Monday, 27 May 2019

Sugar & Spice & all things nice Snuggle Blanket

Sugar & Spice & all things nice
that's what little girls are made of

Do you remember that saying from your childhood. I came across this photograph of a beautiful snuggle blanket I made for a colleague. It was the first summer we were here and she was expecting her second baby a little sister to her older daughter. 

Having just moved house and still trying to find our feet I didn't really have a lot of time for my crocheting or any other crafting but as I had made her older daughter a blanket I wasn't going to not make one for this little one.  I had boxed all my yarn in those really useful boxes and put all the pinks and lilacs together, all the natural tones together. You get the idea...  I was so glad I had been organised when packing up my yarn as it meant in an instant I could see what colours I had available to me and could quickly see if there was anything I needed to order and quick as I was on a bit of tight deadline to get a blanket made before she was due to go on maternity leave. 

Using a 4mm hook and Stylecraft Special DK, I came up with eight colours Cream, Lavender, Lobelia, Magenta, Pale Rose, Palma Violet, Parchment & Plum. A circle within a square was one of the first blocks I taught myself to make and looks very effective with the colour changes and looks almost like a star in the middle. Made up of 36 blocks from left over wool from previous projects and placed on the diagonal meant if I had more of one colour left than another it didn't matter.  I joined all the blocks together using plum finished off with a simple border of trebles in two rounds of plum, 2 rounds of cream, 2 rounds of parchment, 2 rounds of cream and 2 rounds in magenta and to complete the border a simple slip stitch edge in plum. I don't know how big it was but big enough to use with a pram or a cot, or as a blanket for floor play and there is nothing better than snuggling under a blanket on the sofa to have a nap is there.

These days the girls are coming up to 4 and 2 where did that time go, no longer babies but proper little girls keeping their mum and dad very much on their toes.


Sunday, 19 May 2019

Egg & Bacon Pie

Growing up my family lived with my grandmother and I wasn't aware that this was unusual, but then my parents married only 10 years after the war ended and I suppose housing was still an issue in London. I have three distinct memories that stick in my mind most about my grandmother and mother

The first being that my grandmother had Corgies just like the Queen but maybe not as many, but probably as spoiled and who would nip at your ankles.  She then went on to have two Shetland Sheepdogs that arrived in a crate all the way from Wales, and oh how I loved those two.  If I were to pick another breed to own other than my cavies it would be shelties.

The second being that they were both were seamstresses and our backroom, as it was known, had an alcove either side of the fire place and in each alcove were placed their singer sewing machines and I can remember waking up of a morning to the hum of those machines which had normally been going since about 6.30am. They worked for a company called John Blundells as outreach workers.  Every Monday and Friday a van would arrive with all the bolts of fabric and  patterns to be worked on that week.  We had a large extendable dining table and every Sunday night  it was pulled out to its full length and covered with a protective cover ready for the coming week. Their week was very structured but I suppose it had to be to meet their deadlines. 
Monday cutting out
Tuesday/wednesday sewing together
Thursday pressing, putting onto hangers with a plastic cover over the top
Friday the van would come back and pick up again

Sadly I did not inherit the gene to be able to use a sewing machine.  I can sew in a straight line but not much else.  Maybe one day I will buy myself a machine and find somewhere to have classes. Another idea to add to the list for when I retire. Its getting to be a pretty long list. 

The third abiding memory is of the two of them baking in the kitchen and the smell of bread, cakes or pies baking in the oven.   One of the things they use to bake at this time of year was an egg & bacon pie. and it was always one of  my favourites.  I don't know exactly what type of pastry it was they just used call it the savory pie pastry and then they had one for sweet pies for making apple pies and the like.  I suppose it would be a type of short crust.

The pastry is made by sieving 350g/10oz flour and a pinch of salt into a bowl. 

Add 115g/40z butter and 50g/2oz of vegetable fat (they would of used lard) and rub together until it looks like breadcrumbs,
Add 5-7 tablespoons of chilled cold water and pull together to form a soft dough.

Knead until smooth 
Wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes or until needed. 

