Sunday, 30 December 2012

New Year in Scotland

I'm off today with two of my favouritist lady friends for a wee jaunt up to Scotland.
We'll be spending a couple of nights in Edinburgh including Hogmany. I'm very, very excited!
My Granny was Scottish so I've always done quite traditional things for new years eve, we've always had first footing and black bun and haggis (vegetarian haggis though for the past 15 years)
This will be my first actually Scottish Hogmany though.

I'm hoping to go swimming in the sea on the 1st in North Berwick, I think we'll have to see how brave I am though!

Monday, 24 December 2012

Christmas Poem, John Betjeman

I first heard this poem a couple of years ago. One dark Sunday evening before Christmas I popped into the little chapel across the road from where I was living at the time. There were no lights apart from candles and the service was of the more traditional variety, incense was used and the readers, both male and female wore robes.
I love singing carols, I love the communal aspect, the joy, the expectation, the celebration.

I think all of that is in this poem. Some parts may be a little old fashioned (I had to look up what a tortoise stove was) but I think it is a lovely and very British explanation of Christmas and how we celebrate and remember.
Wishing you all the merriest of Christmases

Christmas Poem; John Betjeman

The bells of waiting Advent ring,
The Tortoise stove is lit again
And lamp-oil light across the night
Has caught the streaks of winter rain
In many a stained-glass window sheen
From Crimson Lake to Hookers Green.

The holly in the windy hedge
And round the Manor House the yew
Will soon be stripped to deck the ledge,
The altar, font and arch and pew,
So that the villagers can say
'The church looks nice' on Christmas Day.

Provincial Public Houses blaze,
Corporation tramcars clang,
On lighted tenements I gaze,
Where paper decorations hang,
And bunting in the red Town Hall
Says 'Merry Christmas to you all'.

And London shops on Christmas Eve
Are strung with silver bells and flowers
As hurrying clerks the City leave
To pigeon-haunted classic towers,
And marbled clouds go scudding by
The many-steepled London sky.

And girls in slacks remember Dad,
And oafish louts remember Mum,
And sleepless children's hearts are glad.
And Christmas-morning bells say 'Come!'
Even to shining ones who dwell
Safe in the Dorchester Hotel.

And is it true,
This most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window's hue,
A Baby in an ox's stall ?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me ?

And is it true ? For if it is,
No loving fingers tying strings
Around those tissued fripperies,
The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant,

No love that in a family dwells,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare -
That God was man in Palestine
And lives today in Bread and Wine.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Things from the internet

I've not done one of these for a couple of weeks but they return today with a slight Christmas theme

Home Alone is always on at Christmas. Since I've been working in schools I've seen at least once a year. It makes me rather uncomfortable though with the sheer amount of physical pain inflicted on the burglars ; how much damage would they actually sustain? The Week asks for a doctors opinion!

Have you got a sledge in case of snow? no? how about a local ikea? Well then you can make your own! This is amazing!

I tend to make gift tags from last year's Christmas cards, but if you've already recycled yours, you could print some out instead. There are lots of different printable gift tags here


One of my favourite films to watch when it snows is The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. I love both the BBC version, which I grew up with and this newer Disney film. The Design Sponge shows ways that you could make your home more Narnian.


 I LOVE this Christmas song; so sentimental, so funny, exactly what a jolly Christmas song needs to be!

Friday, 21 December 2012

Here comes the sun

Today is the winter solstice, shortest day of the year and I'm pretty glad that we've arrived at this point. I feel like the past week or so has been near perpetual darkness; leave the house in darkness, get to work in darkness, leave work in the dark, head home and hibernate.
I've got a few weeks of holiday now and I'm hopeful that when I start working again in January it'll at least be light at some point.
A friend of mine is moving to Finland indefinitely just before new year's eve, I hope he gets to see the sun too.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

WIP TOAST inspired, not granny square, grey crochet blanket

My neat ripple crochet blanket has doubled since I last photographed it but I've been giving this a bit of a rest recently while I make this TOAST inspired blanket for a Christmas present. I'm using a very soft and snugly yarn by Patons called Silenzio Chunky, it has 25% wool and 25% Alpaca which I feel is rather fancy!

