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!

🎂🎂🎂🎂🎂🎂🎂🎂🎂🎂

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?

An autumn walk part 2

A few sips of water, a good look around in all directions. I took a few photos and then we went on for the next part of our walk.

There used to be a couple of fallen tree trunks which were lovely, clean and smooth off to one side of the green crossroads. Lying on the grass. They were removed sometime in the early year. I still miss them. During the first Lockdown last year, when we were only allowed to see people from our households and nobody else, not even social bubbles (the term had yet to be invented, our poor isolated elderly and vulnerable people) we came across a few teenagers there. From their furtive looks at us I guessed they were sneaking out to meet up and socialise, as an illegal part of the allowed daily exercise. I couldn’t really blame them, although it was all such a worrying time and no one really knew what was ahead. Anyway, I miss sitting on those tree trunks. After avoiding the roots, stones and ruts of the lane it was always good to have somewhere to sit and relax for a moment, or five.

Bonus blue skies in October and freshly ploughed fields.
If you go down this way you end up on quite a fast little road, which leads to a picturesque village. You can take another footpath into a meadow, then walk alongside some fast flowing water, go through a few gates, under a railway bridge and ultimately up to a large farm. There’s a public right of way along the road through the middle. There was a bull in a field with cows and calves, which scared the bejesus out of me last spring. You’ve never seen such a flimsy fence and such a mahoosive bull. He kept staring at me!
The corn is as high as an elephant’s eye, I loudly sang as we walked past.
Just a little peep.
The deer have been munching and trampling the sweetcorn. They’re all around here. We saw hoof prints and ‘other evidence’ of their presence near the maize fields.
At this point my hoodie was firmly off and tied around my waist. Such a lovely warm day.
More fields of maize all around.
There was a massive rainstorm in the middle of the night last Saturday.
Zoomed in.
And as I saw it by eye.

We saw a red kite with a huge wingspan being chased by two or three crows around that tree. It always amazes me how crows can be so aggressive to such a scary looking bird. Confidence or aggression in numbers? They must be highly territorial when in a flock (a ‘murder of crows’ is the collective name after all!)

More crabapples.
My favourite photo of the walk.
I suspected there were tasty, juicy things around this corner of the hedge.
Bingo!
More old man’s beard / clematis too.

Someone had started to walk on and hadn’t come back around the corner with me. So, I called that he should; because there were very big juicy fruits that I couldn’t reach, which could be all his if he wanted.

And we were off again.
He remembered something we had seen back in the summer. But wouldn’t tell me what. It would be a surprise.
Another stretch of footpath which goes along a narrow green lane between field hedgerows. Quite an adventure, this is very narrow. You can easily get caught on brambles and have to avoid nettles and thorns. I usually walk with my elbows and hands up in the air. Quite a sight, especially if I’m also singing.
The sun and shadows are captivating.
Other kinds of traffic have recently been along here too.
Ah yes! Fields and fields of the potatoes. I’d forgotten we’d seen these before, when they were small plants. The ridges of rich iron earth that are heaped up around the plants are so neat and pleasing. I missed a photo opportunity.

For some reason when we come out of that narrow overgrown path and walk along this field edge, we always remember the surprise of passing a teen during Lockdown in summer, last year. She was wearing noise cancelling headphones, had a brightly coloured backpack on and was so confidently tramping along. She’s really stuck in our minds and we’re not quite sure why. I think maybe it was because she was so incongruous. It looked like a route she walked regularly, like she was going to visit a friend or something.

I needed to lean against a big five-bar gate to reorientate, before we turned left for the third part of the walk. I heard a sound and turned around to see a man-child throwing a chunky stick into a tree, followed by the sound of things clunking to the ground…

So spikey sharp. Twin conkers inside.
I stuffed these into my conker pocket and on we went.

The next part of the walk went along a hedge to our left, which has occasional trees interspersed among the bushes. The field on our right gently slopes down to a stand of trees. This is where we watched a young muntjac deer wander earlier in the year. This time there was no peaceful little deer wandering, instead we disturbed about a dozen pheasants in the hedgerow. They took off right in front of us, flying and squawking in alarm. They made me jump. I took up in the air, flying and squawking in alarm too! Someone found this all rather funny.

It can’t be too cold at night yet, otherwise the ferns would be brown and dying. It can’t be far off though, the evenings are much chillier.
I had to limit myself to two fern photographs. I really, really like them.

We crossed a road and plunged into the start of another green lane. This is an ancient byway which used to lead commercial travellers from the Midlands to London. We call the start Freezer Corner because unfortunately sometime ago someone dumped the contents of the freezer under the bushes near the road. They must have pulled up their vehicle and just thrown it all out. Some were probably opened by foxes, others were intact. For quite a while we noted the disintegration of the packaging of once frozen lasagna, fishfingers and a carton of ice cream etc etc. Then it was cleared away. A friend asked if we had reported it all. I’m ashamed to say neither of us even thought of it (though someone else obviously had) partly because it was so fascinating watching the food and packaging disintegrate in the wild. But what an awful thing to do, and why? Why not dump it into a bin? Was it an act of revenge? You’ve hurt me, so I’ll empty your freezer? Weird.

Cranesbill, a type of geranium.
A little sit on a rock. A sip of water and onwards again.
I photographed these thistles when they were glorious purple flowers, back in the summer.
15 to 20 feet up, high altitude ferns.
Many brambles on both sides of this path, but few blackberries. Perhaps they doesn’t get too much sun.
Plenty of sloes.

A little handful of emergency almonds to crunch, hunger was coming on with a vengeance now, it was way past lunchtime. There’s a few miles to go.

We’ve turned left again. We’re heading to very familiar fields with landmarks: the cherry trees, sloe alley, blackberry corner and plum row.
What a neat front door.
Higher up now than at other points of the walk.

We paused at the top of the field and heard very, very loud unselfconscious singing coming from some distance away in the shady lane. As it’s stubble now we preferred to walk out in the open field, to keep feeling the sun and wind on our faces. The singing was hilarious. She obviously had headphones on and was belting out JoJo’s Leave (Get out). I glimpsed her; a grey haired lady walking a lurcher, definitely getting something out of her system. Good for her!

This one is tiny. Do mice make burrows?!

In the last part of our walk, in a field not far from home we looked for the dead adder that we came across last week. It’s gone. I’ll pop the pic I took into my Taking Stock post at the end of the month, if I remember. That was quite a sight. That and seeing a headless pigeon made for a memorable walk.

Home and a late-late lunch of cheese & biscuits, apple & grapes. What a great walk, so fab to go out-out again.

I hope we can do it again very soon.

An autumn walk

An autumn walk wearing T-shirts! In October! It was really special because Someone was off work mid-week for a few days, and so on Wednesday we grabbed the opportunity to go for a longer walk. It was a beautiful day, about 19° and very quiet. I think we only saw a couple of joggers in the middle and then a couple of dog walkers at the end, it was 3 o’clock by then.

