Taking Stock – October

Making : a hot water bottle cosy. One half done. I started the other yesterday, but you really don’t get very far along in a 10m session, and I’m not up to everyday yet either. Try setting a 10m timer for the fun of it. It goes so fast. Then make yourself stop. It’s really hard!

I did feel like whooping yesterday when I posted this pic on Instagram. It was fab to have something to show and join in with the buzz of all the Autumn making 

Cooking : sourdough pizza last night, on a Sunday night. I hadn’t made any since August, it was time

Drinking : peppermint tea, Stoptober still going ahead here

Reading: The Music shop by Rachel Joyce and Never Greener by Ruth Jones, I’ve got a bit caught up in both

Wanting: a positive outcome to my appointment with the Hand and Wrist Consultant and Hand Therapist this week (i.e. no nasty injection or talk of surgery again)

Playing: some of The Music Shop book’s playlist

Deciding: not to try anymore crochet for several days now, as hand is sore 

Wishing: for a car to fall in my lap, I can pay but I just want someone else to find, test and choose!

Enjoying:  sunny blue skies and crisp weather. Driving to Birmingham, on Saturday morning, I noticed an orange snowflake appear on the dashboard to indicate the outside temperature. It had dropped down to 4°. It’s 7° today, crisp and bright – basically my favourite type of autumn day

It’s Christmas in Selfridges, Birmingham. I know it’s really early but actually I got swept into the joyful atmosphere

Waiting: for a telephone call from a company

Liking: thinking about which soup to make next

Wondering: what to have for dinner

How pretty are these Lola’s cupcakes? (Also in Selfridges, Brum)

Loving: seeing everyone’s colder weather makes on Instagram (I know some of you are in the southern hemisphere and I do like seeing your flowers and garden pictures too!)

Loved having a legitimate colder day to wear my Mock Cable mitts last week. You can knit some too

Pondering: natural ways to keep those limescale and splash marks off the shower doors, without resorting to nasty chemical sprays that you’re not meant to wash off. Any suggestions? I’m thinking of something like you rub on half a lemon and a bit of white vinegar in a half-hearted kind of way. I’m not sure if either would be effective Considering: going for a walk in the sunshine

Buying: frozen butternut squash, it’s a great standby for soup making

How white is this dog? She was eye catchingly pretty. Her owner said she’d just come from the groomers; she’s a perfect ad for their services! I had to ask if I could take her photo for my blog. She’s called Molly and posed like a true professional. My friends know I’m much more of a cat than a dog person, but she’s clearly gorgeous

Watching: I’m still working my way through Stella. I’ve just finished Series 4. So far series 3 has been my absolute favourite; it was so funny. She and ‘Michael Jackson’ were brilliant together. 

Hoping: no one tells me what happens at the end of series 6

Marvelling: at the range of items we can borrow from our libraries. I’m working my way through all the library’s Stella DVDs after getting hooked on the first two or three episodes for nothing on Amazon Prime, but then they wanted a lot of money to rent or buy the series. No way! I can reserve a DVD for £1.20 and borrow it for a week for another £1.20, then it’s 30p per every additional day afterwards

Cringing: at how bad you can feel during your period some months. It’s awful and you can’t really explain how fluctuating hormones can make you feel and react so emotionally to what you’d normally shrug off, or suggest discussing sometime over a burger and a milkshake. I think it can sound like an excuse to anyone who doesn’t experience it, but it’s very real. Afterwards you hardly recognise the emotional mess you became for a while

Not your usual charity shop find is it? No, I didn’t buy them!

