Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Uncommonly British Days Out

My brother gave me a book for my birthday this weekend. He said he chose it because it reminded him of the 1970s when we were children and Family Holidays. When we were young our parents had a succession of small, and I mean small touring caravans. I think they must have been more of my Dad's idea than Mum's. As an adult I don't do caravans - not for me that packing and unpacking and having to cope in a micro version of a house, thank you. Anyway, we did lots of caravan holidays and covered great distances as Dad liked to drive fast, even towing a caravan, and clock up the mileage. Technically, most of the holiday would be spent in the car travelling between caravan parks. But we also notched up plenty of 'tourist attractions'. This is what the book is about. It's called:

It brought the memories flooding back (- nostalgia trips must be an increasing consequence of age, I'm doing it a lot lately). In fact, we actually have visited some of the places in the book.

Peasholm Park, in Scarborough, is one. As a child I loved Peasholm Park. During the day it had rowing boats on the circular lake, musicians playing on the bandstand, ducks to feed, ice cream, but it was in the evening that it really came into its own. At twilight there were (and still are)naval battles, enacted by models powered by people inside them, on the lake. When we were children they would be Britain vs Germany, but they have become politically sensitised , apparently, and now have two un-named naval powers.

The audience would sit around the lake in a concrete ampitheatre, on cushions and under rugs brought expressly for this.

After the battle, which would end with pyrotechnics and sinking of the enemy and much cheering, there was THE ISLAND! Yes, it needs block capitals. The island was the centre of the park, reached by oriental style bridges over the lake. To a small child it was magical and mysterious - lit by strings of lights with statues hidden among the trees and a succession of mechanical and musical tableaux on display. Ican't remember the specifics of any of them, but the overall magical thrill of the place remains with me to this day. Much better than Disneyland.


I managed quite a lot of knitting this weekend - am just about to complete the second shoulder shaping of the front of my Shapely Tank in a lavendar marl All Seasons Cotton, which is knitting up very quickly.

Wore the Calmer tank yesterday for work, under the jacket I knit it to match. A few compliments, including disbelief that it was a handknit. This passes for the ultimate compliment in some quarters :)

Friday, April 21, 2006

The last weekend

Managed to get to the Teesside knitting group - Knit Happens - last night at Starbucks in Borders. Not many there because of the Easter holidays, but I was glad to be there. Drank a vente latte and cast on the first of my Jaywalker socks. It's my first sock that wasn't just rib or stocking stitch and I'm pleased to report that the stitch is easilly remembered (essential for a Knit Happens night)and I can see the shaping starting already.

I cast on a Shapely Tank this morning too. I love the way a garment can be shaped with short rows.

I'm making the most of the last few days of leisure before the Summer term begins and in anticpation of the Summer term have ordered patterns for the Crystal Cove Pullover and San Francisco Shirtails from Just One More Row.

Back to school on Monday, which is just as well, as I watched Ricki Lake today and 2 episodes of Victoria's Secrets! And I feel NO guilt. Well, maybe a little...okay, I feel dirty! But I do know how to dress if want to look like a Hoochie Momma. Reminded me of a Summer when I managed to get j to behave really well, by threatening him that I was going to buy a size 24 gold lame bikini and matching high heels to wear on our holidays. He was horrified/terrified and I probably traumatised him for life.

I do have a touch of school phobia at the moment. I always get like this as we approach the weekend before the start of a new term - don't tell any of the kids! On Monday, I will put on the suit, I will smile and deliver an assembly to the whole school about fresh starts and new opportunities and being glad to be back, and I'll mean it! But here, at home, in my cosy socks and jersey trousers I don't want to go.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

A wander down memory lane

When we were small we would go to Hampsthwaite, near Harrogate to see family and would sometimes have tea at Betty's
as a treat. My favourites were (and are) always Fat Rascals and pink pigs.

My Aunt Elsie (great Aunt, actually) had escaped industrial Teesside, and Haverton Hill in particular, having married a market gardener and moved to Yorkshire where she baked and iced cakes professionally. It always seemed like an ideal lifestyle to me and I always quite fancied being her. I have the genetically low-slung bust but don't quite manage to pull off the floral crimpelene and haven't quite reached the age where a grey cauliflower perm seems like a good idea. There's time yet, though.

