Saturday, 18 November 2017

It's been a while - Five on Friday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Winter Project Link Party - October

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sunday, 1 October 2017

Finish for the Weekend - Crocheting Poppies.

Hello, I'm joining with 'Finish for the Weekend'. It's late Sunday afternoon in a very overcast and damp Lincolnshire, UK, but with the Grand Prix on in the background, I thought I'd post this quickly. I'm so glad that Jill at Emerald Cottage has decided to run this Link Party as it's spurring me on to finish some craft things.

These 2 poppies are to be handed over to the local WI craft group when we next meet. Everyone in the group has been busy making some poppies ready for attaching to the Remembrance Sunday wreath.

It's amazing when you go in search of patterns for poppies, just how many different types there are available. I was given a pattern for the frilly looking one which is here, it's available in both knitted and crocheted instructions. I chose to crochet the 3 petal poppy but there are instructions for a 2 petal poppy if you'd prefer. The pattern instructs you to start in red and attach a button at the end but I just started the first round of dc (UK terms) in black yarn. Then changed to red for the petals.

The second crocheted poppy is from this book here. I'd purchased this book a while ago now and thought this would be a good opportunity to make something from the book. This book seems to have different front covers depending on when it was purchased. My copy ' Cute and Easy Crochet with Flowers by Nicki Trent' looks like this, with the flowers on the front. This particular pattern was for a flower decoration on a crocheted purse.

I may find another crochet pattern to do for the wreath before meeting to hand them over. In the meantime I'll return to knitting these socks for my husband. He's getting a bit anxious that he'll ever see them finished, as he mainly sees them being unpicked.

Have a good week.

Finish for the Weekend

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Five on Friday - Flowers and Books

Hello, hope you are all well. I'm joining with 'Five on Friday' with some photos of my week.
The last few weeks some of the family have been fighting colds. unfortunately for teen 1, it progressed to asthma too. Thankfully the asthma nurse was working that day and he received a week of steroid tablets. It's quite scary when you can't breathe, thankfully he didn't have an actual attack but was hitting less than half the expected norm on the peek flow chart. He wasn't in a fit state for college all week but caught up on work emailed from tutors. He also made good progress through the Jonathan Creek box set whilst resting.

M surprised me with some flowers last week, I love the rich red berries in the bunch too. Looking at the leaves (oak tree leaf shape), they look like Chrysanthemums. It's years since I worked in a florist, nursery garden centre. The lilies have had their pollen removed, as beautiful as they are, and I know QT doesn't usually jump on the table, but they are poisonous to cats.

M and teen 2 have been planting up 3 new hanging baskets. Each basket has a silver and a gold edged ivy plant with the winter flowering pansies and some tete a tete daffodils which will flower in early April. Becky if you're reading this, I loved your baskets and they were the inspiration, thank you. It's just nice to look out the kitchen window and see some beautiful flowers hanging in baskets.  

QT, soaking up the last of the sunny warm rays. He's such a fluffy boy and totally knows how to take life easy. He's been leading us in a merry dance of  'you stock up the cat food - then I'll not eat it after 4 days'. 

Today after shopping in town I called into the surgery for my flu jab. I've never attended a clinic for this before but thought I'd take the first of  the 3 available dates listed. The queue was very long but swiftly dealt with, so with an aching arm at least I'll be invincible over the winter. Having had flu once over Christmas 2 years ago, it's something I'm very pleased to avoid. I'm not sure how the eligibility is worked out but the asthma nurse invited me to attend. Last year she went ahead and gave me the jab as part of the asthma review.

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Last night was the local book club discussion, we discussed two books both of which I hadn't finished reading. I abandoned Killing Kate halfway but continued scan reading until the end to catch the gist for the questions. A Street Cat Named Bob, I saw the DVD which though doesn't always follow the books well, I'm glad I got to watch it beforehand. I'm half way through this one and want to finish it before starting the next one.

The questions we used were these -           

A Street Cat Named Bob
- Questions (Book choice for August).

1. Talk about the strange connection that exists between humans and animals. What makes us bond with one another? James was barely able to care for himself, as he admits, so what prompted him to undertake the care and added expense of a sick animal?

2. Bowen says that Bob attracted people and motivated them to offer money, far more generously than when he was playing on his own. What is it about animals—but not people—that brings out people's kindness charity? is there something strange about that? Isn't that backwards?

