Self Care September

 

I was mooching around on Twitter this morning, as I do, and I came across the hashtag #selfcareseptember . I will confess right now that it’s the first time I had heard of it, but it immediately struck me that a) this is a fabulous idea and b) I have been subconsciously using September as my own self-care month.

OK, I am getting married at the beginning of October; and part of this urge for self-care is, quite frankly, to stop me getting so stressed that I’m an absolute wreck and on three bottles of gin a day by the big event and also, in a rather uncharacteristically girlie way, a chance for me to feel and, hopefully look, the best I can. Although, let’s face it, given my usual look is slept-in-a-hedge chic, just having my hair brushed and no dirt on my face will be a vast improvement.

Just a quick disclaimer: I don’t have any medical training, though I’m very good at putting randoms in the recovery position, and I’m not squeamish about blood. I’m not trying to say that a bit of self-care is going to solve all your problems and ‘cure’ mental illness. It would be a gross and insensitive underestimation of all our intelligence to even imply that this could be the case. What I can attest to, however, is how various things I do at this time of the year personally help me.

For those of you who don’t know me, I suffer from a delightful combination of clinical depression and severe anxiety. I am currently on Citalopram for the depression side and beta-blockers and mindfulness for the anxiety and, touch wood, I have been pretty stable with only fairly minor peaks and troughs for the past few months. So yes, having lived with this for at least the past thirty years, I do get mental illness. I also appreciate that we are all totally different, and what helps some will not necessarily help others. Always remember that mental illness is a spectrum, and all of us are on it somewhere, and wherever we are can be massively traumatic and confusing – do try not to compare your emotions with those around you.

There are times where you might like to try some of these. There are times where you might be too scared to leave the house, or too wired to concentrate, or too sad to get out of bed. Don’t worry, there will be other days to try, if you want to. Don’t add to your troubles by feeling you somehow fail because you can’t always manage self-care. That defeats the purpose.

“Autumn casts a spell
and dying never was so beautiful.” – Amelia Dashwood

September is a strange time of the year for me. It is undoubtedly breathtakingly beautiful, with the myriad colours and early frosts and morning mists; but also tinged with sadness. It has always represented, for me, an ending of things. The close of summer, the death of warmth. I’m not sure why I was always so pessimistic about the changing of the seasons, I can only put it down to the fact that I love hot, sunny weather and, as a naturally outdoorsy type I love the long days and the buzz of nature.

Last year I decided to do my best to get a grip on how I dealt with the colder, darker months. I was already unwell, I knew that, and understood that I needed to knuckle down and deal with getting through that without being bogged down with additional seasonal depression; and the best way I could think to be proactive was to find things that I really enjoyed doing and fit them into a self care routine as a way of treating myself whilst my poorly brain rested and recovered.

Here are a few things that work for me:

Walking It Out

They say there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. They have obviously never spent November in Scotland. Nevertheless, there is a lot to be said for a stroll, whatever the weather. Some of my favourite stomps have been on the dreichest of days where I have sloshed through mud, felt icy rain batter my face, and watched the rippled circles from raindrops dance on the Clyde. Coming home and drying off and putting on my cosiest clothes and indulging in a cup of tea in front of the fire is a treat in itself. I also find frosty mornings when it is so cold your jaws ache hard to beat.

My pro-tip here would be to always carry your phone or a camera; and invest in a pair of small binoculars and take every opportunity to stop and investigate your surroundings, and notice things you might never have noticed before. I’m going to write more about this, and the concept of Awe Walks in a later piece, else I ramble on forever.

Cosy Crafts

Autumn and Winter are perfect times to curl up with your favourite crafts and get stuff done in front of the fire with plenty of tea on the go. As you know if you’ve read my blog before, I am an avid crocheter and spend much of the colder months working on longer projects – last year I worked on my Hebridean Islands ripple blanket (you can find Lucy at Attic24’s pattern and tutorial here).

Another really worthwhile thing I was able to do was to stay involved with the local craftbomb club, and we organised a Christmas craftbomb in the village – it wasn’t an awful lot of work, but it kept me in touch with friendly faces and I enjoyed our meet-ups and discussions very much. Craftbomb / yarnbomb groups are popping up all over the country and often meet in local cafes and libraries so it is worth checking out your local community noticeboards.

Emma Mitchell, blogger at the lovely silverpebble blog has a whole book on beating the winter blues coming out next month.

