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?

Taking stock: June

Making: overnight oats to eat with a drizzle of honey, strawberries or raspberries. Raspberries are a fantastic with an apple topping too

Cooking: white ish sourdough (I use dark rye flour to feed my starter, so it’s usually a bit more beige than white) sourdough pizza and oat & raisin cookies last week. Fewer flour based foodstuffs this week!

Sipping: jasmine tea. Think I always say that, don’t I?

Reading: Out of Bounds by Val McDermid. So good and I’ve only read a chapter and a bit. I fell asleep after reading 2% of the book last night. So that was roughly 5 minutes reading and 30 asleep. Sigh. I’ll have to sit up in bed to read, but even then I start nodding. This never happened until last year or so #older

Waiting: for many places and groups to open again, as we all are. I miss lots of things and people

Looking: at a fragrant bunch of pink pinks I’ve just cut in the garden

Listening: to Michael Crawford on Desert Island Discs with Sue Lawley, must be an old episode. The radio was tuned to BBC 4 extra when I turned it on (later: it is a vintage ep, she’s just said he’s 57 and I’ve just googled and now he’s 78!)

Wishing: for a pair of socks. Cold feet but listening, eating and looking at the moment so obviously too busy to go upstairs!

Enjoying: Michael Crawford’s story about meeting Gene Kelly

Appreciating: my lovely garden

Eating: overnight oats, honey and strawberries as I type/dictate/listen

Liking: the slightly cooler weather. Variety is good. We know that as soon as we’re able to rent holiday cottages and stay in hotels again that the weather will be atrocious anyway, don’t we?

Loving: Vera on BritBox. I’m new to it, so am watching in order from series one. Isn’t she gloriously grumpy?

Buying: avocados, we can’t seem to get enough of them at the moment

Managing: my wild lockdown hair

Watching: my sandalled toes when the bees are visiting the campanula flowers – they get very near!

Hoping: to be able to sing with my group again before the end of the year

Wearing: t-shirt and cropped jeans, probably need long trousers and socks and a cardie today. It’s been 25° for days and days, now it’s 15°

Following: James Corden on his USA tv show. Watch this clip

Noticing: how sore my hand still feels after a little bit of crochet on the new star blanket last week #Boo

Sorting: receipts. Next

Getting: those longer trousers and socks before

Bookmarking: local walks info, there are so many, so so many different paths and bridleways

Coveting: really comfortable loungers for the conservatory. Dozing, reading, sipping drinks while using type. Any recommendations?

Mr Scrappy went to his first non-essential items shop this week. He was the only customer. He felt like dancing and treated himself to some glitter gel pens for £2

Feeling: full

Hearing: the kitchen clock ticking and Michael Crawford singing

List copied from Pip’s marvellous Meet me at Mikes blog. It’s the one blog that I always return to. I read it in batches. I much prefer reading some blogs in batches, rather than one post here and there; I feel you hear their voices more clearly and get a grip on what they’re doing and where they are in life. Hers never fails to cheer me up if needed and makes me feel inspired. Thanks Pip.

Why don’t you have a go at writing a Taking Stock post? Then throw up some accompanying pics, if you like, it’s fun to write (and hopefully read) them.

New & Exciting

Sarah from LoveCrafts.com contacted me recently. Happily, I realised I could probably say yes to a craft related offer for the first time in yonks!

LoveCrafts.com were previously LoveKnitting and LoveCrochet but they’ve bought all together in one website. They’re on instagram too and their account is @lovecrafts.com Apparently they check out all posts which include #LoveCrafts and feature some on their page.

Sarah wrote:

We are currently celebrating all things free, including the thousands of Free Crochet Patterns on our site! We would love for you to join the party – pick out a pattern and we’d love to send you the yarn to give the pattern a go yourself and share this with your readers so they can get involved also.

Whoop! Free Yarn! And why not?

One of my favourite crochet peeps Emma of Lulu Loves uses Paintbox Yarns often. I’ve always thought how squishy and soft the thicker yarns look. This offer seemed like the perfect opportunity to try some myself.

I chose a blanket pattern from their many free crochet patterns and my own colour palette.

Then I had a complete change of heart about the pattern, because dithering seems to be my new thing these days, but the yarn was already on the way. Oops. Oh well, I decided that actually my first big make should be something easy and relaxing. A summer crochet project which I could pick up and put down and which wouldn’t put my hand under too much pressure.

Plan B has worked out REALLY well because the Sleep Under the Stars blanket has got a similar overall quantity of yarn and it’s a really fun pattern. I’ve made three similar Star Ripple baby blankets before and I kept thinking how good it would be to have an adult sized star blanket to snuggle under… Wish now granted!

I chose Paintbox Simply Chunky in the following shades:

Granite grey / Mustard yellow / Slate grey / Misty grey / Pure black / Stormy grey

I was right about the yarn being squishy and incredibly soft. I’m loving it. Chunky yarn and a 6 mm hook means the pattern works up really quickly which is good as I’m limiting how much I do. I definitely made the right final pattern choice and I’m really happy!

What are you up to during these continuing lockdown days?

Lockdown excitement

This afternoon we wandered down to the station and to my excitement a new looking GWR train whooshed into the station, bound for London. So tempted for a split second to jump on, especially when we talked to the ticket collector and she said there were only three passengers on board…I’m really missing London, or going anywhere really. My feet are always itchy.

Then we found a new to us bridleway. I don’t know about you but in a quest to find local walks we have discovered so many bridleways and footpaths. But then we are lucky to be living in a paradise for walkers and cyclists.

It was an exhilarating walk on a very windy day, with absolutely stunning views west and rippling fields of wheat.

Praise be that the toilets were open, or at least the gents (ladies in the locked waiting room) and we could both use it on our return. We both marvelled at how it was the first public toilet we’ve been in for a long time!

Then to the Co-Op for tonic and he found orange sticker sausages for the win.

