Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Colour me your colour

I don't know why I've got the song 'Call Me' by Blondie going round in my head at the moment but I have and the lyrics at the start reminded me of something else I haven't shared. I won an adult colouring book from the lovely people at Search Press, based in Tunbridge Wells which is only about 20 miles away from home. I have a huge collection of their craft books as their range of subjects is immense.

My lovely free gift came about via a 'review-it-friday' draw on their Facebook page and I was one of the lucky winners. In exchange we had to write an honest review of the book, Tanglewood Collector's Art Edition', on Amazon which I wrote here.

As soon as I saw the cover I thought the bunny would make a wonderful embroidery project (which reminds me of something else I need to share!). The stylised flowers are reminiscent of the 60s/70s designs I love.

A book with a bunny on its cover always gets my attention!

Another bunny was hiding inside.

I loved spotting the hidden creatures

I wondered if anyone 'adult' fills this in and actually frames them?
I haven't done any colouring other than doodling since I was a teenager and the whole adult-colouring thing hadn't really drawn me in (like the pun?) but I thought I'd have a go any way and surprise, surprise it was a lovely way of losing oneself in something completely different.

It didn't matter that my colouring could have been bettered by a small child, it freed my mind completely and that is priceless.

I borrowed some of Mike's very expensive Caran d'ache coloured pencils and supplemented them with some cheaper ones found on Amazon in a good range of colours. Yes, you can tell the difference but unless you intend to take this up as a serious hobby I don't think there's any need to spend a fortune on the crayons (I got 36 coloured pencils for the price of 2 of the expensive ones).

I cut my teeth colouring in the back page. It was great fun and I discovered it can be done with a cat sitting on your lap!

 Feeling a bit braver I've ventured inside and started playing with this design:

Now I just pick it up and start doodling whenever I sit down with a cuppa and don't feel like knitting or crochet. It makes a nice change.

St. George's Day marathon (aka an alternative to the London marathon!)

Another of Traviss and Rachel's fab events down at the beautiful Samphire Hoe which I now know and love (well, except for that long stretch of concrete sea wall they make us run along 7 times!). Before I left home I announced that I wasn't going take my camera this time as I always take squillions of photos of lichen and skies, but Mike convinced me to take it in case I missed a great opportunity and thank goodness he did as I got to spot an Adder - photo later.

I'd dressed in my outfit from 2 years ago, same event but at a different venue, but my cap had been modified for the Valentine's Day Challenge last year and I figured that as it was largely red and white it would do.

I missed this event last year as my naughty car wouldn't start on the morning of the marathon so I was very happy to arrive there bright and early. I did, however, have to make a detour en-route.  I'd just passed through a village where I saw a Police car in the middle of the road and 2 Policemen talking to a man standing by a telephone box. I didn't think anything of it until I'd gone about 1/2 mile further when I found the road closed off because a car had overturned and 2 Policemen were busy tidying up  the road so I guessed that the man I'd just seen was the driver as there didn't appear to be any casualties.

As I approached the scene there were cones across the road and one of the Policemen gestured for me to turn round and go by another route. Sounds simple doesn't it but in getting round that stretch of road I had to double back on myself and head down many single track country lanes to get to where I needed to be which was a detour of just under 9 miles! 

Thankfully the rest of my journey was trouble-free and I arrived with plenty of time to prepare. The weather conditions were perfect at the start, cool with only a slight breeze along the seawall rather than the gale-force conditions we usually experience there.

Dee was busy snapping as usual

There was lots of red and white on show

Ruth. This was her 498th marathon with her 500th coming very soon. I'm uncertain if I'll be able to be there as my eye operation is quite close to the date.

At the start there were the usual announcements and I was delighted to find I'd completed 1500 miles with SVN events which means next time I run an event I'll get a special number with my name on. Then we all sang 'Jerusalem' in recognition of St. George's Day. I was standing next to Ruth and we were singing without looking at the words until we both confused our lines and started giggling!

Then we were off and the weather was absolutely perfect, cool and bright with only a slight breeze along the seawall unlike the horrendous conditions we've experienced there sometimes.

There were lots of hugs and kisses from chums I haven't seen for ages as I've had to miss so many marathons in the last few months and it felt great to be back out there. There was much friendly banter and I was feeling really good and soon settled into a steady pace, churning out 42 minute laps for the first 5 laps and feeling really strong and focused.

