A woman of means

So I spent my Monday evening doing a bit of mending. There’s nothing glamorous about that. I had a couple of popped seams to sew up, that’s all. As I threaded my needle, the hubby asked what I was doing. His response, when I told him was:

“That’s because you’re a woman of means.”

I laughed, because it’s not something you hear very often, but then I started thinking about the idea of a woman of means. It’s vague, and general. Surely any of us can be a woman of means? We all have ‘means’, whether they be cooking, accounting or mountaineering. Each and every human being has something they are good at, that they can contribute to life. Sometimes that ‘thing’ might not be very obvious, but you just wait until you need someone to help you stretch aching limbs or suggest new music and see if their means don’t leap up and whack you in the mush.

Isn’t that fantastic? All of us, women and men, adults and children, every human being has a purpose and a talent. That’s all I wanted to say, really, but if that doesn’t make you feel all warm and fuzzy on a Friday morning I don’t know what will.

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Is that me? Really?

Body image is a funny thing, isn’t it? We all see our bodies in such different ways and, sadly, most of the time it’s negative. Whether we are strong and lean, soft and dumpy or super duper thin, there’s always something that we aren’t happy with. I’m no exception to this and I’ve struggled, in my own way, with how I feel about my body and my relationship with food since I was a teenager. There’s nothing special or unique about that, and it’s not what I want to talk about here. Instead I want to focus on something that has helped me be proud of my body, and see it more positively. What is that thing?

Ballet.

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(My feet. Note: my ballet shoes are no longer this pristine. They are now a lot more grey and scuffed. Yum.)

You wouldn’t think that ballet could help a size 14/16, 5’8″ woman with size 8 feet embrace her body. Ballet conjures up images of short, slim, muscular ladies who all have to look identical on stage, right? But when we think like that, we forget about the things they can do with their bodies. The precision, the elegance and the strength they have is staggering. Learning a mere fraction of what they do has shown me what my own body can do, and whilst it is nowhere near what they are capable of, it is still something to be proud of.

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(Obviously, this is not me, this is a ballerina from the Canadian National Ballet. Image copyright Sian Richards, courtesy of Pointe magazine.)

Dancing has been a part of my life since I was 3 years old, but this January I started ballet again after a break of almost 9 years. Just standing in the right positions felt alien to my body, and for days after my first lesson I was a stiff, achey mess. But do you know what? It felt great. I had used my body and pushed it to its limits and I could feel it recovering. I felt alive. In the months since I have rediscovered my love of ballet, pushed myself harder and every week I learn something new.

But the best thing that has come out of it is this: I can look in the mirror and watch myself dance and for a split second I think “Is that me? Really?” Because I think I look good. Yes, my tummy could be firmer and I could do without the back boobs or the bingo wings but I am becoming strong and graceful and my body can do things I never thought myself capable of. When I walk out of my ballet classes, tired and hungry and drenched in sweat, I walk tall and my body image issues are gone, even if just for that evening. I have lost weight since I started the classes, but my new mindset isn’t because of that. This mindset is an appreciation of what I have, not what is gone.

Isn’t that a wonderful thing, something to be celebrated? If we could all just find something that we find invigorating and focuses us on what we are capable of we might be able to accept ourselves better. Because I might be the heaviest person in my class, but when I manage to sail around in a perfect double pirouette I feel as light as air and I wish it was possible to high five my own legs without looking like a nutter.

So go forth beautiful people and find the thing that makes you want to high five yourself. Try ballet, try martial arts, go for a swim. Whatever it is, I promise it will help. You can thank me later.

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Overly Excited Lizzie!

Just a super quick post this morning before I jet off on my holiday tonight.

Last night I got super exciting news.

Last night Hello Giggles featured an article I wrote.

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Last night my phone kept buzzing with COMPLETE STRANGERS favourite-ing my tweet of the Hello Giggles article.

I’m overly excited.

I think you should take a look.

That is all :-)

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FO Round Up!

Well hi there, readerinos!

How are you guys doing? It’s been manic around these parts recently. Birthdays, friends visiting and crazy work deadlines have taken up all of my energy. Hence the radio silence from me in Blogland. Many apologies for that my lovelies. I’d like to say I’m going to be back on it…but…I’m going on holiday on Friday so boo-yah! Sun, sea and sand here I come and my god do I need it.

