V Stitch Scarf / Cowl

IMG_7722

I finished this last night, while watching Birdsong. It was such a fast make and if you’re thinking of crocheting a C———- gift for someone this would be perfect, particularly if you’re a last minute crafter. I prefer scarves because … Continue reading

Snowshill Manor & Garden

IMG_7682

Yesterday we had yet another late Summer day; t-shirt, sandals and sitting outside weather. We’ve been really fortunate this week. It seems that oop north the weather is not being so kind. I overheard a couple from Yorkshire saying that … Continue reading

Waterperry Gardens

Although it’s quite a bit cooler now and the nights are drawing in at an alarming rate (curtains closed by 8pm) it still feels like late Summer.
I took a trip, with a friend, to Waterperry Gardens at the beginning of the week. It was lovely and warm outside, so I took a picnic for us to eat at one of the outside tables. I’m glad because car picnics aren’t much fun; tubs slide off the dashboard and you end up doing a balancing act with a plate on your knee!

IMG_7490.JPG

IMG_7488.JPG

IMG_7491.JPG

IMG_7487.JPG

IMG_7494.JPG

IMG_7497.JPG

IMG_7492.JPG

IMG_7495.JPG

IMG_7502.JPG

IMG_7504.JPG

IMG_0326.JPG

The gardens are so well tended it’s a pleasure to wander, or sit, and take in the colour. There is a new ‘Truth Walk’, it would be good to go along the paths when the snowdrops are flowering.

My friend knows many of the staff at Waterperry and we stopped to chat several times. Apparently two of the head gardeners at Sissinghurst, when Vita and Harold established the garden, were trained at Waterperry. I was asked if I’d had noticed any similarities in the designs? You can actually; as I mentioned after my visit to Sissinghurst Vita didn’t wish to see any earth between the plants, the beds were crammed full, this is also striking in the long border at Waterperry.

Have you been on any day trips lately?

Happy weekend all, have a good one.

All at Sea Shawl ….finished

IMG_3790.JPG

IMG_3779.JPG

IMG_3788.JPG

IMG_3784.JPG

I’ve really enjoyed crocheting this V stitch shawl, I haven’t felt this keen for a little while. You know that ‘I’ve got to do just one more row before bed’ thing?

The pattern’s by Elisabeth Davis de Herraiz and is in issue 22 of Simply Crochet.

I used Lang’s Tosca Light DK with a 4mm hook instead of the lace weight merino used in the mag. You could make a really chunky version too. That might be really snugly for freezing winter mornings, or maybe nights on the sofa when you feel a draft on your neck or shoulders?

My shawl is larger as I wanted it to be big enough to wear around your shoulders, granny/hippy style or like a scarf with the triangle part to the front and the long ends wrapped around the back of the neck. So for R50 I just repeated from R14 onwards until I ran out of yarn after R37 which was clusters. Boo! This was annoying with only 11 more to go to complete my repeat of R14 -49, but I quite like the frilled top edge so I fastened off, darned the few ends and it was over.

IMG_3785.JPG
Look at what I noticed as I was unhooking the shawl from a tree…..

And last night on a very old episode of Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads….

IMG_3776.JPG

It doesn’t look Grannyish or exactly Hippyish, but I won’t be going out in a maxi dress and big cream shawl anytime soon!

Harvest Festival

I’ve had my own harvest festival this weekend; as I’d been offered the chance to help myself to anything in a relative’s garden while she’s away. Woo hoo!

IMG_0325.JPG

IMG_3759.JPG

IMG_3757.JPG

IMG_3761.JPG
I thought it was silly to bring the beetroot and carrot tops home with me, so cut them off and went across to the compost bins in her garden. One lid I couldn’t pull off, so I decided to try the other, quite forcefully yanking it off. A tangle of worms flew off the bin lid, scattering onto the outside of the bin, sliding down my jeans and onto my boot. Knowing my pro gardening relly these worms will have been flown in for their special composting services – so I’m there with a large crinkly leaf scooping them up and putting them back into the composter. Argh! I did take a quick photo of some, but it’s rather blurry as they are pretty fast wrigglers and I didn’t want them to get away.
IMG_3753.JPG
After that mini episode of The Great Escape I took a bit of time out to stare at the flowers.

I can’t describe the sweetness of the crisp carrots, we munched a couple raw and had a few cooked for dinner. It’s like having your own kitchen garden just ten minutes away! I hope she goes away again next summer, just when the vegetables are ripe for the picking.
IMG_3733
The tomatoes and peppers are my own. The yellow tomatoes are stacked up like a pyramid now as I gathered more this morning, ready for using. The bowlfuls around the house are multiplying as I’m picking more every day. Even I’m surprised to find a pyrex dish full of them on the windowsill in The Little Room when I draw the curtains! It’s a good job we love them isn’t it?
I cooked a couple of the green peppers and made Balsamic Chicken, one of my favourite easy peasy recipes, last night. We tried a slice of raw pepper first, just to taste it. I’ve grown chilli peppers several times, but not pepper peppers (capsicum.) Tonight we’re having a yellow tomato greek salad, pitta, taramasalata and other delights as we’ve had a return to summer today. I’m really enjoying thinking of tomato based meals to enjoy, it’s so much more satisfying to use homegrown. It will be salmon with cherry tomatoes and couscous tomorrow and Nigella’s tomato curry with coconut rice from Kitchen later in the week. Mmmmmmm.
IMG_3751
Are you having your own harvest festival, or heading into Spring and dreaming of all that to come?

