Thursday, 29 November 2012

Much cuteness

After making some very cute bunting for baby Hollie from Moda's fairy ballerina fabric, her Mum asked if I could make a beanbag as I did for Hollie's brother.  I wasn't sure how the Moda fabric would hold out as a beanbag fabric as it's just standard medium weight cotton.  So I went hunting in the curtain shop for some matching heavier weight fabric.  I found a lovely dusky pink stripped fabric that I think matched the fairies.
I do like making beanbags as they're so easy to do (and quick!), and you don't have to be so careful about accuracy. The only slightly fiddley thing is putting the zip in - I couldn't get a long enough one for the whole of the base so there are two that meet in the centre. I may have put a few too many beans in the  bag as it's quite solid, but they'll squidge down with small people jumping on it....

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Aladdin's cave

 Gill at work keeps telling me how amazing the fabric shop Abakhan in Mostyn is, so with a requirement to get lots of fabric for various projects I went off to investigate... It's amazing!  There are multiple buildings, a big two storey one full of fabric, a knitting building, a craft building and a cafe.  I was in my element - armed with my shopping list I wandered around, but I was so in awe that I just didn't know where to start!  There are big cages full of different types of scrap fabrics, all priced per the kilo (yes, kilo not metre!) so it's just a case of routing through them and finding what you want.  And even though I said "scraps" some of the fabric is full width and 2-3m long.
So this is what contributed to the state of the living room at the moment....

I've finished the top and the back for the Bleakley baby quilt, so there was a process of clearing space and then taping the quilt out to baste it (pin it) which took a while and hurt my fingers!  I got a bit carried away as well, so did all the cutting out for Nan's quilt.  There was a plan to do something fairly complicated which would take a while, so I decided to simplify and just do simple blocks like this

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Fabric addiction

The trouble with being on mailing lists is that you get updates on lovely new fabrics, like these:

So now I just need to find something to make from it.... I'm thinking of a throw for the sofa bed in the snug, maybe a block quilt like this:

The trouble is that there really are not enough hours in the day....

Sunday, 21 October 2012

More holes

While I was off visiting the folks last weekend and help out with Nan's flat, Malcolm was a good lad and did some tidying up in the polytunnel - the chillies and peppers in the small bed had been munched (and they didn't really like being in there anyway) so they got composted.  He must have done some digging outside as well as more soil appeared in the left bed!

And here's what was dug! The small drainage ditch than ran under the path never really worked and a pond appeared over the path every time it rained, so he's dug a new deeper one and put a drainage pipe in.  I helped with carting the gravel through this weekend to fill in the ditch.  As well as that, I got around to doing a bit of tidying out the front and bought some winter plants/bedding for the window boxes.  It's all looking a bit more presentable now!                                                    

As well as all that, I found something to do with the cucumbers - Cucumber and Apple Chutney

I have to say the smell of cooking cucumber is a little weird, but the taste test was pretty good and it'll be even better after the 3 month maturing period

Monday, 8 October 2012

New project begins

Firstly I have to appologise for the poor quality of the photos - the iPhone really doesn't like taking pictures in artifitial light, I really should use a proper camera.

So here we are starting another new adventure.  Mum thought it would be a lovely idea for me to make a quilted bedspread for Nan in her new home, so I thought I'd better get some practise in and start off with something slightly smaller....

I bought a fat quarter pack from someone on the internet (I can't remember the source, I could look it up I suppose) and then started the excellent Quilting 101 class from the Chasing Cottons blog (

Eventually my fat quarters turned into a big stack of 5'' x 5'' squares, and then it was time to start sewing them together:

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Sun 23rd: Elgol and Sleat

Yet again I made a slight mistake with the distance planning and the route for the day was going to be less that 20 miles from Broadford to the ferry terminal.  So we came up with a new plan involving cycling out to Elgol to get the view up Loch Coruisk into the Cullin horseshoe.

Our hosts for the night kindly let us leave the panniers behind to be picked up later and we set off down the road with much lighter bikes. The difference was remarkable - the handling changed and the effort involved in getting going was much more noticeable than expected.

For a dead end road it was quite busy - I guess as Elgol is a popular visitor destination, but the sun was shining, there was little wind and we had no luggage!  First stop before we reached Torrin was a bit of a traffic jam, a herd of cows being led down the road by the land-rover to their new grazing.  A few impatient car drivers trying to push past, but we just stopped and waited.  Mooing cows are quite loud when standing right next to you calling their calves!

Friday, 21 September 2012

Fri 21: Trotternish

I was kind of dreading today - the first ride on Skye and the threat of proper hills and all starting with an early call, little breakfast and a ferry ride.