#LockdownExcitement

Yarning along

Yes! A little crochet is happening nowadays. As long as I don’t do too much at a time, then have a break for a day or two it seems ok. And today it was in the lovely sunny weather that’s returned. It was 22 degrees today, perfect for sitting in the garden with a hook in hand and a good audio book playing.

What do you think I’m making? I wonder if you’ll get it?

I usually easily read a book a week, have done for years, but during the current situation, for the last two months, I’ve found it really difficult to concentrate. I think I’ve probably read little more than a book a month. Personally it was a really terrible time, then less terrible and then full of sheer relief and joy (I don’t think anyone has clapped as loudly to thank the NHS!) Now life has mostly gone back to the current new normal. Thank goodness.

Anyway, let’s move on.

My last audio book was the inspiration for the film Blinded by the Light: Greetings from Bury Park by Sarfraz Manzoor too. (Here it is from Audible.)

Have you also experienced the lack of concentration thing? I’ve been all over the place. Not just with reading, but that has stood out.

Things seem to be improving now and luckily I’ve chosen the perfect book for me right now. Isn’t it magical when that happens?

Remarkable Creatures is based upon the real lives of Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot. Here’s the blurb from Google books:

Mary Anning, born in a poor family, lived in Lyme Regis and from an early age was fascinated by the fossils, then called snake stones and devil’s toenails, that could then be picked up on the beaches. She became far more interested when she realised that these could be sold to the gentry who had grown into avid collectors. She was supported by her family in her enterprise but was often ripped off by the buyers and derided by the scientists. One person came to her rescue: Elizabeth Philpot, daughter of a wealthy family who had settled in Dorset to escape the stultifying respectability of genteel London society. The two women, of different ages and very different class and background, became unlikely friends but the relationship was to take on stranger twists as the excitement of the fossil discoveries – Mary Anning finds the first complete plesiosaur – turns to religious difficulties as the importance of these finds begins to spread.

I already really rate Tracey Chevalier’s writing. The amount of research she does underpin her novels and is reflected in the quality of her writing. She has the knack of bringing dry facts and histories to life. Her stories are never dull and are populated with sympathetic and believable characters.

I’ve got exciting news to tell you about. Exciting for me after all this time. That won’t be for a bit. I might even be back with another post before…calm yourselves – I know that is a lot to take in!

What are you Yarning Along making and reading? Let’s do this again from time to time. I wasn’t sure what to write about, but knew I wanted to again today, so fell back on one of my old favourites. But it only really works if you join in too. Thanks for reading. I can’t wait for your comments.

Joining in belatedly this month with Ginny.

Hello

Hello,

I know: it’s been so long. I’ve thought about writing lots of times. I’ve been astounded at the number of people still signing up to follow an inactive blog and how many weekly views it’s continued to gather and felt a bit guilty about my continued silence. But that’s not the reason I’m here now. We have all found ourselves in an unprecedented time. All around the world we are in it together. As the situation has unfolded I’ve found myself wondering if I will wake and realise it’s all been a bad dream. I thought now might be the time to wave hello, to write to try to make sense of what’s happening (impossible) and show you some pretty colourful photos. It might help? I’ve just messaged Trish (Made by Patch) and said she needs to blog too as it’s morale boosting! I can just imagine her rolling her eyes.

So why the sudden silence last June? I think I’d better explain as briefly as I can, but as I seem to have lost my non-waffle mode sorry, it’s probably going to be anything but.

Here goes: I didn’t want to put myself under pressure to craft and just didn’t think a craftless craft blog was particularly interesting to read, or write. (I don’t blame you if you’ve got this far and are already yawning. Go if you like. Wash your hands, then go straighten something, dance around the kitchen or polish a mirror.) It had all been a bit of an effort last summer so I paused with the intention of not trying craft again till September. I did try, but it just made my hand too sore and I realised that crochet etc shouldn’t be my priority; instead it should be aiming for pain free normal usage, not putting my hand under stress for the sake of a hobby. It was a hard decision. I’ve missed the soothing mindfulness and feeling of creating something useful for others, but have kept busy doing other things like walking (I smashed my target of walking 1000 miles, I actually walked 1,100 miles) baking sourdough bread for the Bread Monsters and reading lots of books etc etc. I withdrew from Instagram and other crafty social media too as it was just to depressing to see. When I packed up my craft kit, the other week, I realised how many half started items I have. Maybe one day they will be finished. The rehabilitation has been slow, but I can now manage lots of normal day to day stuff without much thought. After nearly 2 years, so it should be!

A fortnight ago yesterday we moved. It’s been a really strange time going from a street where we knew all our immediate neighbours and felt part of a very friendly community, to somewhere where I haven’t even seen any neighbours apart from two, because obviously everybody is staying close to home or working longer hours. I’ve written lists of things to do, order, items to unpack, areas of the house and garden to sort and clean, but it’s been a strange few weeks. It’s a juggle between settling into a brand-new house and area (although not a million miles away from the last) trying to think what we need before a potential lockdown, combined with worrying about family. I’m not unique in experiencing any of that, I know. We’re all in it together.

I’ve cancelled my hair appointment for Tuesday. I either have to learn to colour my own hair or embrace a streak of grey, eek! So far my car is still on to be MOTed at the garage on Monday. Luckily I just usually pop the keys through the letter box, so that should minimalise any interaction until I pick it up. I’ve ordered and received spare asthma inhalers. I checked that Mum has a grocery order coming (today actually after a week or more wait, but she’s lucky to have a slot as long as it hasn’t been cancelled this morning) and I’m crossing my fingers that she gets some of what she’s ordered. However I seem to be far more concerned than she is. She said: “Rachel to be honest I’m not really worried if they don’t bring me any pies, as long as they bring me a bottle of whisky and a gin!” I’m missing her, it seems like a long time since we’ve seen each other. Skype is awful. It’s been years since I used it and when I tested my laptop I could not see or hear my friend. On my iPhone I could not be seen and heard, but could see and hear him. I’m so used to switching on WhatsApp and selecting the call or video icons and it works. I’m not sure that a lot of the older generation are going to be savvy using Skype or want to, but I would be happy to be able to see them in person.

