Dexterous

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Travel


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vagarious

I’m pretty good at going with the flow, I thrive on spontaneity, I loathe routine but life does seem all up in the air at the moment. The younger children at J’s school have another few weeks to go before they break up and yet J finished his exams yonks ago and seems to have been on holiday for months. He’s probably fairly typical in that he divides his time between sleeping, playing computer games, meeting up with his friends for a game of football and the occasional trip to the cinema, he’s also been taking his bike out just for a ride round the local villages. This year is the first break he’s had from intense cricket playing since he was about seven years old. I can hardly blame him but of course M is slightly gutted. At least M is getting his fix by umpring now and then and we’ve been watching the England Ladies play today.

I’m absolutely loving having a bolt hole to escape to but it’s feeling a bit weird now living betweeen two places. I come home, do massive amounts of washing, stock the fridge with food and go back again. I’m not complaining though. It took quite a bit of effort to get M on board with this long term pitch idea and it is relaxing once we get there.

Then there’s that background niggle I seem to have rather a lot lately. That little voice that reminds me that my daughter is leaving home in September and more than likely only going to turn up here now and then with two month’s worth of laundry. Will I miss having to clean glitter off the bath? Will I miss the way she leaves a coat or a jacket on the back of every chair in the house, a pair of shoes randomly in the middle of every room, hair grips on the shower tray ready to be washed down the plug hole and cause untold damage. You betcha. Yet I needn’t worry I suppose. She was born independent. I can remember taking her to a ‘Messy Play’ group in Oxford when she was small. I figured art needed to be encouraged from an early age but didn’t want to force her to be sociable if she didn’t want to be. I decided that if she didn’t like it I’d whip her out of there and home before you could say Tony Hart. Well that wasn’t necessary because she breezed in there, took one confident look round the room, walked over to a table spread with blank paper and paints and various toddlers and said, ‘Hi, my name’s Ella, what’s everyone painting today?’ I had obviously expected her to react as I would have done in that situation; be painfully shy! I gulped a kind of proud, relieved, incredulous kind of gulp and slunk over to the tea and coffee table hoping no-one would speak to me. I tell you, her way is so much better than my way, but you’ve either got it or you haven’t.

A while ago we were chatting about end of term gifts for the twenty five kids she’s really bonded with over the last year. Her apprenticeship salary is peanuts and you can only buy plastic junk for peanuts so I suggested a bulk buy of pots, soil and a packet of sunflower seeds. She has personalised all the pots with special pens and started them off at home. They are actually growing a little bit too fast given that there’s a couple of weeks to go until the end of term. E decided to grow a few spares just in case she didn’t take… fifty spares because there were 75 seeds in the packet! The only place we could support sunflowers is the front of the house so it looks likely that we will have a substantial display of sunflowers out there in about a month’s time. Should be fun!

So, crochet news. The project that caught my eye on Instagram was the Campfire Cardigan by the Make and Do Crew. There’s a nifty little speeded up video of it being made. I think medium to heavy weight worsted is equivalent to our Aran so I raided my supplies and came up with a basket of random stuff that wouldn’t really be good for anything much. If it works out nicely I can order some specific yarn in more desirable colours. It uses an 8mm hook which is quite loose for Aran so I think I could also use a lightweight chunky yarn and get away with it. The sizing is easy to adjust. It all hinges on making the arms, back and front in one go to start with and then lengthening the cardigan and the sleeves and adding a hood. I’m almost at the stage where I can hook the two sleeve/body sections together and try it on for size.

I’d have enjoyed my afternoon with a spot of crochet so much more if I’d had a more comfortable 8mm hook! I didn’t realise how awful this one was. I’m visiting a bigger city tomorrow and I’m definitely heading for the John Lewis in order to rectify this oversight! It looks the part but it’s nothing like my Clover Amours! I’ve tried my bamboo 8mm, my old aluminium 8mm and concluded that this silicone handled one is the best of a bad bunch for now.

It’s a beautiful sunny evening. Riley is absolutely loving the ginormous beanbag I put down between the patio doors, threw a blanket on and intended to spend an hour on just reading. We shared it for half an hour but it was rather somniferous and not a lot of reading took place. I’ve left him to it now but not before seeing if Harvey wanted to try it out. He wasn’t keen once he stepped on it and the beans moved. He prefers to move in time with the patch of sun that crawls from one side of the sunlounge to the other as the evening wears on, just like our previous dog Jake used to do, with Mollie the cat companionably close by.

