Taking Stock – October

Making: my first soups of the season. Roasted butternut and chilli first. I had such a lunchtime soup craving that I was chopping vegetables, with the oven preheating, before 0900 on Friday! Someone was working in London and I had the house to myself. It was such a peaceful morning

While he was having swanky lunch, 500 feet up in the Leadenhall building in the city, I was cosy by the fire eating my soup and chunky sourdough cheese on toast. Bliss

Then the second soup followed the other, quite quickly. I made cauliflower cheese soup on Sunday. It’s so simple, but far more than the sum of its parts!

Here’s how: Use your largest saucepan and sweat a diced white onion in a little oil until translucent. Add a large crushed clove of garlic and cook for a few minutes. Add an extra large cauliflower, which has been cut into small florets, and a litre of vegetable stock. Cook until the cauliflower is tender. Don’t worry that there’s far more cauli than stock, it will all work perfectly. Season with freshly ground black pepper. Whizz with a stick blender (or in a blender when it’s cooled.) Serve with Danish Blue cheese crumbled over or a good handful of extra mature cheddar cheese. I find about 25g of cheddar per bowl is plenty.

I know it doesn’t look exciting at all, but it really is silky smooth and delicious!

Cooking: Chicken & Leek Bake. I don’t buy ready meals, I’ve always cooked from scratch. But weirdly when I was grocery shopping online last week, the store showed me a chicken and bacon and leek gratin thing in a plastic box. Urgh, but it was one of those instant ‘I must make this!’ moments. Then I saw this on my favourite recipe website Chicken & Leek Bake. I always adapt recipes, so mine had smoked pancetta and chicken breasts, not thighs, as that’s what I had in the fridge. And there’s no way I’m ever buying ready made cheese sauce! Mine had a homegrown bay leaf and some dried thyme popped into it. The English (Colman’s of course!) mustard made the sauce absolutely delicious. Perfect autumn / winter dinner. It is going to be made again and again, I predict!

Sipping: jasmine tea from my pint mug

Reading: a week or so ago I read Anne Tyler’s Redhead by the Side of the Road in a day. What a beautiful gem of a book. It was on the library Libby app

Waiting: to feel 100% me again

Looking: forward to seeing and walking beside the sea again

Listening: to Keith Stuart’s The Frequency of Us audio book. I had goosebumps by the end. Super twisty story

Wishing: a personal shopper would just deliver a rail of perfectly fitting lovely clothes to my bedroom. I really need to go shopping. Yawn

Enjoying: crocheting my gingerbread man. He now has a leg too

His arms

Appreciating: snuggling in bed with good books. My current is another ebook from the library, this time on the BorrowBox app. It’s The Never-Ending Summer by Emma Kennedy. I love her writing. I can recommend all her books, especially the non-fiction The Tent, the Bucket and Me. I read until gone midnight last night. This book is one of those ‘just another chapter’ page turners…

I always try to have a physical library book too, the libraries need to stay open. Use it or lose it! My friend made a Cranks Bible potato recipe last week and it prompted me to reserve the book. Should be good for soups too? I plopped it onto my car blanket in the boot yesterday, and sent her a pic. I’ve just realised it’s still out there

Eating: too much sweet stuff. After half term ends, next week I’ll be back to eating fewer treats

Liking: the new series of Young Sheldon

Loving: the anticipation of opening my first Inside Crochet mag in ages. I bought a 6 month subscription with some birthday money

Family apple picking afternoon was good fun

Buying: Christmas cards. I don’t know what it is this year, but I’m getting some things done early

Yesterday’s white sourdough, well greige really as the dark rye flour starter turns it a little murky!
Crusty bread. Mmmm

Watching: nature changing week by week

Managing: one of my favourite 6 mile loops (circular walks) at the weekend

Hoping: for more blue sky days

Wearing: a furry blue top, so warm and soft

Rose hips & Old Man’s Beard

Noticing: even the oak leaves are turning now. Those ferns I showed you earlier in the month have now died back

Following: Lucy’s Blogtober posts. Her visit to RHS Harlow Carr is top, top, top for autumn garden colour. I’m loving the daily diary posts and save a batch to read at one sitting

Sorting: the freezer. I defrosted it on Monday. What a good feeling. I’ve been so dizzy I couldn’t do it until now. It’s looking good now, but apparently the crunchy noise of the door closing on 2 inches of ice on the top drawer is missed!

Getting: organised for winter

Coveting: a new stick blender. Mine ground to a halt a while ago

Only 11th and apparently Christmas displays had already been a go-go for 2 weeks

Feeling: determined to do more garden pruning before the hedges are cut back on Tuesday

Hearing: the gentle ring of tinnitus

Banana & Walnut cake

Remembering: making the bird and other little things when I was new to it and absolutely crochet obsessed (and I didn’t have a wooky hand which now holds me back.) I recently came across this photo of my noticeboard in the first Little Room, it made me smile

How’s your October been? Are you ok? What are you making, cooking, watching and reading?

Out-out

My first trip out-out with a friend since August! Because doctors, pharmacy and hospital don’t count, do they?

I was so excited to go back to my happy place a.k.a. Yarn Heaven on Wednesday. I can’t remember the last time I went, I think not so much because of the Pandemic but because I’ve banned myself from buying any more yarn until I finish my current makes. Not that bans ever successfully work, do they? I’m sure a few balls of something found its way into my bag a month or so ago, when I happened to pop into a yarn shop.

I was meant to meet another friend for lunch on Wednesday, but unfortunately she messaged to say it was a no-go; because her 11-year-old tested positive for Covid on Monday. So many friends have school age children who are not very well with Covid at the moment. And there so many people everywhere who are choosing not to wear a mask. We need it to be a legal requirement again! (I’m shouting.) It feels as if I’m in a minority in some shops. Lots seem to have decided enough is enough and have stopped wearing a mask.We’ve all had enough, haven’t we? However unfortunately things are far from good still, so we get on with it and try and keep other people safe, surely? Honestly, at the moment I seem to be throwing my hands up in the air a lot.

I took this snap quickly because I really liked all the colours. They’re not jazzy bright, quite muted really, but I can actually imagine wearing them. Sometimes colours in those variegated balls are very appealing, but not really anything I would actually wear. Since I came home I keep looking at this pic. I can’t see anything listed for Mondial Jazz for some reason on Ravelry or Insta. I’d like to see what people have made with it. No imbranato Name questo il MacHappy. ARGH!!!! I’ve got Italian as an alternative keyboard language and my iPhone keeps swapping languages. I dictate a lot of my messages (and blog posts) now to save my sore hand. Sometimes I look over at what I’ve said and it’s a mess of both! What did I just say there? * It’s a weird thing, but makes me laugh too.

I’m using the Duolingo app to learn some basic Italian words and phrases. I’m still very much in the ‘The men are writing in the sugar’ and ‘The cook cuts the meat’ stage of learning. Bizarre choice of phrases but it’s more than I ever knew before. So anyway dictation helps save my hand, although it’s not doing much to practice my spelling.

…What was I saying? I think I was wondering if the wool might be known by another name? Or perhaps other people don’t like it? Or, is it really new? Tell if it’s one with which you’re familiar, please. It’s 75% wool which I prefer for accessories or clothing. Can’t wear Stylecraft, unless it’s partly wool too. Ohhh! I’ve just remembered that Mondial is made by an Italian family company. Maybe my iPhone is more intelligent then I take it for?!

After a good rummage and yarny purchases, (Lynne is making hats for nephews and also bought the same brown as me) we headed to a very nice pub on the river for lunch. I held us up slightly by taking photos. Autumn is one of my favourite seasons, I can’t resist capturing the changes. Love the colours, the crisp feeling in the air, the warmer clothing and yummy warming meals. We’ve just had our first spaghetti bolognaise in months and I’m having my first homemade butternut soup for lunch today.

Just look at that half red, half yellow leaf. I have heart eyes.

Nature treats us to some really beautiful sights, swoon.

When we headed back to the car park we found masses of conkers just lying on the tarmac. “Where all the children, why aren’t they picking these conkers up?” I exclaimed. Secretly I was really pleased there are heaps just lying around still. I stuffed my bag full of them. Then stopped on the way home, to pick up a few things in a supermarket, and wondered why my bag was so, so heavy!

I can’t remember the last time I saw a pattern in a magazine that I just had to make. The gingerbread man on the cover instantly appealed. So this is partly why when my friend suggested meeting up, for coffee or lunch on Wednesday morning, I felt it had to be somewhere that had a yarn shop. I didn’t have a single one of the colours I needed, which is an absolutely cast-iron reason to buy yarn. Sì?

There are lots of newer Stylecraft shades that I’ve never seen before, apart from in photos. Some of them are really nice. Mushroom and its slight pinkiness jumped out, in a good way. I resisted buying. For now.

I wanted to make the gingerbread man from yarn, instead of the cotton as listed in the mag. Cotton is great for stitch definition, but oh so hard on the hands. I picked up several different shades of brown, until I saw one. My friend asked me what the shade was called? Gingerbread! Just the job.

The pattern is in the current Simply Crochet magazine, issue 115

Someone hungry, waiting for me to cook dinner last night, had to contend with me shouting: “He’s got one little arm!” Then later: “He’s got two little arms!”

I’ll be back with a whole gingerbread man soon, although he might not have any eyes because I didn’t think to buy any. Oops does that mean another visit to the yarn shop and another delicious lunch? I think it may.

* according to Google translate:

No goofy Name this the MacHappy.

Ha ha! Could have been FAR worse!

An autumn walk part 2

A few sips of water, a good look around in all directions. I took a few photos and then we went on for the next part of our walk.

There used to be a couple of fallen tree trunks which were lovely, clean and smooth off to one side of the green crossroads. Lying on the grass. They were removed sometime in the early year. I still miss them. During the first Lockdown last year, when we were only allowed to see people from our households and nobody else, not even social bubbles (the term had yet to be invented, our poor isolated elderly and vulnerable people) we came across a few teenagers there. From their furtive looks at us I guessed they were sneaking out to meet up and socialise, as an illegal part of the allowed daily exercise. I couldn’t really blame them, although it was all such a worrying time and no one really knew what was ahead. Anyway, I miss sitting on those tree trunks. After avoiding the roots, stones and ruts of the lane it was always good to have somewhere to sit and relax for a moment, or five.

Bonus blue skies in October and freshly ploughed fields.
If you go down this way you end up on quite a fast little road, which leads to a picturesque village. You can take another footpath into a meadow, then walk alongside some fast flowing water, go through a few gates, under a railway bridge and ultimately up to a large farm. There’s a public right of way along the road through the middle. There was a bull in a field with cows and calves, which scared the bejesus out of me last spring. You’ve never seen such a flimsy fence and such a mahoosive bull. He kept staring at me!
The corn is as high as an elephant’s eye, I loudly sang as we walked past.
Just a little peep.
The deer have been munching and trampling the sweetcorn. They’re all around here. We saw hoof prints and ‘other evidence’ of their presence near the maize fields.
At this point my hoodie was firmly off and tied around my waist. Such a lovely warm day.
More fields of maize all around.
There was a massive rainstorm in the middle of the night last Saturday.
Zoomed in.
And as I saw it by eye.

We saw a red kite with a huge wingspan being chased by two or three crows around that tree. It always amazes me how crows can be so aggressive to such a scary looking bird. Confidence or aggression in numbers? They must be highly territorial when in a flock (a ‘murder of crows’ is the collective name after all!)

More crabapples.
My favourite photo of the walk.
I suspected there were tasty, juicy things around this corner of the hedge.
Bingo!
More old man’s beard / clematis too.

Someone had started to walk on and hadn’t come back around the corner with me. So, I called that he should; because there were very big juicy fruits that I couldn’t reach, which could be all his if he wanted.

And we were off again.
He remembered something we had seen back in the summer. But wouldn’t tell me what. It would be a surprise.
Another stretch of footpath which goes along a narrow green lane between field hedgerows. Quite an adventure, this is very narrow. You can easily get caught on brambles and have to avoid nettles and thorns. I usually walk with my elbows and hands up in the air. Quite a sight, especially if I’m also singing.
The sun and shadows are captivating.
Other kinds of traffic have recently been along here too.
Ah yes! Fields and fields of the potatoes. I’d forgotten we’d seen these before, when they were small plants. The ridges of rich iron earth that are heaped up around the plants are so neat and pleasing. I missed a photo opportunity.

