Wednesday 29 December 2010



Friday 24 December 2010

My Christmas list

Christmas shopping for Mr FF - total failure we both agreed it was far too cold to walk the streets Gourmet meal planning - total failure we have settled for a chickenHouse decorations - half hearted attempt, mainly cards and a few candles
Having enough - complete success including a functioning boiler

Happy Christmas everyone

Tuesday 21 December 2010

In the bleak first day of winter

Today the solstice marks the first day of astronomical winter and the shortest day of the year for the Northern Hemisphere, since the lowest recorded temperature in our little road during this cold spell is minus 15 it doesn't bode well.
Mr FF went down to Yorkshire at the weekend and though his journey home took twice the normal time he got back safe and sound, presents had been exchanged, office event attended and relax. I stayed home hoping the boiler man would arrive with the awaited spare part but he had emergencies to attend to. Our boiler is still working but not the automatic function, so this morning as usual I got up to switch the heating on whilst admiring the ice patterns on the inside of our bedroom window. Unfortunately there was a large pool of water on the boiler cupboard floor, we still have the heating working and Mr FF is hoping to investigate today. It doesn't look good and the nice boiler man is busy until at least Thursday. Hey ho, there are many people in worse situations, a neighbour has now run out of oil and the first possible delivery date in 06 January 2011, we are not living in Heathrow Airport or queuing for hours in the hope of catching a train, we are fine if a little concerned about going to Italy after Christmas.Apart from walking down into the village at the weekend to collect the papers that are left at the village hall and regularly clearing the drive, I have been no where. Which is a pity as I've rediscovered the pleasure of wearing the chullo that Mr FF brought me back from Peru many years ago. I look a complete ticket in it I admit but wearing it makes me extremely happy which will surprise a lot of people who know that I would never ever wear one of those silly paper hats from a Christmas cracker.
Hope you are waiting for Santa somewhere warm and cosy, not long now.

Monday 13 December 2010

He's going to find out who's naughty and nice

Mr FF was out with his walking group yesterday. He told me such a fib when he got home. Firstly he said that he saw Santa get off a bus which obviously wasn't true because we all know that Santa travels on a sleigh drawn by reindeer. He then said that Santa had a fag before selling the Big Issue outside the Co-op, which again can't be true because at this time of year Santa is beyond busy supervising his elves as they finish and pack gifts.

Mr FF better watch out or his stocking will be empty on Christmas morning, in fact it probably will be as I haven't been out for ages to trawl round for the usual £5 worth of interesting and unusual gifts - I mean Santa hasn't had time.

Tuesday 7 December 2010

Me the snow and the sofa

We had so much more snow yesterday that central Scotland came to a complete standstill with motorways gridlocked, public transport cancelled and schools closed.This afternoon more than 24 hours later there are still over 1000 vehicles in the Strathclyde (our) region trapped in the snow. So I'm grateful that Mr FF and I are home and safe even though our central heating boiler broke down yesterday and its minus 10 outside. The boiler repair man is on his way, the stove is lit and I am wearing three layers, the middle one of which is cashmere so I'm fine though getting out from under the duvet this morning was a challenge with ice on the inside of our double glazed windows.
I've continued to keep the drive clear mainly because I love clearing the snow, and not for the benefit of Mr FF who is banned from going out. He was toying with the idea of a meeting in Glasgow tonight but someone more sensible has cancelled it. Besides though our drive is clear the road out of our little development looks like this.
Once I've cleared the snow, topped up the bird feeders and brought in more fuel I've been welded to the sofa with this beside me
I'm knitting a little fair isle cardy from Debbie Bliss's Family Knits. I'm not totally enamoured with the Patons Diploma Gold 4 ply I selected, the strands have a bad habit of welding themselves together as I twist them rather like mohair which doesn't make for smooth knitting. All my Christmas sock and glove orders are finished so the pressure is off, I just need to get out and deliver them when I can prise myself away from the stove.
PS at 21.34. The lovely boiler man came, said we needed a new part but managed to get the old part working for now. The house is warm, the conservatory is back above freezing, I am reduced to 2 jumpers, good boiler man.

