Makings - Crochet Christmas Character Afghan Progress

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Well it seems like October has flown by as fast as the later months of the year tend to.
Hasn't the weather been beautiful?
I think our September and October weather has more than made up for the awful summer weather. It still remains mild with us and although it isn't sunny every day, most days I have been able to sit out in the garden for a little time while Fraser plays around outside. Without a jacket! Although I have resorted to snuggling up with my lovely Nordic Shawl sometimes. I think I must have looked quite the granny on Friday afternoon when my husband came home from work a little earlier than usual to find me sitting out in the back garden, shawl round my shoulders and working on my crochet!
Since I last had a chance to post on here we have spent a lovely week away on holiday in Argyll, on the west coast of Scotland. It's where my husband was brought up and so he always maintains that it is the most beautiful part of the country! We stayed in a little log cabin by the shores of Loch Awe and, like I said, the weather was beautiful. We were able to eat outdoors most days, the boys spent hours throwing stones into the loch, and we had a camp fire in the fire pit beside our cabin most nights with toasted marshmallows and our first ever s'mores!
Our cabin also had no dishwasher, washing machine or wifi and since it was in the middle of the countryside there was no 3G coverage either so we really were able to unplug from everything. I think that's why I've been offline for so long. I've just been gradually getting back online and trying to spend as little time online as possible but rather continue enjoying this beautiful time of year.
Of course the other reason that I could have remained offline for so long is that it took me so long to catch up on all the washing and ironing that we returned from our holiday with!
The other main thing that has happened since I last posted is that this little man turned two.
That was him dressing up at a power station we visited on holiday. Cuteness overload!
In my head I've been thinking of him as 2 for some months now. He just seems to have been more like a 2 year old in his understanding of what's going on around him and just how, well, sensible I suppose, he is. I'm sure it comes of having older brothers to follow.
He understands everything we say to him, in both Gaelic and English, and he has quite a few words, although at this stage they are still probably only recognisable to us as a family and someone else wouldn't really make sense of them. Like, his word for Calum is 'Awa' and David is 'day-day', which isn't too far out as David calls himself Dave Dave to Fraser. I would say that more of his words are Gaelic than English at the moment, which was true of the other boys at this age too and makes sense given that he spends all day with me. I have heard many people say that boys take longer to talk than girls, and I also think that with our boys being bi-lingual they take a little longer to talk properly but the plus of that is that when they do start coming out with words and sentences they have twice as many as children who only speak one language!
Isn't language development so interesting? Actually all child development is!

Anyway, moving on to the actual title of this post, my Christmas Character Afghan, inspired by Repeat Crafter Me.


While we were away on holiday I was able to complete two more squares, rudolf and frosty. That takes my total up to five now. With four to go.






I was chatting to the lady who runs the lovely little independent yarn shop near the boys' school recently and she too is making the blanket. I've never timed how long it takes to make a square but she reckoned it takes about 4-5 hours of work for one square. I'm lucky to get half an hour straight to crochet so you can see it's a long term project.


I haven't quite decided if I am going to make the rest of the squares as characters or make plain coloured squares to alternate with the characters I have done so far. Plain squares will work up much quicker than all the colour changes, the yarn twisting and untwisting and graph reading so I might go for that option.


I think, though, that I'm going to try and do a few more characters as they are just so cute!


And I think that's us all up to date now. Has everyone else been enjoying such a beautiful Autumn as us? And what about the rumours of a bad winter ahead? Who is looking forward to the alleged heavy snow? *puts hand up* :)


There's not one....

Monday, 5 October 2015

....but TWO teenagers in the house now!


At the end of last week Calum turned 13.
His main present had some Where's Wally wrapping paper on it and before he opened it he wanted to find Wally.
Which he did.


As usual, there were a few eager onlookers when it was unwrapping time.


Despite thinking about it for days, Calum couldn't think of what he wanted his cake to look like. James (15) had some grand plans of how he could decorate it, but then it turned out that by the time the cake was baked - after a very hectic afternoon that included doing the weekly food shop - it was time for James to get himself packed and ready for Army Cadet weekend camp.
So in the end this was what I came up with. A very hastily iced and decorated cake while I made the dinner.