For some reason when we come out of that narrow overgrown path and walk along this field edge, we always remember the surprise of passing a teen during Lockdown in summer, last year. She was wearing noise cancelling headphones, had a brightly coloured backpack on and was so confidently tramping along. She’s really stuck in our minds and we’re not quite sure why. I think maybe it was because she was so incongruous. It looked like a route she walked regularly, like she was going to visit a friend or something.

I needed to lean against a big five-bar gate to reorientate, before we turned left for the third part of the walk. I heard a sound and turned around to see a man-child throwing a chunky stick into a tree, followed by the sound of things clunking to the ground…

So spikey sharp. Twin conkers inside.
I stuffed these into my conker pocket and on we went.

The next part of the walk went along a hedge to our left, which has occasional trees interspersed among the bushes. The field on our right gently slopes down to a stand of trees. This is where we watched a young muntjac deer wander earlier in the year. This time there was no peaceful little deer wandering, instead we disturbed about a dozen pheasants in the hedgerow. They took off right in front of us, flying and squawking in alarm. They made me jump. I took up in the air, flying and squawking in alarm too! Someone found this all rather funny.

It can’t be too cold at night yet, otherwise the ferns would be brown and dying. It can’t be far off though, the evenings are much chillier.
I had to limit myself to two fern photographs. I really, really like them.

We crossed a road and plunged into the start of another green lane. This is an ancient byway which used to lead commercial travellers from the Midlands to London. We call the start Freezer Corner because unfortunately sometime ago someone dumped the contents of the freezer under the bushes near the road. They must have pulled up their vehicle and just thrown it all out. Some were probably opened by foxes, others were intact. For quite a while we noted the disintegration of the packaging of once frozen lasagna, fishfingers and a carton of ice cream etc etc. Then it was cleared away. A friend asked if we had reported it all. I’m ashamed to say neither of us even thought of it (though someone else obviously had) partly because it was so fascinating watching the food and packaging disintegrate in the wild. But what an awful thing to do, and why? Why not dump it into a bin? Was it an act of revenge? You’ve hurt me, so I’ll empty your freezer? Weird.

Cranesbill, a type of geranium.
A little sit on a rock. A sip of water and onwards again.
I photographed these thistles when they were glorious purple flowers, back in the summer.
15 to 20 feet up, high altitude ferns.
Many brambles on both sides of this path, but few blackberries. Perhaps they doesn’t get too much sun.
Plenty of sloes.

A little handful of emergency almonds to crunch, hunger was coming on with a vengeance now, it was way past lunchtime. There’s a few miles to go.

We’ve turned left again. We’re heading to very familiar fields with landmarks: the cherry trees, sloe alley, blackberry corner and plum row.
What a neat front door.
Higher up now than at other points of the walk.

We paused at the top of the field and heard very, very loud unselfconscious singing coming from some distance away in the shady lane. As it’s stubble now we preferred to walk out in the open field, to keep feeling the sun and wind on our faces. The singing was hilarious. She obviously had headphones on and was belting out JoJo’s Leave (Get out). I glimpsed her; a grey haired lady walking a lurcher, definitely getting something out of her system. Good for her!

This one is tiny. Do mice make burrows?!

In the last part of our walk, in a field not far from home we looked for the dead adder that we came across last week. It’s gone. I’ll pop the pic I took into my Taking Stock post at the end of the month, if I remember. That was quite a sight. That and seeing a headless pigeon made for a memorable walk.

Home and a late-late lunch of cheese & biscuits, apple & grapes. What a great walk, so fab to go out-out again.

I hope we can do it again very soon.

An autumn walk

An autumn walk wearing T-shirts! In October! It was really special because Someone was off work mid-week for a few days, and so on Wednesday we grabbed the opportunity to go for a longer walk. It was a beautiful day, about 19° and very quiet. I think we only saw a couple of joggers in the middle and then a couple of dog walkers at the end, it was 3 o’clock by then.

We took our time. I went slowly, took lots of photographs and really looked around. It was the first longer walk, at 6 1/2 miles, that we’ve done since August because I’ve been feeling so unwell. We’ve managed the hour-long loop around the fields near home a few times, but this was a proper jaunt.

To begin with I felt quite unbalanced, especially as the initial part of the walk begins alongside a road. Walking along with cars going past felt quite disorientating. But once we were on our own walking along the footpath and bridleway, everything seemed easier.

The footpath is a mile or mile and a half long and was a green lane enabling farm workers and people wanting to come to the shops to walk between villages and farms.

I wish that I could go back in time, morph into an invisible being, to see the people and listen to what they talked about as they tramped along this lane. I’d like to know what they bought. A length of ribbon to decorate a new bonnet? A packet of sugar, or flour? A long saved for book? A twist of salt? Or did they just go to the pub and then stagger home again. Stumble, trip, stumble, trip!

Why, Hello there!
Sometimes dark and leafy green, other times bright and sundappled. I really love this walk along the lane!
There are crabapples scattered at various points. I wish I felt like making crabapple jelly, or something with them. There are many more still in the trees which could be picked. It feels a waste of free produce, but jelly making is a faff.
Rose-hips and ivy flowers, what a pretty combination.
Old man’s beard or wild clematis.
It’s a well used footpath and bridleway, things can get very turned up and sticky for walkers during the winter. Especially when it’s been rainy and the horses have churned it up.
Just look at that! So beautiful with the sunshine playing in the leaves
Common barberry, the red and green together are stunning, don’t you think?
A mossy log, crunchy leaves and glossy ivy leaves. If you stop and look around, remember to look up and look down there is so much to notice and appreciate.
Last time we paused by these trees there were waving stalks of oats and barley, in the fields alongside the footpath
Beautiful ugly fungi
Reflections in the water gathered in the dip between the conjoined beech trees.
A perfect window.
Beech nuts crunchy underfoot.
I wouldn’t want to fall into this holly bush, steady as she goes…
High above my head the holly berries are beginning to look good.
We seem to have been walking along this lane for ages, it always takes longer than we expect.
And suddenly we are out!

