Habit

You know you’re having a dull week when the biggest event is losing the dog! We’re lucky enough to live in a very nice village with lovely lanes and fields to walk through. The only drawback is that the farmers are pretty unfriendly. In my ten years here I’ve seen them frequently plough up the footpaths to make them unusable. They’ve deposited huge mountains of dung alongside popular routes. They’ve grown crops over footpaths and not kept them clear. The worst though was parking a huge tractor over the end of one footpath and shouting that I wasn’t entitled to be there. Our ordnance survey map says otherwise but at that point I’d had enough. I figured he could shout at someone else. So I explored and eventually found some lovely walks only a few miles away and owned by the nicest farming family. The chap who looks about a Grandad kind of age is out in his tractor most days just keeping the many footpaths clear, mowing verges, keeping drainage channels clear. He waves from across the fields but we’ve never been close enough for a chat. Just lately they mended a bridge along the footpath, you can see the before and after above. It had lots of rotting timber with holes right through so I’m glad they’ve fixed it.

It turns out that this bridge is on Harvey’s favourite route because this is precisely where I eventually found him after he’d been missing for over an hour. It all started with me parking in a different location just to shake it up a bit. I was secretly hoping that there would be less fox poo on this route. For the sake of describing it to M we call this walk ‘spot one’ and the other, more frequently used route ‘spot two’. This is just in case I ever have problems with my ageing jeep and have to describe where I am. It’s no use saying, bridge one or two which are the only distinguishing landmarks because M gets into whether that includes the concrete bridge and the iron bridge, or just the road bridge? At which point I would just want to start walking home.

So, I chose spot one and Harvey wanted spot two and while I was taking pictures of colourful cherry tree leaves he was haring diagonally across a field until he was just a little dot. Riley looked quite bewildered and sheepish and stuck close by. I think he sensed there was a problem when I sat on the bridge and waited for Harvey to come back. After forty five minutes and a frozen bum I trudged back to the car with a plan B which was to drive through a couple of small villages and see if he was at spot two

We arrive at spot two and Riley jumps out, clearly excited at getting what he thought was two walks for the price of one. No sign of Harvey. I’m cautiously looking along the river feeling quite anxious but a bit cross too. Then finally at the bridge he comes dashing over with a look on his face that says, blimey you took your time! He and Riley have something of a brotherly reunion and all is forgiven. I couldn’t tell him off because he wouldn’t have understood. I may have uttered a few choice words under my breath. Needless to say we will be parking at spot two every day from now on.

It’s a good job my crochet hobby has a calming effect. As soon as I gather some wool and put a Christmas movie on all the stress just melts away. Yes I freely admit I watch all the cheesy Hallmark Christmas films I can find at this time of year. Channel Five usually obliges. I think I totted up 14 last year!

I’ve been experimenting with stitches from various crochet books. Every now and then I feel like a challenge and learning how to create these ‘fabrics’ is quite good fun. I’ve got one vintage book that may as well be written in Russian because I just can’t make any sense of it. Luckily it’s also got diagrams and so I’ve been improving my diagram reading too. There are a couple of swatches I forgot to put in the pile when I snapped the top picture. I wish I’d labelled them all now. That long strip on the right that looks like star stitch, is a quicker, less bulky stitch altogether and I can’t remember where I got it from. Argh. Stupid. It’s not in the picture but I tried Rake Stitch which is a bit like spike stitch I suppose but makes a very firm fabric. I feel a super chunky basket in rake stitch coming on, or at least that idea will be added to the long list of things I want to try.

I said I wouldn’t try and make any crochet gifts for Christmas this year but on my travels through the internet I’ve found some great patterns that I could make in time. I’m totally asking the recipients to hint at colours though. I’m really hopeless at guessing what colours people might like. This is what I have in mind…. http://www.yarnspirations.com/patterns/crossing-paths-crochet-super-scarf.html who wouldn’t like one of those? Obviously if I made one for myself it wouldn’t get draped fashionably down to the ground like on the model. No, I’d probably trip over it and that’s only if Riley hadn’t got hold of it first. Have said all that, why on earth do I only find these things in the middle of November, or later? Next year, scarves will be crocheted in July. I probably said that last year too.

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Monochrome

I can’t remember the last time I wasn’t cajoled into giving up my Sunday morning lie in. I’m absolutely not a morning person. Just a little extra time to wake up makes all the difference. It means that I generally don’t fall asleep and snore loudly in front of a good film at ten p.m. in the evening. I mention no names here.

So, Mr Early Riser Even On A Sunday has had quite a productive morning. I really should lie in bed longer more often. The dishwasher has been unloaded, the dogs have had the massive clods of ploughed field mud washed off in the big sink. The biggest surprise, however, was the application of tile sealant in our shower. I’m not shy about admitting we had a few heated words about this shower problem. It has been steadily leaking for quite a long time and doing considerable damage. Now if I were to suggest building a shepherd’s hut for instance, a certain someone would be driving down to B&Q faster than you can say two by four. New projects are fun. Fixing problems in an existing property are ‘overwhelming’.

I tend to try and tackle problems before they get worse. M ignores problems and hopes they go away. The cycle we got ourselves into was me mentioning the problem and suggesting materials needed and him shouting about how tired and busy he was. Not to be deterred I suggested paying someone to come and fix it which brought us precisely back to square one with, ‘I’m not paying someone to fix it when I’m perfectly capable of fixing it myself’. Has anyone else been here? More leaking and more waiting followed. My next idea involved YouTube videos and doing the darn thing myself. Not altogether successful when I got as far as having a tube of something in one hand and a metal gun gadget thing in the other and no bloody idea how to get one to fit inside the other. I’ve done a lot of DIY in my time but clearly not with sealant guns.

