Warmth

M and I have been taking a small picnic lunch to various scenic little spots locally. If there is water and it isn’t near the road we take Harvey and Riley too. Today though, this was our view (above) and due to the road, the ducks and number of passers by we left the dogs in J’s company at home. They’ve been paddling in our stream to cool off, in between helping me obliterate yet more nettle jungles. I’ve had just about enough of nettles now, I should probably try making nettle tea with this plentiful supply.

We introduce small amounts of colour to the garden every year. It has never seemed worth doing too much since most summers we attend so many cricket matches and aren’t around to appreciate it. This year J is concentrating on his exams and is turning down matches now and then. The dogs are also a bit destructive with plants and shrubs so pots have to be raised or guarded! I caught Riley nibbling a flower bud and after a short talking to I think he now understands!

I’ve dug out random old pots and containers from within those nettle patches and planted a few inexpensive plants in them. The best find was the long forgotten huge three handled terracotta pot which now has the Rhodanthemum growing in it. A rusty old bucket was ideal for a flowering plant that M liked the look of. We’ve also used an old wooden bucket with no bottom to give the illusion of a potted jasmine when in fact the roots will be able to grow straight into the ground and give it a much better chance of survival when we forget to water and feed it.

We might not be creating a smart and manicured look outside but I’m happier planting out these rusty vessels than I would be buying new ones and taking more stuff to the tip. I think the upcycled, rustic look outside reflects some of the upcycling we’ve done in the house too.

Now that I’ve done a few rows of the Tranquil Shawl I’m liking the fabric the pattern is creating. I’ve woven in the ends created so far and I’m feeling more hopeful that they will stay in. The alpaca yarn is a real treat to work with. I still feel a bit disappointed that it isn’t more continuous crocheting. It makes me want to make another and try working back down the rows with a series of chains or slip stitches or something just to make it more continuous. It would change the appearance but it would also prevent 134 ends!

It’s the most glorious summers evening here right now. It’s so good to feel the sun on my face. It’s quite nice to have two warm dogs lying on my feet too! They are never quite content with just being near, they like to be physically touching. It’s not surprising they are flat out and snoring, they’ve been puking up grass all day long. I think they may have ingested some of my rosemary clippings or something disagreeable along with the grass. Dogs… never a dull moment!

Gardening

I must confess that M and I have been spurred into action lately with the promise of a special visitor to our little corner of the country. It’s been a long time since my Grandfather was able to travel North, but at his age that’s totally understandable. Just a few more days, I can’t wait until he is safely here.

We’ve lived with so many jobs that really should have been tackled before now and eventually it all becomes quite overwhelming. Neither of us enjoy gardening these days but I used to and I think it’s just the size and challenge of our wild ‘plot’ that puts me off, besides I do quite like it wild. Mature trees are lovely but expensive if you need professional help to keep them under control.  Currently we have a dying one that is absolutely huge and quotes to tackle it are equally huge. Big trees also create shade which has killed off most of the tough grass we laid ten years ago and moss and cow parsley have flourished. There is still enough grass to warrant mowing it but it’s not the carpet-like quality my Dad has achieved with his lawn!

Today M and I tackled the front garden weeds including the riverbank which was knee high in nettles. I do all the bits I can reach from the path and M gets his fishing waders on and uses the strimmer whilst standing in the river. Along with chopping down all the randomly self seeded sycamore saplings (some of them over ten feet high) with a hand saw it always feels like doing battle with the garden rather than anything more dainty.

So we’ve got nettle stings all up our arms and legs but it felt good to tame just a few parts of the garden. The dogs absolutely love helping. Harvey totally gets the concept of contributing to the bonfire. It’s the only time he will actually drop a stick or branch and not expect me to throw it. I suppose this comes from teaching him to help with bonfire building when he was a puppy. Unfortunately Riley tends to steal branches from the bonfire, take them somewhere shady and then chew them up. Not so helpful. We are lucky to live near so much water, the dogs have cooled down in our stream today but they also enjoyed their dip in the lake yesterday. Riley seems to swim up and down purely for the pleasure of it whereas Harvey is all about fetching.

