Posts tagged blog
Blogging, 9 Years On

Last week marked the 9th year that I have been blogging. I started the blog as a way to keep in touch with my family in America as I was pregnant with Ellis.  With each season of my life, the blog changed and morphed - from documenting our early days in parenthood, to exploring my creativity, to being a crochet blog full of patterns and tutorials, to being a portfolio of my broad work, a promotional tool, to becoming a task on the to-do list of the thing I "should", but didn't necessarily want to, do.

Its that last evolution that I found myself in recently.  Dutifully I would write "Blog" on my daily task list, never quite making eye contact with it and hoping inspiration would strike so that it would feel less like a chore.  From the sparseness of posts the last few months, you can see how successful that was. 

There is a certain irony to the burden that blogging became - I purposefully  have never taken on sponsored content precisely because I never wanted the blog to feel like work - but it still did.  My head was filled with all of the shoulds "You should set up a regular schedule" "You should analyse your traffic to see what your most popular posts are" "You should create how-tos and tutorials to bring traffic" etc etc.  All of those things are undoubtably true, but the truth is having 100s of thousands of visitors a month is great, but it is nothing if you just can't face getting yourself to the computer to write.

And so, I took some time off.  I laid in bed and drank tea. I planned our veg garden. I baked up a storm. I played Uno with the kids. I hung out with friends. I worked 9-4 three days a week and only did work that would fit in that time. I spent endless hours watching swimming lessons. I spent A LOT of time on Instagram. I even let my domain expire, thinking I would just quietly let Slugs pass into the night.

And then yesterday, I stumbled across one of my favourite Mary Oliver quotes:

"Instructions for living a life. 
Pay attention. 
Be astonished. 
Tell about it." 
— Mary Oliver

I used to cite this as my blog mission's statement - forgotten somehow in endless redesigns. With its rediscovery, I found myself back at my desk thinking of all of the stories I want to tell and the love letters to my family I want to write. 

In the last 9 years, blogging has changed beyond anything I could have imagined.  In those early days, most of the blogs I read told stories of our families or shared our makes with other like-minded folks.  We have moved into a world of aspirational lifestyles, DIYs and curated feeds - things I love, but very different from the personal tales of life that used to fill my reader. And as much as I love to read them, I have come to recognise that those kinds are posts are not something I do particularly well or enjoy creating.

They say that comparison is the thief of joy - and for me this is so painfully true.  Not because I get wrapped up in what other people have or are doing, but because I feel like there are things I "should" be doing. I try for awhile, then get so fed up, everything stops.

I feel like I should end this post with announcing grand plans of what is to come in this space for the next 9 years, but the truth is, I have no idea. There will be posts or there won't. There will be photos. There will probably be pie and gardens and the adventures of three not so little people. And making, always making.

Theobug at 1

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My goodness.  It breaks my heart in ways I didn't know were possible when I think about the fact that Theo turns one today.  The immensity of the last year and the suddeness of his arrival in our lives.  I can not believe I cried so much over such a joyous boy. 

But there you go, whether I want it to hapen or not, he is 1. Fun and funny.  Full of bounce and energy.  His greatest loves are food and his family. I look at him some days and I feel like I don't know him at all and other times, it seems like he was always here, practicing his love of throwing, kissing and climbing for as long as I have been a mama. 

 

 

Who's Counting?

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1 cup of coffee

4 cheese scones

3 sleeps until Grammy arrives from America

4 hats to finish before then

1 year and 3 days since we moved into the house

9 days until Theo turns 1

4 ladybugs spotted in the garden today

1064 stitches knit since last night

3 sinkfulls of dishes washed today

2 loads of laundry hung on the line

2 punnets of strawberries consumed since 8am

6 hours until bedtime...then it will only be 2 sleeps.

 

Blue Sky Knitting

Oh how I love making Milo.  I love its shape. I love its possibilities.  I love how I can just make it, without having to think too hard about what I am going to do with it.

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This Milo was knit up mostly in the car over the weekend.  I suffer terribly from motion sickness, so reading or complicated crochet or knit projects are a no-no.  Milo is perfect-- after the set up, its just knitting in the round.

