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.

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.

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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.

Hotter than Ibiza

My friend just sent a photo on WhatsApp of her legs up in the garden, with a glass of what she claims is water. It looks suspiciously like a vodka tonic to me but I don’t blame her if it is; as today it’s been hotter than Ibiza, Paris and New York, to name a few. 31 degrees! That’s hot for a country whose houses are all well insulated against the cold, where most people have wall to wall carpets and noooo A/C.

The frogs (we think, though maybe they’re toads and we’ve mistakenly identified them for years?) are taking it in turns to bask on the edge of the water tank in the garden. This is a tiny one. The bigger one was there yesterday and you can see s/he here

I tried to do some crochet, but it was really too hot and I had to give up when I realised the yarn was actually squeaking through my fingers….that’s pretty gross isn’t it?!

Instead I used my Nespresso machine and aeroccino to make iced coffees for the first time. Oh yes, there will definitely be more of these scrummy drinks.

For one iced coffee: make 40ml of espresso coffee, 90ml of cold frothy milk and 1-2 tsp of sugar syrup. Pour the hot coffee over lots of ice, mix in the sugar syrup and then stir in the milk.

I made a jar of sugar syrup for cocktails a while back and was so glad it was already there sitting in the fridge. I reckon an iced coffee habit is impending, so I’m sure I’ll have to make some more!

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…

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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.

Happy New Year!


My very favourite Christmas window from Fortnum & Mason, Piccadily, London.

I hope you’ve had a lovely, restful Christmas and are looking forward to this brand new year. I’ve had a super week and have really enjoyed catching up with family. I had a streaming cold on 25th, but fortunately it only hung around a few days afterwards and didn’t really spoil the celebrations. 

Ornamental cabbages and rosemary in Brown Hart Gardens, Duke Street, London.

I picked up what looks like a very good novel from the Bookstop. It was perfect timing as I wanted something to read while we had a pit-stop in the nearby pub. I’ll leave a book there next time I’m passing.

 I gave up chocolate mid-November until Christmas Day. I’m odd I know, but I liked the test of will-power and the sweet (!) anticipation of knowing in 5 weeks I would enjoy it again. Now I think I can say I’ve definitely eaten enough to make up for it! Today it’s a bank holiday here, so Christmas has continued now we’re back at home; with a few chocolates, a G&T and some roasted macadamia nuts along with the last Harry Potter film (he’s walking at ‘Kings Cross station’ with Dumbledore as I type…) But all good things must end, so tomorrow it’s back to healthier eating and I’ll be joining in with dry January until February 3rd. I shall pick up my crochet hook once more to add some rows to my ripple blanket and I’ll also do a traditional gallery post, showing what I made in 2016.

Are you on to healthy living in full force, or prolonging the celebrations a bit today too? Have you deChristmassed your home, or do you wait until twelfth night? Mine is still full of cards, candles, holly and decorations. I might remove a few things bit by bit as the week goes on, but not entirely until the fifth. I hope your first week of this brand new year is good.

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?

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.)

Gunby Hall & Gardens 

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

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

Hidcote, again 

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

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

A summer weekend 

   
    
     

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

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

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

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

 

Mock Cable Wristies 

All sewn up and ready to wear  for Autumn.

 It’s hard to get pictures showing the true colour; I think because the sunlight glints off the sparkles on the finished wristies, but these are very close.

Can you see the sparkles? It’s such a pretty pink yarn and incredibly soft.  It’s Louisa Harding Orielle, cerise, and is a DK yarn with 97% baby alpaca and 3% metallic polyamide – aka the sparkley bit. There are many other lovely colours too. I didn’t even intend to buy it, but saw someone in the yarn shop knitting the wrisites with the same wool, and before I knew it my purse was out and I had a bag with a skein and wristie qpattern in hand. They get you like that, don’t they?
The skein was 50g and plenty for the pair of wristies. I knit them with the 3.75mm needles specified in the pattern. Now the 3mm I’m using for the sock yarn feel even tinier.

If you want to knit your own wrisites I’m not really giving much away when I say you knit some rows of double rib for the wristband, mock cables until they’re the desired length, then a few more rows of double rib to finish them off. You can probably tell that just by looking.

