Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Thriving, sorting and reading.

Some beautiful flowers that M bought me recently. I've cut out the pollen stems as I'm not keen with QT about. He doesn't tend to go on the dining room table but... cats, they're a law unto themselves.

My orchid plants, I'm both amazed and pleased that they're both alive and well a year later. More impressively they've both flowered again. Usually the only safe plants for me to care for are Christmas cactus, see here for more photos of orchids.

I've been having a good sort out of my wool and other craft storage. Unfortunately I can't keep everything altogether all in one room, there just isn't the space. There's some in the lounge that I'm currently working on, some stored in the bedroom and some colouring in the front porch. Then there's craft books on the landing bookcase and magazines in the dining room. The new storage unit has cotton yarn in the top lift-up flap, then below 4 pull-out drawers for other yarns here. There's more yarn in the storage box on the shelf and an ottoman in both the lounge and the bedroom, both are full of craft stuff too.

As my crochet blanket is getting too big to carry about with me to craft circle, I've started crocheting a few other smaller projects. This beautiful One-Skein Chevron scarf I saw when browsing Thistlebear's blog and instantly loved it, the lacy wavy lines are easy to do, here is the link to her blog. Jennifer crochets her beautiful scarves for teacher's end of year gifts, which I think is a lovely idea. The pattern is by Dena Stelly and can be found here and the yarn I've used is Stylecraft special aran, in pale rose, seen here.

I will definitely be making this scarf again but will take Jennifer's advice and use a larger hook size next time. I started off using a UK 5mm but in future will use a 5.5mm hook. I did crochet a few rows in the bigger hook size to compare and it looks much better. I will of course unpick those few rows and continue to the end. If you look closely at the photograph, you can see the wider part. It's an inch wider too.

I've finished the book for the book club early this month and am feeling quite pleased with myself. I finished it at the weekend and have seen on Fantastic fiction that it's part of a set, though I'm not sure if the characters appear in all or whether it's just the titles that link together conveniently. The series is called Four Series and the titles can be seen here. I will need to put some questions together for the newsletter.

I booked a table in our usual pub in the village for the family and teen 1 & 2 friend who stayed with us over the weekend. The meal was their Friday night fish n chip special and as usual it tasted really good. My family pull my leg about always being in there but 10 times a year and another for the WI Christmas meal along with any family meals is hardly 'always'.

As I'm not behind on the book club read (for once), I've been able to catch up on my own books. Could this new leaf turning over be a regular occurrence, oh I hope so. A full list of Katie Fforde's books are here.

Thank you for reading, do leave a comment and remember to add a photo of your craft work on my Facebook page here, I would love to see what you're making.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Taking a break

Hello, I'm sorry I've not been blogging for a while. We've been a way for a long weekend at a Christian festival plus taking a break. This is the second time we've been and already we can't wait to go again next year. When I started writing this blog I made a conscious decision to keep my faith in God separate and only talk about the things that interest me such as crochet mainly, with some knitting & sewing and cooking has crept in too. I think for me, it's fair to say that when I commit to something I do put my all into it, a kind of 'all or nothing' approach. But here's the thing, Jesus is a major part of my life and it's not easy to exclude Him. It feels like having a best friend but never talking about them. He is my all-in-all, the giver of perfect peace, although I accept He doesn't have to be written about in my blog, He does shape my outlook on life. 

I appreciate not everyone has the same views as me and as it happens, I didn't take any photos of the event or our time away. We were very busy having a good time with friends at the festival. I did do some crochet in our new - to us - caravan, but not a lot. Which brings me to my next thing to mention. Having been following other peoples blogs, I've seen people feeling pressured to produce work constantly, from writing patterns to showing photos of the start and finish of projects but never the in between updates. Almost like it was too embarrassing to 'still be working on...' 
Some have abandoned writing blogs altogether and have switched to posting snaps of finished work on Instagram.

Although I've not been 'churning out patterns' or finished projects on my blog, I have felt the need to 'have something to share' on here. My original purpose was to show finished projects and in writing about them on here, I would have some accountability to stay motivated to finish them. 

I've decided I'll continue to blog but will take it slower and enjoy more of what I do. I was writing 2 blogs a week, I will see how things go but for now and will commit to 1 a week. I'd like to enjoy what I do, to learn new skills too and live in the moment rather than always thinking - what next. 

