Monday, July 31, 2006

Into each life some rain must fall...

...thank goodness, and a good amount it has been too. We can almost hear the gardens sighing 'Thank you.'
I'm quite happy too, the sunshine is nice, but it's been hard on the fibro and I've been inside much of the time. However, it has given me chance to work on this:

Have just finished scrubbing undercoat from my body. It got in places you wouldn't believe! I'm giving the bathroom a make-over. Have you noticed how no-one paints any more, they do make-overs? This is a big challenge for me, as the wife of a man who has an interior decorating business. I'm not usually encouraged (allowed) to do-it-myself, but I'm only undercoating the bath panels and the wash basin unit. To be honest, I'm not loving it, but having started, I'm committed. It all started with a length of new curtain fabric and the realisation that too much brown can be a bad thing in a small bathroom. I'm going back to lavender and cream.
Tomorrow, the top coat...
I picked up three Mabel Lucy Attwell postcards at the postcard fair at the weekend. I love her drawings and have quite a few of her war years cards already. One of the things that particularly attracts me, and what drew me to the 60s/70s cards on the left and right, is her incidental inclusion of knitting. I believe she was a knitter herself as the details are always accurate. Look at the neck stitches being held on dpns on the card on the left. Only a knitter would bother with detail like that.


Rowan strike again. The magazine arrived today and I was immediately captivated by all the patchwork gypsy skirts and scarves. Reminds me of a very happy fashion period in my youth (wistful sigh). But then the knitting came into focus... make sure you don't miss the aran tabbard...

Sunday, July 30, 2006

SP8 update

Questions from SP8:
Someone has stolen your stash and all your books: now what are you going to do?

Panic, but only briefly. Call the insurance company and make a claim. Then enjoy rebuilding a new stash.

Assuming you don't let the experience discourage you from ever knitting again, here are some additional items that you could include in your answer...What would be the first thing you'd replace? What would you live without?

I would want to replace Big Girl Knits, my Barbara Walker stitch treasury, the old Rowan books and my more recent purchases as I'm not all the way through them yet, but I'm sure there are lots of things in the existing stash I could live quite happily without - all those beiges and oatmealy naturals. I think it would be like having someone steal the contents of your wardrobe; it would give a chance to go out and try things that you had never considered before.

I'm hoping my last SP8 package has reached its recipient as I haven't heard anything yet. I know she's had some family things going on recently so I'm not worrying too much.

I have been very lucky with my spoiler in this exchange, which has erased all the memories of the first, disastrous exchange I was involved in :)

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Holidays at home

Posting a picture of this new skein of trial run Opal I bought on eBay - mostly to remind myself that this blog is supposed to have a knitting theme. I've been working on the San Fran Shirttail, but the progress, although good, is not that photogenic. When I get the whole front finished I'll post it.

The last couple of days have been like a short holiday for us, as J is taking a long weekend and we've been out and about a bit. Nice to recharge the batteries together as a couple and as a family for a change. J and I don't get enough time together to do things other than the usual household stuff and j is increasingly doing his own thing so it's nice when we have family time.

Yesterday we went up to Gateshead to the Garden Show. The day was very hot and the road into the show was very dusty, consequently the organisers had laid on a tractor with a water bowser to dampen down the dust. Unfortunately, the operator switched the water spray on as we were right behind it. We had the car valeted on Friday and now it's covered in dirt water marks - J had the window down too.
Good start.
Gets better!
As we walked over the pedestrian bridge from the car park, some stupid old man behind us made a comment about my bottom and the amplitude thereof. It wasn't a 'hate' remark - just the nasty-disguised-as-jokey kind of thing that the elderly seem to feel they are entitled to let fly. I thought J was going to flatten him - called him an a@*%hole... and gave him the evil eye in the queue for the following 10 minutes.

Things picked up from thereon, though :) We bought some nice, interesting plants, some cyclamen corms as big as teaplates and some nice ceramic frogs to put in the garden. I draw the line at gnomes, but I do like frogs.

