Monday, March 28, 2011

best laid plans...

I'll put a photo of the cats cuddling (which they've been doing a lot of lately) here as a buffer, but beyond that things will be getting grisly...
So just as I pressed "publish" on that last post where I predicted a pleasantly lazy afternoon ahead, I heard a smash and a loud swear word coming from the other room where Graham has been doing some decorating this week. "Oh no. Graham has broken the window," I thought. The next minute Graham appeared holding his arm and dripping blood everywhere. Eep!
He had wobbled on the ladder, put his hand out to steady himself and somehow managed to put his hand right through the glass. I have to confess my first aid skills pretty much deserted me. I managed to remember pressure, padding, position, but couldn't quite turn that phrase into an action and I cursed myself for having absolutely nothing resembling a first aid kit. Thankfully we had a roll of kitchen roll (purchased when Graham sent a tin of molten candle wax flying across the living room carpet last week - he's a little accident prone these days...) which we used to stop the bleeding.
Since it appeared he had narrowly avoided going through a major artery, Graham was quite up for putting on a plaster and getting back to work, but since I could see through to his layer of fat and beyond (I am not kidding - see scientific diagram above!) I persuaded him that it might be an idea to get the wound checked out.

So rather than chilling out around the house, keeping busy doing nothing, we spent the whole afternoon in accident and emergency. I managed to grab my crochet to keep me occupied, but in my panic only grabbed one ball of wool, so had to stop after one stripe. I spent the rest of the time trying to remember how to do granny squares and kind of did, which was a nice surprise. Anyway, enough about the crochet! (Told you my addiction was becoming a problem.) After waiting for an hour or two, Graham was X-rayed for glass remnants, stitched back together (they opted for those sticky paper stitches at the last minute, which came as some relief to Graham and I who have never had real stitches before) and bandaged up. He'll be like this for the next four days. Poor Graham! He was really very brave about it and even managed a trip to the supermarket on the way back from A&E. My hero! ♥

So no more climbing up ladders and wielding paintbrushes for him and no more chillaxing for me. At least not until the insurance company sends round the man with our new pane of glass...

nice lazy weeknd

I'm on call today and it doesn't look like I'm getting called in. Hooray! My weekend has been extended by an extra day. Just as well considering I worked till midnight on Friday and the clocks went forward too. I never understand why I miss that hour so much. I plan to continue doing nothing. I've been rather enjoying this weekend of crocheting (blanket so far above), cooking...
...doodling, watching films...

...and making up-beat compilation CDs for friends. I also visited The Maisonette and a craft market in the local library, where I bought some nice little goodies to include with the CD parcel. All in all, a very pleasant time was had... and only the tiniest niggling sensation of guilt that I should really have been doing something else.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

thank goodness I'm not a mermaid...

...because we have woken up to find we have no water today. Most annoying, especially as we don't know why and can't see anybody about who might be doing water-related work. What is going on? I feel like my day is kind of on hold because I can't get washed or have a cup of coffee or even liquidise the soup I made yesterday as it needs water adding to it first. The poor cats' water bowl is empty and they're wandering around looking longingly at the taps. Where is our water and when will it be coming back? I was going to take the day off from crochet today as the cooking I did yesterday made my hands crack and bleed a bit (I don't like to push my luck with my hands these days - they're so much better than they used to be, but I'm always treading a fine line with them) but I really don't know what else to do from the comfort of my dressing gown. Hmm.

Talking of the cooking I did yesterday, I made a new protein-tastic recipe that my mum had sent me and it was delicious. I have decided to call it "Sausage Surprise" a la Jean Slater. I get the feeling I could be missing EastEnders after all! Here's the recipe (to serve 4).


*Fry some sausages (I used veggie, about 2-3 per portion, though the recipe says pork) until they're lightly coloured.

*Add a chopped onion to the pan and fry till it's soft and golden.

*Add a crushed garlic clove and large grated carrot and fry for another minute or so.

*Add 175g of dried green lentils, some thyme (I just used dried stuff), a tin of chopped tomatoes and about half a litre of stock.

*Simmer uncovered for about 30 minutes and add more water if it's becoming dry.