I turned back to take this photo at the end of the lane and then enjoyed being out in the open again. Surrounded by countryside, with long views across newly ploughed fields, a distant village with smoke from a bonfire rising into the sky. At this point you are at a green crossroads and can go one of four ways. We have tried all, but our favourite is the one, which with several more turns takes us in a big 6 1/2 mile loop. It ends with a hill right to our front door. A downward hill, is definitely the best kind at the end of a good walk.

~~~~~

To be continued, part 2 coming soon…

Taking Stock – September

Reading:

The Man Who Died Twice

Even better than the first book, which was The Thursday Murder Club (as if anyone really needs to be told; it was an instant international bestseller.) It would be best if you read the first before this one.

The Beloved Girls

A 5 star read. Twisty turny, with a slow building atmosphere of menace. I had so many thoughts and questions about what might be happening, when I wasn’t reading. Always a good sign of a compelling book. Also It jumps back and forth in time, which I always enjoy. It keeps you on your toes. Plus it is partly set in a large English, country house. Enough said?

Freckles

This was a surprise; there was a time when I always used to read new Cecilia Ahern books and then I just felt like I’d grown out of them. This is a new, more real and grittier style of writing. I couldn’t put it down.

Enjoying: all the late summer / early autumn colour in the garden.

Noticing: some beautiful bright sunny days, with magic golden light just before dusk.

Making: hexagons! Too many so now I’m on a self-imposed ban for a week, as my hand is so sore. I did enjoy it at the time though.

Instagram stories questions… Be prepared for lots of responses. Don’t ask if you don’t want honesty! I didn’t mind, as the slightly circular nature was bugging me
New and improved. Sharper corners (absolutely nothing to do with the pattern, just me cutting corners. Literally!)

Planning: to use this book. I’ve now bought the tin for *half the price* of the recommended one. It’s still really good quality. I bought a James Martin one from an online retailer who have a bricks and mortar shop in Dorset too. (Ask me if you’re in the UK, I’ll send a link.) Very happy with the look and weight of it.

One Tin Bakes

Cooking: The days were mostly been so warm at the beginning of the month that I haven’t made a single batch of soup yet. (Plus being unwell for the whole of September didn’t feel like chop, chop, chopping … ) Latterly I’ve eaten porridge with maple flavoured golden syrup and chopped apple on top. Always a sign of cooler weather. Soup making isn’t going to be far off.

Baking: Dark choc walnut brownies to eat with raspberries and creme fraiche, after roast chicken, new potatoes and salad

Rosemary & Cornish Seasalt focaccia

A Facebook friend said it looked like spiders. They were very tasty!

Cinnamon buns

Cinnamon buns! YUM!

I typed out my recipe for cinnamon buns and sent it to my 13-year-old niece. She made them the next day and sent me photos. They were perfect.

Watching: tomatoes ripen. I’ve been taking a daily photo, then sending it to my friend who loves tracking the changes while he works in his office in London!

Eating: pink omelettes! I had a phase of these, if a phase can consist of two?! One with the spoonful of rose harissa are mixed in and the other a spoonful of red pesto. They taste good. Try it?

Enjoying: my micro-greens which I left to grow to salad leaf size. Much better value for money than paying £2.99 per packet. I feed them a little so there’s enough nutrients to feed the plants. Still going strong…

Mackerel with lemon & dijon dressing & cannelini beans

Learning: Italian on Duolingo app, it’s free. So many languages to choose from, but I’ve always wanted to learn Italian.

Someone is really not impressed

Listening: to Mickey Flanagan What Chance Change? If you’re a fan this is a must listen. It’s on BBC Sounds week by week. There are two episodes so far, charting his life and aspirations in the 1970s and 1980s. I’m looking forward to the next two decades. He’s SO funny.

Watching: Upload on Prime. It’s unexpectedly good, lots of twists and surprises. Maybe not for the faint-hearted at some points. We’ve watched six episodes so far.

The IT Crowd classic British comedy from the early noughties, laugh out loud funny.

This Way Up it’s currently on C4 Catch up. I hope it’s on other international platforms soon, so you can all watch it too. You just want to hug Aisling Bea’s character so hard. I sat silently feeling all the feels, at the end of the last episode on Thursday. Stunningly written TV.

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See, I told you I had a lot to tell you! This is what happens when you’re home-based for a month.

Have a lovely weekend, enjoy a bit of reading, cooking, making, watching… Whatever floats your boat!

Taking Stock – August

Making: mini hexies. Make one, join as you go. It’s a perfect little project for oddments of yarn

Cooking: Leek, Salmon & Spinach crustless quiche

Will use smoked trout or hot smoked salmon & cheddar for even more flavour next time. Asparagus & peas, instead of leek and spinach? Once you’ve got the right sized dish and basic quantity of eggs etc sussed you can make any variation. Muffin sized too, for a lunchbox friendly version. (Ask if you want the recipe)

Sipping: a pink grapefruit margarita, last night. Inspo from Nigella’s At my Table book

Reading: Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell. It’s SO GOOD. Baby Theo sent me this as a thank you for his Patchwork Blanket (and a bottle of Brecon gin. That baby has v good taste!)

Waiting: for my next Craft Gin Club Box. You can get a half price box, it’s such a good offer (but UK only, I’m afraid) plus I’ll get reward points. It can be a one-off, there’s no need to continue the subscription. That’s what I thought I’d do, but they’re so good I carried on. See my blog Facebook page for a few pics of some boxes I’ve received and the referral code

I need to buy more bottle lights. The middle two were my first from the CGC, the others we bought elsewhere

Looking: more and more like autumn is imminent

Listening: to a dove coo

Wishing: for a crushed ice maker

Enjoying: looking back at my summer photos

Cawsand Bay, Cornwall

Appreciating: having my next reads lined up. The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman and The Almond Blossom Appreciation Society by Chris Stewart ebooks are now available for me, on the library Libby app

A very good August read

Eating: nothing yet after sourdough pizza last night

Liking: the thought of wearing my woollies again. Scarves and gloves on chilly walks – oh yes!

Loving: Call My Agent, series 2, on Netflix. Never a dull ep

Buying: local eggs

Buckland Abbey, NT

Managing: dandelions, sort of. You’ve got them all, then at super speed HELLO we’re back!

Watching: combining and bailing in the fields. Looking forward to seeing freshly ploughed fields next

See the cloud of dust?

Hoping: to go to London soon, it’s been too long but … y’know…

Wearing: socks again. I asked if anyone had put on socks & woollies yesterday afternoon. Lots of friends said they had too. A few had even put the heating on too. Brrrr! It wasn’t a warm Bank Holiday Monday at all. 15° and overcast all day. Optimistically I’d worn shorts and a tee until 3pm, when I’d turned a pale shade of blue

Noticing: ripe blackberries in hedges now (eating them too)

Following: dancers and ice skaters on Insta

Sorting: makes. Concentrating on crocheting my GS Coast Blanket, the hexies and my chunky Paintbox yarn Star Blanket

Getting: groceries delivered soon, must move

Coveting: a luxury glamping weekend with a friend

Feeling: that it’s time for more jasmine tea

Hearing: talk about SharePoint

——

Can you believe it’s going to be September tomorrow, already?!

Hello Hexie! A book review

Hello! How are you doing? Everything ok?

This is the book I mentioned reserving at the library, in my July Taking Stock post. I saw a photo of it on Instagram and felt really excited about having a look.

Published in June ‘Hello Hexie!’ by Sarah Shrimpton, published by David and Charles, has 10 sweet hexagon designs and 20 patterns. Patterns include a mix of accessories, garments, homewares and a few toys. There are also four small makes which would be fast and portable projects: a coaster, pin cushion, Christmas decoration and earrings.

I use my crocheted pot-holders all the time, so I’d be tempted to use one of the hexie designs to create my own in thickish cotton. Once you start to think what you could make from hexagons the list grows. I loved making my Baby Hexagon Blanket back in 2016. Look out soon for pics of my new one, which is already in progress.

Most of the Hello Hexie! designs instantly appealed. I particularly like the Bohemian scarf, the Linen Lace Tee and the Patchwork Wrist warmers. The Bobble cushion would be a sweet make to gift someone. I keep picturing it in a caravan or in a beach hut. The Striped Rug is basically a huge Hexie using chunky yarn, it’s eye-catching. Might be a fun lap or baby blanket?

I love the fact these nails look like mine! Natural, unadorned. #offtopic

As with any pattern book some designs are instant personal no-nos; Cosy Poncho and African Flower Skirt I’m looking at you! But this is of course completely personal taste.

I picked my favourite six hexies and hooked them just for fun…

All crocheted with Stylecraft Special DK parchment, leftover from my Patchwork blanket, and a 4mm Clover Amour hook. Unblocked so looking a little wiggly, but they’re practice pieces.

As you see, the hexagons differ widely in size. It would be pretty straightforward to increase them by crocheting more rounds, or adding an edging. This would probably work well if you wanted to mix and match hexies, to create your own blanket or cushion cover design.

What I like is that Sarah has pointed out that all of the hexagons are interchangeable for use in her patterns; if one isn’t to your taste you can swap it with another design. The varied sizes would need to be accounted for, but this wouldn’t be too tricky unless it’s a garment.

A nice variety of textures aren’t they?
The Solid Hexie. I really like this one.
The Bobble Hexie
The Sunburst Hexie

Pretty isn’t it? I think the Sunburst is one of my favourites. It would use lots of yarn, but you’d have a heavyweight blanket to snuggle under in cold weather.

The Granny Hexie

Sort of a Granny, as it’s made up of 2 groups of trebles. This was Someone’s favourite.

The Lacy Hexie

I usually tend to gravitate towards less lacy crochet, but I do like this design.

The Textured Hexie – one of the more unusual designs. Great isn’t it?

Sarah recommends lots of affordable yarns for the projects; a mixture of natural and synthetic fibres. As yarn weights are given it would be easy to change these for your preferred yarn.

The hexagon patterns are written in standard form using UK terms (with a guide for US alternatives at the back) and there’s also a graphic pattern for quick reference, or for those who simply prefer a chart. I swap between the two formats and really appreciate both in a book. The overall design of Hello Hexie! is clean and clear, easy to follow.

I found myself looking at the back pages often to check how particular stitches should be completed. The demo photos for this section could have been enlarged for clarity, but it’s a useful section if a stitch is new, or if like me you’re rusty.

The techniques section also includes a guide to blocking motifs, joining methods, including two join as you go. These are all written and illustrated for right handers, but this is sadly so common. (If you’re a lefty and struggle with any aspect of crochet, please see my left-handed tips section at the top of the blog, or ask me!)

In summary I really like Hello Hexie! Definitely 4/5 STARS ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This is a completely independent review, written for the fun of it. I have no association with either the author or the publishers. (Though if they would like to send me a free copy of hello Hexie! Feel free!)

Patchwork Blanket – finished

Between Christmas and New Year, Twixmas, 2017 I idly started experimenting with moss stitch (aka linen or granite stitch) as I’d been inspired to crochet some solid blocks of colour. See blog post here I didn’t want to end up with lots of pieces to join. They don’t always end up being anything, other than piles of things, do they? So I just changed colour on the last stitch and continued the next section. It’s a great lazy way to make a blanket, scarf or whatever. It was also perfect for using up some oddments after making The Blackbery Ripple blanket for a friend and Winnie’s Wave Blanket for another friend’s baby, earlier that year. There was no plan or agenda for the strips, it was lazy Christmas crafting which I picked up over the years when I wanted something fairly mindless to crochet.

Then a friend told me she was expecting her first baby. It’s excellent to realise you’ve got all the makings of a blanket.

And here it is, all finished and ready for baby Theo. Big enough for toddler Theo too. I never make hanky sized blankets which aren’t any use in the longer term.

Patchwork Blanket Details

Stitch: The blanket’s made up of 5 strips of 7 continuous blocks of colour, crocheted in moss stitch (aka linen or granite stitch)

Weight: 557g

Length: 40” / 112cm ish

Width: 31 1/2” / 80cm wide

Border: 4 rounds of dcs and chs, with a cute little picot edging to finish it off

Hooks: 4.5mm for the blocks, this makes a nice fabric, plus you can see the chain spaces easier than using a 4mm. 4mm for joining and the border

Yarn: all oddments of Stylecraft Special DK. It’s lovely, soft and very drapey too. (Collins English dictionary confirms drapey is British English. To I thought it might be Rachel English. I do use quite a few of my own words…)

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Now what to finish next?

Taking Stock – July

Making: lists for August, mostly walks, visits, trips

Cooking: Jamie Oliver’s Falafel patties I used mixed beans and a can of borlotti, with rose harissa because it’s what I had open in the fridge.

Sipping: Jasmine tea

Secret scrumping field location

Reading: I’ve read some v good books lately, including The Beloved Girls by Harriet Evans. I gave 5 stars for slow building tension and menace. A cracking story, it’s due to be published on 19th August

Waiting: for normal life to resume, it’s much better than last July (see post here ) but we are most definitely still in the grip of the pandemic and I’m cautious. The mask, distancing and sanitising is still very much in place and I don’t think I’ve been into a city since last autumn

My garden

Looking: up at the tv, it looks like Team GB just won another Olympic gold

Listening: to the rain falling

Wishing: for my library reservation to come quickly. It’s the first printed book I’ve requested since last winter. I’ll show you when it comes…

Barley field, on our circular 7 mile walk yesterday

Enjoying: dipping in and out of Instagram, my enthusiasm for it goes in phases. I’m still loving Alex Hollywood’s account, so many good foody ideas and recipes

Appreciating: all the colours of summer, currently dripping with water but withstanding the onslaught of rain and wind (not sure the local farmers will be feeling the same way. Have you seen Clarkson’s Farm on Prime btw? Recommend)

Eating: lots of salads, fish and I made my first plum crumble last night. I’ve always preferred raw plums, but since we’ve found an excellent source of plums for scrumping I promised Someone a crumble

Liking: Nigel Slater’s crumble mix: 150g plain flour & 80g butter mixed together, then stir in 50g ground almonds, 70g demerara sugar, 75g rolled oats. I sprinkled in a little cinnamon too. Not much, because I’d already sprinkled cinnamon, ground ginger and freshly grated nutmeg into the plums, with a 2-3 tablespoons of sugar and a dash or two of water. 180 fan / 200 c for 30-35mins

