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!”

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?

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.

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.

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?

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?!

Autumn colour, apples & whisky 

I really love autumn! There’s so much colour still and we keep having bright blue skies and sunshine, which really makes for my favourite type of autumn days. Even when it’s grey and murky there’s always something comforting to do: soup to make, apple cake to bake and hot chocolate to turn to, or a brisk walk through crunchy leaves, pausing to pick up shiny conkers and special leaves.

The asters at Waterperry Gardens have been superb. We visited in September which was between the two ‘Aster Weekends’ when visitors are encouraged to go and see the glorious long-border full of autumn colour.

Asters are also known as Michaelmas daisies because they bloom around the same time as the Christian festival. ‘Michaelmas, or the Feast of Michael and All Angels, is celebrated on the 29th of September every year. As it falls near the equinox, the day is associated with the beginning of autumn and the shortening of days’ (according to Google.)

This year has been a bumper one for berries. Apparently it’s to do with the mild winter we had, followed by a dry spring and summer. They are everywhere in abundance, adding such a cheery splash of colour.

Upton House and Gardens looks after a National Collection of asters so it seemed a good plan to go and see them there too. The following pics were taken there last Tuesday. My Mum really loves asters, so she and I went to see them at both WPG and Upton. Looking back at my photos though, it’s not asters which dominate, it’s dahlias. I really like them. I have a vase-full of scarlet and peach asters downstairs, picked by her for our table. They are gorgeous. I should try to get a few photos of them in her garden to show you. I’ll try and remember to do that when I pop by later.

Waterperry have an annual apple weekend, celebrating the picking of their many varieties, you can sample and buy many varieties of apples, juice and cider. Unlike the supermarkets who offer the same scant half dozen varieties, if you’re lucky, WPG has many old varieties. Most of which I’ve never heard because 65 varieties of apple are grown there, although only about 25 of these are available commercially. The others are being trialled for juice, or preserved to ensure heritage varieties don’t die out. I bought bags of Egremont Russet and Ribston Pippin. Slices of both went very well with the cheese board we had at a family lunch on Sunday.


I also went to another type of autumn festival at the weekend: a Whisky Harvest Festival at Cotwolds Distillery. We went to pick up a pre-ordered (3 years ago) bottle of the first batch of 500 bottles of their whisky. Admittance to the festival gave everyone a free dram, so pretty soon most people were singing along and having a little dance to the live bands. A little measure of whisky is good for loosening people up. It has such a good flavour for a brand new whisky. You don’t have to take my word for it; Jim Murray writer of The Whisky Bible was there and pronounced it excellent. If you want to see his impromptu talk see here. He’s an entertaining soul. Prue Leith (she of the new Bake Off) also spoke and it seemed as if she’d enjoyed her dram rather a lot, ha ha.

The distillery also make a very tasty gin, a cream liqueur, similar to Baileys, and various other drinks. The cocktail tent was doing super business, though the gin cocktail bar was definitely favoured over that of the whisky. Personally if I’d been drinking, not driver for the day, I’d have chosen a whisky sour…

What are your favourite autumn things? What do you eat, drink and make? Do you also love it, or have flagging spirits at the end of summer? I really hope it’s the former.

BBC Countryfile Live

Once again we went along to BBC Countryfile Live. This was its second year and as it was so enjoyable last time, we were keen to go again. Again there was so much to see including multiple show rings and arenas for different displays: from farm machinery, both modern and vintage, pig shows, dog shows including terriers chasing after a lure, followed by hilarious attempts by forty or so of the spectators dogs (all hopeless, apart from one chocolate Labrador who probably thought it was food) BMX bike tricks, a chain saw competition and many, more more. My absolute favourite is the equine ring, which surprises me rather since I can’t say I’m a horsey person at all. Although I spent a lot of my early childhood pretending to ride horses; sitting sideways on one of our two swings, galloping along beaches on evening strolls on family seaside holidays and reading books about horses and ponies. However when I actually started horse riding lessons, after school each week, I was terrified! All I could think was that if the horse (actually a small, fat pony called Tumbleweed) decided to take off with me on his back, there was nothing I was going to be able to do about it. This was not a toy, or my imaginary turn on TV’s beautiful Black Beauty, but a living breathing animal. I begged my teacher Mr McColl not to let go of the reins. After two lessons with Mr McColl walking and trotting alongside, around and around the ring, it was clear that things had to change. The next lesson was jumping, after a few practice tries either I had to grow more trusting of Tumbleweed, and much braver, or Mr M was going to be worn down to a stick. (What a lovely man he was!) I gave up gracefully and carried on with ballet, tap and swimming club instead.

I took a lot of photos at CFL, of celebrities, displays, funny ducks, pretty geese, frankly ugly turkeys, pigs being guided around a ring and many more, but it’s far too much to put them all on here. If you’d like to see some more of the magnificent shire horses, always my top favourites, go to my instagram. Do watch a short video I took of the country’s only six team of shires. It’s so good. As you’ll see, they came really close. So close, the ground vibrated. This team are regularly used in tv and film, so I’m gong to keep my eyes peeled for them. 

CFL covers a huge area at Blenheim Palace and even if you didn’t intend to walk far, you would end up covering several miles. At the end of the day my pedometer said I’d walked eight. 

The weather was typically English, at least for August nowadays when summer seems to abandon us to show us a preview of autumn. Then everything pings back to summer again, sometimes in the space of a day or an hour. It isn’t exactly cold, but you need to travel with an umbrella and raincoat, as well as sunscreen and a t-shirt. We had all of these just for the day out. And all were utilised.

During a massive thunder and lightening storm complete with tropical rainfall, everyone dived under cover into tents and marquees. At least there were the goats to pet, Adam Henson book-signing in the tent’s corner to discreetly gawp at, and a fun egg finding game for small children, which was very amusing to watch. I chatted about the possibility of keeping rescue chickens too, or rather the very enthusiastic stall-holder was trying to persuade me that they’re very affectionate pets. She did offer me the opportunity to cuddle a chook, but I declined. The fresh eggs appeal, but keeping them is not for me right now.

The time difference between the photo of the coming storm, above the dappy looking goat portrait, and the return of the sun below was less than an hour! Everything dried up super fast and we returned dry raincoats to the rucsac.

There was no shortage of food and drink to sample and buy at the show. Produce seemed to be mostly British, with amazing smells tempting us around every corner. We lingered at the Food Heroes stage, but had missed the most famous chefs doing demos. From a wide array of choices I chose a pork bap with stuffing, apple sauce and crackling. I did remember to take a photo, but only after I’d snaffled the crackling. It looks somehow bare without it, so that’s in the deleted folder. Apparently the Welsh boss-man rode his bicycle from the stall holders’ campsite during the night, every few hours, to check on the pig cooking on its spit. He did a very good job, it was yummy. My other treat was Hereford ice-cream from a mother and daughter team from Rowlestone Farmhouse ice cream near Hereford. Actually it sounds as if the whole thing is a family endeavour; Dad is in charge of the dairy, Mum makes the delicious ice cream while the daughter works front of house. I had salted caramel and pecan, it was gorgeous. I confess that I’d willingly travel several hours to visit their ice cream parlour. (I wish they’d sponsor me to say that, ice cream would be fine.) 

I can’t work out if this photo is a bit odd; with the guy walking so close to the window. I just liked the way the company had dressed the potting shed shelves.

