Yes, this Christmas was surprisingly good, very calm and bright apart from a couple of power cuts the second of which was from just after midnight until 11.30 am, we stayed in bed until it was over. So there has been a lot of this
in front of this
because outside it looks like this
I hope the weather isn't dampening your festive spirit.
You know I never have big aspirations for Christmas, in fact we couldn't even decided about what to eat this year until Mr FF announced he'd be quite happy with sausages. That made me think we should make an effort so we bought ourselves a duck, I shall make some interesting stuffing and maybe a sauce, easy and delicious. We don't go overboard with presents for each other, we've worked on a maximum spend of £5 for the last few years and never put the figure up. This year I blew most of my budget on one item so Mr FF will only have two gifts in his stocking but he tells me he only has two for me, so that's fair. We don't have a Christmas tree, I did see a friend's post on Facebook saying they'd put a tree up for the first time in about 8 years and couldn't wait to take it down. Lisa I'm with you on that.
We have put white lights up outside the house, on a large pine tree and along the balcony so everyone in our road gets the benefit. I have a little wreath my sister in law kindly made for me at the door and a tiny tree below it that Mr FF rescued from the gutter when it was just a seedling and potted up. I might decorate it though if it stays as windy as it has been I won't bother as the baubles will end up in the next village.
We went down to Yorkshire last week on a Santa run, exchanged presents and saw lots of family and friends which we really enjoyed. It was lovely but now its nice to be home and settle in. The weather has done its best to make things festive, the fire is glowing, I have knitting.
I hope your Christmas is everything you want it to be and that you too have enough.
I love an on line yarn bargain and its so easy to log on if I need a few balls of something for a quick project like the birth of a new baby, obviously there's never the right stuff in my stash. Even using my bus pass the thought of travelling 40+ miles into town doesn't appeal much and at this time of year I am not prepared to traipse round the shops listening to Christmas jingles so most of my gift shopping has been done on line too. However, I was on the outskirts of Edinburgh recently having a belated birthday lunch with Helen and we came across a beautiful new local yarn shop. Be Inspired Fibres is full of luxurious goodness, cashmere, alpaca, all the things we love and there are beautifully knitted examples to fondle and admire. There is definitely much to be said for experiencing yarn first hand and we were soon fired up to knit ourselves wonderful soft shawls and make gorgeous tiny baby items. However Helen has made me promise that I won't ever visit the shop without her, we will definitely be back in 2014 encouraging each other to spend in this little gem. I've been enjoying the Channel 4 fly on the wall tv programme about Liberty of London, which follows this landmark department store as it prepares for Christmas.
All the staff are amazingly dedicated people, who wouldn't be content and motivated working in such a beautiful environment, but these two lovely ladies in haberdashery (love that word) are my favourites. I have no idea what they are knitting but it looks as fabulous as they do, what a joy it would be to discuss your next project and select yarn with their help. So next year remind me to stop adding yarn to my stash just because it's great value, to buy less on line and more in person. You might also encourage me to change my glasses and wear more beads. Photographs from Google images
Quiet days here, fortunately after the storm last week that put our power off for almost 12 hours and brought down several big trees in the area, everything is calm and the weather is kind. Having said I had enough scarves, I embarked on yet another. I found this Rowan kit, pattern, yarn, purple needles and label, in a charity shop for £3, its Kidsilk Haze which is a gorgeous soft mohair and silk with some silver shimmer that makes it quite festive. I made the scarf slightly wider than the pattern suggested so its not so long just enough to tie round my neck, its a thing of beauty.
As is my cable wrap, I have just 100 g left to knit, its big, its cosy, the colour is so flattering, I love it and can't wait to be wearing it.
Mr FF has been fairly busy, he had to repair the oven door last week, it just slumped and wouldn't close properly. While waiting for replacement hinges to arrive he decided to give the door a good clean, unfortunately on the kitchen table where he burnt the top with some horrible chemical.
The upside is he has sanded down the table and revarnished it. He did the sanding outside then moved the table into the conservatory. When I took a look he had re-arranged the dining chairs and conservatory tables bistro style in our eat in kitchen, made me laugh though no we are not open to customers, we are enjoying the lull too much.