Anyway, I still bake from her notes and Aunt Elsie's Rock Cakes are, in my opinion, as good as, if not better than Fat Rascals.

As a fellow cake enthusiast was coming for coffee, I made a batch today.

This is the recipe:

12oz flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
Grated rind of a lemon (no white)
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg or mixed spice (I prefer nutmeg)
6oz sugar
8oz mixed dried fruit (usually use half and half mix of sultanas and raisins)
4oz glace cherries
2oz flaked almonds
1 beaten egg
4 tablespoons of milk.

Rub butter into flour and baking powder, add other dry ingredients and stir. Mix in egg and milk. Spoon into lumps onto baking sheet covered with baking parchment - allowing room for them to spread while cooking. Bake in middle of 150 degree oven until firm and golden. Remove from oven while still soft and cool to firm up. Eat warm while no-one is looking!

Finished a pair of socks for me last night:

They are in handpainted 4ply merino and they are for me! I think the wool is a Cherry Hill yarn, but I've lost the band. There's enough left to make a pair for the whole family, though.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Tank of calm

Sometimes I feel I could do with one of those to bathe in - floating in a tank of calm sounds like a really good way to spend an afternoon.
Having your nails done and then spending the afternoon watching harmless rubbish on TV while finishing a knitted object comes a good second.

Watched the televisual equivalent of OK! magazine - 100 Hollywood Secrets. Don't get much chance to watch daytime cable in my line of work, which is another reason I enjoy the Easter holidays so much. It's ok though, I'll be back at work before I'm tempted to stray towards Richard and Judy.

This is the tank top in Rowan Calmer, adapted from a pattern in Classic Knits for Real Women, hence the tortured title of this post. I really like it with the butterscotch amber and silver pendant, which was an early birthday gift from the boys.

Usually wear acrylic nails as my own are so poor as a consequence of fibro. The nail tech said, in response to my request for them to be done short, "No pork scratchings, then?" Laughed so much, it's a lovely image!

This is the kind of thing she meant:

This is what I got:

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Seeing the wood

Feel as though several small, but annoying weights have been lifted from my shoulders as I have spent the afternoon catching up with organisational things like household paperwork, collecting prescriptions, posting parcels and responding to a safety recall notice on our elderly Fiat Punto.
I can acually see some wood at my end of the desk in the study.

The Punto recall is a bit worrying - corrosion of rigid metal brake pipes - and they can't do it for a couple of weeks, but I shouldn't worry too much as we have had Paolo for 10 years now and he's done 100000 miles or thereabouts without too many problems (except that nasty business of J blowing the engine up, but we don't talk about that...)
Found a usehul site where you can check if there have been any safety recalls on your car.

Drove down to see my brother and his family yesterday, in South Yorkshire. Well, J drove, j slept (having been up until 2am despite warnings of an early start) and I wound up a skein of Lorna's Laces in Motherlode.

It's going to become a pair of Jaywalker socks when I get the purple Calmer shell and the lime green one to follow that finished.

It was nice to see my brother and his family again, especially baby R, who modelled the sweater I finished at the weekend. It's a bit big yet, but looks lovely and soft and suits her gorgeous olive skin tone. She's as bright as a button, very amiable and, although I must confess to Auntish prejeudice, absolutely gorgeous.

What do you reckon, is it just me?

Sunday, April 16, 2006


Easter Sunday and I'm managing to avoid the gloom that often sits around me on this holiday weekend. Partly due to the weather being brighter and warmer than most recent Easters; partly due to having come to an acceptance of the loss of my church (feels like another life now) and mostly due to just being happy relaxing with the family.

I used to worry about our family life. I would look at other families and envy their size, adjustment, relationships and dynamics (rather in the way that I would read Good Housekeeping and set myself unrealistic aspirations of Christmas perfection - who needs 7 different outfits to take you from a crisp walk home from church to apperitifs with the neighbours to dinner for 24, etc, etc? 'Parties ... owe much of their success to the thought expended on food and drink. Even the impromptu need not take the hostess by surprise if the store cupboard is kept well-stocked with pastry shells in airtight tins and good supplies of canned and bottled delicacies.').

