Cosy Friday afternoon

Brrrr! It’s suddenly got properly wintry cold and I’m not jumping the gun; I know we are still in autumn, but by golly it’s all changed this week. I never say by golly. I’m not an oldie, or from an Enid Blyton or PG Wodehouse book, but it just seems to fit. (I’m grinning at myself. I’ve been teased in the past for using words like poorly and gosh, but it only makes me use them more.) When you look out of the window first thing and all the conifer hedges are white, the grass is white and the cars are white… It’s definitely an old-fashioned “By golly it’s cold !” kind of week.

I’ve just been on the phone for nearly an hour and a half and added some rounds to my granny square. I can’t remember whether this is the last one I need to do, or if it’s the penultimate square. It is such good ‘phone crochet: mindless, easy and an enjoyable rhythm. It’s really relaxing too, while the conversation meanders along.

On Monday I approached a shop assistant and said I had a really bizarre question to ask her. She looked delighted and said “Bring it on! It makes the time go faster.” Bless her.

I’d lined up three or four different shades of green, and asked her which one was most Brussels sprout like? She really threw herself into it and reckoned it was this one, but then when we checked a photo decided that it could be a couple of different shades. To keep things simple I bought this one (a bargain £1.49) and promised to go back to show her a photo of the finished sprout! She was definitely keen to see it.

This all came out of a photo that my cousin sent me of a knitted Brussels sprout you can buy from White Stuff. £8! For one Brussels sprout decoration! Of course it set us both off with a flurry of messages. She reminded me that she knitted some a few Christmases ago and gave me one. I’d forgotten because all the Christmas decs are in a box, up in the loft. I hope I forget again and then it will be a nice surprise in December. We did laugh at the time, because her knitted Brussels sprouts all looked furious… we’re wondering if my crochet version will be happier. I’ll be looking for a pattern, but not until the Gingerbread Man has at least another leg and his body. Then I will be cosy and crocheting sprouts. Don’t think I ever expected to write that.

Here’s the White Stuff sprout. And I’m not even right, he’s not £8, he’s £8.50! Blimey.

Friday night is Pizza Night this week. My sourdough starter is bubbling away by the radiator. It’s the first time the bowl has been left anywhere other than on the kitchen side, since early Spring. But it needs to be in a warm place while the yeast activates. It certainly seems happy. I can’t wait to eat a few slices of pizza while watching a film later. My no-cook pizza sauce will be spread on the dough, with toppings of red onion, peppers, salami, Kalamata olives and a good handful of mozzarella. Yum yum yum coming soon.

And WOOHOO! Friday Night is also Craft Gin Night! I cheered as I opened the door to the lovely post lady. She said she’s delivered other November gin boxes today as well.

I’ve opened the box, but won’t show you the contents yet. I don’t want to put any spoilers online, as I’d hate to think that I might ruin the surprise for any member who reads this blog. It always feels a bit like Christmas, or as if a birthday present has been delivered. I will put a photo of the contents here soon. I will say that I absolutely love the gin bottle label and am intrigued about the where it’s come from… as young woman my Granny worked there as a Nanny, a long time ago.

If you’re in the UK and want £20 off your first 2 boxes, you can use this referral code for Craft Gin Club Gin Pals. I get points, you get 2 big boxes of half price goodies. Then you can cancel and not have anymore ever. Bet you will though! If you clicked the code when I mentioned it before, I hope you enjoyed your tipples and treats.

This week we’ve had some absolutely stunning sunsets. Last night I could see something orange glowing through the frosted glass of the bathroom window, before I pulled the blind down. I went to the bedroom to have a look and WOW! As the sky got darker the orange and gold seemed to intensify. It was fantastic.

My current read. I started an advance reader copy last night (in return for an honest review) and I have found it difficult to put down. I loved Joanna’s debut The Trouble with Goats and Sheep and enjoyed Three Things about Elsie, so am delighted that I’ve got her third book. It’s out next Spring. I’ll let you know nearer the time if it’s worth buying or reserving at the library. So far, so good.

Do you also find that themes or characters seem to continue in your next book? I just read another ARC called Other People Manage by Ellen Hawley and the main (USA) character Marge was a very tall and big girl. Often she felt awkward or uncomfortable around others. Linda (British) in this story is the same. Similarities often jump out, with settings or characters. It’s completely random too, as I often do not know much at all about the books I choose. I just quickly scan the blurb, or not at all if I know the author, as they give too much away.

