Thursday 31 December 2009

Home for the year end

Our trip down to Yorkshire was good, apart from having to dig out our drive in both directions the weather and road conditions were manageable and we had a great time. Presents were delivered and received, family and friends visited and far too much food eaten.
Best of all 10 weeks after she was born we met our great niece Amelia and gorgeous she is too. A beautiful contended baby here she is in the arms of her great aunt Jen. Not only does she have a knitting great aunt but a gran who does patchwork and had made her a lovely Christmas stocking plus a great gran who does cross stitch and had made a sampler with her birth details included. I was able to finish this little cardigan which I added to Amelia's gifts, it's actually a nice pale coffee colour and not the off white that it looks in the picture.So the year is almost over, I hope the next one is everything you want it to be, have a very Happy New Year and I'm looking forward to spending time with you in 2010.

Saturday 26 December 2009

And so that was Christmas

And I have to say very nice it was too, albeit in a low key way and happily without power cuts. The snowy conditions put paid to any last minute retail panic but we had plenty of everyday provisions in the house and were quite prepared to make do with a piece of beef or a chicken from the freezer. As it turned out we did get to the nearest large shops briefly on Wednesday evening after the snow plough had been and between more showers. We picked up a duck for Christmas dinner plus some fresh veggies and bread, sorted. We had left it too late to cut down a fir tree from the garden or collect any greenery, everything was under 18" of snow but there was so much beauty outside we didn't need tinsel and glitter, a few candles and a roaring fire were enough.
Mr FF like most men had left what shopping he had to do, ie my £5 worth of gifts, till the last minute but I unwrapped on Christmas morning a book, a pretty celtic patterned mug, a Yorkie (chocolate) bar and a homemade voucher for lunch at Betty's tea room when we go down to Yorkshire. He seemed quite pleased that he was under budget but that may change when we get to Betty's. We didn't have many parcels to open as we haven't yet done the family gift exchange, but I really enjoyed our calm, peaceful day that involved quite a bit of snow shovelling. We have been looking after Peaches our friends' cat over the holiday but didn't go round the first day she was home alone as she has an automatic feeder. I woke during that night to realise that the poor creature was probably unable to get out of the house because the snow would be over her cat door.This was our road as we made our way up to the cottage armed with shovels. She was indeed snowed in but even when we cleared the way she wasn't interested in going out. We made her a pathway round the house and the next time we went up there were paw prints in the snow so she was back to normal. On Christmas morning we dug the drive out for her parents who return today, otherwise they wouldn't be able to get their car off the narrow lane and I imagine the last thing they would want to do after a long journey should be shift snow. It seemed a nice neighbourly thing to do and certainly gave us an appetite.Hopefully we are finally off to Yorkshire tomorrow to spend a few days with family, exchange presents and meet Amelia. I've been busy sorting out warm clothes and emergency supplies just in case there are any problems, keep your fingers crossed for us and enjoy the rest of the holidays.

Wednesday 23 December 2009

Happy Christmas

This is how we are today, I have a feeling the power might go off soon, the weight of snow on the lines often brings them down. If you don't hear from me that will be why.
Have a lovely Christmas, at the moment I can't imagine that ours will be anything but white.

Monday 21 December 2009

The Wedding

Yes we did make it to the wedding, quite a bit of snow but our journey into Edinburgh was fine and we were armed with extra warm clothes, wellies etc just in case we hit trouble. The snow started to fall heavily as we were walking up The Royal Mile to the service and by the time the bride arrived, slightly delayed by the weather, the landscape was beautifully coated in white. Lots of stilettos tottering on the ice as we walked to the reception up by the castle, not me of course, I had my boots on and party shoes in my bag.
And what about the bride. She was radiant, fabulous dress in pale gold with black lace and those long velvet gloves finished off her gorgeous outfit perfectly. The cake incidentally was made by another ex colleague and continuing friend Joanne, it was chocolate and delicious.We enjoyed good food, drink, some jazz and dancing, a chance for me to catch up with the working girls, Amanda completed the foursome, the old team was back together briefly. Our return journey was interesting, I had volunteered to drive and been on the orange juice so Mr FF could have a drink. The Edinburgh streets were icy and as I drove along the side of the Pentlands the road became covered in snow but fortunately there was little traffic at that time of night so a slide wouldn't have been quite so worrying. We struggled up the incline on the back lane to our house and eventually arrived home. It was well worth the effort, an absolute joy to see Amy and Tim married and both looking so happy. I'm not sure we would have made it today, the snow has been coming down continually, it's getting seriously deep, compare this picture with the previous post. Throughout the UK there is chaos, on the roads, at the airports and the channel tunnel, I'm grateful to be safe at home and sorry for all those who are wondering if they will complete their journeys.

