Crafting Achievements during Lockdown

Like lots of people, at the beginning of lockdown I felt a need, I wouldn’t go so far as to say pressure, but a definite need to be productive. To not waste the enforced time at home. I guess, to make a bad situation a little less negative so I started making a list of all my crafting ‘drumroll’ moments during lockdown. The mistake I made was to assume that firstly lockdown would only be a couple of weeks and secondly that there would be a defined moment when lockdown ended and normality resumed in the same way that normal did before 23rd March and that that would be the time for me to proudly list and record all my achievements on this little platform.

Well, reality’s gone a little bit differently, hasn’t it? Are we still in lockdown? Kind of, sort of, ish! I could, if I wanted to, go to a pub or a restaurant, but I’d likely be surrounded by people wearing masks, I may have a timed slot and I wouldn’t be allowed to stand at the bar. I could jet off on holiday, but again masks would be ever present, lots of attractions wouldn’t be open and I may get stranded or have to unexpectedly quarantine on my return. I’ve had my hair cut and coloured (thank the Lord) but my lovely hairdresser was wearing a visor, she couldn’t offer me a drink or a magazine and while my colour was cooking I had to sit in my own little cocoon (being the stereotypical introvert I actually quite liked this part). I’ve been to the dentist but I felt like I was on the set of Ghostbusters! So, we have what seems like partial normality, but it may be the new normal, at least for the foreseeable future.

Anyhow, the point behind this rambling, is that I’ve decided to share my crafting makes, some more impressive than others, now as it doesn’t seem that there will be a definitive return to normal point. So, bear with me while I scroll back eleventy million weeks on my photo reel to the beginning of this weirdness.

Week one of lockdown and I finished my first project and posted it off to its intended recipient (or his mum and dad anyway).

It’s the Bunny Parade blanket by Kerry Jane Designs and it’s currently (actually, probably not literally ‘currently’ given that it’s eighty in the shade today) being enjoyed by my new nephew, Leon.

Next to be finished was a knitted project rather than my usual crochet.

I bought the pattern and yarn for this jumper over a year ago when some friends and I visited Wool Warehouse and met Lucy from Attic24. I knitted it on and off and used this extra time to finally finish and assemble it. I love it, but again, far too *warm *hot *sweltering (delete as appropriate) to wear it right now.

Next I made some masks eases for a nurse friend.

Wearing masks all day, every day becomes very uncomfortable, but is obviously necessary for our key workers, and becoming more so for us all. I hope these helped keep her a bit more comfortable.

Speaking of key workers, I crocheted two rainbows to display in our windows to show support for NHS workers and other key workers.

The bears are there to cheer up children as they walk past. I saw this idea on the news and knew I had to join in.

Next I decided to catch up on some Little Boxes of Crochet that I hadn’t found time to do. First was this delicious tea cup.

Included with this box was a little sewing kit to make Margaret the Corgi.

How thoroughly British!

Next up was the fabulous beachcombing blanket CAL (crochet along) by Eleonora of Coastal Crochet. This is truly my lockdown blanket and it filled my days with yarny wonderfulness and dreams of the seaside at a time when it could’ve been so easy to be fed up (to say the least).

After this things got a bit festive!

These were a kit from Aldi the Christmas before last. We even had a Christmas dinner around this time. Everything was just so strange that. Christmas dinner seemed appropriate!

A bright and colourful bag came next. This was another Little Box of Crochet project.

Niffler looks really cosy in there.

Another Little Box of Crochet next, this time Honey Bloom the Cockapoo.

Next was a little project that I saw Attic24 do ages ago.

I bought the hangers from Amazon a couple of years ago but never got round to making the covers.

I was spending such a lot of time in the garden during lockdown, especially when I was furloughed and the weather was so good so I decided I needed a pair of shoes that I could keep by the door to slip on when I came out. So I made some.

Next came the most recent Little Box of Crochet which was designed by Eleonora from Coastal Crochet (such a busy lady!)

It’s Marilla the Mermaid. Amanda from Little Box of Crochet and Eleonora came up with this gorgeous project way before the awful incident in America with George Floyd and the ensuing Black Lives Mather campaign but the timing of the box was very apt. BAME people are very under represented in the crafting world, both as designers and in the actual projects, so I hope this starts to redress the balance and that things change for the better.

Marilla fits in perfectly to my new Harry Potter themed office. As do my newly framed mystical cross stitches and long stitch.

I can’t give lockdown the credit for these because I actually finished them in the year 2000, but I did get them framed during lockdown.

Finally, I decided to get crocheting some wreaths. I’ve always wanted seasonal wreaths to hang on the front door throughout the year but have never found the time to make them.

Here are the first three that I’ve completed.

