Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Maori and Marmite...

Well, I'm still here. I've lost count of how many overs of cricket I've watched now. I started to keep a tally but that got boring. Bank Holiday Monday was spent watching three 20-20 matches. For those of you who have no idea, that's 120 overs of cricket which took approximately from 11am through to 8.30pm. Ugh. Jake played in the first of those and the last, so at least I had the pleasure of reading my book whilst snug in the car (with the slightest hint of sun behind the clouds) for the entire second match.

Oh and what a book. The first I've really enjoyed for a while. I dusted it off and read the first few pages. It didn't look promising. I read a few more pages and thereafter it was one of those unputdownables. That isn't a word but it should be. I didn't even realise until a little way through that there was a handy glossary of Maori phrases at the back. It doesn't spoil the read if you aren't fluent. I'm guessing it's one of those books that's a bit like Marmite. You'd either love it or hate it, I loved it, and I love Marmite too!

The Bone People will be a hard act to follow.

As well as reading good books and watching cricket (and washing mountains of kit) I've been steadily working on my earrings. I'm getting more technical but often the simpler designs are the best. I enjoy the designs that involve whacking holes with my hollow punch set or setting eyelets best! M has started on these rustic display cases for me (crap photo's, sorry!). Currently waiting to be hinged together and fitted with a clasp and carrying handle. My contribution was measuring out and screwing in all those pesky hooks. Fifty per case and there will be two cases eventually. I've made almost fifty pairs for one display case and I think I will bite the bullet and book a small local craft fair when I've made enough to fill the second case. I'm doing some simple necklaces too. Since acquiring some leather offcuts most of the designs now incorporate leather. It won't please the vegans (as Ella pointed out) but at least they are industrial offcuts and therefore a recycled product of sorts.

Ella wore the black and silver leather pair (pictured top right in the last photo) out for the day last week, and again today and they looked quite eye catching. M did mention that for every pair she decides to snaffle it's a pair I can't sell but we told him that they needed to be road tested first!

I haven't dreamt up a name for this little sideline of mine yet. Eventually I will be able to move my little wooden table and tools into our shepherds hut and spread out a bit. It's taking over our sunlounge/living room at the moment. If they actually sell I will stick with it and do a few fairs per year. If not, my hut will become a crochet and reading den (and spare bedroom for guests!).

We attempted to kick start our hut building by buying some authentic wheels from ebay. Unfortunately the seller turned out to be a time wasting idiot. We have at least been refunded. Back to the drawing board. I'm reluctant to use ebay again so we will be visiting a few salvage yards soon. M won't hear of buying a hut kit, more's the pity. At least this year he has admitted that we need industrial hedge trimming gear for our beech and laurel hedges, and help with filling in an old pond/flower bed to create a third parking space for Ella's new car.  I'm secretly hoping we can also have a new path laid so that I can hang the washing out without wearing Wellies to tackle the cow parsley lawn. This is where Jake playing men's cricket comes in very handy; there's not a trade that isn't covered amongst the various teams he plays for. Landscape gardener? Tick.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

That time has come...

Having a large gin at 11.30 in the morning would be wrong wouldn't it? I mean why?

Putting a teenager in front of a steering wheel is crazy. I need the gin, and I'm not even the one in the passenger seat...yet.

Did I tell you that I had the final hair cut that revealed the grey in all it's silver glory? It's rapidly turning white as we speak. I can just see her eyeballs roll when I trot that joke out at the next fifteen cricket matches.

We are extremely fortunate that M's previous job was driving instructor extraordinaire. Apparently he had a first time pass success rate of 96%, but as we keep sniggering, 'he didn't have Ella to teach did he?!'

She asked why I call her 'spatially challenged'. I say it's because despite advice to the contrary she cannot get the hang of NOT leaving her doc martins or converse boots in the middle of a room where someone could trip over them. Despite having three days of 'home alone' and becoming more familiar with the dishwasher she still can't seem to get the hang of putting dirty dishes IN it. Our dual section laundry basket marked LIGHT and DARK completely bamboozles her.

E was absolutely amazing as a small child at certain things. She seemed to have a photographic memory, indeed memory games were a breeze. Put thirty random household items on a tray, show her the tray, take one item away and ask which one was missing and she'd get it every time, and she was not even three. Fast forward three years and teaching her to ride a bike was another matter. If she didn't have to pedal she could steer. If she didn't have to steer she could pedal. Putting the two together however, resulted in several short journeys into the nearest ditch.

