The trials and tribulations of a life of leisure...


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Xmas Tree Socks

I've just published my first pattern as a free Ravelry download.
Really excited to see how well it does :)
Maybe in about 11 months as not much time to make them for 2011...

Here is the Pattern

Sunday, December 18, 2011


So most of you will know that I have been knitting...and knitting...and knitting this year.
A couple of sweaters, a couple of jackets, a few other bits and bobs, but mainly socks...
And I have often asked Paul "Do you want me to make you a pair?"...
And I get a non-committal response.
And last time we went to M&S he even went as far as putting a multi-pack of their socks in the shopping basket...
And then a couple of days ago, with snowy sleet on the ground, he decides he could really do with some nice thick warm socks...

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Mellow Yellow?

Eight months plus on from deciding I would attempt to make the Kaffe Fassett Outlined Star jacket I finally finished it yesterday afternoon. I did have a couple of long breaks - 4 months off before I made a concerted effort to do some work on it every day. I set myself a target of 3 rows a day to finish the back - it was taking about 40 minutes a row to work across the sleeves and back. It speeded up a little once I had divided for the neck...

350 grammes of yarn (used 4 stranded) for the star outlines
450 grammes of assorted greys for the star centres, changing the combination every three rows or so
850 grammes of assorted yellows for the background, changing every two rows
Calculated I used about 3 miles of yarn!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

WSC Failing Memories

I'm cheating a bit here because I was asked to write a short report for the SSA...

Allan and I were travelling together on the Tuesday, flying from Edinburgh via Amsterdam to Warsaw, due to arrive at 4.30 pm. We picked Allan up and arrived at Edinburgh with plenty of time to spare only to see our flight was delayed by half an hour. This eventually became an hour and a quarter meaning that we missed our onward connection. Unhappily for us they (KLM - name and shame) decided to put us on a Lufthansa 7.30 pm flight via Munich! Allan managed to get a message to Philip to let him know. We were both getting stressed out as the Munich flight started to also show a delay, and our connection there looked in jeopardy. Half an hour late, and when we landed in Munich we ran to the next gate which they had kept open, knowing we were coming! We finally arrived in Warsaw at 11 pm, but unfortunately my baggage didn't run us fast as us at Munich. After filling in a lost baggage form we arrived at the Hilton around midnight and managed to register as they were still getting the room ready.

So I sat down to game 1 just relieved to be playing. I lost the first and last matches of day 1, but won the 5 in between, which was more than I had hoped for considering the circumstances. My baggage had arrived by the time I got back to my room. I was very grateful with how many people came to say how glad they were I had made it during the day, and offering help. Beverley Calder let me use her score pad for day 1.

This turned out to be a frustrating tournament. Everytime I made a move up the leaderboard to be in contention I then had a run of losing games to drop back down the field. However, I was still in with a chance on the final day which started well. I missed my chance in the afternoon when I dismissed K(EROS) against Chris Lipe which would have won me the game and moved me up to fifth or sixth with 3 to go. I lost the next game too against Komol - a horribly frustrating game from my perspective. I bounced back to win the penultimate game which gave me a chance to finish 10th if I could win the final match against Alistair Richards. It started well, with me taking a decent lead but then a run of 4 vowelless racks killed my chances as he got back-to-back bonuses and a substantial lead that I could not overhaul.

On the whole I think I played well. I got a couple of 'gifted' games that I should have lost, most notably Nathan Benedict not knowing/blocking MONETHS on my final rack. I was also happy to make a miracle comeback against Lewis Mackay - I knew I needed to make dangerous openings and sometimes luck smiles on you.

