Springtime, feels like summer

I asked for a new fridge sentence to replace my post road-trip one, which was boringly ‘Over a thousand miles later home’. I know it wasn’t exciting but it was current. Oh, but I’ve really truly been trounced now. It’s poetry which describes the view from the window. What’s my next move going to be?

I finished my Edenvale cowl last week. I know it will look better as the lace work will open out and show it off when it’s blocked. I’ll show you afterwards. I did fewer repeats than specified in the pattern, so I could stop at one skein of WYS Shetland Tweed. Hurray for John Lewis refunds on wool. That’s a cowl which is plenty long enough and I get £8.50 back in my account. I did try it on, in its as yet unblocked state and had comments along the lines of ‘You’ve knitted a neck sock!’ As you know I just ignore these and calmly carry on. I do the cooking so caution would be warranted…This week I added to my garter stitch blanket. I like the look of the navy with the lavender a lot. As I did another 6 rows (250 stitches each) I reflected on how much I’m enjoying knitting. It’s as meditative as crochet when easy, good to have two hands in motion, I like the feel and look of the fabric. I’ve also added a few more colour blocks to my patchwork blanket. Also satisfying once I get into a rhythm, but a bit boring to contemplate doing masses of linen stitch which is why this has been very slow in the making. I much prefer the swoop and flow of trebles to doubles.

Ah this week’s weather has been a delight. On saturday it was gorgeously warm at around 21-22 degrees. My friend and I wandered in Regents park, London wearing t-shirts, coats bundled up in bags. We admired the cherry and almond blossom, the lines of tulips and noticed how many people were also enjoying being outdoors. There are some pics on my Instagram. As you’ll see I took something a little unseasonal and different to do while we were there. My friend was knitting, and said an elderly lady with a stick walked by and gave us a broad smile. I guess others were mostly using the pedalos, reading, picnicing or just sunbathing. We probably looked quite incongruous.

This magnolia tree is not far from home. It was a gorgeous surprise on Wednesday to see it in full bloom.

Yesterday it was 25 degrees! This isn’t so much spring as a full-on English summer day. It can all change in a week so we are all poised as a nation. At the first sign of a warm day: we rush out to stock up on salad, charcoal and steaks, we go through our drawers and wardrobes looking for anything vaguely summery to wear, if we’re in a morning-time rush (ahem) we merely shave from our ankles up 6″ so we can wear shorter length trousers and sandals for the day and fill a jug with cucumber/raspberry/lime/lemon water in the fridge. We are prepared.

The next day we inspect our red patches of sunburn because we didn’t apply sun-cream, forgetting that even though it’s England we can still burn. (Ahem.)A host of golden daffodils. They’re probably all dried and crinkly now. I’m glad I saw them looking so lush.

So in the last week and a half I’ve knitted; ‘that’ sock, the garter stitch blanket and finished my lace cowl using chunky needles, crocheted and done the other craft which requires very fine motor skills. And my point? My hands hurt. My arms hurt. My elbows are stiff. The side of my hands are tingling. (I should probably not be typing this, but dictating.) That is a big warning sign isn’t it? I think I might have done too much knitting with the chunky 5mm needles, the lace pattern required lots of different manipulative movements and then there were hours of sock knitting. I’ve been disciplined at only doing one set of repeats max with the cowl, but got carried away one day with the sock. I unravelled and reknitted for far too long. In all these years of crocheting I’ve never experienced this, I’m in a sulk with knitting. Stupid chunky needles, stupid tiny circulars, stupid lace, stupid sock. I think this means a total ban on craft for a month. I’ve put a note that I can try again on 19th May….unless they feel magically better sooner. Sniff.

I’ll blog what I’m reading and bore you with photos of flowers and places I’ve been to, in the meantime. When I’ve blocked the cowl I’ll show it too. It’s the darning that’s holding it up right now, but with this warm weather it’s not in a hurry to be worn.

