Taking Stock – August

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

Cooking: Leek, Salmon & Spinach crustless quiche

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

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

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

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

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

Looking: more and more like autumn is imminent

Listening: to a dove coo

Wishing: for a crushed ice maker

Enjoying: looking back at my summer photos

Cawsand Bay, Cornwall

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

A very good August read

Eating: nothing yet after sourdough pizza last night

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

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

Buying: local eggs

Buckland Abbey, NT

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

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

See the cloud of dust?

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

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

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

Following: dancers and ice skaters on Insta

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

Getting: groceries delivered soon, must move

Coveting: a luxury glamping weekend with a friend

Feeling: that it’s time for more jasmine tea

Hearing: talk about SharePoint

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

Hello Hexie! A book review

Hello! How are you doing? Everything ok?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Granny Hexie

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

The Lacy Hexie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Patchwork Blanket – finished

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

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

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

Patchwork Blanket Details

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

Weight: 557g

Length: 40” / 112cm ish

Width: 31 1/2” / 80cm wide

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

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

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

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Now what to finish next?

Taking Stock – July

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

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

Sipping: Jasmine tea

Secret scrumping field location

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

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

My garden

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

Listening: to the rain falling

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

Barley field, on our circular 7 mile walk yesterday

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

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

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

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

Loving: cold plum crumble eaten with extra thick cream

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

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

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

Whichford Pottery, Warwickshire

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

Wearing: I’m not saying!

Hidcote Manor Garden, Gloucestershire

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

Following: which vegetables and fruits are now in season

Sorting: spiders into tissues

Buscot Park, Oxfordshire

Getting: restless

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

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

Buscot Park, Oxfordshire

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

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

Yahoooo!

I’m on the final row of the border!

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

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

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

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

Are you yahooooing! about anything this week?

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

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

Chanting

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

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

Joining method:

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

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

Back to the chanting and the doing.

Tell me two things?

Taking Stock – May

Making: glass spread all over the kitchen, yet again

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

Sipping: Assam Tea, no milk or sugar

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

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

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

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

Listening: to cutlery chinking and cupboards being opened

All vivid yellow now

Wishing: to be 6” taller

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buying: a new watch battery

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

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

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

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

Wearing: a ball gown and tiara

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

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

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

Getting: Ready to walk to buy cheese and fruit

Coveting: New clothes

Feeling: Clumsy!

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

Hearing: An aeroplane

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

A very sad loss

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


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

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

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

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

Joining

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are you up to?

Taking Stock – March

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

Cooking: Oat & Pecan Cookies

Sipping: Twinings English Breakfast tea

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

Waiting: to be able to travel freely

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

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

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

Enjoying: some sunnier days

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

Eating: lots of veggies this week

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

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

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

Managing: fine, with some sleep now

Watching: the New Taskmaster series on C4

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

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

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

Noticing: Spring has Sprung. Yippee!

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

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

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

Coveting: new clothes

Feeling: relaxed

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

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

Tell me a few things about your March?

Yarning Along – March

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My rating system is:

1* NOT good

2* Disappointing

3* OK, bit patchy

4* Really liked it

5* LOVED IT

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

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What are you making and reading?

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

Taking Stock – February

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Managing: fine, thanks!

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

Hoping: for family gatherings

Wearing: scruffs

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

Noticing: much lighter earlier mornings and later afternoons

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

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

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

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

Feeling: calm but keen for normal life to resume …

Hearing: the kitchen clock ticking

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

Plans for March?

Reasons to be Cheerful

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~~~

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

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

~~~

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

Yarn Along – February

Knitting

Have you heard about the new KAL on the block?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reading

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

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

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

What are you making and reading at the mo?

