Monday, 6 December 2010

You lazy ... blogger

I must apologise for my absence - I just don't seem to be in the blogging mood at the moment. Just so many things to do, I guess. However, I will be back at some point so don't give up on me peeps!

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

New Broom

Well it seems posting in the school hols is a non-starter, so apologies for my absence. We ventured south, to my parents house near London, and into the thronging masses. Soooooo many people! I arranged to meet my friend in a local park and it took us a full hour to spot each other, even though we were standing in the same play area!!! Un. Be. Lievable.

Anyhow. It was nice to be fed for a week and take a break from housekeeping. I felt like I needed a bit of an injection of something to change my fast-becoming routines. You know sometimes you just need a change of scene or to read a really interesting book that sets you thinking. In my case, that book turned out to be "Meat" by Hugh Furnley-Whittingstall.

Firstly, I should explain that I've become a bit of a HF-W devotee recently, after following his excellent new series on Channel 4, Everyday Food. Flaming marvellous ideas in there, some of which I have already adopted, such as making your own yoghurt (took less than 5 minutes to prepare). However, this gigantic tome of a book sets out to tell you everything you need to know about meat - from how important it is for an animal to live a good life, to how it dies, to how it's butchered, to how to identify good meat, to how to cook it. It's a truly fascinating subject which I didn't even know I was interested in. I love the way that Hugh writes - you can actually hear his voice as you read the words, especially as all his (bad) puns are also included :)

This book has set me on a bit of a journey now. For a start, it completely slates supermarket meat and sets out in great detail the arguements for doing so. They are utterly convincing and I vowed there an then never to buy any meat from a supermarket again - which is a pretty big commitment, if you think about it. Luckily, we have an excellent butcher locally and I cannot fathom why on earth I haven't patronised it before. Off I went on Monday morning to find the most amazing array of meats, both raw and cooked and made into pates and all sorts of things. The shop was full - another good sign - and the butcher himself (and his staff) knew exactly what they were talking about.

Of course, once I've made the effort to go to the butcher, I may as well pop into the excellent greengrocer next door. And so it goes. A whole new way of shopping which is extremely welcome because, I don't know about you, but the whole supermarket 'run' has to be one of the most boring and repetetive exercises that we habitually undertake. God, am I bored with it. Same old, same old each week, putting things in the trolley out of habit and not really thinking too much about it either.

The above revellations, coupled with a new-found enthusiasm for making my own bread (with a breadmaker, admittedly) and my now own yoghurt, coupled with the doorstep delivery of milk (which I have had for a while now) has led me to realise that I don't constantly find myself 'popping out' for bread etc (to the supermarket, of course) and then end up spending 10 or 20 quid on stuff. Hurrah! At this rate, I'll never see the inside of a supermarket again!

And just whilst we're on the subject, as for veg, I went to a shop on Sunday and bought 4 enormous carrots (the biggest you've ever seen - about 2 inches thick), 8 leeks, 4lbs potatoes, a giant pumpkin, some celery, 8 onions and 3 large parsnips. All local, all still covered in earth, all freshly harvested. Where was this shop, I hear you cry? Well actually, it's my local prison farm shop!! The prisoners grow the veg and then it is sold on a not-for-profit basis. Talk about a win-win situation, eh? Oh yes, and I forgot to mentioned the price of this bountiful harvest ...






wait for it ...





£4.50 the lot!

I'll just let you soak that up for a moment.

So, all in all, I find myself with a nice new obsession on my hands - food. Not just cooking it, but finding out more about my food, thinking about where I buy it from and also the most economical way of shopping in general. My mantra has become - simplify - which can most easily be achieved by planning meals (which I always do), shopping once a week only (instead of 3 or 4 times) and being creative with leftovers - but that's another subject for another day.

The vegetables I bought have so far been put to good use - a fabulous pumpkin and parmesan soup, a lovely chunky winter vegetable soup - both of which have made enough to eat now and freeze for another day - and I've still got loads left for the rest of the week.

Tomorrow I'll tell you all about the bag of apples we were given yesterday ... bet you can't wait ... you're just going to have to bare with me on this food obsession I'm afraid ... :-)

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Finished Objects!

Another stunningly beautiful day today. In fact, if you were to think about the perfect Autumn day, this would surely be it. Perfect blue skies,

a thick frost indicating a nice chill in the air,

and the bright colours of the season (this leaf is in fact the brightest red you ever did see - except my ruddy camera doesn't capture it's colour so well).

