Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Round and round...

I've never been the doily type... until now! I guess this isn't a traditional doily anyway, it's a bit more rugged than that. I had a phase of making up random motifs and coasters last year some time. It was the quick and easy part that appealed to me, as well as the attraction of working in cotton during the warmer months. This time I wanted something much bigger than a coaster so I started off with a simple motif and just gave it a few extra rounds of something more solid so that it could end up as a mat of some kind. There was a bit of ripping back and rehashing to make it lie flat but I got there in the end.

This organic cotton range was a bargain when I bought them, round about £3 a skein I think. I've noticed that they are nearly £5 a skein on Amazon now. Probably something to do with them messing about with free delivery.

Tomorrow I plan to throw open my wool cupboard and dig out some holiday yarn. I need small, simple projects because there won't be long, uninterrupted crochet sessions. Just a few moments in between cricket and caravanning duties (like washing up, boo!)

When I first learnt how to crochet and we went on holiday I would pack a pattern or two and the specified yarn. When I got a bit more confident I challenged myself to take a few balls of yarn that I liked and to make up something without a pattern. Inevitably I would find an old crochet magazine in the caravan and find a pattern and off I went. I did once make a pair of crochet mittens without a pattern whilst pitched on a hilltop with gale force winds buffeting the caravan rather alarmingly but I did have extreme motivation on that occasion; arriving without gloves or mittens in sub zero temperatures.

This year I am determined to 'crochet from scratch' and I'm thinking 'socks'. E is a big fan of socks, whether decorative, humorous, slouchy, bed, wellie socks, knee highs, you name it, she loves them. So I figure she would welcome my crochet efforts. Mind you, I have one or two nice looking sock patterns!

Monday, 29 July 2013

A wash out...

Is it a bird, is it a plane? No, it's a cricket coach aquaplaning across a cricket pitch!

We were up at 7am and out of the door 45 minutes later for a 2 and a half hour drive to Ramsbottom in Lancashire for an under 13s county cricket match. It was gloriously sunny when we left and was fairly warm and sunny when we arrived. The boys do at least an hour of warming up and cricket exercises before each match so they were all out there in their training kit when the heavens opened.

We usually pitch our chairs, picnic blanket and sometimes even a beach shelter on the boundary of the pitch but luckily today I was armed with my iPod weather forecast and set up inside the clubhouse.

When the rain stopped the players went outside to assess the pitch. Note this is a man thing. The women knew the game was off, the clue was the whopping great puddles!

Someone mentioned how perfect the puddles would be for belly slides and Jake said he was game. I think the coach said something like, 'if you do it, so will I' so Jake went first to rapturous applause, but nothing like the round of applause the coach received! He slid quite a bit further than Jake too. Strangely, from a group of twelve boys, none of the others were tempted. Permission had been granted from the groundsman. Each boy had three changes of clothes. All were in their greens which wouldn't have shown the mud (not that Jake ended up with any mud on him). I'm still wondering whether that makes Jake strange or them? I'd say that children should be children, but that hardly applies to the coach does it?

I wish I knew how to embed a video clip in my posts. These are stills from the video footage which is much more entertaining!

We salvaged the day by stopping off at an outlet centre on the way back and kitting the children out with sportswear for their up and coming cricket weeks. Buying an unhealthy quantity of mis-shapes from the Cadbury outlet and stocking up on family movies for rainy evenings; 4 for a tenner!

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Fools rush in...

My first crop of gooseberries! OK, no great skill is required to grow these. I'm chuffed to bits though, I rescued a half dead plant at the end of the season last year and plonked it in my herb garden. I may have harvested the first bowl too soon, they are a tad sharp but not too bad for a gooseberry fool. Yum.

Friday, 26 July 2013


It was a lovely balmy evening last night and while the men were totally absorbed in the cricket I snuck outside and lit the chiminea. It was all ready to go with wood offcuts and the odd cardboard packet. I pushed a small firefighter in the middle, built a pyramid with a few small logs and whoosh, it lit up as easily as switching an electric fire on. I soon had company...

...and M soon noticed I was gone and asked me if everything was alright. Crikey, I've just lit a fire, not run down the street naked! With no open fire in the house this is the next best thing, and when the light got too dim for reading I sat and watched the flames flickering.

