Friday, 30 January 2015

And the Winner is ...

Last weekend I took part in the Big Garden Bird Watch and I took a few photos as I recorded the birds that visited our back garden.
The Nuthatch is a regular visitor,
as are the Great Tits,
Blue Tits
and House Sparrows.
I also saw Blackbirds, Robins and a Wood Pigeon during my hour of bird-watching.
This morning I was lucky enough to see 3 Goldfinches on the feeder.
The weather has turned colder, but we only saw a small amount of snow/hail yesterday.  I do keep hoping for a good covering of snow, but this far south it doesn't happen often!
There are signs of spring in the garden.  The leaves of various bulbs are appearing and the primroses are starting to flower, as are the yellow crocuses, but unfortunately the birds keep pecking at those!
I have set out our seed potatoes in the garage to chit
and started sowing some sweet pea seeds, which are on a window sill indoors.  I grow my sweet peas in toilet/kitchen roll tubes, which can then be planted out without disturbing the roots.
As we are now at the end of January, it is time to announce the winner of my 7th blogiversary giveaway ... Congratulations to Joanne of Rose & Dahlia.  I have just sent an email to you Joanne asking for your address so that I can pop your gift in the post.  Joanne stitches the most amazing patchwork quilts, so if you haven't looked at her blog I urge you to do so.  She also produces some gorgeous knitwear.  I did make some mitts as intended, but I won't show a photo of them until Joanne has seen them.
I did crochet/knit a pair of Elf Clobber mitts, but I wasn't too happy with the result.  They are pretty, but not very practical!
I'm planning on attending unravel next month at Farnham, so I thought I ought to knit up some more of the stash that I purchased at Unwind, Brighton last July.  Sadly Unwind isn't taking place this year, so I'm on the lookout for other fibre festivals that I may be able to visit.
This yarn is Westminster, by Kettle Yarn Co in the colourway Florence.  It is a lovely soft blend of 50% baby camel and 50% silk and is a joy to knit with.  I bought it to knit the Noordzee Shawl by Rachel Brown.  I fell in love with the test knit shawl at Unwind and bought the yarn that it was knitted in.  Green usually isn't my colour, but this yarn is beautifully dyed in many subtle shades - I couldn't resist it!  I searched everywhere locally for some beads that would do this yarn justice and ended up visiting Beadworks in London, where I still couldn't decide on the right shade of green! I ended up with 2 different colours of beads, both green-lined gold.  This one was a slightly brighter green, which I thought would be suitable, but when I threaded them onto the knitting they didn't quite work.
 Luckily I had bought the other beads that are lined with an eau-de-Nil green, which works well with the yarn.
I have finished the beaded pattern edging and I'm now working on the short row section of the shawl.  I haven't knitted a shawl with a bottom up and short row construction before, so I have found it very interesting to knit.
I was going to finish up some of my WIP's, but instead I am about to start another project!  This one has been a planned WIP since I bought the bunny patterns from Julie Williams of Little Cotton Rabbits.  I bought the yarn to knit the girl bunny last year, but hadn't gotten around to casting on!  Since Unwind I have discovered knitting podcasts and enjoy listening to them whilst knitting.  My favourites are Curious Handmade, A Playful Day, Little Yellow Uke and Little Bobbins Knits.
Zena of Little Yellow Uke and Dani of Little Bobbins Knits are hosting a Little Along KAL, which seems an ideal time to start my Little Cotton Rabbit.  The Little Along starts on Sunday and will run throughout February, so hopefully I will have a bunny by the end of the month and maybe I will have finished Noordzee too ... it I haven't been distracted by another project! ;)

Friday, 23 January 2015

Clear Skies

 The clear skies over recent nights have been ideal for star-gazing.  We were on the look out for Comet Lovejoy C/2014 Q2.
I took these photos on 19th January when the comet was between Pleiades and Aries.
 Jupiter was also visible.
 We moved from our back garden, to get away from the street light that shines way too bright at the back of our garden, to an area nearby.  The Orion Nebula was visible to the naked eye.
 Using binoculars we could just see the comet as a fuzzy white object; too faint for my camera, but I am still happy with these photos that show the main constellations.
 The clear January skies have meant cold, frosty mornings.
 This morning was just such a time and I decided to wrap up warm, grab my camera and go for a short walk to the village pond.

 I love to see the leaves and
  seed heads covered in ice crystals.

