Sunday, 26 August 2018

Paper Sun Catchers

A couple of months ago I made myself a sun catcher. It's already starting to fade, but it's still really pretty.

I liked it enough to purchase a whole book on how to make them.  Its not very big, with maybe 8 or 9 different designs, but you can make many variations just by playing with the colours.

So when I decided to leave my current role for a new job, they seemed a really pretty but quite simple thing to make for everyone as good bye gifts. 

Every single one is different although some are similar, coming from the same design but using different coloured papers. 
On the desk
On the window
Spread out on my desk most people couldn't work out what they were, their pretty secrets hidden, but held up to the light everyone seemed impressed.

I really enjoyed making them, its quite a repetitive process so you can let your mind wander a bit, but the end results are so impressive. It's hard in these photos to show quite how much they glow.

I've still got lots of kite paper left so I'll be making more of these sun catchers.  Might even make some white ones for Christmas, if there is time.  They really do brighten up a window.

Sunday, 12 August 2018

A Brand New Bathroom

The old bathroom
When we moved in to our new house last year, I knew the bathroom would need some serious work to become a room I could love.  But the utility room and garage were far more pressing and so I had to live with a bathroom that made me cringe every time I used it.

It wasn't just the fact the toilet was squashed in a corner against the heated towel rail so you'd burn your knee every time you used it, or all the little nooks and crannies that made it difficult to clean but also the fact it had no real storage space so everything was on display the whole time.

So with Christmas all done and stuck inside due to the snow, we decided the bathroom was our next project and started drawing out some plans.

First thing to do - swap the window out to one with frosted glass and proper double glazing to give us privacy and keep us warm.  'im outdoors did this one damp cold day in February.

The new window
 A great start and we carried on, ripping out everything except the shower - something we couldn't live without, while the downstairs loo made it possible to take everything else out.

But while we thought it wouldn't take too long to complete it's actually taken about 6 months.  The main problem here was the fact we still had to use the space so couldn't really do much in the evenings before the space would need a tidy before being used again. 

A new shower
We made massive improvements over the long Easter weekend when we ripped out the shower cubicle and replaced it with a bath and wall shower.  Getting the tiles up took 2 days all by themselves, even with the 2 of us working on it, never mind fitting the bath and plumbing in the shower.

While 'im outdoors has done most of the hard slog, I've tried to help out, making tea and cookies when needed and doing most of the painting along with sticking all those tiles.
It might have taken way longer than we'd hoped but its finished now and a huge improvement on what we started with!  It's now a joy to use, thanks Hubby.

Sunday, 22 July 2018

A New Garden Bench

A couple of months ago, 'im outdoors bought home some tatty bits of metal, found in a skip and no longer wanted.  It took me a moment to realise what they were - the metal ends to a park bench.  All the wood had rotted away but the metal bits were OK, just needed a coat of paint.

So I painted them a lovely dark green, and when 'im outdoors had cut and sanded all the wood I vanished it.  Then he put it all together.  I am so chuffed with it.  Sat against the side of the house it is in shade all morning and again in the evening so perfect for sitting out in this hot weather.  And Milo likes to lay under it when we're sitting on it - the family all together.  This is up-cycling at its best.

Sunday, 1 July 2018

After the Rain Jumper

I found the jumper pattern 'After the Rain' a couple of years ago.  I fell in love straight away, but I'd not knitted a jumper before (or any clothing come to that) and it is knitted in the round and to be honest looked a little scary.  But I kept looking at it and at the beginning of this year I decided, this was going to be the year I knitted a jumper.

It was a very easy pattern to follow once I'd got my head round the knitting in the round bit.  I used Stylecraft's bambino DK wool in vintage blue and sage, which is lovely and soft and a brilliant colour.
I started knitting right at the end of March and it took me about 3 months to complete.  Of course it was nothing like as hard as I'd imagined - the worst bit making sure I changed colour for the stripes at the right place.