We also found the lady who made our beaded lizard and bought some more, and some beaded ladybirds.

Caught a good band playing at the show too - The Real Macaws - South American jazz sound and lots of brass. Really enjoyed them, sitting in the sun and drinking coffee we could almost have been in Havanna, if it hadn't been for the cows in the farm marquee mooing.

Garden shots - I've been trying to catch some of the wildlife in the garden with the camera.

I'm just in love with echinaceas! The colours and shapes are so beautiful and eye-catching.

Thursday, July 27, 2006


Some views of Saltburn:

J & j on the pier. I did very well and got right to the end. I have a thing about being able to see through the gaps and see the sea. I ignored j's comments about how rickety it was and how much spring there was in the timber and resolutely did not look down!

The view North to Warrenby.

The view South, towards Sandsend.

The cliff railway at the cliff end of the pier.

These tractors are used to get the crabbing boats in and out of the water.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


It's all a bit sad really. I don't see much TV (I know everyone says that, but it's true), but I really like Tuesday evenings on BBC2. University Challenge followed by Excuse My French and then Grumpy Old Holidays. I find myself identifying with so much they said about the whole holiday experience.

As a Brit, I am never happy with the weather, I know. However, I am not coping with the heat very well at the moment. I feel (more) bloated and achy (than usual). This morning was promising as a cool breeze and the possibility of thunder and rain lurked over Teesside. Wasn't to be, though and the afternoon was blistering again. There are no fans to be had in any of the shops. I had thought I would get a new one for the study, but no chance.

After sorting a mountain of household paperwork and getting j to help me get rid of the ugliest (brown formica)filing cabinet you have ever seen I closed the curtains, put my swollen feet up and watched a succession of Treasure Bargain Hunt in the Sun/Attic type shows on TV. I love them, but I can see that it is possible to overdose on them during the day.

Wasn't sitting idle-handed, though. Caught up with frogging the gargantuan San Fran Shirttails and reknit in the right size. Back to where I was before I spotted the sizing error.

Had to water the garden (thank God for Kielder Water, so no hosepipe bans here!)as the forcast rain didn't appear. All the mediterranean plants are loving it, but some things are suffering a bit.

The morning glories start to wilt a bit by noon, but the ice plants are right at home.


J is taking a rare long weekend. Our plans include:

- Fossil hunting at Sandsend and lunch at the Ship in Saltburn on Thursday

- Gateshead Summer Flower Show, on Friday.

- Chester-le-Street Postcard fair on Saturday

- a family barbecue at J's youngest sister's home as J's favourite nephew is home on leave from the Navy before his ship heads off for Sierra Leone.

It's so different from what we used to define as a good time :) I know what's happened. I've turned into a Grumpy Old Woman - and I'm happy.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Late night visitors

Last night, late on, J did his usual tour of the deck area with a flashlight. He sweeps for vine weevils - his sworn foe - who only appear after dark and dark is quite late at the moment. He'd gone down the steps into the garden and had been out there only a few moments when he shot back into the kitchen. "There's something out there and it's breathing heavily in the border!".
I waited bravely on the deck for moral support while he risked a second reconnaissance, catching two hedgehogs in flagrante delicto in the grass bed!
This is encouraging as we were given a hedgehog house for Christmas and were reasonably sure that it had occupants. We'll be on the look out for babies in the near future - 4 1/2 weeks according to this.

Some progress on the knitting front as I had promised myself.

Despite swatching and checking gauge, I think this will be too big, so I'll have a look at some of the other size squares and do the maths (more effectively). Shame I let it get so far on before deciding there might be a problem. Could it be that I'm destined never to make this sweater? Still, it's only half a day's worth of time and I'm chilled :)

The mitre pattern is very much like the leaf structure of the smaller tree fern and I'm really enjoying the way it comes out.

A friend from work is pregnant with her first child - due early in October. I'm planning some baby kimonos from Mason Dixon knitting and would really like to make a blanket.

