Wednesday, 8 July 2020

June Reads

I know I am a little late with this post but it has been quite a hectic couple of weeks one way or another. Still here we are with my offerings for June. Both are by the same author Amanda Prowse who is one of my favourite authors and from time to time she uses my name in her books, I've featured twice now once in a love trist in Theo and now in her novel The Girl in the Corner as the overbearing mother in law who knits.  I think she's got my character quite well. 

Rae-Valentine and Howard were childhood sweetheats. They've shared twenty-five peaceful years since they were brought together by Dolly, Howard's larger than life sister. But now, on the night of their wedding anniversary, Howard reveals a shocking betrayal that leaves Rae reeling. 

Heartbroken, she takes Dolly on her would be anniversary trip to Antigua and the two women drink and dance and talk like they haven't in years. But in the break from real ife, Rae realises her choices have always been made for her, and suddently she's questioning not only her fragile marriage but also her one sided friendships. Is she really the pushover everyone else sees. 

When Howard comes looking for reconsiliation, Rae has a choice to make: keep the peace, as she always has, or put herself first for once and find out who she really is. 

On the outside Rae-Valentine appears to have everything, a loving husband, two beautiful children and fabulous home. Rae-Valentine was always happy to be the mother of her children, the life partner of her husband and queen of her kitchen.  She always felt blessed and happy with her lot but on the very night of her wedding anniversary her husband Howard shatters her world and all that she has ever known to be true.  Howard thinks that confessing and saying sorry a thousand times that Rae-Valentine will forgive him and carry on with life as though nothing has happened starting with going on holiday to Antiqua.  He can't understand why in his view she is so over reacting.  To make amends he suggests that Rae take Dolly, his sister and Rae's best friend in his place.  The two women set off on their trip. Whilst away Rae-Valentine learns a lot not just about herself but also her relationship with her best friend and knows she has a decision to make about her life back in England. 

It must be very difficult for someone who marries their best friend's brother because what happens if the marriage fails do you also loose your best friend?   The best friend you trust implicitly who you tell all your deepest secrets to but also the best friend who can see no wrong in her big brother and has him firmly fixed on that peddlestool.  Rae-Valentine finds that she has to weigh all these things up in making her decision but will Dolly so unwittingly end up making that decision for her too. 

As with all Amanda's novels some are better than others but I definitely think this one is on the winning side.  Amanda always writes about the sensitive subjects and true to life events that alot of people don't like to tackle.  This time she tackles infidelity within a marriage and whether having been betrayed once can you ever trust that person again or is it time to make those hard decisions and build a new life for yourself.  Unusually for an Amanda Prowse novel I didn't find myself reaching for the tissues within the first chapter,  but I did find myself wanting to know what decisions Rae-Valentine would come to because surely having been betrayed so badly she wasn't going to put up and shut up for the price of a new kitchen.  

Sophia has everything she thought she wanted - so she should be happy, right?  Sophia Perkins gives up her job as a teacher to realise a lifelong dream of owning a second hand bookshop. Free from the wearying monotony of marking until the early hours and swallowing the disappointment of trying to educate disinterested young minds, she embraces her new life. 

Still in the throes of grief, having recently lost both of  her parents Sophia is delighted by the daily visits of Mr Portobello. the shop's former occupant, and their unexpected friendship blooms into something beautiful. In the process of learning about the eccentric eighty year old, Sophia learns as much if not more about herself. Mr Portobello makes her question her life, her choices and even how she grieves for those she has lost. 

Mr Portobello's Morning Paper is the latest novella by Amanda Prowse.  She had written seven novella's for kindle and all of them are worth reading.   When Sophia Perkins opens her second handbook shop Mr Portobello is one of her first visitors.  I say visitors as I'm not sure he ever purchased any books.  The little shop used to be his but then it was an accountants.  Over the months their friendship blossoms and Sophia looks forward to his daily visits en route home with his newspaper. Sophia thinks that Mr Portobello is one of the most interesting people she has ever met.  She loves to hear his stories about his wife and children.  It would appear that Mr Portobello has lived a charmed life.  But when he doesn't come to her shop Sophia becomes worried that he may have been taken ill and decides that she will go and visit him to  make sure all is well and whether he needs anything but then may be his housekeeper Mrs Waller will have everything in hand.  When Sophia struggles to find his house she asks  a neighbour .  The lady knows who he is but it would appear that all is not what it seems with Mr Portobello.  This makes Sophia reflect on her own life and forces her to think about her future when an unexpected visit to her little shop changes her life's direction once more. 

