Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Hearts and flowers

Hello dear friends and readers :)
Just a quick post from me today, I took a small diversion from my various works-in-progress to make a little gift for a friend. It's her birthday and I know she has just redecorated her dining-room with a purple theme, so I wanted to give her something purpley for her birthday, and I wanted part of it to be handmade.


She is a huuuuge candle fan. Every time I go round to her house it smells divine, and she always says it's because she burns candles. Personally I do not trust myself with candles, having twice had near misses where I one time badly burned a wall when a candle fell against it, and another time the mat that a little candle-in-a-tin went on fire as the tin got too hot. Yikes. No nice smell is worth a house fire. Thankfully my friend is clearly much more candle-safe than me. I'd have loved to actually make her a candle, but just haven't had enough time - I got a load of candle-making bits for my birthday last year but haven't used them yet, I need to practice before I start making gifts for people. Maybe next year ....


I decided to stick to something a bit safer, and crocheted her a hanging heart. I'd seen this post of Lucy from Attic24's, which in turn references this post by BeaG on Flickr. You make two hearts then double-crochet them together and then stuff. Pretty straightforward. I also added a really simple little flower with a wooden button.


Such a simple little pattern that produces a really sweet little hanging heart. Hopefully my friend will love it, and maybe even in part because its hand-made.


I also decided to make her a card, I'm not very good at thinking of card designs, so I occasionally buy card-making magazines for inspiration. I found an old magazine with a kit comprising patterned card and some fun little sentiment greeting thingies, and sort of used one of their designs with a few small changes.


I used a white card blank from my card stash, bits and pieces from the magazine kit, and some sparkly gems for a bit of bling.


I'm giving her her present tomorrow morning so I hope she loves it :) I'll report back soon to let you know.


Til next time - be safe with those candles people!
Jillxxxxxx

Friday, 3 February 2017

Five on Friday

Hello dear friends and readers, gosh is it really the end of another week ? It must be time for another Five on Friday, hosted again by Amy over at Love Made My Home. This week I have a bit of a random selection, just stuff from my week (and a bit from the week before), nothing earth-shattering, but I hope you enjoy my photos and blurb anyway ....

1. Can you believe it's February already ? I normally hate January, definitely have that post-Christmas Blues type thing, but this year hasn't been as bad. I've no idea why, but I'm glad it's February, and I'm glad to be waking up feeling good. Having daffodils around always helps too, they just seem so fresh and new and bright, and full of hope and promise.



2. The weekend before last I entered an OCR - Obstacle Course Race - called Muscle Acre. And yes it definitely lived up to its name. Basically an OCR is a run but with lots of obstacles and lots and lots of mud and water. Here's an un-muddy photo of me before the race ...


It was the first OCR I'd done, and wowsers it was SUCH good fun! Completely exhausting, but tremendous fun. On the day of the race it was 0 degC, and the first obstacle was to climb in and out of a skip filled with cold water. So pretty much within the first 5 minutes we were soaking wet. The good thing about that is it makes you keep going as you'd get far too cold far too quick if you didn't. A bit further on we had to wade through muddy water that was waist deep with massive slabs of ice floating about on it. Can you see my lips turning blue - hypothermia is a risk - but I was sure just to keep moving.

(Don't worry about it saying Clare Sheppard below that photo, thats my friend who facebook'ed it!)
One comedy moment was when we had to crawl under a skip, I crawled in one end fine, but when I tried to crawl out the other end I couldn't make it through due to my boobs being too big LOL I had to reverse and go out the way I came in. There were lots of crawling type obstacles, a lot where you had to commando crawl, hence the boobs got very muddy ....


There were also a lot of climbing obstacles but with lots of mud around it was really hard to grip with my hands so I did a lot of hauling myself up and letting myself down by throwing my whole arm over the top. I didn't realise until after I'd had a shower just how many bruises I had ....



And then of course there's the medal and beanie that all finishers get. I've got a few running medals but have to say I really felt I'd earned this one!



3. Back to more sedentary pastimes - after reading this post of Amy's I decided to give sock-knitting a bash. Like Amy I'm following the sock-a-long by Christine who is also known as WinwickMum, but so far I've only got as far as doing a tension square. It's the first time I've ever knitted with 4-ply and I am loving it, I love how soft and light the resulting fabric is, and I can't wait to get going on an actual sock. 


