16 October 2019

A trove of creativity

I realised, as I was writing my recent peek into our day post, that in the previous one I had promised that I would share a cardigan that I had recently finished knitting.  My long blogging break has made me forget the bits and pieces of our lives that I used to share here on a regular basis.  I love to make and create things, mostly things we wear or use, and gifts for friends and family, so I thought I would share not only my cardigan but also some of the other things that have been keeping me busy over the past few weeks.



The cardigan was a labour of love.  I started it way back in the Summer last year, around the time that we booked flights for a holiday in the winter sun, I thought this would be perfect to wear on our holiday.  The cardigan was not finished by then but I did take it with me, it was too hot for knitting so I only added the odd row.  I really enjoyed knitting this cardigan despite the length of time it took, it was one that I picked up and put down in between other projects.    I chose this pattern not only for the design, which I love, I also wanted to improve my knitting skills and it certainly has done that.  I was a bit worried about knitting all that lace, as I have had many disasters trying to knit lace patterns in the past, but I needn't have worried it was so much easier than I thought it would be and I could see where I had made a mistake which I hadn't been able to in the past, all part of the learning.


I have two projects on the needles now, the first is a tunic for Alice.  This pattern goes up to age 10, Alice's current age but she is so tall I was sceptical that it would be long enough, it isn't, I need to add at least 10cm to the length. That is quite a bit of extra knitting, when I got to the end of the first ball of wall and measured my knitting I realised that I had miscalculated the amount of yarn I would need, luckily I was able to buy an extra two balls from the same dye lot, the last two which was a great relief!


The other project on the needles is a cardigan for my nephew, I love this pattern it will be the fourth one of these I have knitted.  This a great knit for when we are watching something together as a family, which we often do , I can knit it in the dark/poor light.  This is knitting up so much quicker than the tunic as it is a much smaller size and it is all stocking stitch.



Over my years of knitting I have amassed quite a collection of needles.  I am not a fan of sewing up seams so I choose patterns that are knit in the round, these patterns often make use of double pointed needles or dpns.  Six years ago I made a case to keep them in but I continued to add to my collection and out grew this needle roll some time ago.  I have been meaning to make a bigger one for a long time, every time I visited my local sewing shop I would be reminded that I had once again forgotten to work out the measurements.  On a recent visit they had an offer on some end of roll pieces of fabric so I bought a piece hoping that I could make it work, lucky for me it did.  I hand embroidered the numbers on before I sewed it up, now I shouldn't need to use my needle gauge to find the needles for a project, provided I put them back in the right place of course!


We have been making little gnomes this year as each season has come along, they sit on our seasonal table. Earlier this year some dear friends of ours moved away to another country and I wanted to make them something that was small enough to be posted and would be enjoyed by the whole family.  So I made them a full set, one for each season, I hope that when they place each gnome on their seasonal table they will be reminded of all the lovely time we spent together, a  little piece of us in their new home.

What have you been making or creating recently?

*************************

Lace Cardigan Pattern here
Tunic Pattern here
Cardigan pattern here
Needle Roll Tutorial here
Peg Doll inspiration here

11 October 2019

Daybook



Outside my window it is dry, hurrah, it feels like it has rained all week here, last night it sounded like someone was hosing my windows the rain was so hard.

I am thinking about my mum, she has a lot on her plate at the moment some of which I wish I could wave a wand and make easier for her.  It will all be sorted soon and then we can all breathe out.

We have all spend time with our friends this week I am thankful we have these lovely people in our lives.

In my kitchen it is rather messy, there are bowls of butter beans, nuts and seeds soaking on the side in readiness for cooking today and tomorrow, there is a big pile of washing up from breakfast, dinner  (we are having a picnic today) and hummus making, there are also a few bits and pieces drying on the side from yesterdays crafting.

My knitting needles are busy once again now that the weather has cooled, I am creating a cardigan for my nephew and a tunic for Alice.

It is Friday which means I am going into the local town later to do my weekly shop and take Cameron and Alice swimming with a group of their friends.

I am wondering about some things I was told yesterday about someone I have known for years, it explains some behaviour towards Cameron but is not by any means an excuse to treat him as he has been.