I finished 18th, very disappointed. But happy that Scotland has achieved a fifth spot for 2013.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Lucky and Unlucky

As I was taking the dogs out at lunchtime Poncho started to get very interested in something on the side of the road opposite Margaret's. And then it flapped its enormous wings a couple of times and landed a couple of yards further in to the verge.
Poncho was still quite excited and began straining on the lead and barking.
A few more wing beats and it perched on the metal feeding trough a bit further back.
I turned the dogs around and got them home.
Grabbed my camera, hoping it was still there as I headed out the back door.
I couldn't believe my luck.
I had just got out the gates, camera switched on and was approaching the road quietly when two elderly cyclists came by. This was very unfortunate. A cheery "Hello!" from the man at the back and all hopes of a photograph evaporated as the bird flew off.
I have no idea what it was. Definitely a large bird of prey. The only colour that I could see was a dark brown, and looking up my bird book has not helped. The closest I could get was an eagle, but I don't think we get them around here...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Postman Cometh

I may get around to my WSC experience, but not at the moment.

This post is to thank MIL for my birthday present.

In Mumbai we were asked by our guide "How many people can you get on a train in India?" The same answer goes for how much sock yarn do you need? MORE!

Hours of fun going through all my favourite on-line yarn sites before deciding which one to choose - Violet Green.

And then more fun in deciding exactly which yarns to get.

And then the anticipation of it arriving in the post.

And this morning hearing the parcel land on the doormat. 400 grammes of beautiful squishy softness...

Friday, September 30, 2011

Nothing New

I have been prompted for an update on life at Todheugh.

Since my last dim and distant posting what has happened.

I played my BEST quarterfinal against Wale. It went down to the wire, with me ahead 7.5-6.5. I could afford to lose the last game but not by a lot. As it was I won it and proceeded through to the semifinal against Mikki. We have arranged for that to be played this coming Tuesday/Wednesday - now up to best of 17.

It was the NSC semifinals at the start of September, 14 games over a weekend. Allan and I went down to Leeds on the train - a relatively pain-free journey other than the train was about 20 minutes late so we had to go straight to the venue with our luggage. This also went down to the wire. I was lying in 3rd going in to the last game with Wayne snapping at my heels. We were both one game behind the leaders - Gary Oliver and Paul Allan. With me playing Gary and Wayne playing Paul I really needed Wayne to win as Gary was realistically too far ahead on spread for me to overhaul him. Wayne did the decent thing but unfortunately a high-scoring bonus from Gary near the end of our match meant that although I still won the game I was a measly 5 points of spread behind Wayne and finished 3rd. Good luck to both Gary and Wayne in the final.

Two weeks later and it was the NSC Teams final. Paul was also away that weekend but Diana and Reg had kindly agreed to look after Jen and Poncho for us. I thought I had been really organised in loading the car with their beds, food etc until I arrived and discovered that I had forgotten to put their bowls in the car - left sitting on the drive where I had dumped them prior to ensuring they had done the necessary before packing them in the car. Continued on to Allan's and once Stuart had arrived we all set off for Bradford. We had booked in to the Holiday Inn (tourney venue) for the Friday night rather than setting off at some godforsaken hour the following day for an 11 a.m. start. It is fair to say that the whole team greatly underperformed...

My study plan is behind schedule - having to actually play not only screws up those days but also the following day or two with having to catch up on the cardbox. WSC approaching way too fast...

On the non-scrabble front my sock knitting has been continuing.

A pair for MIL

and two more pairs for me.

Almost finished another pair but fear I may run out of wool a few rows short. This could be a minor disaster as the on-line store where I got the yarn cheaply no longer stocks this colour. Have spotted some on ebay so fingers crossed - dye lot should not matter with this yarn. It is especially annoying as it is the same brand as my other only long pair of socks where I was a couple of rows short, and I amended the pattern to overcome this...

Other news - new bath arrived last week.

Paul and I went up to the Edinburgh Playhouse to see Lee Evans for Paul's big birthday.

Margaret's new barn is being built. Just to prove that we are also have an Indian summer...

Oh - and I have reached my half-century!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Start All Over Again...

I finally got to the end of the 8s yesterday. Hurrah! 40161 of them. I skipped through quite a lot near the end - not too concerned about adding them to the cardbox if they required a blank to ever actually be played.

I must say that the back end is stacked with Jewish and what I would guess are Afrikaans tongue twisters.

Back to the beginning again now. Scary how I am struggling with these - I am getting them but some are taking a lot longer than I would like.

