Sunday, 30 October 2011

Holiday Memories

I was reading Kathy's post about her trip to the Scottish Highlands, and I confess to coming over all envious, as I'm just ever-so-slightly completely and utterly obsessed with that part of the UK myself. As mentioned in my previous post, roughly this time last year we were up there in a place called Portuairk, which is a tiny little crofting village (barely even big enough to be a village in fact) on the very westernmost point of the UK mainland, the Ardnamurchan Peninsula. The weather was pretty typically Scottish all week, but we still had a fantastic holiday. I don't have any links with that part of the world, and apart from a weekend coach trip with my mum, I'd never been there on holiday until Chris and I started visiting. Yet every time I go there, I kind of feel like I'm coming home. The breathtaking scenery of the lochs and mountains fills me with an enormous sense of peace and belonging, and every time we leave, I think I leave a little bit of my heart behind. I suspect it probably is my 'spiritual home' and let me tell you, when I win the lottery, you won't see me for dust! I'll be up there buying a romantic little cottage quicker than you can say "och aye tha noo"! Erm, hopefully Chris will want to come with me too!

Anyway, seeing how pleased Kathy was to get a photo of the majestic stag, it reminded me of my own 'Monarch Of The Glen' moment from a few years ago, which I just thought I'd share with you.

We were staying in a little cottage in a place called Cove, on the shores of Loch Ewe. At the opposite side of the loch is a place called Mellon Charles, and one day we visited a little shop which made handmade soap. I'm pretty sure this is the same place, although it looks like they've expanded a lot since we were there, and I'm not even sure if the same people own it now. At the time though the owners were a lovely couple (whose names escape me unfortunately) who spent a lot of time telling us about the area and suggesting places to visit. One of the places they suggested was the Applecross Peninsula. So we had a study of the map and decided to give it a try later in the week.

To really experience this area, you need to cross the mountain pass known as Bealach na Bà, which roughly translates as Pass Of The Cattle, as it was once a drover's road. It has the greatest ascent of any road climb in the UK, rising from sea level at Applecross to 626 metres (2,053 ft). This is the slightly ominous sign that greets you at the start of the pass:



So off we went, fearless, into the unknown! Once you start the climb, you don't really want to stop unless you have to in a passing place, so there weren't many opportunities to take photos, and to be honest, since I had the steep drops at my side of the car, I think I was clinging on (to what Chris refers to as the 'Jesus Handle') for dear life! But it really was breathtaking though!

We did manage to stop on one of the hairpin bends, where the road widened a bit, and this is where I had my Monarch Of The Glen moment. The reason we stopped was because we saw these three deer running down the hillside:


I got a couple of photos of them, and then turned round to speak to Chris, and saw this guy on the hillside behind me:





He stopped and stared right at me, and I think I held my breath the whole time, whilst snapping away. It felt like such a privilege to be able to take his photo, he was absolutely stunning, and he was literally just a few feet away from us, no zoom lens needed! Eventually he wandered off out of sight, so we carried on, and I got a couple of photos of the road that we'd just travelled up:



At the summit there was an information board about the view - I think on a clear day you can see Skye from there. I braved the gale force wind to walk to the board, but it definitely wasn't a clear day and I couldn't see a blimmin' thing. Chris stayed in the car, and snapped me making my way back, all wrapped up with my woolly hat on, genuinely worried that I was going to get blown away:


A brilliant experience, one I can't recommend enough if you're ever in the area, and if you're brave enough!!

This video, courtesy of twpduk on YouTube, shows you what the road is like. There are lots of other similar videos; clearly driving up there on a motorbike with a helmet camera is a popular thing to do! The engine noise/gear changes give you an idea of the effort it takes to climb to the top. Be warned though, if you suffer from motion sickness, particularly from things like video games, you might want to give it a miss:






I hope you enjoyed that little visit to one of many stunning parts of Scotland!

Saturday, 29 October 2011

A Bit Of All-Sorts...

Helloooo! How are you? Well, I hope? It's been a rough few weeks, but I'm doing ok and just trying to get back to some kind of normality.

As it's been a while since I last blogged, I've made a list of things I wanted to mention, so this post is going to be all over the shop and not in any kind of order. Be warned!!