Loving: cold plum crumble eaten with extra thick cream

Buying: a new top and trousers from Seasalt. Love Seasalt!

Managing: weeds, sort of. Gardening is like housework, it’s never done

Watching: the phlox begin to flower, there’s a stunning pink one flowering, but now the white are beginning to appear. Next the purple and white one I hope

Whichford Pottery, Warwickshire

Hoping: an influx of visitors aren’t going to spell disaster for the area

Wearing: I’m not saying!

Hidcote Manor Garden, Gloucestershire

Noticing: it’s much, much colder. I’d folded up my Tilted Squares blanket and put it away upstairs, but have found myself snuggling in my Spice of Life blanket in the evening instead (FYI: Black Sheep Wools asked me to take part and publicise the CAL, in return for free yarn back in 2015. I chose my own colour combo.)

Following: which vegetables and fruits are now in season

Sorting: spiders into tissues

Buscot Park, Oxfordshire

Getting: restless

Coveting: a cottage by the sea, where it’s never affected by severe weather

Feeling: impatient to start new crochet makes, if I undo previously started things I can, right?!

Buscot Park, Oxfordshire

Hearing: sighing and breath exhaled – he’s tense watching people either run around, or leap over bars. I did enjoy watching the BMX race on catch-up, that was exhilarating but that’s the extent of my viewing. I hope we continue to do well, but don’t feel any need to watch

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What are you: eating, making, watching, reading?

Yahoooo!

I’m on the final row of the border!

(And hello, how are you? Tell me all your news!)

Just some little picots, or something, to finish it off. Then a few more photos and I’ll package it up to send to baby Theo.

Happy days. So so so good to have something finished to show. Maybe I will pay my WordPress bill in August to keep this blog going. It’s been touch and go, I have to say.

Would any of you like me to write up a rough guide as to how I made this patchwork style blanket? It’s a good way of using up odds and ends of yarn.

Are you yahooooing! about anything this week?

* You should be pleased we’re not standing in the same room; as I made some harissa butter bean hummus for lunch and probably used too big a clove of garlic! Even wearing a mask the fumes would knock you out!

** If you’d like to check on whether I’m still alive and kicking then you can find me (sporadically) posting on Instagram: The Little Room of Rachell

Chanting

I’m chanting “Just get on with it!” Baby Theo needs his blanket. And am stalling by writing this, instead of picking up the blinking hook. D’oh!

I only have the lengths of three blocks to join, then the border – always the fun bit. I’m hoping I can use scraps as I don’t want to buy more yarn. I was using up stash oddments without a particular purpose in mind, when I began making strips of linen stitch blocks of colour one day. Thankfully my friend had a spare ball of parchment, so I didn’t need to buy any for the joining when I ran out.

Joining method:

I’m going under the chain stitches on the edging of each strip, then crocheting them together with 1 dc, a 1 ch takes me to the next chain gap. The seamless join looked great, (see here) but was an absolute pig to do. So, of course, it wasn’t done. Better a more textured join, than a heap of strips left in a bag I’d say?

Then I’ll dig through and get another unfinished thing out. I reckon I’ll be inspired to do more knitting and crochet when I come to the end of the unfinished heap. I do not have permission to begin anything until I have….yawn!

Back to the chanting and the doing.

Tell me two things?

Taking Stock – May

Making: glass spread all over the kitchen, yet again

Cooking: Chicken, pancetta & butterbean stew, recipe here. It’s even tastier the next day

Sipping: Assam Tea, no milk or sugar

Reading: The Haunting of Brynn Wilder. I’m really not sure about it, but will see how it goes

Waiting: for a family catch up at the weekend. And to walk by the sea. And to eat crispy restaurant chips. I. Can’t. Wait! First time away since last September. Phew!

Walked 5 miles and back to the car yesterday, just in time

Looking: at bare tulip stalks, stormy weather has blown the rest of the petals off! It’s been weeks of seeing their loveliness, so it’s ok

Listening: to cutlery chinking and cupboards being opened

All vivid yellow now

Wishing: to be 6” taller

Enjoying: salads again. Tuna, artichoke & butterbean, lentil & feta, sardine, watercress & orange

Appreciating: Spring, though it’s so much like 4 seasons in one day atm

Eating: Chia Bircher made with rolled oats, coconut milk, chia seeds, topped with fresh raspberries & chopped apple. Are you rolling your eyes?

Liking: Libby the library app now has magazines. Good Housekeeping for the excellent recipes, BBC Good Food and Love Embroidery are the 3 I’ve dipped into lately

Loving: Jessie Ware’s ‘Overtime’ song on Spotify. I defy you to keep still when listening!

I’ve rediscovered tinned sardines and mackerel, so good for tasty, filling and nutritious lunches

Buying: a new watch battery

Annoying: Old men – face masks under (big) noses

Managing: My aim to walk 1,100 miles this year (an increase of 100 miles) is going well so far. Hope I haven’t just jinxed myself

Watching: Superstore a tv comedy on Netflix. Funny, cute characters

Hoping: our figures continue to decrease, no mutations mucking everything up. People have been through enough

Wearing: a ball gown and tiara

Noticing: more flowers appearing in the garden. The clematis is looking very pinky, there are many buds on the rose and the lily of the valley are nearly all in bloom

Following: Twitter a bit more than usual, it’s largely negative so I won’t be checking too often

Sorting: well, I am tempted to sort through my WIPS, but am just sticking to the baby blanket as he’s now here (really gorgeous looking

Getting: Ready to walk to buy cheese and fruit

Coveting: New clothes

Feeling: Clumsy!

Also Feeling: Really pleased to see the crocheted wave blanket I made for Winnie being used by her new baby brother

Hearing: An aeroplane

How are you? You ok? What are you enjoying and doing at the moment?

A very sad loss

I am so sad and shocked to read of Teresa Kasner’s passing, a heartfelt post, written by her husband Dayle flashed up my screen a little while ago.


I really loved reading Teresa’s blog; seeing her home, family, flowers, all that delicious food and hearing what she’d been up to (lately acquiring much jadeite.) Reading her words and seeing her lovely photos often cheered me up when I felt I needed an injection of colour and good cheer.

It would have been great to have met her. I hoped I could surprise her one day, turning at the visitor centre at the Falls where she volunteered. Sadly the pandemic paused all international travel plans to visit family nearby last year, and surprise a fellow blogger. I know she would have loved it and the only issue would have been fending her off wanting to take lots of photos for her latest blog post!

I will really miss reading her blog. I can’t tell you how much. Many will. She was warm and friendly, delighted in receiving comments and communications. Such a giving person to her family and local community.

My deepest condolences to Teresa’s family on their sad loss.

Joining

Why is it always that I join significant lengths of crochet, before deciding I don’t like the seam?

It’s been weeks since I picked up my patchwork strips of linen / moss stitch. A conversation with a friend, Lucy, on Friday about the advance copies of books we’re both reading and reviewing reminded me that I need to get on with the joining. Quickly. There’s a border to do too, of course.

In theory I like the texture of raised seams. In practice they’re always tilting a little to the side. It’s rustic. It’s just not right though. I’m not convinced rustic looks good or feels good. Right. Rip, rip…rip it up and start again. (Remember that song?)

I took to looking around at my books and crochet sites.

Although there is quite a caution about the slowness of crocheting the Zipper join, this is the one for me. Here’s the instructions I found on Dedri’s ‘Look at what I made’ website. Look at the neatness of the seam. It’s so flat too. It is indeed very, very slow to crochet, but I like the look and feel of it a lot.

I’ll be back with the finished blanket at some point. Lucy’s baby is due in the next fortnight or so. S/he better not be too late because the poor girl is desperate for a large bowl of cereal, having developed gestational diabetes. Poor love.

I might do a slightly retrospective Taking Stock for April in the meantime. But I may not. We’ll see. I’m sure either way you’ll cope.

Have a pic or two of some lovely bluebells in the woods I visit every spring. This was on Friday ….

What are you up to?

Taking Stock – March

Making: a plan to try acupuncture. I can’t seem to do any amount of crochet or knitting at the mo. I’ve given up knitting the monthly dishcloths for now

Cooking: Oat & Pecan Cookies

Sipping: Twinings English Breakfast tea

Reading: Another Life by Jodie Chapman – this was the book I mentioned before. I got an Advanced Reader Copy, lucky me! It’s published tomorrow. The tale of Anna & Nick was really compelling, especially as it’s the author’s debut novel. I found it hard to put down

Waiting: to be able to travel freely

Looking: at all the anemones, grape hyacinth & pink tulips which have magically appeared in our garden

Listening: to Lo Vas A Olvidar by Billy Eilish & Rosalia on Spotify. It’s beautiful

Wishing: we could return to normal, but I think it’s a long way off

Enjoying: some sunnier days

Appreciating: being back at home. March has been very stressful, I was away for 10 days

Eating: lots of veggies this week

Liking: Schitt’s Creek I know, I am so late to the party!

Loving: Cinnamon buns with St Clements glaze. I won’t try anymore CB recipes – this enriched buttery dough is the bees knees

Buying: mixed peel & raisins to make Hot Cross Buns on Good Friday

Managing: fine, with some sleep now

Watching: the New Taskmaster series on C4

Hoping: I get to catch up with lots of friends from now on

Wearing: scruffs – a furry fleecy lined hood! Up, so have a cosy head. Not a great look but it’s comfy

Following: embroidery videos on Instagram. Addictive viewing, very calming too

Noticing: Spring has Sprung. Yippee!

Sorting: clothes, with rising temps forecast my Seasalt short sleeved tops will be coming out. It’s going to be 21 degrees, then back to 10, but wow that’s mini summer for us… The smell of thousands and thousands BBQ will be all over the land soon

Getting: Glitter Gel Pens for Easter instead of chocolate, maybe

Bookmarking: that TikTok Baked Feta Pasta recipe, why have I only just read about it? Have you tried it?

Coveting: new clothes

Feeling: relaxed

Hearing: Richard Marks singing his massive hit (sad) song

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Thanks to Pip who provided the original inspiration for these Taking Stock posts years ago. I still like reading hers.

Tell me a few things about your March?

Yarning Along – March

Making: Yesterday I dug these strips out, last seen in 2018 when I darned all the ends. Pulling them out of their bag brought back all sorts of unexpected images from our last home and memories attached to the time. Who knew that strips of crocheted fabric could bring back a wash of memories? Suddenly I could see the patch of sunlight that used to fall on the carpet just inside the French windows, while I crocheted in the afternoon. I thought of a friend I haven’t seen since that summer. Trips to places restricted to us still.

I began these on a whim in December 2017. They’re made of moss stitch, a.k.a. granite or linen stitch. I liked the idea of doing continuous patchwork type of blocks and then stitching (crocheting) them together at the end. I used Stylecraft DK leftovers and a 4.5 mm hook as the stitches looked better with a larger hook size. it’s a really, really nice fabric; very bouncy and soft, quite thick too, so should be a warm covering.

They have been bugging me a bit recently, I don’t like things hanging around but didn’t complete them as my hand pain took over and crochet went into remission. So, yesterday I sent a quick message to a friend offering to make them into a baby blanket as her first baby’s due in May. She was delighted and said “No one has ever given me anything handmade before!” and told me it had totally made her day. She’s not having a great final stage of pregnancy, I’m so glad my offer cheered her up. As a crafter that’s 100% the reaction you want, don’t you? I’m always aware that people might shrink back in horror at the idea of something handmade, or hate the colour scheme, or perhaps they’re already awash with handmade blankets from other friends and relatives. During our year long restrictions lots are taking to crafting. We’re still under heavy restrictions here in England.

Finally having a plan and purpose for these strips nudged me to immediately start to edge one, ready for joining. I tried the preliminary stitches for a flat braid, but it wasn’t quite the right look. These need a plain, not fancy or fussy, joining method.

Reading: I seem to be dipping in and out of lots of books. I started a new library ebook via the BorrowBox app on Wednesday: The Glass House by Eve Chase.

Two chapters in and I knew it was going to be a good read. The Harrington’s are living in a remote Manor House in an idyllic setting in the woods and find a baby. They’re grieving a tragedy of their own and the discovery brings joy and hope, but then ….

There are several books I can’t mention until nearer the publication date, since they are ARC (advance reader copies) but I’ll definitely be coming back to recommend one nearer its publication on 1st April. It’s a real goodie.

Troubled Blood by Robert Galbraith (J.K Rowling) was a 5* read, as was Hungry by Grace Dent. I don’t usually give many books 5/5 so hit the jackpot with these in February. 

My rating system is:

1* NOT good

2* Disappointing

3* OK, bit patchy

4* Really liked it

5* LOVED IT

I’m drawn to podcasts on and off at home right now, without train or bus journeys I’m not really listening to audio books. In the last year or so I’ve stopped listening to anything while I walk. Or rather, I’m listening to birdsong and noises around me, saying hello to people and maybe exchanging a few words with them (at a distance, blah, blah, blah.) We are isolated enough, so when I’m outside I don’t need further isolation through plugging my ears up.

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What are you making and reading?

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Although Ginny has stopped her monthly Yarn Along posts it’s something I’m carrying on with, because I enjoy writing them. I might step it up and write more regularly, as and when I’ve got new makes and books to share. Join in if you want to, add your link to the comments below so we can see what you’re making and reading.

Taking Stock – February

Making: a bit of progress on my Coast Blanket, 3 more rows and I’ve finished another block.

I’ve done another 18 row repeat of my (probably not going to be a) dishcloth too. I just have the last 4 rows of plain knitting to do and it’s done. It’s frustratingly slow. Ah well. I’m glad I can still do bits and bobs Actually I have noticed bloggers I’ve followed for years, mentioning their tendon issues, carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis and such. All the crochet and knitting has caught up with us! Take it easy and don’t do too much in a sitting. BE CAREFUL

