North and South

A week off between jobs was the ideal opportunity to visit friends in Aberdeenshire.  They have renovated a watermill and created a totally unique gift shop and tea room.  The waterwheels are fully functioning and it’s very special to have your tea and cake with the sound of the water hitting the big wheel as it turns.

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Eden Watermill

If you are ever in the Banff area, call in to Eden Watermill, the scones are the best ever and you will have the warmest welcome.

Eden Watermill is also the home of Needlenose Creative Arts, a stunning range of Harris Tweed handbags and accessories, all designed and handmade by Elaine.  Elaine is also a qualified kiltmaker, which is an extremely difficult thing to achieve, as it demands huge amounts of tartan fabric to be measured, cut and pleated with incredible precision, and stitched by hand.  It takes many, many hours to make a kilt, from taking bespoke measurements to the finished article.  Elaine has used these skills to great effect in her original and bestselling handbag, the ‘Wee Kilty,’ a bag with a hand-pleated kilt panel on the side.

The weather was amazingly good, and although time was short we squeezed in a visit to Fyvie Castle, a fairytale castle with lots of turrets and a fascinating interior.

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Fyvie Castle

The walled kitchen garden is wonderful, the largest, neatest and most elegant veg patch I’ve ever seen!

Less glamorous but not without interest was a visit to Peterhead, the most easterly point of mainland UK, a deep water harbour with a long history of fishing and of servicing the North Sea oil rigs.  I love sea ports as my father was a sailor and I grew up by the sea, so I loved finding out about the hidden tunnels built by smugglers in days gone by, and the 150 year old dry dock.  Even on a fine summer’s day it was bleak and extremely windy, but not without a sense of humour.

Below is the dry dock and some local wisdom from outside the optician’s on the high street.  Totally agree!

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My constant companion during my visit was Belle, the jack russell terrier.  She knows no inhibitions and leapt onto the bed every night and burrowed under the duvet, usually with her ball.  Some dogs have such huge personalities!

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After a couple of days back home in Sheffield, I was off ‘down south’, to Hastings in East Sussex, to start my new job with an induction at the company’s head office.  I am a Sussex girl and used to visit Hastings as a kid on family day trips, but I’d not been there for many years.  As a kid it was all about the beach and the amusements, but now I was charmed by the old town, the medieval streets, the castle and the view from the clifftops.

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There’s a huge amount of history to discover in this area, invasions and battles, the changing shape of the shoreline, and more recently how the place was affected by the Second World War.

Now back home and settling in to the new job. So glad I made the move, it feels really good so far, very happy to be back in the heritage and tourism sector.  That’s what I’m drawn to, even on my days off, so I’m lucky to be able to weave in my interests with my day job.

Lions, and my lion

I spent the day in London last week on a round of appointments and found time to gaze adoringly at the magnificent lion statues in Trafalgar Square.

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The four lions, completed in 1867, are, interestingly, not identical, differing in the manes and head poses.  The artist is Sir Edwin Landseer, who was celebrated for his life-like paintings of horses and dogs. He managed to give personality to each of his subjects.  Here’s a Landseer painting:

The Duke of Devonshire and Lady Constance Grosvenor, by Landseer

The Duke of Devonshire and Lady Constance Grosvenor, by Landseer

I have to say he is one of my favourite artists. If you can, check out some of his dog portraits. They are amazing.

But back to the lions.  Here’s another view of one of the statues. Isn’t it incredible?

A Landseer lion

A Landseer lion

And here’s Monty, my own lion, doing a fair impression.

Monty in his tree

Monty in his tree

Ha!

Till next time,

L x

 

Where have I been?

Oh dear. This has been the longest time between blog posts since I started this blog. I just got so damn busy recently. My temp job got extended for another month but won’t last much longer so I’ve been really pushing myself to apply for other jobs. I must say, the temp job is great but the uncertainty about what’s next is quite a worry.

The other day on the way back from work I stopped in Tesco’s car park and observed this glorious rainbow.

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It lit up a most humdrum scene of cars and shoppers. The photo hardly does it justice: it was a complete rainbow with both sides clear as anything, and it cheered my heart.

The weather has been very wet but mild and we still haven’t had any snow this winter. Now the crocuses are out and even my camellia is showing a bit of flower, so it looks like Spring could be here.  I remember the weeks of snow and ice last year – even on Mother’s day it was a whiteout with a good 10 inches of snow and I was relying on my snow grippers to get me out and about for weeks. How ironic that I didn’t fall over once in all that snow and ice, but instead I managed to fall over in July and break my ankle!  You just never know what’s coming.

All for now,
Til next time,
L x

Office Politics

I am enjoying my temporary job at a large office complex in Chesterfield. I have never worked amongst so many people before. The place is a labyrinth. There is a beverage kitchen where, instead of a kettle, they have a hot water geyser – boiling water on tap – so you don’t have to wait around for a kettle. How modern!

