enjoy it. And it's especially satisfying to start and finish a project in one evening.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Craft - tilespiration

Sorry for the made up word in the title. I think I must have a bit of an obsession with tiles. I can't resist taking pictures of them wherever I am, which often seems to be in toilets, ( have you seen the stunning tiles in the V & A restaurant toilets?) and also includes a series of about 50 photos of benches all tiled differently, which I photographed in Spain last year.  I think it's a combination of vivid colours, shiny glaze and beautifully ordered symmetry.  I also used to love the Altair colouring books when I was younger - I'm sure it's all connected. I'm thinking I might be able to use all my tile photos as inspiration - for quilting? printing? Who know, but I'm sure they'll serve a purpose one day.

These lovely tiles were (predictably) in a toilet in a very nice little restaurant in London (Honey & Co.) which I visited recently.  The food AND the tiles made the visit very worthwhile.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Read - Five Red Herrings (#8/52)

Last year I (re-)read Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers for one of my book clubs and it made me remember how much I'd enjoyed reading the Lord Peter Wimsey books when I was younger.  With easy availability provided by my Kindle, I started to download the series a book at a time so I could re-read them all in order.  When I read them previously I'd borrowed them from my local library, which meant reading in order wasn't an option - it was down to chance which title was available on the shelf, and I have a feeling I may have missed one or two altogether.

So I read the first few titles last year, and am now up to number 7 - Five Red Herrings.  I started it a while ago but have had to intersperse a few books for book club between, so it's been a rather disjointed read.  On the whole, it hasn't been one of my favourite Wimsey books. It's set in an artistic community in Scotland, and when one of the artists is found dead, there are, as the title suggests, five suspects for the murder. I enjoyed the descriptions of the community and the evocation of 1920's life, but the way the plot hinges on detailed analysis of movements and train times and the like became a bit tedious.  Still worth a read though - and I'm enjoying the challenge of reading all the books in order this time.  I remember really enjoying a couple of the later books when I read them first time round, so I'm looking forward to seeing what I think of them now.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Craft - printing

Craft club again this evening, and we did printing.  My friends brought a brilliant selection of things to print with including celery, corks, string, potatoes, bubble wrap. loo roll inners ...

I used various items to make the gift labels in the picture (potatoes and lego blocks) and some printed paper (potatoes, bubble wrap, corks). One of my friends printed a whole roll of wrapping paper with the most beautiful roses, using celery (like this).

Playing around with the different objects, dipping them in paint, mixing colours, finding patterns - it was another lovely relaxed, creative craft club evening.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Run - another stately pile

I do like the fact that public rights of way in England allow anyone access to all sorts of exciting places.  A few days ago I got to run through the grounds of this stately home:

It was with my running group and I'm not sure we stayed strictly to the proper paths - but no-one told us off, and it does make an interesting change to be running somewhere like this. Back to the woods for today's run though - although they're my usual stomping ground it's lovely to see how they change through the seasons, and the bluebells are still looking particularly splendid.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Read - Funny Girl (#7/52)

I read 'Funny Girl' by Nick Hornby for book group this week.  I wasn't looking forward to it for a couple of reasons - I'd inadvertently read some reviews on Amazon before downloading it which were pretty unfavourable, and I've been preferring to read 'real' books rather than ebooks recently.

But do you know what? I really enjoyed it.  I haven't read anything by Nick Hornby for a while, probably not since 'About A Boy', and I'd forgotten how engaging his writing style is.  This is a charming novel with a heroine holding her own in sixties London.  There are obvious parallels with several stars of the era (Cilla Black, Barbara Windsor) but Barbara / Sophie is original enough to be a believable character.  Real people and events are cleverly woven into the story (reminiscent of William Boyd's 'Any Human Heart', although that's on a much grander scale) and it was an easy, pleasant read.  Probably not a prizewinning piece of literature, but I'd definitely recommend it if you want something light and enjoyable.