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      Log fires and a British pub on a rainy Sunday afternoon

      26th January

      Mr H decided to partake of a four hour cycle ride today in the torrential rain. He set off and I set up the sewing machine to finish a black and white clutch bag. I shall be using it for my dinner date in London on Saturday. Just need to think of an outfit now!

      Can you tell what colour lining I chose?
      Unlike the glasses case, this one required
      space for cards in the lining. colour does not
      show well here, but it is electric blue

      As soon as I had completed my project the phone rang and it was the cyclists calling for help. The rain had been coming down in sheets and with the wind chill factor both cyclists were freezing, so the car and I came to the rescue. However in the space of time they had managed to cycle 30 miles, don't think I could have done that! (or wanted to!!!!)
      It was decided therefore to find a snug pub with a log fire and the two corresponding families of the cyclists to meet up and have a jolly time. We decided to find a pub equidistant to the two homes which brought us to Henley-on-Thames. Normally pubs by the river Thames are heaving on a Sunday and too crowded for comfort, but we ended up being the only ones to brave the weather and had the place to ourselves, log fire and all!

      Everywhere I looked around this pub, there was something unusual, quirky or well placed. Much thought and care had obviously gone into the decor and I loved it. The food wasn't bad either.
      Houses of Parliament sauce

      Log fires on a rainy Sunday afternoon
      I loved these coat racks and thought they could not be that difficult to make, but as anything it is to find the time. So I always take a photograph in the feint hope that one day...
      Being in Henley and by the Thames, it was only fair that there had to be some rowing paraphernalia, a couple of rowing seats!
      Above our dining table was this 3 foot long chandelier...
      ...and underneath it the chaps pulled out the OS map to see where they had cycled, only to find they had not cycled the route they had planned!

      The whole atmosphere of the pub was lovely with quirky things to look at and it was terribly clean, loved it!

      Hope you all had a lovely Sunday too

      Just for a brief moment the sun shone on Henley bridge.

Unexpected crochet time - glasses case!

22nd January

My first 4 mini granny squares above the book photograph
I had intended to finish the first crochet slipper sock today whilst waiting for my daughter at her after school activity.  As I had left the house early this morning for work, I was secretly thrilled to have remembered to pack my crochet and some different coloured balls of yarn.  After a long working day and a longer evening ahead, I looked forward to savouring 45 minutes of uninterrupted hooky time.  Ahhh...but I  had forgotten to put in the pattern and as I was about to begin decreasing for the toes, not feeling I could 'go it alone' at this stage, I was scuppered.  But then, laid before me were three crochet books on the table in the room I was sitting, a sneaky look inside soon whetted my appetite and even though I should not have begun yet another project before completing some of the unfinished ones, found myself beginning to chain with the colours that I had in my bag...forty minutes later I had completed the four mini squares required for the front of the glasses case and was crocheting them together when my daughter's class finished.

Several hours later when  the children were in bed and the house was quiet, except for the incessant rain outside, I sat down to crochet some more.  Before I knew it, the glasses case was finished and I had a real sense of achievement, albeit surrounded by a messy kitchen as I has not tidied away after dinner, best go and do that now then!

I chose a bright and fun internal fabric for the glasses case to match the jolly yarn colours.

 The back view of the glasses case, I really like these colours.

The front view of the glasses case, was dictated by the colours I had with me whilst out and about today!

This image shows the internal fabric and how the colours match with the yarn.

The book that this glasses case came from is called Granny Square Crochet and is by Catherine Hirst.  The book pattern is actually for a clutch bag, so I just adapted it and made it a tad smaller for the glasses case.  What is fantastic for me about this project is that I used only that which I already had, including the large red button from an old coat, you never know when these items may come in handy!  Now I know it is so quick, I am very tempted to make a clutch bag in black and white for a dinner date I have in London in a few weeks...

Would love to know what crochet projects or other craft projects are keeping you busy at present!  Are you making for yourself, as I am, or for others?

Churros on a lazy sunny Sunday afternoon

Sunday 19th January       

This week end has been full on with a multitude of activities and the final Christmas celebration for our household!  Great fun, but no time for crafting although lots of crafting talk was held between my M-I-L and I, culminating in a decision to visit the new exhibition at the London Fashion and Textile Museum before it finishes in May, that of the Picasso to Warhol exhibition.
My in laws brought eggs from their chicken,
they have different varieties and I love
the way they lay such different eggs!

To finish the week end we decided to make use of our son's new Christmas present, a churro maker.  We are all quite partial to Spanish churros, those not familiar with them, they are a version of a doughnut, but in thick star shapes in straight lines, either filled with chocolate sauce or dipped in melted chocolate!  Very naughty but extremely delicious.  We tend to have eaten them late at night in cafes in Spain, but many eat them for breakfast dunked in hot chocolate, whenever you eat them and wherever, they are yummy.

