Tuesday, 26 April 2011

family fun and...finished daisy blanket!!!

This weekend has been a mixed one. 

I was at work Good Friday & Easter Saturday. Now, I don't mind doing my share of the bank holidays - after all, healthcare is not a Monday to Friday thing - and I don't really mind too much that I invariably am late away (what should have been a 7 1/2 hr day Friday turned into 12hrs) - such is the unpredictability of working in the NHS. But I did have to bite my tongue when R kept saying how lovely it has been to have a 4 day weekend (I haven't!) and to have a 3 day week this week (I haven't! I'm in next Friday too! Wedding or not!). In fact, for me, I always just very slightly, very selfishly, resent the fact that bank holiday Mondays erode my week as Monday is my day off (to myself usually!!!) so to me last week was a long one and this week is the same as normal - 4 long days, Mon to Fri.

But...I do realise that's a bit churlish! And we did do lovely things on Sunday and Monday.

Glorious sunshine and unseasonally warm temperatures meant we were able to have the first barbecue of the year on Easter Sunday. What a treat to be able to eat outside in April - and it really not be 'just a bit chilly but we'll stick it out anyway 'cos we've said we're having a barbecue'!

We had long cool glasses of Pimms in the garden, with salads, barbecued stuffed peppers and Jamie's barbecued belly pork. I'm not much of a meat eater, but this was easy and delicious and every bit as good as a big roast dinner.

We moved the conservatory furniture out onto the grass, spread out our festival Pimms blanket and a few cushions and just chilled. 

My Mum gave me gardening tips (she is much more knowledgeable than I am) and we spotted this single tulip that has appeared from somewhere...

I love its pointy petals and almost black centre.

We were quite a houseful with Mum, my younger sister and brother-in-law and 3 small nephews, plus R and I, our 3 boys and one girlfriend. It was so nice to have all our boys together with their cousins as the older they get, the harder it seems to be to achieve that now.

Oldest and youngest cousins having 'a moment' - my youngest nephew, 8 months, and my eldest son, 22 years - lovely boys both!

The excitement of the Easter egg hunt was a bit beyond this little one - how snuggly is he?!!! He just dozed while his 4 and 6 year old brothers raced round the garden hunting for treasure (not all chocolate - we also had bubbles, bouncy balls and chicks!) hidden by their almost as excited big cousins. Even having put the chocolate eggs in the freezer for a couple of hours, there was something of a time pressure to hide and find them before they melted! About 5 are still out there somewhere...we think...no-one thought to count them before they were hidden!!

Then today we headed up to the coast, where we got a bit of a shock as it was about 10C cooler! The breeze was blowing straight off the North Sea...

All the flags on the seafront were flying straight out and we had to do an emergency shop for something warmer to wear before heading for fabulous fish and chips on the seafront.

And then my final excitement of the weekend is this...

Ta Dah!!!! I finally finished my daisy blanket! I started this blanket on 15th January with no real plan about what would go where other than that I would keep to a few colours and that all the squares would have a daisy as a centerpiece. 

For the record, it is about (I haven't measured it!) 3 feet by 6 feet, made almost entirely of Stylecraft Special DK, 100% acrylic; one ball each of white, raspberry, meadow, sunshine and cloud blue and two of aster (the deeper blue). The lilac was a ball I had left over from another project which I can't remember the name of - also an acrylic yarn and similar to the Stylecraft lavender I think. At about £1.65 a ball I don't think you could call this an extravagant blanket.

I edged each square with a row of dc in aster and sewed them all together with just a simple slip stitch. The border has a row of half treble in aster, a row of dc in sunshine, bobble stitch in white, 2 half treble clusters in meadow green, trebles in lilac, half trebles in raspberry, trebles in cloud blue, dc in aster then (finally!) a simple shell edging in aster. I had several goes at different edgings but they all seemed a bit fussy and too much somehow, so went for something simple in the end.

It has turned out warm and snuggly and I'm really pleased with it but, as I said a couple of posts ago, it has been a bit of a learning process!
  • Probably best to do a bit of planning!!! It doesn't show too much on the line but this is a bit of a wonky blanket! You can see how wonky in the folded pictures - it is impossible to get it to fold neatly as the edges are all slightly different lengths! I think the problem was that the yarn makes such stretchy squares (especially the bigger ones) that it was easy to 'persuade them' together when I was sewing them up and although I thought it was reasonably square, when I came to d the edge I realised it wasn't! Were I to do something similar again I think I would be a bit more careful to count the edge stitches to even them up as these were the basis for the border.
  • I should have written what I did down as I went along! There is a bit of variety in the exact stitches I used as I kept forgetting exactly what I'd done! Probably didn't help the sizing issue! 
  • The final edging is just slightly curled up - perhaps I should have worked it just into the back loop of the row before? 
  • If I'm entirely honest (and at risk of sounding a yarn snob...) I'm not sure I am truly fond of acrylic yarn. I love the colours and it is thick and warm but I did not enjoy working with it as much as the cottons and merinos I've used before. I find it a bit 'squeaky' and hard going on my hands. But...it is infinitely more affordable and, as I don't wish to be restricted to one project every 10 years (!) acrylic is likely to remain the yarn of choice for now!
But overall...I'm really happy with it! 

