Thursday, 6 October 2016

Winter Project Link Party :: 1

Jennifer over at Thistlebear is hosting her Winter Link Party again for this coming autumn and Winter. I thought I would try join in, perhaps not with every post as the level of my progress would be painfully slow...

I'm really enjoying making this cowl (the Whitlam cowl). I received the yarn and pattern as a kit from a very good friend who is a most excellent knitter from a lovely (very) local shop Baa Ram Ewe. It took me a bit of thought at the start and continues to be more challenging than mindless stocking stitch. I've had to undo rows more than a couple of times when I've suddenly realised I've got an extra stitch!!

I think it'll be worth it though, the lace pattern might need a bit of blocking to show it off to its best.

Anyway, I'm about halfway through the recommended length of the cowl. Let's see how we go...

Friday, 16 September 2016


It’s amazing what you can do when you set your mind to it. I decided I wanted to crack on with a few things that haven’t been finished. I’m quite good at finishing things eventually, particularly if I can have a hefty dose of procrastination in the middle. I don’t like not to have something hanging around really even if I do like putting it off. So in an attempt at self improvement which is not only limited to getting things done in my work life (where I’m also liberally flashing clich├ęs about – eat the frog, get stuff done and flying through my to do list), I thought that tidying up corners of my wardrobe where I stash the crafty bits and with my favourite time of the year about to begin what better time to challenge myself on finishing those unfinished things.

I’d promised the ABO a scarf last winter. Thankfully winter 15-16 was quite warm! I’d bought some aran weight Debbie Bliss wool/yarn (depending on who you speak to) in a charcoal colour not quite black but not grey and started knitting in mistake rib (sounds a good plan to me because I made mistakes in knit 2 purl 2!!) vaguely paying attention to this pattern from purl Soho.
Anyway, finally, it’s finished. It needs a bit of blocking I think but I’m quite pleased with it. Do you see the intentional design? About 1/3 way in I made a mistake and quite by chance made the same error 1/3 from the end, so it looks intentional to the design. I’m amazed by my genius/luck!

My New York embroideries are complete but not yet hung. here they are nestling nicely between some Nigella and Nigel. These were kits I bought on holiday and I’m looking around for fabrics to co-ordinate in hoops in the living room. They’re fairly simple designs and quite easy for me do.  I’ll let you see them in situ when they’re up (this could be some time!!)

Now I’ve got 2 knitting projects in my plans to finish. I was making some knitted dolls for the girls. These first featured on my blog here and here. I’ve only managed the body, head and legs for one so my aim is to get that finished, stuffed and sewn (perhaps not including clothes) for the end of September and to make a good start on the next one. It’s pretty quick if I get my act together!!

The other task will take longer but hopefully by the end of October I’ll have my Whitlam cowl complete. So I can enjoy my scarf for the cooler months (and not be waiting until winter 17-18 for it!) I’m still having to unpick a row every now and then as I lose count of where I am in the pattern when I start talking or get distracted by something including (but not limited to) a child needing a wee/ a goal on the football/ reaching for a biscuit. This is closely followed by me sighing, muttering ‘now where was I?’ and then unpicking the row!!

Finally my plan in this procrastination free zone is take down my sewing machine from the top of LittleR’s wardrobe (which I've just done whilst the children play in the garden) and  make sure it’s ship shape (and Bristol fashion) for some future projects (first up anew cupboard curtain for LittleR's room - she's chosen owls). I’ve bought some new needles and just need to give it a once over before I cut into any fabric.

Let’s see how long this Autumnal get up and go lasts!!

Monday, 5 September 2016

Ten things :: the summer edition

I love this time of year. I’ve written about it before (and still not made a start of the shawl in this post – I’m feeling brave maybe I’ll make a start). I always think of that line from You’ve Got Mail where Tom Hanks’ character (Joe) says “Don't you love New York in the fall? It makes me wanna buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils”. That is exactly how I feel about this time of year. Although the last time I was in New York in the Autumn was 20 years ago!! I'm still excited for the start of a new term. The new academic year is nearly upon me...I've spent all summer prepping my new modules and getting ready for the next intake of students...
So this might be a good time to round up on summer happenings. I returned to work today. BigR goes back to school tomorrow (a cunningly placed INSET day today catching people off guard) and so it continues. It’s also her birthday on Thursday, which to me signifies the true end of the summer.

