Skyscrapers and String


More than one way to bake a cake..!

Hello everyone!

What a week it’s been!

I was poorly on Monday, which in all truth was probably stress from work. Tuesday we went to a funeral, it was very jolly as funerals go, seeing people you’ve not seen for years, we also got to pay our respects at Grandad’s grave, I still miss him like mad. I am particularly missing him today, we always spent Bank Holidays together. I made a cake and I rarely make fruit cake since I lost him. The smell of fruit and spice just brings him back into the room.

Wednesday was back to work, and I had to work on Thursday And Friday as I’d swapped my day off for the day to attend the funeral.

Friday at work was Very Odd. I saw my colleagues in polo shirts and jeans. I wanted a nap mid afternoon!

Saturday, Lesley and I went to Leigh on Sea. What a fabulous place! So many nice places to eat and drink, such lovely views of the estuary. We had bright sunshine for the whole afternoon and my lungs were full of the salty sea air. There is a fabulous haberdashery there and I stocked up on buttons, on ribbons and lace, and bought some red and cream yarn to make a toy fox.

Yesterday was just quietly indoors, catching up on chores and Knitting. I bought red and cream aran weight yarn to make my latest toy, the stitches flew off my needles and this morning I put the finishing touches to the jolly little chap. Here, what do you think? Isn’t he adorable!

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I am missing my Nipper terribly, she is having a week’s holiday in Spain. I hope she is having a super time!

Anyhow, as Jon is out gallivanting with his friends I needed to sort out my craft corner. I have been through everything. I have so many half finished things. I want to make new things, I think it is known as Startitis!

Here you can see my cake making efforts, I am quite happy, my mouth still tastes the spices. The recipe called for several layers of brown paper and stuff, I had the brainwave to use my new silicone breadmaking pan. What a triumph! If I’d had a proper brain, I would have saved myself washing up and could have stirred the cake in the same pan!

Still, what a success! Delicious cake ! I used the recipe from Kirstie Allsopp Crafts, its the fruit cake that won first prize. I used half measures as I only had half the dried fruit for the recipe as written.

When I finish this post, I will get some more. It is lovely! I hope you are keeping well! The weather here is ghastly! What else is there to do? Lol!

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Blocking Lavender, Liquorice and Mint Leaves

Hello all!

I hope your weekend is starting well, unlike mine where. I am stuck at being very angry at someone at work and the unfairness of a certain encounter last week.

My last big boss, who was very inspiring to work for, said to me at his leaving drinks, “Jen, you are a wonderful person, stay exactly as you are and don’t change”. There is an old saying, if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything. The reason it has been passed down for eons is that it’s true.

At work, you’re all crammed in on top of each other, and nothing is ever perfect. At least you can behave nicely towards each other, because anarchy ensues if you don’t.

Anyways enough of that. It kept me up all night last night seething and I’ve had two days off already, being Thursday was Amber’s exam result day.

Yesterday, Jon did an excellent job of blocking my shawl. I bought the wool at Loop, which is my very favourite knitting haven. Just walking in the door makes me happy.

Last year, in October, I bought quite a quantity of yarn of different kinds in the Medicins Sans Frontiers sale.

He last remaining ball of Noro was green, purple and black. I bought some Jamiesons Spindrift in a lavender colour and started to knit.

With such wonderful colours in my hands the shawl was a delight to knit. Because of the vast yardage of both the Noro and the Spindrift the shawl came out quite big.

Here you can see the shawl in progress:

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Here you can see Jon’s genius with pins, wires and a ruler:

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The shawl has a lovely swing to it, and the colours are very wearable. I think green and purple will be big this winter:

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Looking back over my pictures, I’ve found a picture of my purchases at the yarn sale, I still have some left, but not any more Noro…

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I hope you have a super day, I am looking for resources online about Anger Management. I hope none of them suggest knitting as that patently is no help whatsoever lol!!!


Bread and Silicone

Hello all,

I hope you have all had a jolly week. Mine has been good and rubbish and stressful by turns.

