2019 Knitting

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The Bee Queen

When I first saw this pattern it seems like an age ago (I think a couple of years now) but it was being offered for free, with a coupon. There were a couple, in a series, all bee themed. I really fell in love with them, and got the pair of them. It’s been a long time coming in terms of me actually making it because I have a hard time deciding what yarns to use. I also wanted to use some stash yarn rather than get some new skeins (because, why not? I have enough!). In the end I choose blue and red. Even as I was making I wasn’t sure if the colour combination was right. I’m not sure – what do you think?

The red is from easyknits.co.uk called ‘Command Red,’ and the blue is from The Uncommon Thread. I’m not sure on the name of it though?

Here is some of the finished photo’s.

This project wasn’t without it challenges though. The first red lace section I tried to do all knit rather than in stocking stitch like it should have been. And then there were the issues I was having around the stitch counts, which also turned out to be non issues. I had decided to increase the length of the shawl. In order to do this, the rows had to be repeated an extra six times per how many times you wished to increase it by… if that makes sense. I decided to complete an extra 3 times which gave me an extra 54 stitches. So I then had to take that into account when I was looking at overall stitch counts and for the final lace section. I think overall it worked out fine.

Usually I give shawls like this one away as I don’t typically wear this shape shawl. It’s a nice, long crescent shape, with a nice drape to it too. It needed quite an aggressive blocking to get the most out of it. I can’t remember what the wingspan was to be honest but it wraps nicely around my neck and drapes down a bit each side too.

Would I make it again? I’m not entirely sure if I’m honest. As I said I found it hard to concentrate on, and definitely made more than a few mistakes as I went through making it. But I am happy with the final result so there’s that.

My next project was really quick a simple as well. There is a story behind it that stems from work and because fundamentally I’m quite a nice person (is it egotistical to describe yourself like that?). Basically there’s a guy that comes into my place of work (I am in forecourt retailing) who has arthritis and has bent over fingers. He was saying that he had really cold hands, but when I asked where his gloved were he didn’t have any! His zimmer frame was cold also, so I knew that I needed to sort it out. I made him some simple glove that were fingerless and quite chunky (aran weight yarn held double) so that he could either fold down the top of the gloves or wear them full length. He wears them every time he comes into the garage now, and he had the biggest grin on his face when I gave them to him! It’s so heart warming to be honest, and even though I didn’t do it for the recognition from work they were really sweet about it too.

Lastly I have this crochet baby blanket. I used Caron Simply Soft which is something that I hadn’t used before, and just went and went until I ran out. It’s not a huge blanket, it will probably do for a car seat or a buggy or something. It’s not the best thing I’ve made because crochet isn’t my strongest skill but I’m happy with the outcome. I love the contrast between the colours as well. This will be sent to the USA as a gift for a friend over there.

I’ve already got my next project already on the needles, and that will be a garment for me. Here’s hoping that this goes well! What’s on your needles?

Kialtho

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Potency (Glow #1) – Aubrey Hadley

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I received an ARC version of this book from NetGalley in response for a fair and honest review. Haven’t heard of NetGalley? Check them out here: https://www.netgalley.com/

I must confess I don’t browse them very often but I received an email with the book advertised in it and I was immediately intrigued by the plot. I literally didn’t know anything about it, or the author, except the synopsis and that it was a YA novel.

Synopsis:

The Maasai Mara Sleeping Syndrome has returned after a six-month hiatus. This time, it’s popped up in New York, and it’s wiped out an entire homeless shelter.

The same night of the outbreak, Harper, a seventeen-year-old girl, stumbles across a glowing figure in the desert outskirts of her neighborhood. As her suburb goes on lockdown, Harper finds herself isolated from her friends and family, and soon begins to suspect that the events — though thousands of miles apart — may have something in common.

Harper must find her bravery and embark on a plot-twisting adventure that will have her looking for answers in unexpected places… and worlds

I’m not entirely sure why but before I picked it up I assumed two things about this book: It was going to be a quick, albeit short read a la some YA on Amazon, and that I wasn’t sure I was going to stick with it.

