Saturday 24 September 2016

Being a Dutiful Big Cousin

The last 3 weeks have been insane. There is no other word for it. When I signed off my last post saying see you in 2 and a half years I was kidding but seriously! When I get home from work I am doing well to cook dinner and get the washing on, let alone anything else! So knitting has been more or less confined to the weekends unfortunately. Having said this, every week has been a little bit calmer than the last so I am hoping I will find my stride. 

Last weekend all I wanted to do was take to the sofa in my big cosy dressing gown and refuse to move. It didn't turn out like that. On Thursday evening Aunty R rang to ask me a "Massive Favour". Cousin P, who is currently applying to study medicine at university, had booked herself onto an open day in London and Aunty A couldn't get the day off. 

Cousin P said she was going anyway. Cousin P said she had traveled through London loads of times. Cousin P said she is 17 now, which is basically an adult. 

Cousin P has traveled through London loads of times (with her mum). Cousin P is 17 now and is basically an adult (sometimes it feels like she is more grown up than the rest of us). 

But did I like the thought of my little cousin (yes she is technically taller than me but whatever) travelling through the underground, finding London Imperial College, getting herself registered, finding where she needed to go, having lunch on her own, locating the campus tours, getting back to the tube, getting back to Paddington, getting on the train home, all by herself? 

No I did not. 

Not because she isn't capable - she is totally capable, just as capable as I am - but because I wouldn't particularly want to spend the whole day doing all that by myself, especially not if I could spend it with my big cousin!   

So, would I go with her? 

I stare longingly at my cosy dressing gown.

Of course I would go with her.   

And we had a lovely time. Cousin P insisted on meeting me at the tube nearest the University rather than me coming across London to pick her up from Paddington, then retracing my steps back again. Ironically, despite me getting up at 6am and living much nearer to London than she does, Cousin P got to the station 45 mins before me and had to hang around for ages (See! - she's basically an adult now!). We then missed each other at the station and spent a further 10 minutes marching up and down this long tunnel looking for each other. We must have walked straight past each other at least twice! When we eventually found each other we raced off to the welcome talk giggling at our uselessness like school girls.

The talks were brilliant, really useful for Cousin P but also a great help for me as my second years will be applying for university courses this year and I picked up loads of tips on the application process.

At midday Cousin P went of for the medicine talk and tour so I settled myself down in a cafe for a couple of hours and made some good progress on my current project. I loved the cushion cover I made for Knitphomaniac so much that I started one for myself as soon as I had finished hers, but I have decided to extend mine some what - into a blanket! 

I am just doing the stripy side as I liked that a lot more than the patchwork. It is also giving me an opportunity to practice my colour changing. I've found I have been pulling my knitting too tight at the colour change which takes all the give out of that side of the knitting, leaving my work really rather wonky.

I do find it hard to trust that my knitting won't just fall apart if I don't pull it super tight but I think I am getting there. At the moment both sides seem to have the same amount of give which is exciting!

Now that I've decided to make a blanket I have come to the realisation that I am running out of wool - and fast. So I had a root around in my stash as I had a feeling the lady I bought the yarn off, Eliza Conway, had given me her email address and offered to send more balls should I need any. In an unusual turn of events I actually found her email address. 

(Lizzy 1: Storage Beast 0) 

So I've sent off a request and will await the response!

Sunday 4 September 2016

Hello out there.... Can anybody read me? ... Is this thing on??

So it's fair to say it's been a while. 2 years and 7 months to be precise. Things got a little crazy just after my last post. It turns out training to be a teacher is really bloody hard! So hard in fact, I haven't had the time/ energy to do much else!! However, very recently, I did pick up the old knitting needles again and boy was it nice to do something crafty again. Don't get me wrong, I have made the odd Christmas card over the past couple of years but really, all my creativity has gone into my teaching which has left me pretty damn useless when it has come to creating anything in my own time, for me. 

