Tuesday, 15 January 2019

WOYWW 502–Scarf Embellishing

I know we always say this, but I can’t believe yet another week has passed… Half way through January already!

Remember last year I was working on some embellishments for the striped scarf I had knitted? I decided it was high time I finished that project so over the past few days I’ve been working on making the fringe and adding the felt and crochet embellishments. So far I have completed one end, and this is the result.

01 End 1 Complete - Side 1 15-1-19

The other side.

02 End 1 Complete - Side 1 Showing Fringe 15-1-19

Detail of fringe. You can see that I have incorporated the felt balls I made with crochet chains. I had made some white balls which I didn’t think I would use but in the end I decided to use them, and I added a bit of embroidery on them with wool scraps.

04 End 1 Side 1 Fringe Detail 15-1-19

Detail of some of the embellishments.

05 End 1 Side 1 Embellishments Detail 15-1-19

Embellishments and fringe.

06 End 1 Side 1 Fringe and Embellishments Detail

Closer detail shots of the fringe.

08 End 1 Fridge Close Detail 2 15-1-19

07 End 1 Fringe Close Detail 1 15-1-19

I also attached a few crochet chains further up the scarf, with felt flowers and leaves attached, and the whole effect has been to soften the bottom edge of the scarf.

The little blob on the end of each felt ball on the fringe is a crochet chain loop, through which I am planning to attach a tassel. If I don’t like the tassels I can always take them off again – the little loops look quite nice on their own!

Now all I’ve got to do is repeat the process on the other end.

Kitties

They’ve both been using the cat tree again lately, which is good. I was beginning to think I’d bought a large expensive piece of junk.

05 Ruby on Top of Cat Tree 9-1-19

07 Both Kitties on Cat Tree 14-1-19

Lily exposing her tummy.

06 Lily Showing her Tummy 9-1-19

We had another session with them in the garden the other day and Lily was quite happy playing and just sniffing at things and running around, but Ruby spent the whole time going round the edge looking for ways to escape. We had to keep her under close supervision the whole time. We took them out in the late afternoon when they were hungry, in the hope that this would get Ruby in, but we had a terrible job with her, and she wouldn’t even be enticed with Dreamies. In the end I fetched the birdie toy (you can just see it in the above photo) and this proved irresistible, and after a while my hubby managed to get her in.

We got Lily in first, and I shut her in the house, out of the kitchen. I went through to check on her because she was crying, and she was sitting up on the flat kitchen windowsill looking out, desperate to know where her sister was.

As soon as we got Ruby in, I chased her into the house and she went into the flat. Lily didn’t see her at first but still went on gazing out of the window, and I called her and said “Ruby’s here!” and she immediately leapt down and went straight to her and kissed her – she was all over her and her relief and love were palpable! It was sweet to watch, and I wished I’d had the camera handy. She really worries about Ruby, but we wish she would just tell her to behave and be done with it – but we all know that Ruby never listens to anybody!!

Cat Selling Dog on Ebay

This is what I’m always threatening Ruby with, when she’s naughty!!

Other news

No sourdough this week, but I made ordinary seed bread in the bread maker. I also did a roast chicken on Saturday which was delicious, with lots of nice cold meat to follow (easy meals!) but I was so wiped out on Sunday after all that effort that I spent most of Sunday morning in bed while my hubby went off to church on his own!

I’ve not been too well this past week, with a lot of fatigue and headaches so I’ve been trying to rest as much as possible, and have also been working hard on sessions for my Bible study group which resumes again tomorrow night. I’ve been learning a lot recently and designing new sessions and am excited to share what I have learnt with the group. The sitting room is a mess and will definitely need to be tidied up before the evening!

We’ve got the plumber and the roofer coming at the end of the week – the former to service the boiler and check out a possible leak in the downstairs loo which always seems to be damp, and also to fix my boiling water tap that has been leaking for ages, and recently caused a major flood in the kitchen. The roofer is coming to fix a leak in the flashing on the lean-to at the back which is causing some dampness on the wall. Oh the joys of living in damp old Devon… It’s much damper by the coast than where we used to live, further inland. Always something to fix on older houses, isn’t there. Hopefully none of these jobs will prove major.

