Thursday, 26 May 2016

Stiff Legs

I think I may be getting too old for my yoga class. My old yoga teacher (who moved away to Devizes, blast him) was more of a gentle stretching kind of guy. My new one, although lovely, is a bit more on the cardiovascular workout side. Repeated lunges this week turned my poor legs to jelly. Some weeks it's great and I come away feeling fluid, supple and taller. This week, I felt a wreck and my legs stiffened gradually over the next 24 hours until I frightened the birds with my cursing as I tried to do some gardening. I'm OK when I've been up and moving for a while, but when I sit down I'm like an old woman trying to get up again. I'm supposed to have a pilates class today. I don't think that's going to happen, so I'm considering a gentle swim instead.

On a happier note this week:
For the past 2 years come exam time, I have made E a 'keep calm' lavender bag. It hangs on her bed at night, sits beside her during the day when she is revising and comes in the car with us when I drop her off for exams. Here is this year's version - Hamish had a paw in choosing the fabric:
When I started to knit I bought myself some cheap and cheerful plastic stitch markers. They did the job but were a little fragile and kept snapping, so last week I treated myself to a new set from Amazon. Can you guess the theme?
L used to love 'The Owl and the Pussycat'. She was such a shy little girl and I can remember being amazed when her nursery teacher told me that she had stood on a chair and recited the whole thing to the class. I remember hearing somewhere that Johnny Ball recited it at his daughter Zoe's wedding, so L was in good company.
 Rhubarb shortbread, made from a recipe recommended by the lovely CJ. It disappeared in no time.
 Hostas in the rain - still surprisingly slug free, but I noticed the holes starting to appear yesterday.
On Sunday, L and I went to a local car boot sale. We had such fun, trawling up and down the rows and came away with a few bits and pieces. When she was in year 6 (11 years ago) L's class went on an end of year trip to Legoland. She bought a Merlin key ring as a souvenir and has used it ever since. 'LegoMerlin' has had many repairs over the years but recently, he has lost both legs and one arm. Luckily, a stall selling Lego people had a bits box and, for the princely sum of 50p, we were able to buy some replacement parts. It felt better than dismembering a complete Lego person (yes, we are a little sad like that!) and LegoMerlin is now whole once more.
Other finds included: a few fabric pieces, 2 'as new' water bottles for hiking and a piece of tapestry material (I'm sure it has a name but it escapes me for the moment!) which I hope to use to recover our threadbare piano stool. There's a cushion cover in Jane Brocket's 'The Gentle Art of Stitching' that I hope to replicate.
I'm not really sure why I loaded this photo. I got up early one morning and was struck by how pretty the light looked. Unfortunately, it doesn't show up well here but I always enjoy having a nosy at other people's homes, so here's one end of our living room:
 Making marmalade for R:
 I never seem to be organized enough and there's always a last minute frantic scramble for empty jam jars.
 A garden picked posy with the first rose of the year: 
Nigel Slater's 'Frosted Marmalade Cake' (well, I did have some to hand!), recipe to be found here. I read a tip that said to cream the butter and sugar for quite a while and then add the eggs REALLY slowly. It apparently stops the cake sinking in the middle (which this one, apparently, has a tendency to do). It worked anyway and I am usually the Queen of sunken cakes.
 Sneaking a slice with a cup of mint tea. The mint is growing at a pace, so we're drinking a lot of this at the moment.
Finally, I thought I'd show you a photo of me keeping one foot warm while I knitted my second 'Blue Tit' sock. I'd put them on hold whilst I struggled with my 'Wheel of Colour' cushion, but it's all systems go again now that I have my new stitch markers.
Well, that's all for this week. Have a lovely Bank Holiday weekend and Half Term if that applies to you. I'm just off for a hot bath to try and easy my achy legs!

Toodle Pip for now. x

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Walking the Dog

Just a few snaps from my camera, taken this last week. Friday saw me meeting up with my friend, L,  for a dog walk - her dog, not mine. I do occasionally wonder about getting a dog. I think it would be a good routine to have to get out and about every day, whatever the weather, and go for a walk. There are 2 things that stop me: firstly, they are a bit of a bind when you want to go on holiday - our lovely neighbours are always happy to look after Hamish and the chucks, but I think they'd draw the line at a dog. That just leaves kennels as an option but then that's added expense. The second reason is Hamish himself. As a house rabbit, he probably wouldn't take too kindly to us introducing a dog and might just end up as a tasty snack. It's nice to wonder though. I could obviously just go for a walk every day, but without the dog I'm not forced to go and my natural indolence tends to take over. 
Anyway, our walk in the countryside around Inkpen was lovely. Not too hot, not rainy, just perfect walking temperature. A hare jumped out into our path. I don't think I've ever seen one close up before. He scampered away before the dog noticed him or I could get my camera out. I did take one of the sweet little Shetland pony though; he seemed a bit lonely. We walked for nearly 2 hours and didn't meet another soul; it was wonderful. Then, it was back to L's house for a restorative cup of tea and a slice of lemon cake ......... perfect.

There were 2 photos of flowers on my camera - the top ones were just a cheap bunch that I impulse bought at the supermarket on my weekly slog round. The second bunch are E's. They were given to her in assembly on her 'last' day of school and are sitting on her desk. She is now on study leave and, apart from exams and possibly going in for the last day of term (which isn't compulsory), that's it for her school days. She had a wonderful final day, with a picnic lunch and a BBQ after school, complete with bouncy castle and those funny Sumo suits to play with ........... before coming home and bursting into tears. I thought she would be relieved to leave but she was really upset. I think the thought of exams and then the prospect of leaving home and going to uni suddenly all seemed a bit much. It certainly is for me. She's fine now though and has a few weeks of keeping her head in the books before the exams start.