Panic shopping has really meant that some of the elderly and vulnerable have missed out, although I read of so many good things in communities and people looking out for each other. If you need help, please reach out to people around you, there are many genuine people and local organisations gearing up for good in this situation. In some neighbourhoods people have set up a system where if you need something, and are socially distancing yourself or self isolating, you put up a sign in your window saying HELP. Another I’ve read about is if you need help you put a red piece of paper up in the window, or something green if all is okay. A few older people that I know have had outdoor coffee mornings in front gardens this week. They’ve brought their own chair and their own mug of coffee and sat at safe distances from each other. Such a great idea!

I haven’t panic shopped but I did go to the supermarket and picked up a few things for the week, on Monday, as I needed fresh fruit and veg. For that I’m really grateful since it was pretty quiet generally, although it was slightly busier than it would normally have been. My brother said he was not panic buying either, but was getting a few things every day. He had bread flour, chorizo and Parmesan in his rucksack. I found myself panicking about odd things like being out of cumin seeds. I think it’s just how anxiety can manifest at the beginning of something unsettling. Or, it’s just me being plain weird. Later that afternoon Someone left a note on the fridge with a full inventory of the alcohol in the house. #Priorities ?!

On Tuesday I made the decision to socially distance myself, so I have stayed away from people and only left the house a couple of times to walk. I’m on the vulnerable list healthwise and so I am trying to be sensible. I’ve heard that it’s not a case of living so you don’t catch the virus; you assume that you’ve got it and try your best not to give it to other people. The thought that it might be for 12 weeks, as was reported in the media at the beginning of the week, was extremely daunting, And now it seems things might be a whole lot worse. A few friends have a strong feeling, this morning, that we are about to be informed that we must lock down neighbourhoods, only travelling to collect food, work or for medical reasons. I hope they’re wrong, but it’s probably what’s needed.

I’ve been using the following advice this week:

By Wednesday, hearing that my evening class and other appointments had been cancelled for the forseeable future, it was starting to feel very real. Our holiday was cancelled and so we’ve had to claim refunds or credits. I was unpacking a box of summer clothes and my phone was pinging every five minutes with emails from companies and organisations. The creative alternatives springing up online have been brilliant; I have joined a virtual choir group to replace my singing class and I’m sure there are lots of x-alongs going on on Instagram. I completely failed with the first virtual choir rehearsal. I was cooking dinner and my alarm suddenly went off at 7:15pm scaring the Bejesus out of me. I couldn’t work out what it was for and wondered if it might be a mistakenly snoozed alarm, so carried on cooking. I didn’t realise it was my own 15 minute warning, so that I would get a glass of water, go to the loo and log in to sing, until the next morning. D’oh!

On Thursday I went for my first walk distancing myself from others which wasn’t difficult as it was raining. I took photos to share with friends from my walk on Thursday and on Friday, those are the pictures you’re seeing.

Friday’s task was to unpack another box (ornaments) and keep myself out of the way of the plumber. I really regret sending my 1,000 Movies Before You Die (soz, unfortunate title) to the charity shop. What a time to get rid of it. I offered to chat to anyone on the ‘phone who need it, but it’s early days so I think people are okay. However I’ve never had so many messages and emails from many friends and family as I did last week. Constant streams of WhatsApp messages, Facebook messages, messenger chats and emails. This morning I woke to so many notifications. People are really striving to keep connected and keep up with each other. It’s really warming and reassuring. I think my generation are going to have to be careful that we don’t just do everything in type, someone on the radio this morning was recommending that everyone try to make three phone calls a day; so that we stay connected by more than font.

As I sat dictating this post my ‘phone pinged with this, he’s an idiot. I can’t really knit still anyway. Or…can I?!?!

There was a knock at the door yesterday and a case of wine from The Wine Society and two bottles of whisky were delivered. The inventory had obviously highlighted a lack… ha! I was endeavouring to continue Dry Lent, but accepted it’s not the ideal time this year so had a G&T and a glass of red last night. I’m going back to abstinence until next Friday if I can.

Keep cosy and appreciate those woolies. You’ll be so grateful for all the times when you were churning out blankets and scarfs and hats and hot water bottle covers. I have been! This was taken last Saturday morning, when I was reading in bed. I’ve never been so grateful for bright colourful stripes, there is something so reassuring about them.

So lovelies: we sit tight, listen to what is best for us to do from those who know,
take care of ourselves, and people around us; if we can do so safely. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and to say when you need to talk to someone.

Yarn Along – June

Sunday’s National Trust secondhand booksale find! £2:50, only published last year and in mint condition. By Lisa Cook – Lisasattik on Insta.

The day after I tried knitting again ( see here ) I went off to my favourite yarn shop to buy some yarn to celebrate. Someone was away on a 10 day fishing trip and had left me emergency money only to be used in case of emergency. Last time I went on a massive pub crawl with a friend until the early hours, this year I was very, very sensible and hadn’t touched any of it. A few days before his return I thought a little might be well spent on a couple of bottles of Cornish Orchards cider and a ball of new yarn. Solid plan?

I was thinking of buying something neutral, perhaps to crochet a motif at a time; as I’m trying to rehabilitate my hand after injury last year (as you already know.) Making small pieces to eventually turn into a blanket is doable in short bursts, especially as I reckon you-can-never-make-too-many-blankets. So, of course when I got home it was with variegated yarn with glittery thread through it….and a shawl pattern.

It’s Katia Silver Paint (100) and is a soft mix of acrylic and a little wool, the glittery thread is gold. It crochets up really nicely. I’m making an Ana Lucia shawl. It’s going to be slow, but slow progress is better than no progress. This has been my mantra for most of the last year.

I’m still reading Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks, this is not being devoured at all, but I’m determined to finish it. I don’t dislike the book, but it’s rather dry and the telling feels slow. It doesn’t help that I often find I’ve nodded off while reading at bedtime (a new and slightly worrying development) and my Kindle has long gone into sleep mode too.

