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Monday, 30 November 2015

Goodbye November Hello December


I'm afraid I have not been very good at keeping up with my blog during November.  It's been a busy month at the office leaving home in the dark and return in the dark makes me feel a bit like a mole. 
I cannot believe that we are already at the end of November, which means eek we are fast approaching Christmas once more.

So what have I been up to during November.  Well apart from working and trying to keep up with household chores, I managed to complete two of my WIP's.  First one being my large Elmer blanket which I have christened Elmer's Story-time blanket.  It is already to send off to a lovely little boy by the name of JJ who is expecting a new baby brother in the New Year, so Elmer's blanket and his story book will come in handy for sharing before bedtime don't you think.  I have at last completed the second of my cross stitches from the Fantasy collection.  I have now completed The Fairy Queen and The Dark Sorceress which means my next cross stitch project will be The Earth Goddess which I will start over Christmas. 

My return to childhood read this month was The Borrowers, those little people that live in our walls and under our floor boards and who borrow all those little incidentals that we can't find. You know the sort of thing, the odd cotton reel or a bodkin needle to name but a few. Out of all the books I have managed to read this month my favourite has been Kristen Hannah's Firefly Lane which isn't a new release but has been sat patiently on my kindle for sometime.  It tells the story of two best friends who have known each other since childhood but as adults have very different lives but when one of them becomes terminally ill their tight bond is still very much there.  Quite a tear jerker in places and very good.  There is a sequel called Fly Away which is now sitting patiently for me to get to soon.   

Of course we also had Remembrance Sunday.  I still wear my poppy I made two years ago and it's lovely to see so many of my colleagues who bought them over the last two years wearing them. I still  put a donation in the charity box.  

On a rare free evening I did get to go and see the new Alan Bennett film The Lady In The Van starring Maggie Smith one of my favourite actresses.  D isn't a big cinema goer so I jumped at the chance when a work colleague asked if I would like to go and see it.  It was definitely worth it. I hadn't realised it was based on an almost true story and that Alan Bennett really did have a lady living on his driveway in her van for 15 years.

Like a lot of you in the UK we have had  storms during November and there were times when I woke up wondering if I was still in the Fens any-more and that the roof was still intact.  With the storms came the cold, wet weather which is when the boiler decided to pack up and the cottage was freezing. Fortunately we have the wood burner as a back up and all the four paws made the most of lying in front of it at some point.  I love this time of the year when we get to put the wood burner on. D finds it a bit of a faff but I think I'm with the four paws there is nothing nicer than snuggling up in front of a real fire. 


I must confess I haven't been able to keep up with everyone's blogs recently but I will try and catch up even if I don't get a chance to comment. 

Till then take care one & all

Mx

Monday, 26 October 2015

All Change

I've made a couple of changes to my blog today.

As you can see the background is different
&
The header picture now depicts what it is that I do in my spare time.

Spare time what's that I hear you ask.

It has definitely been a bit of a hectic time at work of late as well as on the crafting front.




I have finished making 100 squares for my latest Elmer blanket, I just have to find the time to join them all together now.  Just as well this one doesn't have to be ready until after Christmas.

I have also been working on my lovely Fairy Queen and I am now 3/4 of the way through and she is looking pretty stunning even if I do say so my self. 



I got to the point yesterday where I had to add more beads which anyone who cross stitches will tell you is a bit of a tricky little beggar to do.  The eye of the needle is so incredibly small to begin with and then trying to pick up the beads with my stubby fingers can be just as challenging.

Still as you can see I managed it.



This weekend D and number 3 have been away for the weekend so it has been just me and the four furry paws. I think D was  a little worried whether they would behave themselves.  


They definitely can be like naughty children.  
But looking at these three angelic little faces you wouldn't believe it would you.


I was recently sent this photo for Autism awareness day so as we are approaching Halloween I thought I would share it with you.


Hope you're enjoying half term if you are off.

Mx

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Apple Streusel Cake



This is just for Penny at The Homemade Heart or anyone else who might like to give this ago.

A couple of weeks ago I posted that I had made Apple Streusel Cake and Penny asked if I would post the recipe so here we go.

