Friday, 27 February 2015

Edward's Menagerie - Caitlin the Giraffe

Hot on the heels of  Benedict the Chimpanzee who featured in my review of Edward's Menagerie last week I had another project on my hook.

Much as I am a lover of colour I've been really enjoying working in more muted shades for these guys. They just look more friendly somehow which is a statement I am well aware makes no sense.

Anyway, this guy's face is just a little bit too much for me. It's off the cute-scale by about a hundred degrees. And I also really love his ossicones. I also love that I now know the word ossicones. Let's all try and get it into a sentence tomorrow, although I'm pretty sure the only sentence you can get it into is one that's something along the lines of "Oh look, that giraffe has a lovely set of ossicones." You never know, it might crop up at some point.

The part I really enjoyed about making Caitlin though was the body. Again, as with everything I love about this book, it's so simple and yet looks absolutely amazing. The patches of darker colour are just worked randomly as you're working the body, not cutting the colour off each time you change but keeping it at the back until you need to pick it up again.

Working anything randomly is a huge struggle for me and I had to resist all my natural urges to basically have a very long necked zebra. Stripes are neat, I can handle that.

It also meant that a stitch counter and stitch marker were absolutely essential as it would be very tricky to work random numbers of stitches and still keep count of what you were doing over all.

But totally worth it, am I right?!

Caitlin is a new firm favourite for me and I'm looking for an excuse to make another one as soon as possible.

She's also a good old size once she's finished. She's sat next to a 6x4in photo frame so you can see how tall she is. As she should be, she's a bloody giraffe!

The only thing I would do differently next time around is makes sure I stuffed the neck more so that she's able to keep her head up. I followed the general rules to not overstuff and keep everything floppy but I just don't think it really works for Caitlin. These photos involved an awful lot of balancing to keep her head up and I felt a bit rubbishy at how floppy her head was.

I'm still in love with this book and I've got to tell you right now, that I've already finished my next item from it.

And now that one might be my favourite...

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

A little bit of internet love: Part VI

I know I should do these more often and then these posts wouldn't be showing you links to posts that were written about three weeks ago which I always worry makes me look ever so slightly creepy. "Oh hai, I've been saving this blog post of yours to share with people....along with the cutting of your hair that I took when I crept into your room last night..."

Anyway. Enough of being creepy. Time to share the love...

1. You may have noticed that I talk a lot about the fact that I'm from Hull - I'm a fan of anyone who talks about their love for Hull, and although our experiences of living in Hull are vastly different, Ryan's post, In Defence of Hull and his love for our city resonates with me.

2. Elise has been crocheting from a book that I've had for ages but have yet to dip into - check out this little Grim Reaper...

3. I'm going to sneakily move into Janet's house and set up camp at her new home office. Don't tell her I'm going to do it though...

4. Chloe talked about feeling attractive and I wholeheartedly agree with what she said. Especially about getting a shower/washing your hair - whenever I feel crappy I always force myself into the shower and it never fails to make me feel a little bit better.

5. Rachael wrote a post called Don't Assume Your Blog Followers... which really resonated with me in a couple of places. Especially the bit about assuming people use Bloglovin'.

6. Hayles went to a Black Heart Creatives jewellery workshop and I am outrageously jealous about it.

7. Christa over at A Voluptuous Mind posted Shall I Rise, a poem by Maya Angelou. It came at an incredibly appropriate time for me and I cried big, fat, blobby tears when I read it. It is beautiful.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Photo an Hour l 21st February

I should have been in Manchester this weekend, after my last weekend was cancelled. This weekend got cancelled as well. Need to cut these flaky people out of my life really don't I?

Anyway. No plans. Nothing happening. Yet another Photo an Hour date came round and I had a day of nothingness ahead of me. These Photo an Hour posts that I'm taking part in seem to serve the purpose of highlighting how crap my life is...

This was Saturday 21st February...

9am Slow start to the day as it was a late night the day before. Got up and made myself a cup of tea and retreated back to my lair to watch Goldfrapp videos on You Tube. For absolutely no reason.

