Monday, December 26, 2011

Monday 26 December

December has flown by in a blurry flurry of activities and it's hard to believe we're almost at the end of the month and the end of another year. This year I've very much enjoyed December, it is one long series of festivities: Sinterklaas with the kids and my team from work, then my birthday, Christmas and New Year. It seems that most people this year had the idea to give me something craft related which I really enjoyed - for Sinterklaas I got given a book with 150 motifs to knit and crochet, and I've already made these three from it:

I'm now working on a series of the little snowflakes in cream and light blue, to make into a garland or hang in a row in front of the window.
For my birthday I received two hanks of beautiful wool from work and a poster saying Keep Calm and Carry Yarn from the kids. It's easy to buy for someone who loves knitting!

One of the things I made for my Sinterklaas 'partner' was this mug cosy:

They were so simple I ended up making three as gifts for several people. The idea came from Mollie Makes, a relatively new crafting magazine that I'm subscribed to.

Nine-year-old took part in a Secret Santa at school and had to buy something for his tutor. He came home and said 'mamma I thought you could knit her something'. Right, I haven't got enough to knit yet? I can't help but feel flattered when people ask me to knit something for them though, so off we went to Ravelry to look up Christmassy dishcloths and we found this one:

Unfortunately the Christmas tree soaps I'd ordered off eBay arrived a few days too late to give along with the cloth, but according to 9yo's report she liked this and the accompanying hand cream very much.

I also sent a small box of little goodies to Anna who I've known for a long time but never met!
A cover for a mini hot water bottle (although in the photos you can't really see how small it was - they were sold as child's hot water bottles but are bigger than the hand warmers you can get these days)

And a trim for a tealight holder:

I found the pattern on Attic 24 and although her choice of colours wasn't my taste, I think it ended up looking quite cosy in plain white.
I was on a roll and made one up myself as a gift for a neighbour, but I think I prefer the first one:

And then it was Christmas. I finished knitting a monkey for 9yo on Christmas Eve, which he loved. It was the last present out of his stocking and he hugged it so tight when he took the wrapping off. He told me twice that it was his best present, and best (and sweetest) of all, he thought at first that Father Christmas had knitted it... I told him I'd knitted it and given it to Father Christmas and he'd given it to him! (and he believed it too...) No photo yet, the children are with J. for a few days now, hope to get a photo later this week.
Christmas was full of unexpected presents - those are the ones I love the best!

Mug from the children - I love anything with blue and I love mugs and I love Whittards (I probably like everything in Whittards - I try and avoid going there as it's so hard not to buy something).
Contents of Secret Santa swap I took part in. I love the fingerless gloves (well, they're blue aren't they!), they're just the right length for wearing while I'm working as I can still type with them on. The chocolates are divine - I gave B. one but am trying to hide the rest of them as they're so nice that I don't really want to share them... Mean aren't I ;-)

Beach hut from S. and G. who are J's aunt and uncle. I have a feeling I commented on one of their photos on Flickr where their daughter in law was looking at beach huts. They know I have a thing for beach huts as my favourite dishcloth is one with beach huts in it. I love this one - not sure where it's going yet but will find a lovely spot for it.

This one was a real surprise, they're knitted by the owner of 'our' parttime dog. I knew she was a knitter as I've seen her wear things she's knitted herself and we've often talked about knitting. I suspected she'd made us something as the three parcels for us were all soft and squishy, and these were mine. I wore them today on a long bike ride and they were so snugly. Really pleased with them - not least for all the effort she must have put in.

These were the ones she made for 9yo.

One 12yo getting very grown up...

And last but not least, our Christmas pud! Not a real Christmas pudding but a sort of combination of summer pudding/chocolate bombe. Recipe courtesy of Jamie Oliver, whose book Jamie's Great Britain I got for my birthday from work. Leftovers still in freezer - yum!

