Saturday, 28 May 2016

It's a crochet life...

Are you fed up with Springer Spaniel photo's? Riley is such a good subject. Always happy to pose. When we first took him home he bounded into our living room, knocked all the cushions into a mound, climbed up on top of them and let out a deep sigh. Cushions are his thing. He still does this. Though lately I've assigned him just the one place he's allowed to trash my cushions and I've donated an old bed spread of Ella's to add to his comfort. He seems happy.

There are always fewer photo's of Harvey because he likes to be on a high state of alert with anything that might be thrown for him to retrieve. You have only to walk past a stick or ball and he's up and ready just in case. If you approach him with a camera he darts off to find something you might like to throw. Quite possibly the best time to get a photo of him is when he's been for a six mile hike, swum twenty lengths of the lake and fetched a hundred sticks. He might sit still for a while then. Maybe.

I'm on my fourth square for week six of the Last Dance CAL. It's the same technique used in Ella's Cedar River Blanket, corner to corner, so it's fairly straight forward. Twenty three squares are now blocked and beginning to look like the makings of a blanket.

I've wound my bargain recycled cotton skeins into balls using my wool winder and I'm keeping them in a bowl nearby until inspiration strikes. I'm already thinking that it would be handy to have some simple camping/picnic accessories like a pot holder for our Kelly Kettle. It has a wooden handle but the metal either side gets extremely hot. Cutlery rolls would be handy to throw into the crate with the kettle and plates, and maybe a sizeable napkin each to use as a lap cloth.

I can see Jake getting slightly concerned about all this crochet. He eyed my baggy crochet jumper with suspicion the other day and said, 'making your own clothes now are we?' (Typical male lack of observation, I've been wearing that charcoal grey creation for months!). A vision of me watching his cricket matches wearing that jumper, keeping warm under one of my crochet blankets whilst eating a picnic from a crochet lap cloth and pouring the Kelly Kettle with a crochet pot holder, heck, he has no idea how far I can go with this!

P.S. I behaved myself at his cricket match today, just the one crochet blanket. Nothing more.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Rustic simplicity...

This post hardly needs words as well as pictures. M has been doing a great deal of intense court work lately and this short break coincided with the end of a long London based case. Apart from having to constantly manage his diary by phone we did manage to relax for a few days. In fact M was quite taken with the many fields of lambs, at one stage sitting on a bench in amongst them, some curious, some scampering away, some happy to pose for photographs!

I loved the simplicity of this particular hut. Our bathroom and simple kitchen facilities were in part of a barn a short walk away. This wasn't ideal and meant we had a couple of early starts to dash to the bathroom. It would probably have been a good idea not to have spent the evenings in the pub!

Supplies of firewood were not exactly generous and we wished we had bought our own or located some. We both agreed that it would be useful for the owners to spend a night or two in their hut because it was clear they never had. A fold away table of some kind would have been handy and a second chair by the fire could easily have fitted in if the small free standing shelf unit was replaced by a wall mounted wooden shelf rack of some kind. The bed however, was extremely comfortable though M, a seasoned caravan person, couldn't help but notice the hut needed 'levelling'.

Nearby Penrith was as much as we needed in the way of a slow day out. The many coffee breaks were also knee rests but we did manage to gather a few second hand books, some handmade fudge for the kids, an old set of weighing scales and last but not least, a small stash of recycled cotton yarn from 'Penrith Crafts'. There was also a fabulous artisan bakery and deli where we managed to cobble together a tasty no cook supper; simple rustic food served on an upturned wooden crate with a large mug of tea, sitting outside in the last of the sunshine. For me, it doesn't get much better than that.

We've been on the lookout for old, rustic light fittings for our conservatory and old metal chairs to accompany an upcycled table. So Brunswick Yard was a highlight of our trip to Penrith, it's not huge but there was quite a lot of stock. We didn't find what we were looking for but it was fascinating. Located on a rooftop terrace overlooking the yard and the town was a small cafe with lots of upcycled touches like the old drain covers made into planters. The hot chocolate was pretty good too.

This was the only hut we've stayed in that was completely off grid. Once upon a time I'd have been able to read by candle light but not anymore so we headed off to check out the local pubs. M and I are not pub types usually and we rarely drink but we had two lovely evenings in two very different pubs. The first was a pie and cider type arrangement with an assortment of locals who were pretty hard to understand. I noticed M doing a few of the tricks I usually employ when I'm struggling to hear, like smiling and nodding and hoping you've done that at the right time.

