Sunday, 30 November 2014

A Busy Saturday: Marches & Entertaining

Silver Hill, an ancient street in Winchester, is up for redevelopment. It looks a mess and it does need a facelift, but many people aren't happy about the plans the council has put forward and even less happy about their apparent unwillingness to listen to that public opinion. As a result, a local county councillor set up a petition to gauge public views, and following that has put together a campaign to challenge the plans and hopes to get a new set of designs put forward that suit the city better.

Yesterday it was Marching Day. Over a thousand people met up at the Rec, collected balloons, whistles and banners and marched to the Guildhall to protest the design and call for a better one. I was at Uni in Winchester years ago and lived there for several years afterwards and I feel very connected to the City. I've seen the current council plans and I don't like them, so we went along to lend our support. Here is one of the stewards, kindly allowing me to photograph her sign which shows King Alfred, the 9th Century King Of Wessex, whose capital city Winchester was.

The last time M went on a political march was several hundred years ago and it was over student loans. Their chant was 'Maggie, Maggie, Maggie- OUT OUT OUT!' so he was looking forward with keen interest to what ours would be. It ended up as 'Save Our City- We Want Change!' which we all yelled out cheerfully as we walked along the streets while whistles blew and drums banged. 
M (our resident chants-for-political-marches expert) thought this wasn't as good as it might have been, but we decided a good March Chant has to be short and punchy: you couldn't, for example, yell out: 'we want better plans that are more aesthetically pleasing, affordable and mean young people don't have to move out of Winchester as soon as they leave home because only bankers from London can afford to buy a house here.'

M was also hoping to be Kettled, but as the two policemen in attendance turned up on bicycles I told him I thought it was unlikely. He still kept a half-hopeful eye out for riot police with shields and batons, but I reminded him this was Winchester, the kind of place where you are more likely to be accosted by an old Major with a bristling moustache wearing a tweed jacket over a pair of canary yellow corduroy trousers than angry youths with attitude. As if to prove my point for me, at that exact moment a man strolled past playing a saxophone....

There were also lots of dogs protesting the plans and I rather regretted not having brought P and T....

This is Snoopy. He was sitting listening to the speeches very attentively. Isn't he lovely?


M once spent a night in police cells in Bristol after a mildly raucous student night out. It was a complete over-reaction by the local police who took exception to a group of young lads out enjoying themselves in DJs after a 21st birthday party, and so slung them in the cells. When he rang his dad the next morning after they'd been let out to tell him why he'd be late for Granny's 80th birthday bash, Bob said: 'have you really just spent the night in the cells? How exciting! Tell me all about it!' 
Our boys think this is the coolest thing dad's ever done (or ever will do), and so L, who had come with us on the March, was hoping to get arrested. He tried his hardest to achieve this long-help ambition by waving his balloon frantically in front of every news camera we walked past, but alas no policemen were near enough at the time to consider it a Breach Of the Peace dangerous enough to warrant incarceration.

South today interviewing Kim
Walking through the streets of Winchester

There were a few heckles from people as we went along but broadly speaking everyone was good natured. I was keen for L to come along and see democracy in action and that you can make a point powerfully and peacefully. I think he rather enjoyed it; he asked me whether I thought kids might get into politics after being on a March and he's been telling his skype mates all about it ever since. He kept the balloon, but I put my foot down when the banner nearly came home with us too :o)

A group of kids did a fantastic street dance outside the Guildhall before the speeches

There were news cameras everywhere and reporters darting in and out of the crowd doing interviews

This sign made us smile. Henderson is the name of the development company, it's also the surname of friends of ours, so I had to take a picture :o)
King Alf, standing guard over his city and the Protestors
The Guildhall
I remembered (for once) that I can shoot videos on the i phone, so I did one for you all, so you could get a sense of the atmosphere outside the Guildhall....

