Sunday, 28 July 2013

Moments of colourful calm

A few weeks ago, I showed you the cushion cover I was making, do you remember?  Well, I've finished it and here it is!

I'm very pleased with it, and particularly with the square shell buttons which came free with a magazine some months ago and now have a use.  My cushion matches perfectly with my blanket:

I learned to meditate last year and a lovely part of the process is to wrap yourself up in a blanket whilst you empty your mind and prepare for the day ahead.  I wanted to make a blanket for myself rather than buy one and I knew as soon as I saw this pattern that this was the one I wanted to make.  It's like wrapping myself up in a rainbow!

Both the blanket and the cushion cover are crocheted in Stylecraft DK (I used 17 different colours in their colour pack)on a 4mm hook and the pattern is the neat ripple pattern by Lucy of Attic24.  It's such an easy pattern to do and looks very effective.  There's no set number of chains that you make to get started, although you do work in blocks of fourteen, so it's just a question of making a chain as long as you need it to be. There's a fantastic tutorial on Lucy's site with step-by-step pictures so you can't get it wrong.  I simply measured my cushion pad and started rippling!  With the blanket, I wanted to make sure it was big enough to wrap it completely around myself (you can't meditate with draughty feet!) so it's about the size of a single bed fleece blanket but a bit longer.  You just keep going until you're happy with it!

Both my husband and I have learned to meditate with Art of Living which is a non-profitmaking, non-religious organisation whose mission is to free the world of stress.  It's a noble cause and not an easy one; the thing about stress is that it creeps up on you and you don't even notice how stressed you are until you take the stress away.  It's why people look forward so much to their holidays!  I don't manage to meditate every day, but I have found that's it's worth getting out of bed half an hour earlier to have some quiet time to myself before the demands of the day begin.  If you'd asked me before I did the course, I'd have said I didn't need it, I wasn't stressed and anyway, a bit of pressure's good for you.  Now, I know that I am a much calmer, nicer Mummy if I have meditated and that's incentive enough to get me up in the mornings!

I thought you might like to see this nifty little gadget as well: 

It's a folding meditation stool which I bought my husband for his birthday.  I'd been looking for one for him for a while and this is a really nice quality one which folds flat so it doesn't get in the way when it's not in use.  He takes it to the group meditation session which he goes to and it saves his feet going to sleep as the beginning of the session always starts with yoga breathing which you have to kneel up for.  It's been a while since I've been to one of those sessions with one thing and another going on, but they're the reason I made my cushion as at the end you lie down, snuggle up cosily under your blanket and shut out the world.  Bliss!


Sunday, 21 July 2013

Carnival time

What a glorious day for a Carnival!  This is when you really appreciate living in a village; the planning and excitement has been building for weeks and the day has finally dawned.

After a week or so of baking sunshine, the weather was just perfect - warm but not too hot with a slight breeze.  I love to look around places like this when they're just setting up, I love the expectation mixed with uncertainty over whether it's going to be a success or not.  My husband went to help set up the marquees in the morning so small daughter and I walked up to meet him with the dog before it got too hot.

As you can imagine, the beautiful weather brought the visitors, which is always good news for the Carnival.  We had live bands, a funfair, stalls galore, sheep dog displays and Morris Dancers, synonymus with English country fairs.

When I was small and we travelled on holiday by car, I remember passing coaches full of girls who were part of Morris Dancer and majorette troupes and thinking their pompons and tassels looked very glamorous.  Sometimes we would see them at service stations and they always looked like they were having great fun - although now I'm old enough to know that many of those girls would probably have wished to be me going on holiday with my family instead!

The Carnival was, of course, a success.  No one should have worried.  The weather brought people in their hundreds and it was lovely to see so many people from the village in one place, as well as friends and visitors from elsewhere.  It's at times like these that you realise how strong the sense of community is; going to the village Carnival is part of what you do when you live in a village.

Whether browsing the stalls, watching the displays or listening to the bands with a beer in hand, there was something for everyone and I was very proud to be a part of it.


Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Whilst out with the dog ...

