Wednesday, 30 March 2011

flickr - check!

Just a quick post tonight - I realise this might seem ridiculous to some clever techy minded people, but I have finally managed to suss out the flickr thing!

With a bit of help from lovely no 1 son.

Anyway, I'm feeling pleased with myself and have added my March scavenger hunt photos to Kathy's flickr group. Yay!

I'm easily pleased.


Tuesday, 29 March 2011

daisy blanket update...

Yesterday, I was mostly... hooking and baking!

Well... sort of anyway. I woke at silly o'clock - I'm a bit rubbish at sleeping at the best of times but for some reason yesterday I was awake at 5 (which was really 4, of course! Do you do this too? spend the entire day after the clocks have changed thinking in 'yesterday's time' or 'today's time'?!!).

Came down for a cup of tea at 6 and watched a bit of the Grand Prix with B. Have never really been into motor sports but since he came home from uni have kind of got sucked in! Much more tactical than I ever realised and its nice to share it with him. Plus it gave me an excuse to do a bit of early morning crochet!

My daisies are growing now and I am at that point where I just want it to be finished! Its not that I'm fed up with it - I am love, love, loving it - but I can't wait to see it finished; really looking forward to doing the border! Does that sound a bit mad?

Of course, I couldn't ignore the boring jobs for ever and then spent pretty much all morning trying to juggle money from one account to another so that I can cover all the bills this month. I do know that on the scale of things we are pretty fortunate - we both have jobs etc etc but I can't believe that 24 years into marriage we still struggle if we try to do anything other than the day to day stuff! We have no savings (not for want of trying) and so every time there is a big bill or an unexpected expense we are scraping the barrel again. I keep being reminded I have just been away and yes that was an unusual expense, but I did do it as cheaply as possible - cheap flights, cheap accommodation, next to no spending money, cheap time of year... Its not as though we have ever had annual big holidays or anything. We have just never been able to do it. Seems every time we begin to get straight we have to spend money on the car, or the boys, or the house... Last month should have just been my holiday (which believe me was an essential!!) most of which I paid for a while ago anyway - then the boiler packed up (£198), I had to have 2 tyres (£70), had to pay for gas refill (£230 - LPG, outrageously expensive downside of living in the sticks) plus extra driving lessons (an eye watering £21 per hour! please God let him pass next time!!!) and an extra driving test (£62). End result? Come payday - virtually everything is spent already and we are scrimping til the next one! Good job my boys will eat lentils...

Anyway, this wasn't intended to be a moan - just that after getting all that lot straight I decided I needed to sit and have some quality hooking time! So I did! A bit decadent but I spent most of the afternoon rattling off daisies! 

I've been hooking a few, fitting them into place and then sewing them up so it feels as though it grows in fits and starts, but it is big enough now to be really cosy on your lap!

I am loving making this blanket. There is something quite challenging about the randomness of it - because, of course, its not really 'random' in the true sense, as it has been quite a puzzle at times to get it to fit together. I deliberately didn't plan ahead as I wanted to just see what evolved but I found at the beginning that I was inadvertently stretching some squares as I sewed them in. So its not the most even of blankets - some of the squares look a little 'squished' and some a bit elongated - but overall I don't think it matters. It just looks 'homemade-y' to me - which is fine!

What I am trying to do now though is make a pile of different sized and coloured daisy squares, then lay them out so that I keep the edges more or less in line. Otherwise I thought I might end up with a very tricky edge to put a border on!!

I had to take it upstairs to take the photos, partly to try and get some better natural light and also because I wanted to see how I was doing for size laid out on the bed.

What do you think?! I'm aiming for big enough for a single bed so I reckon I'm about 2/3 of the way there? Plus the border. Yay!

I had to stop as I was running out of the deep blue so decamped to the kitchen for a bit of a baking session. It ended up being a bit of a cobbled bake as the cupboards were a bit sparse for ingredients (have been for a badly needed shop today!) but one lemon drizzle cake, a dozen pecan and coffee muffins and a tray of toffee oat slices later and the whole house smelt yummy.