Thursday 17 December 2009

The White Stuff

As forecast the snow is here, we woke to a white world this morning and it has continued to come down on and off all day. Its almost dark now, pretty views through the windows whilst we are warm, cosy and well stocked with provisions.
Mr FF decided not to venture into Edinburgh to attend an early evening committee meeting, I'm sure they will manage fine without him and it saves me worrying about his journey. When I was working I hated the winter road conditions, I could easily spend the day fretting about how and if I would get home.
I totally empathise with anyone who has to travel in bad weather but I am beginning to appreciate how a covering of snow can make the world a beautiful place and provide a legitimate reason for staying in. I'm not on the turn though, still a summer flip flop wearing girl at heart and hoping there won't be snow on Saturday as we need to be in Edinburgh for a winter wedding.

Friday 11 December 2009


The garden looked beautiful this morning, all frosted with the sun shining, gorgeous but very cold. The birds are busy at the feeders, I've given them an extra fat ball and some apples to peck, I enjoyed sitting in front of the stove watching them fill up before it gets dark.
All my Christmas mail has been posted, cards, calendars and some gifts, the rest to be delivered by hand are wrapped and ready so I feel a bit more relaxed though I have no idea when we will get down to Yorkshire as we are committed both weekends before Christmas. Just Mr FF to shop for now and as you know we limit ourselves to a £5 Christmas stocking of little gifts, which requires some hard work and a lot of imagination. There has been a call to increase the budget this year but I think since we are still officially in recession we should keep the figure the same.
Its a pity that food and drink are not allowed in our stockings, I could pack Mr FF's stocking with fruit scones, I just made a batch. Have a cosy weekend.

Tuesday 8 December 2009

My sparkling weekend

I had such a busy sociable weekend with a recurring theme over the three days, I count Friday evening as part of the weekend, sparkling wine. I don't drink a lot, one glass of wine is enough for me otherwise I get a headache but I'd be quite prepared to drink a glass of fizzy every day.
Friday evening I was at Trish's house watching The Private Lives of Pippa Lee on dvd with other girl friends from the village. We enjoyed some chat, some snacks, a glass of bubbly and an excellent film, a perfect start to the weekend.
Saturday evening Pam and Andrew came round for dinner and bubbly, after which we all snuggled up on the big red sofa and watched Strictly Come Dancing recorded whilst we ate. Did I tell you Mr FF has invested in a large plasma telly that fills the big room off the kitchen and finally gives it some purpose. The tv has all sorts of add ons that I don't understand, free sat and the like but it was brilliant to see the dancing in high definition despite the boys constantly interrupting our concentration on frocks and footwork with totally unnecessary questions. On Sunday we were at the opening of a new gallery not far away, the appropriately named Dancing Light Gallery that is housed in an eco friendly building attached to our local organic farm shop. Another glass of bubbles, white prosecco for me and red prosecco for Mr FF, both organic of course. I admired the art works, especially some beautiful fabric handbags and cushions whilst Mr FF admired the ground source heat pump and had guided tour of the building's heating system.
Three days of fizz and fun, dressing up and going out, a perfect weekend completely free of hangovers.

