A Walk, Some Talk and Chocolate Eggs

Hello! And how are you all doing? Gliding along tranquilly, like this swan? Paddling frantically to stay afloat? Or something in between? For me, it’s something in between at the moment – rather busy, but there is still time to write a blog post. And we’ve also been for a relaxing walk on Sunday.

This time in the wetlands of Weerribben-Wieden National Park. On the whole, the area is more suitable for canoeing or cycling, but there are a few lovely walking routes.

Later in the year, there will be orchids, butterflies, waterlilies and dragonflies to admire. Now, it is mainly the landscape itself that draws the eye…

… although the lily leaves are starting to surface.

It’s also a great place for bird watching. My camera isn’t really suitable for bird pics, but I did get a nice one of a group of greylag geese with goslings. Can you see the fluffy little things?

While we’re strolling along, there is something I need to get off my chest. I hope last week’s post wasn’t painful for any of you. I realize that some of you may have longed for children or grandchildren, but didn’t get them and will never have them. Please know that I never take these things for granted. I’ll write about our grandson and the things I make for him from time to time, because he is part of my life now. But I promise not to bombard you with baby stuff, and to continue writing about walks and cycle tours, nature and gardens, all kinds of other things that may be of interest, and last but not least knitting.

Speaking of knitting, there isn’t a lot to show you right now. Just the start of my pink Morbihan. It colour-coordinates nicely with the book I’m reading.

Disappearing into a fantasy world for a while now and then helps me cope with the real one better. I love Juliet Marillier’s books because of the interesting characters and plots, the fascinating worlds the author creates, and the fact that these novels are nice and fat and often part of a series good for many hours of reading. (Veel van haar boeken zijn ook in het NL vertaald; zie hier.)

My week has been extra busy because I have been helping out at our daughter’s place after the maternity nurse left – a real privilege.

The new parents had an unwelcome visitor during this special time – Covid-19. They’ve been so careful to avoid infection, and then, on the morning of the delivery our SIL tested positive, and several days later our DD did, too. He probably caught it at work. Fortunately he was allowed to be present at the birth, fortunately they both had hardly any symptoms, and fortunately we have all had our jabs and boosters.

But in spite of all that, for some people the virus still isn’t cat’s piss, to use an elegant Dutch expression. So the professionals around them wore protective clothing from head to toe. And we need to keep a safe distance and wear face masks. To be on the safe side, I take a test before meeting other people. So far, I’ve tested negative – that’s positive.

Now, time for some chocolate eggs. What flavour would you like? I can recommend the dark chocolate ones with advocaat (my favourites with Dutch egg liqueur), but there is also toffee coffee, chai crisp, chocolate mousse, butterscotch, caramel…

Whether you’re celebrating Easter or not, I wish you a lovely weekend!

The Wolf is Back!

Hello!

As soon as I saw these sheep, huddled together in a field, I realized that something was wrong. They looked distressed. Looking into the distance, I saw the reason why. Oh no! A dead sheep, and the owner and somebody else looking upset, searching for something. Tracks? Other evidence of the culprit?

Only DNA-testing can tell whether this sheep was killed by a wolf or a dog, but chances are that it was a wolf. We hear about sheep being killed by wolves around here on a weekly basis now.

For the people who lived here long before us, those who built the impressive megalithic burial monuments called hunebedden, wolves must have been a fact of life to be reckoned with.

But for us, in the 21st century it’s a phenomenon we’re not familiar with. There haven’t been any wolves here for at least 120 years. And now, all of a sudden the wolf is back! Arriving here from Eastern Europe via Germany, the wolf is supposed to eat roedeer, rabbits and other furry creatures. But it isn’t playing by the rules, because why waste energy chasing a meal that runs away fast when there is so much juicy mutton to be had with far less effort?

I’m talking of ‘it’ and ‘the wolf’, but it is uncertain how many there really are in this area. There is at least one, probably a couple, and maybe even a third. This newcomer is certainly causing a lively discussion. Some people are thrilled, while others are of the opinion that there is no place for wolves in this small, densely populated country.

