Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Wonderful Wonderwool

This weekend a fabulous family wedding in South Wales gave me the excuse to pop up the road to Builth Wells, where Wonderwool Wales 2013 was taking place. Thanks Gordon and Ali! The wedding was fabulous, and for those of you who commented on my post last week, here I am fully dressed, and wearing more than the lonely tree!

Wonderwool was my first wool festival, and I had the best day ever! Of course! We met some angora rabbits, and learned that one rabbit produces about 400g of fibre each year. That's a lot of carrots per gram! The rabbits and their person were very charming anyway. These two are actually the same size, but one has recently had a haircut. Can you guess which?!

Mammar and I got excited about learning to use drop spindles

 and Crochet Queen and I bought waaaay too much fibre!

There were exhibitors from all over wales, covering all possible variations on wool-based craft, and the quality of materials and presentation was very very high. Here's a little peek at my haul:

I mostly bought yarn and fibre for my upcoming adventures in Making Craft Pay, so watch this space for updates on that. The Norwegian wool batt and paper bag of loose alpaca I am hoping to spin, with some support from Crochet Queen! She can do anything, that girl. The big cone in the middle is 500g of double knit, knitted on the artifacts at the National Museum Wales, and was a present from Mammar. Because of this I am torn, between turning it into a jumper for Sausages, and just keeping it to look at because it's so precious! In fact, I wish I had seen their stall first because it was lovely and I would have bought much more of their yarn, but by the time I found it I had very little money left, and I was determined not to spend beyond the cash I had saved up for the purpose. In fact, I did come home with more than £3 in my pocket, which is a small miracle, really. I'm already saving up for my next wool festival. Fibre East, anyone? On the way home Mammar and I took an impulsive detour to Raglan Castle, which she loved as a young woman.

Sadly it was all locked up, and the cafe had just closed, but it looked pretty impressive all the same. My mother loves castles. Throughout my childhood we would spend whole days running around castles and hill forts pretending to be Bouddica or Llewelyn or Robin Hood or Granuaile, depending on where we were. Actually, I'm noting a bit of a bias there towards the native/celtic underdog. Not surprising at all, really. I hope someday soon I'll be running around castles with Sausages, firing imaginary arrows and looking out for foe. A trip to Claire Island is called for, I think. Do any of you have similar memories? Are any of you living them with your children now? I hope so. We're so lucky to have so much accessible history.

I hope you had a lovely weekend too


Thursday, 25 April 2013

Yarn Along

Better late than never? When my camera battery died this week I hunted high and low for the charger, but to no avail. It is not in the house. I cleaned out the car, but it wasn't there either. As a result this week's yarn along comes with a photo taken with the back-up camera, which is a bit sad!

This week's knitting is the finished and blocking lonely tree, which is surely the most beautiful thing I have ever knitted. I learnt several new techniques along the way, but it's for "my very own self," as Sausages would say, and I am very happy! I do know that this is the worst blocking ever, but I lost my pins and had to borrow some from my lovely friend and neighbour, and even using all the safety pins I could muster I only just had enough for all those picot points. The shawl is so far all I have worked out to wear for the wedding of my charming cousin and his charming fiancee on Saturday, so I'm pleased it's finished. Even so, it's going to make for a skimpy outfit, so I'd better choose a frock or something too! I'm going to go along with my traditional practice and take a couple so that my stylish sister Wooodle can make the final choice.

The reading is the as yet unopened Knitting Circle by Ann Hood. Appropriately, this book has been passed around our village knitting group, and now it's my turn. I can tell you absolutely nothing about it! How exciting! The juxtaposition of finished knitting and new book appeals to me today. The reading fell into my lap so I have obediently taken the admonishments of Anke and Karen on board and relegated The Last Office back to the bookcase. I will finish it though; I've changed a lot about my life in the last four months, but that's part of my personality that I can't lay aside!

It just so happens that this weekend's wedding is quite close to the Royal Welsh Showground, where thousands of knitters, spinners, felters and other crafters will be descending for the Wonderwool festival, so Mammar and I are going, armed with my squirreled-away birthday money and the world's yarniest toddler. I'm so excited! What a beautiful weekend I've got coming my way. How about you?


Sunday, 21 April 2013

Sunny Weekend

This weekend was the first proper sunny one of the year for us, so Husband decided that we should make it our mission to sort out the Bungalow's optimistically-named "sun room." He's a clever one, that Husband. By sorting out a few boxes and moving some work files under the spare bed we have created a lovely little haven. If it's even just a tiny bit sunny this room is warmer than the rest of the house, however cold or breezy it might be outside. Husband has set up his delicate or baby plants under the big windows...

...Sausages has made one end into a playroom with some of his larger toys (he loves that kitchen)...

