Work in Progress: Seaside Blanket

Seaside Blanket

Ages and ages ago (last Christmas according to Ravelry), I started making a blanket. I had the idea for this after making a jumper for Lucy and wanting to do something with the leftover yarn. This is the jumper:

Beyond Puerperium 1

And this is her wearing it:

Lucy

I love the colours in this – the combination of blue and green with the sandy beige is so seaside. So I decided I would make a seaside inspired blanket with the leftover yarn, adding in a browny sand colour. The multicoloured yarn is Sirdar’s Crofter Fair Isle Effect yarn – when knitted up it gives a Fair Isle effect. However, I’m crocheting this blanket, and I think the effect is still quite striking.

Crochet Circles

I’m using a pattern called Retro Circles by Three Beans in a Pod. It’s a simple design – a circle of crochet in one yarn (the multicoloured), bordered by a solid pale brown colour to make a square. I’m making as many blocks as I can before the yarn runs out then I’ll sew them together into a blanket.

Crochet Circles

So far I have about 80 of them, and a fair amount of yarn left. I have to admit, it stalled a bit over the summer, as I went nuts making crochet flowers. But now that it’s only a few weeks until we move to the seaside, I’ve been inspired to pick this back up again and do some more. I’d love to have it done before we move, but I’m also aware of just how much I’m realistically capable of, and the packing and cleaning has to take priority. Mostly…

Squares


Catching Up

I was on a bit of a roll, blogging-wise, then last week real life caught up with me and everything got a bit crazy and with one thing and another I just didn’t get chance. But I’m here now, just about back to normality, or what passes for it. On Saturday night we had our tenth wedding anniversary party which was fun and noisy and full of friends and family and food and drink and generally everything I hoped it would be. It was absolutely lovely to see so many people we care about, all together. I completely failed at taking photos, being too busy catching up with people and generally enjoying the evening, but I did manage to take one of the cake I made, which I was rather proud of.

Cake!

I decided to make the two cakes, one my choice, and one Clive’s. Mine was the chocolate and cherry cake (of course), his was the strawberry, vanilla and white chocolate. It went down well with everyone, as did the hog roast, wine and many jugs of Pimm’s. All in all a great evening. Our friends spoiled us rotten too, with lovely gifts and cards. I love this handmade cross-stitched card by my friend Claire.

Daffodil Card

Quite a few of our friends managed to use the tenth anniversary themes of “tin” and “daffodils” – one chap got us a huge bag of daffodil bulbs, which I shall plant once we’ve moved house. Another friend got us a lovely tin wall plaque, and another wrapped our gift in shiny tin foil (which Lucy adored helping us open). We also got plenty of bubbly, and chocolates and lovely treats. I was a bit nervous about the party, if I’m honest, but I’m really glad we did it.

But now it’s over, which means that I have very little else to occupy my thoughts apart from our impending move to Cornwall. And “impending” really is the word. We go in 5 weeks! This is slightly scary as we haven’t chosen a house yet. We’re going down next week to view some, hopefully at least one will look as good as they do in the agent photos. In the meantime I’m thinking about cleaning and packing, and madly sorting out things that can go to charity shops or be sold online. I’m quite keen to have a really good sort out before we move, so we don’t end up taking clutter with us that we don’t need.

So, that’s what I’ve been up to. I now need to get cracking on the contents of my RSS reader; I know from Twitter that the bloggers I follow have been busy and I can’t wait to catch up. Normal bloggery should now continue on here!

Imaginary Friends

At the moment, we have not one but two little girls in our house. One is Lucy, who we know and love dearly. The other is called Ella. I don’t love Ella at all. Ella is an imaginary friend Lucy has somehow found for herself and who seems determined to cause trouble.

Mirror Lucy

Ella appeared a few weeks ago, and it took us a while to realise she wasn’t real – we thought Ella was a girl from pre-school. But then it became clear that Ella only exists in Lucy’s head. And, at first, that was fine. Lucy’s an only child, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that she’s invented a playmate, and it’s nice to hear her chatting to Ella – usually she seems to be repeating things we’ve said to her. The other day we were walking along the pavement and I heard Lucy telling Ella to be careful next to the road and not to run out into it. I had to smile. But over the past few days we’ve had several occasions where Lucy has done something naughty and defended her actions by saying “Ella wanted it” or “Ella told me to”. Which is very frustrating for us. So far my thinking is that I should explain that the same rules apply to Ella as they do to Lucy and that if Ella tells her to do something naughty she shouldn’t do it. But I’m not sure it’s sinking in.