Nine Random Things

IMG_7345.JPG
I stopped my subscription to Simply Crochet a few months ago because I was a bit bored, I reckon it’s stuck in a bit of a rut. When they asked readers to complete a questionnaire some months ago I requested more garment patterns. I know I’m not alone in feeling fed up of patterns for small items you don’t want or need. However ( a little positivity coming up now!) I really fancied crocheting the scarf pattern I’d seen Heather of The Patchwork Heart posting pics of on IG. So I picked up a copy last week, there was the added temptation of pretty pins too…but oh! They are mostly rusty – albeit silver coloured rust, not rust coloured, but it’s rust all the same. I can’t use them at all. Boo!
IMG_7346.JPG
Ooh now this is a good magazine related bit of news – I’ve been given a year’s subscription to this beauty. I’ll turn into a green eyed monster at times (beautiful homes and expensive lovelies to buy) I know, but I am very pleased.
IMG_7347.JPG
This is my catch up reading pile. I asked for my birthday subscription not to be continued for a third year to Mollie Makes, again it’s feeling in a bit of a rut. I really can’t face yet more patterns for felt animals and the target audience feels like it’s for young twenty somethings. That’s fair play especially if it’s encouraging them to develop or learn some crafty skills; I just realised that I hadn’t used any of the mini packs, let alone made any items from the magazine for ages and ages.
IMG_7399.JPG
Just because I saw this in a gift shop in Broadway, in the Cotswolds, and it made me smile. It’s one of those things you’d love to say when someone’s being all one-sided me-me-me.
IMG_7402.JPG
While I was wondering around Broadway I kept hearing yelping and barking. I ducked down an alley to pop into the Sue Ryder charity shop and saw two pens of hounds. They must belong to the local hunt. I’m a baby where dogs en masse are concerned so this is as close I got.
IMG_7400.JPG
IMG_7409.JPG
I’ve seen these chargers in airports etc before, but how handy to find one in John Lewis (High Wycombe) for free charging.
IMG_7412.JPG
My friend gave me a bumper lot of thoughtful presents including this lovely tin. It’s my new things crochet tin as the other was bulging at the seams, especially with a new bigger notebook. Isn’t it similar in design to the Cath Kidson tape measure and needle book? It’s such a good match and right up my street.
IMG_7413.JPG

IMG_7405.JPG
Warning. Warning. Tomato talk incoming! I’m still cooking with my home-gown tomatoes, this time it’s a bacon and olive sauce. Yum. I usually halve the olives but this time left them whole. The house is full of bowlfuls in various stages of ripeness. I never imagined eight plants could produce so much fruit (or did QI state they are wrongly regarded as fruit, when in fact they are the vegetable we all grew up believing them to be? Or have I dreamt that?!)
IMG_7414.JPG
I’ve been wincing at sightings of the C word; usually in relation to crafting for ………… but look at what fell out of the new issue of Country Living. With the change of weather and the end of the summer holidays looming it doesn’t feel too early to contemplate booking tickets. Are you going?

What have you been up to lately?

Did you see the ice cream debacle on The Great British Bake Off last night?

In my next post I’ll show you the shawl I’ve been crocheting from the current Simply Crochet. It’s sweet, though I do have a shawl related question: there are so many patterns for them at the moment, they seem to be on trend but……have you actually seen anyone wearing one out? Anyone?

Roasted tomato & garlic summer soup

IMG_7293.JPG
I’m happy to class myself as a tomato bore at the moment! I don’t mind if you’re thinking it…

There are various bowls around the kitchen full of ripe and ready to eat tomatoes, alongside those still ripening. It’s fun deciding what to eat them with. We had bacon and vegetable risotto with roasted tomatoes (simply cooked in the oven with a drizzle of olive oil, nothing else, they are so sweet) last night.

When I got up this morning I really fancied making a light summer soup for lunch. The temperature has dropped by about 10 degrees in the last few weeks, instead of a blissful 28 0c it’s now 17/18 0c at best and feels so cold!
IMG_7328.JPG
There are many versions of this soup floating around the net and I’ve made own version; using homemade garlic oil. I always have some on hand for when I’m feeling lazy and use it instead of fresh garlic, or if in this case, I want an extra garlicky kick to a dish. It’s easy: just add 3-4 peeled and halved garlic cloves into a glass jar or small bottle of olive oil and leave to steep for a few days. When it’s all used up I throw away the garlic, wash the bottle and begin again with fresh.

IMG_7330.JPG
I love all the bright colours. Don’t worry about the amount of garlic in the recipe, when it’s roasted garlic loses it’s stinkiness and just becomes rich and sweet in flavour. I’ve just opened the door for a delivery and the guy didn’t recoil when I breathed over him to sign for the box!

IMG_7333.JPG
While the vegetables roasted I hung out a basket of washing, a lot of looking at the sky, muttering and toe crossing went on. So far it hasn’t rained…

IMG_7334.JPG
The tray of charred vegetables might not look like much, but they smelt delicious. Ok, so this next bit might not seem a good advertisement; but if you do have a smoke alarm I’d recommend keeping the kitchen door closed while you’re roasting the vegetables. That’s a little tip I’ve learnt when I make my roasted butternut soup in the winter time!

IMG_7335.JPG
Make sure you scrape the roasting tray out well;  you want to use every bit of caramelized vegetable that you can, to give the soup as much flavour as possible.

The black specks you see in the soup is ground black pepper.

IMG_7338-0.JPG
Yum, yum in my tum.

