Why would you put an egg on it?

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A wander by the river admiring the beginnings of autumn colour then lunch al fresco. The pub fires were lit but it was really too warm to be inside, such a lovely day. I had a starter of wild garlicky mushrooms on sourdough toast with a surprise poached egg on top which I ate, although they’d obviously done that poaching trick as it tasted faintly of vinegar. Then my friend and I decided a starter and a sinful pudding would be perfect, because we were only having a light lunch. Women’s logic is infallible. Mine wasn’t around long enough to snap but I can tell you it was swimming in sauce and had a good dollop of clotted cream on top!

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By noon today and yesterday it’s been 18 degrees and people are strolling about in t-shirts again. It’s incredible weather for October, we haven’t even had a frost yet.

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The flowers in the photo were in troughs alongside the tables and there were stunning hanging baskets behind us, all bursting full of begonias, freesias and other pretties. This is weird weather – but I like the temporary respite from autumn and I’m trying to make the most of the mini Indian Summer.

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I popped into my favourite yarn shop after lunch and grabbed an extra graphite, raspberry and lime for my ripple. £1.60 for 100g, super value isn’t it?

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I’ve just remembered that I was told off for pausing and squealing at the celeb version of Gogglebox the other night – Miranda and co were on a sofa with a granny square blanket hanging off the back, but also…..THIS:

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Even ripples are mainstream now. Is it the death knell for crochet? My e-pal and I were saying typing at the weekend that the handmade revolution can’t last forever and she reckons the cool kids will stop as everybody else gets on board. White walls and minimalism will be back with a vengeance, and the yarn shops will close again. But not for a while I hope!

There is an interesting feature in the new issue of Inside Crochet with Sara of Black Sheep Wools, all about how the business began, subsequently stalled and what happened when knitting and crochet came back.

I’ve just caught up on the first of the specials of the Great British Sewing Bee for Children In Need, it’s not great without Claud and doesn’t feel half as good as the usual series, but I like Edith, she’s very cool, and Dave makes me giggle. I won’t say who won in case you’re catching up too. I’ve got the other two to see as well.

You?

I don’t take any responsibility for the lame title, I asked for suggestions and it was better than my ‘Not cool’ or ‘Washing on the line again.’ Not cool was obviously because of the temps but …..well….it describes this blog too! Don’t pretend to be something you’re not. Be yourself. Ya de yah. *Grin*

Decanter magazine

In August I was contacted by Annabelle Sing a picture researcher for Decanter magazine; she had seen my blog photos from our visit to The Crooked Billet in Newton Longville, last April. If I agreed the magazine designer might choose to use them in an article. What a compliment! If they were used would I prefer to be credited by name, or would I like information about their picture rates? Well what would you have chosen?!

I emailed the seven photographs and waited to see if the designer chose to use a few of them, or not. By September I assumed they had found others. Then on Monday I had an email saying they had indeed been used and I should invoice the accounts department. The rate depends on the size of the pictures, three were chosen and take up 1/8 of a page. I’ve only ever sent one invoice before, and that was to Simply Crochet for my brooch design and crocheted samples. There’s nothing to it although I was a bit daunted the first time, but now I find it quite exciting. You email a document and money subsequently appears in your bank account. I’m getting a taste for it now!

I asked if I might also be sent a copy of the magazine (the November issue) and received it today.

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Ironically the photos here are pretty poor due to the low light.

The review is less than flattering, albeit honest. It’s a year and a half since we visited, when we had a superb celebratory lunch with friends. Ownership changed in September, after the previous owners of 20 years left, and the reviewer may have visited afterwards. It hadn’t occurred to me to ask about the review; I was far too flattered to wonder. Personally it doesn’t really matter as last year’s visit was my first and only, and I have no links with The Crooked Billet. I am rather disappointed however as I know the owners had built up a large following and the food, drink and service was superb.

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Still, I am about to be paid a tidy little sum which is a very nice thing indeed!

Woolly jumpers on!

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It was such a lovely day on Sunday; 17 deg and no need for a warm jacket. We sat on a bench and I was just saying how perfect it was to put your head back and feel the warm rays on your face, when I clonked my head on the back of the bench. I’d like to say this is a rare kind of clonk, but sadly it’s not. At a friend’s housewarming I apparently threw myself down onto her sofa, after unpacking lots of boxes, and hit my head on the bookcase which had been placed behind. I don’t really remember that one. Maybe I concussed myself!

Anyway. the walk, weather and sight of the trees, berries and wild fungi were beautiful. I really LOVE autumn. Always have.

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This is the first one I’d seen this season, on Sunday, but then I stumbled into full-on Christmas yesterday in a ‘room’ in Homebase. I like it in October, that’s when I begin to get little tingles about Christmas, the colourful lights and decorations to come. By December the relentlessness of it has worn me down somewhat, then on the actual few days it’s all fun again. Until the next year…

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The weather’s gone back to typically autumn temps with wind and rain featuring quite a bit this week. But the advantage of autumn and winter blanket making is being able to cosy under them while you crochet! The ripple is over half-way now and I’ve come up with a really cunning plan about the design. More on that another day.

Shotgun Lovesongs - Picador I’m really enjoying my Shotgun Lovesongs audio book. It’s perfect for rippling along to. The four main characters: Henry, Beth, Lee and Ronnie are dramatised by different narrators/actors. I’m loving the the way a couple of them pronounce words like ‘orange’ and ‘mirror’! I’m not sure if that’s due to them aiming to sound like authentic Wisconsinsites, but I likey.

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Tonight I’m making fish chowder for dinner. It’s a Lesley Waters recipe and you can find it here.

 

What are you cooking, eating, making, reading?

Snapshot

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Wondering: who buys these blue flowers?! I posted this on IG and one commenter summed the artificiality of them up perfectly in one word “Bonkers.” Indeed.

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Making: fast progress on my ripple. It’s a Christmas present and so is the motif William Morris inspired blanket. It’s full steam ahead with the hook. I’m enjoying the 1,2,3,4, 2, 2 rhythm and it doesn’t feel like a task in the slightest.

