Monday, 14 April 2014

What I'm reading

What I've finished reading
Masques and Wolfsbane (the Aralorn duology) by Patricia Briggs. It was noticeable in Masques that it was Briggs' first book, but I have to say I love the characters and both books anyway. I'll be adding copies to my to buy list as I'll definitely be rereading them again. (And that takes me to the last of Briggs' back catalogue that I can easily get my hands on. :( )

Dark Witch by Nora Roberts. It felt rather contrived and convenient in a lot of places, but I liked it enough to keep reading anyway. It was ideal for curling up when with a cup of tea and the rain pounding on the window.
Volumes one and two of Saga by Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples. I don't really have anything other to say than I absolutely loved it, and I laughed out loud and nearly cried at several points. I'm waiting not so patiently for volume 3! Definitely another one for the reread pile.

What I'm reading
After a bit of a break (my boss requested the copy I was reading), I'm back to Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie, and I'm still enjoying it. It seems to be coming together nicely now, and I'm getting thoroughly intrigued.

What I'm reading next
I know I've said this before, but I really want to get Cross and Burn read this time.

I've not read quite as much this time, mainly because I've been busy focusing on painting this:

It's been years since I painted and I'm really, really pleased at how it turned out. It's recognisably a peony rose bud! I'm not sure my paintbrushes will be something I'll be picking up regularly again though, but I enjoyed stretching my muscles and having a go as well as the end result.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Spinning workshop

A wee while ago now, I nipped up to Auchterarder for a beginners drop spindle workshop run by Deborah Gray of Perfect Weather for Spinning and Knitting.

Deborah is a fantastic teacher, and I really enjoyed myself as well as learning a lot. It was a lovely small group and well worth the fee.

I ended up with this:

I'm really quite pleased with how it turned out, though I did realise when I went to take a photo that I had forgot to wash and set the twist on the yarn, hence the rather big slubs in places. I don't mind, it's all part of the learning process and hopefully I won't make that mistake again.

I definitely feel less daunted by spinning now, or rather, more comfortable with all the new skills and terminology to learn, and I'm eager to have another go. 

Plus, I'm really looking forward to attending the solar dyeing workshop Deborag is running next month!

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Things I love: Silicone Teabag

It's hard to believe, but my blog is one year old today! It doesn't seem that long, but I'm going to celebrate anyway by talking about one of my absolute favourite things.

 I'm a great fan of loose leaf tea, and over the years I've tried a lot of different infusers.

This one has to be my favourite.

It's detailed to look exactly like a teabag, and the main part is a pale green colour (not discoloured through use). I've used various different sizes of tea leaves in it without a lot of tea escaping into the cup or teapot. It's soft, extremely easy to empty as you can contort the shape without permanently altering it and damaging the mesh (which I have done with quite a few over the years), and it doesn't get hot. It isn't discoloured in the photo, it is actually a very pale green colour.

It's ease of use combined with just how plain adorable it is, mean this is going to be used for a long time to come. It even looks pretty sitting on the window ledge when it isn't being used!

If you fancy one yourself, it is available from Lakeland and costs just £3.99.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

What I'm reading

What I've finished reading: (aka why I've been awfully quiet lately)

Honour's Knight by Rachel Bach. Like the first, this hit all my favourite spots, though possibly even more so. Badass mercenary who keeps on going when she's frightened or incredibly angry? Descriptions that have me on the edge of my seat (quarry scenes is all I'm going to say). Romance with proper problems but they actually talk to each other? Space politics and scary odds? Sold! Plus the fight scenes are fantastic. I'm not one for them normally but Bach writes them brilliantly, and I love Devi's armour. In short, I'm once again waiting impatiently for the next one.

The Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs. (Moon Called, Blood Bound, Iron Kissed, Bone Crossed, Silver Borne, River Marked, Frost Burned and Night Broken.) I am rather fussy about the urban fantasy that I read, even more so about those involving werewolves, but when I fall for a series I fall hard. This series is a perfect example. I raced through the books, loving every second and annoyed when I had to put them down to do something else. I love the whole world buildings, all the characters and Brigg's writing. Can't wait for there to be more in the series!

I also read Fair Game by Patricia Briggs. I was going to wait and read that series in order as well, but Fair Game came in first and I couldn't resist. Supernatural crime with a bit of established romantic angst (but not too much) and awesome women - three of my favourite things in one book. Of course I loved it and I'm waiting not so patiently for the first two books.

