Temperature Afghan – April

We’ve hit a bit of a plateau this month. The weather has been fairly mild so I’ve been 20170505_094519getting chunks of the same colour. The temperature did dip a couple of times just to add a bit of diversity, but it’s interesting to see how the afghan has progressed since January.

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Temperature Afghan – March

A little late this month, so it’ll just be a quick update.

I’m late posting for a number of reasons. Family illness being one, the main one being I ran out of Cloud Blue and my local stockist has closed down. I had a little search online for a reasonable supplier, found a couple but still couldn’t come to terms with the fact that for the small amount of wool I wanted i’d be paying just as much for postage as I was for wool, so eventually ended up buying more wool! oh, well.20170413_153503

Anyway, Afghan is going well and with the mild weather I was able to introduce another colour, so it’s all coming together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Reading Roulette – March

Welcome a new month’s lucky dip, and the March winner was . . .2017-03-04_15-30-06_345  ‘The Running Sky’ by Tim Dee. Funnily enough, like last month’s pick, it’s another one from my non-fiction section.

This ended up in the ‘reading roulette’ for pretty much the same reasons as last months pick. I like buying books, I like nature, and I believed that expanding my non-fiction collection would somehow make me more intelligent!! Seeing as this book has also been sitting on my shelf for about 7 years, you can probably get an idea of how well that idea worked out for me.

So, onto ‘The Running Sky’ and unfortunately it just wasn’t my kind of book. It was nothing to do with the subject matter, I love birds, I was in the Young Ornithologist Club (As was Tim Dee), Bill Oddie is my personal hero! Possibly, I may not have been the intended market for this book, or my scientific mind may have still been engaged from last months ‘Field guide to Natural Wonders’, or maybe I should have looked more into the premise of the book rather than making an assumption.  Whatever the reason, unfortunately I just could not get into it.

The cover blurb reads – “ The Running Sky records a lifetime of looking at birds. Beginning in summer with clouds of breeding seabirds in Shetland and ending with crepuscular nightjars like giant moths in the heart of England, Tim Dee maps his own observations and encounters over four decades of tracking birds across the globe” So from this, my expectations were that I would be treated to numerous accounts of seasonal bird behaviour and extravaganzas. Instead I got an anecdotal account of Dee’s bird related stories and memories they’ve conjured up.

Don’t get me wrong, it is very well written, and in a tone very reminisce of the old style of nature writing, viewing the world from an emotional standpoint rather than a scientific one. Which comes across as being more of a love letter to the days of John Buxton, and J A Baker, than an engaging informative account of bird ‘sightings’. That is possibly where it lost me.

It does bother me when I don’t like books for no obvious reason, and I do like to look into things a little more to find out if I’m missing something that would have made my experience more enjoyable. So, after reading the book I did a little research. On hindsight, I do understand what Tim Dee wanted to achieve through ‘The Running Sky’ and I do believe that he has accomplished exactly that. Maybe if I had known this before I started I would have been reading with a different preconception and loved it, or perhaps not. Often I did feel like I was being told a story by my grandad, who then goes off on a tangent, and by the time he gets back on track you’ve forgotten the main point of the story he was telling you.

As much as I didn’t like the book I do still like to end on a positive note, so very much sticking to the theme of Grandads and their ramblings, I did learn an interesting fact about bananas from ‘The Running Sky’ which I think will stick with me for a while.

In one of Tim Dees many story tangents, he’s on an airplane leaving Shetland thinking about seals and seabirds. Then he randomly starts talking to his neighbour, who happens to be a supermarket Manager, about bananas being sold in the Northern islands like Shetland – “They arrive refrigerated from the tropics in a state of arrested development. Opening the box they have travelled in releases a ripening agent, but from that point the clock ticks fast on their sale ability. A banana reaching Shetland would have to be sold the day it arrives . . . therefore Shetland will have the only bananas in Tesco Britain that will ripen without assistance

Challenge so far. .

3 Contemporary fiction:

  • The Ghost by Arnold Bennet
  • The watchmaker of filigree street by Natasha Pulley
  • Illumination by Matthew Plampin

3 Classic fiction:

  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  • Andersons Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen
  • Emma by Jane Austen

3 Non-fiction:

  •  The Fry Chronicles by Stephen Fry
  • The Running sky by Tim Dee
  • The field guide to Natural Wonders by Ian Whitelaw

3 Hardbacks:

  • The long earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
  • The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
  • Under the ivy: the life and music of Kate bush

Temperature Afghan – February

Before we get down to my afghan progress I’ll just share with you my new reference tool. Without 2017-03-02_18-08-29_237-2017-03-02t18_55_53-405giving away too many spoilers I’ve had a few colour changes this month and obviously I’ve removed the bands from the yarns I’m currently using so I needed more of a visual reference for my temperature gauge, so I came up with this.