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It was originally intended for Theo, but I didn't have enough yarn in the right colours.  So, it was for Georgia...until it was finished...and it fits Ellis.  No, before you ask.  I did not gauge.  

 

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The colourwork clouds did not turn out as fluffy as I would have liked, but that has to do with the difference in weight between the (amazingly gorgeous) Araucania Toconoa and the thinner Cascade 220.  Hey ho.  You win some and you lose some.  Its still pretty cute, in my opinion. And it will fit someone eventually.

Full Ravelry notes here.

 

A Day Off (ish)

After the busyness of the last few weeks, I promised Kevin I would take Sunday off...

And after a few hours of work in the morning (ahem), we headed off for a walk.

One of the things that still excites me about Scotland is that you can be somewhere amazing in just a few moments in the car.  I can get to the hills in 10 minutes, the sea in an hour and the west coast in 2 hours.  In London, to drive for 2 hours would have got me to Slough (home of the Office).

So yes, a few miles up the road is Rumbling Bridge.  A beautiful gorge with waterfalls and woods and accessible river for stone-throwing.

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And importantly, plenty of opportunities for playing with my new camera. 

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Though, it wasn't all play.  Attempts were made to get a photo for a magazine article "showing me and my work"

Picnik collage

Yes. They. Are. (a lot of work, that is)

The Goings On

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Today I am:

- packing up kits for the workshop tomorrow (kits available in the etsy shop from next week)

- making up crochet samples

- tidying up the house

- ignoring the books that landed on my doorstep that I just want to sit down with and read over a cuppa

- looking for my desk.

 

Hope your weekend is lovely!

 

What Happens on the Blog, Stays on the Blog

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Generally speaking, real life acquaintances who read the blog fall into 2 camps: those who never mention it and those who do.  And those in the second camp have a tendency to mention it a lot!  I have one friend (you know who you are) who rarely lets me get out a sentence before interrupting with "oh yeah, I read that on your blog".  Conversations with these people tend to be a bit stunted and awkward because of one simple truth:

My life isn't so interesting that I have a whole world of things to talk about that I don't write about here.  In fact, some weeks I struggle to find anything to write about, let alone bring into a conversation (which is obvious when you consider that last week I blogged about getting a new vacuum cleaner).

In these instances, I have asked friends to treat me like a person with short term memory problems and just indulge my repetitious anecdotes with nods and chuckles in all the right places. 

Up until recently, this was a fine and controllable situation.  I don't have that many friends that a quiet word didn't resolve it. Even other articles didn't really cover anyone I know in real life. However, last week an article about the blog was in the local paper as well as the local free paper delivered to EVERY HOME IN THE COUNTY.

Every time I have left the house for the last 3 days, someone has mentioned it.  "Nice article in the paper.  Every little bit helps," said the woman in the post office. "I think I want an aviator hat" said my neighbour, the truckdriver, to Kevin. On the street. At the grocery story.  The postman. The mothers at the school gate. Each and every time, I wince a little bit.  Not because it isn't fantastic for business, but because there is no hiding.  My life is here in these pages, the ups and downs, the successes and failures.  

When I told my mother about the article, she responded, "You know you have to be nice to people now," not because I am not nice (ok, I am mostly nice) but because I am the face of my business, more so than ever.

And so, if you are reading this and I know you in real life, lets make a deal: I'll be nice, if you promise not to mention the blog.

first stop the Alloa Advertiser, next stop Time.

 

And its not like I hide behind an enormous hat so no one recognises me...

Wool and Sticks

Amazing, huh?  

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How just some spun woolIMG_0187.jpg

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And some sticks with a wee hook carved into them

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Can make things like these:

 

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And this

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Wool in top pictures and hat is this from Ice Yarns.  Its nice.  The very dark brown is nicer. The hat pattern is my own.

The bamboo hooks are from here.  And although they aren't my beloved Bates silvalume hooks from the US, they are mighty fine (and sharp - a rarity in hooks avilable in the UK).

The gladiator sandals pattern is from here. The wool is Alpaca Love by Stitch Nation.

