I’m not going to lie, I’m so glad another Christmas is over. I focus on positive thoughts from early December and I try very hard to get into the spirit on Christmas Eve but I just can’t seem to enjoy this particular time of year. It’s not down to one thing, rather a combination of factors I suppose.

I do remember more excitement when my brother and I were really small, particularly in what I think of as our first home (it was for my brother). I can recall feeling very excited on his behalf despite the pressure to say the right thing if either of us were to receive a gift we already had or didn’t like. I’m sure this didn’t happen too often but it must have been a possibility, the range of toys for small children would have been significantly less in the seventies than it is now. My parents coached my brother to say, ‘thank you, that’s just what I wanted’ if either of these scenarios arose. In those days he couldn’t pronounce the letter ‘s’ which was very amusing the year we had snow, I’m guilty of pointing out into our garden through the French windows and asking him repeatedly, ‘what’s that?’ Just to hear him say the word with the s replaced with a sort of nasal puffing sound. So on this Christmas Day not only did he remember to say the practiced line he said, ‘oo, ju’ what I wanted!’ for every single gift much to the amusement and slight embarrassment of my parents I’m sure.

We have smaller family get togethers at Christmas now. Just my parents, my brother and I and our families. The family occasion is lovely in itself but ugh, Christmas. For me it’s how someone once described golf, like a good walk spoiled! There’s the whole commercialism of it which has bothered me for as long as I can remember. There’s the gathering of too many voices in one place for me to be an active participant. There’s the slight chance that tensions will rise over something trivial. On the plus side though my Mother does an amazing Christmas dinner.

The quietest moments occur when everyone goes to the cinema for J’s birthday. Mum, Dad and I stay behind to babysit my niece. She was as good as gold last year although she must have wondered where everyone was. This year with the benefit of language she was even happier to have the three of us as her captive audience. After her nap we decided it was time we became familiar with her favourite film, Frozen. I’m really not a fan of Disney films in general but at least these days they have subtitles and I could see why she likes it. We bought her the Queen Elsa outfit which was extremely well received. At the time of unwrapping it she was wearing a hat and scarf set which she began to frantically pull at whilst gruffly saying, ‘geddit off, geddit off’. She was Queen Elsa in a flash and wouldn’t entertain the idea of her real name thereafter!

I have been slowly sorting out cupboards since Christmas was over. I think it’s an annual routine now whereby every January I throw away all the out of date packets, sauces and spice jars of things M has used once and abandoned. We then discuss the economy of this and he vaguely agrees to only buy the ones he really needs. I have no hope at all that this will ever be the case because he has already made a list of the spices he would like to replace. In his defence though he did make an amazing meal last night that involved marinated chicken, homemade flatbreads and some Greek salad type dishes. I believe they have proper names but they’ve whistled into one ear and out of the other.

We have slowed down on chocolate and biscuits and have talked about making that a more permanent thing. We seem to end up throwing biscuits away unless they are homemade so it makes sense to agree not to buy anymore biscuits. I may have agreed to bake the odd batch now and then. I’m not sure how often that will happen. For me that’s potential crochet, reading or dog walking time.

Talking of which, we have had some lovely frosty walks with the dogs lately. M has been coming along much more often which is lovely but quite painful. If I walk at a normal, fairly brisk pace I don’t have any issues but if I walk as slow as he does I tend to ache a lot more. I have no idea why this is. It’s less than strolling pace for me but it is nice to have company for a change. I do so much solo dog walking. Singing has become a permanent part of our solo expeditions. Harvey runs around like an idiot, jumps over small streams, runs up and down boggy ditches, swims in ice cold rivers and then gets back to the car and suddenly remembers his painful shoulder. He growls. Riley growls back and there’s lots of snarling until I start singing. I make sure the windows are well and truly closed for this. It should be uplifting but it’s quite hard work singing when you’ve just hiked through miles of boggy fields and are a little puffed out. If I happen to pass a car or more likely a farm vehicle I switch to singing in a ventriloquist kind of way lest the farmer think I have lost my marbles.