Back home, I can show you my finished tapestry. You may recall that my brother kindly bought me this kit from the Historical Sampler Company (under specific instructions, of course), for Christmas. It's been by the side of my chair ever since and I've worked on it slowly over the months, a bit here and a bit there. Last night I finally finished it and unfurled it from it's frame. I'm going to make it into a cushion for the kitchen. Now, however, this does leave me with a tapestry 'gap' - should I wait until Christmas for big brother to get me another one? I doubt I could wait that long, really, although it would be a nice tradition, wouldn't it? One a year. And even more special to have to wait for it. Hmmmm.

I finished the little Halloween garland. The plain pumpkins do in fact have stitched pumpkin lines on them, but of course you can't see them from a distance. Wish I'd put the faces on them now. But it's quite cheery.

And this is the finished runner. In the end, because it was 7 foot long (!) I used a sheet that'd I'd dyed a while ago, for the border and binding, so as not to have any joins. Then I just ran some straight lines of stitching along them, to lightly quilt it, as it does have wadding in the middle. Am quite pleased with it and, remarkably, it has remained stain free so far, which is always a bonus.
Today I am making sweet treats for the school Halloween party tomorrow. I figure anything can look Halloween-y if it's either orange or black, or both :)

Monday, 18 October 2010

Feeling Spooky

Sundays have turned into 'Adventuring' day in our house, mainly for the boy and his dad - but yesterday I was summoned along (not quite sure why). Anyhow, we ventured up to Devoke Water, near Birker Fell. As you can see, the scenery high up in the mountains is almost pre-historic. In fact, these mountains have been here since the dinosaurs were roaming the land. Weird, huh?

We had our picnic near the water. It felt like being on the roof of the world. The boy ran into school this morning and announced he'd been on an adventure yesterday 'climbing mountains'. Well, not quite, but there were suitable gasps from the girls.

I wonder if he'll manage to keep them spellbound in this Wizard's costume? I spotted the fab star fabric on the market on Saturday and had to have it. I was thinking about a black cloak and then wondering how to incorporate the stars and then I thought - long, pointy sleeves! Wizards do seem to have those sorts of sleeves, and with the pointy hat it looks very Wizardy. Completely forgot to get some face paint, but I may just finish it off with a long, pointy beard.

Anyhow, with thoughts of halloween uppermost, I fiddled about with some felt and started to make a little halloween garland to hang across the fireplace. Was rather chuffed with it really. This is part of the joy of having kids - you can indulge all your little ideas and say you're doing it for them ;-)

Friday, 15 October 2010


Well here it is - my first fairisle project. It's knitted in aran weight wool, which made it knit up fast and also made it easier with the fairisling as the stitches were nice and big and it was easy to spot a mistake.
Here is a dreadful picture of moi modelling it - sorry, the light is dreadful here today, so the flash went off and I don't know how to stop it. Anyhow, it's quite a snug fit, but that just makes it very warm - it's more like a jacket really because of it's hefty weight.

Here's the inside - I'm very proud of my neatness here, especially as it is my first attempt (did I mention that at all?).
I have a long, denimn dress which I think will go with this quite nicely. Bit prairie girl, you know.

Meanwhile, I forgot to show you my latest purchase. I spotted a version of this Keep Calm poster in a magazine recently and thought it was hilarious, so I had to have one. I searched high and low for one with the same wording on the net, but couldn't find it anywhere, until I came across a site called Zazzle, which has a Keep-Calm-o-matic poster generator (watch out Wallace and Gromit!). You can choose the wording, the colours, the size - all of that stuff. Admittedly, it was a bit pricely, but I had fallen in love with it by then. It makes me chuckle every time I put the kettle on (it's right next to the kettle, of course) :-)

And look what turned up yesterday, out of the blue. I had it on pre-order from Amazon and had pretty much forgotten about it. On a very rudimentary first glance, it is a lovely book - some fab images, but the projects are somewhat basic at the back. However, as I said, it's a lovely book to look through and gain inspiration and ideas from. I mean, you've just got to love Kirstie for all that she stands for in handmade crafts, haven't you? Keep the flag flying and all that ;)

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Split Ends

Well, as you can see, I have a little work on my desk today. Mainly involving these little monkeys - ends ...

It's unavoidable really, if I ever want to finish this fairisle cardi. Can't say it's much fun this bit, but no pain, no gain, as they say.

Meanwhile, as there has been a distinct lack of sewing on this blog of late, I thought I'd show you my current work in progress. It's a table runner (obviously). I started out just joining up hexes into flowers, not really knowing what it was going to become. And then I thought perhaps a nice bit of patchwork in the kitchen would look good. But I couldn't really be bothered to hex them all together, so I just sewed each flower onto a square of fabric - tres lazy.