For the filling consisted of five eggs, six slices of smoked bacon and an onion diced. They would chop the bacon into lardons and put in a frying pan with a little fat, I now use oil instead. After a minute or two they added the chopped onion and would continue to fry until the onions had soften and the bacon was cooked. Then removed it from the pan to drain. They'd of used a muslin where as I use kitchen paper.

In the meantime they would heat the oven placing a baking sheet in to warm through at the same time, as this helps to cook the bottom of your pie.  I couldn't tell you what gas mark they would of baked it on but I start by heating the oven to 200c.

Whist the oven is getting hot grease your flan tin and put to one side. Retrieve the pastry from the fridge and cut 2/3 off and leave to one side for the top.  
Roll out the main piece and set into the flan tin leaving any excess on until you have added the filling.
Add the bacon and onion mixture and spread evenly over the bottom.
Add the whole egg one at a time on top of the bacon and onion mixture.  I crack eggs into a small glass bowl first in case one splits or in case you have a bad egg.
Once you have all five eggs in the tin gently tilt so that the white of the egg spread over the bacon and onion.

Roll out the piece of pastry you put to one side for the top and using a little bit of milk dampen the edge of your pie to seal.
Place your top on the pie.
Using a knife score gently to form a pattern on the top.
Glaze with milk or egg and your ready to put your pie in the oven.
Place your pie on top the hot baking sheet
Bake at 200c for the first 10 minutes and then reduce the heat  to 180c for a further 20-25 minutes

The great thing about this pie is that you can eat it hot or cold.  We had it warm with salad and new potatoes but its also a great pie to take on picnics as you can pack it whole and slice it when you're ready as long as you remember a knife.  

Now if I had placed my eggs correctly then there should more or less be yolk in each slice but mine chose not to today. There are leftovers so I will be ok for lunch for a couple of days next week I may even take an extra slice or two for my colleagues to try, that's if there is any left as I do find myself visiting the fridge and cutting another little bit just to nibble on why I'm waiting for the kettle to boil. 


Thursday, 16 May 2019

How to Fall in Love Again Kitty's Story - Amanda Prowse

Is it ever too late to find your soulmate?

Kitty Montrose is packing up her home, and the memories that go with it.
Under this roof, she's seen her children grow up, her grandchildren arrive and her marriage come and go.

Kitty knows better than most that the twists and turns of life can bring you joy, despair, and everything in between. But when she was a little girl, she had hoped for more. She dreamed of finding her true soulmate. Someone to laugh with, cry with, and share her twilight years.

Then Kitty meets Theo, an old flame. The timing was never right for their lives to intertwine. Can Theo and Kitty find away to fall in love again?

Or is too late for them both?

Kitty Montrose grew up at her beloved Darraghfield located in the Highland's of Scotland, the only child of her mother Fenella and father Stephen.  She may not of had any siblings but she had her two cousins Raraigh and Hamish who were like her two big brothers and when not at school returned to Darraghfield as their home whilst their parents worked abroad. Invariably they  would bring a friend back for the holidays and it was on one such occasion that Kitty met Angus Thompson.  At 14 years old Kitty's trunk was packed and she joined her cousins at Vaizey College in Dorset. Although a little apprehensive she knew she would have her cousins and Angus to help her adjust to life at boarding school. We first meet Kitty Montrose in Theo's story.  They sat next to one another in class and although everyone else thought Theo a little geeky and a bit of a loner Kitty always considered him one of her best friends. Theo would of liked to have been more than friends but Kitty only ever had eyes for Angus Thompson.  

Some years later in a chance meeting Kitty and Theo  decide to go for a coffee and  and a catch up. This led onto going for a drink and a drunken liaison.  The next morning Kitty awakes and realises what a terrible mistake she had made.  She loves Angus and they are due to be married. It is some weeks later when "Aunty" hasn't arrived that she realises that she is expecting the unexpected. She decides to tell Angus about her and Theo. Angus decides it was a stupid drunken mistake and not worth throwing all they had away for, he still wishes for the wedding to go ahead but on the understanding that everyone knows the truth as to the parentage of her unborn child including Theo.  Kitty writes the hardest letter she has ever had to write in her life.  She informs Theo he is to become a father and although she fully intends to tell her child the truth she feels for the sake of her relationship with Angus that there should be no further contact between them.    As time goes by Kitty and Angus move into their first home in Blackheath and raise their daughter Sophie. Sophie has always known she has two dads. Dad Angus she lived with and Dad Theo who is her biological father.  It is whilst Kitty is expecting their second child Oliver that Kitty learns of Angus's betrayal and the truth about her husband and her world falls apart along with her marriage. 