Mirror Lucy

Neither Clive nor I can remember having an imaginary friend. I’ve been reading about them and it sounds like they’re very common at this kind of age, but often disappear before the child starts school. Given that I can’t remember very much from before I started school it’s therefore possible I did have one, but my Mum says she doesn’t think so, and I do have a sister twenty months younger which would have been the company Lucy is missing. The things I’ve been reading suggest I shouldn’t be concerned and that actually it can be a sign of creativity and/or intelligence. So I’m not too worried that she has this made-up friend. I do wish she’d invented someone a little less naughty though!

Did you have an imaginary friend? Have your children had them? As I say, our experience of them up to now is nil so I’d be interested in other peoples’ experiences (and grateful for any advice!)

Tenth Wedding Anniversary

Apparently Clive and I have been married for ten years today. I say ‘apparently’ because it doesn’t quite feel like it. Ten years, when you’re 32, sounds like a long time, and I don’t feel like I’ve been married that long. But then I start to think about everything we’ve done, everywhere we’ve been and all the adventures we’ve had, and I realise that yes, it has been ten full and busy years.

me and Clive

We got married on a beautiful day. The two weeks before had been wet and cold and so when I opened the curtains on the morning of my wedding to find clear blue skies and sunshine, I was extremely relieved. The ground was a little soft; unusually for me I wore heels and found I sank into the grass when we stood to have our photos taken. But otherwise the day was perfect.

Me, Clive and Clive's Nan

I loved my wedding dress. I still do, although I suspect I couldn’t fit into it any more. It was made for me by a lady who specialised in making corsets for goths. Which meant it was considerably cheaper than most wedding dresses but still made to measure. I still have it. One of the things I remember most about the day was catching a glimpse of Clive before the ceremony, through a window, and seeing how nervous he looked. I was nervous too, I remember the registrar being concerned that I was drunk. I wasn’t, I was just very nervous. Not about what I was doing, more that everyone I knew was going to be looking at me – what if I said the wrong thing? Luckily I didn’t and everything went perfectly, we got married and had a lovely day with our friends and families.

Me and Clive

Ten years have flown by. We’ve both changed a lot in that time, but in a complementary way – I think over time we’ve grown together as we influence each other. Our marriage isn’t perfect: we disagree and sometimes want different things and so on. But we’ve got pretty good at anticipating each other. And we agree on a lot more than we don’t! Maybe our marriage is perfect in that we can generally agree to disagree without having a fight and can usually find a middle ground fairly.

Clive and Lucy

Having children is in my opinion, one of the bravest things a couple can do. We’d been married 6 years, and together for 10 when we decided to have Lucy, so were pretty settled. We’d always said we wanted to have children, and one day we decided the time was right. I don’t think either of us knew what we were letting ourselves in for. Our daughter is the best thing we’ve ever done, but inevitably we’ve had times where we’ve been really tired and it’s been difficult to focus on what’s really important. When one of us (me, generally) has got really angry because of something really small and stupid, magnified a hundred times by both our exhaustion. But we’ve got through those really tiring early years and are now loving being a family together. Life will never be perfect, but I think we’re pretty close.

Clive and Lucy

We’re about to make a huge move – away from family and friends to a place we don’t know well. It feels like a new start, and I’m really excited about a new chapter in our lives together. That sounds horribly corny, but sometimes cheesy clichés do ring true. We’re off on another adventure, and I can’t wait to do so together.

Chinese-Style Chicken and Sweetcorn Soup

Chicken and Sweetcorn Soup

Clive has been feeling pretty ill all weekend – a tiny slither of quiche and half a bowl of tomato soup on Sunday night were the first food he managed to keep down since Thursday. But yesterday he seemed to be on the mend, so I decided I would make him some soup. And when you’re ill, it really has to be chicken soup. I’ve made him a traditional chicken soup when he’s been ill before, and it wasn’t the greatest hit with him, I think because of his loathing for onions and leeks. So, I decided this time I would try a different kind of chicken soup, a Chinese style chicken and sweetcorn soup. This was much more successful, and as a bonus for me, was easier to make. It tasted just like the kind you get from Chinese takeaways, which may or may not be any indication of genuineness.