Lemon drizzle is a bit of an old favourite - basic ingredients made delicious by a bit of sugar and lemon juice!

The coffee and pecan muffins started off intending to be coffee and walnut but in the absence of walnuts... and they are not bad at all!!

The toffee oat slices were an attempt to make an alternative to flapjacks (I always make flapjacks!!!) and were basically an oat, sugar, flour (gluten free in this case) and butter crumble with a layer of caramel in the middle. Seriously, not one for the waistline but boys seem to need to put away shed loads of calories just to keep going and given that half of the tin had gone before I could take a photo, I guess they are ok!  The only problem is that they are a bit crumbly so not quite the lunchbox snack I'd had in mind - back to good old flapjacks for that I think!

When I sat down again in the evening I didn't quite know what to do with my hands - couldn't make any more daisies, couldn't face more granny squares for Sarah London's appeal ( I am up to 12 so far & I will do some more but I do find plain grannies just a bit tedious after a while...), don't really want to do any more of my big ripple til I've finished the daisy blanket as I'd pinched some of the colours... 

I don't really enjoy the TV much, there's the odd thing I don't mind watching but there's very little on that makes me want to fully turn all my attention to it so I prefer to be in the room with whoever's watching doing a bit of crochet or something. At Christmas I was given this book...

...and this yarn...

The colours are gorgeous so, partly inspired by Alice (and her Mum!) I thought I'd have a go at some socks with it. This is my first attempt at knitting socks and although there are some really lovely patterns in the book, the instructions are a bit vague and all the needle and wool recommendations are American so this may be a bit hit and miss!

You knit both socks at once on circular needles so its a bit fiddly to begin with and it feels as though the yarns are going to get completely tangled but I'm making a bit of headway now and loving the way this yarn knits up. Its Stylecraft Life DK in 'Volcano' and is a wool/acrylic mix. Although it says it is DK it feels a bit finer than the acrylic DK I've been crocheting with and I'm using a smaller needle. I have already found that the pattern doesn't quite work for this yarn - if I'd kept increasing as I was suppose to I'd have ended up with two small hats I think! So it might all get tricky when I get to the heel, I may have to make it up when I get to that bit! The plus of this method is that you do end up with two socks the same - whether mine will even remotely fit remains to be seen!

I'm hoping they'll at least be house-worthy! But I suspect not up to Alice's Mum's standard!!

Will let you know how I get on!



Sunday, 27 March 2011

photo hunting...

Last month I had a go at Kathy's photo scavenger hunt. It seemed like a fun idea and gave me an excuse to take the camera out and keep snapping at things and I enjoyed looking at the things other people  had taken pictures of.

But...I realised that I am completely hopeless and easily distracted from all the things I am supposed to be doing so decided I should probably not try to do it again this month...

Then I looked at the list for March...

I have no willpower at all! And I am enjoying being out and about with the camera soooo much more than 'other stuff'!

So here is March's list:

  • a collection
  • a fancy gate
  • a lamb
  • a lion
  • a rainbow
  • a ring
  • a shadow
  • an empty chair
  • peeling paint
  • something as old as you
  • something green
  • something sentimental

And here are my attempts!

"a collection"
Actually this is just part of a collection. I have collected napkin rings since I was really small. We used to spend our weekends as children traipsing round 'junk' shops - my parents were always hunting for bargain antiques. We were encouraged to collect something, I think so that it made it more interesting - my older sister collected medals, I collected these and my younger sister collected boxes. I think I probably had the best deal as these were a bit more affordable generally and I have got loads - getting on for 100 I should think. They are not all of value at all but some are old and some are just typical of their 'era'. There are bone and ivory ones, some with silver monograms, ornate silver, wooden 'holiday souvenirs' with pictures of resorts, bakelite and enamel, papier mache, glass... all sorts really. Some are really pretty and some just of interest; the one on the bottom shelf is made of shell and carved with the image of a local lifeboatman. It was difficult to take a decent photo because of the reflection from the glass front on the unit - R had this made so we could display some of them a couple of years ago. I do love to look at them from time to time - I can remember where many of them came from and I think they are an interesting item of social history. Does anyone still use napkins and napkin rings any more? We don't, at least hardly ever. I have some in the drawer in the kitchen but they come out on high days and holidays really; although we do try to sit down as a family and eat together whenever possible we just don't do that formal kind of laid table eating much anymore. I do still like to look out for them and I still love poking around in antique/junk shops!

