Sunday, 19 April 2015

Weekending...


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.

Monday, 13 April 2015

Keeping it simple...









I've hit a big black wall just lately. Nothing seems to magically conjure up any enthusiasm, not even the weather. It happens sometimes. It will inevitably pass. It could be hormones. It could be events. It could be people. It could be all of those things combined.

I feel like I drowned a long time ago. Round about the time this stranger came on the scene, the person who became a stranger when two little people started calling her Mummy. I loved drowning in Motherhood, we had some good times, but lately I want to resurface. Find that old thing that used to be me.

I've got a daughter, fast approaching eighteen. She's intelligent but says exactly what she thinks, no holds barred. It's at odds with the way I was brought up and I feel powerless to make her any other way. It has it's good side. No-one is in any doubt how she feels. Lively debates ensue. Life would be dull if we all thought the same way.

I have a son, six feet tall and fourteen years old. He's thoughtful, quiet, loving and will only say your bum looks big in that if he's genuinely teasing. He's closer to the personality I had when I was a child; tactful, peace keeping.

So I find myself wanting the best of both worlds. I want to speak up for myself but I still want to carry on being thoughtful and tactful. It's a fine line. Just how do you pull off being married to someone with such different values in life? Speaking up for mine (which I'm guilty of allowing to be brushed under the carpet for the sake of 'harmony') causes a certain amount of friction but also, surprisingly, a little 'give'.

M prefers me to stay out of the kitchen. He sees himself as something of a 'masterchef'. This suits me fine except for those occasions when he moans that he's tired, that he has to do everything, that he doesn't feel like cooking tonight so we'll have to go out (hello? I'm here, I'm a fully grown adult and I can actually cook a meal!), or when his concoctions are so elaborate they taste awful.

This Easter holiday I took a little control back. I insisted on being the meal planner. We went shopping with my new approach firmly in my mind. I wanted to strip it all back, keep it simple. Keep it tasty. I needed to give M a buzz word so that he could relate to it; too many floaty words and I lose him! We settled on 'artisan'. Simple, tasty, thoughtful, creative, rustic, quick; those are all the words we associate with artisan food.

Day one: Burgers. The best we could find. M reached for the sesame seed buns and I said a firm NO. We found alternative, tasty ciabatta rolls. He reached for the iceberg lettuce, I said NO! I bought tasty salad leaves. Cheap, flavourless tomatoes? Ugh. Plum tomatoes instead...and so on. M cooked the burgers to perfection. I laid out the salad in bowls and a bottle of balsamic dressing. The kids sat down and demolished piles of salad proving M completely wrong. He said they wouldn't touch it or that it wouldn't be filling. It had taken just one item to cook and the rest laid out with minimal preparation. The glass bowls have lids so they went on the leftover salad items and straight into the fridge for the next days lunch. Simple.

Day two was a similar affair. Our one cooked item was a large jacket potato each. Tuna mayo was made. The salad made another appearance with one or two changes. J ate a whole bowl of plum tomatoes (we are growing our own this year!). They both declared Mozzerella cheese was their new favourite thing (ugh, really?).

Day three and I thought it was time to do 'keeping it simple' without the salad. I cooked a whole chicken and we had it with mash potato and one veg. It was still a very simple, easy to prepare meal. Feedback was good. Plates were empty.

So the week went on like this until we got to Sunday and M reverted to his old behaviour and HIS way of doing things. Instead of the suggested beef with roast potatoes and purple sprouting broccoli (from the veg box), which quite frankly would have been plenty... He decided to do two different types of potato and four different types of vegetables and Yorkshire puddings. The final quantities would have fed a table of ten, nevermind four. Some of it was over cooked as will happen when you are juggling so many items. A lot of it ended up in the dog bowls, along with my good feelings about a. Having my voice heard in this household and b. Getting M on board with the whole simple living ethos.

I've been hatching plans to replace the playhouse at the end of the garden with a shepherds hut. There will be no electricity, no wifi, no tv. There will be a log burning stove. Ella said it sounds like solitary confinement. Oh yes please.

In crochet news, there is a new hat! It's my new favourite one. I finished it a week ago but haven't had a willing model and this one has an interesting crown and deserves to be photographed properly. I may have to bribe Jake with chocolate.


