A meadow of moon daisies

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

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

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

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

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

Why, hello!

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

Spot the bee?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Taking Stock – May

Making : nothing, still

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

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

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

Wanting: to knit and crochet

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

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

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

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

Enjoying: my photos of old and new favourite Cornish places

Waiting: for cold sausage time, aka dinner

Liking: the leafy green lanes and wild flowers everywhere

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

Loving: walking the coast path from Pendeen lighthouse again

Pondering: how long till I will again

Considering: changing moisturisers

Buying: tissues (bit of hay fever…)

Watching: the film trailer for Edie

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

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

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

Needing: more toothpaste

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

Smelling: rain on the way?

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

Following: friends’ half term holiday pics

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

Knowing: May is my new favourite month

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

Admiring: my white watch strap mark on my brown arm

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

Getting: busy with lists

Bookmarking: my library book

Coveting: this sea facing house or that while away

Disliking: all the mad Audi drivers

Opening: Cornish loose leaf Earl Grey tea

Giggling: at stand up comedy on Netflix

Feeling: relaxed

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

Helping: friends

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

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

Worrying: about nothing much

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

Celebrating: a big anniversary

Forgetting: there’s usually something these days!

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

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

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

Embracing: friends and family

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

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

In the bluebell woods

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

Ferns gradually unfolding

Celandines

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

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

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

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

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

Taking Stock – April

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

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

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

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

Wanting: a cooked breakfast.

Looking: a little rough around the edges!

A corkscrew hazel, what a great looking tree.

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

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

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

Enjoying: seeing bluebells appearing in woodland.

Waiting: to feel a bit sparkier.

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

Loving: M&S Butter Mints.

Upton House and Gardens, NT

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

Considering: my next audio book.

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

Watching: The BBC’s The Woman in White.

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

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

Needing: something to eat.

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

Smelling: perfume.

Wearing: scruffs.

Following: The Vegetarian Society for some new recipes.

Noticing: tiny lambkins in the fields around.

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

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

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

Sorting: photos online.

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

Bookmarking: recipes for next week.

Coveting: longer finger nails.

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

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

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

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

Snacking: on raw carrots, as always.

Helping: people needing some encouragement and a little positivity.

Hearing: a little bit of traffic noise.

Mixing: nothing today, drinks last night….

Worrying: about the usual stuff.

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

Celebrating: birthdays

Forgetting: nothing important, so far.

Winning: £2:90 on the lottery Friday.

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

Sneaking: no sneaking.

Embracing: the special ones.

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

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

Springtime, feels like summer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(JILL don’t be crude!)

Taking Stock – March

Making : Triple chocolate brownies (yum!)

Cooking : Thai pork noodles

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

Reading: Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty

Wanting: a variegated yarn cake

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

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

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

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

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

Waiting: for two, or more, sunny consecutive days

Liking: my new iPhone

Wondering: what we’ll do in London later

Scilla

Scilla – so pretty

Waterperry Gardens

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

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

Pondering: buying more jeans

Considering: ?

Buying: toothbrushes

Watching: Shetland – the latest series was brilliant

Hoping: for a dry day today

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

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

Needing: more rubber needle ends

Questioning: why was I wide awake at 0610?!

Smelling: fresh air

The Easter bunny?!

Wearing: none of your business!

Following: blogs I’ve read for years now

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

Knowing: the alarm will go off shortly

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

Admiring: daffodils all along the verges around here

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

Getting: longer nails

Bookmarking: recipes in my Itsu 20 minute suppers library book

Coveting: chocolate!

Disliking: eating too much chocolate

Opening: tomorrow – chocolate!

Giggling: at Tony Blackburn on R2

Feeling: pleased my cowl is nearly finished

Snacking: it’s 0630 – so on nothing

Hearing: birdsong

Worrying: I’ll be sleepy again by 0800

Slicing: brownies for dessert, yesterday

Celebrating: Easter with family

Forgetting: what? There’s bound to be something

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

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

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

Embracing: family, this weekend

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

Have a VERY HAPPY EASTER!

Lambkins!

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

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

Primroses, I also love seeing these little pretties.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

All this beauty

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hurumph!”

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

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

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

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

Update – knits

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

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

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

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

“Are you knitting a giraffe a neck warmer?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Linking with Ginny’s now monthly Yarn Along.

Much warmer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you want to see a cutie patooty?

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

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

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

Taking Stock – February

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deciding: to go to the library for new books soon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buying: lamb mince to make koftas

Watching: Grace and Frankie

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

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

Cringing: at my renewed nail biting

Needing: a new book

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

Smelling: Dry Roast Peanuts

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

Following: the dire water situation in Cape Town

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m doing Dry Lent once again….

