Catching up and keeping up

You may have noticed a drop-off in blog posting round here recently….  Well, I’ve not been too well.  Nothing serious or life threatening, just notably sub-par.  I don’t talk about it much here, but I have ME (also known as chronic fatigue syndrome, or CFS/ME).  It waxes; it wanes, and generally I think I’m doing pretty well.

At the beginning of this month, though, I had my first occupational therapist appointment at a specialist CFS/ME clinic.  It was eye opening.  I’m on three scheduled rests per day (and you would be amazed at the things that do not count as resting.  Not Ravelry, not knitting, not television, not reading, not audiobooks!), and I’m slowly realising that things that have just faded into the background – things I have considered ‘normal’ for years – are actually symptoms.  Anyway, I don’t intend to blog about this here, (if you are interested, I have started a new blog* to chronicle my journey back to normal functioning), but suffice it to say that I have not been keeping up with the online world.  Shop listings, blog posting, Ravelry, blog reading and commenting – all have fallen by the wayside.  And it’s November!  When a whole bunch of you nutters join in with NaNoBloPoMo, and try to post daily!!  Talk about bad timing.  My RSS reader currently shows over 350 unread posts.

Anyway, I’ve decided that there is no point in trying to catch up with everything whilst the whole world rattles onwards without me.  So I will be working my way through the backlogs, whilst simultaneously attempting to keep up with stuff coming in from now onwards.

In related news, I realised that Saturday came and went without me saying anything more about the current Saturday Giveaway competition.  Oh, dear.  That is very much ‘my bad’.  Well, I’ve decided that I will extend the competition until *this* Saturday, so get on over there, read about the Farm Animal Sanctuary, and see if you can help them out.  Remember- you don’t actually need to spend anything to enter the competition: Spreading the word on Twitter, or Facebook, or your blog counts, too!  (but don’t forget to come back here and let me know, so I can enter you in the draw!)

Well, enough rambling – I will be back soon (I sincerely hope!) to update you on my recent adventures.

35) Lazy blogger accepts award

Yet again, the blog has been falling by the wayside.  If I'm stressed, or struggling to keep up, communications of all sorts are always the first to go.  I have a few blog posts lined up; I'll try and spread them out a bit this time!

But first – see what Leigh awarded me!


Of course, I'm delighted to accept.  It's a lovely bit of sunshine to cheer up a grey day!  Not that we've had so many of those round here, recently; we've been basking in an unseasonable heatwave over the last week, which has had the garden sprouting forth in great abundance (though a fair few plants have decided to bolt.  Oh, well.)

Part of accepting this award is answering a few questions:

1. What would your perfect day consist of?
Oooh.  I think it's a sunny day in late spring, when the sun is warm but the air is still cool, and the earth is coming back to life.  A lazy, tasty breakfast.  Eggs Florentine with smoked salmon on the side, perhaps.  Some form of activity – gardening, walking, swimming in the sea (though that's for the hottest of summer) – in the morning, followed by a delicious lunch with friends – bread, cheese, ham, maybe a glass of wine if I'm feeling indulgent.  Sitting and relaxing in the garden all afternoon – spinning, knitting, weaving, sewing – I don't mind!  Dinner – maybe pasta with pesto? or seafood? – a glass or two of good wine, and then off to bed in fresh, cool linens, not too late.  The overriding theme of the day is no pressure.  Other themes are great food, great company and creative fulfillment.

2. How would you describe yourself if you were an
item of clothing?

A crisp, white linen shirt.  Understated, versatile, just a bit different from plain ol' cotton.  Works well in formal or casual circumstances, and is a true year-round garment. 😉

3. What hobbies are you currently
working on?

Spinning the blue silk is currently demanding my time, and I would love to finish J's quilt this weekend, so those are the two main craft-hobbies right now.  The garden is another one, though I also see that as part of housework/my commitment to an environmentally relatively low-impact lifestyle.  Weaving and clothes sewing are currently 'neglected hobbies'.

4. Walking in the woods in wellies
or barefoot on the beach?

Either!  Though my wellies give me blisters, so I'll stick to walking boots, thanks.

Have you ever hugged or sang to a tree?

