Sunday, 28 November 2010

more of the same...

tonight we had more snow - even though we didn't have any in the forecast - well, quite a lot more actually! the header photo was taken around noon, and this one later in the afternoon. the sky already had this slightly pink tinge to it, when we went for a walk.
I pity the poor animals in the fields; they have to scratch for grass right now and when we went for that walk they all came running to the feeding ring, but we had nothing for them:(( several horses were trying to shelter behind a stone wall with small trees, but it must be extremely cold for them during the night!
our dog had a lot of fun in the snow though! she loves to dig tunnels with her nose, but she made a very funny face, when she did her usual scratching along the hedge - and was rewarded with a hefty snow shower:)) we also had to shake off the heavy snow load from some of the evergreen trees - the branches bend down - but don't snap upwards again, when the snow is gone! this makes them look extremely straggly, so as long as we can we try to prevent this.

I did manage to make some ornaments, with the perfect snowy background. they look complicated, but actually they are only squares, where you cut along the lines and fold the strips backwards and forwards. in the instructions it said glue, but I don't like to mix felt/fabric with glue, so I used some sewing thread and put a few beads on as deco. 
the sunlight makes the colours a bit garish, they are not quite so "traffic light" inside:))

and I totally forgot to snap a photo of our christmas candle - but have a nice 1st advent anyway!

Saturday, 27 November 2010

winter is back!

it doesn't seem so very long ago that we had a hard winter with lots of snow and ice... and now - it's back again already! when I cycled back from town yesterday huge wet flakes dropped out of the sky and this morning it looked like the photo above. I do like snow and cold winters - it's just that we were supposed to have the last spinner's meeting of the year today! I would have liked to go - but even though the snowfall had stopped, the roads were very icy this morning. and probably will be again tonight!
here a few photos from the garden:
 the slats of the front gate were covered in tiny ice crystals early in the morning! but the black timber warms up very quickly in the sunlight, one hour later there was nothing left....
we picked most rosehips for jam, but a few are still left on the shrubs. their ripe red colour is like a little beacon in all the grey and white out in the garden right now! but the birds seem to prefer the leftover crab apples, there is a small bird war going on at the moment - apparently about who is going to get which apple:)) no need to fight - we left plenty for them on the trees!
this looks like a bucket full of water, covered with a piece of saran wrapping... but it isn't, it's the first needles of ice forming on the water yesterday! this morning the ice layer was solid - time to empty out the bucket, before it cracks! the weather is supposed to stay this cold and the few degrees above zero are not enough to thaw the growing layer of ice completely....
I also brought some of my more tender plants in pots into the dome, which isn't totally frost free, when the temperature goes further down (like last winter!), but should be ok for the next few days - I hope!

well, if you can't change them,  you have to make the best out of things:)) I didn't spin, but I managed to do a few other things - take out the advent deco, prepare the windows for candles etc. this time I learned my lesson and cleaned the snow from the pathway to the front entry immediately - last winter we had an extremely slippery surface there, because the compacted, slightly melted snow turned into sheer ice, which made walking (esp. for the postman!) extremely hazardous. we also had a nice spice cake just now and a hot cup of tea tastes better, when you have done some work in the icy clear air outside!

tomorrow is the first advent sunday - time to put up the lights and some decorations. we don't put up a christmas tree this early as our living room is small - and I would probably go nuts, if I had to walk/work around it for more than a month. but I do put up at least part of my textile decos now, and bit by bit the rest will be put up as time allows. normally I would have made a poppy seed stollen for tomorrow (our very own tradition:)), but I made a cake for my friend, who usually takes me to the meeting - so we still have plenty for tomorrow to eat. in contrast to normal stollen (similar to a christmas pudding, but slightly more "doughy", with a yeast dough base) the poppy seed stollen doesn't keep fresh for a very long time, so I prefer to make a fresh one when needed. and from monday onwards I'll start making cookies.... it already smells like christmas, cinnamon, cloves and baked goods give the kitchen this warm, glowing feeling that I associate with christmas!
time to light the fire - and pull out the knitting!:))

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

what a way to start the day!

as if the economic/politcal situation over here isn't bad enough....

