November

Making: my crochet bobble cowl

Cooking: fish chowder, some cream and dill at the end make it taste luxurious

Sipping: hot lemon, ginger & honey

Reading: I started another of Ann Cleeves Vera series, perfect winter reading – a country house at Christmas with a house party in full swing and … da-da-daaa! A body

Anticipating: my December gin box to be delivered at the beginning of next month

Breakfasting: porridge all the way!

Looking: at all the birds who suddenly appeared in the garden, when it became much colder

Listening: to The Green Planet TV series soundtrack on Spotify, it’s epic. I didn’t watch any of the series, but the soundtrack makes me want to!

Poppies in progress for the Remembrance Day postbox topper

Wishing: for some thermal gloves for when I walk

Enjoying: Sing 2. Purchased on Amazon, it’s a really good fun watch if you like music and silliness

A well-used and borrowed library book, I’ve made a note of the mint syrup recipe for summer cocktails

Appreciating: all the colours in the trees, it hadn’t been that windy in November, so there were lots and lots of beautiful autumn leaves still

Eating: chicken and leeks in blue cheese sauce with potatoes and green beans (leftovers with tagliatelle were delicious)

Liking: 1899 on Netflix, it’s creepy and intriguing

Loving: wearing my handmade woollies again

Those bronze ferns are stunning

Buying: a few presents, trying to get ahead of the game

The Christmas cabins were in place at Blenheim Palace by 18th November when I walked in the parkland

Watching: I’m a Celebrity as usual, it was really entertaining back in Australia. Wales did not work for us

Hoping: for a lovely family Christmas, looking forward to it

Wearing: my Edenvale cowl and some purple gloves while I walked

Noticing: Christmas trees going up in homes before the end of the month. In NOVEMBER #TooEarly

Still making a loaf of sourdough every week

Following: Made by Anita on Insta, see her page here. We’ve followed each other there for years. I recommend her account if you want to see lovely colour combos, plus loads and loads of crochet

Sorting: out some yarn oddments for the next yarn bombing project for my friend (orange for a nose!)

He sang his heart out for my cousin and me

Getting: Stollen and a tin of Twiglets for my Christmas store, in recent years I’ve realised if you snooze, you lose!

Coveting: A really good flask so that I can make a hot cup of tea back at my car, after long walks

Tempted to buy a Velvetiser, I made my own real hot chocolate instead; with a bar of Lindt dark, some whole milk and a whisk, in a pan. We loved it

Feeling: a bit tingly excited about Christmas as the month drew to a close

Hearing: the heating whirring away, I’m not taking it for granted

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It was a nice month, some exciting things happened; I met new people, went to new places, generally all felt pretty good. As I write this it’s the second of December now, I hope it’s as special a month.

How are you doing? I hope all is well in your world and you’re managing to stay warm. Or, cool and dry if you’re Down Under!

Tell us three things about your November?

Crochet! Crochet! Crochet!

Here’s the eye catching postbox topper that my friend’s WI (Women’s Institute) put together for Remembrance Sunday.

Can you spot any of the crochet poppies that I sent her?

Offering to make some poppies was the best thing for me really. We had such a hot summer. I don’t usually do much crochet when it’s warm and even less so this year, as England had some of the highest temperatures since records began. But since I made some poppies I’ve got my crojo back again, with a vengeance. It’s probably the darker evenings and the cooler weather too.

I’ve been buzzing. I’ve looked through my crochet books, read the latest issues of Simply Crochet mag on the e-library site PressReader (it’s free! Great app. Really, really good) and dived into my storage cube to see what was in my yarn stash.

Making a resolution not to start anything new, but to finish off projects I’m already halfway through this year has not been that exciting. I’ve made some headway, but felt bored, so then ended up doing little.

I checked to see what yarn I already have, but of course I didn’t actually use any of it! I mean we don’t, do we?! That’s why we build up stashes in the first place. Mine’s modest because I’ve sent a friend some and donated other bits to a charity shop, so I reckoned I could buy a little something. I chose some brand-new Hayfield Spirit DK. I really like it. When there’s even 20% wool content it’s much nicer to work with than pure acrylic, and looks better as well. It should be warmer too. I never usually make wearables with 100% acrylic, but of course it’s far more affordable for big projects, such as blankets.

I started a virus shawl. Here’s a quick snap that I sent to a friend when we were sharing what we were making one night. It’s not a great photo, but it was enough for her to see what I was doing.

This is the autumn colour way, the people at Hayfield (Sirdar) must have been thinking of autumn flowers, such as dahlias and asters, because the colours don’t say autumn leaves to me.

Then although I was happy with how it looked, I realised I would probably never wear it. I’m more a scarf or cowl wearer. I unravelled it and started a virus blanket. I bought the pattern from Jonna Martinez. Here. There are lots of You Tubers whom you can crochet along with (fun thing to do) as you start your own Virus shawl or blanket. I did that to begin.

Jonna brought the Virus pattern back to the fore and made it famous – go viral. I have read that the Virus design is actually based on an old pattern from Rumania or Russia. This wouldn’t be a surprise; I don’t think there’s really much that’s original in crochet, we’re all replicating stitches and patterns that have been done over decades, maybe centuries.

Pretty colours, aren’t they? But you see the problem? You see what’s really, really, REALLY annoying me, that means I’m going to have to unravel it?

All I will say is that I am looking into the standing stitch and checking out various ways to do it. One crocheter made a video to demonstrate one and it really made me laugh, because she can hardly get her hook through the loop. I’m not sure about doing that version. Might give it a swerve and find another!

Simply Crochet issue 128

And then when I was reading Simply Crochet, issue 128, I found a Bobble Cowl design by Sue Pearson, that I really fancied making. Pattern available here too.

I remember how much I like crocheting bobbles. I started the cowl without really checking what size I would prefer, but happily it’s exactly the height of my favourite knitted Edenvale cowl. Here it is, I wear it all the time in the winter.

And that is what I’ve been making, making and unravelling, making and measuring, then sighing with relief when it’s right.

What about you? What are you making? Any unravelling going on? Any new yarn purchases?

I’ll be back soon with a new books post.

I really need to crochet a hexagon!

I woke up really early yesterday morning, read a bit more of Hidden Depths, the third book in the Vera series by Anne Cleeves and then fell back asleep for a few hours. When I woke I scrolled a bit on Insta and found I had a burning need to crochet a hexagon!

Do you ever feel like that? You just have to grab some scraps of yarn and a hook and go for it?

I’d seen Anita’s Vintage Hexagons a while back and that was the pattern I settled on. It’s free and here on her brand new website. She’s so clever with colour and original blanket designs. We’ve followed each other for years on Insta, but now she’s really taking designing up a notch. Check out her accounts.

I’ve been on a mission for a long time to finish all the things already started, or to unravel them, but I made an allowance yesterday. A few hexies, using oddments from blanket making, wouldn’t exactly be breaking the plan. I fancied something colourful. I really like the variegated Hayfield Spirit wool acrylic mix I’m using for my Coast blanket, but it’s quite muted.

Crocheting motifs bit by bit would be an ideal project for short bursts of crochet. I’d get that feeling of completing something, without crippling pain at the end of a mammoth row of a blanket. Anyway, I’m always drawn to hexagons, they’re probably my most favourite shapes.

Larger balls and little lengths wound up and in a little zippy bag I sewed a few years ago

Do you recognise my colour combo? I’ve used it a little more more than I realised. Thank goodness for my account on Pinterest. I had a quick look through my pins to spot everything made with this colour combo. My Pinterest doesn’t feature everything, but it’s a good selection. It’s amazing how many people end up here clicking through from Pinterest.

Baby Theo’s Patchwork blanket
Winnie’s Wave blanket (and Winnie’s baby brother who inherited it last year)
Blackberry Ripple blanket
Baby Hexagons blanket

Anyway, back to yesterday…

I think I might stop here and change yarns. I’ve become used to more of a wool content, even 20%, and the plasticy look of this acrylic is not doing it for me. Or maybe I should try a different brand?

This week I may donate what I’ve made so far, and the little middles I also made, with the rest of the oddments. I could pop in a note telling the buyer where to find the free pattern online too.

What’s your go-to yarn for blanket making? I’m not about to buy a vast quantity of pure wool. I crochet and knit with wool or blends for smaller makes, as I prefer to wear it rather than 100% acrylic. It would be way too expensive and too valuable for throwing about as an everyday blanket. Another brand of acrylic, or a wool blend would be good to try. Any recommendations would be welcome. Then I can go to wool shop to have a squish…

…when I’ve completed my ‘Finish everything and do not buy any more yarn’ mission, of course!

Seven Days

I really didn’t know where to begin with this post. July has been a mixed month. A lovely holiday (go to my Insta to see the seal) and then an evening a week or so later, I went to sing and suddenly found myself croaky voiced. I also sang a completely different melody to the rest a few times and wondered why. The next day my throat felt like there was a golf ball stuck in it sore and I felt on the odd side, although not exactly unwell. I was about to leave to go to the city, but thought it might be wise to do a test. It’s pretty obvious to you what I’m going to say, isn’t it? I had my first ever positive. It finally got me.

I tested a few times during the first week and within 2 1/2 minutes that blinking red line appeared. So many people have said it’s akin to having a mild summer cold. Not for me; I felt really unwell for the first four days. Apparently new very contagious variants have developed and here 1/17 have Covid, according to the BBC news app. After the worst part I felt really quiet, not wanting to talk or move much. I read a lot, did some crochet and adult dot-to-dot pages from a book that I found in a charity shop for 50p last month. When I say adult I mean tricky, tiny numbers to 400, sea themed pictures. Not ‘adult’. That would be an interesting book…

So, rather than wade through many photos from mid-June onwards I’ve selected some from the last week*.

I finally got my first negative result at the weekend, after ten days. I’m still coughing well a fortnight later, have a blocked up head and ears, can smell and taste little. It will all pass. I’m dealing with the post-viral fatigue by doing some activity, following by quite a lengthy sit-down-and-read. I’m very lucky to have chance to quietly recuperate.