And of course I had to jump the gun and buy some more sock yarn - which came with a free pattern sheet too. Can you see the sparkly bits in the pink one - glittery socks! How fabulous!



4. Another thing I want to share with you is some of Little Man's drawings. He's actually 13 now so not so little, so I think I need to start calling him Mr13 (nicking Meredith of Mereknits idea). Anyway despite not choosing Art as an option for GCSE, Mr13 is pretty artistic. We think he gets this from my Dad who was a pretty great artist (he was an architect), I'll share some of his pictures some time too. Anyway here are Mr13's drawings, they are in the Manga style which is a form of Japanese animation. Aren't they gorgeous ? I just adore the eyes.






5. I got a Fitbit for Christmas and am trying to hit 10,000 steps each day. And what better way than to go out on a dog-walk in the rain with Pixie and Little Tomboy. That's them this afternoon, a lovely end to the week.


They are best friends these two, always playing, running, and snuggling on the sofa. Sooo sweet.



That's it from me for today, hope you all have a lovely weekend,
Jillxo

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Tea cosy hat

Hello dear readers and friends :)
I promised you a post of a finish before the end of January - so here it is :) Are you impressed ?

It was bitterly cold here for the last couple of weeks - it's warmed up a bit now, but last week .... ooo it was so so cold .... brrrrrr ..... I needed a hat and of course that is reason enough to crochet one.


The pattern I used is the Firebrand Slouch hat from my favourite crochet book "Crochet One-skein Wonders" by Judith Durant. I made mine a bit shorter so it wasn't slouchy ....


.... and I wear it with the brim turned up as I think it suits me better.


I seem to have one of those faces that doesn't really suit hats - too roundy? too chubby? hair too short ? glasses ? I don't know. I just know I'm not massively comfortable in a hat, but I think this one is OK. Don't be fooled by the half decent photos, I was very careful not to show off the double-chins.


If I make another - which I may very well do, in a different colour - I'll make the brim deeper so that there's more to turn up. I suspect it looks rather like a tea cosy, hence the post title.

The yarn is King Cole Big Value Chunky, I originally bought it to make a mermaid blanket, but really didn't like how it was working up. For a hat, however, it's perfect - really cosy and warm, and worked up easily in one evening.

Speaking of yarn, I had some "help" with that. Hmmmmm. Naughty doggy ....


.... but how could I be cross ..... soooo cute ....


Anyway, back to the tea-cosy, er I mean hat. Here's the top view (and yes those are maltesers - my favourite) .....


.... And a sort of side view in all its tea-cosy gloriousness :)


I used most of a 100g ball of wool, and have another ball left, so I think I'll make some wristies to match :) Almost a pity that the weather's warmed up !

Til next time,
Jillxxxxxx

Friday, 27 January 2017

Five on Friday

Hello dear friends and readers 😊

I'm joining in with Five on Friday, hosted by my very lovely (I know this as I have had real actual coffee with her a few times) friend Amy from Love Made My Home.

I think this falls within the rules but it feels slightly cheaty as it's not really five things, more really just five photos of the same thing. But it is a Very Exciting Thing (well to me, anyway). As I don't have enough yarn in my life (ahem) or enough projects in the go (ahem again) I've decided, slightly belatedly, to join in the Moorland Blanket CAL with Lucy of Attic24 - hurray!


