Today I dropped the young one at school (the other two take the bus) and drove to Ledbury to see old friends.
The amazing primrose (Silver lace group. I googled it, of course) was growing happily in a pot outside Tinsmith.
Yes of course I popped in... it would have been rude not to! Gorgeous place. I wonder if they'd let me move in for a while...
Anyway, I met with me friends for lunch and it was lovely to catch up after months. We had kids at the same time, went through years of nappies and playgroups and afternoon at the park. Certain experiences bond you for life.
I can assure you it's not the only one, I have many. Some might say too many, but hey, who are they to judge, right?
Anyway, If you're looking for a book full of stitches ideas, clear instructions both in diagram and written format, then this is your man. Well, your book.
Enough rambling, the washing machine has just started beeping (oh Bosh people how I wish you scrapped that beep... sometimes I have three machines beeping at me, demanding attention... I can check when the cycle is finished... I will survive without THE BEEPING)... I need to write this and then I need to pick up No 3 from school and I must get in early or I'll never find a parking space and I'll be late and then we'll be late back and on Tuesday he has Latin homework and... it could get nasty!
So, crochet... ah yes, crochet and indigo. I had this GAP jumper I never wore because, although the softest thing on earth, it was also rather chunky and I don't think chunky suits me and so I unravelled it (it could open the door to a whole new discussion on the subject "why on earth did I buy it", but that would take decades of psychoanalysis to explain and I don't have the time - see above paragraph).
There was a lot, A LOT, of cotton in that jumper. Beautiful soft, thick cotton, which got turned into all sort of things and the last ball happened to fall into the indigo vat a few weeks ago.
Enter the above book, a large crochet hook and ta-daaahh
A simple stitch based on the UK double stitch, a few hours watching re-runs of NCIS (it's an obsession which is getting slightly out of hand... but let's not go there either) and I have a couple of thick (and soft, not that it's important here) trivet for my table.
Also... they're not really trivet though, are they? I always thought trivets are made out of metal... or maybe wood? What would you call them?
My mind is blank.
Shut down mode. Zip. Nada. A barren desert... and yet I have a feeling there's another word out there that would describe these better.
All suggestions welcome.
Oh you stupid machine, STOP BEEPING AT ME! I'M COMING!!!
I still had some twine from my last endeavour and the colours were so tempting I couldn't just let them lie there eyeballing me, tempting me, calling me, distracting me... so I started a new tote with my pattern (link on the side bar, if you're interested) and it's a corker.
But just like that I another WIP.
The problem is we have just bought a house, YES. A house. VERY exciting. But this means a lot of sorting out and clearing and NO WIPS.
Or at least not so many WIPS. Right?
So I crochet like fury and amazingly it got finish within a week.
Yeah, it figures... if you work at something you can get it done...
5mm hook and 4 Nutscene twine rolls.
And now all I have to do is work on the other WIPs, right?
In a little while I'll finally go the hairdresser and have an intense 'cover the grey' session. I've been doing it for a few years now and I can't stop. I could try doing it myself but a) the choice of colours and brands and methods is totally overwhelming and b) I know I'd make a total mess of it and will probably end up having to replace the whole bathroom afterwords. I can still recall my friends' not so brilliant success with Henna (although actually, 'brilliant' was the right word here)... and yes it was the 80s but still enough to put anybody off for life.
I have to thank my mother for not allowing me to walk around with a totally unnatural red head... although she did allow me to use chamomile on my hair to encourage natural blond highlights (when you grow up in Italy 'blond' is the holy grail of hair, trust me) but I must have overdone it because to this day I can't bear even the smell of the stuff.
(wasn't allowed to use 'Sun-in' spray either. I think that was basically bleach, right?)
Anyway, in three hours time my hair will be a gorgeous natural fake brown. You know what I mean.
Which brings me to my confession of the day: my monthly subscrition to 'Glossy Box'. The name is slightly (a lot) cringeable... but when it lands on my doorstop I feel like a five year old in a sweet shop.
For the cost of a few cups of coffee (which you can get free in Waitress anyway) you have a little selection of make up and skin care to play with. Some of the products are full size, some are sample size, and if you're like me and like to change things all the time... then this is bliss.
I don't like everything in every box, but I have discovered a few gems and above all it's fun!
That little tub of cream it's fabulous, the nail vanish will be applied tonight, a black eyeliner is always useful and bath sachet will make a nice treat. I might even dare the red lip crayon when I go to a party on Friday night... why not, right?
