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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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?

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

Recovery

The weather has been great since we got back from 37 degree sweltering hot days in Madrid. It’s been a gentle transition over the bank holiday weekend through to today, a measly 17 degrees. I don’t mind a bit. Nothing lasts forever. It was enough to take the dogs on some lovely walks last week and do a spot of cloud gazing. Apparently there was an air show not far away on the day I snapped that aeroplane flying low, one of many flying over my head.

We don’t use our secret nature reserve so much in the summer because we are usually away or watching J or E play cricket. I often miss out on all the wonderful planting that volunteers did years ago that produce so many different wild flowers. I just caught the end of some of the varieties on these recent walks. Harvey seems to be doing ok after his two month stint on painkillers. It’s some kind of arthritis and he’s grumpy about it and probably always will be now so we will just have to keep them apart at times. I’m sure lake swimming helps keep Harvey in fit condition. It’ll be cooling down gradually but they’ve plunged in that lake in all seasons so they must love it that much.

H and R were left in the capable hands of J while we nipped to the caravan for the bank holiday weekend. If truth be told M and I needed a few days to recover from the heat, the walking and all the swimming that we did in Madrid. I have calves like Usain Bolt! I would have been quite happy to do some, gentle hiking with water and picnics but M has slipped easily back into his U.K. routine which involves moving about a lot less. He looked pretty shocked when I suggested a walk round the lake in Ashbourne which is no distance to speak of.

Unless it’s a one off event I never really see the point of joining hundreds of people on the road, having great trouble parking the car and then seeing or doing something with crowds of people on a bank holiday when you could just as easily do it or see it on another day. So I mentioned this to M and said we could try and think outside the box and go somewhere nice but not popular, bit of a tricky brief. We did indeed manage to pull this off quite by mistake on the way back from a small town I’d dragged M to just so that I could get a copy of Inside Crochet. It’s hard not to notice that you’re driving by the world headquarters of JCB with a twenty foot high water fountain, manicured lawns, huge lake, sculptures and a big white helicopter parked on a raised helipad just outside. It was quite unlike anything I’ve ever seen before and reminded me much more of those huge companies in America that you see on Secret Boss or whatever that programme is called.

I suggested that we stop there on the way back because I’d spotted a lay by with an ice cream van and even if M didn’t fancy another walk around a lake we could at least sit and watch people doing just that. Turns out that if you have fishermen miles round the lake then it suddenly becomes a lot easier to move in that direction! On the way round to speak to them I was told all about the different carp species M could see near the surface of the water. It did strike me as not much of a challenge to catch them when there were so many but I didn’t say anything along these lines. M used to fish before he met me and I’m extremely glad he’s more interested in watching cricket these days.

We eventually made it round to the fishermen and gosh, I must have spent some considerable time organising the photos on my phone, taking pictures of the sumo sculpture I had been sitting on, daydreaming about my next crochet project, wishing I had my book with me, contemplating downloading a free book to kindle for iPhone, making a mental list of things to do after this caravan break and about fifty other mental lists and finally M finished chatting to these guys about fish.

There was a little fuss about how the lake seemed bigger now that we were walking round it and he hadn’t wanted to walk that far. This was after I suggested it was shorter to continue walking than to turn back. We then witnessed a public row between a husband and wife who were presumably taking it in turns to push their mother or mother in law in a wheelchair that ended in the husband leaving them and stropping off back to the car. At this point M uttered the most fantastic line, ‘well I don’t know what he’s making a fuss about, it’s a lovely day for a walk!’ Um, yeah, I think you were complaining about that yourself thirty seconds ago.

By the time we made it back round to the car the stroppy husband was leaning against his car licking a big 99 ice cream! Nice guy. I didn’t get any pictures of all the brightly coloured ducks they have there but from behind M’s shoulder I did take the photo of the black swans. I haven’t seen any of these for years and they gave me something of the shivers. They are the reason I didn’t like anything with a beak after one attacked me when I was small. He probably just wanted bread but it was enough to put me off for life. They are stunning looking creatures though and they must be quite rare.

M decided it was probably an amazing place to work given that you could take your lunch and sit by the lake every day. There were obvious JCB employees doing just that as well as those taking advantage of the flat paths for cycling. We later learnt that you could take a 2.5 hour tour round the whole factory which M would have loved to do but I’m fairly certain I’d have been bored ****less.