We took our time. I went slowly, took lots of photographs and really looked around. It was the first longer walk, at 6 1/2 miles, that we’ve done since August because I’ve been feeling so unwell. We’ve managed the hour-long loop around the fields near home a few times, but this was a proper jaunt.

To begin with I felt quite unbalanced, especially as the initial part of the walk begins alongside a road. Walking along with cars going past felt quite disorientating. But once we were on our own walking along the footpath and bridleway, everything seemed easier.

The footpath is a mile or mile and a half long and was a green lane enabling farm workers and people wanting to come to the shops to walk between villages and farms.

I wish that I could go back in time, morph into an invisible being, to see the people and listen to what they talked about as they tramped along this lane. I’d like to know what they bought. A length of ribbon to decorate a new bonnet? A packet of sugar, or flour? A long saved for book? A twist of salt? Or did they just go to the pub and then stagger home again. Stumble, trip, stumble, trip!

Why, Hello there!
Sometimes dark and leafy green, other times bright and sundappled. I really love this walk along the lane!
There are crabapples scattered at various points. I wish I felt like making crabapple jelly, or something with them. There are many more still in the trees which could be picked. It feels a waste of free produce, but jelly making is a faff.
Rose-hips and ivy flowers, what a pretty combination.
Old man’s beard or wild clematis.
It’s a well used footpath and bridleway, things can get very turned up and sticky for walkers during the winter. Especially when it’s been rainy and the horses have churned it up.
Just look at that! So beautiful with the sunshine playing in the leaves
Common barberry, the red and green together are stunning, don’t you think?
A mossy log, crunchy leaves and glossy ivy leaves. If you stop and look around, remember to look up and look down there is so much to notice and appreciate.
Last time we paused by these trees there were waving stalks of oats and barley, in the fields alongside the footpath
Beautiful ugly fungi
Reflections in the water gathered in the dip between the conjoined beech trees.
A perfect window.
Beech nuts crunchy underfoot.
I wouldn’t want to fall into this holly bush, steady as she goes…
High above my head the holly berries are beginning to look good.
We seem to have been walking along this lane for ages, it always takes longer than we expect.
And suddenly we are out!

I turned back to take this photo at the end of the lane and then enjoyed being out in the open again. Surrounded by countryside, with long views across newly ploughed fields, a distant village with smoke from a bonfire rising into the sky. At this point you are at a green crossroads and can go one of four ways. We have tried all, but our favourite is the one, which with several more turns takes us in a big 6 1/2 mile loop. It ends with a hill right to our front door. A downward hill, is definitely the best kind at the end of a good walk.

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To be continued, part 2 coming soon…

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?!

Taking Stock – May

Making: glass spread all over the kitchen, yet again

Cooking: Chicken, pancetta & butterbean stew, recipe here. It’s even tastier the next day

Sipping: Assam Tea, no milk or sugar

Reading: The Haunting of Brynn Wilder. I’m really not sure about it, but will see how it goes

Waiting: for a family catch up at the weekend. And to walk by the sea. And to eat crispy restaurant chips. I. Can’t. Wait! First time away since last September. Phew!

Walked 5 miles and back to the car yesterday, just in time

Looking: at bare tulip stalks, stormy weather has blown the rest of the petals off! It’s been weeks of seeing their loveliness, so it’s ok

Listening: to cutlery chinking and cupboards being opened

All vivid yellow now

Wishing: to be 6” taller

Enjoying: salads again. Tuna, artichoke & butterbean, lentil & feta, sardine, watercress & orange

Appreciating: Spring, though it’s so much like 4 seasons in one day atm

Eating: Chia Bircher made with rolled oats, coconut milk, chia seeds, topped with fresh raspberries & chopped apple. Are you rolling your eyes?

Liking: Libby the library app now has magazines. Good Housekeeping for the excellent recipes, BBC Good Food and Love Embroidery are the 3 I’ve dipped into lately

Loving: Jessie Ware’s ‘Overtime’ song on Spotify. I defy you to keep still when listening!

I’ve rediscovered tinned sardines and mackerel, so good for tasty, filling and nutritious lunches

Buying: a new watch battery

Annoying: Old men – face masks under (big) noses

Managing: My aim to walk 1,100 miles this year (an increase of 100 miles) is going well so far. Hope I haven’t just jinxed myself

Watching: Superstore a tv comedy on Netflix. Funny, cute characters

Hoping: our figures continue to decrease, no mutations mucking everything up. People have been through enough

Wearing: a ball gown and tiara

Noticing: more flowers appearing in the garden. The clematis is looking very pinky, there are many buds on the rose and the lily of the valley are nearly all in bloom

Following: Twitter a bit more than usual, it’s largely negative so I won’t be checking too often

Sorting: well, I am tempted to sort through my WIPS, but am just sticking to the baby blanket as he’s now here (really gorgeous looking

Getting: Ready to walk to buy cheese and fruit

Coveting: New clothes

Feeling: Clumsy!

Also Feeling: Really pleased to see the crocheted wave blanket I made for Winnie being used by her new baby brother

Hearing: An aeroplane

How are you? You ok? What are you enjoying and doing at the moment?

Taking Stock – November

Making: I’m crocheting another ribbed band for my cowl and thinking of what to make next. Finish or start…?

Cooking: spicy fish and chickpea stew, a delicious one pot recipe

Sipping: Assam tea, without milk

Reading: Simon Mayo‘s Knife Edge, it’s a thriller. In the first chapter lots happens and the tension isn’t lessening as it goes on (don’t read if you’re feeling anxious about stuff)

Waiting: … aren’t we all? We’re in the second week of a four week lockdown here in England. It’s partial at best, as all schools and universities are open. No one really knows how effective this strategy will prove to be, but this is an unprecedented time. I do know an increasing number of friends who have the virus, or are recovering from it. I’m feeling lucky we are able to be based at home

Looking: like I’ve been pulled through a hedge backwards this morning

My version of Shakshuka, using up roasted vegetables with a good pinch of chilli flakes and cumin thrown in before I added leftover passata

Listening: to Deacon Blue’s City of Love album

Wishing: to be a superfast knitter. I see so many gorgeous makes online that I want to make them all, in a day. Probably repeating myself!

Enjoying: Listing 30 plants that we eat a week. It’s really good to get you thinking about what you buy and cook. I also love writing lists. This came as a result of a link my friend sent. This podcast. In a nutshell we need to eat a variety of at least 30 plants a week to keep our gut microbiomes healthy. These include: fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes (a plant with a pod with an edible seed: beans, peas, lentils etc.) Professor Tim Spector is no quack – have a look at his Twitter profile here. His feed is very interesting, although from the UK POV it’s rather grim reading at the moment

Appreciating: good bright days for walking

During yesterday’s swift five miler

Eating: cinnamon eggy bread for breakfast with melon slices. I am v suggestible; a friend sent me a picture of her eggy bread this morning…I made mine with toasted crumpets because I didn’t want to use freshly baked sourdough – too crumbly. Not pretty, but very tasty!

Liking: Dolly Alderton’s debut novel Ghosts. I’m listening to the audiobook

Loving: that I finished my HWB cover and passed it on at the weekend. She loved it and told me again: “I can’t sleep if my feet are cold!”

