Busy

I’m not sure what happened to March but it’s been and gone and most of April has too. It’s been a blur. I really need to start eating more walnuts and blueberries if I’m to keep my memory in check. It’s a good job I blog. I forget so much.

E came home for the maximum amount of time she could for Easter and beyond. The novelty of living independently has probably worn off a bit. I think she misses the freedom of having her own car, so things like the weekly shop by bus are a bit of a pain in the neck. We took some lovely trips out to small market towns, antique (junk) centres, our local town, our country park and so on. We even managed a couple of picnics, although sitting on a blanket on the edge of a field with a very attentive Springer drooling over our sandwiches was probably not our most successful one.

The biggest surprise of the visit though was both E getting the knitting bug and also finding a fantastic local yarn store that’s been there for a year undiscovered! We’ve had to source beginner patterns that move on from simple shapes to something a bit more challenging, her latest project is a jacket type cardigan in a kimono style. It’s in something similar to moss stitch which I think is a brave choice. I used to get totally lost with that stitch. We made sure she went back to uni with a big basket of wool and a few patterns.

With all the knitting research going on I didn’t think I made very much in crochet just lately but the photos say otherwise. I made Murray the Sea Otter as a thank you gift for a friend who gave me a much needed kick start in the spinning direction. Not only did she manage to secure the donation of a wheel for me, she gave me a one day demo that got me over the fear of starting to use it! I will definitely take some photo’s soon. It’s an exciting new direction to my woolly life right now.

It’s the raw and the rustic that has always really appealed to me. I was trying to explain to M recently where that might have come from and I think it’s a lot to do with the Sussex county shows and fairs I used to visit on School trips. Those trips always brought things alive and two demos stayed with me forever, one was spinning in the raw from a pile of fleece that quite frankly looked like it was fresh off the sheep, and the second was a pole lathe demo. Thankfully, there was no such thing as the internet when I saw the latter otherwise I’d have been tempted to cut a few boughs down in our back garden and try and build one! Yes I was that weird kid whose priorities were not with the junk that you could buy at these events but with the actual crafts.

I was in the middle of making an ‘easy everywhere’ cardigan for E when the opportunity to test the ‘gin o’clock cardi’ came up on Instagram. The former is the oatmeal work in progress above, worked in crochet x stitch and made entirely in one piece with a few seams to sew up afterwards. The latter is the finished olive green garment which I hastily took a photo of before popping it in the post to E. I think she will wear this one quite a bit, it’s granny clusters but in chunky yarn so it has a real cosy factor. I did the short version because E likes her tops to be boxy. She chose the colour which was great because I’m hopeless at making those decisions.

There was a deadline for the testing which I needn’t have worried about at all. I think with three or four clear evenings most crocheters could have this done and dusted. Initially I groaned inwardly about sewing up but it really was quick and painless. It’s a great pattern and well presented. I highly recommend it.

One of the plus points of this garment is actually cost; garments are often a bit of an investment. I can remember my Nan telling me that everyone used to knit because it was so much more cost effective than buying a jumper for instance. These days I think it’s often more of a challenge to achieve that. For the short version in the size we needed and using the suggested yarn brand we had two choices, a cardigan that came in at about £21 or one that came in at just under £14. We went for the Stylecraft Life Chunky which has a bit of wool in it and therefore costs a little bit more but is still a great price for such a wearable result. I can’t decide what colour to choose for mine!

I learnt a new trick this week, one I can’t believe I hadn’t come across before. It was the magic knot. The magic circle was a revelation but the magic knot really does work too. You just simply tie each end of two pieces of yarn onto each other and pull, then snip any ends and voila! There are probably YouTube videos or at least photo how to’s. I learnt from an Instagram photo and I wish I’d used it for E’s scrap granny notions pouch; I could have made a magic ball (so much magic in the crochet world eh?!) and crocheted away without having to keep tying in a new colour. As Owen Wilson says in that sofa ad, ‘mind, blown’.