This would be an ideal recipe for using up leftover chicken from a roast as you need little shredded pieces. However, I poached and shredded a chicken breast and that worked too. Don’t be tempted, if you’re making stock with cubes etc to make it too strong – you don’t want it to end up too salty!

Ingredients

  • 1 chicken breast
  • 600ml hot chicken stock
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp ground ginger (I’m sure you could use fresh if you have it)
  • 1 tbsp cornflour
  • 1 egg
  • 100g sweetcorn
  • dash soy sauce
  • juice of half a lemon

Instructions

  1. Poach the chicken breast in the stock until it is cooked. Remove from the heat and fish the chicken out. Leave to cool then shred the chicken finely.
  2. Place a little of the stock in a pan with the cornflour and heat gently, stirring to make a paste. Slowly add the rest of the stock, in small additions, mixing each time so there no lumps (similar to making a white sauce).
  3. Bring this to the boil and add the shredded chicken, ginger, garlic and soy sauce. Simmer for 8-10 minutes.

Chicken and Sweetcorn Soup

  1. Beat the egg and lemon juice together. Drizzle this into the simmering soup, stirring it gently with a fork as you do to create strands of egg in the soup.
  2. Serve. We had crusty bread with ours but you could go for something more Chinese like prawn crackers (I can’t help but suspect no Chinese people in China actually eat prawn crackers but you know what I mean).

These quantities did two of us just nicely. Lucy promised she would try it then decided she didn’t like it so ended up having bread and cheese and crudités for her dinner. I wasn’t too surprised as she’s not generally a soup eater, but I’m sure it’ll come.

Scenes From The Weekend 11.08.14

It’s been a bit of a mixed weekend in several ways. The weather has been all over the place – glorious sunshine followed by torrential rain and wind. Also, Clive has been ill. I’m not sure what’s wrong; it seems to be a flu with sore throat, headaches and fever, but he’s also been quite sick in a literal sense. He managed to keep some food down last night for the first time since Thursday so hopefully he’s on the mend.

Seesaw

Having seen the weather forecast on Saturday morning, I decided to make the best of a sunny morning and took Lucy to the park. Hatherley park, to be specific. We played, and admired the wild flower meadow, and fed the ducks. I showed Lucy how to take thistle seeds and make them fly away like fairies.

Wild Flowers

We did have to do some shopping, but I tried to break it up a bit. We went to Wholefoods and she had a play on their play area while I got us steak burgers from their barbecue. They were really good burgers – I worried she would struggle with hers, but she got through it. Washed down with fresh smoothies they were perfect in the sunshine.

Smoothies

Burger

Whole Foods

We did our shopping then headed home as the clouds gathered and, as predicted, the skies opened. On Sunday I was determined not to let the weather keep us at home. It seemed an ideal time to visit our local museum and check out their “Meet Rex” dinosaur exhibition.

Dinosaurs

Normally the museum is free to get into. This had a small charge but as there were lots of extra, interactive, displays it seemed worth the £6 for me – Lucy was free as she’s under 4. She enjoyed the dinosaur displays once she had got over her initial nervousness. They were very large and had roaring noises, which I’d imagine might be a bit overwhelming for a 3 year old. But she was pretty brave and once the museum staff had shown her the dinosaurs weren’t real, she enjoyed it.

Dinosaurs

Dinosaurs

She loved this interactive game where you had to build the skeletons out of bone pieces. There were several different games, some of which were a bit old for her, but there were a couple she could definitely manage and was good at this one.

Dinosaurs

This was Lucy imitating the triceratops. She’s a bit fascinated by dinosaurs at the moment, so getting to see some actual ones (sort of) was really exciting for her. Afterwards we went through the rest of the museum displays hunting for mini dinosaurs which had been dotted about in amongst the exhibits.

Dinosaurs

Then we headed back out into the rain. With our admission to the museum we were given a bunch of money off vouchers for local businesses, one of which was for the Boston Tea Party café, just round the corner from the museum, so we went there for hot chocolate and cake.

