Wednesday, 15 August 2018

The lofty achievements of summer

A fairly random selection of photos from my little camera. It's a busy week this week, but not in a particularly photogenic way, more in a panicky, rushing around sort of a way. Yesterday was good though, a bit of a picnic, some light canoeing, a little sun on our skin, that sort of thing. Although I did find this Memo To Self on my camera afterwards.

The middle boy thought it would be good to canoe in the manner of a gondolier. We had been told that we wouldn't fall in provided we all remained seated. Some challenges are to good to ignore. Happily we didn't fall in, although somehow we were all fairly damp and grubby by the end of it all.

The dog has perfected a new trick which he would like you to know about. It involves leaping high in the air and snatching washing off of the line then running madly around the garden with it, trailing it through the mud and stopping every so often to rip whatever it is to shreds. It gets such a brilliant reaction from the rest of the pack, every single time. He LOVES IT.

He leapt at a passing tractor the other day. I mean really leapt at it. If I hadn't been holding his lead really tightly I don't know what would have happened. I don't know what his plan was, he's not really of a size to take on fully grown tractors. It's obviously something we failed to acclimatise him to in puppyhood. We tried to get him used to everything, but as time has gone on it seems we missed showing him tractors, sleds and those whiny mopeds that schoolboys whizz around on in groups of three or four.

We're around halfway through the summer break now, and as usual I've failed to achieve all my lofty summer goals. I have a list (of course I do) that says things like learn SEO and finish off websites and, oh, all sorts of stuff which I somehow imagined I would manage to magically fit in alongside life.

Things I have done instead: seen crayfish in the stream next to Waitrose (not the native ones which are almost extinct by all accounts, but the big interlopers), got almost all the new school uniform, watched the middle boy fishing, learned what extras and leg-byes are (sort of)(they're cricket things) and started drinking coffee. So you see, I haven't completed wasted my summer. Yourselves? Any achievements you'd care to share?

Friday, 10 August 2018

The trouble with figs

Thank you all for your book recommendations, I have taken note and ordered a few from the library. Hana reminded me that I have The Trouble With Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon, so I've started with that. I'm enjoying it, and I love that it's set in the 1976 heatwave, which is working in nicely with the good summer weather here.

In the garden, the grass is back to greenness after a brief day of rain and the figs are ripening. I do love fig trees, but sadly no-one really likes figs around here. I don't mind the odd one, but I can't eat pounds of them. I am popping them into the freezer in the hopes that I can sneak them into things and people won't notice. Although the crunchy seeds might give them away.

I'm also wondering if I can dry them and put them in mincemeat ready for Christmas. Honestly, you can get away with almost anything in a mince pie. Ask me how I know.

I've been faffing around with fabric this week, in between moaning that I don't have enough time for anything. You know how it is. I have lots of odd bits of fabric and pictures of lovely quilts to inspire me. I'm always drawn to simple squares, and I also like the ones with lots of restful space. Any favourites?

The top two are by Cassandra Ellis from her book A World of Quilts, the grey one is one of Ashley's (from Film in the Fridge) from The Modern Quilting Bee Block Party by Alissa Haight Carlton and Kristen Lejnieks and the last two are by Yoshiko Jinzenji from Quilting Line and Colour.

I think it will all have to percolate for a bit. I don't have time to be fabric shopping at the moment anyway. I shall let it all swirl around in my head for a while. It's been a while since I made a quilt. I like to sew them by hand, late at night, as my brain shuts down for the day. And although I make them slowly, I think I've made around four, as well as a couple on the sewing machine. It wouldn't do to make them too quickly, we'd end up suffocating in them.

Bert is waiting for a moustache trim at the groomer's. And a neatening of the ears. Persuading him to Sit Nicely and be brushed is a work in progress. In fact, much of what we ask him to do is a work in progress. I spent most of last week at the cricket club with him, and he dug holes all along the fence when he was supposed to be lying down dozing like the good dogs were. It seems he doesn't hold with doing nothing.

Any good plans for the weekend? I have Lists to get through, so I'm hoping to be excused from too much traipsing about. We shall see.

Saturday, 4 August 2018

Rendered in wool

We are filling our days with all the boy summer stuff, you know the kind of thing, anything involving sticks, ball games, dogs, trees and rivers. I am keeping a lazy eye on proceedings and reading and writing in the odd moments when my input isn't required.

