Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Knitting and dreaming

There is something very soothing about sitting on the sofa of an evening, knitting a few rows, and winding down from the day.

And knit, knit, knit is better than stitch, stitch, stitch for sweet dreams. I spent a night last week tossing and turning as I sewed in an endless train of zippers in my sleep.

But I have never had nightmares about knitting, I am sure - although to ensure that sitting and knitting in the half-light is stress-free I need the sort of simple pattern that I could, well, knit in my sleep.

Jane Brocket's pattern for these nifty little hanger covers fits the bill perfectly (you can find the pattern here) - easy enough to knit without your dreams turning to nightmares, and quick enough for a last-minute, charmingly retro present.

I love the clever little flowers which you make by winding yarn around a needle - rather like the fluffy balls I loved making when I was small.

And this can also count as a Thrifty Activity perfect for enhancing your halo of modest and frugal domesticity - I made these with yarn from my leftovers bag, and so can you too.

So there you are, a Thrifty Hint, a cure for insomnia, and a transfer from WIP to the finished list all in the space of one evening - what more could you want?

I have also just noticed that lots of new friends have joined the jolly party at my little cottage, so do go and say hello and welcome them to the throng:

Jodi at Farm Country Comforts

Deborah at Simply Miss Luella

Sarah Jane at Chantille Fleur

Annie at Moving On

Thea at Hearts and Bluebells

Miss Organic Fairtrade Knickers at I Blame Enid Blyton

Saffa and her lovely handmade paper art

Victoria at Tangled Sweetpea

Sophie at A Good Year

I do love blog names and often wonder how people think them up - the ones above are all so enticing, you just have to go and look.  I think I have put down all the new friends - I am never very good at keeping track of who has just arrived, so do tell me if I have missed you out, or if you have been following for ages and I have only just noticed, I prostrate myself most apologetically.

[And if you were wondering about the admirals, yes, they are still bothering me, and I am only doing this because otherwise I would be having nightmares about them and their stripes all the night long. I had better go and knit a bit of my favourite simple sock pattern to ward off any watery dreams. It is such an easy pattern that I can knit and nod away for hours, and the woolly stripes are so much more comforting than gold braid.]

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Hexie happiness

Standing on the bridge, steering some admirals into harbour, and scratching her head over the complexities of indexing compound names (who am I to talk?), not to mention chaps who change rank and style far too often . . . she tenders her most sincere apologies to all who have emailed and commented and promises that when she gets this weighty tome off to the printers she will return the compliments most profusely.

But in the interim, why not make a charmingly capacious pencil case all ready for the new term (oh, how I do love that word, capacious. I yearn for capacious pockets and capacious portmanteaus [portmanteaux is also acceptable to the highest authorities, but apparently not to Blogger ...] ...).

Charmingly capacious

Your little dears will soon be departing for the halls of academe and you can assure yourself of a place in their hearts by providing them with a constant reminder of your presence in the form of a handmade pencil case.

Once again, my sewing guide and mentor Amy has come up with the perfect pattern for you to make your own pencil case - the one and only Hexiecase, capacious enough to hold all the pencils and pens that any child could possibly need.

And speaking of capaciousness, you may remember that I made one here which proved to be just the right dimensions to transport my sock knitting about. For the latest model I used fusible fleece, which gives a nice squashy effect, or for a more structured look, use standard interfacing like this.

Sadly, for me I no longer have little people setting off to school with shiny new pencil cases, so I have made my own Hexiecase just for me - it sits on my desk and in its capacious recesses I hide my very special pens for correcting admirals and their ilk (there is nothing so fine as these pens and people like to steal them so they must be hidden from husbands with pen-kidnapping tendencies).

Who knows what is occurring in those voluminous recesses?

And I am down to my very last pen for checking footnotes - its friends have vagrant tendencies and so I am afraid my little orange chum must be confined in the voluminous folds of the Hexiecase. Perhaps it will be impelled to breed in the darkness?

She sighs. The admirals are tugging at her sleeve (it is an Admiral of the Fleet this time, and they are the worst of all name changers), and she suddenly realizes that she has spent full half an hour browsing pretty pens on Amazon ...  (the ones shaped like vegetables are definitely not pretty) ... come Tuesday, she will be strung up from the yardarm, or set to holystoning the decks at least.

Adieu ... her voice trails on the breeze ... adieu ... (she departs taking her ellipses with her).

