Friday 15 March 2019

...16 days off

Day 1

We went out for breakfast and whiled away a leisurely hour chatting and planning some of the things we'd like to do over the next two weeks. Day trips and spring cleaning were high on my list, bike maintenance and several sporting fixtures on my husband's. 

When we got home I spent a couple of hours dusting, cleaning and tidying in the bedroom (the easiest room in the house!) and went through the contents of my trunk - old drawings, prints and photos from my college days, handmade birthday cards from when the children were little, and the Christmas tree (plus wrapping paper, lights and decorations). It also holds quite a big cardboard box full of fabric scraps and remnants which I peered into and then closed again - a job for another day. I made a start on filling a bag for the charity shop, having managed to discard a pair of hardly-worn shoes, a scarf and a cuddly toy elephant that I like but just don't love.

I did a bit of titivating in the pots outside the kitchen window, where lots of last year's experimental (planted and forgotten about) bulbs are already coming up - hyacinths, crocuses and narcissus. I added some jolly red and yellow tulip bulbs bought from Ikea a couple of weeks ago and a couple of cheap and cheerful punnets of violas (impulse buy at Aldi on the way home from breakfast). It's a pity they're not perennials though - I've decided that bulbs are definitely the way forward for a lazy gardener like me. In between these bursts of activity I continued work on the scarf for my mother-in-law. It needs to be ready for Tuesday...
Day 2

Started with a rainy morning walk at the park. The XXSCat dog was absolutely caked in mud by the end of it, but nothing a quick shower in the kitchen sink couldn't fix (probably the biggest advantage of having a very small dog is that the mess she creates is also small-scale). Lots of lush green moss, and buds and shoots - I'm so glad to be leaving the dark winter months behind.
I did some tidying in the front garden when we got home (removing dead foliage and cutting back the brambles that will not give up the fight for survival). Despite my aching back and very creaky hip I managed to fill half a wheelie-bin before a sudden hail storm drove me back inside to deal with the laundry pile. My mother-in-law's scarf is nearly complete. I've bought a set of long blocking wires so that I can (hopefully) give it a really professional finish, but will have to do a bit of research first into how to use them properly!

Day 3

Another day, another park. This one is a 15-20 minute drive away, but well worth the effort for the walk around the lake and the fruit scone with jam and cream at the cafe afterwards! It gives the XXSCat dog a chance to practice her people skills, as it is much busier than our local park. The XXSCat dog loves other dogs and adores her human family, but has a profound mistrust of everyone else and a bad habit of growling and barking at passers-by who don't have a dog with them. Most people just laugh at our miniature guardian, but it is not a habit we encourage, as it would be far less amusing in a bigger dog. A combination of redirection and rewarding of good behaviour seems to be doing the trick, and she managed to disregard all but a couple of the most suspicious (in her eyes) characters. Even the swans got a free pass today.
The scarf for my mother-in-law is finished, and is currently being blocked (after a quick YouTube tutorial). The blocking wires are doing a wonderful job, but I didn't enjoy the painfully slow process of threading them through all those edge stitches whilst kneeling on the floor. My poor old joints are still complaining half an hour later!
Day 4

The day didn't start terribly well, as I had a phone-call from the GP with x-ray results for my hip. "Severe osteoarthritis" with bone now rubbing on bone rather than cartilage. Which I guess would explain the constant pain and stiffness...the GP is going to refer me to the hospital because she seemed to think hip replacement surgery might be on the cards - a scary prospect for someone in their mid-fifties. But it's also a relief to know what's causing the pain - it's been so consistently bad for so long that I've been getting bored of hearing myself grumble about it, and even wondered at times if it was all in my head! Now, rather than continuing to hope it will "ease off" or go away if I walk far enough, I know it's probably here to stay and can find other ways to help myself - like getting a walking stick to take some of the pressure off the bad hip. A snazzy blue folding walking stick!

Meanwhile, the scarf for my mother-in-law is finished. Blocking really brought it to life - it is soft and airy and oh so pretty with those deep rainbow tones.
Day 5

Spent several happy hours catching up with an old friend, reminiscing about when the children were small, meeting a couple of her grandchildren, and swapping notes about our crafty endeavours. Since I saw her last (about two or three years ago) she has been learning to sew, and was excited to show me some of her latest projects. We discovered that we had both bought the same overlocker sewing machine from Lidl in the past couple of months. Mine is still in its box - hers has already been put to use making tunics and t-shirts. I have serious sewing envy and have vowed to get the overlocker out for a trial run just as soon as I've got some bobbins from the market!

