Yarn Along with actual yarn! Whoop!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Holiday days & some crafty news

Misty, the most photogenic pony in West Cornwall

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

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

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

What did you love to do when a child?

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

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

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

The heather was coming into flower during the week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Taking Stock – June

Making : the most of the sun

Cooking : nothing – salad days!

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

Plymouth

Reading: the last chapter of my book

Wanting: nothing. Am content

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

Deciding: what to read next?

Wishing: to crochet and knit again soon

Enjoying: Plymouth’s sea views

Waiting: for dinner

Liking: all this sunshine and clear blue skies

Wondering: what shall we do tomorrow

It’s now ‘tomorrow in Cornwall (30th)

Loving: sea views, summer flowers and Cornish cider!

Pondering: all sorts, as usual

Considering: repainting my nails

Buying: chocolate

Watching: the clouds

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

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

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

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

Needing: to drink some water probably

Smelling: fig leaves, they smell exactly like the fruit

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

Treacle tart and clotted cream at Trerice

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

Knowing: it’s not forever

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

Admiring: lovely summer dresses

Sorting: an unpacked car into unfamiliar drawers and cupboards

Getting: browner (orange!)

Bookmarking: anything sourdough related for the last few weeks

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

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

Opening: cold-bags

Giggling: at funny people

Feeling: relaxed

Snacking: on smoked nuts

Helping: to settle in

Hearing: birdsong

Mixing: with locals

Worrying: –

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

Celebrating: summertime

Forgetting: worries

Winning: at life (sorry, too smug?)

Pretending: I live here

Embracing: holiday time

How are you?

Inspired by my book & more sourdough adventures

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

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

“What are you up to?”

“I’VE GOT TO MAKE OATCAKES!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sourdough Crumpets

3 cups of starter

1 1/2 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp of bicarb

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

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

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

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

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

This quantity made about 16 crumpets.

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

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

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

The evolution of crumpets

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

Sourdough adventures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A meadow of moon daisies

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

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

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

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

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

Why, hello!

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

Spot the bee?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Taking Stock – May

Making : nothing, still

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

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

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

Wanting: to knit and crochet

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

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

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

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

Enjoying: my photos of old and new favourite Cornish places

Waiting: for cold sausage time, aka dinner

Liking: the leafy green lanes and wild flowers everywhere

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

Loving: walking the coast path from Pendeen lighthouse again

Pondering: how long till I will again

Considering: changing moisturisers

Buying: tissues (bit of hay fever…)

Watching: the film trailer for Edie

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

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

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

Needing: more toothpaste

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

Smelling: rain on the way?

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

Following: friends’ half term holiday pics

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

Knowing: May is my new favourite month

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

Admiring: my white watch strap mark on my brown arm

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

Getting: busy with lists

Bookmarking: my library book

Coveting: this sea facing house or that while away

Disliking: all the mad Audi drivers

Opening: Cornish loose leaf Earl Grey tea

Giggling: at stand up comedy on Netflix

Feeling: relaxed

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

Helping: friends

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

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

Worrying: about nothing much

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

Celebrating: a big anniversary

Forgetting: there’s usually something these days!

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

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

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

Embracing: friends and family

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

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

The good news and the bad news

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Did it really hurt there?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is treatable.

I guessed correctly that it’s tendon stuff.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trying to be patient

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the bluebell woods

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

Ferns gradually unfolding

Celandines

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

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

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

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

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

Taking Stock – April

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

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

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

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

Wanting: a cooked breakfast.

Looking: a little rough around the edges!

A corkscrew hazel, what a great looking tree.

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

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

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

Enjoying: seeing bluebells appearing in woodland.

Waiting: to feel a bit sparkier.

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

Loving: M&S Butter Mints.

Upton House and Gardens, NT

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

Considering: my next audio book.

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

Watching: The BBC’s The Woman in White.

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

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

Needing: something to eat.

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

Smelling: perfume.

Wearing: scruffs.

Following: The Vegetarian Society for some new recipes.

Noticing: tiny lambkins in the fields around.

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

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

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

Sorting: photos online.

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

Bookmarking: recipes for next week.

Coveting: longer finger nails.

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

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

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

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

Snacking: on raw carrots, as always.

Helping: people needing some encouragement and a little positivity.

Hearing: a little bit of traffic noise.

Mixing: nothing today, drinks last night….

Worrying: about the usual stuff.

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

Celebrating: birthdays

Forgetting: nothing important, so far.

Winning: £2:90 on the lottery Friday.

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

Sneaking: no sneaking.

Embracing: the special ones.

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

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

Springtime, feels like summer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(JILL don’t be crude!)

Return of the sock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My sock knitting timeline:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Timeline to be continued…..

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

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

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

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

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

Taking Stock – March

Making : Triple chocolate brownies (yum!)

Cooking : Thai pork noodles

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

Reading: Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty

Wanting: a variegated yarn cake

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

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

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

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

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

Waiting: for two, or more, sunny consecutive days

Liking: my new iPhone

Wondering: what we’ll do in London later

Scilla

Scilla – so pretty

Waterperry Gardens

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

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

Pondering: buying more jeans

Considering: ?

Buying: toothbrushes

Watching: Shetland – the latest series was brilliant

Hoping: for a dry day today

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

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

Needing: more rubber needle ends

Questioning: why was I wide awake at 0610?!

Smelling: fresh air

The Easter bunny?!

Wearing: none of your business!

