Work in progress: baby blanket update

The center of the baby blanket is done! As you know, I’ve used some special yarn: hand-dyed and handspun in Devon. This means there’s not much of it, though, so I wasn’t able to make an entire blanket out of it. P1090723

But isn’t what I have so far pretty? I used the Indian Cross Stitch. It seems like the ideal solution to wanting some openness and yet having yarn that doesn’t really suit a lace pattern (I tried several, and none looked right).


And I love the colors so much! They are soft & perfect for a baby without being wishy washy.

The next step is to block this, and ideally condition it to make the wool even softer. Does anyone have recommendations for something to soften it?

Now the big challenge is picking out a border. I’ll be knitting it in an undyed yarn, and it should be a really nice contrast. The hard part is picking out the pattern! I borrowed a book of edgings from work and have narrowed it down to about 6 choices, but I’m really struggling now. I really wanted to ask your opinions, but I had to return it on my last day (I’m on maternity leave now!!) and forgot to take pictures – though I did remember to photocopy the instructions, never fear. I couldn’t find pictures of most of them online. I guess I will just have to cope with the stress of decision-making this time, and you will have to be surprised. Though if you do have any favorite stitch patterns, I’d love to hear them.

25 hours in York


At the end of August, R and I decided to take a last minute trip to York. We’d booked one earlier in the month, but unfortunately had to cancel due to a family emergency. Fortunately all went smoothly this time. This was our last trip away before the baby arrives, and I’m so glad we decided to go, even if it was a shorter visit than we would have liked.

We managed to fit in some of the classic sights – the Shambles & Betty’s. I tried a fat rascal, but unfortunately didn’t like it as I really don’t like dried fruit.


We had a delicious meal in the evening & I can highly recommend Source if you visit. The service was brilliant. They also had the best pickles I’ve had for ages! I liked them so much that I hoped they didn’t make them in house so I could buy some (they do make them in house, unfortunately for me). P1090629


The next morning, we had an incredible breakfast. I had pancakes with perfectly cooked bacon, while R had a black pudding stack – it was basically a full English, though. The black pudding was SO GOOD. I regretted not having some as well. I am grateful Amanda from Rhyme & Ribbons had mentioned Brew & Brownie on her blog, or we might have ended up elsewhere.

I then headed to the Minster while R wandered around some more bookshops. Don’t worry, I went to lots of bookshops, too. Books were, unsurprisingly, our main purchases in York. There are some brilliant shops in York!


This gravestone did make me cry.

I loved that the city was full of color. I spotted lots of bunting and even some yarnbombing in the Micklethwaite area, where our hotel was. I also loved the views from the city walls.


Overall, I loved York! Our train arrived at 1:30 one day and left at 2:30 the next, so obviously I really didn’t get to see much of it. However, we have already decided we will have to go back & see some more of Yorkshire (I am desperate to visit Brontë country).

What should we do next time we visit?

Down at the plot: July/August/September

This is likely to be my last allotment post of the year; there’s still more to be done, but frankly I’m not capable of any of it. Every now & then I might go down to see how it’s looking, and I do have plans to meet up with the friends I’m sharing with so we can talk about what will happen next year. But I have to say that I’m really disappointed with myself for not contributing more this year. I keep trying to tell myself it’s not my fault; my body’s busy making a baby, and digging, etc are probably not the most important things to be using my energy on. Nonetheless, I have a non-stop guilt complex and feel bad for making my friends do so much.

Anyway, that’s enough moaning. What have I seen when I’ve visited?P1090209P1090503

Our courgettes and patty pan squash did really well; we’ve had so many! My cauliflower, alas, got demolished. My friend has since cleared this properly and planted some broccoli.


The Victoria plum tree was incredibly productive this year. This is from our old plot; I am going to miss this tree so much next summer!


We finally got around to harvesting our potatoes. The Kestrels did really well as always, but unfortunately the Rockets didn’t turn out so well. There were lots of worms and quite a few rotted. To be fair, this may be because we left them in about 6 weeks longer than we really should have.


I spotted this mint in our new plot; I think it might be apple mint. It’s definitely not peppermint or spearmint, but it smells amazing whatever it is!


