Sunday, 15 July 2018


 There has been a new cross stitch project arrive on my kitchen table in recent months.I have been cross stitching for over 25 years now and still get as much enjoyment out of creating something from a blank canvas as I did all those years ago.  I can't draw or paint so for me cross stitching is the only way I can create my own little masterpieces. I suppose it is a bit like painting by numbers but in this case colouring by stitches. 

I love starting a new project and all the preparation it entails to start.   This kit is a Hannah Dale of Wrendale designs and has been produced by Bothy Threads.  I've not stitched any kits from Bothy Threads before. This little hedgehog is going to be for my new grand child's nursery when they arrive in the autumn. 

Included in the kit is a piece of 14ct aida and in keeping with Wrendale designs it has the spotting already included on the aida, a detailed instruction leaflet, all the silks you require to make your project and of course the chart to follow and a cross stitch needle.

The edges of aida can fray very easily from where it has been cut off a role.  To prevent this I use masking tape around the edge. This will come off easily once finished, I usually take it off when I wash the finished cross stitch at the endalternatively you could put a running stitch around all four edges it won't stop it fraying altogether but it will prevent it fraying past the running stitches. For those clever people who machine sew you could over-lock the edges if you wanted but I am not one of those clever people.

In most cases your chart tells you to start in the middle and work your way out. Only in very large projects will you be advised to do otherwise and by the time you start a large project you will be a much more experienced stitcher or a braver women than me. To start stitching you will need to find the centre of your aida. I find the easiest way to do this is fold into four put a tea towel over the top and rub a warm iron across that will then give you a clear definition as to where your centre is. Some people then put a running stitch across the centre so they know where to start but unless I'm using a very high count evenweave I don't tend to bother and work by eye.

Even after all these years of stitching I still use a pencil to gray out the squares on the chart  once I have stitched them so I know where I am up to, and it makes it easier to follow the chart. I use pencil so that should I ever want to stitch the chart again for someone else I can rub out the pencil markings and start the process again. I once made the mistake of using a coloured pencil and that doesn't work in the same way and I never use a highlighter or felt tip as you won't be able to reuse at a later date and I have been known to stitch the same chart more than once if its a gift, but usually only with smaller projects. 


Every chart will have arrows at the side and top/bottom to help you define where the middle of the chart is. You can either follow from the top and side with your fingers to find your middle stitch.  Some charts, like this one, will have it marked out for you or you could use a ruler and put a feint pencil line from the top and from the side till they meet in the middle and then you will be able to see where to start.  

On the chart there are little icons, each little icon depicts the colour yarn you should be using. Some kits you are supplied all the silks needed but you will need to sort them into colours and match to the icon on the chart, with this chart all the silks are sorted for you on the silk holder supplied and has the matching icon printed onto the card but not all suppliers do this. The instructions tell you how many strands you need to stitch with.  Most are two strands for cross stitching and one strand for back-stitching but I always check the instructions before I start as I've can be caught out before.

I find the centre of my chart and using the colour that matches the icon on the chart I make my first stitch on the aida. I continue to stitch any stitches with the same icon/colour working from the centre out. I try where possible to complete one quarter at a time.

This is at just over the halfway point

and after almost four months the last cross stitch went in last weekend just leaving the back stitching to do. 

Not everybody likes back stitching but it does make the picture pop. There isn't a lot of back stitching to this particular project and I managed to finish it over a couple of evenings.

Yesterday I took myself off in to Grantham to see a lovely lady called Linda at Belvoir Gallery. Linda and her husband Andrew have been running a bespoke picture framing service since 2012 and we have used them many times over the last two years since discovering their little shop. 

Photo courtesy of the internet

These days a lot of cross stitches are put onto adhesive board when framing but Linda does it what I call the right and proper way by lacing the cross stitch and gives it a much better finish.

I explained to Linda who the cross stitch is for and  the colour scheme of the room and together we picked out a border and frame and I think we have done rather well.

He won't ready for three to four weeks so I will bring him back and show him off to you once he has returned. I can't wait to see him in all his glory.  

In the meantime looked who arrived yesterday and yes I have already made a start. Isn't he just the cutest little guy?  I'm rather tempted to keep him myself but as I have already shown him to my son's partner and it's her favourite out of the three we have picked to make for the nursery I'm not too sure I would get away with that.

Well as the rest of the house is now stirring and will be wanting breakfast I best be on my way. The sun has got his hat on again this morning and it looks like its going to be hot, hot, hot again today.


Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Vanilla Panna Cotta with Raspberry Coulis

Back in June I showed you this photograph of a delicious desert I had made when friends came over for lunch.  It was only when I came to make it again this weekend that I realised I had completely forgotten to share it with you which is very remiss of me and I do apologise for anyone waiting for me to put up a post.