Above is a few more of the beautiful plants in my Mother-in-laws garden taken on our last visit earlier this year. I think the colours are very cheery and bright. The first picture is of the flowers on the pond waterfall.

Another spot of crocheting in the car on our journey to The Peak District. I took teen 2 washcloth with me and managed to finish the border before we arrived. It was a very hot car journey and I remember feeling glad that we had air conditioning, whatever did we do before air con. I'm going to start crocheting one for M soon in green with plain blue stripes. I've added an extra row, top and bottom as it was quite small and rectangular in shape. He's very pleased with it which is good. It was from this pattern book, any aran weight 100% cotton will be ideal for this. Although it says dishcloths, as I've mentioned before, if it's crocheted in soft cotton, it'll be perfect for washcloths.  

So my blanket update, this was supposed to be a CAL - crochet a long. I think it should've been finished back in February but it's been put to one side many a time. It's been lovely crocheting it but I'm finding it's too big and warm to carry around and sit with it on your lap in warmer weather. Here is the information regarding the attic 24 Moorland blanket.

I've been on Bella Coco's you tube channel and crocheted the African flower.

If you fancy a go at this, the links for the tutorial are here, here and here. You'll notice that the videos are in 3 parts. It was crocheted using Stylecraft DK pink yarns - candyfloss, pomegranate and claret, the lilac and cream coloured yarn were my own. I'm a bit disappointed with the finishing square shape, it's not as square as I'd hoped. I may do some more of the many squares on Bella Coco's channel and link them with the same colour edging to make up a very random sample blanket. Whilst on you tube I noticed another lady had a similar tutorial here, this time with 8 petals. Her method for finishing off with a square is more satisfactorily pleasing in my opinion though overall I do think Bella Coco's tutorials are superior in quality and clarity.

Do post your photos of your African flower attempts or other projects you've been working on over on my face book page here

Thank you for reading

Friday, 19 May 2017

Five on Friday - Check up time.

I'm joining Five on Friday and am feeling like I need to see some beautiful flowers, not because I need cheering up but just because they remind me to focus on whatever is good, pure and lovely. These pretty flowers are from my Mother - in - law's garden. 

This past few weeks have featured a medical nature for us all. Last Thursday teen 2 needed his school jabs at the surgery after they were missed from school. He tells me he never had a consent form, but then he also didn't want the jabs! He was hard work, anyway 'we' got through it. Positive conversation - mind over matter, talking him through it. 

Then M and both teens had colds, Wednesday evening we all set off to the dentist, sorry no picture. It was just for a 6 monthly check-up and thankfully we were all ok. As it was the end of the day and a 40 minute journey each way, plus the obligatory visit to Tesco, we decided to stop at KFC before shopping, very nice. There are nice views of the sea from the dentist chair, or there would've been had it not been raining so hard. 

Even QT, seen here laughing at our British summer didn't escape medical check-ups, he needed his yearly booster today. He will have to make a return visit too in a month time to be weighed. It seems he's lost 100g each month since his last visit and they are very concerned. If he's still losing weight at the weigh in he'll have a blood test to check his thyroid. The vet felt it was larger than it should be, I'm hoping that's just because he's a Maine Coon and therefore larger than your average sized cat. In the meantime I've given him a worming tablet - from the vets - and we'll see if that may have been the cause of hunger and weight loss.

Teen 2 washcloth is progressing ok, I even took it with me for the car journey to the dentist and on Monday when we bought our new (to us) caravan home. It will have a crocheted border around the edge. 

It's good to be back to work this week, though I'm certainly not ready to go on long walks, Some reading whilst I was off. Planning recipes for The Cookery Calendar Challenge and holiday recipes for when we are away on holiday! Magazines from the pile to wade through.

Book club came a week early this month as this suited the majority. Above is a short clip which helps to set the scene of this book. The book is Mercy by Jodi Picoult shown in the books & magazines photo. An excerpt from the book see here. The questions we used for discussion purposes are below. Normally we'd only have about 6 or 8 questions but having been informed the usual pub quiz that follows our discussion time was cancelled, I threw in all the questions. As it happened a replacement quiz master was found but it all worked out ok and we had enough time for a lengthy discussion.