"a fancy gate"
We were in London last weekend and there are a lot of fancy gates in London! I tried to take photos of the ones in Admiralty Arch, St James Park and Chinatown but that was when we were walking round in the evening and my little camera really doesn't cope well with low light so had to settle for this one near St Paul's the next day. I think the building houses the records of coats of arms - quite a fancy gate I thought!

"a lamb"
Ok this might be a bit tenuous but it was the best I could do! Norfolk is not renowned for fields of lambs... farming here is pretty much arable with a bit of dairy; so when I spotted these outside the Princes Foundation eco show house at the Ideal Homes exhibition I just had to snap them! (R by this stage thinks I have completely gone la la - 'why on earth do you want to take photos of loft insulation?!') I thought they were quite cute! And actually I really like the idea of insulation made of wool rather than fibre glass. The whole house was full of eco-friendly ideas and all the furniture and decorations from recycled or reused  materials. Not all to my taste but the principle got my approval.

"a lion"

See what I mean about low light photos!! But the lions in Trafalgar Square really are quite impressive so I couldn't resist. (and Norfolk not full of Lions either...!)

"a rainbow"

I love this bag. I got it on York market about 5 years ago when B (son 1) was looking at unis. I have used it so much and it has been through the wash a few times, so it is a bit faded now. But its a really handy size and cheers me up on dull days!

"a ring"

I'm sure some people have lovely jewellery but I don't! Not that I wouldn't mind some but have never been bought any - at least not that I felt I wanted to take photos of. So I went for this instead - kind of a ring? This notebook is in son 1's bedroom - I love the spotty cover too!

"a shadow"

My 17 year old son looking very long and lanky on the swing in the park the other day!

"an empty chair"
This little chair looks decidedly the worse for wear but I love it and can't bear to get rid of it. (This along with several other things, could have been my 'sentimental' thing - I am much more soppy about things than I had thought!) I can remember sitting in this chair as a small child and it was my chair (definitely not my sisters'!). It left home with me and for years had a collection of soft toys in it, then the boys all used it. But it didn't survive being climbed on repeatedly by small boys, the final straw being when R (definitely not a small boy!) tried to use it as a step! Dur!!! One of these days  I will get it repaired but really have no idea where to try - any thoughts?

"peeling paint"

Oh dear! Another sentimental moment I'm afraid. This little gnome sits on our front door step. He came from Devon where we went on holiday about 15 years ago, when the boys would have been 3, 5 & 7. It was such a lovely holiday - perfect weather, rock-pooling, exploring on the beach and we visited the Gnome Sanctuary. Don't know if its still there, but at the time it seemed a magical little place - lovely woodland filled with loads of gnomes that you could just wander round, playing games that were in the woods on the way round. We were all given gnome hats on the way in and I have photos of the boys in their hats fishing for pebbles and eating their picnic under giant toadstools. It was wonderful food for the imagination and a very happy memory. This little chap was the one they chose to bring home.

