Norwegian sardines

When I visited (and fell in love with) the Norwegian Canning Museum in 2013 I bought a souvenir that came from the very last sardine cannery in Norway. 2015-01-04 Norwegian sardines

I’ve been torn between wanting to eat it and wanting to keep it forever…but in the early days of this new year I finally decided to open it up.

Don’t they look beautiful, so precisely arranged? 2015-01-04 Norwegian sardines

Gareth fried them up with lemon juice and capers, and they were delicious on toast. 2015-01-04 Norwegian sardines

Also, as we had friends coming round that day, we’d made cupcakes the night before, and went a bit mad with the icing and the sprinkles left over from Christmas… 2014-01-04 Cupcakes 2014-01-04 Cupcakes

A look back at 2014

I probably say this every year, but this year *really* felt like it went by in a flash.
This is the year that I turned 30, obtained permanent residency in the UK (no more visa applications, yay!), and kicked off plans for two weddings.

Work has been very busy this year (in a good way) which probably also contributed to the year flying by so quickly. But I did also manage to visit some alpacas and seals, see Scotland and England play some cricket, attend a friend’s wedding in Belfast, have a lovely summer holiday in Jersey, have a short but very useful wedding-planning-holiday in Kuala Lumpur, complete 100 days of happy photos, and attend a 1930s murder mystery party (and figure out who did it!).

At home we got another fishtank (240 litres – imagine all the yarn I could fit into that space!),
2015-02-01 240L tank

and spent the first three months of the year turning our hallway from this
2012-03-16 Kitchen door before

2012-03-16 Stairs before

into this.
2015-01-02 Kitchen door after

2015-01-02 Stairs after

2015-01-02 Hallway after

The garden was lovely in bloom again this year, particularly the lupinarium, and we did well with some other flowers like sweet pea and cornflower too.
2014-08-02 Sweetpea and cornflower

In the news it has felt like 2014 was full of tragedy: floods everywhere, more and more terrorism and killing, Ferguson, Crimea, Ebola, three heartbreaking air disasters which particularly affected my homeland. But the achievements of 2014 stand out for me as well: a spacecraft landed on a comet for the first time ever, the Scottish independence referendum happened (regardless of which side you were on, it was amazing to participate with so many others in such a significant act of democracy), Scotland also hosted a brilliant Commonwealth Games, and I think 2014 was a very good year for feminism. It has gained more ground than ever, people talk about it more, more celebrities declared themselves feminists, and I felt it was all nicely rounded off with the Nobel Peace Prize being awarded to Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi, campaigners for children’s rights and education for all – surely the starting point of awareness, humanity, and equality.

As for the people in my life, my eldest brother will be getting married in early 2015 and my other brother got engaged as well (so two sisters-in-law to look forward to!), we’ve had to say goodbye to some old friends who left Aberdeen, but new ones will also be arriving, as three of my friends are expecting little ones next year!

So a Happy New Year to you all, and here’s to a whole new year of adventures!

Feeling festive

I was on my way to the Music Hall earlier this week, and stopped to admire the pretty Christmas lights in the street and the shops.
2014-12-19 Christmas lights

2014-12-19 Christmas lights

2014-12-19 Christmas lights

2014-12-19 Christmas lights

2014-12-19 Christmas lights

And then it was time for what is becoming a wee tradition with my friend Judith: the Royal Scottish National Orchestra’s Snowman Concert.
The Snowman is screened, narrated live by a guest (this year it was Blythe Duff from Taggart), while the orchestra plays and a young soloist performs Walking in the Air. Just magical.

2014-12-19 Christmas lights
In the second half, the orchestra and RSNO choir get their Christmas outfits and accessories on (this year the second violins came back as Snow White and the seven dwarves) and they perform old favourites and brand new Christmas pieces, while the audience get to join in for some of them. The musicians are wonderful, of course, but the whole production is pulled together fantastically by the conductor, Christopher Bell, who hams it up and gets the audience to play along even more.
I absolutely love it, and highly recommend it – and if anyone wasn’t feeling festive yet they certainly would be after that!

Christmas cookies

The advent calendars are being opened, there’s a constant supply of mince pies in the house, and we’ve put up our tree – it’s officially Christmas!
This year we have our first real live tree, which I’m very excited about.
2014-12-07 Christmas tree

A couple of weekends ago I was going to make and ice gingerbread cookies, so Gareth suggested we build a house. Why not?
(That was my second reaction; my first reaction was “Whaaat? What part of ‘I’m trialling this recipe and I’ve never used royal icing so I need to practice’ did you not hear?”)