So there we are those are my two offerings for June. I am already onto my next Amanda Prowse novel The Things I know and already loving it as my July selection.

Even though the restrictions are starting to life I hope you are all staying safe

Take care


Sunday, 14 June 2020

The light at the end of the tunnel

Well we are almost there aren't we? There is finally light at the end of the tunnel. We've got through the last twelve weeks. 

I'm sure for some it has seemed like an eternity but if I'm honest the last twelve weeks seem to have whizzed by. That's probably because as a keyworker I have continued to go to work as normal.  It certainly seems strange that we are almost halfway through the year already and when I look on fabric sites they are already talking about Christmas.

This week the weather hasn't been so good I think even mother nature has finally started to loose her sense of humour over Covid 19. I had great plans of being out in the garden carrying on with tidying beds and moving some laurel bushes that don't seem to be liking where I planted them last year. Instead of which I spent the whole of my time at home last weekend sorting. So Pearl the Singer has now been elevated and is now a permanent fixture in the spare bedroom where I can keep her out all the time and don't have to pack her away when I'm not sewing. Its still a work in progress but is so much better already.

One of the things I have been meaning to sort out for the longest of times was my antique sewing box.  D bought this for me some years ago now as a gift.  Although I have used it, I have to confess it was more of a dumping ground for bits and pieces. But now I have Pearl and a proper space in which to do my sewing I felt it was definitely the right time to move my sewing box upstairs and put it to better use. 
As you can see it is beautiful inside and has its original silk lining. It has been completely tidied and everything has its place and there is a place for everything.  I now have a place where I can keep my very small (for now) collection of cottons and all my bobbins, spare needles, tape measure and what seems to be quite a collection of scissors. Its funny isn't it as it used to sit next to me in my little crafting corner of the sitting room both at the farm house and the cottage and very rarely got touched except with a duster, but now I have moved it into my sewing room I am using it all the time and so pleased I have it.  In fact my friend is looking out for one and we nearly did get one at Yarndale a couple of years ago but another lady got to it first and was so excited at her find that we ended up keeping a hold of it for her while she found her husband as he had got her purse in his pocket.  Sadly like so many shows this year Yarndale has had to be cancelled but I'm sure the team are busy working on a virtual show which seems to be how so many of the shows are having to be run this year.  At least they have this wonderful technology which allows them to be able to do so. 

As I said last week I had reached my goal of making 100 scrubs bags and have decided to have a break from making anymore unless there is suddenly another request to make them.  My last 40 went to John Scotts appeal for the Help Dress the Medics.  This week I received a lovely surprise when this thank you card dropped through my letter box.  

Before scrubs bags took over my life I had already got lots of sewing projects in mind and perhaps now I will return  my thoughts to those so watch this space. 

Nimue charts have become one of my favourites over the last couple of years.

I cross stitched Fairy Dust a couple of years ago for my daughter, who like her mum has a bit of an obsession with Fairies and in fact has a tattoo of a fairy to remind her of me, or that was the reason she gave me.

I'm afraid I have succumbed to the online ordering bug in the last twelve weeks.  I bought the little fairy chart at the Festival of Quilts last year, It's called Moonlight and has patiently waiting for me to start stitching, but I have been hankering after the La Clef or The Key for quite some time she always reminds me of my daughter with her high cheek bones, something I can honestly say she has not inherited from me and when I recently met up with her for a socially distance meet up she turned up with blue hair, she tells me it was the only hair dye she had but for me it was the confirmation I needed that I had to find a copy of La Clef. I contacted Sparklies Kate is a lovely lady and I was looking forward to seeing her at the Festival of Quilts this year in order to buy La Clef but as the festival has been postponed until next year I contacted her direct.  Her website is in the process of being revamped, but should be up and running again very soon but she can be contacted directly or via her facebook page.  Having spoken with Kate and placed my order I fully expected it to take at least a week before it would arrive, I was very presently surprised when the postman delivered my chart just two days later.

My other little find was Kustom Krafts 'Little Snap Dragon'.  Its quite a hard chart to find but I managed to find a copy through Wye Needlecraft. I ordered it right at the peak of covid and it therefore took about three weeks to arrive but it was definitely worth the wait. I love the colours of the flowers and little dragon or not so little dragon as it turns out as it comes up at 13" by 19" on a 14ct Aida.  I intend to stitch this one on 28ct evenweave which is the equivalent to a 14ct aida.

I have placed my order for evenweave through Willow Fabrics and eagerly await it's arrival. They are a small team of skeleton staff keeping things a float through covid and its taking a little longer than usual to process their orders but I have been using them for the last two years and have always been satisfied with their service.