What I'm reading:

I'm about a quarter of the way through Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie now, and I can see why everyone was talking about it so much. I am liking it a lot, but I'm finding I have to have enough brain space to settle into reading it. It's more a statement on my brain at the moment than the book though. I'mm looking forward to finishing it.

What I'm reading next:

The other two books in the Alpha and Omega series once I get them, and I have the Aralorn ombinus by Briggs lined up as well.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Raspberry Ripple

One of the great things about having family that appreciate yarn as much as I do is that you can jokingly suggest 'Bring some wool back for me' when they leave for holiday, and three days later you get a phone call that starts with 'I'm in the wool shop*, what do you want?' (Needless to say it was one of the longest phone calls in family history. How was I supposed to pick??)

In the end I went for the yarn that was described as 'sort of like raspberry ripple ice cream and soo soft'.

It certainly lives up to that description! It's a 4ply wool/silk mix, and as promised it is indeed so soft and squishy. I'm not quite sure what I want to knit with it yet though so I think I will just sit and admire it for a while. Such an arduous task.

I love my family. *grin*

*The yarn shop in question is the fantastic Kingcraig fabrics in Brora, which I've not actually visited in person. Yet.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Goals in progress...

One of my goals for the year was to knit a jumper since I had both the yarn and pattern for several jumpers. Since I'm in the process of changing my figure, I decided to go for the least fitted one first.

This is a hooded tunic in Sirdar Denim Ultra from one of their pattern leaflets. I’m more than halfway up the front (I’ve finished the back), and it’s a very quick, straightforward knit. I’m loving the yarn as well, it’s so soft and warm. I can’t wait to finish it, which given how quickly it’s knitting up shouldn’t be too long now.

I’ve just jinxed myself, haven’t I? Oops.

One of my other goals was knit a pair of socks, but since I got in a bit of a fankle trying the magic loop method, I thought I'd be best using DPN's. So far I’ve only really finished off a few hats using DPN’s so I thought I would attempt something a little bigger before moving on to socks.

This is a smaller version of the Hurricane Hat by Andrea Guldinswirl for a friends young granddaughter.

I’m ridiculously pleased with how it is turning out so far – no laddering and no lost stitches! I’m really enjoying the pattern as well. It’s easy to memorise and knit, plus it looks lovely.

The only drawback is that is taking me longer to knit, and I can only knit for short bursts as my hands are still adapting. It’s always a similar learning curve when learning something new so I’m not too worried, even if I am getting a little frustrated at times, and already my speed and stamina are increasing. I do have to say though that all the knitting I have done over the last year has clearly had an effect as the learning curve is a lot shorter than it has been before. Proof knitting is medicinal in more ways the one!

Saturday, 8 March 2014

What I'm reading

What did you recently finish reading?
Fortune's Pawn by Rachel Bach. I don't really think I can be objective about this book as it hit every one of my favourite spots and hit them extremely well. I will say that it was worth the wait, and I agree with everyone else who says they love it. Roll on the next book!

Django Wexler’s The Thousand Names. I'm glad I carried on reading because I rather enjoyed the ending. There was enough in the book that I liked (both character wise and world building wise) that carrying on didn't feel like a chore despite the military heavy bits not being quite my cup of tea. I certainly liked it enough  to read the next one when it comes out, and I'm quite looking forward to it actually.

Dirty Magic by Jaye Wells. Another one I really enjoyed. I enjoyed it much more than Well's last series, and I seriously love the worldbuilding that is going on in this series. I like most of the characters too, even the ones I don't like I don't mind reading about which is rare for me, and I'm quite eager to read the next one. 

Concealed in Death by JD Robb. The story wasn't the greatest, but I loved, loved, loved the character interactions in this book. Perfect for curling up with on a winter's day. 

What are you currently reading?
I've just started both Cross and Burn by Val McDermid and Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie but I'm not really far enough in in either to have formed a solid opinion yet.

What do you think you’ll read next?
Your Camera Loves you by Khara Plicanic. Well starting it at least as I suspect I'll be dipping in and out of it for a while. 

Friday, 7 March 2014

The Milkbarn

Last weekend I visited The Milk Barn, a relatively new local ice cream parlour. It was well worth heading out on a cold, wet, blustery day.

