Monday, 18 May 2015

Crochet Picnic Blanket -Ta-dah!

It would appear that if you want it to rain for a prolonged period of time, the thing to do is crochet yourself a picnic blanket!

After finally finishing said blanket, I was over the moon at the thought of being able to use it at my earliest opportunity – and then the heavens opened and every chance I get, rain beats me to it!

But alas, I did manage to find a reasonably pleasant day when the grass was dry and got a few shots of the blanket laid out in all it’s glory, unfortunately the pictures were taken in my back garden when I would have loved them to be of some sunny outing, but I’m sure when the time comes, I will seize it with both hands and plan a great day out, picnic blanket in tow!

Until I can manage to get some half decent shots of the blanket and myself the chance to write a decent round up of how it did it, I will leave you with these few simple shots, taking them was a challenge in itself with the girlies trying to get into shot every time!!! I thought I would one on just so they think they succeeded (which they always do!!!!)

Be back soon, xx


Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Nearly there!

I’ve reached that stage with my current piece of work I’m crocheting where I can finally see the end in sight, I know it will only be a few more days, a week or 2 at most and I will finally be sewing in that last end and snipping off the last thread when I can finally stop all work and say ‘I’ve finished – hurrah’

Oddly though I’m beginning to slow down and take my time, knowing that it will all be over. It’s much like when you’ve been out for a gruelling run, the journey hasn’t been easy and at times you’ve wanted to give up or questioned why you even started and then suddenly you see the finishing point and you know you’re gonna make it, that actually it was quite a ride and you begin to settle down into it and enjoy it at a leisurely pace, thoughts of all the struggles gone in a whisper.

Or when you’re reading an epic novel which took you ages to get into and understand the plot and an age to get to know the characters without having to re-read the last chapter to remind yourself and then suddenly you’ve only a few chapters to go and you realised you’re not ready to leave these people and their lives, that you want to hold on that little while longer and you begin to savour every word, well that’s how I feel right now.

This blanket has really been a while in the making, I think I actually started way back at the start of last year in fact, I can argue that life got a little bit in the way because at one point life really didn’t have much opportunity in it for me to even lift my hook, let alone finish this blanket, but it’s true what they say, time really does fly.

 Here I am, my all consuming baby girl on the brink of turning 2 and fast becoming so independent – her favourite saying right now being ‘I do it!’ to testify to this fact. Increasing my working hours from part time to full time. A house move that I thought would cause me such upheaval and months of unrest is now a distance memory and thankfully an easy transition. And finally my eldest daughter, fast becoming a young lady in front of my eyes took to the relocation, new school and friends so easily and so well that I don’t know why I ever fretted so much like I did – kids really are so very resilient!

So here I am, finally able to slip back to a way of life I enjoy so very much – gardening, reading, days out with the family, crocheting, baking and even a return to Blogland.

And much like finishing a good read or getting to the end of that long run, the excitement is always to find new books, or a new route (with maybe less hills) or beginning to dream of that next project, all good things come to an end, but when one door closes, another one opens.

So I will enjoy getting to the end of my blanket, I will dream of the day when I fold it up and take it with us on our next outing and I will quietly gloat at what I have achieved while we sit and eat our first picnic on it, any takers on who will be the first to spill juice all over it??

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Easter Break

The second week of the school Easter Break has been as busy as the first, only this week I also had to fit in going to work for 2 days as well, but the time I wasn't at work was enjoyably spent with my 2 girls.

On Friday we went to Harewood House, it is only a short 10 mile journey from where we live and well worth the visit. It has lovely grounds, an amazing adventure play area for the kids of all ages and places to eat, drink and generally saunter round.  The Bird Garden also had the girls full attention and at 2pm they even fed their resident penguins.

It was so very lovely to just let the girls have their freedom and allow them to run about within sight, enjoying whatever they wanted to do.  They coloured in badges, talked to the birds, ate ice cream and spent sooooo long at the play park that their legs must surely be ready for dropping off

The hours flew by and we had hardly explored all the grounds had to offer and we didn't even visit the house, I figured we could do that another day when the weather was not as nice and it didn't seem fair to drag the girls away from the park to make them walk calmly round the house, they had serious energy to burn!

When we did eventually get home, youngest daughter had fallen asleep in the car and I managed to successfully move her from the car into her bed - result! Then eldest daughter asked if we could use the time to make some biscuits - well, this at least meant I could try out my latest purchase, my biscuit stamp!  