Funnily, after cancelling my sub to Simply Crochet, and not buying a few issues, I now find I’m downloading the digital copies. It’s excellent because I no longer have hundreds of post-its poking out so I can go back and look up websites and blogs; you just touch the active link and it takes you to the page. I have a too good to refuse digital sub for Inside Crochet magazine too. The patterns in the brand new issue of SC seem of a good quality. There are lots of pretty clothing and useful patterns. The skill level for many patterns has increased which is good for those who’ve been buying it since the beginning and are now crocheting at a higher level. BUT I’m not making anymore bobble mitts or shawls until the blankets are done. Famous last words?

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Looking: at my bags of woolly wotsits stowed away at the end of my sofa, they’re a pretty nice sight.

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Deciding: to save my yarn ends as I snip them after darning as I’ve seen some great ideas to do with them such as: gluing them over a mould and making a bowl, tying them together to make a scrappy yarn ball or putting them out in the spring for bird nest building. I’m not completely convinced at the wisdom of lots of acrylic floating around outside as I don’t know how degradable it would be, but brightly weaved nests creates a pretty mental image. It’s going to take me a while to gather a jarful anyway.

Feeling: happy that my car has been double checked at the beginning and end of the week, as the brakes suddenly felt very, very odd one rainy dark night when I was driving home from evening class. Stomach lurching is the best term. They feel fine again so hopefully the blip has been sorted.

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Anticipating: Saturday or Sunday brunch; an egg and bacon bap. It’s a dynamic eating experience. You have to be prepared for total yolk explosion, but that’s what the last bit of bap is for – mopping the plate! (Do the no-no etiquette thing and tuck your napkin into your top!)

Reading: Killing Floor by Lee Child. What can I say? Lee Child was on the book club on Simon Mayo’s Radio 2 show talking about his 19th Jack Reacher novel. I wondered what they were like as many people must be buying them if he’s onto the 19th. I downloaded the sample of the first book and as they cannily do it stops in a really gripping paragraph. Of course I bought the rest of the book and was hooked. Child writes in staccato sentences, there is rarely a comma which adds to the power and pace of the writing. Reacher’s just graphically killed 4 or 5 crims in one evening, and he’s a ‘good guy’, so it’s not writing for the faint-hearted. I might just have to look out for the second in the series sometime.

Listening: to a new audio book, Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler. It’s very early days but it’s good. The narrator’s American accent more than suits too!

Hoping: to meet up with a crochet peep, or two, in the next month. After being in contact through social media for ages it’s time to have a coffee, cake and craft together in real life. Weeeeee!

Baking: cheese scones are planned for the weekend. I write a pledge card each birthday listing a number of things I will bake or cook for Someone, some are specified like cheese scones, others are named recipe books from which I will make a certain number of dishes. It generally takes a year to the next birthday to cook everything on the card as I just do one occasionally as the mood takes. I’ve found the card is filled in with the chosen recipes and page numbers pretty quickly, then it’s popped under a magnet on the front of the fridge. It’s a fun birthday present, and I find it encourages me to use new or neglected cookery books. I also get to eat the dishes too. Win, win. I drew the line at saffron fish balls though last year.

What are you up to? Link to your snapshot post in the comments below if you’re inspired to write one, I enjoy reading them.

Cosy crocheting

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Because I’m fed up of having a really fluffy patch of carpet near my sofa I’ve come up with a cunning plan and fetched something from the kitchen for my ball of yarn. It’s a very stylish yarn bowl, don’t you agree? It’s working well and actually the ball unravels with ease, without constant tugging.

I shall have to get back on to my very good bloggy friend Trish of Made By Patch and see if her father is going to make me a super wooden yarn bowl like he made her. You’d think a lottery winner could buy anything she wanted wouldn’t you?
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So, I finished Brian the v stitch scarf / cowl the other day (I had just 7″ left to do in the top pic) and decided to continue something which would keep me as toasty as possible while I hooked. As I sit writing this in the gloom, at 430pm, I realise that it’s never really become light today, it’s Britain’s infamous iron sky.
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Still, there was porridge for breakfast, homemade butternut and sweet potato soup with crispy bacon pieces sprinkled on top. I may push the boat out and have a low cal chocolate coconut drink next. Comfort food and drinks along with cosy crochet are the benefits of autumn.

Are you warm or chilly? What is keeping you cosy?

I won £25 on the lottery Saturday night. Woo hoo!

CROCHET

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Lately I’ve been whipping up dishcloths. I’ve tried a few different, slightly fancier, versions in the past but apparently the plain and simple trebles give good scrub-ability! I’ve been knitting or crocheting dishcloths for several years now as they’re very popular with a few relatives. One boils hers every week and so it’s been a stringent test of my darning! (Passed. Gold star.)

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I’m trying to get on with the motif blanket now. I’ve crocheted one motif in about four weeks so have to really get cracking ….tra la la la la, la la la la and all that….

I’ve darned as I’ve gone lately, but as you see some of the motifs I began with are not yet; so the middles are a bit pulled out, they’ll be nice and tightly uniform at the end.

Are you crocheting at the mo?

Soup days

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Although the weather has been mild and warm lately I’ve already thrown myself into soup making. I really love trying different recipes, and old favourites, every autumn and winter. The week before last I made Curried Sweet Potato from the River Cottage Veg book, last week it was my old fave Chilli lentil and tomato soup. The recipe is here, blogged a few years ago, if you fancy making it. Times flies etc when you’re blogging…

This morning it’s so much cooler that I made a batch of soup for our lunch. It’s Moroccan tomato and chickpea soup with couscous from the Good Food website. Spicy and hearty this is a goodie. I used 400g of homegrown tomatoes, rather than a can, as we’re still ripening bowlfuls around the house. (My ipad is on 2% so this post is a race against time!)

