Friday, May 26, 2006

picture of geese, painted by me back in January.
General update...

Because I'm participating in Secret Pal numero 8, I have STRICT instructions from my hostess extraordinaire to keep up with ye old blogging. I'm supposed to be writing a 3000 word essay, and work has been hellish busy. Any ol' excuse to not do it . Washing up has never seemed so desirable.
I've done no painting of late - BUT I have been buying wool - having a secret pal to buy for gives me a GREAT excuse to buy stuff for myself - well, when one is hanging around in ones local yarn store, how can one resist? So now I'm knitting hats as well as trying to finish Seth's jumper - (I'm on the first sleeve of THAT).
I've also bought a bread machine. My waistline is expanding.

Was lovely to hear from knitnurse alias hazelnutcluster alias lots of things.
Back to the grindstone.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

The ankle is much better - ta! which is just as well, as me and sis are planning a walk from St Ives to the Lizard along the South West Coast Path from June 11th for a week - bivvying out if its fine, retreating to local hostelries (YHA) if not. Well, retreating to local hostelries (PUB) anyway. We are planning to walk the path as seen on the map in a downwards fashion in the vain hope that gravity might help. My sis is doing half marathons and similar while I am 'resting' - she'll just have to give me a piggy back. Syd is coming too, but Tilly will have to stay with friends :-( as she's getting too old and stiff to manage 7 days walking. I think I'm going to get some very old fashioned looks from her, when we set off, of the kind only labradors can achieve (and seal pups).

I've had some FINE advice from Ruse1966 which I feel obliged to pass on to any others who might contemplate walking the coastal path, it's sooo good...
Always buy decent socks.
The compass never lies but if your feet are wet, you're too far to the
If you leave a cow in a glass of coke, it won't be there in the morning.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Bookcrossing, or ‘How to turn the world into a library’.

Have you a shelf full of books gathering dust, that you are unlikely ever to read again? Or have you a book that you loved so much that you want to share it with everybody? Would you like to find a free book lying on a park bench one day, waiting for you to pick it up and take it home? If any of these apply, then ‘Bookcrossing’ could well be for you… So what’s it all about?

How It Started: is a labour of love, conceived and maintained by an American company called ‘Humankind Systems Inc.’ which develops software and exploits the internet. Seeking a break from the boredom of creating yet another e-commerce website, and yet another email server application, Humankind company director Ron Hornbaker wanted to create an internet community site that would be innovative, that would give back to the world at large and that would give him warm, fuzzy feelings whenever he worked on it. was the result.

In March, 2001 Hornbaker and his wife Kaori were inspired by two websites: the website, which tracks disposable cameras loosed into the wild, and, which tracks U.S. currency by serial number. They realised that the same premise could be applied to books. It was a great surprise to Ron when he discovered that BookCrossing had not been done on any significant scale before. By 3 A.M. the same night as the idea was born, they had decided on the name (zero hits for "bookcrossing" on Google), registered the domain, and Kaori had sketched the running book logo on a crossing sign. The rest is history.
The BookCrossing site went live in April 2001, and since then thousands have joined up (currently 466,677) and millions of books have been registered (currently 3,027,361). No doubt because of its American beginnings, BookCrossing is much more popular in English-speaking countries than elsewhere, but numbers worldwide are steadily growing, and there are bookcrossers in most areas of the globe. Articles have been written about the site in countless magazines, and it has appeared regularly on TV and radio. In 2004, the word 'bookcrossing' was even added to the Concise Oxford English Dictionary! (n. the practice of leaving a book in a public place to be picked up and read by others, who then do likewise.).

