Cape

This week has been E’s last week at home before moving to uni halls. It’s been a funny old week. Boxes have been piling up, last minute purchases made, bits and bobs retrieved from the back of the kitchen cupboards that might come in handy. Although I was happy enough to care for her Roborovski hamsters, Scout and Jem and a Russian hamster named Badger she has an animal loving friend who offered and we came to the conclusion they’d be enjoyed more by the friend. I love little furry creatures but not when they die. I’m still getting over Lorelie, the little white Roborovski hamster that was set free from its cage via a loose tube by Mollie the cat. That didn’t end well.

Today though seemed like a good day for one final outing with the dogs. As Riley was making himself at home on E’s bed last night, grabbing the duvet in his mouth and tugging it into a nest shape, I think she finally realised that he wasn’t going to be sleeping on her bed for the next three years at least. We took them to Whisby Nature Reserve which is not far from where we live and has a lovely lake and wooded walk. The sun even made a brief appearance but it definitely looked like Autumn with fallen leaves everywhere after the recent stormy weather. The dogs wasted no time finding the water’s edge and plunging in. They later settled on a generous pile of blankets and towels in the boot while we had a nice lunch overlooking the lake.

They are still a bit grumbly with each other in the boot but more so when the vehicle is moving. I recently discovered that they growl less when I sing on the way home from my usual walk which was a fact I wished I hadn’t shared wth M and E on the way back from Whisby. M insisted I start singing because he said he was getting stressed about them whilst driving. I was on my third Glen Campbell song when I stopped to ask if they’d settled down yet. M and E said they had stopped growling ten minutes ago but could they have Wichita Lineman now please!

Everyone seems to be slightly hyper and the banter is in full swing. J stood at E’s bedroom door and asked when he could move in. It’s a long running joke that her room will become a craft room, a guest room, or J’s room. The truth is that we aren’t allowed to touch it for three years but I’m still mulling that one over.

I can’t seem to concentrate on crochet this week. My mind is definitely elsewhere. I have added tassels to the Sunday blanket albeit using unravelled squares from a project I’ve abandoned. It’s given them a curly look which is ok with me. It’s been tested, one chilly evening in front of the tv and it’s very cosy. I’ve started another using up a large ball of Aran for the main body and whatever I have to hand in that yarn weight for the border rows. This one will be for my niece so there is pink involved but I’ve sworn I’ll never buy pink yarn again after this project. I really dislike pink that much I don’t enjoy crocheting with it.

Tweedy yarn however, I do enjoy using, so the Little Red Riding Hood outfit was a quick, fun make. It was extremely simple, even a complete beginner could make this though I find it’s never really clear when a pattern includes a rejoin instruction. On this occasion it really didn’t matter too much because both sides work as right sides. Ribbon would work equally well for a cape fastening. I need to crochet a red apple or two for the basket now and although I initially worried that children these days might not know about the story of LRRH, E assured me that her class of year two children did, so I figured she’s still relevant.

The cape pattern is from the book Crochet Dress Up by Emma Friedlander-Collins. I like the fact that these aren’t impractical lighter weight yarn projects that take forever to make. Most seem to require chunky yarn with occasional dk. Perhaps my favourite pattern is the fairy wings made with the help of two coat hangers. Definitely one to try in the future.

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Blankets

Mud has returned to my daily life with a bang. Riley’s chest front is usually a beautiful fluffy white colour. This is how it will look on most days from now on I’m sure. What the photo cannot convey is how strong the smell of fox poo was. He’s had two shampoos since and it’s still hanging around. Over the course of four miles I think he must have found every single one. It probably didn’t help that we took an accidental new route and skirted a field that technically wasn’t a public footpath. I try not to do this but I was otherwise preoccupied (woolgathering) and drifted down a mown path that eventually ran out in the corner of a field leaving no clue as to where to walk next. I stuck to the edge and rejoined the footpath further on. No sign of any farmers thank goodness.

