Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Crochet holly decorations

I can't quite believe it's only a week until Christmas, I hardly feel like December has started and I'm only just getting around to writing my Christmas cards. However I have been admiring lots of the natural beauty outside.
These holly leaves are so perfect and shin, they almost don't look real, but I assure you they were and growing abundantly in a local park.

 I've been making more of these attic24 holly leaves. I'd made a whole bunch and then foolishly left them on a train and despite emailing the train company they seem to completely disappeared so unfortunately these two that I made (and photographed) last year are the only two survivors, I'll have to have a look through my stash for another suitable green yarn because I really like making them

Friday, 13 December 2013

My favourite Christmas songs

Though I've already been in a big Christmas concert with gospel choir and wrapped and sent plenty of presents and Amnesty International, Write for Rights cards, I'm not feeling super Christmassy yet. However I love listening to Christmas music when I'm wrapping presents and writing all my Christmas cards. I have a couple of favourite albums that I always return to and I wanted to share some of the medleys we sing at gospel choir too.

This is from our 2012 Christmas concert at Manchester Academy

This one is from this year's concert at the Royal Nothern College of music. The tree is scenery for an opera that was starting in the theatre the day after our performance, it's pretty spectacular!

As I've mentioned (several times) I love Hanson. In 1997 they recorded a whole Christmas album called Snowed In but this song is from 2011, I love it a lot!

What Christmas songs do you like listening to?

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Crocheted baby orange hat with leaves

 I've just finished off and posted this very sweet baby hat. I think it's the sweetest and most smartly finished thing I've ever made, so I'm pretty pleased with it! It is currently on it's way to Sweden as a present for a the baby of a friend I lived with at university. I think I've reached the age where a lot of my friends have started having babies now. This means I get to crochet some very sweet, tiny things like this hat!
The pattern is from "crocheted gifts; Irresistible projects to make & give" by Kim Werker. This is the first time I've followed a pattern from a book rather than on line somewhere. I found it was a more reliable way of carrying the instructions around with me than hoping for signal on my phone when I need to check something, but there were several acronyms that weren't in the glossary and fewer pictures than there are on sites like attic24, so sometimes I had to guess a bit. I've had this book out of the library for several months now and there are other things I want to make from it so maybe I need to buy a copy instead of paying lots more fines!
The hat was supposed to be made in red to look like a berry but I had this nice, bright orange that I thought would be nice. I think it looks a little bit like a clementine which is quite festive, I hope it doesn't look too much like a pumpkin though.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Manchester Christmas Markets

 I've loved visiting the Christmas markets in Manchester recently. They're a really big deal here and cover several streets and squares. Every time I've been they're really busy so I've just been visiting in short bursts, seeing what was available in different areas. Last week I went with a couple of friends and wore a long kilt that I inherited from my Granny with a red coat and felt very festive.

I'm looking forward to visiting again and having gluhwein in a special mug while finishing up my Christmas shopping.
Do you have special Christmas markets to visit?

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Fun flash mob

On Monday the choir I'm part of made an impromptu performance at the students union in Manchester. I wasn't singing as I've got a really croaky voice at the moment and I'm trying to save some of my voice for our big Christmas concert coming up this Saturday. If you're in Manchester and fancy an evening of fun, dancing and singing, please come along. We're performing at the Royal Northern College of Music from 7:30pm.
I really love singing with gospel choir. There's a real freedom to enjoy the music and make a fantastic sound without it being a pressurised atmosphere

Monday, 2 December 2013

Sky on fire

I took these pictures on Saturday night, when, for few brief minutes the whole sky looked to be on fire. It was amazing to see.
I think it made up for all the dark mornings and afternoons, when I have to leave the house before the sun has risen and then travel home again in the dark. This splendid light was worth it.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

In flight

This flock of seagulls where wheeling and diving at my local park last week, it's funny to see o many so far in land. I tried to capture them in flight, out of the hundred or so pictures, these three were the best!
I've been conciously getting my camera out and using my different lenses recently. I'm by no means proficient at what I'm doing nor do I always capture what I'm aiming for but I have really been enjoying getting to know my camera and practising new skills.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

On (still) being a fan

Exactly two years ago today I met my favourite band. That short time of chatting to them was a huge milestone in my life. The bottom picture of me with them is still my facebook profile picture. I'm off to see them again when they play in the UK next week. I love them very much.
The body of this post was first posted on 4/7/2012

There is always going to be something of a struggle if you a fairly sensible person and you are a fan.

Whether it's being a fan of a particular football team, actor, musician or film, when your happiness and joy is closely linked to the object of your obsession, it becomes a bit unreal.
You know logically that it really doesn't matter one bit to your team if you don't happen to wear your lucky pants but any football fan worth their salt wouldn't dare take that chance when their team has a big match.
You are completely aware that your tattoo of your favourite actor marks you out as slightly odd but you don't regret it for a second.
I know that the members of my favourite band; a band which  I have loved with the power of a thousand fiery suns since I was a wide-eyed 12 year old, a band on whom I have spent an unknown amount of money (probably totalling several thousand pounds) going to see are not suddenly going to become my best friends.
 Somewhere wedged  in between logic and fantasy comes reality.
Your team wins the cup, your favourite actor plays in your local theatre, the next book in the series comes out.