...and I have managed to squeeze in a comfy chair for knitting in his perfect company. It's so lovely! I get the feeling Sausages and I will be spending more time in there than in the sitting room from now on. Today I had a knitting date with the Kangaroo Mummies at Anglesey Abbey, and the boys took full advantage of the wildlife discovery area:

Musical sticks

In the Treehouse

"I put this stick in, Mummy!" For me this was the best sort of afternoon. I knitted with my lovely friends, and the boys spent some quality time together while getting some exercise in the fresh air. What could be better? Oh, that's right, tomorrow is the morning Sausages and I don't have to go out in the morning, so what would be better would be if he were to sleep in until 8am. I'm just saying. 

What did you do with this gorgeous weekend? If you're overseas, what was it like where you are?


Thursday, 18 April 2013

Yarn Along...and along...and along...

Joining in with Ginny...

Can you see what I'm reading? That's right, it's the same $*@% book I was reading weeks ago. I just can't finish it, because I don't want to read it! This may never end. All the while, there is a lovely shelf full of rubbishy fiction gleaned from our recent charity shop haul watching me from my bedside bookcase. Grrr. I'm definitely going for something light and trashy after this. The knitting is Sylvia Bo Bilvia's Lonely Tree. It's so beautiful, but it takes concentration and must not be knitted when tired! This shawl is a collection of firsts for me: first lacework; first shawl; first thing I have knitted for myself. The yarn is soooo scrumptious and soft. It feels a little bit like knitting with hand-made paper, if that makes any sense at all. There has also been more work on the two pink angel tops, since I ran out of yarn before doing the collars, but I think the ladies at my weekly knitting group have sorted that out for me, and I'll show you how it works out very soon! (Sorry about the light, it has been a bit grey here this week. Can you see the tiny tangle of leftover yarn? Enough for one collar, but not two, and I would so like them to match after all that effort!)

There has also been quite a lot of baking this week. On top of the usual three loaves of bread we have had delicious cheese scones, and a banana and chocolate loaf that I invented as I went along and has been a resounding success with Husband. The cheese scones were very spicy, as quite a lot of mustard powder and cayenne pepper went in, but Sausages absolutely loves them. It's so handy to have something more substantial than just fruit for his afternoon snack. Sometimes we have popcorn, but I read recently that you shouldn't give it to preschoolers because they choking risk is too high. has anyone else heard this?

Hoping you're all having a good week reading, knitting, baking, or whatever you do!


Sunday, 14 April 2013

Experimental Baking

Husband and I recently took a trip to a certain Swedish homeware store in order to equip the Bungalow with such thrilling items as paper lampshades and pillows. While we were there I visited their delicious grocery and put together a birthday hamper for my brother and his partner. Some items may have accidentally-on-purpose found their way into our shopping, including some sort of bread mix.

The instructions to pour the water straight into the carton and shake sounded a bit revolting, and when I put the resultant sludge into the tin Sausages asked why I was "cooking that bikabix?" It did smell that way, unfortunately. I ran up some guacamole to go with it, and waited for lunch...

Sadly the loaf stuck to the tin rather badly, and so came out a bit ragged, but very delicious and not weetabixy at all! Husband refused to eat it, but Sausages and I enjoyed it very much, and I'd recommend it for a morning's activity with a toddler. Activities which result in eating what you have made always go down very well in my experience! Our other culinary treat today was a toad-in-the-hole made with chorizo-flavoured sausages, which made a beautiful orange swirl in the "hole:"

Yum! What do your small children particularly enjoy cooking? Do they lick the bowl? Sausages recoils at this particular perversion, so I don't have to share the treat yet!

I hope you've had a lovely weekend!


Monday, 8 April 2013

Grand Days Out

This week we had two very lovely family days out for very little money. The first was absolutely free! We packed a picnic and went down to the Portsmouth Historic Dockyards. There are some really good activities and sights that you can pay to see, but it's still a good day out if you don't. You can walk through a lovely thoroughfare and see both historic ships and commissioned naval vessels in harbour and dry dock. There are lovely picnic areas, cafes, gardens and facilities, and very tempting shops. You can also walk around the corner to the Gunwharf Quays complex, which has a lovely seafront where you can watch the ferries and admire a variety of boats, as well as lovely shops, restaurants, and a cinema. Sausages really enjoyed the whole day, and there was definitely enough to entertain him without having to do the charging activities. However, I'm really looking forward to going to the new Marie Rose museum when it opens.

Our second day out was a trip around all the charity shops in the Outlaws' town. There must be about eight, and the change in our wallets brought us this little lot:

Please note the working Black & Decker children's workbench for 99p. Score. Quite how it's going to travel from the South Coast to Cambridgeshire in our tiny tiny car, which was already full to the gunwales on the way down, is another issue entirely. Sausages is having a great time playing with it, and has filled the shelves with books. That's my boy! 

