Tuesday, June 29, 2010


My inner radiator and I have now officially encountered the hottest weekend of the year so far.  It was hot, wonderfully sunny, and really hot.  Because I am clearly a glutton for punishment I celebrated this short existence of an English summer by knitting on a fair isle Shetland wool baby blanket.  Did I mention that it was hot?

The reason for such wholehearted absence of reason; and the presence of a freezer full of lollies and ice-pops (which incidentally tasted so much better when they had artificial colours and flavours in them), was the yarn, and the pattern, and the fair isle, and the yarn and the .... well you get the picture; by the virtue of abandoning the sofa in favour of a nest of cushions on my bed and the Twilight audio books for company, I've been rediscovering just why I love making fair isle, why I think Alice/Jade Starmore designs are so beautiful, and the fact that I really do have a compulsion to finish thing, even sections of things.

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For example, the middle of Baby Bear's Point Reyes blanket, finished after the sun slipped away below the fence on Sunday night.
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This picture is a little blue-er than real life but it's still so pretty, or manly, depending on the baby bear's gender, and with the exception of a couple of hours on Sunday afternoon when I swear I knit the same row over and over and over again and tinked back over and over and over again (I'm blaming vibes from the TV watcher downstairs who was getting increasingly frustrated), it wasn't impossibly hard, just a question of finding a rhythm and going with it and watching pretty colours stack up on one another.

It is also huge - somehow far bigger than my brain was expecting; and there've been several moments when I've thought that the baby might make it before I'd finished the fair isle. (Note how I'm not promising anything about the border.  Which has 924ish stitches).

For scale, my friendly resident photographer, who was discovered in the garden barbecuing away his sorrows by poking smouldering charcoal viciously with a pointy stick, offers you a portrait entitled:
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'Blanket tube obscuring 30 weeks of baby and 6 foot and 30 years of wife'

It's too long to be a jumper for even me! (We will now ignore the fact that it is also too small to fit around me - I'm working very hard to resist desperate cravings to knit a jumper, or a little cardie, on the relentlessly sensible basis that I have absolutely no idea what size I'm going to be in (a) about 30 weeks or (b) in about 6 months to a year.  Grrr to the rational brain cells I want to knit a cardigan). 
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Well all you die hard knitter know how the next bit goes.  For the benefit of my father, yes I am about to take a pair of scissors to the knitting and yes that is intentional and not the combination of pregnancy hormones and inner frustration at the ever knit and tink row.
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The steek, all stripy and innocent - see how it sits there not knowing the fate about to befall it.
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First cut.  Please note that this is all done without any machine or crochet reinforcement, or the assistance of a swift slug of port for dutch courage - the first time I steeked anything it was machine reinforced and I'd sewn and cut up every swatch within reach before I finally went for it.
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And the deed is done.
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Somehow it looks oddly smaller all stretched out - I think it's the change in proportion.

The next step is to pick up stitches all around for the border, the pattern recommend using a 100cm needle for that - well that's an 80cm needle in the top, so I think 100cm might be a touch optimistic.  I ordered 3.25mm needle tips for my KnitPro needles from Get Knitted yesterday morning and in a stunningly quick piece of customer service they arrived today so I'm going to start out with the 120cm and see how we go.

I have truly loved knitting this fair isle and I'm getting first hand just why Alice Starmore patterns are so popular; it's not necessarily that her designs are the latest in cutting edge fashion, and whilst I love many of the fair isle jumper patterns, I don't know how much I'd wear them; it's the colour sense and the patterning and the joy of making a Starmore.

Happily it seems that the lady herself is now willing and able to re-engage with our knitting community; her Fair Isle book was reissued last year and new versions of Aran Knitting and Fishermans' Sweaters are coming out this autumn/winter. Aran Knitting is already pre-ordered and I'm lucky enough to own an old copy of Fishermans' Sweaters after a lovely friend spotted it in a charity shop for £2.50 and gave it to me as a 'make my day' present.
But before I go to pick up a crazy large number of stitches (the 924 really isn't too much of a joke), and lest you think this week's bump was hiding beneath it's blanket ...

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30 weeks down, 10 to go - I can't wait to meet this little wriggly person inside me.

Friday, June 25, 2010


Thank you for all the birthday wishes, both here and on Ravelry - the boy and I both had a wonderful and relatively relaxed day, and he took me for a steak supper at the pub; delicious steak, someone else cooking and most importantly, someone else doing the washing up!

If I knew what the collective noun was for birthday cards, we have one of those; a celebration perhaps?  H treated me to a bundle of crafty books and a very beautiful bracelet and generally life at 30 seems pretty good to us.