:: We made our annual (can you say annual on the second year?) trip to the pick your own farm for strawberries. It was much easier this year as LittleR is older and can follow instructions (apart from don't eat too many). I didn’t overdo it either (well not too much) and we got 6 jars of jam plus plenty for desserts and general snacking.

:: The garden has flourished…perhaps with a few more weeds than last summer (but I’ll take that over having time off with a poorly child) but all in all there’s been colour since the springtime. The cosmos grew and grew but no flowers apart from one. Well, I shouldn't have been so impatient...they're full of flowers now!!

:: Although our fruit crops were meagre this year. We did enjoy a few home grown strawberries, raspberries and (just ripening now) blueberries. We only managed 2 plums – biggest child was put off by finding a worm inside and that was that!

:: The roses were beautiful too and still flowering on their 2nd or 3rd flush. All the deadheading was worth it.

:: In the kitchen I made pesto which was stirred into pasta and put in a crust on top of cod, bread and various cakes. The biggest girl has requested a chocolate cake for later this week.

:: We had some fabulous days out. Yorkshire Wildlife Park and Castle Howard (where Brideshead Revisited was filmed) and of course our regular pre-paid with membership haunts Fountains Abbey and Harlow Carr.

:: I took the girls to McDonald’s one lunchtime and they thought all their birthdays and Christmases had come at once. Ketchup, balloons, plastic toy, ice cream. Their joy was unreserved!! Who knew McFlurries were so tasty though?

:: BigR has learnt to knit. She needs help on occasion wrapping the yarn round but overall does a good job. I'm there to pick up lost stitches and undo any mistakes (for example the row she forgot to slip the stitch off and ended up with 40 stitches not 20). She’s made a blanket for Barbie’s little sister, Chelsea (no I didn’t know she had a sister until it arrived as a present for her birthday last year but she does) as her patience in getting rows done didn’t last to make one for Barbie! Of course, her side of the story is that Barbie already has a blanket for her bed (this is true, my children have too many toys!!)

:: I was given a beautiful kit to knit a cowl by my very talented knitter friend. It’s coming along although I have had to unpick rows where I’ve missed part of the pattern whilst talking!

:: I’ve managed to complete two embroideries as well…the ones I bought in New York picturing NY scenes. The plan is to intersperse them with hoops of fabric along the wall behind our sofa. Now I’ve just got to hang them. I can't believe I don't have 'finished' photo....

Saturday, 9 July 2016

A brief interlude

I didn't plan not to blog. A combination of being busy (work, home and children) laptop issues and then getting out of the habit put paid to posting. I've seen lots of posts recently where others aren't sure where their blogs are going. This isn't the case for me. I've no great plans for my blog. I know my blog is primarily for me and for making connections with others who like similar stuff to me. And so on we go...

:: I've been loving the garden. It perhaps is not getting as much attention as last year (when LittleR was so poorly and I was barely working during the day) but it's still very enjoyable. I love the alliums...the last of which I had in my kitchen after a football 'accident'.

:: Somewhere along the line, I can't pinpoint exactly, LittleR doesn't need 100% of my attention all the time. It's a subtle thing, I can deadhead some roses whilst she powers up and down on her scooter. I can complete a row or two of a scarf whilst she creates a playmobil meets Peppa Pig playworld!  I'm still yet to make a trip to the loo without either of the girls wondering where I am...

:: We decorated the dining room. Grey and yellow. It's a very sunny room now. I liked it before, I like it even more now!