Following: blogs I’ve read for years now

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

Knowing: the alarm will go off shortly

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

Admiring: daffodils all along the verges around here

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

Getting: longer nails

Bookmarking: recipes in my Itsu 20 minute suppers library book

Coveting: chocolate!

Disliking: eating too much chocolate

Opening: tomorrow – chocolate!

Giggling: at Tony Blackburn on R2

Feeling: pleased my cowl is nearly finished

Snacking: it’s 0630 – so on nothing

Hearing: birdsong

Worrying: I’ll be sleepy again by 0800

Slicing: brownies for dessert, yesterday

Celebrating: Easter with family

Forgetting: what? There’s bound to be something

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

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

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

Embracing: family, this weekend

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

Have a VERY HAPPY EASTER!

Lambkins!

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

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

Primroses, I also love seeing these little pretties.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Update – crochet

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

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

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

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

854ec0c6-b9e7-44b5-a02e-25199a88dd26.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

All this beauty

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hurumph!”

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

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

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

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

Update – knits

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

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

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

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

“Are you knitting a giraffe a neck warmer?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Linking with Ginny’s now monthly Yarn Along.

Much warmer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you want to see a cutie patooty?

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

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

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

Soup & trying to knit weather

Tuesday

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

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

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

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

“Stick the oven on, I’m just leaving”

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

Wednesday

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

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

Thursday

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday (today)

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

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

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

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

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

Taking Stock – February

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deciding: to go to the library for new books soon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buying: lamb mince to make koftas

Watching: Grace and Frankie

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

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

Cringing: at my renewed nail biting

Needing: a new book

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

Smelling: Dry Roast Peanuts

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

Following: the dire water situation in Cape Town

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m doing Dry Lent once again….

Disliking: The taste of sweeteners

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

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

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

Snacking: on radishes

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

Hearing: an aeroplane

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

Worrying: well, there’s always something

Slicing: onions for virtually every recipe this time of year

Catkins and beautiful twisty trees at Waterperry Gardens

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

Forgetting: what I need to add to the shopping list

Winning: at life? Urgh, smug expression

Pretending: nothing

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

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

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

Striping

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

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

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

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

What are you making and reading?

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

The Hitchhiker & a house full of flowers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yarn, ships and park life

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

The strip’s a bit further on now, as you’ll see at the end, but I like this photo showing my snuggly Tilted Squares Blanket in use.On Friday afternoon I went to the Members’ Preview Day of the V&A’s new exhibition Ocean Liners: Speed and Style. The picture above shows part of one of the rooms where you’re meant to feel as if you’re on deck. The floor is wooden, there are some examples of chairs and a bell-boy’s uniform (to be a totally immersive experience I would have loved a G&T brought to me while I led on an actual recliner!) The whole of the wall is a projected film of the ocean, moving waves, the sound of sea-gulls and nothing as far as the eye can see; oh apart from a movement on the right. Gradually a steam powered liner comes into view and hey! It’s racing along besides us. There were many oohs and ahhs from people, then the inevitable selfies. It’s fun. Afterwards walking through Hyde Park, back to Oxford Street to meet a friend for dinner, I saw so many lovely snowdrops. They are so delicate and as the RHS state are a very, very welcome assurance that the bright days of spring are on their way. Many crows…And this cheeky pigeon, who only moved at the last moment as I inched closer and closer.What an unexpectedly agricultural scene! There was a huge fairground set up in the park over Christmas, called Winter Wonderland (otherwise known as ‘be aware and hold on to your purse, while gaping at the exorbitant prices’.) So I imagine this is the process of flattening and fertilising the area before it’s re-turfed.An eye-catching memorial for Remembrance Sunday leftover from November, while we were wandering around Witney market on Saturday. I like the mixture of felt and yarn. It looks good still. Often yarn bombing looks bedraggled and dirty quite quickly. Now I’ve only got 3 more teeth left to knit of my Hitchhiker, so hurray! Nearly done (again) and then I can start something else. Recently I’ve decided that having one crochet and one knitted thing on the go is good. I don’t really want any more than that at one time. It’s handy to have a choice, especially for knit night when it’s chatty and I need to concentrate. Something you can do without lots of looking is good too, as it’s not well lit in the pub at this time of year. Have I said all that recently in another post? Sorry if I’m repeating myself.

And in a nutshell, at the moment I’m watching: Feud, a BBC drama series about Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, reading: Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell, listening to: Three Things about Elsie by Joanna Cannon and tonight I’m cooking aubergine biryani.

What about you? What are you watching, reading, listening to and cooking? I’m genuinely nosy interested.

The last seven days

The Winnie the Pooh exhibition at the V&A was lovely. It’s so interesting to see E.H Shepherd’s original pencil drawings. What talent. There were many illustrations that I’d forgotten, but which were instantly recognisable when I saw them again. Winnie was a big part of my childhood. The exhibition is on until April 8th.

We saw the film Darkest Hour last weekend. It’s good. As good as the media hoo-ha and talk of an Oscar for Gary Oldman. It seemed a good time to see the Winston Churchill exhibition at Blenheim Palace, (his birthplace, home of his grandparents.) En route I noticed there are daffodils beginning to appear. It won’t be long before they’re everywhere in bright clumps of yellow. I love them!

I was held up in traffic on Thursday morning and quite glad when I noticed a large patch of snowdrops in a wood, on the hill at the side of the road. I wouldn’t have had the opportunity if the traffic had been better.

The joins make me think of those foam play mats we have for blocking.

