Monday, 31 March 2014

Stripy Blanket Ta-Dah!

I've finally finished my attic24 inspired Stripy Blanket (definitely NOT a 'Granny Stripe' as my youngest already thinks that crochet is just for grannies!). Thanks once again to the fabulous Lucy for her free, easy to follow patterns. Again, most of the colours are from the attic24 style pack with just a couple of exceptions - matador and denim.

The photo below shows me enjoying a happy hookie moment on Saturday. I sat in the sun at the bottom of the garden and blissfully hooked away at nearly all the final round of the border .... before realizing that I had missed out the penultimate round of double crochet  (****!!). I couldn't bear to frog it myself, so the girls had fun doing it for me. The blanket was therefore finished on Mothers' Day instead. I'm never sure - should it be Mother's as in a single Mother or Mothers' as in all Mothers collectively?

Anyway, here are the photos. Are you ready?

Ta-Dah!  The 'perching on the coffee table' shot.

The 'draped on the sofa' shot.

The 'folded' shot.

The 'bed' shot (no, I don't iron bedding!).

The 'corner' shot.

The 'border' shot (the sofa looks even more hideous close up!)

The 'along the stripes' shot - I love this one.

And back to the Ta-Dah!

I didn't think I could love a blanket as much as the Elmer one but this one really lifts my spirits. Again, I'm rather humoured by my family who still find my new found love of crocheted blankets amusing but I'm developing a thick skin. There are far worse addictions!

I've already started my next project - The 'Manly Blanket'! When L's boyfriend, J, came to stay with us last week, he was suffering from a rotten cold. A few times I found him wrapped up in the Elmer blanket and as it's his birthday in August I asked L if she thought he might like a blanket of his VERY OWN. She decided to ask him, with instructions not to say yes just out of politeness (!), and bless him, he agreed. He decided on an Elmer one in blues and greens, so L and I beetled off to the LYS and chose the following:

We added a few purples as well; probably mainly for the border. What do you think? Are they manly enough? I did consider calling it the 'Blokey Blankie' as I'm all for a bit of alliteration but L wouldn't let me. So, the 'Manly Blanket' it is. I'll keep you informed of its progress.

Toodle Pip for now. x

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Lino Cutting

Our local library is currently running a 'LibraryFest' which includes lots of FREE workshops! Yesterday, L and I went along to a lino cutting workshop, run by artist and printmaker Mark Webber. Unfortunately, E was at her orchestra practice - she would have loved it.

Mark makes some incredibly intricate lino cuts:

Aren't they amazing? Ours were going to be a much more simple affair. I had Christmas in mind and wanted to do a design that I could use to make cards, hence the Christmas tree in March! L flicked through a book for inspiration and then decided to do a windmill scene.

First we drew our design onto thick paper.

Then we placed the paper over the lino and, using transfer paper, went over our designs with a pencil. You had to press quite firmly and I think some sort of clear ruler would have been very helpful for mine but I wasn't very well prepared (This is me trying to explain why my tree looks a bit wonky!).

The design was now on the lino and we CAREFULLY, making sure to keep both hands behind the cutter, cut out our design. I remember having a go at lino cutting at school, many moons ago. Our art teacher warned us to "be very careful girls, I only have two plasters." - I used both of them and still have the scars to prove it! Fortunately, no blood flowed on this occasion.

We used a roller to apply paint to the cut and had fun rolling it through a press - apparently, circular motions with the back of a spoon work just as well though. I loved some of the designs done by others at the workshop - one lady made a cut of her house name, Pear Tree Cottage, and a lovely picture of a pear. You have to be careful including writing though - it has to be done as a mirror image and I'm not sure I would have managed that.

Ready to see our designs?


Not quite up to Mark's standard but we were rather proud and it was great fun.

When we came out we were ravenous. Luckily, it was market day so we bought some 'Lentil Fingers' from the Turkish food stall and had an impromptu picnic by the canal. They taste a lot better than they look - lots of chilli and coriander - Yum!

Anyway, that's the Christmas cards sorted for this year. We might use L's to make a few birthday cards too.