I also started to read Tracey Thorn’s memoir Another Planet: a Teenager in Suburbia She writes in an engaging style.

I have two audio books on the go too: Audible’s version of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road; I really like Matt Dillon’s performance of this, his accent and voice are good and finally Ruby Wax’s new one: No Brainer. She always makes me chuckle; I like her Sane New World: Taming the Mind.

What are you making and reading?

Joining in with Ginny’s monthly Yarn Along once again. Hurrah!

Bluebell woodland

A walk on a lovely warm May morning in the bluebell wood.

It is an annual tradition to go whenever the bluebells are flowering, to listen to the swell of birdsong, to notice the leaves on the trees rustling in the breeze, to drink in the haze of colour of the bluebells and to smell their dusky sweet perfume. This only seems to happen if the breeze is blowing in the right direction, or the sun is filtering through the leaves of the trees above to warm the flowers. When I catch the scent it instantly reminds me of other walks in this wood.

When you see the candles on a horse chestnut tree you don’t expect them to be such pretty flowers, do you?

We were the only people in the woods this visit, apart from at the beginning of the walk when a girl came out of one of the paths onto ours, carrying her puppy. She said she was worried because he is very young and gets so excited, he would be jumping up at us. I’m ashamed to admit that this country girl replied: “Oh good because today I put new jeans on and I don’t want muddy paws all over the legs!”

It was a dachshund puppy…I’m blushing as I remember.

Mum and I have looked out for deer since the time we came across a huge pair running in the field at the back of the woods.

I regularly see muntjac deer where I walk at home, but that pair (roe deer I think) near the bluebell woods were enormous. And scary. But exhilarating and wonderful too.

This time we experienced mild disappointment when we left, the wildest animal having been a small over-excited puppy with mucky paws…

Celandine and bluebells look so eye catching together. There are delicate patches of celandine in the woods. So fragile, some are along the very fringes of the paths, that I watch where I place my feet. Aren’t those dark green heart shaped leaves lovely?

Here are links to my previous bluebell posts:

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

My next post will feature some crochet!

Taking Stock – May

Beautiful wisteria this month

Making: salads – chicken with a bit of blue cheese, inspired by my friend who’s obsessed with it for lunch right now!

Cooking: rhubarb and clementines

Drinking: fizzy water, sounds virtuous but have had quite a few ciders over the Bank Holiday weekend. Sunshine, sea and cider go together beautifully

Lovely bluebells. I’m going to do a separate bluebell post because it’s an annual tradition I don’t want to skip

Reading: Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks

Wanting: new jogging bottoms for Pilates

Playing: Everything Under by Daisy Johnson – my new audio book

Buscot Park, National Trust

Deciding: to try not to fall asleep over my Kindle at bedtime!

Wishing: to live nearer the sea

Enjoying: the sunshine

Waiting: for the new Gavin & Stacey Christmas Special! Exciting!!!!!

Evening walks with that gorgeous golden light as the sun gets lower, has been a treat this May

Liking: how green everything is, May is one of my favourite months. Colour everywhere

Wondering: when to stop this to make my hair appointment on time

Loving: sleeping well (not the last two nights, but there’s always tonight)

A new walk, discovered the other Sunday

Pondering: what’s next for the country

Considering: eating some breakfast before I leave, better rush

Buying: groceries online

Swansea marina and Swansea market – those Welsh Cakes smelt mmmmm

Watching: the last ever Big Bang Theory last night. They handled the ending well, brought a tear to my eye

Hoping: to visit a friend later

Marvelling: how tight your jeans can feel after just 4.5 days away…

Cringing: at the above, it’s been fun though

Needing: to pause this for now

Tenby – still so light at nine in the evening

Questioning: what’s effective at removing soap scum and limescale from shower doors, without chemicals. So far I’ve tried a few things

Smelling: hair salon smells

Wearing: a black gown

Following: what others are having done to their hair (aka covert staring in the mirror!)

Saundersfoot. I recommend Sue’s Pantry if you like cake (with or without tonnes of icing…actually half of mine fell off and onto the pavement. There’s going to be a gull with diabetes soon)

Knowing: it’s probably going to rain on my styled hair on the walk home

Thinking: about fun times with lots of laugher

Admiring: Andy Parsons for filming this for Campaign to End Loneliness

Sorting: laundry

Love all the colours and patterns in the shells. I think the mussel shell looks almost tartan, don’t you think?

Getting: into cleaning mode. Holiday cottages are – usually – sparkling and your own slightly dusty home suffers in comparison when you come home. I get why people spring-clean before going away. I do sometimes, but not last week

Bookmarking: books to read

Coveting: that house by the sea

Disliking: dust and fluff

Amroth does huge jelly fish

Opening: mail

Giggling: remembering a Christmas Gavin & Stacey episode

Feeling: very chilled

Snacking: on raw carrots, as usual

Tredegar House, National Trust

Helping: the grocery driver find the house this morning. Could hear a van driving up and down the road

Hearing: that Sheeran & Bieber song on the salon radio

Mixing: they’re mixing colour for customers

Worrying: about nothing specific

Colby Woodland Garden, National Trust

Slicing: an apple

Celebrating: long Bank Holiday weekends, especially this last one in Pembrokeshire

Forgetting: nothing?

Winning: nothing!

Pretending: nothing!

Sneaking: nothing!

Embracing: friends and family, it’s good to appreciate and be appreciated in return

Sit down! She’s tried knitting again

Apologies for any shock experienced – but I wanted to quickly pop in (twee blogging cliche alert, sorry) to show you what I tried yesterday!

I knit two rows of my stripy garter stitch blanket and my hand felt fine during and after. This is the first time I’ve knit anything since last July.

I’m not going to push it any more than two rows at a time for now. They’re long and I’m going carefully, so it probably takes me between 10-15 minutes which is fine.