I’ve spent a bit of time playing with my yarn leftovers and planning out my next strip of moss stitch (aka linen and granite) blocks. I thought it might be easier than trying to do it in the pub at Knit & Sip, in the semi dark. We ended up not meeting anyway this week, but no matter; it’s quite nice to have a plan. The fewer brain cells used during the evening, the better I find. It’s not my brightest time. Nor is very early in the morning. My optimum time seems to be between 10-3pm! This isn’t new either. I’ve always been the same. Are you at your best in the morning, evening or middle of the day?

A friend made me smile yesterday as she said she’s having a break from going to Slimming club. Her evenings are precious and she’s fed up hearing the same people complain about how hard it is to lose weight, when they don’t eat fruit and veg. I had popped into the garden centre to buy the birds a mealworm feeder and found myself wanting to shout ‘salad dodgers!!!!’ at the top of my voice. I refrained.

I haven’t made cheese scones since at least last summer. Yesterday I made a batch and this was the last three, with what I always call the knobble, made from the last bit of dough. The fact I haven’t made any for ages has been remarked upon lots. I reckon I’m close to being asked to sign a legal document, requiring me to make them at least once a month.

Once, years ago, I made heart shaped cheese scones for Valentines Day. Don’t do this; they look like bottoms.

The Hitchhiker is coming along. I laid it out to compare with mine. I still can’t believe it was finished and now look, so much still to redo! Ah well. There were nine teeth to knit yesterday, now only seven. ‘A tooth a day and it’s done’ I say to myself.

I came downstairs this morning to a surprise bunch of daffodils. Lovely. On Monday I collected David Sedaris Theft by Finding Diaries, vol 1 from the library and it’s a whopper of a hardback. A real brick.

If you haven’t read any of his other writing, I would suggest you start elsewhere. It’s not as funny, but I’m enjoying the insights into his experiences. Some of it’s pretty grim and sad.

What are you up to? Have you had a good week?

Knitting. Walking. Looking.

I can bear to show you this Hitchhiker again now. I undid about two thirds of the finished scarf. It was all ready on Christmas Eve to have the ends darned in, wrapped up and given the next day, until I noticed something rather strange. It was not a missed stitch, but a vertical row of 8 or so little stitches like plant shoots reaching up for the light. An alien encounter! I can’t believe I hadn’t spotted that and it was impossible to correct, without leaving a big hole. I must have picked up a stitch where there was none. I felt sick, so it’s been bundled away for weeks until I felt I could redo all that garter stitching. I’ve made good progress adding a little at a time. I took it to Knit group at the pub this week and knitted and knitted until I realised I was holding a mere 3″ of wool. Oops! I have more, so that’s ok. As much as I love this Tosca Light by Lang, it is pretty tricky to undo. It’s fluffy when knitted, so like trying to rip open brand new velcro shoe straps. In the end I got so fed up that I grabbed my scissors several times and ended up with about four balls. I’ll forget about those for now and start a new reserve ball.

Quote of the week was from a member of knit group: “I must come tonight, because I need someone to help me start my Stormtrooper!” It’s from this book. Some of the characters could be anyone, but I liked Leia, Chewy and the Stormtrooper. C3PO looks like a golden jelly baby.

My friend and I walked again this week. Another 6 mile jaunt through the countryside, with a pot of tea each at the end, peppermint for me and regular tea for her. All accompanied with non-stop chat. That’s got to be good additional exercise for the lungs, I’d have thought? We’d had a sprinkle of snow overnight and so the tea was really really needed by the end. BBBrrrrrr!

After the dentist we popped into an antique centre earlier. The above are dough troughs and a dough board. The prices are high but the personal histories and stories these could impart would be worth it for me, if only these items could talk. Did they come from the same old bakery? Was it commercial, or a large private estate where staff made the household’s bread? It’s impossible to know as the place is one of those where various antique sellers rent an area. You rarely see the procurer. If you buy anything their specific seller code is input at the till. I spoke to one guy as he was restocking, he said he goes to huge antique markets up north and buys whatever he thinks will sell. So, I guess it could be that this particular seller picks up various items and these could be random finds. Meanwhile as I wander around the rest I find I’m imagining a country mill, where local flour was ground and daily bread made for the community in the nearby bakery. These troughs and boards have finally been cleared out of storage, after gathering dust for years. The mill and bakery buildings have been purchased for redevelopment. It’s incredibly sad after well over a hundred years of use, but the business had to end. It was unsustainable as the locals were driving further afield for work and called in at Sainsbury’s on their way home for their daily bread. But these items had been used for decades and decades, the dough worked with smiles, tears and angry thumps of frustration on the mornings when the vinegary woman next door had come in to complain that the loaves were smaller the previous day. Henry the miller and Florence his …….

We felt the dough troughs could be fun to stand pots of hyacinth and other spring bulbs in, apart from that I’m not sure what you’d do with them! I only bake a couple of 2lb loaves at a time…. Isn’t this well put together? It could be a set for a Country Living type of magazine. I did subscribe to that at one point, but had to stop as I found it made me so envious of all the amazing properties and hugely expensive furniture! When I win my huge lottery jackpot I’ll be subscribing again. Now I look at the photo above I think that I should have sat the teddy up a little; he looks uncomfortable. There was something about this little chest of drawers which drew my eye. It’s funny really; as I think most of us would feel we needed to strip and sand it, had it got into this chipped and peeled state. But here it is and on sale for £65!Such a pretty painted chest of drawers. I am always drawn to pink and flowers. This is probably why I like so much of the Cath Kidson range year-round. I just didn’t realise how pink my yarn choices often are, until I updated my Ravelry projects page and saw it’s the dominant colour. This is despite my favourite colours actually being red and blue. The right sort of red yarn is not easy to find. I’m always looking, but often they’re too orange or verging on pink. When I see it, I’ll know it and make a cowl. They’ll have to wrestle the hook and yarn off me in the yarn shop and grab my credit card….Really? £55 for an acrylic crochet blanket in those garish colours!