The March made the local news last night, which we recorded just in case we were on it and we were! For all of a millisecond. So of course when the Grannies and Grandpas came over for supper last night we all sat down to watch it and everyone roared with laughter and cheered when we came into view. I did warn them not to blink or they'd miss it. Ma had already seen the footage from the early evening news and hadn't noticed us at all :o)

L made his famous lemon tart for pudding, which went down well, and I made an Eton Mess with strawberries. Pop had a bath before everyone came because she was extremely smelly after her walk. She came out looking all white and fluffy and had more pick ups and cuddles as a result than she's had in ages.

I had a last minute panic about shoes just before everyone arrived (the women among you will understand this). I was going to remain comfy after a long day and wear boot slippers but decided this would be just too scruffy, so I had to borrow a pair of L's slightly-damp-because-not-long-out-of-the-washing-machine black socks because I couldn't be bothered to put tights on and my thermal socks would have looked ridiculous. I think I got away with it.

We had a lovely evening but I was Rather Sleepy by the end, so while M took Ted out for a wee Pop and I fell asleep illegally on the sofa.....

Is that a DOG on the sofa?
Today, the sun is shining, M has planted a Hornbeam hedge at the top of the garden and has gone to B&Q to get me a plug-in radiator for when I'm working on the laptop because it gets cold and we're resisting putting on the heating, and I've been taking pics of the garden birds who are here in their droves, so I will leave you with them and wish you all a peaceful remainder of the weekend.


Hope everyone is well?

CT :o)

Thursday, 27 November 2014

How To Knit A Simple Hat and L's Blanket Is Almost Done (A Woolly Post)....

Thanks for your lovely comments on the hat post. For all those who wanted it, here is the recipe for How To Make One:

I used Katia Sfera Mega Chunky Wool and 12mm needles and got through just over a ball in making the hat.

It really is a very simple template- you count out the number of casting on stitches you need (youtube has several excellent 'how to cast on' videos if you've not done it before, and likewise 'how to knit' and 'how to cast off' as well). I did 30 cast on stitches for the hat and that seemed to work for me, M and L in terms of fitting all our heads so I would suggest using about that number. The first hat I made I cast on 40 stitches and it was way too big. Then you simply knit the first row and purl the second. HERE is a really good simple explanation of knit and purl stitches and how to do them.

I had intended to carry on with the knit one row, purl another for the entire hat but got distracted watching Ruth, Peter and Tom on the excellent How To Make A Medieval Castle prog which is currently on TV and muddled my stitches, so some rows were two knits together instead of one. I didn't unpick the stitches (mainly because I can't, not without getting in an unravelling muddle, losing my temper and throwing the knitting at the wall :o) ) but decided to keep them because the emerging pattern created a thicker band around the base of the hat which I think worked well. So basically, whenever you want to create a ridge effect you knit 2 or 3 lines together without purling any, and then go back to alternating knit one row with purl the other for the chain-stitch effect which is smoother. Does that make sense?

Here's the hat again which will hopefully demonstrate what I mean:

When you do follow the knit one row and purl the next, knit the next and purl the next and so on, you get a chain-stitch effect that looks like this. It's called a Stocking Stitch:

The green one is my Second Hat! (which I wore while out coppicing in the woods yesterday amid the damp and chill and it kept me so toasty warm I had to take it off to cool down). This one was knitted on 20mm needles which gave a slightly looser knit to the stitches and I left it longer in terms of height too so it is more slouchy when it's on.

Carry on knitting until you've got sufficient depth to wrap it around your head with a few cms left over at the top, then sew the two ends together (I used a wool sewing needle and some slightly thinner wool) so you make a sort-of cylinder or tube shape. Then you just gather the bit that's left over above your head and tie it tightly with some spare wool, making the bobble-type shape you can see in the pics above.

It really is that simple, and each hat took me about an hour to make so they aren't time consuming and fiddly in any way. Honestly, if I can make one anyone can, so give it a go :o)

I took it to college and everyone was suitably impressed. M likes them so much he has asked me to do one for him. I've got some nice deep brown wool which I'm going to use for his. I suggested to L he might like a pink one- he just grinned and said if I paid him he would wear it. They are super-warm so perfect for this cold weather.

