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Sunday, 19 October 2014

Tumble dryer cleanout

Tumble dryers.  Uneconomical, un-environmentally friendly - and those of us who have them couldn't live without them.  We bought ours when big daughter was a baby to dry the re-useable nappies that we used - and considering that she's just left school then although it's a triumph that it's still working, it probably means that it's more uneconomical and un-environmentally friendly than many!

Still, I don't use it any more than I have to as I much prefer to dry my washing outside - not only is it free, but it smells so wonderful when you bring it back in.  It does get used though, and that means that it needs cleaning to reduce the risk of fire.

Risk of fire?  Yep, absolutely.  I had no idea that I needed to do any more than clean out the filter every time I used the dryer before I heard a fire officer talking on the radio about house fires one day.  He said he would never leave an appliance on in the house when he wasn't in (including washing machines, dryers and dishwashers) and that more dust and fluff collected inside the dryer than anyone ever thought about and if left uncleaned, could present a fire risk.  I decided to take a look inside mine.

Imagine the shock when I pulled out handfuls of fluff - enough to make a small animal!  I resolved to make sure that I remembered to clean out my dryer - after all, we get our chimneys swept every year to make sure they're safe for the winter, so why not the dryer?  And today was the day.  So, if you think you can stand to see photos of the fluff (it's not dirt I hasten to assure you - I do clean my house - it's just accumulated fluff!) then I'll show you how I go about it.

Firstly, gather the tools you need.  I use the vacuum cleaner with various nozzle heads and a screwdriver.  Next, turn off the dryer and unplug it.  This is very important.  It's never a good idea to poke around inside an electrical appliance with it attached to the mains.  

I start by taking out the fluff filter and cleaning that - this is something I do every time I use the dryer anyway so that's an easy job.


Next, I pull the dryer out from where it lives under the working top so that I can get behind to vacuum all the accumulated dust and fluff from behind it.  The dog sleeps next to the dryer so I usually find a couple of old biscuits under there as well!

Now comes the fun part.  It's time to start cleaning out the dryer itself.  At the back of my dryer is the vent which goes through the wall to the outside.  I don't have any pipes or tubes on there as my dryer sits right up against the wall, but if yours does then see if you can disconnect it so that you can get at any fluff which has become lodged in there.  There's a reason why it's important to do this ...


Look at that!  That's the short distance from the vent at the back of my dryer to the front wall of the dryer - and look at all the fluff that's stuck in there.  It's very dry and is completely stuck to the metal so I use a short, stiff brush which fits onto my vacuum cleaner to scrape it all off.


Then it's time to go back round the front of the dryer where my fluff filter lives. It's much harder to get at the fluff here as the filter slot isn't quite wide enough for me to get my vacuum attachments down.


If you end up in a similar situation, then you've just got to do the best you can. Anything that you can get out of your dryer is a bit less to cause you problems. Next, I unscrew the top lid of my dryer and take it off so that I can vacuum inside. Mine's a very basic model so there's the drum and a few wires attached to the controls, but there's still a thick layer of fluff attached to them all.  You may not be able to get at the inside of your dryer, so don't worry. 

Finally, it's time to go outside and check the vent there.  Because we live close to fields and our cats have a bad habit of bringing small furry things back to the house, I've put a chicken wire cover into the vent to discourage said small furry things from thinking they've discovered a nice warm house to hide in. Unfortunately, this mesh cover also collects fluff ...


and a snail this year.  It looks like a fluffy birds nest and that's not good - all of that fluff is blocking the vent and I need to get it out so that the hot air can flow properly out from the dryer.  It's a bit of a slow job to pick it all out as the fluff has crusted and welded itself to the wire.  It's worth it though - look how much came off it!


And that's the job done.  It took me just over half an hour, which isn't a long time out of my life and has considerably reduced the fire risk of the dryer.  And because I do this every year now, then the amount of fluff that I get out is much less than that first, shocking, clean-out - but there's still a fair pile.


Worth taking the time for?  I think so.






Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Tuesday evening

Tuesdays are always a bit of a rush for us with after-school clubs, so it's usually soup night.  Tonight's flavour is cauliflower and Stilton.  Making soup is soup-er easy (sorry!) and makes a great meal for when we're rushing in and out between appointments.  I do have recipe books but these days I generally just throw vegetables into a pan with a stock cube, add about a litre of water and then cook the vegetables until soft.  Having an Aga is ideal for this as I can leave the pan in the bottom (simmering) oven for several hours and know that the soup will be ready when we get home.  After that, I blitz it in the blender (a nifty trick I learned years ago which allows me to put absolutely any vegetables into the pan without fear that someone will announce "I don't like that") and serve with some bread warm out of the bread-maker.

Whilst I was making the soup, I happened to look out of the window and spotted this little fellow sitting on the flags ....


I watched him for quite a while, admiring his neat feathers and the way that they change from red to grey to brown.  When he didn't move, I decided to grab my camera, thinking that if he'd gone when I got back then at least I'd been able to see him.  I was quite surprised to see him still there and started to wonder if something was wrong.  Then someone else appeared ...


and still the little robin didn't budge, so I thought there definitely must be something wrong with him.  Fortunately, so did our cat (our other cat wouldn't have been so understanding!) and after I'd knocked on the window and shouted at him, he sat down with the robin to wait ...


giving me time to rush outside and scoop him up before he changed his mind.  At this point, the robin decided to leave but clearly something had shocked him as he couldn't fly properly and ended up on the windowsill ...


before finally disappearing into the hedge.  I didn't see him again so I hope he got back to his nest safely.

Back indoors and with the soup eaten (it was very nice, by the way!), I had another job to do.  Do you remember me showing you my sock project bag way back in March?  I've had it for a good few years now and it's travelled some miles with me. It's been on lots of holidays, for lots of car journeys, to lots and lots of after-school clubs and music classes and to visit friends and relatives all over the world.  So it was a sad moment tonight when I had to say goodbye to it - my scissors and pens have poked too many holes in the bottom now and the handles are about to snap so it's time for a replacement.


I've bought myself a new one, as close to the shape and style of my old one as I could get, but it doesn't feel quite right at the moment.  There's not as much junk in it (it's amazing what you find at the bottom of bags, isn't it?) but it's still a bit stiff and unyielding.  I'm sure a bit of travelling will soon sort that out!


Tuesday must be a night for creative things.  A few Tuesdays ago, big daughter and I went to a workshop run by The Make and Do Studio.  It's been quite a while since I last went to one of Maeri's workshops - in fact, it was the curtain workshop in January (and no, since you ask, I still haven't made any curtains!). This one was a wire ring workshop held in a lovely pub called The Rams Head in beautiful Grappenhall village.  Big daughter has started to make jewellery as a hobby and is producing some lovely stuff.  She fancied having a go at making rings but didn't want to go on her own - and I was very happy to go with her!

Unfortunately, I forgot my camera so could only take pictures with my phone, and they're not as good as I wanted them to be.  (I also forgot my reading glasses.  I'm devastated that I actually need to use them and am usually too vain to take them out of the house but I couldn't do without them during the workshop so I was very grateful that Maeri was able to lend me hers!)  So, just a quick tour of the best ones from the night ... 

The workshop was run by Marie Griffiths from Redstones Creative, who had the room in the Rams Head all set out and ready for us ...


we each had a workstation with the equipment we needed ...


and more tools and ring samples within easy reach as we got started.


This is big daughter showing how easy it is to create a spiral wire ring - she was much better at it than I was!


We had a break for tea and cake - huge cream scones and wonderful chocolate brownies - it would have too easy to have spent the rest of the evening just eating cake and chatting!  But instead we continued with our mission and moved onto working with Swarovski crystals.  It was difficult not to choose too many but I was determined to go home with something that I would actually wear, not a knuckleduster, so made myself be very selective with my colour choices.

And here are the rings that I made, taken at home later with my camera.  Firstly, a simple spiral ...


then on to wrapped wire and Swarovski crystals ...



and finally a free-form spiral with crystals.  This one's my favourite, I love the way it looks like a little solar system!


Big daughter thoroughly enjoyed the evening as well.  Marie is an excellent tutor, calm and encouraging, and all the participants left proudly displaying new jewellery - some with intentions to create more as favours and gifts for bridemaids at their forthcoming weddings which is a lovely, unique idea.  I don't think it will be long before I'm back to The Make and Do Studio - and I have a feeling that big daughter will insist on coming along too!