My first choice so far is this, from Interweave Knits.

Not sure about yarn choice though. I want to give something that is nice, without condemning the recipient to the stresses of wool care on top of baby care. Needs some thought.
J brought me this:

The first fruit from the new raspberries. It's much earlier than the last ones we had, which is nice. Tasted very good - maybe could have done with a little longer on the bush, but he is in fierce competition with the blackbirds!

I was sent these questions:

What was the scariest thing (or one of them if you’ve had many adventures) you ever experienced?
Hearing j's heartrate drop on the foetal heart monitor during a rather long labour and having the obstetrician put his wellies on ready for emergency surgery.

Do you plan to retire where you are right now or move somewhere else?
We sometimes think about Lanzarote - up in the hills in Femmes, but it's a lot more built up than it was when we first went there. As we get older we put more store in accessible medical services and home comforts. We'll stay here - besides, how could we find a house buyer who would look after J's garden in the way it has become accustomed?

Three little gifts you’re always glad to get:
Yarn money
Silver jewelry

4 careers you might have enjoyed:
Yarn/Coffee store owner
Museum curator

A book you loved as a child but found disappointing as an adult:
James and the Giant Peach - actually, am I the only person who doesn't like Dahl?

"Somebody ought to do (invent, make, write) that!
A spamfilter that seeks out purveyors of penis enlargement adverts and blows up their computers.

Where or on what could you easily spend £100? - up to 5
DIY materials at the moment!

Name an adult, not a parent, who really had an impact on you before you were 18 and what made such an impression.
Carl Sagan - I was enthralled by his TV series and book Cosmos. It opened my mind to what really was, and could be, out there.

Mr Heslop - taught me in Junior school and shared the baton, with my mum, in developing my love of books, communication and writing.

If you have read this, consider yourself tagged.

Monday, July 24, 2006

First afternoon of leisure

I've been into school to pack up my work for the holidays. Now it's sitting on the floor in the study in two crates. I thought, briefly, about being disciplined and tackling it now, but hey, I have other things to do and 6 weeks to get that done.

The All Seasons Cotton is working out nicely for the San Fransico Shirttails, but I'm glad I bought two packs when it was on sale as it isn't going far. It certainly handles nicely and looks like it may fade a little as I'm ending up with blue-tinged fingers. Nothing like Rowan Denim Knit though.

Poking about in the garden, I've been noticing some of the details that I often overlook because of the whole impression.

The barks of these three trees (Tibetan Cherry, Himalayan Birch and Snakesbark Maple) are beautiful to look at and to touch.

I've been learning how to use Photoshop from j - consequently I went overboard on the filter effects for these leaves. The novelty will wear off, I promise, but in the meantime I think the Gingko Biloba leaves on the right would make a lovely furnishing fabric. I'd buy it, anyway.

No filters on this one. A simple shot of the view up through the leaves of the largest Dixsonia Antarctica. It's a lovely canopy and the diffused light is green and cool.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

School's Out ! (I know, I know, but I just had to...)

Yayy!!! Term finished on Thursday evening. School's a really chilled place when the children aren't in :) There was a nice buzz of relaxed teachers, getting on with all those things that can be done when we're closed, on Friday.
Another couple of days and I'll be ready to make big inroads in my 'to knit', 'to read', 'to sew' and 'to watch' piles. Not to mention the 'to visit' list.

On the needles currently:

Bombshell. Making slow progress on this as every round is 250 stitches at the moment and I'm just approaching another increase. I know that knitting it all in one means that when I reach the bottom, I'll be done, but it's a long way round.

Swatching for reworking of San Francisco Shirttails. This time in All Seasons Cotton. Colour is an inky marl and the weight is better than my last attempt. Looks promising.
I have decided to make the frogged beige cotton from my previous effort into a bath mat, inspired by Mason Dixon Knitting.
Actually, I'm very taken by the log cabin blankets and the contemporary twists on those in the book. I'm also planning to make some felted boxes for my new classroom. Hope my new class-share colleague is into folkart :)

We've had J's middle sister and her family here for a couple of days and have been basking in their enthusiasm for our garden. J laid their garden out for them when they moved to their house some years ago and it's nice, but traditional - border and grass and so on. His sister is all for moving more towards J's direction, but her her husband is terrified! 'I don't like plants, I like flowers', he said. Hmmm.