It did remind me of the time Ella spotted a little pair of yellow wellies in a farm shop somewhere and announced they were the nicest she had ever seen and she really needed some. She actually said ‘I really meed wellies’ which was the last of her sweet mispronunciations. They were displayed alongside toy JCB diggers and they had the JCB logo on them which did not put her off at all. They were yellow for heavens sake! She wore them until her feet would no longer squeeze into them and then reluctantly passed them on to Jake who wore them with a yellow fireman’s helmet wherever he went.

Goodies

The best laid plans and all that… I didn’t actually make it to the one wool shop in Madrid I researched and liked the look of. There was some kind of mishap when I copied the address into a message for M to navigate to the following day and we ended up somewhere entirely different. It wasn’t all bad, we walked up the equivalent of Fifth Avenue past Champagne Shops, Jimmy Choo, Michael Kors, Chanel, Gucci… it was quite jaw dropping.

There was a more central yarn store which seemed to have less than enthusiastic reviews on Trip Advisor but I always take those with a pinch of salt anyway so we bravely entered even though I felt quite intimated by the floor to ceiling arrangement of yarn and two enormous weighing scales at the far end. ‘No tocar’ signs were everywhere, which means don’t touch! Kind of tricky when you’re considering buying yarn! In the end, after watching several Spanish people purchase yarn by the weight we stepped forward and asked for their dk cotton in five colours, 100gms of each. Our Spanish is rubbish but we googled a few handy phrases just to get started and then resorted to gestures. The woman was quite patient and polite. Messy hanks were pulled off each pile and slapped onto the big brass trays and then popped into paper bags with a ticket. At this point I really wished I was local because you’d just pop in, buy your exact requirements and leave. The customer before us came in with two bag handles, said a whole load of Spanish we couldn’t follow at all and then, with a lot of arm waving from her and the server, with example crochet bags held up to talk about sizing, weighed out what she recommended she’d need for the bag size she wanted. At this point I was extremely impressed.

We had a similar experience in the indoor market type shop which has slightly creepy looking models in the window and bizarre displays of neon zips tacked to the display boards. Once inside there is one of everything you can buy tacked to the walls or displays and you tell them what you want and they retrieve it from a wooden drawer. You then get a ticket and take it to a cashier and they give you your goods. It’s absolutely bloody amazing. At the start I chose a raffia bag base, got the ticket, paid for it, received the goods wrapped in brown paper. After that I was feeling quite confident so I chose some buttons, some silver charms, a couple of embroidered patches (cacti). Everything got wrapped in paper.

I came out of there in quite a daze, for a start there must have been every button ever manufactured in there on rolling drums, organised by colour and/or material. I suddenly couldn’t think what I needed buttons for and then remembered a little person project that requires the type of fastening shown above in red. Two little leather triangles, loops and a toggle button, the perfect finishing touch. I can punch some small holes with my leather tools to sew it on. The natural leather version I thought would make a nice clasp for a crochet bag with a flap.

Along with buttons, silver charms and a huge selection of embroidered patches there was every type of trim imaginable, parts to make your own bras or underwear, paper mache blanks, polystyrene shapes, string, rope, wool, embroidery thread, knitting needles, crochet hooks, embroidery tools, embroidery hoops, tapestry frames, bag handles, rug making supplies, lace and much more. Everything you could possibly need. It made our haberdashery departments and Hobbycraft look extremely lame.

Some of the products on sale at Almacen de Pontejos were available in the U.K but mostly the prices were cheaper than the U.K. T shirt yarn for instance, in a shop round the corner from this haberdashery place was €4 or €5 depending in whether it was plain or patterned, for a big fat roll of it. There was about a hundred different designs to choose from. Choice is very good in Spain!

I always buy crochet magazines whenever I travel to another country. I’ve never come across a French, Italian or Spanish crochet magazine that hasn’t got diagrams in it. I love the ones with just crochet fabric patterns in them or crochet edgings. These two Spanish ones have a lot of fine crochet in them but one is mainly garments and they are quite different to anything in British magazines which is always interesting.

