Thursday, August 31, 2006

I've got those...

...back to work blues.

Oh, yes. Have only been back to work for a couple of hours a day for two days and the insomnia is back already! Well, it's not insomnia really, I have no problem getting to sleep. I just don't sleep very deeply, am plagued by bizarre dreams and wake early.

Then my brain switches on. J calls it 'motorway brain'. My thoughts race round and round, leaping from one thing to another and any diversion towards work is fatal. It's the nature of the beast I guess. Leading a school isn't the kind of work you can leave on the bench overnight, unfortunately. Or maybe it is and I'm not doing it right. I get caught up in the issues, problems and intricacies of the 400 or so lives that are tied in with mine through our school community. I'm not the only one. We're still in the holidays but the building is full of my colleagues, working. I'm very fortunate to be surrounded by people who care so much.

What we need to work on this year is looking after ourselves a bit better. We had a lot of sickness and stress last year. This year needs to be different. But how?

While at home, avoiding thinking about work I have been working on a felted tote bag in Noro Kureyon. I'm using this pattern, but my gauge didn't work out as planned so it's got 4 squares along the base and each side square is cast on with 32 stitches. I'm onto the side gussets at the moment. It's been a quick and satisfying knit and I'm looking forward to the felting bit.
This is the colourway I'm using.

I bought it to make a vest or sweater, but have decided that I need to face up to the fact that, no matter how much I like them, sludgey colours do not suit me, so a bag it is.

Cheering me up in the kitchen is this:

We read, recently, that spring comes earlier and the seasons are moving around, but this amaryllis has got it's body clock total off kilter.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Out on the wiley, windy moors

Making the most of the last weekend before I go back to work on Tuesday.
(Next week is an acclimatisation programme: no children. First I'll get used to my office again, then venture out to the classrooms to find some colleagues... and it's just occurred to me that I didn't ask the site supervisor to water the plants so I guess there'll be a lot of leaf picking to do. I'll warn J to clear out some space for a horticultural Intensive Care Unit.)

We drove out across the moors, through Rosedale, Glaisdale, Commondale and a call in at the Moors centre in Danby for refreshments. Although it was still warm and sunny it gets very windy up there and the temperatures can vary enormously.

Although the road is high, we climbed a hill to get a better view down into the valley. The path we followed led into an abandoned quarry. Abandoned, but not unused. I heard a strange droning. Bees! It was full of hives and clouds of bees. I bet the owner produces fantastic heather honey! The views from the top were worth it though.

There are always lots of sheep around. Passed a sign that said 'Please drive carefully. 150 sheep killed on the road last year.'
Further into Rosedale a shepherd was gathering the sheep for shearing using a pair of dogs. It's amazing to watch, but we were blocking the road so J had to move on before I could get pictures.

The North York Moors were first worked by Neolithic man. And man has continued to make his mark since. The moors are full of these standing stones and, later, stone crosses.

A happy man with a fairy cake at the Danby Moors Center. 'It's a very manly fairy cake!' said the girl who brought our tea. She'll go far in customer relations.

If I have a nose for tearooms and coffee shops, J can sniff out a garden miles away. He found this steeply terraced herb garden behind the Moors Centre.

We watched rain moving across the dales. Very Wuthering Heights! It caught up with us eventually and the temperature dropped from 20 degrees to 14 degrees.

Finally headed back down towards the road into Teesside for dinner.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Lights, camera...

The beach at Redcar is littered with small fragments of charred paper today. If you look closely enough, the remaining visible text is printed in French.

If you wander along the beach you will come across carelessly discarded corpses and broken furniture piled up against sandbags.

Keep going and you arrive in 1941 on the North coast of France.

No timewarp - Working title and Joe Wright, who directed Pride and Prejudice, are making a film version of Ian McEwan's book Atonement and Redcar is doubling for wartime France and doing a good job too, with the help of some fake frontages and make-overs for the existing buildings.

Redcar was chosen for it's undeveloped esplanade and seafront properties. The town isn't taking a fee for it's appearance (although if I lived in one of the seafront buildings I would want to be paid), hoping that interest will increase the number of visitors to the town and there were plenty of people watching the film crew at work with us. To be honest, they need to work harder than that. The seafront is nice enough, but the town centre is looking very rundown.


I have a finished object to report!

Bombshell from Big Girl Knits is done.