We're now having a quiet few days pottering about, the kids alternating between me and J., before we set off to celebrate New Year's Eve and mum's birthday in Holland. I haven't been to Holland for New Year's for several years and I'm looking forward to it. Especially as B. gave me a DSLR for my birthday and I'm having way too much fun playing with it!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Season's Greetings

Whatever you are celebrating this time of year, we hope that you have a very happy holiday and wish you lots of happiness for 2012 xxx

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tuesday 22 November

It has been almost a month since my last post and I didn't mean to be gone so long - life just sort of got in the way, as it has a habit of doing. And somehow blog writing always gets pushed to the bottom of the to-do list.

We spent a few days in Holland a couple of weeks ago. It was lovely to be back 'home' for a couple of days, but we were all slightly under the weather when we left and as I tend to squeeze in everything I want to do in a very short time, we all got quite tired and came back ill. I spent three days on the sofa with a tummy bug and feeling very sorry for myself.

All back to normal now though, and despite not firing on 4 cylinders, we still had a good time. 9yo is now a firm believer in Sinterklaas again, despite having some serious doubts before we went, which is very sweet but makes me wonder if he will still want to go and see Sinterklaas when he's 15...! We did lots of retail therapy, visited a new-to-us town and fed our cultural side too.

The next few weeks are set to be quite busy, with lots of social events. I'm also squeezing in lots of crafting, all small things to be given away, some of them secret, some of them less so. It means I have lots of project bags all over the house with a project for every occasion and causing me to wonder if I'll ever finish everything on time and remembering that every year I tell myself 'never again'!

Scarf for dad - I love the way the stripes work up

Several cloths for my monthly swap

It's well and truly late Autumn here now. When we went to Holland, we still had lots of leaves on the trees but Holland seemed to be a week or so ahead and we had lots of mist and even some ground frost. Coming back to the UK it seems we're slowly catching up and in the last week or so most of the leaves have gone and we've had the mists as well, making for some mysterious landscapes...

It makes me want to cook winter food even more so than normal, and this was Jamie Oliver's Wedding Pie for Kate and Wills. The pastry was a dream to work with and even better to eat. It's a recipe from his latest series on Channel 4, and when he showed us this dish, he told us that if you make this for someone, you can expect a proposal. I'm afraid he let me down there a bit... !

But as the pie was so incredibly good, I think I'll let him off (both B. and Jamie Oliver...;-)

Monday, October 31, 2011

Monday 31 October

Today 12yo and 9yo are back at school after their week at home. We had such a lovely and relaxing time, just being together and enjoying each other's company. We didn't even do anything extra-ordinary, lots of dog walks, a visit to the rollerskating rink, the library, some shopping and a morning on the beach, but it was just nice not to have to worry about lunchboxes, bedtimes and school bags for a week. It's now very very quiet at home and I know I'm going to miss them. At least we have a few days in Holland at the end of next week to look forward to!

A very windy day at Felixstowe beach

A worn out dog at the beach!

Supper on Saturday night - stewed brisket and mash - very good it was too.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Monday 24 October

This week is half-term for the kids. I can't believe how fast the first 6 weeks of the school term have flown by. Nine-year-old has been very tired the last couple of weeks and missed the last day before the holidays with a headache and temperature - probably just over-tiredness. The week's break will do him good. I met with his tutor last week and it was nice to hear how well he has settled in and seems to be enjoying life at his new school.
Last week was also the week of visiting Upper Schools for 12yo. She's not due to start there until September next year but the application has to be in by the end of this month. She has changed so much from when she first started at Middle School as a quiet, rather shy 9yo three years ago. Now I see her turning into a teenager day by day, albeit without the teenage stroppiness I hasten to add! I'm having a little trouble keeping up with her at the moment - she takes big steps, I'm running behind her to try and keep up.

We think we've come to a decision regarding the Upper School and I hope it is the right one - she'll be taking GCSE's here and hopefully her A levels too.

Last Saturday was 9yo's day for just with me. I wasn't quite sure what to go and do with him that was a bit out of the ordinary but not too far away or too costly. In the end we visited the Owl Sanctuary in Stonham Aspall which turned out to be a bit of a hidden gem. We were the first (and only) ones there, it wasn't huge but the animals were obviously well cared for and it was all very unspoilt and pleasantly uncommercial. Next door was a mini-golf course so we played 2 rounds of that, and then went back to Bury St. Edmunds for lunch in town. Back home we baked a chocolate cake together and then it was time for me to drop him back off with J. We had a lovely day though, it was so nice to give him all my attention and in a way, get to know him a bit better again.