The first test of any place I go is always the tea. The Milk Barn has a wide selection of different teas, more than enough to suit everyone's tastes. We opted for the standard black tea, and there was plenty of it. One pot for two was enough to give two big cups each.

This is definitely a big plus as far as we are both concerned. *grin*

As well as ice cream, there is a lovely cafe with a decent selection of food. The portions are generous, and the food is well cooked, tasty and value for money. Plus the coleslaw is homemade and delicious.

Then there was the ice cream, the main reason we went in the first place.

I don't think any photo would do justice to the fabulousness of the knickerbocker glory I had. Three scoops of ice cream, sauce of your choosing, fresh fruit and nuts. It was glorious, and the best part is you can pick the three scoops of ice cream from the wide range of made on the premises ice cream. The selection changes regularly, but I sampled the Ferro Roche, tablet, and caramel shortcake flavours and they were all creamy and full of flavour.

The Milk Barn itself is light and airy, and decorated to carry on the theme of straight from the farm next door, from the table numbers to the bathroom mirrrors. 

In short, I have a new favourite place, and I'll be heading back there soon. After all, there are plenty more flavours to try, and we never tried milking the fibre-glass cow.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Finished Ebbs Shawl

Last but not least of my Christmas knitting this year was an Ebbs shawl for my Mum.

I completely used both skeins of the Yarn Pony Mustang I bought at last year's Edinburgh Yarn Festival, making the shawl slightly larger than the written pattern. The wingspan is a smidgeon over 2 metres and the depth is 67cm. (Which I have to add was big enough that I looked rather ridiculous trying to get a picture of the whole shawl!) 

I'm absolutely in love with the pattern. It's easy but very well thought out and well written. It was such a pleasure to knit, and I can definitely see myself knitting another one at some point.

I also loved knitting with the Yarn Pony yarn. It's a gorgeous merino that has such a lovely colour to it and it is delightful to knit with.

Alas, I couldn't persuade my Mum to model it for me to post here so instead I'll post the somewhat obligatory for me folded up picture.

I'll be the first to admit, there is a very strong chance I will be borrowing this off her!

Saturday, 1 March 2014

A long wait - Rare Disease Day 2014

I’m a day late, but this week has been rather momentous for me: three days ago I finally received a diagnosis that explains all of my symptoms.

It’s been seventeen years since I first starting having nerve problems.

I'm not going to go into specifics right now, but it doesn't really matter what the disease is as so many people with rare illnesses face the same problems.

That long wait is typical of having a rare disease, and in many ways I’m lucky. There are those who have waited fifty years to get a diagnosis, and during those long years they are constantly told they are imagining all their symptoms, that nothing is really wrong, to basically shut up and put up. I have been told all of the above, but I’ve also got family who believe me fighting in my corner, and a couple of great specialists who also believe me and want answers nearly as much as I do.

Why the long wait? Well, there is only one specialist in my condition in Scotland, and only a couple more in the UK. There's a two year wait to see that specialist, who as it turns out has had to close the waiting list because he is retiring in less than two years from now. It's not going to get any better: the hospital management refuse to let someone take over the clinic even though it is so oversubscribed, and it will be closing when the specialist retires.

It's not just the wait to see the right specialist: it’s being bounced from doctor to doctor because I'm not an easy case, the lack of joined up services that don't look at the whole picture, that essentially wash their hands of you as soon as you don't fit in their special little box. And then there is the lack of information, instead you have to go hunting for every little scrap there is (not a lot because it's only in the last five or so years that studies have actually been conducted), often so that you are more knowledgeable than a lot of the doctors attempting to treat you. It's all those little things that leave you feeling less than worthless, alone and like you are never going to get proper answers or treated with respect.

Before it sounds like I'm ragging on the NHS, (okay I am a little but no big organisation is perfect), I would like to say that I would not have got so far without it, and there are a great many people inside (and outside) the NHS that are working to change the information out there and to join up and improve services. It's just as it's a rare disease, it's not 'cool' enough to warrant a lot of notice or research.

Hopefully that awareness will change, and a generation from now, people won't have to wait as nearly as long. In the meantime, I'm going to join the fantastic charity that has provided me with so much information and made me feel a lot less alone - HMSA.