Countdown

If there’s one good thing about these cold and frosty mornings it is, dare I say it, the fact that a certain substance Riley seems to enjoy rolling in is frozen solid. I’ve had at least a week off showering with the dog. The downside has been defrosting my car each morning which takes quite a while and means Harvey gets to shake with fear in the boot just a bit longer than usual. The lanes we usually drive on to get to our walk are narrow one track lanes and not gritted so it’s been rather icy and treacherous recently. At the risk of losing Harvey again I’ve been using the closer place to leave my jeep on the verge and we head along the riverside path which eventually joins up with our usual route. I do seem to credit them with more intelligence than they actually have sometimes. Not only are these riverbanks quite steep but it’s been minus whatever temperature and I assumed they’d apply seem common sense and not venture in for a swim. I’m not sure what was going through Harvey’s mind when he decided to take a flying leap and dive in. Luckily he still had the use of his limbs when I called him to come out. Riley wisely didn’t fancy a subzero dip.

Riley does enjoy a few home comforts though. I will often, no make that always, find the cushions have been rearranged, usually into a mini mountain with a dog shaped impression on the top. Who can blame him? He’s been a little clingy lately and I think that’s probably due to his recent holidays with J while we’ve had a trip to Sussex and a few others prior to that. He will take any company he can get but I think he likes the routine of having me at home most of the time. Today he paced between the sofa and a spot by my feet under the table. You can see from the sneaky pic I took that his head isn’t resting on the rug and that’s because he was mesmerised by being at eye level with the many birds that were hopping about outside the double doors. The blackbirds have moved in and are finishing off the rotting cooking apples that the water voles have clearly finished with. Tiny wrens perch on the side of bamboo stems. Blue Tits are the greediest with the nut feeders. Robins are everywhere and the bravest when it comes to hopping about right in front of Riley’s nose.

M’s workload has been heavy lately. He’s been all over the country including Kent, London, Norwich, Birmingham. I sometimes gently remind him to keep a day here or there completely clear to recover and there’s nothing he likes more than to go out and have a leisurely coffee with the newspapers and crosswords. This week we managed to combine coffee with occasional bursts of shopping too. It was nothing short of a miracle that we purchased Christmas gifts for nine and Birthday gifts for two without a single heated moment let alone a row.

In a few days time E will be twenty years old which is making me feel positively ancient I can tell you! J will be seventeen this month too. I try hard to live in the here and now and not get too morose about things moving along and changing. It was definitely emotional having one child leave for uni and I can’t imagine how it will feel when they’ve both gone so it’s best to focus on creating good happy family memories of get togethers like Christmas. We also have little E now and judging by some of the videos I’m receiving it’s going to be an entertaining time.

This year I’ve enjoyed the fact that J can reach up and unhook the hatch to the attic without so much as standing on tiptoes. I usually drag a chair under it from the dining room and then climb up with my dodgy knee, then I have to move the chair and pull the ladder down. It’s all so much simpler with J’s help and while I have him out of his man cave I innocently ask him if he could just pop up and find… and this is where it all goes pear shaped because we’ve got cricket bats and pads going back to when he was seven, dolls houses, wooden trucks, playmobil, lego, you name it, it’s up there and somehow all the Christmas decorations have been well and truly buried this year. He managed to find just one box of decorations which thankfully included only the white twinkly tree lights and not the coloured ones that he and M favour. So our decorations are a bit minimalist at the moment but we have a real tree and with lights at least. I snipped one small straggly lower branch of the tree you can see overhanging in the first photo to provide a jug of something festive in the kitchen. I like the simple natural touches and the smell of pine needles.