Disliking: The taste of sweeteners

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

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

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

Snacking: on radishes

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

Hearing: an aeroplane

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

Worrying: well, there’s always something

Slicing: onions for virtually every recipe this time of year

Catkins and beautiful twisty trees at Waterperry Gardens

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

Forgetting: what I need to add to the shopping list

Winning: at life? Urgh, smug expression

Pretending: nothing

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

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

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

The Hitchhiker & a house full of flowers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yarn, ships and park life

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

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

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

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

2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kitchen sink post

This is what I’ve always called a kitchen sink post; since it feels like everything’s included except the sink.

I keep glancing up, as I type, to look at the long line of beech trees across the road. Their leaves are gently fluttering down and across in a diagonal line to fall straight into our garden. Some are hitting this window with a real ting. They’re not incredibly close by but the wind always seems to blow this way. There’s a carpet of coppery leaves covering the grass now and they’re not even our trees! Pretty though.

Previously I would darn the ends in a blanket on several lazy weekend afternoons; semi-watching a film or listening to an audio book, while the rugby played out on the tv. It got them done and I didn’t mind it too much at all. Hand sewing of any kind has always been relaxing. But this Wave Blanket is not getting darned very fast at all, as I’m sure you’ve noticed. Weekends have been busier lately (in a very nice way, no moaning here, or competitive ‘I’m the busiest person in the world’ boasts) and so no lazy afternoons to sit and focus. Today I’m meeting someone very yarny for lunch and when we were making arrangements last night she clearly instructed me to bring yarn. ‘Anything fibrous’. Does Stylecraft’s acrylic yarn count? Hmmm. Well, I don’t know that I can sit in a gastro pub and darn, that’s a step too far for me. I’m not entirely comfortable with knitting or crocheting in any public place, unless it’s tucked away on a bus, or as part of a knitting and crochet group. She currently carries a spindle and wodge of fleece in the depths of her bag, and thinks nothing of whipping out her knitting while queuing in the bank, walking up a hill or ….. I don’t have that kind of chutzpah, or obsessive compulsive behaviour around yarn. (Fingers and toes crossed she doesn’t read before this lunch. Could be embarrassing.)

So, the long and the short of it is that I’m beginning to feel awkward that this blanket isn’t done. I shall try to goad this feeling into determined action. Aiming for five ends a day would be something. It’s not huge after all, just fiddlier than my usual Ripple pattern. A dozen ends last week was clearly not reaching for the stars. That little baby Winnie needs her blanket.

I have been steadily knitting my Hitchhiker, adding a section at a time, and really like the different shades which are appearing. It’s Lang’s Tosca Light in Sapphire.

It’s all Christmas a go-go isn’t it? I did a double take when I saw the trees in the garden centre on Friday, but I imagine lots will be up and decorated from this weekend, as the first of December looms. I’ve only bought three Christmas presents, but feel quite pleased with myself. I don’t believe in rushing these things!

The Soup of the Week here has been tomato and vegetable, with that stunning bowl of plum tomatoes bought on impulse from the market. There were just over a kilo for £1. Bargain! It’s probably the ideal recipe for a summer glut of tomatoes when they’re at their tastiest, but it’s great with feta or blue cheese crumbled on top for added oomph.

~ Sweat onion, carrot and celery in a little rapeseed oil, then add 500g of ripe tomatoes, a 400g can of tomatoes, 500ml of stock, salt and pepper, a little sugar to take away the acidity of the tomatoes and a good handful of fresh basil leaves (or whatever fresh or dried herbs you fancy.) Add a tablespoon of red vinegar. Blend to a smooth consistency and enjoy.

I used up a vintage red pepper in my first batch a few weeks ago and that worked well. It’s a goodie for adding whatever you fancy. I’ve tried it with and without the red wine vinegar, it adds piquancy but is fine without too.

Reading: this week I’ve got four books on the go; one printed, one Ebook, and two audio.

1) I’m enjoying another Laura Ingalls Wilder from my childhood collection. A few chapters are good nostalgic reading late at night.

2) Yesterday’s 99p Kindle Daily Deal Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak reeled me in as I tried the sample and that’s almost certain to hook you into buying. I try not to download them, some days with more success than others! I’m really enjoying it and can almost certainly see a film being made from this one. It’s breaking my own rule about not starting Christmas books before 1st December, but whatever!

3) Bruce’s Born to Run audio book, read by him in that uniquely gravelly voice, which I will still be listening to in chunks next year because it’s over 18 hours long.