(With apologies to Louis Armstrong)

I see trees of green and skies of blue

A mother duck, and her ducklings too

And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.

I see wildflowers in the meadow

I see swans resting in the stream

I see bees in flight

And a hedgehog at night

The things that you see when you look about you.

I see carpets of fluff, seed heads like snow

 I see one tired dog - he's snoring, you know! 

And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.

Oh yeah.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Counting Chickens

I've spent the day trying to get myself organised.  It's been a bit busy in our house recently with one thing and another, not least of which is my dissertation for my Masters degree, the deadline for which is looming at the end of the summer.  It's a Classical Studies degree and I'm writing about the Romans in Wilderspool which is an area of Warrington not far away from where we are.  I'm absolutely loving it, but it takes up an inordinate amount of time, hence my need to get organised.

So I've spent the day picking things up that are in places where they don't belong, finding things that I thought I'd lost and generally trying to regain some control over my house.  I like to know where stuff is so that I'm not chasing round for it at the last minute (from school permission letters to PE kits to text books to change for car parks - the list goes on).  I call it having my chickens lined up, and just recently they haven't been lined up at all, they've been all over the farmyard and on their way into town!  My husband thinks this is funny.  He says I have an inner sheepdog which is probably true - I do like to know that everyone is rounded up and safe.  I know that sheepdogs don't look after chickens, but I like the analogy anyway.

It's dinner time now and I'm happy with what I've done today.  I feel calmer and less concerned about what the coming week is going to bring.  A calm Mum brings a calm house and that's one of the most precious things I can give my family.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

An evening of woolly squishiness

I went to the Sirdar Open Evening at Black Sheep Wools last night.  It's been quite a while since I last went to the Craft Barn and I'd forgotten how lovely it is to be able to walk around such an extensive display of yarns and squish away to my heart's content!  

There's something about walking around a store outside of normal opening hours, and it's even nicer with a glass of wine and some nibbles in your hands!  I don't normally get to meet that many knitters in one place and knitting can be quite a solitary hobby, so I loved being able to talk to other people as we browsed the shelves.  Some of the displays, it had to be said, looked good enough to eat - just look at all the fabulous colours of this Regia baby yarn!

I was very tempted by it - and especially when I saw it set out like this!

The colours of the picture don't really do it justice, but they looked like tiny balls of woolly sweets!

The point of the evening was a brief talk and question and answer session by the Managing Director and sales staff of Sirdar, who were previewing their lastest yarn collections.  Sitting at home, clicking away in front of the TV, it's easy to think that you're the only person who knits, so I found it fascinating to hear that they sold enough Snuggly baby yarn every year to make three quarters of a MILLION baby clothes.  That's an awful lot of baby clothes - and reminds you that knitting isn't reserved for grannies and maiden aunts - even with the best will in the world, they could never knit that amount of wool!

Two hours passed very quickly, and I knew I wasn't going to be able to leave without at least one squishy purchase.  I really don't need any more yarn, but Sirdar provided the perfect excuse:

The eco-friendly goody bag!  I love these eco bags, they're just right for packing with yarn and pretending that I haven't broken my own rule of never buying yarn if I couldn't fit it into the storage boxes bought specially for the purpose.  Besides, if it's got the name of a wool company on it, what else would you put in it?

So I browsed for a bit longer.  I lingered for a long time by the sock yarns:

but then felt that I really couldn't justify any more sock yarn until I knit a few more pairs with the yarn I've already got.  So instead, I bought the yarn to knit a winter cardigan.  Yes, I know it hasn't got any sleeves in it, but I have finally been converted to the art of layering so I know it will be a welcome addition to my winter wardrobe.

Finally, it was time to leave.  With a last goodbye to Sara, Black Sheep's Marketing Director, I headed home to show my treats and my purchases to my husband.

"No sock yarn, then?" he asked.  "Had they sold out?"

He knows me too well!

Sunday, 7 July 2013

I feel very honoured ....