Hot Chocolate

And then, we did something rather unexpected. It turns out that a bunch of people were organising a world record attempt for largest street dance, in the town centre. Lucy loves dancing and, without really understanding what it was, she asked if we could take part. And so we did, in the pouring rain. We had to dance for five minutes. It was great fun. We were completely soaked already so we danced about with over a thousand other people, in the rain. Quite a lot of people had dressed up in 1950s jive clothing which was lovely to see. It was also lovely that nobody seemed to mind the weather.

Street Dance

Street Dance

The event was to raise money for Winston’s Wish, a children’s bereavement charity, so of course we dropped some money in their buckets afterwards. The record attempt was successful, which I guess means Lucy and I are now world record holders. For dancing, which, if you’ve ever seen me dance, seems unlikely! The rest of the afternoon was spent at home baking, painting and snuggling on the sofa. Which is probably the more sensible way to spend a wet Sunday.


For this post I’m linking up with Em over at Snowing Indoors for the ‘Point and Shoot’ linky.

Point+Shoot_snowingindoors.com

Summer Vegetable Quiche

Quiche

This afternoon, Lucy and I made quiche. We had some cherry tomatoes from the garden which needed eating, and my parents gave us a yellow courgette when we saw them last week. I decided to throw in some mushrooms to make a healthy quiche for dinner.

Tomatoes

Actually, we made two quiches. Clive doesn’t eat mushrooms or courgettes, so I decided to make him another, with sausage and tomato, meaning we’d have plenty spare for lunches in the week. Clive hasn’t been well this weekend, but he did manage to eat a small slither, which suggests he’s on the mend. Making quiche with a 3 year old isn’t the easiest feat, but we managed it, in part thanks to my cunning plan of making extra pastry and supplying it to Lucy with a rolling pin and pastry cutters. This kept her happily amused and meant we had jam tarts for dessert as an extra treat.

Jam Tarts

These quantities make 2 8-inch quiches. I always make two at a time, it just seems less hassle to make two while I’m doing it. I guess if you wanted one just halve everything, and use 3 eggs.

Veggies

Ingredients
For the pastry:

  • 300g plain flour
  • 150g butter
  • 1 egg
  • dash of water

For the filling:

  • 5 eggs
  • 500ml double cream
  • black pepper
  • meat, vegetables etc as you like – a couple of handfuls is enough. I fried mine off with some rosemary in a little olive oil before putting them in the quiche

Instructions

  1. Make up the pastry. You can do this by hand, in which case, rub the butter into the flour until crumbly, then add the egg and any water you might need and knead until you have a soft dough. I use a food processor with a pastry hook, again butter and flour first then adding the egg and water.
  2. Wrap the pastry in cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for at least half an hour.
  3. Heat the oven to 180° C. Roll out the pastry on a floured surface and cut out two circles to line the quiche tins.
  4. Blind bake with baking beans for fifteen to twenty minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool until you can easily remove the baking beans. Meanwhile beat the eggs well then add the cream and pepper and beat some more.
  5. Paint the inside of the pastry cases with the egg-cream mix and return to the oven for five minutes or so. This will glaze the pastry, preventing it from getting soggy when you put the filling in.
  6. Remove the pastry cases from the oven. Add the fillings, then pour in the egg-cream mixture, dividing evenly between the two cases. My top tip here is to put the quiche tin on the oven shelf then pour in the mixture, rather than pouring it in on the work surface and trying to carry it to the oven without spilling it!
  7. Bake for 30 minutes, until the filling is risen and fluffy, and golden brown on the top.

Quiche

Suggested fillings:

  • breakfast quiche: any combination of sausage, bacon, mushrooms, tomatoes, fried potatoes
  • summer vegetable quiche: any combination of tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, onions, courgettes, aubergines
  • salmon and broccoli
  • chicken, spinach and sweetcorn
  • beetroot and goat’s cheese

Clearly you can put whatever you like in it; quiches are a great way of using stuff up and are perfect for summer days when you don’t want a huge dinner.


For this post I’m linking up with Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary and Ren Behan for the Simple and In Season linky.