So my final idea was simply to put an out of order sign on the shower door. Bingo. Metered water and lots of baths spurred the ‘overwhelmed’ into action. I’m just hoping that the job will be a good one, because that cycle of fun was just too much. I feel reasonably sure that the problems go back to the time the shower was fitted and the overwhelmed tiler decided it would be absolutely fine to tile over a wall that was already damp from a previous issue rather than waiting for it to dry out after the cause had been removed, but that would be female logic wouldn’t it?

Female logic also says that if the broken guttering isn’t fixed this winter that we will eventually see the results on the inside of the house. Let’s not even go there. I can at least secretly get a man in to fix that on the basis that it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission!

At least dogs are less complicated beings. Riley has taken some considerable time to get over the whole fireworks thing. There’s a fair sized teenage community in this village now and the rogue fireworks have been going off for days after the actual date. Riley has been on edge and seeking laps rather than spaces beside people. He walks around the house with his head hung low. He waits right outside the bathroom door if I’m the only one home and I’m in there. He’s become quite a trip hazard walking so close to my legs. He’s happier out in the fields though and we’ve had some lovely walks lately in the crisp winter air. He’d be the perfect dog if he didn’t have the fox poo rolling habit.

Crochet is all over the place at the moment. I keep picking things up, not concentrating, making too many mistakes and then putting it to one side. At least the project I’ve got lined up for our Sussex break should be manageable. A straightforward project with a pattern. It’s the project I was supposed to take to Madrid but there was some mix up on the post option chosen when the free postage kicked in and shouldn’t have. It’s somewhere between a poncho and a jumper, but all in one colour, a grey denim yarn that I can’t wait to work with.

M and I have been gradually putting some non perishables in a small hamper to take with us so that all we will need to do is buy fresh milk, cheese, bread etc when we get there. It always seems a waste of valuable holiday time when you have to go food shopping. For once we have agreed not to go exploring and sightseeing except for local walks. We really don’t need to go out and about given that it’s my home county and we also took the kids to this precise spot a few years back and explored quite thoroughly. I fully intend to make the most of the wood burning stove and what look like very comfy sofas!

I’m not sure that these photos relate at all to anything I’ve been wittering on about except for maybe the dog walks. I just seem to have a few ‘outtakes’ from the black and white photo challenge. It certainly got me thinking and I even found some settings on my phone camera that I didn’t know existed including the silvertone setting which I used for this last photo of Harvey respectfully running along the edge of the farmer’s field. If there are crops and he strays I just say, ‘this way’ and he veers back on to the footpath. They seem to understand this rule somehow. I think I will be quite happy to go back to colour photography now. We’ve had some amazing blue skies this week and sunshine too along with a nip in the air which I find quite refreshing. Riley is trying to tell me that he’d find the nippy air quite refreshing too if I’d just care to get out of bed and consider a W…A…L…K. No such thing as a day off with dogs is there?

Waffle

A total jumble of photographs today, which is pretty much reflective of life at the moment. M is busy working here, there and everywhere. Travel is very much the downside of his job sometimes but his expertise is in limited supply and so he must go where the work is. Despite the fact I can quite easily forget what I’ve had for breakfast he will insist on ‘running through’ his weekly, monthly and sometimes beyond, diary of assignments. Whereas I think to myself or write lists he prefers to speak out loud. It’s fascinating sometimes, working out just how different we are in many ways. Difference is often a good thing. I can think of many examples where we have learnt from each other, or met each half way. It’s true that it takes longer for M to meet me half way on something but that’s because I’m a thinker and I think, ‘ok I’ll wait.’

Just before he left he washed the mud off the dogs feet to save me having to. I was otherwise busy with hoovering but when he’d finished he came to find me and said that he’d washed the dogs feet and for the first time he had shaken out the loose mud from their bedding so that they didn’t add wet feet to loose mud and create further mess. I resisted the temptation to remind him that it had only taken five years to grasp that concept and instead just quietly thanked him.

It’s nice but odd just having the two of us home his week. M gave J a little talk about helping out and that seems to have manifested in quite a protective role. Apart from sweeping which J has loved doing since he could walk, I’ve noticed that he’s taken on the role of locking up at night and not leaving the keys in the door either. This is something I’ve had to take on in recent years because M seems to have too many other things to think about.

The days are blissfully quiet. Dog walking duties have resumed but as is usual now I seem to take so long to properly shake off the remains of a cold. Harvey limps home with his shoulder problem and I find myself heading for the nearest chair with a racking cough. It’s so worth being outside in the fresh air though. The autumn sun was fantastic yesterday after the frost had disappeared.

We seem to have a cheeky family of Water Voles and they’ve taken a liking to our bird feeders. I’m not great with furry four legged vermin if truth be told. Mollie once bought a dead one in and that still gives me the creeps when I think about it. They are very rat like. Ugh. I was reasonably sure they were voles and not rats but I looked it up anyway and it seems we have the garden of paradise as far as they are concerned. Not only have we got a babbling brook beside the house but we’ve also got windfall apples which they love. I do wish they would stick to the apples and leave the bird food alone.

