Tuesday, 26 June 2012

A Brief Glimpse...

A day late, but I didn't have time to upload it yesterday. The Olympic torch, moments after it left Leeds Town Hall, on it's way across Millennium Square. I believe the bearer was Mike Healey, the founder of a children's cycling club. Taken on my phone, so it's a bit jerky. Worth getting to work early for!

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Retail, Ranting and Reading

So I had me a little bit of retail therapy on Friday. First port of call was Hobbycraft, because I wanted to buy some toy stuffing for my amigurumi bees. I also wondered if they had 'safety eyes', although I couldn't really see any on the website. I got there about half an hour after it had opened, so it was lovely and quiet and I had a really nice leisurely stroll round. Eventually I remembered what I'd gone for and got my stuffing, plus a few balls of yarn fell into my trolley too, including some Debbie Bliss. Ooops. I did find a pack of eyes but it still said 'not suitable for under 3 years' or something, so I'm not sure if they're safety eyes, so I didn't bother with them. I bought a sheet each of black and white felt, because I thought I could make some eyes with that. Oh, and a pack of 100 black pipe cleaners which I thought I might be able to use for legs.

Bee #2 looks like this:

I crocheted the eyes in the end, and I don't mind that they're a bit wonky, it adds character!

Not loving the wings though...

"Hello, how are you today?"   "Busy busy"

As you can see, they are both legless, so the 100 pipe cleaners might've been a bit of a waste of money. Quite a lot of the patterns on the interwebs have left the legs off as well, but I don't think it detracts from them, so they might stay that way. When I went shopping after Hobbycraft, I bought a big pack of cotton wool, it's kind of in a pleat, and in the end #2 is stuffed with that rather than using my new toy stuffing. I put more in, so he's firmer than #1.

I also thought, while I was on an amigurumi roll, that I'd make a little ball for the cats. The first one turned out bigger than I wanted

and I didn't stuff it enough, so it's not as round as it could be. Second attempt is smaller and a better shape

A couple of Christmas' ago, my mum bought the cats a little plastic mouse that rolled across the floor on something like a ping pong ball, but you could take a little cover off the ball and shake in some loose catnip, which came with the toy. They weren't too fussed about the toy, but I've still got the little container of catnip, so I decided to shake some of it into the middle of the cotton wool as I was stuffing these balls. I think they might be able to smell it, although I don't know if I put enough in, and they've never gone really wild over catnip before, but I just thought it might help a little. They have played with the balls briefly - Millie likes to pick them up in her mouth and carry them into another room, so I think she'll prefer the smaller one for that. I just hope it doesn't get too soggy.

As well as the amigurumi, I've also made another dishcloth, using this pattern, which I was directed to from here. It says it can be done in less than an hour, but I don't think I'm that quick. Having said that, while I was making it there was a power cut (due to the torrential rain, I think), so I broke off to light some candles. It was still daylight, but I didn't know how long the power would be off and I thought it was best to do it while I could still see. In the end, it was only off for about 20 minutes, so nothing exciting! I used a lighter to light one of the candles, and managed to burn my thumbnail! The edge of it went all brown and shrivelled, so I had to cut it off. One of many reasons why I've never been a smoker, I can't even use a lighter!

Diagonal Dishcloth
It's worked in the back loops only, as is this one which I started ages ago, and finished yesterday because I wanted to start the above one (I was at the end of a row so I just decided it was big enough and fastened off!)

I'm assuming I will have consulted a pattern for this one too, but I'm afraid I don't know whose, although there's not much instruction needed really. I'm hoping these two fare better than the last one I crocheted - I think I made that one up as I went along, doing trebles and bobble stitches, but once it started to get wet it stretched, so your fingers go through the holes. I don't like that.