I do however have to sing the praises of Lakeside Needlecraft and Create Nostalgia and Gina B Silkworks who all processed my orders so swiftly that I had all the silks, beads and specialist threads by the end of the week and I have spent a happy hour sorting through them and putting them onto a bobbin ready to start.  I am not sure which chart to start with but they normally let me know.  I used to be very strict about not having more than one project on the go at a time but over the years that has slipped somewhat and I have started working by rotation on my WIP's it keeps me focused.

And after a morning of sorting I thought it only right to finish off with a little bit of baking. I used to make these chocolate muffins for my children when they were younger and even now as adults when they come to visit they will make a request for a batch to be made.

They are so quick and easy.

Makes a bakers dozen
12 + 1 for the cook

Preheat the oven to 180C

Melt 125g of butter and keep to one side to cool.

You will also need
100g of light brown sugar,
1 tsp of bicarbonate of soda
25g cocoa powder
2 eggs, lightly beaten
250mls buttermilk

Sift all the dry ingredients into a large bowl, stir in the butter and the buttermilk.

Now if you don't have buttermilk I can tell you of a nifty little trick, by adding a teaspoon of lemon juice to 250mls of milk and leave it for 5 minutes it will then turn to buttermilk. How clever is that.

Spoon one third of of the mixture into a greased muffin tin or into cup cake cases, top with a teaspoon of Nuttella or another chocolate spread if you prefer. Top with remaining mixture. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let rest for 1-2 minutes before removing from the muffin tin and placing on a wire rack to cool.

Once cooled treat yourself to a well earned cup of tea and as the cook you deserve cooks perks don't you in trying the first one.  Well someone has to perform quality control don't they.

Have a good week one and all and remember stay safe.



Wednesday, 3 June 2020

May Reads

The Coordinates of Loss - Amanda Prowse 
When Rachel Croft wakes up on her family’s boat in Bermuda, it’s to sunshine and yet another perfect day…until she goes to wake her seven-year-old son, Oscar. Because the worst thing imaginable has happened. He isn’t there.

In the dark and desperate days that follow, Rachel struggles to navigate her grief. And while her husband, James, wants them to face the tragedy together, Rachel feels that the life they once shared is over. Convinced that their happy marriage is now a sham, and unable to remain in the place where she lost her son, she goes home to Bristol alone.
Only when she starts receiving letters from Cee-Cee, her housekeeper in Bermuda, does light begin to return to Rachel’s soul. She and James both want to learn to live again—but is it too late for them to find a way through together?

Thankfully not many of us will never experience the grief of loosing a child. Especially the loss of a child who disappears leaving all those uncertainties as to whether they could  still be a live and just not able to get back to you.   Amanda Prowse has yet again written a fabulous novel touching on the grief of a  mother and the impact it has on her relationship with her husband who is dealing with his own grief. Then there is CeeCee their housekeeper who in her seventies has seen many things happen in her own life.  When Rachel Croft decides to return to her hometown of Bristol to try and make sense of everything that has happened it is her letters from CeeCee that help her deal with her grief.

I have always been a fan of Amanda Prowse novels right from the very first Poppy Day in 2012.   As with all authors some novels are better than others and I suspect if you asked any fan of her writing they would tell you which is their personal favourite. The Coordinates of loss is definitely worth reading and I would highly recommend.

At six, she’s memorising the dictionary. At seven, she’s correcting her teachers. At eight, she spins the globe and picks her favourite country on the sound of its name: Burundi.

And now that she's an adult, Augusta has no interest in the goings-on of the small town where she lives with her parents and her beloved twin sister, Julia.
When an unspeakable tragedy upends everything in Augusta's life, she's propelled headfirst into the unknown. She's determined to find where she belongs – but what if her true home, and heart, are half a world away?

Augusta and her twin sister are like chalk and cheese. Augusta has a thirst for knowledge and wishes to explore places outside of her Herfordshire home, whilst Julia is a home maker and can't wait to marry her beloved Diego and have a family. .   Augusta leaves for University and the bright lights of Durham whilst her sister Julia stays at home and attends the local college. Augusta has plans of travelling and to visit the country of her childhood dreams of Burundi in Africa.  Whilst Julia plans her wedding and future family.   Tragedy strikes not once but twice and Augusta is left bereft and needing to get away. She leaves England for Spain to a place she knows well from childhood holidays with her sister.  Whilst there her life takes a bit of a U-turn but thankfully for the good.  

