Sunday, 14 January 2018

January

Hello everyone. The past year seemed to fly-by so quickly, I'm going to try harder with clearing and cleaning this year. Powerful words, which if I don't do them are merely words.

With my trusty calendar, which has a double page month-at-view style (similar to the flylady version) at the ready, I've zoned it, added the weekly menu and listed a job each day. For January, each week has an area to be cleared of clutter, after that it's tackling regular cleaning. Before Christmas I tackled the kitchen and cleared a few sacks of clutter from drawers and cupboards, just by setting a timer for several 15 minutes stints.

Armed with my to do list and a duster, I've spent time putting things away in their new homes.



Last week M struggled to paint up the stair walls, the ceilings are extremely high in this house so it wasn't easy. The cat ornaments are dusted and replaced. Incidentally above the top on the window, the ceiling is another 8' up.

I've started back at the Knit & Natter, they had cake yum!

Watched a good film with friends.



I've crocheted a Yoda

Listened to an audio book 'Summer with my Sister' by Lucy Diamond

Started listening to 'The Alchemist' by Paulo Coelho


Today the bud vases were dusted and have their new home on top of the bookcases in the front porch.




They used to be on a plate shelf above the fire in the dining room - which before it was opened up had the French dresser across it.



The French dresser is on the opposite side of the dining room now. The plate shelves above the dresser were removed too, I still absent mindedly try to hang ironed shirts up there. The photo above the marquetry cat made by M, is a print of the square in Petersfield, Hampshire. It was a present from when I worked there, my husband and I met whilst both working in Petersfield, so it has fond memories.



Next week these Christmas decorations need to be glued before being packed away. 



My Christmas present needs planting up. 





This weekend whilst sitting by the fire I've -

Knitted some more of M sock, which took a back seat whilst I crocheted angel gifts for Christmas and finished a crochet blanket.

Tried different ideas for another blanket

Looked over my craft to-do list which is looking a bit like this -
M socks finish
bunting using the left over stash from the blanket
crochet a stormtrooper kit
crochet a reindeer kit
table mats - finish,
picot edge scarf (was a KAL),
knit - jumper,
knit or crochet washcloths etc.

Thought about the next Cookery Calendar Challenge.

Remembered to comment on blogs straight away, as I always forget later.

Today 



Teen 2 (15) has enjoyed a late lunch



Teen 1 (17) has played XBox


M has started the Sunday roast - large birds sold out.



Next week after the upstairs bedroom fireplace has been cemented, bricked in and plastered, it'll be painted. The true colour, despite the bad light today, is the shade card on the right (below). The room was originally 2 rooms with the 2 end walls painted deep red. It was like that when we moved in 10 years ago. The house was originally 2 houses that had been converted into one, all with high ceilings. 


Whatever you get upto this week, I hope you have a good week.

Cx







Friday, 5 January 2018

Happy New Year!


Happy New Year everyone, I hope you all had a lovely Christmas. Christmas here has been packed away now, mostly in the loft. A new year brings a fresh start for taking stock, improving and trying harder. 


We still have some goodies left to eat - plenty of chocolate, sausage meat in the freezer, lots of Turkish Delight. I always buy several boxes of that, years ago I used to buy it by weight, fresh out of a large box. The taste was divine. Fresh dates are lovely too but unfortunately a local town fruit & veg shop has closed and this luxury has disappeared along with it. 


M and the teens have been busy working on a jigsaw puzzle over the holidays. A present from Grandma to the three of them. We travelled to Hampshire to stay with Grandma (Mother-in-law) for a few days, we saw my brother in his new home, spent time 'parked on the M25 car park' as you do. We had a lovely time away and a week home with M easing back to work and the teens drifting back to school / college more reluctantly. 


I bought this Star Wars crochet kit last year, there's yarn and eyes for Yoda and a Stormtrooper. It's good being free of 'crocheting a blanket' albeit self inflicted. It was my choice but being a CAL (crochet a long) the pace was set to keep going. I tried to keep up but... I just wanted to do many other things. Attic24 has started another of her blanket CAL, but so far I've not succumbed, it's a Woodland one. It does look nice but too bright for me and I'm not keen on orange. 

So onto a new year.

Traditionally people sit and write new years resolutions. Mine tend to be the same each year, I never set new ones as these are still a work in progress, oops! 

Be more present / less on-line & social media. 
Finish projects such as craft wips (work in progress). 
Read more of my books. 
Another one I frequently see is 'Get Stuff Done', only the stuff is usually written less polite.