Hullo, Sexy

On Saturday morning, a new man entered my life. 

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I was going to call him "Seven", but I actually know someone who joined an, erm, religious community and changed his name to Seven, so that was out. Other variations of "Canon EOS 7d"("Can" "Non" "SD") just didn't have the ring, so I am just going to call him what he is..."Sexy".  

With his AMAZING focusing features and great low light performance, Kevin had to stop me from sleeping with him.


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He is an adult sort of camera. Amazingly sensitive and adaptable, he makes my beloved 450d look an antiquated toy. I am still getting to grips with the endless customability and his slick features (not to mention his size!), but remarkable easy to shoot with all the same.

If there was one element that I had to pick as my favourie thing so far would be the low-light capability.  The photo below was shot at 8am, at the back of the house, before the sun was up.  Because it was so dark, the shots were all out of focus below iso 6400.  The photo below should be a grainy, out of focus mess.

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You want to sleep with him now too, don't you?

It came with a 15-85mm lens and can I just say--what a beauty of a lens.  I can see this becoming a replacement for my beloved 50mm f1.8.  It is macro, so it focuses very close up and its nice and versatile for around the house as its so wide.  All of the shots in this post are straight out of the camera.  

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And, being a a wide-angle lens, it means I can go back to taking more pictures of my feet.

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(Note to self: wear more appropriate footwear when taking pictures of feet.)

Needless to say: I am in love with him and as he doesn't leave wet towels on the floor or require feeding at 15 minute intervals like the other men in my life, he is currently my favourite.

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I am also over at Ball, Hank 'n' Skein talking product photography today, as well as hosting a giveaway!! (yes, I recongnise the irony in writing about having a semi-pro camera and then being interviewed about wether or not one needs a DSLR...what can I say, our relationship is complicated) 

Sitting, Waiting, Wishing

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Today will be spent:

- watching for the post and a VERY EXCITING PARCEL which may or may not arrive today, but I still must check the window every time a car drives by

- updating the aviator hat pattern to include a chunky weight version (is there anyone who would have time next week to do a quick read through? I would email you the finalised version as well as the draft)

- working my way through a very long to-do list that includes: 7 aviators, 2 Vikings, 2 lions, 2 Spartacuses (Spartacaii?), 1 owl, 1 pair of fingerless gloves, paying bills, sorting out new car, cleaning the house and baking a cake

- taking my big boy swimming, just he and I

- counting the hours until my babies are home from their first day of nursery *sob*

 

Its a good thing the rest of my list is so long, because I tell you, that last one is going to be a killer.

I Seem to Have Blinked

...because there is no way possible my baby girl is ready for a big girl bed.

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But whether I want to believe it or not, Miss Georgia Grace moved to a futon underneath her brother over the weekend. The decision was quite sudden after she found a thrifted duvet set I'd bought and declared "Mine!"

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She is so pleased with her bed and every guest has been brought to see it.  She carries around the spare pillowcase. The babies are all put to bed about 50 times a day. When a bout of late night wakefulness caused me to suggest that she go into a cot, tears and sobs followed with her broken declaration:

"No! Me! Bed!"

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She's only been in it a few days, but it is alrady littered with her most treasured things. Baby dolls, toy cars, trains and every book she can drag up the stairs and into the bed.

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And as Ellis used to sleep with a 10in omlet pan at this age, we are counting ourselves lucky.

 

Folksy

You know when everything that can possibly go wrong of a morning, does?  Well, that is currently the situation here at HGHG.  And so, I am going to turn off the computer this morning and head out into the wilds of Clackmannanshire for the eating and discussing of cake. Its a hard job, but someone has to do it.

But if you feel you can't get through your day without knowing a bit more about me (rolls eyes), check out Folksy's blog for an interview.  I am also Folksy's featured seller this week!!  Very exciting...

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Yarn 'N' Stuff

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If I had to pin down the 2 questions I get asked the most they would be:

1."How do you do it all?" and

2."What yarn do you use?"

The answer to number 1 is quite simple:: I do not do laundry or vacuum, but the answer to question number 2 takes a bit more explaining.

