Reasons to be Cheerful

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Homemade cinnamon buns with a toffee sauce and clementine glaze. Nuff said!

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I’m going to admit that I started this blog post with rather gritted teeth. I feel like I’ve finally hit the wall this week. We’ve been in lockdown to varying degrees coming up for a year now. It’s worn thinner than thin.

Getting out into the garden to photograph the flowers earlier was a good decision. I also had a nagging feeling that if I didn’t blog today, I might well not blog again. It’s been proactive to list reasons to be cheerful. It’s a bit like smiling when you don’t feel like smiling, but by the end of the fake smiling, you are genuinely smiling…

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I really appreciate it when you read and comment here or contact me privately elsewhere. Tell me a few things. How are you feeling? What are your reasons to be cheerful right now? Have you made anything as sinful as my cinnamon buns? (Ha that’s a hard challenge to beat!)

Taking Stock – January

Making: freeform crochet pieces. Having a play around with scraps of DK. Also I’ve been trying Russian Joins versus Magic Knots to make a scrappy yarn ball. Magic knot wins, but not by much. I think I’d rather darn ends and make small motifs with scraps. Or donate to a school for craft. The knot is too hard to hide in crochet. Have you tried either, or freeform?

Cooking: Cullen Skink with homemade cheesy rolls. Delicious dinner!

Sipping: Vanilla & Macadamia coffee. Hawaiian coffee I was given for Christmas

Reading: Things in Jars by Jess Kidd, still…. I keep reading and reading, but I never seem to get to the end. I don’t know what’s happened to my reading speed. It’s a pretty good book, though quite dark so don’t read it if you’re not feeling in good spirits

Waiting: still waiting

Looking: at all the hellebores, snowdrops and croci that are appearing everywhere. They are a welcome sight!

Listening: to Taylor Swift’s Willow on the radio

Wishing: for a dry weather, blue skies and sunny day again SOON

Enjoying: Friday baking sessions. During January I’ve made focaccia, cornbread, stem ginger & sultana fruit loaf, cheesy rolls and lucky dip cookies

Appreciating: having a comfortable warm house in a quiet area

Eating: 30 plants a week. It’s quite fun listing them and seeing how well we’ve done. I’ve been reading and listening to Tim Spector guesting on a few podcasts to talk about gut health and diet

Liking: Simon Mayo’s announcement that he’s coming back to hosting a Drivetime show in March, on Greatest Hits Radio. I’m hoping there’s no, or at least few ads though, my listening loyalty depends on this to a large extent

Loving: crocheting and knitting regularly

Buying: Daffodils, they’re £1 for a bunch for instant sunshine, delivered with my groceries. “Hello there!” I say when they open.

Ah these went to the Great Compost Bin in the sky garden the next day and were greatly missed. Until the next bunch was delivered a few days later…

I’ve been in two shops in four weeks, one was the P.O. I miss museums, browsing large Sainsburys, local pubs, going to London, walking by the sea, travelling on buses and trains, going out for lunch with friends, buying new clothes, buying freshly made sushi …. the list goes on

Managing: to stay steady and plod on. We will get through this. I’m so sorry though for those who have lost their lives and their people who are grieving

Yes, we’ve had proper snowfall! This is a dodgy looking Snowhare we made the weekend before last. Enjoyed driving to visit my Social Bubble person and seeing lots of snowmen (and an impressive snowdog) on verges and by front gates

Watching: It’s a Sin on All 4. The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix. Taskmaster series also on All 4. We’re taking it in turns to choose past series. At the moment I’m watching and cringing / laughing as the series features someone I used to know when they were a child and babysat occasionally…!

