Sunday, December 23, 2018

Nearly there

As Christmas is looming large on the horizon I thought I'd better do a quick catch-up.

Yesterday was my last marathon of 2018. I was delighted to learn that the weather was supposed to be better than in recent days when we've had torrential rain and strong winds and indeed it was a lovely day with lots of sunshine and only a slight breeze.

It was another of Traviss and Rachels events over at Deal and I do rather like this route as the sea views are glorious and there's lots to see - dog-walkers, plenty of sea birds, cyclists and some interesting Victorian architecture. I only took a few photos of the scenery as I really wasn't feeling the running love yesterday.

Registration time

By 8:30am when we set off, the sun was out and it was very pleasant. I wasn't going to push for a time as Mike and I have only just recovered from bad colds - I had to miss the marathon I'd intended to run 2 weeks ago as for the first time since 2011 I found the cold developed fully and went straight to my chest so, as an asthmatic, running was a no-no. For poor Mike it went to his sinuses and we were both shocked at how much it took out of us.

It was an out and back route of 5.25 miles per lap which meant 5 laps for a marathon or more for an ultra. My first lap felt fine although I just ran at a pace that felt comfortable and I completed it in 55 minutes. I headed out for my 2nd lap and at the halfway point I had a major mind meltdown and decided I didn't want to continue. Yes, really! I am usually completely focused and rarely have negative thoughts so it was a bit of a shock I can tell you.

I always smile when I see this pier as I love the starkness of its architecture.

As luck would have it my favourite young man was also running and he was a lap ahead of me at the time and came alongside me for a catch-up which took my mind off quitting for a while. As we headed into base camp he refused to let me stop and cajoled me into heading out again for another lap which we jogged at a gentle pace whilst putting the world to rights. Of course, by the end of lap 3 I was over halfway and so it would have been silly to quit so off we went again but I'd decided to do a run/walk strategy and James very kindly stayed with me as he wasn't aiming for a fast time.

Chatting with him really helped take my mind off whatever it was that was getting me down and I can't thank him enough for sticking with me to the end. There was lots of hugging with fellow runners and I was delighted to see these two lovely ladies before I finished as Loulou (left) has battled all manner of horrid health problems this year and Kirsty (right) is such a kind friend and helped keep her going when things got tough.

Half of David, LouLou and Kirsty

I don't know what my time was as my Garmin battery died but it was definitely over 6 hours. Hopefully whatever gremlins got into my head will disappear before the new year as I have a marathon on 1st January to welcome in 2019.

On the knitting front I've finished all my gift knitting and am back to working on my jumper.

You had to block it aggressively to a certain circumference. I transferred the stitches onto a long blocking wire but only just managed to get them all on (hence the cork to stop any falling off).

Then the stitches were picked up, a section knit back and forth to make the back higher then the sleeve stitches were put onto holders (I just used scrap yarn). The lacy pattern was done on a single strand but then another strand was added for the first section. I used 2 strands of the yarn in the yoke held together.

I've now started the next section which has a different yarn added into the mix so I exchanged 1 strand of the yoke yarn for a strand of Kidsilk Haze in a mottled brown.

I've got several balls of this shade and thought it would be a good opportunity to use some of it.

In the section after this I'll be adding in this dark chocolate Kidsilk Haze which I think will give me the same effect as the  pattern piece.

There was much excitement the other day when my Parcel arrived for Kate's latest club, Knitting Season, which starts in January.

In other news we've got a new batch of sheepy guests. They are mostly Texels, a breed originally from the Netherlands.

Their coats are incredibly dense which makes them difficult to extract when they decide to explore the bramble patches! I've been pestering the contractor who cuts our hedges to come and cut them back but each time he's been due to come something has gone wrong and now the ground is far too wet to bring a massive tractor onto the fields.

I love the way they stand with their 2 front legs all neat and tidy!

Since our previous nextdoor neighbours have moved we are seeing more inquisitive squirrels in the garden - he used to shoot them.

It didn't take them long to discover the seed-feeder on the window.......

........and the nuts at the feed-station by the hedge

They're great time-wasters as you find yourself just standing watching their antics!

As we hurtle headlong into Christmas may I wish you all a very happy and peaceful time and for those of you who struggle at this time of year I send you extra hugs.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018


What on earth does that mean I hear you cry? It's a wonderful German word I came across when I was learning to speak German ahead of the Salzburg marathon. It is constructed of 3 separate words and describes the feeling that time is passing and the chance to do things is slipping away. Its literal meaning is 'gate-closing panic' and dates back to the Middle Ages when peasants rushed to get back inside the city gates before they were closed at nightfall. I have that feeling in bucket-loads at the moment although I don't have the worry of being shut out of the citadel.

Funerals and the loss of dear friends this year have made me stop and think just how fragile life is and how easy it is to waste our precious time with procrastination and inertia. 2 of my close friends have died this year, another is being treated for breast cancer and I've just heard that another has been made redundant on top of what has been a ghastly year for her.

