Sunday, 28 September 2014


Greetings. This week's 'new thing' was supposed to be trying a Zumba session at my local gym. Unfortunately .......... I chickened out on the day! It's not just  a workout session - from what I've seen, there's dancing involved and I'm a bit of a none starter from that point of view. I might try to pluck up more courage for next week, but I'm not holding my breath! It's sad in a way, because the 2 other classes I have started there - pilates and aquarobics - I absolutely love and go every week. I just need a bit longer to psych myself up before trying again. So, as an alternative, this week I started some 'law bunting' for daughter number 1. It has pictures representing cases for the various specialties in between the colourful bits. It is quite quick to make - even with the embroidered bits (bunts?!) - but I won't be able to finish it until she decides on the rest of the pictures, so it may end up as an Easter present for next year. It is fun to do though, and I don't mind it taking a while as I have a few other WIPs to finish and other ideas in the pipeline.

Other happies this week include:
'Kellogs' the corn snake!

A very talented llama - when told a colour, he could pick the correct one out of a basket of multicoloured crocheted bean bags!

Honey, oats and goats soap from the show. Again, supposedly eczema friendly.

 A dog walk with a friend to Coombe Gibbet:

It was erected in 1676 for the purpose of gibbeting the bodies of George Broomham and Dorothy Newman. They were caught having an affair and were hanged for murdering George's wife, Martha, and their son , Robert, after they discovered them on the Downs. Unfortunately for them, they were witnessed. The original gibbet was destroyed many years ago and a replica now marks the site.

 Blackberry pudding (the bramble equivalent of Eve's pudding) made with blackberries picked on our walk:

Finally, sourdough bread made with my carefully tended sourdough starter. We had it as bruschetta and I was really rather pleased with it, although I'm not sure that it tasted sufficiently better than the bought stuff to justify a week's tending!

That's all for this week. It's a lovely sunny day, so I'm off outside to do some gardening. Enjoy the sun while it lasts. Toodle Pip. x

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Coastal Ripple Ta-Dah!


It's finally finished! L's coastal ripple blankie, started some time in June, is now complete. It's actually a 21st birthday present for November but, as she chose the colours and has seen it progressing over the Summer, there doesn't seem much point in keeping it a secret. It took me a while to get going on this and after various false starts I realized that the number of stitches on my starting chain was wrong - maths was never my strong point - which accounted for my ripples getting out of phase. Once that was corrected, however, it was pretty plain sailing and I can see why people become hooked; it is rather hypnotic rippling away.

Anyway, here it is:

The 'On the Bed' shot:

The shot along the ripples:

Bird's eye view of ripples:

The 'Folded' shot; showing a bit of border:

The 'Corner' shot::

With its Blankety Buddies (sorry, it was a bit too sunny here):

The 'Draped on the sofa' shot:

.... and back to the Ta-Dah!:

Thanks, once again, to Lucy at Attic24 for her excellent tutorials. I have quite a bit of wool left over and, having seen Gillian's gorgeous cowl on 'Tales from a Happy House', I'm tempted to have a go. I have a few other WIPs to finish first though. 

That's all for now; pilates awaits! Enjoy the rest of the week. Toodle Pip x.

Sunday, 21 September 2014


Greetings everyone. This weeks 'new thing' is actually still in progress but I thought I would post the initial photos. Having been inspired by Gillian's sourdough bread in one of her Friday Happies, I decided to have a bash at making my own. I love sourdough and often buy some if we're having bruschetta. It's great with tomatoes and basil, guacamole, mozzarella and chilli, cannelini beans with mint etc. The possibilities are endless and, though I have made it using other types of bread, sourdough is my favourite.

One of the commenters on Gillian's post said that it wasn't difficult to make and recommended Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's recipe. So, a quick look online and I had all the necessary info. Basically, you need 100g of strong wholemeal flour which you make into a batter with lukewarm water, cover and then leave in a warm place for 24 hours. There lay the problem - I couldn't find a warm place! Having replaced the boiler, we no longer have a hot water tank, the central heating isn't on yet and my kitchen obviously isn't as warm as Hugh's! After the gloop sat there doing nothing for a day, R fished out an old, rather inefficient adapter for it to sit on. Inefficient to the point that it heated up enough to get my starter started. After another 24 hours, the gloop went from this: a more promising looking this:

I think it uses natural yeasts in the air to start the process (it's probably best not to dwell too much on this aspect of it!). For the next week, I have to 'feed' it every day - throwing away half of the mixture, adding another 100g of flour and enough water to get it back to the thick paint consistency - and then I can use it to make my bread. Hugh did warn that the smell takes some getting used to initially and he's not wrong! You are also supposed to be able to leave it at room temperature after the first day, but when I did this, the whole process just seemed to stop (just exactly how cold is my kitchen?!), so it was back out with the adapter. I'll let you know how I get on with the actual bread making next week.

Other happies this week include:

Cherry cakes - I didn't realize that I had bought unrefined icing sugar until it turned brown when I added the water!

Clearing out the greenhouse. It had turned into a bit of a jungle whilst we were on holiday and the tomatoes weren't ripening anymore, so I picked the lot and they are currently sitting in a large, brown paper bag with an apple (something to do with it producing ethene to ripen them) in my cold kitchen!

Finally, a trip to our local theatre to see this:

It's a play about men in the trenches in WWI and if you are near enough to go and see it or it comes to a theatre near you, DO NOT MISS IT; it is brilliant. So much so, that E went to see it twice! It will make you laugh and cry and is a real gem of a production.