If you fancy a silly, fun film then try ‘Tag’ a film on Netflix (or for a small price it’s on Prime)

Hoping: they vaccinate a second time soon. Three family members have had the first so far

Wearing: my favourite fleecy top

Following: the ShantyTok thing on TikTok. I’ve always enjoyed a good sea shanty

Noticing: the lingering daylight at 5pm, it’s definitely lighter later

Sorting: receipts

Getting: a pint of whole milk every week for porridge. It’s a game changer

Bookmarking: recipes. Always the same answer. I made a chicken orzo pasta bake last night, based on one I cut out of a magazine last year. As always I tinkered with it and added lots more veg too

Stem ginger & sultana loaf – lots and lots of sultanas, it was chock full

Coveting: FREEDOM

Feeling: restless for a long walk later. A 5-6 miler. Please don’t rain (as forecast)

Hearing: the heating clicking

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I’ve been adding to this list during January, but hadn’t got around to writing it up properly. Oops!

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What are you up to? (Particularly if you’re in the UK, or somewhere else where there’s also a longterm strict Lockdown. Are you managing to stay steady? What’s occupying you?)

People’s spirit and steadiness here in the 1940s has always been lauded. But what’s struck me lately is in the midst of great uncertainty, fear and loss, people are generally so uncomplaining. People are being stoic and carrying on as cheerfully as they can. It’s made me feel so proud of my friends and community.

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.

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!

Autumn days

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I really love autumn.

All this beauty

“This is proper England” I found myself saying this morning, on another Tuesday morning walk with my friend B. This is a stunning new find for both of us: Evenley Wood Garden. It’s one to return to through the four seasons, to see how it’s changed.

While there we heard a woodpecker, saw various birds and heard their birdsong, caught a group of about five beautiful pheasants picking their way through the undergrowth and came across no other walkers at all, no dogs, no children and no traffic noise. A perfect patch of England, and it was all ours for an hour and a half. I love this tall variety of snowdrops. Look! It’s a carpet of cyclamen.

Hellebores, my Mother’s favourites (along with snowdrops) and there were other colours too. I didn’t photograph any more though, as we are meant to be walking briskly while looking, not just stopping and staring slack jawed.

A stream runs right through the woods. There are various bridges to cross, but I drew the line at one which was little more than a plank. Guess who had walked a mere ten steps at the beginning of the walk, then slid in slow-motion to the left, ending up lying in mud? B helped me up, like the old lady I felt I had become and then cheerfully stated: “It could have been worse; you could have choked on your pear drop!” I was walking and squelching for a while, until the mud and puddle water dried off a bit.

I came home and announced: “I’ve had a fall.”

“Don’t be ridiculous; you’re too young to ‘have a fall’, you’ve just fallen over in a lot of mud. Ha ha.”

“Hurumph!”

More cyclamen, and a close up of some of the patch.

I’m not sure what the yellow flowers are…something in the far reaches of my brain (aka custard) is whispering aconites. Am I right?

It’s Knit Night tonight, I haven’t been for weeks. I think the last, and actually only, time I’ve been this year was back in January. Then the call of the sofa and the recent Siberian weather made me cling to the tv remote and sofa, hard. It’s time to come out of hibernation now.

Is it the sofa for you, or are you heading to the great outdoors to socialise one/some/most evenings at the mo?

Snow!

This is what I woke up to on Sunday morning when I looked out of the window. SNOWFACE! Apparently I always get an excited, wide-eyed, slightly deranged look when it snows. I took a few selfies when we went for a walk and oh I really do have a snowface! Maybe that will be the expression I wear for a week month when I win the lottery jackpot. If you look to the right of the shed you can see that the snow was still steadily coming down. It carried on snowing all through the day. There was about 6″ when I took these photographs, it seemed to be falling at about 1″ an hour.The birds were out in full force using our feeders, lots of blue tits ate the nuts. They really looked beautiful with their yellow and blue against the white snowy branches. At one point I saw four pinging about playing together. Sadly they were too fast moving to capture on camera.Someone danced about so much with the snow shovel, while I took photos, that he dropped the shed padlock into the snow. I didn’t laugh at all of course. Ha ha!When I’m out and about in cold weather I have to work hard not to stare at people’s knitwear. I always fail spectacularly. There was nothing particular to report about the humans, but the dogs merit a mention. The sheer number of dogs wearing fair-isle patterned coats seem to indicate a strong trend. No, they weren’t woolly, but I liked this very stylish dog-wear.