He likes his socks too,
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Simple 72 stitch socks from Laughing Yaffle Sock yarn in the Blue Parrot colour.  It isn't the softest of yarn bases and compared to some of the buttery smooth fibres I've been making baby clothes out of it felt a little harsh.  It's a 75/25 wool/nylon mix and it softened up nicely after a good soak in Eucalan  H declares them warm and fluffy which explains why my only picture of them is pre-birthday - they've been on his feet in rare cool moments ever since.

I've been fairly industrious this week and I've knit a whole nother repeat on the baby's blanket (imagine it how it looked in the last picture but a bit longer), and started a little something as a gift.
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If this looks fairly familiar, well it should, it's another Baby Origami (also known as Judy's Grandmother's Baby Jacket from Greetings from Knit Cafe) for a friend at work whose first baby (gender also unknown) is due in early August.  She goes on maternity leave at the end of the week after next so I thought I'd better get a wriggle on, particularly if I want to make cute little bootee-shoes to match.

The yarn is my new favourite; Sublime Baby Cashmere Merino Silk in SeeSaw (194), a cheery bright turquoise and so so soft and fluffy; I hope she likes it!

For those of you concerned about the pirate rescue, from the detritus on my kitchen work surface it appears that the pirates managed to blow serious holes in the side of the castle and at present the entire back wall has gone, complete with a rescue pirate, both princesses, some of the treasure, and the pirate king.  I hope they will all be very happy together - perhaps next year's cake will feature the pirates rehabilitated to life on dry land, having taken jobs as accountants (well they are good at counting) living in a suburban villa and with the hint of a little princess/pirate baby on the way?  On second thoughts, I have no idea how to render that all in cake - maybe it needs a little more thought!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Every cake tells a story

At what stage are you officially grown up?  Despite being happily married, being kicked in the tummy by a wriggly little baby as I type and having today achieved a birthday to change both numbers, I know that I am not grown up.  The reason why?  My birthday cake (well H and my joint cake) looks like this:
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When I construct something elegant and beautiful with limited food colouring and possibly with columns, then you know I've really made it.

In the meantime, let me tell you the tale of Castle Bear in the land of Jelly.

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As you can see, the castle is well protected, being slightly elevated from the surrounding area by (a) a gently mound of grass and (b) a stool.

The fortifications are such that shark-infested custard was considered an unnecessary expense and in the spirit of budget cuts sadly sweeping the land of Jelly, the moat has instead been populated with giant shrimp.  They might tickle your toes a bit if you went for a swim but other than that they're unlikely to bother anyone too much.
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In the verdant meadows to the side of the castle, see common domestic animals happily graze on the lush turf.

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(and yes that is a hippo in the moat).

Up on the castle wells, little escapes the notice of the eagle-eyed sentry guards.
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Meanwhile, down at the front gate, some local Jelly-merchants approach the sentries on the front gate, bringing fresh supplies of rum and fluffy pillows for the castle's inhabitants.
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Their arrival eagerly anticipated by the princesses sunning themselves on the rampart terrace whose supply of rum has been sadly depleted during long conversations about the recent goings on at the castle.

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For all is not as peaceful and serene as it may appear.  The castle's ward overflows with treasure yes, but treasure from where? From a pirate ship, wrecked on the coast not far away exactly 1 year ago.

The treasure was recovered by the castle guards and the one remaining survivor, the Pirate King, was captured and brought to the dungeon below the sun terrace, where he spends his days tearing his curly locks and gazing mournfully at the treasure that was once all his.
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But is all lost? Is he entirely without hope?  Look carefully at our friendly jelly-merchant's cart:
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No, look really carefully
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Do you see the jelly pirate in hiding underneath the bottom of the cart?
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and two more jelly pirates take advantage of the princesses' happy chatter to slowly scale the walls,
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while their companion brazenly swims the moat under the sentries' very eyes.  A rescue! A rescue!

How will it turn out?  Only time will tell....

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Teeny Tiny

Firstly a huge thank you to anyone and everyone who suggested some Ipod apps - I'm having great fun exploring all of your suggestions, and I've got a Vuvuzela app which is great for creeping up behind H at critical moments in any of the matches.  I don't actually know what might constitute a critical moment from watching, but it tends to be when he looks as if he's about to start shouting at the screen!

Apart from it being really rather hot, it feels oddly like Christmas eve around here; all weekend we've been building up to tomorrow and doing things (or eating cake for lunch) 'because it's our birthday'.  The bump and I have been banished to bed with the laptop and there are mysterious and magical sounds of sellotape screaming off a reel coming from the baby's room next door.  I spent this afternoon making a cake and decorating it in my own inimitable style - it has been pronounced to be as good as last year by two exceptionally biased judges who had been bribed and corrupted by pizza, and you'll just have to wait until tomorrow to see it (hee hee!).