In other Wool News, L's blanket is nearing completion, as amply demonstrated by my Lovely Assistant Poppy....

It looks a Rag Tag and Bobtail affair at present (THIS is a great little sight about the origins of such phrases, in case you were interested), but this will vanish once the squares are sewn together and then it comes out all neat and shiny. 
L's blanket is a single blanket; I've got a few more squares left to do as well as runners for the sides to neaten them up. Any stray wool tails from ball ends can be tucked through to the underside of the blanket so they aren't visible when it's on the bed. 

I like all the squares to be different shapes and sizes; some of them I do standard knit, and some I use the knit one row, purl one row theme to create a slightly different effect. I'm going to give some of the patterns on the link at the top of the post a go as well- I quite like the 2x2 rib - and if I can remember how to crochet I might stick some of those in too.

This blanket is going to be a Christmas Present for L as he's been casting covetous eyes on the double blanket I made for M and my bed last Christmas. He knows it's in progress but doesn't know when it will be ready so I hope he will be pleased and like it. Occasionally I show him bits of wool and ask if he like the colours so he has sort-of chosen some of the squares :o)

I found some really cheerful wool on ebay t'other day which I bought and have already started knitting with. It's going to go in L's blanket too. It's from the Cygnet Seriously Chunky Range and I use 12mm needles for this one too....

I love this time of year for knitting in front of the fire. It feels very traditional and always makes me think of my ancestors, who of course would have made their own clothing and blankets to keep them warm in the winter. My father's grandfather was a clothier in Hawick in the 19th century so maybe a bit of his love of fabrics has rubbed off?

There is something about creating an item yourself that makes a significant difference to your well being when the weather is cold. I love the fact that these things are originals- no one else has a hat like it, or a blanket like it. In this world where most of us buy things from shops instead of making them ourselves it's a nice feeling to know you have something from your own effort that isn't availabl anywhere else.

Hope everyone's well?

CT :o)

Monday, 24 November 2014

Look What I've Just Knitted....!!

I know the blog-o-sphere is stuffed full to bursting with top-class, excellent crafty persons who can whip a ball of wool into the most fantabulous of garments while barely raising a sweat and at the same time cooking a four course meal for twelve, so if you are one of those wonderfully clever people this little achievement of mine tonight probably won't be all that impressive, so I can quite understand you looking at the pic below and going 'Uh?' but for me, this is a TRIUMPH.....!!!

I have knitted a hat!!!!! All by myself and with only one trial run (last night) which broadly worked apart from being too big. I couldn't sleep for excitement last night knowing. Tonight's offering (done in an hour :o) ) fits and everything! I am never going to take it off! In fact, it is sitting on my head boiling me right this very minute :o)

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Garden Birds and Dinner Party Goodies

The dinner party was excellent- lovely, funny friends, nice food and about five hours of laughter. My cheeks were aching when I went to bed but thankfully no hangover this morning.

Homemade Rose Petal Shortbreads:

Berry & Vanilla Cheesecake:

The Grannies and Grandpas are coming to supper next weekend and I think I might make the cheesecake again as it went down so well last night that there is only the tiniest slice left for me and M tonight :o)

When we got back from checking the sheep in the rain this morning the Sparrow Flock were all back in the garden. 

I have extended the Bird Banquet and I think that's what's bringing everyone back. They've now got a menu that is a lot better in terms of the number of choices it boasts than a hotel we recently went to. The other hanger, which I didn't take a pic of, has peanuts, mixed seeds and coconut halves to add to the nyger seed and fat balls in the one below. At this time of year the birds need to build up their fat stores as well as stock up on carbs for the day ahead, so fat balls and peanuts are a useful addition to your garden repertoire....

Also present in fits and starts was the Coal Tit. It's a welcome return as I haven't seen him/ her since the Spring. The white stripe at the back of the head is the key diagnostic that distinguishes this little birds from other members of the tit family (and I now fully expect to get lots of weird search results turning up...)

The Nuthatch pair were also about....

I think you might have seen me.....