::We took a last minute trip over half term. The ABO got holiday released (this is unusual for his job over any holiday period!!) and we went to New York. I can confirm most people asked if we took the children and then thought we were mad when we did. Actually, it was an amazing place to go with kids. Easy food. Easy getting about (If you count carrying a 3 year old around easy! I guess being carried is preferable to other people's bums). No language issues (particularly if we had any health issues -thankfully we didn't). There's just so much to do. We barely scratched the surface in 6 days.

:: What do you do where every corner you turn is part of a TV or film set? Well you get over excited seeing the Copacobana (the hottest spot north of Havana) and move directly to MOMA to look at your favourite painting. Yes I loved seeing Starry Night and the beautiful Monet paintings but this one does it for me every time. (Paul Klee - Cat and Bird)

:: I had a brief visit to Purl. I'd perused the website in advance knowing that my browsing time would be short. It was fab just to see all of the things. I bought 3 embroidery kits...2 with scenes of NYC and one sampler.

:: It must be good as I've already completed one.

:: Work continues in an up and down fashion. As with everything recently, who knows where higher education is going after the leave vote. I'm plodding along with my work. Looking forward for the end of the school term. BigR is ready too. She's already planning her birthday party (it's the first week of the new term so she needs the invites at the ready!). Already I'm making new plans for the start of the next academic year. Excited (yes already) for the start of a new term and a new module I'm teaching.

:: I've celebrated another birthday. I was completely spoiled. My new jug takes pride of place in the new dining room.

:: There's been much baking. Scones, cakes, cinnamon buns and for my birthday the ABO made a Junior's inspired baked cheesecake. It was delicious!

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Small, nice things

:: Our school holidays finished and we're back into the usual routines. It was a holiday of great action and inactivity in just the right amounts. Now I know we're back as I've already tackled the first week of uniform ironing. We're in gingham territory now.

:: This week we took a trip to YSP where we saw the KAWS sculptures. It was a beautiful day. I found them intriguing.  LittleR loved to imitate their poses!

:: My camellia is in flower again. Just beautiful.

:: Carrot cake muffins complete with icing. No nuts (but the biggest girl still doesn't like these!). No sultanas/currants/raisins (my nemesis). Yum.

:: New book, new obsession.

:: Our living room has been decorated. We've moved some of the toys out and rearranged them in other areas of the house, We chose a warm pewter grey for the wall colour. It's such a huge change from before. The room seems so much bigger, this is likely to be the lack of toys! I'm in love with the curtains. We're now looking out for some large prints to go on the wall above the's not 'finished'  but I'm good at works in progress.

:: In tidying up for the living room to be decorated I went through a large number of photos. I had to do a double take on one. It turns out my youngest girl is the image of my brother at the same age. They pose for a picture in the same way. At that moment I really wished she could have met him. It was lovely and very surprising all at once.

:: Can you believe it snowed yesterday and we're due a light dusting overnight. Goodness me Spring it's nearly May!! Plus travel chaos tomorrow.

:: Still at least the tulips are coming.

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

These days...

So I hadn’t intended to take such a long time to blog again. Life happened as it usually does but this time it was mainly good things. And spring has definitely arrived!

:: We had a superb few days in Whitby and surrounds over half term. Highlights included fish and chips and ice cream. LittleR decided to take a fully clothed (including her coat), impromptu dip in the sea. Oh how we laughed. Not. But we did eventually once she was dry again and I’d gotten over dragging a screaming 3 year old up about one billion steps!

:: Actually she did look hilarious. Bone dry on the back and soaking wet on the front. When we took off her clothes she was covered in gritty sand on the front but nothing on the back!! After a quick hose down in the bath (her) and an ice cream (all of us) all was well with the world. 

