March

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

And knitting with it too

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

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

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

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

Waiting: for an MRI scan date

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

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

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

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

Rainbow harissa chicken & fennel bake

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

Enjoying: making sourdough flatbreads for lunch one Sunday

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

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

Liking: that lots of National Trust properties reopen this month

Hidcote Manor Garden
Upton House

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

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

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

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

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

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

Noticing: buds on trees, daffodils, blossom and snowdrops

Following: the news…

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

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

Getting: stronger glutes

Coveting: can’t think of anything right now

Feeling: determined

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

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

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

The best flatlay background ever

Do you remember the Early Morning Cowl I made and sent to a friend last January? She has a crazy number of dogs: big dogs, huge massive furry things, middle sized ones and little happy yappy ones. She walks them very, very early in the morning in fields near her home. She often text me at that time and I always replied that I was snuggled in bed, with a cup of tea! She was the ideal friend to send a cosy knit. Not that many people suit mustard and it really suits her. I have a photo of her wearing that first cowl, it was straight out of the envelope with post dog walk crazy hair, her smile is huge as I hadn’t told her it was done and posted. It’s a really lovely pic. But I don’t think she’d appreciate it being beamed around the world!

Here’s another more sedate version in soft misty grey chunky yarn. I started it (eek!) last January when we were deep in our third Lockdown. Now I love you all, you know I do, but reading that post again, I now can’t help wondering why someone, or even a handful of you didn’t say: “BUT Rachel, that’s not the only four WIPs you have, is it?! Why have you started more?” I seem to have become scattered, starting and not completing many. If you’ve read for the last decade (and I know some of you very patient lovelies have, thank you!) you know I always used to have a couple of things at the most on the go, finished them and then thoughtfully decided on the next. Now, not so much!

Perhaps continually starting new makes reflected my lack of concentration during that stressful period? Or trying to get some variety in a very dull time. Due to the Stay at Home rule we mostly all stayed indoors, apart from tramping round the fields during daily exercise sessions and tried hard to restrict the baking-eating-baking-eating habit. That left craft and reading, along with unfulfilled intentions to learn Italian, write a book and stop biting my nails.

The bees were buzzing around in the heather flowers, such a welcome sound
Tiny tete a tetes in front of a lavender bush

This year I’m really determined to focus on one thing at a time in a bid to finally finish makes and cut them down to probably just THAT SOCK.

Green shoots on the lavender

I wanted to blog today, because it’s been a week and I felt like a chat, then I realised that you really, really don’t need, or probably want to see the Star Blanket yet again. That’s what I’ve been crocheting this week. So, I decided that it would probably be okay to have one crochet and one knitty thing on the go. It’s still keeping focus and not flitting madly about. That’s why I delved into one of the top layer of my project bags and found this cowl. I added an inch or so to it after lunch, before doing an hour’s tidying and pruning in the garden.

All the colour out there is so pretty now. I spotted lots of new growth which feels an encouraging sign of Spring. It was a real pleasure to be out in the sunshine, tidying up stray leaves, branches and twigs that blew down in the storms and to prune back some of the perennials. I cleaned the bird feeders too.

Someone spied flowers on the rosemary bush. Pretty pale mauve, aren’t they?
Anemones
Cyclamen with a cheeky anemone which has come up in the middle of the clump
Hellebores are so elegant
Many clumps of tulip leaves all around the borders, I can’t wait to see the flowers

I’ll share the Early Morning Cowl pattern shortly. It’s a little iffy timing as we’re heading into spring here, but some peeps in the Southern Hemisphere are heading into cooler temps. Plus I guess there’s plenty of time to knit one, or a stack, ready for autumn. It’s a really easy knit.

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If you’re feeling powerless and crafting helps to feel like you’re doing something to help the people of Ukraine, there are lots of ways to join in to raise funds for charity. Today I saw a gorgeous free sunflower pattern which Carol, aka Dansnan, on Insta has designed. Here’s the pattern. It’s a good use of brown and yellow oddments of yarn.

Mother Hookers are a crochet group based in Doncaster, which is in the north of England. I love following their community crochet projects. They are currently asking for sunflower brooches which they will sell in order to raise more money to send to the DEC (Disaster Emergency Committee.) They state that the Government has pledged to match donations up to 20 million pounds. All the details are on the MH page, linked above. Or perhaps you’d like to sell some within your own community?