First things first, my monthly garden photos, which are, um, nearly a whole month late! I did take them around about the 8th I think, but obviously I haven't got around to posting them until now.




Can you see the moon, just above the tree? Still there at about 9am

I'm really not good at taking complimentary photos of our garden, I seem to make it look worse than it really is, so I don't think I'll be doing this next year. But I'll keep up with it for the next two months.

I've temporarily relocated to the bedroom from my usual spot in the living room, as we've just had it plastered. The walls are still drying, so the plaster is quite dark, and we've taped newspaper over the window as we have no blinds or curtains up. Chris has also removed the manky old radiator in preparation of fitting a lovely new one that will hopefully throw out a lot more heat, and as we've got the small windows open trying to help the drying process, the room is basically cold, dark and dingy at the moment. I'm going to have to wrap up when I watch Strictly tonight!

So I'm currently sitting on the bed writing this, which is quite pleasant actually. However, it's taken me ages to get started, because earlier on Millie was doing some major ATTENTION SEEKING and wouldn't leave me alone! She was basically sitting on my chest/stomach, between me and the laptop, and if I stopped stroking her to type, she'd start nudging my hands. I tried to take a photo to demonstrate, but it wasn't easy one-handed. I have a general rule of not posting photos of my ugly mug on this blog, but I couldn't resist this one:

Thwack!
Actually she wasn't 'thwacking' me, she has this habit of looking up at me and stretching, as though she's trying to touch my face. The problem is she does it with her claws out and I was fearing for my eyeball which is why I'm kind of turning away from her. Bless her, she's adorable, and I wouldn't have her any other way. But she is a teensy-weensy bit annoying at times. She seems to have settled down now, as she's burrowed under the duvet to sleep.

While the plasterer was here yesterday, we shut the cats in the bedroom (complete with litter tray and food/water) and I stayed in here most of the day with them. Mischief wasn't impressed - he's very nosy and wanted to get out to see what was going on downstairs, but he's quite good and eventually takes the hint, and goes to sleep. Millie gets very timid when she knows there's anyone else in the house, so she started off hiding under the duvet, but eventually came out and, like today, she wouldn't leave my side. Here she is, basically leaning on my hand while I'm trying to use my mouse:

Wonky one-handed photo
The only time I went out yesterday (we'd both got the day off work by the way) was to go to the doctors. I started with a cold last Thursday, just sneezing and a runny nose... I'm now on antibiotics, steroids and an inhaler. Joy of joys. Every time I get cold these days it seems to turn into a chest infection. The antibiotics are one every twelve hours, so I had one last night and one this morning. The steroids I have to take on a morning, after breakfast - six in one go! Unfortunately I was sick this morning after I'd taken them (sorry, TMI!) so I don't know if they'd had chance to start working or not. It's only about 6 or 7 weeks since the last time I had a cold, I think; I'm kind of in a vicious circle - I'm run down, so I get ill, then I can't sleep because I'm ill, then I get more run down. I asked the doctor what he thought about me taking some multi-vitamins, but he told me not to waste my money. Just as well really, because when I had a quick look on the internet, it seems that nearly every vitamin interacts in some way with warfarin (which I take daily), so I probably wouldn't have been able to anyway. I did have some vitamin C at lunchtime though. In the shape of a Terry's Chocolate Orange ;-)

One of the reasons why I'm run down is self-inflicted, because I get up at stupid o'clock for work (4.30am). I never used to get up at that time, but over the years it's got earlier and earlier, and I don't really know why. I don't take ages to get myself ready, so I've come to the conclusion that I'm just slooow. I don't rush round on a morning like a blue-a***d fly, I kind of take my time, daydream, watch the news while I eat breakfast, give the cats a fuss etc. So in a bid to be a bit less tired, I've decided to try getting up later and just accept the fact that I am going to have to rush a bit. I was getting up 45 minutes later at 5.15am, but having the cold kind of slowed me down again, so it crept back to 5am, and then 4.45. But next week is another week, and I'll try for the lie-in again. I officially start work at 7.30am, but I like to get there for about 7.00 and have a bit of quiet time before everyone else turns up. I could start later, but then I'd have to finish later; at the moment I finish at 3.30 which means I still get home pretty early and have a decent amount of time in the evening to do stuff. I can't really have it both ways though - either I get up early so that I can start and finish work early, or I have a bit of a lie-in, and maybe change my hours a bit. I'll see how it goes.

