Saturday, 5 September 2015

Run - running in Greece

It's hard to believe, sitting here on a grey day in a hoodie and trousers, that 10 days ago I was running on this beach under this blue sky.

This is the first time ever that I've managed to run consistently on holiday. Luckily there were a couple of easy(-ish) short running routes from or villa so I managed a run most mornings - sometimes it was only a couple of miles, occasionally it was 4 or 5 miles, but most importantly I did it.  It made me feel fit and energized on holiday, and it's making me feel brilliant now I'm back home as every run I've done so far since getting back has been really enjoyable.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Craft - completion! THE blanket

Finally! I did manage to get outside and take a picture of the massive blanket I worked on for around a year - but then I didn't get around to writing the blog till now. So here - just 2 months after completion - is THE blanket.

There's nothing to provide scale in this picture, but each stripe is made up of 4 rows of granny clusters, and it covers a single bed generously.  It's made out of Stylecraft Special DK (14 colours, I think) and is a combination of daisy granny squares (based on Zooty Owl's pattern) and the Attic24 Granny Stripe, with a border of my own devising.  It's big, bold and snuggly, and will hopefully be able to give my eldest hugs when I can't, once she's a few hundred miles away at university.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Run - grey and cloudy

It's been a while. No real reasons - a bit of a loss of blogging desire, a touch of extra-busy work and home life, a dash of an amazing 2 week holiday (that already feels so long ago despite only returning at the weekend).

But I think I'd like to try and get back to creating a snapshot - literal and metaphorical - of my running, crafting, cooking or reading day. I will also play catch up and add some scenes from my holiday and other stuff I've been up to over the last couple of months - I think my blog works for me if it's a place to store odd memories and thoughts, and there are things from the last few months I'd like to remember.

First up, this is roughly the halfway point on my run yesterday. After 2 weeks of sunny seaside runs in Greece it was a bit of a shock to run through mud and puddles down to the sea, under a cloudy grey sky. But my (very short) hilly hot holiday runs must have had a beneficial effect as I actually had a great run - my legs felt light, it was lovely and cool and the grey sea still made my heart sing.  There will be (many) pictures from my holiday runs in the next few days, but for the moment I'm happy to be back running here.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Cook - lemonade on a sunny day

I've never attempted to make homemade lemonade before and my youngest has been urging us to have a go for a while, so we took a bag of lemons and turned them into this:

It's another Nigella Lawson recipe from Nigella Express (Cloudy Lemonade for a Sunny Day). The recipe's not on her website but it's very simple and involves blending up roughly chopped lemons with sugar and fizzy water. It was lovely and refreshing, although I might do it slightly differently next time (using the blender instead of food processor and blending with a sugar and water syrup first, then adding fizzy water later). Or I may not make any changes at all, as the whole litre that we made this time disappeared very quickly!

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Run - summer running

I haven't managed to take any running photos recently, although I've stepped back up to 4 runs a week over the last couple of weeks - I think the lack of photos is because I'm mainly running with friends at the moment, and I'm a bit shy about whipping my phone out to take a snap. But I did manage to take a quick photo on our morning long run yesterday - it really was glorious.

I know I bang on about how much I love running in the countryside - but, oh, I do love running through fields like these. And through woods, and along river paths, and past amazingly grand houses and historical churches - it really makes me feel connected to the landscape. Summer is in full swing now and we're spending a lot of time running along narrow paths through crops up to our waists - such a change from a few weeks ago.  And it won't be long before the crops are harvested and the fields ploughed up, but I'm not sad about the coming of autumn as it means new landscapes to look at, new smells and sounds to take in. Yes, I really do love running in the countryside. 

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Read - Juliet, Naked (#11/52)

I think my rather Pollyanna-ish take on this book is that sometimes it's quite rewarding to come across a book I don't enjoy, to remind me that I still have critical faculties.  After loving the last few books I've read (including Funny Girl, also by Nick Hornby) , Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby was a bit of a let down. The story is about obsessive fandom, reclusive rock stars and mid-life angst, but I didn't feel sympathetic to any of the characters and I found the plot in turn clichéd and implausible. I don't mind fantastic stories or wild twists and turns in a plot (not that there were many of these in this book), but overall it has to feel true to the characters and circumstances, and this book didn't really work for me in that way; the motivations and psychology of the main characters didn't feel real enough to me, and it felt too contrived in places.  Sorry if anyone's read it and loved it - I'd really like to hear any opposing views!