* * *

[Warning: Rant follows!] So as I said, after I'd been to Hobbycraft, I went to a local shopping centre with a view to buying some clothes for work, specifically some tops. I've been wearing jumpers all winter, and even through spring into summer, apart from the really really hot days when I wore a shirt. So I thought I should try and get some more summery type clothes. I do like it when it's warm and sunny, but clothing-wise I prefer to be covered up, so the cooler weather suits me better. But I thought I'd make an effort and get something appropriate for summer. Everywhere I went, the trend seemed to be little tops with very short sleeves, or no sleeves at all, a bit like this. Now I know there are a lot of women, myself included, who are a bit self-conscious about their upper arms, and the dreaded bingo wings. But I bought some of these little short-sleeved tops (because like I said, there wasn't much else to choose from), and then I ended up buying a cardigan to wear over them! Which kind of seems to defeat the object! Why can't they make the sleeves just a little bit longer? I've worn one of the tops today at home, and another, much worse, problem that I've discovered is the gaping neck. I did try them on before I bought them, and I usually do fairly rigourous tests in the changing room (bending, stretching, twisting etc), but I can't have been as thorough with these. It looks fine when I'm standing up straight. But when I bend forward to, say, load the washing machine, the world and his wife and anyone else who might be looking gets an eyeful!! The trouble is, how can I put this?, I'm not exactly blessed in the chesticle department, so there isn't really much to see, or rather, you can see straight past... them, to my big fat belly! If any clothing designers are reading this (ha!), why can't you make appropriate necklines? I'm not saying everything has to be a polo neck, but why do they have to be so low, and why do you seem to assume that all women have a large chest to 'fill it out', because some of us don't!!

So there's no way I can wear them for work, because I have to do far too much bending over (ooh, missus!). Just getting my milk out of the office fridge would give my male colleague nightmares if he looked up at the wrong moment! But I'll wear them at home, and if anyone has any suggestions as to how I can somehow make them less gapey, I'd love to hear them. I did think about wearing a scarf with it, as they seem to be all the rage at the moment too, but I have a bit of an issue with summery top + scarf. Like when you see teenage girls wearing skimpy hotpants and Ugg boots - it's either warm enough for shorts, or cold enough for furry boots, make your mind up! God, I soooo don't have a clue about fashion, do I?

[Rant over]

* * *

I've been forgetting to mention that I've done a bit of reading lately, and updated my book list over there on the right. I never managed to finish The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, there was just so much detail in it - names, dates, places etc - it was a bit heavy-going for a bedtime read. So I moved on to A Change In Altitude by Anita Shreve. I've read quite a few of her books already, and consider her a bit of a favourite. This one was only so-so though. It was about a couple living in Kenya, who along with two other couples, decide to climb Mount Kenya. Whilst crossing a glacier, one of the party is killed. There's a question of who was to blame, and the tragedy rocks the marriage of the main couple. I thought the death was going to be a major part of the story, but it just kind of... happened, and then the rest of it was about their relationship. Maybe I was being a bit morbid, hoping for more gory details? In the end, the couple climb the mountain again so it kind of comes full circle, with one of them coming out the stronger of the two, and I get that that was the theme of the book. It was ok, just didn't do much for me.

Next I read Let The Right One In, which was translated from the original Swedish, I think. There was a film, in Swedish, and then more recently an American remake. I haven't seen either one, although I think Chris has got them so I might get around to watching them. It's a story about a young boy, Oskar, who befriends a young girl called Eli. It turns out Eli is a vampire. If I wanted gory detail, I got it by the bucketload in this! But really it was about friendship and loyalty, and also a couple of school bullies getting their come-uppance!! I actually really enjoyed this book, and like I said, I might try and watch one (or both) of the films.

I've now started Songs Of The Humpback Whale by Jodi Picoult, but as much as I usually love her books, I haven't really got into this one. It might just be because I've been busy doing other things, and got my crochet bug back again.

I also succumbed the other night and downloaded Fifty Shades Of Grey onto my Kindle! You've probably heard about it, if not read it yourself, the erotic fiction that's sold more than Harry Potter or something. I was curious to know what all the fuss is about. I'm a few chapters in and to be honest, it's a bit crap. It's a kind of car-crash of a book - awful, but you can't help reading it. The writing is terrible and clich├ęd; the biting of the lip seems to be the modern-day equivalent of the heaving bosom, and who actually says "oh my!"? I'll perservere with it, but I'm not in any rush, it's not what I'd call 'unputdownable'.

Anyway, that's all for now. One more day of freedom left, and then back to work on Monday, boo, hiss!!

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

A Jaunt In The Countryside...

Hello! How are you? I hope you're well. Did you like my cryptic(ish) message on my last post?

I'm off work this week, so I thought I might've managed a flurry of blog posts like I usually do, but it's already Wednesday and this is my first one, so I'm not doing too well with that, am I?

