Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Ombre Swirl Shawl

Hello there! I am very excited to have a finished crochet shawl to show you tonight. I often find I binge on a TV programme while working on a particular crochet project, especially if it's one that demands a lot of time. So I feel like this is my "Line of Duty" shawl, as I now totally associate it with the excellent BBC TV drama of the same name, since John and I watched the first four seasons back to back throughout April, and I can honestly say it's some of the best crime TV I've ever watched with such excellent writing, characterisation and acting  - just excellent, and if you get a chance to watch any of it on iplayer, do. We haven't started watching Season 5 yet because we can't cope with waiting a full week between each episode, so we'll binge on it in a few weeks. I have had to unravel quite a few rows of this shawl, not because the pattern's difficult (it really isn't) but because I was too engrossed in the drama on TV.

Anyway, the shawl. It's the Ombre Shawl by Sarah Shrimpton of Annaboo's House, using a 5 mm hook and one ball/cake of Scheepjes Whril in Raspberry Rocky Road

I found it really hard to choose a colour way for this project. I really struggled to see how the colour changes would look worked up into a finished garment, and still don't really like the hot pink in this choice. 

Luckily, the hot pink section, which is at the centre of the triangle, the start of the project, can be hidden around the neck with a bit of rearranging.

But I like it best when the pink is a little softer, like below. With hindsight, I probably would have preferred the Watermelon Hellraiser colourway.

But I do like it very much. It's large, drapes beautifully and required very little blocking. I especially like the way the simplicity of the pattern shows of the colour gradients, without being too dull.

I haven't worn it yet, but I think it's going to be the perfect spring to summer scarf, something that I can easily wear with a white t-shirt and jeans. It's quite feminine I think, so I will wear it with something plain or striped, and I think it will work really well with denim. 

Thursday, 25 April 2019

Every last drop

The bank holiday weekend feels like longer than three days ago. A few days back at work and school, back into the rush of after school activities, combined with a sudden drop in temperature, and it's like I imagined that gorgeous, sunny, relaxed few days we had last weekend. It's always the way when you jump straight into summer temperatures - it's a horrible shock when the wind and rain remind you that yes, it is still April.

It's unusual for John to have the full four days off work so we were determined to make the most of the Easter long weekend by doing absolutely nothing useful or productive. No decorating, no DIY, no sorting out cupboards - who even are we?!

Food always features heavily in our Easter celebrations. Bella and Angus aren't as interested in making Easter nests as they used to be, which is fine with me as they aren't my number one choice. New traditions are being formed in the making of chocolate bark: white and dark chocolate melted, swirled together and sprinkled with bashed up mini eggs and some mini marshmallows.

I would have liked to have made a Simnel cake, but it's only me that likes it so that seemed a bit of a waste. Instead I made a chocolate malt cake from this book, something I knew everyone would like. We cut into it on Monday after a barbecue and there's only one piece left now so I think we can assume it was popular.

We had a big family meal at my parents' house on Sunday with an egg hunt for the kids (with cryptic clues to solve - they aren't toddlers pottering around the flower beds with their baskets anymore...) and since my mum cooked the roast lamb, we all brought dessert, and my contribution was lemon meringue roulade.

I used this recipe which I've made before and it works really well, except that last time I was disappointed by the lack of lemon flavour, so this time I upped the amount of lemon curd from two tablespoons to almost a full jar, and it was much improved for it. 

There was also a lovely cream tea on Saturday afternoon, a late Mother's Day gift for my mum from my sisters and I, and also a fabulous brunch on Bank Holiday Monday. It was just the four of us and I was feeling virtuous and hungry after a morning run and, after two weeks of eight hours unbroken sleep each night, full of a strange feeling of both energy and calm which I think is what it's like to be rested. It's a unfamiliar feeling and I liked it. I ordered toasted sourdough topped with pesto, avocado and poached eggs, served with roasted tomatoes on the vine and a side of bubble and squeak. I could eat food like that all day every day.