If you’re in the Northern Hemisphere are you staying cosy? Or are you in the Southern? Is it a warm Spring?

Most importantly: what are you planning to make, eat and are you reading anything you can’t put down?

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

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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!)

4 WIPS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Woodland Walk

Into the woods, around boggy bits, along field edges, slipping up hills and slivering down others in the mud, catching on brambles and holly, walking in pelting rain, climbing over fallen trees and back into the woodland, until I finally implored them

“SLOW DOWN! Aunty Rachel’s legs are a lot shorter than yours!”

I felt like I’d been through commando training!

~~~~~

Chop, chop, chopping for a chicken and pearl barley casserole.

Ohhhh. Not sure about including the sweet potatoes!

Do we want a pink dinner?

~~~~~

I’m now on my second granny square. The decision whether to keep going on and make a huge one-square blanket was made when I laid it on out a table at the weekend. I realised the edges were starting to frill. Rather than fiddle around adding extra chains along the sides I unravelled some rounds until it wasn’t frilling any more, fastened the yarn off and began another square.

Sometimes decisions are made for you and it’s easy!

I need to decide whether I carry on using this colour combination (it’s Breeze) or buy some more Hayfield Spirit DK in another colour combo. I can’t decide whether I want a purely blue and grey blanket, or one with a more colourful patchwork effect. I’ll have to decide soon because I have only half a ball left…

~~~~~

Tell me a few things?

Yarn Along – September

Yesterday, on a beautiful crisp newly minted autumn Sunday morning, I sat up in bed all cosy listening to Liza Tarbuck’s Saturday radio show on the BBC Sounds app and undid every single stitch I’d done of my Coast Blanket while in West Cornwall last week (I told you its name would probably change lots of times) and restarted it.

I don’t want the square tilting so I had tried three different ways of turning each round and have now found a method I’m much happier with. I don’t think you can see where I’ve turned the hook and square? Tell me if you can see, I won’t mind. I won’t be undoing it again as I’m happy. I know no one visiting me and snuggling under my blankets would have noticed unless they were really looking, and probably non-crocheters wouldn’t at all, but they were bugging me. I’m a sometime perfectionist.

I can hear you shouting the word “Swatch!” And I’m shrugging back at you.

I managed to redo this yesterday. Too much for my hands but I enjoyed it. Today Ouch!

I’m one of a group of people on Instagram who are currently making simple granny square blankets. Motif, tapestry and intricate showy-offy colourwork crochet is all very well and good, but they don’t make the heart sing as much as a good old granny square! Sometimes plain and cosy is enough and beautiful in its simplicity.

I feel like I’m spotting granny square blankets on nearly everything I watch right now. For example: The Duchess on Netflix and Doc Martin on Britbox this weekend. It’s really fun to shout “CROCHET!” at the screen. I’m not sure how anyone else feels about this habit. I’m not asking because I don’t want to stop…

I believe crochet originated as a thrifty way to use up leftover wool from knitting projects, or to reuse it from old garments. I love it when you see people doing similar with leftovers, albeit in these times of plenty. That’s how I came to be making my Tilted Squares Blanket actually. I wanted to use up the remnants of the one and only yarn pack I’d bought when I was a new crocheter, before I started to choose my own colour combos.

I know my Coast Blanket isn’t in the waste-not-want-not category in the slightest (See here ) but I’m absolutely loving this Hayfield Spirit variegated yarn. I’ve never used variegated for a blanket before. It keeps it interesting seeing the colours change. There will be lots of multicoloured rounds as it grows bigger, but it’s so pretty I don’t think it will grate. There’s going to be fewer weaker spots, because there won’t be very many ends to darn in all compared to changing yarns on every round. Hardly any darning = big win.

I think I’ve read or listened to everything Tracy Chevalier’s written. I love her blend of historical fact and real life people blended with fictional characters. You can visit or Google most of the places in her stories too.

I enjoy stories set in America, especially during pioneer times. When I saw this paperback in one of favourite charity shops for £1 I grabbed it for my holiday read.

1838: James and Sadie Goodenough have settled where their wagon got stuck – in the muddy, stagnant swamps of northwest Ohio. They and their five children work relentlessly to tame their patch of land, buying saplings from a local tree man known as John Appleseed so they can cultivate the fifty apple trees required to stake their claim on the property. But the orchard they plant sows the seeds of a long battle. James loves the apples, reminders of an easier life back in Connecticut; while Sadie prefers the applejack they make, an alcoholic refuge from brutal frontier life.

