Archives for posts with tag: Birmingham

Since I devised my list of 40 things to do before I’m 40, I have had a birthday. In only one day I changed from having forever to complete my tasks at a youthful 37, to feeling completely overwhelmed by the knowledge that I have less than two years before the big 4.0. When you consider there’s a couple of trips abroad to be had at the very least, that’s a lot of planning to be done.

I have managed to tick a few things off the list.

I visited a Michelin starred restaurant.

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My lovely husband took me to Simpsons for a birthday lunch. The staff there couldn’t have been more welcoming and friendly, although I confess I did feel something of a fish out of water. The food was very………..complicated. Lists and lists of ingredients. But it was all completely delicious. I’m not a food blogger and would have been far too embarrassed to start taking pictures, so you are spared that at least. We each had a different taster menu of four courses, and where possible chef prepared the plates so we both got to try a bit of everything. The highlight was the braised ox cheek. So soft! And something neither of us had tried before. After the meal the waiter bought some complimentary macaroons on a plate with ‘Happy Birthday’ piped in chocolate. I felt very special and, whilst I don’t feel the need to repeat the experience frequently, it was a lovely treat.

I have restored a piece of furniture

Specifically this little desk, picked up on Ebay for a song.

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I chose it to fit into a little nook in my living room. We have only two rooms downstairs, and no spare bedroom space, so carving out an area to work has been a bit of a challenge. This small desk is perfect, and could easily evolve into a study desk for either of the children’s rooms as they get a little older.

It’s got a mid-century vibe to it, teak and well made. The replacement handle was probably why it was so cheap, but I liked the mixy-matchy vibe. My ‘upcycling’ was relatively simple: I sanded it down, revarnished all over, and gave the drawers a lick of paint. Dulux tester pots were perfect for this.

I’m really pleased with the result.

It’s very much my style I’d say, and compliments my G-plan coffee table and wall unit. Next I’m after a sideboard to put the TV on. They are fetching some lofty prices of late, way above my bargain threshold. Its strange to think you couldn’t give them away just a few years ago!

I have learnt how to read Tarot

Well, perhaps that should say learnING, since its a slow process to become really knowledgeable. I am fortunately a quick learner, especially once I have an interest in something, there’s no stopping me! I have a decent working knowledge of each card and some basic spreads, but its more about developing one’s intuition and learning to see the cards in relation to each other as a whole.

I am enjoying it much more than I thought I would. I bought a set of The Housewives Tarot, a fabulous deck featuring illustrations that could have been designed especially for me! They are very easy to use for the beginner, with detailed images and clues. I am tempted to invest in a tradition Ryder Waite deck next, some Tarot cards are so beautiful and I can see it would be an easy collection to fall into.

The Four of Wands is one of my favourite images
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I’ve been reading for everyone who’ll let me. Friends, husband, even the lovely ladies on my pregnancy forum have been getting daily card pulls. As you would expect, some seem more successful than others but I think I am improving. I find it difficult to read for myself though; it’s limiting to talk to yourself about a card’s reading, I need people to listen. Typical extrovert behaviour.

In truth, I remain sceptical about spirits, magic and all things mystic, and recognise that cards are heavily open to interpretation. I do believe in an individual’s guiding energy though, and if we choose certain cards, there may be hidden meanings it would be helpful to discover. Tarot has been one of my best discoveries this year.

Now that I look at it, I really need to get much more of a move on if I’m to finish the list before 40. There are a number of other slow burners: I am trucking through West Wing Season 4 and the List of 32 Books That Will Change My Life, plus November is my vegetarian month, and the husband is dying to teach me poker.

If all goes well over the next few weeks, the part time working (a Serious One) will become a reality too. Watch this space!

Indulging in my favourite hobby of commuter knitting this morning, I hit a quandary.

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I’m about 50 rows into my latest project. Using a ball of cheery yellow sock yarn I bought during my Cologne trip earlier this year, I absentmindedly cast 60 stitches onto my DPNS, with the vague idea of trotting out (no pun intended) another pair of socks for my winter undies drawer. I’ve been experimenting with different stitch patterns, and made up this little triangle motif with a view to naming the finished project Cheese Toasties.