I have mixed feelings. On the one hand I think, who are we to decide who or what is to live in this corner of the world? We are happy that the raven is back. We are happy that the otter is back. And we are happy that the badger is back. There are badger trails everywhere nowadays – zooming in, you should be able to see their paw prints.

Shouldn’t we be happy about the wolf being back as well?

On the other hand, when I hear of a wolf jogging past a playground full of playing children in broad daylight in the village where a friend of mine with school-going children lives, well, I don’t know…. How dangerous are they?

It is hard to imagine these otherwise peaceful surroundings being populated by packs of wolves in the future. Will guests of this Bed & Breakfast hear them howling at night in a few years’ time?

I’m fairly certain that the Highlands belonging to the B&B owners will be able to defend themselves with their fierce horns.

But how about me? I have no idea what to do if I were to come face-to-face with a wolf. Take photographs? Hide behind a tree? Call in my own personal superhero, ‘HELP! DO something, shoo it away!’?

Or strike up a conversation like Little Red Riding Hood?

Inside, I still feel like Little Red Riding Hood, but to all intents and purposes I’m becoming more like her grandmother by the day. In fact, I am becoming a grandmother this spring. And I may even need hearing aids before long.

Ménière’s disease is affecting my hearing. Although I’m still managing in everyday life, I can’t hear the little birds high up in the trees anymore. Fortunately I do not have the dizzy spells that go with it very often, but I’ve recently had one.

It wasn’t so bad this time that I’m in bed. And it’s never bad enough for me to be wearing a frilly cap.

It does mean that I need to take some rest and limit my screen time. So if you’ve posted a gorgeous FO on Ravelry or published a great blogpost and haven’t heard from me, please know that it isn’t because I’m not interested.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time quietly knitting, but had to rip out almost as much as I knit because my brain wasn’t functioning properly. Awooo! No, I wasn’t really howling like wolf. I thought, oh, well, we all have times like these and hope to show you some progress next week.

Stay safe! xxx

Harlingen Yarn Shop

Hello!

Thinking about knitting projects for the winter months and rummaging through my yarn boxes, I came across some yarn that I bought in Harlingen a while ago. I was going to write about it at the time, but then all kinds of other things cropped up and I never got round to it. Time to rectify that.

After dropping our charges off at the Harlingen ferry terminal on a glorious day in early autumn, we had the rest of the day to ourselves. As it was still early, we first went for a stroll on the dyke, saying hello to the two-headed stiennen man (stone man).

Harlingen (or Harns in Frisian) is the main port of Friesland, situated on the Wadden Sea coast. It was great to look out over the sea for a while.

And also to feel it under our feet, stepping onto the floating pontoon that’s there for bathers.

The wide open sky, the fresh air, the great expanse of water – so calming and uplifting. Why don’t we come here more often?

We took our time walking to the city centre via the harbour. I was keen to have a look at the replica of Willem Barentsz’ expedition ship. It set sail in 1596 to discover a new passage to China via the northeast. It is surprisingly small.

The woodcarving on the prow tells us the ship’s name: de Witte Swaen (the White Swan).

There were cannons on board for protection.

But they could not protect the crew from the greatest danger, the extreme cold. De Witte Swaen got stuck in the ice in the Arctic Ocean. Barentsz and his men were forced to spend the winter on the island of Novaya Zemlya. They built a lodge from driftwood and the wood of their colourful ship.

When they ran out of supplies, the crew decided to try and return in two small open boats. In the end only 12 of them returned. Barentsz himself did not survive. Yeah, it’s quite a story.

Well, let’s get back to the present day and continue on to the city centre.

There are many interesting buildings, a museum, a tile factory and lots of lovely shops here, including a wonderful bookshop, but I’m only taking you to one of them – a yarn shop called Atelier Swoop. It is run by mother-in-law/daughter-in-law team Geertje and Beau Ann.