I like the shape of the sweater, but swear I will never knit anything in Debbie Bliss Cotton Angora ever, ever, ever again. I've been racking my brain and I think this has to have been the worst yarn experience of my knitting life so far. The shedding has irritated everyone who has come near it and I still feel like I might cough up a hairball any time now.
In order to try and fix the fuzz problem I washed the sweater as part of the 'blocking' process. No real improvement, a hairy bra and the washer has a hairball too.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

SP8, Episode 3

Felt like the Queen or Paddington Bear this morning. An odd coupling, perhaps, but they both have 'official' birthdays in addition to their actual birthdays. The reason being, my final SP8 package and reveal card arrived from Sara. These packages have all felt like an extra birthday and my family have been quite envious. Sara suggested that this package might be the best and I agree. I opened the box to find all these lovely berry treats.

There are two skeins of roving she has hand carded and some Kool Aid (berry colours) to dye it with. I'm really looking forward to trying Kool Aid dying and then I'm going to get my spindle out again and put into practice all the tips I picked up at Danby last week.

There are three skeins of a lovely cotton and linen mix yarn from Craftspun Yarns. It's a lovely, crispy boucle yarn and I imagine that bobbles knitted in this would look just like blackberries; which brings me to Wild Blackberry soap, which smells just amazing. (j says it smells just like Whitby, which tells you how much time I've made him spend in all the lovely little shops there during his formative years - he's right, it reminds me of the Shepherd's Purse).

My favourite has to be a little felted merino bowl. I love felted bowls. I tried my hand at one a while back but it was too floppy. This one stands up beautifully.

Chocolate too.

Thank you again Sara. My SP8 experience has been a real pleasure! I also want to thank Bobbi for being the hostess for our group. My happiness will be totally complete when I hear that my reveal package made it to it's Scandinavian destination with my spoilee.


You Are a Soy Latte

At your best, you are: free spirited, down to earth, and relaxed

At your worst, you are: dogmatic and picky

You drink coffee when: you need a pick me up, and green tea isn't cutting it

Your caffeine addiction level: medium

Borrowed this quiz from Rho's blog. I've never had a soy anything in reality. I drink a latte in the morning at home, espresso during the morning at work and tea in the afternoon. Keep telling myself I'm going to leave blog quizzes alone, but actually think they're kind of fun.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Confined to barracks

J had a flat battery this morning, which wouldn't respond to jump starting so he took my car. I hadn't really planned to go anywhere today, but it's amazing how having no transport can make you think of lots of places you need to go. Used the time productively - caught up with paperwork, including a tax return (early!) and renewing liability insurance (early too!), which made me feel a lightness of being afterwards.

Then I spent 15 minutes on hold for our dental practice and tried to get a routine appointment. Earliest I could manage was 12th October! So I made our next appointments for April 2007 too in an attempt to book early. This is a PRIVATE dentist, who we have to pay simply to stay on his list. God help all those poor souls trying to get NHS treatment. The state of NHS dentists in England is one of the biggest health care outcries of our time...added to the MRSA outcry...and today's bowel cancer drug outcry...
Without being flippant, Kim and Aggie are doing a programme from a hospital this week, I'm glad I don't work for the NHS any more.

I posted a picture of Paddy, our Uromastyx, yesterday. She's 4 years old, 10 inches long and still growing. We have leopard gekkos and White's Australian Tree Frogs too.

We have had three Bearded Dragons in our time too: lovely animals all - the golden retrievers of the lizard world! :) We don't have any currently as losing each has been very traumatic and upsetting and we can't go through it again. This guy was our favourite. Bob, sitting on his favourite log. He had such a sweet nature and would sit on the back of the sofa all day (sometimes with our cat, Spike, now also gone, oh dear, this is in danger of getting really sad.)

Changing the subject quickly, I've been looking at some of Len Tabner's paintings online. Can't afford one in the flesh, as it were. He was born in Southbank (see the post about buying the bedframe) and lives near Staithes (see post about Staithes). I know someone who swapped some land they owned behind his cottage for a painting. They definitely got the best end of the deal. Here's some of his work.


I enjoyed SP8 so much that I've decided to have a go at another swap this Autumn. Nothing too involved. I've signed up for International Sweater Exchange 3 and have immediately become niggled by doubts about the quality of my work being judged by others ;)

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Dark skies overhead

but at one end of the garden today it's still the height of summer:

The white agapanthus and the cannas are flowering really well, which disguises the fact that the hanging baskets and morning glories are going back fast.

