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!