Tuesday 31 December 2019

...the post-Christmas slump

The days leading up to Christmas were busy. There was a miniature production line in operation as I raced to get 9 candle jars assembled and ready...
...the super-curly scarf was pinned out on the blocking mat for 36 hours while I crossed my fingers and held my breath until it was dry... 
...and revealed in all its non-curly glory. I really love this pattern. I like the fact that the ends are different, the main body stitches are easy to memorise (making it perfect for combined knitting and TV watching), and the overall effect is simply rather elegant. It reminds me of Charles Rennie Mackintosh's art nouveau designs, and I will probably end up making one for myself!
There were four more candle jars to complete before the weekend, by which time I was well and truly over them! So one ended up with a green lid...
 ...and a completely different design. Mass production is really not my thing!
Yesterday we had a walk at the park with the XXSCat dog, which made me realise just how out of shape I currently am. The gentle slope in the photo below felt like a mountain as we walked up it, and although my new bionic hip coped ok, the other non-bionic one was grumbling horribly. Given that there are over 4 million people currently waiting for joint replacement surgery in the UK, and given how well the first operation went, I've decided to talk to my GP about going back on the waiting list to get the other hip done sooner rather than later. No more stoicism and "soldiering on" this time around - I really don't want to get back to the point where life doesn't feel worth living any more! In the meantime I'm also hopping back on the weight loss bandwagon to help ease the pressure on that arthritic joint. 
I believe it's quite common for people to feel a little out of sorts and deflated in the hiatus between Christmas and New Year, and I'm nothing if not quite common! I'm back at work on the 6th of January, so I feel like I 'should' be making the most of my precious time off - but all that racing from one festive  family gathering to another combined with an accumulation of sleepless nights (husband snoring like a train after succumbing to the cold that's kept me awake coughing for the past two weeks) has left me decidedly lacking in get up and go. I think the photo below sums things up rather nicely. There's a lot just lying dormant (bare clematis stems and  Minions half-buried in dead leaves in the garden), there's a fair bit of boredom and inertia (half-finished teddy jumpers and mittens), but there's also the knowledge that life goes in cycles (orchids come into flower, bulbs send up shoots from the bare earth) and the hope that there will always be something to rekindle imagination and inspire (Christmas Snork-maiden awaiting a flower garland, skeins of colourful yarn, a gorgeously illustrated book of cleverly constructed sweaters). Here's to 2020!

Wednesday 18 December 2019

...WOYWW - The One Before the BIg Tidy

There are just a couple of days to go before I finish work for the rest of the year (hooray!) - which is just as well, because things are getting pretty messy around here. My workdesk (other workdesks are available here) is at the epicentre of the chaos, because it's in the room where the Christmas presents are dumped stored while they wait to be wrapped, and where the miscellaneous "stuff that's been got out and now needs to be put away" also gets parked. I literally can't wait for Friday, when I will have the house to myself and can clean and tidy to my heart's content. 
Things that have contributed to the carnage over the past week or two are:
  • Work stuff - our Service User Group Annual Christmas card design - everyone made a tree, and I faffed around with an improvised backdrop of blue card and white silica sand. Why? Because it was there!*
  • Distracting seasonal gorgeousness stuff - the best thing about short, dark, winter days is the fantastic sunrises and sunsets that we get to enjoy at the beginning and end of them. This one, seen from the landing window, was absolutely epic, and made me late for work.
  • Christmas gift knitting stuff - I'm persevering with this scarf very much against my better judgement because it is curling like the curliest curl on Planet Curly, and I'm really not sure that wet-blocking can properly rectify that issue. But it's 75% complete now, and frogging it to make it into a sensible, non-curly, moss or garter stitch scarf is just too disheartening to think about.
  • Finishing touches stuff - Eco-friendly tealights? Tick. Sachets of white silica sand to even out the bottom of the jar and for *random sprinkling onto blue card for a Christmas card backdrop? Tick. Circular labels to decorate with snowflakes and stick on the lid? Tick.

Roll on Tidy Friday!

