Thursday, 26 February 2015

'The Other Place'

When we moved to our current house 16 years ago, one of the first places we went exploring was Oxford. L was 5 and E just 1 and we went for a day trip to visit the Natural History and Pitt Rivers Museums. To cut a long story short, we fell in love with the place. Just 25 minutes away, we have visited countless times. L is now lucky enough to go to the university and I love nothing better than to nip up there and take her out to lunch; it's such an easy trip and we have been thoroughly spoilt by its proximity. In short, our hearts belong to Oxford and it is Oxford we invariably cheer for in the annual Boat Race (I still maintain that they should have just ploughed into Trenton Oldfield and not been such gentlemen - I'd have been tempted to club him with one of the blades!). 
Last weekend, however, we found ourselves trekking Eastwards to Cambridge. E had a masterclass there and so R and I found ourselves with a happy 5 hours to kill in 'the other place'. We have been here a couple of times previously on mini-breaks but it was nice to return. The weather was kind to us and, despite being a bit too cold for punting (wet sleeves on a cold day are not nice!), we had a lovely time.
Here are a few pictures of our trip:
The famous view of King's:
Not sure what this bridge is called but it's very cute:
There were lots of these:
Stunning architecture:
An amazing veggie cafe where we had lunch - squash and roasted pepper soup (delish!) and a shared slice of carrot cake.
There seemed to be a graduation ceremony taking place:
I think this was Corpus Christi:

Although not as old as Oxford, it is still quite breath-taking and I really enjoyed our wander round. After lunch we visited the Cambridge Book Fair and oohed and aahed over the gorgeous old books. The prices weren't for the faint hearted though. R was tempted by a first edition of 'War of the Worlds'. Unfortunately, we didn't have the £900 on us! There really were some fantastic books and I was amazed that we were just allowed to pick them up. Some were worth thousands and the stall holders seemed to have no qualms about eating their lunch/drinking coffee next to them. I was terrified that they might spill something. I did find a couple of little books to buy - shown here sitting on a fat quarter that I bought at the market as a souvenir of our trip:
Looking at some of the children's books available and the corresponding prices, I'm sure we've got a fortune in the loft!
All in all, a fine time was had by all and I think we may return in the Summer for another short break.

Other happies this week:
My lovely bunch of roses - a present from the neighbours for cat sitting. There was a box of chocolates too but I selflessly donated those to E to 'help' with the revision:
This week's library books. Even though Jerusalem isn't a 'veggie' cookbook, there are some lovely looking recipes in the vegetable section. I love Alexander McCall Smith's Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency series. All I need to make me happy is one of those and a cup of Red Bush Tea. I'm also enjoying 'The Gentle Art of Domesticity' - it's right up my street with all the baking, knitting and quilts. If you look closely at the photo you can also see my new pin cushion:
Here's 'Pin cushion Piggy' in action whilst I worked on The Graduation Quilt:
One final happy this week - Basil and Olive Focaccia. E and I tried some as an after school snack and it's wonderful. Definitely one of Paul Hollywood's better recipes.
Anyway, that's all for this week's happies. Do pop over to 'Planet Penny' to see what everyone else has been up to this week.
Toodle Pip. x

Thursday, 19 February 2015

An Apple a Day

Greetings everyone! Thank you all so much for your kind get well comments last week - I particularly enjoyed Amalia's virtual mug of chamomile tea! I am very happy to report that the lurgy has finally gone on its merry way. Last Friday when I showed you my little stash of fabrics, I said that I had a special project in mind for them. Well, here it is ...........
My 'Apple a Day' mini-quilt. Actually, I'm not really sure whether to call it that or a place mat or mini runner, I just wanted to make one! As I mentioned previously, they're not my usual colours of choice, but I do rather like them. It's just 6 squares joined together with 6 apples appliqued on before quilting and adding the border. The patterns on the apples and leaves were done free hand - you can really tell in some places! I suppose you could draw the design on first for a better finish but I rather like its rough and ready appearance.
I can't decide which is my favourite one.
You can definitely see the wobbly bits on the core:
Now I just have to decide where to keep it. I love it under the vase of flowers on the dining table. The only problem is that I'm a little worried that the weight of the vase will leave an imprint.
Maybe on the chest? We found this in the loft of our old house and it's used to house board games etc. Please ignore the over-stuffed wool basket and teetering pile of magazines! 
Any suggestions as to what I can do with it will be gratefully received - although I suspect R is just aching to tell me!

