Thursday, 28 February 2013

Lucy Swap

Lucy Swap

As I am sure you are all aware of the great site known as Ravelry, it will be of no surprise to know that it is dedicated to the talents of knitters, crocheters, spinners, weavers and a great many designers, and, for someone like me who loves to craft and especially crochet, why I spend a lot of time perusing this site to bring myself inspiration and look on in wonder at the amazing people out there and what incredible skills and imagination they have to produce all of the work they do. 

Ravelry has a great many groups that can be followed and I am a member of a few that I have a keen interest in. I'm still quite new to all this and when an opportunity arose to swap our own creations with others, on a group called 'We Love Lucy' a group inspired by people's love of the lovely blog Attic24, I jumped at the chance. It was entitled 'small pleasures' and the rules of the 'swap' was that once you had signed up, you agreed to include in your swap:
  • Yarn - This can be from your stash or bought. If from stash it should be as new with the ball band intact.
  • A handmade item in keeping with the swap theme - This can be crocheted, knitted, or something else.
  • A handwritten note, card, or postcard from you.
  • Other small items appropriate to the theme and your partner, including something small that you enjoy and would like to share with your partner. This could be your favourite nail varnish colour, your favourite drink or snack, your favourite hook type, etc.
To help the person you would be partnered up with, we each completed a short questionnaire about ourselves, our likes & dislikes etc & any other information that might be of interest. Lastly, the cost of putting together the swap was not to exceed £10! 

I was partnered with a lovely lady called 'Craftymizz', a very talented and much accomplished crafty person. I knew I had to up my game to make sure my package I put together to swap with her past muster! But on top of the worry of thinking of what to make for Craftymizz, I also was so giddy excited at the thought of receiving my own package of gifts all for me, made with my likes and interests in mind - it is possibly the best idea ever & it wasn't even my birthday, it would be just a collection of offerings someone I had never met before had assembled ALL FOR ME!!!

Well, after a few short weeks, we were ready to package our swap and post, all we had to do was wait for the postman & after a few tentative days waiting, I took delivery of a very well packaged box of delights and here is what I found inside.......

Firstly, an incredible, handmade by Craftymizz's fair hands, baby toy, complete with internal jangly rattle made in beautiful soft pastel colours....

A bag of sweet little assorted Hello Kitty buttons which I can use to embellish lots of my own handmade projects - lots of which my daughter has now asked for!!

A crocheted handbag all for my daughters own use, the lucky little madam!!

A selection of seeds to grow on my allotment, the Gold Rush Courgettes are a favourite of mine and I grow only yellow courgettes now as I strongly favour them to their green cousins, my own personal choice and besides, I love growing and eating vegetables that are hard to find in the shops and supermarkets.

Some beautiful soft Merino wool, and it's machine washable, which is brilliant as I do detest hand washing!

And finally a beautiful shawl, the colour and design is truly amazing, I was utterly blown away by it!!

Craftymizz also included a small selection of flavoured tea's, but I have already drank them as I am a massive tea drinker of any and all kinds of tea!

And lastly was a note-let written by Crafymizz explaining all about her choices and why she chose what she did. I loved all of it and am very thankful I was partnered with her, I hope we continue to stay in touch through the wonders of Ravelry

I hope in return she was just as excited at receiving my small collection of gifts I had put together for her. 

Here is a photo of my 'swap' to her, a couple of handmade crocheted mug cosy's. 2 balls of beautiful sock yarn, some dinky cute daisy buttons and some Cath Kidston inspired craft pegs. I think, for a first timer, I did reasonably well enough and fulfilled the brief well

I even found a note-let that contained a recipe of my all time favourite treat, Strawberry Shortbread, 

The whole experience has been a joyous one and I hope to get involved in the next swap whenever that might be. For now though, I have the small challenge of thinking what to use my new wool for and as soon as I do, I'll be sure to share. 

Hope to be back soon. 

Sunday, 24 February 2013

School Holiday!

School Holidays

Well, that week past swiftly and here I am, Sunday evening, sorting out uniforms and school bags, preparing for school and work in the morning, where did the week go?

I feel the hols were a triumph, it contained just the right amount of outdoor activities, indoor playing, visiting friends, completing jobs, accomplishing tasks and eating, drinking and merriment. 

The weather was a mixed bag and it started surprisingly warm but soon reverted back to colder temperatures. I kept a steady flow of daffodils in various states of flowering to keep a cheery reminder that Spring is only round the corner.