To counteract your inevitable disappointment (and I'll know if you cheat and go and look at flickr), I have some actual knitting content (yes really!).  The baby's blanket has grown by a whopping waves-whales-waves combination and looks much the same but my garden has been playing host to more teeny tiny cute things.

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Iddly widdly shoes in the lavender bush, for example.

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The pattern is Tiny Shoes by Ysolda from Whimsical Little Knits 1 and as with all Ysolda patterns it's beautifully written, cleverly constructed, and requires minimal sewing up (my favourites).
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The buttons were one of those wonderful moments of kismet when you open the button tin and right at the top are cute buttons in the perfect size and a great colour, and you have enough of them.  Their only slight hitch is that they only go in one direction so the fish is forward facing on the left shoe and backward facing on the right.  I suspect the baby won't mind too much though!

The yarn is Sheldridge Farm Soft Touch Ultra in a special Socktopus colourway called Sea Lettuce and it is of course the leftovers from this:
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a finished mitred baby jacket.  I loved knitting this jacket and it is definitely on the repeat list.  My only regret, and it's not even really a regret, is that my tension is a little tighter and so I have a much smaller finished jacket.  It's completely my own fault for not swatching (I don't really bother for baby things, just run the gauntlet that it'll fit someone's baby some day) and next time I knit it I'll got up to 3mm needles, or possibly a little higher.
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I love all the little lines you get from the mitering, and it would look even more stunning in stripy sock yarn.

When I started knitting this jacket I genuinely thought it was going to be for Baby Bear.  But the more I knit and the more time I spent with the yarn, watching each of the colours slide between my fingers, the more I realised that this jacket is for my colleague K's baby (expected late September/early October, gender unknown).  K is blond, frequently wears bright summery colours and her collection of maternity dresses is the envy of many.  In short, these are her colours and so this is a present for her.
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with teeny tiny shoes to match.
Baby Bear appears to have been doing some growing this week, so perhaps it's just as well that I'm not seriously contemplating anything teeny tiny:
Carie 29weeks.1

29 weeks and counting - I'm still knitting some tiny shoes for Little Bear though - teddy will look great in them.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

When I grow up I want to be...

It's Ascot season and as a select number of partners disappeared out of the office today to take clients to Ladies' Day, those of us that were left engaged in a little bit of 'giddy', and checked out all of the photos of the hats and a horse named StrawberryDaquiri.

There's one lady who crops up in all of the photos and seems to be as much an Ascot fixture as the Queen herself; a certain Mrs Edward Claridge about whom I know nothing save for the fact that I love her hats.

I'm just a smidgen too much of a good girl to shamelessly hoick photos off the Internet but by the powers of linky-dink may I please direct you to

Day 1 - a stunning towering confection of lilac silk hollyhocks and what look to be peonies

and then
Day 2 - a nest of pink frothy butterfly bows.

She's so completely all out there and looks like she's having a wonderful time with it.  So here's my plan: when I grow up I'm going to learn how to make extravagant hats just like these that suit me and persuade H to dress up to the nines and take me to Ladies' Day where I will sport my creation with serene confidence and have a wonderful day.

You'll know I've done it the year they report an overly high number of gentlemen seeking first aid for eye injuries after encountering my hat!

PS - in news from the International Food Market I can now also recommend the Hog Roast, the Tartiflette (potatoes and bacon in a cream and cheese sauce) and the Cherry Strudel.  I have the steak batch in my sights for tomorrow!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


I've been working down in London today which involved both a horribly early start and a long nap when I got home so it seems a little strange to be telling you all about something that's happenning in Birmingham but this is time sensitive information; at least it is if you live in the area and have half a chance of ending up in Brum sometime this week because this is the week of the Birmingham International Food Fair.  It's a bit like the German Christmas market except that it isn't Christmas and it isn't German (see, just like it), but there is lots of lovely food and when H had a meeting in Brum last week on the first day of the fair, we did manage to find the German sausage stand:

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and the Ostrich burger stand, although that disappeared too quickly for photographic evidence to be procured.

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There's a big beer tent which I don't get to go to, and a Pimms stand (alas! alas!) and a wonderful Barbeque at the top of Victoria square:
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They'll cook you just about anything barbeque and pop it in a baguette for you - including the very tempting but temporarily off-limits surf and turf baguette (steak and king prawns).

