Friday, 29 April 2011


My package of 6 skeins of Noro Kureyon came a little while ago. I'm going to start the diagonally striped skirt Lanesplitter and will make it short-ish as I like  mini skirts, have pretty good legs and it's less knitting before I have it finished.

I like to have at least two knitting projects on the go at once:

1) Something requiring a bit of thought which makes me learn something new (currently my Blue Love jumper)


2) Something easy I can knit in tea-break at work, whilst a passenger in a car, watching TV or whatever.

Lanesplitter falls into category 2 and some simple socks are currently occupying that slot. I could start Lanesplitter straight away and I'm tempted because it's gorgeous. But if I don't finish the socks first they will languish for ages. Also, it's April. I'm not likely to wear a woolen skirt for another five months unless we have a really shockingly awful summer. But you know, knitting with all those pretty colours in a pattern that is clever but very easy (I'm all for things that make me look clever)... temptation...

By the way I would hate to give you the impression that I'm organised and self-controlled enough to have only two knitting projects on the go at once. At the moment I have four, which is not many by some standards, but the other two are 'long term' projects which it'd be nice if I finished before winter. Which winter I leave to the knitting goddess.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

At the Weekend

Ah what a lovely long weekend. If it hadn't been for the fact MrK was off Live Role Playing in the Midlands. (abandoned *sob* left to my own devices *wail* poor little me) it'd have been damn near perfect. On Saturday my darling little sister turned 30 and we gathered at my parents. 'Let's walk to the pub!' we said 'An excellent idea' we said 'What about the one in Assington?' someone said 'Isn't that a bit far?' I said 'No, it'll be great' they said. And we were both right; it was a bit far AND it was great. Darling little sis measured it afterwards and it was eight miles in total, more if you take in the swaying on the way back.Now my family aren't shy of an eight mile hike, especially not when there's a couple of pints of ale in the middle of it, but it's nice to know what you're getting into before you set off.

There was an ancient green lane:

 And bluebells:
 And woods:

 And a llama (at least I think he's a llama - I know for sure he's a he... don't ask):
 And a sunset:
So a typical day with my family really, llama balls and all.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Woah Blog Award!

Apparently Nicola thinks my blog is awardworthy! How cool is that? Thanks Nicola!
I have to tell you seven things about myself you might not know and pass the award on to five blogs I love.

So seven things about myself...
1) I used to be a member of the dance company at my upper school and was pretty good, if I do say so myself (you know, on a scale of school dance kids I mean, Darcy Bussell didn't have to worry or anything).
2) I'm slick with electronics soldering thanks to my Dad being an electronics design engineer - I did my first soldering at about age 8 and worked for him for a while in my early twenties. I could solder on tiny components designed to be attached by delicate machinery. Go me.
3) I made a corset a while back - maybe I'll post pics one day.

... this is wierd I mean I know blogging is pretty much all talking about yourself, but this listing things about myself feels strange...

4) I've got a 2:1 bachelors degree in English Literature with Creative Writing. Really damn relevant to my career in gardening.
5) I used to do Live Role Play (still might someday) in this system and played a pirate called Bethany who had a dodgy scottish/irish/wierd accent. I'm crap at accents. Drank a lot of beer, played a lot of poker (badly)... ah the good old days.
6) My tastes in music are pretty eclectic but heavy metal is the biggest section on the shelf. The two tunes absolutely guaranteed to cheer me up are Cowboys From Hell by Pantera and Thunderstruck by AC/DC.
7) My favourite ever computer game is Morrowind from the Elder Scrolls series. I just love hugely involved, complicated big world role-play games. Shame there are only a few on the market. Oblivion (next in the Elder Scrolls series) is pretty good too but just doesn't quite come up to Morrowind. I'm REALLY looking forward to Skyrim, the next in the series.

Five great blogs which I hereby reward with this award:
No Signposts In The Sea is cool. Among other things she does outfit posts which really remind me that dressing is fun and about personality, not 'fashion'.
Tylluan Penry is a Welsh witch I met on a forum and I'm always touched by her warm, intelligent posts.
Books and Black Wool is a great sewing blog.
Thalassa's blog Musings of a Kitchen Witch. Which is more pagany goodness from a lovely person.
And finally, Hissy Stitch, a knitting etc blog by a fellow selfish crafter.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Kidnapping, Torture and Tea

Yesterday Mara and I made a trip over to Quilter's Haven. She's been there before and despite my protestations she forced me (yes forced, there were armlocks and everything) to go have a look. Of course I only bought things to keep her happy and prevent any more violence. No really.