4) And finally, The Muse by Jessie Burton which I started on the way to Excel, London on Saturday for the Knitting, Stitching and Hobbycraft Simply Christmas show.

How much do you think I bought there by the way?

Answer…..a Carrot cupcake for lunch pudding! I was so restrained I nearly sprained something. Black Sheep Wools had bags of gorgeousness on sale, another seller had those Swirl cakes and Whirl cakes and all sorts of lovely wool blends. I resisted. Yes, I do deserve a medal, thanks very much, especially as my friend had told me to remind her she’s skint then bought bags of yarn and other fancies!

What are you making, cooking and reading this week? If you want to add your own Yarning Along link in the comments go for it. But tell us what you’re up to either way.

New knitting & Street Wisdom

The best kind of post! I do love Lang’s Tosca Light wool blend (55% new wool, 45% acrylic.) I have a few scarves I’ve made with it and they’re so warm and soft to wear. I’ve been wearing my Hitchhiker a lot lately. It’s just such a good sized scarf, nice and neck-warming but not bulky. I see beautifully made shawls on Instagram but although I’d enjoy the making, they’re not my kind of thing to wear.

I offered to make Mum a Hitchhiker to wear with her black jacket and the sapphire looked like a really nice blend of colours. It’s gradually changing to to purpley now. That’s the thing about variegated yarns, isn’t it? You never know quite what you’re going to see next. It will keep things interesting when the rows of garter stitch become long.

London is now twinkling with Christmas lights and window displays. It’s lovely. Old Bond/New Bond street is one of my favourites this time of year. As you’d expect for a street full of designer shops, there are very upmarket lights and decorations.

I really shudder to see Christmas items appear in shops in August, but enjoy the lights in November. It can be rather a grey and dreary month, so a bit of sparkle and twinkle cheers everything up.

On Friday I met a friend and her husband in Covent Garden to attend something she’d heard about: Street Wisdom.There are opportunities to join groups in various countries in the world. It’s an interesting and FREE thing to do if you have several hours to spare. Here’s a little info from the website…

Street Wisdom is a global social enterprise with a mission to bring inspiration to every street on earth. It’s a technology that allows anyone, anywhere to get unusual inspiration from their everyday surroundings. Led by volunteer facilitators on city streets across the world, free Street Wisdom workshops give participants the skills to access the ‘invisible university’ that’s all around them and find fresh answers to personal or work-related questions – with profound results.

As I wandered the streets around Covent Garden on my quest, I couldn’t help taking a few photos. What a lovely row of window boxes this building had.

Interesting I found the signs and signals were drawing me to a cofffee shop! Isn’t Street Wisdom great?! It was cold and I was glad to be wearing my Hitchhiker scarf and holding a warming cup of mocha as I walked. When I found myself drawn into a Hotel Chocolat for these I wondered if I was mis-rereading the signals perhaps?! (In my defence I ate 3 and took the others home to share.)At the end of our hour long solo walks our little group met back upstairs in Le Pain Quotidien for hot drinks and to share our experiences.  I can’t say I got particular insights regarding the question I asked, but I really enjoyed the afternoon. I always find meeting new people interesting and with events like this anyone can turn up. The experience reinforced the fact that I do tend to notice what’s around me and always end up talking to strangers. I do try to appreciate the little things and look out for little acts of kindness. Even in a big bustling city like London you’ll see everyday, ordinary acts of kindness, with good manners in action and people generally behaving decently to one another. I shall sign up for another Street Wisdom session one day, it was fun. Maybe I could lead a group at some point too.

My reading this week is rather eclectic, shall we say. I’ve just started Born to Run, written and read by Bruce. He can really write, not just lyrics but what is going to be a very satisfying autobiography. The Secret of Happy Ever After by Lucy Dillon is the antidote after finishing The Bitter Lemons of Cyprus by Laurence Durrell. I found it an absorbing read in part, funny and richly descriptive, but for the last third it became very dry, focusing on the historical and political situation. So I felt I needed some fluff next. I’m picky about fluff however; I can’t read any old thing. It has to be well-written and entertaining. Lucy Dillon’s books are definitely that, if you’re looking for a good read then go for A Hundred Pieces of Me. It made me laugh and cry and reassess what I own. I feel a bit guilty now for the fluff comment, because this is no silly chick lit, but I’ll let it stand.

What are you making this week? Something for you, or for someone else? Reading or listening to a book, or both?

