After the holidays …

Small daughter went back to school after a week off on holiday last week and oh boy, there’s so much to catch up on!  I was looking through photos and realised that there are so many – the time goes so fast!  I’ve not uploaded everything that I photographed, but do be warned there are a LOT of pictures in this post!

Over the holidays, we managed a rare family day out in Chester with a walk along the walls with the dog and Sunday lunch in a lovely dog-friendly pub.

I love walking the Chester walls; it’s such a fascinating timeline – the original walls are Roman, overlooking what was once a port …

Chester walls

Nowadays it overlooks a school playing field but it doesn’t take much imagination to see the water and the ships coming in laden with goods.  Not much further along and from those same walls you can see a 14th Century water tower …

Chester 14th Century water tower

and a very modern sculpture on very modern scaffolding in a pub beer garden …

Cat sculpture at Alexander's, Chester

and the beautiful cathedral originally founded as a Benedictine abbey in 1092, built in the Romanesque or Norman style, rebuilt in 1250 over 250 years to look as it does today, all within a few minutes’ walk of each other …

Chester Cathedral

The Eastgate clock, built in 1955, stands at the entrance to the Roman fort which occupied the space where the modern Chester city is built today …

Chester Eastgate clock

(This is not my best photo.  The dog was trying to win the race across the bridge, my husband was huffing because I kept stopping to take photos and we were in danger of being mown down by a large tourist party who were intent on keeping up with each other regardless of obstacles!)

Look over the wall and there’s the Roman amphitheatre (or half of it, as the other half is under a building) …

Chester amphitheatre

(Every year, Chester’s Roman history is celebrated on Roman Day which is also the first meet of the racecourse season.  It’s a good day out, with plenty going on at the racecourse and also at the amphitheatre – I wrote about it here – and showed you almost exactly the same photo!)

And only yards further on you can see houses where the external decorations give thanks for the occupants’ lives being spared from the Black Death or bubonic plague …

Chester house

and right opposite there are the remains of a Roman hypocaust heating system.

Chester Roman gardens hypocaust

Isn’t that incredible?  And these are just my favourite bits!  There’s so much to see – it’s definitely a “looking for the extraordinary in the everyday” kind of city!  And the Sunday lunch I mentioned?  That was at the Bear and Billet, built in 1664.  There’s nothing old-fashioned about the food or the service though – we were all made very welcome, including the dog, and I would certainly recommend this place if you ever need a bite to eat in Chester!

Bear and Billet, Chester

Back home, the garden is filling out nicely with lots of green leaves and bright colours.  It’s definitely a Spring garden so this time of year is lovely …

more photos of my “Coral Reef” Oriental poppies (Papaver orientale) …

Papaver orientale "Coral Reef"

I want to build my collection of poppies up again so that’s going on my list of things to do.  I’ve got a couple in pots that need planting up and I’ve grown Oriental poppies from seed before now so I might give that a go again.  I love all the poppies – the big Oriental poppies, the tall Opium poppies (I do have some of those but they’re nowhere near flowering yet) and the small Welsh poppies … I’ve never got the red field poppies that are used to represent Remembrance Day to grow in my garden although I do know that they like to grow in disturbed soil and I may not do enough weeding …

I’ve got plenty of marigolds (Calendula officinalis) in the garden.  They’re such happy flowers!

Calendula officinale Marigold

And the Aquilegia (Aquilegia vulgaris) are still in bloom too.  I had a packet of mixed seeds once which I scattered around the borders with wild abandon and now there are so many different varieties of this plant – some in more convenient places than others! – but they are keeping the bees happy …

Aquilegia vulgaris with bee

The foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea) are out now too.  They grow all over the garden, they’re not contained at all and just pop up where they like and I can’t bring myself to pull them up.  But look what my reward is!  I love this beautiful tall white one …

Foxglove Digitalis purpurea alba

and the bees love this pink one …

Foxglove Digitalis purpurea

Foxglove Digitalis purpurea with bee

Resting bee

I’ve been so pleased to see the garden full of bumble bees.  I’ve found a nest at the bottom of the garden in a bag of old wood so I’m being very careful not to disturb it.  It’s right next to the shed that I’ve been doing up to become a studio space – which has now been claimed by small daughter as her “She Shed” although I think she may have grudgingly agreed to let me use it when she’s at school.  In fairness, the shed was originally bought as a play house for the girls so it is theirs really – but I think it’s very interesting that the interest in it has only returned once I’ve had it re-insulated and painted … I’ll show you more of that another day!