Finding the right yarn for the Etsy and Folksy shops has been a bit of a challenge.  I tried a number of different weights and brands of wool, but really sruggled to source options that met my standards for quality, affordability and colour. Plus, with the amount of handmade goods I produce, heavier weight yarns are a necessity to get through the orders in a timely fashion and the UK is a DK nation.

I tried a ton of yarns...ordering samples of most every commercially available chunky yarn in the UK (ok, that may be an exaggeration, but I did order the samples I was recommended on Facebook).  It seemed like everything I tried would hit one target but not others.  Cascade 220 has a great range of colours and wears well, but I was unsure of its wearability for newborns and its thinness. Wendy Merino Chunky was lovely and soft, as well as reletively affordable, but the colours are too limited and muted. The same goes for King Cole's equivilant.  Texere's chunky wool has beautiful colours and a great twist and bounce to it, but is soooo scratchy, I couldn't see many baldy babies being comfortable.

For a long time I was a bit of a yarn snob of the "I just can't work with acrylic" variety. This lasted until 2 things happened-- number 1: my money ran out and number 2: my children beat the heck out of some lovely and expensive single ply merino, resulting in a sticky felted mess that looked worse when washed. 100& acrylic still gives me the heeby-jeebies, I must admit...its the squeaking on my crochet hook that puts me off. However, I've found that with the wool content high enough, the acrylic element is hardly noticeable.  

Ultimately, I have settled on 3 main yarns for my hats: Wendy Mode Chunky and Ice Yarn's Bellone, with a bit of Paton's Shadow Tweed thrown in. All 3 are about 50%wool.

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The range of colours in Wendy Mode Chunky is great. They have really expanded this recently and offer a good range of basic colours, as well as some unexpected ones. Another bonus it that it wears really well, there is still a bit of pilling from heavy use (for  example on Es slippers), but not nearly as much as many other chunky yarns I tried.  It is a very soft yarn, being 50% merino, so I am happy to make items for the newest of babies.  Another bonus is that my local store sells the yarn for those last minute dashes.

Another recent discovery is Yarn Paradise/Ice Yarns.  They are a huge yarn distributor in Turkey who offer balls of wool at ridiculously low prices.  Given this, I find the quality good.  I have recently started using their Bellone Chunky/Bulky weight for a few items and I must say I am impressed.  It is a single ply chunky with low twist, but it holds up extremely well to wear and tear and blocks up very soft. Their postage is expensive, but it still works out at very good value and they ship faster than many UK suppliers I deal with, with yarn arriving in 2 days.

For the owl hat and the mane of the lion, I use Patons Shadow Tweed.  I love this yarn.  It is so nice to work with and each ball has such a lovely range of colours.  It is single ply as well, and again holds up remarkably well to heavy use.  I live in fear of this yarn being discontinued as I feel it really makes both of those designs, adding depth and richness to the Lion's mane and the Owl.

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Ok, geekery over.  I'm going to do something cool.  Like floss or read my new book about knitwear design.

Morning Person?

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When I was little, I was the ultimate morning person.  I used to wake up at 3am, ready to start the day.  According to my mother, I would play quietly by myself until the rest of the house joined me. I loved mornings.  My favourite thing was to watch the National Anthem on the TV as they started programming for the day. I remembering shivering in anticipation as the clock ticked closer and closer to the moment when the American flag would wave on the screen and "Oh say can you see" would play.  Wasn't I special, I would think, that I was up before everyone else...before even the TV woke up.

Some time in the last few years, mornings have become loathed and dreaded.  Waking up well before 5am to the sounds of "MUMMY! COME ON!" or having a 4 year old lean over me, breathing heavily into my face as I sleep, are not the sun salutations with which I would like to greet the day.

A lot happens in our house before 8am...breakfast and second breakfast, cartoons, races, grumping, lego, drawing, emails, getting dressed, laundry, coffee and more coffee.

Maybe if we started singing the National Anthem, I'd be more pleasant about it all...

 

Its Beginning to Look A Lot Like

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Winter is upon us. The mild excitement that had surrounded us about Christmas has reached a sort of frenzy. 

