Yarning Along: still hot 


This is possibly the laziest ever photo I’ve taken for my blog; sitting on my bench in the garden I threw my knitting down and clicked (it is 32-33 deg today.) You might be thinking my sandals do nothing for the picture, but I like that blue contrasting with the grey and grape stripes…

I’m listening to I See You by Clare Mackintosh and am finding it gripping in much the same way I felt at the beginning of my last audio thriller (The Girl Before by J.P Delaney.) I seem to be having a bit of a run on them. I do like trying to figure out what’s going on. I worked out the last fairly early on though, and was disappointed to be right. By the end I felt that I liked, but didn’t love it. There needs to be some clever, gasp out loud, twists to really impress. Let’s see if this one can accomplish that task!

Yarning Along: 
If you’d like to share what you’re making and reading this week, leave a link to a current post in the comments and I’ll add it here. Don’t forget to link back to this post on your blog, and use #yarningalong on social media, so others can find us and join us in Yarning Along.


I’ve had quite a few people say they’d love to join in but they don’t read fast/much/at all. Books are books, and non-fiction counts! Recipe books, craft, gardening etc etc, I think we just like to see what each other are reading. 

1: Nice Piece of Work

2: One Creative Cat

3: Simply Summer Street

4: Vikki Bird Designs

5: Needles & Wool

6: Wooly Cakes & Wooden Spoons

Hotter than Ibiza

My friend just sent a photo on WhatsApp of her legs up in the garden, with a glass of what she claims is water. It looks suspiciously like a vodka tonic to me but I don’t blame her if it is; as today it’s been hotter than Ibiza, Paris and New York, to name a few. 31 degrees! That’s hot for a country whose houses are all well insulated against the cold, where most people have wall to wall carpets and noooo A/C.

The frogs (we think, though maybe they’re toads and we’ve mistakenly identified them for years?) are taking it in turns to bask on the edge of the water tank in the garden. This is a tiny one. The bigger one was there yesterday and you can see s/he here

I tried to do some crochet, but it was really too hot and I had to give up when I realised the yarn was actually squeaking through my fingers….that’s pretty gross isn’t it?!

Instead I used my Nespresso machine and aeroccino to make iced coffees for the first time. Oh yes, there will definitely be more of these scrummy drinks.

For one iced coffee: make 40ml of espresso coffee, 90ml of cold frothy milk and 1-2 tsp of sugar syrup. Pour the hot coffee over lots of ice, mix in the sugar syrup and then stir in the milk.

I made a jar of sugar syrup for cocktails a while back and was so glad it was already there sitting in the fridge. I reckon an iced coffee habit is impending, so I’m sure I’ll have to make some more!

Yarning Along: something really easy


After meeting Phil of The Twisted Yarn on Yarn Shop Day I met up with her and some of her knit group at a very nice village pub last night. And of course I made the rookie mistake (which I make time and time again) of not taking something very, very easy. So, some of the time my fingers were moving across my Wave Blanket trying to quietly check my stitch count…..4,2,2,4,2,2,4 and work out what I needed to do next. It was ok in the end, after a bit of undoing, but I know I need to start something really easy for when I’m social crafting; it’s dire otherwise for my concentration. It’s always my crochet or knitting that suffers, not my conversation. But then perhaps I can’t really be the judge of the quality of that, can I?! Phil and the others have invited me back, or perhaps it was politeness; it’s a very friendly group after all.

I’d decided that I really liked them after the first 15 minutes and so maybe unwisely launched into tales of other knit groups. There was quite a bit of teasing about them being fodder for the next group I join. But, I’m being nothing but complimentary. It’s genuine too. Ah, I have to add that this was my first ever group where everyone started off crocheting! Not one single person sniffed at me and said “Oh, you’re crocheting. Can’t you knit?” It almost felt miraculous.

Please don’t ask me about the sock…there’s no news, yet. I just need to sit and concentrate on the next stage. You know by now that I am a prize procrastinator and so I’m excelling at delaying starting the heel. Instead, I have cast on to start Arne and Carlos Garter Stitch Blanket which is going to be super easy. Perfect for social crafting.

As for reading: last week I’d only just chosen A Ghost in the Machine from the library. Now I’m really stuck in and it’s exactly as good as I thought it would be; well-written, well paced and the lead up to the key event has been interesting. I’m reading a little every day, since there are quite a number of villagers and I don’t want to have to skip back and forth trying to refresh my memory with key facts.

If you’d like to share a photo of what you’re making and reading this week, leave a link to a current post in the comments and I’ll add it here. Don’t forget to link back to this post on your blog and use #yarningalong on social media, so others can find us and join us in Yarning Along.

1: One Creative Cat

2: Needles and Wool

3: Vikki Bird Designs

Basildon Park

  

These photos are from a visit to Basildon Park a National Trust property in Berkshire, which we visited on Sunday. I’m glad we went before the storms of this week, as I reckon the petals of the rose garden might now have been blown away!

