Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Wednesday 25 January

The two cloths from my monthly dishcloth swap. This month I was paired with Kellie, who I've swapped with before. The green cloth is what I sent to her - I found the pattern in her list of favourite patterns and as it was named Windmill, I thought it'd be appropriate to knit for her! The bottom one is what she sent me, because they had snow in Alaska. Nine-year-old asked if we could please not use this one, as it was too nice! If you're reading this Kellie: thank you very much!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Saturday 21 January

And here they are, in all their glory. One of my most favourite knitting projects.

It seems that since I changed my settings, not everybody is able to post comments (and here I was, thinking you were all ignoring me and I'd turned billy-no-mates). If it doesn't sort itself out within a few days, I'm going to badger Blogger - after all, we all like getting comments don't we. And I was looking forward to being able to respond to them too.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Friday 20 January

My somethings that made me happy today have not really been photo-worthy this week. Yes, I have written a something that made me happy today every day, but they've not been things that I could take a photo of. And no, I'm not posting photos of me in my flannel pyjamas and socks and hot water bottle crawling under three thick layers of bedding (it's been cold here in the UK. And in my 131 year old cottage it's usually colder than it is outside).
I have only taken a few photos this week and I can only post this one. But, it is of something that made me really excited this week - so excited in fact that I finished off the second one tonight, even though they were supposed to be part of a knit-along where we were all supposed to knit at the same speed.
And would you believe that I took this photo while holding my camera with my left hand and pressing the shutter button with that same hand? Blur all in the right places...
Pattern is Cafe Au Lait Mitts (Ravelry link) - I am looking forward to drinking lots of lattes in Lyme Regis with these next month.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Monday 16 January

I made sourdough bread this weekend. I'd enjoyed reading about sourdough on Twitter so I thought I'd give it a go too. I followed the recipe on the River Cottage website and started my starter on Sunday night in the hope of having a bread by the following Saturday evening. I'd read a few reviews of people having varying degrees of success so I wasn't sure at all if it would work. After 36 hours the first bubbles appeared, I then dutifully fed it every 24 hours and to start off with it was lovely and bubbly. Then all of a sudden it began to look more like pancake batter that has been sitting around for a while, with a layer of clear liquid at the top. The website said by the end it should start to smell fruity and yeasty, not harsh or acrid. Mine didn't smell fruity or harsh... a bit yoghurty, if anything. (In fact, 12yo said it smelt like her plaster cast when she'd broken her arm last year. I decided to pretend I hadn't heard that).
On Friday night I made the sponge which uses only 100ml of the starter. I was so convinced it wasn't going to work that I threw the rest of the starter away. (I also threw away the washing-up brush that I used to clean the bowl. Boy is that starter sticky! I'm sure you could have built a retaining garden wall with it.) You had to leave the 'sponge' as it's called, overnight in a cool place, covered with clingfilm. Imagine my surprise when I came downstairs to a bowl full of what was almost frothy batter! I still wasn't sure about the smell - it wasn't nasty, but definitely not yeasty either. I made up the dough, kneaded till my arms ached and I'd worked up a sweat, then left it in a bowl next to the Aga for the day. I think it was probably a good thing we were out all day, or I'd have been checking up on it anxiously every hour! When we came back early in the evening the dough had doubled in size - just as the recipe had stated. So I knocked it back and put it on a baking tray to rise for a second time. That was where I went wrong though - I left it on the warming plate of the Aga and that was really a bit too warm, it started cooking rather than rising. So I gave up on that one and chucked it in the oven. Forty-five minutes later and out came a bread that smelled good and looked like a crab shell (it did look very odd...). We'd just had a substantial evening meal so left the bread for breakfast, but was it worth the wait! The crust was a bit hard but the flavour... just perfect! It was lovely with a thin layer of butter (o alright, I may have had a slice with a thick layer of butter too. Yes this was where my WeightWatchers resolve weakened ever so slightly), but it was even nice just as it was. By the end of Sunday it had disappeared, even the kids liked it. And they're not always easy-to-please customers.
It goes without saying I'm cursing myself now for throwing away the rest of that starter...

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sunday 15 January

Three pictures of what made me happy this week: both I. and N. received a little award for their hard work. And although my main concern is that they are happy at school as my time at secondary school was definitely not the happiest time of my life, every parent is happy to hear that their child is doing well and enjoying themselves.

On a totally different note: Blogger has added the functionality of being able to reply directly to comments. Which I think is GREAT. The nice thing about keeping a blog is getting to know other people, but I have not always been able to find an email address to reply to. No longer though!
With it goes a new interface for composing posts and that is taking a bit of getting used to...

Monday, January 9, 2012

Monday 9 January

It seems there is no end to this New Year's resolutions lark. Here we are, almost halfway through January already, and I've come up with another one. I was half expecting this one though and didn't mention it in my 1 January post as it is just a bit.... boring.

Almost 8 years ago, over a year after 9yo was born weighing a hefty 11 lbs, I was still carrying around excess babyweight. Looking back at it, I'm certain me eating rather too much during my pregnancy had something to do with him being the weight he was. I'd lost all my baby weight from my pregnancy with 12yo within a couple of months and figured that I'd lose it all again quite easily through breastfeeding. But 9yo weaned himself when he was 9 or 10 months old and I still had rather a few pounds to shed. I felt quite unhappy about myself but didn't have the discipline to lose it. One day, a neighbour mentioned WeightWatchers to me and I grabbed the chance and asked if we could go together. That was in August, and by November I'd lost 2.5 stone and reached goal weight. The first week I was starving, but I lost 5 or 6 lbs and there was no looking back after that. And since then, WeightWatchers has been an important part of my life. Sometimes I fall off the wagon for a bit, or I don't enjoy the meeting as much, and those are always the times when I start to struggle. I know now that if I go for a weigh-in every week and stay to the meeting, I managed to maintain my weight pretty much. It sounds melodramatic, but it has changed my life - mostly the knowledge I now have of portion control, healthy choices and exercise.