Of course there have also been coffee breaks. We’ve found yet another new coffee place which might just become our new favourite. M is happy with this one because no one seems to like the Times crossword there. He gets a bit ratty if someone beats him to it and yet refuses to buy his own just for the crossword. I’m also happy with this new one because it is a few doors down from a very good charity shop that specialises in just vintage stock. We popped out for coffee and we came home with a lovely £5 cane chair (which E has currently adopted for her bedroom). I also picked up the little wooden box which seems to be a hand carved Victorian pin box with a name plaque which someone has filled in more recently! E is a big Harry Potter fan so it’s currently by her bed and being used for rings.

After the marathon gardening session, a cold shower and some wool winding I was ready to start a new crochet project. The pattern is called Tranquil, it’s by Sarah Hazell and it’s available in Erika Knight’s Ravelry store. It’s intended for EK’s studio linen which I was able to have a squish of last week but the item would have cost over £80 to make which is a bit extravagant for me. I ordered the Drops alpaca to make a cosier version, the sort you’d wear for late summer evenings. With the sale prices it has cost a quarter of the price of the suggested yarn and I’m loving the way this alpaca feels to work with.

I’m not too happy to find that there are going to be a billion ends to weave in, ok maybe not a billion but definitely over one hundred ends. I might even have given it a miss if I’d known that before purchasing the pattern but I will do a few ends every evening and hopefully it won’t seem as bad. Despite being hairy in a mohair kind of way this alpaca does not catch on itself so I’m a little worried the ends will escape. Mind you, I worry about ends escaping on everything I make so that’s probably just me.

Tomorrow our plans involve taking some stray garden equipment to the tip; we are still finding random flymos and leaf shredders left by the last owner. More nettle jungles to be conquered underneath the plum tree. We will be investigating whether or not you can buy new parasol covers since our frame is fine but the fabric is what we’ve called the ‘Oliver Twist’ look, i.e. it’s in rags! I will also be liberally re-applying the garden furniture paint to the bench that J jetwashed off a few weeks ago!

(E was very happy with her Yellow/grey version of the slouch bag. I could have steam pressed it nice and flat but I like the way it’s naturally textured. I’ve asked E to put it through its paces and decide whether or not it’ll need lining. Fingers crossed it won’t!)

Together

Today was an extremely rare day with all four of us at home. Unusually J did not have a cricket match but does have plenty of revision to do instead. E is trying to avoid working both Saturday and Sundays at the children’s farm whilst also working Monday to Friday at school so she had today to catch up with herself and recharge her batteries. She has been coming home from school exhausted because, lets face it, a class of 26 six year olds is pretty full on! M wasn’t umpiring or scoring at one of J’s matches. So it was a lazy lie in kind of morning, not a long enough lie in for my liking but M is an early riser and he mentioned coffee so I was dressed and ready by nine a.m.

M and I tried a new coffee house locally, it’s half way up Steep Hill which is an absolute killer of a climb when you’ve got a dodgy knee (me) or a dodgy hip (M). The coffee was worth it, and breakfast of banana and peanut butter on cinnamon toast with seeds and honey was a nice change from the usual… even with M doing mock vomit gestures in the background because he really does not like peanut butter! How can you not like peanut butter?

The view from the bottom of Steep Hill up towards the cathedral makes the day look deceptively bright and sunny. By the time we got home and M had taken the covers off the teardrop trailer to do some work it was already beginning to turn a little grey. An hour or so later and he was back inside again expressing his ‘disappointment’ with the weather in a series of choice words.

So, there was really nothing for it but to embrace yet another rainy afternoon. Riley was totally up for it. I’m now on the home straight with the yellow bag gusset. Nearly two metres of double crochet is ideal for movie afternoons as it happens. We decided it was the perfect time for popcorn and a family viewing of Fantastic Beasts. I don’t know whether it was the New York theme that got us started but it also ended up being a good time to discuss one last family holiday before A Levels for J and University for E. I’m keen to explore somewhere new, they are all keen to return to Barcelona. I seem to be outvoted but I’m more than happy to go back to Barcelona.

Earlier in the week I had a delivery of some sale yarn. The postman decided to pop it down in front of our now redundant cat flap. We’ve had to tape it up because this new postman is terrified that a Springer Spaniel might be able to get his body through this small square and attack him. I’ve told him that there is physically no chance of either of their bellies getting through a seven inch square and that even if they did they’d only lick him to death but he said he’d refuse to leave any post at all if the cat flap was not secured. It’s been secure until this week when they both or perhaps just Harvey decided that he really didn’t like parcels being left so tantalisingly close. We came home to a rather chewed up cat flap and pieces of tape all over the hall floor. I knew something was up when they didn’t bark on hearing the key in the door. They appeared in the hall shaking their entire backsides like dogs do when they are feeling guilty but still want to seek forgiveness. It was such a pathetic sight it was hard to be cross.

