Sunday, 17 September 2017

Time to talk about yarn again

The past couple of weeks I have been totally preoccupied with my running and also going back to school, and yarn-related blog posts have slipped a little bit. I'm so sorry. I also realised that I didn't pick a winner for the August giveaway either. Bad josiekitten! You may remember that the lovely Kathryn from CrafternoonTreats very generously donated a kit to crochet a yarn basket. 

The random number generator picked out comment 13, butterflybobbins. Congratulations to you, I'll be getting in touch with you on Instagram in the next day or so.

I've got another lovely giveaway for you this month too. When I was at Old Maiden Aunt's studio with Lucia last month, I picked out a skein of yarn to use as a prize. It's a really beautiful mix of colours and I bought three! One for me, one for Snoopydog and one for you! It's 100% superwash merino 4ply weight and the colourway is called 'Like a Hummingbird'. Take a look for yourself, it's gorgeous!

If you'd like to be in with a chance of winning this beauty, all you need to do is leave me a comment and tell me what yarn supplies you'd take to a desert island with you! The giveaway will stay open until midnight on September 30th so there's still plenty of time to enter. Please make sure that it's easy for me to contact you by leaving your Ravelry or Instagram name or leave some other way to get in touch. If I haven't heard from the winner in a week, I'll use the random number generator to pick another name. I'm happy to post worldwide so please do enter. You never know, you might soon be the lucky owner of this skein of squishiness. Good luck one and all!

I dodged the showers yesterday morning and went to my local Parkrun to marshall. Luckily I was stationed in the woods and was protected by all the trees as it rained several times on and off. When the sun was shining, it looked beautiful. There is something about Nation Trust parkland...


I wasn't so lucky later in the day when Snoopydog and I took Oscar out - we both looked like drowned rats by the end of the walk, although Oscar wasn't remotely bothered! I needed a complete change of clothes when I got home! 

I took my medal to Mr JK's tree yesterday so I could tell him all about the events of last weekend, although I'm pretty sure that he already knew all about it. 

Today I am having a very lazy day. My knee is still sore from the run, so it's feet up on the sofa for me - and yes, it seems that sock season has begun already! These were a favourite pair knit in some Opal yarn last year.

I am playing around with ideas using some of the lovely colours in the Stylecraft Batik yarn range and it's all a lot of fun! Plenty of tea and munchies within reach to keep me going all day. I'm not planning on moving far! xxx

Saturday, 16 September 2017

A picture speaks a thousand words

I got my race photos from the Great North Run and I just love these two - they were taken as I crossed the finish line. It was such a mix of emotions - elation at having finished, pride in what I'd achieved and sadness that Mr JK wasn't there to share it with me. An amazing day that I will remember for the rest of my life. xxx

Monday, 11 September 2017

I did it!

I am now a half marathon runner! Words that I never ever thought I'd say! I had an absolutely amazing weekend in Newcastle with the girls from the gym. Race day was incredible - an electric atmosphere and so many runners! It took me 45 minutes after the race started to actually cross the start line! The support from the locals along the route was great, and I spotted Denise Lewis doing an interview and Dame Tanni Grey Thompson on a water station as I was passing. I finished in a time of 3:12:20 and I don't think I will ever forget that feeling as I crossed the finish line. I managed to hold myself together but when the medal was put round my neck, I cried! All the emotion of the weekend finally got to me. I think that Mr JK would be so proud of me. Thank you for all your support - your comments and donations have meant the world to me and when the going got tough yesterday, your support kept me going. I don't have any official race photos yet but here are a couple from the weekend. My Just Giving page will stay active for a while longer, so if you'd like to donate, you can find the link at the top of the sidebar on my blog. Thank you again for all your kindness and generosity. Now please excuse me while I go and rest my legs and put an ice pack on my knee! xxx

Checking out the start the day before with Jules, Charlie and Beckie.

Start line selfie!

I felt like a proper athlete with my foil blanket! I'd just finished the race.

Chilling out in the pub afterwards!

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Well that went fast!

I can't believe that the holidays are almost over. Tomorrow sees the start of the new school year and I don't feel ready to go back! Considering that I wasn't looking forward to the summer break that much, having found previous holidays quite challenging emotionally, I had a pretty good holiday. I tried to keep myself as busy as I could, visiting friends, learning new things, days out here and there. Yes, there were a few tough days when I felt sad and restless and found it hard to focus on anything at all, but thankfully these days were few and far between. 

I've been busy over the last few days too. I went up to Glasgow to stay with one of my fellow Blogstars Lucia. I was made to feel so welcome by Lucia and her whole family and we had a lovely time. The day I arrived we went for a stroll around the centre of Glasgow before enjoying a delicious pizza in town. Then it was home for an evening of crochet and chat. I took my Opal Advent calendar yarn with me with the aim of finishing off all the little granny squares to make my cushion, as well as the crazy socks. Sitting in Lucia's fabulous yarn room, it was hard not to get distracted!