Although we've been sorry not to find the homemade ice-cream stand again this year, I can personally recommend the Kangaroo burgers, just about every variety of little Italian almond paste cakes, the cheese topped bagels and the vegatable noodles

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and I'm reliably informed that the cheese and bacon topped bagels are also very good. 

The only thing I'd steer clear of is something described as Prawnies, and that look a bit like giant prawns; a friend sampled them last year and reports that they are basically hot Ocean sticks in prawn shapes - not the thing to have when there's so much wonderful food to try.

The fair lasts until Sunday so I've got three more lunches to choose (and maybe a bit of shopping for the weekend) and the current front runners are the hog roast and the paella and definitely another bagel!

Monday, June 14, 2010

A technical question

No knitting today, or at least, I've been knitting and the blue/green spoldge of yesterday is starting to look much more like a baby jacket.  Rather a small baby jacket admittedly but more on that another day.

Today I need your suggestions.  I have an ipod touch (because I am a very lucky girl who's husband spoils her rotten) and I love it for (a) holding all of my audio books at once, and (b) letting me surf ravelry in bed.  However, I've yet to dip my toe in the water of apps and I'd like to give it a whirl to fully satiate my inner gadget-aholic.

So far I've downloaded Stitchminder and Knitminder Lite (because they were both free and knitting related) but I what I want to know from anyone who has anything else that takes apps - what are the ones you use the most, and what would you recommend?

Doesn't have to be knitting related and my only condition is that I'll get limited use out of anything that needs an internet connection to be fully functional because I generally only have internet on it at home.

Thank you friendly peeps!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Football? What football?

Apparently something terribly exciting to do with fooseball is happening in South Africa at the moment.  I am reliably informed that:

(a) England had a rubbish start.
(b) This is apparently surprising (really? Has no-one watched England play sport before, we always start badly, frequently end badly, and occasionally, and in proper sports (cricket and rugby) we win a world cup)
(c) South African supporters were the original reason why it sounds as if there may be a giant hornets' nest just around every corner, but as the saffa population of Warwickshire is tiny, it appears that the English have taken the vuvuzela to heart.
(d) Very few people in Leamington on a Saturday morning can get a decent noise out of them.  Whilst this might seem a blessing in disguise it merely appears as if we are being chased by consumptive hornets (can hornets even get consumption?)

Happily, as you may have concluded that I am not the world's greatest football fan, I spent yesterday evening watching Trooping the Colour and this afternoon watching a brilliant Canadian Grand Prix as H spent much of the weekend playing hockey dressed as a pirate, and I have been knitting:
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It doesn't look much but that's two out of four and a bit pattern repeats - there is still a chance that I'll finish the blanket before the baby arrives, yippee! The slight hitch with this most engaging knitting is the need to engage brain to knit it - and at the end of a working day there's often just enough brain left for cooking supper and sleeping (and, given that the Dominos' delivery man accidentally came to our house on auto-pilot the other day*, you can tell that often there's not even that!)

My other more portable knitting is just as intriguing but a little easier going on the brain cells:
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It's another baby jacket (because clearly I will have failed as a mother if my baby is not wearing a different jacket for every day of its life, regardless of potentially high ambient temperatures in early September), and it's not a Baby Surprise Jacket.

Phazelia's Mitred Baby Jacket has a similarly clever construction, is virtually seamless, and uses sock yarn, all of which appeal hugely.  I've also not knitted it before, although I think it's going to meet a repeat performance for a friend's baby before too long.

Essentially it's a very pointy top-down yoked jacket, and as you see it has that all-important facility of bemusing anyone who looks at it.
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This is the yoke and the sleeves before I whip stitched the sleeves together and started on the sides.  Trust me when I say that it looks much more like a baby jacket now than it did yesterday when I took it KIP-ing to confungle passers-by outside Web of Wool.

Actually it may have been the giant knitting needles or the giant french knitting that had a few people seeming to circle the one way system for a better look (they may have thought that they were looking for a parking space but we knew better).

It was wonderfully sunny and the perfect way to catch up with friends that I haven't seen in a while - what more could you ask for?  And just so that the baby didn't feel left out:

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I stickered the bump!

*He was delivering to the next door neighbours and no we didn't get to keep a piece.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010


From the perspective of my unreliable and all too human memory, the summers of my childhood were filled with long hot sandy days, hour after hour spent roaming the rock pools and lazily drifting on a surfboard waiting for that perfect wave. But young as I keep trying to convince myself I am, I know that time has worked a little rough magic on those memories, an English summer isn't really that endless stretch of deep blue sky and deep blue sea, and enough photos exist of the family eating pasties while camped out under a hastily constructed shelter of driftwood and beach towels to reinforce the truth; 'sunshine and showers'.