Days 6-10

Frittered away with knitting (an adult-sized bonnet for my Mum using the wonderful Tin Can Knits 'Beloved' pattern), shopping (boring groceries and sensible stuff), cleaning (the bathroom - essential but dull), re-watching "Killing Eve" box-set, and a weekend park walk. Still trying to decide whether the "shooting into the sun so everything is dark" aspect of my chosen spot for this year's photo collection is a deal-breaker...
...not much has changed since January...
 ...but it did look rather lovely in the February fog.
Day 11

Finished the 'Beloved' bonnet  for my Mum. She loves it because it "stays on and keeps her ears warm". I love it because it is such a well designed, satisfying thing to make, and the gorgeous shifting colours in the yarn (Lang - Tosca Light) kept me constantly craving "just one more row".

Day 12

Spent a happy hour or so sewing a dress for my latest rescue doll and then ended up changing the buttons on the cardigan to match the dress. I haven't got the overlocker out of its box yet. I'm feeling a bit apprehensive about trying it because when I went to buy some bobbins from the market the lady in the shop was very sniffy about the machine I'd bought (a cheap and cheerful Singer from Lidl). Her husband does sewing machine servicing and repairs and she said that he "refuses to even look at them" because they are so poorly constructed and unreliable! My friend seemed happy enough with hers, so we shall see, but I'm bracing myself for possible disappointment and putting off the evil day for a little longer. 

I'm also still wavering about a facial repaint for the rescue doll. I really don't like her expression, but if I remove the factory paint she will be less durable and have less of a potential future as a hard-working dolly companion for a small person. I'm considering seeing what can be achieved by over-painting what's already there and giving her a temporary makeover instead.

Day 13

A spontaneous day out, visiting a nearby art/craft gallery recommended by a friend (Sunny Bank Mill in Farsley), followed by a further foray to a wonderful yarn shop (Knitter's Paradise at Coldspring Mill in Cullingworth) for a lengthy browse, a few judicious purchases and a delicious lunch at the cafe. Since we were literally just over the hill we rounded things off with a wander up and down the main street at Haworth, stopping for coffee, cake and a glimpse of the Bronte Parsonage Museum from the graveyard, with rooks circling noisily overhead. I treated myself to a copy of "The Illustrated Garden" - a gorgeous book stuffed with garden themed images from 69 different printmakers. Something to pore over for hours and get my creative juices flowing. 

Day 14

Ferociously knitting a 1-2-3 Chickadee scarf from the two balls of King Cole Sprite (Crete colourway) that I bought at the mill yesterday. I love the colours SO MUCH I literally can't put it down... 
...except to take delivery of my new hip-and-back-saving laptop trolley. My transformation into old-lady-hood is now complete but I really don't care. I can't face lugging a heavy laptop and files up and down the hill to and from the car park at work any longer, especially not when I know I'm compounding the problem in my hip. Trolleys and walking sticks - my new reality!
Day 15

Odd jobs - adding a couple of shelves to the storage units for my work-related "stuff" in the back bedroom, doing laundry...and more laundry...and more laundry.

Day 16

Sad that it's the final day of the holidays, but happy because we spent the morning walking the dog at the park with my eldest, catching up on the latest happenings in his life and having no choice but to wash it all down with tea and fresh cream scones. Also happy because my new scarf is complete and I love it - it is warm, squishy, and soft, and its colours make my heart sing.

Sunday 3 March 2019

...February fog and flying fingers

In stark contrast with 2018's 'Beast from the East' blizzards, last week we experienced some of the hottest days on record for a British February - long misty mornings followed by sunny afternoons - which gave our weekend walk at the park a dreamy, ethereal feel. I can't really cope with the feelings of anxiety that plague me if I dwell too long on the underlying reasons for this extraordinary weather, so I've been trying to think along the lines of the Serenity Prayer - 'change the things I can' and 'enjoy one moment at a time'. In other words, I'm doing what I can as an individual to look after and respect this planet we live on (and hoping that if enough others do the same then we will all be ok) which, in turn, allows me to really enjoy the unexpected beauty of a foggy - not frosty - day in early Spring.

Quick knits continue to occupy most of my spare time at the moment. For a friend's new grandchild I adapted this dear little garter-stitch jacket pattern slightly, with an i-cord edging down the front (to create a neater finish)...
...and this charity shop rescue doll received a new cardigan too. I'm going to sew her a matching dress and have been pondering a facial repaint to make her look a little less scary. I think her expression is meant to convey 'mischievous and feisty' but given that people seem to instinctively recoil when they see her, I think 'menacing and  formidable' is possibly more accurate. She has scrubbed up very well so far (her hair was a matted mess when I bought her) so a friendlier expression to accompany her new clothes might just give her an even longer lease of life.
I've broken my own (self-imposed) rule about always finishing one thing before starting another, and have two projects currently on the go: on the left is a scarf for my mother-in-law's birthday this week (she admired the colour of my 'Around the corner' shawl and hinted very heavily that she would like something in the same yarn), and on the right is the start of an adult sized Beloved bonnet, requested by my mother. I love them both - the colours are just gorgeous!