Sunday, October 26, 2008

Twenty minutes

That was the magic number. Since April I've been following a running programme that is supposed to get you running 5 K in 9 weeks. You start off alternating running with walking, and slowly decrease the walking parts until you are running continuously. They have you take a big jump from running 10 mins, walking 3 mins and then running another 10 mins, to suddenly doing 20 mins continuously without walking. I was dreading that one. And because I was dreading it I was putting it off, again and again. I have been running pretty much three times a week every week since April, but have been taking the programme slowly, so it's taken me until today to work up the confidence to think that I could actually run 20 mins continuously. Last Wednesday I did a 1o/3/10 run and found that I managed it fairly easily so today was the day to bite the bullet and give those 20 mins a go. I was feeling very determined, I got going while listening to something good on Radio 4 which helped to distract slightly. The first 10 mins were no hassle, then by about 13 or 14 mins I got a stitch in my side which wouldn't go away. I've learnt by now that sometimes it will subside, sometimes it doesn't - today it didn't and it almost made me stop by about 18 mins. But I carried on, figuring that if I'd got that far, I would get to 20, and I did. And it made me feel so good. In a way I feel a bit pathetic for taking so long to get to this stage, but I'm really surprised at myself for sticking at it, I'm enjoying it and it's making me feel better, so the fact that I'm taking ages to get anywhere, is not going to get me down.
From here it's just a matter of upping the minutes slowly till you get to thirty minutes, and they reckon you can do 5 K inside 30 mins. So that's my next aim - but with this hurdle out of the way, I've got no doubts at all that I'll get there sometime!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Brain cupcakes

Morbid title ;-)

I. is doing Halloween this Thursday with Brownies, and they were told to bring in Halloween food. As we're into cupcakes, I just googled Halloween cupcakes (where would we be without Google?) and found a photo of brain cupcakes. Used the recipe for cupcakes and buttercream frosting from The Caked Crusader (where would I be without The Caked Crusader?), which lead to a small disaster when I. decided she was going to add the milk and promptly added about half a pint - it was more sloppy brain rather than mouldable brain... So I started again and then we had great fun using a piping 'tube' (bit like a big syringe) for the first time. We're both agreed they don't really look like brains but we enjoyed making swirls and getting better at it. They're hideously sweet but they wouldn't be right if they weren't!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Dusting off the sewing machine

These days, I spend much more time knitting than sewing. The advantage of knitting is that I can do it while the kids are watching telly, or while I'm waiting for them to finish eating, or when I'm out for a coffee with friends. My sewing machines are all set up in my bedroom and if I go up there to do some sewing, I can bet that within ten minutes, I'll have a child at my side wondering what I'm up to, pushing down all the pins in my pin cushion, and can they have a go at the pedal and what does this button do? Strange how they don't bother you as long as you can be seen... The advantage of sewing is that projects don't take nearly as long as knitting projects, if I spent as much time sewing as I spent knitting, I'd have far more to show. But, because of work I haven't really sewn much for the past few years, even though I do still enjoy it immensely. Sometimes I manage to find a few hours or a small project and then I remember again just how much I enjoy sewing. Which is what happened when I made this

It's for I., who at nine years old has developed a thing for bags. It seems she can't have enough of them. I bought the fabrics in Holland at a fabric market, the pink cord of the outside was meant for a skirt for her but I couldn't think what sort of skirt would look nice so when I saw the pattern for the bag, I thought the fabric would be really nice for it. It's really soft, and lined with a stretchy cotton.

The pattern came from an old Ottobre, a Finnish magazine that I used to subscribe to. The only thing I don't like is the way the shoulder strap has worked out - at the top, where the fabric strips join, there is rather a lot of bulk which doesn't want to lie flat. I. doesn't seem too bothered and is more interested in the fact that the bag is entirely reversible...

After finding this pattern, I left a few other Ottobres out with patterns I'd like to make. Chances are though that they'll stay right where they are now, in a bag under my desk, gathering dust...

I leave you with a photo of our autumn bounty from this weekend:

Anyone want to take bets on whether these will last us to Christmas?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

And sometimes more is definitely less

I think I have cast on for this cowl at least 6 times. The first three times were to get the number of stitches right - my yarn is a lot thinner than the pattern specifies, so I had to experiment to get the right number of stitches so the thing would actually go over my head. Then I kept making mistake after mistake - miscounted stitches, knitted a wrong row of the pattern, I can't remember what else but I'm sure there were more. If I'd actually been able to make progress in all that time, I'm sure I would have finished by now... This photo is from this afternoon; the kids had a catwalk at school tonight and I had to drop them off 45 mins before the start of the show. Not worth going back home, so I sat in the car and knitted. I've now done two pattern repeats and have started the third one. The yarn is from Hipknits, I love the variegation (blue with a hint of grey and the odd pink streak) and so far I'm loving the lace pattern. I want it done by Bonfire Night - and I want it to be cold enough so I can wear it for Bonfire Night.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Less is more

The main supermarket in Holland, Albert Heyn, publishes a monthly free magazine with lots of recipes in it. My parents both save them for me as I find them fun to read, and the recipes are often very good. The last issue had a recipe for mussels which caught my eye straightaway: just cooked in 'witbier' (this translates as lager, but it can't be the same, as I like witbier and not lager!) with chopped salad onions. I have a love-hate relationship with mussels, sometimes I love them, at other times I don't even want to think about eating them. When we were in Cornwall, B. caught some when he was out snorkeling and he still talks about how nobody wanted to eat them. Yesterday though, I really fancied them, so we stopped off at the fish stall in Harleston and brought a bag of Brancaster mussels home. I'd never cooked them myself and can't believe how easy it is to prepare them. And this recipe definitely shows that less is more: they were delicious and well worth repeating.

For dessert I had made an apple cake. I've been following the Caked Crusader's blog for a while and have tried several of her recipes, and none of them have failed yet. I wasn't paying enough attention to the recipe while cooking and forgot to slice the apples before coating them in cinnamon/sugar, but I just left the cake to cook a bit longer in the oven and they were fine. The cinnamon/sugar mixture goes really sticky and gooey, and is dreamy combined with the soft apples. A perfect seasonal recipe!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Flying visit

Two days in Holland, crammed full of activities. It was good to spend some time with everybody without being distracted by work and other mundane, everyday activities. Best of all, it's only 6 weeks before we go again.
Quick photo impression:

Very windswept hair on windy ferry!

Looking at all the ferries and boats passing in Harwich port.

Little boy on wide beach early in the morning.

View towards the port at Hoek van Holland, again early morning.

Sunday was a visit to the Hoge Veluwe. Art combined with nature (o and quite a lot of rain!) makes for an entertaining visit any time of the year. The staircase is 'real' art, the bike in the tree was probably by a visitor who felt inspired...
Half the park was closed off as they were holding running races. I. and I have decided that next year we'll enter one of them - what a fantastic landscape to go running in.

We're all feeling shattered but I definitely feel I've recharged my batteries - which is what I was looking for.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Quick trip home

You only get skies and seas like this in Holland.

Over for a quick weekend to catch up with mum and give the kids some Dutch culture...