Charity shop shopping is a real art form. You can find some really good things at good prices, but there is also a lot of overpriced stuff too. Oxfam bookshops are notorious for this, and for some reason charity shops always seem to ask higher prices for Primark clothes than you might pay first hand. D'oh! What's your favourite charity shop bargain? Where have you found good charity shops?

Happy hunting!


Friday, 5 April 2013

Daddy's taking us to the zoo...

We live in the most special little village. It has just the right amount of everything. And it has one, very special thing: a zoo! When we first moved here we invested in an annual family pass, and boy has it paid for itself. If we are reading a book about a lion, Sausages and I can decide on the spur of the moment to walk down to the zoo and look at a lion, then we can draw the lion, roar like the lion etc. This makes me very happy. Husband is in the middle of two weeks of "holiday," and last week we made pizza dough one afternoon, and at a loss for something to do while it rose, went to the zoo. Here are a few pictures of my exotic neighbours:

Sorry about the cages - they wouldn't let me in to take better photos! Sausages is so lucky, and has no idea! Here is his favourite part of the zoo:

That last one is evidence that there was an educational side to the excursion. The pizza was also fantastic, by the way: goat's cheese and organic leaves from the vegbox. It was a lovely family day to lift the heart, even if it was absolutely freezing and we had to cuddle up together when we got home. Joy! I hope your Easter holidays are proving joyful too.


Thursday, 4 April 2013

Yarn Along

Joining in with Ginny...

This week I am reading a new treasure...I want to knit everything in this book! And I want to use the yarns Carol Feller uses! And I want to visit the mills! I am already planning a tour of woollen mills when we're in Ireland this summer. The knitting continues to be the two pink tunic tops. I have done three of the body pieces and have about 75g of yarn left, so I might actually manage cap sleeves. I'm hoping to work this out while we're at the Outlaws this weekend. Watch this space!


Monday, 1 April 2013

Sleep: a Parental Preoccupation

We're having a lovely, lazy long weekend at my parents' house. Sausages is enjoying spending time with his grandparents, aunties and uncle, especially having an Easter egg hunt in the sitting room, still decorated for Christmas. Husband and I have been enjoying getting a little bit more sleep when he leaves us every morning to go for stories in Mammar and Bapar's bed.

Do you keep a family bed? My parents we encouraged to co-sleep with their babies by my Grandad, a GP with obstetric specialization, but it's not their natural way of sleeping. They have, however, always kept a family bed from dawn to dusk. My family are big snugglers, and it's not uncommon to find the six of us tucked up in bed together drinking tea and reading, or watching a gentle, old-fashioned murder mystery on the telly. When Husband and I got married, my Gran and Granpa gave us some money to buy our bed, and we chose the biggest we could afford, because Husband has always quite liked my family's approach. When Sausages was born we had a moses basket next to the bed, and then a cot with the side down, and he slept in them and in our bed, depending on how the mood took us.

I have always loved co-sleeping. I love waking up to find a small face next to mine, a tiny fist clenched in the hair of each parent, Husbands feet meeting mine so that we have unconsciously created a protective fort around Sausages with our bodies. The ease of breastfeeding lying down means that a nursing mamma can get a lot more sleep than if she had to get up to feed baby through the night, and is invaluable when either baby or mamma are under the weather. Husband, however, does not enjoy it. He worries about squishing Sausages. He listens to every little sound. We have reached a compromise: since Sausages turned one, we have kept a family bed from dawn to dusk, and in case of illness or other disturbance. The rest of the time Husband is responsible for putting Sausages in his own bed. At around 6 a.m. every morning there is a knock on our door. "Are you in there mummy-and-daddy? Can I come in?" Isn't that a beautiful way to start the day? What a reward for nights and nights of broken sleep; a child for whom you are the first thing he wants when he wakes up, and who is polite about it. Bliss.

Co-sleeping is a beautiful, natural family practice, but it has been receiving some bad press recently. This is sad, because unless you smoke, drink, or take certain medications it can be a safe and beneficial way to sleep for babies and children. The physical closeness supports breastfeeding and bonding with both parents in the early days with a newborn. Co-sleeping parents naturally monitor their child's temperature and breathing while they sleep. It's not a cop-out or lazy parenting; it's any parent's privilege. And as my family have demonstrated, any grandparent, auntie or uncle's privilege too. I'd love to hear your experience with family sleeping arrangements.

All the lovely sleep I get these days means more energy for getting things done, so here are a few finished objects for you to have a peek at. A hat for Husband, and Sausages' Fisher gansey:

I love wrapping my boys up in hand-knitted love. I wonder whether many other knitters and home bakers see their efforts as an expression of love. It's not the feeding or overheating, but the effort we put in that we are putting towards caring for our loved ones, and - importantly - making them feel cared for.

I hope you've had a lovely long weekend with your loved ones, and lots of lovely sleep of your own!