I’ve always really liked the saying: Slow Progress is Better Than No Progress and it feels particularly apt today.

Anyone who’s followed the lament of my hand injury since last April (I know, it’s been over a year now…) knows this is big news. BIG NEWS. Yep I’m shouting.

Cotton and Twine

Last month I contacted Cotton and Twine Boxes on Instagram to find out whether I could buy a pattern from one of their previous subscription boxes; a flamingo tapestry kit which had really caught my eye. It’s been years since I did any tapestry. Unfortunately they didn’t have any of the subscription boxes left as the flamingo design proved to be very popular, so it sold out immediately. But jammy me was offered a free subscription box to review!

I was really pleased to find out that April’s box was also going to be a tapestry. Apparently most subscription boxes contain cross stitch projects, which would’ve been fine too, but trying tapestry again appealed. I used to enjoy it and have a pile of tapestry cushions that I made in my twenties.

If you want to see really professionally stitched tapestries then click on the tapestry tag at the bottom of this post. Kaffe Fassett’s exhibition at The American Musuem in Bath, in 2014, was fabulous, you’ll see this even with my dodgy photography.

Subscription boxes are often an event in themselves. Part of getting any treat in the post is the anticipation as you open it. I have received some boxes in the past where the items have seemingly just been plonked in without much thought, but as you can see this was certainly not the case.

The box includes all the threads and fabrics needed to complete the project together with a sweet gift, artisan tea bag and naughty treat. The zesty tropical coloured wool is Anchor tapestry wool.

The project is well designed, instructions are clear and the chart is a good size, no squinting required. There are fabrics and trimmings to match. The pom pom trim is adorable! The extra gift and sweet treat are really a nice touch as well. This arrived the week I had meant to buy some blank cards, so the little pack of cactus notelets were very gratefully received. I passed on the little bar of chocolate to Someone for a fishing treat. That wasn’t as heroic as it seems; because I had an absolute stack of Easter chocolate at the time. Now I’ve eaten it all I slightly regret that…

I haven’t completed the tapestry yet, because as you know any craft I do has to be during short and sweet sessions, but I’ve really enjoyed this stitching. It’s such a pretty design. Actually since I got this little kit I keep seeing cactus designs everywhere; on cushions, notelets, and clothing, cross stitch kits, on mugs etc etc. It’s this years’ craze replacing the owl/bird/fox/flamingo.

If you’re interested in trying a box they are £20 per month plus P&P. They ship worldwide. According to Suzanne there are a limited number of new subscription places every month and these are usually taken up very quickly. The stitching projects are mainly designed in-house at Historical Sampler Company (the parent company of Cotton and Twine) but they have started to include some guest designers.

A one-off box was offered to me for my review. All opinions are mine and completely honest. I have no affiliation with the company.

Five things

One: I can’t tell you how good it is to have made something. From beginning to end in about 10 days. Yes!

Less yes, and more noooo was experiencing the sewers equivalent of yarn chicken. I’d asked on Instagram for any suggestions and someone said tie the old and new thread together. That seemed a bit rubbish, so I undid it all and started again with a longer thread and, would you believe, it happened all over again! I Googled thread tying and it is a thing. Sorry to whoever suggested it – I was an unbeliever – but it worked. It was initially a bit tricky trying to get the knot to stay at the back and not pull around, but anchoring it behind a tuck of the gathered material worked perfectly. Looking at the back you wouldn’t know.

Two: As mentioned on my last post Corinne Lapierre sent me a thank you gift, and someone there wrote a really lovely note. It’s so lovely that it’s pinned on my noticeboard in the little room.

Three: Yes your eyes are not deceiving you… I have managed to do some crochet this week. The first picture was taken after my allotted ten minutes. The first time I’ve done any crochet since, I think in about November. I had the yarn and hook poised in my hands ready to go just before I started the ten minute timer. I wanted every second! I felt thoroughly relaxed even having just done a little. Crochet always feels like a tranquilliser!

Ahem… The second picture was a few days later and I completely blame Nikki and her lovely Nan for my going way, way, way past the ten minute timer.

I’ve never got into vlogs. Generally I find them full of umming and ahhing, repetitious and overly long without enough content the fill the time. (Say what you think, why don’t you?!) I think this is probably only the third one I’ve ever watched in full. I’ll definitely watch another. This is the episode.

Four: This fluffy lovely spent ten minutes sitting in one of our two balcony feeders, sun basking and occasionally pecking at the crumbs of mealworm. I was right next to the window chatting to him and he just blinked at me. Looking at the fluffy tummy feathers I would say this is a juvenile.

Five: And it’s bluebell season again, seems to come around fast doesn’t it? This isn’t even my official bluebell visit, but some that are filling my local woods. What a gorgeous sight.

The Woodland Trust has lots of general info about bluebells and a search box to find bluebell hotspots. I enjoyed reading the article about ancient woodlands too.

Here’s a guide to identifying native bluebells.

And if you’re in the UK The National Trust website is always a good place too to search for bluebell woods and walks.

Sewing, seaside & something sweet

I’m really enjoying doing a little bit of sewing every day still. It doesn’t seem to be affecting my hand unless I do too much. I am as happy as a very, very happy thing to be able to be a little bit creative again.

Corinne Lapierre saw my progress posts on Instagram and says she’s had quite a number of clicks from my last post here to her website, including purchases, and has offered to send me something as a thank you! How nice and totally unexpected. Thank you for clicking through to check out her site, if you did. Does this officially make me an influencer I wonder?! What will she send? Exciting.

I understand Corinne does demos on Create and Craft TV on Freeview. Have you seen any?

I saw hand drawn felt tipped numbers in the window of someone’s house the other day. This gave me the idea for a new cross-stitch. I thought I could rest my right hand on top of a hoop to keep it steady on the edge of my desk, while I stitch with my left. This is going really well and doesn’t seem to aggravate matters. The last time I did any cross-stitch was last July in Regents park, London. It feels like aeons ago.

