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October 2017

Family Me and Mine

Me and Mine 2017: October


Every half term of my childhood we’d back up the car, head home and escape from the bubble of life on the inside of a school, even if only for a week.  We’d go to the beach, explore up on the moor, spend rainy days reading a never ending stack of favourites, and almost always go to Hembry Woods to tramp along the river bank, and then more often than not end up in the pub up the road for hot soup and a chance to warm up by their fire.  The leaves would be all the colours of green and gold and fiercely burnt orange, and when the wind blew they would scatter around us like confetti.  the mud underfoot was dark and soft, decades of leaf mould producing a very satisfying squelch, and down in the valley the river would call our names in the roar of the rapids.

It hasn’t changed.  You still have to turn off from the main path to get there, down a little track, just wide enough for one at a time, over a fallen tree still wrapped in ivy vines and then down the final slope to see the river there before you.

The Dart, a lot smaller than down in the harbour , but ferocious through the rapids that carve islands into the centre of the stream.  When I was little I could imagine all sorts of secret adventures happening on those islands, and in the summer when the river was lower we could paddle and rock hop out to them, wading through cool peaty water, clear enough to see all the way down to our toes.

In the autumn they’re definitely more for looking at from afar, unless you travel by canoe, but being back in the woods was the highlight of my half term, and a definitely highlight of the month as we headed south to spend the final weekend of half term with my Dad.  The children were fascinated by the river; the sea is their familiar friend, and they’ve seen the harbour and big tidal estuaries, but this little moorland stream was something completely new.  They hurled sticks into the water and watched them get jumbled up in the rapids, and tried to stir the flotillas of beech leaves that amass in the calms, gently swirling, oblivious to the tumult behind them.

We saw a golden retriever swimming after a stick, and for all that they’re not that keen on dogs, we waited to see her come safely ashore, prize between her teeth.  On sandy beaches they dipped the toes of their boots, and starred down into the water as it shelved steeply away, or hung over the edge of the bank to count the fish, no bigger than a little finger, that darted across the shallows, brown against the white stone on the riverbed below.

Elma planted acorns along the path, heaping them under sandy soil and planting a feather or a twig in the top of each one to mark where the new tree will be.

And then we climbed a tree.

And I think these might be my favourite Me and Mine photos yet.  It seems to sum up so many things that we value as a family and that John and I try to build into our days; being together, being outside in nature, and doing something ever so slightly crazy.

So often so much of our months are characterised by the complete opposite, by being apart because of work and school, by being inside because I’ve not yet convinced anyone that I could be productive working outside in the churchyard near my office, and by the everyday ordinary, rather than the adventures, it made for a truly wonderful weekend to dive right in, to recreate a memory of my own and pass the tradition on.

But my last photo this month comes from a more recent tradition.  When I was a child the cafe was entirely washed away by a storm one winter; I can remember going down the next day and dancing hopscotch on the tiles that had been enclosed by roof and walls.  When I was a teenager I worked on the counter and watched people squeeze in to the picnic benches to eat their pasties.  Now, breakfast at the cafe on the beach is more of a tradition than fish and chips at the pub, and it’s completely delicious so we wouldn’t be without it for the world.

Me and Mine, in October:


Knitting for me – Waking Tide {handmade}


The last time I knit myself a jumper I was pregnant with Elma.  She’s a deepest darkest winter sort of a baby and that was all the justification I needed to make myself a Mama Snug and then wear it pretty much daily (occasionally alternating with John’s hockey club hoodie) all through the last few months.  That was five years ago, and since then I’ve made countless pairs of socks, a handful of hats, and no less than 35 sweaters in sizes ranging from teeny tiny preemie to age 11-12.  The only thing I’ve made for me, was three pairs of socks, all of them in the last year, and one of the pairs was half done before even Kitty was born.

I’ve got yarn in my stash to make cardigans and jumpers for me; I’ve even matched patterns for some of it, and yet I cast off one jumper for a tiny adorable person and cast on the next, even though they neglect them and leave them in the middle of the hall floor.

This year, I said to myself, this year I will knit myself a jumper.  I’ve got the yarn, I can find a pattern, it will be wonderfully, and cosy warm, and the perfect shade of burnt orange and I will love it and wear it until it falls apart and I’ll still be smiling.  And yet it took me until July to cast on, and only then because I forcibly separated myself from most of my stash by putting it in storage while we moved house.

The truth is that right now I am not the size and shape that I would always want to be.  For various reasons, some medical, some chocolate, the baby weight from my last two pregnancies has stuck around with some persistence, despite sporadic attempts to do something about it.  It is very much my intention to do something about it, but equally it is not my highest priority right now, and I’ve made my peace with that.

