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Thursday, 19 April 2018

Plotting and planning


After years of working in offices, I never forget to be grateful for the way that my life has changed to allow me to firstly work as a gardener and be outside in the fresh air, and now to be based at home working with my husband in his business and writing and knitting as Winwick Mum.

Today, the sun is shining and I have moved my office outside.  I'm trying to remember to drink more water (which is great, except that I keep needing to go to the loo!) and out of the corner of my eye I can see the washing gently waving on the washing line and the bees buzzing around the flowers.  One of the cats is sunning herself on the bench whilst the other has taken up residence in an empty planter.  He thinks that if he shuts his eyes and he can't see you, then you can't see him despite the fact that he's the oddest-looking furry plant in the garden.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Sunday

Hellooo!  How are you doing on this Sunday afternoon?  I've been out in the garden but the rain has started so I've come in for a while to see if it goes off and thought this would be a good moment for us to catch up.  I hope you've had a lovely week!  

It's back to school for us tomorrow; I've stopped asking small daughter if she's finished her homework yet as I just get a wave of the hand and some vague muttering whenever I do, so I've decided to let her get on with it and face the music if she's not done it.  I don't miss having to do homework at all so I can understand why she'd put it off - but I also remember leaving it till the last minute and that's not fun at all!

Anyway, let me show you what I've been up to this morning.  I've been cutting the grass (gardening is all about illusion - people will only focus on what you show them, so if you ever need to impress quickly, cut the grass first!) and ripping out more miles of ivy.  I've got nettles growing up in between it now so they've been coming out too.  Don't let anyone tell you that spring nettles don't have much of a sting because that's not true!  I also found some treasures ...

The Magnolia stellata (star magnolia) is finally in flower - it's a few weeks later than usual but is making up for it with masses of beautiful fragrant blooms ...

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Easter holidays

We're half way through small daughter's school Easter holidays, and we've got plenty done.  There has been bedroom tidying (long-overdue), Easter egg eating (there has to be some reward for the bedroom tidying!), and plenty of outdoors-ing, thanks to the weather not being as bad as it could be.

I've been able to persuade small daughter to come on some longer walks with the dog and me (mostly, I suspect, because if she's out with me she's not having to tidy her room), and Thursday was a great day for it.  We saw blue skies and even some sunshine - oh, doesn't it feel wonderful to feel it on your face? - and everywhere there were signs of spring.


Saturday, 31 March 2018

Nature

According to the Greek philosopher, "Nature abhors a vacuum"; in other words, an empty space will always be filled.  I'm not so impressed with this in my garden when a recently cleared border is suddenly full of weeds, apparently overnight, but it does work very well in other situations.  Situations such as the Lyme and Wood Pits Country Park in Haydock, for example, where the dog and I walk every now and again.  It's been created on an old landfill site and now, instead of lorries and rubbish, there are paths, woods and fishing ponds.

Part of it is still a landfill site, although apparently it will be brought into the country park in the future when the works have stopped.  Those big hills in the background are topsoil, part of the current landfill, and presumably will disappear over time as the soil is removed by the big lorries that still come in and out of the site.


Lyme and Wood Pits Country Park

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Monthly Musing - March 2018 - Spoiler alert

I spend a lot of time on social media, in my own Winwick Mum Facebook groups (here and here) and in others, and also on Instagram where I love to see the stream of photos of socks (what else?) and other crafty creations.  It’s definitely a time-stealer, but also an educator, a communicator and an inspiration.

What I have noticed recently, in all the social media groups I follow, is a lot of “spoiler alert” postings.  This is where someone talks about or shows photos of something that will potentially spoil the surprise for someone else if they look at them.  Sometimes the photos are in the comments so that you can only find them if you go looking, but sometimes they are part of the post and you can’t avoid them.  I have mixed feelings about these: on the one hand, I absolutely understand the excitement of someone who wants to share something and has no one else around them who will appreciate it, but on the other, by sharing their photos or comments they are taking away that moment of excitement from somebody else.  Of course, by writing “spoiler alert” in the post title then it means that people don’t have to read if they don’t want to, but not everybody remembers to do that when they are posting or to hide their photos in the comments, so that option is not always available.  It’s a tough one and I can appreciate both sides of this argument – and sometimes it does cause an argument as people can become upset by seeing something that they didn’t want to see.

