Thursday, July 02, 2015

Allotmenting...

Just feast your eyes on this...



This time of year the allotment doesn't look like much (it starts to look more impressive in August, when the cut flowers are in full swing), but it's already productive.

When I went a few days ago I harvested a bucket-full of sweet and juicy strawberries, some rhubarb, a bowl of mangetout and the first batch of broad beans. Delicious! 

Looks drab, doesn't it?


Yet, when you look closer:









And lastly, the strawberry plants - doesn't look like they are hiding all those ripe strawbs, does it? 


If you have any productive garden news to share I'd love to hear from you. Just leave a comment below. :)  

Friday, June 26, 2015

FO - Eyelet Yoke

What a week this was! At one point I thought I couldn't possibly get it all done, and then I discovered errors on the computer system at the very last minute, and then... Well, enough said about that, it's all done now. Today I spent a bit of time attending to things that I haven't been able to do recently, such as going to the bank for example. Nothing exciting, but it felt good to re-connect. I also dropped off and picked up boy #3 from preschool and he was delighted and so excited that I was picking him up. That felt good too.

I have also finished the Eyelet Yoke. I didn't do that today, though, although I did sew the ends in just now, while 5 (!) boys are playing Super Mario on the Wii all around me (the noise level is pretty awesome...). We have been watching a new drama on TV, Humans, and it's gripping enough that it let me completely forget how boring I find sleeve knitting.



The sleeves are still sort of short - but I like it that way. It fits really well and the yarn is oh so soft. 


I also quite like how the neckline has turned out. 


Although if I wanted to quibble I'd say that I would have been better off with a less stretchy cast-on (I used the stetchy German cast-on). With less stretch the neck wouldn't be quite so wide, which doesn't matter at the front, but gives me quite a generous dip at the back too... It doesn't gape, though, so it's OK. 


Pattern alterations:

Well, I re-sized the pattern so it would fit me. 
I also changed the hem. The original has quite an interesting short-row hem that makes the sweater longer at the back than at the front, and I was quite tempted by it, but while I thought it'd be great for jeans, I knew that I'd be wearing this sweater a lot with skirts and I don't think that kind of hem would look that great with those. 

Overall I'd give this top marks - the pattern, that is, not my knitting! ;)  

Rav page is here, but it doesn't really say anything I haven't discussed in my updates on the blog. 


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Friday, June 19, 2015

Oh boy...

... life has a way of getting in the way of good old honest blog writing, doesn't it? 

Not that it's been all bad, but the past few weeks have been absolutely packed with all sorts of things, both brilliant and not so brilliant.

On the down side (getting that out of the way first), work has been insane. INSANE, I'm telling you. Not just for me, we've all suffered. My colleague pulled an all-nighter the other day, working 30 hours in a row, with no sleep, just to catch up. While I am familiar with that from my student days it really isn't something that you regularly do in your 40s I think. She admitted that she felt absolutely dreadful afterwards and it took days for her to recover, but it needed to be done at the time.

While I've refused to work all night my days have been pretty intense BUT it's almost done now. Sure, I have other things to do (and I'll get on with those today, so I can finally, finally not feel guilty about postponing them again), at least the big big marking is out of the way and once we have our exam boards next week it will be properly finalised and DONE. 

Now, that's the bad stuff. The good stuff is pretty great too! 

First of all, boy #1 had his first holy communion a couple of weeks ago. 


We celebrated the day quietly, just us, and grandma, and D's uncle and aunt were there for the occasion. After the ceremony there was cake in the church hall and then we all came back to our house for some food. It was nice, and it was so lovely to see D's uncle and wife. They are getting older and who knows how long it will be possible for them to travel, so it was doubly appreciated that they decided to come for the celebration.


A week later (as in last weekend) was my birthday. My 40th birthday no less! 


Again, I didn't think we had anything big planned. D convinced me that we should mark the occasion with a nice meal in a restaurant we both like, and again (I thought) we'd planned to just have a quiet meal (well, not quiet per se perhaps, with the boys...), together with grandma, who lives very close by. Little did I know that they'd both been plotting for months! When we got to the restaurant who should I find but my dad and my 2nd mum and her aunt from Germany AND my brother-in-law and his family, all waiting for us?! They'd all been planning their surprise visit for months and my German family had stayed with grandma for the night before the party so I wouldn't know anything about it. 

