Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Holidays at home

I'm not entirely sure any of these pictures do justice to the light and the snow we've had this week. Just before it goes dark, which is about 4pm around here these days, we've been heading out to the fields for a wander, looking at footprints, the sky, and the crazy patterns the thawing-then-freezing snow and ice has been making.

And admiring the velcro-like-stickiness of my new stripey gloves, of course :)

There's been a couple of pangs at being at home instead of on holiday, but we got over those fairly quickly, mostly by doing lots of holiday related things at home instead. And actually, home is great when you get to be at home, rather than dashing in and out on the way to doing other things.

So there's been a fair bit of crafting, mostly in front of cheesy festive films, because (of course) I haven't finished making all those beautiful hand made Christmas presents yet - sorry dear family! I'll be done soon!

And there's been a little bit of sitting in cafes reading new books, because that's what you do when you're on holiday at home (on holiday anywhere in fact). Don't you love the giant bottles of 'non-brewed condiment' on every table??

And if all that excitement wasn't enough... here's reason 4235 why it's-probably-a-good-thing-that-we-didn't-go-on-holiday-after-all:

Yep, that's our poor little van on the back of a breakdown truck. Fortunately, we weren't in the wild snowy wastelands of Scotland, but at a garage on the way back from visiting Peter's family.

And, wise to the possibility of such events, we had tea, a picnic, a hot water bottle, spare gloves, books to read and a quilt, so the hour we spent waiting for the lorry was actually a rather pleasant one :)

Ah well, back to it. More sneakly glimpses of Christmassy craft projects to come this week, and I'll try to stop posting pictures of the snow...

(oh, and there's a couple of people who've asked what the swirly thing was in the last post - yep, I got a proper old spirograph for Christmas, and I'm wondering what exciting projects I can use my long-lost swirly-pattern-making skills for!)

Friday, 25 December 2009

Christmas Day so far

Just because I've got a quiet moment to myself, here's a few pictures of Christmas Day in our house so far...

Thursday, 24 December 2009

White Christmas!

This is my first White Christmas! And oh, it's exciting. Very exciting.

It's snowed on and off all week, making festive preparations extremely festive. This just isn't normal round here, and that makes it even more great.

Sadly, we did have to cancel our holiday plans. Our van couldn't even get out of our street, so driving 500 miles to the far north of Scotland we thought might be a bit ambitious... But you know what? Now we've decided to stay at home, it's fun. Lots of fun.

There's been lots of decorating, a bit of visiting, plenty of baking, and huge amounts of sewing. We're just about ready. Of course, there's bits of presents that will need finishing off tomorrow. And the cake isn't iced. And I haven't even finished half of the presents for people i won't see for a couple of weeks.

But the important things are done, and we're just settling down to watch Scrooge with a hot chocolate.

Tomorrow's going to involve unwrapping, baking, icing, cooking, eating, and chatting. And another snowy walk I reckon.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Nearly there...

Well, get this, we can't find the Christmas tree. Yep, we've lost the Christmas tree. The plastic Christmas tree that's older than me, and has been up ever year for as long as I can remember. I can't decide if I eventually managed to get rid of it in last year's attempt at purging the house of 'stuff' (hmm), or if it's just hiding somewhere.

So instead, we have Mystic Branch. We had Mystic Branch in the kitchen last year, as well as the Christmas tree, but the kitchen Mystic Branch never got taken down, and I wanted to put something new up. So now the living room has its own Mystic Branch. And very lovely it is too.

Other than decorating, it's been a busy week (I should stop saying that, I seem to say it every week, this must just be normal!). I popped over on the train to see my sister and her family. We had a cold walk along the sea front. I love living in the hills, but oh, how I wish sometimes I could transplant this entire city to the seaside! It was good to have a bit of sea air. And to see everyone, of course.

I managed to get a bit of crocheting in on the train. I LOVE crocheting on the train, it's so practical, you can stare out of the window at the same time, it's not all elbows like knitting, and if you drop it all, you can just pick it up again without losing all your stitches. Very good.

Anyway, I carried on and made more flowers. I'm very taken with these little flowers (and they matched my skirt nicely!)

I even managed to turn a few of them into something when I got home, although you can't see it properly as it might just end up as a present...

So, there's been decorations, a bit of visiting, a bit of present making, and even some cards. I don't think I've got round to sending Christmas cards for, oh, probably years. Of course, these ones haven't actually left the house yet, but they are still made.

I went for simple and easy, no point making life more difficult!

And last night? SNOW! I had to cycle in it, and was rather inclined to be grumpy about it, worrying that it would still be here on Monday, and my boss would want me to drive in it... But I've decided to take my own advice, worry about that if it happens, and get on with being childishly excited that it's nearly Christmas and it's snowing!

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Making things

I think it's about time for a kind of Christmassy type post, don't you?

