Archive for February, 2011


Lost it.

Well, I’ve officially lost the plot. Yesterday, I made a point of getting to Waitrose before closing time in order to buy some of the most important household items required for life in Garden Bungalow: toilet paper and kitchen roll.* In a moment that can only be described as a brain fart, however, I came away with all kinds of pink sprinkles and neither of the items I desperately need for my home to function.

The pink sprinkles weren’t a total loss, mind you. They have helped to disguise the fact that my awesomely pink grapefruit cake tastes rather bitter. The red fruit makes the prettiest colour of mixture, however the aftertaste – and do bear in mind that I’ve only tried it raw – is very tart. I tried adding vanilla and cardamom to sweeten it slightly but there is still that bite there. I don’t actually mind it, but I’m sure that those who don’t regularly consume a whole grapefruit as a snack will find it rather noticeable. Hence the pink sprinkles – sight plays such a huge part in our enjoyment of food that I am curious as to whether or not the association of pink and strawberry flavour will override the natural citrus after taste.

Sadly, as I’m leaving at 7am, I won’t get to hear the opinions of the day staff…

Anyways, since the laptop is infected with all kinds of evil virus’, and because as a result I am using the giant computer in an upright position** I can’t just pass out at the keyboard.  Which is why I am required to go and pass out in bed with my knitting instead.

I bid thee all adieu.

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*Naturally, the most important items in the house are the various accoutrements required for tea – mugs, kettle, tea bags, milk, me.

** I’d actually forgotten how nice it is to type at a desk.

Counting

In 24 hours I will be waking up and getting ready for my last shift.

Ending was a rather pleasing prospect in the run-up to my leave, but in actuality I’m rather scared about the coming months. I know I have a great deal of crafting that I can do but suddenly, the idea of leaving behind a job that I’m good at, and which I enjoy a great deal*, is rather daunting. I will miss my fellow staff very much.

This in mind, I plan to bake my way into ward memory with some flowery iced cookies and a grapefruit and almond cake. It’s off to sleep now while S- plays the xbox, then up late in the kitchen to try to set my body-clock for my night shift. Wish me luck. If the grapefruit cake is a success I will post my recipe.

Presuming someone reminds me…

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*Yes, I know I’ve complained before but I’m coming to realise that incredible colleagues can make up for even the most unobliging patient.

Sweater

Whoever thought knitting a jumper could be so hard?! And it isn’t the actual knitting which is difficult – though doubtless that complaint will come when I get to the collar – my problem at present is finding and obtaining enough wool.

After buying the entire stock of my shade in John Lewis, I returned to my pattern to find that I was still three balls short. A quick look on ebay revealed that this was not a common colour of Paton’s double knit, and that rather than having started a lovely grey sweater, I had actually started something of a quest to discover stores stocking Patons Wool Blend DK in shade 00195.

My first morning of searching revealed that a single online shop stocked the colour – as far as I could see – so naturally, I bought the outstanding three balls of yarn. I continued knitting in happy oblivion until I came to a point which required me to cast off some of the stitches and shape the sleeves. On closer inspection of the sweater’s eventual recipient, I noticed that I would need to lengthen the back by another inch for it to fit properly. This presented another  issue on the wool front – the yarn I had diligently accumulated was suddenly insufficient. I had only just purchased enough to complete the sweater according to pattern so it was back to the interwebs for me.

Naturally, this wasn’t straightforward. In order to purchase from the afore-mentioned yarn shop, I was required to spend over five pounds. My wool, however, only cost £3.50 per hundred grams and I definitely don’t need a spare ball of grey. In desperation, I bought a pair of bamboo knitting needles and then settled down to my knitting again.

Whilst I’m really enjoying this, I’m starting to feel the familiar draw of the sewing machine. Or rather, a shiny new (old) sewing machine. Also a Jones, this lovely green, electric beast was made in the USSR and feels heavy enough to survive the fallout of nuclear war. And it is electric! I would like to say a huge thank you to its previous owner and will update as to whether it works or not in due course. I can’t imagine why it wouldn’t after a quick clean with some WD40 – it looks to be in incredible condition.

So yes, all is well on the craft front, and I only have 2 more shifts to go until I finish work… roll on March 1st!

And we’re back…

… to 5.30am starts.

Does anyone else remember being little and being told that if you were well enough to have people over, then you were well enough to go to school? This has been so successfully drilled into my head that I am up and dressed and ready(ish) for work – despite the fact that I still sound like a snot-monster – simply because I want to be ‘well enough’ for Mum and Dad arriving. Which is daft, because if anyone was going to understand my need to lie on the sofa and watch ‘My Big Fat Gypsy Weddings’ until my brain falls out, it would be them.*

In other news, I am getting very excited about March. Aside from my plans to knit until my fingers are stumps, I am also planning my first proper girlie trip out since my hen weekend. I hadn’t noticed until now, but all of the meetings with my lovely UEA girlies have involved husband or the boys, so it’ll be good to have a day with just the three of us. Also, I’ve never seen a London musical before so that in itself will be an experience. My only qualm is that I’ll need to take the train as I don’t think my blood pressure could cope with the inevitable road rage that everything within the M25 entails. It’s only a 50 minute journey, but that’s more than enough time for strange men to try to marry me. Shudder.

