Garden explosion

By the time we came back from holiday, our garden had exploded with flowers and new growth! The rambling rose over the fence was laden with blooms, and the roses and huge peonies were filling the front flower bed. One of my first jobs was to mow the jungle to reclaim the lawn.

I found tiny strawberries alongside the shed and gathered a full handful, and more again since. They’re delicious and the boys are enjoying picking them too.

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I’m not particularly green-fingered and though I try to approach gardening in a considered way, I usually end up employing the ‘hack-it-and-hope’ method, often after things have gotten a bit out of control!

I spent a while untangling long branches of climbing rose, and jasmine and clematis and weaving them back into the trellis at the back of the garden. Unfortunately during the process, I managed to cut off the one beautiful clematis flower! Hopefully some more will grow in its place.

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One of the biggest ongoing jobs in this garden, is dealing with the effects of having a huge sweet chestnut tree growing in the corner. We spent a large part of the autumn raking up leaves and picking up the chestnuts and their spiky cases. The spring seems to consist largely of hunting down all the seedlings that have sprung up from the fallen chestnuts we missed, or the squirrels have hidden, and digging them out before they get too big. We have to watch out for holly and sycamore too, as well as the brambles that suddenly seem to have started sprouting all over. Pumpkin helped a little – he was especially proud of the ‘two-man-job’ saplings that had huge roots on them that required a good joint effort. I also had a little feathered helper who seemed very curious and friendly and hung around for quite some time.

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In search of sheepy

This year’s Big Family Holiday took place in Scotland. For those that don’t remember, or haven’t been around that long, every couple of years we gather together with all of my mum’s side of the family, for a week’s holiday together. There’s usually around 40 of us though we were missing a few this time, so it was closer to 30, although one cousin did manage to make it all the way from Australia especially!

We had a great week together as we always do, cooking meals in teams, venturing out in smaller groups on day trips around the local area and further afield and playing games, drinking wine and sharing stories in the evenings. We even had a mad circus-themed morning with lots of great costumes and silly games.

The biting midges were awful and I shall be spotty from their nasty bites for a good week to come, I think. The midges and the ticks were a major downside, but we still managed to have fun walking the hills and building dens in the woods. The boys had a great time with their cousins and second-cousins and were sad to leave them all at the end of the week.

Being Scotland, I was hoping to find something suitably sheepy to bring home with me. Sadly, the closest I got was a long walk led by my uncle, consisting of bog-snorkelling, ditch-vaulting and electric fence hopping during which the sheep stood eyeing us all suspiciously from a safe distance. Wise sheep. Seriously. I got very muddy, and managed to electrocute myself! Despite which, it was still strangely enjoyable!

Even a day trip to the Isle of Arran was a bust on the sheepy stakes as there wasn’t time for mooching and browsing even had I spotted a promising looking shop.

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I did stumble across some gorgeous crocheted jewellery made by Red Squirrel Crafts. I especially loved her leaf designs, but, not really being one to wear much jewellery, I reluctantly refrained from purchasing anything.

I consoled myself with the prospect of visiting the Yorkshire town of Skipton on our rather indirect journey home. Skipton is the home of Lucy of Attic24. I don’t follow her blog particularly closely these days, yet it remains one of my favourite blogs. I love Lucy’s designs and am in awe of her sense for colour. Her Neat Ripple pattern was the one I chose to use for Pickle’s special baby blanket, and it’s my go-to design for baby blankets generally.

One of her most recent blog posts was about Yarn Shop Day, back at the start of May and so from that, I knew there was a great yarn shop in Skipton and I was looking forward to having a browse and had warned my husband that I may well emerge with some form of yarny purchase.

We had limited time in Skipton, so we parked up right next to the canal and wandered into town, only to find that the aforementioned yarn shop was closed. Waahhh!

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So the consolation to the consolation prize, was to find the little cafe ‘Coopers’ where Lucy has her studio upstairs. It was a good choice for lunch as the food was excellent and the staff friendly, and though I didn’t bump into Lucy herself, it was nice to see her surroundings.

I wish we could have stayed longer in Skipton – it seems like a lovely town- but alas we had to drive on, and I remained empty- handed.