Ingredients

  1. 450g/1lb cooking apples
  2. 175g/6oz self raising flour
  3. 1 tsp ground cinnamon   (I used ginger instead as the cinnamon was a little overpowering)
  4. pinch of salt
  5. 115g/4oz butter plus extra for greasing
  6. 115g/4oz caster sugar
  7. 2 eggs
  8. 1-2 tbsp milk
  9. icing sugar for dusting


Streusel topping

  1. 115g/4oz self raising flour
  2. 85g/3oz butter
  3. 85g/3oz caster sugar
Method

  1. preheat the oven to 180/350/4 then grease a 23cm/9" spring form cake tin. To make the streusel topping sift the flour into a bowl and rub in the butter until resembles bread crumbs. Add the cater sugar and put to one side. (I put mine in the fridge so it holds together better.
  2. Peel the apples and thinly slice. In a bowl sift the flour with the cinnamon or ginger and salt. In a separate bowl put the sugar and butter and cream until light and fluffy. Gradually add the eggs adding a little of the flour with the last of the egg. Gently fold in half the remaining flour then fold in the rest with the milk.
  3. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the top. Cover with the the sliced apples and sprinkle the streusel topping evenly over the top.
  4. Bake in a a preheated oven for 1 hour or until browned and firm to the touch. Leave to cool in the tin before opening the sides.  Once cooled dust with icing sugar. 

Now this one is lovely cold with a cup of tea but we also like it warmed through with custard.


One last thing

Enjoy 

Mx








Wednesday, 30 September 2015

We're going on a road trip


Just thought I would share this little photo with you all.

As I was driving to the office yesterday I was greeted by the Belvoir 15.

I fully expected to find a farm hand coming along behind but no.

They could of been a scene from Wallace & Gromit on the great escape.

I think somebody should have told them that Yarndale was last weekend don't you.

Hope you're all having a good day on this the last day of September.

Mx

Sunday, 27 September 2015

It's Official Autumn Is Here


Come Wednesday and the Autumn Equinox Autumn was officially upon us.
The following day was an early start at the office and I could not believe just how dark it was outside as I set off with head lights on.

I have always loved this season and I have always thought this is when the New Year begins.
There will be many of you sending your off spring off to school for the first time, those that will be moving up to big school and college and even scarier those that will be delivering your precious now young adult to University to begin a whole new chapter in their lives, and all you can think about is what happened to that helpless little bundle you bought home eighteen years ago.  I know it doesn't seem like it when they are little but time really does go that fast and I was reminded of this only last week as the youngest turned 12 and is definitely entering pre teen mode so I will enjoy the next year before teenwolf arrives next September.





This week I have been reading Val McDermid's modernisation of Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey as part of the Austen Project.  I've never read the Jane Austen novel to be able to compare but it seemed a good adaptation to me, although I'm not sure some of the language used by the teenagers would actually be what today's teens would say.  On the other hand I have been getting lots of comments about my little giraffe bookmark that I won as part of Jo Through the Keyhole  giveaway.


I have now completed the second of my Elmer Blankets and I each one will  have a copy of David McKee's Elmer book to take to their new homes.




and each little blanket I make has one of these attached.  Aren't they just the cutest thing to finish off your completed project.  




Of course it is Yarndale weekend but unfortunately Cinders could not go to the ball this year as my big boys had something arranged for this weekend, which meant somebody had to be at home to look after the four paw boys. 
So as Cinders was at home she decided to bake a cake. This one is an Apple Streusel cake and is delicious on it's own or with custard.  I may save some for when the boys get back but I can't promise.

Well that's me for another week. As today is Cross stitch Sunday you know what craft I will be doing today. Yes I will be adding more stitches to my Fairy Queen and as by the time we get to my next post we will be at the end of another month (where did September go to already) I will post a photo of my progress. Not a lot this month due to other commitments and crocheting of my Elmer Blankets. 

Have a great week one and all and for those who did go to Yarndale I am looking forward with envy to seeing all your lovely photographs. I shall have to make sure next year's date gets in the diary before anything else does.

Mx 

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Birthdays, a Thank You and yet more ta Dah




Good Morning lovely ladies on this bright sunny September morning.

Hope you have all had a good week. 


This week we have celebrated another birthday. Adam or number 3 as he is referred to on here had his twelfth birthday so is now officially a pre-teen and don't we know it.
One of his latest obsessions is the Rugby World Cup but in particular the All Blacks, he has taught himself the Hakka and believe me pulls some very scary faces.