Love how the bobble edging finishes off the top neatly. I chose the Textured Bluebells pattern from Jan Eaton’s 200 Crochet Blocks for the body. The rest was a mix of trebles and half trebles to join and shape the pieces. Easy stuff.

Buying: locally produced eggs. They are eggcellent (Soz! I can’t help myself)

Managing: to cram the fridge with fruit and veg from today’s delivery

Watching: Truth Seekers on Prime. So good. SO GOOD. It gets better and better as you watch

Hoping: I can finish my crochet cowl soon as I have an idea for another that I maybe want to knit

Ridiculous! Cute!

Wearing: comfy scruffs

Following: Count Arthur’s exploits. There’s a couple of episodes on the BBC Sounds app here. I’ve heard The Beeb are gradually releasing all the Christmas specials through November and December

Noticing: birds on the feeders now it’s colder, the robin comes daily

Love these bud vases

Sorting: papers, I need to get shredding

Getting: restless. London! Pubs! Bars! Cinema! Theatre! Restaurants! Lunch dates! Air travel! Friends & family overseas! Live music! Singing in person, not Zoom! Travel! Weekends away!

Bookmarking: this Harissa chicken & white bean bake. I’ll make it this week

Coveting: a step-ladder. Don’t ask!

Feeling: full of cinnamon eggy crumpets

Hearing: the sound of Someone making lunch

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Please Tell Me 3 Things?

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PS: If you follow this blog on Bloglovin’ there was an issue displaying my last post: Why I Still Love Blogs

An autumn walk

I thought I must motivate myself to get out of the cosy house and walk today. I decided I’d aim to take three good photos to pop on Facebook. As you can see it was such a lovely afternoon and I took far far more than three (sorry!) and thought I’d turn them into a blog post for you.

It’s nippy today although it’s sunny, so I wore my Edenvale cowl and started off wearing my gloves too. But I soon got a glow on so didn’t need the gloves. The cowl is a really nice size, without being too bulky like lots can be, I’m actually tempted to knit another as I have some Stylecraft Aran. It’s not the quality of the West Yorkshire Spinners ‘The Croft Shetland Tweed’ I used before, but would work ok.

There were quite a few people out and about this afternoon. A couple passed me as I took this photo, she was wearing a very nice knitted hat: “They’re not really posing for you are they?”

I would say it was reluctant at best…

“Beautiful light today isn’t it?”

Perfect for photos.

Passed a lady with a very distinctive stripe in her hair and I said “Fewer photos – more walking!” She grinned at me. People are very chatty and smiley here anyway, but more so when we’re in Lockdown. I noticed this in the spring.

A couple passed, talking about very serious business matters by the sounds of it, I was envious of her tiny jodhpurs, neat riding jacket, boots and shiny dark hair swinging in a ponytail.

I heard an owl hooting in the trees, it was only just around 3:30 pm.

Sheep! Sheeeep!

Can you see – I feel like he was almost smirking at me? I was saying “Come on'” Clicking my tongue and talking to him, but he also refused to pose.

I always pat this tree truck before I turn around to come back again. I usually say something to it as well – but that’s between me and the tree…

The Sun was really getting low now.

Hello again horses! (The other was grazing off to the left.)

I heard another owl loudly hooting in the trees alongside the road. Perhaps he was calling: “Time to go home!”

I listened. I’m Home!

I walked 5 miles, popped some packs of Lego cards, which came with my shopping, in for the little boy next door who only needs a few more cards, and put the oven on to cook a chicken. I’ll roast some Mediterranean veg too and make some fluffy couscous, with the lemony chickeny herby juices it’s going to be a scrummy Friday night dinner. Prosecco first of course!

Have a good weekend all.

Autumn

I love autumn, I always have. I’m glad we have four distinct seasons here. Fancy a rather rambling read? You’ve come to the right place.

Cooking:

The drop in temperature has meant the food I cook has changed. Plus I definitely gravitate towards a glass of red wine more too. And why not? It warms the blood.

The change of weather and a bounty of homegrown and wild produce seems to have perked up friends lately too. Recently I’ve had WhatsApps about:

T and her pots of rhubarb and ginger jam

T and his apple crumble / beef and ale pie

S made a chicken and tarragon pie

E made a huge apple pie

P is delighted that Yorkshire tea have made biscuit flavoured tea bags and says her tea drinking times have just improved!

N has been looking up crabapple recipes

B dusted off her slow cooker and made a beef and ale stew

I adore messages like those!

I’ve made Dorset apple cakes to share with family, plus tried a new bread recipe for a ginger and sultana loaf from my WI Bread book. It’s a winner! Message me and I’ll send you the recipe.

I’ve taken a few comfort food cookbooks off the shelf to get more inspiration.

What are you cooking at the moment? Have you made anything new, or an old favourite?

Crafting:

We talked about a long walk and tackling some chores in the house and garden, but after a long call from a friend and a heavy downpour went into hibernation mode instead the other day. We listened to This is This Country and roared with laughter. (Best if you already know the tv series.)

Lately I’ve sat up in the early morning with a podcast or audio book and done a round or two of crochet. It is a nice lazy way to start the day. I recommend Lisa Jewell’s Invisable Girl audio book.

I’m sticking to my Close to You scarf and Big Granny Square blanket. I’m trying not to flit around with lots of different makes, but am committing to a few. Both are easy going and not too taxing for my iffy hands.

For the GSB I’m wondering about going off-piste and buying more Hayfield Spirit yarn in different colourways. It would be a multi-multi coloured blanket. Here’s the full selection of colours from the Sirdar website. What do you reckon?

Casper might be fun for a scarf.

Walking:

It’s gorgeous weather for walks. No sunscreen or multiple water bottles to lug around anymore as it’s now 10° less, or more, than this time a couple of weeks ago. Time to get the woollies out again! We all like an excuse to show off our homemades.

There’s an abundance of berries, a friend I met for lunch said she thinks it means we’re in for a hard winter. Is that right?

In the hedgerows in fields near home there are: crabapples, sloes, haws, the last blackberries, acorns, conkers, sycamore helicopters and ash keys. It’s fantastic.

‘Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’ …full poem here.

Last weekend we drove home in the dark and AN OWL WAS SITTING ON THE WHITE LINE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD! I think he’d just caught a little creature running across the road and was pinning it down. 

If the low light levels and gloomy days are feeling a little bit tricky, combined with everything else at the mo, here’s a tiny rather silly little thing you can do. I bought a really cheap set of glitter gel pens from The Works and now write lists using a different colour for each item. Someone told me it’s like I’m 13 years old, but I don’t care! My shopping and freezer lists are really pretty and colourful on the front of the fridge. They’re making me smile.

How are you finding autumn?

Maybe it’s Spring where you are? What are you up to?

Late Summer Days

We’ve had a week of rain, some torrential – the kind which wakes you up in the night, the water butts are now brimful. A week and a half ago they were nearly empty.