Right now, at this very minute she is behind the wheel of a car, yes, a C A R, with an engine and everything! On a real road with traffic. Terrifying! I'm home alone, drinking strong coffee (not Gin) playing loud music and periodically talking to the dogs and telling them it will be fine, just fine, and they mustn't worry.

I've taken a detour from crochet lately. I sorted out some art and craft supplies and came across some jewellery bits and bobs. I bought some titchy pliers and a small hammer and I've been having quite a lot of fun bashing eyelets and tweaking wire findings. Nothing too adventurous at this stage but with a few more leather off cuts I could get quite carried away. I've got a Sissix thingy with a tag cutting die which is handy for the backing cards. Most of the designs have met with E's approval and she's had a few 'samples' and worn them out and about so I'm encouraged to try a small craft fair somewhere at some stage. I've done some wooden and tin designs too, I thought I'd do a few 'ranges' and see what sells best.

I quite like the idea of moving my little old desk into the shepherds hut in the garden (when it's built) and working on my earrings with a warm and cosy wood fire going, bare toes on a sheepskin rug, dogs at my feet...ah yes. Paradise.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Sock progress and silver hedgehogs...

I've waivered a little with the crochet sock. For a while it didn't look like it was going to work out. I thought the sizing was going baggy but I now realise it's probably ok and so I've picked it up again and I'm on the home straight! I loved the camouflage bit after the ribbing and now it's boring old stripes but hey, it's a sock, not a work of art!

This is one particular project where I'm grateful for the knit pro hooks I have. I loved the knitting needle version but don't always use them for crochet. It depends on the yarn. In this case the sock yarn is soft enough to wear without discomfort but it's very fine so it seems to catch easily. The slightly longer, slightly more pointed head of this hook makes it much easier to direct it through the small stitches. I find myself moisturising my hands more often with this project too as the yarn picks up the slightest rough skin.

The mug I happened to be drinking tea from whilst photographing the sock is one I call my hedgehog mug, for obvious reasons. I've picked up all sorts of interesting shaped pottery mugs lately, I really must photograph some of them before they too end up smashed on the kitchen floor. We've lost four that way lately.

That's not the only hedgehog in the house so it seems.... I picked another random hairdresser today and had the final inch of dyed hair chopped off! It had paled to a very light brown through not being 'topped up' and repeated washing with clarifying shampoo, it wasn't a bad shade but it was preventing me from seeing just how grey I really am now so I was keen to be rid of it.

With the final swish of the hand mirror so I could see the back I can honestly say I was in shock! Going grey after years of dying should come with a health warning! I spotted my first grey in my twenties and back then I didn't think through the implications of dying it out, it was just something I thought women automatically did. It would have been less of a shock to just let it happen over the years but maybe I needed the confidence of not having grey hair when I was in my twenties and thirties. In my forties I just want to be me.

It's a little shorter than I'd choose but that's not providing the shock factor every time I look in the mirror, it's the colour. I don't think it will be many years now until it's white. It's certainly very pale now. The kids have handled it reasonably well. Jake is just genuinely puzzled as to why I want to cut that last bit of dyed hair out, or why I'd want to stop dying it anyway. E gave me a sideways look that said she wasn't sure. Before she went out on a babysitting job I asked if she was thinking of running a brush through her hair (it had the wild windswept look about it) and she said that she wasn't which was fair enough but she couldn't help adding, 'says the woman with hair like a silver hedgehog'. Quite like the use of the word silver but wasn't very flattered about the hedgehog! It doesn't stick up that much!

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Chicken soup for the soul...

The Hut was everything I had anticipated and more. I know that sounds cheesy. It really was chicken soup for the soul and it's just what I needed, right when I needed it. Here's to spontenaity! Google, book, go. OK, there was quite a bit of talking M into it first.

Our priority upon arriving was to light the fire. It was warm in no time at all. In fact we had windows and the top of the stable doors open most of the time despite bitterly cold winds. If we were to go again we'd take seasoned logs rather than use the supplied wood offcuts, they just burnt down too quickly. I woke both nights, in the small hours, perishing cold and had to light a fire just to get warm again. No great hardship really, it was quick and easy and I had the bonus of sipping a hot mug of tea whilst sitting in the glow of the wood burner whilst the world (and M) slept.

The view out over that vase of flowers was taken in the local community run pub. Rather than allow it to close the community took it over and trebled it's turnover in three months. It is quirky, meals are decided with a spin of the 'Meal of Fortune' and there's only one choice per night but you have to be quick, six to eight guests before you and you may miss out on it altogether! The bar staff are volunteers and not very knowledgeable about drinks (we asked for local cider and he suggested one that was made in Suffolk, but we didn't argue!). Sheep dogs were tucked in under every bar stool, including two adorable ones that had got soaked in the massive snow storm that we had on the first night. I made a fuss of them and there were both trying to nudge their wet faces into my lap in competition with each other. I'd have happily taken them home.