I’m not big on shopping so there wasn’t much else that I planned to buy. I did buy the grey star bag with leather straps that I posted on Instagram last week from the huge El Rastro market on Sunday. To be honest it was a nervy experience because they stepped up security with police barracades at the end of every street and there were armed police everywhere. It was too hot and too busy and we were all glad to leave and get back to the apartment for our swimming gear. I also invested in a couple of Turkish towels to keep the sun off in between swims. They were in the sale at El Corte Inglis which is a very handy chain out there with branches everywhere.

I now need a week to get over the week we had away. I’m absolutely shattered. So much walking and swimming. Ironically I think it’s actually helped my sore back so I might keep up with the swimming now that we’re home. I haven’t minded the rain and patchy sun since we got home either. Seven days of thirty degrees plus is quite enough for me. We all look as brown as berries and I’ve even got sore shoulders which is highly unusual for me. I don’t burn very often.

Holidays always feel slightly surreal and then it’s back to reality with laundry, housework, dog walking. J gets his GCSE results tomorrow and starts in the sixth form in a week or so. He spent all of his holiday money on clothing and will probably be the best dressed sixth former they’ve ever seen, he has been meticulous in his choices and has bought all sorts of items he knows are much more expensive in the uk. He couldn’t get his coat jacket thing in his case so he had to wear it on the way to the airport and through to the plane. He was very warm but very glad of it once we picked up the car at Gatwick!

Productive 

I feel bad that Harvey doesn’t feature here as much as Riley. Just for the record he is as cuddly and entertaining but it’s not easy to capture him in photographs. We love him just as much as Riley. This morning I thought I’d try and at least get a sneaky pic whilst he was snoozing, no chance! He was up in two nanoseconds and retrieving a ball for me to throw. He’s obsessed with the game of fetch and thinks that any interest coming his way might involve a tennis ball if he drops big hints.

Three individual pieces of footwear have now made their way surreptitiously into the farmers field and so all outings to the lovely nature reserve are postponed until we’ve covered as much of the wheat field as is possible with actually damaging the crop in the hunt for them. We have a dry, partially sunny day here at long last and I can tell you, the bugs are loving it. I was picking off greenfly and thunderbugs for hours after that little trek. Harvey is, or used to be extremely talented at fetching but unfortunately ‘fetch the bloody footwear that you’ve taken into the field’ isn’t working.

I’m not sure whether it was the first sunshine for days or the run up to our holiday, but today turned into one of those extremely productive days. You know the sort, you wake up and suddenly feel like painting the kitchen window sill that actually needed painting four years ago? Check, that’s done. It prompted a complete Spring clean of the whole kitchen including two dusty dog beds. When the kids went over to double beds the dogs inherited both single duvet covers and single duvets. They’ve never been so cosy. It’s also easy to wash the covers from time to time, although it’s probably not that good for the washing machine filter 😉

I also seized the moment, with only J home and otherwise occupied with computer games, to have one of those extended clothes trying on sessions to see whether I could create a mix and match wardrobe for our holiday. When I was in my twenties I used to think those magazine articles about capsule wardrobes were quite fascinating. These days I just don’t care very much about clothes but I do care for travelling light. Turns out my black linen skirt which was brand new but from a charity shop in Bexhill, for £3 goes with bloomin’ everything! So I’ve got four daytime vest tops to go with it and an evening top if I feel the need to look smarter. My new dress is packed along with one pair of black linen shorts and then just a comfy outfit for travelling which consists of loose baggy trousers, a grey marl t shirt, a grey fat face cardigan (at least ten years old!) and my Birkenstocks. My suitcase looks suspiciously empty. All the more room for woolly souvenirs right?

Riley has been glued to the side of my suitcase for most of the day. He’s got a similar understanding of luggage as the black Cocker Spaniel we had when I was a child. Susie used to plant herself firmly by the side of any bag, coolbox or suitcase that was placed in the hall and make a sneaky dash for the car when they were taken out. She was lovely but had a bit of an evil streak if she had successfully got into the car and wasn’t actually coming along. Mum and Dad used to use to warn us that we’d lose an arm if we tried to reach in and move her and they weren’t wrong! Dad sometimes had to load the car with the bags, drive down to the village and back home again where she’d hop out happily thinking the outing had taken place. My memories are mainly of her coming along on every kind of outing so it can’t have been very often when she got left behind.