The little black cat with the powder puff tail 

I’ve knit some more of the washcloth I started last week. Doesn’t the stitch definition look fabulous with the cotton? On Thursday morning I did some train knitting, surrounded by suits, laptops and newspapers. I will not be intimidated. I shall craft. 

And look! I’ve darned 3 1/2 ends in the Wave Blanket. I meant to do 10 last night; but had to put it down to concentrate on Who Do You Think You Are. It was Ruby Wax and her family’s story was making my eyes brim (then I kept gasping.) Maybe I’ll do 16 1/2 ends later to make up for it. 

I’ve felt better about adding parchment into my garter stitch blanket. It does look better than I imagined, with the blended yarns. Thanks for the reassurance Vikki. Last night I restricted myself to six rows only so as to keep my elbow happy. It’s hard to put something you’re enjoying down, isn’t it?

This is my third and last, for a while, zippy bag which I made at Sewing Club on Monday night. Next week I’m trying something different. I’m a bit slack on the prep and lack confidence about what to make. I’d prefer it if the tutor came with all we needed, did a tutorial and we went off to make it. Lazy aren’t I?! But it’s like Knit & Crochet Groups where you take whatever you want to make. (Though she does do a quick tutorial for various things which you can try at home. This week it was lacy knickers! We naughty ones sniggered seeing how tiny medium was and decided we’d just get a multi-pack from M&S!) Shelly sits across from me and is a machine. She always sits right down and starts sewing what she’s prepped beforehand. No faff, or excess chatter until she’s made a start. She’s sewn so many different items this term that I tease her about her work ethic, while feeling fairly rubbish about mine. She’s only little and wears quite high heeled stompy boots. When I said about wanting to try something new next week but not sure what, she marched across to my table and wrote in my notebook saying very firmly: “Bring four pieces of material cut to these sizes. It’s easier than what you’ve been making tonight. Just do it!” O.M.G. Right then. I’m far to scared not to do it!

Mum’s dahlias. Perfection.

Well here he is – that little cat I mentioned a few weeks ago. And oh, you did make me laugh. Occasionally I’ll write that I’ve got a bad cold, a real stinker, or that my elbow is sore. Once I remember reporting that I got out of bed and fell over as my knee had gone kaput. I don’t remember many comments about any of these, but I casually end a Yarning Along post with ‘I must dash, as I’ve got to take a little black cat with a powder puff tail to the vets’ and you’d think I’d said the sky had fallen down! The comments, private messages, both sympathetic and worried, really amused me! He was only going for a dab of this and a tablet of that. He’s young and is in very fine fettle, but I realised I’d worried the cat ladies! (But thanks for all the sympathy when I’m poorly, no really you’re just so caring.) So I took his photo for you because as I walked into Mum’s garden yesterday, to photograph the dahlias I saw him sitting under the apple tree. He was next to the shed where she was potting up hyacinth and tulip bulbs. Maybe he was being a guard cat?

This week I’m reading Ruby Wax Sane New World on my Kindle, which is why I particularly wanted to see her episode of WDYTYA. It’s interesting learning about mindfulness. And I’m also listening to the rest of the  Alan Bennett plays. I feel I might need to hear A Question of Attribution again. I was marching around the countryside when I heard it and think I missed some of the nuance. 

Do you listen to audio books or prefer podcasts? What are you watching on TV at the mo?


Yarning Along

If you’d like to share what you’re making and reading every Wednesday too, leave a link to your post 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. 

Yarning Along = yarny stuff you’re making and what you’re reading (‘a good yarn’) but let’s not get too bogged down…if you’re reading mags, gardening or recipe books that counts, as does sewing, jewellery making or whatever. Just tell us about what you are making and reading.

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.

Wandering around 

On Monday morning I found myself wondering around my new home with a semi-dried bunch of chillies trying to find the best place to hang them. I soon realised this if this carried on much longer nothing else was going to get done! In the end I tied them onto the light cord of a lamp and got on with the heavy work of unpacking the kitchen. I didn’t stop for a sit down all day and then had to go and do some cleaning at the other house. One of my new birthday bottles of gin was opened at the end of the day… This one. It’s a goodie. 

Yesterday I’ve never been so glad to have had a long-standing appointment at the hairdressers, as I could sit down and not move for 1 1/2 hours. It was bliss and my back and aching shoulders thanked me. 

Now I’m trying for a better pace and keep reminding myself that not every box has to be opened in the first few days. I do need to search for a vase for these lovely flowers that have been delivered. Where on earth are they?  