This book was recommended Jo Jo Through the keyhole blog. We discovered each other's blogs a number of years ago now and quickly came to realise we had very similar tastes in books.  As soon as I read Jo's review of Joanna Glens debut novel I decided I needed to read it and promptly downloaded a copy to my kindle.  It was a good recommendation Jo and I really enjoyed reading it and would recommend it to others to read. 


As a keyworker I have continued to work throughout lockdown and as you are all aware I have far too many hobbies but have found that reading still gives me the best relaxation before I go to sleep at night and certainly has helped on those sleepness nights when just a few pages at 2am can help send me  dtift back off to sleep. There are those rare occasions when I wake to find my glasses perched on the end of my nose with a book still in my hand.   

Take care and stay safe one and all. 


Monday, 1 June 2020

Time in the garden and a light bite

Hello my blog land friends. How are you all doing? Here we are at the end of week 10 and entering into week 11 and well there seems to have been a lot of changes over the last few days with some schools returning and some non essential shops being allowed to open.

At the beginning of lockdown I was thinking of all the projects I could get working on and all those I would potentially have finished by the end of the twelve weeks.  Then of course scrubs bags became a big thing in my house and very little else has been completed.  I have now made 100 scrubs bags and will be sending the final batch off to John Scott today and I think as things are starting to settled it's probably time to stop making them now for the time being at least.

One little project I did manage to finish was this little cross stitch for a friend's birthday this week. The kit is Churchgate Gardening Heritage Sampler. It was a gift from another friends for Christmas a couple of years ago and has been patiently waiting in the pile of projects to work on.  When I pulled it out of my project box I had completely forgotten the saying attached to this one.  As soon as I saw it I thought it was just about right in this current climate and I knew that the lady it is intended for is also going to love it. 

The kit comes with two charts, two pieces of aida, a needle and clear instructions and all the silks you need to complete both projects. It also comes with a hoop which you can use to work on your cross stitch but also use as a frame. I added the ribbon and bow and a small white bead to hold it in place.  As there is only one hoop I decided to work on just the one project and save the second one for another time and possibly for another birthday gift. 


We have been spending time in the garden not only enjoying the glorious weather but also having a sort out of flower beds and trying to decide what to do next. Its a very big garden and at times I feel a little overwhelmed by the task but it's nice to see that plants have taken to their surroundings and the bees are getting to enjoy our efforts. 

After my mum died thirty years ago I planted a climbing white rose in the back garden of the house we lived in and I have continued to plant a white climbing rose in every garden of every house we have lived in since.  I also have two very closes friends from school whose mother's played a big part in my life and after they passed away I planted a yellow and pink rose in  memory of them too.  All three are almost in bloom and the smell of the scent from the yellow and pink one is exquisite.


I always thought of myself as a bit of a foodie before lockdown but I have come to realise that I am governed much more by stomach than I would of believed.  It was whilst I was talking to my daughter one afternoon and neither of us could decide what to have to eat she after her shift at work and me after a shift of working in the garden.  We decided to take a look in our respective cupboards and come up with something.  The result was a tuna melt.  We both love tuna fish and invariably have some sort of salad and cheese in the fridge and it takes next to no time to pull together and hit just the right spot after a hard day's weeding and digging.

Prep time: 10 minutes, Cooking time: 5 minutes, Serves: 2

Ingredients from your store cupboard and fridge

100g can of tuna, drained and flaked
2 tablespoons of mayonnaise
1-2 spring onions , finely copped
2 thin strips of a bell pepper (a mixture of red, yellow or orange) diced
1 tablespoon of chopped chives
Freshly ground black pepper
Softened butter/margarine
4 slices of white or brown bread
50g grated cheese

  • place the tuna, mayonnaise, spring onions, diced peppers and chives ina small bowl and mix together.
  • Spread the butter/margarine over one side of each slice of bread
  • Spread the tuna mixture over each slice of bread butter side up
  • Place under the medium hot grill for 1-2 minutes.
  • remove from under the grill and add the cheese to the top of the tuna mixture and place back under the grill for 1-2 minutes until the cheese has started to melt. 
  • Now place the second slice of bread butter side down on top of the tuna and cheese mixture. 
  • Lightly butter the top of the sandwich and place back under the grill until the bread is lightly browned. 
  • Turn the sandwich over and butter the top of the sandwich again and place back under the grill until this side is lightly browned. 
  • Serve with salad or chips or just on it's own or may be have all three. 
Of course I am not advocating lunchtime drinking but if it is past the yard arm, as my dad used to say, the glass of white it not essential to the recipe but is definitely well deserved. 

