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.

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.

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.


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.  


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.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

It's been a while - Five on Friday

It's been a while, I've missed being present in blog-land and writing my blog. A lot has been going on and taking photos, sitting writing and spending time visiting other people's blogs has all taken a back seat. I'm sorry, I will try not to stay away so long in future. 

Many people have questioned continuing writing their blogs and though I can sympathise with the time aspect, I do understand that followers expect to, well follow. I myself have missed it when regular bloggers haven't blogged, I've searched for their latest blog wondering where they've gone, how they are and when they'll return. It's nice to visit friends, whether in blog-land or in real life. Catching up with the latest news, craft work, book reading and cookery ideas, new pets, walks and other projects is interesting. It brings inspiration and a desire to 'have a go', try something new, keep going and new insight into tackling problems. 

I'm joining Five on Friday today with 5 photos / groups of photos capturing the beauty in the midst of building and decorating work.

Sunny yellow roses, enjoying the sunshine on the dining room table before we moved both the table and the dresser to the other end of the dining room. We've had a builder in knocking the fireplace through from the lounge. There's a double fronted fire place fitted now, which has made the dining room and the open plan staircase so much warmer. We've put the 2 fireside chairs in the dining room under the window with a small table. The light is perfect during the day time and it's been lovely to enjoy the warmth from the fire whilst sitting crafting, reading and planning Christmas whilst chatting to M over a cuppa. His work as a driving instructor has been quieter recently, over the summer months it can be crazy as students take up weekly courses. With regular customer's hours to be fitted in too, it can feel like I'm a single parent at times.

The builder has worked for a few days before waiting 3 weeks for the 'unforeseen' scaffolding to arrive. Once that was set up work resumed, the chimney needed attention and new pots. A previous builder had cut so many corners, I'm surprised it wasn't round. They'd fitted the previous stove for us in the lounge which turned out was extremely unsafe in all things chimney-ish. When you manage to find a good and reliable builder it's just great. He'll return on Tuesday to finish off anything that needs doing and arrange for the scaffolding to be moved to the side of the property. The Gable end needs mortar replacing and treated for damp, it seems we will need the builder again next year too, but one job at a time.

Realising I still had some birthday money left over from the summer I treated myself to a candle with a beach fragrance and a candle snuffer. With the coast practically on my doorstep, I wondered if it'd be a realistic scent. It does have a pleasant salty smell with a sweet delicate floral scent which I love. It's my kitchen candle and is perfect for when I'm cooking or busy in the kitchen. 

I'd joined Jill's 'Finish for the weekend' at Emerald Cottage a while ago, people left comments asking to see the finished wreath. I wrote here about crocheting poppies for the local WI. The donated crocheted and knitted poppies have been attached to the above wreath for remembrance Sunday by one of the ladies on the committee. I think she's done a fantastic job and it looks stunning.

I missed Jennifer's 'Winter Project Link Party' on her Thistlebear blog this time. Having building work done and muddling through whilst decorating with items of furniture and 'things' in the wrong rooms has taken its toll on rest and relaxation. I have finished the Attic 24 Moorland blanket - and (since this photo) sewn in all the ends. Christina - from A Colourful life was right - sewing in the ends whilst listening to audible books, makes it more of an enjoyable task. I've made a start at the edging, it's a 4 row pattern, the first round takes the longest as the 2 long sides require lots of wiggling and jiggling to push the crochet hook through where it doesn't naturally want to go.

So far I've listened to 3 books for the book club - The Island by Victoria Hislop, The Ashtonishing Return of Norah Wells (also called The Return) by Virginia MacGregor and Thursday's Child by Nicci French. I've also listened to The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie.  I've started listening to Glass Houses by Louise Penny, someone in blog-land recommended it but I can't remember who it was.

A while ago M and teen 2 transferred the Chrysanthemums to the border alongside the drive. The boys had planted them a few years ago closer to the house. I could see them from the kitchen window but they look much better here, they've spread out and doubled in size. Their colourful heads are still very bright, the yellow ones have clusters of heads on some stems.

Thank you for visiting today, I'll try not to leave it so long next time. I do have a cookery challenge post waiting in drafts, hopefully I'll post it next week and I'll rustle up some photos of the fire progress too.


Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Winter Project Link Party - October

I'm joining with Jennifer's winter project link party. I was too late to join last year and have been looking forward to it all summer. At home in the UK, we are just about to have a double fronted multi-fuel stove fitted to heat both the lounge and dining room simultaneously. There's a stove in the lounge already (that will be replaced) and the wall behind this will be knocked through. I'm not looking forward to the mess but I am looking forward to crocheting in the fireside chairs in the dining room.

I've crocheted this blanket for a single sized bed, I found it whilst browsing Lucy's blog at attic 24. She was inspired by her walks in the Yorkshire Moors and designed the Moorland blanket. Using her photographs she put together these colours in a yarn pack that's sold at Wool Warehouse. 

It seems like I've been making the Moorland blanket for ever, it was originally started in January as part of a CAL (crochet a long). The aim was to receive an update from Lucy each Friday with the next instructions and a finish on week 8.

So why has it taken so long? There are many reasons which all seem insignificant now that I try and think of them. Crocheting under the warmth of a blanket in the summer months was one reason. I also found that taking the blanket to local Knit & Natter groups was not without it's own time consuming ventures. People would want to look at it, touch it, pass it round the group. They'd question me about the yarn, the colours, it's eventual use, wanting to see the pictures on-line that inspired the designer. They'd want an explanation of how the Neat Wave pattern is formed, the stitch sequence and generally marvel at it's beauty before allowing me to continue hooking away before it was time to pack up and go home.

In the beginning I arranged the colours on labelled pegs which also gained comments at the Knit & Natter group such as 'you'll run out of wool'. I found wrapping the yarn end round the label was perfectly adequate at keeping check on the yarn colours. I think the light must be bad today as the violet and wisteria shade look blue in this photo. It is nice to see all the yarn together and remember the start of this blanket. When I fold up the blanket after working on it, I tend to forget all about the starting colours.

The blanket began with the deep greens and muddy browns before moving through the rich heather tones.

Next up was the lighter heather and greens drifting up to the sky. 

It looks so different now as it's so much lighter in both shade and fresh cool colours.

At the moment, I'm using just these 3 colours - Cloud Blue, Storm Blue and Duck Egg for the last 10 rows. I'm seriously regretting not sewing in all those pesky ends as I progressed. To finish it will need a round of 4 rows to complete a neat edging.

My aim is to finish this blanket before starting anymore projects. Though I may still take something small to Crochet Club, it's just easier that way.


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