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Moroccan tomato and chickpea soup with couscous

By Barney Desmazery

Serves 4

  • 75g couscous
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 750ml hot vegetable stock
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped into small cubes
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • half a finger of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1-2 tbsp ras-el-hanout
  • 1 tbsp harissa paste, plus extra to serve
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 400g tin chickpeas
  • juice ½ lemon
  • roughly chopped coriander, to serve

Method

  1. Tip the couscous into a bowl, season with salt and pepper and stir through 1 tbsp of the oil. Pour over enough hot stock just to cover and cover the bowl with cling film and set aside.
  2. Heat the rest of the oil in a saucepan and cook the onion and carrot gently for 8 mins until softened. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for 2 mins more then stir in the ras el hanout and harissa and cook for another minute. Pour in the tomatoes and stock and give everything a good stir. Season, add the chickpeas and simmer everything gently for 20 mins until thickened slightly then squeeze over the lemon.
  3. Uncover the couscous and fluff up with a fork. Spoon the soup into bowls, top each with a mound of couscous, scatter with coriander and serve with extra harissa for those who want it.

    Recipe from bbcgoodfood.com

    :: I used only 1 tbsp of olive oil for the veg and none in the couscous
    :: I omitted the chickpeas, it was filling enough without
    :: Blended half the soup in my liquidiser as it was a bit ‘skinny’ for me with all the cherry tomatoes, it was a lovely consistency
    :: Used 1 3/4 tbsp of ras-el-honout as it was all I had left, but that was perfect for a good spicy kick with the harissa

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    What are you up to?

Brian – V Stitch Scarf / Cowl

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A couple of people have asked me what I’m crocheting at the moment. I should be concentrating on my motif blanket, and ripple, but I’m really enjoying simple crochet. I woke yesterday feeling really unwell and today don’t feel much better, and this is perfect. I watched my first Disney film, Tangled, in years yesterday afternoon. Maybe the first since the Little Mermaid? I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed it, that’s a definite sign of my custard brain. The animation seems more like 3D than before, perhaps Disney have had to adapt their technology to keep up with Pixar type films? The characters, especially Rapunzel, looked just like Blythe dolls, all huge eyes and small faces.

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I had some good news – Lang have NOT stopped making Tosca Light it’s just that for some reason I couldn’t find it on their website. I’m so pleased. If you look under Autumn / Winter on their website you’ll see the range of colours. (I know…they should make me a Tosca Light ambassador.) Lang is a Swiss company in case you’re wondering, TL is made in Italy.

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I’ve been looking out for other types of v stitches in my Harmony Guide to Crochet Stitches. I was lucky enough to find it in a charity shop for a song a few years ago. They call this one Three-and-Two Stitch, it’s descriptive but a bit dull…

I’ve run out of yarn as I had only one 100g ball left and my scarves tend to need 150-200g as I like them lonnnng. Time to find some more. If I won the lottery I’d just fill a room with it. Oh, why not a house actually?

I was really pleased to hear that Kate’s (Greedy for Colour) Mum; Mrs A in Australia (Rambling with me) is crocheting a V Stitch Scarf, using my last pattern which you can find HERE. The power of the internet eh – sharing what we’re making with others all over the world. I really love it. I should put pattern links on Ravelry. One day.

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I asked what I could call this scarf and had “Brian” as the answer. Well, why not? I did ask!

Brian v stitch scarf / cowl

5mm hook – if you’d like a lazy, looser type of fabric, but try a swatch and see what you feel. I tried with a 4mm hook and it was nice too, although quite l a firm fabric with far less drape.

150-200g DK yarn depending on the length of scarf or cowl you prefer
Lang Tosca Light is 100g/400m a ball 55% new wool, 45% acrylic.

Width: 22cm / 8 5/8ths “
I’m aiming for – Length: 80″ / 203cm
Will probably be – Weight: 150g -200g

V stitch = 1 tr, 1ch, 1tr (UK)V stitch: 1 treble, 1 chain, 1 treble into same space (UK terms)
ch = chain
tr = treble
v st = v stitch
ss = slip stitch
st = stitch
tch = turning chain
sp = space

Foundation Row: Ch 50
Or a multiple of 6 st + 2 to get the width you want
R1: (Right side) Work a v st into 5th ch from hook. *Miss 2ch, 3tr into next ch, miss 2ch, work a v st into next ch; rep from * to last 5ch, miss 2ch, 3tr into next ch, miss 1ch, 1tr into last ch, turn
R2: 3 ch, *miss 2sts, work 3tr into centre tr of next 3tr, work a v st into ch sp at centre of next v st; rep from * ending 1tr into top of tch, turn
R3: 3ch, *v st into sp of next v st, 3tr into centre tr of next 3tr; rep from * ending 1tr into top of tch, turn

Rep R2 and R3 until desired length. I’m aiming for about 80″/203cm.

If making a cowl join short ends together using ss; bearing in mind before you join the ends that there is a right and wrong side to the fabric. Finish off and darn ends.

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I’ve been meaning to say this for a few years(!) when I get to the turning chain of the previous row I always find it easier to use a 3mm hook to go into and make the last stitch, aiming for the same tension as the rest which I’ve made with a 4-5mm hook. That might be a useful tip if you’re new to crochet and have trouble seeing or feel like you’re forcing the hook through the top of the chain, it depends on your tension and eyesight probably!

Also, when crocheting in rows after I turn I’ve always taken the hook out of the stitch, rather than twisted the stitch. Do you? I’ve always wondered if that’s correct, me being pernickety or just silly?

Happy v stitching your Brian scarf / cowl!

Polenta bread

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I baked my usual couple of loaves last Friday and decided to also pick a new recipe to try from my Bread book. (I can’t recommend this book enough, I’ve made quite a few different loaves and they’ve all turned out well.) I’d ordered some polenta, aka fine cornmeal or maize flour, for a lemon polenta cake for dessert on Sunday. There was only the option of buying a 1kg bag so using some for a loaf seemed like a good idea!

I put this photo on IG and had a request for the recipe – so here goes:

Polenta Bread

From Bread by Liz Hebert, this is a Women’s Institute recipe book.

Makes 1 loaf. Can be frozen.