*Just before serving, stir in about 4 tablespoons of creme fraiche.

That's it. Very easy! We had it with mashed turnip and it was delish, getting the thumbs up from Graham too. I made a giant pan of it and stocked up the freezer. Hooray! I want to make a tasty curry for the freezer today, but we'll have to wait and see if and when the water comes back on, I guess. Come back, water!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

vital statistics of a cockney half-hour

Did you know that each episode of EastEnders costs the BBC 1.75p per viewer? That was the fascinating fact that I discovered via the wonders of the internet this morning and I felt compelled to share it for some reason...

These are all the EastEnders products I have left in my shop now. I feel like a charlatan selling these since I still am not back to watching EastEnders - not a single episode since 2010, though I did watch about 20 minutes of the omnibus one day. Sheesh! I hear Dot is having (or about to have?) a bad time. This almost tempts me to watch as I know June Brown will be getting lots of screen time, but I'd rather Dot was having a good time, or at least a comedy bad time, so I will continue to stay away for now.

No crochet update today. Rows have been completed, but I need to prove to myself and my loved ones that there is something other than crochet in my life. The addiction is becoming serious and is affecting my personal life. I think I should (and will) force myself to leave the house this afternoon in an attempt to shake off this grey cloud that's bobbing around my ears and eyebrows. Perhaps a visit to the supermarket and some cooking for the freezer is what I should do? My life is lacking any sensible routine at the moment. I just work strange/long hours, read on the underground, watch the odd movie* with Graham and crochet/sleep the rest of the time. Our cupboards are officially bare and out freezer is officially empty. My nails are splitting, which can't be a good sign. Protein here I come!

* Talking of watching films, I've seen some good ones lately. I would definitely recommend Submarine, Taxidermia and Catfish. Taxidermia is a weird one, mind you, and not for the faint-hearted (or for people who like a clear plot and being able to understand what is going on in a film) but I liked it a lot.

Friday, March 25, 2011

too-whit-too-what? (aka that's not a ripple blanket!)

Too-whit-too-whoo! This little guy flew into my bag while we were charity shopping last week and now he just keeps flying on to the living room shelves, much to Graham's bemusement. I get the feeling Graham thinks the owl might be more at home in the craft room where he would never be seen by anybody but me.
But I think this feathered friend of mine has made his nest amongst these books and there is bound to be a law against removing an owl from its nest, right? Besides, he goes perfectly with the rocket lamp, fireplace tiles, salt and pepper cats and my typewriter, all of which stay in the living room. This is his rightful home.
And just in case you thought (heaven forbid!) that I hadn't been crocheting, here's proof of another two rows. The more rows I crochet, the more the bottom of the blanket is getting pulled out into a squarer shape, so my worries about it tapering at the bottom are no more. My newest worry (aside from still thinking the blanket is too big) is that I could be addicted. I go to sleep and wake up thinking about crochet. Just one more row...

Thursday, March 24, 2011

progress despite sabotage attempts

Here's the promised blanket update with three more rows. I am loving it and my random wool selection seems to be turning out quite nicely. It does mean that some rows are slightly wider than others (because my wools are slightly different thicknesses) but I'm OK with that. I predict I'll spot a new flaw every day, and every day I'll say, "I'm OK with that." It must be hard being a perfectionist, but I really wouldn't know! Strangely, people who know me probably would describe me as a perfectionist (or more likely a fusspot) but that feature of my personality doesn't seem to apply to crochet, thank goodness.
These two are really the only thing making crochet difficult now, as I'm having to concentrate hard on not crocheting in too many cat hairs. If they're not trying to eat the wool as I wrap it round the hook, they're trying to curl up and go to sleep on the blanket as I make it. Yesterday Lola (the white one at the front) came and sat on my lap as I was crocheting, so I leant back and held the blanket higher up. Unfortunately, this meant there was an opening for Poppy (the black one at the back) to lie across my tummy, so I ended up lying flat on my back underneath two cats, working the crochet right under my chin. Not ideal! This was the sight when I was getting ready to leave for work yesterday. Lola had discovered my bag of wool and made it into a cosy pillow for herself. Cute, yes, but oh so hairy! I hope this blanket survives to the end...