~~~~~

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

Taking Stock – January

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

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

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

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

Waiting: still waiting

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

Listening: to Taylor Swift’s Willow on the radio

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

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

Appreciating: having a comfortable warm house in a quiet area

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

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

Loving: crocheting and knitting regularly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wearing: my favourite fleecy top

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

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

Sorting: receipts

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

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

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

Coveting: FREEDOM

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

Hearing: the heating clicking

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

~~~~~

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

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

4 WIPS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yarn Along – January

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy New Year!

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

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

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

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

Eating: cheese & biscuits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Merry Christmas!

Good old NORAD

Merry Christmas! Are you having a good one?

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

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

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

Tell me about your Christmas?

What are you doing during Crimbo limbo?

Taking Stock – December

Making: knitting a chunky yellow and grey cowl

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

Sipping: Brewdog’s Zealots Heart gin

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

Waiting: for Christmas dinner! My favourite roast ever

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

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

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

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

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

Eating: mince pies laced with cognac, brandy & port

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

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

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

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

Zoom in to see the water droplets on the branches

Watching: The Prom film on Netflix tonight

Hoping: still the same as everyone else…

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

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

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

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

Getting: excited

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

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

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

Feeling: relaxed

Hearing: birds tweeting in the hedge outside my bedroom window

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

The brightest cowl in the world

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

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

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

Definitely not grey!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joining in with Ginny’s Yarn Along.

No wonder I felt relieved!

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

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

I started it in November 2018?!?!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I wonder who will end up wearing it?

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

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

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

Send them to:

Big Issue North,

463 Stretford Road,

Manchester,

M16 9AB

UK

Taking Stock – November

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

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

Sipping: Assam tea, without milk

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

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

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

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

Listening: to Deacon Blue’s City of Love album

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

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

Appreciating: good bright days for walking

During yesterday’s swift five miler

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ridiculous! Cute!

Wearing: comfy scruffs

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

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

Love these bud vases

Sorting: papers, I need to get shredding

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

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

Coveting: a step-ladder. Don’t ask!

Feeling: full of cinnamon eggy crumpets

Hearing: the sound of Someone making lunch

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Please Tell Me 3 Things?

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

Why I still love blogs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An autumn walk

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

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

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

I would say it was reluctant at best…