350g (12oz) strong white bread flour
115g ( 4oz) polenta, plus extra for sprinkling
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fast action dried yeast
25g (1oz) butter, melted
275g-300ml (9-10 fl oz) hand-hot water

1) Combine the flour, polenta, sugar, salt and yeast in a bowl. Add the butter and water and mix to a soft dough.
2) Turn out onto an unfloured surface and knead for 8-10 minutes until smooth (I use a dough hook on my mixer and knead for about 5 minutes.) Cover and prove in a warm place until doubled in size (Up to an hour but depends on warmth.)
3) Grease a baking sheet and sprinkle with polenta.
4) Knock back the dough and shape into an 18cm (7 inch) oval. Place on the baking sheet. Using a shape knife, make deep cuts on alternate sides.
5) Cover and prove until doubled in size.
6) Preheat the oven to Gas mark 7 / 220oc / 425of
7) Sprinkle liberally with polenta and bake for about 25 minutes until golden. Cool on a wire rack.

This loaf has a really nice texture and flavour. Family ate the rest of the loaf – so it’s definitely a tried and tested approved recipe.

Happy Friday everyone!

V Stitch Scarf / Cowl

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I finished this last night, while watching Birdsong. It was such a fast make and if you’re thinking of crocheting a C———- gift for someone this would be perfect, particularly if you’re a last minute crafter.
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I prefer scarves because you can wear them lots of different ways, with a cowl it seems there’s really only tight or loose. You can easily crochet, or sew, the two short ends together before fastening off if you prefer a cowl.

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V Stitch Scarf / Cowl

Yarn: Lang Tosca Light DK
55% new wool
45% acrylic
1.5 x 100g ball, 400 m

Hook: 5mm (You want to crochet a fairly loose and lacy fabric)

Length: 80″ / 203cm
Width: 9″ / 23cm
Weight: 150g

V stitch: 1 treble, 1 chain, 1 treble into same space (UK terms)
ch = chain
tr = treble
v st = v stitch
ss = slip stitch
st = stitch

Foundation row: Chain 48
Scarf / cowl can be made narrower or wider by adjusting starting chain by 3 stitch multiples
R1: Tr into 4th ch, tr into each ch to the end, turn
R2: Ch 3, (counts as a tr at beginning of every every row) tr into each tr to end of row, turn
R3: Ch 3, v st into 3rd tr (skip 2 tr, v st into next tr) to last tr, 1 tr into 3 ch of the previous row
R4: Ch 3, (v st into each space of v st of previous row) across row, 1 tr into 3 ch of the previous row
R5: Ch 3, (1 tr into first st of v st, 1 tr into space of v stitch, 1 tr into 2nd tr of v st) across row, 1 tr into 3 ch of previous row
R6: Ch3, (1 tr into 2nd tr and every tr) across row, 1 tr into 3 ch of previous row

Repeat R3-6 until scarf / cowl is desired length. (If making a cowl join short ends together using ss; bearing in mind before you join the ends that there is a right and wrong side to the fabric.) Finish off and darn ends.

Try on and flounce about in front of mirror/your significant other.

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If you make one of these I’d love to see yours, please leave a link below or tag me on IG.

Snowshill Manor & Garden

Yesterday we had yet another late Summer day; t-shirt, sandals and sitting outside weather. We’ve been really fortunate this week. It seems that oop north the weather is not being so kind. I overheard a couple from Yorkshire saying that it’s much warmer down here. Being determined to make the most of it we went to explore another National Trust house and garden. It’s about twelve years since we first visited and found Snowshill Manor and Garden a delight.

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“Snowshill Manor is a Cotswold manor house packed with extraordinary treasures collected over a life time by Charles Wade

Inside these rooms you can discover this eclectic collection that he restored and displayed. We have maintained the atmospheric settings he created with low lighting and few labels. From tiny toys to Samurai armour, musical instruments to fine clocks, thousands of objects are laid out for you to see just as Mr Wade intended.

The garden is the perfect place to unwind and explore hidden vistas, quiet corners and unexpected delights including Charles Wade’s uncomplicated home, the Priest’s House.

“Let nothing perish” was his motto, and his life was dedicated to doing just that. From the everyday to the extraordinary, you can discover his passion for craftsmanship, colour and design.” National Trust Website, 14th September 2014.

You’re never quite sure what you’ll discover next when exploring the house. The collection is not to everyone’s taste; in one room a woman exclaimed that it was all a bit spooky. This might be due to the gloomy lighting, the strange mix of things or perhaps the many faces depicted on items, which can be unsettling. I know exactly what she meant, but it’s a fascinating place to look around. For me the garden is the best part…

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I hope you’ve enjoyed these photos. I always think of people far away from the English countryside who enjoy seeing glimpses, but know picture heavy posts of outings and holidays are not everyone’s thing.

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I’ve heard that there’s a new crochet magazine coming out in the UK this coming week called #crochet. I’m trying to find who, when, where but my friend Google has surprisingly not thrown up any answers at all. If you have any info about the mag, please share!

Waterperry Gardens

Although it’s quite a bit cooler now and the nights are drawing in at an alarming rate (curtains closed by 8pm) it still feels like late Summer.
I took a trip, with a friend, to Waterperry Gardens at the beginning of the week. It was lovely and warm outside, so I took a picnic for us to eat at one of the outside tables. I’m glad because car picnics aren’t much fun; tubs slide off the dashboard and you end up doing a balancing act with a plate on your knee!

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The gardens are so well tended it’s a pleasure to wander, or sit, and take in the colour. There is a new ‘Truth Walk’, it would be good to go along the paths when the snowdrops are flowering.

My friend knows many of the staff at Waterperry and we stopped to chat several times. Apparently two of the head gardeners at Sissinghurst, when Vita and Harold established the garden, were trained at Waterperry. I was asked if I’d had noticed any similarities in the designs? You can actually; as I mentioned after my visit to Sissinghurst Vita didn’t wish to see any earth between the plants, the beds were crammed full, this is also striking in the long border at Waterperry.

Have you been on any day trips lately?

Happy weekend all, have a good one.

All at Sea Shawl ….finished

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I’ve really enjoyed crocheting this V stitch shawl, I haven’t felt this keen for a little while. You know that ‘I’ve got to do just one more row before bed’ thing?