I’ve been keeping a few random balls of thin unidentified yarn by my side of the sofa and managing to crochet a few snowflakes here and there. Productivity goes up when M has chosen yet another food related programme to watch. I’m blocking them as I go which totally transforms them from a blob into a lovely snowflake. I intend to stop at about twenty which will give me the right number for cards or tags whichever I decide to use them for. Stashing them away and actually being able to find them for next Christmas is another matter. Despite intentions it may well be the only thing I get ahead with when it comes to festive makes.

I read a lovely quote recently and it was too long to remember exactly but in essence it was about not adding things to your mental list but taking away the things you do that are not entirely ‘you’. I love this. The older I get the more I realise just how much life can be devoured by trying to be all things to all people. For me I think the balance isn’t too bad now but when the children reached certain ages and milestones and no longer needed me quite so much I did actually need time to find myself again.

One thing is true though, crochet does keep me sane. My head is all over the place with plans and projects. This sorting mood means I’ve been through the boxes and reacquainted myself with old projects that need to be dealt with before I can justify starting new ones. They are mainly knitting related so I need to frog some and wind the yarn up into neat cakes that will hopefully become crochet projects! I have discovered one and a half socks made in clever self striping yarn and plan to knit a few rows a day to complete the pair. All other knitting will be frogged or given away.

I’ve been thinking a great deal about online time and read a great book recently that inspired me to reduce it a little. I’ll talk about that more in my next post. Right now I have two pairs of amber eyes imploring me to down my iPad, don my wellies and tramp through boggy grass for what they seem to think of as a joyous thing to do. Mad dogs and an English woman.



I love winter. Autumn was colourful, beautiful even but you know you’re alive when it’s winter. Everything about this half of the year seems to go so quickly and maybe that’s to do with keeping busy. E and J both have December birthdays so it’s imperative to think ahead. J’s birthday a couple of days after Christmas is particularly awkward and if I forget anything it would mean a mad dash on Boxing Day. This year we’ve had to split E’s birthday celebrations over two occasions to suit everyone. Tonight we had a family meal and games much the same as Christmas Day really. E has a razor sharp memory so I held back from reminiscing about her early years lest I get repetitive in my old age.

Earlier today we took the dogs to a slightly wooded place for a walk to try and wear them out for the day. It was fresh and crisp and the winter sun was blinding. A freshly cut tree smelled absolutely divine and further on the smell of decaying leaves under foot was wonderfully earthy. M and I have been here, there and everywhere lately running errands such as dry cleaning M’s suits, fixing small things in the house, posting parcels, shopping little and often for Christmas food. This week however, everything seems under control and so the walk was relaxing, with time to just breathe it all in.

Sure enough M did feel like baking. The scene in the kitchen was more mad scientist’s laboratory than pastry chef but the results were amazing. I really do like gingerbread and it was absolutely superb. We had a standard sized gingerbread man cutter and a tiny one. The larger ones are not pictured because quite a few of them were rudely decorated with boobs. I blame M for suggesting we all chip in with the icing set. Two at least were not obscene and were given Spaniel ears, paws and an ‘H’ and ‘R’ on their chests to represent the dogs. Cute but they got eaten first.

I haven’t found much time for whittling crochet hooks this last week but I did find a small block of balsa in my recently sorted craft cupboard and it’s a lovely soft and easy material to work with after the hard, brittle beech. It would be ideal for tree decorations because it’s light so that’s on my list of things to make well before next Christmas rolls round. If I can tear myself away from crochet long enough I could get quite addicted to balsa carving. It’s easy to lose yourself in the process and the possibilities are endless.

I’ve got a couple of chunky crochet cowls on the go at the moment. Neither is quite right so there may well be some frogging about to take place. Whilst I’m stewing over those and hoping that ‘sleeping on it’ will help I’ve started a small amigurumi that looks a lot like a seal at the moment but will eventually become a bear once he has ears. The flecked brown yarn is so dark I’m having to make him during daylight hours only. I seem to go for long spells between making animals and forget how much I enjoy seeing a little character come to life. Like the llama I’m also changing the look of this one as I go and just hoping he will turn out ok. I watched a good film on Netflix recently called Winter People, based on the book by John Ehle. It’s quite an old film and stars Kurt Russell amongst others. There’s a scene with a bear that’s quite distressing but even in the late eighties which is roughly when it was made, I’m sure they wouldn’t have harmed a real bear in the making of the film.

