Sunday, 8 November 2015

Quick projects

This week has been filled with quick little evening projects I can sneak in between puppy sofa snoozes. I've had to nip upstairs to the attic craft room where there is a spotlight and spare glasses etc which make mini things easier to work on. Until now. I've taken delivery of a sofa side magnifying lamp which promises to bring joy to my crafting life and let me stay in the living room with other people and watch TV with them and generally be more sociable and less of a crafting leper. Anyway...remember this from the weekend?

It turned into this...
It measures about 1.5 inches but I have enbiggened it you can see. I'm not impressed with my colour choices and I don't think the silver French knots show well against the steel grey so next time I'll change that. Otherwise it was nice and easy to do and can be added to an embroidery hoop or used as the topper on a stuffed heart shape. (That's another idea in my head....)

Here's some other stuff I've been playing with...I love appliqué and machine sewing so I'll be making a few of these with different Christmas themes.

Here's one that's finished. And now it's been given (as a belated birthday present, oops) to the person it was made for, I can post this :)




Saturday, 24 October 2015

Raspberry and Amaretti Crunch Cake


Oh my this is good cake! It's a ridiculous thing to have made as I'm home alone this weekend and the dog doesn't like raspberries. My excuse is I'm testing it to see how long it remains nice to eat. It makes up very quickly, just whizz up some flour, eggs, sugar, ground almonds and butter then layer in a cake tin with raspberries and amaretti biscuits but be warned, it cooks low and slow. If you search for it on the BBC Good Food website (use the name from the title above) it will tell you to bake for 55 to 60 minutes. Mine took 1 hour 40 but it filled the kitchen with the welcoming smell of baking after a long wet afternoon walk. As I was sampling a slice, I got around to a little project I've seen a lot of on Pinterest.

I've seen a lot of mini hoops with embroidered christmas motifs. So, I bought some threads in smokey blue and silvery colours and drew a little design. I'll let you know how it goes. I managed to buy the threads because today for the first time, I abandoned the dog for 3 hours and went to town. It was lovely but I won't lie, there was guilt. During the week, I work upstairs in a little back office so the puppy knows I'm around even though I might ignore him for 2 hours. I hadn't actually left the house until this morning. He has a crate, loads of toys, water and the run of the kitchen so although my sensible brain knew he had all he needed, my puppy brain was beating me up about it. He was fine but I was greeted with....

Thank goodness you're home! Someone has eaten all the fluffy off the tennis ball.


Friday, 23 October 2015

Stotties, good blogs and hygge

I read somewhere that dogs don't like the smell of citrus and since Buster's current hobby is chewing everything except his chew toys, I thought I'd test the theory using the power of lemons.

Dog v Lemon
Dog 0 - Lemon 1
I think I may have found the way to save our entire house. We will live in a lemon scented non-chewed world. But enough of dogs. Many of my interests follow the seasons, so in spring it's sewing and needle felting, in summer it's camping, in autumn it's baking, baking and baking. As we move into winter and Christmas, it's everything! I love this time of year and without realising there was a word for it, I have been practising Hygge most of my life. Pronounced "hooga", it's a Danish word and concept which translates roughly as cosiness and is what the Danes credit with getting them though the dark winter months. Hygge means creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good, simple things in life so the warm glow of candlelight is hygge. Sharing coffee and cake with friends and family is hygge, as is curling up on the sofa under a blanket to read through a good blog. I'd been catching up with having just bought Jill's latest book....
...and got distracted by some links and landed at a wonderful foody website with a recipe for stotties, a bread from north east England I'd enjoyed many years ago while working in that area. This fabby bread only needs to prove once and is simply rolled flat before being baked for 15 mins. Then turn the oven off, let the bread sit in the cooling oven for about 30 mins and it's ready to munch. The recipe is courtesy of and both the bread and blog are well worth trying. I split the dough in two and we ate them warm from the oven with some butter. That's hygge!



