Five from this week

I went for a walk with a friend on a spur of the moment thing on Wednesday. We ended up walking over 6 miles in a big circular loop. It was a completely spontaneous thing, just a “hey, do you fancy a walk today?” We arranged to meet in the car park of a gym and I expected a walk around the nearest village. Instead we went off the beaten track, onto a public footpath alongside the edges of fields, turning onto country lanes and meadows of grazing sheep. Through wooded areas of bare wintery trees and the sports ground of a private school. We ended up nipping into a farm shop for a drink, gazing at all the luxury foodstuffs that neither of us need post-Christmas, back up into the village, across the main road and to our cars. All the time we were out, which was nearly 2 hours, we didn’t stop talking. That’s a good afternoon! My trainers are basically two big blobs of mud now. I should scrape them off and put them in the washing machine.

I’ve made some more cardamom gin. The Mermaids gin is nice enough but I fancied flavouring it. I put a small handful of whole cardamom pods into the bottle for 3-4 days (3 would have been plenty, but I forgot about it!) Poured it into a jug, through a tea strainer and threw away the pods, then put it back into the bottle. If they were left in longer than that it would too bitter to drink, I imagine. The flavour is strong, so a single measure (25ml) is plenty with a 125ml can of tonic.

I’ve started a second strip of moss stitch (aka granite stitch, or linen stitch) crochet. This is the easiest thing to take up and add a section to, in fact the most complicated thing about it is making sure the sections are the same length. I didn’t want to stow away the leftover yarn from Winnie’s Wave Blanket, I thought I’d use it up for another little blanket. If you like the stitch see Moogly for a great little tutorial, it’s dead easy. You do need to do a sample to make sure you use the right hook. My square was too thick and unwieldy using my usual 4mm hook; so I swapped to a 4.5mm and produced a softer, more drapey fabric.

I popped in to see Mum with some Butternut & Sweet Potato soup yesterday. I’d made a huge pan-full, but as I’m the only one who eats BNS or SP I thought it would be good to share, or I’d never want to eat it again after litres of the stuff. Barty was savaging a ball he was given for Christmas. He is funny; as I’ve said I don’t think he was given balls to play with when he was a kitten, so he doesn’t play ping pong like other cats we’ve had. I’ve tried to model batting it back and forth with my paws hands, and yesterday he sort of did it! Hurray, Rachel the cat whisperer!

I just started reading Follow you Home all snuggled up warm and cosy in bed this morning. According to my Kindle I’ve already read a fifth of it. It’s a quick read but also I’m a scaredy cat; so want to get to the frightening bits fast. This is a psychological thriller which features a train, a dark forest and rather odd, staring uncommunicative strangers. Dot dot dot!

What are you reading and making? Have you done anything spontaneous, which turned out to be one of the best parts of your week?

Have a good weekend all.

I’m linking with Ginny’s revived (now monthly) Yarn Along.

Taking Stock – January

Making : 2 loaves of beige bread (50/50 wholemeal and white flour)

Cooking : pork and fennel meatballs for dinner

Drinking : water

Reading: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, it’s fantastic! The lights on the bridge have just blown out in the storm. I love reading about 17th century London. It’s also very funny in places

Stowe, Buckingham (National Trust) on New Years Day

Wanting: a G&T, it is Friday

Looking: at my Christmas tree, it’s twelfth night so will be gone tomorrow

Playing: the radio, it’s music from the movies at the mo

Deciding: if I really do want or need to do Dry January. After all Dry October went on until December 24th!

Wishing: for a big Euro millions lottery win tonight

Enjoying: the tunes from Beverley Hills Cop, Top Gun, Pulp Fiction, Dirty Dancing

Waiting: for my bread timer to chime

Liking: the lights sparkling still, on these grey, cold and windy days

Wondering: when the shops will clear away the sale rails

Loving: crocheting again

Pondering: how to join my strips of crochet

Considering: a new to me technique like a flat braid

Buying: a new bag in the sale at The National Trust shop, reduced from £20 to £12

Watching: Russell Howard: Recalibrate on Netflix, it’s laugh out loud funny, but tears too when he talks about his family