As you see, I’m using the same book photo as last week; I haven’t touched my crochet. In fact it’s still in the boot of my car, but I’m halfway through reading Dear Lupin and it’s made me laugh out loud, many times. It’s a lovely book. 
What about you: have you been making much? Reading much? Wondering around trying to hang up a bunch of anything?!

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.

Summer days 



Wow, I’ve just noticed that WordPress is telling me this is my 573rd post! I never take much notice of numbers; I just plod along and throw up something, either when I feel like it, or on a Wednesday (or in this case on Tuesday, ready to appear tomorrow morning, for the sake of being precise) as it feels like a nice mid-week thing to do. Plus I do enjoy the communal aspect of sharing what we’re making and reading.

So, it seems to be another week of summer. It’s lovely today, with a gorgeous breeze blowing through the house. I sat outside for a while, adding a few more rows to my Wave Blanket. I’ve got to take it steadily as I think lots of knitting has aggravated my silly elbow. (I just had to delete another ‘So,’ I know that ‘although’ and ‘though’ seem to be other repetitive words, which I try to guard against overusing in one post. But I wonder how many times I’ve used them in the other 572 posts?) Also (ha! It sneaked in under the cover of Al!) I’m on a self-imposed knitting ban for the week and will try not to do too much crochet either, apart from at Knit Group; if it goes ahead tonight. It seems that some of the Stylecraft Blogstars have gone down with food poisoning after their jolly at the weekend, which is rotten.

When we went away my sweet-peas were pretty pathetic and I kicked myself that it had taken me so long to plant out the seedlings. However after 10 days of sunshine and some good watering, they were three times as tall and blooming when we came home! This is the first posy I picked, there are more every day and the highly scented variety I chose are just that; delicious. Growing sweet-peas makes me feel green fingered, albeit it in a tiny way. It’s the growing from seed and then having something to pick which does it.

Apart from basking in the sunshine, reading and crocheting, it’s that time of year for cocktails. This was gin and prosecco based. I thought it looked perfect with the juniper berries bobbing merrily alongside the pink grapefruit and mint leaves. I gave it a stir with my straw, just because, then decided to be a wee bit sad and photograph it. After sharing a bottle of champagne with the other three, before arriving at the restaurant on Friday, I felt I needed to herd the berries back into place with instructions to “Go a bit to the side, come on you need to follow others!” Oops. Then one of my quite old bracelets broke with a tinkle of beads bouncing from the table, hitting the glasses and falling down onto the tiled floor. I was then on my knees trying to gather them all up, while the others carried on talking as if nothing out of the ordinary was occurring. That was a fun night. I just hope no one went rolling across the floor on one of my errant beads.

As for reading; despite having already seen the film Lion, the book has still made me cry. I’m reading it really fast too, I can’t put it down. Do check out this moving, true story of Saroo and how he became lost in India on a train, then found his family again, a quarter of a century later.

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.

Save

Citrus stripes

Garter stitch stripes with 250 stitches a row is not as boring as I expected. I thought it would be a two row job at the most, each sitting and then the yawning would begin. Changing colours every other row seems to keep it feeling fresh, and with my citrusy lemon, lime and orange it’s definitely that! I’ll tone it back down with the next colour; otherwise we’ll need sunglasses just to look at it. I’m carrying on with a colour until the ball runs out, then grabbing another from a big bag. It’s a stashbuster so is going to have an ‘interesting look’, not my usual blend of colours. I tend to buy yarn only for specific projects and these are leftovers from blankets, and a few from a yarn kit I bought when I was new to crochet. There are a couple of colours that I dislike but I’m hoping blending them with others might help. If not, l’ll donate them to a charity knit group.  I took it to an outpatients clinic on Monday, while I waited for someone, and the nurses all seemed to walk past smirking. I guess I was an incongruous sight as everyone else was staring at the wall or their ‘phone. No one had a book, though I guess some might have been reading an ebook. That old chestnut about knitting helping to calm and provide a distraction is so true, once you’ve got over the smirking nurses and disinterested stares. But I have to admit I thought taking my knitting while I waited might be nice for other people too. It would be my way of helping anxious outpatients. A Florence Nightingale of yarn. They could be soothed in the manner of those slow tv programmes; where you’re following the journey of a canal boat, or seeing someone hand turning a wooden bowl in real time. Maybe it would even provide distracting opportunities for them to talk about how they’d love to learn to knit, or prompt them to reminisce about their Grandma knitting jumpers when they were young. Serves my vanity right! 