I've been pondering making a bag and in the presence of so much pretty fabric, decided on a purple one. I bought a pattern after much deliberation and vacillation over whether to bother with a pattern or just wing it. I came to the conclusion life is just easier with a pattern and bought a delightfully wonky one with lots of pockets. All this rummaging through the shop was pure torture. That Mara is a cold hearted one.

Then, just when I thought the ordeal might cease, she dragged me over to the tea shop across the road. I was forced to eat tuna sandwiches and drink huge quantities of tea. It was awful. We were joined by Nicola and her friend (I don't know if she's cool with having her real name on the net) who didn't seem to be part of the kidnapping plot as they were far too nice. Nicola is queen of quilts and looking at the pics on her website makes me a little dizzy. I have made a quilt. One. It was all straight lines and squares and both amazingly easy and quite challenging at the same time (it's currently covered in cat hairs). Hers just look challenging and very, very beautiful.

After that there was more forced tea drinking at Mara's house before I made a daring getaway, vaulting over the front fence, leaping into my own car and racing off, tyres squealing. Phew.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Would the sunshine please Fuck Off?

In sunny Essex it's, well, sunny right now and has been for days, nay weeks, and probably will be for days or weeks more. We haven't had significant rain since February. We're in a drought. I'm sprinkling the lawns already. I've been wearing shorts, hats and lots and lots of suncream out there. The May flowers are starting already and the soil is cracking. And you know what I'm hearing a lot?

Oh isn't the weather lovely oh I wish it would stay this way forever!


I'm hearing from farmers that if it doesn't let up soon the wheat crop will be drastically effected. I bet people won't be so damn sunny when the price of bread goes up later this year.

People are so divorced from the soil that they cheer for a drought during the time of year most important for the plants getting growing large and strong. Don't get me wrong - I'm enjoying a cold beer in the evenings, reading in the garden, but I'm also anxious about the state of the soil and the plants I'm in charge of. It's easy for people to go 'ooh isn't nature ferocious' when a tsunami has just wrecked Japan or they found their driving skills insufficient for 6 whole inches of snow (I coped last winter in a Peugeot 106 on icy single-track country roads ffs) but when their food crops are being threatened they're like ooh sun! giggle

Bah fucking humbug is all I can say.

Monday, 18 April 2011

The Joy of Selfishness

We are each the masters of our own little spheres. Or at least, we should be. Some people try and have more than just their own sphere; they want to be the centre of your sphere too. Sometimes it's just attention seeking, sometimes it's unreasonable demands and manipulation and sometimes it's abuse. Taking control of your sphere isn't just about taking responsibility for the negative effects of your actions, or taking credit for your positive actions, it's also about being in control of what you do when for whom. Exerting this control is often seen as selfish; saying 'no I don't want to run that event' or 'sorry, I can't give you a lift'. But who is calling you selfish? What are they contributing? Who benefits if you do what they want you to do? Who is really being Selfish here?

I'm a member of the Selfish Knitting and Crocheting Group on Ravelry, and taking control of crafting seems simple, doesn't it? It's just a hand knitted hat for heaven's sake... but there are a lot of people trying to take control of other people's spheres by voluntelling them, demanding handknit items or guilt tripping them. Learning to say NO! in the face of an unreasonable demand for an intricate hand-knit shawl at short notice can be the first step in learning to take control in other areas of life.

Fortunately for me I'm quite happy being a selfish crafter and don't have a family of gimme-pigs to worry about. Having said that, its interesting how feeling the good kind of selfish about my crafts has buffered my confidence in other areas too, and made me notice when other people are being taken advantage of. I wouldn't wish to argue that we shouldn't do things for other people, but that there's a give and take about things, and all too often one group of people give and another group takes. Calling someone 'selfish' is often a tool of the takers to guilt-trip the givers.

As a Heathen it's easy to get caught up in the idea that Hospitality = Good, and it is where it's not one sided.
A guest must depart again on his way,
nor stay in the same place ever;
if he bide too long on another's bench
the loved one soon becomes loathed. 
(Olive Bray trans. of Havamal) 
Both guest and host have obligations and it seems a lot of people these days feel themselves to be entitled to the benefits of being a guest without having to behave responsibly as a guest. Of course often at SKC we're not talking about hospitality as such, but still the bonds of obligation, gift-giving and family relations often come down to similar territory.

Or for a different take on it... a role-play game I used to play had a very important rule:
Rule 7: Don't take the Piss. 

So if you're always a giver, ask yourself whether you're really in control of your 'sphere', whether people aren't taking the piss and outstaying their welcome? Whether you need to gird your loins, put on your big girl panties and/or grow some balls and learn to say 'No!'?

