Company, suit, welcome return

1. I am alone in the meadow. Except for the dog sniffing the grass. And the cat slowly baking in the sunshine. And the crickets chirping their alarm at our presence. And the dragonflies – the largest I’ve ever seen here – racing about over head. And the butterflies dancing over the thistles. And the bugs the baking cat is watching. And the woodpigeons softly cooing their five notes riff. I am not alone in the meadow.

2. I had forgotten how much the suit suits him.

3. I pick up my crochet hook for the first time in months – I can’t stand the feel of woolly yarn in my hands in the summer months – and begin a new project. I can’t believe how much I’ve missed it.

31 Beautiful Things

In honour of my 31st birthday, here are 31 beautiful things from today. (Cross posted to my main blog.)

1. I’d gone to bed before John and it’s after midnight when he comes to bed. I stir as he climbs in next to me and we have a sleepy exchange, the content of which I can’t remember now. He finishes with a whisper of “happy birthday by the way” and I remember that.

2. The next time I wake up (well, it’s not the next time I wake up because I had to get up for a wee just after dawn and Carla woke me up again an hour after that, but for poetic licence, let’s say the next time I woke up), John’s stood in front of me holding something in his hands. I move the pillow from on top of my head and grab my glasses to see what it is – two carrier bags, containing chole & puree, and barfi & other sweet treats. Yum!

3. I notice that without its dust cover, my book matches the bedsheets.

4. Lily woofs and helicopter-tails around the room when George arrives. She brings him shoes and circles his legs. Lily loves George.

5. I sit on the stately patio chair – which I call “my birthday throne” – while John and George (unsuccessfully) attempt to split the giant logs. We laugh a lot at their efforts.

6. The poultry spice – a “mineral supplement and general tonic” – smells like an old fashioned sweet shop.

7. After introducing himself, the voice on the phone says simply “I’ve got good news”. His news should save us anywhere between £6,000 and £10,000, and months of coordinating building work. Very good news!

8. Despite being washed many times, my fingers still smell of the breakfast curry.

9. One of the scaredy cats from next door half-raises his tail when he sees me. When I’m feeding him & his brothers, he likes me a lot and we have big hugs but outside of those times, he’s a shy boy. The half tail raise is progress.

10. My mum breaks a 31 year tradition by buying me a birthday card without a cat on the front of it (it had a Lily-esque springer on it instead.)

11. Not-very-garlicky mushroom, olive and fresh basil.

12. Parma ham and more not-garlicky mushrooms.

13. Tuna, chilli and capers.

14. I add a new simple living blog and a new comic to my feed reader. It’s inspiring and invigorating to find new fellow travellers – but a bit of silliness is always welcome too.

15. The cats stand at right angles to each other as they drink the leftover tuna water. From directly above, the white rims of the bowls look like halos.

16. Splashes dribbling down the side of the pan produce a burning smell but every now and then, the sweet comforting warm milk smell breaks through.

17. Lily’s brown spots are strangely soft and silky today. (#notaeuphemism)

18. I squeeze the butter muslin and the curds form into a pleasingly round sphere. When I unwrap it, the cheese will be imprinted by the fine check of the fabric.

19. It’s dark – overcast and under many layers of tree cover – but still the grass and ferns glow an unearthly green.

20. The rain is heavy and sonorous but not unpleasant.

21. “Listen,” I tell John after directing him into the bedroom. A wet roar drowns out everything else but it’s not rain on trees like we both first thought: it’s the beck, flowing more heavily than it’s done in months. Just a few minutes earlier, we’d step through it on the stepping stones left by the last flood. Next time we cross it, we’ll have to navigate it anew.

22. Amongst the lines of light and shadow, the black cat sleeps in a ball.

23. The other black cat is asleep in the dog’s bed. I find him there when I get out of the bath. He looks dramatic against the neutral cushion and pastel blanket. He blinks at me as I dance around the room.

24. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of playing hide and seek with the dog. I can see why cats do it now – hide when they know they’ve not been seen then jump out. I don’t bat with the victim with my paws though, I give her a hug instead.

25. It’s at this point – after I’ve inserted an earlier beautiful thing and had to renumber the rest about five times – that I realise it would have been easier to use an ordered list (<old>) instead of doing it manually. I don’t know if the pay off is worth it now though. Oh, and I realise this isn’t really a beautiful thing but do you know how hard it is to come up with 31 of them? Even on a rather jolly pleasant day? It’s hard! ;)

26. Now we’re flanking her on the sofa, there isn’t quite so much room to stretch out length ways so she stretches across it instead. Her head dangles over the edge, her tongue lolling, her lips flapping.

27. I savour the parma ham. It feels like it’s melting on my tongue but it isn’t. I think if I could only eat one type of meat again for the rest of my life, it would be parma ham.

28. I point John at the most recent Hyperbole and a Half comic about her dog. He laughs loudly as the dog twists its head further in an attempt at understanding.

29. We watch “The Counterfeiters” – the next in my short, impromptu German language film festival. The subtitles aren’t quite right for some reason and the mistakes remind me of child language acquisition.

30. Carla sits on my knee throughout the film. I stroke her, she purrs.

31. We look at the dark window – not at the world outside but at the rooms behind us. It makes the living room seem new again and through the doorway, the dining room looks so lovely that I can’t believe it’s ours.