Panna Cotta is one of those deserts that everybody likes whether it be the texture, the flavour or the portion size whatever it is I can honestly say I love all three.   Its one of those deserts that looks like you have been slaving away in the kitchen for hours when in reality you can make the night before put into the fridge to set and forget about until required.

Now you can use very fancy and expensive panna cotta molds but I just use jelly molds that were part of a Christmas swap some years ago organised by Jo at  through the keyhole and actually they make  it a lot easier to get the panna cotta out than using a panna cotta mold or ramekin.

To make your panna cotta you will need

3 gelatine leaves
250ml/9fl oz milk
250ml/9fl oz double cream
1 tsp of vanilla extract
25g/1oz sugar

  • Soak your gelatine leaves in a little colder water until soft.
  • Place the milk, cream, vanilla extract and sugar into a sauce pan and bring to a simmer. 
  • Squeeze the excess water out of the gelatine leaves, then add to the saucepan and take off the heat. 
  • Stir until the gelatine has dissovled.

  • Divide the mixture between your molds and leave to cool.
  • Place in the refrigerator until set.  
  • To remove from the mold:- if using a panna cotta mold or ramekin gently dip into hot water which will release the panna cotta away from the sides put a plate over the top and turn and the panna cotta should release onto the plate.  If using jelly molds like those above take off the larger of the two seals place a plate over the top and turn over so that the panna cotta is face down  onto the plate now remove the smaller seal from the top and your panna cotta should release onto the plate without needing to dip into hot water first. 

To make your raspberry coulis you will need 

200g Raspberries fresh or frozen
3 tablespoons of sugar
2tbsp of water
1 tbsp of lemon juice

  • Put all your ingredients except the lemon juice into  a microwavable dish.  The amount of time you will need to microwave your raspberries will depend on whether you are using fresh or frozen. Frozen raspberries will take about 3 minutes where as fresh will take less time.  I tend to use fresh and microwave for 2 minutes then check to see if the raspeberries have started to pop and release their juice.  
  • Remove from the microwave and add the lemon juice and stir. Now add to a food processor or use a hand blender to pulse but only gently as you do not want the seeds to split or you will end up with a very grainy sauce.  Now pass through a sieve to get a smooth coulis.  
  • You can also use additional fresh fruit such as raspberries, strawberries or apple as a side to your panna cotta if you so wish. 
  • Now you can  drizzle your coulis across the top of your panna cotta and garnish with a sprig of fresh mint or basil. 

And there you have it a delicious summer desert that looks just like the top chefs have made it. In fact I rather think this would go down a treat with strawberries and cream whilst watching the Wimbledon final what do you think?



Monday, 9 July 2018

Hotter than the 4th of July

And it certainly has been hasn't it.  We've had some glorious weather here in the UK but the poor garden is suffering. We go out and water first thing in the morning and again around 8pm at night but the poor grass really looks dried out and listless.  Not that I am complaining after the snow we had here right up until March this weather is most welcomed.  Being a semi red head, well there is probably more grey than red these days, I do tend to burn really easily so I go out with a cardigan on in the searing heat to prevent being burned. D thinks I'm crazy but we knew that didn't we so that's nothing new.

But this weather has also meant I have been able to spend some time sorting out the garden and putting in some new plants.  And my poppies well what can I say.  When we lived in the cottage the garden used to be covered in them as they had self seeded everywhere.  They hadn't come up by the time we moved house and I was quite sad to think I wouldn't see my red poppies dancing in the breeze this year being visited by all the bumbles for their pollen.  I then spotted some that had seeded themselves in the pots that we bought with us. They were only tiny and a bit stringy and I wasn't sure if they would even flower but they did.  I waited patiently until they had gone over and duly collected the seed heads and dried them and then sprinkled the seeds along the hydrangea wall. I wasn't sure if any would take but as you can see they did and some.   They are now starting to go over and the seed heads are appearing.  I am slowly collecting them and will put them into a paper bag so that when the seed heads open to disperse the seed I will be able to collect them all ready to sprinkle around my garden.

We've had lots of birds visiting the bird baths over the last few weeks diving in to keep themselves cool and in need of a drink of water.   We've had visits from the usual suspects of great tits, blue tits and sparrows and Mr and Mrs Chaffinch and their brood.  The swallows have fledged but both the parents and young are still around and its great around tea time when they take flight catching little insects on the wing.