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Sometimes ...

Sometimes a little party by the beach is just what you need on a Wednesday night...

Just sitting in front of the most heavenly beach house which is a work of art in itself  ...

 Just sitting and chatting and laughing and eating cake ...

Feeling the sea breeze and watching the sun go down ...

Thank you Marilyn and Emma for enticing us out, and happy happy to Francine.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Growing up fast

It is not every Monday morning that I am greeted at the gate by four little piggy smiles when I am about to set off to work, but yesterday was one such.

Butter wouldnt melt ...

The day had already had a slightly hectic quality thanks to an early run to the station with the General, and breakfast for the B&Bs, and Princess Bunchy doing a Sleeping Beauty impression beyond the point of amusement and into the zone where parental blood pressure is elevated to a level considered a risk to health.

Pigs on the run

And time was running on apace to the extent that I could not delay my departure for work if I wanted to arrive at the office at a time which would still be within the bounds of decency, and indicative of a certain willingness, if not quite enthusiasm, for work.

So I had to dismiss anxious thoughts about the impermeability of the hedge between the field and the road, and the adventurousness of pigkind . . . [How could four sweet little scraps like this, so meek and mild and shy, turn into the rumbustious quartet we have today, in the space of six short weeks?]

Sweet babies

All I could do was foam at the mouth enough to force a promise from the Head Chef that he would abandon his domestic duties and buy a new battery for the electric fence and turn the dial high enough to provide a deterrent to our resident escape artists.

New friends?
 By this stage in the proceedings,  I was also beginning to feel that I preside over a disappointingly ill-regulated household, both inside and out, as Princess Bunchy had risen from her couch and descended into the kitchen still wearing yesterday's clothes, albeit slightly crumpled from twelve hours' sleep. [This is not a rare occurrence - I am wondering where I went wrong.]

It was actually a relief to get to work. I think the lesson here is that if you are not enamoured of your employment, and dread Monday mornings, just ensure that you maintain a high enough level of domestic disarray that your place of work seems a place of peace and orderliness in comparison. I am feeling waves of gratitude, just like Soulemama, at the thought.

Happy days!

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Snipping and patching

The apple muffins have been munched, the chocolate muffins have been chomped, and the flapjacks are long gone - sometimes it seems like there is nothing to show for a weekend's work when the B&B guests have gone and the permaculture course is over.

But I managed a quick Friday night sewing special, so there is something material to show for all my efforts.

Nifty handle

I have been wanting to make one of Ayumi's patchwork wristlets for a while, and here is my version.

Friday night is sewing night

 Rather a nifty little number, with a wrist strap and key tab, and little pockets inside.

Handy pocket

Needless to say Princess Bunchy has paused in her veterinary endeavours long enough to commission one of her own. Just what she needs when she goes out, being only a handbag collector rather than a wearer.

Back to the sewing machine again, then. Hep, hep!

[And in case any of you are foolish enough to be thinking of things housework, take it from me and don't bother. Especially if you were considering applying housework to a computer in the form of cleaning the keyboard with a slightly (only very slightly) dampened duster. And particularly if you like to use hyphens, square brackets, inverted commas or the enter key, and wish them to carry on working after cleaning. {The jury is out on whether a new keyboard will be necessary.}]

Have a good week, my dears, and take it from me, stick to the sewing: you know it makes sense.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Through the square window

The words summer and holidays don't really go together for us in the life we lead now - running the B&B, growing our own food, courses on self-sufficiency and sustainable living - all of these things mean that summer is busy and work-filled, and our down-time tends to be in January and February.

So it is important to remember and treasure brief moments of peace and beauty amongst all the helter and skelter, to take time to stand and stare, if only for an inkling.

This morning I looked out over the sink into the garden and was happy that some of the flowers are revelling in the vagaries of our climate, in spite of the uncooperative weather taking its toll on the edibles. The Japanese anemones under the kitchen window are as tall as ever I have seen them, and the cosmos seem determined to outrun their neighbours.

This is the picture I must treasure in my head when my nerve fails me in those grey and drear months after the turning of the year, and I wonder why ever we chose this path in life.

Such moments are so precious that all the trouble and toil seem as nothing when compared with their fleeting beauty.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Magic beans

A few days ago I was rummaging vainly amongst the bean rows and feeling quite ecstatic if I came away with half a dozen small runners languishing in the bottom of the basket. (My mind is boggling at the Lilliputian image conjured up in my head, but I have forsworn listening to the little voices.)