Saturday, 24 March 2018

Saturday

Phew, what a busy week it's been!  I was away for a few days last weekend and as much as I loved and appreciated the rest, it does take a few more days to get back into the swing of things, doesn't it?  This week seems to have passed by in a blur of laundry (why does it seem to be a rule that however long you go away for, there's always six weeks' worth of washing to do when you come back?), dog walking (he was sulking when I came home so I've needed to make it up to him), knitting (because four days away with nothing else to do other than knit just isn't enough time) and planning (there's nothing like a bit of distance to give you perspective!).  

This morning, small daughter was out at an event so I decided not to waste my time driving home and back and instead sat with my knitting in a cafe and watched the world go by.  I had a lot of practice at doing that last weekend but it's one of those skills that unless we work on them, it's easy to lose and we get fooled into thinking that we should be rushing about instead.  I'm doing quite well at not rushing so much this year, although it is only March (nearly April) so I'm going to reserve judgement on whether I've really got the hang of it or not.



Saturday, 17 March 2018

Yarn Shop Day and British Knitting & Crochet Awards 2018

I've got a couple of exciting things to tell you about today ... firstly Yarn Shop Day is going to be on Saturday 12 May this year and it's not far off!  Things are really starting to get into gear now for the shops themselves and also for Let's Knit magazine who organise Yarn Shop Day.



Yarn Shop Day is an annual event which celebrates our bricks and mortar yarn shops.  There is nothing wrong at all in online stores - indeed, where would we be sometimes without them - but this is a day to celebrate all those who get up in the morning, battle to work in all weathers and open up their shops so that these little havens of wooliness are available for us to squish all kinds of yarny goodness, learn new skills, meet up with friends (some of whom we haven't met yet) and generally fill up our well-being tanks without the obligation of emptying our purses - although you and I both know that it's an unspoken rule that you never leave a yarn shop empty-handed :) 

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Outside

The snow came out of nowhere last Thursday; we opened the curtains and there it was.  It may have been on the weather forecast but we hadn't listened to it so it was quite a surprise to see the snow falling heavily and what's more, sticking to the ground.  Small daughter kept checking the school website but much to her disgust, the school was open.  I think it will take a lot more snow before she gets the day off!

The dog and I headed out for a walk at a different park - Lyme and Wood Pits Country Park at Haydock which is a short drive away.  It's been created on a landfill site which in turn was created following the closure of Wood Pit, the last colliery in Haydock, and although it's not a huge site, it's a good place to take the dog for a change.  I discovered quite early on that it's good to vary the time and place of our walk each day otherwise he gets a bit over-confident and tends to make up his own route - often without checking that I'm following!



Sunday, 11 March 2018

Mother's Day 2018


"Mothering Sunday is about love, so today is a day when we give thanks for those who have loved us, who love us still and care for us, whoever they are.  It can be a day of happiness and sadness, but always it is about love."

Canon June, St Oswald's Church, Winwick


Wednesday, 7 March 2018

March

It snowed last Tuesday.  After waiting all winter, the white stuff finally arrived in Winwick and I was a very happy Mum.  We didn't get as much as other parts of the country (I'm starting to become convinced that Winwick is situated over a hitherto-unknown volcanic hotspot and not, as was suggested, that it is anything at all to do with the fumes from our poorly Aga) and my heart goes out to those who are still recovering from days of being snowed in, water stand pipes and lack of heating.  However, we did get enough to properly walk in rather than just admire from the window so I was straight outdoors with the dog.  

Friday, 2 March 2018

Magazine knitting patterns

Have you ever wondered about the knitting patterns that you see in magazines?  About who the designers are, how they get their patterns into the magazines, who actually chooses which patterns are published?



Sometimes you open the magazine and you want to knit everything that's inside.  Sometimes you don't, but more often than not there are a few things that will catch your eye from a wide variety of projects that make it worth the trip to the shops to buy the magazine.  I've heard people muttering about the price of magazines but when you think that you'll pay anything from £3 for an individual pattern (and considerably more, sometimes, if you have a look around the Ravelry store) then a magazine is very good value.  You might not like every pattern every time - but then you might not win with every lottery ticket that you buy and it doesn't stop you buying more, does it? ;)

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Monthly Musing - February 2018 - Making the best of it

Our Aga turned itself off very suddenly last week.  It has been known to do this (although thankfully not often) and usually the only indication is a bad smell in the kitchen before a flurry of activity shutting down the fuel supply and opening the windows.  Aga owners will nod their heads wisely and agree that Agas can be temperamental and this kind of thing can happen, whilst those who don’t have them will shake their heads in disbelief and wonder how I can have given my heart to a lump of blue metal that causes chaos in our kitchen when something goes wrong.