You have a rectangle to sew up (mattress stitch is best I reckon), leaving a hole for the thumb. Make sure you carefully check that the thumb holes are in the same place for both….unless you fancy wonky mitts. Then go for it anyhow you please.

Earler I left my (still excellent) audio book, sofa and cold pack to venture outside, into the real world! I dropped some smoked trout off at a friend’s and admired that gorgeous wisteria. Then popped to Sainsbury’s. Getting in and out of the car with a tubi-grip on my knee made me pull ridiculous faces. I probably made a few Ow and Ouch sounds too. Well it hurt. I noticed an elderly woman in the car park with a “Buck up your ideas, for goodness sake!” expression on her face, and wanted to explain what it was all about. We don’t do this in England generally, so I hobbled inside towards the salad veg instead.

These two blog posts have cheered me up and made me laugh this afternoon: The Cat isn’t Speaking to me on Yarn Harlot and  Carry-all: a Soup Story on Cosy Made Things.

I felt dull witted for a little while in a ‘Where’s the problem?’ kind of way, because I’m not much of a knitter, then pretty superior: ‘I would never do that!’ in response to Kristen’s post. So all in all I feel fairly balanced now.
You?

Glorious Spring sunshine

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

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

What are you up to?

Snowshill Manor & Garden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Waterperry Gardens

Although it’s quite a bit cooler now and the nights are drawing in at an alarming rate (curtains closed by 8pm) it still feels like late Summer.
I took a trip, with a friend, to Waterperry Gardens at the beginning of the week. It was lovely and warm outside, so I took a picnic for us to eat at one of the outside tables. I’m glad because car picnics aren’t much fun; tubs slide off the dashboard and you end up doing a balancing act with a plate on your knee!

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The gardens are so well tended it’s a pleasure to wander, or sit, and take in the colour. There is a new ‘Truth Walk’, it would be good to go along the paths when the snowdrops are flowering.

My friend knows many of the staff at Waterperry and we stopped to chat several times. Apparently two of the head gardeners at Sissinghurst, when Vita and Harold established the garden, were trained at Waterperry. I was asked if I’d had noticed any similarities in the designs? You can actually; as I mentioned after my visit to Sissinghurst Vita didn’t wish to see any earth between the plants, the beds were crammed full, this is also striking in the long border at Waterperry.

Have you been on any day trips lately?

Happy weekend all, have a good one.

Harvest Festival

I’ve had my own harvest festival this weekend; as I’d been offered the chance to help myself to anything in a relative’s garden while she’s away. Woo hoo!

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I thought it was silly to bring the beetroot and carrot tops home with me, so cut them off and went across to the compost bins in her garden. One lid I couldn’t pull off, so I decided to try the other, quite forcefully yanking it off. A tangle of worms flew off the bin lid, scattering onto the outside of the bin, sliding down my jeans and onto my boot. Knowing my pro gardening relly these worms will have been flown in for their special composting services – so I’m there with a large crinkly leaf scooping them up and putting them back into the composter. Argh! I did take a quick photo of some, but it’s rather blurry as they are pretty fast wrigglers and I didn’t want them to get away.
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After that mini episode of The Great Escape I took a bit of time out to stare at the flowers.

I can’t describe the sweetness of the crisp carrots, we munched a couple raw and had a few cooked for dinner. It’s like having your own kitchen garden just ten minutes away! I hope she goes away again next summer, just when the vegetables are ripe for the picking.
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The tomatoes and peppers are my own. The yellow tomatoes are stacked up like a pyramid now as I gathered more this morning, ready for using. The bowlfuls around the house are multiplying as I’m picking more every day. Even I’m surprised to find a pyrex dish full of them on the windowsill in The Little Room when I draw the curtains! It’s a good job we love them isn’t it?
I cooked a couple of the green peppers and made Balsamic Chicken, one of my favourite easy peasy recipes, last night. We tried a slice of raw pepper first, just to taste it. I’ve grown chilli peppers several times, but not pepper peppers (capsicum.) Tonight we’re having a yellow tomato greek salad, pitta, taramasalata and other delights as we’ve had a return to summer today. I’m really enjoying thinking of tomato based meals to enjoy, it’s so much more satisfying to use homegrown. It will be salmon with cherry tomatoes and couscous tomorrow and Nigella’s tomato curry with coconut rice from Kitchen later in the week. Mmmmmmm.
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Are you having your own harvest festival, or heading into Spring and dreaming of all that to come?

