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).