The origins of churros is unclear, some feel they come from southern China orginally and brought over by the Portuguese explorers.  In China they used to 'pull' the dough, but as Europeans could not master this skill, they began to use star shaped nozzles to create the ridges that we now commonly associate with churros.  Another theory is that the Spanish shepherds used to make them as a substitute for bakery goods as the ingredients, that of salt, water and flour where easy to obtain and a quick sweet dish easy to cook on an open fire in the mountains.  Whatever the history, they can now be found all over Spain and many other European cafes and street vendors.  But why wait for your holiday, give them a go yourself!

Although we now have a piping contraption, a little like a large over sized syringe, you could use a piping bag with a large shaped star nozzle, I am sure now having made them, that this would suffice.
250g plain flour
250ml of boiling water with a good pinch of salt
vegetable oil enough to cover the churros in a frying pan
Sugar to coat churros
Chocolate sauce
Cinnamon powder

Sift flour into a large bowl.

Add the water gradually whilst stirring the flour, use a wooden spoon.  Do not worry if it is a bit lumpy as this will disappear with the pressure of piping later on. You should not need to mix it for long.

Meanwhile heat the oil in a frying pan.

Add dough mixture into piping vessel. The nozzle should be the largest star shape you can find.

Make sure the oil is hot and covers the churros
When oil hot enough, pipe the mixture directly into the oil in the pan, pipe out about 6cm pieces in straight lines. Cook until golden brown, approx 2-3 mins.
Place on kitchen paper to soak up excess oil, then roll churros on the plate of sugar or sugar and cinnamon.

If adding chocolate sauce inside churro, with another piping vessel and a long thin nozzle, carefully pipe in the centre of the churro, pulling nozzle out of churro as you are pushing the chocolate in, this takes a little bit of practise but is good fun!

If dipping into chocolate, your churro is ready and you just need to dip it into warmed runny chocolate and eat!

Churros are best warm, so eat immediately..

Our churros piping syringe and hot chocolate sauce ready to be injected into the warm churros!

♥These are very rich and filling, so do not eat too many!♥

I managed just a few minutes of hooky and was able to have my first crochet slipper sock fitting!  Very bright and very warm they are going to be too, as always will keep you up to date on my progress!

 The weather today has been so lovely, look at our blue skies and beacuse of that the shadows were immense today.  Although it has highlighted the fact, I need to get into the garden and start to Spring clean, the hanging basket looks sad, but look at it's shadow!

As we had either rowed, cycled, triathlon trained or run this week end , this afternoon, we all are taking it easy, even the cat! Enjoy the last bit of the week end everyone!


Crocheting slipper socks and lunch

15th January

Whilst at work yesterday Mamma entertained a gaggle of ladies and hosted a lunch.  I was most envious but needs must!  Today however I was able to have some of the left over which made for a much better lunch than I am used to! 

Please make this salad, it is unbelievably lovely

Leek & Grape Salad
0.5 kg  green grapes
0.5 kg leeks
1 tbsp sugar
lemon juice to taste
3-5 tbsp creme fraiche
3-5 tbsp mayonnaise

♥  Cut grapes in half and thinly slice the leeks, put to one side.
♥  In a large bowl mix the creme fraiche and mayonnaise, (the amount depends on how creamy and coated you would like the salad to be.)  Add the sugar and lemon juice to taste.
♥  Once all mixed up, add grapes and leeks and mix well.  Leave in fridge if time allows before eating and ENJOY!

I have also managed a little bit of hooky time and now have got past the heel on my first ripple slipper sock.  It is very colourful and jolly and am looking forward very much to being able to wear them!  Will keep you posted.

Red and pink in bottom right hand corner are the heel,
it has come out very neat.
Have a great Wednesday!
For those interested my sister has arrived in America and began her new job today! Good luck sis x


Spring and and not so much crafting

14th January

Blue skies in Winter are natures gift I feel.

After the twinkly Christmas lights that brighten up the dark winter months, January feels dark and drab and with our mad weather at the moment, more rain than in Noah's time it feels, one could be forgiven for feeling down in the dumps. BUT, here and there there are signs of a new season round the corner and every time I catch a sign my hearts leaps for joy. I am not a great gardener, though I admire beautiful gardens and brightly coloured plants and try my best to make something of our own little patch, but I cannot help but feel anything other than HOPE when a new shoot or bud appears.  Something about nurturing and expectations for the future, are you the same?

So far we have had indoor forced hyacinths, which have now finished.
Such colour in these bulbs at this time of year, really warms me

Every year, I buy a couple of three bulbs and have them indoors and when they are finished I plant them in the garden where they flower year on year in around March time.  I must have about 40 or so hyacinth bulbs from doing this for many years, double joy for inside and out! 