Finally, at home, the tomatoes finally came around. I had quite a few yellow tomatoes, but the others weren’t great. I think I might give up on growing red tomatoes after this year; they never seem to do as well.

Kiftsgate Court: my new favourite English garden

This is a very delayed post, as my friend and I visited Kiftsgate Court on a whim back at the beginning of July. We had a day with no plans, but the beautiful weather meant that a garden visit was the obvious choice. Living in the Cotswolds, we really are spoiled for choice; Kiftsgate is literally right across the road from Hidcote Manor, for example!

I’ve not been to Hidcote yet, but I must say that Kiftsgate, which I’d never heard of (though it is apparently renowned for a variety of rose), shot to the top of my list of favorite country house gardens. Everyone has their own favorite style of garden, and Kiftsgate definitely captured mine. I mean, if you asked me to describe a dream garden, it would probably look like this. There was some structure, but the plants themselves were abundant, spilling out of their containers, effusive. The types of flowers really appealed to me, too, with a lot of large bushes with feathery leaves and light flowers. It’s also on a hill and had the most incredible view of the woods below! For a bit of variety, there were also some more modern aspects to the garden, such as a reflecting pool with lily pad sculptures where the tennis court used to be, and a new walk (not pictured) with modern stonework. There is of course a cafe, and while the mains were a little expensive, the cake was reasonably priced and everything we tried was clearly very fresh. The different areas of the garden aren’t always huge, which proved a challenge at times with two coachloads of German garden tourists there, but it still felt open, quiet and easy to navigate. Kiftsgate also sell some of their plants, so I came away with a meadow rue (a plant) and some angel’s fishing rods (seed) for my own garden. I’ll never have one as nice as this, but I can try!

Right, that’s enough gushing. Hope you enjoy the pictures. I’m looking at them and wishing it was still summer so I could go hang out there for another day. Have you ever visited a garden that summed up your own attitude toward gardening?


Some good books

I can’t believe how long it’s been since I wrote about anything I’ve read. How has it been 5 months? I have definitely been doing plenty of reading; I’ve just gotten too distracted to write them up. This is, therefore, an unintentional roundup of some of the most memorable books I’ve read so far this year. Feel free to pop over to my Goodreads page to see a full list of what I’ve been reading.

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

Lincoln in the Bardo

I am terrible about keeping up to date with fiction, but as I have an interest in anything to do with Lincoln, and have heard great things about Saunders, I wanted to try this one. It takes place over one night, and to me it read more like a play than a novel. Saunders skillfully transitions between conflicting voices; each of the characters were distinctive, well-rounded, and introduced/developed at a good pace. Having a novel that is set in only 2 places is also a challenge that Saunders handled really well. It’s hard to believe many authors could set a novel in a mausoleum without making it feel morbid. I particularly admired how well emotions were conveyed throughout the book; writing about the loss of a child can so easily be overly sentimental, but I thought Saunders portrayal was really authentic and quite heartbreaking. Overall, I found it a thought-provoking novel that I felt I needed to re-read to absorb fully, yet struggled to put down while I was reading. I would definitely recommend it to others who are in the mood for a challenging yet engrossing book.

The Power by Naomi Alderman


The Power has been everywhere this year, and why not? With an endorsement from Margaret Atwood and the Bailey’s Prize, it is hard not to be persuaded to at least read this book. And for me, it did live up to the hype, even if I am not sure it will be a long-term favorite. The Power is a dystopian sci fi story where the women of the world, starting with the teenagers, suddenly find they have skeins of power (literally, as in electricity). The story then follows what happens, both in the lives of a few specific characters, and the wider world. It was a thought-provoking book, and I loved the detail of the illustrations, but the structure didn’t quite work for me. I’m really glad I read it, though.

