Last time of asking

KM178coverIt’s a dreary and wet Saturday morning and the March issue of Knitting Magazine has just hit my doorstep. Great you may think, a perfect excuse to hunker down with a(nother) cuppa and linger over the designs, articles and reviews held within the covers. But this issue  is a little different for me as it marks the end of an era ….my last Ask Jeanette column.

I was very privileged to have been asked by Knitting’s previous editor to take over the column from Jean Moss and I can’t believe that was something like 10 years ago. Within that time I also took on other features including the yarn reviews and truly enjoyed all the drooling, petting, swatching and writing about yarn for ‘work’. It’s truly been one of the best jobs in the world. But, as you’ll know if you read this blog regularly life has taken a few unexpected turns in the last couple of years with the diagnosis of my brain tumours. Although mercifully they were both successfully removed in 2016 the surgery has left me quite a different person and no doubt along with getting older, has left me with a number of difficulties. This may sound odd but I no longer feel ‘present’ in much of what I do so on a good day I’ll write something – much of it back to front or spelt incorrectly (thank god for autocorrect) – but without a great deal of focus or concentration which means constant reading and re-reading in order to try and get it to penetrate my brain. Even then I may come back to it 24 hours later and it feels like reading someone else’s work. Alternatively on a bad day there are the migraines which I’d hoped to have seen the back of after the craniotomy.  Fellow migraine sufferers will know how debilitating these can be and despite being caffeine free for over 5 years and trying to avoid cheese (boo!) & red wine (boo hoo!), getting lots of rest and drinking lots of water they still rear their ugly heads.

Unfortunately all this this has meant that trying to meet deadlines has become increasingly more difficult along with trying to juggle looking after my elderly parents day to day. I felt that something had to and has to change. So I took the difficult decision to bring to an end most of my work for Knitting Magazine. You’ll find my final column on page 44 but you won’t be getting rid of me entirely as I’ll still be responsible for the A to Z of Techniques along with the occasional design. As for who will replace me I’m very happy to say that the reigns will be very ably taken over by the wonderful, and hugely talented Sarah Hazell who I was fortunate to meet only last year at Ally Pally and will hopefully see a bit more this coming year.

Thank you for letting me into your favourite knitting magazine. It’s been an absolute pleasure to write for you. I hope you’ve enjoyed picking my brains over the last 10 years…it’s just time to put less stress on what’s left of them.

J x

 

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50 sense

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I know it’s a couple of days into 2018 but it’s never to late to wish you a Happy New Year! Well obviously saying it in August might be a little daft but you know what I mean. Happily for me the dawn of a new year also means celebrating another birthday and this year it was the biggie – the belter – the big 5 – 0.

If you’ve read this blog for a while you’ll know that there have been several interesting occurrences in my life (I normally hate the phrase ‘challenging’ but that is what they’ve been). A number of serious illnesses over the last 30 years meant that I genuinely didn’t think I’d get to 50 at all but I am truly blessed to have done so meaning this New Year’s Eve celebrations were extra special. If you follow me over on instagram (@jeanettesloan) you’ll have seen a number of videos where I’m dancing around like an idiot and to be honest I make no apologies for that. I’ve embraced my 50th birthday with all the enthusiasm of a small child and whilst that meant that a whole evening prancing about the lounge in high heels made my knees and ankles agony when I woke the next morning I’m still giggling about the amazing time I had surrounded by the some of the best people I’m privileged to know. Among them are my friends Lee & Nicci who part way through the evening, produced this incredible birthday cake which literally made my eyes well up with tears. I’ve known Lee since we lived up in Edinburgh and have come to know Nicci over the last few years and for this beautiful couple to take so much time and trouble to create this stunning confection for a knitty old lady like me really blew me away.

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Nicci & Lee are huge foodies and with Lee being an art director with a perfectionist’s eye for detail it’s no surprise that the cake is so wonderfully bright, skilfully executed and of course ….delicious.  (It had a spiced apple cake centre and the balls of ‘wool’ were made from sponge mixed with chocolate ganache). Nicci & Lee are a lovely couple and as they’re getting married this summer whoever is tasked with making their wedding cake had better up their game.