Mollie decided it was a good spot too. In fact she stayed until her fur was very warm to the touch and then scampered off to do some late night hunting. Harvey thought that was a good moment to jump up and have his turn. Springers are not really lap dogs.

...and just when you're wondering if your husband will ever grow up* he brings you a nice cup of tea and all is forgiven.

*getting told off in WHSmiths for firing a Nerf gun at Jake was not one of his finer moments!

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Crochet tea light jar holder...

I got bored and frustrated trying to follow the pattern exactly so after the first few rows of the sides I winged it. The bobble wasn't a very generous one so I gave it an extra loop and I started decreasing towards the top of the jar. It is still a baggy fit but holds the jar securely.

Well that was fun. Not so many places to hang it up indoors though, but it works as a table top nightlight. I might be tempted to make some more when we go away in the caravan. There may be a few jars going spare after M the masterchef has been at work.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

First day of the summer holidays...


It's the perfect temperature today after the electrical storms of yesterday. Not brilliant washing drying weather though; far too muggy and humid. Quite pleasant for the first day of the summer holidays though.

The children both had lie ins. Jake until 8am and then the urge to play games online with his friend became too much. He's currently shooting foam darts at the same friend in the open air. So no need for me to hatch elaborate plans to get him off the Playstation this summer. This new friend likes scooting too. I love this guy!

Ella slept in leaving just enough time to get ready to catch the bus into town to meet her boyfriend. We've reached the noisy music stage apparently. It doesn't bother me but M sent E a message last night, using iPad messenger, to tell her to turn it down. Believe me this house is not so big you need to message people!

I was up early cleaning the house, having neglected it in favour of watching cricket matches. We had one last night (which was almost called off when it went incredibly dark at about 7pm but luckily cleared) and we have one this evening. I've done all the bits that show and now I have a golden hour to myself before M returns from this morning's assignment and picking up his sister on the way home.

My concentration span in this heat with so much going on is at an all time low. I've started a small cotton project from the latest Simply Crochet. The basket of organic cotton has been lying around for a while looking artistic but I thought it was time to make it into something useful. I've used a dusky sage colour and I'm tackling the jam jar nightlight holder. I say 'tackling' because I've already managed to add five stitches somewhere and had to change my sweet little jam jar for a whopping fat one.

It won't look so baggy when it's hanging! In between crochet and drinking lots of Redbush tea I am winding balls of brightly coloured wool for my sister in law who is an expert on knitting garter stitch blankets.

The dog is incredibly happy. Just look at that expression on his face, 'aw shucks thanks mum!' Along with that rustic wooden bowl (see above) I picked up a new blanket for his basket yesterday in a quick visit to a few charity shops. I should have saved it for the new clean version of Harvey which will take place tomorrow after his visit to the dog groomer, but there was an urgent need to get rid of the stinky blanket to make our hall smell fresher. His new one has been washed and sprayed with lavender scented fabric spray. He's a sucker for a fresh blanket.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Who lives here?

We have a new animal hole in our garden. There are hedgehogs round the side. Foxes up in the fields. Birds nests everywhere. Mice too, the ones that Mollie can't reach that is.

This new hole appeared quite recently. It is quite large. It doesn't appear to be lined with anything warm. in fact it is in a nice shady spot. Any ideas? Perhaps a stake out will reveal whose den it is...

It's a lesser spotted spaniel! Not rare in these parts but jolly difficult to photograph. Nice to know that he has survival instincts that might come in handy if he ever decided to leave home and seek his fortune in Old London Town.

On the other hand, it's even cooler in the hall on the tiled floor. Daft dog.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Once upon a time...

Once upon a time a homesick girl took a trip back to the place when she grew up. As she sat on a breakwater by the sea with her bare feet on the pebble beach a sudden flash of woolly inspiration came to her. 'I'll make a crochet blanket in colours that remind me of these South Coast beaches!'

So she set to, researching yarn and tracking down the right colours and matching them up to her large number of pebbles, collected over many years. Then began the process of experimenting with hexagons (she knew from the outset that this was destined to be a hexagon project). Aran weight was firmly decided (she hadn't the patience for DK) and different hook sizes were tried out.

