Autumn days

We are having some cracking October weather, as you can see. Lovely sunny days with blue skies and sweet little fluffy clouds. I love it when it’s like this; it feels like it’s a bonus when we get t-shirt days in autumn. I went for a good wander around at Blenheim Palace the other day and it seemed I wasn’t the only one chuffed about the warm temps. I heard lots of tourists say they didn’t expect it to be so warm! They actually said this in tones of awe and wonder. I soon gave up with the idea of wearing my hoodie and tied it round my waist instead

There’s a major two year lake dredging and Grand Bridge restoration project beginning. More details here. Someone will be interested enough to read all about it. I know it might seem odd to feature the water pipes, but there was something really appealing about the shiny blue paint and newness of the connectors. Do you think that piece of 2 by 4 is vital? I was so tempted to give it a tug and see what happened. Naughty! If I added sound to this photo, you would hear the water rushing through, as the engineers gradually lower the water level. Apparently all the fish are going to be netted and moved from the Queen’s Pool to the Great Lake. I’m not sure what the birds are going to make of it all. There are hundreds (thousands, when its breeding time) of grey lag, canada and snow geese, plus coots, herons, moorhens, swans and ducks. Others that I can’t name too.

I would have loved a ride in the little inflatable boat, but as it was tethered both ends I imagine you need a rowing boat to reach it. The boat house was some way away. And they don’t just let anyone random grab ‘em. Shame isn’t it? I contented myself with taking lots of leaf pictures instead. The autumn colour isn’t just in New Hampshire in the USA, you know!

It’s been so warm that we sat outside in the pub garden the other evening, for a cheeky drink and pre-dinner snack. This is not necessarily something we’re still doing in October. Later in the season they light the fire and it’s a race to get to the nearest tables because it’s so lovely and cosy. When the ‘Beast from the East’ Siberian weather came earlier in the year we sat at the table almost on top of the fire and literally thawed out, as we’d walked in minus temperatures.

It‘s just been Apple Weekend at Waterperry Garden. In the supermarket there are generally half a dozen varieties that you can buy year round including: Pink Lady, Braeburn, Cox, Granny Smiths etc. Then you go to an apple weekend and there are allsorts of local varieties which you’ve never heard of. After tasting everything on offer, we bought bags of Old Fred, Red Pippin and Egremont Russet. Plus a bag of Comice pears. There are Apple days happening all over the country at the moment and it’s such a good idea to go. You can taste apples with such different flavours (apples which taste like pears, anyone?) various textures (very dry and crisp, sweet and juicy or tough skinned varieties; ideal for peeling and crunching with strong Cheddar cheese.) This always makes me realise that supermarket apples are mostly bland and boring, especially when they are all the choice we’re given year round. We have a spare fridge, usually referred to as the wine fridge, the sourdough starters live there too. You get no prizes for guessing what it’s chock full of at the moment…

Another exciting aspect of Apple weekend was finding a new farm shop has opened on part of the grounds. Waterperry Farm Shop is stocked with produce from the nearby farm. It was such a lovely surprise to find freshly baked cakes and savouries, their own meat and products from the local area including cheeses, rapeseed oil and preserves. Even yarn!

We bought 3 red peppers, 2 sausage rolls (gone before we even got into the car for the journey home) and a lardy cake which we popped in and shared with my Mum over cups of tea. 

I really love autumn.

Taking Stock – September

Making : sourdough pizza, because Friday night was made for it

Cooking : spicy lentil soup, the first of the new season

Drinking : red wine, it’s particularly fine for autumn

Reading: My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout (only just; sort of as I got halfway through the first chapter last night and woke up a couple of hours later with the light on in the early hours…)

Plymouth Hoe

Wanting: to crochet again

Playing: The Police, Greatest Hits

Polperro, with a boat ready and waiting outside the house

It still has an active fishing port

Deciding: whether to have a dry October or not, what do you think?

Wishing: for these lovely warm sunny days to continue

Porth Ledden Bay near Capewall

Walking some of the SW coast path from Cape Cornwall to Levant

Enjoying: my new Sony Bluetoooth speaker. Saw it on someone’s Instagram, mentioned it and had one for a birthday surprise!

Waiting: for Invisible Sun to play next

Trengwainton garden, always a must-see

Liking: Apple picking socialising while sharing recipe ideas: pork and apple, apple crumble, apple jam, chilli & apple jelly, apple cake….

Wondering: about trying baking baguettes. Have you ever ?

Loving: my audio book. Only an hour left now, then into the new Robert Galbraith Lethal White

Some of the many Trengwainton Scarecrows, made with local primary school children. The theme this year is Inspirational Women

Emmeline Pankhurst and Frida Kahlo

Pondering: nothing high powered

Considering: going to the V&A soon

Buying: birthday wish list gifts

Watching: The BBC’s Repair Shop (S2:8) for the first time, it won’t be the last episode I watch. So good to see skilled people at work

Saffron Chelsea buns, we shared one. Delicious

Fantastic little bakery in St Ives, must buy another SCB next time

Hoping: my right hand sorts itself out by my next appointment (4 weeks time)

Marvelling: at how many people have talked about the Bodyguard series

Cringing: that I saw a major spoiler on the cover of the Radio Times magazine, which put me off watching any episodes. Viewers no longer watch programmes as they are screened and this was only a few days later

Needing: to drink something soon

Barbara Hepworth Museum & Sculpture Garden, St Ives

Questioning: what am I currently questioning? Anything?

Smelling: orangey perfume

Wearing: comfy house clothes, actually I always call them ‘dags’ like my Aussie friends when I was living in Australia

Nicest bookshop in Cornwall? The World? In Penzance. So many signed copies too as many authors live nearby, including John le Carre and Patrick Gale

Following: my own instincts

Knowing: these things come and go

Thinking: fluffy thoughts

Admiring: the way everyone’s taken to autumn clothing

Cornish Cheese Tea: cheese scones with cream cheese and a spicy tomato chutney

Cornish Cream Tea: one plain and one fruity scone with Cornish clotted cream and strawberry jam

The cafe at Trengwainton is always a must-visit too

Penzance harbour, our week away was mixed weatherwise but we walked every day regardless

Waking to Marazion watching the kite surfers pass St Michaels Mount; which is only accessible by the causeway when the tide is out, or by boat

Sorting: summer clothes to put away

Getting: used to team cooking, one-handed doesn’t work *that* well. But no washing up (always so much despite having a dishwasher.) One. Good. Result

Bookmarking: articles about personal power

Back to Plymouth for a night, arriving at lunchtime in torrential rain. Finding the lounges of the hotel full of people having a drink to hide from the weather, so decided if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em

Coveting: more local gins

Disliking: wrist pain / hating that sock knitting. Ride in a Time Machine please? (Which reminds me; new Dr Who on Sunday)

Opening: multiple webpages and crashing my middle aged iPad

Giggling: at Life in Pieces. I’m on S3 now

Dyrham Park National Trust, Gloucestershire, it’s an impressive filming location for movies and tv (Poldark, Far from the Madding Crowd and Sense and Sensibility, to name a few)

Feeling: chilled

Snacking: no carrots!!!!! Argh!!!! Hate running out

Helping: increase family’s carb intake by baking them sourbread. I bake much more than I eat

Hearing: the fizz of tonic and the chink of ice, my G&T has arrived (yes, spoilt)

Mixing: in red wine later with dinner

Two rye sourdough loaves I baked this morning

Worrying: I’m a sourdough bore now (but you’re lovely. I know you don’t really mind)

Slicing: and peeling a few cooking apples then completely stopping as OUCH! Not the working definition of Do Not Use Your Hand for Three Weeks

Celebrating: Autumn produce; Barty’s Bramley apples, the picking of which he was closely supervising, sitting by the asters! Trengwainton squash and blackberries all along the SW coast path in Cornwall

Forgetting: where I left my watch on 12/9

Pretending: I’ll find it, but it’s looking more and more unlikely. So hard not to keep looking at my wrist, like it’s going to magically appear there

Hello Autumn. I’m ready. It’s been a lovely summer but I always like to see you

Sneaking: M&S buttermints and blaming Mr Scrappy (remember him?)

Embracing: walking, reading and good tv

Hoping you’re fully functioning in a two-handed healthy fashion, cross your fingers / pray / send out vibes (or some chocolate) for my right hand please. I’m chipper, but concerned. Who wants a stupid third of a sock, needles and yarn??!?!

Six

1: Many, actually all, ends darned in on my patchwork blanket strips. Bouncy linen / moss stitch is very satisfying to darn into because the stitches are so bouncy. It was just doing it with one knee bent, so I didn’t hold the fabric with my right hand, that was tricky. I had to stop and move around frequently to stop getting pins and needles ‘elsewhere’ in my body!

2: An act of masochism visiting my favourite wool shop when I can’t craft? It felt a little like that last Saturday, but I did enjoy looking at and feeling all the new yarns and admiring some of the new colours. Things move on so quickly, don’t they?

3: This was taken in the waiting room before I saw the Hand and Wrist consultant on Thursday. I liked the way everything coordinates!

But as I told it then: “Don’t think for a minute you’re getting knitted sock. I’ve only brought you to show the consultant how I held the yarn, using tiny fixed circular needles and the repetitive movements which wrecked my hand in April!

I’ve had a hand x-ray and also a scan. He freaked me out saying it may be arthritis. I almost screamed, and did actually wail that I’m too young! Raised eyebrows and “Plenty of twenty and thirty year olds experience it you know…” the x-ray didn’t show signs of any though. Phew.

The consultant reckoned beginning 10 minutes of crochet once a week and increasing the time by 10% will lead to an hour eventually “And by that time – doing it for an hour – you’ll be bored of doing it anyway!” My turn for raised eyebrows. How little some people know, eh?!

Oh, when I said I’d have to give up on the idea of knitting my own socks and buy them from M&S instead, he did say: “But they won’t be so pretty.”

There will be no crochet or knitting for a while yet. This splint has a metal bar up the palm and has to be worn 24/7, apart from showering. I’ll go back for a follow up appointment in six weeks time. I really hope it does the trick, because the invasive treatment options do not appeal! (Huge understatement, typical of the English.) There’s no permanent damage to the tendons, thankfully, but it seems getting the issue to settle down could be tricky.

I can’t say this enough; if you’re knitting on tiny fixed circulars, or doing any craft at all, take frequent breaks. Maybe set a timer, so you don’t do too much in one sitting? This is *no fun* and no real crafting for five months (and counting) is the least of the general day to day soreness and discomfort I’m experiencing. But I know that it’s the kind of sensible warning that’s easy to ignore when you’re caught up in making. I did!

4: I saw Cathy had posted about making bookmarks on her blog and admired them, saying I’d have to make my own at some point. A few days later I received one in the post! It was the day of my initial appointment and x-ray, nice timing. It’s holding my place in Dewey: the Small-Town Library Cat who Touched the World by Bret Witter and Vicki Myron, one of my current reads. It’s a cute dip-in and out of story. Spencer, the small town, is in Iowa. The best aspect of the story is learning about the farming history of the area.

5: One of the salon dogs at my hairdressers. A cockapoo with a cat-like temperament, apart from when the postman comes every morning with a treat for her, and her golden doodle sister, in his pocket. She’s very stressed as you can see, it’s a hard life. This is one of the chairs in front of the hair wash station. Often when you sit on a chair they’re warm….!

6: A friend is moving back to Australia after living overseas for nearly 2 decades. In the process of emptying out her pantry she found five cans of chickpeas! So to use one can up she put together a chickpea and butternut curry. As these things go, she posted a picture of it on Facebook and inspired lots of us to make the same for our dinner the next day. It was just the perfect grey, cool day for a curry. I made mine with onion, garlic, root ginger, spices (ground cumin, ground coriander, chilli flakes, a pinch of ground cardamon, pinch of salt and grind of black pepper), coconut milk (light), about 100ml of stock, a 400g can of chick peas 400g of butternut squash and served it on on a bed of spinach. It was delicious!

Tell us your news, what you’re making, cooking or reading at the mo? Or anything else you want to share.

September Yarn Along

Although still lovely and warm in the early 20s, it’s definitely feeling like we’re on the cusp of autumn now. The horse chestnut leaves are mostly brown and I found a pocketful of shiny new conkers at the weekend. My thoughts are starting to turn to soup and stews, rather than salads and lighter meals; these are always signifiers of the change of season. It’s also time to work on blanket making, as has become traditional this time of year.

I’ve dug out the strips of my linen stitch crochet and found there are now enough for a good sized baby blanket, or a lap blanket for an adult. I’ve sent several parcels of woolly things Knit for Peace and I imagine this will be destined for them too, unless I know anybody who needs this blanket.

I’ll start to darn the numerous ends this week and then decide on the joining method. I might try a whatchamacallit braid, I’m not sure. Originally I wanted an invisible join, so it looked truly patchworky. This is why I left the ends long, but now I realise there will be weaker joins if I change colours all along the edge of each colour block. I’ve got the darning time to consider the matter. What do you think?

I’m reading The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Deborah Moggach, the book that inspired the film(s). When I saw it in the library I pounced upon it, then realised after the first few chapters that I’d already listened to the audio version in 2012. It’s well written and the characters are distinctive, so I’m sticking with it.

I’m still listening to The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar. It’s one of my best audio books this year due to the original story and Juliet Stevenson’s lively narration.

If you like book talk and enjoy hearing interviews with authors then I recommend Simon Mayo’s Books of the Year podcast. It’s free on iTunes and Acast. Ahem…someone has had her emails read out on the last two episodes *cough cough* as she is an avid listener. Kate Atkinson is to be featured soon and I cannot wait. I love her writing. Human Croquet is my favourite.

 

Joining in with Ginny’s Yarn Along.

Taking Stock – August

Making: my first sourdough loaf in over a month today, it’s a baking morning

Countryfile Live at the beginning of August

Cooking: chicken something later, for dinner

Drinking: jasmine tea, it’s cooler now (high teens to 20 degrees) so the kettle’s on more

Reading: Paris for One and Other Stories by Jojo Moyes. Paris for One is a lovely novella

Wanting: to make cheese scones for Someone, but no butter and only just enough cheese!

