Sunday, 31 January 2010

Archie's Diary - with apologies to non-cat-people

Hello again, just to let you know what I've been up to this week.

I'm happy in my house but don't have much sense. I hurt my arm dashing around hauling myself up on things and had to have a day resting. The sofas have all had to be covered up with old sheets to stop me scrabbling and scratching them as I do love to climb.

I've met another small black kitten who lives in the cooker and looks just like me. The first time I met him I went all bushy and ran away sideways, but now I try and play with him.

I'm ever so clever with my mum's laptop, I do like sitting on it when she's not looking and while she was cooking I managed to sit on the function keys and printed out 14 pages of html code for her blog - without anybody knowing until they went to look at the printer. My mum didn't even know how to do this.

I like to be cuddled ALL day, except when I'm playing or climbing on the keyboard. I'm in the process of adding a decorative border of perforations along the edge of the music books, it may take me a while.

My mum is very odd. I keep looking into her eyes and stroking her face with a gentle paw, but instead of making her happy she just seems to get all over-protective and worry about me even more, because she says I'm SO nice and gentle and affectionate. Some people are never satisfied - personally I think she's really lost her marbles, but she says it's because she's only really just lost Newton and the thought of losing me comes into her head and she needs a bit of time and a bit more sunshine (and less hormones whatever they are) to get a proper perspective back. My dad thinks she's lost a few marbles too.

Friday, 29 January 2010

A little bit of felting

In between the times spent cuddling a kitten, I have been managing to make a few bits of felt. I'd planned to spend January trying to finish working on my own way to make larger flowers. I'd made one as a corsage in the autumn and several people had asked if they could have one, but I was never fully happy with it, it always takes me a few goes plus tweaks here and there, and I ran out of time to experiment. I made this one earlier in the week, a bit smaller than my original. I anchored the stamens in a different way, next time I'll make them a bit finer but I'm nearly happy with the design. So I'm looking forward to being able to have a proper play with colour combinations soon, I've got lots of different silk fibres to try.

I also managed a small bowl, usually I've done these in much more vivid colours but I'd got some brown Rowan wool in the sale and thought I'd go for much more muted tones. I wasn't quite expecting the design to disappear as much as it did though - it's really blended in, but there's always a place for subtlety! One of the magical things about felt is the slight (or sometimes great if you're experimenting) unpredictability of the final blending of the fibres.

You can see the brown fibres being folded over onto the inner layer of un-dyed ones:and the spiral design on the outer layer before it all blended together! Some feltmakers do this whole process the other way round, laying the decoration next to the template and making the first layers what will be the outside and the final layers what will be the inside, and turning the whole thing inside-out at the end.

These two pics were taken in daylight and the finished one in artificial light - despite white-balancing I still haven't worked out how to get the colours to look exactly the same!

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Blog award

Annalisa, who has a really interesting cooking blog here, has been kind enough to give me my first blog award. Here it is, and I'm about to try and put it at the side somewhere too! So thank you! I do enjoy cooking but often run out of time to try new recipes, I do like looking though and it's great to see recipes from another country.

I'm still learning about blogging and awards, some things are still a bit of a mystery!
This one comes with some things that you do - mainly making a list of ten things that make you happy. This I can do!
I've deliberately chosen things that make me happy, rather than things that give me a lasting contentment, as I think these are often different things. I am for the most part truly content with the life that I have and very thankful to be in the situation that I'm in, I know I'm very fortunate.

But happy things that lift my spirits, in no particular order:

1 Walking though woods on a sunny late spring day, with bluebells.
2 Finishing decorating the house for Christmas (about the only time it's all tidy at one time.)
3 A purring cat or kitten wanting a cuddle (Archie has today started purring.)
4 Taking a walk with one of my boys so that we can have a proper talk.
5 Family holidays in Swanage - we love it there and there's a beautiful quiet beach nearby.
6 Spending time with a good friend and really finding out how they are.
7 Designing and laying out a piece of felt (the actual felting can be hard work!)
8 Escaping with my husband to London on our own (only managed this a couple of times.)
9 Finding little tiny seedlings on examining seed trays.
10 The atmosphere at the beginning of each new season.

Once you start thinking about it there are lots of things.

