Friday, August 08, 2014

August Break: Reflection

An oldie from about three years ago.  It's strange to see myself with such dark hair now that I have been growing out my grey for almost a year. And I should have cleaned that mirror before I took the photo! 

August Break: Three

My minuscule vegetable garden. A cucumber, a pepper and a chilli pepper. 

Sunday, August 03, 2014

That was the weekend

:: It was cooler this weekend than it has been for a while. Still too hot for me, but I'm grateful for small mercies. 

:: At our Slimming World class on Saturday the consultants cooked a healthy breakfast for around fifty of us. The food was really nice and it was a fun morning, with lots of laughs. We're doing well with the weight loss - Philip's lost 9lb and I've lost 11.5. Clothes are starting to be loose and Philip's had to take off his wedding ring for fear of losing it. He'll have it re sized once he achieves a level of svelteness that he's happy with!

:: On Saturday my Coke persona was 'Gorgeous', which Philip chose for me.(He got stuck with 'Angela').  

:: On both weekend afternoons we went driving around the countryside. We went to Kent on Saturday, and Sunday we drove down to Leigh-on-Sea, our maybe-one-day home town. 

:: I'm still on my self-imposed break from the Boring Orange Cardigan, and enjoying knitting some simple dishcloths. 

Sharing my weekend with Karen and others

August Break Day 3: Window

An old one today. Taken by Philip through the kitchen window of our honeymoon cottage, April 2011. 

August Break Day 2: Pattern

Friday, August 01, 2014

August Break Day 1: Lunch

What to do when you're dieting and your Auntie buys your favourite toffee-with-bits-of-fudge ice cream in, especially for you? 

This month I am joining Susannah and many others for the August Break 

Thursday, July 24, 2014


I'm actually quite impressed with myself how long I have kept reading this book. I often give up after just a couple of chapters if the story isn't grabbing me - this one is just interesting enough to keep me reading, but not enough to make me desperate to find out what happens next. Consequently I've been reading it for about four weeks! A record for me. I have a huge pile of library books here I need to be getting on with, so I'm planning to sit in the garden this afternoon and get it finished. 

I'm knitting a dishcloth. I need some new ones, and the orange cardigan is taking so long it makes me not want to pick it up. So now it's taking even longer. I was rushing to get it done as soon as possible as I wanted to wear it this summer with my orange sandals that match perfectly, but we are now having a heatwave and there is no way on earth I'm going to want a cardigan, even in the evenings at the moment. So, a break for a dishcloth or two and then I'll resume. I also have another quirky little project on the go, just for fun. I'll share that one soon. 

Joining in with Ginny's Yarn Along

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

slow progress

Not much has changed since last week. I'm still knitting the orange cardigan, it's taking much longer than I would like and I'm finding it boring, which means I am knitting less and so progress is even slower! I need to just get stuck in and finish it, I think. 

Last night I knitted a couple of rows on  this premature baby blanket that I am knitting for Project Linus UK. I also knitted the flower - we decided at WI that the Committee should have some identifying feature at meetings, and settled on a yellow flower. They will be different, as we're making our own and customising them to our own taste. I used a button that belonged to my Auntie Doris for the centre of mine. I inherited her button tin and I love to use her buttons on my craft projects when I can. I might bling the petals up a bit, what do you think? 

I've been a slow reader this week too, I'm further into The Secret Keeper, but it's one of those books that goes back and forth in time and has more than one narrator and I am getting a bit confused. I am enjoying it though, when I can get the plot straight in my head and remember who is who.