It was two - three weeks ago when I woke up one morning and could hear a tap, tap, tapping noise. I wasn't sure of where it was coming from to begin with and we have had sparrows nesting up under the eves of the house.  I just thought they had put their hob nail boots on that morning.  It wasn't until I got downstairs and looked out of the window and there hanging off one of the feeders was Woody Woodpecker.  I've only ever seen one up close once before and that was whilst on holiday in Scotland a few years ago.  He looked so handsome with his sheer black back and white collar.  He almost looked like he was wearing his dinner jacket.  We thought it may be fluke that he came to our garden. The feeders are quite near to the house and we assumed he had just made a pit stop and would be on his way to his intended destination.  But no on and off over the last few weeks he has been paying us a visit up to three times a day that we know of.

And he has even got a bit bolder and has started sitting on the chairs by the back door of a morning.

With the sunshine has bought more time for sitting in the garden and doing a little crochet.  This is a blanket I am making that is to be auctioned for charity for a little boy called Dylan who has a rare condition and his mummy and daddy are trying to raise funds for specialist equipment to be able to take him on holiday, but I will tell you more about that when its finished.

This weekend we ventured off to Belvoir Castle which is about 5 minutes from our house.  They were holding a classic car show, the first in 15 years, so we thought it would be good to support the neighbours haha.   If ever we go to a car show I always go looking for a Triumph Herald.  My very first car was a Triumph Herald, she was dark red. I paid £200 for her and named her Fiona or FiFi for short and I loved her.   Just like your first boyfriend I don't think you ever forget your first car,  but I have to say she was much more reliable than the first boyfriend was and I had her for about 18 months. 

The bearded one said if we were stuck for what to get him for his Christmas present this year that the kids and I could club together and get him one of these.  I don't think that's likely Mr B may be a hotwheels version if you're lucky. 

For some the school holidays have already started.  Our teen has another two weeks and he is counting down the days until he finishes.  It can't be much fun being stuck in a classroom in the midday sun anymore than it is in my office.  Whether you have already escaped the school run or counting down the days and madly planning how you are going to keep the kids entertained for six weeks enjoy the weather whilst it lasts not forgetting to keep up your fluids and sun screen applied.


Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Crew Neck Baby Cardigan (newborn- 3 months)

My son and his partner are now over the half way stage of their pregnancy and due to have their 20 week scan. There has been much debate as to whether they should find out the gender of the baby and they are still split on this decision but I'm sure they will have resolution by the time they are having the scan.  My son would like to know and his partner doesn't want to know. For the time being I am still making everything in neutral colours.  They love the colour of the Waffles & Ice Cream blanket and of the Bootees, Mitten & Hat set so I thought I would carry on and make a little cardigan to match. This is the same pattern that was passed down to me from my mother and grandmother and is the same pattern I used to make for my own children. From this basic pattern you could then go onto adjust to make other patterns and colour combinations as you went along. I've had these little buttons sat in my button box for years and I think they go just right and finish the little cardigan off a treat.

If you would like to have ago at making this little cardigan then this is how you do it. Just as with the Bootees, Mittens & Hat set you will need needle size 2.75mm and 3.25mm for a new born size or  3.75mm and 4mm for 0-3 months, a darning needle (wool needle) and to finish off five buttons.

The yarn I have used is Stylecraft Special DK in Parchment and Cream, but it will work in any double knitting yarn and you will need 100g of your main colour plus approximately 50g of a contrast colour.


Using the contrast colour and the smaller needles cast on 54 stitches and working in 2 x 2 rib work 10 rows

Change to larger needles and main colour and work approximately 30 rows or until piece measures 12 cm in stocking stitch (one row knit one row purl)

Shape armholes

Continuing in stocking stitch and cast off 3 stitches at the beginning of next two rows.

Decrease 1 stitch at each end of the next and every alternate row until 44 stitches remain.

Continuing in stocking stitch, without any further decreasing, work a further 27 rows.

Shape shoulders

Cast off 6 stitches at the beginning of the next 2 rows, then 5 stitches at the beginning of the next two rows. Now leave the remaining 22 stitches on a stitch holder or spare needle.

Left Front

Using the contrast colour and smaller needles cast on 26 stitches and work 10 rows in 2 x 2 rib as for the back.

Change to larger needles and your main colour and work the same number of rows as worked for the back in stocking stitch up to the armhole shaping. With the right side facing cast off 3 stitches at the beginning of the next row and then work 1 row.

Decrease 1 stitch at the armhole edge only  (knit two together) on the next and every alternate row until 21 stitches remain. Work a further 16 rows in stocking stitch so that you have the wrong side facing for your next row.

Shape Neck

Cast off 6 stitches at the beginning of the next row.

Decrease 1 stitch at the neck edge only on the next and every alternate row until 11 stitches remain. Work 3 rows without any further decreasing, you will now have the right side facing for your next row.