Needless to say I was completely stunned! Such an amazing birthday surprise!


The relatives stayed for a few days afterwards, which was lovely, and went back to the airport on Wednesday, thereby concluding our very sociable last few weeks. 

Despite the not-quite-so-nice work pressures it's been a good few weeks. 

The only thing that has really suffered (besides the blog) is my knitting. I managed a few rows here and there, but it's been fairly unimpressive. 

Anyway, there you go, my excuses are made! ;)  

And since I have no knitting worth mentioning that I could contribute to this post today, have this instead - can you spot what is wrong with this picture?


Yep, you got it, it's a chicken in the kitchen. Nyla managed to escape quite a bit recently. She has been a bit unwell, poor lady, but ever since she recovered she's been up to her old tricks, flapping over the fence of the chicken enclosure, and then running, as fast as she can, to the back door so she can slip in while nobody is looking. As soon as she's gobbled up all the cat food she'll make her way to the kitchen to forage for crumbs under the table. 

Naughty girl, that Nyla. 

Rex disapproves.


Right she is. 

Anyway, up and onwards, hopefully towards less stressful worktimes and more productive knitting and crafting. 

Friday, June 12, 2015

Matilda Update

You may remember our little caravan project? Our Matilda?

Well, since painting the outside, more has happened.


After much contemplation we decided that we could either discuss and plan our Matilda revamp for another 5 years...

OR

... we could just go ahead and start painting! 

We are taking an entirely slap-dash approach to this. If you are a DIY perfectionist this may turn your stomach, but hey, if you have a job that needs doing and that has been nagging you for some time, just do it badly and you might actually be able to get it off your to-do list and start enjoying the results, right?

That's what we are telling ourselves anyway...


We've done no sanding, in fact, no kind of preparation at all, other than taking the door handles off and roughly filling and sanding the hoes (I don't want to re-use the handles and want to replace them with smaller door knobs).

D went digging in the shed and came up with three different tubs of white paint, which we mixed together and tadah! we were ready to start!

Initially we were only painting visible surfaces, but I've changed my mind and will paint the insides of the shelves and the seating area too now, despite the fact that it will have cushions on. The kids are bound to take the cushions off at some point and it would look so bad if we leave this kind of mess under there... 


We've applied one coat so far, but I anticipate that it will need three coats to cover completely. After we are done we'll probably put some blue vinyl floor down or alternatively paint the floor with blue floor paint, and then it's on to the soft furnishings - yay! :)  

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

FO on Wednesday

Meet Liesl!


I actually finished this a while ago but then it was lying around, waiting to be washed and blocked, and well, lace really doesn't look great if it isn't blocked, so I didn't want to photograph her before that was done. 


Then, when I had finally got round to the blocking I still had to find some suitable buttons. These ones were luckily located in my big vintage button jar - looking at them they probably belonged to one of D's gran's old coats or jackets...


They are perfect for Liesl I think. 

Unfortunately I then sewed them on too far apart and rather than take them off and sew them on closer together straight away I got bored, lost interest, and did something else for a few days. Do you ever do this, or is it just me who does bizarre things like get side-tracked away from a project that is literally 5 minutes from being complete?!

Anyway, it's finally done, and I love it!  


Photos, as usual, taken by boy #1. 

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Wednesday, June 03, 2015

WIP Wednesday

Is it really Wednesday again?

Already?

This week really has raced by. It seems like yesterday that I posted my last Wednesday WIP update.

Progress this week exists, but is a bit unspectacular.

I’ve been watching Orange is the New Black (so good!!) and while I was doing that I was mainly working on the Eyelet Yoke, which is at that mindless stage of sleeves knitting. Oh, how I hate sleeves. I should really only knit short-sleeved garments, because I get so bored with sleeves and when I get bored I start procrastinating and progress stalls…

I’ve at least managed to get past the elbow, so I guess I’m on the home-straight with this sleeve at least.