Officially it is a ‘Scandinavian Concept Store’, selling Scandi style gifts and things for the home as well as knitting yarns, antiques and delicious home-made cakes.

(We had to sample these, of course, to make sure they really were delicious – I can now safely vouch that they are.) But to me it is first and foremost a yarn shop. So let’s take a look around at everything that may interest a knitter. The yarns in the shop all come from Denmark.

Here is a wall of Isager yarns. If the picture looks fuzzy on the left that’s the fuzziness of the ‘Silk Mohair’ yarn. On the right, Isager’s lace-weight ‘Alpaca 1’.

Here is a close-up of the top of the cabinet, with and adorable little knitted cardi, the ubiquitous dried hydrangeas and some antiques.

Small displays of yarn are dotted around the shop. This is some Isager ‘Spinni’:

And this is a thicker yarn that may be Isager’s ‘Jensen’ yarn, but I’m not entirely sure.

This cosy corner houses a CaMaRose yarn that really lives up to its name: ‘Snefnug’ (snowflake). It is very, very soft and airy, only much warmer than a snowflake.

There is also a small but interesting selection of knitting books and magazines, all with a northerly slant.

This attractive book is filled with warm outdoorsy colourwork sweaters in Norwegian and Icelandic yarns:

It is by Linka Neumann, and its title is Vilmarks gensere in Norwegian, Noorse truien breien in Dutch, Einfach nordisch stricken in German and Wilderness Knits in English.

Ah, that was lovely, tasting some delicious cake, browsing around, and chatting with Beau Ann and Geertje. And what did I leave the shop with? Three skeins of Isager Alpaca 1 (left) for a scarf for a friend. And a big bag of Isager Eco Soft (right) for a cardi for our daughter.

More about those in the New Year, I think. First I’d like to finish a few WIPs* and some gifts.

If you’re ever in the area, Harlingen is absolutely worth a visit. Please check out Atelier Swoop’s website (no web shop, brick-and-mortar only) for their opening hours. (In these uncertain times it may be best to contact them first to be on the safe side.) And there is a great website with loads of information about Harlingen here.**

Thanks for visiting Harlingen with me. Hope to see you again soon!

* WIP = Work In Progress
** As you’ll probably know by now, I’m not sponsored in any way. I only write about the things I write about because I think they are worth writing about.

Mindfulness Moment

Hello!

No knitting talk this week, I’m afraid. I didn’t get round to writing the post I had planned. Inspired by BBC’s Spring, Autumn and Winter Watch, I’m giving you a Mindfulness Moment instead.

The BBC started with these Mindfulness Moments during the 2020 lockdown – 90-second nature videos with in their words ‘No music, no commentary – just the beautiful sights and sounds of nature.’

In my case it isn’t a video but photos, and you’ll have imagine the sounds yourself (hints: not a breath of wind, chestnuts plopping down, a woodpecker hammering on a tree, a buzzard crying overhead, small birds twittering in the tree tops). But the general idea is the same – no talk, just an autumn walk.

I hope you enjoyed that. I’ll do my utmost to be back with a cosy, colourful, chatty knitting-filled post next week. Take care! xxx

Quilts in Kampen

Hello, and welcome to the last of the outings on my blog this summer! Hope you have the time for a good long read. I have really tried to keep this post from getting too long, but failed miserably.

All of the other outings were close to home. This time we’re travelling a little further afield, to the city of Kampen. And this time it’s not just me, but also my husband you’re traveling with. Kampen is not very far afield (it is only about 28 miles from here), but somehow we rarely visit it and we really felt like tourists ourselves.

With less than 40.000 inhabitants city seems too big a word for Kampen, but that’s what it officially is, I think. One side of the city centre is bordered by a park and several old gate towers.

