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

Hello, an old post that seems to have gone into drafts. Apologies if you've read it before. I hope you have had a great weekend. The weather here in Lincolnshire has been windy but bright. I've been busy sock knitting and some household chores, laundry and bed making. Have a good week and do leave a comment about what you've been up to. Cx

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'!

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Cookery Calendar Challenge - May

Welcome to another cookery challenge. For April I chose a book I've only cooked one recipe from before, which was Classic Potato Latkes, which were very nice. First of all I'd like to explain why I even have this book on my cookbook shelves. I'm not Jewish, but have been brought up with the same love and respect for the Jewish people that my Mum has.
When I chose this book it was mainly because of how the chapters were laid out. They follow a dated order that reflect the festival seasons of the Jewish calendar. This appealed to me because it wasn't just put together to celebrate seasons of food produce availability, though that would've been nice. It was arranged to inform you about the festivals and the significance they have in Jewish lives. It's not only a celebration of their history but their future as they strive to pass on their traditions celebrated at festival tables.

The book itself is divided into chapters starting with Rosh Hashanah - New year Sept/Oct and finishing with Shavuot - Pentecost or Feast of Weeks May/June 6 Sivan. The book information is here. Browsing through the book I decided to cook my recipes within the Jewish festival calendar too. At the time of cooking this was Pesach Passover March/April 15 Nissan. Below is a clip with the correct pronunciation according to youtube.

My first recipe was Baked Breasts of Chicken in a Crunchy Coating. I wish I could tell you that we all ate round the table as a family thinking about the message within this chapter but alas we did not. M was working and home late, so I ate with both teens and teen 1 girlfriend. It did feel like a pleasant meal together though so I hope that counts for something. It was a while ago now and I can vaguely remember serving this meal with a horderve dish filled with coleslaw, carrot and pepper sticks. Teen 1 opted to bring some cool salsa to the table too - not sure if that was instead or as well as the ketchup. In it's simplest form this is a kind of KFC but without the dairy. Normally this type of food would be marinated in some form of butter milk, but I don't think the Jews mix meat and dairy, or at least not within this particular festival time.  

Baked Breasts of Chicken in a Crunchy Crumb

The timings were all a bit of a disaster too as I just wasn't very organised. The chicken needed marinading in the juice of 4 lemons for at least an hour and preferably 4 hours. Ours had about an hour. The recipe called for Matzah meal fine and course but I was unable to source these locally so I improvised. Which is what many good cooks do. I used both fine and course Polenta which worked equally as well. You need to mix the polenta together and spread it over a baking tray to heat for 15 minutes in the oven. Then have 2 bowls ready for coating, one with whisked egg, oil and herbs and in the other bowl the cooked meal, lemon rind, salt and pepper. You then brush the chicken breasts with one and roll them in the other and place the chicken breasts on an oiled tray.
If I made this again I would make extra marinade mixture and spread over the top of the meal covered chicken breasts. Just in the hope I could brown up both sides without turning the chicken as this is how it lost its crumbs. The book doesn't give serving suggestions but it would definitely be nice with chips, coleslaw and some salad. It was very tasty.    

Lemon Lamb

My next meal was Lemon Lamb which though everyone else liked it, I found the flavours too overpowering. Like the recipe above, better preparation would've been helpful, not least because for both recipes, I used the stated ingredients but only with enough meat to feed 4 or 5 people. Both recipes were for 6-8 people. Maybe in the case of the second meal it if I make it again it'll be more palatable next time.
I've never cooked a lamb casserole without tomatoes before but I soldiered on, hoping it'd be nice. Starting with marinading the lamb for 2 hours (not 50 minutes) in oil, garlic cloves, lemons, black pepper (always seems to be 10 or 20 grinds), cumin, coriander, ginger and fresh ginger.
Then lightly fry the lamb to brown, add onions, and add flour, then stock. Cover with water and place in the oven for 1 1/2 hr. It said you can add more lemon juice later and add the mushrooms but I put everything all in at once and cleaned up in the kitchen.
Then came the tricky part - the recipe wanted the meal to go in the fridge overnight once it was cool. Well, that didn't happen, we ate it with buttered new potatoes but could've had some vegetables with it too. The recipe suggested a garnish of almonds and herbs with new potatoes.

I did enjoy making both dishes but (er umm) would definitely try and read the recipe through a day before hand to allow for any complications. Including the reduction in flavourings if needed.

For next time I thought I'd try Peter Sidwell's book Simply Good Family Food. I never saw him on TV but it says on the cover he was on Channel 4's Lakes on a Plate. I've cooked two things from his book before, some oat cookies and mocha wheels which are a brioche dough. You basically roll the dough flat, scatter with dark chocolate pieces and roll it up like a Swiss roll and slice. Bake, cool and then drizzle mixed coffee and icing sugar over the tops of each swirl. Delicious!

Thank you for reading my adventures as I've joined with the Cookery Calendar Challenge. Do click on the button below to read how others have got on.

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