Something to show

I am one of those people who likes to have something to show for their time, perhaps that’s why I like crafting so much. I’m always looking at where my time has gone and asking myself what I’ve achieved so it has irked me somewhat recently that I just don’t seem to have much to show for my efforts. I’m fairly near completion of 2 crochet blankets but they seem to be growing so so slowly and I have a number of other projects that I just haven’t got round to finishing (or in some cases starting) just yet.

Yesterday however, this little beauty turned up in the post and reminded me that although I don’t have a lot of crafty makes to show recently, I have actually been doing something constructive with my time.

Over the last 10 and a bit months I have been taking part in a ‘virtual challenge’ where I had to cover the 1084 miles between lands end and John o’groats by running/ walking/cycling. It worked out at 3 miles a day over a year and despite being behind earlier in the year I managed to finish ahead of time. I’m also in training for the Berlin marathon on 24th September (4 and a bit weeks to go…eek!), raising money for Macmillan.

I’m not sure quite why I keep putting myself through these challenges but it may have something to do with the shiny medals, I think I may be getting a little bit addicted to them!

Karen x

Paying my respects

Recently I seem to have had a bit of a writers block when it comes to writing blog posts. Usually ideas for blog posts just come to me, often ‘written’ in my head when I’m running or showering. For the last couple of months I’ve thought a lot about posting  but the content just hasn’t felt right and the words haven’t flowed. I’ve had lots of ideas but perhaps that’s the problem, too much tumbling around in my head, stopping me from actually getting on with something productive.

Unfortunately I haven’t indulged in a great deal of crafting in recent weeks as life just seems to have taken over. In the first week of the summer holidays my parents visited, bringing with them my niece and nephew, followed by a week of pottering at home and preparing for our 2 week caravanning holiday which we got back from a few days ago. I’ve got lots of pictures to show and news to share from both the visit and our holiday but I shall leave that for a later post.

The reason for me writing today is that I wanted to pay my respects to a lady who sadly passed early this morning, my Great Auntie Vera. Whilst it has been many years since I saw her, due to living so far away, I do think of her from time to time. When I was a little girl Auntie Vera used to come and visit occasionally and on our visits to Leicester we always used to pop in to see her on the way to stay at my grandparents. When she first retired she used to do a lot of sewing and I remember owning several nightdresses sewn by her. To be brutally honest I remember them to be made of a hot and itchy nylon and being a tad uncomfortable as they always used to ride up and twist around when I wriggled around in bed. They were hand made though and I remember appreciating that fact even at a young age, I was fascinated that someone could make an item of clothing themselves without having to buy it from a shop. My eldest sister went to stay with her a few times and was shown how to use the sewing machine and also how to hand sew a doll. I remember being a little jealous but I was too young at that time. As she got older, she stopped sewing and took up jigsaws as her main hobby. I remember she always had one set up on her dining room table and I relished being allowed to put in a few pieces on our visits. Sadly it has been a number of years since she did jigsaws as her physical health and mind began to deteriorate until finally giving up the fight a few days ago at the grand old age of 94. I’m sure that some of my interest in both crafting and jigsaws came from her influence and I shall remember her fondly.

R.I.P Auntie Vera X X

Just the right sort of busy…

I haven’t posted anything these last couple of weeks as we seem to have been quite busy with one thing or another here in chez Oakley. Now, often when people say they’re busy it’s that ‘running around, can’t fit everything in, tearing your hair out’ sort of busy. Thankfully we haven’t been that sort of busy, no we’ve just had lots of nice things to do and time seems to have been whizzing by.