You should probably buy it, like I will be doing the moment I can get my grubby paws on a copy. (Actually seriously cannot wait!).

Kitchen Witchery

 

Once you’ve burned all those calories with a good, bracing walk; why not indulge yourself with cooking something wonderful? I can understand that many people work really long hours and have other responsibilities such as caring for relatives, but if there is any way at all you can lose yourself in a recipe, you won’t regret it. When I am feeling particularly anxious, there is something incredibly soothing and comforting about just pottering in the kitchen, radio on, prepping and planning and taking time to concentrate on every aspect. I will confess I am not a very good baker and can destroy a Victoria sponge with a single glance; but I love making main meals for my family and experimenting with flavours and modifying recipes; and I have a particular love for making jams and chutneys. There is something very zen indeed about leaning over the jam pan, and something deeply satisfying about seeing all those lovely jars of hot preserve cooling on the windowsill.

 

Also, did anyone mention rhubarb gin? Quite ridiculously easy to make….

 

 

Over to Facebook

I thought I would ask my friends on Facebook how they liked to prep for the colder months, and what they would include in their personal September Self Care packages:

“Make time for yourself every day. You’re allowed to. It’s not selfish” – EO

“I get my SAD lamp out around about now and read by it most evenings. I also batch cook on the Sunday after pay day and freeze healthy meals for myself and my daughter – great for those nights you come in late and/or knackered after work.” – AG

I let things go – coming up to winter and going into summer are the two times of the year where I get rid of unnecessary things that weigh me down. Declutter of everything really – people, stuff, worries. A wonderful fire purge around Winternights/Halloween/Bonfire night is always welcome. It’s done almost subconsciously I think now. For winter its preparation for all the fabulous Christmas/Jul things. But also…you don’t want dead weight following you into a hard winter and a new year.
I feel similarly about spring into summer – shed the layers of clothes and any unnecessary baggage.” – CMcH

“I make a point of watching the sunrise from the swimming pool/sunset while I walk by the river. I make sure I stop and stare at everything beautiful that catches my eye on my walks – from a dramatic sky to a tree bending beautifully to catch the light.  I write those moments down for my memory jar too – a lot of repetition to others reading them but each one is memorable to me and makes me smile. Listening to music and TED talks too. Classical tunes, folk music etc for quiet relaxation and proper rock songs to lift my mood.” – CM

 

“I walk, a lot. It’s worth it to pay more attention to the changing seasons. Even in the rain, the sounds and scents change. I also have a clear out and rearrange where I can. An organised space definitely brings me a call mind. I try to do seasonal crafts with the kids.. I’m lucky they are going enough to still be interested. If not, we bake.. and have our treats for movie afternoons. Reading is a must too.” – LH

Wise words from some very wise women, I think.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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F&$k you, Fraud Police

It’s Monday, and I’m having my quiet time. I have hit the ground running this morning, having dusted, hoovered and paid the Beaver Scout subs into the bank all before 9.30am; and I am now at my desk with a coffee listening to the birdsong through the open window. It is a stunning early Spring morning, my plum tree is budding and the dunnock is still singing his wee heart out.

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This blog idea comes courtesy of my lovely friend Tori. I have a lot of lovely friends, and we spend a fair bit of our time nattering on social media, solving the world’s problems and generally being awesome women. I think it’s fair to say – and I don’t think they will mind me saying this – that we all have issues and problems in our lives that sometimes seem to overwhelm us, and one of the things we have all noticed recently is our proclivity towards feeling as though we are frauds and, whilst I wouldn’t consider any of us to be real candidates for Imposter Syndrome in the eyes of a psychiatrist (which I most definitely am not); there does seem to be an alarming propensity to put ourselves down as though we are about to come undone and unmasked as talent-less pretenders.

Our number includes some of the most artistic and creative people I have been lucky enough to know; artists across all media, writers, creators with the most amazing imaginations – and yes, in boringly predictable style, I was immediately going to type some off-the-cuff comment like ‘I have no idea why they like me / praise me / think my work is good’. See?

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Case in point:

Village friend – ” Jac, your little crocheted birds are delightful, these will look tremendous in the craft-bomb, thank you so much for doing them, you’re so talented, I’d love to be able to crochet”

Me – “I can’t knit, though, and I rubbish at everything else I have ever tried ever”.