Following on from an earlier post, I found a bit of spare time to make Miss Owl a sibling and is now completed and christened Junior! It was my intention to make 'it' a 'him' but realised at the 'final finishes' stage that it was quite difficult to complete his look to make him look more masculine than feminine. I crocheted a bow intending it to be a dicky-bow but it didn't look right under his beak and after some talks with my chief design consultant, otherwise known as my daughter and she who must be obeyed when she has an 'IDEA' we agreed to place it where it now sits, so be it a boy or a girl, it is a lovely younger companion to Miss O!

They are both very cute and I have finally used up all my left over yarn, they match the blanket very well I feel. 

The weekend ended on a high, my husband and I celebrated our 6th wedding anniversary and with daughter safely packed off to the grandparents for the night, we enjoyed a lovely meal out with my brother in law and wife in a local Indian restaurant. But oh!!!!, the lie in in the morning was heavenly, the peace, the giving myself time to rouse at my own pace, the pleasure of seeing that the time didn't start with the number 6.....ha ha, it was weird not having the ball of endless energy in the shape of our daughter come charging into our bedroom at her usual unearthly hour to begin her constant stream of dialogue about everything and anything, I'm sure if someone could harness and bottle the enthusiasm of your average 5 year old, they could sell it for a pretty penny. Anyway, we soon collected her and our usual weekend routine resumed, the dog was taken for a good walk,

Mugs of tea was drank with more freshly baked lemon drizzle cake and I got to sew the last little car onto my recently finished ripple blanket. That then meant I had completed my second baby blanket, although this one was destined to be a present for a friend who knew she is expecting a boy. 

For this blanket, I used 4ply wool as I wanted to experiment with using a lighter wool. As much as I truly love my Sunburst Granny Square blanket, I realised that it is a hefty piece of work and wanted to try making something not as weighty. 

This is my first ripple blanket and the first time I have done a 'ripple'. I once again looked about for a suitable pattern and chose Attic 24's neat ripple pattern as Lucy also beautifully illustrated this pattern with a handy photo tutorial, perfect for this first timer. 

As for the design, my eye was drawn to a lovely blanket I saw on Etsy, a picture of this blanket can be found hereThis particular blanket was for sale and wasn't, unfortunately, a pattern, so I decided to try recreate my own version. Using Sirdar 4ply wool (colour soapstone), I began rippling away till I had used 3 x 50g balls. Then using the same wool but in silver cloud, I rippled 4 rows, with a row of double crochet in white in-between, thus giving the illusion of a road.  I then used another ball of blue wool to complete the blanket. 

Lastly I made 3 cars in lovely bright colours, these wools were all 4ply as well and were left over yarns from past projects but were all by Stylecraft. The pattern I used was this.

Instead of crocheting the wheels, I used black buttons and sewed them on to within an inch of their life, well,  considering it was going to be used as a baby blanket, and boy, do babies enjoy having a good chew on anything they get their tiny mits on, I thought it best to play it safe!

And here we have it!!!

I'm really pleased with how it turned out and it is certainly a lot lighter than my own baby blanket. I'm now considering making myself one for my own 'bump' but need to think of a design that it more unisex. Any suggestions greatly received?

Now I suppose I need to head towards bed and get a good nights sleep in preparation for tomorrow mornings school / work run.

Hoping you all had a lovely weekend and I hope to be back soon xx.  

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Girlie Lunch

A while ago I invited a couple of friends over for lunch and promised to cook something new, usually I'm a tea and cake type of person, but wanted to test my culinary skills. With the school holidays here, we decided that we would meet as we all had tiddlywinks in need of a play date and we could enjoy a natter while they caused havoc upstairs! 
The menu, I'll admit wasn't my own creation. I had had this very meal at a friends house one evening and loved it so much I decided to try to recreate it. The original recipes are from Hugh Fearnley- Whittingstall's cookbook River Cottage Veg Everyday. I don't have this cook book and so I made it up and hoped for the best!

On the menu then, was Goats Cheese, Pesto, Pine Nuts and Spinach Pie, I love how the spinach wilts away to nearly nothing when cooked!

And the side dishes consisted of, sliced Green's and leeks with a sprinkling of cashew nuts and a can of coconut milk (just the hard white part, not the watery stuff!!)

 and also Samphire. I love this vegetable, or really I should call it a plant. I eat it a lot when we are holidaying in Cornwall or when our fishmonger is able to get hold of some for me. It grows in coastal areas and has a salty tang to it. I steamed it briefly in butter and lemon juice. 

And lastly I roasted a tray of small new potatoes with a sprinkle of sea salt

My friend Katy bought the dessert, Carrot Cake with an orange frosting. It was delicious. The whole meal was lovely and it was great to have a table full of people both big and little tucking in. Clean plates all round. 

