Sunday, 27 August 2017

These shoes are made for running...

I have something to tell you. Something that I never thought I'd be telling anyone ever. Ok, here goes - I'm running a race! Me, josiekitten, lifelong couch potato and exercise-phobe! As many of you will know, Mr JK was passionate about running. He absolutely loved the buzz it gave him and was constantly challenging himself to new things. I was a bit of a disappointment on that front. Whilst I was very happy to go along to races to support him (unless camping was involved!), the thought of running anything other than a bath was quite frankly hideous! Yes, for a few seconds as the runners were crossing the finish line, the thought went through my head 'that must feel amazing', but just as quickly, it went again. Mr JK really hoped that I'd share his running love and I'd got as far as downloading the Couch to 5K podcast before he died, but I didn't even own a pair of trainers!

Soon after he died, the crazy idea of running a race in his memory starting bubbling away inside me so I made a start on week 1 of the programme. After my first efforts, I bought some proper running shoes and a sports bra! But my running didn't last long as I experienced problems with my knee. X-rays showed that I have quite bad arthritis in my left knee, so I worked hard at the gym doing lots of exercises to strengthen it and stabilise the joint. I finally went for my first run outside in April this year. Of course I didn't want anyone to know about my running, or even going to the gym. It was a precious secret, something that I was sharing only with Mr JK. I drove to local parkland where I could run incognito. I still find it hard to make myself go out and run where I live - it's silly I know but I worry about what people will think! But I have had some wonderful early morning runs and seen lots of wildlife - owls, rabbits and deer to name a few. Have a look at some of the photos I took when I stopped to catch my breath!

I never thought that I'd be buying a running magazine, wearing breathable technical clothes (as well as Mr JK's running tights which I'm sure is giving him a great laugh!) or worrying about starting and stopping my Garmin watch to record running data accurately! It's so not me! As one of my friends said to me on WhatsApp this week, 'OMG, who is this person and what have you done with Helen?!' 

One day I retweeted something on Twitter, and was astonished a few days later to discover that I'd won entry for two into any Great Run event. I talked it over with Charlie, who I've been working with at the gym, and together we decided that the Great North Run would be a challenge! That's a half marathon - actually the world's biggest half marathon - if you didn't know! It's two weeks today and I can't quite believe that I'm going to be doing it. I'm not fast because I do a mix of running and walking to protect my knee, but I am determined to cross the finish line. I've run the distance in training so I feel reasonably confident that it's all going to be good on race day. Running has helped me to feel closer to Mr JK and has got me through some pretty dark days. I'm sure that he's going to be running alongside me and feeling proud of me too. I'm raising money for the British Heart Foundation and if you would like to donate to support me, I'd be so grateful. There is a link to my Just Giving page in the sidebar of the blog and you can also get to the page by clicking here. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I'll keep you posted on how it all goes, I promise you. xxx

Sunday, 20 August 2017

It's a stitch up!

Good afternoon folks! Can't believe another week of the holiday is almost over. Before we know it, the Christmas cards will be in the shops! I've packed the holidays full, probably doing too much in reality, as I'm now panicking slightly about all the things still left undone on my list. I may need to prioritise a little!

I spent a couple of lovely days with my pal Snoopydog this week. On the first day we did some sewing, making rather cute Hamish the Hound pincushions from kits that I'd picked up from Sew Creative down in Petersfield on my trips to and from Portsmouth. They were a little fiddly but we muddled through and were pleased with how our pin cushion pooches turned out!

And of course the naughty dogs couldn't resist doing what all doggies do when they meet each other! 

It was Mr JK's birthday this week, so rather than spend time alone being sad, I decided to be busy. I did stop off at his tree for a few words first thing. It's growing really well and the bark is lovely. There's something very tactile about silver birch bark.

Snoops and I had fun dyeing some yarn. It definitely wasn't very scientific and our skeins are very much one of a kind, never to be repeated, but it was a lovely way to spend a couple of hours and I'm sure I'll knit something from the yarn - possibly a scarf or a cowl as it's 100% merino so no good for socks, at least not for me!

We also took Oscar for a walk around Whitlingham Broad. I'm not a dog person, but do have a soft spot for Oscar. He loves chasing his tennis ball into the water!

We had tea and tarts in honour of Mr JK's birthday - lemon and white chocolate for Snoops and Bakewell tart (Mr JK's favourite) for me. 

Yesterday I took another sewing class at Sew Me Something over at Stratford-upon-Avon. Last time I drove there and back in a day, but it was pretty tiring, so this time I stayed the night before at a Premier Inn about half an hour's drive from Stratford. It made much more sense as these sewing days are full on and quite intense. I was sewing an Imogen top using the fabric that I bought recently at the Festival of Quilts. The cutting out took ages, and once that was done, it was time for tea and cake!

Then I sewed the placket opening - one of the trickier parts of the make. But I was pretty pleased with how it turned out. My top stitching could have been a little better, but I doubt that anyone's going to look that closely at it! 

I managed to finish the top and am really pleased with it. It would be great to make some more in a variety of fabrics - oh to have more hours in a day! No modelled photos I'm afraid, you'll have to make do with a photo of it hanging on the wardrobe!