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

opposites attract

I have an ever-growing collection of lovely blank notebooks because I find it hard to take that first step and write something in their pristine pages. Graham does not appear to suffer from this problem. I gave him this TV planner notebook at Christmas and by New Year he had "modified" the cover with one of his trademark black and white doodle people. Perhaps I should take a leaf out of his book and get my pens out...

blanket in progress

Ta-da! Here's the ripple blanket so far. This is actually the second blanket I've started as I decided the first one was far too wide. Better to abandon early than commit myself to crocheting umpteen too-wide rows, I figured. I've now come to the conclusion that this second blanket is also a bit wider than I had intended, but it roughly fits in with recommended baby blanket sizes I have seen online, so I am sticking with it. I can now crochet at high speed and it feels great! I'm going to continue this on my lunch break tonight and will probably just carry it about with me wherever I go for the next wee while. Crochet's portability is another point to crochet in the great knitting vs. crochet debate, which crochet is still winning.
Here is the blanket in progress on our coffee table to give you an idea of the size. I'm thinking it should have been two zigzags less. Hmm... Any baby blanket owners reading this who would care to give me their thoughts? If I am going to have to start again, I'd rather know now, though I do reserve the right to ignore you and carry on regardless!

To be honest, this blanket is less than perfect in a couple of other areas too. The edge of the blanket has no stretch, so it goes in at the bottom and lies a bit furled up/wavy. I'm guessing this is because I cheated when crocheting into the foundation chain? But if I hadn't cheated, this blanket would still be nothing more than a foundation chain now, so I can live with that. I think I was also starting rows in the wrong chain at the beginning, which adds to the sloping-out edges at one side and makes the blanket more of a parallelogram than a rectangle. It seems to be going straighter now that I am starting in what I think is the right chain. I really don't mind these imperfections (and I'm sure they could be passed off as a design feature, making the blanket easier to tuck in at the toes or something) so we'll just have to hope the blanket's recipients are not too fussy either. I know this attitude would horrify the hardened crochet perfectionists of the world, but it certainly makes crafting more fun to me. All in all, this is a selfishly made blanket, chosen as a gift purely because it allows me to learn to crochet and made imperfectly because it makes the making more fun. Do people even want blankets for babies? I have no idea.

More updates to follow, though it will basically be the same blanket with additional stripes, so feel free to ignore!

Monday, March 21, 2011

cancel those bobbins!

Check it out! That looks pretty ripply to me. After another four or so failed attempts and angry stomach knots, I started looking through some more crochet books for tips. In one, I read that it didn't really matter what part of the chain you went through when you were crocheting into the foundation chain. Even though this was completely contrary to the advice in my pattern, for the sake of my sanity I decided to give it a go just poking the hook through another part of the chain. And it worked! I'm sure there is a very good reason not to do it this way (maybe the edge won't look quite as neat or be so flexible, maybe?) but it is good enough for me, for my first crocheted blanket. Just as I had hoped, once I got that first row done, it was super-duper easy and my recently lost new-found crochet love came back straight away.
If I knew that our friends were having a girl, I'd love to do the blanket all in pink and white because it reminds me so much of nougat bars (remember them?) but I don't know what the baby will be and I want to use up some of my multicoloured wool stash, so I am going to go for completely random stripes for that ultimate homemade/make do and mend aesthetic.
The light was fading by the time I took this photo, but you can see I have completed four ripples. Hooray! I have decided to promote myself to actual blanket making now. I'm just trying to decide how wide the blanket should be and then I'm going to make a start. Exciting!

I was really finding myself getting into a rhythm with this and was able to watch (well, listen to) TV or chat to Graham while I was doing it. I did make a few mistakes as a result, but it was really easy to see where I had gone wrong and unravel it back to there. This is definitely another point to crochet in the great crochet vs. knitting debate. That's the one that goes on in my head. Crochet is winning, by the way. Sorry knitting.