Joining Ginny and everyone else for Yarn Along 

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

The Happy List

smoked salmon and salad for lunch

decluttering a small area each day - an online challenge I'm taking part in and finding very cathartic

the prospect of one day finishing the orange cardigan that seems to be taking forever (see what I did there?)

feeling less stiff and achey since starting the new diet healthy eating plan

losing 6lbs

waking up early in the mornings - not sure why (the change of eating habits?). I always struggle with mornings, but lately I'm bright and breezy (fairly) early 

reading a good book 

Joining in with Karen at Pumpkin Sunrise

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

my first garment

This is my first attempt at making a garment for myself, not counting the Purple Ponch (almost finished), as  that doesn't have to fit, and it is basically like a blanket. This cardigan, like the poncho, is a pattern currently doing the rounds at the WI I attend. I was rather brave and chose orange. Normally I'd go for black, or brown, something neutral, but I have sandals in just the same shade and thought I would go for it! It's knitted in King Cole Opium, a bulky thick and thin yarn which is a bit strange to knit with but not difficult, and is a long cardigan with elbow length sleeves and  kind of floppy lapels. It's mostly stocking stitch. I can't seem to find a link to the pattern. My aim is to finish it by the end of July, so that I can wear it for a while with those sandals before the autumn sets in. Then I have to finish the Ponch (started in early 2013!) to wear in the colder months. 

Earlier this year I read Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, and for anyone who read that and liked it, I would recommend Ken Grimshaw's Replay, which I recently read and enjoyed. 

I have been lent The Secret Keeper by a friend and am only a few pages in, so I don't have an opinion as yet. 

Joining Ginny for Yarn Along  

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

back in time

In the early days of our relationship the Prof and I visited this little church at Bradwell on Sea. It was a a chilly, grey day and we said we would come back one day in nicer weather. So this weekend we packed up a picnic and drove to Bradwell. It's about a half mile walk from the car park - you can just see the church in the distance. 

Although it was a hot day there was a lovely breeze and we walked along watching the butterflies, who sadly wouldn't alight anywhere long enough for a photograph. We saw several wartime pillboxes in the fields. I remember those in other places when I was growing up and wonder why they were never taken away. 

The Prof has an interest in the materials used to build old Essex churches, so we often stop at them when we are out in the countryside. Sometimes I join him, other times I sit in the car and read. Today I was very happy to lie on the grass while he wandered around and took photographs. It's a lovely place, especially in the June sunshine. You can imagine that very little has changed in the thousand-plus years since the church was built. With fields all around, and the view out to sea, it's like taking a step back in time. 

Photos by me and the Prof  

Also featuring this weekend:

A very ill doggie late Friday night and a trip to the vet on Saturday morning. She improved very much overnight, and you wouldn't know that there was anything wrong to look at her now, but the vet told us to be prepared for bad news in the future. We are trying to be optimistic, and giving our girl extra cuddles and treats. 

Managing to stick to our diet healthy eating plan, despite considerable stress and an almost sleepless night. 

Knitting, of course. Always knitting. 

Weekending (belatedly) with Karen at Pumpkin Sunrise

Onward and Downward

This is me, a couple of weeks ago. It's not the most unflattering picture I've got (as I'm putting it on the internet!) but this is one I'm going with as a 'before' picture. 

We joined Slimming World last week. I don't get on the scales very often, but every few months when I do, invariably another few pounds have gone on. It's a slow inexorable upward trend and I finally came to the point when enough was enough. 

We have a fridge full of veggies, lean meats and low fat yogurts, two very full fruit bowls and bagfuls of motivation. We missed weigh in on Saturday as our poor doggie was very unwell and we had to take her to the vet (she's ok now, but we have to keep a very close eye on her for the foreseeable future). According to my scales at home I have lost 5lbs.

We're finding the plan surprisingly easy, so far.  I even managed to have a meal out with the Young Philosopher at Pizza Express and stayed on plan. We have a few events coming up in the next few weeks that I am a little worried about, but I'm hoping we can plan for them and still lose weight. 

Discovery of the week: Mullerlight coconut and lime yoghurt with raspberries added to it is one of the nicest things I have tasted in a long time! 