Without craft what do you do in the evenings, apart from read and stare at the goggle box?!

(JILL don’t be crude!)

Five from this week

I went for a walk with a friend on a spur of the moment thing on Wednesday. We ended up walking over 6 miles in a big circular loop. It was a completely spontaneous thing, just a “hey, do you fancy a walk today?” We arranged to meet in the car park of a gym and I expected a walk around the nearest village. Instead we went off the beaten track, onto a public footpath alongside the edges of fields, turning onto country lanes and meadows of grazing sheep. Through wooded areas of bare wintery trees and the sports ground of a private school. We ended up nipping into a farm shop for a drink, gazing at all the luxury foodstuffs that neither of us need post-Christmas, back up into the village, across the main road and to our cars. All the time we were out, which was nearly 2 hours, we didn’t stop talking. That’s a good afternoon! My trainers are basically two big blobs of mud now. I should scrape them off and put them in the washing machine.

I’ve made some more cardamom gin. The Mermaids gin is nice enough but I fancied flavouring it. I put a small handful of whole cardamom pods into the bottle for 3-4 days (3 would have been plenty, but I forgot about it!) Poured it into a jug, through a tea strainer and threw away the pods, then put it back into the bottle. If they were left in longer than that it would too bitter to drink, I imagine. The flavour is strong, so a single measure (25ml) is plenty with a 125ml can of tonic.

I’ve started a second strip of moss stitch (aka granite stitch, or linen stitch) crochet. This is the easiest thing to take up and add a section to, in fact the most complicated thing about it is making sure the sections are the same length. I didn’t want to stow away the leftover yarn from Winnie’s Wave Blanket, I thought I’d use it up for another little blanket. If you like the stitch see Moogly for a great little tutorial, it’s dead easy. You do need to do a sample to make sure you use the right hook. My square was too thick and unwieldy using my usual 4mm hook; so I swapped to a 4.5mm and produced a softer, more drapey fabric.

I popped in to see Mum with some Butternut & Sweet Potato soup yesterday. I’d made a huge pan-full, but as I’m the only one who eats BNS or SP I thought it would be good to share, or I’d never want to eat it again after litres of the stuff. Barty was savaging a ball he was given for Christmas. He is funny; as I’ve said I don’t think he was given balls to play with when he was a kitten, so he doesn’t play ping pong like other cats we’ve had. I’ve tried to model batting it back and forth with my paws hands, and yesterday he sort of did it! Hurray, Rachel the cat whisperer!

I just started reading Follow you Home all snuggled up warm and cosy in bed this morning. According to my Kindle I’ve already read a fifth of it. It’s a quick read but also I’m a scaredy cat; so want to get to the frightening bits fast. This is a psychological thriller which features a train, a dark forest and rather odd, staring uncommunicative strangers. Dot dot dot!

What are you reading and making? Have you done anything spontaneous, which turned out to be one of the best parts of your week?

Have a good weekend all.

I’m linking with Ginny’s revived (now monthly) Yarn Along.

Taking Stock – January

Making : 2 loaves of beige bread (50/50 wholemeal and white flour)

Cooking : pork and fennel meatballs for dinner

Drinking : water

Reading: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, it’s fantastic! The lights on the bridge have just blown out in the storm. I love reading about 17th century London. It’s also very funny in places

Stowe, Buckingham (National Trust) on New Years Day

Wanting: a G&T, it is Friday

Looking: at my Christmas tree, it’s twelfth night so will be gone tomorrow

Playing: the radio, it’s music from the movies at the mo

Deciding: if I really do want or need to do Dry January. After all Dry October went on until December 24th!

