Monday, 31 January 2011

What have I been up to?

I was slightly ashamed to see when I published yesterday’s post that I’ve only blogged four times in the whole of January and this prompted me to wonder what I’ve actually been doing for the Whole Month. I have been fairly busy believe it or not, but I’ve definitely had that hamster wheel feeling of up-work-home-bed-up-work-home-bed (I blame the dark mornings, the dark days and the dark nights – roll on Spring) so haven’t felt exactly inspired to tell you all about it.

So what have I been doing? I’ll make a list. In January I have:

• Read a book
Made a cushion
• Spent a weekend in Dublin

***

One of my very bestest friends is Irish and lives in Dublin, and she invited me over to get away from my car-crash life for a weekend. I’ve been over there a fair few times now and have done most of the touristy things like Temple Bar, Trinity College and the Book of Kells, the Ha’Penny Bridge, having my picture taken with Molly Malone... So this weekend was one of R&R, tea & cake, good friends & good times.

This is the main entrance to the Gaol, I loved the dragons.

We visited Kilmainham Gaol as I’d been a few years ago and was keen to go back. M. had not been there since a school trip about 15 years ago and was surprised how much she enjoyed it. If you’re ever in Dublin make it a must-see, it’s only E6 for an hour-long guided tour and you learn so much about the country’s bloody history. Going there made me want to rush home and watch Michael Collins and The Wind that Shakes the Barley to get a better idea of what went on.

This is the newer end of the Gaol which you may have seen in such films as In The Name of the Father, or in U2's A Celebration video.

On the Sunday we took the train out to Howth which is a picturesque little harbour town in North Co. Dublin. There are several cliff-top walks to be done, a fabulous flea market, TWO lighthouses and loads of bijou little shops and restaurants.

After Saturday’s night out it was quite late by the time we arrived so we had a brisk walk up onto the cliff-top, peeking in at people’s quaint cottages (W.B. Yeats lived in one for a time) and not-so-quaint enormous mansion houses and around the harbour.

I was quite taken with the lamp in the window here...

Oh it was so beautiful it took my breath away, just what we needed after a night on the Guinness.


As the sun got lower in the sky, scudding clouds were illuminated in pink.

A good portion of fish and chips to settle the stomach ended a perfect afternoon.

***


• Been to the cinema
• Decluttered - six bags of *stuff* to the charity shop and £100 made on eBay (still more to do sadly)
• Joined a knitting group, only I crochet. Six squares now done for the Baby Blanket, thirty to go. What’s that you say? When’s the due date? This Friday. I know.
• Had a haircut
• Been out for lunch
• Started Photography course

***

I bought the Dream DSLR I mentioned here and signed up to a photography night class (#9 on my 28 Things list). It all started off a bit over my head but with a bit of practice I’m starting to understand certain things. Here’s what I’ve done so far:

I’ve learned about shutter speeds and how to get this ‘speeding car’ effect by setting the shutter at 4 or more seconds

I’ve learned how to fiddle with (technical term) the ISO, shutter speed and aperture settings to brighten images where light is limited, whilst retaining crisp focus (this is the best example I have but it's not great!)

I’ve learned about depth of field and how to achieve different effects with the aperture settings. I love love LOVE shallow depth of field pictures like these (where a tiny bit of the image is in focus and the background fades into blur)



I was brave and went out and about taking pictures by myself, and found that bright sunny days produce the crispest but not necessarily the most interesting or atmospheric pictures


We went on a ‘field trip’ to the seaside to experiment taking pictures in low light. This is one of my faves, I love how the street lights have that twinkly star effect. Not a clue how I achieved it

And of course I have about a squillion pics of my unwilling subjects Mavis and Sally. They look so sweet cuddled up together don’t they?

But in actual fact this scene almost deteriorated into hissing and fisticuffs when Sally encroached on Mavis’s personal space by plonking herself down almost on top of her. If Mavis could tut loudly I’m fairly sure she would have. (I think I still had my camera set for shallow DOF pics at this point – can you see how my cacti are all blurred?!)

• Signed up to Three Peaks Challenge – that is, climbing Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon in 24 hours. That’s 24 consecutive hours, including travelling between them. I think I may have had a slight lapse of sanity for a moment
• Been out for tea and cake (more than once)

Phew! So there you go, I’ve been fairly busy despite the lack of blogging, but I do hope to manage my time a bit better in future so I can write about things as I go rather than in one long ramble on the last day of the month (sorry). Hope you’ve found it at least a bit interesting though. Would love to know what you think of my photos?

Sunday, 30 January 2011

I won I won I won!!!

One of the things that I love most about the bloggy community, and the crafty contingent in particular, is the frequency of very generous giveaways - bloggers offering up goodies either to celebrate a landmark in their bloggy life, or as a thank you to their bloggy friends for supporting them on their bloggy journey, or quite simply just for bloggy fun.