Bread making continues unwell or not, this is a slightly flat loaf because I got very involved in my book (or maybe it was tv?) and it over-proved one evening! It tasted good, I’m told, which is the most important thing. I use locally grown and produced organic flours: dark rye for the starter, then a mix of white and stoneground wholemeal, often more wholemeal than white, sometimes half and half. I keep reading about the benefits to the gut of fermented foods and have a glow of satisfaction as sourdough is always included on the lists.

I found a new mustard recipe online, it’s Beer Mustard. Tomorrow it will be a week since I made this batch and we will try it.

A few months ago I made my own mustard for the first time, maybe I mentioned it? It was Spiced Honey Mustard from my Good Housekeeping Preserves book which I’ve owned for years. It was made to give as a gift and tasted so good that I made a few more jars for us. One came on holiday as we couldn’t bear not to have it for 10 days!

The giftee liked it so much that he kept sending pics of his lunchtime cheese and mustard sandwiches. That made me grin.

I’m working through the book, I have been for years. There are very few that I wouldn’t want to make. (Harissa and a lemon pickle are probably next.)

Lots of wandering around the garden and admiring my pots, picking up stray fuchsia petals and watching the progress of the very late planted gladioli. Finally razor sharp leaves have appeared above ground. I’m not sure that we’re going to get any flowers, it may be too late, but it’s exciting watching their progress.

I’ve kept the plant saucer of water cleaned and topped up for the birds, patio mouse and next door’s cats. Last week we had some of our highest ever recorded temperatures in the country so sat outside until after dark, reading our Kindles, in the relative cool of the garden. And several nights running we heard a loud rustle and movement behind the shrubs at the back of the garden. We have a hedgehog! On Tuesday evening, when it was furnace like, as the heat had accumulated from the previous days, he spent a long time noisily slurping the water. We were spellbound, holding our breath watching the dark rugby ball shape at the end of the garden. Then he was off, to the ferns and under the silver birch tree. They always move more swiftly than I expect. Magical.

The gifted jalapeño plants in the conservatory are coming on fast (from the cheese and mustard sandwich fan.) No sign of my Thai chillies or sweet peppers yet, sigh. (Isn’t that potted hydrangea outside a thing of deep pink beauty?)

Plum picking! Kind of scrumping. Sort of. Not really. But. I hope I’m not whipped or given hard labour.

I’ve made a plum crumble and also stewed some with orange juice and zest, cinnamon and star anise. I’m told they tasted good. I am eating, although I can’t smell or taste anything. But I do appreciate the colours of summer food.

A little trip out to a garden centre after my first negative result. Current guidance is to isolate for five days and stay away for ten from vulnerable people. But feeling poorly (and still testing positive) I didn’t really want to go out after five days anyway, and who can tell who is vulnerable? I really didn’t want to pass on the virus to anyone at all, it’s nasty even after vaccinations, especially those who might be really adversely affected. Interestingly none of the people I saw leading up to my positive result have caught the virus. Even the 2 guys I hugged. Someone I live with hasn’t either. Good, but it’s odd.

So refreshing to be out. I drank it all in. This is a posh garden centre where the staff are super creative; you never just see a plant stand with …umm plants plonked on it. There are sculptures and carriages, old cars and even merry-go-round horses. The flowers are grouped into attractive displays of colour and form. It’s a lovely trip out, no purchase necessary for enjoyment. The next morning I woke and discovered that I had slept for 11 hours! Post-viral fatigue is real, this was after a 40 minute wander at a garden centre. Oh dear!

A visit to Waterperry Gardens Sunday late afternoon. Still using the Gardeners World 2-for-1 card, so it was £7.50 for two. What a bargain.

On a quest to use up food in the freezer I roasted my first guinea fowl on Sunday night. It was a yellow sticker bargain I picked up a while ago for a mere £5. I cooked it very simply; with half a lemon in the cavity, olive oil all over the skin and a good grinding of black pepper and sea salt, sat on a trivet of slices of onion. I ate it too, with roasted summer vegetables and puy lentils, but sadly couldn’t taste or smell a thing. I’m told it was absolutely delicious. (Sorry, definitely a lot of repetition here.) The third portion was eaten cold with salad on Monday night, while I had a homemade Spicy Black Bean soup. If I could have tasted it I would say it would have blown my head off! I used *a lot* of red chill flakes and hot smoked paprika, along with cumin and mixed herbs. As it was I could taste a very nice buzz which was the first thing in ages. I loved it.

Still trying little trips to be somewhere other than home for a while, I popped to another garden centre on Monday. (My third in as many days, if you count WPG which has a nursery and shop.) They’re good places for recuperation.

The jackdaws and starlings appear within minutes of the mealworm feeder being refilled. Do they have lookouts using tiny binoculars? This means the little garden birds are not getting any of the good stuff. They are ruddy hooligans (if you get the ref? I’m listening to that lots while I do my dot-to-dots!) So I’m on the lookout for a protected small-bird feeder that would be suitable for holding mealworms. Squirrels aren’t an issue in this garden, I’ve never seen one.

More plums! 2.5kg this time. Another gentle walk around the —— on Tuesday evening. (Avoiding whipping or hard labour.)

I’m looking up plum recipes while Someone is lobbying for jam. There are a lot of very, very small plums and it’s super fiddly removing the stones. I could leave them in and fish out as many as I can, I’ve done that before when making damson chutney. But it’s not much fun hanging over a roiling pan….

Lunchtime Spicy Black Bean Soup leftovers. Bliss, I can almost nearly taste it, perhaps things are slightly improving. Catching up on back issues of Inside Crochet and Good Housekeeping magazines as I eat.

Yesterday I had baked beans with masses of curry powder, sriracha and Colman’s mustard powder and a couple of fried eggs. I took a friend to the hairdresser and that protein packed lunch kept me going until dinner at about 8pm. Pasta, lemony salmon fillets and half a pan of roasted veg topped up my 5 a day.

This morning’s loaf, much better shape. It’s a beauty! And with that I’m off to poach a couple of eggs to eat with a few slices, for lunch, or maybe I’ll just spread some with salted butter and leave it at that. Followed by half a dozen small plums.

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Tell me a few things about your last seven days?

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* apart from the crochet picture, that was taken when I was on holiday

Sleep Under the Stars blanket – finished

Started in May 2020 during Lockdown my star blanket, official show-name Sleep Under the Stars is finally complete. It’s not my first star shaped blanket, I’ve been drawn to them for a long time. I think it’s the novelty of making a non-rectangular or square thing once in a while. If you want to check out the three others you can see them here. Smaller sized star blankets make super car-seat or buggy blankets for littles. This is a snuggle on the sofa and read a book, or watch tv size for someone older.

It’s a weighty, soft and very snuggly blanket. This was my first time crocheting with Paintbox Simply Chunky yarn. I liked it so much I soon started to use it for other makes, including a couple of cowls. It’s really nice affordable acrylic yarn which both crochets and knits up well.

Here are the details in case you want to make a star blanket too:

Pattern: Free from Love Crafts site as you see I chose my own colour combo and no pom-poms! I finished emergency stop styley, brake hard and handbrake applied, when I felt it was the size I wanted. I didn’t do the back loops, or is it front loops only thing in the last round.

Yarn: Paintbox Simply Chunky

I used Misty Grey 303 / Slate Grey 305 / Mustard yellow 323

Hook: 6mm, I always use Clover Amour hooks

Size: 48 1/2” / 123cm

Weight: 816g

Tip: For self …don’t forget to write down which shade of yarns you’re using (I usually do but for some reason didn’t, let’s blame lockdown brain) so I’ve just spent about 10 minutes going to the window glasses on, glasses off to work out whether I used misty grey or stormy grey! They’re very, very similar.

For you…do start new rounds of colour by going into the pointy chain space and chaining 5, 3 of those chains equal 1 treble and 2 chains are for the 2 chain space which you do in between the treble(s) at every point. If it’s a row where you need 2 trebles in the point don’t worry, you add in the other right at the end of the round.

If you’re continuing in the same colour you simply slip stitch into the pointy chain space and carry on in the same way, with 5 chain stitches to begin. *If you don’t do this* and you slip stitch into a treble elsewhere it will look fine to begin with, but after a while you’ll find that you get a line of slip stitch joins. This spoils the look of the blanket. Believe me. I write from experience!

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And this is looking like a proper crochet blog again, at least for a moment. I shall have to try to finish something else which doesn’t have much left to do and then this will continue!

I’ve got lots of book recommendations, so I’ll be back soonish with another post. I’m having a fantastic reading year.

Hope you had a good Easter weekend? What have you been up to? Are you making anything at the moment, or having a break? TALK TO ME ;-)

March

Making: you know what-what. Slow slow progress. But I enjoy crocheting the chunky yarn

And knitting with it too

Cooking: pot-roasted lemony chicken with carrots & onions. Peas cooked in the ready made gravy at the end. Delish. Shared the recipe with my friend and baby Theo loved it too

Cooking: this cauli recipe from the excellent book below, borrowed from the library. It’s even better eaten cold for lunch, along with some green salad

Sipping: Tonic & lemon, ginger ale with lime (Dry Lent)

Reading: my first Ian Rankin book! After chapter one I wondered why I hadn’t read a Rebus before. Not sure if to continue this book, which is 23rd in the series, or start at the beginning. In the meantime I’m reading an advance reader copy of the new Rachel Hore. Any Rankin fans want to advise? Will it spoil the series if I decide to read all? Or whatever, can it just be read as a stand alone without giving too much away?

Waiting: for an MRI scan date

Looking: forward to making Hot Cross Buns again next month (this month actually, again I forgot to post these notes I made during March! I’ll set a reminder in future)

A test to see if a family member is still reading and recognises his tulips tee hee

Listening: to Spotify. I’ve made a few playlists, good eclectic mixes. Can share if you like?