The interesting thing about this is that Lady Iliffe didn’t die until 2007 and so there is a video of her speaking about how she and her husband came to buy the property after the War. It’s not very often that you have the opportunity to see and hear the last inhabitants of an NT house, for obvious reasons. They had seen it before, in the late thirties, and hadn’t forgotten it. One day they passed nearby, wondering what became of the place, and ended up joining Men from the Ministry of Works on an impromptu tour. It had sat empty for fifty years, apart from being requisitioned during both the First and Second World Wars. As you see it’s a solidly impressive building. It must have taken a big pot of money to renovate and restore; but as Lord Iliffe was a newspaper magnate, photographed with Winston Churchill and Lord Beaverbrook amongst others, that probably was not a huge issue….

 I loved the view from the gardens at the back. The Berkshire (pronounced “bark-sher”) countryside rolls beautifully on. We had a good walk in the woodland and looked around the house. It was good to revisit as I had memories of some horrible 1950s decor in the house in the early noughties (I think): a plastic bed-surround with a white plastic teasmaid and polyester bedspread. The lovely gallery guide told me the house was now much improved and we’d find it very altered. I was much younger (practically a child) that first visit and expected faded grandeur, not a pink telephone by the bed! 

When I win my pot of Lottery money I shall buy a Lifetime Membership of The National Trust. It’s always a great day out, with chances for a good walk too. (This reminds of a film we had a recommendation to watch: Golden Age, it’s fun and has a fantastic British cast.)

Greys Court 

Such a lovely day at Greys Court, National Trust property, yesterday.

We did the woodland walk and ended up sort of mindlessly following a couple who were far ahead along the path, although for most of the time we hadn’t seen anyone else at all. I’m glad there were still some bluebells out. The upshot of following others, and not taking much notice, was that the 1 3/4 mile trail turned into 3 miles! But actually that’s perfect as 1 3/4 miles is not really a long enough walk for me. Things turned a bit surreal when we got chatting, as we all tried to find the official path, and I recommended they visit The Fan Museum in Greenwich, not so much for the fans but for a perfect example of a merchant’s London townhouse. She then mentioned a town up north where there are a number of great NT properties to visit. He interjected with “Oh, where your friend X lives?” And I’m not sure why, but I asked if it was the X married to X? This is something that’s always amused me when I’m travelling abroad; someone will ask if I know Liz in Ealing when I mention London. But, would you believe it was the same X who is indeed married to X! The woman and my friend are trustees of the same charity and know each other very well. It just shows that however random the question seems, sometimes it’s really worth asking.

We then moved on to girl-talk about the best place to buy girlie shoes while the men plodded on behind, trying to make sense of the map and find the correct path! Eventually we four found ourselves back at the car park and had completed our circular walk, in a wiggly fashion.

I really love NT days out as there’s usually a good chance to walk amongst stunning countryside. They’re often built on the side of a hill so there are plenty of great views and you get out of puff, which always makes you feel like you’ve done a ‘proper walk’. Of course then there’s a cafe or picnic, if we’re really organised, for lunch (and cake?) at the end. Basically if you’re stuck for what to do on a Sunday, I’d say choose to visit a NT property for: great walks, gardens to explore, a house (…cottage, townhouse, manor, priory, windmill, castle….?) cafe and shop. The free tours can be fascinating and well done too.

I spend much of the time imagining I’m the lady of the house wandering around. Or perhaps the Governess, or the house-keeper. When I’m not drifting about in a day-dream I find the other visitors are usually friendly. I always end up chatting to someone anyway. I’m not keen on some dogs, but they all have to be kept on leads and are mostly the relaxed and well behaved type of family dogs, that don’t make my hands sweaty and my heart race.

Greys Court have a very easy and unfussy system of selecting free flow tickets to see the house; we simply selected our own ticket from a box for the time we fancied. It was so much easier than being offered and accepting a specific slot, without time to think and opportunity for a quick conflab. I am so glad we left 2.5 hours for exploring, since our prolonged walk and leisurely lunch were not rushed at all. By the way: I always go for the ham salad sandwich at NT cafes as I reckon they’re usually the best.
The gardens were a delight too, kitchen gardens in particular fascinate me. I stroll along imagining snipping a bit of this and digging a few of those to cook. Or in Housekeeper mode it’s the kitchen lad or maid, of course. It’s also the pleasing parallel rows of vegetables that are so soothing to my orderly soul. (Another word is sometimes used, but I live with a barbarian.)

Mum has been telling me for a while that I should visit when the wisteria is flowering. I see why now. The scent was heavenly and it wasn’t at its best either; after weeks of very dry weather, then torrential rain. Plus I guess it’s coming to the end of its flowering season. I’ll make a note to go back next May…

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Record temps for September!

It’s 27 degrees and beautiful outside today. This week we’ve had high temperatures which haven’t been reached in September since 1911. 1911! Before going to Cornwall last week I had begun to anticipate making Autumn food soon: soups, casseroles, fruit crumbles and such; but the fridge freezer is still fully stocked with salad veg and plenty of ice cubes! 

This lunchtime I’ve been trying to work on my ripple but it’s really too warm to have on my lap. I’m listening to a new audio book Moving by Jenny Eclair now. I don’t think you can see the book’s cover on my iPhone, the sun’s too bright. 