To be honest, I chose this as light relief between book club books, as it was on the 'borrow me' shelf in the staff room at work, so it will be going back there next week! And, on the upside, it's been very enjoyable to read a few 'real' (ie not 'e') books recently - my Kindle's been having a welcome rest.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Craft - trackwork

The athletics track is a new addition to my list of unusual locations for a spot of crochet. It was my (long overdue) turn to take my middle son and his friends to athletics on Tuesday, so I managed to pass a pleasant hour in the evening sun crocheting, drinking tea and chatting to another mum while lots of athletics action happened on the track (10 x 300m reps. apparently).

This picture shows the border just being finished - I think there were two and a half rounds to go at this stage.  The good news is that I finished the whole thing last night - ends and all - just in time to meet Deadline B (well, about 2 hours late, but the recipient didn't mind). I will do a proper post showing the whole blanket when I've manged to take pictures, but the weather today isn't lending itself to blanket photoshoots.  And now I just need to decide which craft project to start next ....

Monday, 15 June 2015

Read - The Summer Book (#10/52)

The Summer Book by Tove Jansson is a truly delightful book.  Short and very sweet, it consists of episodes in (I think) a single summer, on a tiny Finnish island where  six year old Sophie, her father and her grandmother are spending the summer.

Originally written in Swedish, the language of the translation is perfect, and I imagine it echoes the original in style and simplicity. The landscapes and seascapes are described beautifully, and the depiction of Sophia and her grandmother, and their relationship, make them feel very real people. I found the simple, but sometimes hard way of life on the island very attractive (I have a not-so-secret yearning for isolation by the sea).

This was the second time I've read it (it was a book club book) and it won't be the last - there's more to discover in it each time, and the short chapters make it ideal for dipping in and out of. It's a great summer read. Tove Jansson also wrote A Winter Book which I haven't read yet - maybe one for later in the year (and she's the author of the Moomin books, which I loved as a child).

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Run - craft - read - cook : a bit of everything

A minor technological fail, a few other real-life distractions and do you know what? It's suddenly 3 weeks since I last blogged.  I have been doing a bit of this and that, but not really enough of anything, it feels.

Despite running along seafronts and through exciting gates, it feels like my running is on a bit of a back burner at the moment.  I really want this to change so I'm trying to schedule runs with friends to make myself feel obliged to go out - fingers crossed it works.

Crafting is currently all about crochet - I'm on a desperate mission to finish the enormous blanket by next Friday. I think it can be done if I focus really really hard ... I'm on the border (the swatch in the photo) and it's looking ok but taking ages to do each round now the blanket's so big. And there are STILL about 50 ends to sew in - booo

Reading is happening (a bit)  ... The Goldfinch was such an epic read that I had to take a little breather for a while, but I'm just finishing off  The Summer Book by Tove Jansson, which is absolutely lovely (I will blog about it properly when I've finished reading it).

Cooking is actually something I've been doing a bit more of.  I was very inspired by Angel Jem to do some proper meal planning and make more use of recipe books, and it's been going ok. Despite the photographic evidence, we've been surviving on more than luridly pink marshmallow cakes, but this was a recipe I made with my youngest who thoroughly enjoys both the process and outcome of cooking. I will try and share some of the meals that have been popular in my house as I always find food inspiration very helpful (and meal planning quite laborious). Recently I've cooked a few dishes from Nigella Express : Croque Monsieur Bake, Rapid Ragu and Quick Chilli (not on the website) have all been surprisingly successful in our house.

So - I'm not sure what exactly led to my blogging hiatus - I think it's just very hard to get started again after losing the momentum.  But I'm going to really try and keep going this time - off to check comments and have a good catch up with some of my favourite blogs now to keep me inspired.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Craft - train crochet

A blurry snap of crochet in progress on the train - I've finally picked up the big blanket again.

I love travelling by train - I find a train journey so much more relaxing than a car journey - and a two hour train trip by myself feels like a proper treat. Two hours for crochet, reading, thinking, gazing at the rolling countryside.  If the destination is the seaside it's pretty much perfect.

A few things - I'm currently blogging on my phone which is a bit fiddly and it's hard to add links and stuff. I might put them in later. And I wrote this post yesterday but fell asleep before finishing it  (just in case I write again today and it doesn't make sense).

Monday, 25 May 2015

Run - running through the seasons

A few weeks ago this field was bare earth, and it was hard to see where the footpath should go across the mud.

