Having a knitting sort out

Something that is really hard to do with a toddler around is having a good sort out of knitting stuff – LO absolutely loves “helping” with anything, but the last thing I needed was a toddler in a knot with a pile of yarn and waving sharp things around. With the result that I had a large pile of things thrown into bags as I’d finished projects but never sorted them out. Well, one evening I unexpectedly got two hours to myself and seized the opportunity to get it all out! I’m the sort of person who likes things to be planned and organised, which becomes difficult once there’s a toddler around.

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Sorting out

I emptied out all my project bags, put away needles where they were supposed to be, sorted patterns into piles and put away the ones I’d finished with. Wound up oddments of yarn for my odds and ends bag. Ate chocolate and drank tea whilst I was doing this.

VERY SATISFYING!

I also sorted out projects on the go. Having knitted the giant rainbow blanket for a friend’s baby, I used the leftovers to make a rainbow tank top for LO, and then the final leftovers to make a blanket for her toys. It was very satisfying to use up all of the cotton yarn like that.

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The yarn diet took a bit of a hit(!) in August after I discovered a half price sale in Daniels department store in Windsor. They had merino (Debbie Bliss Rialto DK) in my favourite colour for sale, so, well, I bought 12 balls of it. This has just been stashed (I know, I know) as I don’t currently have a plan for it but I was incapable of resisting the lure of the purple yarn.
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And, of course, my birthday yarn needs to be added to the stash in totals – another 790 metres…

Although I have finished another project – the Alpaca Tweed Chunky Jumper, which used up 6.4 balls of Stylecraft Alpaca Tweed Chunky (884.5 metres). This was yarn I bought last year when our local haberdashery closed down. It was fun to knit and I’m really pleased with the finished result as I think it will get a lot of use now the weather is a bit colder. I’m also glad it hasn’t languished in the stash for too long. I think I’d knit the pattern again too.

Stash totals for this year, so far: Yarn in: 4563 metres, Yarn used: 3450.4 metres. Still some work to do there then…

I had been mostly knitting from stash because of high childcare costs, which I thought would come to an end once LO turned three and the 30 hours a week of free childcare kicked in in 2019, as we currently pay for 34.5 hours a week. Except, surprise surprise, it turns out that this isn’t anywhere near as good as the politicians made out (look at Champagne Nurseries, Lemonade Funding), and, although it will reduce our childcare bill a little, it will still be pretty big as we’ll still be paying for 18 hours a week during term time and 34.5 hours a week during school holidays, cost averaged out so we pay the same amount per month (at that point my head nearly falls off)… Hmm.

Have you enjoyed having a knitting sort out recently?

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Cornus

I bought our three Cornus plants as bare roots back in January and they have done amazingly well considering the cold weather initially, then the long hot summer.

11 October

28 October

November 1

11 November

Leaves gone for this year but I’m looking forward to seeing the red stems on frosty mornings.

Days out: Hughenden

I visited Hughenden with LO and a friend a couple of weeks ago and we had a brilliant time. I thought I’d share it as it’s a great place to go with children.

Once we’d found our friend (it’s a convenient meeting place as it’s halfway between the towns we live in), we set off on a walk round the parkland. This started out through woodland, which LO loved, plenty of tree roots to clamber over and sticks to pick up (I sometimes wonder if she’s a dog or a toddler?). It was a lovely sunny day and the leaves were good to rustle through in your wellies.

At the edge of the wood we had to turn downhill across some parkland. LO’s little legs had lots of fun galloping downhill on the grass. In this section the grass had been cut quite short so it was very easy for her to gallop around.

We had a lovely lunch in the Stableyard Café, followed by a look in the walled garden. There were greenhouses to explore, and children’s wheelbarrows to borrow. In theory we were going round the garden looking for windfall apples, but in practice LO just wanted to race around in circles with the wheelbarrow. As it was a Friday in termtime she was the only toddler there, but it must be interesting in school holidays!

Then we went and tried the woodland adventure playground. This was really nice as it was set up so a variety of ages could enjoy it. There were dens to be built, and tree stumps and logs to climb on. Plus holes cut in huge tree trunks to crawl through. It was a very easy way of getting LO to climb back up the hill to the car park as she was constantly galloping onto the next obstacle to climb!

A great place for families, and we didn’t even try exploring the house – which is also enjoyable, as I’ve visited it in the past. There is lots to see and do with children outdoors. And a very good way of wearing them out – she took a three hour nap after all that galloping around! The site is quite hilly, with a walk downhill from the car park and then back up again afterwards, but the paths were fine for a non-off-road buggy.

There is a good baby change facility in the stableyard, with a changing table that is suitable for toddlers and also has a loo in the same room (why don’t they all have that?!). Children’s lunchboxes were available in the café and LO seemed to thoroughly approve of hers.