I was very fed up recently when I bought a card from Smiths for a friend's birthday - £3 something! It didn't even look terribly special and when you've added the ridiculous price of a stamp these days, that's nearly a fiver, just for a card! So the other day, L and I enjoyed a merry hour playing with Washi tape.

I've seen it recommended on a few blogs and was inspired by some lovely card designs done by Gillian at The card came from The Works and was only £3.99 for 50 cards and envelopes, so they work out much cheaper than bought ones. I made the bunting one and L made the heart (It subsequently made a reappearance, with a few modifications, on Mothers' Day! I'll post more about that later in the week). Somewhere I have a set of alphabet stamps from when the girls were younger - somewhere! I think they might be lurking in Keith's Cupboard (see poem by Michael Rosen)  and so L did the writing. I did feel slightly wary posting one to my old school friend who lives in a million pound jobby in London but I'm hoping she appreciated the thought!

If anyone else have any ideas for cheap, quick and easy cards, I'd love to hear about them. I've also just finished my Attic24 inspired Stripy Blanket, so a Ta-Dah post is coming as soon as I can take some half way reasonable photos. I hope you all enjoyed a lovely, restful Mothers' Day. Toodle Pip for now. x

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Lemon Curd and WIP

Morning everyone; I hope you have been enjoying the lovely, if slightly cold, weather this week. Just a quick post today - L has got her boyfriend, J, staying for 6 days - that's a lot of days when you have never met someone before! Luckily, he's lovely and the weather has been kind, so they have been out and about exploring.

This week I wanted to try making lemon curd. R and L are not great fans of the shop bought stuff but E just loves anything citrusy, so I'm hoping she will enjoy it.

I used the recipe from the Good Housekeeping book. It was really easy - eggs, butter, sugar and, of course, lemons. Put everything in a bowl over some simmering water, heat whilst stirring for 20 minutes until it thickens and pour into jars. My only problem was interpreting the word 'rind' - did they mean zest or all the peel? In the end I grated the whole peel and it tastes lovely, so I assume that is what you were meant to do. I was worried that it might be too bitter. Anyway, here are some photos:

All the ingredients:

Over the pan of water:

Trying to catch the beautiful colour and failing ...

That's better - sunshine in a jar:

It tasted lovely on toast - E was very pleased - and I might use it to fill some small butterfly cakes. I only made a jar and a half as I don't think it keeps very long.

Just thought I'd show you my WIP, the stripy blanket. I have about 10 more rows to go and then the border. My only problem is that it is so cosy when I am working with it on my lap that I keep falling asleep!

Stretched out on the floor:

On the sofa, meeting its friend Elmer!

Have a good week everyone. Do you have any exciting WIPs that you are enjoying at the moment?

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Pilates. BBQs and failure.

On Wednesday I went to Pilates for the first time. Why have I not done this before?!! It was brilliant; a bit like yoga but slightly more intense. The music was acceptable, the clientele non-threatening and the stretchy rubber band thingy rather fun. I went in with an 'I can do this' attitude and when the teacher kept asking if we could feel it in the abdomen/ intercostal muscles I really couldn't - not until the following day that is; then I struggled to sit upright in bed in the morning! This week I shall be better prepared and not quite so gung-ho about it all. I did really enjoy it though and this is one item on my 50 list that I shall definitely be keeping up.

There are no photos of the session, so here are a few that I took at the weekend. The weather was glorious again and L had just finished her term at Uni, so we had a celebratory BBQ to welcome her home.

Squirrel Nutkin on the bird table - I had just been commenting to R that we hadn't seen him in a while and then there he was, eating the left over cake.

Veggie burgers and hot dogs - R isn't the best at BBQs, so we are always rather surprised when food actually appears.

Hamish joined us by the river - he is wearing his Christmas present pink harness and thinks he looks very handsome!

Enjoying the blue sky through the eucalyptus tree

....... and the willow

..... and the camellia.

On to Monday. Remember when I tried to donate blood in February? I had to fill in a consent form to allow them to contact my GP so they could check that it was safe for me to donate with my heart murmur. Well, my GP gave us the go ahead and I went again on Monday, armed with my consent letter and completed form.

