Thursday, December 24, 2009

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Winter Wonderland

We don't often get snow in the UK, so when it's like this, it's worth getting the camera out!







Monday, November 16, 2009

Mijn mannetje (or My little man)


N. and I spent last weekend in Holland to celebrate Sinterklaas' arrival from Spain. Sinterklaas stays in Holland until 5 December when he hands out his presents and then returns to Spain for his birthday on 6 December. For the past five or six years I have taken both children to see Sinterklaas arrive on his steamboat, but this year I. wasn't too keen on coming along. I suspect that at 10 1/2, she has stopped believing, although she hasn't said anything yet. I had had a few days with her and my mum in Yorkshire recently, so it was quite nice to have some time with N. on my own. When you look after two children on your own, it's sometimes hard to take time out and just be with them. There is always something that needs to be done and a lot of the time you are just looking after them and you forget to actually enjoy them.


So that is exactly what I did during the last three days: I just enjoyed spending time with N. He's 7 1/2 and he is so different from his big sister. He chats from the moment he wakes up, which is usually early, until the moment he goes to bed, which is usually early too as he wears himself out. He is constantly on the go - he jumps, he runs, he skips, he hops. He sings, he wonders, he asks. He is a bit shy, but gets over it very quickly and also brims with self-confidence. He is funny and makes people laugh - and he knows it and uses it to charm them. He is enthusiastic and loves learning new things. He is happy with very small things, like going to the nearby station and just watching the train arrive. He's even happier if you go on that train, even if it is only for one stop.
When I first had children, I never thought it would be the small things that give so much pleasure. But seeing his happy face when we get a ticket, feeling his hand in mine as we board the train, listening to him chatting about the different types of trains and the level crossings we pass, that is exactly the sort of thing that makes me love him so much. I found in the last three days that he is growing up very quickly and as he is quite tall already, I am certain that one day he'll tower over me, but for me he will always be mijn kleine mannetje.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Pure frustration

I have just been told that I should stop knitting for a few weeks :-((( I've probably got something called phlebitis in my upper arm. When I knit, I hold my left needle under my left arm, pressed against my body. When I knit with short needles which don't fit under my arm, I still hold my arm against my body. I have knitted much more in the last 6 weeks or so than I normally do, so chances are this is what has caused it. It's not serious and will heal just with time, but to be on the safe side, I should stop knitting for a bit. And as knitting equals relaxation for me, what am I going to do...?! We're off to Holland tomorrow evening for a few days, with quite a bit of hanging around with the ferry and all that. Perfect knitting time. Not for me! ARGH!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Happy day

For me undoubtably the worst part of having been through a divorce, is having to share the care of my children. Suddenly you go from caring for your two children with the two of you, to doing it on your own and having to 'hand them over' every few days.

We have all long ago got used to the practicalities of the children having two homes. Yes, it does happen on a fairly regular basis that a pair of school shoes have been left at the wrong house at the wrong time, or that one house has all the trousers and the other doesn't. The kids seem to be settled and know where they will be on what days of the week. They seem to spend equal times with their father and me. They seem happy and I think we're doing a good job with them.

I have long ago got used to looking after them on my own. But as they get older, I am finding it harder to have to share them. From when I was young, there never was a shadow of a doubt in my mind that I was going to be a mum one day. Motherhood was very different from what I had imagined though - I probably saw it through very rose-tinted glasses. They didn't sleep all day (or all night for that matter) and the early years were often very hard work. I was not an 'earth mother', which I had expected to be. But now they're getting older, they're 10 and 7 now, I am enjoying their company more and more. It has taken me a long time, but I finally feel I am being a good mother and I finally really enjoy motherhood properly. It seems so unfair that just as I have reached this stage, I only get to see them for half the time. Don't get me wrong, my first priority after my marriage broke down, has always been that the children shouldn't suffer and have as much contact with their father as possible, and I still feel that. But from a purely selfish point of view, I just wish that there wasn't every year the discussion of who they're going to spend Christmas with, who is going to have them for New Year, where they are for school holidays.

Because of that, having an unexpected day with them is like having a little present. And yesterday was one of those days. J. had to work, so I picked them up early in the morning and we spent the Saturday together. We didn't do anything extraordinary, just the usual Saturday jobs - swimming, shopping on the market, icecream and a cup of tea in the park - but it was just having a bit of extra time with them which I hadn't expected to have, that made it a happy day and a bit special.

And I suppose it is exactly because I do have to share them, that I value my time with them more than anything else.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Retail therapy

Nothing better to cheer you up when you're suffering the grey days blues other than a bit of retail therapy (okay, maybe chocolate...?)