And I'm pretty pleased with how its come out - I mean it actually looks like a jumper and it fits!  However I am thinking about making another one, but a size or so bigger, and maybe a tad longer in the body - this one is a bit snug and not as long as I like my jumpers.
I've also got some other jumper patterns that I'd like to knit now, and suddenly it doesn't seem quite so impossible.

Sunday, 24 June 2018

Happy Gotcha Day Milo

Dreaming of being Usain Bolt
 A year ago today we made our last trip to Shoreham dog trust to pick up Milo! I can't believe it's been a whole year!
Yogurt? Don't mind if I do!

We've all learnt a lot in that year, and while we've been to the vet a couple more times than I would have wanted, we've been very lucky indeed to have this chap in our lives.  I still can't believe someone decided they didn't want him.

 I don't think I realised before, quite how much character each dog has, for instance he loves to come for a run with me, and won't meet me at the door if I go for one without him!
I'm glad he came to join us, even with all his mess.

Sunday, 3 June 2018

The Loch Ness Marathon - part 2

If you've been reading this blog for a while you might know that I am running the Loch Ness Marathon in September.  Today is 16 weeks until the race, a significant number as this is when the training really begins!
And this is training like none I've done before.  It's not enough just to do some long runs on a Sunday and some speed work mid-week.  Oh no.  This is weeks with an average mileage in the 30 miles region. A good 15 miles, at least, more than I would normally run.
But not only is it good to challenge ourselves, it's for a great cause - the Salisbury District Hospital Stars Appeal. 
They helped me when I was 10 and now its time to pay them back.

If you'd like to support me you can sponsor me on my JustGiving page. 
Everyone who sponsors me will be entered to a prize draw for a hand knitted jumper/cardigan or teddy bear - winner to decide which they would like to receive.  

The jumper/cardigan design, size and colour is up to you (although I can help with suggestions).  The teddy colour is optional. Winners should allow 3 months for the jumper (unless it is very large) and a month for the bear to be made, from the time they decide on colours and designs. 
(You can see a sneak peak of my latest jumper project above)
Or you can buy a mile off me.  You can pick one or I can assign you one.  I will run this mile just for you and while I run I will channel all my good thoughts to you for that mile. (You might want to avoid miles 5, 18, 19 or 21 which are a bit hilly and might limit my ability to think good thoughts)

If you would like to buy a mile off me please leave a comment when you donate saying which mile you would like.

A massive thank you to everyone who has already sponsored me! It really helps to keep me motivated, especially when I'm running up hills!

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Basingstoke Festival 5k Race 2018

It's that time of year again where I make the trip to Basingstoke to race through their shopping center as part of their annual 5k race.
It's a good time to do it, my foot is feeling much better and I'm back to doing weekly speed sessions along with upping my mileage on my Sunday long runs as I head towards 16 week till my marathon (!!!) and the mileage gets really silly.
This wasn't a PB (personal best) hunt, rather a race to keep my streak alive.  I've run at the Festival 5k for 6 years in a row now, since it started in 2013 and I'd like to keep that up for as long as I can.
Saying that, I can't complain with a time of 26:56.  Not my best time but not my worst either.
It was also a good reminder of what it feels like to race.  The nerves as we make our way there, wary of the slow Sunday morning drivers.  The visit to the loos.  The collection of my race number.  The second visit to the loos.  The nervous energy which makes me bouncy and ready to go.  Then everyone making their way to the start line and in amongst all the noise of the other racers as they chat and bounce and stretch, I feel at peace and ready.  This is a good feeling.  Then the horn blasts and we're off.  It's waiting for your Garmin to connect to GPS and then finding your way between the people around you. The sound of footfalls on marble echoing round you. The sound of your breathing in your ears.  The sound of the breathing of someone else coming up behind you and trying to stay in front.  The sound of cheering as you reach the finish line.
I know the marathon won't be as fast, for which I'm glad, but its a good reminder of what racing feels like.  Now I must start looking towards September and all the running that is needed to get me there.