I love to start my day with a fresh mug of tea, into which I put a dash of milk, not too much, just to cut it slightly. well, I did the same as usual:  tea, bag out, open fridge door, milk into the tea.... with the first sip I realized that it was quite strong, I didn't stir the milk in properly.... the second sip..... hm, a bit of a weird taste! might be me, sometimes a cold etc. can give tea a funny taste. with the third sip I noticed a decidedly fruity taste - and a bit acidic it was too! ach, the milk must be off, what a waste of a perfectly good mug of tea!
when I emptied the mug into the sink I saw funny yellow "bits" that had sunk to the bottom - and then it hit me! I didn't add milk to my tea - it was mango/passionfruit smoothie:(( no wonder that the tea tasted weird - maybe I should open my eyes a bit more in the morning?:)) or put the smoothie tetrapack into a different space, not where I usually keep the milk!

one of those days... I won't switch on the news anymore, it's too depressing - and nobody seems to know anything definite just now, but everybody speculates like mad, as if that could help.... and a good piece of advice: don't "spice up" your tea with a dash of smoothie... it tastes yucky:))

Sunday, 21 November 2010

what's this?

this is the result of quite a few hours of work over the last few weeks... what can this be?

christmas cards - and lots of them:)) all in all I made 51 - not all are different or it would have taken me even longer to make them. I made some single cards like the decorated door - but also some batches of 4 or 6 that have a similar design, if not exactly the same. the plan is to make up several small packs to give away - I always need  small gifts around this time of the year and I figured that nearly everyone can use a few christmas cards.
I didn't only cut and glue - of course I knitted something, too. a school sweater is shaping up, only 1 1/2 sleeves are missing. and I tried to knit a pattern from interweave with my "lucious Lucius" yarn. the latter wasn't the best idea - the yarn is soft and feels nice, but I don't like the way the colours spread in this particular design. the short rows on both sides make the colours look rather weird - and I have to say that I don't like the way the short rows form an inverted V at the bottom. I will try the pattern again with a different yarn - but I'll also start differently. I think I'll try fewer stitches as cast-on, increase slowly each row, so that a bowl-shape forms at the bottom. not before christmas though, no time to fiddle about just now:))

I did try another pattern, more successfully, I think. the original is from an Interweave Crochet pattern, the rib is knitted, the lower part is done in crochet. I made the first one in handspun, rather more colourful, but it's to be a present, so I can't show it right now. I couldn't stop myself, when I finished the first one - and made another one in black merino straight away. it's soft and feels very nice - and I think I'll keep it for myself. it's actually called "Lucious collar" - maybe I should have used the other yarn for this one?:))
this has a rather stark contrast due to the flash, but it makes the beads I added to the bottom row more visible. I thought about adding beads to the first collar too, but decided against it, because the yarn was already multi-colour and I don't like to overdo it with a pattern, esp. if it's used as a present, where I don't know the taste of the recipient so well!

I am also nearly finished with the table mat, just a few more rows and maybe a napkin ring as a small accent. the next christmas present is already lined up - the yarn and needles are ready to start tomorrow:)) I also found a lovely christmas decoration I want to make, smaller though, because the christmas red and green felt I have in my stash is too thin to support a larger one. there's a Secret Santa coming up and I need another small idea for this - soon.... so, no rest for the wicked as they say (why for the wicked???)

Thursday, 11 November 2010


some days - things happen that I wouldn't have believed possible!

I'd say we are a reasonably well behaved family. I am 46, but I have never been thrown out anywhere. I assume that is because I don't misbehave so badly that people would have to resort to this. I would have said the same thing for my husband - but today we were taught differently! it was parent-teacher meeting today and given that we're having a minor storm today, DH went on his bike without me (it's a good half hour bike drive to the school). when he came back he looked stunned - and told us that DS's teacher had thrown him out! at first I thought he was having me on - but no, she threw him out of the classroom and refused to talk to him further! the reason? apparently you are allowed (and very welcome to) to praise them to the sky, but you are not allowed to utter criticism - even if you do so politely! at first they talked about how DS is doing in school and all was ok. then my husband dared to tell her that our son seems to be bored in school - first mistake! then he tried to tell her that it's not ok to tell kids off, when they have to yawn during lessons. ok, if one child constantly looks tired and yawns all the time, I would consider it the teacher's duty to talk to the parents about this; maybe the child in question does not get enough sleep. but sending kids out to stand outside the door because they yawn seems to be rather weird to me! everybody has the urge  to yawn at times; it's hart to stifle, might have to do with being bored, but also with lack of exercise and oxygen - how can children be thrown out of the classroom for this? DS told us that she tends to yell very often (I hate sreaming women, never mind screaming teachers:((), she tells kids off for not being fast enough (how can you say to a kid, who isn't fast enough at solving maths problems, that this is worse than pulling teeth???)  etc. all in all I'd say that she was so offended because somewhere deep inside she either knew that her behaviour isn't right - or that she isn't able to discuss something like that like an adult. either way - she didn't only throw my husband out of her classroom - she even told the next waiting parent how badly he insulted her! so much for confidential discussions... the only good thing is that DS is doing his last year in this school - we hope that teachers in secondary school in Ballyhaunis might be a bit more adult about taking criticism....