Anyway, that's all for this week. I'm on the last row of the border for L's coastal ripple blankie, so I can feel a Ta-Dah moment coming soon. Have a lovely week whatever you have planned.
Toodle Pip for now. x

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Going to Pot!

Greetings everyone.
Earlier in the year, when I did a free book-making workshop as part of a local Arts Festival, I met a potter called Penny (of Penny Spooner Ceramics). I inquired if she did any workshops and not only was the answer yes but she had, fortunately for me, just had a cancellation for a Saturday in September. I quickly signed up and this weekend I took a trip to a gorgeous little studio in a nearby village to play with clay.

Penny's pots (I do like a bit of alliteration!) are beautiful and her cups have recently appeared in this year's Great British Bake Off. I took a few photos of her studio:  

I just love the duck egg blues and pastel pinks. There were 4 of us doing the workshop - a married couple and another lady. The woman from the couple had previously done one of Penny's workshops, the man had done pottery O' level, the other lady had her own potter's wheel ......... and then there was me! 

The day was divided into 2 halves. In the morning I had a go at hand-building a pot, which basically involved rolling out the clay, wrapping it round a cardboard template of a chosen size, adding a base and decorating it. I chose to make a medium vase:

I also made one other item, which I can't show just yet as it's intended for L's birthday in November (unless it's just too awful when fired!). There is a leafy pattern on the vase (not that visible on the photo) which you get by rubbing a piece of embossed wallpaper over the clay. The letters were made using a set of alphabet stamps and cutting them out before sticking them on with slip. I added a little bit of duck egg blue to the lettering and ornamental buttons on the overlap, which again you can't see here. Penny had just put the kiln on that morning and as it usually takes about a month to refill, I should be able to collect my 'efforts' sometime in October.

After lunch I had a go on the wheel. Think 'The Generation Game' (yes, I am showing my age!)  and you'll get the idea. It was brilliant fun but, as I was next to the lady with her own wheel, I did feel rather inadequate. I made 2 small bowls which, given that the clay shrinks in the kiln, will probably end up the size of egg cups! Foolishly, I forgot to take photos of these but I'll post some when they're fired.

Other happies this week include:

Continuing to work on L's Coastal Ripple blankie. It has been a bit too hot to work on it over the Summer months, but now that it's a bit cooler I'm glad to get going again. I think I've got another 7 rows or so before doing the border.

Hand quilting my first quilt. This is taking rather a while and I am rather regretting not buying a quilting foot for Genevieve. I'll, hopefully, get there eventually and then I just need to bind the edges.

Anyway, that's all for now; I'm just off for a much needed haircut. Enjoy the lovely sunny weather we seem to be having at the moment. Toodle Pip. x

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Auction action.

Another week, another item on my Fifty List. This week I decided to go to an auction.

We have lived in our current house for 16 years now, there is an auction house 5 minutes walk away - and I have never been! I have been to a viewing day once or twice but never to an actual auction. An advert in our local free paper informed me that there would be a general furniture and household items sale, so off I went. 
It wasn't at all as I expected; it was really rather highbrow and intimidating. I was hoping for a cheap and cheerful sale of rickety second hand furniture and what I actually got was a high tech, eye-wateringly expensive antiques auction. In order to bid, you had to register - I didn't, as I was too afraid that I might scratch my nose and inadvertently buy something. I sat on the end of a row (for a speedy getaway), trying to look as if I belonged there and it wasn't my first time (I'm sure I fooled nobody!). There were a few people bidding in the room, but mostly bids were made either online or via telephone. What surprised me most was the amount of money spent and the items it was spent on. There were some really lovely pieces of antique furniture - desks and the like - and they were going for a few hundred pounds or so (more than I would spend, but you could tell that they were worth it). The things which raised the most money though, were little bits of frippery - wall sconces, statuettes, lamps etc. They went for thousands - at one point, the bids were going up by £500 a time; I was agog! It was all rather exciting, if a little scary. I lasted for about an hour and then snuck out in between lots. I'm not sure if that particular auction house only does such high end sales, or if they do have the occasional cheap and cheerful one that I was after. I need to do a bit more research if I'm ever to go back.

Other happies this week include:

Plum and Apple Jam. Unlike my elderberry jelly, this stuff actual set!

A trip to the Island Farm Donkey Sanctuary:

I'd seen an advert for this place when E was doing her archaeological dig in the Summer, so we decided to go for a visit. Opened in 1983, they rescue donkeys from horse and donkey sales and there are currently over 120 living there, ranging in age from a few months old to about 45 (Donkeys can live until about 50 -who knew?!). They have a few sheep, goats and the like too.

Percy the pot bellied pig, who loved being scratched behind the ears:

Billy, the deaf goat, who took a shine to E and rested his chin on her knee whilst we were sitting on a bench in the shade.

Swallows that live in the barn used to house the donkeys at night:

On the last day of the holidays, E and I went into town to visit the library and pop into our local museum which has just reopened following refurbishment. I forgot to take photos of the museum, but remembered to take some of our pub lunch by the canal: nachos with guacamole, salsa and sour cream - yum!

Finally, a trip to Bath to see a friend. We pottered round the shops and city centre:

Had lunch in 'The Eastern Eye' Indian restaurant. I was so hungry, I forgot to take photos of the food, which was delicious.

.... and rounded off the day with a pot of tea and some Turkish rose and pistachio cake!

That's all for this week. E went back to school on Thursday and L is currently doing some work experience in Hong Kong, so it's just Hamish and me at the moment and the house seems rather quiet. Enjoy the week, whatever you have planned.
Toodle Pip for now. x