We made a bit of a faux-pas to begin with - after the relaxed attitudes of the Western Isles we turned up at the ferry terminal 20mins before sailing without having bought our tickets, so a disgruntled CalMac ferryman sent us off to the ticket office to purchase tickets.  We got the tickets and boarded without a fuss but it was a bit of a change to the previous few ferry rides where it was just turn up, get on, buy ticket.

Coming in to Uig we could see the hills surrounding the village, but in the end the climb didn't seem that bad just a steady plod with a couple of switchbacks.  Once over the brow there was a fantastic view of the coastline of the northern end of the peninsula backed by the hazy sight of the Harris hills across the water. I hadn't been this far up the Trotternish before and it was stunning. It helped that the weather was pretty good as well!

Of course with the weather it meant that we had to keep stopping to take pictures (Morag insisted) - the hills were still a bit hazy but it was definitely the best weather we'd had all holiday.  The coastline is ace - lots of cliffs and bays, and granite columns - of course that meant we were constantly descending into bays and climbing out over the cliffs.  But it really didn't feel that bad.  I think I'd been conditioned by the days in the Western Isles and then the rest day yesterday.  The remembered climb up to the Storr was all I recalled...

After the Storr (why is there no visitor centre/cafe at The Storr?? Least it looks like they're building a car park....) there was another short climb before the view of Portree was laid out before us, along with an ominous looking cloud hanging over it! Cracking descent and then into Portree where there was traffic - that was a bit of a shock!! Not used to having to concentrate on the cars around us, trying to squeeze past at traffic islands, general impatient-ness.....

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Thurs 20th: Lewis to Harris

Ok we cheated. We were both tired after five days of cycling and not looking forward to the cycle back from Stornaway to Tarbert after having already done most of it in the other direction. So as we were on holiday and could do what we liked- we got the bus!!

Bikes and panniers easily went in the luggage compartment and it trundled back over the Harris hills to Tarbert.

Morag the Travelling Coo
Once back, we had the great idea of cycling out to Scalpay island - round trip of approx 16 miles, but not before acquiring a small Highland heifer who wanted to come along for the ride...

On the road to Scalpay looking towards S.Harris and the CalMac ferry
I'm so glad we did - it was lovely. Not a flat ride but the road dipped down into coves and over headlands. The community cafe/shop on the island was fantastic - very friendly, humongous pieces of cake and endless tea. After a while stuffing ourselves we pooled to the end of the road and thought about walking out to the headland to look at the lighthouse. But then it started raining. So we didn't!

On the way back Harris threw it's best as us yet again - absolute downpour/hailstones the lot. Luckily we'd learnt from previous episodes and put waterproofs on 'just in case'!
From Scalpay looking back towards the Harris Hills

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Tues 18th: Harris to Lewis

Today was going to be the hardest day with the biggest planned climbs of the holiday (not counting potential diversions!) over the Harris Hills - so there was some attempt to be up and out promptly, although we were both complaining of aching muscles.

That's the sea in the far distance!
From Tarbert we were into the climb pretty much straight away- up from the coast along a 1 in 10 hill and the first use of granny gear! After the initial steep climb it levelled out a bit, so I had a brief break to catch my breath before starting the rest of the more gradual climb.

As you go up the landscape really changes, from the coastal inlets and sweeping bays to the more rugged hills that feel a lot more like the Scottish highlands that we're so familiar with. After spinning up for a while (maybe an hour?) we made it to the top of the pass and were rewarded with a cracking view of the upland freshwater loch, the surrounding hills and down to the sea.

At the top!
Whilst hanging around taking pictures we saw another bike tourer approaching from the other side of the pass- he was on a three week tour and had significantly more stuff than us. Before getting too cold we continued on with a gradual downhill. I absolutely loved this stage- I'd just done my first ever 'big' climb on a laden bike and didn't kill me, the sun was shining, there were blue bits in the sky, and there was some amazing Scottish highland scenery.
Loch Seaforth - looking back at the Harris hills

Before too long we were back to climbing to get over the last of the Harris hills, and then were rewarded with the sight of Loch Seaforth below us, and a band of rain coming towards us! We figured it would only be a short shower so didn't break out the waterproof trousers, but on the fast sweeping descent we hit the wall of water, more like hailstones really - and were soaked in 30s.  Its fun when you're breaking on a fast descent with a laden bike and your hands have gone numb!!

We need a stop then, hungry, knackered and soaked so we headed for the Loch Erisort Inn, a few miles off the main road.  We got there a bit early but fortunately the owner saw us arrive and let us in, cranked up the fire and sorted us out with lots of tea! Not to mention a demanding elderly collie with an eye for the tennis ball...