Roasted tomato & garlic summer soup

1 tbsp (garlic) olive oil
500g ripe tomatoes, quartered
2 large red onions, peeled and cut into wedges
1 bulb of garlic, divided into peeled cloves
1 red pepper (or 1/2 a red & 1/2 a yellow pepper) deseeded and quartered
600ml / 1 pint hot vegetable stock
3/4 – 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
3/4 – 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
Salt & pepper
Fresh basil leaves to garnish

Preheat oven to 220 0c/400 of/ gas mark 7

::Put the vegetables into a large roasting pan, drizzle with the olive oil and season
::Roast for about 45 mins until the edges are charred. I gently turn them all over after 15 and then 30 minutes. The house fills with a delicious smell.
::Remove the tray from the oven and leave the vegetables to cool
:: Whizz the roasted vegetables with the balsamic vinegar and Worcestershire sauce (add quantity to taste, I’d recommend 3/4 tbsp of each) and stock in a food processor or a liquidizer
:: Put the soup through a sieve to remove tomato skins, easing the last of the liquid through by rubbing the vegetable skins etc with the back of a ladle
:: Reheat, scatter with torn basil leaves to serve

If it’s tropical where you are (lucky things!) you can serve this summer soup well chilled with a few ice cubes in the soup.

Serves 4

Enjoy!

Designer Yarn Play

Near the end of May I received an email from Black Sheep Wools asking if I would like to review some new designer yarn. Well of course the answer was yes! Who isn’t going to want to try brand new designer yarn, for free? Then I was told I’d need to complete a non-disclosure agreement, I was not to tell anyone about the yarn or even that I was to be doing a review. How secret squirrel was that?! I’ve been sent yarn and other products before from various companies and have never seen a disclosure form. I admit that I felt quite excited and started to look around for crochet patterns; this would be the time to start on my first crochet garment, no more blankets, hats or scarves for me, this was obviously going to be a lovely big bale of yarn, suitable for a cardie, jumper or huge wrap, otherwise why all the secrecy and legally binding paperwork?

At the beginning of June a little parcel was popped through my letterbox, just as I was heading out. Oh…
IMG_6393.JPG
I’d obviously been very convinced and convincing about the quantity of yarn due to arrive, as Someone said “Is that it?!” “Mmmmm, yes it seems to be.”

Shortly after that an email came full of guidelines for the blog post; must be no shorter than xxx words, must contain no more than 4 links to the website, but should include one to x and x and x, the review must contain both positives and negatives, though obviously more positives than negatives, an original design could be submitted to the company website and would be appreciated, along with the blog post etc, etc, etc…

I may be about to fail short of some of these guidelines but this is my space, I have used the yarn and will tell you as many details about it as I can, given the quantity. The moral of the story is that sometimes bloggers get free things to play and have fun with, other times freebies come with expectations. Be prepared. But Black Sheep Wools seem like a good company and obviously have very discerning tastes in craft bloggers (the need for a winking smiley feels strong here, but I will not break my no emoticons in a post rule) also I can’t imagine ever writing a ‘review’ which wasn’t honest. If you want an honest opinion I’m your girl.

I’ve never used any Louisa Harding yarns before so this was a new experience.

Here goes…

Yarn details:

Louisa Harding – Esquel
60% merino, 20% llama, 20% silk
50g ball, 106 yards (97 mts)
Suggested neeedles: US 8 (5mm)
Suggested tension 18 sts x 24 rows

This lovely yarn feels quite soft but also due to its thickness of the strand (and the silk?) it’s strong. The band doesn’t say, but I think it’s aran as it needs 5mm needles and is thicker than other designer DK yarns I’ve used. I decided to make more fingerless mitts as it seemed just the right amount of yarn for a pair. I’m going to give these away as a present.

I used much smaller needles than the recommended 5mm, but the resulting fabric is thick and makes warm mitts.

IMG_7196.JPG

Although it’s really annoying it seems that it’s sometimes inevitable that wool yarns have knots in them. This is one disadvantage to using woolen blends, unlike acrylics which rarely have this problem, but most synthetic fibres do not have the quality feel of yarn like this. Unlike a ball of baby cashermino I once used which once had 4 or 5 knots in one 50g ball, this ball of Esquel had only the one. I decided to cut the yarn and start the cuff again, the fewer darned ends in a pair of mitts which will see plenty of wear and tear, the better.

IMG_4769.JPG
Lots of gratuitous tomato pics today I’m afraid, in my search for better light they seemed as good a backdrop as any. It’s great to come home after a hol to 8 plants groaning with ripe and nearly ripe red and yellows! Sorry – back to the yarn…

IMG_4767.JPG
I would recommend Esquel, because it comes in such lovely colours, the feel of the knitted material is fairly soft and also seems as if it will be hard-wearing and warm. I bet a knitted, or crocheted, jumper would be super toasty in the winter.

IMG_4771.JPG
If you’d like to check out Louisa Harding’s Esquel in Black Sheep Wool’s online yarn shop it’s currently £5.35 a ball.
IMG_7208.JPG
As I photographed the mitts outside on my emergency-stepladder-storm-resistant-stand-up-tomato-plants-please-don’t-fall-over-device look at what I saw…I’ve grown a rabbit!

Here endeth the review. A Manhattan is waiting for me on the other side. Happy cocktail hour weekend everyone!

Whitstable

20140815-120201-43321572.jpg

20140815-120200-43320648.jpg

20140815-120201-43321141.jpg

20140815-120304-43384471.jpg

20140815-120305-43385010.jpg

20140815-120306-43386145.jpg

20140815-120305-43385577.jpg

20140815-120513-43513190.jpg

20140815-120513-43513814.jpg

20140815-120512-43512742.jpg

20140815-120512-43512278.jpg

20140815-120514-43514312.jpg

Old Neptune, Whitstable

Another week away, it’s not a proper Summer holiday if it doesn’t include the sea.

Yes, lots of pictures of dead fish but aren’t they great to look at? All shiny fresh and ready to make delicious meals. I’ve included the price board in the fish market because someone will find it interesting. I occasionally write down prices in my diary, knowing I’ll be comparing then and now, fascinated in the future.

