Thursday, 28 July 2011

Wedding Vendors: Atholl Palace Hotel

Today starts what will no doubt be a protracted (as I think of it) series about our wedding, focusing on the vendors and what an amazing job they all did (and they all did amazing jobs).

Atholl Palace Hotel
The biggest decision with regards to getting married* was picking the venue. I guess some people pick the date first and plan around that, but we chose to find the perfect venue and then select a date from their availability lest we find ourselves choosing between our perfect date and our perfect place. I imagine picking a date first is logistically easier if you're looking to get married a year or two out, but we weren't interested in a long engagement or paying to renew my current visa just to switch to and pay for FLR(M) a bit down the line. We spent a couple of weeks sorting through venues online - and ruled out a lot because their wedding information boiled down to "we do weddings! ask us how!" without any concrete details - and making appointments to visit our forerunners. APH was actually the first place we decided to see, after finding their advert in a wedding mag (scottish weddings? I don't remember), the only one outwith about 15 miles on Inverness, and the last one we visited. They were having a winter special on lodging, breakfast and dinner so we booked a mid-week get-away and went on with our search. Most places we visited were fine and would no doubt have resulted in an equally lovely wedding (and no doubt have done for many others) but we had a few favourites which were almost perfect.

When we got to APH we knew, we absolutely knew, it was the place for us. We love the town of Pitlochry (though previously we'd loved it from the train, this being our first trip there); we loved the hotel, and the grounds, and the proximity to so many low-key things to do. The food was wonderful, the staff competent and friendly, and I almost couldn't pry Chris out of the jacuzzi.

Fast-forward to the wedding prep - Gillian, the hotel's wedding coordinator, was very organized. She took detailed notes on our time-line for the day, who each of our vendors would be, everything. She was only in the hotel the morning of our wedding, leaving shortly after the ceremony, but everything ran smoothly. I didn't catch the name of the gentleman who MC'd our reception but he, and his staff, had everything in hand an under control. He also ran the restaurant outwith the weddings and service was markedly better when he was around (other times it was hard to find the staff or get someone to actually bring you a pot of tea or coffee, and when they did it was often the wrong hot beverage. The mice will play). But for our wedding everything was under control.

The food is wonderful, though a bit heavy (lots of cream, not a lot of salad options) if you'll be eating it for several days straight. We'd eaten there before, on several occasions leading up to the wedding, including the menu tasting, and know that the food is delicious, but on that particular day we weren't in a position to appreciate it. I didn't eat a single thing, all day, that tasted good. It was all just weird textures and muted flavour. This is in no way a reflection on the quality of the food - everyone else seemed fine - just an odd observation.

My bridesmaids and I did our make-up through the hotel's spa with mani/pedis the day before and make-up the morning of and everyone we interacted with in the spa was lovely and friendly. Chris got a facial and manicure on Friday and still talks about it in reverent tones. The staff all snuck upstairs to see us walk into the ceremony room, the finished products of their hard work.

Unfortunately it rained the whole day, from when I got up around 6am till we went to bed around midnight so we didn't get to take advantage of the lovely grounds for our photos but the pictures taken inside the hotel and from under the awning out front are still lovely - when you get married in Scotland you have to consider the backdrop for your photos if it rains and APH was brilliant on that score as well.

The only real problem** was the lodges on the grounds which are maintained by the hotel but not own or run by them - this is to say that they clean them between guests and check people in and out but otherwise have nothing to do with them. Trevor, the guy who owns them, was slow to respond to emails and curt when he did. He had no interest in being accommodating - my guests rented 4 of his units, two for a week each and two for the weekend, and none of the other units appeared to be occupied - but he refused to let my parents book a lodge from Wednesday-Tuesday, insisting on a Sunday-Saturday hire. They eventually talked him into letting them book it from Monday-Sunday (when they didn't arrive until Wednesday) so they wouldn't have to be out of the lodge by 11 and not able to check into the hotel until 2 on the day of my wedding, but he was ungracious about it. Then he let the Gatehouse lodge, the one my parents had originally inquired after, to my bridesmaids for the same Wednesday-Tuesday that he'd refused my parents. Needless to say, we were not impressed, and I'd strongly recommend against hiring a holiday cottage from him.

