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

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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?

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 – November

You might have to look at these for a minute to work out what they are. Clever eh? Saw in an Antiques Centre

Making : nothing. Sigh. Not a little fed up about it. Total craft ban enforced by Hand Therapist as it’s “too intense”. I can’t tell you how much I want to knit or crochet some winter woollies

Cooking : lentils, quite a bit lately. Spicy lentil soup. Cheesy lentil loaf. Chicken, BNS & Green Lentil stew

Drinking : little alcohol since Dry October. None until Christmas Eve

Reading: just finished The Seduction of Water by Carol Goodman. A book I picked up from a pile at a booky meet up and didn’t have any expectation of; I just thought I’d give it a try. Realised I’d read another of hers: The Drowning Tree, ages ago. I’ll keep an eye out for more. I like her style

Two perfect creations, thanks Delia

Wanting: to make something else woolly, I did ahem…begin another thing a few weeks ago, which I want to wear, but it was stupid and made my hand hurt. I grumbled and packed it away. (Confession: I did get it out again yesterday and considered rebelling again. But good sense prevailed)

Playing: Coldplay: A Sky Full Of Stars – loudly, it makes me spin around in a circle, fast

Deciding: to carry on blogging when I feel like it and not worry about no craft content. Still getting new followers, despite no wool! Hello newbies, welcome to the waffle

Wishing: for more sunny days like this. It’s lovely and crisp

Enjoying: twinkly lights everywhere. November is one of my favourite of the darker months

Waiting: for deliveries. Christmas comes in a van, aka Margo Leadbetter (tried to find a clip of that on You Tube, I expect one’s there somewhere, if you can find it…)

Liking: The Kominsky Method on Netflix with Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin. Love his work: dry wit and perfect timing

Wondering: when, how much longer

Loving: The Haunting of Hill House, also on Netflix. So gripping and made me wave my hummus bowl in the air last night in fear!

Pondering: family Christmas wish lists

Considering: mini sparkly things

Buying: the above for one who is developing has developed into a sarcastic, but funny with it, nearly-twelve year old

Watching: a group of Red Kites (Info here) circling and diving at each other above the nearby woodland

Hoping: it stays dry Sunday for walking

Marvelling: at my own organisation. There’s bound to be something vital I forget!

Well, it wouldn’t be a fully-rounded blog post without a pic of my sourdough, would it?

A homemade crocheted pot-holder I made ages ago for my friend’s canal boat and some starter for her to make her own loaf

When you’re hungry and it’s well past lunchtime and then the rain pours down, so you decide to shelter in a cafe. Cake & cappuccino is a balanced meal, isn’t it?

Cringing: at the news of 2 hour queues getting out of some supermarket car parks. Online groceries, folks!

Needing: hot chocolate with mini pink & white marshmallows

Questioning: how I’m going to cut down on sugar in January!

Smelling: orange blossom perfume

Wearing: scruffs

Following: well, this just changed as I went running downstairs because apparently a group of juvenile long-tailed tits were queuing up to use the dining room mealworm window feeder. I counted 5, it was marvellous seeing them swoop from feeder to feeder in the trees too (as long as they haven’t pooed on my pjs which are on the washing line!)

Knowing: I will crochet again one day, but April to …. is now months

Thinking: of all the things I have been enjoying: visits to The V&A, reading, baking sourdough bread for my loved ones, seeing friends who make me laugh, dancing to Coldplay, loving my nieces antics and humour, admiring all the Christmas lights

Admiring: my neighbours’ new and improved house, they’ve been living elsewhere since Easter while it’s added to and completely renovated. The first thing put on the new fancy kitchen shelves was a jar of Marmite! I like their style

Often get an ‘I’ve cut the new loaf’ lunchtime pic and this pinged in as I was walking past this new artisan bakery on Baker Street, London

Mid-November and London was all a twinkle. The Regent Street angels swoop the length of the road

I was lucky enough to get to go into The RSA for a meet up at the end of a Street Wisdom session. Isn’t this a great door-knocker?

