November

Joining in with Hawthorn’s Photo Scavenge Hunt. Thank you for hosting K!

1. Blue. So many blues to choose from so I’ve kept it current and photographed this scarf I’ve just finished for a Christmas present. At least I think it’s blue.

2. Me. Ugh I hate having my photo taken. I don’t actually wear glasses all the time but this was a selfie just to take a photo of the newly finished ‘Unfold’ crochet cowl and I needed to see the camera button!

3. Beginning with W. Weaving. Something I want to do more of but I’ve been giving crochet priority. Weaving certainly goes well with the hobby of crochet because it uses up random odds and ends of any thickness. I throw all the leftovers into a wire basket when they are no longer a useful quantity for anything else.

4. Rainbow. One of the things I’ve learnt about myself since I learnt how to crochet is my inability to cope with a riot of colour! Rainbow colours just don’t do anything for me at all. I seem to be in the minority when it comes to the colourful crochet community. I struggled to find anything amongst existing photographs for this category and then I came across this cake that M and I couldn’t resist when we were spending the afternoon in Chester after one of his work assignments. Imagine the time and patience required to bake such a thing!

5. Arch. A beautiful bridge in Matlock with stone arches.

6. Toy. A toy for future grandchildren is how we justified bringing this vintage look Pooh Bear home with us from Ashdown Forest recently. M is just a big softy really and said he looked lonely in the window!

7. Brush. I love this kind of shop. Useful, beautiful items. This one in Tunbridge Wells seemed to have a brush for every occasion and I regret not buying one of those wooden brushes with the ergonomic mushroom shaped handle for gently brushing clods of mud from the dog’s paws.

8. Swirl. This immediately made me think of coffee. I love it when a barista does an amazing piece of art. So clever. Never works at home!

9. Nail. Well nails plural to be precise here. This is not my hand! I cannot stand to have nail varnish on my finger nails. I’ve been known to add a neutral shade to toes in the summer. I’ve got strong nails that seem to grow quickly and yet I never bother doing anything with them except keep them trimmed. Unfortunately E didn’t inherit this from me and she has much weaker nails but likes to have them looking nice at all times, hence these decorative ones that I don’t even know the technical name for.

10. Own choice. I’ve recently been dabbling in much chunkier yarns than usual and loving the rustic look that thicker wool can create. This undyed yarn is by Rowan and was greatly reduced in a John Lewis sale. It’s absolutely luxurious to work with and feels great against the skin so I’m making a simple cowl for myself. It’ll be perfect for cold and frosty dog walks!

http://livelovecraftme.blogspot.co.uk/2017/11/november-photo-scavenger-hunt-final-one.html

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Ashdown Forest

It’s our final evening here in Sussex. Leaving my home territory tomorrow will be very hard indeed. I’ve literally breathed in as much Sussex air as I can. The smell of the forest, wood smoke in the air, tree lined country lanes, gorse, bracken, half tiled or half weatherboarded cottages.

We rented this barn for the week as a tenth wedding anniversary present to ourselves. Ten years ago when I first introduced M to just the idea of visiting Sussex he was not at all keen. He said he would feel like a fish out of water. That’s exactly how I feel with where I live right now. M did squirm a bit and try to lose his few northern pronunciations (his accent isn’t that strong compared to some regions close by). Over the years though he has come to love some of the places I’ve taken him to; Rye, Battle, Bexhill, Hastings, Brighton, Tunbridge Wells, Lewes and Ashdown Forest.

This week we’ve tried to slow down and not rush about visiting places. We brought the children here some years ago and did all the Pooh Bear sites such as the original Pooh sticks bridge, hundred acre wood (which is the five hundred acre wood here) and Hartfield which is where AA Milne lived at Cotchford Farm. M was quite sad that they are all grown up now. He wandered round the Pooh Corner shop looking quite forlorn. Eventually we decided that it wouldn’t hurt to have an old looking Pooh Bear at home for when we eventually have grandchildren. I think he’s just a big kid really but he didn’t get too much argument from me. I’ve never been a teddy person, or a doll person God forbid, but I like the vintage style of this bear.

We popped over to Tunbridge Wells one morning for no particular reason. We headed away from the modern shops and sought coffee in The Pantiles. Somehow M has a knack of being in the right place for picking up old ladies who have fallen over. I’m always with him but of course he hears the shopping hit the floor and rushes over. On this awful occasion the poor woman was head down a flight of stone steps. He kept her talking while he gently repositioned her legs and then gradually got her to a sitting position. A passer by thought he was an absolute expert and asked me if he was a doctor, I said no, he’s just very experienced at picking up old ladies! Thankfully the woman in question seemed fine after a sit down and a nearby shopkeeper invited her into the warm for a cup of tea.