How Does It Work?
If you want to join up and start releasing and tracking your books obviously you need access to the Internet – but with free access available in libraries, and internet cafes springing up in many places, this isn’t too difficult even without a home PC. Visit and register by providing a username and password, along with a few other details, and you're set. All your details are kept completely private - it's up to you how much you reveal about yourself onsite.
Next you will need to decide which books you’d like to ‘release in the wild’ and track, and register them. You will do this by clicking on the 'register book' link and following the simple instructions. Remember to write the Book Crossing Identification Number (BCID) you are given somewhere inside the book - people generally write it inside the front cover, along with the BookCrossing web address and instructions ( the three ‘R’s: READ, REGISTER, RELEASE) - so that hopefully your finder will know it is a special book and will know how to ‘journal’ it themselves when they find it. To make this identification easier, you can download labels to print off and stick inside the book cover, or even buy beautifully illustrated bookplates with bookcrossing instructions ready made from the Bookcrossing website supply shop.
When you register your book on the website you will be requested to write a ‘journal entry’ which can be as brief or long as you like: for example you can say whether you liked it or not (there is an optional scale out of ten), and/or give a brief synopsis of the story.
The next step is to release it into ‘the wild’, otherwise known as leaving it somewhere for someone else to find, so the book can start its journey.
Releasing Books
You need to make it clear that the book is not left where you release it by mistake (sadly, there are many registered books languishing in ‘lost property’) so put a ‘Post it’ Note (or similar) on the front cover of the book to let everyone knows it's there for the taking. There are plenty of examples of what to write on the website, but something like 'This is a free book, it isn't lost, please pick it up and take it home!' will get the message across.
You then need to think about where to release the book. This is fun. Anywhere folk are likely to linger will do - books have been released in cafés, in university lecture theatres, in waiting rooms. Obviously one needs to be aware of sensitive locations such as airports and train stations where a left book could cause a security alert. More exotic release locations have included a book being lodged in a crack half way up Haytor Rock (s’true) to another being wedged in a wreck at the bottom of The Mull of Sound in Scotland (scuba diving skills essential). I have released books in the Reception area at Bovey Tracey Community Hospital (very successful – waves to ‘Viking Maiden’!) and the Pizza Place (not so successful).

If abandoning your book to its fate doesn’t appeal, you can visit the bookcrossing ‘forums’ where other bookcrossers from all over the world meet to chat. Within the forums there are places to trade books, or offer them up as a ‘ring’ or ‘ray’. There are no rules – you can still give your registered book to a charity shop if that is your wish, or even pass it on to friends (who may decide to join bookcrossing themselves!). Either way, once the book has left your hands, you sit back and wait for the email saying someone else has 'caught' (found) it and made a journal entry of their own. If they go on to release it, you can follow its travels all over the world.
A lot of BookCrossing books are sadly never heard from again once they've been released. But don't give up if this happens to your book, just remember that someone somewhere may be reading and enjoying it, even if they haven't come online to say so. And there are many stories of bookcrossers receiving journal entries from books that they thought lost years before, having travelled around the world in the meantime.
Release Challenges
To vary the theme, many bookcrossers enjoy setting release challenges for themselves and others. An example might be 'Books about Christmas' to be released every week in December, or releasing gardening books in Public Parks and Gardens. Some Bookcrossers have attempted to release 'one book for every letter of the alphabet'. The website has a forum to discuss such adventures.
Finding Books
Lucky you if you are fortunate enough to find a BookCrossing book lying around somewhere. Its former owner will be anxious to hear what has happened to it, so head on over to the BookCrossing website and enter the BCID on the home page. You can join up if you want, or remain an Anonymous Finder. Then you can read the book and release the book yourself, or keep it as part of your permanent collection on your bookshelf: it's entirely up to you!
You can increase your chances of finding a released book by signing up for release notifications. Look for the ‘Go Hunting’ section of the bookcrossing website, where you can follow simple instructions to allow you to receive emails every time someone releases a book in your area. When you receive your release alert, finding the book is like participating in a treasure hunt!
Other Ways to BookCross
Releasing a book in the wild isn't the only way of letting your book travel. There are various methods of sharing your book with other bookcrossers, all of which can be organised through the BookCrossing forum:
- Bookrays: a bookray is a single book posted from one bookcrosser to another, following an order usually set in advance but often added to along the way. The final member of the bookray is usually at liberty to do whatever they want with the book once they receive it.
- Bookrings: a bookring is similar to a bookray, except that the final member of a bookring should send the book back to the first person in the list once they have read it. This person can then either release the book or keep it.
- RABCK: a 'Random Act Of BookCrossing Kindness' - is where a bookcrosser will send a fellow bookcrosser a book without being part of a ray or ring, and without expecting anything in return. The recipient is then free do what they like with the book. Many bookcrossers’ bookshelves on the site have a ‘wishlist’ which makes the sending of RABCK much simpler. I have received books full of glitter, and books with CHOCOLATE tucked inside. Mmm. Bookcrossers are such a generous lot.
- Trades: a trade is where two bookcrossers agree to exchange books, which they can then either keep or release.
- Bookboxes: a bookbox is exactly what it sounds like - a box of books. These work in a similar way to bookrings, except that each recipient should remove the books from the box that they wish to read, and replace them with other books before posting it on to the next person on the list. Many bookboxes are devoted to a particular genre such as science fiction, or chick lit, in which case books put into the box should fit the theme.
- OBCZ: an OBCZ, or ‘Official BookCrossing Zone’, is usually a bookshelf or box in the corner of a café, pub, library, internet café, or a multitude of other places, where BookCrossing books can be released and caught. If there is an OBCZ near you, feel free to take a book or two (remember to journal them), and maybe leave a couple in their place. I manage an OBCZ at South Devon College in Courtenay Street in Newton Abbot. There is another OBCZ in Hudson’s Coffee House in Plymouth managed by Mytilus.
- Geocaching: some bookcrossers have combined BookCrossing with Geocaching.
Social Bookcrossing
BookCrossing doesn't have to be a solitary activity and many towns and cities in the UK and around the world have regular BookCrossing meetups. Devon Bookcrossers meet up monthly approximately, in Hudson’s coffee house in Plymouth and the Boston Tea Party in Exeter. There has also been a bookreleasing walk at Drogo Castle to which over a dozen bookcrossers turned up. I have been pleased to meet ‘Pyxis’, ‘Europea’, ‘Anglersrest’, ‘Mytilus’ and ‘Sufiboy’ amongst others. (WAVES - Hiya!) Some meetups also include a mass release, where everyone will bring a few books and will release them around the local area. In addition to these meetups, there are also various Conventions around the world. The UK has its own ‘Unconvention’, held annually in Birmingham - which let bookcrossers get together en masse and enjoy themselves. The next one will be in July 2006 and is already sold out and I'm going!
Information about all these meet-ups can be found on the BookCrossing Forum or on Yahoo mailing lists devoted to Bookcrossing such as BCUK.