I’ve really got the holiday blues today; the first thing I said on waking was “Where’s the green hills and the sea all around?” It was so quiet there too. The tiny lane running past the cottage was silent most of the time, the nights were as black as pitch and the only sound you heard in the morning were noises from the field of bullocks nearby, warning each other off. Still, I’ve bought my lottery tickets and you know to find me in deepest darkest rural West Cornwall if I suddenly disappear…

I’m joining in with Ginny’s Yarn Along again. 

Six things


My first sweetpea! I planted these late this year, and then because of the recent weeks of dry weather they got covered with  aphids. I thought the chance of flowers was zero to none. But I got rid of the aphids, carried on watering every day and now look at this beauty. There are plenty more buds too.

On Tuesday we met up with Trish of Made by Patch blog and her family, including Grandma and Grandpa Patch.  We’ve been in touch through our blogs since 2012, but have only met once before, last Spring. It doesn’t seem to matter; when you’ve been the 21st Century equivalent of pen pals for nearly five years you do feel like you know each other. We all had a lovely meal together and I had birthday presents! Birthday presents made by Trish’s clever father. I’ve been wishing for one of his yarn bowls since she posted a picture of hers. I now need to learn how to use the nostepinne, to wind centre pull yarn cakes, apparently there are videos on You Tube. I’ll show you my efforts when I’ve tried. (If they’re not too embarrassing!)

The time for my annual cross stitch has come. Oh, but if you’re a purist and check each stitch as you go for perfection, use a laying tool or trolley needle for ensuring the threads lie perfectly flat side by side or anything half as professional, please look away now. I’ve been googling tips for cross stitch, I really wish I hadn’t. Sometimes the truly professional take away all in the fun in something, don’t they?! I find summertime cross stitching so absorbing and relaxing to do, when the daylight is good and it’s not as hot as knitting or crocheting. My enjoyment is definitely in the process, not so much in having a perfectly perfect outcome.

A long weekend away in Lincolnshire and another BBQ in the field with friends and family. Just look at that sky! When it was truly dark we stood by the chiminea and just looked up at the stars. I think I need a guide to the constellations since I can only really pick out The Plough aka The Big Dipper.

Lincoln Castle and The Wave. I’ve now seen the commemorative poppies when they were at The Tower of London, The Yorkshire Sculpture Park (after Yarndale last year) and now, unexpectedly, in Lincolnshire. 

A visit to Waterperry Gardens yesterday and another bee on another thistle. I often seem to take a photo of these at gardens. I’ve just enjoyed looking back at posts of previous visits in August 2013, September 2014 and last March. The next time I go it will be for Apple Weekend in October, that’s a lot of fun; sampling so many types of Waterperry grown apples and trying to decide which bag(s) to buy. Then there’s the added choice of whether to buy juice too, cheese and maybe a pie…it’s a nice trip out.

If you fancy writing a post about five or six things you’ve done in the last week, then please leave a link in the comments below. I always like to know what you’ve been up to.

Thank you very much for all your likes and compliments on my Baby Hexagon Blanket, here, on Facebook and Instagram. They made my day.

Lately 


  • With a little help from my friend Trish, of Made by Patch blog, I’ve figured out how to crochet a half hexie so I can finally finish the little blanket off. Hurray! I’d worked it out apart from the beginning; where I was crocheting a chain of 4 and slip stitching them together. Ingeniously she chained 4, but then made the first stitch into the first chain made, making the other 3 into a treble – so no lumpy bumpy circle at the bottom in what should be a half. 
  • Cooking king prawn linguine – so delicious! You want to as well? Roast cherry tomatoes with a teaspoon of olive oil and a teaspoon or two of balsamic vinegar. While the linguine is cooking, gently cook the king prawns in another teaspoon of olive oil, some cloves of garlic and red chilli. Top with basil and a shaving of parmesan. What you can’t see is a hungry man with a slight frown on his face and his fork poised, while I make him wait to take a photograph of his dinner!
  • A gorgeous sunny, relaxed Friday with drinks and dinner at Samuel Jones Smoke & Ale House by the river Exe, in Exeter – thoroughly recommended 
  • A return, after about 14 years, to Lanhydrock a National Trust property, near Bodmin in Cornwall. It was just as good as we remembered and still one of the best houses; due to the sheer number of rooms to see. There’s an interesting focus on the upstairs-downstairs lives of the former inhabitants.

I’ve brought my hexies away with me, to deepest sunniest / rainiest Cornwall, but so far they’ve stayed zipped inside my Cath Kidson bag. I think it’s official: I’ve lost my crojo, or my crajo in general. I’m wondering if by putting this out there now it might mean I do some later?! But there are other things I AM doing: walking lots, as usual, visiting the gym to use some of the equipment, doing an Aqua Zumba class and rediscovering my swimming skills (used to be part of a swimming club.) As it was pouring yesterday morning we went to the local leisure centre to swim lengths, then played race and dive for the locker key and I even did a few handstands in the pool. I dread to think what the expression was on the faces of the young lifeguards! I don’t actually care. When I am old I shall wear purple…. (This poem.)