And now I find that the Head Chef has a multitude of green reasons for sitting at the kitchen table listening to the mellifluous voices on Radio 4 (midoff, dismissal, sunshine, leg bye, three slips waiting for an edge and one in the gully . . . or was it a bat on the off stump, and another by the pavilion ?). The maidens are sending me to sleep and I have quite lost my way . . .

I hope people like eating thistledown, remarks the Head Chef, and moves his hand into the picture, quite spoiling the effect.

Look closely and see those gossamer strands

With a field of thistles to the left of us, another in front of us, and a south-southwesterly breeze, our little patch of land is being drenched with gossamer fibres - the sky is full of thistledown. When I was young and innocent I thought that these were fairies floating on the summer air - now I know that the silken strands will metamorphose into spiky green witches next summer, wickedly invading every last corner of our cottage garden, and running riot in the field.

But for now the greenness of the beans is quite magical, and we can chop them and store them for the long winter ahead. If we eat thistledown, we can munch its witchy magic into nothing.

Peeping toms

And lo and behold! The blight hasn't ventured into the greenhouse, and the sunshine has - we have some tomatoes at last, all red and rotund and beaming from under the beans.


I seem to have lived this August afternoon with the sound of the cricket, and the chopping of the beans, and the filling of freezer bags so many times before, and remember beans from another garden, bagged by other hands, but the smell of the green growing things and the earth and the warm breeze on my face are forever the same.

And the imminent collapse of the English batting, or not - I seem to remember that this happens quite often too.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

The Year Without A Summer

I know, it happened in 1816, not 2012, and it was far worse than this - for a start we are not going to starve, even if the outdoor tomatoes are all blighted, and the marigolds mildewy.

But sunny days seem to have been few and far between, and the ones that have happened have been mainly when I have been inside at the computer, grappling with the sailors, or sweating over the smoothing iron.

But mustn't grumble (I always think of this book when I say that - well worth a read, and um, squirmingly truthful at times, not to mention screamingly funny), as we have managed to bottle up some of that elusive sunshine, and I have to say, it tastes jolly nice.

Sunshine in a jar

We used half raspberries and half blackberries with a solitary giant strawberry as makeweight - bounty brought home from a rained-off county show by dear Papa - the largest blackberries I have ever seen in all my born days.

(And if you are coveting one of these rather wonderful boards, a good friend of mine has a shop here where she sells such wares.)

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Beat him when he sneezes

In the interests of snufflers everywhere, I offer an alternative to beating your children. I have some sneezers in my house, and being as I am a caring mother and all that, I really did not want to resort to physical chastisement. But when the hankie drawer is so far from the kitchen that it really is too too much to exert oneself climbing the stairs, something has to be done to retain someone else's sanity.

What about a box of tissues, you say? Well, I say, have you ever seen a tissue box as pretty as this one, and even more to the point, have you ever seen the havoc tissues wreak when released into the wild, and they find their way way into the washing machine? Not to mention the trees, and the dust which falls off the tissues (try shaking one in a sunbeam), which makes the snufflers sneeze even more ...

But Ayumi at Pink Penguin came to my aid with her fabric basket tutorial, and a range of fabric called
Pam Kitty Morning (I really just bought it for the name) hailed me from afar. The hankie-like prints meant that I didn't have to put a big sign on the basket, and the biggest sniffer of them all instantly made the connection.

(By the way, you aren't allowed to use the top one, as it is there for display purposes only.)

[She is most touched by your kind comments, she says as she dabs her eyes in an Olympian way, most touched indeed, and thanks her readers most sincerely. She will no doubt be paying calls to return the compliment very shortly.]

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Peering round the curtain

She steps out nervously, makes an awkward bob, and says thank you most kindly for the enquiries after her health and wellbeing; she is most touched by the good wishes and might even be tempted back onto the public stage if she can grab time by the forelock and stop rollicking with sailors, consorting with ploughboys, and making resolutions to scrub the floor more often.

A happy present

And in the meantime, here is a picture, a happy picture, of a present, for we all love presents and happy. In fact, it is a Ruched Happy Bag, made by her own fair hands, assisted by expert instructions from the talented Amy.

So happy, happy to all.

She slips behind the curtain once more. Perhaps she may return . . .


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