Archive for April, 2012

This weekend is Wonderwool, so Littlest S&S and I tootled off together yesterday to see what we could see. (Littlest S&S slept pretty much all the way through in her sling, oblivious to all the admiration she garnered. By the end of the day I felt like having ‘My baby is 9 weeks old’ written on my forehead, but that’s what happens when you take a cute baby out, I suppose!) I had plans to meet friends at lunchtime, so once I got the knitting needles I knew I needed, I spent the first hour and a half moseying around, browsing aimlessly and taking photos of all the lovely yarn and fibre. So many pretty colours and lovely textures. Want to see? Of course you do.

Pretty coloured fibre:

Purple yarns aplenty at Fyberspates:

Jubilee yarn at EasyKnits:

Lovely subtle colours at Natural Dye Studio:

Gorgeous threads at Oliver Twist:

Gorgeous natural colours at Jillybean:

Recycled sari yarn:

Silk and sequins:

And some lovely natural fibres:

Then came lunch – a Scotch egg from the marvellous Scotch egg man (he makes lots of different types including a gluten-free version, God bless him) and a chat with some friends, and then more ambling and purchasing until it was time to go home. I tried my very best to be restrained as I absolutely don’t need any more yarn, and was moderately successful. If anything I was even more inspired to use up my stash, as I want to go back next year and be able to stock up on new projects. I saw some utterly beautiful needlefelting:

and the most gorgeous crocheted throw:

and some gorgeous yarns which I long to be able to justify buying.

So, are you wondering what came home with me? Well, a relatively modest haul, for once.

The needles and cable I knew I needed:

Some lovely stitch markers I knew I didn’t, but couldn’t resist:

And um, about that not buying yarn… and especially not laceweight because I have far too much. Well. I bought this:

The photo doesn’t do it justice – it’s called ‘Treacle Toffee’, but I think it’s the colour of new pennies and I’d not seen anything quite like it before. It’s silk and merino laceweight and I tried very hard to be strong, but I kept thinking about it and then I figured that if I was actually taking people to the stand to show them the yarn, I had better buy it. I’m already pretty sure I know what I’m going to make with it. Mr S&S is very rude about it and keeps making remarks about the Bristol Stool Scale, but knickers to him; I think it’s lovely and unusual.

I also picked up this magazine in return for a donation to the Air Ambulance:

I like this pattern for a girl’s coat:

And this shawl:

I also bought some shell buttons and a pattern for a very pretty tie-front cardigan. All in all a good day and apart from the yarn, no real extravagances, which is nice.

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Weekword: Travel

Sally chose this week’s word, and it’s a belter – I only wish I had more time to do it justice.

I don’t travel much these days – I’m pretty firmly centred on my home – plus three small children require a lot of organising to get out of the house for a day, let alone further afield. The last time I left the UK was in April 2008, on a trip to Venice, when my eldest was five months old, and despite there being four adults in the party, it was a palaver. Getting all the baby kit through airport security, not to mention transporting all that baby stuff when the baby has no baggage allowance. Trying to find unscented baby wipes in Italy (they smelled, as my dad would put it, like ‘a whore’s handbag’). Trying to find somewhere that repaired buggies when the wheel came off – mind you, the cliches about Italians and babies are completely true – nobody knew of a buggy repairer, so in the end the buggy was fixed by no fewer than three men from a hardware store behind the Frari. They were not especially helpful when Mr B asked for the required part, as they didn’t have it, but when they saw that it was for a baby – a little blonde baby at that, then amid cooing and ‘bella’-ing, and long and involved debate about the necessary bits, the three of them decanted to the pavement and effected a repair to the wheel, for which they didn’t charge us…

My passport expired early last year and I haven’t renewed it – I’m not sure when we’re going to be holidaying abroad next, and I’m hardly likely to be whisked off to Paris on a whim (never mind the children, who would let the chickens out?) so I’m waiting until the family becomes more portable.