Friday 3 December 2010

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Have you seen this Steve Martin film, it's one of my favourites, about a man struggling through the snow to get home for Thanksgiving accompanied by a slobby John Candy with whom he is forced to share hotel bedrooms and various modes of transport.
This week Mr FF seems to have been living in his own version, it goes like this.
Mr FF was due to fly to Bratislava on Monday, the arrangement was that his boss would travel up from the north east of England, I would drive Mr FF to the motorway where they would meet up and both go off for meetings before travelling to Edinburgh airport for the flight. Mr FF would fly home later in the week via a meeting in London and I would collect him from Edinburgh airport on Thursday evening. His boss would fly back to Edinburgh on Friday and drive home to Co Durham.
By Sunday looking at the snow and the forecast it was obvious to me that I wouldn't be driving anywhere on Monday but Mr FF said we'd wait and see. On Monday morning he decided to get the bus to our local town and ask his boss to collect him, a little bit out of his way but needs must. I suggested Mr FF phone his boss to see if he was on time but Mr FF dismissed this saying he'd have heard if there was a problem, he set off in winter gear with his luggage to walk the mile to the bus stop. A little while later he was home, his boss hadn't been able to get the car out of the drive and was now on the train. So Mr FF dug out our drive and our little road and drove to the airport, which wasn't a big problem except that en route he got a message to say his flight was cancelled and when I'd checked on the net the airport was closed. When I spoke to him he was being turned away from the airport car park which was impassable. At this stage a lesser (more sensible) man would have given up, oh no, Mr FF said he was going to go into the airport to see if there were any other flights and he asked me to check on line for alternatives. The quickest route I could find took about 12.5 hours and there was still the minor detail of the airport being closed so he came home and his boss got another train back again, the Bratislava trip was off.
The snow kept falling, the airport remained closed but Mr FF booked himself on a flight on Wednesday to go down to London returning Thursday using the last leg of his Bratislava flights. Again he went to the airport, again it was closed, actually it has been closed all week only opening late last night. Might have been logical to come home but Mr FF left his car at the airport, got a bus into Edinburgh and found a train to London. The train left at 10.30, he had an interesting interlude when about 8 Geordie ladies boarded at Newcastle travelling to York who plied him with a giant home baked corned beef pie, plus wine, vodka, chocolate covered strawberries and the like. Unfortunately just before Doncaster the train broke down, the passengers were decanted onto the platform and told there'd be another one shortly. The next train was already full but eventually Mr FF found one that delivered him to Kings Cross at 7.30 that evening.
Unfortunately because of the weather his meeting had been cancelled. I spoke to him that night and said I was worried about him getting home on Thursday, he said it would be no problem as he'd already checked in on line, I did mention that he'd also need to get the **** airport open. Thursday he received a text message to say his flight had been brought forward by a couple of hours, he said the airline was probably consolidating flights but I said I couldn't imagine that would happen as Edinburgh airport was still closed. I'm not 100% sure what happened over the next half day but I received a message to say that he had misread the text and his flight had actually been changed from Thursday to Friday, it was 7.30 at night and could I find him somewhere to stay.
Have you heard the joke about the man who has to take a lorry load of bricks from the north to London. He gets to the big city, stops the vehicle and asks a passer by 'is this London' 'yes' is the reply 'OK' he says 'where do you want these bricks'. Hotel, London, hello. I did eventually get him into a Premier Inn after some heated discussion between us during which he complained about the price.
So Mr FF is due to fly home this afternoon, I've cleared our drive every day, I've kept the stove lit and we are well stocked with provisions even though I haven't been out for a week. The milkman has delivered, the coal man too, haven't seen the postie for a week and it's snowing.
I hope you and yours are where you want to be this weekend. I need to get that man to retire.
Post blog note @ 18.12 He is now home and managed to pick up some fresh veggies on the way. Phew.

Monday 29 November 2010

Where have I been

I've totally neglected my blog and my life for a whole week. I started last Monday with a slight cold, nothing major, bit of a sore throat and a snuffle, I imagined I'd shake it off in a few days. On Thursday I popped out for a bit of provision shopping and got chilled to the marrow scraping ice off the car, I've barely been warm since. That evening I wore 3 wool jumpers, my pashmina and covered myself in a blanket, still cold, and my health deteriorated rapidly. I lost my appetite, OK not necessarily bad thing that I can no longer drink tea, coffee or wine, had no energy, coughed, spluttered. I won't go on about it all save to say that I haven't felt like doing anything apart from flick through a magazine or two, sip hot blackcurrant cordial and moan, Mr FF said it was worse than a bad attack of man flu.
So I haven't visited many blogs and done precious little knitting, which is a pity as I was enjoying producing these.
My first pair of knee socks, a Christmas order that I was a bit concerned about on several fronts. Firstly Julie, my customer, selected a Opal yarn from my stash but I wondered if 100g would be enough for a pair of ladies knee socks. I spoke to Christine at A Fine Yarn in Darlington both to get her advice and also ask if she had any of the wool in stock just in case. She said I probably would need more but that it was no longer produced. However Christine did have the brilliant idea of looking on Ravelry to see if anyone had it in their stash and sure enough they did. I contacted two knitters who had the yarn, both replied and I bought 6 balls from Nic at at a very reasonable price. Just as well because one sock took about 56 g. Secondly though I used my standard sock pattern for the lower part I knew I'd need more stitches at the cuff and I wasn't sure how to tackle the leg shaping. Reading various patterns I devised a back decrease either side of two constant stitches so that the shaping is central on the heel, it seems to have worked well.The second sock would be finished if I hadn't been struck down, but I am on the mend now, I should be back on the caffeine and alcohol very soon unless I consider this a pre Christmas detox and stick to fruit juice a big longer.