My Thank You goes to Jo at  Through the Keyhole I recently entered her 5th anniversary giveaway and was lucky enough to be picked the winner.  Her parcel arrived this week with lots of goodies including an extra treat for the four paws which was a lovely thought.  I love wind chimes and bees so the wind chime was especially loved, he is going to be put away safely until next spring as it gets a little blowy here at this time of year and having forgot to put my wind chimes away last year they were broken beyond repair so I will be taking extra care with this little one.



As you can see my lovely Giraffe bookmark has already been put to good use.
I am reading two books at the moment Val McDermid's interpretation of Northanger Abbey so far I am loving it but never having read Jane Austen's novel I have nothing to compare it to.

I am also reading my return to childhood read on my kindle and my choice for September is Kenneth Grahame's Wind in the Willows. I love this story as a child and I have fond memories of reading it to my own children.


Elsewhere there are more signs of Autumn with misty mornings and lots of these on the trees as well as the conkers hanging ready to start to drop. The conkers need to hurry up as in our house it appears to be spider season, none of likes them yet they seem to think they have free reign to keeping popping by. Two huge beasties came running across the living room floor just last night. 


On the Ta Dah front these three little aran jackets will be off to pastures new. They are going to a friends little granddaughter to keep her warm as the colder weather arrives.



And lastly to those of you who are also on Instagram and have to follow my ramblings on there as well as here, a big thank you as last weekend I hit my first milestone with 50 followers.

If you would like to find me on Instagram you will find me here and on facebook just here

Have a lovely week one & all

Mx















Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Another Ta Dah Moment

My ta dah moments are a bit like buses at the moment. 
You wait ages for one and then two turn up at once. Or very nearly.

Having completed my cross stitch last week I have now completed the first of my Elmer Blankets. 
The light isn't great in the cottage at this time of year so this photo probably doesn't do it justice.


This blanket is the inspiration of Heather from Little Tin Bird blog.  

I seem to have a number of expectant colleagues at the moment and as one goes off on maternity leave another seems to announce that they are expecting.

I have two such colleagues at the moment and neither know what they are having, which is a lovely surprise for them not so lovely for me when I am trying to decide on colours for a blanket,

I have made the traditional white, white & lemon or white & mint blankets in the past but when I saw Heathers blanket it seemed to tick all the right boxes, especially as I know at least one of my colleagues has a mother who is a crafter and will no doubt already have a christening shawl on the go. 

I made a total of 42 squares (2 in each colour), in Stylecraft DK. There are only 20 in my little peg circle but as I was deciding on the layout I realised I could do with a 2 more so added in Parchment (as I find the white Stylecraft DK a bit thinner than the other colours although it is the same weight yarn).

The colours I used are:-

  1. Aspren 
  2. Aster
  3. Clematis
  4. Cloud Blue
  5. Fondant
  6. Lavender
  7. Lemon
  8. Lipstick
  9. Magenta
  10. Meadow
  11. Midnight
  12. Parchment
  13. Plum
  14. Pomegranate
  15. Raspberry
  16. Sherbet
  17. Shrimp
  18. Spring Green
  19. Sunshine
  20. Turquoise
  21. Violet
I couldn't make my mind up which colour to use as the joining colour and in the end plumbed for Parchment with it being quite a neutral colour.  The border is one row of Parchment, Plum, Aster and 2 rows of Aspen finished off with one more row of Parchment. 

I already have quite a number of the squares made up for the next Elmer Blanket so no doubt I will be back with another ta dah before too long.  I intend using a different colour yarn/s to join and make the borders on each one to give them that little bit of individuality.  It just remains for me to purchase an Elmer book to go with each one to complete the gift.  



Hope you're having a good week one & all.

Mx

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Cross stitch Ta Dah moment

Good Morning fellow bloggers I hope I find you in fine fettle on this Sunday morning.
The sun has got his hat on this morning so I'm hoping it's going to be a lovely day.


I promised you a ta dah moment and here it is. I have completed my 'Let's Quilt' cross stitch.
The pattern is by Imaginating.com designed by Ursula Michael. It uses three DMC colours,
550 Very Dark Violet, 796 Dark Royal Blue and 3847 Dark Teal Green. 
Although I was a little panicked that I wouldn't get time to do this as a gift for a friends birthday in actual fact it took no time at all. One month exactly so I don't know what I was worried about.
I am not going to have it framed, reason being said friend as she bought herself the 'Let's Sew' chart by the same company which she is stitching (her first attempt at cross stitch) so I thought she may want to have the framed the same or would that just be me.  She is also a keen quilter which was the reason I chose the chart but it could easily be incorporated in a quilt or as the centre piece of a cushion.
I will be back with a photo of whatever she decides no doubt, but as her birthday isn't until December you have a bit of a wait. 