The Royal Festival Hall, on the South Bank from Hungerford Bridge. Popped in and caught a steel band and dancers performing for a while

Sorting: receipts

Getting: sellotape and wrap ready, knowing my grand plans to wrap early always, always go astray and I’ll probably do it on 23rd…

Bookmarking: podcasts. Discovering some goodies. Btw: have you heard Simon Mayo’s Books of the Year podcast? Pick an episode with an author you know, to try first. There are lots to choose from now. (Link for Android users here)

Coveting: a new bit of expensive technology

Disliking: the way Apple slow down iPads at a certain age, it’s wrong

Opening: new loose leaf lemongrass tea my friend Phil gave me. I liked the spearmint one a lot too

Giggling: at I’m a Celebrity Get me Out of Here. I prefer it presented by Holly and Dec

Feeling: happy

Snacking: on a Cox apple. So juicy it’s running down my hand, right now

Helping: buy presents on someone else’s behalf this week

Hearing: a bird chirrup

Mixing: socially

Worrying: there’s no point. What will be, will be 🎶

Waddesdon Manor, National Trust, Christmas House, Market & Light Trail

Want to visit too?

Sparkly and sumptuous, Waddesdon Manor always looks beautifully dressed at Christmas. The garden light trails and the Christmas fair were the best ever this year too

Slicing: carrots, cucumber, red pepper and radishes for hummus

Celebrating: family time on Sunday, all enjoying spending time together. Playing a Kids’ Charades game was really fun. We all seem to have a thing for starting a scene with opening and closing a door. Neat framing or pedantic weirdry?!

Forgetting: what?! What?!

Winning: something with an order I placed this morning, it’s random but I can’t tell you what as I’m going to pass it on…

Pretending: to consider what to read next, but knowing it’s likely to be Bleak House. Dickens is perfect reading this time of year. Last year it was The Old Curiosity Shop and Great Expectations. A Christmas Carol the year before.

Sneaking: nothing. Honest Guv’

Embracing: sugar! Hurrah!

How are you? Was your November a good one too? I hope so – you’re too nice to have a rotten time. But if it’s not been the greatest, let’s cross our fingers December’s better.

Taking Stock – October

Making : a hot water bottle cosy. One half done. I started the other yesterday, but you really don’t get very far along in a 10m session, and I’m not up to everyday yet either. Try setting a 10m timer for the fun of it. It goes so fast. Then make yourself stop. It’s really hard!

I did feel like whooping yesterday when I posted this pic on Instagram. It was fab to have something to show and join in with the buzz of all the Autumn making 

Cooking : sourdough pizza last night, on a Sunday night. I hadn’t made any since August, it was time

Drinking : peppermint tea, Stoptober still going ahead here

Reading: The Music shop by Rachel Joyce and Never Greener by Ruth Jones, I’ve got a bit caught up in both

Wanting: a positive outcome to my appointment with the Hand and Wrist Consultant and Hand Therapist this week (i.e. no nasty injection or talk of surgery again)

Playing: some of The Music Shop book’s playlist

Deciding: not to try anymore crochet for several days now, as hand is sore 

Wishing: for a car to fall in my lap, I can pay but I just want someone else to find, test and choose!

Enjoying:  sunny blue skies and crisp weather. Driving to Birmingham, on Saturday morning, I noticed an orange snowflake appear on the dashboard to indicate the outside temperature. It had dropped down to 4°. It’s 7° today, crisp and bright – basically my favourite type of autumn day

It’s Christmas in Selfridges, Birmingham. I know it’s really early but actually I got swept into the joyful atmosphere

Waiting: for a telephone call from a company

Liking: thinking about which soup to make next

Wondering: what to have for dinner

How pretty are these Lola’s cupcakes? (Also in Selfridges, Brum)

Loving: seeing everyone’s colder weather makes on Instagram (I know some of you are in the southern hemisphere and I do like seeing your flowers and garden pictures too!)

Loved having a legitimate colder day to wear my Mock Cable mitts last week. You can knit some too

Pondering: natural ways to keep those limescale and splash marks off the shower doors, without resorting to nasty chemical sprays that you’re not meant to wash off. Any suggestions? I’m thinking of something like you rub on half a lemon and a bit of white vinegar in a half-hearted kind of way. I’m not sure if either would be effective Considering: going for a walk in the sunshine

Buying: frozen butternut squash, it’s a great standby for soup making

How white is this dog? She was eye catchingly pretty. Her owner said she’d just come from the groomers; she’s a perfect ad for their services! I had to ask if I could take her photo for my blog. She’s called Molly and posed like a true professional. My friends know I’m much more of a cat than a dog person, but she’s clearly gorgeous

Watching: I’m still working my way through Stella. I’ve just finished Series 4. So far series 3 has been my absolute favourite; it was so funny. She and ‘Michael Jackson’ were brilliant together. 