10am It's not a weekend unless bacon is involved somewhere, at some point. This might be the finest bacon sandwich I've ever made myself, I got the perfect crispiness.

11am Decided to get up and get dressed but was faced with the everlasting problem of a wardrobe full of clothes and nothing to wear. My plan was to head straight out but got waylaid by a lengthy phone call with my Mum and the weather going absolutely batshit crazy - hailing with blue skies? What?

12pm Suddenly remembered that I needed to send off a package to a friend. I finally managed to crochet one hundred hearts for my friend's wedding and needed to send them off to her. Made use of my washi tape stash - everyone loves pretty post, right?

1pm Finally made it into town and to the Farmer's Market which takes place just beside the ruins of the castle. Thankfully the weather seemed to have calmed down and I did a big race around, ticking off everything that I wanted to get done in record time.

2pm Back home and noticed the rather lovely shadow being cast in my bedroom

3pm Turns out one of my headlights has gone out so I ventured out to Halfords to buy a bulb and get it fitted. Yeah you can fit them yourself but for the stress of it I'd rather just pay £7 and get it sorted thanks. Also, trying to take a surreptitious photo of someone fitting your new headlight is really hard.

4pm Time for a cup of tea and crochet time. Already got another couple of things waiting on my order book so time to get knuckled down. Care to venture a guess as to what it's going to be?

5pm More tea needed. This time accompanied by a beast of a doughnut that I bought earlier in the day at the Farmer's Market.

6pm Went to my sister's for dinner which means lots of time with my favourites - Rosie was in the middle of taking all her toys out of her toybox and sitting down surrounded by them.

7pm Whenever Blinky behaves like a normal cat it freaks us all out a little bit. Nobody really knew what to do when she jumped up on my sister's chair at the dining table - and certainly nobody wanted to risk moving her, you can never be sure when she will strike...

8pm TV watching with my bestie, Rowan. I actually think that if I could take Rowan home with me all the time then I wouldn't miss having a man in the house at all - I'd just hug her all night and it would be brilliant.

9pm On the way back home I figured it was essential to go to the 24 hour Tesco and stock up on crisps and booze for the rest of the evening. Late night shopping is my all time favourite - it's so empty you feel like you're doing something you shouldn't be doing.

10pm 30 Rock time. It arrived this week and I've been dying to watch it, perfect Saturday night TV.

11pm Still there, watching 30 Rock. Where I remained until much much later on. I think I watched eight episodes in a row which may be considered overkill by some people.


So I don't know, I'm torn between thinking "Hey I did do some stuff, even though I had nothing really planned" and thinking "Well. This highlights how empty my life is doesn't it?"

Only time will tell...

Thanks as always to Jane and Louisa for hosting. Check in with them for March's Photo an Hour date and don't forget to join in on Twitter and Instagram using #PhotoAnHour


2015 Photo an Hour Posts

Sunday, 22 February 2015

How Shrove Tuesday 2015 Went Down

I nearly forgot about Shrove Tuesday this year. And when I did remember I found it hard to summon up the energy to actually make some.

I always remember pancake day as being a hugely social activity. We'd all be gathered in the kitchen, fighting over what we were going to put in our pancakes, I'd be begging to be allowed to try and flip one, then most likely crying when it didn't work.

Hanging out on your own, giving yourself a little cheer when you managed to toss the pancake in one swift, professional movement, just felt a little tragic.

But who was I kidding? I'm a pretty tragic individual anyway, why try and hide from it? Just embrace it and get on with it.

And I was absolutely gutted when my first pancake, you know, the one that always turns out horribly for some reason, was absolutely perfect and I had no fucker to share my triumph with. I did however take a picture for posterity so I could share it all with you guys almost a week later...

Then I remembered that of course I'm not alone. I'm never alone whilst I can walk into the lounge and see this little face looking at me...

Ser Jorah Mormont is no fool. He remembered last year when they got pancakes made for them on this special day.

Not really, they just appears whenever he smells food or hears the rustling of something that sounds like it might be a good packet. 