Honestly I've been longing to make this blanket since Lucy first introduced it on her blog back in November or so. Now, bear with me while I seem to go off on a tangent - until my late 20's (I stopped around the time I met my husband) I holidayed in the Highlands of Scotland with my family (as in my parents and my brother). My parents were very big on golf (Mum still is) so my brother and I sort of grew up on golf courses, and the place we went to - Dornoch - has a championship golf course, and also the most amazing beach. A really stunning natural beach, there were no places to rent deckchairs, no lifeguards, no public toilets, just beautiful, rugged, unspoilt beach, edged by the sand dunes with the golf course just the other side. At the time I was very jealous of all my friends jetting off to Majorca or Spain, and coming back with amazing suntans, whereas I came back with sand in my shoes, a bit of sunburn if I was lucky, and a stick of rock. Looking back though I think our holidays in Dornoch were pretty idyllic - from when I was aged 4 we went to the same hotel at the same time each year, along with several other families from Scotland, England, and even the U.S. Going to Dornoch was the only way we knew each other and we met up for the exact same two weeks every year. There were at least 20 of us kids, and the adults all played golf - some of the kids did too. The adults would take it in turns to take a day off from the golf to look after the kids, we played in the gardens (swing ball, cricket, hide and seek) or if it was raining we'd get taken to the swimming pool in the next town. There would be at least 8 children crammed in each car, there were no car seat regulations in those days. We'd play in the hotel lounge if it was wet (card games, jigsaws, colouring, messing about with walkie talkies and whoopee cushions LOL), and get coke and crisps from the bar, and if it was dry (note - not necessarily warm) we'd go to the beach for some fun but chilly swimming, kite-flying, making sand castles, exploring rock pools. When we were teenagers we had barbeques on the beach, the girls discussed boys, the boys probably discussed girls, some of us dated each other and there were even 2 weddings eventually. The town of Dornoch is very small so we could walk from the hotel to the golf club or the beach, and we had endless freedom, just appearing back at the hotel (or the golf club) at mealtimes. Really wonderful times. At the end of the two weeks I would cry the whole way home as I knew I wouldn't see everyone again for a whole year. The whole thing was just magical, it was pure luck that we found the hotel, and that everyone else went there at the same time, as young kids we all felt like brothers and sisters. I really wish my children could have had the same experiences, but as I said it was like a little bit of magic, and you couldn't replicate it if you tried.

Aaaaanyway, back to the CAL. The reason I mentioned holidaying in Scotland is because so many of my memories feature us on the beach, and in my mind's eye I can see the golden sand, the blue skies, the yellowy-green of the sand dunes, and the purple heather edging the lush green of the golf course.
The moorland palette really is the same as the Highlands palette, so for me the blanket will really be a Highlands blanket, and it will always remind me of Dornoch.


So, back to the moorland pack. Lucy was introducing it and tempting us with lots of photos before Christmas, so it would have been a perfect Christmas present for the hubby to get me. This wasn't going to happen though as I had already asked for some other wool (more on that another time). Plus I knew hubby would then want to bring it in the car to NIreland for me to open on Christmas Day, and the car would be already very, very full with 5 suitcases (3 contained just presents!), 2 adults, 3 not very little Little People, various backpacks, one dog, and one dog's crate. And no, we don't have a roof-box or a trailer, just a Mum (me) who is exceedingly good at packing a car boot (I get that from my Dad who showed a similar skill set every year when packing for Dornoch). Plus if I got it for Christmas I 'd have to wait til the official start date of Jan 6th before getting going on it - how frustrating would that be! And finally then there's the fact, pure and simple: I. Don't. Need. Any. More. Wool.

I very strictly told myself I didn't need it, had enough wool, and enough WIPs, and to just forget about it.

Except I couldn't.

Kept thinking of those gorgeous colours all together .... and of course kept seeing updates on Lucy's blog ..... and there was the draw of a new project .... in the end, how could I resist?


I went ahead and ordered the pack quite late one evening this week, and without my glasses on. I often feel if I order stuff with no specs on then it isn't really real and doesn't really count as a purchase. Bonkers, I know. Then I realised it was due to arrive on Saturday when hubby would be here. Aaargh! There's no way I could justify yet another wool purchase to him. But it was done, nothing I could do about it ..... However the doorbell rang at lunchtime today and there was my lovely postman holding a big squashy bag with a Wool Warehouse sticker - hurray hurRAY HURRAY!!! So not only did it arrive early, but hubby won't even have to know about it (one ball of wool is the same as the next to him, and he STILL calls my crochet my knitting - bless him).

This pack really is gorgeous, and there is something so delicious about an array of perfectly formed balls of wool, isn't there ? I just want to lie down on a bed made of balls of wool. A wool ball pi, no there's a thought :)

So Lucy lists all the colours in the moorland pack here, the yarn is all Stylecraft Special DK, and the pack includes some colours I haven't used before, so that is my excuse for ordering Yet More Wool :)


I'm storing it in my slightly too small but highly appropriate wavy bag. This was a present from my Mum years ago and also has beachy memories - when my Little People were a lot littler this bag was always our NIrish beach bag - usually to be found stuffed with towels, sun hats, sun cream (optimistic), hoodies, jackets (the beach in NIreland is not known for its heat...), biscuits, water bottles, bits of shell and stone, and bucket loads of sand (why is there always So Much Sand). The handle came off the bag a couple of years ago rendering it useless for the beach (sob) but it is perfect for storing a crochet project.