* the actual decision to get married was easy-peasy

** they did accidentally leave the hotel music playing during the start of our ceremony, so we almost got married to La Bumba (I think? Does anyone remember what the song actually was?), but it was soft while it was playing and turned off quickly enough when they realized

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Eleanor Cowl

After a month of knitting socks on tiny needles (with only one finished sock to show for it) I decided to give my poor aching hands a rest and cast on the Eleanor Cowl from knitty. This is when I realized that my (metric-based) interchangeable needles don't have a US5 (3.75mm) as they're half and whole metric sizes. Oops. I have one 3.75mm circ which I guess I will be leaning on for all US5/3.75mm projects. I used a US6/4.0mm circ for this project for the ease of switching needles while leaving the project on the same cables, but I screwed up the transfer so that wasn't exactly brilliant.

I had been looking for something to do with a pretty teal/sea green/aqua yarn cake I bought at a locally-produced gift shop in town, but while I know it's 100g of 2ply lambswool, the yardage (meterage? is that a word? Is it the right word?) is anyone's guess. I looked at making mittens, but the thought of having to do two to complete a project seems too much like what I want to take a break from (though mostly it's the aching fingers as I just bloody well want to have knit a pair of socks already). So I'm using the last of the (lovely, lovely, lovely) yarn I bought for my wedding shawl to knit a small cowl. I should have enough yarn - it could wind up a few rows short, depending on my gauge.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

New Socks

Remember the Sunday Swing Socks? Well, they're not going well. As, no doubt some of you predicted, sizing up my needles got my gauge right horizontally, but messed it up vertically. Two repeats of the lace in and Second Sock is approximately the same width as First Sock but at least half an inch longer than where it should be. Bugger. Chris doesn't want me to frog the first sock and redo both of them and I'm pretty fed up with them, so I've decided to go with Plan B which is Completely Different Socks.

I bought Amy S. Singer (of Knitty fame)'s Autopilot Sock Recipe which is a how-to-customize-a-pair-of-socks guide, from the toe up. I'm also knitting them two-at-a-time using the Magic Loop method so from one-at-a-time, top-down, pattern socks, this is quite a change. I bought Wendy's Happy sock-yarn, a bamboo/nylon blend in "zebra" which is white/blue/grey/green, again fairly different from the darker blues wool/nylon yarn I was using. I really wanted to do toe-up socks so I could knit until I run out of yarn and make custom knee-high socks. I have two skeins, so I'm not pulling from both ends of the same ball and I have plenty of yarn to work with.

I think I've talked Chris around to the frog-and-reknit-both-at-the-same-time school of thought. I may just have to frog First Sock when he's not looking and present it fait accompli.

"Hi, I'm an American and I want to move to the UK!"

Hi! I’m an American and I want to move to the UK! I am about to graduate high school/a recent high school graduate/a college student/just got my degree. I hope to work for Starbucks/find a paid internship and live in the UK for a few years and travel around Europe before going to college/starting my career/settling down. How do I go about doing this?

I’m sorry, you can’t. The UK has a migrant worker visa, but Americans aren’t eligible. There used to be a visa for Highly Skilled Workers, the Tier 1 visa, under which you would get a certain number of points based on your age, level of education, and salary and, if you were a 30-something PhD making over £100,000 a year, you could come to the UK and look for a job but they got rid of that visa, too. Currently, unless you’re married to a Brit or someone with permission to be in the UK, your only chance to move to the UK and work is to find a sponsorship for a Tier 2 visa - a job doing something that no one in the UK or European Union (EU) is qualified for, and that’s a pool of around 50,000 people - or a Tier 4 (student) visa. Apply for and get accepted to a UK university and continue your studies. As an out-of-EU applicant, you’ll be paying higher fees than you might for an equivalent US program, but the UK ones tend to have shorter durations so the debt you might incur often works out around the same.

I’m an American and I’m in love with a Brit! We met on the internet a month ago and we want to live together! How do we do that?

First off, meet in person. More than once. Knowing someone’s heart and soul and the detailed working of their mind is no substitute for actually spending time together in person. Your Brit could be the reincarnation of Shakespeare and still think that showering more than once a month is unhygienic. It happens. Now you’ve met a few times and you’ve reached the point in your relationship where you need to be less than 5,000 miles apart to see if this is the one, what next? You have the above options, a Tier 2 or a Tier 4 visa, either of which would get you in the country so you can spend time together. I personally went the Tier 4 route, which has the advantage of being feasible and increasing my prospects in the world. US education and work experience don’t count for much in the UK so it can be hard to get a job and having passed a course in the UK gives you something prospective employers will actually care about. Also it gives you time to see what your prospective partner and country are like day-in, day-out - it’s very different from spending two weeks on holiday, however many times you come to visit.