I really should have made Mr Laid Back Llama look unmistakeable Christmassy. When E arrived home from uni a few days ago she examined him hanging on the tree and said, I think I’ll take him back to uni with me because he will look nice hanging above my desk. Never one to be shy about asking, that’s my girl! We’ve agreed that he has to come home every Christmas though and I’m going to make a Mrs Laid Back Llama to keep him company next year.

There’s been an easy going atmosphere in the house, with only a few snappy moments… some from me when I feel too tired and too incredulous to explain something that I feel should be blindingly obvious. Communication tires me out enormously. Some from M when he immediately assumes the worst case scenario before working through the possibilities, like for instance assuming we will have to purchase a new dishwasher because ‘someone’ has broken the door (it was just a bowl sticking out!) Those silly occasions aside it’s been good to have the four of us in one room watching tv or having a meal together. Even the dogs look well and truly chilled out, especially Harvey who waits on the hard tiled floor in the hall if anyone is missing.

There’s a big pile of brown paper parcels and some cheerful red and glittery ones for a small person. The tree still smells of fresh pine (even though it’s drying out a little). There’s a large supply of fresh coffee to see me through the longest days and there’s crochet in wooden bowls or baskets in several places. I think I’m ready for Christmas.


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!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Joining in with Hawthorn’s Photo Scavenge Hunt. Thank you for hosting K!

1. Blue. So many blues to choose from so I’ve kept it current and photographed this scarf I’ve just finished for a Christmas present. At least I think it’s blue.

2. Me. Ugh I hate having my photo taken. I don’t actually wear glasses all the time but this was a selfie just to take a photo of the newly finished ‘Unfold’ crochet cowl and I needed to see the camera button!

3. Beginning with W. Weaving. Something I want to do more of but I’ve been giving crochet priority. Weaving certainly goes well with the hobby of crochet because it uses up random odds and ends of any thickness. I throw all the leftovers into a wire basket when they are no longer a useful quantity for anything else.

4. Rainbow. One of the things I’ve learnt about myself since I learnt how to crochet is my inability to cope with a riot of colour! Rainbow colours just don’t do anything for me at all. I seem to be in the minority when it comes to the colourful crochet community. I struggled to find anything amongst existing photographs for this category and then I came across this cake that M and I couldn’t resist when we were spending the afternoon in Chester after one of his work assignments. Imagine the time and patience required to bake such a thing!

5. Arch. A beautiful bridge in Matlock with stone arches.

6. Toy. A toy for future grandchildren is how we justified bringing this vintage look Pooh Bear home with us from Ashdown Forest recently. M is just a big softy really and said he looked lonely in the window!

7. Brush. I love this kind of shop. Useful, beautiful items. This one in Tunbridge Wells seemed to have a brush for every occasion and I regret not buying one of those wooden brushes with the ergonomic mushroom shaped handle for gently brushing clods of mud from the dog’s paws.

8. Swirl. This immediately made me think of coffee. I love it when a barista does an amazing piece of art. So clever. Never works at home!

9. Nail. Well nails plural to be precise here. This is not my hand! I cannot stand to have nail varnish on my finger nails. I’ve been known to add a neutral shade to toes in the summer. I’ve got strong nails that seem to grow quickly and yet I never bother doing anything with them except keep them trimmed. Unfortunately E didn’t inherit this from me and she has much weaker nails but likes to have them looking nice at all times, hence these decorative ones that I don’t even know the technical name for.

10. Own choice. I’ve recently been dabbling in much chunkier yarns than usual and loving the rustic look that thicker wool can create. This undyed yarn is by Rowan and was greatly reduced in a John Lewis sale. It’s absolutely luxurious to work with and feels great against the skin so I’m making a simple cowl for myself. It’ll be perfect for cold and frosty dog walks!