Thursday 3 December 2009

Into the fray

I knew I meant business yesterday when I went into Edinburgh Christmas shopping as the festive shopping bag came out. Its one from last year's Cath Kidston at Tesco selection, such a pity they aren't doing them again as they were inexpensive, in a good cause and so pretty. I didn't have that much left to buy but I needed a wander round looking for ideas and thinking I might go back for items if I didn't find anything better.
The shops were manageably busy but far too festive for my liking. Each year we hear the same old Christmas music that spins round my head and is still playing today, it must drive the shop assistants insane. Edinburgh looked very jolly with lots of lights, trees, the big wheel, ice rink and a rather seedy Christmas market that mainly seemed to be selling chips.
This is a little indulgence for Amelia, a sleep suit from Cath Kidston. Amelia's Dad is football crazy so he should approve and if Amelia thinks its a bit too manly for her she can soften the effect with some pretty accessories, her ballet top for example, be a good dressing up exercise for her and never too soon to start experimenting.
I did have a serious senior moment in town, I forgot the pin number for my credit card when making my very first purchase. My mind went a complete blank, the more I thought the less sure I was. I had to stop after two tries and resort to my debit card, otherwise if I'd got the number wrong again my card would have been stopped and useless for a couple of weeks till a new pin was issued, not the time of year for that to happen. I felt so stupid but maybe it was natures way of curbing my spending, it certainly worked and I luckily found the number written down when I got home. I had the right figures in my head just in the wrong order, I blame interference from those festive tunes.

Sunday 29 November 2009

Can't stop I'm knitting

It seems the more Christmas gifts I knit the more I need to knit. I've been making lots of little extra gifts to put into parcels and its turned into a knitting frenzy. I used up quite a lot of three ply pure wool on lacy scarves and some unidentified yarn produced an interesting texture using just stocking stitch. With scarves I just knit until all the yarn is used up, I don't think they can be too long or too short and it gives the wool a purpose in life.
I've made another pair of fetching fingerless gloves, I never tire of this pattern
and two pairs of socks with wool that was on offer in Lidl, much cheaper than Opal, same 75% wool content, though perhaps not quite such interesting patterns.
Now I'm thinking Amelia might like a little cardigan, my brother could do with some socks, must make something for Mr FF's stocking, it goes on. Still the fire is lit, its too cold to be outside, in fact we might even get a light dusting of snow later, so back to the needles, Santa would be proud of me.

Tuesday 24 November 2009

Bringing down Borders

Yesterday Mr FF needed a haircut and I needed to go to the post office so at lunchtime we popped down to our local town. I called in at the charity shop that was having a book sale, normally their paperbacks are around £1.50 but yesterday they were 50p and hardbacks £1.50. I managed to find a great selection, based mainly on the reviews on the back. I'm a bit of a snob when it comes to book reviews, anything from The Times, Independent, Observer etc is fine but if one of the, in my mind, lesser newspapers or gossip magazines suggests the book is a good read, I assume its not for me. Anyway all these came with comments like 'tender and insightful', 'brilliant ... very funny', from approved sources. Driving home clutching about £40 worth of paperbacks that I'd paid £2.50 for I heard on the radio news that Borders bookshop chain in the UK has appointed advisers to try to find a buyer for the business. The report said WH Smith walked away from a takeover deal on Friday, and that Borders UK could go into administration soon without a sale. 'That's a shame' I said to Mr FF 'I always spend time in Borders when I go to Glasgow, its the only place to get Vogue Knitting and Interweave magazine'. Mr FF asked me if I ever bought anything else and I had to admit only the odd card or a newspaper. He commented that Borders had probably put small local bookshops out of business and now they are going out of business themselves. 'And' he went on 'its people like you buying all your books at charity shops who have caused that'. Guilty as charged, sorry Borders, and I will be taking the books back to the charity shop when I've read them which compounds my crime.

Saturday 21 November 2009

An unseasonal post

I don't enter into the Christmas spirit willingly and I've already had a big rant about the festive lights being switched on far too early in city centres, but guess what I have made my cake
Mr FF was away on business for the first half of this week, giving me lots of time to myself, it was far too wet to be outside so I thought I'd crack on with the cake and it is a nice feeling to have it wrapped and tucked away in a tin to mature.I also made this Christmas tree hat for Amelia, it is an appropriate shade of green and not the blue it looks on the photo. I'm not sure if it isn't wrong to make a newborn wear something so ridiculous but I'll send it down to her soon in case she is one of those people who likes to start the madness early.
So now just the cards, shopping, wrapping, delivering, decorating, menu planning and getting into my usual bah humbug state of mind - Christmas is sorted.