The grey colourway actually lifts my grey mood. Another merino purchase from the Yarn Addict, this time custom dyed, destined for another Ishbel. Thanks Anni, I think you did a great job!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Several FO's

Presenting several finished objects! I've been knitting a fair bit the last few weeks and have finished several things. And 10 year old I. is turning into a very willing model.



First up is Ishbel. (Photo above is unblocked version) I have knitted lace in the past, although years ago. I've never found it particularly hard, it's just a matter of keeping an eye on your chart and more often than not, lace patterns are easy to memorise. This one escaped me though. I lost count of the number of times I had to unpick it - the pattern doesn't become obvious until you're several rows in and I had to refer back to the photos in Little Whimsical Knits several times to see if my pattern was turning out as it should be (more often than not, it wasn't). As it is, there is an error in it, but I found it at the very end and there was no way I was going to unpick it again. I had to make it a bit smaller than the pattern specified as I was running out of yarn, which means that it's ever so slightly too small for me - I wear it the way I. wears it in the photos but it keeps falling off! Despite all the drawbacks, I absolutely love this pattern, I knitted it in about 10 days and have yarn coming for a second one, and a request from I. for a third one (she pinches my one regularly as it is!). The yarn came from the Yarn Addict and I love the colour - several colours blue which remind me of grey clouds scudding across a blue sky. Perfect for Yorkshire where we were staying when I took these photos.


Secondly is a scarf that I. requested. We went to Sewing for Pleasure together back in March and as I now knit more than I sew, I enjoyed the knitting stands the best. We found a ball of yarn with bobbles at regular intervals and knitted up into a really soft, cushiony fabric. It wasn't the sort of thing I'd ever buy for myself but a 38 year old doesn't necessarily have the same taste as a 10 year old, and I knew she loved it. So I got her a ball for her birthday and promised to knit her a scarf with it. Casting on wasn't easy, knitting with it wasn't particularly easy either! I put it down several times in favour of more interesting projects but began to feel a bit guilty, and last weekend when we were in Yorkshire, I forced myself to get on with it and finished it there and then. And I'm glad I did when I saw how happy she is with it!


And last but not least, a baby hat for the new arrival of an ex-colleague. We keep in touch via email and recently she told me she was 36 weeks pregnant, taking me completely by surprise. I did want to send her a little something, and had seen the Cisco baby hat on Brooklyn Tweed's blog in two colours rather than multicoloured. I like the multicoloured look but there was no way I was going to find nice yarn in those colours, so I chose a purple and a lilac for the trim. The ears didn't turn out as bear ears, I had a bit of trouble with their instructions and think I've done something wrong somewhere, they're more like cats ears now... but I still like it and hope she does too!



I have several new projects lined up and Yorkshire obviously has several wool shops. I was quite restrained and only came back with 3 new balls of yarn, but could have bought a lot more!

I'll leave you with a photo of the stunning view we had from our cottage in Coverdale

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Happy


Sometimes it's the small things that make you happiest: a new mug and a late rose.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Tractor weekend September 2009 - a travel story

During our holiday in August (which will get a post of its own) I spotted a tractor for sale at a farm near the campsite we were staying at. B. loves anything with wheels, engine optional. He already has three tractors, a dumper truck, a digger, a Jeep Wrangler and the camper of course. He enjoys doing them up, lying under them for hours and getting them to run well and look better.
We drove past the tractor twice without him noticing that the tractor was for sale, until I pointed it out. The following day we drove past it specially so he could have a look. The people who were selling it, were on holidays, and as it was an unusual model and B. was curious how much money they wanted for it, we left a note with our number. I didn't really expect them to ring us, but the day we came back from holiday, there was a missed call on my mobile. So we rang back and the long and short of it is, by the end of that day, B. had agreed to buy the tractor and go and pick it up! So early one Saturday morning, two weeks ago, we left in this

and drove down to Ramsgate. We shared the driving - I'd never driven anything bigger than the camper before and it did take some getting used to, but was great fun once I got the hang of it. The lorry had a speed limiter fitted so we couldn't go faster than 58 mph and you really do feel king of the road as it's not so easy to manoeuvre and cars have to get out of your way.

We'd booked a freight trip with TransEuropa Ferries. I'd heard of them before, I knew they were cheap (which is why we booked it, StenaLine quoted us an exorbitant amount), but it really was an experience apart. We were parked up next to the big lorries and suddenly felt quite small:


We hadn't had to pay for the trip beforehand, and when we came into the office (a ramshackle little hut) they said 'sorry, come back in ten minutes, we're just off to dock the ship'....
The ship was from the seventies and I actually remember sailing on them when I was a child and we'd go on holidays to Britain - only they felt much bigger then!