If Harvey was a fox poo roller too I think I would have to take them to the local playing field or round the village on leads which would be no fun at all. My poor car is permanently tainted with this horrible stench. They’ve also been brushing up against the edges of this latest crop which is everywhere on our walk and makes the fields look very black indeed. I wasn’t sure what it was but I know a man who knows about these things so I asked my Grandad of course! He says it is a bean which they grind up and use for cattle feed. I must admit the crops round here are all a bit unexciting. When I lived in Banbury for a while I used to take my Springer, Algie, through lovely fields of ripe corn on the cob. Even on a mild day I’d wear my big old coat with four large pockets, two on the inside, out of sight and perfect for bringing home a few. Occasionally there were peas, but these are so tasty raw and fresh from the pods that not many actually made it home.

We’ve had more rain than dry spells over the last few days so my thoughts have turned to blankets. I’ve been doing a few rows of the blanket shown in my header here and there. It’s all kept in a basket and to hand so although it’s repetitive and unchallenging I am hopeful it will be a full size blanket one day soon!

Since I completed the last Sunday shawl I’ve been meaning to try and turn the pattern into a blanket or throw. I thought I’d seen this idea on Instagram but it turns out that was a poncho which must have given me the idea to adapt the pattern for other things. There is something very enjoyable about this particular pattern. The main body in one colour isn’t too dull and it keeps you motivated knowing that there’s some interesting border work to look forward to. I know it’s only crochet, yes I know.

In just two evenings I’ve crocheted the main body of the blanket/throw in a mid grey aran weight yarn with an 8mm hook. I’m holding a bit back from the 400g ball for some of the border rows. The challenge will be making sure I don’t add in any extra stitches by mistake because it’ll start to ruffle if I do. Ruffling annoys me greatly.

I have other blanket news too but that’ll be a separate post. For now, I’m going to brew a large mug of Rooibos and make a start on the border rows of what will have to be called my Sunday blanket. It’s the bit I’ve been looking forward to and dreading in equal measures. Could all go pear shaped quite easily. Riley seems to know when I’m making a blanket because he keeps trying to shuffle just a bit further on to it. There’s no such thing as too close as far as he’s concerned.

Balance

I really hope September goes nice and slowly. Just look at these blue skies, the late summer sun, refreshing lake. I don’t want to be trading this in for wind, rain and cold just yet. Harvey and Riley look so happy don’t they? Harvey is forgetting his pain and just enjoying the moment. I’m trying to do the same with my sore back. We walked an extra long route this morning while M was umpiring a few villages away. E was packing a few boxes for uni. J was doing last minute A Level reading which was puzzling as I could have sworn he said he didn’t have any prep or work to do for A Levels back in June after he’d finished his exams.

J did really well with his GCSEs. I’m not sure if he was serious or not but he did say his aim was to beat his big sis with the number of A’s. I think he got the same but she just pipped him with the number of A*. It was O Levels in my day so just when I’ve got used to the A and A* business they’ve now introduced numbers for heavens sake! J will be back at school soon and E will be moving into halls round about the third week of September. M is quite miserable about it, whereas I’ve probably gone through all the emotions and feel prepared myself and just happy that she’s going to do something she loves. I can’t say I totally loved every minute of my Graphic Design career but it did have its moments.

These days I’m happier without that level of stress. I worked mostly in advertising and the responsibility of making sure that the huge amounts clients spent on it produced favourable and accountable results weighed on my shoulders. Lighter work included working with a few famous musicians whose manager worked in offices not far from ours. It helped that I was young and not particularly aware of who they were when they came to me for CD cover artwork and publicity material.

I sometimes feel very old and I haven’t reached the big five o yet. It’s probably because everyone around me keeps harping on about that time of life and am I getting symptoms yet? Jeez, bugger off, I’m fine! Then I think, heck, does that mean I’m moody? I’m much more concerned with other things going wrong like tearing the cartilage in my knee last year. It’s taken a long time to get it back to normal and just when I’ve been able to walk miles again my back starts playing up. I’m sticking with walking as my cure all though, it really is uplifting to be out there just breathing in good country air.

I’ve missed being able to reach the big lake comfortably with my dodgy knee but trekking round Madrid made me realise that it was time to have another go and sure enough we did the whole big loop without a single twinge. It was rather disappointing to discover that the lake has been taken over by a plant or weed that makes swimming a bit dangerous. Harvey took a dip and realised that things weren’t favourable but Riley carried on swimming regardless and then had a bit of trouble on the way back to me. Needless to say we won’t be walking that way unless it dies off over the winter months. There are plenty of safer streams to swim in on a slightly different route, although some of them only consist of black sludge at the moment as you can see from the colour of Riley’s legs in the photo!

