Tuesday, 27 September 2016

September Blues.

I've been feeling rather 'empty nesty' for the past week. The weekend before last we headed west along the M4, with a car packed to the gunwales, to take my baby to university. I was brave all the way there in the car. I was brave as we helped her to unpack her things. I was brave hanging her pictures on the walls. I was even brave making her bed for her to sleep in that night, far away from home. I tried hard to be brave as we said goodbye and watched her walk away ................ and then I sobbed all the way home in the car! We did stop for lunch at Wahaca, a Mexican street food restaurant, where I tried to drown my sorrows with tequila ............. but then I sobbed there too. I'm even teary now writing this. It's so hard. Those of you who've gone through it will understand. Those of you who haven't yet - go hug your children now! It all goes so terribly quickly. One minute you're fetching this little thing back from hospital, supporting that wobbly head and wondering how on Earth you are going to cope, and five minutes later (or so it seems), they're heading off into the big, wide world without you. 
I find that I get twitchy at 3:15 in the afternoon. That's the time when I used to set off on the school run and the time when I now miss her the most. I know it's the way it's meant to be and I am so proud of her and all she has achieved. I also know that she has struck gold with her accommodation this year. Her room is in a beautiful building with fantastic grounds. I had told her not to expect too much as they always put the nicest looking rooms on the website. I prepared her thoroughly for dark and poky with a view of the bins. What she actually got was light, spacious and beautiful, with lovely oak furniture, a fireplace and a view to die for. I also know that when she has settled down and is used to the routines, she will have a fantastic time, in an amazing city, making friends to last a lifetime. I hope so anyway. In the meantime, the tidy rooms, the lack of towels slowly going rancid on the bedroom floor and the lack of an overflowing laundry bin are no compensation; I miss her - as does Hamish, her house rabbit, who seems to want more ear rubs than usual.

We tried to make the most of her last few weeks at home and here are a few photos from that time:

A walk and a picnic to nearby Beacon Hill, ostensibly to pick blackberries:


 Highclere Castle (aka Downton Abbey) in the distance:
 The resultant crumble:

A trip to Warwick. We paid for L and E to stay in a beautiful Tudor B&B for a couple of nights. I dropped them off and collected them in the car and we treated ourselves to afternoon tea in the Lord Leycester Hospital before the journey home: 


 The girls bought me a present of delicious gingerbread rooibos tea:
E and I then went to Bournemouth for the day. We were very lucky with the weather, it being the day after the storm that flooded our little town. The sun shone and we sat on the beach, walked in the gardens and visited the oceanarium: 

 We also fed sneaky chips to the extremely tame squirrels!
 ....... and went on the merry-go-round. We were the only 2 on it and I embarrassed E by waving to the passers by. To be fair, they did wave back!
 The otters that we watched for ages at the oceanarium. This one would pick up a pebble off the bottom of the stream and then lie on its back, playing with it. I tell you, this otter could juggle!
I forgot to post a photo of the blankie that L and I made for E.  Apologies, I didn't manage to lie it straight and it looks a bit wrinkled here:
 
The tequila that I sobbed into at Wahaca:
There have been a few happies to cheer me up this week:

I spent a day in Oxford with L, where we walked round the market, had a trip to the Yarn Store for 'cheer me up' supplies and enjoyed a delicious lunch.
 


There was a lovely dog walk with a friend: 

A lot of knitting on my Hitchhiker shawl using this yarn:
 
A visit to the lovely Watermill Theatre with R to see this:
It is a true story, set in WW1, about some soldiers who come across a printing press and start to produce their own newspaper. 'Wipers' was what the men called Ypres, where they were stationed. It's always a treat to go to the Watermill and we thoroughly enjoyed our evening out. The honey and ginger ice cream in the interval was very nice too!

