Thursday, 1 December 2016

Bits of This and That

Hello there. Gosh, it's been a while since my last post. Not a lot has gone on around these parts, a bit of decorating, a few visits to and visits from my lovely daughters, a bit of knitting and lots of running. 
It must have been last Easter when I decorated the dining room. Our downstairs has one big through room, but I didn't have time to do the living room part as well before E was into her A level revision and I didn't want to disrupt things. Then it was the summer holidays and I didn't want to do it then because E would be off to uni soon and there were more exciting things to be doing with her than decorating. So, that's why it was over 6 months later that I finally got around to doing the other half. It was badly timed. Having to have the curtains down and not wanting to effectively sit in a goldfish bowl every evening meant that when R came home from work, we ate in the dark! He complained that when he came in cold after cycling from the station, he wanted cosy and warm, not unwelcoming, disrupted and dark. It did, however, only take a week, so he put up with it and now we're back to normal again. I also managed to put my back out. I can only assume that it was when I was lying on the floor to paint the skirting boards and kept twisting round to reach the paint positioned behind me. Whatever caused it, it put me out of action for over a week. My running ground to a halt and there was lots of moaning, Ibuprofen and hot water bottles. 

Talking of running, I think in my last post I was in week 5 of my Couch to 5K programme and was bemoaning the fact that I could just about run for 8 minutes and the next day I was supposed to do 20. I had planned to ignore the programme and build up to the 20 minutes gradually at my own pace. When I thought about it further, however, I came to the conclusion that there must be a reason for the big jump up and thought it was probably more a case of overcoming some sort of mental barrier. The following day, I donned my ratty running gear, set the timer for 20 minutes (yes, I do run with a small digital kitchen timer - it counts down and I don't have to squint at my watch when running) and set off. I thought that if I couldn't manage the 20 minutes, I would just stop whenever - no big deal right? At times, when the going was uphill, I slowed right down to the point where it was almost strolling/jogging (strogging?!), but I kept going and before I knew it, the 20 minutes were up and I was doing a little happy dance right there in the street! Then, of course, I put my back out and couldn't go again for nearly 2 weeks. Getting back to it was tough. I've mentioned before that I don't exactly set out on running days with a song in my heart and after nearly a 2 week break, it was harder than usual. I forced myself out there though and am now on week 7 running for 25 minutes. Yesterday was the first day that I did it at the gym. It was very icy round here and I didn't want to risk slipping, so the gym it was and I actually enjoyed it. Admittedly, I felt the need to look a bit smarter but it wasn't too crowded, I managed to work out how to use the machine all by myself, I listened to my ipod and the view over the frosty racecourse was beautiful. Dare I say that I'm actually looking forward to tomorrow's run?!

Here are a few more snippets from the last few weeks:
I finished another pair of socks:
I accidentally bought a Yarnit! Yes, it really was an accident. I don't think you can get them in the UK and I was looking at them on Amazon.com. The price quoted was in $ and there was a button to convert it to £. I pushed it thinking it was just a converter and a message popped up congratulating me on my purchase. That took a bit of explaining to R! I do love it though and it looks very cute sitting on my coffee table in all its turquoise glory.
One of last week's library books. I really enjoyed this. It's a charming story about the Queen, who one day pops into a mobile library at Buckingham Palace and discovers a love of reading. It becomes all encompassing and starts to impact on her royal duties. I'd definitely recommend it if you like Alan Bennett's style.
When the girls and I visited Blenheim Palace in the summer, we updated our tickets to a yearly pass. A couple of weekends ago they were holding a Living Crafts fair, so R and I drove to Oxford, collected L, and we went along. It was a lovely, if cold, day and I rashly decided that a winter picnic would be a nice idea.

I think I was the only one that was keen. L valiantly tried to show enthusiasm, R just moaned. We sat outside on a cold bench, trying to enjoy the view. At one point it started to rain and R moaned some more. Cross words were said, the picnic bolted down at lightning speed and we quickly adjourned to the coffee shop to warm up!

The craft fair was fun to look round and we did a tour of the house, so not all was bad. There was also a brass band playing carols which added to the festivities. R upgraded his ticket too, so I'm sure that we'll be back. Possibly in Bridget the Midget and definitely when it's a bit warmer.
I also managed a trip to Bristol to visit E. We had a lovely day - watching 'Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them', visiting the Christmas market and sharing a  felafel and halloumi burger and a red pepper and feta quesadilla at Giraffe. I hated leaving her but am consoling myself with the thought that it's nearly the Christmas holidays and she'll be home again.