My parents came up for a visit a month or so ago and bought with them a big pile of books for us, we often swop books in this way, I am working my way through them.  Currently I am reading The Lunar Men by Jenny Aglow, a interesting read about a group of men who formed the Lunar Society during the Industrial Revolution.

We are heading up to Scotland next week to stay with friends, I am looking forward to some family time and of course catching up with friends we rarely see as they live so far away.

Around the house it is remarkably tidy at the moment, we had a group of friends over yesterday for the day, our monthly craft group meet up, it is amazing the effect visitors have on the state of my house!

What you resist, persists is a favourite quote at the moment as I try to make sense of some of the things going on in my life right now.

We have several birthdays coming up in the next month so I have a few plans for presents to make and gift.

As it it Friday, I am pondering things to do this weekend, I have various jobs I need to do in readiness for our time away.

I have started to listen to a TED talk every morning whilst I potter in the kitchen making breakfast and sorting food for the day, I am learning so much in these interesting and inspiring videos.

I am wearing a blue needlecord dress with a dandelion seed head print and navy leggings, I am still not wearing socks in the house, preferring instead to go barefoot.

I am listening to Caillou en Français on You Tube our Friday morning listening whilst our French group is having a break this term, we are keeping up with our learning.

A peek into my day.

06 October 2019

Am I really being an Ostrich?


When my children were really little I rarely listened to the news when they were awake, I felt that it was something that they should not be experiencing.  As they have grown older I started to listen to it occasionally, but more recently I have once again stopped this time because now I really cannot bear to listen.  I am not totally out of touch as Cameron has a daily newspaper subscription, I dip into his newspaper when time allows, reading the news and stories that I want to.

I don't listen to the news any more but I do listen to other programmes on the radio, a month or so ago I heard a talk about sensitive people.  In this wonderful coincidental world we live in, the same week, I found another programme on the exact same subject presented by the same person.  This is label that I had come across before, most usually applied to children, it was not something I have particularly given any thought to.

Sensitivity or being a sensitive person is often implied in society as a weakness and applied to something or someone that is perhaps fragile, easily hurt or upset, too thin skinned.  It is a trait most definitely not encouraged in oneself or others. So what is a sensitive person?  It is about having empathy, listening, picking up clues, being intuitive, noticing the details, picking up on body language.  It is about being able to walk into a room and knowing how everyone in that room is feeling, who is nervous, who has needs not being met, who is confident.  It is about grasping concepts quickly, being good at solving problems often by thinking differently or outside the box.  Each and every one of us have these skills, they are on a spectrum, for some people, those that are highly sensitive, these skills are more acute.

They are skills that are really difficult to measure and we live in a world that measures us.  From the day we start in the education system we are tested.  We have to get the answers right.  We move from education into the world of work where we are often rewarded with pay for our abilities against measures that can be tested.  There is no room in this world for the sensitive people with their skills based on emotions.

I had no idea until I heard this programme that this is a label I can apply to myself, although I have never thought of myself as different,  I was never treated as such.  When I couldn't do my history homework, on torture techniques in the middle ages, because it upset me too much my mother told me not to and sent a letter in to school to support me.  When my grandmother told me that I had an amazing skill of being able to 'read people' it made me feel special not different.

The other week I spent some time sitting and chatting in a group of people whom I don't see that often these days, it was good to see them all again, or so I thought.  Afterwards I felt drained, a sort of brain tired rather than physically tired, I was really puzzled as to why I was feeling like that.  I went out again later in the day and found myself not able to answer questions put to me, I simply couldn't think of what to say, it was as if the part of my brain that could answer such questions had become a mush, incapable of coherent thought, totally unlike me.

It was only the next morning that I realised that those conversations were about things that they couldn't do, weren't doing or wish they could be doing, these are people who focus on the negatives in life.  Now don't get me wrong my life is no bed of roses, there are many things going on in my life right now that are hard work and I would give anything to make them go away but I don't let them dictate how I am, I don't let them shape me, I need the positive to keep the balance.  When we only focus on the negative we get out of balance.  I am sensitive to the emotions of others and whilst I know that I cannot do anything to change their situation I absorb their negativity subconsciously and then I need time to discharge that.  It reminded me that when I was a teenager I never wanted to go to anyones house to hang out after school, I just needed to go home and be by myself.  Unbeknownst to me I was discharging from being at school.

