Monday, 27 March 2017

Raindrops on Roses - March

It's nearly the end of March, time to join in with Jo and list a few
of my favourite things this month:

My flowering cactus. It's only tiny but it has flowered four times over
the past year. There are always several buds emerging at the same time and it
takes over three or four weeks for them all to bloom, so I get to enjoy its dark
pink flowers for quite a long time. It's pretty low-maintenance too and this really
suits me because I'm not green-fingered at all. A sunny spot and a drop of water
occasionally (once a month over winter) and it's happy. So am I.

Sunshine. I like that the days are getting longer and we are getting more sunshine.
Last weekend was glorious and most of last week was sunny as well. I really enjoy
sitting outside when it's warm enough and the girls can spend most of the afternoons
after school playing in the garden. It's such a lovely change from being cooped up
indoors over most of the winter months. Today it's grey and a bit nippy again but
hopefully we'll have less and less of this sort of weather as the weeks progress.
I'm so ready for spring's mild, sunshiny days.

Flowers everywhere! I'm loving all the spring blooms - crocuses, daffodils, all of them.
It's the earth waking up from its winter sleep and smiling again. Just brilliant!

A visit to the Emma Bridgewater factory in Stoke-on-Trent. It was only a very short
stop, about an hour or so, but it was enough to wander around the courtyard, browse
at the gift shop and factory shop, and enjoy some Staffordshire oatcakes for lunch
at the café.

I like Emma's colourful and playful designs and it was great to see them showcased
 as well as the limited edition ones she had created for various special events and
occasions over the years.

I have to say though that my absolute favourite was the display along one wall of
the café of framed tea towels designed by her mother-in-law, Pat Albeck. If they
were selling replicas of these at the shops, I'd be first in the queue.

Sadly, we didn't have enough time to join the factory tour but I'm hoping that
we can go back at another time and visit there again, as well as the other pottery
factories around the area. It would be interesting to learn more about British pottery,
its history, and see how it's all made.

Another favourite this March is a radio play - Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte,
dramatized on Radio Four. The only book I've read of the Bronte sisters is Jane Eyre
but I enjoyed this so much, I've looked and found a copy of the novel and it's the next
 one I'll read after I've finished my current book The Trouble with Goats and Sheep
by Joanna Cannon. I've also found out today that there's a two-part series of one of
 Alexander McCall Smith's The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency stories, also on
Radio Four. It will be a great companion while I do the ironing this afternoon.

Those are some of my favourites this month, I'll see what April has to offer.
I hope you've had a good weekend and wishing you sunshine and good things
for the week ahead. See you soon!

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Salted Caramel Flapjacks

Salted caramel is a flavour combination I love and recently I've found
a really easy way to add this flavour to flapjacks, a baked treat I make quite
often for the family. I've looked at a few recipes for salted caramel flapjacks
and in most of them you have to make the caramel. It seems to be a bit of a faff,
I just use shop-bought salted caramel sauce. It's easy and quick and the result
has that nice combination of salty and sweet which is what I'm after. I've had to
tweak my recipe a few times but I'm finally happy with it and I thought I'd
share it here with you.


175 grams   unsalted butter
150 grams  demerara sugar
                     1 tablespoon    golden syrup                           
          3 tablespoons   salted caramel sauce*
350grams  porridge oats
1/2teaspoon   sea salt flakes, plus extra to sprinkle

Pre-heat the oven to 180 C degrees. Grease and line with baking parchment
a square 8x8inch baking tin.

In a bowl, mix together the oats and sea salt flakes. Set aside.

Melt together the butter, sugar, golden syrup and caramel sauce in a saucepan
over low heat. Stir in the oats and sea salt. Mix well and turn into the prepared
baking tin. Press flat with the back of a spoon and sprinkle a pinch or two
of sea salt on top.

Bake in the pre-heated oven for 12 to 15 minutes or until light golden brown.
Leave to cool for a few minutes then mark into 16 squares. Leave to finish
cooling in the tin.

*I use salted caramel sauce from Aldi and Waitrose. They're both good.
I've tried this brand before but for brownies. I think it would be great, too, but
I haven't been able to find it in any of the local supermarkets lately.

Thank you for your lovely comments on my previous post. I hope we'll have
 a really good spring season this year - lots of blue skies and sunshine and
not too much rain.