Friday, 23 February 2018

Half Term London weekend

It seems almost incredible that a whole week has gone by since it was small daughter's half term holiday and we spent the last few days of it in London.  She'd been quite poorly at the start of the week, then made a miraculous recovery and it was if the days spent in bed had never happened as we set off on the train for the capital.

It's such an easy journey to London for us here from Warrington; two hours and we're there - it takes less time than to get there than to some places that are closer in distance!  My husband is often there for work but I don't go that often (the last time was in October with Lucy) so it always feels like quite an adventure.  Another adventure was finding the apartment that we were staying in; big daughter came with us and it's not really practical to try to squish us all into the one room these days.  It's also considerably cheaper to rent one apartment for a couple of nights than two hotel rooms, and we had more space so it worked out very well.  

The girls and I had the day to ourselves on Friday as my husband was working, so I had them up and out early.  The first place on their wish list was Camden Lock.  It was funny that they wanted to go there as it was the place where Lucy and I chose to spend our few hours in London in October.  This time, instead of walking, we took the Tube and felt very cosmopolitan as we zoomed our way around London far beneath the streets, hopping from one train to the next as if we did this all the time. 

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Socks ... for a change!

It's always exciting when a new sock yarn is launched and this week saw the arrival of the new Florist collection from West Yorkshire Spinners.  It's part of their Signature 4ply range and not specifically a sock yarn at all but is perfect for all kinds of projects - it's just that I am ever-so-slightly obsessed with socks and tend to look at yarns with my sock-obsession spectacles on and never consider knitting anything else!

I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek of the yarn earlier in the year - but of course I left it until the last possible moment before casting on and have spent the last two days with sparks flying off my needles so that I would have something to show you today.  If nothing else, I'm impressed with how fast I can knit sometimes! :)

These are the colours that WYS sent me.  Aren't they pretty?  They're called Violet (on the left) and Foxglove (on the right) but I think you could probably have guessed that! 


Monday, 12 February 2018

February

February's a funny month, isn't it?  Unless you've got a birthday or you're waiting for a Valentine's card, nothing much seems to happen; the most exciting thing for us at the moment is that small daughter is on her school half-term holiday but she's poorly so we're keeping our fingers crossed that anything we had planned is still going to be able to go ahead.

Outside, there has finally been a sprinkling of snow but not enough on the grass to make a snowball, never mind build a snowman - and anyway, small daughter is wrapped up in bed and hasn't even noticed.  She's snuggled up in my bed with me and one of the cats (the magic purr is always essential when you're under the weather); I'm catching up on blog-reading and drinking tea, being grateful for school holidays which mean that you don't have to get up and rush about (even though it's miserable to be poorly in the holidays).

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Brr!

Brr, it's cold!  The temperature has suddenly dropped this week and I've been eagerly watching the weather reports in case there's any chance of the white stuff landing in Winwick.  Google is still being very polite and telling me "No, there is no chance of snow in Winwick" without adding "you stupid woman, stop asking me!" although I am sure that it's robot-y mind is thinking that.

It was a Skipton Day yesterday and I headed up the motorway to Yorkshire to see my friend Lucy, well wrapped up against the freezing weather.  Turning out of our driveway, I had to stop for a moment because there, landing very gently on the windscreen, were snowflakes.  Snow!!  I resisted the temptation to shout "You know nothing, Google, do you hear me, nothing!" and instead grinned my way all the way up through Lancashire to Yorkshire whilst around the car the snowflakes danced and swirled.  I watched the snowflakes dancing and swirling all day out of Lucy's Studio window, but they didn't stick - perhaps just as well, but you can imagine that there might have been a little secret part of me that wouldn't have minded being snowed in up there in Skipton.

If you've ever read Lucy's blog then you'll be familiar with the hill that she can see from her Attic window - this is what it looked like yesterday as I went to get back into my car ... carefully disguised as a snowy cloud!



Friday, 2 February 2018

Visit to Woolaballoo, Durham

Saturday morning, 6.49am, and I was at Newton-le-Willows station, just a few minutes' drive from Winwick.  It was raining (for a change) and you may be wondering what I was doing here at this unearthly hour.  I must confess that I did ask myself the same question when the alarm went off at 5.30am, but once I was up the excitement kicked in and I was glad to be there.