Cooking: olive focaccia. Last night I tried a third recipe, another sourdough recipe. This trebled – it was absolutely huge! It didn’t even look like focaccia. My starter is super powered. We hardly made a dent in it, but it tasted great. It also had massive air holes which was quite fun, but I’ll be going back to my first recipe which uses predictable commercial yeast. And looks like focaccia!

Sipping: on Saturday before dinner – Vagabond, a pale ale made by Scottish brewing geniuses BrewDog

Reading: Hungry by Grace Dent. I heard her on this podcast and immediately borrowed the ebook from the library, using the Libby app. So good. So good. I can’t put it down.

Waiting: Yep, we are all still waiting in England. I’m waiting patiently and feeling quite chilled.

Looking: forward to a holiday. Fingers and toes crossed!

Listening: to Madonna’s ‘Dress you up’ on the radio

Wishing: just to drive out of county. As soon as we’re allowed I’ll be off in all directions! Coast, National Trust places, shopping, museums, London, cafes, theatres, cinemas, short trips, long trips…I’d better check our cars over and make sure the tyres are up to all the driving. In the meantime I’m walking every day and enjoying it.

Enjoying: sunshine streaming in the windows. I woke at 7am and the room was full of delicious golden light.

Appreciating: birdsong, winter flowers, beautiful views, friendly people

Eating: lentil dal. I made what turned out to be my best ever. Just on the spur of the moment because I fancied some for lunch. Red split lentils, coconut milk, stock, onions, ginger, garlic, spices, fresh green chillis and a few chopped tomatoes. YUM

Liking: Taskmaster on 4OD still. We’re working our way through old series on 4OD. We take it in turns to choose. It never fails to make us roar with laughter. S2 now.

Loving: Lupin on Netflix, it’s French with subtitles. Don’t let that put you off, it’s fantastic. The story, the twists and music and …. Just watch the first episode and know that I’m winking at you

Buying: new walking trainers. I’ve gone through a pair in less than a year, as I walk so many miles

Managing: fine, thanks!

Watching: birds coming to the feeders. Love the cheeky aggro of the starlings raiding the mealworms and the hyperactive nervy blue tits

Hoping: for family gatherings

Wearing: scruffs

Following: changes in nature, loving all the greenery and shoots appearing

Noticing: much lighter earlier mornings and later afternoons

Sorting: socks. Wool walking socks shrink in the wash. When they’re all different ages it means I’ve got shorts, mediums and larges.

Getting: motivated with monthly goals. I’ll be reviewing them at the end of March and I’ll be setting new in April

Bookmarking: podcast episodes by searching for favourite comedians and listening to a range of shows

Coveting: summer evenings by the river with cider and a nice meal

Feeling: calm but keen for normal life to resume …

Hearing: the kitchen clock ticking

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What were your highlights of February? Was it good for you?

Plans for March?

Reasons to be Cheerful

My wool delivery came! And it didn’t take that long either, despite many warnings that there are delays. Thanks Wool Warehouse.

I ordered lots of balls and in a few different colour-ways, so I can power on with my Coast blanket. I managed 57 minutes of crochet while on a call earlier. That’s impressive work for my dodgy hand.

Slowly, slowly I’m knitting my next dishcloth*. Choosing the design for February must have been a breeze. I really like it. I always enjoy lace knitting, though I have to concentrate.

I had a proper lightbulb moment the other day as I kept worrying that I was doing something wrong. It wasn’t looking heart-like at all. Thank goodness I didn’t undo and go back to the beginning! I probably missed a pattern note where it says the hearts appear upside down. I made someone jump by suddenly shouting “OMG, there ARE hearts after all!”

It turns out I’m not the only one who worried about this one. Always a relief.

*It’s part of a free 12 month KAL, go back to my last post for the link and description.

Winter flowers and the promise of Spring flowers. The garden is coming to life. Just look at those cheeky little croci coming up in the gap between the last two steps. We missed these last year, as we moved after they’d flowered. After the snow had gone it was a nice surprise to find a carpet of lilac all over the garden.

Look at these tulips; despite my not having cleared away some of the leaves of the grape leaf anemone, they’re coming up anyway. Top marks for doing what they’re meant to do. I felt so guilty I stopped snapping photos and did a bit of tidying to help them along.

Chicken soup in the making (much therapeutic chopping while listening to favourite artists on Spotify.) Apparently I said we were having chicken soup for dinner on Wednesday, three times on Tuesday. I don’t dispute that. My memory is fine. I was just excited! It feels so healthy and tastes great too. I added garlic, mixed herbs, homegrown dried bay leaves, red pepper, leeks, Merchant Gourmet ready cooked puy lentils, sweetcorn, chicken stock, leftover Sunday roast chicken and a spoonful of leftover double cream, a good grind of fresh black pepper and pinch of salt. So good. Sooo good.

Refreshing walks relieve head pressure and get the body moving. I score myself out of 10 some days and never failed to return feeling an 8/10.

I know many don’t have such beautiful places and views nearby. I’m really sorry if that’s you. I’m appreciative and grateful, I don’t take it for granted.

We had the Beast from the East again last week. Temperatures went down to -5° some nights and didn’t get above 0° on the whole during the day.

We walked Saturday afternoon, it was -1°. That wasn’t the coldest walk we’ve had, but might have been one of the swiftest 4.5 miles because of the bitingly cold wind.

I found a few big chunks of ice in different places on verges, where there were no puddles at all. My shoe was for scale. Aren’t they thick? I reckon they may have come off a farm vehicle as it went along the track.

Homemade cinnamon buns with a toffee sauce and clementine glaze. Nuff said!

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I’m going to admit that I started this blog post with rather gritted teeth. I feel like I’ve finally hit the wall this week. We’ve been in lockdown to varying degrees coming up for a year now. It’s worn thinner than thin.

Getting out into the garden to photograph the flowers earlier was a good decision. I also had a nagging feeling that if I didn’t blog today, I might well not blog again. It’s been proactive to list reasons to be cheerful. It’s a bit like smiling when you don’t feel like smiling, but by the end of the fake smiling, you are genuinely smiling…

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I really appreciate it when you read and comment here or contact me privately elsewhere. Tell me a few things. How are you feeling? What are your reasons to be cheerful right now? Have you made anything as sinful as my cinnamon buns? (Ha that’s a hard challenge to beat!)

Yarn Along – February

Knitting

Have you heard about the new KAL on the block?

It’s #YearofDishcloths and is a good chance to dust off your knitting skills, or practise following a pattern if you’re a new knitter. Or, like me, you just might fancy a new FREE pattern popping into your inbox at the beginning of every month. No choice overload or dithering, both good things for me.

I wasn’t even contemplating taking part in a KAL/CAL but saw a friend’s photo and immediately found myself running straight upstairs for cotton and delving for my needles. I’m using 4.5mm Knit Pros for mine.

Patterns will also be listed for free on Ravelry, but later in the month than the subscribers will receive the emailed version. Just go to Garlene’s The Kitchen Sink Shop for the links in her bio which will take you to the January pattern and the KAL sign up.

This is the beginning of ‘Icicles’ the January design. It’s looking like a Gansey style pattern to me. They’re made up of knit and purl stitches, which create simple but beautiful designs.

I delved into my yarn storage and found lots of cottons I’d forgotten, including several brand new balls of Rowan. Way-hey! It’s way too posh for a dishcloth, (and I do prefer using J-cloths) but I can think about other uses later. I may turn it into something else…

As I said on my IG post this was a proper old style Instagram. I put my knit down at the end of the row, to quickly take a photo. No flat lay styling, with randomly placed pinecones. I like it, so it’s this month’s Yarn Along pic.

Reading

I’ve just started Robert Galbraith’s (aka J.K Rowling) Troubled Blood. The fifth book in the Strike series, it’s an absolute brick of a hardback book. It weighs 1,340g. Wow! I propped it up on a cushion next to me, last night. It’s too heavy to even have on my legs for any time.

I’m also looking through Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Three Good Things, Liza Tarbuck’s Annual for Grownups and Freeform Crochet by Carol Meldrum. So plenty on the go book wise here.

Let me know if you can recommend a good book on tatting, please, one you’ve actually tried.

What are you making and reading at the mo?

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NOT joining in with Ginny this time as she has stopped hosting Yarn Along for now. If you’d like to link to your blog or social media post in the comments underneath, we can still see what you’re making and find out what you’re reading. I’ll miss the linky thing, but last time I tried to host one it wasn’t compatible with WordPress.

Taking Stock – January

Making: freeform crochet pieces. Having a play around with scraps of DK. Also I’ve been trying Russian Joins versus Magic Knots to make a scrappy yarn ball. Magic knot wins, but not by much. I think I’d rather darn ends and make small motifs with scraps. Or donate to a school for craft. The knot is too hard to hide in crochet. Have you tried either, or freeform?

Cooking: Cullen Skink with homemade cheesy rolls. Delicious dinner!

Sipping: Vanilla & Macadamia coffee. Hawaiian coffee I was given for Christmas

Reading: Things in Jars by Jess Kidd, still…. I keep reading and reading, but I never seem to get to the end. I don’t know what’s happened to my reading speed. It’s a pretty good book, though quite dark so don’t read it if you’re not feeling in good spirits

Waiting: still waiting

Looking: at all the hellebores, snowdrops and croci that are appearing everywhere. They are a welcome sight!

Listening: to Taylor Swift’s Willow on the radio

Wishing: for a dry weather, blue skies and sunny day again SOON

Enjoying: Friday baking sessions. During January I’ve made focaccia, cornbread, stem ginger & sultana fruit loaf, cheesy rolls and lucky dip cookies

Appreciating: having a comfortable warm house in a quiet area

Eating: 30 plants a week. It’s quite fun listing them and seeing how well we’ve done. I’ve been reading and listening to Tim Spector guesting on a few podcasts to talk about gut health and diet

Liking: Simon Mayo’s announcement that he’s coming back to hosting a Drivetime show in March, on Greatest Hits Radio. I’m hoping there’s no, or at least few ads though, my listening loyalty depends on this to a large extent

Loving: crocheting and knitting regularly

Buying: Daffodils, they’re £1 for a bunch for instant sunshine, delivered with my groceries. “Hello there!” I say when they open.

Ah these went to the Great Compost Bin in the sky garden the next day and were greatly missed. Until the next bunch was delivered a few days later…

I’ve been in two shops in four weeks, one was the P.O. I miss museums, browsing large Sainsburys, local pubs, going to London, walking by the sea, travelling on buses and trains, going out for lunch with friends, buying new clothes, buying freshly made sushi …. the list goes on

Managing: to stay steady and plod on. We will get through this. I’m so sorry though for those who have lost their lives and their people who are grieving

Yes, we’ve had proper snowfall! This is a dodgy looking Snowhare we made the weekend before last. Enjoyed driving to visit my Social Bubble person and seeing lots of snowmen (and an impressive snowdog) on verges and by front gates

Watching: It’s a Sin on All 4. The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix. Taskmaster series also on All 4. We’re taking it in turns to choose past series. At the moment I’m watching and cringing / laughing as the series features someone I used to know when they were a child and babysat occasionally…!

If you fancy a silly, fun film then try ‘Tag’ a film on Netflix (or for a small price it’s on Prime)

Hoping: they vaccinate a second time soon. Three family members have had the first so far

Wearing: my favourite fleecy top

Following: the ShantyTok thing on TikTok. I’ve always enjoyed a good sea shanty

Noticing: the lingering daylight at 5pm, it’s definitely lighter later

Sorting: receipts

Getting: a pint of whole milk every week for porridge. It’s a game changer

Bookmarking: recipes. Always the same answer. I made a chicken orzo pasta bake last night, based on one I cut out of a magazine last year. As always I tinkered with it and added lots more veg too

Stem ginger & sultana loaf – lots and lots of sultanas, it was chock full

Coveting: FREEDOM

Feeling: restless for a long walk later. A 5-6 miler. Please don’t rain (as forecast)

Hearing: the heating clicking

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I’ve been adding to this list during January, but hadn’t got around to writing it up properly. Oops!

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What are you up to? (Particularly if you’re in the UK, or somewhere else where there’s also a longterm strict Lockdown. Are you managing to stay steady? What’s occupying you?)

People’s spirit and steadiness here in the 1940s has always been lauded. But what’s struck me lately is in the midst of great uncertainty, fear and loss, people are generally so uncomplaining. People are being stoic and carrying on as cheerfully as they can. It’s made me feel so proud of my friends and community.

4 WIPS

Hello there, despite the least variety, or many plans to look forward to (apart from Zoom meetings, online singing classes, FaceTime drinks with friends and family and excellent roast Sunday lunches some weekends, which all equate to the most amount of time we’ve spent inside at home) it seems to be over two weeks since I posted. I’m not quite sure how that happened; because after I wrote my Yarn Along post I was buzzing with ideas for more posts. Time and opportunity has not been an issue!

Anyway, thank you so much for your comments on my last. It was so nice to hear from so many of you. Your comments all made me smile.

I’m going to jump straight in to show you what I’ve been doing for the last few weeks. I still only do a little at a time as I can’t crochet or knit for long periods, like I used to. But I’m thankful that I can still do some, as long as I stop the moment I feel a twinge of hand or wrist pain.

What I’m making has to be quite simple. I’ve tried more intricate patterns and unfortunately it’s still a no-go, unless I crochet or knit just a little, for about 10 minutes at a time, and that’s really unsatisfying. I’m happy with all these makes though, and hope you enjoy your peep at what I’ve been up to…

I kept seeing these Vintage Flower Hexagon motifs on Insta. I haven’t seen anything quite like this before, it makes me think of Orla Kiely designs. I bought Atty van Norel’s pattern on Ravelry. Really pretty isn’t it?

I’m using chunky yarn and so my motif is 18cm across. The slightly wiggly shape will sort itself out when joined with others.

Yep, it’s back! I had stopped this Star Blanket with a view to it being a baby blanket. But I kept eyeing it, wondering about continuing. It’s really cold weather here and a chunky blanket is the nicest thing to sit underneath while you work on it. Today it’s 3° but feels like -1° according to the BBC Weather app. We had quite a good fall of snow yesterday. The Snowhare we made in the garden is starting to tilt as it melted slightly today, but there’s still plenty of white stuff around.