Needing: to water my plants

Questioning: why the boiler keeps making that odd noise despite a recent service

Smelling: rose perfume oil, mmmmm

Wearing: jeans and a t-shirt with three-quarter length sleeves, it’s warm behind glass in the sun

Crossing the bridge over the lake, looking back towards the obelisk, Blenheim Palace in the autumn sunshine

Following: some incredible new designers that seem to have suddenly snuck up during the time that I haven’t been knitting and crocheting

Knowing: designing is probably never going to be my special talent, but I do love writing

Thinking: about my rumbling tummy, I always seem to be either hungry or thirsty when I write these posts

Admiring: some crochet jumpers and cardies

Nala the cockapoo, one of the salon dogs relaxing on the hair-wash chair. She’s either resting her head on your knee asking for love, or curled up on a chair. It’s clearly a hard life. Cora her Goldendoodle half-sister is often asleep by the front door, waiting for the postman who always brings treats. They are probably part of the reason why I’m so much more comfortable around dogs. I like my hairdressers a lot, so it wasn’t a difficult choice between leaving because of the dogs, or staying and getting used to them. This year I’ve patted them both once. This might not seem impressive, but believe me it is!

Sorting: my shredding and coming across all sorts of funny notes, including one I wrote to Someone who was on a conference call: ‘We have a situation in a k cupboard, I think it’s contained…. but I’ve left the bin outside the front door.’ 

Getting: a new mini sieve at Birmingham’s Rag Market, to try to make even better poached eggs

Bookmarking: articles about psychology and friendship

Coveting: new clothes 

Disliking: shopping for ‘em!

Opening: the veg drawers and finding a half rotten cucumber I’d forgotten about

Giggling: at Celebrity Goggle Box in aid of Stand-up for Cancer on Friday night. Danny Dyer and his daughter were hilarious

Sewing with my Mum. Just like old times: “You don’t need to stand over me, go and find something to do.” At least she didn’t tell me to “Go and have a run around the garden!”

Feeling: relaxed

Snacking: on nothing at the moment

Helping: my friend enjoy her holiday without guilt for having fish and chips etc. Life is too short, have some family fun and healthier eating can wait for a few days 

Hearing: bugs ding into the window outside

Mixing: lemon, ginger and honey later for a warming drink

Worrying: about something it seems I can do nothing to resolve. It takes two to tango/ talk 

Favourite lunch: toasted crumpets, avocado mashed with a little salt, poached eggs and homegrown cherry tomatoes

Slicing: that rotten cucumber, I’ve salvaged half. Hate throwing food away 

Celebrating: autumn 

Roses & orchids, amazing. Yes, spoilt

Forgetting: lots! It’s my age dear

Winning: £8:60 on the lottery a few weeks ago

Pretending: I’m a calm, wise and mature woman, not an emotional soggy mess on occasion