Like last year I decided to make both the boys a little tiny pancake each, garnished with half a slice of banana, a gerbil chocolate drop and a pumpkin seed. Last year these were whipped away and gobbled so furiously that I didn't get the chance to take a decent picture so this time I was prepared. I put them on a plate and held it outside the cage, meaning if they wanted a pancake they were going to have to come pretty far out, thus maximising the photographic opportunity.

Seriously. This is my life.

Sure enough Ser Jorah Mormont took the bait and came out to have a little investigation. Tyrion Lannister had unfortunately just taken a bit of museli out of the food bowl and was furiously trying to eat it as fast as possible so he didn't miss out. It's hard to eat quickly when you only have a little gerbil mouth though, I bet they wish they had pouches like hamsters.

What I hadn't counted on is the fact that after a year has gone by, the gerbils are cool as a cucumber when it comes to being around me. They're not frightened of being picked up and most importantly they know that if they stay still they are almost definitely going to be rewarded with food.

And so, rather than whip the pancake back into the gerbilarium to eat it, Ser Jorah Mormont just decided to hang out on the plate I had kindly provided.


Have you ever seen anything so ridiculously cute in your entire life?

Can you also see how even when you think you've given a gerbil a really small pancake, it actually turns out to be outrageously massive?*

Can you imagine how cute two gerbils eating pancakes are?

*After a minute or so and a lot of pictures I took the pancakes away as I really didn't think they should be eating so much. I know, I'm super mean.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

How I won at Valentine's Day

I saw a plethora of blog posts last week all revolving around the subject of Valentine's Day. All started with the same sentence "Personally my boyfriend and I don't really bother with Valentine's Day..." and then proceeded to either try and sell me something from a company that was loosely related to the day or (my personal favourite) provide a list of "alternative" things to do on Valentine's Day.

I eventually had to move my laptop to another room to prevent myself from throwing it against a wall.

Smug fuckers.

And the thing was I used to be one of those smug fuckers. Kind of. I've never understood the whole hating on Valentine's Day thing. Sure I've never gone the whole hog, buying insane presents and going out and awkwardly sitting in a restaurant with every other couple in the vicinity, but I have appreciated the day for what it is; a nice opportunity to turn the person you love and go "Hey, did you know I love you?"

No you shouldn't need just one day to tell someone you love them and yes it probably is a sad indictment of your relationship if you throw a tantrum because your other half didn't get you a big enough bunch of flowers, but why would you pass up the opportunity to be a bit romantic?

Which is probably why the lead up to Valentine's Day was rough as this year. Everywhere I went it was as if there were flashing red and pink neon signs up saying "YOU'RE ALONE!" something of which I'm already aware thaaaaaanks.

Luckily for me I had a hot date in the diary for Saturday with lovely bloggy people Gemma, Maria, Sarah, Emma and Katy. That means there were four of Team Norbury around a table which made me happy. (Really I just like an excuse to link to that blog post, it stills makes me laugh like a drain.)

At Jamie's we did the usual - ate food, drank some stuff and inwardly (and sometimes outwardly) cringed at the over-familiarity of the wait staff. It was my first time at a Jamie's and it know....okay. I'm all down with the aesthetics they have going on but the food was only alright for the price you pay and the acoustics were dreadful. It was absolutely rammed and there were times when we could hardly hear each other speak.

I don't really know where the time went but before I knew it I was racing back to the train station and hopping on a train to go back home.

The bad feelings could have returned again, coming back home to an empty flat whilst everything on the internet and the TV was all about love, romance and the sexy stuff, but I knew how to keep those bad boys at bay.

All I needed was two simple ingredients.

A Chinese takeaway and Top Gun on TV.

Oh and a third ingredient. 

Twitter so I could just tweet quotes from the film ad finitum.

Suck it Valentine's Day. I win.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Edward's Menagerie - A Review

I am starting to gather quite the collection of amigurumi crochet books. I hadn't realised how out of control it was getting until they all fell down on the bookshelf the other day and the resounding clash made me spill of cup of tea.

Anyway, one of the latest editions has become by far and away my favourite of all time and I want to rush up to people on the street and urge them to buy it.

I received Edward's Menagerie as a Christmas present, along with two balls of Toft Alpaca Yarn and immediately started itching to get hooking. Christmas dinner be damned, I had crocheting for myself to be doing!

