Thursday, 27 August 2015

My Latest Trick...

I really need to introduce you to my latest hooky love, before it gets finished and I end up not telling you the back story. Let me show you what I'm on about first;

World, meet Autumn Ripple Blanket (Autumn for short).
You see, I have a granny square with flowers and a black background blanket that I'm desperate to finish for my bedroom, and a list of decorative items I'd like to do for Autumn and Christmas, so I sat down last week to make an Autumn Inspirations board on Pinterest (like you do) and made this;
and I loved the colours and the feelings it aroused in me. Colour-wise I am a warm autumn, but very often misbehave and don't wear them (long reason; won't say now) but I do love them, and the whole Season of Mists and Mellow Fruitfulness bit, so the board keeps filling up with pure autumnal inspiration. Until this one hits my eye.

From The Glamorous Housewife's site. And the colours are beautiful. I mean, really beautiful. The reds, and greens and yellows and oranges, and the other shades I know I will see around me soon, and smell the dampness of the leaves and the rich, deep earth and... well, to cut the story even longer, I started looking around me. And even though it's only August (Still Summer!!!!)  I find the colours of the season are creeping in;

Here. And here....

And here...

And I came home from Church and got onto Black Sheep Wools, because that's where I go, and chose my colours very, very carefully.

Reds, yellows, oranges, greens, a dark maroon for the Copper Beeches on my road, a teal green because it just looked at me and said I'd need it as a fixed point. (excuse the bad picture; it was dark and I was wobbly)

And to border the blanket? A blue, a subdued but definite blue. One that veered towards the green but wasn't. I'll mix it with the red and perhaps another colour to make a border. In October, I thought, or November when the blanket is finished in between life and living.

And I packed the colours into a basket; with my holiday still to go I thought I might manage a row a day, or perhaps two, when I'm sat after the day out, sipping my chai and watching the sun set over the Irish sea.

And then we came away. Well, the blanket is a pretty easy pattern (Attic 24 neat ripple pattern), and I'd read about the joys of crocheting in the car whiling away the journey, so when I'm not driving, I gets me my crochet hook out and I gets going. And it works.

It does no harm that this is the view I get to sit and crochet in front of. And with three teenagers and a night owl husband, the morning is mine from 8am until.... ooh, 11, if I wake them. And 1pm if I don't. They only rise for hunger.
 The blanket has come with me everywhere at the moment. I've even got a set of pictures on Instagram called #crochetwithaview

Plas Newydd, yesterday (We went last year but it was shut. Well, the house was. This year the house was open and we tried again)

And the darn thing keeps growing! Until last night it stretched from my ankles to the top of my thighs and was so toasty and comfortable and warm, I fell asleep.

This is what it looks like this morning. I estimate that a 4 pattern repeat should make it big enough to be a proper blanket (you know; one that covers the feet even when you stretch out on the settee). I did 9 colours yesterday. At that rate the darned thing will be finished BY September, not during! AS long as the husband doesn't mind me sitting there, on the beach, hooking away!!!

And for those of you who need the details (and there are some), here they are;

The yarn is Stylecraft Special DK. The colours I have used (in order) are;
1035 Burgundy
1029 Copper
1246 Lipstick
1083 Pomegranate
1711 Spice
1081 Saffron
1709 Gold
1065 Meadow
1725 Sage
1124 Greengage
1027 Khaki
1062 Teal

The border colour will be Storm Blue (1722) and lipstick red. The pattern is Attic 24's neat ripple, and so easy to do.

If you're still reading, bravo! I'll let you know when the blanket is finished, but for now I'm off to plan my next bit of crochet with a view... the sea? The mountains? Or like I did on Tuesday... Tesco's Car Park???

#crochetwithaview #crochetblanket #crochetrippleblanket #crochet

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Wednesday Wind Up

Yes, it's a day late, but it's here at least.

What am I reading this week?
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. We're reading it at bookclub in September and I decided to try and read it far enough in advance. I've really enjoyed it, although I recognise there are parts that are very long that other people haven't enjoyed. But I read Dickens for fun, so no probs there.
And some Brocante Home books. I enjoy reading Alison's writing (except for the apostrophes! They're everywhere!) and she makes me feel like homemaking can be enjoyabe because it is an act of love for me and the house. I'm going to get a system set up for September so that I can keep on top of the housework. I've been reading The Vintage Housekeepers Circle and really enjoying it. It's a set of posts that were published on Brocante Home but only available to the Vintage Housekeeper's Circle members. The posts cover about a year, and include seasonal advice on Autumn, Christmas and Summer. More inspiration to get my house beautiful, welcoming and scented!