On the other side, there is the river IJssel, where several tall ships are moored today. The white ship on the left is The Flying Dutchman. When she is not in Kampen, the ship and her crew are sailing around Scotland, navigating the Caledonian canal, visiting the outer Hebrides and treating their passengers to Scottish whisky and music.

Like any other town or city at the moment, Kampen has its share of empty shops. It also has the usual chain stores that can be found everywhere else. But there are also many small and quirky shops, beautiful old buildings, museums etcetera.

This is the main shopping street with on the right an old tower called ‘the new tower’.

Below the carillon and the clock, something is dangling from the balustrade. On closer inspection that something turns out to be a cow. (Fortunately not a real-life one.)

Why? Can it be a farmers’ protest or something?

Branching out from the main shopping street there are many lovely narrow streets and alleys to discover.

My eye is always drawn to old buildings and I feel most at home in the older parts of towns and cities, but the juxtaposition of old and new can also be attractive.

The wooden buildings on the right are the workshops of the Koggewerf, where a shipwrecked kogge (a medieval wooden sailing vessel) found here was carefully reconstructed. Unfortunately, the kogge was out sailing and the buildings were closed, but just peeking in through the windows and looking at another boat and the buildings from the outside was nice too.

What really struck me in Kampen this time, is that it is very much a city of makers. Or maybe every town and city has them and they are just more visible here. Or maybe it was just that I was more open to them this day.

Anyway, as a maker myself I feel a sort of kinship with other makers. I make things with wool and other fibres, words and sometimes fabrics. But I’m also interested in people making things with wood, metal, dough, chocolate, glass, paper or in any other medium. What materials do they use exactly, how do they use them, what do they make and why? It’s the process of making things I’m interested in at least as much as the product. And here, in Kampen, we cannot only see the finished products, but also some makers at work actually making things.

This time we didn’t visit the smithy, the coffee roasting company or the cigar factory, but from a previous visit I can tell you that even for a non-cigar-smoker cigar making is interesting and the smell is overpowering!

We did see the chocolatiers at work, though.

Of course we had to sample some of their products.

I think that for my husband, as a great amateur cook and occasional chocolate maker, that was the highlight of the day. For me, it was SuperGoof Quilts.

Now that was a super lovely surprise. I didn’t know anything about this quilt shop. Turns out it is owned by a blogger who has been blogging about quilting since 2007! With a great sense of self-mockery, she calls herself SuperGoof, or Goof for short.

Of course SuperGoof Quilts is a shop, and of course it sells fabrics, as well as some other things. Just look at these fun stuffed toys with their finely knitted sweaters and hats:

But this is about more than buying and selling. What this is really all about is the love of making things.

The fabrics are lovingly chosen and express Goofs exquisite taste.

The fat quarters and eighths are neatly folded and lovingly displayed by colour. Here are the blues…

… and the reds.

I didn’t ask, but looking at the quilts on display, my guess is that red is Goofs favourite colour. Isn’t her sampler quilt stunning?

Would you believe that she doesn’t own a sewing machine? It is all done by hand! If that isn’t love.

Goof (sorry, I don’t know her real name) told me that as a mother of four teenagers, carer for her parents and maternity nurse, she used to get up before everyone else for a spot of quilting. Amazing that she found the time for it in such a busy life, but at the same time I totally understand how important it was for her. The quilt with the stork and the words ‘home is where the heart is’ reflects her life at that time.

The finished quilts are beautiful, but I also like it that there is quite a bit of work in progress on display.

And then there is this mouse quilt that was a mystery quilt-along project from autumn 2020 to spring 2021. I don’t know if you can zoom in, but there is so much to see on it.

More pictures and information about this quilt can be found here on SuperGoofs website. She doesn’t have a webshop, so you’ll just have to travel to Kampen to visit her some time!

Since I discovered her, I’ve been reading SuperGoofs blog. It has lots of lovely pictures and her writing is light and fun. She writes in Dutch, but in the top right-hand corner of her homepage, there is a Google Translate box where you can select your language. I just loved her recent post in which she explains how she reacts when non-quilters visiting her shop comment on how much time quilting must take. Here is a quote:

“And if you love something?
You don’t think about time at all.
At most something like, Goodness is it that late already?”