These carved crochet hooks were so smooth to the touch. I really am happy with my Clover Amour set, but was slightly tempted to buy a large wooden one.

As the rain was coming to an end we came across The Oxford Weavers, Spinners and Dyers, in a small tent near the river Glyme. I had a go at using a drop spindle. It’s much harder than it looks, but the lovely lady said not to worry about lumps; just call it Art Yarn! Ok then, I think I’ve discovered a latent talent…

I didn’t realise until I saw the stream of photos that I’d had quite an audience.

This week I’ve been busy. I’m rigorously decluttering and sorting out things. Yesterday I posted old clothes into a clothing bank bin, took bags of better clothes and boots, books and a heap of craft magazines to a hospice charity shop,  gave my old pairs of reading glasses to an optometrists who will send them to the Third World, Guide Dogs for the Blind have used postage stamps, The Blue Cross charity shop have foreign coins from my most recent travels (New Zealand, Malaysia, Israel, America, Australia and Hong Kong.) I donated some of  my academic books to the university library and I sent my last Star Ripple to Knit for Peace. As you see, someone else also snuck into the bag. I don’t mind and think Stanley might enjoy a new adventure.

I’ve tried some knitting after a few weeks break. My elbow feels ok, but no more again for a few days I’d say. This is a shame, but there we go. At least I’ve added in a new colour which keeps things interesting.

As for reading, I’m now listening to The Love Song of Miss Queenie Henessy by Rachel Joyce, having finished The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry which began the story and should be read first to get the full story. Oh my goodness, Celia Imrie is a fantastic narrator! I’ve always admired her acting, but had no idea she could do accents so well. Cockney to Scottish, women and men, she’s nailed them all so far in the audiobook. Also, I’m halfway through reading Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals. This is slow for me, but I kept listening to Harold Fry in bed instead and woke up an hour later several times. The dulcet tones of Jim Broadbent had sent me to sleep. Audiobooks don’t work for me at bedtime at all, but still I try from time to time and then miss huge chunks of the story.

Have you been on any days out recently? Can you listen to audio books at bedtime without falling asleep? What are you making and reading?

If you’d like to share what you’re making and reading every Wednesday too, leave a link in the comments. Don’t forget to link back to this post on your blog, and use #yarningalong on social media, so others can find us and join us in Yarning Along.

A long weekend away

We’ve been away again for a long weekend in Lincolnshire, which included a night’s stay in Lincoln. After walking around admiring the cathedral, pictured above, we had an interesting audio tour at the Medieval Bishops’ Palace (have a free year of membership of English Heritage, hurray!) A drink in Widow Cullen’s Well pub after all the walking, including up Steep Hill and exploring the old part of the city, was definitely restorative. That evening we had what turned out to be a mega dinner at Ribs ‘n’ Bibs. The beef ribs were gooood, but we couldn’t finish our food. A plateful for one, would actually be plenty to share.

I also got another fix of the seaside, albeit courtesy of the North sea. It is not, it has to be said, as pretty as the Atlantic sea which surrounds West Cornwall, but it is good to walk along to Sutton. I certainly felt I needed to walk at least 5 miles! We walked 8 by the end of the day.

 If you grew up with traditional English bucket and spade holidays, like I did, then Mablethorpe is your place for an enjoyable day out. I doubt it’s altered since the 1970s. There is a small fairground, arcades, cafes, ice cream stands, rock and sweet shops, souvenir shops and donkey rides on the beach. We’ve been popping there for years now and it doesn’t seem to have changed in a single way. Did you spot a Mum being buried in the sand?!img_3470 My cousin hosts several BBQs from early summer to mid-autumn for family and different groups of friends. We try to go to one, or maybe two, each year. They’re always good fun, with everybody mucking in. The informal rule is that every time you go to and from the cottage, across the tiny lane to her field, you take something. I have to admit that the (huge) glass of champagne I had on arrival went straight to my head, so the only thing I initially managed to take across was another glass of champagne! But if this was hash-tag land I’d probably be typing #winwin.

As far as stereotypes go the men conformed and ruled the two barbecues, there’s always one for meat and the other strictly for veggie foods. I grabbed my chance to cook, when someone left their post to top up their glass of red. I enjoyed flipping a batch of home-made halloumi burgers. (Recipe here, but made with some grated carrot, not heaps and no courgette as we found before that it’s too ‘wet’.) Apart from that I did a lot of chatting, took some photos and nibbled delicious food. That was all fine by me!

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I’ve had a week’s self-imposed ban of no crochet or knitting, to rest my elbow. It flared up in irritation at all the long rows of knitting I’ve been doing. I’ve tried a few rows of both knitting and crochet and it’s a feeling bit sore again. It’s definitely the knitting, as crochet has never really affected it. I’ll concentrate on finishing the Wave Blanket, then go back to the Garter Stitch Blanket and see how it goes. It’s not the end of the world if I just add a row or two a week. Or every other week. As you know, I started it to use up odd balls of DK yarn, and to have an easy project for pub knitting with the girls. It doesn’t matter how long it takes to finish. It’s a shame though as I have enjoyed adding to it and blending the colours.


My library books this week couldn’t be more different; Sweet Temptation was total fluff, but quite enjoyable. It tells the stories of three women who are overweight and become friends through joining ‘Fatbusters’. Ahem…I’ve glossed over the homeward bound visit to Melton Mowbray, home of Pork Pies and Stilton Cheese, but I’m back on lots of fruit and salad now! Vinegar Girl will be my next read; it’s a retelling of The Taming of the Shrew. It’s ages since I read an Anne Tyler novel.

What have you been eating? Do you use your local library? Have you seen the sea lately?
If you’d like to share what you’re making and reading every Wednesday too, leave a link in the comments. Don’t forget to link back to this post on your blog, and use #yarningalong on social media, so others can find us and join us in Yarning Along.

 

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West Cornwall


Walking part of the south-west coast path, taking numerous photos some in the same spots as last year and the year before: “But it’s so beautiful”, staring out to sea watching gulls drift slowly along the coastline, pasties and cake or an ice-cream for lunch, stopping for an afternoon pit-stop of cider and snacks, guessing how many steps we’ve walked; then checking the pedometer, planning which fish or seafood to buy for dinner, making G&T in slightly too small glasses, swigging the leftover tonic from the can, looking at the OS map and wondering what the weather will do, crocheting in bed in the morning while looking out to sea and listening to an Alan Bennett play….

Holiday.

Basildon Park

  

These photos are from a visit to Basildon Park a National Trust property in Berkshire, which we visited on Sunday. I’m glad we went before the storms of this week, as I reckon the petals of the rose garden might now have been blown away!

The interesting thing about this is that Lady Iliffe didn’t die until 2007 and so there is a video of her speaking about how she and her husband came to buy the property after the War. It’s not very often that you have the opportunity to see and hear the last inhabitants of an NT house, for obvious reasons. They had seen it before, in the late thirties, and hadn’t forgotten it. One day they passed nearby, wondering what became of the place, and ended up joining Men from the Ministry of Works on an impromptu tour. It had sat empty for fifty years, apart from being requisitioned during both the First and Second World Wars. As you see it’s a solidly impressive building. It must have taken a big pot of money to renovate and restore; but as Lord Iliffe was a newspaper magnate, photographed with Winston Churchill and Lord Beaverbrook amongst others, that probably was not a huge issue….