No, but I quite often stroke the trunks of trees as I pass, or put out a hand to brush the leaves.

6. Growing your own
veggies or nipping to the supermarket.

Grow my own!  I hate going to the supermarket, and I love being more self-reliant.

Have you found anyone exciting in your family tree?

If by 'exciting' you mean 'dramatic' or 'historic', I haven't honestly looked.  I am very proud/fond of my farming heritage, and my paternal aunt recently found a very cool interview with a lady from that side of the family.  I'll have to see if I can upload it somewhere; it's in broad Yorkshire, and you will get a medal if you understand it.

8. Slap up meal in a
posh restaurant or fish ‘n’ chips from the wrapper?

I'm not a great fan of fish and chips, especially since cod is so badly overfished and haddock isn't much better.  I can get very excited about a really good meal, but it doesn't have to be 'posh' to qualify…

9. Which element do you most resonate with, Earth,
Wind, Fire or Water?

I believe everyone embodies attributes of all four, albeit in different balances.  When I was growing up, I would have said Fire, but now I think I would have to go with an earth/water duality.  I see myself as practical and grounded and nurturing (earth), but also quick moving, versatile and somewhat mercurial (water).  Interestingly, I also identify with otters as a totem; in Medieval times, they were considered special because they seemed equally at home in two realms – Earth and Water.

10. Do you believe in

No, not as such.  I have a sort of eclectic/pagan set of beliefs, and I could say I believe in my interpretation of the Shinto Kami or the Roman genius loci – a sort of spirit or essence of a place or thing.  To me, that doesn't imply a consciousness.  Let's say that I feel that there is a kind of divinity in all places and all things – and so all places and things are deserving of honour and respect.  But that's not quite it, either.

Passing it on!
Oh, dear, this bit is more difficult.  I would love to see answers from:

Of course, there is absolutely no requirement that anyone responds to this.  I always feel guilty about 'putting pressure' on people, which is why I so often tie myself into a funk over passing things like this on.  Having said that – the person most likely to respond?  Kateepie!  Least?  I'm gonna have to go with Jack on this one.  But hey – life is good, eh?

29) Taking the pressure off

Wow, it's been a while.  I think my laptop has all but forgotten my login details!

In the meantime, I've been doing… not a lot.  In knitting, I've finally finished Moor, including bands and stitching down the facing.  I'm reasonably sure that's my longest running project in the last five years, which is pretty crazy for a sleeveless top.  I've also been inching my way through another Ann Hanson pattern – the Nightingale Wing stole – at the rate of about one row per day.  And that's it.

Spinning?  Some blue silk on my wheel.  But I'm yet to finish the first bobbin.

Weaving?  There has been some, but not that much, really.

Dyeing??  After my wonderful success at Textiles in Focus, don't even ask!

And other than that, my cooking mojo has all but deserted me – sourdough is now a regular habit, but I can't remember a year since leaving home when I've cooked less.  There has been some brewing activity (two batches of beer and one of wine have been started), and I've been gardening a fair bit, but in all honesty, I'm not sure where my time's been going.

One thing I do know, is that I've felt under a lot of pressure.  This post could have been titled, "What to do when the whole world looks like your to-do list," except I don't have a good answer.  Mostly, I seem to have been chasing my own tail and falling into myself in an introverted spiral.

Now, though, I think I might be waking up.  I've revisited my aims for the year:

  • Appreciate what I have;
  • Release what I don't need;
  • Keep up with the obligations I have taken on;
  • Be more aware of what I am achieving.

And I've been thinking about what they mean.  To mix it up a bit, I'm releasing some obligations I really don't need, and I'm trying to work on understanding that I don't have to overshoot every target; that it is worth doing a little bit of everything, to let go of the perfectionism I tend (just occasionally!) to lapse into.  Concentrating on relaxing

Now, I feel a bit like a flower emerging from a bud – unfurling, unwrapping, sighing in relief at the release of pressure.  Petals being teased out and ruffled by the wind, and a sense of ease being allowed to creep in to my life.

I'm starting to give myself permission to sit on the sofa and knit for a whole evening again.  I'm not sure when, but that's stopped being a nightly scenario and now feels unspeakably lazy and self-indulgent.  I think the fact that I'm blogging is itself a good sign – its too easy, when you've taken a break, to feel you have to catch up with the backlog of things you 'should' have been writing about.  Maybe I will catch up on some of those – but I won't make myself.