I have to capture the colours of the fishing boats in the harbour, the blue sky and the fluffy white clouds. I love staring too, drinking in all the colour and movement. The fishing boats draw a crowd of onlookers. After elbowing a few children aside and pushing a couple of Grandmas into the water I was able to peer into the boxes stacked with fish, exciting but I really couldn’t tell you exactly what kind.

Lager shandy, chips, a lemon sherbet or rhubarb & custard in the car, miles and miles walked each day, wild plums picked and eaten, trying to spit the stones out as far as possible while walking along a coastal path (but usually just bouncing next to my shoe, useless) intending to buy greengages while they’re in season, but inexplicably not getting around to it, reading The Memory of Lost Senses by Judith Kinghorn and not knowing whether to shout ‘Just get on with the reveal!’ or revel in the slow pace and unfolding of the not-really-a-mystery, navigating old style; leaving the Sat Nav shut away, searching for sea glass treasure; trying not to put my iphone in the same pocket, enjoying the folk music, Morris dancers and the Tap & Sync Appalachian dancers (from Northamptonshire which is surprising somehow) at Broadstairs Folk Festival, losing a pounds-worth of two pence pieces in an arcade, feeling no need to crochet, knit or sew until going into a Margate Vintage shop and seeing someone crocheting behind the counter, then really having that itchy fingers feeling, lingering in shady lanes looking for geocaches and receiving curious glances from dog walkers, laughing at out of context fragments of other people’s conversations, feeling a curious hint of Autumn in the air, noticing darker early evenings, cooler breezes, beginning to anticipate cooking soups, casseroles and Autumn fruit crumbles….

Off to the South coast next, the last seaside trip of the summer.

The next post will contain knitting, and nothing else but knitting. What a treat to see craft on a craft blog!

Summer snapshot

20140808-101945-37185047.jpg

20140808-101944-37184450.jpg20140808-101946-37186222.jpg

20140808-101945-37185634.jpg

Eating fresh vegetables from the garden on the same day they’re picked or dug, such a Summer highlight! One day visiting family I came away with peas in their pods, beetroot, potatoes, shallots, carrots, cucumber and courgettes. What a haul.

20140808-102313-37393686.jpg20140808-102314-37394221.jpg

Baking lots this Summer; I’ve had a bit of an obsession with muffins. So far I’ve baked citrus muffins, chunky cookie muffins and my favourite: fig and marzipan muffins. Cheese and Marmite scones (see BBC Good Food website for the recipe) my own cheese scone recipe, raspberry and amaretti cake, lemon drizzle cake and my weekly loaves of bread. I usually only bake cakes and other treats when I have guests or an occasion to cook for, otherwise there’s too much naughtiness around, it’s better shared! So far this Summer there have been lunches, teas and picnics. Hurray! I’ve always enjoyed being in the kitchen with the radio on and whipping up a cake etc. It probably stems from a cosy childhood helping to bake cakes and mixing a mug of icing at home when little. We would sometimes mix up three mugs of icing and make ‘traffic light cakes’ – pale green, red or yellow icing to top fairy cakes.
The cream tea was my favourite of all the recent occasions. It included a discussion of whether it should be cream or jam first. Mine is the neater looking scones, cream first, but with the far messier (homemade) jammy plate!

20140808-103551-38151015.jpg
Nerding and walking a lot; about 26 miles in the last week, some of it Geocaching. I’m not a hardcore cacher and it’s taken me years to reach my very low tally, but when I set out to find some it’s fun. They are all around you did you know? If you didn’t its worth having a look at the official website.

20140808-104301-38581333.jpg
A few friends and I came across this fine fellow while looking at a lovely Japanese garden, after finding a cache. Aren’t peacocks stunning? Apparently some believe peacock feathers bring very bad luck, refusing to have them on the house. I prefer to see them in situ anyway

20140808-105443-39283146.jpg
Crocheting rows of the ripple blanket in my friend’s favourite colours. It will be a surprise present at Christmas since I’m also going on with the motifs for the William Morris colours inspired blanket. I’ve put the ripple away in the Little Room as I’ve got to get on with the other. I also have another thing to make nearer the end of the month. I’m partly regretting agreeing to that, but we will see!

IMG_7068

Enjoying The House of Illustration Quentin Blake exhibition. If you’ve read Roald Dahl’s books you’ll recognise some of the illustrations on display. You can also stop and play in the magic fountains of Granary Square, Kings Cross.

Picnicking at Cliveden, a National Trust property which was the former home of the Astor family where I met three other girls. Two of them were my little nieces. They are currently obsessed with doing cartwheels and handstands, so mostly I saw them upside down as they twirled around the gardens, apart from when they were eating lemon drizzle cake and marzipan & fig muffins!

20140808-104559-38759582.jpgIMG_7080IMG_7096IMG_7126IMG_7099IMG_7134“The collection of calendars, which continue to hang on the wall as they have done for over seventy years and all of the contents of the forge have remained in place and were rediscovered during renovation work in early 2002.” Cliveden forge.

 

What are you up to this Summer? Link to your snapshot post below if you fancy sharing.

Al fresco crochet

20140723-215750-79070554.jpg

20140723-215752-79072522.jpg

20140723-215756-79076214.jpg

20140723-215754-79074141.jpg

20140723-215844-79124387.jpg

20140723-215851-79131293.jpg

20140723-215848-79128662.jpg

20140723-215846-79126146.jpg
It is such beautiful weather here at the moment that it just feels wrong to stay inside.