I'm going to be a Very Good Hooker and, as Lucy suggests, make a tension square with some random bits of Stylecraft Special DK from my stash. I don't want to make a tension square that is just useless, so I'm going to make it big enough to be a cushion cover for Little Miss, for her bedroom, using the colours below. In fact I think Lucy has made a cushion cover with this pattern, that's probably where I got the idea.


And of course I'll be updating you as I make progress on this CAL. Can't wait to get started and lose myself in that glorious Highland palette 😊

Til next time,
Jillxxxx

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

January

Happy New Year dear friends and readers!

Is it really half way through January already ? Christmas seems like a long time ago now, though this is my first post since then. Actually my first post since November, not sure what happened there, just everyday life I suppose.

There's not a lot to report here, Christmas was lovely, quite a quiet one, and we spent it in our holiday house in Donaghadee. 


Even though it was a bit damp and grey I love that place so much, the scenery is just as stunning in the winter as it is in summer. I feel so relaxed whilst I'm there and I think a fair part of that is that it's so removed from school related stuff - uniforms, PE kits, letters, money, lunches, taxi service to clubs, and of course the dreaded homework. Father Christmas was good to us all, including Pixie who got her own Christmas jumper ....



A particular highlight for me was participating in Cancer Focus NI's charity "Dare to Dip" - a New Year's Day swim in the Irish Sea. Brrrrrrr!!!!! Bracing!!!!!

Before .... Cold and very windy ....



During ... I'm in the middle, just behind and to the right of the man in the Santa hat, wading back out and yes I did dive fully in ....



After .... even colder, couldn't actually feel my feet at all!



Great fun though, and a fabulous way to kick off the New Year. And a week later this arrived in the post .... unexpected and a lovely surprise....



Back on the home-front in Reading It's been oh so cold this week. Well, cold for us anyway, with the temperature hovering around freezing. I am training for the London Marathon again this year having had to pull out last year, and should be running, but I'm being a very bad runner and wimping out of it these cold mornings. Ah well there's always tomorrow ....



I did manage a lovely 5 mile walk with a friend last week when it was a bit milder, we walked round a local country park, lots of geese and swans were in residence. 





We went for a cuppa afterwards and since Pixie was with us we sat outside ....



.... and were joined by this wee fellow who clearly thought he was in with a chance of some crumbs ....



On the craft front I've got, as usual, a million things on the go at once .... cross stitch, tapestry, crochet .... Shall I go on ?!


I bought this tapestry kit years ago, actually it may even have been a gift, isn't that terrible, I can't really remember. I took a notion the other night to start on it as I was in need of something that would work up quickly. I haven't done a tapestry thingy since I was about 9, and I'd forgotten how easy it is - no screwing up my eyes for this one (see below!). It's going a bit twisty because I don't have a frame to stretch it over, but I'm sure it'll be fine. I am not getting a frame. I do not need one. I must not buy one. Remind I said that if I ever suggest it please.

On the subject of screwing up one's eyes, hubby won't let me have more lights on in the evening and I'm fed up being unable to see to sew or crochet properly by the light of one pathetic table lamp. So I dug out my running head torch .... I may look like a loon but at least I can see what I'm doing.



The cross-stitch that I'm working in is even older than the tapestry. My Mum gave me it for Christmas in 1999, the pictures are celebrating various events etc from the last 1000 years from the Battle of Hastings in 1066 to the Space Shuttle in 1981. So I've had this kit for 17 years - oh dear! And look how much I've done - hardly anything! So I've decided to just plod on with it a little a week and eventually it will get done, hopefully before the next millennium.



And the final work in progress that I wanted to show you is my autumn blanket. I started this in October 2014 so we are now on the other side of 3 autumns and it's still not finished! I'd forgotten how much I love the colours though, so I'm really enjoying working on this. I'm probably about halfway there on it, so still a ways to go but again I'll just keep chipping away at it and who knows, one of these days I might actually finish something....



Right, I'm off now to start something else - I promise to have it finished before my next post, and I promise that will be before the end of January. Fingers crossed anyway 😃

Til next time,
Jill xxxx

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Happy Week

Hello dear friends, I hope you're having a lovely week - I most definitely am and have lots of lovely things to share with you :)

Yesterday my doorbell rang in the middle of the day - this is a rare occurrence as the only person ever to arrive unexpectedly is the postman and he always leaves parcels in the porch and never really rings the bell. Anyway I opened the door and was greeted by a lady holding a delivery of a gorgeous bouquet of flowers! Wow! And look, see, aren't they gorgeous .... such happy pretty colours :) 


... beautifully presented in a little spotty hessian bag. Flowers in a spotty. hessian. bag. Does it get any better than that ???!