Life is a good balance when you enjoy the big outdoors in reasonable weather and something like crochet for instance ๐Ÿ˜‰ when it’s bucketing down. I wound those messy cotton hanks from Spain one rainy afternoon recently. With both winders spinning at the same time one of E’s friends was so curious she asked politely what I was actually doing. I suppose to the average person this would have looked quite confusing! Just wait until I have lots of dye bubbling on the hob!

Another rainy day provided the chance to finish the shawl that I started on the way to Madrid. I know I was going to take the slightly variegated deep yellow one with me but somehow that just started growing quickly in those last few days before we actually left and I wanted to make sure I had plenty of crochet to last a whole week. There was a muddle with my yarn order for the pullover that I had planned to take and somehow the express delivery got overridden by the free postage offer and so the order took over five days to process. I rummaged through my dk shelf and found the variegated purple/green/goodness knows what else coloured yarn right at the back, wound into cakes already. Then I just chose seven random balls of leftover yarn all under 50gms. I shoved it all in a fabric drawstring washbag so that it was extra squishy for packing. Although I have the pattern on my iPad I also printed it out and tucked that in with the yarn. That proved quite handy when we ended up spending most days at one of the public pools.

Every time I make one of these I wish I’d done the shell row with right side the other way up. It’s easy enough to do by cutting the yarn at the row end and starting at the other edge. In the grand scheme of things though it doesn’t really matter that much. The edging doesn’t use much yarn so I still have plenty of the lovely malabrigo purple left. It’s so nice to work with it nearly got chosen for every other border row!

I’ve now gone back to my yellow version of this shawl. It’s a nice easy relaxing make. I going to make the body of this one slightly bigger. I’ve also got to work out how to do the border with just two colours including the main body colour. I might even leave some of the border rows out, especially if I decide to just alternate the colours. I’m doing more of the make it up as you go along kind of thing these days.

I also saw a great idea on the Instagram hashtag for this shawl that I tried to find a second time and couldn’t, but in a nutshell someone had cleverly used the pattern and made a square instead of a triangle. I really fancy having a go at this using my supplies of Aran weight yarn to produce a good size lap blanket. I’m sure M will be very pleased about this plan because our heating bill last winter was quite a bit more than usual!
The Sunday Shawl pattern is by TheLittleBeeNZ and is available on etsy.

August

It’s a rainy day in August and I’m home with reliable wifi, unlike July’s photo scavenger hunt when I somehow managed to publish the draft with montage only. I’ve added the words since but it was annoying at the time! Thank you Hawthorn (http://livelovecraftme.blogspot.co.uk/) for hosting this fun monthly photo challenge.

1. Relaxed. It’s quite possible that crochet is the only thing that makes me feel relaxed. It’s the most unexpected of hobbies that came about as the natural progression from knitting which I was having trouble with due to rubbish wrists. I took up knitting after browsing the haberdashery department in John Lewis one day looking for creative inspiration. The range of denim yarns they had at the time with chunky needles was too tempting to resist. Later a cricket mum showed me how to do a crochet granny square whilst we were sitting on the boundary and it’s been crochet ever since.

2. Something beginning with M. Well, there is a significant M in my life, I’m married to him. We don’t take a lot of selfies but I do occasionally take his photo. I have to tell him to stop pointing at the scenery first. Weird habit. So, M for mushrooms. They are mostly fungi really. We discovered a guide to fungi lurking on the caravan book shelves and it’s been fun identifying all the different types that grow in this patch of woodland where we have kept the caravan all summer.

3. Time for… Apple and blackberry crumble. Ironically this year, although we have an abundance of both vital ingredients in our back garden we actually collected these from around the caravan site and bought the apples from M&S. Scandalous! Home is an hour and a half away and we forgot to bring the apples with us. The smell of it baking in our little oven must have wafted out of the windows and all round the site, it certainly provoked a few comments.

4. Tangerine. Yarn. Well, what else? I do love tangerines to eat but I don’t like it as a colour in the home. M on the other hand is drawn to all citrus flavours, smells and colours. He’d have an orange car if I didn’t threaten never to get in it! So when we went into El Gato Negro, the yarn store in central Madrid, he naturally pointed out the orange or tangerine coloured yarns available. Um, no, I’m not planning on crocheting any play fruit at the moment.

