Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Race for Life

This Sunday myself and M took part in the 'Race for Life' to raise money for Cancer Research UK. It is for women only and anyone can register to take part. The course is 3 miles (5K) long and you can choose to walk jog or run. We chose to walk on this occasion. It was a beautiful day, sunny and warm but rather windy. The course was along the seafront from Bournemouth Pier to Boscombe Pier and back again. The only down side was that we were sandblasted on the way back as the strong wind whipped up the fine dry sand. There were 3,000 entrants and approximately half decided to walk. It was a great fun event with all ages taking part from small children right though to women in their 70s and 80s. M and I walked the 3 miles in 1 hour 4 minutes which I am quite pleased with. I am particularly proud of M as she has never done anything like this before and was rather nervous about the whole thing. In the end we both enjoyed it and are determined to take part next year. Between us we have raised £100. It is a cause that I feel very strongly about. We were each given a card to pin on our backs saying who we we thinking of when we were taking part. When I was writing it on Sunday morning I rather sadly realised that I had quite a long list of family members and friends who have been affected by cancer. In the end I decided to put my Father's name as it is 20 years ago on 18th September that we lost him to liver cancer.

I continue to bead as much as I can. Last year I made a beaded chatelaine as part of a group project. It involved beading around a wooden needle case, a tape measure and creating a beaded scissor case. I based my design on an Art Deco wall tile. I was sitting at the dining room table (where I do most of my beading) the other day, deep in thought and I looked down at the beaded tape measure and realised how much I enjoy using it. Underneath the beads it is a cheap plastic tape measure costing only a few pounds but now it makes me happy just to look at it, use it and to remember the experience of creating it. Joy can be found in so many everyday things, I will try to remember that the next time that I am feeling down or frustrated with my beading.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

"Mens Sana in Thingummy Doodah" (Victoria Wood)

I have always loved Victoria Wood and her hilarious take on the trials and tribulations of everyday life. One programme is a particular favourite "Mens Sana in Thingummy Doodah" where Victoria and a friend go to a health farm to get fit and lose some weight. Well yesterday the joke was on me as I did something very out of character - I joined a gym. Six months ago some routine blood tests showed that I have high cholesterol. It came as a bit of a shock as I have always been fit and healthy. I knew that my Mum and my Aunt both had high cholesterol but I did not realise that a raised level be hereditary. I am so grateful to my doctor for suggesting the test otherwise I would never have found out that I am potentially at risk of heart attack and stroke. I asked my GP not to put me on medication but to give me a chance to change my lifestyle. She agreed and gave me three months to lower it with diet and exercise alone. My diet has always been fairly healthy but I concentrated on cutting out as much saturated fat as possible, eating more whole grains and at least five portions of fruit and vegatables a day. Also, I started to take more exercise, trying to fit in at least 30 minutes of brisk walking three times a week. Being on such a strict diet was hard at first but it had an added bonus - slow but steady weight loss without having to worry about counting calories. At the end of February I had my cholesterol re-tested and was over the moon when I discovered that I had managed to get it down within a normal range. I will have my blood tested again at the end of August and if that is OK will just need annual check-ups.

Eating a low fat diet has become second nature to me now. I am an expert at reading labels in supermarkets and of keeping track of how much fat I am eating. I try not to stress out if I have a bad day or if I am eating out. I simply make sure that I am extra careful for the next few days. My Other Half has been very supportive and he is feeling the benefits too. People have been commenting on how fit and healthy he is looking. Losing weight was never an issue for him as he has always been sickeningly trim.

Joining the gym is the next step for me. I always said that I would never do such a thing but I am lucky that we have a free gym at work. Plus, I will be going with my friends M, K & P. We can support and encourage each other. I would advise everyone to have their cholesterol level tested at least once. It is impossible to tell by looking at someone whether they are at risk.

Now I am faced with another challenge. I am struggling to find things to wear as most of my clothes are now too big for me. I loath shopping, especially clothes shopping, so I have been putting it off.