I started a ripple on Monday night but had to order some yarn before I could continue. Luckily I already had two of the greys I wanted to use as they’re the same I’m using for my other blanket, so at least I could make a start. I actually haven’t touched a hook for weeks; a combination of a sore elbow (acupuncture is really helping) and just wanting a break. It was a refreshing break, but I was absolutely raring to go once my plan was approved at the weekend. I’ve offered a crocheted blanket birthday pressie to a special someone as I’ve had her kind of colours in mind for ages, and fancied crocheting another ripple. I’m a little surprised I’m so keen as I became quite bored by the end of The Rhubarb Ripple. My offer was immediately taken up and so I’ve been happily zipping along the rows today. The motif blanket will wait for a while. This is easier crochet; it’s fast to add new colours and decide which next. I tend to need my leg up to join as you go (do you?! Is this just me?!) so it makes it sofa crochet, not al fresco crochet so much.

Hurrah! My new yarn came this morning! I could hear the rustle of the sack arriving from my spot (reading in the bath, hard work these summer hols.) Deramores have been undercut by Wool Warehouse on Stylecraft Special DK by 30p a ball at the moment. I have to say that as both offer speedy service and free p&p when you spend £25 it wasn’t a tricky decision to use WW for this order. 30p less for a ball is 30p saved. Or, spent on more yarn…

The bright pink was always going to be a gamble without actually seeing a ball. It’s not quite right is it? It jars with the scrummy raspberry, the sharp lime green (new colour) and the delicious graphic, silver and grey. The darker shades are midnight blue and emperor penguin purple. Someone suggested I use the bright pink to embroider “Get off, this is Mummy’s!” Ha! I must tell her this when I give the blanket.

My charity shop find basket is perfect for al fresco crochet. It’s very good at standing to attention with the yarn ball in use rolling around on top. I need a yarn bowl really, but it does the job of keeping it off the grass. Can you see I replaced the bag’s sequins? I preferred the scuffed brown originals really I realise, now it’s done. Too late!

What are you crocheting or making? Or are you having a crafty break?

Create Make Bake Nurture Enjoy

This is maybe a bit of a syrupy sweet title but it nicely describes my Summer days at the moment.

20140719-133235-48755735.jpg

Picking strawberries; Mum on one side of the row, me on the other. Trying to keep up my end of the conversation with strawberry juice running down my chin! Sun warmed, juicy and sweet they were – oh yum.

Three large punnets of raspberries and one of strawberries picked, some very posh meringues bought from the farm shop and then home to my sugar mountain.

20140719-133237-48757247.jpg

The recipe was from my Good Housekeeping Book of Preserves It’s here in my jam making post from 2012 if you fancy making some too. It’s so easy and pretty fast; my eight pots were full of raspberry jam by 10:30.

Brrrr if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere! It seems to be all about sock knitting, blanket making, log fires and snowfall with some of you this week.

20140719-133349-48829648.jpg

Homemade breakfast. Yum. There is nothing more satisfying than eating homemade toasted bread and jam. It really gives a glow to know that you’ve created something from scratch; whether it’s food, flowers or craft, doesn’t it?

20140719-133351-48831248.jpg

I’m doing the sourdough starter thing again, I started this on Monday.

Get a 1 litre kilner jar, or similar, put in 70g strong white bread flour and 70ml water, mix well until there are no lumps. Repeat this feeding process daily for a week. After 3-4 days it should be bubbling nicely. At the end of the week it’s ready to use. It’s as easy as that.

Google sourdough starters at your peril; there are so many sourdough starter nerds and pages of bumpf out there detailing exact temperatures and micrograms of this, that and the other when it’s basically a very simple process that people have been doing for hundreds (thousands?) of years.

20140719-133503-48903693.jpg

I took these two pics yesterday afternoon, it was doing great. Then late last night I came downstairs to whip the aerial out of the socket, after seeing the sky lighting up with strange horizontal silent lightning, and smelt the starter really strongly. The jar was sat in a puddle of starter, it was seeping out of the closed container like a slow volcano! It was about 28 deg here yesterday, probably hotter in the house, and look how much it grew in a few hours. I must have trapped some super-powerful natural airborne yeast! It’s now in a large mixing bowl…

20140719-133504-48904806.jpg

My first posy of sweetpeas. I sent Trish a packet of seeds as part of her birthday present in the Spring and we’ve been sharing pics of our first sweetpeas on IG.

20140719-133601-48961966.jpg

20140719-133603-48963362.jpg

Some Saturday mornings I get up and really feel like baking something. This morning I chose to bake Citrus Muffins from this book. A little like lemon drizzle cake with a zesty lemony syrup drizzled on top when they were hot from the oven. You also put lemon and lime zest in the muffin mixture. I’d double the zest next time to make them even more citrusy.

Have you created, made, nurtured and enjoyed something this week?

Sissinghurst Castle

20140717-154339-56619667.jpg

I’ve wanted to visit Sissinghurst for a long time. I’ve come across Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson many times when reading books concerning English social history in the last century, but their garden is also famous of course. I loved … Continue reading

Food glorious food

20140715-121803-44283050.jpg

20140715-121805-44285032.jpg

20140715-121806-44286562.jpg

20140715-121920-44360577.jpg

20140715-121914-44354695.jpg

20140715-121913-44353306.jpg

20140715-121917-44357688.jpg

20140715-121916-44356253.jpg
One of the nicest things about coming back from a holiday is seeing how much the plants in the garden have grown. There are tomatoes all over the vines now. I harvested some new potatoes yesterday and just picked the first ripe cherry tomatoes. Hurrah!

Something’s nibbled a couple of the strawberries, but as I’ve already picked a bowlful I don’t mind. Share and share alike. There are runners coming off the plant so I’m starting new – that’s the reason for the smaller pots around it, there are another two behind. I’ve promised a few new plants to friends and family.