Not exciting, but for the sake of documentation, here it is:
 

I’ve also taken delivery of a huge (and I mean HUGE – I kind of underestimated how much toy stuffing 1kg was!!) bag of polyester toy stuffing, so I was able to finish Roly’s body. I quite like this project – it’s fussy, but with all the short rows and the counting, and the Kitchener stitch and the 3 needle bind-offs it’s never dull, and it’s the perfect project to become more at ease with the fiddlier aspects of knitting technique.


Picture of the kitchener stitch seam on the belly: 


I’m also finished knitting the horns and am now on to knitting 14 (!) little insect legs. Once that’s done and all those tiny legs are sewn onto the body I’ll only have to embroider some eyes on and it’s done!!


I’m also slowly continuing to knit on Black Acer. Even though this continues to be slow, considering that for a few months the project stalled almost entirely this is actually really good progress. As I’m settling into the pattern more it is becoming less confounding as well, which is great, because I’m now not continuously glued to the pattern print-out and can actually enjoy the knit.

Here, have a black blob, so you can admire my work this week (isn’t black impossible to photograph?!):


Last but not least, I've been a bad girl and have bought yarn. This was prompted by boy #2's wish for a hat and scarf for next winter, but really, we all know that this is a feeble excuse  - I could easily have found something to use in my stash...

Look at it though, isn't this gorgeous?


This is Manos del Uruguay, Silk Blend, which is a 70% wool, 30% silk yarn, approximately dk / aran weight. I bought it through Ravelry. 


The other day it occurred to me that this Year of Projects is drawing to a close. I can’t believe it’s been one year already.

With that in mind I went back to my original project list to see what I’d achieved. At times I’ve ventured quite far from that original list, so not everything is relevant anymore and I’ve knitted and crocheted things that I didn’t even know existed when I first drew up that list, but again, for the sake of recapping the year, here is the original list:

Ink Flare - DONE
Ink Flare 2 - DONE
Socks for boys - DONE, DONE and DONE
Ubernatural - SWAPPED FOR LIESL (DONE)
Socks for me - DONE
Granny Square Blanket - DONE

 I think I've done pretty well with that original list - and of course I've achieved so much more!! 

Projects that I've completed (or at least started) that were not part of the original plan were:



I think all in all it’s been a productive year, and despite the fact that I’ve been super busy with work. I guess it’s nearly time to start thinking about next years’ Year of Projects – I’ll better get planning!!

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Monday, June 01, 2015

Grow to Eat #1

This is my first Grow to Eat Link-up post. I decided to make this a Monday one because we often go to the allotment at the weekend and a Monday evening might be a good chance to sort through the weekend gardening.

Things are getting serious down at the allotment. About 10 days ago I popped over there on my own and I managed to plant most of my seedlings. There are still a few to go in, but the majority of them are in the ground. It was ideal, really. I went and planted everything and only watered them in a little bit because I didn't have time, but that night it started to rain and it rained pretty much all day the following day - not a hard rain but a gentle drizzle, ideal to water the seedlings in nicely without damaging them.

The structural stuff is also coming along - the shed is slowly taking shape. After blowing over a few times over the winter D quickly finished the front panel because that is the side that faces the wind the most and because it was partially open it acted like a sail and simply pushed the whole structure over.

D also managed to get a water-butt set up to collect rain water off the shed roof, so we won't have to bring water with us in containers this summer. This was really high on the list, because the site has no running water and we could just never transport enough to water the plants adequately. Since rain isn't exactly a rarity around here the water that get get off the shed roof should sort this problem and in fact, the rain we've had these past two weeks has been enough to almost fill the water butt up to the top!


For the past few months I've also been contemplating how to extend our existing beds without creating a massive headache for myself. When I started planning for this year I realised that in order to really plant everything that I want to I will have to have more beds than we currently have. D was not enthused - he is of the opinion that we should try to come to terms with what we have instead of adding more and I can kind of see where he is coming from. Then there is are the borders for the beds. I quite like the way the wooden borders give the beds a clear definition and without that it would be much more difficult to keep the beds tidy. Because this is an allotment I didn't really fancy buying more wood to frame the beds, though, so all this meant that I was pretty much stuck with my planning.