First of all, I didn’t think it was a quick read. There are in the region of about 60 chapters, and whilst they weren’t the longest, they were actually long enough. It took me about a month to read from beginning to end. Part of that was because I didn’t have the most of amount of time to dedicate to reading, but also because I had to take a few breaks from the book.

There are both pros and cons to this book, so I’ll delve into that in a moment, but before I do I just want to skim over the plot.

We meet Harper, a 17 (I think!) something teen just run home from being out in the desert where she saw something that didn’t make sense. It saw her back, and chased her. She is terrified, and all she wants to do is hide with her family. We have a small flashback to earlier in the day as to why she was out in the desert in the first place, and explains a little about the Maasai Mara Sleeping Syndrome, where it’s popped up and where it popped up. Harpers mother is scared of this disease, and doesn’t want her children leaving the house. Harper, being quite unrelenting, goes out anyway. So naturally, this sleeping sickness comes to town and Harper is quarantined whilst everyone either dies or escapes. Queue some escape attempts and some aliens and a whole load of sci-fi, memory loss, special abilities and something-not-quite-right with the world and we have Potency.

I liked the friends Harper made when she had been abducted by the aliens and they were educating them on their history and cause for existence, but many of the other characters, including Harpers own family didn’t really feel like established characters, so much so that when one of the reveals happens later I was sort of like ‘oh yeah she has XYZ.’

Now I’ve delayed writing about the book because I know I have to rate it. Ultimately, I really enjoyed reading about Harper, and the world that the author created. I thought there was a lot to the story, and there were good plot developments and it did keep me entertained all the way to the end. Even one of the big reveals at the end to be fair I didn’t see coming. (I am not going to spoil it if you wish to pick it up!)

I think there were two things that pulled me out of the book a bit – one of them was that I couldn’t place when the story was being told. Perhaps it was just my misinterpretation but I thought that this was taking place in the near future, but there were a lot of references to Facebook, Instagram, the internet etc in those first few chapters that I struggled to get my head around that this perhaps wasn’t the near future.

The second thing that pulled me out of the story more times than I would have liked was the way that certain things were written. The book is told from a first person perspective (I seem to gravitate towards this style just lately) but some of the ways that things are written just jarred me. It’s nothing concerning or anything like that, but it’s colloquialisms like ‘brah’ that I took me by surprise. The way the story is written is also a bit long a big long stream of consciousness – which I guess it is as it’s in first person – but also meant that I didn’t necessarily pick up on all the details as they happened. I find this a lot in first person books though, so that could be just be me.

Overall I enjoyed the story here, I would like to read more from the author. There was a lot to take in this book, and perhaps not everything was perfectly explained (as can be the case in first person stories where there’s a lot going on in the authors head). I’ll keep and eye for the next book and see where the story goes.

My next book will be the new Laini Taylor one…. but completion of this book makes 1/12 for this year. (This years reading challenge is just one book per month. Anything above that would be nice but I’m not over reaching with it this year).

Until next time folks,

Kialtho

I got a slow cooker…

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… and actually used it!

Whether or not I have mentioned it before on this blog… I need to loose weight. And a lot of it. I also just want to eat healthier with not a lot of effort put into it. Obviously, these things can be done in a number of ways, but I thought I would try a slow cooker and see what sorts of things I could make.

Let me tell you now that I hate stews and casseroles. I think the only time I eat stew is when Alex cooks it in the pressure cooker – an implement I am not likely to use any time soon. That thing scares me!

The slow cooker I got I essentially only paid £2.99 for as I had been given some Love to Shop vouchers for Christmas, so even better that it was a bargain!

I’m sure I’ve mentioned that my brother is living with me at the moment as well. We both like to cook, so we both knew that this was a good investment. The other thing that I am hoping it would do is reduce my out goings on food. It’s getting expensive to just buy food. With the left overs that I had from that first dinner I saved and put in the freezer, so what ever happens with the next lot of food it can also go in the freezer.

