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.

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness 


Autumn’s creeping slowly in now. There’s that crispness to the air in the mornings, leaves are beginning to turn, mornings and evenings are darker earlier and my thoughts are turning to soup recipes. The main indicator of the change of season is that I woke feeling iffy yesterday so made my first porridge of the season, accompanied with a fizzy vitamin c drink! I don’t mind. I love autumn. Always have. It’s especially going to be good as on very rainy days I can catch up on blog reading! We have BROADBAND again! Finally!

I met my cousin (she of the Lincolnshire field BBQs) at Waterperry Gardens yesterday for a look around and cup of earl grey. As you see; the pear trees are laden and the pumpkins are steadily growing on, apart from one monster which looks set to take over the world!

Knit & Sip was fun again yesterday. There was no mention or sight of any nettle yarn, I’m dubious it’s actually going to happen, it’s pretty labour intensive I’d have thought, but will have to see. All around the table there was so much chat and creativity going on. You’d never guess what was being made by the six of us. Mine would be easy; as I’ve got my pub knitting for the next two years set up with my garter stitch blanket, but some of the others? No way! One’s knitting what looks like it will be a really warm and beautiful dark purple jumper, on those very stylish black Karbonz DPNs. Even in the process of being made it looks so swish. Someone else is making her first ever garment using very interesting looking art yarn type of thing by King Cole, another is finishing a cotton bedspread her mother started and is unable to complete, using a 4 ply white cotton. This is the type of realllly clever knitting where there are lots of twiddly bits, including leaves emerging in the pattern. It’s another stylish knit. If the word ‘bedspread’ puts you off, just think ‘throw.’ I reckon it’s going to be one of these heirloom pieces the daughters will both want to own, as it’s knitted by Grandma and Mother. Another is knitting….wait for it….Lego Hands Gloves for her Lego loving hubby! The last is knitting A Jesus Tea Cosy for her R.C friend. Well! Can you beat that for sheer variety? Anyone? I’m throwing the Lego glove of challenge on the ground between us! 

As for reading I’m unusually still plodding on with exactly the same books as last week: Laurie Lee’s As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning and have a mere hour of The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy to go. Celia Imrie is superb at accents. The character Finty is the best by miles. 

What about you? What are you making and reading? Can you match my challenge above? Does it feel autumnal where you are, or beginning to zing with Spring? 

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.

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.

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.

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?

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? 

 

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! 

 

Summer Snapshot

   
    
    
 I’ve been holidaying in West Cornwall during a really beautiful week of weather, walking over 55 miles of coastal paths and local trails, exploring the local area, eating all the seaside holiday faves: pasties, fish and chips, cream tea and loving trying the local ciders.  Rattler (apple) cider is definitely my favourite. 

There was so much to see and photograph: particularly the spectacular coastline from all angles on the peninsula. As you headed away from the sea over a hill, or around a bend you would see it again. We were based only 8 miles from Lands End and wild flowers, butterflies, rabbits, birds and fish abounded. 

Then it was time to come home and I found my plants had grown inches (the dahlias are a foot taller – really) my porch pot has taken off, as you see, compared to the mere 3 flowers it had when I last saw it. There were juicy strawberries to eat, chillies had appeared in abundance and the herbs are bursting out of their pots. We have a very good neighbour who waters while we are away!

Although I took all my crochet kit away, to work on the border of the motif blanket, I didn’t do any. In the evenings it was too hot, or we were eating at a local pubs or sipping wine on the terrace looking out on the 180 degree view of the sea (taking far too many photos of the sunsets), or we were walking by the sea in the evening breeze. All I’ve done, since coming back, is a few rows of knitting of my Hitchhiker shawl. It’s really a scarf isn’t it? I’m not sure where/when calling everything a shawl started.

Now it’s far too hot to have a wooly blanket on my lap!  Today it’s 32 0c and reportedly the hottest day in 9 years. I was in Australia and missed the last one, but remember seeing news reports of tarmac on roads bubbling and railway lines buckling; much to the Aussies amusement. 

  
Like many I have reeled on reading about the death of Wink, there are no words to express my sadness. She will be missed by so many. XX

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?

In the bluebell wood

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

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

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

Five things 

I’m making a few loaves of bread again at a time, one to eat and the other(s) to freeze. The freezer lately seems to be full of stewed apples from the glut last Autumn, and frozen trout because of my knowing a talented fly fisherman. No sooner had I baked two loaves on Sunday than 3 whopping fish were brought home; one brown and two rainbow trout. Luckily family and friends are more than happy to have them as they are or potted or smoked.