So now I just have to decide what next? Do I go back to the Big Ripple (abandoned in favour of daisies)? I should finish the socks - making very slow progress with these! But probably I need to first finish and get posted my pile of squares for Sarah London's Crochet a Rainbow project - I hope I'm not going to be too late with them!

Happy making, whatever it is...til next time


Saturday, 23 April 2011

Can't quite get my head round the weather we are having at the moment! When I left work at 2pm today the temperature was registering 27C! Its more like midsummer than end of April. I hope the poor plants don't go into complete shock when we get the inevitable drop back to 'normal' temperatures - which I'm sure it will at some point!

I went for a lovely bike ride this afternoon - I am trying to finally kick my new years promise to myself in to touch and get a bit fitter! Probably would be more effective if I left the camera at home as I couldn't help keep stopping to take photos - I guess I need to cycle for long enough to get out of breath ideally...

I wasn't very far down the road before I saw this splash of bright red on the verge - poppies in April? Really?

I was heading for this little wood near us which always has the most beautiful bluebells. It was about 5.30pm by the time I got there, still warm and sunny with the trees giving dappled shade. The air was filled with the scent from the bluebells - I hadn't really realised they had so much fragrance but the early evening seems to bring it out. 

It was just really peaceful and lovely to just sit for a bit before cycling home... and I'm sure the last long hill did me loads of good!!!

This pretty little church is tucked away on one of the back lanes and in the churchyard I spotted this little narcissus...

Spring flowers still around after all! Lovely.

Til next time then, 


lovely things...

This week has been so warm and sunny! More like June than April... which means, I suspect, that it won't last... but lovely while its here.

I have to confess to a little bit of envy of those who have holidays, it is so hard to go into work and miss the day! For the most part, I barely have time to look out of the window! On the plus side, at least the evenings are longer and brighter so there has been time to enjoy it at the end of the day.

I am working most of the Easter weekend but had what felt like a bonus day on Thursday in lieu - time to appreciate a few lovely things...

Zingy tulips in our local town.

Sitting out in the garden having a sneaky bit of crochet time! This border is taking an age! The rows are soooo long. The blanket is about 3ft by 6ft so thats a lot of stitches! Getting there...I think I've got maybe one more row then the edge proper...

Aquilegia in my garden. My mum insists these are weeds as they seed themselves everywhere but I don't mind that at all. I ignore them pretty much and they reward me each year with a garden full of delicately coloured nodding flowers...

What's not to love???

Bluebells replacing the daffodils under the fruit trees.

Lovely son 2 fixing the puncture in my bike tyre so I could go for a spin which I haven't done for ages and really enjoyed. Might not have been quite the exercise I intended as I kept stopping to take photos!

Now I would agree that dandelions, in my garden anyway, are a weed... but in the hedgerows and verges I think they are lovely. Don't you think its amazing that this humble little plant has such a fabulous seed head? How many seeds in one flower do you reckon? No wonder they're everywhere!

Then this morning I arrived at work to find this on my desk...

Which opened to reveal...

How stunning is that?!! Lovely thoughtful friend who happens to know I have a chocolate weakness...

Hope you have had lovely things in your week, have a happy Easter weekend


Monday, 18 April 2011

loving daisies!

Very quick post, 'cos it is ridiculous o'clock and I really should be in bed as I have to get up for work tomorrow!

I am nearly there with my daisy blanket! I have started the border so expect a Finished! post anytime soon! This blanket has been a bit of a learning curve so it is far from perfect but I am still happy with my happy daisies - hence the new blog header...

The garden is really moving on a-pace now...

This was taken early yesterday morning before the day brightened up a bit - the daffodils have finished and the leaves are coming on almost all of the trees now. That little splash of white near the greenhouse is a Spirea that my mum gave me that she says is called "Bridal Wreath". I should really take a closer pic because it is beautiful this year.

Enough for now, bed beckons, just a few more daisy pics...!


Til next time, 

Monday, 11 April 2011

more time please!!!

I don't know where this week has gone!

In theory, having longer days ought to make it possible to squeeze more into the day, right? Well, either I am very disorganised or there just seems to be more to do and I still run out of hours!