The downside to all of this is that my partner, Alex, doesn’t want to eat out of the slow cooker. He’s such a fussy eater he said ‘he doesn’t like the way the meat goes’. I’m not sure I understand this in it’s essence as he’ll use the pressure cooker. I also asked if he would try say BBQ ribs or something and he said he would.

I’m sure you can understand my confusion.

My plans this week are to use the cooker at least twice, once for a chilli con carne (excluding the kidney beans as my brother doesn’t like them) and for some tomato soup. I’ve been looking for some good soup recipes for a while, especially tomato as it’s my favourite so am looking forward to trying them.

Here’s a photo of the food we did the other day:

We did a Tikka Masala, a nicely spicy one – one of those ‘just right’ ones. We used chicken thighs for it – a meat I hadn’t really tried cooking with before either! It was such a success that I wonder if I can replicate it again. The recipe came from here. It was super simple to follow, and we didn’t change anything from it except that we had an accident with cayanne pepper which added a nice heat, and that we didn’t blend up the ingredients at the end.

Do you use a slow cooker? What do you make? Care to share some recipes?

2018 in review

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Over the last year or so on this blog I feel like I haven’t achieved much. This is because all the things that I like to write about have been on the back burner – in terms of finding the time to write about them, and completing them in the first place. Reading books, for instance. Howsoever I thought I would still put some time into summarising my year of books and knitting, because despite it all I did still make 20(ish?) items and read a few books.

I challenged myself to make 20 projects via Ravelry, however two of them went into the frog pond so the actual total is 18.

Here are a few stats:

I knit 9,176 metres of yarn (not including a couple of projects that I didn’t allocate yarn totals for as they were minimal).
This totals approximately 5.7 miles.
13 were gifted to other people, including various baby items.
5 were for me.
2 were frogged.

In with these totals I had 4 crochet projects, which is just one more than last year.

My favourite projects… is harder to decide this year than last year. Quite possibly a couple of the things that I made for myself – my Heliopath vest that I made in a pretty red yarn from John Lewis, or the remake of The Eldertree Shawl in bright rainbow colours against a black sparkly background.

My challenge for the new year is to also make 20 projects. I believe that this is achievable.

The book side of things was far more disappointing. I only tackled 7 books last year, and 2 of them were of the same series. Until I checked the reading challenge page on Goodreads I would have told you that this was far greater. 7 seems very small, and very embarrassing. That being said, I think my favourite book of the year was Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor – who quickly became one of my favourite authors with the ‘Daughter of Smoke and Bone’ series from a few years back.

I completed the Themis Files series by Sylvain Neuvel which was such a good read but each book took me so long to complete that… I just didn’t get much else read.

This year I aim to read 12 books. One per month would be a good aim, right? I already have my first two lined up… one an ARC from NetGalley that I didn’t expect to win, and the other the second book in the ‘Strange the Dreamer’ series. Hopefully these won’t take long.

So that was my brief look at 2018 in hobbies. 2018 also bought other challenges with it that I totally didn’t see coming. My brother coming to live with me in September was just one of them. We only have a one bedroom flat, so he’s been sleeping on the sofa ever since. For me this is the biggest thing that has impacted my hobbies as I love spending time on my own – and am completely, totally comfortable in my own company so having someone else around all the time is why my hobbies have been on the down low. Especially the reading! It is only now, almost 4 months later that I am beginning to return to my routine, including keeping the flat tidy.

I also had a big flare up of sciatica that whilst it didn’t floor me as I’ve known it to do people, it has pretty much impacted my last half of the year. As a result of this every day has had some sort of pain involved. It affects my legs more than my back (I subsequently went back to the doctors today to get the next stage of investigation on it…. slightly longer than the 6 weeks they initially told me!)

Lastly I rejoined the gym. Now, considering I officially have a bad back you have to wonder why I did this, but it was simple: exercise is supposed to help with sciatica – according to the doctor anyway – and also, that whole loosing weight thing too. So I am back at the gym, and can go swimming whenever I like with it as well. Next up will be to tackle some classes and go and find a yoga class or a pilates class or something alongside my physio.
Well, I think that’s me for now! Happy new year, and let it be a good one!