I have lost the ability to make proper food and we are surviving on salad, picnics and pasta thrown together at the speed of light when it's too late to do real cooking. There are baked goods though, blueberry muffins, banana bars, cherry crumble and orange chocolate chip ricotta cookies. Now I've written it all down it doesn't sound like a particularly good balance I have to admit. Must try harder. But oh, it's so hard to find things that everyone likes. At the moment I've gone off food a bit, and I'd be quite happy having overnight oats (my breakfast of choice) every evening. I do sometimes, if I make a non-vegetarian thing.

In other news, the littlest boy and I found that our town has been rendered in wool. There's a fantastic display in a shop window, apologies for the slightly iffy photos, I used my little camera and there were lots of reflections, but you get the idea. He read out the sign: Created by the Knit and Natter Group, and told me I should join as I like to knit and natter. I do!

Look at the allotments. The cauliflowers!

It's brilliant, all the details really make it. And there's often lots of red, white and blue bunting about the town, for one thing or another, which makes it look quite pretty. They really did do a fantastic job of it all.

I am aiming for some more deck chair time tomorrow, ostensibly supervising stuff but really reading. I finished a book I enjoyed the other day, Burnt Paper Sky by Gilly MacMillan, set in my home town, and I can't settle to a new one at all. I must have started four and put them all down. Too twee, too agressive, too light, too dark. I feel like Goldilocks.

There's something about these perfect summer days that are demanding the perfect book to go along with them. Anyone reading anything good? I have a quite a pile here to choose from, but nothing is leaping out at me. Of course I really ought to be reading something useful, about SEO or marketing or something. You know I'm always blithering on about having no time, and here I am wasting it on dubious fiction. But, oh, it's summer. And not just summer, a perfect summer, like in the magazines. Well, if I half close my eyes and look from a distance. Hope you're all enjoying it too. CJ xx

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

A Beatrix blanket

Inspired by Alicia and Beatrix Potter and a basket full of odd balls of wool, I knitted a little blanket, just right for throwing round my shoulders on a chilly winter's day when I'm working at home and it's not quite warm enough. But of course I am completely out of sync with the world and I have finished it now, during a heatwave. Undeterred, I am showing you anyway, because otherwise I'll forget or I won't get around to it.

In fact now I think about it, I have two quilts here that I've never posted about. One very similar to a previous quilt, but one gigantic purple beast that I really ought to photograph, just to document its birth and existence if nothing else. I'll get to it. I had an idea that I would take it somewhere really photogenic and do some amazing shots of it, a la Ashley at Film in the Fridge who drapes her beautiful quilts over vintage barns and old wooden fences and blossomy trees and makes it all look utterly delightful. But of course I never got around to it. I shall make it a summer project, and add it to a list somewhere, of which there are far too many, with hours worths of ghastly things on them. I am ignoring them in the hopes that they will go away and I'm spending longer than I should reading.

I'm feeling a little glazed actually. Maybe because I'm slacking. I think I do best somehow when I'm at full stretch. Otherwise I go all dreamy and vacant and before I know it the day has flown by and all I have to show for it is a pile of washing up and a small adventure. On today's small adventure we found a wonderful village duck pond with a duck house in the shape of a palace no less. I shall photograph that next time, it was excellent.

In the meantime, all the photos I have are knitting ones, so I apologise to those of you who are feeling the heat. It seems to be a problem in lots of places this year. Fires in the US and Sweden as well as heatwaves in Europe, Africa and North America. Maybe I should call it the Heatwave Blanket. Hopefully when I am shivering at my desk (well, dining table, you will recall I don't have an actual desk) in February, I will think back to these hot days and call up a little of their warmth. That's a thing I think, if you're really hot and you think about ice, it cools you down, and vice versa.

Anyway, blanket.

I remember The Tailor of Gloucester well from when I was little, I loved the story of the cat being sent to buy a twist of cherry-coloured silk, and the mice helping the tailor to finish the mayor's waistcoat while he lay ill, leaving just one buttonhole unfinished. There's something so evocative about the books of childhood isn't there? Maybe the imagination is so much more vibrant then, I don't know, but when I see the books now the memories are strong.

The blanket is a very basic thing, just lots of stocking stitch with a garter stitch border, and just the perfect size for one slightly chilly person. I don't get on well with fancy knitting, although I'd love to create something lacy and holey and pretty. The trouble is I knit late at night when I'm tired, with very little brainpower left. Alicia crocheted hers, which I love. The texture of double crochet is wonderful. But I am somehow more of a knitter. And I worry about how much yarn you need for a crocheted thing. I read something the Yarn Harlot wrote about the amount of yarn eaten up by crochet once, which terrified me. I know where I am with knitting.

