Sunday, 13 May 2018

Basingstoke Festival 5k Race 2018

It's that time of year again where I make the trip to Basingstoke to race through their shopping center as part of their annual 5k race.
It's a good time to do it, my foot is feeling much better and I'm back to doing weekly speed sessions along with upping my mileage on my Sunday long runs as I head towards 16 week till my marathon (!!!) and the mileage gets really silly.
This wasn't a PB (personal best) hunt, rather a race to keep my streak alive.  I've run at the Festival 5k for 6 years in a row now, since it started in 2013 and I'd like to keep that up for as long as I can.
Saying that, I can't complain with a time of 26:56.  Not my best time but not my worst either.
It was also a good reminder of what it feels like to race.  The nerves as we make our way there, wary of the slow Sunday morning drivers.  The visit to the loos.  The collection of my race number.  The second visit to the loos.  The nervous energy which makes me bouncy and ready to go.  Then everyone making their way to the start line and in amongst all the noise of the other racers as they chat and bounce and stretch, I feel at peace and ready.  This is a good feeling.  Then the horn blasts and we're off.  It's waiting for your Garmin to connect to GPS and then finding your way between the people around you. The sound of footfalls on marble echoing round you. The sound of your breathing in your ears.  The sound of the breathing of someone else coming up behind you and trying to stay in front.  The sound of cheering as you reach the finish line.
I know the marathon won't be as fast, for which I'm glad, but its a good reminder of what racing feels like.  Now I must start looking towards September and all the running that is needed to get me there.

Sunday, 6 May 2018

Creating a Mobile Usability Lab

As a User Experience Designer I spend a lot of my time designing solutions to problems for websites.  So it was nice to a have a physical challenge at work for once.
I needed to run some user testing with customers to see if the new menus we have designed allow them to find what they are looking for on the website.  Testing on desktop is pretty easy but we needed to test the mobile design too.
Testing on mobile is a bit harder because even if you can record their screen you can't see where their finger is, or what they tap, as they work through the different screens.
The best way to see this is to get a camera to point down on the screen so you can see everything.
There are options you can buy, but they are very expensive and we were on a tight budget, and you can set it up so you sit the phone on a table and stand a camera over it but that's not how people really use a phone.

So I decided to make something.  My first iteration used bits and bobs off amazon.  It was actually a really good set up, but way too heavy meaning a participant wouldn't be able to use it, even for the 15 minute tests we were going to run. 
Having found an article from someone else doing something similar I started to look for plastic.  In the end the best deal was with Wickes and although it was a bit too big, it does mean I can make more as we improve the design.

I cut a piece 6cm wide and 30cm long and 'im outdoors drilled a hole in the top for me - this gave us a way to attach the webcam, and then used his heat gun to help me bend it.
The first one we made wobbled a bit as the webcam was a bit heavy, but we added another strip of plastic to strengthen it and it seems much better now.
We used it last week and it worked really well.  It helped us to see where there are some issues with our current design which means we can fix them before we set it live. 
I love how creative I get to be at work and so nearly 3 years since I quit my regular job I have to say I really have no regrets over changing roles!

Saturday, 21 April 2018

A Knitting Thimble

I am currently working on a big knitting project.  I'm very excited but due to stuff like work it is going to take me a little while to complete.  One problem I was having is this project is knitted in the round with a set of circular needles which are smaller and sharper than the one's I would normally use.  This means that my poor pointy finger is getting the brunt of it.  I started using a sticky plaster to protect my finger, which worked well, but it got soggy every time I had to wash my hands and it felt wasteful using one for just a few rounds an evening then throwing it away.  I had a look online but the best advice there was change the way you knit.  Seeing as I don't actually think there is anything wrong with how I knit I wasn't happy with this.  So I decided to make myself a knitting thimble.

I had some old chamois leather which is thin and soft, from another project years ago, so I wondered if that would do the job.  I used one of my plasters as a size guide then sewed it up.  
So now I have my very own knitting thimble which keeps my finger safe, slips on and off but allows me full movement of my finger and the sense of touch in the tip which is very important.
It moves around a little bit, so as I use it I may modify my design a bit, but as a first iteration I'm very pleased with it.  Here's to happy fingers.

