Bobbles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Forbearance

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

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

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

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

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

I did some furniture shuffling over the weekend. Our dining room lacks proper sunlight since it’s positioned between the hall and the conservatory and doesn’t actually have an outside window (we might put one in one day). J and I dragged the big table through to the sunlounge and put it at the end with the double doors. When it’s sunny and warm we can eat just inside with these doors flung open whilst staying out of the wind that seems to constantly blow across from the fields. It proved good feng shui this evening when everyone was open to trying this new location and didn’t rush to leave the table after the meal. I’m thinking the vacated dining room might make a good craft area! I’ll just get M to knock up a work bench!
https://instagram.com/simplenaturalhandmade72 #aflowerforjenny

Beech

Do you ever have a day planned out in your mind and then it doesn’t quite turn out that way? The kind of day where you go to bed nice and early the night before because you need to be up at six thirty and then you toss and turn all night, either because you’re excited about the change of scene or you’re worried about not waking up on time.  The kind of day where you can’t doze on the journey down the A1 because someone beside you is also tired and doesn’t want to be the only one awake at that hour. Then the strong coffee you eventually get only barely wakes you up enough.

You arrive at the destination city and despite being given the magic plastic rectangle as currency you really don’t feel like, ugh, shopping. So you wander round looking at the cathedral and comparing it to the one in your own city, and think to yourself, ours is better. Then you watch other people taking photographs of the cathedral and think to yourself, this is a tourist place, really? You walk miles looking up at skylines and architecture, look down at pigeons cleaning the under side of their wings in the street level fountains, watch old people still in love and young people puffing on e-cigarettes, and then glance at the time and think holy crap I’ve got half an hour to buy two birthday presents and some underwear.

You meet up with your other half for a romantic lunch for two but he’s in work mode and the phone doesn’t stop buzzing with work offers and when it does stop he’s engrossed in Facebook, so you watch more old people in love and more young people slowly killing themselves with liquid nicotine. On the way home you prop your eyelids open with imaginary matchsticks because it’s still not ok to nap and anyway you wouldn’t want to fall asleep with your mouth open and be seen by traffic passing by or worse still, snapped and put on Facebook.

The day gets better when you get home and insist that you are having a nap now and it is NOT ok to wake you for any reason whatsoever. So you flop, fully clothed on to your bed and don’t even remember your head hitting the pillow, then wake three hours later with your hair sticking up on one side and the pillow imprint on your left cheek and wonder why no-one woke you for dinner. That kind of day.

On the plus side, not only did I manage to get two birthday presents and underwear in that half an hour, I also picked up a solid hunk of wood turned, by an enthusiastic amateur, into a bowl, for 50p. It looks like beech to me. I love this kind of thing (even though we have a growing number of wooden bowls) especially if it’s not varnished and the bark is left on. This one is wool sized! Not such a bad day out.

Doodling

My Scheepjes CAL blanket is finally finished! I certainly wasn’t one of the first over the finish line but I’m probably not the last! The linen stitch border is probably the part I like best, though I do like some of the textured squares like the honeycomb pattern and the waffle. The project also brought me round to the idea of using bobbles a bit more too. It was a great project to do to widen my crochet knowledge. I did a bit of ripping back on quite a few of the squares when I hadn’t concentrated enough on stitch counts. The joining up method was also a lesson in itself. In hindsight I wish I’d used dc and not slip stitch as suggested but it’s very firmly held together and it was a plus not having to sew it up with a tapestry needle. When the teardrop trailer is finished the blanket will be joining us on our travels.

We’ve been having problems sourcing a certain type of bendy wood for the teardrop. We knew that some of the materials would be in plentiful supply where these trailers are commonly used but not so easily obtained in the UK. However, there’s more than one way to line a roof so I volunteered a few suggestions and M actually called me a genius! Wow, we have made some serious progress since the early days when only the supply of builder’s tea was agreeable. M has been cutting curvy roof spars for the galley hatch and it is round about now that I’m wondering whether we’ve bitten off more than we can chew. If M is thinking the same he’s certainly not admitting it. I guess we both like a challenge.