Sunday, 5 October 2014

Monthly musing - October 2014 - Tuning up

Small daughter has decided that she wants to learn to play the violin.  Lessons are being offered at her school and she came home in a state of high excitement, waving the information letter and telling me all the reasons why she wanted to learn.  Listening carefully, I realised that this was something she really wanted to do. 

Naturally, my first thoughts were of deadlock over practice times, screeching, scraping noises when she did practice and finally, a violin gathering dust in the corner.  However, just because that’s how I was when I learned the violin many years ago doesn’t mean that small daughter is going to be the same.  Besides, I really enjoyed being part of the orchestra I belonged to and although I didn’t much like playing by myself because I never sounded as good as Yehudi Menuhin, I did like the sound that I helped to produce as part of a group.

Big daughter plays the piano.  It’s a completely different instrument; it can sound pretty terrible if you just bash at the keys, but big daughter has been playing for a long time now and she’s very good.  I’ve hoped for a while that small daughter would want to emulate her big sister but although she’s had the odd lesson here and there, the piano just doesn’t catch her interest in the way it did with big daughter.

So last Friday, small daughter set off for school hardly able to wait for the afternoon when she would get her first violin lesson.  It was lovely to see and I hoped she would be just as excited when she came home.  Being able to play an instrument is, I think, something that you can hold onto forever – it’s a bit like riding a bike in that you never really forget although you do get rusty without practice.  It’s an activity that absorbs both mind and body and gives you the opportunity to switch off from the world for the duration of the music – you simply can’t read music, think about which notes you should be playing and worry about your problems at the same time.

Then there’s the magic that music weaves.  It conjures up images long-forgotten, emotions and sentiments rekindled simply by the words of a song or the bars of a tune.  People who have not spoken for years through ill health will break into song when familiar music reaches into their memories and reminds them of who they were.  How does it do this?  Nobody knows – but if our young people don’t continue to learn to play music, then one day the skills will be lost and we’ll have nothing but what’s stored on our iPods.

So I’ll be encouraging small daughter to scrape away on her violin.  Who knows, one day she might be as good as Yehudi Menuhin and who I am to stop her?  Until then, I’ll just buy some ear plugs.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Yarndale Revisited

You'll never guess where I went on Sunday ...



Got it?  Yes, of course you have!  It was ...


It was lovely to be back in sunny Skipton - and despite the rather dull-looking skies in these pictures, it really was.  The Yarndale team have been so lucky with the weather - that's two years running the sun has shone and the Yarn Walk has been a pleasure to be able to do.

I decided that I would try to take different pictures from the ones I took for last year's post to try to give you another glimpse of the festival.  It was bigger than last year, and the organising team had made some changes in terms of the cafe and it's position, put extra seating areas in the spare pens and had well-organised people to direct car parking.

As you'll have seen from the first picture in this post, there was a bit of a queue to get in - that picture was taken at just about ten o'clock when Yarndale opened - and I was in the pre-ordered ticket queue which was shorter.  The queue on the right was heading right around the car park!  The one below was taken a bit later inside - and it got busier!


I decided to start by taking a quick look around the pens.  There were considerably more exhibitors this year, and one of my favourite stands, Eden Cottage Yarns, had moved to a much larger pen to show off Victoria's beautiful yarns.  They're such wonderful, lustrous colours, I wanted them all!  


This is Victoria, along with her partner, David, and I wanted to mention them specially as Victoria has been very kind in answering my questions about dyeing yarn over the last year.  I've still not been quite brave enough to dye the yarn I bought last year (and probably why Victoria answers all my questions as she can see that I'm no threat to her business!) but I'm definitely getting closer to actually doing it!


So, after chatting to them for a while, it was off to Lucy's Knit n Natter Lounge to meet up with Jen whom I've got to know through our respective blogs - and it was great to put a face to the name and to meet the rest of her family as well.  Such nice people, and if it wasn't for the great blogland community, I'd never have met them.  We were able to spend some time talking to Lucy too as she had a quiet moment - I haven't photographed her this year as she was in last year's photos, but she is still the same cheerful, unassuming person despite all her woolly successes over the year (you'll need to read her blog to find out more!) and it was a pleasure to spend time in her company.