At least my yarn remained intact. Had it been letterbox size I think it would have been a disaster. I had already had another of those ‘research’ sessions with books, magazines, the internet and a hunch that I wanted to make a wrap type scarf in something lightweight. A Drops yarn sale came to my attention including the very yarn I had researched and decided upon. As I was popping it into a spare basket to admire a certain someone was also admiring it and wondering what it would become. This same someone likes the plan very much. So on that basis plus the fact that she will be leaving home in September I think my next make will also be for E. If we get a peek of proper daylight tomorrow I will photograph the new yarn and share my plans. There’s nothing like getting stuck into a new project!

Rain

I don’t feel a bit guilty that the dogs got sent out in the pouring rain today to trot round the fields without supervision. Well ok maybe a little bit guilty. They came back looking like drowned rats but soon dried off on warm towels and with a warm bubbly foot bath which they both absolutely love and fully cooperate with by holding up each paw in turn (they are poodles at heart) they were soon able to roam freely throughout the house and keep us company.

It is absolutely bucketing down here today. M and I nipped out for a quick flat white giving J time to revise in peace before his first exam. Technically M should be in London all this week but court cases are notorious for last minute changes and he particularly hates the whole London scene. If he travels each day it is very tiring and he hates being away from home if he stays down there. So today he got paid to drink coffee and do the Times crossword and didn’t moan too much about the weather preventing him from working on the teardrop trailer, well maybe just a few mentions.

It was M’s birthday this week too. As well as books on wooden spoon carving (on his wish list of things to learn how to do) we also bought him a copy of the well known book Cabin Porn. Let’s hope I don’t regret using that word in my blog, I know how WordPress matches readers to blogs. He was really impressed with the cricket print I found at an antique centre and it’s hanging by his side of the bed for now. Talking of art, J always creates a masterpiece for family birthdays which involve superimposing our heads on to other bodies. This year M has become a slimline Manchester United supporter. It’s so convincing it’s funny.

Less romantically I secretly bought him a rather swish (and flipping expensive) three tier toolbox on wheels that he kept examining every time we went to B&Q. I don’t think it’s very practical because it’s heavy enough when it’s empty so goodness knows how it’ll be moved, wheels or not, when it’s full. He’s like a kid with a new toy though so as long as he’s happy.

It’s dark, wet and flooding our local roads so I’ll be happy when E is home from work and J home from school. The heating is on already, candles are lit. I’ve reached the end of The Killing and Netflix has helpfully suggested another foreign thriller type thing, this time in Iceland. It makes no difference to me whether a series is in English or Danish or whatever, I would still need subtitles to rely on. The only difference I’ve noticed with The Killing is that they seem to give much less away in terms of body language and facial expressions. That does make it a bit more challenging to solve before it’s over!

I’ve started E’s catherine wheel stitch slouch bag and I don’t care what the ball band says, this grey still looks brown to me! Oh well, I’m sticking to using up the jacob’s because it’s ideal for bags. Even though the yellow is extremely sunny and cheerful I swear I’d never touch anything bright if it wasn’t for requests. E certainly makes me think outside the box. I’ve realised that I could now just throw the required number of balls of yarn in a bag with a 4mm hook and start making a bag on holiday without the need for the pattern. Even though the gusset is more work than a bag made in the round I like the final shape it creates. This latest yellow version could be made in record time with all this rain happening!

Lincoln

Becoming a tourist in your own town sometimes helps when you’ve ended up living in a place you wouldn’t necessarily have chosen. M is very understanding when I harp on about trying new things, exploring new places and not settling for repetition or monotony. He would be so happy with a daily routine involving the same coffee in the same cafe with the same newspaper but alas, he met me, and I like to shake it up a bit.

So this morning, with M unexpectedly back from a London court case early I dragged him down to Lincoln’s Brayford Pool, the riverside area with lots of places to eat and drink, boat trips, university buildings and quite a big population of swans. It was very dull and overcast so it wasn’t exactly photo opportunity weather. There’s a tired old narrow boat to the left of the photo that I’d love to buy and do up, and live on, perhaps sail away and moor elsewhere first!