Saturday, June 07, 2014

In Remembrance

Philip and I are so very sad to hear of the passing of our friend Matt, otherwise known as Leofwin. We spent many an evening together over a pint and several fun days in Saxon mode at West Stow Anglo Saxon village and Sutton Hoo. He was a very genuine person, kind, generous and good company. Whenever we met, he unfailingly told me how lovely I looked, which was very kind of him and I am sure not always true. He taught French, and used his gift for languages to learn Old English, writing and illustrating his book 'Learn Old English with Leofwin'. He did a beautiful reading in Old English for us at our wedding, and as a gift he wrote it out in his lovely scribe's hand, illustrated it with a drawing of us, and framed it. It hangs on our living room wall. Just recently he emailed me to ask if he could include a drawing of us in his new book, and of course I said yes. I also said we would have to get together soon for a drink. I wish we had.

Goodbye Matt, and rest in peace. We'll miss you. 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Yarn in the post!

A parcel of new yarn is one of my most favourite things, and I just love Deramores online shop- as long you order by 5pm, the yarn arrives next day - super service, no? (they're not paying me to say that!). This is Manos del Uruguay Silk Blend Fino in Bramble. Isn't it absolutely gorgeous? I've knitted a bit with doubleknit Manos del Uruguay yarn before, but this is my first time with the 4ply. This is for the Miss Winkle knitalong from Crafts From the Cwtch. It's my first KAL, and I'm looking forward to seeing everyone else's creations developing. 

And why is it called Miss Winkle?  There is an episode of one of my favourite programmes, 'The Big Bang Theory' in which Leonard is dating Leslie Winkle and they disagree over the correct version of Quantum Mechanics, String Theory or Loop Quantum Gravity. Leonard says that he prefers his space 'stringy, not loopy'. Leslie strongly holds the opposite view ("How will we raise the children?" she says), so this  loopy scarflette is named for Leslie Winkle. As the pattern writer Martina Behm says ' honour of all women scientists and all women who know what they want and don't let any man talk them out of it!' 

I can't wait to get started, but first I have to wind the yarn into balls, which is a job on a par with sewing my knitted projects up, ie NOT my favourite. I need a minion to do these things. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

grey days

The weather here is grey, wet and miserable, I'm a bit poorly and have had to miss my craft group and the only thing cheering me up is the good books I've read recently and knitting, which I always find comforting. So here I am, still in pyjamas and purple fluffy dressing gown, ensconced on the sofa with a nice cup of tea and my knitting. 

It's so cold today that I wish the hot water bottle cover was finished already. It's nearly done, just a couple of inches to knit, then the making up and buttons to sew on. I need three buttons and  I'd like red or white ones, which I don't think I have in the right size, though I will turn out the button tin and have a good look. If not then a trip to Hobbycraft will probably have to happen at the weekend, which is never a bad thing! I'm glad I decided to sew on the felt heart, I'm really pleased with it. I think I prefer it to the intarsia heart on the original pattern. 

I've just finished Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty, a thriller that I really enjoyed.  I read it in one evening, staying up far too late into the night to finish it. I should stop doing that. They say you shouldn't read in bed, but I do so love to, it's where I do most of my reading. My next read is The Never List by Koethi Zan, I'm only a few pages in but liking it so far. 

Joining Ginny's Yarn Along and Frontier Dreams

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Robyn's Flapjacks

The Prof and the Young Philosopher both like cereal bars and I was buying at least a couple of boxes a week, when I saw Robyn's recipe for flapjacks and so I gave them a go. I had some baking paper lurking in the kitchen, from the last time I thought I might start baking and didn't, probably about five years ago, and had to purchase a tin to bake them in, as I have no baking equipment at all beyond a rolling pin and a bun tin (never used!). 

baking tin. Mine is 9 inches square, because that's what they had in Sainsbury's
Baking paper
mixing bowl

6oz flour
6oz porridge oats
6oz demerara sugar
6oz fat - half butter and half Stork
2 tablespoons honey
seeds, chopped nuts, sultanas - handful of each

Once I had greased and lined the tin I realised there were no oats in the cupboard, as the Prof had used the last to make a big batch of muesli the previous evening. I was a bit stuck for a moment, until I thought of just using the muesli instead of the oats. Our homemade muesli at the moment (it varies) contains oats, ground almonds, sunflower seeds, sultanas and chopped walnuts. I probably chucked in about 10 oz of this mixture, and then a bit extra of nuts and sultanas. 