I read a blog post last week written by a stay at home mum, who was describing how full her days are - of baking, making, family and blogging plus all the other stuff that keeping a house and home happy and healthy involves. I don't have any problem with that - people make their own choices about what is right for them and their families according to what their circumstances allow. But I do think that there is busy and busy

I can only speak for myself, but I work 40 official hours a week (plus a whole lot of unofficial, unpaid hours - welcome to public services!) and try to be a 'good mum'. And that's where I think the problem is. Many of us judge ourselves by our ability to keep on top of everything and consequently carry a lot of guilt when we don't quite feel we're managing it. I have so many friends who are in the same position as me - working long hours, studying, running a home and feeling generally dissatisfied with their lot. 

Sometimes it is difficult to keep things in perspective and that was part of the reason I started to write this blog - so that I could get a sense of balance about the good and happy things. There are lots of good bits in my life; lots of things that I enjoy and appreciate and somehow recording bits out of my day makes me realise that actually I achieve quite a bit. Would I like to be able to be a stay at home, baking, blogging, crafting girl? Sometimes, yes. But I would so miss the stimulation of the challenges at work and my work colleagues that I know I, personally, would go a bit stir crazy! 

This last week has been so ridiculously hectic that I have barely found time to take photos and haven't managed a blog post at all! In between work and shopping, collecting son 2 from Derbyshire, finding a car for son 2 (courtesy of the bank, who I have to be nice to for a year now...), arranging insurance, finder cheaper electricity supplier (£10/month less! result!), balancing the bank accounts and trying to keep enough cake in the tins and food in the cupboards for hungry menfolk, I have caught up with a few friends, had two spontaneous trips out to see Eliza Doolittle & Stacey Kent (courtesy of short notice tickets going begging) and even squeezed in a little bit of crochet (I am nearly to the edging of the daisy blanket - no photos yet!). 

Am I on top of everything? No!!! But...the sun has been shining, I've had some fun this week, my family are all back at home for a bit and if there is a generous coating of dust on everything, just for now, I can't worry!

Yesterday was so lovely, I spent pretty much all day out in the garden trying to beat the weeds into submission. I do love the garden but boy, does it take up some time! Yesterday was serious clearing, weeding, cutting back day (fingers crossed no more heavy frost!) and although it looks a bit 'butchered'  at the moment I am hoping I can now keep on top of it with a quick potter round every week or so... We'll see!

The daffs are nearly finished now but the blossom on the trees is gorgeous and buzzing with honey bees. 

I can never quite decide which is my favourite - the crab apple starts off deep pink and then opens into fragrant pale pink flowers. The plum has delicate all white flowers and the apple has buds that look as though they have been brushed with the palest pink. I think I love them all and they are particularly gorgeous against a blue sky.

The flower beds are filling out with lush new growth now - although I did make a few bare patches pulling out nettles, couch grass and some horrible creeping weed that seems to have wound its way through every plant (seriously, my garden has been badly neglected for some time!).

Up close, there is so much colour and detail appearing...

Don't you think it is amazing that nature produces so many beautiful and different shapes and colours? 

At one point we had a complete family effort going on - we cleared the pond (sorry newts and frogs, but it was getting so choked up with plants - I hope they've all found their way back; today I have to get rid of the slimy roots and weeds that we left on the side so the creepy crawlies could all get home), we sanded and re-oiled my bench, we lopped overgrown branches...

It was lovely to have all my grown up boys out with us - pond-dipping remains as fascinating to a certain 22 year old as it did when he was 10!

Revitalised bench! This is surrounded by honeysuckle and is a lovely place to sit in the evening later in the summer when the smell is just divine.

And from here the view is...


This was taken about 6pm and the sun was still bright and warm, casting long shadows across the garden.

We have this tree that I really love - it is very late to come into leaf (no sign at all yet) but it has this amazing bark that peels off to reveal lovely reddish brown new bark underneath. Its called a paperbark maple and yesterday evening the sun made it glow. 

All in all - A Good Day. 

Now today... I have to crack on with the long list of jobs outstanding...
  • Write blog post - check!
  • Washing (this might be a challenge - the water has just been turned off!!)
  • Clean & tidy round.
  • Shopping
  • Make tea/cakes
  • Write article for patient support group
  • Complete patient safety project 'next step' work
  • Ironing 
  • Tackle the front garden
  • Get rid of smelly pond debris!
  • Collect monitoring equipment from patient's home 
  • Make a bit more progress with dissertation...
I daren't put it on the list as a 'to do' but I might try and sneak a bit of hooking in there...

It is entirely possible that I will not manage all of this! But I have made a note to self... do what you can and be happy with that!

Til next time then...


Sunday, 3 April 2011

extreme knitting...!

Yesterday saw us trekking across the county to the Sandringham craft fair after R won more tickets in some online competition. The day started less than well after I inadvertently missed one digit of the postcode in the sat nav and neither of us noticed until we were almost to Peterborough! Dur! An extra hour of driving later (back the way we came, oh the joys of the A47...) we arrived at Sandringham to find a field full of marquees with crafty things, foody things and general 'country fair' type stuff.