As for reading: I’m still going on with The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan. It’s all going to connect soon and I’m quite intrigued to see how the four (or is it six?) characters share the story. I’m listening to The Plays of Alan Bennett and yesterday finished The Madness of George III,  now I hope the next provides some lighter relief. Really I’m waiting for The History Boys.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched the film and I’ve also read the play, there’s just something I love about it. The flowers were taken a our visit to  Saltram House  (see below) and garden, Devon, on Sunday on the way home. This week my body can’t understand why it’s not allowed pasty for lunch, cake for afternoon tea and cider before dinner…it’s definitely got the holiday blues. We walked 69 miles while away to try to balance these out. And because we love the coast paths around there. 

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.

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.)

Greys Court 

Such a lovely day at Greys Court, National Trust property, yesterday.

We did the woodland walk and ended up sort of mindlessly following a couple who were far ahead along the path, although for most of the time we hadn’t seen anyone else at all. I’m glad there were still some bluebells out. The upshot of following others, and not taking much notice, was that the 1 3/4 mile trail turned into 3 miles! But actually that’s perfect as 1 3/4 miles is not really a long enough walk for me. Things turned a bit surreal when we got chatting, as we all tried to find the official path, and I recommended they visit The Fan Museum in Greenwich, not so much for the fans but for a perfect example of a merchant’s London townhouse. She then mentioned a town up north where there are a number of great NT properties to visit. He interjected with “Oh, where your friend X lives?” And I’m not sure why, but I asked if it was the X married to X? This is something that’s always amused me when I’m travelling abroad; someone will ask if I know Liz in Ealing when I mention London. But, would you believe it was the same X who is indeed married to X! The woman and my friend are trustees of the same charity and know each other very well. It just shows that however random the question seems, sometimes it’s really worth asking.

We then moved on to girl-talk about the best place to buy girlie shoes while the men plodded on behind, trying to make sense of the map and find the correct path! Eventually we four found ourselves back at the car park and had completed our circular walk, in a wiggly fashion.

I really love NT days out as there’s usually a good chance to walk amongst stunning countryside. They’re often built on the side of a hill so there are plenty of great views and you get out of puff, which always makes you feel like you’ve done a ‘proper walk’. Of course then there’s a cafe or picnic, if we’re really organised, for lunch (and cake?) at the end. Basically if you’re stuck for what to do on a Sunday, I’d say choose to visit a NT property for: great walks, gardens to explore, a house (…cottage, townhouse, manor, priory, windmill, castle….?) cafe and shop. The free tours can be fascinating and well done too.

I spend much of the time imagining I’m the lady of the house wandering around. Or perhaps the Governess, or the house-keeper. When I’m not drifting about in a day-dream I find the other visitors are usually friendly. I always end up chatting to someone anyway. I’m not keen on some dogs, but they all have to be kept on leads and are mostly the relaxed and well behaved type of family dogs, that don’t make my hands sweaty and my heart race.

Greys Court have a very easy and unfussy system of selecting free flow tickets to see the house; we simply selected our own ticket from a box for the time we fancied. It was so much easier than being offered and accepting a specific slot, without time to think and opportunity for a quick conflab. I am so glad we left 2.5 hours for exploring, since our prolonged walk and leisurely lunch were not rushed at all. By the way: I always go for the ham salad sandwich at NT cafes as I reckon they’re usually the best.
The gardens were a delight too, kitchen gardens in particular fascinate me. I stroll along imagining snipping a bit of this and digging a few of those to cook. Or in Housekeeper mode it’s the kitchen lad or maid, of course. It’s also the pleasing parallel rows of vegetables that are so soothing to my orderly soul. (Another word is sometimes used, but I live with a barbarian.)

Mum has been telling me for a while that I should visit when the wisteria is flowering. I see why now. The scent was heavenly and it wasn’t at its best either; after weeks of very dry weather, then torrential rain. Plus I guess it’s coming to the end of its flowering season. I’ll make a note to go back next May…

Save

Save

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.

May the Force be With You!

Hurray! Have yarn, can crochet!

I don’t know what it is at the moment but I’ve seen other people writing that they’ve also really caught the crochet bug again. I’ve seen some very prolific knitters saying they’re finding it boring and crochet is much more appealing. It’s something about Spring maybe, unless you’re in the Antipodes and are also feeling the same way?
When I went into the yarn shop to buy these two at lunchtime I told the woman how I’d felt unwell, stayed at home to be quiet and rest, but had run out of yarn on the two days when it was impossible to restock. She took a hard look at me and said “You don’t sound too clever now either!” Well, it’s Star Wars day today, (May the Fourth…get it?) so let’s just say my dodgy chest and resulting growly voice is part of my Darth Vader persona.