Along with painting window sills, laundry, spring cleaning, shoe hunting and capsule wardrobe creating I’ve also been tending to our various house plants. I’m slightly baffled as to why most plants don’t survive despite me paying close attention to them. I didn’t use to have so much trouble keeping plants alive. A decorative cactus came my way from E’s room. The mushroom style red top had died but I could see that the stem was ok. I have no cacti knowledge at all but I cut the dead bit off and lo and behold, months later, a tiny little shoot has sprung from the side. It’s not a looker but it’s alive! Things with tiny leaves do not like living here. Two such plants are definitely close to being added to the compost heap. Spider plants however, are thriving. Remember those little shoots I planted in April? Well that big spider plant pictured is the result. It’s even got flowers. It obviously loves the front window sill and I’m sure it will love it even more now that I’ve painted it!

Still on the subject of a distinct lack of green fingers, I recently said to M that one of us needed to take up the hobby that is gardening and since I’m a bit busy with my hobby of crochet it would have to be him! He did see the funny side and said that he did once enjoy gardening and would try and do a bit more. In the meantime we are in the middle of the wild phase again. The back lawn is too soggy to mow, the last storm brought all kinds of branch debris down, the bonfire is too wet to light and everything seems to be over six feet tall. Though, being non gardeners has some benefits, not least of all a long wild hedge full of blackberries!

I’ve been agonising over what kind of crochet to take on holiday. I know, it sounds dramatic, but it’s become my number one way of relaxing. There are weeks when I tell myself I will just read this week but it rarely happens. Books take so much longer to get through than they used to with that little background voice saying, just one more row. Finally I explained the whole dilemma to M; that a travel crochet project needs to be simple enough to do whilst other stuff is going on, yet not too boring. It must not involve too many colours in order not to take more yarn than necessary. Ideally the finished item could be worn or used on the way home. His reply, after some thought, was, ‘so a one colour garment or accessory, with a pattern that is slightly challenging but not too challenging and not too much yarn’. He then suggested a quick drive out to a yarn store! I protested that I had yarn already and that it was just a question of matching it up to a pattern or use with the help of the World Wide Web but he twisted my arm and off we went. So that’s how I came to buy the pattern for the DMC Natura Denim Genius Pullover; http://www.purplelindacrafts.co.uk/dmc-natura-denim-genius-pullover-crochet-pattern-26873-p.asp although I’ve chosen a darker colour to make it in. I’m hoping that it will see more use than the completed shawls I’ve made in the past; http://simplenaturalhandmade.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/off-hooksunday-shawl.html and http://simplenaturalhandmade.blogspot.co.uk/2016/06/off-hookone-big-cosy-wrap.html They are cosy but I only wear them around the house in the depths of winter.

The yarn for the ‘pullover’ should arrive just in time and I plan to get it started so that the initial rows are completed without too many distractions. There’s been talk of long delays at some of the European airports and as I told M, my worst nightmare would be to have to spend three hours waiting in an airport queue without a crochet project!

My recycled cotton top finally got finished last night and I’ve been wearing it today. Its kind of substantial in that it used 400g of cotton but it’s been cool to wear on account of the holey design. It’s not going to make the cut for holiday wear though because it takes up as much room as a woolly jumper.

Even one evening without an interesting wip is a no go so I’ve been browsing patterns with my stash of pure wool in mind and came across this circular bag pattern which ends up being felted, though that is optional. I’m still mulling over whether to source a similar strap to the one shown or repurpose a leather belt. I have a stash of thrifted leather belts which I’ve been turning into bracelets and the punching tools that would make it possible to transform a belt into a bag strap. There’s also the crochet strap option of course.

It’s a beautiful sunny evening here. I have Harvey sitting by my feet on one side and Riley on the other. I can smell three distinct scents, a slight whiff of satinwood paint, freshly laundered sheets and newly cut grass. It’s a shame I’ve got to go and trade them for the smell of Pedigree Chum!

Dabbling

The yarn I’m playing with pretty much reflects the weather we are having at the moment. Mostly grey with the occasional burst of sunshine. Waking up to morning after morning of wet starts is not terribly uplifting. Obviously Harvey and Riley don’t mind a bit of rain but it’s not what I had in mind for August thank you! I had quite enough trudging through mud last winter.