First of all though, I must show you this cheery bag I made for my mum's birthday last week. Do you like it? Remember this bag I made for myself, back in May (goodness, seems like an absolute lifetime ago!) Well, my mum liked it, and I had a fair bit of material left, so I thought I'd have a go at something a little bit more complicated...

And you can't see it, but incidentally, the lining is made from the same dotty material as the skirt I made back in May too!

I was rather pleased with it - my sewing's really improved, some of the seams are even straight!

I still haven't got very far with making all my Christmas presents, but I will do it... I keep fogetting about what I made a few weeks ago...

Yep, more soap! A little bit crumbly, but with an added extra ingredient... Won't say too much more, as I haven't decided who's getting what yet, but it's very exciting. (and the thing with soap is that I've now made several Christmas presents, instead of just one!)

There's also been another small child's birthday, which I thought called for another mesh treasure bag. Not as complicated as the last one, but cheery all the same. I absolutely adore that fabric (although there's an ongoing 'discussion' here about whether they're radishes or beetroots...)

And finally, I sat on the train for 3 hours at the weekend, staring out of the window, pondering life, and crocheting. I love crocheting, it's so easy to carry, it's so easy to undo when you do it wrong, and it's not all elbows and concentration on trains like knitting can be. I only had a couple of little balls of wool, so I ended up making flowers. And more flowers.

So now there's a small pile of them, all different colours. Rather fetching, although I'm not entirely sure what they're going to turn into yet. I suspect at least a couple will form some kind of Christmas presents! Any suggestions? I've got a couple of ideas...

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Judgement and acceptance

I've been stopped in my tracks a bit this week. My PhD viva (oral exam) was on Thursday, I didn't come out with the result I was hoping for...

I've been writing the PhD for so long (six years!), and I've had so many emotions about the process and the thing itself, that this almost felt a bit flat. I've felt elated, crushed, frustrated, annoyed, incompetent, useless, grumpy, grumpy, grumpy about this thing, but whatever I've been feeling, it's been such a big part of my life for so long, it was hard to believe it was ever going to go away. Finally, it seemed like the end was near - and now it's been pushed just that little bit further away again.

This isn't the place for details, but suffice to say the examiners didn't like what I'd written. This is always one of the problems with putting something out there into the world, there will always be people who don't like it, it's just annoying when the people who don't like it are the people who are there to officially pass judgement.

It would have been easy to stomp on Thursday afternoon, to set fire to my thesis (oh, how many times did I threaten to do just that in the last six years??), to slam a couple of doors, or to burst into tears. I actually managed to do none of those things, and in fact behaved impeccably, no tantrums, no tears, no bitterness, and a genuine sense of congratulations for the other woman who was being examined in the room next to mine (and who passed).

We all went for a drink together, us two examinees, our supervisors, other students in the department, and the other woman's examiners (my goodwill didn't quite extend to inviting my examiners to the pub...) We had a nice evening, and we came home worn out and only a little bit tipsy.
There's plenty of people I could blame, justly or unjustly, for this daft old situation I now find myself in. My supervisors, for example, for thinking my thesis was ok when it wasn't, my examiners, for thinking my thesis wasn't ok when it was, the whole system of PhD-ing for making one set of people's judgements matter over another set of people's, myself, for not doing it properly in the first place...

However, I'm a cheery soul, and not much given to self pity and bitterness. Peter's dad says 'deal with things as they are, not as you'd like them to be', and I think that's pretty wise advice. Attitude is everything in situations like this. I might not like what they said, I might not at all like the fact that I now have to spend several more months writing something I thought would be out of my hair by now, but that's the way it is, so we'll take it from there and move forwards.

So, in the spirit of cheery acceptance, let me list the things about this I'm grateful for, rather than the things I'm annoyed about. I'm grateful that the viva itself felt like a positive chat at the time, rather than an inquisition (whatever I think when I look back on it!). I'm also very grateful I don't have to do it again. The last few months of writing were rushed, so I'm grateful for the opportunity to spend a bit more time exploring things I hadn't quite got my head round.

I'm grateful that, since there's work to be done, I've got a whole year to do it, rather than a few weeks, even if I'd rather be spending that year doing something else. I'm grateful for the support that my friends and family have shown, being positive when I've needed it, and also letting me let off steam a bit when I needed to do that. I'm grateful for another year of cheaper train travel and council tax discount...

And I'm also grateful that I was able to whizz off to Bristol on Friday and spend the weekend with some lovely friends and their children, in the welcoming chaos of the new home they've just moved into. A bit of discussion, and a lot of singing and playing and messing around and getting wet and looking at colourful things and crafty things and eating cake was just what I needed :)

Now I've come back, it's dawning on me just how little time there is left before Christmas. I've got a couple of pictures of things I've made to show you, but that can wait for a different post. Christmas decorations up after work tomorrow, I reckon, then I might start with tiny glimpses of Christmas-presents-in-progress... Can't wait!