Gunby Hall & Gardens 

   
    
    
    
    
 Gunby Hall and Gardens in Lincolnshire were looking spectacular yesterday. Yes, this was yesterday not mid-July! What a beautifully warm day. Gunby is definitely one of our favourite National Trust properties of the year: the staff were extremely welcoming, but not intrusive, the hall and garden were immaculate, fresh produce from the garden is sold cheaply in the shop, I picked up a brilliant bargain in the secondhand book area and the coffee and walnut cake was delicious. Win win! 

On Saturday there was another BBQ in the field, the last of the year I guess now. If you fancy seeing a couple of the charity shop crochet blankets, which my cousin picked up for people to use when the sun goes down, then check out my Instragram pics (click on the camera icon in pink,  top right of this page). Because nether of us had made them, there was no worry about ketchup/wine/beer spills, sweet little cocker spaniels  jumping up to sit on your lap for a fuss, or whatever else! Apart from a China Teacup Poodle, which I used to have to suffer sitting on my lap in a friend’s car in Australia, this is the first time I’ve willingly had a dog sit on my lap. It’s actually ok, but I’m not making a habit of it. Cats though are welcome. 

Hidcote, again 

   
    
    
    
    
 It’s so lovely at Hidcote that you could visit every week and notice something new. In fact I know someone who once visited every month one year, so as to see the garden changing throughout the four seasons. She can give you the Latin and common names for most of the plants, describe where they used to stand in her last garden and where they are now planted in her new one.

 As for me I just like to sniff the scented air, admire the colours and shapes and imagine myself wafting around the garden with a book under one arm and a craft bag hanging from the other. A bell to ring for an afternoon gin and tonic, cocktail or pot of tea would also be good.

A summer weekend 

   
    
     

  
  
    
My cousin has a cottage in the middle of the Lincolnshire countryside. She bought the field opposite the cottage and now she and her Mister host BBQS for friends and family during the summer. It’s really lovely there. The skies are huge, you can see nothing but sky, fields and the owl flies over every day at five or six o’clock, depending on the season. He usually hoots me to sleep late at night too. 

To make the most of the weekend we fit in a lot of fun including: a visit to the smart shops and deli at Doddington Hall (must go back to see the quilt exhibition, or see if it moves somewhere else) a long seaside walk topped off with locally – Skegness – made ice cream at Mabelthorpe. It never changes at Mabelthorpe which is part of the charm of the place, that and the wide expanse of sandy beach. It was a good job we’d walked miles; the ice cream was followed up by freshly made doughnuts – the danger of burnt fingers is worth the bliss of the eating –  and then fish & chips in the excellent Monty’s. We also visited the pretty market town Louth with its plethora of independent shops, the Lincolnshire Wold Railway (a slightly unnerving experience, I’m not going to lie) a relaxed visit to a country pub nearby and a good look around Belton House and some of the extensive grounds on the way home. This is one of our favourite National Trust visits. I particularly recommend the Below Stairs timed ticket tour, it’s so interesting.

I’m loving making the most of the long light days and warm summer.

How can I have forgotten this – Colin Firth sits at the writing desk in one of the bedrooms at Belton House. Some of the house was used in Pride Prejuduce – though not for the wet shirt lake scene, as there is no lake! A sweet old man, who is one of the room guides there told us that you will see him in a room at Belton, then he walks out of it and into another – that is at another location altogether. It’s really cleverly edited, the continuity must be extremely challenging! 

 

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?

Glorious Spring sunshine

A long weekend by the sea, in glorious sunshine…  Sun, sea and ice-cream. The first of many this year, I hope. This was Friday at Bognor Regis after a good walk along the prom. It’s lemon meringue flavour; and had fizzy crunchy little meringue pieces mixed into the tangy lemon. I’m looking out for this again!  West Wittering has a beautiful sandy expanse of beach. On Saturday lunchtime it was full of happy dogs playing, kite surfers, kite flying families, horses galloping along the beach and walkers striding out in the sun. It was t-shirt weather again, woo hoo! Apart from watching others enjoying the beach, stopping to examine interesting looking pebbles (I have one with a fossil) and look for sea glass, we played ‘which one would you like’ as we passed beach houses. I like the chalet style on the right. What about you?   We’d walked 5 miles along the shore, not easy going on pebbles towards the end. We walked on sand some of the way, but the tide was coming in fast and covering it as we got to East Wittering and Bracklesham Bay. We stopped at the Medmerry Holiday village, which fortunately had a very comfortable pub. This gate made me smile as we walked back to the beach after lager shandy, crisps and a well needed pit-stop. (You know that feeling of relief girls?!)  How’s that for driftwood?  Although I had a rule that I wouldn’t start any new crochet until I’d finished the motif blanket, my fingers felt sooo itchy to do something. It feels like weeks! I packed my basket full of new yarn, but with the great weather for walking I didn’t open it at all the whole weekend. Evenings were for wine, a little chocolate, reading or a film. On Sunday we visited Uppark House and Garden. It’s become a tradition to seek out a new National Trust property on the last day of a holiday or mini-break. It’s perfect for a good wander inside and out in lovely surroundings, a drink and snack, then a good mooch in the gift-shop.