East West Street by Philippe Sands


Having really enjoyed reading a ton of non-fiction a few years ago, I recently realised how much I missed it. I think I read a review of East West Street on the NPR book blog and decided it would be a good one to try to get me back into the habit. It tells the stories of three people – the author’s grandfather, Hersch Lauterpacht (who introduced the term crimes against humanity), and Raphael Lemkin (who originated the word genocide). All three were originally from the same city, now Lviv in Ukraine. The book starts off as 3 biographies, each of which are interesting on their own, but overall the book didn’t pick up for me until the second half, where Sands discusses the impact of Lauterpacht and Lemkin’s work on the Nuremberg trials. The story of Sands’s grandfather was really interesting, but for me it didn’t have a strong enough connection with Lauterpacht and Lemkin to fit in this book. Perhaps it would’ve worked better on its own as a short book. Nonetheless, I’m really glad I read this & would recommend it. It was a well-written book with a compelling narrative, and I learned a lot while reading it.

The Incredible Unlikeliness of Being by Alice Roberts

The Incredible Unlikeliness of Being: Evolution and the Making of Us

A friend loaned this to me shortly after I told her I was pregnant. It’s not a pregnancy book, though; it’s about evolution and how that is reflected in human development. It was fascinating! And it pretty much blew my mind, too. I mean, the development of the heart in a fetus? Wow. Just wow. It made me understand exactly why I was so shattered during the first trimester in particular. I’ve not read anything by Alice Roberts before, and haven’t seen any of her documentaries, but she was a very persuasive writer. The bibliography was extensive, too, which is always important to me when evaluating the quality of a non-fiction book. I have to be honest & say I may not have enjoyed this quite as much if I weren’t pregnant…but I still would have given it 4/5.

The Sunlight Pilgrims by Jenni Fagan

The Sunlight Pilgrims

Set at the beginning of a modern ice age, The Sunlight Pilgrims takes place in the far north of Scotland and tells the story of Dylan, Estella, and Constance, who are living in a caravan park as an iceberg approaches the Scottish coast. It’s a surprisingly gentle book focusing on human relationships in spite of huge, overarching things happening in the wider world. So basically, it’s quite relevant to real life in that sense. It’s both apocalyptic and personal, quite a hard balance to capture. I picked this up because I loved The Panopticon so much. I didn’t like this novel quite as much, but still found it quite an interesting one.

Sidney Chambers and the Persistence of Love by James Runcie

Sidney Chambers and the Persistence of Love (The Grantchester Mysteries #6)

Ah, Grantchester! I love this series. All the characters seem so flawed and human. Also, I’m a sucker for a clergy detective. I do watch Grantchester on TV, but I prefer the books. The last one was a bit disappointing, though, so I was unsure about picking this one up. I’m glad I did, as it was back to the feeling of Runcie’s earlier books. The stories aren’t overly complicated, and this was a perfect summer read, which I got through in about a day sitting in my garden. There are some very sad (and shocking) events in this particular volume of Grantchester, yet it was still a comforting read – just what it should be.


At the end of July, R and I jetted off for 4 days in Vienna. I’ve always wanted to go; it seems like such a romantic city, and anywhere that is famous for a cake is an ideal choice as far as I’m concerned.

I had, however, underestimated just how big the city is. Silly of me, given that it’s a capital city. Big cities aren’t a problem for us generally; however, given that we prefer to explore cities on foot and I’m not exactly at maximum capacity it may not have been the best idea. We still had a great time, but I definitely overdid it. On our first day we must have walked about 11 miles! Predictably, that meant I really just was too tired to enjoy things that I had been looking forward to. It was certainly worth visiting, but I think I may have to go back to get a real feel for the spirit of the city.

Nonetheless, I thought it’d be nice to share a few of my favorite pictures.

The Naschmarkt is an amazing food market & was definitely a highlight for us. I couldn’t resist taking a picture of this hilarious spelling mistake, though.
The Prunksaal, National Library of Austria, was sooooo incredible. I didn’t want to leave!


Could this be the most elaborate roof ever?
Apple strudel and Sachertorte on our first day. Mmmm, cake.
Oberes Belvedere. Another highlight for me. The gardens, fountains, and art collection were all equally impressive.
The inside of Oberes Belvedere. Such a beautiful stairwell.
This wasn’t my favorite Klimt painting out of the collection (I really loved his flower paintings, actually), but isn’t this the most amazing frame?
We loved this memorial fountain, too.