There has been some controversy in the past over whether BookCrossing is a bad idea from the point of view of authors and publishers (another ‘Napster’?) - surely if people are sharing books in this way then there will be fewer books being purchased? Much the same argument was used against libraries at one time. The general consensus from Bookcrossers is that they actually buy more books than they did prior to BookCrossing - if they really like a book they'll buy a copy for themselves and another to release! My own experience is that I’ve been introduced to many new authors and genres as a result of Bookcrossing and have bought more books as a result. As with libraries and second-hand bookshops, BookCrossing is just another way for many people to read the same book, perhaps a book that they wouldn't have thought of reading otherwise.
Many authors are themselves bookcrossers and have released some of their own books.

Bookcrossing is the internet at its best – it is fun, it is free and also a fascinating excercise in fate, karma, or whatever you want to call the chain of events that can occur between two or more lives and one piece of literature. If you’d like to see what books are available on my bookshelf then please do visit

I’ve cribbed much of this – from the Bookcrossing website and from an article by a bookcrosser (Cyzaki I think) which was a H2G2 entry on the BBC website.
I’ve changed it in most places but it’s still heavily plagiarized!!!
Me? Obsessed? Nah!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

I took this picture of my jumper in progress, last month, in amongst the primroses - the bluebells are out now!
It's a jumper from the Alice Starmore fishing sweaters book I bought from Ebay. It's for my son - I let him choose the pattern, yarn colour etc. I'm knitting it in Sirdar Denim Sport Aran, which is 60% Acrylic, 25% Cotton and 15% wool - very soft and machine washable. Think I'm going to have quite a bit over though - obviously greater yardage than the recommended (Rowan) yarn in the original pattern - a lot cheaper too!
I'm close to finishing the back to match the front - Only the sleeves and neck to do. Think I'm going to have to block the bottom hem carefully as it has a tendency to curl up already.
I've ordered the felt slippers kit from Cabin Fever - couldn't resist! I've been hankering after them for a while - they're so cool - and i've not done any felting since the bag I knitted Seth's (now ex) girlfriend.
IN the Wars...
I started April with a tooth abcess. I'm limping into May with a sprained ankle! Saturday 6th of May saw the annual May Day celebrations in Lustleigh: there's an annual procession around the village of little girls and young women all dressed in (virginal) white and little boys and young men carrying sticks(!). They are escorted by a brass band and Spring songs are sung at various points along the route. When the procession arrived back at the Orchard, the girls and boys danced around the maypole making pretty patterns with the multicoloured ribbons. Following these frolics, the May Queen was crowned - she sits on a throne under a flowery canopy which sits on top of a huge rock in the middle of the Orchard. This great hunk of granite is distinguished by being adorned with all the names of previous May Queens carved on to its surface.
Yes I know I ought to have taken pics of this, but it was awful weather - the rain held off for the dancing and crowning of the queen, but p****d down thereafter. It was too dark and miserable for any good piccies. I was doing my duty on the lucky dip stall and my cash box (a plastic margarine tub) filled with two inches of water inside 10minutes I'll swear. I beat a hasty retreat to the village hall for a cream tea (obligatory in Devon) and watched the rain pour outside the door on to my two soggy doggies. Having done my duty as far as fundraising goes, I was on my way to the pub (where the morris dancers had also beaten a hasty retreat) - when I realised I'd forgotten the dog lead - t'was lying on the floor under the chair I'd recently vacated. I turned around to leap down the concrete steps back into the hall - these steps were awash in water. I aquaplaned off the bottom step and landed on my ankle in a way it wasn't designed to go. I heard it go pop!
I sat down in the rain and felt all queasy - several onlookers helped me to hobble back into the hall. I had not one but TWO GPs come to my rescue and both diagnosed a sprained (not broken) ankle. One of them kindly offered me (and the two wet smelly labradors) a lift home. I was torn between doing the sensible thing (going home and carrying out the RICE treatment) - and meeting my mates in the pub. It was a hard decision, but I went home :-(