Sneaking: M&S Butter Mints from the car 

Embracing: my beloved in his new cashmere jumper 

~~~~

Hope all’s well in your world. What are you up to?

“I hope you haven’t done too much!”

I know, me too, but I had to try.

I saw Emma’s Hot Water Bottle Cosy earlier and thought it might be a good thing to try testing my hand out again. I’ve noticed a *slight* improvement this week, so I galloped upstairs to my stash of yarn and dug out my 5.5 mm hook. If I’m going to be honest I tried six places before I found it. I’m usually ‘a place for everything, everything in its place’ type, so when I couldn’t immediately lay my hand on the hook I could feel myself getting almost frantic, tempted to throw everything over my shoulder. Never the wisest choice, is it? Who’s got to pick it all up again at the end?! Deep breaths. And guess what? It was at the bottom of the first bag I looked in. Typical.

I planned to do only 10 minutes crochet, as advised before things got very painful. And so I did. I set an alarm actually, in the style of a sensible adult. It went off and I thought I’d just finish the next row, which I also timed. And then I wiggled my wrist, flexed my elbow and thought I could probably get away with a little bit more…always a risky strategy, isn’t it? Like deciding you’ll read one more chapter before lights out, and finding yourself finishing the whole book at 3 AM.

As you know this is the first craft of any kind I’ve done in weeks and weeks, and before that it was only a few times from April onwards. I’ve felt bereft at times, but I have perfected my Sourdough bread as I can make it one handed!

Last night I was looking for some bits for my sewing machine, as I’ve lent it to someone, and opened up a box full of various crafty things: pom-pom makers, Tunisian crochet hook, DPNs, vintage patterns, the lace tatting shuttle I bought in the sale at John Lewis a long time ago and have never even taken out of the packet, darning needles, stitch holders, spare crochet hooks etc and honestly it was like opening someone else’s kit. It feels like another life now.

I’m going back to see the Hand and Wrist Consultant and a Hand Therapist next week. It’s been so weird being one-handed. Now I’m trying things like picking up fairly lightweight items, opening door handles and taking small items, going carefully testing how it feels.

Anyway, I really enjoyed crocheting with this wool blend aran and a 5.5mm hook. It’s soft and cosy. Because the starting chain is only 20 and it’s aran yarn, it grows exponentially. That’s perfect if you’re limited time-wise or just want to see something grow quickly.

Next week I’ll be back with my monthly Taking Stock post and hopefully after that I can show you a crochet update. That’s almost a magical sentence. A Crochet Update!

Cross fingers and toes for me please.

Oh, the book has a playlist on Spotify if you want to play some of the music featured in the story. That’s pretty cool, huh.

Joining in with Ginny’s October Yarn Along.

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness 


Autumn’s creeping slowly in now. There’s that crispness to the air in the mornings, leaves are beginning to turn, mornings and evenings are darker earlier and my thoughts are turning to soup recipes. The main indicator of the change of season is that I woke feeling iffy yesterday so made my first porridge of the season, accompanied with a fizzy vitamin c drink! I don’t mind. I love autumn. Always have. It’s especially going to be good as on very rainy days I can catch up on blog reading! We have BROADBAND again! Finally!

I met my cousin (she of the Lincolnshire field BBQs) at Waterperry Gardens yesterday for a look around and cup of earl grey. As you see; the pear trees are laden and the pumpkins are steadily growing on, apart from one monster which looks set to take over the world!

Knit & Sip was fun again yesterday. There was no mention or sight of any nettle yarn, I’m dubious it’s actually going to happen, it’s pretty labour intensive I’d have thought, but will have to see. All around the table there was so much chat and creativity going on. You’d never guess what was being made by the six of us. Mine would be easy; as I’ve got my pub knitting for the next two years set up with my garter stitch blanket, but some of the others? No way! One’s knitting what looks like it will be a really warm and beautiful dark purple jumper, on those very stylish black Karbonz DPNs. Even in the process of being made it looks so swish. Someone else is making her first ever garment using very interesting looking art yarn type of thing by King Cole, another is finishing a cotton bedspread her mother started and is unable to complete, using a 4 ply white cotton. This is the type of realllly clever knitting where there are lots of twiddly bits, including leaves emerging in the pattern. It’s another stylish knit. If the word ‘bedspread’ puts you off, just think ‘throw.’ I reckon it’s going to be one of these heirloom pieces the daughters will both want to own, as it’s knitted by Grandma and Mother. Another is knitting….wait for it….Lego Hands Gloves for her Lego loving hubby! The last is knitting A Jesus Tea Cosy for her R.C friend. Well! Can you beat that for sheer variety? Anyone? I’m throwing the Lego glove of challenge on the ground between us! 