It's made me count my blessings. It's also made me start clearing out some of the stuff I've hoarded as I am a natural born hoarder having been brought up in a house of hoarders! Bags full of yarn have made their way to various Charity Shops and I think I'll put some on ebay as part of my latest fund-raising. Likewise clothes and shoes I haven't worn for ages but couldn't bear to part with. I could probably host a jumble sale with all the stuff I'm getting rid of but it's hard to find the time!

In my rummaging and sorting I found some memories of my first steps in running. I don't think I've written much about my first steps on here but in a nutshell, a close friend died of cancer and I found something called the Race for Life, a 5k women-only event to raise money for Cancer Research UK and decided I would do it in her memory. After we'd all fallen about laughing at the very idea of me running for anything other than a bus I headed off to the local gym. I started running on a treadmill and after what felt like 15 minutes I slowed the speed down to walking pace - I'd run for 3 minutes!  That's how my journey began.

This was in the very early stages of mum's dementia so Mike was able to keep an eye on her whilst I was out. Each day I'd head off down to the local gym, which was a 10 minute walk away, and run/walk on the treadmill until eventually I could run for a full 30 minutes.  Then I ran the race and raised money for Cancer Research UK which I continued to do several times more which in turn set in motion a series of events whereupon I discovered I was having my own dance with cancer:

My first trophy at the Beckley 10k!

When mum went into the special nursing home for the last few months of her life I decided I was going to run a marathon. I was injured but I was determined to do it, and so I did:

Six months later I joined forces with Alzheimer's Research UK, started speaking out about dementia and completed my first London marathon:

So here I am writing about marathon 162. Wow, who'd have thought I'd ever type something like that! This was another SVN event over at the old Betteshanger colliery now named Betteshanger Country Park. The weather had been vile the day before with torrential rain and gale-force wind so I thought it was going to be rather muddy and I was right:

Silly boys finishing!

I was completely focused and just kept on and on pounding away as I wanted to be faster than at Samphire Hoe (5:15) so was delighted to find I'd finished in 5:07.

A nice dry bit!

It was a day for a random medal and we all seemed to end up with left-over tanks! At least it's purple, my favourite colour.

I also swapped my blue number for a girly pink one for having completed 2500 miles at their events:

I've just got 2 more marathons to finish off 2018 then on 1st January the serious training begins and I've committed myself to tough a 90 day plan (gulp!).


Knitting wise I finished reworking the yoke of Hryggir and it's waiting patiently to be blocked whilst I finish off the last of my Christmas gift knitting (just a pair of leg-warmers and a hat left to do.....). A trip into a local village turned out to be more exciting than expected when I found a copy of the latest pompom quarterly which I'd spotted on Ravelry.

Love the pattern on the front, Nightingale, except for the sleeves which I'd have to adapt.
Nimue is a must knit for over floaty dresses

Osmunda has just the right of quirkiness I love except I'd make the lower part of the sleeves slightly narrower.

I'm also looking forward to the latest Knitting Club from Kate Davies which is called Knitting Seasons this year and starts in January. Entries opened at 5pm on a day when I was out and about and it really helped to focus my mind on getting through things quickly! Thankfully I made it back in time and was poised and ready to enter my details at 4:59pm and bagged my place in the Limited Edition version which includes lots of yarn at a discounted price. Not surprisingly those places went pdq and sadly many people were disappointed although there are still unlimited places for the basic package of books but without the yarn.

Dutch Oven method of baking bread

I've finally cracked the secret of using the Dutch Oven method of baking bread. Here's what I did:

You can find these heavy cast iron pans on ebay for a fraction of the price of Le Creuset

This one cost £40, brand new, as opposed to a hundred or so more.

Lining the base with greaseproof paper got rid of the sticking problem.

I put the pot, with the lid, in the cold oven then heated it to the required temperature. I baked at 240C for 25 minutes with the lid on then lowered to 200C for 25 minutes more with the lid off. I've subsequently experimented with removing the lid for the second part of the bake which worked OK too.

I made a multigrain mix and used a small amount of fresh yeast alongside my sourdough starter which I always finds works well if you don't want the very holey texture of pure sourdough (is that the Italian or French mix? I can't remember which).

Sorry it's a bit fuzzy but it produced a very nice crumb.

Whilst we're in the kitchen I have to show my gorgeous red Christmas Cactus which has excelled itself this year:

It's onto its second flowering already

After the rain

My goodness it's been wet recently and both ponds are close to overflowing. When the rain finally abated I was straight out for a wander around the garden to see what fungi had appeared and I wasn't disappointed:

Immature shoots of Candlesnuff

We chopped down this Blackthorn tree about 10 years ago and it has been colonised by many different fungi over the years.

There were hundreds of these tiny white mushrooms in the mown area behind the barn

This is one in close-up