4 WIPS

Hello there, despite the least variety, or many plans to look forward to (apart from Zoom meetings, online singing classes, FaceTime drinks with friends and family and excellent roast Sunday lunches some weekends, which all equate to the most amount of time we’ve spent inside at home) it seems to be over two weeks since I posted. I’m not quite sure how that happened; because after I wrote my Yarn Along post I was buzzing with ideas for more posts. Time and opportunity has not been an issue!

Anyway, thank you so much for your comments on my last. It was so nice to hear from so many of you. Your comments all made me smile.

I’m going to jump straight in to show you what I’ve been doing for the last few weeks. I still only do a little at a time as I can’t crochet or knit for long periods, like I used to. But I’m thankful that I can still do some, as long as I stop the moment I feel a twinge of hand or wrist pain.

What I’m making has to be quite simple. I’ve tried more intricate patterns and unfortunately it’s still a no-go, unless I crochet or knit just a little, for about 10 minutes at a time, and that’s really unsatisfying. I’m happy with all these makes though, and hope you enjoy your peep at what I’ve been up to…

I kept seeing these Vintage Flower Hexagon motifs on Insta. I haven’t seen anything quite like this before, it makes me think of Orla Kiely designs. I bought Atty van Norel’s pattern on Ravelry. Really pretty isn’t it?

I’m using chunky yarn and so my motif is 18cm across. The slightly wiggly shape will sort itself out when joined with others.

Yep, it’s back! I had stopped this Star Blanket with a view to it being a baby blanket. But I kept eyeing it, wondering about continuing. It’s really cold weather here and a chunky blanket is the nicest thing to sit underneath while you work on it. Today it’s 3° but feels like -1° according to the BBC Weather app. We had quite a good fall of snow yesterday. The Snowhare we made in the garden is starting to tilt as it melted slightly today, but there’s still plenty of white stuff around.

I unravelled a few rows because I’d spotted a stitch or two I wanted to re-do, and hooking those rows back up made me remember how deliciously tactile it is using chunky yarn and a 6 mm hook. I’ve got quite a lot of Paintbox Simply Chunky yarn as Lovecrafts.com sent some to me to try last summer, so I’ll carry on and see what size it becomes.

If you haven’t tried Paintbox Simply Chunky yarn yet, do. It’s so soft and makes a really squishy fabric. It’s 100% acrylic but has a really nice feel. This isn’t an advert or an affiliated link, it’s genuine enthusiasm for a new find.

I know that some of you are waiting for the pattern for my knitted cowl, but like an idiot I sent it to my friend before I worked out a few details for the written pattern. She sent me a picture wearing it when she’d just received it. I hadn’t told her when it was posted as I thought a surprise would be really welcome in this bleugh time. Her little face was a picture of joy, so I can hardly ask her to send it back. So, I’m starting another and this time trying to be a little bit more professional about things…!

I’m so enjoying making these large granny squares. My hand feels most comfortable using this fairly fine DK wool blend with a 4 mm hook. This is what I often crochet when I make telephone calls. I wear my hands free ear pods and we chat about all sorts while I do some hooky.

I started the blues and greys square on holiday in September, in Cornwall. I bought a couple of balls of Hayfield Spirit DK yarn, a wool blend, and a hook in Penzance. It was pure pleasure sitting up in bed in the earlyish morning, in our holiday house further west, looking at the sea views, with the sun sparkling on the water. 

Sadly I can’t get any more of the yarn at the moment. Wah! I contacted Sirdar as I’d searched on many yarn company websites for the colour shades I need next and it’s a no-go. I can get maybe one colour blend, but not all. Apparently the lack of availability is down to Covid and Brexit. The terrible twins.

Still, there’s plenty here to keep my hands busy. What about you? Tell me what you’re making and busy with, please.

Yarn Along – January

I’ve got some ends to darn on my cowl. I can send it to my friend tomorrow and then it’s officially my first make of 2021. Done. I’ll write up the pattern tomorrow.

I snuck into the Post Office yesterday to buy stamps when it was quiet in there, because the fewer the people, the better. The fewer the shops I go into at all, the better. Preferably one Grocery Delivery a week and if we haven’t got it, we’re not having it.

The News here is grim: we hear the number of deaths every day (I read this morning that we reached the total number of deaths in Australia in just one 24 hour period) that there’s a staggeringly high rate of new infections with the mutated virus which is more easily transmitted, and the NHS is close to being overwhelmed. I have had people who live abroad contact me, concerned about the news from the UK and about our third Lockdown, which came into force on Tuesday. Some are surprised. They thought we had it more under control here….