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Rainbow Window Star

I saw a rainbow window star on a blog somewhere, probably All Things Paper, a while ago and wanted to have a go - it looked so pretty.  Having received some waxed kite paper for Christmas I was ready, I just needed a long rainy weekend to have a go.

I followed Helen Hiebert's instructions and came up with this wonderful creation.  Mine is a bit bigger than she suggests, but I had a big window to fill.  
Having made this one I think it would be quite easy to make a more complex star.  I'll see how this one fairs in the sun.  I've chosen a window where it will get a bit of sun, but not full sun so hopefully it will last a while. 

You can't really see it in the photos, but even on a damp rainy day it seems to glow!  Love it.

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Gladsmuir Cushion

The last month or so I've been working on a new cushion cover to add to my collection.  Most of the patterns I've managed to find so far have been knitted so I was quite excited to find a crochet pattern that wasn't just made of granny squares.

Can you see how the squares fit together?  It sort of messes with your head, doesn't it?

Once I worked out how to make the first set of squares that make the corner of a square they were really easy to make, in fact I made a bunch of them on the train to Manchester and back when I went up there for a conference recently.

The Janie Crow kit was a Christmas present from my Mum and contained the instructions and 13 balls of Jamieson's of Shetland Spindrift wool.  I'm not sure I'd want to make a jumper out of it - a bit itchy, but its perfect for a cushion.
It makes a splendid addition to my cushion collection.  I wonder how many more I need to fill up the bay window seat?

Saturday, 3 March 2018

A yarn bowl

I recently met a friend for lunch, who I hadn't seen for ages, which meant we exchanged late birthday presents.  I was pretty chuffed with what I received - a yarn bowl!

Its so pretty and simple.  You could quite happily display it without any yarn.

And it even has my name on it, so maybe Milo will get the idea that its my wool, not his!  But I wouldn't bet on it. 
Such a lovely gift.  I look forward to using it in the near future.

Saturday, 24 February 2018

The disappointing hat

Last year I found a pattern for a hat which looked nice, but also had a few things within it that I wanted to have a go at and thought a hat project would be an ok size to try them out on.  For instance it would give me a chance to do some more cable, have a proper go at knitting in the round and try working in two colours.

But it wasn't to be.  Every time I get to the end of the ribbed section where the pattern really starts and you should be working in stocking stitch, its gone backwards and turned into garter stitch, the stocking stitch being on the inside. 

I've tried twice now, being so careful with the pattern, but either there is something missing from the pattern or I'm not doing something right.  It's so disappointing as I really wanted to make and then wear this hat.  I'll have to see if any of my knitting friends can help, otherwise I'll just have to find a different hat pattern to make.

Saturday, 17 February 2018

The Loch Ness Marathon - part 1

If you read this blog a bit, you might know that I like running.  I like the space it gives me to think and the effect it has on my body.  Although mostly I just run for me, I do like to race sometimes.  It gives me a focus for my training.
I've never really thought marathons sound that appealing (although weirdly some of the ultras do - go figure?).
I've run the Reading Half and kinda thought that was as far as I would go.  But it's been long enough now that I've forgotten how painful and hard it was and I've been tempted by the beauty of a marathon on roads, but out in the wild - the Loch Ness Marathon
So I'm all signed up, flights and accommodation booked and training plans perused as I decide which will work best for me.
The marathon isn't until the end of September so I have loads of time.  My first goal - hit 10 miles for my long runs by May.  I can then start to focus on 26!  
I'm quite excited if a bit nervous.
But that might be because, not content with pushing my body further than ever before, I've also decided to run for charity.  Can I raise £500 before September?  I hope so.
Many years ago I had an accident with some hot water which put me in hospital for a good 6 weeks.  The team at the Salisbury Burns Unit looked after me and got me back on my feet and I've come from not being able to stand up straight to aiming to run a marathon.
I've wanted to say thank you for years and so this is my chance.
If you'd like to read more about my experience and sponsor me please visit my JustGiving page.  Thank you.