Playing: the radio, good music on a Friday morning to bake to

An evening dinner and cruise trip from Stratford Upon Avon. This was my first time going through locks. It was great fun. I can’t persuade anyone to do a short narrow boat holiday however. When we met up this month I informed Patch and Mr P that they need to buy their own sharpish!

Deciding: to buy more new / old music soon

Wishing: the heating could just be on for a sneaky hour, but it doesn’t work like that with underfloor gadgetry

Enjoying: summer fruits still, especially for breakfast

Waiting: for the next series of The Marvellous Mrs Maisel

Liking: this year’s nectarines and peaches

Wondering: when my Whirl yarn will change colour

Loving: that I crocheted NINE rows the other day !!!!!!

Pondering: if it was wise to continue after two, but it was so good (ouch!) My appointment is next week

West Wycombe Park, National Trust a few weeks ago

The Music Temple on the island

Green walnuts

Music on Summer Sunday’s are such a nice idea. West Wycombe brass band sounded very good

Considering: listening to another film review Wittertainment podcast

Buying: tissues ready for autumn sniffles

Watching: Mamma Mia 2 for the fourth time (yesterday.) That has to stop also!

Hoping: my adaption of a milk bread sourdough recipe works. It uses discarded starter as I’m still looking for good ways to use it, which isn’t pancakes! I tried an overnight proof too and it’s worked out ok, I think, I hope. The loaves are cooling at the moment

Marvelling: at how happy some films can make you feel (MM2)

Cringing: at French & Saunders on Netflix, they were funny back in the day….

Needing: the guy opposite (I call him ‘the plonker’) to go with flow and put his wheelie bin out the night before, not at 05:55

Questioning: matters of inequality – News stories

It’s a bit further on now but I’ll show you again when the yarn has changed colour!

Smelling: freshly baked bread

Wearing: my dressing gown

Following: food trends

Knowing: food is food is food, whatever is fashionable

Thinking: I should fold my salt into my sourdough soon

Admiring: articulate people who express their emotions beautifully

Meeting nice people for cake, pots of tea and to share some books in Birmingham. Look at the bull all decked out for summer! Chest hair too…

Sorting: birthday cards

Getting: keen to make soup

Bookmarking: inspirational articles, then forgetting to read them

Coveting: beautiful hands and nails

Disliking: mine!

Opening: mail, it’s always official and boring these days

Giggling: at 1949 Ealing comedy Passport to Pimlico. It was partly filmed a mile away in Lambeth by a real WW2 bomb site. It was good rainy Sunday viewing (Free on Amazon Prime)

The 13th annual Festival of Transport at Blenheim Palace. The mod and his Vespa was my favourite, I hope he won a Best of category

Feeling: bakey! (If that’s a real word, if not I’ve invented it)

Snacking: carrots! Always carrots

Helping: buy a buddleia plant

Hearing: traffic

Mixing: my homemade curry powder blend, mayo and mango chutney for coronation chicken salads this summer, it’s been my latest fad

Worrying: at an annoying knot in my Scheepjes Whirl with a darning needle. I think I made it unravelling a row

Slicing: bread, later

Celebrating: the end of August, I’m ready for a new month and I like autumn, although September weather is looking good and sunny. Hurray!

The blackberries are over already and the horse chestnuts are losing their leaves earlier than usual

Forgetting: nothing, hopefully

Winning: £2:60 on the Euromillion draw last Friday

Pretending: tonight will be my so far elusive £22 + million win

Sneaking: cherries

Embracing: my own foibles

If you’re in the EU and would like win a ball of Scheepjes Whirl, see this post. You have until noon BST today!

All good things

I have a small stack of good books to read, and have found what turns out to be a really gripping audio book. You know when you enjoy reading, but sometimes you really love reading? That’s what’s happening to me at the moment. I’m never without a book and an audiobook on the go, but sometimes feel like they’re particularly ‘flowing’ and can’t wait to get to bed to read and find myself inventing reasons to take a long bus or train trip.

I popped into the library the other day and quickly grabbed a selection of books to share with Mum. Lately I’ve bought about five 99p Kindle Daily Deals and my favourite charity shop (remember my red treasure pot?) has an offer on. So I found myself picking up two books and searching for a third, as they’re currently three for £1. This is dangerous! I dislike having too many books stacked up to read. For me it can turn reading into a chore. If I have books too long it can take the sparkle out of what attracted me to them in the first place. I’m a pretty spontaneous person and while I like a little planning, I also love going with the flow; choosing what appeals to me at the time. So I put the two paperbacks down before I was tempted. I can always pop back there anytime.

I’ve had The Lost Art of Letter Writing on my bedside cabinet for a few weeks, but wanted to finish other books before I started it. I’d seen, or heard, about it somewhere and the title instantly grabbed me. When I was young I used to write letters all the time. I remember keeping a record one year and by Christmastime discovered I’d sent over 350 to friends and pen-friends! I miss getting handwritten letters, there was something really nice about the surprise of hearing the flap of the letter box ding and settling down somewhere comfy to read. You don’t get that joy with an email, or instant messages. It’s just not the same at all.

Anyway, if you fancy reading this then I have to warn you that the first chapter is really syrupy. I wasn’t sure if I could stomach the whole book if it was all going to be like that; but from the second chapter onwards it’s compelling. I’m enjoying the writing, there are magical elements and interesting characters.

The audio book is a delight. Juliet Stevenson is a superb actress, she brings books to life. The writing’s richly descriptive: you can see and hear the silk of the gown swishing on the floor, hair powder puffing over the room and settling over the furniture and the howls of the children as they are confronted by the mermaid (I laughed. I know I shouldn’t.) The late 18th century setting and original characters feel fresh after my recent reads set around WW1. These were The Dust that Falls from Dreams by Louis de Bernieres and The Alice Network by Kate Quinn.

Recently I’ve also read The Sewing Machine by Natalie Fergie, which was a decent enough story, but not brilliant. If you like interlinking stories with bits and pieces from multiple characters’ perspectives, then it’s maybe one for you. I was tempted to get my sewing machine out again, after a long time. I have not threaded it this year at all. Also I must talk to Mum about the family Singer Sewing Machines, she has a couple: one was my grandmother’s and the other my great grandmother’s. I want to know if I can do any research on where and exactly when they were made.

I’ve managed to do only a couple more rows of my Palmyra Diamond Wrap. Instead of procrastinating any longer, wishing to avoid the hassle of a hospital visit and resulting treatment, hoping for a magically non-sore hand, I have finally made myself call to make that referral hospital appointment with the wrist and hand consultant. It took all of 3 minutes and I’ll be going in early September, at the ridiculously late time of 17:50. Of course it might magically be better by then, mightn’t it?

If you are within the EU and you fancy the chance to win a ball of Scheepjes Whirl Slice O Cherry Pie colourway, like I’m using for my wrap, then feel free to enter my giveaway here.

I’m joining in with Ginny’s August Yarn Along.

Crochet & Scheepjes Whirl Giveaway!

A few weeks ago a representative of Rito Yarn and Hobby contacted me to ask if I would like to try any of their products. Rito Yarn and Hobby is a Danish online retailer, which recently opened in the UK. They sell over 15,000 products, so in theory I had my work cut out choosing what to try; except in my last post I had just mentioned

Coveting: one of those big colour change balls, you know; by that company that no one can spell or properly pronounce…..?

Ooh, do they stock Scheepjes yarns?

YES, THEY DO!

Sometimes things just feel serendipitous, don’t they?

I think Kasper from Rito was probably quite taken aback by the speed of my reply! I looked at the available shades and asked for Scheepjes Whirl Yarn Print 753 Slice O’ Cherry Pie, plus how about another one so that I could offer a giveaway to my readers?

I’d spotted this gorgeous diamond patterned crochet by Bella’s Crochet Corner on IG a while back, so when I received my Whirl I bought The Palmyra Diamond Wrap pattern by Daisy Boo Creations.

This was the first new crochet I’d done in over four months, since I injured my hand. Stupidly instead of setting my 10 minute timer on Friday, I got carried away. By the end of a thoroughly enjoyable time, getting to grips with the new pattern, I’d crocheted for over an hour. My hand is very sore…

I’m going to have to take it very gently, so don’t expect to see a finished wrap any time soon. But on the bright side; it’s going to be really good making something exciting and new while whenever I can pick up my hook again.

Scheepjes Whirl is a cotton and acrylic blend 4 ply yarn and I’ve found it very pleasant to crochet with, especially in our current warm summer weather. I love the colours and can’t wait for the change from pastry to the pinky cherry juice of the pie!

Rito Yarn and Hobby are offering a free ball of Scheepjes Whirl, Slice O’Cherry Pie to a lucky reader within an EU country.  I’m really sorry this cannot be an international giveaway, but apparently they can only ship to EU countries.

So, for a chance to win please leave a comment below telling me what you’re currently crocheting or knitting.

For an extra *bonus entry* go to my  The Little Room of Rachell Facebook page and leave a comment under the post about this giveaway and ‘like’ the page (the overall Facebook page, not the post.) For a *second bonus chance at winning*, follow my Instagram account and comment on my crochet pic.

I’ll use a random number generator to pick the winner and will contact them to pass on their details to Rito Yarn and Hobby. By taking part in this giveaway you agree to being contacted by me via your email address. I will not use it for any other purpose or share it with anyone. If efforts to contact the winner have been unsuccessful after a week, an alternative winner will be randomly selected.

The giveaway is open now until Friday 31st August at noon (GMT.)

None of the links in this post are affiliate links and it has not been sponsored by Rito Yarn and Hobby, although they did send me a free ball of yarn.

**31/08/18 14:40 CONGRATULATIONS: Nana Cathy YOU ARE THE WINNER!**

I used this random number generator website and it picked number 1. Thank you to all who took part.

Taking Stock – July

Making : smoked salmon pate – recipe here

Cooking : all things sourdough, still. Flatbreads and pizza happened this weekend. Hobbs House Bakery sourdough recipes are excellent. I’ve tried crumpets, flatbreads, pizza, no-knead sourdough and have a few more things bookmarked to try. The HH boys are from a long line of English professional family bakers, and their recipes are A1

I left the dough an hour while I faffed around, before shaping, it made really light and holey pizza. The rectangular pizza was much thinner and crispy. I like both thin crust and deep pan

Adoring: no-knead sourdough cooked in my charity shop treasure. The moisture in the bread means it cooks in its own steam. You then take the lid off for the last bit to burnish the top. It needs to be just this side of burnt for the flavour and crustiness.

Look at the texture! All the folding and stretching every 30-40 minutes was well worth it

Drinking: too much cider. Lots at the Mock Mayor celebrations while we watched the Abingdon Morris Men, heard the speeches and sang along to the excellent Indie Band. Head not so good in the morning, but sometimes it’s worth it…

Reading: The Eve Network and The Dust that Falls from Dreams still, the first is set in WW1, the other WW2. It’s tricky at times not to get mixed up

Wanting: another pint of jasmine tea

Playing: with dough every few days

Deciding: not to for a bit

Wishing: bread wasn’t so calorific, it’s so good

Enjoying: Victoria Wood as seen on TV – on Netflix

Waiting: to remember what I wrote the first time, before my iPhone lost my draft …argh! You just know the first draft was wittier and more interesting. Soz, you’re stuck with this one

Liking: my photos from Saturday’s meet up with a good friend at Cliveden. The hotel is where Meghan Markle spent the night before she married Prince Harry

Wondering: whether I can go for a walk again today. I’ve been having double physio as my knee has been painful for a few months too. Craft and walking longer distances have both been banned, it’s been slightly tedious to say the least, but happily I think I’m coming out the other side now

Loving: Unforgotten on Netflix. I’ve only seen the first 2 episodes of series 1 and it’s so good, really quality TV. I’m behind as usual – series 3 is on tv at the mo

Considering: a clothes shopping trip

Buying: tomatoes. I have a row of bowls with tomatoes at various stages of ripening. It’s a very good summer thing

Watching: Poldark, I’m 3 episodes behind the current series and it ended on Sunday night. I don’t want to hear any end of series spoilers, so need to catch up soon
Hoping: for more rain, the animals, farmers and gardens need it

Marvelling: how full the water butt is after a day of sporadic rain on Sunday, but it’s just a drop in the ocean

Cringing: –

Needing: another car

Questioning: lots

Smelling: the roses

Wearing: linen trousers, rolled up at a jaunty angle and a stripy tee which I feel emphasises the rolls of a sourdough loving body rather too much!

Look at the dryness of that grass, can you see how little rain we’ve had in the last few months?

Pondering: when I’ll be able to knit again. I have tried but it’s just too painful, crocheting in short bursts seems okay though. I now have a referral with an orthopaedic consultant pending

Following: The News

Knowing: that song ‘Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think’ is apt

Thinking: I must get my reading back up to speed

Admiring: how I always used to read a book a week without fail

Sorting: my crochet; I unravelled my pineapple crochet last night. I can never see a time when I will actually use a string crochet pineapple bag. I’d rather be seen dead than carrying one in real life!

Getting: keen to find some interesting crochet patterns. Even if it’s restricted to 10 minutes every now and then, I’d like to be making something I love

Bookmarking: any exciting looking patterns

Coveting: one of those big colour change balls, you know; by that company that no one can spell or properly pronounce beginning with Schj? Maybe with that song in mind, I’ll just buy one!

Disliking: wildly fast drivers who assume that no one else is on the road, crossing the road, living by the road

Opening: my Ravelry library

Giggling: at Mamma Mia 2 although the change of timeline was perplexing

Feeling: amused about the above, whenever I make bold statements like that things usually change… Look out for me and my re-crocheted pineapple string bag in the near future

Snacking: on the usual – no prize for guessing

Helping: a friend with local dinner recommendations

Hearing: an aeroplane

Mixing: courgette tzatziki

Worrying: that I haven’t eaten enough fruit and vegetables in the last few days, this is unusual. More carrots!!!

Grabbing a stitch holder for my hair, it did the job! Sign of a true crafter?!

Slicing: cucumber & carrots to go with homemade hummus later for lunch, maybe

Celebrating: summertime

Forgetting: at least three things, no doubt

Winning: tonight’s EuroMillions lottery draw?