What about you? Planning any exciting jaunts at the weekend? I’m off to the Lumiere, London Light festival with a friend tomorrow. First we’re going to the V&A for a new exhibition and naughty dinner will be at a GBK.

Five from this week

I went for a walk with a friend on a spur of the moment thing on Wednesday. We ended up walking over 6 miles in a big circular loop. It was a completely spontaneous thing, just a “hey, do you fancy a walk today?” We arranged to meet in the car park of a gym and I expected a walk around the nearest village. Instead we went off the beaten track, onto a public footpath alongside the edges of fields, turning onto country lanes and meadows of grazing sheep. Through wooded areas of bare wintery trees and the sports ground of a private school. We ended up nipping into a farm shop for a drink, gazing at all the luxury foodstuffs that neither of us need post-Christmas, back up into the village, across the main road and to our cars. All the time we were out, which was nearly 2 hours, we didn’t stop talking. That’s a good afternoon! My trainers are basically two big blobs of mud now. I should scrape them off and put them in the washing machine.

I’ve made some more cardamom gin. The Mermaids gin is nice enough but I fancied flavouring it. I put a small handful of whole cardamom pods into the bottle for 3-4 days (3 would have been plenty, but I forgot about it!) Poured it into a jug, through a tea strainer and threw away the pods, then put it back into the bottle. If they were left in longer than that it would too bitter to drink, I imagine. The flavour is strong, so a single measure (25ml) is plenty with a 125ml can of tonic.

I’ve started a second strip of moss stitch (aka granite stitch, or linen stitch) crochet. This is the easiest thing to take up and add a section to, in fact the most complicated thing about it is making sure the sections are the same length. I didn’t want to stow away the leftover yarn from Winnie’s Wave Blanket, I thought I’d use it up for another little blanket. If you like the stitch see Moogly for a great little tutorial, it’s dead easy. You do need to do a sample to make sure you use the right hook. My square was too thick and unwieldy using my usual 4mm hook; so I swapped to a 4.5mm and produced a softer, more drapey fabric.

I popped in to see Mum with some Butternut & Sweet Potato soup yesterday. I’d made a huge pan-full, but as I’m the only one who eats BNS or SP I thought it would be good to share, or I’d never want to eat it again after litres of the stuff. Barty was savaging a ball he was given for Christmas. He is funny; as I’ve said I don’t think he was given balls to play with when he was a kitten, so he doesn’t play ping pong like other cats we’ve had. I’ve tried to model batting it back and forth with my paws hands, and yesterday he sort of did it! Hurray, Rachel the cat whisperer!

I just started reading Follow you Home all snuggled up warm and cosy in bed this morning. According to my Kindle I’ve already read a fifth of it. It’s a quick read but also I’m a scaredy cat; so want to get to the frightening bits fast. This is a psychological thriller which features a train, a dark forest and rather odd, staring uncommunicative strangers. Dot dot dot!

What are you reading and making? Have you done anything spontaneous, which turned out to be one of the best parts of your week?

Have a good weekend all.

I’m linking with Ginny’s revived (now monthly) Yarn Along.

Taking Stock – January

Making : 2 loaves of beige bread (50/50 wholemeal and white flour)

Cooking : pork and fennel meatballs for dinner

Drinking : water

Reading: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, it’s fantastic! The lights on the bridge have just blown out in the storm. I love reading about 17th century London. It’s also very funny in places

Stowe, Buckingham (National Trust) on New Years Day

Wanting: a G&T, it is Friday

Looking: at my Christmas tree, it’s twelfth night so will be gone tomorrow

Playing: the radio, it’s music from the movies at the mo

Deciding: if I really do want or need to do Dry January. After all Dry October went on until December 24th!

Wishing: for a big Euro millions lottery win tonight

Enjoying: the tunes from Beverley Hills Cop, Top Gun, Pulp Fiction, Dirty Dancing

Waiting: for my bread timer to chime

Liking: the lights sparkling still, on these grey, cold and windy days

Wondering: when the shops will clear away the sale rails

Loving: crocheting again

Pondering: how to join my strips of crochet

Considering: a new to me technique like a flat braid

Buying: a new bag in the sale at The National Trust shop, reduced from £20 to £12

Watching: Russell Howard: Recalibrate on Netflix, it’s laugh out loud funny, but tears too when he talks about his family

Hoping: to see lots more stand-up comedy

Needing: something to eat; rumbling tummy

Questioning: why my wrist is still sore, I think it’s due to knitting #boo

Smelling: my new Loccitane rose perfume

Wearing: my new Seasalt floral socks (perfume & socks are Christmas presents)

Noticing: how cold the wind chill factor is today

Knowing: the days are slowly getting lighter

Thinking: about watching the last episode of The Miniaturist

Admiring: my floral feet (when I wore my yellows on Wednesday, Mum said they were very gay! Nice use of an archaic term)

Sorting: Christmas decs tomorrow and putting them back in the loft

Getting: a shopping list together, it’s all cling film and anti-bac soap type of boring

Paper roses made from old books at Stowe

Bookmarking: new recipes

Coveting: nothing, well apart from a big lottery win

Disliking: that rubber glove smell when they need replacing, yucky!