Anyway, armed with a gingerbread recipe from 500 cookies, and a template from here, we set out upon this DIY mission.
2014-11-23 Gingerbread house

The template shapes all fit onto an A4 sheet, so it wasn’t too big a job. We got all the sides together, and then the tricky bit was getting the roof on and keeping it on! This is the part on Grand Designs where Kevin McLeod stands pensively next to a crane, and wonders if we will get the roof on in time so that we’re watertight by winter and finished by Christmas, before heading off for an ad break.
After lots of holding on and a lot of cement, we finally got the roof to stay up on its own.
2014-11-23 Gingerbread house

Then the fun part of decorating, and we even had some trees to go with it.
2014-11-23 Gingerbread house

2014-11-23 Gingerbread house

The house remained standing, and we held off eating it for a week, until our friends came to visit last weekend and we all did a pretty thorough demolition job.

So all that was a practice run for this weekend, when we had my knitting group round for our annual Christmas crafting session – this year’s craft was, of course, cookie decorating.
2014-12-06 Sticka Christmas cookie decorating

We had a great time, and iced up 4 batches of cookies in all manner of pretty, creative, and cheeky designs (let’s just say there was an anatomically correct gingerbread man).
Here are my efforts,
2014-12-06 Sticka Christmas cookie decorating

featuring some brilliant work by Gareth – I do love the little footballer.
2014-12-06 Sticka Christmas cookie decorating

And this little guy made it onto the tree.
2014-12-07 Christmas tree

Wishing you all a great Christmas, and hope your holiday prep is going well too!

A crochet day

I attended a Carol Meldrum crochet class last weekend, at Wool for Ewe. It was on alternative granny squares, and learning a different way of joining up pieces into larger items like blankets.

It was a small class of 8, and we were welcomed with a lovely bowl of yarn (and cake!).
2014-10-25 Crochet class

We started off with little squares,
2014-10-25 Crochet class

then joined them up at the corners and added a chevron border. Both of these techniques were new to me, and I found the “3 treble together” decreases for the chevron very satisfying!
2014-10-25 Crochet class

Grey was a popular choice – my friend Olivia combined it with brighter blues.
2014-10-25 Crochet class

We also did a larger square, and were shown how a simple border can be used to join together various sized squares for different pattern effects. Mine is on the left, and reminds me of a watermelon. Olivia’s is on the right.
2014-10-25 Crochet class

Carol also brought along some beautiful samples to inspire us. She’s a brilliant designer, and such a patient teacher. If you get the chance to attend a Carol Meldrum class, do it!
2014-10-25 Crochet class

2014-10-25 Crochet class

I brought Usain Bolt along too, to meet his designer. He’s tried knitting, and now he’s ventured into crochet.
2014-10-25 Crochet class

I really enjoyed the day. I learned some new techniques, spent some quality crochet time with a friend, and met some interesting people – conversations included knitting and crochet topics, as well as travel, psychology experiments, trashy TV, and a bizarre game/sport/activity called Ingress.

I continued my wee sampler at home, but I ran out of the lovely peacock blue yarn. I’ve not used this yarn before, but I really liked it – very soft and nice to work with, and a lovely range of colours – I’ll probably get more for other projects: Artesano Superwash Merino (DK).
2014-10-25 Crochet class

These pieces will go nicely in my ‘swatch blanket’. This is another one of my great plans – I’ve been saving all my tension squares and pattern swatches, and someday I’ll join them all together into a blanket. I think this class has inspired me to give them all crochet borders, which will unify all the different colours and textures, and also make it easier to sew them up.

Meanwhile, I can also reveal some of the knitting I’ve been doing.

I made the Yarn Harlot’s Cutest Booties for my workmate’s new baby. Their in our work’s corporate colours, which I thought she’d find amusing. They’re really itty-bitty and cute, and not too difficult to knit up – like mini socks. And they only took about just under 25g of Regia sock yarn for the pair.
_DSC0162 - Copy

And I finally finished the shawl I’ve been knitting for my friend Lex’s 30th birthday. Quite belated, but still within the same year!
2014-10-28 Lex's shawl

It was a nice and simple pattern, which turned out really well. I also really enjoyed using this yarn: Twilley’s Freedom Sincere Organic Cotton DK.
2014-10-28 Lex's shawl

I think she likes it :)
2014-10-28 Lex's shawl