Sunday, 29 October 2017

At Home

Look closely at the upstairs window...

Our half term break has involved a lot of home days and I've enjoyed doing all the things I never get time to do during term time, like cooking meals that take a while, baking during the day, clearing out cupboards, sorting through drawers, hanging pictures. Nesting, but with a fair amount of running around after the dog thrown in for good measure. He keeps me on my toes. We've also had some nice days out and when the weather has cooperated we've gone on lots of dog walks, which are improving. Ziggy even wags his tail now. We visited Marwell Zoo on one day, and drove up to my friend Abigail's new house on another, and that was absolutely lovely - their house, and seeing her and my goddaughters. 

I've been rearranging a few corners of our home lately, and you saw our repainted porch a couple of weeks ago, but I've enjoyed hanging pictures in different places and creating some gallery walls. I hung these picture together above the sideboard in the living room. A few of them were from the kitchen, one from the porch, another from our bedroom. What can I say, I like moving things around.

And in the kitchen, I have hung my four framed embroideries - two are holiday diaries and the other two alphabet samplers were kits from Posie Gets Cozy. I really like them all together and look at them a lot more here.

And in the spare room, where previously had stood a white sideboard filled with games and a TV that no-one watched, we now have all our CDs together. How old fashioned we are, keeping our CDs! I'd gladly see the back of all of them - we have a Spotify subscription and listen to all our music through two Sonos speakers - but John is very attached to them. Some are very rare, apparently....  It's also a good place to put the cheese plant so that Ziggy can't harass it quite so much. That poor plant - the leaves really must be tasty.

Another of my half term jobs was to sand and stain our coffee table. A couple of years ago I varnished it, but I never liked the slightly orange tone of the varnish, or the high gloss finish. So I sanded it back and treated it with some clear Danish wood oil, and I love how the natural tones of the wood show through now, and it's matt texture.

We recently renewed a lot of our essential household items which were getting really worn out; cutlery, towels, bath mats, fitted sheets, duvet sets. Our towels especially, were suddenly in a shocking state - faded, worn, even torn in places! I blame the children. It seemed a lot of money to spend all in one go but it was so nice to get into a bed made up with freshly washed, brand new bedding, and dry myself with thick, fluffy towels. And when you think how much use these day to day household items withstand, then I don't begrudge the money spent on them so much. It's just that I'd rather have bought yarn. 

Bella enjoyed choosing herself this duvet set and I was happy to be able to say yes, when so often I seem to be saying no to her requests at the moment.

Other half term news: I didn't win the Craft Blogger award at the Amara IBAs, but thank you so much to all you voted for me. I didn't expect to win: I'm not here enough, I don't engage enough with the blogging world, I don't put the time and money into my blogging that others do, and that's ok, because I have a job, children, a dog and a busy life. I love being here, even if it's this infrequently, and I love blogging. But, excitingly, we had a photographer and stylist here this week to photograph our house for a magazine. Yes, that did happen before, two years ago, but we've redecorated a lot since then as well as creating the kitchen-diner, so hopefully it all looks very different. I don't yet know where or when it will be published, but I will certainly let you all know.

It's back to work for me tomorrow. I don't mind. I feel like a got a lot accomplished this half term and am ready for whatever the next eight weeks throws at me. I've started a new, easy, crochet project, a cowl using up lots of scraps of cashmerino yarn and, now that the clocks have gone back, I have a few new crime fiction books lined up, including an Agatha Christie, my favourite kind of autumn/winter reading. I am very keen to go to the cinema to see the new Murder on the Orient Express film. I also have my evening TV viewing sorted as the second season of Stranger Things has just begun. Did anyone else enjoy the first season? I thought it was one of the best things I watched last year, and so far the second is as good, although nothing much has happened yet, we just know that it's going to. We also recently enjoyed Mindhunter, on Netflix, which is set in the late 70s in the FBI as they begin to work with and understand more about serial killers and criminal psychology. Very good. Can you tell I'm starting to hibernate? 

Have a great week my lovely blogging friends. 

Monday, 23 October 2017

Autumn Crochet

I like to crochet a lot at the best of times, but autumn always makes me want to crochet more. It's the thought of all those scarves and cowls, wrist warmers and bobble hats. So tempting.

I recently made a maple leaf garland for a friend and colleague who teaches in Maple Class. It was such a nice project; enough detail to hold my attention, but not too tricky, short enough that is only took a week or so but still pleasing to see those leaves pile up in their gorgeous, rich colours. It was also a good excuse to use up the large amount of Drops Karisma yarn I have left over from crocheting various animals and birds.

The pattern (from here) really stood out when they were blocked, and then I just attached each leaf to a length of crochet chain stitch.

I've also been making pumpkins. You will probably know by now that I don't, for various reasons, really go in for Halloween, but I do go in for autumn in a Big Way, and pumpkins say autumn to me so much. The pattern for these is from the book I used for the crocheted fruit and vegetables but you can easily find many free patterns on Ravelry. These were a delight to make and another great way to use up a lot of leftover yarn I had in various colours and weights. You essentially crochet a sphere shape, then use long stitches to create the segments. The moment when the ball of yarn turns into a vegetable is really fun - well, to me, anyway. 

I love these colours. All leftovers but my kinds of colours, and they work well together.

