Books I’ve enjoyed 001

The Aerialists by Katie Munnik is a fictionalised account of a true event which happened in Cardiff at the Fine Art, Industrial and Maritime exhibition in 1896. I was unaware of this exhibition despite it being on a scale to rival England’s 1851 Great Exhibition, held at Crystal Palace. It’s such an interesting story, but I do not want to give any spoilers. At it’s heart this is a story about Laura, we find out about the journey that brought her to the streets of Paris and her life with the Gauldrons. Her story, as you’ve probably guessed, involves flying!

I have to be honest and say that I felt there were some weaknesses in the writing and depiction of the behaviours and dialogue of the characters, particularly as it is set during Victorian times, but overall the story is a good one.

When you’ve read it look up the BBC article published on 24/07/21, 125 years after the festival. (Not before, because it will ruin the book for you.)

French Braid by Anne Tyler follows one family from the 1950s up to the pandemic present day.

The Garrett family take their first and last family holiday in the summer of 1959. They hardly leave their home city Baltimore, but despite this are not a close family.

I love Mercy, the mother of the family. She is definitely a free spirit!

As an Anne Tyler fan I read everything that she publishes, this was definitely a five star read, one of my favourites, alongside Breathing Lessons.

The Language of Food by Annabel Abbs is the fictionalised account of the real life and work of Eliza Acton, while she wrote her famous cookery book in England in 1837. The story also focuses upon Ann Kirby although no facts about her are known, beyond that she worked for Eliza and her mother. But her story helps to round out the book and is a good device to compare and contrast the differing lives and opportunities of the two women.

The Language of Food explores women’s freedoms (or lack of) and limited opportunities to work creatively under their own name. I felt the author successfully conveys the frustration and difficulties which must have been felt by so many.

And finally of course; the food! Luscious descriptions and well written passages illuminate Eliza’s process of developing and testing recipes. (Perhaps luscious is the wrong word for the recipe for brawn featured at the end?!)

Other People Manage by Ellen Hawley is written by a new-to-me author, but I will certainly look out for more of her books.

Set in Minneapolis in the 1970s, it tells the story of two women who meet in a cafe. Marge is a bus driver and Peg is training to be a psychotherapist. You find out about their relationship, the challenges and surprises they face over the next twenty years. Then one day things drastically change. It’s a story about family, love and loss.

I really enjoyed it; the style of writing and low-key tone reminded me of an Anne Tyler novel.

If you read this and don’t fancy making meatloaf (veggies excepted) by the end I’ll be really surprised!

One Day I Shall Astonish the World by Nina Stibbe. Have you read any of Nina’s books? If not, then do! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read Love Nina. And seen the TV adaptation. That’s one of my comfort reads / watches.

I also really liked Paradise Lodge, that’s great fun, with laugh out loud moments. I recommend the Audible version with Helen Baxendale narrating. She really cracked the Leicestershire accent, that isn’t easy.

Anyway, back to One Day I Shall Astonish the World; it focuses on the friendship between Susan and Norma. They are thrown together in a haberdashery shop in Leicestershire in the 1990s. Thirty years later Susan begins to wonder about the choices she has made in her life.

I’m sure all of us can agree that female friendships are weird, brilliant and challenging, when they’re good they can be one of the best things, but strange and stressful when they go awry. I think Nina Stibbe has captured this complex mix extremely well.

A Song for the Dark Times by Ian Rankin. I have a confession to make; this was my first book by Rankin, although I’ve heard him interviewed about every new John Rebus crime novel for years.

It was a bit mad to start with this one, because it is his latest. Number 23 in the series! I haven’t stayed up reading and chanting ‘just one more chapter’ for a long time, but found myself still reading this at 1 AM a few weeks ago. I just couldn’t put it down. I will look out for others in the series now.

Rebus is now retired, but definitely not planning on avoiding looking into other people’s secrets and crimes, he has kept hold of a large pile of folders of unsolved cases…

Before he evens finishes unpacking from downsizing his home, his daughter calls to say that her husband has been missing for two days. Rebus fears the worst and knows that his daughter will be prime suspect. He has to decide if he’s going to go to her as a father, or a detective.