The pumpkin plants (one shown) are both coming on in leaps and bounds. I can see where the flower buds are forming. I’ve never grown any before so this is exciting.

There are lots of tiny peppers on the three plants, but as you see only one decent sized pepper so far. It’s a waiting game at this point…

I’ve been searching for light and healthy recipes, after many holiday treats (and a few too many when I was laid up in June with the spider injury) and have started a board on Pinterest if you fancy sharing them with me, if you’d like to send more my way too that would be fab. Googling 5:2 recipes brings up lots of lovely things – whether you’re doing the ‘fasting’ thing or just aiming to eat lighter food. I’m taken with roasted red pepper & tomato and also courgette & watercress soups. I used to make a roasted red pepper soup and can’t think where I’ve put the recipe.

What are you up to at the moment?

“I’ll just pop in for my free pom-pom maker”

20140702-182828-66508976.jpg

Yeah right…impossible isn’t it?!

There’s a sale on fat quarter packs -they’re half price so this felt like a good buy for £6.50 as the fabric is 100% cotton and has a good thread count. It’s so much easier, and nicer, to sew with good quality fabric. I really wanted a new skein of lime green thread, it’s the colour I’m drawn to at the moment, and the sequins are to spruce up the following.

20140702-182948-66588416.jpg

I discovered great charity shop treasure on Saturday, when browsing my local shops with a friend. I’ve been looking out for a basket, for crochet and knitting storage, in regular shops for ages. I just couldn’t find one which was lined, which would stop any wooly stuff snagging. This is fully lined with an internal drawstring bag which extends the same height again of the basket. The drawstring will keep everything clean and intact during holidays.

I think I’ve seen this bag in M&S in the past. The silicone packet was still inside and the lining was spotless. I doubt it’s been used much. The only issue was scuffed and scratched sequins, which might have happened while it was hanging on a hook, or in a wardrobe. They spoilt the overall look so I snipped them off – a very satisfying task. I was hoping for red, blue or green replacements, but gold will be fine.
20140702-184429-67469443.jpg
The bag was £3.50. The free Clover pom-pom maker (leaflet from Mollie Makes mag) from Hobbycraft cost me £8.39 for the visit! Not an expensive shopping spree really.

Have you found any bargains lately? Claimed your free pom-pom maker?

Snapshot II

20140626-174337-63817421.jpg

20140626-174338-63818045.jpg
Wondering if embroidery in hoops displayed on the wall is much cooler than on tea towels? I somehow doubt cool and embroidery are two words that have ever gone together. I don’t really care. I especially enjoy embroidering something which has a practical purpose. I need more tea towels – I’ve got more ideas. The glasses were from one of my Sublime Stitches transfers books, the writing is mine, scruffy and all.

20140626-174742-64062130.jpg
Harvesting strawberries! So yummy and surprisingly the birds haven’t gone for them. The other day a squirrel was spotted in a friend’s garden picking their strawbs, holding them gently in both his paws and nibbling away!

20140626-174924-64164308.jpg

20140626-174923-64163723.jpg
Loving the scent wafting up from my pot as I come in and out of the front door, waiting for the apple blossom geranium I chose as a tiny plug plant months ago, to reveal its flowers.

20140626-184419-67459853.jpg

20140626-184421-67461057.jpg

Opening a free copy of Garden Illustrated to my best page first! I’ve said:”Really sheds are so expensive but just think; when you move you just roll this onto the back of a truck and take it with you!” to raised eye brows.

20140626-175759-64679835.jpg

20140626-175759-64679283.jpg
Carrying my blanket yarn in a completely coordinating bag. This was a coincidence but made me smile when I realised. The motifs are now joined in one long strip of about 180cm, this is the length of the blanket. I’m halfway along the second row now. Zippidy do dah.
Reading The Lieutenant by Kate Grenville, only to p.5 so far but it’s going to be a cracker. I read the first of the trilogy The Secret River in Australia one visit.
Not missing resting my injured leg. I’ve washed laundry, hung it out, hand washed my car, washed up, baked 2 loaves of bread, cooked dinner, cleaned walls, hoovered, cleaned the filters, folded laundry and tidied it away, watered all the plants, emptied the bins, cleaned bins, re-potted plants, rearranged outside pots, ironed (the tea towel above ha ha strenuous!) driven – once so far, yesterday, but it was fine with an old lady tubi-grip, food shopped, collected a library book, am walking downstairs nearly normally again. It’s good to be busier again.

How about you, what are you up?

Progress report

20140623-154930-56970078.jpg
Oh yes, I’m pleased with this joining malarkey. Choose the outer colour, zip around round 3 and join one side of round 4. It feels like a fast way of making a blanket.

I’ve just unravelled the matador red motifs, apart from those with it in the middle. It’s not going to work. It was always a bold colour choice – to match William Morris’s red flower centres – but any more than a little splash is going to set the teeth on edge, especially with so much peach going into the mix too.

Random fact: the curtains were originally chosen, in fact the whole room was coordinated, around a cream and peach tapestry cushion I made years back. I know this probably isn’t that interesting without pics but I’m still under house arrest. I’m going to try driving tomorrow with a heavy duty support on the peg. See, you get all the highlights during these days of being patient.

20140623-160722-58042820.jpg
I just had the nicest compliment, via the tweet machine this morning, about my last post. It was from Jennifer Reid who is a crochet designer for Inside Crochet and Simply Crochet magazines. You’ll recognise her patterns straight away if you buy those mags and check Ravelry. It’s always a lovely surprise to hear from different people. She’s also a member of the Darning Sisterhood – the leave them to the end club. Anyone else want to join?