There were so many families were out and about with sledges.  They were mostly plastic but I did see some of those classic Victorian type sleds, you know; the wooden ones with metal runners. The kind that can really take off and make you wonder if you’ll stop before you hit that huge tree looming in the distance.

Facebook was full of jubilation on Sunday afternoon as some learnt that their workplace or school would not be open the following day, but there were quite a “bahs!” from others up in the north. This included my various Yorkshire friends who had been promised a huge ‘dump’ of snow, but didn’t have anything much at all. We get snow so infrequently here that everything grinds to a halt (my best January one year was when we ended up having five snow-days during the month. I know we staff were high with excitement, but I’m not sure the parents felt the same….)  The roads are not always gritted due to funding cuts and so turn into skating rinks, bus companies undertake safety surveys and usually err on the side of caution about running any services, trains can’t seem to cope with snow. Cars get stuck on motorways for hours; as people don’t know how to drive in ‘extreme’ conditions, so there are jack-knifed lorries and multiple shunts. I know this is laughable if you’re in Canada, for instance, but that’s England for you.After an hour long walk in 1 degree temps I was pleased to get home and make a coffee. I used up the last of my limited edition Nespresso capsules. The type? Snowball! Coconut and vanilla.

I must do some more knitting as I’ve got to my last 10g of wool, so will be finishing my Mum’s Hitchhiker, just in time for Christmas. It always seems to be the same; I finish one thing after the other in a short space of time. Then the page will be clear for new projects, apart from the nagging matter of that half finished s—. I can’t bring myself to complete that word.

What’s the weather like where you are? Do you also have a snowface?!

West Cornwall


Walking part of the south-west coast path, taking numerous photos some in the same spots as last year and the year before: “But it’s so beautiful”, staring out to sea watching gulls drift slowly along the coastline, pasties and cake or an ice-cream for lunch, stopping for an afternoon pit-stop of cider and snacks, guessing how many steps we’ve walked; then checking the pedometer, planning which fish or seafood to buy for dinner, making G&T in slightly too small glasses, swigging the leftover tonic from the can, looking at the OS map and wondering what the weather will do, crocheting in bed in the morning while looking out to sea and listening to an Alan Bennett play….

Holiday.

Beautiful bluebells

Not many words are needed today. I’d run out of superlatives anyway; trying to describe the beauty of this bluebell wood. 

This year again we didn’t see any deer, though we did stand still several times when we heard rustling in the undergrowth. 

Mum, when I first started blogging, used to say: “You’re taking so many photographs!” Now it’s: “Have a look at your blog later to see when we came here last year.” And: “Take the bluebells in front of that magnificent horse chestnut. There are such pretty celandines here with bluebells behind, the colours look lovely together. Here’s a pretty group of cowslips.” She’s right of course, so I snapped them all for you. 
Here are blog posts from previous visits to the same woods, in 20142015 and 2016. I think you might recognise some of the trees and paths.

A crunchy walk

Such a good walk in the woods. We went at midday and the car thermometer was showing it was a mere 1/2 a degree. But by the time we’d walked for an hour and a half it had risen to a heady 3 degrees! The tracks would normally be very muddy, but today they were actually crunchy underneath your boots because they were frozen. I loved it. The best part is finding virgin ice on frozen puddles and stomping on it. There’s that satisfying crunch as the ice shatters.  It was silent in the woods, there was no one but us and birds singing in the trees. I swear the same robin flew from branch to branch following us all around.

I really appreciated coming home into a warm house, with the option of Spicy Lentil and Root Vegetable or Carrot, Ginger and Orange soup (see this month’s Red magazine for the carrot soup recipe.) I’ve been making soup every week, often trying some new recipes. I can easily make my own, without a recipe, but like to experiment. The next ones are Parsnip & Apple, Chinese style Chicken & Sweetcorn, Chicken, Rice and Miso and I’ve got a Sweet Potato with something linked in an email too. It’s the best thing to have in the fridge; especially when you’ve stomped around a frozen wood and need an instant winter warmer. 