It’s now less than 4 months until I run the Berlin marathon so I’ve been trying to step up my running and last weekend I took part in another half marathon.
It was quite warm, I didn’t really enjoy it and I was not at all happy with my time. I was so annoyed with myself that it gave me the kick up the bum that I  needed to get my head in the game and get out running more often. Today little one and I (actually me pushing her if we’re honest!) took part in a 5km charity run. It was fun as there was no pressure and even though it was blinking hot, I really enjoyed it.
I just love living here, especially in the summer as there’s always something happening somewhere in the local area. A couple of weekends ago we went to a fab air show about 30 minutes away in a place called Oerlinghausen. Little miss had a fabulous time on a quad bike (as did Daddy!) and in a peddle along aeroplane and we all loved seeing the planes, model and real performing some amazing stunts.
In the same weekend there was a festival in the park only 10 minutes walk away with live music, plenty of stuff to keep little miss entertained  and as we were walking we were able to have a cocktail…or 2.
Last weekend was taken up with the half marathon and another a festival in the park, this time put on by the fire brigade with fire engines to look around and again plenty of things for children. There is a fabulous ice cream parlour in the park so we treated ourselves…yum yum!
This Friday little miss’ kindergarten was closed for a training day and as Friday is my day off we were lucky enough to spend the day together. The weather wasn’t the best so we decided to do some baking and making but we did manage to get out for a couple of short rides around the block on her balance bike (stopping of course for the obligatory game of pooh sticks on the way). She’s getting so whizzy now on her balance bike I actually had to run to keep up with her.
Yesterday comprised of me shopping for outfits for 2 weddings we are going back to England for in July, whilst Daddy took little Miss strawberry picking and then we all went out for an early Father’s Day meal last night.  Then with today’s run and then friends coming over to play we’ve had such a busy weekend.
So you see, we have been very busy lately but just the right sort of busy having fun!
Karen x

Ceramic pot number 2!

It’s been a while coming as I’ve spent the last week in England visiting family for the half term holidays but here it is, my latest hand decorated ceramic pot, glazed and  home to yet more pens. It now lives on the desk in my craft room. Having handmade/ hand decorated things around me in my craft room really does make me happy. I’ve got so many ideas of more things I’d like to make to have in there such as bunting and crocheted garlands but as always its just finding the time to do it with so many other projects on the go. I will definitely be going back to the ceramic studio very soon though to add to my pots  as I’ve more pens and scissors that could do with bright new homes too. The possibilities are endless…

Karen x

A crafty kind of day

After a hectic week at work and beginning to feel like I was wading uphill through treacle again, Friday was just what the doctor ordered. In between shopping and washing I managed a good couple of hours in my craft room. Whilst it still doubles as a spare room and I haven’t got as much space as I’d really like, I do so love it in there, being surrounded by all my crafty things. The only problem with going in there is that I always get waylaid. I go in with a firm idea of what I’m going to do and then end up doing something else. On Friday, I went in with the intention of finishing a heart garland that I’ve started, all I need to do is sew the hearts on to ribbon but after ten minutes of looking at them and just not finding the enthusiasm, I made these cards instead…
Then I cut out some material to make another appliqué bag, I’ll post photos once it’s all attached and finished.
In the afternoon I met up with a friend back at Be-mal, the ceramic studio I told you about here. I do so love it in there. I stood in there, looking at all the different pottery items and wanting to decorate each and every one of them. I knew that would happen though so I had already had a think and made the decision to decorate another pot for my craft room for more pens to go in. After a lot of deliberation of colour and technique (I’ve got far too many creative ideas going round in this little head of mine), I finally decided on a bubble painting technique in pink and red with hearts in relief. First I had to stick on some little paper hearts, bubble paint over in the 2 colours, letting them dry in between, peel off the hearts and paint the inside of the pot. As always the colours look a lot paler than the finished result will be as the glazing and firing really lifts the colours and makes them stand out.
I was going to show you the ‘in process’ pictures and the finished pictures all at once but I just can’t wait so here are today’s pictures. I will post a pic of the finished, glazed pot when I collect it on weds…oooh I literally can’t wait!!
All in all it was a pretty good crafty day, which always makes for a happy me. 🙂
Karen x

Dotty about crafting!

Last week a friend introduced me to a  local newish ceramic studio:
and oh my I’m hooked. The shop is a beautiful little place, very clean, fairly minimalist and not really how I would have expected a studio to look. It was very tranquil with relaxation music on in the background and tastefully decorated with just some examples of decorated items and of course the bottles of paint, adding a splash of colour.
After a lot of umming and aahing (I was like a kid in a sweet shop!) I decided on decorating a pot to hold some of my pens in the craft room. Then I had the difficult decision of how to decorate it it and what colours to use. There are ideas for techniques both on instruction cards and also on predecorated pots around the shop. It was such a tricky decision but I finally decided on a simple technique for my first time. I painted the inside in a coral colour, the outside in a light turquoise and then added raised spots.
I could have decorated so many things as I had tons of ideas whirring around in my head but I limited myself to the one pot for the first time.
I had to leave the pot there to be glazed and fired in the kiln. It was so hard to leave it as I wanted to take it straight home and admire my handiwork but leave it I must. I was able to pick it up a few days later and I’m so pleased with how it turned out. 
I am so much looking forward to going back again very soon as there are so many things I want to make…the possibilities are endless!
Karen x

The halfway mark

It has been a long time coming but I have recently, finally, reached the half way mark in my granny stripe blanket! Woohoo!