Hoping: no one tells me what happens at the end of series 6

Marvelling: at the range of items we can borrow from our libraries. I’m working my way through all the library’s Stella DVDs after getting hooked on the first two or three episodes for nothing on Amazon Prime, but then they wanted a lot of money to rent or buy the series. No way! I can reserve a DVD for £1.20 and borrow it for a week for another £1.20, then it’s 30p per every additional day afterwards

Cringing: at how bad you can feel during your period some months. It’s awful and you can’t really explain how fluctuating hormones can make you feel and react so emotionally to what you’d normally shrug off, or suggest discussing sometime over a burger and a milkshake. I think it can sound like an excuse to anyone who doesn’t experience it, but it’s very real. Afterwards you hardly recognise the emotional mess you became for a while

Not your usual charity shop find is it? No, I didn’t buy them!

Needing: to water my plants

Questioning: why the boiler keeps making that odd noise despite a recent service

Smelling: rose perfume oil, mmmmm

Wearing: jeans and a t-shirt with three-quarter length sleeves, it’s warm behind glass in the sun

Crossing the bridge over the lake, looking back towards the obelisk, Blenheim Palace in the autumn sunshine

Following: some incredible new designers that seem to have suddenly snuck up during the time that I haven’t been knitting and crocheting

Knowing: designing is probably never going to be my special talent, but I do love writing

Thinking: about my rumbling tummy, I always seem to be either hungry or thirsty when I write these posts

Admiring: some crochet jumpers and cardies

Nala the cockapoo, one of the salon dogs relaxing on the hair-wash chair. She’s either resting her head on your knee asking for love, or curled up on a chair. It’s clearly a hard life. Cora her Goldendoodle half-sister is often asleep by the front door, waiting for the postman who always brings treats. They are probably part of the reason why I’m so much more comfortable around dogs. I like my hairdressers a lot, so it wasn’t a difficult choice between leaving because of the dogs, or staying and getting used to them. This year I’ve patted them both once. This might not seem impressive, but believe me it is!

Sorting: my shredding and coming across all sorts of funny notes, including one I wrote to Someone who was on a conference call: ‘We have a situation in a k cupboard, I think it’s contained…. but I’ve left the bin outside the front door.’ 

Getting: a new mini sieve at Birmingham’s Rag Market, to try to make even better poached eggs

Bookmarking: articles about psychology and friendship

Coveting: new clothes 

Disliking: shopping for ‘em!

Opening: the veg drawers and finding a half rotten cucumber I’d forgotten about

Giggling: at Celebrity Goggle Box in aid of Stand-up for Cancer on Friday night. Danny Dyer and his daughter were hilarious

Sewing with my Mum. Just like old times: “You don’t need to stand over me, go and find something to do.” At least she didn’t tell me to “Go and have a run around the garden!”

Feeling: relaxed

Snacking: on nothing at the moment

Helping: my friend enjoy her holiday without guilt for having fish and chips etc. Life is too short, have some family fun and healthier eating can wait for a few days 

Hearing: bugs ding into the window outside

Mixing: lemon, ginger and honey later for a warming drink

Worrying: about something it seems I can do nothing to resolve. It takes two to tango/ talk 

Favourite lunch: toasted crumpets, avocado mashed with a little salt, poached eggs and homegrown cherry tomatoes

Slicing: that rotten cucumber, I’ve salvaged half. Hate throwing food away 

Celebrating: autumn 

Roses & orchids, amazing. Yes, spoilt

Forgetting: lots! It’s my age dear

Winning: £8:60 on the lottery a few weeks ago

Pretending: I’m a calm, wise and mature woman, not an emotional soggy mess on occasion

Sneaking: M&S Butter Mints from the car 

Embracing: my beloved in his new cashmere jumper 

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Hope all’s well in your world. What are you up to?