Suggesting: ‘Lord it’s a Feeling’ by London Grammar – Live at Abbey Road – it’s absolutely EPIC. Play loudly (when little ears aren’t around)

Rainbow harissa chicken & fennel bake

Wishing: for more sunny weather so washing can be pegged out on the line again. March has had t-shirt & BBQ weather, then snow, hail, wind and rain. Four seasons in one month

Enjoying: making sourdough flatbreads for lunch one Sunday

Appreciating: our first visit to the cinema this year to see The Duke. Helen Mirren & Jim Broadbent are absolutely superb together. I think Jim’s courtroom scenes are my favourite of all his performances. Well, apart from when he’s Bridget Jones father. The scene that makes me cry every time is the ‘I just don’t work without you’ bit with Gemma Jones

Eating: defrosted Christmas turkey mixed with leftover bean chilli & veg stock, fresh coriander & grated grana padano. It made a delicious Mexican soup

Liking: that lots of National Trust properties reopen this month

Hidcote Manor Garden
Upton House

Loving: the anemones which appeared all over the garden early in the month, such a colourful sight with the pinks of the heather behind

Buying: a little pot of joy for lunch! Sushi ends from a counter in Waitrose, only £1.95

Managing: my physio exercises. I’ve got a rocker board, it’s fun and hard to use, especially with my eyes closed

Watching: Upload. S2. The Marvellous Mrs Maisel S4, both are on Prime. Men Behaving Badly on BBC iplayer. The last we’ve found so good still, real laugh out loud funny, especially whenever they dance (when Neil Morrissey is Tony)

Another day, another traybake. This recipe. Tip: BB don’t need to added until 5 mins before the end

Wearing: my old pink hoodie lots. I love it and can’t bear the thought it won’t be with me forever. Should have bought a dozen

Noticing: buds on trees, daffodils, blossom and snowdrops

Following: the news…

Sorting: soft plastics for recycling. Do you do this too? You can leave them at larger supermarkets. So many collected in just a week, including pouches, plastics from fruit and veg deliveries, magazine bags, the list goes on and on

Trying: cooking Mushroom & Puy lentil bolognese for the first time. This Jamie Oliver recipe. It was tasty

Getting: stronger glutes

Coveting: can’t think of anything right now

Feeling: determined

Hearing: birdsong. This is excellent for ID and lovely background sounds: RSPB | Sounds of…Parks and Gardens

Wondering: if you have any requests for blog posts? What do you want to see more of? Anything new?

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What have you been up to in the last month? Are you seeing lots of spring flowers and buds, or is autumn coming in for you?

And there were lambs

My Star Blanket is slowly growing as I crochet another round and then undo half because I made a mistake. My concentration isn’t always great at the moment and my hands are sore from digging up dandelions in the garden, so it is a very slow process. It’s a lovely thick and warm soft blanket, so worth the effort.

I’m having a really good reading year, so far. I recently finished this and found it a good read, there are some interesting stories. Both sides of the family were so supportive of Ed and Yvette in their busy years. I loved reading about their family gatherings, and descriptions of family life with both parents being politicians. Appetite is part memoir, part recipe book. I’ve highlighted quite a few recipes in the proof copy I read on my Kindle. There’s nothing particularly exotic, but there are dishes that I haven’t made before, or those that I fancy making again. Cajun beans and custard are two that spring to mind. Ed Balls always comes across well on tv and this book portrays him no differently. It can’t be easy to write a book about oneself which is well balanced; not too self-critical or high in praise, Ed has managed it admirably.

Friends have given this five stars on Goodreads. At first I found the opening chapters rather twee, although I love the fact that it’s set in my home city. It’s enjoyable being taken back to when I lived in an adjacent street to one described by protagonist Esme, in her twentieth century setting. I remember cycling home from work and stopping in Jericho to buy a bottle of cider on a Friday night. It’s magical when you read a book and know every single place mentioned, isn’t it? I went into town yesterday because I wanted to buy some new tops in Seasalt, but mostly because this book drew me back to the city. I’ve found it hard to get back into the swing of my usual pre-pandemic (and let’s be honest it’s not over yet) activities and city life is one of them.

Anyway, I soon became engrossed in the story and now I’m finding it hard to put down. Have you read The Dictionary of Lost Words?

The only jarring note so far is that halfway through the (Australian) author has used the term ‘blow-in’ several times and it doesn’t feel right. I’ve never heard anyone use it here and thought it American. I’ve looked it up and according to the Oxford English Dictionary on my Kindle it is ‘informal, Australian slang’. Oh the irony!

Hidcote Manor Garden was looking stunning on Sunday. The magnolia trees are absolutely wonderful. Although I’ve visited many times over the years, I don’t remember seeing them in bloom, but then it only takes one windy day or a heavy rain storm for the petals to fall. This was lucky timing. Perhaps I’ve always gravitated there more in Summertime?

And, THERE WERE LAMBS!

I have a few videos of them hop, skipperty, jumping. Ahh the baas too, I’d forgotten how loudly tiny lambs can call. It was my first sighting of lambs this year and I stood on a log watching them for ages, absolutely mesmerised.

That was a little snapshot of some of my past week, what about yours…Have you seen lambs yet? Any book recommendations you want to pass on? Or new recipes? I think most of us love book and food talk.

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I’ve been wondering again about continuing this blog, I’ve had these thoughts every now and then over the last few years, since I haven’t been able to crochet or knit so much due to my sore hand. It’s not a very dynamic craft blog anymore. When I see all the colour work and inventive crochet being done on Instagram it makes me feel like I’ve been left behind. But then I looked at the numbers of new followers on my blog’s Facebook page and caught sight of the WordPress stats for this month alone and felt really encouraged. If what I waffle here is continued to be read, then it’s my pleasure to carry on. Thank you and welcome if you’re a new reader and follower.

January

Making: my cosy chunky star blanket larger, still. Really it’s the perfect project on a chilly day.

Slipping: on icy roads, they have been like driving on an ice rink quite often this January. I hope for milder weather now.

Reading: another book set in London, this time during the Victorian era. It’s a proof copy. If I think it’s worth recommending I will write a bit more about the story when it nears its publication date in the spring.

Eating: Brunch! Non-stop chat with a friend a couple of weeks ago, cups of tea, full English breakfast with locally sourced everything, then creamy cappuccinos to finish. As you see it was an absolutely HUGE plateful (so glad I went without eating anything since dinner the night before…) I was in a food coma for the rest of the day! I didn’t eat until the evening, and then it was a light meal, but it was so amazing. The best EB I’ve ever had. My friend enjoyed her Egg Florentine, but I think might be going for the full English next time. She looked really envious.

Disliking: Mud! As some fields are beginning to be ploughed and planted there’s such a lot of mud on the road from the tractors. Car wash? Oh yes please. Love them. But…it was rainy the following day and my car is back to grey. Oh it’s not the only thing either; my handbag is splodged with it as I brushed past too closely.

Reading: the latest issue of Inside Crochet and trying to catch up with my Good Housekeeping mags. I’ve now got a pile of January, February and March GH to read. I got a year’s subscription from Nectar points (I think) as I always really like their recipes. But I’m finding it hard to keep up.

Finishing: something at the weekend! Ding-ding first thing of the year made. I’ll show you soon.

Snorting: with laughter at Daisy May Cooper’s audio book: Don’t laugh, it will only encourage her

Singing: along to the Richard Ashcroft and Liam Gallagher version of C’mon People (We’re Making it Now.) It’s the perfect pairing you never knew you needed. It makes me grin. Here on Spotify.

Grateful: for a year’s worth of Spotify.

Listening: to Grace Dent’s Comfort Food podcast. I choose the episodes I fancy. There’s so many; it’s the advantage of coming to a podcast later. The Rafe Spall episode is painfully honest. His comfort food though OH MY, it’s roast chicken smothered in butter, with lots of lemon AND they make homemade chips. Mmmm. My current episode is Dave Myers from The Hairy Bikers. I listen to it in chunks. Some of Dave’s was at 0400 this morning. Groan.

Rewatching: Derry Girls as they’ve just announced there’s to be a new series in March. It’s so good, so funny. (Series 1 is on Netflix so you can miss the adverts, 2 is only on All 4 at the mo.)

Missing: Schitt’s Creek. It really has been my tv programme of the Pandemic. Moira never failed to make me laugh, every single episode. If you’ve been under a rock and haven’t watched it yet, it’s on Netflix. Worth getting Netflix for IMHO.

Laughing: the day after the car wash / mud bath, I had my hair done, then walked my 5 mile loop and it started to pour with rain!

Deserving: after the rainy 5 mile walk I had a big slice of cake and a mug of English Breakfast tea. January involved lots of treats. It was the freezing cold weather…

Forgetting: your nearest and dearest reads your blog “You had cake after the walk?!”

Loving: wholegrain mustard with honey. If I could find white mustard seeds I would make some, I’ve got a good looking recipe. I don’t need a kilo thanks Amazon. I’ll try to buy some locally from an Asian shop.

Cooking: crab linguine, lots of curries and dals, poached pears in red wine and apple juice with blackberries (voted absolutely delicious.)

Drinking: a gin cocktail last night. Well ok, two. A free repeat January box was delivered here yesterday. It was an incredibly generous offer for those who decided to order February’s box, instead of skipping it. It was funny timing; I’d changed my mind anyway, decided to order it and then had the the offer email, but I wasn’t too worried. The timing was just a bit off. Then to my surprise I had an email on Friday saying my repeat January box would be with me on Monday! We never usually have a drink on a Monday, but yesterday it had to be done. I really like the Vietnamese gin. It’s floral, perfumed and really different to any I’ve had before.

Tempting: you… here’s my referral code for Craft Gin Club. If you’re in the UK you can order a half price box for £20 (with free delivery.) There’s no obligation to order any other boxes. I’ve shared this a few times and people have used it. I hope you’ve enjoyed your gin, mixers and snacks.

Spotting: the garden waking up and winter flowers appearing. Then on a walk on Saturday, we saw snowdrops in the wild. So lovely, so lovely.

How was your January? Any patterns, good reads, podcasts, tv shows or recipes you want to share?

I started something new!