I will gloss over the whole thing if you don’t mind.

At home, I’ve been getting really organised. Last weekend I tidied my wardrobe, and I feel like I am getting somewhere. I put all my winter clothes in the loft and predictably, the weather has started to change, there is a definite nip in the air!

Regular readers will know for quite a few months now I have been baking sourdough bread. The recipe is very simple but makes a tremendous mess, I get flour everywhere, the dough is runny and sticky, and getting it out of the bowl and into the cooking pot is a bit of a faff.

Recently, I got a Lakeland catalogue in the post, and saw a silicone silicone bread pot. You mix the dough, let it rise, and bake it in the one thing! Genius!

Yesterday Amber and I went to Westfield Stratford for a celebratory shop and lunch following her success in her exams, so I popped into Lakeland and treated us to one of these pots.

When we got home, I put the ingredients into the new pot and left it overnight.

This morning I heated the oven and popped the pot inside.

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The results were fantastic!

Not a speck of flour went astray, no sticky hands, and the result was delicious. Really crispy crust, almost caramelised. Shaped like a rugby ball!

The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and we just had some for lunch. It was smashing.

The bowl came out beautifully clean and has gone in the dishwasher.

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Jon has been tirelessly blocking my shawl backlog, and there’s one beautifully pinned out drying upstairs. I’ll show you tomorrow!


Transformation

Hello everyone!

I hope you’ve had a super weekend!

Knitting by itself is a delightful pastime, piling up rows of knit and purl stitches, it is rhythmic and therapeutic, and a total delight.

Once I got the hang of knitting and purling, I wanted to stretch my wings a little more.

I saw on Ravelry all these lace shawls. My mouth watered and I figured, I can do that. I assembled yarn and needles, and a pattern. I got the hang of yarnovers, and learned left and right slanted decreases.

I followed some patterns, the ones I picked were either too hard, or not particularly well written.

Classes I went to, it was hard to talk, listen and make lace.

Eventually it all started to come together, it took a couple of years.

Here you can see my daughter’s shawl.

It’s a good example of transformation.

Once it’s all knitted up it looks, well crumpled.

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The transformation comes from the blocking.

The knitting is the easy bit, effortless, like when your life is going smoothly. Then the lace part is like falling in love, there are points when you are full of rage, there are points when everything goes well, and you can’t believe your luck. There is usually heartbreak and you have to rip back. Sometimes you don’t have a lifeline, and it is impossibly scary.

You have to say goodbye to the shawl and cast it off the needles.

It sits, neglected and alone in the knitting basket.

When you get round to it, it’s day finally comes.

You take the knitted thing and drown it, even when it’s perfumed waters, the shawl has to drown. Once it has relaxed in the water, it looks like a mermaid, sleeping.

Then you gently rinse it and release it from the water. It has to be squeezed then wrapped into a thick dry towel like a baby.

Once the blocking mats are ready you pin out the shawl. It is wet but happy to emerge from its slumber.

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Patience is required, nothing gets blocked quickly. Pulling it into shape hurts. But it is worth it.

Lace knitting is a metaphor for life.

This is what being transformed is about. From a lumpy ball of yarn. Into a butterfly.

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Just desserts, but still I feel pity

Hello everyone,

I hope you’ve had a super week. Mine has been a week of extremes.

I’ve worked really hard and made great progress at work, I’ve had some really excellent moments, I’ve been picked on and bitched about, and despite having a really bad cough still, I would say, I feel pretty good actually I myself, outlook and attitude wise.

Even more productive than most weeks, I have tidied all my cupboards and wardrobe, and after a year of procrastination, I finally ordered the photos from my holiday last year, and took the opportunity to print those from Sardinia this year too, whilst the iron was hot so to speak, and they came in the post today. I just went out for a walk and bought a new photo album, and look forward to sitting and putting the pictures in the slots.