Sneaking: around at night watching for the hedgehog(s)

Embracing: the lovely people around me

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Thank you for sticking with a craft blog which hasn’t been able to feature any craft for several months now!

How are you doing?

10 from this week

1. We can put our food recycling waste in any kind of plastic bag now, rather than having to buy the compostable ones. I know in other areas you can simply put it straight into the recycling bin, but sadly we can’t. This is at least a good way to use some of the plastic packaging that comes with everything. At least it’s being reused for something, rather than going straight to the rubbish bin.

2. My sourdough bread baking fever continues, albeit with fewer larger holes then I would like, but I’m going to go back to trying the second prove in the fridge overnight, and maybe doing a no-knead version, folding and stretching the dough instead. I asked Kat Goldin (sourdough baker extraordinare) about the secret to good holey SD and she said that you don’t want it too holey or the butter gets out! She’s my kind of girl.

3. This was my amazing Monday find. It kept me smiling broadly for at least another two days after that. You know when you pop into a charity shop, not really looking for anything in particular but just wandering? Well I turned away from the bookshelves and saw this beautiful cast-iron pot. It’s my favourite colour red and completely unmarked. I grabbed it as fast as I could, instinctively. I couldn’t see a price on it and didn’t want to put it down, (mine!) it was love at first sight. I asked the assistant how much it was and I nearly dropped it on both our feet when she located the label and told me it was £3. I’ve never moved to a till so speedily! It’s 24 cm across and the 28 cm version of this brand sells new for around £45. I’ve never come across such an amazing charity shop find. It’s pure treasure. I’ve already road-tested it by cooking a one pot chicken and rice thing on the hob and oven. It’s absolutely superb, what a bargain.

Incidentally I’ve had my personal Facebook account since 2007, in that time I’ve posted all sorts of really important life events and celebrations. But do you know which post garnered the fastest likes/loves ever? Yep, it’s these pictures which I excitedly took when I put my treasure into the boot of the car.

4. Another find in another charity shop on the same day, not that I bought this, but my it brought back some memories. It’s just like a set my family had when I was very young. I have seen Kiln Craft on old TV sitcoms, but I don’t recall coming across a whole collection. This was priced much more realistically at £28 for the set.

5. A quick walk through the library and the cover of this book just jumped out at me, it made me chuckle.

6. I thought you’d like to see my Edenvale Cowl after blocking, it makes such a difference to lace. This weather is perfect for blocking and drying thick items. I’m really pleased with this knit. I did try it on and was thinking about doing a photo, but really it looked ridiculous as I was wearing a spaghetti strap top with bare arms!

7. Naughty, naughty Wednesday morning breakfast but these sourdough pancakes are delicious. I took the recipe from Tastes of Lizzy T blog. It’s good, too good. If you know what I mean.

8. A new lunchtime dish I made: it’s baba ganoush. You grill whole aubergines until the skin is blackened then scoop out and chop the soft flesh. Mix with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper. Delicious with toasted pitta or flatbread, a few olives and salad.

The recipe is from Paul Hollywood’s Bread book which I’ve borrowed from a relative. It’s got a good range of bread recipes, and for each bread there is one for an accompanying dish. The photography is beautiful and I want to make a lot from it.

The ingredients for salmon pate are on my shopping list for next week’s lunches. Needless to say I’ve added the book to my birthday wishlist.

9. A kilo of gooseberries picked from my Mother’s garden turned into my first ever batch of goosegog jam. I’m all about raspberry jam usually in summertime, but I’m glad I’ve made this because it is delicious, as you can see from the mere half remaining of one of the jars, after just a few days of opening. I’ve only eaten it once on two crumpets and it’s going down so quickly that I’ve grabbed another jar and put my initials all over the label! His and hers jam seems a good plan….!

10. Today I’ve baked my first loaves of bread in my 2lb tins for over a month. I’m now calling this doddly bread; as in it’s a doddle with commercial yeast. Does what it says on the tin! Unlike sourdough which dilly dallies. As the kitchen’s so warm, with our continuing high temps, the bread dough rose as fast as anything, sooo easy.

Are you busy in the kitchen? Have you found any treasure lately? What’s made you laugh this week?

Yarn Along with actual yarn! Whoop!

As I’m working up to trying some crochet or knitting in the next week, or so, I thought it would be good to accomplish something crafty, even if it was pretty small.

Back in April when my wrist, hand and elbow were at their most painful, the thought of even holding the cowl in my right hand, while darning the ends, felt impossible. I’d been told to stop everything crafty in any case, so left it packed it away with everything else and that was that for three months.

Today felt like I was opening a dusty old trunk in the attic. I fished my Edenvale cowl out, darned in the ends and left it soaking in tepid water with a bit of hair conditioner. I have no fabric softener here and so I tried that, without rinsing, to see if it will soften the rather scratchy pure wool. If it feels slimey when dry I suppose I can always gently rinse it out.

And here it is painstakingly blocked out to ensure it’s 11 1/2” wide. Just this bit of finishing has made me feel like I want to crack open a bottle of champagne and celebrate: I’M BACK!

Yep, I know I should try to stay calm as it’s a really tiny step and I’m not expecting to start churning out blankets or that sock anytime soon, but isn’t this progress all the same? I’ve darned and blocked something I’ve made and enjoyed it very much. Hashtag: huge sense of accomplishment!

Tonight I’m going to start reading The Alice Network by Kate Quinn. One of my sister in laws recommended it to me. She’d read it for her book club and thought it was a book I’d enjoy. Have you read it? Coincidently I’ve just started a new audio book today as well: The Dust that Falls from Dreams by Louis de Bernieres. After hearing Louis on the new Simon Mayo’s Books of the Year podcast (it’s available for Android users too. No paid advertising here; I’m just a keen listener) talking about the second book in the planned trilogy So Much Life Left Over I thought I’d better get the first, before plunging straight into the second. The Dust that Falls from Dreams begins in the Edwardian age, Queen Victoria has just died and her son King Edward VII is just about to be crowned. The story focuses upon Rose and her three sisters who are growing up in a privileged, but eccentric family in Kent. The first twenty minutes of the book have been enjoyable. I’m often drawn to books set in this period of time, and like books which reveal the lives of a cast of characters. Am I the only person who didn’t read Captain Correlli’s Mandolin? I don’t really know why didn’t, it was a huge hit at the time and everybody seemed to be brandishing a copy. I haven’t even seen the film. Yet…

 

Joining in (properly!) this month with Ginny’s Yarn Along.

Holiday days & some crafty news

Misty, the most photogenic pony in West Cornwall

There’s something about the joining of these motifs that has turned them into a thing of real beauty. I loved stumbling across, fortunately not literally, this bicycle after a walk and a chat to the coastwatch guard at Cape Cornwall.Do you see why I absolutely love West Cornwall? The sea there from left to right as we like being in the villages, along the coast roads and South West Coast Path which stretches from St Ives to Land’s End. As you’re basically on a peninsula the sea is all around, it’s bliss for a land-locked water lover like myself. It wasn’t too hot either with the sea breeze to cool things down, but there was still a fair bit of slapping on sunscreen as the temperatures were high. We are having a proper summer here, it’s begun to feel unrelenting now actually; gardens and the land need rain.

If you do get too hot in West Cornwall there’s always plenty of cider, cool beer or very cold lager shandy to aid the cooling down process….

I was just reading a comment about the importance of reconnecting with childhood passions, this really resonated with me as coincidentally I’ve reflected upon this a lot while away. It is important to reconnect with things that gave us immense pleasure when younger, if they still appeal. It’s about giving time and space to our true selves and not becoming old and stagnating, I think. Do you agree?

What did you love to do when a child?

I really liked boat trips, canoeing, cycling in the countryside around my village and swimming. We had a small cabin cruiser and a canoe, seaside holidays always lasted a fortnight every summer, and we messed about by the village stream all through my childhood.

I’ve always shied away from the bucket list trend; as I dislike making things I’d like to enjoy, or achieve into ‘homework’. A resolution I made, while away, is I want to go on a lot more different kinds of boats. I asked if I could take up canoeing or kayaking during a recent physio appointment, the answer was predictably safe: “Try it for 15 minutes and see.” I’m going to sometime. Maybe I’ll hire one with a friend who can take over. Fifteen minutes will fly past.

We jumped onto one of the boats which take visitors over to St Michael’s Mount rather than wait for early afternoon when the low tide reveals the causeway. It was ready for walking upon, back across to Marazion, by the time we’d explored the castle gardens. We started off on it but then copied a family by heading diagonally off to walk along the sea towards the beach. The water was up to my knees and we spotted jellyfish on the sand and tiny gurnards swimming around our feet.

The heather was coming into flower during the week

I wasn’t meant to be walking long distances, and if I did even short walks I was advised to take a flask of coffee and a rug to pause for frequent rests. I did consider my own version of this: a bottle or two of cider and a beach towel, but that’s not sensible for Coast Path walking in the heat, is it?

After some deliberation about being cautious, versus being away and doing what we had planned, I’m so glad we went for it on Friday. We wanted to complete a section of the coast path from Cape Cornwall to Sennen. This means we’ve now walked a continuous stretch of the SW Coast Path from Morvah to Mill Bay, which is around past Land’s End.

The haze of blue is linseed in the last pic, and the yellow in the photo above, is buttercups. Beautiful.

Anyone know the name of this pretty pink flowered wild succulent?

The stretch of coast path takes you above two bays of golden sand. We ended up straying from the path because it was so appealing to walk alongside the sea for the last few minutes. No lunch, just a snack of a couple of biscuits and water along the way meant we were famished by our arrival at Sennen Cove by 5pm. Pasty time! I had a traditional beef one and I can’t tell you how good it tasted as I sat on a rock by the beach, waiting for a bus to St Just.

I’d walked 9 miles by the time we got back to our cottage. Oops. It was a challenging walk in places; sliding down scree, clambering over rocks and up and down steep stone steps, but the sense of achievement was pretty immense. I wore a tubi grip on my knee throughout, asked for a few scoops of ice for my knee (a freezer bag and clip-it is now essential kit) and nursed a large (guess?) drink at the end in The Wellington pub at St Just. I was no more crippled by the following morning, so it’s all good. I’m happy.

On our (reluctant) journey towards Devon, and ultimately home, on Saturday, we stopped in Looe, South East Cornwall for four hours. This is somewhere I’d never been before, while Someone was exploring favourite childhood holiday haunts. It’s a real bucket and spade and rock (candy) sort of place.

By mid-afternoon a strange phenomenon had occurred: the glass-bottomed boat we had decided to take a trip on disembarked its passengers, then took off to an out-of-the-way mooring place, the beach cleared of men and older boys, the pubs became packed and shouty, what was happening?

Instead of going right to our Exeter hotel for the night we called into Paignton for dinner and a wander (goodbye golden Cornish sands, hello funny red stuff.) And everywhere, and I mean everywhere, you could hear ‘Its coming home, it’s coming home, football’s coming home’ playing, singing, chanted (while staggering) or shouted. The euphoria of England winning the quarter-final against Sweden was tangible. Noisy. Jubilant. By Sunday evening I had to slowly sing ‘Happy Birthday to You’ through twice to get rid of the ear worm which plagued me from hearing that damn song so much!

A visit to the lovely, but parched, The Court’s Garden in Wiltshire on Sunday ended a brilliant 10 day holiday. It’s been thirty degrees for most of last week and I’ve never seen wilted chard and beetroot growing in a kitchen garden before, everything was struggling in the heat and with the lack of rain. I headed from one patch of shade to the next in the arboretum, when in the full sun I found myself becoming rather chard like…

Chatting to a couple from Gloucester, while we all leant over to peer in the pond did the trick of cooling down. I saw cavorting water snails, newts, dragonfly nymphs, whirlygig beetles, small fish, tadpoles, a dragonfly and damsel flies. I’ve just read my yarny friend Phil’s, of the Twisted Yarn blog, post about her new pond, it’s an interesting read.

Yesterday catching up with Mum, who is lamenting the loss of so many of her plants, I was amused to see Barty obviously having a very taxing day. It’s quite tricky wearing a fur coat in the hot sun, better find the shade and then playfully roll on the dirt.

It’s rather ironic as this is the time of year when my crochet and knitting slow down. I don’t wish to be under a pile of sweaty yarn or even handle it. I was really in the throes of enthusiasm for making everything I saw back in April, when I overdid it and injured myself. I have not made a stitch now for three months. But today I had my penultimate physio appointments (knee and elbow/hand) and the good news is that in a few days I can try to crochet or knit. But…..I’ve lost my drive to do it really now! A week or so ago I even stopped moaning about not being able to do any! However soon I can try again for 5-10 minutes max, see how it goes then do a little more in a few days. If it makes me sore then do not try for another week. If ok do more in a few days. I have my last physio appointment in a few weeks time. Cross your fingers and toes for me that I can comfortably hold a hook and yarn again, please. The heat will soon pass, it is England after all, and I will be raring to go.

Taking Stock – June

Making : the most of the sun

Cooking : nothing – salad days!

Drinking : iced coffee – 40ml espresso, 90ml cold frothy milk, 1-2 tsp sugar syrup over lots of ice cubes. Bliss

Plymouth

Reading: the last chapter of my book

Wanting: nothing. Am content

Playing: Simon Mayo’s Books of the Year podcast, it’s really good. Episode 1 was only out last Monday (free on iTunes or acast or podbean for android users.) Lynda La Plante and Robbie Williams feature. Lynda is hilarious. I’ve listened twice. It’s made me howl with laughter

Deciding: what to read next?

Wishing: to crochet and knit again soon

Enjoying: Plymouth’s sea views

Waiting: for dinner

Liking: all this sunshine and clear blue skies

Wondering: what shall we do tomorrow

It’s now ‘tomorrow in Cornwall (30th)

Loving: sea views, summer flowers and Cornish cider!

Pondering: all sorts, as usual

Considering: repainting my nails

Buying: chocolate

Watching: the clouds

Trerice, National Trust property near Newquay. An Elizabethan manor Winston Graham, the writer of Poldark, used to stay in. It provided the inspiration for Trenwith. Quite interesting page if you’re also into Poldark

Brunch. Mines not traditional as usual: Texas BBQ beef..

