Monday, August 27, 2012

Sunshine on a rainy day

I'm just doing a quick update whilst my Georgian Khachapuri are proving in the oven.  They are yummy!


'Sunshine' was finished in time for the Calypso evening but I didn't wear it because it was too cold!  In fact, it poured with rain all evening and the gazebos leaked.  Thankfully it didn't dampen anyone's spirits and a good time was had by all.

 I was very pleased with my top as it's a perfect fit and very comfy.

Modifications?  Yep.

I went down to 4.5mm needles rather than the 5mm suggested as I don't like the fabric produced in Summer Tweed using the larger needles (too many gaps for my liking).  I changed the stripe sequence slightly because in the pattern it shows the stripe nearest to the crocheted neckline in the purple colourway and I felt it didn't stand out enough as it just blended into the neckline.  Also, I used a 4.5mm crochet hook for the neck which has made it much firmer and it sits nicely.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A year of sunsets and skies

Well I managed it; one whole year of taking photos of our wonderful skies, mostly sunsets.

There have been some real beauties throughout the year and I don't think I'll ever tire of watching the sun go down.  There's something magical and awe-inspiring about it.  It always makes me think of a scene from King Kong where he sits and takes in the beauty of the sunset.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Running, crochet, knitting, asthma, an operation, butterflies, ducklings and skies - such a lot to tell!

So much has been happening that it's hard to know where to begin so things will not necessarily come out in the correct order!

The Big Butterfly Count

I'll start with some photos of the beautiful butterflies (with the odd moth or bee for good measure) that I managed to photograph in the garden now the sun has finally shown  her face.  In August, Butterfly asks people to count the number of butterflies and moths they see in their gardens.   Numbers have been worryingly low this year and they are interested in those we haven't seen as much as those we have seen.

Here are the ones I managed to capture.

6 Spot Burnet Moth on Blue vetch
Comma and bee on Buddleia x weyeriana 'Sungold' 
Gatekeeper hiding on the gravel.  There were so many around and it was hard to spot them but as soon as I went near they flew up!
Silver Studded Blue on Allium Christophii
Peacock on Teasel
Red Admiral on Buddleia Davidii
Small Tortoiseshell
Small Copper on Shasta Daisy

Amongst those I didn't manage to photograph, as they wouldn't stay still long enough, were Holly Blue, Small Blue, Small White.

This year I haven't seen any Painted Ladies, White Admirals, Meadow Browns, Common Blue, Large White, Brimstone, Dingy Skipper.  Quite a few missing I think because of the horrid wet weather we had early in their breeding season.

Asthma and Running

First the Asthma bit

I can't easily separate the 2 as sadly my breathing difficulties have affected my running more than I had hoped.

Although I don't get many comments on my blog I can see from my stats that plenty of people do actually pop by and my post about the Turbohaler has received lots of hits so I'm going to write about my experiences in more detail.

The diagnosis of Asthma came as a surprise and only came about because I kept pressing the doctor about some of the difficulties I've been experiencing.  Scary hey!  Several years ago my throat started to get sore and close up.  It felt as if I had a tennis ball stuffed down my throat and it hurt to swallow.  The first few times I just thought it was because I'd been training hard for my marathons and that my immune system was a bit weak.  

However, Mike commented that it seemed to happen just before the London marathon and we wondered if it was perhaps nerves.  But I wasn't convinced and when I still had a sore throat after 3 months I went to the doctor who brushed me off saying that it was just the remnants of a virus.  The next year was exactly the same, with the discomfort continuing intermittently throughout the summer months.

This year I had a terrible time during the London marathon and struggled with my breathing and I had a 'eureka' moment - my throat started getting sore when the tree pollen was out!  Hallelujah we thought and I started taking cetirine dihydrochloride to counter-act the allergen.  All was well for my next marathon 2 weeks later but then during a recovery run the next week I had a bad experience whilst running near a field of oil seed rape.

So back I went to the doctor and eventually I ended up with Turbohaler!  I thought that I would just have to use this during the pollen season but apparently I have to use it every day, for ever more.  I was devastated.

I read the list of possible common side effect and they didn't make good reading - Thrush in your mouth, palpitations, headaches, mild sore throat and a hoarse voice.  Then you move onto the 'Uncommon side effects' (affects less than 1 in 100 people)  which include disturbed sleep and muscle cramps, both of which I've experienced.   The rare and very rare side effects were very scary and the things that worry me most are osteoporosis,  glaucoma and cataracts (I have a family history of both) and unpleasant taste in your mouth (I do have that!).

I was worried about gaining weight when using a steroid and was assured that it doesn't happen with an inhaled steroid.  Really?  See below!

Here are my experiences of using the inhaler which delivers a powder form of Budesonide (reduces and prevents swellings in the lungs) and Formoterol fumarate dihydrate (which relaxes the muscles in your airways):

- It is supposed to be tasteless.  It isn't!  In the instructions it recommends rinsing your mouth with water and spitting out after using the inhaler.  This is very important as Thrush can become a problem if you don't.

- They suggest you brush your teeth after using the inhaler.  If you do then your toothbrush tastes of the powder which is most unpleasant.

- You need to wash the mouth-piece on your flow meter if using as if you don't it tastes of the powder too.

- Having used the inhaler for 12 weeks I had gained 10 lbs in weight despite being active and not eating any more.  I am now trying to work out how to lose the excess pounds as I have another marathon in 2 weeks!

