Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Busy busy busy

I have been grinding on with various useful tasks today, none of which were terribly exciting until the evening, when I went to B&Q to buy materials for a Mystery Piggy Project. The boy and I then did some sawing and sanding. Pictures when we finish!

(See what I do to try to induce some dramatic tension?)

Then we built the Billy Bookcase which has been languishing in our spare room for two weeks. It looks beautifully empty now, but I promise it won't stay like that.

Billy bookcase (and Billy Cow)

The books in the picture are not in any kind of arrangement - they were hanging about on the landing waiting to be reshelved. I keep all my fiction in alphabetical order, which may be a little mad as it means that if I buy a new book by Margaret Atwood, everything after "Atwood" has to be shuffled along. Still, I can always find everything.

Other things that happened today: some yarn arrived in the post and I spent some time admiring its beauty:


It's going to be stripy socks. I need to finish my current socks first, though!

And the Christmas Elf arrived. A little late - he should really have been here yesterday, but he's a busy elf. Every home should have one.

Christmas Elf

By the way, if you are currently elfless, my mother is having a giveaway at her blog which includes this elf's cousin, among other Christmassy prizes. The deadline is the 8th of December.

And now I must go to bed as it's midnight!

(In answer to questions in comments: they're silicone muffin cups, from our local budget supermarket - for some reason they do really nice cookware! And the potatoes are Pink Fir Apple and you don't need to peel them; they're the waxy type that are best boiled.)

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Happy Advent!

Or, if you're not contemplating the advent of anything in particular, Happy December.

Sorry. NaBloPoMo was a resounding Fail this year. I don't know quite what happened, but I lost the rhythm somewhere there.

Still, new month, new attempt to blog a bit. Two weeks ago, rather to my surprise, I managed to sort out my annual leave for the year. Because of various events beyond my (or anyone's) control, I had a lot left - more than I had working days left this year, in fact.

And they're letting me take them. I don't have to work again in 2009 :)

Funny-shaped potatoes

This is something of a boon as I have this thesis to finish. The original plan was to have a first draft in by Christmas. I don't know whether I'll manage that, but it's looking a lot more likely than it was.

In addition to which, I have had time to do things like dig up our homegrown potatoes (see above) and make chocolate-cherry cupcakes.

Chocolate-cherry cupcakes

The cupcakes are very good indeed. Possibly not health food. Oh well, chocolate has antioxidants in it...

Monday, November 16, 2009

Petty scofflaws

So apparently it is the law that you can't go to IKEA without buying tealights and napkins (see yesterday's comments).

Well, I may be incriminating myself here, but we didn't buy either of those. In the interests of full disclosure, this is what we came home with:

* A steel vegetable dish with a ceramic lid
* Four white pasta bowls
* A washing-up brush
* A sieve
* The famous salad spinner
* A shower curtain
* Two venetian blinds (for the bathroom and the downstairs loo)
* A Billy bookcase

J is not very big on candles, being afraid of fire, so I don't think I have ever bought tealights from IKEA. We have a small box of Sainsbury's Basics ones in case of powercuts, but they have remained unopened since we moved here, I think.

Come to think of it, I would normally call little candles in metal casings "nightlights". What's the connection with tea? Do you put them under your samovar, if you happen to have such a thing?

Neither the venetian blinds nor the Billy have been assembled yet. My family have meanwhile been suggesting that buying a new Billy is a bad idea, because it may provide more book storage but doesn't address the real problem, which is that I buy too many books. A bit like extracting oil from tar sands.

I have pointed out that it was J's idea to buy another Billy (which may make him an enabler of my book addiction, but there we go). Also, if you have lots of books, you're sequestering carbon. Right?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Crisis over?

We now have a theory about why the piggies were nibbled (though not who did it). I mentioned it can be a sign of stress.

Last week we had to remove their little wooden house temporarily on a couple of occasions, because they had got it wet and it had to be cleaned and dried out (guinea pigs don't do well in damp conditions). This definitely freaked them out a bit and they all crammed into the other shelter, which they don't normally sleep in. I wonder if that's when the nibbling happened.

In any case, we have made a trip to the petshop and bought them a new plastic house, which will be readily washable and should give them a safe place to hide even if we have to take their wooden house out again. You're really supposed to provide one hiding-place per pig, and while we had the wooden house, a cardboard tube, and a shelter, we didn't have a spare if any needed to be removed.

No more nibbling has taken place. Fingers crossed.

We also went to IKEA yesterday and bought various household items, including a salad spinner. Apparently my husband has always yearned for one. Known him for eleven years, but he can still surprise me!