Now I know I'm then supposed to pass the award onto 10 other people. This is where I'm going to break the rules slightly, for which I apologise to anyone who likes to see rules followed exactly. Awards are supposed to be nice things, but I know not everybody likes them and I'd hate to make people feel awkward. So I'd like to say I enjoy catching up on all my follower's blogs and have enjoyed getting to know those of you kind enough to form a friendship with me, so I'm going to offer the award to any of you who'd like it, but no pressure to accept or do anything with it, I hope that suits everyone. If you want to see how it's all done properly pop back to Annalisa's blog and you'll see!

Now I'm off to cook dinner (not nearly as interesting as Annalisa's recipes - just baked potatoes!)

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

A lovely gift

I must show you the beautiful gift Lyn has sent to me, which arrived today with a cat card too:

She is such a talented artist as you will see if you pop over to her 'art' blog, and has done this picture of Newton specially for me, this was a complete surprise gift, I had no idea she would be sending something so personal and special. It really does capture his character, not always easy when working from a photo, and will be a treasured memory of him and of her friendship, so thank you Lyn so much, I know I've already e-mailed you but am saying it publicly as well!

Following Newton's death I have been so grateful for the support of friends, and being so new to blogging I've been so touched by the messages I've had from those of you I've never actually met, some of you are a very long way away geographically but it has felt like you're just around the corner! My good friend Tammy really is round the corner, and has been fantastic too. We continually try and encourage each other in keeping on being creative and I'd be lost without our weekly (if we can manage it) coffee-and-inspiration meetings! She's another very talented painter as you can see from her website.

I have another thank you too, to my friend Annalisa who has given me my first blog award! I'll be posting properly on this when I've worked out how to do it!

Archie is getting on well and is becoming more confident by the day, he had his first innoculations today which he hated! He's managed to get into a few cupboards and being so small and black we lost him in the big kitchen one. He is trying to wash me as I type and has a damp leg as he's run right through his water bowl!

Sunday, 24 January 2010


Hello, I have a name now, I am Archie.

I am settling really well.
Here is my favourite toy:

Today I have been mainly sleeping.

Yesterday I was mainly playing and running under cupboards.
I would like to get inside the cupboards.

I have funny pinky-brown toes:

Now I am having my mad half-hour and dashing from one end of the room to the other, and chasing my tail. See you again soon.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Trouble arrives.

Let me introduce you to the smallest and newest member of our family. We're still testing out names that fit him, so I'll have to let you know later what he is going to be called.

Part of me never wanted another cat again because I loved Newton SO much, each relationship we have with our pets is special because they are all so different, and I will always miss him very much. But the house was so very empty and we couldn't imagine being without a cat to love, so this week we began looking. My husband and I were both hoping for a little black boy, and I saw an advert for him and his siblings yesterday morning. After a long day waiting to get in touch with his owners we sped over last night to find he was the last one left of his litter - he had a black and white sister, tabby sister and brother, all playing madly together, and about to be collected by other people. I'd have definitely taken the whole lot of them if I could! We felt that he'd been very well looked after, they'd taken him to the vet to be checked over as well, which not everybody does.

He is nearly 9 weeks old, quite fluffy and not quite black - he has quite a brown head and faint tabby stripes in the daylight.

He is desperate to play all the time until he is too tired, and likes playing with the blind-cords best of all. He keeps forgetting that we are not really scary and runs away to hide under the cupboards often, before coming out for more games. He will sit on our laps for a cuddle only when he's run out of energy for anything else. As I type he has fallen asleep while under the cupboard, with son no.2 asleep on the floor next to him.

Oh, and he likes to climb, he's going to be BIG trouble. He's eyeing up routes to the top of everything.

So here we are, a new phase in our life beginning - at the moment he is still a stranger to us and us to him and it will be lovely getting to know him. As I knew it would, having a new life in the house has made me miss Newton even more because of the depth of the relationship that we had with him, but I'm sure in time we will build a unique relationship with this little one as well.

So I'll keep you informed of all his various new antics and hope you enjoy sharing our experience of him growing up!

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Finished Notebook

Just a quick update on yesterday's post.
There are many ways people make notebooks, I use the whole piece of flat felt, trimmed to size, as a soft and flexible cover, and hand-cut pages from nice textured paper, then just bind with posh ribbon!

The pages can be replaced just by undoing the ribbon and re-threading it again with new ones. I always do the lining in a different contrasting colour.