Now there are bean plants nearly up to my knees, and a neatly worn path leads the way through the field from the gate on one side to a little hole in the hedge on the other.  For me, the rhythm of paths being ploughed over and remade as the seasons change is one of the (many, many) pleasures of running in the countryside.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Craft - crafters' block (and a completed flower garland)

I love having a project on the go but sometimes (often? always?) I have the delusion that I'm much more capable of finishing things than I really am, and end up with numerous things on the go at once. Then I think - wouldn't it be nice to whip up a small hook roll or garland as a present for a dear friend.  Then I start to panic because there's a deadline, and the item inevitably doesn't get made on time, but I can't possibly get on with anything else because I have to concentrate on the present I'm making. Except I'm not actually making it.

This garland (and the hook roll I made a couple of weeks ago) were just this sort of project. I'd been putting off making them - and been busy with other non-crafting (or reading or cooking or running)  stuff - for so long that I'm sure I've been having dreams about them.  But once I knuckled down to making it,the hook roll got finished in one night. Then I made myself do a bit of the garland every evening this week.  And do you know what? It only took a few evenings.

The main problem was not quite knowing how I wanted it to be. First of all I made an enormous butterfly which was too big (and a bit scary) for the delicate garland I had envisaged.  So then I found a lovely small butterfly pattern, and tweaked this flower pattern to make some smaller flowers, and invented (=cobbled together) a new tiny flower pattern (I'm quite proud of that!) and they all seem to go together quite well.

The cotton is lovely - it's Cascade Ultra Pima Fine in Wood Violet, Pansy, Dark Sea Foam, Primrose and Spring Green from Wool Warehouse and was a delight to work with, soft and non-splitty with lovely muted colours with a slight sheen. I used a 3.5mm hook which seemed to be about right.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Run - fun running

Another race today - this time a local 10k which goes through the local countryside that I do most of my training runs in.  I worked out that we must have been coming to this event as a family for the last 10 years - I think it was the second race I ever did after I started running.  Some years I've run the 10k, some years I've run the 2k fun run with one of my children, some years I've run both. I've even run it when 7 months pregnant! Today was very special as my daughter and I ran her first 10k together - I'm so pleased it was this race that she chose to run.

We had such a lovely race - the weather was great, the event was even better organised than usual with a great route (the route has changed several times over the last 10 years but I think it's now the best route), helpful marshals, all-important chip timing which proved it took us a minute or so to cross the start line (and so our official time was under an hour - hurrah!). I'm really proud of the way my daughter tackled the race and dug deep when she needed to - and most importantly we enjoyed running together, so fingers crossed we'll be racing together again. Oh, and there was a very enticing bbq at the end.  What's the point of racing if you can't have a treat afterwards?

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Read - The goldfinch (#9/52)

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt was another book club book,  but I would have read it anyway as I loved Donna Tartt's first novel (The Secret History).  Luckily book club didn't meet in April (our usual date fell in the Easter holidays) as this book really needed more than a month to read.

It's long, complex, full of twists and unexpected turns of plot - I absolutely loved it! It's so cleverly written in the voice of Theo, who is 13 at the start of the events recounted in the novel, 27 at the end, and tells the story of what happens to him after he is involved in an explosion at a museum. I don't really want to say much more about the plot than that as it was great reading it and being truly surprised and intrigued by all the different elements of the plot.  The characters are brilliantly written and I felt real affection for several of them - we spent a long time at book group discussing who would play each role if it was made into a film (and it would be a great film - or tv series)  - we all had very strong opinions, as the characters had become very real to us all!

It's not without its flaws - I felt there were some slips in historical accuracy when Theo's teenage years were being narrated,  and a few sections could have done with stricter editing.  But overall it's a fabulous book to read - a worthy winner of the Pulitzer prize and wholeheartedly recommended by me.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Craft - my new favourite shop

Today was one of those unplanned days where I managed to seize an unexpected opportunity. I was in London for a work event in Mile End. I was unsure what time I'd be getting home and had made sure all childcare was taken care of, so when it finished just after 3pm I decided to walk from Mile End to Islington along Regents Canal as I'd spotted a sign saying it was 3.5 miles along the towpath. It was a lovely walk through some very varied areas of London, skirting round Victoria Park which looks worthy of a visit on another day, passing this amazing bookshop, seeing all sorts of people using the towpath for their daily journeys.

Eventually (after an hour) I ended up in Islington. I had a quick peer through the window of Loop but decided to visit another day as I really don't need any more yarn right now.  I really don't need any more sewing stuff either but I couldn't resist finding the amazing Ray-stitch which I'd seen mentioned in lots of places.  And oh, it was worth the visit.  The shelves are stacked high with the most gorgeous fabrics, there are notions and trims galore and the staff are lovely. I bought a few items (which I won't divulge just yet as I'm sure they'll be making an appearance in the blog soon) but I could have bought loads more.