So we are not going to worry too much, and going out for Sunday lunch. See you later!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Good news, bad news

J's parents are here, which is lovely. It is J's dad's birthday today, which is also good.

Not so good is that two of our piggies, Brownie and Pumpkin, seem to have nibbled patches in their fur, on their cheeks - which means that they didn't do it themselves. This is known as barbering and it's not a good thing - it can be a sign of stress or aggression, and can be a forerunner of biting. The un-nibbled pig is Cupcake, who is about as aggressive as a cotton-wool ball, as far as we can tell.

So maybe Brownie and Pumpkin are doing it to each other? But it seems very odd that the patches would be in exactly the same place, which they are. We've never seen any of them behaving aggressively, so it's hard to tell.

I have posted for advice on a guinea pig forum and am awaiting developments. We do tend to worry about our piggies' health far more than we probably need to; but then they can't talk, so they can't tell us if something's wrong.

Whatever is wrong, it's not life-threatening and we can take them to the vet next week if we need to. Think about something positive.

It's six weeks until Christmas! I feel fairly positive about this; I like Christmas. Yesterday I saw that they had started to put up the Winter Wonderland amusements on Princes Street. I've never been on the big wheel, but I like the way it looks.

Different angle

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Fusion music

As I cycled home tonight* after doing a bit of late-night shopping, I passed one of the touristy shops selling Scottish souvenirs that infest the centre of Edinburgh. You can usually tell when you're getting near one because of the very loud piped bagpipe music which will be blaring out. (I'm really glad I don't live above one.)

The music sounded a bit odd. As I was stopped at a set of traffic lights, I had a minute or two to listen to it.

It was the Can-Can. Arranged for massed pipes.

*Don't worry, Mum, I had my lights and my new helmet and everything.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A red hat

I went back to work and tackled my e-mail backlog, as you do.

Then I came home, and tried on the latest product of my needles, which had been drying out after being blocked (soaked in water and re-shaped).

Fibonacci cable hat (and Brownie)

I like red hats. A significant proportion of all the hats I've ever owned have been red. Maybe it's the result of early exposure to the Amazon pirates.

Anyway, this red hat is particularly fine because the cables get bigger from the crown following the Fibonacci sequence. I don't suppose Captain Nancy would have been terribly impressed with that, but I like it.

Brownie and hat

Brownie's not that impressed, either.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Nothingy kind of day

So most people seem to much prefer either summer or winter?

I don't feel as strongly about it as I used to - when I was a teenager I actively disliked summer. Partly, I suspect, because I didn't like wearing summer clothes because the choice seemed to be between "revealing" and "frumpy" and because I felt hot and pink and undignified.

These days I'm not quite so self-conscious, and also I garden, so I like the period when everything's blooming or fruiting. And I like the light. Not good at waking up when it's dark. But I do like cooler weather, in general - maybe I have a tendency to hibernate.

Today was a nothingy kind of day in which I typed up stuff for the Dreaded Thesis, interspersed with brief bouts of messing around on Ravelry. Sorry. Some days are like that. I did cuddle my little furry friends several times, and fed them grapes.


Do not get between a guinea pig and her grape.

I go back to work tomorrow after my two-week-plus absence with the Virus. That'll come as a shock to the system...

Frosty morning

Frosty morning

This was the view from my bedroom window this morning - the first frost of the year. It was pretty chilly when I ventured out to go to the supermarket.

Although I feel slightly cheated if it's cold and rainy in summer, I never mind the cold in autumn or winter. To every thing there is a season, and all that. I would rather deal with cold weather than hot weather, because I find it much easier to warm up than cool down.

Besides, I prefer winter clothes to summer clothes any day. There's something satisfying about getting out the flannel pyjamas and long socks and woolly scarves and hats. I like to be prepared for all eventualities, though it must be said that our winters aren't really very harsh in southern Scotland. I might feel differently if I had to struggle through feet of snow.

Even without severe cold, though, the onset of autumn is a good excuse to do a bit of nesting at home, and to wrap up and go for brisk walks.

And to contemplate knitting woolly socks.

Loot from Woolfest

Sunday, November 08, 2009


Towards St Abbs Head

Yesterday got off to a very good start. We made good time down the A1 (we had borrowed Mum and Dad's car for the day). J does not love driving, but it was one of those bright crisp autumn days and there was no traffic to speak of.

St Abbs is not a big place and even with my less than reliable sense of direction, we had no trouble finding the community hall. However, there were no alpacas (or angora goats) outside this time. C'est la vie. I suppose autumn isn't really baby goat season.