Now the snooker’s on and I’m getting hints about how nice a Nespresso would be…then I’m planning to crochet at least two more rows on the Blackberry Ripple. I don’t mind the background hum of the snooker, but think I’ll plug myself into my  new audio book. It’s really good so far.

Taking Stock in May

The buttercups have just opened on the meadow, isn’t it glorious? I spotted a pair of swans with their signets

Making : cooked breakfast on Sunday morning

Cooking : cheese scones, not often but when I do mmmmmm

Drinking : Gin and tonic

Reading : The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes by Anna McPartlin

Wanting : to try knitting socks 
soon

Looking : at all the pretty lacy cow parsley that’s appeared on verges

Lilac flower – oh the smell!

In the bluebell woods with Mum on our annual visit, no deer this time!

Playing : Words with Friends, improving

Deciding :to finish the baby hexagons this week

Wishing : for half hexagon instructions in exactly the same pattern, no brain required

Enjoying : the sunshine

Waiting : for the weekend – the seaside here I come!

Liking : cantaloupe melon

Wondering : what to sew

Windsor. The Rumworth Morris (dancers) of Bolton

Loving : the birdsong

Pondering : the benefits of gym versus no gym

Considering : buying sock knitting needles

Buying: sushi for lunch often lately

Watching : Agent Carter, it’s fun

Hoping : for good Bank Holiday weekend weather

Marvelling : at how fast the birds are emptying the seed feeders

Cringing : at nothing this moment

Needing : the pool timetable, it’s a Google away

Questioning : nothing right now, unusually

Windsor castle and The River Thames

Smelling: my tomato plants

Wearing : shorts at home

Following : BeachHutCook on Instagram

Notcing : trends in recipes

Knowing : we’ve nearly run out of bird seed

Thinking : we’re making it easy for the starlings, nesting nearby, to feed their noisy young

Admiring : some photography on IG

Sorting : things for Ebay

Getting : irritated at bone crunching

Eton Dorney Olympic rowing lake

Bookmarking : recipes and patterns

Coveting : nothing apart from: a beach house, a luxury apartment in London and a round the world first class plane ticket

Disliking : the BREXIT / staying media drama

Opening : rice/couscous/bulghar wheat/ sugar packets which explode over everything

Giggling : at Peter Kay’s Comedy Shuffle

Feeling : annoyed at my seasonal achey knees, why do they do this?!

Snacking : trying mini Babybel Light cheeses

Helping : elderly people by picking up dropped things. Sounds odd? Look out and you’ll see it happens a lot in shops

Hearing : an aeroplane high above, a dog barking, the clicking of mouse

The Taking Stock template is from the marvellous Pip.

Spring Day and inspired by another Rachel

   
     

  
   
One walk – so many flowers, the air smells so sweet, the birds are singing their hearts out, the thwack of the cricket ball on the bat, warm 16 degree sunshine. England really does put on a beautiful Spring show.

Inspired by a talented friend who speed crocheted a cardi to wear to a wedding last Saturday, I borrowed Anna Wilkinson’s book from the library yesterday to check out the pattern. It sounds rather dodgy making part of an outfit for a wedding, but it looked so good on her; not dubiously homemade at all. She’s one stylish chick and just doesn’t seem to do naff. It must be the Art Degree, I always think people who are arty have a certain pizzazz. 

I’d forgotten how good a source of inspiration the library shelves can be, I’ve lost the habit of popping in to see what’s there. Reading The Little Shop of Happy Ever After by Jenny Colgan over the last few days has reminded me to use my local libraries. 

Want to see my haul? There’s so much I want to make now, after a bit of an uninspired time, visiting the library was a good move. 

  

  

 The question is can I crochet a cowl in an evening, tonight, to give to my friend tomorrow?  As well as drink G&T and a glass or two of white? 

 

A little walk

I wanted to test out my knee yesterday, I can’t tell you how cabin fevery I got resting it all last week. So we set off to look at the work of local artisans. Just a little stroll, gently does it, if it felt ok we might slowly wander to the next village too… 

                               The sun was out, it was lovely and warm. I love to feel the sun on my face as I walk, well who doesn’t? Cow parsley, buttercups and bluebells are in full bloom, plus who can resist stopping for a little chat with skittish calves, oohing and ahhing over lazy lambs and watching birds effortlessly soaring overhead?

