Monday, September 30, 2013

Catching up with crochet, running/asthma, gardening, life,..........

Where on earth do I begin? The days and weeks fly by don't they and then I realise that I haven't written anything for a couple of weeks! Shameful.

Crochet & other crafting (no knitting to show as I'm now well into secret Christmas knitting projects).

I started and finished the cuddle cocoon for Ann's new grand-daughter last week and it is so cute.  It's from this sweet book in the Annie's Attic series (I love the sweet little turquoise one with the tassle).  Ann chose the one with the teddybear ears on the top right on the back page.

I gave her 2 options for the tummy and outline bits - either a pale pink or a caramel, more bear-like colour which she chose.  The yarn is dmc Scachenmayr 'Molly' and it's all boucle and teddy bearish so I thought it would be perfect.  However, it was a bit of a stinker to crochet with as I couldn't see the stitches at all and it was a case of stick the hook in and hope for the best.

The first one I made to the pattern dimensions seemed too small so I re-did it with a bit more ease to make it a more comfy experience for baby as it's a very dense fabric.

This is what it looked like before the top trim and tummy were added.

Then I added the top edging and made the matching hat and ears.  Time to sew them all together.  The yarn band said to sew the ends in place and that was very wise as it's one of the yarns that unravels.

So here are all the bits waiting to be sewn together. 

Christmas, Christmas, so much to do. I've agreed to decorate another Christmas tree for the church to support their Xmas tree festival.  You may remember last year when I produced my crochet memories tree which was very well received. 

But what to do this year?  More crochet? Do I stick with the same theme or go for something new? Oh, I just can't make my mind up at the moment but I'm sure the solution will come to me eventually.

Running & Asthma

I've no more marathons this year now but I am training for a pb at the Brighton 10k in November.  I've been spurred on by my success on my birthday back in June when I ran a 10k in 53:41and I'd like to get closer to 50 minutes.


In order to achieve this I am training really hard and doing lots of faster running.  Here's what I did this last week:

Cross-training in the gym on the rower, exercise bike and mini trampoline with core strengthening exercises and some weights.

Running on the treadmill. 2 miles warm-up then 10 x (.2 miles @ 8 minute miling with .1mile recoveries inbetween) then a cool-down. Total 6.5 miles.

A very pleasant cross-country run of 7 miles.  No pressure on the pace.

A tempo run (which is like a speed sandwich with a couple of miles at a gentle pace then a faster section in the middle before another slower section to finish off) on the treadmill. I do most of my speedwork on the treadmill as it's rather undulating/hilly round our home and I can't maintain my chosen pace. 2 miles warm-up then 2.5 miles @ 8.5 minute milling then cool-down. Total 5.5 miles.

As Monday.

A hilly 4.5 mile route.

9 miles at a slower pace.

Total mileage for the week 32.5.  My base mileage is around 25 - 30 miles a week and then when I'm doing my marathon training I increase it up to around 50 miles a week.

I've also been playing around with my asthma medication as I'm not happy taking such a high level and have found no difference in how I feel with the lower level.  I still struggle on the uphills sometimes and I still get gunky when I do faster running although I've found it isn't as bad if I do a longer warm-up section.

Gardening etc

I have so many wonderful photos to upload but I've run out for time and will have to put them into another post. For now, here are a few images that I love.

Giant spike of yukka flowers
Rain-drops on the leaves of Melianthus Major
Beautiful red tufts of Pennisetum setaceum
The ghostly white stems of Rubus Cockburnianus Goldenvale

Must dash!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Remember a Charity

This week is 'Remember a Charity in your Will' week and on Monday I joined up with Louise from Alzheimer's Research UK for a photo-shoot with veteran newsreader Angela Rippon to promote the event.

Of course, a trip into London meant lots of photos but the weather was so bad there aren't many outdoorsy ones.  The first few were taken from the train.

The obligatory shot of The Shard
A tower block of flats and offices affectionately known as The Lipstick
The London Eye
The inevitable delay waiting to get into Charing Cross station
First stop was St Martin in the Fields
The sculpture by Michael Chapman outside entitled 'In the Beginning'
The East Window 
Time for coffee and croissants in the crypt
Walking on the past

The new design of London bus
We had a look around the BP Portrait exhibition in the National Portrait gallery
Then it was time to head off along Tottenham Court Road for the photo shoot.  It was raining pretty hard by then.

A 'photo-shoot' sounds so glamourous doesn't it but the reality was somewhat different.  ARUK was 1 of 20 charities chosen for the event and so there were representatives from all the other charities there as well as us. We'd got absolutely soaked on the walk there as it had been raining really heavily for several hours. I'd been asked to bring my running gear and the scarf so the first thing I had to do was get changed (in a teeny-weeny toilet). Here's my 'selfie' to show what happens to curly hair in damp weather - it sticks out!!!  

The studio where the photos were taken was small and their offices were spread over 3 floors.  There wasn't a waiting room so everybody lined the 4 sets of stairs whilst we waited to go in. 

Daphne the trainee guide dog stole the show. She was so well behaved. Her trainer told us it costs over £30,000 to train one dog.

We went right to the top of the building and found an empty studio to sit in.

We waited and waited.  They told us they were running about 15 minutes late. 1 hour later the photos started. It was literally a case of in and out as they only took about 30 seconds each. We had been promised a chat with Angela at the end as her mother suffered from vascular dementia and so we hoped we could connect and get her support for ARUK. She was so pressed for time that we only managed a very quick chat and her involvement was perfunctory so we were a bit disappointed. Never mind, the photo turned out well and will be good for publicity.