Throw another one in the basket

20140622-162729-59249622.jpg

20140622-162732-59252727.jpg

20140622-162728-59248012.jpg

20140622-162731-59251319.jpg

20140622-162827-59307145.jpg

20140622-162830-59310999.jpg

20140622-162828-59308825.jpg

20140622-163100-59460262.jpg

20140622-163102-59462634.jpg

Friday night’s been G&T time for a long, long time but nowadays Friday night is cocktail night. This week it was mojitos. Mmmmm. I might do a cocktail post of my faves, with recipes sometime. I keep sorely trying someone’s patience while I photograph them before drinking commences!

Fresh juicy cherries and crochet go well.

My Japanese steel snips are incredibly sharp; I have to take care around these. So much faster than grappling for scissors can be, they slide into a plastic cover when not in use. It’s a good job as even the ends are razor-sharp. They were a gift from a posh shop which sells household goods.

I can’t believe how many half completed motifs I’ve done, already. I edge a diddy little middle with a second round and throw it into the basket I rescued from a friend’s jumble sale bag. One (wo)man’s trash is another (wo)man’s treasure.

It’s nearly time to edge some with the third row and join while crocheting the fourth. I’m looking forward to placing the colours and seeing how the overall effect works. It’s definitely a different sort of palate for me.

….Oh and oh yes…the ends. Well I just read Heather’s thoughts about darning, rather than crocheting over them, and realised she’s a kindred spirit in this respect. I groan about them a bit and resolve to tackle the ends as I go but rarely do; getting absorbed in the act of creating. Select the colour, crochet the round, snip the tail, throw the motif into the basket and onto the next. Usually I darn them listening to an audio book, or semi watching a film and find it a soothing activity in itself. This weekend’s film was one I seem to have missed at the time. I really enjoyed the undemanding, sweet, sometimes funny, little story.

What are you up to at the moment?

Zippidy do-dah

Well I never! Zippidy do-dah as in The Jungle Book Disney’s Song of the South (Never heard of it! Is it one to watch?) is actually spelt Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah! The things you find out when checking spelling. I’m sticking with my version.

20140620-101133-36693145.jpg

I wasn’t planning to write this down, but I actually though I was a bit off crochet. Maybe the huge enthusiasm I’d had for it over the last few years had died down, and that was ok.  But it turns out it was because I last bought a big batch of new yarn in Autumn 2012. Waste not want not, I’ve been using up left-overs, plus I’ve gradually been buying sewing materials. But the pleasure in taking off the bands of brand new yarn – 11 brand new balls of yarn! Using virgin yarn which hasn’t been unraveled, or wound into a smaller balls and put in an oddments bag and in new colours too is so enjoyable.

20140620-101149-36709338.jpg

I didn’t choose the colours for this project (apart from substituting the gorgeous new Spice for Jaffa, as I found out Jaffa is Nemo neon orange.) I just left my Stylecraft catalogue and picked it up with all the ticks under the shades, but the combination is pleasing. I particularly like the rich Walnut brown, the teddy bear Mocha, orange Spice and Matador red paired together. These have a rather retro, back to the 70s feel. Sometimes it feels as if brown is an outcast, with the current craze for Cath Kidson reds, pinks, pale greens and blues – I love them too. Brown isn’t a colour I gravate to usually, in yarn or clothes, but this palate is somewhat rich and earthy. It’s to coordinate with curtains of a William Morris design, and I’m really enjoying the new colours. I can’t find the WM design on Google images and didn’t think to photograph the curtains. I will next time I visit.

20140620-101204-36724641.jpg

Why Zippidy-do-dah? Because this is my progress from just two sittings. The first evening I started to crochet I ended up making 44 middles – 4 of each of the 11 colours. I do like the magic loop method. Then before I knew it I’d completed the second round of 22 of them. Last night I completed the second round of all but a few of the other 22. I’m making sure I use all the colours, but also ordered extra balls of camel, cream, silver and parchment so I can make extra motifs with just these to balance out the stronger colours. Matador type red only features a little in the curtain fabric, as the centre of some flowers, so although I’ve discovered I love it and Spice together I must be careful not to overwhelm the blanket.

20140620-101227-36747178.jpg

Did I mention the mmmm smell of a sackful of new yarn? There’s something new car-ish about it. Oh Wool Only purists please don’t shake your heads like that!

20140621-092249-33769066.jpg

Here are the colours listed from left to right, top row first, in case you’re feeling 70’s retro inspired (or have William Morris fabric!)
silver :: grey :: walnut :: copper :: spice :: mocha :: matador
parchment :: cream :: camel :: apricot::

20140620-114134-42094624.jpg

I’m hobbling now, with only a small lurch and can go upstairs slowly one foot at a time, not crawling or one foot, then the other per step. Hurrah! The Goldfinch Audio book has been great company – wow – I listened to 7 hours 43 minutes of it yesterday. Kudos to David Pittu for being about to narrate young and old, male and female voices so convincingly, accents too. It’s 32 hours long so 7:43 is a drop in the ocean. I’m glad because I’m enjoying it so much. AND How to Make an American Quilt is on the way via LoveFilm by post, my last DVD before my membership ends. It’s all looking up.

Snapshot

This morning I read this blog post on one of my favourite blogs. Look at the clarity of those photographs! Doesn’t it make you want to run out into the garden with a packet of seeds? Sew some leaves? Tie something up in twine? Actually my little seedlings have grown like crazy and I need to hobble down to the sweetpeas and tie them gently to the wigwam of poles. They’re getting a little over enthusiastic.

SEWING: Embroidery is the perfect thing to do when you’re not moving around. It’s been ages since I did any and it’s been lovely. The light is so good when I’m sat on the bed upstairs near the window, far better than downstairs actually.