Every half term, E goes to spend the first weekend with L in Oxford. They are very close and she misses her terribly during term time, so this is her little treat. We dropped her off and then had a little wander around the college gardens. I love this tree - I'm not sure how old it is but it's bent over so far that it has to be supported.
E took some photos of this little, furry chap. He was extremely tame and let her get quite close before bounding away along the wall.

This griffin is used as a sort of good luck charm. Apparently, balancing a coin on him is supposed to bring good luck in your final exams - we told L to slip him a tenner!
L's rooms overlook the gardens, lucky girl.
With her exam looming, E had an extra long piano lesson on Tuesday. I took the opportunity to go for a rather muddy walk around a nearby wood.

I should have taken a photo of my wellies at the end - they weren't nearly this clean!
I loved the colour of the bracken
... and the oak leaves.
There were long shadows:
A lake:
and even a den:
I met a few dog walkers but mostly it was just me and the birdies. Unfortunately, I got horribly lost at one point and ended up having to run back (not easy in wellies!) so as not to be late collecting E. Despite that, it was lovely to get a bit of fresh air and enjoy the sunshine.

One last happy this week - making 'Quick Florentines' from my 'new to me' WI biscuit book. I made them because they contain lots of dates and we still had a box hanging around from Christmas. Despite the Alice in Wonderland type instructions on the lid, people weren't! I used white chocolate instead of milk, just because that's what I had in the baking drawer.They were quite nice but I found them a little sweet; needless to say, E loved them!
Anyway, that's all for this week. I'm just off to Planet Penny to see what everyone else has been up to. Enjoy the rest of half term.
Toodle Pip for now. x

Friday, 13 February 2015

Not such a Happy Friday!

Hello everyone. I'm hoping that you are all having a much better Friday than I currently am. The lurgy has struck with avengence and I am currently bed bound clutching my little hot water bottle. R kindly did the school run for me this morning, as I didn't dare to stray too far from the loo! All is calm at the moment though, so I thought I'd do my Friday Happy post for Planet Penny.

My favourite happy moment of the week has to be my camellia which is flowering its little heart out. Actually, I'm not entirely sure whether it is, in fact, a camellia or an azalea. I tend to get the 2 confused but, unless anyone would like to tell me otherwise, I'm going to run with camellia. After a mild spell, its buds were just starting to open and then we had the snow. I was worried that it would be too much and it would lose all its flowers before they had a chance to get going but, fortunately, it appears to be a hardy little thing. I couldn't resist nipping outside to take a picture against a rare bit of blue sky. The pink/blue combination always makes me happy.

We have another similar one, but it's further away from the house and much smaller - it's even smaller still now that Bambi et al have discovered it. They really are wreaking havoc on the plants at the moment.