Internal Me – “Oh my god, can’t she see that this is just a fluke and I’m hopeless at everything, oh god, what will they think when they find out I’m a rubbish crafter who just happened to make these birds look OK”.

Despite how many times I look around at things I have crocheted, the blankets, the scarves, the bunting, the baby-blankets I see my friends actually using, the bag, the ludicrous poncho; however much I touch them and use them and wash them and they don’t fall apart; there is part of me that has convinced myself that I can’t actually crochet at all, and that these things have just appeared as some kind of happy accident with yarn.

Another friend feels the same way about her job; despite being more qualified and experienced than required of the job, she is convinced that she has no business being there. I feel similarly about my role as a Beaver Scout leader – praise or words of appreciation from a parent leave me genuinely gobsmacked.

Why do we do it? I wonder if part of it is a misguided sense of modesty that was instilled into many of us as children. How many times were we told that it was not OK to brag, that ‘nobody likes a show-off’ and our strengths and talents downplayed as not to appear boastful or to cause another person to feel inferior? Has this worked on us for so long that now we don’t just naturally downplay our strengths but actively seek to destroy any notion that we might just actually be quite good at something? To appreciate that you might have a particular skill-set, be it coding, painting skirting boards, pruning fruit trees or making quilts still feels somewhat boastful and awkward.

I suspect that our increasingly filtered and beautified world of social media also plays a part; where every selfie can be manipulated almost beyond recognition; every piece of handiwork lit with a sumptuous filter; and every house can look like something from a magazine (except mine, unless the magazine happens to be ‘Falling Apart Rented Ex Local Authority Tin Roofed Nightmare Monthly’); we live in a world where the lines between real and contrived are becoming increasingly blurred.

This week, then, I have promised myself to say f%c& you to the fraud police. I’d like to make this into a wider campaign, so do please feel free to join in.

I can crochet rather well. I can cook rather well. I’m pretty handy in a vegetable garden. I’m a pretty good Beaver Scout leader and I make the children laugh and they come back every week, I haven’t scared any off yet.

I still can’t knit, but that’s OK.

Have a picture of daffodils. Without a filter. Just because.

 

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Imbolc, The Outrun and no Whiskers on Kittens

So, the wheel has turned. Depending on what you believe, and what branch of paganism you follow (if indeed you do) Imbolc – or St Bride’s Day – falls on either February 1st or February 2nd or, as some believe, when you see the first physical signs of Spring – usually snowdrops. If the latter is the case, I apologise – you celebrated Imbolc around three weeks ago up here, when I first noticed the much anticipated little white heads appearing through the dark, dank, rotting Autumn leaves.

Imbolc has dawned on a very different world to that of last year’s – I don’t need to laboriously hash out the details again; suffice to say that a time I usually welcome with open arms and a singing heart is a time that dawned heavy, laden with expectation but not much hope.

I don’t usually do much in January. I certainly don’t make resolutions. I count January as the last month of hibernation; the post-Christmas month-long trudge to the kitchen for more tea and more cheese and crackers (I swear our crackers have babies in the night, either that or Odin himself has blessed us with a crispy cornucopia, a cracker-box of plenty, as this thing seems never-ending); some gentle pootling (usually via a shop that sells wine) and that last, gentle stretch into the wheel-turn at the beginning of February.

This January has, for many obvious reasons, been one of worry. One of dark thoughts, wake-in-the-night panics, of grief and frustration. I listen to Radio 4 when I’m not working; listening with increasing annoyance, then anger, at articles on Donald Trump, on immigration bans, on the gradual dismantling of the NHS, on the omni-shambles vanity project that is Brexit. I mull and muse for hours on the grim realisation that Theresa May has few options now than to cosy up to what it looking to be the most horrifying leaders of the (free) world in most people’s living memory.

It’s not good for you, you know?

I battle with my conscience, of how much I need to be aware of to be able to do my best to educate and inform; against mindfulness and the idea that we cannot do more than live fully in the now. The latter starts to sound hollow, convenient. Lazy.

I have periods of clarity. I realise that rather engaging with news and current events, I am emerged – submerged – in them; they are sucking me under with more and more questions, more and more worries.