And probably the main reason we are chilled is that the presents are bought, wrapped, cards written and we are set to do a Santa run to Yorkshire sometime next week. Please let the weather be OK, that's all I ask this Christmas and I should get what I want because I have been good all year.
The side of my brain that is organised and analytical identified a selection of yarns that would reduce the stash and be suitable for gloves, baby socks or various other little stocking fillers. I put them in a bag ready to use and sorted some other odds into a bag for the charity shop. Two pairs of fingerless gloves later the other, naughtier, side of my brain took me back to the stash and I fished out some more options.
I bought this unknown yarn in a charity shop ages ago, the lady said it was £1 a 50g ball which I thought a bit expensive, its obviously man made fibre. She then asked me how many I was thinking of buying, they had loads, and we agreed on 3 balls for £1. I'm knitting a pattern from my new scarf book, Midwest Moonlight by Ivy Biglow. I shall probably get a longish scarf from 1.5 balls and the yarn is coming up much better than I expected though it's a slow knit.
Back to the stash I came upon this gorgeous Ethical Twist oatmeal and immediately cast onCoin Lace and Cable Wrap from elann.com. The pattern suggests using 2 strands of dk, but I've used one, reduced the needle size and added a couple of pattern repeats. The yarn is 70% organic wool 30% alpaca from happy well treated animals, it feels beautifully soft and luxurious. I have 4 x 100g balls that I think I may have bought on ebay, I want to produce a biggish shawl/scarf that I can fasten with a pin.
So now I'm knitting two scarves that don't figure on the Christmas present list at all and my good intentions are forgotten. I'm not a girl who is short of scarves, not my any means, but despite what good brain says I am using up stock. I am loving working both patterns and my friend Pam says you can never have too many scarves or handbags. Impulsive brain would add toiletries to that list but we won't go there today, that side of my head has already had too much its own way lately.
So its all change here, I'm going to have to stop - reading in bed till I fall asleep, waking up in the early hours and reading some more flicking through the tv channels and spending far too much time watching rubbish rinsing my mug every time I have a drink and just using the same one again
making coffee in the small pot and setting the toaster to once slice I enjoyed being on my own in many ways, its been so very calm and relaxing but after a few weeks it all got a bit samey and tedious. I never ventured far as my car was rattling in a worrying way but then I'm always happy to be home pottering outside or in and while I missed Mr FF I do enjoy my own company. I am pleased - I was able to fix the central heating when the pump wouldn't start (I had to be told which bit was the pump so I could bleed the valves) I got the computer started by taking the cover off and unplugging and re-connecting some fancy wires (I had to be told which bit was the mother board) I eventually got the non functioning electrically operated garage door open when I was late for my dental appointment. I had to disconnect the mechanics and lift it manually I've lost about 9 lbs and for the first time in many years am under 10 stone, that's really put a spring in my step I joined a local knit and natter group that I combine on a Monday morning with a local food shop, I shall probably keep going to that weather permitting I'm sorry the iron blew up and I had to borrow one from a friend, no way was I going to try and fix mine, and that I didn't do all the Christmas shopping or write the Christmas cards or wrap any parcels. So Mr FF is home. He has bravely driven back from Italy on his own, the car loaded with wine, oil, more wine,
fruit from the garden, cheese, did I mention wine, some interesting pasta
and the remains of some cooking ingredients
We heard when he got back that there was snow on the mountain behind our house and then that the snow was at the level of our house, he got away just in time though he has constantly tells me how cold it is here. It took me a while to acclimatise too, he'll get used to it, his tan will fade and we'll settle into our usual winter routine until next year. Another glorious flip flop season is over but being back together is compensation enough.
There was a market in our village on Saturday morning organised by some of the local mums to raise funds for the children's Christmas party. It was well publicised, every house had a flyer through the door and there were posters around. I was delighted to take a walk down to the hall on a sunny morning, admission was £2 which included as much tea or coffee and home baked cakes as you could manage, it all just kept coming and everything was delicious. There was a good variety of stalls, from table top second hand items, including beautiful tiny baby clothes at 50p an item, children's toys at £1 and books for 50p each, which did nothing to help my shelf decluttering as I couldn't resist a hand full.