Opening: the last day’s listings in the festive Radio Times

Giggling: at Still Game (a BBC series, on Netflix) aka “The Scots gits” in my house

Feeling: hungry!!!!!

Snacking: on fruit or a raw carrot, soon

Helping: to take Barty to the vet today

Hearing: Someone wailing/singing along to Don’t Leave Me This Way by The Communards

Mixing: 500g of lean pork mince, 1 egg, zest of a lemon and 1 tbsp fennel seeds for meatballs, served in a tomato & pepper sauce

Worrying: about nothing much, as thankfully my mind is clear today

Slicing: onions and peppers shortly

Celebrating: the last eve of the festive season

Forgetting: who knows? I’ve forgotten!

Winning: tonight’s jackpot

Sneaking: an iced gingerbread I discovered in a tin today (this is a late Christmas win!)

Embracing: a very chilled cat who seemed totally unruffled today

There are no affiliate links here, I’d always say if there were. I just assume other people are as nosy as me and want to see!

I’ve used Pip’s Taking Stock list, if you do a TS post too will you link to yours in the comments below? I like reading them.

2017

This year’s makes were mainly small gifts and blankets. Every year I say that I’ll put blanket making on the back burner and concentrate on other things; but I’ve realised that’s not working at all. I simply enjoy making blankets, even more so when they keep popping up on friends’ Facebook feeds or when I visit family. Nothing beats seeing a blanket den or a blanket on the head picture, a snuggly sofa covering, at the end of a bed or a glimpse of one on a pram.

A mix of longer term and quick projects are so satisfying. So whatever 2018 brings will be fine, there’ll be no rules or resolutions this coming year, apart from one. (Can you guess?)

I have three things on the go right now: The garter stitch blanket which was planned for pub knitting at Knit Group and is definitely a longer term make. My first ever sock paused after the heel, but I’m definitely going to end next year with a pair of socks to show you. I hereby solemnly swear that you will see two handmade socks in my 2018 montage, unless death or imprisonment stop me. (Even then I imagine that in an open prison I might be able to do some craft therapy or activity, so socks could still happen. There’s no excuse really. Unless they make me give them away as part of my rehabilitation? I really don’t know how these things go. Now I’m wondering if any of you know?*) As for the lovely blue Hitchhiker which was Mum’s Christmas present, and finished in plenty of time** that now might be an Easter gift. Let’s not talk about that malarkey just yet, I can’t face it.

I’m not turning into a mad cat blogger, but I’m just so glad that the little kitten who slept in Mum’s garden, when he needed respite from the two young boys of his house next door, or in a chair in her kitchen when it rained, came to be adopted by her in the summer. His family ended up returning to their home country, a long, long way away and the cost of taking him was prohibitive. They told Mum she was the obvious person to take him. But I know he’s been missed because one of them called on Boxing Day to wish Mum a Happy Christmas, and asked how he is doing! So, there you have the full story of the little black cat with the powder puff tail. I’m taking him to the vet on 5th January for his booster jab. I hope he still likes me afterwards!***

Today it’s my blog’s SIXTH BIRTHDAY! Wooo! Where did the time go? Here’s my first post. So many metres of yarn and blankets later. Initially I planned this as an online diary while I carried on learning to crochet, without a plan in mind. Of course I wouldn’t have carried on without readers, so a big warm THANK YOU to you all for reading, for the comments, emails and messages. Welcome to all my new readers too, it’s great to have you along.

Have a lovely New Year’s Eve and Happy 2018.

* I’m not tempting fate am I? Now I’ve worried myself. Whatever happens please believe I was in the wrong place at the wrong time and I’m innocent Governor
**Well sort of – 24th December, apart from the ends
*** Not a mad cat blogger at all, apart from a longish paragraph about him on my end of year post….

Twixmas

I really like the week between Christmas and New Year. If approached properly it has a mixture of planned and unplanned days. You need activity and people, but also days where you can lounge around reading, crafting, eating chocolates and nibbles and catching up on Christmas films and tv. This year we’ve got it just right.