Study plan now consists of
1) Clear cardbox
2) 500 7s
3) Clear cardbox
4) 500 8s
5) Clear cardbox
6) Do a 'set' of words - this can be anything. 4s, 5s, a particular suffix...
7) Clear cardbox

How long I will keep this up I don't know.

I have my BEST quarter final against Wale Fashina fixed for next Tuesday/Wednesday.

The garden has been largely ignored lately - but I don't feel too guilty as the weather has been pretty awful on the whole.

But I can knit socks while I am studying...

Which is just as well, as I seem to have accumulated quite a lot of sock yarns in a fairly short time...

Saturday, August 06, 2011

On The Menu Tonight

Forewarned is forearmed. The 24-hour plus expected rain has started. According to metcheck 40mm today and another 10mm tomorrow.

But yesterday was lovely, and we both sprang in to garden action.

Paul cut the lawns and the verges. Then took advantage of the continued warmth and sunshine to give both the dogs a bath. They are both moulting like crazy, so a good going over with the grooming gloves once they had dried off has given the lawn a fur coat.

I got rhubarb picking. 5 pounds cleaned, chopped, bagged and now in the freezer.

And then I could get to the nettles growing at the back of them. Piled them on to the stairs to nowhere rather than struggling to get them into the rubbish sacks in situ. And then I had to clear all the nettles growing in the stairs to nowhere to get to them. And cleared all the other weeds and crud that had accumulated on the stairs. They now look better than they have ever looked before, and will get a good wash down now. Finished off with weeding the middle raised planter.

This morning, after the dog walk, out to pick yet more alpine strawberries. As long as I keep picking them they keep producing more... I have given up weighing them, but I must be getting a couple of pounds every week. And that doesn't include the ones I pick and eat as I walk down the garden. Even Jen has her own small patch that she sticks her head in and delicately pulls the ripe ones off!

And then out the back to pick the veggies for tonight's stir fry. A mix of curly kale, pak choi, onions, mangetout, peas, mangetout that are now peas, and the first of the purple dwarf beans.

And a few more sticks of rhubarb to stew up. That is probably the last of the year.

And then I spotted these...

I thought I had a rogue tomato plant amongst my potatoes.

But no, they are potato fruits!

Careful examination showed a few more. Just on the Maris Piper's.

Investigation shows that
1) They are highly poisonous - potatoes (and therefore tomatoes) are members of the deadly nightshade family.
2) They are the only way new varieties of potatoes are created as they do not come true to seed.

I do also have a few baby tomatoes coming...

Just need to make sure I don't muddle the two up.

And then on to the fruit tree bed. Now that I have cleared a large number of the rogue potatoes growing there I can get to the cordon fruit trees again. Armed with scissors and garden string I started tying in the new growth of the leaders to their canes. I finished off in the rain...

Thursday, August 04, 2011

The Fruits of my Labour

My jam pan has been earning its keep again.

Gerry and Jane came up for a few days just before Paul went to Toronto, and one evening we went out to pick the wild raspberries up the road. The next day I gave Jane a jam-making demonstration - and a small jar to keep her going for a few day's worth of toast.

I had another picking session a week or so later with Penny, and those are now in the freezer.

Won't get many more as the hedge cutters have now been along there now, severely limiting the canes to those actually in the hedge. Not a good year compared to the previous few, with me only getting about three pounds but at over £12 a kilo for "tame" ones in the shops I shouldn't complain.

Next came the rhubarb and apple chutney. Unfortunately bought cooking apples - but give it time. But my own rhubarb and onions.

A little improvisation from the recipe. Brown vinegar instead of white. And white sugar instead of brown. Should balance itself out :)

I added some ground ginger and cinnamon for flavour.

I forgot how long chutney takes compared to jam, with frequent stirring to stop it becoming a gungy mess on the bottom of the pan. There was an almost disaster when I forgot about it and accepted a scrabble match on ISC.

But it seemed to turn out okay. We will find out in about three months time when we get to taste it.