 I loved the view from the gardens at the back. The Berkshire (pronounced “bark-sher”) countryside rolls beautifully on. We had a good walk in the woodland and looked around the house. It was good to revisit as I had memories of some horrible 1950s decor in the house in the early noughties (I think): a plastic bed-surround with a white plastic teasmaid and polyester bedspread. The lovely gallery guide told me the house was now much improved and we’d find it very altered. I was much younger (practically a child) that first visit and expected faded grandeur, not a pink telephone by the bed! 

When I win my pot of Lottery money I shall buy a Lifetime Membership of The National Trust. It’s always a great day out, with chances for a good walk too. (This reminds of a film we had a recommendation to watch: Golden Age, it’s fun and has a fantastic British cast.)

Beautiful bluebells

Not many words are needed today. I’d run out of superlatives anyway; trying to describe the beauty of this bluebell wood. 

This year again we didn’t see any deer, though we did stand still several times when we heard rustling in the undergrowth. 

Mum, when I first started blogging, used to say: “You’re taking so many photographs!” Now it’s: “Have a look at your blog later to see when we came here last year.” And: “Take the bluebells in front of that magnificent horse chestnut. There are such pretty celandines here with bluebells behind, the colours look lovely together. Here’s a pretty group of cowslips.” She’s right of course, so I snapped them all for you. 
Here are blog posts from previous visits to the same woods, in 20142015 and 2016. I think you might recognise some of the trees and paths.

A crunchy walk

Such a good walk in the woods. We went at midday and the car thermometer was showing it was a mere 1/2 a degree. But by the time we’d walked for an hour and a half it had risen to a heady 3 degrees! The tracks would normally be very muddy, but today they were actually crunchy underneath your boots because they were frozen. I loved it. The best part is finding virgin ice on frozen puddles and stomping on it. There’s that satisfying crunch as the ice shatters.  It was silent in the woods, there was no one but us and birds singing in the trees. I swear the same robin flew from branch to branch following us all around.

I really appreciated coming home into a warm house, with the option of Spicy Lentil and Root Vegetable or Carrot, Ginger and Orange soup (see this month’s Red magazine for the carrot soup recipe.) I’ve been making soup every week, often trying some new recipes. I can easily make my own, without a recipe, but like to experiment. The next ones are Parsnip & Apple, Chinese style Chicken & Sweetcorn, Chicken, Rice and Miso and I’ve got a Sweet Potato with something linked in an email too. It’s the best thing to have in the fridge; especially when you’ve stomped around a frozen wood and need an instant winter warmer. 

Now the snooker’s on and I’m getting hints about how nice a Nespresso would be…then I’m planning to crochet at least two more rows on the Blackberry Ripple. I don’t mind the background hum of the snooker, but think I’ll plug myself into my  new audio book. It’s really good so far.

Badges, heather, gorse and blankets  

Yesterday I went to the fabulous V&A in London, officially: The Victoria and Albert Museum. The museum’s focus is upon decorative arts and design. The beautiful rooms are crammed full of amazing objects which you can see anytime for free, they also put on staggering good ticketed temporary exhibitions. I’m lucky enough to be a member and so can go into these anytime without booking and for free. Yesterday’s was the best I’ve been to: You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-1970.  There are many album covers from the period on display (I’d like a full list of these, must check the website) and many badges for sale in the shop at the end. You are forbidden from taking photographs in this exhibition, which turns out to be a good thing because you’re not distracted.

I went in at around 3:30pm, totally immersed from the start in the music and clips which automatically play on your headset as you move around the rooms, reading, looking, thinking. Near the end I led on a giant beanbag watching three walls of projected footage from the Woodstock festival, held in 1969 on a farm in Upstate New York, trying not to sing too loudly! It was a mesmerising exhibition. Noticeably no one had mobile phones out (this is rare anywhere, you’ll agree) and by the end I nearly fell on the floor with surprise when I looked at my watch and it was 6pm!

This is from West Cornwall last week. The colours of the sky, rocks, heather and gorse are stunning aren’t they? Quite a few times we saw cars left in gateways, off the tiny winding Cornish lanes, as people hopped out to take a photo of the same.
This my Yorkshire blanket, the first crochet I’d ever done, when I picked up a hook and tried making trebles. It’s pretty funny that the first crochet I ever did resulted in a full blanket! Mum made the starting ring and I carried on, with her help. It’s The Yorkshire Blanket because we’d hired a cottage there over Christmas 2008 and this is what I worked on, before going down with influenza (not “flu” which is typically a heavy cold.) I remember feeling like death warmed up for most of the time! No Christmas dinner for me, I was too unwell. That’s proper ill that is!

Anyway I’m really not sure what to do with this blanket, because we started off with the claret coloured DK single stranded. I carried on using a mixture of yarn that Mum and my Mother in Law passed on to me. Others I picked up from charity shops. It’s all acrylic and the tweedy appearance is because some yarn was thinner than others, so I ended up holding it double two strands at one time. Of all the blankets I’ve subsequently made this is still my favourite in terms of colours; it’s more ‘me’ I suppose. Of course there is a real discrepancy in weight between the centre of the blanket and the rest. It was initially a ‘can I learn to crochet?’ practice piece, but turned into a full square blanket because of course I could, and I couldn’t stop. It really doesn’t work with the weight of the outside rounds pulling at the lighter weight centre. There’s been no unraveling however. My darning must have been sterling!

So, I’m wondering whether to undo it and donate the yarn back to charity shops, crochet it all back up but with a two stranded DK centre, find out some way of undoing just the red centre and redoing it or……

And my current blanket, The Unnamed Ripple, as I sat in the shade a few days ago catching up with a few rows. This one’s going to a friend who lives on a canal boat, I ought to get cracking with it so she can use it this winter.

Don’t forget that if you’re in UK you can enter my giveaway to win a copy of Edward’s Imaginarium before noon on Sunday 25th. Leave a comment on the post linked here.

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Lately 


  • With a little help from my friend Trish, of Made by Patch blog, I’ve figured out how to crochet a half hexie so I can finally finish the little blanket off. Hurray! I’d worked it out apart from the beginning; where I was crocheting a chain of 4 and slip stitching them together. Ingeniously she chained 4, but then made the first stitch into the first chain made, making the other 3 into a treble – so no lumpy bumpy circle at the bottom in what should be a half. 
  • Cooking king prawn linguine – so delicious! You want to as well? Roast cherry tomatoes with a teaspoon of olive oil and a teaspoon or two of balsamic vinegar. While the linguine is cooking, gently cook the king prawns in another teaspoon of olive oil, some cloves of garlic and red chilli. Top with basil and a shaving of parmesan. What you can’t see is a hungry man with a slight frown on his face and his fork poised, while I make him wait to take a photograph of his dinner!
  • A gorgeous sunny, relaxed Friday with drinks and dinner at Samuel Jones Smoke & Ale House by the river Exe, in Exeter – thoroughly recommended 
  • A return, after about 14 years, to Lanhydrock a National Trust property, near Bodmin in Cornwall. It was just as good as we remembered and still one of the best houses; due to the sheer number of rooms to see. There’s an interesting focus on the upstairs-downstairs lives of the former inhabitants.

I’ve brought my hexies away with me, to deepest sunniest / rainiest Cornwall, but so far they’ve stayed zipped inside my Cath Kidson bag. I think it’s official: I’ve lost my crojo, or my crajo in general. I’m wondering if by putting this out there now it might mean I do some later?! But there are other things I AM doing: walking lots, as usual, visiting the gym to use some of the equipment, doing an Aqua Zumba class and rediscovering my swimming skills (used to be part of a swimming club.) As it was pouring yesterday morning we went to the local leisure centre to swim lengths, then played race and dive for the locker key and I even did a few handstands in the pool. I dread to think what the expression was on the faces of the young lifeguards! I don’t actually care. When I am old I shall wear purple…. (This poem.)