The girls at my sewing class like it, although it's a bit 'random'. I'm going to have to figure out how to put a long edge on each side with as few seams as possible - it's 7 foot long. Then I will have to find some backing fabric and sandwich in some wadding, then a binding for the edge. Bit like a very thin quilt really.
But at the moment, I am thinking about Wizard costumes. Of course it's Halloween soon and I suspect the 'dress-up' day at school next week will be pretty obvious. At least I hope so. I grabbed a witches hat in the supermarket last week, suspecting that it was better to get it early and avoid the last minute panic. So I'm thinking a very long cape with stars and moons on it. I may even go the whole hog and get some face paint. Then I shall just have to wave my magic wand and hey presto! A wizard will appear!

Monday, 11 October 2010

Good Moow-ning!

Good Mooooow-ning!

Sorry - what was that? Did somebody say something?

Another stunning morning today. So beautifully sunny and bright, a perfect blue sky, and yet that lovely chill in the air. A slight frost on the fields.

As I walked the boy up the hill to school, I told him that Autumn is my favourite time of year. He said winter was his favourite "because first it snows, then it's Christmas!".

Well it's my pattern cutting nightclass again tonight and I've just finished my homework, which was to make up the skirt block we drafted into a skirt, and then design a skirt to cut tonight. Am so loving this course. I have wanted to learn these skills for so long and I'm so excited at the thought of having a new wardrobe that fits ME.

On my to-do list this week is to sew up the fairisle cardigan. I finally finished it and blocked it out at the weekend. Can't say I'm looking forward to sewing in all those ends, up hey ho.

Of course, that left me with nothing on the needles - yikes - not with an X Factor marathon approaching! Luckily, I had enough left-over aran yarn from the fairisle cardi to actually make this jacket for the boy. Except the sleeves will be a combination of stripes to use up all my bits.

I started it on Friday night and by last night had already done the back and the left front! Don't you just love aran? I might even line this with a nice soft brushed cotton. Mmmm. Snuggly.

Thursday, 7 October 2010


Morning all! What a lovely crisp and dry morning for a good stretch of the legs.

Here is our little bridge over the beck, in our little hamlet. The water was babbling away this morning. It's the colour of beer - a deep copper brown with little white horses as it rushes over the rocks.

On my way back I could see the church at the top of the hill, with the boy's school just nestling underneath. I said "Morning!" to 8 people in total, all friends and neighbours, two of which stopped to ask if I needed a lift. No, says I, I'm just taking a morning walk. Jolly good, lovely day, they chirruped! Lovely.

So the last couple of days have been a bit of a baking frenzy, as you can see. Just couldn't stop, once I'd started, I'm afraid.

These little pies are for the boy's packed lunch. He loves them - they have a mixture of corned beef, mashed potato and carrot in them. I make them in a muffin tray and they're just the right size for him.

There was also a huge pastie, but it didn't hang around long enough to have it's picture taken ;)

This carrot cake I took to my sewing class last night, to celebrate the return of Stanley. Yum!

I even made some bread - in the breadmaker - just in the case the whole house wasn't filled quite enough with delicious smells.
So now you can see why I've reinstituted my morning walks. Just to make sure I can still move, what with all the cakey-goodness going on ...

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Good Times!

Stanley's back!!! I am happy! My house is warm! I can cook and bake again! The last 4 weeks have seemed like the heart of the house had been ripped out and we were forced to 'camp out' in our own kitchen on a make-shift hob and oven. Anyhow. Ordeal over. Breathe in. Breathe out. :-) Smile.
Yesterday turned out to be a great day, in fact, because as well as getting Stanley fixed, I started my new Pattern Cutting nightclass. Nothing like I expected. The first class was all measuring and calculating and drawing, which was a bit hard on the old - and dusty - brain cells. However, at the end of the evening I had cut out my first skirt 'block'. A block is a basic pattern using your own body measurements, so it will fit perfectly, and which you use as a starting point to design your own patterns. Our homework for next Monday is to design our own skirt, so that we can cut the pattern in the class! Am absolutely chuffed to bits with this as it's something I've always wanted to learn how to do, and of course it means that from now on, every item of clothing I make will fit perfectly. Imagine having a wardrobe which is tailormade! We will be moving onto trousers next which I am especially looking forward to because I honestly don't think I've ever had a pair of trousers that fit me properly.

Meanwhile, I have been progressing with the first fairisle project. Just got one arm to finish and then I think the fun will start as I will have all those ends to sew in :( However, it will need a good blocking session first as the fairisle tends to pull it out of shape somewhat.

But it's going to have to wait for now because I have cakes to bake and pies to cook today. Hurrah!!!