Normally I struggle to think of a name for my blankets but this time I’ve actually got 3 names that I need to choose from:
The big one:
As I treated myself to the wool for the blanket on my 40th birthday last year and had aimed to have it finished by this years birthday (that time frame has however, since gone out of the window as my birthday is next week!) Also, it is going to be a pretty big blanket when finished.
Mood blanket:
As this blanket is going to be quite big and the rows long, I’ve found that I’ve really had to be in ‘the mood’ to work on it. Also, for quite a bit of time in February and March I just didn’t feel like working on a big project and needed quick crafting fixes, so this blanket was often put to the side. At the moment, I really am in ‘the mood’ to work on it and the rows seem to be flying off the hook.
Another reason for calling it the mood blanket is that I had absolutely no plan for how the blanket was going to look and the order of the colours. I literally just picked each colour a row at a time depending on what colour I felt like using at the time. I even ended up putting colours together that I normally wouldn’t and I absolutely love the overall effect.
Mojo blanket:
Now I’m getting my ‘mojo’ back I’m really enjoying working on it and the better I feel the more the blanket seems to grow. I also think that seeing those lovely colourful stripes could brighten up anyone’s day.
To celebrate reaching the halfway point, here are a few sneaky peaks.
I have my favourite sections and parts I don’t like quite so much but I just love the way it looks when laid out and looked at from a little distance. Each bit you look at is so different, some parts are pastel, one section reminds me of Easter eggs or sherbert and then a few rows further on the bright colours almost smack you in the face.
To begin with I regretted using the red and the dark green and had considered frogging it back but I’m actually glad that I didn’t. Whilst there are bits of the blanket that I like better than others, all the colours have their place and contribute to the overall effect.

Hopefully it won’t be too long until I can show you the finished product and decide on the name! Eek exciting!

Karen x

I Did It!

I’ve wanted to do the Paderborner Osterlauf (A local Easter weekend half marathon) for the last few years but always ended up going back to England to visit family over the Easter weekend. At the start of the year I decided that this was going to be the year and booked my place in the race. For the last few weeks and up until the race I was very worried about it and didn’t even know if I could do it because of recent anxiety problems. However, I’m very pleased to say that I did it! It wasn’t my best time but I’m so glad I got through it and actually partially enjoyed the experience. I’ve even gone and booked my next half marathon in 4 weeks time, when I’m hoping to shave a few minutes off my time. Bring it on!!
Karen x

