Tuesday, July 31, 2018

100 of 10 - Day 8 - Bird Boxes

We encountered this little collection of bird boxes on our way home from the Noordwijk Bootcamp today and they caught my eye because they had clearly been painted by children. They looked very sweet, up in that tree. 

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Monday, July 30, 2018

100 of 10 - Day 7 - Structure & Symmetry

We encountered this bizarre and imposing structure yesterday when we drove to the mountain bike track. Up on the hill, behind the track, was a large climbing wall. A bit to the left was... this. It's the strangest thing, and I'll post more pictures of it when I construct my next holiday update, but as this is a one picture kind of post I leave you with the strange symmetry of this structure. 

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Sunday, July 29, 2018

Holiday update... Oh, and 100 of 10 of course (Day 6 - Gull)

We are really getting into the holiday groove here. 

It always takes us a few days, and then of course it's been so hot for the past few days, and that resulted in a whole lot of lethargy and inactivity. For the past two days we were pretty much holed up at home during the day and only ventured out in the morning and the evening hours. 37 degrees is just a little too much to do much, and even going to the beach at mid-day seemed out of the question when temperatures were this high. 

As a result I've felt a bit cooped up, and I also had the usual pangs of guilt over the boys' screen time, but it was so hot that I couldn't really ask them to go do anything else when all I was able to do was sit somewhere with a cold drink and read a few blog posts here and there. Boy #1, still struggling with ME, suffered particularly. He normally really enjoys drawing and it's his main low-energy activity besides his tablet, but with the heat he's just felt too tired and drained to do much other than watch YouTube videos. Not fantastic, and my parenting-guilt was at an all-time high, but sometimes you just have to live, you know? 

Despite the heat we've had a good time so far. I've got a lot further with my sun hat - just need to add a couple more rows and then need to get some hat wire to finish it.

 There have also been numerous beach trips with the boys in the mornings and evenings, either all together, or at times just in small groups with those interested and willing to get out, lots of ice cream at the lovely Italian ice cream cafe down at the beach promenade, even little trips to the supermarket have been made more enjoyable than the usual grocery shopping by the adventure of finding new and intriguing food stuffs. 

A few days ago I brought home a promising-looking tub labelled (to me at least) totally incomprehensibly with: "De Zeeuwsche Boerin" - De Beroemde Zeeuwse Keukenstroop. It's a pretty-looking tub, quite old-fashioned. It was in the same shelf with all the chocolate sprinkles and the jam and honey, so I knew it probably wasn't cod-liver oil or liver pate, or worse, some kind of household cleaner, but other than that I had no idea! We had an old family friend who lives in the Netherlands visiting that day, so I presented the tub to him and asked him if he could identify its contents. He explained that it's a syrup made from apples, which is traditionally produced in the Zeeland region further to the south. I've been eating the stuff on my bread rolls every morning since, it's lovely!! 

Grandma watched the kids for us one afternoon and despite the heat D and I cycled to the next village, Noordwijkerhoud, to visit the bike shop there because we had seen that they had old ex-rental bikes for sale. It's a cute little place and we stopped for some iced tea at the market square.

The bike shop visit was successful too - I'm now the proud owner of my own Holland bike - meet Paula, my new ride! 

I've also done a bit of exploring. You might have seen my previous 100 of 10 photography post, but I think I've found Noordwijk's haunted mansion, or rather, haunted hotel. It's all boarded up and it looks very mysterious - it sits in a row of immaculate and quite posh properties right by the beach and it's clearly been empty for a long time. I wonder what happened and why nobody has bought it? It was a good photo opportunity anyway.

Last night the heatwave finally broke with a storm and in the early hours of the morning we had thunder and lightning and a lot of rain. By noon today the skies cleared again, but it's remained in the low twenties and it's been as windy as you'd expect it to be at the North Sea coast. We took the opportunity to head out on our bikes for a bit, as a family. This coast line is so beautiful - endless wide beaches, dunes, and I'm so in love with all the bicycle paths everywhere. I really love that we can head out with the kids and don't have to be terrified to go on a road with them, and the pace of life that comes with cycling everywhere is so much nicer than all that racing around in the car that we normally have. 

After a picnic lunch at a beach on the way D headed back with boy #1 and boy #2, who were both tired, and I continued on for a while with boy #3, who is always ready to do a bit more or go a bit further. 

Seriously, that boy has so much energy - even during the really hot last few days, when we were all just lying around, he was playing football in the baking-hot courtyard and asking to play Frisbee!! 

We are planning a trip to a local mountain bike park tomorrow, and next week we are hoping to make it to Amsterdam and Le Hague for a few day trips. I can't wait! 