As usual crochet is keeping me firmly in the land of the happy. Behind the scenes there is plenty of not so happy health stuff. By that I mean things like dentists and routine check ups that you’d rather not have but cannot avoid. I had been avoiding the dentist for a while because I had a whole run of bad luck with post treatment infections. The sort you need two or three courses of antibiotics to sort out. By the time I plucked up the courage to go again I had been unceremoniously dumped off the client list. It proved quite tricky to find another. Eventually we managed to find out that our usual one was moving to a village close by and managed to re register with her which cut out a whole load of stress for me because she’s actually one of the nicest dentists I’ve ever had. Not only that but we no longer have to negotiate city centre traffic. Bonus.

I needed a few fillings and an extraction. My first appointment was for the hygienist and I wasn’t at all concerned or worried that morning. When I got in the chair though she said, do you just want me to take that troublesome one out today? I said yes go for it. I was pretty happy to be taken completely by surprise because it meant not having to totally dread that one for another week or so and be nervous as hell on the day. I would have had good reason to be nervous, it wasn’t nice. It’s taken a week to settle down and of course I’m now only glad to see the back of it. Fillings I can cope with.

M starts an intense court case tomorrow. It will mean weeks of actually cooking meals myself. I loathe cooking with a passion. We stocked up today on easy to cook meals for J and I. He’s fairly easily pleased and always appreciates my efforts. I do often wish I was that sort of Mother who finds herself in the mood for whipping up a cake or biscuits though, he’d appreciate that a lot more. Nearly 6’4, a bottomless stomach and skinny as a rake. Hardly fair!

Today was a bonus free day and we didn’t waste a second of it. Well unless you call waiting nearly two hours for a walk in appointment at our gp surgery a waste of time. M has a terrible habit of mouthing to me, ‘nothing wrong with half of them!’ and frowning at the mothers of howling babies. I just sit quietly and thank my lucky stars I don’t have to go through this very often.

After essential coffee intake I managed to persuade M to get the lawn mower out for the first cut of the season. I always start with… ‘if you could just bring it down from the the garden shed for me’ whilst secretly hoping he will start it up and mow the lawns himself. Today that actually worked, he mowed the 14 by 8 foot crescent at the front of the house! That’ll be me doing the 120 foot back garden tomorrow then!

To be fair he did a great job of putting up a shelf above my wool cupboards. I think I only had to wait one year for that particular job to be done. We’ve also finally got a metal wall mounted postbox. The old one was on a wooden post at the end of the drive and when the post rotted we decided it would be better to have the mail through the front door. This hasn’t been working well with Harvey pouncing on everything that comes through as though it were a rodent that needed to be well and truly killed. Sorting out problems like this make life seem suddenly quite civilised!

After this flurry of activity I’m ready for a quiet week with everyone finally at work/schoool/uni. I have paint for the hall at the ready but apart from that I’m looking forward to restoring our normal dog walking hours and routes. I just need to ignore all reports of cold wet weather with a chance of snow!

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Eventful

We are certainly cramming in lots of ‘adventure’ this year. Only recently we all managed to get snowed in separately in four different locations. I was in Bexhill with just enough snow to cause a little disruption. E was in Leeds with quite a lot of snow and nearly a week of snow days. J was in Lincoln with nearly a whole week off school too. M was in Jersey with three days of cancelled flights. I felt quite uneasy about it all, but mainly because I was worried that ‘someone’ might leave the dogs outside by mistake. A photo of them drying off with towels over them reassured me that everything was under control.

I’d barely got the house sorted after leaving it in the hands of M and J for a week, then J for a further week and was beginning to look forward to getting back into my own dog walking routine (you can see that Harvey was enjoying it too!) as well as fixing a few DIY jobs that were long overdue. M travelled to London last Monday and ended up having to go to A&E on Tuesday. It was a classic case of thinking it would be an in and out visit, then maybe just an overnight stay just to be safe, then he had a few more tests and so it went on, each time telling me not to come down to London that he’d probably be out the next day. By Friday I started to ignore those messages and booked train tickets for E and myself.

