Easter pastelly bits and pieces

A very belated Happy Easter!

The Easter Tree is a family tradition here in darkest Devon.

The Easter Tree is a family tradition here in darkest Devon.

We seemed to have a bit of a pastel theme going on this Easter in the Hipoptimist household.  I have a love-hate relationship with pale pastel colours.  If I wear them, I look – well, dead, really.  I can’t wear that beautiful pale mint shade that’s in all the shops right now, in case somebody mistakes me for a corpse.

And there’s something about Easter that seems to bring out the pastel-lover in me. I love these little wooden decorations on my Easter tree:

Pastel - looks good on twigs.

Pastel – looks good on twigs.

Our two girls have discovered that these decorations (from Gisela Graham) mix rather nicely with their little Lego Friends collecting sets.  Pastel is no stranger to controversy: Lego was criticised for pandering to gender expectations by making ‘Lego for girls’.  Why can’t toys just be toys, wonders this little girl on youtube?

Lego Friends: Controversially pastel.

Lego Friends: Controversially pastel.

And if that’s the case, then this next yarny endeavour is also definitely one ‘for girls’ – check out these gorgeous colours!

Scrummy mix of pastels and brights.

Scrummy mix of pastels and brights.

This is Stylecraft special DK, which came from Mason’s Needlecraft – a beautiful bulk pack of scrumptions candy coloured yarn.  100% acrylic, so not the most special-est yarn ever, but cheap, and aren’t they yummy colours.

And what might I be hooking up?  Here’s a photo to help you guess..

A blanket?  Moi?  Surely not..

A blanket? Moi? Surely not..

I know, it’s getting ridiculous – how many blankets does one girl need?  But I can’t help it – blankets are the comfort food equivalent of all things yarn-related.  Let’s have another photo just to prove it:

*sigh*

*sigh*

The colours in this yarn pack remind me of the ones Little Woollie uses in her crochet – brights, mixed with pastels, but there are also a few heathery shades mixed in here. The pattern is the very easy granny stripe, courtesy of Attic 24.  I can see myself lying on the grass on this one, recovering from my next surgery in style.  All I need is a matching pillow – well, that and to knit another sixty or so rows of this blanket.  But it’s coming along quite fast, and I feel I might manage this a little quicker than the Mothers’ Day blanket of doom..

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The Mothers’ Day Blanket – at last!

This is the second of my Mothers’ Day posts.  I was very excited about this one, because I don’t often have an actual finished object to show anyone.  But at last, the blanket for my lovely Mum is all sewn up and ready for snuggling in! Here it is, draped over my bed.

Happy Mothers' Day, Mum

Happy Mothers’ Day, Mum. Spot the deliberate mistake(s)

This blanket has taken me a year to make. I gave my mum the very first square a year ago, on Mothers’ Day.  And I’ve worked on this project all year – in my sunny little porch, in springtime, and then in the summer, when I was in bed after surgery.  In the autumn, when I was going through rehabilitation, I had to buy in even more yarn  – a very yarn-hungry blanket, this one!   And in winter, when I’d started back at work and the nights drew in, I began to knit the edging squares.  Sewing up all the squares and darning in all the ends has taken me a month.  But it’s worth it!

Lacework edging

Lacework edging

This blanket is by no means perfect – in fact, I believe there’s a deliberate mistake in every square! But it has been such a pleasure to make it for my mum.  And woohoo, I’ve finally finished something!  I have a sneaky suspicion my mum will ask me to back it with something, so it might actually come back to me before long.  But I did it!  I made something!  A whole thing, just by myself.  Hopefully the next project won’t take me a whole year..

Yes, it is as heavy as it looks.

Yes, it is as heavy as it looks.  But hey, warmth is good, right?

Mother’s Day: homemade gifts with heart

IMG_1495

Happy Mothers’ Day!  Did anyone else get some delightful homemade presents?

Clockwise, from right to left (in case you didn’t guess) are a ‘beauty bug’, a ‘flying chicken’, a ‘fimo ring’, a ‘ring pouch’ and a ‘mouse crochet hook holder’.  And there, on the card, is a lovely picture of me next to a love-heart.

I’m so immensely spoiled, and very lucky to have my two gorgeous stepgirls in my life.

Every mum needs a flying chicken on a piece of string.

Every stepmum needs a crochet hook holder in the shape of a mouse.

Unfortunately before I took this photo one of the offerings (a red ladybug to match the ‘beauty bug’) was destroyed by an errant Harry Cat.  Never mind, there’s still plenty to demonstrate that these two girls seem to recognise my love of making things..

IMG_1497

Now, how can I keep them out of reach of a predatory Bengal cat?

I don’t think I’m ready for this Jelly: My first sewing project

My colour-addiction continues. Check out the beautiful contrasts in my very first sewing project!

Stripes!  I love stripes!

Stripes! I love stripes!