“Beautiful light today isn’t it?”

Perfect for photos.

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

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

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

Sheep! Sheeeep!

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

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

The Sun was really getting low now.

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

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

I listened. I’m Home!

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

Have a good weekend all.

Yarn Along – November

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

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

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

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

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

Halloween crochet

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Woodland Walk

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

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

I felt like I’d been through commando training!

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

Ohhhh. Not sure about including the sweet potatoes!

Do we want a pink dinner?

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

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

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

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Tell me a few things?

Taking stock – October

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

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

Sipping: drinking black Yorkshire tea

Reading: City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

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

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

Enjoying: pics of my nieces at the seaside

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

Liking: all the autumn colour

Blenheim Palace

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

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

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

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

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

Wearing: scruffs!

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

Noticing: changes in the trees and hedgerows

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

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

Getting: outside everyday

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

Bookmarking: autumn warmer recipes like this Mushroom Bhaji

Feeling: positive

Hearing: birds tweeting in the hedge

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

Autumn

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

Cooking:

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

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

T and her pots of rhubarb and ginger jam

T and his apple crumble / beef and ale pie

S made a chicken and tarragon pie

E made a huge apple pie

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

N has been looking up crabapple recipes

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

I adore messages like those!

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

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

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

Crafting:

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

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

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

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

Casper might be fun for a scarf.

Walking:

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

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

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

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

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

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

How are you finding autumn?

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

Yarn Along – October

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

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

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

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

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

Yarn Along – September

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I think I’ve read or listened to everything Tracy Chevalier’s written. I love her blend of historical fact and real life people blended with fictional characters. You can visit or Google most of the places in her stories too.

I enjoy stories set in America, especially during pioneer times. When I saw this paperback in one of favourite charity shops for £1 I grabbed it for my holiday read.

1838: James and Sadie Goodenough have settled where their wagon got stuck – in the muddy, stagnant swamps of northwest Ohio. They and their five children work relentlessly to tame their patch of land, buying saplings from a local tree man known as John Appleseed so they can cultivate the fifty apple trees required to stake their claim on the property. But the orchard they plant sows the seeds of a long battle. James loves the apples, reminders of an easier life back in Connecticut; while Sadie prefers the applejack they make, an alcoholic refuge from brutal frontier life.

1853: Their youngest child Robert is wandering through Gold Rush California. Restless and haunted by the broken family he left behind, he has made his way alone across the country. In the redwood and giant sequoia groves he finds some solace, collecting seeds for a naturalist who sells plants from the new world to the gardeners of England. But you can run only so far, even in America, and when Robert’s past makes an unexpected appearance he must decide whether to strike out again or stake his own claim to a home at last.
Source: GoodReads