The garden is full of drowsy, nectar drunken bees at the moment. Click on this picture to get a bigger version showing a bee who has been clearly rolling in the stuff.

We have lots of hover flies too.

We bought two new echinaceas from Eggleston Hall a couple of weeks ago; they have settled in well and are flowering. J has added quite a few 'hot' toned plants to this border, which really suits the weather at the moment.

Red maize.

Crocosmia Lucifer

and (a slightly out of focus)Calla Lily.


Monday, July 17, 2006

Sheepish post

Monday and this week started as calmly as the last one ended. Perhaps I should stop tempting fate:)

Went out for coffee with the new member of the Leadership team and I'm now allowing myself some hope that everything will be better next year than it has been this year on the work front.
I was at a conference, recently, where one of the speakers - an inspirationally interesting man - talked about there being a difference between hope and optimism. That gave me hope in itself. By nature, I find optimism tricky, but allowing myself to be cautiously hopeful feels like something I can handle.

Got home to find that J had been to the post office. My post was a package from my Secret Pal. Thank you! All the items are lovely, again.

This package brought a great sheep moneybox (just the thing for stash saving, two bars of lush chocolate, a sheep bookmark (love sheepy things), a lovely purple beaded angel (I really like angels, a sheep calendar and a cake of Yankee potpourri wax. Thank you again. This made my day.

The temperature has been hovering around 30 degrees for the last couple of days. I've been keeping covered up and covered in factor 50, but I saw some nasty burns on children at school today.

I sat on the deck and worked on Bombshell yesterday, having to restrain myself from starting on any of the more recent yarn purchases. There doesn't seem to be any point in showing progress so far as it's still just a green strip. I'm pleased that I can actually see the sleeves and raglan shapings starting to form as I was a bit worried at first. This is my first top-down project. I'm a bit stressed from reading all the discussion on BGK about the direction of the short rows further down, but am enormously encouraged by Mully Nex's photos of her completed sweater. I actually think that this is the same yarn in the same colour as I am making.

I had a new companion beside me on the table, but he wasn't really interested in the knitting.

This is a variety of pitcher plant (Sarracenia Wrigleyana - fantastic name!) which is supposed to particularly like vine weevils to eat. We want it to grow big and fat on as many vine weevils as it can possibly scoff down as they have been a real problem for us in recent years. What was the plant called in Little Shop of Horrors? Seymour? I shall call this chap Seymour.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Dales' diary entry

The week ended with a nice sense of calm, which makes a nice change, even after the Foundation Stage sports day. I must confess to a slight anxiety about the prospect of teaching next year's January Reception class, which is the current plan. I foresee another steep learning curve on the horizon.

J and I got up early and drove over to Whitby for a spot of shopping - ostensibly to buy a pressie from the Leadership team for our secretary.

I think that it will be our last visit until after the Summer as there are far too many people at this time of year for us. It's still a lovely place to visit and we like to drive home making detours into Eskdale and Glaisdale.

Bought a few things to send of to my SP8 Spoilee and some CD's of World Music to use in school. Also bought a Thunder Drum, which was for use in school, but I don't think it will get there. I can't even include a photo as j has commandeered it for his own use. It was the same with the rainstick, the beanbag people and the jumbo metallic pencils... Weird, because I can imagine the look on his face if I brought any of these things home and told him I had bought them for him :)

This was the bag the Thunder Drum came in, from the Fairtrade Shop. It's made from a couple of pages of the New Delhi Business Times and two bits of string. Amazingly strong.

I am completely unable to go to Whitby without a trip to Bobbins and a small yarn purchase.

