Sunday, 15 July 2012

All star blanket ta-dah!

I've given up waiting for the sun (this weekend has been notable in that we have had 'only a very little bit' of rain) and so I've taken some gloomy photos of my latest make, so that I can legitimately get cracking with the next one.  Is it normal to feel that I can't start my next blanket (for it has to be a blanket - I do love them so) until I've blogged about my last one?  That the project isn't really done until it's been posted? it all star blanket.  Ta-dah!!!!!
Can you see the slightly serrated effect along the edge where the grey colour joins on to the cream?  I really love this stitch, which I think is called saw stitch.  It's made by doing a double crochet, chain one, miss next stitch, double crochet, chain one, miss next stitch, double crochet...etc and I think I'm going to use it for my next blanket.  I'm picturing lovely irregular width stripes in creams and greens and pinks, and I'm picturing me tucked up underneath it on my comfy, comfy new sofa, crochet hook in hand, glass of wine nearby...
But back to the blanket in hand:
I first saw the design on Pinterest and loved it so much that I bought the book - Crocheted Gifts: Irresistible Projects To Make And Give by Kim Werker - I have to point out here that I'd debate the validity of the word 'irresistible'; this is probably the only thing I'll make from this book - but for me it was worth buying it for this pattern alone as I just love it so much.  It's written in American terms and so I found it easier to translate it first - I get in a right old muddle when things are written in American, my poor old brain can't cope - and as it turns out, I nearly couldn't cope with this pattern even when it was written in English!  The first star-in-a-circle-in-a-square took me about an hour of head scratching and frogging and muttering under my breath, but I'm pleased to report that I could knock them up pretty quickly once I'd got the hang of them.
I used Rico Creative Cotton, which I bought from here, and I needed: two balls of each of the two star colours; four balls of the light blue circle colour; sixteen balls of the main cream colour; and one ball of the grey edge colour.  The finished blanket is about the same size as the top of a single bed (excluding the bit where the pillow goes) and middle absolutely loves it.  He loves it so much, in fact, that it travels around the house with him - he even has his breakfast wrapped up in it (yes, it really is that cold in July...) and that makes it extra lovely for me.
And as if all that crocheting wasn't enough to satisfy my urge to make things, I had a very busy two hours at the allotment this morning harvesting a tonne of rhubarb, some strawberries, sweet peas, marigolds and a mountain of blackcurrants. My afternoon was spent turning this:
...into lovely jars of blackcurrant jam.  Oh, in fact, if I listen very carefully, I think I can hear my toaster calling me.  Yep, it definitely wants some attention and, frankly, I am powerless to resist the lure of a slice of toast with loads of butter and a thick layer of this yummy jam.  Soz, gotta dash... x

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Muddy strawberries and little pots of lovely

My small attempt to bring a little bit of summer to my soggy neck of the woods...
...and proof that, despite all the rain, some things are managing to survive in my allotment:
(ha ha - look - it's actually sunny in this photo.  That was in the bright spell we had from 4.00 - 4.15 a week ago yesterday.)
I love these little jugs of flowers that are gently shedding their petals all over my house, they cheer me up a bit when all I really want to do is hide my head under a duvet and sob 'where, oh where is the sun???'
Strawberries help a bit too, especially when they're served with a vast mound of cream with icing sugar and vanilla.  These babies, however, were presented with a side serving of mud, courtesy of small, who mistook the trug for a bucket and helpfully emptied a trowelful of earth into it:
They actually tasted amazing once I'd thoroughly washed them and cut the wildlife out of them.
And here's a peek at something else that's been making me smile when I see it:'s not middle's drunken-looking teddy (ah, he does love that bear - aka 'smelly ted' - he's lost almost all his stuffing, has more repairs round his bottom than actual fabric, and stinks like something you might find if you were to have a rummage around at the bottom of a wheelie bin, but he's as much a member of the family as middle himself).  
Can you see what's just behind the much-repaired bear's bum?  Eeeeeeee - it's an in-use all star blanket!!! More on that when we get our next five-minute sunny slot so I can take some photos. x
PS - Just to say that I'm sorry I've been so rubbish at commenting on blogs lately - I can't leave comments from my phone (which is how I read a lot of blogs), trying to comment from mr n's ipad makes me want to weep with frustration, and the laptop usually has a small boy attached to it.  I do read all your lovely blogs and I am constantly inspired by what I see and read, so thank you x

Sunday, 24 June 2012

oooops (or: granny ripple blanket ta-dah)