What have I watched this week?
My children are home. I feel I need to put this out there as a sort of explanation. I have watched Die Hard: Legacy Collection (Films 1-5) [DVD] [1988] Die Hard and Die Harder. For my son's birthday. And other days have passed in a blur of Sarah's choice of teenage favourites and children's movies. There was a day when every time I walked in they were watching a different Disney movie. Apparently Netflix was working overtime.
TV wise, we are catching up on Black Work starring Sheridan Smith. We missed it when it was on, but it's on our TiVo drive so we're clearing some space before hols.

Where have I been this week?
GamEscape in Liverpool. You need to see their website (and I still owe you a full review!) but it was fun.
Aldi. A girl's gotta shop, hasn't she?

How has my spending gone this week?
I was doing well until Aldi had a digital radio for about £34. Since a full-blown Roberts RD60 Revival DAB/FM RDS Digital Radio with Up to 120 Hours Battery Life - Red  costs about £159 (dream radio; in red or baby blue!)  I fell for it. It's in my kitchen and proving exceedingly enjoyable. Especially since the last Ashes match has started and there's very little that so sums up British summer time as TMS and baking.

What are my WIPs this week?
For the Princess; I will post about her later, but this is just a quick peak!

And I have an order of wool coming from Black Sheep Wools; I have a plan to make an autumnal blanket. You can see more of them on my Pinterest board for Autumn and Fall.

Any Other Business?
I have a craft project that I'm doing; I took some photos but apparently they are stuck on my camera! It's a project for Sarah and I to make before the Big Festival that happens in December. (I cannot speak its name) Our families will be getting a homemade something again this year and we must start making them soon to be ready! I will take some more shots and post them again.....

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

15 years ago today...

We lived in a different house.
I had a 2 1/2 year old toddler.
I had fish and chips for tea.
I read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire for pain relief.
And at 10.30pm this little scrawny baby was born.

He's a lot bigger and a lot hairier than he was then, but still cute.
And today we celebrated his birthday.

With a homemade card;

A homemade cake;

Plenty of presents (mostly computer based)

And an hour locked in a game room in Liverpool. It was really good fun. I need to blog about it, but that will have to wait until I have time.

And I could wax lyrical about how proud of him I am, because I am, or how loving he is when he still snuggles up for a kiss on the top of his head, although now he looms in and bends down for his kiss rather than stretching up for a hug, but I can imagine him  making vomiting noises, or rolling his eyes at me and saying things like "Mum, how could you let me down!" So I won't. I'll just repeat, quietly, that I love him dearly and I'm so pleased that he's my son.

Almost a Ta Dah! My bedroom part 3

I would love to show you my completed bedroom this sunny Tuesday morning; but life's not like that. Yesterday I worked through 4 hours of one to one tuition; very intensive, very much an hour of deep thinking all the time.
So my much hoped for finishing off time didn't happen. And today is Son Number Two's 15th birthday, so it won't happen today (but I hope to be back later with a report on what we did... exciting times, I hope!)
Instead there are a few promising shots, with a full reveal to come (possibly this weekend!!)

 This is the view up my bed. The village cushions came from Dunelm Mill (£5.00 each) while the smaller cushions were presents that have quotes to live by!

 The house cross stitch above the bed was made by me in 1992, the year before we married. I will take a picture of it sometime without the great glare from the window. The dotty duvet comes from the centre of my interior design world, Dunelm Mill, while my bedside chest is both my bedside chest and my dressing table!

The wedding sampler was done by my Mum in 1993, it's lovely. She does/did really beautiful free embroidery, so I nicked one of her table cloths as well, which you can see. The crystal dressing table set was from a local charity shop and holds bits n bobs, and stood up against that are the Christmas decorations from our trip to London in April.

A closer look at the bedside chest. The little Paris tray came from the ferry to France a couple of years ago; I like using things I bought on holidays, little souvenirs that act as everyday reminders. That's why I like buying Christmas decorations on holiday, so that at Christmas I have a whole tree of reminders of our travels. The book is a hint to my dream destination; let nobody say my hints aren't subtle!