We tried to warm up but after the soaking it was a bit of a struggle so we decided to crack on.  After the climb over the Harris hills we thought it would be plain sailing for the rest of the day, but there were quite a few short sharp climbs.  Eventually we reached Achadh Mor for the final descent down to Callanish - but the wind picked up and it was a real struggle.  It was so frustrating - you could see the coast in the distance, the moorland was fairly flat with just gentle rises, but the wind was relentless.

Finally we reached our destination, and dived into the Visitor Centre for the Callanish Stone Circles to top up on tea and cakes.  The Stone Circle itself is amazing - there are so many stones still there and they're huge!  This is the largest of three circles all within sight of each other.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Mon 17th: North Uist to Harris

Carrying on round the coast of North Uist with it's White sandy beaches, we were soon on the causeway and then on to Berneray. The village gets a good write up, so we checked it out before heading for the ferry terminal.

It's georgous!! Harbour bay surrounded by cottages. We sat on a bench and watched the seals sunning themselves on the rocks. Eventually we got a but chilly so headed off to the cafe for tea before the lunchtime ferry.

Disaster! Ferry cancelled due to exceptional low tides! No other option but to wait for the next one at four o'clock... This was not good - our plan once on Harris was to do the 20 mile rid from Leverburgh to Tarbet which included our first ever experience of hills on a laden touring bike. I was worried....

So there was a tense wait, more tea and cake consumed, and lots of watching the tide come in.

Finally the ferry arrived. I then completely understood why the previous one was cancelled. The sound of Harris is really shallow with lots of small islands and sandbanks, and the route between the two harbours is circuitous to say the least. The ferry was making some very sharp turns around the marker buoys and I'm sure that at some points the depth alarm was going off!!

Once on Harris it was time to crack on - 20miles, some hills, and two hours of daylight left. The climb up from Leverburgh was a steady plod and then we got to the top and rounded to corner to see some absolutely stunning coastline laid out before us. Beautiful sandy beaches!

Then further on Harris golf course with it sternly worded "No playing on Sundays" sign. Bless. And some great beaches with crashing waves and plumes of spray. We had to keep stopping to take photos! Amusingly we saw the same people at each stop, so it looks like a bicycle is a quick as a car on Harris...

Eventually though we had to crack on and head up and inland away from the amazing beaches. The first climb was a short stiff 1in10 (?) but then it slacked off a bit. The landscape here was completely different to anything we'd seen on the islands so far - brown, with big boulders everywhere, it really felt in the middle of nowhere. We plodded on upwards, eventually reaching the top of the pass. I was so relieved. I'd been quite worried about my ability to haul a laden bike up hills. And actually it really wasn't that bad. OK, in the grand scheme in things they're not very big at all but everyone has to start somewhere.

The there was the cracking fast descent to Tarbert, but the sting in the tails was the heavens opening just as we got to the village. A few minutes cycling in that and we turned up at the B&B looking like drowned rats!

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Sun 16th: Benbecula to North Uist

An excellent breakfast of poached eggs on toast (and a stolen chunk of Stornaway black pudding) and after a bit of saddle adjustment for Mal, we were off. Of course there was that second day wince when you first get in the saddle!

No sooner were we off than we stopped- on the road by the B&B was a grave yard with a ruined chapel which originally belonged to the monastery at Iona. Apparently much of the island was owned by the Monks. Many of the gravestones were illegible but there were a few war graves - a sailor from HMS Furious, and three Australians who must have died in a plane crash.

The crazy collie across the road wasn't impressed with us hanging around so we doned waterproofs and headed into the depressing looking Baile a'Mhanaich.

Fortunately we were soon out of the other side and out on to the causeway that links the two islands (minus waterproofs by this time). Then there was a bit of searching for birds/otters, and few gratuitous bikes on causeway pictures before we got onto South Uist proper.

Once at Cairinis we had brief stop to visit Teampall na Trianaid (TrinityTemple) a medieval church and centre of learning. There was a surprising amount left of the building, and lots more gravestones.

Back on the road we turned right at the junction in Clachan (the general store was very closed, it being Sunday an' all) as we wanted to check out the stone circle and megalithic tumulus at Barpa Langass.

Down the end of the turning was a hotel and a circular walk taking in both features. Unfortunately when we got to the tumulus there were no entry sighs up as part of the roof caved in, in May 2011. Peering inside with a torch you could see the pillar stones that support the ceiling lintel stones, and clearly make out where some of the stone work had collapsed. The guide book had said you could go inside, but even without the roof collapse the space was cosy! The stone circle was on the side of the hill which I thought was a bit odd as it didn't seem a very prominent position. From the trig point at the top of the hill you could really see that this part of North Uist is manly water-there were just freshwater lochs in every direction.