And that’s just what I’m thinking now. Time to close off. Thanks for your time and hope to see you again next time!

Cycling to Giethoorn

Hello! Before I get back to more ‘serious’ posts about knitting, spinning etc. I’d like to take you along on two more outings this week.

In a roundabout way, this bicycle track leads to the charming village of Giethoorn. The track is bordered by a beautiful flowering verge. To my delight I see a group of common yellow swallowtails fluttering around the red clover. There are at least ten of them!

With a wingspan of about 7.5 cm/3”, this is one of our largest native butterflies. Contrary to what the name suggests, it is not common. At least not in this part of the country. I saw the first one ever in our garden only last year. It seems they are gradually moving north with the rising temperatures. And now a whole group of them! I know that a group of geese is called a gaggle, but what is the word for a group of butterflies? A flock? A flight? A flutter?

Among the plants in the verge are wild herbs like watermint, soothing for stomach and mind.

There is valerian, too, also flowering at this time of the year, another calming plant.

Picking them for a herbal brew is not allowed here, in this nature reserve, but just drinking in their scent and their colour is soothing enough in itself.

A little further on, a white stork is gorging on frogs. There are plenty of those in this wetland environment.

A cow is dozing in the sun with two starlings on its back. It is all so peaceful – an oasis of peace in a crazy world.

And then the smell of pancakes tells me that I’m in Giethoorn. It is not as quiet as last year, but still not as busy with tourists as it normally is.

Giethoorn is lovely all year round, but especially now, when the hydrangeas are in flower.

There are hydrangeas in almost every garden, and they come in many varieties and colours. The deep pink mophead ones are the most common.

But there are also hydrangeas with flat or pointy flowerheads, in many shades of blue, pink and purple, as well as white ones.

In some places it is almost too much.

I’ve taken a zillion pictures and am having a hard time limiting the number here. Before I stop, I just have to include this one, with the house with the blue shutters mirrored in the water.

It is getting late, so I cycle home without stopping. Only back in our own, slightly less charming, village do I squeeze my brakes to take a few more pictures, because the sheep are back!

A flock of sheep visits us several times a year. Instead of the heavy machinery that used to do it, they now mow the grass in green spaces around the area. And here they are ‘at work’ in the local business park.

And this lovely day doesn’t end here. Back home a surprise awaits me – a parcel from Devon, UK.

Finally, the yarn I’d ordered for something I was going to knit during my summer break. I’d left it a bit late and then it got held up at customs.

It is a heathered organic wool in a gradient of pinks, from palest watermint pink to deep hydrangea pink. No, wait, I don’t think hydrangeas come in this particular shade of pink. It is more like foxglove.

Instead of a summer project, it is now something to look forward to for autumn. You’ll probably see it cropping up in blog posts later this year. Well, that’s all for today. Hope to see you again for another outing in a few days’ time!

PS: Last summer I wrote a blog post about crochet curtains in Giethoorn. For anyone who missed it, it can be found here.

Sheltering from a Thunderstorm

Hello! Here is another extra blog post. This time I’m taking you along on one of my summer walks. It starts at this church door. Legend has it that at the time the church was built a certain young lady of noble birth…

… fell in love with the master builder and vice versa. Her family thought this highly unsuitable and sent her away, hoping she would forget about him. During her last night at home, she had a dream about what the church steeple should look like, and before she left she had the opportunity to whisper it into the builder’s ear… (More about that later.)

This walk leads us through an environment that holds many happy memories for me. It isn’t a nature walk this time, but a walk through an agricultural landscape with many lovely old farmhouses.

Some of them still have the little old baking house next to them.

And they often have well-tended vegetable plots.