Great, I think Mischief has been taking lessons from Millie, he's just come and climbed on me, and keeps trying to lick my hands. He's had a fuss, but I've had to tell him there's no room at the inn, and he's gone and settled down on the bed.

I'm still enjoying Strictly Come Dancing, and looking forwards to tonight's Halloween Special, although it's a little bittersweet because this time last year I was watching it snuggled up in front of a wood-burning stove in a gorgeous little cottage on the west coast of the Scottish Highlands, while the rain poured and the winds howled outside. Happy days. I know I said I'd refrain from 'Strictly' talk on here, but as I haven't bothered with my other blog, I might as well write about it here. At the beginning I was mostly supporting Dan Lobb, but he turned out to be a bit crap, and I didn't really like his attitude. He came across a bit 'spoilt brat'-ish. So I kind of switched allegiance - yeah, no loyalty here! I can't help it, but I really like Chelsee, and I didn't think I would. Her airline-themed Quickstep last week was brilliant!! She was like a different person, she seemed so focused. I hope she keeps it up. Harry McFly is of course very easy on the eye, as well as being a good dancer, but I do worry that he doesn't have great chemistry with Aliona, and I've seen a lot of criticism of her choreography, so we'll see how he does. The best thing about Harry is that Tom McFly is always in the audience ;-) I don't really like Lulu, and I wish she'd gone out instead of Rory Bremner, as I thought he was doing pretty well. Can't decide if I like Nancy and Anton - ok, they're pretty funny at times, but I don't think I'd mind if they went out pretty soon. Another one who I didn't think I was going to like, but who I'm actually finding more appealing each week, is Robbie Savage. I thought he'd be really arrogant and bigheaded, but he seems so modest and humble. And he does have lovely hair. And nice eyes. And a cute smile. And last week he had Gary Speed supporting him in the audience, who used to play for Leeds Utd and who I had a massive crush on in my teens and who I was convinced I was going to marry. I went to meet him once when he was doing a signing in a sports shop. I had a photo of him (a bought one) with me for him to sign, but everyone coming out of the shop seemed to have the same picture, so I assumed he had a pile of them next to him, so I tucked mine back in my bag, between the pages of a notebook to keep it flat. When I got to the table where he was sitting, I realised he didn't have any photos, so I spent ages fumbling around in my bag for mine, which was excruciatingly embarassing. I still queued up again to have my photo taken with him, though. Unsurprisingly, my intense crush fizzled out quite quickly after I'd completely humiliated myself in front of him. By the way, I've just Wikipaedia'd Robbie Savage and it says that when he did the knee slide towards the camera and kissed it last week, he actually broke his nose! Don't know if that's true or not...

So guess what?? I actually have a couple of ta-dah pics to show you!! I know!! To say this blog was meant to be about crochet, it doesn't feature very often, does it?

First of all, I think I mentioned that I'd tied loads of oddments of yarn together to make one big ball, with which I proceeded to make yet another granny square blanket for the cats. I kept doing a bit, whilst watching one of my favourite shows on the iplayer:


I finished it a few weeks back, and here it is in all it's garish glory. I'm calling it the Ugly Betty Blanket:


Can I ask you - when doing a granny square, and you finish a round, do you move onto the next round and carry on in the same direction, or do you turn your work, and then carry on? I turn mine, which is just how I was shown, and I think that's why you can see the obvious line at the top there, and why the colours go one way and then the other, rather than just following on. Anyway, the cats approve:



Wait, there's more!! Remember the flat circle? It was suggested that I could keep going and turn it into a bag, which was a great idea. So I did. But the flat circle was quite big, so I've ended up with a mahoosive baggy bag! I made it a drawstring top, although the cord I made is probably too thin for the weight of the bag, and I haven't quite finished the ends of it. I also couldn't decide whether I should put a handle(s) on it, or what kind, so I haven't. Yes, it's not quite finished. But I've kind of called it a day for now, so here it is, full of yarn to 'pad it out' a bit:

A size comparison
I'm not sure if I'll ever use it to be honest, which is a shame. It'd probably make a great beach bag, or something like that, but I'm not a beach holiday type of person. I'm not totally confident about it's strength either; even just with some balls of yarn in it goes quite stretchy. It might be better with some kind of lining, but that's a skill which currently escapes me. So, um, yeah. A big bag. If you have any suggestions on how to improve it, or what to use it for, I'd love to hear them.