Lucia's gorgeous Maine Coon cat Thorin was a huge snuggly boy who made himself at home wherever we were sat - usually on the sofa! It's funny how cats just love to be where the yarny action is.

The following day, we went to West Kilbride, Scotland's first accredited Craft Town, as we wanted to visit the dyeing studio of Lilith from Old Maiden Aunt. Lilith was busy dyeing, but was very happy to let us browse and made us tea while we pondered over our yarn choices. I was also on a yarn-buying mission for my pal Snoopydog - it's always fun buying a little extra! Lilith's dyeing is absolutely beautiful - she has an amazing sense of colour. So hard to pick just a couple of yarny souvenirs! Take a look at all the temptation that lay before us...

We were able to take a look at where Lilith does her dyeing too - there were lots of skeins headed for Loop in London (I think!) drying on the racks as well as lots of skeins in the dye pots.

Of course you'd like to see what I bought wouldn't you? As well as a copy of Lilith's book, I settled on three skeins for myself. I don't have them with me at the moment as my suitcase went awol on the flight home (really, really hoping it shows up on tonight's flight!) so you'll have to make do with a quick picture I took at Lucia's.

After inhaling all those yarn fumes, we popped into a couple more of the studios before heading up the coast to the seaside town of Largs. Lilith suggested we visit Nardini's for an ice cream. It's in a fabulous art deco building and you can imagine just how grand it must have been back in the 1930's when it first opened. It was very hard to choose what to have, but eventually I plumped for a toffee fudge sundae. Mmmmm, it was lovely!

We attempted to walk off our ice creams along the seafront at Largs, but the weather wasn't playing ball and the heavens opened not long after we started. Of course we didn't have coats with us and joked that we needed those plastic rainhoods that you sometimes see old ladies wearing - ours would be accessorised with crochet flowers of course! These photos were taken about 5 minutes apart! 

So back to Glasgow we went for another evening of crochet and conversation. I was really pleased that I managed to finish making all my granny squares for the cushion so I really hope that my missing bag turns up! I have everything crossed!

On Friday we drove to Loch Lomond. The weather gods were really on our side as we had blue skies and sunshine all day long. The whole area is stunning with the hills/mountains/munros making the perfect backdrop to the clear water of the loch.

Just breathtaking views, although I can imagine that on a dreich day, it's nowhere near so picturesque. Lucia already has things planned for my next visit, so I'm sure I'll be heading north of the border again, despite the luggage trauma! 

Since getting home, I've had Flo virtually glued to me. She was so happy to see me on Friday evening and had a mad half hour chasing about the house like a cat possessed! 

And before I go, I have to say a huge thank you to those of you who have donated to my Just Giving page after my previous post. I have been completely overwhelmed by the generosity of people I've never even 'met' before, but who have come to know me through my blog and online presence. This time next week, the race will be over and I hope that I will be a half-marathoner! I promise to tell you all about it. If you'd like to make a donation to help support the work of the British Heart Foundation, then there's a link to my fundraising page at the top of the blog. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I did a 5.5 mile run through the woods today and it's a little bit scary to think that the next time I lace up my running shoes, it'll be the day of the Great North Run. With your support and encouraging words, I know I can do it! xxx

Sunday, 27 August 2017

These shoes are made for running...

I have something to tell you. Something that I never thought I'd be telling anyone ever. Ok, here goes - I'm running a race! Me, josiekitten, lifelong couch potato and exercise-phobe! As many of you will know, Mr JK was passionate about running. He absolutely loved the buzz it gave him and was constantly challenging himself to new things. I was a bit of a disappointment on that front. Whilst I was very happy to go along to races to support him (unless camping was involved!), the thought of running anything other than a bath was quite frankly hideous! Yes, for a few seconds as the runners were crossing the finish line, the thought went through my head 'that must feel amazing', but just as quickly, it went again. Mr JK really hoped that I'd share his running love and I'd got as far as downloading the Couch to 5K podcast before he died, but I didn't even own a pair of trainers!

Soon after he died, the crazy idea of running a race in his memory starting bubbling away inside me so I made a start on week 1 of the programme. After my first efforts, I bought some proper running shoes and a sports bra! But my running didn't last long as I experienced problems with my knee. X-rays showed that I have quite bad arthritis in my left knee, so I worked hard at the gym doing lots of exercises to strengthen it and stabilise the joint. I finally went for my first run outside in April this year. Of course I didn't want anyone to know about my running, or even going to the gym. It was a precious secret, something that I was sharing only with Mr JK. I drove to local parkland where I could run incognito. I still find it hard to make myself go out and run where I live - it's silly I know but I worry about what people will think! But I have had some wonderful early morning runs and seen lots of wildlife - owls, rabbits and deer to name a few. Have a look at some of the photos I took when I stopped to catch my breath!