Wishing: for a big Euro millions lottery win tonight

Enjoying: the tunes from Beverley Hills Cop, Top Gun, Pulp Fiction, Dirty Dancing

Waiting: for my bread timer to chime

Liking: the lights sparkling still, on these grey, cold and windy days

Wondering: when the shops will clear away the sale rails

Loving: crocheting again

Pondering: how to join my strips of crochet

Considering: a new to me technique like a flat braid

Buying: a new bag in the sale at The National Trust shop, reduced from £20 to £12

Watching: Russell Howard: Recalibrate on Netflix, it’s laugh out loud funny, but tears too when he talks about his family

Hoping: to see lots more stand-up comedy

Needing: something to eat; rumbling tummy

Questioning: why my wrist is still sore, I think it’s due to knitting #boo

Smelling: my new Loccitane rose perfume

Wearing: my new Seasalt floral socks (perfume & socks are Christmas presents)

Noticing: how cold the wind chill factor is today

Knowing: the days are slowly getting lighter

Thinking: about watching the last episode of The Miniaturist

Admiring: my floral feet (when I wore my yellows on Wednesday, Mum said they were very gay! Nice use of an archaic term)

Sorting: Christmas decs tomorrow and putting them back in the loft

Getting: a shopping list together, it’s all cling film and anti-bac soap type of boring

Paper roses made from old books at Stowe

Bookmarking: new recipes

Coveting: nothing, well apart from a big lottery win

Disliking: that rubber glove smell when they need replacing, yucky!

Opening: the last day’s listings in the festive Radio Times

Giggling: at Still Game (a BBC series, on Netflix) aka “The Scots gits” in my house

Feeling: hungry!!!!!

Snacking: on fruit or a raw carrot, soon

Helping: to take Barty to the vet today

Hearing: Someone wailing/singing along to Don’t Leave Me This Way by The Communards

Mixing: 500g of lean pork mince, 1 egg, zest of a lemon and 1 tbsp fennel seeds for meatballs, served in a tomato & pepper sauce

Worrying: about nothing much, as thankfully my mind is clear today

Slicing: onions and peppers shortly

Celebrating: the last eve of the festive season

Forgetting: who knows? I’ve forgotten!

Winning: tonight’s jackpot

Sneaking: an iced gingerbread I discovered in a tin today (this is a late Christmas win!)

Embracing: a very chilled cat who seemed totally unruffled today

There are no affiliate links here, I’d always say if there were. I just assume other people are as nosy as me and want to see!

I’ve used Pip’s Taking Stock list, if you do a TS post too will you link to yours in the comments below? I like reading them.

Twixmas

I really like the week between Christmas and New Year. If approached properly it has a mixture of planned and unplanned days. You need activity and people, but also days where you can lounge around reading, crafting, eating chocolates and nibbles and catching up on Christmas films and tv. This year we’ve got it just right.