Taking Stock in May

The buttercups have just opened on the meadow, isn’t it glorious? I spotted a pair of swans with their signets

Making : cooked breakfast on Sunday morning

Cooking : cheese scones, not often but when I do mmmmmm

Drinking : Gin and tonic

Reading : The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes by Anna McPartlin

Wanting : to try knitting socks 
soon

Looking : at all the pretty lacy cow parsley that’s appeared on verges

Lilac flower – oh the smell!

In the bluebell woods with Mum on our annual visit, no deer this time!

Playing : Words with Friends, improving

Deciding :to finish the baby hexagons this week

Wishing : for half hexagon instructions in exactly the same pattern, no brain required

Enjoying : the sunshine

Waiting : for the weekend – the seaside here I come!

Liking : cantaloupe melon

Wondering : what to sew

Windsor. The Rumworth Morris (dancers) of Bolton

Loving : the birdsong

Pondering : the benefits of gym versus no gym

Considering : buying sock knitting needles

Buying: sushi for lunch often lately

Watching : Agent Carter, it’s fun

Hoping : for good Bank Holiday weekend weather

Marvelling : at how fast the birds are emptying the seed feeders

Cringing : at nothing this moment

Needing : the pool timetable, it’s a Google away

Questioning : nothing right now, unusually

Windsor castle and The River Thames

Smelling: my tomato plants

Wearing : shorts at home

Following : BeachHutCook on Instagram

Notcing : trends in recipes

Knowing : we’ve nearly run out of bird seed

Thinking : we’re making it easy for the starlings, nesting nearby, to feed their noisy young

Admiring : some photography on IG

Sorting : things for Ebay

Getting : irritated at bone crunching

Eton Dorney Olympic rowing lake

Bookmarking : recipes and patterns

Coveting : nothing apart from: a beach house, a luxury apartment in London and a round the world first class plane ticket

Disliking : the BREXIT / staying media drama

Opening : rice/couscous/bulghar wheat/ sugar packets which explode over everything

Giggling : at Peter Kay’s Comedy Shuffle

Feeling : annoyed at my seasonal achey knees, why do they do this?!

Snacking : trying mini Babybel Light cheeses

Helping : elderly people by picking up dropped things. Sounds odd? Look out and you’ll see it happens a lot in shops

Hearing : an aeroplane high above, a dog barking, the clicking of mouse

The Taking Stock template is from the marvellous Pip.

Spring has sprung 

  
  
  

  

  

   

 Daffodils, snowdrops, scilas, primroses, catkins, croci, cherry blossom and much more; it’s that lovely time of year again. As we walked yesterday Mum and I had a robin following us from ground to branch, to fallen log to a spindly bush. I wished I had some crumbs in my pocket. The weather is chilly but bright, and perfect for a good brisk walk. And then home to a bowl of homemade soup, a cheese scone and a chocolate topped cappuccino. 

I’ve been knitting like fury over the weekend, but I’ve ripped it out twice and turned a circular knitting pattern into a straight piece. I don’t mind sewing or crocheting a seam; but I do mind laddering appearing all around the knit, especially when my Google search states this only typically occurs above the join. It’s ok, it’s grown exponentially as I stayed up far too late to finish A Gathering Storm by Rachel Hore. I couldn’t leave the story where it was, the last hour and a quarter had to be heard. What next?

Perfect

   
    
   Today we pulled on some warm clothes and went out for some fresh air, after a few days of socialising, eating and drinking. A swift five mile walk was just the thing.  On Boxing Day it’s usually great fun seeing children whizz by on their shiny new bikes and scooters, with everyone nodding and smiling their hellos, but it was a rainy day and so the hibernation continued.  I’m so glad we decided to postpone a wander around the shops this morning. Walking alongside peacefully grazing sheep, while admiring the stark beauty of the trees against the rapidly darkening sky felt absolutely perfect. 

Gunby Hall & Gardens 

   
    
    
    
    
 Gunby Hall and Gardens in Lincolnshire were looking spectacular yesterday. Yes, this was yesterday not mid-July! What a beautifully warm day. Gunby is definitely one of our favourite National Trust properties of the year: the staff were extremely welcoming, but not intrusive, the hall and garden were immaculate, fresh produce from the garden is sold cheaply in the shop, I picked up a brilliant bargain in the secondhand book area and the coffee and walnut cake was delicious. Win win! 

On Saturday there was another BBQ in the field, the last of the year I guess now. If you fancy seeing a couple of the charity shop crochet blankets, which my cousin picked up for people to use when the sun goes down, then check out my Instragram pics (click on the camera icon in pink,  top right of this page). Because nether of us had made them, there was no worry about ketchup/wine/beer spills, sweet little cocker spaniels  jumping up to sit on your lap for a fuss, or whatever else! Apart from a China Teacup Poodle, which I used to have to suffer sitting on my lap in a friend’s car in Australia, this is the first time I’ve willingly had a dog sit on my lap. It’s actually ok, but I’m not making a habit of it. Cats though are welcome. 

Hidcote, again 

   
    
    
    
    
 It’s so lovely at Hidcote that you could visit every week and notice something new. In fact I know someone who once visited every month one year, so as to see the garden changing throughout the four seasons. She can give you the Latin and common names for most of the plants, describe where they used to stand in her last garden and where they are now planted in her new one.

 As for me I just like to sniff the scented air, admire the colours and shapes and imagine myself wafting around the garden with a book under one arm and a craft bag hanging from the other. A bell to ring for an afternoon gin and tonic, cocktail or pot of tea would also be good.

A summer weekend 

   
    
     

  
  
    
My cousin has a cottage in the middle of the Lincolnshire countryside. She bought the field opposite the cottage and now she and her Mister host BBQS for friends and family during the summer. It’s really lovely there. The skies are huge, you can see nothing but sky, fields and the owl flies over every day at five or six o’clock, depending on the season. He usually hoots me to sleep late at night too. 

To make the most of the weekend we fit in a lot of fun including: a visit to the smart shops and deli at Doddington Hall (must go back to see the quilt exhibition, or see if it moves somewhere else) a long seaside walk topped off with locally – Skegness – made ice cream at Mabelthorpe. It never changes at Mabelthorpe which is part of the charm of the place, that and the wide expanse of sandy beach. It was a good job we’d walked miles; the ice cream was followed up by freshly made doughnuts – the danger of burnt fingers is worth the bliss of the eating –  and then fish & chips in the excellent Monty’s. We also visited the pretty market town Louth with its plethora of independent shops, the Lincolnshire Wold Railway (a slightly unnerving experience, I’m not going to lie) a relaxed visit to a country pub nearby and a good look around Belton House and some of the extensive grounds on the way home. This is one of our favourite National Trust visits. I particularly recommend the Below Stairs timed ticket tour, it’s so interesting.

I’m loving making the most of the long light days and warm summer.

How can I have forgotten this – Colin Firth sits at the writing desk in one of the bedrooms at Belton House. Some of the house was used in Pride Prejuduce – though not for the wet shirt lake scene, as there is no lake! A sweet old man, who is one of the room guides there told us that you will see him in a room at Belton, then he walks out of it and into another – that is at another location altogether. It’s really cleverly edited, the continuity must be extremely challenging! 