:: We’ve worked on the garden. The daffs are out and the grass has had its’ first cut. I fall back in love with being outside again in spring. We’ve had the front  garden ‘remodelled’. Basically some men show up and cleared the bed, dug up a load of bamboo, a huge euphorbia and anoth massive shrub, took the rubbish away and dumped tonnes of top soil down. On closer inspection they’d left the difficult bit (the 2 shrub stumps) so the ABO and I took 5 hours (mostly him) digging and sawing  them out. Then yesterday we lugged them into the car and off to the tip. Now comes the fun bit…replanting. I’ve fallen prey to child pressure (similar to peer pressure but with added whining occasionally in stereo) and added a plum tree to the new forsythia (nearly out), the magnolia (buds!!) and the hydrangea (currently just some sticks but I live in hope).  

:: This has actually meant I’ve legitimately been able to break out a new note book for the front garden exploits. I do love a good notebook. And a good garden diary.

:: I’ve enlisted my dad’s help on providing he summer bedding. He has 2 greenhouses (!) and has sown seeds a plenty for both our gardens….mostly petunias and geraniums I think.

:: The patio has been cleaned. The ABO did it himself last year but we had a professional do it this year and the difference is noticeable. The table is back out and the barbecue in place. Just waiting for a day with no rain and we’ll be back cooking (at least) outside again.

:: We’ve actually had lots of time together recently as the ABO has been on a month off for March. Not so good for the school holidays and having a family break but good for us. We enlisted the help of babysitters and went to see Rudimental (who were amazing!!) and Paddy McGuiness. We’ve done ‘jobs’ that are easier without bored children complaining. We’ve stayed up too late watching rubbish on TV. It’s been a good month.

:: We've also had a wonderful child free night away that we’d had to reschedule from last year when LittleR was so poorly. Good food and good company in beautiful surroundings near Helmsley. The girls stayed with their grandparents having too many treats and staying up too late on a school night!

:: I finally made the embroidery/applique for my friend’s little girl who was a year old at the end of February.  Ever critical, it’s a little wonky but was made with love. Plus it’s up in her room so they must like it.

:: This time of year makes me want to get things sorted (I have another push in September too – my life runs on the academic calendar).  We have a small expedit unit that hides many (not all – my children have far too many toys) of the girls’ toys and books downstairs. My plan, under the cloak of darkness, is to clear through this and gain back some semblance of order.  We’re having the living room decorated in mid April (should’ve been done for now but the decorator was unwell) and some more will be going then! I’m sure they’ll get over it...I’ve also been through their clothes and made a note of things that need replacing through wear or growth. I’ve been through my clothes but not much needed to go there! The major reordering plan for me is to move my craft stuff into one place (it’s currently in 3 small places).  This needs a bit of thinking about…

:: Over Easter we were outside a lot in spite of the random rain. Good Friday was gorgeous and we had a fabulous trip to Fountains Abbey. Fuelled by sausage sandwiches we walked the circular walk down from the visitor centre, around the Abbey and the ornamental lakes and back again. In all it was just shy of 5 km which is a lot for little 3 year old legs. She slept soundly that night. We managed a shorter walk at the park on Sunday and a good walk again at Harlow Carr on Monday, where the girls spent some Easter money on books (Matilda - BigR and Stick Man - LittleR). I was restrained and spent nothing on books, mugs or pants in the shop. I felt very virtuous.

:: I rose to Penny’s challenge in February for new dishes and managed two new to me recipes. Both were from Mary Berry’s Cookery course. I made fish pie and used a lamb shank. I altered the fish pie to use only unsmoked fish  as I’m the only fan of smoked fish here and left out the hard boiled eggs. For the lamb I followed the recipe slavishly and it was delicious. I’ll do both of those again! Next up will be some things that freeze easily as the ABO is on lates and needs easily portable and reheatable dishes. March was a rerun of the same things really. Must try harder in April.

:: I’m also planning some new craft things which if I get round to them will share here. I’ve got a list (of course) and I’m ready to crack on. Skirts first I think.  As for the scarf for the ABO – it’s yet to be finished but there’s always next winter!

:: I'm back at work for a day today and then the rest of the week is normal life. The ABO resumes work on Friday just as the school holidays start here in Leeds (ours are fixed for the first 2 weeks in April) so next week BigR is off school, having a 'Daddy and me day' and going to York on the train. I've a surprise planned for the girls later in the week too...more soon...