We had slightly more difficulty getting into the hall for some reason - the door should have been perfectly obvious, but we ended up circumnavigating the hall completely before we could get in. Oops. But once we were in, we were greeted with tables covered as far as the eye could see in lovely colours:

A sea of yarn

It wasn't very long before I encountered Ysolda (Edinburgh's local superstar designer) and Jeni of Fyberspates, who I hadn't met before, but who dyes some of my favourite yarns. I bought my first skein of Fyberspates yarn at the last Woolfest in March, and several more have followed - it's all so pretty and lovely to knit with.

I said I would look at all the yarn before investing in any, but I became entrapped by a lovely skein of chunky green twirly yarn in the Fyberspates bargain tub and had to buy it before anyone else did.

Tea and yarn

It was only £2! Major bargain. It's very, very soft. After this triumph J and I fortified ourselves with tea and scones before looking at the rest of the stalls.

Pretty pretty skeins

At most of them, something like the following conversation took place:

Me: Feel this: isn't it soft? It's got cashmere in it. And look what a lovely colour!
J: Very nice. What could you make with that?
Me: Oh, socks. Or a little shawl. Or some fingerless gloves, maybe.
J: Mmmm.
Me: I suppose £12 is a bit expensive for socks. Hmmm, look, this one's pretty too. It might be harder-wearing. Maybe I should get this one.
J: Yes, it's nice too.

And so on. The boy deserves a medal.

In the end, I bought two skeins of sock yarn (a bright springy green from The Yarn Yard, and a green/blue/purple Sheila's Sock Yarn from Fyberspates) and the blue skein in the photo above. I think this was very restrained.

Then J and I went for a little scenic walk around St Abbs.

St Abb's Head

St Abb's Village

I don't know if you can read this (click for bigger), but the sign says "Harbourmaster's Office".

Harbourmaster's office

"It looks suspiciously like a shed" - J.


Unlike when I was there in March and nearly froze and blew away over the North Sea, the weather was calm and still. There were some people at the harbour preparing to go scuba diving.

Twilight terrace

By now it was mid-afternoon and already starting to look a little evening-ish. The light goes early in Scotland after the equinox. We headed back up the hill and drove off to a country pub - unfortunately arriving after they had finished serving lunch. Oops again. They did us a very nice lemonade and packet of crisps each, though, and we may go back for their beer festival next week - J undoubtedly deserves an outing of his choosing after his patience with my wool-gathering!

We had a lovely time

and I'll tell you all about it tomorrow!

The alpacas didn't materialise, but the scones did. I did indeed meet some Ravellers. And I have four nice new woolly colourful bundles to play with.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

I leave the house

Today I wrapped myself up in a big coat and ventured out into the rain to go and have lunch with my sister. Our offices are just a couple of streets apart, so we try to do this every week, and it's so lovely to see her.

I handed over the mitts - they fit, and L seems pleased with them (though she would never ever let me know if she wasn't, because she's lovely!) I am pleased with them myself - they're the best mitts I've done yet, I think, and the neatest as regards the finishing off. I didn't have any holes to sew up at the thumb joint, which is a first.

After lunch I wandered down to John Lewis and bought a clear acrylic desk-tidy thingy in which to put all the notebooks that live on our telephone shelf. Then I went to the café for a cup of peppermint tea. I know how to live.

Tomorrow J and I are going to the Woolfest in St Abb's, a village in the Borders. I am going to look at all the nice yarn (and maybe, just maybe, buy some). J is going because... well, because he's a good husband, really. And he can drive and I can't. I have told him there will probably be alpacas, which are cute, and tea and scones. I hope it lives up to my build-up!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

More about knitting and guinea pigs

This is great. The way this is going, I can spend the entire month just answering the comments... well, maybe not. But the snag about starting this in a week when I was recovering from being ill is that I haven't done very much other than knit.


Anna wants to know if guinea pigs go to sleep on you (presumably while you're knitting) or move about.

Guinea pigs are weird animals - most of them don't sleep very much at all. They alternate between twenty minutes of moving about and twenty minutes of sitting still - but looking perfectly alert - all day and all night. How they get by on so little sleep is a mystery as yet unsolved by science. It's thought that they take micro-naps but never sleep deeply at all.

I've known some guinea pigs for years without ever seeing them close their eyes. We do see Pumpkin and Cupcake catnapping, but Brownie is pretty much always alert. Cupcake is the sleepiest pig I've ever known, but even she has only gone to sleep outside her cage once (when she was a baby).

They do sit fairly still when they're on our laps, though. A restless pig is usually a pig that needs a toilet break.

Loth, I'm sorry that I can't show them knitting. Can I offer you an intelligent mouse instead?