Speaking of visiting, the General Visitor Visa, the stamp an American would get entering the UK without having previously applied for a visa, grants you up to 6-months clearance to be in the UK. That sounds perfect, right? You can live with your Brit and see what life is like without having to line up funds and fill in documents! Sounds perfect, right? Yeah, no. This visa is intended for visitors, and visitors usually travel around for 2 weeks (or a month if you’re particularly flush), do touristy things, and then go home. Going home is the important part. If you plan to come for more than two weeks then they want solid proof that you’re going to go home again - proof that you have a return ticket, a job waiting for you and expecting you back on a certain date, a place to live when you return, over-seas insurance, and funds to cover you for the entirety of your visit, without working. Are you a woman in your 20s and 30s? They’re going to be extra suspicious of you because so many of your sistren have, willfully or through ignorance, broken the rules before you. And no work means no work. You can’t get a job, you can’t baby-sit for the neighbours, you can’t volunteer at the local animal shelter, and you absolutely cannot telecommute for an American company, paying you American dollars into your American bank account. The UKBA says no work means no work means no work. I joined a gym, watched a lot of movies, knit, took up cooking, and read a lot. Yes, it is possible to come over as a tourist and visit your Brit for up to 6-months out of a rolling 12-month period, but your Brit has to be willing and able to support you entirely for the duration of your stay. But if the UKBA has any reason to think you might overstay, you might break the rules, you might be trying to cheat the system, they will bounce your bum back to the US on the next flight, without ever having set foot outside the airport, without having seen your Brit. In the future you won’t be able to enter the UK without having secured a visa ahead of time, and if they think you were lying, if they think you were actively trying to deceive them and not just ignorant or stupid, then they will ban you from entering the country for 10 years. If this is a route you plan to take, be sure you know what you’re doing and the possible consequences. And please remember, if you do lie or cheat then you’re making it that much harder for the next person trying to build a legitimate, legal, life in the UK. Also, you cannot switch from a visitor visa to any other type of visa, and you are not allowed to register to get married, or get married.

My Brit and I are in love and we want to get married. What do we do now?

If you’re living in the US and you want to marry a Brit (with the intention of settling in the UK - I know nothing about bringing your Brit to the US) then your easiest option is to have your Brit go to the US and get married. The US allows visitors to get married as long as they’re not planning to stay. Have your Brit bring a letter from work saying that s/he’s expected back on such-and-such date, and be upfront about why s/he is visiting. Get married, and as soon as you have your marriage certificate, you can apply for a Spousal visa. Once you have your Spousal Visa you may book tickets (if you book them first you may not have your visa and passport back in time to fly), pack up your stuff to ship, and join your Brit as a probationary non-citizen.

If you would prefer to marry your Brit in the UK, then you can either apply for a Marriage Visitor Visa (relatively cheap), come to the UK under the same conditions as the general visitor visa (no NHS, no working) and you have up to 6 months to get married and return to the US, at which point you apply for the Spousal visa and all proceeds as above. Note, this visa is intended for people who do not wish to settle in the UK and, even if you have the visa, if the Inspection Officer (IO) at the gate thinks you’re going to stay, the will bounce you back to the US.

If you want to get married in the UK and want to be able to stay, you need to apply for a Fiancé(e) visa (expensive). This grants you entry to the UK for up to 6-months to get married (or if you and your Brit are the same gender, a civil union - the paperwork is all the same, you just tick a different box) during which time you cannot work. Once you have your marriage (civil union) certificate, you can apply for Further Leave to Remain (Marriage), which costs the same as the Spousal visa, it just has a different name because you’re already in the UK. This is the most expensive way to enter the country as a spouse as the fiancé(e) visa costs about as much as the spousal/FLR(M) visas.

If you’re here on another visa and wish to marry a Brit, then you may do so and once you have your marriage certificate, you apply for FLR(M).