Finally all the variables were decided upon and the hexagon making began. A smart little hexagon counter was added to her blog. 58 hexagons later and she was feeling a little hexagon-weary. In fact she never wanted to see another darn hexagon as long as she lived. The impressive pile of hexagons was laid out on the floor to see what 58 looked like and the tragic little area of blanket it made was all she needed to stash the project away for a year.

The blanket was always in the back of her mind. She really did want to finish this blanket that would remind her of home. So one day she started looking through her blog photo's and she spotted the forlorn little project and vowed to make a start on the 142 hexagons she needed to finish the blanket.

After many hours of searching for the notes relating to the hexagon, and sensibly adding them to her smart Orla Keely notebook for future reference (God forbid this blanket enters phase three on the boredom factor) she made a very large pot of tea and settled down in her favourite basket chair and started making hexagons once more.

As she fashioned the wool into crochet pebbles she remembered the time she was part of a group of friends who went swimming in the sea one summer and how they all used to moan about these pebble beaches because it took time to walk carefully back to your towel whilst shivering until you were blue in the lips. How they all agreed that sandy beaches were far superior. Twenty five years on she thinks what little they knew!

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Between matches...

I temporarily lost my addiction to crochet. I blame the weather. I can begin to understand why bloggers in much hotter parts of the world complain about the problem of woolly crafts and heat. It is unusual for me to leave the house without a small crochet project.

Last week I watched seven cricket matches, not even one per day as two of the days had two matches. Not surprising that Jake is a little tired at the moment. He played last night and is due to play again tonight. I'm sure he will be dreaming cricket themed dreams too, like last year when I woke him one morning (for a match) and he blurted out, 'you should have caught that!'

It seems I barely have time to pack up the next picnic let alone think about taking along a basket of wool too. It's been easier to take a book along to read while they do their warm ups, have their cricket tea at half time and for County matches they have a warm down too. I like a bit of variety though and today I am getting stuck into a WIP which has been kicking around since I bought Erika Knight's Crochet Workshop last year. I started the long wrist warmers and even photocopied the pattern so I could take it on the road but I got to the fiddly section which required a smaller hook and suddenly the wool stopped cooperating. It's taken me a year to figure out/ accept that I can't continue with this pattern and this yarn so the compromise will be to stop and turn them into short wrist warmers. Simple eh? I must have had my heart set on long ones or I'd have figured this out sooner.

It's a lovely pattern and this basic wool mix yarn lies lovely and flat whilst showing off the detail. I should have the second one finished in no time and once sewn up I might be encouraged to make a few more pairs for Christmas presents. (The cowls went down very well last year). No time like a 30 degree heat wave to be making woolly wrist warmers eh?!

...and you see that rather smart Orla Keely notebook there? A perfectly chosen birthday present last year from Ella. I have finally started jotting down notes, hook sizes, yarn and pattern sources for things I might like to make more than one of. Gosh I'm so organised these days it scares me. OK, not the shed (full of junk) nor my workshop (more junk) nor the kitchen cupboards, or the household paperwork (oh heck) but crochet, knitting and wool cupboard, immaculate. Priorities, priorities.

Friday, 12 July 2013

S*#t happens...

It's been a constant battle to get E to go to school willingly. Everything was going very well until year 7 and then bang. We've just about reached the end of year 10 and I am not the only one dreading year 11.

Recently we had one of those major crying episodes which are always hard to follow, a nightmare to lip read. I usually walk away until the crying is over. This time it was about work load. Having had a few moaning sessions previously I was short on patience and understanding (heck she used up all my P&U a long time ago!). So I simply said, well you can either fail some of the exams or choose to figure out a work schedule. Imagine here, if you will, wails of, 'you don't understand...' Kids never realise you've been there, done it and got the t shirt do they?! I refrain from suggesting that O Levels were harder in my day!

The next morning she casually told me she'd done a mind map and felt better. Later that morning I had a look at it. Well OK, so I've failed on the language side of things but I've definitely passed on one of the most useful things I learnt from my Mum, and that was simply that problems never look so bad when they're down on paper!