For Christmas, Irish gave me a sewing machine, and I’m sew (geddit) excited! Unfortunately for the poor sewing machine, I am a total novice. The last time I used a sewing machine, I made a bag for my mother. I was so proud – it had a picture of a bunny rabbit on the front, and a pom pom on the back (bunny rabbit tail, see?). I gave it to her for mother’s day when I was twelve years old. She opened the little package, took one look and said to me, uncertainly, ‘Oh darling! A pair of panties! How sweet of you’.

This time, it will be different. I will crack sewing. I will produce something that doesn’t look like a playboy bunny wears it in Hugh Hefner’s mansion. But. It took me four hours to wind the bobbin on Sunday. I swore more than Irish does when he’s watching the six nations rugby.

Luckily one of the ‘yarn Ho’s’ from my local knit and natter group came to the rescue, and recommended I get started by sewing ‘jelly roll’ strips together to make a quilt. And in so doing, I encountered a whole new world of sewing terminology – of jelly rolls, charm packs, fat quarters, and other mind-boggling and rather intimidating phrases.
Anyway, jelly rolls look like this:

Click on the photo to buy this one.

Click on the photo to buy this one.

They consist of 2.5 inch wide strips of fabric, bundled together so that they co-ordinate. And, as my friend points out, they’re a great way to get to know your sewing machine. It turns out that straight lines are the easiest thing to sew.

The other reason I love them is that the strips of fabric are all so well put-together. The colours co-ordinate beautifully and it looks like you’ve spent hours in a fabric shop working out what goes with what – but oh no, you’ve just bought a jelly roll for £30 from eBay or similar.

So pretty..

So pretty..

You can tell from the close-up that I didn’t pin these strips (tsk tsk) and I’m not that good at sewing in straight lines – yet. But hey, in two days I put together all 42 strips in my jelly roll, and they look so cute. Next step – working out how to add a middle layer and a back!

Oops – I appear to have made another blanket – or at least be on the way towards it. But hey, a girl can never have too many works in progress, right?

Little Green Shoots..

It’s beginning to brighten up here in Darkest Devon. In the morning, the woodburner is lit a little later. In the evening, the nights draw in a little more softly. And in the garden, all is quiet. Except, that is, for one or two stirrings, hidden in amongst last year’s mulch.

Today was a beautiful, cold, early spring day. And I thought, it’s been a long time since I wandered around my garden. These last few months, it hasn’t been easy to negotiate the uneven ground or climb the few steps at the back of the house. I’ve been a little nervous of stepping on black ice or slipping in a puddle. But today, it was sunny and dry – the perfect day for a little meander. And look what I found!

Hellebores - official evidence of spring!

Hellebores – official evidence of spring!

These hellebores grow in clumps on the east side of our house. They suit the shady, moist ground close to the wall of the house, and they’re already nodding their heads in the breeze.

Don't step on these crocuses!

Don’t step on these crocuses!

Irish has got the planting bug. He’s planning a bigger vegetable patch this year, and has been busy over winter, digging chicken poop, and a lime mix into the soil. I think it’s looking pretty good – and the chickens seem to be enjoying all the little grubs that his spade is turning over for them.

Nice Butt!  The chickens clearly agree..

Nice Butt! The chickens clearly agree..

And as I pottered about, I started noticing things I could do – little things, that wouldn’t hurt my sore hips. I thought to myself, ‘I could just cut back the old foliage those ferns so that the new shoots get some sun’. Or ‘Why don’t I quickly pick out all the dead grass on that bank that I couldn’t manage in the autumn?’. And I began, slowly, gently, a little bit painfully, to pick up my old hobby of gardening, the hobby I used to love before the PAO. And I realised how much I missed it – the fresh air, the birdsong, the turning things over. And underneath the old bracken and dead fern leaves, I found the best reward of all:

The best reason for gardening in February EVER.  Fact.

The best reason for gardening in February EVER. Fact.

A little patch of snowdrops that hadn’t existed at all last year! I may have been absent from my garden for the last six months, but it seems to be just waiting for me to return to it. And I can’t wait to get started.

A woolly hug from my friends..PAO recovery week 4

I don’t know whether it’s the furious bouts of video game action, the increased confidence I have in my crutches, or the occasional sunny day that we’ve had recently, but week 4 sees a big improvement in my mobility and pain levels. It’s easier to get up and down the stairs, and I can sit, stand, and move about for longer. I am far less reliant on painkillers, although paracetamol still features rather heavily in my life! I celebrated my progress with a tentative glass of wine – and enjoyed it.

Highlight of the week was a visit from my my rudest and funniest friends from the local knit and knitter group, and we had a wonderful cup of tea and a gossip. It felt GREAT to be back hearing all the village gossip, and for the first time I could envisage myself knitting again.

And look! My friends brought with them a beautiful, hand-crocheted present! All my friends clubbed together and made squares for this beautiful blanket.

A woolly hug – definitely the best medicine!

I love how the use of red contrasts with the pastel tones – I would never have thought of doing this, but it really works. In fact the colours remind me of my favourite flowers, which are currently all over the house. I like to put little posies of them in vintage bottles. They brighten up dark corners of bookshelves and look gorgeous clustered with a little pile of books.

Who doesn’t love sweet peas?

Best of all though, my blanket has a secret message in one corner:

I did not cry at all when I read this, oh no.