Then, just as I thought I'd just make do with what I had, one of the allotment old-timers came up with the obvious solution. 'Well, you are just going to combine a few of the beds, aren't you?' It solves all the problems. More planting room? Check. Clearly defined outline? Check. Wooden surround? Check, because I can now just take out two of the wooden planks between the two beds and re-position them between the beds to create a rectangular space. It is kind of obvious, isn't it? Hadn't ever crossed my mind. Not once.

Anyway, yesterday afternoon we went over there again to cut the grass and see how the plants were getting on. We've had a lot of rain recently, so we'd not been for almost two weeks and boy, things really go wild quickly this time of year. Especially weeds, they always seem to grow much more quickly than anything else.

When we arrived it all looked a bit unkempt. D got the mower out and started, while the boys settled in for a bit of mud play in their favourite patch. I was going to plant in there this week but I'm slowly coming round to the idea that I may have to leave this patch bare (even more need to combine and enlarge beds!) - they really enjoy digging in there and really, the allotment is supposed to be fun for all of us...


Successful as a sand box and as a water-play area but not quite so successful as a vegetable bed - note the almost invisible tiny seedlings to the left, now trampled into the mud by small feet. I think I'll give up on this bed...

Now, look at this patch:


Hard to believe it, but under that clump of weeds is parsnip. I accidentally pulled a few up before I remembered and I'm only managed to weed half of it before we started to get attacked by our neighbour's honey bees and had to leave. Does anyone know why this happened? They are normally really peaceful and have never bothered us before, but this time they actually pursued both D and myself around the whole patch. So strange.

Anyway, when we left the patch looked like this - not much progress, but it was quite tricky to extract the parsnip seedlings from the weeds!


And what is going on elsewhere? 

The potatoes are doing well and I have to make sure to fill the tubs up with soil in the next few days.


I've planted these in tubs this year because 
a) they took an awful lot of room in the plot last year and 
b) we hardly got to eat any of them because they were so riddled with potato worms. I am hoping that growing them in plastic bags / tubs will deter them a bit...

I have also planted up some of my poor neglected tomato seedlings in the greenhouse at home, but they looked too sorry for themselves for a decent photo, and the salad bowl on the patio table is looking amazing! It's actually a mix of some salad bowl seed mix, rocket seeds, and some replanted plants from one of those supermarket 'living salad' packets. They looked pretty sorry for themselves because I had forgotten to water them, so I thought I'd give them a chance and replanted them around the edge of the pot. I didn't think they'd all make it but well, apparently they are tougher than they look!


So there you go, the season is well under way!! 

This is the first post in my new 'Grow to Eat' series. Since I am posting a lot about allotmenting and vegetable / fruit growing (and cut-flower growing too, so it's a flexible term, lol) I thought I'd start a link-up. I don't anticipate any large response initially, but since I'm posting anyway I might as well make it a thing and invite others to share if they are growing to eat as well. If you do I'd love it if you could link up so  I can find your posts - it's always more fun if you can share, and I'd love to see (and possibly learn from) what others are doing! 

(A better button will come, but I'm not that great at making them so don't get too excited! ;) )





   

    An InLinkz Link-up
   

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

WIP Wednesday...

You know, when teaching finished a couple of weeks ago I really REALLY thought that things were going to be a bit more calm and less frantic and chaotic. 

Well, um...

This hasn't really happened. Yes, I am less busy at work at the moment, but that is only because I am MORE busy at home. Not only is it half term this week (and since I am for once not teaching I am taking some time to spend with the boys) but the boys have picked up some virus. First it was boy #2. He's not often ill, so we were surprised how this illness threw him. He was off school for a whole week, which just never happens to him (he's the kind of kid who will get a badge at the end of term for 100% attendance). It was an odd sort of bug - at times he was almost OK, but he got several temperature spikes throughout the day that we controlled through meds. When he was finally over the bug I worried that the other boys would get it. When over a week passed and nothing happened I started to relax. 