Craft and clutter
I've been following FlyLady which has helped motivate me to 'get stuff done' with clearing clutter. In 15 minutes it's amazing how much 'stuff' you can clear out of the house. In clearing stuff, I also want to clear craft projects off my 'to do list', to enjoy what I'm making and not feel like I'm running behind all the time. I'd like to crochet some more washcloths and knit socks, maybe even a pair of socks a month! I'd like to crochet some squares in a sort of sample blanket - coastal colours, representing Lincolnshire coastline. This will be completely random using different patterns and also some bunting using up yarn from the last blanket.

Reading
I found this Book Bucket List Challenge online and I'm going to join in. Usually the book lists I've seen, are to read as many books as possible in a year. If you wish to join me please do, I think I'll check back with you all in the first week of each month, with an update of how I'm doing and you can add your progress to mine (if you wish). 
For now I'm wondering about the first one - Read a book that you can finish in a day. Unless it's a 'quick reads' title, I'm not convinced I'd manage that one. Debbie Macomber's books can be read in about 2 days depending on what jobs need doing. Usually there are many, meaning I never sit about reading all day and night. 
  
                                         


At the moment as I sit writing, QT is sitting on the arm of my chair waiting for more biscuits. A film is on in the background - RED 2, seen many times before. We enjoyed Fish n Chips tonight at the local pub, courtesy of the gift vouchers from the book club, a lovely gift. QT's mane under his neck is slowly growing back. He had it shaved enabling the Vet to take a blood sample to check his thyroid drugs are working. Unfortunately in a few months time, he'll be shaved again as it's the only way to check. 

This weekend I need to finish crocheting Yoda and listen to the book club read - The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, read by Jeremy Irons. I'm really enjoying listening to audio books, at £7.99 a month (per book) it sounds expensive but comparing it to the full price CD at around £20 it sounds better. I've just finished Blueprints by Barbara Dylinski, I'd read Coast Road - which I loved and also Family Tree years ago. I wouldn't commit to recommending Blueprints, it was extremely slow with too many problems, one after the other. Also the women were meant to be strong but ended up taking their partners (men) into the boardroom. Very strange and not at all strong and independent.

Are you getting involved in any challenges this year? Did you do a jigsaw puzzle this Christmas? What are you making or reading?
Do leave a comment if you are interested in the reading bucket list. First week in February I'll let you know how it's going.

All the best for 2018
Cx    

Friday, 22 December 2017

Christmas - Reading and winding down.

Hello, Happy Christmas to you all. All good social clubs are ending with a party or film it seems this time of year. Christmas is unfolding slowly here, the Knit and Natter had their party yesterday. Last week the WI craft group had their last meet up for 2017, working on your own project we took a plate of food to share. The youth group took to the cinema to see Ferdinand, a 'fun' family film with David Tennant as the Scottish bull Angos.
Last Saturday I took the teens and their friend to see the Star Wars film - The Last Jedi. I've heard mixed reviews but personally I loved it, the cinema was packed and I'm glad I'd booked tickets. At the end of intense scenes, I was a bit surprised to see other people in the room with me. It's not often I feel completely engrossed in a film.

                                       




Apart from socials, after finishing my blanket, I've been crocheting a few angels as Christmas gifts.  Like everyone else, there's been Christmas shopping, card sending and present wrapping to do. I start each year with good intentions of brilliant organisation of all things Christmassy but by December 1st it's the usual panic stations!
                                       
                                      book cover of Summer at Shell Cottage

I'd planned some Christmas reading but so far haven't read any. Instead I've just finished listening to Summer at Shell Cottage by Lucy Diamond on audible books, appalling language but... very enjoyable, I would definitely recommend it. It was lovely having a summer story to listen to during the cold UK weather.


We've put Christmas cards in their display rack, there are so many ways people display their cards nowadays.



Hung up the advent calendar I cross stitched many years ago. It was stitched on - bookmark Aida and then sewn onto a felt backing, there was supposed to have been a cross stitched picture on the top section. The teens have been so used to it looking blank now, bless them. I usually fill the pockets with wrapped chocolate coins each year.


Put out the old rather battered Santa's post box made from a shoe box and covered in tissue paper.


Put out the musical Christmas tree in the dining room. It was a gift from my friend a few years ago, originally with biscuits in it.


Hung up some knitted Christmas stockings, the one at the bottom has been crocheted. They were meant to be filled with stuffing as tree ornaments. I used to knit these for Reception children in the local primary school and fill them with a chocolate lolly and coins.


Displayed a wooden tree bought from Lidl, counting down the last 15 days to Christmas.


QT under the tree, not interested in anything Christmassy, just wanting to look at the birds.