At 11 years old Kitty's daughter Sophie starts Vaizey college just as her mother and Uncles had done.  It was as Kitty was unpacking her car that she spots the familiar black curly hair of her best friend and Sophie's father Theo, who had not come to Vaizey on a sentimental journey but to attend the funeral of his close friend Mr. Porter.   This would be the first time father and daughter would meet but would open up a whole new world for the two of them and Kitty.  Theo is married to his beloved Anna who accepts Sophie as if she were her own and forms a firm friendship with Kitty.  Kitty knows the whole family set up is a little bonkers but for her little family this works and that's all that matters.  Kitty is devastated when her daughter calls her to tell her that Anna has died suddenly at home. After Anna's funeral Kitty invites Theo to stay with her for a while until he feels he can cope with the emptiness of the house he'd shared with Anna.  Although a little awkward at first Kitty soon gets used to having Theo around and how much she misses Theo's company once he has returned home.  She decides to go and visit her father and spend sometime at her beloved Darraghfield and invites Theo to come up to Scotland to get away for a while.  It is there that they see a flicker of the Kitty and Theo that could of been.  Now in their 50's and heading towards their twilight years could this finally be the time for Kitty and Theo to fall in love again. 


It started with Anna & Theo   one love, two stories and I thought they were amazing and  proved there are always too sides to every story. I wasn't quite sure if I was going to like Kitty Montrose, because she broke Theo's heart.  Theo always considered her the one who got away, that is until he met Anna Cole. 

I have long been a fan of Amanda Prowse going right back to Poppy Day released in 2012.  Just as with Poppy Anna & Theo  stories are interlinked and you get to know both sides of their love story and the struggles they go through in finding happiness.  Just when you think it can't get any better in comes Ms Montrose stage right and puts yet another layer and completely different perspective on the whole story. Having broken Theo's heart once I really didn't want Kitty to turn out to be the flamed haired mistress or the one to steal Theo away from Anna and to break up their happy home.  Ms Prowse did well I didn't need to reach for the tissues until about chapter 12 but from then on a lot of tissues, chocolate and possibly the occasional glass of wine were definitely needed.

If you've never read any of Amanda Prowse books before I would definitely recommend you read these three at least  It doesn't particularly matter whether you read Anna or Theo first but my personal opinion is that you should start with Anna followed by Theo and lastly Kitty's Story. 

As a side note if you read my original review of Anna & Theo   you may have noticed that the copy of Anna that appeared in that review is not the same as the one that appears below.  This is because having sung their praises to my colleague she borrowed them to read.  It was when I returned to work after the bank holiday that she presented me with a new copy of Anna. She went on to confess that upon emptying her washing machine of towels that she discovered a lot of bits of gloopy stuff stuck to her washing. It was as she spotted her little metal book mark sitting in the rubber at the front of the machine that the penny dropped and she realised that in gathering up her washing she had put Anna on the top and forgotten to take it back off before loading the machine and so poor Anna went through the washer.  She couldn't quite decide whether she was more devastated at the fact it was my book or the fact that she was three quarters of the way through and needed to know how it was going to end and to add insult to injury her local Smiths did not have a copy and neither did her local Waterstones' and she then had to wait a further four days until the new copy arrived.  Thankfully she enjoyed them as much as I did but made sure that poor Theo did not meet the same fate.  I will be passing over Kitty this Friday so please keep everything crossed for her safe return.

If you're having glorious weather enjoy it while it lasts and don't forget your sun cream if you're sitting in your garden with a glass of Pimms.