Ashdown Forest

It’s our final evening here in Sussex. Leaving my home territory tomorrow will be very hard indeed. I’ve literally breathed in as much Sussex air as I can. The smell of the forest, wood smoke in the air, tree lined country lanes, gorse, bracken, half tiled or half weatherboarded cottages.

We rented this barn for the week as a tenth wedding anniversary present to ourselves. Ten years ago when I first introduced M to just the idea of visiting Sussex he was not at all keen. He said he would feel like a fish out of water. That’s exactly how I feel with where I live right now. M did squirm a bit and try to lose his few northern pronunciations (his accent isn’t that strong compared to some regions close by). Over the years though he has come to love some of the places I’ve taken him to; Rye, Battle, Bexhill, Hastings, Brighton, Tunbridge Wells, Lewes and Ashdown Forest.

This week we’ve tried to slow down and not rush about visiting places. We brought the children here some years ago and did all the Pooh Bear sites such as the original Pooh sticks bridge, hundred acre wood (which is the five hundred acre wood here) and Hartfield which is where AA Milne lived at Cotchford Farm. M was quite sad that they are all grown up now. He wandered round the Pooh Corner shop looking quite forlorn. Eventually we decided that it wouldn’t hurt to have an old looking Pooh Bear at home for when we eventually have grandchildren. I think he’s just a big kid really but he didn’t get too much argument from me. I’ve never been a teddy person, or a doll person God forbid, but I like the vintage style of this bear.

We popped over to Tunbridge Wells one morning for no particular reason. We headed away from the modern shops and sought coffee in The Pantiles. Somehow M has a knack of being in the right place for picking up old ladies who have fallen over. I’m always with him but of course he hears the shopping hit the floor and rushes over. On this awful occasion the poor woman was head down a flight of stone steps. He kept her talking while he gently repositioned her legs and then gradually got her to a sitting position. A passer by thought he was an absolute expert and asked me if he was a doctor, I said no, he’s just very experienced at picking up old ladies! Thankfully the woman in question seemed fine after a sit down and a nearby shopkeeper invited her into the warm for a cup of tea.

After that drama we found a wonderful artisan coffee place and later we managed to find a whittling knife for M. I’ve got hand carved crochet hooks in mind, he likes a challenge! I gathered some wind fallen pieces of beech today for practice pieces but we’ve got quite a few choices in our back garden too. I did reflect on all the wealthy housewives laden with designer shopping bags and witnessing one who spent £280 on two cushions (freshening up the look for Christmas guests no doubt!) and thought how terrible I am at shopping in general and how happy I was that we found this little knife.

M earned husband brownie points by not moaning and protesting loudly over my suggestion to go for a short circular walk in Ashdown Forest today. I think I’ve harped on enough about how my childhood was filled with adventurous walks along clifftops, through woodlands, beside rivers etc. and he finally gets that I love walking! He hates it and doesn’t see the point at all which is not helped by the fact the fact that he has a back injury. I was prepared to go at snails pace and I was happy to stop when he needed to. Eventually we made it round this boggy woodland route, taking in what was left of the autumn colours, the views over the South Downs, little babbling brooks, rabbits darting for cover, the odd deer in the distance. Halfway round he said, yes I think I get this now, it’s actually quite beautiful. I could have cried. The reality though was that he was suffering quite badly. I always know when he’s really in pain because he actually complains less. It’s probably a man thing. He also goes quite pale which is a dead give away.

At Pooh Corner with warming ‘cappoohccino’s’ (their pun not mine) I told M that I really appreciated him attempting that walk, that it meant a lot. Sadly though I don’t think it’s ever going to be a pastime we do much of together. It’ll be back to the compromising that we worked out in Derbyshire this year, involving the car, a cafe and a crossword (while I hike a little).