The pattern’s by Elisabeth Davis de Herraiz and is in issue 22 of Simply Crochet.

I used Lang’s Tosca Light DK with a 4mm hook instead of the lace weight merino used in the mag. You could make a really chunky version too. That might be really snugly for freezing winter mornings, or maybe nights on the sofa when you feel a draft on your neck or shoulders?

My shawl is larger as I wanted it to be big enough to wear around your shoulders, granny/hippy style or like a scarf with the triangle part to the front and the long ends wrapped around the back of the neck. So for R50 I just repeated from R14 onwards until I ran out of yarn after R37 which was clusters. Boo! This was annoying with only 11 more to go to complete my repeat of R14 -49, but I quite like the frilled top edge so I fastened off, darned the few ends and it was over.

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Look at what I noticed as I was unhooking the shawl from a tree…..

And last night on a very old episode of Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads….

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It doesn’t look Grannyish or exactly Hippyish, but I won’t be going out in a maxi dress and big cream shawl anytime soon!

Harvest Festival

I’ve had my own harvest festival this weekend; as I’d been offered the chance to help myself to anything in a relative’s garden while she’s away. Woo hoo!

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I thought it was silly to bring the beetroot and carrot tops home with me, so cut them off and went across to the compost bins in her garden. One lid I couldn’t pull off, so I decided to try the other, quite forcefully yanking it off. A tangle of worms flew off the bin lid, scattering onto the outside of the bin, sliding down my jeans and onto my boot. Knowing my pro gardening relly these worms will have been flown in for their special composting services – so I’m there with a large crinkly leaf scooping them up and putting them back into the composter. Argh! I did take a quick photo of some, but it’s rather blurry as they are pretty fast wrigglers and I didn’t want them to get away.
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After that mini episode of The Great Escape I took a bit of time out to stare at the flowers.

I can’t describe the sweetness of the crisp carrots, we munched a couple raw and had a few cooked for dinner. It’s like having your own kitchen garden just ten minutes away! I hope she goes away again next summer, just when the vegetables are ripe for the picking.
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The tomatoes and peppers are my own. The yellow tomatoes are stacked up like a pyramid now as I gathered more this morning, ready for using. The bowlfuls around the house are multiplying as I’m picking more every day. Even I’m surprised to find a pyrex dish full of them on the windowsill in The Little Room when I draw the curtains! It’s a good job we love them isn’t it?
I cooked a couple of the green peppers and made Balsamic Chicken, one of my favourite easy peasy recipes, last night. We tried a slice of raw pepper first, just to taste it. I’ve grown chilli peppers several times, but not pepper peppers (capsicum.) Tonight we’re having a yellow tomato greek salad, pitta, taramasalata and other delights as we’ve had a return to summer today. I’m really enjoying thinking of tomato based meals to enjoy, it’s so much more satisfying to use homegrown. It will be salmon with cherry tomatoes and couscous tomorrow and Nigella’s tomato curry with coconut rice from Kitchen later in the week. Mmmmmmm.
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Are you having your own harvest festival, or heading into Spring and dreaming of all that to come?

Nine Random Things

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I stopped my subscription to Simply Crochet a few months ago because I was a bit bored, I reckon it’s stuck in a bit of a rut. When they asked readers to complete a questionnaire some months ago I requested more garment patterns. I know I’m not alone in feeling fed up of patterns for small items you don’t want or need. However ( a little positivity coming up now!) I really fancied crocheting the scarf pattern I’d seen Heather of The Patchwork Heart posting pics of on IG. So I picked up a copy last week, there was the added temptation of pretty pins too…but oh! They are mostly rusty – albeit silver coloured rust, not rust coloured, but it’s rust all the same. I can’t use them at all. Boo!
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Ooh now this is a good magazine related bit of news – I’ve been given a year’s subscription to this beauty. I’ll turn into a green eyed monster at times (beautiful homes and expensive lovelies to buy) I know, but I am very pleased.
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This is my catch up reading pile. I asked for my birthday subscription not to be continued for a third year to Mollie Makes, again it’s feeling in a bit of a rut. I really can’t face yet more patterns for felt animals and the target audience feels like it’s for young twenty somethings. That’s fair play especially if it’s encouraging them to develop or learn some crafty skills; I just realised that I hadn’t used any of the mini packs, let alone made any items from the magazine for ages and ages.
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Just because I saw this in a gift shop in Broadway, in the Cotswolds, and it made me smile. It’s one of those things you’d love to say when someone’s being all one-sided me-me-me.
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While I was wondering around Broadway I kept hearing yelping and barking. I ducked down an alley to pop into the Sue Ryder charity shop and saw two pens of hounds. They must belong to the local hunt. I’m a baby where dogs en masse are concerned so this is as close I got.
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I’ve seen these chargers in airports etc before, but how handy to find one in John Lewis (High Wycombe) for free charging.
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My friend gave me a bumper lot of thoughtful presents including this lovely tin. It’s my new things crochet tin as the other was bulging at the seams, especially with a new bigger notebook. Isn’t it similar in design to the Cath Kidson tape measure and needle book? It’s such a good match and right up my street.
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Warning. Warning. Tomato talk incoming! I’m still cooking with my home-gown tomatoes, this time it’s a bacon and olive sauce. Yum. I usually halve the olives but this time left them whole. The house is full of bowlfuls in various stages of ripeness. I never imagined eight plants could produce so much fruit (or did QI state they are wrongly regarded as fruit, when in fact they are the vegetable we all grew up believing them to be? Or have I dreamt that?!)
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I’ve been wincing at sightings of the C word; usually in relation to crafting for ………… but look at what fell out of the new issue of Country Living. With the change of weather and the end of the summer holidays looming it doesn’t feel too early to contemplate booking tickets. Are you going?

What have you been up to lately?

Did you see the ice cream debacle on The Great British Bake Off last night?

In my next post I’ll show you the shawl I’ve been crocheting from the current Simply Crochet. It’s sweet, though I do have a shawl related question: there are so many patterns for them at the moment, they seem to be on trend but……have you actually seen anyone wearing one out? Anyone?