My rhubarb crowns have excelled this year - it is coming to the end of the season so I must get out there and pick a load for the freezer, if this rain ever stops.

And this year, for the first time, I have managed to pick the blackcurrants before the birds demolished them all. A couple of sessions, freezing the first lot whilst waiting for the rest to ripen. About a pound and a half - enough for my first attempt at blackcurrant jam. If I thought the raspberry set quickly this is the Usain Bolt of jam making, needing only a couple of minutes of rapid boiling.

Just over three pounds of fruity loveliness to join the two and half pounds of raspberry jam...

Sunday, July 31, 2011

What's It Mean Then?

At times it feels as if I am force-feeding myself with words. I am full up but more keep coming.

I was getting through 500 a day, but I have reduced it to 250 on more days now. This is because, unlike me, the cardbox has a limitless capacity for gobbling up what I feed it. I am giving it not only the words I miss (known but not got and never seen before in my life) but also ones that were guessable, just to reinforce them in my memory.

My hit rate varies between 70-90% on the 'new' words, and I am about 90% on the cardbox. It does seem to take 3 or more goes at getting some of them fixed in my brain. And some I totally despair of ever getting right on a consistent basis.

It is nice, however, to be doing something new rather than keep going over the same stuff . There are some really neat words that I may never get to play :)

I hit the 35000 mark yesterday...

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Month of Scrabble

So I guess some people might be interested in my scrabble progress.

After my success in the Scottish NSC heat I returned to the Dewar Centre in Perth to play in the Scottish Open a couple of weeks later. As fate would have it we were playing in the same room again - not where it normally was held. It occurred to me after day 1 that I had never lost a game in that room, 21 wins out of 21. I continued the run for the next 3 games, but unfortunately Allan beat me narrowly in the next game to overtake me on spread. We both won our penultimate game, meaning we played each other for the third time to decide the title. This game went a lot better - 3 bonuses by move 6 saw me run away with it.

The UK Masters at the start of July. Allan and I went down to Stone by train the day before. Mixed fortunes here. I was still in contention with three games to go, but when I lost to Wayne it was all over for me. I finished sixth on 9.5/16 to at least hold my rating.

Finally on to the Scotland BEST group final, best of 11 against Allan. I was never behind, with Allan catching me back up, so yet again it came down to the last final game. I was ahead on spread so started the deciding game. And raced away..

I had already decided to not go to the BMSC this year, having the NSC semis and team final in September, and now also a best of 15 quarter final against Wale Fashina to fit in in August.

I have received an added incentive to keep studying after Theresa's excellent result in the UK Open. Onwards and upwards with the 8s... 7411 to go.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Waiting For A Bus - Part 2

My sixth pair of socks were completed at the end of June. Advanced to a pair with a lace pattern, although it was with thicker sock yarn so relatively quick to do. This was the Southwestern socks pattern by Wendy D. Johnson on, using Spunky Eclectic Super Sport (100% merino DK). I just love some of the sock yarn names. This was one of the yarns that I bought from a 'raveler' from the U.S.A. I was a little disappointed in the number of breaks in the yarn, but it is lovely and soft and the colours are very pretty.

Then another spurt on the KF jacket. The fourth band of stars has now been completed. At about 40 minutes a row when I have all three sets of colours on the go. The main reason that I bought the yarns from the above lady was for three different 100% wool yellows she was selling, and they do look good.

Another break before I start on the fifth band, using the peach silk/wool/cashmere for the star outlines. Hopefully it will then get a little quicker as I go over the top, dividing it to do the left and right fronts separately.

And currently working on my seventh "pair" of socks - okay, so the colours are a foot length out but opinion is divided on whether this matters. Another leap forward. Long socks, cables and lace, and my own design using the kauri knits font by kauricat. I am thinking of improvements to this pattern now that I am knitting it. First sock done and reached the heel on sock number two. Using Noro Kureyon sock yarn. Hopefully I have enough - I kept weighing the yarn as I was doing sock number one, but on our probably not very accurate old-fashioned kitchen scales. I should find out in a few days time...