Saturday 20 November 2010

Last shopping day before Christmas

Today saw my last stall this year at our village market, which was a couple of hours longer than the usual morning event. Like most of the traders there I hoped people would be doing lots of Christmas shopping and besides the usual range of socks I'd topped up my stock of fingerless gloves and scarves with this in mind. My friend Ann joined me on the stall with the recycled accessories her daughter makes, brooches, bags etc from vintage fabrics and felted jumpers.
I always find it quite difficult to display my knitting attractively and to a certain extent it's pointless as people constantly pick up and feel the items. In fact today one little girl got quite excited sniffing the wool, which I totally appreciated. Another good day of sales, I took just under £100 with another £20 of orders to make before Christmas. I spent almost as much as I took, buying some pretty jewellery, the Swarovski crystals and pearls as a gift, the turquoise and onyx I might be a bit reluctant to give away. I also got some handmade toiletries, some lovely prints, this is crab apples and fly agaric fungi, a silk bag and some charity cards. It's really nice to support your fellow crafters, shop locally and tick a few items off the Christmas list. Now I'm exhausted, far too tired to start knitting orders. There is talk that the market won't run next year because of lack of local support which would be such a shame as it's a great community get together as well as an environmental thing to do. Besides, I've still got socks left and sod's law the scarf I worked late last night finishing didn't sell.

Sunday 14 November 2010

Be careful what you wish for

I mentioned yesterday that I wouldn't mind a bit of rain to check out my new mac, this is what we woke to this morning.
I thought it was thawing, now I'm not so sure.
Oh dear, when cosmic ordering goes wrong.

Saturday 13 November 2010

Shopping, of the recycling kind

Out for provisions this week I also popped into the local charity shop, I always buy, read and return their books, I picked up a couple more I couldn't resist a bit more pressed glass, this pretty sugar and cream set came complete with a little tray all for £1.75. But my star buy was this for £19.99Fair enough a reasonable mac you might say but look inside its vintage
It needs a good press, the belt is missing, I'd never use it anyway, likewise it probably had a hood at one stage but it has more fastening arrangements that I will ever need and a nice swingy back with a button tab. What a happy girl I am, hoping it might rain a bit this weekend but only on me I don't want to dampen your fun.

Sunday 7 November 2010

Time for a rant

After my exhausting social spree I am back to being myself which is obvious as I'm ranting.
Last week Mr FF attended a conference on UK Renewables, on and off shore wind systems, wave and tidal energy. I am not a huge fan of the wind farms dotted around our hills, Scotland has the largest in the UK, and looking at the infrastructure involved to construct these places I do wonder if they are sustainable. But I try to be a green person and keep an open mind so I was interested to hear about the conference.
Mr FF came home with a goody bag of glossy brochures and various corporate gifts. OK pens I can accept as useful but I feel the calendar proclaiming a greener tomorrow (though not stating that it was printed on recyclable paper) has limited appeal.
I don't think I'd want to spend a month looking at any of these photographs. But what really got me cross was this
a foam rubber model of a wind turbine. Now tell me what possible use this has apart from landfill that was probably imported from the other side of the world. A conference that proclaims the benefits of renewable energy and pays no heed to sustainability makes me think the whole event was a big business jamboree. You and I can keep sorting our recyclable products, composting our waste, saving energy but until the big guys take on board the needs of the environment rather than their own profit margins we will never save the world. When I was working I tried to get my office to use recycled paper but they didn't like it any more than they cared about the environment. And they couldn't stop using the ghastly coffee machine that produced more plastic waste than it did drinkable beverages. . Just don't get me started on the number of Christmas gift brochures included with this weekend's papers that all went straight into the recycle bin.

Monday 1 November 2010

Feeling my age

I don't mind growing old, generally I like to model myself on a combination of Dame Edna Everage and Tina Turner but its my birthday today and I am really feeling those 62 years. Actually I've probably been out and about too much, since Wednesday I've been to Edinburgh, to visit my family in Yorkshire, to York, to Glasgow for a dinner dance and had a tour round Loch Lomond. I've spent an awful lot of time travelling and not enough time with the people I care about. I did catch up with my great niece Amelia for a few hours. It was her first birthday recently and wisely she celebrated with two cakes, one made by her Mum and this one from her nursery. Amelia is absolutely adorable, I wish I could have stayed with her longer.
Today I'm taking it easy at home, the stove if lit and knitting is calling, I have nothing planned this week until a girlie lunch on Thursday, hopefully I shall be feeling a bit younger by then.