I do tend to come away from these things thinking 'I'm sure I could do that' but it's always good to have a look at what people are doing - some of it very arty and clever and definitely out of my league both in terms of skill and price tag! There was some fabulous woodcraft - sculptures and garden furniture that was definitely art as well as functional.

But the thing that really caught my eye was this...

How mad is that? Have you ever seen anything like it? This was draped over one of those two seater camping 'sofas' and the needles are about the size of broomstick handles! The yarn is a mix of strands from lots of different balls of wool in different colours and textures and the effect is amazing.

I sooooo want to have a go at this!!! Some were soft, drapy (is that a word?!) pieces that would make lovely cosy blankets and some were thick durable rugs. I can't imagine its easy to handle because it must get very heavy - I think it would require a sofa takeover bid - but I bet it grows quickly!!!

And how about extreme crochet?

Can you imagine making granny squares with these?!

Then, today, no 1 son took me over to the annual Daffodil Day fair near to us. Although we've been in this house 18 years, I've never been before. Lovely mixture of country fair, village fete and craft fair; steam engines, classic cars, tea and cake and lots of stalls.

The sun had been out most of the day but actually by the time we arrived, a bit late in the day, it had clouded over but was very pleasant nonetheless.

I've always loved steam engines. I love the smell and the sound and the intricacy of the mechanics. When we were kids we used to go to the steam engine rally in the next village to us and I was always fascinated by these huge machines, polished to perfection and manned by cloth-capped, oily, jolly men who seemed to take such pride in showing off their 'babies'. This one was a miniature and chugged around the site periodically with happy passengers balanced on the back.

There was also a display of steam-powered industrial machinery - a reminder of how relatively recently mechanisation began in earnest; these systems must have revolutionised manufacturing and farming. And I loved these...

Great use of colour!

The fair is held at the private school, which is set in beautiful grounds and we had a wander through the woods on the 'daffodil walk'. There are lots of daffs but we also came across this stunning camellia...

Even without the benefit of sunshine the colour was vivid, especially contrasted against the dark glossy leaves. Gorgeous.

And I can't finish telling you about Daffodil Day without a few of these...

Great swathes of daffodils of various shades but these three jumped out of the sea of yellow at me.

Not a bad weekend at all.

Til next time


Saturday, 2 April 2011

Things that have made me happy today...

Thanks for all your nice comments, it is lovely to hear from you!

Today I worked a half day, which felt like a treat, and the sun was shining all afternoon. There is something very decadent about not being at work when you feel you should be!

I know this doesn't look like a happy thing particularly but one of the reasons I took some time back was so I could go and give blood. I've been going for years (babies and health issues permitting) and today was my 38th pint! It truly doesn't hurt and it just feels like a Good Thing to do. I always think those sessions are a good place for people watching too - there's a kind of sense of camaraderie and some of the donor carers are a bit quirky! Nice but definitely quirky! One chap was at pains to tell me today that I could have helped enough people to fill a double decker bus over the years - permission to feel virtuous I think. I would just like to point out that you can now give blood 3 times a year, otherwise 38 makes me sound ancient! Eldest son came along too today; I'm glad that both my older 2 boys have registered to become regular donors - it just seems a small ask if you are healthy and can be so valuable. Plus you get Club chocolate biscuits! Not something I ever buy, but you have to have one to boost your sugar levels (well, that's what I choose to believe). 

Taking this picture made me realise that I can't operate a camera left handed! About 6 attempts and still not in focus!

One of the nice things about getting home so early was I got to have a wander round the garden and have a proper look at what's coming up - it seems like suddenly the plants are bursting into life and I took a cup of tea and my camera and tried to really notice everything.

Hostas have appeared as if by magic - these will shortly be followed by an army of slugs which will decimate them. Its an annual ritual and I have not found a method of putting the little blighters off! I live in hope that one day they'll flower without being shredded. Or maybe just invest in a variety the slugs aren't so keen on...

This little tree is our miniature horse chestnut, from a conker planted by the boys about 10 or so years ago. It has grown so slowly but is now like a mini tree, with mini versions of the intricate leaves. I wonder if one day we will get mini conkers?!!

These little narcissi are really delicate. Its difficult to get a sense of scale from this picture but they are no more than about an inch across and most stems have 3 or four flowers. It was pretty blowy today and they are so light that they kept moving when I tried to snap them.

The blossom on the crab apple and plum trees is just about to burst open. It looks as though they will be covered this year.

The light was so lovely today the colours seemed to shout out as I walked round. I love this time of year - everything feels fresh and new and the brightness is so welcome after what has felt like a very long winter.

And who could help but smile at this...

Daft cat was snuggled up in a sunny spot on a chair with one ear folded over and such a lazy content look. I think being a cat must be a pretty happy life!

Hope you all had happy days too, til next time.