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.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Cute crochet...

I can't tell you how long it took to get round to making that cupcake cherry! I had some kind of mental block and thought my hands couldn't possibly make something that small and fiddly. As it turns out they can't really but I managed to get a squishy passable cherry nonetheless. A 2mm hook and something like embroidery floss, argh. I wouldn't want to make too many.

E's friend spotted the cupcakes lying in a dish many months ago and was quite taken with them. She messaged E and asked if I was making them for a craft fair, and if so, could she reserve a pink one! I wasn't making them for a craft fair but flattery will get you a pink cupcake at least!

They are both working at the children's farm near here today. I dropped E off at work and on the driveway through couldn't help but go all mushy over the teeny tiny lambs. Some of them looked only a day or two old.

The little bear pot cosy is another of my prototypes. It isn't a good fit for this plant pot but I moulded it to an empty one that needs a plant. I also ran out of the random brown yarn I found in my 'wool for felting' box and have no idea what it is or where I bought it from. It felts well whatever it is. If I'd had more I would have made it a lot deeper. He might work better as just a bowl rather than a plant pot cosy.

E has always loved planting things. I've got many photo's of her pottering around in little Wellies with brightly coloured watering cans. She was never afraid of worms, in fact she used to hold them up and kiss them. Ugh, gross. She doesn't kiss worms anymore but she still loves growing plants. In addition to her window sill full of succulents and cacti she now has a window sill full of little seedling trays with tomatoes, sunflowers and basil. I'm under strict instructions to dig the seed trays out of the shed while she's at work so she can plant up the marigolds and other flowers. I suggested a little roadside plant stall for all the excess but she said she couldn't possibly part with any plants she'd grown, no 'raised' from seed!

Monday, 16 March 2015

Felted bowls and new plants...

I had an urge to make a felted bowl with a motif in the bottom, as you do. The colours in my 'wool for felting' box were not very inspiring. In fact these photographs make the body colour look grey when in fact it is a minky brown.

I clearly didn't pay too much attention to the neatness of the star before I felted it and so I'm calling this bowl 'prototype one'. The brown has felted so much better than the yellow and yet I remember the yellow was actually sold as 'wool for felting'. Maybe another wash would do the trick. I'm quite happy with it the way it is for a prototype though. Next time I will tidy up the star before turning it into a circle.

I made two tiny felted bowls a while ago (I don't think I blogged about them) and they sit on my bedside table containing various bits and bobs. At first I didn't think bowls made of felt would be useful or durable at all, but of course they are. In fact E has requested felted pot covers for as many of her succulent collection as I feel like making. She has a whole window sill of them.

Talking of which. It pained E to hand over a large Echeveria in a gorgeous square planter for Mother's Day. I had dropped hints about preferring plants to flowers and I think they enjoyed choosing one each. J chose an orange tree! It has at least a dozen little oranges on it and gorgeous smelling orange blossom. I'm terrified I won't be able to keep it alive. It's on the warmest window sill for now but I don't think a woolly pot cover would go amiss!

Saturday, 14 March 2015


There aren't many mornings I wake up and say 'hey, I'm going to make muffins today!' Somehow the domestic goddess gene passed me by. I'd rather have been climbing trees than baking cakes despite my Mother and Grandmother's best efforts.

I have blueberries on muesli most mornings but this morning my blueberries looked decidedly past their best and being a bit on the pricey side (I really should try and grow my own) I thought muffins would be the best way to use a lot up and quickly.

Muffins never fail with my recipe book; Muffins Fast and Fantastic by Susan Reimer. It's incredibly quick and easy. I threw in about a third more blueberries than the recipe suggested likewise with the choc chip batch I made for the kids after these too.

No, the cup of tea is not an ingredient. It's an essential part of getting through the morning whilst slaving over a hot stove. Neither is belting out Lou Reed on Jake's old Lego ghetto blaster mentioned in the muffin book but everyone was out (Mothers Day tomorrow!) including our neighbour so it's only the dogs who are being disturbed from their slumber. Harvey says he prefers Roy Orbison. Riley likes Classical. There's no accounting for taste round here.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Simple natural handmade wrist warmers...

It's nice when a plan comes together and something useful is made. I picked up this khaki green yarn in a charity shop in Skipton recently (£1 for two skeins). I could tell it was 100% wool. It's one of E's favourite colours but I knew she'd have trouble wearing wool next to her skin. She has the most amazing soft skin, honestly, she won't thank me for saying this but even her elbows are as soft as a baby's bum. Along with this incredible softness comes sensitivity. Whilst I can wear even coarse wool next to my skin without irritation she most definitely can't.

It was biting cold the day I bought the yarn and E came home from school with blue hands. We decided wrist warmers would be the perfect use for the yarn. You probably can't tell from the photographs but she also has very slim wrists and small hands (with paint on when I snapped these) so tailor made wrist warmers obviously fit much better than standard bought ones. E chose the length she wanted.

I made them up with a simple htr stitch and lined them with a piece of the softest (shrunken) cashmere jumper. You can see the lining on her arms but for the rest I stitched it very close to the wool but just out of sight. I really should have done proper thumbs too but she says she's happy with them like this. With both the wool and the felted jumper they are nice and thick and warm. Job done. Just in time for more spring like weather! I'm sure the cold isn't done with us yet!

Friday, 6 March 2015


R: Hey Harv?

H: Wassup Riley?

R: I'm getting the hang of this swimming lark now...

H: Yeah, about time, your early efforts were pitiful

R: How 'bout we start a synchronised swimming team?

H: You watch too much Sky Sports Riley.