Sunday, 18 October 2015

Puppy Love

I need to ask you to excuse the photos.  My iphone decided it didn't want to automatically upload pics to picassa anymore.  So I've had a fun time searching the internet for a) the right way to describe what was wrong in order to b) invite the correct answer then c) understand the answer and d) put it into practice then e) discover I couldn't edit pics.  It's been a sweary few weeks in my house.  
 So here are some rubbish pics of autumn scenes round our way.
 We've been visiting our favourite foraging sites waiting for the blackberries, cob nuts and sloes to ripen ready for picking.
And as ever it's been very nice.  We've had some lovely chilly, crispy days with a little leftover summer sun.
And our sunflowers finally opened so the bees had a good time too.  So far, so normal....
Then this happened...
In our rural village it is compulsory to own either a tractor or a dog and since we don't have the space for a tractor we'd been thinking about having a dog for nearly a year.  A change in circumstances means I currently work from home and that opened up a puppy sized window of opportunity and slightly to our surprise, we took it.
 Meet Buster, a mischievous Parson Russell Terrier from north Devon.  He was about 8 weeks old when these pics were taken. 
The first 72 hours of puppy parenthood were a nightmare and I seriously wondered if we had just made a massive mistake.  We didn't speak Dog, he didn't speak English, we were house trained, he wasn't, we thought he needed quiet time on his own being silent, he thought otherwise. Over a week we got used to each other and once he'd had his vaccinations and we were no longer house bound, he endeared himself to everyone and became The Cutest Thing in the Village.  I've spoken to more people in the past 5 weeks than the past 8 years.  Socialising a puppy is a very sociable thing! 

 At first we took local walks round the churchyard to get him used to the big world and its interesting smells.  This weekend we went further and took the Park and Ride bus into Bath.  The bus was loaded up with adults who petted, took photo's and generally coo'ed over Buster, much to his approval.
 Buster about town.  Posing in front of Bath Abbey.
 It took an age to walk down to a pet shop I wanted to visit because we were stopped every few feet with someone wanting to say hello to Buster (also known as BusterNO and BusterSIT) and of course he was on his best cute behaviour.  Naturally the girls in the pet shop got all soppy about him and dressed him up in a Frankenstein's Monster outfit. I wish I'd taken a pic!  I resisted buying that outfit and opted for something visible now it's getting darker.  We're going back for a Santa outfit in December.  Don't judge me.
Buster is now 13 weeks old so we're entering our 6th week of puppy ownership and are still learning how to look after each other.  He has doubled in size (and weight!) and can do sit, stay, give paw, ring a bell to go outside for toilet time, quiet woof on command, half roll over, touch with his nose and fetch and drop.  He can also terrorise the other dogs at puppy training, eat bird poop, ignore all his commands, worry horses and entice an otherwise sensible vet to urge me to dress him up as a pumpkin for Halloween and take a photo for her.  I. Must. Resist.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Dancing with Children aka Car Fest 2015