The second pub was an old pub with a modernised interior; all bleached oak floors and furniture, brown leather sofas and designer beer. We only stayed because it would have been rude to walk out on the live entertainment which didn't have a huge audience to begin with. Apparently it was Irish Folk and they were very good. I couldn't say, I just can't hear music I'm not already familiar with. It was fun watching the various instruments in action and also the constant stream of random musicians turning up half way through a song and just joining in.

So, it's back to reality today. Piles of laundry, soggy dogs, mouths to feed, pounding rock music through bedroom doors, hoovering to be done, bills to pay, problems to sort out. A knee that doesn't seem to be responding to a week's worth of quad exercises. All bearable as long as we start thinking about booking another short break. A hut by the sea maybe?

Saturday, 21 May 2016


I've had to paint my rustic coffee table top after it was nearly claimed for an art project. It almost became a photographic collage but thankfully E turned her attentions to a more 3D solution (in the shape of one of my vintage suitcases) and my coffee table top was returned. It was never going to go back to wood no matter how much I sanded it so when in doubt, apply white paint. Sshh, don't tell E but I think I like it better now.

It's all gone a bit Schjeepes round here since I started the CAL. The theme of their bi-annual magazine looked right up my street so I treated myself. All I have to do now is wait a few days longer to save it for a short, no kids, no dogs, weekend break. M has taken some convincing about these short breaks. He gets the whole trust thing but actually doesn't trust them to feed the dogs, eat properly, sort the dishes out etc. My approach is to simply say that they will never learn unless they are entrusted with these responsibilities. He's also a little hypersensitive when we return if everything isn't 'just so' whereas I tend to just put it right and express a little disappointment. They are teenagers and it definitely pays to try and remember when we were last that age. (Just don't mention sixteen, ugh that was a horrible age!).

I'm up to date with the CAL so I'm packing my ripple blanket for our short getaway. Books have been shoved down the side of my suitcase in place of walking boots. (It's walking country, if I swapped my crutches for walking poles do you think I'd blend in better?) Reading may present a challenge after dark since this latest hut we've found is completely off grid. It was my good luck that M didn't notice that in the small print until after we had booked it. Candles are provided, and of course we'd never stay in one without a wood burner.

A few nights away hardly ever seems worth the bother when you're faced with the preparations. In our case we overdo the food shopping lest the children or animals should starve. I make sure the laundry basket is empty and the house is as clean and tidy as possible. Inevitably three days away from all these responsibilities and chores seem like very long leisurely days, something I've come to understand is absolutely vital once in a while to avoid resentment of the monotony of daily life. In the past I've always thought it was preferable to spend any spare pennies on improving the house but these days I throw caution to the wind and try and live for the moment.

Friday, 20 May 2016

Footprints in the sand...

Another random, slightly disjointed and rambling post. It's how things are at the moment. There's no sign of the cat and everything feels kind of 'in limbo'. Someone shared their own cat story with us today, a wanderer who returned after four months. Tilly hadn't shown any signs of being a wanderer.

I did not stage the photo of Riley at all, rather just snapped him quickly after he'd gathered as many toys as he could carry and took them away from Harvey. He was a hoarder when we acquired him. The first time we left him alone in the kitchen with Harvey for company it wasn't hard to work out who had stolen a whole pack of oats, a half pack of sugar and a squeezy bottle of chocolate sauce and stashed them in his basket. All of these were intact by the way, it was clear he just hadn't actually got round to making up the chocolate oat cookies before we got home.

It's a good job Harvey is the passive sort because there's nothing he likes more than a good old fashioned tennis ball. Rope toys he can take or leave but tennis balls are like all his Birthdays at once. I swear he squirrels them away somewhere in the fields because they really don't hang around the house for very long.

It was lovely and warm and sunny today while we did boring tasks like buy two new tyres and wait for them to be fitted. Made only lightly less dull by the entertaining husband and wife team who were like a comedy double act. The wife wouldn't stop going on about how long their MOT was taking and the husband sadly agreed with everything she said. After retirement age you have to wonder what their big hurry was. Our parting words to the chap who did our tyres were, 'gosh that was quick, I guess that's why you're called KwikFit'. She didn't see the funny side.

We really could have done with some of today's sunshine last night when Ella had a cricket match. They managed to play a soggy 18 overs of the first half but rain finally stopped play half way through the second. E couldn't feel her hands so it was just as well she hadn't got round to bowling.