Reason number one that I love this book: Detail. Detail detail detail detail detail.

I love a bit of detail, I like rules, I like instructions, I like being lazy and having someone tell me exactly what to do and this book offers you that. Not in a super annoying patronizing way, but in a super informative brilliant way.

There is a section which shows you the different sizes of animals and what hook and yarn size you will need to create those. There's a section that talks to you about stuffing techniques and how the placement of ears, eyes and noses can really affect the facial expressions of your animal.

Aah yes, the animals. This book has it all. 40 of them. Forty! And they are not just bog standard boring animals - there isn't just a monkey, there's a monkey, a chimpanzee and a gorilla. There isn't just a cat, there's a flipping aardvark in there. From hippos to palomino ponies and foxes to raccoons, this book has it all.

Reason number two that I like this book: The animal construction.

This is so outrageously clever and simple that it blew my mind. Every animal in the book is made up of a standard form, the instructions for which are located at the front of the book. All the arms, legs, bodies and heads start with this basic form and then start to vary once you get into more detail. It means that if you were to make a Highland Cow and a Cheetah - they would still look like they belonged to the same family and therefore would look flipping awesome sat on a shelf together.

Reason number three that I like this book: The flippin' animals! Look look look look.

This is Benedict the Chimpanzee and isn't he just the bloody best thing you've ever seen, ever?

Not only is he a decent size (the photo frame next to him is a standard 6x4 frame) but look how nicely he sits. Again, this is all down to the wonderful instructions given in the book. I am a bit of an over zealous stuffer when it comes to my amigurumi and when I read the suggestion in the book about less is more it totally made sense in my head. The animals in Edward's Menagerie are really lightly stuffed - the arms and legs are just stuffed at the bottom and the body isn't rammed full either, and it means that they sit really beautifully and are fun to hold as well.

Benedict hasn't stayed with me though, he has gone off to live down South as a present for a work colleague who is having her baby very soon. And no sooner was he off my hook than I have cracked on with the next one, a giraffe for another colleague. I'm hoping no-one else announces they are pregnant as I'm backing myself into a corner with this one...

(Just one small note - Benedict was made using Stylecraft DK and a 4mm hook. I did start to make something with my Alpaca Wool from Toft and was making it using the 3mm hook as recommended in the book but my crochet stitches tend to be as uptight as I am and it was actually making this guy not very floppy and cuddly and also meant that the beautiful silky wool lost some of its softness.)

[Obviously not a sponsored post - I just like this stuff you guys!]

Monday, 9 February 2015

Return to Running

I really think I've got the hang of it this time guys. I know you must be bored of hearing it but this time, this time, I think I've cracked running.

I know that periodically posts appear on here where I say something along the lines of "I know I stopped running but now I've started again and I'm really loving it again."

Well guess what?

I'm not going to buck the trend.

Last year was a bad year for me running-wise. A really bad year. Messed up knees, a messed up calf, sciatica - good lord it was dreadful. Nearly every time I went out running I felt bad after it - if not physically, then mentally. If I didn't run as fast or as far as I did the time before I berated myself for 'losing it', if I did run faster or further then I berated myself for not running even faster or further.

I came home from runs and cried. I came home from runs and sulked. I came home and swore I wouldn't go out running again. I didn't enjoy it, I made it as little fun as I possibly could.

Not this time. I have said that this year I would like to beat my 10k time as part of my Not Really Resolutions and to that end I've signed up for a couple of 10ks this year as some motivation. But the memories of last year were running deep and I was finding every excuse under the sun to not go out and run - it would be too hard, it was too cold, it was too dark etc etc.

Eventually I snapped. I came home from work one evening and decided enough was enough. I put on my stuff and just went out before I had time to think about it. I figured that of course it was going to be rubbish - the last time I'd run was the beginning of September and I was now at the end of January. But the important thing was to just get out, make the first move, go go go go.

And I went.

I went out and ran 3km. Without stopping. I couldn't really believe it. And I couldn't work out why it had happened.

