Thursday, 28 January 2016

A post about Lui

 This morning I had to say goodbye to my beloved boy Lui. We had a normal start to the morning where I got up, greeted him, gave him his breakfast and had my own. But when I went to get ready for work I could see that he was not well, so I took him to the vet where they could immediately tell that he had developed a blood clot, apparently caused by an unknown heart defect. There wasn't much to do apart from ease his suffering, so that is what I chose. I brought him home and we laid him to rest in the garden. 

I'm feeling quite devastated but I want to record some of my memories of Lui. I had him for 12 years, ever since my 24th birthday when my friend Carol asked me what I wanted for a birthday present and I replied, "a kitten!" At the time Jon and I were living in a flat where we weren't supposed to have pets but luckily my landlord was forgiving and even installed a cat door for him. The first night I decided to set some ground rules of not having the cat sleep on the bed, so we shut him in the lounge and I warned Jon not to give in even if he cried. Well, he did cry and I lasted all of ten minutes before I got up and let him into the bedroom. He was so happy as he launched himself at the side of the bed and pulled himself up on little kitten paws. He slept where he pleased after that.

 I have to say that having a warm furry presence curled up next to you is one of the best parts of cat ownership. Lui liked to get right under the covers and curl up in the crook of my elbow with his head next to mine. He could stay there all night taking up half the bed and of course I would let him... easing my arm gently out from under him if it started to go to sleep.

He always had an obsession with food. When he was young a vet told us he was overweight and to put him on a diet. We got quite strict with weighing his food and the meals always seemed quite small. Lui thought so too, and so began his obsession with getting more food out of us any way possible, usually by pestering with loud and annoying meows. He would scavenge from rubbish bins, even our neighbours had to weight the lid of their bins to keep him out! (Fortunately he stopped this habit as he got older.) He also loved to be in the kitchen while anyone was cooking and would move in swiftly on the dirty dishes as soon as we sat down to eat. (I ended up turning a blind eye to this in the end, if the dishes were soon to be washed anyway, and one of his nicknames was 'Busboy' since he got them so clean!) We relaxed the diet after a while but food remained one of his life's pleasures. I'm so glad he ate and enjoyed a normal breakfast on his last morning.

 Lui was fairly sedentary, so to help keep his weight down I'd encourage him for walks around the property. I'd often pull a dead leaf from the flax bush and pull it along for him to chase. We live on a quiet street, and sometimes in the evenings (preferably after dark) Lui and I would go for a walk along the street. He absolutely loved that. I would walk slowly along and he would follow behind at a distance, pausing to sniff fences and look up driveways and investigate under parked cars. We'd go a little way up the street, sometimes to the corner, and pause a minute or two, then turn around and head home. That was his favourite part and he would trot along close behind me, until we got almost there and then he would dash past with a "prrrrrraow" to get home first.

 His meal times were breakfast and an afternoon meal. It was supposed to be late afternoon but due to the persistent pestering, it gradually got earlier and earlier till it was about 1.30pm! After that he would find somewhere to sleep for the afternoon, and this spot would vary depending on the season, the weather and his mood. The first thing I always did on arriving home from work would be to look for him in his various possies, and say hello. He'd raise his head and let out a happy "prrraow", and I'd spend a few minutes scratching him under the chin while he purred. Then I'd go about my chores, and we'd meet up in the kitchen to cook tea.

My darling boy, I miss him so much and I don't honestly think there was a more loved cat in all the world. He was happy and content his whole life and I'm grateful I could give him that life. Lui has been a staple fixture on this blog since I started it - my mum once said that he is a very well-documented cat - and he inspired my occasional series "Weird Cat Behaviour". All my older posts about Lui are found under this tag.  As you can see in these photos he loved to sleep, and he is sleeping peacefully now. Thanks for reading. xx

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Greg crochet blanket

 Hi everyone, I'm so excited to show you my latest completed blanket. I've been crocheting for about eight years and I honestly don't know what I'd do with myself without it these days! I'm constantly driven by the need to create but I don't always have the time or energy to plan something brand new, so having a big project on the go that can be worked on in little bits is the perfect use of creative time. Last year I was working on a blanket (of my own plan), but then I came across this crochet along and just had to get in on it. A crochet along (CAL) is when little parts of a pattern are released across a period of time, usually giving you a couple of weeks to complete part A before part B is released, and so on. It seemed to me to be a good way to finish a decent size blanket in a decent amount of time! 