And look – it’s time to drive off into the dawn. That’s one thing I’ll say about these early mornings – they certainly make you appreciate that Spring is well and truly here.

Frankiesoup away!

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*Not that I think they’d understand my need to watch the show – I don’t really understand that, truth be told – but they certainly wouldn’t judge me for wanting to spend the day snoozing.

Ill

I don’t actually mind being ill and catching the odd bug. It means I have the perfect excuse to cuddle under my patchwork quilt and knit into the wee hours. The problem comes when I’m not quite ill enough to have the day off work, but am not quite well enough to function as a human being. It’s in this guilty no-man’s-land I find myself today. Should I call work and tell them I’m not coming in, making myself feel bad all day about leaving them short-staffed, or should I go in regardless, and feel bad all day about not taking better care of myself instead?*

In other news, I couldn’t actually wait to start my big knitting project and got stuck in yesterday. I am nearly half way to shaping the arm holes on the back of the sweater, which is somewhat pre-emptive because I don’t actually understand how to shape the neck. I suppose it’s one of those ‘cross that bridge when you come to it’ sort of things. In any case, Project: Don’t Get Caught Out at Birthdays and Christmas seems to be going well and it’s only February. My next big challenge is to figure out what to make for S- which he will actually wear…

But enough. I am now feverish enough that I’m enjoying a 3 Doors Down album and that isn’t a good sign. I’m going to find my hot water-bottle from where she’s no doubt ingesting a small rodent and return to my sofa nest.

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*As it turned out, I fell asleep on the sofa shortly after typing this paragraph and woke up feeling like death. After tossing a coin to determine whether I should drive in to Cambridge or not, I phoned work to let them know I was sick, returned to the sofa and spent the next eight hours snuggling the cat and catching up on Top Gear and various other things on iPlayer. This little session included a short piece on Radio 4 about an author friend of mine, Mary Holmes. For anyone who likes real-life stories, I would definitely recommend her book about being separated at birth from her twin sister….  The interview is worth a listen too if you’re that way inclined.

Neverending

Knitting now seems to be something of an addiction.

Though I will be making bee cosys to sell on ebay in the coming weeks, I decided that I couldn’t wait to see what people’s’ reactions would be so I started making yet another hat in the meantime. This is an adult hat and will be a gift, so won’t be showing up on here for a long while yet… still, I feel like I’ve become an obsessive compulsive knitting machine and I have no intention of stopping any time soon.

The great part is that the more things I make, the more I find I am capable of making. Patterns which I never thought I’d be able to tackle when I picked up my needles again in November all feel deliciously easy now. I think that after the trim for this hat is finished, I will attempt my first large project – an adult sweater. In the meantime, I will diligently knit the various pieces of trim that have been designed for this hat and content myself with the knowledge that soon, very soon, I will be able to click my needles together all day long, without interruption.

Bee Cosy

Here are the pictures of the tea cosy I have been talking about knitting.

I am interested to know whether it would be worth making one or two to try putting on ebay/etsy? What does everyone think?

 

This is the cosy from as far away as my table mess would allow me to take a picture...

This is the flower which the bees are looking for...

This is a close up of the smaller of the two bees...

The pattern is my own, though the bees are based on one for ladybirds from a book Mum gave me. The flower is based on the wings of the bees.

 

Anyhoos – all comments, complimentary or otherwise, are very welcome 🙂

 

WD40

Charlie Micra and I have been together since May 2007 and for the most part, it’s been a rather happy relationship. I’m really anal about servicing and Charlie starts first time, every time.

Except Friday, when I really needed to go out.

Whilst I love cars, I’m actually a bit of a n00b when it comes to figuring out what’s wrong with them and how best to put it right. I’ve always had Dad around, or enough money to hand the keys over to a garage and say, “Make it better.” Not this time though, and frankly, it scared the crap out of me – it’s been almost 4 years since I’ve turned a key in the ignition without success. What if my car wasn’t going to start again? What if I was about to flood the engine? What if whatever I did to try to make Charlie run actually ended up wrecking what – until now – had been a glorious triumph of internal combustion.

Screw it, I thought in the end. It couldn’t be worse than that fan belt incident, or the time Percy Polo ended up with engine coolant instead of washer fluid.

resolutely, I opened the bonnet and stared in. As I said, I love cars and despite being a rubbish fault finder, I know a fair bit of theory about engines. When you’re confronted with something that’s been laminated in black plastic, though, you can’t really tell which bit does what and all former good intentions fall away. With what was left of my resolve, I ran into the house and frantically began leafing through the Haynes manual.

Since the starter motor was still turning over nicely, the font of all Micra knowledge suggested cleaning the battery connectors, and if that didn’t work, replacing the spark plugs.

Crap, thought I, I haven’t got any spark plugs, or anything to clean the battery connectors with.

At this point, I decided that I should try to start the car again because for various reasons*, public transport is a no-go for me. After a little cough, the old boy came to life and stood rattling on the field. Then something in my DNA triggered and I knew I didn’t need spark plugs. I needed WD40.