We will definitely be back!

Books read 2018 #6-10

#6 and #7 Cynthia Harrod-Eagles The long long trail and Till the boys come home

Set in 1917 and 1918 respectively these two go right up to the conclusion of the First World War, although there did seem some potential for further books following the family’s fortunes? There are more accounts from the front in these two, mainly because there are more family members out there, reporting back from their various perspectives. The weariness of those back at home is well-portrayed, those keeping everything running and wondering how much longer the war will go on for. Again, the books manage to give both a big picture and incidental detail too. Feeling a bit sad I’ve finished them all now, although I’m tempted to make a start on the Morland Dynasty ones now (that’ll keep me busy, there are LOADS of them!).

#8 Charlotte Dujardin The girl on the dancing horse

Bit of a different one for me as I don’t often read biography and never read anything about sport! Charlotte is the dressage rider who won gold in the London Olympics and really brought dressage to public notice. I used to ride, although I haven’t for years, and have done a bit of dressage so this appealed to me. It was a fascinating read. The first part jarred a little as she seemed to think her family were poorly off, although it just sounds like they weren’t as well off as some of the people they were competing against. The later parts are inspirational though, and you really get a feel for the amount of work it took to reach those heights. Her descriptions of her relationships with the horses she rides are amazing and it also filled me in on a lot of detail I was unaware of, such as how lower profile sport is funded.

#9 Bethany Hallett Dear Mummy, welcome: a memoir

This was a Mumsnet suggestion (they do a great book review forum) and is basically an autobiographical account of the author’s adopting a four year old girl, the process of adopting and the first year. It was quite interesting, although some of it is dated now (she was adopting in the early years of the 2000s, and I know from friends who have adopted more recently that some things have changed a lot since). I was surprised at how selfish the author seemed – she was desperate to have a child, which hadn’t happened naturally as she hadn’t been in a relationship at the right time, so she decided to adopt as a single woman. But she does quite a bit to jeopardise the process, including omitting to tell social services that she has a new partner, who lives overseas and whom she doesn’t actually know that much about. She also spends a lot of time moaning about how hard it is and how she never has any time to herself, yet the child sleeps through the night, goes to nursery school at least three mornings a week and a relative takes her for a whole day every week. Must admit my sympathy was a little in short supply here. Some bits also don’t really add up – she mentions the child leaving loving messages for her, but this is at an age when she couldn’t read, let alone write. Still, an interesting read, and at least it worked out for both of them and the child found a safe and secure new home.

#10 Leïla Slimani Lullaby

Myriam and her husband Paul decide they need a nanny and eventually find what appears to be the perfect person. She takes amazing care of their two children and revolutionises their lives. But slowly she becomes a burden, becoming entwined in their lives so they want to let her go, but can’t. It’s a disturbing book, starting with the murder of the baby by the perfect nanny, so you know what the outcome is, but slowly the plot unwinds and more is revealed about her motivations. Fascinating insights into a woman who was desperate to be wanted and needed, and yet was not at all maternal to her own child. Highly recommended although some of the images it conjures up are really unpleasant.

After the heatwave

The summer heatwave did take its toll on the garden. We only lost one plant, a convolvulus, although I think it was the combination of really cold winter followed by the heat that did for it.

These are some photos I took in September when the weather was getting back to normal again.
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The cosmos was still flowering and the one in the border is still going as we haven’t had a frost yet (we often don’t get one until much closer to Christmas).
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I have really enjoyed the cosmos this year and will probably grow them again another year. These were plug plants but I might try growing them from seed another time now that I have my new coldframe.
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This is the border where the convolvulus was. Need to go plant shopping! The lawn is still looking rather patchy after all that sun.
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Same patch again. Think I might move the bird feeder too to discourage the pigeons from trampling all over whatever new plant I get.
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How’s your garden looking after the heatwave?

Birthday yarn

It was my birthday this week and I had a lovely day. Here are pics of the yarn I received as presents:

A skein of Peak District yarns high twist in colourway ‘At the end of the day’ which does rather resemble the colours of the hills round there. I chose this myself when shopping in Marple with my Mum in the summer.

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And a skein of Truly Hooked sock yarn in colourway ‘Supersonic’. Wonder what this will look like once knitted up?

I also got a large pile of chocolate and a coldframe!

We had a day out to Painshill, an 18th century landscape garden, on my birthday itself – a lovely sunny day with plenty of autumn colours to admire

And my fabulous birthday cake:

Train travel with a toddler

When I first did a long distance train journey with baby LO I googled ‘train travel with a baby’ and found some very helpful tips. Some of those I’ve adapted now that LO is a big toddler but thought I’d put them on here just in case anyone is googling ‘train travel with a toddler’!