Before we set off on our walk we exchanged numbers with a chap who had lost a golden retriever. He was waiting with the car and the second dog in case she found her own way back and his wife was out looking. Of course we know how this feels so we said we would join the search party but happily the dog turned up looking casual and wondering what all the fuss was about, as they do. Later in the day, on the way back to the barn we narrowly missed a small scruffy Terrier Jack Russell type thing trotting across a sixty mile an hour country lane looking a bit lost. I shouted stop and we hopped out and M managed to grab him first. He was quite friendly and immediately started licking M’s ear. He belonged to a man in a little cottage set back from the road who was very grateful for his safe return and didn’t realise that the gate had been left open. What with picking up old ladies and rescuing small dogs M has been quite the hero this week!

The best part of the week though, was being near enough to my Grandad for him to come over for a visit. My Uncle and Aunt decided to come and see the barn too and we all had a lovely catch up and lunch at the local pub. In fact that rather odd looking wallpaper with the ghostly Pooh Bear walking off into the woods with piglet is on one of the walls in the pub. I quite like the wallpaper design because the Pooh stories are, at the end of the day, just imagination. It’s rather how I felt about my childhood adventures in forests like this one and how I imagined our long gone little black cocker spaniel trotting off into the woods today.

We will both take a few ideas back to Lincolnshire with us. Ideas that can be stored away for the future. We’ve been amazed at how easily we could see ourselves living in just a small barn like this one, with perhaps a brick outbuilding or two. It’s really quite small with just one bedroom, a bathroom and open plan living room/kitchen but we wouldn’t need much more. M was also taken with the Sussex trug company here and could happily have moved in to their workshop as an apprentice trug maker. As a compromise (because his day job pays a bit more) I’m going to book him on to one of the two day introductory courses for next year. You can see how my cunning plan to make him fall in love with Sussex has worked out nicely this week!

Finally, because there’s always crochet talk here, I have made progress with just the one project this week. Totally focussed, no getting sidetracked with other things (even though I did bring three projects with me.) I’ll save the scarf pics for another post. It’s long, it’s thick, it’s super chunky and I’m a bit worried it’ll be too heavy to wear but even with the yarn substitution it still weighs the same as the recommended yarn so it must have been tried and tested. It will definitely wrap twice round the neck and still have plenty to spare. (Link to the pattern is in my previous post). I think I’ve managed to stay focussed on this one project because it’s been perfect for slight daydreaming whilst crocheting. I blame the hypnotic effect of the flames in the wood-burner window, so much more absorbing than the film we watched one night. I’ve frogged so many rows due to losing a stitch here or there but in super chunky that hasn’t been too bad.

Sussex Trugs: https://www.sussextrugs.com


You know you’re having a dull week when the biggest event is losing the dog! We’re lucky enough to live in a very nice village with lovely lanes and fields to walk through. The only drawback is that the farmers are pretty unfriendly. In my ten years here I’ve seen them frequently plough up the footpaths to make them unusable. They’ve deposited huge mountains of dung alongside popular routes. They’ve grown crops over footpaths and not kept them clear. The worst though was parking a huge tractor over the end of one footpath and shouting that I wasn’t entitled to be there. Our ordnance survey map says otherwise but at that point I’d had enough. I figured he could shout at someone else. So I explored and eventually found some lovely walks only a few miles away and owned by the nicest farming family. The chap who looks about a Grandad kind of age is out in his tractor most days just keeping the many footpaths clear, mowing verges, keeping drainage channels clear. He waves from across the fields but we’ve never been close enough for a chat. Just lately they mended a bridge along the footpath, you can see the before and after above. It had lots of rotting timber with holes right through so I’m glad they’ve fixed it.

It turns out that this bridge is on Harvey’s favourite route because this is precisely where I eventually found him after he’d been missing for over an hour. It all started with me parking in a different location just to shake it up a bit. I was secretly hoping that there would be less fox poo on this route. For the sake of describing it to M we call this walk ‘spot one’ and the other, more frequently used route ‘spot two’. This is just in case I ever have problems with my ageing jeep and have to describe where I am. It’s no use saying, bridge one or two which are the only distinguishing landmarks because M gets into whether that includes the concrete bridge and the iron bridge, or just the road bridge? At which point I would just want to start walking home.