I’m probably about 95% of the way through. It’s been a satisfying read, but I wonder if the story will abruptly end? There seems to be so much more to say and very few pages in which to say it. This is probably another way of saying that I don’t want it to end!

Joining in late with Ginny’s Yarn Along once again, but better late than never, right?

Coastal Crochet

Can you believe I forgot to bring any craft away with me, so the first thing I bought (apart from a pasty for lunch!) was a hook and 2 balls of yarn.

I know a nice little wool shop in the middle of Penzance so headed there first. The yarn I chose is Hayfield’s Spirit. It’s 20% wool and has a lovely soft feel. It isn’t the thickest DK but luckily works up well with the 4mm hook I bought. The colourway is ‘Breeze’, the blues and greys perfectly reflect the changing colours of the Cornish sea view we have from our cottage. It’s a few minutes walk from the South West Coast Path and overlooks the sea and a lighthouse.

I’ve brought my Tilted Squares blanket with me to snuggle under. That’s my one packing triumph this year; I always think I should bring a blanket away in September because it gets quite cool during evenings and at night. It’s such a cheery thing to see on a bed or sofa. All the complex patterns in the world can’t beat a bit of classic granny squaring! Ah! So why not make another?! I’m still deciding whether to go for a multi-square rectangular or one simple round and round you go square blanket.

My view as I sit up in bed in the morning:

It’s already named the Coast Path blanket, though this will probably change a few times. It won’t be tilting this time because I’m changing direction on every round.

I’m off to sip my tea, make some breakfast and discuss plans for the day now.

What are you making at the moment? Have you managed to go away anywhere?

Yarn Along – August

This photo was definitely not taken in the last few days. It’s been cool and rainy with 40+ mph winds again. But I did grab an hour to sit in the garden in gorgeous sun on Monday, and that’s when I finally finished my second make of the year. I’m so pleased with the pink and grey Rowan cottons together that I can’t bring myself to use it as an actual pot-holder yet. It’s hung on a cupboard door knob to be admired for a while. I know, I know….!

As for the other kind of yarn: I’m having a bit of a rereading fest at the mo. There are so many good books being published all the time plus trillions I haven’t read yet, but I’ve fancied rereading a few favourites for ages. And so I am. The first I finished this week: Bertie, May and Mrs Fish by Xandra Bingley. Quite brutal in parts but there’s something appealing about this unsentimental pen sketch of rural life on a farm in the post-war years.

My current library ebook is in prep for the next in the series, Big Sky which was published last year. I last read Started Early, Took my Dog by Kate Atkinson (one of my favourite authors) in 2011 so wanted a recap on where we left Jackson and with whom. I forget about the quality of her writing, there’s so much in this that I’m curious about and looking up: poems, poets, places and quotes.

Joining in better-late-than-never this month, just, with Ginny’s Yarn Along.

Late Summer Days

We’ve had a week of rain, some torrential – the kind which wakes you up in the night, the water butts are now brimful. A week and a half ago they were nearly empty.

It was such a relief to get out at the weekend to walk. To feel the sun and wind, without having to dash to seek cover under a tree. What a novelty!

Stowe National Trust, Buckinghamshire

If you want to see a bit more here’s a post from Stowe at Christmas a few years ago.

Look at those gorgeous bullrushes! What a place to rest and listen to the leaves rustling in the trees behind. We sat listening and chilling for ages.

The water’s really high – I think you can see how near it is to the line of trees.

After all the rain we then had 45 mph winds on Thursday, so found lots of conkers prematurely blown down. You can’t resist opening the cases, even though it’s way too early. Unripe of course, but deliciously smooth and as white as a milk chocolate.

Poor osteospermum (aka African Daisy, so my friend Jill tells me) nearly drowned in all the rain so came inside to dry off. Poor thing was flourishing and flowering a second time – go me, the deadheading Queen! – but started to look bedraggled and as if it was going to wither. I don’t blame it to be honest. I was starting to feel the same way.

I picked nearly all the tomatoes. There’s also a big dish full on the shelf at the bottom of that table. Umm and some on the kitchen windowsill. And 4 large dishes full on the lounge windowsill. And many cherry tomatoes still on the vine as they needed more growing time. Some 3-4 clumps of Money Maker I missed in the middle of the plants. And 2 large Marmande beefsteak tomatoes I noticed this morning! I worried about all the rain and Blossom End Rot getting to my lovely tomatoes so dashed out in a rare patch of dry. They’re all ripening well and taste great. I can’t tell the difference between ripened on the vine on the plant, or on the vine inside.

The jalapeño plants are groaning with peppers too. I’m feeling very green fingered this year…

I crocheted more rows after snapping these pics. The pieces now just need to be joined with a hanging loop added too. I always use my pot-holders. They’re so handy….groan.

The Lucky Dip thing was quite a cute plan for a little series of projects to get on with and as a blog focus, I thought. It’s not – oh bloody hell, guess what?! It’s raining! Again! Hard too. Can’t believe it. At least there’s no washing on the line – happening now though, because I fancied a rainy day sort-out on Thursday. I went through my long neglected craft bags and undid three or four makes that I’m not worried about finishing. Either they’re not that much fun to make or I don’t particularly like the yarn or pattern. Time’s moved on. I’ve got enough to be going on with for the rest of the year at the speed I knit and crochet now. Oh, and it occurs to me as I type that I’ve got sewing on the go too. I’d forgotten all about those bits and bobs. Let’s talk about something else, shall we!