Waiting For A Bus - Part 1

Time passes and edible garden grows...

The mangetout are in full production - picked about 10 oz so far. Luckily we like them as we will be eating an awful lot of them in the coming weeks.

The peas, looking unamazingly similar, are beginning to fatten up. And still a lot of flowers on them. Just need some sun to go with the automatic watering system, aka as rain...

A few of the red onion sets I planted are now bulbing up nicely despite throwing up flower spikes while I was in Malta in May. A few of the flower spikes are now beginning to actually flower...

The onion seeds I planted are performing with variable results. I have precisely nine bulbing onion plants that have survived so far and are looking pretty pathetic.

The spring onions are faring a little better, but still nowhere big enough to attempt to harvest. I sowed another row which again have germinated quite well but that is about as much as they have done so far. They are now surrounded by the pak choi which I thinned and replanted. Having never eaten pak choi I just hope we like it if they all survive and thrive!

The pickling onions are the stars of my allium world. We haven't finished the ones I pickled last year yet, but they are very good.

The leeks are also doing okay - I have learnt from last year not to panic too much if they are not the size of pencils yet. Still plenty of time before they need to be transferred to the veggie patch to overwinter. The first-sown carrots are coming along well.

The dwarf purple beans are beginning to put on a spurt of growth and a few flowers can be seen. They were last year's stars of the veggie patch, along with the runner beans. Talking of which, I reduced the number of those that I planted from last year and restricted myself to the better of the two varieties grown last year, Red Rum. Inspection shows that a couple have made it up to about four feet up their supports, although one has decided it prefers to grow sideways into the mangetout...

I have lost two of the tomato plants that I planted at the back of the veggie patch, but I have gained one self-seeded one. So eight very healthy looking plants. I still have more than that 'surviving' in the sunroom - I think the time has come to plant them out or throw them out. Time is running out for Reg to get his polytunnel in place...

The curly kale that I never pulled out last year has come back stronger than ever. It is obviously a tough cookie, surviving the onslaught of the caterpillars last year, and then the two foot of snow over winter!

The rhubarb is gigantic. A couple of picks so far, but I really need to keep harvesting it. I just need to get to it!

The last, but definitely not least, of the crops in the veggie patch is the potatoes. Both those I planted and those that still keep coming up everywhere else. It's the same in the fruit tree bed. I have started harvesting those. This has given me access to tie the new growth of the fruit trees to their canes. At some point soon I need to get up my courage to prune the side shoots...

The salad crops in the raised planters are also cranking up after a slow start. In fact, the first sown rocket and spinach has bolted but the next sowings are coming on well. And a second sowing of radishes.

And the winter sown savoy cabbages are taking over the world...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Longest Rainy Day

I've picked a great year to resume knitting. So it is meant to be a winter pastime, but tell the weather that. Been peeing down continuously here today...

I have just finished my fifth pair of socks - and I am getting better.

These used the Skew pattern by Lana Holden via An interesting pattern but very easy, just need to concentrate on what row you are on. Certainly my best effort to date.

So I have now progressed from Jean's basic top-down pattern (one 4-ply and one DK with two colours), a toe-up disaster pair with a 'waste' odd ball of dk, an OK toe-up pair with left-over DK from a jumper and now these with basic 4-ply sock wool. I have learnt how to knit on two circulars, almost mastered kitchener stitch and Judy's magic cast on.

I have been building up a good stash of quality sock yarns via Ebay and fellow Raveler destashes (I am picking up the lingo). So far I have resisted Wollmeise, which appears to be THE yarn - but it is very difficult to get unless you pay way over the odds. It can't be that good, can it?

My KF jacket is on hold again. I had resumed, but then ran out of the blue I was using for the current row of star outlines. More should be on its way from Inner Mongolia!

I have fitted in some scrabble. The Scottish NSC heat just over a week ago, and for the second year in a row I won with a 7-0 record. Simon almost beat me, having been ahead for the whole game except for the last move after I had made a second bonus opening leaving one tile in the bag. My final bonus played in both places - phew. I also was very pleased to spot (J)OL(L)ITIES in the game against Kate when OILIEST/IOLITES did not play. The Border Reivers (Allan, Stuart and me) also won the team event to progress to the finals later in the year.

