Saturday, 31 January 2015

Photo scavenger hunt: January 2015

And so to the first Scavenger Hunt of the new year! I struggled with a couple of categories this month, not because they were difficult, but because I seem to have been ill for most of it and have barely left the house (she types, sucking on a cough sweet). Still, I managed to scrape my entry together even if some of these photos would normally hit the reject pile. Thanks as always to Greenthumb at Made with Love for organising the hunt.

Something new : My Cable and Cotton lights: a treat from our visit to Haworth. I had to hide them away until recently as I'd also bought sets as gifts for two of my friends and didn't want to spoil the surprise.

Landscape : Taken on a walk right at the beginning of the month.

Words : A poem engraved on the waiting room window of a train station. The poem is 'A train of linguistic thoughts' by Darren Thomas.

Cold : An icy spider's web.

Bottle : Several of them, lined up in my kitchen.

Up high : A tiny bird's nest which revealed itself when all the leaves had fallen from the tree.

In the fridge : Sunday 18 January. On the top shelf: kale from our delicious evening meal the night before (recipe from Morrisons), and a homemade cheesecake (recipe coming soon). On the bottom shelf: cream, olive spread, pizza (that day's lunch), beef (that day's dinner, and part of the cookery book challenge), chicken slices (for my work lunches the next week) and a pheasant (on special offer from Aldi, I was persuaded to buy it by Chickpea).

Texture : Bark and lichen on a local tree.

Hidden : A duck egg hidden in the undergrowth in my front garden. I only ever seem to find eggs but no ducklings and can only assume the mothers abandon them because it's not quite private enough.

Blue : My mantelpiece during January. I took my inspiration for the theme from this category.

Big : St Walburge's church in Preston, Lancashire which holds the distinction of having the tallest spire on a parish church in England. It's also the third tallest in the UK after Salisbury and Norwich cathedrals.

Whatever you want : A curious horse who wondered what on earth that contraption was the lady was pointing at him!

If you'd like to take part in the hunt, you can find the list for February on the web site.


We actually had some snow this week. I woke to about an inch but, by the time I arrived home from work, it had all disappeared. It looks like my sled won't be getting an outing this year either!

Today has been a quietish day. We were going to have a day out but I'm still under the weather so, instead, we stayed in. It's a good thing really as it's my mug hug workshop on Wednesday and I needed to finish off making up the packs. At the moment I'm feeling a combination of panic and nervous excitement! I'm sure it will go well and I'll reveal all and share the instructions next month.

Enjoy your weekend. x

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Burns Night 2015

The arrival of the haggis

Today is the birthday of the poet, Robert Burns, and all over Scotland and the rest of the world, people will be gathering to celebrate his life and poetry. My friend Gordon is Scottish and it's now become an annual tradition to invite him and his wife and son over for Burns Night.

I've written about how we celebrated in 2013 and 2014 and, last night, we followed pretty much the same running order. However, this year I decided to add a couple of Highland Games to the entertainment.

First up was Tossing the Caber. Balance the caber on your finger on the floor, then flick it up and see how far it can go. It was hard to tell who was most competitive, adults or children.

Next was Potting the Haggis.

I was only able to get baby haggis. Like all youngsters, they're very lively and each one quivered with anticipation on my hand, waiting for the moment it could launch itself towards the flower pot. The person who could get the most haggis in the pot was the winner.

What, you didn't know that haggis are small and furry creatures? Ha, ha! Neither did Gordon's 7-year-old son who was fascinated with the quivering ball of fluff on my hand. 'Is it real, is it real?' he kept asking from the safety of his mum's side. Of course, I eventually had to confess it was just a furry pom-pom which used to hang from a woolly hat but it did make us all laugh!

Next celebration will be St Patrick's Day. Now, where can I get a couple of leprechauns...

