Sunday, October 29, 2006

29 October: Mittens galore

Here are the mittens I promised the other day - I know you've been waiting impatiently to see them.

The stitch pattern is the same on both, but is clearer on the lavender pair.

And the exercise continues - this afternoon DH suggested a walk - when we got home 2 and three quarter hours later we'd walked 8 and a half miles.

Excuse me now while I go and soak in a hot bath.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

26 October: Fat or Fit?

Kaz posts about being unfit - it must be our age, because I too have been worrying recently about my increasing weight and expanding waistline. Been getting more sedentary, at work and at home, and I have a sweet tooth (several, in fact, with a lot of fillings).

Attempts at getting back into jogging over the last couple of years have got nowhere, partly because of the weakness of the knee I broke, and partly because I was used to running several miles easily, and it's very hard to start from almost scratch again. Then there is a lack of motivation - since I gave up competitive orienteering in 1992 there hasn't been a strong motive for fitness, and as I have been unable to get DH interested, and have been trying to do it on my own, it's been hard. Jogging with other people is good, as you help each other with commitment and progress, but it's absolutely no good trying to join a club when you can't run at least 3 miles at 10 minute mile pace (and better at 8 minute pace) - you would be on your own again as all the others disappear into the distance, leaving you to feel really bad; or some kind soul sacrifices their own run to keep you company, and you feel really bad about that.

Cycling has never been a favourite activity - pointless riding up and down the railway paths, and the traffic is too dangerous on roads; and I can run out of energy quite suddenly and spectacularly cycling. Last time I got on my bike, my knee was too weak to turn the pedals. And then the saddle slipped.

Swimming? Public baths are a nasty mixture of liquids, most of which are not good to swallow, and I find sweating underwater an unpleasant experience. Then there's the lack of any view, and do you wear your glasses and risk them falling off in the water, or do without them, and be half-blind?

Dancing is excellent - vigorous activity and fun. Ceilidhs are great, and I would think that lots of other types of dancing would be good too, but again there's the problem of a partner, finding a group or class nearby, and is a couple of hours once a week enough?

So it comes back to walking - easy, cheap, no special kit, do it anywhere and any time. If you keep going at a speed to raise your breathing rate and make you sweat, it has to be good. No pounding on the joints, either. And if you have your binoculars or camera in your pocket and there's something interesting, you can stop for a moment and look. Getting out of doors is good for skin and hair, and for the mental health. No need for the iPod, either, there's always plenty of things to see, and you can hear the cattle lorry approaching along the lane. If you keep you eyes open, there's often a free snack available - yesterday I found a few sloes and loads of beech nuts. Probably ate as many calories as I used up, but when I got home, the lungs and muscles felt as if they'd been working.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

24 October: In the garden

What's catching the eye in the garden at the moment? Mostly, the masses of nasturtiums that are sprawling all over the place. They won't survive the first frost - so they could be wiped out any night now.

There are some flowers still out from earlier in the year, like roses and marigolds, and the Japanese anemones are still flowering, but under the rowan tree, so not good for photographing. This little hebe was in the sun today, though.

And this shrub was planted for "winter colour" - in 4 years, it's had about 6 tiny flowers out at a time, but it does bloom in the winter. This year it has grown a lot, and is starting to come out while the leaves are still on it. It is viburnum bodnantense Dawn.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

22 October: Another pair of mittens

For those needing a knitting fix, here's another pair of mittens recently knitted. They are made from Wensleydale wool, hand spun and the blue/brown colour hand dyed.
Since I finished these, I knitted another pair, from Blue-faced Leicester wool, in which I tried out another way of doing the thumb, that is with a gusset. (Gusset is a favourite word, and idea.) They will appear here in the fullness of time - bet you can't wait.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

18 October: Veils

(Any random visitors from Google are welcome, whatever their religion, nationality, gender, or whatever. Prepare for disappointment.)

The current fuss about veils is a real missed opportunity by the fashion market. They'd be ideal for those of us with zits, warts, scars, uneven teeth and embryonic moustaches. No need for lippy, and a chance for the more extrovert to decorate in any way they fancied - logos, embroidery, photos of the family, the slogan of your choice. Fashion fabrics, stripes, brocades, floral prints, wool for the winter and seersucker for the summer, maybe even chiffon for evening.

Time for the clothing industry to widen their scope a bit, and make all styles of outfit available to us all? Personally, I've always fancied saris and salwar kamees (if that's how you spell them), and kaftans were popular for a while. Tent-shaped garments could be just the thing for the now prevalent "fuller figure". Let's have a bit more choice in clothes.

On the subject of religion, it has always slightly amused me (as a Buddhist) that Buddha statues are considered suitable for use as ornaments and garden gnomes, but crosses aren't, with or without the little feller (thank you, birdy). Why is that?

They have their uses, though, as a reminder to bow to the Buddha in everyone, and do your best to keep to the Precepts.

All religions seem to have a rule or guide-line to "treat your neighbour as yourself" - what a pity so few people actually try to do that.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

15 October: Autumn

A visit to Durham's Botanic Garden the other day; wonderful colours in the leaves.