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

WOYWW 501

Nothing on the desk today, but last week I had an enquiry about how I dealt with the inactive yarn on the back of my current knitting project, and I promised a photo. Here is a close-up of the front so far.

02 Purple Circles Jumper - Front Close-Up 9-1-19

This is what it looks like on the back – I weave the inactive colour by crossing the yarns back and forth with every stitch so there are no long strands on the back – I don’t like these because they tend to catch. I’ve always done my 2-colour knitting in this way and I think it gives a neat finish.

03 Purple Circles Jumper - Front Reverse Side Close-Up 9-1-19

The method I am using for the pattern is based on Kaffe Fassett’s “Persian Poppy” method. You make up two contrasting balls of yarn from lengths of varying colour, simply tying the ends together. When you get to a knot, you just work the ends in as you go. Purists always throw up their hands in horror at the very idea of knots in your knitting but I find with this method, they just disappear into the work and don’t present a problem. As you work, the background and motif colours gradually change from light to darker and back again, and you get a lovely unpredictable and random effect. It’s dead easy to knit, too, as the repeating pattern is a simple one, and the colours take care of themselves. The result looks very complicated and people are always very impressed and wonder how you did it, but it’s a cheat really – it does itself!

I actually rather like the back. Perhaps when this jumper is finished, I’ll wear it inside out!!

Sourdough

I made sourdough again last weekend, and this time I decided to experiment by putting the dough in the fridge to slow down and extend the bulk fermentation time. I hadn’t tried this before but it is supposed to improve the texture and flavour. I left it in overnight and it had about 18 hours in the end, as I was out at church in the morning, so when I got back I folded it and got it into the bannetons for its final proving, and baked it late Sunday afternoon. It had cooled enough to cut and eat with home-made soup for supper. The result was excellent, and I’m very pleased with my sourdough these days.

64 Slow Bulk Fermentation Sourdough 6-1-19

Here it is cut. A nice open crumb and soft springy texture and a good crust, and an excellent flavour! I shall definitely do this again.

65 Slow Bulk Fermentation Sourdough Cut 6-1-19

A few weeks ago I found a brilliant Youtube video (Bake with Jack) where he showed how to shape the dough for its final fermentation in the banneton by folding it not once, but twice, with a half-hour rest in between, to develop a greater amount of tension in the top surface of the boule to stop it spreading when you turn it out. This is a great technique which I am now doing every time, and I am no longer producing awful flat turtles like this effort from back in July last year!

21 Sourdough 21-7-18

It’s been a tough learning curve but well worth persevering because I think I’ve really nailed it now. I’m glad I’ve kept a full photographic record complete with disasters. I think part of the problem in the early days was that I was using a high proportion of rye flour in the dough which makes it extremely sticky and wet – I discovered subsequently that people usually only add a small amount for the flavour, but I don’t use it at all now, and the results are much better, and my improved dough handling has really paid dividends, too. What would we do without Youtube?!

Kitties

My hubby has been out a lot during the day recently, so the kitties haven’t had many outings in the garden. Since Ruby decided she’d far rather be over the fence and out, rather than staying in the garden, he has improved the defences a good deal, and when we let them out, it is under close supervision! The weather has been pretty cold lately so they haven’t minded staying in, and they love cuddling up in the radiator hammock together.

02 Asleep Together in Hammock 5-1-19

Here is Ruby with her arm around her sister again – she does this a lot. It usually starts with her holding Lily down so that she can wash her, and then she just hugs her and they go to sleep!

03 Ruby with her Arm Round Lily 8-1-19
I love to see them like this.

Not sure when I’m going to get time in the studio because I’ve been very busy preparing new sessions for my Bible study group which will be resuming again soon.

The Only Deity

Have a great creative week, everybody.