But when it comes to knitting a jumper for myself, and knowing that when I’ve knitted it I’ll want to tske pictures of myself wearing it to show you all, I look back on the pictures of the much slimmer me I used to knit for and wonder whether I should really be knitting for me now.  The invidious voice in the back of my head tells me that if I’d just wait a bit, and pull my finger out and do some fitness and stop eating chocolate buttons every time I get really stressed at work I’ll get back to a size where I can share pictures on the internet and not worry that everyone’s going to think I’m secretly pregnant and I’ll look just like a model in the pictures.  For the record, I never looked like a model and the only thing in my tummy is my lunch.

Even when I was casting on, in the full knowledge that this was the only sizeable knitting project I had with me, the voice whispered “wait!”.

For a woman who generally has a fairly healthy relationship with her self doubt it was very disappointing.


Of course I’m glad I did.  The final skein of yarn arrived just as I was taking pictures for a work in progress post and was curled up into a ball later that night.  It only needed a few rows, a collar and the darning in of a dozen ends and I had a jumper.  And this time it fitted perfectly.  I put it on and it was warm and snuggly and big and cosy without being too big, with long enough sleeves and long enough in the body that it feels like being wrapped up in a giant hug.  I love it, the colour is luscious, and very seasonally appropriate, and the yarn itself (Spud and Chloe Sweater in Firecracker) has earned its place in my favourites list.

After giving you a sneak peek as I knit like the wind to the end of the yarn from my stash, I’ve been itching to share the finished jumper with you, and a little nervous too, and I did seriously contemplate just taking some pictures of it folded or on a hanger.  Anything rather than do what I actually did, which was to hand the big camera off to Kitty and smile.

She has no preconceptions about what I should look like, no imposed criteria for what is beautiful and no thought of trying to angle the camera to be as flattering as possible.  In fact most of her direction was to pull silly faces, to pose like I’m flying and then to pull off some Saturday Night style dance moves, none of which, oddly enough, appear in knitwear catalogues.

At least half of her shots were blurry because she just couldn’t stop laughing, in some of them I’m almost entirely missing from the frame, but with the exception of the top couple of photos, she took all of these shots.

So let me share my newly finished jumper with you.  The pattern is Waking Tide, and the yarn Spud and Chloe Sweater.  I started the bottom half as the size 38/40, knit another 2 inches to the body and then decreased four stitches every 6th round along where the side seams would fall, to bring the stitch count down to the size 36/38 (it’s decrease two stitches on the final round).  That gave me 4 inches extra in total which is pretty much my standard length adjustment (I’m 6’0″ tall).  The sleeves I knit to the 36/38 size, though there’s very little difference, and then the yoke is the smaller size, though still with plenty of positive ease.  My tension was a little looser than the pattern (fewer stitches to the inch), but I liked the fabric I got so it was just a question of doing the right maths (eventually – see previous post for the sad and lamentous tale of unravelling skein after skein to start over).

I love the lace work in the yoke; in a wool/cotton yarn it’s really textural and the ripples remind me of the beach at really low tide; when the waves have carved dimples into the sand as they retreat, and you have to hop from one to the next to get down to the water’s edge.

And even better, it has me itching to cast on something more that’s just for me.  It might be another year before I make another jumper or cardie, after all I have a bag of Yarndale stash that needs turning into jumpers and hats for little girls so that I can convince John that I have to go again next year, but I won’t let it be because I don’t think I deserve it.

May it be the first of many.

Joining Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish it up Friday and Frontier Dreams for Keep Calm, Craft On






Family Siblings

Siblings 2017: October


It doesn’t feel like October does it? Around here it’s not just that yet another month has scampered away without so much as a backward glance, as a climbing thermometer that’s seen the first day of half term significantly warmer than most of our August.  Having just gone digging through boxes of clothes for the long sleeves and the wooly jumpers, we’ve gone piling back through looking for the shorts and t-shirts that I was certain I’d put away for this year.  Last month two of my three were wearing coats and the other a thick cardigan and wind blown pink cheeks.  And now look at them.

You’d be forgiven for thinking we’d jumped a few months backwards, both for the summer clothes and the fact that these pictures came from an afternoon expedition to the farm, to see my aunt and uncle and catch up on all of their news, and then to pick some veggies for supper.  Despite our long stay while we waited for this house to complete, I never did do a Siblings post from the fields; June was the last post from our old house, July a trip to our old cricket club, and by August we’d just moved in.