I’m always getting ahead of myself.

The leg is all but done, and now I have some decisions to make. Short row or heel flap? I think short row looks better, but heel flap FITS better. Should I carry on the pattern through the foot? It’s actually quite boring to knit, and doesn’t look as good as I hoped. A stocking stitch foot would get these finished so I can move on to the next proj……….ooooooooooh look, something shiny!

Attention deficit. Me?

And now I’m wondering, should they be socks at all?! The weather has turned cold very quickly here, and I realise I have a dearth of gloves. Naturally, the fabulous Kitten’s Bottom Mitts I knitted earlier in the year have already disappeared into the ether. This yellow yarn might not be the softest, but it would be warm, and would be a nice match for the yellow beret I finished recently. But there are other decisions. Simple wristwarmers or full on mitts? SHOULD I GUSSET?

Socks or gloves. Socks or gloves. Daddy or chips. Socks or gloves.

HELP ME.

Keeping busy on the bus

As I approach my late(ish) 30s, I feel that us bus w*nkers are a dying breed, amongst my demographic anyway.  Most are drivers, the others smart enough to score jobs close to home. Not me. I spend on average 10 hours a week riding the 45, one of the busiest and most congested routes in Birmingham.

That’s a lot of hours to sit and do nothing. Not that I subscribe to the very modern notion that we need to fill every second of our lives engaged in STUFF.  Watch any supermarket queue or outdoor coffee shop seating area and you will see everyone staring at their phones, using the time to check up on news, email, Twitter, what Facebook friends are having for lunch etc. No, I’m all for a precious bit of pure daydreaming time, tuning out and relaxing the mind. But the bus commute is not that time; even if the pungent stench of super strong marijuana does occasionally make me feel a little fuzzy.

Staring at one’s phone is definitely the number one pastime of my fellow passengers. Closely followed by reading the Metro or paperbacks, listening to music or indulging in anti-social behaviour. Which is why knitting is such a boon; it allows you to avoid eye contact and therefore unwanted confrontation. Of course, people who talk to you on the bus don’t always want to kick your face in or bring you to Jesus. Sometimes they want to know what you are knitting. I LOVE THIS. Not enough people knit, or even appreciate the craft and give it the respect it deserves (Shreddies grannies, I’m looking at you), and I am on a constant mission to spread the woolly love. I’ve had some wonderfully warm and friendly chats with people through my knitting, I value how it can bring people together.

But commuter knitting is not for the fainthearted. You have to have a thick skin at times. A while ago whilst sitting in routine traffic, two teenage girls were pointing and giggling, calling me ‘sad’ and asserting that ‘some people have far too much time on their hands’. Then they sat doing nothing for another twenty minutes as we sat stationary in the jam. Whatever.

You also have to be pretty flexible. Not in a roll-with-it, up-for-anything kind of way, but as in physically bendy. Knitting on a busy bus can take some contorting, especially if you sit on that weird seat halfway on the lower deck with the jutting wheel arch. You will generally have to keep one arm still and let the other do all the work. As a yarn thrower, I find this challenging.  I tend to go for an aisle seat and hope I don’t elbow anyone standing in the crotch. I also get a monthly shoulder massage. I figure I’d need it anyway even if I were a phone gazer: The very act of riding the bus is stressful enough. Small projects are the best for this kind of activity, and a circular needle will minimise potential injury to other passengers.

Finally, you will struggle if you have any standards of cleanliness whatsoever. I can tolerate an unusually high level of grub, I think mainly down to my constant public transport use over the years. Use a big handbag to keep your yarn in and have it on your lap. You will not, I repeat WILL NOT, want your lovingly wound ball of superfine alpaca cashmere blend falling on the filthy floor and rolling in Greggs pasty crumbs, kebab sauce and/or vomit.

My time is precious. I am currently in a deep cycle of guilt about my stupid working hours and the time I spend with my beautiful children. I can’t justify the long hours of recreational knitting I used to enjoy, and come 9pm I’m fit for bed. Commuter knitting offers me the chance to churn out beautiful scarves, socks and hats, all which serve me well on those draughty February buses.

Give it a try. I recommend it.