Anyway, just to keep you topped up with my special brand of entertainment, I thought I’d fill you in on a few of my FOs before I saunter off into the sunset.

Remember those gifts I was knitting? The crafty things I couldn’t tell you about? They’re done! All done, dusted and happily living with their recipients. So here’s what I was stitching…

First off, Steven got some more woollen wonders.

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(Snuggly mitts. Photo by me.)

These are the Purl Bee’s cuffed hand warmers. When we visited Purl Soho last May, I bought the yarn to make myself a pair and Steven chose these colours for his own set. They’re actually a charcoal and pale grey combo but the photo makes them look quite purple. I think it’s the background I used. Anyway, he might have to do a bit of mending already because I’m such a bad sewer and the top, paler part seems to be coming away already. Oops…

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(Cosy cowl. Photo by me.)

This is a slightly shorter version of the GAP-tastic cowl by Jan Geigley. I hunted high and low for the right yarn to make this cowl. I knew that Steven found wool itchy, so that was out. I also knew that I needed something chunky in a grey that would co-ordinate well with the mitts and that part proved to be damn tricky. In the end KnitPicks Swish saved my bacon. 100% superwash Merino wool with the squashiest ply I’ve ever experienced. I found just two skeins in the perfect colour at Great British Yarns and snapped them up. There wasn’t enough to make the original epic-sized cowl, but it’s long enough to wrap around Steven’s neck twice and is snuggly cosy so I’m happy!

He requested both of these (such a well trained boy) and I was more than happy to oblige. He may have asked for the mitts over a year ago when we were on our honeymoon but, hey, at least he got them at some point. Plus, the cowl was a much more recent request so I’m sure I get some points for that. It’s also a huge improvement from last year when the socks that were meant for his birthday became Christmas presents. More than four months later. Yeah.

I also finished this colourful wonder…

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(So stripy! Photo by me)

My sister-in-law Charlotte (hi Charlotte!) mentioned in passing that she would like a poncho for our family holiday to Spain (this Friday. Did I mention that?) Last week was her 21st birthday and so I jumped at the opportunity to give her something homemade for her coming-of-age. I’ve never knitted a poncho before but I thought if she was going to wear a poncho it would have to be a full-on poncho. Hence the textured garter stitch ribs, eyelet pattern and loud colour scheme. It’s based on the Summer Poncho by Karen Stelzer, although I tweaked it a little bit to suit my yarn needs and also worked the first few rows flat to create a kind of collar.

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(In all its poncho-y glory. Photo by me.)

The best part? I’m pretty sure she liked it…

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(Happy Birthday Char-lotte! Photo by Matt McCauley)

So that’s what’s been flying off my needles in the last month or so. I’ve also been chipping away at something for work that STILL isn’t done (which is entirely my fault) that I will show you pictures of when the issue is on sale. I will be overjoyed when that little time-suck is finished.

Since finishing all these gifts I’ve cast on a cardigan for me (oooh, I know, right?) and I’m thinking about a shawl project to take with me on my holibobs…just in case I feel the need to knit. You know when the sun gets too much for me and I’ve had enough sangria. Thinking about it, maybe I don’t need a holiday knitting project… Do you guys take knitting away with you?

Anyway, catch you on the flip side chaps!

(P.S. I think it’s quite impressive that I only mentioned my holiday four times. You may disagree :-P)

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Scattered on the wind

I don’t know about you guys, but I seriously suffer from social media envy. You know what I mean, right? You’re scrolling through Instagram or Facebook or reading your favourite blogs and the jealousy starts to bubble.

“How can they afford that amazing holiday?”

“Why can’t I make a living baking stunning cakes all day?”

“How come I don’t have a coconut to drink my cocktails from?”

It’s daft, I know that, but it’s just one of those things I have no control over. And recently, there seems to have been a bit of a theme to things I’m really jealous of.

All these people on the internet get to see their friends whenever they like.

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When we moved to Bath it was a bit of a whirlwind. I was swept up in the new job of a lifetime and how beautiful the city was. Once we got here, there were only a few months to go until the wedding and so every waking moment was dedicated to finishing, organising and preparing for that. It’s only recently dawned on me just how much I wish all my friends were closer.

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I have some lovely friends here who have made me feel really welcome and I am very grateful for that. But sometimes I want the nostalgia of drinks with my school friends or a mad night with my uni girls or a cathartic catch up with my best friend. But there’s a catch. They aren’t here. They’re scattered about in different cities and I really, really miss them.