This week, we met at Knitting Club most days for a good session, and after work on Thursday we visited the Loop knitting club. It was hysterical. I would love to share some of the comic moments in detail with you but, I aim to go back, and fear causing offence. Needless to say, the ladies and gents at the club were lovely, and I was astonished to see so many people relaxed knitting beaded lace of breathtaking complexity and chatting and laughing at the same time.

As anyone who knows me will attest, knitting lace brings out a sternness in me, a fierce manic concentration brokered with a shocking bad temper. I was in awe and admiration to see such charming smiling company from those present!

One of the conversations I am compelled to relate was around the subject of this blog. I mentioned it because we were talking about blogs and. I said I feared my need to blog had waned a bit with the improvement in my overall happiness, following a year of freedom after the rotten events of previous years, with what happened with my parents and my Grandad.

This time last year, after coming back from holiday relaxed and refreshed, I got a call out of the blue from my stepdad. Regular readers will know I am estranged from my horrid parents, as they tormented me all my life and then took all my Grandad’s money and left him abandoned and homeless, and. I nearly broke trying to cope with it all.

The stress of hearing from them last summer and from visiting them and seeing the state they were both in ruined my health, and I ended up very poorly indeed with chest infections then pleurisy. It was not a good state of affairs for me to cope with, so I decided to stay away. They never rang to see if I was alright, for all they knew I could have fallen under a bus.

Today I got the call I knew was coming, my stepdad advised my Mum was now in a care home, as he could no longer look after her. I told him Amber had turned 18 last month. There was an awkward silence as they haven’t sent Amber a card for years.

Despite everything he’d done I felt pity for him because he loved my mum so much. He loved her so much he couldn’t bear her to love anyone else.

Watching him control her as I grew up was extremely sinister. He knocked her confidence every chance he got, he made jibes about her cooking (which was perfectly alright) so it became a standing joke, and she believed it. He was unbearably angry at any challenge from me in order to maintain the upper hand. He would create arguments over nothing and upset me in order to drive a wedge between mum and me.

She fell for it all. It was bewildering to watch her buy into all this crazy rubbish. They would spend all their money and all their spare time in dreadful working men’s clubs, he would get so drunk he would vomit on the way home.

He was my dad from the age of 4 and I was terrified to be around this frightening man and with very little effort I was ousted, my Mum did nothing to protect me from anything. Bad things happened to me because I was the cuckoo in the nest and no one wanted me.

She was always trying not to eat too much as he didn’t like it if she grew plump. He made her wear things that didn’t suit her, he was interested in every detail of what she did and didn’t do.

He was able to dominate her and manipulate he to the extent she lost the ability to stand up for herself or anyone else.

She lied for him, took his side without a second thought, together they did things that were cruel, negligent and wicked.

I hid from his jibes and taunts, I lived in my bedroom, did the best I could at school and by the time I was 18 I was living with my grandparents. My parents moved house, and threw away all my stuff.

He made her drunk. She loved the attention she got from him.

When Mum retired, Dad had already given up work. He took over their lives and that was the end of any relationship I had with her, as from then on, I never once was allowed to see her without him being present, or to do anything together with her.

When she drove, he would be unbearably rude and question everything she did, eventually she had no confidence left at all. I watched all of this, helpless. She never said a bad word about him, and eventually she became a shell of her former self. When I tried to speak to her about the things that were going on she would become angry. It was too late.

The irony of the call from my Dad.

Mum is now in the same care home they put grandad in one year, whilst they went on holiday using his pension money.

It was a large 1970’s building but run like a workhouse.

On arrival, they stripped Grandad against his will and examined him all over on the pretext of looking for bruises and marks, to cover themselves should he leave the home with any marks and bruises.

They took every item of his personal possessions from him, including a large sum in cash and gave him no receipt.

They had put him in a room with no bedding on his bed. When I visited him the day after he had been placed there I had to shout at the nurse in charge and get them to open the laundry cupboard and get him some blankets. He had been so cold overnight he couldn’t sleep.