Harvey is suffering with his old shoulder injury so we didn’t walk so far today. The clouds were magnificent. I took a few quick snaps and then just enjoyed the scenery, apart from having to shout at Riley now and then for rolling in unpleasant substances. He also stuck the front half of his body into a large fox hole which is not something I’ve seen him do before and I’m not keen for him to do again. Imagine if he got stuck down a fox hole, I’d have to rely on Harvey to hear where he was and that would not be reliable because Harvey wouldn’t really care where Riley was, only the location of his tennis ball. Brotherly love only extends so far!

I’ve been doodling in wool and on my iPad trying to figure out how to incorporate E’s desire for a cactus flower somewhere on her uni blanket. I didn’t have pink in the weight I’m hoping to make the blanket in so I doubled up a small quantity of dk and tried various combinations of petals. The pic above is the closest I’ve got to the image in my head but I’m still not quite there with it. E likes the combination of green, pink and pale grey that I’ve been experimenting with so I’ve also got to figure out which range does an Aran weight in these colours with a wool content.

The most exciting doodling has been with a new app that I treated myself too. I don’t buy much music these days and very rarely buy an app (usually the free ones do everything I need from an app) so I actually had to purchase my own iTunes card! The remaining credit after I spent all of Β£2.99 will probably remain on my account for some considerable time! The app is a very simple one, nothing flashy or complicated, it uses a photo’s of your crochet or knitted squares and allows you to plan a blanket layout. I guess it would work with square based patchwork too. You can specify the size of each square and the blanket so that it calculates how many squares you need to make. I used a couple of squares from internet photos which is why I can’t show you my first attempt at a blanket layout but once I’ve replaced those photos with my own I can show you how much fun this app is.

I showed my new discovery to M late last night and I can’t say whether it was the late hour or the lack of enthusiasm for crochet apps that elicited a less than excited response from him. I have an opportunity to visit a proper city tomorrow so I’m hoping to squish some yarn and find the colours I’m looking for. Online buying is so convenient but I find the colours aren’t always what I was expecting.

I’ve been doing a few rows of the ripple blanket shown in my header today. It’s an absolute sun trap where M is working on the teardrop and since I need to get up every five minutes to hold a piece of wood or be shown a new development it makes sense to be nearby. The only downside is that there is now a fair bit of sawdust crocheted into this blanket which I hope will wash out eventually!

Easter

So how did we get from two little cutie pies running round their grandparent’s garden with baskets, hunting for chocolate eggs to one almost grown up teenager who doesn’t like his photo being taken anymore and one grown up teenager sipping prosecco before our family Easter Sunday roast?

It was so nice to have a get together at Mum and Dad’s for Easter. Mum made an amazing Sunday dinner and I must admit that after a g&t and a couple of glasses of prosecco I was feeling pretty cheerful! I never know quite whether M’s disapproving looks are because he’s the designated driver or some kind of bad experience with alcohol in his past. I must offer to drive more often! We had plans to sit in their lovely garden, sipping wine or just walking up and down on Dad’s carpet like lawn (ours is more cow parsley than grass!) but alas the weather had other ideas and we had to settle for lighting the wood burner instead.

Today it was business as usual with a quick trip to ScrewFix. It made a nice change from B&Q but the lure wasn’t quite strong enough so I ventured into a new to us store next door, a sort of bargain place that sells pretty much everything including food, toiletries, home decor, gardening and diy. I think it’s my new favourite shop. I found a ceramic travel coffee mug with a phrase that matches my framed postcard and a cotton tote that I bought last year. It’s also the title of an excellent song by the Super Furry Animals that I play very loudly when the mood strikes!