I now don't feel quite so bad that I am not religiously listening to the news.  It is so unbelievably negative at the moment that I am quite sure that many people are choosing to switch off and not listen or watch.  Perhaps you do too?

02 October 2019

In My Kitchen



I love to cook, good food is really important to me.  If you are anything like me you may spend a large amount of your life in the kitchen preparing good nourishing food to eat, this is a little of what has been going on in my kitchen this month.  If you would like to join in you would be most welcome, leave a link in the comments section.

When you have a growing teenager in the house there are days when the need for a supply of food never seems to stop.  It is such an important time of growth in our lives not just physically but mentally and emotionally that I have been giving some serious thought to some of the in between meals that seem to be needed here at the moment.  I remember my mother telling me that when I left home to go to university it made no difference to the amount of food she cooked, she was feeding two teenage boys.

A friend told me recently that teenage boys need nearly 3000 calories a day.  I am not a calorie counter, I have absolutely no idea of the calorific value of any food, except celery which I have always been led to believe is negative, but I assume this is a lot more than I would eat in a day.  I increased the amount of food I was cooking for each meal some time ago as I noticed his appetite was increasing, this worked for a bit but more recently I have been caught on the hop between meals on an almost daily basis by I am hungry what can I have to eat, I needed to be more prepared for those words.

So I have found myself needing to provide more snacks, mostly of the savoury variety as Cameron does not have a particularly sweet tooth, for those days when fruit, nuts or cheese and biscuits are not quite enough or have been offered one too many times.

I have found myself making many batches of an old favourite round here, cheesejacks, a cheesy/savoury flapjack from a old recipe book of mine that I bought when I first left home nearly thirty years ago.  I don't need to get the book out to make these any more as the recipe is now stored in my memory.  Luckily for me it is quick and easy, so I often make a batch when I have the oven on whilst cooking a meal.

But you can have too much of old favourites, when visiting my Aunt this summer she made us a batch of her delicious savoury flapjacks and I came home with the recipe.  They have many more ingredients than the cheesejacks so they are not a quick cook but they are so tasty they are worth the extra effort.  If you would like to make some too you can find the recipe here. All those nuts and seeds have got to be good for a growing teenager.

I was reading through one of the recipe books I mentioned last month, I love to read recipe books like any other book especially when they are new.  Call me nosy but I always enjoy having a look to see what recipe books people have on their shelves when I visit them, its a great way to find new ones too.  Anyway I found a recipe in the yellow book for savoury muffins, I make quite a few sweet muffins but had never tried a savoury one before so I gave it a go.   They were delicious, as I expected really as everything else I have tried in this book has been.  You have to cook up some vegetables and an apple which you then stir into the usual wet and dry ingredients.  The great thing about them, apart from their taste, is that you freeze them, here that equals lasting longer and a more constant supply.

Not only have I been freezing muffins but dips too, I realise that might sound like an odd food to freeze.  If, like me, you make lots at once, you can freeze it in small amounts and, provided you remember to take them out of the freezer in good time, it makes a great snack with crackers or veg sticks.  I have made my own hummus for years using the recipe from the same book as the cheesejacks.  It makes a big quantity and it sometimes feel like I am eating it with every meal for a few days to prevent it from going off, putting it into four glass jars and freezing three of them ensures that I have a constant ready supply.  When the last jar of a batch comes out the freezer I soak some more chickpeas to make the next.  Some other yummy dips we have tried recently are yogurt, cream cheese and chives, white bean, cottage cheese and pesto, and broccoli, cashew nut and lemon juice.

You might be thinking after reading this that I spend my whole time in the kitchen making either snacks or meals, sometimes it can feel like that is how I spend my time!  My weekends are usually, amongst many other things, the time I am thinking and planning our coming week, some of those thoughts are about food.  Whilst I am cooking meals, I will often be making the snacks for the coming week, but only one or two of the things I have mentioned here, not everything at once!

All these snacks I make are also great as part of meals particularly picnics, which we have twice a week year round to fit in with the things that we do on those days.  Do you make any snack type food?  Would love some more ideas, particularly savoury, so please do share......

I will leave you with the cheesejack recipe that I mentioned earlier and can be seen in the first picture.