Autumn days

We are having some cracking October weather, as you can see. Lovely sunny days with blue skies and sweet little fluffy clouds. I love it when it’s like this; it feels like it’s a bonus when we get t-shirt days in autumn. I went for a good wander around at Blenheim Palace the other day and it seemed I wasn’t the only one chuffed about the warm temps. I heard lots of tourists say they didn’t expect it to be so warm! They actually said this in tones of awe and wonder. I soon gave up with the idea of wearing my hoodie and tied it round my waist instead

There’s a major two year lake dredging and Grand Bridge restoration project beginning. More details here. Someone will be interested enough to read all about it. I know it might seem odd to feature the water pipes, but there was something really appealing about the shiny blue paint and newness of the connectors. Do you think that piece of 2 by 4 is vital? I was so tempted to give it a tug and see what happened. Naughty! If I added sound to this photo, you would hear the water rushing through, as the engineers gradually lower the water level. Apparently all the fish are going to be netted and moved from the Queen’s Pool to the Great Lake. I’m not sure what the birds are going to make of it all. There are hundreds (thousands, when its breeding time) of grey lag, canada and snow geese, plus coots, herons, moorhens, swans and ducks. Others that I can’t name too.

I would have loved a ride in the little inflatable boat, but as it was tethered both ends I imagine you need a rowing boat to reach it. The boat house was some way away. And they don’t just let anyone random grab ‘em. Shame isn’t it? I contented myself with taking lots of leaf pictures instead. The autumn colour isn’t just in New Hampshire in the USA, you know!

It’s been so warm that we sat outside in the pub garden the other evening, for a cheeky drink and pre-dinner snack. This is not necessarily something we’re still doing in October. Later in the season they light the fire and it’s a race to get to the nearest tables because it’s so lovely and cosy. When the ‘Beast from the East’ Siberian weather came earlier in the year we sat at the table almost on top of the fire and literally thawed out, as we’d walked in minus temperatures.

It‘s just been Apple Weekend at Waterperry Garden. In the supermarket there are generally half a dozen varieties that you can buy year round including: Pink Lady, Braeburn, Cox, Granny Smiths etc. Then you go to an apple weekend and there are allsorts of local varieties which you’ve never heard of. After tasting everything on offer, we bought bags of Old Fred, Red Pippin and Egremont Russet. Plus a bag of Comice pears. There are Apple days happening all over the country at the moment and it’s such a good idea to go. You can taste apples with such different flavours (apples which taste like pears, anyone?) various textures (very dry and crisp, sweet and juicy or tough skinned varieties; ideal for peeling and crunching with strong Cheddar cheese.) This always makes me realise that supermarket apples are mostly bland and boring, especially when they are all the choice we’re given year round. We have a spare fridge, usually referred to as the wine fridge, the sourdough starters live there too. You get no prizes for guessing what it’s chock full of at the moment…

Another exciting aspect of Apple weekend was finding a new farm shop has opened on part of the grounds. Waterperry Farm Shop is stocked with produce from the nearby farm. It was such a lovely surprise to find freshly baked cakes and savouries, their own meat and products from the local area including cheeses, rapeseed oil and preserves. Even yarn!

We bought 3 red peppers, 2 sausage rolls (gone before we even got into the car for the journey home) and a lardy cake which we popped in and shared with my Mum over cups of tea. 

I really love autumn.

Autumn colour, apples & whisky 

I really love autumn! There’s so much colour still and we keep having bright blue skies and sunshine, which really makes for my favourite type of autumn days. Even when it’s grey and murky there’s always something comforting to do: soup to make, apple cake to bake and hot chocolate to turn to, or a brisk walk through crunchy leaves, pausing to pick up shiny conkers and special leaves.

The asters at Waterperry Gardens have been superb. We visited in September which was between the two ‘Aster Weekends’ when visitors are encouraged to go and see the glorious long-border full of autumn colour.

Asters are also known as Michaelmas daisies because they bloom around the same time as the Christian festival. ‘Michaelmas, or the Feast of Michael and All Angels, is celebrated on the 29th of September every year. As it falls near the equinox, the day is associated with the beginning of autumn and the shortening of days’ (according to Google.)

This year has been a bumper one for berries. Apparently it’s to do with the mild winter we had, followed by a dry spring and summer. They are everywhere in abundance, adding such a cheery splash of colour.

Upton House and Gardens looks after a National Collection of asters so it seemed a good plan to go and see them there too. The following pics were taken there last Tuesday. My Mum really loves asters, so she and I went to see them at both WPG and Upton. Looking back at my photos though, it’s not asters which dominate, it’s dahlias. I really like them. I have a vase-full of scarlet and peach asters downstairs, picked by her for our table. They are gorgeous. I should try to get a few photos of them in her garden to show you. I’ll try and remember to do that when I pop by later.