It happened because I wasn't mean to myself. I just went out just to see what would happen. I didn't place any expectations on myself and the whole way round I didn't have a loop running in my head saying "Oh my god you can't do this, you're definitely going to be too tired". Instead I channelled my inner This Girl Can and said to myself "Hey, at least you're not sat on the sofa like you would have been. You're already winning."

 I went out running a couple of days later and it was much harder - it was absolutely freezing and I've been battling a mega cough for about three weeks - the cold air hit my lungs and shrivelled them up and induced a couple of such major coughing fits that at one point I thought I was going to throw up in the street. But I finished off coughing, assured the old couple who thought I was about to keel over that I was fine and carried on running. And I came home and said "Good work, you carried on running even though it was rubbish."

I went again and it was all fine. My knee hurt a bit afterwards so I didn't go out running again until it was properly better. I didn't try and force the issue and run through it. And when I went out running tonight it was the best out of the four runs.

I haven't once said to myself "You're only running 3km, you should be running further by now." When I feel like it, I'll run further and see how it goes. No more saying I have to run the whole thing. Eventually I'll be able to run the whole way. It might take absolutely ages, I might not beat my 10k time this year. But I'd rather not beat it and enjoy running than drive myself into a pit of despair and injury again by being constantly mean to myself the whole time.

So there are no training plans. There is no pressure. There is no more apologising that I haven't run that far or that fast.

Going out and doing any kind of running is better than sitting in on your arse.

Remind me of this post when I'm having a freak out that I'm not "improving", yeah?

Friday, 6 February 2015

The Staves - Rescue Rooms, Nottingham

Back in 2011 I went over to Belfast to see some family. Whilst over there we went to a gig in The Grand Opera House where I saw a band called The Staves who were the support act for James Vincent McMorrow.

This is why blogging is good you know - you can read about that trip and that gig right here.

We wandered in in the middle of their set and to say I was blown away was an enormous understatement. The first song I heard them sing was Winter Trees and it gave me shivers, it really did. That harmonising, the together-ness, the absolute silence of the audience whilst they were singing. I'm hesitant to use the word 'magical' because it sounds hugely wanky but instead let's just say that that moment stuck with me for a long time.

It stuck with me so much in fact that I have waited patiently for four long year before getting the chance to see them again. I have tried in the past but they either haven't played anywhere near me, or I haven't had anyone to go with.

My patience (and complete stalking of Facebook, Twitter and signing up to newsletters) paid off and when I saw that there was going to be a new tour taking place in 2015 to celebrate the release of their new album and that they were playing even a little bit vaguely near me at  The Rescue Rooms in Nottingham I snapped those tickets up.

And I mean snapped as soon as they went on sale in a kind of unnecessary frenzy.

Unfortunately the new album, If I Was, is yet to be released, the victim of record company re-scheduling, meaning that The Staves are out there playing songs from an album that none of the audience have heard. 

Actually a pretty daunting prospect when you think about it.

But it hasn't stopped fans like me and when I last checked their tour is all but sold out on two dates. 

My friend and I packed into The Rescue Rooms on Wednesday and I have never heard a crowd so silent as these unbelievably talented ladies changed their guitars and re-tuned between songs. So silent that I felt bad for coughing. Such the level of respect that fans are willing to just stand and wait with baited breath until they are ready to sing again.

It is rare beyond words to have the pleasure of listening to a band that sound exactly the same as the album that you have been listening to through your headphones for years but standing in that room felt like being in my living room - just with a lot of extra middle-aged, bearded people as well.

No-one cared that the new songs were new, it's impossible to not get swept away on the rivers of harmonies that sweep over you, I was a fan of some of the newer songs that feature a lot more instrumentals on and the effect on the crowd was immediate when the bouncier numbers were played. 

And that is how rare and special their talent is. To be able to write and perform songs which verge more into the 'pop-ier' scene at the same time as performing beautiful and simple unaccompanied harmonies which belong more on the folk side.

They performed some of the favourites from the last album, Dead & Born & Grown, including Winter Trees which was every bit as beautiful as I remembered it being four years ago.

It was worth the wait, but I hope I won't have to wait this long before seeing them again.