I’ve been sorting out my yarn yet again. It seems so much more under control now with a shelf to each yarn weight. Even M is impressed with my self constraint. I got nervous about my pure wool and moths since we have the windows open all year round, so I’ve bagged those up for now and plan to buy some more of the boxes that fit into these cabinets so that they are more protected.

I didn’t have as much t shirt yarn as I thought I had but I’m going to try and make something similar to J’s Asterix t shirt yarn rug for E’s university room bathroom. She’s in halls for the first year and will have her own bathroom, a far cry from my studying days I can tell you. I might try an oval one this time or just a plain old rectangular rug because stripes would be quite forgiving with the random t shirt yarn I’ve got left. In fact this might be my next ‘take to the caravan’ project since I’m not having much luck with my other crochet experiments.

I’ve dabbled with various patterns and cottons for a quick and easy summer top. I do like working with cotton in the summer but I can’t recall ever making a top that I’d actually want to wear. In fact the last one I made was a rather feminine affair and I guess I wanted the challenge of making it more than I wanted to wear the finished item. Well I’m older and wiser now and I’ve been trying to find a more geometric design to suit my taste. It hasn’t photographed well but those first few rows in a grey/denim recycled cotton (wish I’d kept the ball band!) show up as squares when held up to the light. It will need blocking to open it up a bit. It’s just two panels joined together to make a boat neck and I’m hoping it will be ready and wearable within a week! I might do something with the final rows to make a bit of a neckline. It’s supposed to be a complete beginners project (from a very old American magazine I bought in a charity shop) but it requires front and back post trebles so I’d say that was a confident beginners pattern!

If the cotton top works out nicely it will go very well with the new Birkenstocks M treated me to recently. Two pairs in one year is something of a record for me. I’m not usually quite so extravagant. My last pair, back in February or thereabouts was to replace a felt pair that Riley had got hold of that I’d owned for about eight years. I have two other sandal types that are pretty old too. These nubuck grey sandals have a white sole, and are from the softbed range. They are considerably more comfortable than my others, definitely comfy enough to spend a week walking round Madrid. (M has just read that it is hideously dangerous to try cycling there unless it’s a bank holiday or a Sunday!)

I’ve found a nice yarn shop that I’d like to visit in Madrid and they seem to stock quite a lot of cotton yarns. It’s so easy to get anything you like online these days that it does seem pointless buying yarn and having to cram it in a suitcase with a weight limit but I probably will buy a little cotton if it feels nice and has eco credentials.

The yarn I wound on my Amish winder yesterday was locally made and dyed in Barcelona. It’s a merino yarn and has a bit of a fuzz to it. I think that’s why it wasn’t the ideal match for The Crochet Project Antracita shawl pattern. I tried a bigger hook size for more drape but my gut feeling is that I will have to frog it and try another yarn for that pattern. That leaves me trying to find a suitable pattern for the Barcelona merino, something that requires serious warmth I think!

In amongst all this process of thinking, researching, dabbling and so on I needed something to work on that wasn’t going to give me a headache so I picked up the ripple blanket that I started goodness knows when. Riley must have thought I was snuggling under a finished blanket because he wanted in on the snuggling action. We had to compromise in the end with me ‘donating’ the part I’d finished hooking although this did make turning it for each row quite tricky.

We are going to squeeze in one last ‘escape’ to the caravan before our holiday. It feels slightly indulgent since I’ve got major work to do to make the house presentable for our house/dog sitters. We will only be gone for a long weekend this time though and the dogs will be staying at home so that we can do a little holiday shopping for M. He has a pattern of refusing to buy anything he needs for a trip to another climate, then makes a big fuss about being inadequately equipped. It’s a good job I learn from these mistakes even if he doesn’t. So this year I am insisting on a couple of pairs of new shorts, shirts and suitable footwear. I’ve also invested in a family document organiser! Woohoo! Yep they exist. Oh boy is M happy with this. He’s opened it up several times to familiarise himself with where the passports are, the health insurance cards, the boarding passes, the car park receipt, his prescriptions and the phrase book. No more scrabbling about in an A5 ziplock bag for a missing passport and holding up a hundred people! Not to mention blaming the three of us for the fact that his own passport was in the back pocket of his jeans all along!