What happens after you get FLR(M)? I don’t know. They’re holding a consultation on the family settlement and should announce changes in the coming months.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Yesterday I accomplished very little

Yesterday I accomplished very little. The Consultation on Family Migration is up on UKBA's website so I spent a fair amount of the day fuming about the wording of questions and lack of opportunities to share one's actual thoughts, and catching up on UKY to see how my compatriot ex-patriots are reacting. We're putting together a response and "we" actually does include me as I've volunteered to help out. Obviously our response will be skewed towards the ways this would impact immigrants from the US and their usually-British partners.

That's pretty much what I did yesterday. I tend not to look at UKY over the weekend (Chris doesn't like it when I ignore him in favour of the internet) and I'm still not caught up from the turning-30, wedding-planning, school-year-ending, people-visiting, getting-married informal hiatus I took in May/June so there's a lot of posts to read.

I did restart the Swinging Sunday Socks. Knitting loosely wasn't working so I switched from 2.25mm to 2.5mm and it's much closer in size to the first sock. Additionally the 2.5 is 100cm and lace tip, whereas the 2.25 is 80cm (longest the shop had in stock) and blunter, so that's making it easier as well. With all the frogging, I've only just finished the cuff and will start on the leg sometime today.

I finally made it back to the pool today and did 2700m. That's around my usual distance but the clocks were broken so I couldn't say how long it took - I'm guessing I made good time as I'm feeling it a bit in my arms and legs, but it's possible to swim "better" without necessarily swimming faster. I followed this with my first ever bowl of Weetabix (with strawberries on top) so I'm feeling very healthy indeed. Or at least I was until I had nachos for lunch.

The big news for today is that, having made an appointment for early August in Glasgow, we uploaded my application for FLR(M). I say we because my computer refuses to communicate with the printer and everything has to be printed out and signed so I made Chris do it from his computer. I have our marriage certificate and passports, Chris is collecting the financial documents (owning our house, banking and savings account statements), and then we just need passport photos taken. There are photo booths all over the place that do passport photos, so that's no hardship. Chris wants to do his today when we take our constitutional but I want to wait till I get my hair cut next week so I know my hair, at least, looks good.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Our Wedding Vows

One of the (really, really, really) nice things about our civil ceremony was getting to customize the script to suit us. Our registrar emailed us a couple of PDFs, one a sample ceremony with the parts we couldn't change in bold (the registrar identifying herself, the legal definition of a marriage, identifying ourselves and our being free to marry) but most of it could be anything we wanted. The second PDF was a selection of alternate texts for the vows and optional handfasting. A third PDF was optional readings of a non-religious nature (the one restriction for a civil ceremony is that it can't be religious, though the readings included the famous Corinthians passage without attribution and a few Native American blessings, quotes from Confucius, and other things that made me question their definition of "religion") though we never got around to picking any of those so we went without. Minus the legal parts, our ceremony follows:

Your decision to marry is an expression of your love for each other, your faith in your future together and a sign of your commitment to one another. Marriage means developing and maintaining affection, co-operation, friendship and mutual respect. It calls for honesty, patience, trust and humour. Marriage requires both closeness and distance, the closeness of a couple growing together and sufficient distance to allow each other to grow as an individual.

Chris/Jennifer, do you promise that you will always protect Jennifer/Chris with your utmost care that you will honour and cherish her/him in sickness and in health, for richer for poorer and in all things you will be to her/him a faithful loving husband/wife?
I do.

exchanging rings
Traditionally, the passage to the status of husband and wife is marked by the exchange of rings. These rings are a symbol of the unbroken circle of love. Love freely given has no beginning and no end, no giver and no receiver for each is the giver and each is the receiver. May these rings always remind you of the declarations you have made to each other.

I give you this ring as a token of my love, wear it always and when we are apart, look upon it and know I am with you, let it be a symbol of our marriage and of the vows we have made today.

These rings have been given and received as a symbol of your love and commitment to one another; however, it is the solemn vows which you have made that will join you together for life.

In some ways tomorrow is going to seem no different than today, but today you have given and received one of the most valuable gifts of life, the gift of true and abiding love within the devotion of marriage. If there is one thing you remember from today, let it be that it was love that brought you here, love which holds you together and love by which your marriage will endure.

Today you have chosen each other as life partners.
Do you vow to be a faithful husband and wife to each other?
We do.

Do you promise to walk by each other’s side, to love, help and encourage each other, to listen and to care?
We do.