Next, after a quick visit to the cafe, it was time to examine the stalls more closely.   So much lovely yarn!  So many beautiful colours!  So much to buy and only so much money to spend!  I kept my purse firmly in my bag until I'd had a good look around.

I saw some rare breed sheep ...


I saw an alpaca with an interesting haircut ...


I saw a man with the biggest angora rabbit I've ever seen in my life ...


I saw some ENORMOUS sheep, complete with ENORMOUS sheepdog (not real, of course, but part of a display team) ...


and lots and lots of toys.  I don't remember seeing so many toys and toy patterns last year, but I really liked some of these.  I was quite tempted, especially by this little monkey from Edward's Menagerie on the Toft alpaca stand but I know I'd never get round to making one.  


And I did like these chickens with their long legs which were on the Sheapknits stand (thanks, Heather, from Sparkleduck for reminding me!).


You couldn't miss the mandala display - over a thousand of them stretched the width of the Auction Mart.  Mine's up there somewhere, but I couldn't begin to tell you where!  They looked fabulous, and of course a photo that had to be taken side-on could never do it justice.  Last year's bunting was up too and still looked stunning.  


I stopped to chat to this nice lady called Audrey at the By Hook and By Crook stand because I'm fascinated by the process of spinning.  It looks so therapeutic and although I know that I'm probably never going to become a spinner, I do love to watch it.  She was telling me about how she once spun cat hair into a ball of yarn for it's owner after the cat had died and I thought that was such a nice way to remember a pet - although I'm not sure I'd really want to wear something made out of cat hair yarn!


I liked what the owners of this stand had done too - can you see?  Their patterns are all contained in little knitted pouches.  It's another stand that I can't remember the name of, so do let me know if you do so that I can link them - I really must take better notes next year!


At last it was time, after much deliberating, to make my purchases.  It was such a hard decision!  And you're going to have to come on the Yarn Walk with me before I show you what I bought ...

The yarn bombing started outside the Auction Mart.  I found some bees in a tree (although I assume they won't be using that yarn and needles themselves!) ...


and headed for the steps up to the Yarn Walk.  Yes, I know I had pictures of the Yarn Walk last year, but I liked seeing the sheep through the bunting ...


and the colours of the yarn against the wildness of the grasses up the hill.


This was the view that greeted me at the top.  It's not surprising that Lucy's Attic 24 blog often has pictures taken from her attic window.  It reminded me of what a rural place Skipton is.


I walked on into town through the park where the lamp-posts were sporting brightly coloured jumpers ...


and school children had been involved in decorating these bikes with yarn, pompoms ...


and on this bike, lots and lots of butterflies, bees and leaves.  


I popped into The Studio at Coopers Cafe Bar to say hello to Tracy and the other ladies there.  It's such a friendly, cosy little space and I could have quite happily stayed there for much longer than I did!

However, it was time to leave so I turned left out of the Cafe and headed up the hill towards the Castle where my husband and small daughter had spent the day. When they'd first suggested coming with me to Yarndale, I had been a bit concerned that it might not be their thing and they might want to leave long 
before I did, but they chose to go to explore Skipton instead.  Armed with a picnic, they dropped me off at the Auction Mart and headed off on their own adventure where they were quite happy until I caught up with them.  This is Skipton looking back down from the Castle ...


and the road we walked along here to get back to our car is called "Back 'o the Beck", which I think is a lovely name for a road.


And that was it.  Yarndale was over for me for another year.  I'd had such a lovely day wandering around the pens, squishing yarn and chatting to people I'd normally never get to speak to.  And - of course - making a few purchases that I would never usually make on a Sunday afternoon either!  There are no prizes for guessing what this is.  Sock yarn, naturally.  I do have rather a lot of sock yarn, but as a friend said, "It doesn't go bad," and it will eventually all become socks.