I unravelled a few rows because I’d spotted a stitch or two I wanted to re-do, and hooking those rows back up made me remember how deliciously tactile it is using chunky yarn and a 6 mm hook. I’ve got quite a lot of Paintbox Simply Chunky yarn as Lovecrafts.com sent some to me to try last summer, so I’ll carry on and see what size it becomes.

If you haven’t tried Paintbox Simply Chunky yarn yet, do. It’s so soft and makes a really squishy fabric. It’s 100% acrylic but has a really nice feel. This isn’t an advert or an affiliated link, it’s genuine enthusiasm for a new find.

I know that some of you are waiting for the pattern for my knitted cowl, but like an idiot I sent it to my friend before I worked out a few details for the written pattern. She sent me a picture wearing it when she’d just received it. I hadn’t told her when it was posted as I thought a surprise would be really welcome in this bleugh time. Her little face was a picture of joy, so I can hardly ask her to send it back. So, I’m starting another and this time trying to be a little bit more professional about things…!

I’m so enjoying making these large granny squares. My hand feels most comfortable using this fairly fine DK wool blend with a 4 mm hook. This is what I often crochet when I make telephone calls. I wear my hands free ear pods and we chat about all sorts while I do some hooky.

I started the blues and greys square on holiday in September, in Cornwall. I bought a couple of balls of Hayfield Spirit DK yarn, a wool blend, and a hook in Penzance. It was pure pleasure sitting up in bed in the earlyish morning, in our holiday house further west, looking at the sea views, with the sun sparkling on the water. 

Sadly I can’t get any more of the yarn at the moment. Wah! I contacted Sirdar as I’d searched on many yarn company websites for the colour shades I need next and it’s a no-go. I can get maybe one colour blend, but not all. Apparently the lack of availability is down to Covid and Brexit. The terrible twins.

Still, there’s plenty here to keep my hands busy. What about you? Tell me what you’re making and busy with, please.

Yarn Along – January

I’ve got some ends to darn on my cowl. I can send it to my friend tomorrow and then it’s officially my first make of 2021. Done. I’ll write up the pattern tomorrow.

I snuck into the Post Office yesterday to buy stamps when it was quiet in there, because the fewer the people, the better. The fewer the shops I go into at all, the better. Preferably one Grocery Delivery a week and if we haven’t got it, we’re not having it.

The News here is grim: we hear the number of deaths every day (I read this morning that we reached the total number of deaths in Australia in just one 24 hour period) that there’s a staggeringly high rate of new infections with the mutated virus which is more easily transmitted, and the NHS is close to being overwhelmed. I have had people who live abroad contact me, concerned about the news from the UK and about our third Lockdown, which came into force on Tuesday. Some are surprised. They thought we had it more under control here….

I am glad for books and reading. It’s even better than tv or films, for absorbing myself in other worlds and times. I read until 01:15 this morning. I feel very bleary today, but I got so wrapped up in Sophie Hannah’s Haven’t They Grown. Here’s a brief outline; Beth hasn’t seen her friend Flora for a dozen years, she passes her former friend’s area while taking her son to a match. Parking by her house, Beth sees the children again. Not sounding very exciting? Well the thing is that they are still precisely the same. Still three and five years old, twelve years later. What’s going on?

I’ve now read 58% of the book and really hoping the mystery isn’t going to be a massive let-down at the end. My mind is powering through all sorts of ‘explanations’ I tell you. Absorbing stuff.

I’m listening to Jess Kidd’s Things in Jars, this couldn’t be more different. Set in Victorian London it’s the tale of Bridie Devine, an unconventional lady detective who is hired to solve a very tricksy kidnapping. As with The Hoarder (Titled Mr Flood’s Last Resort in the USA) Jess Kidd writes in a very compelling way. She has such a unique style of description. The audio isn’t going fast enough, always the sign of a good book for me, so I’m listening to a chapter or two and reading a few as I go too.

Please take a few minutes to leave a comment: tell me what you’re knitting or crocheting? Tell me if you’re reading anything good, or is it bad? Is it awful? Are you just about to give up and pick something else? Maybe you’re not reading at all; you’re binge watching Netflix instead?

I know you’re still reading these posts, I see my WordPress stats and familiar names of readers on Bloglovin’ who have read for years and years. It was my NINE YEAR blog anniversary on New Year’s Eve, so WP informed me. Wheee! Can’t believe it’s been so long. I really appreciate you checking in every time I write, but it’s feeling increasingly like I’m calling into the wind. Tell me something hey? Anything. I’m winking at you.

Happy New Year!

A snapshot of some of my last day of 2020 and the first of the New Year yesterday.

Home based and staying local, as it must be right now, it’s been cosy.

Baking: Spice Biscuits – AKA the less snappily named Edible Tree Decorations by Nigella. I’ll be baking these again as they’ve been voted ‘delicious’ by my nearest and dearest. Made for a New Year’s Day afternoon tea, they are perfect with a cup of tea. I made glacé icing and drizzled it with a teaspoon. Next time I’d use Clementine juice with the icing sugar, it would go so well with the spice.

Drinking: Taittinger to see the New Year in, after Zooming with friends in Scotland

Eating: cheese & biscuits

Spotting: gorgeous wreaths, it’s wreath heaven around here. I’ve got photos of 35 different wreaths I snapped on a short walk on Christmas Eve, this is another I spotted on New Year’s Eve

Walking: on New Year’s Eve it was a bright, but freezing afternoon. It has typically been 2° all day all week, sometimes with a scouring wind. As we turned around to walk home fog rolled in across the ridge, turning to look behind us we could barely see the path we’d just walked…

Enjoying: some of the last sourdough loaf of 2020 on New Year’s Day, eaten with smoked salmon, cream cheese, a squeeze of lemon juice and a grind of black pepper

Making: knitting my mustard & grey cowl. I know I can’t wear mustard yellow but I started knitting this anyway and hoped it might magically suit me. I tried it on and as usual looked jaundiced…d’oh! Mustard socks only it is. I offered this cowl to Facebook friends and one of my best possible people jumped at it. So pleased. She has 5 dogs and walks them at dawn, the cowl will help to keep her warm. I’m using Paintbox Simply Chunky yarn.

I’ve sent plenty of knitting and crochet makes to charities, but there’s always something really special about making for friends and family, knowing you’ll be keeping them cosy.

Goal setting: I set a challenge at the beginning of last year to Walk 1,000 miles again. Totting up the final score yesterday I found I had walked 1,056 miles in 2020. So, this year I’m upping my goal to Walk 1,100 miles. The first walk of the New Year was wonderful. Another crispy cold day with lots of icy puddles and glinty foliage as the frost melted, raucous ducks who seemed to be laughing at a filthy joke and a fun chat with a Mum who had roller skates for Christmas and who was practising her skills. Such a refreshing change to see an adult with a new Christmas present. Usually it’s children’s shiny new bicycles, scooters and bells… (and weary Dads carrying them.)

What were your highlights of the last and first days of 2020 and 2021?

Happy New Year to you – let’s hope we can go further afield and meet up with more of our special people this year. Fingers crossed that things change for the better in 2021.

Merry Christmas!

Good old NORAD

Merry Christmas! Are you having a good one?

With last Saturday’s sudden announcement about the change of tiers and new restrictions on numbers of households who could gather together, Christmas went from potentially being five days with three households to one day of two households together. That seemed like a very sensible decision, however we went from being guests to needing to buy all we needed for Christmas dinner. Luckily we had already ordered a turkey from the local butchers as usual, and the rest came in a grocery order I’d fortunately managed to book weeks ago for the first time ever. Everything else was found during an early morning run to the market and a dash into a supermarket on the 23rd. Despite there being only three of us for Christmas Day you still buy all the same things, albeit in smaller quantities. I made a loaf of sourdough to go with smoked salmon and champagne before lunch, made my usual marzipan fruit Christmas cake, rum butter to go with Christmas pudding and prepped some vegetables. It was all good and felt really relaxed.

I was wondering what it would be like not seeing family and felt quite sad about it. In fact, on the day it felt like a really jam-packed social Christmas Day! We had three different video calls with family groups through the day. It was really lovely to see everyone, see their Christmas trees, hold up favourite presents to show each other and waggle champagne glasses. Not the same as seeing everybody in person, but a good substitute. Thank goodness for technology!

I haven’t picked up a crochet hook or needles at all, for about a week. Today is our designated lazy day, after we walked 5 miles in the biting cold and rain yesterday. We ate a late lunch of leftover smoked salmon and cream cheese on sourdough, had a slice of Stollen, followed by a slice of Yule Log (!) along with a couple of mugs of tea in our ‘Social Bubble’. Then headed home for my favourite Boxing Day dinner of baked potatoes, home-made salads, cold turkey, apricot and chestnut sausage meat stuffing, pickles and spoonfuls of cranberry sauce and mayonnaise. I love this period now between Christmas and New Year… Crimbo Limbo! It’s going to be full of films, books, music, woolly crafting and a few strolls around to see Christmas lights, door wreaths and decorations. We’ll tackle another longer walk on Tuesday, but not a moment before!

Tell me about your Christmas?

What are you doing during Crimbo limbo?

Taking Stock – December

Making: knitting a chunky yellow and grey cowl

Cooking: chicken, bacon & puy lentil soup. I’ve had a run on making chicken soup; one week with noodles, another with diced potato. So good to leave in the slow cooker to cook, while I do other things. Ready to dish up when it’s dinner. Easy and tasty

Sipping: Brewdog’s Zealots Heart gin

Reading: A Literary Christmas – a lovely collection of writing and poems put together by The British Library. It was delivered last night

Waiting: for Christmas dinner! My favourite roast ever

Looking: at all the lights on houses, trees and in gardens. Love them!

Listening: to a beautiful song on the radio: Love is a Compass by Griff. It was used in a Disney Ad. The cute ad gave me tingles!

Wishing: for a dry afternoon / evening as we’re going to walk a Christmas lights trail

Enjoying: my new Let’s Knit and Inside Crochet magazines, a real treat. I also bought some new wool at my lovely local yarn shop, to knit another Edenvale Cowl. I wear my other all the time when walking. The chill wind can’t get me!

Appreciating: this year’s quiet build up to Christmas, it feels a lot less frantic

Eating: mince pies laced with cognac, brandy & port

Liking: some of the new Christmas songs, others are dreadful, naming no names (Robbie Williams!)

Loving: HFW Refried Beans recipe from his Veg book, I made them to go with tacos last night

Buying: crunchy veg for a Red Cabbage, Apple & Walnut Winter Coleslaw. It will go perfectly with cold cuts next weekend

Managing: to avoid wrapping a single present, it’s always the same every single year. All in a rush at the last minute!

Zoom in to see the water droplets on the branches

Watching: The Prom film on Netflix tonight

Hoping: still the same as everyone else…

Wearing: a furry polo neck top and nightwear, it’s earlyish

Following: the news…dithering about Tiers / Christmas….

Noticing: people wearing funky masks, a guy had a great Movember type one on yesterday, I told him I liked it, of course. Maybe he grinned? So hard to tell. He did thank me

Sorting: baubles, on Tuesday, when we bring the tree in to decorate

Getting: excited

Bookmarking: recipes for January. I’ve found this Slow cooker Honey Mustard Chicken recipe on BBC Good Food and these Tesco Midweek Meals

Coveting: new clothes! Haven’t bought any this year as not being about to try them on doesn’t work. I’m reluctant to spend lots of time queuing in a PO to return online items which don’t fit (might be repeating other TS posts?)

A carousel 2020 style: sanitiser, covers on some horses to distance people and spaces to queue on ….

Feeling: relaxed

Hearing: birds tweeting in the hedge outside my bedroom window

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Tell me a few Taking Stock type things of your own, please? It’s always good to hear from you

The brightest cowl in the world

Done! That’s three completed things, and now onto the next…

It’s not quite as luminous and glary as it comes out in photos, but it definitely isn’t a subtle colour.

What are you making at the moment? Have you just finished anything?

Definitely not grey!

Knitting: I’m currently finishing off knitting the ribbing on my Heinz cowl. It’s obviously named for their brightly coloured tomato soup….

It’s most of a ball of leftover Stylecraft Special DK matador from the William Morris blanket I made for Mum five years ago. I didn’t want to incorporate it into my knitted stripy blanket and this will keep someone’s neck cosy.

It’s plain knitting and was again started when I was searching for something easy, which wouldn’t make my hands hurt. Once again surprise-surprise there was no such thing and so I don’t think you’ve ever seen this either. It was definitely last year, if not before, because I asked one of my nieces if they liked red. I thought she might want it. Without even seeing it or knowing why I was asking, her nose wrinkled and she said “No, not red.” Ask an honest question, get an honest answer! No worries. I know where I’ll pass it on.

Thanks to my friend Phil, here’s the pattern I used, for an easy guide as to how many stitches to cast on.

Reading: although the last book in the Scottish Bookshop series was full of typos and had a complete lack of editing, (including the wrong character’s name in a sentence!) I have returned to Jenny Colgan. Her books are warm and cosy. You know exactly what you’re getting and they’re just so nice. After reading a thriller, full of terrorism, multiple gory deaths and a shed load of swearing, I fancied something light and nice for December. So, I’m reading 500 Miles from you.

The beginning surprised me rather and I wondered if Jenny is out to totally change her blueprint, but it’s settling down into very familiar territory now. There’s an important message there about signing up to something which might be vitally important for others, but I’m not giving you any spoilers.

Joining in with Ginny’s Yarn Along.

No wonder I felt relieved!

 I’ve got something to show you, something else I’ve finished. I’m on a roll! I’ve finished two things this month.

I thought I’d started this cowl maybe last autumn, then I checked on my Ravelry account and OH MY GOODNESS… that can’t be right can it?

I started it in November 2018?!?!

Ahhhh…but my issues with my hand had started that spring, and I would imagine this second Cozy Cowl was another hoping-for-a-miracle make which I could crochet pain free. I think we both know the answer to that one!