- I seem to have a sore throat a lot of the time and I have a horrid taste in my mouth.  I've taken to rinsing with plain water a couple of times and then using mouthwash too.  That helps.

- My voice sounds deeper (inside my head anyway but Mike says it doesn't sound any different to him although sometimes it's a bit gravelly when my throat is really sore).

- When my throat is sore my breath flow produces a lower reading.

On the positive side:

- I've been checking my breath flow intermittently and it is sticking around 360 first thing in the morning  before I use the inhaler and then getting up to 400 - 420 during the day.  The first time I did the test I could only manage 250 so there is improvement there.

- After my last marathon I didn't have the gunky feeling in my chest - this was one of the main indicators of asthma for the doctor and I only mentioned it in passing as I'd always assumed it was because I used to smoke cigarettes in my 20s!

- I'm looking into ways of improving my breathing and posture.

Now for the running

Well, there have been very bad days and very good days.

Some days I've felt fine until I've set out and then I've felt as if every step is draining my breath away and as for the hills, well they've felt like mountains on occasion!  Last weekend I did a 17 miler on a hilly route and felt absolutely fine but the week before I'd had to abandon my long run after 5 miles as I'd felt so grotty.  On that occasion the pollen count was really high as there had been lots of harvesting going on.

There have been lots of tears and self doubt as it's really knocked my confidence.  However, I have a very good training base and I'm confident that I'll complete my next marathon in 2 weeks even if I have to take walk breaks.

On the days when I've known that the pollen count was high I've been doing my speedwork on the treadmill.  Although this is tedious it has ensured that I haven't got behind in my schedule.  Interestingly, I've had no trouble with my breathing going at faster speeds on the treadmill.  I've been incorporating some Yasso 800s into my workouts and they've kept things interesting.

I keep hoping that once my body gets used to the medication that the weight will drop off again - oh look, there goes a flying pig!


I'd being eyeing up the pattern for a woven tartan afghan so decided it would be a good summer crochet project as I've never tried woven crochet before.

13/7/12 - The journey begins
First of all you create a grid using your chosen colour sequence.  It's really easy as it's just row upon row of treble crochet (or dc in American terminology).  When you start out it's quite a portable project.

 But after a while it becomes too big and heavy!

31/7/12 - Crochet grid completed
 When you've finished crocheting the grid, the fun begins!

Weaving to create the tartan effect
You cut pieces of yarn to fit the length of the blanket with an allowance of about 10" either end for a fringe.  Then you weave under and over through each grid.

In this pattern you use a double strand of yarn and weave under and over in the each square then use another double strand of yarn to go over and under through the same square.  I've seen other versions where you weave using lengths of crochet chain instead.

It's one of those processes that is quite tedious so I'm just doing a few lengths as and when I feel like it.


Shan, if you're reading this I'm with you on intarsia.  For some reason I'd forgotten how annoying intarsia projects can be with all those bits of yarn dangling on the back of your work!  So, although my intarsia rose looked lovely I can't bear the thought of doing a whole blanket of them.

Lisa, I'll look into your suggestion of knitting backwards as it sounds intriguing.  Thanks for the suggestion.

In the meantime, we've got a Calypso themed charity fund-raising evening to attend next week so the other day I decided I wanted to make a new top and Sunshine, Ravelry link, by Marie Wallin fitted the bill perfectly as I've had the Summer Tweed to knit this for ages.

It's a quick knit with minimal shaping and it only took a couple of evenings to do the front so hopefully I'll have it finished in time.


4 years ago our beautiful cat, Tinker, had an operation to remove a fibrosarcoma, an aggressive form of cancer.  He's been in remission for 4 years but a couple of weeks ago I felt another small lump near the site of the previous one so off we went to the vet again.  We know that if it wasn't removed then it could well grow very quickly but as he's 16 years old and has an irregular heartbeat we were worried that he couldn't withstand another operation.

So it was a Catch 22 situation but we decided that we had to risk the operation.  The vet checked his blood samples beforehand and his kidneys etc are working well so they went ahead.  Apparently he had 4 very small lumps embedded in his leg muscle so they took away as much as they could be didn't dare take too much or he'd wouldn't have been able to walk.

It was a very anxious wait for the phone call to say he was OK, but thankfully he's a brave little chap and he came through it OK.  The cut goes all the way down his side and he was very good and left his stitches alone until they were taken out the other day.

Tinker's present
He was a spoilt boy and received a get well card and gift from Tobias,a lovely rag doll cat who lives over the road.

Lovely paper
I think he might have had some help from John and Ann in wrapping it though.

Hurry up!
What is it then?

Special cat food
It was a tin of very special cat food that he wolfed down.  No loss of appetite then!

Of course he's desperate to go outside but we aren't letting him out until some fur has grown back to protect the scar tissue.  Let's hope he gets at least another 4 years of remission as he is such a lovely cat with the most gentle nature and is still very playful.


Oh how time flies!  These tiny mites are now virtually fully grown.

Still fluffy on 7/7/12

Tiny wings developing 15/7/12
Feed me!
Fully grown 19/8/12
It has been a joy to watch their development but I suspect they'll soon take their first flight and be off on their adventures.  Mrs Duck has now hooked up with the old gang, although she is still protecting them, and it will be interesting to see how much longer they stay with her.


I can hardly believe that it's nearly 12 months ago that I started taking my sky photos, but it is.  I started on Sunday August 21st so I'll continue until Monday 20th.

Here are a few recent beauties:


It's been great fun and we have some wonderful photos as reference for Mike when he's painting skies.