I seek solace in the things that bring me peace, things that I do where I can physically feel my shoulders and neck start to soften and the dark clouds, a constant dull ache in my head these days, part.

blanket

The charity blanket continues to grow. I start to knit, too, as a project for this year’s village craft bomb. I am not very good at knitting. In fact, I am terrible at it and keep either dropping stitches or picking them up; but I am only knitting 30 stitch squares so I am just using the hours as a lesson in patience and technique (I am a loose crocheter, but a much tighter knitter, but I understand this is quite usual when you start – I have discovered that two rows of the ripple blanket in its loose, effortless treble stitch, seems to be enough to limber up my hands to keep my tension looser when I pick up the needles instead of the hook). I don’t have any photos of the knitting yet, because I haven’t actually finished a square. There is a photo on Instagram of a red piece, which got to full size and then I monumentally ballsed-up when casting off. Ho-hum!

outrun

I have curled up in my chair, or sought solace in a hot bubble-bath to read, to transport myself away from this grey, scary place; and this book has been a wonderful escape. It is, in parts, far from an easy read – Amy has lived a life that many might not have come back from; but this really is autobiographical nature writing at its most beautiful and, I’m relieved to say, its most accessible. I loved it so much, loved the pictures she painted and the way she beared her soul, that I forced myself to only read a chapter a day because I didn’t want it to end. When the inevitable end came, I was bereft, as though I were waving goodbye to a friend. Her life in London echoed so much of mine, a few years earlier, and I suspect it was luck, rather than judgement, that carried me away from the bright lights and the easy highs when it did.

We have been out – we didn’t hide in completely during January. In fact, my hormones (ha, you knew I would mention it at some point, surely?) were going so crazy in January that the malefolk would all be chattering around the three-bar fire whilst I stood on the back steps in a t-shirt, fully expecting steam to emanate from my person. So, where better to go when you really just want to feel cold?

Largs, of course! It always seems to blowing a hoolie in Largs, even in July; so off we drove in the teaming rain at the arse-end of January to be blown down a rainy beach. Remember the times when I used to moan about bad weather? Remember when I was cold all the time, even when we went to Lanzarote and it was three days of 90 degrees before I took my jacket off?

Those days, my friend, are a distant memory.

ferry

It wasn’t blowy enough in Largs. My hands were nicely cold, but I wanted the sort of cold that makes your face sting and your jaw ache and your earlobes thrum. Fortunately, for a bargain price, you can hop over to the lovely island of Great Cumbrae. Great Cumbrae has geocaches, cows, a marvellous view of the local nuclear power station, nosy old duffers in cars who yell at you because they think you’ve abandoned your eight year old (when in fact he was just having his own little adventure and being watched by us from a few metres away), and these bizarre road signs that say that the main town, Millport, is 1.5 miles away, regardless of where you are actually are on the island.

millport

Millport was, by the time we got there (we walked from the slip), mostly shut; but it seemed a lovely wee place with absolutely stunning views over to the snow-capped Isle of Arran; and we were delighted when a gentleman with a dog confirmed that the wee black heads we could see bobbing around in the sea were in fact seals. My face nicely chilled, my hands and ears frozen, my heart several tons lighter and my head considerably less scrambled, we walked up to the bus-stop by the pier and got the bus back up the road to the ferry, full of excited plans to return later in the year with our bikes, after getting a train up to Largs.

gratitude

The day was so lovely, it inspired me to get a wee gratitude journal to write in. As you’ll remember, I did the 100 Days of Gratitude on Facebook and felt I gained a lot from it in terms of actually stripping back what we need from life rather than what we desire, and giving thanks for and cherishing memories of the right things – health, peace, a day out adventuring, laughs, a kind word, that wonderful, warm sleepiness that comes from being physically, rather than mentally exhausted. I got this wee book from Amazon marketplace (where you buy direct from the seller), it is made by a women’s co-operative using sari cut-off fabric and recycled paper, and it really is a beauty; and small enough to fit in a pocket if needed. It’s an interesting exercise to go through your day looking for things to give gratitude for, rather than dragging yourself from gloom and doom ridden news report to news report.

As I said at the beginning of this blog-I-didn’t-think-I-had-the-wherewithal-to-write-tonight (and I’m very glad I persevered!), Imbolc dawned. The wheel has turned, and the light is returning. The world is going to feel like a dark place full of long, black shadows that we feel we cannot escape from; things we are too weakened to fight. I am reminded of the snowdrop. So small, so delicate, its tiny head bowed down not in submission but in determination. Determination to blossom and spread and bring beauty, whatever the still changeable, cold and uncertain days hurl upon it.

