Category Archives: daily life

Sunday comforts

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Saturday was a work day, with an incredible amount of rain. It was so dark outside the store, it felt like a really long day, because it felt later than it actually was.

Today it looked like it was going to be another wet and windy day, but the sun came out and it ended up being bright most of the day, which was lovely. I had a bit of a lie in, and called my mum and sister on Facetime. Tai Chi Man and I went out for a cuppa at our favourite tea shop, and of course I took some knitting.

This afternoon, we did some shopping at our favourite health food store (oops, some special Christmassy chocolate jumped into my basket, Zazubean’s Dasher (white vegan chocolate with cranberries and cocoa nibs OMG) and also I found an essential oil diffuser on clearance. I’ve been wanting one of those for ages so I snatched it up. I have it going right now with orange and lemon oils in it. Smells divine!

Before the sun set and we got too relaxed, we went off to the gym for a 45 minute workout. I did treadmill and legs today. I’m being careful  not to overdo things with the left shoulder, for which I’m getting physio, and for which I have special daily exercises.

Once we’d had dinner, it was time to make mincemeat. Mince pies, aaaaah, one of my favourite things about December. Whether we’re celebrating the Solstice, Christmas or whatever, it’s just not the same without mince pies. I like to make my own, which means it’s vegan and fat-free. No need for suet. I can’t remember where I found this recipe, but I’ve been using it for years.

I’ll give you the recipe too in case you want to try it out. It’s supposed to sit in airtight jars in the fridge for 4 – 6 weeks. When you fancy a nice mince pie, you can whip up a batch of pastry (or buy it frozen if that’s what you prefer) and make little tarts, with or without lids, or large ones.

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I like to use a mixture of dried fruit. This is a combination of raisins, golden raisins, cranberries and currants.

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Then you add in your sugar and spices (I used a combination of organic sugar and coconut sugar, plus cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice).

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And then you add your wet ingredients – lemon juice, apples and apple juice. If you have organic lemons with no icky coating, you can put in the zest as well. Give it a good stir, leave it covered in the fridge overnight, stir it up again, and then put it into airtight jars. I use mason jars with the two part lids, but you don’t can it, you just put the jars into the fridge and forget about them until Christmas.

This quantity makes about four medium mason jars full. But this year I doubled the quantity as I may give some away to friends.

Let me know if you try it out.

Vegan Mincemeat Recipe

6 cups mixed dried fruit (eg currants, raisins, golden raisins, sultanas, cranberries)

1lb (about 4, depending on size) chopped apples

2.5 cups sugar (ideally not bleached white sugar)

1 teaspoon allspice

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon cinnamon

juice of 2 lemons

¾ cup fruit juice

Mix all in large bowl, leave covered overnight in fridge. The next day, mix it again, pack into sterilised jars with airtight lids. Leave in fridge 4 – 6 weeks.

 

Tuesday Tea

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I don’t often make it to my favourite tea shop on a weekday. Usually I’ll go on the weekend with Tai Chi Man, when I’m not working. But today I did, and I enjoyed this lovely green Raspberry Matcha Latte which just happens to coordinate beautifully with my Espe (vegan leather) wallet.

It was a day off for me, and I was awake early, even without the alarm. So I was out walking after breakfast around my neighbourhood. These pics are from a few days ago but the weather was the same – cool and sunny.

After lunch I was feeling antsy and ready  for another walk. Very unlike me! I didn’t want to go to the gym today because my shoulder has been more sore than usual, plus I have yoga tonight. So I went to a local mountain which gives one a good workout on the steep trails and walked up for about 25 minutes, and then down again, so that made two walks of around 40 – 45 minutes today. Then I met Tai Chi Man for tea. And of course I had my crochet blanket with me.

It really is so lovely to have crisp sunny fall days. We had a heavy frost this morning, but even so it wasn’t that cold when walking, because you make your own warmth.

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This cheerful little snowperson is a side project (because when I am stuck in large projects I have to have little distractions) which I am going to take to work to keep on display for a while. I found the perfect little stick arms while out walking. I probably should have made the rainbow scarf longer but it was fiddly and I’m not making another one.