We did a 7 mile circular walk yesterday and came across harvest in full swing. I love seeing combines, tractors and trailers gathering in the wheat.

It really feels as if we’re on the cusp of autumn now, doesn’t it? If you’re in the Southern Hemisphere do you feel Spring’s beckoning? What’s it like where you are in the world? What’s growing around you? Can you see harvest in progress or are you in the middle of a town or city? Are you green fingered? Eating anything you’ve grown? Bragging about it?

Around here the hedgerows are absolutely groaning with crabapples, sloes and blackberries. I’ve been googling recipes for sloes and crabapples which aren’t gin or jellies. There aren’t any, so far, which really appeal. We won’t use cordial or syrups and both grew up on sloe gin and can’t face it now. Doesn’t that sound dodgy. Can you imagine me clutching a bottle of liqueur in my pram?!

Today’s homegrown basil and tomatoes for brunch on dark Ryvita with Philadelphia cream cheese. A good grinding of sea salt and black peppercorns. Delicious!

Want to tell me a few things? I’d love it.

Three Good Things +4

A surprise

Homegrown tomatoes

The first of many. The vines are groaning with them, if they haven’t been washed away…

Including bottom shaped!

Rainy* Fridays

On rainy Friday mornings I quite often wake up feeling gleeful thinking bread, home-made soup, maybe scones or cake or cookies or…? Love baking Fridays. It means something a bit different for lunch.

Inspired by this shortcrust pastry pizza pinwheel recipe I used Sacla Fiery Chilli Pesto, 60g extra mature cheddar and a good sprinkle of dried oregano inside and on the tops. It’s been absolutely years and years since I made shortcrust pastry. I don’t often eat it, unless I buy a slice of quiche.

A new Library ebook

The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes. I only read a few chapters this morning and am hooked. I like the main characters, the American setting in the mountains of Kentucky and the historical background to the novel. Love it when a book grabs you from the start.

A good film on a Friday night

I’m just about to have a look for one actually, any recommendations? I have BBC iPlayer, BritBox (it’s really worth getting a month’s free trial.) Amazon prime and Netflix.

New gins

I’ve been given a bottle of Tanqueray No 10 and Rangpuir, plus a box tonic.

Friends

Friends who message you as they travel on their way to their holiday. Friends who send you pictures of what they’re baking and ask you what you’re making. Friends who send you pictures of their cute new puppy. Friends who say they can’t wait to go away for a weekend with you as soon as we can. Friends are GREAT.

———–

What are your Good Things?

*It hasn’t really stopped raining since before 6 am.  At times it’s been torrential – think tropical rainfall or someone standing above the house pouring a bucket out. I would show you a video of the garden, with the sound of it hitting the conservatory roof but I’m reflected in the window and no one needs to see me in my pyjamas.

Breaking my own rule

I know I said I’d do a lucky dip delve into my craft box to come up with bags containing mystery items. I’d concentrate on finishing, or unravelling, long ago started things before starting anything new, but blame my friend.

She messaged me last week with two shawl pattern pics asking which one she should pick. Then I say a day or so later that I really have an urge to knit.

“What’s prompted that?”

“You, you lemon!”

Ha!

Digging through my craft cube I found yarns I’d forgotten all about, some really nice stuff that’s been tucked away for a lonnnng time. I’d done that deadly thing of keeping it ‘for best’ and it ended up there for years. Today is the day I decided. Just make something, anything, with it.

Life’s a bit like that in general at the moment, isn’t it? On Simon Mayo’s Books of the Year podcast author Sabine Durrant said that she’s always finished books, no matter whether she’s enjoying them, or not. However now she will give up on some. It’s the same sort of thing. This year is making us think about some aspects of life a little differently.

It’s really pretty. The colourway is Spiced Plum and it’s by Fyberspates. It’s 100% merino 4 ply. Very pretty. I bought it years ago in iknit in Waterloo, London. I googled to see if they still sell it and found the shop has closed. I can’t find any more information about when, why or if they’ve moved. What a shame.

I’d kind of forgotten that with luxury skeins of hand-dyed yarn you can’t simply pick them up and start knitting; before you begin there’s hard manual labour to do!

I don’t know about you, but I can spend a very long time looking through patterns trying to decide what to make. This time I just went straight to things already saved in my Ravelry library and picked the first shawl pattern I saw: Close to You by Justyna Lorkowska.

Later I messaged my friend as actually it seems we’re doing a Knit Along! She didn’t pick either shawl in the end, but went for a pattern she’s used before. Here is hers in progress  and here’s mine (there was a knot and undyed piece of merino unfortunately, so I had to cut it. That’s why there’s a trailing end and separate ball. Beautifully hand wound, I think you’ll agree?)

What are you up to at the mo? Are you thinking life’s too short to save yarn for best, do you carry on reading books you’re not enjoying etc?

Taking Stock: July

Making: Edamame Wild Rice Salad from Nadiya Hussain’s Time to Eat book. This is delicious with salmon and salad, it’s full of flavour

Cooking: tonight’s Meatless Monday dinner is going to be Jamie’s Feta and Courgette Fritters, we have a bunch of homegrown gifted courgettes to use. Recipe here

Drinking: Schweppes 1783 tonic in weekend G&Ts

Reading: Just started Platform Seven by Louise Doughty