Sunday, 12 May 2019

Come into my garden- Lavender pathway

One thing I had always wanted in a garden was a lavender pathway to my door. I had never lived in a house that would accommodate one, and you can't walk away from the perfect house because you couldn't have one can you?  Can you???   This garden however, definitely can although it wasn't what made us go for the house that was the surrounding views.

Once we had got the little picket fence up the first lavenders went in, they were very small  so I didn't cut back the first year. 

They continued to grow and flower all through the spring and summer

and of course the bees loved them 

To begin with I only planted the one side as we were still undecided as to whether to put a picket fence the other side of the path but in the end decided against it.  Of course I had broken another golden rule by not keeping one of the little tickets with the variety of lavender I had bought. That was another lesson leaned. Fortunately when I was weeding around the first side I came across one I had poked into the soil and managed to find the exact same variety at one of our local garden centres. 

This is my lavenders today
I wish we had smelly blogging on here as I can tell you the smell is exquisite especially when it has been raining, as it has over the last couple of days

The bees are just starting to find them and within the next week there will a continuous hum as you open the door.

The variety I bought were French Lavender Papillion perfect for scented hedges, but not known to be as hardy as the English varieties. They are a compact french variety producing aromatic leaves and purple flowers on upright stems in summer. Their height and spread are 50cm x 40cm or 20 x 16 inches in old money. They like a moist well drained soil, which is just as well as the soil here is full of stones and they are real sun worshipers. So far I have not been brave enough to cut them back but from what I've read I will need to cut them back by two thirds in the autumn to prevent them from going woody. This is where it could all go terribly wrong but as long as I don't cut into the wood and leave new growth then fingers crossed they will come back bigger and blousier next year.

Until then I will continue to enjoy the scent that greets me every time I open the front door and fingers crossed this time next year I will have my thick luscious lavender pathway of lavenders I've always dreamed of.


Thursday, 9 May 2019

Come into my garden- The beginning

I'd like to invite you all to come along on a journey of discovery and fact finding mission along the way you may even teach me a thing or two. Or rather I hope you will..... 

I would not class myself as an expert gardener by any means and I have made lots of mistakes over the years. Not checking the size that something will grow and then wondering quite what to do with the triffid that has appeared.  Not checking that I have the right soil conditions or whether they would cope with shade, partial shade or full sun. So I decided if I was going to make something of this garden then I really needed to find my inner Alan Titchmarsh and plan it properly.

Phase one

When we first moved here two years ago the garden, although big was just an expanse of grass, 


& more grass 
and whilst I relished the potential of what we could do with it, I must admit it was also a little overwhelming. 

a part from the perimeter gates and fences there was nothing to stop the furry paws running in a complete circle around the house, great exercise for them you might think but would prove to be a little interesting getting them back in.

Therefore the first job before even the first box was unpacked was to make the garden dog proof and fences were soon  being erected and gates put in place.

The plan was to cordon off  the garden to make smaller more manageable areas, whilst keeping the big grassed area at the back, at least for the foreseeable. Just like when you had small children we like to be able to see where the boys are at all times when we are in the garden and you can bet you're life they head for the one spot where you can't see what they're up to as soon as you open the door, well not anymore.

With phase one complete I could now turn my attention to the next phase, plants and whilst some planting has taken place over the last 18 months there is still a long way to go. I will be sharing with you posts about what I have started and looking for ideas and don't worry if you miss a post or three as I have set up a separate page so you will be able to follow what I've been up to over the coming months.  The bearded one is much more a buy a plant you like the look of and then decide where it should go type gardener, he is yet to learn by my mistakes. I on the other hand have learnt by my mistakes and prefer to give some thought to what I want to plant and will look for inspiration on Google imaging and Pinterest come up with a list of plants and then do my homework. I have several good books but also find the RHS Plants website very helpful and this year I'm off to Gardeners World Live and who knows I may just bump into Alan or Monty in the tea tent.


Monday, 6 May 2019

Macaroni Cheese with a twist & Schiacciata bread

Good morning all on this cold, wet & windy bank holiday weekend. Did we really expect anything else? I don't know about anyone else but I am usually very much a seasonal foodie.  Casseroles and stews in Autumn/Winter and lots of salads and lighter meals in the Spring/Summer.  All that said you get a cold, wet & windy weekend and I am more than happy to revert back to stodge if it will keep me warm both on inside and out. 