The thing with working in retail is that you can’t avoid all the “holidays” and any reason for having a “sale” – I changed out the front table on Friday for a Christmassy look. Of course, here in Canada we already had our Thanksgiving in October, and Halloween is now past, so it’s all systems go for Christmas!!!

Yarndale and other holiday fun

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Yarndale and other holiday fun

I have been on holiday! I only had my old iPad Mini with me, and no phone, so I was only spending minimal amounts of time on t’internet, hence the gap between blog posts.

I had a lovely time. It was quite the whirlwind – the itinerary involved flying from Canada to London, England, driving down to see my cousins on the south coast, driving up to Yorkshire to spend a few days enjoying the area, including Yarndale, driving back to London, flying over to Jersey, a few days with the close family, then flying back to London, then flying home.

Kudos to Tai Chi Man who drove about 750 miles while we were in England. And motorway driving is NOT fun.

Highlights of the trip:

Yarndale, of course…

I was excited to meet Kathryn from CrafternoonTreats. We had been in touch prior to the day, because I have been helping to moderate her Ravelry group for a long time now and I just had to make sure we met up. She was a vendor, so she couldn’t avoid me, LOL. All of the yarn she dyes is wool, but knowing I am vegan she and her friend Helen had dyed up some natural coloured Stylecraft Classique Cotton with Procion dyes as a gift. So lovely!

Sorry, my photos aren’t great. iPad in poor light.

A few other souvenirs…

Being vegan helps me be disciplined in my yarn buying! Most of the yarn on sale at Yarndale is wool. So all I bought was this Louisa Harding Giardino (though it was pretty expensive)! And of course I had to get a Yarndale bag.

I was fan-girly about Lucy from Attic24, whose blog I have been reading for years. She is one of the organisers. I saw her, but didn’t talk to her, in the Knit ‘n Natter room. And I also spotted Tatsiana from Lilla Bjorn in the Scheepjes booth.

My travel knitting was a simple pattern from DROPS called Rascal. A two-row pattern repeat, it was just knitting back and forth until I felt the shawl was big enough. And I wanted to give it to my sister when it was done, so I had to finish it before I came home.

I forgot to get daylight shots before giving it away.

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It’s made with Lion Brand Mandala in Phoenix.

Other notable mentions…

Met up with my English cousins (one I haven’t seen since 1988) for a lovely day of hiking and lunching and catching up.

Took the tube around London, including Camden Market, Regent’s Park and Tower Bridge. Went up inside the bridge and got a funny feeling in my tummy looking down through the glass floor.

Seven hour drive north to Ilkley in Yorkshire where we had a lovely cosy Airbnb. Hiked around Bolton Abbey, saw some of the cycling world championships, got absolutely soaked on a three hour hike up on Ilkley  Moor. After Yarndale, a 5.75 hour drive back south to Gatwick airport.

The island of Jersey in the Channel Islands (close to France) is where most of our family lives and I stayed with my mum and Tai Chi Man stayed with his dad. That gave us the most time with our respective parents. And one day was spent almost entirely with my sister, including lunch at a vegan restaurant and a walk on the beach with her dog.

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A successful trip, all went to plan, with the only travel hiccup being a three hour delay getting out of Jersey. But as we had split up the three flights home with a stay at a Heathrow hotel this time it wasn’t a problem.

We were happy to see so many vegan options in many places. Supermarkets and restaurants are now offering so much more than they used to, so finding food is easier than it ever was. We still mostly self-cater when travelling, but it’s good to know we won’t starve if we have to rely on outside sources. There was a lovely cafe in Ilkley called The Veggie, the Sinful Vegan in Jersey, tons of vegan places in Camden Market, and I can’t forget Ransom’s Garden Centre in Jersey which has so many vegan mains and desserts that it’s hard to choose. (I had the coffee walnut cake, which was so rich I couldn’t finish it all in one go and had to save some for the evening.)

So we’re back to our regular scheduled programming. We arrived home Saturday evening, and Tai Chi Man had Sunday in which to recover somewhat from the jetlag and was back to work Monday. Thankfully my schedule meant that I am not back to work until tomorrow, Wednesday, so I’ve had time to blitz the house and do some grocery shopping. I haven’t quite had the energy to get to the gym yet though.