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

WOYWW 500! Happy New Year!

What a way to celebrate the New Year, with the 500th edition of WOYWW! I wasn’t here for the launch of this astonishing blog hop (which has to be the best on the web) but I joined for No. 111 on 21st July 2011 – 7 1/2 years ago! My goodness, I hadn’t realised it was that long! Anyway, the fact that this has been going on for 500 editions proves how good it is, and that the irresistible urge to nose around in other people’s studios never dies!! I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Julia for starting this, and for faithfully hosting it for all these years. Through this blog hop I have made some very good friends and I’ve also gained so much creative inspiration and learnt lots of new skills. Thank you all so much for everything!

Now to my special 500th edition desk. Very disappointing, I’m afraid… If it hadn’t been a special edition of WOYWW I doubt if I’d have joined in this week because my desk is empty! The rest of the room, as you will see, is in a state of chaos. Over the far side of the room I’ve got all my knitting yarn boxes down (in an effort to search for a ball of purple yarn that I ended up finding in the sitting room…) and I haven’t got round to tidying up yet. So here’s an overview of the room.

WOYWW 500 - 2-1-19

Over Christmas I received these two very pretty carrier bags with presents in them, and I thought I’d keep them and possibly upcycle them as I liked the designs so much.

01 Two Pretty Carrier Bags for Upcycling

The smaller one on top is slightly sparkly.

I’ve been so tired since our busy week the week before Christmas but I did manage to cook a Christmas dinner, and we are still enjoying the remnants of the turkey! I wasn’t feeling at all well yesterday (good start to the year) with a bad headache and extreme fatigue, so I relaxed in front of the telly and watched the New Year Concert from Vienna – a fixture for me as I love the light-hearted Strauss waltzes and the dancing, and the beautiful architecture. It’s a treat every year.

While resting with my feet up when I could over the past week, I’ve made good progress on my purple circles knitting project, and have completed the back, and made a good start on the front. This is how much I’ve done so far.

01 Purple Circles Jumper - Completed Back and Beginning of Front 1-1-19

I’ve done my regular end-of-year review post which you can read here if you are interested, or scroll down to the previous post.

Kitties

On New Year’s Eve they were both in the hammock together and this is how they looked after a vigorous mutual grooming session. Ruby has her arm round her sister, giving her a hug.

01 Ruby with her Arm Round Lily 31-12-18

Now she’s got her leg over her too!

02 Ruby with her Arm and Leg over Lily 31-12-18

I love this picture of the two of them together. They are so affectionate with each other, and with us (although I think a lot of that is more to do with warmth!). They do love to be with us.

My hubby was trying to sort out his computer back-ups tonight and brought down his box of old external hard drives. Of course, someone had to get in the box, didn’t they!

01 Helping Daddy with his Back-Ups 1-1-19

What is it with kitties and boxes?

Ruby on the cat tree. For some reason, after giving it a wide berth for months, she’s got really keen on it again and spends quite a lot of time asleep right on the top.

Ruby on Cat Tree 21-12-18

They are both still grounded, but my hubby has made some improvements on the garden defences and they’ve been out a few times under strict supervision, and so far, despite her obvious interest in the perimeter, Ruby hasn’t attempted to get out. I don’t think she’s very pleased with my hubby’s latest efforts, which are making our garden look ever more like a prison camp. Next step, watch towers, search lights and electrified fences, and my hubby and I will have to practice our goose-stepping technique.

On the subject of cats…

Here’s a cat funny for the pantomime season.

Cat with Aladdin's Lamp

Happy New Year, everyone! And a very happy 500th WOYWW!

Monday, 31 December 2018

2018–A Review of the Year

A year of distinct ups and downs, mostly dominated by health problems and not a lot of creative output this year, apart from one major project.

It is now just over a year since my mum died, and it has taken all this time for the solicitors to wind up the estate. Yes, there were some complications because the law had changed between the deaths of my respective parents but we as a family think they could have got their skates on a bit more than they did! My hubby worked wonders with all the paperwork at the beginning of the year, while he was still laid up with his broken leg, which eventually healed, but it took a long time.

