Friday, 30 January 2015

Crochet cable stitch...

I love texture and I love a challenge, so I tried a new stitch. Crochet cable stitch. I previously thought that cables and crochet in the same sentence involved front and back post trebles. Clearly I was wrong. These are simply extended trebles worked round three trebles. I'm sure there are variations. I haven't tried any yet.

Is there anything more therapeutic than a good cup of tea with a spot of crochet? I doubt it. It didn't even matter that I tried a couple of other textured stitches and ripped them back before getting the hang of this one. That's the beauty of crochet. If it doesn't work, frog it. Nothing wasted, except a little time.

I might back these little samples with a piece of an old felted blanket. Make them into a proper placemat. Why look at something manufactured when you can look at something handmade?

We've been keeping things simple here this month. I cleaned out our fridge and freezer and took the opportunity to talk M into meal planning and 'keeping it simple'. He's a shocker for filling the freezer with things we never eat and for dodging anything that looks like a salad ingredient in the fridge. Tonight I persuaded him to make spaghetti bolognese and throw in some peppers, courgette and celery, and use up the Quorn mince from the freezer. There was moaning but he obliged and the kids didn't notice that it was Quorn or that it had added stuff. Had they known they would not have approved of celery or courgette.

Armed with our meal plan of simple meals, the weekly food shop was also much simpler and we spent less. I'm pretty sure we will waste less too.

We've cut out so much sugar from our diets this last month. M has diabetes and it got quite out of control just before Christmas. It was a wake up call to pay attention to food labels and treats. We're all joining him in this more sensible approach to sugar and it hasn't been a problem, even for Haribo addict Jake. Luckily J is also very fond of fruit and any kind of cereal bar (though it was a challenge to find a healthy brand with low sugar).

M and I are eating more nuts. J is eating more fruit. E has discovered she likes green tea. Her favourite snack is bread sticks and humus. Moods have been a little more level which makes me wonder... maybe all the hype about sugar is true.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Project 333...

Phew! I've completed my project 333 wardrobe clear out! My Docs and Converse made the cut, along with the newer of my dog walking trekking shoes. I had a toss up between various slippers and flip flops for indoor wear and in the end my felt Birkenstocks won because they can double up as outdoor wear too.

Here's how the rest panned out:

5 pairs of jeans
5 t shirts
2 long sleeved t shirts
3 shirts
2 coats
1 gilet
2 cardigans
8 jumpers
1 bag
1 pair of Docs
1 pair of Converse
1 pair of Birkenstocks
1 pair of hiking shoes

I haven't included underwear, hats, scarves, gloves, socks, gaiters or my bathrobe. Though frankly I plan to sort through the hats, scarves and gloves and add one of each to the list. I did condense my nightwear too, down to just two pairs of pj's but apparently they don't need to count in the 33.

I filled up one black bin liner of charity donations. The rest I've stored in several large holdalls and placed on top of my wardrobe. Amongst the stored items are some old favourites but mostly I don't think I'm going to miss anything. In three months time I'm hoping to go through it all again with the knowledge that I didn't need/miss anything and therefore it can all go! That's the dream anyway!

Apart from the fact that I can now see and get to everything in the wardrobe (the doors close properly and the drawers aren't stuffed full) I also 'rediscovered' things I'd forgotten I had. This is good news for varying both my work clothes and my dog walking wardrobe. It was like getting new things!

It's quite a novelty having such a sparse wardrobe. I keep going past and having a peek inside just for the hell of it. I guess the real test is whether this is going to be enough. Will I need to add a few bits or change a few bits? On the whole I am amazed at how easy it actually was. There was a bit of last minute swapping and counting going on but the safety net was knowing that I wasn't parting with anything, I was merely living without it for three months. I feel fairly confident that not very much is going to be kept after this length of time. Of course I will need to do this four times this year so that I end up with seasonal '33's' but each one can be edited accordingly and the previous seasonal stuff can be stored away again.

Riding high on the success of this I bravely decided to empty M's entire wardrobe onto our bed and give it the same treatment. He wasn't impressed with having try on about forty shirts when he got home after cricket training and a football match. His pile of clothes was four times higher than my own and I thought it was women who famously had too many clothes! He was much more reluctant to get rid of things especially if they cost a lot. He wanted to save a huge pile of shirts 'to slim into'. He had sentimental attachments to a full length wax coat because it was a dog waking one (with our dog that died 4 years ago). So it seems men have the same reasons for hanging on to things as women.