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Cooling down...

We've had a few blazing hot days her in the UK. It's not often I have to sit in the shade, or dunk my feet in icy cold water for that matter, but that's what I wanted to do the other day. When our bigger dog Jake was alive we would fill a child's paddling pool right up to the top and he would come along and just sit in it, or even lie down sometimes. He'd also allow you to splash it over his back and pour a bucket of water over his face. He truly was a sensible dog when it came to blistering heat. Not so sensible was when he got out and tore round the garden like a mad thing spraying grass everywhere.

You'd think our water loving Springer would be the same wouldn't you? He sniffs out puddles, streams, rivers etc from a mile off and comes back to us on walks with a filthy boggy wet overcoat and a big happy look on his face. So how much terror should a small sand pit filled with clean water hold? Infinite. It took me ages to coax him anywhere near and then only by standing in it myself (that was bliss after the icy shock) and he will only walk through it and out the other side. Clearly he doesn't trust water without generous amounts of bog underfoot!

The beck running alongside the house is running dry in a few places and the rest has only a shallow level of water. It is bog heaven for Harvey. Admittedly we don't discourage him from venturing in when our tennis balls or shuttlecocks go down there (he's a fantastic ball boy) but when there are no ball games going on he sometimes tramps up and down in expectation. So now the make shift paddling pool has become a rinse station.

By the way, the photo above was the best of a bunch of thirty odd shots. I gave up after that!

Monday, 8 July 2013

Busy week...

Well that was fun and now back to the grown up stuff. Washing cricket kit mainly! Six matches between them this week. Two of them were today. My flask and I will be joined at the hip this week.

Before the first match today M and I popped over to Louth to pick up a special training bat. I never mind having to drive through the countryside to the cricket shop because its the nearest thing we have to proper rolling hills in this county. Reminds me of home. Not only that but Louth has a generous sprinkling of vintage and charity shops.

I managed to acquire two new pottery mugs for my collection and unusually for me I bought a skirt (I'll do a post with pics soon). I also picked up a couple of paperbacks; I want a good supply for the two cricket weeks we have coming up in August. The children board for their respective weeks and M and I stay in the caravan. We watch their matches by day and chill out each evening. It's the best we can do for an annual holiday.

My last read (The story of Edgar Sawtelle) was quite a pleasant read in its various parts, but didn't work as a sum of its total parts, if that makes any sense? I checked out some reviews after I'd read it and it seems I am not alone in this conclusion.

My thinking cap is on for a small portable crochet project to take along to matches. The blanket is big and heavy now and the balls of wool are 400g so not ideal when we already have so much stuff to cart about.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Deja vu...

My life is on permanent déjà vu at the moment. Precisely three years ago there was a whole sequence of creative school projects that needed my 'assistance'. So today, in glorious sunshine what am I doing? Building a Motte and Bailey Castle of course!

Three years ago I helped Ella build a Square Stone Keep castle that just happened to win out of 250 year 7 pupils. It was fun but I did feel a bit guilty about helping, now I feel obliged to help J make an equally good model.

He is elsewhere cricket related today so I am just laying the foundations and undertaking the papier mache in order for it to be dry enough to paint and add fences and buildings and drawbridges etc. Typically for this boy he has had the brief in his school bag for three weeks, magically producing it the days before it has to be handed in. Mum to the rescue eh?

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

British summer jumper...

I have at long last finished something! The main body of the jumper and first sleeve took a matter of days and the last sleeve took another week. I blame the cricket. This is a great Rowan pattern, ideal for beginners. I bought it when I first started knitting. This jumper lends itself to easy variations and alterations. I added quite a bit of length to the main body and sleeves; the pattern seems to be based on people under five feet tall! Next time I make one I plan to do a traditional rib for the cuffs and bottom. I can see the curling up of the stocking stitch is going to annoy me, even if it is blocked or steamed.

The funnel neck, whilst it looks better on, is a bit generous, 7 rows I think. I might leave a few out next time. I'm quite pleased with the fit though. It hugs in all the right places which will make for a very warm layer. Just perfect for the British summer we've been having lately!