You see, I reckon my genes are made up of at least 25% WD40. This non-silicone based spray is actually one of the corner-stone scents of my childhood as Dad’s dad would use it on everything. I am fairly certain that if presented with a first aid situation**, his first instinct would have been to reach for his trusty blue and yellow can. Nan and Granddad’s house smelled like a combination of car engines and baking, so naturally, when the WD40 had worked its magic on the battery connectors and Charlie had sprung into life, it was necessary to spend the rest of the afternoon making scrummy treats and knitting tea cosies.

It’s funny how something so simple can take you such a long way back in your memories, and it’s amazing how these small hints of the past can offer such a huge insight into why we are the way we are. I am an accumulation of WD40, complex knitting equations, Aga love, Top Gear, Sonic the Hedgehog and antique shops. And I couldn’t be happier. I used to worry about not being me – not being something new and individual – but I actually love the fact that I can see where I’ve come from.

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* “Hello,” said a scary looking man in his 40s at the Soham bus stop, “You’re pretty. Do you have a boyfriend?”
“I’m married,” I replied.
“But you’d be a better wife for me,” he said.
“Please stop talking to me,” I nearly begged, and pushed my headphones further into my ears so I could better ignore him.

This isn’t an isolated incident. There was also the time the weird cadet guy from Fiji thought I was in the logistics division of the US airforce because I was wearing a vintage Vietnam surplus jacket. He took my phone off me, copied my number and kept sending me dirty text messages until one day I called him back, putting on a posh accent, telling him to stay the hell away from my fifteen year old son.

And don’t even get me started on Superdad on Norwich’s 25 bus.

No matter which form of public transport I take, I seem to attract creepy people. If I ever need to use it again, I’m going to shave my head, get some fake tattoos and a toy gun and see how much people talk to me then.

** Granddad did once drop an engine on himself. He had been working on his camper van when, during his tea break, it started to snow. Rather than rushing out and covering the naked engine in a tarp, Granddad rushed out in his slippers and decided to lift the camper’s new crowning glory. Needless to say that the snow, combined with the Sheffield slope and flagstone paving, was far too slippery for such a feat to be properly achieved and he fell, the engine landing on his hand and crushing his little finger. I am fairly certain that had the engine not already been saturated in WD40, thus soaking his bleeding stump, he would have made sure to add an extra layer before casually making his way to the hospital.

For those interested, the finger stump healed well, and Granddad enjoyed pretending that he’d lost the top two knuckles of this extremity up his nose…

Baby bear hat

The picture isn’t the best I’ve taken, but I’m getting increasingly lazy…

After getting very bored of finding nothing but samey baby clothes in the world, I decided to knit this little number.

It’s incredibly easy and for those interested, the instructions are as follows:

  • Cast on 60 stitches.
  • Knit 23 rows of stocking stitch by starting on a purl row.
  • On row 24 begin to reduce by knitting 4 and then knitting 2 together – repeat this pattern to the end of the row.
  • Purl the next row as normal.
  • Knit the following row by repeating 3 knit stitches, then knitting 2 together.
  • Purl the next row.
  • Complete this row by knitting 2 and then 2 together, all the way along.
  • Purl this row.
  • Repeat knit 1, knit 2 together to the end of the row.
  • Purl.
  • Knit 2 together along the row. Cut the wool, leaving a long tail, and pass the thread through the remaining stitches to finish.
  • Sew up the seam of the hat.
  • To make the ears, cast on 6 stitches. Knit into the front and back of each stitch.
  • Stocking stitch 8 rows.
  • Knit one, knit 2 together, knit 6, knit 2 together, knit one.
  • Cut the wool, leaving a long tail, and pass the thread through the remaining stitches. Pull this tight to curl the ear and sew onto the hat.
  • Make another ear to finish.

 

Dream sequence

There have been plenty of times when I’ve woken in a cold sweat, relieved beyond all measure that the events of my dreams can not penetrate into real life. Since I was a little girl, for example, I’ve had a recurring nightmare which involves me digging on the beach and finding the heads of people I know in the sand. Nice.

Last night’s dream though, unlike most of my others, would have been pretty fabulous had it materialised.

I dreamt I was in Germany and in need of a phone charger. Reluctant to buy one because of the different sockets, I asked the clerk in the store – and I was apparently able to speak flawless German – if they had any that would fit a UK plug. Yes, they did, however you got a free pair of curtains and an automatic sports car with said charger.
“Hmm,” husband replied, looking dubious, “I don’t think Ryanair would let us take those back on the plane.”
I whacked him in the arm, told the clerk we’d take 2 of the cars and drove off towards home and our Cornish summer holiday in what could only be described as a 50s beach-mobile.

I don’t know if this dream was a direct result of Charlie and I getting a little over-zealous last night whilst teaching a knobby girl on a scooter a lesson in highway etiquette, or whether I just really want a convertible. Either way, I woke up with that slightly reckless, slightly self-destructive feeling that only large quantities of alcohol or the autobahn can satisfy… sigh. Time for work.