Sunday, 26 March 2017

Mother's day at the mill

What a gorgeous weekend we've had! More of the blue skies, sunshine and warmth please!

I spent Mother's Day with my daughter at Quarry Bank Mill, a National Trust property about a half hour's drive from our house. I thought I'd share a few of the highlights.

One of the reasons for our visit was to see the 'A woman's work is never done' exhibition which I'd seen featured on the local news. It mainly told of the lives of the millworkers: although women worked similar roles to the men, they were paid significantly less. Sad to think that more than 100 years later, this still goes on.

There were also stories of the women who married or were daughters of the millowners, strong, intelligent women who fought against stereotypes to make a difference in their communities and society.

Dotted around the room were these illustrations by Jacky Fleming from her book The trouble with women which did make us laugh! You can see more of her work on her website.

With Child - Carina Ripley

We also looked around the mill which still has working machinery. This one in particular caught my eye with its rows of reels and spiders' web of threads.

After a pit stop for lunch, we headed over to Styal village to admire the pretty cottages built by the Greg family to house the workers. One of them will be open to the public later this year, as will the Greg's house.

Next up was the mill gardens. Last time we were here, the restoration of the glass houses was still going on and they were covered in boards. The middle curved section is apparently very unusual. And very hot inside!

We preferred the cool of the greenhouse with its rows of succulents and flowers. I'm adding one of these to my 'when I win the lottery' list.

There aren't many flowers in the gardens as yet but these hyacinths perfumed the air all around.

More flowers and a welly vase - my Mother's Day present :)

A lovely weekend and hopefully a lovely week to come. xx

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Cookery Calendar Challenge: February

Back in 2014 I set myself a cookery book challenge to make at least one recipe from one of my cookery books each week for a year. There were highs and lows but overall it was a great year and really extended my repertoire. Since then though I've slipped back into my usual habits and end up making old favourites. I've had half-hearted attempts at resurrecting it and was considering having another go when I saw Gillian's post about the Cookery Calendar Challenge being organised by Penny. It seemed like perfect timing.

The idea is simple: the first week of every month, choose a cookery book from your shelf and, over the course of a month, make two recipes from it that you've never made before. Given that my own challenge involved a different book each week, this seemed very do-able. You can find out more on Penny's site, plus links to other bloggers taking part.

Here's my entry for February then. I decided to re-use the slips of paper from my old challenge to choose one at random and the first out of the hat was Delia Smith's How to Cook Book 3. Chickpea groaned loudly as Delia is definitely not one of her favourites. Even she had to agree though that we managed to find a couple of good recipes to try.

First up was Turkey Saltimbocca which is served in a Marsala sauce. I've made similar recipes before so knew this would be good. The only change I made was that I had to use dried sage rather than fresh as my local supermarket didn't have any. It didn't make any real difference and still gave a flavour hit as you ate.

The second recipe was Sea Bass with Puy Lentil Salsa. This was another really simple dish to make with just a bit of light chopping for the salsa. If you were feeling extra lazy, you could use ready-cooked lentils though I did cook them from scratch. We also enjoyed the sweet potato fries tossed in polenta which was a supermarket buy.

You can see what I made from Delia's book during my original challenge here.

And so to my pick for March.

Gino's Italian Escape was a Christmas present. I haven't made anything out of it yet so there should be plenty of choice.

If you want to see what the other participants have been making you can see the links on Penny's blog. More information about the Challenge can be seen here.

To end, a bonus image. There was a pandoro lurking in the cupboard so I made French toast with it for Valentine's. The slices made a lovely star shape, perfect for decorating with heart-shaped starberries :)

Hope you're enjoying a lovely weekend. It's absolutely chucking it down here so I'll be catching up with housework and crafting. x

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Ripple blanket

It's been a while since I had some completed crochet to show you but, at last, my ripple blanket is finished!

Ta-dah! The pattern, of course, is by the lovely Lucy at Attic24. I adapted it slightly by crocheting three rows of colour in each stripe rather than two to make the stripes bolder. The colours were my own choice and I used her method of organised randomness for the order of the stripes. Basically you use your set of colours once and then put them into a different order for the second set, and so on. It really works and is such a simple way to make the colours look spontaneous when your personality is anything but!

The border is made of 3 simple rows (one of trebles and two of double crochet).