Last week I finished knitting a silvery-grey scarf for a friend who's going through a tough time right now. The pattern is the Ripple Scarf from Anniken Allis and though the stitch pattern is extremely simple, I've really enjoyed knitting it. A few years ago I remember reading a blog where knitting was described as rhythmic and soothing. This pattern was just that. I may well make another one.

And with that, I'm off to bed with a hot water bottle and the last few chapters of Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell. I'll leave you with a picture of the pear cake that was our dessert this weekend - before it got devoured!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Monday 3 October

The camera and I have been reunited. Amazing how much I missed having it to hand. BadPenny suggested I should have two of everything. Unfortunately, you end up with two items in one house and none in the other - ask me how I know...!
I hadn't downloaded photos off the camera for a couple of weeks and found 73 photos this morning which I hadn't seen yet. A quick catch-up:

The weekend before last I had a day with 12yo on my own. We sometimes do a swap where one child gets to have one parent for the day. It was lovely to have a bit of one-to-one time with her, without having to split myself between two children and their varying interests.
The day began with a riding lesson, which she has started a few weeks ago.

So far she's been riding the stubborn horses - perfect for a beginner but she hasn't quite learnt yet that she needs to be quite authoritative with them!

Afterwards, we did a charity shop crawl - there are eleven of them in Bury St. Edmunds and we had a great time exploring them all. I came home with a new skirt, a cardigan and another bowl, and 12yo bought a lovely evening dress for a disco she's been invited to next week. Of course, all that shopping makes thirsty and hungry...

And no, she's not drinking coffee yet - it's tea in a cafetiere - very posh!

Autumn more than any other season makes me want to cook. Almost like an instinct to preserve things for winter time!
We are trying our hand at making sloe gin

This is just after we shook the right-hand bottle, I'm hoping when it is ready to drink, it'll be that colour as it's gorgeous.
I have also made apple and plum jelly which was much easier than jam and turned out another beautiful colour

and thanks to a prolific apple crop I am constantly making apple cake in various forms - unfortunately, I hardly get the chance to take a photo before it's all gone as I have several grateful recipients!

I'm still trying to get a decent bike ride in every weekend. The days are now too short to go in the evenings during the week, I'm thinking about going swimming again a couple of times a week now that I don't run anymore either. Biking is still the best though - I love exploring the countryside and stumbling upon little villages with sometimes well hidden churches. This week I noticed this gravestone

Very sad - she'd been through so much heartache.

And although we're going through a heatwave in the UK at the moment, you can tell it is Autumn by the trees - some of them are looking decidedly bare

I love poplars, they're my favourite trees. They're tall and majestic, they make beautiful lines against the landscape, they smell lovely in Springtime and they rustle like no other tree.

Last but not least, 9yo and parttime dog pretending to be Indians and wolves....

Not sure what it is with that dog but he loves posing for the camera!

Hope to have some knitting pictures next time. Night for now!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Saturday 1 October

O the nightmare of two 'homes'. Both the kids and I regularly find that things that we need, are not in the right house. School shoes. Books. That particular pair of trousers. PE kits. House keys (yes, have done that on more than one occasion!)
In this case it was my camera. I left it at B's house on Sunday afternoon and have not been back since, and I've really missed it. Yes, I've missed B too! but I may have missed the camera possibly just a tiny bit more ;-)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Wednesday 21 September

I love Autumn. There is something to like about all seasons, but Autumn has something special. It starts off with the heavier dew in the mornings, which can start as early as August. Really, once harvest is out of the way, Autumn is sneaking its feet under the table. A tree will have some turning leaves. The days become shorter, the shadows longer. And then it's back to school and signs of Autumn become unmistakeable. The hedges are full of berries and their colour complements the gold and brown of the leaves so beautifully. There are apples in abundance. The light and even the smells change. And I love it. I want to cook hearty meals in the slow cooker. Draw the curtains and light the candles. Listen to the wind howling outside and kick the leaves on the ground. Pick apples and sloes and blackberries and pears and not let anything go to waste. And more than at any other time of the year I want to knit - snuggle up on the sofa, the radio or television on, and knit endlessly. Such simple pleasures - but what could be better?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tuesday 20 September

We are slowly beginning to find our feet in the new routine of a new school year, but a certain little boy found it all quite tiring to start off with...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Wednesday 14 September

An essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail.