10 goals for 2010 – June progress update

Half way through the year – so where was I with these things…?

1. To make a meal using only ingredients I’ve grown, raised, caught or killed myself.
I’m getting closer with this. Ok, I don’t grow my own wheat but I’ve made slow-rise bread about every other day for the month, and handchurned butter too. We’ve had homegrown salad & herbs nearly every day for lunch and for most dinners too.

We’ve got about half a dozen courgettes & lots of their flowers begging to be picked, more salad (two different types of mixed leaves) will be ready for picking early next week and some broad beans might be ready this weekend too. Aside from slug damage to a lot of the beans & peas, everything else is growing well – it’s all kinda exploded over the last few days. Going to spend a lot of time potting stuff on/out tomorrow and over the weekend.

But you know what though? Sod that veg stuff – at long long last, we got chickens! We only got them on Tuesday night but we’ve had four small-but-perfect eggs (and two not quite there but almost eggs) from them, so if I was being pedantic, I could right now have a herby courgette frittata with side salad to complete my goal – but I’d rather keep striving for it ;)

2. To travel to a place on my “top ten places to go before I die” list.
Nope, still nothing on this one. I think my first step would be to re-write my list because I think I’ve plum forgotten about half of them.

3. Finish writing my second novel.
I’ve been thinking more about another idea but really. really. should. refocus.

4. Learn how to make sausages – wet English style ones and cured ones too.
Completed in April. We’ve not made any of our own at home yet though. Maybe this goal should change to that…

4. Make some sausages at home – wet English style ones and cured ones too.
As I’m thinking of making/getting a smokehouse for my birthday, I’d be able to make some interesting dried ones!

5. Spend at least a day fishing out on the North Sea.
Another idea of something I thought of doing for my birthday. Also been looking at changing the sea focus and doing a “learn to fish” thing in the Lakes or North Yorkshire instead…

6. Finally finish learning how to drive.
Still done nothing on this and, well, tbh, I’ll losing the will to do so. I know I should just do it because sometimes it would be useful to go exciting places like Morrisons without John but I think I’d drive so rarely that it wouldn’t be worth it. I will expect a kicking from certain people for saying that ;)

7. Make a full outfit’s worth of clothing for myself – including spinning any wool used.
Oh, I had lots of fun spinning during my two days off work at the start of the month! I started on a little DIY CD-and-pencil type spindle but bought a better one mid month, as well as some more roving – and I got a bruised palm pad from spinning so much one night. Extreme yarn crafts! I still haven’t spun enough yarn to make much though.

To update on what I spoke about in my last progress report, dyeing was lots of fun. I dyed two lots of wool yarn – from cream to duck egg blue and heathery lilac – and with more of the original cream, imagine it’ll make a nice chunky blanket. I had purple dye left over from the purple-ish yarn so dunked some of my slightly-greyed white knickers in and they went a lovely plum, then I told John about it and he demanded I tie-dye some of his impractically white underpants & made a vest stripey – I had to comply ;) I definitely want to try natural dyeing some time soon.

8. Learn how to program and make a mini-game/application using Ruby.
The weather has been too nice to be sat inside on my computer. And the people who claim I’ve spent many, many hours playing Theme Hospital this month are LYING.

9. Climb a mountain or at least a jolly big hill.
Lots of walking with Lily but nothing more than the Chevin in Otley – and that looks a lot bigger than it really is.

10. Participate more in the real world – plan/run a real life green event or scheme.
I’ve taken the first baby steps with two of them – but haven’t heard anything yet from my contacts. Will poke.

3BT – new project, on anti-cry patrol, quiet time

1. She started but didn’t finish embroidering the linen table cloth. For 50p, I take on the challenge.

2. After giving Katherine hell for a week, poorly Joe is all smiles as I push him around the supermarket. It’s the exciting boingy hair and buy one get one free offers that get his interest.

3. While John watches Star Trek in the living room, I spend the evening on the sofa in the dining room reading, with a cat on my belly and a dog by my side. A wonderfully relaxing end to a mostly wonderfully relaxed week.

3BT – spectrum, mid-afternoon break, menacing

1. The purple dye transforms all the items but each ends up a different colour depending on its fabric composition and soak time. The colours range from dusky pink to mottled heather and glossy aubergine. The wool yarn, the point of the dyeing session, is a muted grape – I like muted colours so it’s perfect.

2. We drink tea and chatter. The animals pad around us before stretching out in the sun.

3. I mis-read “violent seas” as “violet seas” and when I notice the error, prefer my interpretation of the line.

3BT – I’m not the only one, misconception, night bright

1. The bus stops right outside. I ring the buzzer and tell the voice at the other end of the wire that I’m there to stroke yarn. The way she laughs makes it clear she understands. Inside, everywhere I turn, I see potential.

2. I try spinning for the first time: the wool thing, not the intense exercise thing. I once told Katherine “I want to try spinning” and she was shocked to her marrow, thinking I meant the latter. I am not the type of girl who would want to try that sort of spinning, oh no, definitely not.

3. At dusk, the lime leaved marjoram is particularly vivid against the dull paintwork.