M came home and laid out all his electrical parts alongside his special new electrical tool, studied his circuit diagrams some more and then set about drilling holes for wires, fitting the fuse box, fitting wires for lighting and so on. I think he’s quite pleased with himself. Whether or not the whole thing blows up is another matter! Having had my first car burn to the ground due to an electrical fault I’m not taking any chances with this so we will be having the whole system signed off by a proper auto electrician.

In between hoovering, laundry, dog walking and ahem, eating chocolate eggs, I started a bobble square using the same technique as the heart square in the Last Dance CAL. E really likes the heart square but she also really likes anything cactus related. She started collecting the plants long before you could buy anything with a cactus on it. It was E’s idea to try the design out in cotton so that she can use it as a wash cloth. I made a whole batch of diagonal rib wash cloths last year and they have been in constant use since everyone discovered they actually work as face cloths! I made the cactus bobble square up using an aran weight cotton that was a charity shop buy for 50p. It was a new ball complete with band and it looks like I’ll be able to make a second one too.

I’m not making any promises with a deadline but we’ve discussed the possibilities of using this square as part of a blanket design.  I’d like to go ‘desert’ and just stick to cacti and desert colours but E is imagining pink cactus flowers and the heart bobble square too so I will be totally out of my comfort zone with this one (flowers and pink!) but I can see it working somehow (especially if we lose the hearts!).

Conversations

M: shall we go and ponder teardrop electrics over a flat white?

Me: um, well we could, on the other hand, I’d rather not

M: you don’t fancy coffee?

Me: I don’t fancy pondering electrics

M: but I need to run this stuff by you

Me: I don’t know anything about stupid electrics, you might as well be talking in German

M: well shall we go and have a stupid coffee anyway?

Me: and you promise not to talk stupid electrics?

M: well…

Me: ’cause that would be stupid wouldn’t it?

Little voice from across the hall: Dad?

M: yeah?

Little voice from across the hall: you’re stupid!

M: thanks Jake!
Conversation witnessed in coffee shop (whilst amusing myself and not pondering electrics):

Husband: (upon seeing wife arrive with tray of hot chocolate piled high with cream) what’s that then?

Wife: posh choclit innit

Husband: you’ve gone all posh now then have ya?

Wife: I ain’t never gonna be posh

Husband: true.

Wife: these plants are plastic

Husband: (feels fake foliage) I don’t blame ’em, easier innit?

Wife: still gotta dust ’em

Husband: true. You got a fiver on ya?

Wife: what do you wanna fiver for?

Husband: I wanna go and buy my numbers don’t I?

Wife: you’re never gonna win the lottery

Husband: yeah, but I can die trying can’t I?

Wife: true!

There were many more mini conversations like this between these two, each ending with a ‘true’. So philosophical! Being able to lipread certainly has its upside, it’s my superpower! πŸ˜‰

I’m something like eight rows into the fourteen row border for this crochet blanket. I love the look of the linen stitch and it’s lying nicely flat for most of it. Some squares could probably have done with being a tad smaller. I kind of ignored any slight anomalies when I was making the squares in the hope that the patchwork nature of things would be forgiving. It might block out, it might not but it’s unlikely to be a blanket spread out flat on a bed anyway. It’s not really big enough for our king size bed and we use other crochet blankets for keeping snug in the winter whilst watching tv in the evenings.

I’d rather be crocheting all day but I’ve been doing spring cleaning and overdue jobs like sorting out my unruly collection of mugs (a small quantity has been relegated to the charity bag). I’ve also relieved my large spider plant of some of its little ‘sprouters’. I’ve no idea what they are called. I picked them off carefully, put them to one side, potted up some random pots with soil and then couldn’t locate my new tub of hormone rooting powder anywhere. So I’ve planted them anyway and will have to wait and see whether they take or not. If it works we will soon be overrun with them!

Check

It’s all become a little teardrop obsessed round here. I’ve lost hours of my life talking about electrical circuits that I’m never going to get back. I keep telling M he’s on his own with the whole electrical thing but he does like to share. Fortunately we have several options for help including a friend who is an auto electrician, the good old internet and finally a fantastic old Haynes manual for caravans I picked up which has whole sections on batteries, transformers, converters, sockets (have you nodded off yet?).