Besides, it's kinda hard to stress when Woody is sharing your sofa:


28) Does craft matter to you?

If so, do go here and state your opinions.  You've got a maximum of 600 characters (so Twitter aficionados won't know what to do with the extra 460, but will have great skills for filling it anyway).  This survey is being run by a UK-based organisation, BUT you can participate from anywhere in the world.  Let's see this thing go viral!  😀

Craft matters because in an increasingly homogenised, virtualised, automated society, it provides us with an opportunity to individualise, to connect with the real, to slow down. There are few experiences more satisfying than producing something both beautiful and useful with your own hands, or learning and honing a new skill. On our crowded earth, we must learn to relish what we have, not clamour for more. Traditional crafts can teach us that a well-crafted item, cherished for years, is preferable to cheap, disposable, mass-produced plastic. So, can craft help save our sanity and our planet?

21) Absenteeism

…just popping my head in to say I'm still here, just feeling rather quiet!  I had an absolute *blast* at Textiles in Focus last weekend, but I'm not a natural extrovert.  I love the company of other people, and all that enthusiasm, but after three solid days of it…  well, I just feel like curling up alone for a bit!

I've been working on my Sweet Georgia shetland roving, and it's all plied – yayy!!!  I'm just about to wind off the remainder and see how much I have, in total.  Then it's wash and whack, and it'll be ready to cast on for Scotch Thistle, whenever Moor is done.

Other than that, I have emails to answer, work to do, accounts to see to.  And mostly, what I want to do is snooze.  Normal service will resume shortly…


6) Sunshine on a rainy day!

I heard a few days ago that Steph at Six Skeins Under had nominated me for the 'sunshine award', for bloggers whose positivity and creativity inspires others in the blogging world.  Thank you so much, Steph, it definitely brought sunshine into a long, grey working week!


To accept this award, I must:

  • Put the logo on my blog or within a post (check);
  • Pass the award onto 12 bloggers (see below);
  • Link the nominees within your post (also see below);
  • Let the nominees know they have received this award by commenting on their blog (will do!);
  • Share the love and link to the person from whom you received this award!  (Steph! Thanks!)

So.  Twelve is quite a big number.  Let's see…

  • First, we have to honour Toni.  Anyone who can commit to a year of no processed foods, or to finishing 100 projects in a year is a *lot* of fun.  This is a woman who is on her third year of 'cold sheeping' (no new yarn), and still can't get the yarn closet door closed.  And let's not forget cat hydrotherapy, or dehydrating bacon.  In short, it doesn't matter whether you choose her 'everyday' blog (linked above) or her knitting one, inspiration and hilarity are sure to be the results.
  • Secondly, Mary at Knitting on the Cam.  Mary is one of the relatively few bloggers that I have the privilege to know in 'real' life.  Sometimes, it seems that just about everyone in American knit-blogging circles knows each other, but the UK just isn't like that.  I love Mary's joyful approach to colour, life and the universe, and though it isn't the same as seeing her every Friday for lunch and a beer or two, I always look forwards to her blog posts.
  • Speaking of folks I know in real life, there's Sarah at Carpe Diem!  I think I am in danger of becoming a Sarah-stalker, but I love spending time at her blog, and in her company.  Her enthusiasm is both legendary and infectious, for spinning, knitting (lace!) and life in general.  I don't think I know anyone who can talk to her without coming away uplifted.
  • Tien.  I'm not sure there's much more I can say here: the woman is weaving, designing and sewing her own wedding dress, complete with coat.  By 'designing', I include the fabric design.  Yes.
  • Leigh!  Not just fantastic fibre-works, but her five-acre dream.  One day, I too will have a dream that big.  With chickens.  And goats.
  • Sustainability/self sufficiency are increasing concerns for me of late.  So, it's no surprise that as well as Leigh's blog, I love Geodyne's blog on the same subject.  Of course, she's also a spinner and weaver (and a nascent knitter, too).
  • Monty leads the kind of life I would like to live if I lived in London.  She is so busy, so involved with the whole knitting/making scene, it makes me just a little bit jealous.  Not to mention her glorious designs!
  • And Dawn…  What can I say except… productivity!  I rest my case.
  • Janet, I'm afraid, hasn't been around for a while (she's very busy).  But I love her posts, especially the scarf-a-day blog!