As I grew older and spent more time with other people and their families the more I realised that the families I put on pedestals had more dark secrets than we could ever hold a candle to and we often drove away from time spent with them saying "Wow, I'm glad we aren't like them!"
Now I relish and celebrate us as a family - small, but perfectly formed.

Happy Easter!

Continuing in a spring vein, we found this perfect little snake'shead fritillary hiding in the garden behind the dwarf (not!) choisya. It's beautiful.

At the other end of the size spectrum, we moved the banana into it's new home in the border nearest the deck. It has lived in progressively larger pots each year so far, but now is the time to release it into the wild of the garden. We'll still have to wrap it in the winter.

I finished the sweater for Ruby. It's ready to take down to Rotherham tomorrow.

Another finished object: felted Kureyon knitting bag. Started life as a tank top, but I suspect that had it remained one, it would have looked rather like I was wearing a knitting bag. It's lined in cotton to stop needles poking through and to give it extra stability. The buttons are four little ceramic sheep I bought at the Edinburgh festival in 1985. I always knew that if I hung onto them something would come up that they would suit...

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Other people's blogs

There are some amazing blogs out there, which fill me completely with inadequate jealousy and feelings of being the most boring blogger around. Here are some of my favourites:
I Blame the Partiarchy
And she knits too...
NHS Blog Doctor

There are more, but the bookmarks are saved on my lovely 12" Powerbook and I'm using J's desktop at the moment.

Friday, April 14, 2006


Spent the morning with my oldest friend - actually, she might take badly to that as she is actually 6 weeks younger than me, but we have been friends for (say it quickly)38 years now! Caught up with gossip and news and ran through a mental maths test with j. Wow, we know how to party, don't we?

Delivered some Easter eggs after lunch and had a drive to the beach, where it was too crowded to park and get ice cream and the fish shop queues were down the street. A Good Friday thing or a Bank Holiday can't be bothered to cook thing? As wew were in Middlesbrough and needed to cross the Tees to get to Seaton Carew, we wen't across the Transporter Bridge, which always feels like stepping back in time. Guy beside us didn't put on the handbrake of his 4X4 and the force of the bridge's platform stopping sent him crashing into the safety barrier. We laughed.

In the garden it is truly springy today.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Which Muppet am I?

You Are Kermit

Hi, ho! Lovable and friendly, you get along well with everyone you know.
You're a big thinker, and sometimes you over think life's problems.
Don't worry - everyone know's it's not easy being green.
Just remember, time's fun when you're having flies!

Yarn and chocolate

I love the Easter holidays - they are probably my favourite holiday of the year, especially when they are late, as they are this year, and the weather blesses us. I love the shift towards spring, the changes in the garden, the brighter light levels and chocolate.

Will do some egg shopping later today. j has had his 'egg' already - a new fan to stop his graphics card (sorry, gpu) from overheating.
I was going to include a picture of him in this entry but apparently I'm not allowed to publish his photo on the interweb!

So, instead some other photos. This is what the Rubster is getting instead of an egg, along with some other pieces that the yarn was picked to match. She's not long been eating solids and I dare not buy chocolate in case I'm responsible for switching on her inevitable, Stewart-chocolate-loving gene and upsetting her parents. I have to have this finished to take to Rotherham on Monday.

I can buy her sister chocolate though! And J's grandchildren, and ME, I mean, US!

Other items on the needles: Shell top from
Classic Knits for Real Women , in Rowan's Calmer, in a dark purple colour which the photos aren't showing well at all. It's a lovely yarn to knit with and I hope it's going to be the first thing I have knitted that I can wear to work with a suit. Here's a detail of the heart motif around the border.

I'm trying to be better at photographing my knitted items as I go along and when they are finished. So here are a couple of finished objects. Firstly, a lace-weight scarf in handspun mohair. It's my first attempt at any kind of lace pattern and I really like the way it turned out.

And a closer shot.