1. To what degree is the title a metaphor for this novel?
2. Are Jamie's actions justified? What about Cam's? Allie's?
3. Who is the author of the "notes"between the chapters? Who are these snippets addressing? Did you believe this throughout the book?
4. Jamie says, "You know it's never fifty-fifty in a marriage. It's always seventy-thirty, or sixty-forty. Someone falls in love first. Someone puts someone else up on a pedestal. Someone works very hard to keep things rolling smoothly; someone else sails along for the ride."Do you agree?
5. In what ways does Mia's memory of her parents' love influence her relationship with Cam?
6. Who is the most selfish character? The most selfless?
7. In what ways are Cam and Jamie similar?
8. How is Cameron MacDonald like his namesake ancestor? How is he different? To what extent does the Scottish history of this clan affect his decisions?
9. What is the significance of the moments in MERCY that are magical or somewhat unreal?
10. There is a catch-22 in Mia and Cam's relationship… they have each fallen in love with a person who would no longer exist if they were to run off together. Do you agree or disagree with this statement, and why?
11. Is there a hero in this book?
12. What attracts Allie to Jamie? To Cam? What attracts Mia to Cam, and Cam to Mia? Do you believe that we try to find parts of our personalities that are lacking in the people we love?
13. At the end of chapter 17, Cam "wondered how he had so quickly gone from holding everything he wanted in the palm of his hand to having absolutely nothing at all. He wondered how he could have been so blinded by something shiny and new and elusive that he couldn't at least give equal credit for the strength of something stable, and strong, and his."Do you think his feelings are heartfelt? Do you agree?
14. Why did Picoult choose to make Jamie a pioneer in virtual reality?
15. How has Jamie changed by the end of the book?
16. What will happen to Cam and Allie? To Mia? To Jamie?
17. Is this novel about love, or loyalty? Are they the same thing?

If you've read this book and would care to give me your thoughts on question 3 & 14 that would be great. We found these questions harder to fathom, also if you care to share your thoughts on Jamie - eg some thought he was controlling others felt sad for him as he'd lost everything.

Thank you for reading, if you've enjoyed reading please follow. Please leave a comment below. Do checkout my face book page here and leave a photo of your craft projects you've finished or working on. Cx

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Comfort food.

Beautiful blossom on the fruit trees in the Mother-in-laws garden. This is from our trip to see family over Easter.

Browsing through some cookery books recently, I realized I really need to be cooking more from these books. Julie my friend in Kent bought the Kentish recipes for me when we left and moved to Doncaster. My in-laws bought the holiday recipes and we bought The New Forest book on our last trip to Hampshire. This one brings back lots of happy memories as we stayed here for lots of weekends with our dog Jerry in our trailer tent. The Lakeland book was also a memento from several visits to The Lakes. I think I'll start with the holiday recipes one to begin with. It's been a hot but muggy day today with some rain as well, but more promising towards warmer weather. 

Chopping up vegetables ready for tonight's lamb stew. I'm going to serve this with dumplings even though this isn't traditional. I suppose sliced potatoes on top as a hot pot would be better but I'm not keen on potatoes, they featured too much when I was a child and I always seek out alternatives. I've added 2 chili peppers to give it some heat, and hot and spicy it was. 

Frying the meat before adding everything to the pressure cooker. This is all the pre-cooking that's needed as the rest is cooked fast under pressure in 16 minutes. Whilst it's cooking I'm free to prepare the dumplings. 6 oz plain flour, pinch of salt, raising agent and 3 oz suet all stirred with enough water to mix. This quantity makes enough for 4.

I usually roll each dumpling in some cornflour before floating them on top of the stew to steam with the lid on for about 20 minutes.

Time to serve up, there is a lamb chop in there somewhere. I think I need to buy more chops next time oops!

Whilst the stew is cooking I started on the the base for the Millionaires Shortbread. This recipe is from my library book 'The Women's Institute Vintage Teatime' here. I put butter, flour and sugar in the food processor to make fine crumbs then pressed it into a lined tin. After 25 minutes in the oven it was left to cool.

Meanwhile the caramel mixture was made with a tin of condensed milk, butter, soft brown sugar and golden syrup. All simmered and stirred for about 7 minutes.

The caramel was added to the shortbread and left to cool before the melted chocolate was spread over the top. It then needed time to cool properly in the fridge. I did miss out the vanilla extract that was supposed to be stirred in before spreading on the shortbread. I think it should've been added during the  'making the caramel filling stage' to ensure I didn't forget it. 

I'm pleased to say it tasted delicious. The teens thought so too!

Please leave a comment below  -  What is your favourite or comfort food?
Thank you for reading, if you like my blog, please follow for updates. 