This horrible picture is what it looked like after three days! It's still really swollen and purple and yellow from my calf down to my toes. You really wanted to see that, I know, sorry. I'm just walking on it now, after a week and a half. There go my plans to get really fit before my sis and I walk 80 miles of the coastal path in June - we're walking from St Ives to the Lizard. She'll just have to give me a piggy back!

Here's a prettier picture of Tilly and Sydney:

This is how they sleep, in the hallway - they have a bed each, but Syd gets lonely, so he climbs on top of his mum!

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Secret Pal Numero 8
I'd completely forgotten signing up for this - having had a tooth abcess, work being busy and NOW (as of yesterday) a sprained ankle! I'm a WRECK! But I've had a reminder from my hostess Alison about SP8 and I found this questionnaire for 'this round'. Ooooo, I'm such a newbie at this...

1. What is/are your favorite yarn/s to knit with? What fibers do you absolutely *not* like?
I love predominantly wool yarns or mixes which have a predominantly natural yarn component (wool or cotton) - but I like the new funky fur, or novelty yarns because they're such fun to knit scarves with and feel and see. I like soft yarns. I hate 100% acrylic as it lets the wind through and feels sweaty. I sound like a yarn snob :-(
One of the best guernsey sweaters I knit myself was in a very pearlised, french 4ply 100% acrylic yarn that lasted for YEARS and 100s of washes, so I guess there are ALWAYS exceptions. I'm knitting a sweater for my son at the moment that has a large acrylic component along with cotton and wool - (Sirdar denim aran) - it's soft, it'll wash and wear well - ideal.

2. What do you use to store your needles/hooks in?
I've a wooden sewing box with draws in the top that holds needles, and a denim wrap thing that has needles in too. I've also got a ceramic pot sitting next to the computer here which has mainly paintbrushes in, but occasionally sports a knitting needle. I'm a total slob, so some knitting needles lurk in other places like plastic bags with UFOs inside.

3. How long have you been knitting? Would you consider your skill level to be beginner, intermediate or advanced?
Intermediate, bordering on advanced I guess. I've been knitting a long time, though I've recently rediscovered it after a several year hiatus, what with all this stitch and bitch energy around lately.

4. Do you have an Amazon or other online wish list?
Yes, and a Cliff wish list on my bookcrossing shelf.

5. What's your favorite scent? (for candles, bath products etc.)
I like spicy scents, like cinnamon, and patchouli types. I like woody and citrussy smells too. mmmm. I'm not really a floral type.

6. Do you have a sweet tooth? Favorite candy?
Afraid so. I like chocolate. Dark chocolate. And nutty things. I should be on a diet but I've fallen off the wagon lately.

7. What other crafts or Do-It-Yourself things do you like to do? Do you spin?
No, don't spin, although one day, when I retire, who knows. I like painting, drawing, colouring. I've been known to embroider my own designs. And facepaint. I'm not at all good at crocheting. I'm mainly a knit.

8. What kind of music do you like? Can your computer/stereo play MP3s? (if your buddy wants to make you a CD)
Yes my computer can play CDs. I don't know about MP3s - what are they?
I like obscure bands from years ago that noone else has ever heard of like Bill Bruford, Ry Cooder and Ali Farka Toure, King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Air, Folky stuff, Catatonia, Sade (this list off the top of my head).