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

No mojo

My sincere apologies for the lack of posts recently. I'm afraid I've been having a bit of a crisis out here in the country, which has resulted in a complete loss of my creative mojo. And it's all down to this. This is Stanley -

Stanley is my fabulously expensive, as in 'lifetime investment', range cooker. Stanley also provides me with heating and hot water. He is the roasty, toasty focal point of my kitchen. So warm and cosy on cold winter days. In the (nearly) 3 years since I got Stanley, he has become the most popular item of furniture in the house. People gravitate towards him when they enter the kitchen, marvel at him, swoon over him and generally heap praise upon him - he's like a giant magnet. And of course I use him every day.

However, if you take a closer look at him, you will see that something is wrong. Very wrong. He ain't working. He is cold. He is unfixed. He is redundant. And, quite frankly, I'm beginning to fall out of love with him. I am in WEEK FOUR - yes, week 4 - of no cooking facilities, other than the microwave. I have had men coming in and out of my kitchen for the last month, attempting to fix him. In fact it's been longer than that - all summer really - since he first started to show signs of not being quite right. Buttons were pressed. Things re-set. New motors fitted. Twice. He still not working. He still ... dead.

So for the last month I have been through the entire Tesco range of ready meals, had fish and chips too often and paid for expensive Sunday lunches out. All the while staring at Stanley and wishing, just wishing, he was fixed. And the phone calls. To men who say they can fix him. To men who swear they will send me some spare parts by first class post and 4 days later still nothing. To the shop I bought him from. To the people who made him, in Ireland. So far, no one has managed to fix him.

And so yesterday, not knowing whether to break down and cry, or scream myself horse, I had to spend £100 on this piece of kit. It's an electric oven with 2 hobs which you simply plug into the wall. Last night we had Spag Bol and garlic bread and were grateful for every mouthful.
However. When you pay thousands of pounds (roughly 6) for a special item for your home, you do not expect to be in this position, do you? You expect someone to at least care, at least try, at least be on your side. My head is sore from hitting it against that brick wall.
I feel numb. All the joy I usually feel at this time of year - my favourite time, the autumn - has so far eluded me. I am not warm and toasty and cooking up hearty stews and yummy comfort food. I cannot pop a cake in the oven, when I get the urge, or cook a special meal if I feel like it. I can't sew. I can't create. I don't know what to do with myself :-((

Friday, 17 September 2010

Everyone's a Winner

Now you see, because of my Fair Isle obsession, I completely forgot to show you the fabulous fabrics I won recently over on the I'm a Ginger Monkey and Celtic Fusion Fabrics blogs.

As you can see (through the creases - doh - could have ironed them first, eh?), there are some unusual and inspiring fabrics in the bundle.

I absolutely adore this Red Riding Hood one - would surely make a lovely pressie for a little girl.

As would this one, which I think is Snow White

The purple colour on this is really bright (not shown here very well, I'm afraid),

But I do think this Russian Doll one is my fave AND - bonus - there's a matching tape to go with it.All in all a fantastic haul, me thinks. In order to win the prize, I had to say what I'd make with them and I said Christmas pressies - I was thinking in terms of book covers for various people. However, the fabrics are so lovely, I may have to re-think that. Hmmmm.

Meanwhile, I am jumping up and down with anticipation as my Amazon account informs me that my pre-ordered copy of Alicia Paulson's 'Embroidery Companion' will be arriving today! Hurrah! Oh joy. I hope it comes in time for coffee and cake ... perfect, non?

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Still obsessed

Yep, as you can see, this is pretty addictive stuff. Once you get the hang of it, you just can't stop yourself seeing how the next colour is going to work out. I think the fact that I'm using aran wool has been a great help for my first Fair Isle project - you can clearly see where you are and there's less stitches to worry about.

The tricky bit is the weaving in of the wool as you go along. If a colour is not being used much in a particular line, then you have to keep catching it in with your working colour, so as not to leave a big loop at the back of the work. This can get a bit tricky when you're using 3 different colours! At the moment, I end up with a great bit tangle of wool at the end of each line, which I then have to untangle before I can carry on. I guess there must be a technique for dealing with this, but I have yet to figure it out.

Despite the fact that I'm loving the actual knitting, the whole cardigan has been slightly tainted by the fact that, when I proudly showed it off to husband last night, he said 'oh, a Christmas jumper'. Eeeuch.

Moving on, you may remember that I started making this felt book for one of the boy's teachers who was having a baby. Well, the baby has been born now (a boy) and the book is finished. Thought I might give you a little peek at it ...

Hope they like it :-)