Just before Sewing Club ended for the year another sewer told me she couldn’t see the point of wasting time and energy on making bottle bags; as they wouldn’t be appreciated for the amount of effort that goes into making them. Well, happily I’m glad to report that definitely wasn’t the case. I gave them to members of my family who sew and who totally got the point. They made my (Christmas) day by saying how impressed they were with the quality of the sewing etc etc. Every year we pass around card gift bags and bottle bags, saved from previous Christmases, and last year a few lamented that they had to buy new bags. The horror! I knew that these would be used again and again. It will be quite fun seeing them reappear. Am I revealing my sad nerdiness? Ah well! They’re fully lined with contrast fabric and reversible. Now perhaps I need to make Birthday bottle bags…We all seemed to arrive at Mum’s with presents for Barty the powder puff tail. My cousin and my nieces all did and I took him a set of jingle mice. But this one was the clear winner: my friend and her dog George sent him a crocheted pillow filled with catnip (bought in Asda, it’s fab.) After I took this photo he got a bit manic. It was so funny to see this laid back ‘I can sleep for England’ young cat so excited. The pillow is already all tatty and with ends sticking out! It was so lovely to see this ornament again when we decorated the tree on 23rd. I remembered that one of my nieces bought it for me last year, with her pocket money.My Dry October turned into Dry November and Dry December (bar 3 occasions where I’d finished in November but then decided to carry on.) All I really fancied was a glass of champagne and so on Christmas Eve I had my first drink in weeks. And my second. And on Christmas morning felt so very ropey that in the middle of drying my hair had to turn off the drier, sit on the bed and take deep breaths! Oh this was not the plan! How pathetic. Seeing a line of just-filled glasses on Christmas morning I apologised to my brother and declined one. During the toast I tasted a sip from Someone’s glass, just to try, and decided it was really rather nice, that perhaps that old chestnut, the hair of the dog thing would be worth a try. My brother said it was the fastest turn around he’s ever seen! I stuck to a single glass all day and it did the trick marvellously. I had another glass on Boxing Day evening with family too. There is a champagne diet, apparently good for weight loss (perhaps not for the liver.) Maybe that will be the one for me in January?On Boxing Day morning we were so glad to see a crisp and bright morning. We headed out for some exercise. It was a great walk, albeit 7 1/2 miles, not the planned 5. I think it was a combination of a lot of chatter, passing a big group of walkers at a crucial moment and wishing them a Good Morning that meant we missed the intended turning. We ended up in open countryside surrounded by grazing sheep. I turned to my iPhone for our location and saw on a satellite map that we had walked in the opposite direction and were approaching an unexplored village in the west. Oh well, new public footpaths have been discovered and it was a great yomp. Very good for walking off some of the mince pies and Christmas pudding. We took ourselves off to the sales on Wednesday and popped into a new-to-me coffee shop, where we sat on wooden boxes and spooned our Demerara from a communal jar with a wooden spoon. How very hipster!

I started some new crochet that evening. I’m not totally sure this is going to be continued. But look at the difference going up half a hook size makes. The fabric is now beautifully drapey and soft. Plus it’s far easier to find the 1 chain spaces. I’m going to play around a bit and might undo it, or might carry on. Just don’t ask me about the Hitchhiker, I actually might cry. Disaster struck. And I can’t blame it on Barty either.

On Thursday I met a friend in Hoxton, London at The Geffrye Museum of the Home to catch their Christmas Past exhibition. This features rooms decorated (or not) for Christmas from 1700 to 1990. Did you know that the Puritans banned Christmas for around 15 years? People disobeyed and still brought greenery into the home for decoration.

It’s a good exhibition and interesting overhearing others’ memories of past Christmases when you come to the various twentieth century rooms. My friend and I liked this early 1960s room best. It’s just after the children have opened their presents, when they’ve gone off to open their chocolate selection boxes and spoil their appetites for lunch. Sounds a familiar scenario, doesn’t it?

Why the toothbrush in the cafe, the eagle eyed among you might have spotted? I text her from the train and asked if she had an old one she could bring. I reckon it’s the mark of a good friend (or one who’s used to your ways) who responds with “I’ll see if I can find one” and not a single question about why.

After five miles of walking we went for a very late lunch and obviously chose the low calorie option….

And back to a superb mixture of laziness and activity yesterday; I tried out my new dumbbells that my father in law gave me. It’s become a thing every year; I really like to add practical presents to my wish list, things I need and will use. He laughs, but is usually the one to buy them. Over the years I’ve asked for a car valet, garden shears, secateurs, loaf tins and so on. This year it was dumbbells so I can work my triceps which are a little wobbly after a mere 4 months of a power shower and no hair-washing with a jug over the bath. (I miss my jug. I could also touch my toes and the floor without a problem. Probably that’s a no-go now too.) I started my daily routine yesterday. I will begin challenging people to arm wrestle by February. Actually, I’m having a day off today as I think my left elbow feels a bit sore. Ha! I’ve broken my resolution even before New Year.

How was your Christmas? Did your homemade gifts go down well? What’s the most bizarre present you received? Are you feasting still or dining on water and crackers now?

What larks!

Argh! A game of yarn chicken and I lost! I think I’ve still got about 7 ‘teeth’ to knit so Mum’s Christmas Hitchhiker is the same size as mine (fewer than 42 as per the pattern, but just right.) But actually I should, of course, have done the sensible thing and ordered more yarn than I thought I needed in the first place, to ‘make the most of the postage’ as someone from my knit group sensibly pointed out to me at the time. But this year I’ve been trying to not buy any more yarn, instead aiming to use up what I already have at home. This has been successful to a degree (ie: not very.) It’s pretty tricky when you’re making a stash bushing blanket, which turns into a gift for a brand new little one. So, naturally I ended up having to stock up on some colours. (Winnie is very sweet and after staring at me intently for a while on Thursday, decided I was very boring and popped off to sleep for the rest of the visit. She’s only nine weeks old though, it’s what they do eh? She definitely loved her Wave Blanket though, I know that.) So, with only days left of postal delivery before we all get snowed under drifts of Twiglets and iced gingerbread, I ordered TWO more balls of wool. Oh dear. I’m only going need about a tenth of one so I haven’t helped the stash situation much. Then it’s inevitable that you start a new project and run out and have to buy more, but with extra again to ‘make the most of the postage’ and so on and so on! I have a feeling that my yarn pile will start as a hill and end as a mountain.