Two small skeins of Louisa Harding's Sari Ribbon. I think it will work well with another yarn in a scarf.

Called at Sleights and had lunch of crab salad sandwiches on the river bank at Perry's. I'm trying really hard to like fishy things and to try different kinds of fish whenever possible. It's not really working out that well, however. I still only really like plaice, tinned tuna, smoked haddock, cod in batter (with chips from Verrill's) and mackeral in pate. And it's been a long slog to get this far! Actually, training myself to like Gin and tonic was much easier.

Pottered in the garden when we got home. Everything is huge and there are so many lovely colours and textures at the moment:

Views from the deck. The cardboard wine case isn't a feature, but J picked up a couple of new Phlox on the way home today.

J's bird feeding station. We get all sorts of garden birds and it's funny to watch bigger birds like jackdaws and wood pigeons trying to balance on the hanging feeders.

The Sea Hollies are doing really well this year and have self-seeded all over. We just leave those that seem to be well-positioned.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Comfort stashing

KS1 sports day this afternoon. We had some Parents' races and one of the dads, who is known as 'Competitive Dad' stuck his egg to his spoon with chewing gum. It was wonderful to watch a class of 6 year olds leading him across the field chanting 'Cheater, cheater...' (His son included)

Had my arm sutures removed this evening. Boy, it's going to be an ugly scar. I should have known better when my doctor had to keep running around the trolley during the op as she could 'only cut in one direction'. She's a terrific woman and I have enormous faith in her, but needlework obviously isn't her thing.

I made myself feel better by calling into Boyes, which has to be the wierdest series of department stores in the world (except, perhaps for one I was in in Yugoslavia in 1977), but which has a wool department. Nothing particularly upmarket, but they've come a long way since all they sold was nylon baby wool.

I bought myself a selection of yarn to sample:

Wendy Narvik


This feels lovely and has colours that remind me a bit of Kureyon. I'll give them a go.

Oh, and some more Wendy Moiselle for a jacket for the Rubster. Colour is great - Summer Fruits.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

This sporting life

Well, KS2 Sportsday passed without too many hitches and was one of those events that enable me to thoroughly enjoy being part of a large community. The sunshine helped raise everyone's spirits, but did mean that I was covered in Factor 30, long sleeves and a sunhat, given recent events on the skin front. Let's hope Episode 2 (KS1, tomorrow) and Episode 3 (Foundation Stage, on Friday) go just as well.

I cast on for Bombshell last night but it was late and I was tired so I didn't get much done. I haven't used Debbie Bliss Cotton Angora before, but I think I'm going to like it, it has a nice handle to it. What I am enjoying, and the pictures don't do it justice, is the colour mix of the dusty green yarn and the greens and purples in the stitch markers my Secret Pal sent me. It's an aesthetic pleasure in a way that the beige blob wasn't.

I didn't get cast on until late because I was late home last night from j's school's Parent's Evening. I am, apparently, the parent of an evil genius who 'can't be arsed' most of the time (his science teacher has a charming frankness), because he scores so highly without trying. Spent much of the eveing having a metaphor-laden conversation with the little chap about ticking boxes, meeting targets and jumping through hoops, flipping one's flippers in a Shamu-like manner. j does not see the point of all this as he can see clear ways to swim around the hoops...

I knew all of this anyway. I am constantly biting my tongue to avoid trigger phrases as used by my parents. The mere sound of 'buckle down' makes me shudder to this day, but I nearly used it last night. Am becoming my mother.

My waiting room knitting this past week has been a simple sock in Opal Cotton (?Madras). It was going to be patterned but I like the colours so much and have a pair of chestnut leather mules that will work well with them, so I'm sticking to plain vanilla stocking stitch.

Chilean flame creeper is flowering. It's a lovely bright spot under the yew tree. I didn't think it would thrive there, but J doesn't believe in plant labels any more than he believes in the laws of physics and it works for him.

I love the foliage of some of the cannas as much as the flowers.