There were also Blackbirds....

Jackdaws looking wintry in a Gothic sort of way in the oaks that surround the house....

An awful lot of colourful but tiny Bluetits....

And a fat pige fluffed up against the damp in the oak nearest the house....

It's a good time of year for birds. Most of them have been away in the woods and fields since late summer and I love seeing them all back, especially as the inverts have all disappeared. While out checking the sheep this morning a small fat vole ran in front of me across the path and into the grass. I rather suspect voles are short sighted, or just not that bothered about people as I often see them pottering around.

Well, short and sweet today as I have my first Sunday Job of Chief Have You Done Your Homework Yet? Monitor starting any minute (which generally involves sub-roles as No, I Am Not Doing It For You and Well, You Should Have Done It Earlier If You're Tired) before the next one as Chief Supper Maker, and then the one after that of Chief School Uniform Ironer, which comes before Chief Shoe Polisher but after Chief Have You Packed Your School Bag Properly? That one leads directly on to Chief Have You Charged Up Your Surface And What About Your Mobile? and is often followed by Chief I've No Idea Where The Earphones For Your Ipod Touch Are, Probably Somewhere In The Pit Of Doom That Is Your Bedroom.  
Chief You're Old Enough To Run Your Own Bath (which can go on for Quite Some Time and usually ends up with Chief I Am Not Doing It For You!) comes next, swiftly followed by Chief Have You Brushed Your Teeth Yet? After that it's generally time for Chief Don't You Think You'd Better Go To Bed Now Because It's School In The Morning And I Need To Leave On Time Tomorrow.

In the midst of all of that is my ongoing job as Chief Taking Poppy Outside For A Wee So She Doesn't Pee On The Carpet, not to mention Chief Fire Layer and Chief Pack Lunch Maker.

I've also just been given a Brand New Role as Chief Summoning Ingredients Out Of Thin Air, having been advised by L on our way back from Winchester this afternoon at 4.11 (which is precisely 11 minutes after all the shops have shut) that he's making lemon tart in school tomorrow and 'you do have all the ingredients right, mum?
Fortunately for him, I know the spell to conjure shortcrust pastry, a lemon, sugar, cream and eggs out of thin air because I've had to do it several hundred times before. 

All these things are reasons why I am sitting here at 5pm with a glass of rioja in one hand and a slice of cold pizza in the other, because Lord Knows when I will get the chance to sit down, have supper, drink wine and watch Strictly. At this rate it will be tomorrow. Do most children drive their mothers to despair, or is it just mine?
Hope you've all had a Luverly Weekend,

CT x

Friday, 21 November 2014

A Hotch-Potch.....

I've been (broadly) following the low lectin/ stone age diet for a couple of months now and it has become very noticeable that whenever I deviate from it (with dairy, or foods from the nightshade family- potatoes, tomatoes, chillies - or beans and pulses), the digestive problems recur. Otherwise, I am symptom-free, which is Great News after being dogged by discomfort ranging into pain for eight plus years :o)

I'm able to eat bread and pasta which is a relief and drink wine (phew) and the odd deviation off the diet doesn't seem to cause too many problems either, but I do broadly stick to it because I feel better on it and that's a pretty strong incentive.

The Coconut water was immensely helpful at settling things down when I first started, but I find it's generally so under control these days that I no longer need it. I do still get sinus congestion, but I think the culprit there is dairy again as it flares up if I have chocolate or cheese.

I mainly eat: fruit smoothie (banana, blueberries, raspberries, hazelnut milk) for breakfast, homemade chicken and carrot soup for lunch and supper is either seafood/ fish/ chicken, with sweet potatoes or rice, and cauliflower, beetroot and spinach. Snacks are rice cakes and almonds, and if I'm hungry I seem to be able to tolerate bread with sunflower spread and strawberry jam or marmite.

Hope that info is of use? It's always a comfort if you know someone who's managed to track down culprit foods, eliminate them and recover, because digestive woes are so miserable and effect every bit of your well being. I know when mine were at their worst and the docs were offering either intrusive investigations or meds I couldn't think about much else.