On the left is my Autumn wreath. The fox curled up at the bottom was a previous Little Box of Crochet project. He’s called Gareth. I designed the spider, the bonfire, fireworks and sun and cloud myself and I scoured the internet for patterns for the rest of the elements.

The middle is my Winter wreath. I love this one. It almost makes me want it to be Winter (almost!) Most of this is from patterns I found on the internet or in various books. The snowdrops are knitted rather than crocheted. I embellished it with diamanté pins.

The final one is the latest special kit from Little Box of Crochet designed by Kate Eastwood of Just Pootling. Some of the elements of this were quite fiddly, especially as my tension means everything I do turns out small (even when I go up a hook size!) but it was so worth it because I’m really happy with how it turned out and it makes me smile every time I come in the front door (even if that is less often than usual given lockdown!)

I’ve also done quite a bit of jigsawing during lockdown. Luckily I got back into this at Christmas so I had a few lying around, and also got a couple from Amazon.

I’m very glad that I also made masks, because, while I’ve been sat here on the swing chair writing this, it’s popped up on sky news that masks are going to be mandatory in all public indoor settings from 8th August.

Here’s me rocking the masked look!

Right, I have got to skedaddle because we’re off to the seaside for the weekend the minute hubby finishes work and I haven’t packed anything yet! Toodles!

Harry Potter Home Office

It seems that I’ll be working from home for the foreseeable future, and even when I do go back to the office I think it will only be for a couple of days a week with the rest of the time working from home. So, with that in mind, I decided to put some of my last three week stretch of furlough to good use and I made my home office/spare bedroom more functional and comfortable.

Unfortunately I was so eager to get going that I completely neglected to take before photos so I’ll have to describe it instead. My desk was in the alcove to the right of the chimney breast so essentially I was staring at the wall all day. The end of the bed was immediately behind me so I couldn’t properly turn in my chair. There were heavy curtains that blocked out the little light that makes it past next door’s forest and it had grotty carpet that was here when we moved in. Oh, and it wasn’t Harry Potter themed!

It is now!!!

I decided I wanted laminate on the floor, and I’d already decided that I was going with a Harry Potter theme (as you can see from the wall art), so I chose laminate that looks like a stone floor to emulate Hogwarts Castle.

We had to take up the dingy old carpet and underlay and then clean the floorboards underneath and then operation laminate commenced.

We’d never laid laminate before, but it’s pretty easy. The hardest part is measuring it properly and going round awkward pipes and edges.

Once the floor was down we got all the furniture back in and rearranged so that I was no longer shoved in a corner with no space.

I’d already painted the Free Dobby mural on the chimney breast. I had to do this freehand – there’s woodchip on the walls so stencils or stickers are a no go.

For once I don’t mind that we have woodchip because it fits in quite well with the old and shabby nature of Harry Potter.

Now came the fun bit – accessorising!

I upcycled a box table that I’ve had for close to twenty years which had seen better days.

I gave the bottom two coats of red and used gold paint around the edge of the lid. These are Gryffindor colours, the house that Harry, Ron and Hermione belong to at Hogwarts. I then drew the HP on the side and painted it gold, and finally I stuck Marauders map wallpaper on the top and added a sheet of Perspex on the top.

I also added Harry Potter wallpaper to the existing bin, an empty and thoroughly cleaned tin of chickpeas and a shelf.

Next I Potterised a cheap paper light shade.

I cut golden snitches out of gold card and attached them and I made wings for some keys and hung them from the bottom. The golden snitch is one of the balls that are used in the game of Quidditch and the flying key appear in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

I found stickers on Amazon for the light switch.

These are the spells to illuminate the end of your wand to see by, and then extinguish it.

I got rid of the heavy curtains and added a plain white blind instead, and I stuck the crests of each house, Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and Slytherin, along it.

I decided to create some more wall art.

Again, freehand because of the woodchip. These are the Quidditch goals and the golden snitch.

I continued with the creativity and pimped up the litter tray area.

I found this amazing piece of wood in B&Q and made a screen by painting it red (leaving the amazing bark at the top) and drawing on a Harry Potter silhouette. I attached some legs which I’d painted gold.

I made the sign by painting a bit of wood that I picked up from B&Q’s reject bin and adding a sticker that I got from Amazon and a cord that I made from some cotton yarn. We also invested in some bigger litter trays to be doubly sure that little furbabies don’t miss and christen the new flooring! The sign says ‘this way to the Ministry of Magic’ and the significance is that in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, witches and wizards gain entry to the Ministry by standing in a public toilet and flushing themselves down!

On one wall I created a portrait gallery.

These pictures don’t talk to you like the ones at Hogwarts, but it’s a good way to showcase all our photos from the Harry Potter studios in Watford and from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando.