Whatever your belief, or whatever you don’t believe; I hope you can find beauty and determination in the dark.

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PS: Sorry if you were expecting some terrible story about baby cats with no whiskers. I was just doing my Sound of Music thang. Again.

Ta-Daaaah! – The blanket auction!

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As you know, if you’ve been paying good attention, I have not been too well this year.

One of things I absolutely adore to do, one of the things I find really helps me to relax and rid my brain of anxious thoughts is to crochet. I haven’t been doing it long, about eighteen months or so, and I taught myself from YouTube tutorials.

A couple of months ago I started on this blanket. The colour scheme was inspired by some photographs from when Richard and I went camping on Mull before the children were born, in particular the area around Calgary Bay, which has the most beautiful colour sea I have ever seen.

 

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This blanket has been a pleasure to work, the colours remind me of summer and early Autumn, when I went through a brief period of actually feeling really happy; before life decided to throw me another curve-ball. This blanket to me is warm sand, gentle surf, the smell of woodland, blue skies.

It was intended for someone who was very dear to me, as a birthday present and an awful lot of love and attention has gone into every stitch, because I wanted it to be perfect.

However, sadly, this person wasn’t there for me when I needed them most, when I really needed help and support they were nowhere to be seen. I never hold grudges, but, my god, that hurt so much. I had shared so much, been so open about where I was, but ended up shut out and ignored. Like I was just an inconvenience.

I have decided, therefore, to auction this blanket to instead raise funds for people who do care – the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) who do great things in Scotland for those of us struggling with mental health.

The blanket is a very generous single bed size, or can be used as a throw on a standard double bed. It is not yet finished (the original deadline was May and I have slacked off a bit because of seasonal projects, but I think it will be finished well before then) and will be edged all round in three shades of blue.

It is the amazing Lucy at Attic 24’s ‘Neat Ripple Pattern’.

I have used Robin DK 100% acrylic yarn, so is easy to care for and can be machine washed on 40 degrees and tumble dried on gentle.

I will include a net, zipped bag for protection from snagging in the washing machine free of charge, and I will also post out to you by registered / recorded delivery at no additional cost.

If you would like to bid on this gorgeous blanket that I love so very much, you can find me on Twitter @lapetitepie, please send me a DM, or email me with your bid at potterandpootle@gmx.co.uk

At the moment, I am delighted to say that the current top bid stands at £60.00 and I will keep you updated on the progress; but if you would be able to spread this around on social media that would be hugely appreciated – the more money I can give to SAMH the better.

Many thanks, and happy bidding!

 

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Chilly Beltane musings and ponderings of a non-philosophical ilk.

Art by Amanda Clark

Art by Amanda Clark

 

I think continually of those who were truly great.
Who, from the womb, remembered the soul’s history
Through corridors of light, where the hours are suns,
Endless and singing. Whose lovely ambition
Was that their lips, still touched with fire,
Should tell of the Spirit, clothed from head to foot in song.
And who hoarded from the Spring branches
The desires falling across their bodies like blossoms.

What is precious, is never to forget
The essential delight of the blood drawn from ageless springs
Breaking through rocks in worlds before our earth.
Never to deny its pleasure in the morning simple light
Nor its grave evening demand for love.
Never to allow gradually the traffic to smother
With noise and fog, the flowering of the spirit.

Near the snow, near the sun, in the highest fields,
See how these names are fêted by the waving grass
And by the streamers of white cloud
And whispers of wind in the listening sky.
The names of those who in their lives fought for life,
Who wore at their hearts the fire’s centre.
Born of the sun, they travelled a short while toward the sun
And left the vivid air signed with their honour.

Stephen Spender

With enormous thanks to the friend who posted this beautiful piece on Facebook today.