Enjoy what remains of the weekend. xx

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Little house

First a quick thank you for all the kind get well wishes after my last post - you really are a lovely lot :) I'm feeling much better now. The last germs are still hanging on in there but I finally feel more like my usual active, restless self. Hurrah!

And now to my first ta-dah of the new year! Yes, it's only halfway through January and I already have a finished project to show you! I started my little house embroidery in November and it would have been completed a lot sooner if it hadn't fallen by the wayside in my enthusiasm for the crochet blanket.

The pattern is 'A Winter House' by Belinda Downes and is from an old (2002) issue of Stitch magazine. I'd completely forgotten I even had any copies of the magazine until I came across it while rummaging in the attic for something else.

As soon as I saw the pattern though, I had to make it. It has a lovely naive country style which I really love.

The picture is built up in layers. For the base, I used the same navy blue fabric, using the right side to create a frame and the reverse of it for the background.

The rest of the background is made up of small squares of transparent fabrics. Luckily these came on small rolls which meant I didn't need to buy large quantities - I think I paid less than £2 for several pieces.

As it was going to be a winter scene, I chose all those which had any kind of sparkle or glitter. The squares are held down with just a few stitches to anchor them for the other layers.

Next I embroidered waves and swirls to suggest falling, windswept snow. This was all from pure imagination (and the pattern) as we are still to see more than a few flakes here :(

The third part was to attach the pieces of fabric for the house and garden. All the fabrics are from my stash which never seems to go down no matter how much I take out of it! I swear it's breeding!

Anyway, this is where the picture lost some of its sparkle. The fabrics are attached with bondaweb and have to be ironed in place. Unfortunately I was a bit heavy-handed with the iron and some of the silvery bits melted. Be that a lesson to you all - cover delicate fabrics with a cloth before ironing them!

The final part was to add all the little details with more stitching. Apart from the French knot for the door knob, it's all done with just running or stab stitch so couldn't be simpler. And, because it's meant to be naive, you don't have to be particularly neat either!

With the stitching completed, it's time for the final reveal...


I'm sooo happy with it! Embroidery is not something I've done much of but I really enjoyed making this picture. The pattern suggested doing different versions for each season and I'm very tempted, particularly after seeing Gillian's lovely four seasons embroideries. However, I still have lots of the transparent fabrics so another winter embroidery seems more appropriate. For now though, I just need to get this one framed.

By coincidence it felt quite wintry this morning. We did have a light sprinkling of flakes and it was very cold and foggy until lunchtime but the white was more frost than snow. The seagulls seemed less than impressed. They cheered up this afternoon though when the day brightened to sunshine and blue skies.

Hope you've all had a lovely weekend. Enjoy the rest of your Sunday. x

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Popping by

Just popping by for a quick hello and to apologise for my absence. I've had a humdinger of a cold and, on top of that, eye infections too. I didn't leave my pyjamas or a horizontal position for 4 days and am still recovering. Yesterday I left the house for the first time to walk to the shop for milk and had to have a lie down in the afternoon. Today I had a slow walk in the sunshine, desperate for some vitamin D, and am still vertical though flagging.

To stave off complete boredom I've been working on my crochet blanket which is growing nicely (66 rows out of a target of 90), and reading Pioneer Woman, which is by the blogger/TV cook of the same name and tells the story of how she met her cowboy husband - a nice, easy read which is about all my brain can handle at the moment.

Hoping to be back soon with a ta-dah and to also get back to visiting you and your blogs. Take care. x

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Cookery book challenge : weeks 41-44

I started the cookery book challenge a year ago. If I'd got my act/posts together I'd be finishing it now too, completing the cycle in a fitting way, new year new challenge etc etc. As it is, I still have a couple of posts to do. I also have a quandary as I was given another cookery book for Christmas - do I tack it on the end or consign it to the unused pile the other books used to be in?? Decisions, decisions!

I must also apologise: the worst part of the challenge now is having to photograph meals in electric light, so all the photos that follow are completely pants. The food was (mostly) good though.