The Keeper of Stories by Sally Page I read last week. It’s such a goody! I felt a little bereft at the end.

Janice is a cleaner and notices people always tell her their stories. (I’ve always experienced that too, so I was drawn to Janice.) Her rule is that she can save one story from each person, but she is very clear: she is the Keeper of Stories and doesn’t have a story to tell about herself. But when she meets Mrs B (who is no fool) things begin to change. Set in Cambridge this is a really lovely story about supporting other people, while finding yourself and realising what you do and do not want. There’s much empathy and masses of everything practical, including DIY. If Janice’s skills don’t leave you feeling a tad inadequate, then I’ll be surprised. There is lots of humour, I laughed out loud often. Look out for the dog. (Warning for the faint-hearted…he swears. A lot.)

Let me know if you decide to read any of the books I’ve recommended. Or maybe you’ve already read some of them? I’d love to know your take.

Time to make a G&T (it’s not Dry Lent anymore woohoo!) and quickly sort out what I want to watch. Someone is fishing with a friend this evening, so I shall make the most of the P&Q. New Grace & Frankie eps are now on Neflix, or do I rewatch The Split’s third series and cry all over again? Or…?

Happy Easter

Slightly more rustic than usual, their appearance didn’t affected the taste and a warm Hot Cross bun spread with butter for breakfast yesterday was a real treat.

I proved this batch of spiced fruity dough overnight in the fridge and so they were hard to shape well. But I like the fact you don’t have to get up 04:00 to make dough to have them ready in time for breakfast. It’s a good method. But I wonder if I can shape them before they go into the fridge next time? They were light and airy and that’s the important thing, I was a bit concerned before as each felt like a cold clammy piece of concrete before they went into the oven! It was still a fairly early start as I got up at 06:40 to take the dough out of the fridge so it could come up to room temp, then shaped and baked them an hour or two later.

Traditionally Hot Cross buns have always been eaten on Good Friday, although you now seem to be able to buy them in some shops all year round. Usually I would have bought a few packets in the lead up to Easter and debated the merits of extra fruity or extra spicy varieties and voted which store’s were best. But I always draw the line at marmite Hot Cross buns, salted caramel or cranberry. I just want the traditional spicy fruity ones perhaps with a bit of orange zest. This year I waited until I’d made the first batch on Good Friday. I have to admit that I find it a bit perplexing that people now want everything available ALL of the time. Some foods are a seasonal treat, strongly associated with festivals at specific times of the year. So why not wait and enjoy them then? Isn’t that what makes them special? There’s no reason why you can’t bake or buy teacakes or a fruit loaf in between anyway. Here’s a bit of history and info about Hot Cross buns because I know not everyone reading will have ever eaten them or bought them.

I really needed a walk last night. We wandered off around the fields as the sun was beginning to go down and it was perfect. Still warm and bright. Good Friday was a very good Friday; a day of socialising, eating delicious roast pork and then blueberry tart for lunch and catching up with family. And what a lovely day it was, gorgeously warm t-shirt weather, sunglasses and suncream on while we sat on the patio in the garden. The borders were full of flowers, shrubs displaying their new leaves and the apple tree was absolutely covered in pink and white blossom.

We had nearly walked our one hour loop and a hare streaked across the field in front. He had been ambling along and then suddenly stopped quite a distance ahead, looking fully alert, ears up. I think he must have heard us. When he took off, streaming across the grass, it was magical. We see hares often but I will never become blasé about it.

What are your plans today and for the rest of the weekend? I hope you are able to do whatever makes you feel relaxed and happy, at least some of the time.

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?

And there were lambs

My Star Blanket is slowly growing as I crochet another round and then undo half because I made a mistake. My concentration isn’t always great at the moment and my hands are sore from digging up dandelions in the garden, so it is a very slow process. It’s a lovely thick and warm soft blanket, so worth the effort.