See you soon! x

Monday, 13 March 2017

Hello Spring!

I took these photos while out walking in Carr Wood last week. I really enjoyed
seeing all the early signs of spring - the first small buds poking through the ground,
fresh new leaves on tree branches, bright yellow flowers and snowdrops in bloom.
Little, wonderful things growing, bringing light and fresh new colours into every
corner of the woods. At home, I've re-potted some ready-grown primroses and tulips
 from the supermarket and tidied up a bit in the garden. I am dreaming of dahlias
for the summer but I'd be happy with geraniums and petunias again. I'm just glad
 that spring is finally getting here. Sunshine, flowers, mild weather - yes, please!

I hope you've had a good weekend. We didn't do anything new or exciting here,
just the usual things. Yesterday, while we were at my in-laws, it was sunny and
warm enough to sit outside and we did, with our coffees and cakes while the girls
ran around in the garden. It was really nice, a simple pleasure I'm looking
forward to enjoying more in the coming days and weeks.

Have a lovely Monday, see you soon!

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Making in March

Hello, how are you? I hope you're well and March has started off all right for you.
 For today's post, I'd like to share with you the progress I've made with my two
ongoing projects. First off, my tapestry crochet.

I was only a few rows in when I last showed you this but it has now grown
and I'm actually not far off from finishing. I'm really pleased with how it's going.
I still have a lot to learn about this technique but I now feel quite confident with
the basics, including crocheting in reverse, and I think I'm ready to try new
patterns and designs.

I had a peek at the latest issue of Simply Crochet magazine while I was at the
supermarket and interestingly, they're featuring various colourwork techniques
including tapestry crochet. I think it's a fun skill to learn and it's great that it's getting
some attention. Hopefully more people will try it, too.

My other project is my Spring-themed cross stitch sampler. I've had to unpick and
change my motif for the letter 'S' - the dustpan and brush were supposed to be for
'Spring clean' but I was told they looked more like a comb and an upside down mirror
and they were not at all colourful like the other motifs, so they had to be replaced
with a pretty snowdrop. My two critics are happier with this and I have to admit,
so am I. And now that's done there's just one tiny motif left to stitch and then,
fingers crossed, it will be at the framers at the end of the week.  

So those are my two projects and I'm looking forward to having them both finished soon.

I haven't been around here much lately, it's been a busy old week with one thing after
another. Hopefully the rest of the week - and month- will be a little bit calmer, with less
mishaps and dramas. I'll be catching up with your blogs in the next few days -
take care and see you soon!

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Snowdrops, the seaside and sewing

Half-term here has come and gone. The girls had ten whole days off school
and I think they've enjoyed themselves and have rested and recuperated. They
kept me busy most days. I had felt tired and frazzled at times and had craved
for some quiet time on my own during the day, but that was all off set by lie-ins
in the morning. the alarm clock not going off at 6:30am (hurray!), and doing fun
things with them like going to the cinema and meeting up with friends. It was nice,
actually, the whole half-term, and now that they're back at school, the house
has felt unusually quiet this morning. I miss them.

The weather was mostly rubbish throughout the school break. We were
looking forward to the sunny and mild days that were forecasted but what
we got was rain, grey skies, cold weather and on Thursday, the storm Doris.

When the sun did make an appearance, we tried to make the most of it. The girls
played outside and we went for walks down in the woods. We were on the look out
for any spring flowers on the ground and were disappointed to find only one clump
of snowdrops in bloom. Maybe in a few weeks there will be more of them flowering
and other flowers will appear, too. What we saw, and we keep seeing, are brightly
coloured crocuses in front gardens and we're a bit jealous. If I get myself organized
this year and have some bulbs planted in the autumn, we'll also have some colourful
blooms in our front yard next spring. Hopefully.

Tuesday last week was one of those rare dry and sunny days and we decided
to go on a day trip to Whitby. We love a day at the seaside, even if it's just
a short one. We played crazy golf, had fish and chips on the pier, mooched around
the Shambles and bought some kippers which we had for breakfast the next day.

Mostly, we stayed at home and pottered. I showed the girls how to sew one
rainy afternoon. They were very keen and were quite stoic with needle pricks
which surprised and impressed me.