I’m back to crocheting the Party Cardi (a video tutorial on The Secret Yarnery’s YouTube channel) now that I have had a delivery of two more cakes of yarn. My stashbusting for September was pathetic, with the only outage being some tiny pumpkins, and then of course the incoming yarn from Yarndale. However I have blanket plans, because there’s nothing better than a blanket project when the weather gets cold. What are your favourite blanket patterns? I have some Red Heart With Love (which will probably become a giant granny square) but also a tonne of random worsted and DK to use up. I need ideas!

 

Two steps forward and one step back

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The backing for the wonky log cabin quilt came together quickly, as I used chunks of the fabrics left over from the top. I bought a polyester batting from work – the cheapest thinnest stuff you ever did see – and pinned the layers together.

And then I quilted some of it…and hated it…and am now unpicking the stitches from the back with a seam ripper. It was too much quilting, too messily done, and it ruined it. I had quilted five squares out of the 25, used a full bobbin of thread on it over 1.5 hours, and it will take ages to pull out. However I will be happier with it in the long run if I suck it up and just do it.

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More happily, I have an FO! A pompom beanie crocheted with a cake of Caron Chunky Cupcakes in Jelly Bean. The pattern was on the ballband but it’s also available for free on the Yarnspirations website. Details on my Ravelry project page. It’s constructed using a sideways ‘ribbed’ brim, then you join into a loop and work along the side for the body of the hat. The main part is moss stitch, which in crochet is (sc, ch1) around, working into the chain spaces on the next round. It makes a nice fabric, and alternating both ends of the yarn cake gives you a variation in colour as you go. The pompom comes attached to the yarn, which is why it coordinates so well.

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a cosy Cowboy Fog

 

I’ve been mostly staying off Facebook lately, preferring just to post an occasional photo to Instagram. I spend at most a few minutes a day on Instagram so have more time to do better things! The above photo is from one of my visits to my favourite local tea shop. This book is from the library and I’m really enjoying the read, and identifying what is cosy for me. Certainly, one of my cosiest things to do is sit in Chai Baba and drink their awesome teas and either crochet, read or talk to the friends we bump into there.

Another cosy thing I like to do is take my breakfast outside to the deck. It’s cool and quiet and I can look at the sky, enjoy my breakfast, maybe wrap myself in a blanket or quilt if I feel a little chilly, and look out for birds and squirrels in the trees.

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morning muesli

It’s my birthday tomorrow and I feel like the celebrations are happening not just for one day but for half a week! Last night I went out to dinner with friends and we had a lot of fun. We’re all Brits so have the same sense of humour. Tomorrow I am working, but there is a potluck at my house in the evening with a different set of friends who we always have a laugh with. We usually play Mexican Train Dominoes, and there is lots of digressing and wordplay and puns. And Sunday morning we are off to brunch at another vegan cafe with a couple of our sons. I am totally making the most of turning 57!

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So while I was procrastinating on the quilt unpicking, I made these tote bags with some old stash fabrics. I made 12 in all but took the photo before I made the last one. I decided that as I have to work on my birthday, I will practice Random Acts of Kindness and give a bag out now and then throughout the day to customers who need one. It will save them taking a plastic bag and hopefully it will remind them to always carry a cloth bag with them when they shop in future.

And then I spotted the stash of old jeans on the top shelf of the sewing room closet, and this came together.

It’s a fun little bag made from upcycled denim. I sewed a little flower where there was a hole at the corner of the pocket, which inspired me to make the strap out of the same fabric and also applique another patch on the back. I loved it so much that I immediately started another, but it got to 4pm and I had to start cooking dinner. I could have carried on for hours!

Have you seen this nifty gadget? It was very useful today, for sewing over bulky seams and the parts where the tote bag straps joined to the top of the bags. It basically helps the machine to handle the thick seams without skipping stitches or getting stuck. Definitely a good investment.

Well, I really must get to bed. It’s been a busy day (including a 9am Cardio Barre class and a half hour weights session tonight) and I have to be up early in the morning, Have a great weekend!

FO: The Big Kahuna

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The latest stashbuster is finished. It took me all of five days and it’s about 100″ long!