Then there is the pussy willow that has begun outside. On a beautiful but sodden day last week, I took myself off for a welly walk and came across the first of the pussy willow. Both the name and the look of this plant make me smile, does it do that for you too?   I could not resist but take a bit to have indoors in the study, I will enjoy it coming out fully little by little each day.


This week end, we travelled to the Peak district as my sister was having her emigrating party, a great time was had by all with tears and laughter. My family even had a sweep stake as to how often and when I would cry.  At different times during the evening, someone would come up and say sad things to me to see if they could manage to extract my tears, so that they could win the sweep stake!  I tell you families...  My sister and partner had put on a British dinner for everyone followed by American desserts, can you guess where they are emigrating too?
But the following day on our short walk, I even spied snowdrops beginning to flower how can you stay sad when you spot your first snowdrop?  How magical is that to see the first drops of the year, just love it.  We even were shown a dusting of snow on the hills in the distance, snow drops and snow...

After our walk we ended up in a lovely pub tucked away in the hills, where we had a delicious roast dinner in an oak panelled room with a roaring log fire, what more could you want?

My starter was more continental and tasty too, baked Camembert and was presented in such a lovely way...

And finally in my own garden Spring is trying to emerge, the primroses too are trying to flower, each day little by little Spring is trying to push away the winter.  We are not out of the woods yet, but there is hope and a freshness in the air...

As I was finishing this post, there was a knock on the door and I was handed these, saying that as my sister had emigrated today, perhaps I needed some sunshine...


Paper Cutting Panda Style!

13th January
I am totally new to this blogging world , so much so that prior to beginning one I had never followed a blog in my life, but now when I am not crafting, household choring, spending time with the family or working, I peruse the Internet and see how others entertain in Blogland, and boy do they entertain.
It was through this that I discovered the amazing Panda, known as Paper Panda.  This woman is a complete inspiration in the paper cutting world.  After delving in a little further I discovered that she was the first paper cutter to have a page on Facebook back in 2010, now there are literally hundreds.

I was immediately drawn to Panda's intricate cuttings and silhouettes, I think one of the charms of her work is the finished polished professional look to the end result. The frames, the way the cut outs, throw their shadows onto the back of the frame, there is nothing I do not like. So  leading up to Christmas I noticed she had DIY kits for sale and was tempted.  Luckily Pappa asked if there was anything on my wish list and 'Panda' sprung to mind. In the distant past I dabbled in a teeny weeny bit of paper, nothing on today's paper cutting styles, we are talking about cutting out a single rectangle or some such nothing, but I like to be honest so I knew how to hold the craft knife and knew how to hold the paper etc, but that was it.  So it took me until Wednesday of this week to actually open the DIY kit, very restrained of me I know but in the mean time I have been following Panda and watching every day the new cuts she puts up for sale.  Should you follow the link, and I urge you too, you will also be amazed at how minute the cuts are and how accurate she is, I cannot fathom how she does it.  http://www.paperpanda.bigcartel.com/  (Click on her blog at the top of the page too!  She also has a facebook page with over 60, 000 followers!)
One of the cut outs from the DIY kit, you too could do this!

The DIY kit is very simple but beautifully executed, everything you need is there and the instructions are very clear.   She also prompts you to some of her 'how to' videos, I confess I have not looked at them yet. So with excitement and trepidation , I thought I should begin.  I sat down in the study on our very wonky chair, I love it, it was free, we belong to free cycle but it has taken a battering since it entered our house a couple of years ago and is now somewhat wonky, some may even go as far as saying it is beyond help, it is that 'off' centre.  Anyhow, sat down as I did, I faced my first challenge, that of getting into the hard plastic packaging that contained the craft knife and extremely sharp blade.  Panda tells you to be careful and remember you are not a ninja!!!!!  Well I couldn't get b****y well in!   Arggggghhhhh.  So with a little frustration and force I did, but at a price, the chair gave way and I fell backwards throwing the knife into the air!  I felt a total banana, but luckily the knife just landed with a 'Plop' onto the desk in the right place neatly next to the cutting mat, teasing me as if to say, come on then what are you waiting for. Picking up the chair I felt a complete idiot and wondered if this was such a good idea, but I continued, the excitement out weighed the embarrassment. Paper cutting is so addictive and within minutes I was hooked.
Panda takes you through simple small steps and gives you little challenges along the way. In a bizarre twist, despite the need for concentration, it was one of the most therapeutic activities I have ever done.  At times a little frustrating when you think, gosh this is only a line I am following, how hard can it be to cut a straight/curved/circular line etc, but then you get the knife back into the grove and move along to a pleasant slow rhythm.  I am quite impatient with myself and like to see results fast, so thinking I did not have to follow Panda's instructions to a 'T', I skipped some stages and cut those patterns I liked the best and then did not even finish the three beautiful sheets of cutting she provides, I wanted to branch out on my own...