 

A little walk

I wanted to test out my knee yesterday, I can’t tell you how cabin fevery I got resting it all last week. So we set off to look at the work of local artisans. Just a little stroll, gently does it, if it felt ok we might slowly wander to the next village too… 

                               The sun was out, it was lovely and warm. I love to feel the sun on my face as I walk, well who doesn’t? Cow parsley, buttercups and bluebells are in full bloom, plus who can resist stopping for a little chat with skittish calves, oohing and ahhing over lazy lambs and watching birds effortlessly soaring overhead?

We walked 9 miles, with a pit stop at a lovely country pub for a pint of lager shandy and bag of crisps. This was really not the plan! Luckily my knee is pretty ok. It was a lovely, lovely ‘stroll’ ! 

Have you had a good weekend?

In the bluebell wood

                    Once again Mum and I went to the bluebell wood to wander. So many flowers! Bluebells of course, but also cowslips, orchids (pyramid apparently, though she was going to check this when home) crab-apple blossom, cherry blossom and little violets. 

No deer thundered towards us, unlike last year although we walked quietly to the same spot in the adjacent field (planted with beans this time.) It is such a peaceful spot, the birds were singing their hearts out and we had the whole woods to ourselves; no dog walkers or snipper snappers like me.

We ate a cosy picnic in the car because the wind was pretty chill outside in the open. I was amused to see a woman with five large dogs: (eek!) a retriever, rottweiler, labrador, an-other and ditto) having to carry the sixth; a naughty greyhound, to her Range Rover because it completely refused to leave! 

Springtime at Cliveden 

                It continues to be a gorgeous sunny warm Spring here in the South of England. Walking at Cliveden (6.5 miles, now pretty much a breeze apart from really steep bits!) in beautiful sun, seeing abundant wild bluebells and primroses feels like such a treat. You need to catch bluebells while they bloom; it never feels as if they are around for long. I’m sure we usually go to the bluebell woods of my childhood in May, everything seems earlier this year. 

Here are some photos from Cliveden last Summer if you’re interested in comparing the planting of the parterre then and now. 

What’s the weather like where you are?

Glorious Spring sunshine

A long weekend by the sea, in glorious sunshine…  Sun, sea and ice-cream. The first of many this year, I hope. This was Friday at Bognor Regis after a good walk along the prom. It’s lemon meringue flavour; and had fizzy crunchy little meringue pieces mixed into the tangy lemon. I’m looking out for this again!  West Wittering has a beautiful sandy expanse of beach. On Saturday lunchtime it was full of happy dogs playing, kite surfers, kite flying families, horses galloping along the beach and walkers striding out in the sun. It was t-shirt weather again, woo hoo! Apart from watching others enjoying the beach, stopping to examine interesting looking pebbles (I have one with a fossil) and look for sea glass, we played ‘which one would you like’ as we passed beach houses. I like the chalet style on the right. What about you?   We’d walked 5 miles along the shore, not easy going on pebbles towards the end. We walked on sand some of the way, but the tide was coming in fast and covering it as we got to East Wittering and Bracklesham Bay. We stopped at the Medmerry Holiday village, which fortunately had a very comfortable pub. This gate made me smile as we walked back to the beach after lager shandy, crisps and a well needed pit-stop. (You know that feeling of relief girls?!)  How’s that for driftwood?  Although I had a rule that I wouldn’t start any new crochet until I’d finished the motif blanket, my fingers felt sooo itchy to do something. It feels like weeks! I packed my basket full of new yarn, but with the great weather for walking I didn’t open it at all the whole weekend. Evenings were for wine, a little chocolate, reading or a film. On Sunday we visited Uppark House and Garden. It’s become a tradition to seek out a new National Trust property on the last day of a holiday or mini-break. It’s perfect for a good wander inside and out in lovely surroundings, a drink and snack, then a good mooch in the gift-shop.

Do you remember my Wool Money post? I still don’t look at odds, history or jockeys or trainers, it’s completely randomly based on the horses’ names. As I sat on a picnic bench back at West Wittering on Saturday evening I checked the Grand National results, with the last 1% of my iphone battery. I leapt into the air and looked everywhere for the Mr. I probably looked like a mere-cat on sentry duty. One of mine had WON! Last year’s joint membership to the National Trust was funded by his lottery win, this year’s renewal is thanks to Many Clouds.    I had low expectations for the scent garden at Uppark, this early in the year, but wow! The scent from so many hyacinths was stunning. Unfortunately my nose and eyes ran for the rest of the day! Oh well, we’re heading to hay fever season. I’ve just checked my anti-histamine supplies and typically all are out of date. There’s obviously good business in the hay fever relief industry.
  Aren’t these fritillieries beauties?  I did start some new crochet (tut, tut) when home. It’s bright and sunny again today; so I’ll nip into the garden later to try to take some decent photos for you.

What are you up to?

Five things

This looks like pizza doesn’t it? I gave Nigella’s crustless pizza a try at the weekend.  The recipe’s from her Kitchen book. It was revolting; basically cheesy Yorkshire pudding. I ate the topping and a bit of crispy edge then the food recycling bin had the rest. 

Here’s my version of the Slouch and Bobble hat from Kat Goldin’s Hook, Stitch and Give book, sans bobble because I’m getting round to sewing it up. Same old story hey. On me it looks like a tea cosy, but on my friend it will probably look gorgeous! Anyone relate?    I laughed aloud (20th C usage alive and kicking) yesterday to see that behind the garden centre/pick your own/farm shop/fishing lakes/carousel there are llamas in a small field, not the sheep (lambs?) I expected to see. Those llamas are getting everywhere these days! Hurray they sell smoked garlic; I’ve only bought it from the Isle of Wight Garlic Farm before. I love it though my fridge stinks for weeks. A few cloves were delicious in a chicken traybake I threw together last night. Like my fridge I also carried the garlic tang today but it was worth it. 

Five Happy Things type of posts, to be frank, can set my teeth on edge as they are sometimes very syrupy reading, they’re also not the most interesting. Do you remember when the 52 Weeks of Happy blog posts appeared last January? So many gave up writing them by May, if not sooner, because I think people found they were not very interesting to write either. I do enjoy ‘ randoms’ though as they give a bit of snapshot. If you fancy posting your own Five Things add a link below please, so then I can read yours. 

Yorkshire wins

On our way up to Yorkshire we met my cousin and family for Sunday lunch and she gave me this box of freshly laid eggs from her hens. Aren’t they pretty colours? The labelling on the box made me laugh. I think there might be a lucky rooster in the mansion!

On the way up I’d checked my emails and had that heart stopping email titled ‘We have news about your lottery ticket.’ It wasn’t a life changing amount, but £25 is good pocket money. I treated myself to a ball of Marble Chunky I’ve admired for ages because I love the colours, and the new Simply Crochet.

As a fan of Last of the Summer Wine I was delighted on Monday to see some of the haunts of Foggy, Compo and Clegg in Holmfirth, with Trish of Made by Patch. We’ve emailed and sent little packages to each other for over three years, since we began our blogs, so it was fab to finally meet.

 The weather was very wet and gusty, to say the least, so it was good to have lunch and drip dry after our mini tour. This is my ‘Dirty Burger’ from The Old Bridge pub, it was delicious. Obviously you’ll see I went for the healthy option!

