Thursday, 19 November 2015

My Summer Reads

I thought I'd catch you up with the books I've been devouring since I last did a 10 things post. Whatever else has got in the way or changed this summer I've still found time to read and I know some of the most popular items in my 10 things posts were the book bits. (I have read quite a few books that this might need to be a two part post!)


Post Amsterdam trip I switched from Amsterdam centric reading to thrillers and first up was Blacklands by Belinda Bauer - a story about a boy who's family had been devastated when his Uncle had gone missing as a child. The presumed victim of a serial killer who had never revealed that he'd done that particular abduction - let alone confirmed he'd murdered and buried the lad on the moors with his other victims. Years later the victims nephew decides he could mend his broken family if he could find out where his uncles body was and that's when things get interesting.

Next up was Divergent by Veronica Roth.  I haven't seen the film and I haven't read The Hunger Games either. This book is a teen-aimed novel much in the vein of The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner (which I have also read.) I found it quite a page turner and I liked the premise that in the future civilised society is split into groups according to their strengths. To be Divergent means you could fit into multiple sects of society and that is something seen as a threat. I suspect if you liked The Hunger Games you'd like this. Although I really should read the Hunger Games myself.

A detective thriller up next: Under a Silent Moon by Elizabeth Haynes. I was completely underwhelmed by this. Although one of the best thrillers I've read in ages was her first book: Into The Darkest Corner. I think she's a better thriller writer than detective writer and I'm not sure I'll bother to read any more in this series of books.

Another thriller was finished next and unlike all the other books this was not on my kindle: A Simple Act of Violence by R J Ellory. As I've mentioned before I mainly read paperbacks in the bath these days and I found myself taking long bubble baths just to read more of this page turner. Yes, it's about a serial killer, but the most chilling aspects of this story are concerned in government conspiracy's at the highest level. Compelling and when I passed it on to my brother he said it was one of the best thrillers he'd read in a long while and wants to read more by R J Ellory.

Still in thriller mode I read: A Tap on The Window by Linwood Barclay. It was a kindle special offer of all of 99p and this is an author that Catherine had recommended previously via instagram. A middle aged man gives a lift to a teenage girl one night and when she winds up missing and her best friend dead, it implicates the man in a mystery with lots of twists and turns. Another thriller where I was completely hooked.
I'm too tired to read in bed even

The next bath time read was a dusty old hardback I'd picked up at a jumble sale years ago. The Franchise Affair by Jospehine Tey.  I'd seen the old black and white movie, although so long ago that I couldn't remember all the plot, which was good as I could read the book without a lot of prior knowledge. The mother and daughter owners or The Franchise - an old house at the edge of the village, are accused of kidnapping a teenage girl and holding her captive as a slave until she manages to escape. A scandal ensues and as the ladies reputation is shredded and they face imprisonment, a local provincial lawyer takes on the task of proving them innocent. I enjoyed the gentle style of it a lot and will look out for other books by this author.

Up next was a book often on recent book lists as a must read: Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel. If you liked The Road by Cormac McCarthy you may well like this too.  Yes, it's a post apocalyptic novel.  But probably one of the most gentle and poignant ones I've ever read.

Outbreak by Robin Cook was the bath time read. Ironic that at one point I was reading a book about a viral outbreak in the bath, whilst reading Station Eleven on my kindle - which happened to follow what happened after the Georgia Flu killed most people on the planet.  It was slightly different to what I remember of the film and a bit dated. However, it seemed strangely relevant in the light of the Ebola outbreak earlier in the year.

I think that's enough for this post. I'll be back next time with my Autumn reads.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Hats, scarves and bags!

I've had a cold - boo hoo. Actually it was pretty mild so I'm not going to grumble. However, I've been trying not to over do things and home cook food from scratch so I get plenty of nutrients. For much of this week, when I've not been at work (thanks to the rubbish weather.). I've been curled up on the sofa knitting or reading. The good news is I've finished my 6th hat and an infinity cowl. The bad news is I've pretty much run out of yarn again. Unless you count the cotton I don't like knitting with and left overs not suitable for my fancy Dr Who scarf.