Well hello peeps - I'm ba-ack!  It was touch and go for a while there - I wasn't sure I'd survive the demands of the enormous piles of washing/mounds of dirty dishes/hordes of fighting children/days at work - but I did.  Phew.  Now, does anyone know why it is that all of a sudden, for no apparent reason, life can just go up a notch in the crazy stakes?  There hasn't been any big event or occurrence to have caused the unusual levels of busy-ness that I've been experiencing lately, but crikey - life really has been crackers.  Anyhoo, I'm aiming to just get through this next week (am working five days - oh em gee - I know I used to do that all the time, but that was in the days before I had three small people to coordinate too) and then I'm hoping life will just slow down a touch.  Please...
The few weeks since my last post have seen the following things happen:
middle has lost a tooth (don't underestimate the importance of this event in the life of a six-year-old!)
big has been on his first ever overnight trip with school - I didn't cry *proud of self*
small has made the jump into big girl pants full time (though I'm now thinking that I'm not sure which is worse - changing nappies or endlessly traipsing potties full of poo to the toilet for disposal...)
we have decided, after spending months teetering on the fence of indecision, that we are not going to move house and we are, instead, going to extend (oh yes, excitement in my neck of the woods is reaching almost unbearable levels).  Expect to be bored with updates on a regular basis...  Edit: yes, Fee, full commitment is required now!
we've seen the Olympic torch (note to self: next time I think 'oh, it's so early on a Sunday morning, it'll be very crowded, I won't bother having a shower or brushing my teeth until we get home again, we'll never see anyone we know'.  Think again...  And of the four people we saw that we knew, one is a news reader on our local BBC news and therefore doesn't even get out of bed without a full face of make-up and a pair of shades on...)
I've redecorated the boys' bedroom - floor to ceiling - spanking new wall colour (Farrow and Ball 'borrowed light', if you're interested) new light shade, new curtains, new bedding - the works.  I nearly killed myself twice - once when moving their bunk beds from one side of the room to the other (I just about burst everything in my entire body shifting that beast) - and the other time when their solid wood wardrobe nearly toppled over and flattened me (Mr N would have been a bit surprised to come home to find only hands and feet sticking out from underneath the wardrobe - a la wicked witch of the west.)
we have invented a rather thrilling new game (I say 'invented' - you'll probably say 'pah - my family's been playing this tired old game for literally ever' when I tell you what it is - but for the moment, we are thrilled at our originality).  The game starts with one member of the family saying a category - eg dogs - then everyone has to decide what dog they would be if they were, indeed, of the canine persuasion.  (Without a doubt, we are: Afghan; Westie, whippet, labrador, border terrier).  The game is more 'hilarious' if you decide as a group what one member of the family would be - 'you'd be a bloodhound'.  'Ha ha!'  'Nooooo - that's not fair, I haven't got droopy eyes, you idiot.  Anyway, you'd be a greyhound, you skinny dork'.  'No I wouldn't - I'd be a border collie'.  'You wouldn't - everyone loves border collies - nobody loves you...' etc etc ad nauseum.
Hours of fun, I tell you...
On the crochet front, I've been a busy old bee, but for the moment I'm just going to show you this:
My lovely friend had her baby and so the blanket was duly edged in navy and sent off to keep him (Bertie) warm and cosy (and I bet he's had a lot of use from it in this cruddy weather we've been having lately).  Ooh, that reminds me - something else that's had a lot of use lately is my new wellies - thank you all for your suggestions for resolving my wellie crisis - I am now the proud owner of a lovely pair of black Hunters with a gusset.  Gussets - the best friend of ladies with walkers' calves (and ladies with bladder problems too, I should think, but that's a whole other gusset issue altogether...) x

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Rhubarb and vanilla jam

...parpa parp parp parp paaaaarp...
(Small fanfare in honour of me having reached my hundredth post please).
As promised in my last post, here is the absolute best ever recipe for rhubarb and vanilla jam (the original recipe can be found here - I doubled the quantities, because I'm a pig.)

2kg rhubarb, cut into 3cm chunks
2kg jam sugar
juice of two lemons
two vanilla pods, split lengthways
1) Put a small plate in the freezer.  Put the rhubarb in a preserving pan with the vanilla pods and sugar.  Heat gently, until all the sugar has all dissolved.  Squeeze in the lemon juice and increase the heat.
2) Boil for about ten minutes, skimming off the scum as it appears on the surface.  Test for the setting point by putting a small blob of jam onto the cooled plate, leave for a few seconds, then push gently with your finger - if it wrinkles, it's ready.
3) Once it's ready, remove the vanilla pods and ladle into warmed, sterilised jars.
This makes about seven standard jars worth of jam.