Have you learned anything about yourself over the last 11 weeks? The one thing I have learned about myself is just how  much I touch my face without giving it a second thought. I had never realised just how much until we were told not to and as with everybody else I have been making a conscious effort not to do so.   As we all emerge into our new world over the coming weeks I think we will see a very different one to that of three months ago. I think the one thing that is certain is that this isn't over and we will all still have to continue to be vigilant about our hand washing and social distancing. Its been incredibly hard not to see my big children and not be able to give them a hug when one of us have needed it.  I get updates on my little grandson too and he seems to suddenly be growing up so fast and is going for long walks with his mummy and daddy for his daily exercise. I will see such a big difference in him when I finally get to see them all again.  

Well that's me for now, I best get off to the post office and get my parcels on their way.  Stay safe everyone. 


Friday, 22 May 2020

A couple of posh deserts

Here we are at the end of week 9 and heading into week 10. I know it sounds odd but the weeks seem to have marched along but that may be because I am a keyworker and still going to work. I know there have been days when D has asked me what day it is as they are all starting to merge into one.

There are a lot of us celebrating birthdays and anniversaries during lockdown and although it means we can't celebrate the way we normally would it doesn't mean we can't make the effort and have a nice meal. If folk are dressing up to take the bins out then there's no reason why you can't get dressed up and have a nice meal in the comfort of your own home especially if the weathers nice as you could always eat alfresco.

I had a desert like this in a restaurant many years ago and thought I was really decadent.  I then saw something similar again in a magazine and I thought I'm going to have ago at doing that can't be that difficult can it??

On my second attempt I cracked it and boy doesn't it look posh.  

Now I have to tell you apart from the getting the angle bit right the actual ingredients and the are not that difficult to come by.

Have you guessed what it is yet??

Well let me tell you. It is pannacotta  and raspberry jelly.   My pannacotta receipe you can find here and the raspberry jelly, couldn't be simpler it is of the cubed variety which thankfully isn't on the rare breeds list at the supermarket.

Of course the most important piece of equipment and crucial for the success of this recipe is the humble egg box.

I tried other ways of balancing the glasses but this turned out to be the most effective way of getting them at the right angle and preventing them from moving and they will fit in your fridge whilst everything sets.

I tried adding the jelly first which worked and set but when I added the panacotta is wasn't quite cool enough and we had a bit of a lava lamp situation going on with the jelly.  Whether you put the jelly in the glass first or the pannacotta the key is that everything is cold before you add it to the glass.

You only need to have it balanced at an angle with the first addition once this is set you can stand the glasses up right to add the second half and then put the glasses back in the fridge to set. You can then go on to decorate the top if you want to by adding some berries or a sprig of mint or lemon balm if you have some in your garden. I'm thinking it would be nice at Christmas as an alternative to my usual mum's trifle. You could even add a few berries to the jelly and possibly a little edible glitter and really make it sparkle. I found the way to make this work was to make the pannacotta the night before and add the jelly the following morning so it has time to set between each addition..  It will depend on how big your glasses are as to how many servings you will get.  Mine are a medium sized wine glass and I got 3. Of course you don't have to use wine glasses you can use any glass as long as you can get it to rest at an angle.

My second posh desert is a butterscotch tart and whatever the occasion this is definitely something you can make in advance as it goes in the freezer until needed. It looks a little like a cheesecake but actually its more like a butterscotch ice cream sitting on top of a biscuit base.

Ingredients needed are:

For the base

150g/5oz ginger biscuits crushed.
50g/2oz unsalted butter melted

For the filling

300mls/1/2 pint evaporated milk
150g/5oz dark muscavado sugar
1 egg white
150mls/1/4 pint of double cream

Place the crushed biscuits in a bowl and add the melted butter and mix together until all the biscuits are coated in the butter.

Add the mixture to a loose bottom cake spring clipped cake tin and place in the fridge until needed.

For the filling

Whisk together the evaporated milk and dark muscovado sugar in a large bowl until the mixture becomes pale and thick

In a separate grease free bowl, whisk the egg white until stiff.

In a separate bowl whisk the double cream until it forms soft peaks.

Using a metal spoon, fold the cream into the evaporated milk mixture then the egg white. Pour the mixture over the biscuit base. Cover and freeze until needed.

When ready to serve take out of the freezer and release the spring clip and allow to stand for 5 minutes before trying to remove from the cake tin.

So there we are two delicious deserts both calorific of course but hey there has to be some treats during this time doesn't there.



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