Kialtho

Only Human – Themis Files #3 – Sylvain Neuvel

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The last in the series, again took me far too long to get through – not because it wasn’t a good book but in that I struggled to find time to actually get to reading. Of course, because it is the last in the series, beware that there will probably be spoilers in this review.

Synopsis (GoodReads)

In her childhood, Rose Franklin accidentally discovered a giant metal hand buried beneath the ground outside Deadwood, South Dakota. As an adult, Dr. Rose Franklin led the team that uncovered the rest of the body parts which together form Themis: a powerful robot of mysterious alien origin. She, along with linguist Vincent, pilot Kara, and the unnamed Interviewer, protected the Earth from geopolitical conflict and alien invasion alike. Now, after nearly ten years on another world, Rose returns to find her old alliances forfeit and the planet in shambles. And she must pick up the pieces of the Earth Defense Corps as her own friends turn against each other.

This whole series was absolutely phenomenal. I enjoyed being the world that Neuvel created immensely, I loved the whole idea of the ancient aliens and them returning some few thousand years later because the planet discovered what they had left behind. Throughout the whole things there’s the air of mystery – how were they going to resolve the situations forced upon them?

I feel like there’s so much that I would like to talk about that I don’t even know where to begin!

We start this one with those that had been celebrating inside Themis having been transported across the universe to it’s home planet. There we meet the Ekt, the race responsible for the annihilation of millions of humans on Earth from the previous book. The Ekt feel guilty about what they’ve done, and basically ‘keep’ the humans on Ekt as they just don’t know what to do with them. Because of the genetics – are they part Ekt or are they completely alien? Because of this limbo for 10 years on the planet they don’t really belong anywhere, or to anyone. Victor, Eva’s dad, decides it’s time to leave. So they cause an uprising and escape the planet in Themis to return home.

Turns out home isn’t as pleasant as when they leave – millions of dead and all. Internment camps exist all over the world, racist not only against Muslims, but those with too much alien DNA blamed for the extinction of millions even though it’s really just a DNA lottery.

The world is up the creek and has no paddle. Until of course, Rose and get companions return home and try their hardest to fix it. Of course, they may be well known but they cannot fix the world. It can’t just go back to how it was.

There are things that happen in this book that it took me a moment to understand. The world has gone to the pan, there’s another robot in play and Themis is in control of the Russians. War is rife and the Americans and Russians are trying to dominate the world (nothing like a Cold War throwback).

I think the way that the resolution played out was…. interesting. Rose, with no other options left, contacts the aliens and makes them come back to threaten the human race into submission and behaviour. Like telling a parent on a naughty child. I wasn’t too sure how I felt about this as it meant that the human race didn’t really achieve anything themselves? I don’t know.

Ultimately though it was a really enjoyable read, and I haven’t read anything remotely like it before. I look forward to reading more from the author that’s for sure!

Have you read this last book? What did you think of it?

Happy reading!

Kialtho

Bournemouth Cardigan, a scarf and half a glove pair….

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As we near the end of the year I have two knitting related things to write about. They are the Bournemouth Cardigan, and a 2×2 ribbed scarf.

Earlier this year I agreed to make a cardigan for someone as they had given me something really special and handmade. I asked them a few times what they would like and they settled on a cardigan. Next came the colour – black. I tried to change his mind on it, but no, black was what was required, so black it was that I had made.

Obviously, because the cardigan is black it’s hard to take a decent photo, but here it is:

It only took about a month to make – which was great as I wasn’t sure exactly how long I was going to sink into it. I started on the arms as they make great tension checkers, and then went to the body. I was originally going to make the biggest size available, but it looked to be coming out quite big so changed my mind and went for a size smaller. Now though… I not 100 per cent convinced that it is going to fit. We shall see.

Yarn used was Hayfield Bonus Aran with wool. I’ve used this for lots of projects in the past and I thought it has held up well over the years. I would definitely use it again. I estimated that I would need 3 balls of this yarn though, each at 400g each, and used just 1 and half! So…….. now I have lots of yarn left that I’m not entirely sure I will use.