Well, that brings me to bedtime – and thirteen blogs.  Which might be cheating, because a few folks there have more than one.  But it's bedtime, and I haven't finished my wine yet.  I might have to finish sending out the emails tomorrow.

3) Zzzz…

It's the end of my first week back at work, and I am so, so tired!  I feel like I could sleep the whole weekend away, but that wouldn't be any fun, now, would it??

Speaking of sleeping, these guys are the experts:


And very versatile, too, it seems.  They can sleep with noses covered:


Or uncovered:


Curled up tight:


Or… not:


Woody has even mastered the very tricky tongue-out technique:


(though the flash has been known to wake him up):


As well as tail-over-the-nose:


And even, amazingly, hind-paw-over-the-nose (yess, well done Woody, but why??):


Gravity holds no fears for these brave hounds:


And, indeed, can help contribute to a free-draining position for those with sinus difficulties:


Though sometimes it is nice to prop your head up for a while:


Pillows are generally approved of in the house:


Blankets will do, if nothing els
e is available:


but most hounds will always head for the biggest, softest pile of squishness they can find:


It's safe to say, though, that everyone's favourite pillow is human-shaped!


…and so, with this snooze-themed post, we come to the end of my self-imposed alphabet challenge.  And I'm glad.

It's taken me two months, one week to work my way through, averaging one post every 2.5 days.  That's better than my 2009-year-average of one post every 3.45 days, but most of the extra posts were in November.  Once I gave up trying to finish it in a month, it made things harder instead of easier, and I stalled.  It's going to be nice just to be able to post what's on my mind again, without having to fit it around the next letter…

1) X-over

Let's admit it: I stalled on 'X'.  I have strenuously avoided 'Xmas' because I hate the Xpression.  So I'm stuck with the X-over between the new year and the old, which is, if anything, even lamer.

From last year's first post, I see that I felt over-burdened with yarn and fabric, and rather guilt-ridden about all the stuff I had, but was not really taking advantage of.  I made the following resolutions:

  • Knit daily – no, but probably close
  • Blog three times per week – no; I averaged twice, with 105 posts in the year, not 156.
  • Spin weeklyI don't think so, but I spun more last year than the year before
  • Learn 1 weaving technique per month – definitely not!
  • Sew more.  Some.  At all. – no…
  • Detash some – yes!
  • Practise recorders – no…
  • Grow food for J and I (the dogs will eat pretty much anything out of the garden; that's not a challenge). – yes!
  • Increase my flexibility, strength and cardio fitness – maybe a bit.
  • Decrease my weight, hopefully to pre-shingles levels – yes! Though there has been a slight relapse over hte festive season…
  • Learn to sing – no…
  • Spend more quality time with J and the hounds – yes!
  • Follow my inspiration – no…
  • Allow time to breathe. – no…

There's a lot of 'no' on that list, but actually, I'm happy with it.  This year, I want to:

  • Appreciate what I have;
  • Release what I don't need;
  • Keep up with the obligations I have taken on;
  • Be more aware of what I am achieving.

That's a rather looser list than last year, definitely, but I think I will try and set a concrete goal in each area for each month.  I'm also going to number my posts again this year, just because it's fun.

January's list:
This month, I am going to:

  • Make a project list for the year.  This has worked awesomely for me in the past, even if I don't stick to it, and it would be fun to appreciate the stash I have rather than wishing for more.
  • Destash more fabric and yarn.  There's always more that I don't need.
  • Work hard.  There is a big deadline at the end of the month, and I need to concentrate on it to ensure I hit it, rather than allowing it to hit me.  I also need to dye/blend more yarn and fibre in preparation for TIF.
  • Try and put together a project round-up for last year.  Both my Ravelry and Weavolution records are sadly out of date, and I'm not sure even I can remember what I've been doing in recent months.