Do you remember my Wool Money post? I still don’t look at odds, history or jockeys or trainers, it’s completely randomly based on the horses’ names. As I sat on a picnic bench back at West Wittering on Saturday evening I checked the Grand National results, with the last 1% of my iphone battery. I leapt into the air and looked everywhere for the Mr. I probably looked like a mere-cat on sentry duty. One of mine had WON! Last year’s joint membership to the National Trust was funded by his lottery win, this year’s renewal is thanks to Many Clouds.    I had low expectations for the scent garden at Uppark, this early in the year, but wow! The scent from so many hyacinths was stunning. Unfortunately my nose and eyes ran for the rest of the day! Oh well, we’re heading to hay fever season. I’ve just checked my anti-histamine supplies and typically all are out of date. There’s obviously good business in the hay fever relief industry.
  Aren’t these fritillieries beauties?  I did start some new crochet (tut, tut) when home. It’s bright and sunny again today; so I’ll nip into the garden later to try to take some decent photos for you.

What are you up to?

Snowshill Manor & Garden

Yesterday we had yet another late Summer day; t-shirt, sandals and sitting outside weather. We’ve been really fortunate this week. It seems that oop north the weather is not being so kind. I overheard a couple from Yorkshire saying that it’s much warmer down here. Being determined to make the most of it we went to explore another National Trust house and garden. It’s about twelve years since we first visited and found Snowshill Manor and Garden a delight.

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“Snowshill Manor is a Cotswold manor house packed with extraordinary treasures collected over a life time by Charles Wade

Inside these rooms you can discover this eclectic collection that he restored and displayed. We have maintained the atmospheric settings he created with low lighting and few labels. From tiny toys to Samurai armour, musical instruments to fine clocks, thousands of objects are laid out for you to see just as Mr Wade intended.

The garden is the perfect place to unwind and explore hidden vistas, quiet corners and unexpected delights including Charles Wade’s uncomplicated home, the Priest’s House.

“Let nothing perish” was his motto, and his life was dedicated to doing just that. From the everyday to the extraordinary, you can discover his passion for craftsmanship, colour and design.” National Trust Website, 14th September 2014.

You’re never quite sure what you’ll discover next when exploring the house. The collection is not to everyone’s taste; in one room a woman exclaimed that it was all a bit spooky. This might be due to the gloomy lighting, the strange mix of things or perhaps the many faces depicted on items, which can be unsettling. I know exactly what she meant, but it’s a fascinating place to look around. For me the garden is the best part…

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I hope you’ve enjoyed these photos. I always think of people far away from the English countryside who enjoy seeing glimpses, but know picture heavy posts of outings and holidays are not everyone’s thing.

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I’ve heard that there’s a new crochet magazine coming out in the UK this coming week called #crochet. I’m trying to find who, when, where but my friend Google has surprisingly not thrown up any answers at all. If you have any info about the mag, please share!

Waterperry Gardens

Although it’s quite a bit cooler now and the nights are drawing in at an alarming rate (curtains closed by 8pm) it still feels like late Summer.
I took a trip, with a friend, to Waterperry Gardens at the beginning of the week. It was lovely and warm outside, so I took a picnic for us to eat at one of the outside tables. I’m glad because car picnics aren’t much fun; tubs slide off the dashboard and you end up doing a balancing act with a plate on your knee!

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The gardens are so well tended it’s a pleasure to wander, or sit, and take in the colour. There is a new ‘Truth Walk’, it would be good to go along the paths when the snowdrops are flowering.

My friend knows many of the staff at Waterperry and we stopped to chat several times. Apparently two of the head gardeners at Sissinghurst, when Vita and Harold established the garden, were trained at Waterperry. I was asked if I’d had noticed any similarities in the designs? You can actually; as I mentioned after my visit to Sissinghurst Vita didn’t wish to see any earth between the plants, the beds were crammed full, this is also striking in the long border at Waterperry.

Have you been on any day trips lately?

Happy weekend all, have a good one.

Harvest Festival

I’ve had my own harvest festival this weekend; as I’d been offered the chance to help myself to anything in a relative’s garden while she’s away. Woo hoo!

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I thought it was silly to bring the beetroot and carrot tops home with me, so cut them off and went across to the compost bins in her garden. One lid I couldn’t pull off, so I decided to try the other, quite forcefully yanking it off. A tangle of worms flew off the bin lid, scattering onto the outside of the bin, sliding down my jeans and onto my boot. Knowing my pro gardening relly these worms will have been flown in for their special composting services – so I’m there with a large crinkly leaf scooping them up and putting them back into the composter. Argh! I did take a quick photo of some, but it’s rather blurry as they are pretty fast wrigglers and I didn’t want them to get away.
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After that mini episode of The Great Escape I took a bit of time out to stare at the flowers.