Well my days are back to a lovely rhythm once more. A quick dart around collecting stray washing, stray dishes, stray dogs... I drive up to a remote little lane as soon as the washing and dishes are on. The dogs bark like mad things when they jump out of the boot. Well Riley barks in Harvey's face to be more precise. Harvey just wants to get on with the serious business of running, sniffing, fetching, exploring, tracking and getting to the lake as quickly as possible.

It's nice to be home today. I've got the wanderlust out of my system, for now anyway. We rounded off the week that included Skipton, Oxford and Derby with fleeting visits to Loughborough and Kidderminster. Least said about those two the better. I did miss out on the opportunity to photograph two small guys in a wooden booth selling cigarette lighters. To the side of their 'stall' was a handwritten poster with an arrow announcing 'handmade crochet items'. This turned out to be a few brightly coloured, mainly aimed at small children, bags displayed above the rows of lighters. Very well made they were too, maybe not the best designs in the world but enterprising nonetheless. I think a wife or mother may have had ideas to diversify!

In other news, Batman has gone up to heaven in a sturdy little white SuperDry (eau de toilette) box. Thank goodness for Dads and Husbands is all I can say on this matter. I'm still getting over the trauma of having to scoop up a bloody little white Roborowski hamster after the cat attack. I had a sixth sense Batman was about to kick the bucket. She was always the slightly fat one and then started to lose weight rather rapidly. Flash is alive and well and seemingly none the wiser. Although well into old age she's been on the wheel and is eating quite happily. (Batman and Flash were girls!). E coped with the death only slightly tearfully, happier in the knowledge that it was old age and not 'return of the killer cat'.

Options for J have been chosen this week, not without a little influence from certain teachers who really wanted him for their subjects. We attended a parent's evening and without exception all of his teachers  started off with, 'he's very quiet...but...' By the time we got to the last one I decided to say that J must be quite a bonus, because if all children were loud he'd have a very noisy job. He agreed.

A Levels have caused more outbursts from E. The latest one meant me having to revisit The Woman in White and The Lady in the Lake and draw comparisons between narratives used for revealing secrets...and a whole load more comparisons which were so dull I won't detail them here.

Of course I faked my enthusiasm for great literature and comparison essays, telling her they were like creating beautiful jigsaws. Normally I do have genuine enthusiasm for great literature but this was late at night after completing a two hundred mile round trip and wanting nothing more than a hot bath! It was definitely a case of 'what goes around comes around' because there was many a time I threw a fit over the latest essay and was taught the valuable life lesson from Mum that there is nothing that can't be solved with a pencil and paper to hand. Essay planning is everything. Six A3 pages of planning later and writing the essay should be a doddle.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Skipton, Oxford...

'Office politics' at the charity shop have been getting to me lately. I can't believe so much bad behaviour goes on over a pile of tatty junk! The problem seems to be the equal status managers. Neither has the final say on matters so they just do what they like regardless of the need for teamwork. I'm very often in the middle of their spats being the only volunteer who goes in for more than one afternoon a week. After yet more stress and moaning and having to be a party to undoing one manager's work in favour of another's I decided the time was right to reduce my volunteer contribution and also have a few days off.

In the last week I've been able to leave the confines of our locality and join M on some work excursions. His work is spread far and wide and in the space of seven days he's been as far North as Skipton and as far South as Oxford. Both were lovely days out for me despite the long journeys.

Court work is often quicker than the amount of time M is booked for so I tend to prioritise my time when I arrive in a strange town. I was last in Skipton about 15 years ago so naturally I googled wool shops and headed straight for Purl and Jane. It was wonderful, right up my street. I fell in love with the gorgeous display of natural baby garments all designed by Jane. The pattern book was an 'investment' shall we say. All are knitting patterns rather than crochet but from baby up to ten years old in simple stitches so nothing too large and difficult. I figured my new nephew or niece will be well catered for with this collection. Jane was lovely and helped with a couple of wool requests. I could have spent the day in there choosing and a small fortune but I came away with wool for two projects that will be fairly quick and easy and needed sooner rather than later.

Oxford is a different kettle of fish. I know it like the back of my hand and it always brings back happy memories of living there when E was small. I visited all my favourite little corners and still had time to pop into MOMA, now renamed Modern Art Oxford. I wasn't that taken with the Andy Warhol/William Morris exhibition nor the relocation of the cafe from basement to ground floor but hey, I'm a visitor now, so I will shut up! E saw dozens of exhibitions there when she was small whilst being snug as a bug in a rug in a back carrier I had until she got too big for it. It enabled her to see everything at adult eye level and point and chatter (gobbledygook) about everything. I like to think I introduced her to art from an early age (I gave her a crayon as soon as she could grip for heaven's sake!)

There's evidence that I encouraged J's fine motor skills from an early age too. A home video of him casually cutting shapes from paper at the age of two. My Dad says, 'you haven't got those sharp scissors have you Jake?' to which a wide eyed innocent J says, 'No Grangrad' (I spelled that how he used to say it). The scissors meanwhile have been deftly moved from table level to lap but move back again when Dad turns away to help Ella (five years old by now) with paint. Little rascal.

I'm proud to be the chief craft person when it comes to friends with primary school age children. I get invited for coffee and end up helping them with homework collages. 'Help I don't even know what a collage is, but I suspect it involves glue, aaaargh!' Really? Where were they when Blue Peter was on?

Oh well, see what a trip down memory lane sets off? Back to crochet talk. I've been going round and round the edges of this pale grey and very soft baby blanket. It looks plain so far but I can't wait to add the splash of contrast colour to the border. I've hit a slight snag with the driftwood shawl and the yarn won't hold up to being frogged so I need to pick up a few clusters somewhere and keep going. It's so rustic I don't think it will particularly show in the final thing. Of course, I will know the error is there but it's not the end of the world. I should have counted between sections.

With all these wips getting daily attention there should be some finished projects soon!