A blip and a few days away

Not an awful lot of crafting has been going on here in recent weeks due to a bit of an emotional struggle. To call it a ‘blip’ is playing it down somewhat and the last thing I want to do is to make light of an issue that so many people struggle with but are often too afraid to talk about. I also don’t want to go on about it too much as things are now hopefully on the up but to not mention it doesn’t feel right either. I’ll say a bit about it and move on to happier topics. 
In a post earlier this year… I mentioned that I was struggling with the winter weather and dark days. Well, it got a bit worse than that and I’ve been having a bout of depression and anxiety. In recent months I’ve felt like I’ve been wading through treacle, dragging myself through the days in waves of panic and dread, going through the motions, with every minute feeling like an hour and every hour like a day. I’ve been forcing myself to carry on as normal but feeling like I’ve been there in body only, not really enjoying anything, just getting by. I’m writing about it here as I think it’s important to talk about these things. Too many people suffer in silence, embarrassed to tell others as they feel they should just be able to ‘get on with things’ and ‘pull themselves together.’ It’s a topic lots of people are uncomfortable to talk about for fear of upsetting others too. I’ve also worried about upsetting loved ones thinking ‘how can I possibly be feeling like this with a beautiful daughter, a loving husband, good job, lovely home and supportive family?’ The truth is, it can just happen. There doesn’t have to be any particular reason or trigger. From time to time some of us just need a little extra support to get back on track. 
Many folks struggling with depression try to keep it hidden, appearing to others as fine or even just as unsociable. I myself am very good at hiding how I’m feeling appearing normal, laughing and joking when I’m panicking inside, like a swan paddling frantically under the water. 
Well, I finally sought help and discovered that in my case there are some easily treatable medical reasons that could have exacerbated things. I’m now starting to feel much better and thankfully am beginning to enjoy life and my family once more. Things are most definitely on the up. 
I just hope that this post can help even one person to talk to somebody if you’re  struggling or to even recognise it in somebody else and reach out to them. There’s no shame in depression. 
Anyway, sorry for the deep post, now for some happier news.
Last week we went away to Oberhausen for a couple of nights. Due to the way I’d been feeling of late I was a little bit nervous about being away from home but I needn’t have worried, we had a lovely time. 
The first day we got there we went straight to the ‘Kaisergarten’ and I had a little experiment with the camera on my phone to see if I could take some decent photos of the beautiful blossom on the trees and some of the other flowers and wildlife in the park. I’m actually quite chuffed with how the photos turned out.
S had a great time whizzing along with new found confidence on her balance bike. She also loved seeing the animals in the ‘tiergarten’ but still can’t understand why animals run away from her when she growls at them in what I’m sure she thinks is an endearing manner! At least the horses stayed put for a stroke, although all they were really interested in was the food we had!
Mr O was happy to find a playground with an Archimedes screw so that he could have a bit of ‘manly’ fun, obviously under the pretence of trying to teach S a thing or 2 about science!
My favourite part of the park was the bridge modelled on a slinky and with a colourful walkway to brighten up a dreary day.
Maybe I’ll go back one day, take a note of the colours and use them as inspiration for a blanket.
Oberhausen is not somewhere I’d visit on the merit of its beauty as quite frankly apart from the lovely park, in the town centre it’s a rather ugly, grey, quite depressing kind of a place. However it does have some good tourist attractions. It is home to the largest shopping centre in Germany, near to which can be found theatres and concert venues , a sealife centre and Lego discovery world, the latter 2 being the main reasons we went.
As with any children’s tourist attractions during the school holidays, both were hideously busy but we did have fun and Scarlett really enjoyed herself. She loved seeing the Rays or ghost fishes as she calls them because of the way they seem to have a face on the white underside and move along as if stood up with arms outstretched in a ghostly fashion. I did have to laugh every time she backed away when they came too near as if they could somehow get her through the 2 inch thick glass.
 A giant turtle was also a big hit, she just couldn’t believe quite how big it was, announcing ‘Wow, Mummy, that’s a big one’ several times. If it hadn’t have been so busy I could have stayed there for some time just watching the fish swim around. There’s something very therapeutic about both water and fish.
After the Sealife centre, we took S to the ‘Build a Bear workshop’ in the CentrO shopping centre, as a reward for being nappy free in the day for a couple of weeks. It was so lovely to see her blowing on the heart before it went in and giving ‘Snuggly Bear’ his first ‘shower.’
Lego Discovery world was noisy but fun. It was maybe still a little bit old for S but she had fun nevertheless, even if she did spend most of the time riding around on a Bobby car (which we also have at home) and pretty much ignoring the Lego! Daddy had fun making a Lego car with (read for!) S and both were suitably chuffed when the second attempt made its way over both ‘hills’ on the testing circuit without stopping. I think Daddy was also the one who enjoyed the 4d cinema experience the most too (S was terrified of the Lego dragon, thinking it was coming out of the screen to get her and spent the last 5 minutes on my knee with her face buried in my neck!)
Unfortunately I did absolutely no crocheting, despite taking the granny stripe blanket with me to work on. With small child sharing the same room with us, the evenings consisted of sitting in the dark, waiting for small child to fall asleep, whilst watching a film on the iPad, with one earpiece of the headphone each and of course I did what I invariably do whilst watching a film in bed…fell asleep!
On the whole it was an enjoyable few days away, making memories with my nearest and dearest.
Karen X

Variations on a theme

As much as I do love crocheting, it can take some time to finish a project especially if I’m working on a blanket.  I’ve got 2 blankets on the go and another longish project in the pipeline but I just had the urge for a quick crafting fix. A bit of crafting where I could achieve a finished product in one evening. My go to craft for a quick fix is often cards. I find it really difficult to make cards for a particular person or occasion but sometimes I’ll just get an idea of a theme and make a few variations. This time it was flowers:

I’m really taken with these flowers, they’re just so fresh looking and perfect for Spring. These cards were the inspiration behind the flower bag in my last post Easy no-sew embellished bags. They were so simple but enjoyable to make and I’m so pleased with the outcome.  Making these cards has reminded me how much I enjoy card making, it really gives me a sense of achievement, I really must start setting aside time every now and then for an evening of card making.

What’s your go to for a quick crafty fix?

Karen x