Montage

1. Crane. I had plans to make a paper crane but time ran away with me. As it happened E visited Leeds last week and the ever inspiring Fred Aldous store and came away with a new found passion for origami! The first thing she made was a paper crane! I spotted these huge mechanical cranes recently in Norwich.

2. Ring. I have two special rings, a wedding ring and my twenty first birthday ring. I don’t wear any others however, E has a sizeable collection and rotates them daily. Not including the two she lost in the ocean in Italy!

3. Set. I had a few contenders for set but I’m most passionate about my set of blue and white falcon ware and vintage utensils which have filled up a large blue vintage suitcase ready and waiting for adventures in our teardrop trailer (if M ever finishes building it!)

4. Light. Is there anything better than hygge candlelight?

5. Bow. I suspect my teenage son still has a Robin Hood style bow and arrow shoved down the side of his wardrobe somewhere but in the absence of that I’ve chosen Bow as in Bow Wow. Even at a young age I really loathed this term used in children’s books to mean a dog. It didn’t make sense then and it doesn’t make much sense now. Call a dog a dog! Woof says Riley!

6. Spring. This photo was taken way back in Spring this year when it was just a relief to be able to shed a few winter layers and not battle through so much mud and notice things like random tulips on the edge of farmer’s fields.

7. Open. Pitching our caravan for twelve weeks in a wooded site so that we can use it as and when we are free has been the best decision. The greatest simple pleasure has been to throw open the roof windows and just wake up to a view of swaying pine trees. I may have mentioned this before (sorry!).

8. Grand. Also whilst out and about in Norwich, a very grand shop front.

9. Park. Caravan park. This tiny little Eriba caravan was our neighbour for a few nights. I love them and wish I was brave enough to ask for a guided tour!

10. Own choice. Ella. Source of all my grey hair. She never ceases to amaze me. Totally unlike me in a lot of ways but that’s what I love about her, she’s her own person, with a huge amount of talent. I don’t usually do gushy stuff but I’m very proud of her, and so would her Dad be if he were still alive.

Watermelon 

E left bright and early to commute to work in her little mocha coloured Fiat 500. It’s surprising how tiny it is but how much it can hold. She packed her little sunflower seedling operation into the tiny boot; twenty five terracotta pots with a tray of spares in case some didn’t make it out of the playground gates in one piece. The children were excited about taking home a living plant and chattered about how big theirs would grow, it was a great idea but we did have to start a whole new set of plants after the first batch grew too high and became quite fragile to handle. After not much growth they really need to be in a flower bed up against a fence or wall and staked. We don’t have an ideal place for sunflowers. The pebble trough in front of the house turned out to be concrete underneath so we’ve stuck the spares and too tall ones in all over the place and I’m not expecting many, if any, to survive the dogs or the wind.

E had a tough day saying goodbye to children she has really bonded with. In the end it wasn’t actually the ones she expected to be upset over that made her cry. It was the little boy who had taken a while to come out of his shell and trust her and bond with her and ultimately follow her around like a little shadow. In fact there was one day she had to spend with a different class due to staff numbers and he slipped out of his classroom door and wandered around, peeping into various classrooms before eventually finding E and presenting the drawing he desperately wanted to show her. It was chatting with his Mum who also got quite emotional when she told E that he’d never really got attached to any teacher until now, and finding out how unusually quiet and tearful he’d been these last two weeks that got to her. I guess this is the beginning of years of this kind of thing though that doesn’t really help her right now.

Meanwhile the boy teen and I are like passing ships in the night. I see a shadow slink into the bathroom for a shower and then a shadow slink back to his man cave. At least he washes. He does leave the man cave now and then too. He’s been to football training and he’s decided that whilst the evenings are light enough he would like to cycle there and back. It’s just over three miles to this village and the roads are 60mph country lanes so I’m not all that keen, but I do remember that sense of freedom and independence so I can’t really say no.

M has had to purchase a weekly train pass to London this week. It costs £240 and works out a bit better than buying daily tickets. It’s always a gamble with a week long booking for a court type job because they sometimes get thrown out on the first day which renders the train ticket useless unless he gets alternative London work. This week he will be getting his money’s worth with the weekly pass. He does, however, message me daily with tales of passengers who have boarded the train and tried to get away with  paying for an off peak ticket and then travelling at a peak time, or various other fare dodging tactics. He gets quite cross about it and I can imagine his body language towards them speaks volumes.