Thoughts as I start the 3rd trimester

P1090540First, how has this happened?! It seems impossible that I’m 6 months pregnant and only 3 months away from meeting our little one, who has felt a little abstract up until now, if I’m honest. It’s particularly weird because I don’t feel very different yet. It’s a strange thing to say when at least once a day someone comments on how big I am, and when I look in the mirror and can clearly see my bump and how very different I look. But it still doesn’t feel that heavy; I’ve been very fortunate and not yet had swelling, back pain, or any of the more serious pregnancy complaints. I have been tired and gassy (yup, I know you’re glad I shared that) and that’s about it. I haven’t been able to forget I’m pregnant for months, but it certainly hasn’t felt like it’s played a big part in my daily routines.

But as the 3rd trimester begins, I am starting to worry about when this will change. One of the things that has changed already is allotmenting – I’m not really comfortable digging anymore. What will go next? I’m still cycling. My original plan was to stop at 28 weeks (if I could make it that far), but now that I’m there I still feel well & balanced, and really don’t want to stop. I’m losing enough sleep as it is and am not keen on the thought of getting up an hour earlier to walk or take the bus to the train station. I am finding it interesting to observe people’s reactions to my cycling, though. It seems to evoke strong feelings, with people either looking absolutely horrified or pleased. Generally it leans toward the former, but I was really glad to hear my midwife say that she thought it was brilliant I was still riding my bike. Recently I’ve been reminding myself that it’s perfectly normal in a lot of countries, too.

Other random thoughts:

  • I am loving my body during pregnancy. Sometimes I get a little overwhelmed (in a good way) by how perfectly round my belly seems to me; surely that can’t be normal?! It’s like someone’s strapped an adorable bowling ball to my belly. My belly button is looking super weird/disturbing, but what the heck, something was bound to stretch! I am, however, still learning to cope with other people’s comments. My confidence lasts right up until someone tells me I’m huge or big for how far along I am. I generally try to brush it off when they’re there, and have even replied to say, hey, there’s a whole second human in there, but the truth is I am finding it a little hard. I spend days, sometimes up to a week, obsessing about it afterwards. Instead I’m trying to cling to one particularly wonderful person’s comment one day that I looked like a 15th century Italian madonna, minus the pancake hat. I’ll take it!
  • I am not loving the fact that I can’t sleep. This is partly due to physical discomfort, but also partly just overthinking right before I go to bed.
  • The conversations about names are still fun, but I really hope we can make a final shortlist soon!
  • Antenatal classes are next month, and I am feeling pretty apprehensive about them. I did want to do them, because I’ve not really started to think about birth or parenting in detail yet, and I think they will help us prepare for that. While the pregnancy is definitely starting to feel real, and we have now started to buy/be given baby things (the only thing left on our list of essentials is a stroller), I do think the classes will make it real in a totally different way. Mainly this is because so far the pregnancy has been something between me & R; I haven’t thought about other people’s expectations or experiences that much. I’ve deliberately not even read any books, though I’ve been tempted. I just know how natural it is for me to compare myself to others, and I am really worried that the classes will magnify this and that I will now start to second-guess myself about everything.
  • Why is it that I like the expensive strollers best? I am not willing to spend that much money on a stroller! Or am I? Gah. Ideas for Stokke knock-offs gratefully received.
  • I am starting to look forward to my maternity leave, which starts in just under 2 months. Eek! I’m planning to do some nice things for myself if I can; perhaps a day craft workshop or something.
  • It’s hilarious how many people have told me in the past couple of weeks that I seem very laid back and calm. I really don’t feel calm at all; I am just taking the route of not thinking about problems until they’re staring me in the face. Most of the time this seems like a good strategy, though, and I think overall I have been quite relaxed during the second trimester which I’m very pleased about. I was so stressed until a couple of weeks after the anomaly scan in week 20, so it has been really refreshing. I think the truth is that I feel a little fatalistic about all of it. Having lost one pregnancy before, I guess I am aware of just how little control I have over the pregnancy, and am reacting by pretending it’s not happening rather than worrying about things that I can’t control. This feels like a good enough coping mechanism for me, though I admit I do get jealous of women who are getting excited so much earlier than I did (there are a lot of other pregnancies at my workplace at the moment).
  • I still can’t really comprehend how much my life will change after the baby arrives.