Hoping: to see lots more stand-up comedy

Needing: something to eat; rumbling tummy

Questioning: why my wrist is still sore, I think it’s due to knitting #boo

Smelling: my new Loccitane rose perfume

Wearing: my new Seasalt floral socks (perfume & socks are Christmas presents)

Noticing: how cold the wind chill factor is today

Knowing: the days are slowly getting lighter

Thinking: about watching the last episode of The Miniaturist

Admiring: my floral feet (when I wore my yellows on Wednesday, Mum said they were very gay! Nice use of an archaic term)

Sorting: Christmas decs tomorrow and putting them back in the loft

Getting: a shopping list together, it’s all cling film and anti-bac soap type of boring

Paper roses made from old books at Stowe

Bookmarking: new recipes

Coveting: nothing, well apart from a big lottery win

Disliking: that rubber glove smell when they need replacing, yucky!

Opening: the last day’s listings in the festive Radio Times

Giggling: at Still Game (a BBC series, on Netflix) aka “The Scots gits” in my house

Feeling: hungry!!!!!

Snacking: on fruit or a raw carrot, soon

Helping: to take Barty to the vet today

Hearing: Someone wailing/singing along to Don’t Leave Me This Way by The Communards

Mixing: 500g of lean pork mince, 1 egg, zest of a lemon and 1 tbsp fennel seeds for meatballs, served in a tomato & pepper sauce

Worrying: about nothing much, as thankfully my mind is clear today

Slicing: onions and peppers shortly

Celebrating: the last eve of the festive season

Forgetting: who knows? I’ve forgotten!

Winning: tonight’s jackpot

Sneaking: an iced gingerbread I discovered in a tin today (this is a late Christmas win!)

Embracing: a very chilled cat who seemed totally unruffled today

There are no affiliate links here, I’d always say if there were. I just assume other people are as nosy as me and want to see!

I’ve used Pip’s Taking Stock list, if you do a TS post too will you link to yours in the comments below? I like reading them.

Twixmas

I really like the week between Christmas and New Year. If approached properly it has a mixture of planned and unplanned days. You need activity and people, but also days where you can lounge around reading, crafting, eating chocolates and nibbles and catching up on Christmas films and tv. This year we’ve got it just right.

Just before Sewing Club ended for the year another sewer told me she couldn’t see the point of wasting time and energy on making bottle bags; as they wouldn’t be appreciated for the amount of effort that goes into making them. Well, happily I’m glad to report that definitely wasn’t the case. I gave them to members of my family who sew and who totally got the point. They made my (Christmas) day by saying how impressed they were with the quality of the sewing etc etc. Every year we pass around card gift bags and bottle bags, saved from previous Christmases, and last year a few lamented that they had to buy new bags. The horror! I knew that these would be used again and again. It will be quite fun seeing them reappear. Am I revealing my sad nerdiness? Ah well! They’re fully lined with contrast fabric and reversible. Now perhaps I need to make Birthday bottle bags…We all seemed to arrive at Mum’s with presents for Barty the powder puff tail. My cousin and my nieces all did and I took him a set of jingle mice. But this one was the clear winner: my friend and her dog George sent him a crocheted pillow filled with catnip (bought in Asda, it’s fab.) After I took this photo he got a bit manic. It was so funny to see this laid back ‘I can sleep for England’ young cat so excited. The pillow is already all tatty and with ends sticking out! It was so lovely to see this ornament again when we decorated the tree on 23rd. I remembered that one of my nieces bought it for me last year, with her pocket money.My Dry October turned into Dry November and Dry December (bar 3 occasions where I’d finished in November but then decided to carry on.) All I really fancied was a glass of champagne and so on Christmas Eve I had my first drink in weeks. And my second. And on Christmas morning felt so very ropey that in the middle of drying my hair had to turn off the drier, sit on the bed and take deep breaths! Oh this was not the plan! How pathetic. Seeing a line of just-filled glasses on Christmas morning I apologised to my brother and declined one. During the toast I tasted a sip from Someone’s glass, just to try, and decided it was really rather nice, that perhaps that old chestnut, the hair of the dog thing would be worth a try. My brother said it was the fastest turn around he’s ever seen! I stuck to a single glass all day and it did the trick marvellously. I had another glass on Boxing Day evening with family too. There is a champagne diet, apparently good for weight loss (perhaps not for the liver.) Maybe that will be the one for me in January?On Boxing Day morning we were so glad to see a crisp and bright morning. We headed out for some exercise. It was a great walk, albeit 7 1/2 miles, not the planned 5. I think it was a combination of a lot of chatter, passing a big group of walkers at a crucial moment and wishing them a Good Morning that meant we missed the intended turning. We ended up in open countryside surrounded by grazing sheep. I turned to my iPhone for our location and saw on a satellite map that we had walked in the opposite direction and were approaching an unexplored village in the west. Oh well, new public footpaths have been discovered and it was a great yomp. Very good for walking off some of the mince pies and Christmas pudding. We took ourselves off to the sales on Wednesday and popped into a new-to-me coffee shop, where we sat on wooden boxes and spooned our Demerara from a communal jar with a wooden spoon. How very hipster!