 A few rose hips are still brightening up the hedgerows.
 It was so glorious out there that I decided to walk further afield.

 I left the village and climbed over this stile
 to walk along the footpath beside the old park pale.
 No sign of deer in the fields this morning, just a frozen hoof print in the mud.

 The footpath leads through into a second field.
 Sadly this field may well be built on it the near future, as plans for housing have been proposed.
 I left the fields and walked through the neighbouring village, past some lovely thatched cottages and headed home.
Time for a hot coffee and some knitting/crochet.  I have finally settled on a pattern for my 7th blogiversary giveaway.  The giveaway is still open, until 29th January, so please feel free to join in by adding a comment to the blogiversary post.  I'm looking forward to announcing the winner on 30th January.
Best wishes, Pj x

Friday, 16 January 2015

Resolutions, Changes and Living Simply

Well our babies are back at uni again and we are missing them.  This year could see some changes for our family as M is in her final year and J is looking for a work placement for the next year, before his final year at uni.
The new year started for us last Sunday, the first day of our normal routine once the children were back at uni.  My Husband and I went for our first nature walk of the year to see if the snowdrops were in bloom.
 We enjoyed taking the time to absorb the little details
 and watched this Red Kite circling overhead.
 Some seeds were still clinging to their seed heads.

We discovered a few fungi in the woodland.

In the evening we tried to spot the planets that were in alignment just after sunset, but it was too cloudy.  Last night we did manage to see Venus, Mercury and Mars.  Recently I also spotted Jupiter, but missed Saturn as I didn't get up early enough! :)  A couple of years ago my Husband had a telescope for his birthday and this year we are hoping to get involved with a local astronomy group.  I have always enjoyed gazing at the stars and want to learn more about them.
 This week I have started catching up with a few podcasts and blogs and have been interested to hear about everyone's new year's resolutions.  I don't really make any resolutions myself.  I am continuing with my plans to lose weight (including the 2lbs I put on over the holidays!) and to get fitter, but they aren't new year resolutions, just a lifestyle plan.  My Husband and I are trying out tai chi and yoga together this coming week as part of our ongoing fitness plan.  Simplify seems to be a keyword in many resolutions and that is a word we try to live by and we will be looking at ways to improve upon this again this year.  I'm not someone who needs to change things around in the house often, but I do have a tendency to hang onto things, so a general sort out of the cupboards is required this year.  I have bought a few new clothes this winter and so I shall be having a sort through my wardrobe this weekend and filling this bag for charity.
 One thing I am guilty of is buying lots of craft supplies!  This year I want to catch up with some of the projects that I have already bought supplies for, but I'm not putting a limit on my wool purchases!  Let's be honest, I'm a lost cause in that department! :)
My Husband and I enjoy reading a lot and get most of our books from the library. Long ago we realised that we couldn't possibly buy all the books we wanted to read, so we only buy the occasional book nowadays.  Over the past year I have also stopped buying most magazines.  Our local libraries loan a lot of magazines, so I borrow any knitting and crochet ones that catch my eye.  
 Food wise we also live simply.  We grow a lot of our vegetables on our two allotments and I make most meals from scratch.  Food wastage has always bothered me, throwing away unwanted food is simply something that we have never done.  Why buy it if you don't need it?!  I was somewhat bemused by a friend last week telling me about the amount of food that they threw away after Christmas!  Hands up, I threw out half a head of celery that was past its best, but that went on the compost heap, not in the bin.  I'll get off my soap box now! ;) I'm not criticising other people's choices, just stating that we prefer to life more simply.  Or maybe we are just getting old! :)
Back onto the subject of books and I have joined in with this reading challenge that I first saw on the lovely Deb's blog.
This week I finished the book I started reading in December, "The Long Mars" by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter, so I am now ready to start the challenge.
This is the first book I shall be reading as Book 1 of the challenge:-
A Book That You Own But Haven't Read Before
This book was given to me by a work colleague a few years ago and I hadn't gotten around to reading it.  I started reading the first few pages last night.  A good intro, but as yet I'm undecided as to whether it is going to grab me or not.
Something I am also still undecided upon is the pattern for my giveaway mitts.  I have nearly completed one pair and I'm not too sure about them, so I will be casting on another pattern this weekend.
The giveaway is still open, so please join in by leaving a comment on my 7th Blogiversary post.
Best wishes, Pj x