My next project was a basic 2×2 ribbed scarf. I put a 3 stitch i-cord border on each side as well. The key thing on this project was to keep it simple to show off the colours. The yarn itself was King Cole Riot in DK weight. The yarn was a present for my birthday or Christmas last year I think from my parents. It was really nice to work with and I would definitely use it again. With the remains I am thinking of making some sort of baby related clothing for my niece, although what I don’t know.

I did start another project just a few days ago but decided this morning that it wasn’t going to work. To be fair it was a disaster of my own making as I changed the needle type that I was using half way through – I think it would still not have been particularly good had I used the original needles throughout. But here’s the picture:

I wanted a new set of gloves as Alex managed to felt ones that I had before out of the same yarn. (He denies that this was something of his own doing, but he was the one that put the washing on and hadn’t checked that there was some of my woollens going in). Never mind, I will keep browsing the patterns on Ravelry to find the perfect pair of new gloves….

I was looking on the internet for the NaBlo website, and apparently that doesn’t exist anymore? Huh, I thought it was a super popular. Show’s that I am most definitely behind on the times. Perhaps I won’t complete the challenge myself as the month goes on – I still don’t have a super amount to say, not really.

I reached target on NaNo today – I fully planned a whole day of writing and getting ahead, but I *really* wanted to get some knitting done. I’m glad I did get some knitting done as I managed to finish the main body of my cardigan, which just leaves the ribbing and the pockets to do. I will sew the ends that I already have in, and seam the underarms before picking up the rib stitches I think. Delays the next part but also speeds up the ending. It’s only been 3 weeks since I started it I think, so this progress makes me happy.

As for the NaNo? I’m sort of thinking of bowing out already. Not because I can’t do it, but because my brain just isn’t focusing on it. I’m finding it hard to get any alone time at the moment, which is making it hard to focus on my writing. I’ve been trying to ‘plug in’ as such – listening to my music through my headphones, but for some reason the wireless ones are carrying an interruption if I happen to click the mouse anywhere.

I think I will give it a few more days and see how I feel about it, and see if I can continue. I have an early shift tomorrow, then a late shift so could potentially get out a decent about of words… let’s see how this goes.

In which tiredness is a thing and so is work

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I am so tired today. I don’t know why, except maybe that because I am having such vivid dreams at the moment it’s making me tired. Life itself isn’t perhaps the best as there’s a lot of ‘Real Life’ stuff to deal with, and all I crave is some alone time with my knitting needles. You guys don’t really need to know about that sort of thing though, so I thought I would talk more about writing.

I got into writing at quite a young age. When I was in my first year of secondary school that was when I first started writing. I can’t remember why, but I remember the story contained my classmates, a rich holiday that wasn’t so good and a trip to a deserted island that had all sorts of traps in, like quick sand and spike pits. I killed off a few of my classmates that way to. Especially the ones that were two faced, said they liked me when they didn’t.

Not long after my friend and I started getting into fandoms. There was this viral email that had this big list of silly items on it, and we challenged each other to get as many as possible into a fanfic. I wrote mine on the X-Files, on this piece of A4 paper that I folded up into my pencil case so that the teachers had no idea what it was. The whole thing had fallen apart by the end of the year, but it was wonderfully silly that it brings a smile to my face when I think about it.

My very first fanfiction that I put on the web was an awful Harry Potter one, crossed with all things, Devil May Cry and Charmed. So, so stupid. Yes, it still exists as I don’t see the point in taking it down – it’s part of my history, and no matter how embarrassing it is, it reminds me how far that I have journeyed in the world of writing. The very last fanfiction I wrote I still get reviews and likes for and questions about when I am going to finish it – in all honesty? Never. But you never, maybe I’ll get back there someday.

I started NaNoWriMo in 2007. I didn’t win that first year, but it was a valuable experience. I enjoyed the story that I told, and it’s one that if I ever thought that I would develop into something that was worth pushing for publishing, it would be that. 11 years is a long time to be involved in a project like this. In that time I have missed 3 attempts. 2008 – I was just too busy with university work, and holding down an actual job, 2012 – I was too busy knitting my very first jumper that I just didn’t want to stop, and 2016 – my Nanna died, I just couldn’t bring myself to write. I did make an attempt though, but my heart just wasn’t in it.