Hoping: for some rain to water all the dry gardens (heavy rainfall overnight would be best)

Marvelling: at all the roses. It’s a good year for them

Needing: to drink some water probably

Smelling: fig leaves, they smell exactly like the fruit

Wearing: one of my Seasalt tops, cropped linen trousers and Birkenstocks

Treacle tart and clotted cream at Trerice

Following: Twitter a bit, since no craft of my own makes IG a little dull

Knowing: it’s not forever

Thinking: I must do the rest of my physio exercises today

Admiring: lovely summer dresses

Sorting: an unpacked car into unfamiliar drawers and cupboards

Getting: browner (orange!)

Bookmarking: anything sourdough related for the last few weeks

Coveting: a Cornish cottage with land and a sea view of my own

Disliking: people who play loud music in gardens (generally, luckily nowhere specific to me) Why assume everyone wants to hear your choice of noise? HEADPHONES!

Opening: cold-bags

Giggling: at funny people

Feeling: relaxed

Snacking: on smoked nuts

Helping: to settle in

Hearing: birdsong

Mixing: with locals

Worrying: –

Slicing: salad (hearing it happening anyway. Does that count?!)

Celebrating: summertime

Forgetting: worries

Winning: at life (sorry, too smug?)

Pretending: I live here

Embracing: holiday time

How are you?

Inspired by my book & more sourdough adventures

Recently I came across The Endless Beach by Jenny Colgan, the sequel to The Seaside Summer Kitchen. I first read the book above last year and remember really enjoying it as we travelled around the Highlands of Scotland. Likeable characters, a beautiful setting and heavenly descriptions of locally produced food. What’s not to like? I came across this copy in the library and thought it would be nice to refresh my memory about the characters, and what happened, before reading the next. I’m not saying it’s a complex read; it’s a lot like many of Jenny Colgan’s recent books in fact, but I like the warmth and gentle humour. This is a pretty perfect summer read.

On Tuesday when I read about Flora making oatcakes, I found I had flung down the book, run to the kitchen and turned on the oven before I really knew what I was doing.

“What are you up to?”

“I’VE GOT TO MAKE OATCAKES!”

At Christmas I’d come across the recipe in Nigella‘s Domestic Goddess cookbook, that I’ve owned since it was first published, I had idly wondered about making some, but hadn’t got round to it with the frenzy of seasonal shenanigans and wrapping up of piles of presents.

Now I don’t think I would ever really want to buy them again, they are incredibly easy to make and very tasty, without the somewhat cardboardy texture of shop bought versions. A little bicarbonate of soda (aka baking soda) gives them such a satisfying crunch.

I’ve now made four loaves of sourdough bread! Two white and two wholemeal. I’m hanging up my oven gloves for a week or two. Everything in the kitchen is covered in flour and quite frankly we need to eat only salad for a bit. My sourdough starter is lying dormant in the fridge for a little holiday now.

This was a loaf I made on Friday. It’s far too good toasted with honey!

After looking in many shops for crumpet rings I ordered Lakeland’s set of four. It’s good to support your local high street shops, but only if they are selling what you need.

This morning I used up all my discarded sourdough starter on a batch.

I’ve found pouring the starter into a plastic measuring cup is a very fuss-free fast method, rather than faffing about with scales, but it’s easy enough to convert the quantity to ounces or grams if you prefer.

Sourdough Crumpets

3 cups of starter

1 1/2 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp of bicarb

Whisk up the sugar and salt into the starter in a large bowl, then add the bicarb. The mixture will froth up and increase.

Heat an oiled non-stick pan on a low to medium heat. Add well oiled crumpet rings and barely half fill them with batter, it will rise so you need space for them to grow.

When they’re slightly shrinking back from the edges of the rings, with bubbles appearing and look drier on top, lift the rings off using tongs.

If the rings don’t slide off easily give the crumpets another minute or so to continue cooking. Flip them over briefly to colour the tops.

Cool on a rack and toast. Or eat hot right away! They’re better toasted I think, as you get crispy tops and bottoms which contrast nicely with the fluffy insides. Try a few and see which you prefer!

This quantity made about 16 crumpets.

I played with the temperature of the pan as you get more bubbles with a slightly higher heat, but don’t want the bases to burn.

I’ve been reading some tips and it seems you need a runnier batter if you want more holey crumpets. You still start with a 100% hydration starter but play around with the crumpet batter. By the way, that slightly scary mathematical term simply means you’ve fed your starter with equal quantities of water and flour. It’s nothing more complicated. I discard about half of my starter (putting it into a bowl, or loosely covered container, in the fridge to save for making pancakes or crumpets) then feed the remaining with 100g flour and 100g water which is equivalent to 4fl oz on my measuring jug. 4fl oz is the easiest to read and so is fast in the mornings. I know it’s a mismatch of imperial and metric, but whatever works, works!

I’ll get back to you if I find an amazing fail-safe realllllly holey crumpet recipe. Mine came out light and fluffy with enough holes to identify them as crumpets I think. I liked them very much. Too much, if you know what I mean…

The evolution of crumpets

What about you: what are you enjoying reading and cooking at the moment?

Sourdough adventures

Last weekend my friend Safron posted these yummy photos of her first loaf of sourdough bread and homemade baked beans on her Safrolistics Instagram page. (Check out her papercuts, they’re amazing.) Safron was inspired by a friend, who makes his own sourdough bread and she inspired me in return. This is her first bread since a disastrous attempt at school. Wow! What a beauty.

I started my own sourdough starter last Monday. Apart from a phase around 2013 with Herman the German Friendship Cake, which I eventually turned into a loaf of bread, as we found there really is a limit to how much yeasty flavoured fruitcake you can eat, I haven’t maintained my own sourdough starter before.

It’s been a lot like when I first learned to crochet: researching how to do it, reading many blogs, books, checking out You Tube vids and making so many notes I’ve used up pages and pages of two notebooks (one upstairs, one down because I’ve truly been obsessed and found myself searching for answers to questions at all sorts of moments!) There are so many ways to end up with pretty much exactly the same thing, just like crochet (UK/USA terms, ways to hold the yarn/hook/start with a magic ring or chain and slip-stitch into a ring etc etc…) So in the end I decided to initially follow one method and stick to it, trying not to look at random websites and blogs anymore.

Sourdough starters and making sourdough bread can be incredibly complicated according to some people; I’ve seen articles written where people have made mathematical equations for the ratio of flour to water, the ambient temperature it needs to sit at etc. But really it boils down to just flour, water and the natural yeasts in the flour and your home environment. If pioneers could make it in one lidded pot over the hot embers of their campfire, we really do not need to make it too hard for ourselves.

I really like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Bread with Character article, written for The Guardian. He simply suggests using 100g of flours, and enough water to make a batter that’s roughly the consistency of paint! How easy is that?! I couldn’t quite be that haphazard free spirited especially at the beginning, so I have been using an equal flour to water ratio which is clearly working. I followed the excellent instructions on the Kitchn website. Luckily I had a bag of organic Doves Farm white flour in my baking cupboard, as it’s already my preferred flour when making bread using commercial yeast. There’s definitely a difference in taste and texture between using this flour and a cheaper alternative.

I was amazed that even after a couple of hours bubbles had begun to appear in the starter. ‘What kind of magic is this?’ I wondered with glee.

When baking the bread I mixed it up a bit: Patrick Ryan’s fridge tip for the second prove was a relief; as I was beginning to imagine I’d still be up at midnight watching the slow rise. I used his recipe for quantities of flour and starter etc for the dough. (Though a little less salt.)

There are about 3-5 hours between the top and bottom picture. This is when I decided to pop it into the fridge for the night.

On Sunday morning it sat out on the worktop again, for about 2 1/2 hours to bring it up to room temperature. It can be a slow process making sourdough but it’s well worth it. And it’s not effort, just patience that’s required.

I placed a tray half full of water onto the bottom shelf of the oven before I turned it on, it seemed a safer strategy for slightly clumsy me, than popping a tray of boiling water into the oven just before the bread. I also used Hugh’s method of putting a tray into the oven to pre-heat five minutes before the bread went in, then flouring it with wholemeal flour before the dough went onto it (although the dough was 100% white, I’d read that wholemeal flour is meant to prevent dough from sticking much more effectively than white.) This is also so much faster than oiling loaf tins and easy-peasy to wash up afterwards.

I felt nervous tipping it out of my new banneton proving basket (thank you Sainsbury Nectar points) but it fell softly onto the tray like a plump soft feather pillow. I actually cheered, which brought Someone running to see what excitement was going on!

I do need to find a better quality, thick baking sheet as it will be better for cooking the base of the loaf. Alternatively trying to make one in a cast-iron lidded pot (aka Dutch Oven) appeals. But I need to get one before that can happen… All the professional British bakers, that I’ve read so far, use a baking sheet (or pizza stone) to bake their loaves on, but I fancy trying the pot method sometime.

For a first loaf I didn’t expect much at all, I was prepared for a sodden lump but….

“It tastes as good as the loaves I used to buy at the village shop” oh my goodness! What praise from a sourdough aficionado, especially for a first loaf. It was delicious and I’ve never been a major eater of sourdough bread. Hugh’s right: sourdough is definitely bread with character!

Discarding half of the starter to maintain it, after the initial five days, was so unappealing that I’ve spent a fair amount of time searching for ‘discarded sourdough starter’ recipes. I hate wasting food and especially when I’ve used very good quality flour. Crumpets are already one of my favourite breakfast things, but I’ve never made them before.

I love the evolution of my crumpets, from left to right, the first pancake is always the manky one and that was definitely the runty crumpet! The last has proper crumpet bubbles and the texture was fab! They were just out of the frying pan here, cooling, before I toasted them under the grill.

I decided I would have the worst one, and the best one in the interests of fairness (it sort of makes sense, I think!) as a reward. After all, it was me who had talked to, fed and peered at the starter all week. It worked well; we both enjoyed them for breakfast. Someone had his with Marmite and butter, mine were with honey and butter. Yum, yum, yum.

Now I’m keeping all my discarded starter in a container in the fridge to make a batch of crumpets (I used this recipe.) I need to buy some crumpet rings. Crumpets can be frozen so I’ll make some, have a couple and store them. Fast! Before I eat them all.

I’m still on a complete crochet and knitting ban due to injury, as you probably know. (Boo!) This all started in April and I’ve now stopped counting how many weeks its been, as it can be a bit deflating. But I’m diligently doing my exercises, using ice and heat packs and seeing my physio every week. I am hopeful that I can begin again at some point soonish. Finding a new creative outlet, creating a sourdough starter and baking new kinds of bread has been absorbing. Not to mention homemade crumpets! Homemade crumpets….oh YUM!

If you like making or eating bread and fancy trying sourdough I’d say: Go for it!

You just need flour and water to begin. It’s great. It’s actual magic. And although it’s currently popular again, it’s hardly new; sourdough is thought to originate from the Ancient Egyptians, if not before!

A meadow of moon daisies

The plan for Sunday was meant to be shopping for an expensive, boring-but-sort-of necessary thing, but I totally subverted that by lobbying for a day out. It was another lovely sunny weekend and Saturday had been spent in the sunshine at a family BBQ. I wanted the good time vibes to continue. Admittedly I didn’t have to try very hard! So we went to Croome courtesy of The National Trust.

I love the view of the Malvern hills in the background (seen in the first photo.) The parkland is stunning, with a long lake to walk alongside, while waving to grazing cows on the other side.

Who wouldn’t want to explore a walled garden, rescued from the clutches of a property developer, walk around the first parkland designed by Capability Brown, learn more about a house with a rich history, stand on a Chinese bridge spotting fish leaping, and walk along a wild flower meadow. There was a cup of tea and slice of chocolate and orange cake at the Walled Gardens too. That cake was so good that I’m going to make my own version on Friday. I’ll share the recipe I’ve found, if it’s a goodie.

We actually ran out of time; I don’t think that’s ever happened before. There was no chance to explore the RAF museum (they were based at Croome during WW2) and the parkland has lots of other paths leading to temples, statues and follies. Croome part two will happen sometime.

Moon (or oxide) daisies and poppies together are such a pretty combo. I keep seeing them at the side of our roads and on roundabouts, though the best place has to be like this; en masse in a meadow.

Why, hello!

Spot the chickens in Croome’s Walled Gardens? So lovely to see them wandering around although, according to one of the NT volunteers, the head gardener is not so impressed as they scratch around in newly dug flower borders and mess up the hard work!

Spot the bee?

Croome Court has been through quite a number of changes. You can read about its fascinating history here. If you’re Dutch you might find a sentence or two about the 1940s interesting.

I believe that one of my family members may have spent time visiting Croome, during one of its incarnations as a Hare Krishna centre.

There is a replica of a decorative, eighteenth century Chinese-style bridge which has been reinstated, more than 150 years after the original disappeared.

Days out are some of the best kind of days. Do you agree?

I saw my physio for my first treatment yesterday, after the initial assessment the week before last. Want to see his thumb bruises around my elbow and wrist?! It’s definitely improving, though I did point out that twisting the lid off my food processor, while making falafel, caused quite a lot of pain yesterday. He visibly tried not to laugh. He didn’t hold back when I asked if I would be able to kayak again someday, as it’s been years since I last did. I’m glad my appointments keep him so entertained.

Anyway: I’m still banned from all craft for another two weeks. It’s nearly two months now. (Italics for sympathy, folk!) Argh!

In the meantime I’m reading, as always. The above novel is one of my favourite reads of the year and I’m only halfway through. I’ve read most of Maggie O’Farrell’s books, but the writing in this one seems tip-top. My current audio book is still The Boy on the Bridge by M.R Carey. It’s ok, but as a prequel to an already familiar dystopian world I’m waiting for something to happen. I’m not nearly as gripped as I was by The Girl with all the Gifts.

Joining with Ginny’s Yarn Along again, regretfully there’s no chance of sharing yarn of the woolly kind, but I’m sure no one’s going to object to flowers and rolling English countryside instead.

Taking Stock – May

Making : nothing, still

Cooking : sausages to eat cold with tomato and basil salad and potato salad. Yum.

