Monday, 31 March 2014

Photo Scavenger Hunt: March

And so it's time once again for the monthly photo scavenger hunt organised by Greenthumb of Made with Love. Here's my selection.

M is for...: Motorbike

9am : Enjoying a caramel macchiato. I'd just dropped the car off for its MOT and was waiting for the Post Office to open to post a parcel to my lovely penfriend :)

Berries : I thought it might be difficult finding berries at this time of year but was lucky to spot this skimmia.

Lit up : The public library in Birmingham.

Grate : An old, rusty grate in the street.

Working : Lenny Henry filming 'Rudy's Rare Records' near the canal in Birmingham. In this sequence, he was supposed to be cycling along the canal before falling in. He pretended to have trouble steering and threw himself sideways onto a mat. A member of the film crew then threw a bucket of water in the air to look like he'd fallen in!

Brickwork : Patterns in the paving.

Cutlery : In a canteen.

Flowers : Could it be anything else but daffodils for March in England?

Crisp : Well, crisps. My favourite flavour, salt and vinegar.

Ticket : A souvenir from our trip to New York in 2008. I couldn't bear to throw it away and use it as a bookmark.

Coloured door : It turns out that the folk in this area are an unimaginative lot when it comes to door colour. I could have shown you any number of black, white or brown doors but coloured doors were hard to track down and particularly ones which were photogenic. Eventually though I found this rather grand pair.

And that concludes the March Scavenger Hunt. Why not join in with us in April? x

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Happy Mother's Day

Today has been Mother's Day here in the UK. We popped round to see my Mum this morning to give her a homemade card.

Her present was the latest book from Queen Mary Berry. It's always good buying Mum cookery books as you know you'll get to taste the results at some point :)

My own presents from Chickpea were these colourful flowers and a craft magazine - she knows me well.

This afternoon we decided to go for a walk as the weather was so lovely and warm. The clocks springing forward last night seems to have brought with them a real taste of spring and we saw bees, butterflies and this sweet little ladybird.

The sides of the path were carpeted in wild garlic. As I have a recipe in mind, I'm hoping it doesn't go over too quickly and before I have a chance to harvest some.

There was lots of celandine dotted around too.

And some very vocal robins.

When we arrived back, I sat and read in the sunshine in the garden and then worked on some quilting. A lovely way to spend Mother's Day.

However, I've saved my most exciting news until last. I have some leave coming up just after Easter and had been mulling over what to do. This morning I finally made up my mind and booked a holiday. In just over a month, we'll be standing under Juliet's balcony in fair Verona! Cue jumping up and down in excitement!!!

I'm off to practice my Italian but will be back tomorrow with the Scavenger Hunt. Enjoy the rest of your weekend. Ciao!

Friday, 28 March 2014

Flower Friday

I've really enjoyed having the welly of flowers. The gorgeous, vibrant colours combined with the quirky craziness of a welly vase has made me smile every time I've looked at it.

Gerberas are lovely but they don't last long and, before the week was out, they'd started to droop and curl. It seemed such a shame and I wanted to extract every last moment of pleasure from them. Time to dig out my trusty trifle bowl and create a new display.

Success! Within an hour, the flowers looked fresh again and were so gorgeous floating in the water with the glass pebbles sparkling underneath.

It looks so pretty in the evening too lit up with a floating candle. Almost a week later and they're still going strong.

I couldn't let the welly go to waste though. The foliage was still looking fresh so, a bunch of cheap carnations later and a new display was born.

A more subtle and tasteful colour combination this time but just as effective. This welly is going to run and run ;-)

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Here come the birds

Last year my quilt group had a talk from the textile artist and quilter, Elizabeth Wall. I absolutely adored her work so you can imagine my excitement when there was not one but two workshops with her on our 2014 programme!

First up was 'little birds' which was an evening workshop. I made one of these last year after seeing it in her talk and used her curly wurly tree shape.

I would have been happy to do the same again but she brought a different, spikier tree design which she said she'd created specially for our workshop. All the fabrics and templates were provided and we had a choice of which ones to use for the birds.

A happy buzz descended over the room as we traced and cut out shapes.