But included in the price was a meal and a cabin, and although the interior was obviously old, it was all clean and comfortable. The only drawback was that because there was quite a swell, I got quite nauseous as the ship, being small, got tossed about much more than I'm used to on the Stena ferries.

After docking in Ostend, we had a three hour drive to Nuland near 's Hertogenbosch where the tractor's home was. It was just about still light and with the help of the farmer who was selling it, the tractor was strapped on to the lorry that same evening. We had a chat about its history, had a look at his other tractor and then went off to our hotel for the night.


While we were having our evening meal, we spotted some Germans at a table nearby who were all wearing tshirts with a print about a tractor pulling competition. We walked past them again as we took one last look at the tractor before going to bed, and B. couldn't resist and said 'want to see my new tractor?' as it's originally a German tractor. I think he was excited... ;-) Fortunately for him, they said all the right things!

After a hearty breakfast we checked out of the hotel and were relieved to find that the tractor was still safely there in the car park:


We then had to do the entire journey again in reverse: drive three hours from 's Hertogenbosch to Ostend, the four hour ferry crossing to Ramsgate and then the three hour drive back home to Norfolk. We both like driving and travelling though, just looking at the landscape, the houses, the farms, the road, stopping for coffee at an unknown service station in Belgium.

A Dutch VW camper on the Belgian motorway

The church at Waalwijk

The station and cathedral at Ostend

There was a minor panic when I had to negotiate the lorry with tractor through the city of Ostend (the port is right inside the city) while B. was talking to a customer on his mobile - I needed his navigational help! We arrived without getting lost though, even though we did wonder about their security - we just drove in and onto the ferry without having to show any papers or passports...

Another minor panic as we were docking and B. was taking photos of me sitting on the tractor. The footplate is quite high, the tractor was obviously well strapped down, and I couldn't see how I could get down with the strap in the way. He kept on taking photographs while I was trying to work out the best way of getting off and just laughing at me!


After three more hours of driving we arrived back home late Sunday evening, tired, but safe and well and excited. That was two weeks ago. The tractor has been parked in her own barn and has been driven round the block a couple of times (apparently I don't stop smiling when I drive her). She does need a bit of work to be in tiptop condition and so the engine is now in pieces in B.'s workshop. I have promised I'll take her on the tractor run that is held in their village every year to raise money for breast cancer awareness, if B. makes sure she's all back together again by then.

With T., B's dad, who likes tractors as much as B. does

Normally when we go on a trip, at least some of the children come along. We have four children between us and it's good fun to take them with us, 'they add value', as B. says. But sometimes, it's just as nice to have a weekend away with just the two of us. To have lots of time for each other, to just be adults and not parents, and to do the things that we enjoy. We have plans to take her out to a few small shows next summer. I'm secretly hoping that one of those shows might require another weekend away in Holland.

And the best bit about this tractor?

A Dutch number plate in the style appropriate for the year that the tractor was built in (1969), with our initials on. Who said romance was dead...?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

September


Surely September is the best month of all. Little wild apples and blackberries. Some yellow and red patches in hedgerows where the leaves are starting to turn. Bright sunny days with glorious warm sunlight in the late afternoon. A sudden nip in the air as the evenings start a little earlier every day. Time to light the fire and some candles. Snuggling under the winter duvet. Can it get much better than that?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Saturday, August 8, 2009

I'm in love with my kitchen table


When J. and I split up over 5 years ago, he moved out of the house we'd bought together several years before. He also left me with all the furniture that we'd bought together for that house. He moved into rented, unfurnished accommodation and promptly went on a shopping trip to Ikea, as he had 'nothing', of course. He always made it sound as if he was being generous, leaving me with all the furniture, 'one less thing to worry about', but quite a lot of the furniture had seen better days and for me, came with emotional connotations. Some of the furniture was still fine, and somehow, despite really wanting something of my own, I always feel guilty about replacing something that hasn't gone wrong or isn't broken. It seems frivolous somehow, unnecessary.
Last weekend B. and I were in a secondhand furniture shop, looking for a chest of drawers for his son's bedroom. When we walked in, we saw this table, which I liked immediately. Most of the time, we have quite similar taste in furniture: simple, plain, unfussy. He liked the table immediately too, and asked what I thought of it, and did I want it if I liked it? Did I want it? I would love it! It took a bit of manoeuvring inside his van (we also bought a chest of drawers and a big dresser for his house) and it wouldn't fit in my own car, so he had to come down to bring it over, but now I have my very own table. And I'm so incredibly pleased with it.
I would really like to paint the backs of the chairs in a similar cream, and don't look too closely at the tiles on the floor - they were there when we bought the house 14 years ago and one day they will be replaced, because they're not me at all. But again, they're not broken so why replace them...
In the meantime, I just stroke my table once more...