If I'd maintained that pace I would have gone sub 5 hours but on lap 6 of 7 my right knee started to niggle. I took a short walk break to see if it would stretch out but it didn't so I had to decide whether to push on with a run/walk strategy or be sensible and resort to a fast walk. Commonsense prevailed and so I walked the last 1.5 laps at a good, but rather ungainly pace as I had to throw my right leg out to the side as the knee didn't want to bend! I think the knee issue was due to the amount of gardening I did last week as I'd been scrabbling around on my hands and knees and the next morning it only twinged a  bit and today it's right as rain and has been taken out for a short run.

Of course, during my walking phase was when the camera came out and Mike was quite right as if I hadn't taken it I would have missed this little beauty:

A gorgeous Adder

Aren't the markings magnificent!

I also managed to get 2 train drivers to wave to me and one even gave me a full-on blow on the horn as I waved my red and white flag on my last lap. I still wave to trains which is a throwback to being a child and growing up near one of the last railway lines to have steam trains. As kids we'd hang over the bridge above and the train driver would always sound the whistle for us. My antics made some fellow runners smile too.

The other benefit of walking was that I got to chat with one of the Rangers who was out taking photos of the beautiful Early Spider Orchids which he showed me (I'd tried spotting them myself but couldn't see them as they are very low-growing):

Isn't that simply stunning

Then there's the obligatory photo of lichens which I can't resist taking. However, thanks to the Ranger, I now know that this is Xanthoria and that it likes a drop of bird poo (which is just as well as there's plenty of that around there!).

My finish time was 5:18:24 which, although slower than I thought it could have been, was still a pb for that course so I'm rather pleased with that thank you very much.

Onwards and upwards as they say!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Going bananas with turquoise

What a silly title, sorry, it's hard coming up with a snappy and relevant one!

I'll start with the turquoise bit which begins with my gorgeous jumper. I've had this pattern,  'Wisteria' by Kate Gilbert, on my 'to do' list since it was released in 2008 and I finally decided to crack on with it but didn't know what yarn to use. A rummage in my stash uncovered 10 balls of Mirasol Tuhu, discontinued ages ago, which I'd bought at a bargain price when a yarn store was closing down. It's a really soft and squishy yarn and feels wonderful against your skin.

Having looked at other examples others have made I knew I wanted to make it fitted rather than loose as it shows off the cables better. I also wanted to make the sleeves slightly shorter than shown as I prefer to end them at the wrist - I don't like sleeves ending on my hands as I'm far too messy and clumsy! The yarn is slightly thinner than that suggested so it took a while to get gauge and I settled on 3.75mm needles to get the stitch count but this was slightly out on the row gauge so I had to adjust the length accordingly.

The other thing about it was that it's knit top-down in the round and I've never tried a top-down sweater before. That may seem very odd to some people but I've always constructed my knits the way I would create a sewn item, ie with seams for strength and structure. Oh my goodness it's a brilliant way to do it as I could try it on at every stage and so got exactly the right fit and length I wanted at every stage.

It isn't blocked yet but I just had to show it - I'll model it soon so you can see how the colour works with my hair (that was a bonus!).

The neck is a great fit and doesn't go too far up to interfere with my double chin!

The hem echoes the neckline

I adjusted the sleeve length to include an extra repeat of the trellis to match the hem of the body

I added extra rows to the upper body and shaped the waist a bit more than the pattern stated.

Going bananas

It all started with a trip to the lovely town of Rye which I've written about on many occasions. As we wandered along the High Street we passed Cordelia James and Mike spotted this dress in the window and suggested I try it on. Yes, really! It's completely out of my comfort zone but for some reason I agreed and I'm so glad I did as it looks lovely on. I tried it with a dark navy denim jacket which also looked amazing and we came away with both items.

I have never, ever, had a denim jacket before but at the grand old age of 59 5/6th I have now acquired one. Get me getting down wiv da yoof (or maybe I look more like mutton dressed as lamb!).


Then of course I had to accessorise it. I already had some navy wedge-heeled sling-backs which work well with the jacket but I decided to pick out the turquoise in the dress as an alternative.

Now I am a rummager and a bargain hunter and am quite happy to buy secondhand from ebay or charity shops and so it was that I found these brand new turquoise suede shoes, unworn and with the labels on, for £5 (price on ticket £60!).  Bargain number one.

Bargain number 2 also came via ebay in the form of this bag by Anthropologie which is apparently an expensive brand. I don't crave handbags and view them as a utility item but given that it cost £10 and they can sell for 100s of £s I'm very happy with my purchase.