At the beginning of the year, we had a memorial service for Mum which was very well attended, and which was a good celebration of her long life of 96 years. We planned this together and I designed the service booklets as I had done for Dad. We played a selection of her favourite music and I sang “I know that my Redeemer liveth” from Handel’s Messiah, accompanied by the organist from our church. I was able to speak about Mum as well.

Art Projects

I decided to make two copies of a mini-album about Mum, one for her best friend and one for us to keep, and I was not able to blog about this while I was making it in case our friend saw it, and things have rather taken over and prevented me from completing the uploading of the almost daily posts I did and saved as drafts at the time. Something to remedy in the New Year, perhaps?

01 Front Cover

Anyway, I did blog about the finished project, and made a video flip-through of it.

Later in the year, I made boxes to keep the two albums in.

66 Box Side and Front

The other main project I made this year was three small heart-shaped frames that I altered, as gifts for friends.

06 Two Completed Hearts

11 Completed Heart 1

To accompany the purple one, I also made a birthday card.

07 The Finished Card

Other cards 

These included a birthday card for a beekeeping friend.

11 Completed Card

For our wedding anniversary, I made this card for my hubby, with a swinging heart with our initials on either side, with a faux woodgrain effect.

14 Finished Card Standing

For Valentine’s Day I made him this one:

11 Finished Card Front

with a pop-up inside.

12 Finished Pop-Up

For a friend’s 100th birthday I made this card, using some dies I got at a craft show early in the year.

10 Finished Card, Drying

Embroidery

Also for this friend’s birthday, I made this small cross-stitch plaque from a chart I designed many years ago.

02 Finished Embroidery

I made no further headway on my other embroidery projects, I’m afraid!

Knitting and Crochet

I’ve really got back into this again this year. This year was supposed to be the Year of the UFOs, when I was determined to tackle my huge stash of UnFinished Objects but as usual this rather bit the dust! I did manage to unravel a tunic top I’d made many years ago, and started to knit this up again to a new design which will hopefully fit me a lot better than its previous incarnation!

04 Back - Knitting in Progress

I have now completed the back and begun on the front, but haven’t photographed it recently.

I also finished knitting a striped scarf I began while I was having my chemo in 2015.

02 Knitting Completed

For this, I made a lot of felt and crochet embellishments, which I have yet to attach to the scarf. (Another UFO…)

10 Crochet Embellishments Pressed

06 Felt Balls and Flowers - Wet Felted 22-10-18

I knitted another scarf from a single ball of gorgeous yarn I bought in a charity shop.

03 Knitting Completed

Again, I haven’t managed to complete this – I am still making the peacock feather embellishments for this.

03 Feathering the Barbs

I shall need to buy some more yarn to complete these.

Not a terribly productive year art and craft-wise. Hope to do better next year!

Health Problems

One of the reasons for my lack of productivity was a major health crisis at the beginning of the year.

I saw my surgeon at the end of last year when he agreed that my recurrent parastomal hernia really did need repairing as it was causing me major problems. I went into hospital to have this done in March, and within a fortnight I was back in again with sepsis. I had two large infected haematomas in my abdomen and had to have two drains to deal with these, and I also had intravenous fluids, two units of blood, and three different cocktails of powerful IV antibiotics before they finally found the right combination to deal with the infection. I was in for nearly three weeks, in quite severe pain for most of the time, and feeling dreadful. It took them over 24 hours to get my temperature down to a safe level, and the whole experience was not something I ever want to repeat.

I saw my surgeon again in August and told him I was sure the hernia had returned, which was confirmed by a CT scan in the autumn. I saw him again recently and we discussed options. He is consulting a colleague in Exeter in order to come to the right decision for me. I blogged in detail about this here.