I have my Aunties A and K to thank for dragging me back to my hobby and I say dragging because, to be honest I really wasn't keen on the idea. I have been madly preserving my brain power for the hours spent motivating teenagers into producing something resembling work. However, my need to be a dutiful niece won out and I went with them to Unravel (Festival of Knitting in Farnham, Surrey) earlier in the year. I was at the festival for all of a minute before that buzz started, quiet and low in key at first but soon erupting into all out frenzied over excitement. I managed to get around the whole festival once without buying anything... and then it began. Skeins of fleece, bags of home spun yarn and a glitzy turquoise drop spindle (courtesy of Spin City) were all purchased with relish and the knitting resumed as soon as I got in the car to leave.

Since then I have managed to complete a very simple project, a double sided patchwork cushion made from extremely simple diagonal squares with the balls of home spun purchased at Unravel. Although my knitting is a little rusty I love the colours and am pretty pleased with the finished item, I particularly like the stripy side. 


This one isn't for me though, a few years back a lovely lady named Carrie, author of the Life of a Knitphomaniac blog, sent me the Knitting Masterclass book by The Knitter. To Carrie I was a complete stranger but I had joined her group on Ravelry which was designed for members to knit the projects in the book and share their progress. At the time I didn't have two pennies to rub together but I joined the group to see the members' creations all the same. When Carrie got wind of this she contacted me and asked me for my address. A few days later the book arrived and I was completely blown away. I could not get over the generosity from somebody I had never, and probably would never meet. My thanks to her, although communicated via email, is well overdue and I promised myself that my next finished project would go to her, I just wasn't expecting it to take 2 and a half years. Today my gratitude towards this fabulous lady is once more extended because it was reading through her blog this morning that prompted me to blow the dust off this old page. So Carrie, thanks again!!

Without meaning to be a drama queen, the last 2 and a bit years have been really quite life changing. Looking back at my posts from back then feels like being transported back in time. Some things have altered so completely and others have stayed exactly the same. I have just returned from a trip to Wells-next-the-Sea, the holiday destination featured in my last post:

And I still love to cook. This weekend saw my first attempt at Butternut Squash and Chickpea Falafel. I followed the recipe in the link but baked them in the oven rather than grilled them (our grill sets off the smoke alarm). They took around 20 mins at 200 degrees and were really crispy.

Sadly my 'allotment' died a death (hoping to resurrect this hobby at some point too!).

And The Storage Beast still causes us problems...

Despite our best efforts!

But this one's still just the same... <3. (Right now I think he's a car thief in the Ghetto.) 

And his hobby has come in handy as I am now the Programme Leader of the Interactive Media and Games course at the college I work at. I trained in Film and Television so I pick his brains on a regular basis!!

Personally, thanks to the teenagers I teach, I have grown in confidence, and patience. I have had a real rollercoaster ride emotionally, this year being particularly difficult as I became a Programme Leader in my NQT year (first year of teaching) and had to design and launch a brand new course which wasn't my subject specialism. This was incredibly rewarding, creative, exciting and job affirming but also pushed me to the limits of my current stress threshold - which somehow keeps increasing, all part of growing up I guess! Without much warning I found myself responsible for 30 expectant 16 - 22 year olds who have been at times (and sometimes simultaneously) the bane of my life and the only thing getting me up and going to work in the mornings. I have made so many hash-ups I couldn't count them on all of my fingers and toes but somehow it all came together at the end of the year, with the help of the students, staff, family, friends and even the managers (I know!). Teamwork makes the dream work! My students love it when I say that. Not.  

Over the summer I've had time to restore and reflect and am really excited to go back tomorrow and kick start the new year. 

Except this time I will have 2 year groups to worry about... 

Over 80 students to keep track of... 
Oh bums. 

****See you in 2 and a half years!**** 

(Just kidding - I hope) xxx

Monday 3 February 2014

Weekend in Wells

Sorry I have been quiet the past week, I was feeling a little under the weather.

But back to it now and I wanted to tell you about my weekend away in Wells Next to the Sea with my Dad, his partner C and the Gentle Giant, not the weekend just gone, the one before.

If you are planning on a weekend away in England then I would highly recommend it. It has everything you need for a classic British get away. Great pubs, traditional village shops and one of the most beautiful beaches in the country. We are very fortunate to live just a couple of hour's drive away.

Dad, C and The Gentle Giant at the Docks in Wells

We stayed in the Bowling Green pub which two double rooms in an annex out the back and is a lovely, warm, traditional pub with great food and two (!) open fires. Perfect in the winter.