The reason why I kind of abandoned it slightly unfinished is because I wanted to get on with my next project. Oh yes, brace yourself, there's another!! This isn't a ta-dah though, it's a 'just started'. Whilst working on Ugly Betty, Chris was a little bit miffed that I'd done four blankets for the cats, but none for us. Fair comment. I've been wanting to do a large blanket (cover-the-bed-size) for a while, but I was going to do it in colours to match our bedroom, which is kind of browns and creams (basically, Millie-coloured - yes we inadvertently decorated our bedroom in the same shades as one of our cats. In the interests of fairness, next time it'll have to be black). I would've had to buy some brown and cream yarns though, and I wasn't feeling very patient, so instead I'm going to use the Stylecraft that I've already got, and it's going to be a multi-coloured blanket of RIPPLY RIPPLES!!! Look, I've started:



I'm using Lucy's Neat Ripple Pattern, which is easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy. Apart from the first row into the foundation chain. That's a bitch. I powered through though.* She stresses that the foundation chain has to be in multiples of 14 so to keep count, and in the absence of any stitch markers, I used safety pins in every 14th chain. I think there were 30 blocks of 14, so that's, um, 420 stitches, plus the last 3. I think. Something like that. It covers the double bed, with a little bit hanging down either side. I hope, I haven't checked it since. I also did my foundation chain with a 5mm hook, and then changed to a 4mm, in the hope that the chains would be a bit looser. I'm not sure it helped. I'm going to do two rows of each colour - I'm currently on my fourth row, second colour, but haven't taken any more photos, although did you notice the little bit of pink yarn showing in the photo of Millie above? There's a clue. You can actually speed along really quickly once you get going, but I haven't been able to spend as much time on it as I'd have liked, what with stripping wallpaper and moving furniture out of the living room.

*I can't say the words 'power through' without thinking of this clip!

So there you go, those are my ta-dahs!!

You can't tell but there was a break here while I went to watch Strictly, 'cause I didn't manage to finish writing this post in time. I thought it was a great show, they really go to town with the costumes and make-up. Thought Chelsee was brilliant again, and I felt so sorry for her having the whole 'wardrobe malfunction'. I'm sure there will be a few nasty comments which will be unfair; it was a great dance and at least she still finished it, it was just a shame that she got so upset. Really loved Holly and Artem's Swan Lake - so beautiful and elegant. I know they sometimes play traditional music rather than pop songs, but I don't think we often have classical, and it was lovely. Jason Donovan was back on form - Kristina is a great choreographer and I'd love to see her go really far in the competition this year. I could even see them winning. I enjoyed Harry and Aliona's tango, although even while I was watching it I knew that Len would complain about the lack of actual tango content. As I said above, she gets a lot of flack for her routines, but I actually think they're really good, just maybe a little bit too 'out there' for Strictly. Wasn't as keen on Robbie and Ola's routine this week, but I don't really like Paso's generally. Still like him though. Missed most of Nancy and Anton 'cause I went to get a bag of crisps and a drink - when there's no adverts you've got to pick your moment to leave the room, haven't you? According to Alesha she had her legs too far apart, so I'm kind of glad I missed it. Everyone else - just ok, to a greater or lesser degree. Lulu to be voted off please.

Well, I think that's all for now, I need to go and take some tablets then try and get a decent night's sleep. Bye for now!!


P.S. Are you superstitious? While we were moving furniture and other stuff yesterday, we smashed a mirror, but I reckon we've had enough bad things happen in the last few months, so I'm refusing to let myself think about the whole 'seven years bad luck' thing...