While down at the woodland end, it's starting to become autumn:

The rowan is laden with berries,

the Japanese anenomes have come into flower (although I can't find the white ones I thought we had planted last year)

the copper flowered, bronze foliaged dahlias are picking up

and it's a race to the blackberries between me and the blackbirds.

J is splitting up a lot of our bigger perennials and potting up the bits we can't use - he has a cunning plan to get a stall at an unusual plants fair next spring - goodness knows we've seen enough people making money at it this year. Problem is, he keeps giving everything away to family, friends and neighbours. We were talking about our favourite nurseries the other day and my brother said 'Actually, I get most of my plants from J.'


We went car booting this afternoon. The weather was threatening rain again so we didn't expect many stalls, but we got some good bits and pieces: 32 1906-1916 French greetings postcards - I've been brushing up my French trying to decode the messages and a Tremar teapot, which matches the sugar bowl and milk jug I already have. I love car boot sales, auctions etc.


Finally to the beach. We raced the weather over to South Gare and then headed through the storm and out the other side. I think we would probably enjoy storm chasing (if I wasn't so middle-aged and concerned about things like insurance and getting back for tea.) These pictures are of the storm hitting Warrenby steelworks across the other side of the mouth of the Tees. I like the colours and the skies reminded me a little of Len Tabner. How I would love one of his paintings!


My resolve disappeared during the X Factor audition show yesterday evening :) I broke into some new yarn and started a scarf. It's a mix of Louisa Harding Sari Ribbon and (Wendy?) Moiselle. I'm using my old favourite Seafoam Stitch and I love the way it's looking.
I've been experimenting by wearing my new Armadillo magnetic wristband in an "I'll try anything" attempt to relieve the fibro ache. Unfortunately, the velcro seems to be a magnet for the homespun element of the Moiselle, so I'm getting all fluffy.

Although this picture of Paddy, our Uromastyx, is slightly out of focus, you can clearly see the disapproval of my actions and the look that says 'Serves you right.' on her face...

Friday, August 18, 2006

And the rain came down...

...and down and down today. I used it as an excuse to stay at home, put my feet up and work on Bombshell. I am now down to the ribbing at the waist and things are moving along a little quicker. I'mnot sure about my yarn choice - Debbie Bliss Cotton Angora. It feels lovely, is a gorgeous colour, but sheds like mad. My clothes are covered in it, it's up my nose, in my mouth - everywhere. I hope it sheds less after first wash or I'm going to be very restricted about what I can wear it with. Something green and slightly hairy, I guess.

I was wondering if you could get an 'industrial' lung disease from working a lot with yarn that sheds, when I was looking at the Anticraft website. They have an article on craft-related injuries. They also have this nifty knitted condom pattern.
The main reason for today's enforced idleness is overdoing it a bit yesterday with the arts and crafts bedframe we bought. j helped me assemble it and then I waxed it up. I'm really pleased with the way it looks. Of course I should have remembered the photograph it naked, before I put the mattress and bedding on it. The foot board is a repeat of the headboard, but slightly lower.

No more DIY projects for a while - need to focus on being mobile enough to go back to work in a couple of weeks :( Well, until the next one.


The SP8 reveal has taken place - all the blogs are up on Bobbi's blog. I think I've worked out who my spoiler is, as she's the only Irish blogger on the list. Wonder if my spoilee has received her final package, including my reveal card?

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

All around the blooming heather

It's typical, isn't it? J has a day off, we don't need to set the alarm and I wake up at 6:42am. I was worrying a bit about a doctor's appointment I had this morning, to be honest.
I've been suffering from what's come to be known as 'old lady feet' - my ankles and feet have been swelling. It's not nice and it's not pretty. It's easy to put everything odd that happens to my body down to the Fibro, but this one has been niggling at me for a while. Left ventricular failure? Undiagnosed tumour? Lymph problems? I was a registered nurse for 15 years and consequently never get headaches, just brain tumours.
So, I'm at the doctor's again and have blood work done and hand in a urine sample. BP is ok, chest and heart are ok, lymph nodes seem ok. Probably just my Fibro. Feet are the same, but I feel better about it. What will this have in store for me next?

Hopefully not 'sheep legs'

As an antidote to this, we made j get up earlier than he likes and all went off to Danby show. I love all the agricultural shows within easy reach of us in the Summer. I love the sheep, cattle, rabbits and fancy pigeons. I love the crafts and giant vegetables. I love the beer tents and icecream. What I'm not so keen on is the Pony Club set and the pro-hunt lobby/Countryside Alliance presence. (Politics on sleeve time.) I have no problem with hunting to eat. I have no problem with the arguments that the fox population needs to be managed. But I can't see why it has to be done in a way that terrifies the fox - chasing it with horses and hounds. It may be a proud old countryside tradition, but so were burning witches, use of the scold's bridle and droit de seigneur...