"something as old as you"
This bear was bought for me when I was born apparently. Not for us '60's babies nice soft squishy 'baby safe' toys! He is actually quite hard and scratchy but I loved him - which is why he looks a bit tatty! His head came off a couple of times and was sewn back on by my mum (not quite straight so he looks a bit to the left all the time!) and his eyes fell out and were replaced by buttons (I can't remember him with proper eyes - this is how he's always looked to me). When I was little you there were various bears in stories etc - Paddington, Winnie the Pooh, but my favourite was always Teddy Robinson. He was a bear that belonged to a little girl called Deborah and had various adventures. He had a best dress (which I thought was great for a boy bear - we were very into ending discrimination in our house!) so my teddy had to have a dress too - I think my patient mum must have made this dress. Does anyone remember Teddy Robinson? My boys never quite got him - maybe more of a girls story after all!

"something green"

Seedlings coming through in the cold frame, can't wait for veggies from the garden again.

"something sentimental"
As I said, when I was thinking about this one I realized there are loads of things I feel sentimental about! I have things from when the boys were babies, things that belonged to my Nannie, things from my chldhood... but this little silver pendant was given to me by my Mum when I was quite young (10ish maybe). It had belonged to her mother, who we never knew because she died when Mum was just 4 so it has a connection with another generation, somehow. I'm not sure how old it is - the engraving is pretty worn as though it has been worn a fair bit and I guess even if my grandmother had it as an adult it must be 70 or so years old. I have a photo of my Mum wearing it when she was about 10 and if I ever have a granddaughter it will eventually be passed on. 

So, thanks Kathy - I enjoyed these memories that went with finding these photos. Blow the boring 'should do' stuff! Bring on the April list!!


Thursday, 24 March 2011

highs and lows...

Today has been a day of ups and downs! 

Beautiful sunshine and a real bit of warmth in it today. And a chance to enjoy a bit of outdoor time as I have to work Saturday so was able to take a bit of time back this afternoon. Came home on tenterhooks as no. 3 son was having a second go at his driving test...

And that was the first 'Oh Dear'... You can guess the outcome of that. I did feel for him - its not easy being the third and he has never been the most confident of the three. Just lately a combination of knocks have succeeded in leaving him feeling he's no good at things. And however much I know some of it is within his control (the whole achieving what you should at college thing...), he has also got to believe in himself too. It's not that his older brothers sailed through everything, but they did seem to get through those significant milestones without too many problems - both passed driving test first time, achieved acceptable results in school exams and got their first choice uni places etc etc. It's not that T can't do it - he's a bright, likeable, articulate young man (most of the time!) but I think he puts a lot of pressure on himself and is then very disappointed when things don't quite work out.

Anyway, we decided to be positive - rebooked the test again, had lunch together and headed to the park in the sunshine! Can't remember the last time we went to the park together just for the sake of it but it was beautiful and couldn't resist having another play with son 2's fancy camera!

Sorry... not the prettiest pair of feet! But, honestly, it was warm enough for sandals and short sleeved T-shirts!

Playing it cool on the swing...

...and the bars!

Still can't quite get used to my 'baby' having Man Legs!!!

Suddenly the trees and hedgerows are beginning to be covered in pretty blossom.

Somehow, it seems to me that the sunlight seems to make everything seem to have more depth - even dry seed-heads of teasel near the churchyard.

Back in the garden, there are little splashes of colour appearing fact, that's why I have a new blog header pic today - there were just so many gorgeous flowers and new shoots to enjoy!

My ex-indoor hyacinths have opened up in just a few days and the daffs under the trees are nodding away cheerfully. Some have them are looking a bit worse for wear from the recent cold mornings and windy weather and I just had to rescue these three whose stems had broken to pop in a vase.

I can't really remember ever planting doubles like these - I can't decide whether they have just migrated from somewhere or changed themselves over the years (or maybe just incorrectly sorted as bulbs?). Anyway, I don't mind - I do think they are very pretty and couldn't bear to see them face down in the flower bed!

I can't remember what these are called either? They are quite tiny - about the size of a small crocus but really pretty and a lovely find today as I thought I'd lost them! They went in several years ago and flowered once then got mowed by a rather over enthusiastic Man with a Mower (R does like to cut grass!!!) and I hadn't seen them again - til this year! And now there is actually quite a big patch. Maybe serious pruning is the way to go???!!! Providing you don't mind flowers every 5 years!! Don't think I could recommend it as a way to go!