It was such a relief to get out at the weekend to walk. To feel the sun and wind, without having to dash to seek cover under a tree. What a novelty!

Stowe National Trust, Buckinghamshire

If you want to see a bit more here’s a post from Stowe at Christmas a few years ago.

Look at those gorgeous bullrushes! What a place to rest and listen to the leaves rustling in the trees behind. We sat listening and chilling for ages.

The water’s really high – I think you can see how near it is to the line of trees.

After all the rain we then had 45 mph winds on Thursday, so found lots of conkers prematurely blown down. You can’t resist opening the cases, even though it’s way too early. Unripe of course, but deliciously smooth and as white as a milk chocolate.

Poor osteospermum (aka African Daisy, so my friend Jill tells me) nearly drowned in all the rain so came inside to dry off. Poor thing was flourishing and flowering a second time – go me, the deadheading Queen! – but started to look bedraggled and as if it was going to wither. I don’t blame it to be honest. I was starting to feel the same way.

I picked nearly all the tomatoes. There’s also a big dish full on the shelf at the bottom of that table. Umm and some on the kitchen windowsill. And 4 large dishes full on the lounge windowsill. And many cherry tomatoes still on the vine as they needed more growing time. Some 3-4 clumps of Money Maker I missed in the middle of the plants. And 2 large Marmande beefsteak tomatoes I noticed this morning! I worried about all the rain and Blossom End Rot getting to my lovely tomatoes so dashed out in a rare patch of dry. They’re all ripening well and taste great. I can’t tell the difference between ripened on the vine on the plant, or on the vine inside.

The jalapeño plants are groaning with peppers too. I’m feeling very green fingered this year…

I crocheted more rows after snapping these pics. The pieces now just need to be joined with a hanging loop added too. I always use my pot-holders. They’re so handy….groan.

The Lucky Dip thing was quite a cute plan for a little series of projects to get on with and as a blog focus, I thought. It’s not – oh bloody hell, guess what?! It’s raining! Again! Hard too. Can’t believe it. At least there’s no washing on the line – happening now though, because I fancied a rainy day sort-out on Thursday. I went through my long neglected craft bags and undid three or four makes that I’m not worried about finishing. Either they’re not that much fun to make or I don’t particularly like the yarn or pattern. Time’s moved on. I’ve got enough to be going on with for the rest of the year at the speed I knit and crochet now. Oh, and it occurs to me as I type that I’ve got sewing on the go too. I’d forgotten all about those bits and bobs. Let’s talk about something else, shall we!

We did a 7 mile circular walk yesterday and came across harvest in full swing. I love seeing combines, tractors and trailers gathering in the wheat.

It really feels as if we’re on the cusp of autumn now, doesn’t it? If you’re in the Southern Hemisphere do you feel Spring’s beckoning? What’s it like where you are in the world? What’s growing around you? Can you see harvest in progress or are you in the middle of a town or city? Are you green fingered? Eating anything you’ve grown? Bragging about it?

Around here the hedgerows are absolutely groaning with crabapples, sloes and blackberries. I’ve been googling recipes for sloes and crabapples which aren’t gin or jellies. There aren’t any, so far, which really appeal. We won’t use cordial or syrups and both grew up on sloe gin and can’t face it now. Doesn’t that sound dodgy. Can you imagine me clutching a bottle of liqueur in my pram?!

Today’s homegrown basil and tomatoes for brunch on dark Ryvita with Philadelphia cream cheese. A good grinding of sea salt and black peppercorns. Delicious!

Want to tell me a few things? I’d love it.

A walk

As we started off on our walk earlier I was saying how twee I find the ‘Come for a walk?’ kind of blog post. I always find myself involuntarily wincing, but then usually really enjoy the pics; especially when they’re from another county. Yorkshire or Cornwall are definitely in the top five locations.

During the first part of lockdown when we were at home, making essential journeys only and going out to exercise once a day, I started recording highlights of my walks for my friends on Facebook. Apparently that inspired some to do the same. I loved seeing where they’d walked, run or cycled that day. A change of scenery is always welcome.

Here’s this morning’s walk for you, from The Cotswolds.

We’ve walked a mere 10 minutes and found a small plum tree. I picked half a dozen to share. Result! Tasty and sweet. Someone thinks they are mirabelle, do you agree? They’re bigger than damsons, smaller than victorias.

That sky looks ominous, doesn’t it?

Plenty of sloes all the way along the path and fields around. I might have a try at making sloe and blackberry jam or something else new. It used to be a family thing to make sloe gin, but actually none of us really like it anymore. I now think it tastes like cough medicine, too syrupy and far too sweet. The thought of sloe gin has nudged me into remembering there’s a bottle of unopened damson gin given by friends the Christmas before last, somewhere at home and still unopened.

I’d paused again and said I must take a picture of the vine (my brother and I called them Tarzan vines when children.) Are they part of very old ivy plants?

Lesser or common burdock. So pretty.

I’ve been trying to identify this using the Butterfly Conservation site. I wondered if it’s a moth, rather than butterfly, but haven’t come up with anything on that section either. I sent the picture to a friend whose husband is apparently a moth geek, presumably he’s also a butterfly geek.

More future foraging opportunities; a tree laden with crab apples. I bet there’s plenty you can make with these too. Have you ever?

Ahhh fields of barley, it’s the feathery rippling in the breeze that gets me. I also like the log. It looks like it’s been carefully placed there for people to perch on and admire the views.

I’m sure I’ve taken photos here several times before, it’s like looking out of a picture window. It had started to rain, but because we were in a tunnel of trees, with deep hedges either side we could hardly feel it. My jacket was still tied around my waist, as it was rather on the humid side in fact.

Uh-oh here we go! Out from the tunnel of trees appraoching what I always call the Crossroads, where the footpath and bridleway cross, and it was raining on us a little more now.

I had stopped for a drink of water and we put our jackets on, there was no ignoring the rain now, but it was refreshing and I always like the sound as it plops on my raincoat’s hood. 

The view was now wheat fields all around. The combines have started harvesting crops around the area this week; so I have to make the most of the golden views while I can.

The rain had become torrential at this point and so we were sheltering under a large oak tree when suddenly I saw something going up and down in the wheat field, about 20 feet away. Another bounce and we realised it was a pair of very straight ears: a hare! When we stopped talking it seemed to stop bouncing. So I sang ‘Oh I do like to be beside the seaside’ (I’m not sure why that song) in a gentle bid to get it moving again. If it was, we could no longer see it.

Thunder had started crashing overhead. It was definitely time to carry on.

Ten minutes later in the torrential rain I took this photo of a beautiful thistle under a tree and we decided the wisest thing would be to turn around and go home; we were soaked through to the skin. I realised my coat must need re-proofing. This is the first time I’ve ever been properly wet during a rainstorm, it’s served me well in the three or so years since I bought it. We squelched along the field edge, kicking up muddy spray.

By the time we got home we’d walked over five miles and were so wet through that we had to peel off our sodden and muddy clothes in the kitchen, to put them straight into the washing machine.