I’m having a really good reading year, so far. I recently finished this and found it a good read, there are some interesting stories. Both sides of the family were so supportive of Ed and Yvette in their busy years. I loved reading about their family gatherings, and descriptions of family life with both parents being politicians. Appetite is part memoir, part recipe book. I’ve highlighted quite a few recipes in the proof copy I read on my Kindle. There’s nothing particularly exotic, but there are dishes that I haven’t made before, or those that I fancy making again. Cajun beans and custard are two that spring to mind. Ed Balls always comes across well on tv and this book portrays him no differently. It can’t be easy to write a book about oneself which is well balanced; not too self-critical or high in praise, Ed has managed it admirably.

Friends have given this five stars on Goodreads. At first I found the opening chapters rather twee, although I love the fact that it’s set in my home city. It’s enjoyable being taken back to when I lived in an adjacent street to one described by protagonist Esme, in her twentieth century setting. I remember cycling home from work and stopping in Jericho to buy a bottle of cider on a Friday night. It’s magical when you read a book and know every single place mentioned, isn’t it? I went into town yesterday because I wanted to buy some new tops in Seasalt, but mostly because this book drew me back to the city. I’ve found it hard to get back into the swing of my usual pre-pandemic (and let’s be honest it’s not over yet) activities and city life is one of them.

Anyway, I soon became engrossed in the story and now I’m finding it hard to put down. Have you read The Dictionary of Lost Words?

The only jarring note so far is that halfway through the (Australian) author has used the term ‘blow-in’ several times and it doesn’t feel right. I’ve never heard anyone use it here and thought it American. I’ve looked it up and according to the Oxford English Dictionary on my Kindle it is ‘informal, Australian slang’. Oh the irony!

Hidcote Manor Garden was looking stunning on Sunday. The magnolia trees are absolutely wonderful. Although I’ve visited many times over the years, I don’t remember seeing them in bloom, but then it only takes one windy day or a heavy rain storm for the petals to fall. This was lucky timing. Perhaps I’ve always gravitated there more in Summertime?

And, THERE WERE LAMBS!

I have a few videos of them hop, skipperty, jumping. Ahh the baas too, I’d forgotten how loudly tiny lambs can call. It was my first sighting of lambs this year and I stood on a log watching them for ages, absolutely mesmerised.

That was a little snapshot of some of my past week, what about yours…Have you seen lambs yet? Any book recommendations you want to pass on? Or new recipes? I think most of us love book and food talk.

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I’ve been wondering again about continuing this blog, I’ve had these thoughts every now and then over the last few years, since I haven’t been able to crochet or knit so much due to my sore hand. It’s not a very dynamic craft blog anymore. When I see all the colour work and inventive crochet being done on Instagram it makes me feel like I’ve been left behind. But then I looked at the numbers of new followers on my blog’s Facebook page and caught sight of the WordPress stats for this month alone and felt really encouraged. If what I waffle here is continued to be read, then it’s my pleasure to carry on. Thank you and welcome if you’re a new reader and follower.

Lots of yellow & grey

Gah! And this is why I should never crochet while drinking cider.

I realised that the stitch count was really off in the section with the stitch marker, but in my tipsy wisdom did quite a few decrease stitches to get the it right. Then I carried on going around and around. In the morning I realised I’d have to rip it all back, in an acknowledgment that it’s not my way of doing things. I’m a perfectionist and those rogue stitches would forever bug me.

The blanket was pretty large, so it took A LOT of unraveling and winding yarn. I undid the whole yellow section. Once again…Gah!

I keep thinking I should be at expert level now, these kind of silly mistakes where I have 17 stitches in all other sections and find 22 in another should not be happening…it was definitely the cider.

The Chevron Cowl made it up to the NE coast, just in the nick of time! I offered it to friends and Safron jumped at it. Of course she’s perfect for it; she never shies away from wearing bright colours, plus always looks great in yellow. Doesn’t it match perfectly with her grey beanie too?