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It’s a combination of Loops & Threads Facets in various colourways and some Stylecraft Harlequin, all of which have been in the stash for too long and I just wanted them out.

I used an 8mm hook and a basic C2C, making it 11 blocks wide. There were lots of ends to weave in, but I tackled some half way through and the rest this morning. It’s lovely and squishy and warm, but it will pill like a bear, and I will only be handwashing it very occasionally.

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I am loving the coolness in the mornings and it’s the best feeling to be outside on my deck, with a quilt or blanket around me, drinking my tea or coffee or eating my breakfast and just enjoying the view and the breeze. Getting up early DOES have its advantages.

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I am going to take a couple of days off the crocheting, I think, because what with the manic crochet the last week to get this project done by the end of the month, plus that spin class (eek!) plus all the pricing gun action last Friday, my wrist hasn’t been too happy.

I am super happy with my stashbusting for the month though. My FOs are the daisy blanket, the Jayma shawl, the walking hat, the Mimic shawl and this Big Kahuna scarf. Plus I cleared a few extra bits and pieces out of the stash and into a bag for the thrift store. Total out for this month is 2990 grams and zero new acquisitions.

So the year to date, as far as bashing the stash is concerned, is 6770 grams used or destashed, 2100 grams in (no purchases since January, woo hoo!) with a net reduction in stash of 4670 grams. I’m delighted with my progress. The stash is now at the point where I have a good selection of basic acrylics that I enjoy using (very little novelty stuff) and a small collection of plant fibre yarns for which I currently have no specific plans. (If you want to be nosy and check out my stash on Ravelry, it’s here.)

In other news, I took my car to the body shop for an estimate yesterday. The total cost for a small dent and large scratch? $1900! I will have to pay $500 of that, but wow, considering it looks like a small amount of damage that is a big bill!

OK, I need to get dressed and get to the gym. I went yesterday and am a little sore from that workout but I will do something different today to work some different muscles. And tonight Tai Chi Man and I have yoga, so that’ll be good. I had to miss Saturday’s Yin Yoga because I was working, which is a shame because it feels like the perfect body reset for the week. Talk to you later 🙂

Crochet and fabric play

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She is done, my Mimic shawl. She had a bath and a lie-down on the blocking mats, and  a bit of steam, and she grew to 16.5 inches by 87.5 inches. Yup, pretty long, but lovely with it.

This used 260 grams of Lion Brand Mandala in the Troll colourway, so about one and two-thirds of the 150 gram cakes.

My stashbusting has been epic this month. Two shawls, a blanket and a hat completed and I also cleared out a bit of undesirable yarn from my stash. That’s a total of 2320 grams of yarn OUT! And none in.

The other small project I finished was this Walking Hat, so named because I crocheted it on my walks around the neighbourhood. I used up the last of my Caron Big Cakes in Shadowberry. I wouldn’t buy this yarn again. It’s not the nicest acrylic, in my opinion. It took three and a half walks to make. I probably got some second glances as I carried my yarn and hook around with me this week!

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In the grand scheme of checks and balances, I should be picking up  my paycheque today, which will include some extra hours and overtime. However, when I was at a coffee shop with a friend yesterday, my car was parked outside on the street, and during that time someone swiped it with their vehicle and took the paint off. Grrrr! I am claiming off my insurance, of course, but there is still a $500 deductible to pay. I had to spend some time on the phone to the insurers yesterday and book my poor car in for an estimate at the body shop.

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So what else is new? Ah yes, my quilting. I have been itching to make a quilt again. I started back in 1998, when I was expecting son #3, and took a class to learn how make a large quilt. It was definitely worth it and from then on I quilted like a crazy person for six years, until I got back into yarn crafts. I haven’t really felt the pull since, even though I now work in a fabric store, but that doesn’t stop me from bringing home pretty cotton fabric remnants now and then. If I really like something, I’ll buy a metre.

Anyway, I’ve recently been watching The Midnight Quilt Show on YouTube and have been enjoying watching Angela piece and machine quilt like the pro she is and it’s inspired me to get going again. I also have a pile of quilting books from the library. This week I pulled out a bunch of fabrics and decided on a theme. I am fussy-cutting squares from Pink Panther, Scooby Doo, camper vans, Vespas and colourful cats and using a backing of broadcloth to stitch-and-flip crazy log cabin blocks. I have six so far.