Tomorrow I need to catch up with laundry and dusting, more wrapping and relaxing. Definitely relaxing. I need to make more sausage rolls and mince pies, no cake has been baked yet. No Christmas pudding either, as nobody ever wants to eat it. I'm hoping to crochet one more angel, just for me.
Whatever you're doing this weekend, have a good one and thanks for stopping by.
Cx






Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Cookery Challenge Challenge


A while ago I cooked 2 recipes for the Cookery Calendar Challenge, led by Penny at Homemade Heart. I missed last months though Gillian at Tales from a happy house took part. The book 'Ministry of Food' by Jamie Oliver accompanied his TV series stating 'that anyone can learn to cook in 24 hours'. Inside the book he pays tribute to Marguerite Patten, one of the original Ministry of Food girls. Calling her a national treasure and incredible food guru. There is a wealth of info on-line about how you can get involved in your community, with his mission to see the nation eat, cook and educate themselves with better choice and less waste. 

I enjoyed the TV series, the people's stories were emotional at times and excerpts feature in the book. Jamie Oliver sets out with a clear aim to empower the nation to cook one recipe at a time and then teach it to someone else. As each person develops in confidence, they feed their families well and commit to the 'pass it on challenge'. There is a pledge to sign in the book - agreeing to learn a recipe from each chapter and teach them to 2 or more people, on the condition that they pledge the same. Did I do that.... er no, but please don't tell anyone. 

The book itself is divided into sections, the usual breakfasts, quick meals, salads and curries etc. The emphasis is on easy but also to cook from scratch, though the curries are made using Patak's curry pastes. There is a section further on in the book for making your own curry pastes when you've gained more confidence. The salads work in a similar way in that you start with a basic salad and make an 'evolution salad' by adding further ingredients. One last thing I like about the book is the stew type recipes that he then tops in different ways eg dumplings, a pie lid, mash or hot pot.

To many who have been cooking for years this book may help with different ideas or encouraging you to 'try' making your own curry pastes, salad dressings or meat burgers. Or even to think about doubling recipes and eating stew today and a pie the next. Other than that, I was just fascinated with his enthusiasm at cooking good enjoyable food and encouraging others to do the same. It is photo heavy with steps and stages and would suit anyone who hasn't much of an idea for cooking and for people who already love cooking and looking at cookery books that teach rather than simply list instructions. 





So onto my 2 recipes, the first was 'Meatballs and Pasta'. I must confess that I've never made meatballs before, I envisaged a stodgy mince ball in a thick gravy and this put me off. These ones were nothing like what I had in mind, they were delicious. You can use beef or pork mince or half of each. Everything, including cracker biscuits in the meatballs is chopped, smashed and mixed, rolled into balls drizzled with oil and placed in the fridge. I omitted the mustard which would've given a moist texture but not everyone likes it. When you are ready to cook, you begin with making your tomato sauce, then cook the spaghetti whilst frying the meatballs for 8-10 minutes. The spaghetti is drained and half the sauce added and stirred into it. After serving the meatballs on top of the pasta, add the remaining tomato sauce then some small basil leaves and Parmesan. 

My second recipe was called 'My Sweet and Sour Pork'. He says it's all cooked fast and to concentrate and stay on the ball. I tend to prepare all the ingredients at once before cooking generally, so this wasn't a problem. It's basically a stir-fry and as you can imagine with Jamie Oliver, it packs a punch in flavour, delicious!




After preparing all the ingredients, you cook your rice, drain and keep it warm, whist stir-frying everything else, the meat first with the Chinese five spice. Removing the meat to keep warm you then stir fry all the over ingredients and then adding cornflour and liquid ingredients before returning the pork to the wok and checking seasoning. The sauce is reduced for a few minutes before serving the dish on a bed of rice with shredded lettuce, sesame seeds and reserved coriander leaves.

I was sceptical about the lettuce leaves particularly as teen 2 never makes healthy choices. The lettuce gave a crisp, fresh texture that I think is perfect to balance the other strong flavours, all of which were amazing. I left M his dinner as he was home late and I dashed out for the evening. He chose not to add the extras at the end which makes me wonder if others find Jamie's habit of - 'just add this', and 'I think it just needs this...' that he's so fond of on TV, a bit annoying too.

Overall, both dishes were fantastic though the meatballs were a little dry, maybe more sauce is needed or something added instead of the mustard next time. Also I forgot to add the Parmesan cheese on top of the first recipe which was a shame, as I'd specially bought it for this dish.

I hope you've enjoyed reading about my cookery calendar challenge this month, where I choose a cookery book off my shelves and pick 2 recipes to cook that aren't cakes or biscuits and then write about them the following month.
Cx

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Winter Project Link Party - December

Hello everyone! Well it's finished at last! The Moorland blanket, details here, I started it in January 2017 and finished the last stitch on Friday night. It could have been finished much earlier but... excuses, whoever wants to listen to those! I did enjoy crocheting it and unpicking bits too. I'm a perfectionist when it comes to crafting and it has to be right. Many a time after working on it, I've had to frog it, oops! Too much chatting at Knit 'n' Natter. 