This means that my travelling is more localised – camping in Pembrokeshire (an hour and a half away), the occasional trip to Edinburgh (the last was almost two years ago, which is unbelievable), and a week in Cornwall last September. I actually really enjoy holidaying in the UK – OK, the weather’s not exactly predictable, but there’s a lot of lovely places within a few hours’ drive. I’d like to explore more of Wales, as despite living here nearly five years, there’s a lot I haven’t seen. I’m sure I’ll get back into foreign travel in years to come, but for now, my adventures will be much closer to home. And that’s OK.

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One of the things I love about this time of year is Purple Sprouting Broccoli. I love it. Love it, love it, love it. For all the time it’s in season I buy bunches every time I shop and we eat it steamed with sausages, or in a risotto (yummy!) or in all manner of ways.

My newest PSB dish (inspired by this spinach recipe) is to make a tomatoey sauce, by frying some onions and leeks, adding some tinned tomatoes and some chickpeas or canellini beans and whatever herbs and spices appeal, simmering it until the beans are cooked through and the sauce has thickened a bit. Then pour it into an ovenproof dish, add blobs of creme fraiche, and lay stalks of steamed PSB over the top. Add a little bit of grated cheese and pop in the oven or under the grill. Easy peasy, yummy scrummy and healthy too.

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Well, the Google Reader is down below 300 for the first time in months… and next up, My Owl Barn. It’s a blog for people who, like me, are very fond of owls. It’s all about owls, specifically owls as a design motif. Owls are very trendy right now, which as I’ve always loved owls, makes me want to gather up all the pretty owl things before they go out of fashion and are replaced by seagulls or octopusses or something.

So, for fans of owls, or fans of nice designs and pretty things, I heartily commend My Owl Barn.

Source: myowlbarn.com via Sally on Pinterest

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Well, I haven’t managed to do a Tuesday 10 for a while since I restarted, but here I am again.

My garden is a work in progress – long term readers will remember that we started re-landscaping last year. Since then, we were overtaken by work, pregnancy and needing to replace all the pipes in the house because water was coming through the ceilings. So the garden is, to put it mildly, not what I hoped for. The flower beds are either overgrown or dug over and covered to await replanting. The veg beds are no more – we removed the last lot and didn’t manage to build more. Hey ho. But despite that, there are still some signs of spring.

The primulas are out – including the ones I transplanted from the bed that was dug up. They have survived being transplanted at completely the wrong time of year and look marvellous:

And there are primroses everywhere – they’ve even spread into the lawn, which makes me very happy. I’m not someone who longs for an immaculate lawn (which is probably a good thing, all things considered…)

The daisies are up and out and being ruthlessly picked by Miss S&S the Elder:

There are lots of new leaves:

And lots of new lambs:

And my herb pots by the back door are showing signs of life – my parsley:

And my mint:

I shamefully ignored my strawberry plants last year. They’ve sat outside in all weathers, but I have a few flowers, which is more than I deserve!

The marvellous magnolia stellata is going over now, but here’s a picture I took a week or so ago:

And the cherry blossom is out in force:

Plenty to gladden the heart even without the flowerbeds … but next year will be better!

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Hardly a little-known blog, but one I love. It’s been years since I did any embroidery, but I am hoping to get back into it this year – probably once Baby S&S is less dependent as it is a two hand task. But in the meantime, there’s Feeling Stitchy , a repository of all manner of embroidered goodness – the traditional, the cutesy, the quirky, the abstract, the funny… there’s so much stitching talent out there and so much inventiveness. Embroidery is very much a living craft, and I think all crafters, not just embroiderers, would enjoy the blog. I can’t wait to be able to pick up my needle and sort through my threads…

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Remember how I wasn’t going to buy any yarn unless it was on a ‘two out, one in’ basis? Well, I’ve been doing very well. Until now. I’ve been using mainly stash yarn (with a few little balls here and there to finish off stash projects) and starting to feel quite virtuous. And then it all went a bit wrong.