(By the way - you can pre-order the upcoming album, If I Was, on that there iTunes. You should do it.)


Only one week into February and I've officially ticked off this month's Not Really Resolution to go somewhere new. I'm on fire baby.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Bradgate Park - The Winter Edition

I set myself a whole load of Not Really Resolutions this year and have then been steadily not living up to them ever since. We're in February and I still haven't been to any Park Runs (although I have cast iron excuses for not going, I swear) and the end of January was looming and I still hadn't been somewhere I'd never been before.

Inspiration was close at hand though and not only would I get to tick something off my list, I'd also get to meet up with one of my favourites, Janet. After mentioning on Twitter that I fancied a stomp around Bradgate Park she said she would keep me company on my stomping, and more importantly, lead me to the tea shop on the way.

I haven't had a little adventure in my car in a really long time and this was the first time that I got to use one of my Christmas presents, I lovely shiny sat nav. Although hilarity ensued when I set off and realised that after I had been messing around with some free voice downloads I had forgotten to change it back and had a goulish, monster voice, complete with echo, telling me to take the third exit off the roundabout.

We picked the winteriest of wintery days to make our stomping happen. The previous day had seen Tiny Town completely grind to a halt because of the snow and although it had mostly disappeared amidst the snow and rain there was an accompanying biting wind, whipping around our faces.

We duly stomped all the way to the top of the hill to see Old John Tower and the views out over Leicestershire and then completed a much more ginger form of stomping back down the hill which made me want to categorise the walk as PG - containing scenes of mild peril.

Seriously. Walking down a steep hill when there's no paved path and it's been raining has given me free reign to describe myself as doing my own stunts.

I didn't fall though. Came close. But no falling.

It felt so very very British. The scenery was that odd sort of beautiful because it was so bleak and yet felt homely at the same time. Janet said that it reminded her of really Northern scenery and I have to agree, I don't know what it was about it, possibly the hills, but it felt homely to me.

We walked past the ruins of Bradgate House and even saw some deer which I thought would definitely remain unseen. I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to take photos of them armed only with my phone. Not going to happen. You'll just have to take my word for it - deer were there and they were pretty.

After refuelling at the tea shop we not so much stomped as trudged back to the car. The icy wind had been behind us on the way down and was very much in our faces on the way back up. The pain in my face was unreal and it definitely stopped being fun pretty soon into it and just became something to be endured and got through.

Back at our cars and marvelling at our terribly muddy boots and wellies (nothing like a good bit of British muddy countryside to make you feel virtuous) I had one of my most brilliant ideas. We should come back each season and stomp around and fully take in how the scenery changes. When I say "we" there's a strong possibility that it's just going to be me stomping about, I haven't worked out yet if I have persuaded Janet to come a-stomping through the seasons with me. But I can hope.


And yes. We are rubbish bloggers. We missed the opportunity to take photos of our scones in the tea shop, photos of our muddy boots and an excellent backdrop for some outfit photos. Damn.

Monday, 2 February 2015

Crochet Love

Hands up if you love cool things to crochet that don't take long to make?

Oh my goodness me too!

What with this being the month that has the Day That Shall Not Be Mentioned in it I have been having a good old play with a couple of  patterns that I've had lying around on Pinterest and in this month's Simply Crochet magazine.

You. Are welcome.

These stuffed hearts from Mamachee are surprisingly easy to make and there are a couple of photos which come in handy for some of the trickier parts. (Note the instructions are in American crochet terminology - you can go here for a US to UK stitch conversion)

I am currently in the middle of making 100 of these one dimensional hearts from The Painted Hinge for a friend who is getting married this year. The title of the blog post is the Easiest Crochet Heart Pattern Ever and I have to agree. Again, it is in US crochet terminology but once you have that cracked these babies come off your hook at a rate of knots.

Finally I made this bad ass brooch, this month's free kit in Simply Crochet magazine (Issue 27 - on sale until 5th February) I have worn it most days at work because I am brilliant. I was a little worried that this would be too complicated but it didn't take that long at all and even though you don't stuff it, it would still look great if you did, making it a great alternative to the Mamachee pattern.


What are you waiting for? Get on it.