Whilst I was busy crocheting away, I kept thinking about 'the next blanket', as you do... but now I've finished it, I'm just not sure. As this one was a CAL (crochet a long), the idea is to stay on target. Of course you can take as long as you like or need but it does become an issue after a while, knowing that you should be working on it but itching to start something else. Lucy over on Attic24 has many other blanket designs I could consider.

I've loved making this, each stitch including the edging was enjoyable. The colours are rich and soothing, the pattern with its neat wave going up and down showed the stitches were lining up correctly. The Knit 'n' Natter group have loved seeing its progress so I'll take it along soon to show them. Making the blanket has produced a bit of a yarn stash and as I was wanting to make some bunting, this will be made in some of the Moorland colours. The bunting is just for celebrating birthday etc not to be left out all year. The Moorland colours, when together, are ideal as they are fairly gender neutral.

For now I'm enjoying 'the finish'. It's good to be able to look at other things and think, yes I can make that. I have free time! I've started a small reindeer kit that was free in Crochet Now magazine. I'm not sure I'd buy it again, at £5.99 I think it's a bit pricey. I started a knitted Shawl last year that needs finishing, that was a KAL (knit a long) with a picot edging and beads. Like many people I have a long list of craft projects waiting, knitting, crochet, sewing and cross stitch that I would like to see finished. A while ago I purchased some yarn for knitting some socks, in fact teen 2 has put 'knitted socks' on his 2017 Christmas list, for - 2018. He is so cheeky, but alas... correct. I now need to surprise him by knitting him a pair before then. The challenge is on!

Maybe in the future I will make another blanket, possibly with a more natural wool type yarn. For now natural or recycled yarn remains expensive and not widely available. If you know of supplies please do leave a comment, I'd love to know and will check them out. Most that I've seen on-line, start from £6 upwards for a 50g ball.
Thank you.
Cx


Thistlebear

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Thankfulness - Five on Friday

Hello everyone. With thanksgiving being celebrated this week, people in blog-land have been thinking about - being thankful. Today I wanted to share with you a few things that have happened this week that I am thankful for.



This week I've received two beautiful bunches of flowers. One from M (peach and white) to celebrate our pearl wedding anniversary (30 yrs) 21st November 1987. Following the October '87 hurricane storm (here where Michael Fish declared there won't be a hurricane) saw the little church we married in (Purbrook Hampshire), still suffering the effects of the storm. Wood propped up the entrance and the photographs were governed by areas clear of damage. 


This bunch was a gift to me from the book club. We celebrated our third year with a Christmas meal together. A few gave presents and I was given a gorgeous bunch of flowers to say thanks for all the organising of member's book choice and general info. They also gave some money off vouchers for a meal at the pub, truly a lovely surprise and very nice to feel appreciated x


A view of the delicate rose.



This peach rose was the colour of my 3 bridesmaids dresses. 


Teen 1 made us a picture using profile pictures and computer graphics.


Lots more decorating to do up the stairs and in the lounge, this side with the double fronted fire is the dining room. For those that have been to my house, the 2 fireside chairs are where the dining table was and the hearth once housed the French dresser. Incidentally both sides of the stove have 2 extra windows providing an almost all round view of the inner fire.


From the lounge side looking into the dining room. It has made such a difference with an even flow of heat, the heat powered fan on top of the stove helps send the heat up the stairs. Previously the dining room was an icebox even with the central heating on, and the staircase pulled a cold draught down the stairs. I'm glad the fireplace and chimney work is all finished, it's taken a while as extensive chimney repairs were needed to make everything safe.


When I haven't been working or cleaning up 'everything' (feels like), or working through my 'to do' list, I've crocheted a bit more of my blanket (just the border to go now) and crocheted an angel. This one stand on a dolly clothes peg. It has a flat circular disc that it sits in to hold the peg upright. I'm not sure if the pattern is still available, I've looked but couldn't find it. The magazine it came from was this one here.


The angel from behind. I'm glad it's finished, the yarn was a cotton mix (new yarn) from Sue Ryder. The gold sparkly yarn was in packs from Aldi. Wooden dolly peg was available from Boyes. I'm not sure if I'll do another yet, maybe.  

24997133


The book club read for November - also called The Return of Norah Wells. For the questions I turned to the author Virginia MacGregor herself, she provided a list of 10 questions ready to use which made me very happy indeed. I loved that she'd thought of this part, her questions are here. I've always wanted to belong to a book-club and I'm very pleased to be with the people in my village.

Thank you for reading my five things I'm thankful for this week. What are you thankful for this week, do leave a comment.
Cx