We had a riverside coffee for a change of scene and the coffee wasn’t so good, which didn’t help my cause for trying new places. It did necessitate a walk into town along the river and up the steep narrow steps to the side of the building also pictured above. Once you appear at the top of those steps you are in a high street much like any other. From the high street side of this building you can enter a wonderfully old cafe which we call High Bridge Cafe. The bridge is called High Bridge and dates back to 1160 apparently. It’s claim to fame is that it’s the only medieval Bridge in England which still has houses on it. The cafe building dates from 1540 and is exactly as you’d expect inside with lots of beams, low doors, wonky wooden floors and those lovely Tudor window panes.

I left M enjoying a better coffee whilst quickly picking up a couple of balls of a certain yellow yarn to start another of these slouchy catherine wheel stitch bags. I’m really pleased with the way this denim and grey version turned out. I initially thought that the undyed jacob’s yarn was brown but in good light it does seem to be grey and the ball band describes it as light grey. The two yarns have worked nicely together in terms of making a comfortable yet sturdy bag fabric. I used the cotton denim yarn for the gusset and strap for softness rather than the grey yarn which would have been as itchy as hell. I think I might get away with leaving it unlined for now, though I have bought a magnetic fastening about the size of a 5 pence piece (or one u.s. cent) and ideally this would be clipped into place through the lining so that it doesn’t show from the outside. I could add a round of webbing just inside, like a band of something denim maybe, or I could just live without the fastening. I need to road test the bag!

I’ve already made a start on a yellow/grey version using the same jacob’s yarn but with a pure wool yellow I managed to find today. It’s a much more subtle colour combination but I think it’ll work. E left a hint on Instagram about me making the bag in these colours so I’m more than happy to oblige. She hasn’t gone away to university yet and we are already communicating by phone whilst under the same roof! I don’t usually like making more than one of anything but the catherine wheel stitch is a very satisfying one and works well with Netflix for company. I’m currently working my way through The Killing series two. Yes I know it’s old news but luckily I haven’t heard any spoilers. I’ve also clearly forgiven the Danes for killing off an innocent Springer Spaniel in The Hunt!

Talking of which, the boys have had a bit of a lover’s tiff. It’s funny that they do this from time to time and we’ve no idea what sets it off. Harvey is so passive but I suspect even he has his limits and he seems to be trying to put Riley back in his place. He stands in a bit of a threatening way and does a low grumble which makes Riley walk sideways on tiptoes. It’s a bit like two peacocks trying to outdo each other. It’ll probably take a few days before they are best buddies again and nipping at each other’s ankles and play wrestling on the carpet.

Clearly one riverside coffee and a stroll up to High Bridge was enough pretend tourism for M for one day but we both agree that a proper break is long overdue. We’ve usually done a shepherd’s hut stay by now at the very least. We did have a short trip to Wales tagged on to a business trip but that was very brief. Several things have got in the way not least a whole series of coughs and colds and bugs and viruses. J has had the worst of it with a nasty persistent chest infection. He’s now in better shape and taking gcse exams over the next few weeks so I’m on standby with brain food and proper lunches. When I say brain food I just mean fruit/yoghurt smoothies which we both agreed would be useful vitamins during this exam period! J being J this means that I cut up all the fruit, he eats a lot of it before it reaches the blender, then he wrecks my carefully thought out and balanced flavour combinations and then finally declares it a big success because ‘he made it’. He’ll go far.

Upcycling

We’ve had several gloriously sunny evenings lately. The days were nothing special but the evenings made up for that. I took the dogs out for late walks just to soak up the sunsets. Once upon a time I’d never have ventured out at such a time. I’ve described previously how a few frightening incidents made it difficult for me to leave the house on my own for a number of years. Even now the possibility of an axe murderer does cross my mind especially as this walk is so remote but I know the chances are slim and the older I get the more I am willing to take that risk! I’ve got a few years to figure out some kind of list along the lines of ‘fifty things to do before I’m fifty’. I want to well and truly leave my comfort zone. Not that I fancy jumping out of an aeroplane.