I can’t describe the sweetness of the crisp carrots, we munched a couple raw and had a few cooked for dinner. It’s like having your own kitchen garden just ten minutes away! I hope she goes away again next summer, just when the vegetables are ripe for the picking.
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The tomatoes and peppers are my own. The yellow tomatoes are stacked up like a pyramid now as I gathered more this morning, ready for using. The bowlfuls around the house are multiplying as I’m picking more every day. Even I’m surprised to find a pyrex dish full of them on the windowsill in The Little Room when I draw the curtains! It’s a good job we love them isn’t it?
I cooked a couple of the green peppers and made Balsamic Chicken, one of my favourite easy peasy recipes, last night. We tried a slice of raw pepper first, just to taste it. I’ve grown chilli peppers several times, but not pepper peppers (capsicum.) Tonight we’re having a yellow tomato greek salad, pitta, taramasalata and other delights as we’ve had a return to summer today. I’m really enjoying thinking of tomato based meals to enjoy, it’s so much more satisfying to use homegrown. It will be salmon with cherry tomatoes and couscous tomorrow and Nigella’s tomato curry with coconut rice from Kitchen later in the week. Mmmmmmm.
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Are you having your own harvest festival, or heading into Spring and dreaming of all that to come?

Al fresco crochet

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It is such beautiful weather here at the moment that it just feels wrong to stay inside.

I started a ripple on Monday night but had to order some yarn before I could continue. Luckily I already had two of the greys I wanted to use as they’re the same I’m using for my other blanket, so at least I could make a start. I actually haven’t touched a hook for weeks; a combination of a sore elbow (acupuncture is really helping) and just wanting a break. It was a refreshing break, but I was absolutely raring to go once my plan was approved at the weekend. I’ve offered a crocheted blanket birthday pressie to a special someone as I’ve had her kind of colours in mind for ages, and fancied crocheting another ripple. I’m a little surprised I’m so keen as I became quite bored by the end of The Rhubarb Ripple. My offer was immediately taken up and so I’ve been happily zipping along the rows today. The motif blanket will wait for a while. This is easier crochet; it’s fast to add new colours and decide which next. I tend to need my leg up to join as you go (do you?! Is this just me?!) so it makes it sofa crochet, not al fresco crochet so much.

Hurrah! My new yarn came this morning! I could hear the rustle of the sack arriving from my spot (reading in the bath, hard work these summer hols.) Deramores have been undercut by Wool Warehouse on Stylecraft Special DK by 30p a ball at the moment. I have to say that as both offer speedy service and free p&p when you spend £25 it wasn’t a tricky decision to use WW for this order. 30p less for a ball is 30p saved. Or, spent on more yarn…

The bright pink was always going to be a gamble without actually seeing a ball. It’s not quite right is it? It jars with the scrummy raspberry, the sharp lime green (new colour) and the delicious graphic, silver and grey. The darker shades are midnight blue and emperor penguin purple. Someone suggested I use the bright pink to embroider “Get off, this is Mummy’s!” Ha! I must tell her this when I give the blanket.

My charity shop find basket is perfect for al fresco crochet. It’s very good at standing to attention with the yarn ball in use rolling around on top. I need a yarn bowl really, but it does the job of keeping it off the grass. Can you see I replaced the bag’s sequins? I preferred the scuffed brown originals really I realise, now it’s done. Too late!

What are you crocheting or making? Or are you having a crafty break?

Sissinghurst Castle

I’ve wanted to visit Sissinghurst for a long time. I’ve come across Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson many times when reading books concerning English social history in the last century, but their garden is also famous of course. I loved my visit.

“Vita Sackville-West, the poet and writer, began the transforming Sissinghurst Castle in the 1930s with her diplomat and author husband, Harold Nicolson. Harold’s architectural planning of the garden rooms, and the colourful, abundant planting in the gardens by Vita, reflect the romance and intimacy of her poems and writings.

Sissinghurst Castle was the backdrop for a diverse history; from the astonishing time as a prison in the 1700s, to being a home to the women’s land army. It was also a family home to some fascinating people who lived here or came to stay. Today you can take in the ruined architecture of the extensive original buildings, vast panoramic views from the top of the Tower, the current working farm and the 450-acre wider estate along with Vita and Harold’s gardens.” Taken from the National Trust website.

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I really like looking at vegetable gardens on this scale. Just look at those lettuces!  Those at Hidcote (not included in the blog post, but you might want to look at more photos from another glorious English garden) were well worth seeing too. I had serious vegetable envy that day too!

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Vita favoured planting in abundance; she didn’t wish to see any soil, so the beds were filled to bursting with plants. It would be amazing to be able to fly back in time to see the garden in its heyday.

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Apart from the gorgeous garden and grounds it was envy inspiring to see Vita’s writing room in the tower. A room of your own up in a tower – wow!

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It’s hard to capture the beauty of the white garden properly. It’s one of most striking areas of the gardens.

Which garden to visit next? Decisions, decisions!

Food glorious food

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One of the nicest things about coming back from a holiday is seeing how much the plants in the garden have grown. There are tomatoes all over the vines now. I harvested some new potatoes yesterday and just picked the first ripe cherry tomatoes. Hurrah!

Something’s nibbled a couple of the strawberries, but as I’ve already picked a bowlful I don’t mind. Share and share alike. There are runners coming off the plant so I’m starting new – that’s the reason for the smaller pots around it, there are another two behind. I’ve promised a few new plants to friends and family.

The pumpkin plants (one shown) are both coming on in leaps and bounds. I can see where the flower buds are forming. I’ve never grown any before so this is exciting.