The latest copy of Inside Crochet plopped onto the doormat the other day. I haven’t really read much of it yet, but did read the interview with Rosina Northcott, better known to me as Zeens and Roger on Insta. When she named her two most popular designs I wanted to check them out on Ravelry. As soon as I saw the Granny Chevron Cowl pattern I found myself reaching for my hook and chunky yarn, even without really thinking. Next a part of my brain was shouting “NO, no, no! You’re not supposed to be starting anything new! You’re meant to be finishing the stuff you’ve started. It was doable, albeit slow. What are you doing?!” Ha! Too late brain, you need to speed up next time.

Here’s the Ravelry page which will take you to the original pattern blog post.

I’ve crocheted the required 29 rows, the 30th should be the joining round but my tension must be way tighter than Rosina’s. (It does lie flat, I just threw it down without due care and attention, for a quick snap in the photo above. A girl’s got to get back to her crochet, after all.) The only thing it will go around is my leg at the mo, and a leg-warmer was not really the plan. No matter, as I’ve got lots of this Paintbox chunky yarn. But just be aware of your tension and possible need to add extra rows, in case you’ve got limited chunky yarn.

I’m listening to Daisy May Cooper’s audio book as I crochet, she’s hilarious.

I’ve been to another community book exchange, this time an official Little Free Library, as I said I would a few weeks ago. This type of box on a pole book exchange is modelled on the original Little Free Library in Wisconsin, USA. Here’s some info about that first. I love the whole thing!

If you want to see some real handmade beauties, all over the world, just Google ‘Little Free Library’. People are so creative! I’ve just seen a house shaped one, which has origami in the attic and is beautifully decorated on the outside.

Some tempting things there, but the one I immediately swapped my book for was The Guest List. I’ve read Lucy Foley’s The Hunting Party and her latest: The Paris Apartment. Both are good reads, but The Hunting Party (her debut) was my favourite of the two. The Guest List is a great find. It’s one of those books where you find yourself sighing and settling down into a more comfy position halfway through the first chapter.

And further along the same road, opposite the pub and along from the church in Freeland, Oxfordshire, there is another book exchange. A not-so-small Little Free Library. I’d already swapped my book and there wasn’t really anything else I wanted, but isn’t it well stocked? Lots for children too.

I absolutely love community projects like these and apparently the first LFL (the box on the pole) in the village was a roaring success when it was set up in 2016. It’s been estimated that more than 2,000 books passed through it in the first 12 months. Woah!

St Mary the Virgin Church, Freeland

I’ve always been a huge advocate and supporter of our public libraries, but I do think there is a place for both those and community book exchanges. Especially in rural communities which are not well served by public transport, or at all. Community book and toy exchanges became lifelines and positive distractions during our months of Lockdowns in 2020 and 2021 when the libraries were closed. I remember we walked to a neighbouring village during that time, and saw numerous boxes left outside people’s garden gate. Sharing books, jigsaw puzzles and children’s games had sprung up. Did this happen where you live?

I’ve left books in book exchanges, cafés, holiday homes and telephone boxes for years and years. You never know where they’ll end up and also what you will find! Actually, for Sunday lunch tomorrow I’m making a dessert from the recipe book that I swapped for my Christmas novel. (Poached pears with blackberries.)

What are you making and reading? Or are you busy doing other stuff? Have you got book exchanges or games swaps? I’ve heard of bus shelter book and game exchanges which sprung up in Lockdown. Have you spotted one? Tell us…

6 Good Things

How’s the second week of January been for you? Here it’s been mostly very, very grey and white skies, no sunshine or brightness at all. Quite hard going. Everyone I’ve spoken to lately seems to be struggling a bit post-Christmas sparkles. But what I’ve noticed is when we do get the occasional bright day, loads of people have also swarmed outside. I’ve tried to move more. Yesterday that included half an hour of hoovering; it counts, it’s still movement!

I’ve fancied some crunchy salads. This was tinned mackerel with a homemade honey and lemon dressing and pumpkin seeds sprinkled over the top.

And I’ve made a spicy chickpea sauce, with chunky slices of red onion and leek, crushed garlic, tinned and fresh tomatoes, a little veg stock, smoked paprika and red chilli flakes to liven it up. I cooked some cod fillets on top of the first half and served it with green veg. The rest I turned into a mushroom curry, cooking off some spice paste first, then adding the chickpea sauce, some sliced chestnut mushrooms and jarred peppers snipped into strips. We ate that last night with roasted cauliflower and Brussels sprouts sprinkled with salt and pepper. Yum.

I’m quite into the idea of two different meals out of one. Last week I made a spaghetti Bolognese and turned the other half of the sauce into a lasagne on Saturday. Do you do this one into two thing? Shall we share some ideas which might be useful inspo for meal planning?

Yesterday I added more to my Sleep Under the Stars blanket. The pattern link can be found here.

Here’s when I started this blanket. I can’t believe it’s nearly 2 years ago…

And here’s when I (prematurely) decided it was finished. That was more about my hand pain than anything else I think. Now I’m on a mission to make it bigger, slowly slowly, and then I *think* I have a cunning plan for it. This is the year of finishing things I’ve started in the last 3 or 4 years. Sure I said that last year too, but I’ve got my determined chin on, can you tell?!

So relaxing to sit and crochet while I listened to the rest of Blackberry & Wild Rose by Sonia Velton. It was a good story and I liked the two narrators. Crochet or knitting with an audio book or podcast are such a winning combination. Deeply relaxing.

Still reading the Crawdads book, I haven’t picked up the Mudlarks this week. I’ve been reading more of Tim Spector’s The Diet Myth. It’s fascinating. What are you reading?

And some cheery blue sky and sunny pictures from my walk on Wednesday.

See the frost on the grass?
Icy along the edges

It was a bracingly cold morning, but once I got warmed up I ended up tying my jacket around my waist, because I was glowing! Others trudged past wearing all the woollies and looking quite chilled. I walked just over 5 miles and treated myself to a slice of very delicious Victoria sponge for lunch! I know, I know…!

I appreciated some small kindnesses this week: B. saving me a seat at an event we were both going to and giving me a strip of raffle tickets she’d bought me. A. messaging to say there’s a new series of Vera on TV. (She does every time and for new eps of Shetland. So kind, always needed too since I’ve usually missed the ads for them.) And there was something else, but I’ve forgotten. D’oh!

Let’s call this post 6 good things? 1. Blue skies 2. Getting outside 3. Crochet 4. Books 5. Cooking 6. Kindness

What about your week? How’s it been? Do you want to list some of the good things?

2019 – 2021

I hope you’ve had a really good Christmas, are feeling well and relaxed, or buzzy and productive. If none of these things, then I send you Feel Better Soon vibes and very best wishes for the New Year.

I always used to do a round-up gallery at the end of each year of blogging. But realised recently that the last one was in 2018. Skimming through my blog posts, I’ve realised why I paused.

In 2019 the only thing I finished was the cross-stitch 45 hoop! I started so many things that year, but could never complete them as my hand was too painful, following a hand injury in April 2018. Each thing was begun with hope. Perhaps this would be the magic project…? But there has been no magic, it’s been time and an acceptance that I cannot sit and crochet, knit or sew for hours on end anymore. But I’m so happy today’s gallery above shows a good collection of all I’ve made in the last 3 years. Things are definitely on the up. This is now a slow crafting blog.

You can see all my other roundups from 2012 onwards, if you click on the links at the bottom of that 2018 gallery post. Maybe start with the 2012 link and then come back here? Wink.

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Ahem!

Taps teaspoon on champagne glass…

DID YOU NOTICE WHAT I’D WRITTEN at the bottom of the 2012 gallery post?

So, today it’s my blog’s 10TH BIRTHDAY!

🎂🎂🎂🎂🎂🎂🎂🎂🎂🎂

Merry & Bright

Shall we play a game? It’s called spot the sprout on the Christmas tree! And no, he hasn’t got his googly eyes yet, because I need to get some glue. I’m very reluctant to use superglue because of all the people I know, I’m most likely to end up in A&E over Christmas with my fingers stuck together…

Fortnum & Mason, London, Christmas window from 2017

And here’s the first large amigurami I’ve done in years! He’s been fun to make. I particularly like his bowtie. Thanks – heaps of thanks actually – to June of Planet June and her absolutely marvellous tips on invisible finishes and securing features. She has such a clear way of explaining things and brilliant tips.

So how are you doing? Are you feeling all prepared and calm, or is it a bit frantic and you’re frazzled? Christmas is such a weird time. Such a lot of build up and things to do, when in essence it’s a few days with family and friends. But it can easily become a juggernaut. Anyway I hope you’re well and you can spend some time with people you love, or at least whose company you enjoy.

We’ve just decorated the Christmas tree while listening to Motown and Jamie Cullum Christmas songs on Spotify. We each sipped a glass of champagne which always makes the tree prettifying into quite a lovely thing. I always, always forget about some of the special decorations and so it’s a really nice surprise to see them again.

New this year. He’s soooo cute.

On Sunday we visited Waddesdon Manor NT (Website here) for the annual light-trail, Christmas market and in my case; Bailey’s hot chocolate and a peanut butter brownie. Yum. During Lockdown people who would usually have volunteered in the property started to knit and crochet wraps for the tree trunks along the Carriage Drive. Apparently this really helped with feelings of isolation and missing normal activities. This I was really glad to know, the volunteers are always super when you visit. I took some pics to share with you, although there were many, many more yarn wrapped trees. I kept thinking no wonder we had a yarn shortage!

I liked the dangly ends and even Someone said it’s a good way to get out of the darning
Such a foggy day but it added to the atmosphere, although I wasn’t so keen when the moisture made my mascara drip down my face and onto my mask. I looked a bit alarming in the light!
And bunting too
Spectacular light show and music in front of the manor, it’s in the style of a French Château

I will be crocheting over Christmas, either more sprouts or I might allow myself to break my own rule about finishing all my WIPS. I may begin making something new. It *is* Christmas after all. I have new yarn which I’m itching to get out of its crinkly paper bag.