The lovely Char held a giveaway recently to mark her 200th post (if you're not familiar with her, pay her a visit and behold her amazing unrivalled collection of Irregular Choice shoes!) ... and my name was picked out of the hat!

So I didn't mind at all when the doorbell rang at some obscure hour of the morning on Saturday (the post never comes before 8am on a weekday, only on a Saturday - does anyone else find that?!), nay, I leapt out of bed for I knew a parcel full of goodies was on its way. And I wasn't disappointed!

As it happens, it was not just a parcel but a whole box of goodies, and of course Char has dinosaur notepaper!

Ooh, just look at all these treasures!


I was thrilled with the scarf because I've actually been to Capri and it's one of the most beautiful places I've ever visited. She also sent among other things a lovely mannequin jewellery tidy, one of her own handmade eye masks (may have to wait for the summer months to use this since I'm having enough trouble trying to open my eyes on a morning as it is!), and some fab make-up and toiletries including Jemma Kidd and ELF which I've heard so much about but never tried.

Best of all though was this cute little trinket box (Sally liked it too):


Which contained this pretty pretty carousel necklace:


So THANK YOU Char - I love all my gifts, and congratulations once again on your 200 posts!


On the same theme, I had been thinking for a while about hosting a little giveaway myself once I reached 50 followers and now that I have 52(!) I should probably get a wriggle on. I've already started collecting bits and bobs, including this little fella I picked up in Dublin last weekend (he's a ring), and will probably now announce it to coincide with the end of my 28 Things project on 12th February, so watch this space...

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Project ReStyle: January

Project Restyle is another brainchild of Elsie's, like the 4 Simple Goals project I was working on before I had to move back home. The idea is to take an unwanted, unloved, broken or unusable item and ReStyle it into something pretty that you will use and most importantly will love, be it an item of clothing, furniture, jewellery - anything really! You can see full details here.

The Red Velvet girls and more dedicated bloggers than I will be doing an item a week but I pledge just one item per month - just don't have the time or imagination for anything more than that!!

For January I decided to do something with this quirky and charming little square of fabric which I bought for £1 last summer from a market in Spitalfields. I assume it's a vintage hankie...?


There was only one thing for it really, so I searched my stash for a matching offcut of fabric, and found some leftover from the bunting I made for my friend's birthday back in August.

I don't believe there are cushions widely available in the size of a hankie, so it was a simple case of sewing three straight(ish) lines, stuffing it and sewing it up - no zips or buttons required!


It's a bit of an oddity, but I'm OK with that. (You can see an 'item I restyled earlier' there too - an old cardie turned cushion - I promise to branch out a bit for February's project!)

You can see other people's efforts in the Project ReStyle Flickr group - it's very inspiring!

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Blanket Beginnings...


Last night I had a go at crocheting a Granny for the first time not only in the wool I'll be using for the blanket, but also attempting more than one colour. The photo is terrible - it was taken in the dark at 7am on my phone, but what do you think?

This is going to be a practice one I think as it went a bit wrong, especially in the top left corner. Just wanted to test the wool and the colours and I think they look OK don't they? I'm going to do 6x6 squares, alternating the order of the purple/green/yellow rounds, then add a simple cream border.

Just need to work on my tension and concentrate a bit more on what I'm doing to avoid silly mistakes. Also need to work out exactly how to weave the ends in as I go ... but will they be secure enough if my friend wants to wash the blanket? I'm sure the baby will be sick on it at some point ... Hang on, why am I devoting my precious time to this, when it's only going to be sicked and pooped on? I must be mad!

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

The Finished Article: Wonky Purple Scarf

Hello and Happy New Year! First day back at work today and Christmas feels a very long time ago now. Just wanted to share with you my wonderful and wonky crochet scarf, which I finally completed on Sunday.


I have been working on this since August/September when I started my 4 Simple Goals challenge - I wanted to learn to crochet and started with Double Crochet, and it just sort of (eventually) became a six-foot scarf.


It's so wobbly it sort of looks like you're viewing from above an anaconda that's just eaten a goat. I had trouble in the beginning somehow dropping and picking up stitches with practically every row but once I got into my groove and remembered to do a chain at the end of each row I was OK.

I even managed to work out a way of holding the hook and crocheting (rather fast!) without having to pick at the wool with my fingers, which I'm very pleased about. My stitches became a lot neater and more even towards the end ... but they were also a lot less tight, meaning that one end of the scarf is about double the width of the other. Sigh.



The ladies at my knitting group (oh yes, I joined one!) suggested going round and doing a border to even our the edge a bit, but with my friend's baby due on 3rd February and not one square of its blanket completed started, I have more pressing issues! Plus, you can't really notice the wonk when it's tied around my neck!

Onwards and upwards with the Granny Squares!!!