Tuesday, 28 October 2014

In Praise Of All Bloggers


When you write a blog for any length of time, you almost expect the occasional negative comment or admonishing email.  It would be naive not to.  However, I've noticed quite a bit of criticism floating around Blogland recently (albeit from mostly anonymous commenters - funny that) and it's getting on my nerves.

Firstly, there is the issue with the supposed 'dumbing-down' of blogs.  Those of us who post pretty pictures and include content of very little substance and, yes, I include myself here, are failing to stimulate, educate and provoke intelligent debate.  Apparently.

Shucks, I must have missed that memo.

By strategically angling your camera so as to avoid including a glimpse of the radiator draped with knickers in the background, or carefully cropping out the suspicious stain on your sofa from a photograph, you are guilty of not 'keeping it real'.  Apparently.

Exactly what we show on our blogs and how much we should divulge about our personal lives is a question we've all asked ourselves.  For me, the answer is very simple.  As much or as little as we want.  As a blog writer, that's our prerogative.

As a blog reader, our prerogative is to click away if we don't like what we see or read.  It's not difficult.

I should like to remind the very small (thankfully) minority of people who are so frighteningly quick to judge and criticise that bloggers are NOT service providers.  However big or small their following may be.  There are no 'shoulds' or 'ought tos'.  Blogging is a form of self-expression and not a responsibility.  Life is messy and complicated enough without constant critics snapping at our ankles telling us what and where we are going wrong, don't you think?

Since the advent of Instagram, many bloggers have shut up shop.  It is a shame but not surprising.  However, there is still a huge number of us stalwarts who have remained.  See that list of names in my right sidebar?  Each very different bloggers with very different blogs.  I personally get an enormous amount of pleasure from every single one of them and am so grateful they continue to share as they do.  Whether it's their pretty pictures, what they had for supper or their deepest thoughts.  Bloggers should be praised and not castigated.

That said, I should like to stress that, in almost five years of blogging, I have received very little personal criticism compared to some.  I think I must be so very lucky and have the nicest people stopping by.  Thank you.  ♥

*steps off little soapbox*

xxx

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Positivity










If you don't like something, change it.  If you can't change it, change the way you think about it.

This year, I'm going to make a concerted effort to approach winter with positivity.  It's true, I'm not its biggest fan but, to be honest, there's nothing I can do to change the fact that the days are getting shorter, the weather colder and the landscape more stark.

It strikes me that this is the perfect time of year to set a few personal challenges and tackle some projects.  I've just started to go swimming twice a week.  I'm desperate to sort out my thousands of photographs.  I'd really like to improve my knitting.  I've resolved to set aside an entire day every couple of weeks to cook meals for the freezer.  And so it continues; like a sort of autumn/winter bucket list I suppose.

In the meantime, I'm focussing on the good things the season has to offer ...

1. Being Outside.  D and I went for an early morning walk with Bertie on Sunday.  It was mellow and misty.  Quite beautiful.  I had taken my camera with me which always makes me look around with a keener eye.

2.  Handmade Woollies.  Goodness it was chilly though.  I had rather cleverly grabbed my Miss Piggy Ponchette to wrap around my neck but, not so cleverly, forgotten to take anything for my hands.  (There's an irony there - I probably own more wrist warmers more than anybody!)  I thoroughly enjoyed that walk.

3.  Being Inside.  I thoroughly enjoyed getting back home too.  Being enveloped in its colourful and cosy warmth, kicking my boots off and switching the kettle on.

4.  Cooking.  The rest of the day unwound quite gently.  D made a Chocolate Guinness Cake and I roasted some golden beetroot to go with a herby pesto pasta.  I'm eagerly awaiting the arrival of kale in my vegetable box.  I just love the stuff.

5.  Cosy Time.  There's far less of a desire or obligation to get out and about in the autumn and winter.  I spent the afternoon pottering and crocheting.  A relaxing bath and clean pyjamas at 4pm in the summer?  Never.  In the autumn?  Don't mind if I do.  So I did.

To be continued ..//

xxx

Monday, 6 October 2014

Sponsored Post - Sublime Superfine Alpaca DK


When the lovely people at Black Sheep Wools asked me if I wanted to try some of the new Sublime Superfine Alpaca dk, I couldn't say "yes please" fast enough!

As you probably know, I am a massive fan of Sublime - their merino yarns are firmly in my top ten favourites.

The Alpaca comes in a range of six "beautifully understated and classic" colours which, admittedly, aren't my usual palette but it was actually thoroughly enjoyable working with something a little bit different for a change.  (I have since decided that I don't have enough grey in my life!)

It's beautiful to crochet with.  The drape is one of the best I've come across but it's the softness that makes my heart skip a beat.  Oh, it's dreamy.

Black Sheep Wools has kindly offered readers of my blog 10% off Sublime Superfine Alpaca dk from now until Monday 20th October 2014.  Simply quote PINK10 at checkout.

I've written a pattern for some Misty Morning Mitts which is free to download from Black Sheep Wools' website.  It's an easy pattern and requires only two 50g balls, one in each chosen colour.