More on the X-theme…
I had an Xcellent festive season with my Xceptional family.  I think this was the first time in almost a decade that both my brothers were able to get to my parents' house on Christmas Eve and stay well past boXing Day.  I think it's safe to say that there are few families who will go sledging -twice!- when the youngest member is 30 and the eldest more than twice that:


The best – and fastest – of the family sledges are at least 15 years old, and technically broken.  Large cracks have been mended with various kinds of tape, but we've found no replacements to beat them, so they stay.

My Dad had the most spectacular wipe-out.  I managed to catch this shot with light visible between the sledge and the ground, and between the sledge and Dad.  No light is visible between Dad and the ground, though his feet are *definitely* well above his head:


Andy was specialising in coming down face-first, with a sh – err, snow-eating grin, which you can't really see.  Steering was by means of his toes:


Mum was perfecting a no-hands technique:


Whilst Stu was holding on tight and giggling like a loon:


Me?  I'm behind the camera.  There is no evidence of my waterproof yellow fisherman's waders.  Though, I will say, I am happy to wear them with no shame at all.  I like winter clothing which pretty much does away with the need for the sledge – wearing these, you keep going, even if you come off…

98) P: Panic, or Possibly Pneumonia, or Planet, fallen-off-of-the-face-of

OK, my alphabet challenge isn't goign to be finished in a month.  Surpriiise!

I've started a few P-posts, about post offices, parcels, postage, packaging (as in, excessive), but they were all snarky and snide and not really 'me', so I binned 'em.

I'd got stuck on 'P', so I was pouty and petulant and peeved.  And I've spent the last few days feeling slightly panicky – though it's nothing to do with silly alphabet challenges (or even Pyjamas!  Now, that would have been a good P…).

I'm a bit …ill-ish.  I really don't want to sound all dramatic, but I can't quite breathe properly.  My lungs are achey and feel 'clenched', somehow, and it seems there isn't quite as much oxygen in the air as there should be.  It feels like the symptoms of acute, panicky anxiety, and so in a fit of extreme conditioning, my emotions are following suit.  So I've been wandering around feeling anxious and sad and panicky, all because my lungs have led the way.

I have a doctor's appointment in about an hour, and I'm suspecting some sort of chest infection.  Pneumonia would fit the P-theme nicely, but the universe doesn't have to play along with quite such enthusiasm really.

In the meantime, I'm going to continue with the alphabet, but more slowly.  I was failing to keep up with the comments anyway.

Oh – and the person who found this blog by Googling "Can you do 4 shaft patterns on an 8 shaft loom?" – yes.  Yes, you certainly can!  🙂

90) H – hosting, or huff, or How Do I…?

Yesterday was nearly 'G for Grumpy'.

I'm back to the perennial issue of blogging software.  A couple of years ago I came over to TypePad from Blogger because I was fed up of not being able to reply to people who had left comments on my blog.

Recently, TypePad has messed up its own comments system, and despite putting in a workaround for us vocal knitblogger types, it's still messing with my head.  I know I keep sending replies out into the wild blue yonder, but I don't know how often, or to whom.  I certainly don't expect people to keep coming back to my blog to find out if I've replied to their comment or not – who's got time for that nonsense? – yet that is where comments keep going, unless I keep right on top of things.  And I don't.  I just don't.

Since then, I've noticed that when I leave comments using my TypePad OpenID thingy, my name pops up as 1ef48ed86ac5 or something like.  Not friendly.

Yesterday, I happened to notice that my then-most-recent post had three comments – hang on, I've only received email notification of one!  What's up with that?  Nope, not in my spam folder.  Just Not There.

I pay for TypePad.  Blogger is free.  I want to be able to reply to people who comment on my blog, and for those people to actually receive my replies.  I want to be able to comment on other people's blogs, preferably in such a way that I don't look too much like a spammer with a fake name, and so that the recipient of the comment can also reply, should they wish to do so.  I don't want to have to smear my email address all over the internet in plain text, or ask commenters on my site to do so, because I think we probably all receive enough spam already as it is.

So what to do?  Why is this so difficult?  Do other people find that this is a real bugbear, or am I just being dumb?  I would love, over the next few months, to pick a blog platform, get it running just the way I like, migrate all my old posts to it, and stay there.

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