We’ve been battered by the weather since last week. We had Storm Dudley on Wednesday, followed by Eunice on Friday, with 75 mph winds and then Frank on Sunday with 60mph winds and very heavy rainfall. There are trees and branches down, but luckily nothing worse. I did wonder if the conservatory roof would lift off at one point. It’s still intact, thank goodness.

I think (and hope) that’s it now. The morning is calm and sunny, so far. It’s half term around here and parents are breathing a sigh of relief to be out and about again. I can hear the birds for the first time in days. They must be ravenous. How does a little robin or wren withstand 70+mph wind? They must go deep into foliage and hide?

Thursday really was the calm in between the storms, fortunately we managed to get out and do a new 6 mile circular walk. With an unplanned pub lunch in the middle. Anything more than a snack was probably a mistake. There were still steep hills to walk up, to loop back to the starting point, but I enjoyed being out for lunch very much. At least I could keep pausing to ‘take photos of the view’ while not fooling either of us.

Aren’t those aconites beautiful? The leaves are such an unusual shape, sort of rectangular. They were next to a huge clump of snowdrops near to where I parked the car.

I wonder what the aconites look like now? The garden here is full of croci and surprisingly they haven’t been flattened. The Christmas tree went over in it’s very heavy concrete pot early on when Storm Eunice arrived. A huge clonk and then bumps and bangs, as rolled back and forth whacking into the side of the house. We had to run out and rescue it, into the safety of the garage. It was wild out there. Scary, but exhilarating too. The rest of the time it’s felt like Lockdown, taking advice to stay indoors and stay safe, out of the risk of falling trees and flying debris.

I was on a FaceTime call during Storm Eunice and saw a fat pigeon being blown sideways in the wind. That was pretty funny.

The other week I swapped a novel for this Mollie Makes Crochet book at an exchange. It’s fairly basic, aimed at beginner crocheters, but it has some little things I might make.

My poinsettia lost 90% of it’s leaves, as I suspected it would, so now the cyclamen takes its place. Something red this time of year makes a darkish corner a bit brighter and cheerful.

Are you reading a good book? I’m gripped by the latest from Lisa Jewell. I’ve waited months for it from BorrowBox the library app and it’s not disappointing. I read about half in a day. Book details here on GoodReads.

If you’re in the UK did you come through the storms unscathed? Maybe you’ve got snow or floods, or are sweltering in heat?

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

——

Can you believe it’s going to be September tomorrow, already?!

Taking Stock – March

Making: a plan to try acupuncture. I can’t seem to do any amount of crochet or knitting at the mo. I’ve given up knitting the monthly dishcloths for now

Cooking: Oat & Pecan Cookies

Sipping: Twinings English Breakfast tea

Reading: Another Life by Jodie Chapman – this was the book I mentioned before. I got an Advanced Reader Copy, lucky me! It’s published tomorrow. The tale of Anna & Nick was really compelling, especially as it’s the author’s debut novel. I found it hard to put down

Waiting: to be able to travel freely

Looking: at all the anemones, grape hyacinth & pink tulips which have magically appeared in our garden

Listening: to Lo Vas A Olvidar by Billy Eilish & Rosalia on Spotify. It’s beautiful

Wishing: we could return to normal, but I think it’s a long way off

Enjoying: some sunnier days

Appreciating: being back at home. March has been very stressful, I was away for 10 days

Eating: lots of veggies this week

Liking: Schitt’s Creek I know, I am so late to the party!

Loving: Cinnamon buns with St Clements glaze. I won’t try anymore CB recipes – this enriched buttery dough is the bees knees

Buying: mixed peel & raisins to make Hot Cross Buns on Good Friday

Managing: fine, with some sleep now

Watching: the New Taskmaster series on C4

Hoping: I get to catch up with lots of friends from now on

Wearing: scruffs – a furry fleecy lined hood! Up, so have a cosy head. Not a great look but it’s comfy

Following: embroidery videos on Instagram. Addictive viewing, very calming too

Noticing: Spring has Sprung. Yippee!