Established for over 30 years, Black Sheep Wools is an award-winning, family-run UK retailer of yarn, patterns, sewing and needlework materials.

This is a sponsored post.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Changes Are Afoot

Nope, it's not autumn, it's definitely still summer …  she says, crunching across a carpet of bronzed leaves in her flip flops and pulling her flimsy cardigan a little tighter.

Nope, definitely still summer … she says, picking her way through a salad whilst yearning for soup.

Nope, definitely summer … she says snuffling into a handkerchief in-between unattractive bouts of coughing.


Ohhhhhh.  I don't know if I'm ready to resign the long and warm halcyon days of the last few months to just memory.  It was such a glorious summer.

The transition into Autumn might be a lot easier to accept if the shops weren't already rolling out their festive wares.  I was in one last week, which I won't name out of principle, and came upon an entire aisle jammed with Christmas items.  I did an about turn pronto, I can tell you.  When I am Queen, anyone who even mentions Christmas before December will be sent to the Tower!


Last week wasn't terribly interesting.  Certainly not very picture worthy.  As previously hinted, I've had the most horrid cold.  We all have.  There was also a bit of garden tidying, simple meals, car MOTs, dog walking, DIY, housework.  Yawn.  Sometimes though there is comfort to be had in the mundane.

My knitting needles have lain idle but my crochet hook hasn't.

A little while ago, I eluded to the fact that I was writing some more crochet patterns.  My mind buzzes with ideas and it's always such a relief to start turning them into reality.  I have always been openly grateful for any free tutorials and patterns that I have used since learning to crochet.  I hope my own contributions have gone some way to give back anything I may have taken.


I have been having a jolly good think about which path to take next, if any at all.  I have never earned a single penny from my blog or crochet and, you know what, I think I'm ready to see if I can.  If only to justify the amount of time I spend my hook and laptop!  ;-)

A quick glance through my blog and I'm sure you'll get a good idea of my 'style'.  Simple, colourful and pretty.  I want to write patterns and tutorials that can be followed by any crocheter, whether they've been crocheting for weeks or years.  My patterns will be available for sale via my blog to begin with and then Ravelry and Etsy.

So why am I telling you this?  I think because you've always been part of my journey.  I'm very much a heart-on-the-sleeve kind of girl and it's not in my nature to suddenly launch into something a bit different without explanation.  Ok, I might just be a little bit jump-up-and-down excited too!  I don't seek approval, I just thoroughly enjoy and value your opinions.  My blog won't suddenly turn into a promotional tool either, that I can promise.  There's far too much else to chat about! ;-)

My first pattern, my Be Creative Mitts, is almost ready for publish.  I'm just put the finishing touches to the technical stuff.  A little sneak preview for you.


So please keep watching this space my lovely friends, I'm really, really hoping you'll like what you see.

Anyway, I desperately need a project for the rapidly-lengthening evenings (wail!).

xxx

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Fashion

I'm not a follower of fashion.  Now that I have reached the grand old age of 42, I think I have developed my own 'style' so whether or not I am fashionable doesn't really concern me.  My daughter's favourite response to what I'm wearing is "it suits you but I wouldn't wear it".  She, you see, loves fashion.

That said, I do take an interest in the colours of the season.  Apparently these are this Autumn's colours.


"This is a season of untypical colors—more reflective of the imagination and ingenuity, which makes for an artful collection of colors and combinations not bound by the usual hues for fall."
Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director, Pantone Color Institute®

I personally think they are gorgeous and love that they are not "the usual hues for fall".  I look such a bugger in brown.

After a quick scan of my wardrobe, I'm quite pleased to see that Radiant Orchid, Misted Yellow, Sangria, Mauve Mist, Bright Cobalt and Cypress all make an appearance and my favourite coat is Aluminium!  Maybe I'm a little more on trend than I give myself credit for!

What I wanted to pick your brains about today though is accessories.  More to the point, crocheted or knitted accessories.  (Quelle surprise!)  How do you choose colours when you're making yourself a scarf say, or cowl, or hat?  Do you simply pick colours you like?  Do you copy something you've seen?  Do you pick colours that suit you?  Or do you choose them with a particular outfit in mind?

I love colours.  All colours.  I do find though that I make better colour-related decisions if I give myself a few rules.  Otherwise I tend to go a bit bonkers.

D and I made a bit of a parenting mistake when our son was about four or five.  He had been a particularly brave boy at the emergency dentist after having fallen and broken his two front teeth.  As a treat, we took him to a large toy shop and told him that he could choose one thing.  Anything.  Well, he was absolutely beside himself with excitement and ran here, there and everywhere with his eyes sparkling.  He picked one thing up, then another, paused for a second and then put them both back before scooting off to another section.  This happened over and over again until suddenly he sat down on his bottom, burst into extremely noisy tears and said he didn't want anything.  There was too much choice and because we'd not given him any guidelines, the poor little soul couldn't cope.  The point of this story is that I am exactly the same in a yarn shop!  Ok, I don't sit on the floor and wail (well, not always) but I do often end up walking out with nothing.  Either that or I buy something I actually already have at home.