1853: Their youngest child Robert is wandering through Gold Rush California. Restless and haunted by the broken family he left behind, he has made his way alone across the country. In the redwood and giant sequoia groves he finds some solace, collecting seeds for a naturalist who sells plants from the new world to the gardeners of England. But you can run only so far, even in America, and when Robert’s past makes an unexpected appearance he must decide whether to strike out again or stake his own claim to a home at last.
Source: GoodReads

I’m probably about 95% of the way through. It’s been a satisfying read, but I wonder if the story will abruptly end? There seems to be so much more to say and very few pages in which to say it. This is probably another way of saying that I don’t want it to end!

Joining in late with Ginny’s Yarn Along once again, but better late than never, right?

Coastal Crochet

Can you believe I forgot to bring any craft away with me, so the first thing I bought (apart from a pasty for lunch!) was a hook and 2 balls of yarn.

I know a nice little wool shop in the middle of Penzance so headed there first. The yarn I chose is Hayfield’s Spirit. It’s 20% wool and has a lovely soft feel. It isn’t the thickest DK but luckily works up well with the 4mm hook I bought. The colourway is ‘Breeze’, the blues and greys perfectly reflect the changing colours of the Cornish sea view we have from our cottage. It’s a few minutes walk from the South West Coast Path and overlooks the sea and a lighthouse.

I’ve brought my Tilted Squares blanket with me to snuggle under. That’s my one packing triumph this year; I always think I should bring a blanket away in September because it gets quite cool during evenings and at night. It’s such a cheery thing to see on a bed or sofa. All the complex patterns in the world can’t beat a bit of classic granny squaring! Ah! So why not make another?! I’m still deciding whether to go for a multi-square rectangular or one simple round and round you go square blanket.

My view as I sit up in bed in the morning:

It’s already named the Coast Path blanket, though this will probably change a few times. It won’t be tilting this time because I’m changing direction on every round.

I’m off to sip my tea, make some breakfast and discuss plans for the day now.

What are you making at the moment? Have you managed to go away anywhere?

Crochet doings

Morning!

Here’s what I’m doing at the moment, though I’ve haven’t done much crochet this week as the work I’ve put off for so long has to be done by next Thursday.  I’m going to be working next Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday elsewhere so time is lacking. I can see a long weekend of sighing and a lot of Earl Grey being drunk next to a red-hot lap top! It’s my own fault, if we really need to talk blame… *smirk*

Here it is in all it’s-all-wibbly-needs-blocking-badly-‘glory’.

I’ve unravelled the first circle so far, it’s the larger one, and am going to make one of those folded circle birds everyone seems to making at the moment.

The other circle  is new and improved with a smaller 3.5mm hook, and greater attention to detail…those stitches have to be counted and recounted as I go, there’s no getting away from it.

 Lynne said that she goes into the back loop when ss into the 3rd chain at the end of a curcuit and she still has gappy bits, so not to worry. She is the master of knitting and crochet, so I’m not worrying about it.

These aren’t the colours I’d have chosen to put together, but I’m using scraps. The surprising thing is I’ve had many compliments on the colour combination! It’s made me like them more. I know. I’m a sucker for flattery…

This is what I call (I know; I sound like Miranda’s Mum!) The Hilton crochet. I stayed in the one in Nottingham last November without taking any crochet. I madly thought it would be good to have a break for a few days. My fingers started itching in an alarming way, so much so that there seemed only one thing to do – I had to go to the John Lewis, conveniently located next door to the hotel, and buy a hook and some cotton.

Experimenting with a different middle. I prefer this to the usual GS cross.

Those pesky ends!!! …Actually it’s not popular to say this but I don’t mind the darning at all. It makes a change and doesn’t take long at all.

Rowan HK cotton. It’s my first go with it. I like it but I’m not sure it works for clothing or a blanket, not for me anyway. Plus it’s mahoosively ££££££ for the 50g you get. They offer a nice range of colours though, I can imagine using it for decorative bits and pieces.

This is probably going to be a bag, only 25 more squares to go I reckon. Don’t hold your breath for a big reveal soon. It’s not going to happen too quickly!!!

My Boden catalogue arrived today. A littleish word caught my eye…..

It’s everywhere, isn’t it?

Fab.

Back to the grindstone. Have a good weekend!

Rachel