It is all truly idyllic and picturesque. But just as in any paradise, there are snakes around here. Well, this isn’t really a snake, but a slow worm – a legless lizard. I found it lying upside down with a damaged tail, apparently run over, and thought it was dead. I didn’t like the idea of more vehicles running over it even though it was dead so tried to move it, and then it suddenly wriggled – Eeeeek!

But also – how wonderful! These are rare and elusive creatures, and this is only the third slow worm I’ve ever seen in my life. I moved it to the verge hoping it’ll survive.

We also have one type of poisonous snake in this country: the adder. But the poison that is bothering people around here doesn’t come from snakes. It comes from fields like this:

It is a field of gladioli. The cultivation of these as well as lilies and flower bulbs meant for export to Asia is a source of great concern to those living here. When these fields are sprayed, people living next to them can see a mist of pesticides descend onto their lawns, trampolines and vegetable plots. People are worried about their own health and that of their environment. The discussion about this issue has also become venomous. I really hope a more sustainable solution will be found for the future.

Agriculture has changed enormously here over the past decades. Many farmhouses have been turned into Bed & Breakfasts, and the old agricultural tools have become decorative objects.

Looking at it from a positive side, I’m glad that the old farm buildings have not been pulled down, but been lovingly restored and given a new destination. Small bits of land are still used for growing corn – here flattened by heavy rainfall.

While southern Europe has suffered from unprecedented heatwaves this year, our summer has been cool and unsettled, with frequent thunderstorms. Before going for a walk or a bicycle ride, I always checked the storm radar and I also kept an eye on the sky. Although it felt slightly oppressive this afternoon, the radar didn’t predict any storms and the sky looked clear enough. But halfway along I heard a rumbling in the distance and a terribly dark sky came closer VERY quickly.

Fortunately I found the perfect place to shelter from the thunderstorm: under the eaves of a farmhouse, with my back against a small door.

A door too small for a cow or a person to walk through. Maybe it was for pigs in olden days. Sitting there, with my umbrella to cover my legs, I waited until the storm was over. Snug like a rabbit in its warren.

With the storm disappearing into the distance…

… I walked back to my starting point – the church from the story that still needs an ending.

Well, the master builder did what his beloved had whispered into his ear and gave the church a very special onion-shaped steeple of which the village is proud until the present day.

The young lady’s father realized that the builder was a person worth his daughter and when she came back from her travels they married with his blessing and lived happily ever after.

So, where is the knitting in this story? Uhm, hidden inside my walking boots. I always wear a pair of hand knit socks in them. More about some of those next time!

Woolly Country Life

There was a small market in the square behind the church in the photo at the top. This market – called Wollig Landleven (Woolly Country Life) – visits a different village in our part of the country every month from spring through autumn. It is a lovely small-scale event.

The Country Life part refers to ‘essentials’ like soaps, sausages, cheese, herb teas, clothes and all kinds of knick-knacks for the home. My favourite of these is the baker with his wood-fired oven.

The smell is heavenly, and their lovingly displayed loaves are delicious as well as a feast for the eyes.

But I mainly came for the Woolly part, of course. There was wool in different forms. There were raw fleeces in plastic bags…

… complete sheep skins…

… and hand-dyed fibres for felting and spinning.

The last time I went to a ‘real’ crafts fair was in February 2020, and no indoors yarn events will be held here in the near future, as far as I know. The organizers of our regional (indoor) crafts fair are now aiming for February 2022. This market only gets permission because it is outdoors and complies with all the regulations, lilke one-way traffic and a limited number of visitors. And we still need to be careful to keep a 1.5 metres distance, disinfect our hands etcetera.

But in spite of all that, the atmosphere is relaxed, and it is wonderful to stroll around looking at the wares and just be among people. It takes some getting used to that again. There was one person who stood out because of her daring and original outfit.

Looking at the shawl now, it occurs to me that it might be a Stephen West design. And yes, a quick Ravelry search tells me that it is Slipstravaganza. He is so creative, and his designs really stand out.