As for reading I’m unusually still plodding on with exactly the same books as last week: Laurie Lee’s As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning and have a mere hour of The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy to go. Celia Imrie is superb at accents. The character Finty is the best by miles. 

What about you? What are you making and reading? Can you match my challenge above? Does it feel autumnal where you are, or beginning to zing with Spring? 

If you’d like to share what you’re making and reading every Wednesday too, leave a link in the comments. 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.

BBC Countryfile Live

Once again we went along to BBC Countryfile Live. This was its second year and as it was so enjoyable last time, we were keen to go again. Again there was so much to see including multiple show rings and arenas for different displays: from farm machinery, both modern and vintage, pig shows, dog shows including terriers chasing after a lure, followed by hilarious attempts by forty or so of the spectators dogs (all hopeless, apart from one chocolate Labrador who probably thought it was food) BMX bike tricks, a chain saw competition and many, more more. My absolute favourite is the equine ring, which surprises me rather since I can’t say I’m a horsey person at all. Although I spent a lot of my early childhood pretending to ride horses; sitting sideways on one of our two swings, galloping along beaches on evening strolls on family seaside holidays and reading books about horses and ponies. However when I actually started horse riding lessons, after school each week, I was terrified! All I could think was that if the horse (actually a small, fat pony called Tumbleweed) decided to take off with me on his back, there was nothing I was going to be able to do about it. This was not a toy, or my imaginary turn on TV’s beautiful Black Beauty, but a living breathing animal. I begged my teacher Mr McColl not to let go of the reins. After two lessons with Mr McColl walking and trotting alongside, around and around the ring, it was clear that things had to change. The next lesson was jumping, after a few practice tries either I had to grow more trusting of Tumbleweed, and much braver, or Mr M was going to be worn down to a stick. (What a lovely man he was!) I gave up gracefully and carried on with ballet, tap and swimming club instead.

I took a lot of photos at CFL, of celebrities, displays, funny ducks, pretty geese, frankly ugly turkeys, pigs being guided around a ring and many more, but it’s far too much to put them all on here. If you’d like to see some more of the magnificent shire horses, always my top favourites, go to my instagram. Do watch a short video I took of the country’s only six team of shires. It’s so good. As you’ll see, they came really close. So close, the ground vibrated. This team are regularly used in tv and film, so I’m gong to keep my eyes peeled for them. 

CFL covers a huge area at Blenheim Palace and even if you didn’t intend to walk far, you would end up covering several miles. At the end of the day my pedometer said I’d walked eight. 

The weather was typically English, at least for August nowadays when summer seems to abandon us to show us a preview of autumn. Then everything pings back to summer again, sometimes in the space of a day or an hour. It isn’t exactly cold, but you need to travel with an umbrella and raincoat, as well as sunscreen and a t-shirt. We had all of these just for the day out. And all were utilised.

During a massive thunder and lightening storm complete with tropical rainfall, everyone dived under cover into tents and marquees. At least there were the goats to pet, Adam Henson book-signing in the tent’s corner to discreetly gawp at, and a fun egg finding game for small children, which was very amusing to watch. I chatted about the possibility of keeping rescue chickens too, or rather the very enthusiastic stall-holder was trying to persuade me that they’re very affectionate pets. She did offer me the opportunity to cuddle a chook, but I declined. The fresh eggs appeal, but keeping them is not for me right now.

The time difference between the photo of the coming storm, above the dappy looking goat portrait, and the return of the sun below was less than an hour! Everything dried up super fast and we returned dry raincoats to the rucsac.

There was no shortage of food and drink to sample and buy at the show. Produce seemed to be mostly British, with amazing smells tempting us around every corner. We lingered at the Food Heroes stage, but had missed the most famous chefs doing demos. From a wide array of choices I chose a pork bap with stuffing, apple sauce and crackling. I did remember to take a photo, but only after I’d snaffled the crackling. It looks somehow bare without it, so that’s in the deleted folder. Apparently the Welsh boss-man rode his bicycle from the stall holders’ campsite during the night, every few hours, to check on the pig cooking on its spit. He did a very good job, it was yummy. My other treat was Hereford ice-cream from a mother and daughter team from Rowlestone Farmhouse ice cream near Hereford. Actually it sounds as if the whole thing is a family endeavour; Dad is in charge of the dairy, Mum makes the delicious ice cream while the daughter works front of house. I had salted caramel and pecan, it was gorgeous. I confess that I’d willingly travel several hours to visit their ice cream parlour. (I wish they’d sponsor me to say that, ice cream would be fine.) 