Harvey has had another trim and blow dry. I prefer to call it sheep shearing because I just get as much off as I can. It’s surprising how thick his coat gets. Riley has a silkier coat altogether so I only need to trim his ears and paws. I think Harvey has a permanently sad looking face but I’m sure he’s not unhappy. He seems to like the fuss and if I get my face too close to his he gives me a crafty lick.

I’ve never tested a crochet pattern for anyone before but decided that I was probably experienced enough now to give it a whirl. Hence the hot water bottle cover project pictured above. I was also in need of a quick fix project over the weekend which is precisely how long it took, just two evenings. It was M’s idea to watch a couple of soppy movies before he had to leave on Sunday afternoon. I think Notting Hill is probably his favourite movie although he wouldn’t like me sharing that fact. I’ve watched it with him so many times I actually know the entire script off by heart. M seems to watch it anew each time. Obviously our favourite part, which comes quite early on, is Spike trying on his various ‘date’ t shirts. Never gets old.

Anyway, the hot water bottle cover got made pretty quickly because we also watched Me Before You after that and then some trashy Netflix series. I rarely do granny squares if I can help it because I’m not great with repetition but they were fairly painless and the rest worked up with no problems at all. I was able to mention a few things that I thought would improve the pattern experience so it was nice to be useful. The pattern is by Harbour Crochet.

So the mess that is my working desk area above, with the half finished shawl on it… ugh, I’ve got myself in a right muddle with it. Stupidly I decided, after I’d reached something like row 94, that I probably wouldn’t like wearing it in asymmetrical way. It’s just too girly for me. Mum and I used to have a word for this when I was a teenager and occasionally had to dress up for events or occasions, or even just when we went clothes shopping. The word was ‘womany’. Not only was I not ready to look grown up (or wear anything other than jeans) but I didn’t really want to look like a woman either. Quite funny when I look back. I’d frequently reject clothes as too womany. It’s not even a word!

I’ve tried two ways to change this pattern into a symmetric design. One was to start crocheting the other side separately but with the increases on the opposite side. This was working well until the stitch count went wrong somehow. So then I thought, stuff this, I’ll just decrease from the centre on the original half I’d already made. That was going well too until I got to a certain section and that started to go pear shaped. I’ve left it alone for a few days and now I think I know where I went wrong so I will try again. A big part of me says, just follow the darn pattern and make do with an asymmetrical shawl, but that would be womany wouldn’t it? At least the yarn is nice to work with, Stylecraft Batik. I try to avoid acrylic yarns as much as possible but sometimes it’s worth  it for a light, washable, soft result. If I like a pattern I can always make another in more natural yarns.

I was nominated to take part in the seven day black and white photo challenge on Instagram. It would be amazing if I hadn’t been since it requires you to nominate someone new each day. I don’t think I know seven people who would like to join in but I shall try. I occasionally turn photos of Harvey into black and white because he’s monochrome to start with and a good subject. When I was fourteen or fifteen I had a basic darkroom located inside my wardrobe (it was a very large fitted wardrobe). I’d take my SLR camera and go out on my bike down to Hastings sea front and Old Town and take pictures of the fishing boats and huts. In a blog or Instagram post recently I noticed that someone had referred to these fishing huts as ‘black cabins’ which made me chuckle. It was a great hobby for a while and I even tried press photography at the local paper for a work experience week, but hated photographing people as it turned out. I must have been fit too because cycling from where we used to live to the town must have been a good ten or twelve mile round trip. I wonder what my fifteen year old self would make of digital photography and taking quite passable snaps on a mobile phone?

I started using Instagram for crochet inspiration. I didn’t realise that it was mainly a ‘push your wares’ kind of place. I’m sure that’s great for those with something to sell but it’s not the crochet community I was hoping for. At least the constant stream of goods does occasionally inspire me to try something new without buying a pattern. Christmas baubles seem to be everywhere at the moment. They were probably everywhere last year too but I’m slow on the uptake when I think something looks too tricky! It turns out that I already have a pattern for these in one of my books so I plan to try these sometime this week. Like the pumpkins they look perfect for stash busting odds and ends. After all it is November now and Christmas gifts and wrap has been available since at least September! We’ve even spotted Christmas trees and lights up on a recent drive back through Lincoln one night. People round here must really like to get their money’s worth or get into the spirit nice and early, whichever way you want to look at it. I’m still hoping M will forego the traditional tree and grant me my arty twig tree!

Mojo

Having gone a bit bonkers with crochet gourds and pumpkins this year I’m wondering how the bug passed me by in previous years? I couldn’t resist one last happy pumpkin just for fun. I haven’t overstuffed any of these and they are quite deliciously squishy. They are fairly quick and don’t require a great deal of concentration which is perfect when you’re full of cold or watching a series on Netflix, or both.

I used three different ‘patterns’ for the pumpkins. I use the word pattern lightly because there isn’t much to it. The first couple used dk with a 3.5mm hook and a chain of 19 to start. Using one chain as a turning chain I did rows through the back loop consisting of four dc’s at each end of the row and half trebles in between. The dc’s just make it easier to gather the top and bottom and I think they give a bit of shape too. I added the stalks afterwards on these first attempts which was a bit fiddly.