:: Also the ducks are back on the pond at work. Expect more updates.

Friday, 12 February 2016

Creative busyness

Sometimes you just have to make a bit of time. It's busy at the mo. I've been busy with students, busy with children and busy getting ready for a much needed break. It's half term next week and we all really need it. The ABO has a couple of extra days off tagged on to his normal off days. We're heading to the North Yorkshire coast for a few days. A change of scene will do us all good I am sure. I'm preparing for poor weather but you never know...

In addition, I'm sorting things, trying to finish stuff off. I've had this in my mind's eye for over a year. My good friend had her second baby at the end of February last year. I'd planned this idea, but then, LittleR became unwell and it slipped away. I bought a gift (for ease) but as I'd made a present for her son the idea didn't go away. So in the next 2 weeks I'm going to applique and stitch her name in a hoop. And then, to go with it,  I'll buy some more plastic tat to clutter up my friend's house! 

I'm also three balls into the ABO's scarf. We haven't really had a harsh winter (so far - don't want to tempt fate for next week!) so he hasn't needed it, which is lucky. It'll definitely be done for winter 16/17!

I'm joining in with Jennifer (at the final moment...) and her winter project link.

Monday, 25 January 2016

January Miscellany

I was going to complain bitterly about the weather, the seemingly incessant rain more specifically. How the pots in our garden couldn’t cope with the deluge. The soaked coats and hair and the cold, don’t talk to me about the cold. Today though, I was greeted with a magnificent sunrise (no good pictures though) and my mood changed. I was going to spend the time complaining, but maybe it’s better to focus on the good things.
It’s been a busy but generally good couple of weeks since I last blogged. In no particular order;

:: Smallest girl turned three and was super excited to be a big girl and to have snow on her birthday. We all went outside and built a snowman in the meager snow. Then came a little party with all the grandparents and a cake. She was very happy to blow out her own candles too. And also the next day on her cake at nursery!!

:: I bought the first bunch of daffodils of 2016. A bit of Cornish sunshine made me think of Leanne and they brightened the kitchen up no end.

:: I splashed out on a new moisturiser as the cold had been playing havoc with my skin. My skin is very, very dry anyway and with the weather, drier still! Somehow a cleanser fell into the bag too. It was only a small size to see if it agreed with my skin and if I would keep it up. Just to set the record straight I do wash my face (!) but as I don't often wear make-up and have sensitive skin I don't use a 'soap' or make-up remover. One week down so far so good. I might need to go back and buy a bigger size of the cleanser and try to keep it up.

:: The girls played together nicely and I ‘enjoyed’ a bit of early morning ironing with ‘Would I lie to you’ on iplayer.

:: A friend from work who I became close to when pregnant with our first children left for a new job. It’s a great move for her and her career. She’s moving to the dark side of the Pennines and taking up residence in Liverpool. I’m really going to miss her. BigR had a little cry when she knew her friend was leaving but the joke is we’ll probably see more of them now than when they lived round the corner!

:: I’ve made (some) progress on a scarf for the ABO. As we’ve had such a mild winter so far he’s not needed it which is a good thing as I doubt if it’ll be ready until 2017!

:: I found an old Cath Kidston voucher with £7 left on it and bought a new ‘fold-away’ bag to keep in my work bag for when I need another bag.

:: I discovered the crack cocaine of the biscuit world. Thankfully I only work 3 days a week and left them there…until today…

:: I took LittleR’s old clothes to work for 2 friends who have girls who are a year younger than Littlest. Some of the ‘frocks’ were barely worn. It’s good to see them going to their new homes!