Someone is off on a road trip from today, visiting lots and lots of fisheries and catching up with old friends. I’ve come home to a pretty card, this lovely bouquet and a tip telling me where emergency money may be found. Does running out of gin count? A strong strong hankering for my first Chinese takeaway in a year? Household-wide chocolate famine?

 

Bunch of pretty 

On the way out of Sainsbury’s yesterday this lovely bunch of spring flowers caught my eye. They smelled delicious too. On offer, reduced from £8 to £4, I couldn’t resist. 

My lacy cowl is coming on, I think I might see if it’s long enough at the end of this skein of wool. Then I can move onto something else. I wish I could knit faster. Maybe I’ll have a go at continental if I can find a good tutorial. I know I’ve said this before.  

I’m rereading The Camomile Lawn for the nth time. It’s got my name and Christmas 1993 written inside…so it will be many, many times over the years. On the train to London, on Saturday, I asked the girl next to me if I could be cheeky and read the blurb on her upturned book. It was Human Voices by Penelope Fitzgerald. The title and the white cover really attracted my attention. I’m planning to order it from my library. We spent some time talking about the author, books and reading. In return I recommended this and Mary Wesley’s subsequent novels. This discussion prompted me to run downstairs late that evening to reread it, yet again. 

Enjoying 

I’ve darned one side of my ripple’s ends and so have been ‘allowed’ to knit quite a bit. Do you do this kind of trade-off too?!

There’s a mistake in the scarf pattern. I’ve realised that if I k1, *yo then k2tog* repeat to the penultimate stitch, then k1, the stitch number doesn’t decrease. The two instructions might have been transposed, which is why my 72 ended up 66 and still decreasing, last week. I ripped it back on Monday and now feel happier. I am a perfectionist and hate knowing I could do something better or just properly; bodging isn’t great!  I’ve contacted the wool shop to say about the typo, admitting I’m not the greatest knitter in the world as I might be wrong anyway.

I’m still listening to The Silent Tide by Rachel Hore. It’s a good darning and knitting companion. The story is hotting up and I’m feeling intrigued about Isobel…plus is Hugh the great writer and man we think he is?

My other books are Feel the Fear and do it Anyway by Susan Jeffers (a classic read with something uplifting for everyone) and Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty. I wanted to read the book before seeing the BBC’s 4 parter.

I’m joining in with Ginny’s Yarn Along once again. I really like seeing what people are making and reading. 

Save

2016

Here are my makes of last year, well most of them. There are quite a few other things that were started and unravelled, for various reasons. None of which I regret! Despite my intention to knit or crochet smaller makes (including socks) I seem to have hooked quite a few blankets again. Why does that keep happening?!

I’m not really sure what I want to concentrate on this year. I’m working on the Blackberry ripple and that’s not far off from being a good snuggly size. Then I’ve just got to do the darning and crochet a border.

Next I think (and don’t hold me to it) I might use a posh skein or two of wool and knit another sort of cowl. I think I’ve come round to them after wearing the Mira cowl a lot this year. I’ve always preferred wrapping scarves as tightly or as loosely as preferred, but this has been very cosy and you don’t have so much of it stuffed down the front of your coat! Hey-ho, hey-ho it’s off to Ravelry I go.

My friend has sort of lost her slouchy bobble hat (there’s obviously a story there) so I might be hooking one of those again, for her birthday in April. If only she knew someone with a fishing rod, who’s a dab hand at casting, I’m positive she could retrieve hers…

It’s Day 1 of the New Year, where normal non-festive life has resumed and no alcohol, mince pies, chocolate or twiglets have been consumed. I do fancy a hot chocolate though, that’s surely alright? It’s COLD out there.

Christmas time

My friend and I had a super Christmas meet up at Cliveden on Saturday, it was our third annual Christmas walk there and probably the most wintery. Can you see how we walked into the fog in the Long Garden? 

Each year there’s a trail to follow and this year it was pantomime theme. Last year it was based around The Twelve Days of Christmas, but these have not beaten the first year when we had to find bunches of carrots, left for Rudolph, hanging from trees and bushes. I can’t even say why as that year it was pretty basic, but it made us laugh a lot (apart from when I grew petulant that an enthusiastic 3 year old, running ahead of us, kept finding the carrots before we could!) 

We walked a good 5 miles in all, so it seems my physio’s brutal vigorous sports massages on my sore knee and my conscientious daily stretches are having a positive effect, after weeks of pain and boring inactivity. Walking through fog is weird; by the end we were decidedly damp haired and rosy cheeked for lunch in the Orangery. 