They're nice to hold and I carry one of my oldest with me to make 'creative notes' or sometimes just shopping lists in!
As I commented earlier my friend uses a completely different technique to make a re-usable cover to fit hardbacked books you buy from stationery shops - she uses a template and resist to form flaps to tuck the cover into, something I've just never got around to trying. Sometimes best to stick with what you know and just admire other people's work!

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Finally some bright and cheerful felt

I have been pretty low recently and it's taken me a long time to get out my wool, but today I had nearly a whole day at home so I tipped out my sackful of beautiful colours, opened my cupboard so that yet more bags of wool tops started falling out onto the floor (they're really crammed in and never fit properly) and had a good look through all my supplies.

I settled almost straight away on an extremely bright scarlet and cerise to make a notebook cover from, decorated with this recycled sari silk yarn.

It's very hard to capture the richness of the colours but it is such an intense red and the silk makes a fantastic contrast both in the cooler tones and the shimmery texture against the wool fibres.

It was good to be felting again and I had lots of ideas for new things to make, but have succeeded in getting almost everything out and spreading different colour combinations of wool and silk all over the place, so that most of downstairs looks messy again.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Cheerful birds

It is incredibly dreary and cold here, the rain has come yet the slush is still resolutely staying in the garden!
So onto more cheerful things, I thought I would show you another present I bought for myself (a highly recommended practice as you always get something you like).
As I said in one of my earlier posts, I've been very drawn to bird designs recently, and came across these lovely things from ISAK recently,

I ended up looking at the website every week until I decided I had to have them. Our kitchen cupboards are painted in a duck-egg greeny-blue sort of colour, and we have wooden worksurface, so they go really well in here. The cup lids are unfinished oak although I oiled them as it said you could, which darkened them a shade.
My husband arrived home to find me arranging the new cups and admired them before asking 'And what are you going to keep in them?'. Surely this is not the point. You buy the lovely things then afterwards a use suggests itself to you, or not, but either way you have cheerful birds.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Trying to keep busy

It is unbearably empty in the house and very lonely, but life goes on. Thank you all of you for your kind comments, they have really helped. I've been trying to keep busy so have been attempting something creative (keeping busy hasn't extended to housework yet).

I bought these gloves:

in the sales and they are made from very simple treble-ish crochet, just worked in rounds, yet because of the nice soft fluffy-ish wool they are really warm. I replaced the original ribbon with one I preferred, and really like them. So I had a half-hearted attempt at doing my own at the weekend, using the end of a very, very old ball of mohair-type wool - it's probably about 20 years old so I've no idea what it is actually made of.
I ended up working round and round doing one treble crochet and one chain, and working into the gaps of the previous row on the next one, making it all up by just trying-on all the time till I got about the right size, leaving a gap for the thumb by doing a long chain then picking up stitches round the hole later to crochet into, like you would with knitting, I just finished the thumb bits yesterday. A bit sad because when I started them Newton was sitting next to me, very ill on the Saturday night, and I ended up crocheting a bit of his white fur into them without realising and only saw it last night when I'd completely finished!

Having saved enough to finish the thumbs, of course I ran out of wool completely for the hand part about one and a half rows from the end of the second mitten, so it's shorter than the first, but then this was all a bit of an experiment so it doesn't matter. I like the idea though, and so when I next go to John Lewis might treat myself to a ball of lovely Rowan Kidsilk Haze if they still do it or something similar, and have another go, at which time I'll try and formulate a pattern and let you know. Of course this would be the very opposite of being thrifty and perhaps would be too decadent. I'm sure any fuzzy wool would do though - I think it has to be fuzzy to make it look a bit more interesting. They were so quick to do because the stitches are so open, and you could easily thread ribbon through the gaps in a contrasting or similar colour. Probably would be better if I joined the rounds properly instead of doing amigurumi style, must look up how to do this. I'd like to persist though because with a nice ribbon through they'd make a good present for friends next year. I'm wearing them now as I type and they're surprisingly cosy.

My good friend Tammy at Confessions of an Artist has been very productive and those of you interested in re-using and recycling, as well as knitting, might like to see what she's achieved in her latest post. I love the sock, she's knitting it with two colours held together for the main part and it's lovely and thick, not quite sure if I'm patient enough for socks, I'm such a slow knitter, which is why I'm getting more drawn to crochet. I never thought of actually unravelling jumpers from charity shops either but it's a great idea.

Also for any of you who don't fancy knitting or crochet, look at what Twiglet has done to make her mittens in her post.