5. Something beginning with O. OK I’m flat out cheating on this one, because it’s an opportunity to share my fascination with ChurrO’s. They weren’t new to us for our recent holiday but they were fairly new to us last October when we visited Barcelona. We were fortunate enough to be able to roll out of bed, get dressed and tumble into a bakery/coffee bar a few yards from our apartment. J did this with absolute style ending with a double portion of churro’s and a coffee cup full of melted chocolate. All week I watched him tuck into this for breakfast thinking he was bonkers and despite loving all things chocolate I just couldn’t do it for breakfast. Neither could some of the other nationalities that frequented that cafe for coffee and croissants. In Madrid, however, everyone has them, young, old, rows of outdoor tables with chocolate, chocolate, chocolate and churro’s.

6. Whiskery. This makes me think of cats more than dogs, or old men with beards. I wasn’t a cat person at all when the kids persuaded me to adopt a cat but Mollie was an absolute character and definitely won my heart. Now and then, with cats, you find a big old whisker that’s fallen out and I’ve always wondered if they ever grow a new one back?

7. Lace. Mum swears I was only about two or so when I expressed my opinions about all things lacey, pink or girly. I’ve hated lace all my life. I think that’s why I was miserable in all the photos of my Uncle’s wedding because I had to wear a lace trimmed bonnet and a dress (Shudder). Well it was the seventies. I don’t usually go for crochet with holes in much because it does remind me of lace but this piece became a crochet top and about as lacey as it gets round here!

8. Bridge. I’m always drawn to lovely old bridges, especially the stone type with little features that tell you how old it might be. There have been so many significant bridges in my life I could write for hours and not cover them and that’s something I’ve only just realised today. I wish I had a photo of the kids when they were small and we took them to the real Pooh Bridge in Sussex and played Pooh Sticks. Harvey was a young dog back then and we also had our big black Labrador cross, Jake. We had to hold them back of course otherwise they’d have been straight in the water and retrieving the sticks before they’d travelled under the bridge! I’ve been over several famous bridges in America, I’ve been over the Humber Bridge more times than I care to remember, I’ve been under every bridge on the River Medway and as far along the Thames as Abingdon where the river becomes to shallow for big boats. I’ve stood on the famous Rialto Bridge in Venice. I’m sure there are hundreds more. What a thought provoking category! The photo was taken in Matlock, Derbyshire.

9. Letters. I used to be a great letter writer, it’s how I kept in touch with my grandparents before the age of iPads and FaceTime. Now I rarely write a letter unless it’s a sick note for J for school. He rarely has days off due to illness but this year was an exception when he managed to get a really nasty pneumococcal chest infection that went on for months. Thankfully he’s fully recovered and back to his slightly annoying sixteen year old self. So, letters carved into this big old tree at the hidden lake where my parents live. I walked my dogs there twenty odd years ago so I know that some of these letters have been there that long!

10. Own choice. Riley guarding his patch, or maybe just wondering whether the little Eriba Puck owners across the way have a dog he can play with! They didn’t and we wouldn’t have let him play anyway, we are mean like that. We take them for long walks and swims instead, and try and wear them out. I’ve chosen this photo because on our last visit to the caravan over the bank holiday M and I both agreed that pitching the caravan for twelve weeks in one place was one of the best decisions we’ve made this year. It’s been a great bolt hole to allow us some relaxation time and space from the teenage stuff. The dogs have enjoyed all the new places to explore too. The site is changing owners unfortunately but the deal will remain the same so we will probably do the same next year. In the meantime, where shall we tow it next? There’s still time for autumnal camping.

Recovery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Montage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seclusiveย 

I guess it must be human nature, at least some of the time, to want what you can’t have. When things are chaotic and I don’t feel I have physical or mental space I crave being alone. When I achieve that my old fear of leaving the house comes back to haunt me. I must have spent about eight years struggling to leave the house alone but gladly going out when I was with someone. I’ve always said this doesn’t count as agoraphobia but it’s something close. It came about just after I met M and allowed him to do some of the things that I had always done for myself but decided would be easier for him to take over. So things like transactions in Post Office, petrol stations etc. The more he did the less stress I felt I had in my life until it actually became very stressful on the odd occasion that I did have to do those things again.