Anyway, what have I been up to? Well, yesterday Chris and I decided to have a drive into the countryside, North Yorkshire to be precise. We're supposed to be tiling the kitchen, but I spoke to my mum on Monday evening who advised me that it was going to be Very Warm, and that we should go out instead. We didn't need much persuading! I remembered a place I'd been to a while ago with my mum, called Darley Mill, which is just a nice little place to visit, so we headed there. As you can see from the link, it's a bit of a gift shop type of place, with gardening and outdoor products, kitchen and homewares, clothing, food and a restaurant. We spent quite a long time wandering around looking at everything, and in the end we bought some fudge and chocolate on the way out. We hadn't really thought about where to go next, so I suggested Grassington, as we've driven through it loads of times, but never actually stopped and had a walk round. So Grassington was tapped into the SatNav, and off we went.

As we drove along, I gazed out of the window at the beautiful scenery, wishing we could stop so that I could take some photos (I'd brought my camera along specially with this in mind). But I didn't really like to ask Chris to keep stopping, and he seemed to just want to get to Grassington, so I didn't say anything. We got there eventually and had a walk up and down the main street. There were signs up saying that Grassington Festival was on, and although we didn't really see anything (I think a lot of the events might've been evening ones), there seemed to be a lot of people about, but perhaps that's normal. We popped in a couple of shops, and had sausage rolls for lunch from a bakery, and then headed back to the car, thinking about where to go next. In the car park I went to powder my nose (!) and when I got back to the car, Chris was on the phone. I've mentioned he's a beekeeper, haven't I? Well, he's also a regional 'swarm collector', and he'd received a call about a swarm near a primary school. So that was kind of the end of our day out. I think we were both ready to go home, and it was just as well because that's where we were going, as he needed to get his things to go and collect the swarm.

On the way home I started thinking that maybe I'd be as well going for a day out into the countryside on my own. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't annoyed with Chris about our day being cut short, but I just thought that if I was on my own I could do what I wanted, go where I felt like, stop and take as many photos as I pleased, without worrying about someone else.

So today, that's what I did!! I borrowed Chris' SatNav and decided to basically do the same trip as yesterday while it was still fresh in my mind, but if I felt like veering off course, then that was fine too. I wanted it to be more about the journey, rather than the destination (ooh, profound!) And yesterday evening, I read a post by Lucy which mentioned a road near Hubberholme, and I thought, I know that road!! Or at least, I think I do!! And it's somewhere we've driven along, but never stopped, even though I've wanted to. And as it wasn't far from Grassington, I had a vague plan in my mind that I'd head for there. So off I went. Called at the Co-op for provisions, then the petrol station to juice up, and then the open road beckoned!!

I got to Darley Mill first. I was specifically thinking 'toilet break' at this point, but I thought it might be cheeky to go in just to use the facilities, but I didn't really want to buy anything, so I just drove back out of the car park and headed for Grassington. Yesterday there were loads of places where I wanted to stop and take photos, but today I realised just how difficult that is. All the nicest views are while you're travelling along quiet, winding, single-track lanes where it's not really safe to stop for a photo opportunity. I got to Grassington, parked up and used the facilities  withoutpayingforaparkingticketnaughtyme! (Chris later informed me that there is an area where you can park free for 10 minutes for that very purpose, which I didn't know about, but I do now) and then put Hubberholme in the SatNav and set off again. On the way there, I passed through Kettlewell. There was an incident with some cyclists (stuck behind them, uphill stretch of road, no passing places, you get the idea). As I got to what I think was the road to Hubberholme, where the SatNav was directing me to turn, the whole road was closed for roadworks, so I carried on and followed the diversion, which took me down a terrifyingly narrow lane, which thank god had a one-way system in place, because if I'd met something coming the other way it would've been game over! After a couple more narrow roads where I was beginning to think I was completely lost, I realised that I was near the river, and then suddenly the road kind of opened out, and I was there! I think. Somewhere between Yockenthwaite and Deepdale. I found a spot to park up, and then had my lunch, and this was my cafeteria:

Beautiful! Just the sound of the river, which is more of a 'babbling brook' here, and the bleating of the sheep in the field opposite, so peaceful and tranquil.

Think it must've been a bit too hot for these ones!