 

 

 

So, onto my progress and what an interesting month it’s been, weather wise. I ended last month with only two colours on my afghan, and with temperatures teetering very close to my next colour change at the very bottom of my gauge,  I found myself secretly praying for a big temperature drop.

Well as February started and the temperature steadily flip-flopped between ‘bluebell’ and ‘cloudblue’ I thought I wasn’t going to get my wish. Then we had a sudden cold snap, a bit of snow, and I watched the weather reports with anticipation. Alas, it was an all too brief flirtation with the lower end of the temperature gauge.

Then a steady rise in temperature over the next 4 days found me adding ‘sherbert’ to my afghan, I was ever so happy to finally be working with more than two colours, then we had another steady rise in temperature and 4 days later and we were adding one more colour Aspen’.2017-03-01_14-33-53_293-2017-03-02t18_57_59-055-2017-03-02t19_05_45-364-2017-03-02t19_08_27-759

Sadly, that was all the excitement that February had for me, but admittedly ‘bluebell’ is slowly sinking to the bottom of my yarn bag now as the milder weather has me switching between ‘cloud blue’ and ‘sherbert’.

 

 

 

 

 

With the official start of Spring coming (The start of meteorlogical Spring being 1st March, and the Spring Equinox on 20th March) here’s to milder weather and more colours on my afghan.

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Reading Roulette – February

So, my February book is ‘The field guide to Natural Wonders’ by Keith Heidorn & Ian Whitelaw

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I first bought this book because it appealed to my love of nature and science, I was working in a bookshop at the time and had to feed my book buying addiction. It was following one of my ‘educational’ whims, believing that reading a non-fiction book every now and again would balance out the amount of fiction I read and possibly increase my intelligence (emphasis on the ‘possibly’). Well the intention was there, just never the inclination so this has been sitting on my shelf for about 7 years now, which is how it ended up in the pot!

I suppose I read a lot of fiction as I like a bit of escapism in my reading and I do often find non-fiction books a bit of a hard slog, especially if they use too much technical jargon. However,  I found this fascinating and whipped through the first couple of chapters in no time (I particularly liked the section on eclipses). They did start to use a bit of technical jargon in the later chapters, especially when talking about ‘atmospheric’ and ‘electrical’ phenomenon, but by this point I was hooked. So, I happily worked my way through it, plus they have a handy little ‘Summary’ at the end of some sections, for the lazy brained like me.

One negative thing I do have to say for this is, although I do like a bit of science and knowing the ins and outs of certain things, this did often feel like I was having a magicians trick explained to me, and I only hope that next time I see a ‘natural wonder’ it won’t have lost any of it’s majesty because of it.

I’m now constantly on the lookout for more natural wonders though.

Temperature Afghan – January

So to my next challenge update, Temperature Afghan.

I’m actually having quite a bit of fun with this, watching it develop. If you remember these were the colours I chose for my afghan.tempafg

Well, as you can imagine there hasn’t been much temperature variation during January, it’s either been cold or VERY cold.

I’ve decided to do my afghan in straight rows, I had originally intended to do it in treble crochet (Double Crochet in US) as I was worried that any temperature changes that only last for a day wouldn’t show up very w2017-01-13_15-00-21_639ell. Unfortunately after a few days I began to realise that the resulting afghan would be huge! So I frogged the whole thing and started again with Double Crochet (Single crochet US)

 

 

 

 

Which is working out a whole lot better, and is looking quite interesting already.

I’ve also become a little obsessed with the weather, looking out for any significant temperature changes and getting excited when the temperature high for the day drops close to 0°C as I think that’s going to be a rare event and it’s such a nice colour on the chart. Oh well, Winter is not over yet, let’s see what February brings.

 

 

Reading Roulette – January

So, the first lucky dip of the year was ‘Andersen’s Fairy Tales’ by Hans Christian Andersen, from my classic fiction section.