P.P.S Apropos of nothing apart from the fact that it's just come on my music player, I felt like posting this video. You should see me chair-dancing to this when it comes on in the car. I know, I shouldn't be chair-dancing while driving, but I just can't help myself. I want to dance like Regine (*girl crush*). This band is so JOYOUS, even when they're singing about a serious subject. Parts of the song are in French, so I just kind of hum those bits...




Come on, admit it, you're swaying a bit, aren't you? Tapping your foot? I bet you'll be singing the "woo-hoo-oo-woo-hoo-ooo-ooo" bits all day, won't you? In fact, what the hell, here's another - my favourite Arcade Fire song!! Win!!! In every sense of the word!!

Monday, 3 October 2011

A Little Subdued...

Hi, I hope you're well. I've been absent for the last couple of weeks, and I just thought I'd pop in and explain why.

A couple of days after my last blog post, we suffered a family bereavement. Obviously I don't want to go into all the details, but suffice to say it was very sudden and unexpected, and we're all having a really difficult time coming to terms with it. I can't quite believe that it's happened, and that I'm never going to see this person again. I suppose in a little way I'm in a kind of denial. I keep expecting to see them, just walking down the street, and then we find out that it was all a mistake. I know they say "time's a healer", and deep down I think I believe that, although at the moment I feel as though I'm never going to heal, as though I'm never going to get over this. Every now and again, the realisation of what's happened hits me, and it's like being kicked in the chest, or getting an electric shock - it kind of takes my breath away, makes me jump. The last couple of weeks have been awful, there has been lots to sort out, lots of arrangements to make. I've been off work but today was my first day back, so I guess it's kind of the first day of trying to 'get back to normal'.

I've only just started catching up on my favourite blogs - seeing other people getting on with their lives actually made me a little bit sad, because it made me think of the person - and the life - that we've lost, but it also kind of comforted me too. I'm slowly starting to think about the things I was doing 'before' - my crochet, reading, writing this blog etc - and I think I'm gradually feeling like I want to get back to them. I suppose there's the whole 'guilt' issue - it doesn't seem right to be enjoying things after what happened. I watched a comedian on tv last night and was laughing out loud - I didn't think anything of it at the time, but today at work I remembered and felt bad that I'd been laughing, and had almost, for a moment, forgotten everything else. But you can't stay sad forever, can you? I hope all of this doesn't make me sound selfish, like it's all about me, because that isn't what I mean. I suppose it's that other cliche that "life goes on" - the last two weeks have been all about this awful thing that's happened, and I think I need to start thinking about other things now. Sorry, I'm kind of waffling. I know what I want to say, but it's hard to find the words to say it.

I missed Strictly Come Dancing on Friday and Saturday night, but I caught up with it on iplayer on Sunday. I didn't have time to blog about it, and didn't really feel like it anyway, and to be honest, I'm not sure if I'm going to bother blogging about it at all, despite the whole 'announcement' a couple of posts back. It was quite nice at the weekend just being able to watch it and not think about what to write! Although I enjoyed it, and I'm sure I'll keep watching, I just don't think I've got the same level of enthusiasm as I did a couple of years back. So I thought I'd mention a few other SCD blogs that are definitely worth reading, if you're interested (and if you don't already know about them):

Monkseal is pretty much the definitive blog about all things Reality TV - very funny, with great screen caps

Strictly Come Bitching is another really funny/sarcastic one, but without any pics, although it's so descriptive you don't really need them

Strictly Come Blogging is a brief, but informative, rundown of the show, and contains videos of all the routines

Why Miss Jones is just an entertaining blog, whatever she's talking about, but her Strictly posts are always a good laugh. I basically have 'blog envy' when it comes to Miss Jones!

There are others, but these are my favourites, and I think I'd rather read their recaps than write my own!

I haven't done my monthly garden photos yet; I'll try and get around to it, although it's a shame I didn't do them this weekend while it was sunny, because it looks like the weather is about to take a dramatic turn for the worse over the next few days. I also haven't been doing the Scavenger Hunt, despite really enjoying the first one that I did, but I've noticed one of the things on this month's list is a black cat - "Mischief!! I need a model!!" So I might have another go this time (famous last words!)

Anyway, I think that's all for now. I hope I haven't depressed you, I just wanted to explain why I might be a bit quiet and subdued for a while.

Bye for now
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