The yarn is mostly Stylecraft Special DK which I bought from Black Sheep Wools - luckily they're only a half hour drive from me but they also do mail order. For those who are interested, the colours I used are:

1432 Wisteria, 1390 Clematis, 1084 Magenta, 1061 Plum, 1425 Emperor, 1062 Teal, 1708 Petrol, 1302 Denim, 1019 Cloud Blue, 1203 Silver, 1724 Parma Violet, 1725 Sage, 1068 Turquoise

plus a green, purple and blue from other ranges but I can't find the ball bands to give you those.

I've loved making it and feel a bit bereft now it's finished. I definitely prefer blankets made in rows as there are far fewer ends to sew in! A pity then that my next blanket will be made up of granny circles. Not my choice!

Chickpea saw the Kissing Kaffe design by Amanda Perkins in a magazine and fell in love with it. I think she was expecting to be able to snuggle up in it this winter. Ha, ha! Highly unlikely given it's taken me over a year to make the ripple!

So far I've made 3 circles just trying to get the tension right. Luckily the blanket has lots of circles of different sizes so the ones which were too small won't go to waste. The dark pink will be the prominent colour when it's finished. I'll keep you updated with progress.

More ripples on the local lake. It looked beautiful yesterday in the late afternoon light and this photo really doesn't do it justice.

We were meant to be visiting the Scarecrow Festival at Tatton Park today but the Highways Agency conspired against us. The motorway junction was closed and the diversion took us to another closed junction, whose diversion took us to yet another closed road. We gave up and went home, feeling very fed up. It's still on next weekend but it's a busy one for us so there may not be time. If not, I'll have to content myself with photos from previous years like these from 2016.

Hope you had a lovely and less frustrating weekend! x

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Heart week

It's love all around on my craft-a-day calendar this coming week with a Heart Week theme. Rather than post after the event, I thought it would be nice to share a few heart ideas.

This heart cake topper garland is from the calendar. Rather than trying to complete all the crafts each week, I'm selecting one or just using the theme to come up with my own ideas. This was my favourite of the options.

But these are the others if you want to try out a different one.

Or why not make a heart mug hug using the pattern I posted here?

And there's always origami. There have been several heart-themed patterns on my origami-a-day calendar. This one folds up so that you can write a secret message.

Not heart-shaped but this is the Valentine's gift Chickpea is giving her boyfriend: chocolate bark decorated with marshmallows, jazzies, chocolate beans, glace ginger and toasted almonds. We've also spent today making animal-shaped biscuits half-coated in chocolate for him. One of them is a bear because he's her Bear :)

This week many people will also be wearing green hearts to show their support for the Climate Coalition who are raising awareness of climate change. I wanted to share some links on their site but it doesn't seem to be working so here's one to a supporters pack and a few ideas from the Women's Institute instead.

Why not hug a tree? (Photo from 30 Days Wild in 2016)

Or show your love for the environment by spending some time in one of your favourite places. You can see some of the things other people are doing on the CC twitter feed #showthelove

Happy Heart Week! xx

Wednesday, 8 February 2017


Last time I hinted that I'd bought something else in the garden centre as well as the craft-a-day calendar. I hope you won't be too disappointed to learn that, yes, it's another calendar! This time it'll be teaching me origami. I hadn't intended buying another but Chickpea was particularly taken with the stag on the front so it had to come home.

It follows pretty much the same format as the kirigami in that you use the paper from the previous day to create the shape. There are some index cards too which explain basic shapes and the symbols used in the instructions.

Ah, the instructions. We're already struggling with those and we haven't got to the more complicated designs yet! Of course that might just be us and something to do with spatial awareness. Me and Chickpea puzzled over the minnow design for ages and gave up. Her boyfriend worked it out in seconds (it's the tail that's wrong in ours).

I think we'll get used to how the folding works as we gain more experience. In the meantime though, here's a few that have been completed so far.



Kabuto. A type of helmet worn by Japanese warriors.




Lonely sheepdog

Heart - it opens up to reveal a secret message!

Any favourites? The penguin and the bird are two of mine. As always I'll keep you up-to-date with progress. Enjoy the rest of your week :) xx

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Craft-a-day: Groundhog Day

Today is Groundhog Day in America when all eyes will be on the town of Punxsutawney to find out what weather the rest of the winter will bring. According to legend, if the groundhog emerges from his burrow to a cloudy day, winter will be short; if it's a sunny day, it's another 6 weeks of bad weather! Luckily, here, it's set for a miserable day so we're in for an early spring!