I stood in my underwear eating a few Big Hula Hoops and sipping cold lager out of a can before going up to change. That’s a pretty good ending to a walk!

The antidote

It’s a really long time since I woke up and fancied doing a bit of crochet first thing in the morning. So I got up straight away, before this state of mind disappeared, and along the way quickly mixed some enriched dough to bake soft white sourdough rolls later (This excellent recipe.) Then gathered up my yarn and hook to do a star shaped round back in bed, while I sipped jasmine tea. I also caught up with some of last night’s Liza Tarbuck radio show.

It was a pleasure to wake up feeling so positive and energised after what’s been my worst week of lockdown so far. I asked friends on Thursday if:

“Anyone else feeling *really* fed up with it all this week, like it’s the hardest so far now?

Relentless. Dull. Negativity everywhere. The weather change probably doesn’t help.”

The answers came flooding in and without exception everybody said they felt exactly the same.

Yesterday I found the antidote to feeling really fed up:

~Sunshine and blue skies

~A really good 7.3 mile circular walk

~Walking another – new to us – section of Shakespeare’s Way

~Bumping into a friend in a churchyard

~Going to her garden for tea and chocolate cornflake cakes

~Non-stop chatter and LAUGHTER

~Stroking her sweet cats

~Walking back reflecting on what a cheer-up fest new scenery and seeing a good friend is!

~Well earned G&Ts & Bombay mix

I think all that helped to create the buzz of energy and positivity I’m feeling this morning.

How are you finding life? Hope you’re ok. What’s your antidote?

Taking stock: June

Making: overnight oats to eat with a drizzle of honey, strawberries or raspberries. Raspberries are a fantastic with an apple topping too

Cooking: white ish sourdough (I use dark rye flour to feed my starter, so it’s usually a bit more beige than white) sourdough pizza and oat & raisin cookies last week. Fewer flour based foodstuffs this week!

Sipping: jasmine tea. Think I always say that, don’t I?

Reading: Out of Bounds by Val McDermid. So good and I’ve only read a chapter and a bit. I fell asleep after reading 2% of the book last night. So that was roughly 5 minutes reading and 30 asleep. Sigh. I’ll have to sit up in bed to read, but even then I start nodding. This never happened until last year or so #older

Waiting: for many places and groups to open again, as we all are. I miss lots of things and people

Looking: at a fragrant bunch of pink pinks I’ve just cut in the garden

Listening: to Michael Crawford on Desert Island Discs with Sue Lawley, must be an old episode. The radio was tuned to BBC 4 extra when I turned it on (later: it is a vintage ep, she’s just said he’s 57 and I’ve just googled and now he’s 78!)

Wishing: for a pair of socks. Cold feet but listening, eating and looking at the moment so obviously too busy to go upstairs!

Enjoying: Michael Crawford’s story about meeting Gene Kelly

Appreciating: my lovely garden

Eating: overnight oats, honey and strawberries as I type/dictate/listen

Liking: the slightly cooler weather. Variety is good. We know that as soon as we’re able to rent holiday cottages and stay in hotels again that the weather will be atrocious anyway, don’t we?

Loving: Vera on BritBox. I’m new to it, so am watching in order from series one. Isn’t she gloriously grumpy?

Buying: avocados, we can’t seem to get enough of them at the moment

Managing: my wild lockdown hair

Watching: my sandalled toes when the bees are visiting the campanula flowers – they get very near!

Hoping: to be able to sing with my group again before the end of the year

Wearing: t-shirt and cropped jeans, probably need long trousers and socks and a cardie today. It’s been 25° for days and days, now it’s 15°

Following: James Corden on his USA tv show. Watch this clip

Noticing: how sore my hand still feels after a little bit of crochet on the new star blanket last week #Boo

Sorting: receipts. Next

Getting: those longer trousers and socks before

Bookmarking: local walks info, there are so many, so so many different paths and bridleways

Coveting: really comfortable loungers for the conservatory. Dozing, reading, sipping drinks while using type. Any recommendations?

Mr Scrappy went to his first non-essential items shop this week. He was the only customer. He felt like dancing and treated himself to some glitter gel pens for £2

Feeling: full

Hearing: the kitchen clock ticking and Michael Crawford singing

List copied from Pip’s marvellous Meet me at Mikes blog. It’s the one blog that I always return to. I read it in batches. I much prefer reading some blogs in batches, rather than one post here and there; I feel you hear their voices more clearly and get a grip on what they’re doing and where they are in life. Hers never fails to cheer me up if needed and makes me feel inspired. Thanks Pip.

Why don’t you have a go at writing a Taking Stock post? Then throw up some accompanying pics, if you like, it’s fun to write (and hopefully read) them.

Lockdown excitement

This afternoon we wandered down to the station and to my excitement a new looking GWR train whooshed into the station, bound for London. So tempted for a split second to jump on, especially when we talked to the ticket collector and she said there were only three passengers on board…I’m really missing London, or going anywhere really. My feet are always itchy.

Then we found a new to us bridleway. I don’t know about you but in a quest to find local walks we have discovered so many bridleways and footpaths. But then we are lucky to be living in a paradise for walkers and cyclists.

It was an exhilarating walk on a very windy day, with absolutely stunning views west and rippling fields of wheat.

Praise be that the toilets were open, or at least the gents (ladies in the locked waiting room) and we could both use it on our return. We both marvelled at how it was the first public toilet we’ve been in for a long time!

Then to the Co-Op for tonic and he found orange sticker sausages for the win.

#LockdownExcitement

Taking Stock – May

Beautiful wisteria this month

Making: salads – chicken with a bit of blue cheese, inspired by my friend who’s obsessed with it for lunch right now!

Cooking: rhubarb and clementines

Drinking: fizzy water, sounds virtuous but have had quite a few ciders over the Bank Holiday weekend. Sunshine, sea and cider go together beautifully

Lovely bluebells. I’m going to do a separate bluebell post because it’s an annual tradition I don’t want to skip

Reading: Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks

Wanting: new jogging bottoms for Pilates

Playing: Everything Under by Daisy Johnson – my new audio book

Buscot Park, National Trust

Deciding: to try not to fall asleep over my Kindle at bedtime!

Wishing: to live nearer the sea

Enjoying: the sunshine

Waiting: for the new Gavin & Stacey Christmas Special! Exciting!!!!!

Evening walks with that gorgeous golden light as the sun gets lower, has been a treat this May

Liking: how green everything is, May is one of my favourite months. Colour everywhere

Wondering: when to stop this to make my hair appointment on time

Loving: sleeping well (not the last two nights, but there’s always tonight)

A new walk, discovered the other Sunday

Pondering: what’s next for the country

Considering: eating some breakfast before I leave, better rush

Buying: groceries online

Swansea marina and Swansea market – those Welsh Cakes smelt mmmmm

Watching: the last ever Big Bang Theory last night. They handled the ending well, brought a tear to my eye

Hoping: to visit a friend later

Marvelling: how tight your jeans can feel after just 4.5 days away…

Cringing: at the above, it’s been fun though

Needing: to pause this for now

Tenby – still so light at nine in the evening

Questioning: what’s effective at removing soap scum and limescale from shower doors, without chemicals. So far I’ve tried a few things

Smelling: hair salon smells

Wearing: a black gown

Following: what others are having done to their hair (aka covert staring in the mirror!)