Clearly, the Crazy Stripes must be finished before any further yarn purchases can be permitted.

On the plus side though, I have learnt how to solve a Rubik’s cube. I can’t say it was ever a strong ambition to do so, yet it feels like a great accomplishment to have done so!

 

Bind off begins!

It’s happening!! At last, I’m finally actually doing the epic bind-off along the bottom of the Crazy Stripes cardigan.

I watched several different YouTube tutorials for tubular bind off in 1×1 rib (I think this one by VeryPink Knits is the clearest) and then took a very deep breath before cutting my yarn with the longest tail you’ve ever seen! Four times the length of the piece is recommended and I’m working on nearly 300 stitches here!

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As you can see, I have several strands through my yarn needle. I had to double the tail over a couple of times or I’d be walking halfway across the room to pull the tail through each stitch!

The first few stitches are a bit on the loose side. I’m hoping I can wiggle them a bit at the end to even them out a little. But generally it’s looking pretty good so far and I have two gym classes to sit through today so hopefully I’ll get a good way through!

How do you approach new techniques? Procrastinate for weeks and approach with caution, research and a deep breath? Or dive straight in?

Garden pompoms

Isn’t it nice to have some sunshine again! I’m enjoying my garden at the moment, especially these pompom pops of purple chives which are right outside my kitchen doors. I do love alliums, and it’s still exciting seeing what my new garden has to offer me as the seasons progress.

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Knitting has been sorely lacking here of late. I am gearing up to do a tubular bind off of the bottom ribbing of my crazy stripes, but haven’t managed to summon the courage or find the time to dedicate to it properly yet. Soon, I hope.

Theatrics continue. I have auditioned for a play and got a recall, but am still waiting to hear whether I’ve been cast. This week also sees the start of workshops for the next full-scale musical production my local society are doing. It will be good to get stuck into something again soon.

I’m also trying to get back into running again. I did quite well at the start of the year, running fairly regularly and getting up to 3k routes, with the aim of taking part in a parkrun 5k event. I stalled at 3k though and life and (not wanting to cripple myself before) shows got in the way, as they do. So, after several months of not running at all, I did the sensible thing and just decided to go for it and do the parkrun anyway! Crippling yourself *after* a show is fine, right!? I didn’t manage to run the full 5k. There was rather more walking than I’d have liked, but hey, I made it to the finishing line in a reasonable time, and I can only get better, right!? Maybe having a time to beat will encourage me to put some work in!

 

In the spotlight

It’s show week once again. This time I’m behind the scenes, operating a follow spot, which is something a bit different. At its most basic level, its a pretty straightforward task; point the light at the appropriate actor and turn it on. But as the week has gone on, the more I’ve realised that there is a real skill to doing it well. It requires far more concentration and focus than I had appreciated (someone using their smartphone in the stalls during a poignant song was incredibly distracting) along with a good sense of timing and even a certain level of artistry.

I felt like I was doing a passable impression of a reasonable followspot operator by the end of the week, but I’d certainly appreciate another opportunity to hone my skills further at some point in the future.

I think it’ll be back to treading the boards for me next though, as I’ve got several upcoming auditions for a variety of shows and I’ll just have to see what sticks!

PAW Patrol is on a roll!

So, we finally made it! Pickle’s birthday party, take two. Which means; cake, take two.

The cake has spent the last two weeks in the freezer, carefully wrapped in several layers of cling film. I got it out on Wednesday evening and left it in the fridge overnight. On Thursday I left it on the kitchen worktop during the daytime to ensure it was fully defrosted, then back in the fridge overnight to keep it fresh until I needed it on Friday. I was a little concerned that the fondant icing might have gone a little sticky, but I carefully cut the wrapping off once it was at room temperature and was pleasantly surprised to find that it was as smooth and dry to the touch as it had been before freezing.

My next concern was the taste and consistency of the actual cake. Of course there was nothing I could do about that until the cake was cut. Fortunately, it smelt and tasted delicious and the texture was just what it should have been so I needn’t have worried at all. I would certainly freeze a cake again in future. It would help enormously when timings were difficult.

