Monday 28 September 2009

Knitting now

Don't ask me why I've been so quiet this last week as I don't know the answer but I'm back now with a few show and tells.
On Friday I went down to the beautiful Borders stopping to take this photo for you en route. Ann's coffee morning was well attended and raised almost £300 for the Macmillan appeal. No one else had knitted blanket squares, and in a prima donna kind of way I was pleased there was no risk of my beautiful subdued colours being mixed with acrylic pink. I plan to knit a few more squares before I tackle the stitching together, ugh, I'll show you the finished result before I post it off.
Meantime, I've received a commission from a friend that I need to complete fairly quickly. I am knitting a man's v neck sleeveless pullover as a 70th birthday present. This is to replace one that was knitted many years ago by his first wife with wool from their own sheep. Understandably he is very attached to this garment but it has been worn to destruction and has more darns than original material. I could show you a photograph, it resembles some medieval garment from a museum, but I don't want to embarrass anyone. There is great concern that the new pullover is identical to the original, I have many measurements, photographs from several angles and feel quite under pressure. The wool however is a joy to work with, it is undyed Border Leicester double knit from Blacker Designs, the pattern is quick and simple, I've already finished the back and since its a wet day today I might be casting on the front soon.
And finally I have made this little jumper to give to Amanda, who I used to work with, she gave birth to a little boy recently. I am meeting her town tomorrow to be introduced to baby Stewart and have lunch with her and Joanne. Again from 100g of sock yarn, Amanda loves pink, so I hope this is pink enough without being too girly.

Tuesday 22 September 2009

Random acts of kindness

One of my favourite quotes from the film Pretty Woman, well OK I love every word of the film but this one seems appropriate today, is when Edward thinks that Vivian might be concealing drugs but discovers that she was simply flossing her teeth.
Edward: It's just that, uh, very few people surprise me.
Vivian: Yeah, well, you're lucky. Most of 'em shock the hell outta me.
I'm pleased to say that while few people shock me many continue to surprise me with their kindness.
On Saturday morning Pam called by with a selection of fruit from her garden in France,apples, pears and a lot of these little peaches that didn't look anything special from the outside, but wait. Such a deep colour and an intense perfumed flavour, I ate some for my breakfast and they were just delicious. Also a big bag of windfall plums from her Scottish garden that I turned into six jars of jam.
Yesterday the postie delivered an interesting envelope from America, the stamps themselves are wonderful but inside was this. A gift from a friend I have never met. Barb and her family are of Italian descent and stayed in our house in Lazio a few years ago hoping to trace some relatives. They didn't find any family but they made lots of new friends, in fact when we were out at the house last month our neighbour Mario again mentioned how much he'd enjoyed meeting and spending time with them. We have kept in touch ever since, Barb had been at a library fund raising event, seen this book and thought of me. I am delighted, its always nice to hear from Barb, she is a great photographer and produces some wonderful images, particularly of her cats. And speaking of cats, we were at the home of Peaches yesterday, enjoyed some cat cuddling, a glass of wine and came away with some books and two little pots of seedlings.
Lots of little acts of kindness that add up to a big positive feeling, thanks everyone.

Saturday 19 September 2009

Comfort blanket

I mentioned a while ago that I was knitting for the Macmillan campaign to make a blanket of 40 squares. Since I started I've been invited to one of the coffee mornings that my friend Ann, herself battling with cancer, is holding at her home in the Borders next Friday. The idea is to either knit more squares or stitch together a blanket at the coffee morning, so pressure on to complete more squares. First of all Ann didn't think anyone else would be taking part in the blanket production but then she thought that one of her friends was a 'complicated knitter' and might join in, even more pressure then. Here's what I've done so far
I've knitted some of the patterns from the website
and added the odd one I've made up myself
trying to put some love into all of them.
I used double knitting pure wool that came from my stash and got 2 squares from each 50g ball. Several of the patterns included beads but I didn't have any in stock and didn't think they would add to the comfort factor. There are lots of interesting patterns available on the website and new ones keep getting added. I think I'll stitch strips together before I go, rows of 5 squares and then if anyone else has taken part we might be able to combine our efforts, if not I'll try to make more squares after the event as I don't think there is a closing date yet. So still time for you to join in.

Wednesday 16 September 2009

Trying to appreciate autumn

Now that the sunshine has returned I'm really back on form. The sky has been a brilliant blue during the day, with warm afternoons that turn decidedly chilly around six. We have been lighting the stove each evening and in return for a few logs it keeps us cosy and provides a tank full of hot water. I've been busy in the garden and I have to admit I've noticed a few ominous signs.
The colchicum, autumn flowering crocuses and there's a clue in the name, are flowering furiously,
and this part of the front garden has definitely turned quite autumnal. The changes have been gentle, no harsh and damaging frosts yet, nature is easing us gradually into autumn. So accepting that everything has its season I've been looking through the bulb catalogues. I'm determined to make up a shipping order this year and put in lots more spring bulbs, especially as I've been creating space towards the back of the garden where they can be left to naturalise under the trees.
I'm thinking sweetly scented jonquils that I can cut and bring into the house to brighten the winter days, masses of colourful crocus, hyacinth for Christmas forcing and of course tulips.
I haven't completely given up on the summer garden though, still picking tomatoes from the greenhouse, little bunches of sweet peas and the broad beans continue to crop. I won't pack my flip flops away just yet.