I shall love you and leave you now. It’s time for dinner and maybe another glass of champagne later. Maybe a slice of Stollen too. Oooh I do quite like Christmas. Have a merry one. If you aren’t feeling it this year, then stay cosy if you can.

I would like to live in a house like this

So, following on from my last post, here is the Christmassy National Trust property we visited. Greys Court is somewhere that we’ve visited in the summer, mainly because they have a sculpture exhibition and so the grounds are filled with all sorts of impressive and also weird and wonderful sculpture! Lots of it’s available to buy and some of the fun is in looking at the price tags. However we’ve never visited at Christmas. It’s absolutely lovely, as you will see…

And my crafting? Lady Brunner would not be particularly impressed. (Still haven’t made that chutney.) But LOOK! I’ve crocheted a brussel sprout! I know, it’s only one but at least I’ve made one.

Next time I need to get some safety pins to hold the leaves in place, as I found it really really fiddly to hold them while I sewed them onto the sphere. I still need to glue on the eyes and thread some sparkly thread so it can hang on the tree, when we’ve got one.

Here’s the pattern I used

I’ve also added some more rounds to a new block for my coast blanket. You’ve seen that quite a bit recently, so I haven’t taken any new photos.

What about you? If you celebrate, how is your Christmas prep going? Are you feeling Christmassy?

Taking Stock – November

Making: the rest of the Gingerbread Man. I finally have eyes for him! Crocheting the Coast Blanket bit by bit

Cooking: Sausages with apple & onion in cider sauce

Sipping: Twinings tumeric, orange & star anise tea

Setting up for Christmas at Blenheim on 15th
November has been stunning for autumn colour – very calm, mild weather so the leaves stayed on the trees for much longer. Until we were visited by storm Arwen…

Reading: the lost bees article from The Guardian newspaper, so interesting. It’s HERE

Waiting: for orders to arrive. Actually I’m really waiting for my (December) gin box most of all!

November’s Craft Gin Box – I promised to show you
Danish gin. It’s delicious. Love the owl line drawing

If you’re in the UK and you’d like a half price box for £20, (free P&P) Here’s my referral code. I know I’ve shared this before, but it’s so good I just can’t not. (I get points to spend for successful referrals, which is nice for me too.) You can have a one-off box for a treat, or buy it for someone else for a surprise. Then you can continue a monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly subscription. Or never have another again. Whatever you want

Looking: out to see how frosty it is some mornings. Lately we’ve had some hard frosts. I’m wary of black ice when driving

Basildon Park, NT, our first Christmassy thing on 21st

Listening: Comfort Eating with Grace Dent podcast

Wishing: for a good December – everyone healthy and well

Basildon Park after a good look around the house

Enjoying: Jamie O’s ‘recipe’ for baked feta, eaten with fresh tagliatelle & green veg

Appreciating: family and friends

And tea & cake! Especially after a long chilly walk

Eating: Roasted vegetable pasta bake (Seeds of Change semi-wholemeal tortiglioni pasta – not something I’ve had before, but it worked well because it didn’t go claggy after baking. Not so keen on 100% wholemeal pasta, but would have this again)

Liking: seeing the birds back on the feeders now. The robin has been heartily chomping the mealworms after the cold and snow last weekend

As we walked back to the car at Basildon Park

Loving: meeting up with an old friend who’s over from Australia for a few months

Buying: Baptise Dry shampoo – it’s amazing. But not the part where your hair is covered with white residue, and you get a glimpse into what you’ll look like as an old lady. If you get some, the best tip I’ve read is to leave it on for at least 10 minutes before doing anything at all, so it soaks into the oil. Then do the massage step and brush it out. Be prepared for white flakes everywhere. Don’t wear your best top until afterwards!

Worcester, the River Severn

Managing: multiple Christmas wish lists. Always try to get a head start in November

Watching: Friday night films. Here some we watched during November: Adult Life Skills on Netflix, The Last Bus on Prime, TICK TICK BOOM on Netflix

Hoping: no Lockdown restrictions are ahead, though if we need them, we need them

Worcester cathedral, before Remembrance Sunday

Wearing: a MASK! Wear a mask, protect others

Noticing: some are still flaunting the new rules that came in on Monday

Following: I’m a Celebrity when it started, not watching so much this year though. It’s just not the same when it’s in Wales, compared to Australia! Have you seen any eps?

Sorting: through photos from the summery summer

Getting: apples in from the garage

Worcester has giant sycamore leaves!

Coveting: a Mac Book, a whizzy new SatNav, more walking trainers…(the real Father Christmas might read?! I mean the real one. Not family. This is not a hint for them.)

Feeling: purposeful

Hearing: Hard-Fi’s Hard to Beat on the radio

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What are you planning this weekend? I think we’re heading to a National Trust house tomorrow to see more Christmas sparkles, as a sweetener after having flu jabs, cooking a roast Sunday lunch and I’m still planning to make that chutney! I need help to peel the apples

Snow Face!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What have you got planned for the weekend?

Lost amour

We went for a walk for a couple of hours this morning. The weather was mild and still, plenty of dog walkers were out and about. Lovely dogs and really friendly owners. Nearly everybody called them back to put on the lead. Very kind and completely unprompted. I’m glad though, because you always wonder how friendly a dog will be, not so much because of fear but because of exuberantly happy helloes and muddy paw-prints all over your clothes. As a cat person that happens to me often. The dog person walking with me will usually be ignored. How do dogs just know?

Can you see the birds? They were feasting on newly turned worms I expect, and pecking holes in potatoes missed by the harvester.
One windy day and this will soon be bare. The weather is so mild and calm at the moment that the autumn colour is lingering. Loving it!
Ivy vines growing up an oak tree, with clematis circling and climbing up them. Quite a dramatic sight which stopped me in my tracks. The tree is covered with glossy ivy leaves too. It’s being taken over.
A rowan tree not far from home

The walk was carefully timed, so that we were back in plenty of time to go and buy snacks, pour some beer, then watch the rugby. Well, one of us anyway.

I’m upstairs escaping the crunching of pork scratchings and Big Hoops, comments and excited shouts at the TV. I meant to put on Spotify and listen to Tick Tick BOOM! soundtrack, but the P&Q is nice. Have you seen it yet? A brand new Netflix film. The best new musical I’ve seen in ages. Who knew Andrew Garfield could sing and dance? I liked him as Spider-Man, but this takes him into a completely new genre. It’s an impressive change of gear.

What makes a good musical? For me I want to sing along to a song after only a minute or two. Ditto dancing. I go away singing my own made up songs afterwards too. And dance a few steps on my way to bed. Tick tick BOOM!

I’ve been singing Boho Days since last night. Pretty much every hour. I hope you have Netflix and can watch it too!

I had forgotten that I knitted this dish cloth in February/March. I missed posting for a little while, so I’m pretty sure you haven’t seen it?

The Amour pattern is part of a series of a free dishcloth patterns. One a month, throughout this year by Garlene of The Kitchen Sink Shop. I’ve linked to the pattern there, if you fancy having a go at knitting one yourself? I stopped after the first two, because it now takes me so long to knit or crochet anything now with my dodgy hand. Plus I was using Rowan cotton, which frankly seems such a waste to use on a dish cloth. They’re too nice to use, so are still folded up in a little bag. I wonder about making backing for them and turning them into oven mitts. Any other ideas?

Time for a cheeky little Saturday afternoon drink for me too now! A grapefruit margarita is being made for me. I wonder if they won? And I’m going to add another round, or two, to my Coast blanket.

What have you been up to today? How are you feeling about life, the universe and everything?

Five Things on a Friday

:: CROCHET

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

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

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

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

:: BOOK TALK

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

:: DINNER

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

:: SLOW VLOG

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

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

:: CAKE

Nigella’s Lemon & Raspberry cake

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

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

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

What are you planning?

Cosy Friday afternoon

Brrrr! It’s suddenly got properly wintry cold and I’m not jumping the gun; I know we are still in autumn, but by golly it’s all changed this week. I never say by golly. I’m not an oldie, or from an Enid Blyton or PG Wodehouse book, but it just seems to fit. (I’m grinning at myself. I’ve been teased in the past for using words like poorly and gosh, but it only makes me use them more.) When you look out of the window first thing and all the conifer hedges are white, the grass is white and the cars are white… It’s definitely an old-fashioned “By golly it’s cold !” kind of week.

I’ve just been on the phone for nearly an hour and a half and added some rounds to my granny square. I can’t remember whether this is the last one I need to do, or if it’s the penultimate square. It is such good ‘phone crochet: mindless, easy and an enjoyable rhythm. It’s really relaxing too, while the conversation meanders along.

On Monday I approached a shop assistant and said I had a really bizarre question to ask her. She looked delighted and said “Bring it on! It makes the time go faster.” Bless her.

I’d lined up three or four different shades of green, and asked her which one was most Brussels sprout like? She really threw herself into it and reckoned it was this one, but then when we checked a photo decided that it could be a couple of different shades. To keep things simple I bought this one (a bargain £1.49) and promised to go back to show her a photo of the finished sprout! She was definitely keen to see it.

This all came out of a photo that my cousin sent me of a knitted Brussels sprout you can buy from White Stuff. £8! For one Brussels sprout decoration! Of course it set us both off with a flurry of messages. She reminded me that she knitted some a few Christmases ago and gave me one. I’d forgotten because all the Christmas decs are in a box, up in the loft. I hope I forget again and then it will be a nice surprise in December. We did laugh at the time, because her knitted Brussels sprouts all looked furious… we’re wondering if my crochet version will be happier. I’ll be looking for a pattern, but not until the Gingerbread Man has at least another leg and his body. Then I will be cosy and crocheting sprouts. Don’t think I ever expected to write that.

Here’s the White Stuff sprout. And I’m not even right, he’s not £8, he’s £8.50! Blimey.

Friday night is Pizza Night this week. My sourdough starter is bubbling away by the radiator. It’s the first time the bowl has been left anywhere other than on the kitchen side, since early Spring. But it needs to be in a warm place while the yeast activates. It certainly seems happy. I can’t wait to eat a few slices of pizza while watching a film later. My no-cook pizza sauce will be spread on the dough, with toppings of red onion, peppers, salami, Kalamata olives and a good handful of mozzarella. Yum yum yum coming soon.