A few cold nights have started the them off - later than usual this year?

There is a circle of sculptures near the cafe (good cafe), depicting historical local worthies - this one is George Stephenson.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

11 October: A thread or two

The other day some friends and I were discussing school lessons in cookery and needlework .

Several people had positive memories of learning to sew through their clumsy primary school efforts. Others had learnt to sew and knit before they started school. I don't remember sewing at infant/junior school, but the Grammar School had Domestic Science on the schedule. There was even a 'state of the art' equipped kitchen, installed in one of the temporary huts that mushroomed all round the main building, and were still there for decades. Actually, I don't think the kitchen was much used - with 35 or 40 minute lessons, there wasn't actually enough time to cook anything. But we did take ingredients to classes (provided with difficulty from some homes, and grudgingly from others), and sometimes take "dishes" home.

The one I remember so vividly was Summer Soup. This was chopped up vegetables cooked in a milky, slightly viscous liquid. Carried home in a screw-top jar, it actually looked too much like sick to be consumed, and it was flushed away.

The mention of sick (sorry, folks) reminds me that when the children and I used to go to orienteering on a Sunday morning, we used to take instant Cup-a-Soup with us for a hot snack afterwards. This would be usually mushroom or tomato, brought to life with hot water from a thermos flask. And the question asked when choosing the variety was always "Red sick or white sick?", often to the surprise of neighbours in the car park.

But I digress.
Well, it is "threads from my life".

Learning to sew and knit - I think I learnt in spite of the school lessons. Certainly my Mum taught me to knit, and I was well able to knit a sweater (with fancy stitches) while I was still at school. School sewing lessons were a real trial, as the teacher was a bit of a perfectionist. All my running stitches had to be pulled out and re-done umpteen times, and were mocked by the teacher, and even held up to demonstrate how not to do it.

Meanwhile, at home I had the use of my mother's sewing machine, and was making clothes from patterns, and even altering and adapting the patterns. It was the real world, while the school lessons were artificial. And I quite enjoyed getting a laugh from the class.

And I have continued sewing and knitting, and any other textile type craft, ever since. For several years I made quilts, and a couple of years ago took up spinning, as it was impossible to find knitting wool in the thickness and range of colours I wanted. Braiding, basket-making, rug hooking, simple weaving, and now felt-making have been added to the range of interests. And I do it for my own enjoyment, not to sell or to teach others. And I hope to go on doing so for many more years.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

8 October: Autumn is here

It seems to be a good year for berries - the blackberries were plentiful, and rowans and elders have been loaded, and the hedges look bloodstained with hips and haws.

The hips above and the haws below may provide food for birds over the coming weeks - they have eaten most of the rowan berries already.

And, just in case anyone was needing a picture of some knitting, here's a pair of mittens finished in the last few days. The wool is hand-spun and hand-dyed, and the 2-colour pattern is Faroese.

Thanks to z and Murph for your comments about Statcounters. On the whole, I don't think I need one for the time being.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

4 October: More technology?

StatCounter. StatCounter?

PeanutYorkie mentioned it the other day. Set me off thinking whether I need one or want one. Do I want to know there are about 6 people who visit my blog once a week, or whatever? Do I need to know where they come from and how they get here, and what they were looking for in the first place? (If it was knitted hats, flower photos, and an occasional outing, they'd have struck gold.)

And if I find that more people read certain types of posting, would that make me feel that I should do more of that sort of stuff?

Since I am not trying to sell anyone anything, least of all my writing talent (just as well, really), perhaps it would not serve any useful purpose.

If anyone has any views on this, or any hilarious experiences, do tell.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

1 October: Technology

Changing your computer is a bit like childbirth - after an interval the pain is forgotten in favour of the delight.

So our wedding anniversary present to ourselves has been this new iMac. Bit of a shuffle round of the kit in the study, but at least that was a good opportunity to hoover and dust those places that only get cleaned occasionally (OK, when we change the computer). Plug in a lead from the old one to the new one, and all the files cross over to the new machine like magic - no need to write down all those e-mail addresses or Internet favourites. But re-connecting to the Internet was quite another matter.

The old modem wouldn't plug in - wrong sort of plug on the string - some enquiring revealed that a router was required. Off to PC World, home again, connect up, nothing. Phone call to tech. support suggested we needed a different version of the driver. Back to PC World (10 miles each way each time), assistant astonished, head scratching, exchange for a different router, home again. No idea what, if anything, was done differently, but this time it worked - ah!! (sigh of relief). Lie down in a darkened room with a damp flannel on the forehead.

Now there is enough memory to read camera cards and to have heaps and heaps of music. The inbuilt camera is fun, too. And all afternoon has been spent making CDs of favourite tracks from lots of different albums. Maple Leaf Rag followed by El Paso, Tom Lehrer followed by Blondie, Peter Bellamy followed by Dixie Chicks, James Taylor followed by June Tabor, Jez Lowe followed by The Kinks - now that's what I call music!