Totally out of the blue, Bella requested I make her a pair of wrist warmers. I nearly had to sit down because Bella never wants me to make her anything to wear, mainly because of how embarrassing I am, but also because she finds wool (even acrylic blends and the softest, most expensive baby cashmerino) unbearably itchy against her skin. So when she asked for some blue and white wrist warmers, I was on it straight away. 

Anticipating that these might not ever get worn, I kept it simple, using Lucy's pattern as a starting point, and crocheting two squares which I then stitched up the sides, leaving a gap for a thumb hole. 

She likes them, and finds the wool is OK on her hands and wrists, where perhaps the skin isn't as sensitive as her neck, and was very happy to model them for me on the proviso that she could drink the hot chocolate afterwards.

Next on my list is a rabbit, again for school, and then a cowl for myself. I have my eye on this pattern and have just the right amount of leftover cashmerino DK in grey, black, blush pink and mustard, and I'm looking forward to starting it. I don't need another cowl, but it'll go really well with my new black leather biker jacket which I didn't need either, but I'm forty next birthday, so I feel it's important to start the mid-life crisis in plenty of time.

I realise that I've given away a lot of my crochet lately; a baby blanket, the box of fruit, the maple leaf garland, Bella's wrist warmers, and then back in the summer an owl and the box of vegetables. I don't mind this at all. So long as I'm crocheting what I want when I want (which is so different to the simmering resentment that comes from making something that you don't really want to make, that your heart just isn't in, for someone because you didn't want to say no...) then I'm happy. I feel like our house might be at Peak Crochet sometimes. I mean, do we really want or need any more crochet cushions or blankets? At the moment, I find that it's a pleasure to enjoy the process of crochet and then give it away to someone who will continue to enjoy it more still. Until I see a pattern that I absolutely have to make, of course, and then I'll be straight down to my local yarn shop. What about any other fellow crafters, do you give away much of what you make?

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Full Swing

Autumn is in full swing here. The magazines are full of pumpkins and cakes, my kitchen is full of pumpkins and cakes, and I've been crocheting up an autumnal storm, although not of the Ophelia* kind. I've planted tubs with tulip bulbs and filled the large planter on the decking with about a hundred daffodils bulbs. I'm scouring Ravelry for the perfect crochet shawl or scarf pattern and wondering if I might crochet a jumper, if I can just find a pattern I really like. My only complaint is that it's still much too warm for the time of year, and this interferes with both my desire to light the wood burning stove and to wear my woolly scarves. I would like some crisp, dry days please, where it's chilly enough to see your breath in the air but not so cold your toes are numb.

The woods are glorious right about now, and they're just going to get better over the next couple of weeks. I love the woods in autumn. The other time I really love them is in early spring, when they're full of bluebells and wild garlic, but I think I prefer them when they're full of fungi and the leaves flutter down around you as you walk under the trees.

It's been a mixed few weeks here. A combination of terrible sleep and busy days finally caught up with me and I came down with a horrible virus last week and I had to take two days off work, where I moped around the house coughing and feeling sorry for myself. John happened to be home for one of them and that day was nice - he cooked me lunch, baked brownies, brought me cups of tea, ferried the kids to and from school, looked after the dog. The day after that was a lot less relaxing. I returned to work feeling a bit better, but with very little voice, and a lingering cough that meant I had to sleep propped up on pillows. One week later I feel well again, finally, but very tired and I am glad it's half term next week. 

Ziggy is doing well and these photos make me realise how fast he is growing. We can walk him now, and I have really been enjoying getting out and about each day, even if the walks are short. Ziggy was ambivalent to begin with but is already getting used to other dogs, cars and all the hustle and bustle he sees on his walks around our area. Lots of treats help. I have to keep reminding myself how little he is though, for he is as exhausting as he is endearing, as disruptive as he is delightful. Honestly, I could write a list of things that have been trashed or chewed; plants, toys, table legs, drawer knobs, shelves. If we don't keep the bathroom door closed he dashes in there, grabs the toilet brush then runs off with it so that he can chew it and wave just generally wave it around the place. I try to stay calm, really I do. It's not as if he doesn't have a basket full of puppy-safe bones, toys, chews, name it, it's there. But like a toddler, he'd rather play with the packaging, or with the thing he's not allowed to play with.

Fellow crocheters: have you come across the Secret Crochet Club? It's a monthly subscription scheme in which you receive a box each month full of yarny goodness; pattern, yarn, hook - everything you need to make what's inside the box - and a few goodies too. They kindly sent me one to try and it's just the loveliest thing.

The best thing about it is having no idea what's inside.

Mine contained everything I need to crochet myself this colourful bag, plus useful bits like a WIP planner/notebook, which is actually a really excellent idea. There were chocolates too. I got quite excited about the chocolate. 

It's a great idea and would make a very nice Christmas present for someone you know who loves to crochet, or for yourself. 

*For those not in the UK, we had a very strange weather phenomenon on Monday afternoon. The sky had been a really odd, yellowy-orange colour all day, and the sun glowed red. Around lunchtime it became quite dark, as though we were about to have a huge storm, then got darker still. Streetlights even came on in some places. It was very, very eerie. Then, by the time I left work, it had all cleared and the world had not ended. I believe it was a combination of Saharan dust and smoke from Iberian forest fires brought up into the atmosphere by Hurricane Ophelia and blown over the UK, which all sounds very sensible but it was quite unsettling.