Today though our sunset walk is not going to happen. It’s absolutely chucking it down. Riley is not happy. He really doesn’t like thunder storms or heavy rain. H and R have been running up and down the garden and in the fields for most of the day. The sun was out, the doors and windows flung open. M and I wrote a fairly long list of long overdue jobs to be tackled today and we’ve pretty much ticked them all off. We’ve been to the tip, we’ve dropped bags off at a charity depot, we’ve collected under bed storage boxes (I was too impatient to wait for M to build wooden ones and quite frankly he’s too busy anyway). He’s finishing the wiring up of our new bedroom lights as I write. He would have been finished a while ago but I saw the first one and said it was far too low so with a little muttering and swearing he’s shortening it.

The biggest job however, was finally fitting the legs to our new cable drum table. I’ve wanted one of these for a very long time. Yes I’m aware this is not a normal thing to wish for since your twenties but I’ve loved upcycling long before it was even a word. I love the fact the existing holes are all the perfect size for tealights and a pillar candle I had amongst my supplies. The cable drum top was salvaged and the legs were sourced online for £50 including postage, they match the coffee table that M made last December. The existing dining room table is back in the dining room and this new one is in our conservatory/living room. I doubt we will ever eat in the dining room again. I’ll be on the look out for four metal chairs now, a good excuse to drag M into junk shops. He complains but he loves a good haggle.

There hasn’t been much crocheting lately but I took the gusset/strap part of my bag project on an hour long drive and managed to get it finished. It’s only 7cm wide but very long and it used up a lot of yarn. Currently it looks short but the cotton has some considerable give so I think it’ll be just right. I’ve found a converse cotton drawstring shoe bag which is dark grey and the perfect size for a lining, whether or not it’ll get sewn in is another matter. I will see if the bag works without first of all. I’ve got another catherine wheel stitch panel to do now which I purposely left to last rather than the monotonous strap.

I usually look forward to doing a spot of crochet of an evening but today I just want to try out our new table. J just shook his head when we told him what we were going to make with that big lump of wood with staples sticking out of it, but now he’s seen it he’s showing his mildly impressed face. No words, just a thumbs up. That’ll do for me.

Tote

Turns out that Sunday morning ‘lie in’ with my crochet books, magazines, tea and little helper by my side was very productive. There was a vague idea of making something with my coarse jacob’s wool. When I bought it I thought it might end up being a bag but I didn’t want too much brown going on. Paired up with the denim and in bag form it just reminds me of jute so I’m happy with the combination. It’s also less scratchy on the hands with every two rows being worked in the incredibly soft denim cotton. I did have to switch from the wooden hook I was using to one with a smoother head, the yarns are both very splitty.

The first panel flew off the hook so to speak. I think it was the novelty of doing catherine wheel stitch for the first time. Why didn’t anyone tell me how satisfying it is to pull yarn through seven, yes seven, loops on the hook!? Not to mention how nice that looks once it’s all gathered up like a fan. I must admit I have shied away from this stitch for all this time simply because there’s a vague hint of flowery girly stuff. I think in these colours I’m safe! This is a crochet tote I’d be happy to be seen in public with.

Instead of working up the second panel I’m making the gusset and bag strap in denim next. It’s about 190cm long so it’s rather tedious but it’s given me a glimpse of the finished item so that’s helping. It may well need a lining but I’m shoving that thought to the back of my mind. I’ve got a dark grey cotton tote somewhere that might be close in size and if I’m feeling particularly determined I could sew that in by hand.

The pattern is in the book ‘Geek Chic Crochet’ by Nicki Trench. There’s a flower on the book version but of course that’s optional and not really me. I like the idea of making one or two more of these for gifts, especially now that it’s the norm to take along your own bags when shopping.

We’ve noticed a definite improvement in Harvey since he started taking his tablets. I tried him out with our usual long walks two days in a row and his limp was so much less than previously. He seems to completely forget about his dodgy shoulder when we arrive at the walk but once home he has developed a sideways jump out of the boot that doesn’t put so much pressure on that side. He’s adapting!

Meanwhile Riley is also making his presence known. He has discovered that if he jumps on our bedroom door handle, the handle goes down and the door miraculously opens. This means I’ve been waking up to his curled up little body on the rug along with a collection of shoes and socks. Thankfully no chewed up offerings but M’s sock was rather soggy. He also appears to be very grateful that I put the spare cushions down beside the bed overnight!