There are lots of tiny peppers on the three plants, but as you see only one decent sized pepper so far. It’s a waiting game at this point…

I’ve been searching for light and healthy recipes, after many holiday treats (and a few too many when I was laid up in June with the spider injury) and have started a board on Pinterest if you fancy sharing them with me, if you’d like to send more my way too that would be fab. Googling 5:2 recipes brings up lots of lovely things – whether you’re doing the ‘fasting’ thing or just aiming to eat lighter food. I’m taken with roasted red pepper & tomato and also courgette & watercress soups. I used to make a roasted red pepper soup and can’t think where I’ve put the recipe.

What are you up to at the moment?

Sometimes there is no right way

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Playing with joining as you go the other evening I took this photo as a reminder; because I didn’t feel too confident that it was right, and thought they’d probably soon be un-joined!

After Carina commented on my last post, reminding me that she’s crocheted some of the motifs from Edie Eckman’s fabulous Beyond the Square book, I emailed her the photo above and asked how she would have joined them. It’s the first time I’ve used the join-as-you-go technique with anything apart from granny squares. I was really dithering and feeling unconfident. When I start saying, or thinking, ‘Well, I’ve only been crocheting a few years’ I know I’m struggling with something. It’s not the end of the world, but is an irritating feeling.
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Carina is one of those bloggers that you just know will answer a query and try their best to help. I rushed to work yesterday having fired off a HELP ME! email, and in the evening found not one, but two replies from her. The first saying she’d had a busy day but would get back to me shortly. The second, sent less than an hour later, had detailed ‘This is how I would do it’ instructions and an attached photo. She’d obviously pulled out her BtS book and had a go at joining two motifs. How kind!
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I do prefer Carina’s joining method which replaces the 3 corner chains with 1 ch, 1 jss (joining slip stitch) 1 ch. This was the part I wasn’t sure about. Do you replace all the ch with one jss, or only one? How many jss would you need overall? What about the 5 ch in the middle? Carina had also joined this motif in four places, rather than three.

If the motifs were making up a blanket it would probably be more…I’m struggling for the word….connected? Strong? Less gapy? I just checked the spelling of gapy, so I didn’t type gappy by mistake instead, and asked ‘Is it gay-ai-pee-why?’ I’m tired!’ Taking non-drowsy cough med is so stupid right before bed. Consequently I was wide awake and reading my Kindle after midnight last night. (The book was Necessary Lies, if like me you like to know these details. It was a 99p Kindle deal I bought weeks ago. Diane Chamberlain a new-to-me author but the blurb interested and readers’ reviews and stars were impressive on Amazon. The first two chapters have me completely intrigued already.)
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The point which I’ll try quickly to come to now, I always waffle far more when tired, is that when I popped into the library today I swerved to the fab craft section and ended up having a quick flick through a Crochet Guide by Jane Crowfoot. She writes that joining motifs is similar to free-form crochet; no two people will join them in the same way. I’m really grateful to Carina for her help, will be joining the motif using her suggestion, but also have learnt a good lesson and a bit of a confidence booster on the way. Sometimes there isn’t always a right way or a wrong way. There’s your way and there’s my way.

Productivity

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I was given Beyond the Square for Christmas, but haven’t made a single motif until this week. The other evening I thought I’d play with #118 and figure how to join it as I went. It took five tries and I got it, I think. Others might have sussed it out differently but mine looks like it will probably work. Since then I’ve had a little production line going making middles and am now round twoing them all.

I have no idea what I’m making, or for whom, as it’s been so spontaneous but it’s another way to use up some of my oddments of Stylecraft.

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As I crocheted half-finished motifs, and tossed them into the basket beside me, I realised the colours are echoing those in my bouquet. This is nice, I like it.

Some stack their middles and half-done motifs beautifully, others lay them out in imaginative patterns to photograph; mine are tossed into a basket ends up and bedraggled! It’s all about doing some crochet again, not artful photographs. I can attempt to redress the balance and make sure they’re laid out with a CK mug of coffee in the background (tho I mostly drink tea) or my socked feet in the picture if you like? All the blogging photo cliches by request.
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Stop being silly and go into the garden.
The potato leaves are looking lush and healthy, hopefully the potatoes are too. I can’t wait to dig into the soil and see them.

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So many strawberries for one plant! My friend’s are redder and huge too, I think they get more sun in her garden, but I’m pleased my plant came through our wet Winter so well.
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The first tomato. I bought two varieties this year; yellow Golden Sunrise and Gardener’s Delight, a red cherry.
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The pepper plants look ready to fruit too. I’ve grown extra to swap with family this weekend.

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I’ve baked wholemeal and a white seeded – poppy, sunflower and pumpkin – loaves for this week’s daily bread. The white is a bit darker brown than usual on top, I blame that motif I was trying to whizz around – rather than just putting it down and getting to the oven a few minutes sooner. It’ll be fine though. The bottom and sides are a nice colour.

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For a week I’ve felt under par, waking up in the early hours with a thumping headache and sore neck/throat, had a hacking cough with lots of sighing and a bit of grumping. Today is the first time I’ve truly felt like myself and even slightly dynamic, rather than going through the motions. Three lots of washing washed and hung on the line too. It’s been a good day.

Oh and now it’s raining again, doesn’t that always happen just after you’ve done the watering?!