Monday 16 November 2009

Belated birthday report

It was my birthday just before we went off to Italy but lets not make a big fuss about it, its the 61st one I've had, they are so routine. I received lots of lovely presents, yarn, bamboo needles, some great paperbacks including The Flying Troutmans by Miriam Toews which I devoured on holiday and can thoroughly recommend, toiletries from the Naked range, which I recently discovered and love because everything is 97% natural, British made, inexpensive, available at Boots and totally good, spring bulbs, plants and many other lovely things.
I wanted to show you this birthday card featuring a knitted James Dean, its from the Knitted Icons range, apparently there is a book that has patterns for 25 celebrity dolls, Elvis, Ghandi, Jackie O, Chairman Mao are a few that feature. I'm busy with socks and scarves for stocking fillers at the moment so I don't suppose I shall be making any dolls but wouldn't a little Johnny Depp be nice to keep me company while Mr FF is away on business for a few days.
I must take my cards down now, it seemed fair to have them up for a while since I missed the first week they arrived. I suppose I should take the 60 off my sidebar too, one of last years cards, or maybe I can still be 60 just a little bit longer.

Thursday 12 November 2009

Home from Italy

I am so happy to be back in a home that is warm and cozy with carpets, hot water and not a tiled floor in sight. Yes, it was brutto in Italy and the Italians though as welcoming and charming as ever had all resorted to wearing many layers of clothes under bulky padded jackets and staying indoors as much as possible. Our house is not well equipped for winter weather, fabulous in summer but on a day when the mist is down it is grim living on the side of a mountain, and we all know that I hate low cloud, this was the view from the terrace. The house was cold when we arrived and ever optimistic we lit the fire which proceeded to provide plenty of smoke and precious little heat. I know it looks cozy but believe me it wasn't and the only way to benefit from all that fuel was to stand with your bum up the chimney.We had a very mixed time, just a bit of sunshine which was lovely and very cheery but lots of really wet weather and many days of frustration. We spent a lot of time chasing about, for example we wanted to reinstate our direct debit to pay the electricity account, we stopped this during the three years our house was on a corporate let. You might imagine you could complete something on line, return a slip included with your bill or call in at a local branch of your bank, none of the above. We had to travel into our bank in central Rome, about 1.5 hours each way. The branch we use had been taken over and the business but fortunately not the grumpy staff transferred, no signs in the empty windows to indicate this of course and since the bank is actually only open for 50 minutes in the afternoon blind panic set in but eventually we found the new branch round the corner and were able to complete the paperwork.
We looked for a wood burning stove with some success, a new septic tank with no success at all, didn't get the boiler maintenance contract sorted or resolve the problem that causes the shower suddenly to turn cold despite paying 60 euro in August for repairs, got the window man to come and price for new double glazing, did a bit of decorating and Mr FF did something to the irrigation system. We watched an awful lot of news as that seemed to be all we could get on the tv, ranted copiously and were so glad to have hot water bottles and extra blankets that made getting into bed one of the highlights each day.
Does all this sound ungrateful I don't mean it to, we know that the house is cold in winter so we don't let it out then but we had hoped it might be tolerable for us in early November. Wrong. We won't be going back now for a while, possibly in March by which time I will have forgotten about this chilly visit and be keen to get back again, at the moment just writing about the last week is making me shiver.

Tuesday 3 November 2009

The ring of happiness

This is a story I've been wanting to share with you for months and months but I needed it to be complete before I did so, and that happened today when my relatives came up from Yorkshire to stay in our house while we are in Italy for a week.
When I was 13 years old my mum gave me the gold signet ring that her father had given her when she became a teenager. I loved the ring, it was the first piece of real jewellery I had and a connection with the grandfather who died about a year after I was born. I wasn't allowed to wear the ring for school but I did put it on as often as I could and wore it constantly during school holidays. After a couple of years I lost the ring. I was in the harvest field with my dad and my youngest brother who was a toddler, I bent to pick him up and the ring must have caught on his clothing because it fell off my finger into the stubble. I searched for a long time but it was an impossible task and finally I gave up. I made a note of the location by counting the number of trees in the arcade of chestnuts that ran alongside the field and the number of corn stokes in the opposite direction. I went back again on other days to look and my cousin, who sadly died three years ago, helped in the search. My dad looked when the field was ploughed but the ring never turned up. Over the years I often felt sad to have lost this ring, I did think about buying another but it wouldn't have been the same.
Early this year I had a phone call from my sister in law, who I'd told the story at some stage, to say that a man had been metal detecting in the field and found a gold signet ring with the initials EL, my mum's. He was anxious to try and find the owner and had phoned my brother and his wife to see if they could help. They checked with me and I confirmed it was the one I lost 45 years ago. The metal detector man (MDM) lived about 50 miles from my brother so it was decided not to risk posting the ring and he delivered it to the farm when he was there again a few weeks ago. I'm sorry the photographs are rubbish, I need to read my camera instructions but I also need to pack.
I can't tell you how happy I am to have it back, I never ever thought I'd see it again. My mum died almost 30 years ago, I wish she knew, I wish my cousin knew, and I wish MDM knew just how wonderfully kind he has been, he could so easily have cashed the ring in for scrap value. I'll write to him as soon as I get back from Italy and tell him how overjoyed I am, and I truly am, it's a dream come true.
So early in the morning (6.30 am flight apparently) I'm off to Italy for a week, for safety I'll leave the ring at home. Be back soon.