Two days later I played my round 3 BEST match against Amy. I won 5-1, but it may have been very different. Game 1 and I got off to a flier, but Amy almost caught me back up before I surged ahead again - certainly had me worried. Game 2 was close, but a couple of phonies by Amy probably cost her that game. In game 3 I got away with ENTOTO(M)Y (misremembered TENOTOMY) but Amy was 140 ahead after CRAZIES and held onto it until I hit back with two consecutive bonuses (REALIGN (74) and then hooking FlASHED on to the triple for 110) to take a 25 point lead and empty the bag. With INSVWY she should still have won if she blocked my WINY for 36 on a triple but I think she was in shock so I scraped home by 9. A scrappy game 4 that Amy won when she had a play out of MIRAGE which I couldn't score enough in blocking it. Game 5 was mine all the way - a nice spot of DAMASSI(N) near the end and Amy conceded. Game 6 also went my way, opening with QUIRKY for 64 and then a bonus on move 2, a mid game bonus and a 9x final play of FID(D)LeRS for 158 saw me score 616 to Amy's not many.

I have only got out in the garden a couple of times. One foray up the high bank to pull out nettles and cleavers - it looks a lot better. Yesterday I got in a full day - mainly spent on the last section of the LBE, removing weeds, stone and clay from the bottom couple of feet, but ending with some enjoyment. A trip to Edrom nursery on Saturday so some planting. Two unusual yellow flowering hardy impatiens, both of which I managed to split into two .And two more saxifrages, one of which I could split, the other I didn't want to risk yet. And a few other things that still need to be planted... I also relocated a patch of baby hellebores that I was pleased to spot as their parent was long dead.

Now I am back to weather forecast watching. Rain doesn't look like stopping up here for the foreseeable future...

Monday, June 06, 2011

Early To Rise

I woke up really early this morning and just couldn't get back to sleep. So I decided to get up at 5.24 according to our bedroom clock. Cleared cardbox and went out to photograph the garden as although it was cloudy there was also no wind. And then just as I was finishing the sun came out and transformed the morning. Blue skies, birds singing, glad to be alive drinking coffee on the lawn morning. I fear Paul has missed it as it is clouding over again now and the trees are starting to sway.

The current highlights in the garden are:

Where does the time all go? Nearly three weeks since my last post and what have I done?

Well, I finished knitting the jumper that I had started and taken with me to Malta, and am currently wearing it. I love it. And then I knitted a matching pair of socks with most of the left over wool. And I have almost finished knitting another jumper in super chunky Araucania limari yarn knitted on 9mm needles - super quick. It will definitely not be worn until it gets a lot colder - winter dog walking insulation. Body finished, turtle neck completed and have almost finished the first sleeve. I will get back to my KF jacket at some point but Paul made me clear away all the yarn from the sunroom when we had a house load of guests for a BBQ and to watch the Jim Clark rally that came past our house again, and I haven't got around to laying it all out again yet.

And I have been gardening.

A couple of days weeding the long bank extension that had run amok whilst I had been away, trying to get it looking respectable before the JCR. And then pulling out the weeds I could see I had missed during a break in the JCR. It was torture just looking at them.

Veggie patch is now almost back under control. Weeded. Potatoes earthed up as best I could. Dwarf beans planted out. So far nine tomato plants in the ground, following Monty Don's advice to plant them deep - so mine are about half buried. Still have fifteen that need to be rehomed... The peas and mangetout are flowering away merrily, and I have sown the remainder of the row directly into the ground. The onion sets that I planted have already bolted and no signs that they are bulbing up. Bamboo wigwam erected ready for the runner beans - had a better success rate with the last ones sown with four out of five germinating.

Raised planters also in better shape now. Lettuces thinned out and two more rows from the thinnings. More rocket, spinach, spring onions, radishes sown. First sowings of carrots and pak choi. I think I may give up on trying to grow bulb onions altogether as they obviously don't like me - I sowed three rows earlier in the year and I may be lucky to have a dozen in amongst the weeds. The pickling onions and leeks that I sowed at the same time are doing fine.