Well, they've got it now. Boy #3 isn't too bad, although he did run a bit of a fever and now has a nasty cough, but boy #1 has got it really badly. The poor child has been lying on the sofa for 4 days now. Initially it was just the fever, but now he has the cough from hell. I'll take him to the doctor's tomorrow so someone can listen to his chest...

So not only do I have all three boys at home at the moment, two of them are also ill, requiring special attention, plus, boy #2, currently not ill, is bored out of his mind because he'd like to go places. ;)  

All this is conspiring against both knitting time and in particular computer time, meaning that updates have been few and far between. That said, here is an update. :)

I've finished the shell of Roly the Pill Bug.


I'm so happy with how the Noro Silk Garden is working out for this project. The colour changes couldn't be more perfect if I'd deliberately chosen them to come out in that way. And that weird set of mushroom-y colours that, in a garment, always looked like something I'd never wear? Perfect for a bug as it turns out! ;)  

Progress on this has now stalled, because I got to the point when I need to stuff the body and then kitchener stitch the belly up and I needed to order some fiberfill because I don't think the sewing cut-offs that I stuffed Totoro with would work for this one because it needs to stay subtle and soft enough to curl up. 

On the plus side, with Roly on hold I've been making a bit of headway with Black Acer. Progress is still slow, but I've started the cable pattern. I'm a little confused because the order of the different pattern repeats is not all that clear, but I think I've got it right... Or so I hope, but once I've done the first set of repeats and can see the pattern better it should be more obvious if I have it right or not.

I tried hard to get a good shot of Acer, but not only is black really quite tricky to photograph but boy #3 insisted on photobombing every single time I lined everything up. :)



He even got his Spiderman to participate...





I suppose Spiderman is quite photogenic...

There is some minor progress on the Eyelet Yoke and on the Weekender, but I've not had time to photograph either of them. Got to aim to be a bit more disciplined again about taking pictures. 

So there you go, that is my update for the week. 

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Sunday, May 17, 2015

A Year of Projects Update

Since I've not managed a proper Wednesday update in a couple of weeks now (for various reasons, see my post a few days ago) I thought I'd do a Sunday crafting overview. 

Things are progressing rather nicely, actually. D and I have been watching House of Cards on Netflix, which has given me some time to get on with my many many WIPs and I do in fact have progress to report on all of them.

Do you find that when you have more than one project on the go you get really fixated on one of them for a few days only to then get tired of it and switch to another one that you work on frantically for a few days? This has certainly been my pattern these past couple of weeks. 

Of course I've created a situation that gives me rather a lot of projects to choose from...

For about a week or so now I've been quite focussed on the Weekender Blanket. I might have to re-name it the House of Cards blanket, I've worked on it that much while watching!



My obsessive hexie crocheting has led to good results, though - I've nearly doubled the blanket in size! 

Of course it's still small, but it's reached the width that I'd like it to have so I'm now working on finishing the straight edge so I can then work on its length. 

I've also finished the body of the Eyelet Yoke Sweater. I was rather nervous when I finally cast off and tried it on - after all, without any actual sizing in the pattern, getting the correct size was a bit of an experiment. It seems to have worked out, though. It's a loose fit, but in a good way, and I'm pleased with it. Now on to the boring sleeve knitting...








Liesl is nearly finished. I've  completed one sleeve and I'm about half-way done with the second, so one evening of concentrated work on it will probably get it done.




Because I'm clearly a little bit insane I've also cast on for yet another crochet blanket. We've started working properly on the inside of Matilda now and looking at her I felt that she really needed a blanket of her own.



For a while now I've wanted to crochet a ripple blanket, and I cast on with a few different shades of blue and some white. It's all acrylic, because this is a camping blanket that is probably going to get washed a lot, but I ordered the yarn, Stylecraft Special DK, is lovely and soft and I really like the way this is turning out. I'm using Attic 24's ripple pattern for this.


I've got some other projects on the go, but that's a topic for another blog post. :)

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