Gradually rows of trees and birds emerged and, by the end of the evening, we'd all completed the design to take home to quilt.

I really liked Liz's latest samples which included small flowers, so I later added daisies from one of my own fabrics.

Are you ready to see the final design? Ok, here come the birds...


I'm really happy with the result again. It was such a good evening - so satisfying. You could easily make this little quilt in an afternoon and that's sometimes what I need in the middle of bigger projects to keep my enthusiasm going.

The second workshop was yesterday and I'm still buzzing! I'll probably show you in a couple of weeks when it's been quilted.

To finish though, here's a real bird, a Nuthatch from a walk in the woods a couple of weeks ago :)

Enjoy the last few hours of the weekend. x

PS. Joining in with Chrissie and her Stitching Sundays.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Yoga mat bag

Have I ever told you that I do yoga? I think I may have mentioned it in passing once or twice but, yes, I do yoga and have been practising for about 10 years now. For those who know about these kinds of things, it's Iyengar yoga which focuses on the detail of the poses and uses equipment to help you achieve them (blocks, belts etc). And, of course, we use a mat, so when I saw a pattern for a mat bag in Simply Crochet issue 15, I knew I had to make one.

The pattern uses only 2 colours but how dull would that be?! Naturally I've ignored it and chosen 5 instead. The yarn is King Cole Bamboo Cotton which I've used before to make my round cushion. It crochets beautifully, has a slight sheen, and comes in lovely rich colours.

These colours are: Plum (529), Opal (527), Rose (528), Peacock (531), and Violet (537).

After making a circular base, you crochet upwards in a continuous spiral and have a marker to show where the next spiral begins. It's such an easy pattern, just (1dc, 1tr) then (1tr, 1dc) upwards and upwards.

As the bag is 60cm long, I'm doing a 12cm block of each colour.

This is how far I'd reached as of this morning. Still a way to go but it works up quite quickly. Can't wait to show it off to the rest of my class :)

Joining in with Chrissie and Marianne's Bloomin' Crochet-A-Long. x

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Welly Wednesday

I recently attended an event with a festival theme and was much taken by the table decorations. They were so bright and colourful.

The paint-spattered foliage was unusual.

The best part though was the vase.

It's a welly!

Even more amazing was that I won one to take home! It caused a few second glances on the train :)

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Cookery Book Challenge : Weeks 5-8

If the sign of a good cookery book is a forest of slips marking the recipes you want to make, then one of the titles this month must be a good one! You can read about the start of the Challenge here but, otherwise, let's crack on and look at the books and recipes included in this update.

Week 5 : The Classic Food of Northern Italy - Anna Del Conte

I bought this along with several others when I was going through a cooking/food obsessed phase, and have barely opened it. I wish I had, if only to have had the pleasure of how she writes in the introduction to each region and to each recipe. Italian is my favourite kind of food too so there was lots to tempt us.

Fettucine with sausage, mushroom and green olive sauce

As we were going to be out most of the day I needed something quick to cook and this fitted the bill nicely.  The title of the recipe says it all and I added some grated parmesan after the photo was taken. Definitely something I'd make again.

Baked polenta with mushrooms and cheese

When Chickpea went through the book, she chose every recipe that included polenta, as she was so desperate to try it! Well, I couldn't resist her enthusiasm and selected this one. You're supposed to make your own polenta but, at the time, I couldn't find any polenta flour in the supermarket so bought a packet ready-made. The ingredients are layered like lasagne and it includes four types of cheese: parmesan, gruyere, pecorino and taleggio. This made it quite an expensive option but, boy, was it worth it. Oh it was sooooooo good! There's a similar recipe from Anna del Conte here but without the bechamel sauce (and mine didn't include the very expensive truffle paste either).

Week 6 : Home Food: all your favourites with a twist

A slight change this week as I made a breakfast recipe rather than one for dinner. The book was given to me by a neighbour a few years ago and I've made a few things from it but both me and Chickpea felt uninspired this time. I also had various ingredients which needed using up and nothing quite fitted the bill. As we were planning on spending the day at Tatton Park, a hearty breakfast seemed a good option to keep us going for most of the day.