At this point we had a decision to make- either carry on the east road or head back to the junction and round the west road. In the end we opted for heading back as there were sights we wanted to see on the west side. Foolishly at this point I decided to remove my mid layer, so it is entirely my fault that heading back we got caught in a hail storm and a headwind. Mal ploughed on through it and I followed behind, but it didn't last long and by the time we were back at Clachan it had gone.

Although the rain had gone the wind still remained and we didn't have much choice other than head down and keep plodding. The flat bits weren't too bad but even the slightest rise with the wind and bike luggage just sapped your speed. Soon enough we made it to the Claddach Kirkibost Centre and even though it was Sunday and out of season the excellent cafe was still open. Fortuitous as the heavens opened again while we ordered tea!

Back out and battling the wind again. The land around is pretty flat, only sand dunes to break the view (and much like Orkney, Mal tells me). We passed the turning for the RSPA reserve at Balranald but decided not to turn down as it would put us directly into the wind. Scolpaig tower appeared eventually much to my relief as I knew the road turned eastwards away from the wind at this point. The tower was a strange sight - a small folly built on an island in the middle of a freshwater loch just in land - there seemed no reason why it would be built there.

After a bit of navigational error (we went past it) we ended up at the B&B. The approach is stunning- cycling around the bay of Traigh Bhalaigh with the tide out there's a huge expanse of pale sand, then sitting down to dinner watching the tide come in and the sun setting.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Sat 15th: Barra to Benbecula

A fairly relaxed start as we only had to make the ferry at 11:10 and it was only 5 miles or so to the terminal. The scenery around the west side of Barra was lovely- golden beaches to our left and big hills to our right. We even made it round to the airport before getting on the ferry - apparently the only one in the UK where the planes land on sand. To be honest it did just look like a big sandy bay, and we couldn't hang around to wait for the planes.

Once on the ferry we had great views of the gannets fishing - some impressive diving! But no signs of any otters...

On South Uist the scenery wasn't particularly inspiring, just views of rolling dunes and fields with hills to the far distant east. Eventually rising out of the horizon we spotted the church Our Lady of the Sorrows at Gearraidh na Monadh - I had to take a photo it was so ugly!

The ugliest church in Scotland
In Dalabrog we stopped off for lunch at the hotel- according to the guidebook it's bustling, but there was no-one there when we were! And then it was just keep plodding up the road.

Chapel at Howmore
Howmore Hostel
We had a few diversions and stops on the way. First to visit the supposed birthplace of Flora MacDonald (she of Bonnie Prince Charlie fame) - not much there really - a plaque, a plinth and some random bits of stone...

Did a loop diversion off the main road just for a bit of change an came across a strange derelict building - a large but ugly manor house we later checked the guidebook to find was destroyed by fire the day it was completed. Back on the main road a off again to check out the ruined chapels and graveyard at Howmore - along with our first sight of thatched cottages held down by rope and stones!

The wind was getting steadily stronger during the day, but in the right direction if we stayed on the main road. Then as we turned off for the last diversion we hit the wall of air. It might have only been a few miles but it took ages. Fortunately the cafe was still open when we got to the Hebridean Jewellery workshop! Great coffee and cake, and I managed to avoid spending lots of money on very nice jewellery...

I made a bit of a faux par on the route planning - I told Mal it was about 30 miles today.... Well with the diversions it was more like 50! Whoops! If I get it that wrong every day, we're going to be knackered by the end of it!!

Friday, 14 September 2012

Fri 14th: Oban to Barra

Day started well- no breakfast available at the overnight stop so we buzzed along to the Green Welly at Tyndrum for a fry-up.
Then on to Oban, arriving there with enough time to buy ferry and train tickets (for the route back) and a few bits and pieces in town.
Standing waiting to board it was a bit damp and windy. Once on the ferry all the bikes got tied up next to the cars and there must have been around a dozen there in the end. All sorts- road bikes, tourers and mountain bikes.

For the first few hours the ferry weaved between in islands of the inner Hebrides, and then it got to the open sea. At that point it got interesting!! The waves were crashing over the bow and splashing against the windows of the observation lounge. You could hear the ferry crashing in to the troughs between the waves. My head and stomach didn't like that too much, so I spent the second half of the journey snoozing on a bench.

We got into Barra about 18.30, passing the ruins of the castle on the island in the middle of the bay. There was a bit of cycling back and forth to try and find somewhere for dinner. The hotel was full but the girl at the bar directed us to the chip van at the Ball Courts so we had our first freshly cooked fish and chips of the holiday!!
The Castle in the Bay
Then it was a short ride round to the B&B in Borve - fortunately not to far as it was starting to get dark and Mal was without a front light!