Meanwhile, I have finished knitting the mitts for my sister. They were a commission rather than a surprise, so I feel I can show you photos without any trouble:

Reverse Smurfette hat with mitts

Lacy mitts for L

You can see the lacy bit better in the second photo, but I thought I'd better put the first one up just to prove I did knit two! The other knitted thing is a hat, not knitted by me, from which I copied the lace pattern.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Knitting with guinea pigs

Loth wants to know how you knit with guinea pigs.

Well, to be honest I don't.

I have crocheted a guinea pig:

And they often help me take photographs of finished projects:

But frankly, when it comes to the actual knitting, they're not that helpful.

Monday, November 02, 2009

She feels accomplished

Today I succeeded in reverse-engineering a very simple lace motif.

This may mean nothing to you if you don't knit, but it represents a step forward in my knitting abilities. Previously I have managed to knit lace, sort of, by following the directions blindly without knowing what the different stitches actually do. Now I can - just about - look at a knitted item (provided it's not too complicated) and work out roughly how it was made.

The current project is a pair of fingerless mitts for my sister - they're working out nicely so far. I didn't invent the whole pattern - it's adapted from this one, which I've knitted before and is simple and very comfortable. I am so grateful to all the people who put free patterns up!

Sunday, November 01, 2009

(clears throat) Is this thing on?

Hello world!

I haven't felt like blogging for ages and ages. But since it's November, month of Nablopomo, I feel inspired to give it another go.

In the interim I've been away twice (to Crieff and to Norfolk) and spent a lot of time thinking about Freedom of Information for my thesis, knitting and playing with my guinea pigs.

OK, maybe that's not very exciting. So I'm going to set a goal for November, which is to do (at least) one fun and interesting thing every week, and write about it. It may be generally interesting. It may only be interesting to me. We'll see how it works out. I'll tag the relevant entries "Thing".

This week's Thing may have to be quiet and gentle as I'm recovering from a nasty virus, but I have to start somewhere!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


In the past few weeks, I have had something approaching a social life. I spent a lovely day with Rosemary Riveter and her parents, and we went to the current exhibition in the Queen's Gallery (The Conversation Piece: Scenes of Fashionable Life. It was good, especially as Rosie looks at pictures for about as long as I do.)

Then later in the week, I went to the knit night at K1 Yarns, which was very pleasant. I met lots of lovely people, including Wendy aka Tartanqueen, who I know from Ravelry. I also got quite a lot of sock knitted simply because I could knit uninterrupted for a couple of hours. I wasn't able to go back last week because I had to collect my bike (it was in the workshop - I managed to break the axle!) but I'm sure I will return. And I'll bring my crocheted guinea pig as requested.

Last weekend my parents-in-law made a flying visit. J took Friday off work to entertain them, which was just as well since somehow I failed to realise in advance that they were leaving on Sunday morning. (Whenever I think I'm getting better at knowing what's going on and organising myself accordingly, I do something like this.)

Despite this, we had a nice time, I think, if somewhat low-key.

All this socialising is very nice, but it is causing me to think that I am on holiday. Which I'm not. Soon I will have to get seriously going on my thesis (I'm still in the writing-vague-plans stage) and this is making me a bit nervous.

However, this week I will genuinely be on holiday at least some of the time. We are going up to Crieff for a few days. Crieff has the advantage of perfect, perfect familiarity; there is plenty to do if you want it, or you could just go for walks. Or sit and read books. No pressure.

We are taking the guinea pigs with us. I'll let you know how that goes...

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Time passes

That was not meant to be a nearly three-month hiatus.

I didn’t feel much like blogging for a while. I was doing a big project at work which was stressing me out, and was working late a lot and then coming home and feeling that I had no brain or energy left to blog with. Yeah, I know; I only work three days a week. There we go.

Cupcake chills out

2009 has been a depressing kind of year in so many ways, which has probably contributed to making me feel that I want to draw my head in, like a tortoise. It’s not had too much of an impact on J and me; we still have our jobs, and we’re doing OK. J has been feeling well enough to go to work for much of this year, as well, which is fantastic, although tiring in its own way as he has needed a lot of support. We’re beginning to feel we might be able to do grown-up things like book exciting holidays and actually expect J to be well enough to go, but we’ve been so tired out by the daily round that we just don’t feel like it. Yet. Things are getting better.

What happened in the past three months? Let’s see. We redecorated the entrance hall/stairway/landing of our house, and hung some pictures up. I did quite a lot of work in the garden, mostly on the lawn (boring) but also growing vegetables from seed and some flowers.


We did a lot of cycling and fitted panniers to J’s bike so that he can carry more stuff on it – I’ve had panniers for a long time and they do make a bike a lot more useful. We visited my brother in Dumfriesshire, which was lovely and very relaxing. I read quite a lot of books and did some knitting.