Then while the littlies rushed back upstairs to finish essential den making duties it left us to sit down with a cup of tea and have another chatter and enjoy a few hours crocheting. Katy has started a granny square blanket, much like the once recently completed by Lucy at Attic24, the picture of the blanket she hopes to emulate is here. Julie was finishing an adorable poncho for her daughter, and I decided to try use up some of the yarn left over from my Sunburst Granny Square blanket and make this little cheeky owl!

I have to firstly say it is a pattern I found on a lovely blog called Daisy Cottage Designs and the pattern is not only easy to follow, is uber cute and also free!, A link is here should you wish to take a look. 

When I was sewing the various parts together, I placed one of those wheaty bags that you get inside some toys these days that can be heated in a microwave to warm up. It's nice and weighty so Miss Owl here can sit nice and proudly, I also added some rice wrapped in a piece of cotton to the bottom of each leg. The rest I stuffed with regular toy stuffing. 

My plan had been that she would sit in the nursery looking all sweet and adorable on a shelf or in the cot, like some colourful accessory to brighten the room, but my daughter had other ideas and on first sight, firmly pledged Miss Owl was hers, and so now it is. 

Looking at Miss Owl here, she looks far to comfortable to be just some ornament on some shelf and so I have decided that she deserves to be a big sister and I'm on with crocheting her a younger sibling, I think possibly a brother, whom I'm sure will also not be allowed to sit on a shelf alone!! I best crack on, fortunately these little cuties don't take 9 months to 'cook' and are so lovely to make that it takes me only a few hours to assemble. 

Hope you see you all again soon xx

Monday, 18 February 2013

School Holiday Survival Kit!

School Holiday Survival Kit

The school holidays are upon us once more, wow, how the time has flown since Christmas!! Unfortunately, I'm flying solo on this weeks break as hubby has to work, but I still have a very active 5 year old who requires entertaining every minute of every day.

My first instinct to prepare for a full on week of activities, is to dig out my collection of cookery books and begin looking for some sweet inspiration in the form of cakes, biscuits and pastries.  

My trusted fail safe favourite is always the ever popular cupcake. I love using the Hummingbird cookbook & the recipe is easy enough to find on line, if you don't have the pleasure of owning the book, I'm sure I gain weight just looking through the pictures. I decided to make the Vanilla variety. The batter is quite wet, so I find that putting it into a jug first, and then pouring it into the cases an easy way of making sure more gets in the case and less is wasted - result!!

Of course, the butter icing had to be pink!! A house dominated by women dictates that pink prevails in many aspects, including cake decorations! A quick sprinkle of 100's and 1000's to crown this gooey delight, and hey presto, first batch of baking completed and safely tucked away in a tin before they are spied and eaten.

Next on my list was lemon tarts, my husbands absolute favourite! I simply made a sweet pastry, using twice the amount of plain flour to butter, adding a small amount of caster sugar and a few tablespoons of cold water to bind together. I chilled the pastry for a while in the fridge while I prepared the tin. I love making teeny tiny tarts and this mini tray ensures the tarts are small enough to pop whole straight into my mouth, what could be more perfect! I added a star topping for no other reason than because I felt that way inclined! The lemon curd filling was shop bought, I have never got round to making my own and this particular brand is lovely and tangy, it certainly ticks all the boxes.

I will admit, this batch didn't make it to a tin and the minute they were cool enough, were gobbled up by us all with a cup of tea, they really do go down a treat - fortunately I have some pastry left over and will be making more very soon!

In the course of my uninterrupted afternoon (the joys of a play date) I also rustled up a lemon drizzle tray bake and a batch of shortbread. 

My cake tins are now full with a selection of sweet offerings, I feel prepared for collections of hungry children, impromptu picnics and last minute guests. 

Heres to a fun packed week off, hoping you all have a good one. Back where is that tray bake!!

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Baby Blanket Revealed!

Baby Blanket No 1!

I have been addicted to this hooky lark now since 2011, after a friend kindly showed me how to make a jam jar cover to adorn the top of a jar of homemade strawberry jam! Since then I have been hopelessly 'hooked'!! In that time, I have completed a number of projects and used a whole host of different types of wool, stitches, hook sizes and colours. It was only recently that I finally embarked on my first 'big' project, which I suppose was prompted by the news that I was expecting my second baby. I felt inspired to create something practical, long lasting and above all, utterly scrumptious. I decided on a blanket. But this had to be special, it had to be colourful, snuggly, eye catching and also neutral, as this bump is still 'team yellow' and will remain so until the 'big day'!! 

After some considerable time, searching for blankets I liked and colours that attracted, I finally settled on a pattern by Priscilla Hewitt called sunburst granny square

I loved the use of the puff stitch used when making the circle's, it added gentle 'puffs' and formed raised ovals which I loved and made the granny squares more dense and added a thicker texture. Also the final round, using the cream wool, used a combination of double trebles, trebles and half trebles, so that the final square was more 'square' shaped, if that makes any sense? 