I spotted this gorgeous throw blanket made by TOAST via pinterest and wondered if I could make something similar but maybe in a slightly different colour, white tends to stain spontaneously around me.

I'm making the blanket with large 10 round not-granny squares, this is my name for them anyway. I'm using a chunky yarn and a 7mm hook and I didn't want to do traditional granny squares as I thought the holes would be too big and I want this to be a super cosy blanket for my lovely friends who has recently got married and bought their first house. I had a couple of false starts getting the number of stitches correct, (I'd missed a stitch per side for about 8 rounds and had to rip it all out and start again) I couldn't find as many instructions for this type of square as for traditional granny squares but I did pick up a few hints; each side must have as many stitches as the previous round plus two at each side and then two slip stitches for turning the corner.
I really like this diamond shape that two squares together make.

I'm being quite quick about joining the squares and simply stitching the final round together on two squares. I'm really making the whole thing up as I go along and quite enjoying it.
I'm hoping that I'll be able to finish 9 squares and have all the ends tied in before I see my friend for Christmas, I'm on square 5 at the moment so it might be possible!

Sunday, 16 December 2012

I was on the X Factor!

Last Sunday, instead of what I normally do on a Sunday which is stay in my pyjamas most of the day looking at the internet and catching up on The Killing I was rehearsing for and singing on the live final of the X Factor.
It all started a couple of months ago when I joined Manchester Harmony Gospel Choir. The choir is mostly a university choir that accepts strangers like me, they're pretty good and had won the University Gospel Choir of the Year 2012. So when the X Factor came to Manchester and organisers from UGCY were asked to find a choir to work with Jahmene, one of the finalists, they used us.
It had been a fairly busy weekend for the choir as on the Saturday we'd given a sold out performance at Manchester Academy after a full days rehearsals so most of us were rather sleepy at the start of the day.

We met at Manchester Central where the X Factor was to be filmed. As there were nearly 80 of us in the choir that day, one of the most important things, besides the sound, was for us all to be positioned on stage and to be able to get us all on and off quickly enough, we rehearsed this quite a bit. With such a large choir we had to be fairly regimented with where we stood and how we expressed ourselves.
Even though we'd been there since 10:30am and the show wasn't until 7:40pm the day was fairly full with rehearsing  the songs and practising getting on and off the stage and putting on our black clothes and eating.

We also had a really nice surprise, which was that the producers required people to stand behind the judges and be adoring fans during Rihanna's set. It was pretty exciting to be standing so close to one of the most famous women in the world, we were there during her sound check so that she could practise grabbing hands and know where she'd be dancing. She has a really great voice, much stronger than I'd expected. She was also absolutely tiny, maybe I'd never really thought about it before but her thinness was surprising to me.

The show itself went well, I'm not sure about other people in the choir, but after having practised so often that day and knowing that the camera wouldn't really be on me I wasn't too daunted by knowing the huge audience we had. It all went pretty quickly as we sang two songs with Jahmene and had to do a quick change backstage into other clothes in order to dance near Rihanna. We didn't really get much of a chance to watch the show properly as we were either just coming straight off stage or waiting to go on.
We did however get to see all the acts, either warming up or while we were waiting at the sides so I got to see, in addition to Rihanna; Emeli Sande, all of the other X factor singers including James Arthur who was the eventual winner and One Direction. We also happened to get fairly close to some of these people and other famous guests while back stage. I didn't really take any pictures but other choir members managed to get pictures with lots of different X factor singers, Olly Murs and Dermot O'Leary, I wasn't quite so prepared.

Overall it was quite a strange day and not as exciting as I thought it might be, that might've been due to my tiredness and low tolerance for faffing about. It was nice to be there and be a bit nosy backstage and it will be good to list as one of the choir's achievements but it wasn't super fun all the time.
However, the judges loved us(!)