Saundersfoot. I recommend Sue’s Pantry if you like cake (with or without tonnes of icing…actually half of mine fell off and onto the pavement. There’s going to be a gull with diabetes soon)

Knowing: it’s probably going to rain on my styled hair on the walk home

Thinking: about fun times with lots of laugher

Admiring: Andy Parsons for filming this for Campaign to End Loneliness

Sorting: laundry

Love all the colours and patterns in the shells. I think the mussel shell looks almost tartan, don’t you think?

Getting: into cleaning mode. Holiday cottages are – usually – sparkling and your own slightly dusty home suffers in comparison when you come home. I get why people spring-clean before going away. I do sometimes, but not last week

Bookmarking: books to read

Coveting: that house by the sea

Disliking: dust and fluff

Amroth does huge jelly fish

Opening: mail

Giggling: remembering a Christmas Gavin & Stacey episode

Feeling: very chilled

Snacking: on raw carrots, as usual

Tredegar House, National Trust

Helping: the grocery driver find the house this morning. Could hear a van driving up and down the road

Hearing: that Sheeran & Bieber song on the salon radio

Mixing: they’re mixing colour for customers

Worrying: about nothing specific

Colby Woodland Garden, National Trust

Slicing: an apple

Celebrating: long Bank Holiday weekends, especially this last one in Pembrokeshire

Forgetting: nothing?

Winning: nothing!

Pretending: nothing!

Sneaking: nothing!

Embracing: friends and family, it’s good to appreciate and be appreciated in return

Serendipity

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step

Lao Tzu

Today I had a rather nice thing happen. While walking at Blenheim, lamenting that my usual six mile loop is still not able to be accessed, I paused to ask a couple who passed through the same gateway if they knew of a circular route in the direction we were headed. It’s always nicer not to retrace your steps. Also familiar with the loop I walk, they were trying another one by using a map app. I ended up joining them, after saying a few times that I was happy to drop back and follow at a distance so I didn’t intrude, but instead she asked me if I bake and had I heard of Bundt cakes? Well, you know me….I LOVE talking about baking, cake recipes and eating cake is one of my favourite pastimes, and so we were off!

While we walked we covered topics like bundt cake recipes (I’ve never actually made or eaten one in England, though I have in Australia and USA as they’re not that common here, but I do fancy a cherry and coconut version I said) walking 1,000 miles in a year, backpacking, living in the countryside, NT membership and much more.

It was a really lovely 5 mile circular walk with good conversation. At the end we swapped numbers saying we could maybe meet up and walk together again, but I knew that even if I never heard from, or saw them again, I’d had a really lovely time.

However by the time I got home I found I had a text from L with a Fitbit map of our route so I could do it again, if I wanted. How thoughtful. I said they’d got me looking up bundt cakes…! They’re based on European cakes, but actually bundt tins were invented in the 1950s by an American guy who’d bought an Aluminum Company in Minnesota to make Scandinavian items. I could tell you more facts, or you can Google them too. I love finding out random information. I know I’ll have forgotten it all in a few weeks time, as my brain is custard, but I like the short-term knowledge!

We exchanged a few cake based messages and I went to the dentists for my annual checkup and came out absolutely starving hungry. I don’t know about you but I don’t eat too near to an appointment. I’d had another message to say R was making a coffee and chocolate fudge cake as he thought that was suitably American. Aww!

I received an email from Ramblers this afternoon about Time to Talk Day. This will be on February 7th and aims to get people together to walk and talk about mental health issues, with an aim to reduce the stigma around talking about it. This seems like a very good thing indeed.

Mental health problems affect one in four of us, yet many people are still afraid to talk about it. Walking is a perfect way to start having a conversation with others and opening up. Being physically active, connecting with nature and other people – the ingredients of a Ramblers group walk – are all things which have been shown to have a positive impact on mental health and wellbeing.

From the Ramblers website

I’m recording my pedometer mileage as usual every week, but this year am totting up the miles to see how close to a thousand I walk during the year. I’m not putting any pressure upon myself, especially as I have a tendency to knee problems. So, if it’s half that amount then so be it, but it’s cool to have a goal to keep in mind. I can then aim to beat this year’s total next year.

How are you doing? (I always, always hear Joey from Friends when I say that! Do you read it in his voice?!)

Stowe at Christmas

On Sunday we went to Stowe, a National Trust property, to have a good walk, where we followed a Christmas trail. This was after listening to a mixture of traditional carols and modern Christmas music by Winslow concert band, in the courtyard. The mince pies were successfully avoided till nearer Christmas, go us! Impressive self control I think.

A long walk is always first (at least 5 miles and you should try to get quite hot and out of breath marching up any hills*) which then earns a visit to the cafe for drinks, a ham salad sandwich and a bag of crisps. A mooch around the main shop, and this time the Christmas craft stalls, only at the end. That’s the usual order of the day at a National Trust property. Do you do the same?

The scale and beauty of Stowe have attracted visitors for over 300 years. Picture-perfect views, winding paths, lakeside walks and temples create a timeless landscape, reflecting the changing seasons. Full of hidden meaning, the gardens were created as an earthly paradise and still cast their spell today. Your visit starts at the New Inn visitor centre outside the gardens. This fusion of modern and restored eighteenth-century buildings was where visitors of the past were welcomed to Stowe.

(From The NT app)

A glimpse of Stowe House as we began our walk. It is now a private boarding school. The pupils were out and playing fun games outside in one area by the Queen’s Temple.

I didn’t photograph everything we saw, but these give you a flavour of the Christmas Trail and just a very few of the many landmarks you see as you walk around the Capability Brown designed parkland.

The Palladian bridge

Look beyond the iron railings and this was once the drive which led to the house.

This is the other side of the Palladian Bridge, once you’ve walked through it. The wellies were amusingly titled ‘Step into Christmas’ and a label describes how the head Gardener Barry is going to do a long walk from here to Bath to raise funds for Stowe in the New Year.

It always fascinates me that you can rent the Gothic Temple as a holiday let. What a spooky place it would be at night.

MK Jets

Milton Keynes Jets junior embroidery and textile students have created tapestry decorations using the colours of the Women’s Suffrage Movement in honour of the centenary of the first women getting the right to vote in 1918. They also represent the threads that bind communities together. From the textile industry to sewing for pleasure, the desire to stitch and create is woven through the fabric of time.

The grotto. Look at the pebbled floor, it must have been done by hand.

You enter through dark, low and narrow tunnels and I’m not sure that Someone thought there was anything much on the other side, so when we entered into the main room with a high roof, the fountain trickling with beautifully clean water and the arch looking out I heard him say “Ohh!” It is a bit special, I felt a magical vibe.

What you can’t see is that in cracks and crevices of the walls were laid little red baubles and greenery.