:: I (finally) plucked up the courage to speak to my boss about my work (specifically one area of it) and if we could make any changes. I've not been happy with one aspect for a while. I'm a bit of a round peg in a square hole and although everyone is lovely, I'm not really achieving much or feeling like I'm doing a good job. For those not in the know, usually academics are ‘rated’ on their ability to be returned in the Research Excellence Framework. Basically this is how Universities are given their research funding – the quality of the outputs (research articles, grants, indicators of esteem (no I’m not sure either)) is judged and money given in return. Now on the horizon is the Teaching excellence framework due to be judged in a similar (metric) way and ultimately I believe will change how fees can be charged. I was returned with my department last time in the REF but due to changes within departments, the wider University and education more generally our department is unlikely to be returned which puts research academics into difficulty. You might want to be returned and work towards this goal but then the department isn’t returned as a whole (the story has to 'fit') so where does that leave you (and ultimately your job!)? There’s an option to change contracts to be more teaching focussed but in a Russell group University teaching is (still) sadly seen as the poor relation to research. So now I’m not sure where my role stands or what I want to do. I love the teaching part of my job but it’s a bit of a conundrum.  

:: I’ve made copious scones. Sometimes Paul Hollywood’s sometimes Mary Berry’s. I found a jar of my strawberry jam (as opposed to Bonne Maman) in the cupboard and we’ve all been enjoying them with butter and a dollop of that. Now to get some clotted cream…

:: I’ve been in the mood to clear stuff out (see above with children’s clothes). I did a bit of a KonMari style tidying and thought to see which of my clothes ‘sparked joy’. I’d seen her book a few times and the idea looked interesting. It was a bit of a weird undertaking for a Brit to see what I found joyful but I got rid quite a bit of ‘stuff’ including 3 pairs of coloured jeans which I used to like but now don’t. I have my ‘at home’ uniform of white t shirt, jeans/denim skirt, cardi (various colours), scarf. I keep getting ideas of stripes or spots or something but that might be too much pattern with scarf and cardi. Hmm. More food for thought.

:: We went to the seaside, to Whitby. We walked on the beach even though the tide was coming in and had a treat of fish and chips in the Magpie Cafe then an ice cream on the pier (yes in January). It was such a lovely day with minimal moaning and arguing from the back seat of the car!

:: I’ve been making lists (many of them during meetings which I'm obliged to attend but can't make a meaningful contribution to). Lots of lists. Lots of notebooks. One of the best ways I cope with making decisions (see above for job thoughts) is making a list. Although when it came to the job options I did add 'give it all up' (which is not really an option – financially or intellectually and is little bit defeatist!) 

:: I've been revisiting the (now very long) list of things I want to make. First seen here. I've still not done the applique blanket(s - now the littlest will want her own too) or the skirts (although I have the fabric and it's nearly spring!) or the  photobooks. And I've added some extra things to it. First up is to finish the scarf (see above) and then I need to complete an embroidery for my friend's daughter. It was going to be a new baby present but then LittleR became ill and it got left by the wayside. Anyway it can be a first birthday present. Due for the end of February I think it's achievable and I'll share it here when it's done along with an updated long list.

Thanks to everyone for their comments recently. I know I'm terribly behind again on emailing you and commenting on your blogs. I'll get there eventually.  

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Joining in!

Happy New Year.

I’ve wanted to join in with Jennifer’s Winter Project Link Partyfor a while but I’ve not really been working on anything substantial. So I’m submitting three small made things so I can feel like an achiever in 2016!

Firstly, two paper angels made form a tutorial on RedTedArt’sblog.  Made with two small girls and no arguments, a post-Christmas miracle. One has been put away with the decorations, the other (headless) angel has been recycled, must remember to take the bead out of my pocket before I wash my jeans! The nearly 3 year old doesn’t quite get gentle yet!

New year scones. I wanted to make this recipe but I didn’t have enough bread flour. So I made my fail safe Mary Berry ones. They were very delicious.

Finally in an effort to use up leftovers and clear the freezer I made a pie based on a Simon Rimmer recipe that’s no longer on the bbc site. I even made the pastry as I was too lazy to walk up the road in the rain and buy some (thanks to Sue for the recipe). It was delicious. I was very smug.

Finally joining in with Jennifer!!!