I know the five is a bit dodgy. I drew it freehand after looking at cross-stitch number patterns online. I wasn’t copying a specific design, but went with the flow. Do you think I ought to add a bit more thickness to the bottom? Apparently it looks a bit like a letter S, but with the four next to it should be identifiable.

You can see if you zoom in when I started smoothing out my thread before stitching, and periodically letting the needle dangle from the hoop to untwist the thread. The perfectionist in me is tempted to undo the messy rows but I’m resisting.

I found myself looking at sewing kits and threads in John Lewis and The Range while away in Aberdeen. If you were around The Range and heard a man muttering about “Pikey tat” and a woman shushing him, while looking embarrassed, then that was probably us. He’s not that impressed with spending time in Hobbycraft but The Range always provokes strong emotion for some reason. Idiot.

Look at those rabbits! How can anyone resist a rabbit in a carrot racing car?

I might have spent a few minutes arranging them, but no one seemed to notice or care. The rabbits enjoyed the attention.

Lucky weather on Friday meant it was unseasonably sunny and warm. A bus out of the city to Don Bridge seemed like a good plan. We walked along the esplanade and onto the beach to collect sea glass, then had a couple of scoops of Mackies Scottish ice cream before reaching Footdee, wandering around the harbour and back into the city centre. A good walk by the sea in bright sunshine, is a pretty perfect day for me. Plus it was capped off with a selection of curries at Shri Bheemas with old friends in the evening. That was the best lamb biriyani I’ve ever eaten. The paratha were really good too; lacy and light.

I read on an airport poster that Aberdeen has 15 miles of unbroken beaches. There’s a coastal trail to drive, see here, which would be fun to do sometime.

So far I’m on target with my aim to walk 1000 miles this year. I’ve walked well over 200 miles and this despite my dodgy knee giving me jip. Fingers crossed that I can carry on because it’s a really good way to motivate yourself to walk, even on non fair weather days when the temptation to curl up on the sofa is strong. I guess another way would be to get a dog which needs lots of walking. I’d probably inadvertently get one as lazy as me on rainy days!

Tell me a few things? How are you?

A little creativity

I’m currently having a word with myself about my perfectionist tendencies. Yes, next time I will draw the smaller circles with a template, not free-hand, but the beauty of hand sewing is that’s human. It’s not machine accurate; hammered out at 1000 stitches a minute (1,000?) The charm is that it’s ever so slightly wibbly and wobbly.

When at school, and into my late teens, I did a lot of patchwork, embroidery and tapestry. Sewing was my thing, much more than knitting at which my Mum was expert. One day a friend and I went to an exhibition in London. It was a display of the work of an Embroidery Guild and the sheer perfection of the pieces had a detrimental effect on me. I felt at the time that there was no way I could reach that standard, so I didn’t do any for years. It’s a shame. Now I look at what I had sewn at the time and think what a silly girl! If only someone had pointed out to me that such a high standard is achieved by many, many hours (years?) of practice. This total shutdown was probably partly down to those horrible see-sawing hormones and a lack of confidence. That was a weird thing; a lack in some areas, while feeling wildly confident, with a can-do attitude in others. It’s a very strange age. So, now I’m …ahem…older I’m just getting on with it and enjoying the process, even if I’m not entirely 100% happy with the outcome.

I’m just so happy to be a tiny bit creative again. I’ve been doing a little stitching then I put my ice-pack on my wrist. Even if really I should be doing physio exercises with my tin of baby carrots, a little bit of embroidery a day equals creative satisfaction, plus the surge of endorphins is pretty cool too.

I award myself bonus points if my sewing session is paired with good music as well.

The kit from Corrine Lapierre comes with 2 embroidery needles, a tape measure, an unpicker, wool felt, cotton thread and stitch guide. It’s good quality.

No sponsorship or payment of any kind has been given for this post. This is just me chatting to you, with no agenda other than to share something good which I’m enjoying.

Taking Stock – March

Making : lists

Cooking : Meatloaf

Drinking : Hot chocolate & mimi marshmallows every night at the moment. It’s a habit I’ll break at the end of the bag of marshmallows. Nice though!

Christmas trees and lights spotted on 3/3!

Reading: Meet me at the Museum by Anne Youngson it’s so, so good. So good. Soooo good

Wanting: chocolate. I’ve given it and alcohol up for Lent, silly me

Playing: Scala Radio on catch-up, listening to Simon Mayo’s new daily 10-1pm show. My ladybird question read out on Monday, answered by an interesting expert on Tuesday

Mr Mayo and Mr Kermode with his flappy hands in the new ads, spotted last Friday in the South Ken foot tunnel, London

Liking: being in at the beginning of a brand new radio station from the start

Deciding: to walk my 6 mile loop later

Wishing: for lots of things but all happy thoughts

Enjoying: waking to bright sunny mornings

Just like a tulip, gorgeous

My friend Fran would look fabulous in this frock

Wondering: about going back to the V&A to see the Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams exhibition. It was so busy on Friday. It’s sold out until it ends in September, but as a member I can nip in and out

Loving: Sicilian Chicken and Bean stew. I keep making this recipe. (Think I’ve shared it here before. It’s that good.) No faffing about with potato, rice or whatever. One-Pot meals are the best

Pondering: topics discussed in the Meet me at the Museum book. It’s a series of (fictional) letters written by a woman in Norfolk to a museum curator in Denmark. They ruminate over some of life’s big issues, it’s thought-provoking

Gorgeous ‘thank you for looking after me flowers’

Considering: my next audio book

Buying: birthday cards. Quite a few friends are having a significant birthday this year….

Watching: Fleabag series 2. Who isn’t?