Al fresco crochet

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It is such beautiful weather here at the moment that it just feels wrong to stay inside.

I started a ripple on Monday night but had to order some yarn before I could continue. Luckily I already had two of the greys I wanted to use as they’re the same I’m using for my other blanket, so at least I could make a start. I actually haven’t touched a hook for weeks; a combination of a sore elbow (acupuncture is really helping) and just wanting a break. It was a refreshing break, but I was absolutely raring to go once my plan was approved at the weekend. I’ve offered a crocheted blanket birthday pressie to a special someone as I’ve had her kind of colours in mind for ages, and fancied crocheting another ripple. I’m a little surprised I’m so keen as I became quite bored by the end of The Rhubarb Ripple. My offer was immediately taken up and so I’ve been happily zipping along the rows today. The motif blanket will wait for a while. This is easier crochet; it’s fast to add new colours and decide which next. I tend to need my leg up to join as you go (do you?! Is this just me?!) so it makes it sofa crochet, not al fresco crochet so much.

Hurrah! My new yarn came this morning! I could hear the rustle of the sack arriving from my spot (reading in the bath, hard work these summer hols.) Deramores have been undercut by Wool Warehouse on Stylecraft Special DK by 30p a ball at the moment. I have to say that as both offer speedy service and free p&p when you spend £25 it wasn’t a tricky decision to use WW for this order. 30p less for a ball is 30p saved. Or, spent on more yarn…

The bright pink was always going to be a gamble without actually seeing a ball. It’s not quite right is it? It jars with the scrummy raspberry, the sharp lime green (new colour) and the delicious graphic, silver and grey. The darker shades are midnight blue and emperor penguin purple. Someone suggested I use the bright pink to embroider “Get off, this is Mummy’s!” Ha! I must tell her this when I give the blanket.

My charity shop find basket is perfect for al fresco crochet. It’s very good at standing to attention with the yarn ball in use rolling around on top. I need a yarn bowl really, but it does the job of keeping it off the grass. Can you see I replaced the bag’s sequins? I preferred the scuffed brown originals really I realise, now it’s done. Too late!

What are you crocheting or making? Or are you having a crafty break?

Create Make Bake Nurture Enjoy

This is maybe a bit of a syrupy sweet title but it nicely describes my Summer days at the moment.

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Picking strawberries; Mum on one side of the row, me on the other. Trying to keep up my end of the conversation with strawberry juice running down my chin! Sun warmed, juicy and sweet they were – oh yum.

Three large punnets of raspberries and one of strawberries picked, some very posh meringues bought from the farm shop and then home to my sugar mountain.

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The recipe was from my Good Housekeeping Book of Preserves It’s here in my jam making post from 2012 if you fancy making some too. It’s so easy and pretty fast; my eight pots were full of raspberry jam by 10:30.

Brrrr if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere! It seems to be all about sock knitting, blanket making, log fires and snowfall with some of you this week.

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Homemade breakfast. Yum. There is nothing more satisfying than eating homemade toasted bread and jam. It really gives a glow to know that you’ve created something from scratch; whether it’s food, flowers or craft, doesn’t it?

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I’m doing the sourdough starter thing again, I started this on Monday.

Get a 1 litre kilner jar, or similar, put in 70g strong white bread flour and 70ml water, mix well until there are no lumps. Repeat this feeding process daily for a week. After 3-4 days it should be bubbling nicely. At the end of the week it’s ready to use. It’s as easy as that.

Google sourdough starters at your peril; there are so many sourdough starter nerds and pages of bumpf out there detailing exact temperatures and micrograms of this, that and the other when it’s basically a very simple process that people have been doing for hundreds (thousands?) of years.

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I took these two pics yesterday afternoon, it was doing great. Then late last night I came downstairs to whip the aerial out of the socket, after seeing the sky lighting up with strange horizontal silent lightning, and smelt the starter really strongly. The jar was sat in a puddle of starter, it was seeping out of the closed container like a slow volcano! It was about 28 deg here yesterday, probably hotter in the house, and look how much it grew in a few hours. I must have trapped some super-powerful natural airborne yeast! It’s now in a large mixing bowl…

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My first posy of sweetpeas. I sent Trish a packet of seeds as part of her birthday present in the Spring and we’ve been sharing pics of our first sweetpeas on IG.