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 It was the snow that tipped us over the edge.  For a 4 year old that thinks that tomorrow is a life time away - 3 weeks until Christmas is just too far.

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The Christmas tree had been put up the night before and when this lightest of white slushy wetness stuck to the hills, that was it.  In his mind, Christmas must be here...as if the frosting on the hills was the final puzzle piece to fit into place. 

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The waiting is hard, but we fill our days with lots of Christmassy activities. On order today - salt dough ornaments and maybe popcorn strings.  Keeping him occupied until the day arrives, all the while proceeding with our own preparations: hats and photos and gifts and orders. 

And for now, we have snow. And deadlines and preparations and snow.

 

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And doesn't Richard the Behaviour Modification Elf seems very pleased with it as well...

A New Toy

The venue for my mother's wedding was dark.  As I shoot with what is essentially an entry-level DSLR, low light situations are difficult to get clear images without a ton of noise.  A flash was needed, but pictures with flashes tend to be wiped out and red-eyed messes.  So a bit of imporvisation was required and I ended up sticking a train ticket infront of my flash, I'm nothing if not resourceful.

Living where I do, I have to deal with low-light photography 98% of the time, but I often end up with very grainy photos.  While these aren't necessarily a problem on the blog, it can be a real pain when I try and get them printed. As I tried to edit the pictures from the wedding, I sought some help online and I stumbled upon a nifty little gadget that seems to bridge a gap until I can afford a speedlite (or a camera that handles low light situations better).  Enter Dr Kobre's Lightscoop.

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Its essentially a piece of plastic with a mirror on it.  It cost £15 from amazon.com and is an interesting piece of kit.  It fits over the pop up flash of a DSLR camera and bounces the flash up and out so that you don't get the over-exposed washed out photos a flash gives:

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Or the graininess of dark photos:

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But rather, an evenly lit shot:

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It comes out a bit yellow for my liking, but you can always adjust the tint in almost any free photo editing software. It does, however let you take pictures in lower light at lower ISOs reducing the noise

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(notice the dribble on Kev's head in the last one. Nice)

Here are some other comparison shots:

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For the natural light shots in this post, I had to bump the iso all the way up to 1600 to let in enough light. If I were to try and lighten them much or get them printed much bigger than the 640 pixel width I use for the blog, you would see a fair bit of grain in the shadows, even with editing them in Lightroom. When I look back at the lightscoop pictures, they seem a bit soft and slightly out of focus, but I am not sure if that is the scoop or the settings...they were all at iso 400 - f4.0 - 1/60sec, as I found the recommended settings far too bright.

I guess my verdict is that natural is best, but until I can afford an external fash or move to somewhere that doesn't rain 360 days a year, its nice not to have an alternative when it gets too dark.

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I ordered my Lightscoop through Amazon.com.  However, the lightscoop link above does send to the UK. 

To The Beach

Saturday was one of those days where nothing got done, no one could get along and then ended with tears for 3 out of 4 of us. And so, when Sunday dawned bright and warm (ish), there was just one thing to do...go the place where we are all our best.

 

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Rather than our usual haunt, we headed to the John Muir Country Park on the East coast...and it was just gorgeous.  Highly, highly recommend this stretch of beach and general area for things to do...play park, huge adventure farm thing, pick your own berry farm.  But for us, there is really only one draw:

to the beach
It never ceases to amaze me how the near constant demands that a 4 year old, 1 year old, and 4 month old place upon us when we are in the house fall almost completely silent as they play and explore the seaside.  
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Even the Theo-bug who is in the "I CAN NOT BE PUT DOWN" phase of babyhood, was happy just to lay on the (made my me 10 minutes before we left the house) picnic blanket, look up at the clouds and accept visitors as and when.

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But mostly they played and Ellis realised his lifelong dream of "building a sandcastle with a moat and a river to the sea"...surprisingly hard to accomplish with a 1 year old sister who is hell bent on destruction.
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As we left, I my mind travelled to a life where we could head to the beach every day...and of course in a place where such adventures could be met by packing less clothes, instead of more and iced tea, instead of hot cocoa.

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