On Tuesday we popped up to the huge junk/antique centre near here to look for an original or retro wall mounted bottle opener. E has worked alongside a male teacher who has been a good laugh and great support and his preferred drink is beer so we put together one of those beer trugs that seem to be everywhere now (google beer trug gift and you’ll see what I mean) for a leaving present. M had previously made the perfect trug, E chose some craft beers and I suggested the bottle opener for the side. M treats this antique place much the same as he does Ikea. He seems to think you can just walk in, make your pre-considered purchase and walk out. Never mind that there are all kinds of treasures that you didn’t know you needed but suddenly can’t live without! Actually I’m not that kind of shopper at all, I have a mental list of things we could do with and at the moment most involve equipping the teardrop trailer ready for a trip in October. We found the bottle opener and added it to the trug but there was absolutely no chance of browsing.

Today I nipped back just to browse at my leisure. I bought several inexpensive old books, two are poetry and for my Mum who has broken her arm recently and is lousy at sitting still and taking things easy. It’s a family thing! I also had a great time rummaging in tatty old wooden boxes for a small draw shave. At least I think that’s what they are called. We saw a pricey one on Tuesday and M said he didn’t want to pay that much for one so I said I’d look next time I was up there because I tend to know, despite the many many buildings and the hundreds of rooms, who sells what at reasonable prices. This one is the same size as the one he first saw but a fifth of the price, just £3! It might need honing but M can fix it up. My other find, and totally random, is a wooden handled grapefruit knife in great condition. We used to have a plastic one but it is long lost and they are ideal for avocado too. A bargain at £2. On the drive home I developed a craving for an avocado and banana sandwich. I’m not sure if that’s an advisable combination but it worked for me.

I’m pleased I’ve got my cable drum table back in action after the sunflowers moved on. I set up my crochet supplies there this afternoon with the patio doors wide open for fresh air but without the need to suddenly grab everything and go inside if it rained, it looked like it was going to to all day but never did. Some time around three or four this morning I awoke with the idea of adding a watermelon motif to little E’s dress rather than the black pips. It took two attempts but I’m happier with the second one. I’ve got about four more centimetres of dress to crochet in trebles and then some ends to weave in and the motif to sew in place. I’m already thinking about making another with a totally different look. I might see how the sizing works out first, it’s always difficult to guess.

J and I finished a rather large watermelon between us today. He used to like melon so much we did actually call him melon boy for a while. In the summer months we’ve usually got three types of melon in the fridge at any one time. So, our lazy melon eating filled days have come to an end I suspect. E has the entire summer holiday at her disposal now. She will spend some of it in Leeds with her boyfriend and some of it spreading her belongings throughout this house in that special 19 year old way!

Travel


Turns out that a few days at home before our next caravan escape is no bad thing. I’m particularly enjoying our power shower daily instead of the caravan shower which is pretty compact and not at all powerful, or the site showers which give you precisely ten seconds of water before you have to press the button again. They are hot and fairly powerful though so that’s something.

It’s quite nice having wifi too although I hate to admit it. I prefer to blog when the mood strikes or there are a few new photo’s. I also use my iPad for research and since I finally braved the whole drop spindle thing I’ve been wanting to read up on it. M ordered two great books from Amazon for me to do just that so I’m saving them for our next trip when wifi will be patchy once more. I also spotted an article in Country Living that looks interesting and talks about natural plant dyes too. I’ve already got a good book on this but as I mentioned, I need some space in which to get messy.

Talking of messy, I decided to go with the butler sink for the washing of the raw fleece I was given at the Sheep Festival. I studied an article on the internet first and bought Ecover Delicate for the cleaning agent. Despite all doors and windows being flung open it smells pretty strong! The dogs both came and lifted their noses to the sink, they obviously know it’s an animal smell. The male occupants however, both remarked, ‘pwoar, cow poo!’ Not very discerning noses!