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Some Saturday mornings I get up and really feel like baking something. This morning I chose to bake Citrus Muffins from this book. A little like lemon drizzle cake with a zesty lemony syrup drizzled on top when they were hot from the oven. You also put lemon and lime zest in the muffin mixture. I’d double the zest next time to make them even more citrusy.

Have you created, made, nurtured and enjoyed something this week?

Sissinghurst Castle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which garden to visit next? Decisions, decisions!

Food glorious food

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One of the nicest things about coming back from a holiday is seeing how much the plants in the garden have grown. There are tomatoes all over the vines now. I harvested some new potatoes yesterday and just picked the first ripe cherry tomatoes. Hurrah!

Something’s nibbled a couple of the strawberries, but as I’ve already picked a bowlful I don’t mind. Share and share alike. There are runners coming off the plant so I’m starting new – that’s the reason for the smaller pots around it, there are another two behind. I’ve promised a few new plants to friends and family.

The pumpkin plants (one shown) are both coming on in leaps and bounds. I can see where the flower buds are forming. I’ve never grown any before so this is exciting.

There are lots of tiny peppers on the three plants, but as you see only one decent sized pepper so far. It’s a waiting game at this point…

I’ve been searching for light and healthy recipes, after many holiday treats (and a few too many when I was laid up in June with the spider injury) and have started a board on Pinterest if you fancy sharing them with me, if you’d like to send more my way too that would be fab. Googling 5:2 recipes brings up lots of lovely things – whether you’re doing the ‘fasting’ thing or just aiming to eat lighter food. I’m taken with roasted red pepper & tomato and also courgette & watercress soups. I used to make a roasted red pepper soup and can’t think where I’ve put the recipe.

What are you up to at the moment?

Snapshot II

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Wondering if embroidery in hoops displayed on the wall is much cooler than on tea towels? I somehow doubt cool and embroidery are two words that have ever gone together. I don’t really care. I especially enjoy embroidering something which has a practical purpose. I need more tea towels – I’ve got more ideas. The glasses were from one of my Sublime Stitches transfers books, the writing is mine, scruffy and all.

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Harvesting strawberries! So yummy and surprisingly the birds haven’t gone for them. The other day a squirrel was spotted in a friend’s garden picking their strawbs, holding them gently in both his paws and nibbling away!

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Loving the scent wafting up from my pot as I come in and out of the front door, waiting for the apple blossom geranium I chose as a tiny plug plant months ago, to reveal its flowers.

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Opening a free copy of Garden Illustrated to my best page first! I’ve said:”Really sheds are so expensive but just think; when you move you just roll this onto the back of a truck and take it with you!” to raised eye brows.

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Carrying my blanket yarn in a completely coordinating bag. This was a coincidence but made me smile when I realised. The motifs are now joined in one long strip of about 180cm, this is the length of the blanket. I’m halfway along the second row now. Zippidy do dah.
Reading The Lieutenant by Kate Grenville, only to p.5 so far but it’s going to be a cracker. I read the first of the trilogy The Secret River in Australia one visit.
Not missing resting my injured leg. I’ve washed laundry, hung it out, hand washed my car, washed up, baked 2 loaves of bread, cooked dinner, cleaned walls, hoovered, cleaned the filters, folded laundry and tidied it away, watered all the plants, emptied the bins, cleaned bins, re-potted plants, rearranged outside pots, ironed (the tea towel above ha ha strenuous!) driven – once so far, yesterday, but it was fine with an old lady tubi-grip, food shopped, collected a library book, am walking downstairs nearly normally again. It’s good to be busier again.

How about you, what are you up?

On the bright side

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I really fancied doing some more embroidery but thought I’d only do a little Thursday evening so as not to aggravate my elbow. I really enjoyed semi watching, mostly listening, to an episode of Lewis (the psychology student/psychics/elephant tranquilliser one) using stem stitch to sew the letters of my personalised tea towel which is to be a gift.