We had lots of sparklers on the cake, which caused great amusement as Fraser (1) tried over and over to blow them out but with no success. He had a lot of fun trying though.
Then he had more fun trying to get to the icing.


As he does every year, Calum had his best friend round for his birthday dinner, which this year he had requested would be Chicken Jalfrezzi. By the time we had the cake James had gone off to camp. We did keep him some cake for his return though.


Despite a busy weekend Calum still managed to build his Lego Bike Shop and Cafe, which has so many great little touches.


I particularly love the way the houses look...


...the bbq on the roof...


...the kitchen...


...the window boxes and outdoor lights... well as lots more features.
Now that it's all built he has to find somewhere to keep it that little fingers can't get hold of it, as it is proving very tempting to them to have a wee go with it too!
As a final birthday celebration Calum went to the cinema with his Auntie Anna to watch Everest on Saturday evening. He has been joining her on her hillwalks for a while now and recently they completed his first Monroe climb. Which reminds me that he took some very good photos on that climb that I have been meaning to share.
He arrived home quite late on Saturday night and said that the movie was great. But very sad.
I had a feeling a movie about Everest might not be the happiest of stories but despite that he really enjoyed it.
However he has no plans to climb Everest in the future and is going to stick with hills and the easier Munroes for now. I wonder how many he will conquer in his 13th year?


Makings - currently on my hook

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

It's been a few weeks since I shared my current makings with you all, and as a result there are several to show. A couple are completed and a couple are works in progress.

Firstly there is Calum's ripple blanket. If you cast your minds back to the end of last year you might remember me sharing the beginning of this blanket. Calum (12) chose the colours himself and asked for a ripple pattern. I made a start and then got sidetracked by my Cosy Blanket, see here, which since it was for everyone, I decided to finish first.

I promised him that I would get started on it in earnest again after the summer, and once I'd got a few more projects out of the way I picked it up again. I think it's nearly half way there, and by my rough calculations, if I do four colours a day it will definitely be finished by the end of October.

The trouble is that he has asked for it to be so wide that it takes about 20 minutes to complete one colour! The blues and green are two rows each, the cream is one

He has asked if it can please be ready by the time the weather gets cold, so I think late October to mid November is a good target.

Aren't the colours he chose lovely? Really fresh and cheerful.

One of my competed projects is one that I can't share too much of at the moment until it is gifted. I took part in an Autumn Shawl Swap on Instagram and here is a peek at my completed shawl.

The rules of the swap stated that the shawls had to be made of 4ply or sock yarn, something I don't use very often as it takes longer to work up! I found this beautiful soft cashmere and silk mix yarn though, and it only took me about 3 weeks working on and off to complete the shawl.

I'll share the full thing once it has been received.

Another completed make is my Autumn wreath. I never did get around to making a summer one and so my daffodil Spring wreath has been hanging in our living room all summer. Since it doesn't feel like we had a proper summer anyway, maybe that's not such a big deal!

I did think that the daffodils were long past their season though, and so I wanted to get the Autumn wreath up quickly. Instead of crocheting around the wreath I wrapped the yarn around it. It still took quite a while to cover the wreath with yarn but not as long as it would have done to crochet.

Then I found a few patterns for leaves and acorns in a crochet magazine and crocheted up a bunch of them in various autumn colours.

I used Stylecraft Special DK and the colours used are: parchment for the wreath, copper, gold and khaki.

I love how cosy it looks but don't look too closely at it, as in my haste to hang it up I didn't quite get around to sewing all the leaves on so some are held on by pins! Perhaps I should disguise those pins as Autumn berries until I get them sewn on properly!

Finally my other incomplete project. 

The deadline I have given myself for this one is the beginning of December as it's a Christmas decoration.

When I saw the Christmas Character Graphgan on Repeat Crafter Me I just knew I had to have a go. It's a blanket made up of squares of cute Christmas characters

The squares are made using the corner to corner (c2c) technique, something I had never tried before, and for the pattern you just follow the graph, again something I had never tried before. 

Since I loved the idea of the blanket so much I decided a few weeks ago just to jump in and see how it went with the Santa square.