Drinking : hot chocolate, I just fancied it though it’s not cold outside

Reading: The Killings at Badger’s Drift by Caroline Graham. I’ve never watched Midsomer Murders on TV, but after finding the seventh book in the library last June, I decided to look for the other books and read them in orderFalmouth

Wanting: to knit and crochet

Looking: out at the birds feeding in the garden. Mrs Blackbird is huge and fluffy. I spotted a pair of green finches last week

Playing: The Secret Diary of Hendrik Goen, 83 1/4 years old while I do my arm exercises. Derek Jacobi is a superb narrator

Deciding: to use my iPhone knitting row counter as I do 4 sets of 15Rhubarb Sour and a Negroni

Wishing: to be back in Cornwall after a brilliant long weekend away

Enjoying: my photos of old and new favourite Cornish places

Waiting: for cold sausage time, aka dinner

Liking: the leafy green lanes and wild flowers everywhere

Wondering: how much heavier I am after the cider, pasties and ice creams Thatchers Blush and Vintage cider

Loving: walking the coast path from Pendeen lighthouse again

Pondering: how long till I will again

Considering: changing moisturisers

Buying: tissues (bit of hay fever…)

Watching: the film trailer for Edie

Hoping: to see that, the Solo film and maybe the Book Club film

Marvelling: at the recent drop in ticket prices at my local cinema. They’re struggling apparently and it’s now 1990s prices. Woo hoo! Rhododendron at Trengwainton Garden

Cringing: at nothing right now, unless I hear the news

Needing: more toothpaste

Questioning: who thinks of the pasty flavours. I had Reggae Reggae Chicken for lunch the other day and Croque Monsieur the next! (The chicken was best.) Someone always sticks to the Traditional onesFoxgloves, whitebells, bluebells, cow parsley, buttercups and clover along the lanes and coast path

Smelling: rain on the way?

Wearing: shorts and a stripy tee (and slippers?!)

Following: friends’ half term holiday pics

Noticing: drinks, the sea and rock pool pics Pendeen lighthouse and the South West Coast Path

Knowing: May is my new favourite month

Thinking: I never expected to see bluebells still out and along so many verges in West Cornwall

Admiring: my white watch strap mark on my brown arm

Sorting: washing. Soooo much after just 4 days away Trevethan gin at Porthleven Nauti pizza place

Getting: busy with lists

Bookmarking: my library book

Coveting: this sea facing house or that while away

Disliking: all the mad Audi drivers

Opening: Cornish loose leaf Earl Grey tea

Giggling: at stand up comedy on Netflix

Feeling: relaxed

Snacking: no snacking! See the cider, pasties, ice creams above!

Helping: friends

Hearing: builders at work. Everyone’s at it along my road

Mixing: light mayonaise, Dijon mustard and light salad cream for potato salad (it’s delicious!)

Worrying: about nothing much

Slicing: tomatoes Fowey (pronounced Foy to rhyme with joy)

Celebrating: a big anniversary

Forgetting: there’s usually something these days!

Winning: at guessing how many steps we’ve walked …occasionally

Pretending: I’m super fit and striding up really steep hills

Sneaking: …not going to admit to anything here, I’m not stupid

Embracing: friends and family

How are you doing? Did you have a good (UK Bank Holiday) weekend?

If you’d like to fill in your own, here’s one of Pip’s Taking Stock posts. I use an older version.

The good news and the bad news

Well, my thinking was that after nearly five weeks not doing any craft at all it was sensible to try a little of everything. You want to go to the initial physio assessment with up-to-date knowledge about what hurts and exactly where. I took the exactly part of it literally; this morning I drew 2 biro crosses on the areas of my elbow which hurt the most. I reckon people thought I was going in for cosmetic surgery as I have massive issues with….one of my elbows!

Last night with this in mind I’d started off with a bit of garter stitch knitting on my big stash buster blanket. I did two rows which is five hundred stitches. It all felt ok, too ok really considering that on my call with the medical insurance people I’d said it’s a pain level of 9/10 when I do anything, and 6/10 resting. It was back then, but maybe not so much now. It seemed common sense to move on to some crochet, just to properly test the water. I did four rows, or so, of the grape. Then swapped to the green and completed the block, while watching the penultimate episode of The BBC’s The Woman in White. So far, so good, which is fine, but have I healed myself and what will I say to the physio?

It all felt a bit iffy really this morning, but not so bad. Not a 9/10 anyway. Next stop was a bit of the dreaded sock, if this caused the problem before I should see how it feels now. Wow I did feel fuzzy about what to do and where I’d got to. Plus I had to look again at how to pick up the side stitches, where to put which needle and so on. I opted for a crochet hook then slipping them onto a second DPN this time. I’m now at the same point I’d got to before. Next time I’ll be breaking new ground, hurray!

I can’t tell you how much I loved my crochet time last night and the sock knitting today. All the focusing and concentrating on new skills again, the satisfaction I felt was immense. It was like after a session of meditation or yoga, complete calm had descended. I really miss my yarn.

I took my sock knitting when I went to see the physio this afternoon, just to show him how teeny the silly little needles are (I actually do love them) and how the yarn is wrapped around my fingers. I mimed the repetitive movements you make. I told him how I’d got too involved in redoing a section in April, totally immersed in the sock knitting zone for far, far too long. He laughed, but that’s ok as I saw him about 18 months ago when I had a knee injury, and so he’s got an idea of what I’m like. At least it wasn’t full on laugher like some years ago when I had to answer the ‘What caused this injury’ question and had to admit it was kneading bread. She laughed like a drain. That was a bit weird.

It was actually a pretty enjoyable appointment, I always like a good chat with nice people; I asked if he and his fiancée had got into using the new ice cream maker? I remembered she’d said they both needed to lose weight, then gave him an ICM for Christmas 2016. The they’ve made is chocolate with marshmallows mixed in apparently.  Actually, he told me she’s now his wife and he looked pretty happy when he mentioned their August wedding. Later he was using jabby fingers stabbing them into my wrist, hand and elbow joint and bending the joints in various ways to assess the pain, he stopped with a concerned expression in response to my “Ow, oh my goodness!”

“Did it really hurt there?”

NO, it’s your description of dislocating your finger playing rugby!” (It was sticking out sideways. He then paused to demonstrate and show me the resultant swelling. Ouch.)

When asked on the telephone assessment what aspects of life is your injury affecting, I’d tried to think of specific examples, without lazily responding “Everything.” Consequently he had quite a list in front of him: driving; holding the steering wheel, holding a handset to talk on the ‘phone, texting, lifting a kettle, or a watering can, any crafting and the last, which made him laugh (again): putting on mascara. Why is that one funny? One eye done and the other naked, might be more of a hilarious sight me thinks. It’s time for a ‘Men?! What are they like?! Huh!’ I reckon.

Good news first? I always request the positives to sweeten what comes later.

The good news: I called for an assessment Friday, I got an appointment for today Tuesday. Fast.

I’d exactly done the right thing resting it for so long.

He could see my thinking about testing it before the appointment, but it was not that clever a thing to do (it does really hurt now and I should not be typing this, but we bloggers waffle suffer for our craft. Wait, should I move this bit to the bad news part?!)

It is treatable.

I guessed correctly that it’s tendon stuff.

I have an exercise to repeat 30 times, on both arms. I already have a 1kg dumbbell.

The bad news: He’s booked up next week, so the first really jabby fingers “YOU’RE HURTING ME” appointment isn’t until the first week of June.

The 30 times exercise will aggravate it, it will become more painful, but alternating ice and heat treatments will help the healing. I’m not starting them until after the bank holiday weekend though. I did not tell him this part. Otherwise there will be much sighing and groaning over what should be a relaxed and lovely weekend.

THE BIGGEST BAD NEWS (which isn’t really going to surprise anyone, is it?) NO MORE CRAFTING STILL. Arggghhhhhhhhhhhhh. The lovely Lucy and I had a good chat after her comment on my last post, she really cheered me up and said she hoped I’d stay happy and would send me healing vibes. It worked because I have stayed happy. Rather than crocheting or knitting, I’ve bought some new plants and baked bread, visited some good places and had cups of tea with friends. I do miss all the moments where I pick up needles, a hook or I sew something, but I did do the right thing instinctively by stopping it all. It’s just not much of a craft blog when you’re not able to craft, it is? Thank you very much for stopping by to read and for your caring comments and messages on my last.

I will be back with my monthly Taking Stock post next week.

What about you? How are you doing? Did you watch the wedding? It was lovely, warm glow time here.

PS: Does anyone know where I put my hot water bottle???

Trying to be patient

It’s now week four of no crafting. I feel so frustrated at not being able to sit quietly to focus on making something for a few minutes. I didn’t realise how often I do that when I’m at a loose end, or when I feel I need a spot of calming or relaxed activity. I’m also missing my social crafting time, as it’s pointless really to go to a knit group and just sit. It’s genuinely surprised me how truly unproductive I feel too. I’ve crocheted (knit, sewed and generally fiddled around with new crafts) for years now. It’s a habit that’s been hard to consciously break. It’s only one aspect of life I know, and hardly a life or death situation, but as regular crocheters or knitters know it’s an important part of day to day life, for all sorts of reasons. The other thing is that after losing my mojo a little, I was suddenly raring to make all the things.

I did try this bit yesterday, adding in the grape, and the few stitches you can see was all I’d done when I knew I should stop. I did some more hoping magic might happen and it would be fine. I tried holding the yarn at another angle and very loosely, but it didn’t make any difference. It occurred to me to try to work through the discomfort, but bearing in mind someone who did the same and ended up with much more of an issue, I stopped. It’s not worth a permanent injury.

It is all caused by too much knitting, which although I do like, I now term ‘the devil’s work’. Doing crochet in all these years never caused issues particularly. I think I just forgot my own pacing strategy, where I usually don’t overdo knitting and I stop, or change to another type of project. I got carried away with the sock, then picked up my chunky lace knitting and it was too much for my yarn hand.

Anyway, I have an appointment with a GP on Wednesday and I’ll put arrangements in place for some private physio appointments. I hope I can return to crochet soon.

Wish me luck for a complete recovery please. Or send me ideas for alternative yarn holds …..between my toes? Over my shoulder and wrapped around my neck? Train a cat or dog to help?!

Ah well, back to my excellent book. Reading is good too.

How are you doing? All is well in your world I hope?

Joining in with Ginny’s Yarn Along (although it’s more reading and no yarning for me this time.)

In the bluebell woods

A choir of birdsong, a gentle breeze and the rustle of leaves overhead

Ferns gradually unfolding

Celandines

Cowslips with a background of bluebells make such a pretty picture. I always think of Uncle Silas getting merry on his homemade cowslip wine…it might be time to reread that delightful little book.

The only other people Mum and I saw in the distance yesterday were a couple with a greyhound, later there was a ferocious sounding barking match between two dogs somewhere near the boundary of the woods. We never did see the other dog, but came across the couple again. According to the owner the dog had met his brother: “It’s like that in some families, isn’t it?”

A glimpse of a field of rape flowers through the trees.

Last year’s visit, with links to previous posts in the same bluebell woods.

Six things about bluebells you might not know, by the National Trust.

Taking Stock – April

Making : nothing still as my hand is very sore, it’s my right and I can’t even crochet; because holding yarn makes it sore too. So zero making and it’s not good. I’m surprised at how much I feel at a loose end.

Cooking: Baked Haddock with chorizo and tomatoes. Put wedges of lemon, some diced chorizo and cherry tomatoes into a tin and bake in a hot (200 degrees) oven for 10 minutes. Pour over a splash of white wine (I used mirin) and add haddock (or cod) fillets, season with freshly ground black pepper. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, or until the fish is done. Delicious with new potatoes and a green salad.

Drinking: don’t ask……nothing except water and jasmine tea. I feel iffy this morning.

Reading: I finished Miss Treadway and the Field of Stars by Miranda Emmerson this week, it’s a good read.The National Herb Centre

Wanting: a cooked breakfast.

Looking: a little rough around the edges!

A corkscrew hazel, what a great looking tree.

Playing: I just finished listening to The Girl With all the Gifts by M.R Carey this morning. A 5* audio book.

Deciding: to move very soon; into clothes and a fully upright position.

Wishing: I had just said “No, thank you” to more drinks.

Enjoying: seeing bluebells appearing in woodland.

Waiting: to feel a bit sparkier.

Liking: The Girl with all the Gifts, I’m going to think more about it today; always a sign of an interesting and provocative book.

Loving: M&S Butter Mints.

Upton House and Gardens, NT

Pondering: the themes of those two books: what it is to be human and identity.

Considering: my next audio book.

Buying: a new pasta bowl. I dropped one and five doesn’t work!

Watching: The BBC’s The Woman in White.

Hoping: they haven’t changed it too much, as I only read the book last year.

Marvelling: at the cool temps after a week of ‘summer’.

Needing: something to eat.

Questioning: why we think we’re hilarious when drunk.

Smelling: perfume.

Wearing: scruffs.

Following: The Vegetarian Society for some new recipes.

Noticing: tiny lambkins in the fields around.

Knowing: it’s going to rain on and off all day.

Thinking: this is a cosy Saturday, yes, doing no craft feels like wasted time, but its better to rest and get better.

Admiring: all the Fairisle knitting on Instagram, I like spotting the current trends in knitting and crochet.I tried a bit of crochet one day this week, but decided it’s not a good idea if it causes discomfort.

Sorting: photos online.

Getting: an easier way to import them, by a happy accident.

Bookmarking: recipes for next week.

Coveting: longer finger nails.

Disliking: the way nail varnish looks good for roughly only 6 minutes.

Opening: last year’s varnishes and finding they’re now glue.

Giggling: at Grace and Frankie still, an episode every now and then is the way to watch.

Feeling: spoilt for choice with Freeview, The BBC iPlayer, Netflix and Prime.

Snacking: on raw carrots, as always.

Helping: people needing some encouragement and a little positivity.

Hearing: a little bit of traffic noise.

Mixing: nothing today, drinks last night….

Worrying: about the usual stuff.

Slicing: an onion a day for most dinners, what would we do with an onion shortage?!

Celebrating: birthdays

Forgetting: nothing important, so far.

Winning: £2:90 on the lottery Friday.

Pretending: it’s time for breakfast (at 12:36.)

Sneaking: no sneaking.

Embracing: the special ones.

