Welcome to my blog!

You can expect to see ramblings including but not limited to the following: knitting, sewing, crochet, housework, DIY, interior decorating, gardening, family, music, comedy, history and local events. There may also be rantings, which are likely to be mainly about rudeness and bad grammar, but you will be warned in advance when a rant is about to happen so you can look away.

I'd be delighted if anyone wanted to comment on any of my ramblings or rantings.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Christmas makes

I've made a couple of things for Christmas recently which I am really proud of, so thought I would share them.

Firstly, as every year, mince pies.  I always make my own mincemeat and pies as I don't usually like bought ones.  The recipe I use is the one my mum always used to make and her pies were always the most popular at the various school fetes, Guides meetings and parties we went to over Christmas. It's a brilliant recipe as you don't need to mess about with sterilising jars, you just make it and keep it in the freezer.  I've even been known to use it direct from the freezer and because of the amount of syrup it's still quite flexible when frozen.  Also it doesn't have any suet in it so is suitable for vegetarians.

450g raisins
350g currants
225g sultanas
350g soft brown sugar
150g butter
2tsp ground cinnamon
2tsp ground nutmeg
1tsp ground cloves
900g cooking apples - peeled, cored and chopped
Quarter pint medium cider
2 lemons, grated rind and juice
4tbsp golden syrup
4tbsp brandy/rum (apricot brandy is particularly nice)

1.  Mix all dried fruits, sugar, fat and spices in a large bowl
2. Gently heat cider in a large pan till it bubbles around the edge
3. Stir in the fruit mixture, lemon rind, juice, syrup and apples
4. Simmer, covered, for 40 mins, stirring occasionally.  Remove lid, simmer for 15 mins or until the juice is almost absorbed
5.  Cool slightly, then stir in the brandy or rum.
This makes about 6lb of mincemeat which is enough for about 3 lots of 24 mince pies.  You can also stir it into home-made ice cream or make mincemeat muffins.  Or do what Mr D does and eat it from the container with a spoon!

For the pies I use a version of a Nigella Lawson pastry recipe, which is:
300g plain flour
75g Trex
75g cold butter
1 egg yolk
Water to mix (or you can use all water)

Blitz the flour and fats in a food processor until it looks like breadcrumbs.  Then pour the water and egg yolk down the funnel, pulsing until it looks as if the dough is about to come together - stop just before it forms a ball.  Refrigerate for half an hour wrapped in cling film.  Roll it out nice and thinly (I hate mince pies with too much pastry), then cut out the bases and lids - fluted bases and star lids are best I think. 

Use the bases to line a buttered 12-hole tart tray, pressing them down with your fingers to avoid air bubbles.  Then fill each pie with mincemeat - again use your fingers to press it down so it is level.  Then top each with a star.

Bake at 200 for 10-15 mins.  Keep an eye on them from the 10 minute mark so you avoid the mincemeat bubbling out.

When they are cooked, dust them with icing sugar - and I put red glitter on mine to make them even Christmassier!

For the last 3 years I've also made my own Christmas wreath for the front door.  The first time, I went to a workshop at a local National Trust property to learn how to do it which was brilliant.  They had a barn full of enormous piles of foliage from around the estate.  Now, I don't have an enormous estate and I didn't want to go and buy Christmas foliage so I hit on the idea of using the clippings from my bay tree which usually needs tidying up by this point in the year.  So now I get to make a home-made, home-grown wreath for free which makes me feel even more smug!

I forgot to take photos as I went along so this will just have to be a show off rather than a tutorial, although there is a similar method shown here.  At the workshop we were taught to use a wire ring which we covered with hay using florists wire.  You then make several bundles of about four pieces of foliage which you wire onto the hay-covered ring at an angle until it is all covered.  Then wire on any other bits and pieces you are using; baubles, fir cones, dried orange, flowers, bows, bundles of cinnamon etc.  I used a few bits from a box of Christmassy pot pourri.  You have to soak it in a bowl of water overnight so that the hay absorbs some water to keep it fresh - make sure you've drained the excess off before hanging it up or you will have dirty water all down your front door!


Merry Christmas Everybody!

Sunday, 27 November 2011

My holiday

Hello, I thought it was time I showed you what I was up to for most of October.  For the last few years, Mr D's sister has been working for Princess Cruises which means we have been lucky enough to go and visit her.  The first time was to the mediterranean for our honeymoon four years ago, and I didn't think cruising would be for me, but I loved it and have never looked back!  Since then we have been a further three times; to Norway & Iceland, South-East Asia and the med again.  Because we are staying with a crew member, we are not allocated a cabin (or stateroom as they like to call them), so we stayed in my sister-in-law's room for the first few nights until a lovely passenger cabin with a balcony became available because the passenger had complaint that it was too noisy - didn't cause us a problem.  We are very lucky.
As you might imagine I took LOADS of photos, but have tried to limit myself and just show you enough to give you a flavour of what the holiday was like.
My sister drove us to Southampton to meet the ship and we showed her around and had lunch together before departure.  I had a little tear(s) in my eye when she left as I do miss her and my niece and nephew when we are away.