The local pub was also the only reliable source of a mobile phone signal for M, and free wifi. Both of my evenings spent there involved very little conversation with M, but quite a lot of convention between him and the children. He even facetimed J to take him through the very tricky operation of feeding the cat and the dogs!!

Ella, ever the delegator, managed to offload all the pet feeding and letting in and out duties to Jake, in exchange for taking over the running of the dishwasher. After failing to actually turn it on three times because she'd held the button down...apparently this puts it on dryer mode, she eventually got it to wash. Thankfully they coped with the meal times perfectly ok.

I'd forgotten just how baffling the Welsh language is despite all the multilingual road signs and place names. We pretty much made up our own pronunciations of places and were careful not to say them in front of anyone. Someone suggested we take the scenic route from our hut to Llangollen which turned out to be a highlight of the trip. 1300 feet up and I asked M why the hell we even went to Italy last year when we have one vehicle width mountain roads with sheer drops of hundreds of feet right here in the United Kingdom! In fact ours surpass the Italian ones any day because the barriers were either non existent or wouldn't have held a sheep back let alone a car! Needless to say I have very few photographs that actually capture that experience. I was too busy clinging on to the car door handle (for all the use that would have done if we'd careered off the road).

Another slightly hair raising experience was our attempt to walk over an Aquaduct that was 126 feet tall. It was spectacular. Canals go across with a path one side of them and a sheer drop the other side with only six inches of canal side between them and the drop. The sign that said small children would be able to fit through the old railings and fall to their death was probably what put me off the walk across. We got about a third of the way and neither of us were enjoying it so we turned back much to the amusement of local dog walkers. Harvey would have plunged into the canal for a swim and Riley would have dropped through the railings, guaranteed.

There were steam train rides at Llangollen and some other nearby places. All stations have lovely tea rooms but with only a short stay in the area we decided to save that for another time. There we canal trips we could have taken too, and we'd both have liked to have driven West to see Betws-y-Coed but that's also something we would do next time, and I do think there will be a next time. It was my idea of paradise and M said he thoroughly enjoyed it. E and J said that it was fun without us which isn't how I thought they'd describe it but I'm glad it was, so all's well that ends well.

Well almost. We stopped in Chester on the way home which was lovely. Before we left we had a delicious mug of hot coffee and then, about half an hour onto the motorway it closed, all three lanes our side and all three lanes on the other side at a total stand still for three hours! To say I was desparate for the loo would be an understatement, and M was cross I wouldn't get out of the car and pee on the verge in front of hundreds of cars and lorry drivers!!!

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Feeling Good...

It's been one of those days. The kind of day where the lyrics to 'Feeling Good' come to mind. The sun was in the sky, birds were flying high. I saw butterflies, blossom and there was indeed a breeze driftin' on by.

There's a tiny speck in that photo of blue skies and fluffy white clouds. It's my Heron. I got a fantastic view from underneath him as he circled leisurely for ages, until he went up and up and up and then my neck ached too much to carry on watching him. If it hadn't been for thoughts of grass snakes, stoats, voles and all manner of other wildlife I've seen there lately I'd have quite happily lay down and watched him until he disappeared. It's mesmerising watching Herons fly.

There were hundreds of those butterflies on that white blossomed hedgerow today. The smell was quite intoxicating too. Certainly more pleasant than Riley on the home straight with fox poo on his neck. Little rascal. Good job there is one final stream for a dunk before I take him home.

I picked up some random sock yarn in a charity shop a little while ago. A good quantity, about six balls and only £1.49. It's fascinating seeing the patterns emerge as I go. I think there will be enough yarn leftover for a second pair. I have a basic knitted in the round sock pattern (thanks D!) and when I'm feeling brave I'm going to get my dpns out and face my fear! In the meantime I'm crocheting a pair which I must admit, is easier than knitting when an old senile cat wants to bury herself in your lap. She seems to have forgotten I'm a dog person. She is a bit cute though.

I shouldn't have cast these socks on at all given the wips already needing my attention, but the other day M had a couple of short days in a row and we ran some errands and had a couple of coffees in our favourite Italian coffee place. Being freelance means his office goes everywhere with him and I find myself looking into the back of his iPhone for the duration of our coffees out. If he gets a moments peace from the phone he likes to do The Times crossword (leaving me to do the difficult ones) and so I tuck the sock and hook into my bag and whip it out everytime there's a spare ten minutes or so.