 

On Sunday we went with Mum to find Christmas trees, she found one she wanted immediately and hared off to buy it, before anyone else took a liking to it. We didn’t have the same love at first sight with any, so will try again another day. I’ve stuck to family tradition of only decorating a week at most, before Christmas Eve. To be fair this was the same for pretty much everyone here when I was growing up, until people started copying the American thing of decorating early, as many seem to after Thanksgiving. Are you American? Is that a relatively new tradition?  If Christmas lasted the whole of December I’d be truly sick of it by 25th, and the size of the shepherds hut above. This way we enjoy the anticipation and it’s not overkill. I have to say that as I write this I am so looking forward to making mulled wine, brandy butter and mince pies! Did someone mention Twiglets? Cadbury Roses?!

How are your plans coming along? Are you a month long celebrator, or less?

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.

Save

Six things


My first sweetpea! I planted these late this year, and then because of the recent weeks of dry weather they got covered with  aphids. I thought the chance of flowers was zero to none. But I got rid of the aphids, carried on watering every day and now look at this beauty. There are plenty more buds too.

On Tuesday we met up with Trish of Made by Patch blog and her family, including Grandma and Grandpa Patch.  We’ve been in touch through our blogs since 2012, but have only met once before, last Spring. It doesn’t seem to matter; when you’ve been the 21st Century equivalent of pen pals for nearly five years you do feel like you know each other. We all had a lovely meal together and I had birthday presents! Birthday presents made by Trish’s clever father. I’ve been wishing for one of his yarn bowls since she posted a picture of hers. I now need to learn how to use the nostepinne, to wind centre pull yarn cakes, apparently there are videos on You Tube. I’ll show you my efforts when I’ve tried. (If they’re not too embarrassing!)

The time for my annual cross stitch has come. Oh, but if you’re a purist and check each stitch as you go for perfection, use a laying tool or trolley needle for ensuring the threads lie perfectly flat side by side or anything half as professional, please look away now. I’ve been googling tips for cross stitch, I really wish I hadn’t. Sometimes the truly professional take away all in the fun in something, don’t they?! I find summertime cross stitching so absorbing and relaxing to do, when the daylight is good and it’s not as hot as knitting or crocheting. My enjoyment is definitely in the process, not so much in having a perfectly perfect outcome.

A long weekend away in Lincolnshire and another BBQ in the field with friends and family. Just look at that sky! When it was truly dark we stood by the chiminea and just looked up at the stars. I think I need a guide to the constellations since I can only really pick out The Plough aka The Big Dipper.

Lincoln Castle and The Wave. I’ve now seen the commemorative poppies when they were at The Tower of London, The Yorkshire Sculpture Park (after Yarndale last year) and now, unexpectedly, in Lincolnshire. 

A visit to Waterperry Gardens yesterday and another bee on another thistle. I often seem to take a photo of these at gardens. I’ve just enjoyed looking back at posts of previous visits in August 2013, September 2014 and last March. The next time I go it will be for Apple Weekend in October, that’s a lot of fun; sampling so many types of Waterperry grown apples and trying to decide which bag(s) to buy. Then there’s the added choice of whether to buy juice too, cheese and maybe a pie…it’s a nice trip out.

If you fancy writing a post about five or six things you’ve done in the last week, then please leave a link in the comments below. I always like to know what you’ve been up to.

Thank you very much for all your likes and compliments on my Baby Hexagon Blanket, here, on Facebook and Instagram. They made my day.

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 Day and inspired by another Rachel

   
     

  
   
One walk – so many flowers, the air smells so sweet, the birds are singing their hearts out, the thwack of the cricket ball on the bat, warm 16 degree sunshine. England really does put on a beautiful Spring show.

Inspired by a talented friend who speed crocheted a cardi to wear to a wedding last Saturday, I borrowed Anna Wilkinson’s book from the library yesterday to check out the pattern. It sounds rather dodgy making part of an outfit for a wedding, but it looked so good on her; not dubiously homemade at all. She’s one stylish chick and just doesn’t seem to do naff. It must be the Art Degree, I always think people who are arty have a certain pizzazz. 

I’d forgotten how good a source of inspiration the library shelves can be, I’ve lost the habit of popping in to see what’s there. Reading The Little Shop of Happy Ever After by Jenny Colgan over the last few days has reminded me to use my local libraries. 

Want to see my haul? There’s so much I want to make now, after a bit of an uninspired time, visiting the library was a good move. 

  

  

 The question is can I crochet a cowl in an evening, tonight, to give to my friend tomorrow?  As well as drink G&T and a glass or two of white? 

 

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?

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