It’s a lot of fun and deliberately cutting the pieces a little wonky with scissors means no need for precision.

I have no plan as to the number of blocks to make or how it’s all going to come together. I’ll scratch this itch and see where it takes me.

Have a great weekend! (I’ll be working, and I’ll still do my best to have a great weekend.)

Oooh pretty!

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Oooh pretty!

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I braved the heat to get outside in the garden and take a few photos of the Mimic shawl progress. I love it so far. There are usually soft colour changes in this yarn, but there was a hard change from the pink to the green so I pulled a few stitches out, back to the beginning of the row, and cut a little yarn out so that there wouldn’t be a partial row of the pink. Where the blues appeared, I left it as it was.

There is something odd about the cake. If you look closely, you’ll see a bit of turquoise and white in the section  of purple. I’m pretty sure that’s not supposed to be there and I will be cutting that out.

The lawn is looking incredibly green for this time of year. We do have underground sprinklers, though we are careful not to overdo it, but we have had a goodly amount of rain recently. The other day at work, it was like a monsoon. Awesome!

Inventory day at work yesterday went well. The teams started at 7 and finished at 3, though management had to stay longer to finish up the paperwork and check for anything that may have been missed. The manager had a 12.5 hour day! As she would say, that’s what she’s paid the big bucks for (with a rueful smile on her face and a hint of sarcasm in her voice)!!! (By the way, I gave her the Jayma shawl that I just completed, and she loved it.)

It’s so good to have that annual event behind us. The store needs to be put back to rights now, with all the fabrics set up properly so that customers can browse. That’ll take a few days probably.

For now, I have three days off in a row, and need to toddle off to the kitchen to get food ready for a potluck with friends. Take care, everyone, and have a great weekend.

 

 

WIP: Knit Mandala Cowl – almost there

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The cowl is nearly finished. I have been enjoying knitting this project. It’s been a nice change of pace from the crochet blanket. I have only a few rounds of K2P2 ribbing to do. As you can see, I have reached the white in the cake. It would have been interesting to have some more grey at the top edge, and I could keep going longer, but on the other hand the transition from darker colour/denser stitch pattern to lighter colour/lacier stitch pattern works rather well. I’m glad the aqua falls in the centre as it’s the colour that one notices the most.

You may recall my efforts to get up earlier in the morning, and my alarm clock was set 5 minutes earlier every day until I was waking at 5am. The last few mornings I have woken up just before the alarm, but when the alarm actually goes off I hit snooze once or twice. Often, Tai Chi Man is already in the en suite and there’s no point getting out of bed until he’s moved off to the kitchen. Our en suite is tiny!

One of the bonuses of getting up early is the coolness, as it’s getting hot most days. Another thing I enjoy is looking out at the garden to see if I can spot any deer (though I’d probably have to be up before dawn for that) and the sky is often very pretty too.

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The forecast is for a much cooler day today (18 degrees Celsius) and rain and possibly a thunderstorm. There is quite a wind – I can see our big maple from where I sit, and the branches are being tossed about – and I managed to get an OK shot of the sky with the clouds moving in, the moon, and an interesting bank of clouds sitting right on top of the mountains in the distance.

More often than not, I work on a Wednesday, but this week my shifts were scheduled the same as last week – Sunday, Monday, Friday – so today is going to be a home day. The To Do list includes a little cleaning and decluttering (aaagh, need to start on the utility room shelves, which is a huge job) but also some sewing and knitting.

I haven’t shown you the pink top that I sewed last week, but a turquoise one is now in progress using the same Burda pattern so I will get photos soon. I have been watching a podcaster/vlogger recently called Rachael at SewRayMeUK. She lives in Scotland, has an Etsy shop selling sewn bags and things, and has been vlogging every day during June. She is a keen gardener and has a beautiful garden. I am feeling inspired to sew more things, but I really must finish the current project before I move on to something else. The cut pieces are laid out on my cutting table and I have started the assembly. I could have kept on going last night, but at 9.45 I had to call it a day. Getting up at 5am means going to bed before 10pm.