Wanting: life to go back to normal

Playing: The Confession audio book by Jessie Burton

Deciding: what groceries to order for Wednesday’s delivery

Wishing: for an effective vaccine for all

Enjoying: the lovely weather

Waiting: to eat homegrown tomatoes

Liking: Pip’s Peachy Playlist on Spotify. Here

Wondering: if it’s way too late to buy and plant peas?

Loving: seeing all these photos from yesterday’s visit to Hidcote Manor Garden

Considering: whether to pick and ripen tomatoes inside or wait and wait and wait

Buying: Moshulu sandals in their sale

Watching: Killing Eve. We’re up to series 2 now. Behind on watching trends, as usual, isn’t it GOOD?!

Hoping: for a sunny birthday for a friend tomorrow

Marvelling: at some people’s interpretation of how to wear a mask

Cringing: at you know who and you know what – the chaos and mixed messages we hear on a weekly (daily?) basis

Needing: to meet up with groups of others, I miss being with groups of nice people

Questioning: when will this end?

Smelling: a curry plant somewhere in Hidcote garden yesterday, wow it was pungent!

Wearing: shorts

Following: Jamie Oliver, nice summer recipes

Knowing: I need to call the garage today about a small repair

Thinking: I need to buy a new handbag after the strap came unstitched suddenly in the garden yesterday

Admiring: people’s generosity in sewing face masks for their local community

Sorting: The (new) Little Room – soon. It’s on my list!

Getting: orange sticker bargains on a Sunday afternoon. It’s prime time I tell you! Sausages and turkey thigh mince which went straight on the BBQ and in the freezer yesterday

Bookmarking: recipes. Always. I make only a fraction of them!

Coveting: a long-handled baker’s razor

Disliking: smoke coming into the house on summer evenings

Opening: windows wide – it’s a lovely morning

Giggling: at Young Offenders. They are quite sweet really and I really like Mairead

Feeling: chilled

Snacking: not really snacking at the mo

Helping: when I can

Hearing: news on the radio right now

Mixing: socks! I looked down on Saturday when out for a walk and had odd socks on

Worrying: trying not to. It’s pointless

Slicing: onions and mushrooms for an impromptu Blacksticks Blue cheese sauce to go with steak last night

Celebrating: all the good things

Forgetting: not so much – iPhone reminders help

Winning: £3 on the Euro Millions lottery on Friday. Then stupidly paid £2.20 for one can of Diet Coke (daylight robbery and it’s actually horrible isn’t it?!)

Pretending: I’ll hoover today. I might not, but definitely this week

Sneaking: nothing, sorry

Embracing: only one person – Covid y’know. I miss hugging and kissing family and friends

All photos (apart from my salad pic!) are from a visit yesterday to Hidcote Manor Garden, a National Trust property.

—-

It’s a combination of well thought out and a kind of fingers-crossed-it’s-ok decision to go anywhere much at the moment, isn’t it?

We wondered what it would be like at Hidcote: following a one-way system around the garden, how many would be allowed in for each half an hour booking, would it feel fraught, rather than relaxed? Or should we be sticking to walking local footpaths where we aren’t generally meeting anyone?

I’m very glad we visited. It was good. Very nice to see the garden, to chat at a distance to other friendly visitors, to be able to use the cafe in takeaway style, look around the NT shop (10 people in at a time) and then picnic at one of the many benches under shady trees. I adore seeing proper tablecloths on picnic benches. These are large round tables too, which seat eight, so it’s somehow even more impressive that people do it and it looks so fancy.

If you’d like to see more photos from Hidcote I have written posts about visits there before: June 2014 and August 2015

Three Good Things

I’ve seen Three Good Things lists around quite a bit lately. Stopping to think about the good things means you’re focusing on positives.

They can be big things or small things, even really tiny things. I think that’s probably the point – noting even ordinary things for which you are appreciative and grateful; such as a perfect cup of tea, the smell of clean laundry or a funny shaped cloud that drifted by. It’s valuable practice, particularly during these strange and worrying times as it anchors you to what’s good.

Actually, I have a FB friend who has posted her ‘Happies for today’ for literally years and years. They’re nice to read as well as well as helping her.

I’m going to post mine here whenever I fancy. So here’s today’s:

1: Greengages

I look out for these plums every summer. They aren’t around in the supermarkets for long and when I see them I snap them up. These are the first I’ve seen this year.

These were grown in Kent (England.) So sweet and tasty.

2: Flowers

Just a few from my garden, it’s absolutely full of colour and buzzing. It’s bee paradise out there!

Hydrangea – this was taken in late June. It’s now changing colour but just as lovely

Lace hydrangea – perfection!

Finally the agapanthus flowers have begun opening – I always loved seeing these along a part of the Thames Path in London. This is the first time I’ve had any in my garden. There are more too.

First Japanese anemone to open

Osteospermum. I bought this in June. You see how it’s trebled since I repotted it? It’s now absolutely covered in buds again too. A close up of the flowers – all different shades of purple.

So kind – I was offered this bunch of dahlia straight out of someone’s vase. She has grown herself a flower garden and said she could always pick herself some more. Aren’t they beauties?

3: Being able to do a bit of crochet again!

Not too often and very carefully, but you can imagine how much I’m enjoying it. This was yesterday, sitting on my garden bench while listening to some music.

That’s the second side of my pot holder. Then when that’s done I’ll be pulling out my next Lucky Dip from my craft box of mystery long-ago started items!