I found a bee looking a bit sorry for itself the other day so gave it a drink of sugar water.  I’ve never actually seen a bee drink before so I was amazed to see this one go straight for the liquid and sip it up.  You could see it regaining it’s strength in front of your eyes!

Bee sipping sugar water

The first of my climbing roses are out now too.  This is “Emily Grey”; I think it would be quite rampant if I wasn’t very firm about cutting it back but the result this year has been a lot of buds and I’m hoping for a fine display.

Climbing rose Rosa "Emily Grey"

So what else has been going on this last week?  Well, on Sunday I joined in with a online sourdough bakealong run by Gartur Stitch Farm and decided to try putting some olives into the mix to see how that would turn out.

Surprisingly well!  This is my loaf; olive bread is big daughter’s new favourite thing and small daughter declared the loaf to be an excellent one – whilst picking out the olives.  Ah well, you can’t please everyone!

Olive sourdough bread

I’ve also had a go at baking a vegan cake.  We’ve discovered that big daughter is lactose intolerant which is proving very inconvenient – not so much for us at home as we’re adapting to be able to find what she can and can’t eat comfortably, but for her when she goes out – and if you have any kind of food intolerance then you absolutely have my sympathy.  It’s a bit easier to find gluten-free options on menus now, but specifically dairy-free is quite difficult (she’s been caught out by cooked breakfasts being cooked in butter which wasn’t declared) and there aren’t always vegan options for her to choose.  There must be so many people affected by this and it must be a complete nightmare at times!  The good thing has to be that it’s more recognised as an issue these days and there are places that will cater for people who need to be able to avoid certain foods, but there’s still a long way to go.

Anyway, having said all that, let me tell you about my vegan cake.  I used the Vegan Chocolate Cake recipe from the Jane’s Patisserie website and I can honestly say that it was not only very easy, but it’s the best-looking cake I’ve ever made in my life!  I was super-impressed with myself!  It tastes fabulous too – more crumbly than “regular” cake but big daughter has got plans to mop up the crumbs with some lactose-free ice cream.  I will most certainly be trying out more recipes from the website (there are plenty of recipes that are for those without food intolerances too), and I can highly recommend this one too if you need a dairy and egg-free cake recipe (I made the two layer size and it was still pretty big!)

Vegan chocolate cake recipe Jane's Patisserie

(You’ll notice that this photo isn’t at all staged as I was too busy taking photos to send to people and shouting “look at my cake, it’s not a complete disaster!”  And yes, I was having a brew whilst I was baking 🙂 )

What else?  Oh yes, I need to tell you that Bev, the missing winner I mentioned in my last posthas been found and her yarn and book are on their way to her.  Phew!

I also can’t remember if I ever showed you these socks …

Deceptively Knotty Socks, Winwick Mum, The Yarn Cafe

They’re called Deceptively Knotty Socks because they’re made with mock cables and not a cable needle, and the pattern was a commission for The Yarn Cafe.  I don’t have time to take on many extra commissions but I really enjoyed designing these for Tracie at The Yarn Cafe, and along with download copies from the website, she’s got the pattern available at the shows she’s doing this year as well.  And the pair of socks so that you can take a look at them “in the yarn”.  As with all of my patterns that aren’t the very basic Sockalong sock, it’s designed for an adventurous beginner so if you can knit a basic sock, you should be able to manage these.  The pattern is available here at The Yarn Cafe and there are more pictures too if you want to have a look.