First off the needles was the rolled brim knit hat - a free Ravelry pattern. I got a couple of balls of Lion Brand Amazing in Roses not knowing how much yarn it would take. (Most of my hats have taken just over a ball.) Amazingly this hat took just one ball with a good bit left over to add to my Fancy Dr Who scarf.

Rolled Brim Knit Hat 

Once I had knitted the left overs into the scarf it was time to turn my attention to the last section of The Timber Scarf. Another free pattern on Ravelry. I had to adjust the stitches for the yarn I was using as it wasn't the same as specified in the pattern. (It was easier to decrease stitches than grow a longer neck, just saying.) The first part of the pattern called for good old garter stitch and the second double moss stitch. The third was a stitch that was a bit holy. I didn't like it. It looked like I'd messed up. It would be better saved for different yarn, thinner yarn, where I'm sure it would look much better.  Nothing for it, I ripped it out and tried rice stitch. The instructions I had were pretty vague. I messed it up.  I ripped it out and decided on stocking stitch. It looked so lovely I ploughed on for the specified amount and cast off. Then I ripped that out because the sides were stupid curly, It was looking more like a tube! I tried again with rice stitch - this time with better instructions. There was more ripping out, I don't know what I did wrong. In the end (after lots of ripping out!) I ended up completing the final section in single moss stitch. It worked a treat.

Timber Cowl

Now with those projects finished and no new yarn I'm having to turn to sewing. So I whipped up a sewing project bag. I only had a fat quarter of these Charley Harper penguins and I wanted to make the pouch a decent width. So I left on the (larger than normal) salvage. It's so satisfying whipping up stuff from stash. If I hadn't faffed about for ages deciding what I wanted to sew and looking for the Leanne Fanny scrap pack I bought ages ago. (Which I think is lost for good.) I may have got on with even more sewing.

Charley Harper Project Bag 

Whilst I was looking for the scrap pack I came across some balls of yarn I'd bought years ago for some creative textiles work. Now I can make sense of the (no longer cryptic) details on the yarn band, I decided to knit up a simple scarf - letting the fancy yarn do the talking. This will be going into Mum's Christmas stocking.

Christmas making

And in case you're curious about the reading: On Halloween I started Others by James Herbert. I'd had it waiting to be read for years. Halloween seemed like the perfect time for a little spooky creepiness. Others is a supernatural love/detective story. It got more disturbing towards the end. But (slightly disappointingly) whilst it was a page turner, it was not the sort of book that kept me awake at night. I'll need to pick a new bath time read. Until then I'm back with the kindle and have started the next book group choice - The Road Home by Rose Tremain. I don't recall reading any of her books before.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Stitching through the day of witching

Apologises for what might be the worse blog post title ever! However, there was a lot of stitching going on during yesterday (Halloween) and I thought I'd share it all with you here. If I ever get the blog post finished. I seem to start far more than I actually finish and publish.

First up I sewed together the second attempt at the hat in the kingfisher Cashmerino. In my last post I mentioned how I messed up the first attempt and made it far too big. I used a different pattern and had knitted this up in the week. I'd checked the ribbed section was going to fit already by tying some different coloured yarn through the stitches on my needle and once they were secure I took them off and tried the band around my head for size. It was snug, rather than too small, it was ok to continue. That said by the finish I was still nervous about taking it off the needles and sewing it up and it got left on the needles for several days while I dithered. The unpicking was my least favourite part of the whole process. I got out my safety pins and pinned it all together and thankfully when I tried it on it fitted!)

My latest finished hat.

