Sunday, 25 October 2015

Autumn Cleaning

Thank you so much for your comments and compliments on my poncho. So kind of you! I am really glad you like it and I was so looking forward to sharing it with you as I knew you'd all get just why I enjoyed making it so much. That's the beauty of the online community, the way you find kindred spirits or people who understand why it's such fun to make things.

Ah, half term. You're here. I spent yesterday in a haze of housework and cleaning which sounds dull but was actually just what I needed. John was at work, the kids were engrossed in various activities, and I just methodically worked through room after room. I sorted through piles of clutter, cleaned out the fridge, steam cleaned the floors. My parents took the kids to the park in the afternoon and I went to the shops. I returned to that magical thing, a house just as I had left it. Still, quiet and clean. No shoes in the middle of the hall floor or dirty plates in the sink. I sat down with a cup of tea and just inhaled that peaceful, tidy house. Of course twenty four hours later, it's a different story, but that moment was amazing. I totally savoured it. 

This morning was spent at home baking and pottering, readying our home for the arrival of guests. I dragged two reluctant children to the woods after lunch, determined to sneak in a quick trip to the woods. Oh autumn, I just love it! It's such a relief to stop waiting for the good weather, as I do all summer long, and just accept whatever comes our way. In autumn, all weathers are welcome. Rain means glorious squelchy woodland walks in boots with the damp smell of fungi and rotting leaves, while sun brings those delicious crisp breath-in-the-air days when the trees seem to glow. And while we were in the woods, I asked Bella to take some photos of me wearing my poncho. (I had to pay her £1.) She is, like me, more comfortable behind the camera than in front of it, and in among about one hundred blurred shots, I found these. 

And the next two shots crack me up. Angus is doing the annoying smile he does when he's been told to look at the camera but doesn't feel like cooperating.

And here I am trying to persuade him to give me a kiss.

Happy half term to you all. 

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

I Made A Poncho

I know, I'm supposed to be making blankets, but they all fell by the wayside as I became obsessed with making myself a poncho. I've essentially made myself a wearable blanket, I do realise that.

The pattern was originally published in Simply Crochet Magazine some time ago and I bought the pattern from Ravelry. I had seen the pattern here and there on blogs for some time and I don't know why I suddenly had to make it. The onset of autumn maybe?

While the main body on this pattern is granny treble clusters, the cowl neck was a bit of a challenge for me. It's made up of front and back post stitches which create the ribbed effect.

Lucy's post and some Youtube videos were very helpful and, as is so often the case, it's actually very easy once you get going. The effect it creates is wonderful to crochet, so structural and chunky. It's like the crocheters version of knit one, purl one. 

After the cowl neck is complete, the fun part starts. I bought the yarn (Drops Nepal) and colours the pattern suggested, mainly because I thought they were all beautiful and just the kind of things I would've chosen anyway, but I did tinker around with the suggested order.

After the block of colour work, the pattern calls for a few more rows of the ribbed stitch, followed by some tassels. 

I think the tassels are a bit love them or hate them. I wont say I hate them but they just weren't doing it for me, so I worked ten rows of treble clusters in the same colour as the neck instead, making  it long enough to reach my elbows.

It needed a border, but nothing too big. It's a loud and busy pattern with a lot of colour, so I thought the border needed to be neat and unfussy. A row of double crochet in navy blue pulls it all together really nicely.

After a quick block, it was ready to go. I love seeing it hanging here in our bedroom, all that colour against the white wall. 

All together, it took three weeks to make. I am thinking about making a monochrome version in pale grey, with black, white and shades of grey where the colour would be, and maybe just a little deep red thrown in to stop it being too cold. What do you think? What colours would you choose? My colleague has made one in different blues and it's quite stunning, and my mum would like a very neutral version in shades of brown and cream. I think that's the beauty of the pattern, it's versatility. 

I wish I had a photo of me wearing it. Sorry. I'll get John to take some soon, hopefully while walking through the woods or collecting conkers or something equally autumnal. But I have worn it a lot this week and have received many compliments and no funny stares or jokes about panpipes, so that's good. 

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Make, Bake, Sew, Grow

Thank you for all your get well wishes. I am feeling loads better - well, still a bit tired, but who isn't - and much more like my old self again. 

This weekend I have mainly been decorating, doing the housework, and eating. I think I've only actually stepped foot outside to hang out the washing or put something in the bins. There's a whole season happening outside and I feel like I'm missing it. I was moaning about this to John, about how working longer hours (and driving to school - we were able to walk to school and back in Leeds) makes me feel so disconnected from the outside world. He rolled his eyes. He works in a large air conditioned unit with no natural light. I've made it sound like a sweatshop and it's not, it's very nice really, but he said yes, this is what it's like when you work all the time. File it under First World Problems. But the woods are calling me. I want to go to the woods so much, to kick leaves and look at the changing colours and smell that damp earthy autumn smell of decay. One week until half term, one week to go. 

[ Make ]

Making decisions on which wallpaper to hang in the hallway, opting for this one, and only one roll at that price.

