Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Full circle ...

Tomorrow it will be one year since Mr JK died. It doesn't seem possible that I have existed a whole 365 days without him. When I said this to someone, they replied, 'You haven't existed, you've lived. Just look at everything you've done,' and I suppose they're right. Although some days I really do feel like I am simply existing, not wanting to socialise and shutting myself away at home with my thoughts. But yes, I have lived. I've made myself go out and do things and I've had some huge achievements.

On Sunday, I took part in the Yorkshire 10 mile race. The previous year, Mr JK had run the marathon in York and a few days after he died, an email came through for him with a link to his race photos and videos. As I looked through them, a crazy idea came into my head that I wanted to run in York the following year. So that became my focus. From not even owning a pair of trainers, I got myself kitted out with some proper running shoes, bought a sports bra, joined the gym and downloaded the Couch to 5K programme. But my attempts were soon thwarted by joint pain and an x-ray revealed an arthritic knee. I had some physiotherapy and when I told the physio that I was planning to run a race in my husband's memory, her reply of 'I think that this is your body's way of telling you that you need to find another way to remember your husband,' left me in tears. But I continued at the gym, working with my PT who never stopped encouraging me and believing in me, and gradually my leg became stronger and my knee joint more stable. I went for my first run outside in April this year, but ran secretly, away from home, because I didn't want people to know what I was doing. Running was something my husband had done while I sat and knitted - I hated exercise! I felt like I didn't really have the right to be doing it and was worried that people would find my efforts funny. It was too important to me to be laughed at, so I just plugged away on my own. Running made me feel connected to Mr JK but at the same time I often got hugely emotional afterwards, standing in the shower with tears pouring down my face because the one person I wanted to share my latest achievement with, I couldn't. Last month I had to 'fess up because I wanted to fund raise for the British Heart Foundation when I ran the Great North Run, and I was overwhelmed by people's response. Family and friends and people who usually live in my computer - from Blogland, Instagram and Twitter - were just so generous, and I have been truly humbled by it. 

The Yorkshire 10 mile race was something very personal for me as I was running in Mr JK's footsteps. The route followed the route of the marathon, splitting off at 5 miles and rejoining the marathon route for the last 4.5 miles. I had arranged to meet up with some running friends from Twitter and it was so good to see them. They have been amazingly supportive over the last twelve months, encouraging me from my earliest days as a complete newbie runner to achieving my first half marathon. We went out for dinner the night before the race for some carb loading!

The organisers at RunYorkshire were just amazing. I'd been in touch with them because I was dithering about the race and they very kindly gave me a VIP pass for myself and any friends who were coming with me to make my day easier. I certainly did feel special while I waited in the VIP lounge with a mug of tea and a Danish pastry before the race. 

I was feeling quite anxious because I hadn't run at all for the last month as my knee was sore after the GNR and was keen to get started to prove to myself that I hadn't forgotten how to run! There was another meet up with more Twitter friends just before we headed to our respective zones at the start...

It was a lovely day, not too hot and the support from the crowds was amazing. I lost count of the number of times people shouted out,'Come on Helen! You can do it!' and other equally encouraging words. It was just what I needed to hear and as I ran, I also thought of Mr JK and the fact that I was running just where he had a year earlier. Rounding the final bend towards the last half mile, I spotted three familiar faces in the crowd - Charlie, Sarah and Jules - who had all come up from Norfolk to cheer me on. It was just the boost I needed to get me to the finish line! The closing stretch was just incredible - crowds of people clapping, cheering and shouting my name! I managed to cross the line with a smile on my face but when the announcer then called my name and said that I was 'running for Rowley', the tears began. It's a day that I will never forget and I feel like I've gone full circle now, running in Mr JK's footsteps. I think he'd be proud of me.

So what have I learnt over the past year? I've learnt that I'm a lot tougher than I thought I was. I've kept going through some very dark days. Of course I'm not 'over it' - I don't think that you ever get over the death of a loved one. But that huge sense of loss is countered by your world gradually expanding so that you are eventually able to think about other things too. I miss Mr JK immensely and think about him every single day. Often without tears, but the tears still come and that's ok. I've also learnt that death makes some people very uncomfortable and many never refer to Mr JK at all, even though I want to talk about him and remember him. You really do find out who your friends are as people make promises to keep in touch and phone you, but you never hear from them. 'You know where I am if you need anything,' is another phrase that gets thrown out regularly, but it's really hard to admit to people that you're struggling. It is for me anyway. I have some good friends who have stuck by me and I wouldn't have got through this year without them. And I have also made some new friends which I'm really happy about. I know there will be plenty of challenges in the years ahead but I'm taking little steps to meet them. Thank you to you too for all your kind messages and comments over the past year. Just knowing that there are people out there who care really does help. xxx

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Welcome October

October already, how did that happen? There's a definite autumnal feeling in the air and I'm contemplating digging out my woolly scarves and cowls. I do like to have a cosy neck, it helps to keep the rest of me warm. 