I have a little lilac tree, brought from a cutting from a tree at our last house 18 years go, which has buds that are just about to burst open (T said this looks like a picture of a rather odd sprout!!!).

I discovered that the third lens in son 2's camera case was a telephoto lens and although, if I'm honest, the whole changing lenses/carrying it all around thing seems a bit of a faff - I was able to get this noisy young starling on next doors roof from my garden table. His feathers were positively shimmering in the sun with purples, greens and blues.

I'm trying to decide what to go for in the way of a new camera - am hoping to drop some heavy hints for a collective present for my birthday! - but am really dithering about what it is I want! I am enjoying playing with the lenses S has and his camera certainly seems to give much better definition and colour, even on auto settings. is pretty bulky and heavy and I'm not sure I would get the best out of it for general use as I like to just have the camera with me 'just in case'! If anyone has any tips or thoughts about cameras, do let me know! Would welcome the views of those with some experience!!

Last indulgent shot - bright and blowsy tulips to look at when I'm washing up! I should have taken this photo in daylight (it was dark by the time I got this!) but got waylaid with cooking tea, etc and just wanted to share them with you tonight!

It has been a funny day - all those very mixed feelings about the driving; of course you want them to get through it but I'm not looking forward to having to send him off in the car on his own (my car at that!). The never ending cost of lessons and tests I could do without and most of all I really want T to have a bit of a boost. But oddly, had he passed today - he would have probably whizzed off in the car and I'd have missed out on lovely time out in the park with him. I know he will get there in the end and overall I had some really nice heart-lifting moments today.

Well, my bed is calling! Normal work day tomorrow so should try to sleep!

Til next time then,


Sunday, 20 March 2011

connecting in blogland...

When I started writing this blog at the beginning of the year, it was primarily for my sanity - somewhere for me to place my thoughts and document the little things that fill my days. I wasn't really writing it with anyone else in mind and not expecting anyone to read it especially. But I have to say the whole 'blog-thing' has become a bit more than that - I have found it somewhere to connect with others with similar interests, somewhere to find crafty inspiration and there has been something quite affirming in that.

So I would especially like to say thankyou to those of you who have left lovely comments on here - it really gives me a happy feeling to know that there are people who are enjoying what I am doing. And a particular big thankyou to Heather at Little Tin Bird (whose blog I really love - full of colour and reminds me of the value of the 'ordinary' things in life) for linking to my daisy blanket!

I have been a bit distracted on the crochet front, so the daisies have kind of gone on hold! (I am a bit rubbish at concentrating on one thing at a time... cause of constant frustration to R that I always have multiple projects on the go!). I came across Sarah London's 'Crochet a Rainbow' appeal a few days ago. A bit belatedly, I realise, but I discovered it on a day when the news from Japan was particularly bleak and I felt I must do something. Maybe I've missed it but there don't seem to be have been any direct appeals here for Japan (or Christchurch for that matter) so I figured if I could make some little contribution that would be a good thing.

Sooo.... I have been crocheting granny squares in the little bit of spare time I have had this week. 

The colours are not at all true on here - I am using some balls of wool I have had hanging around for ages (just in case... does anyone else have these? I just cannot quite throw out yarn or fabric cos it might come in handy one day!) and the colours are not really what I would usually choose but I figured if people need blankets they won't mind too much what colour they are! But on that photo it looks like black, white and a kind of orangy pink - actually its navy, white and a sort of deep magenta.

Anyway, I feel a bit of a 'must get on with it' about these so am going to try to do 20 or so, then get on with my daisies! 