I completed the six-month fitness course in the gym; at the end of it, I still hadn’t lost any significant weight, although I was running a good bit faster and lifting heavier weights. A couple of weeks later, feeling my motivation starting to sag a bit, I had a couple of sessions with a personal trainer. This resulted in a new programme which relies almost entirely on free weights rather than machines, and a different sort of interval training (much shorter intervals, but higher intensity).

The new programme is interesting, and I enjoy it while I’m doing it, but it is definitely more demanding and takes longer to do than my old routine. Instead of having different days for upper and lower body, I do all the muscle groups every time. I know that the old programme wasn’t having quite the impact I wanted, but sometimes the new one feels like a lot to tackle in one session.

For that reason, a few weeks ago I took a break from it until my big work project was finished. I know that exercise is supposed to give you more energy, but if I’m too exhausted to do anything else, then it’s not working. I’ll be resuming this week, but if it continues to be too difficult to keep up, I will think about following the same basic outlines but splitting up the exercises into upper/lower body days to make the overall routine shorter. It won’t be as high-impact, but it will have more impact than not doing it because it’s too much!

Num num num

The piggies are in good health and are not suffering from exhaustion in the slightest.


Summer has arrived in Scotland and last weekend we went to the beach and swam in the sea. No photographs were taken of this. This is what the sky looked like that weekend, though. It’s not so hot now, but still feels like summer – maybe the second half of 2009 will be a bit more promising?

Fuchsia and blue sky

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Pounding away

I've now completed three-and-a-third weeks of the six-week fitness challenge I signed up for at the gym. It's going pretty well, I think. As usual, I'm enjoying the weights more than the running. but the running is all right, especially since I started remembering to bring my headphones with me. I can't listen to music while running on a treadmill (I always try to match the rhythm of the music, not the treadmill, which isn't a great idea) but I can watch TV. Countdown is surprisingly good to run to - all those ticking clocks make the time go by more quickly!

I'm noticing the same patterns I remember from before: lower-body exercises are easy; upper-body exercises that use free weights (all dumbbells in this case) are harder but progress is being made; and upper-body exercises that use machines are hard and deeply unrewarding. I think it may be simply that the machines are designed to accommodate much broader shoulders, but aren't adjustable in that direction. Maybe I need to find dumbbell exercises to replace those, too.

The only disadvantage to the dumbbell exercises is, again, perfectly familiar - I'm always the only girl in the bench gym. I'm really not sure why, as you do see the occasional woman in the Olympic gym, and lots of women use the machines. Or maybe the place is full of women on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, and I just don't see them...

I've been increasing the weights for every exercise except the dreaded upper-body machines, and I've increased my average speed for the interval training. I've also noticed an improvement while cycling. I haven't lost any weight to speak of, though. Hmmmm.

The disadvantage of all this gymming is that I tend to come home pretty tired, which has (as you can see) had a knock-on effect on my blogging. Often I just don't feel like turning the computer on. Maybe this will change as my fitness levels improve - let's hope so.

Notwithstanding my poor blogging record lately, I seem to have garnered an award.

I know for some people this sort of thing is old hat, but I have never (to my knowledge) been given an award before! Thank you, Warty Mammal.

1. Put the logo on your blog or post
2. Nominate at least 10 blogs which show great Attitude and/or Gratitude!
3. Be sure to link to your nominees within your post.
4. Let them know that they have received this award by commenting on their blog.
5. Share the love and link to the person from whom you received your award.

Actually, I will need to think about who to hand it on to. And work out whether I am being recognised for my attitude or my gratitude. I think I probably do better on the latter.

Monday, March 09, 2009

A blogless month

Yes. OK. I don't think the February daily posts were meant to be. It's been a while since I've gone a month without posting at all.

February was a rather depressing month in many ways. The weather was horrible. Lots of credit crunchiness on the news and on everyone's blogs, and the Australian bushfires. We are lucky not to live in such a flammable country; we're also lucky in that we, personally, haven't felt the effects of the economy in any serious way.

Lucky in many ways, in fact. I wish everyone else wasn't having such a bad time, though. (We're also worried about J's grandfather, who hasn't been well.)

What have I been doing while I wasn't blogging? Well, J's brother visited and we went for a snowy walk at Vane Farm, a nature reserve in Tayside.

(Click to go to my Flickr and a lot more photos - it was a beautiful day).

Then his parents came up for a weekend and we went to Crail (in Fife). J's grandfather was stationed there during WWII, so it has a bit of historical interest for the family. (This photograph does not fully capture how cold and windy it was.)