Wednesday 4 December 2019

...WOYWW - The One Where Christmas is Coming

November drew to a close with a perfect "cold and frosty morning" last weekend...
...every ivy leaf exquisitely edged in crystalline white...
...and December began with a flourish!

On my workdesk today (for those taking a virtual peep over each-other's shoulders) is a heap of festive prep. On the left there's a scarf - currently one skein in to a three skein job. On the right, a pile of paper Christmas trees made by members of our Service User Group at work. I'll be assembling them for a photo that we'll use for the annual Christmas card. 
Towards the back there's a stack of recycled jars I painted at the weekend, ready for some final touches. With an individually decorated circular sticky label for the lid, a little sachet of white sand to level out the bottom of the jar, and a couple of eco-friendly tea-lights popped inside, they'll soon be good to go. 
In pride of place, the wreath I made on Monday night after my friend dragged me out to a workshop at a local florists. There were around ten of us there, with lots of different materials to choose from, and no two wreaths were the same. I went for quite a minimal/natural look - I got seduced by the different shades of green in the foliage and decided I didn't want to detract from it with baubles or ribbons or glitter. I don't actually have any means of hanging it on my UPVC front door, so it might have to be used as a table decoration instead!
I'm not quite ready to get our tree out of storage yet, but things are well underway in the doll's house, where Miss Lavender is feeling full of Yuletide cheer. At some point in the next three weeks I will almost certainly have to get the air-dry clay out and make her a miniature Christmas feast...

Wednesday 20 November 2019

...WOYWW - The One With All the Trees

Joining in with the Wednesday Workdesk Wander, here's what's occurring on mine today: the first attempt in my yoghurt jar upcycling project, another doodled tree pebble and the start of a Christmas scarf for my son's girlfriend.
I've been thinking for a while of turning the yoghurt jars into storage pots or tealight holders to give as Christmas gifts, so as soon as I'd finished this one I obviously had to close the blinds, draw the curtains and light a candle to try it out! I'm really pleased with the effect - I especially like the fact that it casts a perfect little tree shadow on the wall - but I still have a design problem to solve because the bottom of the jar is slightly convex, so the tealight doesn't sit flat in the bottom. Whatever I use to even it out would need to be non-flammable (currently thinking a little bit of sand might do the trick?) 
Trees have been featuring heavily in my doodlings at the moment - I wasn't sure why until I started uploading the photos for this post and noticed that my phone is absolutely packed with pictures of gorgeous autumn leaves and emerging wintry branches taken during recent weekend walks at the park...

...and then I realised that this is actually part of a long-standing and deep-rooted (pardon the puns) obsession with trees, because the same thing happened this time last year...
 ...and the year before...
...and come to think of it, I've even started seeing trees that aren't actually there!
Could I be suffering from S.A.D. (Seasonal Arboreal Disorder)?!

Wednesday 6 November 2019

...WOYWW - The One With the Pebbles

It has been a whole two months since I've had the time and energy to get myself organised to join in with Julia's weekly Workdesk Show & Tell. I went back to work in September, and although I had a phased return to ease me back in, it's been pretty full on from Day One! I  managed to delay the return to full time  work until this week by taking one day's leave mid-week for the past five weeks, and have agreed with my manager that I'm going to compress my hours a little going forwards, so that I can build in a non-working day once per fortnight. As this is likely to be a Wednesday, I'm hoping I may be able to join in with the desk sharing routine on a more regular basis. It's such a good motivator for me to sit down and get a little something done!

There is not actually a lot to to show this week. I've been collecting those little glass yoghurt pots with nice tight black/gold lids from Aldi for the last couple of months. I'm planning to decorate them to give as Christmas gifts - they're perfect to use as tea-light holders or just for storing little bits and pieces in. The biscuit tin was an impulse buy (also at Aldi) - such a jolly design - I couldn't resist it. Besides, one can always find space for another storage container! There's a little peg doll lady in a tiny knitted cape with a pointy hood (just because every home needs one - pattern can be found here) and the sewing needles are out to remind me to sew a button back on my coat. I collected some nice smooth pebbles while we were away at Seahouses last week, so the main activity happening today is a spot of pebble doodling.
Nothing spectacular - just some little gold trees (the photo doesn't pick up the metallic sheen but they look quite jolly in real life). Again, no particular purpose, just because...
I've also glued a brooch clasp onto the back of this blue pottery fragment I found on the beach,  with its edges worn nice and smooth like sea-glass. 
When I took the photo I realised that it actually resembles a slightly startled pigeon, which makes me like it even more. I think it will look very nice perched on my jacket lapel!