Do you promise to always respect and honour each other as individuals and to be conscious of eachother’s needs?
We do.

I give myself to you as I am and as I will be for all of my life. Whatever may come I will always be there and as I give you my hand to hold so I give you my life to keep.

The knots of this binding are not formed by this cloth but instead by your vows. Either of you may drop the cloth now, for as always you hold in your own hands the making of this union.

Today, you have also given and received one of the most valuable gifts - the gift of true and abiding love within the devotion of marriage. If there is one thing you remember from today let it be that it was love that brought you here, love which holds you together and love by which your marriage will endure.

From this day, let your marriage be a partnership, created for your mutual happiness. May the love with which you have joined hands and hearts today never fail, but grow deeper and stronger with the passing years.

There must have been a veritable dust storm in that little room, judging by the number of people who reported that they, or the person sitting next to them, had something in their eye.

Monday, 11 July 2011

A Tale of Two Socks

I am about halfway through my second sock and I can't help but notice a problem:

The second sock is significantly smaller than the first. Same needles, same yarn, same pattern - different size. This is, ah, unfortunate and most likely means I'm going to frog it and start over and think loose thoughts. Not too loose, obviously, as loose socks are socks you'll walk through quickly. Bugger.

This happened with the second ladybug (in most thing I will pick the British terminology over the American what with living in the UK and all, but it's a bug not a bird!) booties, too. Maybe my tension increases as my confidence grows? I don't know, but it's definitely something to watch for.

In other news, I started the first sunshine booty (waaaaay too big - going to frog and knit on the 2.25mm needles conveniently freed up by frogging the sock), bought more sock yarn (addicted already!), and bought little yellow buttons for the sunshine sweater.

Also, the knitting needle give-away ends tomorrow! Speak up before they're gone forever.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Today I knit a hat

Today I knit a hat while watching the Scottish Open, hosted here in my lovely corner of the Highlands. The golfer I was cheering for, selected randomly because I like his name, didn't do well but I think he's previously earned his invitation to the British Open next weekend, so I may or may not continue watching and root for him in an entirely distracted manner. It's worth noting that my only interest in watching today was to see coverage of my new home (and the swanky golf course everyone keeps talking about).

Did you hear about the freaky weather we've been having? I personally have no reference (I've wintered here twice but this is my first summer) but I'm told this isn't a place that gets oodles of rain or thunderstorms and this weekend we've had both - so much so that the golf course flooded and the surrounding hillsides slid down across the course. The thunder woke us both up shortly before 5am, Saturday morning, three or four miles off. It quieted down and we got back to sleep but it continued to rain and occasionally thunder throughout the day - especially over the golf course. We weren't going to watch the match but followed the news throughout the day as they kept postponing the start time before eventually calling it off altogether at 7:30pm. Very disappointing for the Highlands as getting this tournament is quite the coup. Fortunately the sun came out in the evening and things dried up a bit and, while it rained off and on at our place today, the course mostly stayed dry.

Yesterday, we went to the local garden centre and bought oodles of bird food, mostly b1g1, and an African Violet for me. We also got new water bowls for the cats as Chris is convinced that the reason they like drinking from the Christmas Tree stand (yes, we still have it out in July for Oliver and Libby to drink from, no we don't still have the tree) is that it's bigger and they can both drink at the same time. So we bought a really big bowl for downstairs, where the tree stand was (they seem to like it well enough even though it says DOG), and a slightly-smaller-but-still-bigger-than-their-previous-water-bowl bowl with polka dots for upstairs.

Today we slept in, cleaned (I hoovered downstairs and the stairs, Chris did the loos and kitchen) and watched golf. First I finished attaching sleeves to the sunshine sweater, knit the collar, and wove in the ends. I'm not a huge fan of assembling sweaters and think I'll seek out knit-in-one patterns for the foreseeable future. Then I cast on the matching hat and finished that over Top Gear. I started casting on the booties, modifying the knit-flat pattern to a knit-in-the-round pattern on the fly but I realized I did half the CO with the tail, not the main thread and frogged the whole thing. That'll wait till tomorrow.

