Tuesday, 30 October 2012

More Bonkers Conkers

I've had a few queries from the States, about conkers. So if you don't know what I'm on about, this is just to clarify. I just had a long walk around one of my local parks, where although there are plenty of horse chestnut trees, I could not find a single conker. I think I am a bit late, or maybe the kids had got there first. Lots of very pretty horse chestnut leaves though. So you will have to make do with my knitted conkers.

Conkers are the fruit of the horse chestnut tree. Finding a spikey green case,  slightly split open, and removing a shiny conker from its white cushion, is one of the pleasures of autumn. 

(Conkers are very similar, but not the same, as the fruit of the sweet chestnut tree, which is a bit flatter in shape, and can be eaten. Hence we sing "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire ....". Conkers aren't edible by humans, although I think horses enjoy them.)

In Britain the conker is the fruit, and the game played with them is conkers.

The game conkers is played between two people. A hole is made in the conkers, and they are threaded on a piece of string. They take turns hitting each others conker with their own. Each player holds their conker out in front of themselves, and the other player takes a swing at it with their conker. The conker that breaks the other one is the victor. The dangers are that you can be hit by swinging conkers, which are quite hard, or being hit by flying shards of conkers when the hit is successful. Hard conkers usually win, but it is considered cheating to harden your conker artificially.  Apparently Michael Palin of Monty Python was disqualified from a conkers competition for baking his conker and soaking it in vinegar.

Then there is the whole business of scoring. A conker that defeats another is a oner, etc. But if a conker beats another conker, it also takes on that conker's score. So if a twoer beats a threer, it would become a fiver. It is that conker that takes the title, not the human swinging it!

So here are my knitted horse chestnut leaves. I've posted the conker and leaf pattern on ravelry separately, (there are links in my sidebar) with a discount if you buy both together. As I said I am planning to incorporate mine in some little bags for my conker collectors to use, with the conkers on the end of a drawstring.

Avenue with Horse Chestnut Trees on Left in Bushy Park

Friday, 26 October 2012

Picking Up Conkers!

 Picking up conkers, picking up conkers,
How many conkers have you got?
  Four big prize ones, Six small-sized ones,
  One little mouldy one and that's the lot.

I'm always a bit nervous about posting about a WIP, just in case it doesn't work out, but I'm so pleased with my conkers and horse chestnut leaf that I thought why not. (I was going to take "big one" out to look for real horse chestnut leaves and conkers today to use in the photos, but once again it is pouring with rain.)  

Clearly the horse chestnut leaf is totally the wrong colour, and the final version is going to have 7 leaflets. I'm knitting an autumny coloured one, and am going to do one in a better green colour. So a watch this space.

The conker seems to have just the right shape and dimple at the top.

Conkers do seem a bit hard to find this year, and they have been banned by some British schools because they are considered dangerous. Health and safety gone mad! Hubby thought they could be marketed as the safety conker. I do think they would look really nice on a nature table, and also have an idea to make a conker collecting bag, with the leaf as applique, and the conkers on the end of a drawstring fastener.

Finally, on another autumn note and for Saturday Snapshot, this is the rowan tree in my front garden. It is looking particularly lovely at the moment. We bought it when I was expecting "big one", and 13 years ago it arrived in a small tube through the post.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Rockin' Robins

Finally the rain has stopped and the robins could go out to roost in the apple tree

I like mooching around charity shops, and recently found a small pile of knitting and sewing books. They had clearly been donated by one person. I bought this one for £1.50, which I thought was a bargain. It is jammed full of knitting patterns for all sorts of toys, but I think my favourite pattern is the one on the cover.

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was trying to design a realistic robin for Christmas. Well, I think for the moment I am going to admit defeat. None of my robins looked very robin like. So I was left with a lot of brown and red wool, and thought I would have a go at Jean Greenhowe's little robin, which is part of the scarecrow pattern. They are really easy to make. It is Frankie's birthday tomorrow, and she said she would like to give each of her friends a little robin in their going home bags.