Hopefully another appointment will be forthcoming in the New Year, and I will know the way forward. Having discussed everything at some length with him, I feel a lot easier in my mind now about the possibility of further surgery if they deem it necessary.

It took me quite a while to get over all this, but I am convinced my recovery was helped no end by a friend introducing me to fermented foods.

Some good news, though – at my regular oncology appointment in November I was told I am still cancer free.

Fermented Foods

I got very interested in fermented foods in the summer, and started drinking kefir and kombucha, to try and counteract the ill-effects of so many powerful antibiotics on my system. A friend who had had many gut problems over several years had benefited greatly from this, and she kindly got me started on this route, and I’ve become a complete convert! My hubby and I are both consuming kefir and kombucha on a daily basis and we believe this is also having a beneficial effect on his diverticular disease. Everyone is telling me how well I look these days!

I have become very interested in the whole new area of research into the gut microbiome, and have been reading a lot about it.

Making kefir.

02 Straining the Kefir 9-7-18

Making kombucha.

10 Making Kombucha 7-9-18

During this time I also invested in a kefir cheese maker which is a lot easier to use and more efficient than using muslin in a sieve. I am getting very good results with the kefir cheese which is delicious, and the resulting whey is extremely beneficial too.

Sourdough

In the summer, I also started making sourdough bread which is extremely nutritious and good for general health.

I made my own starter, called Esmeralda.

63 Esmeralda 18-12-18

After many months on a pretty steep learning curve, I think I’ve finally cracked sourdough making and am getting consistently good results now. I have blogged about my efforts and photographed the loaves I make most weeks, so that I can see how I have improved with practice.

60 Excellent Sourdough Cut 25-11-18

We both enjoy eating this on a regular basis.

Other bread

I am also continuing to make my regular seedy bread in the bread maker.

Seedy Bread from Bread Maker 18-12-18

Another sort of bread I make every now and then is challah. Delicious! Really sweet and rich. When we can, we attend a regular Shabbat meal held locally by a friend, and I always like to supply the challah if we are going.

Challah for Conference 30-8-18

This year, I have also started making brown seedy baps which are much nicer than the shop ones!

Brown Seed Baps 20-10-18

Other cooking

With excess sourdough starter, I have been making crackers and pancakes, from recipes I found online.

42 Sourdough Crackers 18-9-18

02 Supper

I have also been experimenting with Middle Eastern cooking, having been given a brilliant recipe book. We both very much enjoy this delicious, delicately spiced and nutritious food, and it’s so easy these days to get the more exotic ingredients online. My hubby has been enjoying the results of my efforts in this new area!

01 Book Cover

With the apples from our wonderful tree in the garden, I made chutney for the first time this year, and it was a huge success. Here is the jar I made for a friend, complete with the label I designed for it.

02 Apple Chutney with Labels

I also made some sourdough crackers for the same friend on another occasion.

06 Peachies' Original Sourdough Crackers 2

Since being ill, I have gradually worked through our supplies of refined carbohydrates and we have been eating more whole grain foods and plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.

I seem to have spent more time baking and cooking this year than making art!

Diet

My 5:2 diet has been ongoing throughout the year but this year I haven’t really lost any more weight. I have put on a few pounds since reaching my original target weight, and have found it very hard to maintain at that level, so I think realistically my current weight is probably my ideal weight. I have still lost around 4 stone since I started and I am well satisfied with that. My hubby has now agreed to join me on this two days a week fast, and doing it together I can support him in his aim to lose some weight.

Bible Study

Our little group went into abeyance for a few months because I was so ill, and it took me quite a while to pick up the pieces of my life again and catch up with everything that had got neglected during that time. When we resumed in the autumn, we gained two new members which has been a great joy – both contribute a lot and we have some interesting and lively discussions during and after the teaching. I continue to design plenty of visual aids on my desktop publisher, photo editor, and Inkscape (vector images) to produce on PowerPoint which we show on the TV screen. This year we have embarked on a major course on prophecy, and during the coming year, interspersed between these sessions, we will again be covering the Feasts of the Lord at the relevant times throughout the year. I have been studying the Bible in depth for over 30 years and it is always such a privilege to be able to share the fruits of my studies with others, particularly when they are as hungry for it as the lovely people in our small group. It would be lovely to see our numbers grow, but there is a great deal of apathy in the church today and most people are not prepared for the commitment, or to put in the time and effort required for study – such a shame, as it has proved to be the most exciting adventure of my life.