It’s gone dark in my living room. The sky is mostly cloud now and I feel like a big dump of rain is imminent. That’s great! Even with our sprinklers, the lawn is looking dry and crispy already. Happy Hump Day, everyone. Talk to you again soon 🙂

FO: Scrapsrific Rainbow Blanket

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FO: Scrapsrific Rainbow Blanket

I am pleased to say that this mystery crochet-along is finished and I have a VERY colourful blanket to show for it.

This was designed by Joanita Theron of Creative Crochet Workshop and was a 7 week MCAL. As the word “rainbow” was in the title, I just had to pick some appropriate colours of DK yarn (mostly Stylecraft Special DK) to which I added grey and white. By the end I had run out of the pink, red and orange, which is a shame as a full rainbow spectrum border would have been awesome.

I used my own border idea – one round of single crochet and three rounds of granny clusters. I also fudged the numbers on the rectangular strips to make them the correct size for my squares. Even after machine washing and drying, there is some bumpiness and rippling happening, but I’m not going to fret about it. It’s about 38″ square and used 540 grams of yarn. My only FO for May!

So it’s back to the daisy-making. I finished two more squares on Thursday:

I still haven’t completely memorised the pattern. It’s a tricky one.

In other news, my kitchen cupboards have now been fully decluttered, but I haven’t moved on to the next room yet.

My experiment in getting up earlier is going well. Each day I set my alarm clock 5 minutes earlier and I am finding it quite easy, as long as I go to bed reasonably early (around 10pm).

I bought rayon fabric in vibrant shades of fuschia and turquoise to make two tops to go with  my new leggings and yesterday I had time to cut out all the pieces. Next time I have a good block of time, I will go and start on the sewing, probably Tuesday.

This weekend, I did a lot of volunteering for Vegfest, the annual vegan festival in my town. Last night, Tai Chi Man and I helped set up, getting the gym and some of the classrooms converted for use by vendors and speakers. This involved a lot of furniture moving and sticking green masking tape on the gym floor to mark it out for vendors’ tables.

Today I was back at lunchtime to be an entrance greeter for the afternoon, taking people’s donations and giving them information. I was outside but thankfully it was cloudy – if it had been full sunshine, I’d have had to find some shade. At 5, the festivities were over, but then the cleanup began. A team of us put the school back to rights, cleaning, tidying, mopping, taking out the garbage. We were done by about 7.15.

It’s good to get a little couch time at the end of the day. It’s been a very physical weekend and I need to recharge.

 

Life update

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Well, hello. I hope you’re all enjoying Spring (or Autumn if you are in the southern hemisphere).

The time is whizzing by, which is a bit of a shame as I do like the shoulder seasons. The temperature is comfortable, you’re not freezing or sweating all the time, everything looks nice and green (it’ll be dry, brown and crispy in another couple of months) and the cherry blossom is gorgeous. The apricot will be next.

I have to be quick here as I have to be at work soon. So just a quick post to show you the CAL progress.

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This is Part 4 of the Scrapsrific Rainbow Blanket CAL run by Creative Crochet Workshop (I have since woven in my ends). Part 5 is out but I haven’t started it yet. These are my squares so far…

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At the end of April I felt like I needed a Finished Object to add to my stashbusting for the month, so I made this cowl – no pattern.

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The yarn is Red Heart Boutique Unforgettable Waves and whilst the yarn is pretty (the colours are actually more intense in real life) it is pilly and I wouldn’t buy it again.

I have been tracking my yarn ins and outs in the British Banter group on Ravelry – there is a Bash the Stash challenge – and apart from a splurge in January I am doing well with a net stashdown for the first few months of the year.

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Some friends and I had a fun mini road trip yesterday, heading north an hour to the next nearest city. We stopped in at a little quilt shop, then at a vegan cafe for lunch, and then at a store that I’ve been meaning to visit for months – Sweet Legs! I finally own two pairs of their lovely leggings. Of course that means I now need new tops to go with them!!

I just did my seasonal closet clearout and my dear husband doesn’t understand why I need new clothes! Ah well, nobody’s perfect!