I've been working on a design for the Stylecraft blogtour which starts later this month. I've seen some of the projects that the other Blogstars have been working on and there are some real beauties! I'll share the blogging schedule with you before the tour starts so that you can check out the designs each day. Plus you get to enter a competition to win a yarn pack each day too! We're using the Batik yarn and I really love the colours in my pack. I can't show you too much of what I'm working on right now, but I am pleased with how it's going so far!

I did a little bit of sewing today. My class decided that when they were 'Star of the Day', one of the perks should be sitting on a cushion! So I rustled up a cushion cover this afternoon. I'm not sure that cream was the best choice of colour, but we do have a washing machine in school! 

A little while ago, Winwick Mum got in touch with me to ask about my handspun sock yarn as she was writing an article for a magazine. I answered her questions as best I could and also sent her some samples of my handspun yarn so that she could see first hand what I was talking about. The article was published last month and Christine very kindly offered to send me a spare copy of the magazine. It's called British Fibre Art Magazine and it's not one that I've come across before. I'm working my way through it and I have to say, I'm finding it a really interesting read. I might have to see about getting hold of the next issue, it comes out every two months. 

I have managed to be super-organised and picked the winner of last month's Pay it Forward giveaway. You might remember that the prize was a beautiful skein of Old Maiden Aunt yarn that I bought when I visited her studio on a recent trip to Scotland. The random number generator picked out MelindaJ's post so I'll be getting in touch with her on Ravelry very soon. I haven't quite decided what the goodies will be for October's giveaway yet, so keep checking back. In the meantime, there's still time to enter the giveaway to win a Candy Swirl yarn cake from Stylecraft. 

I may well not be blogging next weekend as I'm running again! It will be a year since Mr JK ran his final race, the Yorkshire Marathon, and it has been my ultimate goal all year to be able to run in his footsteps in York a year on. I'm not running the marathon, but there is a 10 mile race on the same day which shares a lot of the marathon route. It's going to be an emotional time, but I really want to do it. My knee is still a little sore after the Great North Run, so there may be more walking but running but it doesn't matter. Just being there is all that's important. If you'd like to help with my fundraising for the British Heart Foundation, there's a link in the sidebar at the top of my blog. I have been so touched by all the messages of support and donations that I have received from people who follow me here, on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. You are very kind. 

Before I go, I must share a photo of Flo with you. She came upstairs this morning while I was knitting in bed, but her big black eyes meant trouble as she pounced after the yarn and scratched me! She really is a little tinker but I wouldn't be without her! Have a good week. xxx

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

In print

I received some very exciting post this week. As part of my role with the Stylecraft Blogstars, I was given the opportunity to design something for Crochet Now magazine and write a little bit about myself. I was a tad nervous as I am primarily a knitter, but decided to give it a go and used one of the newer Stylecraft yarns - Candy Swirl - to hook a cosy scarf. I did give a few sneaky peaks on Instagram, but nothing that gave the game away!

Anyway, I am thrilled to see the photos of my Cosy Cluster scarf design appearing on the back page. I don't often buy crochet magazines, but there are some really lovely patterns in this one (issue 20) if you're interested in hooky things.

I snapped a quick photo before I sent the scarves off to the magazine, and had to keep Flo well out of the way, knowing her penchant for all things yarny!

To celebrate the publication of my first ever pattern in a magazine, I'm having a little giveaway. I have one yarn cake of Stylecraft Candy Swirl yarn in the purple Sugar Plum colourway as seen above. You can make the smaller size scarf with it. If you'd like to be in with a chance of winning, leave me a comment on my blog and tell me what your favourite thing is to crochet. I'm going to be running this competition on Instagram and also on my Josiekitten page on Facebook, so you have three chances to enter. (You can enter in all three places if you like.) The giveaway will stay open until midnight on Sunday 15th October and then I'll pick a winner. Please make sure that it's easy for me to get in touch with you. I'm happy to post overseas, so anyone can enter! Good luck and may the crochet goddess smile on you! xxx

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Time to talk about yarn again

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Saturday, 16 September 2017

A picture speaks a thousand words

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

Monday, 11 September 2017

I did it!

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

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

Start line selfie!

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

Chilling out in the pub afterwards!

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Well that went fast!

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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