I can’t work out if this photo is a bit odd; with the guy walking so close to the window. I just liked the way the company had dressed the potting shed shelves.

These carved crochet hooks were so smooth to the touch. I really am happy with my Clover Amour set, but was slightly tempted to buy a large wooden one.

As the rain was coming to an end we came across The Oxford Weavers, Spinners and Dyers, in a small tent near the river Glyme. I had a go at using a drop spindle. It’s much harder than it looks, but the lovely lady said not to worry about lumps; just call it Art Yarn! Ok then, I think I’ve discovered a latent talent…

I didn’t realise until I saw the stream of photos that I’d had quite an audience.

This week I’ve been busy. I’m rigorously decluttering and sorting out things. Yesterday I posted old clothes into a clothing bank bin, took bags of better clothes and boots, books and a heap of craft magazines to a hospice charity shop,  gave my old pairs of reading glasses to an optometrists who will send them to the Third World, Guide Dogs for the Blind have used postage stamps, The Blue Cross charity shop have foreign coins from my most recent travels (New Zealand, Malaysia, Israel, America, Australia and Hong Kong.) I donated some of  my academic books to the university library and I sent my last Star Ripple to Knit for Peace. As you see, someone else also snuck into the bag. I don’t mind and think Stanley might enjoy a new adventure.

I’ve tried some knitting after a few weeks break. My elbow feels ok, but no more again for a few days I’d say. This is a shame, but there we go. At least I’ve added in a new colour which keeps things interesting.

As for reading, I’m now listening to The Love Song of Miss Queenie Henessy by Rachel Joyce, having finished The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry which began the story and should be read first to get the full story. Oh my goodness, Celia Imrie is a fantastic narrator! I’ve always admired her acting, but had no idea she could do accents so well. Cockney to Scottish, women and men, she’s nailed them all so far in the audiobook. Also, I’m halfway through reading Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals. This is slow for me, but I kept listening to Harold Fry in bed instead and woke up an hour later several times. The dulcet tones of Jim Broadbent had sent me to sleep. Audiobooks don’t work for me at bedtime at all, but still I try from time to time and then miss huge chunks of the story.

Have you been on any days out recently? Can you listen to audio books at bedtime without falling asleep? What are you making and reading?

If you’d like to share what you’re making and reading every Wednesday too, leave a link in the comments. 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.

Yarning Along & the magic of plywood

On rainy Sunday I sat and crocheted on and off for several hours, this means I’m now wondering how much more to do. It’s a baby blanket, as you probably recall, and now measures 28″ by 31″. It’s obviously going to be wider than 28″ with a border, but I’m not sure how much longer it needs to be; as I always think that to be properly useful a baby blanket could be big enough for when they are a toddler, and can to snuggle underneath.

I thought I’d tell you about Friday, when I met a friend in London for the day. I’d suggested we visit the Museum of London as I’d seen they have an exhibition all about junk and recycling, which highlighted how previous generations fixed, saved and valued household items. This Guardian article made it look really promising, and we both thought it sounded like a winner. Nowadays, we tend to judge visits and outings by three main criteria: are they better, equal or worse than the Thames Barrier Experience, the Fan Museum or the Home Sewing Exhibition that I once went to visit, with great anticipation. I won’t spoil the first two by revealing our rating, you’ll have to visit them yourselves and work that out for yourself. You’ll probably experience them differently. Anyway, when we got to the museum we soon realised there were only three scant cases of exhibits (semi-broken pottery and tatters of leather; once shoes) and some information on the wall panels. And that, as they say, was that. The main exhibition adjacent to the cases was London Through the Ages. This hasn’t seemed to change for years, since I recognised most of it. I realised that my friend was slowly moving around and dragging her feet and when she said “I feel like I’m on the school trip” I realised just how un-fun it was and that she really wasn’t enjoying it. Nor was I really, but I didn’t like to say in case she was really into it. I have to say that they really need to up their game, because it could be a fantastic informative and fun museum. As she says, it’s like stepping back into our school days where museums were dark, dingy and unappealing, without any interactive or imaginative displays. You would trudge around after the teacher, clutching your a clipboard and pencil on a string, completing the most boring worksheets.  The most exciting part was eating your packed lunch afterwards! (To my foreign readers; does this also sound familiar?!)