 And bedroom storage is on show. I can't decide whether to get a shelf to keep these on, or just to leave them in an organised pile on this little chest. I have time to decide.

And my bookshelves are no longer packed solid. I have a clear shelf that displays more treasures; the brass tin comes from my childhood and used to hold my hair bands. It's now full of sweet lavender.

 And another advert for the Karcher WV2 2nd Generation Window Vacuum Cleaner, in the bathroom this time. I washed all the walls and surfaces and used the vacuum to get a faultless, gleaming shine! I even used it when I washed the floors. It was a revelation to have the floor clean and dry enough to sit on mere seconds after washing it!

Oh my goodness! What a busy housewife I have been this summer! I'm desperate to get the house into a fit condition to live, so I've been using all the help I can. And Brocante Home (after all the kerfuffle connected to House Rules on Etsy!) has been a godsend with a couple of new books on Kindle.
I'm especially loving The Vintage Housekeepers Circle . This is a collection of essays written and published for members of the Housekeepers' Circle in 2008-9. They follow a year of homemaking from September to September, with puttery treats, thoughts and hopeful explanations. Alison isn't a very prescriptive writer, no long lists or timetables, but she does like to inspire and she writes in a friendly style that freely uses apostrophes whether they're needed or not. I like reading them, and planning to drink chocolate wrapped up in a blanket in front of my candle-lit mantelpiece.
If you click through on the Amazon links on this page to buy, they should earn me a penny or two in Amazon vouchers. Shameless self-promotion, really.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Meal Planning Monday... and a strange keyboard!

A quick and easy set of meals this week; it's holidays, I only want to faff with cooking if I can be bothered to, so meals in the summertime are either tremendously easy or unutterably complicated! We had a lovely meal last night of char sui pork, using a recipe from Gok Wan's Chinese cook book, Gok Cooks Chinese .

Monday; Schnitzel and noodles. Aldi do breaded pork schnitzel, and we'll have them with a past in tomato sauce.
Tuesday; James' birthday. I've asked him what he wants and had no answer so far; it may be Sainsbury's pizzas or Domino's best two for Tuesday.
Wednesday; Hoisin Chicken and potato. The chicken recipe is again from Gok Cooks Chinese and uses the other half of the hoisin sauce we used on Sunday.
Thursday; Pork belly with chorizo and baby potato roast.
Friday; I don't know. I may just go and see what tickles my fancy at Aldi.
Saturday; Fajitas with minced beef and plenty of salad.
Sunday; Sichuan Chicken. Can you tell I found a new cookbook and I'm working my way through it?

Next week I'm hoping to get ahead for September and plan the month again. I'll get my recipe box and a couple of new recipe books and get a rough plan. It's always reassuring to start a new school term knowing roughly what we're going to eat every day. And it will be time for the return of the slow cooker and casseroles, so I know that Delia Smith's Winter Collection will make a welcome reappearance. I'm hoping to link up with At Home with Mrs M for Meal Planning Monday, but it's holidays and that may not happen!

On a completely unrelated note, I faffed about with my computer. I ordered some decals from Etsy and this is what my keyboard looks like now;

The decal sets are sold for Mac computers, hence some keys are uncovered, but I really like the idea of a pattern on the keys as well as on the screen. Personalising my tech is a fun thing to do, and the only issue with these is that you have to be really good at knowing where the letter keys are, since it's harder to read the actual letters now! I know that would be a deal breaker for some people, but in these days of fast touch-typing, actually having the letter obscured is helping me to speed up, since I can no longer look at the letters and have to grow more aware of where they are!
Have a good week, people, and enjoy the sun!

Sunday, 16 August 2015

It's Monday again tomorrow... Chirk Castle was a week ago!

I love how when the holiday has been going for a length of time, the days cease to have names. They roll along with nothing to decide the difference between them except if you are doing something or going somewhere and have decided the day in advance.
And I love how this holiday I have been busy (very) so that even when I am at home I have been doing, or busy with housework or planning more things to do around the house. And that the rush to be up or go out or entertain the children that controlled me other years has gone. We have hung around together, but been very happy at home. The boys have played on their computers, S has been reading and reading and reading, while I paint or clean or sort. I've sent bags of rubbish to the tip and at least 10 bags of clothes, books, things and more things to charity. Slow living at its very best.

