Butterflies

When I was young, I used to like collecting caterpillars and mullion leaves and keeping them in old ice cream tubs with netting over the top until they turned into butterflies (cabbage whites, I think most of them were). I think I was trying to watch for the exact moment when the butterfly hatched from the chrysalis, but I don’t remember ever managing that.

I’ve always liked the theory that butterflies were originally flutterbyes, but that metathesis caused people to call them butterflies. The OED, source of all linguistic knowledge, seems to think not. The Old English was buttorfleoge, for which they have a reference from c.1000. Shame. I prefer to call them flutterbyes; makes more sense.

Butterfly

I haven’t done much cross-stitch so far this year; I think this may even be my first, though I have also started a Celtic dragon-knot. The yellow butterfly was a Mouseloft Stitchlet, and the blue one a sticker of the colour-it-yourself variety. These stickers are encouraging me to be more creative with both my scrapbook and my journal-organiser.

The Joys of Colouring

Over the past few years, a whole industry based on colouring in has grown.

Colouring in has traditionally been a child’s activity, with crayons and big felt-tips (which, more often than not, dry out because of the child’s inability to put the lid on), and drawings of scare-crows and farmers and farm animals. I know, because a My First Colouring Book got me through my AS-level exams.

These days, colouring in goes hand-in-hand with Mindfulness. Otherwise known as Five Minutes Peace to empty the brain of the stresses of the day. Or an elephant in the bath-tub wanting some quiet time away from the noisy brats.

I’ve recently taken up colouring in. Not for mindful reasons. No, I found stickers. Stickers to colour in. And stick in my first, tentative attempt at creating my own organiser/journal/thing. It’s more of an organiser with note space than a journal. I have a separate one of those. I also have fun shaped post-its for my notes and random thoughts. And washi tape! I never really had much time for washi tape before, or known what to do with it, but now I know! And it’s amazing!

But colouring in has changed. Or maybe it’s just that the adult patterns are that much more detailed, that fat felt-tips just don’t cut it any more.

Having discovered these sticker delights, I gathered coloured pens, and set to it. Initially I started with a small set of expensive fineliners, because I already had them for brightly coloured notes. But no, I thought, colouring in requires felt-tips.

So I duly dashed off to WHSmiths for a set. A very lovely set of 30, in a box to keep them safe. Only the pictures for adults to colour in have finer lines. More delicate detailing. Felt-tips are just a bit…unwieldy. Overkill, almost.

Apparently, adults require fineliners for colouring in. Like a child graduating to writing in ink, so an adult graduates to colouring in with dainty tipped pens. Or really fancy pencils. Most peculiar. Children go from crayons and pencils to pens, only to back to pencils as an adult. I prefer the fineliners. I had to expand the collection though, since my original set had only 10 colours, and no purple, which was really quite distressing.

And then back to Hobbycraft for more of the stickers. You can also get cards and envelopes (not from Hobbycraft, that I’ve seen) with doodles and drawings for colouring.

My papercraft collection will expand still further. I’m also attempting to learn calligraphy, to make the pages of my journal/organiser/thing prettier.

Spring-Cleaning the Stash

I always find the Easter weekend to be a good moment to at least begin the annual spring-clean.

The days are lengthening, Winter has hopefully finally been given the old heave-ho, and I’m beginning to feel optimistic and energised about the coming Summer. We did also have a flat-inspection by the landlord just before Easter too, which gave an additional incentive to tidy up.

It doesn’t look much like we’ve had a tidy, though. Not now. Not since I took it into my head to have a rummage through my yarn stash to come up with a new project/see if I have the right stuff for planned projects. Now I have yarns and crochet magazines strewn across the floor.

FreebieYarn

In doing so, though, I have found a new project – the sort which doesn’t take too much thinking, and which can be done in amongst more complicated projects.

One of the side-effects of buying crochet magazines, like with cross-stitch, is ending up with a collection of the freebies. With cross-stitch, these are mini kits. With crochet, it’s usually little balls of yarn.

And because I so rarely make whatever they recommend doing with the yarn, I now have a box of random colours.  Admittedly, some of these are the ends of balls from previous projects. But the new project with my box is a patchwork blanket of granny squares, with the intention of practising different granny square patterns, rather than just doing the same one over and over, though I have already done three of the normal one. Just as a start.

I’m also planning a couple of the Virus shawl, as a light Summer-evening cover-up. But I haven’t the right yarns for them. Not yet..Oh dear…Trip to Hobbycraft required…

Hugo the Llama

I forgot how short February was. I mean, it just sort of sneaked up on me and then flew by, and before I knew it, I was reaching the deadline for my sister’s giant llama.

Hugo the Llama

I’m not going to lie: I was a bit cross when she opted for the llama. I’d given her a choice, you see, for her birthday in January. A matching evening shawl and clutch bag, for which I had found coincidentally matching patterns, or a giant llama, the pattern for which my husband had found while I was looking at yarns for the shawl and bag.

He’d initially coming running up with a road-kill fox rug (not really, but it had the flattened look of road-kill, in the way of such rugs), but I’d thankfully noticed that it was for knitting, and I don’t knit. He went away, disappointed, but came back not five minutes later with a llama pattern. So my sister had a choice.

And she went with the llama. I looked more closely at the llama pattern, and discovered it wanted 10 balls of super chunky yarn (at £5 a ball) and 8 bags of 250g toy stuffing (at £4 a bag). And the finished thing would be a metre tall. Gulp. The yarn wasn’t even on special offer!