- All the boys have now gone back to school. The only noise breaking the silence is the extractor fan over the cooker. There's a vietnamese beef curry slowly cooking in the oven and if I don't leave the fan on I'll forget it's in there and leave the house without turning it off with disastrous consequences.
- By the way, don't ask me how I know, but if you REALLY burn a chicken curry (on a really slow hear... for about 5 hours) you have to throw away the pan because it will have fused with the chicken AND your house will smell for weeks, and you'll try everything even wiping down the ceiling and everything in sight and repainting the walls too.
- So don't burn food, ok?
- My mum's dog looks like a polar bear.
- Anyway, school... summer term. Cricket. I'm glad they didn't ask me about cricket when I took the Citizenship test... (there was a question on Christmas pudding though).
- It's boring.
- No 2's matches are now 30 overs long. LONG beeing the key word here. Almost 5 hours. And he has a match every 3 out of 4 Saturdays till mid July. Plus mid week matches.
- Shoot me now.
- Last week I went for a lovely walk with a friend. The boys played in the woods.
- It was whole terribly wholesome and nice. She has a wonderful house too
- Yesterday No 3's hockey team (aka County Champions) almost won the West of England tournament. They went down to a dodgy decision in the final. Losing 1-0 because the referee doesn't know the rules stings a little. And it's hard to explain to a nine year old about human fallability...
- No 1 is out of his cast and is, for now, all in one piece.
- We had a family outings to the rugby and watched Gloucester sailing in a blaze of glory to an epic win.
- In my absence yesterday No 2 uploade 18 go-pro videos onto my computer.
Blueberries. I tasted them for first time in my auntie's kitchen, she lived on the fifth floor of this big building in Bologna, tiny lift, not that it's important. A big spoonful was shovelled into my mouth, the words "it's good for your eyes, pilots eat them" whispered in my ear in a conspiratorial manner.
Raspberries. Mr M's favourite fruit. I have this incredible memories of a long hike through raspberries bushes, eating and walking and eating and walking and laughing with friends. Wild raspberries. And you can stick them on the tip of your finger.
Mango. Oh mango you were such a surprise! Growing up in Italy in the 80s... we didn't have mangoes. Seriously. No mangoes at all. It was only when I crossed the world and naively (long story... another time) I made it to Australia that I finally tasted them. I was 19 years old. Oh boy. Love at first bite. I have to say that not all mangoes are created equal though, and these precious babies that went in the fruit salads were exactly like the ones I remembered from all those years ago. They had yellow skins and were smaller... unlike the greeney/reds we normally get around here.
Strawberries. Hands down my favourite. I grew up in Italy, in strawberries country. Miles and miles of strawberries field. Best memory? I had a friend whose father grew them and at the end of the season, when it wasn't worth picking them anymore, we used to sit among the rows and doing our homework while eating ripe fruits. The smell was intoxicating. I was thirteen and had a crush on her brother who totally preferred blondes. I've lost touch with her years ago... I think she became a pharmacist.
Kiwi. Again another fruit that 'came out' to Italy when I was old enough to remember life before it. (I'm sure there's a simpler way to say that...). The hairy skin is a bit funny on the skin and it still feels quite exotic... I have bittersweet memories of my first kiwi... my cousin was really ill and undergoing chemo at the time and my grandmother bought kiwis for him because they're so full of good things. We shared one. I was younger than ten. I'm glad to say he was cured and it's now a fabulous successful man, married with a gorgeous boy. But kiwis will always remind him of him and my grandmother.
A sprinkle of sugar and some lemon juice
... and life is like a fruit salad, don't you think?
Things I say to Myself While Hanging Laundry by Ruth Stone
If an ant, crossing on the clothesline from apple tree to apple tree, would think and think, it probably could not dream up Albert Einstein. Or even his sloppy moustache; or the wrinkled skin bags under his eyes that puffed out years later, after he dreamed up that maddening relativity.
Even laundry is three-dimensional. The ants cross its great fibrous forests from clothespin to clothespin carrying the very heart of life in their sacs or mandibles, the very heart of the universe in their formic acid molecules.
And how refreshing the linens are, lying in the clean sheets at night, when you seem to be the only one on the mountain, and your body feels the smooth touch of the bed like love against your skin; and the heavy sac of yourself relaxes into its embrace.