Shape shoulder

Cast off 6 stitches at he beginning of the next row. Work 1 row. Cast off the remaining 5 stitches.

Right Front

Work as for the left front reversing the shaping and working an extra row at the armhole and shoulder shaping.

Sleeves x 2

With smaller needles and contrast colour cast on 30 stitches and work 9 rows of 2 x 2 rib.

Increase row - rib 7 M1 (by picking up the horizontal loop lying before the next stitch and working into the back of it) rib 7 M1 until you have 34 stitches and rib to the end.

Change to larger needles and main colour work in stocking stitch increasing 1 stitch at each end of the 3rd and every following 6th row until you have 44 stitches. Now work approx 7 rows or until your sleeve measures 11cm.

Shape the armhole

With the right side facing cast off 3 stitches at the beginning of the next two rows.  Now continue decreasing 1 stitch at each of end of the next and every alternate row until you have 22 stitches, then on every row until 8 stitches remain. Cast off the remaining 8 stitches.

Button Border (Right for a boy or left for a girl) if gender not known I tend to put the buttons on the left.

With smaller needles and contrast colour cast on 8 stitches and work 56 rows of 2 x 2 rib so that when slightly stretched fits along the front of your cardigan. Leave the 8 stitches on a safety pin ready for the neck and break the yarn.

Buttonhole Border (left for a boy or right for a girl) if gender not known I tend to put the buttonhole on the right.

With smaller needles and contrast colour cast on 8 stitches and work 4 rows of 2 x 2 rib.

Next row (buttonhole row) rib 4 yon (yarn over the needle) and knit 2 together and rib to the end.

Work 13 rows of 2 x 2 rib

repeat the last 14 rows twice more then repeat the buttonhole row again. You will now have 4 buttonholes in total.

work a further 9 rows and leave stitches on a safety pin but do not break the yarn.

To make up

Block so that your pieces are flat when joining.

Join the shoulder seams

Join side and sleeve seams. Insert sleeves.

Sew borders in position.

Neck Border

With right side facing and smaller needle and contrast, rib across the 8 stitches from right border, pick up and knit 20 stitches from right side of neck, 22 stitches from the back (left on stitch holder), pick up and knit 20 stitches from left side of neck and 8 stitches from left border. (78 stitches)

starting with 2 purl work in 2 x 2 rib for 7 rows adding a buttonhole as before in the 4th row.  Now cast off loosely in rib.

And there you have it a lovely little crew neck cardigan to make whether it be for a family member, close friend or work colleague and of course you can make it in a solid colour of whatever colour combination you so choose.



Saturday, 23 June 2018

Walking with alpacas & sparkling afternoon tea

I awoke very early Thursday morning with much excitement for a 50 something year old women. 

About 5 years ago I was introduced to a lovely lady who had moved into one of our offices. We soon found we had a lot in common and have become firm friends with trips to The Festival of Quilts  and Yarndale becoming an annual pilgrimage.   

I have seen many  adverts for walking with alpacas but never thought anyone would be mad enough to come with me, but you guessed it she was up for it. Her husband is convinced we are coming up with some sort of weird and wonderful bucket list.  Not sure that the zip wire experience in Wales is one I am up for as I am terrified of heights. 

There is something about the face of an alpaca they just melt my heart and the crazy hair styles they are given after shearing. They make my worst hair day look good.

We booked through Charnwood Forest Alpacas based on the Leicestershire/Derbyshire border. There are quite often special offers on  their facebook page groupon or wowcher and the booking system is very simple. 

Upon arrival you are given a talk about the alpacas you'll be walking with and all the do's and don'ts. They use the boys for the walks as the females are either expecting a crie or are a nursing mum.

They also have their stud boys that are kept separate from those who go walking.   We had Pundit and Saunders and they were just the gentlest of nature.

As part of your walk you go past the maternity paddock and get to see the cria's and their mothers. There was a little one who had only been born an hour before we arrived who was a bit of a surprise as he wasn't due to arrive until July.

Half way you stop in a beautiful wooded area where you can take lots of photographs and you get to feed your alpaca.  They are very astute when it comes to where you may have hidden the food.  We were warned that if you put it in your pocket they would find it and be eating it and the paper bag it comes in before you got to the woods.  They have even been known to get themselves in your handbag to find the goods.  Mine was secured in my the pocket of my jumper underneath my bodywarmer so Pundit didn't manage to find it but once we got to the woods he was definitely expecting something for his efforts. 

There are different experiences that you can book through the website we went for the 60 minute walk followed by a sparkling afternoon tea.  Nothing was too much trouble for the staff in the Chilli Bean cafe even offering to take your photograph to complete your day.  I would definitely recommend you walking with alpacas if there is somewhere in your area.  

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