I think today may be a pottering in the garden day - or I may get the energy up to scale the high bank on yet more nettle removal.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Malta 2011

An early start on the 5th to catch the 6.55 flight to Malta, still trying to throw off the cold I had acquired the week before. Met up with Simon, Sheena and Margaret at the departure gate.The flight wasn't fully booked so Simon and I had a spare seat between us to put our books etc. on.

Was met at the airport by Geoff and Tess and, after a detour to buy a new coffee percolator, was safely deposited on their sofa by the early afternoon.

The European Open commenced the following afternoon. It did not go well for me - a combination of poor picks and not playing at my best meant that I was never in contention. Tess, on the other hand, was flying high and had won the event with games to spare. After staying late to help Amy clear the equipment away we met up with Tess's family and she treated us all to a celebration meal.

The following day was the Brousson Invitational Scrabble Tournament. Amy, John Chew, Mohammad Sulaiman, Simon, Cecil, Vince, Kevin, Mikki, myself and Tess. We each put 10 euros in the kitty and played 6 swiss rounds followed by a king-of-the-hill. Prizes agreed beforehand - 50/30/20. Amy was on fire. having beaten Simon in their BEST match in the morning, winning 6-1, Tess second 5-2 just pipping me on spread. Mikki in fourth meant a complete thrashing of the weaker sex :)

We had a lazy next day, but a quick trip to the Medina glass factory and I spent my winnings on a very pretty small vase.

Thursday was a trip over to Gozo, Geoff and the dogs (Poppet, Lily and Smudge) replacing Mikki and Mohammad from the BIST line-up. A very pleasant day - a couple of drinks overlooking the sea, then lunch and then off to the beach in the afternoon. Ice-cream, another beer, a few concensus games and a quick paddle. It was warmer than last year but I still opted to not go for a swim...

The Malta International Scrabble Open started the following afternoon.

After having only a third of the available blanks in the EO the tile gods decided to laugh at me from on high. They gave me every single one on the Friday but with such utter dross that I was only 4-3 at the end of play. Hence my report will be somewhat lacking in detail as I was beginning to lose the will to carry on...

But carry on I did.

Lucky T-shirt donned on the Saturday and with more balanced racks but fewer blanks I rallied back to 11-6 at the end of day 2. Still 3.5 wins behind Evan but now well positioned to make third or even second place. The lucky (and not too smelly) T-shirt was going to be worn again the next day!

Tess first game up on the Sunday. It did not start well but I was feeling a lot more focused and soon my luck changed. A pivotal moment was when Tess laid SHRIGhT on the board for a good score, but had doubts and picked it back up. Then RIGHTeS(T) went down, opening a 9x. She changed her mind again and finally played bRIGHTS for a much lower score, leaving me the E I required for a high scoring DISTHEN(E) rather than a face-value H(A)NDIEST. I had enough ammunition to go on to win the game.

Next was Terry Kirk, who had beaten me on day 1 after I had played a phony and then got severely punished for my mistake. A bonus in the last quarter of the game should have seen him home and dry. My rack of DEEENNS and I made the correct decision of playing D(O)EN, leaving the N as the floater rather than D(O)NE and a good pick of COT. An eternity passed waiting to see if Terry would block the N but he opted to score. The bonus went down giving me a 17 point lead with three tiles in the bag. A long hold from Terry and then he challenged. I knew I must be safe with a playout from the last three tiles. Phew!

Evan next - an opportunity to close the gap, which was now down to 2.5. And I took it - the game is on centrestar - game 20.

I was beginning to believe I was in with a chance.

Last game before lunch, Yi En Gan. I had also lost to him earlier by 7 points when he had inadvertently created a 9x spot, and I had played for and picked the A I needed for ANTID(O)RA/(MAUN)D and he blocked it again in blocking a different opening :( This game went much more smoothly for me, countering his bonuses with my own higher scoring ones and picking up a couple of 5-point penalties to boot (BOOMINGS and ARCHAIZE).