Me, Dad and C - Sheringham Park

We had a very busy day on the Saturday; up early for breakfast (fruit and cereal for me but the fry up is gooood) then off to Sheringham park for a good old yomp.

The Gentle Giant and myself -Sheringham Park

We then walked through the park to Sheringham town. Had a little look around their quaint station and stopped in the yarn shop (obviously) where C purchased some fantastically colourful fat quarters to play with on her new sewing machine. I'll be honest, the jealousy is killing me.

From Sheringham, we walked along the coastal cliff top for a little while, with spectacular views even when the clouds began rolling in, then cut back in and walked back to the park.

Where we were spied by a very suspicious looking character.

Things then turned a little dramatic. Back in the park, Dad took us up a hill then lots of steps to a Gazebo.
At the top of which I burst into tears. I am mortified. I hate cry-ers but clinging on at the top of this flimsy structure, swaying in the wind, my fear of heights took a hold of me. Ok, so maybe it wasn't flimsy and maybe it wasn't swaying in the wind but give me a break!

At this point the men in my life really did me proud. Gentle Giant stared at me in shock and Dad took a photo of me. Brilliant. Thankfully, C was there and she took me back down to safety. Men!!

100% recycled wool - £13
During the drive home we hit an impressive lightning storm and I was very glad of the purchase I had made in the National Trust shop.

Yes I do realise I am supposed to be knitting a throw for the futon but it is a slow process and you can never have too many throws!

We arrived back to base to find the pub in darkness. So while we waited for the power to come back on we sat down and played word games (to Dad's dismay) by candle light. I was a little disappointed when the lights filled the room!

Sunday was a bit of a wash out. I caved in and had a fry up. Delicious. Then we walked down to the beach. A lovely walk on a nice day. Not so good in torrential rain and unforgiving winds. To say we were soaked is an understatement.

We did go in a shop called The People Tree where I picked up this Indonesian clay cooking pot for £5 though so it was definitely worth it!

RRP -£20. This one is chipped so I got a bargain!

Thursday 23 January 2014

A knitting lock in

Today Gentle Giant accidentally picked up my set of keys along with his own when he left for work this morning. As he works a good half hours drive from home this rendered me unable to leave the flat. I was dismayed, as I'm sure you can imagine. 

So I did some washing, cleaned the highly neglected en-suite bathroom, emptied the dishwasher, moved some piles of stuff around and then, when I could put it off no longer, when there was no other possible option, I knit. I knit for hours and hours. Poor me. 

I started by casting on Gentle Giant's jumper. This took some time as I'm working with double knit Merino which has turned out to be quite splitty and it requires 246 stitches. Joy. But the worst part is done, now I can get on with the good stuff. 

This sort of looks a little purple-y but in actual fact it is a navy blue

I did a little of the ribbed edging but I get a lot of pain in my fingers so I moved on to something larger after a while. I find working with the lighter weight yarns, surprisingly, causes me more bother.   

So I then moved on to making squares for my futon throw:

This is such an easy pattern for guaranteed square squares. I like making these because they are mindless and quick.
Here's the recipe:

Cast on 2 sts.
Row 1: k1 knit in front and back of 2nd stitch.
Row 2: k1 kf&b of 2nd stitch, k to end of row.
Repeat row 2 until edge measures 19cm.
Next row: k1 k2tog k to end of row.
Repeat until 2 sts remain.
Cast off.
You have your square. 

At some point in between the chores and knitting I did a bit of online snooping and found this amazing website. Anybody interested in turning their balcony, porch, windowsill into a veg patch should really take a look. I think it will be a daily hit for me!

Anyway! I could happily bore you for far longer but Gentle Giant will be home soon and he's cooking (such a treat!) so I want to go and check the kitchen is presentable.

Tuesday 21 January 2014

Starting over

Good girl points were swinging wildly up and down this week. 

On the one hand, I had a vicious row with Aunty L on the weekend, losing me several hundred.

On the other, I let it go, took a deep breath, picked up the phone and apologised, gaining me a few back. Thankfully, for all our faults, our family is unyieldingly forgiving. Only with each other, mind.  