I was needed briefly for the drafting of three cubby holes on a sheet of plywood today. This is more my kind of thing. I had the shapes drawn up in no time and the curves drawn with a handy tin of rice pudding. This unit is for the inside sleeping area and has a square plywood ‘conduit’ running underneath it which will house the fuse box and other interesting electrical things. I’m pretty sure I remember asking for something suitable for off grid camping but I suppose I can see the benefits of also having electrical hook up if only to charge everything whilst parked on our driveway. M couldn’t possibly go camping without somewhere to charge his phone!

Just to redress the balance and remind myself of the more exciting details I made a check list of all the camping and cooking equipment I’ve gathered so far. Most of the enamelware came from charity shops or our local antique/junk centre. Nothing has cost more than a Β£1 a piece except for the enamel coffee pot which was Β£6. The tea caddy still has its lining so that was a nice find. The other metal container is an Indian tiffin box that we’ll probably use for biscuits. I found the utensils as a set, six items for Β£6. The rustic wooden handles would go well in our kitchen indoors but we will need some for the teardrop so I’m hoping that we can fit in some kind of rail or inside door rack for them somewhere. After taking this photograph and packing it all back inside the blue suitcase I remembered I had another wooden box stashed away with the cutlery, aluminium whistling kettle, camping pans and a couple of enamel pans. Along with another vintage suitcase packed with washed and folded navy blue bed linen and towels (all surplus to requirements from our main caravan) I think we are good to go the minute the teardrop is finished!

I’m on a mission to find the best camping coffee before our first trip. Today E and I tried a coffeebag. It just doesn’t sound right does it? Teabag yes, coffeebag no. It was coffee in a teabag. It was pretty good, kind of like the taste of proper coffee but without the flashy machine hassle. Most definitely a contender. Mind you, camping is all about slow living and back to basics so I had envisaged brewing coffee the slow way, not just throwing a bag in a mug and boiling the kettle.

I’ve made some good progress with the joining stage of the Last Dance blanket. It’s quite hard work if I’m honest. Our dining table isn’t in a room with good light so I’m laying it out on our double bed each day. The guidelines suggest using a hook two sizes bigger for joining which is great advice because it is joining very nicely but it’s a devil to push a fat 6mm hook through a stitch that has been made with a 4mm hook, especially when you’re working through the inside loops of two rows of stitching. Thankfully, after several back breaking days, I have only two more rows to join.

I had a bit of a shouty moment when ‘someone’ left the bedroom door ajar after opening it to say goodbye on his way out to a football match, not mentioning any names here, and Riley decided he’d been excluded long enough and took a flying leap and landed bang slap in the middle of the half joined blanket. Remind me why I like dogs? I’ve temporarily forgotten! Luckily the blanket has survived. It’s been a marathon of a project and I’m looking forward to going mundanely round and round for the border.

I’d love to send E off to university in September with a large thick colourful crochet blanket of some description but I know that I’m unlikely to finish anything I start now until nearer to the September of the following year. That won’t stop me researching design possibilities and doing mental calculations. Chunky yarn works up so much quicker right? I’ll probably see how her woven wall hanging goes first. In true, not so subtle E style, she messaged me with a photo of a weaving that she liked and said something like this would be cool for my uni room! Hint taken!

Adjustments

It’ll be Murphy’s law that by the time we actually need M to have some official time off for a holiday he’ll be working ridiculously long hours. In theory it sounds good being self employed but in practice we can’t plan anything much ahead. Today and the next few days will be cancellations again. He may still be called away at the last minute to cover those cancellation slots or for short notice police interviews. For now though he is working steadily on the teardrop trailer while he can.