I managed to do a spot of crochet whilst watching the first half in the car. The details of this fifth week square are a bit inconsistent if you read several blogs but from what I can gather it is supposed to be seagulls one way up or seagull footprints in the sand the other way up. I'm choosing the latter on account of them looking more like webbed footprints than flying gulls, especially on this sandy beige colour.

The squares are stacking up nicely, nearly twenty squares. It's been barely any effort at all keeping up with four squares per week. Call me lazy but the fact that these are one colour squares with no colour changes is a huge bonus. I'm not a fan of overly complicated colour patterns in textiles anyway so I don't feel the need to produce that in crochet. I've noticed that one blogger is making the entire CAL in one colour only so that the emphasis is on texture. It'll be interesting to see how that turns out.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

After the rain...

There's a pattern emerging. A day or two of sunshine and then a day or two of relentless rain. It's the latter here today. Yesterday would have been perfect cricket weather but alas J's match is scheduled for tonight and will be a complete wash out.

Riley has been testing out the warmth and comfort factor of the ripple blanket. Judging by how unwilling he was to move and let me do a few more rows I'd say it was extremely warm and comfortable. I'm making progress with this purely because it doesn't take a whole week to complete four squares for the Last Dance CAL.

Whilst the sun was out I photographed one each of the four squares to date. The colours don't look inspiring together at the moment but I think the addition of the lighter shades will help create some balance. The wavy square seems to have been the one I have most needed to concentrate on and yet it's also the one that I made once and didn't need to refer back to the pattern for.

Our garden is what we call a wild garden (only partly intentional!). We have a lot of mature trees at the end and that makes it nigh on impossible to grow a satisfactory lawn. Cow parsley moved in one year and now it's almost taken over. I was happy to see new additions this year though, we have bluebells that most definitely were not there before. Not a carpet of them yet but lots of little clusters here and there.

M has at last done the first proper mow of the year. From here on the responsibility is J's. He's been paid in advance in the shape of footballs (gone are the days when he'd be happy with the £2.99 type!). With this constant cycle of sun and rain it looks as though he will be quite busy!

My scans confirmed a torn ligament. Apparently it should be a lot less painful by now so I may have damaged the joint as well. I'm pinning all my hopes on a four week course of physio in order to avoid the keyhole surgery that was mentioned. The dogs seem happy with the compromise I've come up with for their daily walk, run and swim. We park close to a crossroads of footpaths and fields which also has a bridge and river. They can run off in any direction but they always come back. When they seem satisfied I throw a stick or two in the river for them to fetch which washes all the mud off and we all trot (limp) back to the car.

It's been such a busy week I almost forgot to download week five's square for the CAL. Not the most exciting design this week but that's probably just as well, the rest of the week looks set to be just as hectic. J watched me complete a few rows of the new square last night and asked, 'Doesn't it get boring doing the same thing over and over again?' I think I will answer that one when the blanket is finished!

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Mud and limitations...

If it's not dog hair it's dog mud and if it's not dog mud it's cricket mud! Yes those are cricket whites! J played at a rather soggy pitch this week. We had a job to find a spot on the boundary that wasn't boggy. None of the boys were phased at all with the mud accumulating on their bright white kit but I bet I wasn't the only Mum wondering whether it was going to wash out. It did. Nothing short of a miracle!

Week four of the CAL 'Last Dance in the Rain' is a lovely wavy design which uses triple trebles amongst other stitches. It's been a while since I needed a triple treble. This was the first square that didn't quite come out perfectly square but that was easily put right with an extra row of htr's at the end. In fact I prefer this because it makes the dimension above and below the 'waves' roughly the same. I've substituted the colour because I didn't have the charcoal grey shade in DK.

This picture of Tilly was take a just a few days before she went missing. She's been gone three nights. Harvey keeps poking his head through the cat flap and wandering round sniffing her favourite sleeping places. I know he's wondering where she's got to.

I've been impatient today and attempted to walk the dogs. I can manage a small amount of driving, in fact driving is a lot easier on my knee than walking. I parked up at my favourite dog walking spot, struggled the very short distance down to the bridge and let the dogs have a good run about and a swim. I would have liked to dangle my legs over the river but the chances of getting back up were slim and it's a very remote spot so I didn't chance it. It must have been all of thirty metres walking without crutches and it's thirty metres I've been regretting ever since. M rolls his eyeballs skyward and calls me stupid but in my logic you can't possibly know your limitations until you test them!