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Nativity Shadow Puppets

I've been getting a lot of traffic recently looking at a post from last December about a shadow puppet nativity at my previous church.
 I thought I'd show a couple of different pictures and share how the puppets were made.

 The puppets were made by teenagers at the church. They drew the outlines for the characters from the nativity then cut them out and attached them to thin sticks. The back ground were simple images taken from google images and some which are basic backgrounds available on power point.
The church holds their meetings in a village hall so the projector and screen are not fixed on the wall or roof . This made it more simple to hold the puppets in front of the projector than it might be in other situation.
The teenagers read out a nativity story while using the puppets to tell the story.
It was a very affective story telling and a great idea for a group of  who like making things but are not particularly fond of dressing up and acting.


This church meets at 4pm so it was already dark when this was on, it might be tricky to do in the morning.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Operation Christmas Child part 2

This is my second post about Samaritan's Purse Operation Christmas Child, you can read the first here.

Though I've been making boxes for many, many years, this year was the first time I got any further involved. A woman from my parent's church has been delivering the church's boxes and helping sort them for years and this year as I happened to be free when she went, I went along too.
I really had a lovely day making these boxes and helping in the warehouse, it felt very festive and I spent a lot of time trying to fit as much into each box as possible.
Hundreds and thousands of boxes arrive into regional warehouses. 
The boxes are opened by volunteers and checked for anything inappropriate such as war toys or medicines.  Nothing else is taken out of the boxes, even if a box contains10 toothbrushes, they will be left in and other items added to it.

Every box with space in had more items added, lots of people donate directly to the warehouse and often companies donate spare items too.  I was rather in awe of the amazing knitted hats, jumpers, scarves and mittens.
 Once the boxes have been checked and any more items added, they are taped up, have a sticker with the appropriate age and gender put on and then are put in bigger boxes with other shoe boxes for the same age and gender. 
These big boxes are then ready to be sent overseas.

 I was really pleased to be able to be involved this year, I hope I'll a chance to help more.

Friday, 7 December 2012


The past couple of weeks seem to have flown by, it's probably normal at this time of year for life to be super busy but there have also been quite a few mad things that have cropped up unexpectedly recently.
I spent last weekend visiting my favourite city, Bradford and catching up with friends and stuff happening there, I lived there for 7 years between 2004 and 2010 and it very much still feels like home.
I was able to fit in seeing lots of my favourite people and also spend time wondering around the city centre, there's been quite a few changes and lots of new things happening there.
I'm actually thinking about moving back, but it would depend on jobs and money so we'll have to see how it works out.

Other fun things recently have included (anti-clockwise from top); 
1)Messing about with my friend's 3d glasses, he's doing an MA in computer animation so he needs them for official purposes but is using them for taking funny pictures of toast.
2)Animal shaped rolls with interesting fillings from a very sweet bakery in Manchester's China town.
3)Seeing the wonderful Osset Ukelele band play in Bradford Cathedral complete with kazoos and tambourines
4) A confusing message (spelling mistake?) on my yogi tea, not very visable, it says Fell good, be good, do good maybe tree chopping is in order?
5) Auditioning for Britain's Got Talent(!!) I've recently joined a gospel choir and we spent Monday afternoon queuing and auditioning. Very exciting.
 Well, that's been me recently, life shows no sign of being less busy. This week I have two big deal performances with choir over the weekend and a smaller one on Wednesday too, my best friend is coming home for Christmas on Tuesday after spending her last two Christmases in Ghana, we both love Christmassy activities so we've been planning lots of fun things.
What exciting things are you looking forward to at the moment?

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Jolly Holly crochet decorations

 I'm really rather pleased with these holly leaves I've made. I followed Lucy from Attic24's lovely, jolly holly pattern, she write such easy to follow, clear instructions that I think almost anyone could have a go at these even if you've not really crocheted before.
Instead of tying off and darn the ends of my leaves as suggested, I left long tails, added a few jingly bells and tied the ends into a long loop suitable for hanging on a tree or around the house.
This is the first small thing I've crocheted and I really like how cute and quick they are. I usually start big but fairly easy projects that take forever, I'm currently in the middle of making my third and fourth blankets.
These leaves were made with a bamboo ribbon yarn and a 4mm hook as it was the most appropriate green I could find but I'm wondering about making a whole bunch in slightly different shades of green.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Things from the internet

These shots of the workshop of machine knitting company Uimi run by Feeona Baalham and her husband Troy, are absolutely gorgeous. I'd love to have the space to be able to display all my yarn like that. Their finished prducts are pretty beautiful too.