  I was too timid to take a photo in the shop, but sneaked a quick shot outside - the windows are too reflective to see properly, but there are lovely dresses on display plus loads of sample items of clothing inside so you can see how the fabrics work with different patterns.  It really is worth a visit - or multiple visits!

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Run - morning running

This morning I managed to go for a rare pre-work run. I'm really not a morning person, and didn't get out quite as early as I hoped, but I managed to fit in 35 mins round my local woods.  They're really close to where I live but I often run through them to get to other places, rather than in them.  Because I was very time limited I decided to see how far a run round the outer perimeter would be.  All went well until one of the paths I was following got narrower and narrower and finally became an overgrown mess of brambles and nettles.  A few stings and scratches later I emerged into this field.

As I scrambled over the stile and found my way back to the proper path, I realised how lucky I am both to have this on my doorstep and to have the time to squeeze in a short run. I've been stuck at my desk for the rest of the day, but I'm still feeling a little bit smug that I missed all the rain that's now pouring down and made the most of the lovely early morning. A great way to start the day and I'm really going to make an effort to run before work more often.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Craft - Completion! A crochet hook roll

It's been a while since I've had any time to sit down and do some uninterrupted crafting - especially sewing, which I always seem to find harder to get started on than crochet. But today I gritted my teeth and once tea was over and the smallest boy was in bed, I dragged out my sewing machine and got to work on an overdue project (the recipient's birthday passed a few weeks ago).

This Crochet hook roll  from the blog Today We Made ended up being very simple to make, largely due to the excellent instructions in the PDF tutorial (some of the pictures on the website are a bit broken, but the downloadable PDF is great). I used a couple of bits of cotton fabric from my large collection of odds and ends, with a green velvet ribbon as the tie - it was very pleasing to find a ribbon that matched so well. I'm also quite happy with how the pattern matches on the inside of the roll - this was in no way deliberate!

The photos are a bit shadowy but hopefully give an idea of what it's like,  and I've broken two self-imposed rules - only using one photo per blog (as I wanted to show both the inside and outside) and only having landscape photos. Who knows where this anarchy might end up - hopefully with more sewing, as once I get down to it I do really enjoy it. And it's especially satisfying to start and finish a project in one evening.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Craft - tilespiration

Sorry for the made up word in the title. I think I must have a bit of an obsession with tiles. I can't resist taking pictures of them wherever I am, which often seems to be in toilets, ( have you seen the stunning tiles in the V & A restaurant toilets?) and also includes a series of about 50 photos of benches all tiled differently, which I photographed in Spain last year.  I think it's a combination of vivid colours, shiny glaze and beautifully ordered symmetry.  I also used to love the Altair colouring books when I was younger - I'm sure it's all connected. I'm thinking I might be able to use all my tile photos as inspiration - for quilting? printing? Who know, but I'm sure they'll serve a purpose one day.

These lovely tiles were (predictably) in a toilet in a very nice little restaurant in London (Honey & Co.) which I visited recently.  The food AND the tiles made the visit very worthwhile.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Read - Five Red Herrings (#8/52)

Last year I (re-)read Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers for one of my book clubs and it made me remember how much I'd enjoyed reading the Lord Peter Wimsey books when I was younger.  With easy availability provided by my Kindle, I started to download the series a book at a time so I could re-read them all in order.  When I read them previously I'd borrowed them from my local library, which meant reading in order wasn't an option - it was down to chance which title was available on the shelf, and I have a feeling I may have missed one or two altogether.

So I read the first few titles last year, and am now up to number 7 - Five Red Herrings.  I started it a while ago but have had to intersperse a few books for book club between, so it's been a rather disjointed read.  On the whole, it hasn't been one of my favourite Wimsey books. It's set in an artistic community in Scotland, and when one of the artists is found dead, there are, as the title suggests, five suspects for the murder. I enjoyed the descriptions of the community and the evocation of 1920's life, but the way the plot hinges on detailed analysis of movements and train times and the like became a bit tedious.  Still worth a read though - and I'm enjoying the challenge of reading all the books in order this time.  I remember really enjoying a couple of the later books when I read them first time round, so I'm looking forward to seeing what I think of them now.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Craft - printing

Craft club again this evening, and we did printing.  My friends brought a brilliant selection of things to print with including celery, corks, string, potatoes, bubble wrap. loo roll inners ...

I used various items to make the gift labels in the picture (potatoes and lego blocks) and some printed paper (potatoes, bubble wrap, corks). One of my friends printed a whole roll of wrapping paper with the most beautiful roses, using celery (like this).