Men in Sheds were originally set up by Age Concern and the local group have made two xylophones for Stowe. They are, as you can see, things of natural beauty. Plus they sound good too. I swear I inadvertently played a Christmas carol really well, but this wasn’t universally acknowledged – #bahhumbug – and now I can’t even remember which one. It’s a secret me and the robin will share.

*I realise that I sound a little like a Sergeant major in the army! It is actually good fun and you feel very energised afterwards.

Taking Stock – August

Making: my first sourdough loaf in over a month today, it’s a baking morning

Countryfile Live at the beginning of August

Cooking: chicken something later, for dinner

Drinking: jasmine tea, it’s cooler now (high teens to 20 degrees) so the kettle’s on more

Reading: Paris for One and Other Stories by Jojo Moyes. Paris for One is a lovely novella

Wanting: to make cheese scones for Someone, but no butter and only just enough cheese!

Playing: the radio, good music on a Friday morning to bake to

An evening dinner and cruise trip from Stratford Upon Avon. This was my first time going through locks. It was great fun. I can’t persuade anyone to do a short narrow boat holiday however. When we met up this month I informed Patch and Mr P that they need to buy their own sharpish!

Deciding: to buy more new / old music soon

Wishing: the heating could just be on for a sneaky hour, but it doesn’t work like that with underfloor gadgetry

Enjoying: summer fruits still, especially for breakfast

Waiting: for the next series of The Marvellous Mrs Maisel

Liking: this year’s nectarines and peaches

Wondering: when my Whirl yarn will change colour

Loving: that I crocheted NINE rows the other day !!!!!!

Pondering: if it was wise to continue after two, but it was so good (ouch!) My appointment is next week

West Wycombe Park, National Trust a few weeks ago

The Music Temple on the island

Green walnuts

Music on Summer Sunday’s are such a nice idea. West Wycombe brass band sounded very good

Considering: listening to another film review Wittertainment podcast

Buying: tissues ready for autumn sniffles

Watching: Mamma Mia 2 for the fourth time (yesterday.) That has to stop also!

Hoping: my adaption of a milk bread sourdough recipe works. It uses discarded starter as I’m still looking for good ways to use it, which isn’t pancakes! I tried an overnight proof too and it’s worked out ok, I think, I hope. The loaves are cooling at the moment

Marvelling: at how happy some films can make you feel (MM2)

Cringing: at French & Saunders on Netflix, they were funny back in the day….

Needing: the guy opposite (I call him ‘the plonker’) to go with flow and put his wheelie bin out the night before, not at 05:55

Questioning: matters of inequality – News stories

It’s a bit further on now but I’ll show you again when the yarn has changed colour!

Smelling: freshly baked bread

Wearing: my dressing gown

Following: food trends

Knowing: food is food is food, whatever is fashionable

Thinking: I should fold my salt into my sourdough soon

Admiring: articulate people who express their emotions beautifully

Meeting nice people for cake, pots of tea and to share some books in Birmingham. Look at the bull all decked out for summer! Chest hair too…

Sorting: birthday cards

Getting: keen to make soup

Bookmarking: inspirational articles, then forgetting to read them

Coveting: beautiful hands and nails

Disliking: mine!

Opening: mail, it’s always official and boring these days

Giggling: at 1949 Ealing comedy Passport to Pimlico. It was partly filmed a mile away in Lambeth by a real WW2 bomb site. It was good rainy Sunday viewing (Free on Amazon Prime)

The 13th annual Festival of Transport at Blenheim Palace. The mod and his Vespa was my favourite, I hope he won a Best of category

Feeling: bakey! (If that’s a real word, if not I’ve invented it)

Snacking: carrots! Always carrots

Helping: buy a buddleia plant

Hearing: traffic

Mixing: my homemade curry powder blend, mayo and mango chutney for coronation chicken salads this summer, it’s been my latest fad

Worrying: at an annoying knot in my Scheepjes Whirl with a darning needle. I think I made it unravelling a row

Slicing: bread, later

Celebrating: the end of August, I’m ready for a new month and I like autumn, although September weather is looking good and sunny. Hurray!

The blackberries are over already and the horse chestnuts are losing their leaves earlier than usual

Forgetting: nothing, hopefully

Winning: £2:60 on the Euromillion draw last Friday

Pretending: tonight will be my so far elusive £22 + million win

Sneaking: cherries

Embracing: my own foibles

If you’re in the EU and would like win a ball of Scheepjes Whirl, see this post. You have until noon BST today!

Taking Stock – April

Making : nothing still as my hand is very sore, it’s my right and I can’t even crochet; because holding yarn makes it sore too. So zero making and it’s not good. I’m surprised at how much I feel at a loose end.

Cooking: Baked Haddock with chorizo and tomatoes. Put wedges of lemon, some diced chorizo and cherry tomatoes into a tin and bake in a hot (200 degrees) oven for 10 minutes. Pour over a splash of white wine (I used mirin) and add haddock (or cod) fillets, season with freshly ground black pepper. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, or until the fish is done. Delicious with new potatoes and a green salad.

Drinking: don’t ask……nothing except water and jasmine tea. I feel iffy this morning.

Reading: I finished Miss Treadway and the Field of Stars by Miranda Emmerson this week, it’s a good read.The National Herb Centre

Wanting: a cooked breakfast.

Looking: a little rough around the edges!

A corkscrew hazel, what a great looking tree.

Playing: I just finished listening to The Girl With all the Gifts by M.R Carey this morning. A 5* audio book.

Deciding: to move very soon; into clothes and a fully upright position.

Wishing: I had just said “No, thank you” to more drinks.

Enjoying: seeing bluebells appearing in woodland.

Waiting: to feel a bit sparkier.

Liking: The Girl with all the Gifts, I’m going to think more about it today; always a sign of an interesting and provocative book.

Loving: M&S Butter Mints.

Upton House and Gardens, NT

Pondering: the themes of those two books: what it is to be human and identity.

Considering: my next audio book.

Buying: a new pasta bowl. I dropped one and five doesn’t work!

Watching: The BBC’s The Woman in White.

Hoping: they haven’t changed it too much, as I only read the book last year.

Marvelling: at the cool temps after a week of ‘summer’.

Needing: something to eat.

Questioning: why we think we’re hilarious when drunk.

Smelling: perfume.

Wearing: scruffs.

Following: The Vegetarian Society for some new recipes.

Noticing: tiny lambkins in the fields around.

Knowing: it’s going to rain on and off all day.

Thinking: this is a cosy Saturday, yes, doing no craft feels like wasted time, but its better to rest and get better.

Admiring: all the Fairisle knitting on Instagram, I like spotting the current trends in knitting and crochet.I tried a bit of crochet one day this week, but decided it’s not a good idea if it causes discomfort.

Sorting: photos online.

Getting: an easier way to import them, by a happy accident.

Bookmarking: recipes for next week.

Coveting: longer finger nails.

Disliking: the way nail varnish looks good for roughly only 6 minutes.

Opening: last year’s varnishes and finding they’re now glue.