The larger pink gourd followed a pattern in the book 200 Fun things to Crochet. It’s a four row repeat and takes a bit of concentration or a pad and pen to keep track of where you are. I liked the way the stalk was crocheted in to the top section so I used that method when I went back to do a third type which was a combination the plain old ribbed body but with the crocheted in stalk. Did that make any sense at all? So the final happy pumpkin uses the tapered rib stitch rows but with the stalk worked into the top edge and then decreased to gather the top in. On this one I also used the method of sewing every other segment if you like, to accentuate the shape a bit more. I’ve made a mental note to find some soft colourful yarn and make a basket of pumpkins for my niece to play with next Halloween. I left it far too late this year to make them and send them off to London.

The still nameless crochet doll has acquired a cheerful red t shirt. I know I won’t enjoy making any further tiny outfits for now so they are on hold until I find my 3mm hook love and patience once more. I might make a Christmas hat and scarf for her late next month because those two things are quite easy and not so fiddly.

So with pumpkins out of my system and Halloween nearly over I needed to have the next project lined up. I flicked through my recent magazines and realised I had a couple of leftover balls of Batik to at least start the mystery Shawl that’s been published over three parts in Inside Crochet recently. At least with existing stash you can try a pattern out and see how it feels without committing to buying all the yearn from scratch. On this occasion the larger hook and choice of yarn works well and produces a light and airy but warm fabric.

I hadn’t taken much notice of the shawl to begin with because I really don’t like the colours it was shown in. I must have mentally written it off as a bit too girly for me. I saw a slightly toned down version on Instagram and then it dawned on me that I might like the pattern in different colours altogether. I know this is how patterns usually work but somehow those initial colours just tuned me out. I’ve got as far as I can with just two colours and I’m now waiting for a small delivery (a few other supplies may have dropped into the trolley too). I’m feeling my crochet mojo creep back. I’ve been crocheting lately but nothing has really been exciting.

Not only have I got to wait for a yarn delivery but I’ve also reached the end of Stranger Things 2! Oh well, I will just have to dive into a good book if it rains all day again tomorrow!

Gourds

I decided to pay for a flu jab this year since I don’t meet any of the special criteria. I did think about asking my GP for one on the basis that my immune system is pants but then I discovered that Boots do them on a walk in basis and it costs £12.99. What an absolute bargain. I think proper flu would be extremely miserable with the added misery of having everything go to pot around you because certain men who shall remain anonymous don’t notice things like worktops that need wiping, bins that need emptying, washing that needs to go through the machine and so on. Though I suspect that things have improved a little on this score since I spent a little time away from home this summer; all in the name of teaching them life skills of course!

Unfortunately flu jabs don’t protect against the common cold so I’m dosing up since I felt the first discomfort in my throat and neck. I blame E who came home from uni with a bad throat and cough. I’ll have to ban her visits home if this is what she keeps bringing with her! Today I’ve managed to make a few crochet pumpkins but I’ve probably frogged as much as I’ve actually crocheted such are my concentration levels.

On Thursday this week M had a job in Peterborough. I tend to go along for the ride and a few hours mooching round the city when he works there. It’s a little over an hour from home which is about as much driving with Victor Medlrew as I can stand. It was a mild and sunny day, the job was shorter than usual so M suggested popping to Stamford which is much more my kind of town. It was also attractive to hundreds of other people too, partly due to half term I guess. We still managed to have a nice lunch and I left M drinking coffee while I found the tucked away wool shop and browsed the second hand book stores.

I managed to be very selective with the books and only added two to my collection. I resisted all wool even though it was nice to have a look at some of the latest yarns. I had a lovely stroll through the market area and chose these small colourful gourds (above) and two generously sized rust coloured Chrysanthemums. I spent not much more than a tenner (the gourds were only 60p each) in total but it’s added some lovely autumnal colour. I’ve yet to transfer the plants to big pots and put them either side of the front door. Leaf sweeping and weeding is on the cards for that area too. For some reason Autumn gardening is much more appealing. Everything here just grows too fast in summer!

We’ve had some nice walks this week. Mostly just the dogs and I on our usual routes with a swim to rinse off anything Riley has rolled in. I wasn’t very chatty on Friday evening and M sensed I needed cheering up. He knows that just a simple thing like joining me for a dog walk and having a nice coffee afterwards is all it takes sometimes. So on Saturday morning we took the dogs to the old coach road and they enjoyed the change of scene very much. It’s a tree lined route with quite a few fallen trees including the log that has weathered to the texture you can see in the last photo. Of course Riley was trying his hardest to be included in this shot. M had to throw a stick to give me time to do a close up.

The walk was indeed uplifting and a good coffee is always welcome. It transpired later that what I really hankered after was a visit to my home county of Sussex. It just creeps up on me and I think that it’s often linked to this huge issue of regional accents. I don’t have a right or a wrong in my head. I just have a sense of what I am used to. In fact I often wonder whether places with identifiable accents have a stronger sense of identity. For instance, a common bumper sticker locally states ‘Proud to be a yellow belly.’ This means they are proud to be from Lincolnshire. There’s no such equivalent for Sussex. Only recently I was told that the Southern and therefore the Queen’s English has been wrongly spoken all along according to phonetics. So whilst M and I would say pasta with the same pronounciation, we would pronounce bath and castle differently. Rather than give much thought to right and wrong, which isn’t useful, I just added this advice to the long list of less than friendly ‘reactions’ to my alien accent. Hence the desire to go home now and then. Luckily the more M sees of Sussex the more he likes it. A lottery win would most definitely involve buying a property there!