Solitude

The dogs are in a state of confusion at the moment. Well I’m sure that Riley is. We’ve managed to squeeze another week away at our caravan pitch in the woods but it’s been a bit tense with H and R. They’ve never really fought with one another and although Harvey probably wondered what had hit him when the little bundle of hyperactive fur that is Riley came to live with us he has always been passive and accepting. It was a nice part of his character. Unfortunately he seems to be suffering in some way and the painkillers that were doing wonders are now making him sick. I think I know enough about dogs to know that when they are ill or injured they don’t really want you or any other dog too close. The only time I’ve ever been bitten by a dog was when I was trying to free it’s paw from between two pieces of metal. I understood why she must have thought I was hurting her and why she clamped her teeth into my hand. In fact I was so concerned about the paw the hand only hurt much later.

So Harvey is in some discomfort and every time he gets in or out of my boot or has to clamber up the caravan steps he growls like a grumpy old man. Riley thinks that Harvey is looking for a fight and starts growling back. It all gets quite snarly and alarming and sometimes we’ve had to pull over and remove Riley from the boot and put him on the back seat. Most dogs would think this was a special treat but they’ve never travelled on the back seat and he just hangs his head and looks sheepish and thinks he’s being punished.

Fortunately it’s only the boot and the steps that causes the upset. I think we can solve the boot situation by buying or making some kind of divider. Ironically when we travelled home today in two different cars, each with a dog in the boot, and stopped half way at the services Riley just wanted to get into Harvey’s boot. We will be taking Harvey back to the vet as soon as possible to see if we can try anything else. He’s been doing pretty well running around as normal, swimming most mornings in the nearby lake and they absolutely love the patch of woodland that we are next to. You can just about see our caravan, awning and my car in the photo I took coming back from our woodland walk one morning. Riley can’t wait for the blinds to go up every morning since he saw a cheeky squirrel peer into the caravan at eye level from a tree. He sits and studies the trees waiting patiently for another sighting. He may have a long wait, you can just imagine the squirrels chatting amongst themselves, ‘No Cyril, give this one a miss I saw two large hairy four legged beasts in there.’

One of the best features of the caravan is the bug mesh. In my opinion the window treatments are a total overkill. There are curtains, horrible beige things but they kind of go, then there are the blinds and finally the bug screens. I have the windows open and the bug screens down all the time. At this site it’s not so much the bugs I worry about as the squirrels!

I had quite a bit of this week to myself since M had a week long court case in London. He is used to high speed trains from home but the nearest station used older and slower trains so it did take him a bit longer than usual but instead of being grumpy about that he managed to be reasonable for a change. I do believe the simple living had a calming effect! There are two of us in this family who like solitude and two who like to be with people all the time. J and I are in the former category and E and M are in the latter, consequently M must have asked me a dozen times whether I was lonely or bored. Quite the opposite, on one morning I posted a video of the dogs swimming in the lake on Instagram. The next time I looked it said that it had been posted seven hours ago and I thought to myself, seven whole hours to myself! Fantastic!

More than anything I like the space to think without feeling pressured. It’s hard to please everyone all of the time. Meal times is one example. M likes to cook and therefore likes to do the food shopping. This should be ideal for me because I don’t like either but it isn’t because I don’t always like what he chooses to cook. With M safely out of the way in London I’ve been given free rein in the M&S food hall down the road and I’ve chosen much simpler meals. M hasn’t made any fuss about this at all. He even remarked that rump steak with potato wedges was a superb choice and yet we so rarely have that at home. He’s also stopped complaining that M&S is expensive since I bought the two steaks, wedges, dessert and a bottle of wine for £10. The bottle of wine was usually £7.50 but came free with the dine for two for £10 deal. He likes a bargain and I like M&S food so it’s a win win!

I think I mentioned the struggle I was having with the Petunia top. I did some sums and changed yarn and redesigned the shoulders and ripped back a few rows here and there, changed the shells and eventually produced a simple lacy summer top to fit a three year old. Then causally one evening whilst showing M the finished item he asked me how old our niece will be this month and I said, oops, she’ll be two! I now need to google the approximate sizes for a two year old and quite possibly start another top! Third time lucky! I’m not too worried, I enjoyed making this pink version from yarn supplies I had in the caravan but now that I’m home I can have a dig around for something a bit more adventurous. There are a couple of little tweaks I might do too. I added little splits at the side but these could be deeper next time. I also worried a lot about the neck circumference. I measured it after completion and found it was spot on for the age thank goodness but next time I think I’d make it a little more like a boat neck which would mean rethinking the whole shoulder design again.