Using a simple plain biscuit recipe:

250g softened butter
140g caster sugar
1 egg yolk
300g plain flour
2 tsp vanilla extract

Daughter No1 quickly mixed together the butter and sugar, added the egg yolk and vanilla extract and finally the flour and I mixed them all together and formed it into a ball.  Taking small portions of the mixture and rolling it in my hand to make a small ball the size of a walnut, I placed the ball onto the baking tray and using the stamp, pushed it down firmly onto the ball of dough till it was half a centimetre thick - easy!

These were then popped into a preheated oven of 180C or 160C for fan assisted ovens and cooked for 12-15 minutes or until slightly golden.

I think these would make a lovely gift popped inside a polythene gift bag and tied with ribbon, but for now they made a great accompaniment to a good strong cup of tea and 5 minutes peace and quiet while daughter No2 continues to nap!

I'm off to find a corner of the garden with my cuppa and biscuit, while the sun is shining and enjoy the last official day of the Easter school break before it's all back to the usual routine next week - boo!!

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Green Fingers

There is still another week left of the Easter holidays.  Hopefully this week will be a little more relaxed, last week we were away in Cumbria at Centre Parcs, the weather was sunny and warm and we packed a lot in.  

It was nice to see on our return that the seedlings were shooting up fast, the French beans had only just popped their heads out of the compost when we left and now they are a good 6 inches high.

The tomatoes and courgettes are also doing really well and this week I have been potting them onto larger pots, still resisting the urge to plant out in the garden until all chance of frost has passed

The salad leaves have been busy and will soon be ready to use.  I have also sown more trays of these leaves so I can produce a continuos supply for as long as I can.

 The strawberry plants are beginning to show signs of producing their first tiny fruits, just need to remember to get some netting rigged up before the birds notice too!

The 3 potato sacks that I have are all producing lots of lovely growth and I will have to start earthing them up soon. 

My husband surprised my this week by buying me a plastic greenhouse, it was as cheap as chips but it means I can move my assortment of trays and pots from the numerous windowsills.  For the last week I have been hardening off these seedlings outside during the day and now feel they can tolerate a night in the greenhouse if frost isn't forecasted. 

They all look like they are coping well. 

Back soon xx

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Spring is Springing

I just can’t believe it, I’ve been away from this blog for near on 13 months. At the time I hadn’t given it any thought that I would be taking time away, just other things happened that meant I simply didn’t get the time! A young baby, returning to work and full time hours and moving house twice all took its toll on giving myself the time and luxury of writing posts, let alone actually doing anything worthy of posting about.
I have been fortunate enough though to at least find time to do a few projects, crochet wise, and I always find time to bake, my kids would perish if their diet didn’t include plenty of cupcakes, I’m sure the hubby would divorce me if I stopped baking!!

This time of year though is when I really feel myself getting excited, I love spring, with that sense of anticipation of what is to come. Already we have seen a couple of warm days, with temperatures high enough to get out in the garden and even cut the grass.

Since moving to West Yorkshire from Lincolnshire, my only regret about the move has been the loss of my allotment. If I’m honest, I was fortunate to be offered a new plot near where I live now, but at the time, my second daughter was still so very young and the plot needed a lot of work, the 2 factors combined meant that I didn’t have the time or energy to commit to it and sadly I declined the offer.

But every cloud has a silver lining and as much as the thought of moving house again so soon after moving previously filled me with dread, the upheaval and effort has all been worth it because this house has a lovely big, south facing garden – I feel so lucky. I have never had such a big garden, well not since when I was a kid. Not only can we fit in the obligatory trampoline and also a small playhouse, but I also can think about starting to grow a bit of fruit and veg.

Nothing will ever be on the scale of when we owned our own plot, but in hindsight, we did produce enough stuff to supply an army – well, in our case, most of the street (not that the neighbours complained, I mean I wouldn’t if I opened my door to a punnet of strawberries, some raspberries, freshly dug potatoes, carrots and beetroots and a handful of mixed herbs) We simply grew so much food that I couldn’t bear to see it wasted but also couldn’t actually manage to handle it all, even if a lot of it went in to making chutney’s, jams and pickles, there was just an endless supply – oh the courgettes!!!!!

So I figure, a kitchen garden will be more manageable and so I have turned every available windowsill into an impromptu propagator and set about sowing some seedlings. Container growing will be the main stay of my kitchen garden with a small vegetable plot to the side of the house. I have also found small pockets in the flower beds that can easily fit in a few rows of strawberry plants and even a globe artichoke. A sad empty gap outside the back door will soon be my herb garden, just big enough to have a small selection of herbs, just in handy reach of when I’m cooking up a storm in the kitchen!