And WOOHOO! Friday Night is also Craft Gin Night! I cheered as I opened the door to the lovely post lady. She said she’s delivered other November gin boxes today as well.

I’ve opened the box, but won’t show you the contents yet. I don’t want to put any spoilers online, as I’d hate to think that I might ruin the surprise for any member who reads this blog. It always feels a bit like Christmas, or as if a birthday present has been delivered. I will put a photo of the contents here soon. I will say that I absolutely love the gin bottle label and am intrigued about the where it’s come from… as young woman my Granny worked there as a Nanny, a long time ago.

If you’re in the UK and want £20 off your first 2 boxes, you can use this referral code for Craft Gin Club Gin Pals. I get points, you get 2 big boxes of half price goodies. Then you can cancel and not have anymore ever. Bet you will though! If you clicked the code when I mentioned it before, I hope you enjoyed your tipples and treats.

This week we’ve had some absolutely stunning sunsets. Last night I could see something orange glowing through the frosted glass of the bathroom window, before I pulled the blind down. I went to the bedroom to have a look and WOW! As the sky got darker the orange and gold seemed to intensify. It was fantastic.

My current read. I started an advance reader copy last night (in return for an honest review) and I have found it difficult to put down. I loved Joanna’s debut The Trouble with Goats and Sheep and enjoyed Three Things about Elsie, so am delighted that I’ve got her third book. It’s out next Spring. I’ll let you know nearer the time if it’s worth buying or reserving at the library. So far, so good.

Do you also find that themes or characters seem to continue in your next book? I just read another ARC called Other People Manage by Ellen Hawley and the main (USA) character Marge was a very tall and big girl. Often she felt awkward or uncomfortable around others. Linda (British) in this story is the same. Similarities often jump out, with settings or characters. It’s completely random too, as I often do not know much at all about the books I choose. I just quickly scan the blurb, or not at all if I know the author, as they give too much away.

If you’re in the Northern Hemisphere are you staying cosy? Or are you in the Southern? Is it a warm Spring?

Most importantly: what are you planning to make, eat and are you reading anything you can’t put down?

Taking Stock – October

Making: my first soups of the season. Roasted butternut and chilli first. I had such a lunchtime soup craving that I was chopping vegetables, with the oven preheating, before 0900 on Friday! Someone was working in London and I had the house to myself. It was such a peaceful morning

While he was having swanky lunch, 500 feet up in the Leadenhall building in the city, I was cosy by the fire eating my soup and chunky sourdough cheese on toast. Bliss

Then the second soup followed the other, quite quickly. I made cauliflower cheese soup on Sunday. It’s so simple, but far more than the sum of its parts!

Here’s how: Use your largest saucepan and sweat a diced white onion in a little oil until translucent. Add a large crushed clove of garlic and cook for a few minutes. Add an extra large cauliflower, which has been cut into small florets, and a litre of vegetable stock. Cook until the cauliflower is tender. Don’t worry that there’s far more cauli than stock, it will all work perfectly. Season with freshly ground black pepper. Whizz with a stick blender (or in a blender when it’s cooled.) Serve with Danish Blue cheese crumbled over or a good handful of extra mature cheddar cheese. I find about 25g of cheddar per bowl is plenty.

I know it doesn’t look exciting at all, but it really is silky smooth and delicious!

Cooking: Chicken & Leek Bake. I don’t buy ready meals, I’ve always cooked from scratch. But weirdly when I was grocery shopping online last week, the store showed me a chicken and bacon and leek gratin thing in a plastic box. Urgh, but it was one of those instant ‘I must make this!’ moments. Then I saw this on my favourite recipe website Chicken & Leek Bake. I always adapt recipes, so mine had smoked pancetta and chicken breasts, not thighs, as that’s what I had in the fridge. And there’s no way I’m ever buying ready made cheese sauce! Mine had a homegrown bay leaf and some dried thyme popped into it. The English (Colman’s of course!) mustard made the sauce absolutely delicious. Perfect autumn / winter dinner. It is going to be made again and again, I predict!

Sipping: jasmine tea from my pint mug

Reading: a week or so ago I read Anne Tyler’s Redhead by the Side of the Road in a day. What a beautiful gem of a book. It was on the library Libby app

Waiting: to feel 100% me again

Looking: forward to seeing and walking beside the sea again

Listening: to Keith Stuart’s The Frequency of Us audio book. I had goosebumps by the end. Super twisty story

Wishing: a personal shopper would just deliver a rail of perfectly fitting lovely clothes to my bedroom. I really need to go shopping. Yawn

Enjoying: crocheting my gingerbread man. He now has a leg too

His arms

Appreciating: snuggling in bed with good books. My current is another ebook from the library, this time on the BorrowBox app. It’s The Never-Ending Summer by Emma Kennedy. I love her writing. I can recommend all her books, especially the non-fiction The Tent, the Bucket and Me. I read until gone midnight last night. This book is one of those ‘just another chapter’ page turners…

I always try to have a physical library book too, the libraries need to stay open. Use it or lose it! My friend made a Cranks Bible potato recipe last week and it prompted me to reserve the book. Should be good for soups too? I plopped it onto my car blanket in the boot yesterday, and sent her a pic. I’ve just realised it’s still out there

Eating: too much sweet stuff. After half term ends, next week I’ll be back to eating fewer treats

Liking: the new series of Young Sheldon

Loving: the anticipation of opening my first Inside Crochet mag in ages. I bought a 6 month subscription with some birthday money

Family apple picking afternoon was good fun

Buying: Christmas cards. I don’t know what it is this year, but I’m getting some things done early

Yesterday’s white sourdough, well greige really as the dark rye flour starter turns it a little murky!
Crusty bread. Mmmm

Watching: nature changing week by week

Managing: one of my favourite 6 mile loops (circular walks) at the weekend

Hoping: for more blue sky days

Wearing: a furry blue top, so warm and soft

Rose hips & Old Man’s Beard

Noticing: even the oak leaves are turning now. Those ferns I showed you earlier in the month have now died back

Following: Lucy’s Blogtober posts. Her visit to RHS Harlow Carr is top, top, top for autumn garden colour. I’m loving the daily diary posts and save a batch to read at one sitting

Sorting: the freezer. I defrosted it on Monday. What a good feeling. I’ve been so dizzy I couldn’t do it until now. It’s looking good now, but apparently the crunchy noise of the door closing on 2 inches of ice on the top drawer is missed!

Getting: organised for winter

Coveting: a new stick blender. Mine ground to a halt a while ago

Only 11th and apparently Christmas displays had already been a go-go for 2 weeks

Feeling: determined to do more garden pruning before the hedges are cut back on Tuesday

Hearing: the gentle ring of tinnitus

Banana & Walnut cake

Remembering: making the bird and other little things when I was new to it and absolutely crochet obsessed (and I didn’t have a wooky hand which now holds me back.) I recently came across this photo of my noticeboard in the first Little Room, it made me smile

How’s your October been? Are you ok? What are you making, cooking, watching and reading?

Out-out

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nature treats us to some really beautiful sights, swoon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* according to Google translate:

No goofy Name this the MacHappy.

Ha ha! Could have been FAR worse!

Taking Stock – August

Making: mini hexies. Make one, join as you go. It’s a perfect little project for oddments of yarn

Cooking: Leek, Salmon & Spinach crustless quiche

Will use smoked trout or hot smoked salmon & cheddar for even more flavour next time. Asparagus & peas, instead of leek and spinach? Once you’ve got the right sized dish and basic quantity of eggs etc sussed you can make any variation. Muffin sized too, for a lunchbox friendly version. (Ask if you want the recipe)

Sipping: a pink grapefruit margarita, last night. Inspo from Nigella’s At my Table book

Reading: Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell. It’s SO GOOD. Baby Theo sent me this as a thank you for his Patchwork Blanket (and a bottle of Brecon gin. That baby has v good taste!)

Waiting: for my next Craft Gin Club Box. You can get a half price box, it’s such a good offer (but UK only, I’m afraid) plus I’ll get reward points. It can be a one-off, there’s no need to continue the subscription. That’s what I thought I’d do, but they’re so good I carried on. See my blog Facebook page for a few pics of some boxes I’ve received and the referral code

I need to buy more bottle lights. The middle two were my first from the CGC, the others we bought elsewhere

Looking: more and more like autumn is imminent

Listening: to a dove coo

Wishing: for a crushed ice maker

Enjoying: looking back at my summer photos

Cawsand Bay, Cornwall

Appreciating: having my next reads lined up. The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman and The Almond Blossom Appreciation Society by Chris Stewart ebooks are now available for me, on the library Libby app

A very good August read

Eating: nothing yet after sourdough pizza last night

Liking: the thought of wearing my woollies again. Scarves and gloves on chilly walks – oh yes!

Loving: Call My Agent, series 2, on Netflix. Never a dull ep

Buying: local eggs

Buckland Abbey, NT

Managing: dandelions, sort of. You’ve got them all, then at super speed HELLO we’re back!

Watching: combining and bailing in the fields. Looking forward to seeing freshly ploughed fields next

See the cloud of dust?

Hoping: to go to London soon, it’s been too long but … y’know…

Wearing: socks again. I asked if anyone had put on socks & woollies yesterday afternoon. Lots of friends said they had too. A few had even put the heating on too. Brrrr! It wasn’t a warm Bank Holiday Monday at all. 15° and overcast all day. Optimistically I’d worn shorts and a tee until 3pm, when I’d turned a pale shade of blue

Noticing: ripe blackberries in hedges now (eating them too)

Following: dancers and ice skaters on Insta

Sorting: makes. Concentrating on crocheting my GS Coast Blanket, the hexies and my chunky Paintbox yarn Star Blanket

Getting: groceries delivered soon, must move

Coveting: a luxury glamping weekend with a friend

Feeling: that it’s time for more jasmine tea

Hearing: talk about SharePoint

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Can you believe it’s going to be September tomorrow, already?!