As you can see it actually went pretty well. Working from a graph is not at all as scary as it sounds and the c2c technique is indeed as simple as everywhere online says it is! It does take a little bit of thinking to decide if you need to carry your yarn across a few squares or just drop it and pick up a new section of the same colour but this isn't as complicated as it sounds and is the sort of thing that you can't work out until you are actually working on the square.

The other beauty of working on squares like this from picture graphs is that as the picture begins to show in your crochet it becomes very addictive and you are eager to keep going to reveal more of the picture.

After completing Santa, and working on a few more rows of Calum's blanket, I worked up the candy cane square.

Next up, and started in the sunshine yesterday, is the Christmas stocking.

Sarah has shared her completed blanket on her blog and it includes a top and bottom banner, worked in the same c2c graph technique, that reads Merry Christmas. I'm under absolutely no illusions that I will have time to add that to my blanket though! In fact, when I first decided to try this blanket I thought I would only work up a selection of the characters and alternate them with solid coloured squares which would work up much quicker. Now that I've made more than one character though, I've caught the bug and am keen to get most, if not all, of them made.

I guess we'll just have to wait and see how many I manage to get done in time!

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Looking for Autumn

Monday, 21 September 2015

We went in search of autumn in our local woods at the weekend.

The duck pond was looking lovely, surrounded by a mixture of late summer greens and the early signs of autumn colour.

Mostly, the boys didn't so much look out for signs of autumn, but rather just enjoyed larking about in the woods.

Calum (12), did try and get a few photos though, as he wanted to enter some into a competition.

'Mam, come and see where James is!'

Whenever anyone ventured even the tiniest bit off the path, there was a little someone following in their footsteps!

Knock, knock.


We decided we were still a little early to find any major signs of autumn. Although there were lots of berries around, and the trees are beginning to change, we couldn't see any conkers yet and the brambles were mostly still green.

We'll just have to keep going back regularly so that we can get first choice of the new seasons conkers when they fall! But when the local wood is as pretty as it is then that's no bad thing.

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Disclaimer - not quite super mum

Thursday, 17 September 2015

It has been brought to my attention that yesterday's post may have portrayed me as some sort of highly efficient super mum.

This was not what I intended at all!

The average daily running of our house could probably best be described as organised chaos. The keyword being 'organised', and not just chaos, and that was the point I was trying to share yesterday. 

When you first get married and become a mum, there are plenty books and articles out there about caring for your newborn, for helping you establish feeding routines, for getting to grips with weaning, for tips about helping your baby to sleep, for how to deal with your toddler's behaviour, right through to how best to deal with teenagers.

What there is a lot less of is how to manage your house. Nobody, unless you are very fortunate, sits you down and gives you advice about the best way to try and keep your house in order and get dinner on the table. Throw one or more children into the mix and there is even more to juggle. Add a part time or full time working mum into the equation and, well, it just gets even harder and I admire those of you who are able to do so.

It's nearly 16 years since I first became a mum, at the age of 22, and 18 months into our married life. I soon found that even with one child it's quite a challenge fitting everything that needs to be done into one day. Add baby number 2 and instead of everything being twice as hard, somehow it's 20 times as hard! In many ways, actually, babies no 4 and 5 resulted in the least amount of changes in our house as by the time they were born the older boys were older and able to help more.

I didn't share my family organiser in order to say, 'look at how organised I am' but rather as a means to help others. I would absolutely hate for anyone to think that I think of myself as someone who has everything all together. 

Far from it.

And I would equally as much hate for anyone to feel in any way inferior by anything I post.

My aim with yesterday's post was to encourage and to pass on some tips that I have learned over the years. It's been a large amount of trial and error with what works best for our family, and what works best for you may not be the same as for us. 

By writing out our weekly schedule I am able to make sure that we never miss any of the boys' regular hospital appointments, I can keep track of what is on at which school, I can see when I need to be at toddlers early, I know well in advance what needs to be done for dinner in case I have a super clingy toddler who needs me more than usual and I can follow when my husband is working locally and when he needs to be in another city with work (which places the morning school run as my responsibility).