I find London quite overwhelming these days. Small doses are preferable and 48 hours was more than enough. On the plus side we were able to spend time with my lovely little niece. I do struggle to hear small female voices but E filled me in some of the time and it was lovely when she was able to read E’s bedtime story. At some stage E decided we were going to play hide and seek. Quite an interesting concept in an open plan flat with a safety gate to the lower floor. I did wonder how many places she might think of. Silly me for not finding her with her head inside an orange stool with her legs sticking out! J used to do exactly the same sort of thing!

With visiting hours from 2pm and Islington pretty much on the route from where my Brother lives to the hospital I persuaded E that Camden Passage might be of interest other than Loop London! Crafty eh? We had planned for her to leave me there for a while but she ended up coming in. Having seen that the majority of shoppers there at the time were closer to her age than mine (lots of selfies were being taken!) she was quite drawn to one of the simple garter stitch projects. The sample was out but the kit wasn’t in stock so I will treat her to that when they have more. I think knitting would be very therapeutic as an antidote to all her studying.

In all my years of knitting first and now crochet I’ve never really spent silly sums on a hank of yarn but as E said, it’s not every day you come to London. (When I last tried to visit Loop three years ago it was closed). I ended up buying two hanks at what I call silly prices but they are luxurious; the one I’ve photographed is merino with cashmere and the other is a variegated mustard in the same weight. They work quite well together. I will be thinking long and hard before deciding what to make with them! I must admit E is a very good shopping partner. I’m such a boring nerd when I go shopping on my own and always manage to talk myself out of any adventurous purchases. I then travel home kind of wishing I had bought whatever it was.

M was very pleased to see us, we had two long visits over the two days and the long expensive journey was well worth it to see how much he cheered up. It was hard leaving him there and travelling home so fingers crossed he won’t be there for too much longer.

Meanwhile I’m finding that the only thing I can really focus on for any length of time is cupboard sorting! What a turn up for the books! I thought I was done with all of that post Christmas. It’s mainly the food cupboard I’ve turned my attention too because it’s an absolute shambles. If you did through the keyhole you’d deduce that someone who loves to cook lives here but with no home organisational skills. I guess that cupboard has always been more M’s domain. I’ve previously sorted his many herbs and spices but this last week I’ve also thrown out pastes and tins and bottles, often with duplicates.

J and I have been having the kind of meals that I consider to be a proportionate amount of cooking to eating time. Ten minutes cooking to 5 minutes eating is perfect in my world. OK so some things take longer but don’t necessarily need watching too much. I wouldn’t say I’m enjoying being in charge of the kitchen but I’m certainly taking pleasure from having simplified our meals. J has even been quite complimentary about my efforts.

I’ve also been cutting down the major food shopping trips. The weather has been poor, the potholes are diabolical and the possibility of having to go to London at short notice has meant that I’ve been shopping close to home for just a few days at a time. It’s working nicely. With less choice decisions are made much quicker and it’s easier to keep it simple.

Once I receive some more positive news from London I think I will be back with my crochet. I’ve got too many things on the go and need to get some finished.

I was lucky enough to be given an Ashford Traditional spinning wheel by a friend of a friend. I admired it for a few months but didn’t know where to start at all. Whilst in Bexhill I accepted the very kind offer of a crash course in spinning. The wheel we used was slightly different and I was expert at setting it in motion backwards to begin with but soon got the hang of it. Once home I spent two hours trying to remember what went where to set mine up. A YouTube videos alerted me to the fact that I’d forgotten to put the bobbin on the spindle and after that it was just a question of getting the tension adjusted. The joy when it started taking up the spun yarn! It was probably late by then but I still wanted to let someone, anyone, know that I had spun my first yarn on a wheel!

I spun two very dodgy bobbins worth of yarn and then decided in for a penny in for a pound, I might as well try plying them. That seemed to work ok and the end product was indeed usable albeit with lumps and bump, bits of grass and a fair bit of lanolin too. I fashioned a bowl using a 6mm hook to accommodate the varying thicknesses of my yarn and it is extremely sturdy. I’m hoping that my next bowl will demonstrate an improvement in my yarn making journey!