I fully expect that my blanket will look a bit wonky, but I also expect to love it so much that I won't want to part with it. Perhaps once I've made this baby blanket, I'll make a full-size blanket for myself. Maybe. There's still the small matter of 15 other things on the craftathon 2011 list, though I'm happy to be properly tackling one at the moment. I can crochet! Yippee!

p.s. Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to leave comments of crochet encouragement for me this week. They have really helped :)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

lacy caterpillar

"bobbin lace"
Originally uploaded by guzzisue

My lunchtime crochet session went so badly today that I have no photos to share. I'm convinced that if I could get past the stage of crocheting into the foundation chain that I would be fine. Unfortunately I am incapable of getting past that stage to test my theory. By the end of my lunch break today I had a knot of rage in my belly and wanted to throw my crochet right out the window. I am going to persevere, but seeing this gorgeous bit of lace making (and this frankly incredible lace picture - look!) makes me want to ditch the crochet and move onto lace. Sigh... I will persevere with the crochet for a while longer, but I'm not promising not to get my bobbins out before the week is over!

crochet stumbling block

In my lunch break yesterday, I tried to move onto creating ripples and hit a bit of a stumbling block. I think I had been crocheting wrongly all along, but hadn't realised until it came to doing this. I discovered I hadn't been picking up the chains properly and when I tried really hard to pick them up properly... Well, I basically failed. The white example at the top looks pretty good, I'll admit, almost identical to the picture underneath it... but I actually turned it upside down for the photo. I was creating a mountain instead of a valley, increasing as I tried to decrease. Gah!The problem is that I accidentally kept crocheting into the same chain as you can (kind of) see from this picture. I tried again (in red) and had a little bit more success, but obviously still went quite wrong. I didn't have enough chains left at the end so must have missed some en route, and my wave is not nearly as regular as the one in picture. It is progress from the white one though and I don't feel too bad since the instructions kindly reassured me that crocheting directly into a foundation chain is very hard for a beginner.

So I'm not giving up yet, and for this lunch break I have brought some higher-quality wool to see if it makes it any easier for me to see what I'm doing. I'm hoping not to use high-quality wool to make the whole blanket, but I think it might help me to learn at least. Fingers crossed for a bit more success today!

By the way, the very lovely ripple blanket pattern I'm trying to use is written by Lucy and is available on her blog here.

Friday, March 18, 2011


Elgin's charity shops were very kind to me last week. As well as an abundance of vintage craft books (I'll try to share them soon) I got this Farm Dictionary. You may think this would not be very useful to a city dweller like myself, but I have already learned that FYM means farmyard manure, which I'm sure will be a very handy new expletive.
How could I resist this cover? When I brought this book home, my sister squealed because she had so nearly bought it herself the week before. Lucky for me, she decided there wasn't enough room in her suitcase for it! I have a small shelf set aside in the living room for books that are more beautiful than they are useful and this title is right at home there already.
The fact it had come from Pluscarden Abbey (a beautiful monastery in Elgin with real live bee-keeping monks) gave it that little extra something too.
Right, off to eat lunch and learn to crochet ripples before more subtitling beckons.

lunchtime crochet session part two

Today on my lunch break I consolidated my treble stitch skillz and practised making stripes in different colours. I can now do treble stitch without thinking (too much) so I think this could be quite a relaxing new hobby/activity. I'm very pleased with how thick, warm and blanket-like even this small sample feels. Tomorrow I might move on to making ripples. Exciting!
One aspect (not sure if it is a downside or an upside) of crocheting in the workplace is that every single person who comes into the kitchen is guaranteed to ask you what you are doing. Thank goodness I'm so enthusiastic about crocheting right now, so I don't mind having the same crochet conversation ten times in a row.

Talking of work, I got the best news today. After 16 months of fearing I could be made unemployed at any moment, I am finally getting a permanent contract! Hooray! Ah, sweet security :)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

let the craftathon commence!

Would you believe me if I told you that I learned how to crochet on my lunch break today? Well, I did! I'm planning to make a ripple blanket so I had to learn how to do triple stitch first.
Fortunately I found this book in a charity shop the other day and it had instructions for triple stitch as well as some awesome boots to make. Unfortunately I couldn't understand the triple stitch instructions. Fortunately my workmate Veronica had been taught to crochet by her granny (over a quarter of a century ago as she pointed out) and was able to help me make a bit more sense of them :)

So now I can do triple stitch. I'm going to practise that for a little while longer yet and then start practising my rippling. It feels good to be learning something new and I think I could really like crochet. I'll keep you posted.