I started some new crochet that evening. I’m not totally sure this is going to be continued. But look at the difference going up half a hook size makes. The fabric is now beautifully drapey and soft. Plus it’s far easier to find the 1 chain spaces. I’m going to play around a bit and might undo it, or might carry on. Just don’t ask me about the Hitchhiker, I actually might cry. Disaster struck. And I can’t blame it on Barty either.

On Thursday I met a friend in Hoxton, London at The Geffrye Museum of the Home to catch their Christmas Past exhibition. This features rooms decorated (or not) for Christmas from 1700 to 1990. Did you know that the Puritans banned Christmas for around 15 years? People disobeyed and still brought greenery into the home for decoration.

It’s a good exhibition and interesting overhearing others’ memories of past Christmases when you come to the various twentieth century rooms. My friend and I liked this early 1960s room best. It’s just after the children have opened their presents, when they’ve gone off to open their chocolate selection boxes and spoil their appetites for lunch. Sounds a familiar scenario, doesn’t it?

Why the toothbrush in the cafe, the eagle eyed among you might have spotted? I text her from the train and asked if she had an old one she could bring. I reckon it’s the mark of a good friend (or one who’s used to your ways) who responds with “I’ll see if I can find one” and not a single question about why.

After five miles of walking we went for a very late lunch and obviously chose the low calorie option….

And back to a superb mixture of laziness and activity yesterday; I tried out my new dumbbells that my father in law gave me. It’s become a thing every year; I really like to add practical presents to my wish list, things I need and will use. He laughs, but is usually the one to buy them. Over the years I’ve asked for a car valet, garden shears, secateurs, loaf tins and so on. This year it was dumbbells so I can work my triceps which are a little wobbly after a mere 4 months of a power shower and no hair-washing with a jug over the bath. (I miss my jug. I could also touch my toes and the floor without a problem. Probably that’s a no-go now too.) I started my daily routine yesterday. I will begin challenging people to arm wrestle by February. Actually, I’m having a day off today as I think my left elbow feels a bit sore. Ha! I’ve broken my resolution even before New Year.

How was your Christmas? Did your homemade gifts go down well? What’s the most bizarre present you received? Are you feasting still or dining on water and crackers now?

The little black cat with the powder puff tail 

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

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

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

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

Mum’s dahlias. Perfection.

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

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

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


Yarning Along

If you’d like to share what you’re making and reading every Wednesday too, leave a link to your post in the comments. Don’t forget to link back to this post on your blog, and use #yarningalong on social media, so others can find us and join us in Yarning Along. 

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

I’ve been a bit knitty

The plan was practise my new knitting technique and make myself a garment.Then I rethought that because that would mean a whole new order of yarn and I had other plans for my gift card – as you know – so decided to make some little garments for a friend’s baby, with some of my leftover yarn. I’m not totally convinced they’ll fit, to me they look too teeny tiny tiny for her, but it’s hard to tell. We’ll see.

20130906-135758.jpg

This is not a posed photo, although it looks like it might be, I was actually showing Mum what I’d been knitting lately and doing the beseeching look which tries to convey ‘I’d LOVE to sew these up but would equally LOVE it if you want to offer to do them for me. In fact that would be super all round.’ No go. Even when I bluntly asked her she laughed and said no. Pah!