I wonder if I blogged about it way back then? Hang on I’ll just have a look…

…there’s a little mention on a post from 5th December Yearning Along It’s actually quite a sad reminder of how adrift I felt being told not to do any craft, this turned into months and months. I notice that I optimistically still tried, then accepted the situation, and so that’s why the cowl languished for a few years.

Anyway back to feeling buzzy and happy, because here we go:

It’s my second grey make of November, suits the weather perfectly.

I really like Stylecraft Life Aran; it’s a good mix of wool (25%) and acrylic (75%), which works up well with a 6mm hook. It’s definitely cosy when turned into a cowl.

Pattern details for the cowl are on my Ravelry project page above. I had borrowed the book from the library, when I made the first cowl for a friend way back in May 2016! It was to keep her neck warm when she rode her motorbike.

This time I still didn’t make it in one piece; because I really like the way the ribbing looks. I added a row of double crochet to each edge of the body of the cowl and one side of both ribbed strips, then crocheted them together. This was far more satisfying than sewing. I have a feeling it might be a stronger join too. I single crocheted into the inside loops only which made a smooth seam.

I wonder who will end up wearing it?

The Big Issue North recently requested knit and crochet hats, scarves and gloves on Twitter, to keep their magazine vendors warm. The Big Issue North is a well respected charity, have a look at what they’re about here. There’s some interesting articles on the website.

I usually buy the The Big Issue magazine if I come across a street vendor, I have done for years. It’s not pure altruism as although you know you’re helping someone, you’re also getting a good quality read. (Big Issue North is actually a separate organisation to The Big Issue down here, the same premise but BI North have been independent since 1996. It’s all good stuff.)

If you have any spare knit or crochet accessories I know they’ll be gratefully received. It’s cold now.

Send them to:

Big Issue North,

463 Stretford Road,

Manchester,

M16 9AB

UK

Taking Stock – November

Making: I’m crocheting another ribbed band for my cowl and thinking of what to make next. Finish or start…?

Cooking: spicy fish and chickpea stew, a delicious one pot recipe

Sipping: Assam tea, without milk

Reading: Simon Mayo‘s Knife Edge, it’s a thriller. In the first chapter lots happens and the tension isn’t lessening as it goes on (don’t read if you’re feeling anxious about stuff)

Waiting: … aren’t we all? We’re in the second week of a four week lockdown here in England. It’s partial at best, as all schools and universities are open. No one really knows how effective this strategy will prove to be, but this is an unprecedented time. I do know an increasing number of friends who have the virus, or are recovering from it. I’m feeling lucky we are able to be based at home

Looking: like I’ve been pulled through a hedge backwards this morning

My version of Shakshuka, using up roasted vegetables with a good pinch of chilli flakes and cumin thrown in before I added leftover passata

Listening: to Deacon Blue’s City of Love album

Wishing: to be a superfast knitter. I see so many gorgeous makes online that I want to make them all, in a day. Probably repeating myself!

Enjoying: Listing 30 plants that we eat a week. It’s really good to get you thinking about what you buy and cook. I also love writing lists. This came as a result of a link my friend sent. This podcast. In a nutshell we need to eat a variety of at least 30 plants a week to keep our gut microbiomes healthy. These include: fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes (a plant with a pod with an edible seed: beans, peas, lentils etc.) Professor Tim Spector is no quack – have a look at his Twitter profile here. His feed is very interesting, although from the UK POV it’s rather grim reading at the moment

Appreciating: good bright days for walking

During yesterday’s swift five miler

Eating: cinnamon eggy bread for breakfast with melon slices. I am v suggestible; a friend sent me a picture of her eggy bread this morning…I made mine with toasted crumpets because I didn’t want to use freshly baked sourdough – too crumbly. Not pretty, but very tasty!

Liking: Dolly Alderton’s debut novel Ghosts. I’m listening to the audiobook

Loving: that I finished my HWB cover and passed it on at the weekend. She loved it and told me again: “I can’t sleep if my feet are cold!”

Love how the bobble edging finishes off the top neatly. I chose the Textured Bluebells pattern from Jan Eaton’s 200 Crochet Blocks for the body. The rest was a mix of trebles and half trebles to join and shape the pieces. Easy stuff.

Buying: locally produced eggs. They are eggcellent (Soz! I can’t help myself)

Managing: to cram the fridge with fruit and veg from today’s delivery

Watching: Truth Seekers on Prime. So good. SO GOOD. It gets better and better as you watch

Hoping: I can finish my crochet cowl soon as I have an idea for another that I maybe want to knit

Ridiculous! Cute!

Wearing: comfy scruffs

Following: Count Arthur’s exploits. There’s a couple of episodes on the BBC Sounds app here. I’ve heard The Beeb are gradually releasing all the Christmas specials through November and December

Noticing: birds on the feeders now it’s colder, the robin comes daily

Love these bud vases

Sorting: papers, I need to get shredding

Getting: restless. London! Pubs! Bars! Cinema! Theatre! Restaurants! Lunch dates! Air travel! Friends & family overseas! Live music! Singing in person, not Zoom! Travel! Weekends away!

Bookmarking: this Harissa chicken & white bean bake. I’ll make it this week

Coveting: a step-ladder. Don’t ask!

Feeling: full of cinnamon eggy crumpets

Hearing: the sound of Someone making lunch

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Please Tell Me 3 Things?

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PS: If you follow this blog on Bloglovin’ there was an issue displaying my last post: Why I Still Love Blogs

Why I still love blogs

I was reading someone’s blog a few weeks ago and she said that although she uses and enjoys all the socials…Instagram, Twitter and Facebook…a lot, she will never ever stop reading and following blogs. This statement really resonated with me and I’ve been mulling it over.

Inspiration and pretty pictures are great on Instagram. I get a lot of that from IG, as well as exchanging quick, sometimes funny, messages with peeps. But blogging is different; to me it’s 3-D rather than 2-D. I think because the longer that you read, the more you get a sense of someone and what they’re about. You can feel you really have a relationship with them, sometimes it’s completely one sided. Often it’s mutual and becomes a source of warm friendly messages from the other side of the world, the other side of the country, or just a few miles away! There are a few bloggers who I’ve ended up meeting, a few have become very good friends.

Seeing what they’re making take shape from the first few stitches chained or cast on, to progress pics as time goes on and then the finished item is like watching a wonderful slow tv programme.

I haven’t even really mentioned all the tutorials, the patterns, useful tips and the sharing of links! A helpful blog will tell you the yarn they’ve used, link to the pattern or their Ravelry account etc where you can find out even more.

It’s not all craft – I tend to follow blogs which also post lifestyle content. I like to know what they’re cooking, what they’re reading, maybe see pictures of their garden or walks they’ve been on recently. A few pictures of their city, town or village maybe too and I’m hooked! 

Later I read someone else saying about blog comments. She said she really values and appreciates the time and the effort it takes people to leave them. She was glad that they were still generous in writing to her. I had a feeling that there was a little bit more behind it, that she’d noticed the mega amounts of comments she used to receive had significantly gone down in the last few years. We exchanged messages about it. I suspect it’s mostly a time and immediacy thing. A quick double tap to ‘like’ a post on Instagram gives instant feedback. Perhaps people maybe don’t want to put long messages out there on public record. I know I’ve often privately messaged in response to heartfelt blog posts, or with a silly but friendly response.

Incidentally I sometimes find reading one blog post at a time as they’re published a bit lacking; I really want to read a whole batch of posts and settle down with a mug of tea and have a good read. Do you do this too?

Then I began to wonder why it was that I wasn’t advertising the blogs that I read on my own? A few years ago I remember taking the widget of links off when I reorganised things, and I’m not quite sure why I didn’t reinstate it. If I’m serious about loving blogs still, I wondered if I should be advertising the ones I follow? Then others might do the same and refresh their lists, so current blogs are still getting attention and a bit of publicity. After all, there’s no point having loads of links to non-existent or inactive sites. I needed to put a refreshed list up, so that’s what I’ve been working on.

I dip in and out of many more blogs than those I’ve linked to so far, but I wanted to share my must-reads. Even if it takes me six weeks or months to catch up, they are the ones that I read and have followed for years. It’s quality, not quantity for me.

I came across an old crochet blog the other day, I think I was following a link to a pattern on Pinterest, and it had not been updated for years. The blog list was amazing! It included all the people I followed in 2009/10 when I discovered craft blogs and blogging. I felt like I’d discovered a precious time capsule. Is it daft to feel kind of nostalgic for those days of sitting in front of a slow lap top, its noisy fan whirring as I caught up with what people were making, at the end of a busy day? Now (well, pre-March 2020) I’ll jump at speed from page to page while on a bus or train, waiting for an appointment to come up or when I’m on a break. Things have really changed now and nostalgia aside, I’m happy to have a fast little computer in my handbag or pocket, whenever I want it. Magical really isn’t it?!

It was sobering to realise, looking through my previous list of links, how many of my favourite blogs aren’t active anymore. Some still post once or twice a year (better than nothing) some have deleted their blogs completely, with handfuls of untethered pictures still floating around the Internet, others attempted to start new blogs to reflect where they were now (then) but if you search for them, they are just a blank page with a title. One domain has been taken over by a Korean handbag seller. The new blogs just never took off. The initial enthusiasm of blogging leached away over the years. They felt like they’d said the same things over and over again. The rhythms and routines of the seasons and years became a drag, not a comfort. They were bored with their own words and pictures. I get it. People move on, hobbies change, lifestyles change, relationships end and priorities shift. Work can leave little time for planning, photographing and writing something and sending it off into the ether. It takes time and energy. If blogging begins to feel like a task and work, it is far from fun. (I don’t feel like this. If I did, I’d be gone!)

Off the top of my head, these are some blogs that I used to love:

Pink Milk, Greedy for Colour, Cozy Made Things, Crochet with Raymond, Le Monde de Sucrette, According to Matt, Foxs Lane, Dottie Angel, Little Tin Bird and Rachelle Blondel’s that I think was named after her grandparents i.e. Ethel and Ernest or Olive and Stanley. I can’t remember their names! So many more, who will probably come to me as soon as I press publish.

I never sit down at my laptop to read blogs anymore. I never post mine from my laptop anymore. I usually dictate my posts because it saves my hands nowadays. I publish my posts mostly on my iPhone, and read others’ blogs on my iPad. Sitting back down at my laptop today reminded me of years ago when I started this blog; it felt old fashioned to type actual blog names into a search bar. I enjoyed seeing a full sized screen of pretty pictures, there are also the sidebars that you don’t really get to see on a mobile view. (My new blog links are at the bottom on the mobile site, by the way.) The lap top reminded me that dodgy ill lit photos you can get away with on an enhanced all singing all dancing iPhone or iPad, do not necessarily look so well on a laptop!

So what about you: Why do you still read blogs? Do you also think they offer something more than other social media? Have I missed something obvious? Which are your favourites, are your blog links up-to-date? Do you have any you want to recommend? I’m up for a bit of a blog tour, if you want to lead the way.

* Yes, I got a bit carried away in my own photo archive by the end. I forget what I’ve made!

An autumn walk

I thought I must motivate myself to get out of the cosy house and walk today. I decided I’d aim to take three good photos to pop on Facebook. As you can see it was such a lovely afternoon and I took far far more than three (sorry!) and thought I’d turn them into a blog post for you.

It’s nippy today although it’s sunny, so I wore my Edenvale cowl and started off wearing my gloves too. But I soon got a glow on so didn’t need the gloves. The cowl is a really nice size, without being too bulky like lots can be, I’m actually tempted to knit another as I have some Stylecraft Aran. It’s not the quality of the West Yorkshire Spinners ‘The Croft Shetland Tweed’ I used before, but would work ok.

There were quite a few people out and about this afternoon. A couple passed me as I took this photo, she was wearing a very nice knitted hat: “They’re not really posing for you are they?”

I would say it was reluctant at best…

“Beautiful light today isn’t it?”

Perfect for photos.

Passed a lady with a very distinctive stripe in her hair and I said “Fewer photos – more walking!” She grinned at me. People are very chatty and smiley here anyway, but more so when we’re in Lockdown. I noticed this in the spring.

A couple passed, talking about very serious business matters by the sounds of it, I was envious of her tiny jodhpurs, neat riding jacket, boots and shiny dark hair swinging in a ponytail.

I heard an owl hooting in the trees, it was only just around 3:30 pm.

Sheep! Sheeeep!

Can you see – I feel like he was almost smirking at me? I was saying “Come on'” Clicking my tongue and talking to him, but he also refused to pose.

I always pat this tree truck before I turn around to come back again. I usually say something to it as well – but that’s between me and the tree…

The Sun was really getting low now.

Hello again horses! (The other was grazing off to the left.)

I heard another owl loudly hooting in the trees alongside the road. Perhaps he was calling: “Time to go home!”

I listened. I’m Home!

I walked 5 miles, popped some packs of Lego cards, which came with my shopping, in for the little boy next door who only needs a few more cards, and put the oven on to cook a chicken. I’ll roast some Mediterranean veg too and make some fluffy couscous, with the lemony chickeny herby juices it’s going to be a scrummy Friday night dinner. Prosecco first of course!

Have a good weekend all.

Yarn Along – November

Crocheting: I started this Hot Water Bottle Cover in early spring and added to it gradually. I crocheted the bobble edging recently. I’m really chuffed with it, looks sweet.

Now I just need to darn in a couple of ends and thread some ribbon or a crochet chain into the plain row of trebles at the neck. Then it’s ready to give. This cover is for a relative and I’ve called it: ‘I can’t sleep if my feet are cold.’ Self-explanatory really.