What it doesn't guarantee is that there won't be dirty socks on my teenager's bedroom floor, there won't be dishes left in the sink overnight, the ironing basket won't be overflowing and that my kitchen floor will be cleaned as regularly as it probably should.

I don't share the mundane mess in our daily lives as I don't think people really want to see my teenagers dirty socks. 

What I do share is what I hope can encourage others, and the happier more fun parts of being a family. Not because I think that we are the perfect family and that I want to boast about us, but rather because when I am older and the nest is empty it's these moments that I want to sit back and remember.

I hope you do too.

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Getting Organised

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

When you have a large family people automatically put you into one of two camps - either super highly organised, or at the other extreme, completely disorganised and overwhelmed with things to do.

I like to think of myself as somewhere between the two.

I wouldn't describe myself as highly organised, but on the other hand I know that I couldn't cope with the chaos of being disorganised. My personality type would struggle with that a lot!

I've used some sort of family organiser for a number of years now, but to be honest, the ones I have had in the past have tended to have too much in them and so they haven't been as useful as they could be.

I recently gave my family organiser an overhaul and stripped it down to just the essentials, without all the extras that I just didn't look at, and since it was all free I thought I'd share the resources with you all.

The main pages in the binder are free printables which you can find here.

In the first section I have our weekly calendar. Other calendars I have used in the past have had a column for each person to keep track of their comings and goings, but after using them for a while I have found that it just results in a lot of wasted space as rarely do several people have lots of different things on at the same time. I also find it harder to see at a glance what is happening each day using that sort of calendar, so I have gone back to using one space per day for all of us.

What I really like about this printable is that there is a to-do list beside each day. Again, at a glance I can see what is on my to-do list while it sits beside the diary for the day, rather than have it completely separate.

Next up is our meal plan. I'm a big advocate of menu planning, It keeps things organised, stops you spending more by having to pop to the shops at 4pm when you realise that you don't know what to make for dinner and then buying some extras too! Or having a meal in mind and then realising when you go to make it that you don't have everything you need in for it. The big weekly shop is more planned out and so you are less likely to spend extra on things you don't need. You get the idea.

I write out our menu on a Monday for the week ahead, although sometimes I write it for two weeks. It's good to have it written down as a reference so that you don't find yourself eating the same thing week in week out - although you can spy sausage casserole on our Menu below two weeks in a row, the result of a special offer on sausages!

If you are new to menu planning, you might find it useful to make a list of your family's 21 meals and keep it in the section with your menus. Apparently we all have around 21 meals that we make regularly and it's good to have them all written down to refer to when your mind goes blank while writing out a menu!

I also like to go through my cookbooks and food magazines from time to time, and make a list of new things I would like to make from them. Not all books at the same time, just the occasional book now and then to freshen things up. I keep a copy of this in my meal planning section too.

Next up is my blogging section. No more post ideas floating around in my head, only for them to disappear when I sit down to type them out!

The next section is one that I find essential for our house - a medication list. I can use this to keep track of all the regular creams and medications for the four boys that need them. I can see when they last needed to re-order them and keep track of the expiry dates for things like Epi-pens, both those that we have in the house and those that are kept at school. With three lots of epi-pens for three boys kept in the house, and another two sets each for them to be kept at school, it's great to have that sort of info all in one place!

I found this printable here.

My final section is a new one that I am quite excited about - a craft project planner. I can use this to keep track of any projects I want to work on, what supplies are needed, where to find the patterns etc. 

The project planner printable is from Craftsy and can be found here.

I'll probably end up adding another section or two to my planner, but for now it's perfect.

And now that it's just how I want it it's time to face the next item waiting to be organised nicely...

That heap of papers above is my recipe file where I keep hand written recipes, those torn out of magazines, or printed out from the internet. It's needing a bit of a sort out and I've got the perfect set of printables to get those recipes nice and organised..

If you too have a bundle of recipes in need of a little TLC then the free printable is available here.
And one final organising help that I've just printed out is, well perhaps I should whisper it as it's still September, but I'm putting together a new Christmas Organiser. In order to spread the cost and busyness of the festive season I like to start planning things round about now!
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