I must go and do some baking now, we've completely run out of cake, thank you Lyn in yesterday's post for inspiring me to make a lemon loaf cake, I reckon I'm just about up to that and I even have the necessary lemons!

Sunday, 10 January 2010

A cold, sad day.

We lost Newton in the night.

He stopped purring yesterday evening so I knew it was time, and I'm very grateful that he died at home and didn't have to be taken to the vets.

We will miss him so much, but he brought us so much happiness while we had him and we have lots to be thankful for.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Newton helping with letters.

Newton was just about well enough yesterday to help me with my thank you notes when I got back from work, I'm supposed to have finished them today but haven't quite managed. They are really lovely ones from Paperchase that I was given as a present last year, with a beautiful pattern and such a great contrast of colours.

It's been a really worrying day today though as Newton was completely off his food, the vet said he'd lost a lot of weight when we took him last night, we can't get him to take his heart tablets at all, no matter what we bury them in (and we were trying tiny bits of cheese and ham from our own dinner!) he won't have them, which can't be good. Just half an hour ago he's been eating again after a special new appetite-increaser-pill from the vet, so we may be able to tempt him later with more deceitfully disguised drugs, but cats know when you're trying to give them medicine! He's happy to be stretched out in front of the stove again this evening where he belongs and is still purring at us, but is definitely deteriorating fast. It's a bit of an emotional roller-coaster, a good day followed by a bad day when I try somehow to prepare for being without him, then a better time when we cling onto the hope he might stabilise for just a bit longer.
I am grateful for friends who understand how devastating it is to face losing a much-loved pet.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

French Onion Soup for Cold Days

I have just re-discovered this recipe, and wanted to share it with you. It's somehow for me a holiday recipe because of all the chopping of onions, and it always seems like a 'special' soup rather than an everyday one, but I have to say it was brilliant for warming us up at the weekend - so I recommend you give it a try in this very cold spell!

My usual mistake is not having the heat high enough to caramelise the onions, they need to go a nice brown but with plenty of butter and oil shouldn't stick too much - just keep moving them around. (Not a good diet recipe, especially with the toasted cheese!) I never bothered with making croutons as it says, we just toasted french bread one side then turned it over and piled on grated gruyere before putting it back under the grill, then floated it in the soup bowls afterwards (you can see ours didn't really quite fit). We didn't add brandy either because the boys were having it, but I bet it's good with it in!

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Proper snow at last

While the rest of the country seems to have had many inches of snow, we've only had a pretty, but not deep, sprinkling. Until yesterday, when we had small but persistent flakes and the boys could go out into the field at the bottom of the garden after school and get extremely cold and wet making a snowman and sledging down the hill. Newton is not allowed out, the vet said so, but he really wanted to go too.

Getting darker but they were still out in the field.

Still out.
Everything had a pinky-orange glow because of the street lights.

The tree at the front looked lovely with snowy branches lit up with the Christmas lights:

And when the sun came out this morning it all looked beautiful:

Monday, 4 January 2010

Crochet Kitten

I'm not quite ready to get all my wool out and start felting just yet, I need to put all the decorations away first and catch up at the office tomorrow, but I did want to make something little while I still had a few moments spare.
Another good thing about the holidays is the lack of guilt I've felt in having a better look round for lovely blog sites, and in my travels I came across this beautiful one called Marmalade Rose.
Spying a crochet kitten pattern I went straight to it and found it was perfect for me to make out of a bit of spare yarn I had left over from doing a crochet penguin last year! Marmalade Rose has very generously shared it with everyone, for which I'd like to say thank you! I too had seen the original knitting pattern a while ago but I think the crochet one is much nicer!

It's taken me a while as black yarn is difficult to see in electric light and we don't seem to be getting much daylight at the moment (unless some of us are getting up early, which I'm not), but I finally finished sewing him up today. I have to say I was doing the tail last night and ended up going quite wrong as I kept losing sight of the tops of the stitches in the round below and ended up decreasing too much towards the end, but then kittens have very pointy tails so I thought it would be fine!

My own lovely cat is very weak and has started coughing, which is a bad sign as it means fluid is probably starting to build up in his lungs, I spend a lot of time checking to see if he's still breathing, which is not very relaxing.
He's searching out every bit of sunshine he can find.

Here he is snoozing on the window sill - he can't quite be bothered to fit all of himself behind one blind as he's so long, and you can just see his black nose in the gap underneath.
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