I've been let loose in the kitchen again.
I have wanted to attempt a lemon tart for ages and I finally got a round to it.
D had cut himself a slice before it had even cooled down properly so I thought I bet snap a pic before it all disappeared and then what else was I supposed to do but eat it.



It's also that time again when stodge becomes prominent in our house whether it be beef stew and dumplings or a pudding that has that nice autumnal feel about it.
Sponge pudding with custard, doesn't get any better does it.
Although there appears to be a lot of pears on the tree this year so I feel a crumble or two coming on.



I showed this pic last week displaying all the colours to my next crochet project.
An Elmer blanket inspired by Heather at Little Tin Bird.


I then progressed to this.


and now I'm at the joining stage whilst trying to decide on a fairly standard border or something fancy.
I'm thinking a standard dc border for this one.

On the reading front my time with Mr Fry has come to an end.  I did enjoy his latest memoir but sure it was the best of the trilogy. Thursday came and onto my kindle pinged the new Amanda Prowse 'Three and half Heratbeats' I saved it for the weekend but so far I've not had much chance to read it.Mrs P's latest offering is about a family affected by the loss of a loved one to Sepsis and all the proceeds are going to the Sepsis Trust.It's only available as an e read but at under £2 is worth a read for such a good cause. 




Back on the home front.  It was Moth night on Thursday night (I think it was Thursday) and I think this little fella was a bit Mothballed out.  He was looking a little worse for ware outside the back door on Friday morning as I left for work.  I popped him in among the flower beds and he had gone when I got home.
I've not seen one like this before so if anyone has any idea what he may be I'd like to know. Only had this flash of red on one wing. D thought he may be a hybrid but I have no idea.

So that's me for this weeks installment of life at the Willows.

Don't forget I am now on Instagram and you can pop over and see what up I've been up to here

and in my madness I've set up a facebook page too which you can find here

Have a lovely week one and all

Mx


Sunday, 6 September 2015

Goodbye Summer Hello Autumn


I thought I would start this post off with some lovely memories of the summer sunshine as there has been a definite nip in the air this last week reminding us that the season it is a changing and Autumn is coming whether we like it or not



Have we all been keeping up with GBBO.  D doesn't even quibble anymore he just knows that once Bake Off is back on the screens that that one hour on a Wednesday evening belongs to me and he's even started commenting on the bakes so I think he's getting just a little hooked himself.
There are some very strong contenders this series aren't there, and up to now I think the right person has been sent home, it will as we all know only get tougher for Paul and Mary to decide.Can't quite make up my mind yet as to who could be the potential winner.
In honour of the GBBO and the fact Autumn is upon us I made my Ginerbread Loaf last weekend and what better than to have a slice with a frothy coffee whilst watching on a Wednesday evening. 



There are definitely more signs of Autumn coming. Getting up in the morning and it's already dark outside.
It was an extra early start for me on Thursday so I got to see the beginnings of a beautiful sunrise. That's the one good thing at this time of year, the skies are just beautiful whether it be in the morning or evening.


Another definite sign is these teetering on the trees ready to fall anytime soon, although I'm sure they weren't quite this early last year but I suppose if I looked back to this time last year I would be saying exactly the same thing then too.
I have started my Autumn reads and this week I had a little one on one time with Mr Fry. I have read his previous two memoirs, Moab is my washpot and The Fry Chronicles. His latest memoir takes us from the age of 30 to the present.  I do like Stephen Fry and all three of his memoirs have been good reads.



Last weekend I also had a delivery of new colours for two more baby blankets. Heather at Little Tin Bird  came up with the Elmer blanket full of lots of vibrant colours and a tutorial to boot.  When I found out another two blankets were required for babies due at the end of the year I immediately thought of Heather's Elmer blanket.  It was also Heather who came up with the very clever idea of colour pegs in order to put colour combinations together. Having adopted this nifty idea I have to say it works very well and is something I will continue to use in the future.


More progress has been made on The Fairy Queen, I am now two thirds of the way through with the stitching, there is more bead work to be done and more backstitching to finish her off and then I will be onto the final one in the series The Earth Goddess.  My challenge for this year was to complete one cross stitch project and it looks like I will achieve three so I am more than happy with that.