BBC radio 2 are broadcasting Sounds of the 20th Century, it’s ‘An audio journey through five decades, starting at 1951. Archive recordings include George VI overcoming his stammer to open the Festival of Britain.’  I’m going to try to listen to them on the iplayer because it’s fascinating; no commentaries or explanations, just music, news, programme clips etc from each year. I’m listening to the first from 1951 now.
“The average housewife works for 75 hours each week and does overtime at weekends….according to a Mass Observation study…”

“Coupons will continue to be required for meat, cheese….”

Poor little Princess Margaret “born into disappointment as the Nation longed for a little Prince.”

It is compelling listening for a social and economic history junkie.

On a Saturday jaunt to Marlborough it was lovely to see clumps of snowdrops under trees. It really feels as if Spring is on its way now; with blue skies and sunshine, albeit interspersed with showers. Washing has been hung on the line a few times this week already and partially dried in the gentle breeze, this is a very good thing.

Johnnie Ray is now being asked about why he cries as he sings and how long he’s worn hearing aids. We’ve just watched the three Rock and Chips specials on Netflix (an excellent prequel to Only Fools and Horses) and his music was featured in the first one…

I’m a terrible procrastinator where some things are concerned, like sewing up knitting. This little baby jumper was something I knitted it in 2013, just something I saw in a knitting mag and thought I could give to a friend. I also knitted a cat (recently sewn up by a Nana in my friend’s craft group, which sells items in aid of the Deaf Access charity) and a tank-top which I subsequently undid. I blogged about the sewing up then. Oops.

Forty thousand feathers on a thrush!”

The silly thing is that I did the sewing while listening to my current audio book: The Minotaur by Barbara Vine (excellently narrated by Sian Thomas) and it was really painless. I guess in the interests of complete honesty I should admit that it took so long to finish because my cousin had it for ages, it was she who actually sewed it up. But I sewed on the buttons! This took several months, but it’s all done now.

You are the lone ranger!”The next is better; I sewed up my headband. It only took 2 weeks or so after finishing it. Improvement, yes? Here it is with a little card, ready for posting. The P.O has put in self-service machines and for some reason I really got flustered trying to gauge the size of the packet, type in the address for a proof of posting certificate etc. It was all too much but the new cheese counter take-a-ticket-wait-for-the-number-to-be-called wait was far too long.

“…without cotton many mills in Lancashire would close down…”The friend who sent me Clara Parkes knitting book also popped in two balls of yarn. This one was bought in iknit, London, she was going to make an entrelac something or other but ended up unravelling it without keeping the yarn band. It feels like wool, or a good wool blend, and is sock or lace weight (are these really so similar in weight that they are virtually the same?) I like using a really fine thread, it’s different.

“There will be more houses to let, more houses to sell, more houses for everyone…..the Conservative pledge will be kept in full…”

“The time is now six fourteen and three quarters…”  What an excellent programme, if distracting listening to it while writing here.

What are you enjoying listening to or reading at the moment?

If you write your own Five Things post then feel free to add a link in the comments below, then we can all see what you’ve been up to.

** I just had a text and selfie of the headband being worn, this was super fast delivery as I only grappled with the self-service machine yesterday! It looks really nice and will definitely be in use next week on the ski slopes. Hurrah!**

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.

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.

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.

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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.

 

Crafty treats & birthday presents

>A wander around a new craft superstore20120816-160103.jpg

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20120816-160121.jpg> This is a little different but each to their own! It’s probably more comfortable than being carried in a little handbag…20120816-160134.jpg> A few treats 20120816-160141.jpg> A surprise in the post. But this was a disappointment for the one who collected it from the post office and thought he’d won a fishing reel in a competition! The look was priceless when it turned out to be a subscriber gift from Mollie Makes magazine.  So, I get the magazine for a year of birthday present that keeps on giving, and the Amy Butler fabric! Win, win.

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>Stopping to admire my doorstep20120816-160318.jpg> Greek salad for lunch, not craft or a birthday present but a very tasty meal sitting in the sun listening the Best of David Bowie…..Let’s Dance! We could be Heroes….Little China Girl…..Fashion!….Ashes to Ashes…..20120816-160326.jpg> Trying out one of last week’s birthday pressies – my new slow cooker. I had to use pliers to turn the knob round on my last one and like this red model very much. I’m cooking Malaysian beef and aubergine curry for dinner (smelling good!)

The recipe’s from Ultimate Slow Cooker by Sara Lewis if you fancy trying it.20120816-160332.jpg