Harbour at Crail

Apart from that, I did a lot of knitting:

Two socks

Halley's Comet Hat again

This is my latest - the Halley's Comet Hat designed by Marnie McLean. It has a pretty flower (or comet, I suppose) on the top:

Halley's Comet Hat

It's the first lacy pattern I've knitted and I'm very pleased with it. I also went to the Woolfish festival in St Abb's on Saturday and bought lovely handpainted and hand-dyed sock wool, so probably more socks are on the way...

The other thing I did this month is get back into the gym. My old gym is offering six-week basic training programmes, including a free one-hour induction. I've been out of the gym long enough that I felt I needed a refresher course, so I signed up. The induction was excellent (thanks, Bob) and I'm now halfway through my second week of weights and interval training on the treadmill.

I'm somewhat irritated by how weak and slow I am, but nonetheless, I've now been running more times than in the whole of 2008!

My fourth blogiversary was last week. 2008 was not a good year for fitness, mostly because I was working too hard (I seem to remember this happened last time I did a Master's degree...) Let's see if 2009 can be better.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Thinking of Australia

It's hard to know what to say about the fires in southern Australia. So many killed, and so many more homeless; and it's still going on. Even for those who are safe, it's such a terrible thing to have to contemplate.

Words just fail. But we are thinking of you, Australians.

First daffodils of the year

I didn't post over the weekend, though I started writing an entry which I still haven't finished. Maybe tomorrow.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Six things

The Holistic Knitter (in her guise of has tagged me for a meme. I do memes all the time on LJ, but I'm not sure anyone's ever actually tagged me before! Here are the rules:

Link to the person who has tagged you.Write down six things that make you happy.Post the rules, tag six others and let them know you did it.Then tell the person when your entry is complete.

1 Reading. This must have brought me more pleasure in life than any other activity, since I've been doing it constantly from an early age. I am shamelessly addicted to stories; although I enjoy non-fiction as well, there is nothing quite like having a new book from a favourite author. I always have a book in my bag, and love reading on-screen more than I ever thought I would, as well.
2 My family - see last entry: my parents are pretty nice too :) I include J's family, who are the best in-laws one could ask for.
3 Reading in the bath. This may be a subset of number 1, but there is no better place to read. My ideal bath is deep, and the water is hot enough to last at least 100 pages. Sadly, with environmental considerations (and because I'm so busy) I mostly have showers these days. Haven't worked out how to read in those.
4 The natural world, and our imitations of it in gardens and parks. I love flowers, and I love... landscape. Woods, hills, shores. I'm fortunate enough to live in a place where all of these are fairly easy to get to.
5 Making things. Whether it's baking, drawing, sewing or knitting, or just putting flat-pack furniture together, I find the process very satisfying. I am always disproportionately pleased with the results, maybe because I don't truly believe it's going to work.
6 Sitting in cafés. This may be a slightly odd one. I like good coffee, but it's not just that; I enjoy sitting in a place apart from the cares of home or work for a bit, whether I'm with friends or on my own just reading or people-watching.

Tagging. Hmmm. As I've never been tagged, I don't think I've ever tagged, either. Isabelle, scoliyogi, Rosemary Grace, Loth, Jeni and Anna - please don't feel obliged, but I'm waving at you.

Thursday, February 05, 2009


My sister's company moved offices a week or so ago, and handily for me, her new workplace is a stone's throw from mine - I can even see part of the building out of my office window. So we've decided to have a sisterly lunch every Thursday. This week, my brother was in town as well, and he came along too.

I get on well with both my sibs, though we're all very different. I will never be either as organised, imaginative, or stylish as my sister, and I'll never be as witty or grounded as my brother. They're very good company.

We've always got on well. Apparently when my sister was brought home from the hospital, I thought she was the best thing ever, and she was my boss from then on. When my brother arrived, she and I instantly co-opted him as an extra doll. The poor kid spent the first few years being dressed up in a variety of outfits, put in a doll's pram, and arbitrarily re-named for whatever imaginary game we were playing.

We did this a lot. My sister was always the guiding spirit, and there are plenty of pictures of us dressed up to play circuses, schools or Peter Pan. We also drew and made things with paper and sellotape ("There are lots of little bits of paper all over the carpet again...") and built intricate structures out of Lego. We didn't always do the same things - my brother was a big car enthusiast from an early age - but we did often play together, and were closer than most siblings I know. I'm glad we all still like each other!

Back garden

This photo was taken almost 22 years ago - I'm seven, and the others are almost six and two. Doesn't the weather look lovely?