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Saturday, July 28, 2018

100 of 10 - Day 6 - Haunted Mansion

A few days ago I discovered Noordwijk's haunted mansion. 

Well, haunted hotel, really, and I have no idea if it's haunted, obviously, but it certainly looks like it is. I stopped cycling and took photographs because it's truly creepy-looking, even more so because it's in an otherwise immaculate row of quite large and well-kept houses and apartment blocks. It really sticks out and I'd love to know why it's been empty for so long. It was a hotel, that much is obvious from the still present sign 'HOTEL SONNEVANCK' at the front, but it's obviously been empty for a good long while, judging by the state of disrepair and decay. 

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Monday, July 23, 2018

Holiday projects...

So here we are, on holiday, and it's already so so good. We arrived early, after only an hours drive from the ferry at Rotterdam, so we had the full day ahead of us. I'm rapidly becoming convinced that this is the way to holiday - keep the travel time to a minimum and just arrive and dive right in. 

We have a lovely little house only 5 minutes walk from the beach, and since the weather is still absolutely amazing that's exactly where we've spent the majority of our time so far. The boys have basically turned into fish or something, and since they are all so happy and entertaining themselves (thanks for that also go to D, who's been joining in the play a fair bit) I've even got a bit of knitting time in. 

I followed your advice, by the way (how did you all get so sensible?!) - I've brought my parrot socks as an easy project and have left a couple of the more complex WIPs at home. I've found the address of a cute little yarn shop in Amsterdam so I'm hoping for souvenir yarn to take home. One little indulgence that I've brought is some cotton to knit myself a sun hat. I felt that was somewhat appropriate, considering the temperatures...

It's quite a fun project, actually, and very beach-worthy. 

I'm about 16 rows in now, so it's going well. Perhaps, when we go to Amsterdam, I can source some hat wire to actually finish the hat, but even if I can't I'm fairly sure I'll finish this project before we get back because it's far quicker than I thought.

Other than that we've been doing a lot of eating and lazing around, and cycling - you can't go to the Netherlands and not cycle, after all - and I'm thoroughly enjoying myself. Noordwijk is a lovely and very lively place and the weather obviously helps, but I suspect that even if it wasn't this sunny we'd have a great time here. 

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100 Days of 10 & holiday-ing

I'm challenging myself to 100 days of 10 minutes photography. My theme is 'Life' so this can pretty much be anything that I feel captures life at a particular moment in time.

I may not comment a lot on these pictures, depending on what they are about, but you can expect a fair number of photographs over the coming 100 days! 

So here we go, post one of 100:

Day 1: Beach, Noordwijk, Netherlands, July 2018

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Through My Lens

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Holiday prep...

We are off on holiday to the Netherlands in a few days time.

Well,  next Friday really, but this coming week is looking to be such an insanely busy week, with school stuff, and getting all the critters sorted, and boy #1's leavers celebrations (he is off to secondary school in September! Where has time gone!?), and then an unexpected hospital appointment for me next Wednesday, which will likely set me back a day or so in preparation, that I really have to get a move on with my holiday prep now or it won't get done in time. It feels weird to be quite this organised, but I'm going with it...

This does not mean, however, that I have my priorities completely in order. I have, for example, already spent an unreasonably long time contemplating what knitting projects I want to bring. Do you find that you spend far too long thinking about things like this?! Realistically, I probably won't get a lot of time to knit anyway, and yet I find myself weighing up different projects, WIPs, looking at more patterns. Insane, when I have so much to do!

I'm currently thinking of bringing my newest project, the Mohair cowl that I'm knitting with some stash yarn that I recently unearthed. I can't even remember where I got this stuff, but it's quite nice to knit with and will hopefully make a nice light but warm jumper with a generous cowl. There is lots of this yarn, so I'm not likely to run out no matter how generous I make it.

I'm also thinking of bringing my will-it-ever-get-finished Black Acer. This cardi has been on my needles so long it's unreal, but I find it so hard to work on it. It's not so much that the pattern is too difficult as that it takes my full concentration and I so rarely have a moment during the day when I can give it that. I tried knitting in the evening, but the black is awful to work with in artificial light. Perhaps the holiday will allow me to make some headway with this project? I'd really like to wear that cardi sometime before I retire...

I'm also thinking of perhaps bringing my parrot socks?  These are usually my handbag project and I tend to drag them all over the place because they are an easy no-thinking-required stockinette stitch and therefore ideal for quickly picking-up and setting-down as required.

Alternatively I could bring my red Hedgerow socks, again a project that's been on the needles far far too long. This might be the better option because the parrot socks will get finished one day anyway, because they live in my bag and come out whenever I have to wait anywhere for any length of time. The Hedgerow socks however are again somewhat more tricky, with a somewhat fiddly pattern to remember, and if I get distracted I tend to mess it up. Or should I rather take an easy project for the beach?! Decisions, decisions...