I thought to cut out a blog header with paper crafting and so set about.  Trying to write font backwards and in my own hand was no easy feat and too late I realised I should perhaps have downloaded some fonts from the wonderful invention called the 'internet'!

So the above was my first attempt at going it alone, I was pleased but also frustrated that it did not look very professional, nor did it give the right sort of feeling that I desired for the blog, so back to the drawing board.  I googled paper cutting in general and was amazed to see how much is out there and what big business it seems to be and suddenly my story board idea began to emerge.  I should cut out all the things the blog is about as the header page, so I eagerly sat down and began to add in details of all that the blog means to me, sewing, knitting, crocheting, food, my home and family, sailing, and me...

After initially drawing it out, the cutting began...

I kept turning it over to see what the finished result would be like and began to be secretly a little bit pleased...

The paper began to be very fragile and when my daughter lifted it up by the corner when it was three quarters complete, I may have screamed at her(!) to put it back down, sorry darling x

I made a few mistakes whilst cutting and if I were to do it again the design would be a little different and I would head Panda's voice more, change the craft knife blade more frequently, to achieve the professional sharp edges, but I was too mean to do that, but see how I should have. 

I am totally hooked on paper cutting and am thinking of all sorts of ways to bring it into our lives, it was never meant to be anything more than a new craft hobby for me to try, and it is brilliant.  I urge you to have a go.

♥Have a great week everyone!♥

Crocheted pin cushions

8th January

Newly landed on the door mat
and mamma grabbed it first!

Having just recently subscribed to Simply Crochet I have been eagerly awaiting my copy and was finally rewarded this week.  To say I was a teensy bit excited would be an understatement.  However, mamma managed to get her hands on it first and began showing me snippets from within. I feigned interest and of course I was interested but wanted to devour it for myself and not be shown all the highlights in one go!  So the magazine has been firmly with mamma since it landed on the door mat and she has been crocheting away. Secretly though, I am very pleased.  When mamma is crafting, she is happy, if mamma is happy here in the eclectic house, then she will stay longer and visit more frequently and that is what we all like here in this home.

With the children back at school and my work not beginning again until tomorrow, we have had a couple of days grace.  Christmas is firmly packed away, well sort of, because of our leaky roof, the Christmas paraphernalia must stay stashed downstairs until said roof is fixed.  And most of the chores within the house completed for now, mamma and I have been beavering away, she obviously with the Simply Crochet magazine and crocheting to her hearts content and me with the amazing Paper Panda DIY kit, full post on that in the future.  Apart from the occasional glance up at the mad British weather, this morning we had lightning, thunder, torrential rain AND hailstones and now the sun is shining and we have beautiful blue skies, still with a nippy wind however, wonder if the rain and storm will return again soon?   Probably as the children return home from school, that is the usual par for the course... so apart from the weather, we have been crafting.

Mamma completed her project today and very pleased she is too, I think the pin cushion trio she has made is rather good as well.  She said they were easy to do and I must say she completed them rather quickly.  At one point thinking there was a typo on the instructions as pin cushion two began in a very different way, but she went along with it and it worked out correct.  Well done Simply Crochet, mamma is so pleased she will subscribe to you from Norway!  Want to see what she made?

Mamma is so pleased she is now making a fourth pin cushion... and here it is!
The above pin cushion was not made from the magazine but was from the Danish website of Lisselotte Weller:
A translation of the pin cushion would be as follows:
Scallop pincushion ~ crocheted
(The pincushion is very effective if you switch colours after round 3.)
Chain 6 and sl st to form a ring
Round 1:  12 sc into the ring and finish with a sl join
Round 2:  Chain 1, *2 sc in first st, then sc in  next two st* repaet till the end of the round, sl to finish
Round 3:  Chain 1, *2 sc in first st, then sc in next three st* repeat till the end of the round, sl to finish
Round 4 : Chain 1, *2 sc in first st, then sc in next four st* repeat till the end of the round, sl to finish
Repeat until you have the desired diameter, usually the minimum rounds would be 8, with 10 rounds being the maximum.
Make two of these.
With wrong sides together crocheted round the edges in a contrasting yarn in sc, leaving a gap to fill pincushion with stuffing, then complete the closure with sc.
Finally with contrasting yarn sew from the middle of the pin cushion to each of the six corners, pulling the yarn taut to create the scallop effect, see photos to help.  Add a button to complete the pincushion.

And me, a sneak peak at the paper cutting that I have been doing. It is strangely therapeutic and could become very addictive, although can feel I am using different parts of my fingers and hands as the top tip of my pointy finger on the right hand is a little sore now!  I have used a craft knife in the past, but never for anything so small or so fiddly.  Thanks Panda!
♥Have a great Wednesday everyone♥