It is minus 5 degrees (only celsius, but still) outside at the moment. It seems impossible that sandal weather will ever arrive again. But it will. Patience.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

What we did at the weekend

I may not have mentioned this before, but my husband has a lively interest in audiovisual and broadcasting technology. Not just the programmes, but the methods of transmission and recording. He also likes to be well-supplied with equipment for receiving and recording transmissions, though he doesn't require it to be new - in fact, he'd rather have something old if he can get it to work. He also likes his hi-fi to sound as good as possible.

As a result, this is what the corner of the sitting room looked like until last Saturday. Lots of boxes and wires.I'm certain that I've mentioned that the TV in the picture above was on the blink. Latterly, it was switching itself off almost immediately after being switched on, which made watching it a bit difficult.
However, the corner of the sitting room now looks like this. Better, isn't it?
(That's an episode of Frasier - the one where a basketball player rubs Niles's head for good luck.)
It took a while to select and buy the TV, partly because we are cautious people when it comes to buying new stuff, and partly because it is impossible to buy new cathode ray TVs any more, and the flat ones seem to sell out very quickly. However, the decision to buy a corner unit was taken and carried out in about 24 hours, mostly because a family trip to IKEA happened to coincide with TV Delivery Day. (If you're reading, Shauna, it's a Leksvik.) I'm so glad we went for it.
Still, you're not interested in our TV. What you really want to know is whether Linds's carrot cake turned out well.
I think this picture speaks for itself. (Goodness, Cupcake looks huge. Maybe she's actually an albino wombat or something.)

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Better day

The snow was all gone by the morning. I'm sure that the high spirits were just because this much snow is so rare, as Anna said in the comments. It's not often that there's enough snow for a snowball here (and there still wasn't really enough for good snowman-building).

Earlier in the day I had walked into town along the bike path. I wouldn't have dared to bike in the snow, but some hardy souls evidently had, from the tracks. It was fairly pleasant walking, as the track had hardly been used, so the snow was still white and "dry". There were a few footprints, covered over a little; by the time I had been to Homebase and returned, my outward footprints had disappeared under more snow. (This probably doesn't seem unusual if you live in a snowy country.)

I was buying matchpots (for the ongoing hall-redecoration project), tie-back hooks, and two underbed storage boxes. I slightly regretted this as I was trying to walk home carrying two unwieldy plastic boxes - fortunately not heavy. But it's worth it. I now have a tidy bedroom. When I got home I hemmed the new red curtains for the spare room and hung them up, and they look very good. So it was a pretty productive day, really, up until the trauma.

Today wasn't quite so productive, although I did manage to paint the matchpots on to the wall (they look completely different in the light conditions at the top and bottom of the stairs - it's so confusing). And I made this carrot cake. I like baking, but we tend to make the same three cakes over and over, and they're all out of How To Be A Domestic Goddess. Time to branch out.

My brother-in-law is coming at the weekend, so we had an excuse. I hope he likes carrot cake. This is a BIG mixture - we got a loaf tin and nine largish cupcakes out of it. The icing is delicious, though we haven't actually tasted the cake yet! Aren't we restrained?

Monday, February 02, 2009

Mixed kind of day

At about 6pm today, I was all set to write a nice upbeat post about the constructive day I'd had - I got quite a lot done and went for a snowy walk. Apparently Britain has had more snow today than it has for eighteen years!

Then, just as I was waiting for J to come home from work, some boys came past our house and decided to pelt our windows with snowballs. Big teenagers. Hard.

We live in an area of Edinburgh which used to have a bad reputation, and is undergoing regeneration. I've honestly never had any regrets about moving here, or much to complain of regarding neighbourly behaviour. We live between a young doctor and a retired couple. The place seems perfectly civilised.

This didn't. When I heard the boys throwing snowballs at the elderly couple's house next door, I went to the window to see what was happening, which was obviously a mistake. I'm sure it wasn't personal, and I'm sure it was just high spirits really, but they were shouting and swearing and I was genuinely frightened that the windows were going to break. I don't think they could tell how much noise it made for the person inside.

I ended up calling my mum and the local police, in that order (but by then the boys had moved off). The policeman on the phone said that they were getting a lot of similar complaints - and it was happening all over Edinburgh - and they had just sent a police car to patrol the streets, but they wouldn't send anyone out to our house unless we had property damage. Which was fine. Nothing to see here. The boys didn't come back.

J came home just after that, and we had our tea and watched University Challenge and I felt a bit better, but he's now worried that our windows will be broken when we aren't here. He's rationalised that we are under pretty much constant surveillance from the old people's home across the road, so disaster is unlikely to occur, but he's unnerved.