So I waited all yesterday for it to stop raining, so I could take a photo of the robins outside. But it seemed like the rain will never stop, so here is my first photo of the rockin' robins on my table indoors.  The rest of the brown wool has been used on another more autumny knit, which I'm in the process of writing up.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Beautiful Bloggers

Natalie from Free Spirit Designs has nominated me for the Beautiful Blogger Award. Really kind of her. The conditions of accepting are that you nominate your seven favourite blogs for the award, and put on seven random facts about yourself. Both caused me a bit of angst. My random facts were really difficult: and I have tried really hard to put on things that I have never mentioned on my blog.

Seven Random Facts About Me


My son has a pet green anole lizard, called Noel.
I love looking round charity shops and finding a bargain.

I wrote a dissertation on pollen analysis, and 
used to be able to identify a plant from fossilized pollen samples.
I passed my driving test in a red Citroen 2CV on the fifth attempt.
Both my children are IVF babies, and both third time lucky.
 I am quite stubborn/determined. Take your pick. See last two facts. 

Mick Jagger’s dog stole my son’s scone in a cafĂ© once.

My favourite blogs also caused me problems, but mainly because I had a job narrowing down to seven. It really made me think hard about why I like a blog. 

So here is my analysis of what makes a good blog for me. There are quite a few exceptions, but apart from content that interests me, my favourite blogs tend to have really, really, really great photographs. Maybe I have a short attention span, but huge amounts of text tend to get me clicking on. (Mind you, I seem to be breaking that rule myself today.) It’s not that I don’t like reading, but with a blog you don’t want to invest a lot of time working out whether you’re interested or not. 

Also, I tend to get put off by fancy fonts, or very busy backgrounds, but perhaps that is just my eyesight. I think simplicity tends to be best. My other no-no is a blog covered in adverts.  I don’t mind one or two, and have even considered doing Google AdSense myself, but I think lots of ads spoil the look of a blog.

I’ve realized that my blog list is not up-to-date, as although a lot of my favourites are there, I’ve also bookmarked a lot more blogs which I really like and not yet added them to my bloglist. Must have a go at updating it. I use my bloglist a lot, and I love seeing when my favourite bloggers have put on a new post.
I do follow lots of blogs, but am not very good at becoming a follower. Why will some bloggers do almost anything to get you signed up as a follower? “You can only enter my giveaway if you become a follower.”  Is there some techy explanation that means you are further up search engines if you have lots of followers? I’d love someone to explain to me why it seems so important to some bloggers.

My Favourite Blogs

Well I’m sorry, but I just can’t narrow down to 7. So what are you going to do about it? These are (in no particular order) my top 9 blogs. I could add plenty more. Sorry that they all have crafty content, but that’s what I’m into. If you haven't found them before I hope you enjoy looking at these Beautiful Blogs.

Hilly Town Blue Crochet, knitting , sewing and family life in Gloucestershire, always bright and brilliant photographs.

Playing in the Attic Trudi’s blog has lots of craft, sewing and knitting, and other stuff and superb photography, often of the beautiful part of Australia where she lives.

CatkinJane Jane’s blog is mostly about sewing.  She makes beautiful toys, and bags, and other little items. I just love the fabrics, designs and everything.

The Knitting Squid Lots of knitting and other yarny stuff. Always great content.

Sticks, Strings and Crafty Things Another crafty blog, with knitting, sewing and crochet. Always beautifully photographed.

Frontier Dreams Nicole's blog has sewing, knitting, and the most beautiful photographs. Her Linky page, through which I have found lots of other great blogs, is quite aptly call Keep Calm Crafting On, as her whole blog has a feeling of calm simplicity. 

Tiny Happy Lots of crafty stuff and cookery from New Zealand, but what I like best is the embroidery and felt.

ChemKnits A biochemist knitting perspective. Need I say more. Always quirky, and always interesting. 

Create, Hope, Inspire Miriam's blog is about craft, kids, clothes, family life, and more. Somehow it always cheers me. I also like her Wardrobe Wednesday.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Seaside Biscuits (Our Signature Bake)

Our favourite TV programme at the moment is "The Great British Bake Off". The week before last they had a small section on Aberffraw Biscuits, a traditional biscuit baked on the Island of Anglesey in North Wales, and shaped in a scallop shell.

So, because we have a few scallop shells handy, we decided to have a go at making our own version.