As project manager (when I’m allowed to be) I insist on discussing the progress over a proper cup of coffee. There have to be some perks! During today’s ‘meeting’ I tried to be gentle when I mentioned the lack of a rebate for the part that comes down over the galley. While M was pondering that I bravely ventured that I didn’t think there was enough footwell space inside if you take into account the depth of a basic mattress. I must have caught M on a particularly good day because he took these potential problems quite well, with only a few dozen swear words mainly directed at himself.

So M spent most of today removing the galley fittings and moving them up quite a bit and backwards a little. I didn’t win the argument about how much to raise the galley unfortunately and I have a feeling I will need a stepladder to reach into the fridge but as M pointed out, I’m not likely to be the one who uses it most. It’s true he cooks most of the time but he seems to have forgotten that he was building this teardrop for me to use exclusively during the cricket season! I love watching J play cricket but he plays so many matches from April through to September that I sometimes need time out.

I’ve been such a dedicated cricket mum that I’ve had to suffer all kinds of nasty sub standard cricket pavilion facilities. Most are very nice but one horror comes to mind where there was only one toilet for twenty four players, assorted Dads, catering volunteers and me. Not only that but it was within the men’s changing rooms and it didn’t have a lock. I took one look and tried very hard not to cry! It hadn’t been cleaned in a very long time so I calmly told M that I probably needed to seek alternative arrangements! Thankfully he’s the sort to ask anyone for any kind of help without a shred of awkwardness or embarrassment (unlike me) and so I was able to use the relatively luxury facilities of the bowls club next door for the day! When a new cricket venue comes up I now google the club and make sure that the pavilion is not a run down portakabin. If it is I leave the men to it.

Remember the photo from a previous post with the fridge box and stove looking strangely positioned? Well the latest photo above will make much more sense now. It shows how both appliances will slide out on a drawer base. With just the stove pulled out and locked into position we will have an L shaped cooking space. The other spaces are cupboards and the hole in the worktop will have a lid for access to storage below. I’m hoping it won’t be too long before the photo’s start to look a bit more exciting!

I mainly found excuses to be indoors more than outside helping M today. We’ve gone from heat wave to pretty darn chilly in 24 hours. The BBC were spot on when they said it would be coat weather again by Monday. I popped Riley on an old sheet on the kitchen island this morning. He’s used to staying down below in his bed and looking smugly up at Harvey having his hair cut. I decided he was looking a bit girly after seeing that photo of his long ears I posted yesterday. He had quite a few wispy bits too and some long fluff where his leg fronds were supposed to be, they just gather thistle heads so I used the electric clippers to tidy those up a bit. For some reason they both expected a bonio as a reward for just Riley having a trim. Weird.

After walks and housework and laundry (yawn) I managed to squeeze in some crochet time. I finished two more squares. I’ll be so glad when those last two are also finished. I’m itching to see how it feels as a blanket, whether it feels solid enough, warm, whether I can live with all that detail and pattern! All the online woolly people now have a big choice in colour and blanket packs. I’d think very carefully before jumping in with another project like this though. I can’t remember how long it’s been since I stopped knitting and finally got the hang of crochet but I do know it’s been years and I’m still learning with each project that I do.

Splendid

There are certain words that M really enjoys hearing me pronounce, they include, ‘Sussex’ ‘Disgusting’ and ‘Splendid’. You’d expect them to be words such as bath, path, grass and castle given that those are examples of words we pronounce very differently. I do say Sussex and disgusting quite often (not usually in the same sentence) but I tend only to use the word splendid in jest. It’s seems such a pretentious word. He laughed a lot when I said today had been a splendid day.

Although E has been driving for a while now it’s still quite a novelty when she comes and goes freely. It’s even more of a novelty when she takes her brother along too. At first I thought I’d never allow this but I can’t ban everything I worry about, besides it’s valuable bonding time. It’s all too easy for them to start leading their own lives and not spending quality time with each other. J is quite charitable about being seen in a Fiat 500 even if he does quite literally have to fold his 6’3, nearly 6’4 frame into this tiny car. Today was even more heartwarming because they set off to visit their grandparents half an hour away. J and Dad go and watch the local football team and E and Mum go shopping.