Just before Sewing Club ended for the year another sewer told me she couldn’t see the point of wasting time and energy on making bottle bags; as they wouldn’t be appreciated for the amount of effort that goes into making them. Well, happily I’m glad to report that definitely wasn’t the case. I gave them to members of my family who sew and who totally got the point. They made my (Christmas) day by saying how impressed they were with the quality of the sewing etc etc. Every year we pass around card gift bags and bottle bags, saved from previous Christmases, and last year a few lamented that they had to buy new bags. The horror! I knew that these would be used again and again. It will be quite fun seeing them reappear. Am I revealing my sad nerdiness? Ah well! They’re fully lined with contrast fabric and reversible. Now perhaps I need to make Birthday bottle bags…We all seemed to arrive at Mum’s with presents for Barty the powder puff tail. My cousin and my nieces all did and I took him a set of jingle mice. But this one was the clear winner: my friend and her dog George sent him a crocheted pillow filled with catnip (bought in Asda, it’s fab.) After I took this photo he got a bit manic. It was so funny to see this laid back ‘I can sleep for England’ young cat so excited. The pillow is already all tatty and with ends sticking out! It was so lovely to see this ornament again when we decorated the tree on 23rd. I remembered that one of my nieces bought it for me last year, with her pocket money.My Dry October turned into Dry November and Dry December (bar 3 occasions where I’d finished in November but then decided to carry on.) All I really fancied was a glass of champagne and so on Christmas Eve I had my first drink in weeks. And my second. And on Christmas morning felt so very ropey that in the middle of drying my hair had to turn off the drier, sit on the bed and take deep breaths! Oh this was not the plan! How pathetic. Seeing a line of just-filled glasses on Christmas morning I apologised to my brother and declined one. During the toast I tasted a sip from Someone’s glass, just to try, and decided it was really rather nice, that perhaps that old chestnut, the hair of the dog thing would be worth a try. My brother said it was the fastest turn around he’s ever seen! I stuck to a single glass all day and it did the trick marvellously. I had another glass on Boxing Day evening with family too. There is a champagne diet, apparently good for weight loss (perhaps not for the liver.) Maybe that will be the one for me in January?On Boxing Day morning we were so glad to see a crisp and bright morning. We headed out for some exercise. It was a great walk, albeit 7 1/2 miles, not the planned 5. I think it was a combination of a lot of chatter, passing a big group of walkers at a crucial moment and wishing them a Good Morning that meant we missed the intended turning. We ended up in open countryside surrounded by grazing sheep. I turned to my iPhone for our location and saw on a satellite map that we had walked in the opposite direction and were approaching an unexplored village in the west. Oh well, new public footpaths have been discovered and it was a great yomp. Very good for walking off some of the mince pies and Christmas pudding. We took ourselves off to the sales on Wednesday and popped into a new-to-me coffee shop, where we sat on wooden boxes and spooned our Demerara from a communal jar with a wooden spoon. How very hipster!

I started some new crochet that evening. I’m not totally sure this is going to be continued. But look at the difference going up half a hook size makes. The fabric is now beautifully drapey and soft. Plus it’s far easier to find the 1 chain spaces. I’m going to play around a bit and might undo it, or might carry on. Just don’t ask me about the Hitchhiker, I actually might cry. Disaster struck. And I can’t blame it on Barty either.

On Thursday I met a friend in Hoxton, London at The Geffrye Museum of the Home to catch their Christmas Past exhibition. This features rooms decorated (or not) for Christmas from 1700 to 1990. Did you know that the Puritans banned Christmas for around 15 years? People disobeyed and still brought greenery into the home for decoration.

It’s a good exhibition and interesting overhearing others’ memories of past Christmases when you come to the various twentieth century rooms. My friend and I liked this early 1960s room best. It’s just after the children have opened their presents, when they’ve gone off to open their chocolate selection boxes and spoil their appetites for lunch. Sounds a familiar scenario, doesn’t it?

Why the toothbrush in the cafe, the eagle eyed among you might have spotted? I text her from the train and asked if she had an old one she could bring. I reckon it’s the mark of a good friend (or one who’s used to your ways) who responds with “I’ll see if I can find one” and not a single question about why.

After five miles of walking we went for a very late lunch and obviously chose the low calorie option….

And back to a superb mixture of laziness and activity yesterday; I tried out my new dumbbells that my father in law gave me. It’s become a thing every year; I really like to add practical presents to my wish list, things I need and will use. He laughs, but is usually the one to buy them. Over the years I’ve asked for a car valet, garden shears, secateurs, loaf tins and so on. This year it was dumbbells so I can work my triceps which are a little wobbly after a mere 4 months of a power shower and no hair-washing with a jug over the bath. (I miss my jug. I could also touch my toes and the floor without a problem. Probably that’s a no-go now too.) I started my daily routine yesterday. I will begin challenging people to arm wrestle by February. Actually, I’m having a day off today as I think my left elbow feels a bit sore. Ha! I’ve broken my resolution even before New Year.

How was your Christmas? Did your homemade gifts go down well? What’s the most bizarre present you received? Are you feasting still or dining on water and crackers now?