We mooched around a few yarn shops and both bought marble chunky. Then we browsed in a secondhand bookshop which is tucked away in one of the narrow lanes. Holmforth is built up the sides of the Holme valley so has many steps and winding alleys, it’s a great place to explore. 

Meanwhile, the Mister was fishing at Scout Dike reservoir where a class of 8/9 year olds and 4 adults came upon him and watched him bring in a second rainbow trout with lots of wows. One little lad said “My Dad fishes up here but he never catches owt!”

Yesterday the weather couldn’t have been more different;  it was around 15 degrees and so warm that we ended up taking off our coats for part of the circular costal walk we did from Flamborough to North Landing, to Flamborough Head and back around to the village.

After the 8.5 mile walk I really felt I deserved my pint mug of tea and chocolate. Today we’ve walked 5.5 miles. I’m keeping a record so I can see how far we’ve walked by the end of the week.

I had a brainwave about the trout on Monday night, and so today met up with someone else. That story is for next time…

To a Snowdrop



Lone flower, hemmed in with snows, and white as they
But hardier far, once more I see thee bend
Thy forehead as if fearful to offend,
Like an unbidden guest. Though day by day
Storms, sallying from the mountain-tops, waylay
The rising sun, and on the plains descend;
Yet art thou welcome, welcome as a friend
Whose zeal outruns his promise! Blue-eyed May
Shall soon behold this border thickly set
With bright jonquils, their odours lavishing
On the soft west-wind and its frolic peers;
Nor will I then thy modest grace forget,
Chaste snowdrop, venturous harbinger of Spring,
And pensive monitor of fleeting years!

William Wordsworth, 1819.

Why would you put an egg on it?

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A wander by the river admiring the beginnings of autumn colour then lunch al fresco. The pub fires were lit but it was really too warm to be inside, such a lovely day. I had a starter of wild garlicky mushrooms on sourdough toast with a surprise poached egg on top which I ate, although they’d obviously done that poaching trick as it tasted faintly of vinegar. Then my friend and I decided a starter and a sinful pudding would be perfect, because we were only having a light lunch. Women’s logic is infallible. Mine wasn’t around long enough to snap but I can tell you it was swimming in sauce and had a good dollop of clotted cream on top!

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By noon today and yesterday it’s been 18 degrees and people are strolling about in t-shirts again. It’s incredible weather for October, we haven’t even had a frost yet.

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The flowers in the photo were in troughs alongside the tables and there were stunning hanging baskets behind us, all bursting full of begonias, freesias and other pretties. This is weird weather – but I like the temporary respite from autumn and I’m trying to make the most of the mini Indian Summer.

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I popped into my favourite yarn shop after lunch and grabbed an extra graphite, raspberry and lime for my ripple. £1.60 for 100g, super value isn’t it?

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I’ve just remembered that I was told off for pausing and squealing at the celeb version of Gogglebox the other night – Miranda and co were on a sofa with a granny square blanket hanging off the back, but also…..THIS:

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Even ripples are mainstream now. Is it the death knell for crochet? My e-pal and I were saying typing at the weekend that the handmade revolution can’t last forever and she reckons the cool kids will stop as everybody else gets on board. White walls and minimalism will be back with a vengeance, and the yarn shops will close again. But not for a while I hope!

There is an interesting feature in the new issue of Inside Crochet with Sara of Black Sheep Wools, all about how the business began, subsequently stalled and what happened when knitting and crochet came back.

I’ve just caught up on the first of the specials of the Great British Sewing Bee for Children In Need, it’s not great without Claud and doesn’t feel half as good as the usual series, but I like Edith, she’s very cool, and Dave makes me giggle. I won’t say who won in case you’re catching up too. I’ve got the other two to see as well.

You?

I don’t take any responsibility for the lame title, I asked for suggestions and it was better than my ‘Not cool’ or ‘Washing on the line again.’ Not cool was obviously because of the temps but …..well….it describes this blog too! Don’t pretend to be something you’re not. Be yourself. Ya de yah. *Grin*

Woolly jumpers on!

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It was such a lovely day on Sunday; 17 deg and no need for a warm jacket. We sat on a bench and I was just saying how perfect it was to put your head back and feel the warm rays on your face, when I clonked my head on the back of the bench. I’d like to say this is a rare kind of clonk, but sadly it’s not. At a friend’s housewarming I apparently threw myself down onto her sofa, after unpacking lots of boxes, and hit my head on the bookcase which had been placed behind. I don’t really remember that one. Maybe I concussed myself!

Anyway. the walk, weather and sight of the trees, berries and wild fungi were beautiful. I really LOVE autumn. Always have.

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This is the first one I’d seen this season, on Sunday, but then I stumbled into full-on Christmas yesterday in a ‘room’ in Homebase. I like it in October, that’s when I begin to get little tingles about Christmas, the colourful lights and decorations to come. By December the relentlessness of it has worn me down somewhat, then on the actual few days it’s all fun again. Until the next year…

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The weather’s gone back to typically autumn temps with wind and rain featuring quite a bit this week. But the advantage of autumn and winter blanket making is being able to cosy under them while you crochet! The ripple is over half-way now and I’ve come up with a really cunning plan about the design. More on that another day.

Shotgun Lovesongs - Picador I’m really enjoying my Shotgun Lovesongs audio book. It’s perfect for rippling along to. The four main characters: Henry, Beth, Lee and Ronnie are dramatised by different narrators/actors. I’m loving the the way a couple of them pronounce words like ‘orange’ and ‘mirror’! I’m not sure if that’s due to them aiming to sound like authentic Wisconsinsites, but I likey.

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Tonight I’m making fish chowder for dinner. It’s a Lesley Waters recipe and you can find it here.

 

What are you cooking, eating, making, reading?

Snowshill Manor & Garden

Yesterday we had yet another late Summer day; t-shirt, sandals and sitting outside weather. We’ve been really fortunate this week. It seems that oop north the weather is not being so kind. I overheard a couple from Yorkshire saying that it’s much warmer down here. Being determined to make the most of it we went to explore another National Trust house and garden. It’s about twelve years since we first visited and found Snowshill Manor and Garden a delight.

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“Snowshill Manor is a Cotswold manor house packed with extraordinary treasures collected over a life time by Charles Wade

Inside these rooms you can discover this eclectic collection that he restored and displayed. We have maintained the atmospheric settings he created with low lighting and few labels. From tiny toys to Samurai armour, musical instruments to fine clocks, thousands of objects are laid out for you to see just as Mr Wade intended.

The garden is the perfect place to unwind and explore hidden vistas, quiet corners and unexpected delights including Charles Wade’s uncomplicated home, the Priest’s House.

“Let nothing perish” was his motto, and his life was dedicated to doing just that. From the everyday to the extraordinary, you can discover his passion for craftsmanship, colour and design.” National Trust Website, 14th September 2014.