Friday, 6 May 2016

Hello sunshine...

I watched the film Snow Cake recently and discovered the song 'Hello Sunshine'. I can't often make sense of new songs but the lead vocals on this one are deep which suits the frequencies I can hear. I loved the film, Alan Rickman was absolutely heart breaking. In fact I watched it twice, I liked it that much.

M reports that the ticket collector on his daily commute to London this week has been especially cheerful, announcing that he would be along shortly for tickets, passes, bribes... I'm sure it's the appearance of sunshine that brings out the best in everyone.

I've been taking it all in from a chair by the patio doors, looking at a magnificent cherry blossom that will soon shower the garden with pink confetti. It's not ours, it's absolutely huge and in just one windy day we will get the majority of the pink stuff, not that I mind.

The cat seems to like the whole sitting down regime that I'm under. As long as the dogs are sunbathing on the deck she sidles up to my chair, does the whole 'shall I or shan't I?' routine, eventually jumps up, takes half an hour to get comfortable and then stays for a very short amount of time. I kind of prefer the daft dog thing where they instantly notice that you've sat down, bound over with a hopeful look on their face, leap up, give a contented sigh and snore on your lap for as long as it takes for your legs to go to sleep.

A dodgy knee hasn't got in the way of cookie making this week. I hopped and hobbled gathering all the ingredients, mixer and bowls, then managed to do the whole thing, cut the baking parchment and get them in the oven all without leaving my stool. Just took a little planning!

This week's square for the Last Dance on the Beach/in the Rain CAL is crochet cables! Argh! I knew cables would take some concentration and patience. I did a small section, realised I was one stitch out, which made my bobbles noticeably off centre, ripped the whole lot out and started again. After that I was much more careful, only ripping back a row 8 because I misplaced a stitch after the Fpdtr's. If you're day dreaming about summer being almost here then it's easy to misplace the sdc's after the Fpdtr's. I told M that and he totally agreed! On the second square I decided to put a non locking stitch marker in the stitch before I completed any Fpdtr's, ie. Miss two stitches, place marker, then complete the Fpdtr's and then carry on with sdc's. It's surprisingly time saving not having to check behind the front post stitches to double check where you should be doing the next stitch, not to mention the time saved in ripping back a row after you've got to the end and discovered you are one stitch out.

This is definitely my favourite square so far even if it does need to be made without any distractions, e.g. TV, family members, dogs chasing cats, cats chasing birds, cats murdering mice. Ugh. I've completed the four squares and it's hugely tempting at this stage to do a few extras here and there to put by for an extra, perhaps smaller, blanket. On the other hand, four seems to be quite a well thought out number which stops short of the boredom of repetition settling in.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

a DIY blocking board...

I don't often bother with blocking. The last time I blocked something (and I can't remember what it was) I used a cork notice board with a towel over the top and large knitter's pins. However, just lately I've been seeing lots of rather nice looking wooden blocking boards and thought it was something 'we' could make. I say 'we' but all I did was source the materials, print out a grid, tape it to the board and whacked a few dents where I wanted the holes to be. M did the hard part drilling all the holes to a certain depth.

The block of wood is a nice chunky piece of beech from B&Q, it cost £6. They have slabs of oak too which cost a bit more. Most of the beech had big knots in which I didn't mind a bit, knowing that I only needed a square section of it.

The bamboo skewers are not ideal and I will be trying to find some made out of a different wood. Tiny slivers of bamboo catch on the yarn. I've yet to try sanding them down but failing that I'm sure I can find an alternative. (I have various wooden dpns in a box somewhere that would fit.) Tesco alone had three different brands of wooden skewers which took two members of staff and two iPhones to locate!

I've blocked the bobbly squares individually but the flatter designs will stack up. I'm half way through my second square from the second week of this CAL; Last Dance in the Rain. It's the first ever CAL I've tried. So far so good, nothing too challenging. I'm sure some of them will prove more difficult (I'm talking crochet cables here!)

I resisted the temptation to buy the relevant yarn pack for this project. I have plenty of DK yarn that was very close to being given away recently. I'm choosing colours similar to the recommended choices and when I come across a colour I haven't got I will choose something else. In fact I've got a friend's words of wisdom to thank for this approach, she very wisely observed that if everyone used the same colours they'd all end up with the same blanket and what's the point in that? I quite agree.