I noticed a couple of ducks in the river, and as I was getting ready to take a pic another bird arrived. I'm not sure what it was, but it looked like some kind of dipper. I zoomed in on it, but then my camera decided to focus on a nettle, and by the time I'd re-focused, the bird had gone. So it was only Mr and Mrs Mallard who made it into the photo:

There were one or two Lesser-Spotted Ramblers around too:

It's not that obvious on the photos, but it was really sunny, with a lovely blue sky, and lots of fluffy white clouds, although there were a few slightly grey ones too:

I stayed for nearly an hour, and then set off again with no particular destination in mind. And then promptly got very lost! Well ok, not lost - you're never lost, are you, all roads lead to somewhere. I was just, um, temporarily misplaced... I found myself driving along lots of very remote roads, out in the middle of nowhere, and when I stopped to take some photos I panicked ever so slightly because my car started making a strange noise, and I thought it was overheating, and then I thought it was going to die on me and I'd have to ring the AA and I didn't even know which road I was on so I wouldn't be able to explain where I was!!! Aaaaaand, breathe! It didn't die on me, I took the pics and then carried on.

When I was looking on Google Maps yesterday, I remember noticing that the road next to the river, where I stopped for lunch, wasn't all that far from Hawes, and thinking, ooh, I don't want to go that far really. So where did I end up?

Hello, Hawes!
At this point, I decided I should start heading back, which is where the day became less fun and the act of just getting home became something of a chore. I ended up going through Aysgarth (as in Falls), Leyburn (brings back happy memories of family holidays from years ago), Bedale and various other lovely little villages, which I wish I could've spent time in. Then somehow I found myself at the 'wrong side' of the A1, and I didn't actually want to go on the A1 but Mrs SatNav wanted me to. I over-ruled her, and eventually worked my way across to Ripon and back towards Harrogate and Otley and then into Leeds. I was driving through Leeds at around 4pm, which is just about the time I'd be coming home from work, which is a coincidence I didn't particularly enjoy.

So overall I had a really fun day, and I'd do it again, but maybe with a bit more planning (and I probably should have a map in the car next time). I know it might not seem like a big deal to anyone else, but I don't often go places on my own, just for a day out, so the fact that I did it and went all that way is quite an achievement for me.

* * *

In other news, last Sunday was Open Farm Day, which is a national initiative where people can visit local farms and see what goes on. Chris has some beehives on a nearby farm which was participating, so the farmer asked if he'd set up a stall all about bees and their produce. As part of his display, he borrowed an observation hive from a beekeeping friend; he picked it up the day before, and it spent the night in our kitchen. He opened it up so that I could have a look.

It's a narrow box, just two or three inches wide, with glass on either side, and inside it are a couple of frames of wax/honey, and several hundred honey bees. He assured me that they couldn't escape. When I say he 'opened it up', I mean that there are two pieces of wood covering the glass, so he just moved one aside for me to take the photo. When I'd done so he put it back in place and then the whole thing had a white sheet over it all night:

It was quite unnerving to be able to hear a very loud, constant buzzing coming from under the sheet, but like I said, they couldn't escape. On Sunday morning I came down into the kitchen and look what I found on the windowsill:

A honeybee! Yes, those are bare bricks, no, we still haven't done the tiling!
Thankfully there was just that one, and Chris thinks it was probably on the outside all along. Anyway, he used the observation hive on Sunday and it attracted lots of interest, and then we took it back to it's owner that evening. The village where he lives had a scarecrow festival on, these were the only ones I managed to photograph:

This was my favourite!
Chris hasn't had much honey so far from his bees, they take a while to get established, so he's started making other products from the beeswax. So far he's made his own lip balm, and he's just had a go at hand cream. I jokingly said that I should try and crochet something 'bee-related', and then thought it would be a good excuse to have a go at some amigurumi, which I've been wanting to try for ages. So I knocked this together last night:

I gave up on the legs!
Not perfect, but not bad for a first attempt!

Mischief gives it the sniff of approval!
Well, I think that's about it for now. Apparently it's going to tip it down tonight and for the next few days, so we are really really going to maybe do some tiling in the kitchen tomorrow. We bought the tiles on Monday, so that's a step in the right direction, at least. We don't like to rush things, you know. Good things come to those who wait. And take their time.

Right, I'm going to buzz off!

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