I really didn't want a lunch break. Not only that but before we resumed there was a raffle that I thought was never going to end. Like a recurring nightmare every time I thought it was over another colour and number was boomed out over the microphone. However, eventually it did come to an end.

Carmel Dodd, who had been having a very good run, next. But this time the tile gods smiled on me and I ran out an easy victory.

I was now the only person who could catch Evan, 1.5 games behind with two to play. My fate was in my own and Evan's hands.

I spent far too long trying to decide what to play when I had both blanks, and eventually just plonked something on the board as I was down to about 6 minutes and Evan plays like a rocket. Luckily my racks balanced and I could play reasonably quickly for the remainder of the game and held on to win.

What a relief to see a bonus on my opening rack - I think only my second of the whole tourney. It certainly settled my nerves and probably did the opposite for Evan. It is interesting being annotated - I was far from convinced that MONEY(I)NG was good but was concerned that I could look rather foolish if it was and I didn't play it! It did help that I had a healthy lead. Apart from that I did play reasonably well...

So I ended the trip on a high. A celebratory meal at Avenue on the Sunday night with Tess, Geoff and John, and a thankyou meal at Mamma Mia on the following night.

The diet will be starting soon...

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Do Knitters Dream In Colour?

So I made a decision to check out a local knitting group at St. Abbs last Saturday.

And then came down with a cold.

However, it didn't seem too bad in the morning so I set off with my latest partly finished sock and a pack of tissues stashed in my handbag. I had stayed up the previous night to get the heel turned so that I was at the ankle - my first attempt at toe-ups...

A morning of coffee, scones and knitting. There were two other knitters there along with our hostess and a non-knitting friend of hers over on holiday. I felt a little out of it, not knowing anyone but I guess that was inevitable. Will I keep going - time will tell, as I cannot take anything too complicated to do there.

However, they did introduce me to the website Ravelry.

And now I have wasted days on there, logging my yarns, browsing patterns, yarns, groups and forums. And drooling over other people's yarn stashes. And discovering that you can buy yarn from people who are 'de-stashing'. Am waiting to hear back from a lady in the USA on postage costs for a wish list of stuff I just can't get here and the pound is quite strong at the moment so it may be cost effective...

But I'm off to Malta tomorrow - up at some God awful time to catch a 6.55 flight from Edinburgh - so I need to get back in to scrabble mode and stop dreaming of beautiful colours and soft fluffy fibres.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Seeing Stars

Two weeks on from the planning stage and I have completed 60% of the back...

Changing yellows every two rows.

Changing greys every three rows at most.

I have used silks for the star outlines.

In theory I only have three colours per row but at times on the first star I was juggling ten balls of wool! Now I prewind the silk into balls of four strands and life is a lot easier.

And it looks pretty good on the wrong side too...

But I have now reached the point of casting on the stitches for the sleeves. Three more star repeats for each sleeve.

So I have managed to get the extra stitches on the needle - just. But I am concerned about how squidged it is. When it comes to stranding the yarn at the back when I start the stars it may well pucker so it is all systems stop.

Luckily I foresaw this may happen and have bought some 48" circular needles, but they probably won't arrive until I get back from Malta.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Long Bank Massacre

The time had come.

Loppers, secateurs and garden saw...

The start of the long bank dead shrub clearance.

Three hebes and a senecio down.

And a lot of cleared space.

A nicer day today - procrastinating over the fate of the mahonias and photinia.

Gentle weeding of the long bank extension, potted up a few self seeded heucheras and relocated a lot of baby foxgloves up to the high bank. Still got a load more for when I am ready.

I am back on to pea watch. Two weeks on from the first sowing (old seed) and only about a third of them have come up. But the mangetout (new seed) sown the following day are almost all up and thriving. So a trial now - I have sown all the peas that I saved from my own crop last year. And I have extended the trial to the runner beans and dwarf beans - pots sown with both old beans and my own saved ones. Oh the excitement of it all :)

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