I've learnt that one of my reasons for hanging on to things is that I seem to chuck things and then find that I do actually need them. I got rid of all my photography books the year before Ella said, oh I'm going to take GCSE photography, have you got any books on close up photography? Um yes, I did have! I'm always telling Ella of a brilliant book I once read, only to find my copy is long gone. The same seems to happen when I get rid of clothes that would have been ideal components of a dressing up outfit. Last year we had to put together a pirate and a hippie for Ella. I had gems of clothing for both of these but had already donated them to charity. So I think for me, it's not about the money or about the sentiment it's actually the worry that I might chuck something that is useful. I'll just have to plough on regardless!


I've been procrastinating. I've been reading blogs about de cluttering, minimising, simplifying... but that's as far as I've actually got this new year. It's time to turn off the iPad and actually tackle the wardrobe!

I'm probably late to the party as usual but I came across Project 333 and thought I might give it a try. 33 items from your wardrobe for three months. The rest can be packed away or given away, depending on how brave you are. The 33 includes footwear but not underwear. The rules are there to broken accordingly.

Note that this wardrobe exercise is simply to divert attention from the tricky start I had to de cluttering the kitchen. I woke in a cold sweat one night realising that we had no fewer than 5 teapots! I've managed to part with one. The rest have 'issues' that make it much more difficult to get rid of them. One was a wedding present, one was a birthday gift, one has a filter for loose leaf tea, one is a gorgeous two cup vintage pot with matching cups for heavens sake... Where do I start? The last time I used a pot at all was the latter mentioned vintage one and that was only for myself in the back garden last summer.

So, clothes it is this weekend. A capsule wardrobe in 33 items. I must confess I had a laugh at the many mentions of bags. Those who know me know I hate handbags. I used to get away with big pockets but these days it just isn't cool or practical. It's popular amongst project 333 participants to retain a large shopping tote, a handbag and a clutch. I've never used or owned a clutch in my entire life. So for clutch read 'knitting bag'. Yep that's that one sorted.

I fear the majority of the 33 items will be related to dog walking attire. Do my muddy gaiters count as one item? What about the fact that I alternate between walking shoes because one pair is usually drying out from the day before? Yep that's two more items then.

I'll let you know how I get on.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Restoring the balance...

Mid afternoon oatcakes

An almost snowy walk

Baking cookies

Old film crochet spotting

Mondays are my day to unwind from now on. I'm hoping there won't be too many Mondays with kids off sick, or husbands for that matter. Mondays are now mine, all mine!

I have a new found appreciation for the little things that fell by the wayside when I decided to help set up and work for a new charity shop. I haven't baked for months. The dog walks were down to a brisk one hour route just before dark. Old films were piling up on the hard drive. Crochet sitting around in baskets. Yes I know, crochet neglect!

I'm shuffling my shifts so that I have a more useful amount of time at home each day. Restoring the balance.

I watched Away All Boats recently. The opening scenes included the above, a mother with a boy wrapped in a gorgeous crochet blanket (tricky to see on the still) but unfortunately the crochet spotting went downhill from there; it was all at sea! It was rather long winded but I did manage to get to the end. I was hoping it would give me an insight into what life was like for my Grandfather on the HMS Duke of York, but alas it was far far removed from that. I'll have to watch a British film for a better idea.

The cookie recipe is on the BBC Good Food website and they're called Millie's Cookies. I slightly over cooked them but Jake didn't seem to mind. He appreciates my baking efforts when he comes in from school. The choc chip supplies have been replenished so I'll just have to try another batch.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

The Buddha under the Bridge...

The first time I spotted the Buddha under the bridge I wanted to pause and sit for a little while. Unfortunately I wasn't alone that day, a flock of chocolate Labradors was within sight so we trudged on and left him there to return another day.

It's been cold, wet and windy this week and after one particularly unpleasant episode involving cold driving rain which reached my underwear and made my skin itch as I was warming up again I decided to watch any subsequent rainy afternoons from the comfort of the sofa. If I had a pair of waterproof trousers I would be happy to brave that kind of weather again, it was just as well I remembered my drawstring bag of front seat waterproof covers, bought for a vehicle, several jeeps ago. My drivers seat is fine but the boot smells like... well it's indescribable really. Damp dogs, stagnant ponds, muddy lakes, rotting bits of log that Harvey insists on bringing home with him.