~~~***~~~

Would you like to post your Three Good Things somewhere? With or without photos, anywhere you fancy. Even in a notebook or on a scrap of paper no one else will ever see. It’s for you. But if you do fancy sharing – tag me! I’d love to see yours.

A walk

As we started off on our walk earlier I was saying how twee I find the ‘Come for a walk?’ kind of blog post. I always find myself involuntarily wincing, but then usually really enjoy the pics; especially when they’re from another county. Yorkshire or Cornwall are definitely in the top five locations.

During the first part of lockdown when we were at home, making essential journeys only and going out to exercise once a day, I started recording highlights of my walks for my friends on Facebook. Apparently that inspired some to do the same. I loved seeing where they’d walked, run or cycled that day. A change of scenery is always welcome.

Here’s this morning’s walk for you, from The Cotswolds.

We’ve walked a mere 10 minutes and found a small plum tree. I picked half a dozen to share. Result! Tasty and sweet. Someone thinks they are mirabelle, do you agree? They’re bigger than damsons, smaller than victorias.

That sky looks ominous, doesn’t it?

Plenty of sloes all the way along the path and fields around. I might have a try at making sloe and blackberry jam or something else new. It used to be a family thing to make sloe gin, but actually none of us really like it anymore. I now think it tastes like cough medicine, too syrupy and far too sweet. The thought of sloe gin has nudged me into remembering there’s a bottle of unopened damson gin given by friends the Christmas before last, somewhere at home and still unopened.

I’d paused again and said I must take a picture of the vine (my brother and I called them Tarzan vines when children.) Are they part of very old ivy plants?

Lesser or common burdock. So pretty.

I’ve been trying to identify this using the Butterfly Conservation site. I wondered if it’s a moth, rather than butterfly, but haven’t come up with anything on that section either. I sent the picture to a friend whose husband is apparently a moth geek, presumably he’s also a butterfly geek.

More future foraging opportunities; a tree laden with crab apples. I bet there’s plenty you can make with these too. Have you ever?

Ahhh fields of barley, it’s the feathery rippling in the breeze that gets me. I also like the log. It looks like it’s been carefully placed there for people to perch on and admire the views.

I’m sure I’ve taken photos here several times before, it’s like looking out of a picture window. It had started to rain, but because we were in a tunnel of trees, with deep hedges either side we could hardly feel it. My jacket was still tied around my waist, as it was rather on the humid side in fact.

Uh-oh here we go! Out from the tunnel of trees appraoching what I always call the Crossroads, where the footpath and bridleway cross, and it was raining on us a little more now.

I had stopped for a drink of water and we put our jackets on, there was no ignoring the rain now, but it was refreshing and I always like the sound as it plops on my raincoat’s hood. 

The view was now wheat fields all around. The combines have started harvesting crops around the area this week; so I have to make the most of the golden views while I can.

The rain had become torrential at this point and so we were sheltering under a large oak tree when suddenly I saw something going up and down in the wheat field, about 20 feet away. Another bounce and we realised it was a pair of very straight ears: a hare! When we stopped talking it seemed to stop bouncing. So I sang ‘Oh I do like to be beside the seaside’ (I’m not sure why that song) in a gentle bid to get it moving again. If it was, we could no longer see it.

Thunder had started crashing overhead. It was definitely time to carry on.

Ten minutes later in the torrential rain I took this photo of a beautiful thistle under a tree and we decided the wisest thing would be to turn around and go home; we were soaked through to the skin. I realised my coat must need re-proofing. This is the first time I’ve ever been properly wet during a rainstorm, it’s served me well in the three or so years since I bought it. We squelched along the field edge, kicking up muddy spray.

By the time we got home we’d walked over five miles and were so wet through that we had to peel off our sodden and muddy clothes in the kitchen, to put them straight into the washing machine.

I stood in my underwear eating a few Big Hula Hoops and sipping cold lager out of a can before going up to change. That’s a pretty good ending to a walk!

Lucky Dip No. 1.

So, I’ve delved into my craft box and the lucky dip of unfinished makes brought up this pretty little bag that I barely remember sewing. I had no idea what it contained either! If it’s a sock it’s going to the bottom of the box. You probably knew that already, right?

I’m always so perfectionist when it comes to sewing. All I can see is wobbly lines of stitches after I’ve made something. But now I look at the straightness of the top stitching and the fact that the bag is double lined (contrasting green fabric inside) and I’m quite impressed with myself! Must do more sewing and stop trying to be a perfectionist. Expecting to be absolutely A1 at something new means your enjoyment is sapped and then I really don’t do any at all. I can’t remember the last time I got my machine out. If only someone would do the cutting out for me. Anyone else have a struggle cutting accurately?!

Anyway, back on topic. Lucky dip…

I don’t know that you’ve even seen this before? I bought the Rowan cotton in a sale for silly money in a knit and crochet shop after a dentist appointment. I do remember that part!

It was during my non-crafting time when I thought I might have a go at something simple; but of course using cotton isn’t at all easy on the hands even in normal times, so I crocheted what you see and put it away.