With help from my lovely parents, John and I managed to finish decorating the hall, stairs and landing this weekend. Such a job, all those doors to paint, all those tricky angles. And while there may have been some swearing and muttering during the process, I'm pleased to say that the wallpaper is hung (by John and I!) and looking pretty flipping gorgeous. I'll write a proper post about all this when it's finished and there aren't bare light bulbs hanging from the ceiling, but here's a quick photo for now. 

[ Bake ]

I have been eating all the carbs. If it's starchy, then I'm cooking and eating it, or so it appears. Recent meals have included avocado and banana on toast for breakfast drizzled with a bit of honey. Very good. Filling. 

Colcannon (mashed potatoes and greens) topped with a poached egg for dinner. John does not consider this a proper dinner so this is the kind of thing I make when he's working late and it's just me with dinner on a tray and Strictly Come Dancing on tv.

John made borlito misto, a sort of sausage and lentil casserole which is delicious and perfectly autumnal, and this is the sort of thing he does consider to be a proper dinner.

And we've been making rice pudding a lot lately. Bramble jelly is the best topping. Single cream to pour over optional.

[ Sew ]

All crafty endeavours over the last few weeks have been limited to my poncho which is now very nearly finished. I just need to take some photos and then you can see it properly. 

[ Grow ]

Look what John and my Dad made! Isn't is wonderful? A wood store, made from parts of my Dad's old shed. 

Our winter wood store is now cosy and dry, phew. But beyond that, all other garden related activity has ground to a halt. I'm looking forward to spending some time out there next weekend, planting bulbs, tidying up, and putting the garden to bed for the winter.

Ah, half term, you can't come soon enough! Sorry for being such a rubbish blogger lately, with these random posts and no time to visit yours. All will be back to normal soon.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Living For The Weekend.

Friday night, after work, while waiting for the food shopping to be delivered, I stopped for what was probably the first time all week. Oh, hello house, nice to see you! I was so tired, just going through the motions of a Friday night that I'd been so looking forward to after a week of working full time. I fell asleep on the sofa and was in bed by nine. I knew I was coming down with something; it's come now and hopefully is on it's way out. Pesky children and their pesky germs.

The light falls in different places in the house now that we are further into autumn and I am enjoying watching these changes in the house and garden.

I had so much that I wanted to do this weekend; a bit of gentle cooking, a trip to the beach, see the sea. Stop and think. Read my library books. 

I managed to do most of those and a few tasks that I didn't want to do, like iron school uniform and supervise homework.

I cooked and cooked, making another batch of Christmas Chutney and two kinds of soup. One of the things I miss most about being at home full time is pottering around in my kitchen. I still cook in it plenty (and is there a more joyless kind of cooking than getting the dinner on the table every night?) but I mean cooking when there is no meal planned; baking, making soups or chutneys or jams. That's the kind of cooking I miss.

I also miss hanging out with Angus in the kitchen, in those pre-school days of homemaking and childcare.

But he loves to help out in the kitchen, stirring a pot or washing up, and he's a lot more fun now than he was when he was three, to be honest. He's much more interested in cooking than Bella, who only appears when the icing bowl needs licking. 

Anyway, I made Beetroot and Horseradish soup.*

The colours are just sensational, so incredibly vivid. And it's very tasty too. The earthy sweetness of beetroot needs the heat of the horseradish and tang of the sour cream and chives.

I also made Thai spiced butternut squash soup. I was convinced I had a recipe for this somewhere written down and searched through my scrap book, then remembered it was here, on this blog. Handy!

Why all the soup making, you might be wondering. I am batch cooking for when we have house guests over half term, trying to save myself a job later on.

And there was homemade pizza on Saturday night. Oh, we miss our takeaway pizza place in Leeds so much! Here's it's Dominoes (expensive and arrives cold) or the ones from the supermarket which always taste of cardboard. So we made our own, tomato and goats cheese, and it was good. 

When I'm not crocheting blankets, I've been working on my poncho. Oh, I just love this so much! It's a dream to crochet and I really like the colours. 

We did make it to the beach - very briefly - but it was enough. It was my first visit since August and I was missing the sea. I gave the sea air a good sniff and looked out at the horizon for a little while and felt my equilibrium was restored a little. 

Angus also learnt to ride his bike without stabilisers this weekend, a precious milestone for him, and cue much emotional shrieking and videoing on my phone from me. I've spent a lot of time with him this weekend while Bella was on a playdate and he's such good company. Such a cheerful, chatty personality, full of questions about absolutely everything.

Well, there ends another weekend. I'm finding working full time a real struggle to be honest, but it's only for a couple more weeks and then it's half term. And after that, things will go back to normal. So it's head down till the holidays. 


* Beetroot and Horseradish Soup
  • Cook an onion in a little oil in a big pan.
  • Peel and chop around 1kg of beetroot and 500g of potatoes and add to the pan.
  • Cover with stock, chicken or vegetable. 
  • Simmer for 20-30 minutes.
  • Add 3 or 4 tbsp of creamed horseradish and puree.
  • Season and taste. Add more seasoning or horseradish if you think it needs it and puree again. 
  • Serve with sour cream and chopped chives.