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This ended up in the ‘reading roulette’ because I bought it many years ago, after a conversation with a work colleague about Fairy Tales. We talked about how fairy tales and folk tales are an intrinsic part of our childhood, and how many of these fairy tales we have actually read, and how many we have just heard about or seen adaptations of on TV. So, I saw this book and bought it, hoping that if indeed there were any popular fairy tales that I was only assuming I knew I could now re-educate myself. Well that debate fell by the wayside and the book was left forgotten on my bookshelf, until now.

First of all, I’m quite pleased to say that of the popular tales contained within this book that I already knew, it was because I had actually read them as a child.

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Highlighted titles of stories I read as a child

Not only that but my parents must have been keen for me to have the full experience as all the Andersen fairy tale endings (including the grisly ones) I knew. I mention this because there has been a lot of debate over the years about how some children’s publications, especially Disney tend to ‘soften’ the endings that haven’t particularly been nice ones. So, as a child, I was obviously given the bare bones endings, although some things were cleaned up a bit. For example, in my childhood version of ‘the tinder box’ the Witch did NOT have her head chopped off, but instead got so angry that she burst into a thousand pieces (I think there’s a lesson for us all there). Another differing aspect was the biblical themes and religious motifs within the stories, again that is something that was omitted from my childhood tales and whilst Andersen’s original tales would often attribute wondrous events to the workings of God, in my childhood tales they were usually the responsibility of fairies or elves.

So, back to my current publication ‘Complete and Unabridged’ which, eventually, I did enjoy. Unfortunately, it took a bit of getting into as Andersen’s style of writing is so dramatic and poetic, and the narrative so fantastical, that with even a little distraction (like a hyperactive dog wanting attention, or an interesting plot twist in the show my husband’s watching on telly) by the time my attention returned to what I was reading I had lost the essence of the story and had to re-read from the point I got lost. I found it best to read at times where I could just shut out the rest of the world and become absorbed in the story. Another delightful aspect of these stories are the memories they conjured up, as I read each familiar fairy tale I could visualise the illustrations that were in my story books as a child. Quite a few of which I still have.

Would I recommend this to others?

I’d have to say yes, whilst I do miss the simplicity and colour of my childhood tales, this book does have a lot more packed into it and with such descriptive detail that you can conjure up your own mental illustrations.

Challenge so far. .

3 Contemporary fiction:

  • The Ghost by Arnold Bennet
  • The watchmaker of filigree street by Natasha Pulley
  • Illumination by Matthew Plampin

 3 Classic fiction:

  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  • Andersen’s fairy tales by Hans Christian Anderson
  • Emma by Jane Austen

 3 Non-fiction:

  •  The Fry Chronicles by Stephen Fry
  • The Running sky by Tim Dee
  • The field guide to Natural Wonders by Ian Whitelaw

 3 Hardbacks:

  • The long earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
  • The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
  • Under the ivy: the life and music of Kate bush

 

 

2017 Challenges

So it’s the start of another year, but instead of doing resolutions this year I thought I’d do challenges.

 Challenge #1 – If you’ve read my previous posts you may have come across my ‘reading roulette’ idea. Which is basically a random way of picking my next book to read from the numerous books that have been sitting untouched on my shelves for years. So I’ve expanded on this idea for 2017. I’ve chosen 12 books that I have either never got around to reading or I have only just acquired and want to ensure I read them. These twelve books I have divided these into four categories and chosen 3 for each, I shall be picking one at random every month, and hopefully writing a little about it.

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In by twelve books I’ve chosen;

 3 Contemporary fiction:

  • The Ghost by Arnold Bennet
  • The watchmaker of filigree street by Natasha Pulley
  • Illumination by Matthew Plampin

 3 Classic fiction:

  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  • Andersen’s fairy tales by Hans Christian Anderson
  • Emma by Jane Austen

 3 Non-fiction:

  •  The Fry Chronicles by Stephen Fry
  • The Running sky by Tim Dee
  • The field guide to Natural Wonders by Ian Whitelaw

 3 Hardbacks:

  • The long earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
  • The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
  • Under the ivy: the life and music of Kate bush

 

Challenge #2 – Temperature Afghan

For those of you who do not know what one of these is, I’ll explain. Basically it’s an afghan where you knit/crochet a row or two of the afghan in a colour that is pre-chosen for the temperature high for that day, and at the end of the year you have a lovely multicoloured afghan.