I melted the butter, Stork and honey together on a low heat. When it was melted I poured it into the mixing bowl where the dried ingredients were and mixed it all together thoroughly. 

I dolloped the mixture into the tin and pressed it down evenly, then cooked it at 190 for about 45 minutes until it was nice and golden. Taking Robyn's advice, I cut it up into pieces whilst it was still warm, then left it to cool. It made 16 flapjacks and some crumbly pieces fell off the edges which the Prof had with milk on and said it was very nice like that too. 

I haven't priced this out, though I will at some point. I expect it's cheaper than buying the bars. Even if it isn't, my boys prefer the flapjacks, I know exactly what's in them and they are more filling. I don't like nuts, so I didn't have any myself. Next time I'm making something I can eat too!

Monday, February 10, 2014

good things

a weekend away just the two of us

the village of Southwell, especially the Minster. Brownie points for the staff there, too - when I emailed today to say we left the guide book we had bought, they answered within minutes to say they would forward it to us free of charge 

Ice Age caves for the Prof, an hour in the cafe with chocolate shortbread, coffee and a good book for me 

the good book: The Husband's Secret, by Liane Moriarty

a beautiful rainbow arcing over the road ahead as we drove home

weekending with Amanda

Thursday, February 06, 2014

winter nights

the hot water bottle cover in progress, the Prof's new scarf and my gorgeous new knitting bag

On these chilly winter evenings I am often to be found snuggled under a favourite old blanket on the sofa, a hot water bottle tucked in with me, as I knit and watch something delightful on the television (current favourites are Call the Midwife, Mr Selfridge, and less cosy and old fashioned but equally fabulous, the Bridge).  It dawned on me recently that  wrapping the hot water bottle in a towel to avoid it burning me is not good enough when I can knit myself a lovely cover, and after all, didn't I make a lovely hot water bottle cover for my Mum for Christmas (not blogged as yet because I was keeping it a secret), so why not make one for myself? I'm knitting Jessie, minus the heart - I couldn't get the hang of the intarsia method for the heart pattern, so I'm making it plain. I think I might sew a felt heart on with blanket stitch in a contrasting colour. The yarn is Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran, it's reasonably priced and quite soft and I recently used it to make the hot water bottle cover for my Mum and scarves for my Dad and the Prof.  I originally bought this yarn to make a surprise scarf for Christmas for the Prof. It's rather brighter than it looks in the photograph, more like kingfisher blue, which I think is lovely, but the very next day after I bought it he pointed out the 'horrible colour' of a neighbour's new car. You guessed it. So more yarn in a muted shade was purchased for the Prof's scarf, and I get to make myself something with the reject. 

Until I abandoned it this morning, I was reading Oh My Stars, by Lorna Landvik. I thoroughly enjoyed the beginning, but as it's gone on I'm struggling to stay interested and I don't have much perseverance when it comes to not enjoying what I'm reading. I can always tell if a book's not really for me when it takes me weeks to read it. If I'm loving a book I'm through it in a day or two!  I've put Oh My Stars down  now in favour of This Beautiful Life, by Helen Schulman. I'm keeping a record of books I read this year (link at the top of the page), and haven't read much this year at all, so far, if you don't count blog reading and WI Life and Country Living magazines. I have four books to get through for book club so I'd better get a move on!

What are you knitting and reading? 