This has been a really hectic week at work and at home and there feels as though there has been little time for anything - I worked an extra day (and circumstances conspired against me taking my time back - the joy of working for the NHS means that when that happens you work for free!!!), home has been a bit frazzled with son 3 and the whole A levels/uni/new girlfriend saga (another story entirely - suffice to say that dealing with the love interests of your offspring seems to be fraught with pitfalls!) and my relationship with R seems to have reached an all time fragile state. I am very aware that a lot of the blogs I've read seem to depict an ideal, rosy home life... mine is far from that at the moment and in a way this gives me a small space to escape from the chaos of day to day life. I managed to get away from work in daylight on Friday so took the time to have a wander round the garden and enjoy a few moments of lovely things...

Time for 'mid-month pic' - you can't see very well but there is a big patch of daffs under the plum and crab apple trees at the bottom of the garden which are about to come into flower; I may have to cheat and sneak an extra pic in as I suspect if I wait til next month they will be past their best again! Most of the trees are beginning to come into leaf and my pot of tete-a-tetes is flowering merrily. And had you noticed a new arrival in the flower bed? R snaffled an old greenhouse that was in pieces and being thrown out by a neighbour. He rebuilt it, cleaned it all up and replaced a few panes and it is good as new! I am expecting great things of the greenhouse/allotment partnership this year! (and only a little disappointed that the greenhouse has been placed on the site of a patch of lily of the valley that had just got established!)

On closer inspection... early daffodils are like small patches on sunlight and the forsythia is a mass of tiny  blooms.

A patch of hyacinths are about to reveal their full colours. These were all originally in pots indoors and have gradually been added to the garden where they seem to come through stronger each year.

Leaves are beginning to unfurl on the crab apple tree, with just a hint of the blossom which is to come.

There is something very satisfying about trying to capture the little details in the garden - makes you realise how much things are quietly changing under our noses all the time and provides definite evidence that we are moving towards warmer weather!!

It was really cold when I took these photos - I think the temperature dipped below freezing again that night - and I had a spectator as I walked round the garden...

Basil obviously decided it was too chilly to venture outside and peered around the conservatory door! He sat there for an age just looking; posed for a few shots then retired to the warmth of the sofa!

This morning did see a much brighter, sunnier day and I think we reached the dizzy heights of about 14C in the sunshine this afternoon. First thing the sun was streaming through the front windows and Jemima had found the perfect spot to relax in...

Tomorrow, R and I are taking a couple of days in London - he has won tickets to the Ideal Homes exhibition so we are leaving the boys to themselves and heading down on the train. Maybe this will give us a chance to talk properly - so difficult to find time and space in a busy house where we rarely have uninterrupted time. Not sure IH would be my preferred choice of destination; we went 25 years ago when we were setting up our first home and all was very exciting, not sure it will be quite the same now. But my memory is of lots of lovely things to look at so I'm sure it will make for a change for a couple of days.

Will let you know!!

Til next time


Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Spring mists...

Somehow, the awful things happening on the other side of the world make you appreciate even more the stability on your doorstep. My heart goes out to the people in Japan who can have no sense of tranquility just now.

Here, today began with lovely sunshine - a bit of frost on the ground but bright and actually felt as though there was a bit of warmth in the air. As I drove into work, it looked as though the ground was steaming as the sun burned the frost away. Really beautiful, gave everything an ethereal air. I walked from work across to the university this morning, lovely to be able to breathe in some spring air and even situated on the outskirts of the city, very calm and peaceful. 

These don't really do it justice but you get a sense of what it looked like - I expect it would have been a bit more obvious on a photo half an hour before.

The trees were glistening with drops of melted frost hanging on the branches, looking as though they had been scattered with tiny crystals catching the light.

Sadly, the blue skies didn't last - by the time I came home it was grey and chilly again. Much to son 3's irritation as, for some reason known only to a 17 year old's sense of logic, he'd gone to college in shorts this morning! Shorts! On March 14th!! Daft beggar!

One more thing that made me smile today - Jemima picked an appropriate spot for a snooze I thought...

Although if you look carefully, she is only pretending to snooze...her ears aren't missing a thing!

Til next time then