Friday, 3 April 2015

And then there were two...






Bingo! A little tweak here and there and I've got the hat I wanted. Something with a tiny bit of slouch, something 'holey' (it's lacy really but that sounds too girly!), and something in chunky oatmeal. I've also got rid of the feminine wavy edge by winging it with 'fill in' trebles and htr's. The overall result is much more me now.

Hat number one is in DK as per the pattern instructions (pattern link in last post). I think at some stage I will add a few more rows to this one and finish it off with a straight edge again. I know I won't wear it much as it is. Adapting the pattern for chunky yarn was easy. I just did the increase rows until the skull part was the same diameter as the DK version and then did a reduced number of shell and fptr pairs.

News that I am growing out my brown hair dye has met with mixed reactions. Two said I was brave. One said, go for it. One said she wasn't sure and one, bless her, said she thought it would really suit me and why should anyone ever have to explain the choice anyway. Girl power!

One thing I've learnt is that of four women I know who are all in their forties, I seem to be the only one who has white hair. Of the four, two are brown haired with barely any grey and two are fair with barely any grey showing. Only one of them has dyed her hair since the first grey appeared. I've talked about family genetics with two of them and it does seem to be something that's handed down. Take M for instance, he's ten years older than me with a full head of hair but I reckon I will end up with more grey/white hair than him. His Dad was in his seventies with not that much grey at all.

Our family Easter weekend has kicked off with a four day session of sawdust and power tools. At the end of day one we have a floor to ceiling kitchen cupboard. Hopefully at the end of day four we will have three of those with doors. I'm not holding my breath.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Off the hook...crochet indigo beanie







I was right about those narcissus being narcissistic...the little attention seekers decided to bloom before I could plant them up in that old wine box. Oh well. They are still a welcome presence in my kitchen. Along with the hyacinths which have also started to make an appearance.

I'm already quite conscious of my grey roots showing through, albeit an inch or so. I knocked up this little beanie in an evening using a dark denim DK wool I had in my stash. The idea being that it was lightweight and therefore more decorative than warm. It's a nice pattern but perhaps a little girly for my taste (it has a wavy edge!) It would probably work better for me in a chunky oatmeal yarn, maybe even cotton, so I will need to adapt the pattern and try again. Not that this first attempt will be assigned to the scrap heap.

(The pattern was free and in pdf format if anyone wants me to email them a copy). It does look slightly more interesting once on a head and the pattern becomes more visible. The front post trebles are ideal for someone tying fptr's for the first time. Easy peasy.

We got J's 'annual clothes shop' out of the way yesterday. He decided that last year's hoodie and sweatshirt were still favourites. Likewise he was set up for shorts, socks and underwear. We went to a large shopping centre (one we call Meadowhell) and sent J off with money and his big sis for updated, invaluable, non negotiable fashion advice.

While M and I were not having very much fun trying to find a blazer for cricket dinners, J and E were getting on very well with both shopping and each other. E finds it hilarious that J will only buy clothes in 'outfits' not in separates. He bought two pairs of skinny jeans, two t shirts and a shirt and we still had plenty of change from fifty quid. He's now under strict instructions to wear the new grey or black jeans out for meals, cinema, town etc but to consign the coloured skinny jeans (purple) to playing Xbox with friends. He's only allowed to wear the shirt undone and over a t shirt. Who knew?



The hat pattern is available for free at www.abeautifulramble.blogspot.co.uk

Friday, 27 March 2015

Kelly Kettles and going grey...


It's been all go here lately. Whilst I've been prattling on and pretending everything is ok (except when I'm alone and then I have a good cry) there's been some serious stuff happening. One of our clan is unwell. Quite seriously unwell. The thing is this... Anything happening to him is just not an option, as drawn up by his children and grandchildren and signed forthwith.

Wednesday was a big day. It was a day I needed some company and something to keep me busy while we were helpless and waited for news. As luck would have it M had a day off and we devised diversionary tactics by taking our brand new Kelly Kettle out for a test run. I like this gadget for it's sound eco principals. All you need is a handful of twigs to make a small fire in the base. That's enough heat to boil the water in the double walled part in about three minutes. It does what it says on the box. What it doesn't say on the box is that it might be tricky to find a suitably remote lay by with no passing traffic in order to try it out in a public place without getting into trouble.