I once thought that it was a branch of my wool addiction that I didn’t need to explore but now of course it’s too late and I’ve got the bug. I’ve dug out all the relevant books I’ve owned for years which just shows that it was always on the cards. One of the books is about natural dying and I’m definitely going to give that a go, perhaps when the weather improves and I can slosh stuff about outside on our old garden table.

I haven’t been keeping up with my photographing lately. I use my phone for ease of use and because it transfers to my iPad much quicker than downloading from a camera. The phone is playing up so I’m hoping it will just hang on until June when M upgrades his and I can have his old one. It’s how we do phones here, I never need or want the latest thing so when I get a hand me down it feels like the latest thing to me! It all takes time to learn new things related to technology. Only recently I discovered that a setting on my iPad was preventing me from adding stories to my Instagram account. Duh! I’m so behind! I’ve since done a couple and they are quite fun so I guess I might be doing more. Life just needs to settle down and go back to normal first!

Dexterous

I should have had that blergh Monday morning feeling today but despite J being home following exams for weeks now and trips to the caravan and to the South, it actually only feels like the summer holidays has started this week. E finishes her year at a primary school on Wednesday and most schools in this area will have finished by the end of the week. Maybe it’s more to do with finally booking a holiday! We are absolute experts at leaving everything to the last minute. I am the complete opposite to a friend down the road who plans and books holidays two years in advance!

E and J were accepting of our plans to go to Copenhagen but not exactly bouncing up and down with excitement. A casual remark from M made me pick up my iPad and surf for yet more holiday apartments. I pretty much put in our dates, our budget and see what comes up. This time Madrid caught my eye with an apartment that is much more spacious than the one we were about to book in Copenhagen and for quite a bit less money. So it’s booked and that’s that. Who needs two years to plan? I’m not too enthusiastic about temperatures over thirty degrees but hopefully we will find ways to keep cool.

My Scandinavian dreams will have to wait. M and I will no doubt be able to travel more in the future, just the two of us. For now though the kids like cities and we all agree that sitting by a pool or sitting on a beach all day is less than fun. Barcelona worked well for us as a family so I’m hoping Madrid will be a similar experience.

J was sleeping off a post party hangover this morning. E was at school. M left for London at 6am. It felt like the greatest luxury to make a proper coffee and take it back to bed with my books, a few magazines, my iPad. I’m not naturally an early riser but by mid morning I’ve usually done a day’s work. Laundry, hoovering, gardening, housework, dog walking (not strictly work). Harvey and Riley bounced round the corn field this morning. Sadly no sign of my missing flip flop.  Various shoes get dropped at the fence just before they hop over into the field but on this occasion they must have taken it further. This afternoon the combine harvester was in that field so either my flip flop is destined for Weetabix or it’s been revealed for me to find tomorrow morning.

So, with my trusty planning assistant Riley, we came up with the idea to make a cotton summer dress for a tiny person that we know. I gathered my dk cotton supplies and absolutely did not want to make it in water melon colours so I’m not sure how that happened. Once you get to the skirt there’s no counting to do so it makes a nice lazy afternoon kind of project.

I’m sure I’d be a bit further on with the dress if I hadn’t stopped to keep trying the Mayan spindle very kindly sent to me by someone who has known me all my life, pretty much. It arrived with the challenge, if you can do it you can keep it. Well I love a challenge! There was some starting yarn on the spindle and with each failed attempt I managed to pull off a bit more of it. I kept wrapping the yarn round the ball instead of spinning it freely.

By the time M got home I hadn’t managed to spin a single centimetre of yarn. Without even showing him the YouTube video he picked it up, spun the spindle, spun some yarn, drafted some more fleece, did it again. I was a little surprised and a tiny bit miffed! I think he was surprised too, I’m usually the more dexterous of the two of us. Somehow that brief demonstration helped me make the connection where various YouTube videos had not. I picked it up and got the hang of it, albeit with periodical whacks to the chest! It’s quite a bit more taxing on the spinning arm than a basic drop spindle but I expected those muscles will tune up if I stick with it. Spinning with something a little more colourful is fun too. I need to start introducing the right weeds to our garden with dyeing in mind!