Sunday 1 November 2009

For Amelia

On Tuesday, only a week old, poor little Amelia was back in hospital with jaundice. She was placed under and over special lamps to cure her, Mum and Dad stayed at the hospital too. Not an ideal start but after 3 days they were all home again, the little dot is doing well and putting on weight. So I have been busy knitting as you can see. I made the larger of the wrap cardigans this week, the smaller is one I gave to Pam's new granddaughter when she was born, she has outgrown in now and Pam kindly got it back for Amelia. That's the kind of recycling we like. There's also a little hat to keep her cosy.This is the cardy for which I lost the final and essential ball of yarn. Kate, The Graveyard Gypsy read my blog and contacted me to say she had some of the same leftover from the same project. The parcel arrived in the post this week, in some lights there was a slight difference in the shades but since most of the lighter one was used for the collar I thinks its OK and enabled me to finish. Thanks Kate, how kind of you, I will be looking out for a special reward for you when I'm in Italy later this week, though I understand if I don't find anything suitable, I don't always get to many shops apart from the builders yard, chocolate is acceptable.Though I love knitting socks and I will be making them for Amelia when she gets older, I couldn't resist these little cotton ones in John Lewis, £5 for 5 pairs, so sweet, so pretty, just like my little (great) niece.

Tuesday 27 October 2009

Day becomes night

You wouldn't believe how dark and wet it is today. Usually I have a nice view of the hills from my kitchen window, I feel claustrophobic when the mist is down. I went to the dentist this morning for the final work on the tooth that fell out whilst I was in Italy, its all fixed and I am £191 lighter. The weather was too grim for me to spend any time in town so I am back home and plan to take it easy. The stove is already glowing, the knitting bag contains something suitably pink and the cake box is full. That'll teach the weather to be so awful.

Thursday 22 October 2009

I am a great aunt

Yes I am. Amelia Jasmine, love the names, was born yesterday morning at 9.25, 8 lbs something and all doing well. She was a breech baby and delivered by Cesarean so she and Mum will be in hospital down in Yorkshire for a few days. I am so excited, the Christmas gift knitting is out of the window now, its pink ballet tops and cuddly little cardies. Luckily I am in town tomorrow because even though I have one of the biggest knitting stashes known to man, there is nothing suitable for me to get started. I'd already bought this card in case my niece had a girl, so sweet and this morning there was a card through our letter box from Pam and Andrew congratulating us on becoming great aunt and uncle.

In actual fact we are both great aunts because from being tiny our youngest niece couldn't understand one of us being aunt and one uncle, so we have always both been aunts, and we like it that way.There is only one irritation today, I can't find the last ball of Rowan All Seasons Cotton to finish this little cardigan. I believe the yarn came as a joining gift when I renewed my Rowan membership and it was just right for this pattern. I knit the back and two sleeves to check I had enough yarn and I definitely did. That means there is one ball somewhere in the house, which I have turned upside down twice searching but to no avail. I know the minute I pull my work out and start something else that ball will turn up, so annoying. Its not as if I have the band to try and find more in the same shade or dye, I may just have to buy more yarn tomorrow and start again, its not everyday you become a great aunt and I do want to be an eccentric one.