Also in the kitchen is a fridge where the 20 or so workers in this corner of the rabbit warren keep their lunches, and milk for tea and coffee. Now, I drink black tea and cuppa soup, so I don’t need a milk supply. But sometimes in the mornings, if I’ve arrived especially early, I need the sort of caffeine shot you only get from a nice cup of milky coffee. There is an abandoned jar of powdered coffee creamer which I am welcome to use. But it’s not the same as proper milk, as we all know.

So I have become furtive. The fridge door is stuffed full of all kinds of milk, one pint, two pints, semi-skimmed, red top, blue top. All carefully marked with initials. I have no idea what the initials mean: a person? a department? But I nip into the kitchen when the coast is clear, open the fridge, scan the milk cartons, grab one that’s fairly full, and pour a drop into my cup.

That’s better!

Fingers crossed I don’t get caught in the act. The embarrassment would be huge.

Till next time,

L x

A Festive Walk with the Westies

This was a particularly festive walk to the local park at the Bole Hills in Sheffield. Not because it was snowing or anything, but because there were people out wearing Santa hats, and I came across a bench decorated with a very smart Christmas wreath.

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We paused here because the bench was new and the wreath must have been in memoriam. The view was spectacular and I thought it was a very special way to remember a loved one.

A friend of mine has been taking me to the Sheffield local carols, which take place at this time of year in certain pubs on the outskirts of the city. These are the old folk carols, not the familiar O Come All Ye Faithful church carols. They are very jolly and upbeat, mostly with different words and melodies to the ones we all know. So it has taken me a while to pick them up. But the joy of it is, the sessions are packed with enthusiastic singers, the pub is crammed full, the sound is sometimes deafening and people even sing harmonies with ease. It never was like this in church! So a newcomer like me can just pitch in and sing anything until I get the hang of it. There is even a song for passing your empty glasses back to the bar because it’s impossible for the bar staff to collect the empties amongst the crush of singers.

I had recorded one of the carols on my phone in an effort to learn it, so on my walk I played it back to myself. ‘Goodwill to all mankind, goodwill to all mankind’ etc etc.

Harry and Dixie on the Bole Hills

Harry and Dixie on the Bole Hills

But the dogs were confused and it made them bark, so I turned it off. Still, it was ever so festive while it lasted!

I have started to get some temporary office work which is a real godsend. I will be working over the holidays for the first time in ages, but I don’t mind at all because it’s great to be back in the workplace. I am actually enjoying the temporariness of it: meeting new people and finding out about different workplaces, systems, and of course politics.

I hope all your plans for the holidays are coming together!

Till next time,

L xxx

 

A Bit Quiet on the Knitting Front

I’ve not done much knitting lately because I’ve been so busy setting up my new publishing business.  I’ve only knitted a couple of giant wool baskets for online orders. One was unexpectedly returned to me yesterday, helpfully marked ‘RETURN – NO REASON GIVEN’. My customer has not complained nor has she replied to the message I sent her.  There seems to be nothing wrong with the parcel or its contents, so this remains a mystery. Gah!

Working from home is lovely. I am snug in my home office all day working on my ranges, spreadsheets and samples. My website is under construction by a lovely company who I am confident will do a good job. As soon as it is ready to go live, I’ll be able to really fly.

Here are my new co-workers, Monty and Herbie.

The new co-workers

The new co-workers

They are really cool! They don’t tell me all about what they did at the weekend, or steal the pens off my desk. But they also don’t make the tea or get the phone….

Till next time,

L x

There’s a Cat in my Knitting

Cat-loving knitters, how often does this happen to you?

It's not finished yet, Herbie

It’s not finished yet, Herbie

There’s a cat in my knitting again.

He knows it’s a sure fire way of getting my attention.

If there’s no knitting around, then my desk will do just fine.

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Excuse me Herbie! Trying to work here!

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That’s it,  move over. Sit on Bagpuss. Let me get on.

Zzzzz....

Zzzzz….

If only our lives were as simple as the feline’s!

Till next time,

L x

One Year Anniversary

Hello all,

Sometime in July 2012 I started this blog. I am a little bit late with the anniversary but I wanted to briefly review the first year.  Eagle-eyed followers will have noticed I have changed my logo and header. I was dreading doing this as I remember struggling with it for hours when I first set up my blog. But I managed to change my header in two ticks, which just goes to show how much I’ve learned in my first year.

My focus has changed from cupcakes and patterns, to extreme knitting: big and bold baskets, bags and containers. But my original cupcake design is still doing well, and it makes a cute picture, so I’ve kept it in my new logo.