Kitties

Our two new kitties celebrated their first birthday in May, and with the nice summer weather we let them out in the garden for the first time, and they were soon enjoying it to the full, spending all day out there, chasing butterflies and relaxing in the sun, and keeping us company when we were sitting out under the apple tree having our meals. It was such a lovely summer in which to let them out.

Recently, though, we have been having terrible trouble with Ruby escaping through my hubby’s kitty defences and he has been working on improving them. Until we are sure they are safe, both kitties are grounded for now, and have reverted to being indoor kitties. They don’t seem to mind too much, and it’s probably a good thing the weather has been so wet lately!

Not only has Ruby developed into a regular Houdini, but she has also developed into the more naughty of the two in other ways too – she is a terrible food thief and will pinch stuff off your plate if you just look away for a few seconds! She can smell butter at 500 paces and absolutely nothing is safe from the little monkey. Lily, on the other hand, doesn’t seem bothered about our food at all and is generally very well behaved! There’s always one, isn’t there…

They continue to be an absolute delight. They are now fully grown and adult but they will always be our babies! They are very close and get on so well with each other, with only the occasional spat, usually at meal times. They are affectionate and love to be with us, and communicate with us all the time. Their little personalities are so different from each other and they seem to have settled down with Lily being the senior of the two. We are absolutely delighted with them both.

11 Under the Apple Tree 2 Lily Rolling 25-6-18

05 Sleeping Together 3 7-10-18

Outings

We have had some lovely outings this year. In May we attended the Devon County Show, a fixture I should hate to miss! I wasn’t long out of hospital and was determined to be well enough to go.

44 Peter Rabbit Display

Teignmouth.

04 In Come the Waves

08 Narrow Winding Shopping Street

Hope Cove.

34 Thatched Cottages 2

Tyntesfield, near Bristol.

06 The End of the House with the Chapel

Knightshayes Court.

43 Along Wall inside Entrance to Kitchen Garden

Meals Out

We also had some fabulous meals out, including a really posh nosh evening at a Michelin starred restaurant for which we were given tickets.

12 Venison Main

A meal out with a friend. Very chefy food at a pub near us.

05 Margaret's Fish

For various reasons it is difficult for us to get away on holiday, but living where we do, there are so many lovely places to visit, and friends to eat out with, and so on, that we hardly miss it. I love being at home anyway, with our lovely surroundings and beautiful little garden, our kitties, my studio and all the things I enjoy doing.

Computers

At the end of the year I had a bit of a crisis with my remaining laptop which involved having to format the hard drive and reinstall everything. My hubby’s laptop completely died around this time too, and with Mum’s money about to make an appearance, I decided to buy us both a new laptop and we went off one evening after doing some online research, and got a couple of Acers. I’ve always had HPs in the past but my last one really wasn’t as good as previous HPs so I decided not to get another. That laptop will now go up in the office as a replacement for my previous HP which died (I have been struggling up and down the stairs with it and really need one permanently up there for the accounts etc.) and the new Acer will now become my main computer. I still haven’t got everything back on and working as I would like it but I’ve got the essentials, and the rest will happen in due course.

Summary

Looking back over that little lot, despite my various difficulties this year, I’ve actually done quite a bit! The year has generally been a very good one and we have a lot to be thankful for. I hope to achieve a bit more on the creative front in the coming year, and for once I’m not going to list all the things I intend doing because I always fail to do them!! I shall do what I shall do, and hopefully I shall enjoy the process!

Wishing all my followers and visitors a very Happy New Year.

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