I think we can all too often forget that Facebook and other social media platforms can be more than mere hotbeds of gossip, bad feeling and worst sentiments; and whilst I do attribute a degree of the improvement in my mental health to a considerable cutting-down of time spent on social media, I couldn’t stand to be without it completely. It is, after all, the place where news – both happy and sad – is shared, and where friends I cannot often – if ever – see in person exist. I do get excited and thrilled by their plans, their joys, their happy news; and I worry about their sadnesses, their troubles, their grief and their woes. A lot of my dearest friends are ‘internet friends’ I have yet to meet in real life, a concept that would have been alien to me ten years ago; yet these are people who have helped me beyond measure, who have been rocks, who have loved me and cared about me and watched my back for me time and time again. I hope that I have been able to offer them the same degree of support and love when they have needed it from me, because these are no fairweather social media chums simply there for likes and shares. These are friendships every bit as valid – if not more so – than the friendships borne of societal proximity and shared necessity / convenient bartering system of favours and borrowed milk. And in today’s society where we are encouraged to distrust everyone and watch their every move for fear they may be doing something we should disapprove of, friendships are to be cherished and nurtured.

And so you may well have noticed that this post – which has already rambled off on a tangent far faster than I was expecting it to – coincides rather nicely with Beltane. Unfortunately, Beltane has coincided with a sudden change in the weather that has hurtled us, it feels, back into November and I would be lying if I didn’t say it hadn’t affected my mood somewhat.

My 5 x50 challenge had been going brilliantly. We had some stunning – if still mostly rather cold – days for walking or cycling. Because I have not been drinking alcohol, I’ve been going to sleep earlier and waking earlier each morning; which in turn was setting up a really positive morning routine for the kids and I, and I would drop them at school and then skip merrily (OK, walk quite contentedly) home for a morning of work; then disappear off after work for my 5km, or go up to the community garden for the afternoon and then involve the whole family (how delighted they were!) in my daily stomp.

We had some stunning evening walks….

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Dalzell Estate / Baron’s Haugh RSPB Reserve, Motherwell

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The view from Bothwell Community Garden on Day 29

Even Derek the Blue Beastie got dragged back out of the shed…and why yes, that IS my fleece in the basket, I was that warm.

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We also decided to fulfill one of Kid One’s ambitions, to start walking the Clyde Walkway. We parked the car at Newton station, got the train into the town, and walked back to the car. After 16km, Kid One decided not to vocalise any more of his great ideas within mum’s earshot.

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I am currently trying to convince him to do the next stage……

It was something of a disappointment, therefore, when the weather changed to what can best be described as ‘f^cking Baltic’. It, as usual, waited until I had sowed seeds in our raised beds both outside and in the unheated polytunnel and then decided to throw down hard frosts, hail the size of peanut M&Ms, and a good sprinkling of snow for good measure.

“Damn you, weather!” I raged, shaking my (very cold) fists at the weather gods “How can you do this to us so close to May? DON’T YOU KNOW I HAVE JUST PLANTED SEEDS?”, before noticing on my Facebook memories that, yes, it had indeed been snowing this time last year.

When. Will. I. Learn? Probably never, let’s face it.

The cloud, biting Northerly winds and white shite (interesting hail/snow combos) did affect me more that I was expecting and, having been on a bit of a buzzy clean-living, annoyingly healthy perky bitch vibe thang, I sort of hit the ground with a bump. And a smack. And a metaphorically bruised arse. The walks became a chore,  I developed the World’s most hideous cold complete with pounding headaches and streaming eyes caused by blocked sinuses and a chest that rattled, wheezed and hurt like I have an 80 a day Woodbine addiction. A cloudy morning was greeted by a strange desire to hide away, to crawl back into hibernation, to forget all the good things I have been experiencing with the coming of Spring and the 5 x 50 Challenge; a sense of rising panic and worry that Oh my God we are not going to get a decent Summer this year, it’s going to stay dark and damp and cold forever and ever and dear Lord Almighty how shall I cope when we start heading back towards Autumn and the shortening days and the darkness and cold once more?….

On top of that nonsense, my rapidly deteriorating mood was affecting my crafty gubbinses. (I like saying that, it makes me feel like a hobbit, only I am shorter and have hairier feet). I couldn’t concentrate for long on anything, not even reading or crochet; and when I did attempt something I found instructions frustratingly difficult to follow and the results when I did manage to complete something lacked finish. I managed to finish some granny-square bunting for our village’s craft bomb weekend that’s happening towards the end of May and I was, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, unimpressed and rather disappointed with the overall result, despite my fellow yarny craft-bombing type ladies making all the right ‘Ooh’ and ‘Aaah’ noises when I did a somewhat half-hearted, Elvis-sneery ‘big reveal’ at the last meeting before blushing scarlet, looking embarrassed and silently vowing not to ever get involved with anything requiring a modicum of skill or talent ever again. I don’t have a photo of the bunting (I’m not sure whether this should be considered a fortunate thing or not – I forgot to take a photo, so underwhelmed was I by the whole experience) but I’ll try and take one when it is up on display in its chosen spot in the village. There are reasons why I need to keep it under wraps for now, anyway….*touches nose knowingly*.