Topsy turvy though it might be, I’m glad to include them in this year’s set of twelve because it is without a doubt one of our happy places; and one of many reasons why our crazy stop gap house plans worked so incredibly well.


Today we needed potatoes and they made a concerted bid for beans and kale – and when I cook it they genuinely will eat it.  But then these are the children that will make sneaky inroads on a dish of cooked carrots and fight to the teeth over the last piece of broccoli in the bowl.  I’d love to claim that it’s the result of some sort of superior parenting but when they wolfed down a bowl of kale at the end of August no one was more surprised than me.  If I were to get evangelical about one thing though, I’d have to stay that farm fresh veggies are so far removed from anything that’s ever touched a piece of plastic that they shouldn’t really be classed as the same thing, and when veggies taste as good as they possibly can they’re just about irresistible.

All three are off school for the next two weeks and it couldn’t have come at a better time.  Kitty has been ferociously tired as we reached the end of the week, and in need of serious cosseting, as early nights as we can get away with, and just a bit of time to stop and let her mind catch up with itself.  She has adored the first half of term, is so happy she’d go to school seven days a week in a heartbeat, but I think she is more than ready to have a couple of weeks of just pottering around at home.  We have very minimal plans for the holiday, mostly because I used up all of my holiday allowance for the year moving house, and I think it will do her the power of good.

Elma and Pip both missed the last day of term, Pip because he’d had a slight temperature and a grouchy cold, and Elma, well Elma’s motto for life is “go big or go home” so she had to one-up us all.  After a horrible Tuesday into Wednesday night, when she was really struggling with a horrible cough, I asked John to take her to the doctors because everything we’d tried overnight hadn’t really done the trick and she was starting to breath like a steam train and I thought it must be a chest infection.  Well the doctors tried their magic tricks and when those didn’t really work as well as they wanted, they tucked her up in an ambulance and sent her to the nearest A&E.  Several inhalers and one diagnosis of probably a viral wheeze later we brought home a little girl who was absolutely bouncing off the walls with vitality.  That would be the steroids kicking in then.  She’s been having an inhaler every four hours since, including all through the night and hello sleep deprivation my old friend.

It’s funny, every time we’ve had a newborn we’ve just rolled with the lack of sleep and got through it more or less coherently.  This time, whether we’re older, or just less used to it, it’s wiped the pair of us out and I know John is definitely looking forward to some lazy mornings at home, without even our ridiculously short school run to interrupt the dozing.

Aside from comparing ambulance stories the three of them have had a lovely month together, and for all their ups and downs, they are such a happy little trio, I couldn’t imagine life any other way than with the crazy, noisy world that these three bring.

Two sisters, and their brother, in October:

Do go and say hi to my co-hosts: Donna at What the Redhead Said Natalie at Little Jam Pot Life,  Keri-Anne at GingerLily Tea, Amber at Meet the Wildes, Katie at Mummy Daddy Me and of course the mastermind behind the whole thing, Lucy at Dear Beautiful.  And then link up your Siblings posts below, and if you’re joining in on Instagram if you use the hashtag #siblingsproject and tag @siblings_project_ we’ll be able to see them too!








Rainforest Socks {handmade}


Do you know what a “Baronesse Bambalina” is? According to the yarn label it might be some sort of a purple and blue bird but Google can only find me pictures of woolly socks, and Google translate (a) thinks it’s Catalan and (b) translates it as “Baroness Bambalina”.  Well that’s helpful then.

And so, in lieu of any evidence that there may actually be a colour way named after a small purple and blue rainforest bird and not the colourful Friday afternoon daydream of an Opal designer, let me show you some socks.

Before we moved, my train to work had lots of tables and free wifi and so I spent a lot of the journeys writing or playing around on Instagram.  The new train, I still get a seat, and it’s more reliable (please don’t let that jinx me come Monday), and travelling a shorter distance, but it’s not really set up for getting the laptop out, and with patchy reception I’ve gone back to train knitting and listening to podcasts.

That’s how these socks finished anyway.  The start was in more auspiciously knitterly surroundings in the car on the way to Yarndale, on the bus between the car park and Yarndale itself, not in the bus between Yarndale and the car park because my lap was far too full with the most gorgeous bag of squishable yarn you’ve ever seen, but definitely in the car on the way back home.  I only stopped because it got dark and I was pretty sure that I was ready to turn the heel.

The yarn itself, Opal Rainforest in the somewhat bafflingly named Baronesse Bambalina, also known as 4005 was a birthday present from some very dear friends a few years ago and it’s been lurking in the top of the stash boxes just waiting for me to want a ball of yarn for nice plain straight knitting socks.


