Snow Face!

It’s been an exciting morning. It’s been really stormy here overnight, with Storm Arwen bringing very, very gusty winds but luckily no damage. I think the north of the country have had it far worse with 98 mph winds.

I kept having shouted weather updates from downstairs first thing, as we were anticipating some changes. First it was “It’s only raining at the moment” yawn, then “I think it’s starting to sleet” ok a little more interesting and then I got a WhatsApp video showing snow falling!

At the time I was sat up in bed ordering more wool for my blanket and toy eyes from Wool Warehouse. I tried to support my local yarn shops, but neither of them had the right sized toy eyes. It was enjoyable browsing online, as it’s months since I have properly looked. But when the snow video came I ended up jumping out of bed, grabbing my iPad and FaceTiming a friend to show her our blizzard of snow. I can’t help squealing, and my snow face was definitely on.

Last night I started to join two of my Coast Blanket granny squares together. Actually as well as JAYGOing I initially went all the way round the outsides too, but wasn’t happy so unravelled it all. Now they’re just joined in one line across, with a third block added to make a longish rectangle.

I can’t really do anything else now, until I’ve got some more of the yellow grey blue wool. But as I did far too much crochet my hand is really protesting today, so a break isn’t a bad thing. I want to make some chutney soon. I might have to have some help peeling and chopping the apples. Oops.

I have three more blocks to join, but I just don’t think the colours go. Although looking at the photo above they look fine. What do you reckon? During the lockdowns, last year and this, supplies of wool ran really low. Across the country people hunkered down to knit and crochet their way through the anxiety and boredom. So, I ended up with three quite different colour-ways of Hayfield Spirit DK for my Coast Blanket. Hmmm. I have a feeling that they will be turned into two smaller blankets, instead of one king-sized. No matter. If this 2° weather continues I’ll be wrapping myself in both! Brrrr!

Because you stuff the gingerbread man as you go and add his eyes, before completing the rest of his head, the poor little thing is eyeless and looks like he’s had a lobotomy. He’s by the magazine for scale. I think if I’d used the proper cotton and smaller hook he’d probably be half the size, but I love him. (The pattern’s by Victoria Kairis and was featured in Simply Crochet mag, issue 115.)

On Thursday I met Cathy for a walk in Badbury woods. We did a 40 minute circular walk, with a sit to admire the long ranging views across Wiltshire and Oxfordshire, then a wander around the Clumps. It was a chilly 3°, so I wore my Edenvale cowl I am very glad we went, because those trees will definitely not have leaves now. It was really rather beautiful as the breeze blew Copper Beech leaves down on us, as we walked underneath the trees.

Badbury is managed by The National Trust. It’s well worth going in springtime for the bluebells. That was the first trip Someone and I did when we came out of Lockdown. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the joy of being somewhere completely different after so long. I drank in the views. Cathy tells me the snowdrops are a must-see too.

Afterwards I went into Faringdon for a wander around the churchyard and then had a pot of tea and a wrap for lunch in Costa. Later I had quite a fright as I went into a shop. You remember in my last post I was talking about dogs making a beeline for me, although I’m a cat person? As I opened the shop door and walked through the doorway a head shot out to the side, coming straight at me, between bags hanging on hooks. I shot up into the air and squealed a most peculiar sound. If they’ve got CCTV I bet it would be hilarious to watch. Nothing scary after all, but what a surprise!

Isn’t he gorgeous? He’s an older cat, who lives in the shop. The guy was at the till and his partner (I assume) was running a yoga class in the back room. After a fuss and photo session I went to browse the candles and teas, the cat jumped down from the shelf and walked past me. I thought he was hinting for some more strokes, but no he obviously knows the class routine well; the yoga finished and as people came out of the back room, lots of them stopped stroke him. It was time for more fuss. Clever puss.

I bought this little decorative pot which came in a reusable bag, made from old sari silk. I thought after asking to take photos of the cat and having a chat with the owner, it was the least I could do. I gave it away as a little gift that afternoon. I will definitely go back for more, the shop is called The Lotus Retreat.