When Mike and I had a trip into Brighton to collect my race number, a couple of days before the marathon, I wore my new outfit and several people commented on my frock and outfit which made it feel extra special - I spend most of my life either wearing running gear or scruffy jeans and looking grubby from dealing with the horses or gardening so it's nice to get dressed up and feel a bit more feminine sometimes.

Rummaging around in the charity shops in Brighton I managed to find 2 bracelets with several shades of turquoise beads for £2 and I reckon I can make a nice new bracelet using them, possibly in macrame, and perhaps a necklace too.

Next I received an email from Jane Crowfoot saying that she has some new lace yarn from West Yorkshire Spinners and this beautiful colour is a perfect match and at 800m per skein is perfect for either a shawl or more likely a bolero such as this self-tie-front cardigan from Araucania which is  a free pattern.

I started swatching the Araucania pattern stitch last night and really like it so just need to get gauge and I'll be off. Bolero it is then!

So that's 2 different looks from one dress. A great result all round! Now all I've got to do is make the bolero, bracelet and necklace..........

Copycat crochet

Every so often I spot a design I really like and will save a photo or magazine clipping to check out later. I don't know why, but I find crochet quite easy to copy whereas I never attempt to copy a knitting pattern.

I saw a skirt like this in a Peruvian Connection catalogue years ago and I really loved it but it was far too expensive for me and so I saved the image thinking I might attempt to copy it at a later date. It had a sort of fishtail at the back but with a straight hem at the front and it was lined with a pale pink sateen. 

The body of the skirt was in a cluster stitch which was easy to emulate so I made a paper pattern to match my measurements and then just filled it in, as if doing freeform crochet. The yarn was recycled from this long lacy cardigan (scroll down past the ducklings!) I made yonks ago and is a perle cotton. I had to do lots of weaving-in of ends as the cardigan was mostly motifs but the yarn was still in good condition so it was silly to waste it as I hadn't worn the cardigan for ages.

The lacy bits are made up of several different crochet motifs, some with little raised flowers for interest. I made them all separately and then joined them together with chains.

The edging is a simple picot cluster (note the Tilly cat hair which gets everywhere!)

As I'm having a turquoise moment I think I'll make the underskirt out of a bright sateen lining fabric from my fabric stash (which I know is lurking somewhere in the depths!).

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Happy Easter!

As it's Easter Sunday I think it's appropriate to show some associated images first.

In the garden everything is bursting into life:

The beautiful Pasque Flower, aka Pulsatilla vulgaris, so-called because it flowers around Easter time

Its silky seedheads are as delightful as its flowers

The ducks and pheasants have been doing what they do (ahem!) at this time of year with a vengeance:

There's lots of stalking, shadowing and displaying from the cock pheasant whilst the hen tries to ignore him!

This young female duck still hasn't mastered the art of nest-building in an appropriate place and I keep finding broken eggs in pots and behind the wheelie bin, bless her.

"Waddya think Donald?"


"I wish she'd let me into the porch!"

But this female, a relative newcomer to us, managed to produce a brood of 8 teeny-weeny ducklings which she marched up from the pond to see us.

She's never brought them up when they are so small and it looked as if they'd only just hatched out because they didn't know what to do when I threw down some grain and they just huddled close to her.

There were lots of predators about (magpies, buzzards & crows) and she seemed very nervous and hardly ate anything before, horror of horrors, she started marching off in the wrong direction towards the horses' field. As it was feeding time the horses were waiting impatiently by the field gate as the ducklings were guided underneath it and into the field whereupon she lead them away towards our next field where there's a larger pond, over 500 metres away.

We kept everything crossed that they were OK and after tea we went down to the nearest pond to see if they'd returned whereupon there was more consternation as there were 3 tiny ducklings swimming around, all alone with no mum in sight. We guessed that they had hatched out after their mum had taken the other 8 away and we really didn't think they'd survive the night, poor wee mites.

The next morning the first thing I did was head down to check on them and was delighted to see that not only had mummy duck returned with her brood of 8, the 3 extra ducklings were there too. However, our joy was short-lived as when she came up for some feed there were only 9 ducklings and the next morning the brood had reduced to 8 again. Nature can be harsh and cruel.

The birds are busy nesting everywhere you look and Esther is providing her usual nest-lining material. The other day I counted 7 rooks on her back pecking away and she really doesn't mind as it's a symbiotic relationship; getting rid of her winter coat which is all itchy when she's moulting. I gave her a really good brushing and left the hair in a big plant pot for them to take.