Currently on my needles are some socks that I can’t show you (that’s the problem with commissions!), the second sock of the Cascade pair that I started a while ago

hand knitted socks

and I’m still on the first sock of this pair …

Hand knitted socks West Yorkshire Spinners yarn, Winwick Mum

Plain yarn and big socks are not the quickest combination!  I’m encouraging myself to do a few rounds at a time in between other things and I’m sure the pair will be done soon enough, though.  I hope so – I’ve got more WIP pairs on my list to get finished but I also bought some more yarn for socks for my husband.  He’s the one who likes the black socks, remember, so when he says he likes something that’s even remotely coloured, I don’t ask twice!  This yarn is from Sheepish Fibre Art, it’s called British Skies (ha!) and it knits up like this …

Sheepish Fibre Art British Skies

Source: Sheepish Fibre Art

Well come on, with the choice of that or black socks, you wouldn’t be hanging around to knit the black socks, would you?!  My husband is very knit-worthy when it comes to socks, plus I know that I’ll probably get two pairs out of this with contrast heels, toes and cuffs so I don’t mind spending the extra money on hand-dyed yarn for him.  I just wish that every ball of yarn came with an extra hour in the day to knit it!  Now wouldn’t that be great?  I bet the yarn shop that could offer that would put every other one out of business! 😀

This Saturday (8 June 2019) is World Wide Knit in Public Day.  Yes, this really is a thing and it’s got it’s own website too.  There are organised events that you can go along to or you can just get out your knitting needles somewhere outside and that makes you part of it too.  I’m going to be at Black Sheep Wools on Saturday from 10am to 4pm along with my lovely friend Emma Varnam and some of the team from West Yorkshire Spinners for a WYS day.  Richard, the Sales and Marketing Director from WYS is going to be giving talks on “An Insight into WYS and British Yarn” at 11am and 2pm (and he’s worth listening to as he’s so passionate about his company and the yarns), Danielle from WYS Sales will be there to answer any questions you might have, and Emma and I will be around to talk about our new collections for WYS – in case you didn’t know, Emma is a super-talented toy designer and she’s designed some absolutely gorgeous toys with their own outfits and matching clothes for children in the new Bo Peep colours – and I will be around to talk socks to anybody who stands still long enough to listen.  Socks!  Yes, I know!  Who would have expected that?!

Source: Black Sheep Wools

And just in case you think that you could never possibly knit in public, I’ve got something to show you.  I made this video a short while ago to show people how relaxing it is to knit socks (OK, anything really, but you know I’m biased) and to point them in the direction of the Sockalong tutorials if they’d like to learn, but if you even watch a couple of minutes of it, you’ll see what other people can see when you knit in public.  It’s not something that I’d ever given much thought to, but when I used to take my Dad to hospital appointments which were invariably running late, I used to knit and he used to snooze or read the paper and everybody else would be watching the daytime TV programmes … and my hands … and the TV … and my hands … it was fascinating to watch people’s eyes being drawn to what I was doing and they were absolutely mesmerised, until you saw them shake themselves and feel embarrassed for staring.  I always used to give them a big smile, sometimes make conversation – and watch them watch my hands again.  There’s magic in knitting, you know, and if you knit in public then you’re sharing your magic with other people.  It gives your own awkwardness about it a new perspective, doesn’t it?

Goodness, I do seem to have rambled on a bit!  This is what happens when I leave it for a week or so before posting – there’s so much to tell you!

I won’t leave it so long next time – I promise!  See you on Saturday if you can make it – and if not, I’ll see you back here very soon! 😀

STOP THE PRESS!  I’ve just found out that I’ve been nominated for two awards in the 2019 British Knitting & Crochet Awards – thank you so much to everyone who took the time to do that!  Winwick Mum is nominated in the Favourite Knitting Blog category and More Super Socks is nominated in the Favourite Knitting Book category – oh wow, I am so thrilled to see them both there!

The voting is now open if you’d like to vote – and this year there are so many of my lovely crafty friends nominated too: I love that the independent brands are so heavily featured.  There’s a prize draw if you take part in the voting (UK only, I’m afraid), but you can vote from anywhere in the world (I think – please let me know if this isn’t the case).  Thank you again, I am truly delighted! xx

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14 Responses

  1. Janet says:

    I recently had to have radiotherapy which involved catching 4 trains a day for several weeks. I took my crochet with me and crocheted on the trains and in the hospital waiting room. It was amazing how many people (men and women) would come and talk to me about my work

  2. Nicky Slade says:

    Thank you for sharing all your lovely photos of Chester – I really hope to go there one day although it's a long way from the south coast! We also have self-seeded aquilegias and foxgloves popping up all over the garden so I just move them (as long as they haven't started flowering) to wherever I want them and they seem to cope with that quite happily!