Upon their departure this morning I said to M, this feels so strange, we’ve got a child free day and we didn’t have to take either of them anywhere! Of course we used our time in the most exciting way possible. Yep, B&Q. Wood trim, hinges and a bolt today. All for the teardrop project. Indoor DIY is temporarily on hold until it next rains all day, which probably won’t be too long. Our next door neighbour finally gave in to his curiosity and appeared by the stream that separates our properties. He admitted that they’ve been trying to get a better view from their upstairs windows to try and work out what M is building. It turns out he is an engineer and knows all about aluminium trim so M was in his element talking metal specs with Mr E from next door.

So whilst all that riveting chat was going on I had the back garden all to myself, or should I say the newly jetwashed to within an inch of its life decking? Along with sparkling clean stone frog for company. Even that old table got blasted and I swear only the dirt was holding it together. I must confess though I did not make that crochet blanket. I don’t think I could bring myself to be that random, or use pink, but I still like it. It was a charity shop buy for a few pounds. It’s got a few holes here and there that could be repaired but I haven’t got round to it. In fact I picked up two crochet blankets for very little some time ago and thought that if nothing else, they could be dog blankets, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to subject them to that. Small clean dogs perhaps but these two run round a ploughed field every morning, have a good swim in a slightly stinky lake nearly every day and are most happy when they are filthy. Dog blankets don’t last that long.

I did make that knitted cloud cushion though. It was a kind of practice run, using existing stash, for whether or not I wanted to buy yarn especially for grey cloud cushions for our bed. I’m not obsessed with feng shui but I’m thinking that grey clouds are probably not going to be a good thing for bedrooms and I’m not sure I want white fluffy clouds either. So this beige cloud is just a comfy back rest and nothing more. I was very glad of the cloud today. The viral thing is on its way out thank goodness but I’ve somehow managed to pull a muscle in my lower back. If things come in threes then I’m all done!

We took the dogs to the next village today where there are a few shops and a long shallow beck running behind them. At one end there were children with rolled up jeans and fishing nets so we drive to the other end and hoped the ducks would move up a bit. They did with a bit of encouragement from Riley. He doesn’t go tearing after them, it’s more of a cautious approach. One stern word from us and he headed back as if to say, oh ok then, I’ll leave them for now. I’ve seen him catch up with birds on the lake and he just wants to sniff which of course they aren’t that happy about.

I’d spent some chunk of the morning crocheting a white ribbed square for the Last Dance blanket and then realised that I’d already made the last white square the night before. I was pretty cross with myself! So I laid the whole blanket out again and made a note of all the missing squares which is now only four. Two bobbles and two honeycomb. All four of these are in the last two rows so I was able to do some more joining leaving just those two rows to do. I’m trying not to think about all the ends accumulating underneath.

Mid afternoon saw a delivery from a company I call Dippy D since they managed to mess up the first two or three things we had the misfortune of having delivered by them. They’ve definitely improved and if that continues I might have to start calling them by their real name, DPD. Another whopping box for a tiny phone case. I was so late to catch on to the whole smart phone thing. In fact before I was persuaded to have one I was quite happy with a small mobile that I’d had for eight years and was still going strong. Then along came teenage years and a whole succession of hand me downs. Teens to Mum that is. I’ve now finally caught up with everyone and have an iPhone. It’s an old model and doesn’t have the phone and text service activated which is ideal for me because I can’t hear to make calls anyway and we don’t need texts when we all have messaging instead. The phone therefore costs a fiver a month added on to M’s business phone contract. I’ve never had more than a bog standard phone case either until I saw this one. It’s telling that the three things I’ve bought for myself this year so far have all been wool related. Wool felt. Birkenstocks. A yarn swift. Harris Tweed woven phone case. I should have been a sheep farmer.