By the middle of the week I was actually getting on my own chebs so much with my constant moaning about the sleety-hail-snow-rain stuff, my stinking cold and my frustrations with every damn thing that I decided, like I sometimes do, to have a good, hard look at myself before people started avoiding me more than they already do. Whilst in the midst of serious, earnest soul-searching, I discovered the following truths:

  • Colouring in is actually really quite stupidly relaxing and totally not just for the under fives, but only if you have decent pens.
  • I have decent pens.
  • Prima Makes is definitely worth £4.99 of anyone’s money if you want a magazine full of badly sized templates and some fantastic crafty ideas that are ideal if you happen to be married to a manager of Wickes and/or have more money than sense.
  • Days where it is cold and wet and/or trying to snow despite it being nearly-Summer are a way of telling you that you haven’t cosied up and read enough books.
  • You need to make the most of every single patch of blue sky and sunshine and get out in it. Even if it’s only for a few moments, even a few stolen moments drinking tea on the back step can make a real difference.
  • Don’t stop doing yoga. Ever. Your body and brain won’t be your friend anymore. And painting your toenails gets a lot harder.
  • Don’t put life on hold waiting for something. Not a sunny day, not a certain person, not for some kind of planetary alignment. Just get out there and do it. Now. It might be your only chance.
  • If at first you don’t succeed, don’t throw it straight in the f%ck it bucket. Glare at it a bit, kick it around a bit, threaten it with being thrown out of the window, and then try again. And again. And again, if necessary. Have faith.
  • Good moods, like Spring, often return by themselves. Stop worrying about it, and just let it happen. Worrying and beating yourself up about why you seem more down than you were will just exacerbate your anxiety. Accept it as a glitch, and wait for it to pass. (Please note that I am talking about moods here, I am not talking about mental health issues – that’s a far more tricksy, subjective issue for me to give such flippant advice on….).

And lo,my pep-talk seemed to work. I made this. And I am rather pleased with how it all came together…..

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More about my Beltane wreath next time, dear reader, as well as more about the 5 x 50 challenge (only 14 days to go, NOT THAT I’M COUNTING OR ANYTHING) which is still going to plan with each day done on time and without even a single rest day (I am well over the 250km mark already) despite illness, crap weather and general grouchiness. I’ll try and do something a bit interesting soon, I promise.

Here’s to the coming warmth of Summer! (We hope!)

 

 

Of chairs and cushions and blankets

It seems like an age since I had five minutes to dedicate to sitting down and doing my WordPress thang – those of you who follow me on Instagram where I can be slightly more photographically creative but considerably more lazy word-wise will see that I have, in fact, been pootling and pottering with the best of ’em. I had my very lovely family up from Wales to visit after my birthday this year, which was amazing; and I’ve taken a few days to recharge my batteries (and cleanse my liver!) and get used to having a quiet, empty house for much of the day again.

My sister took all the Christmas presents for family back to Wales with her, there are a couple of handmade goodies in there (I say ‘goodies’, the recipients might not be blown away by them but, as my sister pointed out, they will no doubt be better than the goats and clay ovens I bought for African families in my family’s name one year, gifts they seemed to find both bewildering and hilarious. I swear I’m making her a crinoline lady bog roll holder next year.). This, of course, left me with a noticeable lack of things to do, crochet wise, so I finished off the cushion covers I’d been working on. These are starter projects, I really cannot emphasise that enough. I’m just a beginner, self-taught from YouTube tutorials, mostly.

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I needed something desperately to jazz up the rather drab and old-fashioned three-piece suite that we were given as a freebie a few years back. It was from a house-clearance, and we were incredibly grateful to  have been given the nod over this suite as the one we had that the landlord put in for us had been slowly disintegrating for thirty odd years before we even got it. It’s wonderfully comfortable, with seats big enough to curl up in, and a sofa long enough to really stretch out on, but I have always felt it lacked a bit a zing and we’ve never really had the money handy for jazzing it up.

As it happened, my cushions didn’t stay there long. Oh no.