I am glad for books and reading. It’s even better than tv or films, for absorbing myself in other worlds and times. I read until 01:15 this morning. I feel very bleary today, but I got so wrapped up in Sophie Hannah’s Haven’t They Grown. Here’s a brief outline; Beth hasn’t seen her friend Flora for a dozen years, she passes her former friend’s area while taking her son to a match. Parking by her house, Beth sees the children again. Not sounding very exciting? Well the thing is that they are still precisely the same. Still three and five years old, twelve years later. What’s going on?

I’ve now read 58% of the book and really hoping the mystery isn’t going to be a massive let-down at the end. My mind is powering through all sorts of ‘explanations’ I tell you. Absorbing stuff.

I’m listening to Jess Kidd’s Things in Jars, this couldn’t be more different. Set in Victorian London it’s the tale of Bridie Devine, an unconventional lady detective who is hired to solve a very tricksy kidnapping. As with The Hoarder (Titled Mr Flood’s Last Resort in the USA) Jess Kidd writes in a very compelling way. She has such a unique style of description. The audio isn’t going fast enough, always the sign of a good book for me, so I’m listening to a chapter or two and reading a few as I go too.

Please take a few minutes to leave a comment: tell me what you’re knitting or crocheting? Tell me if you’re reading anything good, or is it bad? Is it awful? Are you just about to give up and pick something else? Maybe you’re not reading at all; you’re binge watching Netflix instead?

I know you’re still reading these posts, I see my WordPress stats and familiar names of readers on Bloglovin’ who have read for years and years. It was my NINE YEAR blog anniversary on New Year’s Eve, so WP informed me. Wheee! Can’t believe it’s been so long. I really appreciate you checking in every time I write, but it’s feeling increasingly like I’m calling into the wind. Tell me something hey? Anything. I’m winking at you.

Happy New Year!

A snapshot of some of my last day of 2020 and the first of the New Year yesterday.

Home based and staying local, as it must be right now, it’s been cosy.

Baking: Spice Biscuits – AKA the less snappily named Edible Tree Decorations by Nigella. I’ll be baking these again as they’ve been voted ‘delicious’ by my nearest and dearest. Made for a New Year’s Day afternoon tea, they are perfect with a cup of tea. I made glacé icing and drizzled it with a teaspoon. Next time I’d use Clementine juice with the icing sugar, it would go so well with the spice.

Drinking: Taittinger to see the New Year in, after Zooming with friends in Scotland

Eating: cheese & biscuits

Spotting: gorgeous wreaths, it’s wreath heaven around here. I’ve got photos of 35 different wreaths I snapped on a short walk on Christmas Eve, this is another I spotted on New Year’s Eve

Walking: on New Year’s Eve it was a bright, but freezing afternoon. It has typically been 2° all day all week, sometimes with a scouring wind. As we turned around to walk home fog rolled in across the ridge, turning to look behind us we could barely see the path we’d just walked…

Enjoying: some of the last sourdough loaf of 2020 on New Year’s Day, eaten with smoked salmon, cream cheese, a squeeze of lemon juice and a grind of black pepper

Making: knitting my mustard & grey cowl. I know I can’t wear mustard yellow but I started knitting this anyway and hoped it might magically suit me. I tried it on and as usual looked jaundiced…d’oh! Mustard socks only it is. I offered this cowl to Facebook friends and one of my best possible people jumped at it. So pleased. She has 5 dogs and walks them at dawn, the cowl will help to keep her warm. I’m using Paintbox Simply Chunky yarn.

I’ve sent plenty of knitting and crochet makes to charities, but there’s always something really special about making for friends and family, knowing you’ll be keeping them cosy.

Goal setting: I set a challenge at the beginning of last year to Walk 1,000 miles again. Totting up the final score yesterday I found I had walked 1,056 miles in 2020. So, this year I’m upping my goal to Walk 1,100 miles. The first walk of the New Year was wonderful. Another crispy cold day with lots of icy puddles and glinty foliage as the frost melted, raucous ducks who seemed to be laughing at a filthy joke and a fun chat with a Mum who had roller skates for Christmas and who was practising her skills. Such a refreshing change to see an adult with a new Christmas present. Usually it’s children’s shiny new bicycles, scooters and bells… (and weary Dads carrying them.)

What were your highlights of the last and first days of 2020 and 2021?

Happy New Year to you – let’s hope we can go further afield and meet up with more of our special people this year. Fingers crossed that things change for the better in 2021.