  3. happy hooker says:

    That cake looks so good, I must try it. I was diagnosed with lactose intolerance several years ago,but foolishly kept eating cheese occasionally. I've now cut out all dairy and feel so much better. My son bought me Dr Greger's "How Not To Die" book and cookbook. He advocates (backed up with lots of scientific evidence) a wholefood, plant-based diet, with little or no dairy. I've been trying to stick to that. When I go out I take a small pot of dairy-free spread so I can still have my teacake and eat it! I hope big daughter soon finds her way with LI. She'll soon get to know the best places to eat out which cater for dairy-free. xx

  4. Karenbeegood says:

    Thank you for the post on Chester, I met my first boyfriend on a school trip to Chester in 1974! It was lovely reminiscing we carried on seeing each other till we were in our 20s. All the best for the nominations.

  5. gillian davies says:

    Really enjoyed the pictures from Chester,it's a walk I love but haven't had the opportunity to do for a while so the pics made me smile,thank you

  6. Caroline says:

    Husband's graduation is in Chester in the autumn….I've got a plan in mind now!

  7. Susan Rayner says:

    Well – what a great blog!! Love Chester – one of our favourite places and your photos bring it to life – must go back soon!! Have downloaded the Deceptively Knotty Sock pattern – looks so much fun and voted in the nominations!! Have a great weekend – by the way is is also International Gin Day tomorrow – so possibly add that to the Knitting in Public!!

  8. Sheryl Bailey says:

    I take Super Lactase Enzyme capsules from Holland and Barrett if I think I may be eating or drinking anything with dairy in it whilst I am out, they do work, I have been taking them for a few years now.

  9. Lenore says:

    Loved the photos, and video. voting done. X

  10. Jamie says:

    My husband and our son have been lactose free for about 8 years now, but for the last 3 years my husband hasn't been feeling well. Recently he tried the FODMAPs elimination diet and is now reintroducing food. And it seems like he has some problem with breads. We aren't sure yet if it is a gluten intolerance or a problem with wheat but, oh my! No lactose and no bread!

    Our guys are fine with butter. It is very low lactose, and people generally only eat it in small portions. We are careful to watch out for margarine, because some brands use milk solids, and a lot of baked goods use margarine intead of butter. Cheese is another thing that pops into my mind. They can't have regular cream cheese, for example, but regular hard cheese is fine, very low in lactose.

    Here in Australia the supermarkets are selling more and more lactose free options. A good, whippable lactose free cream, tasty lactose free icecream – amazing!

    Eating out here seems not too bad if you are only lactose free or only gluten free, but dealing with both is going to take some time to figure out, and seek out options.

    All the best to you.

  11. My Creative Life says:

    Hi Christine, very interesting post with pretty flowers and bees, socks and chocolate cake. I want to eat & cook chocolate cake now. Below is a trusted site that you may wish to look at. She (Alana) has a facebook pg where you can ask questions directly and receive helpful answers. She'll be able to help with any queries about lactose intolerance, if needed. Though she is based in New Zealand, she is very knowledgeable on UK dieticians info. Cathy x

  12. Julie says:

    Chester looks a super place to visit.
    A learning curve for you all with DD being LI, I have a friend recently diagnosed with it and she's learning what/where/how etc.
    Your garden does look bright and cheerful
    Good luck with the voting

  13. MidgePorterDesign says:

    Mmmm, that cake looks great. I started following the WFPB diet over a year ago (whole food plant based) and eat vegan so I am always on the look out for great recipes. Not been to Chester for years but it is a great place to visit. Best of luck with the nominations and hoping all good things come you way. Much deserved 🙂 xx

  14. selina says:

    extraordinary post & congrats on the nomination, you deserve it
    loved the video of the knitting & the explanatory with it, really put it in perspective ; glad all the bees were enjoying the flowers too but you don't need to give them sugared water (which is not that good for anything) just give them plain water or some raw honey & keep a bird bath with lots of pebbles or something for them to sit on while they drink in the garden. your poppies are very beautiful by the way & can't wait to see more.
    i have got to the foot of my 2nd sock so far & can't wait to get it finished, this will be my 4th pair. so glad the winner was found too, hope she enjoys her prizes.
    lovely post
    thanx for sharing

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