Hello Hexie! A book review

Hello! How are you doing? Everything ok?

This is the book I mentioned reserving at the library, in my July Taking Stock post. I saw a photo of it on Instagram and felt really excited about having a look.

Published in June ‘Hello Hexie!’ by Sarah Shrimpton, published by David and Charles, has 10 sweet hexagon designs and 20 patterns. Patterns include a mix of accessories, garments, homewares and a few toys. There are also four small makes which would be fast and portable projects: a coaster, pin cushion, Christmas decoration and earrings.

I use my crocheted pot-holders all the time, so I’d be tempted to use one of the hexie designs to create my own in thickish cotton. Once you start to think what you could make from hexagons the list grows. I loved making my Baby Hexagon Blanket back in 2016. Look out soon for pics of my new one, which is already in progress.

Most of the Hello Hexie! designs instantly appealed. I particularly like the Bohemian scarf, the Linen Lace Tee and the Patchwork Wrist warmers. The Bobble cushion would be a sweet make to gift someone. I keep picturing it in a caravan or in a beach hut. The Striped Rug is basically a huge Hexie using chunky yarn, it’s eye-catching. Might be a fun lap or baby blanket?

I love the fact these nails look like mine! Natural, unadorned. #offtopic

As with any pattern book some designs are instant personal no-nos; Cosy Poncho and African Flower Skirt I’m looking at you! But this is of course completely personal taste.

I picked my favourite six hexies and hooked them just for fun…

All crocheted with Stylecraft Special DK parchment, leftover from my Patchwork blanket, and a 4mm Clover Amour hook. Unblocked so looking a little wiggly, but they’re practice pieces.

As you see, the hexagons differ widely in size. It would be pretty straightforward to increase them by crocheting more rounds, or adding an edging. This would probably work well if you wanted to mix and match hexies, to create your own blanket or cushion cover design.

What I like is that Sarah has pointed out that all of the hexagons are interchangeable for use in her patterns; if one isn’t to your taste you can swap it with another design. The varied sizes would need to be accounted for, but this wouldn’t be too tricky unless it’s a garment.

A nice variety of textures aren’t they?
The Solid Hexie. I really like this one.
The Bobble Hexie
The Sunburst Hexie

Pretty isn’t it? I think the Sunburst is one of my favourites. It would use lots of yarn, but you’d have a heavyweight blanket to snuggle under in cold weather.

The Granny Hexie

Sort of a Granny, as it’s made up of 2 groups of trebles. This was Someone’s favourite.

The Lacy Hexie

I usually tend to gravitate towards less lacy crochet, but I do like this design.

The Textured Hexie – one of the more unusual designs. Great isn’t it?

Sarah recommends lots of affordable yarns for the projects; a mixture of natural and synthetic fibres. As yarn weights are given it would be easy to change these for your preferred yarn.

The hexagon patterns are written in standard form using UK terms (with a guide for US alternatives at the back) and there’s also a graphic pattern for quick reference, or for those who simply prefer a chart. I swap between the two formats and really appreciate both in a book. The overall design of Hello Hexie! is clean and clear, easy to follow.

I found myself looking at the back pages often to check how particular stitches should be completed. The demo photos for this section could have been enlarged for clarity, but it’s a useful section if a stitch is new, or if like me you’re rusty.

The techniques section also includes a guide to blocking motifs, joining methods, including two join as you go. These are all written and illustrated for right handers, but this is sadly so common. (If you’re a lefty and struggle with any aspect of crochet, please see my left-handed tips section at the top of the blog, or ask me!)

In summary I really like Hello Hexie! Definitely 4/5 STARS ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This is a completely independent review, written for the fun of it. I have no association with either the author or the publishers. (Though if they would like to send me a free copy of hello Hexie! Feel free!)

Patchwork Blanket – finished

Between Christmas and New Year, Twixmas, 2017 I idly started experimenting with moss stitch (aka linen or granite stitch) as I’d been inspired to crochet some solid blocks of colour. See blog post here I didn’t want to end up with lots of pieces to join. They don’t always end up being anything, other than piles of things, do they? So I just changed colour on the last stitch and continued the next section. It’s a great lazy way to make a blanket, scarf or whatever. It was also perfect for using up some oddments after making The Blackbery Ripple blanket for a friend and Winnie’s Wave Blanket for another friend’s baby, earlier that year. There was no plan or agenda for the strips, it was lazy Christmas crafting which I picked up over the years when I wanted something fairly mindless to crochet.

Then a friend told me she was expecting her first baby. It’s excellent to realise you’ve got all the makings of a blanket.

And here it is, all finished and ready for baby Theo. Big enough for toddler Theo too. I never make hanky sized blankets which aren’t any use in the longer term.

Patchwork Blanket Details

Stitch: The blanket’s made up of 5 strips of 7 continuous blocks of colour, crocheted in moss stitch (aka linen or granite stitch)

Weight: 557g

Length: 40” / 112cm ish

Width: 31 1/2” / 80cm wide

Border: 4 rounds of dcs and chs, with a cute little picot edging to finish it off

Hooks: 4.5mm for the blocks, this makes a nice fabric, plus you can see the chain spaces easier than using a 4mm. 4mm for joining and the border