Joining in with Ginny's Yarn Along  

Monday, February 03, 2014

a little sunshine at last

The weather has been mostly grey, dismal and very wet here recently, and at the weekends a combination of weather and jobs to do has kept us at home. This weekend was a refreshing change. I've been -

Doing: grocery shopping, running errands, driving down to Leigh-on-Sea, visiting my parents for a cup of tea on the way home 

Eating: chocolate cake with orange icing, cucumber and salad cream sandwiches, houmous and pitta bread, the last of the Wensleydale cheese with cranberries leftover from Christmas

Drinking: full leaded coffee, lager, orange and lemon tea

Making: Finishing the vintage embroidered tablecloth I've been working on for a while, and trying to master intarsia on a hot water bottle cover 

Weekending with Amanda

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Frugal February

I've been keeping a spending diary since the beginning of the year and it's been really enlightening to see written down exactly where the money is going. One of our biggest expenditure areas is groceries, and I would really like to reduce what we spend in that area.  

During January we spent the following. 

On takeaways £76.77
The Prof at work, snacks/lunch/drinks £42.15
Me, weekdays, out and about, snack/lunch/drinks £16.30
Weekends, out and about £29.62
Grocery shopping £364.04

That makes a whopping total of £528.88! This total does include dog food, which is about £25 a month, and household cleaners etc though I buy very few of those. Even if I estimate £50 for dog food plus toiletries/household things, that means we have spent at least £478.28 in one month on food. 

At the same time as I'm spending a lot each week on food, I seem to have overflowing cupboards and freezer so I thought it would be fun to join in with Robyn over at Essex Hebridean for 'Frugal February'. I'll be trying to use up the stores we have already, and to buy only what we really need each week. I'll decide on a budget for the month based on last month and do my best to reduce it. The savings can go into our emergency fund, which I'm trying to build up, so that when there's an emergency I don't have to dip into money we've saved for holidays, bills, or Christmas, which is what usually happens, sending all my well laid plans into chaos. 

We have quite a lot of supplies at the moment. I know we've lots of tinned things as well as rice, pasta, couscous, noodles and the dreaded packet of quinoa that I bought about a year ago to try. It gazes at me reproachfully every time I open the cupboard so maybe this month I'll manage to make something with it. In the fridge I have lots of bottles and jars, and various other things, including a lot of cheese from Christmas. The freezer is overflowing too, some meat (for the Prof) veggie sausages, pies etc for me, and for some reason 3 huge bags of frozen spinach.The next step is to write down a list of meals using things up. I have never managed to menu plan properly, I just can't seem to decide in advance what I'm going to fancy next Tuesday, but I do usually have a rough idea of the meals coming up over the next week or so, just not exactly what we're going to eat each day. Maybe I'll have a go at sticking to a menu plan at some point in the month.

I quite enjoy cooking dinners, but I don't bake. Pastry remains a mystery to me and the last cake I made was for the Young Philosopher's 3rd birthday, a good few years ago as he is now 22!  I believe even that was from a mix I bought at the fancy cake shop where I hired the cake tins. I made it in the shape of an octopus though, so I do get creative points for that. I'd like to try making some snacks for lunchboxes for the Young Philosopher and the Prof. I have little of the relevant equipment to bake anything so may need to buy a couple of things, tins or baking paper or something (can you tell I don't know what I'm talking about?), so there's some extra expense there but will hopefully enable me to make more savings in the future. 

We should have more than enough tinned dog food (may have to get some dry dog food - she has that for breakfast), and toiletries. I have quite a stockpile of toothpaste, shampoo etc that I've bought on offer, and bubble bath/shower gel is always plentiful thanks to Christmas and birthdays. I made 10 litres of laundry liquid last week (at a saving of around £50 for about half an hour's work! Go me) so have plenty of that, too.

We are going away for a weekend later in the month. We're visiting Nottingham for a history lecture on the Friday evening and we decided to stay a couple of nights and make a weekend of it. Breakfasts are included in our hotel stay but we will be needing three lunches and two evening meals while we're away. I have money put by for this weekend so I'm not going to include it in my budget for the month for the purposes of this challenge. 

The YP got a juicer for Christmas and makes his own juices regularly, so this another expense. I don't mind, so long as all the fruit and veg I buy for this gets used, so I'll be keeping a very close eye on waste. 

At the weekends we often have lunch out, or at least a coffee somewhere while we're out and about. I don't necessarily intend to stop doing that, but I plan to have no takeaways at all during February, which should save quite a bit as we've been having one a week recently (blame my curry addiction).