Cheesejacks (Makes 12ish)

Butter 2oz/50g
Porridge oats 5oz/150g
Cheddar Cheese 6oz/175g
1/2 Teaspoon Rosemary
1 Egg

Heat the over to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas Mark 4

Melt the butter in a pan.
Grate the cheese
When the butter is melted, stir in the oats, then the cheese and rosemary, and finally the egg
Mix well and press into a square tin 7"/18cm or equivalent.
Cook in the oven for 40 minutes or until golden.
Cut into pieces, can be eaten hot or cold.

Printable recipe (click on the document and it will give you the option to print)

27 September 2019

September in Photos

Ah September you have been a wonderful month.  So much time spent outside nourishing and restoring me.  So much time going slow and noticing those things that pass you by when life is busy.  I am once again joining in the Photo Scavenger Hunt over on I live, I love, I craft, I am me.... here are my photos that inspired by words and words inspired by photos.

Cosy


Camping in a cooler month means that warm layers are vital for the evenings, actually they are vital for camping all year round here who I am kidding.  Packing for a trip at the beginning of the month meant that my favourite winter warm layer was dusted off and placed lovingly in the bag.  I knitted this, the pattern is mine, inspired by many I looked at on Ravelry, made up as I went along.  It was a labour of love, stitches unravelled as often as they were knitted until I reached the perfect pattern, shape and size.  On taking it out of the basket where it has been for the warmer months I realised that it could do with a wash, that will have to wait until it warms up again next year.

Changing Foliage


The great wonder of nature.  The beauty of Autumn.  

Scarf


Not so much a scarf but a cowl which does the same job.  I made this at the beginning of the month when it was cold enough for the hats and scarves to come out of hibernation.  The yarn was leftover from a cardigan I made for my nephew last year, an end of ball that was the perfect amount.  The pattern is here  if you would like to make one for yourself.

Baking


I love flapjack, it is my favourite snacking food, I make savoury and sweet versions.  I don't like using syrup to make it as I find it too sickly sweet, I have experimented over the years with alternative ingredients.  Medjool dates are great at sticking everything together, along with some butter and honey.  I have been trying to find other ingredients that compliment each other and provide that stickiness that will hold the flapjack together, a recipe I found online sounded hopeful.  I didn't have all the flavour ingredients suggested so I used what I had.  I love the taste combination of ingredients, sour cherries, cacao nibs, chopped almonds and desiccated coconut but I haven't yet perfected it staying together.  One particularly crumbly batch made a great breakfast with yogurt whilst we were camping this month so not a complete failure I would say!

Cobweb


I looked out of my bedroom early one morning the light, so special at that time of day, was catching shimmering silver patches on the hedge and the green roof.  It took me a few moments to realise that they were cobwebs covered in dew.  It bought this poem to mind:

The lawn is the fairies' washing green
And there, by the moonlight's mystic sheen
Their garments are spread in the soft night air
All fashioned neatly with skill and care
Until the dawn of the morning

Such gossamer gowns of silver-grey
All 'broided with pearls and diamonds gay
Must need to be dried by the moon's pale light
The sun's harsh rays would ruin quite
These dainty robes of the fairies
Janet Armstrong


Own choice


We spotted these acorns on a tree, a Sessile Oak Quercus Petraea, whilst out walking on our recent camping trip to Wales.  This tree is part of an Atlantic oak woodland, a habitat that is sometimes call the Celtic Rainforest, as important globally as tropical rainforest.  This is an ancient woodland that is mentioned in the Welsh legends of the Mabingion written down in the 12th century, and has been thousands of years in the making.  It was a really special and magical place to walk in.

20 September 2019

What lies ahead?


The Colour of Autumn
The world is full of colour
Tis Autumn once again
And leaves of gold and crimson
Are lying in the lane
There are brown and yellow acorns
Berries and scarlet haws
Amber gorse and heather
Purple across the moors
Green apples in the orchard
Flushed by glowing sun
Mellow pears and brambles
Where coloured pheasants run.

Saturday is the Autumn Equinox, that special day of the year when the daylight and darkness is the same all over the world because the sun is directly over the equator.  It heralds the beginning of its  journey south and where I live in the Northern hemisphere, we will be getting less and less sun over the coming weeks, our days will get shorter and our nights longer.  It is the start of Autumn, the door way to Winter, a time for us to prepare for the change in the earth's energy.