Whilst I was waiting for this to come off the needles I got stuck into some chunky yarn. It wasn't easy to knit up at first so there was a fair amount of undoing and I hated the stitch given for the last section. The holes in the design were just too big and silly. I knitted in stocking stitch only that's curled up too much and that will need ripping out and replacing. I've hopefully found a new stitch to substitute for the last 18" of the cowl. I love the yarn.

Timber cowl - double moss stitch

Then it was on to sewing. I was working on a my addition to the PIP round-robin-add-as-it-goes mini bee and whilst I was looking for my quarter inch quilters wheel I found my Mum's old knitting needles. With these plus those I've got myself I really felt it was time to make some kind of storage for them. I had a good browse on pinterest and decided some kind of roll would be best. I didn't follow one pattern in the end. Just made it up as I went alone. I now have a huge roll that can house a double row of needles (perfect if I ever take up crochet - because I'm not sure how many flat needles I'll need to store. Surely I have pretty much all that I'll ever need? Famous last words probably!)

Knitting Needle roll

Knitting needle roll

Once that was done I broke open the band on some new yarn and I've started knitting up a rolled brim hat. (yes, that is my 6th hat in case anyone is keeping count. But only the fourth I'll actually own given my second is for Mum for Christmas and I unravelled one too.) I seem to be addicted to hats like other people are addicted to sock making. Given by winter I'll probably have a hat for every day of the week, it probably will guarantee we have a freaky warm winter. Today it has been so hot! When the photo of me was taken above I was sweltering in a woolly hat and jumper. However, it would have looked silly if I was modelling it in a t-shirt.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

I do still sew honest!

You could be forgiven for thinking that sewing has been usurped by knitting. However, you'd be wrong because I have a quilt in progress (the top would be finished if I hadn't decided it was a bit long and thin and needed an extra 'column'.) The trouble was I was so busy sewing I only managed a few dodgy instagram shots. I will blog about the quilt when I have some decent pictures and maybe a finished quilt.

So this post is about knitting...again. I'm just a little obsessed. I want to get those basic skills well and truly stuck in my head.  Otherwise it will be like learning all over again every time I pick up the needles.

Frustratingly my knitting stalled for want of some yarn to knit with. I had two orders in. The first was for the kit to knit a shawl. I waited what seemed forever for the order to arrive and it turned out it included everything but the yarn! This meant that pretty much all I had left to knit with was cotton. I had ordered some random balls when I started knitting and wash cloths seemed the order of the day for a beginner. Previous attempts at knitting meant it took me forever to achieve very little. Therefore I was pretty sure I'd spend about three months knitting away at wash cloths.

Unfortunately Fortunately my knitting progress was more rapid and I moved on from wash cloths quite quickly. I did have some nice looking Rowan Handknit cotton. Two balls of a nice blue. Helen suggested I knitted a pouch and choose a fancy stitch pattern for it to widen my skills. At first look the pattern that really spoke to me, looked far too complicated for me to master. Especially when Helen found instructions and they were a chart. I've only just learnt to knit now it looked like I'd have to decipher Morse code in a grid!

I cast on and started knitting. It took me a while to get my head around the chart and after a few rows I realised if I was going to master the chart and the pattern it wasn't going to be in the cotton which I hated knitting with (as much as I have done all the other cotton.) Not only does it look like an old string vest it is slippy and feels like string. I pulled it out.

  Knitting with Rowan Handknit Cotton

Still itching to knit I had a rummage and came across the left over yarn from the first lovely cowl Helen knitted me. I thought I'd have a practise at the chart with this yarn. It was so much nicer than knitting with the cotton. In no time at all I was at the end of the green yarn and thought I'd add in the other left over cowl yarn. I had even less of that. It was the same Aran weight (cashmerino) though, so I joined the new colour and got on with knitting...until I ran of out of that. Not to be deterred I remembered I'd left over cashmerino from knitting the ribbed hat. So I added that in and the idea struck me that this would be a scarf. A stripey left overs kind of Dr. Who? Scarf a la Tom Baker as the Dr. Only mine would be even fancier than his. 