You’d assume that reaching the ripe old age of 50 I’d have some sage words of advice to give? Nah, not really. That the new year has prompted me to write another long list of resolutions I’m bound to break before the month of January is out? Not a chance.

My only resolution is NOT to make any New Year’s resolutions. Having reached this ripe old new age I’ll be holding my family and friends more closely (sorry guys) and enjoying every moment of the new challenges (that word again) that 2018 will bring. A number of them will take me away from knitting but the ‘pins’ will never be too far away. Like many of us I’ve put on weight over the festive period and knitting in front of the telly is the only thing that will stop me stuffing my face with food. So as part of spreading the love I’ve got a bit of a promotion going in my Ravelry Pattern Store where there’s 50% off all my patterns for the next 5 days (discount ends at midnight 8th January GMT) just click here

Thanks for reading my ramblings and whatever you’re doing in 2018 I wish you love, peace, happiness and health

 

J x

 

 

Building the kitchen from heaven

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The Kitchen From Hell

Sam and I don’t do things by halves – we never have. We moved into this house last year 8 weeks after my brain surgery and within 2 weeks I had it looking like we’d been living here for …well much longer than that. I can’t stand chaos and disorder and as much as I loved and still love this house when we first moved into it the one thing we knew would change was the kitchen.

It was bad, I mean really REALLY bad. In fact in terms of layout it was the worst kitchen in which I’ve ever had the misfortune to prepare food. So back in March we saw the beginning of a major building project to transform the Kitchen From Hell or KFHL (as I came to refer to it) into the Kitchen From Heaven or KFHV. The build took around 3 and a half months, it cost…well more than a fiver….and if you follow me over on Instagram (where I’m @jeanettesloan) you’ll have seen some of my regular posts as the work was progressing.  It wasn’t however until a couple of weeks ago when I was at Ally Pally for the Knitting & Stitching Show that I kept being asked what the final results looked like. Well here’s the (shortened) story

The house was built in the 1930s and had a number of original features like stained glass  on the interior doors that thankfully the previous owners had kept but they’d also knocked the two downstairs rooms into one long bowling-alley type space. This used to house the living & dining area with a strange play area at the end leading to the garden. The KFHL was just off the dining space backing onto a utility room and all together this strange arrangement made up the ground floor of the house. The main aim of the building renovations was to make sense of these 5 spaces and turn them into a more clearly defined kitchen/dining area that backed onto an open plan living room with a utility room, office and store room built onto the side of the house.  This meant knocking down walls and making a mess……a LOT of mess.

In order to give us somewhere to eat in relative peace and away from the chaos our lovely builders erected a wall to create a new living room which became the ‘camp kitchen’ for the duration of the build. Then they started knocking seven bells out of the rest of the house and this meant lots of early mornings, the consumption of literally gallons of tea and coffee, washing up in the middle of a half built room, storing all our downstairs furniture in the middle of the garden and living on ready meals and takeaways for 3 months.

 

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Mess with more mess beyond
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Alfie up to his knees in it

Before you get the wrong idea we knew it wasn’t going to be easy and the disarray sort of reminded me of living as a student but throughout  both Sam and I kept our eyes on the prize, the bigger picture. I kept envisaging how my dream kitchen would look when it was finally finished, how I would no longer have to wash up in the  bath, how I could eat steamed vegetables rather than ‘nuking’ our dinners in the microwave every night and how I could actually bake in my new Neff oven!

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Ricky taking a breather having erected the steel frame

Now I could go into minute detail about the visits from Brighton & Hove Council’s building control, the enormous picture frame of steel girders that could hold up an entire block of flats let alone our modest semi or the countless cock ups by the ‘kitchen designer’ from a well known supplier that meant the completed kitchen is around 2 cubic metres larger than we were first led to believe. (Better bigger than smaller though, right?).