Home baking, the rest of my sparkly cupcakes have already been eaten
Local veggies fresh from the ground,
I won this pretty cotton shopper on the tombola, together with a miniature bottle of creme de menthe.
Its great to be able to get together with friends and neighbours, to shop local or sit and chat in the cafe area especially in a small but spread out village like ours that has no amenities, no shop, pub or tea room, nothing but a church, a village hall and few bus stops. So it was disappointing that the turn out wasn't great, a lot of people went to a lot of effort to organise this fun morning and it was the same few regular supporters who attended. These functions are what make a village, I just hope the fundraisers don't lose heart as it would be a great loss if our infrequent but important community events stopped completely.
Brenda, who now shares my passion for sock knitting, asked me recently to let her know what I thought about one of my birthday books, Sock Yarn One-Skein Wonders edited by Judith Durant, so I thought I'd let you all have the benefit of my opinions. I put this book on my wish list as while the patterns are for sock yarn they mostly use not much more than 100g so I thought there would good ideas for using up any yarn from the stash.
There are 101 patterns and most of them I like, plenty of socks of course and gloves, some nice scarves and interesting shawls,
baby items including pretty tights,
sweet little cardies, there are dolls clothes, cowls and bags, all perfectly knitable and useful stuff. I like the book, I think its inspirational and good value though I really don't like some of the odd items towards the back that personally I would never ever knit.
I don't want to deck out my lotions and potions with a cosy or even knit a decoration, definitely not a Christmas decoration.
I started thinking that you'd be desperate to reduce your stash if you went down this route. I put all my odd bits of yarn in a bag and hand them in at the charity shop or give them to someone who I know knits for charity, hoping they won't end up as some chicken shaped cover for a small Easter egg. I may be a knitting snob but I have definite ideas about what you can and can't produce from yarn and needles. I knew someone who knit dish clothes which is fine in principle but she used the cheapest acrylic yarns that were hopeless and went straight in the bin, what a wasted effort. Knitting must have a purpose that's my motto so I'd rather knit blanket squares than this lampshade.
While I was in Italy I was happily knitting socks when it wasn't too hot and I decided that when I got home without Mr FF I would tackle something a bit more challenging, like lacework, while I had the time and solitude for concentration. I regularly read other people's blog posts about tackling complicated patterns, having several projects on the go at once, whipping up a garment in a weekend and I imagine I might be the same.
All those lonely nights in front of the telly, so what have I been knitting, mostly socks. I did make a little pink wrap top to send off for a newborn in Italy, a pattern I've used lots of times and I made another cowl from a pattern I've used before plus several pairs of plain socks from a Regia yarn I like very much, but nothing new at all.
Still, using up the stash you might think, not even that. I ordered 6 balls of sock wool to be delivered to me in Italy but after 3 weeks they hadn't arrived and though Get Knitted kindly offered to send them again I was running out of time, whilst eeking out the yarn I had, and we agreed it would be best to send them to the UK when I got home. Then I spotted the above Regia and ordered half a dozen 100g balls.
I received a couple of inspirational books for my birthday so I have had a rootle through my stash and identified a lot of yarn to use up for gloves, cowls etc but progress is slow.
However, I have had a good look through the various patterns I've downloaded over the years, realised I'm never going to knit that heirloom bed cover and passed a lot of these onto the charity shop. And I have been taking good care of my birthday flowers, here they are a week later opening up beautifully and brightening these frosty days that are no good for gardening and great for knitting.
It was my birthday last Friday I was 65. No please don't make a fuss, it was quite an important milestone and ideally I wouldn't have chosen to spend it without Mr FF but there you go.
It didn't start too well when Google acknowledged the event before my husband .
Pam had kindly offered to take me out to lunch at Dawyck botanic garden not too far away. Beautiful policies, as we call the grounds in Scotland. There must be some micro climate that has kept so many leaves on the trees, the colours were spectacular. We had a good walk round in the sunshine before lunch in the visitors centre and a scenic drive home, all very enjoyable.