Playing around with the different objects, dipping them in paint, mixing colours, finding patterns - it was another lovely relaxed, creative craft club evening.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Run - another stately pile

I do like the fact that public rights of way in England allow anyone access to all sorts of exciting places.  A few days ago I got to run through the grounds of this stately home:

It was with my running group and I'm not sure we stayed strictly to the proper paths - but no-one told us off, and it does make an interesting change to be running somewhere like this. Back to the woods for today's run though - although they're my usual stomping ground it's lovely to see how they change through the seasons, and the bluebells are still looking particularly splendid.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Read - Funny Girl (#7/52)

I read 'Funny Girl' by Nick Hornby for book group this week.  I wasn't looking forward to it for a couple of reasons - I'd inadvertently read some reviews on Amazon before downloading it which were pretty unfavourable, and I've been preferring to read 'real' books rather than ebooks recently.

But do you know what? I really enjoyed it.  I haven't read anything by Nick Hornby for a while, probably not since 'About A Boy', and I'd forgotten how engaging his writing style is.  This is a charming novel with a heroine holding her own in sixties London.  There are obvious parallels with several stars of the era (Cilla Black, Barbara Windsor) but Barbara / Sophie is original enough to be a believable character.  Real people and events are cleverly woven into the story (reminiscent of William Boyd's 'Any Human Heart', although that's on a much grander scale) and it was an easy, pleasant read.  Probably not a prizewinning piece of literature, but I'd definitely recommend it if you want something light and enjoyable.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Craft - crochet in the sunshine

I think this is the first time I've crocheted outside this year.  There was just enough warmth to sit out for an hour or so.

Sadly this was the only crochet I've done for about a week - I'm making very slow progress on the Crochet Along at the moment.  I'm hoping I'll get my crafting mojo back shortly and catch up a bit!

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Cook - Saturday brunch

I had a lovely stay at a friend's house last night - a night away from home meant a leisurely morning, with a gentle run followed by the most delicious brunch.  My friend has 5 hardworking chickens and a resulting abundance of eggs, so we had eggs lots of ways - scrambled, poached and most successfully made into these  Pea and Sweetcorn Fritters (I need to work on my food photography, but honestly they are very, very tasty).

Although we had to make a couple of substitutions (normal onion for spring onions, cheddar for feta) they still came out well,  and definitely a recipe to make again for brunch / lunch / breakfast / tea - I think they'd work for any meal.

We had them with eggs as mentioned above, plus avocado and smoked salmon.  Unfortunately I don't have a picture of the whole ensemble, but believe me, it was the perfect post-run brunch!

Run - music

I very very rarely run with headphones, and  when I do I tend to listen to  podcasts or audiobooks. Sometimes I'm reminded why I prefer to run without a soundtrack.

A couple of days ago I ran out to see the bluebells in daylight. In the little south facing copse where the bluebells always flower earliest, I stood and listened after I'd taken a photo. At least seven different birds were singing (I'm no good at identifying birdsong so I have no idea what they were), and bees and hoverflies were gently buzzing . It was a lovely moment and made me really appreciate the sounds of nature.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Run - running into the sunset

My running group usually meets at 7.45pm and it's such a treat that we're now able to run (mostly) in the light.  The purpose of tonight's run was to find all the newly opened bluebells - it was too dark in the woods to take any pictures but they look and smell glorious already. I'm going to try and run again in the bluebell woods in the daylight later this week.

I also didn't quite manage to take a picture of the sunset - we emerged from the woods and ran across this field just seconds too late to capture it.  But it was so lovely to see all the new green growth in the field, and the slightly wiggly path. This path is re-formed every year after the field is ploughed, just from walkers and runners wearing it down and compacting the earth over the winter, so when the crops come through there's an obvious way across.  I love how it illustrates the passing of the seasons.

Oh, and we ran just under 6 miles, which was very pleasing for those of us on marathon-recovering legs.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Read - Hallowe'en Party (#6/52)

I do like a spot of comfort reading.  So far this year I'm way behind on my book club books, and it seems like there's not a hope of reaching my self-imposed target of 52 books in a year. Rather than attempting to read something challenging and worthwhile, I'm reverting to comfort reading - easy, familiar books which I may or may not have read before.

When I was younger I devoured Agatha Christie books.  I think I moved on from children's books at a time when 'teen fiction' wasn't really a thing, so Agatha Christie's detective novels were just at the right level. Intriguing, readable, and readily available in my local library - I read at least one a week for months and months.  I'm never quite sure which ones I've already read - turns out I had already read this one (Hallowe'en Party) but that didn't really detract from my enjoyment. In fact, it made it more fun to see if my memory of the denouement was accurate. They may not be high literature, but they capture many aspects of English society that no longer exist, and still provide some welcome escapism from our technology driven lives - especially if you read a battered old hardback edition like the book above. 