Whilst I was sitting with him all you could hear was screaming from the other patients. It was like bedlam. A strange man came into the room, in pajamas, he looked at me sitting by my Grandad, and he came past and went to rummage in Grandad’s drawers and cupboards. I escorted him out and shut the door.

At the end of my visit I went to see the manager and read her the riot act. I then called the council and made an official complaint the morning after.

My complaint included other bad stuff, but I think you get the gist.

It was upheld, and the home was closed and was only reopened after processes had been put in place to safeguard the residents.

So, here I am blogging, my need to speak about what goes on is not concluded. You can only imagine how I feel about my Mum being in this dreadful place.

As ye sow, so shall ye reap. But I still feel pity for them.

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Transcending

Hello all,

I hope you’re well and that you’ve had a jolly weekend so far.

I am having a splendid time.

Yesterday, we had new gas and electric meters fitted which give us a minute by minute account of how much we are spending on our usage. I am likely to turn into a snarling miser come winter, and insist my family wear more jumpers and thicker socks etc to ensure the heating gets kept turned down low.

Afterwards, Jon and I walked through the sunny park to the library, he was carrying half a hundredweight of knitting books which I wanted to return. From there we hopped onto a train and scooted into London.

I was able to knit the entire journey, I was making a baby hat out of scraps from a secret project. One of the secret projects was left at home blocking.

Secret projects are pests when you blog as you end up with gaps when you can’t say what you’re up to.

Anyhow, after the train journey I was at Loop, the best wool shop in the universe, and my favourite shop in the whole of London. Jon patiently sat in the ice cream shop whilst I went in and booked on an Intarsia class they are holding there in November. I also was really naughty and bought more wool. I fell in love and it had to be mine, OK? Lol.

After Loop we picked up some cake for my friend Lesley’s visit today and then went to Desperadoes and ate and drank. The food there is very good but the toilets have rude murals in them, so don’t be shocked if you venture into there, you have been warned! We sat outside in the sunshine, it was a shame to go home but Amber was back from Poland later in the evening and we were excited to see her!

Our reunion later in the evening was very happy.

It is nice to have my Nipper in the house, I am pleased to have her about and to be able to have hugs.

So today, Jon went off to work, and it was my turn to do some blocking. I blocked my holiday Ishbel shawl, which was knitted in a skein of Nimu Isel, in denim blue.

Here you can see some pictures. I really love this piece of knitting, it transcends what you think of as handiwork to make something like this, I almost can’t believe I made it.

This is the third time I tried to make this design, and I found it really hard to get right, but third time lucky. Perhaps my previous failures made the final result sweeter in the end.

Here are the blocking pictures:

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Here it is blocked and looking good:

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Here are some close ups:

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Smitten!

Hello everyone!

I hope you are enjoying the lovely summer we are having here in the UK!

Life is good, I am working hard, at home we are such a good team, even running the home is minimal effort.

Tonight, I got home from work first and I cleaned and tidied round for a bit and folded some washing. Jon came home and we sat in the garden with a coffee and mulled over our respective days. Everything seems to be going just fine.

My dear friend Gaynor posted a Facebook link to a particular shade of paint, the link was on a blog I’d never encountered before called Gardenista.

Whilst having a quick scoot about I stumbled over this particular
Gardenista Post

In it are these garden design images below, well, I am totally smitten!

Although I don’t live in the same kind of house, the back yard somehow looks just like mine.

And I love the paved area and the different kinds of seating!

Jon is helping me plan, we are looking at how many slabs we need and where to get the furniture! Ooh! It is really exciting! Plans! Anticipation!

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Seven Years Of Waiting

Why is it that all my favourite kinds of art portray yearning?

My go to cd is Jeff Buckley’s Grace. I can’t even describe to you the effect this music has on me, it is quite profound. If you haven’t heard it, buy it, take the music player into your bedroom and lie down and listen. Ethereal, sublime, transcendent. There are no words adequate to describe the wistful passion of lost love.