The fleece is drying in the sun as I write. It still has a fair amount of foliage in it but I’ve managed to get most of the straw out. I’m really not sure what to do next except spin it as it is. I’m still keeping up my half an hour a day with the drop spindle. M is always very supportive of my creative pursuits but the kids have barely acknowledged the new skill I have acquired! I say that with some sarcasm actually. The yarn is still very lumpy and I’ve got so much to learn. I suppose it’s completely off their radar of interesting things to comment upon. ‘Wow, Mum, you’re spinning sheep fleece into yarn, that’s amazing!’ No I can’t see it somehow.

All this handling of fleece and spinning lumpy yarn made it feel quite strange to handle commercial yarn again! I finished the campfire cardigan albeit in totally unplanned colours. It was meant to be a prototype but I’ve been wearing it, and in public too which I never thought I would. I’m clearly working towards that eccentric crochet woman look. It looks a bit longer on E and a bit looser too but you get the general idea. I didn’t enjoy crocheting Aran weight yarn with an 8mm hook because it felt so loose but I can see why it would work better with this ratio. It would be so much heavier with a denser fabric. It is still a warm garment to wear which is surprising since it’s full of holes!

M is away in London next week. He’s not very happy about it. Yesterday we went out for a stroll round the Bailgate area of Lincoln and to have a nice coffee somewhere. Most unexpectedly when we were wandering down towards the cathedral M spotted the oak leaf and acorn necklace in the window of a wonderful little handmade jewellery collective kind of shop and before I’d spotted it too he dragged me inside and asked if I could try it on. I have a bit of a thing for oak leaves and acorns so although I said he could wait until my birthday I didn’t need much persuading.

This morning we took Harvey and Riley to one of their favourite riverside places. They darted straight for the river. Harvey stands in the middle and waits for a stick to be thrown. Riley tends to run up and down, including under the concrete farm bridge. For some reason Harvey has never been under the bridge. It was a great way to cool down because it’s been pretty muggy and hot today. I’ve mowed the lawns, tended E’s sunflower plants, chopped bamboo foliage down by a foot, trimmed all the overhanging ivy and honeysuckle from our side path, swept it all up and stacked the bonfire with cuttings for later. I’ve got washing drying, fleece drying and I’m sitting here wondering if I can fit in a quick Harvey hair cut (yes I probably can).

We’ve finally made some decisions regarding a family holiday before E starts university and J starts A Levels. J wanted somewhere hot and E voted for Prague but that was only after we’d discussed possible destinations for weeks and finally came up with Copenhagen. So J might well be disappointed with the temperatures in Denmark but I think there will be plenty that will win them both over. They were unsure about Barcelona but loved it. The main thing is that M can cycle so much better than he can walk. Don’t ask me how or why. Once we’d hired bikes in Barcelona we were able to get around at a pace slightly faster than his usual 0.002mph. It’s not his fault of course, he had an accident a long time before I met him and is lucky to be walking at all.

I tend to dread the whole travel part on the basis that it’s hard work making sure everyone has everything they need and that we all get where we need to be on time. Yes, they are old enough to pack for themselves but for J last year that meant packing more footwear than actual clothes. Not a scenario I am keen to repeat this year. I’m probably the queen of travelling light, at least that’s what M calls me. It has the added bonus of being able to fill my suitcase with yarn if I happen across any on my travels! Does anyone know of any good yarn stores over there?

I took a travel crochet project with me to Barcelona but I didn’t get much of it done. A little on the flights and not so much in the evenings. It’s tempting to go without this time but knowing my luck I will regret that as soon as we arrive. M has recently revived his kindle habit and E has been reading a lot too. J listens to music through his phone as a way to relax. So I can see me needing my own form of relaxation. One of my favourite memories of our tour round Italy a few years back was waking up very early one morning, it was about five a.m. and I tiptoed out to the balcony with a chair and some crochet. There was a beautiful warmth that you only get abroad and the smell of the sea. I watched a few locals going to and fro with bread. Across the street a woman was watering plants on her balcony, she spotted me and motioned with her hands that she was a crocheter too. I nodded and smiled and couldn’t think what the heck else I could convey. Language didn’t matter because the distance wouldn’t have allowed conversation. She disappeared and brought out a white crochet throw, wiggled her hands again and then pointed at herself. It was obviously that she had made it. I signed that it was beautiful, an understandable sign in any language. She nodded vigorously and smiled broadly and that was that. A brief exchange but one so touching.