But we have got out, we have been to a couple of places of interest, sometimes shopping but sometimes not.

 Last Sunday we went to Chirk Castle. It's a lovely NT place in Wales and one we visited at Christmas time. Was it the year before last, or the year before that? Either way, we had seen that there was a re-enactment group there and it seemed like a good place to spend an afternoon. We packed our Aldi picnic (meatballs, sausages and salad) and went off together.

It gets hard sometimes to remember the days when a trip out had to be carefully supervised and watched, with plans laid days ahead and careful consideration made for distance, enthusiasm and food stops.

Teenagers can be easier; as long as there is a retail opportunity for Her, a bookshop (second hand or not) for DP and plenty of juice for JW they are happy to wander and sit and talk. And that was basically all we did; wander, sit and talk. We enjoyed the things we saw, but didn't feel the need to do everything all at once. Perhaps the knowledge that we had been before and could very easily come again made life easier for us.

A big difference for us was seeing the castle in the sunshine. It doesn't look this pretty in the winter!
I love the arch and the light beyond.

We tried to do the three monkeys, you know the "See no evil, say no evil, hear no evil"? Somebody wasn't cooperating. Guess which one?

And the re-enacter I enjoyed most was the spinning lady. She's carding the wool here, but she had had her distaff and drop spindle out showing me just how hard spinning could be. Having had a go a few years ago, all I could do was nod and agree.  It is very hard and must have taken years to perfect!

The weather was so lovely, we didn't go into the house. We wandered down the side of the castle and went into the gardens. These were lovely, and we hadn't actually seen them before (wet, cold and dark gardens in December are interesting, but not what we did last time!)

 I love the poses this lady pulls! Well, when I'm ready for the poses to be pulled. NOT when I'd like a decent photo of my favourite people to put in a frame. Mostly I'm disappointed.

 But I'm not complaining. On our trip to the gift shop we bought a book I've been thinking about for a while, and the Princess has Big Plans. Mostly involving me getting busy with a hook.

Topiary is big in formal gardens, and Chirk did have a piece of topiary.... but we couldn't decide quite what it was. Any suggestions?

This is it from the other side. Frog prince? Peacock? Alien mothership?

And the compulsory flower photo. I am not a gardener, especially not this year when the house has taken my free time up, but I do know that these are blue hydrangeas. I love them, and wish that I had some in the garden. Especially since at the moment I would have 5 large blue heads with reasonable stems cut off and drying ready to put in the vase in my bedroom!

Do you know what these people were doing with their quad bike? The dog on the front is a good clue...

Yes! They were herding sheep. Cool way to do it! I love the fact that the people and the dog had been rounding the sheep up, but once the sheep were heading in the right direction, the dog got to ride! And the herd of black sheep struck us as funny. Do you think somewhere there's a white sheep feeling very awkward and doing embarrassing things that his family don't talk about?

And at a certain point everybody just needed to sit and rest (DP needs to read every 10 minutes or he loses the will to live) JW isn't asleep here, but he is doing a very realistic impression.

 S loved the acorn she found; the biggest acorn hat with the tiniest acorn inside!

At least when we stopped for a breather, the view was spectacular! This is out over towards Shropshire. The hill is the Wrekin and the Long Mynd. I love Shropshire; Mary Webb country. She wrote two of my favourite books; Gone to Earth and Precious Bane.

And a panoramic view to show you what we saw!

And on again, back to the Castle via the walk that must have been cleared to give the owners a lovely view as they walked out there.

 A great tree had fallen in a storm one year (details are not my strong point) and a sculptor made a bench from it. At first sight I thought the shapes on the left were little people, fairy folk, but they are actually flowers!

 And the tree stump has a history back to the 1780's. I love seeing this; it reminds me that my life is so short in comparison to the trees, so I really should take care of them! Go hug a tree!

And finally... at the end of every great day out there should be a cream tea, right? I enjoyed mine immensely.

Chirk's lodge houses are built in this tudor style; Small cute and monochrome? I really love it and wish I could spend some time in one!

If you're still reading, thank you! I know this has been a picture and word heavy post, but if I seek to record the details of our life online, which is what this blog is to me, then I need to put in the things that matter to me. And sometimes that means a lot of pictures because I liked a lot of pictures!