There were several birthday emails waiting from Mr FF with impressive photographs of the completed work, I love the new steps and I'm glad he didn't go for the marble surface he first considered. I was a bit concerned as he seemed to have taken my terracotta sun from the chimney and embedded it into the stucco on the wall behind my plant shelf. Some questioning and a close up photo confirmed that it is actually a new sun he purchased for my birthday, relax.
Then I received a flower delivery, an extravagant bunch of roses and lilies from the man.
Mr FF with some help from a party of Danes has harvested our olives. He emailed me last night to report the total collected was 266.5 kilos, 50 kilos more than last year but this weight produced almost the same amount of oil 40 litres, the resa (yield) this year is not so high. He went to the mill and waited, as you do, but he was a bit impatient as he was invited out to dinner last night and needed to get away. He was told the oil would be ready in an hour, an hour later he was told the oil would be ready in an hour. He had to leave and go back to collect the oil this morning, not something a real Italian would do as its customary to follow the process of fruit to oil like a hawk just in case you don't get your own produce back or your precious olives get mixed with someones obviously inferior crop.
Fantastic result, it gives us enough oil to use in Italy and Scotland plus plenty to give away. This is my glamorous oil bottle, a gift last year from the helpful Danes, by Rosendahl of Copenhagen, its a beautiful design with a very efficient function that shows off our delicious pure oil to perfection. The engineer will be stuffing himself on bruschetta tonight, savouring the fresh taste of the new oil which almost fizzy when it comes from the mill.
On the olive theme I had to buy myself this little jug from Emma Bridgewater, you know I'm such a fan of her sponge ware, no oil baroness should be without one.
So the engineer continues to slave away in Lazio. The last I heard he had bent down to pick something up and smacked his mouth on the handle of the cement mixer. He told me his teeth were OK and his lips only bleeding a little bit now. Meanwhile I have been a bit more relaxed. I've spent happy days gardening, decluttering, dorissing, reading, knitting and generally pampering myself, or as Mr FF would collectively describe such activities wasting time.
As a working girl I dreaded the onset of winter weather and my dark drive to and from town. Now its all different and this autumn has been spectacular.
The first week I was home was wonderfully dry and I caught up with a lot of weeding, since then it has been damp but with sunny days, bracing winds and still no frost. My summer pots remain outside so far and I am still harvesting broad beans.
I am really appreciating the season, glorious colours, plenty of pretty leaves underfoot,
that I'm busy collecting for the compost bins. This is just how autumn should be and I'm liking it even though it means my feet are ensconced in hand knitted socks for the foreseeable .
I heard from friends that Mr FF has been working like a mad man back in Lazio, no change there then as he really hasn't grasped the principles of retirement. Before I came away he got the parking area levelled ready to lay the concrete.
We managed with our limited language to hire a whacker, a vibrator to tamp down the hardcore, and Mr FF spent a noisy dusty day with this boys toy.
This is how the area looked when I left.
Since then he has laid the concrete slab to take the finishes, its looking good but unfortunately he managed to badly burn his fingers on the wet cement. When water is added to cement it becomes caustic, he tells me he forgot he had holes in his gloves when he tried to make a last minute adjustment. His fingers were swollen and painful so he went to the chemist for some cream and on the way home called in at Mario's. Fortunately Mario's daughter is a nurse, she took a look, cleaned the burns and dressed them, that was over a week ago and Mr FF is still having dressings applied daily. Poor boy, I bet there would be a lot of moaning if I was there as it is there's only the stray cat to listen.
He has tidied up the area round the hatch to the electrics, known as the wishing well. A big improvement and I like the way he's decked it out with my pot plants.
So this week our local builder is laying the finishes, a crazy paving of Trentino stone which is used a lot in the area and already by us outside the back door. I had expected we'd have to wait till next year to get this work done so I'm really pleased, its looking brilliant.
In case you didn't notice my large tubs of annuals have done well, two packets of seeds and a lot of sun, amazing results all round.