I enjoyed looking at several baskets filled with handspun yarns. To me it is always inspiring to see what choices other people make. What colours did they choose to combine? How many plies? How thick or thin is their yarn? Is it slubby or even?

It was a lovely surprise to meet two new indie dyers. The first was Wat Wollie (which is a pun in the local dialect and could be translated as What WOOLd you like). Petra dyes her yarns in beautiful saturated colours.

Apart from at these markets, she also sells her yarns through Etsy, and her website can be found here. Petra has only been knitting for a few years, but has quickly become an accomplished knitter, as her sweater shows. I forgot to ask which pattern she used, but I think it is Goldwing by Jennifer Steingass.

The stall next to hers was that of Badcattoo Yarn. It’s fun to see how every dyer has her own style. Badcattoo’s yarns are generally lighter and often have parts left undyed. She also has a website.

For a long time now, my policy has been only to buy yarns with a specific project in mind. But for once I’ve deviated from that rule and bought a skein from both dyers with no idea what I’m going to do with them yet. I had some pocket money to spend on frivolous things, after all.

Both are fingering-weight yarns with a percentage of nylon in them. Top right is Badcattoo’s yarn in lovely pale sky blues with black, white and brown tweedy neps. And bottom left Wat Wollie’s skein in deeper hues of blue and purple, with a few brown speckles here and there.

It felt so good to be hanging out with my ‘tribe’ again for a while.

For anyone living in or near Drenthe, an overview of upcoming Wollig Landleven markets can be found here.

No Plan but a List

Hello, I’m back (although I haven’t really been away). I hope you’ve had a good summer and feel ready to get back to normal life, in as far as it can be called normal at the moment.

Beforehand, I imagined myself during my Summer Break like the sculpture above, only slightly more curvy and with a pair of knitting needles in my hands. No plan, just lazing about.

Except… I’m not the lazing-about-type (I must have been an ant in a previous life or something). I soon realized that staying at home with a husband working through the summer, there was the danger of my two precious weeks becoming two very ordinary weeks. I still didn’t feel like making a plan, but I needed something to give me some sort of direction. So, I got out a notebook and made a list.

A list of things that make a summer holiday into a summer holiday for me. It included:

  • Travel
  • No alarm clock
  • Simple, orderly environment (tent or cottage)
  • Read a foreign magazine
  • No newspaper, no tv
  • Grocery shopping in an unfamiliar shop (I love those huge French Hypermarchés, and the aisles with dozens of different types of muesli and honey in German supermarkets)
  • Spend as much time outdoors as possible
  • Lots of exercise (cycling, walking)
  • Lots and lots and lots of time for crafting and reading
  • Simple food, try a few new things
  • Sightseeing, visit a town, city, museum
  • Some pocket money to spend on frivolous things
  • Send postcards
  • Eat or drink something somewhere
  • Several new books to read
  • Take photographs
  • Keep a diary

Most of the items seemed doable, although some would require a little imagination. I didn’t want it to be a to-do-list with items to check off, just something I could use as a kind of compass. I didn’t do everything on it. One of the things I did do, was take photographs. Loads of them.

Photographs of landscapes…

… lovely houses…

… flowering heather…

… and many, many more.

I didn’t go grocery shopping in one of those big French or German supermarkets, but I did visit a health food shop close by that I’d never been to. They had a display of deliciously fresh looking vegetable plants outside…

… and some lovely honey and other nice things inside.

I did send a few postcards, but I didn’t keep to the ‘no newspaper, no tv’ item on my list. I felt the need to stay informed, and especially the publication of the IPCC climate report felt too important to not read about.

So scary! But the hopeful thing about it is that it seems to have conveyed a sense of urgency. I often struggle with the bad news from around the world. How can I enjoy a Summer Break and blog about small pleasures when so much is going wrong?

