Monday, March 26, 2012

Fantastic news

This morning, David Cameron made a very important announcement at the Alzheimer's Society conference. He spoke about 3 themes in dementia; of improving health and social care, public awareness and involvement, and stepping up research. Mr Cameron expressed his ambition to tackle dementia as a “personal priority”.

I heard about this last week and was overwhelmed with joy when I heard that the amount of money allocated for research into dementia would be doubled.

Of course this information was embargoed until after his speech and so I was unable to write about it until now even though I wanted to shout YIPPEEEEEEEE from the rooftops! All of a sudden it feels as if our lone voices have been heard and someone has realised that dementia is a ticking timebomb for our ageing population and the issue must be dealt with now.

So now I feel as if my marathoning and constant campaigning to raise awareness have not been in vain. I hope all the others who have done the same and more will feel as if there has been some progress at last. Long may it continue.

This news has really given me renewed hope and I shall run my marathons with a determined stride, defeating dementia with every step.

Onwards and upwards as they say.

The weather is still very warm and dry which is a concern as the South East has been declared a drought zone with a hosepipe ban coming into force next week. Our water butts are nearly empty, ponds and rivers are drying up and with no rain forecast for the foreseeable future things are not looking good for wildlife, gardeners or farmers. The lack of water doesn't seem to have stopped the weeds growing though and I seem to be fighting a losing battle with them in the front garden!

When not in the garden I have been busy crocheting leaves. Lots of them in all shapes and sizes. None of them seemed right. I crocheted all of the leaves in my flower book but with the exception of the fig leaf (seen here, bottom right) none of them would do.

I then resorted to my 1970s crochet books for inspiration and lo and behold I found several of the designs in my flower book had been copied and given different names! I still didn't find what I wanted and so I experimented. Long thin pointy leaves, short fat round ones, ferny ones etc etc until finally I created the 2 seen here top left.

After much arranging and rearranging of flowers and leaves I pinned them together ready to sew. Next I'll start crocheting around them to fill in the background then think about what will go on the back of the cushion. Crochet? Curtain fabric?

It's been great fun and I can't wait to start my blankets now.

I caught this sunset a few nights ago and I love that the glow has created a heart underneath the sun!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Holey voley!

Sunday's run was tough and those hills hadn't got any smaller but the good news is that I ran the whole 20 miles in 4 hours, just like last week. I was very pleased as the only other time I've done this route I was so tired that I had to walk the last 2 miles and arrived home teary and downtrodden in 4.5 hours!

Yesterday I did a good session of pyramid intervals @ 8:21 minute miling (pyramid intervals are so called because you increase the distance of each interval and then decrease back down to the starting distance; eg I ran intervals of .3, .4, .5, .6, .5 .4, .3 miles with 1.5 minute slower recoveries inbetween ) and was very pleased with the way my legs responded after such a tough run on Sunday.

Just look at this sweet little vole.

We were just pottering around in the front garden when Mike spotted her sitting right in front of him.

She was so busy eating that she paid no attention to us which suggested that she was probably looking for food for her family.

It always feels like an honour when a wild creature allows us to have an insight into their world.

Mike's niece Emma is taking ballet lessons and she needs a tutu for the summer show. As Sharon, my sister-in-law, doesn't sew she asked if I'd make it for her.

I haven't done much sewing for a while, except for making household things such as curtains and cushions, so it will be an interesting challenge.

I'm not looking forward to that froth of net!

I've crocheted more flowers and think I've got enough now. I quite like this arrangement but need to think about how I join them.

I spent ages last night experimenting with leaves but couldn't get just what I wanted using any of the patterns I have so I'll have to make up my own.

I like the idea of sinuous stems winding across the cushion as I think it needs some splashes of green to liven up the reds.

As for the background I'm thinking about a sort of freeform approach of just following the shapes. I might join the flower motifs where they touch or overlap and then work as one would with tesserae in mosaics using the technique known as 'Opus Vermiculatum' where you form an outline around a shape.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Crocheting an abundance of flowers (not forgetting the running!)

Having had a winter of knitting, I'm in the mood for crochet!

I have 1 big crochet project and 1 big knitting project in mind that involve using up my collection of Rowan Summer Tweed. This is a lovely, tweedy, nobbly yarn made with a mix of cotton and silk. I already had lots of odd skeins left over from various projects and I've been adding to them by buying up bits and bobs on ebay.

I was inspired by Kaffe Fassett's Madras Blocks throw to create 2 summer blankets, one knitted and one crocheted. I'm not using his pattern, it was his vibrant colour combinations that inspired me and set me thinking.

Being nobbly, the yarn isn't ideal for crochet but I just love the flecks of colour that run through it and blend so well so I'm paying no attention to the rules of crochet which state that you should use a more free-flowing yarn!

As a taster project I've decided to make a cushion cover of flower motifs to get used to using the yarn and find what works best.

I am taking the colours from the fabric of our dining room curtains and blinds to create a series of crochet flowers and leaves in various sizes.

These 2 flowers came from the wonderful book shown below.

It really is a treasure trove of beautiful flowers and leaves to knit or crochet.

In the book they look incredibly realistic due to the colours used.

But I'm not looking for realism and so I've just chosen a couple of flowers with a pleasing shape and created them in colour combinations that I like and which tone with the curtain fabric.

Plus, as the yarn I'm using is aran weight and the patterns are for 4ply or dk the flowers are much larger than in the book. These 2 each measure about 10cms across.

Then I had a bit of fun making up my own simple patterns.

That's the joy of crochet as you can create a wonderful selection of things using just a few basic stitches - these are made using just chain, double crochet, 1/2 treble, treble and double treble.

I had fun just piling them up on a cushion to see how they look together.

The next few evenings will be spent trying out new shapes and colour combos which I find very exciting.

Then all I have to do is decide how I want to join them together. I know I don't want a flat effect, joined using a chain mesh, so will probably pile them on top of eachother and then embelish them with more crochet trim or beads. The only limit will be my own imagination. I like that.

No running today but my second 20 miler tomorrow. The weather forecast is better than last week when it poured with rain and blew a gale for the whole 4 hours!

I'm planning to run my most challenging route this time which consists of nothing but hills. It will give me a good idea how my training is going.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Ladybird Love?

Don't they look sweet cuddled up together!

Unfortunately I think they are both forms of the Harlequin Ladybird which is the most invasive ladybird on Earth and has spread from Essex to Orkney in only four years and is now one of the fastest spreading non-native insects in Europe. Scientists view them as a major threat to our native species so are looking at ways to control their spread.

They've been over-wintering in our bedroom and each day I'd find them in a different place, usually around the window frame but never together until the other day.

Now they seem to have disappeared and I suspect they might have gone outside, tempted by the warm weather we've been experiencing. As it's now turned cold and wet again I bet they wish they'd stayed indoors.

Yesterday was my first 20 miler of the year so you can guess what the weather did - it poured with rain and blew a gale at me for the duration of my run! I didn't mind really as once I was wet through I couldn't get any wetter so I just got on with it.

I'd chosen a route that was unrelenting in its hilliness for the first 13 miles. I was either going up a hill or down a hill for the full 13 miles with only a few hundred metres of flat bits. What usually happens when I run this route is that I'm really tired for the remaining 7 miles and my pace slows right down but yesterday I didn't slow at all. In fact, even though I stopped to collect a newspaper at the shop in a neighbouring village, I managed to shave 15 minutes off my usual time and I ran the last mile (mostly uphill) at marathon pace to finish in 4 hours exactly.

It was a great confidence booster.