‘Made with love from all your friends at Knit and Natter’. Oh, I wanted to sob! I’m so, so lucky to have such loving, and clever friends. If ever I needed some motivation to get moving and get back to my rather raucous and sweary evenings with the Hatherleigh Hookers, this was it. And with my first physiotherapy and rehabilitation appointment coming up next week, I think this motivation is going to come in rather handy…

A house full of flowers…

My last few – rather infrequent – posts have focused on my major pelvic surgery and the rehabilitation process, which has taken up most of my energy for the last month.  A side effect of this is that my poor garden has also had to take some pain.  I took this photograph just before I left for the hospital – the sun was out, the flowers were in bloom, the weeds were under control (sort of), and I really felt that the garden was starting to fulfil its potential.

Home sweet home…

Unfortunately, in the four weeks since my operation, I really have neglected things.  I’m tired, I’m sore, and when it rains (and we have had our fair share of rain this summer), I worry about my crutches slipping.  But the biggest inhibitor is the fact that on crutches, I have NO carrying ability – something I never considered before surgery.  Fancy a cup of tea?  You’ll have to drink it leaning against the kitchen worktop next to the kettle, because you won’t be able to carry it into the sitting room.  And drink it quickly – before your standing ability runs out entirely!  Meh.

For the first couple of weeks, I was too tired even to sit in the garden.  I missed my flowers, I missed my daily walk around the garden checking for the new buds that are developing, brutally removing anything slug like, or identifying the latest tendrils of honeysuckle.  So we decided to bring the garden indoors!

Sweet Williams in posy vases – chicken optional

..and again…

Flowers were banned in the hospital ward that where I’d spent the past 6 days.  It was necessarily a clinical, sterile, grit-free place. It was so good to see green and growing things again, and even better to surround myself with them – a symbol of new beginnings and blossomings. We knew that the sweet Williams would be over by the time I could get out to enjoy them, so we cut them all down and filled the house with them.  It looked pretty, but it smelled even better.  Putting the flowers on high places meant they weren’t in the way of my crutches.

We carried the theme on with alliums in the dining room…and hydrangeas in the kitchen.  And I discovered a weird thing about hydrangeas – they can look a bit seventies suburbia in the garden, but look stunning indoors.

Allium Christophii

Blousy hydrangeas in the kitchen

Hopefully, it won’t be too long before I’m back up to no good in the garden again.  Until then, my house full of flowers is reminding me to keep up my rehabilitation and physiotherapy – the garden needs me and I can’t wait to get back to my favourite hobby!

The Rogues’ Gallery

Less than 36 hours to the PAO!  I have packed, I have seen my friends, I have been treated to insane amounts of delicious smelling lotions and potions from my family, and I have had all my last minute hip queries answered by the collective wisdom of the Hip Women Yahoo Group.  I can do this.  It will be fine.

One of the best things I have done in preparation is collect all my favourite family-and-friends photos onto my iPad to take into hospital.  Not the staid, boring ‘graduation’ style photos, but the photos of  us being dysfunctional, or doing happy, funny things.  The ones where we are cross-eyed, or have wardrobe disasters, or are muddy even by Devon standards.

When we moved into our house we had an idea that we could take all the photos that gave us the best memories and crowd them all together on the wall in our kitchen.  The frames don’t match, and they aren’t in neat rows.  But then nothing in our kitchen is neat!

The Rogues’ Gallery.

On this wall, a drawing from my 1 year old god-daughter shares some space with an incriminating picture of my best friends at a hen night, a photograph of Irish and the two girlies and me on the log flume at a theme park, my parents with cocktails in hand on a summer holiday, Irish making faces at the camera with his flying buddies, and of course a close-up of the shoes I wore to ‘go away’ on my honeymoon.

The shoes! Look at the shoes!

The breakfast room bit of our kitchen (that actually sounds a bit posh – it really isn’t) wasn’t really used before we added the Rogues’ Gallery.  Eating there felt a bit empty somehow.  Now, though, it’s the place where visitors gravitate, and the part of the kitchen I ‘hover’ in when I’m waiting for the kettle to boil or for the toast to be ready.  Now, the kitchen is the happiest part of the house – although that could also be down to the fact that a) Irish does a mean Thai Green curry, and b) it’s where we keep the gin.

I have a feeling that before too long, an X-ray of my PAO’d hip will join the scan of Irish’s head injury on the wall, alongside all the cats and dogs we have ever owned and the most-loved photos of family members with a mouthful of chips / sticking their tongues out / falling over / hugging one another.  It’s a memory bank of the happiest, the funniest, the best of times.

Ever done anything embarrassing? It’s probably documented here.

Which brings me to this:  however much I write about knitting, or baking, or shopping helping to take my mind off the pain, it’s really the people that make me smile and give me reason to be optimistic – and isn’t that the whole point of this blog?  And on Tuesday when I count to ten and drift off, and when I wake up with a shiny new hip socket, it won’t be my latest blanket that I remember, or my latest handbag purchase.  It will be the photos on the wall, and the people, all my family and friends, who have been holding my hand.

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