Roasted tomato & garlic summer soup

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I’m happy to class myself as a tomato bore at the moment! I don’t mind if you’re thinking it…

There are various bowls around the kitchen full of ripe and ready to eat tomatoes, alongside those still ripening. It’s fun deciding what to eat them with. We had bacon and vegetable risotto with roasted tomatoes (simply cooked in the oven with a drizzle of olive oil, nothing else, they are so sweet) last night.

When I got up this morning I really fancied making a light summer soup for lunch. The temperature has dropped by about 10 degrees in the last few weeks, instead of a blissful 28 0c it’s now 17/18 0c at best and feels so cold!
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There are many versions of this soup floating around the net and I’ve made own version; using homemade garlic oil. I always have some on hand for when I’m feeling lazy and use it instead of fresh garlic, or if in this case, I want an extra garlicky kick to a dish. It’s easy: just add 3-4 peeled and halved garlic cloves into a glass jar or small bottle of olive oil and leave to steep for a few days. When it’s all used up I throw away the garlic, wash the bottle and begin again with fresh.

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I love all the bright colours. Don’t worry about the amount of garlic in the recipe, when it’s roasted garlic loses it’s stinkiness and just becomes rich and sweet in flavour. I’ve just opened the door for a delivery and the guy didn’t recoil when I breathed over him to sign for the box!

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While the vegetables roasted I hung out a basket of washing, a lot of looking at the sky, muttering and toe crossing went on. So far it hasn’t rained…

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The tray of charred vegetables might not look like much, but they smelt delicious. Ok, so this next bit might not seem a good advertisement; but if you do have a smoke alarm I’d recommend keeping the kitchen door closed while you’re roasting the vegetables. That’s a little tip I’ve learnt when I make my roasted butternut soup in the winter time!

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Make sure you scrape the roasting tray out well;  you want to use every bit of caramelized vegetable that you can, to give the soup as much flavour as possible.

The black specks you see in the soup is ground black pepper.

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Yum, yum in my tum.

Roasted tomato & garlic summer soup

1 tbsp (garlic) olive oil
500g ripe tomatoes, quartered
2 large red onions, peeled and cut into wedges
1 bulb of garlic, divided into peeled cloves
1 red pepper (or 1/2 a red & 1/2 a yellow pepper) deseeded and quartered
600ml / 1 pint hot vegetable stock
3/4 – 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
3/4 – 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
Salt & pepper
Fresh basil leaves to garnish

Preheat oven to 220 0c/400 of/ gas mark 7

::Put the vegetables into a large roasting pan, drizzle with the olive oil and season
::Roast for about 45 mins until the edges are charred. I gently turn them all over after 15 and then 30 minutes. The house fills with a delicious smell.
::Remove the tray from the oven and leave the vegetables to cool
:: Whizz the roasted vegetables with the balsamic vinegar and Worcestershire sauce (add quantity to taste, I’d recommend 3/4 tbsp of each) and stock in a food processor or a liquidizer
:: Put the soup through a sieve to remove tomato skins, easing the last of the liquid through by rubbing the vegetable skins etc with the back of a ladle
:: Reheat, scatter with torn basil leaves to serve

If it’s tropical where you are (lucky things!) you can serve this summer soup well chilled with a few ice cubes in the soup.

Serves 4

Enjoy!

Designer Yarn Play

Near the end of May I received an email from Black Sheep Wools asking if I would like to review some new designer yarn. Well of course the answer was yes! Who isn’t going to want to try brand new designer yarn, for free? Then I was told I’d need to complete a non-disclosure agreement, I was not to tell anyone about the yarn or even that I was to be doing a review. How secret squirrel was that?! I’ve been sent yarn and other products before from various companies and have never seen a disclosure form. I admit that I felt quite excited and started to look around for crochet patterns; this would be the time to start on my first crochet garment, no more blankets, hats or scarves for me, this was obviously going to be a lovely big bale of yarn, suitable for a cardie, jumper or huge wrap, otherwise why all the secrecy and legally binding paperwork?

At the beginning of June a little parcel was popped through my letterbox, just as I was heading out. Oh…
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I’d obviously been very convinced and convincing about the quantity of yarn due to arrive, as Someone said “Is that it?!” “Mmmmm, yes it seems to be.”

Shortly after that an email came full of guidelines for the blog post; must be no shorter than xxx words, must contain no more than 4 links to the website, but should include one to x and x and x, the review must contain both positives and negatives, though obviously more positives than negatives, an original design could be submitted to the company website and would be appreciated, along with the blog post etc, etc, etc…

I may be about to fail short of some of these guidelines but this is my space, I have used the yarn and will tell you as many details about it as I can, given the quantity. The moral of the story is that sometimes bloggers get free things to play and have fun with, other times freebies come with expectations. Be prepared. But Black Sheep Wools seem like a good company and obviously have very discerning tastes in craft bloggers (the need for a winking smiley feels strong here, but I will not break my no emoticons in a post rule) also I can’t imagine ever writing a ‘review’ which wasn’t honest. If you want an honest opinion I’m your girl.

I’ve never used any Louisa Harding yarns before so this was a new experience.

Here goes…

Yarn details:

Louisa Harding – Esquel
60% merino, 20% llama, 20% silk
50g ball, 106 yards (97 mts)
Suggested neeedles: US 8 (5mm)
Suggested tension 18 sts x 24 rows

This lovely yarn feels quite soft but also due to its thickness of the strand (and the silk?) it’s strong. The band doesn’t say, but I think it’s aran as it needs 5mm needles and is thicker than other designer DK yarns I’ve used. I decided to make more fingerless mitts as it seemed just the right amount of yarn for a pair. I’m going to give these away as a present.

I used much smaller needles than the recommended 5mm, but the resulting fabric is thick and makes warm mitts.

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Although it’s really annoying it seems that it’s sometimes inevitable that wool yarns have knots in them. This is one disadvantage to using woolen blends, unlike acrylics which rarely have this problem, but most synthetic fibres do not have the quality feel of yarn like this. Unlike a ball of baby cashermino I once used which once had 4 or 5 knots in one 50g ball, this ball of Esquel had only the one. I decided to cut the yarn and start the cuff again, the fewer darned ends in a pair of mitts which will see plenty of wear and tear, the better.