One last thing, I finished my second Hitchhiker scarf in a self striping Anatola yarn by Louisa Harding. To be honest, it was a bit of a disaster. At one point I noticed that I had dropped a stitch. I tried frogging it back and managed to get into a complete tangle - something to do with the increases at the end. I ended up chopping out a huge chunk of the yarn, consequently losing one of the pink stripes, so when laid out flat the pattern looks off. I was also running out of yarn towards the end, so my bind off was really tight and puckers the edge. It doesn't look too bad on, but I find the yarn slightly scratchy  on my neck (I bought it online - there's a lesson there!), so I don't know how much I will wear it. All in all, not one of my finer moments.
Anyway, that's all for the moment. It's December 1st today, so I'm off to dig out my Grinch Christmas Project bag and transfer my current pair of socks into it. Then I'm off to do some Christmas shopping. Fa La La La La!
Wishing you all a wonderful week.
Toodle Pip for now. x

Monday, 7 November 2016

'Trio of Blessings'

I believe that it was in Marian Keyes' book 'The Brightest Star in the Sky', that I first came across the idea of a 'trio of blessings'. Each night, one of her characters forces herself to think of 3 positive things that have happened that day. If I remember correctly, at one point things get so bad that the best she can come up with is: 'I'm not dead, I'm not dead, I'm not dead'. It's something that I have adopted and do each night before going to sleep. Sometimes the blessings can be really mundane - 'dinner was nice' and that sort of thing. Yesterday's was easy. I'm into week 5 of my Couch to 5K and yesterday was the first time that I have run for 8 minutes without stopping - that was blessing number 1. Blessing number 2 happened just as I was doing a walking section. As I crossed over the river, a kingfisher flew under the bridge and landed on the branch of a nearby tree. It stopped me dead in my tracks. Despite living with the river at the bottom of our garden for 17 years, this is the first kingfisher I have ever seen. It was beautiful and I ran the rest of the way home with a huge grin on my face. Blessing number 3, if you're interested, was lighting the stove in the evening and doing some knitting whilst watching the film 'Agatha'. Blessing number 2 will take some beating though and I think that every run from now on may be a bit of an anticlimax! 
Talking of running, according to the schedule stuck to my fridge, tomorrow's run should see me running for 20 minutes - well 'Ha' is all I can say. Given that I can just about do 8 minutes, that seems quite a step up. I think I may just ignore the programme and build up to it gradually in my own time.

Other blessings recently have included:
Going for a drive in 'Bridget the Midget' to the Cotswolds. We stopped off in Burford for lunch and then carried on to Stow on the Wold. The buildings were beautiful and the shops lovely to look round. They did, however, all seem to be aimed at tourists and R and I wondered where the locals go if they want 'normal' shops like W.H.Smiths or Boots.
 My new sheepy progress keeper: 
 Watching Hamish enjoying his birthday presents on October 31st . Yes, he really was born on Hallowe'en - our own little devil bunny. Incidentally, that suspicious looking pile is part of a dandelion and carrot treat that he has just demolished: 
 The carved pumpkin that the girls made when they both came home for the weekend. Them being home was a lovely blessing.
 A dog walk in the woods with a friend to enjoy the last of the autumn leaves:


 A cold autumn afternoon spent in the kitchen making marmalade for R:
 A trip to Bath to meet my friend, S. This time, we both decided to take the train, rather than driving. It was lovely and allowed me to do a bit more sock knitting. The only difficulty arose on the way home, when I ended up stuck at Westbury station, waiting for my connecting train for an hour and a quarter. Let me tell you that Westbury station's waiting room needs better heating!
 My Veggie Tex Mex burger for lunch:
 Finishing the hat that I bought the wool for at the Ally Pally knitting and stitching show. I wear it in Bridget when it's cold and the refrain 'Is my pompom still attached?' rings out frequently! 
 Harvesting some of my veggies:
Finally, one of the best bits of autumn:
Well, that's all for this week. The supermarket run awaits and then I have to go and buy some paint as the decorating bug has well and truly bitten. Wishing you many blessings of your own in the coming weeks.

