Sunday, 27 November 2016


Such a deliciously slow and steady weekend. No agenda, no real commitments or places to be, and John at work so it was just the kids and I. We stayed in our pyjamas until late in the morning both days, each doing our own thing; watching the iPad, eating toast, reading magazines. I kept thinking that I really should be doing something productive, but I didn't, I just dug out another unread magazine and put the kettle on again. Ridiculous, isn't it, the insidious guilt that creeps in when we're relaxing and doing nothing. Like we're not allowed to do that. 

Yesterday, a friend and her son came for lunch. I made leek and potato soup and her three year old was adorable and quite taken with Angus's train track. In the afternoon we walked into town to see the Christmas Lights switched on in the town centre and meet up with some friends from school. It was nice, although bitterly cold. I was glad John had arrived home from work and lit the fire while we were out. Today I did a lot of Christmas shopping online, which felt productive, even though I sat in the kitchen drinking coffee the whole time.

Bella is currently obsessed with baking. Before 8am this morning, she was whipping up a batch of cupcakes and was remarkably competent and independent with the whole thing. (Until it came to clearing it up. I did that.) But bless her, trying her hardest to pipe the icing onto the top of the cakes, wearing her Christmas jumper, her hair still wild and tangled. We took the cakes to my parent's house this afternoon for a family gathering to celebrate my mum's birthday this week. She was proud of herself, and I was proud of her.

I finished another pair of socks and have to say that I love the grey and mustard. These will be a gift. In other crafting news, I have almost finished my cross stitched Christmas napkins, and have made a start on Bella's crocheted koala. Two legs and one and a half arms, to be precise. And I've been putting together a different kind of advent calendar for the children this year, on and off over the last few months. Twenty four little matchboxes, each filled with something different. I'm looking forward to showing it to you.

Lastly, we passed our home check from the retired greyhound people. I was at work so it was John they spoke to, and I think they were checking us more than the house or garden, you know, making sure we're not lunatics. So we go to pick up our dog this coming Saturday. Thank you for all your well wishes with that.

Wishing you all a happy, calm week.  

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Crocheted Christmas Stockings

Don't worry, the decorations aren't up yet. I'll wait until at least until early December. But I was in the loft, rummaging through the Christmas boxes, looking to see if I had any cards, wrapping paper or gift bags leftover from last year. I dimly remembered buying a load of cards and bags for something ridiculous like 50p in Waitrose last January, and I'm trying to get organised and think about what I need to do over the next four weeks. We are hosting Christmas this year, and I'm feeling the pressure. I wrote an epic list today, two pages, broken down into sub-categories.

Anyway, before you know it, I'm pulling out baubles and faffing around with decorations to show off my new stockings.

I can't honestly say that we needed any more Christmas stockings - the children use these ones which I made a few years ago - but I just liked the look of them. The pattern came with the one I used for my socks and is by Sandra Cherry Heart. It's a brilliant pattern for using up small amounts of yarn. I used up a satisfying amount of almost finished balls of DK, some wool, some acrylic, just whatever I had lying around. You could even avoid darning in the ends if you wanted, as no-one would ever wear these, but I did. I found it strangely satisfying. 

Half finished balls of yarn annoy me, as I try to find projects that use them up then invariably end up buying more yarn as I don't have enough. I'm almost through my yarn stash now - apart from balls I've bought for specific projects - and it feels liberating. 

I like the colours. They are my kind of colours, but then it's my yarn leftovers, so that makes sense. They will be hung from the mantel in December. They are very stretchy so I know that I  - I mean Father Christmas - can squeeze all kinds of awkward shaped gifts inside. But they were an altogether lovely festive crafting project and I enjoyed every stitch. 

Thank you so much for all your comments on dogs and greyhounds. It was lovely to read them all and feel your support and good wishes. We have yet to pass the house inspection, which happens tomorrow. Our neighbour is replacing his fence; if you remember his progress was hampered by a laurel tree in our garden which had grown over the boundary, but we've finally had it chopped down. But there is a gap there, and I'm not sure how much of an issue that will be for them. We'll find out tomorrow. But, even if we have to wait a while longer - until the fence is fully in place - we'll be adopting a greyhound eventually. We're pretty committed to it now. I even dreamt about it the other night. 

I will keep you all posted.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Feels Like Winter

There was a gorgeous frost this morning, sparkling and crisp. I made pancakes, drank coffee, baked another Christmas cake - this one will be a gift - and pottered about the house quite happily. The sunny morning turned into a freezing, wet afternoon but we had an appointment to go to, with a local retired greyhound charity. We put our wellies in the car boot and set off.  We've been thinking for a long time about getting a dog and finally decided to do something about it. We have been waiting for the right time, whenever that is, but I think that we'll be waiting forever if we wait for the perfect moment. A puppy is appealing but, from all we've been told, probably not quite the right fit for us at the moment given that we both work, although my hours are part time. The greyhounds are retired from racing and the charity takes them in so that they can be re-homed, rather than destroyed. From the research we've done, we think that their character, temperament and the amount of exercise they need would be a good fit for us. We met lots of beautiful dogs this afternoon and took two for walks. (It's the only time the children have walked in the rain without complaining.) But I think we've found the dog for us - we just have to pass the home check, which involves someone from the charity coming to our house to check the garden is secure, that sort of thing - and hopefully we may have a dog at home in a couple of weeks. I keep saying it won't be allowed on the furniture. People laugh at me and say things like "good luck with that!" 