Yarn Along

This week I haven’t done any knitting and only a little bit of crochet. To be honest I just haven’t felt like it; I’ve not been well for a week and a half, but hopefully am on the mend. If not there’s going to be a blood test for glandular fever. No thank you very much. It’s quite hard to tell if I’m feeling perkier today since the antibiotics make me feel so unwell, but I think I’m feeling better. Time will tell.

I popped to the library this morning though as I though it might be a good idea to get out.

20130807-140503.jpg

The little grey paperback is my current read – Goodbye to all That by the writer and poet Robert Graves. Originally published in 1929 then reread, for the first time since publication, and revised by the author in 1957 it’s an account of his childhood and experiences as a young officer in the First World War. I wanted to read something by Graves after reading Pat Barker’s superb Regeneration trilogy.

I’ve been watching a bit of The Barefoot Contessa for the first time on The Food Network this last few days. I’m not altogether convinced by her ‘recipes’ but then the series is titled ‘Basics’ or similar. Seeing some lovely foodie places in San Francisco on one episode made me grab Jamie Oliver’s book. I’m definitely convinced by his food, especially after using others of his cookbooks and eating at his restaurant Fifteen when it opened and several times over the years.

I pounced on the Alice Bliss novel as I’ve had it on my Audible wishlist for ages, but if I can read it for free without using a credit then even better.

My audio book this week is The Brimstone Wedding by Barbara Vine, read by Juliet Stevenson. I wonder if she was told to go fast for this one as the measured pace of Sweet Tooth is definitely not evident! It’s a gripping story; the main character’s just gone to a long abandoned cottage and apart from discovering lots of dust, finds mostly furnished rooms with touches like a vase of dried brittle flowers in place, paintings and photographs and also a 1960s car in the garage. Intriguing!

The yarn part of my post today is starting to knit a foot for the (hopefully not too deformed looking) cat. But you probably guessed that I cast on the 7 stitches just for this post. He’s coming along slowly.

I realise my Yarn Along posts are far more about what I’m reading than yarn, but think that’s ok – I love to see what others’ are reading and enjoying, or not. If you do too check out Kate’s library posts for a start.

I have been feeling a bit funny about the whole blogging thing lately, it sometimes feels as if it’s a bit show-and-tell for adults with a bit of pointless thrown in but I ignore the feeling, which passes, and carry on. But do you ever wonder about this aspect of blogging too? (Those using it to advertise and link to their business need not reply. I also know about inspiration and other positive aspects. )

I’m joining in again with Ginny. What are you crocheting / knitting and reading at the moment?

20130807-141016.jpg

Finally, I thought I’d add this photo as our whole buddleia is full of butterflies at the moment. It’s a lovely sight.

The End

20121008-125342.jpg

20121008-125356.jpg

20121008-125403.jpg
A hot water bottle cover for Vikki, as requested.

Saturday morning: Bake 2 Devil’s Food cakes

Saturday afternoon: Darn the ends in (lots of them!) and crochet the two HWBC pieces together. Find buttons. Arghh! I have mainly white, black and navy from old shirts etc. Nothing funky or bright. Use little transparent flower shaped Mollie Makes giveaway buttons. Write ‘buttons’ on my Christmas wishlist.

Saturday evening: Drop off the cover (plus the hot water bottle I’d borrowed from Vikki last weekend, so it fit perfectly) at the stage door of a West End Theatre in London making my best ‘It’s a VERY cool thing in a jiffy bag actually’ face. Three minutes later get a call from V saying thank you, she loves it. Phew! Very bright stripes may not be for everyone so I’m relieved.

Run to the tube with S. to meet friends and go to the Hammersmith Apollo for a charity comedy gig for tigers with ZSL .

That was a very good day. :-D


Posted on Facebook this morning with the caption “So, Rachel crocheted me this yummy water bottle cover, and it was immediately stolen by the cat. Predictable.”


If you want to check out V’s blog I recommend it. It’s a mix of writing and craft. Not the usual ‘everyone’s making X and so I am too’ stuff, most are unique creations. It’s cool. Very cool. Well, what do you expect from someone who works on one of the hottest London shows doing pyrotechnics and stuff?

The owl & the pussycat

20121002-091922.jpg

Owl #3 for Emily. Here are #1 #2 and they all look unique in their own way I see! I must crochet more owls as they can be made into really sweet magnets as well as sewn onto bags etc.