You’ll also spy Crookshanks, Hermione’s pet cat just disappearing off the edge of the photo, and in the corner is Marilla the mermaid which was the project in my last Little Box of Crochet. Perfectly timed! She’s joined all the other magical creatures.

On the final wall I was umming and ahing about possibly maybe painting a dragon across the whole wall. The silhouette wall art is one thing, but a realistic dragon (because clearly they exist!) in colour is quite another prospect. Whilst I was still pondering, I came across some cross stitches and a long stitch piece that I did in 2000 and had never got round to framing, and they’re perfect for the theme. I quickly found a framer, and yesterday I picked them up.

I LOVE them!

There you have it. A very productive furlough and it’s so much more pleasant ‘going’ to work now I have a magical room! I’ve got a few ideas of little improvements to make, but it’s pretty much finished. On to the rest of the house now then!

Holiday Catch Up part one

I need to tell you about our holiday, but I really don’t know where to start! We’ve been back for not far off a week now, and I’ve been back at work for three days, but I’m still basking in the distant rays of our time away. It was an absolutely AMAZING holiday! There wasn’t a single bad moment – not even when the weather wasn’t as good as we could’ve hoped for. I can’t call it the holiday of a lifetime, firstly because we’ve been lucky enough to have several ‘holidays of a lifetime’ so far and secondly, because I’m fully intending to repeat it once I’ve saved up again, but that’s the essence of it!

The holiday started before we’d actually left the country. We were flying from Gatwick and my Granny lives only a few miles from there so we headed down there the day before we were due to fly so we could spend some time with her. She’s had some health issues recently so it was great to be able to pop in and see her (and I’m pleased to report that she was in good health – no flies on Granny!)

We’d booked into a hotel just down the road called Hookwood Lodge. It cost me less than forty quid on booking.com and we couldn’t believe how nice it was for that price.

The hotel was set in beautiful grounds, the bed was super comfy and the bathroom had a rain shower head which was lovely. It was also five minutes walk from a homely country pub with a crackling open fire called the Black Horse, and I’d booked us a table for a pre-holiday meal.

I treated myself to a nice glass of vino and ordered fish and chips and hubby had a 0% Heineken (because he was trying to be teetotal (it didn’t last!)) and a big fat burger! Fed and watered, we hot footed it back to the hotel dodging the rain and excitedly tried to sleep before the next stage of our adventure.

We were up and out by half eight the following morning and made our way to Gatwick to drop our bags before we made our way through to departures for our traditional holiday breakfast. The airport was pretty busy with, presumably, like us, people trying to escape dreary January. We were delayed an hour and a half, but we were soon on our way, off to sun, fun and adventure. A couple of G&Ts (this is where hubby’s wagon tipped!) a film and some puzzles later and we touched down at Orlando International Airport where passport control was surprisingly quiet and we were soon heading out of the airport in our hire car.

This is actually when we dropped the car off, you can see the ship that we cruised on in the background (I’ll get to that in due course). Anyway, as we headed out of the airport we got stuck straight away in big traffic jam which turned out to be an accident involving four cars, at least one of which looked like a hire car. So, next time you’re delayed, whether on a flight or behind someone dawdling in the supermarket, just remember, that delay could well be saving you a whole load of stress and aggravation. If our flight hadn’t been delayed, we could have been heading out of the airport as that accident was about to happen. What an awful start to someone’s holiday.

Once we got past the accident, the rest of the journey was uneventful. We headed towards Universal Studios, spotting the volcano in Volcano Bay on the way, and found our hotel easily enough. We’d booked two nights in the Holiday Inn and Suites across from Universal.

The hotel was fine, not up to the standard of Cabana Bay where we normally stop in Orlando, but it had everything we needed, and it was a fifteen minute walk from Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure which was our planned destination for the first full day of holiday.

As anyone who regularly reads my blog will know, I’m a huge Harry Potter fan, and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter which spans both parks is my happy place. The first time we visited there was a ride in Islands of Adventure called Dragon Challenge which was a double rollercoaster. This closed a couple of years ago and Universal announced that a new Harry Potter ride was being created. The next two times we went to Orlando the ride was being built and it opened as Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure a month after we left in June 2019. Naturally I had to add a trip to Universal to the beginning of our holiday to experience the new ride before we headed off to our ship.