Even though the weather has not been on our side I still wanted to get a couple of jobs done in the garden and I'm afraid  I didn't give a thought about food for later until the hale storm came and it was retreat back into the warm. On these occasions its look in the fridge and hope there is something that you can put together to make a meal as the nearest takeaway is a half hour drive.There was a half a head of cauliflower and a bit of broccoli and as the two human males of the household think they are mice there is always cheese. Macaroni cheese it is then. 

When the children were little they loved macaroni cheese and it was always so quick to rustle up.  I was always looking for ways of getting vegetables into them and when one of them told me they only liked broccoli and cauliflower if it had cheese sauce on it, it was a real light bulb moment and the next time I made macaroni  cheese I boiled some cauliflower and broccoli and added to the macaroni cheese. I waited for the protests of there being something green in their macaroni cheese but none came and plates were emptied. Win Win. I'm afraid after that I got a little carried away. As an alternative I would cut tiny bits of bacon and fry and then drain on kitchen paper. I would make up a quantity of macaroni cheese and then stir in the bacon bits.  I would heat up a tin of chopped tomato's and add to an oven proof dish add the macaroni cheese mixture topping off with fresh breadcrumbs and 2 teaspoons of grated Parmesan cheese and sprinkled across the top and then popped under the grill until it the breadcrumbs were golden brown.  There were times when I went completely mad and if I had Cauli and broccoli, and bacon left over in the fridge as well as the tin of chopped tomatoes the whole kit and caboodle went in. Oh my goodness when it comes to stodgey goodness it was heaven on a plate.  

The one tip I passed on was how to get a smooth cheese sauce.  When I was shown how to make it at school I was told to melt the butter in a saucepan add two tablespoons of plain flour and  a pint of milk. Wait until this had come to the boil and add the cheese. If you were lucky it didn't split but invariably it would be lumpy and didn't look very appetizing.  It was only through trial and error of making it as an adult that I found my own way.  The way I taught my children was to heat the milk through first before adding as this prevents the sauce from splitting or becoming lumpy. I  melt 2-3oz of butter in a saucepan, add 2 tablespoons of plain flour to the melted butter and let this cook out for a few minutes. Then I add the warm milk and stir until it starts to thicken and comes to the boil. I then remove it from the heat before adding 4-6 oz of cheese and stir until the cheese has melted and it never splits and never gets lumpy and is always silky smooth.

The bread is a Schiacciata or Italian flat bread and it goes so well with the soups, cheeses and salads but also goes very well with pasta dishes. Its very easy to make and apart from kneading and baking you can leave it alone to prove whilst you get on with other things. You don't need a bread tin just a baking sheet.

To have a go sift 350g of flour into a bowl, add 1/2 a teaspoon of salt to one side and a 7g sachet to the other, they don't like to get acquainted too soon. Make a well in the centre and add 4 tablespoons of olive oil and 200mls of lukewarm water and bring together to form a soft dough. Turn this out onto a floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes.  Lightly oil the bowl and return the dough to it, cover with a little oiled cling film and leave to prove for an hour. After an hour the dough should be twice the size. Knock back down and turn out onto the floured surface and knead gently.  


I then cut a piece of baking parchment to the size of the baking sheet and lightly oil. Then place the dough on top and roll out to a rectangle to approx 12 x 8 and then place onto the baking sheet. It makes it much easier than trying to lift the dough once its rolled out. I then brush with a little olive oil and cover with oiled cling film and leave it to rise for another 20 minutes. At this point I preheat the oven to 200C and whilst you're waiting for the oven to get hot remove the cling film prick with a fork and brush with olive oil and at this point you can add your topping.  I vary the toppings I use. Sometimes it rosemary and sea salt, sometimes it crushed black pepper and sea salt , sometimes it red onion and sea salt. This one was sprinkled with mixed herbs and sea salt. You will need to leave for another 15 minutes to rise, by which time your oven should be nice and hot and bake the bread for 25-30 minutes until golden brown and transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly. 