The arm was indeed a bit iffy Friday but hey ho, it was still a great day. A great week in fact, and generally all is going swimmingly. That is until 11:14 pm when the most ginormous spider hurried across the lounge from under a sofa to behind the TV. There was some wine or beer fuelled discussion along the lines of: “But he’s happy, let him be.” “He’s not leaving cobwebs all over my house.” “Don’t kill him.” “Don’t be ridiculous, you know I never kill them…” All this while I’m tipping a nightlight out of a holder and grabbing a postcard (flower fairies – such a pretty card that I carry it downstairs to recycle then end up propping it on the mantelpiece.) This spider is big and aggressive, he’s sassy and won’t be caught in a tea light holder and trapped by a flower fairy postcard. But we both know who’s going to win…

…in the end after a skirmish behind the TV stand it’s actually neither of us. He gets half trapped under the holder after I execute a niffy half turn when he tries to fox me, and head back to sofa-land, and I feel a muscle at the back of my knee go POP!

OMG THE PAIN.

Actually the spider was ok, no broken legs and I’m sure he enjoyed his flight out of the window to the garden.

Today instead of a super day out nerding with one of my favourite friends I’ve been sat on the bed with an ice pack and haven’t gone downstairs once; as I had to semi crawl upstairs last night and can’t bear the awfulness of needing the littlest room and the slow hurry. It’s best to rest it as much as possible too.

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This app is great! Although after quietly downloading it and trying it out with a few good dings, then testing the ring-a-ding-ding function with a good shake Someone marched into the bedroom with a grin and said, “You can get rid of that app for a start.” “But it was my nerdy friend who suggested I get it, to help you know when I need something!”

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The bright side is I’ve listened to a little more of The Goldfinch audio book, watched the first ever few episodes of The IT Crowd, the inflating boobies episode of Mrs Brown’s Boys (thank you free catch up TV and ipad magic) and downloaded some interesting looking free Kindle novels. There have also been a few homegrown strawberries, YUM, some cheer up surprises: mini Reeces, ice cold 7Up and as requested; a yummy Greek salad with pitta for lunch. The service is pretty good, the bedside chat could be improved but it’s tricky to provide uplifting banter when an important rugby match is on in the other room.

So, it’s after 5pm and I’m feeling a bit restless. Can you tell me something interesting, a story, a fact about yourself, a snippet from your weekend, whatever? A good link? Please. Chances are I’ll still be up here tomorrow so anything will be gratefully received.

Because it made me smile the other day when I noticed how tidy the Rhubarb Ripple looks amongst the other unruly blankets in The Little Room…

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Productivity

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I was given Beyond the Square for Christmas, but haven’t made a single motif until this week. The other evening I thought I’d play with #118 and figure how to join it as I went. It took five tries and I got it, I think. Others might have sussed it out differently but mine looks like it will probably work. Since then I’ve had a little production line going making middles and am now round twoing them all.

I have no idea what I’m making, or for whom, as it’s been so spontaneous but it’s another way to use up some of my oddments of Stylecraft.

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As I crocheted half-finished motifs, and tossed them into the basket beside me, I realised the colours are echoing those in my bouquet. This is nice, I like it.

Some stack their middles and half-done motifs beautifully, others lay them out in imaginative patterns to photograph; mine are tossed into a basket ends up and bedraggled! It’s all about doing some crochet again, not artful photographs. I can attempt to redress the balance and make sure they’re laid out with a CK mug of coffee in the background (tho I mostly drink tea) or my socked feet in the picture if you like? All the blogging photo cliches by request.
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Stop being silly and go into the garden.
The potato leaves are looking lush and healthy, hopefully the potatoes are too. I can’t wait to dig into the soil and see them.

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So many strawberries for one plant! My friend’s are redder and huge too, I think they get more sun in her garden, but I’m pleased my plant came through our wet Winter so well.
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The first tomato. I bought two varieties this year; yellow Golden Sunrise and Gardener’s Delight, a red cherry.
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The pepper plants look ready to fruit too. I’ve grown extra to swap with family this weekend.

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I’ve baked wholemeal and a white seeded – poppy, sunflower and pumpkin – loaves for this week’s daily bread. The white is a bit darker brown than usual on top, I blame that motif I was trying to whizz around – rather than just putting it down and getting to the oven a few minutes sooner. It’ll be fine though. The bottom and sides are a nice colour.