3. How do you react to the homeless? Do you ever stop to talk, learn their story, offer money, a word of encouragement, a cup of coffee? Has this book made you see homeless people differently?

4. Bowen's story, of an animal that changes one's life, is exceptional but not unique. What is it about animals that can heal the human soul?

5. How did James end up on the streets of London? What part did his mental health and/or his family history play? How responsible is/was James for his troubled life? To what degree are any of us responsible for the path our lives take?

6. Would you read the other books in the series?  
The World According to Bob 

Bob: No Ordinary Cat 

Where in the World is Bob 

My Name is Bob 

For the Love of Bob 

A Gift from Bob 

Bob to the Rescue.

Killing Kate – Questions (Book choice for September).

1. Leaving aside the whole issue of domestic violencewhich as a group we've discussed many times before, how did you feel whilst reading this book? eg did you enjoy the book, feel uncomfortable etc.

2. Was the plot with a serial killer, having an un-convicted past, believable?

3. Were there any red herrings, was there a twist?

4. What are your thoughts on how Alex Lake has written the book eg the characters – did you feel sympathy with any of them.

5. Was the writing fast paced or slow and dull?

6. There are mixed reviews on this book-

Second half not as good as the first half,

Predictable and boring,
Kept you guessing 'till the end.

If you were to write a blurb for this book or even a review, what would you say?

7. Would you read any more of Alex Lake's books?

After Anna (2015)
Copycats (Sept 2017). 

Revisiting The Haven in September.

You may remember a previous walk here where I mentioned Samphire growing on the beach soon. M and I visited The Haven on Thursday for a walk, it was very warm, bright and sunny and as usual hardly anyone about. Here are a few photos with what's left of it now, covering the beach in a reddish carpet. Here is some info about Samphire if this interests you.

Do leave a comment if anything is of interest or if you've read one of the books. Have a good week and thanks for stopping by.

Friday, 22 September 2017

Five on Friday - Hubbard's Hills

Hello, I'm joining with Five on Friday for a walk on the last day of the school summer holidays in England. It  was a few weeks ago now that we set off for a family walk at Hubbard's Hills, described as an area of Natural Beauty, in Louth. It was a lovely warm sunny day and a short walk was just ideal.

The paths follow along the river Lud with a mix of leafy woodland and open green land. On one side of the river you have a choice of paths, up this steep bank to follow the edge of the golf course or along the river itself. Low down you are free to cross the water on some stepping stones or bridges. The other side of the river is a wide open grass area, which as the weather was so nice and warm, people were enjoying picnics and family games.

Thousands visit this 32 acre site every year. The trust was set up to purchase Hubbard's Hills with the gift of money left in the will of Auguste Alphonse Pahud in the early 20th century. For an aerial view of the land see here. The steep hills are the result of glaciation, for more information see here.

A memorial for Annie, beloved wife of Auguste Pahud. There is much information on-line if you're interested but briefly, Swiss teacher Auguste came to England to teach German and French at the grammar school in Louth. He met and married a local girl called Annie who came from wealthy farming parents. After her death, he was devastated and sadly committed suicide. He did however leave money in his will which the trustees have purchased and gifted Hubbard's Hills to the people of Louth. 

I'll leave you with a few more photos of what we saw on our walk, it really is a beautiful place. I've left off the photo of children sliding down the muddy bank. A pathway has been eroded into the hill which is wet and very muddy. There are signs up asking for parents to prevent this but... some children were covered from head to toe in mud and though they could wash themselves off in the river before their return journey home, environmentalists of course do not share their humour. 

It's such a shame, as obviously the environment needs protecting for future visitors and habitat etc and of course it's great to see kids having 'screen free time'. Anyway, it's probably best left for others in official places to think more on 'how to protect' areas of natural beauty as clearly signs alone are not working. 

For more info including the geology of Hubbard's Hills see here.

Thank you for reading, do leave a comment I'd love to hear from you. Thank you to all the new follows that have been reading my blog, you are very welcome. Cx

Friday, 15 September 2017

Cookery calendar challenge

The Hairy Dieters: Fast Food - Paperback - 9780297609315 - Hairy Bikers

During August I bought 'another' new cookery book, The Hairy Dieters Fast Food. I've chosen 2 books for the Cookery calendar Challenge, you can find more on the link at the end.
I'd watched the Hairy Dieters series of cookery programmes and I was pleased to see they'd released a new book. This book promises to help you have a meal on the table within 30 minutes. One that is healthy and lower in calories and hopefully won't be clogging up your arteries or tipping the cholesterol balance.