I have switched this one round a bit too. It has been known that if I have a jar of sun dried tomatoes in the cupboard that I will use four tablespoons of the oil from the jar instead of olive oil and add chopped up sun dried tomatoes to the dough. It gives it a gorgeous colour and flavour is fabulous.

Unfortunately there wasn't any bacon lurking in the fridge or any tin toms in the cupboard  (must sack the housekeeper she's rubbish) but we still enjoyed our macaroni cheese with cauli and broccoli with toasted bread crumbs on top with a slice of freshly baked warm bread.

We have talked a lot about childhood memories over the last few weeks and I hope we will do more of that as its been quite cathartic laughing at the good times and expelling a few demons of the not so happy. School was not a happy place for me, but there have still been lots of childhood memories stored  away to share and hopefully give us a few laughs a long the way. If you do have a go at jazzing up your macaroni cheese or making the Schiacciata bread I do hope you enjoy it.


Thursday, 2 May 2019

A Winters Tale Throw

I don't know about anyone else in the UK but certainly here in Leicestershire, we have had some bizarre weather going on over the last couple of months. When I was growing up snow came in Winter sun came in summer.  Last year snow came in March and this year we had a mini heatwave in February.  The world seems to be turning on its axis.

I  know we are finally into Spring now shoots and buds appearing all around us including in the garden, even if the weather doesn't always feel like it, and I have been waiting to share with you my A Winter's Tale throw for my colleague's birthday, but had to wait until the big day had arrived. She has long admired my efforts at crochet and had fallen in love with the A Hazy Shade of Winter throw I made for my daughter's birthday and that of a colleagues last year. 

It all started with a scarf  my daughter had given me for Christmas which had all the above shades of grey, red, burgundy and white and it seemed the perfect choice to use in her throw. As my colleague has a working cocker spaniel who likes to snuggle up with her mummy of an evening, and I know from my own three that it is easy for them to get their claws caught so, I chose to use the  solid granny square to prevent  her from catching her little claws in it. 

I can tell you that when  my colleague saw the squidgy parcel sitting on the desk waiting for her to open it there was a lot of squealing went on and the further into the parcel she went the more she squealed to the point I thought she may hyperventilate.   I tried to get her to calm down which proved easier said than done as she is a very excitable lady and I felt sure there may be tears before bedtime as my mum would of said.

You can't really see how the diagonals are placed in the top photo as it was a bit of a misty day at the farm house and therefore a bit dark and murky on the inside too, but the graph above shows you the effect I was going for. Initially I wanted to make 15 squares in each colour to give me  a  total of 90  days of winter but,  in order to get the diagonal pattern I had to work 14 in the red & silver and 16 in white & grey and 15 in graphite & burgundy for a  9 x 10 square blanket and I think it has worked pretty well and she certainly loved it which was the main purpose of the exercise wasn't it. . I joined the squares together with burgundy and graphite and finished off with a simple border, again to avoid little pup getting claws caught, with two rows of single treble in graphite and a row of slip stitch in burgundy. The finished blanket  measures approximately  130 x 150 cms or 51 x 59 inches in old money .  I used my trusty 3.5mm hook and each square is made up of 6 rounds rather than the 5 in my hints and tips just to make it slightly bigger. I used 200g each of red, silver, white and grey and burgundy and 300g in graphite and cost of the wool was approximately £26 or $32

I know we got to enjoy some glorious weather over the Easter break and this weekend is a bank holiday weekend here in the UK , but looking at the forecast and listening to Carol Kirkwood on the radio this morning I don't think we are going to be quite so lucky, which is unfortunate as I planned a weekend of pottering in the garden.  I say pottering there are yet more beds to be dug, more plants to planted.

Worst case scenario is that it rains all weekend and I will be stuck in doors with my craft of choice, which could be crocheting, cross stitch or knitting  and if the domestic goddess decides she wishes to make an impromptu appearance then there may even be a little bit of baking too.

I think I can live with that

Whatever your plans for the weekend



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...