Meanderings


Life has returned to a rather dull monotony since our family get together last weekend. I’m happy to take monotony over and above silly arguments over the bathroom or the volume of music or who ate all the strawberries! We had a small drama with E. In fact she is a series of small dramas, the latest of which involved a lost rail ticket, a lost credit card and a student rail card left behind at home. The card turned up but too late to tell the bank not to cancel it after all. The ticket didn’t turn up and guess what, despite having an email proof of purchase and payment you cannot be issued with a replacement or travel without buying a new one. Nor can your Dad buy you a ticket to be collected at the station you are stranded at unless you have a valid card of some description even if it was his that paid for it. They certainly don’t make it easy to rescue your child from a station late on a bank holiday Monday. Needless to say she has learned a valuable lesson, i.e. when you lose your rail ticket your Dad has to do a three hour round trip to pick you up.

I’ve been on a quest to find a coffee that I really enjoy. I’ll drink most teas and most coffee but the latter usually tastes better from a cafe. As a result of all my trials and experiements I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s Italian coffee I like, strength four, which even tastes good in espresso form. So, a packet of that will be coming with us on our first teardrop trailer outing. Progress on the trailer hasn’t been very visually exciting. It’s all cables and varnishing at the moment. The inside shell has been varnished with a matt sealant which is giving off a subtle sheen. We took a trip out towards Nottingham to pick up a storm or hurricane hinge. It’s a special leak proof whopper of a hinge for the hatch that comes down over the kitchen or galley. Since I threw in the towel (threatened to move to Sussex) with M’s recent moodiness he seems to have improved hugely. Rather than his usual ‘must get back to the trailer’ inflexibility he actually suggested stopping off at nearby Bingham on the way home from the trailer place for a coffee. It seems to be a lovely little town full of old cottages and buildings. Just off the market square we found a cafe called The Picture Cafe which served great coffee. It has the kind of decor we like, lots of wood, zinc, chalk boards, upcycled bits and bobs. It was too busy to sneak a photo, though I wish I had. I didn’t have to look at the back of his phone too much either, he really is a funny person to chat to when he’s not being a twit.

Harvey does seem to be a little improved now that he’s been on his anti inflammatory painkillers for a short while. If I feel he is suffering too much I will let him have his usual run around the fields at the end of the garden but don’t take him on our long rambles. I have to be similarly careful with my damaged knee so it makes sense that I shouldn’t expect him to run miles every day and not suffer. Riley hasn’t batted an eyelid over Harvey’s absence on one or two walks nor has he stayed closer to me than usual so it’s clearly every man for himself wth these two. He does visibly enjoy the competitiveness of walks with Harvey though, they tear off like greyhounds side by side.

My knee didn’t take too kindly to lugging a petrol mower up and down our long garden yesterday. The lawn is very uneven, full of twigs and cow parsley and has sides that slope down towards a stream. I did the edges by mowing at a right angle to them, otherwise it’s easy to lose the mower down the bank. It is not a knee friendly activity. J might be earning some extra pocket money this year, though after asking him not to jetwash anything other than the deck and then finding that he’d jetwashed everything in sight I’m not too sure I want to let him loose with a petrol mower. At least it looks like someone lives here now instead of the wildflower and cow parsley experiment that was there before I mowed!

I felt I’d earned a Sunday morning lie in today (the bathroom also got a spring clean yesterday!) but my body clock seems set far too early and once you’re awake, you’re awake. I’m not normally an early riser but with a hot tea, books, magazines and a notepad I did the next best thing; had an hour in bed planning future crochet projects. Riley wasn’t far away of course, curled up on the floor by my side of the bed. Harvey prefers to stay in his own comfy bed by the radiator and a view of the back door in case someone should want to go for a w a l k or go out into the garden and throw a s t i c k! Ssh, don’t mention those words out loud.

So, as a result of my Sunday morning in bed I think a crochet bag might be on the cards. I’m hoping that the combination of a denim yarn and a slightly coarse pure undyed wool will mean I don’t have to consider a lining. I’ve been itching to use both of these yarns since I bought them and although I have a few wips this might just be another of those slight detours that doesn’t take too long and leaves me focussed for the longer projects. That’s the theory anyway. I’ll start working up the front panel and see how it looks and feels. If it’s pants to both then it’s back to the drawing board!