We've been doing a lot of clearing around the nearest pond and whilst I was looking out of the window to check the bonfire was OK I spotted a pair of ears sticking up in the distance:

Mrs Bunny was busy gathering dried grass to line her nest inside a hole in the bank!

This being Easter weekend I made our traditional hot cross buns, spiced to our liking, full of dried fruit and really scrummy.

I had a couple of number-geek moments when I was dividing the dough (sorry, I can't help myself!):

The only bit I dread is icing the cross on the top as my piping skills are limited and there are usually lots of dribbles or thick lumps when I've pressed too hard on the bag. This time I was rather pleased with how they turned out:

My best ever attempt with only a few slight wiggles!

Yum! They freeze and keep really well and are great eaten both fresh or toasted.

Another marathon

Last weekend saw me return to the Brighton marathon after a break of a few years.  I'd left it until the last minute to decided if I would run it because of all the health issues we've got going on at present and ARUK very kindly gave me a charity place a few weeks beforehand which was great. The only downside was that all the nice cheap 'park and ride' spaces, where you leave your car outside the city and are transported to the start and back again by coach,  had been taken and so I had to park in central Brighton ("ouch", said my purse!) and had to leave home at silly o'clock because they closed loads of the city centre roads at 6am so I found myself sitting in a car park very, very early last Sunday morning. It was fine though as I'd had the foresight to make up a flask of coffee and bought a newspaper to read to while away the time before I headed off to the park where it starts.

Now, although I thought I'd been exceedingly organised I had a niggling feeling that I'd forgotten something which troubled me throughout my journey there. When I went to the car boot to gather my things I realised I hadn't got my sunglasses (I was sure I'd left them in there but had forgotten that I'd worn them for a training run a few days earlier, doh!). Never mind, I thought, and phoned Mike to tell him whereupon he told me off because the forecast was for wall-to-wall sunshine but as I had my peaked cap it wasn't a huge issue really. By this time I was walking along the road towards the start and I decided not to mention that I'd also forgotten to apply suncream even though I had that in the car (oh dear!) as I knew one of my more organised running chums would have some so I wasn't worried about that.

Good start hey?!

I'd arranged to meet some 100 Club member by the clock tower in the park and I looked at my GPS watch to check the time only to find.......I wasn't wearing it. OK so that's the 3 things gone wrong and it was actually very liberating to just run at whatever pace felt comfortable. I deliberately didn't take my camera with me (no, really, I didn't forget it!) as I didn't want any extra weight and I'm glad because it was hot, HoT, HOT.

First I met Sunny and Theresa. Look at all the rubbish on the ground behind us - there had been an event on the night before and the rubbish hadn't been cleared away.

More people arrived in dribs and drabs and Julia very kindly plastered me in sun cream although I did still get rather burnt as it was surprisingly hot all day.

Some of the motley crew - I wonder how many marathons were have completed between us?

ARUK had cheering groups all along the route but most sections were so crowded that it was really hard to spot people although I did spot 2 supporters at around mile 6. I have to say the crowd support was amazing all along the route and I thoroughly enjoyed it (although I know some of the slower runners had issues as they ran out of water at one point).

I saw so many running chums both at the start and en-route and had a fab time despite the heat (I have some great comedy tan-lines!

Here are my favourite bits in no particular order:

Getting shout-outs from supporters and spotting chums on the out-and-back sections. Being overtaken by someone in a badger costume and shouting "well done badger" and have him reply "is that you Susie?" then finding out it was Russell a running chum and Race Director (what a star he was for wearing such a massive costume in that heat). Chatting with Mike the Mod who was running inside a huge model scooter - his feet were hurting like heck and his arms were numb from holding onto the handlebars (brilliant effort for a great cause - Teenage Cancer Trust). Banter with the crowd (awesome support).

Sneaking in just under 5 hours (4:59:45) which was great considering how hot it had been.

We were given a useful size of cloth bag and a decent enough tee shirt (which will be useful for yoga) and some savoury nibbles which I devoured immediately as I needed the salt.

Tee shirt front

Tee shirt back

I had a good journey home and the day ended sharing a bottle of Prosecco with Mike whilst watching the sunset. Bliss.

I have another marathon next weekend (not the London marathon but the St George's Day marathon) but after that things are a bit up in the air as I have to have an operation on my eyes and I don't know how soon I'll be able to run after that so I'll have to get my updates done pdq in anticipation - there's a completed new jumper to show, some crochet and so many other things...........I'd better get my act together!