I was on my way to Langley Park, near Durham in the North East of England, to visit Woolaballoo yarn shop and - hopefully - lots of sock knitters!  Lucy, who owns the shop, had asked if I'd be able to make a trip up to the North East as she runs regular learn-to-knit-socks classes at her shop and knew there were more than a few knitters in the local area who would be glad to meet up and talk socks.  It's not always easy to fit yarn shop visits in around everything else that I do but knowing that I'm going to spend the day in good yarny company always makes them worthwhile!

It takes about 3 hours on the train to get from Newton to Durham, so there was plenty of time to knit, listen to podcasts and watch the landscape change from the industrial North West to Yorkshire towns with steep streets and mills to the flat fields of Wearside.  I don't think you can beat a train journey for the constantly changing view!

Once in Durham, Lucy picked me up from the station and we drove the short distance to Langley Park.  It's only about 4 miles from the city centre which makes it ideal for people who don't want to go into the city and also for Lucy as it means that the money she makes in the shop funds more stock rather than high city rents.  It's not easy being a shop owner these days, so anything that can help is very welcome!  I was very excited that we were going to Langley Park as it is mentioned in the album name of one of my favourite teenage bands, Prefab Sprout - I love going to places that are mentioned in songs!

Woolaballoo is situated in a small courtyard of shops named, appropriately ...


Woolaballoo, Langley Park, Durham

Once through the huge wrought iron gates, you turn the corner and there it is!


Woolaballoo, Langley Park, Durham
Can you tell it was a windy day? :)

It truly feels as if you've discovered something secret, "a hidden gem" more than a few people called it during the day.  And it really is!  Once inside the doorway, you realise that there's more to this shop than you'd think on first impressions; it's much bigger on the inside than you'd expect.  High vaulted ceilings add to the sense of space and light ... 


Woolaballoo, Langley Park, Durham

Woolaballoo, Langley Park, Durham

Woolaballoo, Langley Park, Durham

Woolaballoo, Langley Park, Durham

It's not so over-crowded with stock that you can't see what you're looking for, but there's plenty of choice - and lots and lots of sock yarn!  (And Herdy things - did you notice that I'd spotted them? :) )

There's a lovely big workshop area too - this photo was taken earlier in the day when you could still see the table, but as the day went on the seats around it filled up and the table was piled high with yarns, projects bags and cake - but more about that later!

Woolaballoo, Langley Park, Durham

Here's Lucy.  She's super-friendly and chatty, just the kind of person you want to meet in a yarn shop.  She's also passionate about her yarns and selling the products that her customers want to buy, and also about providing ways for them to learn new skills or improve existing ones.  It's what you want from a yarn shop and what sets it apart from an online store - definitely something to be treasured in our current economic climate with so many yarn shops closing down.

Woolaballoo, Langley Park, Durham

The day was planned as a "sock clinic" plus book signing (I really must practice my handwriting, I'm sure it gets worse the more I do, not better!) and it fabulous to meet so many people and their socks!  I even saw some crocheted socks which were very pretty and didn't look bulky as many of them can do (the pattern was in Simply Crochet issue 67 for anyone who'd like to know) and I absolutely loved spending the day indulging my sock obsession - and possibly encouraging a few more people to start their own :)  

It's always hard to take photos when you're in the thick of a busy day, but at one point it was pretty much standing room only which just goes to show what a sociable lot we knitters are; the shop was filled with the chatting of not one but two knit n natter groups, first-time visitors, people meeting each other from the Winwick Mum Facebook groups and shop regulars.  It was fab!

Woolaballoo, Langley Park, Durham

Do you want to see something else that was fab?  As well as me taking along my Sockalong badges, Lucy had made some especially for my visit.  Well, how posh did that make me feel?!  I was very proud to wear both of my badges (and a couple more that she had made too!) and they'll be going onto my project bag so that I can remember the day.  Lucy makes her own badges and you're definitely spoilt for choice

Woolaballoo, Langley Park, Durham

There were more than a few clues that sock knitters were visiting for the day - sock yarns a-plenty, needles, and these ...

Woolaballoo, Langley Park, Durham

Woolaballoo, Langley Park, Durham

and if you look closely, you'll notice that there are a lot of West Yorkshire Spinners yarns included in the sock display - Janice, the regional sales rep from WYS was also there and it was great to be able to chat to her, and for shop customers to be able to ask someone really in the know about the yarns and the mill.