Bobbles

The dogs had a wonderful walk yesterday in the cool but lovely spring sunshine. I try and vary the places I take them for my sake as much as theirs. I’m not great at repetition. This walk is a short drive away, down a few country lanes and far away from all civilisation, only a few barns can be spotted if you look for them. I park up, we walk as far as I can see the official footpath route, if we come across roads or the footpath becomes obscured we tend to head back the way we came. I’d love to take a map one day and cross roads, walk down country lanes and do big circular routes but Harvey is really not the kind of dog that likes being on a lead.

We are having to watch Harvey closely at the moment. I’ve mentioned his shoulder injury before, he slipped some years ago now on wet decking when M heard a loud yelp. He seemed to get over it but lately he’s been limping a lot after walks and refusing to jump down from the boot of my jeep. Eventually I decided to get him checked over and as I suspected we can either spend a huge sum of money finding out what is going on internally (x rays are into the hundreds alone) or we can try anti inflammatories and see if he improves. She did say that it looks like it might be a cartilage problem. Having torn the meniscus in my right knee last year I know how he feels and it’s still a big nuisance a year on. The difference between human ibuprofen for thirty days and dog ibuprofen for thirty days is about £60! He’s worth it of course. I don’t like to think of him in pain. He is actually in that top picture, if you look past the dopey thing running the wrong way you’ll see a tiny black and white splodge. Miles ahead of Riley and I as usual.

I would have returned to that lovely green and lush footpath (with it’s random lone red tulip) if the weather had been favourable today. Unfortunately dark grey skies and hail storm upon hail storm did not appeal. M and I popped out for coffee and a chat this morning. Without any cue from me he volunteered an apology for general grumpiness lately. Just to make sure we were singing from the same hymn sheet I mentioned driving grumpiness (every other driver in the road is a moron), household grumpiness (it would take too long to go into detail here) and public grumpiness (B&Q, M&S). He agreed and apologised some more and said I should remind him of this conversation when he lapses. He then sprung B&Q on me. Once parked up it decided to hail very heavily so I said that if he didn’t mind I would wait in the car because it didn’t need two of us to buy a few lengths of baton. Thence followed a whole stream of ‘I have to do everything, grump grump’. His resolve had lasted all of half an hour.

I figure that putting up with some of this is par for the course, no-one is perfect, I don’t always make sense myself. In fact it turns out that M had taken my earlier glazed over, far away look as one of unhappiness and that prompted his apology. He was right in one sense, I sometimes feel overwhelmingly like I don’t belong in this part of the country and it’s almost impossible to discuss or explain this to M who was born and bred here, so I keep my mouth shut and inevitably the feeling passes.

E has been busy at her school and returns each day with very funny stories. She’s got amazing comic timing and could easily be a stand up comedienne if she ever chose to. Unlike me she would have no qualms about standing up in front of any number of people. Teaching makes a lot of sense for her range of skills and attributes. Today they made snozzcumbers from the book Revolting Recipes. She’s a big Roald Dahl fan so this was her idea of a good time. Never mind the stench of cooked courgette, tuna and vinegar all mingled in together! Popcorn and poppy seeds were also liberally applied. Gross!

In other news we had a landmark occasion here today. I know it’s not much but it just seems to symbolise another letting go kind of thing. J had his first ever cup of tea! Woohoo! He’s so minimalist with his conversation that it’s often hard to tell what he thinks. OK was as much as he volunteered. I told him I thought he might make a tea drinker yet. I think I was probably about sixteen when I tried milky sugary tea for the first time too. Ugh. I can’t stand sugar in it now and drink it much stronger. In fact rooibos or redbush is my preferred tea these days. M can’t stand the smell and even I didn’t enjoy my first cup but somehow I persevered because I wanted to cut down on caffeine and now it’s my every day tea. Only time will tell if J sticks with tea. He says he wants extra caffeine for staying awake at school. Naturally I told him that going to bed earlier would be more reliable!