After that drama we found a wonderful artisan coffee place and later we managed to find a whittling knife for M. I’ve got hand carved crochet hooks in mind, he likes a challenge! I gathered some wind fallen pieces of beech today for practice pieces but we’ve got quite a few choices in our back garden too. I did reflect on all the wealthy housewives laden with designer shopping bags and witnessing one who spent £280 on two cushions (freshening up the look for Christmas guests no doubt!) and thought how terrible I am at shopping in general and how happy I was that we found this little knife.

M earned husband brownie points by not moaning and protesting loudly over my suggestion to go for a short circular walk in Ashdown Forest today. I think I’ve harped on enough about how my childhood was filled with adventurous walks along clifftops, through woodlands, beside rivers etc. and he finally gets that I love walking! He hates it and doesn’t see the point at all which is not helped by the fact the fact that he has a back injury. I was prepared to go at snails pace and I was happy to stop when he needed to. Eventually we made it round this boggy woodland route, taking in what was left of the autumn colours, the views over the South Downs, little babbling brooks, rabbits darting for cover, the odd deer in the distance. Halfway round he said, yes I think I get this now, it’s actually quite beautiful. I could have cried. The reality though was that he was suffering quite badly. I always know when he’s really in pain because he actually complains less. It’s probably a man thing. He also goes quite pale which is a dead give away.

At Pooh Corner with warming ‘cappoohccino’s’ (their pun not mine) I told M that I really appreciated him attempting that walk, that it meant a lot. Sadly though I don’t think it’s ever going to be a pastime we do much of together. It’ll be back to the compromising that we worked out in Derbyshire this year, involving the car, a cafe and a crossword (while I hike a little).

Before we set off on our walk we exchanged numbers with a chap who had lost a golden retriever. He was waiting with the car and the second dog in case she found her own way back and his wife was out looking. Of course we know how this feels so we said we would join the search party but happily the dog turned up looking casual and wondering what all the fuss was about, as they do. Later in the day, on the way back to the barn we narrowly missed a small scruffy Terrier Jack Russell type thing trotting across a sixty mile an hour country lane looking a bit lost. I shouted stop and we hopped out and M managed to grab him first. He was quite friendly and immediately started licking M’s ear. He belonged to a man in a little cottage set back from the road who was very grateful for his safe return and didn’t realise that the gate had been left open. What with picking up old ladies and rescuing small dogs M has been quite the hero this week!

The best part of the week though, was being near enough to my Grandad for him to come over for a visit. My Uncle and Aunt decided to come and see the barn too and we all had a lovely catch up and lunch at the local pub. In fact that rather odd looking wallpaper with the ghostly Pooh Bear walking off into the woods with piglet is on one of the walls in the pub. I quite like the wallpaper design because the Pooh stories are, at the end of the day, just imagination. It’s rather how I felt about my childhood adventures in forests like this one and how I imagined our long gone little black cocker spaniel trotting off into the woods today.

We will both take a few ideas back to Lincolnshire with us. Ideas that can be stored away for the future. We’ve been amazed at how easily we could see ourselves living in just a small barn like this one, with perhaps a brick outbuilding or two. It’s really quite small with just one bedroom, a bathroom and open plan living room/kitchen but we wouldn’t need much more. M was also taken with the Sussex trug company here and could happily have moved in to their workshop as an apprentice trug maker. As a compromise (because his day job pays a bit more) I’m going to book him on to one of the two day introductory courses for next year. You can see how my cunning plan to make him fall in love with Sussex has worked out nicely this week!

Finally, because there’s always crochet talk here, I have made progress with just the one project this week. Totally focussed, no getting sidetracked with other things (even though I did bring three projects with me.) I’ll save the scarf pics for another post. It’s long, it’s thick, it’s super chunky and I’m a bit worried it’ll be too heavy to wear but even with the yarn substitution it still weighs the same as the recommended yarn so it must have been tried and tested. It will definitely wrap twice round the neck and still have plenty to spare. (Link to the pattern is in my previous post). I think I’ve managed to stay focussed on this one project because it’s been perfect for slight daydreaming whilst crocheting. I blame the hypnotic effect of the flames in the wood-burner window, so much more absorbing than the film we watched one night. I’ve frogged so many rows due to losing a stitch here or there but in super chunky that hasn’t been too bad.

Sussex Trugs: https://www.sussextrugs.com

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.

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!