I went for another dog walk this week too - caught up with some old friends and went walking on some heathland near by. It was really beautiful there and the heather and gorse combination was stunning. Although it's only a couple of miles from where I live, I'm slightly embarrassed to admit that I've not been there before. There were loads of dragonflies too, which was surprising as there really is very little water there.

Flo has been very glad to have me home today and has been very cuddly. I hardly dare tell her that I'm off to Portsmouth tomorrow for an overnight trip to see my auntie. She's 99 and not terribly well at the moment, so it will be good to see her.

Before I go, I must just share with you the virtual granny square blanket that was hooked by me and some of my fellow Stylecraft Blogstars this week. The clever people at Stylecraft were able to gather all our photos together and it looks lovely! Talking of the Blogstars, we now have our own Instagram account so if you're interested in seeing what we're up to, please follow us. You can find our page here. Have a great week and I'll catch up with you again soon. xxx

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Granny Square Day 2017

A very quick post to remind you all that today is Granny Square Day! Over on Instagram, suregal27 is organising things and if you post a photo of your granny square and tag it with #grannysquare2017, then it will be included in a beautiful virtual granny square blanket. There's something so comforting about granny squares to me. Perhaps it's because granny squares were how I learnt to crochet, so it takes me back to my childhood, sitting with my next door neighbour Gladys, who had the patience to teach an 8 year old josiekitten how to crochet. There is certainly something very rhythmical and soothing about crochet. It was the craft that I reached out to soon after Mr JK died last year and I was laying awake for hours on end. And you just have to smile when you look at a granny square blanket with its riot of colour.

My granny squares are the ones I'm hooking for a cushion cover, made from the Opal Advent calendar mini balls, so the colour changes are a little more haphazard than on traditional granny squares. But it's the taking part that's important!

This time last year, I was hooking my granny square on our favourite Greek beach and getting lots of funny looks from people as I got Mr JK to take a photo of me! Happy days. xxx

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Time for a catch up!

Hello there, thanks for stopping by. Pull up chair and make yourself comfortable as I've got lots to tell you! It's hard to believe that three weeks of the summer holiday have already gone. Half way through and I've been trying to keep myself busy so that I'm not dwelling too much on things.

Last week, after the buzz of Fibre-East, it was good to escape up onto the North Norfolk coast for a walk with some friends. The weather was beautiful - plenty of sunshine and blue skies which seem to have been a bit lacking here considering that it's meant to be summer! This part of the coast has shingle beaches with salt marshes between the beach and the road. There was a sculpture exhibition on the beach; I particularly liked the one you can see in the second photo. It was called 'Stranded' I think and reminded me of a washed up whale or an upturned boat.

I also went over to Cambridge on the train to meet up with a friend. As the forecast wasn't good, we decided to visit the Botanic Gardens first. I love walking around gardens, trying to name the plants and being inspired by all the different planting combinations. 

The heavens opened while we were eating lunch, so we headed for the Fitzwilliam museum. There's so much to see there, including a great collection of exhibits from Ancient Egypt. Shortly before we left, we discovered a wonderful exhibition of samplers and wished that we had come across it earlier. The quality and finesse of the stitching was astonishing, especially when you think that most of them were made by children.

Last weekend I went to Devon to stay with Diane, a friend from Uni days. We had a lovely time together and managed to pack a lot into the weekend; a country walk, lunch at a Michelin starred pub, an afternoon in a pottery studio, a guided walking tour around Exeter, discovering the Medieval underground passages that used to bring a supply of fresh water into the city and of course a delicious clotted cream tea! We spent some time crocheting and knitting and it was a lovely, relaxed break.

This week, I went to the Festival of Quilts. I know that I don't need another hobby right now, but there is something very appealing about taking lots of pieces of fabric and stitching them together to make something beautiful. The exhibition of quilts was mind blowing and massive. You could have easily spent a whole day there just looking at all the quilts, let alone have time for shopping! Here are just a few of my favourites - I think it's clear that I am drawn to colourful geometric quilts, don't you?

My haul was pretty modest - a signed copy of Stuart Hillard's new book, a 6" square template, some fabric to sew a top, a panel of fabric that I couldn't resist although I'm not sure quite how to use it to its full potential yet and a zipped pouch that I made in an hour's class!

Amongst all of this, I have been busy knitting and crocheting, but most of it I'm not able to share with you yet. I promise I will as soon as I can though. With the prospect of another Opal Advent calendar looming, I have been hooking away on granny squares. I want to make a cushion cover like my pal Snoopydog's as well as finish off the socks.

I also spent a little more time spinning. I want to do some drop spindling too so that I don't forget the basics.

I sewed a cushion for a friend's birthday too. I love free motion sewing, it doesn't matter if you go a bit wonky. In fact, it adds a bit of character to what you're making! Just as well in my case!

Are you still with me! If so, well done. Give yourself a pat on the back and go and have a cup of tea and a biscuit, or perhaps a cheeky glass of wine! I'll try not to leave it so long next time. xxx