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Craft - completion! Garden tote part 2

This is the finished garden tote, filled with gardening bits and bobs ready to give as a present. I managed to finish it just before midnight, ready to take away with me when I went away the next day.

I really like the finished bag, but found the instructions a bit erratic - the pattern was fine, but a big chunk of instructions seem to be missing which detail how to attach the pockets to the bag. Luckily I managed to work out roughly what to do, but when I googled it I found I wasn't the only person to have this problem. It's the first thing I've made from this book (which I've had for ages) but I don't think it will be the last (I'll just remember to read the instructions very carefully all the way through first in case any bits are missing!)

One of the aspects I'm most pleased about is that it didn't cost me a penny in new materials as I was using fabric from my stash, most of which had been recycled from other items.  I didn't want the bag to feel 'too nice' to use so deliberately planned for it to feel well worn!

Pattern: Garden Tote from Simple Sewing by Lotta Jansdotter 
Fabric: base + side pockets - denim from an old pair of jeans, exterior of main body + front and back pockets - navy canvas from an old pair of curtains, interior - blue cotton sateen from stash

Run - recovery

This is the view on my first post-marathon run on Friday - I was  lucky that the weather was perfect, I was able to run by the sea and my legs felt normal!  Still need to (literally!) tread carefully for a couple of weeks but I'm still so pleased with how the marathon went.  Time to look for a few more (shorter) events to put in the calendar, I think.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Craft - string of hearts

I made a tiny little string of hearts last night for a birthday present - I like making little bits to give people (hopefully they like to receive them) and it's always satisfying to start and finish something in the same evening.

They're simple to make, but I think they're very sweet.

Pattern: Small hearts , a free pattern from the lovely PlanetJune website  
Yarn: Rico Creative Cotton in aran weight - it was all leftover scraps so I'm not sure of the exact shades, but three different pinky-red colours.
Hook: 4.5mm

Friday, 17 April 2015

Run - normal legs

Although I've run a few marathons, it's always a surprise after the race when my legs don't feel like they belong to me for a few days. I think of myself as reasonably fit and healthy, but post marathon my joints creak, I stiffen up after sitting still for a few minutes, and stairs are an incredible challenge (to the amusement of my children). Post marathon, my feet seem to be fine, but the rest of me needs a few day to remember how to work properly.

Luckily the amazing after-glow of having running 26.2 miles is lasting a bit longer than the physical discomfort.  This probably isn't my last marathon-themed post as it feels like a big achievement, both mentally and physically, even though it was my 5th marathon. It's very hard to explain to someone who hasn't run anything of a similar distance, but the amount of training and preparation involved is immense, so when it all goes to plan it creates a truly fantastic feeling.

It's also quite draining, so I haven't felt like blogging for a few days - hope to get back on track over the weekend as I'm really looking forward to catching up with lots of blogs I've missed.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Run - a long day

We were up at 5.45 for porridge and last minute bag checking, on the road at 6.30 and only got home around 7pm. A long day - but I did it! I ran the Brighton marathon in lovely sunshine with some great companions. As marathons go, it was one of the best!

Off to bed now as I'm exhausted - and no more running for a while till my legs feel normal!

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Craft - calming the nerves

II may have mentioned once or twice that I've been training for a big event. Well, tomorrow sees the culmination of all the training as I will be running the Brighton marathon, so before I head off for an early night I've been making a start on my new project as a distraction from all the nervousness.

It's the Lily Pond Crochet Along from Stylecraft. I'm very much looking forward to seeing it grow and progress as the new patterns are released every fortnight.

Friday, 10 April 2015

Craft - garden tote part 1

I am very good at leaving things till the last minute, and this tote bag is no exception. It needs to be ready by tomorrow - hopefully with a bit of a last minute push I can finish it off tonight!

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Cook - Welsh cakes

After buying some Welsh cakes in the supermarket on Monday I thought it must be possible to make my own - so I found this recipe on the BBC Good Food website and had a go. The only tweak I made to the recipe was using all butter instead of a mixture of butter and lard, as that was all I had in the fridge.