Crowdwish, Recycling and The Story of Stuff

A year or so ago I watched a short movie called The Story of Stuff. I was so taken with it that I went and read the book that goes with it. The thinking is simple – we live on a planet that is finite in size and has cyclical systems. But we treat our possessions in a way that doesn’t fit this – we make stuff, use the stuff then throw it away. And then we buy more stuff, much of which we don’t really need. I’d never really thought about it in such a clear way before, but this was something I completely agreed with. I hate the cult of buying things that we have, the way people spend so much of their leisure time in shops, the way we buy things we don’t need, and don’t dispose of things in a considerate, sustainable way. And so I try not to do it. When I buy products I think about how I’m going to dispose of them afterwards, including the packaging. I ask myself do I need this, or could I borrow one from someone else. I recycle, give away and sell on things I no longer need. I’m not claiming to be perfect, but I do try.

So, a recent Crowdwish got me quite interested. The wish was “I wish we properly understood how much we are wasting“. The idea behind Crowdwish is that people post things they wish for, other people vote on them, and each day, the wish with the most votes gets actioned. This means the site try and do something, often in a small but symbolic way if it’s a BIG wish like this one, to grant the wish. In this case, they gave away pewter and silver pendants of the recycling symbol to anyone who said they wanted one. I did, and it arrived this week.

Recycle

I’ve decided that I’m not going to wear it round my neck. Instead, I’m going to get a key ring and attach it to my purse so I’ll see it every time I go to buy something. This will remind me that everything has to be disposed of, and to try and think through what I’m buying, to try and help me live a more sustainable life. This won’t save the world, but it does make me feel like I’m doing my bit.

Afternoon Tea at the Queen’s

Afternoon Tea

This afternoon I went for tea with some of my friends. Doesn’t that sound like a fabulous thing to do on a Tuesday afternoon? It was. A couple of months ago, we decided we’d start going for afternoon tea once a month, choosing a different restaurant or café each time. I missed out last month, but did make it today, when the venue was the Queen’s Hotel in Cheltenham. There were five of us today, and we treated ourselves to cakes and scones, sandwiches, tea and a cheeky glass of bubbly. It was all very civilised and lovely.

Afternoon Tea

Yes, those are actual cucumber sandwiches in there. How very Lady Bracknell.

Afternoon Tea

I have to confess, I have no experience of afternoon tea – my friends were rather shocked by this. I’ve eaten my fair share (possibly more) of scones and so on, but I’ve never been out and had a proper, slightly formal, afternoon tea. Well, now I have, I’ve decided I like it. I’ll definitely be doing this again!

My friend Cathy has started a blog dedicated to our afternoon tea adventures. It’s here and makes me rather sad I missed the last one. Hopefully I’ll be able to go on one more with them before I leave for Cornwall.

Scenes From the Weekend 04.08.14

This weekend Lucy and I took a trip up to Shropshire to see my parents. At the moment it’s a 1 ½ hour drive; from Cornwall it’s going to be more like a 5 hour drive, so it seemed like a good idea, as we had a weekend with no plans, to go and see them while we still can so easily. It’s my great grandmother’s birthday this week so on Friday I helped Lucy make her a card. This involved a LOT of sequins and glitter!

Glitter

We drove up to Shropshire on Saturday morning. We have to factor in toilet stops, and, conveniently, the route takes us past Ikea. There were a few things I wanted, so we stopped for toilets, a quick shop, a drink and a visit to their play area. Because there’s practically a law saying you have to, I bought tea lights.

Seesaw

It was a rather wet drive, and things didn’t pick up in the afternoon. However, we decided it would be a shame to stay at home so we headed out to a summer activity day in a park near my parents’ house. Most of it was undercover, so we got away with it. Lucy will put up with a fair amount of rain if she gets to twirl an umbrella, and get her face painted as well; we also did some nature craft and watched a puppet show.

Umbrella

On Sunday the weather was better and we pottered about, playing in the garden, going for a walk to a café for coffee and cake and then doing some drawing. My Mum introduced Lucy to stencils which she loved and they sat doodling with them for ages.

Stencils

Mum and Lucy

I love this photo of my mother and my daughter running round her garden together. They both look so happy.

In the afternoon we headed home. I realise I’ve missed the biggest drama of the weekend, which was the discovery of tomato hornworm caterpillars in the garden on Friday. I found three of these beasties in my tomato plants, which I have to admit made me shriek a little bit.

Caterpillars

He’s about the size of my index finger and was wiggling at me. Not nice. How did I once get a biology degree? Anyway, I wanted to know what they were so did some googling. Including finding out what the resulting moth would look like. THEY’RE ENORMOUS! So, good job we’re moving house then!

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