My recent journey to the caravan involved a fuel purchase. I also grabbed a bag of dog mixer and some milk. The first question I missed because I was retrieving a bag from my rain coat pocket was, ‘would you like a bag?’. The second one I missed was, ‘do you have a club card?’ I missed this because I was looking down into my purse for the payment card. The third question I missed was whether I had any fuel to pay for in addition to the dog biscuits and milk. Not once in any of this did the woman think, ah, this woman can’t hear unless she’s looking at me, and who can really blame her? It’s inside knowledge right? She did start every repeated question with, ‘I said…’ but at least she didn’t huff and puff and roll her eyeballs skyward like quite a few people I encounter.

My several days alone in the caravan with Riley for company and ears did necessitate a few more interactions like this one but it’s hardly an excuse to stay indoors and avoid people. I do sometimes feel like starting a campaign for fewer questions at check outs though!

When I met M he already owned a four year old black Labrador/Setter cross. He was totally adorable, a big softie. He did, however, have a ferocious sounding bark and his hackles use to rise from his neck all the way down his back if there was something he felt was threatening. Riley doesn’t have the hackles thing but I can tell from his expression what kind of warning he’s giving me when he barks. He did a slightly more ferocious sounding growl and bark very late one evening which unsettled me a bit but he stopped so it can’t have been anything too close. He seemed a bit confused when he realised it was just going to be the two of us and stayed even closer than usual, including waiting outside the bathroom door!

Riley and I were able, in amongst torrential downpours, to go on some nice long, faster paced walks, some involving a quick swim for him too. It’s really not unusual to trudge around in walking boots and a backpack in the Peak District because it’s walking country but I did feel a bit of a fraud when the ‘survival’ items in my backpack were strawberries, a bonio and a tartan blanket!

It’s surprising how fast a day to yourself goes when you factor in a short morning walk (for dog reasons!), gathering picnic supplies (strawberries), hiking, stopping for take out coffee (be silly not to) more hiking, dog swimming (essential) and home for crochet time, dog snoozing and cooking something simple for dinner like soup with part bake rolls. The fresh air exhausted us both and I was too tired to read on two nights out of the three.

I secretly enjoyed rebelling against M’s silly rule about the caravan shower. He seems to think it’s too much bother filling up the water tank for this when there are perfectly good facilities. My feeling is that you only fill the tank once in a while and it’s well worth it compared to having to walk some considerable distance in torrential rain to the ‘facilities’. Not only that but there’s something extremely cosy about having a steaming hot shower in a caravan that’s being pounded by noisy heavy rain. Riley approved too because he was able to lie down outside the bathroom door and wait, whereas he’d have been a bit anxious if I’d left him with all that rain noise. M thinks he’s a wimp but he was left for long periods of time on his own in his former life and he’s never really got over it.

Chaos soon returned with the arrival of M and Harvey, but I had missed Harvey ๐Ÿ˜‰ and we did have a lovely day out in Bakewell on Sunday. The rain even held off until we were heading back. The dogs enjoyed a big long swimming session in a shallow part of the river away from all the ducks and people having picnics. We are obviously used to seeing them belly flop into the water and shove their heads under water looking for the stick we’ve thrown but after a while we realised that there was quite a crowd watching them from the bridge. I was a little embarrassed when we called Harvey out and he pretended not to hear. M said there was a lot of laughter at this point.

I don’t know what made me grab the t shirt yarn and take it with me but I did feel a bit guilty about having had it since our road trip round Italy. I could have made all sorts of things with it but in the end decided on a simple circular rug because we needed one! I say ‘we’ but it was J really. When he goes to brush his teeth or shave he always throws the bath mat down in front of the sink. Fair enough right? It’s the fact that he leaves it there instead of putting it back on the side of the bath that slightly annoys me. Call me odd but I kind of wanted the bath mat to be used for wet feet after a bath or shower, not a ‘let’s walk all over this mat all day long’ kind of mat. It’s hard to explain these things to a teenager, so instead I told J that I was going to crochet something especially for him. I think he was quite worried at first but was reassured after seeing some in progress pics. He loves the finished mat. In fact I can confidently call it the ‘let’s walk all over this mat all day long’ mat because I can just throw it in the washing machine as necessary.