They turned out very well, with the proof being that they disappeared extremely quickly, with even currant-hating members of the family managing to overlook the fruit content and consume at least 2 apiece.  Definitely one to make again.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Craft - completion! (circles in squares blanket)

I mentioned earlier that I was nearing the end of my 'travel' blanket - so-called because it was very portable.  My  family thought I was (possibly more than) slightly bonkers when, the night before we went on holiday last year, I was busy weighing out 10 gram balls of different coloured yarn , so I could crochet lots and lots of circles while we were away. But it worked - I made lots of these squares in Spain, some in Surrey, some on the tube in London - anytime I went on a journey I grabbed one of my bags of small yarn balls and made a few squares.  And gradually I ended up with 42 squares - 7 rows of 6 graduated colours, and now a finished blanket - hurrah!

Pattern: The graduated colour scheme was inspired by Bear's Rainbow Blanket on Purl Bee , and the square pattern was an interpretation of the Retro Circles Blanket on Three Beans in a Pod , but with an extra round in the circles and different 'squaring' stitches.The squares are crocheted together on the reverse through the outer loops.
Yarn: Stylecraft Special DK in the following colours:
Row 1 - Burgundy, Claret, Raspberry, Fondant, Candyfloss, Soft peach
Row 2 - Spice, Gold, Sunshine, Saffron, Citron, Lemon
Row 3 - Bottle, Teal, Khaki, Green, Meadow, Spring green
Row 4 - Midnight, Royal, Denim, Aster, Cloud blue, Sherbert
Row 5 - Emperor, Plum, Grape, Magenta, Wisteria, Clematis
Row 6 - Dark brown, Walnut, Copper, Mocha, Camel, Stone
Row 7 - Black , Graphite, Grey, Silver, Parchment, White
Border - 2 rows of trebles in Cream, then a row of half trebles in each of Camel, Grape and Meadow interspersed with a row of trebles in Cream, followed by a row of trebles and a row of half trebles in Denim.
Hook: 4mm

Phew - think that's it! I'm very pleased with my first finished blanket - there are a few things I would do differently (the corners especially are a bit wonky), and I may make another one with a grey background and fewer colours for the spots ... however, as I've just started on an exciting new crochet project today I think that will have to wait!

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Run - slowly, slowly

Just a few gentle miles with my running group this evening to keep things ticking over till Sunday.  But it was still exciting as we were off road! In daylight! At 7.30pm! I am looking forward to a lovely summer of evening runs with no marathon to stress about (although I may have already been thinking about signing up for a couple of smaller races in mind - just to provide some focus, obviously).

Monday, 6 April 2015

Read - Margrave of the Marshes (#5/52)

Margrave of the Marshes starts as the autobiography of John Peel, but after 200 pages or so it morphs into a biography written by his wife, Sheila Ravenscroft, with help from their four children - this is due to John's sad and untimely death in 2004, shortly after he'd started writing the book.

I had been wanting to read this for ages, then once I'd started it I found it very hard to get into it.  It's been sitting on my bedside table, 50 pages read, for the best part of a year.  I picked it up again this weekend and after some initial effort found it much easier to get on with second time a round. The first half is very much in John Peel's voice ( a very familiar voice if, like me, you grew up illicitly listening to his late night radio shows under the bedclothes in the 1980s) and was very poignant to read.

This part of the book comes to an end while John is still in America and well before he's started his British career as DJ and national institution, and it's left to Sheila (also, apparently affectionately, known as Pig) to take over and write the account of the subsequent years from their meeting to his death.  This is interesting but feels understandably rushed - more of a summary of events.  Extracts from John's diary are interspersed here and there which make it more interesting.

All in all I'm very glad I read this book.  I enjoyed the memories it sparked of the thrill of hearing an amazing piece of music for the first time when I was just a teenager, I loved hearing John Peel's voicce come alive again as I read it.  And I was listening to 6 Music today as Tom Ravenscroft  (John's son) was doing the afternoon show, and he mentioned Robert  Wyatt - one of John's favourite musicians whose amazing version of 'Biko' I first heard on the John Peel show - and it felt very apt.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Run - rights of way

One of my (many, many) favourite things about running is being able to run off-road on tracks and footpaths. Because a lot of footpaths are legal rights of way, we get to run in some amazing locations.

Today I stopped to stretch out my calves a couple of miles into my run, while standing on an ornate stone bridge overlooking this view.  The rest of the run (8 miles in total - last 'long' run before the marathon!) was just as lovely, as were the post-run hot cross buns and cups of tea with my running friends.

Happy Easter!

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Read - forgotten book

I mainly did pottering today, as planned - but pottering turned into major de-cluttering (long overdue) during which I unearthed a half read biography / autobiography of John Peel.  It's unusual as he was writing it when he died, so the first part is all his own voice, and the second (which I've just started) is written by his wife Sheila, with quotes from his diary.