Giggling: at Grace and Frankie still, an episode every now and then is the way to watch.

Feeling: spoilt for choice with Freeview, The BBC iPlayer, Netflix and Prime.

Snacking: on raw carrots, as always.

Helping: people needing some encouragement and a little positivity.

Hearing: a little bit of traffic noise.

Mixing: nothing today, drinks last night….

Worrying: about the usual stuff.

Slicing: an onion a day for most dinners, what would we do with an onion shortage?!

Celebrating: birthdays

Forgetting: nothing important, so far.

Winning: £2:90 on the lottery Friday.

Pretending: it’s time for breakfast (at 12:36.)

Sneaking: no sneaking.

Embracing: the special ones.

Taking Stock list from Pip’s marvellous Meet me at Mike’s if you fancy writing one too.

Have a good weekend all! (I feel better post-breakfast.)

Lambkins!

Another Tuesday walk with my friend B and this time it was at Stowe, a National Trust garden. There’s fascinating history to the house and estate (see here.) During a tour several years ago I heard lots of stories about Queen Victoria. She visited in 1845 when it was owned by the second Duke of Buckingham. She was not impressed with the over-spending and complained a lot about the opulence, he became heavily in debt. The house later became Stowe school in the 1920s, a private boarding school, but as you can see you can walk right in front of it. The school donated the gardens to the NT in 1989. I’m very glad about this, as it’s a superb place to visit.

Daffodils are appearing everywhere now. I love their bright yellow cheery bobbing heads. They seem to be extremely resilient to low temperatures, blasting winds and the snow we have experienced again over the weekend.

Primroses, I also love seeing these little pretties.

OH LAMBKINS! These were a lovely surprise, my first glimpse of lambs this Spring.

There were plenty of dog walkers walking the route. All were on a lead of course, but neither the lambs, nor ewes seemed worried by the dogs going past fairly close on the lane.

You can stay in this Gothic Temple, a folly overlooking the gardens. Someone was I think, as some of the lights are on and there was a car parked at the back. I’d love to have been invited in for a peep…

Imagine how spooky it would get at night, maybe red wine and plenty of it would help. Maybe not.

It’s ok Mum, I’m not coming close. I’ll just use my zoom.

Lambkin on the right is smiling! He looks glad to be alive.Rachel means ewe in Hebrew. There’s a random fact of the day for you.

The beauty of walk in Stowe gardens is that you never know what you will see next. There are sculptures, buildings, bridges, a waterfall, an ice house (I always like seeing an ice house) and much more, plus a grotto that I had not come across before. The best way to show you is on this walking map, it’s a fabulous place to visit.

 

Who doesn’t love seeing a lamb? Or even a lamb piccy? That’s really why I’ve written this post. Why dress it up other than as a chance to show you some photos; to maybe make you go “Ahhh” and “Oooh!”

Knitting. Walking. Looking.

I can bear to show you this Hitchhiker again now. I undid about two thirds of the finished scarf. It was all ready on Christmas Eve to have the ends darned in, wrapped up and given the next day, until I noticed something rather strange. It was not a missed stitch, but a vertical row of 8 or so little stitches like plant shoots reaching up for the light. An alien encounter! I can’t believe I hadn’t spotted that and it was impossible to correct, without leaving a big hole. I must have picked up a stitch where there was none. I felt sick, so it’s been bundled away for weeks until I felt I could redo all that garter stitching. I’ve made good progress adding a little at a time. I took it to Knit group at the pub this week and knitted and knitted until I realised I was holding a mere 3″ of wool. Oops! I have more, so that’s ok. As much as I love this Tosca Light by Lang, it is pretty tricky to undo. It’s fluffy when knitted, so like trying to rip open brand new velcro shoe straps. In the end I got so fed up that I grabbed my scissors several times and ended up with about four balls. I’ll forget about those for now and start a new reserve ball.

Quote of the week was from a member of knit group: “I must come tonight, because I need someone to help me start my Stormtrooper!” It’s from this book. Some of the characters could be anyone, but I liked Leia, Chewy and the Stormtrooper. C3PO looks like a golden jelly baby.

My friend and I walked again this week. Another 6 mile jaunt through the countryside, with a pot of tea each at the end, peppermint for me and regular tea for her. All accompanied with non-stop chat. That’s got to be good additional exercise for the lungs, I’d have thought? We’d had a sprinkle of snow overnight and so the tea was really really needed by the end. BBBrrrrrr!

After the dentist we popped into an antique centre earlier. The above are dough troughs and a dough board. The prices are high but the personal histories and stories these could impart would be worth it for me, if only these items could talk. Did they come from the same old bakery? Was it commercial, or a large private estate where staff made the household’s bread? It’s impossible to know as the place is one of those where various antique sellers rent an area. You rarely see the procurer. If you buy anything their specific seller code is input at the till. I spoke to one guy as he was restocking, he said he goes to huge antique markets up north and buys whatever he thinks will sell. So, I guess it could be that this particular seller picks up various items and these could be random finds. Meanwhile as I wander around the rest I find I’m imagining a country mill, where local flour was ground and daily bread made for the community in the nearby bakery. These troughs and boards have finally been cleared out of storage, after gathering dust for years. The mill and bakery buildings have been purchased for redevelopment. It’s incredibly sad after well over a hundred years of use, but the business had to end. It was unsustainable as the locals were driving further afield for work and called in at Sainsbury’s on their way home for their daily bread. But these items had been used for decades and decades, the dough worked with smiles, tears and angry thumps of frustration on the mornings when the vinegary woman next door had come in to complain that the loaves were smaller the previous day. Henry the miller and Florence his …….

We felt the dough troughs could be fun to stand pots of hyacinth and other spring bulbs in, apart from that I’m not sure what you’d do with them! I only bake a couple of 2lb loaves at a time…. Isn’t this well put together? It could be a set for a Country Living type of magazine. I did subscribe to that at one point, but had to stop as I found it made me so envious of all the amazing properties and hugely expensive furniture! When I win my huge lottery jackpot I’ll be subscribing again. Now I look at the photo above I think that I should have sat the teddy up a little; he looks uncomfortable. There was something about this little chest of drawers which drew my eye. It’s funny really; as I think most of us would feel we needed to strip and sand it, had it got into this chipped and peeled state. But here it is and on sale for £65!Such a pretty painted chest of drawers. I am always drawn to pink and flowers. This is probably why I like so much of the Cath Kidson range year-round. I just didn’t realise how pink my yarn choices often are, until I updated my Ravelry projects page and saw it’s the dominant colour. This is despite my favourite colours actually being red and blue. The right sort of red yarn is not easy to find. I’m always looking, but often they’re too orange or verging on pink. When I see it, I’ll know it and make a cowl. They’ll have to wrestle the hook and yarn off me in the yarn shop and grab my credit card….Really? £55 for an acrylic crochet blanket in those garish colours!

What about you? Planning any exciting jaunts at the weekend? I’m off to the Lumiere, London Light festival with a friend tomorrow. First we’re going to the V&A for a new exhibition and naughty dinner will be at a GBK.

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?