It’s opposite a bakery which has been there for years. It’s well known for their Lardy Cakes. My FiL used to drive a lot for work and seemed to navigate the country via bakeries. When I once said I was in Faringdon he immediately recommended the bakery and Lardy cake, for next time. (Oxfordshire should be on that list too Wikipedia.) But I’d already found it and bought us one! I have a good nose for cake too. So, if you’re anywhere near Faringdon, Oxfordshire, you now have a recommendation for a nice walk in the woods, a browse of independent shops and are well prepared for a cat who will shoot his head out and make you jump! Plus a source of fresh cake and breads to take home.

We have planned to go to a Christmas craft fair this afternoon and the switching on of the lights tonight. I’m not sure if I fancy 40+ mile an hour winds, we will see…

What have you got planned for the weekend?

Five Things on a Friday

:: CROCHET

Awww just look at him! So cute already for a headless Gingerbread man!

It’s been years and years since I did any amigurami, so I’ve forgotten things that I used to know. You’re meant use a hook smaller than the yarn band states, so that it’s tighter, but he looks okay doesn’t he? I’d forgotten how kind of fiddly it can be, plus stuffing the legs and body and then carrying on crocheting is interesting. It sort of drags the whole thing down a bit on the hook. But I love him so it doesn’t matter!

I had luckily remembered that Stacey Trock of Fresh Stitches website (sadly it’s not current anymore) used to say not to bother with the ends as they can just stay inside of the pieces. Hurray! Minimal darning!

Does anyone remember me making Mr Scrappy? Here he is in all his mischievousness. He’s very much a part of the family still. He’s a right character. Over the years he’s won the Cannes Film Festival, learnt to ride a motorbike, was at war with the frogs in our old garden, was once tempted to join some very dodgy characters and still parties like it’s 1999 when we’re away. I’m not even making it up or trying to be cute, he really does!

:: BOOK TALK

My new audio book Blackberry & Wild Rose is by Sonia Velton and was her debut novel. I’m only at the beginning of chapter three, but I like the two narrators. The story is set in London’s East End, in Spitalfields, amongst the Huguenot silk weavers of the late 18th century. I have wandered the streets of Spitalfields and can picture the area as it is now, while I read about elements of its historical past.

:: DINNER

Tonight I will be making a lasagne with a rich beef ragù, béchamel sauce and using fresh lasagne sheets. Someone has already uncorked a bottle of claret for me to pop some into the meat sauce. We’ll drink the rest with dinner. A first using fresh sheets, and I suspect that I will not go back to the solid as concrete dried sort. I love Friday nights!

:: SLOW VLOG

I absolutely love Country Life Vlog on You Tube. I watched This Film earlier, thanks to Pip for sharing. You’ll need a quiet place to watch and the volume up for all the lovely sounds in this film of the filmmaker’s Grandparents living a rural life in Azerbaijan. (No music, so refreshing!) Just marvel at the egg technique cracking technique. Notice how there’s not a single piece of plastic. If you don’t also fancy making some sort of dough afterwards I’ll be amazed.

Here’s some info about who they are, where and how the account came about last year.

:: CAKE

Nigella’s Lemon & Raspberry cake

Absolutely delicious eaten warm or cold. We ate it for dessert after Sunday lunch, with spoonfuls of creamy crème fraîche. I used huge juicy fresh raspberries, grown in Kent. As you see I placed them on top of all the cake mixture rather than try to mix them in. This way they didn’t sink right to the bottom, or get broken up by a spoon. I would definitely make this cake again.

The recipe is from Nigella’s Simply Nigella book. Message me if you can’t get hold of the recipe. It’s not currently on her site, but there are various versions floating about the net.

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My wishes for the weekend are to go on a train journey and see a film at the cinema. My fingers and toes are crossed!

What are you planning?

Out-out

My first trip out-out with a friend since August! Because doctors, pharmacy and hospital don’t count, do they?

I was so excited to go back to my happy place a.k.a. Yarn Heaven on Wednesday. I can’t remember the last time I went, I think not so much because of the Pandemic but because I’ve banned myself from buying any more yarn until I finish my current makes. Not that bans ever successfully work, do they? I’m sure a few balls of something found its way into my bag a month or so ago, when I happened to pop into a yarn shop.