Monday, July 27, 2009

Food on the brain

B. has lived where he lives all his life. I can't really blame him, he has a house with no visible neighbours, 2 miles from the nearest village, and surrounded by fields (which mostly belong to his dad's farm). His dad has lived in the farmhouse all his life too, and before that, his parents lived there. During the war, they had a few PoW's working on their farm, and one of them, an Italian, stayed nearby, eventually buying his own farm. He has known B. all his life and we often go and see him. He's almost 90 now, lives on his own (although his children live close by) and does everything himself. Every time we go there, he has changed another room, installed a shower, made a new window... We went to visit him last Sunday and when we asked him how he was, he responded with 'not enough hours in the day'. I hope I can grow old like that.
His garden is a huge vegetable plot, and as soon as you turn up, he goes to his kitchen, grabs a handful of plastic carrier bags and drags you out to the garden. This time, it was gooseberries, potatoes, courgettes, the most delicious French beans I have ever tasted, and tomatoes. The tomatoes were so beautiful, it was almost a shame to eat them:


We ended up with 2 kgs of very ripe gooseberries, so on Monday I took the plunge and made jam. I had never made jam before and was a bit nervous about the setting process, but I needn't have - everything went smoothly and I'm now the proud owner of these


Yes I must get some nice labels!

Last year we bought some wetsuits when we were camping in Cornwall. I know they're meant to be tight fitting, but mine was extremely tight. I had a feeling I'd put on a bit of weight since last year, well according to my bathroom scales I had, so last Sunday I tried the wetsuit on again and uhm, it was *really* tight. Five years ago I managed to lose almost 2 1/2 stone with WeightWatchers and most of the time I still follow their principles, but I do like my food and an icecream or Chinese takeaway will be enjoyed occasionally! When I bent forward to pick something up off the floor and I heard 'crack' and my wetsuit had ripped, I knew it was time to do something about it. So on Monday morning I looked up meetings, found one that was on that morning, and signed up again, thinking I had about a stone to lose. Imagine my surprise when I stood on the scales and found I was only 4 1/2 lbs over my goal weight! Small problem, you can only sign up if you have 5 lbs or more to lose, so I lowered my goal weight a bit - but to be honest, once those 4 1/2 lbs have shifted, I'm happy. I'm glad I signed up again, it's made me feel more in control and I hope it won't be too long before I'm back to a weight that makes me feel happier. Wish me luck!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Topsy turvy

Instead of going through the normal kids' bedtime routine of bath, story and bed, and then having some time to myself, I have been banished from the living room to my bedroom. I. has a friend over to stay and they're watching Mamma Mia on DVD. I was allowed to make them a big bowl of popcorn, I made them a jug of drink and then I was expected to leave.

So now I'm sitting on my bed, I've surrounded myself with my laptop, knitting, books from our library visit today and my wallet for a few internet purchases.

The other topsy turvy thing is that I would actually quite like to go to sleep, having had a ridiculously busy week, but those two girls want to stay up as late as possible of course.
I'm sure tonight will be the first of many...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

CamperJam 2009

For the past few years we've taken our VW camper to Vanfest, which is the biggest VW camper festival in the UK, held at the Three Counties Showground in Malvern. Last year we felt it was getting a bit big and commercial and anonymous - we had real trouble finding a spot to camp in, let alone a nice spot, we barely spoke to anyone as there were so many people and we just fancied a change. So this year we went to CamperJam in Shropshire, which was first held last year, so much smaller.
The surroundings were lovely, the grounds of Weston Park, and we had a great spot


but now that we've done three camper festivals, we feel we've done them really. They're all a bit the same - a line-up of shiny campers (or deliberately rusty ones, the so called rat look), the stalls selling VW accessories or anything else that they think festival goers will buy, the beer tent, the stalls with rusty old parts (and we do rummage through those as we want a period cover for the interior light), some entertainment (even the band is the same at all the festivals!), and the stalls selling food. The food stalls this year were all together in a square with picnic tables in the middle, which worked really well - we found a nice quiet table on Saturday to have lunch at, and the food was very good, so were the milkshakes with every flavour you can imagine.
But what we like best about these weekends, is just being away, discovering a new part of Britain, having a barbecue in the evening and sleeping in the tent.