So, I chose spot one and Harvey wanted spot two and while I was taking pictures of colourful cherry tree leaves he was haring diagonally across a field until he was just a little dot. Riley looked quite bewildered and sheepish and stuck close by. I think he sensed there was a problem when I sat on the bridge and waited for Harvey to come back. After forty five minutes and a frozen bum I trudged back to the car with a plan B which was to drive through a couple of small villages and see if he was at spot two

We arrive at spot two and Riley jumps out, clearly excited at getting what he thought was two walks for the price of one. No sign of Harvey. I’m cautiously looking along the river feeling quite anxious but a bit cross too. Then finally at the bridge he comes dashing over with a look on his face that says, blimey you took your time! He and Riley have something of a brotherly reunion and all is forgiven. I couldn’t tell him off because he wouldn’t have understood. I may have uttered a few choice words under my breath. Needless to say we will be parking at spot two every day from now on.

It’s a good job my crochet hobby has a calming effect. As soon as I gather some wool and put a Christmas movie on all the stress just melts away. Yes I freely admit I watch all the cheesy Hallmark Christmas films I can find at this time of year. Channel Five usually obliges. I think I totted up 14 last year!

I’ve been experimenting with stitches from various crochet books. Every now and then I feel like a challenge and learning how to create these ‘fabrics’ is quite good fun. I’ve got one vintage book that may as well be written in Russian because I just can’t make any sense of it. Luckily it’s also got diagrams and so I’ve been improving my diagram reading too. There are a couple of swatches I forgot to put in the pile when I snapped the top picture. I wish I’d labelled them all now. That long strip on the right that looks like star stitch, is a quicker, less bulky stitch altogether and I can’t remember where I got it from. Argh. Stupid. It’s not in the picture but I tried Rake Stitch which is a bit like spike stitch I suppose but makes a very firm fabric. I feel a super chunky basket in rake stitch coming on, or at least that idea will be added to the long list of things I want to try.

I said I wouldn’t try and make any crochet gifts for Christmas this year but on my travels through the internet I’ve found some great patterns that I could make in time. I’m totally asking the recipients to hint at colours though. I’m really hopeless at guessing what colours people might like. This is what I have in mind…. http://www.yarnspirations.com/patterns/crossing-paths-crochet-super-scarf.html who wouldn’t like one of those? Obviously if I made one for myself it wouldn’t get draped fashionably down to the ground like on the model. No, I’d probably trip over it and that’s only if Riley hadn’t got hold of it first. Have said all that, why on earth do I only find these things in the middle of November, or later? Next year, scarves will be crocheted in July. I probably said that last year too.


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?


A total jumble of photographs today, which is pretty much reflective of life at the moment. M is busy working here, there and everywhere. Travel is very much the downside of his job sometimes but his expertise is in limited supply and so he must go where the work is. Despite the fact I can quite easily forget what I’ve had for breakfast he will insist on ‘running through’ his weekly, monthly and sometimes beyond, diary of assignments. Whereas I think to myself or write lists he prefers to speak out loud. It’s fascinating sometimes, working out just how different we are in many ways. Difference is often a good thing. I can think of many examples where we have learnt from each other, or met each half way. It’s true that it takes longer for M to meet me half way on something but that’s because I’m a thinker and I think, ‘ok I’ll wait.’

Just before he left he washed the mud off the dogs feet to save me having to. I was otherwise busy with hoovering but when he’d finished he came to find me and said that he’d washed the dogs feet and for the first time he had shaken out the loose mud from their bedding so that they didn’t add wet feet to loose mud and create further mess. I resisted the temptation to remind him that it had only taken five years to grasp that concept and instead just quietly thanked him.

It’s nice but odd just having the two of us home his week. M gave J a little talk about helping out and that seems to have manifested in quite a protective role. Apart from sweeping which J has loved doing since he could walk, I’ve noticed that he’s taken on the role of locking up at night and not leaving the keys in the door either. This is something I’ve had to take on in recent years because M seems to have too many other things to think about.