Action plan:
Inventory food supplies
Write a list of meals
Find recipes to use up some random ingredients I have in stock (frozen spinach and quinoa, in particular!). I'd like to have a go at making Robyn's flapjack recipe for lunchboxes.

I'm not including the money we spent on takeaways last month, and making it a round £400 target for the month, not including the weekend away for which I've budgeted already. I think I have enough food in stock to save quite a bit of that £400. Frugal February, here I come! 

Friday, January 31, 2014

Seeing my way clear

My word for this year (having sadly rejected potatoes, which would be a very enjoyable theme I think, but probably wouldn't be a good idea) is CLEAR.

I have been decluttering. I've sorted out several of the drawers in the bedroom. I replaced all the drawer liners, tidied everything up and threw out a lot of old uncomfortable socks now that I have lovely new ones that I was given for Christmas. I put away my huge novelty Christmas sock collection (huge collection, not huge socks!) and several very pretty and slightly too small bras that I am determined will fit me again soon. I decluttered a whole bag of old clothes to the recycling bin at the tip. I have two bags of bits and pieces to take to the charity shop at the weekend.  I have some Christmas and birthday money for new clothes, but will be throwing out more than I buy. The end result I am hoping for is to have far less clothes, but more clothes that I actually like and feel good in. 

I've also been working getting all of our household information together in one folder, and my personal lists, projects, plans etc into another.  I currently have piles of notebooks and lists on the coffee table waiting for me to organise it all. I'm hoping to get to it in the next few days. 

I have many unfinished projects, knitting, embroidery, cross stitch and I am planning to work my way through them this year. I also have  supplies for many projects I have not  started, so those are on the list too, along with some charity knitting to use up some of my yarn stash. Hopefully I'll have some photographs to share with you soon. 

Many people I know on this here internet choose a word as a focus
for their year. I like this idea and have done it in the past, with varying degrees of success (mainly due to wandering off in search of the next shiny thing and forgetting my word altogether), so this year I am choosing a word again, with renewed determination.  

My word for this year is CLEAR. 

Clear the clutter, clear the huge and never ending to do list, clear the unfinished projects and the yarn stash, clear my mind. See my way clear.

By the end of 2014 everything should be a lot clearer. I'm looking forward to it.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Happy New Year!

.....and Happy Birthday to me!

I hope you all had a good Christmas, ours was lovely. We had dinner at home just the three of us, then visited my parents for a family get together in the evening. We've had a pretty lazy week, including a couple of pyjama days, which I love. It's been really nice to have the Prof home from work over the holidays and I'm sad to say he goes back to work tomorrow. All over again for another year. 

I'm pleased to say I managed to finish my Christmas hat in time for Christmas Day. Here I am in a very silly pic with my lovely boy. 

Now that Christmas is past, I can reveal what I've been knitting. I forgot to take photos so I need to do that still and write up my Ravelry notes, but I can tell you that I made the Purl Ridge cowl for the Young Philosopher,  a hot water bottle cover for my Mum, a scarf for my Dad and a scarf for the Prof only he got left until last, poor thing, and I'm still working on it! Fortunately I had bought him several other presents to open, so he wasn't too hard done by. 

I've just finished reading Knitting for Good by Betsy Greer, as I did some charity knitting in 2013 and would like to do more this year. I've been looking into some projects I'd like to get involved in. 

I am quite excited about the prospect of a  brand new year, and in the next day or two I'll be working through some goals and plans for the months ahead, and deciding on my word for 2014. This is my third or fourth year of choosing one word as my focus for the year. Some years I've been more successful with it than others, I'm drawing a veil over last year's word as I can't even remember it.  

I will leave you with this photograph. One gift that was under my parents' tree this Christmas inspired much intrigue in the days before Christmas as it was rather large and addressed to me, the Prof, my brother and the Young Philosopher.......

Joining Ginny for Yarn Along