Friday, 12 May 2017

Five on Friday - The end of an era

It's Friday! I'm joing Tricky and Carly for their Five on Friday again this week.

First up is these gorgeous flowers M bought for me. I'm not a lover of orange really but in flowers they do look fabulous, very bright and cheerful. They were bought a good few days ago now and the gerberas are still holding their heads up and doing well. 

For about 2 weeks I've been in a lot of pain with the tendon in my foot, making walking for prolonged times impossible. Shopping I've had to get on with and other chores round the house have been slotted between breaks. Apart from that I've rested and put my feet up. The exercises given by the physio department to rip off scar tissue, stretch the tendons and allow healing have been impossible. I always thought physio sounded nice and relaxing, massaging the painful area, well my exercises are quite hard work. You place the front part of your feet on the bottom stair (at all times), hold the banisters and lift yourself up (heels right up high) and lower down again so the back of your feet drops very low. You can do one foot at a time or both at once, two at once is easier I think. The Doctor called them load bearing exercises.

It's been especially hard having the radio on as I can't dance at all whilst cooking - my usual craziness! Having had physio before, the Doctor has referred me to the hospital specialist for a consultation in June. Anyway this isn't a woe is me post but instead a positive look to the future.

It's amazing what good supportive friends and family can do, if you believe in the power of prayer then you'll know that helps. A friend messaged me a few days ago and reminded me that a body needs to feel pain free to begin to heal too. So I've been using ibuprofen tablets and the gel, it still hurts like someone is pinching the back of your ankle with each step but... It's getting better.

So did I use my sudden new found time to do more crafts, er no, not really. I did catch up with some ironing, boring but necessary. I have been trying to read more, something that seems to have slipped lately. This book (for May) is for the book club - Mercy by Jodi Picoult. I've read one of her books before called The Storyteller, also with the book club and I'm beginning to think this is quite an intense read too. I won't tell you what the book's about as the cover question gives the gist and if you're a fan of hers I expect you'll have read it before. If you want to see more of her work see here.

I've also started another washcloth, this time for teen 2. It's in a soft cotton aran yarn, making it suitable for washing with even though the pattern is from the trusty 99 dishcloths pattern book. It will have a border around it in a complementary shade of blue. My thoughts at the time of starting this were, that I'd have a small project to cart around with me to Knit & Natter etc. My blanket I'm crocheting at the moment is way too big to carry around to places. Also as lovely as it is, it attracts a lot of attention at these places because of it's beauty in colours. I then wax lyrical about the story behind it and show off photos from attic24 site - Moorland Blanket. All in all I don't end up doing much actual crocheting at the sessions!

Another thing I've been up to recently is making up these wonderful bags for the food bank at church. A lady in the Craft Circle has kindly sewn these bags for me - aren't they great! I'm easily pleased I know. Having filled 3 bags with very basic items I realised at £5 a time, this was going to be a big venture to continue. So in the newsletter, I requested donations of any toiletries that would 'normally' have been put in the collecting bin. The teens carried some bags full of donated items home and I set to work filling them with some extra bits I'd collected. I've displayed 3 bags for you to see - for a child, man and a lady. Each bag will be different and some bags have a few items extra such as hand cream or tissues. They have a basic kit of sponge, flannel, soap, toothbrush and paste, shower gel, shampoo, conditioner and deodorant, STs (sanitary towels) as needed. These will be returned to the food bank for people in need, so they can be given a starter toiletry bag. I don't know how far we can ever remove homeless from our streets or care for everyone in need but I just imagined how I'd feel if I was in need and had nothing. If you know of a food bank facility and want to pop in a few toiletry items you never know, some crazy person like me, may be very pleased indeed.  

Lastly QT on the play deck of the teens swing and slide set. Teen 2 helped his Dad take it down on Wednesday. At 14 and 17 years old they have no use for it and it's rare for little people to pop over to play. The end of an era, if we put it up in the future it'll need new wood as it's quite old and weakened with age. We did have year 1 round twice in our garden a few years ago for a short visit, they loved playing on it all, I put down a thick rubber mat at the bottom of the slide as I know schools worry about safety. It was part of their 'Our Community' curriculum and they'd walked round the village noting and photographing places of interest. Once at my house they had biscuits, squash and a box of cars and Tracy Island with rockets and such to play with. They loved it.

Thank you for reading, please leave a comment. If you like it, please follow.
Enjoy the weekend!