Saturday 12 September 2009

Bloggers are brilliant

I may have mentioned, about a hundred times, that this dreadful weather has really been getting me down. I did suggest to Mr FF a couple of mornings ago that I might as well stay in bed all day, ridiculous but an indication of how the post holiday blues and the approach of autumn were affecting me. I knew I needed to pull myself together, I lead an enviable life, I have my health, property in Italy etc etc but I still kept feeling cold and miserable.
I recently posted on Helen's blog, Cocoa and Blankets, where she was holding a little giveaway and had asked her readers to tell her about the worst gifts they had received. I wrote about two birthday presents I'd received from Mr FF, the cleaning tools for the Hoover I got when we hadn't been married very long and the industrial size flame gun I couldn't even lift that he gave me not so very long ago. I didn't win the draw but Helen was so amused by my presents that she awarded me a runner's up (or maybe consolation) prize and asked me my favourite colour and whether I preferred to knit or sew. How kind I thought, expecting maybe a ball of wool. Imagine my delight when a padded envelope arrived containing ALL OF THESE PACKAGES that contained ALL OF THESE GIFTS

Let me show you in more detail. First an amazing fabric brooch a pretty lavender bag
a beautiful embroidered tray cloth, I do use them, and a gorgeous coaster that I think I shall framethe ball of lovely Regia sock yarn, big fat wooden needles and a knitting gaugeplus a little needle case complete with needles
Thank you so much Helen, they are beautiful and special gifts, I love them all, you made my day, probably my week, and have lifted me out of the self pitying state I was declining into. I did mention to Mr FF that he should take note that these are the kind of things a girl likes and that I was going to put them on my blog. He said it was a pity that I didn't still have the picture of the flame gun that I used to sell it on ebay as my readers might like to admire that too.

Wednesday 9 September 2009

Peaches perks us up

I am seriously fed up with this awful weather. We came home from Italy all suntanned, relaxed and happy, albeit somewhat jet lagged from the journey, to nothing but rain, cold and shortening days. We are now lighting the fire late afternoon, drawing the curtains before 8 and generally feeling down. One bright spot that eased our return to Scotland was an email we received while we were away, thanks to Mr FF's special Blackberry type device that unfortunately also keeps him in touch with business. It was a request to feed the lovely Peaches for about 10 days when we got home and this beautiful photo was attached. That is exactly where she is when we call round, the minute she hears the garden gate open she bounds to the front window to tell us she is hungry. We haven't been able to sit out in the garden this time, too cold and damp, in fact often its been raining so hard we've driven up to the cottage rather than enjoy our usual early evening walk but we have had lots of fuss and cuddles indoors. So now we've given Peaches back to her family, its still raining and that house in Italy is empty. If only Mr FF didn't have a full time job.

Sunday 6 September 2009

Italian neighbours

One of the nicest things about returning to our house in Lazio, apart from the weather, the food and the wine, is the fantastic welcome we always receive from everyone we know in the village. As soon as we go into the local mini market we get a welcome back even if we haven't been there for a year, at the local wine shop a handshake from all the staff and at the builders yard we both get a kiss from the manager, we are very good customers there. One afternoon we called in at the joiners as we need to replace a door panel, were invited into the house for drinks and came away with a basket of peaches and plums plus two bottles of homemade wine and an invitation to go for dinner sometime.
Our neighbours, three generation of one family who live separately in Rome but come out together to the country for weekends and the summer are particularly kind to us. Not so long after we bought the house I had woken early one sunny morning and wandered out into the garden wearing my dressing gown. My neighbour was up too and called me round though she doesn't speak English and I had little Italian at that time. She and I sat on her front porch drinking espresso, later joined by her daughter, all girls together still in our nightwear and I remember feeling so content. The neighbours always have us round during our stay, usually for fruit juice and ice cream so this year we were able to return the compliment but added a bottle of Prosecco to make an occasion. It was a lovely evening sitting out on the terrace with candles burning, lots of livey conversation and the grand finale at midnight was a firework display we all watched in the town across the valley.
We had a visit from our architect in Puglia, he came up with his girlfriend and her 11 year old son to discuss the trullo and stay overnight with us. I was feeling a bit nervous about cooking lunch for them all but determined to make an effort. Imagine my delight when I learnt that Antonella has a hotel and restaurant in Puglia, I told her I was terrified and she was very kind. My spaghetti was well received, Andrea said he wouldn't say it was good if it wasn't and Antonella said I cook like an Italian.
We had dinner that evening in a local restaurant and the next morning I set out a breakfast on the terrace. I had put out the butter though I know most Italians don't eat it and amongst the jams and preserves was Mr FF's jar of Vegimite. The young boy seemed to be intrigued by all things British and had already consumed several Tunnocks Caramel Wafers that I'd packed for the journey and not eaten plus a couple of individual cartons of Sainsbury's organic fruit juice. He and Andrea ate several pieces of buttered bread and Vegimite, even Antonella, who said she would only take coffee for breakfast, started buttering bread and adding jam. When they left I packed the rest of the biscuits and the Vegimite for them to take home, seemed the neighbourly thing to do though I didn't offer the butter.
Incidentally, we are still waiting for a price for the work to the trullo, having said we might start work in February, Andrea now says that if we agree a price work could start in September, still waiting for the price though and September is progressing.The top photo is our house, the bottom our village, I miss them both equally.

Wednesday 2 September 2009

Holiday knits

I enjoyed knitting in the car while we travelled to and from Italy, it passed the time nicely though Mr FF was always concerned that I might miss some of the fantastic scenery. On the way out I finished this pair of plain socks in Regiaand on the way back this pair of Tidal Wave socks, a pattern I've used many times, in the yarn I bought in France last year.I also started a little jumper using Trekking which I thought might be a bit loud for a baby but am assured is not. While I was away it was our village show. I didn't have time to make anything to fit the categories baby item or item in double knit so I asked Pam to enter a pair of socks I'd produced from left over yarn in the 'article in any other craft' section for me. I won second prize, 30p for a 10p entry, result.