I do wish I had a series of little cardboard torsos sometimes. That sounds kind of weird doesn’t it? It would be so much easier to tweak a design with a 3 dimensional torso to try it on. Little E’s Ermeline cardigan was a complete guessing game for size and it was sheer luck that it was a good fit. I guess I will have to settle for good old fashioned chest measurements!

So, for now it’s back to organised chaos. Cleaning the bath out after E has used a glittery bath bomb (she always says, oh yes, I was going to do that!) Thanking J for finishing the deck jetwashing but spending some time clearing up the muddy mess he left behind. Wondering why teenagers think it’s ok to leave black unidentifiable gunk in the kitchen sink despite warning them that we’d be home in two hours. On the plus side there were no piles of washed but forgotten about washing for me to re-wash and the rest of the kitchen didn’t look like something had exploded in there. I did hastily re arrange the fridge before M saw it though. Instead of the four pints of milk that usually reside in the door there was a bottle of Pinot Grigio and several bottles of Peroni. M would have taken that as a sure sign that wild parties had been held or that our children were raving alcoholics!

Photographs

A day late but I’m hoping my wifi connection lasts long enough to link up with Hawthorn Spellweaver’s Photo Scavenger Hunt!

1. The setting sun. Harvey and Riley are somewhere in the foreground of this photo I took on an evening walk in the field behind the caravan site; totally oblivious to the beauty but not to the wildlife smells.

2. Local wild place. This private lake in a hidden location in a village I used to live in really does feel like a local wild place. Home to all kinds of wildlife, I’d love to set up a night camera here.

3. Mug of your favourite drink in the garden. Well not quite the garden but as close as I can get at the moment. It’s a tin mug of Rooibos which I’m very glad I discovered when I wasn’t well and felt I should cut down on the caffeine. The first cup tasted awful but I stuck with it and now I prefer it to normal tea.

4. My kind of beautiful. Always coastlines.

5. Look to the skies. One of the small pleasures of caravanning in a woodland setting is being able to open the skylight windows and see this view. Weather permitting of course!

6. Mini beasts. Beautiful close up but I really don’t like them in the house. Or anything that flutters really.

7. Rain. Something you get used to when you live in the UK. I never mind rain as long as I’m cosy indoors (with crochet).

8. Something summery. Sussex strawberries on Bexhill beach during that recent heatwave.

9. Urban wilderness. I always think of this phrase when we are driving somewhere at the crack of dawn and there’s little traffic on the roads and somehow you notice the infrastructure so much more and particularly how ugly it all is. That’s more than likely what I was thinking when I took this photo on the way to some random city earlier in the year.

10. My own choice. The same beach as no. 8 but definitely somewhere I’d choose to be a lot more often if I still lived along this piece of coast. I’m really hoping for a family holiday there before University begins for E and A Levels begin for J.
http://livelovecraftme.blogspot.co.uk/2017/06/junes-scavenger-hunt-link-up-party.html

Awol

I had so much to say in a blog post when access to wifi wasn’t possible. M has a one day break from his London court case and it’s raining cats and dogs so we are catching up with news and film downloads in good old Costa. Of course now it’s so noisy and busy I can’t recall what I wanted to write.

I haven’t tired of waking up amongst the pine trees. M leaves at first light and the dogs and I snooze for a bit longer. I take them into the woodland or the meadow depending on the weather, towel them down and then set about making breakfast. Riley has taken to sitting in the corner closest to the large window at the side of the caravan which happens to be next to a cluster of three pine trees. Yesterday I discovered why he liked that spot. He stood and wagged his tail at the trees and when I looked there was a cheeky squirrel at eye level looking straight at us with a beech nut in his mouth. We’ve seen several squirrels having a little argument outside, no doubt over food or females. A regular tatty pheasant goes by most mornings and there are lots of robins which always seems a bit incongruous since I think of them as garden birds rather than woodland ones.