Less trying to get the agapanthus in the background and more of the crochet!

I note that it’s not even listed in my Ravelry projects. Luckily this is a stitch I’ve used before to make textured dishcloths and pot holders. I found the pattern written in my little notebook and I’d even marked the page, so I can carry on with it where I left off. Hurray!

I’ll combine this with a late entry to Ginny’s Yarn Along as I’m really into a novel that most probably read years ago: Sebastian Faulks novel Engleby. I’m listening to the audio version, but also reading bits and bobs as I have an e-library book too. I found it realllllly good to listen to while doing an hour and a half of deadheading and weeding in the garden on Tuesday. We’ve just been away for 5 days and the garden was bursting with growth and many, many faded blooms. So much housekeeping, but worth it for all the colour and general loveliness.

My concentration has improved again and I’ve been racing through books for the last few months.

My other book is a 99p deal I bought the other night. It’s very on the light side, but I’m quite interested in the story so won’t give up on it, though was very tempted to about a third of the way in. It’s The Missing Letters of Mrs Bright by Beth Miller.

Tell me what you’re making and reading at the mo? Please? If you’re not doing either, what’s keeping you busy?

Under the Stars blanket – finished

This afternoon I made a decision to finish the Sleep Under the Stars blanket. It’s lovely and squishy. The yarn is soft and great to crochet. I’ve enjoyed working on it. Crochet is sporadic, because otherwise it’s just too uncomfortable to do much of anything without discomfort for days afterwards. Dratted hand, but never mind it’s just the way things are and at least I can still do a bit and not zero. So that’s fine. It has to be, doesn’t it?

It’s now a nice warm lap size blanket for an adult, or a good sized blanket for a baby to snuggle under. I hadn’t really thought about it one way or another, but this afternoon I found myself thinking that I’d do one more round then darn in the ends. And that was it!

Of course it means I’ve got quite a few balls of lovely chunky Paintbox yarn to use on something else, however my plan is now to work through things I started agessss ago. I think this working through means to either undo or finish them. There are definitely a few things lurking that I know I’m not interested in wearing, or making any more. At my current speed this might take the rest of the year and perhaps till Easter next year! Depends how many I abandon…I could go ballistic in an unravelling sort of sense. That’s a dodgy looking sentence and no mistake. I’ve obviously been reading too much Engleby lately (I can’t put it down. There have been a few books like that since May when my reading and concentration picked up again.)

No worries either way – crochet is not about speed or productivity anymore. It has got to be about making things I really want to make. I just decided on a whim that I didn’t really need a full-sized star shaped blanket after all, and a happy byproduct of this is that I get that old whoosh of relief and happy feeling of having completed something nice.

What next?

I might plunge my hand into the craft box and pull out a bag, as if from a lucky dip tub. I can’t quite remember what’s in there.

Finish or unravel?

Wait and see….. I’ll be back…

The antidote

It’s a really long time since I woke up and fancied doing a bit of crochet first thing in the morning. So I got up straight away, before this state of mind disappeared, and along the way quickly mixed some enriched dough to bake soft white sourdough rolls later (This excellent recipe.) Then gathered up my yarn and hook to do a star shaped round back in bed, while I sipped jasmine tea. I also caught up with some of last night’s Liza Tarbuck radio show.

It was a pleasure to wake up feeling so positive and energised after what’s been my worst week of lockdown so far. I asked friends on Thursday if:

“Anyone else feeling *really* fed up with it all this week, like it’s the hardest so far now?

Relentless. Dull. Negativity everywhere. The weather change probably doesn’t help.”

The answers came flooding in and without exception everybody said they felt exactly the same.

Yesterday I found the antidote to feeling really fed up:

~Sunshine and blue skies

~A really good 7.3 mile circular walk

~Walking another – new to us – section of Shakespeare’s Way

~Bumping into a friend in a churchyard

~Going to her garden for tea and chocolate cornflake cakes

~Non-stop chatter and LAUGHTER

~Stroking her sweet cats

~Walking back reflecting on what a cheer-up fest new scenery and seeing a good friend is!

~Well earned G&Ts & Bombay mix

I think all that helped to create the buzz of energy and positivity I’m feeling this morning.

How are you finding life? Hope you’re ok. What’s your antidote?