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For a week I’ve felt under par, waking up in the early hours with a thumping headache and sore neck/throat, had a hacking cough with lots of sighing and a bit of grumping. Today is the first time I’ve truly felt like myself and even slightly dynamic, rather than going through the motions. Three lots of washing washed and hung on the line too. It’s been a good day.

Oh and now it’s raining again, doesn’t that always happen just after you’ve done the watering?!

How are you feeling this week?

 

Oh by the way rather than just staring, hearting and commenting on others’ pics (only in the last few weeks – what can I say, I’m slow) I’ve started to join in on Instagram. Only three pics so far, but there’s scope for more! Let me know if you’re there too. I like the way you can swap quick chatty comments and search for hashtags, it feels like the best aspects of blogging and twitter. However I can’t imagine it replacing blogging, for me, because you’re limited word-count-wise…!

Lots of pretties

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Choosing a range of Stylecraft colours for my next make – a crochet blanket. The colour scheme needs to complement some William Morris fabric. I’m enjoying selecting them as they’re a new combination. You might be able to see my light ticks on the colour chart if you look closely, or enlarge the pic.
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A lovely post-Sunday lunch was spent in this garden yesterday, sitting in the sun flicking through magazines and chatting. We make the most of the weather when it’s sunny. The cottage garden style border is poised to break into an abundance of colour.

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Twinkling and sparkling this huge sign is pretty, it’s on the front of the Selfridges store, London. Many were taking photos with themselves in front. I enjoy having strangers hand me their iPhone so I can take their photo. It happens a lot. A lot. I must look so trustworthy (or maybe like I’m not going to be running anywhere fast), this always amuses me.

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My beautiful bouquet of flowers. Stocks and freesias scent the air.

If you fancy a very slow, beautifully shot film, directed by Jane Campion, which features Love, sewing, fancy dresses and bonnets, Love and plenty of romantic poetry from the young Love struck Keats then watch Bright Star. Even the slight twang of antipodean accents at times (aiming for English) can be forgiven.

Easter weekend

 

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Beautiful apple blossom on the tree
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Strawberry flowers gradually opening
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Little Easter giftbags filled with chocolate goodies
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Embroidered birdy tea towels. They would look sweet in a country kitchen hanging from the rail of an Aga but will also do the job of drying crockery (sweet old fashioned word alert!) and covering food nicely. I look at them and remember how much I’ve enjoyed doing a bit of embroidery again (split stitch and feather stitch) but do wonder how they’d rate on a very naff to super cool scale. Tea towels are very handy at least, as opposed to putting decorative things in embroidery hoops and hanging them on the wall, which is not really my style at all. My gin loving bears are currently covering a bowl containing Herman the German friendship sourdough cake batter. I need to bake the cake tomorrow after I come home from my (weird) day out.

Do you know this traditional rhyme? I always sing it at Easter. Loudly in the car this morning to Someone’s joy (not.)

“Hot cross buns,

Hot cross buns,

One a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns

If you have no daughters give them to your sons,

One a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns.”

Have a super Easter whatever you plan to do.

 

 

Not quite 10 Random Things

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Oooh I thought when I saw this shepherd’s hut a while back. I parked and walked back to have a peer at it. Actually it’s only got that tiny little window so wouldn’t be a great craft hideaway, which is probably a good thing as in a nanosecond I was already planning where to park it in the back garden and musing about taking it to the seaside. Mad. And no, that’s not expensive at all. Is it? Ha!
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I went to a food and craft fair a few weeks ago with a friend. We were a bit disappointed to find the craft part was really just a few tables with jewellery, homemade cards, decoupage kits although one had these rather lovely vintage fabric owl cushions and things. The food part was redundant as we’d already eaten mystery sausage baps at mine before leaving. Mystery for her as I made her guess the flavours as I chose them from my super local butchers (homemade meaty sausages. Yum) This time they were pork, celery and Stilton. She liked them too.

Tiny confession: The food wasn’t 100% redundant as I bought homemade fudge and I think my friend chose pick ‘n mix. I can’t be sure as my eyes were firmly fixed on my slices of fudge.

We each bought raffle tickets to support the local cause and later she had a call to say there was an arty raffle prize on the way! Lucky duck…not really as it turned out to be an Usborne book on Modern Art, for children. I’m going to give it to my nieces.