Somewhere in the attic chaos are last year’s crochet tree decorations, I can’t even remember what they were. It’ll be fun finding those when we get round to decluttering which thankfully M and J have both agreed to help with. I bought a pack of six large baubles with every intention of covering them all. Somehow it just wasn’t holding my attention so I might have to wait six years for the set of six! Making a llama for the tree however, did hold my attention long enough despite the many parts. It was originally a free kit but come with pale blue yarn which didn’t really fit in round here. I dug out some off white merino which has a nice amount of give which I’ve learnt is a good thing for small amigurumi. I tweaked a few things mainly to avoid more fiddly stuff. I gave him a mop of hair using an unwound mini tassel of about six strands. I did a simpler tail by working slip stitch back down a chain of about eight. I almost did another tassel because sometimes their tails go bushy but decided against that. Then finally, when I was getting a bit tired if I’m honest, I made up the whole saddle because I couldn’t be bothered to follow the pattern by then. I left out the harness because I wasn’t keen on all the sequins. I’ve named him Mr Laid Back Llama because that’s how he comes across!

When E was getting things ready for uni way back in September and chatting to J about it they agreed that the most rebellious thing they’d do was buy kitchen roll and surface wipes. Initially I was not impressed that the reason I don’t buy either (I use cut up old shirts instead) was totally lost on them and then I saw the funny side. I guess it’s a bit like religion. I am grateful that none was ever forced upon me and I was able to make my own mind up about it all. Turns out I did this when I was five and decided that bible stories just didn’t add up, although it was years before I dared to say that out loud. When the children were born I also allowed them to come to their own conclusions and I can honestly say, hand on heart that I did keep my own views to myself. All three of us have had the experience of Church of England primary schools which obviously include prayers and hymns. We are unanimous in that we enjoyed the singing at least.

I always feel so unsettled around Christmas time and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s less about the religious aspect and more about the excess of it all. Although I’d dearly love to have a modest small occasion that isn’t too much more than an average day I do manage to simplify things in small ways each year. The gifts, whilst the same budget as usual, are simpler. Obviously I can’t say more than that until after Christmas. I haven’t bought wrapping paper or tags this year. I’ve used brown paper and a large reel of red and white string I bought quite a few years ago now that seems to magically last forever. When I opened my box of tags I was really pleased to find I’d already stamped quite a few with a pine cone design.

Tomorrow E will be home from uni, M will start to think about baking (he always does at this time of year). The dogs will take advantage of anyone offering extra walks. I will be figuring out what crochet project to start next. J will be dreaming up one of his special birthday cards for his big sis, it’s become a thing now and we are all looking forward to seeing what kind of character he will superimpose E’s head onto.

I’m already making plans in my head for next year. Nothing revolutionary. Just more small changes, the type that eventually lead to the one big thing I wanted to change in the first place. The attic is on my mental list, as are crochet plans, travel plans, house plans, even garden ones although I wouldn’t know where to start. Nothing is set in concrete but I like to dream, I like a loose flexible plan and I like to learn from what didn’t get done when it was on a mental list from the year before!

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Time

There seems to be quite a lot of woolly goings on here at the moment. Projects are actually getting finished, albeit in random order. I made the Little Red Riding Cape a while ago but only got round to making the apple when the mood struck a few nights ago. I think it was something to do with throwing all my small chunky odds and ends into a new wire basket and spotting a bright red amongst them. Naturally I went I get the book to pose the apple upon a suitable double page spread featuring the apple or apples in LRRH’s basket and lo and behold, discovered that this imposter of a book had substituted the apple for a pie! The book deserves to be shredded but instead I will be donating it to charity so that some pie loving recipient can be found.

I can always rely on Riley’s nose for an indication of how cold it is or is going to be. I’ve got a whole collection of photographs of him tucking his nose inside his blanket or under his paw. I’ve had four previous dogs in my life and none of them ever did this. I must point out that he did not manage to get the crochet blanket over him in the first place, although he does try when he’s having a good old dig around in his wooden bed. He’s had four showers this week due to complete body coverage of fox poo. On one of those mornings it had just turned cold and despite warm towels to dry on and his bed by the radiator he was shivering so I just gave him the nearest blanket. That didn’t seem to be enough so I ended up giving him my warm cardigan too and when that didn’t work I plopped him on the sofa and gave him a cuddle. That finally did the trick, either that or he wanted a cuddle all along.