What I'm trying to say is that being a fan is half a fantasy of what could be, and, if you are at least mostly sane, the crushing awareness that the reality will never quite match the dream.

Except sometimes it does. The stars align, Karma pays you back, God gives you a present and for one perfect, shining moment it's exactly what you dreamed it would be.

My name is Helen Stoker and I am a Hanson fan.
Last November Hanson played 5 gigs around the UK. I went to 4 of them.
This chalked up my Hanson seeing experiences to 25.
They also happened to give a lecture at Oxford Union. My cousin was the then editor of the Oxstu, the student newspaper. I begged her to see if I could, firstly get into the lecture and also possibly to interview them. She worked magic and arranged, between the facebook message I sent her at 2am and the lecture at 8pm that I could do both.
I spent the 1 and a half hour train journey from Birmingham where they'd played the previous night and where I'd been seeing family, down to Oxford consciously telling myself to calm down.
Their talk was great; funny, insightful, a closer look at the music industry that we mostly take for granted, an updated version of a similar talk I'd seen them give at North Western University in 2005.

Then we went upstairs.
There is something startling about being in the same room as people whose image you had on your childhood bedroom wall 100 fold, a slight buzzing, as if your nerve endings can suddenly generate electricity. 
We met, shook hands and sat down to chat. It was perfect.

When I was younger I did definitely want to marry a specific Hanson brother. While I was commending my 12 year old self for having really excellent taste, I am now older and they are all already married to people who are not me and what I really wanted was for them to be lovely. For them to be deserving in some way of my adoration. To have a nice chat and for them to be interested in talking to me.

I walked out of the room half an hour later feeling amazing.
My main thought as I left the building was that it had been worth it. That I hadn't been wrong or deceived in any way to have devoted so much time and thought to them.
Now several months later I play back parts of the conversation in my head, thinking about things I could've said differently that might have had a slightly different outcome, a greater chance of them remembering me . But when I walked down the stairs and away from them leaving them still in the room, it felt perfect.
I remember sincerely thinking this is it. I can stop now.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Technical difficulties

I've been having one of those weeks where everything seems a little off. This included my computer refusing to turn on or off all weekend, instead it remained in a semi alive sleep mode.  As it's only a month old this was rather frustrating! Fortunately after taking it back to the shop it seems to be working again.
However, I'm posting this from my phone as I'm on a train to one of my favourite places in the world, West Yorkshire.  I'm going to go and see Josie Long this evening in Leeds
I'll leave you with this coded reference to how I spent saturday evening .

Monday, 18 November 2013

Autumnal Orange

I know I'm getting a bit repetitive but there's still so much great natural colour out side at the moment that I can't seem to stop myself taking pictures of all this beauty.

To coincide nicely with all this natural orange I'm also in the middle of finishing a crocheted orange baby hat. I went for walk yesterday afternoon through the woods to take pictures and breathe fresh air and it was mild enough to sit for half an hour or so and add a few more rows to the hat. It was really nice to be out doors.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Manchester Museum Vivarium

I've written before about how I like just hanging around Manchester Museum if I have an hour or two to spare in Manchester. Last week I made it to the vivarium . There are so many interesting frogs and toads and lizards there. It was really nice and unexpected to get close to nature right in the middle of the city.
I forgot to write down what any of the creatures are, but , fortunately I have a cousin who is very knowledgeable about all sorts of nature and she identified them for me as much as she could from my pictures.

 This stripy, slightly irreidscent newt-like lizard is a Phelsuma Klemmeri
 These tiny little orange frogs are either Golden Mantilla or Oophaga (Dendrobates) Pumilio
 This handsome fellow who was eyeing me warily is a Fijian green Iguana
 An Oriental Fire-bellied toad, neatly camouflaged on the green leaves.
 This pile of curled up snake is either a green tree python or an emerald tree boa, I guess it's hard to tell when it's just a curled up length of snake.
 An absolutely stunning Panther Chameleon
More Oriental Fire-Bellied Toads hiding in the .
There's such amazing variation and detail in all of these animals, it was really lovely to see them.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Tiny litle boats

On Sunday afternoon I decided that I needed a little adventure. I picked a place on the Metrolink map and took the train and tram to Prestwich. I'd never been there before and that seemed like a good enough reason for my journey. Unfortunately as I arrived there around half four, there wasn't much for me to do, however there is a gorgeous fountain and sculpture in the centre of the local shopping area. I felt it was necessary for me to show some love, so I bought some little plastic boats at one of the few shops open and had a little play.

I love to play in public spaces, anything to bring a little bit more joy to people's daily lives is great by me!

Monday, 11 November 2013

Autumn Brights

Sunday was a gorgeous bright sunny day. I took my camera for a walk to see the last of the bright leaves left on the trees.

There's a lot of beauty out there when I stop and pay attention to it!

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Details from around the Victoria Baths

I wrote a bit on Monday about Victoria Baths and how amazing it is. It was nicknamed the Water Palace and it truly feels like a regal place. There is the most incredible attention to detail and fancy stained glass that I don't think I've ever seen in modern buildings.
From the way the changing rooms were designed to the ceiling supports, everything is just a bit more special.

For a building with such a utilitarian purpose (originally people came here not just to swim but to wash and clean themselves) it really is a palace.