Christmas is always a hard time. I know at some point I give up trying to track and throw caution to the wind. I knew this time that I'd put some weight on - I usually do over Christmas, and I'm certainly not alone. I was already a little over goal by the last meeting of the year, and I'd managed to put 5.5lbs on over the last 3 weeks. What was worse though, was that I'm now a stone over where I should be. And that was enough of a kick up the backside to get back on track again. Yes, most things still fit, yes I'm tall so it doesn't show much, but I don't feel happy at this weight and I want it back off again. I know too that it will come back off without much extra help, but I also have a soft spot for pretty notebooks so when I spotted this at the shop this morning, it just had to come home with me.

I think WeightWatchers know that many women have a soft spot for pretty notebooks, because an awful lot of them were being sold this morning. And with that, I'm off to fill mine in. With that fountain pen. The journal covers 12 weeks. I hope by the time I've finished with it, I'll have lost that stone.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Friday 6 January

Remember how earlier this week I wrote about New Year's resolutions? I have started to jot down one line about my day in my diary and I wanted to do something similar on this blog so it becomes more of a place with memories. And I think I've come up with something: I'm going to try and post a photo every Friday of something that has made me happy that week. I have failed miserably at making up a snappy title, so the date will just have to do!

This picture made me smile on Monday: 9yo taking a picture of me taking a picture of him. When we were in Holland in November, I managed to mislay his camera, and he loves taking photos. He was quite upset when at first we thought we'd actually lost the camera, but fortunately it was found again and dad picked it up the day after. 9yo had to wait until we went over this time before he got it back though, and he made up for lost time by taking over 100 photos in 2 or 3 days. The nice thing about him enjoying taking photos is that my dad enjoys it, I enjoy it and now 9yo does too. Three generations with the same interest - I think it's lovely.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Wednesday 4 January

After a brief but enjoyable few days in Holland we are now back and settled into our daily routine again. Kids went back to school this morning and it is very quiet here. I'm looking forward to 4pm already.

For my birthday a few weeks ago, B. bought me a DSLR. I like taking pictures but haven't ventured much further than just using my little compact digital camera. It was getting on a bit though, the zoom didn't work so well anymore and B. kept saying 'I ought to buy you a new camera'. And then he turned up with a DSLR. I'm really pleased with it, but I'm also very daunted by it. It has so many options, functions, buttons, slides - and as I'm not very technical, I don't really understand what they're all for. I'm happily experimenting, but forget what settings I've used or end up with photos which are nice and I don't know why, or rubbish and I don't know why either! It's frustrating - I want to use the camera to its full potential, but deep down I'm slightly worried that it's a bit too complicated for me and that I'd have been better off with a simple point-and-shoot. I can't seem to find a book that caters exactly for what I want: changing one setting at a time and telling you what to do. I've never been good at jumping in at the deep end, I'd rather paddle cautiously in the shallow bit to gain some confidence.
I'm not giving up though, frustrated though I may be, and it'll be interesting to see if my images have improved by this time next year. So maybe another New Year's resolution: improve my photography skills?

Stairwell in University Museum in Utrecht

Sunday, January 1, 2012

1 January 2012

I'm not normally one for making New Year's resolutions, and if I do, I certainly don't make them public as they're not very interesting. The last few years I've only made one and that was very mundane: to stop running up library fees... such a waste of money and entirely unnecessary! Have definitely done better this year, although not perfect by any means.

I'm not sure why, but this year I thought of a few different things. Maybe something to do with getting older and the passage of time...? I don't know...

One is posting here a bit more often. I often feel that I have to write a deep and meaningful post or not bother at all. But I often wish this blog was more of a diary, and for that you need to post a bit more often than once a month as I have done lately. So there we go, resolution number one, make this blog a bit more active.
The second resolution is something I read somewhere, I can't remember where. It was a diary where you wrote one line about that particular day, every day. And then when the year was over, you'd write another line about a particular day but in the same diary, so after a few years you could see what you'd done on a particular day three or four years in a row (does that make sense?!). I like the idea of writing one line a day. I'm toying with the idea of doing it here but not sure that is really feasible, although it would be nice with a photo to go with it perhaps - but hang on, that makes it a bigger task again and what I liked about it, was that one line was so manageable. Will have to mull that one over for a bit.

This is the monkey I knitted for 9yo for Christmas. I managed to cut a hole in his original white sweater when I sewed in/snipped off the ends which was unravelling rapidly, so on the ferry I knitted him a new sweater. And here he is showing off his sea legs. 9yo still loves him to bits. I love how he loves him.

And this is 9yo learning to play 'sjoelebakken', a traditional Dutch game. While I spent the afternoon with mum showing her how to use her new laptop, dad looked after 9yo and they mostly played games together. I think sjoelebakken was a big hit!

And my sentence for today is that we celebrated mum's 68th birthday with a walk in the woods, an afternoon teaching her about her new laptop and a meal at a local pancake restaurant. It's been a nice day.