I'm just over halfway through it, and I think I'm enjoying the second part more - I found the first part hard going, which is probably why it ended up under a stack of other books on my bedside table.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Cook - hot cross buns

Today I've managed to do 3 out of 4 - a fab 5 mile run this morning, a relaxed couple of hours on the sofa this afternoon, crocheting away at my spotty blanket while watching Penguins of Madagascar with my youngest, and a lovely hour or so baking with my middle child.  We don't do this so often now, so it was a real treat.  He made Snickerdoodles (from How to be a domestic goddess) and I made a pizza dough (for our tea) and some hot cross buns.  The pizza dough rose quickly and enormously; the hot cross buns took an age to increase in size - and then needed a second proving, so I've only just finished baking them.

It was quite a complicated recipe with tea involved (supposed to be Earl Grey, but I substituted Lady Grey as that's all I could find) - it's in this month's Waitrose Kitchen magazine.  I have just sampled one and I don't think the tea flavour really comes through and it was a bit on the dry side, but I'm sure they'll taste ok toasted tomorrow.  Hot cross buns are a favourite in our house so  I'm intending to make another batch over the weekend (I think I'll try a different recipe though).

Tomorrow we have the rare luxury of no sporting engagements for the boys, and I don't need to go or a run as it's taper time,  so I'm planning an extremely relaxed (=lazy) morning of reading, pottering and staying in my pyjamas till lunchtime!

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Craft - a race to the finish

My spotty blanket is so close to completion. Just a couple more rows of the border to do, and a handful of ends to sew in.

I'm quite confident of finishing in the next couple of days as my running is tapering right down before the big day, so what better than crochet to fill the time.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Craft - quilting at craft cub

Just got back from a fab evening at craft club - a mixture of quilting and crochet, with wine, cake and lovely friends. We're making progress on our  group club quilt (the colours aren't quite right in the picture - the sashing is a gorgeous vibrant pink) -

I am quite inspired to start my own quilt, but it feels like the sort of project I'd need to devote a few reasonably large chunks of time to, so I might stick with crochet for the time being (at least till the next couple of blankets are finished).

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Run - last run in the dark

Hurrah! Now the clocks have changed, our evening runs after Easter should be in the light, or at least the twilight. I love the first runs of late spring / early summer, especially as the bluebells will be blooming and we might catch a sunset every so often.

But back to this evening's run - a lovely 6 miles with my running group, including a decent amount of tempo running - with another mile from running to and from our meeting place, so 7 miles altogether. Apart from 8-10 miles at the weekend, all my runs this week and next week will be around 4 miles. Except for the 12th April, when hopefully the trainers in the photo will look after me for 26 miles.

Monday, 30 March 2015

Cook - kale crisps, a revelation

Who would have thought sticking a load of kale in the oven for 20 minutes could have such a delicious result?

I had Kale Crisps from Pret the other day and thought it must be possible to replicate them at home, so I found this recipe for Kale Crisps on the BBC Good Food website and followed it exactly.  They were awsome! I say 'were' because they've been devoured by myself and my middle child (just hoping eldest doesn't see the evidence or we're in trouble for not leaving any). The ras el hanout adds just enough spiciness, and I sprinkled a bit of salt on too.  They were as simple as anything to make (I particularly enjoyed massaging the oil in!). I'll be be making them again very very soon.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Craft - nearly a blanket

I am very excited as I have nearly finished my first blanket.  This is the second one I've started - the other is still very much a work in progress. But this - my 'travel' project which I started last year to give me something to do on holiday, is very very near completion.

Just a few more rows of the border, then a light steam, and it's done.  I will attempt to take some artfully styled photos once it's finished. And give full details of what I did (if I can remember).

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Run - spotted

My run today was hard, heavy-legged plodding. I had to keep reminding myself that I felt like this a couple of weeks ago and then had a great long run this week - better to get the bad runs out of the way now. One of the reasons it was so hard was due to running solo - I love running with others because its so social, and the chat is a welcome distraction from thinking about how heavy my legs are, or wondering if I need to stop for a wee.

But running alone does have the advantage of being able to stop where I like, especially if I see something worth photographing.  These lovely little flowers (I think they're dog violets) were hidden among the foliage at the side of the path I was running down - I was very pleased to have spotted them (not just for their distraction qualities).

Friday, 27 March 2015

Craft - a bit more blanket

An hour or so of gentle crochet feels like the ideal way to recover after a day of walking around London - the mega-stripy blanket is progressing, albeit slowly (this is the last stripe on the main section - hurrah!)