Monday 19 October 2009

Knitting now - vintage

One of the nice things about being a knitter is that people will give you wool, quite often old and sometimes unidentifiable. Luckily I don't have any of the latter at the moment but a quantity of the former that I've been using up.
I made this lacy scarf in 2 ply, yes that's right, it was like knitting with cobweb. I thought I had just a single 1 ounce (28 g) skein of this Sirdar pure wool but when I undid it to start winding I found there were 2 so I felt confident I had enough for a scarf. In fact just one ball was sufficient, which means I can embark on more fine and lacy work, eventually.
I also have a lot of Lister Poodle 2, very retro, in a not very pleasant colour combination that would have made a dreadful jumper which seems to have been the original intention judging by the quantity. This boucle does make a well padded and comfy pair of welly socks but since its 97% wool and 3% nylon I'm not sure they will last very long.And finally I made the cotton I got in the charity shop into a simple cowl,inspired by though not as elegant as some of the ones Tracy makes. I knit an oblong till most of the wool was used, made a button hole then finished the ball. I had to fathom out the right place to stitch the button but got there in the end.
I just realised what a garish post this is with such a mixture of textures and colours, still I am happy that all the yarns are finding a useful life after all these years. I can't imagine that the lovely wools we use nowadays, Noro, Opal, Araucania, will ever seem so dated or undesirable, but who knows, there's nothing new in fashion so brown beige and orange could be the new black.

Wednesday 14 October 2009

Enlighten me

As well as being a chartered structural engineer Mr FF has an MBA in marketing - an integrated communications-based process through which individuals and communities are informed or persuaded that existing and newly-identified needs and wants may be satisfied by the products and services of others - apparently. We have had some quite heated discussions about what makes good marketing as I like to think I cannot be persuaded to purchase items that I don't really need (apart from wool, books and toiletries of course, but that's not need that's lust). I am not a lover of the buy one get one half price offers though I admit I can be tempted by the buy one get one for free, aptly abbreviated to BOGOFF, if its a product I know and use. Equally I don't like the vouchers you get when you make a purchase for say £5 off next time, this has seen me leaving the checkout to go back round the aisles searching for a way to spend the voucher but there is never anything for just £5 in the range and I then have to make a determined effort to leave the shop and throw the voucher away. I'm much happier with a straight forward pricing system, just give me £5 off the bill now, though of course finding anything that has been substantially reduced is tempting, I found two perfectly healthy clematis the other day at £1 each in the bargain bucket and soon snapped them up.
So how can you explain this. I was in Homebase (again) and after finding the above mentioned clematis I went to buy some energy saving light bulbs, the main purpose of my visit. I needed two types of bulbs, one priced at 99p each and the other at £1.29 each, however there was an offer on 3 for £1. That just doesn't make sense, who would ever buy one for £1.29 when you have have 3 times what you need for £1 and afford to throw 2 away. Even the marketing engineer couldn't explain that one, the offer is endorsed and subsidised by the energy supplier E-On, but they are in the business surely of getting us to use their electricity not save it. Needless to say we bought a few. Mr FF was so delighted with the purchase that he actually replaced any remaining energy consuming light bulbs we have in the house with these new ones (even though there was still life in them and he comes from Yorkshire). He did point out that the new bulbs have a lifetime of 10 years allowing for them to be switched on for 3 hours a day. No way do we leave lights burning unnecessarily so we have reached the conclusion aged 60 and 61 respectively that our bulb changing days may be over.

Saturday 10 October 2009

Jack Frost is about

I was told by a neighbour yesterday that we have already had our first frost, I hadn't noticed but maybe the dusting of white disappeared while I was still snuggled under our recently installed winter weight duvet. Nothing here seems to have been affected but I am moving the last of the tender plants back indoors or into the greenhouse just in case. Meanwhile the garden is doing its best to keep some colour, I cut a tiny bunch of sweet peas this morning, the sunflower soldiers on and the sedum spectabile autumn joy is making a brave show. Look at the delicate display of Clematis Jouiniana Preacox, it's not a climber in the usual way but scrambles all over the place, because it's so beautiful I let it. As its a late flowering clematis and susceptible to early frosts I don't always get such a good display but this year its covered in tiny white stars and looks gorgeous. I often cut little sprays and bring them into the house.
I don't know how much longer these flowers will last, obviously not long enough for me, so I've been planting my bulb order, a total of 400 bulbs that need to find places in the garden and 10 hyacinths in pots that might just flower for Christmas. That's what gardeners do, keep planning and planting and looking forward. Hope the sun shines on you this weekend and the frost leaves your fingers and toes alone.