Toodle pip for now. xx

Thursday, 20 October 2016

London .............. again

We live about an hour away from London by train. Not far really, after all, R commutes there every day, but normally I only visit a few times a year. Unusually for me, therefore, I have been 3 times in the past 3 weeks. First, there was the knitting and stitching show at the Ally Pally, which I have mentioned here before. Then last week, L had her 'call to the Bar' ceremony at Lincoln's Inn. She and I went up during the day and, after running a few errands, met up with R in time for the action. It was such a proud moment seeing her in all her finery. As one of her friends commented on seeing the photos - she looked 90% super professional and 10% fancy dress! The ceremony itself was held in the Inn's beautiful chapel. People walked up one aisle as students, were called to the 'honourable society' and then walked back down the other aisle as barristers, grinning broadly. By request, there was no applause during the ceremony itself, but afterwards the audience were asked to 'make some noise' so that the new barristers could hear them outside. I lowered the tone by whooping loudly and then was terribly embarrassed as I was the only one who did! After the ceremony, there were speeches, canapes and champagne and then we celebrated with a Thai meal and made our way home. 
 Finally, yesterday R had managed to get 2 tickets to see a Radio 4 show being recorded at RADA. The show was called 'Reluctant Persuaders' and is a comedy about an advertising agency starring, among others, Nigel Havers and Josie Lawrence. We actually saw 2 episodes being recorded, one of which had Martin Jarvis as a special guest star and he stole the show with his marvelous voice. He also seemed a genuinely lovely man as he sat at the back of the stage beaming whilst the others did their bit.
As well as watching the recording, I went in early and spent the day pottering round London. Here are a few photos of my day:
Knitting socks on the train:
 Visiting the Harry Potter shop at King's Cross. I actually bought a couple of items here but I won't say what they are as they are Christmas presents for my girls.
 There was a long queue of people waiting to have their photos taken here:
 Then I caught the tube to Islington to visit Loop:
I had never been before and was agog at all the lovely yarns; it would be extremely easy to get carried away and spend a fortune. I was restrained and bought 3 skeins of yarn for a shawl and a small pot of lavender and mint hand balm.
I still had a few hours to kill before we had to get to RADA, so I made my way to Trafalgar Square to visit the National Gallery.

I ought to insert a little explanation for my visit here. On Sunday, R and I dropped L back in Oxford and took her for lunch here:

We sat outside by the river watching people punting (with varying degrees of success!) and shared a mezze platter. Afterwards, we went back to her flat for a cup of hot chocolate (it was actually colder than it looks in the photo!) and whilst we were there, we had a little play on J's virtual reality computer. There was one particular 'game' called 'The Night Cafe' which I loved. It was very clever - someone had taken Van Gogh's paintings and incorporated them into a cafe setting which you could 'walk' round. There was his famous chair in a corner, people from portraits sitting at tables, a vase of sunflowers, views of starry skies out of the window etc. - you get the idea. All the while you were exploring, you could hear piano music and, on entering another room, there was a pianist playing and Van Gogh sitting in a chair smoking and listening. Occasionally he would get up and walk around. It was so unexpected and I found it a bit overwhelming - rather embarrassingly, there may have been a few tears! The only thing I didn't enjoy was when I found myself at the top of some steep stairs and my acrophobia kicked in, but apart from that it was beautiful. Anyway, back to yesterday, I had an urge to see some of his paintings again, hence the visit to the gallery. 

'A Wheat field with Cypresses' is my favourite. I can remember coming to the gallery a few years ago for a birthday treat. R, I remember, loved a particular portrait of a pope - I can't recall which one or who the artist was, but it was so lifelike that it could have been a photograph ............... and it left me cold; it did absolutely nothing for me. Then I found myself standing in front of Van Gogh's wheat field with tears in my eyes (it happens a lot!) because it was so beautiful. R couldn't understand it and thought that it looked like a 3 year old had painted it ............. each to his/her own I suppose. 
I bought some note cards in the gallery shop, to jazz up my letters to E at uni, and then it was time to meet up with R. By this time my legs were starting to ache - I had made the mistake of going for my morning run (still going, CT!) before catching the train and it had been a long day, so I met R and limped my way here:
 Apologies for the blurry photo but it was starting to get dark and my camera isn't the best.
After the recording we hopped in a taxi and headed for Paddington but, as usual, the last direct train had left and we got as far as Reading before having to catch the dreaded bus alternative. I was a little concerned as I had had to park the car in a car park that locked automatically at 12:30. Luckily, we just made it in time.
So, those are my 3 trips to London recently. I'm not saying that I'm "tired of London", but I think I may leave it a little while before my next visit.
That's all for the moment. Wishing you all a wonderful week.
Toodle pip for now. x


Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Couch to 5K

It all started with the lovely CT from Countryside Tales. After reading her wonderfully inspiring post about her running, I decided to give it a go. For a while I had wondered about the Couch to 5K programme, but other things and my natural indolence always got in the way. My exercise of choice is swimming, with a little yoga and sometimes pilates thrown in, just to shake things up a bit. Running was something that R and other people did. I can remember doing it at school but I was never particularly good, nor did I enjoy it much, so I'm not sure why CT's post made me want to reach for my trainers ......... but it did. I printed off the Couch to 5K itinerary, stuck it to the fridge, donned my gym shorts and a ratty, oversized T shirt and off I went.