How was your bank holiday weekend? Here in the UK at the end of August we have a public holiday and we all get a long weekend. It's the time of year when the motorways turn into car parks filled with people heading (usually) for the coast. And it's also when it usually rains. Heavily. Some months ago I got tickets for a 3 day music and car festival and I crossed my fingers and hoped for sunshine.
Our tent is somewhere in this crowd and to look at those dark clouds you wouldn't believe we came home with sun tans but we did!
This wrist band represents my first proper festival so naturally I flashed my band at all the check points in the coolest way possible as if I had been going to festivals since my pram years. Truth is, I'd made myself a promise that I wasn't going to complete my 50th year without having added this to my list of experiences.
Didn't it look bright and colourful when the clouds lifted?
I'll list the bands we saw in a minute but here were some other things to take pics of.
This is how I want to go to work. I'm sure my old megane could do this manoeuvre. How hard can it be.
Here's a stunt rider literally jumping through hoops.
I wouldn't like to land that bike from that height. Reinforced saddle anyone?
I remember the Boomtown Rats rocking my little teenage world and have a special soft spot for the uncompromising lyrics "Don't wanna be like you, don't wanna live like you, don't wanna talk like you at all. I'm gonna be like, I'm gonna be like, I'm gonna be like ME!" Thanks Sir Bob.
And this is why this post is titled as it is. All around us were parents, many with very young children, sharing the music of their youth with their children, lifting them high so they could see the stage, dancing with them and singing to them. The evenings were cool and damp but the atmosphere was warm. It was good to be reminded of the power of music. Many years ago I helped organise an International Arts Festival in Newcastle. We had groups from Spain, Poland, America, Italy, Indonesia and Russia. Relations were sometimes strained as national and political mistrust hung in the air. This was the time of Glasnost and Perestroika and the Berlin Wall was still firmly in place. A Russian choir and an American dance troop had finished a performance in the oldest church in the town and were standing at opposite ends of a church hall ignoring each other while the local vicar dispensed tea and biscuits and tried, unsuccessfully, to smile away the tension in the room. One of the Russians uncovered a piano in a corner of the hall and started playing. A few of his friends joined him and the music which had been classical (their speciality) changed to pop. Heads turned as they began singing Beatles songs in perfect English learned from Western radio. The atmosphere in the hall changed dramatically as we all, Brits, Americans and Russians drifted over to the piano, hesitantly at first not wanting to break the mood. We joined the singing, nodding recognition of the familiar songs and hoping the smiles would melt the barriers. This was after all, a time when there was huge mistrust between the nationalities in the room which wasn't helped by the fact that we'd discovered the KGB minders with the choir had ignored UK Embassy conditions and were armed. But the music broke through even their forbidding disapproval until we were all singing at the top of our voices. The highlight was "Nah, nah nah, na na na nahhhhhh, na na na nahhhh, HEYYYYY JUDE!!" We sang that over and over and over for at least 20 minutes. No one wanted it to end, the Americans and Russians had their arms round each others shoulders and the vicar was in tears. A week later we were all preparing to return home and addresses were swopped between people who had no common language other than music.
Here's a trick you can try with your JCB digger.
The fireworks drew a "wwwwwwoooooooo" of delight from the crowd.
This group are The Red Barrows and they perform ground based aerobatic displays. It was lovely silliness performed with great gusto and suppoerted by a delightful tongue in cheek commentary.
I don't want all these sunny pictures to give you the wrong idea. There was still mud.
The crowd getting set up for the evening.
A lovely red sunset
....and out come the umberellas as the rain begins again...
Children In Need is a big UK charity who raise money all through the year culminating in a full evening of fund raising and feedback on how the moeny has been used on BBC TV.
This was our route back to the campsite through the fairground.
Apparently there were 30,000 people there.
The busiest area was always in front of the two main stages. And the beer tent.
The children had these cute little covered trucks and saw everything in comfort.
This is what happens to the quality of photography when your blogger has tested 7 different types of gin in the tasting tents. I didn't do Gary Barlow justice which brings me to the line up. Seasick Steve, Texas, The Feeling, Sophie Ellis Bextor, Midge Ure, Level 42, The Shires, The Beautiful South, Paloma Faith, Scouting for Girls, Boomtown Rats, Jools Holland, Bellowhead and Take That. Not bad huh?

Monday, 24 August 2015

Flying Ants

In all the years I lived in Scotland I never once saw a flying ant.  So now, when they appear in the grass and  between the paving stones of our English garden, I am fascinated by them.  Expect them on dry, warm days.  The story goes that they won't appear if there's any risk of rain. These little orange fellas start running around first.  When I saw them I took it as a sign I could safely hang out some washing.  Turns out we have stupid ants who forgot to check with the Met Office.  It rained.
Then when you look hard enough you can see the entrance to their burrows.
And before you know it they're everywhere...
I'm still trying to work out what the orange ants do.  They seem to make sure it's all clear before the winged ants come up and then they seem to clear away any winged ants which have a wing missing.  Since nature is pragmatic I presume these failed ants are taken back to the burrow and used as a food source.
The able bodied winged ants who are not mopped up (anticide?) head for the tallest thing and climb up it.  They're looking for the highest launch pad they can find.  
Loads of 'em!
My research (wikipedia) tells me these winged ants consist of virgin males and females who spread their wings to get as far away as possible from the parent nest and give them a greater chance of mating with other ants from other nests.  Once they have mated on the wing, the males genitals explode and they die.  I'm not making it up.  I read it on the internet.  It must be true.
Imagine, you're a young ant-about-town off on your first date.  It's all going well, you've escaped the nest, avoided being chewed up by the ground crew, got up a blade of grass and made your maiden flight.  Up there in the clear air you've met a nice lady ant.  She's given you the wink. Turns out you both like the same things - grass, Wings, Adam and the Ants.  Some soft lighting, some Barry White on spotifly (sorry) and you're making sweet, sweet ant magic.  You lean back but just as you're about to blow smoke rings, BOOF!  Genitals blown to bits.  No "it's not you, it's me", no "I just think I need to focus on my career right now".  You're history.  Literally.
I feel sorry for the male ants.  The females take the next generation to establish a new nest.  Job done.  Many comments on flying ant forums (yes really) are written by people panicking about the number of flying ants which have appeared in their gardens and homes.  They wonder if bleach will get rid of them.  Relax.  They'll be on their way soon and for some, their fate is worse than a blast of bleach.