Without such a windfall we’ve been surfing for a bargain winter break in Sussex instead. I started off by looking at shepherds huts but even in winter these can be quite pricey. We devised a tick box list to suit both of us and eventually found a blend of rural and rustic but with all the mod cons that M wanted (tv and wifi). A wood burner was high on my list of priorities and a sense of being isolated but knowing that you weren’t really far from civilisation. This small converted barn we have found sounds ideal and I can’t wait to go. We’ve just had our tenth wedding anniversary and had planned to book a break for that reason. We discussed Ireland and France but sometimes you can get carried away when there are perfectly good locations much closer to home. The added bonus is being able to visit my Grandfather when we are down there. It’s a little while yet but I’m going to start putting together a small hamper to take with us, wine, gin, oh and maybe some food items too!

I’ll be deciding which crochet project to take with me quite soon too. I’ve got a larger project to get my teeth into and a toft dog kit yet to start. For now though I need short, uncomplicated projects like pumpkins! Since I took these photos this morning I’ve had a day of lemsip and rest and managed to make the grand total of one more pumpkin for the bowl! I had visions of making at least half a dozen more. It was partly down to choosing a slightly larger and more involved pattern. For the small ones above I just used the same method as for my hats and gloves, through the back loops for ribbing and different heights of stitch for the tapering. The slightly larger one I’ve made uses a pattern from the book 200 Fun Things to Crochet and it’s a great pattern although I found that using running stitch to accentuate the ‘sections’ was a bit tricky so I just used one big stitch for each section and pulled tightly, securing it out of sight in the centre of the base each time. I’m not quite done with pumpkins yet so I’ll be pulling out more random leftover yarn balls tomorrow and trying out more striped and tweedy versions.

October

These photo scavenge hunts are proving too much fun to miss. I didn’t think I’d have time this month to join in what with E’s departure for uni and then her short notice visits home. In fact the latest one prompted a massive two day sort out that I’d intended to do over three months! She’s been in charge of sorting her own room out for as long as I can remember but it was a bit chaotic after the uni packing. I decided that she needed a really nice, calm, uncluttered area to come home to now and then. I’m quite good at this sort of thing once I’m in the right frame of mind and armed with a hoover for unexpected spiders, loud music and a large coffee.

1. Making. Hats. It’s an annual thing now, a randomly occurring, most pressing need to make a batch of hats (not necessarily at the right time of the year either). This one seems remarkably similar to one I made last year for E but it uses an entirely different pattern. It’s called the Herringbone Slouch Hat by Jennifer Dougherty. It’s easy as pie if you can do post trebles. I’ve yet to make myself one but the wool is standing by!

2. Empty. Beach. This was taken at Huttoft earlier this year. I’m hopeless at remembering dates but it was fairly windy and cool, most definitely woolly hat weather anyway. In my mind it was the best time to visit a beach because we had the place entirely to ourselves. The dogs loved it.

3. Starts with F. Fingerless gloves. I finished making these recently using the foolproof side to side method and then slip stitching down the side leaving a thumb hole. It’s ideal for using up a random ball of yarn that you’ve lost the ball band for and can’t remember whether it’s dk or Aran, or chunky for that matter. It makes perfect tailor made gloves every time. All I need to do now is be less plain and add embellishments!

4. Paper. Despite various crochet planning apps and even an app for a crochet journal I don’t think I’m likely to ever replace good old paper and pen with anything digital. I have a box of these small pads with various crochet notes inside and one day I’m planning on transferring them to a handwritten journal for future reference. Just my hat notes alone would be a handy section to write up instead of working it all out from scratch every time I start one.

5. Neat. I wouldn’t say I was a neat freak but there are some things that need a little order so I find myself trying to keep my little bureau neat and tidy at least. It contains a hundred million random items and I know exactly where each of them are.

6. Street. I most probably take a photo of this very same street every time I go to York. It’s so Dickens and Harry Potter and just makes you feel like you should be wearing something quite different from jeans.

7. Kettle. Once upon a time I’d use a kettle six times a day at the very least. Now it’s far less because we use a coffee machine. My favourite kettle though, is our Kelly Kettle which runs on little twigs or pine cones set alight in the fire cavity. In order to use this I have to drag M out in the car, find some remote lay-by, take the dogs for as long a walk as he can manage and then suggest a freshly brewed mug of tea before setting off for home. It always tastes better in the open air!

8. Unexpected. Walking back to E’s little car to find a very bad driver trying to reverse out of the next parking bay. It probably would have helped if she’d had a booster seat and been able to see over the steering wheel. She was a very small woman in a very big car. Beware! In future I will be keeping the battery ticking over by driving round the village.

9. Vase. If you’ve been following for a while you’ll know that vase comes under the category ‘girly things that I don’t like’. Well they used to in the days before I discovered that they also come without flowers printed or painted onto them! This green one was a recent acquisition. I’d love to know who or where this potter with the mark Hy is. I’ve got quite a few pieces collected mainly from charity shops over the years. I like this piece for its simplicity and the fact that it only takes one stem of something for it to look artistic!

10. Own choice. Harvey, the dog we’ve had from a pup. The dog I taught to sit, wait, find it, fetch, bring it here, lie down, who now does all of this roughly in that order and never gives up hope that you’ll throw something for him. When winter sets in and I’m sweeping mud up from the floor daily, soaking mud balls out of his pads in the sink, trekking through boggy fields, wrecking my car boot with mud, dog slobber and stagnant pond smell, hoovering prairie dog hair dust balls from the hall way… I always think to myself, he’s worth every bit of that hard work. I can’t imagine life without a Spaniel, or two!