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Yes I washed up in this sink before they had to remove it

But I won’t. The main thing is that the building work and the months of filth and disruption were more than worth it. It has transformed our house into a beautiful, welcoming space that makes me smile every morning when I come downstairs. In fact I can’t believe this is actually MY kitchen.

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fullsizeoutput_6baI finally found a home for the Charlie Harper bird decals I bought at Bristol’s Arnolfini

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along with the mounted section of locally produced linen that was gifted to me by my friends Ian & Jo who live in the south of France.

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My favourite spot in the Kitchen From Heaven

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And amongst the many features and gadgets in the ktichen I love that choosing to install one orange and one turquoise cable on these pendant lights still drives Alfie absolutely mad.

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I could dribble on and on but I think the pictures say it all. Huge thanks to Ricky, Bailey, Alfie our first team who did the structural work, David & Robi our sparkys, Mark our plumber, Ian, Chris & James the chippys and everyone else who helped to work this miracle. I’d also like to give a special mention to Boysie; a lovely lad with a cheeky sense of humour who was a member of the first team and sadly was killed in a car crash just a couple of months ago.

J x

PS. Yes boys we know we still owe you that barbecue!

 

Close…but no cigar

Yes I know I should be celebrating.

No more filling bottles with water to boil for tea and no more hoiking dishes up the stairs in a box, to be washed, hunched over a bath silhouetted with masonry dust and shards of plaster, then hoiked back down the stairs in same box and dried on plastic trays in the temporary kitchen set up in the living room.


That is indeed a sink. With running hot water. But it’s in the new (unfinished) utility room. It’s 3 months into our ‘3 month’ kitchen renovation and the kitchen isn’t finished. Admittedly the builders have been fantastic doing the knocking out of walls and installing the mega steels that now hold up the back of the extended house. But as one team have moved on and the next have taken over for ‘second fixing’ the pace has changed and whilst I can’t fault the quality of their work I’m more than a little bored of the dust, disruption and dismal dinners. (A ‘bargain’ £1.00 Lasagne from Marks & Spencer just up the road was the final nail in my food loving coffin – even Sam turned his nose up at it). Now whilst this time 2 years ago I was still covered in Pilton filth with my nostrils haunted by the various smells from a stint working at Glastonbury and just a year ago I still had a fresh ear to ear scar in my head after my craniotomy I’d just like to…..ok I”ve just re-read this and there really is NO excuse to moan.

I’m here, I’m healthy, I’m happy and it’ll be done when it’s done. I just hope it’s before friends from Dubai arrive in the middle of next month.

Here endeth the moan, I’m off to put on the kettle.

J x

 

Dreary Monday

IMG_0001Despite it officially being Spring the weather is filthy down here today. It’s grey, windy and wet and all I want to do is snuggle up under a blankie in front of the fire and knit.

I try not to let this foul weather get me down but the endless lack of blue sky is really beginning to get to me. The builders start work on the house tomorrow (that means the kitchen from hell will soon be a thing of the past) but even shopping for a new kitchen can only lift my mood for a little while. Thankfully though there was a little ray of sunshine.  A beautiful bunch of flowers that I received from my lovely friend, textile artist Ealish Wilson. Originally from the Isle of Man but now based in San Francisco we met when studying at Heriot Watt Uni for our Mdes in Textile Design and in fact if it wasn’t for her I wouldn’t have met the entertaining Mr Sloan. So whilst I’m enjoying my flowers, the fire and swatch knitting for a new design pop over and have a look at her website. Her work explores a number of techniques including printing, pleating, smocking, photography and digital manipulation with final applications ranging from cushions and scarves to bags and large scale art pieces.

Her Design Bahn website can be found here.

Less whingeing next post, promise.