Hoping: for a return to sense

Marvelling: at the mess the politicians seem to have got into

Cringing: at the above, basically

The panorama taken from the top of Crickley Hill, Gloucestershire on Sunday

The paraglider and his passenger kept coming right over the top of us, just hovering above. I waved and shouted hello in the end

Needing: something to eat

Questioning: always have lots of questions. I’ve found some make their own interpretation as to why you’re asking, when it’s just a straightforward question with no agenda. This won’t stop me; questions are good for thinking, eliciting information and understanding

Smelling: Sweet blossom on the air

Primroses are popping up everywhere this week

Wearing: not admitting what here!

Following: lots of amazing amateur-could-be-professional photographers on Instagram. Check out: Phil Crowe and Guy Lonsdale

Knowing: I need to get moving

Thinking: about oats – porridge is a superfood isn’t it

Lots of tame chickens and peacocks at Newark Park NT

But I love my local ducks. They always come up for a chat and to see if I’ve got any food

Admiring: people who write fantastic tweets: funny, educational, thought-provoking, genuinely insightful and using only 280 characters, or fewer

Sorting: socks

Getting: tired of all the ladybirds now 🐞🐞🐞

Bookmarking: the next episode to auto-play on my latest podcast find: Fortunately with Fi Glover and Jane Garvey. So far I’ve heard: Maria Mcerlane, Sara Cox, Emma Kennedy and Mariam Margolyes. Try it?

Coveting: Hans Zimmer’s new double album, must check out Spotify

Disliking: dangerous driving for the sake of saving a few minutes

Opening: post

Giggling: at After Life by Ricky Gervais on Netflix. Don’t watch if you hate swearing. Very funny series

Feeling: happy

Snacking: on Rowntrees Fruit Pastilles – oh dear

Helping: ladybirds to freedom

Hearing: Madonna singing that tick tock song on the radio

Mixing: perfumes. Not a great smell when you’ve worn the same top a few times, but sprayed different perfumes

Slicing: onions. Lots of onions at the moment. Gets boring doesn’t it?

Celebrating: sunny days and blue skies

Forgetting: something every day, no doubt

Winning: at making the most of spring outdoors

Pretending: one day I’ll wear Dior Would love to whirl around in this beauty

Sneaking: a few extra marshmallows after measuring out the rest every night!

Embracing: the outdoors. Lots of walks. Over 200 miles this year, so far

I spotted seven parakeets in trees near the Serpentine in Hyde Park, London. They were picking at the blossom then scattering it on the ground, the hooligans!

Read about London’s parakeets here

How are you? Tell me 3 things?

Catching up

You know when someone’s been away from blogging for ages and they say they really don’t know what to write, but then just start and it’s okay in the end? I feel a bit like that today, although it’s only been a few weeks. I’m starting with this opening, random photos and seeing where it goes.

The lack of craft content is a big factor. It’s so frustrating that many times I’ve thought about just putting this on hold, without a big announcement or anything, but then I pop online and read a few of other peoples’ posts and enjoy just catching up with their news. Seeing what’s around in their gardens or neighbourhoods, what the weather’s like, what they’re eating, let alone what they’re making that I don’t really think it matters. It’s just natter without the knit, isn’t it?

The thing is I’m still being contacted by PR people for yarn companies and magazines. This week it was for a prominent High Street magazine who wanted me to do a How to Crochet series of pictures and instructional posts for their website. I love the compliments about my blog and that they really love the content, but it makes me wonder how recently they looked because I don’t think crochet has featured since last year. I shall look forward to seeing which blogger gets the gig!

This morning I’ve also had a dodgy looking email about some blogger awards. If I thought it was kosher I wouldn’t jump on my own chances by writing this here, but you know when the grammar is so odd and the website and email address are iffy looking that you just think ‘Ha ha, probably not?’

Do you know by the way that I always dictate my posts on my iPad now? So if there’s any very strange looking mistakes it’s Apple technology, not Rachel technology! Although I do keep being told off for not proofreading my messages. I sent the most bizarre instructions for baking sourdough this morning which included putting the sprinting on the third gravestone from the top…

I went to see the Hand Therapist last week. I’ve had to do a lot more lifting and carrying recently and it is she said: “A soup of ickyness and not anenomes.” Not quite the way I would’ve put it, although that description did make me laugh, but I get the message. I’ve got to go back to see the Hand and Wrist Consultant. I am resistant to anything invasive, but it does look probable as it’s not improving.

Beautiful Valentines Day flowers. Just gorgeous aren’t they, but unfortunately we kind of missed them, more about that later.

Snowdrops have appeared everywhere. Beautiful, but you do have to lift up the flowers to see how pretty they are on the inside, there are so many varieties, the variations are amazing.

Hyacinths from last year in one of my favourite blue pots. I know that second year bulbs don’t necessarily come back in flower very well, but I took the lazy approach and thought I would suck it and see. Probably not the best expression I use, picked up from an Australian. But I do like it!

Tulips. I have no idea what colour these were last year, maybe purple? Queen of the night variety? I could look in my notebook; but I quite like the idea that I’m going to get a surprise. Fingers crossed. What’s been nibbling them?

I think these are going to be Paperwhite narcissi.

I think I’ll never apologise, content-wise, for my sourdough pictures. If they annoy you then just imagine I’m smirking at you! Having said that I’m not sure I’m going to post anymore for quite a few weeks. Right now they’re flatter looking, because neither of us can lift up the cast-iron pot I bake them in. They tend to flatten out more when tipped out of the Banneton onto a baking sheet. Still taste good, but not so photogenic.

Have you heard that we had the hottest February on record? We had temperatures of 15° – 16°. T-shirt weather. I even saw a few people in shorts and sandals. It has been amazing, though ever so slightly bizarre for this time of year.

The spring flowers are out in force and it’s really lovely spotting croci, snowdrops, daffodils, grape hyacinths, blossom on trees and flowers on heather. I love the close-up I took of Mum’s little pink heather flowers.

And the reason we kind of missed my Valentine’s Day flowers: they drooped and dried out as the underfloor heating was still going on without us breezing in and out of the room or moving them to a cooler spot while we were away…

I’ve always fancied a ride in an ambulance; thought the flashing lights on while speeding past the traffic in a swift ride would be kind of cool. Yes I know, I’m a moron! Don’t think I’d really thought it through properly. Not so fun have to call it for a loved one at 2 AM, who is in pain, with all the worry and scary thoughts alongside that.