The book seems to be carrying on in the same vein as their previous books where they lesson the refined sugar carbohydrates and try and look for replacements. For example in this book, they bake bread tartlets with sliced bread instead of high fat pastry and in a previous book they cut leeks open length wise and used the layers instead of pasta sheets in a lasagne. For this healthy reason alone, I would recommend them.  

Each recipe has a short intro that is informative, offering advice and serving suggestions. They provide suitability for freezing, vegetarian and the important calorie count which is after all a huge reason for buying the book.

Si and Dave write in their unique style that feels like they are there with you. You can be sure they've tried and tested each recipe and if they say it's good, it is. Following their testimonials at the beginning of the book, they reveal their new challenge, which is to have 'fast' recipes for the table before you reach for the snacks.

There is a section in the book for slow cooking and making use of the pressure cooker. The slow cooking just means, the preparation required will take up to 30 minutes. I'm tempted by some of the pressure cooked recipes as I love using my pressure cooker. I find stews and casseroles always taste full of flavour cooked in there and have been very disappointed with my slow cooker. My second recipe I've chosen requires the pressure cooker, though you could simmer it for an hour.

The first recipe - 'Stove-Top Granola' is from the 'Breakfast and Brunch' section. I was looking for an oat cereal recipe as most shop cereals contain one or more of these - barley, soya, dried stoned fruits, nuts and coconut. As I can't eat any of these, I was pleased to see a few recipes that are suitable. I will be re-testing the nuts soon and hope these will be ok to eat.

The recipe itself is simple enough, melting the butter and maple syrup with some oil and then stirring in the oats and salt in a pan to coat evenly, this is done in 20 second bursts for 5 minutes. They should give off a nutty aroma and look slightly golden.

At this point you can add your chosen dried fruit, seeds and nuts if wanted. Then tip onto a tray to cool and crisp before serving with milk or yoghurt. It'll store in an airtight container, this amount for one will last a few days. I used sultanas and sunflowers and I also added some fresh fruits to my bowl one morning.

There was a nice buttery taste with this cereal but I was a bit disappointed. When I think of granola, I imagine crisp, hard pieces or nutty oats but this quickly absorbed the milk and became the usual soggy oat based museli breakfast. I did wonder if baking it in the oven rather than a non-stick frying pan would've crisped the oats up a bit.

I would definitely make it again, but would use less butter, as the taste was overpowering after a while, with the milk.

The second recipe I've chosen is 'Pressure Cooked Tomato Sauce' from the 'Slow, Slow, Quick, Quick, Slow' section. We were wanting to use up some tomatoes from the greenhouse and this was perfect. You do need a glass of white wine for this recipe, not to drink whilst it cooks, but to add to the pan as it steams away merrily. The recipe calls for 2 cans of chopped tomatoes, so you could of course make this all year.

You start by lightly frying a chopped onion to brown the edges, meanwhile continue chopping the other ingredients and then adding the garlic. 

All the other ingredients can then be added but don't be tempted to add more water as it won't need it. My assistant was busy chopping for me whilst I stirred and tidied things away.

Here it is in the pressure cooker before the lid went on for steaming. It is very bright, bold and with the red onion, quite something to see.

The recipe says to cool quickly and reduce the sauce on the hob stirring with the lid off. I served some (not reduced yet) in a ramekin dish alongside our jacket potato as dinner had already been planned but we wanted to try it. The sauce was delicious, sweet, fruity and flavoursome.

As it was not yet reduced it was more liquid than it should have been but I ended up tipping it on my plate and it complemented the dinner nicely.

I shall be making this again, they suggest freezing it, eating it with pasta, meatloaf or burgers. I've made tomato sauces before and they have never tasted this good. I've added marrow or other squashes and basically ended up with a very watery tasteless liquid. I wouldn't really like to call them a sauce. This one is delicious and looks and smells good too. There was no complaints from the family which is always good when they like what you've provided.

Next month I'm going to choose 2 recipes to cook from Jamie Oliver's 'Ministry of Food' cookbook. I know not everyone is keen on him or his style of presenting his ideas but I've watched this particular series on TV and bought the book. The whole point of the cookery calendar challenge was to get reacquainted with our long forgotten cook books, this book certainly fills the brief.

I hope you've enjoyed reading about my 2 chosen recipes, I certainly loved making them and hope to make more in the future.