I humbly recommend two things here:
1) make this with homegrown rhubarb if you possibly can - it tastes a million times better than the stuff you buy in the shops (smug allotment-holder that I am)
2) don't make this if you're dieting - it's highly addictive.  Mr N thinks this is the best jam he's ever tasted - and he doesn't even like rhubarb.  Don't say you haven't been warned. x
PS - Nicki, get your extra-long spoon at the ready...!

Monday, 7 May 2012

Allotment update

What do you think of Lulu?  I think she's just a little bit great - Small is convinced that she's a fairy.  She sits and keeps watch over the big concrete raised beds at the entrance to the allotments and I love the fact that since I last visited the allotment, someone has been in and given her a full makeover.  She's got her summer frock on, clearly.
My allotment partner, Mrs Hen, and I managed to get a rare couple of hours together at the plot on Sunday, which was great.  It had been a while since I'd been able to get down there and not only was I feeling guilty, but I was slightly worried that the entire area may have been over-run by rhubarb (it's a good job I love the stuff - it's positively rampant!)  I have actually found the most amazing recipe for rhubarb and vanilla jam, which I'm planning to share with you in my next (and, coincidentally, my hundredth) post.  Get your jam pans at the ready gals, it's a winner!
I thought I'd share some photos of what's appearing on our patch with you, to prove that, against all the odds, things are indeed growing:
Comfrey, which is an excellent green manure.
Fennel, which is delicious with fish.
Redcurrants - mmmm, puddings...
And peas (ugh, revolting little balls of green) - the best thing about these is that they are grown up twiggy peasticks.  Was there ever a better name for a piece of gardening paraphernalia?
We also have blackcurrants, gooseberries, raspberries and strawberries in the fruit section - and cabbages, broccoli, potatoes, onions, garlic, shallots, beetroot, chard, runner beans and borlotti beans in the veggie section.  Obviously we've had to plant some flowers too, so we've got sweetpeas, marigolds, nasturtiums and calendula.  If any of this actually makes it on to my plate, I will not only be extremely proud, I will be more than a little amazed.  I am a rank amateur when it comes to gardening - my ineptitude is matched only by my enthusiasm (I cling to the thought that Mrs Hen knows what she's doing, or at the very least that she has a book that will tell us what to do).  The man who has the plot at the bottom of ours clearly recognises this as he saunters casually up to us every time he sees us and then proceeds to tell us what we've done wrong since he last saw us.  He then tells us how we should be doing it and how it won't work unless we follow his advice to the letter.  Mrs Hen is cracking, I definitely heard her muttering about the possibility of there being a body under her patio very soon.
And then, in an amazing spurt of outdoorsy eagerness, I actually cycled to the allotment today (pause for proud swelling of chest and slight wince at sore bum).  My 'to do list' went something like this:
drop off tall canes for beans
water cabbages
dig over bean bed ready for planting
spread wee all over shed floor (note to self: check for holes in plastic bag really thoroughly before relieving oneself in said bag and especially don't open shed door to dump bag of wee on ground while your trousers are still round your knees.) x
PS - to those of you who may be thinking that weeing in your shed is odd and wrong, I ask this question: 'why else would there already have been a latch on the inside of the shed door?'  Hey??

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Sunday, 29 April 2012

That's entertainment

So here's a quiz question for you: what do you do if it's cold and wet and miserable outside?
Answer: if you're me, you do this:
If you're a small boy, you hunker down on the sofa in front of a film and do this:
And if you're a suitably-sized girl, you watch all the lovely warm clothes being unloaded from the tumble drier into the washing basket, and then you do this:
Ingenious! x
PS - I nearly forgot to say - I've just bought a bike!  Eeeek.  I like to think I'm being healthy and more green, and I have visions of me wafting dreamily down the road to my allotment and filling my wicker basket with homegrown goodness for my family; the cynical amongst you (and those that actually know me) might think it's so that I can escape to my plot on a summer's evening and drink wine sitting in the sun next to my shed, but that thought would never enter my head, honest...