I’ve taken the odd drive out for M&S coffee and a walk round the lake. On these colder days Riley has resisted the temptation but Harvey has not and comes home shivering. I’ve donated an old jacket to the dog shivering cause. M worries that I will be bored but that’s far from the case. I’m savouring every moment of peace and quiet I can get.

It’s been a good week for focusing on some more challenging crochet. I am making a summer top for E using squares designed for a bag in a big old vintage book. It’s slow but enjoyable. I’m not following a set pattern so there’s that element of ‘will all this be a complete waste of time?’ If all else fails I can turn it into a bag I guess!

I’ve also been trying to make the Petunia Top from the latest issue of Inside Crochet. It’s been rather frustrating as the pattern starts off with the incorrect number of chains for the small size and goes downhill from there. I suspect this size was never tested but don’t feel cocky enough to submit corrections. I persevered until the stage you see above and then threw in the towel. It’s not been a complete waste of time because it led to the decision to start again but this time make it according to what makes better sense to me. The shaping of the sleeves isn’t difficult but I’m dispensing with that and may add some subtle shaping with the edging (or not). I’ve also made completely different shoulder panels with a definite back and front edge. Finally I chose to reduce the fullness of each ‘shell’ to make a finer shell pattern because I’m making it for a toddler and also because it seemed to sit better with fewer trebles in each space.

I made a personal rule to only take two crochet projects to each stay in the caravan but somehow that craftily grew in number this time. I packed my tranquil shawl and E’s summer top this time. A free amigurumi kit doesn’t really count as another project does it? Then there was the flower garland kit that I found in the cupboard from last summer and finished off. Finally the Petunia Top happened simply because I had some spare cotton hanging around and even when I switched to basic dk wool that was also from supplies already in the caravan. These projects spread like crazy with a mind of their own, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!

Sussex

My trusty vintage suitcase has barely been left unpacked lately. I tagged along on a business trip to one of the courts in the South this week. I’m pretty sure M wouldn’t normally travel a few hundred miles for work if it wasn’t the place I come from. The journey down was hot and stressful due to delays and a need to be there at a certain time. We’d left two and a half hours contingency and still only made it with twelve minutes to spare. Needless to say M did not worry in silence.

I spent a few hours in Lewes browsing junk/antique and charity shops with several breaks for cold drinks or coffee. It was over thirty degrees and not even a whiff of a breeze. A fair trade shop owner was offering cold water which was a very thoughtful touch. There were dog bowls outside a lot of places too. H and R were no doubt laying sprawled out on our hall tiles at the time.

On our way to stay with my Uncle and Aunt we stopped over at Eastbourne because M said he wanted to experience a traditional promenade stroll. I totally took these for granted when I was younger. The well kept flower beds and the architecture didn’t really occupy my thoughts at all back then. Now of course I look at the four storey Victorian buildings and realise they are the essence of this stretch of coast.

We did a slow walk to the end of the pier and back too. The water looked impressively blue and inviting. Seafood seemed like the thing to have here so we found a local restaurant and had a bite to eat, sitting outside at 8pm at night in a T shirt! Go Britain! On our drive along to Bexhill I had the strong sense of going back in time (we lived a bit further along the coast). Sometimes I feel sad I don’t live here anymore and sometimes I’m just happy to be visiting. It’s when I come back to Lincolnshire that I feel absolutely no joy or connection whatsoever.

It was nice to spend some time with family but also great to carve out a bit of time to be child, dog and husband free for half a day. This is becoming very rare now! I picked up a secondhand paperback, sandwich, strawberries and a much needed straw hat from one of the cheap beach shops and headed to the beach. Had I known it was going to be so ridiculously hot I think I would have packed a towel and costume too. I was rather envious of those who were cooling off in the sea. A seagull took a little bit too much interest in my strawberries. He kept sidling closer and closer and I’m not a fan of anything with a beak since an incident with a black swan when I was small. I told him, in a soft voice, no I don’t think I really want to share these (lest anyone should hear me talking to a bird and think I was slightly odd). He just shuffled over a bit closer and looked out to sea as if just casually keeping me company. Against my better judgement I did eventually give him my last strawberry, he tossed it a few times and then gulp, it was gone and so was he. Thank goodness. Off to find some tasty chips no doubt.