I found out today that Winwick Mum has been chosen as one of the "6 of the Best" on Love All Blogs this week.  I can't tell you how proud that has made me feel!  You can read the Love All Blogs article here

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Don't worry, my dog only speaks Welsh

Like a lot of other people today, we've been to the beach.  It takes us about an hour and a half to get to our favourite beach in Wales but it's worth it.  We left early, treated ourselves to breakfast on the way and managed to avoid the traffic on the A55 into Wales.  The dog came too, so we were especially concerned not to spend any longer in a hot car than we needed to.

Usually I would take my knitting with me and most of the time it's whatever pair of socks I have on the go.  At the moment, the socks have been shelved as I'm trying to finish my Bayfield shawl but I thought that trying to concentrate on a lace pattern would be just too much so instead I opted for the crocheted cushion cover that I've nearly finished.  It's the Neat Ripple pattern from Lucy at Attic 24's blog.  I've already made a  Neat Ripple blanket to wrap myself up in when I'm meditating, and I'll show you that another day, but I had so much yarn left over that I thought I would make a cushion to match for when I go to the group meditation sessions.

We've had a lovely day.  The sun shone, big daughter had some time off from revising and read a novel, small daughter collected stones, my husband snoozed in a deck chair and the dog remembered how wonderful it was to feel the sea in his fur.  Boy, was he a wet dog!  We had to keep him on his long lead as he showed an inordinate amount of interest in some jellyfish that had washed up on the beach, and some other families had very kindly laid out their picnics in ways that were just right for a greedy dog to snaffle, but he didn't seem to mind too much. He still swam in the sea, dug in the sand and bounced around other dogs on the beach without a care in the world.

One lady eyed him rather warily as he leapt towards her dog, obviously concerned that he needed to be kept on a lead.  

"He's not aggressive," I assured her, "just a bit too interested in that family's sandwiches."

"Oh, don't worry," she said, with a smile, "my dog only speaks Welsh."

 That's all right then.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

A surprisingly busy but very lovely day

It all started with a morning walk with my lovely friend and our dogs in Culcheth Linear Park, just a few miles from Winwick.  Our dogs haven't seen each other for a while so they had a lovely time sniffing together whilst we did our best to keep them out of the stream.  Funny thing, though, my dog still needed hosing down when we got home!

On the way home, I called in at the farm shop for some local honey and some freshly-laid eggs.  They might be more expensive than the supermarket but I like to feel that I'm supporting a local business and also, more importantly, I know where my food is coming from.  I particularly like the fact that the bees may have visited my garden so in some small way I might have contributed to the jar of honey I've just bought!  

There is a theory that taking a spoonful of local honey every day from the beginning of February can help to ward off hayfever, but as we don't suffer from hayfever, I can't tell you if it's true or not!

Look what small daughter found when she got home from school!  She loves to search among the leaves to find strawberries.  This is an early fruiting variety called "Christine", not as common as some varieties but the plants produce large, sweet fruits and small daughter certainly has no complaints!

The sun came out this afternoon so I took the opportunity to harvest some more elderflowers before they all fade.  I'm going to try elderflower wine this time - apparently it's light and Muscatty so I will wait with excited anticipation to see if mine actually is!  The recipe comes from How to Make Your Own Drinks by Suzy Atkins as does the very lovely elderflower cordial recipe that I use and nettle beer, still fermenting nicely in the demijohn.

So, a busy day but the fabulous thing about writing a blog is that you stop to think about all the things that you've done and how much you have to be grateful for. 

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Dodging the raindrops

I managed to get into the garden for a few minutes between the rain showers today.  I didn't get chance to do any gardening but did take a moment to enjoy the flowers that are out now.  I'm very good at spotting all the weeding or plant maintenance that needs doing and not nearly good enough at enjoying the garden by just being in it and smelling the flowers.

Small daughter has been on a personal mission to count the number of bees in the garden.  I think this may be something of an impossible task but it's keeping her amused.  I've been doing my best to grow flowers that the bees will like and this spring the garden has been full of foxgloves, Welsh poppies and aquilegia, most of them self-seeded from last year's flowers.

I love to hear the bees buzzing inside the flowers, particularly foxgloves.  I have both white and pink foxgloves this year; the white are my favourite and I try to make sure that the seed from those is scattered generously about.