Featuring more stunning photos taken by my Other Half

On the beading front things are progressing very slowly with the passion flower vase. More pictures to come very soon.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

Today I am featuring some photos taken by my Other Half. We both love thistles and he has created a 'prickle garden' at the allotment to attract bees and butterflies. He recently spotted a clump of thistles by the side of the road and took the following stunning pictures. Although they are commonly thought of as weeds they are very beautiful if you stop and look at them closely. One thing that I have learnt from my City & Guilds courses is to take a closer look at the everyday things around us. You can find beauty in the most unexpected places - paving stones, panes of glass, moss growing on a tree stump, even weeds, the list goes on.

I am feeling very guilty because I am not helping my Other Half at the allotment at the moment. Last weekend he spent Saturday afternoon and most of Sunday digging and planting. Sometimes I suspect that he secretly likes being up there by himself - enjoying the peace and quiet! My excuse is that I have been concentrating on my beadwork and at last seem to be getting somewhere with my vase project. I have been struggling with covering the base and have tried different methods without success. Finally I decided to try netting and it worked. Now I just have to tackle the fluted top. Once I have finished covering the vase it is time to make lots of passion flowers, leaves, buds and insects to attach to the netting. the flowers themselves will probably not be faithful reproductions of passion flowers but inspired by them. More photos will be posted as the object develops.

And finally when we woke up yesterday morning we discovered that the borlotti beans my Other Half had planted were starting to grow. We had a really good crop last year and ate them both fresh and dried. I am looking forward to many tasty meals in the months to come.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

A Grand Day Out

Time has got away from me this week so I have been unable to add any updates for a while. Those of you who read my blog regularly will know that things have been a bit stressful for me recently. One of the things that has helped me cope is the support of three wonderful friends. Last weekend we all went on a trip up to London for the day. I had been looking forward to it for a long time and I wasn't disappointed. First of all we went to I Knit London near Waterloo Station. I bought skein of Manos del Uruguay Silk Blend in a wonderful mix of blues and greens (my favourite colours) plus some of my favourite Brittany knitting needles. I had already knitted a scarf for my Mum in this yarn so I knew that it would be very soft and wonderful to wear next to my skin. K bought a Rowan starter kit as she has only recently learnt to knit, and M bought some sock yarn. By the time we had finished in 'I Knit London' we were all hungry and thirsty so we stopped for lunch in an Italian restaurant for a delicious lunch.

My London haul

After lunch we went to Carnaby Street as I know of a small shopping arcade called Kingly Court. It is signposted about half-way down Carnaby Street but the entrance is so narrow that you could miss it altogether. I really love it - a small oasis in the heart of London. My Dad was a Londoner, born and brought up in the East End, so I used to visit London a lot as a child but we very rarely visited the usual tourist spots such as Carnaby Street and Oxford Circus. I find them too busy and touristy for my taste. However Kingly Court is different. It is full of small independently run shops and has two great places to stop for coffee. My OH and I stumbled across it one day on our way to Liberty's. I had heard of a shop called All the Fun of the Fair and thought that the others might enjoy it. It sells yarn, haberdashery and a range of handmade gifts. It was a big hit and we all spent some money there! P bought a lovely knitting needle case and some socks for her grandson, K bought a knitting kit and M and myself bought some yarn. I also paid a visit to Buffy's Beads nearby. P also bought a beautiful vintage brooch from a shop called Fur Coat No Knickers. Then it was time for tea and cake in Camelia World Teas a few doors up from All the Fun of the Fair. I had a lovely cup of mint tea made with fresh mint leaves and served in a beautiful glass teapot. I was still too full from lunch, having stuffed my face with pasta, to eat cake but the others had slices of the biggest Victoria Sandwhich Cake I have ever seen in my life. We just had time for a quick trip to Liberty's and then it was time to go back to Victoria Coach Station and the trip back home. I am really blessed to have three such creative and supportive women as my friends. As you can image the day included much laughter and it was exactly what I needed.

The amazing Victoria Sandwich Cake

I was quite tired on Sunday and so decided to have a quiet day at home. I blocked a scarf that I had knitted for my Aunt. Part of the morning was spent crawling about on my hands and knees pinning it out. M kindly lent me her blocking wires and that made things a lot easier - I must get a set of my own. It turned out beautifully so that has inspired me to make more lace scarves.

My version of Brooke Nelson's Column of Leaves Scarf

This week is flying by - it is time for my beading class again tomorrow. I really don't know where the past four weeks has gone.