Sorting: clothes, with rising temps forecast my Seasalt short sleeved tops will be coming out. It’s going to be 21 degrees, then back to 10, but wow that’s mini summer for us… The smell of thousands and thousands BBQ will be all over the land soon

Getting: Glitter Gel Pens for Easter instead of chocolate, maybe

Bookmarking: that TikTok Baked Feta Pasta recipe, why have I only just read about it? Have you tried it?

Coveting: new clothes

Feeling: relaxed

Hearing: Richard Marks singing his massive hit (sad) song

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Thanks to Pip who provided the original inspiration for these Taking Stock posts years ago. I still like reading hers.

Tell me a few things about your March?

Taking Stock – February

Making: a bit of progress on my Coast Blanket, 3 more rows and I’ve finished another block.

I’ve done another 18 row repeat of my (probably not going to be a) dishcloth too. I just have the last 4 rows of plain knitting to do and it’s done. It’s frustratingly slow. Ah well. I’m glad I can still do bits and bobs Actually I have noticed bloggers I’ve followed for years, mentioning their tendon issues, carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis and such. All the crochet and knitting has caught up with us! Take it easy and don’t do too much in a sitting. BE CAREFUL

Cooking: olive focaccia. Last night I tried a third recipe, another sourdough recipe. This trebled – it was absolutely huge! It didn’t even look like focaccia. My starter is super powered. We hardly made a dent in it, but it tasted great. It also had massive air holes which was quite fun, but I’ll be going back to my first recipe which uses predictable commercial yeast. And looks like focaccia!

Sipping: on Saturday before dinner – Vagabond, a pale ale made by Scottish brewing geniuses BrewDog

Reading: Hungry by Grace Dent. I heard her on this podcast and immediately borrowed the ebook from the library, using the Libby app. So good. So good. I can’t put it down.

Waiting: Yep, we are all still waiting in England. I’m waiting patiently and feeling quite chilled.

Looking: forward to a holiday. Fingers and toes crossed!

Listening: to Madonna’s ‘Dress you up’ on the radio

Wishing: just to drive out of county. As soon as we’re allowed I’ll be off in all directions! Coast, National Trust places, shopping, museums, London, cafes, theatres, cinemas, short trips, long trips…I’d better check our cars over and make sure the tyres are up to all the driving. In the meantime I’m walking every day and enjoying it.

Enjoying: sunshine streaming in the windows. I woke at 7am and the room was full of delicious golden light.

Appreciating: birdsong, winter flowers, beautiful views, friendly people

Eating: lentil dal. I made what turned out to be my best ever. Just on the spur of the moment because I fancied some for lunch. Red split lentils, coconut milk, stock, onions, ginger, garlic, spices, fresh green chillis and a few chopped tomatoes. YUM

Liking: Taskmaster on 4OD still. We’re working our way through old series on 4OD. We take it in turns to choose. It never fails to make us roar with laughter. S2 now.

Loving: Lupin on Netflix, it’s French with subtitles. Don’t let that put you off, it’s fantastic. The story, the twists and music and …. Just watch the first episode and know that I’m winking at you

Buying: new walking trainers. I’ve gone through a pair in less than a year, as I walk so many miles

Managing: fine, thanks!

Watching: birds coming to the feeders. Love the cheeky aggro of the starlings raiding the mealworms and the hyperactive nervy blue tits

Hoping: for family gatherings

Wearing: scruffs

Following: changes in nature, loving all the greenery and shoots appearing

Noticing: much lighter earlier mornings and later afternoons

Sorting: socks. Wool walking socks shrink in the wash. When they’re all different ages it means I’ve got shorts, mediums and larges.

Getting: motivated with monthly goals. I’ll be reviewing them at the end of March and I’ll be setting new in April

Bookmarking: podcast episodes by searching for favourite comedians and listening to a range of shows

Coveting: summer evenings by the river with cider and a nice meal

Feeling: calm but keen for normal life to resume …

Hearing: the kitchen clock ticking

~~~~

What were your highlights of February? Was it good for you?

Plans for March?

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!

~~~

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…

~~~

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

~~~~~

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

~~~~~

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?!