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Lots of gratuitous tomato pics today I’m afraid, in my search for better light they seemed as good a backdrop as any. It’s great to come home after a hol to 8 plants groaning with ripe and nearly ripe red and yellows! Sorry – back to the yarn…

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I would recommend Esquel, because it comes in such lovely colours, the feel of the knitted material is fairly soft and also seems as if it will be hard-wearing and warm. I bet a knitted, or crocheted, jumper would be super toasty in the winter.

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If you’d like to check out Louisa Harding’s Esquel in Black Sheep Wool’s online yarn shop it’s currently £5.35 a ball.
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As I photographed the mitts outside on my emergency-stepladder-storm-resistant-stand-up-tomato-plants-please-don’t-fall-over-device look at what I saw…I’ve grown a rabbit!

Here endeth the review. A Manhattan is waiting for me on the other side. Happy cocktail hour weekend everyone!

Whitstable

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Old Neptune, Whitstable

Another week away, it’s not a proper Summer holiday if it doesn’t include the sea.

Yes, lots of pictures of dead fish but aren’t they great to look at? All shiny fresh and ready to make delicious meals. I’ve included the price board in the fish market because someone will find it interesting. I occasionally write down prices in my diary, knowing I’ll be comparing then and now, fascinated in the future.

I have to capture the colours of the fishing boats in the harbour, the blue sky and the fluffy white clouds. I love staring too, drinking in all the colour and movement. The fishing boats draw a crowd of onlookers. After elbowing a few children aside and pushing a couple of Grandmas into the water I was able to peer into the boxes stacked with fish, exciting but I really couldn’t tell you exactly what kind.

Lager shandy, chips, a lemon sherbet or rhubarb & custard in the car, miles and miles walked each day, wild plums picked and eaten, trying to spit the stones out as far as possible while walking along a coastal path (but usually just bouncing next to my shoe, useless) intending to buy greengages while they’re in season, but inexplicably not getting around to it, reading The Memory of Lost Senses by Judith Kinghorn and not knowing whether to shout ‘Just get on with the reveal!’ or revel in the slow pace and unfolding of the not-really-a-mystery, navigating old style; leaving the Sat Nav shut away, searching for sea glass treasure; trying not to put my iphone in the same pocket, enjoying the folk music, Morris dancers and the Tap & Sync Appalachian dancers (from Northamptonshire which is surprising somehow) at Broadstairs Folk Festival, losing a pounds-worth of two pence pieces in an arcade, feeling no need to crochet, knit or sew until going into a Margate Vintage shop and seeing someone crocheting behind the counter, then really having that itchy fingers feeling, lingering in shady lanes looking for geocaches and receiving curious glances from dog walkers, laughing at out of context fragments of other people’s conversations, feeling a curious hint of Autumn in the air, noticing darker early evenings, cooler breezes, beginning to anticipate cooking soups, casseroles and Autumn fruit crumbles….

Off to the South coast next, the last seaside trip of the summer.

The next post will contain knitting, and nothing else but knitting. What a treat to see craft on a craft blog!

Summer snapshot

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Eating fresh vegetables from the garden on the same day they’re picked or dug, such a Summer highlight! One day visiting family I came away with peas in their pods, beetroot, potatoes, shallots, carrots, cucumber and courgettes. What a haul.

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Baking lots this Summer; I’ve had a bit of an obsession with muffins. So far I’ve baked citrus muffins, chunky cookie muffins and my favourite: fig and marzipan muffins. Cheese and Marmite scones (see BBC Good Food website for the recipe) my own cheese scone recipe, raspberry and amaretti cake, lemon drizzle cake and my weekly loaves of bread. I usually only bake cakes and other treats when I have guests or an occasion to cook for, otherwise there’s too much naughtiness around, it’s better shared! So far this Summer there have been lunches, teas and picnics. Hurray! I’ve always enjoyed being in the kitchen with the radio on and whipping up a cake etc. It probably stems from a cosy childhood helping to bake cakes and mixing a mug of icing at home when little. We would sometimes mix up three mugs of icing and make ‘traffic light cakes’ – pale green, red or yellow icing to top fairy cakes.
The cream tea was my favourite of all the recent occasions. It included a discussion of whether it should be cream or jam first. Mine is the neater looking scones, cream first, but with the far messier (homemade) jammy plate!

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Nerding and walking a lot; about 26 miles in the last week, some of it Geocaching. I’m not a hardcore cacher and it’s taken me years to reach my very low tally, but when I set out to find some it’s fun. They are all around you did you know? If you didn’t its worth having a look at the official website.

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A few friends and I came across this fine fellow while looking at a lovely Japanese garden, after finding a cache. Aren’t peacocks stunning? Apparently some believe peacock feathers bring very bad luck, refusing to have them on the house. I prefer to see them in situ anyway

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Crocheting rows of the ripple blanket in my friend’s favourite colours. It will be a surprise present at Christmas since I’m also going on with the motifs for the William Morris colours inspired blanket. I’ve put the ripple away in the Little Room as I’ve got to get on with the other. I also have another thing to make nearer the end of the month. I’m partly regretting agreeing to that, but we will see!

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Enjoying The House of Illustration Quentin Blake exhibition. If you’ve read Roald Dahl’s books you’ll recognise some of the illustrations on display. You can also stop and play in the magic fountains of Granary Square, Kings Cross.

Picnicking at Cliveden, a National Trust property which was the former home of the Astor family where I met three other girls. Two of them were my little nieces. They are currently obsessed with doing cartwheels and handstands, so mostly I saw them upside down as they twirled around the gardens, apart from when they were eating lemon drizzle cake and marzipan & fig muffins!

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What are you up to this Summer? Link to your snapshot post below if you fancy sharing.

Al fresco crochet

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It is such beautiful weather here at the moment that it just feels wrong to stay inside.