The MoL really doesn’t compare with The V&A, they are absolutely poles apart in terms of enjoyment, learning and fun. Last time we went was at the end of April, when as part of the Friday Late activities we ended up in a yurt, lying on giant beanbags in the dark howling with laughter. It was set up so that every time someone tweeted, the lights inside flashed. It doesn’t sound funny but, trust me, it really was! (We were alcohol free, just in case you’re wondering.) On Friday afternoon we popped into an exhibition about Plywood, to fill some time while the demonstrators set up their interactive displays for the evening. Yep you read that correctly, it’s all about Plywood. We smirked about it, ready to write the day off as being one where we’d tried to do interesting and fun activities, but failed. But how wrong we were! Plywood! It’s absolutely fascinating! You learn how it’s produced, how it can be moulded, about its strength and durability, its lightweight nature, the inexpensive way it can be produced, watch historical and contemporary films from around the world showing it being made and fashioned into all kinds of items. There are scale models put forward for patents for different items, the current innovative ways of using it and the laser cutters which I didn’t really know anything about… I never realised plywood had such a varied history, or has so many uses. It’s just not something I’ve ever spent much time to dwelling upon. I guess you haven’t either have you? Here are a few uses: post-war housing, aeroplanes, tea-chests, Singer sewing machine cases, surfboards, speedboats, chairs, tables, stalls, beehives, sports cars, car parts, and many many more…Check out this Time Out article about the exhibition if you don’t believe me. It’s on until the beginning of November, if you can get to it. It’s free and well worth allowing a good half an hour, or more, if you like to watch all the films and read everything.

As for reading: I’ve been listening to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce as I’ve got the sequel The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy, but it’s been 4 years since I heard the first. I couldn’t remember much about how it ended. I started listening to the first chapter on the way into London on Friday, intending to jump to the last one after that. But I was gripped and am now an hour from the end. I’ve listening to it in 10 minute bursts whenever I can and while I crocheted on that rainy Sunday. It’s a truly beautiful story. I wonder if anyone has replicated Harold’s pilgrimage? I bet they have somehow! I should Google it.
I always have an audio and printed, or e-book on the go, and I’m reading My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell. It was a Kindle Daily Deal for 99p, the other day. It’s funny and well written. I can’t help picturing the actors from the TV series, although some are very different to those described, but it does bring it alive.

Have you been to any interesting exhibitions lately? What are you reading and making? Do you find you’re less productive in summertime?

If you’d like to share what you’re making and reading every Wednesday too, leave a link in the comments. 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.

Cornish mining distraction

I’ve never knit anything much with Stylecraft Special DK before and I started this garter stitch blanket just to use up some odd balls. I’m really liking the softness of the fabric as it slowly grows. I felt very encouraged when I handled Phil’s version. It’s so drapey and soft. I actually wasn’t making this for anyone in particular, but maybe it will end up being mine as a snuggling blanket for cold nights? It’s 250 stitches long, I’m knitting the width as Arne & Carlos instruct. This is not going to be a fast project and I didn’t go to knit night this week, so it’s been abandoned in its bag for a day or two. I’m still catching up on series 2 of Poldark and it’s imperative I give him my full attention!

This week I’m reading Perfect by Rachel Joyce. I listened to her first novel: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry a while ago, so when I saw her second novel in the library I grabbed it. It’s set in summer 1972, here in England, where two boys are intent on rescuing one of their mothers from what the blurb calls ‘impending crisis’. There’s also a present day story, set in the winter, which concerns Jim who struggles with OCD. There is a connection, but what?

Before I go I just have to recommend Wild by Cheryl Strayed. I read it last week in several big gulps. I could not put it down, without reluctance. (The film adaptation starring Reece Witherspoon is good too.) It’s the true account of Cheryl, who when she was 22 experienced huge feelings of loss and grief. She decided to walk the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State, alone. I was backpacking at that same time and although our travels were completely different in fundamental ways, there were similarities: experiencing the kindness of strangers, making instant bonds with people you meet along the way and the ways in which you feel yourself change. As the book neared the end it was pleasing to picture many of the places along the Oregon and Washington border, because of Teresa Kasner’s blog. She’s written about and photographed many of the places mentioned.

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.

1: One Creative Cat

2: Vikki Bird Designs

3: Made by Patch

4: Needles and Wool