So why am I talking about groundhogs? Well, they're the theme this week of my new craft-a-day calendar. If you remember, during 2016, I worked my way through a kirigami-a-day calendar. A couple of weeks ago, we visited the same garden centre where I'd bought that and saw this one, half-price. Into my basket it went.

Each week has a theme such as snowflakes, gnomes, triangles, foxes, and each day has a craft on that theme. As the project is meant to be completed the same day, they're all pretty quick and simple.

To be honest, that aspect has been a little disappointing as most of the projects are on very similar lines - lots of cards, gift tags and cake toppers. I can't see me making everything but the templates will come in handy in future. I'm also thinking I might use the weekly theme as the jumping off point to inspire other activities like baking or days out. Watch this space to see if any of these ideas come to owt or nowt!

Did you think this was all I bought at the garden centre? Hmm, maybe not...more on that next time!

Happy Groundhog Day! xx

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Year in Books 2016/2017 and Burns.

During 2016 I took part in the Year in Books organised by Laura at Circle of Pine Trees, with the aim of reading at least one book per month. Before I reveal whether I achieved my target, there are 4 books to show you which I didn't get around to reviewing.

The first, read in September, is The bookshop on Rosemary Lane by Ellen Berry which was given to me as a birthday present. It's the story of Della who decides to open a bookshop selling cookery books with the books she inherits from her mother. As the book opens, she is struggling with a purpose in life: her mother has just died, she's bored with her job, her marriage is failing and her daughter is just about to go off to university. It sounded like just my kind of thing - bookshops, cooking, what's not to like? A shame then that I found it all a bit disappointing and cliched.

October was the only month I didn't manage to complete a whole book, though I did read a couple of short stories. I'd deliberately saved The mistletoe bride and other haunting tales by Kate Mosse to read during the spookiest of months. I usually love her books but, to be honest, the two I read, both based on the mistletoe bride folktale, were a bit average. What I did like were the author's notes saying where she got her inspiration or some anecdote around the writing of the story. I'll probably save it and read the other stories this October.

Thankfully, November proved to be much better with The ocean at the end of the lane by Neil Gaiman. Here's some blurb from the back cover:

'An ancient little girl, and an old woman who saw the moon being made; a beautiful housekeeper with a monstrous smile; and dark forces woken that were best left undisturbed'.

Clearly it's a fantasy novel, though set in the near past, and narrated by a man looking back at events from his childhood. I really enjoyed this one and will be looking out for more by Neil Gaiman (the film Stardust, based on one of his novels, is one of my favourites).

However, the best was yet to come in December with The snow child by Eowyn Ivey. It's the story of Jack and Mabel who are struggling to make a living in Alaska in the 1920s. They moved to this remote area to escape the tragedy of losing a baby and the resulting childlessness. Their lives change when a small girl appears by their cabin the night after they build a snow girl.

I loved this one! I've always been fascinated by the pioneer experience so enjoyed that aspect of the story. The characters were very well drawn and made you care about them. And the descriptions of the Alaskan wilderness were magical. A great end to the year.

So, did I meet my target? Well, I initially set out to read a book a month but was amazed to find I actually managed 21!

Actually, make that 21 and a half. I started out reading this one, month by month, but then forgot about it! I'll have to pick it up again this year.

Am I going to continue with the challenge? Well, I signed up on Goodreads to read at least 10 books. I probably would have been more ambitious if I'd realised what my 2016 total had been! I definitely plan to keep working through my stash which continues to grow rather than reduce! I'm not sure whether I'll stick to the structure of month-by-month posts though but will let you know my progress.

Onto 2017 then. My January pick, which I'm reading at the moment is The box garden by Carol Shields.  I've read quite a few of her books so my expectations are high.


Tonight is my annual Burns Night dinner with my friends Sue and Gordon. I'll be following the usual running order which I've written about here and here and the 'highland games' from here.

New this year is pin-the-tail-on-the haggis (image from here). And I might show this YouTube video.

Whatever happens, I know it'll be great fun. There's still lots to do, so I bid you 'Soraidh' (farewell) and 'Lang may yer lum reek! ('live long and prosper!). xx