Anyway, I took my new ball of yarn to the Knit Group’s Christmas meet on Tuesday night. This was at one of their houses and I endeavoured to knit another tooth in between delicious courses. The house turned out to be a large black and white timbered Tudor style from the eighteenth century (perhaps before) with floors of huge smooth flagstones, an industrial sized fireplace complete with log burner, beams and creaky staircases. Essentially I felt as if I had stepped into Christmas past. As a history lover with a vivid imagination it was hard to concentrate on the talk swirling around me and not drift into revelries about roast goose, pennies in stockings and merry gatherings. I’m currently reading Charles Dickens Great Expectations which only added fuel to the fire! If you’re casting around for something different to read, hopefully you’ll find it’s also a free classic on Kindle wherever you are too. It’s extremely readable and surprisingly funny, especially considering it was first published in 1861.

We all received a little Christmas emergency first aid tin from J (the Lego mitt knitter.) The row counter is gong to be so useful and the key ring hooks will be good for picking up dropped stitches. Someone has already said the little scissors would make excellent snips when fishing. NO THEY WOULDN’T!

If you’re like me you’ll be curious to know what we ate, won’t you? We started with nibbles and drinks, followed by squash soup (home-grown squash and onions) with a selection of breads, then a baked chicken, chorizo and rice dish, roasted vegetables with chickpeas, sun-dried tomato and olive pasta, then a really light and delicious homemade sticky toffee pudding with ice cream. I took a tin of Rocky Road that unsurprisingly everyone was far too full to touch, so I wrapped pieces up and gave it out for people to take home.

It was a lovely evening and I managed to knit another tooth too….hurray!

What are you making and reading at the moment? Are you still eating proper meals or grazing on all the Christmas naughties?

If this makes no sense at all and is full of mistakes; I have to say that I wrote the first half while sitting in the car this morning while waiting to collects omeone. The other half at four o’clock the following morning (now) as annoyingly I’m wide awake while the rest of the house/street/universe is asleep!

Snow!

This is what I woke up to on Sunday morning when I looked out of the window. SNOWFACE! Apparently I always get an excited, wide-eyed, slightly deranged look when it snows. I took a few selfies when we went for a walk and oh I really do have a snowface! Maybe that will be the expression I wear for a week month when I win the lottery jackpot. If you look to the right of the shed you can see that the snow was still steadily coming down. It carried on snowing all through the day. There was about 6″ when I took these photographs, it seemed to be falling at about 1″ an hour.The birds were out in full force using our feeders, lots of blue tits ate the nuts. They really looked beautiful with their yellow and blue against the white snowy branches. At one point I saw four pinging about playing together. Sadly they were too fast moving to capture on camera.Someone danced about so much with the snow shovel, while I took photos, that he dropped the shed padlock into the snow. I didn’t laugh at all of course. Ha ha!When I’m out and about in cold weather I have to work hard not to stare at people’s knitwear. I always fail spectacularly. There was nothing particular to report about the humans, but the dogs merit a mention. The sheer number of dogs wearing fair-isle patterned coats seem to indicate a strong trend. No, they weren’t woolly, but I liked this very stylish dog-wear.

There were so many families were out and about with sledges.  They were mostly plastic but I did see some of those classic Victorian type sleds, you know; the wooden ones with metal runners. The kind that can really take off and make you wonder if you’ll stop before you hit that huge tree looming in the distance.

Facebook was full of jubilation on Sunday afternoon as some learnt that their workplace or school would not be open the following day, but there were quite a “bahs!” from others up in the north. This included my various Yorkshire friends who had been promised a huge ‘dump’ of snow, but didn’t have anything much at all. We get snow so infrequently here that everything grinds to a halt (my best January one year was when we ended up having five snow-days during the month. I know we staff were high with excitement, but I’m not sure the parents felt the same….)  The roads are not always gritted due to funding cuts and so turn into skating rinks, bus companies undertake safety surveys and usually err on the side of caution about running any services, trains can’t seem to cope with snow. Cars get stuck on motorways for hours; as people don’t know how to drive in ‘extreme’ conditions, so there are jack-knifed lorries and multiple shunts. I know this is laughable if you’re in Canada, for instance, but that’s England for you.After an hour long walk in 1 degree temps I was pleased to get home and make a coffee. I used up the last of my limited edition Nespresso capsules. The type? Snowball! Coconut and vanilla.

I must do some more knitting as I’ve got to my last 10g of wool, so will be finishing my Mum’s Hitchhiker, just in time for Christmas. It always seems to be the same; I finish one thing after the other in a short space of time. Then the page will be clear for new projects, apart from the nagging matter of that half finished s—. I can’t bring myself to complete that word.

What’s the weather like where you are? Do you also have a snowface?!

Winnie’s Wave Blanket

And it’s done! I finished the little border on Saturday and feel really pleased with this wave blanket for a friend’s baby, Winnie. I wanted to make a big enough blanket for her to use when she’s a bit older; to be able to snuggle with her Mum on the sofa and so on.

The edging is perfect I think. It’s just the right size to frame the rest, without taking over in a ‘Look at me! Look at me!’ style.

The ‘wrong side’ above just to show you the back of the edging. The ‘right side’ is below. I do love the lines that you get when you crochet into the back loop of a stitch. I don’t think it matters which way up it is, as both look fine. This is a good thing as when Sophie’s only had a few hours sleep, I don’t think correctly placing a baby blanket is going to be a priority!


When I began this blanket in June (see this post) it was just to use up some leftover yarn and I didn’t have a specific plan in mind. I’m very glad it’s turned into Winnie’s Wave Blanket and going to someone I know, who is really grateful and looking forward to receiving it. And how considerate of Sophie to name her baby so well, so we can all enjoy a bit of alliteration! I’m really looking forward my visit on Thursday.