9. What's your favorite color? Or--do you have a color family/season/palette you prefer? Any colors you just can't stand?
I like autumn colours - all those burnished, coppery reds, greens and browns (but not bright orange). I love greens - but generally mossy, not bright, depending on my mood. I can go outrageously bright and primary when it's hot and sunny outside. I hate bubblegum pink - bleurgh!

10. What is your family situation? Do you have any pets?
My one and only son is 18years old and left home just before Christmas - but isn't too far away and visits regularly (usually to scrounge the rent money because he's overspent his budget!) - My DH and I are getting reaquainted in a much quieter house.
I have two chocolate labradors - Tilly and her son, Sydney. They are MY dogs as my DH is at great pains to tell me.

11. Do you wear scarves, hats, mittens or ponchos?
I wear all of those except the last.

12. What is/are your favorite item/s to knit?
I'll have a go at anything - I can knit plain stuff (stocking stitch, garter stitch) while reading, or at the back of classrooms, in meetings. I save the more complicated things for when I've got time to concentrate.
I like traditional British Knitting - guernseys, fishing ganseys, arans, fairisle. I'm a great one for not finishing stuff I start.

13. What are you knitting right now?
An Alice Starmore pattern for my son. I showed him a book of fishing jersey patterns and let him pick his favourite and the colours.

14. Do you like to receive handmade gifts?
Oh yes please!

15. Do you prefer straight or circular needles? Bamboo, aluminum, plastic?
I actually like straight needles as I knit with one tucked under my arm - I'm positive I'd get on very well with one of those knitting belts you can stick the end of the needle in - but I've never tried. However I knit in the round a lot, so obviously circular needles are more practical even if they don't suit my style! I knit with any needle - but don't particular like some of the old plastic needles - too bendy. I've got bamboo and aluminium and some lovely french knitting needles which are plastic coated metal in bright primary colours.

16. Do you own a yarn winder and/or swift?
Somewhere I've got a yarn winder from when I used to use a knitting machine a lot.

17. How did you learn to knit?
In school when I was about 8 years old - we had to knit two rectangles in brown yarn and garter stitch, and sew them together and stuff them. We then had to sew down the two top corners of the rectangle, attach a beak, eyes and feet and call it an OWL. Needless to say, I don't recall finishing it. My grandmother was a great knitter of arans. I used to watch her a lot. I really got knitting in my early teens. I knitted a bright green V neck sweater for a guide badge when I was twelve. By the time I was 15yrs old I remember knitting a cardigan with circular fairisle yoke that had such an even tension my gran thought I'd bought it.

18. How old is your oldest UFO?
OOh, now that's telling. I have a jumper I was knitting for a friend from my own pattern which only needs the sleeves doing. I think it's 21 years old. oh dear. I'm not sure if there's enough yarn to even finish it, which is why it's been packed away in the attic for so long.

19. What is your favorite holiday?
An active holiday - adventuring of some kind. I've two holidays planned for this year - neither of them with dh (!)( he doesn't like travelling). I'm walking part of the South West Coastal Path, from St Ives to the Lizard, with my sis and Syd, the younger dog. We'll be camping out if it's nice, and youth hostelling if it isn't. In October I'm going to explore Thailand for a fortnight on my own (meeting up with friends in the middle for Interhash).

20. Is there anything that you collect?
Not really - I should be decluttering! I DO have too many books, knitting books, art materials etc etc.

21. Any books, yarns, needles or patterns out there you are dying to get your hands on? What knitting magazine subscriptions do you have?
I subscribe to an Art magazine called "Artists and Illustrators". I am dying to get my hands on the pattern for felted slippers on the site. Those peace needles are really cute, aren't they? And I've heard a lot about addy turbos but never tried them! I'm also saving to make a spurge on the yarns on the handpainted uraguayan site one of these days. And, and, and.

22. Are there any new techniques you'd like to learn?
I'm learning all the time. I've just learned how to cast off with a sewing needle to make an elastic edge for ribbing. And how to knit socks from the toe up.

23. Are you a sock knitter? What are your foot measurements?
Yes, I've knitted socks - but only two pairs of adult size socks - lots of baby and children's socks. I'm size 7, 41. Will try to measure them properly tomorrow.

24. When is your birthday? (mm/dd)
Nov. 10th