They are pink and purple and blue and very definitely not stripy self-striping sock yarn.  The pattern seems to knit in bands, but even they’re fairly variable.  I can quite happily take second sock matching to an obsessive degree, and even when I still end up with one toe that has half a stripe of green when the other is all blue, I’ll keep trying on every pair.

I’d claim these socks let me relax and just see what would be, but truth be told I tried to make them match, even though matching is clearly impossible.  I matched the cast on yarn so perfectly, and yet by the time we got to the heel they were just wildly different, without rhyme or reason or even knot.  If ever there were a lesson in letting go of imperfection this should be it, because even with heels that could never claim to be matching, these are still very much a pair of socks that belong together.

(Picture by Pip, aged 3, who may have some work to do as family knitwear photographer)

And somehow, when it’s getting chilly, and the heat from the Aga can’t quite reach the tiles on the far side of the kitchen floor, that matching but not identical starts to matter an awful lot less.

They are warm, and snuggly, and, and this is a rarity for me; they are mine, all mine!

Joining Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish it up Friday and Frontier Dreams for Keep Calm, Craft On


Yarn gambling {handmade}


Knitting is a gamble.  An educated gamble a lot of the time, but a gamble none the less.  You choose a pattern, and hope that it’s written in a way that your brain can translate and doesn’t having you wanting to heave the entire yarn basket at the wall.  You choose a yarn, which in my case is never ever the same as the yarn the sample was knitted in, and hope that the weight and the drape behave how you imagine.  You knit a gauge swatch (or not) and hope that your tension over the swatch turns out to be roughly similar to a whole jumper’s worth of stitches, and after all of that, when you’ve checked everything that there is to check, measured everything there is to measure, and spent hours and hours of your time flicking through stitch after stitch, you hope that when you wash it it won’t grow big enough to fit a heffalump.

I haven’t even got to that last stage yet; my gamble was with the yarn, and as we all know, eventually the house always wins.

It started a year ago, in one of my most favourite yarn shops in the entire world (Lil Weasel) which unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) happens to be in Paris, and I was having a yarn attack of a most serious kind.  Not only had I picked out yarn to make sweaters for Pip and Elma, there in my hand was a skein of soft wool cotton, in my absolute favourite burnt orange, and on the counter next to me, were another seven.  I have no defence, I can only offer as plea in mitigation that I became temporarily incapacitated by the smell of wool and the amazing array of buttons and forgot that sheep are not an endangered species.  Mea culpa.

I’d not knit myself a sweater since (quick check of Ravelry) 2012, when I knit myself a maternity jumper while I was expecting Elma, and there was still yarn in the stash for at least two cardigans, and yet, the orange, it called to me.  I could see it then, some big snuggly jumper, the sort you pull on over pyjamas on a chilly winter morning, or curl up into on those weekend afternoons when the rain comes lashing down and your house becomes an island, isolated in the storm, while you watch the drops slither away down the glass.  I didn’t have a pattern in mind, or even a rough idea of the yardage for a me sized jumper, so I went with “all of this colour that they have on the shelf” and the die was cast.

And I don’t know what led me to throw the skeins into the “take to tent” bag when we were packing up our old house, but suddenly it was their time, and I knit and swatched, and chose a pattern, and felt indecisive about the pattern, and eventually cast on.  It was not the most auspicious start.  Despite knitting a swatch and washing it and blocking it, and doing some very careful maths, and casting on exactly that number, I started to knit something that whatever it was was not a jumper for a me-sized person.  I could claim that it was largely due to knitting mostly in very low light that I was at the underarms before I acknowledged that we had a serious problem, but I think it was probably just denial.  In my quest to make something with a bit of positive ease, I might just have gone overboard.  Sort of, will fit John in it as well levels of overboard.


There was nothing for it to rip back.  And on the plus side, I told myself, at least now I’m much less likely to run out of yarn.  Running out had been a near certainty on the original stitches, but now, surely the knitting fates would reward the hours of ripping back with a woollen widow’s curse?

Oh how they laughed.

As I write this I’m a decrease row, two rounds, four short rows, another decrease row and the collar away from finishing.  In yarn terms that’s nearly nothing.  Also in yarn terms, what it is not, is seven inches of yarn, which is exactly all I have left of the original skeins.

Welcome to ‘not quite finished Friday’

Except that while the house may have won this round, at least this time I’m learning (see debacle with Pip’s Christmas jumper), because earlier this week I had a very nice post day:

And now I’ll have a matching hat; just as long as it takes a little less than a skein, because if this runs out, it’s stripes.