J x

The fridge made me do it

When we moved into this house last July we knew that the there were elements of our new home, inherited from the previous owners, that we hated but would be fixed in time. The kitchen is primary area of concern – no scrub that- less concern more outright hatred. It’s small, dark, pokey and badly laid out with two and a half sinks and no draining board. Who needs two and a half sinks but nowhere to drain dishes?! Being more used to gas the halogen hob meant nearly every meal I cooked in the first few weeks was blacker than my hair used to be and the main oven which we were told ‘is a bit temperamental’ doesn’t work at all. That’s why we had to barbecue our 12 lb turkey at Christmas.

But hold on, I’m more zen-like and calm these days so I can put up with all this. After all the builders are due to start work at the end of this month and they’ll be ripping out the old cursed, kitchen and creating a modern, airy open plan dining, living & kitchen space of my dreams. So why the rant I hear you ask? Well with what can only be described as a bloody annoying ‘white goods’ extra sensory perception the hideous inherited fridge-freezer seems to have got wind of the fact that it’s soon to be dumped and has decided to stop working…. Yesterday. And of course the freezer is full of food. So today I’m having to cook, cook COOK rather than knit.

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Pack of tiger prawns – thawed
Beef mince – thawed
Fillet of pork – thawed
Butternut squash – thawed
Endless left over bits of homemade pastry…. well you get the idea.

Being slightly forgetful I thought ‘I know I’ll cook a few meals and then store them in the fri..’ Dammit the bloody fridge is knackered! In fact it’s so ‘gone’ it’s  warmer inside than the actual kitchen is and we’re currently storing our milk, cheese and butter in a cool box outside the kitchen on the doorstep. Oh for a larder!
Expect to see a few gratuitous food shots as I fight to save the dearly defrosted from the same fate as the heap of junk fridge. I’m off to cook
J x

Goals and milestones

31 Day Challenge Day 16

Back in the first of my 31 day challenge blog posts I talked about how my work planning now needs to be more detailed in order not to overly stress my wobbly brain. I remember at the time thinking I needed to make some new years resolutions but given that mentally I can only cope with one thing at a time, it all became a bit too much to process and so none were made.

I recently started following Kristine Ofstad (@blogitbetter on Instagram) who offered some encouraging and inspiring thoughts on setting yourself goals. Based on studies done by the Dominican University the thinking is that we’re more likely to achieve our goals if we actually write them down. More than that (apparently) we’re even more likely to achieve them if we write a progress plan and share it with others. Gulp. To be honest that seems more than a little scary to me, I suppose like a lot of us, fear of failure and disappointment is holding me back. With this in mind she suggests setting short and long term milestones to chart progress (such as what do you want to achieve and by when) and share it on your blog to make yourself accountable. What? That’s even more scary!

So, as I said to myself before I went for my recent level 1 cycle training session ‘it can’t be more scary than having your head sliced open’ so I made a list of goals and milestones for 2017 and here they are. (Some are work related goals, some projects I’d like to make from my Ravelry Favourites and others are personal fitness goals).

Read 6 books in 2017. This may not seem much but I still have problems with concentration.

Start driving again before the end of February. I had to stop driving when my tumours were diagnosed and haven’t driven for 7 months and the longer I leave it the more nervous I’m getting.

Walk from Hove to Rottingdean by 1st April 2017. 7 months off work has meant I’ve put on a lot of weight. I’m horribly unfit and need to shift my bum.

Cycle from Hove to Kemp Town by 1st May 2017. I never cycled as a child but learned as an adult and am hilariously wobbly on two wheels.

Knit a top down garment. I’ve been in love with Bristol Ivy’s Svalbard for a long time now so this will probably be the design for tackling this technique

Design a stranded colourwork garment using some of my Jamieson & Smith 2ply Jumperweight stash.

Design using the double knitting technique. I recently learnt to do this intriguing technique and loved the results

Complete the 31 day challenge then commit to blogging regularly twice a week

Publish 12 new designs by the end of 2017 whether independently, collaboratively or in a magazine

De clutter my office of excess knitting books and my loft of excess yarn by the end of 2017. Contrary to popular belief you can have too much.

All I can say is watch this space

J x