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Temperature afghan for the year, divided into two separate afghans. Photo from knittingparadise.com

 

In my area the temperature high for the day rarely drops below 0 degrees and rarely goes above 30 degrees, so I’ve adjusted my gauge accordingly

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and again, once a month I’ll share my progress

Wish me luck!

The Random Reader (or Reading Roulette)

I don’t know about you, but one of the hardest questions I ever ask myself is “What should I read next?”

This is often a difficult question for me for many reasons, but mostly because I have a LOT of books. I have books that have sat, neglected, on my shelves for years as they no longer hold the appeal that they obviously had when I bought them. I have hard back books that I haven’t touched, because I always carry my ‘current read’ everywhere with me and the idea of doing that with a hardback makes my back cringe.

So as you can imagine, not long after venturing into my spare room/library to pick my next read i’m either wandering out again a few minutes later with an armful of books, hoping that through the course of the day they will somehow fight amongst themselves and the victor shall become my current read. Or, I end up a sobbing wreck on the floor when faced with the magnitude of such a decision.

Until that is, Fate stepped in (with the assistance of a book) and presented me with a solution!

After reading ‘The Dice Man’ by Luke Rhinehart, I was inspired!! Not to live my life as a Dice woman, good lord no, I’m far too much of a wuss to live my life that way. However, one decision I was willing to let the dice handle though was that ever troubling “What shall I read next?” one. So I adapted the decision making format, and found a way to take the pain and strain out an otherwise delightful venture. It’s like a lucky dip, where you win every time, and the prize is a book!!

This has actually been quite fun for me, and I also find that I’m more inclined to finish reading books that I find a little dull, as the ‘Pot’ has challenged me to read it, so I MUST!!

(and maybe one day, for the tech savvy amongst you, I or somebody with a bit more skill than me, will develop an app that can randomly pick from your ebooks too!)

Craft Challenge – February

This months ‘Craft Challenge’ has a bit of uniqueness about it, as it’s one of my few craft items that I’ve actually made for myself. It’s also some thing I made a couple of months ago, as I haven’t had much time for the project I intended for my February Craft Challenge and it’s now going to be my March one.

Last year I got a Fitbit Charge , for those of you unfamiliar with it I’ll explain. Fitbit Charge is essentially a digital pedometer, which is also a watch, and a gadget geeks dream!. It also (once you’ve set up your profile and inputted your data) tells you how many calories you’ve burnt that day, including whilst resting, how many miles you’ve walked and how many flights of stairs you’ve climbed. It tracks your sleep pattern and has a silent alarm which wakes you up with gentle vibrations. Basically, for me, it’s the perfect watch full of geeky technology and an inoffensive wake up system.

I do actually really love my Fitbit, which is why when the strap started to peel off I was slightly alarmed, but not too worried as a friend of mine had a Fitbit flex which she had a number of different bands for, so I knew I could just buy a replacement band when it came to it.IMG_0559 It wasn’t until about a month later when the band actually came apart I found out that Fitbit don’t actually do replacement bands for the charge. So after about a week of walking around with a watch held together with sellotape I did what any self respecting crafter would do . . . . and made my own band!

*Note, these aren’t actually instructions on ‘How To Make a Fitbit band’ but just illustrated steps on how I did it. If anyone is interested, I’m planning on making this into a ‘How To . . ‘ and posting it at a later date.

I basically used the same concept as a hair scrunchie, so measured my wrist, and added about a third of the length (for the ‘schrunching’ bit) then cut a bit of fabric that length, and because I was only using thin cotton and this band would be taking some pressure I needed to re-inforce the thickness of the fabric, so cut it with a width four times that of the Fitbit. The main difference between this and a scrunchie would be that the elastic wouldn’t be going all the way around, as the actual Fitbit itself is a couple of inches in length the elastic would just be covering the bit of my wrist that the Fitbit didn’t, so I measured that, pulled the elastic a little taut (but not too much, just a little to be comfortable enough when it pulls back) and cut it that length. So I now had the bits I needed to start creating.

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(Note the poor Fitbit held together with Sellotape)

Then joining the two ends together I stitched around only half, leaving the other half open creating a gap that I could slip my Fitbit into.

and voilà . . .

It may just be me, but I actually prefer this style of band. It’s much more snug, and can come in whichever design you wish. Maybe I need to have a little chat with Fitbit!
As mentioned earlier, these aren’t designed to be instructions, just to give you an idea of how I made mine, but I will be making them into instructions and posting them soon.

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