So, on to the decoration. Pickle has recently become a big fan of Paw Patrol, so thats what we went with.

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The mini figurines were bought from a local supermarket. I used a printout of the Paw Patrol logo as a template for cutting out fondant and built it up in sections.

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I used a food colouring pen to do the lettering and fill in details.

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The pups were a big hit once they climbed down off the cake too.

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Little green froggy

Today I had another visit from the little green frog. Rrrrribbit!

I finished the body of my crazy stripes a couple of days ago, but I’m just not happy with the bottom hemline where the front left meets the back. I’ve trawled through a lot of finished projects on Ravelry and many seem to have quite a wobbly hemline over the hip in just that spot, and I don’t think it’s something that can just be blocked out.

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One project, fortunately, had some notes about just this issue, including a record of what she did to fix it. She was making a different size so I’ve done a little maths myself and think I’ve come up with my own solution, so I’ve ripped back 48 rows (thankfully much shorter ones than last time I had to frog!) and am reknitting to hopefully achieve a better looking line. I quite enjoy a bit of knit-maths but still I hope the numbers stack up!

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On the plus side, my new stitch markers really came in handy for this one!

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Treasure Trove

A random comment I noticed on a Facebook group last night sent me off on a treasure hunt this morning. It mentioned a fabric shop I’d never heard of, just a short drive from where I live. I’ve been on the lookout for some cheap knit fabric so I can practise the Renfrew top pattern I bought at the Knitting and Stitching Show, before I let myself loose on the spensive fabric I bought with it.

The fabric shop itself was much smaller than I’d hoped and didn’t carry a vast amount of stock. Most of it was printed cottons suitable for quilting, but I did find an end-of-roll offcut of a pink floral-printed jersey. I didn’t measure it, but it was only three quid, so I bought it anyway and hope it might be enough for a first crack at a Renfrew.

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The treasure was to be found in the adjacent barn. It hosts a selection of small businesses, almost like a small indoor market – vintage clothes, art and papercraft supplies, a small haberdashery, a petfood stall, fruit and veg, even a yarn shop, but the crown was the most amazing Aladdins Cave of a cake decorating supplier. They stocked just about everything you could possibly want for cake decorating – tools, toppers, food colourings, fondant icing, edible glitter, boxes, cake boards, stands, and a huge selection of cake tins for hire. I know where I’ll be heading next time I need some serious cake supplies, and it’s much nearer than the place I used to go to!

I think I’ll have to keep looking for a good local fabric shop. I discovered a great one a few weeks ago when I visited a friend and her yarn shop in Essex, but sadly that can hardly be considered local! Still, if you’re in the vicinity of Braintree in Essex, Blake House Craft Centre is definitely worth a mooch. They have a whole range of shops there though I’ve only been in two of them myself. And Sew On stocks a wide variety of fabrics and haberdashery supplies. I could have lost hours in there and left with a considerably lighter purse had I been in the mood for indulging. Just next door is my friend’s shop Sconch, which is just yarn heaven. It carries probably the biggest range of yarn types I’ve ever found in a single yarn shop. They have a great space for running Craft and Cake sessions several days a week. The staff were friendly and helpful. They also run an online shop which I’ve ordered from in the past and they have excellent customer service. I’d definitely recommend stopping by if you can.

I’m resisting buying any yarn at the moment as I have several projects lined up already, but I couldn’t come away completely empty handed, so I bought these cute stitch markers.

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What’s your local yarn or fabric shop like? Have you ever come across a crafty treasure trove?

Don’t they fly!?

The years, I mean. WordPress kindly informed me yesterday that it was my 3 year anniversary here. That would have totally passed me by!

I celebrated by picking up my knitting for the first time in about a week. I only managed a couple of rows but something’s better than nothing.

I also went to a rehearsal last night. I’m itching to get back to rehearsing a show. But this one was for a show I’m crewing in a couple of weeks time. Backstage work is something I enjoy, and you still get the buzz of being in a theatre, but it’s not the same as being part of the cast who’ve been rehearsing for months and going out on the stage in front of an audience. So I’m keeping my eye out for other opportunities.

In other news, the cake is safely in the freezer and it remains to be seen whether it survives on the other side.