Some more cricket news; Ella played really well last night. She bowled well but the highlight of the match for her was batting at number 3 and staying in until the end. She was quite pleased with that since she is more of a bowler. She got a quarter of the teams total runs and was awarded 'woman of the match' which meant she got to take the match ball home. Jake watched from the sidelines and was absolutely itching to get up and bowl the opposition's best batswoman out!

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Bonding and beer drinking...

I've been reliably informed that it wasn't quite as hot elsewhere in the country on Sunday. (Yes I know these posts are a bit out of sync). We were lucky to be watching a cricket match in glorious warmth, albeit breezy, then. In fact I even put up a golf umbrella at one stage to keep the sun off. We already look like we have been holidaying in the Bahamas for a month. I hardly recognise myself in the mirror.

You know your children are bonding when they each enjoy watching the other's cricket matches. J is to forego football training tonight to watch Ella play cricket, and the above photo from Sunday shows just how close they are these days. That is not a double sun bed by the way, it's a nifty device for throwing cricket balls at so that they come out at difficult angles for catching practice. The only downside is that it is a bit noisy. Too noisy to use whilst a match is taking place.

They were talking tactics apparently. Who would have imagined?

It's a shame this particular day out was ruined by a large bunch of teenagers who thought nothing of playing football a few yards from us, repeatedly kicking the ball on the pitch, making a lot of noise, kicking bottles and beer cans all over the place (which my Mother started to clear up and suggested they join in, they didn't, surprise surprise), they hit both cars with the ball which made M rather mad and he said he didn't care how many of them there were they'd picked the wrong man to have an argument with (ooooh! I was chuckling about that for ages afterwards, him and whose army?). Funnily enough it was none of those things that really ruined it for me, but rather the invasion of our space. They were very close to us indeed. I've always been brought up to choose tables in cafes wisely, based on not crowding people if you can possibly help it. To picnic well away from others, and even to choose a path out of a cafe or restaurant that gives diners a wide berth wherever possible. When queuing I tend to give space to people and expect space in return. These kids obviously hadn't been brought up the same way. We've been to several matches at this ground in Bourne and had this type of problem on every occasion. Next time we will probably sit nearer the clubhouse where they daren't cause trouble. It's a shame, I like cricket precisely because it is usually free from the hooliganism that goes with football and beer drinking. The frustrating thing was that they refused to move to the football field that was right next to the cricket pitch and not being used. It's definitely an issue that Bourne Cricket Club need to be addressing.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Jumps and bumps...

We went to see England versus Pakistan Women's International Cricket at Louth today. The ball was delivered by The Falcons. I'm not usually impressed with air shows and this sort of thing but it was hard not to be impressed on such a windy day. They let several balloons go to track the wind, and one minute we were talking to one of the team and the next he was jumping out of a plane above our heads. Not only that but they were wired for sound too, which I am sure would have been even more impressive if I could have heard it. M said the team leader was giving directions. It was pretty windy today so I was glad when they all touched down safely. E and J thought it would be a cool way to start their county matches!

The England Women's Cricket Team were pretty good too! We were watching Dani Hazell and Lydia Greenway particularly because E had the lucky opportunity to have an hour's coaching with them both last month and they were really nice and approachable (we had a little chat too).

After the sunshine of yesterday (we caught the sun at one of J's county matches) I was optimistically dressed for another warm day. Winter woollies would have been more appropriate. I ended up wearing every left behind jumper from the boot of the car that I could find. Sadly no socks though so my feet ended up like blocks of ice.

E had to take part in a 'quick cricket' demonstration at half time along with all the county girls. The rest of the time they were supposed to be 'ball girls' but cricket really isn't like tennis so this part was quite pointless but E did enjoy one of the best views of the game.

We noticed that an ambulance as well as a St Johns Ambulance crew were in attendance. I don't know how many people they attended to today but E was their first customer! We had to arrive several hours before the match started and during a knockabout with a proper leather ball it bounced off someone's foot and straight into E's eye. Once we'd filled in a large sheet of details she was given an ice pack to reduce the swelling, which by now had closed her eye up almost completely. By the second ice pack she was feeling chirpier and starting to laugh about it. I think it might be a bit purple tomorrow but luckily it hasn't put her off the game at all.