There has been a small amount of crocheting going on too. After faffing about with granny squares and bobble squares combined E and I decided that the blankets (visualised in an app) were looking too disjointed. I said I’d make a series of just bobble squares and intersperse them with plainer squares and see what that turned out like. We ended up liking bobbles for every square. So we now have the heart square because she really liked that one in my Last Dance blanket, a cactus because she has a huge collection of the plants, a zigzag that is the closest thing to an Aztec feel I could find and a pink flower because that’s the most commonly used flower colour for the cactus themed bits and bobs E has acquired. I had to figure out the flower design on graph paper myself because I couldn’t find one I liked. It’s a little more tricky than it looks because you need to leave a line of plain stitches/graph paper squares in between bobble rows. It took a few attempts.

Even though these squares are roughly eight inches square I’ve calculated that for a single bed size I’d need to make about 64 squares! That sounds like a huge task so I might just revise that a bit! I’ll have to get out my yarn weighing scales and do some maths. I’ve got a 400g ball in five colours which sounds like it should be enough for a decent sized blanket. I’ll have to use the same number of squares for each design to make it work and possibly buy extra yarn for a border. I will definitely appreciate all the effort that goes into producing a commercial pattern in future!

Forbearance

I feel very lucky to have these beautiful riverside walks pretty much to myself any time I choose to take the dogs for a walk. There’s evidence of plenty of horse riding, other dog walkers and ramblers but I rarely cross paths with them. This makes for a stress free walk since I don’t need to think about the dogs being on leads or saying ‘yes it is isn’t it!’ when someone says ‘morning’, and ‘good morning’ when someone says ‘lovely day isn’t it?’.

Riley will only make a nuisance of himself if other dogs are on leads, if they aren’t he will happily chase or be chased with his tail wagging. We once approached a woman with two dogs who immediately put them on leads. Riley was too far ahead to take any notice of me calling him back so he did get a bit verbal. I apologised and explained that he only barks if a dog is on a lead and she promptly unleashed her King Charles Cavaliers and they all had a great time chasing round in circles. I was relieved Riley had acted as predicted, dogs and children are pretty good at doing the exact opposite to what you’ve just confidently described. Naturally Harvey says a quick hello and carries on with his quest to find a good throwing/fetching stick.

E’s Easter cactus has bloomed all over. These have become a yearly tradition since she first started collecting cacti. They seem like such a lot of flowers for so little money. We buy them from the supermarket for about £1.40. This year there were half a dozen colours to choose from. I’m waiting for a deep pinky red one to flower too.

M is making good progress with the teardrop trailer. Since the first sheet of thin ply went up for the inner lining he’s completed the whole roof lining, sealed it and wired the electrics through the cavity it created. Various trim has been added to make nice looking seams. Lights have been ordered and collected and weather permitting they might be wired up tomorrow. I’m glad to report that we are not talking electrics quite so often now. I had to grin and bear it just once today when M drew a helpful circuit diagram on the back of a receipt for coffee. I had other things on my mind so I just nodded in the right places.

There’s been the usual family ups and downs this last week. The cricket season started with a bang as it usually does. ‘Someone’ gets over excited, takes it all far too seriously and forgets to take into account the opinions and feelings of the one actually playing cricket. I had to step in and keep the peace which I managed to do without even raising my voice. There was a two day sulk and that wasn’t the teenager. In fact it only came to an end today, in the middle of a Marks and Spencer’s Food Hall (definitely more stylish than a marital bust up in B&Q, we’ve witnessed these but haven’t quite joined the club yet). ‘Someone’ was dragging his feet around like Harry Enfield’s ‘Kevin’ and shrugging at every suggestion for dinner. I finally stopped and in a very quiet voice calmly explained that I’d had enough, that he’d used up all of my patience and that if he didn’t stop acting like a complete …. I would feel the need to discuss it, in a louder voice, right there, in Marks and Spencer’s. I don’t like ultimatums like this but boy did it work nicely on this occasion. He’s been his usual funny, life and soul of the party self since and we had a great family meal sitting at the newly positioned dining room table where the evening sun streams in.

I did some furniture shuffling over the weekend. Our dining room lacks proper sunlight since it’s positioned between the hall and the conservatory and doesn’t actually have an outside window (we might put one in one day). J and I dragged the big table through to the sunlounge and put it at the end with the double doors. When it’s sunny and warm we can eat just inside with these doors flung open whilst staying out of the wind that seems to constantly blow across from the fields. It proved good feng shui this evening when everyone was open to trying this new location and didn’t rush to leave the table after the meal. I’m thinking the vacated dining room might make a good craft area! I’ll just get M to knock up a work bench!
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