Already I have noticed the bonus of growing my own veggies at home, the kids get to carrying on playing in the garden while I’m preparing seed trays or watering seedlings.
So far on my list of seeds or plants I’m growing are:
Tomatoes / potatoes / rhubarb / globe artichoke / strawberries / peppers / courgettes (yellow & green varieties) / dwarf French beans / mixed salad leaves
In addition I also want to grow carrots / beetroot / raspberries / sweetcorn / cucumbers & shallots. I got some Kale and Chard free with a magazine I bought recently so I’ll give that a crack as well.

The garden also hosts a whopping great big apple tree, cookers, not eaters, but still a great addition to the garden.

So, I hope I will be showing my face around here more often, I am still enjoying crocheting as much as always, bonus there is, in the evening when I can’t be in the garden, I can be slumped out in front of the tv, crocheting instead.

Have a great Easter xx

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Granny Striped Hot Water Bottle Cosy - Free Pattern

I didn't quite believe how reminiscent it would make me feel having a hot water bottle back in my life! It's just not an object that I thought held any real memories, but it has evoked such recollections of when I was a child holidaying in Germany (where we lived at the time) and camping along the River Rhine or Mosel and my mum would pop a hot water bottle into our sleeping bags before me and my sister went to bed to warm it up.  Just the smell is enough to bring flashbacks of that time, they are very vivid!! Also of the time when I slept at my grandparents house. It was many many years ago and sadly they have both now passed, but at the time, they had no central heating except a 4 bar electric fire in the living room. Going to bed at night involved a mad dash up the stairs and into bed because it was so cold, but grandma had always remembered to add a hot water bottle, wrapped in a small towel at the bottom of the bed to keep my feet toastie. Such precious thoughts I had forgotten all about until now, so it has been a lovely experience making up these adorable, candy striped cosy's.

To start, it is basically made using a Granny Stripe, you can either follow my instructions or look for a pattern you already know and love. For my own Granny Striped Blanket I used the pattern from Attic24, but any pattern will do, it's up to you. 

Here is how I did it.

You will need:
UK size 4 hook
Yarn stash (I used DK, 4ply, chunky, acrylic, wool, in fact what ever I had left over from past projects) 
Darning needle
1 Hot Water Bottle (I used a 200ml rubber one, £3 from the local supermarket)

This is all in UK terms

Begin by chaining 66 chain stitches. This fitted the hot water bottle I was using but if yours is bigger or smaller, alter the number of stitches you begin with, just make sure your number is a multiple of 3.

Row 1: 

Into the 2nd chain from the hook, work 1dc, then 1dc into each stitch back to the start again (you should now have 64 stitches in total, or 2 less than when you started if your chain stitch is different to mine)

Row 2:

Turn work & chain 3. Then do 1tr into the first stitch. Miss out the next 2 stitches, then into the 3rd stitch  do a set of 3tr, skip the next 2 stitches, then again another 3tr into the 3rd & so on to the end, EXCEPT only do 2tr into the final stitch. The row should now starts & finish with a set of 2 trebles. (The photo above is showing the first row of chain stitches, row 2 and the start of 3)

Row 3: 

Turn work & chain 3, then work 3 trebles into the first chain space (that's the space between the sets of 3 trebles from the previous row)  then 3 trebles into every chain space till the end of row & finally, do 1 last treble into the final chain space. That row is now complete.

Row 4 (time to change colour):

Draw up your new colour & chain 3. Snip off the last colour BUT leave a long tail, you'll use that later when joining your seam with each of the different colours you use.  Knot your 2 colours together to keep everything in place.  Begin doing groups of 3 trebles into the spaces like in the last row all the way along till the last space & do just 2 trebles. 

Row 5: 

Chain 3 & turn. Then back to groups of 3 trebles into each space till the end & a final 1tr into the last space. 

Row 6: 

Return to instructions at Row 4 & off you go again.  

That's a few rows explained. It's the same from here on in till the desired length, just keep checking against your hot water bottle to make sure.  I did 15 lines of colours, or 30 rows in total to get the length I needed, the last 3 colours will be the shoulders of the cover.  Just remember when joining in a new colour & snipping off the last colour, to leave a decent length of wool for later.

