Monday, 24 June 2019

Midsummer Weekend

Finally, finally, some sunshine. Just in time for the weekend, blue skies and warm weather arrived, flooding the house with bright light, while the garden positively glowed in the heat after so much rain. It lasted a whole day and a half, only to be replaced by low, dark cloud and suffocating humidity that saps all my energy and sets off my hay fever. We may have thunder tomorrow.

But look, proof of sun.

The lawn is lush and growing faster than we can keep up with mowing it, and my blackcurrants and redcurrants are ripening beautifully and are not far off being picked.

On Friday the four of us went for a walk after work and school. I love an evening walk in the summer, it's the nicest way to start the weekend, and marks the end of the working week in a much calmer way than rushing around the supermarket. We rarely find time but luckily the dog gives us an excuse to go out.

Even on Sunday, under hot, leaden skies, the woods were so green, just buzzing with growth and life.

I abandoned the crochet socks I recently started and picked up this blanket project instead. I don't know why but the socks just weren't doing it for me, I couldn't settle into a rhythm with the pattern, so they've been put to one side in favour of this granny square blanket made with cotton yarn. It's been lying half-forgotten in my basket since last autumn, but when I got it out and had a look at it, suddenly we were friends again.

The colours and shades make this very much a summer blanket for me, and I am filled with enthusiasm to crochet as much of this as I can whenever I have a moment.

My parents recently returned from a holiday in the Cotswolds with the best kind of holiday souvenirs: a couple of additions to my little Observer Guide collection and a box of eggs.

The books have been browsed and admired (cue much excitement from John when he spotted his beloved Leeds United FC in the photograph on the cover of the football guide) and the eggs came in the prettiest box, with the deepest yellowy-orange yolks. Heaven.

I've been cooking as much as ever, just forgetting to take photographs. I am enjoying overnight oats a lot lately, making them with coconut and chia seeds, and often take them to work in a jam jar with some fruit if I don't have time for breakfast at home. There have been salads, so many salads, and a lot of fruit. I can't quite believe the amount we get through in this house. I mean I'm not complaining, but I have to do two or three midweek top-up shops for fruit alone. We eat at least twenty bananas a week (we all take one each to work or school), a couple of bags of apples, melons, a pineapple, grapes, and if I buy strawberries then they are gone in a matter of hours. 

Bella and Angus aren't always that enthused by talk of a big salad, preferring instead to eat the tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce etc that they like plain without me throwing on seeds, herbs or dressing. Unless, that is, I mention Rainbow Salad, and then they are fighting to chop and arrange the vegetables for me. Aren't these bowls gorgeous? They're made of bamboo so perfect for indoors or out, and are from my favourite local shop/studio Winter's Moon. I have bought bits from Julia's shop over the years and love her eye for style, but also her support of ethical, independent, vintage and local suppliers and makers. We need more of that, I think. 

We started painting Bella's bedroom over the weekend. These things always take longer than you think, don't they? Hours were spent sanding, preparing and undercoating while I was itching to just slap on that bright white. It's almost there, just the two feature walls to do and then hopefully we can assemble some of the new furniture this weekend. Baby steps. 

Wishing you all a happy week ahead. 

Monday, 17 June 2019

A Crocheted Basket for Yarn

It's been a while, but I have a finished crochet project to show you: the Monroe Belly Basket, designed by Lakeside Loops. The pattern involves crocheting cotton yarn over and around two strands of chunky cream yarn, to create a really thick, sturdy texture. It's much easier than it looks and sounds, but you just have to keep remembering to pull the strands of chunky yarn nice and straight every now and then to keep a nice, even tension. It's a clear pattern, well written and all went to plan until I realised about half way through that there was absolutely no way this basket was going to stand upright on it's own. It flops here and there and, unstuffed, crumples into a heap on the floor. I'd say it's more of a bag. 

The only thing I can think of is that the chunky yarn I used wasn't quite chunky enough, and it didn't provide the structure to the walls of the basket that it should have. 

Luckily it's not a problem. Shore up those floppy sides with, ooh I don't know, lots of balls of yarn, and it's a beautiful thing. Of course you don't have to keep yarn in it - soft toys, throws, fabric would work too - but it has to be something that will keep those floppy walls well and truly propped up. Luckily we have all of the above in plentiful supply in this house. 

(It's almost like I planned it on purpose to keep a large stock of yarn in the house, which of course I would never do....)

To those of your asking where my new raincoat and the bedding came from - they were both from John Lewis. I've updated my previous post with the links. 

After what feels like weeks of unending rain, the sun shone this afternoon and it was briefly glorious. But it's school Sports Day on Wednesday which means it's bound to start raining again. The electrician came today to do some stuff (technical term) with light switches in Bella's new bedroom, so we can hopefully paint the room this coming weekend. And then the fun begins - moving furniture, hanging curtains and pictures, making the space feel like hers. I wonder if she wants a basket?