Monday, 23 April 2012

Pants: the revenge

Apologies for the slight disappearing act - I've been hidden under a pile of 'big guwl pants'.  My very grown-up two-year-old has decided that she doesn't want to wear nappies any more, she wants to wear big girl's pants.  Fairenoughski, you might say, but the only drawback is that she doesn't actually have a clue about the whole 'wee in the potty, not your trousers' business and so, after five hundred changes of clothes, two miraculous wees on target and one poo that prompted the comment 'look mummy, it's like a snake!  I made a wiggly worm' we gave up on knickers and have reverted to good old nappies.  Much of the past couple of days has been spent in the following way: daughter strips completely (why??), sits on the potty, gets up after two nanoseconds, tells me she's done a wee, I look, tell her that no, she hasn't done a wee, she sits down again, gets up after two nanoseconds, tells me she's done a wee, I look, tell her that no, she hasn't done a wee, she sits down, gets up again after....  You get the idea.  When we actually ran out of clean trousers to put her in, we put a hold on baby-led potty training.
In between bouts of toilet-related fun, I've been trying (and mostly failing) to get some time in at the allotment between downpours.  Everything seems to be going berserk at the moment - everything needs planting/pricking out/staking/weeding (lordy, the weeds are sprouting like mad) all at once, and it's been rather tricksy to get anything actually done because it's been so blooming wet!  My assistant didn't mind the rain though:

All great fun, until she splashed a bit over-enthusiastically and got mud in her wellies.  Then we had to go home.
I've also been experiencing a bit of crochet-fest lately.  The squares for my all star blanket are piling up nicely:
I also felt the need to make some granny squares (or 'stash-busters' as I like to call them):
I've made twelve of these now and am currently joining them to make the front of a cushion.  I'm thinking of backing it in some lovely brushed cotton that I've got, but I'm a bit puzzled about how to join fabric and crochet - does anyone have any suggestions?
And finally, the boys wanted me to photograph this for you all to look at:
It's a good job I took this photo when I did - a split second after I took it middle aka 'Captain Clumsy' knocked the table and all the soldiers fell over, prompting the sort of heated discussion that only two brothers can have.  (Gaaaah - is it me, or do all brothers argue all the time?  Please say that it's normal, or I might have to take myself off to my bedroom for a weep).
And then, because I'd taken a picture of the boys' toys, baby (who I really feel needs to be re-christened.  I'm thinking Foghorn Lil might be a good name, but maybe I'll just call her 'small') wanted me to take a photo of what she was playing with:
So there you have it - life in my neck of the woods.
I just wanted to say thank you so much for your comments on my last post and to my new followers and I'm sorry I haven't had much of a chance to get round to replying or visiting you - I'm planning a bit of a blog-blitz tomorrow to rectify that, but in the meantime, thank you so much for visiting me - it's so brilliant to know that you're all out there! x

Saturday, 14 April 2012

We ♥ Turkey

Ah, maaaaaan, we had the BEST time ever on our hols and we're all feeling a little bit glum and like we're drowning under a big mound of dirty clothes and mysteriously-appearing sand (how does it find its way into so many places?)
I've just come across this photo whilst looking through my holiday pics:
and the only thing I can think is: 'how can something that so closely resembles a bowl of sheep poo be so alluring to small children just because you call it breakfast?'
And look at these two little puddings - I tell you, forget cereal that looks like animal doppings, this is what I call irresistible:
Singing 'twinkle, twinkle' on the back balcony.
I love this photo of my boys, but it also makes me feel a bit sad because they look so big and grown up and I can just see from this what they will be like when they are adults.  Am I alone in wanting to pickle my children to keep them small forever?  Are they still as cute when they're thirty (I'm absolutely certain that they won't be as cute when they're teenagers, that's for sure.  I remember what I was like when I was a teenager and the thought of the shoe being on the other foot, fills me with cold dread.)
I'm not going to bore you by going on about how amazing the food was, how friendly and kind the people were, how stunning the scenery was or how gorgeous the weather was, but suffice to say if someone came up with a viable way that I could live in Turkey and earn enough to make a living, I'd be on that plane before you could blink.  I know there are people in Turkey who read my blog and I just want to say a big 'hello' and think of me sitting in the cold and damp as you're drinking your Turkish tea in the sun.  (Sob).
Ooooh, hark at me, getting all maudlin (now there's a word).  Mr N and I have spent much of the time since we returned fantasising about buying a five-berth camper van and spending the six week summer hols driving down through Europe to Turkey (there are perks to being married to a teacher...)  We recently inherited a bit of money from Mr N's grandma and, paralysed by indecision about what to do with it, we've just left it in the bank and not really done anything with it.  My sensible head says that we should do something about our compact living arrangements with it, but my wandering heart keeps reminding me how much I love to travel, and how we always swore we'd continue travelling after we had kids, and how really there is no better time than now, while the kids are small and I've got lovely, flexible working arrangements.  Watch this space...
A little, smiley thing for you before I go: the other day, baby n and I were having a chat (crikey, that girl can talk; sometimes I feel like lying my forehead on the table and sobbing, just for a moment's peace) and she looked at me very earnestly and said 'mummy.  Cats say meaow and hippos say hip, hip, hooray' x