I also took a quick look at the vegetable garden.  I don't have a great deal of space to grow vegetables as I want them to be as close to the kitchen as possible, but it's all made much easier now that I've got my raised beds.  This will be the third year that I've used them and it's made a massive difference - I can keep the soil levels up quite easily, it's easier to control the slugs and snails and it looks tidier than my previous vegetable patch.  

Everything's doing very well now after a slow start.  We had our first courgettes last night (niftily hidden in leek and potato soup), the mange tout peas are finally producing pods.  This year I've planted climbing French beans for the first time so it will be exciting to see how they turn out.  The carrots have recovered from the cats rolling all over them in the sunshine a few weeks ago and I think the baby beetroot are almost ready for harvesting.  Happy times!

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

A mission too far?

I'm always up for a challenge, and especially a woolly one, but I'm wondering now if I've bitten off a bit more than I can chew with this one.

I'm going out to a business event with my husband in the middle of this month and I decided I needed a new shawl to go with the dress I'm planning to wear.  Never one to buy something when I can make it for myself, this is the pattern I'm making:

It's called Bayfield by Kerry Milani and I've downloaded it from Ravelry which is a fabulous site for knitters and crocheters - it's a bit like Facebook for people who knit!  

and this is the yarn I'm making it from:

It's Manos del Uruguay lace in shade Luna 6422, a baby alpaca, silk and cashmere blend.  It's very beautiful, very soft and very fine to knit with.  I've never knitted with laceweight before so it's nice to do something different.

So far so good - except that I gave myself a month to make it, it took me three days to get the set-up rows right and now I'm on row 20 of an 84 row pattern - and that's before I start on the plain section.

It may not be ready for the middle of the month but I'll keep you posted!

Monthly musing ~ July 2013 ~ Beer's the thing!

            "What on earth are you doing?" asked my husband, peering over my shoulder at the pungent green soup I was stirring.

            "Making nettle beer," I told him.

            "Ah, right."  The relief in his voice that he wasn't going to have to eat it was tempered with concern that he might have to drink it in the future.

            Luckily for me, over the years my husband has got used to me wanting to try out new things.  From creating rugs to face cream (it was like axle grease, I don't recommend it!), knitting socks to making jam and elderflower cordial, he has seen a lot of these experiments come and go.  Some, like the socks, have stayed and our feet are warmer for it.  There's always jam in the fridge and the elderflower cordial is now a family tradition.  Others have simply been chalked up to experience and won't see the light of day again.

            I’ve always liked making things and have always wanted to try out nettle beer.  I remember, whilst quite young, being taken by my Mum to see an elderly friend who warned her not to go into the shed as his nettle ‘pop’ was particularly explosive that year.  How wonderful to make something that might actually explode but was still worth making every year!  
            "Your beer doesn’t smell very nice," big daughter said, wrinkling up her nose as she came into the kitchen.  The worktops were covered with pans of steaming nettles because of course I don’t have one pan big enough.  

            "Can’t you just buy beer at the supermarket?" asked small daughter.  

            And that, perhaps, is the point.  In an age when it’s easy to buy practically everything you might ever want, and often at the click of a mouse, there’s a satisfaction to be had in creating something for yourself.  I love being able to step out of the front door and collect nettles, blackberries and elderflowers to be able to make something that my family can enjoy.  It’s all part of the process and although our house smelled rather earthy (think asparagus and sprouts) for a few hours, my beer is now fermenting nicely in the demi-john and will continue to do so for several more weeks.

            "Several weeks?" exclaimed big daughter, used to internet-fast activity.  "How long is it going to be until you can drink it then?"

            "About eight months, the recipe says," I told her.  She looked horrified.  

            "That’s a lot of effort to put into something you have wait such a long time for."

            This is true, but I’ve had a lovely time making it, I like to watch the air lock bubbling away on the demi-john and in eight months’ time we’ll have beer that you can’t buy in the shops.  Who knows what it’s going to taste like, but isn’t that part of the fun?  And that is something you can’t buy at the supermarket.

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