It was Markie who first wanted to learn to sew and she specifically wanted to make
these felt birds. I was happy to oblige. I learned to sew when I was about her age, from
watching my mother, and then we were taught in school when I was about 8 or 9. It
pleases me that they're interested and they're both actually really good. Lulu, who's
four, now knows running stitch and straight stitch and 'gets' how buttons are sewn.
Markie pretty much did most of it by herself, including the buttons.

They're planning to bring their finished birds to school this week to show their teachers
and classmates. I'm all for it. I think they did a great job and should be proud. I'm
looking forward to making them pancakes for tea later. We'll have sweet and savoury
toppings, although I have a feeling Nutella, their latest favourite, will be most
in demand.

I hope you enjoy your pancakes too, if you haven't already. Thanks for reading
and for the lovely comments on my attempts at tapestry crochet. I have made progress
with the second pattern and I'm looking forward to showing you next time.
Have a great day!

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Tapestry Crochet

I've long admired colourful patterns like this from talented crocheters. I like
the woven look and the wonderful colourwork and I have fancied giving it a go,
but it seemed so complicated. I didn't really know where and how to start.

Last weekend I decided to read up about this type of crochet and learned that
this particular technique is called tapestry crochet. It is worked entirely in double
crochet stitches using two or more colours of yarn on each row to create colourful
graphic designs. The yarn not in use is usually encased at the back as you work
each row, just like you do with yarn ends in normal crochet if you prefer not to sew
them in. It didn't sound as complex or intricate as I'd first thought, so I made a very
simple pattern and gave it a go.

The first row with the colour change went all right but it got tricky as I got to the end
of it. All rows on tapestry crochet are worked on the right side. This is fine if you're
crocheting on the round, but not so much if you're making something flat. You can't
turn at the end of the row as you would normally do, so you can either crochet back
using your left hand or crochet in reverse. Not being ambidextrous, I chose
the latter method.

It took me awhile to get my head round it and I still get confused sometimes but
I'm getting more used to it. I followed my pattern and it had turned out better than
I was expecting. The only thing is the coloured yarn in the background - it is visible
through the white sections. You shouldn't be able to see the yarn that's not being
used and I've tried pulling it towards the back as advised but you can still see it.
I've yet to crack this yarn issue, but over all, not bad, I think for a first try.

I've decided to try a slightly more complicated pattern and so far, it's going well.
I like this one more so I'll keep going. Hopefully it will be a cushion cover. I'm using
scraps of mercerised cotton. It has good stitch definition which is ideal for this and
also it doesn't split, making it nicer to work with.

It's been great to step out of my crochet comfort zone and try something new and
different. Apart from the girls' headbands, I haven't been very inspired with crochet
lately so this has been very good for sparking my interest again and I already have
a few patterns in mind that I'd like to try.

Have you tried tapestry crochet before?  If you have, I'd love to hear about your
experience and see the things you've made. I hope you've had a good week.
Thanks for stopping by and enjoy your weekend!

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Crocheted Headbands

I made these headbands last weekend. The weather had been quite miserable
here, too dark even at daytime for hand sewing, so I picked up my crochet hook
and made hair accessories instead. The girls love them. They're both into headbands
at the moment and I decided that better than buying them, I'll make them myself.

I started off with rows of double crochets to make the band, sewed together
the ends, and then embellished with flowers and bows. Very simple and easy.
The flowers are based on the buttercup pattern from 201 crochet motifs, blocks,
projects and ideas by Melody Griffiths; I just made up the bows.

I used Drops Muscat mercerised cotton in pink, green. dusky blue and red,
all left over from other projects. I like this yarn. It's smooth and very nice to work
with and makes a soft but stretchy crocheted fabric, just what you need for headbands.

These were all quick and easy makes and I enjoyed making them. It's been awhile
since I've completed a project so it was quite satisfying and very pleasant to have
something simple that I can work on while watching television and finish it in an
evening. I'm planning to make a few more for my nieces and maybe for the girls'
friends as well. But first, while there's bright, clear sunshine, I'm going to work on
my sampler and hopefully get it finished soon.

I hope you've had a lovely start to the week. It's not half-term here yet,
there's still this week to go. It's an unusually long school term for this time of year.
The girls are knackered and so am I, but we trudge on. Hopefully Friday will be
here before we know it.

Happy Valentine's Day!