Week 41: Jamie's 15-minute meals - Jamie Oliver

I picked this up in a charity shop for a couple of pounds, attracted by the delicious looking meals. In theory they can all be cooked in 15 minutes and Jamie makes it look easy on the TV show. In practice I found it really stressful trying to keep up the pace and took far longer. I'll be making them at Julie pace in the future! You can find 19 of the recipes from this book on his web site.

Chorizo and squid with Greek-style couscous salad

Squid is one of Chickpea's favourite foods so it wasn't surprising when she asked me to make this. I liked the idea of adding extra flavourings to the couscous as it cooks: whizz up spinach, mint and spring onions in a food processor and then stir in the couscous and hot water. Simple but effective. I couldn't find an official site for the recipe but there are several bloggers out there who've made it so you can probably find the recipe if you hunt around a bit.

Thai chicken laksa with a Mildly spiced noodle squash broth

Yummy yum yum! I think this might well be one of our favourite meals of the challenge and I've been craving it ever since! A lovely combination of flavours and highly recommended. You can find the recipe here.

Week 42 : Jamie at Home - Jamie Oliver

My favourite of his shows as I loved watching him (or at least his gardener) growing the produce for the recipes. He inspired me to try growing rainbow chard, which I did but which tasted horrible! Surprisingly we found the cookery book uninspiring, though we did give 2 recipes a try.

Lamb with salsa verde

This isn't strictly the recipe in the book as it should have been accompanied by cannellini beans and that rainbow chard. However, I had lots of bits of veg which needed using up so chose to make roasted veg instead.

The salsa verde seemed a little bitter so I added a teaspoon of sugar. It made a lovely combination of flavours with both the lamb and the veg - definitely something to try again but I'd probably use the salsa verde recipe I made here.

Roasted white fish and leeks

Another good combination of flavours. The worst part was the spinach which was my own addition! There was just far too much of it.

Week 43 : Barefoot contessa back to basics - Ina Garten

We love watching the Barefoot Contessa shows. Not necessarily for the food but the lifestyle: gorgeous house, immaculate table settings, brunch on the beach. My favourite parts are just watching her food shopping at the farm stands and delicatessen!

Baked blintzes with blueberry sauce

This was in the breakfast section but we chose to have it for dessert instead. Blintzes are usually made with pancakes which are filled and then fried or baked. However, Ina's version is much simpler and involves baking them in the oven to make what is essentially a kind of cheesecake. Well it would have been simple if I'd taken the time to convert all the American cup measurements and oven temperatures into English first instead of having to do it as I went. Still, it all turned out ok in the end and we would happily eat this again.

Week 44 : Kilkenny cookbook: recipes from the Kilkenny kitchen

Kilkenny is a restaurant and craft/design store in Dublin. The book was given to me by my friend who was living near Dublin at the time and reminds me of my own trip to the city several years ago.  By coincidence, it was the same weekend as the Dublin marathon and we watched several triumphant but tired runners limp by after crossing the finishing line whilst we ate lazily coffee and cake in the Kilkenny cafe!

Flaked salmon over spaghetti with sun-dried tomato and rocket

Another great combination of flavours and so easy to pull together. I poached the salmon to keep it moist - something I do more often since doing this challenge. Definitely one to make again. I couldn't find the recipe online but the title tells you all the ingredients with the addition of toasted pine nuts and the oil from the sun-dried tomatoes.


Hope you've had a good weekend. we've had a fairly quiet one though we did go to my friends for tea yesterday evening. Otherwise, we've been taking down the decorations and having a good tidy up in preparation for me going back to work tomorrow. Darn but the holidays go fast :(

The photo was taken on Friday when we went out for a short walk in the fields - that's Chickpea disappearing into the distance. Lovely sunny, squelchy welly weather :)

Anyway, I'm off to make the latest meal in the cookery challenge. Before I go though, a very happy birthday to my penfriend Susan! xx