Hopefully I'll be back on the old blog again soon. Work is a bit mental at the moment, with long shifts and not many days off (hence the lunch break crochet session) but I aim to be back soon with some tales from the charity shops of Elgin and Glasgow. I've had some great luck in that department over the last week or so.

Monday, March 7, 2011

surrounded by jukeboxes

Working jukebox
Originally uploaded by I like

Greetings from Elgin. It's like a home from home (well, it IS home in one sense as it is where I lived from eight to eighteen years of age) surrounded by jukeboxes*. I am sleeping in my sister's old room with her jukebox, which she has not yet managed to ship out to France. Down the road in a chip shop called The Northern Fish Restaurant is Graham's dream jukebox, the Ami Continental. Graham is usually only in Elgin over Christmas when the chip shop is closed so he has only ever seen in by peering through the window and between the vertical blinds. Searching for Elgin on flickr, you would think there was nothing to see but the ruined cathedral, but there are still one or two more interesting sights for the eagle-eyed.

Anyway, I'm not here for sight-seeing, but to visit my family. I've already managed to catch a cold from my nieces and nephew, but I'm enjoying myself and learning A LOT about Peppa Pig. I think I have seen every episode about three times already and I've only been here a couple of days. Fortunately I like Peppa pig. I've also learned a fair amount about dinosaurs and ballet dancing from bedtime story reading duties, which I have been assigned to every night so far.

Other than that, not a lot has been happening. I wasn't organised enough to take any craft projects with me unfortunately. We do have some acorn gathering planned. My niece Kim has promised to help me in exchange for a "ladybird" acorn brooch. I'm also planning to spend at least one day going round the charity shops. If there is one thing Elgin is not short of, it's charity shops! Hopefully I'll have something fun to photograph and share here by the time I get back. Until then, it will probably be all quiet on the dropstitch front...

*Apparently I did not make it clear that I spend my days in the flat with Graham's beautiful jukebox for company, so it was a home from home BECAUSE I was surrounded by jukeboxes. You dig? Yeah, I knew you dug. Back in the big city now, by the way, so normal blogging should resume shortly.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

happy girls' day, girls

And the winners are...
..numbers 11, 5 and 10 a.k.a. Amy, Claire and All About Us (who we know better as Stuffed Nonsense, of course). Congratulations! I'll be in touch for your postal addresses soon, or if you are reading this and are very organised, you can email your address to me via the link in my profile. Claire, I will give you your package at work and thus save on postage. Whoop! See, I won on Girls' Day too!

Apologies for the very uncreative though fair and scientific method of drawing the winners. I had planned on something more extravagant, but I'm catching a train up north (off to visit my parents, sister, brother-in-law, nieces and nephew - hooray!) straight after work tomorrow and am my usual disorganised self so need to pack and change cat litter etc. It's all glamour round these parts, I'm telling you...

The winners' parcels will be dispatched on my return.
Happy Girls' Day 2011 :)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Consider this a valuable lesson learned. Never again will I try to write and proof instructions when I am like a half-shut knife after a long day at work. I had just finished packaging up a lovely big pile of brand new 'make your own' kits when I spotted this typo in the instructions. When I say I had just finished, I mean that literally - the last staple was flying out of the stapler when my eye chanced upon this glaring error. Yes, I said staples. Irreversible bloomin' staples. This means all the kits have to be taken apart, destroying all the packaging in the process so that I will essentially have to start from scratch. Two nights' work down the bleedin' pan. Grrr! I'm sure nobody would ask for a refund over one missing letter, but I couldn't love these kits knowing what I knew. Sigh... Who would believe that I proofread professionally, eh? Hopefully I do it a bit better than this in my day job!

You still have time to enter the giveaway or take advantage of the 20% discount in my shop (simply quote IAMAGIRL at the checkout) but not too long. Winners will be drawn and the codes will be deactivated tomorrow (Thursday a.k.a. Girls' Day) so get a wriggle on.