How are you feeling this week?

 

Oh by the way rather than just staring, hearting and commenting on others’ pics (only in the last few weeks – what can I say, I’m slow) I’ve started to join in on Instagram. Only three pics so far, but there’s scope for more! Let me know if you’re there too. I like the way you can swap quick chatty comments and search for hashtags, it feels like the best aspects of blogging and twitter. However I can’t imagine it replacing blogging, for me, because you’re limited word-count-wise…!

Lots of pretties

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Choosing a range of Stylecraft colours for my next make – a crochet blanket. The colour scheme needs to complement some William Morris fabric. I’m enjoying selecting them as they’re a new combination. You might be able to see my light ticks on the colour chart if you look closely, or enlarge the pic.
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A lovely post-Sunday lunch was spent in this garden yesterday, sitting in the sun flicking through magazines and chatting. We make the most of the weather when it’s sunny. The cottage garden style border is poised to break into an abundance of colour.

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Twinkling and sparkling this huge sign is pretty, it’s on the front of the Selfridges store, London. Many were taking photos with themselves in front. I enjoy having strangers hand me their iPhone so I can take their photo. It happens a lot. A lot. I must look so trustworthy (or maybe like I’m not going to be running anywhere fast), this always amuses me.

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My beautiful bouquet of flowers. Stocks and freesias scent the air.

If you fancy a very slow, beautifully shot film, directed by Jane Campion, which features Love, sewing, fancy dresses and bonnets, Love and plenty of romantic poetry from the young Love struck Keats then watch Bright Star. Even the slight twang of antipodean accents at times (aiming for English) can be forgiven.

A lovely Monday

 

IMG_2723 A lovely Springtime pot of violas, with tulips shooting up what seems an inch a day.

IMG_2728Blossom on the plum tree, blue sky with gorgeous fluffy clouds. The washing machine is whizzing around with a load of towels. I’m loving using the washing line again.

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IMG_2737Catkins on the hazelnut tree. The squirrels plunder these in Autumn, just as we’ve noticed they have ripened, leaving us to crunch along the path on piles of discarded nutshells.

 

2013

A selection of this year’s highlights. (Top of my list for 2014 is to enjoy putting the CAL blocks together, after a refreshing break. You should know I’m basically pre-empting comments here!) I’ve got many, many more photos of craft events, exhibitions and shops I’ve been lucky enough to visit too, probably enough for another gallery times ten. What a fun and creative year.

Meeting other crafty peeps has been a highlight, I see I wrote the same on last year’s gallery 2012.  I’ve always loved meeting new people and not being a shy sort find it all a bit of an adventure. Putting on some music, the radio or an audio book and settling down to make something is one of my favourite ways to relax, apart from reading, cooking or baking. But I have to say that there’s nothing like meeting others – having a good chat and seeing what they’re making. Social crafting seems to be one of the best ways to meet people too. I reckon if you’re shy then joining a crafting group works well as you can always focus on what you’re crocheting, knitting or sewing or whatever to calm your initial nerves. If you’re stuck for conversation just ask what kind of yarn (or whatever) they’re using and generally you’re off!

Have you joined any new crafty groups this year? Taken part in any workshops? Do you enjoy social crafting, or prefer it to be solely during your alone time?

Butterfly Flutterby

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Can you count how many? There are plenty of bees and white butterflies too.

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20130809-153448.jpg Can anyone name the type of butterfly? Red admiral? Peacock? Painted Lady? I need one of those spotter guides…

It’s been a while and I’ve forgotten the types I used to recognise by sight.

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I should be using the SLR but haven’t got around to loading the software on my laptop. I will and one day you might be treated to sharp images. The iphone and my little point and click do ok but I could take it to the next level maybe…

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I’m so much better now, the drugs did the trick. Thanks for all your well wishes.

I realised I was perkier when I started singing along to music and talking to myself out loud again. To be absolutely honest it was when I said something and laughed out loud that I knew. Madness!

An upside of the Mr working in Brussels at the moment is the supply of Belgium chocolate every weekend. On Mondays it’s a case of “Safe flight, don’t forget the milk caramel and more of the scrummy dark orange please.” Ha ha!

 

 

 

 

Have a lovely weekend all. :-D

Sunny Days

I’ve been taking advantage of the beautiful weather we’ve been having lately.

I even had to move into some shade, it became so hot!

And ironically I’ve finished the chunky seashell scarf! I’m sure I’ll need to use it soon enough though…

Details:

Pattern is from Nicki Trench: Cute & Easy Crochet (see books link on sidebar >>>>)

James C. Brett Marble Chunky acrylic yarn

Used 245g (Balls are 200g 341yards/312m each)

9″ wide

67″ long

Made 26 ch (inc turning chn) for 4 seashells width

54 seashells in length

6mm hook

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I’ve also made a few more of these…

Part of me sometimes wonders if crocheted jar covers are a 21st C) version of the 20th C) poodle bottle covers and Barbie doll dress toilet roll holders?! But I have an idea for another one so I’m carrying on crocheting.

I made this with Planet Penny Cotton and am really happy with the colours. It’s my Peach Melba jar cover.

It’s good to see that these little blankets are being put to good use!