Anyway, hat is finished, sweater just needs buttons, and the booties should follow quickly. Pictures will have to wait as they're a gift and the recipient should get them before seeing a lot of pictures on the web. I'm wacky like that.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

An Immigrant Should Occasionally Blog About Immigration

Since it's a FAQ in my life, no being married to an Englishman (in Scotland) does not automatically confer British citizenship. It doesn't even grant me residency or any other thing that would make living with my husband, well, possible. What it does grant me (other than a mutual promise to live together and cherish each other for ever and ever and always) is the chance to apply for Further Leave to Remain (Married). "Futher", because I'm already in the country (it would be a Spousal visa if I weren't) and "Leave to Remain" because I don't have to leave. Yet. FLR(M) is good for two years at which time, under the current system*, I can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain and stay, well, indefinitely - unless I leave the country for two years (I'd get to start all over should I wish to return). ILR is, among other things, a requirement for citizenship. Each of these requires an application to be filled out, fees to be paid, and documents submitted.

That's where I am now - filling out the application for FLR(M). How this one works is I download the interactive PDF (my first experience with one of these) which is saved on my computer. They estimate it will take about 3.5hrs to complete, not including the time needed to gather supporting evidence. I found this estimate to be somewhat...generous, though I did have to save it and consult a friend from UKY** as to the specific timings referred to by two questions: When did you decide to live together as a married couple? and When did you start living together? She concurs that they mean when did we get engaged and we started living together when I came over this last August on my student visa. The six months I spent here the previous winter I was "visiting" not "living with", an important immigration distinction. I emailed the PDF to my husband to look over and he quibbled over some answers (I got the correct number of years he'd lived in the UK (his whole life) but miscounted by a month) and agreed that it looks ready to be submitted.

Only I can't submit it yet. See, when I submit the application, I'll upload it to the United Kingdom Border Agency (UKBA) website, indicate if I've booked an in-person appointment or will be mailing it in - if mailing pay the £550 fee; if in-person, pay £850 at the time of appointment - collect the supporting documents that will be requested at time of submission, and either bring them to the appointment (along with my husband) or mail them in with the official version of my application that I need to print out and sign (presumably along with my husband).

Did you catch the problems there? If I want an in-person appointment, I have to book it before I upload my application. They won't tell me which supporting documents I require until after I upload my application. Now, because I hang out on an immigration forum I have a fairly good idea what will be required - a recent UK-size passport photo, our marriage certificate, utility bills in both our names (or each, but ours are in both), paystubs and bank statements showing we have at least £106 each month after taxes and paying the mortgage, a copy of the mortgage. All of these have to be "original documents" which can be a problem in the modern world of online-statements and online billing. We switched back to paper statements after trying to get "authorized copies" for my Tier 4 (student) Visa.

But if they ask for something I don't expect? I saw on UKY that other people who are switching from Tier 4 to FLR(M) are including a letter from their university saying they're attending and passing all of their courses. Do I need such a document or are they providing excessive paperwork? Having booked my appointment, I'll have a limited amount of time in which to procure any supplemental documents, but I have to book an appointment before my current visa runs out in 41 days. And yes, booking an in-person appointment (in Glasgow) is more expensive than applying by post but I'd get a same-day decision rather than 3-4 months of limbo that I'd get if I apply by post. 3-4 months of limbo, living in a foreign country without my passport or the visa showing that I'm allowed to be here.

What's involved in booking an in-person appointment? I'm glad you asked: I went to the in-person appointment page, read through all the guidances, noted that Glasgow is my closest appointment centre (that's the other side of Scotland from Inverness), and "registered" to book an appointment. First I had to verify that I'm read all the regulations - that I'm applying for a visa that can use the in-person service, that I'm not booking an appointment for more than 10 members of a family unit, and a few other questions I can't remember. Second, they needed an easy-to remember but difficult to guess word between 8 and 12 characters, all letters. I picked one, typed it in, and wrote it down on a pad of paper: "UKBA: Memorable word: MEMORABLEWORD***". My word is, therefore, hard to guess unless you A) have ever met me or B) can find the large legal pad sitting next to my laptop with "UKBA: Memorable word: MEMORABLEWORD" blazoned across the top. On the next page they asked for my first and last names, my phone number - preferably a mobile so that they may send me an sms, and a valid email address. Since it's just me, I didn't have to enter information for anyone else. On the fourth page I'm asked to verify that my name, phone number, and email are all correct and enter the 2nd, 4th, and last character of my memorable word. Apparently they're already worried that someone may be trying to impersonate me.