Thank you Hawthorn for hosting the photo hunt. http://livelovecraftme.blogspot.co.uk/2017/10/october-scavenger-hunt-link-up-party.html

Birthday

It’s been a bit of a happy sad kind of weekend. E was sounding a bit homesick on Friday evening just as M and I were settling down to watch a film. Eventually the big softie that M is said he’d go and pick her up (a three hour round trip). It’s my birthday weekend so although a visit home wasn’t on the cards it was good timing. E has never been the sort to be comfortable away from home so she’s finding this first semester quite tricky. Judging by how often the rest of her flat mates go home she’s not alone in this. From a Mum point of view it’s a bit unsettling.

After E had a very long sleep we went into town on Saturday afternoon to gather a few things she needed. We ended up having an afternoon tea which was fun. We were chatting away about life in a flat and the lack of sound proofing when all of a sudden the woman at the next table decided to join in the conversation. A few minutes later the older couple on the other side of us decided they’d join in too. It was obviously a contentious subject!

So, the nameless doll is finished. Due to lack of light this evening and the fact that E has taken the little character back to uni I haven’t got a photo of her in the cute stripey dress I also made for her. The plan is to make a few more items of clothing and pop them in the post as and when. Sandals are definitely on the cards, a t-shirt to go under the dungarees and perhaps the yellow rain mac because E has always owned one of these for every age of her life!

Whilst the 3.5mm hook with dk wasn’t totally impossible for my big hands it was definitely fiddly at times. When I find the right shade of body colour I’m looking forward to having a go at scaling the pattern up to Aran weight to make a doll for my niece. There’s scope for a lot of fun with outfits that might appeal to a little one.

I’ve been well and truly spoiled this year. Lots of lovely presents and treats but also, the now much rarer chance to have a family meal, the four of us. I chose Nando’s this year because you really can’t beat chicken and chips. I’m now having a crafty gin and tonic while M does the uni round trip again; after all I need to live up to the birthday card E designed for me (which I shared on Instagram) which has a sizeable chunk of the pie chart devoted to gin. I fear the chocolate section might be larger than depicted by the time the day is over.

Harvey is either losing his hearing now or turning into a stubborn old thing. I tried to coax him off the sofa so that I could lay down the newly washed blanket but he decided he was quite comfortable where he was. I thought he’d wriggle out when I plonked it on top of him but he seemed quite cosy in his blanket cave and stayed like that for at least half an hour. He was pretty warm when he emerged. Riley walked by a few times, clearly puzzled, looking at me as much to say, what is that dog doing?

Kingston Upon Thames

My faith in cities has been restored a little! I’m in Kingston Upon Thames which is technically Surrey but feels pretty much like London. There are red double decker buses everywhere. The traffic seems to be constant night and day. It was too warm last night and I had to get up in the small hours and get some air from the window. We are three floors up so there is a good view of the city below and beyond. I was really surprised to see people, buses and cars at this hour.

We arrived yesterday and M had a little time to show me a few places he already knew, mainly of the food and coffee variety but I wasn’t complaining, I had the best flat white I’ve ever tasted just round the corner so I’ll be making another visit there today. M has headed into central London for an all day job. I could have gone too but Kingston seems like a much better option.

Outdoor food markets seem to be a given for most cities now and there’s a nicely built one here with wooden stalls and smart gazebos. I don’t want to offend anyone from Bristol because I may have been unaware of a refuse collection strike of some sort but here the rubbish gets bagged up properly at the end of the day and taken away. In Bristol there seems to be a collection of two or three industrial sized bins on every street corner. During the three days we were there they weren’t emptied and the amount of food waste overflowing on to the paths was quite disgusting. Great for vermin I would have thought too.

The city photo was taken at about 3pm yesterday and shortly after it got quite eerie and dark. The sky was already a strange yellow brown colour and then it went very sepia for a while. It seemed to blow over because there was no rain or anything that you’d expect with sudden darkness. A lot of people were taking photos of the sky with their phones.

M and I settled in the window seats of the coffee bar he’d been to before and watched people going by. It was really fascinating because life here is so different to the sleepy town we live close to. I mentioned where we were to Mum and was surprised to learn that my Dad played in a band in a pub here on Friday nights. Of course I had to share this amazing fact with E and J who may or may not have had vague knowledge of Grandad once being a drummer. They were pretty impressed and once again, my parents are so much cooler than I ever was!

Naturally I’ve brought along some crochet. The doll is now looking much more human with two arms and two legs. She’s even got an item of clothing, two hats and a scarf in progress. I’ll be looking out for a box or something to keep her and all the bits together. I’ve found that for some of the clothes it comes up rather stiff and tight if you use the same hook as for the body. I’ve scaled up half or a whole size in hooks and then adjusted trouser lengths as I go. It would probably make life easier just sticking to the guidelines but in my case I particularly wanted baggy dungarees. I’ll do some photos when I’m back at home to explain this better. Using merino instead of wool is a good tip if you want a bit of extra give. I made one hat in wool and it was a bit stiff and heavy. I made a second in merino and it’s much softer and stretchier.