My white scallop shells were just too big to use as biscuit moulds. They were bought at a fishmongers in Southwold, when we were on holiday once. So we decided to use a smaller black one that my husband found on a beach in Cornwall.

So first we made a standard shortbread. We didn't have any wholemeal flour, so used 200g of butter, 300g of plain flour, and 100g of caster sugar.

First cut up the butter.

Then mix the flour and sugar.

Then rub the butter into the dry ingredients.

We kneaded our dough into a ball, and then rolled it out.

Then we cut around the shell.

 My shell was too flat to put the dough in, so we pressed the shell as hard as we could into the dough.

I was a bit worried that the markings would disappear when cooked. But all was fine.

They looked great on the baking trays.

We also made a few round biscuits, for which I had another plan.

For the round biscuits I made a very simple stencil from a piece of paper, and we sprinkled icing sugar to turn them into sand dollars. If you don't know about sand dollars, see my previous post in September. Some people call sand dollars sea biscuits.

Our final plate of seaside biscuits looked very appetizing, and melted in the mouth. The scallop biscuits were quite large, so I am on the look out for a slightly smaller shell to mould them in next time.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Hattie Models The Cherry Beret

I have some new photographs for the Cherry Beret on ravelry. My model is my friend's daughter, whom I have known since she was a tiny tot. I met her and her mum a lot of years ago, at the toddler group in the church hall. And now she is all grown up and sophisticated.  She was a little shy about modelling, but I think the photos are just charming, and as a thank you she now has the hat, which I hope will be the envy of her friends.

Tiddles decided to get in on the act too. He is one of the very handsome sons of my own cat, Noodles.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Dahlicious Girl and Dressing Up

Last week they had Roald Dahl Day at my daughter's school. You could go into school dressed as your favourite character from a Roald Dahl book. So here is my little Oompa Loompa. Amazing what a bit of green hair spray and orange face paint can do!

She looked so funny, and was so excited.  I love it now that she takes the lead with dress-up days, and tells me what she needs. My son used to loathe dressing up, until almost the last year of primary school, when he suddenly seemed to get that it was all just a bit of fun.

I have put together as many of the old dress-up day pictures as I could find. There are a few missing, as I think they were pre-digital camera. I love putting together an outfit. 

But when I worked at my daughter's school I also had to come up with an outfit for myself as well. Strangely I don't have any photos of those.The funniest occasion was when I bumped into an old friend on the way home in my Winnie the Witch purple and black stripey tights, and cape. She was looking at me very strangely, until I reassured her they weren't my usual clothes.

Linking to Saturday Snapshot. I can't believe I forgot to link last week. Meant to put my Sand Dollar post on, but homework just seems to take over the weekends these days. Sigh! 

Little Red Riding Hood

Mummy for Halloween
Flower Fairy

Tudor Servant
Pa From Little House on the Prairie

Ok, found one of me that is not too embarassing, as Sheep with Lamb.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Little Pumpkins

I've been knitting some Jack Be Little Pumpkins from a lovely pattern at The Sitting Tree. Very simple to knit. For the first one I followed the pattern exactly, and used some wool I bought specially. I didn't have a single piece of orange wool in my stash, so bought this rather nice Mist by Twilleys of Stanford. I thought it was a rather subtle orange, although I guess pumpkins can be brighter.

Then I was in Tiger (me and Frankie's new favourite shop). I don't know which countries it has got to, or even if it has branches far from London. I see it is a Danish company, and the shop is a little like the non-furniture part of Ikea. Everything has a Scandinavian sort of name. I won't say it is cheap, but just very good value. I bought these lovely coloured wools, at £1 a ball. They have quite a low percentage of wool, but I thought they would be ideal for my little creatures, or I might even knit some socks. They also had wooden knitting needles, bead sets, and lots of other things. Very tempting

So I decided to try a variegated mini pumpkins. I slightly increased the number of stitches. Family say it looks a bit more like a russet apple, but I still like it.

I have photographed them with my ornamental gourds, which I grew last year. They are now even past their best as ornaments, but I thought they might look interesting. My best friend laughed at me, as she had grown lots of lovely useful vegetables, and all I had to show for my gardening efforts were ornamental gourds.