Here I am arriving

....... here I am drinking my pint of water and waiting for the finger prick test to check my haemoglobin

..... and here I am back at home having had a blood test to confirm that yes, I am slightly anaemic and they won't take blood!!!!

Cross, me? I was livid - not with the NHS staff, they were only following guidelines, just in general. That's 3 times I have been to the centre, bought a car park ticket and 3 times I have returned a failure. I think because I am veggie, I just run on a slightly lower haemoglobin level. I have no symptoms but even if I were to take iron supplements and raise my level, I couldn't donate for at least a year. So, I give up! I have tried and it seems I just can't give my A rhesus negative away. Enough.

The above photos were taken by L as I ranted and she laughed at my ranting. Note to self - apply hand cream more often to avoid the 'hands like a lizard's elbow' look.

I hope you're having a good week. Has anyone else been as unsuccessful as me in the blood donating game?

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Ruby, Jones and Springtime.

A couple of times a year I see this sign dotted around the town. It is usually held at our local college and I always mean to pop along and have a look but never seem to get round to it. So my 'new thing' for this week was to visit the Vintage fair and also to find out who Ruby is. I assumed that Ruby ran / organized the event and was possibly the lady on the adverts with the bright lipstick getting rather overexcited about a teacup.

So, on Saturday I dropped E off at her orchestra practice and went to find Ruby. Here she is - isn't she beautiful?

Ruby also has a sign, telling you all about her:

For a modest £1 entry fee you could browse 2 rooms of vintage tat treasures! Seriously, it was rather lovely. Lots of clothes, jewellery, craft items, cookware etc. There was a 1950's kitchen cabinet, just like the one my Mum had, but I was too shy to take any photos inside. I did, however, buy 2 enamel bowls:


The 'eggs' one will get lots of use, even though it would take the girls several days to fill it! The 'soaps' one I just bought because...... Sadly, I have to be very boring about the soap I use; anything with even a hint of perfume/colour/niceness and my hands come out in eczema. So, unfortunately,  it will not be filled with items of aromatic loveliness, unless of course you count my basil! 

This weekend, we also looked after 'Jones' our neighbours' cat whilst they were away. We loved looking after their old cat, Barney, who at 16 just liked to lie in the sun. Jones, however, is still pretty much a kitten and the last time I went round to feed her, I made the mistake of wearing a skirt. Never again! She scaled my leg while I was trying to put her food in the bowl and we have been wary ever since. This time though, we had a cunning plan. See the small red dot on the carpet? This is a little laser light key ring which J&B left out for me in readiness. Jones is rather keen on it, so E distracted her with the exciting, wiggly dot while I quickly dished out her breakfast. The only problem then was getting her back into the kitchen (the dot shows up better on the hall carpet), putting the key ring back on the table and getting out again before Jones noticed that the dot had disappeared - we managed it on the 3rd attempt! Scratch free legs - result!

Sunday was beautiful - is it too early to risk saying that 'Spring has Sprung' do you think? Possibly it's tempting fate. We had lunch in the garden and then took lots of photos:

Blossom against that lovely blue sky.

A peacock butterfly:

Celandines :

A tortoiseshell on the willow:

So many bees, which was good to see. Initially, we thought it must be a swarm in the willow as the buzzing was so loud.

R holding 'The Ladies' - Phyllis (the black Pekin) and Harriet (the grey lavender one!).

A robin eyeing up the newly filled feeder (actually, this one was taken the following day - you can see it's not so sunny!):

Finally, a quick photo of my WIP, the Stripy Blanket ( NOT to be called the granny stripe, in the hope that it doesn't put E off it!)

 Finally, finally (!) I seem to be in a very happy flower place at the moment. These, I picked from the garden just to have something to put in my thrifted vase.:

These carnations I picked up at the supermarket whilst doing the weekly shop:

And these daffodils were an unnecessary, but much appreciated, present from J&B for risking life and limb (alright, maybe not life but definitely limb!) feeding Jones.

Tomorrow I am booked in for the next item on my 50 list - a Pilates session. Wish me luck. x