I posted the above hat to E at uni. We had discussed a stripey hat and then got sidetracked with a nice post treble design that I made in tweed green. I’m a sucker for a well written pattern or a nicely styled photo and then often find it doesn’t make what I had in mind. With this chunky scrap yarn hat I closed the books and my iPad and just started making the hat and it ended up being what I wanted in the first place. I’ve got enough chunky bits and bobs to make another for myself and several for the clothing drop box they put next to one of the churches in our town for homeless people to help themselves to when it starts to get cold. I put some thick, warm hand knitted hats in there last year. Stash busting and a good cause, a win win.

Herringbone

With a heavy heart we packed up the ‘van and towed it home. It is looking a little worse for wear with green stuff streaking down from the roof. I’ll have to get a ladder and the brush/hose and sort it out. I’ve really enjoyed this seasonal pitch idea which we had considered before but hadn’t found anywhere nice enough to tempt us. This place was absolutely hassle free and with everything we needed nearby including fantastic walks and scenery. I will miss being able to open the roof shutter and bedroom blind in the morning and sit and watch birds, squirrels and pheasants going about their business as well as the trees gently swaying overhead. I think Riley enjoyed watching the squirrels mainly.

It was a great exercise in whittling down belongings and distractions. Each time I went to stay there I purposely only took a bare minimum of yarn and wips, the most being three projects at any one time (which is much less than the tally at home!). It meant that I made progress on various projects that were taking longer or were less interesting than my concentration span. I also limited the amount of spare yarn I stored in the van which is how the wristwarmers and socks came to be in the same black tweed yarn I guess. Not having my crochet books and magazines or even reliable internet resulted in making it up as I went along for more items. I’ve always liked this ‘try it on as you go’ method for gloves, mitts, socks and hats. It’s ideal for socks in particular. I was really glad of those black chunky socks when the weather outside was making itself known across the floor level in the van. The last pair of these I made were only Aran weight but they’ve also had lots of use.

I started reading so much more during this time away too. I think at home I find it much harder to relax with my head in a book because there’s always something going on. If I read my eyes are not available for seeing what sounds and activity are going on. I still find it totally amazing that M or E can read a book, be asked a question, answer it and all without looking up from the book! It’s mind blowing! When the kids were small I used to watch them interact with each other purely for the way they didn’t have to look at each other to converse. In fact I still do love to observe them having a conversation with each other because they both appear to mumble under their breath (J especially), hardly look at one another and and yet they are chatting.

M and I found an out of town book shop some miles out from the caravan site. I think I previously mentioned (maybe on Instagram) that it was dog friendly and we had Riley with us at the time. He sat like an angel in the cafe after being given a dog treat by one of the women who worked there. Anyway, we both liked the art on the walls and when we got home I found the two posters online and ordered them. The one above is the only one I’ve managed to find a frame for so far. It has livened up our bedroom wall for now. It may end up on the bare brick wall in our conservatory which we use as a living room. I’m trying to collect enough art to make a feature wall of prints. It’s slow going, I’m obviously quite fussy these days.

Three weeks is obviously how long the average student lasts before feeling homesick. E reported that she’d like to come home this weekend because most of her flat were going home, so M dutifully sent funds for a train ticket and picked her up on Friday evening. We had only been home a few hours after bringing the caravan home so I very hastily had to put her half sorted room into order so that she could actually sleep in the bed! There were no less than seven coats on our hall pegs all belonging to E so when she left three weeks ago I moved them to her room with a view to sorting out some space in her wardrobe for them. I quickly realised that was a bigger job than I bargained for.

M and I also had to confess to a small incident involving her car. I’m insured to drive it and we agreed that I’d use it maybe once a week to keep it ticking over nicely and because it’s fun to nip out in a Fiat 500 when your usual car is a big old jeep. I used it once to meet M for a coffee after a local job he’d done and as we were walking back to the cars he heard a bit of a bang and scrape and witnessed a very small woman in a very big car swipe the front bumper of E’s car. In a nutshell she admitted liability and we sorted out the repairs pronto, hoping very much to have it back on our drive way before E even thought about coming home for a visit. It’ll be another few days so we had to explain everything. Luckily E saw the funny side and said, ‘so in the three weeks I’ve been away you’ve trashed my bedroom and trashed my car?’ Um, yep.

All that had nothing to do with me readily agreeing to making her an autumn type hat! It’s not quite arctic enough for the double thick and fleece lined crochet hat I made her last winter when she was having to do playground supervising. I’m sure we discussed stripes and multi colours but then E spotted a design called the Chunky Herringbone Slouch hat from the book Crochet Style by Jennifer Dougherty. We found some tweedy green chunky yarn from my stash and agreed on a different colour for the Pom Pom. As luck would have it I already had the perfect colour and size Pom Pom in a drawer full of leftover random Pom Poms. It doesn’t look like it but the hat has just the right amount of slouch and it was easy to get a good fit for the final band by switching to a smaller hook. Without E’s head nearby I think I would have had to do a ribbed band just to be sure there was enough give for a flexible fit. I used half trebles for this band rather than the dc’s suggested because I wanted a bit more band depth. The pattern seem really well written and the gauge guidelines are really useful. I’m definitely going to make one of these for myself. I feel a whole lot of hat making coming on!

Bristol

It’s always a treat to leave this county I’ve ended up in. When I return I often appreciate the relative lack of traffic and the way everything is nicely spread out, with lots of green between villages and towns. A whirlwind tour of London and Bristol has definitely had that effect.