If you like all this 'Hooks & Needles' craft wise, head to my face book page here and leave a photo of what you're busy making at the moment, it's great to see what peeps are making. Cx

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Crocheting a Scrubby and blanket progress

Crocheting a Scrubby 

As I continue to work on my attic 24 crochet blanket, it's got to the stage where it's too big to take to Craft Circle and Knit and Natter groups. I thought it'd be nice to crochet some washcloths, not only are these small enough to take where ever I need to be, but they often have beautiful patterns that help teach new skills.

Having made 3 washcloths now I was browsing in my book of dishcloths that has some lovely patterns inside. Crocheted with nice 100% aran cotton, these will work just as well for making face cloths.

Before I get started on a washcloth for teen 2 using the self patterning blue yarn above, see here for yarn, I thought I'd make a few scrubbies which are re-usable pads to clean your face. The 2 in the middle only took about 30 minutes each to make. The other 2 just a bit longer. The plain yarn can be found here and the patterns for the scrubbies can be found here and here. Both patterns use US terminology, to convert to UK terms here is a handy chart to use. On both of these patterns, if they don't already say so, at the end of the rounds I slip stitched to close the circle before moving on to the next instructions. Any aran worsted weight cotton yarn will produce good results, a conversion chart is here. This yarn I've managed to find in wool shops.

Do take a look at other washcloths either knitted or crocheted in the cloud of labels on the right. If you wish to know anything about materials or patterns etc do ask.

I'm getting closer to finishing my blanket, must get on with it! What more can I say!

Thank you for reading, if you like it please follow. There is a facebook page where you can leave a photo of your latest craft work. I'd love to see what you're making. Do leave a comment.

I'm linking with Crafting On to show crafts we've finished or are busy working on. Cx  

Friday, 5 May 2017

Five on Friday - Happy Friday!

I'm joining FAST Five on Friday with Tricky Wolf and Carly - Happy wedding anniversary to them both. 

When I started writing my blog it was my intention that it'd give me the incentive to finish my growing pile of UFO's sometimes called WIP's. (Unfinished objects, work in progress). 
I'm not convinced this has happened, instead it seems to be another thing that keeps me from reading and finishing my craft work. Although blogging is fun, there must be a balance, so without strict rules I need to make more effort with projects waiting to be finished. 

Below are five things that have made me feel happy this week. 

It was so bright outside in the garden today, with clear blue skies and a very keen wind blowing this bushy tree about. This bush is absolutely covered with large yellow flowers. I think it's a rose of some sort. The thorns on it's branches are definitely to be taken seriously when negotiating your way past it on the driveway.

The blue bells are simply lovely with their cheerful bold beauty in the garden. 

This funny little man in his racing car belongs to my husband M. I knitted it for him many years ago with M 1 on the number plates. At the time he drove an Opal Manta rally car with a full roll cage. For a while now he's been missing his hat and today was the day he had a new one, the trouble is it's made the rest of his vehicle look quite grubby.  I'm not taking any chances and have sewn his hat in place as it did turn up once, but then was lost again.

A spare tyre, you never know when it'll be needed. This particular pattern by Jean Greenhowe is here though there is another one available on her website. He's finished, yay! I'm tempted to park him in the glass cupboard with the other cars M has collected. He'll certainly be less dustyfied in there.

Another project finished, this time to give away. It's a Fish and Chip jumper and hat. I started this well over a year ago, so it's about time really. A fish and chip jumper is basically what an African poor baby will be dressed in after leaving hospital. Without these jumpers babies from poor families would be sent home wrapped in newspaper. Hence the fish and chip reference.

The pattern for this is here and though the pattern can be knitted in a smaller size, I'm having trouble finding one on-line. The blanket strips are made as lengths of double rib 60 (?) stitches wide with frequent colour changes every 6". Like the jumpers they are knitted in bright colours as they'll probably never be washed. 

Lastly my lovely cat QT who always makes me happy whether it's Friday or not. He didn't really want to model the hat for you. The jumper was just an afterthought of laying it on him. He didn't like any of it. Now the weather is slightly warmer, I've noticed he's taken to laying sleeping in a bush again. It's so lovely to see him enjoying the garden. It's just all sleeping and nagging for food for cats isn't it. If I slept as much as he does, I'd have a dreadful headache. At 16 years old I think he deserves pampering, though I think he'd like less cuddles. 

Well that's my five happy things this week, do check out the others that are taking part through the link below. Have a good week and may we all 'get things finished'!