 This CAL was hosted by Shelley at Spincushions. The name of the pattern is Greg, and each individual square has a name - Tom, Joe, Tim, Ian and Bob. These brothers are rather handsome, I'm sure you'll agree. I decided on Shelley's suggestion to work my blanket all in one colour, which I love as it really highlights the texture in the squares. I hadn't made anything so textured before and I love it - I'll be coming back to these stitch combinations in future projects I'm sure! I also really appreciated the advice on how to construct the square so the start of each round is as invisible as possible - really good tips that I'll utilise in future.

 To join the squares I used this technique. (sc, ch 1, skip 1) I couldn't do the diagonal join because the squares are different sizes, but the actual joining stitch was super quick. I will definitely use this technique again in future.

 There is a border pattern given as part of Greg, but I decided to repeat the pattern from Bob (the largest squares). I liked the idea of repeating it and I especially like the V-stitch row! Lastly I edged it with a row of hdc in aqua yarn.

 Here is Greg in all his splendour! He has turned out a decent size for a lap blanket, and perfect for a throwing-over-the-back-of-the-couch blanket.

I had to take Greg outside for a photo shoot too. Doesn't he look lovely draped over my park bench? 

The CAL finished up before Christmas, but life got in the way and I worked on him a bit less for a few weeks. But he's finished now, and I still consider four months for a blanket to be very good time!

If you want to make a Greg of your own, you can find all the information at the Spincushions website. I have also updated my Ravelry page with details of this project.

Friday, 15 January 2016

January flowers

Welcome to January in my flower garden! I've still got a lovely selection of summer flowers which I'm pleased about, as sometimes in previous years I'm in a bit of a dull patch about now. I planted some lily bulbs last autumn and a couple of them are flowering, and the roses are still mostly doing well. The poppies are moving into the pretty seed head phase and the dahlias are starting to open.

Above, clockwise from top left: one of the new lilies (scented, and pink, double yay); lavatera; astrantia; cupcake dahlia; hollyhock; carnation; sweet pea; Christmas lilies; poppy seed head; dierama (grown from seed which I thought was pink but it's come out more red sadly); lacecap hydrangea; pelargonium. Centre: Claire Rose makes a beautiful statement in a vase.

I'm joining in with Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day where gardeners from all around the world share what is blooming in their gardens.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Snapshots from December

 Here are some of my phone snapshots from December. It's such a beautiful month for flowers and decorating, and the trick is to try and find the time to stop and appreciate it. I had the last of the bright vivid peonies to admire, and roses and sweet peas moved to take the spotlight as the peonies faded. 

 I usually try to go for a subtle look when editing my photos for Instagram... but sometimes I just can't help myself and go all out with textures and colour washes. I love the dreaminess of the rose above. My favourite editing programme is Pixlr, which has lots of options from simple to dramatic.

 Of course that little thing called Christmas began to slip in and the decorations came out. My favourite little glass baubles ornamented many an Instagram photo.

 I made several doilies for Christmas presents. In the above left photo, the doily at the bottom right is called the Passionflower Doily and you can find the pattern here. There was something wrong with my first attempt at the doily (not the one above) and I wasn't happy with how it turned out. So I began to work out another design, roughly based on a vintage doily from my collection. The first couple of attempts are in the left photo and the blue doily on the right is how it turned out. Hooray! In the meantime I attempted the Passionflower doily again and realised I hadn't made the right number of stitches to start with, which had thrown out the whole thing. So I started again and this time was very happy with the finished result.

 These pictures mostly sum up the December crafting... doilies and blanket squares. 

 My friend Caren and I had a swap in December for 12 Days of Christmas. We each sent the other 12 little gifts to be opened one each day in the 12 days leading up to Christmas. It was such fun to open a present each day and really made Christmas feel exciting. Caren sent me all sorts of delicious treats such as chocolate, fudge, organic vanilla, coffee and drinking chocolate. She also sent beautiful Christmas ornaments and the little house above... it is lit from within by a battery tea light. I do love adding a little house to my collection.

 Lui enjoyed getting into everything I was doing this month! Here he is testing the blanket squares for softness, and photobombing my carefully styled shoot! He is 12 years old now and very companionable. When he was younger he wasn't really interested in hanging out with me too much, but these days (when he isn't sleeping) he is quite happy to accompany me around the garden or through the house. I love his company.

Let's end the month with some more dreamy flowers! The Cecile Brunner roses are always lovely in a vase. Poppies don't last as long so I take close up photos of them in the garden... lovely!

Happy new year to you all. xx

Oh and just for fun, this is my #2015bestnine (ie most popular Instagram photos). It's interesting to note that it's all crochet... well, those are some of my favourite photos too!


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