Other crochet hasn’t been 100% successful. That little sleeveless cardigan from my last post got finished but I realised once I was down to the body width that it was probably more suited to a five year old than a two year old. The pattern called for four ply with a 3.5mm hook. I used dk with a 4mm hook but made a whole size less than required. You’d think that would be a reasonable adjustment wouldn’t you? I was using the ‘actual’ chest measurements as a guide too. It’ll be stored away for future use, I’ll take a photo of it sometime anyway, the mother of pearl buttons looked just right against the yarn.

Not deterred I started another cardigan using the same pattern but this time went down yet another size. I used a slightly less thick dk yarn. The final chest measurement still came out far too generous so that one will also have to be wrapped up and saved for at least a year. You can guess what my third attempt will be! Yep, four ply yarn! I’m only left with trying to make the 6-9 month size in dk to try and get a cardigan to fit a two year old and that just doesn’t sound feasible so I’m going to use the yarn and hook size suggested and do a tension swatch as well!

Simple

Two blog posts in as many days! I’m heading to the woods so the wifi will be sketchy unless I head into town which I’m going to try and avoid. I sometimes get a strong desire for proper coffee and that’s about all that will entice me out, now that we’ve bought a new coffee machine for home I will be taking the old one with me. Happy days. The moka coffee pot is buried in amongst supplies and equipment for the teardrop trailer. I’ve given M a new deadline, it was originally April but I’ve dropped subtle hints that October might be a good month to go exploring!

M and I got up bright and early and headed to the passport office in Peterborough today. The appointment itself was a little intimidating but it was an extremely efficient process. We didn’t want to risk a postal service so we had to wait four hours for it to be done on the same day. M hadn’t really expected that so he wasn’t overly cheerful about killing that much time in Peterborough. However, he was happy to sit on the benches by the water fountain feature and watch the world go by for some of it. We really like those street level water jets that are programmed to squirt a little bit more than the last squirt and so on. Kids obviously love them and so do the pigeons.

I popped to John Lewis whilst M was happily watching the pigeons. Well it would have been silly not to! Despite the tempting yarn sales I only ended up buying buttons and a Toft crochet kit. I have to admit that I wouldn’t really be happy paying ยฃ25 for a kit to make a crochet dog despite there being a hook, needle and stuffing supplied along with the yarn. It seems like a lot of money for a stuffed toy. So I was obviously a lot happier paying ยฃ10 for the kit from the selected sale items. There were other animals and birds too but dogs… it had to be.

I already own the book Edward’s Menagerie and if you’ve been with me since my blogspot blog days you’ll have seen the rabbit, bear, polar bear, fox and sheep I made. I fully intended to give them away but they make such a nice collection, one that will be even better with the addition of a dog!

After much discussion we are going to see how the dogs get on with being separated for a few days. My guess is that Harvey will love chilling out with the men. He really is a bit of a man’s man. Riley is a softie and follows me everywhere which is a little to do with his former life and being left on his own for long periods of time. So he will enjoy the one to one time. Whether they will be grumpy with each other on meeting back up again I’m not sure.

To give myself a break from all those repetitive double trebles I’ve started a small person garment! I’ve chosen the simplest construction I can find and I’m hoping that will mean I can do my own thing with it more easily. At the moment that only entails making a small flower to finish it off with but we’ll see. Nice buttons might be enough detail. Despite sizing it up to dk rather than 4 ply and using a hook half a size bigger the chest measurement doesn’t seem anywhere near where it needs to be which is puzzling me at the moment. I shall carry in regardless because it’s a cardigan with only three buttons at the top anyway so it’ll have plenty of room.

The dogs and I took a walk around our back field this evening. Lovely low golden sunlight and the dogs stuck mainly to the edges rather than bounce through the wheat. They’ve harvested the side field but not this one and I do love the smell of dry, ready to harvest wheat. My bare legs were scratched and stung all over but I never mind, some things are worth a few scratches! Happy dogs, the sun going down and a lovely walk just at the end of the garden. Oh and those teasels, cleverly designed bug hotels. I love them.

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 ยฃ10. The bottle of wine was usually ยฃ7.50 but came free with the dine for two for ยฃ10 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.
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