Tranquil

J and I got our lovely quiet day today. When M messaged from London and asked how things were I said, ‘peaceful’. Such a luxury thing. I have only to switch off to find absolute silence and M will sometimes even suggest it but silence goes beyond that, it’s about not having to hear. One thing I’ve come to understand since I met M eleven years ago is that his enthusiasm for life manifests in an abundance of spoken words, both loud and fast. In the beginning I tried to be heard, then I quietly gave up trying and wallowed a bit and now that I’m older and wiser I think I’ve found a balance. This still involves listening more than speaking  and also having to find the patience to hear something in two hundred words that could be said in twenty but ultimately it is about being very precise about what I say when I’ve got the floor so that it is heard. It doesn’t always work I must admit.

Having a psychotherapist and relationship expert in the family does help. I was totally wounded when I was faced with the advice that it was me that needed to change. It felt like such a major criticism. It’s really just about not being able to change some things about some people but instead, being in charge of how you deal with them. When I accepted that it was life changing.

I failed to coax J to join me on the dog walk today but he did later finish jet washing our deck and quite a few other things into the bargain. A stone frog that we found in the garden one day and has been used as a door stop ever since used to have a lovely green weathered patina to it… it’s now concrete coloured once more. A bench that I stained with a charcoal colour last summer is now back to bare wood. A patch of concrete that had weathered and blended nicely is now gleaming like newly laid concrete. There are more examples. In fact I was amazed that the charcoal stain came off the bench so at least I know what to use if I ever need anything stripping back to wood! All this jet washing activity and he missed a whole big section of the deck. Words fail me.

The dog walk was just what I needed after round two of nasty viral chest infections. I felt so much better today and the dogs were  bouncing with excitement. The countryside changes so much in a short space of time. This hawthorn blossom wasn’t nearly as dense a week ago. The river was low enough for safe swimming today too and it didn’t take the dogs long to realise that. Harvey dropped a suitable stick at my feet and immediately headed down the bank knowing that I’d throw it in the water. In fact when I look at the photo’s it looks cloudy but it felt much sunnier at the time. It was t shirt weather, the schools are on their Easter holidays here and yet not a single soul was out in this nature reserve for the two hours we were there.

Wool looks so nice and arty in skeins doesn’t it? It was tempting to leave them as they are until I need them but even more tempting to play with my new yarn swift again! It was over all too quickly. One tip for anyone trying one out for the first time; it works best if the skein isn’t too taut over the pegs. It is better to have it loosely draped round the square. M made the recycled timber box above and it now holds all the large skeins wound into cakes.

I’ve probably mentioned already that the Wensleydale yarn will probably be made into unisex baby items for the next family addition. It’s so soft and it’s organic so it seems like the ideal use for it. Those are the four small balls at the top of the wool photo, it looks hairy and coarse but it isn’t! The three balls to the front and left are much coarser and I’ve found a bag pattern that I really like which could be made with this quantity. Finally the alpaca/wool mix will have to be a wrap. It’s soft and warm and I just want to wear it!

I’ve also been working on the missing squares for my Last Dance blanket and I managed to join the first two long rows of squares. It’s fiddly and best done on a big table rather than sitting in the floor and moving the whole thing around on a small coffee table (doh!) I’ve only just noticed that the border will be linen stitch which is a current favourite so that’s given me a bit more incentive to get to that stage. I doubt very much whether mine will sit as flat and perfect as some I’ve seen on the internet. I’m not planning on getting the iron out anytime soon either. Life is too short for ironing.

M and I are keen to book some kind of break soon. We’ve got to that awkward stage where the children will probably only be interested if we go somewhere hot with an ocean like bath water. I’d quite like them to see more of the UK, in particular some of the islands like Jersey or Guernsey, the Isle of Wight, or some of the Scottish ones. They don’t seem as enthusiastic about British weather which I suppose is our fault for introducing them to warm seas in the first place!