My favourite books are all filled with sorrowful longing for another person in various guises, Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility and of course, Persuasion. In Persuasion, the hero and heroine are kept apart for eight years!

Yesterday I watched “Notting Hill”; I have had a summer cold and was in the house by myself. It kept me company so I could knit. Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts star as divided lovers, she is thoroughly rotten to Hugh’s character, and he cannot help himself but long for her return. It is super, great cast, and both funny and poignant.

Back to the point of this post.

I am a greengage lover. So I know all about yearning!

You can buy them in the shops at this time of year for a few weeks, and when they’re gone, that’s your lot. They don’t grow them overseas and ship them in all year round like blueberries or mange tout peas.

Greengages are a rare type of plum, but they are more fragrant than plums, and in my opinion, quite divine. I read somewhere that they originated in France.

Seven years ago, after we bought this house, Jon and I walked over to our local garden centre and purchased a greengage sapling, thinking I would shortly be overcome by a glut of greengages and I would have to resort to pies, jams, chutneys and the like. My mouth watered at the prospect!

We had to walk the tree home, which is no mean feat as you’d be amazed at how much street furniture overhead needs to be negotiated whilst carrying an eight foot tall tree in a pot. We planted it, and I thought, right, that’s that! Now I’ll have greengages coming out of my ears for ever!

Hmmm. Yes, this post is about wanting, but not getting.

To the point, greengages only grow fruit under certain conditions:

1. If a neighbouring plum tree is in blossom at the same time (they don’t compare diaries so the same two trees might not blossom together and you watch your blossom drop off as next door’s tree just puts forth flowers – gah!).

2. If it is wet all spring to make the fruit flesh out. Dry weather=no plums.

3. If the tree is in a good mood.

In previous years, I have usually had one or two fruit, the most in one go once was about 9 greengages in total. Some years, nada, nothing, zippo, zilch.

This year I had loads of fruit. The fruit, if I get any, is usually ready the weekend after Amber’s birthday. The tree was literally dripping with fruit. All the conditions were favourable, and my hopes of a glut were very high!

The weekend after Amber’s birthday came, and I went into the garden and picked a beautiful golden green soft plum. Ooops! It was bitter! I tried a couple more, no, not ready.

The weather continued nice, I tried a few days after, but no still bitter.

Yesterday I tried again, the fruit were quite sweet, but a majority of the fruit had turned overripe and dropped from the branches. There would be none left if I waited any longer.

This evening, I harvested the twenty or so yellow plums and made a crumble. I waited for it to cook!

Here, my first crumble, it needed sugar in the fruit as they were not perfectly sweet. It will last me a couple of days, then will be gone for another year!

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Caipirinha time!

Hello all!

Sorry I haven’t been here much, I am having a wonderful time, everything is going well and when I try to sit and write something, well it feels like I am either smug or boasting.

Regular readers know that in the past things have not always gone smoothly for me, and I’ve used this blog as a way of making sense to myself .

I suppose this is proof that it works.

My knitting is going well however I have about 5 shawls to block, so please expect a nice flourish when they’re done .

Do let me know if there’s anything you’d like me to write to you about. A bit of inspiration wouldn’t go amiss.

But in the UK we’re having a proper summer, the weather is lovely. I am walking home through the park, I have freckles and brown arms, and my feet have little X’s on them from the straps on my cheery lemon yellow sandals.

Work is mad but good if that isn’t a contradiction, and I am having fun most if the time.

It is funny, when you speak up and explain what you intend to do clearly and you communicate your priorities, you get respect, and even if you’re swamped with projects, you feel in charge, and that is satisfying.

Also, being in demand is wonderful for your self esteem. Especially if you’re a geek.

I am wearing one of my summer holiday beach dresses and lolling about upstairs with the fan on. It is very relaxing!

Life is good. We’re all really happy.

So, let me share the recipe for a Caipirinha with you. These are my favourite cocktails, really refreshing.

Jon often makes these for me. Mmm!

Do not have more than 2 straight off as they make me really squiffy quickly, and you’ll blame me for leading you astray.