Waterperry have an annual apple weekend, celebrating the picking of their many varieties, you can sample and buy many varieties of apples, juice and cider. Unlike the supermarkets who offer the same scant half dozen varieties, if you’re lucky, WPG has many old varieties. Most of which I’ve never heard because 65 varieties of apple are grown there, although only about 25 of these are available commercially. The others are being trialled for juice, or preserved to ensure heritage varieties don’t die out. I bought bags of Egremont Russet and Ribston Pippin. Slices of both went very well with the cheese board we had at a family lunch on Sunday.


I also went to another type of autumn festival at the weekend: a Whisky Harvest Festival at Cotwolds Distillery. We went to pick up a pre-ordered (3 years ago) bottle of the first batch of 500 bottles of their whisky. Admittance to the festival gave everyone a free dram, so pretty soon most people were singing along and having a little dance to the live bands. A little measure of whisky is good for loosening people up. It has such a good flavour for a brand new whisky. You don’t have to take my word for it; Jim Murray writer of The Whisky Bible was there and pronounced it excellent. If you want to see his impromptu talk see here. He’s an entertaining soul. Prue Leith (she of the new Bake Off) also spoke and it seemed as if she’d enjoyed her dram rather a lot, ha ha.

The distillery also make a very tasty gin, a cream liqueur, similar to Baileys, and various other drinks. The cocktail tent was doing super business, though the gin cocktail bar was definitely favoured over that of the whisky. Personally if I’d been drinking, not driver for the day, I’d have chosen a whisky sour…

What are your favourite autumn things? What do you eat, drink and make? Do you also love it, or have flagging spirits at the end of summer? I really hope it’s the former.

Now – an Autumn snapshot 

        
    
    
   
 One of my nearest and dearest gave me a little verbal prod the other day saying: “I’ve had a look at your blog, but there’s been nothing for a while has there?” Noted and now rectified!

I’ve been carrying on crocheting my Spice of Life blanket (not far off the darning and border now) or knitting a few rows of my Hitchhiker scarf most days. I don’t think continually showing the same projects, just a few centimetres further on, would be interesting. Which is why I haven’t been around here much recently. There IS another project I’ve been working on too, but that’s hush hush as it’s a present. You’ll see it one day….

I really love Autumn: the crisp cool days, walking along kicking up piles of crunchy leaves, the beautiful colours of leaves and berries, the sunsets bringing brightness to often grey skies, soups and stews, casseroles and countless pots of tea. Do you love it too?

Woolly jumpers on!

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It was such a lovely day on Sunday; 17 deg and no need for a warm jacket. We sat on a bench and I was just saying how perfect it was to put your head back and feel the warm rays on your face, when I clonked my head on the back of the bench. I’d like to say this is a rare kind of clonk, but sadly it’s not. At a friend’s housewarming I apparently threw myself down onto her sofa, after unpacking lots of boxes, and hit my head on the bookcase which had been placed behind. I don’t really remember that one. Maybe I concussed myself!

Anyway. the walk, weather and sight of the trees, berries and wild fungi were beautiful. I really LOVE autumn. Always have.

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This is the first one I’d seen this season, on Sunday, but then I stumbled into full-on Christmas yesterday in a ‘room’ in Homebase. I like it in October, that’s when I begin to get little tingles about Christmas, the colourful lights and decorations to come. By December the relentlessness of it has worn me down somewhat, then on the actual few days it’s all fun again. Until the next year…

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The weather’s gone back to typically autumn temps with wind and rain featuring quite a bit this week. But the advantage of autumn and winter blanket making is being able to cosy under them while you crochet! The ripple is over half-way now and I’ve come up with a really cunning plan about the design. More on that another day.

Shotgun Lovesongs - Picador I’m really enjoying my Shotgun Lovesongs audio book. It’s perfect for rippling along to. The four main characters: Henry, Beth, Lee and Ronnie are dramatised by different narrators/actors. I’m loving the the way a couple of them pronounce words like ‘orange’ and ‘mirror’! I’m not sure if that’s due to them aiming to sound like authentic Wisconsinsites, but I likey.

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Tonight I’m making fish chowder for dinner. It’s a Lesley Waters recipe and you can find it here.

 

What are you cooking, eating, making, reading?