I almost (some would say completely) obsessively checked the Universal app before our holiday to suss out the wait times for the ride and when would be the best time of day to join the queue and it seemed the best course of action would be to get there as early as possible so we headed over to Universal as soon as we were ready. Crossing those giant roads in Orlando is an experience, I can tell you! I didn’t count, but I’m sure the roads we crossed were six lanes in each direction and as soon as the green man (or was it a white man?) said it was safe to cross, the crossing starts counting down in red and the pressure to reach the other side starts to build! Your legs almost instinctively want to run and you feel like the cars waiting are starting to rev their engines in anticipation of zooming off the second it goes back to green for them regardless of whether you’re still on the crossing or not! Add to that the fact that cars are allowed to turn right on red in the states and it really doesn’t make for a relaxing stroll across the road!

Anyway, we made it and we headed straight for Hagrid, following the crowds and the directional signs being held by team members and we joined the end of a two hour queue! This, I know from my research, is about average, and given that it was a Saturday, wasn’t too bad. Indeed, as I continued to check the wait time whilst we were in the line (as you do) it went up to three and a half hours, so we made the right call joining when we did.

By the time we made it to the lockers (you’re not allowed bags and sunglasses etc on the ride) we’d been queuing for about an hour, and we were now pretty much into where the line will start once the hype’s died down and the wait time is shorter. We’d come through the entrance to Hogsmeade …

… and gone past the Hogwarts Express …

… and shortly we got our first view of the ride.

As you can see, it’s a rollercoaster and the passengers are in twos, one on Hagrid’s motorbike and the other in the sidecar. You zoom around the Hogwarts grounds on your motorbike and past various magical creatures including an animatronic unicorn and her baby.

The queue gets more interesting from this point on because you can see the people ahead of you zooming around and screaming on the ride, and you shuffle your way past various familiar props and locations from the books and films. Like Hagrid’s hut …

… and his vegetable patch.

Finally you get to what I assume is part of Hogwarts Castle and the excitement mounts because everyone knows once you’re inside, you’ve got to be getting close to the actual ride. Inside there are dragon eggs, lots of magical animal baskets and ancient wall drawings, and you can hear unicorns braying. Next you get to holograms of Hagrid and Arthur Weasley. Hagrid explains that he’s going to take you on a special Care of Magical Creatures lesson but he needs Arthur to magically duplicate the bikes so he can get you to the forbidden forest.

When we got to the actual ride we somehow managed to end up at the front of one of the holding pens which meant we got to go on the front motorbike. Much excitement! As I’m the true Potter fan, hubby said I could have the motorbike and he went in the sidecar. It was sooooooo good! You zoom around and get up quite a bit of speed. At one point you zoom right up to the end of the track and skid to a stop. Just as you’re thinking ‘now what’ you zoom off backwards at speed before skidding to a stop again. Then you drop (apparently seventeen feet) onto the track beneath before zooming off again. All the while the Harry Potter music is playing and Hagrid’s voice is coming through the speakers in each individual motorbike or sidecar. It was well worth the wait!

The rest of the day was really good. We wandered around Hogsmeade for a bit and had a look in the magical shops and popped into the Hogs Head for some Gilly Water and a pint.

The head moves and talks periodically.

Next we caught the Hogwarts Express to Universal Studios. I love love love the Hogwarts Express. In this direction you head out of the magical land and see London come into sight with the Knight Bus squeezing its way through the streets and then you get off at Kings Cross. We had a wonder around Diagon Alley and I may have bought another Potter hoodie!

We went on a few more rides and watched the Horror Make Up Show which was really good, and I got to meet Beetlejuice!

It was a fantastic day, but we learnt two things. One, don’t go to Universal on a Saturday if you can help it. It was super busy and lots of people had express passes which meant the wait times for non express were crazy! Hagrid doesn’t even allow express passes yet so goodness knows what that would’ve been like with! And two, don’t get a mobile ticket. There are some rides that you’re not allowed to take anything on, including your phone, so everything has to go in a locker. That’s fine, but the lockers are rented and reopened by scanning the barcode on your ticket which obviously you can’t do if your ticket’s on your phone and your phone has to go in the locker. It meant that hubby got to go on Rip Ride Rock it while I waited for him, but because it took forty five minutes, I then didn’t want to go and wait again so I didn’t get to ride.

We finished our day at the Hard Rock Cafe at CityWalk. We went here to celebrate my fortieth birthday and they do THE best fajitas in the world so we always have to go back there now.

The next morning we decided to go for breakfast at iHop on International Drive before we headed over to Port Canaveral to board our ship. Love iHop too! We had to wait quite a while – the whole of Orlando seemed to fancy pancakes that morning! No worries though, we did need to be at the Port till mid afternoon.

How many million syns? Don’t care! Eggs over easy with hash browns and bacon AND birthday cake pancakes. Yummmmm! We barely ate for the rest of the day.

Now, I think, I’ll finish because I’ve written a lot just about the first couple of days and I have a whole week on the ship to tell you about yet! And the ship was AMAZING, so I’ve probably got a lot of words waiting to spill over about that too!