This is a time to be thankful to the abundant earth and all the resources we harvest.  We take our Earth and the gifts it gives us so freely rather for granted, it can be hard to maintain a strong connection when we are so far removed from the means of production.  We need to do all we can to change the thoughts of those that think they can continue to take, take, take without heed to the consequences.

This is a time to be thankful for the rain which will fall in greater abundance in the coming weeks and months, however annoying and tiresome we find it, it is doing an important job replenishing the soil.

This is also a time to give thanks to all those wonderful people we have in our lives and who we spend time with, be it face to face or online, for their support and connection.  We are so lucky to live in countries where we have freedom to communicate with whomever we wish to and have the choice over how we do this.

As the summer fades away and autumn takes its place, so too does the light.  This is the time of diminishing light with days that can be gloomy, the clouds heavy with rain.  For many animals this is the start of a period of rest, either by hibernating or sleeping more and eating less.  It is also a period of rest for the earth, the leaves fall from the trees and plants as they preserve their energy within and enter their period of dormancy.  Would that we could sleep or remain dormant through this time, but our lives don't fit that pattern.

I know I have been guilty of resisting these dark days and of wanting the light and warmth to return as quickly as possible.  By embracing the darkness we too can preserve our energy, we too can slow down allowing ourselves to recharge, like the earth.

So lets look forward to the time of darkness and embrace it into our lives.  Lets be kind to ourselves, give ourselves permission to rest and do less.  Lets reclaim the balance within each of us which can get lost in the busyness of life in the warmer months.  As the circle of the year turns we will be able to head into Spring in six months time, recharged and bursting with energy.

Whilst we are in this time of resting and recharging we can reflect on our achievements throughout those recent warmer months, look back and think about all those amazing things we have done however big or small.  This is not a time to be starting big new projects but rather to think and plant seeds in our heads of where we would like to be, to go, to do in the future.

We can also use this time to let go of things, de-clutter your house and give away those things that are no longer of use to you.  De-clutter your minds and let go of ideas or values which no longer serve you, that are troubling you or causing you pain, listen to and trust your inner voice for guidance and wisdom. Find a way that works for you to release them, maybe writing them down and burning them.

I hope you will move into Autumn with more strength, embracing rather than resisting the dark.  I hope you will be kind and gentle to yourselves.  I hope you can find the time each day or week to rest and be still to enable your body to recharge and reclaim any balance lost.

13 September 2019

Life in the Slow Lane














Alice and I have returned home from our lovely micro adventure to a happy Cameron, who had a great time at home by himself but was delighted to have us back again. Any adventure big or small involves time to prepare and tidy away afterwards, shoehorning that into our everyday lives is not always straightforward something that I always forget when I say yes to these things, I am now studiously ignoring the pile of jobs, teetering like a large messy pile of lanudry, that need my attention.

We went away because I was assessing a Duke of Edinburgh gold expedition, this involves a group of young people completing a four day, three night expedition, unaccompanied in remote countryside.  I have to meet up with the group beforehand, to make sure that they are prepared for such a demanding undertaking, and during the expedition to satisfy myself that they meet the conditions that are required of them.

Over my years of being an assessor, the role has taken me to so many beautiful parts of my country and this time was no exception.  I found myself in a part of Wales that I have driven round and through in the past but have never stopped and explored.  It was beautiful, rugged and at times really remote.  The lanes were narrow, the traffic non-existent for most of the time, the rain poured and the sun shone.  We got soaking wet and have sunburnt noses!

We saw stunning scenery, walked many paths, enjoyed waterfalls, paused for the changing colours of nature, explored ruinous castles.  I feel as if I have soaked up enough beauty to last me a good while.

Our days were largely ruled by the timings of the expedition and my need to meet the group.  I have learnt that it is best not to plan our days too much, that if we go with the flow and enjoy where we need to be it is much easier for us all.  We stopped when and where we wanted to, explored, allowed time to do what we wanted to, there was no rushing, life at its simplest, pared back.  Although it is a lot of effort to make times like this happen the nourishment they provide on so many levels makes it all worth while.

I have come crashing back into life at home, hitting the ground running.  But I feel ready and able to tackle anything as my cup has been filled up with the loveliness of having been away.  I hope you have had a lovely week too.