The details:

Stylecraft Special DK: 1. plum 2. grape 3. parchment 4. lavender 5. silver 6. stone 7. denim 8. sage 9. storm blue

L: 89cm / 35″ (inc border) W: 75cm / 29.5″ B: 2cm / 3/4″ W: 427g

Sorry, I didn’t ever count my chains but your tension will vary to mine anyway, just chain multiples of 10 (+1 for the turning chain) and see how you feel.

Pattern: Attic 24 Neat Wave  and my border was also inspired by Lucy’s Moorland blanket edging I preferred my 4th round to be the same BL dcs, rather than the slip stitch that Lucy used.

My timer has just gone off, so I must away and put my oven on to bake a couple of loaves of bread. I will back with some wintery pictures tomorrow, as we’re between ankle and knee* deep in snow at the mo!

 

Very slight exaggeration

A Drum-roll seems only fair!

Last night I chose my border colours and sat down to start the tricky first row. I don’t think I want to crochet through the end posts again, yes it’s less gappy than working around, but it means you’re in danger of pushing out some of your darned ends. Phooey! It’s also damned tricky to do. That made me pack up my Hitchhiker knitting to take to Knit Group instead; as I didn’t think the light would be good enough to see, or the company would want to hear my groans and sighs.

I would very much like a drum-roll please while I complete the border, it seems only fair!  This has taken me far longer to finish than adult sized 6’x4′ blankets. Warm summer days, where the last thing I wanted was a blanket on my lap and sweaty yarn in my hands, and a house move contributed to the slowness of the making, not that there has been any rush really. I’ll show it to you once more with all the details including the yarn colours when it’s finished, before it goes to little baby Winnie next week.

I really like this simple edging. As you probably know I don’t really go for ornate borders, I reckon it can just be too much on a patterned blanket. But conversely an unedged blanket is a rather sad object, with a raw, unfinished look. There is a happy medium, isn’t there?

So on to Knit Group; do you remember reading this this post? (Oh sigh, please let’s not have porridge-gate all over again, tee hee.  I’m looking at you Vikki and Jill! Just whizz past the pictures and find the paragraph where I described what people were making…!) Teresa asked to see some pictures of what was being made and last night I asked if they minded me taking a few photos. It was a smaller group than usual, just a select four of us, but such an easy, relaxed night with lots of laughter.

First here’s A’s 4ply cream cotton bedspread in progress,  it’s one her mother began and she’s finishing, along with other half finished items. There need to be 20 squares or so and I think she was given 12. Look at those criss-crossing stitches and the detail on the leaves. Isn’t it lovely? It looks impressively complicated to me.

A. also brought along this gorgeous crochet shawl that she’s made for one of her young daughters. Apparently the yarn was cheap stuff and on offer in the local wool shop, but it feels luxuriously soft. Privately I thought it would rather suit me when I wear my smart black woollen coat and could imagine shimmering into a carol service, but sadly it was popped into a bag on the floor across from me. No stealing. Rats!Next there’s J’s Lego Man Mitts for her husband. They’re so fun! Not that the process of making them both has been much fun, as I understand the other mitt came into contact with a small boy and a pair of scissors…. He was taken to the wool shop to choose more wool and had to ask ‘the lady’ for the correct sized new circulars (yes, they were snipped too) which he didn’t enjoy. Lesson learned hopefully. She found the little figures in the bottom of her knitting bag. They look quite cross about me wearing the mitt I think.And P’s is currently a tea-pot cosy making machine, I can’t say anything much about it (secret squirrel) but it is making me want to try crocodile stitch. I’ve never been particularly keen on the stitch, now I wonder if it was the items I’ve seen made with it. P makes everything look good. The other knitted cosy is sooo special that I’m not dwelling on it, as it makes me feel knitty-knotty inferior! Yes, she does have a drink problem.I posted a pic of my Hitchhiker scarf the other day on Instagram. Click on the pink camera on the sidebar if you want to see how it’s getting on. After Winnie’s Wave Blanket that’s the next thing I need to finish for Christmas, for my Mum. Then the world is my oyster. Anyone who types the words ‘sock’ or ‘garter stitch blanket’ will be blocked. I mean it!

I chose this book first for my cosy Christmas reading, it’s so lovely, absolutely perfect.

What about you: Have you done any crafting with friends lately? What are you making and reading? Managing to resist the early festive treats or giving in completely to mince pies, stollen, chocolates or …..?

 

Feel free to add a link in the comments, to share your own Yarning Along post showing what you’re making and reading.

Cosy

Finally all the ends are darned and I can crochet the border! I can’t wait to visit little baby Winnie and give her this Wave Blanket.

It’s December 1st and so I’ve dug out my new-to-me books. I love reading Christmas fiction and a good friend passed on Coming Home for Christmas months ago. I think she’s got more for me too. I know she’s been looking out for them for ages, which is very sweet. I picked up The Little Christmas Kitchen in a charity shop months ago. Cosy reads for a cosy month. I’ve got several M.R James ghost storie anthologies on my Kindle, so will read some to balance out the gooeyness of the other books.

Talking of cosy; I’ve stocked up on Cadbury Drinking Chocolate and mini pink and white marshmallows too. I also bought a pack of All Butter Mince Pies yesterday. Well, you have to do these things right, and I’m not sure about icing sugar or frangipani topped pies. Isn’t that too much of a good thing?

What are you making, reading and eating at the mo? Go on, I’d love to know….