You can get the cachaca in Sainsburys.

Ingredients:

1 lime, quartered
2 teaspoons fine sugar
2 ounces cachaca
Ice cubes

Preparation:

Place the lime wedges and sugar into an old-fashioned glass.
Muddle well.
Fill the glass with ice cubes.
Pour in the cachaca.
Stir well.

You can drink it in the garden when it’s sunny!

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Back Home!

Hello everybody!

Well that was a fab week in Sardinia!

Yesterday was a blur, travelling, the gripping anxiety of air travel – following the tragic loss of the Malaysian airliner some months ago, the world now knows that airplanes are run with no more technology than a child’s wind up torch.

At the airport in Sardinia, in view of the heightened security alerts last week, we saw some German passengers insisting they didn’t have to go through airport security as they were late for their plane, then there was a woman who had so much jewellery on, and she wouldn’t remove it to go through the metal detectors, we stood there for so long whilst she argued, we nearly missed our plane and she was taken off to one of those little rooms, I dare say for a more “private” examination (my eyes are watering…). Why? Why not just do what you are supposed to do? It’s for everyone’ s benefit.

On the way home from Luton, there was a lightening storm and such heavy rain, you could not see anything outside the car. Bearing in mind we were in a brand new Mercedes, the windscreen wipers did nothing to clear the rain from view and we snaked home, yearning for our little house, the child and the cat.

Here you can see the bright full moon in Sardinia on our last night:

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Here you can see our dear cat, shining with happiness that our little pack is reunited:

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Today it has been busy busy busy.

With Jon’s help throughout, I got up, sorted the laundry and tidied round a bit.

Then I baffed the cat. It purred throughout.

We made bread, and whilst it was rising Amber and I went for a walk to Asda to buy some coffee and fish. We missed the rain, everywhere was drenched when we emerged!

Jon fed the washing machine the entire time we were out and the cat dried a bit. It has sat on me continually.

The packing for the holiday took a good four weeks of careful assembly. To unpack took half a day, what a faff about, sorting what lives upstairs, and what goes in the bathroom and so on.

Whilst I was away I knitted a shawl, which sits in a pile with the other shawls I made recently, so this coming few weekends will have to include blocking sessions, where we can fit them in.

Also, I have a half finished capelet, which looks lovely:

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This needs some thought before it can be finished.

So apart from the pile of shawls that need blocking and the unfinished capelet, I have a little yellow cardigan on the needles to finish for dear Russ’s baby, and a golden cardigan for myself, a bag which just needs sewing up, and if I actually look properly there’s some more things need finishing in my work basket.

Before I left for my holiday, I bought some brooch backs from China for my charity poppy knitting, which I should start soon. They arrived while I was away. I bought 100 of the little devils, so I will be a busy girl!

I also came back to a customs bill for the extra wool to finish my golden cardi that is discontinued which. I had to I buy from the US! £14! Ouch!

The other thing that has been bugging me is the pile of Rowan Calmer upstairs. I want to do something with it. Also I decided the thick variegated
yellow cotton yarn will make a good bath mat or two.

But also, I have a new fab soft grey brown scarf trimmed with bobbles, and I want to knit something to go with it. Now!

And I’ve found a wonderful pattern, called Zuzu’s Petals, by Carina Spencer, and I think this will make a wonderful addition to my accessories repertoire, as it is a cross between a shawl and a cowl. Once I get the hang of the pattern construction, I will be able to improvise perhaps with other yarn weights and stitches. It is an extremely clever idea.

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You might understand I am a bit overwhelmed with all these musings, plus also on holiday I took loads of inspiring pictures of flowers and foliage, and of course my mind ran wild thinking about colour, and the yarn waiting at home for me as well, tempted me endlessly with ideas.

Look how lucky I am, what more can bring delight than a fabulous holiday, all this inspiration, coming home to all my yarns and and the pleasure of mulling over an endless stream of possibilities.

It is so lovely to be home!



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