One last happy - I ordered a Halloween Kit from Tracy at Thimble and Thread Makes. I was thrilled when it arrived today as Tracy had gone to such trouble putting it all together. The kit contained a project bag (the material was a surprise, you just had to say whether you wanted 'spooky' or 'cute' fabric - I went for spooky) a pumpkin DPN cosy, chocolates, stickers, stitch markers and a progress keeper, a sachet of drinking chocolate, a mini skein of wool, a pen shaped like a syringe and lots of other Hallowe'en treats. I'm looking forward to using it in October after I have cast on a hat for E.
Is it too early to mention the 'C' word? I was very happy to discover this week that these are back in the shops - well, a girl's got to cheer herself up somehow!
Anyway, that's all for this week. Its 3:15 and I am getting decidedly twitchy, so I'm off for a soothing cup of gingerbread Rooibos. 
Wishing you all a wonderful week.
Toodle pip for now. x

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Shakespeare, a Maze and Some Yarn

Well, Hey Nonny Nonny, it's the time of year when we go en famille to Stratford Upon Avon for our annual Shakespeare fix. Being creatures of habit, our trip usually follows roughly the same format: arrive late morning, lunch from the Baguette Barge on the river, hire a rowing boat, potter round the shops and town, an early dinner and then the main event - the play. Usually, we go late July or early August and we have ALWAYS been lucky with the weather. This year, owing to various exams, holidays etc. we went in September ........ and it rained on and off all day! Being English, however, we're used to the odd drop of the wet stuff and had come prepared. Cagoules were donned and, apart from eating lunch inside, the day followed its usual pattern.

 The play we had come to see was this:

Very good it was too. There was the odd adaptation - I always thought Cymbeline was the 'King' of Britain!- but we thoroughly enjoyed it nonetheless.

Also on our summer manifesto was a trip to Blenheim Palace, principle residence of the Dukes of Marlborough and birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill. This time, it was a sunny day and L, E and I packed a picnic and set off.

 If you haven't been, it's a fantastic place for a day trip with children. You can omit the palace itself if you wish and just buy a ticket for the park and gardens. Your ticket can also be upgraded free to allow free entry for the  following year, which is what we did. There is a lakeside walk, a maze. a butterfly house, an adventure play area and a narrow gauge railway.


 The butterflies were very friendly. Here's one on L's shorts:

 .... and one on my shirt. You have to check yourself before leaving, just to make sure that you don't have any hangers on! 


It was a really wonderful day out and we will be returning in November near L's birthday to do some of the bits we didn't get around to this time.

Other happies this week:

I finally got around to visiting 'Yarnfest'. A yarn shop on the edge of a local village that I have passed numerous times before, but never gone in. It's situated in an old telephone exchange building and is a little gem of a place. The lady running it was really friendly and chatty, but I went at about 2pm and she admitted that I was her first visitor of the day. At that rate, I'm not sure how they keep going. 
Being her only customer, it would have been rude not to make a purchase! I chose a ball of sock yarn and also treated myself to a new set of dpns. I usually use the set of bamboo ones that I bought in Oxford when I planned my first pair of socks, but some of the ends now have little splits in them that catch the yarn. These are metal Knitpro Zings and I really like them. It did seem a bit of a betrayal of my faithful old bamboo needles though - yes, I am a bit sad like that.
Enjoying a cup of Vanilla Honey tea. The project bag in the background is my travel one from Knitrundig - it holds my current sock project and is small enough to stuff into my bag when I'm out and about.
I have been bitten by the mini skein bug. These are Harry Potter inspired ones from Norah George. From top to bottom: Pumpkin Juice, Snape (yes, I was a little confused by that one, but I do love the colours) and Ravenclaw.
I'm hoping to advance my sock knitting a little. I'm only on my 4th pair and am still learning, so they have, until now, all been  very plain socks. I'm hoping to master the 'fish lips kiss' heel next though and would love to insert a different colour for that and maybe the toes or cuff. Hence the mini skeins. I'm also a big HP fan - but not of the new book 'The Cursed Child'; I found it such a disappointment and a bit of a swizz putting J K Rowling's name in big letters like that.