I enjoyed having an Easter tree this year. Rather than hunt for tree branches I found some old sprigs of pussy willow I had knocking around and used stones to weight them into place in the bottom of the vase. 

We made time on Easter Sunday afternoon to go for a walk in the woods to one of my favourite places for spotting bluebells. 

I try to go every spring because I think it's worth the effort. This patch of woodland is hidden from the path and it's only when you turn into the wood and scramble up the path that you suddenly see all this spread out in front of you. 

It makes me glad to be alive.

I think this one was enjoyed it too, even if he was a bit hot.

I spent a pleasant hour in the garden on Monday creating a little succulent garden for our outdoor table which was looking a little bare.

I found a large bowl that I bought in IKEA a while ago, but which I never use as it's huge and doesn't fit in any of my cupboards in the kitchen. I store it in the garage where of course I forget all about it. I filled the bottom with pieces of broken pottery for drainage then a half sand/half compost mix, before adding four succulents I bought for £10 in B&Q.

My track record with succulents in the house is not good (I am certain I have been over watering) but I'm told they thrive on neglect and sunshine, so I'm hoping this little collection does okay over the summer months.

I'm glad we made the most of doing nothing productive, it's a very good plan. 

Monday, 22 April 2019


Hello and happy Easter! I didn't mean to leave it so long between posts, I thought I'd have so much free time this holiday to blog (hahaha) but our days have just been so full in the nicest possible way, with many happy times to document and share here. I haven't even had time to go through all the photos from this bank holiday weekend, that will have to be another post. 

The weather this holiday, bar the odd wet day, has been beautifully dry and sunny. It has at times been cold, but has now warmed up to almost summery temperatures and it's made everything so much easier and more enjoyable. No wet dog walks with muddy dog or wellies, no bored, cooped up children. Instead we've been outside so much, just in the garden or going further afield and enjoying days out.

John's parents came to stay with us for the second week of the holidays and it was really good to have some unhurried, quality time with them. We've also had lots of time just the four of us, in the park, cooking and eating together, hanging out in the garden, just pottering.

We've enjoyed some excellent days out, The Mary Rose Museum and West Dean Gardens being particular favourites. West Dean Gardens is one of my favourite places to go, especially just to wander up and down their incredible historic glass houses.

I've also enjoyed a bit of quiet magazine reading this week with two biannual publications, one bought, one free: 91 Magazine is probably my favourite magazine right now, and absolutely worth every single penny, and I am so excited when my copy lands on the doormat. I read it cover to cover, appreciate the absence of adverts and find it endlessly inspiring. 

South Coast Journal is a new free magazine stocked in the Chichester area and I am especially excited about it because I was involved in the content, producing a feature around summer eating for them. It's a great publication full of really strong content and I'm really proud to be a part of it.

Small pleasures have featured heavily this week, with little treats like a good flat white coffee and a piece of lemon curd slice eaten in the sunshine, or an early evening pint in a pub beer garden. I really cherish those first few meals eaten outside in the spring after so many cold, wet months. 

There has been crochet this week, of course, but not as much as I'd hoped. I'm on the home stretch with this ombre shawl now, with just the border left to do. I don't think it will need much blocking which is just as well as it's so enormous, I don't know where I'd have space to lay it out, stretch it and pin it. The garden?

I also made a start on this basket which I'm loving - you crochet with the light brown cotton over two strands of the chunky cream yarn, giving a woven effect and more structure to the basket too.  

My luck with second hand books continues, as I found a few more Observer reference guides this week, two from a second hand bookshop, one from a charity shop and one more posted from a friend.

The rainbow grows. The appeal for me is largely visual with these little books but, for those wondering, I keep all the covers and I dip into them from time to time. Well, flick through them really. They are so useful, especially the ones on wild flowers and plants. 

All my spring flowers have gone over now in the garden. I rescued this raggle taggle posy of the only tulips not destroyed by the football, a few narcissi which still smell so sweet and the last of the muscari.

Now I need to think about what's next in the garden, pull up the bulbs, plant some sweet peas. It pains me to say this, but what the garden could really do with is a little rain, but not until I'm back at work please.