When you turn out the light, you are blind in the dark as perhaps the ants are blind, with the same abstract leap out of this limiting dimension. So that the very curve of light, as it is pulled in the dimple of space, is relative to your own blind pathway across the abyss.
And there in the dark is Albert Einstein with his clever formula that looks like little mandibles digging tunnels into the earth and bringing it up, grain by grain, the crystals of sand exploding into white-hot radiant turbulence, smiling at you, his shy bushy smile, along an imaginary line from here to there.
And then we're back... long journey, lots of changes, the body doesn't know when to be hungry or tired and so I'm hungry and tired all the time. It's a battle to make it past nine pm! This morning I tried going for a run... I survived, let's just leave it at that!
The weather is great though and it has helped the re-entry from the paradise we lived in last week. Spring has finally sprung and the blossoms this year are amazing. Will it last? Shall I put away my winter clothes? Can I safely bring out the t-shirt and pack away the boots?
I took this photo this morning whilst out running. Yes, ok, I stopped for a few seconds... but I was in my 'walk 1 1/2 minute part and I made extra sure I walked faster to make up for it. I'm doing this '10K' app thingy-ma-bob, and so far it's fine and dandy, but I was looking at the days ahead and it's going to get harder. Gulp. I know it's good for me but the motivation is not exactly strong. Especially now that the bikini is safely tucked away in a box in the wardrobe!
Have you tried any of those app? You know the 'couch-potato to world champion marathon runner in twelve weeks' ones? Have you survived to take another step? I need to know. The good, the bad and the ugly. The one I downloaded has a very annoying male voice that keeps telling me I'm an "awesome runner" whenever I'm doing the walking bit. Very irritating.
Do you know what I would also like to know? How to prolong a tan.
You have to know that I don't tan easily. Yes, yes, I know I'm Italian, but that doesn't mean a thing... maybe I've been in England for too long... maybe I ran out of melanin (can you ran out of melanin? is that even possible?), or maybe it has to do with the fact I hate to sunbathe.... either way when Mr M and I come back from holiday it always looks we've gone to two different places. He's the bronzed one, I'm the pale beige one.
This time however I did it. I have some colour. And my legs don't look like mozzarella batons anymore... Ok, a modest amount of colour... but... wow!
I think I ought to give credit to this suncream:
Mr M's face has very sensitive skin so we went all out (a word of warning this cream is NOT cheap, I bought it from Space NK) and it worked! It gives maximum protection against all kinds of rays and it's not waterproof (we used a different before going swimming) but it has great texture, a little goes a long way and it's not too strongly fragranced, in fact hardly at all and if you're not an idiot like me and put it on properly it works wonders. (I have a patch of very red skin on my forehead ... doh!).
Long gone are the days of low factor sun cream or coconut oil. Gosh I remember when I was laughed at because I used a factor 4 and told I'd never tan if I used it! Seriously, I used to use this mirrored cardboard thing to reflect even more sun onto my face and neck! (I also use to rinse my hair in very concentrated camomile tea to lighten it... and to this day I cannot abide the smell of the stuff... smells like hair!)
Anyway, I've managed to stay up till 9.25, a record this week, so I'm bidding you good night, sleep tight and don't let the bed bug bite you...
A few of you have emailed me asking me about how easy it was to indigo dyed... well, the way I do it... it's easy. To do it 'like a boss' - to borrow an expression from my children - it's not easy.
The hardest thing is to make the dye bath, to make sure the various elements mix properly etc. etc. I still don't know. The two times I've done it I used kits of synthetic indigo rather than start from indigo powder and I do feel I kind of cheated doing it that way but I loved the results so I'm hiding behind those.
My dream is to take a proper course and learn 'the ancient way'... for now you can use these two kits from George Weil:
- Synthetic Indigo Dye Kit. This is what I used last year in Tuscany, it's a little complicated but you can dye up to 2Kg of fibres.
- Mini indigo Tie Dye Kit. This is what I used last weekend, and it was easy peasy. The colour is lighter than the other one, especially after rinsing and drying, so you need to 're-dip' once or twice if you prefer a much darker blue.
Both come with very clear instructions. I would say just dive straight in. My favourite pieces are the ones I just chucked in the dye bath as an after thought (I tipped into it my box of white/cream scraps and they are divine)... and the magic of the green turning blue never gets old. (Try choosing a sunny day... it helps).
I bought my undyed yarn from 'Wooltops' if you fancy trying a bit of that too.