That's it - my application to register is complete. Wait, my application to register? I'm not actually registered? That's correct. I got an email telling me that my application was being reviewed. Later I got an email saying that I'm registered and here's a 9-digit Reference ID and a 16-character Transaction ID which, along with randomly requested characters from my Memorable Word, will allow me to log-in and attempt to book an in-person appointment.

Or I could've called the application centre's phone number and booked an appointment over the phone.

That's where I've left things for today.

* I say "current system" because later this week they're going to announce changes to the family settlement route, changes that are expected to include extending the probationary period before you can apply for ILR to 5 years and, of course, the semi-annual fees hike. The UKBA does not believe in "grandfathering" people in - when they move the goal post, I have to aim for the new one. This means I, and every other settlement-seeker, am aiming for a goal-post that will be somewhere else by the time I reach it.

** UK Yankee, a forum for US citizens living in the UK

*** not my Memorable Word

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

The Other Bridesmaid Shawls

Flower Basket Shawl - Evelyn A. Clark
King Cole "Riot" - Magic 404 - 100g/296m - 70% Acrylic, 30% wool
I wasn't sure when Miss Krissy was going to find my blog, what with it being linked to hers*, so I didn't want to post pictures before I gave it to her, but now I can! The pattern knit up fairly quickly. I wasn't able to memorize the pattern until chart B, but once I got there I could "see" the lace and how each row followed the proceeding row and it went very quickly from there. I added a few extra repeats (11 in total) to make it an actual shawl, not just a shoulder-warmer and used most of two rows in doing so. The second skein of yarn had some knots in it, always frustrating, and split when I was trying to untwist it which was even more frustrating. The colours were similar to the ones Krissy wanted to dye her hair for the wedding, and worked out better than planned as she didn't put any green in her hair but some of the colours in her hair took a greenish tinge as they faded and bleed. Her youngest doesn't like to wear warm clothes but gets cold, and Miss Krissy found the shawl useful to tie around herself and the baby when she's wearing her.

I understand why people advise against knitting lace in variegated yarn as, as the rows got longer and the colour-pools shallower, the pattern got a bit lost. I enjoyed the pattern and may knit another one, in solid or semi-solid for myself. For Miss Krissy, I think the colours are more important than the lace.

Annis - Susanna IC
Patton's Grace, Artessano 100% Alpaca 4-ply
And this is Miss Laura's shawl. I actually knit it twice as the first one didn't look right after I blocked it - the needles were too large for the yarn, which created a nice drape but made it impossible to weave in the ends in the middle of the fabric. Since it's mostly knit in short rows, I couldn't change skeins of yarn at the edge. I bought two skeins of Alpaca in a colour-way that I felt would be even more appropriate for Miss Laura and knit it on smaller needles and the pile of the yarn and smaller stitches worked better for hiding the ends I had to weave in. I wanted to make it bigger than the pattern but was worried about running out of yarn again so I didn't, and it turned out a bit on the small side - definitely a scarf and not a shawl, and the top rolls, but it is very suited to Miss Laura's personality. Unfortunately, I didn't get any pictures of Miss Laura's shawl before I gave it to her and I have no specific pictures of any of the shawls after gifting them.

* she didn't find it until I specifically gave her the link today. Hi, Miss Krissy!

Knitting Needle Give-Away

My first give-away!*

For Christmas my then-fiancé-now-husband gave me a set of KnitPro intercheangeable wood needles. This giveaway is not for them but rather for some of the cheap needles I bought when I was first learning to knit and no longer need - and I want them out of my knitting box. In all honesty, I doubt I need half the needles I am keeping, outwith my interchangeables, but you never know when you're going to want a second circ for a Turkish CO or when I may wish to use DPNs rather than Magic Loop for a project. It could happen.