Oh, and you must see this!  Remember that I mentioned cake?  Look at this!  Woolly icing (cake pop) sheep and tiny icing flowers ...


and more sheep ... and socks!

Cake made for Woolaballoo by Sugar and Sponge Cake Company

Isn't that a fabulous cake?!  It was made especially for my visit by the very talented Jane of the Sponge and Sugar Cake Company and underneath all that icing was a lemon poppyseed cake - oh, I love lemon cake!  So, it appeared, did everyone else because by the time I was ready to go home, there really wasn't very much of it left at all!  

Badges, cake, lots of people to say hello too ... I was very spoilt, and my thanks go out to Lucy (and Nichola and Victoria) for looking after me and also to everyone who made the long journey worthwhile by coming to say hello.

I'm going to leave you with a video made by Mara which is a great overview of the day we had (and you can see just how much cake was left!) and which might encourage you to pop along to Woolaballoo if you're in the area!

 

Oh, and this picture too ...  I love this :) 



Woolaballoo, The Dartmoor Suite, The Courtyard, Front Street, Langley Park, Durham, DH7 9XE, www.woolaballoo.com


Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Monthly Musing - January 2018 - All aboard!

“Sorry, you’ve just missed that train, but don’t worry – there’ll be another one in an hour.”

These are never the words you want to hear after a long and busy day, so when the station manager said, “but you could get the next train and change”, I felt my spirits rise.  For a fleeting moment, I remembered the words from our favourite Christmas film The Polar Express: “The thing about trains … it doesn’t matter where they’re going.  What matters is deciding to get on” but that sentiment could have sent me anywhere and not necessarily in the right direction, so I headed back to the information board.  There was indeed another train due in just ten minutes that would mean an extra change but given the choice between sitting on a cold platform for an hour or sitting on a warm train that going in the general direction that I wanted to go in, I decided to get on the next train.

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Midweek

Hello!  And how are you on this ... [looks out of the window] ... drab and dreary Wednesday morning?  The wind is rattling the windows and the rain is bouncing off the patio flags so I've persuaded the dog that it's best to stay indoors for now.  He's snoring on his bed by the Aga so I think he agrees with me!

This was taken earlier this week on one of our walks - this is usually nothing more than a small overflow stream but all the rain (I was so upset, it started out as beautiful, big, fat snowflakes and within an hour was torrential rain) has caused flooding in lots of areas.  I could do with speaking to whoever controls the weather because they're not getting it right!  Still, at least the ducks seemed happy.


Wednesday, 17 January 2018

No-nylon sock yarn review: Doulton Flock Border Leicester 4ply

It's been just over six months since I finished my Easy Lace Socks using Doulton Flock Border Leicester 4ply yarn and it's definitely time for me to give you an update on how the yarn has worn.



As soon as I saw that fabulous purple colour (it's called Cringle Moor), I knew that I wanted to do more with it than just knit a plain sock, and it worked beautifully with the very easy lace pattern that I wanted to use for these beginner socks.   

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Getting back to it

Phew, this week has zoomed past - here we are at Sunday already!  It's been a back to work, back to school, back to university sort of week and it takes some effort to shift back into normal gear after a couple of weeks of lazy lie-ins and too much chocolate.

It's been nice to get back to the usual routine of an early morning walk - I truly appreciate the time to get my head together for the day.  The weather has been a mixture of frost ...



Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Happy New Year

It's January 2018!  

This year feels like it's going to be a fantastic year, don't you think?  I love these first few days of the year, they're like an open book of blank pages and we can write the story of the year however we like.  Yes, of course there are going to be unexpected pitfalls and disasters along the way (our Aga has turned itself off without notice, that was pretty unexpected but at least it waited until after our guests had left on New Year's Day!), but there are also going to be triumphs and successes that are just waiting for us to celebrate - and we need both good and bad to be able to appreciate the other.  Bring it on!

I am pretty good at remembering to say "thank you" on a regular basis - gratitude was one of the things that I was determined to cultivate in a big way last year - and before I blether on any more, I must say thank you to you for all your comments and support on my blog last year.  I lost the plot with replying to them all before Christmas (I lost the plot with a lot of things just before Christmas but the world is still turning :) ) but do be sure that I do read them all and am very grateful that you have taken the time to write to me.

So what's new for this year?