I still need to work on this shit, but I'm getting there and it feels pretty good.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Whoosh! And there was a Kindle Cover

I'm very impressed with myself. Today Mara and I went to town and I bought materials for a Kindle cover. I'd decided to use the pattern from Chica and Jo, as I rather like the idea of turning the case into an easel so I can stand it up in front of me.

There wasn't any coloured 'normal' elastic so I bought some 'fold-over elastic' and then folded in half and used a decorative zig-zag stitch in complimentary thread to secure it.

It took me only about two and a half hours, including time spent wandering the house hunting my self healing cutting mat, rotary cutter, thread box and assorted other bits. I still don't know where the mat is.

Yay! Kindle cover!

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Yummy grub

I just made a really tasty meal and I'm recording it here so I don't forget what I did. No pics - we've scoffed the lot! I intended to make chicken and leek risotto but realised I was missing a vital ingredient - home made stock! It's just not the same with cubes. So I improvised...

I took two leeks and sliced them, softening them in butter. Meantime I chopped two chicken breasts into cubes and then added them to the pan to cook. They released a lot of liquid (damn supermarket chicken - even the organic, free-range stuff has been pumped with water) and so I turned the heat up to reduce this, chopped two good sized mushrooms and some fresh herbs (thyme, oregano and chives), added them to the pan. When there was only a little liquid left, added a mini bottle of white wine (187ml of Chardonnay) and about a tsp of cornflour (corn starch) *.

At this point I put some pasta on to cook, reduced the sauce a bit and added a good lump (probably about 2 tsp) of bought pesto and some grated parmesan (how much? not much, a couple of table spoons maybe?). When the pasta was cooked I stirred it into the sauce and poured it into two greased dishes, topped with more grated parmesan and then put it in the oven on very hot (240C) for ten minutes.

*To stop cornflour going lumpy when added to a sauce to thicken it I usually mix it carefully with a small amount of liquid (some of the wine in this case) before adding it.

Om nom nom ...

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

True blue love?

About a week and a half ago I had knitted my Blue Love jumper (my version of Cherie Amour) up to the just below boob level and dutifully put it on some waste yarn and tried it on. Woe! It makes me look twice my normal width and utterly shapeless to boot. Waily waily waily! I threw it in a bag and sulked a bit. Ok I sulked a lot. Anyway today I took it out to take some mirror shots to ask the nice people on Ravelry for their opinions and decided it's not as bad as all that, especially if I hoik it down a bit and decide I still have a couple of inches to go to just below boob level.
Sorry about all the crud on the mirror... that's a really poor pic but the other one's even worse. Anyway I'm feeling less blue about my Blue Love.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Linkage! And Blogroll blatherings.

Peter over at Male Pattern Boldness has written a fantastic post about why sewing for yourself is great. I feel I ought to say more than that but his post says just about everything I could hope to on the subject.

MPB isn't on my blogroll and that makes me think I need to change how I run it. I'm subscribed to 41 blogs on Google Reader on knitting, paganism, sewing, fashion, feminism and gardening amongst other things. That doesn't include a couple which I can't follow on there (private blogs and ones with no subscribe option) of which there are about 5 I actually have to remember to check. Angry Chicken runs a rotating blogroll with only about five on it at a time and I rather like that idea and am going to steal it. *cackle* So if you've been on my blogroll thus far and disappear, worry not, you'll rotate around again shortly. Please, no death threats.

I gots me a Kindle!

I finally succumbed. It's happened. I was in Nottingham at the weekend, surrounded by people with Kindles, feeling the temptation. MrK said I should definitely have one for my birthday (June) and yet somehow I had one by the end of Saturday. The novelty of a slither of plastic which contains the works of Jane Austen, a Terry Pratchett book (Jingo), Madame Bovary and a bunch of other stuff, most of which was free, has not worn off yet. I think I'll get my favourite comfort reading for it, even though I own it all in paper too (The Hobbit, LOTR and Winnie-the Pooh).

But you know what this means?

I need a Kindle cosy to protect it. I'm thinking of sewing one. Maybe a fleece lining and cotton patchwork exterior and a big button... methinks a trip to Fabric8 (local fabric shop) will be required this weekend.

On the downside we got home from the trip to find my craft books had been targeted by the cats as a suitable pissing corner. They are not even books I can replace on the Kindle! Doh!

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Herby goodness!

I got home from work today and planted up some more of my herb garden. It's coming along really well after my kindred's study group was cancelled on Sunday and I made a trip out to Place for Plants instead. When I got to the till I was really glad I hadn't bought the £100 boots I'd been lusting over on Saturday's shopping trip!
This is only a sample of my purchases. Once you include the pot it wasn't far off the sexy boots in price.