Taking Stock list from Pip’s marvellous Meet me at Mike’s if you fancy writing one too.

Have a good weekend all! (I feel better post-breakfast.)

Springtime, feels like summer

I asked for a new fridge sentence to replace my post road-trip one, which was boringly ‘Over a thousand miles later home’. I know it wasn’t exciting but it was current. Oh, but I’ve really truly been trounced now. It’s poetry which describes the view from the window. What’s my next move going to be?

I finished my Edenvale cowl last week. I know it will look better as the lace work will open out and show it off when it’s blocked. I’ll show you afterwards. I did fewer repeats than specified in the pattern, so I could stop at one skein of WYS Shetland Tweed. Hurray for John Lewis refunds on wool. That’s a cowl which is plenty long enough and I get £8.50 back in my account. I did try it on, in its as yet unblocked state and had comments along the lines of ‘You’ve knitted a neck sock!’ As you know I just ignore these and calmly carry on. I do the cooking so caution would be warranted…This week I added to my garter stitch blanket. I like the look of the navy with the lavender a lot. As I did another 6 rows (250 stitches each) I reflected on how much I’m enjoying knitting. It’s as meditative as crochet when easy, good to have two hands in motion, I like the feel and look of the fabric. I’ve also added a few more colour blocks to my patchwork blanket. Also satisfying once I get into a rhythm, but a bit boring to contemplate doing masses of linen stitch which is why this has been very slow in the making. I much prefer the swoop and flow of trebles to doubles.

Ah this week’s weather has been a delight. On saturday it was gorgeously warm at around 21-22 degrees. My friend and I wandered in Regents park, London wearing t-shirts, coats bundled up in bags. We admired the cherry and almond blossom, the lines of tulips and noticed how many people were also enjoying being outdoors. There are some pics on my Instagram. As you’ll see I took something a little unseasonal and different to do while we were there. My friend was knitting, and said an elderly lady with a stick walked by and gave us a broad smile. I guess others were mostly using the pedalos, reading, picnicing or just sunbathing. We probably looked quite incongruous.

This magnolia tree is not far from home. It was a gorgeous surprise on Wednesday to see it in full bloom.

Yesterday it was 25 degrees! This isn’t so much spring as a full-on English summer day. It can all change in a week so we are all poised as a nation. At the first sign of a warm day: we rush out to stock up on salad, charcoal and steaks, we go through our drawers and wardrobes looking for anything vaguely summery to wear, if we’re in a morning-time rush (ahem) we merely shave from our ankles up 6″ so we can wear shorter length trousers and sandals for the day and fill a jug with cucumber/raspberry/lime/lemon water in the fridge. We are prepared.

The next day we inspect our red patches of sunburn because we didn’t apply sun-cream, forgetting that even though it’s England we can still burn. (Ahem.)A host of golden daffodils. They’re probably all dried and crinkly now. I’m glad I saw them looking so lush.

So in the last week and a half I’ve knitted; ‘that’ sock, the garter stitch blanket and finished my lace cowl using chunky needles, crocheted and done the other craft which requires very fine motor skills. And my point? My hands hurt. My arms hurt. My elbows are stiff. The side of my hands are tingling. (I should probably not be typing this, but dictating.) That is a big warning sign isn’t it? I think I might have done too much knitting with the chunky 5mm needles, the lace pattern required lots of different manipulative movements and then there were hours of sock knitting. I’ve been disciplined at only doing one set of repeats max with the cowl, but got carried away one day with the sock. I unravelled and reknitted for far too long. In all these years of crocheting I’ve never experienced this, I’m in a sulk with knitting. Stupid chunky needles, stupid tiny circulars, stupid lace, stupid sock. I think this means a total ban on craft for a month. I’ve put a note that I can try again on 19th May….unless they feel magically better sooner. Sniff.

I’ll blog what I’m reading and bore you with photos of flowers and places I’ve been to, in the meantime. When I’ve blocked the cowl I’ll show it too. It’s the darning that’s holding it up right now, but with this warm weather it’s not in a hurry to be worn.

Without craft what do you do in the evenings, apart from read and stare at the goggle box?!

(JILL don’t be crude!)

Return of the sock

Hello April! It’s nearly the end of the second week already…

I’ve been away on a road trip trip holiday, up to locations in County Durham and Northumblerland, then to Dundee and Aberdeen, in Scotland. After a great time there we headed down to Yorkshire and stayed in Harrogate. I put a few pics on My Instagram account if you want to see.

It was a great trip and included catching up with quite a few friends. I finally went to Seaham to collect sea glass too. That’s something I’ve wanted to do for a few years, or more, since reading about the Victorian glass factory which tipped its waste into the sea. Read here for info, if you’re interested.

Just a selection of what we found (not my hand!)

I’m so pleased with my appropriately Easter egg shaped find!

One of the best bits last weekend was enjoying the company of Trish of Made by Patch blog (you could hassle her nicely about returning to blogging if you like) and Mr Patch over the weekend. The men were off doing their own thing for the morning and we got together for an hour or so. We were sitting in a comfy hotel lobby, on a squashy sofa with all sorts of sock knitting paraphernalia spread around us. It worked well until some bouncy young and very loud South Africans came to the adjacent sofa. But no matter; it was nearly time to meet the group and I’d finally got my sock knitting confidence back.

Over 1,000 miles later and we are home to a bag full of chocolate. It’s one of those Sainsbury’s Bags for Life; they aren’t at all small. We forgot to take any away with us. I’m rationing mine unnaturally well so far, like the good girl that I never was, and so it’s maybe going to last a long time.

You’ll maybe note that the sock above is not quite the sock you see below; the heel part originally purple, is now cream. There is the beginning of a gusset and the circular needles are back in play above. Yes well, I have been named a True Perfectionist by my sock knitting coach Trish but it was not right stitch count wise. I decided it’s not like me to fudge it, especially on the first attempt, as the second sock will have to be too. So, I’ve redone the heel flap to be slightly shorter and turned the heel, this time ending on 20, not 18 stitches. That seems better as I cast on 64. I’ve also taken pains to make sure the foot section will be 32 and not 35! I think it was originally 32 but wrongly placed markers were to probably to blame. I’d started the k2tog and ssk decreases too and decided they would show if I altered the line. I didn’t want to start with the sock on the wrong foot, boom-boom! Ahem.

As the book is a guide rather than an exact pattern, especially you’re casting on more or fewer than 60 stitches, I’m counting everything as I go and making copious notes. I’m hopefully going to be clear about what I’ve done when I come to do the second sock.

It’s fair to say this sock has been a long time in the knitting…

My sock knitting timeline:

June 2016 Trish wins a giveaway including a copy of Christine Perry’s Sock book (all info also available for free on her Winwick Mum blog) but had a copy already so gives it to me

Christine updates the 2015 book and I print out the extra update sheets

Become confused by all of the info, hide it away for a while

May 2017 Buy 2 balls of Regina Design Line ‘Jazz colour’ by Erika Knight yarn and my first 2.5 mm tiny Addi circulars and dpns

Knit the ribbing and knit the leg, it’s fun! I seem to be able to do it!

June 2017 Deep breaths and do the heel flap, that’s ok too. But the next bit? Oh my lord I am confused.

July 2017 Hide or shuffle feet and hum when anyone mentions sock knitting

February 2018 Post a photo on Instagram of the sock so far, because Trish and I have arranged to meet up for a coaching session on April. I tentatively think I might have an actual sock by the end of the year. Maybe even a pair.

April 2018 Meet up on Saturday 7th, turn the heel with Trish knitting along at the same point. She’s a star.

Mr Patch comes back and shows me he is wearing his pair. They’re fab. He loves that they’re so comfortable with no seams which rub. He also complains it took two years to complete them, so I have a feeling he’s angling for more pairs.

Timeline to be continued…..

We got chatting to a woman later that day, surrounded by 8k people (really) who were drinking beer / gin / vodka. She stood out because she was starting a sock, amongst a sea of people who were not knitting. I just had to go and chat to her. She was making a pink and blue Checkerboard sock, her husband heard us chatting and pulled up his jean legs to show us his homemade socks. He loves them he told us. I made absolutely no promises about knitting Someone his own pair!

*If* I ever have a complete sock to show, then get round to another, only then will we see about promises to nearest and dearests.

As well as knitting, I’m reading A Kind Man by Susan Hill. It’s a library book. Last time I went in I found 5 books straight away; so have quite a stack. I’m three quarters of the way through and although I’ve always loved the author’s writing style, I am finding the turn the story’s taken a bit weird. I just wanted to stay looking out at the fields and feeding the chickens for longer. I wonder how it will end?

What are you making and reading? Have you travelled anywhere new recently? Have a Bag for Life full of chocolate too?

I’m joining in with Ginny’s April Yarn Along.

Taking Stock – March

Making : Triple chocolate brownies (yum!)

Cooking : Thai pork noodles

Drinking : tonic water with ice still as it’s Dry Lent (I always stop on Easter Sunday)

Reading: Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty

Wanting: a variegated yarn cake

Looking: at this gorgeous Hitchhiker in Lion Brand Mandala: Centaur

Playing: The Girl with all the Gifts by M.R Carey – audio book

Deciding: to allow myself to buy a yarn cake – even though I’m stash busting still

Wishing: my elbow was titanium – though it’s better after the rest

Enjoying: 15 minute dramatised episodes of The Old Curiosity Shop on the BBC radio iplayer

Waiting: for two, or more, sunny consecutive days

Liking: my new iPhone

Wondering: what we’ll do in London later

Scilla

Scilla – so pretty

Waterperry Gardens

The long border will be full to bursting in the summer. I love this old wall in any season.

Loving: The Marvellous Mrs Maisel on Amazon Prime – the first 2 anyway

Pondering: buying more jeans

Considering: ?

Buying: toothbrushes

Watching: Shetland – the latest series was brilliant

Hoping: for a dry day today

Marvelling: at the amount of chocolate sold absolutely everywhere this year

Cringing: that my MiL and I have both bought the same egg for Someone! (And laughing too, it is amazing as there are SO many to choose from…!)

Needing: more rubber needle ends

Questioning: why was I wide awake at 0610?!

Smelling: fresh air

The Easter bunny?!

Wearing: none of your business!

Following: blogs I’ve read for years now

Noticing: how you get a nice feeling seeing photos of the same places, people and pets

Knowing: the alarm will go off shortly

Thinking: this is in the nick of time – it’s 31/3!

Admiring: daffodils all along the verges around here

Sorting: to-do lists – tick, tick, tick

Getting: longer nails

Bookmarking: recipes in my Itsu 20 minute suppers library book

Coveting: chocolate!

Disliking: eating too much chocolate

Opening: tomorrow – chocolate!

Giggling: at Tony Blackburn on R2

Feeling: pleased my cowl is nearly finished

Snacking: it’s 0630 – so on nothing

Hearing: birdsong

Worrying: I’ll be sleepy again by 0800

Slicing: brownies for dessert, yesterday

Celebrating: Easter with family

Forgetting: what? There’s bound to be something

Winning: the lottery? Will check last night’s ticket after this…

Pretending: I’m going to portion out Easter chocolate till August

Sneaking: it will be chocolate won’t it?!

Embracing: family, this weekend

If you fancy writing your own Taking Stock list you can find a blank list on Pip’s Meet me at Mike’s blog.

Have a VERY HAPPY EASTER!

Lambkins!

Another Tuesday walk with my friend B and this time it was at Stowe, a National Trust garden. There’s fascinating history to the house and estate (see here.) During a tour several years ago I heard lots of stories about Queen Victoria. She visited in 1845 when it was owned by the second Duke of Buckingham. She was not impressed with the over-spending and complained a lot about the opulence, he became heavily in debt. The house later became Stowe school in the 1920s, a private boarding school, but as you can see you can walk right in front of it. The school donated the gardens to the NT in 1989. I’m very glad about this, as it’s a superb place to visit.

Daffodils are appearing everywhere now. I love their bright yellow cheery bobbing heads. They seem to be extremely resilient to low temperatures, blasting winds and the snow we have experienced again over the weekend.

Primroses, I also love seeing these little pretties.

OH LAMBKINS! These were a lovely surprise, my first glimpse of lambs this Spring.

There were plenty of dog walkers walking the route. All were on a lead of course, but neither the lambs, nor ewes seemed worried by the dogs going past fairly close on the lane.

You can stay in this Gothic Temple, a folly overlooking the gardens. Someone was I think, as some of the lights are on and there was a car parked at the back. I’d love to have been invited in for a peep…

Imagine how spooky it would get at night, maybe red wine and plenty of it would help. Maybe not.

It’s ok Mum, I’m not coming close. I’ll just use my zoom.

Lambkin on the right is smiling! He looks glad to be alive.Rachel means ewe in Hebrew. There’s a random fact of the day for you.

The beauty of walk in Stowe gardens is that you never know what you will see next. There are sculptures, buildings, bridges, a waterfall, an ice house (I always like seeing an ice house) and much more, plus a grotto that I had not come across before. The best way to show you is on this walking map, it’s a fabulous place to visit.

 

Who doesn’t love seeing a lamb? Or even a lamb piccy? That’s really why I’ve written this post. Why dress it up other than as a chance to show you some photos; to maybe make you go “Ahhh” and “Oooh!”

Update – crochet

When I saw this photo by Emma of Lulu Loves blog (Hello E! – she reads my wafflings) on Instagram last Thursday I was intrigued: Did Emma crochet this? What is it that she’s making? What yarn is she using? Where’s the pattern, or did Emma design it herself? And so on and so on. I have at least three questions in every ten minute period most days, and Instagram can make my brain go into overdrive sometimes. It feels as if it’s whirling at top speed. Usually I just check the hashtags and make a mental note to check back and see what develops; other days I have to send a message. Emma is a sweetie and so instantly told me all I needed to know. Basically if you search Pinterest for ‘pineapple market bags’ you’ll find patterns she said. So I did, right away. Being a clever cookie I later found out that she made the circle for the base larger and will have a bigger bag. No matter; I don’t need a bag, but I do need to try new crochet.

I foraged in my yarn stash and came up with fairly cheapy craft cotton I bought when I was making dishcloth, and off I went. It’s basically string and so is pretty hard on your hands, but when you’re gripped trying something new, you’re gripped aren’t you?