I found this article about historical figures who had disabilities interesting. So many important people, especially military leaders would have had injuries and permanent disabilities such as blindness yet we don't commonly think of them as disabled.

 This piece of embroidery has a huge impact.

 I really love this video. Lots of people have posted it on facebook recently so you might have seen it. If you don't watch the final few seconds you wouldn't see its an advert either.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

The Cage, Lyme Park

I've written before about Lyme Park. This stately home and park land was used as Pemberly in the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice in the 1990s and has been a place I played in often as achild and now regulalrly go for walks in. It was also where I saw this stag.
This tower stands in the park, not far from the house. Apparently it was originally a hunting lodge or folly where the family and guests would retire for drinks or lunch after a morning's hunting. It was also used as a lock up for poachers who were caught stealing local livestock.

 This ridge runs from the house which was behind me when I took the picture, up to the cage. It is always windy here so when I was small we'd often go and fly kites here and always ended up in a big tangle.

It a fairly daunting looking place. I wouldn't want to be looked in there for a night!

Monday, 26 November 2012

Operation Christmas Child part 1

One of my favourite things in the lead up to Christmas is collecting for and filling up my shoebox for Operation Christmas Child.This is a huge undertaking by a charity called Samaritan's Purse to organise shoeboxes full of toys, stationary, toiletries and woolly things from groups or individuals in the UK to be distributed to children throughout the world who would not otherwise receive gifts.
For me, going shopping with the goal to get as much lovely stuff for some of the world's poorest children is something I enjoy. Even though I am buying 7 tubes of toothpaste or a bumper bag of pens and there is nothing intrinsically exciting about that, I think about the children who will receive these boxes and how happy they will be.
For the past few years, instead of filling a box by myself, I've been part of group efforts to fill many boxes. With my church when I lived in Bradford we devoted a whole Sunday service to filling boxes, children had to partner an adult, adults were not allowed by themselves! As I'm no longer there I joined my mum's women's fellowship group with there efforts.
Sending a shoe box is pretty easy to do
 First you need to wrap the box in Christmas paper. Often the boxes will be very special to the child who receives it so I try to use paper that is quite strong.

 If you're filling a lot of boxes I think its best to put out all the stuff that goes in them divided into categories; notepads, pens, cuddly toys, toothpaste, soap etc.
 Then the fun bit! fill your box. You choose whether you fill your box for a boy or girl and what age range they are and then pop it in your box. Operation Christmas Child suggest putting in toys, educational and stationary items, hygiene kit, sweets and woolly things like hats, gloves, scarves. I always try to put a small cuddly toy in and a ball and make sure each box has toothpaste, toothbrush and soap.
 Then you can write a Christmas card or letter to the child who will receive the box and include a photo of yourself  if you like
This is my filled up box, ready to go to the warehouse to be sorted.
Last week I went to the warehouse for all the boxes locally to help sort those, I'll write about that in another post though as this is already pretty long.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Things from the internet

Love this super duper biscuit bag from Caitlin Shearer

 I was a guide all the way from Rainbows at age 5 through Brownies, Guides and helping at Rainbows until I left home to go to Uni at 19. I did all sorts of fun things like camping and canoeing , putting on shows, hosting international guests, planning our own weekend away and lots and lots of singing. This article questions whether its a feminist organisation. (I think so)

 Sometimes you need a calming manatee.

 In case you've ever wondered, yes there have been Siamese Siamese cats.

I'm pretty much in love with this rainbow crocheted blanket. I'm wondering if I can do something a bit similar with some left over yarns?

This is epic! Epic Neil!