We walked 9 miles, with a pit stop at a lovely country pub for a pint of lager shandy and bag of crisps. This was really not the plan! Luckily my knee is pretty ok. It was a lovely, lovely ‘stroll’ ! 

Have you had a good weekend?

Mock Cable Wristies 

All sewn up and ready to wear  for Autumn.

 It’s hard to get pictures showing the true colour; I think because the sunlight glints off the sparkles on the finished wristies, but these are very close.

Can you see the sparkles? It’s such a pretty pink yarn and incredibly soft.  It’s Louisa Harding Orielle, cerise, and is a DK yarn with 97% baby alpaca and 3% metallic polyamide – aka the sparkley bit. There are many other lovely colours too. I didn’t even intend to buy it, but saw someone in the yarn shop knitting the wrisites with the same wool, and before I knew it my purse was out and I had a bag with a skein and wristie qpattern in hand. They get you like that, don’t they?
The skein was 50g and plenty for the pair of wristies. I knit them with the 3.75mm needles specified in the pattern. Now the 3mm I’m using for the sock yarn feel even tinier.

If you want to knit your own wrisites I’m not really giving much away when I say you knit some rows of double rib for the wristband, mock cables until they’re the desired length, then a few more rows of double rib to finish them off. You can probably tell that just by looking.

You have a rectangle to sew up (mattress stitch is best I reckon), leaving a hole for the thumb. Make sure you carefully check that the thumb holes are in the same place for both….unless you fancy wonky mitts. Then go for it anyhow you please.

Earler I left my (still excellent) audio book, sofa and cold pack to venture outside, into the real world! I dropped some smoked trout off at a friend’s and admired that gorgeous wisteria. Then popped to Sainsbury’s. Getting in and out of the car with a tubi-grip on my knee made me pull ridiculous faces. I probably made a few Ow and Ouch sounds too. Well it hurt. I noticed an elderly woman in the car park with a “Buck up your ideas, for goodness sake!” expression on her face, and wanted to explain what it was all about. We don’t do this in England generally, so I hobbled inside towards the salad veg instead.

These two blog posts have cheered me up and made me laugh this afternoon: The Cat isn’t Speaking to me on Yarn Harlot and  Carry-all: a Soup Story on Cosy Made Things.

I felt dull witted for a little while in a ‘Where’s the problem?’ kind of way, because I’m not much of a knitter, then pretty superior: ‘I would never do that!’ in response to Kristen’s post. So all in all I feel fairly balanced now.
You?

Springtime at Cliveden 

                It continues to be a gorgeous sunny warm Spring here in the South of England. Walking at Cliveden (6.5 miles, now pretty much a breeze apart from really steep bits!) in beautiful sun, seeing abundant wild bluebells and primroses feels like such a treat. You need to catch bluebells while they bloom; it never feels as if they are around for long. I’m sure we usually go to the bluebell woods of my childhood in May, everything seems earlier this year. 

Here are some photos from Cliveden last Summer if you’re interested in comparing the planting of the parterre then and now. 

What’s the weather like where you are?

Weekend days

20130701-100431.jpgThe hunter-gather came home with a smaller haul than usual, but another good catch from a morning fishing session. Caught with a may-fly which is late for this time of year apparently.

20130701-100439.jpgSunny morning x stitch, starting a kit I bought last year from Liberty of London.

20130701-100451.jpgI fancied a spot of baking and had the ingredients to make an Olive, Onion and Basil scone. It was just baking when the fisherman arrived home with uncannily good timing.

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20130701-100520.jpgInstead of the usual (rather dreary) DJ one of my favourite comics stood-in, while the other was at Glastonbury, on Saturday afternoon. When we saw Rhod at a comedy gig last year I laughed so much I cried. I crocheted with cotton while I chuckled along to the radio.