 ~~~~~

Reading: My reading speed seems to have slowed down recently, but I’m still managing a chapter a night. My concentration is generally all over the shop again.

I am on the last book Broken Ground in the Karen Pirie series by Val McDermid. It’s a really well written police detective series, I’d recommend them all. Read them in order, if you can, because stuff happens and is referred to in subsequent books. Plus Karen’s personal life and work situation naturally change as they go on. Broken Ground was published in 2018, so hopefully Val’s been busy writing another one this year.

Joining in with Ginny’s Yarn Along once again. Why don’t you join us?

Halloween crochet

I was just sitting at the table cutting out printed pumpkins to stick around our windows, for the neighbourhood children to spot. I’ve just remembered something. Something I made last October, that you haven’t ever seen!

Last autumn I kept trying to crochet despite my sore hands. Then I would stop because of the discomfort, and do nothing for weeks again. That’s why I’ve got so, so, so many bags of things that I started, all in the hope that this would be the magical thing that I could complete.

This little pumpkin was magical in one sense, even though my hands were sore after making it for weeks. It was really special to be able to start AND finish a thing, after 18 months of nothing much. A frivolous, not much use to anyone thing. I don’t know about you, but that’s all I want to make at times.

I’m going to go upstairs and hopefully find it to pop on the table with some little candles and else something festive. I’ve got a whole butternut squash in the larder, but was planning to roast it for dinner tonight….ho hum. I’m not sure that really works anyway. Autumn leaves would be too soggy, as it’s pouring with rain again and carrots are a bit weird. Unless carrots are Halloweeny things in your country?

The pattern is a free one from Ravelry. I used it for inspiration for my pumpkin’s face. Isn’t he cute?! I drew a rough outline on a piece of A4 and tried to stick to it for sizing. I counted the stitches to make sure the mouth was centred and everything else came together. Easy.

Grab some orange cotton like I did, or yarn or garden twine even. Quick! You’ve just got time to do something like my version. Or, if you’re super talented and have nothing else on for the rest of the day maybe you can even whip up the linked pattern?!

A Woodland Walk

Into the woods, around boggy bits, along field edges, slipping up hills and slivering down others in the mud, catching on brambles and holly, walking in pelting rain, climbing over fallen trees and back into the woodland, until I finally implored them

“SLOW DOWN! Aunty Rachel’s legs are a lot shorter than yours!”

I felt like I’d been through commando training!

~~~~~

Chop, chop, chopping for a chicken and pearl barley casserole.

Ohhhh. Not sure about including the sweet potatoes!

Do we want a pink dinner?

~~~~~

I’m now on my second granny square. The decision whether to keep going on and make a huge one-square blanket was made when I laid it on out a table at the weekend. I realised the edges were starting to frill. Rather than fiddle around adding extra chains along the sides I unravelled some rounds until it wasn’t frilling any more, fastened the yarn off and began another square.

Sometimes decisions are made for you and it’s easy!

I need to decide whether I carry on using this colour combination (it’s Breeze) or buy some more Hayfield Spirit DK in another colour combo. I can’t decide whether I want a purely blue and grey blanket, or one with a more colourful patchwork effect. I’ll have to decide soon because I have only half a ball left…

~~~~~

Tell me a few things?

Taking stock – October

Making: my Granny Square blanket and Close to You scarf. I’m focusing on just these two and not dipping into other WIP bags. Some actual finished items would be good

Cooking: soup! It’s that time of year again. Last week it was BNS, Sweet Potato & Red Pepper, yesterday I made this Spicy Parsnip recipe

Sipping: drinking black Yorkshire tea

Reading: City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

Looking: at the birdfeeders, there’s some interest but not much eating yet. They’re stocked up with peanuts, seeds, mealworms and suet balls

Listening: to comedy audio rather than novels: Alan Partridge From the Oasthouse, French & Saunders Titting About podcast, This is This Country and Mortimer & Whitehouse Gone Fishing. All are on Audible UK. (That’s a pure recommendation – no commission, sadly.)

Enjoying: pics of my nieces at the seaside

Eating: lots of veg – sweet potatoes, celery, carrots, parsnips, BNS, cauliflower, swede, carrots, fine green beans…

Liking: all the autumn colour

Blenheim Palace

Loving: the WhatsApp group I’ve set up with friends – inspiring each other with recipes and motivation for keeping going with healthy habits

Buying: a few Christmas presents! Unplanned, but I saw things and thought oooh yes. Feeling organisedish

Watching: Rebecca on Netflix soon – it’s out today. A few rooms at Waddesdon Manor were used as filming locations

Another Dorset apple cake baked on Friday to share with family. We’re awash with Bramley cooking apples after all

Hoping: the same as you all…over…soon…

Wearing: scruffs!

Following: the news but not too much, a general overview of things feels like enough

Noticing: changes in the trees and hedgerows

Sorting: practical things ready for winter, inc getting the heating system sussed out and quotes for hedge and tree trimming

There’s also a bit of a glut of homegrown chillies. They’re ripening even in the fridge

Getting: outside everyday

Saving: money, on all the things we aren’t doing and places we aren’t visiting. Plus no clothes shopping for literally months either, I can’t do the no-trying-on thing and am not a fan of online clothes shopping (much queuing in busy POs for the inevitable returns!)

Bookmarking: autumn warmer recipes like this Mushroom Bhaji

Feeling: positive

Hearing: birds tweeting in the hedge

Tell me what you’re doing, noticing, making, cooking, reading or ?

Autumn

I love autumn, I always have. I’m glad we have four distinct seasons here. Fancy a rather rambling read? You’ve come to the right place.

Cooking:

The drop in temperature has meant the food I cook has changed. Plus I definitely gravitate towards a glass of red wine more too. And why not? It warms the blood.

The change of weather and a bounty of homegrown and wild produce seems to have perked up friends lately too. Recently I’ve had WhatsApps about:

T and her pots of rhubarb and ginger jam

T and his apple crumble / beef and ale pie

S made a chicken and tarragon pie

E made a huge apple pie

P is delighted that Yorkshire tea have made biscuit flavoured tea bags and says her tea drinking times have just improved!

N has been looking up crabapple recipes

B dusted off her slow cooker and made a beef and ale stew

I adore messages like those!

I’ve made Dorset apple cakes to share with family, plus tried a new bread recipe for a ginger and sultana loaf from my WI Bread book. It’s a winner! Message me and I’ll send you the recipe.

I’ve taken a few comfort food cookbooks off the shelf to get more inspiration.

What are you cooking at the moment? Have you made anything new, or an old favourite?

Crafting:

We talked about a long walk and tackling some chores in the house and garden, but after a long call from a friend and a heavy downpour went into hibernation mode instead the other day. We listened to This is This Country and roared with laughter. (Best if you already know the tv series.)

Lately I’ve sat up in the early morning with a podcast or audio book and done a round or two of crochet. It is a nice lazy way to start the day. I recommend Lisa Jewell’s Invisable Girl audio book.

I’m sticking to my Close to You scarf and Big Granny Square blanket. I’m trying not to flit around with lots of different makes, but am committing to a few. Both are easy going and not too taxing for my iffy hands.

For the GSB I’m wondering about going off-piste and buying more Hayfield Spirit yarn in different colourways. It would be a multi-multi coloured blanket. Here’s the full selection of colours from the Sirdar website. What do you reckon?

Casper might be fun for a scarf.

Walking:

It’s gorgeous weather for walks. No sunscreen or multiple water bottles to lug around anymore as it’s now 10° less, or more, than this time a couple of weeks ago. Time to get the woollies out again! We all like an excuse to show off our homemades.

There’s an abundance of berries, a friend I met for lunch said she thinks it means we’re in for a hard winter. Is that right?

In the hedgerows in fields near home there are: crabapples, sloes, haws, the last blackberries, acorns, conkers, sycamore helicopters and ash keys. It’s fantastic.

‘Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’ …full poem here.

Last weekend we drove home in the dark and AN OWL WAS SITTING ON THE WHITE LINE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD! I think he’d just caught a little creature running across the road and was pinning it down. 

If the low light levels and gloomy days are feeling a little bit tricky, combined with everything else at the mo, here’s a tiny rather silly little thing you can do. I bought a really cheap set of glitter gel pens from The Works and now write lists using a different colour for each item. Someone told me it’s like I’m 13 years old, but I don’t care! My shopping and freezer lists are really pretty and colourful on the front of the fridge. They’re making me smile.

How are you finding autumn?

Maybe it’s Spring where you are? What are you up to?

Yarn Along – October

With my group singing classes having restarted, via Zoom for now, after six months of silence and being able to craft a little again, I’m feeling much more like myself. Does that sound odd? Maybe you know what I mean? I have my creative ducks in a row once more. I’ve always made stuff, sung, read and cooked, since childhood. It’s simple straightforward stuff which makes me feel happy and relaxed. I’m pretty low-maintenance, which is probably a very good thing in these uncertain times.

I’m knitting a Close to You scarf designed by Justyna Lorkowska and enjoying the subtle colour changes in the Fyberspates four ply Vivacious yarn very much.

By the way, the chocolate in the photo was a late birthday present, it’s good quality milk chocolate with coconut and lime. It was delicious with that mug of black Assam tea. (I always like to know those little details.)

As for reading: I’ve read a quarter of Elizabeth Gilbert’s City of Girls so far. It’s 1940 and nineteen year old Vivian has been sent in disgrace to live with her aunt Peg in NYC. Peg owns a crumbling old theatre and puts on flamboyant shows with a limited range of storylines. The theatre seems to have an infinite number of apartments above it. This of course is the perfect setting for lots of weird and wonderful characters. I’m currently enjoying descriptions of trunks of tailor-made clothes which have just arrived with Edna and Walter. They have come to the city fresh from an ocean liner from England, with nowhere else to live and no work.

Joining in with Ginny’s monthly Yarn Along (and only a day late this month!) Check it out – it’s a really good way to explore blogs from around the world. There’s such a variety of knitting and crochet going on. Plus you might pick up a good book recommendation too.

Yarn Along – September

Yesterday, on a beautiful crisp newly minted autumn Sunday morning, I sat up in bed all cosy listening to Liza Tarbuck’s Saturday radio show on the BBC Sounds app and undid every single stitch I’d done of my Coast Blanket while in West Cornwall last week (I told you its name would probably change lots of times) and restarted it.

I don’t want the square tilting so I had tried three different ways of turning each round and have now found a method I’m much happier with. I don’t think you can see where I’ve turned the hook and square? Tell me if you can see, I won’t mind. I won’t be undoing it again as I’m happy. I know no one visiting me and snuggling under my blankets would have noticed unless they were really looking, and probably non-crocheters wouldn’t at all, but they were bugging me. I’m a sometime perfectionist.

I can hear you shouting the word “Swatch!” And I’m shrugging back at you.

I managed to redo this yesterday. Too much for my hands but I enjoyed it. Today Ouch!

I’m one of a group of people on Instagram who are currently making simple granny square blankets. Motif, tapestry and intricate showy-offy colourwork crochet is all very well and good, but they don’t make the heart sing as much as a good old granny square! Sometimes plain and cosy is enough and beautiful in its simplicity.

I feel like I’m spotting granny square blankets on nearly everything I watch right now. For example: The Duchess on Netflix and Doc Martin on Britbox this weekend. It’s really fun to shout “CROCHET!” at the screen. I’m not sure how anyone else feels about this habit. I’m not asking because I don’t want to stop…

I believe crochet originated as a thrifty way to use up leftover wool from knitting projects, or to reuse it from old garments. I love it when you see people doing similar with leftovers, albeit in these times of plenty. That’s how I came to be making my Tilted Squares Blanket actually. I wanted to use up the remnants of the one and only yarn pack I’d bought when I was a new crocheter, before I started to choose my own colour combos.

I know my Coast Blanket isn’t in the waste-not-want-not category in the slightest (See here ) but I’m absolutely loving this Hayfield Spirit variegated yarn. I’ve never used variegated for a blanket before. It keeps it interesting seeing the colours change. There will be lots of multicoloured rounds as it grows bigger, but it’s so pretty I don’t think it will grate. There’s going to be fewer weaker spots, because there won’t be very many ends to darn in all compared to changing yarns on every round. Hardly any darning = big win.