In the meantime, I have some needles with which I am willing to part:

Straight Pins:
Clover "Bamboo Premium", size 5.0mm (8US), 32cm(9in) long

Bryspun Bry-Flex (plastic), size 4.5mm (7US), 5in long, set of 5
Bryspun Bry-Flex (plastic), size 4.0mm (6US), 5in long, set of 5

Susan Bates (metal), 4.5mm (7US), 81cm (32") long
Susan Bates (metal), 5.5mm (9US), 81cm (32") long - no packaging

Clover "Bamboo Premium", size 4.5mm (7US), 41cm(16in) long - no packaging
Clover "Bamboo Premium", size 5.0mm (8US), 41cm(16in) long - 3 pairs (don't ask - I already gave away a fourth), packaging for one pair

That's it. Those are the needles with which, at this time, I wish to part. I have no idea how much it'd cost to post them so while I'll most likely cover it within mainland UK (especially if you'll take all of them off my hands), I make no promises. If no-one wants them by this time next Tuesday (12 July) I'm taking them to my local knitting night, and after that to a charity shop. If more than one person asks for any given pair of needles I will make an arbitrary decision, blah blah blah.

* Saying it like this makes it sound like I'm a cool blogger with lots of readers who regularly gives away nifty things to those readers. This is far, far from the truth.

Monday, 4 July 2011

I'm going to run out of sock puns in short order

I'm going to run out of sock puns in short order so I'll save what few I have for special occasions - such as actually finishing a sock (not even a pair, just one). It is knitting up fairly quickly now that I'm actually knitting again though yesterday we slept in till noon (I'd wake up, see Chris was still asleep and roll over; he'd wake up, see that I was still asleep and roll over...) and then I lay out in the garden for a bit because it was actually sunny and warm for the first time in at least a month and having watched 3 more episodes of Game of Thrones the day before my Song of Fire and Ice reread was calling to me. It's not so much that I forgot how good the books are as I deliberately wasn't thinking about it as the wait between books is so long. But I read a few chapters on the lawn and then dead-headed my rose bushes and chopped the big one back down to about six feet tall. She wants to take over the world and I want her to keep flowering and not eat people. I am somewhat miffed that it started blooming right when we left to get married and I came back to find those early roses had already died. Fortunately there's oodles more. I actually get two very different types of roses on the big bush, little single-row white roses and bigger pink tea roses. They're dark coral as buds but blossom a very delicate pink.

That done and the sun behind clouds I came inside, caught up on my social networks and knit a little while Chris watched Wimbledon. I keep forgetting that he played tennis when he was a little lad. Not my idea of an exciting sport, but then none of the sports he likes are my idea of exciting. After that ended, he went to do some work in the office (upstairs) and I watched an episode from season 3 of Doctor Who (I'm almost up to Blink!) and had to model his sock on my own foot which may have been a mistake as he's now convinced that I'm going to keep them for myself. Then I made dinner, mini shells with peas and pancetta, and we watched Top Gear, House, and a Stargate:SG1.

I don't think I'm going to tell you what all telly I watch in a day as it sounds like (and is) a rather un-flattering amount of telly. But telly, especially telly I've seen before, is great background for when I'm knitting. My hands are busy but my eyes and ears get bored. I tune out music too easily and I don't like audio books, so telly is my best option.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Nothing Much is Happening

Since last I've updated: I've reknit the left side of the baby sweater to include button holes and started the second sleeve; I've knit another repeat of the lace pattern for my first sock and have started the heel, though I'm not yet ready to turn it; I've been gifted a giant sofa doily/shawl (I believe it's a silk blend) and a bag of silk yarn in red (7 50g/124m balls and most of an 8th, and, oh yeah, I got married. You are now reading the blog of Mrs Christopher Aves.

Cascading Hearts Faroese Shawl - Jackie Erickson-Schweitzer
Misti Alpaca, Tonos Carnaval: Symphony Blue - 100g/400m - 50% Alpaca/30% Merino/10% Nylon/10% Silk
Pardon the extra large picture, but I've been wanting to crow about this shawl since I finished knitting it several months ago and this is the only picture I have of it blocked. Chris and I picked the Cascading Hearts pattern of off Ravelry and I had hearts embroidered on my dress to match. I also picked up a heart shawl pin to secure my shawl (not that you really need one with a Faroese shawl), and everything was done in blues to accent the tartan of Chris' kilt and, even though it rained all day, it was too warm to wear it. So this is the only picture (though another aunt took the same picture), when I modelled it for my mother and her sisters. I would be heartbroken that, after waiting so long to use it, I never put it on except the day was so amazingly wonderful that I can't be upset about the things that genuinely went wrong, let alone something as small as not getting to show off my shawl. The yarn was lovely to work with. I used about 2 and a half skeins and keep eyeing the remainder for a hat, mittens, or neck-warmer.