This is one of the books I have been reading during my Summer Break:

It is set in an imaginary place in Ireland (travel!), far removed from the real world. In it I found a nugget of wisdom that applies to our everyday world as well: ‘… even in times of death, destruction and ignorance, there are still good people who can make a difference.’ (p. 90)

That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? Trying to be a good person making a difference. And to be able to do that, we need a break from time to time. Knitting isn’t going to save the world, but at least it isn’t making things worse either. So, I’ve sat knitting and reading on our veranda, behind the flowering dill, quite a bit.

And although the weather was unreliable, I’ve also been walking for hours and cycling for miles and miles.

I didn’t keep a diary, but I’d like to write about a few of the things I’ve seen along the way and thought I’d do that here over the next couple of weeks. It’s far too much for one or two blog posts, so there’ll be a few more than my usual Friday ones. Hope you don’t mind.

What I would have liked to do as well, was visit a few yarn shops in the area, but most of them were having a Summer Break just like me. The only one I visited did have some nice yarns…

… but otherwise was such a mess…

… that I beat a quick retreat and won’t even tell you where it was. But not to worry – there will be a few other crafts-related things to share.

Bye for now, and see you again soon!

(This isn’t my bicycle, but a purely ornamental one in a neighbour’s garden.)

Places to Sit and Knit 1

Hello! Today, I’m taking you along for a short walk, to a lovely place to sit and knit.

The bench in the photo above is about a mile from our home, a 20-minute walk. It is around the bend of a sandy path.

At first glance the view from the bench is underwhelming.

But the better you get to know the spot, the more you start to appreciate it. We cannot enter it, not just because it is a protected nature reserve…

… but also because it is a bog and we’d have a hard time keeping our feet (and the rest of ourselves) dry.

But we can walk around it.

We can say hello to some of the inhabitants. Hello big green frog!

Dragonflies are whirring through the air or sunning themselves.

At first glance, the vegetation is unspectacular, too. But again, the better you look, the more you see.

Our native blueberries, billberries, are much smaller than the ones in the shop. They are easily overlooked, but kneeling down and looking between the leaves you can see that they are ripe.

Another thing that is easily overlooked is the sundew. It is a teeny tiny carnivorous plant, with round leaves of only a few millimetres across.

Looked at from very close up, it is beautiful, with its glistening, sticky and treacherous (to insects) drops.

Strolling around here, taking photographs and enjoying the quiet, I suddenly had the idea of doing a series about ‘Places to Sit and Knit’. I thought we could virtually sit here, and in some other lovely places, together, look around and chat about our knitting a bit.

Of course, a blog is always mainly one-way traffic, but I am really interested in what is on your needles or hooks. Do leave a comment telling me about it, if you feel like it. Mention the name of a pattern or yarn and I may know what it looks like, or I’ll look it up on Ravelry or elsewhere. If you don’t feel comfortable leaving comments on blogs, that’s fine, too.

Today, I don’t have a lot of knitting to show you, though. There are the beginnings of a small object from sock yarn remnants that doesn’t look like much yet:

Some swatches for a new shawl design I’m working on:

And a December gift for someone who’ll probably be reading this that I want to keep a surprise:

And I’m not entirely sure this will really become a series either. Maybe the idea will fall by the wayside, or maybe not. Anyway, I think it’s a nice idea and I’ll try to keep it in mind.

Well, let’s head back home, past the house with the prettiest front door for miles around…

… and through a ferny, sun-dappled (at least today) part of the wood.

As of tomorrow, I have planned two weeks off. My husband prefers to keep working through the summer, albeit at a more leasurely pace, but I really need some time to just sit and knit. Apart from not setting the alarm clock and not doing work of any kind, I haven’t planned anything. The plan is to have no plan. That also goes for my blog. I may pop in if there is something to write about and I feel like sharing it, but I’m not sure.

I hope that you’ll also have some unplanned time this summer. To just sit and knit. Or to read, go for walks, maybe even travel a bit, or do nothing. Whatever you are planning (or not planning) to do, I wish you a lovely time!