Finally, I decided on what wool I wanted to use, and loved working with the Rooster Almerino DK. I had used this wool before and always thought it would make a lovely blanket. As wools go, it's a little pricey, but this was going to be a special blanket, so the cost wasn't something I wanted to worry about (not that my husband was going to let me forget!!) The colours I chose were 'Starfish', 'Beach', 'Ocean', 'Strawberry Cream', Gooseberry', 'Custard' and finally for the outer edge, 'Cornish'. I probably used 2 x 50g balls of each of the coloured wool and 8 balls of the Cornish. I have a left over stash in each colour in varying amounts, depending on which colours I favoured most. I used a size 4mm hook. 

And so off I set. It was such a lovely pattern to use, the repetitive stitches being almost hypnotic, it certainly was soothing to do. I began with only doing the first 3 rounds, building an ever increasing stack of luscious circles, until I had eventually amassed 99 of them,  I had decided that I wanted to do 9 rows of 11. 

I then added the final round once all the circles were completed. I had decided to stitch the squares together at the end, instead of using the 'joining as you go' technique, as on this occasion, I wanted to lay the squares out first and re-arrange them as I felt fit, making sure not too many of the same colours were clumped together. In theory, this probably took me longer to complete and certainly used a lot more wool. Maybe in future I will be more confident.

With a final flourish of a border to help frame my blanket, I completed my first baby blanket. It felt sad to no longer have the pleasure of working on it, but gave me great satisfaction to see it finished. I do admit that yesterday evening, while watching a film, laid out on the sofa, I did throw it over me (you know, to get a feel for it!!) and boy was it warm and quite heavy, maybe not the most ideal blanket for a summer baby, but, my word it was snuggly, I defy any baby not to sleep peacefully wrapped up inside this blanket (or maybe that's just wishful thinking!)

I thought as a tribute to my beautiful blanket, it should be toasted with it's own montage, I feel it certainly deserves it. It has been and truly is everything I set out for it to be and more. I await the day (with some trepidation) when it will be used to welcome home our newest addition to our family! Until then I'm going to find a safe place to tuck it away, as quite honestly I can't trust myself not to start using it as my own personal blanket to warm my habitually ice cold feet on an evening!!

Thank you for visiting and I hope to return shortly xx

Friday, 15 February 2013

Touch Of Spring

The temptation to sit today in a sunny spot and complete the final rows on my Sunburst Granny Square blanket was nearly successful, except for the need to be outside, enjoying the first feel of Spring being nearly here. So pulling on my favourite pink wellies and rousing the dog from her slumbers, we headed out into the bright sunshine

Although still quite barren, the landscape began to show hints of green hues, and the chirping of birds and small clumps of snowdrops and crocuses definitely told the tale that Spring was coming!!
I do this walk with my dog, Sasha many times, but these last few months I have rarely looked up from my travels and seen the sights, instead, my head has been cast down, hat on, scarf wrapped tightly round neck, hands deep inside pockets and a desire for the walk to be over as quickly as possible so I can retreat to the warmth of my cosy house once more. Sasha, I'm afraid, had much the same thoughts!

But today she ran about like a dog half her age, eyes bright, tongue lolling about her mouth, sniffing all the new scents, we really did have a lovely time

We passed the field of sunflowers, once a glorious riot of colour, now just empty seed heads, still statues in their appearance, tall and majestic.

I cast a fleeting glance at our allotment. As a family we have had a plot here for a few years and it has brought endless enjoyment. Last year saw a bumper crop of strawberries, so many in fact, we had them every day in some way shape or form, we even handed them out to thankful neighbours, we had that many. At times the work is back breaking, but the rewards are huge. We hurried on past, too aware that if I looked too closely, I would be tempted to start turning over the soil, or pulling a few weeds and really this is a job that needs a whole day to tackle, probably even a weekend, and today time wasn't on my side, so onwards we went.

Past the duck pond and the ever inviting gaggle of ducks, eager for bread, till finally, after nearly 2 hours, we made it home again. Alas, after such a long walk, along many a muddy track, I'm afraid Sasha looked and smelt rather too much like the mucky fields she was so keen to explore, and found herself plonked unceremoniously in the bath tub and was shampooed and washed back to her clean smelling self again, I'm not sure she was impressed with the experience!!

Now we are all fed and watered, I can now enjoy a few hours of uninterrupted hooky time with my blanket before the school dash starts. I hope the weather lasts and I'll be back soon to hopefully share my completed blanket with you.