There are definitely days when I feel a lot of sympathy for my parents, who brought up three daughters and lived to tell the tale. We have all turned out to be fairly normal and well-adjusted adults, despite the usual teenage (OK, and adult) decisions that probably had mum and dad tearing their hair and added a few ‘natural lights’ (as my hairdresser says) to those hairs that remained.
Monday was one of those days. During lockdown Thing 1 has been ‘experimenting with her aesthetic’ (so she tells me) and has pretty much settled in as a punky Goth. Not a problem – the black hair, the eyeliner, the (fake) septum piercing, the Docs*, the ripped tights and fishnets are all things I can live with as they’re temporary and the look suits her. We’ve been at home for an extended period, after all, and rules have been relaxed in many ways to make the separation from their friends easier.
The one thing I have been firm about, however, is that any extreme hair changes would need to be cut off before going back to school – yes, their big sister could bleach the ends out and they could have any colour hair they wanted until September. Hot pink, punk purple, bright green, mermaid blue, whatever – but it had to go before school started. Thing 1 went for a short bob quite early on and her dad did an undercut for her which her big sister had bleached and dyed, but that could be hidden. Her school rules say ‘no extreme haircuts and any hair dye can only be in natural colours’. The black dye she was sporting was fine, in that case, and the bleached undercut could be cut in again which would remove the bleach. She had been complaining that her roots were showing, and I had said that we’d get some hair dye next time I was in the supermarket but apparently this wasn’t fast enough.
So, on Monday I went off to get Thing 2 from school as she hadn’t taken the bus by herself at this point – Thing 1 wasn’t back in till Tuesday. When we got back Thing 1 was wearing a headscarf and looking suspiciously innocent. She had dyed her roots and her scalp magenta**. I mean, really magenta. Definitely-not-a-natural-colour-by-any-stretch-of-the-imagination magenta.
Then I noticed the eyebrow slit.***
At which point I turned into my mother.
*Apart from the Docs, which are obviously a design classic and I wear them myself.
**I made her wash it out the following day – top tip here people: Head and Shoulders shampoo is great for removing excess hair dye. The roots are still pinkish but at least her head is a normal colour.
***There isn’t much I can do about the eyebrow except take a lot of photos and use them to embarrass her when she’s older.
Cake and cover ups
I mentioned last week that I was off to make an apple fudge cake to try and make a dent in the glut of apples from our little eating tree in the garden. I have no idea what variety they are but they are a pretty pinky-red and the flesh is pink-tinged too, but the texture is a bit woolly. Thing 1 and my beloved are not fans of fruit, Thing 2 and I prefer a crisp, tart apple and Thing 3 can’t be expected to eat them all himself so I have been using them to bake in place of cooking apples. We had a cooking apple tree until a few years ago, but sadly it fell victim to honey fungus and we had to take it down.
I’ve used this recipe before and while I find it a bit dry, its great with custard or some vanilla ice cream. It’s a Simon Rimmer one from Something for the Weekend, and its very simple to make. I used Thornton’s Dairy Fudge as it was all they had in the Co-op, but I expect you could jazz it up with a flavoured fudge – a Baileys one would be delicious!
On the rare chilly mornings up at Redricks Lake – and as we start thinking about how we’ll keep swimming through the winter – we have been eyeing up people’s Dryrobes and wincing at the price tag. I was pretty sure I could make something similar that would keep me warm and allow enough room to get in and out of a wetsuit, so I had a go this week at a trial version.
I started with a wearable blanket pattern in adult size – in this case, the free (and very easy to follow) Billie blanket by Do It Better Yourself Club, which comes in two lengths and can be lined or left unlined. I chose to make the lined version and used softshell fleece fabric for the outside, two large (bath sheet sized) microfibre towels for the body lining, and cotton jersey for the cuffs and hood lining.
Softshell fleece has a woven shower proof front and a microfleece backing fabric, which means its wind and water resistant as well as warm and breathable. It has a similar feel and handle to a scuba fabric, so it’s quite flexible and easy to sew. I used my overlocker for the whole construction, which made it super speedy, and only used my sewing machine to topstitch around the hood to hold it in place.
I first made the blanket as it says in the pattern, though I didn’t do a proper hem as a) I wasn’t convinced my sewing machine would like the four layers of fabric and b) I really couldn’t be bothered to measure it. I just sealed the outer and inner together with the overlocker. It was HUGE! This was the XL size as I wanted it to be roomy enough to change in – frankly, we could all have changed in there. At the same time.
Once I’d tried taking it on and off, I decided that it might be easier if it opened down the front, rather than having to take it on and off over my head, particularly in cold damp weather when you just want to wrap up in something warm.
So, I sliced it down the centre and overlocked those edges together too, which has made it much more manageable. I’ll use sticky velcro down the front for a quick seal and will also put some down the left front, so it can be wrapped more closely.
The microfibre towels had enough fabric to line the front and back, though the back is a bit of a box and cox job as I had to piece it together! It’s very cosy and weighty enough to be comforting, and I think it’ll be good for the winter. It probably took about 4 hours to make and the cost was considerably less than a proper Dryrobe. Can’t wait to test it out!
I’ve also been working on a different sort of cover up, using some Stylecraft Alpaca DK yarn in lovely autumn colours that I have been hoarding. I had started making a self-drafted long waistcoat with it, but wasn’t inspired by it and wasn’t sure I’d wear it, so I unravelled it last weekend and put the yarn back in the shed until the right pattern came along.
On Wednesday I beetled off to the shed and got the yarn back out again, as in this month’s Simply Crochet magazine the perfect pattern appeared. Well, not perfectly perfect as the recommended yarn was aran weight and mine was DK, but I made a tension square using a hook two sizes larger and it came up to the right size. I just hope I have enough yarn as Stylecraft have discontinued this line – it’ll be down the EBay rabbit hole if not!
The pattern is a Bishop-sleeved cardigan – they have used a pale pink as their main colour, but I’m using a lovely red with some toning colours for the sleeve stripes. Using two strands held together it’s working up quickly – I have almost finished the back now.
Hi ho, hi ho…
…it’s not off to work I go. It’s quite odd trying to get back into the swing of work and our major capital project while still being at home, although I must confess it’s been a lot easier this week with no children around to ‘help’! On Tuesday I attended whole Teams meetings with no one wandering behind me to see who I was talking to, typed complete sentences and wasn’t interrupted once with demands for food or mediation. I do feel as if my head may well start spinning on my neck and explode as there’s so much to take in, but by Thursday I was up to this month’s emails. Hurray!
That was my week then! The cover photo was taken at sunrise on Monday, looking towards Ongar from the top of the common. The image below is from the same walk – I loved the way the trees were framing the sun – and the wasp nest is from a fallen tree at Dial House. This was only part of it – it must have been hge!
See you at the other end of week 26!
What I’ve been reading
A Capitol Death (Flavia Albia series) – Lindsey Davis
Further Adventures of Carlotta Carlyle: Three Mystery Stories – Linda Barnes
Two for the Lions/One Virgin Too Many (Falco series) – Lindsey Davis (Audible)