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.

IMG_2765

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

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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

Laptop disaster!

It was just one of those unfortunate things.  Laptop was open on the kitchen table, I was in the middle of working (erm, OK, surfing the tinternet).  Other items on the table at that time were: half a cup of cold tea abandoned by an earlier visitor, and a pile of greetings cards which had been removed from the bookcase that afternoon in a bit of a tidying session, and some other paperwork. Can you guess what happened next?

OH called me into the other room to ask me something about the thing he’s working on. My back was turned for less than 2 minutes. There was a loud noise. Back in the kitchen, the cards and the other stuff on the end of the table, were on the floor. The cup was not tipped over, but some tea was splashed across my keyboard, and Monty was leaving the scene. Disaster!

For some reason, Monty had leapt onto the kitchen table at speed, and must have landed on the slippery, glossy pile of birthday cards, skidded into the cup and sloshed cold tea across my laptop.

Still, cat owners will know that this episode is not Monty’s fault. It is our fault for a) not clearing away the old cup of tea immediately, and b) causing a slipping hazard by ‘tidying’ cards into a pile, and c) not closing the laptop the minute I left it.

Anyway, it really wasn’t a lot of tea, I mean, the cup was still standing.  I mopped it up and the laptop was still working.  So I thought, well, no harm done. This laptop is pretty sturdy.  After all, it has been knocked on the floor a few times by boisterous kittens and lives to tell the tale.  But after a few minutes, the internal fans started whirring like mad, and then it all went black.

Then I knew I was in trouble.

If you look very carefully around Monty’s mouth, you will see some butter appearing not to melt.

Extreme Knitting Cushion

I made a cushion.  Not a cushion cover, but an entire cushion, in one.  This is extreme knitting, folks!

Rocking chair with cushion

I started with a 400g ball of aran weight yarn.  I needed 20 strands, so I took my digital kitchen scales and started winding into 20g balls.  I was expecting a ‘baker’s dozen’ of yarn, but was surprised to find that my 20th, final ball of yarn weighed only 13 grams.  So actually the  ‘400g’ ball was 393g.  Bah!

I placed the 20 strands together, threw the 20 balls into a box, and started to cast on.

I used the knit cast-on, and I deliberately twisted the yarn a bit with each new stitch, to give a nice firm edge.  One stitch equals 2.6cm (one inch), so only 17 stitches were needed.

I discovered that the essential thing with this technique is to keep all 20 strands as even as possible.  With every stitch I was combing through the yarn with my fingers to keep it straight.  Each time I wound it around the needle, it formed a natural twist.  The twist gradually built up down the yarn as I progressed.  Every couple of rows some untwisting and untangling was required.

It took me 3 false starts before I was happy with the tension.  I didn’t know how many rows I would be able to work, so I just kept going until I ran out of yarn.  I was about 4 rows short of a perfect fit for my kitchen chairs.  So really I need 500g for a complete cushion.

The cats were fascinated by what I was up to.  A large cardboard box is one of their favourite things in the world!  And it was filled with little balls of yarn – second favourite. And said balls of yarn were being constantly jiggled about!  This was heaven in a box for them so I had to distract them with loads of other toys and then wait till they were sleepy.

What I like about this cushion is that it’s firm and soft, and it doesn’t look like you’ve just knitted a rectangle in garter stitch.  It doesn’t really look like garter stitch at all.  Just big, chunky ridges of yarn.

Hope you are seeing some progress with your own projects,

Till next time,

L x