The big yin had a cub camp this weekend over Stonehouse way, and we had to drop him off at the Scout Training Centre on the Saturday morning, so off we pootled. It’s a rather lovely, largely ignored part of South Lanarkshire, just the sort of place I would like to have a wee cottage.

 

Disused viaduct near Larkhall

Disused viaduct near Larkhall

 

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We were on our way home from dropping him off, and decided to have a wee noseyabout in the car, we weren’t really in a hurry to get anywhere and it was drying up to be another glorious day after some rain in the morning; it really was one of those gorgeous, clear late mornings where you could see miles and miles of gently rolling countryside, with the odd glimpse of the (reassuringly familiar) sprawl of Glasgow and the tower blocks of Motherwell when you reached the summits of some of the hills.

We were headed down a narrow country lane when I spied just ahead a hideous mess. Seriously, who are these people who just clear out their garage / shed / attic and, rather than take it to the dump (or, rather Civic Amenity Centre) decide to drive out to a lovely part of the countryside and just dump it at the roadside? Honestly, what goes on in these people’s heads?

I was tutting and muttering under my breath at the sight of the abandoned, broken and dilapidated junk (baby things, mostly – buggies and highchairs and those awful baby walker things you plonk them in and they invariably end up in A&E) AND THEN I SPOTTED IT!

“STOP THE JALOPY!” I shrieked.

(I didn’t, but, you know, poetic licence)

I’d been looking for a wee chair to use downstairs, either in the living room or in the ‘void’ (a room/space between the kitchen and living room where the front door is that I haven’t told you about yet). Something small and neat enough to be easily moved between the two rooms, and upstairs occassionally as required; but a cosy chair suitable for crafting, supervising homework, or, if you are small of stature, daydreaming or curling up and reading comic books (notably, in this house, The Phoenix Comic).

And there it was, forlornly dumped alongside half of Babies ‘r’ Us, unloved and unwanted.

I knew the fly-tipping was recent, as it had been bucketing down that morning and yet the fabrics of the other goods underneath and beside the chair were bone dry, so it must have happened within the last hour. I quickly checked the general integrity of the chair (seat, legs, arms) and checked for signs of woodworm and any damage from maybe months spent in a damp shed; then happily jammed our new baby in the car boot. Then drove off at speed, lest the chap hurtling down the hill behind us thought it was us responsible for the fly-tip.

So….here we are, the great reveal and the umpteenth gifted / skipdived / found dumped in the wild item to grace our living room:

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Isn’t he fabulous? You’ll notice a pile of wool in the background – I thought it would be a great chair to use for crochet as I can put it near the window and make the most of the natural light. Ha! Some hope. Fin has declared it ‘the ultimate gaming chair’ and, as you can see, this is now their favourite spot for Phoenix reading. Oh well….

For those wondering, I did immediately email the council to inform them of the fly-tipping. I am a responsible grown-up like that.

With the cushion covers and the Christmas gifts finished, I was itching to get onto something else and I have had my eye on the gorgeous cosy stripe blanket on the amazingly inspirational Attic 24 website for a fair few weeks now. I am so grateful to my friend Sarah who sent me a link to Lucy’s website when I first started on my crochet journey, it really is a joy to read. Whenever I’m feeling a bit down in the doldrums and in need of some cheer, Lucy and her gorgeous creations and the way she writes about her life never cease to make me smile. I think we all need a little Lucy in our lives!

Attic 24 Cosy Stripe Blanket (pattern and tutorial in link above)

Here it is shortly after starting. I am very aware that I don’t have Lucy’s fantastic eye for colour and, at the moment, I am being very cautious about my choices and should perhaps be throwing caution to the wind a bit more. I was very happy with the colours at this point – I have done a few more rows now and I must admit I am feeling a little uneasy that mine is too clashing now I have worked more primary and secondary colours in. But we shall see – this is only a teensy fraction of what will be a single bed sized blanket / throw so I think it is probably far too early to speculate or, indeed, worry. There’s far too much worry in this world without me adding to it.

Well, well, well, would you look at that? Yet another hour set aside for blogging where I had in my head what I was going to blog about and then ran out of time on the preamble. This post was going to be about hunkering down for the winter and the mental recalibration that involves, but that will have to wait until next time, where I also hope to show you an update of the cosy stripe blanket.

Until next time!