Other happies this week include:
Making some rocky road for E. She has AS level mocks and her Grade 8 piano exam looming. The stress is starting to tell, so I thought a little chocolatey comfort might go a long way. I like to make them in little clusters, rather than slices, but I admit they do have certain 'presentation' issues! They have pecans, rich tea biscuits and veggie marshmallow in them and are really rather moreish.
This little find at one of the local charity shops has transformed my knitted block making. Whenever I get to the end of the row, I just whizz the dial round one and it keeps track of where I'm up to. For someone like me with a memory like a sieve, it's revolutionary! Who would have thought that a 50p pair of stitch counters (there is a smaller version too for if I eventually find time to knit that pair of socks!) could bring me such pleasure?
This little book came from the same shop and I'm looking forward to trying it out when I'm feeling a bit better. It was my first WI meeting as a fully paid up member this week, so it seemed appropriate! The fleecy blankie it's sitting on was also a thrifted find. I bought it to back my knitted block picnic blanket when it's finally finished.
My new mug from T K Maxx. The tulips in the garden aren't quite here yet, so while I'm waiting I'll have to be content enjoying this:
This little beauty is my new discovery - Village Fabrics, the patchwork and quilting shop, in Wallingford near Oxford. I was too embarrassed to take any photos inside (wimp that I am) but believe me, it's a little Aladdin's cave of treasure and well worth a nosy if you're ever in the vicinity. If not, next time I promise to be braver and get my camera out.
 I bought a few fat quarters to add to my stash. They're not my usual colours, I admit, but they're for a very specific project that I hope to be able to share with you next week. I've added a few scraps I already had to the pile in preparation.
Finally the loaf of the week - Pain de Campagne. It's a mixture of strong and rye flour with added oregano. It was supposed to be fresh oregano but Bambi had been at it again, so dry it had to be. 
That's all for this week. It's our Half Term holiday next week, but I imagine a lot of it will be spent watching E revise and listening to piano scales ........... wishing yours is more exciting.
Toodle Pip for now. x

Thursday, 5 February 2015


Hello! I've rather cheated on my Friday Happy picture this week, choosing instead to post a little collage. Wednesday saw me beetling off to Oxford to visit my darling L - always a happy moment. I was really lucky with the weather as it had snowed on Tuesday and I was worried about the roads. Fortunately, it mostly thawed overnight and it turned out to be pretty plain sailing. Anyway, here are a few of the pictures I snapped walking to her college:

Mostly they are views taken from Christchurch meadow. There is also a picture of the outside of 'Alice's Shop' and a photo of the lovely chap outside L's window - I think he may be a grotesque, rather than a gargoyle. 
We were very lucky with the weather - sunny but very cold. We spent a while wandering around Gloucester Green market, oohing over the size of the pomegranates for sale (sorry, I should have taken a photo!) and buying a ludicrous quantity of clementines for just a pound. Then we decided a spot of lunch might be in order and came here:

We tried coming here for lunch in the Summer, but couldn't fit through the door because it was so popular. As it turns out, there are considerably fewer tourists on a cold day in February, so we were in luck!
The sign on the wall explains its popularity:

I took a couple more snaps inside:

It was very atmospheric and lunch wasn't bad either; I can understand the usual crowds. We then went for a walk around Jericho, an area of Oxford I'd heard about (probably from Inspector Morse/ Lewis!) but never seen. It turned out to have some really quaint houses and was really rather lovely. Sorry about the lack of photos for this bit - I couldn't feel my fingers at this point! We finished off with a coffee and shared cake in the cafe at the Ashmolean. 
It looks like the hedgehog on L's jumper is eyeing up the stem ginger cake! Then, all too soon, it was time to say goodbye and dash home for the school run.

Other happies this week include:
Doing some of the 'Graduation' Quilt.
 Snapping more shots of Hamish and E having a cuddle:

 Flowering tete-a-tetes.
Waking up to this:
So, deciding to light the stove and do a bit of this:
 In an attempt to bust some more of that stash, I've started knitting some blocks from this book:
 Here are some of the ones I've done so far:  
 I started off doing this with a view to making a picnic blanket and then discovered this on Planet Penny's Happy Friday Links. Linda had had the same idea - I love her colours (mine will be a bit more of a mish-mash owing to using up the scraps) and the fact that she cleverly backed hers with fleece. I think I may try doing the same when I eventually finish it. It may take me a while - I'm not a natural knitter and I find I have to concentrate REALLY hard, otherwise I lose where I'm up to. I also can't 'tink' yet, so any mistake and I have to start all over again! Not a project for doing in front of the TV then!

One final happy this week:
 'Loaf of the week': Farl
I haven't tried it yet as it's still cooling but it certainly smells yummy. That's all for this week's happies. I'm just off to see if I can add Planet Penny's linky button to my sidebar - I'm not the most technically minded, so it may take me a while! Wishing you a warm and fun-filled weekend.
Toodle pip for now. x