I bought a violet skein of British Bluefaced Leicester/mixed wool from The Knitting Goddess, a skein in shades of blue in kid mohair and merino from Sparkleduck and - because I really couldn't decide between the two (and was encouraged by some other naughty ladies to get them both) - another skein from Sparkleduck of pink merino with Stellina which means that the yarn sparkles.  Oh yes, blingy socks!  All the yarn is mixed with nylon to make the yarn more hard-wearing for socks and help it to hold it's shape.  



I also bought a simple and rather beautiful pink ceramic yarn bowl from Margaret Glackin so that when I've wound all the skeins into balls, they can sit nicely in the bowl and won't be shooting across the floor as I'm trying to knit with them.  I spotted yarn bowls at Yarndale last year but didn't get one - and spent all year wishing I had!  There was a lot of choice this year so it took me a while to make up my mind, but I'm very happy with the one I picked.  Now I just need to get on and do some more knitting!






PS If you liked this post, you can find me on Facebook, Twitter and BloglovinJ








Tuesday, 23 September 2014

September Treasures

I've bought myself a new camera.  Nothing flash or fancy, just a new little point and shoot which happened to be on offer at our local Aldi.  Currently I use my old camera and my phone, both of which produce photos which are perfectly acceptable - but I want them to be better, and despite the discounted price, this camera has more settings and more megapixels than both.  I figured I had nothing to lose.

So, having taken the camera out of the box and charged it up, I wanted to try it out.  There are umpteen settings for different scenes and situations - I may well end up with never using any of them but I wanted to see how it worked.  I decided to take the dog for a walk.  He was quite happy to be part of my camera experiment, although not keen to be in the photos himself.

We set off across the fields.  I should probably apologise in advance for the number of photographs in this post, but I needed to try out all the settings just once if never again.  I'm sure you understand!


It was only a week or two ago that the crops on both sides of this path were so tall that you could hardly see the path, and certainly not along it to the hedge like you can now.  It looks rather desolate at the moment, but the farmer has been out ploughing already.



And already the green fuzz of winter wheat is starting to show in the furrows.


Time to change the setting.  I wanted to see if I could zoom in to take pictures of the dew on the grass.  It's not too bad, this one, but I may need more practice - and definitely on a day without a dog tugging on his lead!


As the fields merge into each other, the footpath swings to the left.  The field beyond is full of fluffy seedheads, and as we approach, a flock of goldfinches rises into the air. 


This is what they've been after - seedheads from the thistle plants.  


I'm trying out the plant mode now.  I'm quite pleased with this picture of berries.  What do you think?


It's definitely starting to feel as if summer's coming to an end now.  I still don't really want to call it autumn yet, but as today is officially the first day of autumn, it looks like there's no choice!  Heavy dew in the mornings, berry-filled trees and horses with jackets on.  It won't be long before there's no escaping that winter's on it's way.


For now, though, I'm enjoying the morning sunshine.  This road has been re-surfaced since the last time we walked along it, and the new tarmac shines. 


Ooh, look, now I'm using the zoom to spot the alpacas at the other end of the field!


On the way home now.  I just love the colours of this tree.  This is one of the better things about autumn - I'm not so keen on the rain, the wind and the fog that will be heading our way before long.


Late blackberries.  They're a lovely size but too close to the road for me to want to pick them.  I have got a bag full in the freezer that are going to become blackberry and apple jelly which I picked from Culcheth Linear Park the other week, so I'm happy to leave these here.


We're on our way home now, walking through the village back towards our house. I spotted these Cosmos flowers over a garden wall.  Aren't they pretty with their pink edges?


Round the corner we came across these sunflowers peering over the fence.  The dog paused to sniff a particularly interesting smell and I tried out the backlight setting on the camera. 


Back home again and I've found a couple of late summer jewels in the garden.  Sweet peas which have refused all summer to climb upwards but have insisted on spreading across the path ...


Flower buds on the witch hazel ...


The last of the marigolds ...


Dew on the nasturtium leaves ...


The garden is starting to look tired now and ready for a winter rest.  I've already started cutting back some of the plants but there's still plenty more to do.  It's nice to find treasure, though, just when you think that there's nothing bright left around.

I'm still no expert with the camera but improving my pictures is on my to-do list (along with 101 other things!) and I'm keen to work on it.  The only thing is that you'll have to look at them all ... I hope you don't mind! J