I used a heap of yarn making the crochet blocks I posted about a while back, and then decided what I was going to make with them, which meant that just needed some black yarn to complete the project. Off I tootled to my bargain yarn source of choice and sure enough, they had what I needed at a good price. And if it’s to finish a stash project, it doesn’t count, right? But while I was there, I thought, ‘Well, once that’s done, none of my planned stash projects are really mindless/put downable enough for me at the moment, what with the baby’. So I, um, bought yarn to make a Granny Stripe blanket. I’ve been longing to make one of these for ages and I couldn’t resist this lovely bamboo yarn. It comes in the most gorgeous colours, which all have plant names, so I spent half an hour agonising and chose these:

Top row: Cyclamen, Delphinium, Catkin, Primrose. Bottom row: Lavender, Fennel, Hydrangea. It was really hard to choose – there were at least four other shades I loved, but I wanted a balance of colours and a ‘spring’ palette. I wasn’t 100% sure about the yellow, but I thought it needed something to ‘lift’ it, and I think it works quite well, although I’m going to have to use it with care.

And then, while I was there, I also bought six balls of merino 4ply in the most delicious colours. I broke one of my golden rules here, as I have absolutely no idea what I’ll do with it – the state of my stash is largely due to me buying yarn without having a clue what to do with it, but it was a bargain and I need projects I can work on. It was a bit naughty, but as I said to a friend and fellow knitter, yarn is cheaper than therapy. And look, aren’t these lovely?

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A conversation with me this morning:

‘I wish we could throw aliens in the bin!’
‘Really? Why?’
‘Because they eat the spring leaves and they eat stars.’
‘Gosh, do they?’
‘Yes they do. Because they’re in space, Mummy.’

OK then.

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I’m currently catching up with the blog world – not just posting on my own, but catching up with the backlog in my reader. A week ago it had thousands of unread posts – not sure how many exactly as it stops counting after 1000, but suffice to say that it took several days before it came down below 1000. It’s down in the low 600s now (I got it to 580 yesterday but people will keep posting…). It’s actually really nice to have a browse through and remind myself how much I like these blogs.

So I thought that while I catch up, I’d share some of my favourites with you.

First up, Things Organized Neatly.

I am not a neat person. I love the idea of neatness, but my natural state is closer to chaos than order. But I love this blog. It’s just pictures of things. Organised neatly. That’s all. But the sheer range and variety of the things, and the many ways in which they’re organised (but all, obviously, neatly) is fascinating. I couldn’t live with that level of neatness, I don’t think (not that I’m ever likely to have to try) but a daily peek is intriguing and somewhat satisfying.

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I do enjoy making the children’s birthday cakes – before they came along I’d never really done cake decoration beyond sticking some flowers or sweets on top, but that doesn’t cut the ice with small people, and after forking out a fortune for my eldest’s first birthday cake, I have gone DIY ever since.

But a seven week old baby who doesn’t like to be put down does cramp the baking style a bit. So for the Little Boy’s birthday I needed something that he’d love, but that I could throw together quickly. He does love his diggers, and can frequently be heard singing the Bob the Builder song around the house. So I made a building site cake. I made a double quantity of Delia’s all-in-one sponge with some cocoa powder added, and used one batch for the cake and one for some cupcakes. Then came a huge bowl of my favourite chocolate fudge buttercream – it’s fantastic stuff. I use dark chocolate for adults and a mix of dark and milk for kids. For this, I used 250g of butter, about 400g of chocolate and I don’t want to think about how much icing sugar – I don’t weigh it, I just tip it in until it looks right. Lots, anyway. So, sandwich the cake together and rough ice it and the cupcakes. Add a dumper truck from the playroom (thoroughly washed) and some Bob the builder figures. I’d made some chocolate crispy cakes, and kept some mix back. I added a bit of black food colouring to make some aggregate. Ice a name, add candles and away we go.

The rapturous reception made me wonder why I bother with elaborate cakes. He was thrilled, and one of his little friends declared it ‘the best cake ever’. I doubt it, but it was easy and tasty, so I count that a double win.

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