Yarn Details:

I used Drops Paris cotton yarn in Dark Beige and Off White for the main basket, wrapped around two strands of Drops Eskimo in Off White, all with a 5 mm hook. 

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Rain and Flowers

We've had rather a lot of rain here lately. I'm not complaining - it's good for the garden! - but it's not very seasonal, what with the chilly winds and grey skies. If it hadn't been for the fact that it's the middle of June I think we'd have switched the heating on last night. When I returned from a wet dog walk last week with soaking wet shoulders, I realised that my showerproof jacket was not really doing the job and that it was time to buy a proper rain coat, so I hopped online and found a jolly yellow one with deep pockets and a big hood. I like it a lot. I'm my own little ray of sunshine. 

But despite the leaden skies, there's a lot of cheer to be found this wet week. This little fig tree, moved from my parents' garden over the winter, is already producing fruit. I had no expectations from it so this is a nice surprise.

I found the most gorgeous peachy-pink peonies in the supermarket last week. They are some of the best I've bought and have opened beautifully.

Over the last few days the're opened even more and faded to a pale apricot. I should think about composting them soon but I can't quite bring myself to.

One our the pillowcases actually ripped in two as I was changing the sheets last week. They were quite old, perhaps ten years, and although good quality had definitely come to the end of their life, and I so talked John into buying some new bedding.

We chose linen bedding instead of our usual cotton, and I can't tell you how much I love it. I've read that it's more sustainably produced than cotton, is warm in the winter, cool in the summer and softens with washing and age. We also deviated from our usual plain white and chose deliberately mismatched colours which tone together really nicely.

A freshly made up bed is one of life's simple pleasures and one I never tire of. Another is the receipt of a new book or, even better, two. My lovely mum surprised me with Nigel Slater's new title, Greenfeast, a collection of mostly vegetarian recipes for spring and summer. I've been flicking through it over the last couple of days and am itching to get cooking, of course, but it is making me wish the weather would warm up a little - it would be nice to have dinner in the garden sometime soon.

I treated myself to a new book too: A Year of Embroidery by Japanese designer Yumiko Higuchi. It is exquisite and I want to sew everything in it.

The designs are seasonal and can be stitched in one colour or many.

I especially love the effect below of sewing in white on a dark coloured background, and that's something I'd love to try.

The purchase of this book was prompted by a sad event: while cleaning, I spilled bleach on my favourite pair of blue Seasalt cords. I could have cried, I only got them at Christmas and they are so comfortable. The stain was on the right knee and it was large, about the size of a fifty pence piece. My sister suggested covering it up with an embroidery of some kind, what a great idea. 

I forgot to take a photo of the tragic stain before I started sewing, but here you can just see the horrible pinky-orangey-purple that the bleach has died the blue fabric. I chose spring flowers, from the above book, in a palate of white and yellow. After sewing the first, I thought I better keep going so that the effect was a bit more intentional, a bit less random.

The effect is summery and light, and they look great rolled up a little at the ankles and worn with sandals, white t-shirt and chunky mustard necklace. They're not perfect but they are at least wearable now. I guess I can also wear them with wellies and my yellow raincoat too if the rain continues...

Now that those are finished, I can make a proper start on crocheting these socks, which have been in my project basket for a month or two. I didn't think I'd want to make socks in the summer, but then I am sitting here with a blanket over my knees while I type this, so I think they will be alright.

Despite never having been in my life, I found myself visiting Legoland twice in the last week. We don't really go in for theme parks much (the prices!) but, back in the winter, were able to secure unbelievably cheap tickets to go last Saturday.

It was brilliant fun, as you'd expect, and we had a great day, although goodness I was tired when we got home. My favourite part though, a million times over, was the Miniland part of the park - a whole area of miniature world monuments, landmarks and buildings built from Lego bricks. You know I like things in miniature and this was no exception. The level of detail is phenomenal.

My second visit was yesterday, on a school trip. It was just as much fun as Saturday, definitely more tiring, and gave me an opportunity to look at Miniland again.

Finally, proof that is in in fact June and not March, we made it to the beach on Sunday afternoon for a walk. It was blowing a gale and not really that warm but Angus and Bella paddled and Ziggy ran and sniffed and I thought, as I still do, how lucky we are to be able to do things like that as a family at the weekend. 

 I enjoyed Legoland, but give me a trip to the beach over a theme park any day.

Edited to add:

The raincoat is from John Lewis, this one: Hooded Raincoat in yellow. I like it because it is very light weight and so rolls up really small in your backpack if you're not wearing it, plus so far it does seem to be genuinely waterproof not just showerproof.

The bedding is also from John Lewis, from their Croft Collection. The duvet cover is Blue Grey and the pillow are Loch Blue. The pink pillowcases are these ones.

(Not sponsored, all bought with our own money.)