The herb beds surround the three 4'x6' veg beds, giving me 40 feet of 2' wide border, forming three sides of a rectangle. The area closest to the house has the most used culinary herbs; oregano, chives, parsley, sage and thyme, plus lavender because I want to walk right past it as often as possible!
The long side has lemon balm, sorrel, feverfew, catmint, bergamot, sweet cicily, chervil, salad burnet and pennyroyal. Lovage and lemon verbena will be added soon. I have also planted a honeysuckle to clamber over the arch which leads into the 'ornamental' garden'. I'll be sowing chamomile, marigolds, savoury, borage, coriander and nasturtiums here and in the veg beds.

Out in the wilds of the ornamental garden, which I'm hoping to get in order later this year or next at the worst, are rosemary, fennel, angelica, sweet woodruff, hyssop, valerian, vervain, lady's mantle, southernwood and wormwood. This year the annual herbs will be occupying spots in the herb beds that might later be taken by vertical cordons of cherry and plum, and maybe some autumn fruiting raspberries. Decisions on extra herbs vs fruit will be taken later in the year!

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Havamal and the Internet

This is the first verse of the Icelandic wisdom poem Havamal:

1. At every door-way,
ere one enters,
one should spy round,
one should pry round
for uncertain is the witting
that there be no foeman sitting,
within, before one on the floor.

(As translated by Olive Bray - I believe this text to be out of copyright and it's available all over the net). If you're not familiar with the Havamal it is 'The Words of the High One' (i.e Odin), a poem from the collection known as the Poetic Edda. The remaining manuscript dates from the 13th Century, although individual verses are certainly much older. It is the core of the modern Heathen moral outlook although, as with all ancient texts, translations and interpretations differ widly. To me it's a bunch of common sense, whether it really originated with Odin or with Sven the Scriptorium Keeper I don't know and don't really think it matters much. 

This verse is one that some internet wanderers could benefit from methinks, having a tendency to wander in to a site and start spouting their opinions without checking whether they're really welcome, whether there are foemen within. The website becomes a virtual hall, often with its own community, kindred, of people with a distinct group attitude. Obviously, these days it's less of an issue in real life than it would have been in the Viking Age, but still, making sure you're on friendly turf is wise in real life too. This verse begins the Havamal and also begins a section of verses concentrating on hospitality, being a good guest and not making an arse of yourself in polite company.

I find it amusing to consider what would have happened to the ancient equivalent of the internet troll back in 10th Century Iceland. They'd have been a short lived species I think...

Saturday, 2 April 2011

New Clothes!

My Mum, Sister and I had one of our shopping trips today. Sis and I took Mum to Pizza Express for an early Mother's Day lunch and we all bought lovely things. I got my Sis some clothes from Fat Face for her birthday. Isn't it odd when a store appears which seems to encapsulate someone's style? Well, Fat Face is my darling Sis. When she's not wearing a cagoule and walking boots that is.

The only interesting thing I bought for myself was a shirt from Apricot:

I was a little unsure about the shoulder detail. Being a gardener I have BICEPS OF DOOM which are either scary or chubby looking, depending on whether I'm tensing them or not ('scare the men with my biceps' is a favourite party trick of mine - the little screams of surprise can be amusingly high pitched) and I worried that the shoulder pleats would emphasise them. But fortunately they seem to have the opposite effect and actually downplay my arms.

To go with this I bought some footless tights/leggings. I'm way behind fashion with this legging thing, just as they're about to be fashion carrion I'm thinking 'hey leggings; not such a bad idea'. This is mostly because I take my 'don't give a shit about fashion' attitude too far and fail to notice the good ideas fashion has until I've seen them on the high street on people of all shapes and sizes.

I also saw a lovely waistcoat in Next which doesn't seem to be on their website and I'm feeling a waistcoat/shirt/bakerboy hat thing coming on. Given I have the figure of a Victorian sweep boy this may be a bad idea, but I won't know till I try it. The question is, how to try it out without spending the best part of a ton on waistcoat/shirt/hat? Maybe I ought to buy the waistcoat and then scour the charity shops for the rest. I could knit or sew a suitable hat maybe... hmm...

Friday, 1 April 2011

Blue Love

I've not made much progress on my version of Cherie Amour:

I've had a stonking cough for about a week but have managed to avoid taking time off work. My knitting hasn't been picked up much as dropping stitches in a coughing fit would not help me relax. I'm really enjoying the Cherie Amour pattern so far. It has columns of purl stitches in the lace pattern which really help me orientate myself in the lace and locate mistakes easily, making it a good beginner lace pattern. The chunky yarn and big needles mean that when I do put half an hour into it I make visible progress.

Hopefully I'll make more significant progress in the next couple of weeks!