In other news, the Long Tailed Tits have returned to the garden....

I haven't seen them all summer so it's lovely to have them back. I was really chuffed with the pic below, which was a complete fluke carefully thought out and taken with precision attention to detail..

Here it is uncropped. I love the expression on the LTT sitting at the top of the feeder as it peers down at the one below swooping off.....

Poppet is also still going strong. She is our one-legged Dunnock who has been around for the last 2-3 years. She amazes me how well she manages. Last week I saw her use the rat hole under the hedge to move from our garden to the area around the lake. I have never seen a bird voluntarily use a tunnel before, but this is just another example of her ingenuity, and doubtless explains why she has survived so long with such an impediment as a dicky leg for a wild bird. She is Marvellous and I love her to bits. Her left leg is wasted and useless- she can't put any weight on it at all. You can just about see the way she holds is up off the ground in the piccy below...

And here is one of her Friends And Relations sitting the hedge keeping an eye on the Robin who was extremely naughty and chased Poppet off the seeds :o(

I'm still persevering with The Moth Box. It was out night before last and held a Grand Total of ONE moth in it when I checked the following morning. A Feathered Thorn. Although there was an Autumn Moth, a Sprawler and two more Feathereds on the walls round about. We also had a Many-Plumed (tiny but very pretty) sitting on the digi-box by the TV this week! I will persist with the Box because we are due some December Moths who are the colour of rich chocolate and very furry to enable them to withstand winters temps.

Autumn Moth

Feathered Thorn (male)

It's a tad gloomy here today, but yesterday the sun shone and the autumn colours were beautiful as a result....

The birds made the most of it....

Great Tit

Mrs Sparrow

And the newly put up weather station was busy whirring away to itself at the top of the garden where it was recording everything from temperature to humidity....

It transmits to a receiver in the house and the info is related to the pc by means of a USB where it cleverly sorts it all out into graphs. The only problem is a glitch in the software which messes the time around by an hour, and I'm not convinced the wind record is especially accurate either, but time will tell on that score.

We've got a busy weekend coming up. I'm cooking for eight on Sat (friends we haven't seen for a while, which will be lovely. Doubtless I will drink too much and giggle a lot). I'm doing fish pie with a forest fruits cheesecake for pud and am going to make some rose petal shortbreads to go with coffee afterwards. I shall post pictures (providing it all works and doesn't end up looking awful).

We're also expecting the arrival of middle son F after an absence of a few weeks. It's been a tad fraught to say the least. He is getting to the age (16 next year) where he thinks he is more mature and capable than he is and therefore considers himself old enough to decide what he does without consultation and with zero notice. In practice this means that I have planned meals, done shopping and cleaned rooms and his Pa, step-brother and I have spent the week looking forward to seeing him, only to get a text on a Friday morning saying can I come next weekend instead? After several weeks of this I have stopped feeling biddable and understanding. Courtesy is such a simple thing to get right and such a big thing to get wrong. 

I found some nice wine in Waitrose last night which helped. I had to buy it for obvious reasons.....

We drank it ice cold from the freezer and it was delicious. So delicious that you'll be astounded to hear I limited myself to one glass. I'm going to do some work for a local Duke of Burgundy project next summer (a flutter who is in major decline nationally so conservation work to improve and preserve its habitats is vital), so you could say this actually counts as revision....:o)

I'll leave you with some shots of the doggy people. Ted, as angelic as ever......

...and Poppy who is currently driving me mad.

We are no further on with persuading her not to do poos and wees on the carpets when she feels like it :o( and when I got back today she'd destroyed a dog bed, pulling all the fluff out and covering the kitchen floor with it. She is also in need of a hair cut. At present, she looks like a scraggly mess of fur that someone's stuck a black button on....

She smells terrible too and so will have to have another pre-dinner-party bath tomorrow. Trouble is, she is Quite Hard To Resist, a thing I am certain she knows.


Wishing you all a peaceful weekend,

CT :o)