Fancy Dr Who Scarf

The fatal flaw in that cunning plan was I soon ran out of the pink cashmerino and as a beginner knitter I do not have a great selection of yarns left over from other projects.  I resigned myself to knowing this would be a long term knitting project and I'd have to knit a lot in Aran to get enough left overs. However, I'd still got two balls of a beautiful kingfisher Cashmerino and Helen suggested a hat - and that I could use the pattern I'd used to knit my Crofter hat. I was a little confused as to how I'd work out the decreases etc in a different yarn but ploughed on anyway; disposing of the garter stitch ridge and just doing basic stocking stitch for the main body of the hat. 

A new hat!

I sat up late knitting away, Loving how my hat was progressing. Loving the fact that I'd be generating some more left overs for my scarf. I went to bed with a finished hat on the needles, intending to sew it up on Sunday morning.

5 hours work!

Sunday morning I was up stitching my hat together. The best invisible seam I'd done so far, even if I do say so myself. A lovely neat hat. Perfect...

Too big!

...until I tried it on. It was too big. Not just in the body, but round the rim. A gentle breeze would have been all it would have taken to lift it off. It just felt uncomfortably big.

It's too big!

An emergency email to Helen to see what I could do and that was pretty much - hope it shrinks a bit in the wash (dangerous though as intentionally trying to shrink something could result in felting it.) or unpicking it. I could have cried. That was five hours of my life I wasn't going to get back. And remember me saying how I'd just done the neatest invisible seam? Hmmm so blooming invisible that unpicking it to unravel the hat was a bitch. I ended up with loads of mini balls. Although I confess it took far less time unpicking it than knitting it. 

That used to be my hat

On the plus side I did have lots of left overs for my scarf. Which I'm loving. 


Although to continue the stripey design I'll need to wait for more Aran before I can get going with adding more to the scarf. 

Then Tuesday when I got back from a walk my second yarn order had arrived. I at least have yarn for another hat and a scarf. I'm loving the thought of knitting with some chunky yarn and I'm clearly heavily influenced by the autumn colours around right now.

latest yarn order arrived

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

My first over nighter in Gertie!

I hadn't seen Chief since we went to Amsterdam. He said next time he got down we'd go away for a night in Gertie. My first night. Now I'm not into camping. I did my Duke of Edinburgh camp out aged about 15 and went to a camp for a week aged 11 where we stopped in dormitories. It was the time. But communal toilets of dubious standard and waking up with earwigs is not my idea of a weekend away these days. It's different stopping in a van. You have everything you need right there. (Even if Chief has imposed a no solids in the toilet rule!)

Chief has not been well of late (a second hit of pneumonia) and whilst that's much better he still gets tired quite quickly and he's got a very long drive down just to get to my house, before we think of going anywhere else. So he said would I mind if he found a camp site locally to me and he'd look for somewhere a bit 'different'. On the plus side he said if I really hated it it wouldn't be far to bring me home!

He did some research and really wanted to find somewhere that would be so lovely I'd fall in love with the idea of staying away in Gertie (although I didn't really expect not to! Chief just wasn't taking any risks!) We ended up at a lovely caravan site in the Cotswolds part of Oxfordshire called: Lincoln Farm Park. Now I can't compare it to other sites, but I'm thinking this is probably 5 star.  The toilet/shower blocks were of a high standard and only on the Sunday morning of our stay when lots of people had been in did they start to look like public facilities (what is it with people throwing toilet paper on the floors?!)

The park has a two night minimum stay and even though it was classed as low season Chief could not get a fully serviced pitch (All pitches have electric - fully serviced have grey water disposal and running water as well as TV points. ) There were lots of other caravans and motorhomes in. Including some of those massive American jobs with pop out sides etc. The park caters for tents too (although not so many in that weekend!)