I did envy the dogs their lake swim today. They were hot and bothered and Harvey launched himself off the bank with a spectacular four legged landing about one metre out. It looked so inviting. Riley is more cautious but was persuaded in when he spotted a couple of Moorhens disappearing into the island reeds. He had absolutely zero chance of bothering them. I think they dive underwater when they feel threatened.

The lake has seemed devoid of all wildlife over the winter months but it's now attracting Canada Geese, Moorhens, the odd Mallard. Since it's only small, it'll be interesting to see if they can all inhabit the lake harmoniously.

Every year we have a pair of nesting ducks in the stream beside our house. They choose the same spot and anytime soon we will see the Mother with approximately twelve fluffy little ducklings. It's heartbreaking because as the weeks go by she will end up with maybe half that number. I'm pretty sure the foxes have a few and some may well slip down the drains when she leads them across the road. Some must get run over although I've never seen a dead one in the road. They are tame enough to stay and be fed brown bread. Where the happy couple take the surviving ones we just don't know. One day they just leave and don't come back. I hope they have a nice pond or lake somewhere.

The dogs seem to both respect the nesting ducks. They haven't hatched yet and Harvey, who is most interested, will stand at the top of the bank and just wag his tail at them. He doesn't go any closer and he doesn't bark. He spend quite a portion of his day doing this. Unfortunately it's also the site of a wasp nest and he's already been stung on the side of the nose. I'm sure it won't be the last time either. He never learns.

Sunday, 19 April 2015


This is our kitchen island. It's also the provider of much needed fun and laughter. We've been squeezing in the odd game before meals and waking up to full scale 'best of 11' competitions. It starts off as best of three, then five, then seven, and the more I beat Jake the more he adds to the 'best of...' I think I have new found respect round here. I may be 'old' in their eyes and need reading glasses but I play a mean game of table tennis.

I spotted this mini desktop set in Urban Outfitters of all places. The bats look impossible to play with because they are very small with but it's surprising how quickly you get used to them. We always said we'd adapt the island for this purpose when the kitchen was done and although the kitchen is far from 'done' this addition has proved hugely successful.

I love that we've used worktop materials that aren't so precious that we can't drill two holes in them. I love that this £3 set in the sale gets the kids off their iPads and Xbox for a little while. I love the way anyone, young or old, collapses into fits of giggles when a long rally is finally scuppered. I love the way Harvey rushes to the ball when it reaches the floor and with all the commotion looks up and says 'just sniffing, just sniffing!' I love the way Riley puts his paws up on the island as if to ask, 'what is all the fuss about?' I love the way a game of ping pong with two playing and two spectating seems to melt away the troubles.

(The set came with two suction pads for the net if anyone fancies getting hold of a set and has the non drilling two holes in your worktop type of kitchen!)

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Off the hook...fave hat

Hastily taken snaps as we were going out first thing this morning. I didn't notice that I was wearing the square bit, square on if you know what I mean. I've been wearing it diagonally with a corner pointing skyward and one pointing down the back of my neck. Oh well. It was the second attempt at taking snaps. E wasn't feeling very generous with her time when we took the first set and the light wasn't good either. So, that's that.

The pattern is from the Easy Crochet series and this one was the 'Weekend' book. I used the alpaca mix yarn by Stylecraft. I like the slight fuzziness of this yarn, it's comfy and warm too.

If you can detect a slight smile in the top pic it's because I have something to smile about. I've managed to persuade M, that in the interests of sanity I need just a couple of days away from this madhouse. He initially suggested booking it for my birthday, which is on October....argh! When I calmly explained that I had nothing on my calendar that was solely for me to look forward to (plenty of cricket mind you, trips for the kids, festivals, concerts, cricket dinners for M) he finally got it, and we've shoe horned a two night break in between cricket, work and DIY on the kitchen.

I can't help but think it could all go pear shaped. It's been a while since we actually went anywhere without the kids and dogs in tow. We will either get on famously or we will annoy the hell out of each other. I've chosen something that is my idea of paradise. When I told E she said it was her idea of a punishment. Clearly she's the five star hotel with fluffy white bathrobe type (probably swapped at birth).

A field with a view of hills. A shepherds hut with a wood burning stove. No wifi, no tv, no hot tub. I cannot wait. I'm taking a big fat book, my typewriter and some crochet. Two nights and three days with very little else to do but read, write and crochet. Heaven.