Anyway - I talked with a girl spinning with a wheel and bought some of her yarn.

We looked at the sheep and cattle.

And drove home over the moors. I love North Yorkshire at this time of the year - it's mostly purple, my favourite colour.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The fear of imperfection

Very girlie morning with a friend who's been having super-complicated men problems lately. There are lots of times I give thanks for the sanity and security of having been married to J for 15 and a bit years. We've been together for 17 years now - second marriage for both of us. I, of course, was a child bride first time :)

By our second latte and after a couple of cinnamon buns in Starbucks we were howling with laughter at her psychotic throwing away of his clothes in the middle of the night and quite well thought through plans to go over to his flat and castrate him with a pair of pinking shears. It's amazing how weird your thoughts can get in the small hours, during a PMT week - she's all better now; all she needed was female company and cake.


J and I drove out this evening, to collect a bed frame we bought from an ad in the local paper. We were looking for one and I was intrigued by the description of 'light oak colour with celtic design'. When I rang, the woman who was selling gave me an address in South Bank . We were a bit (very!!!) put off as, despite it having been once a wonderful community Slaggy Island, as it was known by locals, now has an image of very run dowm housing and social problems. We've seen houses down there go for £5000 at auction and have not been tempted to pick one up for redevelopment because of all the problems in the area.
Anyway, we went over and found the house - one of only a few not boarded up in the street! 'Just keep driving!' I said. J parked up (where we would be able to see the car from the house) and we went in. The inside of that house was gorgeous! What a wonderful job she had done - woods, creams and browns; mirrors and leathers. She explained that the street was scheduled for demolition and they were being compulsorily purchased. How heartbreaking to have lavished so much time, effort and love on a house to see it torn down.

The bed: not 'oak colour', but oak. Not 'celtic design', but arts and crafts. And gorgeous. We snapped it up and it's sitting in the dining room waiting to be moved upstairs and assembled. A lesson there, I think.

One of my favourite folkies was originally from South Bank - Vin Garbutt.

I love his songs, but most of all his stories that go with the songs.

Monday, August 14, 2006

We admitted we were powerless over our yarn

- that our stash had become unmanageable.
Confession is good for the soul so here goes...

This morning I put my hand into my knitting bag to find a horrible, soggy mess. Over the course of the family visit, a can of watermelon flavoured tango appears to have been upended and has poured into the storage box which houses some of my 'downstairs stash' and to have finished upside down into my knitting bag. After lots of cursing and a fair amount of getting upset I sat down to sort it all out and undo the damage. A skein of Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock and three balls of Kureyon had to be washed along with the knitting bag, but everything else was protected by plastic. What horrified me was the extent of the accumulation down there. This is just the stuff that is closer to the needles than the stash upstairs. It lives in my knitting bag (really close to the needles), an open African basket beside my end of the sofa (likely to make it to the needles sometime over the next year or so) and in a walnut open work hamper which masquerades as an end table (proximity to needles? - who am I kidding?). I daren't even itemise how much yarn there is upstairs.

Time for a sort out then.

I transferred much of the hamper contents into a (nother) 35 litre plastic tub with a lid - my favourite stash storage - and moved it upstairs with the rest, had a good look at some of the remaining yarn and threw some old bits away! Acrylic baby yarn, lots of knotted ends of kureyon from a long abandoned project and a front from a Triangle Tango in Collinette Point 5. (She said, defiantly)

I've had an honest look at WIPs too:

J's Rowan Denim sweater - this is to be my penance for the accumulation of yarn:

Rowan Froth scarf:

Opal cotton and silk sock:

Bombshell: (I'm doing quite well on this, but each round is about 400 stitches now, so it's slow going.)

Jaywalker sock - probably to be frogged as it's too thick and stiff a fabric:

San Francisco Shirttail, front completed:

I am making a commitment to getting these finished before I make a start on anything else...with the exception, perhaps, of these:

Chunky baby alpaca - the softest yarn I have ever handled. Intended for a lace pattern scarf.

Moiselle and Sari Ribbon, intended for a scarf to go with a green tweed suit I bought for Autumn.


Remember what I said about not knitting anything else for my niece? This picture arrived on my phone this morning:

Maybe I'll reconsider :)