These photos were all taken this morning. We left quite early and my car registered an outside temperature just above freezing. After a two hour walk, on the homeward stretch, I was carrying an extra jumper, hat, scarf and gloves, and the temperature was a lovely 6.5 degrees! Still not swimming weather but it didn't seem to deter Harvey.

H: Hey Riley!

R: Wassup Harv?

H: last one down to the lake is a sissy!

R: are you nuts bro? It's minus something in there y'know!

(Harvey sprints, takes off, lands with a four legged belly flop)

H: brrrgodalmightyrrrrrrrrrrr oh my god, I can't feel my legs, I'm gonna die, I'm gonna die. Hey Riley?

R: wassup?

H: it's lovely, c'mon in!

R: I'm just gonna stick to the edges thanks, I've got a heart murmer remember bro?

H: chicken.

R: lunatic.

Monday, 12 January 2015


I've been working too many hours at the charity shop and needed to restore the balance a bit. We finally have some new volunteers so I've reduced my hours a little. Apart from tackling the mountains of washing (football kit, cricket kits) I've also been able to pick up my hooks and doodle in wool.

The above samples are just two of many that I've made on these hooks and ripped back again. I'm trying to achieve a simple look using a loose guage and just these two colours of 4 ply alpaca mix by Drops. I bought them at the Knitting & Stitching Show. On another stand entirely I was most taken with some simple garter stitch shawls using something like 4 ply and I wanted to create something similar in crochet. The only problem is that dc or tr crochet fabric doesn't quite have the same beauty as garter stitch fabric, for my taste anyway, so it needs a little stitch detail.

I've been looking through my crochet books for inspiration and surfing to no avail. I'm sure something will turn up! This wool is absolutely gorgeous! It's so incredibly soft and light. I can't remember how much it cost but it certainly wasn't expensive. I very rarely buy or use such a fine weight of wool. As I've said before, fine hooks hurt my hands which is why I suddenly hit upon the idea of using a much larger hook than the recommended size. The wool suggests 3.5mm and I've used both 6mm and 7mm and quite like the look it creates.

I haven't made any new year's resolutions, except for a vague idea that I'd like to rely less on patterns this year. (I may even have said that last year). I'm finding that as I grow older I'm more keenly aware of what my tastes are, rather than being overwhelmed by the sheer variety of influences out there. It's only been in the last year or two that I've worked out exactly what floats my boat and why. That has helped narrow down what I make and what colours I want to use. I created a mood board of photographs of the type of things I might like to make this year (still haven't really taken to Pinterest) and so I'll be able to do a similar mood board (using a pic collage app) at the end of the year to compare with; see if I stuck to my guns or got sidetracked along the way!

Monday, 5 January 2015

wool, winter and wandering...

If this first rug looks like I just raided my super chunky stash, it's because that's what I did. There's no colour coordination going on at all. That's ok though, the odds and ends weren't much good for anything else and the rug is going somewhere discrete... I'm going to pop it down beside our bed in the caravan. We rolled up all the carpet in the caravan because the Lino was more dog friendly, but it's cold underfoot and the rug can go down when they are clean and/or confined to their end of the caravan.

This technique, using this wool, makes a very thick rug. I've got an off-cut of thick calico for the backing just for peace of mind, though I imagine you can just sew the edges under and leave it. I'll have to read up on that.

In between shifts at the charity shop and a spot of rug hooking I've been tramping for miles over frozen fields. Every now and then Riley completely loses his sense of direction and heads off the wrong way. He did this today and the last time I'd seen him was ten feet down a muddy bank drinking from a fast flowing stream. I yelled a few times and sent Harvey to investigate and when that didn't work I set off at a very brisk pace worrying that he'd slipped in and drowned! Thankfully not, he was jogging along in the homeward direction despite the fact that we mostly take the same route these days. Daft dog. I think he was as pleased to see Harvey and I as we were to see him.

After work it's always tempting to make a mug of tea and put my feet up in front of a soppy afternoon movie but I'm always glad I dragged myself out. There's something very heartwarming about watching two Springers bounce along loving every minute.