When we left it was still pouring with rain so we got soaked again. Mike's back started to hurt from all the walking so we had to slow down, missed our train by a few minutes and had to wait another hour for the next one. Whilst we were waiting I tried to do my usual cryptic crosswords and sudoku but was struggling with them.  

When we arrived home I realised I'd left my jacket on the train (I'd hung it up to dry) so I tried to phone the station where the train terminated as I knew it wouldn't have arrived by then and I thought perhaps someone could have rescued my jacket for me. Oh no, I couldn't get a phone number for the station and had to go via the national enquiry service to get to the lost property department who informed me that it would take at least 10 days for my jacket to be returned to a depot 20 miles away (that is, if it hadn't been stolen).

At that point I decided that my absent-mindedness meant I was developing dementia and burst into tears. The perfect end to a perfect day!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


It's that time of year again. The time for preserving the abundance that Mother Nature provides for us.

So far I've made crushed strawberry jam (Mike doesn't like it if there are whole strawberries in it), Elderflower and Gooseberry jam, raspberry jam and blackcurrant jam.

Crushing strawberries
Waiting in the wings we have: 

Blackberries for bramble jelly now and rosehip and blackberry sauce later 
Pear and Onion chutney
Victoria plums, ripening nicely now.  Some for plum jam , some for freezing for scrummy spiced plum crumble in the depths of winter and some for plum ketchup
Dark purple plums

Blueberry and Vanilla jam

I had a reasonable crop of blueberries this year so decided to experiment by adding vanilla to my jam as I'd seen some in a market store recently.

Oh my goodness, it is sublime so I just have to share the recipe!


900g blueberries
700g sugar (I used ordinary granulated sugar)
Juice of 2 lemons (they help the jam set)
Pinch of salt
Vanilla pod, split lengthways


Put the blueberries in a non-metallic bowl with half the sugar, all the lemon juice, the salt and the vanilla pod and give it a good mix.  Cover with cling film and leave to stand for a few hours to draw the juice out - I left it overnight.

Pour the mixture into a preserving pan. Add the remaining sugar* and stir over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved completely. I use a wooden spoon to stir and you can feel the grittiness of the sugar and when there aren't any sugar crystals on the back of the spoon it's pretty safe to assume it's  dissolved.

* The sugar will dissolve quicker if you warm it in the oven beforehand. I always put it in the oven on a low heat for about 20 minutes at the same time I put my jam jars in to sterilise and warm through.

Gradually increase the heat and boil the mixture rapidly, without stirring, for about 10 minutes or until it reaches setting point - the jam thermometer should read 104C or you can use the cold plate method I wrote about in another recipe.

Remove the pan from the heat and skim off any scum using a long-handled metal spoon. Discard the vanilla pod and allow the mixture to stand for a couple of minutes which helps prevent the fruit form rising to the top of the jars.

Pour the jam into the warmed jars, secure the lids and leave to cool before labelling.


I used it to make some blueberry muffins - gorgeous!

Tinker's find

I was busy taking photos of flowers on our walk round the garden this morning when Tinker drew my attention to something.

I've found something interesting for you!

It took me a while to spot what it was as it was so well disguised but then I spotted this beautiful spider:

Monday, September 2, 2013

Lumpy knee and knitting

Just a quick update. 

I'm still ploughing through my thank you letters to all my sponsors so please forgive me if you're still waiting - I haven't forgotten you.

I'm just embarking on a new phase of running, training for a faster 10k time at the Brighton marathon in November. My body feels good, even after my running streak, but I have fine example of a synovial bursa, aka 'housemaid's knee', on my knee.

This was caused neither by housework nor by running but by scrambling around on my knees doing gardening.  I always wear kneepads as I thought they would protect me but seemingly they didn't.

It looks as if I'm growing a new kneecap!

Thankfully it isn't painful and I'm hoping it will just go down eventually.

I got a fair way through the jumper I'm knitting but I kept thinking it looked rather large so I put in onto a thread and tried it on - it's way too big coming in at 40" without blocking.  I was making the larger size (it only had 2 sizes, one coming in at 31" and the other at 38.5") but even so it seemed way too big.  I did a swatch knitted in the round which was spot on the stated tension, as I know tension can be quite different from flat knitting, so it's rather annoying.

So I ripped it back and then realised I should show it so here's what was left when I had that thought!

I want it to have some negative ease and I reckon I need to lose 3 whole motifs width which is even smaller than the smallest size so I'm going down .25mm needle size too.  Let's see how that works out.

The other morning I baked thee bacon and onion fougasse for Mike (I'm a vegetarian so they don't appeal to me).  This is what they looked like when I went out for my run........

..........and this is what they looked like upon my return. Mike said the smell was driving him mad and he just couldn't resist! At least it shows that he enjoys my baking.

The weather has been glorious recently and last night the sky turned the most beautiful shades of red and purple.

Tinker is still with us but his lumps are very big now and he doesn't like to go outside on his own.  We've developed a new morning routine whereby I feed him, do some chores whilst he's eating, and then we go outside for a wander round the garden together.

He potters around and has a drink out of puddles or the pond, nibbles on some catnip, and then we  head back inside where he settles down for a well-earned snooze. Precious times.

You can see his little pink tongue licking the catnip!