Finally, this week's library books. I would recommend the Sue Perkins autobiography for anyone who enjoys a good laugh out loud until you cry book. I'm also a big fan of the GBBO and am thrilled that it's back on our screens - I'm rooting for Andrew Smyth.
Well, that's all for this week. 'Parting is such sweet sorrow' as Shakespeare would say, but that bedding won't change itself!

Toodle Pip for now. x

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

A levels, Tea, Wigs and Moomins.

Hello! Well, these blog posts have been few and far between this summer haven't they? The weeks have been running away with me somewhat, so I just thought I'd grab half an hour, upload some photos and have a bit of a catch up.
A level results day came and went. I am so glad that that will be my last time sitting in the car waiting for one of my girls to come out of school clutching an envelope. I find it all so incredibly stressful - far worse than when I sat exams myself. All went well, however - E got 2 A*s, an A and a B and will be off to Bristol uni on September 18th. She is thrilled at the moment as she has just discovered that she has been allocated her first choice of accommodation. She is slowly amassing a pile of stuff to take and I am trying my best not to sob all over it!
We have had a few lovely trips out, trying to make the most of the lovely weather that we have been having recently. E and I went for a trip to Bath - always a treat. We discovered a fantastic tea shop - ie. a shop that sells all things tea related - called T2. There were hundreds of different types and when you had narrowed down your choices, the lovely shopkeepers would brew them for you to try before you made your final decision. I had to stick to the decaff section (caffeine gives me palpitations) where there were lots of lovely tisanes to choose from. After much deliberation and tasting, I settled on Honey Vanilla and it's just lovely. E took even longer to decide, but eventually plumped for Black Rose which smelled divine. We also bought her a lovely aqua teapot to take to uni.
After much searching, we managed to find a lovely little yarn shop where I bought a couple of skeins. No photos, I'm afraid but one was the West Yorkshire Spinners' Kingfisher colourway and the other is a tweedy charcoal yarn, destined to be another hat for E.
 After a long day pootling, we sat in the shade of a tree in a little square and had the obligatory Bath Bun.



 Other happies this week have included:

A family bowling trip. R won (he always wins!) as he manages to bowl it much faster than the rest of us. I'm just happy if I don't end up in the gutter!
A trip to G&D's in Oxford for a bagel lunch. This was R's dessert - there's a brownie under there somewhere!
 E and I went for a walk and a picnic to a nearby lake:

 L, E and I went for a day to London. We started off in Covent Garden. Last time we came, we spotted the Moomin Shop, but kept putting off going in until it was too late. This time it was first on the agenda. It's a little gem of a shop, dedicated to all things Moomin and we spent quite a while browsing before deciding on a little treat each.
I bought a Moomin pot holder which now hangs on one of my kitchen cupboards and is just perfect for cradling a bowl of soup - I have plans for making 'Moominmamma's Evening Soup'.
I also bought a little Moomin charm (yes, I know that's 2 treats!), which I've attached to one of my project bags. Note to self: use more hand cream!
L bought a Moomin flask and E bought a beautiful tin which she plans to keep biscuits in at uni. Then it was off to Kimchee for lunch. 
The main purpose of our trip to London, however, was a visit here:
L has passed her Bar Course and we had to get her a wig and gown for her Call to the Bar ceremony in October. The shop was intimidatingly grand, but the people were actually lovely and didn't seem to mind when we lowered the tone of the oldest wig makers in the country by giggling a lot. It was a proud moment, although more than a little weird seeing my 'baby' all dressed up for court and looking the part - even if she was wearing her converse trainers underneath!

Finally, when L went to uni, E and I knitted her a patchwork blanket to take with her. L and I have been doing the same for E and I am currently in the process of joining them all together.
I have about 5 more rows to go, before doing the edging to keep them all neat. Doing it outside in the sun makes it more bearable.
Anyway, I'd better go. E is currently visiting L in Oxford and I have a list of 'to do' jobs as long as my arm. 
I hope you enjoy the last few days of the summer holidays.

Toodle Pip for now. x