When at the desired length, sew up the bottom or sew in a zip or hook & eyes if you want to get the hot water bottle in & out. 

Now using the long lengths of yarn you snipped off, get a darning needle & begin sewing together the 2 edges.  Using the different threads to sew up the seam it makes it almost impossible to see the join!

Now place the hot water bottle inside and get it so all the lines are straight and it looks even. From now on, the rest of the work will be done with the hot water bottle in the cosy, a bit fiddly I know, but it helps to achieve a snugger fit.

It needs a bit of shaping round the shoulders so tuck in the excess amount and sew into place, again, taking time to use the different colour threads as required. Make sure you sew it nice and as near to the neck of the hot water bottle, keep looking to make sure you keep everything even on each side so it looks symmetrical.

Now for the neck.  

Up until now, each colour has been made up of 2 rows but for the neck I did single rows of colour, I thought it had a better balance.

Row 1 of the neck.

So stating at the side of the neck, insert your hook into 1 of the chain spaces from the top row of your last line of colour & draw up your colour & chain 3. Add 2 more trebles into the same space.  Working round the neck, do 3 trebles into each space till you reach round to where you started. Put your hook through the top of your first ch3 & draw in your new colour.

Row 2 of the neck.

Chain 3 (snip off your old colour and remember to tie the old & new colour together at the back of your work to keep everything in place) work 2 more trebles into the chain space,  then 3tr into every space, all the way round to the start, inserting hook into top of the ch3.

Row 3-5 of the neck

Draw up the next colour and ch3 plus 2tr into the space and continue to work groups of 3tr into the spaces as in the previous rounds.  I did 5 rows round the neck, this covered it just to the brim, again, your neck might be longer or shorter, so amend as required. 

After you have reached your desired length, join with a slip stitch to the top of the ch3 and sew in the end. There, completed!!!

I threaded a ribbon through the central row on the neck, this makes it look decorative as well as keeping it all in place.

And ta-dah, one hot water bottle cosy!

I didn't bother making an opening to mine so that the bottle could be removed, I figured that if it ever needed cleaning, it was ok for the bottle to remain inside, it is water proof after all. 

In the interest of making sure my instructions worked, I followed the pattern to check for mistakes and in the process, made myself my very own cosy too!!

But if anyone does decide to make themselves one and uses my pattern and finds a mistake, please let me know, I will amend it accordingly.

Apart from that, I would be crazy pleased to see any that anyone does, I really would, or even drop me a comment if you can.

Many thanks for stopping by.


Thursday, 27 February 2014

Hot Water Bottle Cover

Isn't earache a stinker? Fortunately (as I tap wood reassuringly) I've not suffered with it for many a year, but during the last couple of days of the school holidays, eldest daughter began to complain of it!!!

Now, I remember as a child that when I got ear ache, I used to love to lay my head on a hot water bottle and hey presto, it used to take the worst of the pain away!  Alas, we didn't have a hot water bottle or anything else that might provide some warming assistance other than a warm flannel but that soon went cold. 

Anyway after a fretful night, I managed to get my daughter a doctors appointment early next morning and once we were sorted with a course of antibiotics for a now diagnosed ear infection, our next stop was the local supermarket and of course my reason was to try and find that all elusive hot water bottle.

Now, I haven't bought one in years, if ever, but if I have ever spied one for sale, they are usually quite a fancy affair, usually coming in it's own beautiful cozy with lovely designs etc and I did wonder if my local supermarket would cater for something so elaborate! Well, it did, only it only had on offer the bog standard rubber hot water bottle, no cute cosy accompaniment! So that meant one thing, I would just have to make one myself (or as my grandma used to do in the day when we visited and stopped over, wrap it in a hand towel - as if!!!!)

So, taking a brief break from rustling up triangles for my latest blanket, I took hold of my trusted bowl of left over balls of yarn and set about making a cosy. A cup of tea and a slice of date and walnut cake to set me up and off I set.

Now if you like the look of this cover, I'm going to make up a pattern on how I made it. But in the mean time, I am reliably informed my daughter, now very much on the mend, that the new hot water bottle is a resounding hit. Ear ache, now very much a thing of the past, the hot water bottle is now entrusted in keeping her tootsies warm at night, and there was me thinking that I might get my hands on it and warm my toes as I am reputed in having the coldest feet ever!!! 

So it looks like it's back to the shops for me to buy another hot water bottle for myself but in the meantime I'll set about editing all the photos I've taken of this one and piece together a pattern for it.

Will be back soon with that pattern!