I had a look around, and discovered a chunky yarn, on 3 for 2 at £4 a ball, which ought to do the trick just as well. Given that the llama had to get to London, I figured a slightly smaller one would probably be appreciated. Even if she had asked for it in the first place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was impressed by the pattern. Once I got going, it was quite easy – the sort of therapeutic pattern to sit of an evening and double-crochet round and round. It’s designed in a large-scale amigurumi style, so you start with four individual legs and then join them up.

The only tricky bit occurred once I got started on the main body and back. It was too large and unwieldy at that point to keep on my lap as I spiralled. I ended first on the floor, kneeling, and then on the sofa, leaning over the neck, the complete the head. His finished height, ears included, was about 65 cm. And he didn’t need 8 bags of stuffing. I think about 2 sufficed. And only 3 and a half balls of the chunky yarn. My husband commented that the llama looked a bit like a dinosaur, perhaps a diplodicus, without the ears and tail, so now I’m making a much smaller one in a green/blue cotton yarn I had in my stash. Maybe with a pink/purple Mrs Diplodicus to go with it.

For the interested, the pattern is a Knitcraft pattern from Hobbycraft, and I used the WI Soft & Chunky Merino/Acrylic in Cream, which I’ve just realised isn’t machine washable. Oops. Never mind.

And So Life Goes On

Can I still say ‘Happy New Year’ this late in January? I mean, it’s nearly February…

Thinking about it, I think this is the perfect time to start a New Year.  January is such a grey and depressing month, but February is the end of Winter and so nearly Spring and sunshine.

It’s been a while.  I regret I’ve had nothing to say and done so little in the way of crafting – mostly because of life, but also because of writerly distractions. And of course Christmas.

Since then, though, I’ve been planning my year and my goals for 2018, not really being one for resolutions.

My scrapbook of cross stitches from last year is still going.  This year, my goal is to complete the large collection of mini-kits. I’m also beginning a new scrapbook of mythological beasties and beings, which will entail creating patterns too…

I have a few crochet projects planned too. Well, one. A giant llama. No doubt other projects will suggest themselves as the year goes on.

And my last goal is to plan, almost completely, the story currently distracting me from most things and write the first part.

These goals, however, mean that I will probably not be writing here as often as I have done previously, although hopefully not as infrequently as in the last few months. At least once a month, I hope.

Learning to Love my Kindle

I would like to say that my absence during October was due to a flurry of crafting and creativity. I’d be lying, though. It was actually due to a lot of reading and the excitement attendant upon counting down the days to the end of a hated job. Yup, I got to leave debt-collecting for a much more me kind of job as a proof-reader.

In between times, though, I also dusted off my Kindle, went through the titles on it, removed a lot, and have begun to process of restocking my library.

I bought my Kindle many more years ago than I care to remember, back when they were relatively new and shiny and an internet connection was not as standard. In my excitement, I filled it full of classics I ought to read, and modern freebies which sounded interesting. I didn’t read very many. I discovered that I preferred a Proper Book. Especially for the classics. I was more easily distracted from my reading on my Kindle.

And so, pulling my Kindle out of storage, I reduced the titles on it from about 120 down to under 30. All of those worthy classics, gone. The freebies I never read, gone. I was left with those few which I had read, and enjoyed, and a plan to collect those books which I own in print, but which space dictates remain at my parents’. My Heyers, for instance. I find I can read eBooks, but only if I’ve already read and liked it in print. Or those few eBooks I collected, read, and enjoyed in the early days. In the main, though, I’m building my eBook library to reflect my print library, for travelling purposes, and perhaps getting copies of the library-books which I enjoy. The Judith Flanders’s Sam Clair mysteries, for example (most entertaining, by the way; makes editing seem a much more exciting and adventurous sort of career).

I’d forgotten how much I liked Horry, in Heyer’s Convenient Marriage.

Apples and Autumn

This time of year is Harvest-festival time; Friday was Michaelmas.

According to British folklore, Michaelmas is the end of the blackberry season. An old story about how, when St Michael threw Satan out of heaven, Satan landed in a blackberry bush. Satan cursed the blackberries; he stamped, spat and urinated on them, thus making them unfit for consumption.

I was going to write about my first chocolate trip since July, which was to Haiti, with an 80% bar from Waitrose, but I can’t now remember how it tasted. Well, certainly. It had the bitterness of cacao; it melted smoothly on the tongue, and snapped cleanly. I don’t recall the underlying flavours. I’ll have to return.

Apples

So, instead, it’s apples. Home-grown, windfallen Bramleys. We went home at the beginning of September, and returned with about 25lbs of apples. They filled two and a half carriers. A few went bad and were thrown, but I stewed the rest. Had a crumble and Belgian hot lightening pie out of the first lot, with two extra servings set aside for freezing; another crumble and three more servings from the second lot.

Last year, we basically lived on apple cake and crumble for a month. This year, I’ve frozen it.

I tried something different for the second stewing. I found a recipe for Swedish apple cake, in the ScandiKitchen recipe book, which calls for apples stewed with butter, sugar and cinnamon. Swedish apple cake is one of the best apple cakes I know, so I thought I’d try stewing the apples in this manner. I already had a couple of servings of normal stewed apples, anyway.

I’m glad I’ve got three lots of spare cinnamon apples. So delicious. I’m saving one lot for my Christmas cake this year.