In other news, life is good. Work is busy but I am loving it at the moment. I haven't done much Christmas shopping but I have made a small start. Enough to stop me feeling panicky. I've crocheted some Christmas stockings but have delayed showing them to you, in case it's too early for some people. It's not too early for me. I ate my first mince pie today.

Monday, 14 November 2016

November Weekend

It was a deliberately quiet weekend. Mostly, I retreated to the warm kitchen and surrounded myself with cooking smells and the radio. I don't know why I persist in listening to Radio 4 constantly when the news is so relentlessly depressing, but I do. I must find something about it comforting. Saturday was wet so I did some errands, made chutney, worked my way through a pile of ironing, cooked a butternut squash lasagne for dinner. My parents called in and my poor put upon Dad (who'd just come from painting my sister Katy's new kitchen) hung a shelf for me. I worked on my second pair of crochet socks and ignored the patterns for the crochet animals I am supposed to be making as gifts. 

Sunday was sunny. I supervised homework and baked a Christmas cake - a small one this time, as it does seem that it's only me who eats it - and caught up on admin. By admin, I mean the forest of paperwork that comes home in book bags each week; Christmas card orders, school photo orders, finding a costume for Victorian Day, checking we have clothes with spots or stripes for Children in Need day on Friday, paying for trips and school lunches. I need to make sure I buy suitable jumpers for Christmas Jumper Day at school, before they sell out. 

Late Sunday afternoon I met my other sister, Anna, and her girls for a short walk. The sun was starting to go down and the dwindling light was lovely. The trees are looking bare in places and there was a touch of winter in the views of branches silhouetted against the sky. I like living near my family, especially on those weekends when John is working. I don't take having them nearby for granted, not one bit. 

Then I made fish pie for tea and John and I watched tv together all evening. All very humdrum. All very comforting. 

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Winter Projects

The two projects I am supposed to be working on, Angus's blanket and my cross stitch sampler (both pictured above), have been firmly pushed to one side and will no doubt languish in the basket by my chair for some weeks now. All kinds of other projects have elbowed their way to the front of the queue, some for gifts, some for me, some just because I fancied making them.

First the gifts. Bella and Angus have requested more animals from the excellent Edward's Menagerie and I am more than happy to oblige. Angus has requested the chimpanzee...

and Bella the koala.

So far all I've done is buy the yarn, but I need to get going on these to prevent a pre-Christmas panic. I am in that denial phase, where the thought of making two whole toys from scratch in six weeks seems overwhelmingly impossible. But I know that as soon as I pick up the hook and make an arm, and then another, and then a leg, they will be done in no time. 

I've been working on a second pair of socks, and swapped that super expensive yarn for something cheaper but still soft and a gorgeous colour. So far I have made two toes. 

No, I'm not exactly tearing through that gift  list, am I? It's becuase I've been distracted by more cross stitched napkins. I know, I made loads last summer, I don't need any more. But I really wanted to make some Christmas ones, something a bit special that would be pulled out once a year for Christmas lunch and maybe Christmas Eve and Boxing Day too at a push.

So far I've stitched a tree and a robin. The tree pattern is adapted from one I found in the book Embroidery Companion, while the pattern for the robin is one I made using an image from the computer and some graph paper. 

He's pretty cute, isn't he?

I also made myself a hat using this great pattern from Annaboo's House with a ball of super chunky yarn and a 9 mm hook. The pattern suggest Drops Andes but I used this brand as the website was out of stock of lots of Drops Andes shades when I ordered, although annoyingly they seem to have them back in now. The hat was made in a couple of hours and is as easy and fast a make as the pattern promises. Also - pompoms! I bought myself a pompom maker. How did I not know about these? Hours of fun.

You want to see the hat on, don't you?

So, crochet socks - I've been doing a lot of research! Crochet is has less elastic or stretch than knitted socks, I have learnt, but the ones I made are not hard to get on or off and they have a good amount of stretch in them. But as bed socks, they are slightly oversized and looser than normal, every day socks would be. It seems that crochet uses more yarn and makes a thicker fabric than knitting. This is great for items like blankets and scarves, but not so good for socks and clothes. In crocheted clothes, especially, the added chunkiness isn't what anyone wants around their midrift, so patterns for oversized tops and jumpers work well, or ones that show off an open, lace work style of crochet. I'm not sure where that leaves us crocheters with socks, but I suspect the secret to a good comfortable pair of crocheted socks is to use a very small hook and thinner yarn, to create a small and even stitch texture. Thank you very much for the patterns you recommended in your comments before. I looked at and bookmarked all of them. Through Instagram, I discovered Vicki Brown and her crochet sock collection. I think the "pop socks" look particularly promising as an everyday ankle sock kind of pattern. I will aim to make a pair this winter and then wear them a lot, and feed back to you all on how I get on. 

Thank you also for your words of encouragement regarding knitting. A lot of you said don't give up, it's not that hard. I know that really. It's not knitting, it's me.

Joining in with my friend Jennifer's Winter Project Link Party.