20121004-141708.jpg

And a cross-stitched tortoiseshell cat for Gill which I put into a keyring case. It’s teeny really, only about 1″ x 2″. This little pressie is for a cat-obsessed friend who generously gives up her Saturdays to raise money for a cat charity. She has about a dozen of her own who share her and her Mr’s bed! She also talks about them as her ‘babies.’ You get the picture. At least I’ll never be stuck for a theme for presents!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Have you created any handmade gifts lately?

Sleeping beauty and the kiss of crochet

I’ve started doing some cross stitching for the first time in a very, very  long time and am enjoying it. It’s funny though because I was always a bit down on cross stitching because I thought it relatively skill-less when I was younger. I used to do tapestry and embroidery more in those days. I’m working up to more sewing but have lost confidence through lack of practice and have forgotten lots of techniques. I also need to take a refresher on using a sewing machine since I have forgotten the teeny leetle bit I used to know.

 
 
 
 
I had to drive cross-country to work for about eight years and all the gear changes really aggravated my elbow, and so I actually gave up everything crafty. I just packed my hoops, frames, wools, threads, needles and books away. Then I got into study and stuff which left no time. I feel like sleeping beauty in lots of ways where craft is concerned as I didn’t do any for most of a decade. It seems extreme now, but I really was in pain at the time and used to find that even stirring cooking and cutting out with scissors aggravated it.
 
It’s much better nowadays and learning to crochet, then discovering the world of craft blogs, has awakened a gradual desire to try my hand at different skills again. It’s really exciting!

 
 
 I’d forgotten I had so many threads, fabrics and books tucked away. These books are now on the shelf here in the Little Room with my crochet and knitting ones, it’s becoming a bit of a library. S saw these and exclaimed ‘Una Stubbs?!!’ Well…yes….Una Stubbs. Now playing Mrs Hudson in Sherlock
And there she is going strong playing his landlady, bless her. I originally knew her from Aunt Sally in Worzel Gummidge.  I wonder if she’s still sewing in between filming?
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I’m not sure whether there’s a law of cross stitching (or, x stitching as it’s now known as in the 21st C version of kool crafts) as in all the stitches must universally go in a particular direction, but figure as I’m a leftie the top stitch goes L-R diagonally and as long as all stitches are in the same direction it’s ok. You see; I really have lost my mojo….!
 
 
 
 …Obviously quite  a close-up! The holes aren’t this big I promise…
Back to Crochet
 
On another tack; I was wondering about starting a CAL – a crochet along – here as I’ve owned this superb book for a while now but haven’t used it apart from for referencing stitches and techniques. Would you be interested in making 2-3 squares (or fewer? Is that too many?) with me a week?
 
Obviously you will need to get hold of a copy of the book since I can’t post patterns here as I would be infringing copyright. It seems to be a book that many crochet fans already own, and is very easy to get hold of too. See the book link to the right of this page>>>>
 
I thought I could post links to your blog and photos of the completed squares as we go on a weekly basis, maybe at the beginning of the following week?
 
I’ve run the idea by (clever) Patch who has suggested having a colour theme such as: Sea and Sand, Moonlight and Stars or Autumn Leaves. I love it! I’m drawn to Autumn Leaves since I wanted to make a blanket for my living room which ties in with my favourite rug there. It’s reddy, brownie, yellowy-goldy coours. BUT I can set up a poll for votes and alternative suggestions. I’m all for democracy. Once the theme is decided we would buy our own choice of colours, according to the theme, and type of yarns then compare notes.
 
Would you be interested in doing a CAL with me? I’m enthused by the idea since I haven’t got a social crochet group together yet, and this is a step in the right direction, albeit online. I’ve also never taken part in a CAL before either. pLeAsE sAy YES!
 
It’s holiday season so I reckon the best time to begin would be the first week of September, but that depends on you. It’s a busy going back to school week for many, but then you’ll probably need the meditative power of crochet and the sharing of progress in a social crochet kind of way won’t you?
 
To finish I wanted to show you this beautiful creature. I opened the curtains the other morning and there he was sitting on ‘his’ shed roof enjoying the morning sun. He’s either Ziggy or Spike, I can never remember and can’t ask my neighbour again!