I never thought that I'd be buying a running magazine, wearing breathable technical clothes (as well as Mr JK's running tights which I'm sure is giving him a great laugh!) or worrying about starting and stopping my Garmin watch to record running data accurately! It's so not me! As one of my friends said to me on WhatsApp this week, 'OMG, who is this person and what have you done with Helen?!' 

One day I retweeted something on Twitter, and was astonished a few days later to discover that I'd won entry for two into any Great Run event. I talked it over with Charlie, who I've been working with at the gym, and together we decided that the Great North Run would be a challenge! That's a half marathon - actually the world's biggest half marathon - if you didn't know! It's two weeks today and I can't quite believe that I'm going to be doing it. I'm not fast because I do a mix of running and walking to protect my knee, but I am determined to cross the finish line. I've run the distance in training so I feel reasonably confident that it's all going to be good on race day. Running has helped me to feel closer to Mr JK and has got me through some pretty dark days. I'm sure that he's going to be running alongside me and feeling proud of me too. I'm raising money for the British Heart Foundation and if you would like to donate to support me, I'd be so grateful. There is a link to my Just Giving page in the sidebar of the blog and you can also get to the page by clicking here. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I'll keep you posted on how it all goes, I promise you. xxx

Sunday, 20 August 2017

It's a stitch up!

Good afternoon folks! Can't believe another week of the holiday is almost over. Before we know it, the Christmas cards will be in the shops! I've packed the holidays full, probably doing too much in reality, as I'm now panicking slightly about all the things still left undone on my list. I may need to prioritise a little!

I spent a couple of lovely days with my pal Snoopydog this week. On the first day we did some sewing, making rather cute Hamish the Hound pincushions from kits that I'd picked up from Sew Creative down in Petersfield on my trips to and from Portsmouth. They were a little fiddly but we muddled through and were pleased with how our pin cushion pooches turned out!

And of course the naughty dogs couldn't resist doing what all doggies do when they meet each other! 

It was Mr JK's birthday this week, so rather than spend time alone being sad, I decided to be busy. I did stop off at his tree for a few words first thing. It's growing really well and the bark is lovely. There's something very tactile about silver birch bark.

Snoops and I had fun dyeing some yarn. It definitely wasn't very scientific and our skeins are very much one of a kind, never to be repeated, but it was a lovely way to spend a couple of hours and I'm sure I'll knit something from the yarn - possibly a scarf or a cowl as it's 100% merino so no good for socks, at least not for me!

We also took Oscar for a walk around Whitlingham Broad. I'm not a dog person, but do have a soft spot for Oscar. He loves chasing his tennis ball into the water!

We had tea and tarts in honour of Mr JK's birthday - lemon and white chocolate for Snoops and Bakewell tart (Mr JK's favourite) for me. 

Yesterday I took another sewing class at Sew Me Something over at Stratford-upon-Avon. Last time I drove there and back in a day, but it was pretty tiring, so this time I stayed the night before at a Premier Inn about half an hour's drive from Stratford. It made much more sense as these sewing days are full on and quite intense. I was sewing an Imogen top using the fabric that I bought recently at the Festival of Quilts. The cutting out took ages, and once that was done, it was time for tea and cake!

Then I sewed the placket opening - one of the trickier parts of the make. But I was pretty pleased with how it turned out. My top stitching could have been a little better, but I doubt that anyone's going to look that closely at it! 

I managed to finish the top and am really pleased with it. It would be great to make some more in a variety of fabrics - oh to have more hours in a day! No modelled photos I'm afraid, you'll have to make do with a photo of it hanging on the wardrobe!

I went for another dog walk this week too - caught up with some old friends and went walking on some heathland near by. It was really beautiful there and the heather and gorse combination was stunning. Although it's only a couple of miles from where I live, I'm slightly embarrassed to admit that I've not been there before. There were loads of dragonflies too, which was surprising as there really is very little water there.

Flo has been very glad to have me home today and has been very cuddly. I hardly dare tell her that I'm off to Portsmouth tomorrow for an overnight trip to see my auntie. She's 99 and not terribly well at the moment, so it will be good to see her.

Before I go, I must just share with you the virtual granny square blanket that was hooked by me and some of my fellow Stylecraft Blogstars this week. The clever people at Stylecraft were able to gather all our photos together and it looks lovely! Talking of the Blogstars, we now have our own Instagram account so if you're interested in seeing what we're up to, please follow us. You can find our page here. Have a great week and I'll catch up with you again soon. xxx