Ginger, coconut and ricotta flatcakes with bananas and honey

The recipe makes lovely, fluffy pancakes but the ginger was completely lost and there was only a hint of coconut. I'd make them again but add more of the flavourings. I was also glad I halved the ingredients as the mixture still made 12 pancakes which was more than enough for two of us.

Week 7 : A break from the challenge

No cookery book challenge this week as we were too busy. Chickpea's boyfriend was celebrating his birthday so she stayed over at his house at the weekend and we all ate out on the big day itself.

Week 8 :  Rice, risotto, pilaff and paella - Christine Ingram

And so to the cookery book I mentioned at the beginning.  The recipes are organised by country/region so, for example, there's India, Greece/Turkey/Middle East, Africa/Caribbean, Italy and more. Each recipe has a photo of the final dish which I prefer as I like to know what I'm aiming for. Unusually, most of the recipes also included in progress photos.

Rice is one of our favourite ingredients, and particularly risotto, so I knew I was likely to find lots of interesting recipes to try. After marking out 21 of them, both sweet and savoury, there was one which stood out.

Trout and Prosciutto risotto rolls

I did play around with the recipe, substituting and omitting some of the ingredients. The original uses Parma ham but, as the supermarket didn't have any, prosciutto it was. Also I had mushrooms which needed using up so used those rather than the dried porcini specified. Finally, it was supposed to include prawns too but that seemed a lot of ingredients for two of us so I left them out.

I don't know if it was all the fiddling around with the ingredients that affected the result but I was distinctly underwhelmed. I also really couldn't see the point of making the risotto, rolling up the fish with a spoonful of risotto inside, then baking it all in the oven. It added nothing to the flavour and made it overly complicated.
Not one I'll be making again then, though I found the recipe here if you'd like to try it yourself.

So, another 4 weeks of the Challenge completed and I'm still going strong. We ate 2 more recipes at the weekend and are planning which we'll be making this weekend. Can you bear the anticipation of discovering what they are? Ha, ha! Next update in another month. x

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Scarecrow Festival

You might have noticed that several of the photos in the February Scavenger Hunt were taken at Tatton Park. Having visited and enjoyed the Scarecrow Festival last year, it was an easy decision to visit again when it was on a couple of weeks ago.

Most of the scarecrows are in the gardens so that's where we headed. Dorothy and her pals welcomed us in. Toto the dog must have been out exploring though.

To quote from the information sheet: 'Wild in the Kitchen Garden you must go, to hunt for wise scarecrows who certainly know, of lessons and morals and lots of fun things, to help your imagination and knowledge sing!'

The theme in the kitchen garden was Aesop's Fables. The man himself appeared as a ghostly apparition to introduce the garden trail and quiz. 

Mr Frog and friend represented 'The frogs and the well' which is one I'm not familiar with.

A little more familiar was The strength of wind and sun.

And I definitely knew 'The town mouse and the country mouse', though I confess I didn't know it was written by Aesop.

Not all of the scarecrows were related to Aesop though!

After completing the quiz, we headed off to explore the rest of the gardens. 

The Japanese gardens are lovely at any time of the year.

Pretty soon, we came across more scarecrows. Some seemed to be suffering an identity crisis or had got dressed in the dark. Did this bearded emperor realise he'd dressed up as the Queen of Hearts?

Would the prince really have come to rescue this Sleeping Beauty?

All the girls love a sailor!

But what about a pirate? Go on, how many of you thought 'Jack Sparrow'? If only Johnny Depp really had been in the gardens at Tatton Park that day!

Professor Plum with a revolver in the garden. We love a bit of Cluedo!

Despite the sun, it was a tad chilly so we were glad to escape into the orangery for a while to warm up and admire the beautiful and colourful plants and flowers.

And this old guy kept us entertained with his banjo playing until it was time for us to go and find the cafe for a spot of tea and cake.

There were so many more scarecrows I could have shown you but I'm going to end with this instead. As you know we like looking for 'creatures' when we go out and Chickpea spotted an alligator emerging from the ground.

Another fun few hours spent at Tatton, one of our very favourite places, and it's safe to say we'll be back again before too long :)