I've translated the season's colours, best I can, to wool …



(They are all actually Cascade 220 simply because of the huuuuuuge range of colours available.)

There's something there for everyone, don't you think?

That green.  Love.

Scarves, cowls, hats and gloves are my favourite things in the world to crochet.  Instant gratification I suppose.  I just adore how a simple pair of jeans and a plain white tee can be transformed or personalised by a jaunty fuchsia pink scarf peppered with a rainbow of roses.

I might see if I can use this as my palette for this year's winter makes.  If nothing else I'll be bang on fashion, eh?

Anyway, I've rattled on.  I'd so love to hear your thoughts.

xxx

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Show And Tell

Hello!

Pinch me.  It can't be two weeks since I last posted, surely?

School started last week in earnest and I'm not ashamed to admit that I am cock-a-hoop!  The silence is a joy.  Or rather, not having to listen to 5 Seconds Of Summer (daughter) in thumping competition with Arctic Monkeys (son) is a joy.  I've decided that I'm totally and utterly rubbish at time and household management in the holidays.  Routine flies out the open windows, my food bills seem to treble (I'm not convinced my children don't each have a tapeworm) and I slowly drown under a pile of laundry and mess.

I spent a large chunk of last week restoring some semblance of order and I think I might, just might, be getting there.  Hopefully my blogging manners will now improve too!


My knitting classes on Monday nights have been a hugely enjoyable constant.  It's the last one next week.  We've been shown all the basics now and I'm quite hooked, especially since I made the decision to buy my own needles.  We were given a plastic pair to begin with but my new shorter bamboo ones are so much easier to use.  I'm still having the odd issue with tension; I tend to work too tightly and my working yarn keeps ending up in a twizzled tangle.  What's that all about?  Knitty Gritty: Knitting for the Absolute Beginner is a fantastic 'how-to' book if you're a newbie knitter like me.



Oh but there's something about the stretch and drape of knitting that I completely adore.  With hindsight, I think my crocheting style has always tended to try and emulate something similar.  I'm pretty sure my first grown-up knitting project is going to be some sort of colour block scarf.  Which reminds me …

I promised a lovely friend that I'd make him a scarf.  I've not crocheted for a man before so I played safe and chose a soft denim blue in an aran weight.



I chained 220 with a 7mm hook (I always, always use a hook two sizes up for a foundation chain when I'm making a scarf - it stops that annoying curve) and then, using a 6mm hook, simply worked half trebles (half doubles US) in the back loops.  It creates the loveliest flexible rib.

Also, since you and I last spoke, my youngest brother and his wife have had a baby!  My seventh sixth nephew*.  I'd already planned a personalised gift but wanted to make something I could wrap up straight away.  After a quick flit around the internet, I settled on making the cutest little hat, using this super crochet pattern here.  I added two extra increase rounds to take the finished diameter to 15".  (Baby Arthur weighed in at an impressive 9lbs 13oz so I thought I'd better err on the side of caution!)



So, two little makes, both blue and both for boys!  I can feel something extremely colourful and girly coming on next!

xxx

*Oh crap, I'm such a bad auntie!

Friday, 22 August 2014

Six Nice Things









1.  Sunshine in a vase.  Two generous bunches of gerberas for £2 each from Aldi*.  Perched on my mantelpiece, they are giving off the most gloriously happy glow.

*I gave my middle class self a good talking-to and lost my Aldi virginity this week.  Let's face it, there's no room for snobbery values when it comes to juggling soaring food bills.  (For those who don't know, Aldi is a discount supermarket which used to have a reputation for selling low quality items.  It has recently won several 'Supermarket Of The Year' awards in the UK and is fast becoming more popular and well thought-of.)  I have to say I was pretty impressed.  My favourites were the free range chicken, the cold meats, the fresh juice, the wine (Alison, you're right, the Chilean Merlot is very quaffable indeed!) and the flowers of course - all were considerably cheaper than I'm used to paying and super quality.

I'll gloss politely over some of the other clientele but will just say that there were a few characters I definitely wouldn't like to meet down a dark alley!

2.  Not having to get up early!  Six more days of school holidays and counting.

3.  My linen crops.  They're so comfortable I have to keep doing a double take just to reassure myself that I haven't left my pyjama bottoms on!

4.  This yarn.  Debbie Bliss Rialto Chunky.  I am head over heels in love with it.  It's super soft and super smooshy and heavenly to crochet (and knit) with.

5.  Hot garlic pickle.  I bought it from a stall at the St Ewe Country Fair in Cornwall last weekend.  It's amazing and completely transforms a simple supper of cold meats (particularly scrumptious with pork pie), jacket potatoes and salad.  Not so great if you're fancying a snog with your loved one but absolutely fine if your snoggee has also indulged.  ;-)

6.  The nicest of my nice things?  My son's triple science GCSE result, taken a year early.  I'm so proud of him I could burst.

Hope your weekend is full of nice things.

xxx

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