Anyway, there it is, one Beatrix blanket, sitting nicely folded on the shelf, waiting happily while we enjoy these long hot summer days. Anything on your needles?

Saturday, 28 July 2018

Dazed and confused

I spent almost the whole week watching the littlest boy playing cricket, and I can honestly say I now see the attraction of it all. Sitting in a chair, on the grass, staring vacantly into middle distance for hours and hours every single day has a very emptying effect on the mind. The grass was bleached, everyone was wearing white, the sun was blazing and I went slightly snow blind. By Friday afternoon I had lost all concept of time and space. Life had narrowed itself down to small boys, cricket stumps and blue ice lollies. I had no idea how many runs we had, who was winning or even what day of the week it was. I propped my parasol over my head and pretended to be concentrating, but really my head was totally empty. Nothing in there at all! Of course, there are those who say that is the normal state of affairs, but while I may appear vacant, all sorts of things are usually swirling round in panicky circles in there. So the emptiness was strange and wonderful. If you are ever offered tickets for five days of cricket, take them. You don't need to know anything about the game at all, it's just a sort of meditative brain cleanse. Don't let anyone tell you different.

Sadly it all came to an end, and we are having to reenter normal life where things are expected of me and I am required to think and act. Sigh. I am already wondering if there will be another one next year.

Back in reality we took advantage of a cooler day and galloped the dog around a bit. The land is dry and pale here, as everywhere. Dare I say I'm loving the weather, despite that. I like not wearing loads of clothes and never being cold and sun every day. And the cricket, let's not forget the cricket.

Next week I think we will tackle some of the chores. Uniform, that sort of thing. Get it out of the way, so we don't have to think about it any more. Then we can slide on into the fun stuff. I have a completely unrealistic pile of books to read, a mental list of places to go and things to do and work to be done as well. It'll get done or it won't, and I shall not be stressed about it. See, still chilled. Cricket, people, you heard it here first.

Monday, 23 July 2018

When the cat's away

I spent the hottest day of the year so far sat in the middle of a grassy playing field watching the littlest boy play cricket, and I have to say, it was rather divine. I had a good chair and a parasol and a packed lunch and a good book and yes, it was blissful. Legitimately allowed to sit down and do not very much. It's not something I ever get away with at home.

I left the bigger boys holding the fort. They had detailed written instructions for making lunch, clearing away, dog walking and fruit picking. It was mostly successful although they did make a rookie mistake with lunch. They put the food on the table and wandered off to get something. By the time they returned to the table the dog had eaten a pile of cheese and most of a giant Scotch egg. (Friends from overseas, do you have such things as Scotch eggs? I feel they may be mostly an English thing. I'm not sure they even have much to do with Scotland. They are a nice hardboiled egg, covered in sausagemeat and rolled in breadcrumbs. English picnic cuisine at its finest.)

Lessons have been learned. The dog normally makes regular runs round the table at lunchtime, just to remind everyone of his presence, and that he is waiting for his lunchtime snack. Apparently today he just went and laid down on the sofa with a big happy sigh and a fat tummy. The size of his tea was adjusted accordingly.

I have just googled Scotch eggs, out of curiosity. Fortnum & Mason claim to have invented them in 1738, a quick glimpse of their version here. The one the dog ate was nowhere near this fancy. And apparently in the 1800s people ate them hot with gravy. What madness is this? Gravy on a Scotch egg, no, no, no.

My lunch was sadly unadventurous, cheese salad sandwiches and a packet of salt and vinegar, although I do have plans to cook nice things in the hols. The middle boy has asked to cook a meal or two, so I need to jump right on that before he goes off the idea. And the littlest boy is always game to join in anything and everything that's going on. Although I suspect that given free rein he would always make pizza. At the moment it's runner beans every day, I am sinking under a glut. And now I'm wondering if they would go nicely on a pizza...

The photos are mostly from a hot dog walk at the weekend. All this marching about the countryside with the dog is getting rather wearing. But it's good for me I know, so I shan't complain. I do rather miss civilisation sometimes though. The dog is not fit for civilisation. And to be honest the children aren't half the time either. And sometimes when I get there, civilisation is a bit of a strain. I did enjoy people watching at the cricket though. Some parents were quite, well, how shall I put it, vicariously ambitious. And all very nicely turned out. Their lunches were pretty good as well. I wonder if I am letting things slide. Maybe I should be getting up earlier and doing it all better and making the children be the best that they can be. I shall add it to my list of Goals For The Year. Hoping all are enjoying the sunshine, or at least getting to sit with your feet in the paddling pool. CJ xx