Sunday 3 November 2019

...blue space therapy (Seahouses IV)

Last weekend I knitted my way through a skein of Lang Mille Colori Baby yarn, and made myself a rainbow-hued ear-warming headband to wear during another flying (three nights) visit to Seahouses. It's based on Martina Behm's Wolkig cowl pattern - I cast on the same number of stitches but just used smaller needles to get a closer fit. This yarn/pattern combo was so addictive, it practically knitted itself - the temptation to knit "just one more round" in those gorgeous shifting colours was far too strong!
Travelling to the beach at Seahouses is becoming increasingly like going on a pilgrimage to a sacred place for me - I always feel so happy and peaceful there. There might even be a scientific basis for this strong sense of well-being and contentment - it seems that being by water is good for body and mind, and I'm certain that this is true for me. Whether it's the wide open space, or the light, or the ever-changing landcape, or the white noise of the waves along the shore, there's something about this place that soothes my soul and makes me simply glad to be alive.

We arrived just after high tide on Monday afternoon, to find a fresh display of sculptural seaweed patterns on the sand...
...and then walked back along the lane to our holiday cottage as the sun went down across the fields.
The following morning we were back at the beach bright and early to take full advantage of the space at low tide. There really is nothing so breath-takingly beautiful as the perfect mirroring of that vast blue sky on the flat wet sand...
...unless its a having a perfect rainbow emerge through the clouds!
In the afternoon we had a stroll into Seahouses to pick up a few bits and pieces from the Co-op and sat for a while watching the comings and goings of boats in the harbour - whilst being expertly photo-bombed by the XXSCat dog.
The following morning found us back at the beach again, exploring sandscape forests...
...under soft, powder blue skies...
...and uncovering jewel-like treasures amongst the seaweed. 

Then we spent a cosy, relaxing afternoon, watching a DVD together while I knitted a small grey jumper for  a small grey rescued bear. 
The final morning was different again. With a pearly, cloud-filled sky overhead we had to look harder to find colour in the landscape...
...but this magical place never disappoints, and we found it in a wave-etched vista on this sandy, seaweed-strewn rock.
Although I'm happy to be home again after those few days away, I know that it will be only a matter of time before I'm headed North past Gormley's Angel for another healing dose of heavenly blue space and tranquility on that lovely beach. 

Sunday 20 October 2019

...civic pride and small-scale wonders

The Friday before last was Light Night in Leeds. We've been going along for a couple of years now, and each time I feel a little burst of pride in our city for making this wonderful (free) event possible. My favourite part of the experience is always the amazing animated projections which use iconic city centre buildings as enormous, interactive backdrops. This year was no exception, and glimpses of the magical transformations of the Queen's Hotel and the Civic Hall during Light Night 2019 can be seen below.
From large-scale projections to zoomed-in explorations, this week I've also been marvelling at the delicate tree-like structure of the veins in this well-rotted ivy leaf from the back garden... 
...and gloating over the 'blue eryngo' seeds I collected at the park, ready for sowing in the garden next year. 
I literally can't wait to feast my eyes on that prickly lilac-violet-lavender loveliness in my own back yard, and (hopefully) neither can the local bees!
Finally, a bit of whimsy - in the shape of a little wooden peg doll in a quirky hooded cape, from the 'Nestled' pattern by  Hunter Hammersen on Ravelry. I haven't decided whether to make a leafy sleeping bag to match just yet, but these spiky sweet chestnut seed cases make rather fetching accessories in the meantime.