After the success with onion dyeing I was itching to try other natural dyeing methods. I did a little of research and the yellow gold you can obtain with turmeric was too beautiful to be ignored. Turmeric comes from a plant native of South West India and it's part of the ginger family. It's commonly used in Indian cooking but it is also famous for its dyeing and some say medicinal properties.
I put 50g of turmeric in a large pot together with 3 litres of water and let it bubble up gently for about half an hour.
Then I took my pre-soaked yarn (merino 4 ply) and fabric (2 types of linen) and immerse them in the dye bath and left them for about three/four hours. I took the pot off the heat at this stage, I was a little worried about cooking/felting the yarn.
I have to warn you... you want to light some candles around the room if you're doing this in the kitchen like I did. The turmeric has a somewhat peppery and mustardy smell that's rather pungent. It does disappear quite quickly but during the 'cooking time'... it's not the best smell in the world! Once the yarn and fabric were steeping in the dye bath I kept the lid firmly on at all times!
When I was happy with the colour I rinsed and rinsed and rinsed and rinsed some more till the water ran clear and then dried the skein overnight in the airing cupboard. I was very very happy to notice that once the yarn dried the smell completely disappeared. Phew.
The linen was left in the pot overnight but still you can see how different it soaked up the colour:
I didn't use any mordant but after washing nothing lost any colour so finger crossed they won't fade in the light!
Now I'm waiting for a sunny day to do a little more indigo dyeing... I really got the dyeing bug!
Wednesday already? I can't believe how time is running away from me at the moment... but at least is nice and sunny, right?
And it's time to through away the last vestige of winter around the house and make it more spring-like. By the way I have the smelliest daffodils in my kitchen... is it possible that sometimes daffs positively stink? I mean REALLY smell bad... urgh...
I made a small table runner with the onion dyed fabric from last week and I'm smitten with it.
I used facing instead of a border and the back is onion dyed too.
I'm thinking turmeric next (given that we haven't eaten enough onions yet) ... nice and bright...
This is something I've been wanting to try for ages.
... but we don't eat a lot of onions so it took a while to collect all the dry skins. I boiled them for an hour in a big pan and let it cool down overnight.
Then I wet and folded 'shibori-style' an old pillow case (it's either linen or cotton... it was part of mum's wedding trousseau but it has started to fray and couldn't be used anymore) and boiled that for an hour and let it cool overnight.
Not a fast process, but I enjoyed the slowness of it all. There was no pressure, there were no expectations.
Just delight at the results.
And the overwhelming desire of doing it again... maybe with wool next time!
Pattern from the book "Crochet Adorned" (Linda Permann), which is unbelievably 6 years old. Geesh... where does the time go?
The plan was to use a lovely piece of Nani Iro, but I really didn't have enough and my idea of adding crochet panels down the side didn't work out at all so I dug out an old Toast dress that was badly ripped (I'd caught it in a door handle... doh) and managed to salvage two panels of the right size for this top. I was able to use the hem of the dress too, result!! (I hate hems)
I did the size small and used two balls of Rico Creative Cotton Aran in shade 12, with a 4 1/2mm hook.
As in Katherine Hepburn. THE Katherine Hepburn. Via Molly Wizenberg of 'Orangette' fame.
The recipe can be found in her delightful book 'Delancey' which in actual fact is a memoir with recipes... more than a recipe book. And it's lovely. The writing is lovely and the recipes are lovely.
I'm pretty sure I'm repeating myself here. I know I talked about it before and I probably raved about this recipe before but it's one of my favourite and it's sooooo quick to make it's definitively worth mentioning again.
It's also produces something that gets eaten very quickly so you might want to consider a double batch. Just saying...
113g of butter, 55g of dark chocolate, 175g of sugar, 2 large eggs, 1/2tsp vanilla extract, 35g all purpose flour, 1/4tsp salt.
On a slow heat you melt together the chocolate and the butter (gorgeous smell!), then you take it off the heat and add the sugar, then the eggs and the vanilla blending well, then the flour and the salt.
Well ok it's recommended you put the mixture in a 8"by8" tin and then cook it in a preheated oven (160C) for about 30 minutes. Just check they don't get too dry. I think mine took just under 30 minutes but I then let them in the oven as I was late to pick up No 3.
HOW EASY IS THAT!!!???
(Eating them is even easier... so... forewarned is forearmed!)