Anyway, I'm jumping ahead! Our weekend started with a trip to Farmoor.  I managed to add 4 new birds to my year list (red necked grebe, Great black backed gull, grey wagtail and dunlin) and it was really rather pleasant walking around in the sunshine. We couldn't get into the park until after lunch so we decided to head in the direction of the park and look for a pub on the way. Of course when I spotted we were on the road to The Greyhound at Besselsleigh we ended up stopping there. It was warm enough to sit outside and eat (how often can you do that in October!?)

The Greyhound

The Greyhound The Greyhound

The Greyhound

I regretted offering to share my duck wrap with Chief as it was yummy and even nicer than his Chicken and tarragon sarnie.

From The Greyhound we headed on to Lincoln Farm Park where once checked in and set up we decided to explore. The reception also boasts a shop and hidden away either side or the reception are two leisure centres!  Complete with indoor swimming pool, jacuzzi, sauna and steam room. You pay extra to use these either in the twice daily open sessions or by hiring by the hour privately. We booked exclusive hire on our first night as it was only about £22 for the two of us to have everything to ourselves for an hour! Opposite reception is a small games room and an information centre. In the latter I spotted a sign saying on Friday nights they have a van coming around offering steak and chips. It just so happened it was Friday night and the van was already parked up taking orders. Chief bought us dinner to be collected on our way back from using the leisure centre later - perfect!

Gertie at Pitch 5, Lincoln Farm Park, Standlake
Gertie set up on our pitch for the next two nights!
What you can't see in the far corner is the bird feeder Chief carries with him!

Leisure Centre - Lincoln Farm Park

The leisure centre to ourselves!

Friday night steak frites
steak and frites meal in a box!

Back in Gertie with our meals in a box, we watched a dvd and then made the bed up for the night. This is when I discovered there had been a slight communication problem with Chief and I. He told me to bring a quilt. I said: Yes, OK but it won't be very warm to sleep under just a quilt so you'll bring sleeping bags too right? He said yes. We started making up the bed and I got out the quilt I made to use in Gertie and Chief said: What you've just bought that to sleep under? I said yes, we had a conversation about this. You said it would be warm enough - I had doubts and that's why you were bringing sleeping bags. Hmm he said. We're sleeping on the sleeping bags not in them. I meant bring a quilt. 

Bring a quilt? What does he think it is? Then it dawned on me. Chief calls duvets quilts. Despite the fact he calls the covers that go on them duvet covers. So whilst he had a nice single duvet to sleep under I just had a quilt. It was pretty fresh during the night. I kept waking up cold. Tried sneaking under his duvet but it still left my back cold. The next night he not only put some heating on in the van, but said I could have the duvet and he'd have the quilt. He got cold too so it wasn't just me being a soft southern wuss! 

Bed made up in Gertie

The next day was glorious too and rather than pack up and drive off somewhere for the day we decided to go for a wander in Standlake. It's such a pretty place and we soon found a track into the countryside and had a walk around a private fishing lake. Chief decided he'd go blackberry picking. 

Walking around Standlake, OxfordshireWalking around Standlake, Oxfordshire Walking around Standlake, Oxfordshire Walking around Standlake, Oxfordshire
Walking around Standlake, Oxfordshire

Walking around Standlake

Walking around Standlake
Buzzard sat in a tree overhanging the street.

After our walk we headed back for lunch. Bacon sarnies and locally made cherry and walnut cake bought from the little Post Office/Shop in Standlake. 

Bacon sarnies for lunch

We had a lovely chill out before heading out for another walk around a different part of Standlake and the park.  When we got back we listened to the rugby on the radio (couldn't get the tv to work) and then watched a dvd before going to bed. 

Walking around Standlake

Walking around Standlake
views from one of the dog exercising areas on the site.

Lincoln Farm Park reception, shop and leisure centre
Reception, shop and 2 leisure centres.

Before we knew it it was Sunday morning and time to pack up and head for home. I have already bought a duvet and duvet cover of my own and can't wait for our next trip. I do like having a little adventure. Even if it is only on my doorstep!