From the beach it is walking distance to see my Grandad. He was doing a good job of keeping his place as cool as possible by letting the breeze in through the door, keeping the sunny side curtains closed and using a small fan. It was a welcome respite from the heat. His patio thermometer read 50 degrees! A sun trap he couldn’t possibly sit out in this week at least.

Strangely we hardly ever walk down to our village pub for a drink because M would be forever chatting to people I don’t really know. It was enjoyable to walk to and from a pub one evening, sit in the beer garden and have an ice cold gin and tonic. We also had an Italian meal at Sovereign Harbour one evening too which felt very civilised. Later M conceded that maybe the South wasn’t so bad after all. I think it’s gradually winning him over.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about ‘dreams’, as in those which seem impossible to achieve. I’ve come to realise that I need to define what my dream actually is rather than having a random selection. Location will no doubt have a part to play and it is possible that compromise will too.

For now though, home is this flat county and I must make the most of things. I’m not sure how we will make progress with the teardrop trailer that would allow me to tow it to the Lincolnshire coast since we have sited our caravan somewhere for twelve weeks. Still, all good things come to those who wait and I am prepared to wait. The caravan might not be a rustic wooden cabin in the forest but it’s not a bad substitute. We really didn’t use it enough to justify having it last year so this year we will be making up for that. The dogs are already getting used to the idea. They seem to settle down quickly for the journey and know exactly where the meadow is when we get there, not to mention Riley has a favourite half of the seating area and Harvey likes to be where he can see anyone walking by, just like home!

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 £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

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!

Frangible

I know, I know, what happened to the wip clean up? It morphed into a stash clean up! Almost as good, yes? I spotted the shawl on the front cover of Inside Crochet recently and remembered this laceweight malabrigo yarn I had. I’m not sure what possessed me to buy laceweight yarn, I don’t find fine yarn easy to work with but it always comes in such tempting and colourful skeins, and these were also half price.

Winding had to be a very careful procedure. This yarn is fragile but beautifully soft. The pattern calls for a 4mm hook rather than a toothpick sized hook thank goodness and it’s not as fiddly as I expected. However, there are two things I’m not totally in love with so far and I’m not sure whether to carry on regardless or try and frog it. The first is the fact that this shawl shape seems to be going into a very deep arrow kind of shape rather than a wingspan kind of thing. The second is the colour seems more dull worked up than in the ball. Frogging is probably out of the question given the nature of the yarn so it looks as though I will have to keep on going and have a little more faith in the outcome.

This is definitely one project that I will have to keep well away from a certain four legged friend who likes to be as close to my side as he possibly can. In fact I often have to grab project and yarn and raise them in the air when he hops up and lands next to me. If I’m not quick enough we have a minor tangle to sort out, which is all very well with tough aran but wouldn’t be a pretty sight with fragile laceweight.

We had a lovely meal out tonight at the fairly new to town branch of Wildwood. It was a Mother’s Day meal a day late because M had to attend a police job yesterday evening after dashing home from J’s football match. I’ve learnt never to get too attached to any plans we make which is usually fine, I’m good at spontaneous. Sometimes we end up with cancelled plans and sometimes we get an unexpected short break somewhere nice (like the job in Wales recently).

It’s becoming increasingly tricky to coordinate all four of us for a meal out so it was especially nice to get together and reminisce about funny things that have happened over the years. The subject of my not so finest mothering moments came up including the time I was the only Mother to forget to supply their child with a straw hat for an Easter bonnet transformation, E seems to be over the trauma of it now but I will never forget her forlorn face when I picked her up with her stapled together paper hat alongside all the girls with straw bonnets. I reckon I’ve made up for that with all the crafts we’ve done together over the years, all the rag dolls we’ve made and wardrobes for them too. Not bad for a Mother who loathed dolls as a child herself.

Poor J though, he will never live down his early acting career. He loved dressing up when he was small, especially if it involved hats and so he was asked to play one of the frogs for a nursery performance of ‘three little speckled frogs’. He looked amazing in the costume with green face paint and smiled quite happily while the audience were finding seats. When the song started he was supposed to sing and then fall off the log at the right moment, we’d had a few sneak previews at home. Unfortunately this little speckled frog did not want to fall off the log in front of an audience of complete strangers. So the little speckled frog completely froze on his log while other frogs were falling off and refused to sing or move until the entire production (of nine other songs) was over. We refer to our walk out of there as ‘the walk of shame’. E and J literally cry with laughter when we recall this story.