Sunday, 15 March 2015

West Coast Life

So here I am 11 months since I last posted.
I've travelled a third of the way around the world to California. This is the first trip where the internet access has been good enough to blog and post photos while away, so it seems a good way to share my trip with those back home who don't do FB (they know who they are).

The main purpose of the visit is a meeting at Stanford University, but I have taken the opportunity to take in some days leave while I am here. Starting off in Palo Alto, staying in the conference hotel, I have been walkabout. I am struck as on all travels abroad by the things that are the same and the things that are different.

It is unseasonably warm here on the west coast, while the east coast has been suffering more snow than usual, I think. A shop keeper told me how much they need water and this is evidenced by many dry gardens.

It is in the gardens that the same but different is so noticeable. There are roses, and daffodils (at the same time!), pelargoniums and may other bedding plants we would see at home in a couple of months time, but which seem to be treated as perennials here.

I saw many fine examples of strelizia, the bird of paradise, and many other exotic plants that can survive in this mild west coast climate, that would never last the winter in Yorkshire.

The ground is very dry and whilst some trees are full of leaves, others have hardly any, or none. One particular species seems to grow along many of the streets but in most cases it has no leaves, I don't know what it is but there are many of its spiky fruit on the ground.

Does anyone know what this is?

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Getting things done with a Bullet Journal and the Midori notebook system

I've been using elements of the GTD approach for some time; for me this meant dealing with the quick tasks and sorting emails before 10.00 am and then trying to get on with the intended job for the day.
I worked from an A5 filofax with weekly planning sheets for task lists, lots of sections within each of my projects, and lots of post-its.
But though the FF is made of a dark brown leather that is lovely to handle, it is bulky and so doesn't go everywhere with me. Natalie and I frequently talk about stationery, she had shown me her Midori notebook a few months ago. Tall and slim, the pages seemed too narrow and I wasn't convinced.  But the FF really is filling up and too big, even for someone who lugs a Trakke bag rather than a girly handbag.
This weekend N also pointed me in the direction of the Bullet Journal. This echoed with much that I was already doing, and made so much sense.  And then she made the killer comment - 'of course a Midori Notebook can also be used landscape'.
And that was it - I went to bed thinking of how I would use Midori notebooks, and woke up to a Sunday morning with no way of acquiring any of the bits for my new highly productive system for several days.
But N doesn't let things lie. That very morning she made a prototype Midori-style notebook cover - with pockets. I'll let her tell you about that, on her blog.
It is made of lovely soft black leather, with red stitching.

It will have red elastics soon, just waiting for them to arrive from our Sunday order.
Back home on Sunday evening I had to make a notebook, so that I could start using it straightaway.

For Bullet Journal fans, there is a month plan with tasks; 

A week plan - using the landscape layout.

And a daily task list - where I have taken on board the idea of a 'closed list' from Tim Sprosen, only do what is on today's list, add other thing to the long list!

It's only the end of day two, but it is good so far.

If you would like a RedStitch journal too, keep an eye on Natalie Fergie's website, she'll be making more as the feedback on the prototypes comes in.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Family history

As a child I used to love walking round graveyards looking at the names, wondering about the large number of children who died so young, and looking for names I might know.
S, our daughter, has been studying our family history for some time. She has found out a huge amount, mostly  via the web.
Today we visited a large Swedish retailer near Leeds.
S suggested we did a recce in the area as she knew we had distant relatives in the parish where said retailer lies.
So after purchasing a few bits and bobs, but no tea lights, we went to look for the parish church. There is a huge cemetery, rather overgrown but with many Victorian graves. Armed with a list of surnames we began a somewhat random walk through the area. I called out surnames, she generally said 'no', but occasionally said 'thats on the list' and took photos.
Just as we were tiring I looked at one stone with the names of  many people in the same family, and said 'did you say Middlebrook was a key name?'  Yes it was, and over she came to look at this.

A quick look at the family tree verified that all the people named on this stone are related to us through my paternal grandfather! And there were a number of children who died when under one year old.

Quite emotional.

Friday, 27 December 2013

Christmas soup

Almost every soup I make begins with this:
Which is chopped and sauteed:

But this is Christmas, so there has to be some of this:

Chopped and added to the pan: 
Some stock is added, and later some milk and cream, to make a real comforting meal that has become a family tradition in this house:

Thursday, 19 December 2013


Sorting through last year's Christmas cards to make gift tags I came across two cards using the same David Hockney painting:

I just love this painting - and many of his Yorkshire paintings too. I wish I had made it to the exhibition at the RA last year, even though the Guardian Review is less than positive.

I wonder if I might put together a knit based on this? Maybe another Jane Thornley vest, I shall start looking for appropriate yarns for when the spring comes and there is enough daylight for painting with yarn.

Monday, 16 December 2013

A walk on the walls

What do you think of when you think of York stone?
Maybe York stone pavements - there are plenty of those around the country.

Or maybe you think of the glorious York Minster - still wonderful against a stone-coloured sky, and with scaffolding cladding each end.

But if you have visited you might also think of the city wall, we have more miles of intact city wall than any other city in the country.

Today I took a walk on the walls and imagined I was walking with friends who insist on doing this on every visit.
I collected a few images of  the stone and bricks of York for this collage.

Did you spot the interloper?

Knitting is everywhere. Maybe it was a visit to York that inspired Natalie to dye this particular yarn.

Thursday, 12 December 2013


We are having Christmas in a rented house, surrounded by boxes. The usual decorations are in the loft of the other house.  So I have improvised.

I'm trying to upload a video made in Picasa, owned by google to a blog in blogger, owned by google in Chrome, owned by google, but they appear not to be able to talk to each other grrr.