Sunday, 6 May 2018

Creating a Mobile Usability Lab

As a User Experience Designer I spend a lot of my time designing solutions to problems for websites.  So it was nice to a have a physical challenge at work for once.
I needed to run some user testing with customers to see if the new menus we have designed allow them to find what they are looking for on the website.  Testing on desktop is pretty easy but we needed to test the mobile design too.
Testing on mobile is a bit harder because even if you can record their screen you can't see where their finger is, or what they tap, as they work through the different screens.
The best way to see this is to get a camera to point down on the screen so you can see everything.
There are options you can buy, but they are very expensive and we were on a tight budget, and you can set it up so you sit the phone on a table and stand a camera over it but that's not how people really use a phone.

So I decided to make something.  My first iteration used bits and bobs off amazon.  It was actually a really good set up, but way too heavy meaning a participant wouldn't be able to use it, even for the 15 minute tests we were going to run. 
Having found an article from someone else doing something similar I started to look for plastic.  In the end the best deal was with Wickes and although it was a bit too big, it does mean I can make more as we improve the design.

I cut a piece 6cm wide and 30cm long and 'im outdoors drilled a hole in the top for me - this gave us a way to attach the webcam, and then used his heat gun to help me bend it.
The first one we made wobbled a bit as the webcam was a bit heavy, but we added another strip of plastic to strengthen it and it seems much better now.
We used it last week and it worked really well.  It helped us to see where there are some issues with our current design which means we can fix them before we set it live. 
I love how creative I get to be at work and so nearly 3 years since I quit my regular job I have to say I really have no regrets over changing roles!

Saturday, 21 April 2018

A Knitting Thimble

I am currently working on a big knitting project.  I'm very excited but due to stuff like work it is going to take me a little while to complete.  One problem I was having is this project is knitted in the round with a set of circular needles which are smaller and sharper than the one's I would normally use.  This means that my poor pointy finger is getting the brunt of it.  I started using a sticky plaster to protect my finger, which worked well, but it got soggy every time I had to wash my hands and it felt wasteful using one for just a few rounds an evening then throwing it away.  I had a look online but the best advice there was change the way you knit.  Seeing as I don't actually think there is anything wrong with how I knit I wasn't happy with this.  So I decided to make myself a knitting thimble.

I had some old chamois leather which is thin and soft, from another project years ago, so I wondered if that would do the job.  I used one of my plasters as a size guide then sewed it up.  
So now I have my very own knitting thimble which keeps my finger safe, slips on and off but allows me full movement of my finger and the sense of touch in the tip which is very important.
It moves around a little bit, so as I use it I may modify my design a bit, but as a first iteration I'm very pleased with it.  Here's to happy fingers.

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Rainbow Window Star

I saw a rainbow window star on a blog somewhere, probably All Things Paper, a while ago and wanted to have a go - it looked so pretty.  Having received some waxed kite paper for Christmas I was ready, I just needed a long rainy weekend to have a go.

I followed Helen Hiebert's instructions and came up with this wonderful creation.  Mine is a bit bigger than she suggests, but I had a big window to fill.  
Having made this one I think it would be quite easy to make a more complex star.  I'll see how this one fairs in the sun.  I've chosen a window where it will get a bit of sun, but not full sun so hopefully it will last a while. 

You can't really see it in the photos, but even on a damp rainy day it seems to glow!  Love it.

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Gladsmuir Cushion

The last month or so I've been working on a new cushion cover to add to my collection.  Most of the patterns I've managed to find so far have been knitted so I was quite excited to find a crochet pattern that wasn't just made of granny squares.

Can you see how the squares fit together?  It sort of messes with your head, doesn't it?

Once I worked out how to make the first set of squares that make the corner of a square they were really easy to make, in fact I made a bunch of them on the train to Manchester and back when I went up there for a conference recently.

The Janie Crow kit was a Christmas present from my Mum and contained the instructions and 13 balls of Jamieson's of Shetland Spindrift wool.  I'm not sure I'd want to make a jumper out of it - a bit itchy, but its perfect for a cushion.
It makes a splendid addition to my cushion collection.  I wonder how many more I need to fill up the bay window seat?