The morning after the snow excitement (flurries all afternoon but none actually settling) I loaded the dogs into the boot of my car. Harvey wriggles straight to the back of the boot and shivers with fear (he’s always hated car journeys). Riley stands and looks out of the window. They are so used to this routine that they were totally confused when the car didn’t start due to a flat battery and I opened the boot and told them to get out. Riley was the first to reluctantly jump down and Harvey refused point blank. I had to drag him out in the end and he was quite grumpy about it. We had to resort to plan B which involved getting leads and me having my shoulder nearly pulled out of it’s socket by Harvey who has never learnt how to walk nicely on a lead. It also involves a route that we haven’t done for years so Harvey did his own thing and explored all diversions while I patiently (through gritted teeth) waited for him to rejoin us. It didn’t help that the snow was coming across the fields in a horizontal fashion by this time. Apart from my face freezing I was just happy that Riley hadn’t discovered fox shit on this particular route. Happy days.

I’ve finished one big fat oversized scarf for a Christmas gift. It’s humongous, and should keep out even arctic weather. The Bernat is for another, in fact I have two more to make. With these two I’m using the recommended yarn and the gauge has come out correctly using one size bigger than the suggested hook size but a smaller hook than the first scarf so instead of struggling with my only other size 10mm hook which is bamboo I treated myself to a new Clover Amour. It just happened to match one of the yarn colours. I’m slightly annoyed that the yarns are different and that the scarves will feel a bit different, especially as all the recipients will be receiving them in the same place at the same time but I’ve mentally decided to see how the Bernat works out before deciding whether to remake the first one. It sounds a bit picky but I’m liking the way the Bernat is holding its shape slightly better. Probably over-thinking it all!

Still on the theme of keeping warm I was sidetracked by some extra chunky crochet mittens whilst browsing on Instagram and decided one evening to ‘cast on’ for those. It requires two strands of Aran which was a bit fiddly with a slightly blunt size 10mm bamboo hook and I soon lost track of the stitch count (probably due to watching a cheesy Christmas movie at the same time.) I put them aside while we were away in Sussex during the mildest November week and picked them up again when it started to snow here. I’m winging it by trying the mitten on every few rows and it’s working out nicely. It will eventually have an enclosed thumb and a rounded mitten end. The stitch is supposed to look knitted but I’m sure mine looks a lot less knitted than the photos given. It’s still an interesting texture and makes a nice change. I just hope I get round to making the second one. They are incredibly thick and I’ve used a yarn with 63% wool which should be ideal for keeping hands warm.

I don’t really need any more crochet distractions this close to Christmas but having suggested E watch Stranger Things when she was having a day off in the middle of a nasty cold at uni recently, she realised that the recent crochet doll I made her was just like Eleven! I made it while I was watching series two so it may well have been a subconscious thing. Though it could also have been to do with the fact I lived in dungarees when I was a child. Eleven needed a grey sweatshirt to complete the look so I’ve started that as well as the body for a Dustin, who, lets face it, is everyone’s favourite! Since I took this photo I’ve tackled the multi coloured baseball cap and on the third attempt I have cracked it. He just needs hair, legs, one more arm and the rest of his outfit. I’ll be alternating him with chunky scarves.

I cannot believe that December has come round again so quickly. I was full of plans last year to really think my crochet time through and choose projects carefully but as always they kind of jump out at me and happen without too much thinking through. Having said that there have only been a few projects that I’ve not enjoyed, not liked or had to frog completely so it’s been a mainly productive year. I will no doubt be surprised when I put together montages for all of this year’s projects. I will probably always wish I could use up my entire stash and only buy yarn in exact quantities for specific patterns but in reality if I started from scratch tomorrow I know that I’d soon end up with bits and pieces. Yarn just seems to find me! I’ve bought specific yarn quite a few times this year but I’ve also made many more projects with random yarn I already had. Perhaps when I’ve made a few more weavings or some rugs I will manage to use up quite a bit more than just with crochet.

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!

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.