I was buzzing because I’ve never used such a complicated Japanese symbol pattern before, with no other instructions. I have a Japanese friend in Tokyo so sent her a couple of screenshots to ask what the text said. Not a crocheter, she said ‘it is instructions.’ I left it at that, since my crochet was coming out ok.

It has to be said that I dislike that I cannot credit the designer, or recommend the book from which this pattern came. I always link to pattern sources or credit designers. If you do recognise this image, can you let me know so I can add them in please?

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The middle looks wooky, doesn’t it? I must try and ease the first chain around to the right a little. I know there are bloggers who have written about ways to avoid the gappy middle and wonky line upwards altogether, where you’ve slip stitched into the third chain. I did Google and found some, but by then had already crocheted many rounds. It’s a ‘must learn’ another time. Since this is the base of a market bag it doesn’t really matter because it won’t show. Even as I type this I feel myself I feel myself resisting the temptation to grit my teeth, as a perfectionist it goes right against the grain, but sometimes it’s best to carry on and not keep unravelling…

Being cheap craft cotton it is a little splitty, but ok for this type of make.

Just one more round to complete the top of the pineapple.

It’s starting to curl upwards as it should, turning into a bag.

But there is a but, or a however with this project. That was all crocheted on Thursday. I was in my element and forgot my usual ‘Do a bit, then stop’ rule. It was 3pm before I realised I still hadn’t eaten lunch and I was ravenous. I did a little more afterwards and then called it a day. Now, really here is the but and the however: I have not picked up a hook or pair of needles since, this string has killed my elbow. Oh. My. Goodness. It is sore. So sore that I dare not aggravate it anymore. Last night I gently massaged it as it’s feeling stiff, but apart from that I’m being very wary. I do not really want to go through the process of acupuncture again. It works like a dream, but I’m hoping I dodge it this time. Last time the physio was in stitches when she asked what had inflamed it, and I replied ‘Kneading bread.’ I really don’t want to have to say ‘Crocheting a string bag.’ Cross your fingers it settles down soon please!

 

Have you ever used a chart with no other instructions? I liked the challenge of it (actually it’s pretty easy once you’re familiar with crochet) and will do more, when my elbow settles down….

All this beauty

“This is proper England” I found myself saying this morning, on another Tuesday morning walk with my friend B. This is a stunning new find for both of us: Evenley Wood Garden. It’s one to return to through the four seasons, to see how it’s changed.

While there we heard a woodpecker, saw various birds and heard their birdsong, caught a group of about five beautiful pheasants picking their way through the undergrowth and came across no other walkers at all, no dogs, no children and no traffic noise. A perfect patch of England, and it was all ours for an hour and a half. I love this tall variety of snowdrops. Look! It’s a carpet of cyclamen.

Hellebores, my Mother’s favourites (along with snowdrops) and there were other colours too. I didn’t photograph any more though, as we are meant to be walking briskly while looking, not just stopping and staring slack jawed.

A stream runs right through the woods. There are various bridges to cross, but I drew the line at one which was little more than a plank. Guess who had walked a mere ten steps at the beginning of the walk, then slid in slow-motion to the left, ending up lying in mud? B helped me up, like the old lady I felt I had become and then cheerfully stated: “It could have been worse; you could have choked on your pear drop!” I was walking and squelching for a while, until the mud and puddle water dried off a bit.

I came home and announced: “I’ve had a fall.”

“Don’t be ridiculous; you’re too young to ‘have a fall’, you’ve just fallen over in a lot of mud. Ha ha.”

“Hurumph!”

More cyclamen, and a close up of some of the patch.

I’m not sure what the yellow flowers are…something in the far reaches of my brain (aka custard) is whispering aconites. Am I right?

It’s Knit Night tonight, I haven’t been for weeks. I think the last, and actually only, time I’ve been this year was back in January. Then the call of the sofa and the recent Siberian weather made me cling to the tv remote and sofa, hard. It’s time to come out of hibernation now.

Is it the sofa for you, or are you heading to the great outdoors to socialise one/some/most evenings at the mo?

Update – knits

“Brilliant kick! Ohh! Get over!” is what I’m hearing from the right side of the room, while I try to gather my thoughts about this post.

Now: “Noooo! Ouch….Knees don’t bend that way!” And I am firmly fixing my gaze downwards to my iPad’s screen. I do not need to see any gory injury replays. I knew these outbursts might be the case, but I had hoped for a quiet game and silent supping of beer, alongside the occasional sounds of dry roasted peanut munching. My Instagram feed is currently full of photos of knitting and crochet ‘while the rugby is on in the background’, or ‘while I watch the rugby.’ I know there are plenty of women who enjoy it too, I’m just not one of them. It’s England V France and currently 6-3 to us. I cheer when we win, but don’t watch the game.

Anyway, sorry for the sports waffle. Back to the knits; I wasn’t sure about the shouty bright pink being added to the mix in my garter stitch blanket, but it works doesn’t it? I like it quite a lot. I am sticking to it being a stash buster, so it’s going to get even more random. However the blending helps to tone down some of the less likeable shades.

I’m really enjoying this knitting, as you know I haven’t knitted much complex lace and this pattern is labelled on the Love Knitting site as intermediate. Hurray! I feel like a proper knitter. The Edenvale cowl is reversible and this is the side which faces you as you knit, but it’s definitely the other side that I prefer (shown below.)

“Are you knitting a giraffe a neck warmer?”

“Ooh look, your dream-catcher is coming on!”

I put up with a lot some days, I feel.

Not knitting, but beautiful anemones I just saw when we popped out to have a wander around a local nursery and plant centre. It’s the day to buy flowers, or a plant, as it’s Mothering Sunday tomorrow. Sainsbury’s, on Friday, looked absolutely crammed full with extra buckets and stands of flowers.

It’s been a while since I recorded what I’m reading and listening to: The Tent, the Bucket and Me by Emma Kennedy is making me laugh out loud, more than any book has made me laugh for a long time. I didn’t even really know who she is, but that doesn’t matter at all. Emma writes really well and being an actress is sublime at accents, particularly Welsh. The premise of the book is to describe the family’s disastrous attempts at camping holidays, during the 1970s. So, of course you get a bit of context of what’s going on in the country at the time, the food they eat and encounters with other holiday makers. Highly recommended. I’ve got 3 hours left to listen and I only started the audio book this week. This is probably a speed listening personal record.

I finished reading The House of New Beginnings by Lucy Diamond on Friday night. It’s nice; one of those multi-character stories, where each woman has experienced a recent trauma, heartbreak or has to adjust to a major change. There’s a fair bit of loneliness and isolation at the beginning, but you can guess where the story goes and that ultimately warm and supportive friendships gradually form. There’s nothing wrong with reading a bit of candy-floss. I also think that sometimes a story like this can encourage readers to join a new club, try something new or make an overture of friendship towards another. It can give assurances that all things pass and tricky times improve.

What about you, what are you busy with right now? Can you recommend any good reads?

The score is now 9-9 and I’ve just said SHUSH as “Argghhhhh!” was shouted and made me jump.

Linking with Ginny’s now monthly Yarn Along.

Much warmer

Walking with a friend today, it felt almost balmy outside at 8-9 degrees. Lovely! Signs of Spring are back in full force as you’ll see.

There were patches of snow alongside the roadsides, piled up on the verges and the boundaries of fields. There are deep patches despite the heavy rain that fell on Sunday. I had to smile when I parked my car and saw this on the village green:

When walking with my nieces on Sunday we spotted a similar stump in a front garden, but with 2 carrots, 4 buttons and twigs on the ground around it. I wish I’d taken a photo as it was just such a touching scene.

We popped into the pub after our walk and I found out that it was established in 1605. It was a coaching inn where the horses would be rested and fed, the passengers too no doubt. The arch led to the coach yard and stables. It is an age since I’ve been there, it’s nice and cosy inside. Much of this old village is gorgeous with the ironstone dwellings, wrought iron gates and some fantastic walled gardens.

After all that snow and minus temperatures it’s amazing to see the snowdrops again. Aren’t they resilient? I guess the clue is in the name. Can you see the pink and yellow flowers on the right? I think they’re primula.

My friend has heard Johnny Depp has a house here. I wondered if it’s this one? You can buy coach house no. 4 next door if you like?

Frankly I took this is for the Americans! I know thatched cottages are always popular.

B was trying to walk fast, keeping up our brisk pace, get the heart pumping etc and burn some calories (her multiple gins at the weekend were playing on her mind.) Her fitness app voice notifications were kicking in with how many kilometres we had walked, how fast our average pace per km etc but I kept stopping dead to whip out my iPhone. I can’t help it when I see witchy wintery trees with an ancient spire behind. I love the twigs lying on the top of the wall where they’ve fallen off.

As a side note; I’ve just googled ‘how old is ancient?’ It’s far older than this spire, so I’m going to have to repeat myself inanely and say it’s very old. When I say the pub is very old, established in 1605, Someone raises his eyebrows, as his school dates from around 1400. It’s all relative though isn’t it? In Australia I often saw signage about very old houses, only dating from 1970 something!

The pace was slowing again, but I was not guilty. The mud was so thick and squelchy along the footpath we considered turning back, but both quite like circular walks. I had to scrape my walking shoes against a tree trunk, to get the worst of the mud off when we came back into civilisation. They were almost comedy clown sized shoes, encircled with mud.

One final pic for you from today’s walk is something I’m used to seeing around, but maybe you’re not…

It’s a mounting block for horses. Do you see them where you are? Are they as old? (I’m debating retitling this whole post Really Old. It’s been totally over used after all.)

Do you want to see a cutie patooty?

Here is Winnie and her Wave Blanket. Isn’t she beautiful? I love the way she’s got her hand on the top of the milk bottle! She’s five months old now. Her Mum tells me she loves her blanket so much and uses it everyday in her pram, the car and her bouncer chair. Wherever they go people ask where it is from, it’s lovely knitting’ (sigh! / smirk.) It’s attracted a lot of attention.

Springlike temperatures, pretty wild flowers, beautiful old buildings and seeing Winnie using her Wave Blanket, there are some reasons to smile.

What’s making you smile at the mo? If you’re not feeling great, I hope things improve soon. Look after yourself.

Soup & trying to knit weather

Tuesday

At 0800 it’s -3 on the thermometer and doesn’t really change all day, except to get colder. The so-called Beast from the East, a very cold weather system from Siberia, is blasting the UK. We’ve got off lighter than many areas but it’s very cold. There’s no snow until late afternoon, although the village pond is already frozen solid. The canal is going that way too. As I watch the narrow boat go I can hear the ice cracking! In the time it takes me to click the photo my gloveless hand begins to tingle and hurt with the cold.

It seems a very good day to spend one of my Christmas gift vouchers on some warm West Yorkshire Spinners Shetland Tweed. I’d seen a particular cowl in Loop, Islington last year and haven’t got it out of my mind. I buy the pattern when I’m home, but can’t make head nor tail of it. There is no number of cast on stitches to start with, and more confusion besides. Nearly £5 and it’s a pretty awful pattern, touted as suitable for lace knitting beginners but it’s clearly not. I should have have taken more notice of the zero reviews. I check it’s not me, missing something obvious, and ask a very clever test knitter and designer who I turn to for knitting advice occasionally. She says it’s one of the worst patterns she’s ever seen. You just don’t know this until you have the pdf unfortunately. I email the company selling the pattern (it’s also on Ravelry, for even more money) knowing they have a zero refund policy, once you’ve downloaded the pdf. My email contains a list of issues with the pattern, provided by my contact. I have a full refund and apology by 9pm. Drat though! That cowl has been in my thoughts for ages. My star knitty friend then goes above and beyond. My instagram is suddenly beeping like crazy. She sends me links to 13 lace cowl patterns: “Which are on Ravelry and far better written.” I chose Edenvale. It’s going to be a very warm cowl as it’s in aran weight wool, but I’m hoping I don’t find it too scratchy to wear…

I feel chilly and can’t get warm, so I wear my Holey Cowl over the top of my Mira Cowl. I’ve never worn either inside the house before.

I get my nostepinne out to wind a skein and Someone texts me:

“Stick the oven on, I’m just leaving”

“Argh!!! I’ve got a skein of wool wrapped around my knees!”

Wednesday

It’s -5 at 0742 so I’m staying in bed reading for a while, because I can! It’s so cold sticking your arm out of the covers, even with the radiator full on.

I meet up with Mum and we go to the library and pop to the supermarket for her groceries. When we come out the car park is swirling white with a snow blizzard. It’s hard to see where the car is parked! We go to her home for soup and toast. Barty naughtily sits on the worktop, watching the snow fall.

Thursday

The window thermometer tell me it’s -4 and there are gusty winds with light snow at 10:00. I plan to make chicken soup, update my card details on the national Lottery website (ready for that huge jackpot win) and start my cowl. The heating is on full blast, but I’m still cold. I dig out my Poncho and am so pleased as it instantly warms my shoulders.

I relearn how to do a long-tail cast on. If you’re also a leftie watch Bill Souza teach the left handed LTCO, he’s very good.

Next I need to do a tension swatch, but can I do flat knitting for what will be a circular knit? Instagrammers tell me I can, but there’s a special technique to it. Purl Soho have a good guide. I check my swatch after an inch or so, because my Knitting Answer book says I will be able to tell how it’s going by then. They say to measure 4″ and count the number of stitches, it’s easier than my usual method of the other way around. My tension is perfect for the cowl pattern! Wey-hey I don’t think that’s ever happened before.

I need to cast on 120 stitches. My book describes various methods to decide how long to leave your tail. I choose the one where you allow an inch of yarn per stitch. Someone is incredulous and says “But that’s 10 feet of wool!” and indeed he turns out to be right. It seems the easiest method, so I get the big tape measure out of the junk drawer in the kitchen. It is more than enough, really and truly. My little piece of knitting is destined to have a massively long tail. It’s a waste of good Shetland Tweed. Maybe next time I’ll try another method and calculate the tail measurement by multiplying the circumference of the finished item 3 1/2 times. What do you do? Cable cast ons are an absolute breeze in comparison.