- Edwin Land

Read this on another blog and it struck a chord. I spend my life being apprehensive about trying new things, thinking I'll fail. Where knitting, crochet, cooking is concerned though, I don't think that at all. It doesn't matter if I fail, I just rip out and try again. It doesn't feel like failure, just a learning process.

Shame I can't see more things in my life that way!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Wednesday 7 September

ETA: I thought I had posted this earlier this week - only to find it still in my Blogger edit box!

7 September. The start of a new school year. The date has been imprinted on my mind for the last 6 weeks.
This year was the first year I carried on working through the summer holidays. I am very lucky in that I have a certain flexibility in my work hours - as long as I end up doing my hours, it doesn't matter too much when they get done (within reason of course). In previous years I reduced my hours during the holidays, but with I. and N. getting older and needing less input from me, and having worked through half terms, I thought this year I'd give it a try.
As expected, it's been hard work. Very hard work. I have been tired beyond belief. I have wanted to hit the alarm-clock in the mornings and roll over and go back to sleep. I have dragged myself kicking and screaming to the computer after the kids had gone to bed. At times, it seemed all I did was run after myself trying to keep up.
But, we had a good time too. We didn't have time for long outings but we managed the odd coffee here, a visit to an antiques place there. We walked miles with the part-time dog. The kids learnt that if you want something, sometimes you have to work for it, and sometimes you need to help out at home just because you all live in the same house and everybody has to pull their weight. They read a lot, they baked a lot, they made me coffee a lot and towards the end of the break they started to argue a lot. 9yo especially was very ready to see some other people than just his parents and his sister, to be a bit more challenged again. Shoes, ties, shirts, trousers were bought and tried on. Stricter bedtimes were reinforced again (under much protest).
And then suddenly it was the last day of the holidays. It was wet, wild and windy. We stayed in our pjs all day and slowly it began to dawn on me that despite looking forward to having a routine and some time to myself again, it was going to be very quiet and empty around here too.
This morning we stood at the bus stop at 7.30 am and I was struck not by how big 9yo looked in his new shirt and tie, ready to start his new school, but more by how much 12yo has grown up in the three years she has attended the same school. And I realised once again that as they get older, they become better company all the time, and how much I'll miss having my little people around.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wednesday 24 August

We had a lovely week in Holland last week. Crammed full of activities and in some ways very tiring, but as they say, a change is as good as a rest!
We managed a long bike ride (almost 30 miles!) with lots of sight-seeing along the way

Entrance to castle Doorwerth

Watching barges in the many sluices you find along the Rijn (spot the cat!)

The other side of the sluice gates

A little church - often not as richly decorated as in Britain

And funny little ferries to cross the river

Including a seagull hitching a lift!

This one only took bikes and pedestrians

We went for a long walk, with much protesting until we found this

where some paddling needed to be done of course

Lots of good food


The best cheese sandwich

Patat (chips) at the station

With the best mayonaise in the world, according to 12yo

Some retail therapy

And a very unusual activity

A few weeks before we went to Holland, mum discovered a 'pick your own bunch of flowers' garden. I didn't expect too much but it was actually a lovely place, all set out in semi-circular borders, with a pond in the middle, plus lots of seating areas. You get given a basket and a pair of scissors, pick what you like and then pay for your bunch of flowers. It had only been open a few weeks and they hope to offer tea and coffee next year - but as it was, it was a great place with lots of beautiful flowers.

And we did lots of tourist walks in the town where I grew up

Square with town hall and second tallest church spire in Holland

Before we knew it, it was time to go home again, and none of us really wanted to! Still, it was lovely spending time with mum (who had her last radiotherapy treatment while we were there, so we celebrated with coffee and cake), dad and seeing some friends too. Already counting the days till November!