None of the stories that I’ve written, except that first as mentioned, are what I would consider any where near interesting enough to publish. I feel like all my stories are told with one voice, with nothing to particularly distinguish them. Last year I wrote my very first *ahem* romance scene. Not that it was much good mind, something like: write of experience. I’m not good with romance.

None of my NaNo’s – expect maybe one – have a completed storyline. I’ve always got to that 50,000 word mark, and just a little more, and had enough of it. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll be a NaNo Rebel and pick one of those stories up and get to the finish line of the novel rather than just the word count.

So yeah, in a brief less than 700 word blog entry that’s my writing life. Would I like to get published? Perhaps one day. When I could dedicate the time enough in the world to a solid story and actually finish one would be good.

Writing

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Today has definitely been a day of writing. I managed to catch up from my word count yesterday, going from 5,188/50,000 to 9,186/50,000. I may still even write some more before I go to bed tonight. What I love about this – a 4,000 word day – is that whilst I intended to catch up my word count, I wasn’t intending to surpass it. I know I haven’t surpassed it by much, and if I don’t write any more this evening it’s still only something 900 words to write in the morning before work that makes it like a sneeze on the page.

I’ve enjoyed my writing today. I also got some knitting in which was really important for me today. I didn’t want to spend my whole day writing, I wanted to get some of the knitting done as well. A part of me was also going to cast on the scarf that will also be a present as part of this craft exchange that I’ve done. I don’t just knit for anyone, so it’s important for me to get these projects done. In relation to the cardigan, I am nearly at the end of the main body, then after that it’s pockets and ribbing. It’s not much in the long term, so hopefully won’t take long either.

Whilst I’ve been writing today I’ve been watching my brother play Red Dead Redemption 2. It’s a great game. He got it on release day and every time he loads it up I am taken away by how visually stunning the game it. To be fair, even the first one (second, I guess if you’re being pedantic) has aged very well.

I guess that’s all for tonight? I think I definitely need to come up with some blogging topics to keep this fresh for the rest of the month…

In which little is done to help catch up

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I was really hoping to get out more words today for the NaNo train but to be perfectly honest I am exhausted. Exhausted for many reasons, most I won’t go into, but mainly because I had that late night last night, and then worked today. The shift I did today was one of those that took up the whole day, so I have lost it and had no time to write. (And then, to be fair, when I did come to write I started playing a game on my phone rather than actually writing). The game is called 2020, and is available through the Facebook Messenger games, if anyone was particularly interested.

I did however write enough to get me over the 5,000 words mark. My aim for tomorrow is to write and to try and get ahead of the graph and get in good shape for the week. My previous NaNo experience has taught me that I dislike writing everyday if it expends the time I can give to my other hobbies. So the plan should be to have a few days ahead of the graph, ahead of myself and the target so that I can have those off days and knit, read, sleep – something that isn’t the NaNo train.

I know it’s only one month of the year, but the only way I can explain it is if you were to exercise every day and not have a rest day you’ll crash sooner than if you had the rest day. I am sure that makes sense somewhere along the way.

My story itself isn’t turning out to be what I wanted/assumed it would be. This year I’ve gone into the novel with a vague plan with what was to happen, however I’m finding it hard to find my footing with it. Suddenly I have conspiracies everywhere in what was suppose to be a sort of Star Trek tribute book. Definitely got a ‘dark side of the Federation’ feel to it. I am also trying to ensure that I mention nothing Star Trek-y in it, it’s not a fanfiction, or something like that.

It was actually inspired by a dream I had a little while ago… hopefully if I can play catch up tomorrow and try and get ahead of that graph a little I can feel the story more and see what happens. I don’t know though. Before I had that dream I was planning on writing a series of short stories, so maybe if my idea doesn’t pan out I can fall back on that?

Who knows what will happen,

Happy writing!

Kialtho