So maybe you'll get a cheery upbeat blog tomorrow. I like snow, and I like people, but I'm feeling a little bit jaded about both just at the moment.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

So that was January

Oh, I didn't post much, did I?

One reason is that I haven't been doing anything for my course, so I haven't had the computer on nearly as much. The other is that I've been unusually tired, and haven't really done much to blog about or felt like blogging. I have been twittering a bit, and if you read them you might have noticed that notable events this month have mostly involved falling off my bike.

Right. New month, new resolutions to blog properly and get on with things. I successfully did NaBloPoMo last November (one post per day for the whole month). Let's see if I can do it again. February is a short month, anyway.

In months that aren't November, NaBloPoMo does themes. This month's is WANT. So here goes. In February, I want to blog daily and I don't want to fall off my bike again.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

January doesn't bring the snow yet

We didn't have a terribly wonderful start to the New Year - J was feeling very down after we got back from his parents, and didn't manage to get in to work all week. But he seems to be recovering from this setback much more quickly than he normally does.

He hadn't seen his cognitive therapist for a couple of weeks because of being away, and was beginning to feel that the therapy wasn't really helping. After his session on Thursday, he was considering not going back. However, he IS going back. She said at the session that he may need to accept that there are times when his depression will be bad enough that it gets in the way of making progress, and to learn to wait it out, rather than blaming himself or despairing.

He's also supposed to build something enjoyable into every day. This would be easier if he weren't so tired in the evenings, but we're working on it.

Last weekend he decided that he needs to do things that will have a visual result, and consequently has started painting the woodwork in the hall as a preliminary to redecorating the walls. This is excellent. We've been meaning to paint over the multitudinous scrapes and handprints since we got here, but put the hall off till last since it's an awkward area - the stairs are narrow and it's pretty much impossible to go up or down if someone's painting there.

He's finished the banisters already. Now to start thinking about colours for the walls. He fancies pink, which I have some trouble envisaging, so I see shade cards and test pots in our future.

Apart from this impressive progress towards an Ideal Home, he's been really pretty sanguine and resilient, has gone into work twice - well, it's only Tuesday - and has recovered quickly from daily frustrations (such as phoning Orange customer services) which would ordinarily cast him into gloom. I'm cautiously optimistic about the rest of the week.

For the last few days I've been very tired, partly because it's been that time of the month, partly... I don't know why. I've been to bed at a decent hour and everything. The past couple of days have been spent mostly in desultory tidying, the kind that doesn't have the visual result J finds so important. (I really don't like tidying, but it will be worth it.)

Which is to say I haven't been to the gym yet. I am going to at least phone them about renewing my membership before the week is out, though.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Resolution time

Happy New Year, everybody (only 8 days late!)

I got back to Edinburgh on Sunday and rather hit the ground running - Monday and Tuesday were spent frantically springcleaning the house (or removing the pall of very fine sawdust that the guinea pigs generate) and since yesterday I've been back at work. I had a very nice restful time over Christmas and New Year, but the restorative effect has worn off rather quickly.

I have an awful lot of New Year's resolutions. It's more like a to-do list. This is probably bad.

* Finish my degree
* Redecorate parts of the house (paint the hall, get rid of the awful dirty-beige living room carpet)
* Sort out all the stuff in the cupboard in the study, ditto the spare room, and rationalise it
* Go on holiday somewhere that is not Britain
* Spend more time making things
* Revamp this blog so it looks less 2001 (it didn't even exist in 2001...)
* Read more widely
* Eat more healthily, avoiding chocolate biscuits

Yes, the last one is deserving of those capitals. 2008 was not a good year for fitness in the slightest. I spent the first half of it with sore feet, and once I got my insoles I went running twice. Not stellar. I hardly did any weights and basically depended on cycling to remind me that I like to move, and it wasn't enough.

That, combined with spending three days a week in a room with a constantly replenished tin of chocolate biscuits, has not been good for the body. Weight-wise, I'm about back where I started back in 2005 - slightly fitter, perhaps, but still. It may not be a coincidence that at this point I had not long finished a postgraduate degree, and that during my university career I had depended largely on cycling as my exercise. I am somewhat frustrated to be right back wher eI started. (Maybe I should have called this blog something indicating that I intended to learn from the past?)

Anyway. This period of my life is over. The biscuit tin at work officially no longer exists. (That red thing over there? Just an optical illusion.)

As for the exercise... well, I managed to hurt myself on Monday in an incident involving a fully loaded drawer. I pulled it out too far and then leant in and grabbed it, preventing it from squashing my feet and kneecapping me on the way, but wrenching something in my lower back. Not my finest moment. However, it's feeling a lot better now and if all goes well, I'm hoping to get back on a treadmill by next week.