I am very excited to have opened a store on the fantastically re-branded and re-launched notonthehighstreet.com. This is a great opportunity for me, and it couldn’t have come at a more opportune moment, as my day job is coming to an end. Exciting and terrifying times are ahead, as I find myself back in the job market after 20 years of continuous employment post-degree, with a regular salary for all that time (no career break). I don’t really want to re-enter the corporate world, but on the other hand my OH is already self-employed, so there are some difficult decisions to be made in the coming weeks. I feel excited and completely terrified at the same time. But change is good for us, and it’s about time I experienced some change, that’s for sure.

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I knitted a cat basket with a hood, to make a cat cave or cat pod.  As it’s based on my smaller basket, my cats are way too big to fit inside. Although Monty tried… he really tried to coil himself in, but he just ended up rolling it over onto the roof and tumbling out….oh if only I had filmed that, it cracked me up. So I got the two Shelf Cats to model the new Cat Cave for me.

Till next time,

L x

What a week!

I went back to work this week after nearly 3 weeks’ absence with a broken ankle. This was only possible because my work is a short bus ride away and my colleagues are supportive and willing to fetch and carry for me. So I hauled myself down to the bus stop on crutches and got myself home again. I was offered lifts but it’s important to me to be independent despite the hampering of my injury.

Some bad news was waiting for me at the office: the company is restructuring and I was given notice on my current contract.  I’ve been in the job a long time and enjoy it very much, but although I was offered a new contract I am not sure if I want it.  Everyone knows what the job market is like at the moment, so I need to think carefully about what my options are.

This dilemma has given me a few sleepless nights, but I am encouraged by some interest in my cat baskets. I am working hard to make the most of these opportunities.

basket Monty

On Thursday night the OH asked if I could walk without crutches. I had removed my leg brace, but with his encouragement I  tried a few steps and managed quite well. I limped across the landing unaided, and it was wonderful. Feeling confident, I walked downstairs to the kitchen and  back again. I realised I didn’t need crutches any more, three weeks to the day after my operation. It was quite a liberation, and a big step towards independence.

Some very dear friends were back in town for the weekend and invited us over for a party. I squeezed my favourite trousers on over the leg brace and left the crutches at home. I had a glass of wine for the first time since the injury. Now that I can walk on my own two feet I’m less worried about losing my balance. I even joined in the singing and dancing – on the bad foot. It felt great to let my hair down and forget my troubles.

Till next time,

L x

Week 2 of no dairy

It’s almost 2 weeks since my doctor told me to cut out diary products, and it’s been surprisingly easy. I haven’t had any dairy cravings particularly. On the occasions when I would typically chow down a load of butter, cheese or milk, I have snacked on an alternative, or just not eaten anything. In fact I am really enjoying trying new foods and new flavours.

I am wondering if the almost constant headache and feeling of fatigue is due to dairy withdrawal. Or perhaps more likely, a slight head cold. How irritating to get a head cold after the amount of fresh fruit and salads I have eaten recently. Still, I have been sleeping a lot better, which is a good sign.

It’s interesting how differently I regard dairy products now. I feel as if I am on ‘the other side’: before dairy, and now after dairy. My attitude has completely changed. I really do not want milk in my tea now. I don’t particularly want creamy, cheesy sauces on my dinner plate. As for butter, my no 1 favourite food for years, I realise what I really loved about butter was the saltiness. I have salt cravings more than sweet cravings. I never crave chocolate. I’d rather eat a great big packet of crisps. So when I’m in the danger zone and want to rip through the bread and butter, I either have some plain mixed nuts, or a slice of bread drizzled in olive oil, salt and pepper.

I have a few business trips coming up, so I will have to be careful to avoid dairy whilst out of my usual routine. I went to a big trade fair on Monday with a colleague. She thoughtfully brought some sandwiches to share. Cheese and pickle, or chicken salad. I reminded her that I was avoiding cheese, but said I would share the sandwiches anyway. She insisted I have the chicken salad, but was concerned that there might be butter on the bread. No danger of that in a Tescos sandwich, I said. More likely to be a scraping of industrial grease. So that was OK then. Thank goodness I’m not a vegetarian as well. Or I would have gone hungry that day. If I was a vegetarian, I guess I would be trying to go vegan right now. Which seems terribly difficult to achieve.

One thing I need to work out is, where am I getting my calcium from, if not dairy? And what about probiotics, as I’m not eating yoghurt?

Sometimes compromises have to be made. At work one morning, I had masses of work to do but felt lethargic. It was only 10.30 but I really wanted to eat my lunch. A large coffee with milk and sugar was the answer. It really picked me up.

My other weakness is butter biscuits. I pretend that because I can’t see the butter, it isn’t really there. And I need the energy to fuel my 40-minute walk home…

Til next time,

L x