Monday 25 October 2010

You can't always get what you want

Mr FF was in Ireland on business last week and came back with a very funny story - in the early hours of Saturday but I still laughed.
On his second morning in the hotel he asked the waitress if he could have kippers for breakfast, they weren't on the menu but he'd seen someone else order them the day before. The waitress, whose first language wasn't English, went off and returned quite quickly with his coffee and a cereal bowl full of CAPERS. Mr FF was a bit confused at first but then pointed out that he was expecting a meal of smoked herring and not a dish of pickled buds in brine that is more of an ingredient, though he did congratulate the girl on her ingenuity and speed in finding something as obscure as capers.
The hotel didn't have any kippers and whilst he might have said in a Fawlty Towers way I'm an engineer and I want my kippers now, I expect he made do with a bit of toast.

Wednesday 20 October 2010


The autumn leaves are stunning this year, we've had lots of bright sunny days that display the changing colours perfectly. Mr FF and I spent the weekend chopping down and logging an unwanted tree in the garden, makes me feel so smug that the tree was a little cutting, filled the garden nicely until it got too large and now the wood is seasoning to keep us warm some future winter.
Lovely as all this is, somehow I can't settle into the season, you might think a girl who woke to this view from her bedroom window would be up and out there. I should be clearing the tomatoes plants out of the greenhouse, planting bulbs, making my Christmas cake, enjoying lighting the stove in the afternoon, snuggling up, knitting, all those things but I'm so restless. All I'm doing is sweeping up the fallen leaves to add to the compost and trying to keep the garden going just a big longer.
The season may be changing but I'm not adapting, I'm still in summer mode. Chatting to Mr FF yesterday we discovered we'd both been thinking about Palm Springs and how fantastic it would be to spend a couple of winter months there. If only. I must stop dreaming of flip flop days and come to terms with the fact I'm wearing socks and two woolly jumpers, but oh those golden sandals and painted toe nails speak to me more than a mountain of crispy fallen leaves ever will.

Thursday 14 October 2010

Knitting now (not a lot)

During and since our holiday my knitting seems to have really been badly neglected, which isn't good because I had planned to make several gifts and also start stocking up with gloves and scarves for my last market stall of the year in November. I shared a stall at the market just before we went away and did quite well, sold about £50 worth of items and got a couple of orders.
One finished item I have to show you is this little cardigan for Amelia's birthday, its from the Patons book Sugar and Spice. I knitted her a cotton version for the summer and Amelia's Mum was delighted so I hope she'll like this pure wool version. I also planned to knit her a fair isle cardy, I haven't started that and her birthday is next week.
I also made a pair of socks in Wendy Happy, a predominantly bamboo yarn but this is a Christmas present. The little cardigan to be sent to London is finished but not sewn up, probably because that's the part I really don't like.I got two orders for fingerless gloves from the market, I've made one glove so far which I think might be a bit big and I've started a pair of large socks for the next market as I never seem to have enough variety of sizes, I was asked for an 11 last time.
Not good is it, odd items, things to put together, I just don't know what's happened. I'm usually so strict with myself about finishing one item before starting the next, though I relax this rule to accommodate travel knitting hence the odd sock. Mr FF is out tonight, I'm telling myself I'll settle down to finish the cardigan and start the next sock or glove. I just hope I do.

Saturday 9 October 2010

Out and about

On one of our several non-working days Mr FF and I took a trip into the mountains above Subiaco. We were actually searching for a studio that had been designed by the father of one of Mr FF's architect friends, we think we found the location up a steep bumpy track but the entrance gate was locked. However we had a wonderful drive through the area that is home to a Benedictine community in the monasteries of Santa Scolastica and San Benedetto the latter housing Sacro Speco the cave where St Benedict lived as a hermit before forming the community. The monks offers hospitality and education to visitors, with accommodation for over 100 people, a restaurant, bar, library and a shop selling products like soap, jams and liqueurs. The area was pleasantly busy with people visiting the monastries, walking and cycling up the mountain. We drove up higher to the little town of Jenne, home to about 500 people it is perched on a plateau in the Parco Naturale Regionale Monti Simbruini with magnificent views all round and startling drops down into the valley below.

Such a treat for us to be out discovering our local area, there was a very spiritual atomosphere, calm and welcoming, definitely a place I'd like to visit again to spend more time discovering.