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Flowers and stars

Well, spring has well and truly been springing all over the place round these parts, as you can see from the lovely little daffodils tenaciously clinging to life in my front garden (as previously mentioned, this is just about the only place in the vicinity of my house that is safe from uber-violent footballing activity, although I have noticed recently that the two hooligans have taken to playing the odd game/wrestling match on the front grass - an unwelcome and soon-to-be-quelled occurrence).  I have especially noticed the recent springy-activity on the 'A' road back from my local John Lewis - this is a well-trodden route for me and is therefore a barometer of the changing seasons - if it all looks a bit misty green, as it does at the moment, it's definitely spring (if it's white, it's probably winter and if it's wet and grey it's almost any time of the year.)
In a pleasing coincidence of life imitating art (or, in this case, nature) the floral theme has been continued on the domestic-front too - my 'baby' has had a birthday party, though not an actual birthday, confusingly.  Unbelievably, she will be two in a couple of weeks, but as we'll be in Turkey (our first, ever foreign holiday as a family - all five of us are counting down the sleeps til we'll be on a plane) on her actual birthday, and as my mum is visiting us for a few days, we thought we'd have a little tea party for her royal highness this week.  I was lax and forgot to take a pictures of the cake,which was pink with Smarties on - I surprised myself with how girly I made it, but she loved it.  I did, however, take some photos of more cake-related goings-on that took place recently:
A large bowl of icing and a very muddy elbow - it would appear that some things are worth coming in from playing football for.
 Looking at this photo I notice two things: 1) I'm a stingy sprinkler - this is something I will be rectifying asap; 2) just look at the size of the blob of icing middle has put on his cupcake (top right of the picture)...
I may have neglected to take any cakey photos, but I have taken some of her big present from me and Mr N, which I secretly feel I may have bought as much for me as for her:
It's floral.  It's got stripes.  It's got gingham.  It's a wigwam.  I think I might move into it.
And can you see the little porcelain tea sets set up inside?  One of them is a Cath K one that my mum got her for her bday, and the other is mine from when I was a similar age to my baby girl.  I even have the original box still (deep down I know that very soon I am going to be heart broken when one of my oafish boys breaks the box/smashes a cup.  Maybe I should hide it away again for another thirty-five years, just to be on the safe side.)  I can't explain the thrill of excitement I got, laying all this out with my girl because I know how much fun I had doing this and I can't believe I get to do it all again with her.  (Let's face it, I still do it for real - a stripy tablecloth, a nice bit of cake and my Pip crockery - nothing's changed!)
This is my set - it's vintage dahling.
 And this is me taking a photo at the exact moment middle decided it would be a good idea to jump on my back and cling to me, koala-style.
 And this is the Cath K set.  Just look at teddy bear in the background - he must be a boy - look at the way he's sitting...
And finally, after getting as far as I can for the moment with my granny ripple blanket:
here is my latest wip:
It's my all star blanket, which I have just started making for middle after a tough process of negotiation over the Rico Creative Cotton colour chart - him: 'I want that one (orange), that one (red), that one (black), that one (grey) and that one (green)'.  Me: 'hmmmmm.....' x

Monday, 5 March 2012

Snapshots of a week

High tea with friends on Sunday.  I thoroughly enjoyed this and have plans to make this a regular feature of life in our house.  Cake, cheesy nibbles and wine.  Dreamy, dreamy!
Look - a bowl of tomatoes - just to prove it wasn't all high-sugar, high-calorie fare. Tokenism, that's what it is.
Some of my beautiful new Pip collection.  It gives me a little thrill every time I catch sight of the dresser.  Once upon a time it used to be Hobbs shoes, now it's plates....
A lovely, sunny day at home with my two smallest babes.  All the more lovely because my middlest child was supposed to be at school, so it felt a bit naughty.  (If you happen to be a teacher and reading this - he did have a temperature the night before, honest.)  We pottered and potted:
My first session on my new and lovely allotment (more, oh so much more, on this to come):
Do you know what Mr N said when he saw this photo?  'Bloody hell, look at my hairline.'  You'd need a magnifying glass to even see his head, but like a laser, his eyes were drawn to it.  Pa-ra-noid.
Still working away on my granny ripple blanket and really, really loving it:
I'm in ripple heaven, me. x