At the end of a mere 5 hours I have relearned the cast on, swatched for circular knitting, cast on 120 long tailed stitches, painfully knit the first round (my CO is so tight that the tweed feels like garden twine cutting my poor fingers) and slowly knit 3 rounds.

I think this cowl had better look half ok, because I’m fighting my perfectionist tendencies all the way. I will not allow myself to unravel a single bit. I can’t have spent 5 hours in total today with nothing to show. Sometimes it’s better to actually use new skills and refine them as you go, while accepting the first item will not be the best. I find this hard. My natural tendency with tricky knitting is to undo it again and again. I lose heart. Decide I just can’t do it, it’s rubbish and then I move on to something easier different. Not this time! I want to crack lace knitting. Hard lace knitting, not mere holes in cowls.

Friday (today)

-4 at 0800 and it’s clearly snowed some more overnight. It’s now about 4″ deep. We decide to go out for a walk and so wrap up as warmly as we can. It’s -2 by the time we go, but the BBC weather app tells me with the wind chill factor it feels like -9. Pretty soon my legs and bottom feel numb. Someone smugly tells me he’s toasty, because he’s wearing his fishing thermals. Wah! And I’m wearing jeans, which I know, I know, are the most useless thing in this weather. My legs are red like lobsters when I take down my jeans, back at home. Luckily I have the brilliant idea of leaving a spicy lentil soup to cook in the slow cooker, while we’re out. I delegate the chopping and initial cooking of spices, onion, celery and carrot while I shower. What a brain wave. It is super (souper!) to smell lunch ready and waiting for us when we return.

Not many are out at all, we see a handful of people with sledges but it’s bitterly cold for the dogs and their walkers. With the icy wind cutting across our cheeks and snow beginning to fall, it’s a big relief to be home.

It’s been snowing steadily for over an hour now. I will knit my 4th round soon. Wish me luck!

My cousin has been holed up in a pub in Lincolnshire for 2 nights. It isn’t that far from where she lives, but the roads are impassible so she hasn’t been able to get home. There are definitely worse places to be stranded; if that were me, I would drop my Dry Lent like a shot.

How cold, or warm, is it where you are? Any snow? Let’s share a weather report from around the world.

Taking Stock – February

Making : Slow Cooked Beef Brisket, recipe here except I added lashings of balsamic vinegar too. Cooked for 8 hours on medium, then sliced the beef and gently reheated it in the sauce, in a heavy based pan on the hob, the next day. I think slow cooked food is always better eaten the day after, to meld the flavours. I thickened the sauce with a tbsp of cornflour mixed into a little cold water. Delicious.

Cooking : the above to eat with potatoes, petit pois and kale

Drinking : lots of jasmine tea this morning, 2 x 1 pint mugs

Reading: I’ve just given up on the rather tedious The Old Curiosity Shop by Dickens. To be honest I had a sneaking suspicion I was going to do an Oscar Wilde. He reportedly said: ‘One would have to have a heart of stone to read the death of little Nell without dissolving into tears…of laughter.’

Wanting: to spend my Christmas gift cards, but still haven’t found anything apart from new socks at Fatface. These,these which I’m wearing now and this delicious pair

Looking: at these Dr Who props in the BBC lobby on Saturday. My friend and I walked past and went to peep in the windows. A security guard invited us to come in to look. We watched the last few minutes of the Winter Olympics curling on one of the huge screens. (We lost to Japan.)

Playing: my friend’s Adventure Bus Game on foot, my nifty adaption. You set off walking in a random direction, with no destination in mind and take turns to choose left, right or straight ahead at the next junction. We ended up in the BBC, then Regents Park. After 5 miles we went for a late lunch here.

Deciding: to go to the library for new books soon

Wishing: to meet the UK winner of Friday’s £78 million euro millions win. What did they decide to do first? I had a message when I was walking down Baker Street, London on Saturday morning – “Did you see this news article? (‘Massive Jackpot Split between one UK and one Spanish winner, £78 mil each’) Is it you?! Have you checked?”

Enjoying: lots of winter warmers featuring tasty sauces – lamb hot pot and that beef brisket last weekRegents Park croci

Waiting: for dried mealworms to arrive by post, the Blue Tits can’t get enough of them. The robin doesn’t use the stick on balcony window feeder here, but they do. You look up and see a little blue and yellow thing looking at you!

Liking: the bright blue skies and sunshine, although it’s very very cold. Currently we have wind blowing from Siberia, so on Saturday it was 5 degrees but with the wind chill factor felt like 1. Brrrrr. Also, really liked seeing the first blossom in Regents Park

Wondering: if the media are making a huge unnecessary OTT fuss about the ‘dire weather’ coming this week and next. My friend G just Whatsapped to say the news site is advising people to be home by 6pm tonight in her area. Woah!

Loving: my new slow start yeast, the bread is light and rises like a rocket

Pondering: which colours for the next strip, then realising my tension must have been way tighter so redoing the entire third strip

Considering: whether to sew or crochet the strips together, crochet usually wins hands down

Buying: lamb mince to make koftas

Watching: Grace and Frankie

Marvelling: at the ages of the four main characters, it’s excellent to see seniors leading a successful series

Hoping: I’m still as fit and able at Jane Fonda’s age

Cringing: at my renewed nail biting

Needing: a new book

Questioning: if any of you have read Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty? Good? Might have asked this before…

Smelling: Dry Roast Peanuts

Wearing: a head of Crystal Tipps (and Alastair) hair

Following: the dire water situation in Cape Town

Noticing: how dry my skin is in this weather Icicles on the water features at Waterperry Gardens shop

Knowing: there was no way Muller Light yoghurt can replicate raspberry doughnut flavour. Indeed, it’s horrid

Thinking: Ruby Wax’s analogy about thoughts being like leaves swirling past, along a pavement is very apt

Admiring: people’s openness in discussing tricky topics on IG and the respectful, often very supportive comments in reply

A rather deliciously wicked meeting place: Lola’s in Selfridge’s, Oxford Street London

Sorting: out which snowdrop pics to keep, so many taken at Waterperry Gardens yesterday

Getting: down to gently look at the insides of snowdrops. This is something I’ve copied from my Mum, it’s often surprising how much colour is inside these little white flowers

So many varieties: singles, doubles, dwarf, tall, big and plump, fine and delicate. Snowdrops are very special

Bookmarking: new recipes, any meatless recipes you enjoy and can recommend? Variety is good

Coveting: “What am I coveting at the moment?” “Other people’s gin.”

I’m doing Dry Lent once again….

Disliking: The taste of sweeteners

Opening: bird books and many websites, then putting a pic on my Instagram account to ask for help to identify a bird – the consensus was that it’s a female chaffinch

Giggling: at Barty apparently not deserving his new catnip toys. Sunday morning Mum was in her sitting room and noticed a sparrow walking across the carpet in front of the window!

Feeling: thirsty, I always seem to write that when TS

Snacking: on radishes

Helping: motivate a friend, but not taking my own advice

Hearing: an aeroplane

Mixing: tonic water with ice and lime, pretending it’s as good as a G&T

Worrying: well, there’s always something

Slicing: onions for virtually every recipe this time of year

Catkins and beautiful twisty trees at Waterperry Gardens

Celebrating: the busy garden birdlife, since I’ve been typing I’ve seen: a Robin, multiple Blue Tits, a Coal Tit, a couple of Great Tits, a male Blackbird and the female Chaffinch is back

Forgetting: what I need to add to the shopping list

Winning: at life? Urgh, smug expression

Pretending: nothing

Sneaking: extra oddments of nibbed hazelnuts, flaked almonds and walnut pieces into the museli. It’s getting close to being an end of packet dust situation!

Embracing: brighter and longer days, it’s light at 520pm still

For the full list to fill in your own Taking Stock post visit Pip. It’s fun to do.

Striping

I’ve dug my Stripy blanket out and actually it’s nice to be adding to it again. Isn’t it bright though?! I kind of forgot how much it’s a bit in your face. It took me aback when I saw it again yesterday, which was a very lazy Sunday afternoon.

I’m reading Y is for Yesterday by Sue Grafton at the mo. I’ve had it from the library for more than a week, but getting into it has taken a while. It’s an absolutely brick of a hardback. If you need a doorstop, this is the one for you. Having read a whole chunk yesterday made me feel more engaged with the story. I think I know exactly how one storyline will play out, but I’m not going to say anymore.

I was really sorry to learn of Sue’s recent loss, her books have brought pleasure all around the world. It’s sad too that this is the premature end of the alphabet series, however I’m glad a ghost writer is not going to be brought in to write Z. I’d rather it was the original author, or nothing at all.

As you know, I always have an audio book on the go too, after the compelling Three Things about Elsie by Joanna Cannon I fancied something completely different. My Audible library has contained Danny Baker’s 2012 autobiography Going to Sea in a Sieve for a long time. I bought it after enjoying the BBC tv adaptation Cradle to Grave in 2015. If you’re outside Britain I’m not really sure you’ll ever have heard of Danny Baker, but it’s still worth watching for the entertainment value. Peter Kay plays Danny’s Dad with only a bit of accent slippage! I’ve only heard 35 minutes of the audio book, with Danny narrating, and Ilove it. After the prologue I found myself repeating the story of the burning car and the game of chicken, while Someone made some smoked mackerel pate for lunch. Then I felt compelled to rush into the dining room to wave my iPhone in the air and play the bit about Nigel Slater’s ‘lamentable’ book Toast (I sort of agree about that) while he was trying to eat lunch and catch a bit of the Winter Olympics. I can feel myself trying to remember other little snippets to repeat later. This is always the (painful for others) sign that I’m loving a book. It’s just so cheery and authentic that I want to overshare.

What are you making and reading?

I’m joining in again with Ginny’s now monthly Yarn Along.

The Hitchhiker & a house full of flowers

Finally it’s finished. Finally. No more Hitchhiking. After noticing that freaky extra row of stitches heading up for the light on Christmas Eve, when I thought all it needed was darning, it’s taken a while to knit the two thirds I unravelled. Repeating the same thing can be so disheartening can’t it, even when it’s very easy plain knitting. Still, it’s done. I wrapped it in Christmas paper and gave it to Mum yesterday. The yarn is Tosca Light by Lang and sapphire shade. Here’s the pattern on Ravelry.

What’s with all the flowers? Are you opening a florists Rachel? Well no, I am not, although I always had the idea I’d enjoy that job. My image of the work was having lots of cups of tea and coffee, listening to the radio all day and singing along as I arranged pretty bouquets, chatting to smiley people. The reality is probably very, very early starts, drafty cold rooms which suit the blooms, lots of standing so legs covered with varicose veins and grumpy customers who don’t want to chat, hear the music blaring, or my singing!

We had family here for Sunday lunch last weekend and they brought that lovely bunch of narcissi, which have made the whole kitchen smell beautiful all week, and two bunches of irises. I tend to sit next to the table with the vase of irises and have often found myself staring at them, the blue is stunning isn’t it? The huge Spring bouquet was delivered on Wednesday as a Valentines Day surprise. That’s very fragrant too, hyacinth is one of my favourite scents this time of year. The ice bucket is the best size for the size and height of the bunch! It’s unconventional, but kind of cool. There were still so many flowers that I took some out to place around other rooms. The plumber came on Thursday and apparently he visibly clocked all the vases. I wonder if he had bought any for his wife? It would be funny if he was feeling bad for forgetting, or being nagged to death for not bothering, and then came to this home filled with them.

The Spring flowers have really opened out over the last few days, which is why I’ve included the gin photo, taken for a few friends last night. Nine friends actually, but that story doesn’t show my will-power in such a great light. Though my friends are stars…So, we will skirt over that shall we?

As I was about to come to write here I just heard a loud knock on the door and the tulips were delivered! Oh, aren’t they lovely? I’m wondering about giving them to someone special, as vase availability is now reaching a critical level and I’m almost overwhelmed with beauty right now.

Now I have my crochet moss stitch patchwork blanket to work on, the garter stitch blanket (long term pub knit night knitting) and ‘that’ sock which I must either unravel, or complete. I could do with a friend to sit with and knit alongside as it’s my first. It would probably gee me up and give me some sock knitting confidence. I’m lazy too, I have to admit that ploughing my way through the book or online tutorial isn’t as appealing as someone nice instructing me. Also, I saw a cowl in Loop, Islington in London last year which is still haunting me. I fancy trying something new and exciting. This stomps all over my recent assertion that I prefer to only have one knit and one crochet project on the go. We’re allowed to be inconsistent, aren’t we?

Have you just finished something? Struggling with lack of know-how and/or laziness with something?

Hey, thank you to those of you who answered my: making, listening, reading, watching, cooking questions last week. I love that, there’s nothing better than a two-way street.

Hello to my latest new readers too, I’m waving a tulip at you!

Yarn, ships and park life

My hook is still moss stitching away, gradually adding more sections to the third strip of my blanket. I’m not sure about you, but I finding I seem to be inadvertently taking part in a slow crafting movement. This may, or may not exist, but it’s definitely a thing in my house. I honestly goggle at all the ‘It’s finished!’ posts on Instagram some days. I wonder if they’re not telling us that it’s just been a case of darning a few ends, or sewing up a seam, on a pile of long ago started makes? Whatever. I do not feel any compunction at all to compete, but I do enjoy looking at all the makes.

The strip’s a bit further on now, as you’ll see at the end, but I like this photo showing my snuggly Tilted Squares Blanket in use.On Friday afternoon I went to the Members’ Preview Day of the V&A’s new exhibition Ocean Liners: Speed and Style. The picture above shows part of one of the rooms where you’re meant to feel as if you’re on deck. The floor is wooden, there are some examples of chairs and a bell-boy’s uniform (to be a totally immersive experience I would have loved a G&T brought to me while I led on an actual recliner!) The whole of the wall is a projected film of the ocean, moving waves, the sound of sea-gulls and nothing as far as the eye can see; oh apart from a movement on the right. Gradually a steam powered liner comes into view and hey! It’s racing along besides us. There were many oohs and ahhs from people, then the inevitable selfies. It’s fun. Afterwards walking through Hyde Park, back to Oxford Street to meet a friend for dinner, I saw so many lovely snowdrops. They are so delicate and as the RHS state are a very, very welcome assurance that the bright days of spring are on their way. Many crows…