There's a  photo of me trying to do the weekly meal plan. The dining table was covered in revision books and notes and I had to perch on the edge to make my list. It was a bit of a challenge.

The final photo is one of my library books from this week. Why have I never read any of Bill Bryson's books before? It was hilarious; real laugh out loud funny - I can't remember when I last did that with a book. I have since returned it and borrowed 'Notes from a Small Island' which looks to be just as good.

Anyway, that's all for this week. Can I just take a moment to wish good luck to all those taking exams - it's a stressful time .......... and that's just for the mums! I think I'd better just pop and check on our stock of alcohol and chocolate. Wishing you all a good week.

Toodle Pip for now. x

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Wheel of Colour Cushion Ta-Dah!

Well,  my 'Wheel of Colour' Cushion is finally finished. Some of you may remember that this little project of mine has not been without incident. The pattern was taken from Jane Brocket's book 'The Gentle Art of Knitting'. It's a lovely book with some great projects and I've never had any trouble following the patterns before. For some reason, though, this time I had a mental aberration, completely misinterpreted the instructions and my stripes ended up twice the width they were supposed to be. After a great deal of dithering trying to decide what to do, I pulled up my big girl pants and tinked the whole lot. It took me a few days to pluck up the courage to try again, but, when I did, everything was so much quicker - well, it would be I suppose as the stripes were half the size! Anyway, here's the finished result:
 Trying it out for size on a dining chair:
........ and sitting with it's patchwork cushion buddy on the sofa:
I joined the 2 sides together using a crochet DC stitch, rather than just normal stitching as recommended. This was only because choosing a colour of yarn to use was tricky - the colour changes so frequently and I found that my stitches showed through. 
E has made no further comments about "the good ship 'Tasteful' having sailed", so I'm hoping that she likes it - I'm not going to go as far as to actually ask her, you understand; I feel that might be pushing my luck! I love it anyway - it's jolly and I just used leftover yarn, so it was cheap to make.

Other things that have made me smile this week:

The book pile to return to the library (there are some in the bag too!). E finally finished her A2 History coursework, so I was able to return all the books she had borrowed - Hurrah! Foolishly, I had let her use my ticket as that was the one most easily to hand and, consequently, I have had several months of trying to borrow books only to be told that my ticket was full! It was such a relief to take them all back I can tell you.
Much as I enjoyed the lovely sunshine that we had over the weekend, I have been loving the gentle rain over the past couple of days. It has soaked the earth nicely, so I'm planning a massive weeding session after dropping E off at school today.

 My Wisteria is starting to bloom: 
 The chickens crowding round to watch me water the greenhouse - they like to peck at the water droplets as they run down the glass. These beautiful chucks are the same ones that we rescued via the British Hen Welfare Trust. They seem much happier now.
The first BBQ of the year, with a glass of cider to wash it down - perfect!
Finally, when I was having a little paddle in the river after my burger, E had a little play with my camera! That's L's 'Big Australian' hat that I'm wearing.
Well, that's all for this week. Whatever you have planned for today, I hope it's a good one.
Toodle Pip for now. xx

Friday, 6 May 2016

Walking with L

Morning all. Apologies in advance for a rather photo heavy post. We appear to have switched from mid-winter with snow and hail to glorious summer with sunshine, soaring temperatures and blue skies. Not that I'm complaining; it's been wonderful. 
L finished yet another batch of exams this week, so we decided to make the most of the good weather and celebrate with a walk and a picnic. We didn't stray too far, just a couple of miles down the road to the village of Chieveley. It's a gorgeous, little village with so many characterful houses - a converted chapel, an old school house, old post office and shop and more cute cottages than you can shake a stick at. Sadly, there were a few people around, so I was too embarrassed to get my camera out. We parked in the pub car park and walked through the village to our starting point. I should point out that our directions were scribbled down from a walk website and were sketchy to say the least. We got lost a couple of times, so it was slightly longer than intended, but we made it back safely. 
Here are a few of the photos that I did manage to take: 
The start of the walk:
 Not the best shot of a kestrel ever, but he was fun to watch:
 There were horses:
 .... and geese:
 There was a flask of tea:
... and egg sandwiches - some more chunky than others! 
and a cinnamon Danish pastry - yum!
At the edge of the field where we had our picnic, we noticed some holes and little piles of earth. I thought initially that it was ants but it was actually a bee. I've never seen mining bees before. It just sat peacefully in its little hole whilst we ate our sandwiches next to it. We didn't bother it, it didn't bother us and everyone was happy.

 More gorgeous rape - I love the smell of this stuff, almost like honey.
We rounded off our walk with a drink in the pub garden. I really loved walking with L. She is such peaceful company.

Other happies this week:

New crocs for the summer - the legs are out, so it must be hot!  Hamish has a passion for rubber and ate my last pair, so I shall have to keep these well out of his way.
 Carrot cake: 
A few shots from the garden:
Watering the greenhouse:
The irises just beginning to open:
 Hostas before the slugs and snails get to them:
Blossom and blue sky - my favourite combination:
More perfectly imperfect strawberries:

My wheel of Colour cushion is nearly finished. I had a little knit by the river yesterday:
 When it got too hot (did you hear that? Too hot!), I moved to the shade on the patio and the ducks decided to join me: 
 Then Fergus came to say hello:
 One last random shot: E's mango 'hedgehogs'. I think mango must be one of our favourite fruits. What's yours?
Well done if you made it to the end. I hope the good weather holds for today as we've got a BBQ planned. First things first though, we're having a new stairs and landing carpet fitted this morning. I'm so excited. Our last one was ancient and had started to biodegrade where it was exposed to the sun!
Wishing you the best of weekends.

Toodle Pip for now. x