Again, on one side of the coin I found a gorgeous pair of silver and black stone earrings for my mum, to replace the pair she lost. And to counter act this good deed I completely over indulged on the weekend, stuffing my face with wine and chocolate.

So I've decided the only thing I can do is to draw a line under last week, reset the scoreboard and start again. 

After 2 manic episodes on the exercise bike and a strict eating plan I am hoping my weight is back on track and yesterday I started The Gentle Giant's Christmas jumper. Yes, thank you, I am well aware it's January. I've opted for the fashionably late style of present giving... Or early perhaps?! Pictures to come.

So, so far so good. 

I am off to cook dinner now, Spag Bol; a personal favourite and NOT from a jar. I will post my recipe for you soon as it's a little different. 

Then I'm off to knitting and spinning tonight for the first time in ages. Up until this week I have been working late and not making it home until gone 8pm so I will be basking in the luxury of an evening spent knitting, chatting and possibly, possibly, indulging in a biscuit.


Sunday 12 January 2014

A Sunday at home...

Today has been lovely. We are away such a lot on the weekends it has been absolute bliss to just be at home today. Don't spread this around but I actually got up and had a shower this morning and then put my pyjamas back on!

After a very yummy breakfast of chopped banana and Greek yoghurt I dug out my copy of:

Everybody should have one of these - I retrieved this one from a bag of stuff Mum had put to go out to charity - I still can't believe she was going to give it away!
 Donned my new apron, and set to and made these beauties - I can't believe how well they turned out!

Please excuse my fluffy hair!

This is the recipe I used:

I used a quarter of the suggested quantities. I brushed them with a mixture of milk and a beaten egg and instead of baking them for 40 - 45 mins at 230 degrees, as suggested for the loafs, I put them in for 20 mins at 200 degrees and they turned out really well.

I have added a copy of my calculations below for you if you fancy trying it out.

I hope you can read my hand writing!

While the dough was proving I fixed us up some home made soup out of left over veg from the week. This turned out to be carrot, potato, cabbage and mushroom with rosemary, fresh thyme and garlic.

Gentle Giant and I watched Last Vegas whilst gobbling this up. A film I can highly recommend for an easy watch and a bit of a giggle.

This afternoon has been spent on the computer, first getting my planning done for my early morning sessions at the Primary School and then I was onto the fun stuff: searching for an answer to my cereal box problem. After a fair while of snooping about I stumbled upon these:

At £7.99 each from Amazon I will have to wait for pay day to purchase these and it can't come quickly enough!

During my search I found, a brilliantly crafty blog. On this blog I found a list of tutorials on how to make your own storage boxes and some of them look really, really nice.

 I am planning to give them a go myself (just as soon as I have saved up enough for a sewing machine!). I particularly like the look of tutorial 3:

and tutorial 9:

Clicking through Ayumills blog (creator of tutorial 3) lead me to her free tutorial on tissue box covers. This is something I've had on my brain to try making for a while and I absolutely love the reversible pattern she has designed.

Here's the link:

Let me know what you think, or if you have any other sewing patterns you think I should add to my Things To Do List!

This evening will be spent catching up on BBC's Atlantis with a glass of wine and my knitting. I think I will make my first square of my patchwork throw for the futon. Have a lovely evening!


On a roll!

All in all I've had a pretty good first week back at school.

We have made great progress around the flat with several storage solution purchases made yesterday (take that Storage Beast)...

2 x wicker baskets - Dunelm
Medium - £3.99 (sale)
Large - £5.99 (sale)
This is the smaller of the two which I am using as my "Current Projects Box" (These are the dungarees, in case you were wondering, not much progress has been made, I'm still in the planning process haha!)

Glass TV stand - £35 - The Range
A little bare at the moment but will soon be filled with Gentle Giant's consoles...

2 x leather storage trunks - £20 each - The Range (sale)
Full of jumpers and wool....

Gentle Giant has earned some brownie points fixing the coffee table...



And somehow I have managed to lose 7lbs in 5 days.

However, I am currently in the throes of The Battle of The Boardgames.
I am not winning. 

We love our boardgames but finding a place to put them is never easy. This is but a few of our collection.