This 'Let's Quilt' cross stitch is going to be a gift for a friend who always helps me out with anything required on a sewing machine, I can just about sew in a straight line. It's her birthday in December and when I saw the chart at the Festival of Quilts I knew I just had to buy it and make it for her as a surprise. I have added more stitches to it since taking this photograph and I think it may well be a ta dah moment in my next post. 


And lastly I just thought I would share this photographs having a bit a a lie in yesterday they just looked so sweet cuddling up to one another. 

So that's me until next time.
Stay safe and warm

Mx









Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Summer Holidays week 5


What else do you do on a cold wet Monday in August?
Bake bread that your other half thinks you've popped to the bakers and bought, compliment in their somewhere I'm sure, and what else would you have with fresh baked bread but soup.
This is my vegetable soup that I usually hang on to make until September but as it was so cold and autumnal  there was nothing else for it. 


Recently I've heard of two very talented ladies who have sadly passed away.
Wink from a creative being blog back in June and Sarah from Yarn and whatnot blog only last week.
Both these ladies were only young and Sarah leaves a husband and five young children behind.
It is at times like these that I think about my own immortality and I start to think about all the things I still need to do for my children. I have a list of things I want to do so that they will always have a part of me with them long after I'm gone. I really need to start and tackle the things on the list as I am once again reminded that none us knows what's around the corner.
I am a bit of a hoarder of notebooks I have them for most things, keeping a record of the books I read, one for my crochet, knitting and cross stitch projects and there is even one in my handbag for shopping lists. 
These two however are to write down recipes I use. All three of the big kids can cook but I still get asked how to make a particular thing every now and then. This got me to thinking that I should start and write them down.  
Today I have made a start.....

Mx

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Summer Holidays Weeks 3/4


From time to time D sends me these little ditties on my email, he obviously doesn't have enough work to do, but sometimes they are just so me.

This one in particular is definitely me.  
Last Wednesday I was convinced it was Thursday and even when he had told me it wasn't I still asked which bin needed to go out in the morning for the dustbin men. Our bins are emptied on a Friday so quite clearly I was still a day a head of myself.





It's getting to that time of year again when the combine harvesters are out and hay bales start appearing all over the landscape.  I love them but they mean one thing to me and that is that although we are still in August, Autumn is just around the corner.


This week I had another sneaky day off to spend with D and number 3. 
We took ourselves off on another train ride, this time up to Durham.
I have never been to the City before, even though my grandmother was from County Durham. 
She came from a small mining village called Wingate and her father and brothers were all miners.
My grandmother and all her siblings (she was one of seven) moved away mostly down south so there was never any need to return.  I did return to her village about 10 years ago but it was nothing how it would have been when she was a girl. 

Durham was a beautiful place. The Cathedral was stunning.  


Unfortunately there is no photography inside so I've had to borrow an image from the internet to be able to show the Miners Memorial.



I know I made my anniversary cake this month but keeping up with my make or bake I have also had ago at making chocolate mousse.
It took a lot of egg whites that for sure but it was yummy.
The recipe is a Raymond Blanc or should I say his mothers and can be found here


A quick update on the Fairy Queen is that she now has her wings and I am now back to working on the rest of her dress.

Today being Sunday therefore cross-stitch Sunday I will be putting a few more stitches to her later on today.


It's actually been more like cross stitch any day of late.
I am still working on a couple crochet projects which I will update you on next time, but for the most part I have been working on a gift for my friend who is a Quilter and makes the most amazing things on her sewing machine.
I saw this cross-stitch for Quilters at the Festival of Quilts and very sneakily bought the chart so that I can make it for her either for her birthday or Christmas depending how quickly I can get it completed, her birthday is also in December so no pressure really.
Since taking this photograph yesterday whilst having a lazy day in the garden I have almost but not quite completed all the stitching along the bottom with just the border to go.
So one month in from the festival and I will have completed the bottom half of the chart. If I can keep up the pace I should get it finished in plenty of time.

So what are you going to do with your Sunday?
As for me it's another cuppa before deciding what to do with the rest of the day.
The sun is shining so it may mean another day of pottering around the garden it's looking a bit like an undiscovered rural aspect in some spots out there, still the butterflies, bees and birds are loving it.

Have a great week one and all.

Mx