Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Book reading

Front Cover

Apart from continuing with crochet work, recently I've been spending time reading. It's probably because it's summer and not wanting to be buried under the woolly blanket that I'm crocheting.

First off was the June book club read. I thought it'd be wise to read this one first before turning to my other books. Below are some questions for the book based on a generic set I found on-line. This book is part of a set called 'The Four Seasons Collection' the series is found here.

A Spring Affair  Questions

1. Your experience - what are your thoughts about the title? How would you describe the book eg how did it make you feel? Were you engaged with it immediately or did you take a while to get into it?

2. Describe the main characters, their motivations, inner qualities. Are they justified, do you admire or approve of them?

3. Are the main characters dynamic - changing or maturing by the end of the book? Do they learn about themselves, how the world works and their role in it?

4. Discuss the plot - is it interesting, a fast pace page turner or does the plot unfold slowly. Were you surprised by anything, or was the story predictable?

5. The books structure - Is there a single viewpoint or shifting viewpoints?

6. Did you enjoy this book and would you read anymore of Milly Johnson's books.

                                                  book cover of 

Summer in Orchard Valley

Last week I read 'Summer in Orchard Valley' details here. It's a typical Debbie Macomber romance novel. An easy quick read that I've read before but wanted to re-read as it's a summer title. The book is split into 3 parts with each of the sisters featuring in a separate book. I love Debbie's books so will often fall back on her many many titles. They are not by any stretch described as deep, strenuous or meaty, instead they are comfortable and familiar.

book cover of 

Summer Wedding Bells

Next I read Summer Wedding bells which continues with two of the characters from 'Summer in Orchard Valley' for details see  here. For now I'm working my way through my own bookshelves and TBR pile. Apart from the book club read which is Anne Tyler's A Spool of Blue Thread, I'm continuing with some more Debbie Macomber books for the summer. Then I'm hoping to read some of the books below.

I've been watching the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency film and series. There are some available on You tube and the DVD's are available to buy through Amazon. I've read the first four books and want to read more in the series. For more titles and details in the series see here. It's such a shame that it's sadly no longer produced on TV. If you've seen them on TV you'll have met Precious Ramotswe the detective, Grace Makutsi her secretary sporting her 97% pass mark at the secretarial college and Mr J L B Matekoni the wannabe husband of Precious and local car mechanic / manager.

Thank you for reading, do let me know if you've read any of the books I've spoken about. Or leave a book recommendation that you've read. It's raining at the moment so having prepared tonight's dinner of lasagne, baked chocolate brownies and made pastry ready for the pasties for tomorrows dinner, I'm off to catch up on more reading.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017


M bought me some Chrysanthemums, these ones had been dyed some interesting colours. It reminds me of the kids science experiment, where you stand some celery with the leaves left on, in a jug of dyed water. Slowly they 'drink' up the dye and the leaves change colour. Something pretty and cheerful as I've been absent for a while.

Thank you and welcome if you've recently starting reading my blog. It's mainly about my craft work, in particular crochet but you'll also find some knitting occasionally, cooking, books I'm reading and my beautiful 16 year old Maine Coon cat QT who is moulting lots at the moment.

Today QT is hanging round the kitchen, after a roast chicken at the weekend I wanted to use up the leftovers. As soon as the carcass is out the fridge he appears. This is no surprise really, but he'll be disappointed, as he'll not be getting any chicken. I find if he has any chicken, he'll be fussy and refuse his own cat food. 

This recipe for chicken pie is simple to make however you like really. You could buy ready made shortcrust or puff pastry. I made some shortcrust pastry whilst M cut up the vegetables and striped the chicken carcass.

The recipe calls for some asparagus cup of soup but any vegetable one will do. One thing I always forget is to only use half a cup of boiled water. The mushrooms etc produce plenty of liquid too.

QT's waiting again by the dining room table, for 'our' pie to come out the oven. This is his subtle, not really interested look. 

So onto my crochet and a quick blanket update, a bit more has been done since I was last on here. Sorry I've been absent from my blog lately, progress is slow on my blanket too. I don't tend to take it with me anymore when I go to knit and natter as it's just too big and bulky on your lap, especially in the heat. Everyone wants to keep taking a look each time, or ask questions and look at the attic 24 blog pictures too. Instead I've taken smaller projects that take up less space in the bag and aren't generally too much of a distraction.

It reminds me of when I used to take my cross stitch to work at Boots many years ago. After my lunch I'd sit and do some cross stitch before going back to work and then someone wanted to look through the pattern book or magazine you're working from. Promptly ending the sewing session!

It's looking very blue at the moment, time to reach for the sky! The turn of the blue yarns, a welcome change from the many greens. I really must get this finished, it's my birthday soon and I want to do another crocheted blanket. When we were away recently in our caravan I took my coastal cushion and it looked very much at home. I'm planning on taking the blanket away in the caravan the next time too.

I've been reading a lot lately but will talk about books next time.
Thanks for reading, do leave a comment below, I love to hear from you. Remember to add a photo of your craft work on my facebook page, I would love to see what you're making.
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Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Thriving, sorting and reading.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Taking a break

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for reading

Friday, 19 May 2017

Five on Friday - Check up time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Comfort food.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please leave a comment below  -  What is your favourite or comfort food?
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Friday, 12 May 2017

Five on Friday - The end of an era

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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