You’re never quite sure what you’ll discover next when exploring the house. The collection is not to everyone’s taste; in one room a woman exclaimed that it was all a bit spooky. This might be due to the gloomy lighting, the strange mix of things or perhaps the many faces depicted on items, which can be unsettling. I know exactly what she meant, but it’s a fascinating place to look around. For me the garden is the best part…

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I hope you’ve enjoyed these photos. I always think of people far away from the English countryside who enjoy seeing glimpses, but know picture heavy posts of outings and holidays are not everyone’s thing.

~~~~~

I’ve heard that there’s a new crochet magazine coming out in the UK this coming week called #crochet. I’m trying to find who, when, where but my friend Google has surprisingly not thrown up any answers at all. If you have any info about the mag, please share!

Summer snapshot

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Eating fresh vegetables from the garden on the same day they’re picked or dug, such a Summer highlight! One day visiting family I came away with peas in their pods, beetroot, potatoes, shallots, carrots, cucumber and courgettes. What a haul.

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Baking lots this Summer; I’ve had a bit of an obsession with muffins. So far I’ve baked citrus muffins, chunky cookie muffins and my favourite: fig and marzipan muffins. Cheese and Marmite scones (see BBC Good Food website for the recipe) my own cheese scone recipe, raspberry and amaretti cake, lemon drizzle cake and my weekly loaves of bread. I usually only bake cakes and other treats when I have guests or an occasion to cook for, otherwise there’s too much naughtiness around, it’s better shared! So far this Summer there have been lunches, teas and picnics. Hurray! I’ve always enjoyed being in the kitchen with the radio on and whipping up a cake etc. It probably stems from a cosy childhood helping to bake cakes and mixing a mug of icing at home when little. We would sometimes mix up three mugs of icing and make ‘traffic light cakes’ – pale green, red or yellow icing to top fairy cakes.
The cream tea was my favourite of all the recent occasions. It included a discussion of whether it should be cream or jam first. Mine is the neater looking scones, cream first, but with the far messier (homemade) jammy plate!

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Nerding and walking a lot; about 26 miles in the last week, some of it Geocaching. I’m not a hardcore cacher and it’s taken me years to reach my very low tally, but when I set out to find some it’s fun. They are all around you did you know? If you didn’t its worth having a look at the official website.

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A few friends and I came across this fine fellow while looking at a lovely Japanese garden, after finding a cache. Aren’t peacocks stunning? Apparently some believe peacock feathers bring very bad luck, refusing to have them on the house. I prefer to see them in situ anyway

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Crocheting rows of the ripple blanket in my friend’s favourite colours. It will be a surprise present at Christmas since I’m also going on with the motifs for the William Morris colours inspired blanket. I’ve put the ripple away in the Little Room as I’ve got to get on with the other. I also have another thing to make nearer the end of the month. I’m partly regretting agreeing to that, but we will see!

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Enjoying The House of Illustration Quentin Blake exhibition. If you’ve read Roald Dahl’s books you’ll recognise some of the illustrations on display. You can also stop and play in the magic fountains of Granary Square, Kings Cross.

Picnicking at Cliveden, a National Trust property which was the former home of the Astor family where I met three other girls. Two of them were my little nieces. They are currently obsessed with doing cartwheels and handstands, so mostly I saw them upside down as they twirled around the gardens, apart from when they were eating lemon drizzle cake and marzipan & fig muffins!

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What are you up to this Summer? Link to your snapshot post below if you fancy sharing.

Sissinghurst Castle

I’ve wanted to visit Sissinghurst for a long time. I’ve come across Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson many times when reading books concerning English social history in the last century, but their garden is also famous of course. I loved my visit.

“Vita Sackville-West, the poet and writer, began the transforming Sissinghurst Castle in the 1930s with her diplomat and author husband, Harold Nicolson. Harold’s architectural planning of the garden rooms, and the colourful, abundant planting in the gardens by Vita, reflect the romance and intimacy of her poems and writings.

Sissinghurst Castle was the backdrop for a diverse history; from the astonishing time as a prison in the 1700s, to being a home to the women’s land army. It was also a family home to some fascinating people who lived here or came to stay. Today you can take in the ruined architecture of the extensive original buildings, vast panoramic views from the top of the Tower, the current working farm and the 450-acre wider estate along with Vita and Harold’s gardens.” Taken from the National Trust website.

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I really like looking at vegetable gardens on this scale. Just look at those lettuces!  Those at Hidcote (not included in the blog post, but you might want to look at more photos from another glorious English garden) were well worth seeing too. I had serious vegetable envy that day too!

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Vita favoured planting in abundance; she didn’t wish to see any soil, so the beds were filled to bursting with plants. It would be amazing to be able to fly back in time to see the garden in its heyday.

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Apart from the gorgeous garden and grounds it was envy inspiring to see Vita’s writing room in the tower. A room of your own up in a tower – wow!

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It’s hard to capture the beauty of the white garden properly. It’s one of most striking areas of the gardens.

Which garden to visit next? Decisions, decisions!

On another island

It feels like eons since I shared any craft here but that’s because I’m temporarily unable to do any, so have nothing to share. My elbow pain has flared up and I’m trying to avoid anything that might aggravate it. I’m feeling a little sorry for myself as I’m in the middle of a few makes and watching tv with still hands feels incredibly unproductive. At the risk of sounding whiney my knee is also sore. When I sit with an ice pack on it at least I can usually listen to an audio book and make something but that’s not happening. Boo!

Still, it was a lovely sunny bank holiday weekend and we hopped over to the Isle of Wight and had a super time. The Garlic Farm is a must-see. You can go to the tasting experience room and try most of the products, then spend way too much money in the shop. My tip top favourite product is their smoked garlic bulbs. I first tried some years ago and if anyone I know is visiting that’s always my “please buy me” request. It’s truly delicious added to tomato sauce or roasted with chicken. I added some to a homemade BBQ sauce last night and I can’t wait to eat it later.

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We drove to Shanklin and wandered along the beach to Sandown, collecting a trove of sea glass. Finding a few different shades of blue felt like coming across treasure! My collection’s growing now so it’s been re homed in a larger jar.
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Ventnor and the excellent Spyglass Inn is a must during any visit. Lager shandy, a shared plate of whitebait and a wander along the sea front rounded off the day beautifully.
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We visited a National Trust property on Monday and I’ll share some photos from the visit soon. I’ve found another Shepherd’s hut…

What did you do over the weekend? Are you busy making anything?

In & out the dusty bluebells

IMG_2752 IMG_2753IMG_2756IMG_2757IMG_2758IMG_2763IMG_2765IMG_2767IMG_2769IMG_2776Visiting a wood which you grew up walking to regularly is wonderful, every step prompts a memory and even the oak trees seem to wave a greeting.

Driving past a farm where a territorial dog was always likely to rush out barking at us all still provokes sweaty hands and a racing heart. Once I suggested ‘Let’s go back another way’ but that brought head shaking and “Come on, he’s only saying ‘Hello, this is my patch.'”  I tried just stopping, standing stock still in the middle of the lane, but realised the others were taking no notice and were wandering further away back down the hill.

This visit there was no dog, at least not one silly enough to run out in front of a car. As we stepped out into the dandelion field at the back of the woods Mum and I heard a galloping noise; two very large deer were running straight towards us with a sound like horses pounding along a racecourse. Simultaneously two things happened; Mum whispered ‘Look aren’t they wonderful, stand really still’ and I rushed to stand behind her. One deer changed course immediately, turning in a sharp circle bounding to the other end of the field. The other continued galloping along, it seemed to be charging right for us, hooves pounding in time to my racing heart. It was probably only a few seconds and then he too turned. The pair gracefully jumped through a gap in the trees and into the wood. I remembered I was holding my camera too late. They had gone.