I find, like with most things, that there are pluses and minuses. The biggest plus so far is the feeling when I walk through the door afterwards. The house feels lovely and warm, I have my breakfast smoothie whilst cooling down and then enjoy a warm shower. I feel virtuous and, if I'm honest, more than a little relieved that it is over for 2 days! I feel less guilty about sneeking the odd biscuit and when R and I had to run for a connecting train on the way back from London this week (missing the train is a big deal round here - you can find yourself stuck on a cold station, waiting for the midnight bus alternative - the one that takes over an hour winding along the country lanes and stopping at every god forsaken station between Reading and our destination), I did it without a second thought. 

As for the minuses - well, I'm waiting for the time when I actually look forward to running. At the moment, I'm still forcing myself to leave the house and I'm hoping that this will improve. Also, I'm only at the end of the 2nd week. There wasn't much of a step up between weeks 1 and 2, but next time, I will have to run for 3 minutes at a time. I know to some of you, that might not sound like much, but for me it's a big deal! I wear an analogue watch and don't have a snazzy phone, so whilst I'm running, I'm constantly squinting myopically at the tiny second hand to time the sessions. I tried counting instead, but find that I'm too easily distracted and forget where I'm up to! The mornings are getting colder and there will come a time when it gets frosty and slippery underfoot. I can choose to run at the gym but that means driving there and I'd also feel the urge to make myself look more presentable before going. The biggest minus though is other people. It's nice at the weekend because, although I wait until it's light before setting off, people are having a lie in, so I don't see many of them. On week days, however, there are people driving to work and children walking to school and I don't like puffing my way, beetroot faced, past teenagers, who I feel want to snigger at my middle aged attempts. Then there is 'white van man' who feels the need to call comments or whistle as he drives past. I can rarely make out the comments, but I find I am very quick on the draw with my hand gesture in reply. It's a reflex action; please don't judge me! Finally, I worry about what running on pavements is doing for my knee joints. I could run in the park on the grass but I'm sure that wet feet wouldn't improve the experience.
So, there you have it, my running journey so far. I know that it's very early days, but I feel that by writing about it here, I might force myself to keep going and, looking at the list of minuses compared to the pluses, I need all the motivation I can get! So go over to CT's blog and read about her far more impressive running experiences. If she can inspire me, she can inspire anyone!

Other happies this week:

R and I went to a local Classic Car Show. Sadly, his beloved 'Bridget the Midget' (or 'The Lady' as I like to refer to her in my head - see the adult Ladybird Book of 'The Midlife Crisis'!) was off the road and we had to take my car, but we took a picnic and the weather was glorious.

 I find I have a yearning for a camper van!
 On Wednesday, I went to the Knitting and Stitching Show at the Ally Pally:
I had a wonderful day, but did feel that a little more seating would have been a good idea. I took a sandwich and bought a coffee from one of the stands but, finding the seats all occupied,  I sat on the floor with a bunch of other ladies - the more elderly of whom had more than a little difficulty standing up again!
Here are my treats for the day: a pottery yarn bowl, a skein of yarn from La Maison Tricotee and a hat pattern and yarn from Toft.
 The yarn bowl in action - this is a sockhead hat for E. 
I met up with R after he finished work and we went to an Ethiopian restaurant, Addis, for dinner:
  
I finished my Hitchhiker Scarf. So called because of the number of 'teeth' along one edge ......... that's right, 42.
Finally, a not so happy. On my last visit to Oxford, L had helped me to choose some yarn to make a hat for her boyfriend, J. Yesterday evening saw R holding the skein of yarn, whilst I turned the handle on the winder (we certainly know how to live!). Before I knew what was happening, we had managed to make an almighty tangle that took us well over an hour to sort out. Bad Words were uttered and the scissors used on more than one occasion. I feel that a yarn swift will be making its way onto my Christmas list!
Anyway, that's all for this week. I'm just off to move some dust around the house. Wishing you all a wonderful week. 
Toodle pip for now. x