I'm also thinking of bringing some yarn to work on the larger version of the little crochet rat I made for boy #2. Boy #3 has been asking for a cuddly larger version for so long now...

I don't know... I have so many pattern ideas at the moment that I am finding it really hard to properly focus on a project. Should I instead bring something new and exciting?!

Or perhaps I should shelve these contemplations for a while and concentrate on packing things like trousers and underpants...

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A Year of Projects
Crafting On

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Ratties big and small...

As you might recall, we have a little mischief of fancy rats that we keep as pets.

They make wonderful pets. Our vet always says they are like mini dogs and he's right. They are affectionate and clever, and always want to cuddle and play. They can be trained too, though we've never bothered. To see them rushing out of their bed to greet us when we come to the cage is a lovely thing to see, and never ceases to make me smile, and that they do so even though a minute ago they might have been fast asleep is even more touching. I never realised, before we owned rats, how much our company seems to mean to them. Rats are naturally more nocturnal, yet in order to spend time with us they will regularly wake themselves up to greet us and to come out for a play. We find that within days they had learned what time of day we usually take them out for free-roaming and they are now always awake at that time, waiting for the fun to happen.

The only drawback - and it's a big one - that rats have is that they have woefully short lives. The average lifespan is below 2.5 years, and for a rat to reach the age of 3 is pretty rare. I once heard someone say that they make bad pets because 'they have huge personalities but such short lives'. While I still think that the good out-weighs the bad and they make great pets I can understand what that person meant. They do have huge personalities and they capture our hearts very quickly and because we get only such a short time with them that can mean a lot of heartbreak.

We have recently lost a few of our ratty friends, and each of them is sorely missed, but the worst death of them, probably because it was so unexpected, and because she was so very young to have to go, was our Tam. She developed a prolapse that, despite an emergency operation, reappeared and didn't improve so she had to be put to sleep.

We were so sad, and boy #2 in particular took it very hard. Tam had been 'his', and her gentle and affectionate nature spoke to him in particular. In rat circles such a special connection is often talked about in terms of a 'heart rat'. Tam was his heart rat. He still has pictures on the wall to remind him of her, but when I found this little pattern I knew I wanted to make a little 'Tam' for him as a memory of his ratty girl.

I'm now planning to make crochet versions of all our ratties, past and present, and boy #3 has also already put in an order for a large rat that he can snuggle better than the small ones (these are really small!), so I'll be busy for a while...

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Monday, July 09, 2018

Hello there?

Anybody here?!

Likely not, especially with this amazing weather still going on. Honestly, what's happening to the UK?! The last time I remember a summer that was even close to what we are experiencing right now was more than a decade ago when I was pregnant with boy #1. Pretty much every summer since has been... kind of soggy?

Anyway, much as  I seem to be unable to find a blanket thin enough to sleep with at night, I am enjoying this weather immensely.

And... I even have some FOs to report back on.

I've actually knitted and crocheted lots in recent months, but I always seem to forget to take pictures and blog. So what I'll do is do a few posts for individual projects until I feel that I'm more or less up to date.

First one up, my market bags.

I made two of those, in different sizes. This one is the larger one  - oddly it looks smaller here than the small bag, but that's because I had to sew the handle over to shorten it because it was so deep that if I had a lot of things in it it hung down to my knees. 

I've actually really loved making these. I have so many odds and ends of yarn, either leftovers from other projects, or skeins of handspun that I had no idea what to do with... When I saw this project I initially wanted to buy the 'Homespun' that the pattern called for, but then restrained myself because I'm trying to save money AND I'm still trying to reduce my unruly yarn stash. As I was wondering what to do I realised that if I pulled together 2 or 3 strands of yarn and alternated them gradually (so just changing one strand at a time) I could get a really nice effect going where different colours would gently blend and mix.

I used an insane amount of yarn, and because I could alternate between two and three strands, depending on the thickness of individual strands, I've been able to use lots of different yarns, from sock yarns to thicker handspuns. I'm so pleased, both with the reduction in stash and with the way these bags have turned out. They are sturdy, and striking and I love them!

Initially I made the larger one, and by larger I mean it's HUGE. Boy #3 fits in it. That size can be useful, but on an ordinary day it's a little too large - I'm constantly fishing around in it and can't find my phone or wallet. So I made the smaller one (picture below) by simply reducing the increases by a few rows. So simple! I took that one out for the first time today and it's pretty much perfect for what I need. Small enough that things don't just get lost, and  I still managed to fit lots of stuff in. These bags are like the Tardis, honest.

Who knows, I may make a smaller one still, as a sort of handbag?

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