20140618-140103-50463858.jpg

LOVING: I signed up for Netflix and Amazon Prime free trials for a month so I could occupy myself over the weekend. It’s worked well watching things on my ipad. I absolutely loved a film called Sweet Land. If you haven’t seen it – you must. Others I’ve enjoyed seeing again during my film festival: The Lake House, Mamma Mia, The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood. TV: The Inbetweeners, The IT Crowd.
I’m really really tempted to hire How to Make an American Quilt but it’s annoying to pay when it should (by my decree) be available on the above trials.

20140618-140104-50464498.jpg

MARVELLING: That the cravings for chocolate can be satisfied just by leaving a piece of Green & Black Mayan Gold to melt on your tongue. Mmmmm. Rachel’s marvellous medicine.

20140618-140632-50792885.jpg

WAITING: For my leg to heal and feel stronger so I can become my usual active self again. I’m hoping to go for days out over the weekend to catch up on what I’ve missed. Meanwhile this L’Occitane hand cream is helping to lift the spirits as the smell is divine. Whenever I feel down I’ve always used scents and colours to cheer me up. Lavender works well for me, as does wearing red.

20140618-160958-58198863.jpg

MISSING: Walking around and being outside, but I have a lovely breeze coming in through the window and a super view of swaying leaves, blue sky and fluffy white clouds. I moved around a little too much yesterday, as my man servant was working away for the day, so am trying to rest my leg more and use a cold pack regularly today. I think the muscle’s healing well, but it’s slow. Trying not to think of all my missed plans at the weekend and this week. The ironic thing is I had to reschedule my GP appointment for my physio referral for my elbow ….because I couldn’t walk! It’s a little bit funny.

20140618-140721-50841970.jpg

WONDERING: If now is the time to continue embroidering this IKEA cushion? It could be crazy colourful. It’s good practise for my rusty embroidery skills too. If you search this blog you’ll see when I first had the idea and will notice I didn’t get very far with the plan…

20140618-140836-50916886.jpg

OPENING: A big parcel of yarn which arrived as I started to write this post!

20140618-141110-51070215.jpg

CROCHETING: I will be using this lovely lot to crochet a blanket, as requested, for a room in a relative’s house. It has curtains made with a William Morris design and so the colour choices have been picked to coordinate with them. I think they’re going to work well together.

20140618-141112-51072491.jpg

LOOKING: well, the plan was to watch something on my ipad and embroider, then the yarn arrived. Decisions, decisions!

20140618-161235-58355934.jpg

I loved your links and comments, THANK YOU. I need more please! Well, why wouldn’t I ask again when you’re so good at it? *charming smile*

On the bright side

20140614-163815-59895781.jpg20140614-163815-59895237.jpg

20140614-163816-59896327.jpg
I really fancied doing some more embroidery but thought I’d only do a little Thursday evening so as not to aggravate my elbow. I really enjoyed semi watching, mostly listening, to an episode of Lewis (the psychology student/psychics/elephant tranquilliser one) using stem stitch to sew the letters of my personalised tea towel which is to be a gift.

The arm was indeed a bit iffy Friday but hey ho, it was still a great day. A great week in fact, and generally all is going swimmingly. That is until 11:14 pm when the most ginormous spider hurried across the lounge from under a sofa to behind the TV. There was some wine or beer fuelled discussion along the lines of: “But he’s happy, let him be.” “He’s not leaving cobwebs all over my house.” “Don’t kill him.” “Don’t be ridiculous, you know I never kill them…” All this while I’m tipping a nightlight out of a holder and grabbing a postcard (flower fairies – such a pretty card that I carry it downstairs to recycle then end up propping it on the mantelpiece.) This spider is big and aggressive, he’s sassy and won’t be caught in a tea light holder and trapped by a flower fairy postcard. But we both know who’s going to win…

…in the end after a skirmish behind the TV stand it’s actually neither of us. He gets half trapped under the holder after I execute a niffy half turn when he tries to fox me, and head back to sofa-land, and I feel a muscle at the back of my knee go POP!

OMG THE PAIN.

Actually the spider was ok, no broken legs and I’m sure he enjoyed his flight out of the window to the garden.

Today instead of a super day out nerding with one of my favourite friends I’ve been sat on the bed with an ice pack and haven’t gone downstairs once; as I had to semi crawl upstairs last night and can’t bear the awfulness of needing the littlest room and the slow hurry. It’s best to rest it as much as possible too.

20140614-164824-60504649.jpg

This app is great! Although after quietly downloading it and trying it out with a few good dings, then testing the ring-a-ding-ding function with a good shake Someone marched into the bedroom with a grin and said, “You can get rid of that app for a start.” “But it was my nerdy friend who suggested I get it, to help you know when I need something!”

20140614-164825-60505293.jpg

The bright side is I’ve listened to a little more of The Goldfinch audio book, watched the first ever few episodes of The IT Crowd, the inflating boobies episode of Mrs Brown’s Boys (thank you free catch up TV and ipad magic) and downloaded some interesting looking free Kindle novels. There have also been a few homegrown strawberries, YUM, some cheer up surprises: mini Reeces, ice cold 7Up and as requested; a yummy Greek salad with pitta for lunch. The service is pretty good, the bedside chat could be improved but it’s tricky to provide uplifting banter when an important rugby match is on in the other room.

So, it’s after 5pm and I’m feeling a bit restless. Can you tell me something interesting, a story, a fact about yourself, a snippet from your weekend, whatever? A good link? Please. Chances are I’ll still be up here tomorrow so anything will be gratefully received.

Because it made me smile the other day when I noticed how tidy the Rhubarb Ripple looks amongst the other unruly blankets in The Little Room…

20140614-170526-61526020.jpg