There were some funny moments, in retrospect. It is not a comfortable ride; it is noisy, the suspension is awful and both of us said they haven’t *even* put the lights and siren on! No need as at that time on a Monday morning there is nothing to slow down the journey. I find it interesting that having been woken from a deep sleep of only two hours that the things that I grabbed were his two phones, my iphone, my charger, my mascara (!) and I hid the whisky bottle in the cereal cupboard! We’d had a couple of drinks that evening, after a nice Sunday with family. There is no deep-seated problem or associated guilt, but for some reason I popped it behind the pack of Fruit and Fibre.

This was my view for several days and I did the thing of buying some lovely refreshing fruit (grapes are traditional, I went for melon and mango) for any time Someone felt like nibbling something. Of course those times were rare, it was all about lots of liquid morphine, codeine and paracetamol via IV. Incidentally I did ask the nurse if I could have a bit of that, because I had a cracking headache on the Tuesday after being up the previous night and the following day. She laughed and said “Absolutely not, do you realise how expensive it is given this way?!” Apparently it’s incredible, in a matter of minutes it’s taken effect.

I also was rushing about like a headless chicken and hadn’t had breakfast one day so did the classic thing of having to apologise when he did feel hungry for the first time, because I’d eaten all the melon! Oops.

There is a real club that forms when you’re part of a situation in a ward where everybody’s been rushed in without warning and are awaiting diagnosis or emergency operations. The patients are usually too unwell, sleepy and high on painkillers, but the families are really supportive of each other. I ended up chatting and waving to people all along the ward and in the lift, every time I popped out to get something. There is such a camaraderie and fast track relationships, albeit brief, are formed. I still wonder how some of them are and what happened. Maybe we’ll bump into each other in a cafe or shop one day. Fingers crossed all works out for them.

I know this is a horrendous picture of my hand but for me it sums up the black humour you can find in situations. There is a triage part of the ward and so at the end is a waiting room for about 10 people. There are clearly very unwell people waiting to be seen; they all had dark circles around their eyes, faces so pale it looked like stage make-up and nobody ever picked up a magazine. Some were there for hours and hours and I really felt for them. It’s not somewhere people chat. I think they’re just focusing on getting through so they can see a doctor. Then they get antibiotics to take home, or are admitted to the hospital.

Why a picture of a water bottle? This water machine was one of a kind. I kept on going down past the bays of beds to keep my legs moving and to keep myself hydrated. Can you see the tiny trickle going into my bottle? I’m actually sitting down to fill that water bottle. Honestly it took so long (about 10 minutes to fill 500ml) that at one point in a full waiting room I could feel 10 pairs of eyes on me and suppressed mirth. Far too much in pain and poorly to actually laugh out loud, but the atmosphere certainly lifted.

I want to give huge thanks and appreciation to the paramedics who came when I called 999 at 2 AM, the A&E team, ESU ward staff and the surgical team, anaesthetists and all the others who looked after my husband. NHS staff are AMAZING.

Home again now, taking it easy, he is well on the way to recovery.

I loved being outside for a walk again, enjoying the surprise sunshine after the trauma of the last week. I can’t leave without telling you what I’m reading. I’m listening to this audiobook and really enjoying it. Read by Juliet Stevenson it’s such a good story, the only downside is her voice is so soothing I can’t listen to it lying down; because I’m asleep in 10 minutes.

Yesterday I finished two books: The Moon’s a Balloon by David Niven and Tin Man by Sarah Winman. Both very good.

If this is natter, without the knit then this definitely needs your comments! How have your last few weeks been, what have you been doing, has it been sunny where you are and what are you reading?

In the last ten days

We finally got the promised snow, the Friday before last. These few photos were on the Saturday when my Snow Face was all go. (Manic grinning and crazy happy eyes.)

I do like snow a lot, I’m just not so keen on falling over when it’s icy. I definitely need to buy some new walking boots; because although they are still smart and comfy, my leather Timberlands are a bit worn and shiny on the soles. It makes me very wary walking the day after snowfall, when everything’s frozen solid. Last year I ended up making the shape of a capital A, with my hands flat on the pavement in front of me and my bottom in the air, when I slipped on the ice! No one needs to see that again.

At the beginning of the week I’d driven Mum around to four shops to try to buy a couple of small brown loaves, as I wasn’t planning on baking any sourdough for a couple of days. The snow had been forecast and it seemed sensible to make sure she had some. We found they were all sold out nearly everywhere. In the event it was a wet kind of snow and so didn’t hang around. By Sunday, when we went for another walk, it was beginning to melt at the edges.

Snow days means soup days. I made a new recipe from Olive: Creamy Tomato Soup. It’s a delicate blend of flavours and went down well with the others, though personally I’d halve the quantity of cream, it was a little rich for me.

I don’t have the same comments about the chocolate in the cake I had last Monday, courtesy of John Lewis rewards on my app. Get the app if you ever go anywhere near a JL. The free cake and hot drink can be perfect, when you’re shopping and in need of a pitstop. What I love about it is the free cake includes pastries, which means you can have a rather nice cheese scone! This was a rare time when I actually had the cake and a cappuccino, rather than peppermint tea and a cheese scone for lunch.

Now I know daffodils, snowdrops and hellebore are winter flowers, croci too, but just seeing flowers popping out and nodding their little heads can’t help but make you think of spring.

By Wednesday it was hard to believe we’d ever had any snow at all. Did you spot the foraging ducks amongst the fallen beech leaves? They were too busy to turn around to chat to me even, though I did try to start up a conversation.

Look at that handsome strutting boy heading back to the pond, he was all wiggling hips and attitude as he knew I’d snap him.

Thursday it was time to cook a warming curry. Another Olive magazine recipe to try. We really liked their version of Chicken Saag. It&