First of all, because of my and OH’s working hours, I’m generally doing the long distance travel on my own with LO. It is a lot easier if you have another adult with you as you don’t need to figure out how on earth you’re going to go to the loo.

Second tip: do not even consider travelling at rush hour. Just no. Travelling with a baby/toddler is bad enough, but combined with a million more frazzled looking people = disaster.

Third tip came from Mumsnet and only works on certain train lines (unless you’re a millionaire) – book first class tickets! I use LNER for some of my long distance train journeys and they offer very cheap first class seats if you can book 2-3 months in advance. It’s worth weighing up the benefits too:

  • Nice baby change in the first class lounge at Kings Cross (the baby change in the usual loos is hopeless if you’re travelling on your own as there’s no loo in it)
  • First class lounge has space to feed and settle a baby, also let them stretch their legs on the carpet. There are plenty of complementary drinks and food so make sure you get your money’s worth before departure
  • On board the train there is a LOT more luggage space than in standard class. If you’re travelling alone this is crucial because what you don’t want to do is be running up and down the train trying to find somewhere to put things whilst lugging a baby/toddler along with you. I’ve often found in standard there is simply nowhere at all to put luggage, let alone a folded up pushchair, giant rucksack etc etc.
  • The food and drink gets brought to you on the train – much safer than trying to either board carrying piles of it, or staggering down to the buffet car with a baby or toddler

Then you need to decide what to do to occupy them whilst you’re on the train. Number four tip book tickets that coincide with nap time, that way you may be lucky and have a nice peaceful journey. On suburban trains it is easy as there is plenty of space to keep the pushchair next to you so they can sleep (another reason not to travel in rush hour). On long distance trains you have to fold the buggy up – the ways round this I found was to travel with a sling in addition to the pushchair when LO was a baby and transfer her to the sling to board the train. She could then sleep on me on the train. It’s worth asking the train crew if anyone has booked the accessible space as, if not, they are quite happy for you to set up the pushchair and sleeping child in the space (as long as you are prepared to move should someone else need the space – this has only happened to me once though). On long distance journeys that don’t have cheap first class tickets I generally pay for a second seat next to mine (paying for an adult and child seat using a Friends and Family railcard is cheaper than paying for one adult seat), rock LO to sleep in my arms and then plonk her on the spare seat to sleep. Admittedly this worked better when she was aged between 1 and 2 years, than now at 2+!

Should they not be napping though, they need something to do. Yes, you can look out the window and identify sheep and passing trains, but this isn’t enough to occupy a train journey of several hours…

Number five tip: have a little bag of things for them to do. LO likes having her own little rucksack to carry, with some things to do inside. I packed them inside little mesh pencil cases which I picked up very cheaply at a local market.

Inside the pencil cases/bags are:

  • small colouring book and some little pencils (these were all lots of them for £1 at Poundland, so there are plenty for many many train journeys, even if some inevitably get lost on the train.
  • Three mini tubs of Play-Doh (I bought a pack of ten of these when LO was about 18 months old, and keep them for use during long journeys).
  • Snap cards, these are half the set of Animal Match made by Orchard Toys, which LO has had since she was about 18 months – initially she liked pairing up the animals, now she will actually play snap with them.
  • The pink pencil case contains some finger puppets – these are four little animals, inside a little fabric “bus” so there is plenty of potential for play.

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No toddler is going to tolerate sitting still for hours on the train, so I aim to break it up a bit and think of the journey in 15 minute chunks.

  • First 15 minutes are getting settled in, having a look around at our seat and out of the window etc.
  • Second 15 minutes – eat lunch! This will hopefully last longer than 15 minutes… Drag it out for as long as you can.
  • Third 15 minutes – try to get them down for a nap. This hopefully means that you can then sit there peacefully reading/knitting for the next several hours whilst feeling smug. If this doesn’t work…
  • Fourth 15 minutes – take first little activity pack out and get playing. If it lasts longer than 15 minutes, that’s good.
  • Then work your way through two or three of the activity packs, interspersed with exciting things like a trip to the loo, or the buffet car if you’re not in first class. Once you get to the last activity pack, start again at the beginning (I usually put a book in too for us to read together). I try and get up and go somewhere about once an hour as it breaks it up a bit but doesn’t annoy your surrounding passengers too much.
  • If you’ve done the activity packs several times, been to the loo several times, eaten ALL THE SNACKS etc then it’s also handy to have a couple of apps on your phone that are toddler suitable as a last resort, although you’ll need to turn the sound off otherwise all the other passengers will want to kill you.

If you’ve got any toddler train travel tips to add, I’d be very interested to hear them! Good luck on your travels.