I started a ripple on Monday night but had to order some yarn before I could continue. Luckily I already had two of the greys I wanted to use as they’re the same I’m using for my other blanket, so at least I could make a start. I actually haven’t touched a hook for weeks; a combination of a sore elbow (acupuncture is really helping) and just wanting a break. It was a refreshing break, but I was absolutely raring to go once my plan was approved at the weekend. I’ve offered a crocheted blanket birthday pressie to a special someone as I’ve had her kind of colours in mind for ages, and fancied crocheting another ripple. I’m a little surprised I’m so keen as I became quite bored by the end of The Rhubarb Ripple. My offer was immediately taken up and so I’ve been happily zipping along the rows today. The motif blanket will wait for a while. This is easier crochet; it’s fast to add new colours and decide which next. I tend to need my leg up to join as you go (do you?! Is this just me?!) so it makes it sofa crochet, not al fresco crochet so much.

Hurrah! My new yarn came this morning! I could hear the rustle of the sack arriving from my spot (reading in the bath, hard work these summer hols.) Deramores have been undercut by Wool Warehouse on Stylecraft Special DK by 30p a ball at the moment. I have to say that as both offer speedy service and free p&p when you spend £25 it wasn’t a tricky decision to use WW for this order. 30p less for a ball is 30p saved. Or, spent on more yarn…

The bright pink was always going to be a gamble without actually seeing a ball. It’s not quite right is it? It jars with the scrummy raspberry, the sharp lime green (new colour) and the delicious graphic, silver and grey. The darker shades are midnight blue and emperor penguin purple. Someone suggested I use the bright pink to embroider “Get off, this is Mummy’s!” Ha! I must tell her this when I give the blanket.

My charity shop find basket is perfect for al fresco crochet. It’s very good at standing to attention with the yarn ball in use rolling around on top. I need a yarn bowl really, but it does the job of keeping it off the grass. Can you see I replaced the bag’s sequins? I preferred the scuffed brown originals really I realise, now it’s done. Too late!

What are you crocheting or making? Or are you having a crafty break?

Create Make Bake Nurture Enjoy

This is maybe a bit of a syrupy sweet title but it nicely describes my Summer days at the moment.

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Picking strawberries; Mum on one side of the row, me on the other. Trying to keep up my end of the conversation with strawberry juice running down my chin! Sun warmed, juicy and sweet they were – oh yum.

Three large punnets of raspberries and one of strawberries picked, some very posh meringues bought from the farm shop and then home to my sugar mountain.

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The recipe was from my Good Housekeeping Book of Preserves It’s here in my jam making post from 2012 if you fancy making some too. It’s so easy and pretty fast; my eight pots were full of raspberry jam by 10:30.

Brrrr if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere! It seems to be all about sock knitting, blanket making, log fires and snowfall with some of you this week.

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Homemade breakfast. Yum. There is nothing more satisfying than eating homemade toasted bread and jam. It really gives a glow to know that you’ve created something from scratch; whether it’s food, flowers or craft, doesn’t it?

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I’m doing the sourdough starter thing again, I started this on Monday.

Get a 1 litre kilner jar, or similar, put in 70g strong white bread flour and 70ml water, mix well until there are no lumps. Repeat this feeding process daily for a week. After 3-4 days it should be bubbling nicely. At the end of the week it’s ready to use. It’s as easy as that.

Google sourdough starters at your peril; there are so many sourdough starter nerds and pages of bumpf out there detailing exact temperatures and micrograms of this, that and the other when it’s basically a very simple process that people have been doing for hundreds (thousands?) of years.

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I took these two pics yesterday afternoon, it was doing great. Then late last night I came downstairs to whip the aerial out of the socket, after seeing the sky lighting up with strange horizontal silent lightning, and smelt the starter really strongly. The jar was sat in a puddle of starter, it was seeping out of the closed container like a slow volcano! It was about 28 deg here yesterday, probably hotter in the house, and look how much it grew in a few hours. I must have trapped some super-powerful natural airborne yeast! It’s now in a large mixing bowl…

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My first posy of sweetpeas. I sent Trish a packet of seeds as part of her birthday present in the Spring and we’ve been sharing pics of our first sweetpeas on IG.

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Some Saturday mornings I get up and really feel like baking something. This morning I chose to bake Citrus Muffins from this book. A little like lemon drizzle cake with a zesty lemony syrup drizzled on top when they were hot from the oven. You also put lemon and lime zest in the muffin mixture. I’d double the zest next time to make them even more citrusy.

Have you created, made, nurtured and enjoyed something this week?

Sissinghurst Castle

I’ve wanted to visit Sissinghurst for a long time. I’ve come across Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson many times when reading books concerning English social history in the last century, but their garden is also famous of course. I loved my visit.

“Vita Sackville-West, the poet and writer, began the transforming Sissinghurst Castle in the 1930s with her diplomat and author husband, Harold Nicolson. Harold’s architectural planning of the garden rooms, and the colourful, abundant planting in the gardens by Vita, reflect the romance and intimacy of her poems and writings.

Sissinghurst Castle was the backdrop for a diverse history; from the astonishing time as a prison in the 1700s, to being a home to the women’s land army. It was also a family home to some fascinating people who lived here or came to stay. Today you can take in the ruined architecture of the extensive original buildings, vast panoramic views from the top of the Tower, the current working farm and the 450-acre wider estate along with Vita and Harold’s gardens.” Taken from the National Trust website.

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I really like looking at vegetable gardens on this scale. Just look at those lettuces!  Those at Hidcote (not included in the blog post, but you might want to look at more photos from another glorious English garden) were well worth seeing too. I had serious vegetable envy that day too!

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Vita favoured planting in abundance; she didn’t wish to see any soil, so the beds were filled to bursting with plants. It would be amazing to be able to fly back in time to see the garden in its heyday.

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Apart from the gorgeous garden and grounds it was envy inspiring to see Vita’s writing room in the tower. A room of your own up in a tower – wow!

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It’s hard to capture the beauty of the white garden properly. It’s one of most striking areas of the gardens.

Which garden to visit next? Decisions, decisions!