In fact we started off by travelling to Worcester, somewhere I’ve never been but I had a pleasant few hours wandering round and another hour sitting at a window seat in a lovely coffee place. I could easily have used their wifi and read the news, blogged, wasted time on Instagram but instead I just watched the world go by and very relaxing it was too.

After Worcester we had to head right into London to stay overnight so that M could be in Camberwell Green the next morning. We booked a hotel in Richmond, just eleven miles from where he had to be and allowed two hours the following morning to travel that distance. We made it with ten minutes to spare and we didn’t take any detours or get lost. That’s London rush hour for you. Camberwell Green looked a bit scary and horrible. I’m not keen on London at all. My first mission was to find a good take out coffee and deliver it to M at the court, he has a lot of waiting around to do and they don’t very often have coffee machines let alone good coffee. After delivering his coffee I took mine and sat in a small leafy park. Little green spaces like this must be well used within these London boroughs.

My morning got a whole lot better when I discovered there was a really good art shop down one of the side streets. It took me back to my design days, just the smell of paper. I’ve been thinking of having a dabble with some hand drawn lettering lately so I treated myself to a pack of water colour brush pens. They’ve actually got some kind of ink based colour in them but produce a water colour type mark, so that should be interesting to try out. It’s been a long time since I did anything hand drawn.

Traffic was hell from London to Bristol and we ended up calling it the hamster wheel effect. The satnav started off by telling us we would be there in two and a half hours. After driving for over an hour it was still telling us we had two and a half hours to go! I first visited Bristol about twenty years ago and distinctly remember seeing models of the improvements they were going to spend £20million on. It seems they haven’t stopped spending money on ‘regeneration’ because it was full of roadworks, which is always a pain when you don’t know where you’re going anyway. Satnavs don’t cope well with road closures. In fact on Saturday there was a demonstration of sorts by a large group of motorcyclists who rode slowly through the town en masse to protest about all the disruption. Good for them I say! I was negotiating orange barriers, potholes, pedestrian re route signs and large piles of concrete rubble as they drove by.

Highlights of my two days wandering round Bristol included the Grayson Perry exhibition at the Arnolfini, and a quiet hour or so on the second floor of the M Shed watching the boats go by. In between these two events I did find some quirky coffee shops, a vintage street market and the tree lined harbourside area that I recognised from my previous visit.

I have no idea what the story behind the portakabin in the sky is but I would be quite happy to live up there! Neither can I tell you anything about Grayson Perry that isn’t already out there on the internet. It was packed with people, a blend of families, tourists and pretentious art critic wannabes, no actually the latter was just one Father boring the pants off his fourteen year old son. I felt like stepping in and telling him to just let the poor boy form his own opinions. I must confess I liked a lot of the work and I wish I had taken more photographs.

From Bristol I was dropped off in Derbyshire for one last week at the caravan. It was heavenly arriving back amongst the pine trees. It wasn’t so good being without Riley. I’ve come to realise that it is actually quite handy having someone or something that can hear. The fire alarm and carbon monoxide alarm for instance are rendered completely useless without Riley in residence. I often leave a tap running, intending to fill a bowl while I quickly do something else and then because I can’t hear the water running I completely forget about it. My sense of smell often makes up for things though, I can actually smell things like water running in a smaller space like the caravan and I’d definitely know very quickly if something was starting to burn.

Walking round Bristol really stuffed my back up again. I needed the five day break from constant laundry, dog walking and general household stuff to rest it. Before I left for this trip I hoovered the whole house and vowed never to hoover again after it set things off. M and J proved they can cope with both laundry and hoovering. They made a deal, J would hoover throughout if M did all the laundry. Both parties were happy. Now that I’m home I need to bribe J into keeping up with the hoovering part of the deal until my back is better.

Apart from a brief trip down to the nearby town for charity shop browsing, coffee and a walk round the lake, I mainly stuck to reading and crochet all week. I managed to finish three novels! I read three books, started a fourth and that’s when I decided to replenish my stock. I wish things were as organised at home i.e. Buy a few, read a few and then buy a few more and so on. The reality is that I buy them faster than I can read them.

In between reading I managed to finish the ribbed crochet wristwarmers that I started yonks ago. They are sized to fit my wrists and hands perfectly. That’s what I love about the side to side and ribbed construction method. I love the tweed yarn and managed to buy up quite a few balls in the chunky weight in various colours at sale prices recently. In order not to get too bored with ribbed wristwarmers, honeycomb hats and anything else I’ve made more than a few times I need to source some new patterns. E has requested a stripey ‘studenty’ hat (whatever that is?) so she’s going to find a picture of something she likes.

On one day in the caravan it was particularly blowy outside. We have small vents at floor level which I’m sure are totally necessary but I’m not sure why. They let in a certain amount of cool air regardless of how cosy the rest of the place is. At some point in the afternoon I decided to see if the rest of the chunky black tweedy yarn would be enough for a pair of thick socks. I absolutely hate wearing socks usually and I particularly dislike anything that goes up past my ankle. I’ve no idea why, strangely J seems to have inherited this from me. In just an hour or so I had a pair of tailor made ankle socks with about ten centimetres of yarn leftover! I smugly sent a photo to our family message chat thing which E set up and titled ‘Fam’ (it’s a new word apparently) and they were all seriously unimpressed. I reminded them that being able to whip up a pair of socks with yarn and a hook was something akin to a post apocalyptic life skill! One day they will realise what a cool person I really am 😉