So I bet you're wondering who they were from ? No, not Mr EC, and sadly not Bradley Cooper either (though - swoon - ), but from my lovely very sweet goddaughter/cousin. I'd seen her on Saturday (more on that in a bit) and mentioned I'd had a bad couple of days last week (autistic child related), so she sent me these to cheer me up :) Soooo thoughtful of her. We are very close, my cousin and I, though she is a good 16 years younger than me. Her Mum (my Auntie) is my godmother, so my Auntie chose me to be my cousin's godmother. I then chose my cousin to be godmother to Little Miss (are you keeping up), and if/when Lovely Cousin/Goddaughter has a baby she has said Little Miss will be godmother. In fact Lovely Cousin/Goddaughter is getting married next year and Little Miss is to be bridesmaid. When my Auntie got married, I was bridesmaid, then when I got married my Lovely Cousin/Goddaughter was bridesmaid, and now Little Miss is being my Lovely Cousin/Goddaughter's bridesmaid. Did you get all that ? I'll be asking quesions later ..... LOL


So the reason I had seen her on Saturday - I drove up to Abingdon (near Oxford and about an hour from where I live) to visit her and to go for afternoon tea and shopping :) We went to this really quaint little tearoom in Abingdon called Rosie's. It was really tiny, only about 6 tables and yet one of the tabes had a family round it with their little baby and associated buggy - how they got in and out still escapes me - and in the middle of proceedings the waitress came out with a little cake with one candle on it, and the whole place sang Happy Burthday To You to the baby - it was his first birthday ! Soooo cute! It felt like a very special moment to share in such an initmate little cafe.


Anyway, back to the afternoon tea. Lovely thick granary bread with smoked salmon and cream cheese. Still warm scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam. Coffee and walnut cake with walnuts all through the cake and not just on top. A large pot of English Breakfast Tea. Ooooo it was soooooo yummy. Really really good. I wish you all could have tasted just how good it all was, especially the cake - yum. We followed up with a wander round the shops, and I managed a few bits and pieces for the Little Peeps for Christmas, and also for the dog :)

I also treated myself to a few magazines. You all know I have an out-of-control a very small magazine addiction, and Christmas time brings out the worst in it. A couple of craft magazines, and good old Country Living. Leafing through the glossy pages you can't help but feel festive :)


I love all their sort of vignettes - I mean who wouldn't want their front door to look like this ....


.... instead mine has a half dead (okay mostly dead) pot plant, some stinky trainers, a load of dead leaves and cobwebs, and a recycling bin. I'd much rather have a log-store and a little wooden table of cuteness! Ah well, I can dream... (well actually I could get off my backside and spruce it up a bit ... another job for the to-do-list).

I've been sighing at all natural look crafts and decorations, I am not a minimalist and I do love a bit of sticks and paper and stuff .... might need to give the twig star a go ....


.... and I am DEFINITELY trying out this recipe. You know when you eat an orange and you chuck the peel away and it feels like a waste, well now you can use them to make sweetie things - candied peel I guess - eco friendly and tasty - everyone's a winner. To be honest it seems a bit of a faff but I reckon just the smell alone will make it worth while ..... lots of boiling of orange peel and sugar ... heavenly....


Country Living also comes with a "Christmas Calendar - Your Day-by-Day Guide to the Festive Season". Some "tasks" are really lovely but not in a million years could anyone, not even the likes of Kirsty Allsop, manage everything. Things like "Homemade Crackers" and "Dress Your Windows" probably won't happen here , but at least I will manage to "Decorate the Tree". Oh look, I've just noticed that I've picked another photo with a log-store. Hmmm ....


The other thing I picked up was a pot of hyacinth bulbs, just at the sprouting stage. They were in a basket thingy but I repotted them into a little spotty red bowl, to match the vase they are sitting next to. And if you look closely you can see my reflection in the vase LOL


And my final little bit of happy this week comes in the form of some Christmas colouring. I think everyone should by law do some colouring every day. Its so therapeutic to sit down, clear the mind and just be still and quiet with a colouring pencil or two. Bliss.


Thats all from me for now, I hope you are all having happy weeks too.

Til next time,
Jill
xxxxxxx