on a lighter note - I spun two new yarns. one was inspired by this photo:
I like HP inspired yarns etc - as long as they are usable after spinning. and I think Jason Isaacs is perfect in the role of Lucius Malfoy. incredibly arrogant and wearing only the finest garments:)) (Malfoy that is, I doubt that Isaacs is behaving like this:))  it had to be something with black and silver for him - for obvious reasons!

 when I saw my bag of black alpaca top, I knew this would be perfect. sleek and smooth, slightly shiny and deep black. I added some burgundy red (his cloak was lined with that colour in one of the films) and white shiny viscose instead of silver. of course the skulls would match his death eater status, but I wasn't sure during spinning what I'd actually make out of this yarn, so the skulls are only added for photographic purposes (I might attach some later:)). it's a single yarn, smooth and looking slightly sinister (and arrogant:)), just like its inspiration. unfortunately I don't have any snake beads in my stash...
my other yarn is this - one of the most idiotic yarns I've ever spun! that happens when I am not thinking about what I am doing... I chose several blue and one pink corriedale top and spun a marled yarn with it. I liked it, but wanted to tone it down slightly and ply it with another colour, slightly less colourful. which is where the grey alpaca comes in. I started plying as usual (watching tv) - and only noticed halfway through that this yarn behaved a bit oddly... the blue/pink was perfect - but the grey alpaca became more twisted instead of less! all of a sudden I remembered that for reasons unknown (more lack of thinking it through, probably!) I spun the alpaca with s-twist, not with my normal z-twist! and of course I had spun the blue/pink z... argh!! well, it was too late to "unply" the whole lot, so I just kept going, tried not to add too much twist and finished the bobbin. I had high hopes that the overtwist might lessen a bit after washing - which it did, in the blue/pink at least:)) I wasn't too sure about knitting with this - but it turned out ok, so I can go ahead with my planned project.... stupid really - that happens when I get too comfortable in front of the wheel and work without putting at least some thought into it! taught me a lesson (puh, the second one today - no criticism towards teachers - and no brainless spinning either:))

Monday, 8 November 2010

we're getting closer!

halloween is over - the K&S is over - time for christmas preparations:)) yes, I am not joking, of course I am already busy doing presents, otherwise I'd never be ready in time (it's hard enough as it is:)). I already know that I won't be able to embroider all the cards I need, but I prefer to send handmade cards at least, esp. to people, who's only gift from me will be this card. so I started to get a few things, stamps, pencils, glue, and a mag or two with freebies. and then I started, this is the material I spread all over the table last week:

 lots of bits and pieces and at first I was a bit lost - I finally got going by making one card from a magazine. after a little while it became easier and I managed to put some together without mag. samples.

 I esp. like the effect of crushing pastels on paper and working a shadow-like effect  around the stamp, which gives a bit of a glow to the stars on the left. I also like the 3D effect you get from fixing things with little foam "pillows". it's fiddly, but it does look nicer than all flat cards.
and then I had the idea of cutting a window into the card and put see-through plastic into it as a door window. my georgian door complete with holly greens, berries and a wreath - you can see them all over the country around christmas:) I have to say though that this was quite labour intensive and if I made all cards like that I wouldn't get any other things done before christmas:))

a few more examples - I also found a link with free fonts - and even a few about christmas, handy if you want to personalize the greetings a bit!
once you have cut out all the small bits and pieces, the finishing is fairly straightforward - but you do need patience and sharp narrow scissors for that - or buy die-cut bits instead (like the wreath and topiary on the "door" card).

 of course I don't spend all day every day making cards - yesterday morning we had lovely sunshine for a while (before the storm and rain hit us again!). and I went out to get some sloes.....most years the trees don't carry much, but this year has been exceptional! when we arrived in the bog, the first rainclouds arrived and I decided to cut back the wild sloe branches and carry home the branch tips with fruits. it was nice to sit in the warm kitchen, rain lashing down the windows - and picking sloes:)) I'll steam-juice those and make jam, 50/50 with pears, because pure jam/jelly would be quite tart.
look at those sloes - nearly as big as cherries - and some branches were so densely packed, that they look like grapes!
and this - is a very special project to me. you might say: bah, just simple wristwarmers in garter stitch. and you're right - but! I didn't knit them - DS did! he started to knit in school, at first a bit wonky, but he's pretty good at garter stitch by now. the yarn is handspun (by me, he doesn't want to learn how to spin:)), so any irregularities are mine, not his. he made wristwarmers for himself, wore them to school  - and his friend asked if he'd make some for him too. he did - and then I joked and asked: and where are mine? at first he told me to make some myself, but eventually he relented and now I am the proud owner of my first and only pair of wrist warmers! I am not usually cold, but if I am now - I can walk around in style:)) there is still quite a lot of yarn on the ball and he has planned to knit it all up into more wristwarmers.... I think I should introduce him to purl stitches soon....