The Colourful World of Kaffe Fassett – The American Museum, Bath (part 3)

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Even when the stunning Kaffe Fassett exhibition is no longer at The American Museum, Bath, (after 2nd November) it’s really worth visiting. As you see I wasn’t exaggerating when I described the beautiful Wiltshire countryside. What a stunning location.

The museum has a collection of over 250 American quilts. A large proportion are displayed in impressive racks which you can flick through like you used to be able to do in The Poster Shops of the 1980s and 90s, albeit on a huge scale. The last three quilts are hanging at the top of the house and were created by Kaffe Fassett, aren’t they beautiful? There are also his sketches and swatches too, dotted around the main museum building. So if you visit the exhibition don’t pass the main house by; it’s full of interesting American folk and decorative arts, as well as furniture and original interiors bought by the museum’s founders before demolition in the States.

I bought a few treats from the shop too. Some edible (naughty naughty Reeces which I grew up eating courtesy of American rellies and friends, and some of those OTT flavoured Snyder’s of Hanover honey mustard pretzel pieces – love ’em), a sweet patchwork log cabin patterned tin and a few cards which will be posted to friends in the future. The shop is always a really fun last thing to do on a special day out isn’t it?

 

A very crafty Christmas

Between Christmas and New Year I inevitably find I drift around in a bit of a haze. Driving merrily along to go through a village on my way to sale shopping I came across this…

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20131227-153512.jpgI just forgot we’ve had a little a lot of rain this week. After taking these photos of what are usually fields I turned my car around and went another way as the road was blocked with flood water. If it does carry on as predicted the water on either side of the roads will not be contained within the fields and water meadows. I’m not thinking about how much water surrounds us.

I have obviously been a very good girl this year…

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Aren’t these the best kind of presents? So much to be busy with into the New Year, so much inspiration. I was also lucky to be given a Hobbycraft voucher and bought the fabric in their sale. A metre for £5 was too good to miss especially as the material feels pretty good quality. In fact I’m thinking I might get ahead and sew some gift bags for Christmas 2014! After finding bargain packs of 10 cards, 3 for £1, I’m having a forward thinking day. (I know, I know, I’m making you cringe right?!)

What was your favourite present? Have you been given crafty Christmas gifts too? I’d love to see what you’ve been given if you want to post a picture somewhere and put a link in the comments below.

Time to curl up and catch up with more Christmas tv and film now. Lebkuchen, chocolate and glass of port anyone? Don’t judge me.

Autumn at Blenheim Palace

A brisk walk in the crisp Autumn air, muffled up with scarf, hat (apparently it makes me look like a pixie, hmmm) and fuzzy red gloves. But tell me why is it that dogs always swerve in a circle to the one who is not so keen, completely ignoring the other who would no doubt stop, have a stroke and a chat?

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What is absolutely perfect after a red cheek making walk is this…20131114-171219.jpg

Are you enjoying Autumn? Where are your favourite Autumn places?

Weekend days

20130701-100431.jpgThe hunter-gather came home with a smaller haul than usual, but another good catch from a morning fishing session. Caught with a may-fly which is late for this time of year apparently.

20130701-100439.jpgSunny morning x stitch, starting a kit I bought last year from Liberty of London.

20130701-100451.jpgI fancied a spot of baking and had the ingredients to make an Olive, Onion and Basil scone. It was just baking when the fisherman arrived home with uncannily good timing.

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20130701-100520.jpgInstead of the usual (rather dreary) DJ one of my favourite comics stood-in, while the other was at Glastonbury, on Saturday afternoon. When we saw Rhod at a comedy gig last year I laughed so much I cried. I crocheted with cotton while I chuckled along to the radio.

20130701-100530.jpgAnother walk along the canal, but in a different direction this time, to look for some geocaches. We chatted to a local character who has noticed many people wandering up the nearby lane off the canal to peer into the underground, looking for caches. The we helped a woman with a swing bridge as her husband passed under on their hired narrow boat. In return for answering my quick-fire narrow boat related questions we heard all about her son’s recent graduation and future career plans. Funnily they were from the area of Yorkshire where we should have been for the weekend.

20130701-100537.jpgQuite stunning tree fungus. I imagine there’s a troupe of fairies who live around this ivy clad tree.

20130701-100546.jpgYou may coat the ground with concrete and with gravel, but we shall not be deterred from flowering.

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20130701-100602.jpgAll those heads ready to sprinkle their seed for more poppies next year. I must remember to walk here again.

20130701-100618.jpgIt’s unclear, but through a gap in the hedge next to the canal I spotted a white sofa and glass coffee table. It looks like an outside shoot for an interiors magazine.

20130701-100629.jpgThe lambs and sheep were going bananas in the field opposite. What a din!

20130701-100637.jpgAh, there are a shepherd and his lad shearing them.

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20130701-100703.jpg“Rachel, if you carry on stroking her too much she’ll follow us all the way home.” It’s so hard though, she’s a very young cat with friendly curious eyes, and a funny way of leaping in front of you for more love.

20130701-101350.jpgBack home to finish the last few rows of string bag II. It’s now ready for steam blocking.

Gentle fun, ended with some glasses of Pimms and a meal at a local pub with a friend. Happy days, after the disappointment of cancelled plans.

Even the cows think it’s hot

After my trip to the Grand Union canal in London yesterday, and recent waterside walks, I felt very inspired to visit the library to pick up some canal history books. Ramblin Rose by Sheila Stewart is going to be a treat. If you can get hold of a copy of Lifting the Latch then I recommend it as a fascinating read. If you’re interested I’ll pass on interesting snippets about canal life and history as I go.

I’ve always been drawn to photography of people, particularly from past times, and I think I’ve got some great bounty in these four books.

Although my family owned a boat and kept it moored in a marina ready to take on the canal while I was growing up, I’d never been on a traditional painted wooden narrow boat. Of course I was excited to see the gorgeous baby again, chat to her Mum and catch up with my other friend, but I admit to feeling a huge fizzle of boat related excitement all day! I came away as if after an interview with questions I knew I wanted answered and details I felt sketchy about, but hadn’t got round to asking. Maybe I’ll remember next time. I blame the rinky dink baby who stole the show with cuddles.

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Today it’s been summer! We’ve had mid-twenties here and I notice everyone’s dug out sunglasses, sandals and lighter clothes. We’ve got to make the most of the sun when it makes an appearance, in what has so far been a pretty dreary season. Tonight there’ll be a run on charcoal steaks, salad and beer at the supermarkets! I once thought it would be a nice surprise to have a BBQ after work; but when I got home found identical supplies as somebody else had had the same cunning idea. That was a funny moment.

When I went past the meadow after getting my mini canal book haul (plus some fiction) I had to stop and take photos of the cows having a paddle in the pond. The sight of all of them congregated like this made me giggle.

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They were all closest to me to begin with but the longer I stood nearby I noticed they gradually moved over to the next bit of water. One stared me right in the eye and let out a bellow, I told it to calm down and it carried on staring, seemed to wink at me and then ambled off to join the others.050

The grey sky must have been a heat haze because by the time I’d stood for a few minutes photographing and chiding noisy cows I was very warm indeed.

048I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing these English pastoral scenes. It’s a lovely country, and you know what they say: There’s no place like home.

Tonight I will begin my next new make, it’s something I’ve been thinking of trying for, oh, ages and ages. After the success of Monday’s posh cotton bib I’m feeling very inspired to try new patterns and makes.
Thank you for all your lovely *likes* and comments on the bib. It suits the baby very well. She looked SO cute wearing it. Actually I’ve told the baby’s mum that I plan to fill her boat with crochet. She said “That would be lovely, we love your craft.” Will she be saying that this time next year I wonder?!