The days are blissfully quiet. Dog walking duties have resumed but as is usual now I seem to take so long to properly shake off the remains of a cold. Harvey limps home with his shoulder problem and I find myself heading for the nearest chair with a racking cough. It’s so worth being outside in the fresh air though. The autumn sun was fantastic yesterday after the frost had disappeared.

We seem to have a cheeky family of Water Voles and they’ve taken a liking to our bird feeders. I’m not great with furry four legged vermin if truth be told. Mollie once bought a dead one in and that still gives me the creeps when I think about it. They are very rat like. Ugh. I was reasonably sure they were voles and not rats but I looked it up anyway and it seems we have the garden of paradise as far as they are concerned. Not only have we got a babbling brook beside the house but we’ve also got windfall apples which they love. I do wish they would stick to the apples and leave the bird food alone.

Harvey has had another trim and blow dry. I prefer to call it sheep shearing because I just get as much off as I can. It’s surprising how thick his coat gets. Riley has a silkier coat altogether so I only need to trim his ears and paws. I think Harvey has a permanently sad looking face but I’m sure he’s not unhappy. He seems to like the fuss and if I get my face too close to his he gives me a crafty lick.

I’ve never tested a crochet pattern for anyone before but decided that I was probably experienced enough now to give it a whirl. Hence the hot water bottle cover project pictured above. I was also in need of a quick fix project over the weekend which is precisely how long it took, just two evenings. It was M’s idea to watch a couple of soppy movies before he had to leave on Sunday afternoon. I think Notting Hill is probably his favourite movie although he wouldn’t like me sharing that fact. I’ve watched it with him so many times I actually know the entire script off by heart. M seems to watch it anew each time. Obviously our favourite part, which comes quite early on, is Spike trying on his various ‘date’ t shirts. Never gets old.

Anyway, the hot water bottle cover got made pretty quickly because we also watched Me Before You after that and then some trashy Netflix series. I rarely do granny squares if I can help it because I’m not great with repetition but they were fairly painless and the rest worked up with no problems at all. I was able to mention a few things that I thought would improve the pattern experience so it was nice to be useful. The pattern is by Harbour Crochet.

So the mess that is my working desk area above, with the half finished shawl on it… ugh, I’ve got myself in a right muddle with it. Stupidly I decided, after I’d reached something like row 94, that I probably wouldn’t like wearing it in asymmetrical way. It’s just too girly for me. Mum and I used to have a word for this when I was a teenager and occasionally had to dress up for events or occasions, or even just when we went clothes shopping. The word was ‘womany’. Not only was I not ready to look grown up (or wear anything other than jeans) but I didn’t really want to look like a woman either. Quite funny when I look back. I’d frequently reject clothes as too womany. It’s not even a word!

I’ve tried two ways to change this pattern into a symmetric design. One was to start crocheting the other side separately but with the increases on the opposite side. This was working well until the stitch count went wrong somehow. So then I thought, stuff this, I’ll just decrease from the centre on the original half I’d already made. That was going well too until I got to a certain section and that started to go pear shaped. I’ve left it alone for a few days and now I think I know where I went wrong so I will try again. A big part of me says, just follow the darn pattern and make do with an asymmetrical shawl, but that would be womany wouldn’t it? At least the yarn is nice to work with, Stylecraft Batik. I try to avoid acrylic yarns as much as possible but sometimes it’s worth  it for a light, washable, soft result. If I like a pattern I can always make another in more natural yarns.

I was nominated to take part in the seven day black and white photo challenge on Instagram. It would be amazing if I hadn’t been since it requires you to nominate someone new each day. I don’t think I know seven people who would like to join in but I shall try. I occasionally turn photos of Harvey into black and white because he’s monochrome to start with and a good subject. When I was fourteen or fifteen I had a basic darkroom located inside my wardrobe (it was a very large fitted wardrobe). I’d take my SLR camera and go out on my bike down to Hastings sea front and Old Town and take pictures of the fishing boats and huts. In a blog or Instagram post recently I noticed that someone had referred to these fishing huts as ‘black cabins’ which made me chuckle. It was a great hobby for a while and I even tried press photography at the local paper for a work experience week, but hated photographing people as it turned out. I must have been fit too because cycling from where we used to live to the town must have been a good ten or twelve mile round trip. I wonder what my fifteen year old self would make of digital photography and taking quite passable snaps on a mobile phone?