We did eventually find the perfect spot and quickly set to lighting the fire. I gathered some dry twigs, leaves and small pine cones. Harvey was a big help with this activity. It took two attempts to light and it did smoke a bit at first but it got going with that hole at the bottom facing the wind (you can just see the orange glow of the fire).

We've invested in this kettle as a way of providing boiling water as and when we need it at the many (and this year even more!) cricket matches we'll be attending. Flasks don't last as long as my desire for hot tea unfortunately and then it gets expensive buying it all afternoon. It's also a bit of camping style fun. We'll need to take one of our small round concrete slabs so that we don't burn any grass and more than likely we'll have to sit in the furthest away corner of the boundary but apart from those two things I think it will be a success.

Wednesday went as well as could be expected and the next three months will involve me crocheting a number of man beanies to cope with the loss of hair. I doubt he'll wear any of them, I can but try.

Any good patterns along the way will be made in multiples because I've recently decided to embrace grey hair by growing out my dyed hair. It's been going grey since my twenties and I think I might be quite white now. I've no idea what I'll find underneath so I'm quite intrigued to know. I'm impatient and the quickest way to get things going was to chop off as much brown as possible, so I've recently had a pixie cut. I think I'll be wearing hats for a big chunk of this process though, it's not the hair cut I want to hide but what they call the 'skunk' stripe. Scary. Naturally my daughter can't begin to understand why anyone would want themselves to look older but then she's never really been as eco minded as I have. At her age she cares what others think, at my age I'm past caring, in fact it's liberating because I just want to be me. Whoever that is once you've taken out the mum and wife bits.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

The teenage brain...



The teenage tunnel is a long, dark one. There is light at the end of it. If truth be told I think we entered the tunnel long before time. I thought sixteen would be the start, turns out sixteen was only the peak. Generally life is much calmer now with glimpses that the now 'infamous' teenage brain is leaving the station. I say 'infamous' because it's the role of the Grandparents (in particular a psychotherapist Grandmother) to explain away all unsavoury parts of their grandchild's behaviour when they get to this horrible age. Heck, there's even a book on it. E describes with some relish, to her friends, the titles of some of her Grandmother's psychotherapy and relationship counselling books. Let's just say this is not a grey haired Grandmother who sits in a wing backed armchair with a battered copy of Reader's Digest.

So, the light at the end of the tunnel. Things like;

'I'm making myself a Green Tea, would you like one?' Yes, I surely would, just as soon as I've picked myself up from the floor where I've fainted from shock.

Or 'I'm popping in to town, is there anything you'd like me to pick up?'. No I really can't think of anything while my head absorbs the thoughtfulness of what you've just said.

Or 'I've saved the bath water in case you wanted to use it for the dogs'. This was a particularly welcome one as they are pretty much always filthy and stinking and I can never resist the chance to have them smelling of gorgeous bubble bath if only for one evening.

(Note: I don't actually say these replies, that's just my sarcastic sense of humour. In fact I try and look and sound as casual as possible, as though I'm not in shock!)

The biggest surprise was perhaps the morning we argued, about something that, it transpires, needn't have turned into a disagreement at all. M had a senior moment and forgot something he agreed to a while ago (transportation to and from a concert at Wembley) and I got an absolute earful about how thoughtless E was to assume that he would be available. So I tackled the issue with E and she quite rightly said he agreed to it, said a few unkind things and then stormed off to town leaving me to challenge M about this. He had a sheepish moment and I told him he could fight his own battles in future.

Anyway, she texted from the bus home and said that she had done the rounds of the charity shops, found two nice jackets and bought me a piece of pottery as a peace offering. She was pretty confident it was 'my sort of thing' and she was right. I love it and knew it would be right for hyacinths as soon as I saw it. I've chosen white ones to give a bit of a fresh looking centre piece for our rustic kitchen island.

Meanwhile, on the subject of bowls. I've made four more prototype felt bowls. I'm not happy with any of them. I made a plain bowl but upon felting a strange ridge appeared that was nothing to do with the stitch or pattern. I shall keep trying. All the rejects have found uses around the house.