Yarn: all oddments of Stylecraft Special DK. It’s lovely, soft and very drapey too. (Collins English dictionary confirms drapey is British English. To be honest I thought it might be Rachel English. I do use quite a few of my own words…)

~~~~

Now what to finish next?

Yahoooo!

I’m on the final row of the border!

(And hello, how are you? Tell me all your news!)

Just some little picots, or something, to finish it off. Then a few more photos and I’ll package it up to send to baby Theo.

Happy days. So so so good to have something finished to show. Maybe I will pay my WordPress bill in August to keep this blog going. It’s been touch and go, I have to say.

Would any of you like me to write up a rough guide as to how I made this patchwork style blanket? It’s a good way of using up odds and ends of yarn.

Are you yahooooing! about anything this week?

* You should be pleased we’re not standing in the same room; as I made some harissa butter bean hummus for lunch and probably used too big a clove of garlic! Even wearing a mask the fumes would knock you out!

** If you’d like to check on whether I’m still alive and kicking then you can find me (sporadically) posting on Instagram: The Little Room of Rachell

Chanting

I’m chanting “Just get on with it!” Baby Theo needs his blanket. And am stalling by writing this, instead of picking up the blinking hook. D’oh!

I only have the lengths of three blocks to join, then the border – always the fun bit. I’m hoping I can use scraps as I don’t want to buy more yarn. I was using up stash oddments without a particular purpose in mind, when I began making strips of linen stitch blocks of colour one day. Thankfully my friend had a spare ball of parchment, so I didn’t need to buy any for the joining when I ran out.

Joining method:

I’m going under the chain stitches on the edging of each strip, then crocheting them together with 1 dc, a 1 ch takes me to the next chain gap. The seamless join looked great, (see here) but was an absolute pig to do. So, of course, it wasn’t done. Better a more textured join, than a heap of strips left in a bag I’d say?

Then I’ll dig through and get another unfinished thing out. I reckon I’ll be inspired to do more knitting and crochet when I come to the end of the unfinished heap. I do not have permission to begin anything until I have….yawn!

Back to the chanting and the doing.

Tell me two things?

Joining

Why is it always that I join significant lengths of crochet, before deciding I don’t like the seam?

It’s been weeks since I picked up my patchwork strips of linen / moss stitch. A conversation with a friend, Lucy, on Friday about the advance copies of books we’re both reading and reviewing reminded me that I need to get on with the joining. Quickly. There’s a border to do too, of course.

In theory I like the texture of raised seams. In practice they’re always tilting a little to the side. It’s rustic. It’s just not right though. I’m not convinced rustic looks good or feels good. Right. Rip, rip…rip it up and start again. (Remember that song?)

I took to looking around at my books and crochet sites.

Although there is quite a caution about the slowness of crocheting the Zipper join, this is the one for me. Here’s the instructions I found on Dedri’s ‘Look at what I made’ website. Look at the neatness of the seam. It’s so flat too. It is indeed very, very slow to crochet, but I like the look and feel of it a lot.

I’ll be back with the finished blanket at some point. Lucy’s baby is due in the next fortnight or so. S/he better not be too late because the poor girl is desperate for a large bowl of cereal, having developed gestational diabetes. Poor love.

I might do a slightly retrospective Taking Stock for April in the meantime. But I may not. We’ll see. I’m sure either way you’ll cope.

Have a pic or two of some lovely bluebells in the woods I visit every spring. This was on Friday ….

What are you up to?

Taking Stock – March

Making: a plan to try acupuncture. I can’t seem to do any amount of crochet or knitting at the mo. I’ve given up knitting the monthly dishcloths for now

Cooking: Oat & Pecan Cookies

Sipping: Twinings English Breakfast tea

Reading: Another Life by Jodie Chapman – this was the book I mentioned before. I got an Advanced Reader Copy, lucky me! It’s published tomorrow. The tale of Anna & Nick was really compelling, especially as it’s the author’s debut novel. I found it hard to put down

Waiting: to be able to travel freely

Looking: at all the anemones, grape hyacinth & pink tulips which have magically appeared in our garden

Listening: to Lo Vas A Olvidar by Billy Eilish & Rosalia on Spotify. It’s beautiful

Wishing: we could return to normal, but I think it’s a long way off

Enjoying: some sunnier days

Appreciating: being back at home. March has been very stressful, I was away for 10 days

Eating: lots of veggies this week

Liking: Schitt’s Creek I know, I am so late to the party!

Loving: Cinnamon buns with St Clements glaze. I won’t try anymore CB recipes – this enriched buttery dough is the bees knees

Buying: mixed peel & raisins to make Hot Cross Buns on Good Friday

Managing: fine, with some sleep now

Watching: the New Taskmaster series on C4

Hoping: I get to catch up with lots of friends from now on

Wearing: scruffs – a furry fleecy lined hood! Up, so have a cosy head. Not a great look but it’s comfy

Following: embroidery videos on Instagram. Addictive viewing, very calming too

Noticing: Spring has Sprung. Yippee!

Sorting: clothes, with rising temps forecast my Seasalt short sleeved tops will be coming out. It’s going to be 21 degrees, then back to 10, but wow that’s mini summer for us… The smell of thousands and thousands BBQ will be all over the land soon

Getting: Glitter Gel Pens for Easter instead of chocolate, maybe

Bookmarking: that TikTok Baked Feta Pasta recipe, why have I only just read about it? Have you tried it?

Coveting: new clothes

Feeling: relaxed

Hearing: Richard Marks singing his massive hit (sad) song

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Thanks to Pip who provided the original inspiration for these Taking Stock posts years ago. I still like reading hers.

Tell me a few things about your March?

Yarning Along – March

Making: Yesterday I dug these strips out, last seen in 2018 when I darned all the ends. Pulling them out of their bag brought back all sorts of unexpected images from our last home and memories attached to the time. Who knew that strips of crocheted fabric could bring back a wash of memories? Suddenly I could see the patch of sunlight that used to fall on the carpet just inside the French windows, while I crocheted in the afternoon. I thought of a friend I haven’t seen since that summer. Trips to places restricted to us still.

I began these on a whim in December 2017. They’re made of moss stitch, a.k.a. granite or linen stitch. I liked the idea of doing continuous patchwork type of blocks and then stitching (crocheting) them together at the end. I used Stylecraft DK leftovers and a 4.5 mm hook as the stitches looked better with a larger hook size. it’s a really, really nice fabric; very bouncy and soft, quite thick too, so should be a warm covering.

They have been bugging me a bit recently, I don’t like things hanging around but didn’t complete them as my hand pain took over and crochet went into remission. So, yesterday I sent a quick message to a friend offering to make them into a baby blanket as her first baby’s due in May. She was delighted and said “No one has ever given me anything handmade before!” and told me it had totally made her day. She’s not having a great final stage of pregnancy, I’m so glad my offer cheered her up. As a crafter that’s 100% the reaction you want, don’t you? I’m always aware that people might shrink back in horror at the idea of something handmade, or hate the colour scheme, or perhaps they’re already awash with handmade blankets from other friends and relatives. During our year long restrictions lots are taking to crafting. We’re still under heavy restrictions here in England.

Finally having a plan and purpose for these strips nudged me to immediately start to edge one, ready for joining. I tried the preliminary stitches for a flat braid, but it wasn’t quite the right look. These need a plain, not fancy or fussy, joining method.

Reading: I seem to be dipping in and out of lots of books. I started a new library ebook via the BorrowBox app on Wednesday: The Glass House by Eve Chase.

Two chapters in and I knew it was going to be a good read. The Harrington’s are living in a remote Manor House in an idyllic setting in the woods and find a baby. They’re grieving a tragedy of their own and the discovery brings joy and hope, but then ….

There are several books I can’t mention until nearer the publication date, since they are ARC (advance reader copies) but I’ll definitely be coming back to recommend one nearer its publication on 1st April. It’s a real goodie.

Troubled Blood by Robert Galbraith (J.K Rowling) was a 5* read, as was Hungry by Grace Dent. I don’t usually give many books 5/5 so hit the jackpot with these in February. 

My rating system is:

1* NOT good

2* Disappointing

3* OK, bit patchy

4* Really liked it

5* LOVED IT

I’m drawn to podcasts on and off at home right now, without train or bus journeys I’m not really listening to audio books. In the last year or so I’ve stopped listening to anything while I walk. Or rather, I’m listening to birdsong and noises around me, saying hello to people and maybe exchanging a few words with them (at a distance, blah, blah, blah.) We are isolated enough, so when I’m outside I don’t need further isolation through plugging my ears up.

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What are you making and reading?

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Although Ginny has stopped her monthly Yarn Along posts it’s something I’m carrying on with, because I enjoy writing them. I might step it up and write more regularly, as and when I’ve got new makes and books to share. Join in if you want to, add your link to the comments below so we can see what you’re making and reading.

Taking Stock – February

Making: a bit of progress on my Coast Blanket, 3 more rows and I’ve finished another block.

I’ve done another 18 row repeat of my (probably not going to be a) dishcloth too. I just have the last 4 rows of plain knitting to do and it’s done. It’s frustratingly slow. Ah well. I’m glad I can still do bits and bobs Actually I have noticed bloggers I’ve followed for years, mentioning their tendon issues, carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis and such. All the crochet and knitting has caught up with us! Take it easy and don’t do too much in a sitting. BE CAREFUL

Cooking: olive focaccia. Last night I tried a third recipe, another sourdough recipe. This trebled – it was absolutely huge! It didn’t even look like focaccia. My starter is super powered. We hardly made a dent in it, but it tasted great. It also had massive air holes which was quite fun, but I’ll be going back to my first recipe which uses predictable commercial yeast. And looks like focaccia!

Sipping: on Saturday before dinner – Vagabond, a pale ale made by Scottish brewing geniuses BrewDog

Reading: Hungry by Grace Dent. I heard her on this podcast and immediately borrowed the ebook from the library, using the Libby app. So good. So good. I can’t put it down.

Waiting: Yep, we are all still waiting in England. I’m waiting patiently and feeling quite chilled.

Looking: forward to a holiday. Fingers and toes crossed!

Listening: to Madonna’s ‘Dress you up’ on the radio

Wishing: just to drive out of county. As soon as we’re allowed I’ll be off in all directions! Coast, National Trust places, shopping, museums, London, cafes, theatres, cinemas, short trips, long trips…I’d better check our cars over and make sure the tyres are up to all the driving. In the meantime I’m walking every day and enjoying it.

Enjoying: sunshine streaming in the windows. I woke at 7am and the room was full of delicious golden light.

Appreciating: birdsong, winter flowers, beautiful views, friendly people

Eating: lentil dal. I made what turned out to be my best ever. Just on the spur of the moment because I fancied some for lunch. Red split lentils, coconut milk, stock, onions, ginger, garlic, spices, fresh green chillis and a few chopped tomatoes. YUM

Liking: Taskmaster on 4OD still. We’re working our way through old series on 4OD. We take it in turns to choose. It never fails to make us roar with laughter. S2 now.

Loving: Lupin on Netflix, it’s French with subtitles. Don’t let that put you off, it’s fantastic. The story, the twists and music and …. Just watch the first episode and know that I’m winking at you

Buying: new walking trainers. I’ve gone through a pair in less than a year, as I walk so many miles

Managing: fine, thanks!

Watching: birds coming to the feeders. Love the cheeky aggro of the starlings raiding the mealworms and the hyperactive nervy blue tits

Hoping: for family gatherings

Wearing: scruffs

Following: changes in nature, loving all the greenery and shoots appearing

Noticing: much lighter earlier mornings and later afternoons

Sorting: socks. Wool walking socks shrink in the wash. When they’re all different ages it means I’ve got shorts, mediums and larges.

Getting: motivated with monthly goals. I’ll be reviewing them at the end of March and I’ll be setting new in April

Bookmarking: podcast episodes by searching for favourite comedians and listening to a range of shows

Coveting: summer evenings by the river with cider and a nice meal

Feeling: calm but keen for normal life to resume …

Hearing: the kitchen clock ticking

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What were your highlights of February? Was it good for you?

Plans for March?

Reasons to be Cheerful

My wool delivery came! And it didn’t take that long either, despite many warnings that there are delays. Thanks Wool Warehouse.

I ordered lots of balls and in a few different colour-ways, so I can power on with my Coast blanket. I managed 57 minutes of crochet while on a call earlier. That’s impressive work for my dodgy hand.

Slowly, slowly I’m knitting my next dishcloth*. Choosing the design for February must have been a breeze. I really like it. I always enjoy lace knitting, though I have to concentrate.

I had a proper lightbulb moment the other day as I kept worrying that I was doing something wrong. It wasn’t looking heart-like at all. Thank goodness I didn’t undo and go back to the beginning! I probably missed a pattern note where it says the hearts appear upside down. I made someone jump by suddenly shouting “OMG, there ARE hearts after all!”

It turns out I’m not the only one who worried about this one. Always a relief.

*It’s part of a free 12 month KAL, go back to my last post for the link and description.

Winter flowers and the promise of Spring flowers. The garden is coming to life. Just look at those cheeky little croci coming up in the gap between the last two steps. We missed these last year, as we moved after they’d flowered. After the snow had gone it was a nice surprise to find a carpet of lilac all over the garden.

Look at these tulips; despite my not having cleared away some of the leaves of the grape leaf anemone, they’re coming up anyway. Top marks for doing what they’re meant to do. I felt so guilty I stopped snapping photos and did a bit of tidying to help them along.

Chicken soup in the making (much therapeutic chopping while listening to favourite artists on Spotify.) Apparently I said we were having chicken soup for dinner on Wednesday, three times on Tuesday. I don’t dispute that. My memory is fine. I was just excited! It feels so healthy and tastes great too. I added garlic, mixed herbs, homegrown dried bay leaves, red pepper, leeks, Merchant Gourmet ready cooked puy lentils, sweetcorn, chicken stock, leftover Sunday roast chicken and a spoonful of leftover double cream, a good grind of fresh black pepper and pinch of salt. So good. Sooo good.

Refreshing walks relieve head pressure and get the body moving. I score myself out of 10 some days and never failed to return feeling an 8/10.

I know many don’t have such beautiful places and views nearby. I’m really sorry if that’s you. I’m appreciative and grateful, I don’t take it for granted.

We had the Beast from the East again last week. Temperatures went down to -5° some nights and didn’t get above 0° on the whole during the day.

We walked Saturday afternoon, it was -1°. That wasn’t the coldest walk we’ve had, but might have been one of the swiftest 4.5 miles because of the bitingly cold wind.

I found a few big chunks of ice in different places on verges, where there were no puddles at all. My shoe was for scale. Aren’t they thick? I reckon they may have come off a farm vehicle as it went along the track.