I started using Instagram for crochet inspiration. I didn’t realise that it was mainly a ‘push your wares’ kind of place. I’m sure that’s great for those with something to sell but it’s not the crochet community I was hoping for. At least the constant stream of goods does occasionally inspire me to try something new without buying a pattern. Christmas baubles seem to be everywhere at the moment. They were probably everywhere last year too but I’m slow on the uptake when I think something looks too tricky! It turns out that I already have a pattern for these in one of my books so I plan to try these sometime this week. Like the pumpkins they look perfect for stash busting odds and ends. After all it is November now and Christmas gifts and wrap has been available since at least September! We’ve even spotted Christmas trees and lights up on a recent drive back through Lincoln one night. People round here must really like to get their money’s worth or get into the spirit nice and early, whichever way you want to look at it. I’m still hoping M will forego the traditional tree and grant me my arty twig tree!


Having gone a bit bonkers with crochet gourds and pumpkins this year I’m wondering how the bug passed me by in previous years? I couldn’t resist one last happy pumpkin just for fun. I haven’t overstuffed any of these and they are quite deliciously squishy. They are fairly quick and don’t require a great deal of concentration which is perfect when you’re full of cold or watching a series on Netflix, or both.

I used three different ‘patterns’ for the pumpkins. I use the word pattern lightly because there isn’t much to it. The first couple used dk with a 3.5mm hook and a chain of 19 to start. Using one chain as a turning chain I did rows through the back loop consisting of four dc’s at each end of the row and half trebles in between. The dc’s just make it easier to gather the top and bottom and I think they give a bit of shape too. I added the stalks afterwards on these first attempts which was a bit fiddly.

The larger pink gourd followed a pattern in the book 200 Fun things to Crochet. It’s a four row repeat and takes a bit of concentration or a pad and pen to keep track of where you are. I liked the way the stalk was crocheted in to the top section so I used that method when I went back to do a third type which was a combination the plain old ribbed body but with the crocheted in stalk. Did that make any sense at all? So the final happy pumpkin uses the tapered rib stitch rows but with the stalk worked into the top edge and then decreased to gather the top in. On this one I also used the method of sewing every other segment if you like, to accentuate the shape a bit more. I’ve made a mental note to find some soft colourful yarn and make a basket of pumpkins for my niece to play with next Halloween. I left it far too late this year to make them and send them off to London.

The still nameless crochet doll has acquired a cheerful red t shirt. I know I won’t enjoy making any further tiny outfits for now so they are on hold until I find my 3mm hook love and patience once more. I might make a Christmas hat and scarf for her late next month because those two things are quite easy and not so fiddly.

So with pumpkins out of my system and Halloween nearly over I needed to have the next project lined up. I flicked through my recent magazines and realised I had a couple of leftover balls of Batik to at least start the mystery Shawl that’s been published over three parts in Inside Crochet recently. At least with existing stash you can try a pattern out and see how it feels without committing to buying all the yearn from scratch. On this occasion the larger hook and choice of yarn works well and produces a light and airy but warm fabric.

I hadn’t taken much notice of the shawl to begin with because I really don’t like the colours it was shown in. I must have mentally written it off as a bit too girly for me. I saw a slightly toned down version on Instagram and then it dawned on me that I might like the pattern in different colours altogether. I know this is how patterns usually work but somehow those initial colours just tuned me out. I’ve got as far as I can with just two colours and I’m now waiting for a small delivery (a few other supplies may have dropped into the trolley too). I’m feeling my crochet mojo creep back. I’ve been crocheting lately but nothing has really been exciting.

Not only have I got to wait for a yarn delivery but I’ve also reached the end of Stranger Things 2! Oh well, I will just have to dive into a good book if it rains all day again tomorrow!