It's been wet enough round here recently to make a bear growl and while I can (and do) get deeply annoyed at damp feet, damp hair, raincoats that no longer do up and that feeling of irrepressible gloom that descends with the dirty grey cloud blanket, there is a wonderful vitality all around after a good dousing as every leaf, every petal holds onto those final raindrops, and the garden smells fresh and clean with just a hint of cool water on hot tarmac from the road.  It's that moment when you realise that you just can't get any wetter and you stop worrying about being damp and clammy and just revel in puddle splashing.

I thought I wasn't going to get the chance to take any pictures this week what with the morning gloom and the evening gloom, but I arrived home yesterday just after one shower had passed through and with the next one still building a little way away on the horizon and had the chance to nip out to see what might be in bloom.

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These wonderful, blousy roses come back year after year, scrabbling for a hold on the trellis over our little blue seat, and usually a fair way along the washing line as well, and in among the gently dripping branches, I found the perfect spot to show you a little knitwear.

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This is a real stashbusting knit, courtesy of an unlabelled skein of sock yarn, a free Ravelry download and a grand total of 30p spent on buttons after I rejected the beautiful but impractical and substantially more expensive little wooden strawberries.

The pattern is Twinkle, and as written should knit up to size 0-3 months (or about 20cm) across between the armholes.  I upped the needle size to 3mm as I've got quite a few newborn baby jackets and the final result is about a 20 inch chest which I think is supposed to be 6 months ish although the last time I measured a baby he was 4 months and was a neat 20 inches so we'll see at what stage this jacket fits my little wriggle monster.

The only other alteration I made was to add three little buttonholes down the front.  The neckline has a row of buttonholes to thread icord or a pretty ribbon but I think that could be a touch too girly if this is a little boy so I'm holding off for the moment.

I've got the perfect ribbon already though - thanks to a trip to VV Rouleaux in London a way while back - gorgeous red, green and yellow butterflies (I've got a length of this ribbon in pale pinks and blues as well!)

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If this baby is a girl then I'll probably thread a neckband but stop short of a potentially edible bow, but either way I know just the baby gro to match
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I promise I bought the baby-gro before I'd even come across the pattern!  This is a sweet little cardie, a very easy knit and the perfect use for a skein of strawberry coloured sock yarn.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Cookie Monsters

One of the great unexplained mysteries of the universe is why cooking on the Barbecue is definitely a boy thing, requiring me merely to make a salad and turn up and eat, and yet cooking the same food under the grill in the kitchen, that would be my remit.  Happily, I'll sign up any hint of summer as a reason to crack open the charcoal, and H is very good at cooking with fire.

Saturday, however, I got to see what happens when the boys decided that simply toasting marshmallows in the dying embers really wasn't enough, and took barbecue puddings to a whole new level.

First, you take your cookie and your tinfoil:
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Then add a gentle sprinkling of marshmallows.
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Decide that you probably need a few more than that
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In fact, why not go for a good smothering
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top with another cookie
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and put your little tin foil parcel on the barbecue for 10 minutes.
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Unwrap and indulge:
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I'm told that the resultant goo is sweet, sticky, chocolaty and rather wonderful although the bump and I decided that it might be a sugar hit too far for both of us and stuck to scooping up a few of the escaping mini marshmallows from the bag.

All I can report is that one member of our party was unable to finish his, despite a very valiant effort, and another, who shall remain entirely anonymous, could be observed working off the after effects by performing a very elegant pixie dance around the back garden.  Happily we were able to persuade him to have a little lie down before he had to drive a car again to avoid any interaction with the powers that be on the grounds of being sweet and disorderly.

But it was the remains one cookie that gave me a really good idea.
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You see this stuff is sticky.
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Really sticky.
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Possibly the stickiest gooiest thing I've come across in a while.
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Does anyone have a number for BP? I think the boys may have inadvertently invented just the thing to plug their oil leak, or if it failed there, maybe we could try it on a certain Icelandic volcano? The excess cookies would be unlikely to go to waste.

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Given my job of chief provider of greenery and bread rolls I had plenty of time to sit in a deckchair and knit in the evening sunshine which suits me perfectly.  I've mostly been working on the same little red baby jacket this week and it's currently finished and drying after a quick wet block.

The baby's coming on quite nicely too as far as I can tell; it's been a wrigglish little babe today so it obviously approves of whatever I had for lunch.  H was wielding the camera for a little while at the weekend so I have a 27 week bump photo:

Carie 27weeks.1
Clematis, with matching stripy pregnant girl - not long to go now!