I was meant to meet another friend for lunch on Wednesday, but unfortunately she messaged to say it was a no-go; because her 11-year-old tested positive for Covid on Monday. So many friends have school age children who are not very well with Covid at the moment. And there so many people everywhere who are choosing not to wear a mask. We need it to be a legal requirement again! (I’m shouting.) It feels as if I’m in a minority in some shops. Lots seem to have decided enough is enough and have stopped wearing a mask.We’ve all had enough, haven’t we? However unfortunately things are far from good still, so we get on with it and try and keep other people safe, surely? Honestly, at the moment I seem to be throwing my hands up in the air a lot.

I took this snap quickly because I really liked all the colours. They’re not jazzy bright, quite muted really, but I can actually imagine wearing them. Sometimes colours in those variegated balls are very appealing, but not really anything I would actually wear. Since I came home I keep looking at this pic. I can’t see anything listed for Mondial Jazz for some reason on Ravelry or Insta. I’d like to see what people have made with it. No imbranato Name questo il MacHappy. ARGH!!!! I’ve got Italian as an alternative keyboard language and my iPhone keeps swapping languages. I dictate a lot of my messages (and blog posts) now to save my sore hand. Sometimes I look over at what I’ve said and it’s a mess of both! What did I just say there? * It’s a weird thing, but makes me laugh too.

I’m using the Duolingo app to learn some basic Italian words and phrases. I’m still very much in the ‘The men are writing in the sugar’ and ‘The cook cuts the meat’ stage of learning. Bizarre choice of phrases but it’s more than I ever knew before. So anyway dictation helps save my hand, although it’s not doing much to practice my spelling.

…What was I saying? I think I was wondering if the wool might be known by another name? Or perhaps other people don’t like it? Or, is it really new? Tell if it’s one with which you’re familiar, please. It’s 75% wool which I prefer for accessories or clothing. Can’t wear Stylecraft, unless it’s partly wool too. Ohhh! I’ve just remembered that Mondial is made by an Italian family company. Maybe my iPhone is more intelligent then I take it for?!

After a good rummage and yarny purchases, (Lynne is making hats for nephews and also bought the same brown as me) we headed to a very nice pub on the river for lunch. I held us up slightly by taking photos. Autumn is one of my favourite seasons, I can’t resist capturing the changes. Love the colours, the crisp feeling in the air, the warmer clothing and yummy warming meals. We’ve just had our first spaghetti bolognaise in months and I’m having my first homemade butternut soup for lunch today.

Just look at that half red, half yellow leaf. I have heart eyes.

Nature treats us to some really beautiful sights, swoon.

When we headed back to the car park we found masses of conkers just lying on the tarmac. “Where all the children, why aren’t they picking these conkers up?” I exclaimed. Secretly I was really pleased there are heaps just lying around still. I stuffed my bag full of them. Then stopped on the way home, to pick up a few things in a supermarket, and wondered why my bag was so, so heavy!

I can’t remember the last time I saw a pattern in a magazine that I just had to make. The gingerbread man on the cover instantly appealed. So this is partly why when my friend suggested meeting up, for coffee or lunch on Wednesday morning, I felt it had to be somewhere that had a yarn shop. I didn’t have a single one of the colours I needed, which is an absolutely cast-iron reason to buy yarn. Sì?

There are lots of newer Stylecraft shades that I’ve never seen before, apart from in photos. Some of them are really nice. Mushroom and its slight pinkiness jumped out, in a good way. I resisted buying. For now.

I wanted to make the gingerbread man from yarn, instead of the cotton as listed in the mag. Cotton is great for stitch definition, but oh so hard on the hands. I picked up several different shades of brown, until I saw one. My friend asked me what the shade was called? Gingerbread! Just the job.

The pattern is in the current Simply Crochet magazine, issue 115

Someone hungry, waiting for me to cook dinner last night, had to contend with me shouting: “He’s got one little arm!” Then later: “He’s got two little arms!”

I’ll be back with a whole gingerbread man soon, although he might not have any eyes because I didn’t think to buy any. Oops does that mean another visit to the yarn shop and another delicious lunch? I think it may.

* according to Google translate:

No goofy Name this the MacHappy.

Ha ha! Could have been FAR worse!

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.