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Of course it’s wonderful when they come to stay and I get an intensive dollop of time with them to find out what they’re doing and how they are getting on, but it’s not really the same as the regular drip feed and checking in.

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Essentially, I’m starting to realise just how far away my friends are, now that I’ve had some time to stop and think. And I think I can make it into a good thing. I think it will make me try harder and appreciate seeing them more.

So, who’s up for the pub?

P.S. Yup all those photos are mine, yup I’m dressed up in all of them, yup that’s how I roll. Oh and I haven’t managed to capture every last person that I wanted to in photo form. It’s nothing personal. It’s my photo collection’s fault.

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A Slice of Heaven

I’d like to take a moment to get geeky, if I may. There are a few things I get geeky about. Books, knitting, language, books. Mostly books. I love books. But if there’s anything I love anywhere near as much as books, it’s bookshops.

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(Toppings and Company, Bath, my favourite bookshop in the sunshine. Photo by me.)

Quiet, peaceful and musty, a good bookshop is an oasis to me. There are hundreds of stories held in those shelves, so many voices that have something to say – the possibilities are endless and the atmosphere zings. But still you can hear every foot shuffle, every throat clear and every page flip. Each tale is held quiet, like a child waiting to surprise you, in a silence so close to speaking. It’s soothing.

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(All on my own in Toppings. Photo by me.)

After the quiet, the smell is my favourite thing. Book pages all generally smell the same, that rich scent of time and paper mulch. But each one has its own quirks, a kind of signature. Older books smell stronger, while newer ones have a slight vinegar tang from modern inks and printing technology. Put them all together in a bookshop and the whole is so much more than the sum of its parts. You can flick through the pages of as many tomes as you like and in between breathe deep this great, rich aroma.

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(Books, beautiful books, in Toppings. Photo by me.)

No matter how many people are in a bookshop, it’s still a personal experience. Whether you are looking for advice on your next holiday destination or to get lost in a ripping adventure you can make that decision all by yourself even with a stranger standing by your side. I can have the most stressful day at work, but five minutes in a book shop can make it all melt away, just by standing in the place. For some people solitude can be found in museums, for others it’s galleries. But for me, nothing is better than a bookshop.

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Duckie power!

Happy Friday, sports fans! (I don’t know if you actually are sports fans, but you could be, so I’m sticking with it).

I finally have something crafty that I can show you – huzzah! In just a few weeks there will be a slew of FO posts and hopefully happy recipients but until then, I have the little yellow ducks…

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(I like to think they are having a chat on my windowsill…”Quack quack?” “Quack, quack, quack quack.” “Quaaaack”. Photo by me)

Why little duckies? I hear you ask. Well, that’s a good question.

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(Going for a little sill-swim. Photo by me.)

A few months back we featured this duck pattern in Simply Knitting. The duck is obviously cute, but it’s also for a good cause.

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(They wanted to use my typewriter but, of course, that’s ridiculous (they have no fingers). So that’s why the picture is shocking. Adorable, but shocking. Photo by me.)

The Little Yellow Duck Project aims to raise awareness for blood, organ and bone marrow donation. This is such an important part of medicine and effects thousands of people every year. The point of these knitted (or crocheted or sewn, patterns available for all three) ducks is for them to be left in public places with a little tag that displays their name, the TYLDP website and tells the finder to take them home. It’s an exercise in mystery and intrigue that will hopefully result in getting more people registered as donors.

So…

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Here’s one of my ducks looking very coy nestled in the rosemary plants outside Ask in Bath….

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And here’s the other on a sculpture by the Abbey. This one even got a little shower before heading off to her new home! Her perch was a bit precarious, so I popped her somewhere safer before I left.

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I positioned these guys on my way to work yesterday morning, so I can wait to see if they have vanished today. Finger’s crossed!

The knitting pattern was designed by Alan Dart (love him) and so it was a joy to work from, easy to understand, and I don’t think mine is too far off his original. (I saw it in the flesh, it is cuter than mine, but it was made by Alan’s fair hand, so it was going to be.) Get your hands on all of the patterns at www.thelittleyellowduckproject.org/patterns and why not make some of your own ducks for unsuspecting strangers to take home?

I’m off to make a few more myself…

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