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Six rainbow trout freshly caught in a Wiltshire lake. One bartered for cider at the local shop, one to a neighbour, two smoked to be eaten as potted trout or just as they are with salad. Yum. I bought a Fladen home smoker so the fisherman’s experimenting with whisky, hickory and applewood smoking chips. I like the whisky (cask) chips best so far. The other fishes are in the freezer getting in my way as they are solid slightly curled forms so hinder neatly stacking tubs. (Before you leave ‘Urgh’ comments on my behalf about finding trout in the sink, I don’t mind at all. I vacate the kitchen, after opening the window and door then let the cleaning begin. The only issue last Autumn was the windows being left open during the first home smoker test. The house stank of hickory smoke!)
A few days ago the shopkeeper gave us a leg of pork as another thank you for the (unbartered) trout he’s had over the last few years, and the neighbour bought some German Friendship Cake batter around. I love this type of thing!

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My Bondaweb finally arrived so I could have a second go at applique. The blue bird was my first go, then I adjusted the stitch and felt happier with the other, though went a bit off track on his head.
This bag is all ready to applique. I fixed the petals on with Bondaweb, at the same time as I prepared the birdie tea towels, but it doesn’t entirely like the canvas. They’re pinned as well now; just in case I find petals on the floor. I might applique them by hand, it depends how I find the thickness of the canvas. The fabric is from a pack of fat quarters I bought from Amazon. It turns out not to be a good idea to buy fabric online, unless it’s a brand you know. It’s very thin.

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Here’s my unplanned and unexpected find from yesterday. We were mooching around a smallish and not particularly lovely little town we once lived for a year. It was a stick a pin in a map at a halfway point kind of decision then, and it worked. There are so many charity shops now. The vintage style flowers caught my eye, then the 100% cotton label. I bought it purely for the fabric. How about a flowery tote bag for the Summer? It’s thin enough to sew with my little machine, thick enough for shopping or carrying books. It cost £2.95!
I’ve spent several years reading blogs where someone’s visited their local op, thift or charity shop and picked up a real find. Well I think this is mine!

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This morning’s crochet for a few minutes. It’s the final edging row, I’m halfway around and then another blanket bites the dust!
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The tomato plants getting some sun toughening up outside, jogging on the spot and doing crunches (whatever they are?!) before they go into grow bags. Hopefully we’ll have bowlfuls of red Gardener’s Delight cherry tomatoes and some yellow Golden Sunrise. I need a really good crop as I’m competing with a friend this year. Greenhouses are for sissy tomatoes!!!!

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I hope you’ve had a restful Sunday too. If you plan to post your own 10ish Random Things please leave a comment or link below, I’d like to read yours.

A lovely Monday

 

IMG_2723 A lovely Springtime pot of violas, with tulips shooting up what seems an inch a day.

IMG_2728Blossom on the plum tree, blue sky with gorgeous fluffy clouds. The washing machine is whizzing around with a load of towels. I’m loving using the washing line again.

IMG_2729Isn’t it pretty?

IMG_2737Catkins on the hazelnut tree. The squirrels plunder these in Autumn, just as we’ve noticed they have ripened, leaving us to crunch along the path on piles of discarded nutshells.

 

2013

A selection of this year’s highlights. (Top of my list for 2014 is to enjoy putting the CAL blocks together, after a refreshing break. You should know I’m basically pre-empting comments here!) I’ve got many, many more photos of craft events, exhibitions and shops I’ve been lucky enough to visit too, probably enough for another gallery times ten. What a fun and creative year.

Meeting other crafty peeps has been a highlight, I see I wrote the same on last year’s gallery 2012.  I’ve always loved meeting new people and not being a shy sort find it all a bit of an adventure. Putting on some music, the radio or an audio book and settling down to make something is one of my favourite ways to relax, apart from reading, cooking or baking. But I have to say that there’s nothing like meeting others – having a good chat and seeing what they’re making. Social crafting seems to be one of the best ways to meet people too. I reckon if you’re shy then joining a crafting group works well as you can always focus on what you’re crocheting, knitting or sewing or whatever to calm your initial nerves. If you’re stuck for conversation just ask what kind of yarn (or whatever) they’re using and generally you’re off!

Have you joined any new crafty groups this year? Taken part in any workshops? Do you enjoy social crafting, or prefer it to be solely during your alone time?