And if you turn up at a campsite and there is another VW camper parked there, that is fun - you go over and have a chat, sometimes a drink together. If there are 1500 or 2000 people who all own a VW camper, it's not quite so exciting to bump into a fellow owner.


We left on Sunday at lunchtime and as we were so close, we made a short detour to Ironbridge, where the first cast-iron bridge of Britain is.


Lovely little place, yes lots of tourists but still worth a visit, the museum was small but interesting, the sun was shining and on the way home, we suddenly came across another little iron bridge.

I felt as if we were on a proper holiday. Next year, we're just going to go away for a long weekend before the main holidays and explore a bit more in Britain. Not in the west though. It always seems to rain in the west...

Monday, June 29, 2009

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Running surprises

I'm still running three times a week and still see a gradual improvement. From learning to run 20 minutes continuously, without having a walking break, I have been trying to increase the length of time I'm running for. At the beginning of the week, I was managing 26 minutes, and I was just thinking that maybe for the next session I'd try 28 minutes. But the run was going very well and I thought 'it's only 4 minutes more to do 30 minutes', which is what I'd aimed for all this time. I thought I'd give it a try and to my utter surprise I managed it! Half an hour of continuous running, no stopping - if you'd told me a year ago I'd be able to do this, I'd have rolled over the floor with laughter.
I'm all the more surprised because I am the least sporty person I know. I used to be the one who got chosen last at school for teams in PE. I would be the one dropping the ball which everybody else would catch. I would be the last one coming in if we had to run around the track. I would dread the days on which we had PE.
And then, a few years ago, I felt I had to do something about my fitness. I was a bit overweight and my job is very sedentary, and I knew it wasn't healthy. So I started swimming - the only sport which I enjoyed. I found I got better and better at it and discovered it is true what they say about sport: it makes you feel better, endorphins do exist, you do get more energy. Then when I met B., I started cycling near where he lives - miles of country lanes to explore. I love going out on my bike on my own and enjoy the surroundings, the changing seasons, the wildlife you spot.
As I posted here before, after mum became ill and then recovered, I wanted to do something positive. Running would be a real challenge - something I couldn't ever imagine being able to do. But although it has taken me much longer than I expected, my perseverance has paid off and now I can run 30 minutes and I actually enjoy it. Someone asked me the other day if I was going to stop running after Race for Life (this Sunday) and I said no, definitely not - I can't imagine anymore that I'd not do any form of exercise. And running is definitely going to be a big part of that exercise regime. I think I have mum to thank for that - so thanks mum!

On another note, isn't this gorgeous?

Organic merino in colourway Grey skies (although to me it looks just like the sea at Lyme Regis on a sunny day) from the YarnAddict, destined to become an Ishbel. I can't wait to cast on.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Presents (presenting several FO's)

Four weeks ago friends of mine had baby twins, a boy and a girl. They didn't know the sex before the babies were born, but I knew I wanted to make something for them. I deliberated for ages between knitting and sewing, and ended up doing both once I could choose colours safely (I find choosing unisex colours quite hard, apart from white or cream, and I didn't want to make two identical outfits).


For starters I knitted these hats. In fact, I knitted these hats three times, two lilac ones and one brown one (more info on Ravelry). The first lilac one went to a friend in Holland who gave birth a few weeks early just before we were last over in Holland. I did the finishing off on the overnight ferry! The pattern is a freebie from Woolly Wormhead, whose hats I love. I've also discovered I really enjoy knitting hats, they go fast, they don't have many sizing issues, they're useful. A Woolly Wormhead beret (Meret) is on the to do list next.

I. kept asking for some fabric with monkeys on from the colormeflannel coop in the US, and I chose the wrong one. So that got made into this nightie


and with some other flannel which N. has really outgrown, I made these pjs:


There was supposed to be a flannel top with it, but that turned into such a disaster that it ended up in the bin. I bought the little red tshirt and cut a square from the fabric and zigzagged around the edges.

The patterns were from a Dutch sewing magazine (Knippie) from several years ago, I'd made them both before for a Secret Santa swap.

A couple of photos of all the presents, which are all handmade, albeit not all by me.



Mum knitted the little bootees (in fact, she made 4 pairs, as two colleagues from work are expecting babies too), and the sleepyhead dolls come from Liz, a sewing/knitting friend.

We're going to meet the twins tomorrow and I'm looking forward to gifting these!