20130701-100530.jpgAnother walk along the canal, but in a different direction this time, to look for some geocaches. We chatted to a local character who has noticed many people wandering up the nearby lane off the canal to peer into the underground, looking for caches. The we helped a woman with a swing bridge as her husband passed under on their hired narrow boat. In return for answering my quick-fire narrow boat related questions we heard all about her son’s recent graduation and future career plans. Funnily they were from the area of Yorkshire where we should have been for the weekend.

20130701-100537.jpgQuite stunning tree fungus. I imagine there’s a troupe of fairies who live around this ivy clad tree.

20130701-100546.jpgYou may coat the ground with concrete and with gravel, but we shall not be deterred from flowering.

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20130701-100602.jpgAll those heads ready to sprinkle their seed for more poppies next year. I must remember to walk here again.

20130701-100618.jpgIt’s unclear, but through a gap in the hedge next to the canal I spotted a white sofa and glass coffee table. It looks like an outside shoot for an interiors magazine.

20130701-100629.jpgThe lambs and sheep were going bananas in the field opposite. What a din!

20130701-100637.jpgAh, there are a shepherd and his lad shearing them.

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20130701-100703.jpg“Rachel, if you carry on stroking her too much she’ll follow us all the way home.” It’s so hard though, she’s a very young cat with friendly curious eyes, and a funny way of leaping in front of you for more love.

20130701-101350.jpgBack home to finish the last few rows of string bag II. It’s now ready for steam blocking.

Gentle fun, ended with some glasses of Pimms and a meal at a local pub with a friend. Happy days, after the disappointment of cancelled plans.

Even the cows think it’s hot

After my trip to the Grand Union canal in London yesterday, and recent waterside walks, I felt very inspired to visit the library to pick up some canal history books. Ramblin Rose by Sheila Stewart is going to be a treat. If you can get hold of a copy of Lifting the Latch then I recommend it as a fascinating read. If you’re interested I’ll pass on interesting snippets about canal life and history as I go.

I’ve always been drawn to photography of people, particularly from past times, and I think I’ve got some great bounty in these four books.

Although my family owned a boat and kept it moored in a marina ready to take on the canal while I was growing up, I’d never been on a traditional painted wooden narrow boat. Of course I was excited to see the gorgeous baby again, chat to her Mum and catch up with my other friend, but I admit to feeling a huge fizzle of boat related excitement all day! I came away as if after an interview with questions I knew I wanted answered and details I felt sketchy about, but hadn’t got round to asking. Maybe I’ll remember next time. I blame the rinky dink baby who stole the show with cuddles.

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Today it’s been summer! We’ve had mid-twenties here and I notice everyone’s dug out sunglasses, sandals and lighter clothes. We’ve got to make the most of the sun when it makes an appearance, in what has so far been a pretty dreary season. Tonight there’ll be a run on charcoal steaks, salad and beer at the supermarkets! I once thought it would be a nice surprise to have a BBQ after work; but when I got home found identical supplies as somebody else had had the same cunning idea. That was a funny moment.

When I went past the meadow after getting my mini canal book haul (plus some fiction) I had to stop and take photos of the cows having a paddle in the pond. The sight of all of them congregated like this made me giggle.

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They were all closest to me to begin with but the longer I stood nearby I noticed they gradually moved over to the next bit of water. One stared me right in the eye and let out a bellow, I told it to calm down and it carried on staring, seemed to wink at me and then ambled off to join the others.050

The grey sky must have been a heat haze because by the time I’d stood for a few minutes photographing and chiding noisy cows I was very warm indeed.

048I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing these English pastoral scenes. It’s a lovely country, and you know what they say: There’s no place like home.

Tonight I will begin my next new make, it’s something I’ve been thinking of trying for, oh, ages and ages. After the success of Monday’s posh cotton bib I’m feeling very inspired to try new patterns and makes.
Thank you for all your lovely *likes* and comments on the bib. It suits the baby very well. She looked SO cute wearing it. Actually I’ve told the baby’s mum that I plan to fill her boat with crochet. She said “That would be lovely, we love your craft.” Will she be saying that this time next year I wonder?!