  First stop, Cadiz.  We went to the beach first, then on to a farm in the Andalucian countryside where we had some fantastic tapas and tasted some different types of sherry.
 Our next stop should have been Valetta in Malta but the sea was quite rough so the captain decided it wasn't safe because the harbour is very narrow.  We weren't too disappointed though as it meant we had an extra half-day in our favourite port, Venice.  The main disadvantage about cruising for me is that you don't usually get to spend the evening in the places you visit, so this was a real treat.  We went out with a big group of crew members and didn't get (should that be "stagger"?!) home until 3am!
 The following day we had a walking tour of Venice where we saw this gondola repair workshop....
 ...and drooled over this yummy-looking pizza, then went around the Doge's Palace and walked through the Bridge of Sighs. Venice is an amazing place with a fascinating history.
 Next, we went to Split in Croatia where we went to Diocletian's palace and saw some of the lovely Dalmatian coastline...
Before returning the the ship we stopped for a drink in the sunshine at a waterfront bar, where we saw this brilliant menu.  I absolutely love mistranslations into English, I just find them completely hilarious.  I managed to resist the temptation to try a marcipan stump!
 After Split we went to Dubrovnik, again lovely views of the coastline on our way to Cavtat which was where the King and Mrs Simpson went on honeymoon - I can see why they chose it as it was lovely.
 Then on to the main town, where I couldn't resist taking a photo of this lady crocheting lavender bags to sell on the street.
 Mr D. was very excited as the new series of Game of Thrones, which is the TV adaptation of his favourite books was being filmed in Dubrovnik - sadly the day before we were there!
 I took this one from our balcony as we sailed away from Croatia.  I would definitely love to go back, it is a gorgeous country.
 In the evening after we had been to Dubrovnik, it was pirate night in the ward room/crew bar; as you can see we entered into the spirit of it whole-heartedly!  This is me, Mr D and my sister-in-law.  The funniest part was walking back through a passenger area dressed as pirates (and I blush to admit, just a titchy teeny bit drunk) - we may have freaked out some of the passengers on the way.
 Sadly, this picture sums up our visit to Corfu - it was rainy and miserable.  I don't think we saw the best of Corfu! 
 Our last port was Gibraltar, another fascinating place.  Very surreal to hear people speaking English and see all the British street signs etc.  We went to the top of the rock,
 and saw some of the famous apes, very cheeky monkeys.
 I sat in a hot tub (it's not me in the photo though!!) as we sailed away from Gibraltar, such a perfect moment
 Obviously I took my knitting - couldn't have had a relaxing holiday without it!
Every day on  returning to our room, the room steward had folded my nightie into different shapes.  Not sure what my overnight guests would think of me doing origami with their nightwear!
Our home for 17 nights!  We had quite a few sea days so there was lots of opportunity for relaxation as well as seeing all the lovely destinations.  We had three formal nights, so when I get round to it I'll scan some photos of us in our finery to show you.

A whole string of wonderful experiences and best of all loads of time where it was just the two of us.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Nicest day for ages

Hello, I'm back!  Sorry to be so quiet for so long.  I was on hols for nearly three weeks and just haven't felt up to blogging since I got back.

But today I have had a lovely day.  I flew over to Cuckoo's nest and as well as having a good ole chinwag, she taught me to crochet properly.  I have tried it before and made some little granny squares but had never really got to grips with it, but now I really feel I can get going.  Here's what I did this morning:

I am calling it the banana.  It is yellow because I used yellow wool, but we don't know why it is bendy.  Perhaps I added extra stitches in my enthusiasm.  I've decided to add it to a t-shirt as a collar in a Victorian stylee (I AM joking before you think I am a crazy person).

I haven't had such a nice day since I got back from holiday.  We had an amazing time (post to follow) but since we've been back there has been so much to do.  The plasterer came whilst we were away to do the dreaded music room and the downstairs bathroom, so amongst other stuff,  I've had lots of painting to do.  I've managed to get all the emulsion done, and it is looking pretty good so far:

Don't worry if you are thinking, "pretty good?! What is she on?!"  I know it's still all building-sitey (and the piano is in the middle of the room) but it's so much better than it has ever looked, so it looks good to me!  When we moved in every single room in the house was covered in horrible blown-vinyl textured wallpaper and this room was very very damp and had a corridor down the right-hand-side, so just having smooth walls seems amazing to me!

This weekend Mr D is hopefully going to put in some architrave and skirting so that we can get carpet fitted by Christmas.  The plan is for it to be a music-slash-dining room (the slash is pronounced as per Graham Norton on Radio 2) and I would like to have dinner in there over Christmas - we are going to my mum's on the day but I am thinking of a lovely festive dinner a deux.

In other exciting news, the chimney sweep has been today so I am writing this next to a lovely blazing fire.  A bit extravagant as Mr D is out at a Nanowrimo write-in this evening but you have to have a bit of extravagance sometimes.

When we moved in the wooden mantlepiece/surround was visible but the rest was covered up with a nasty nasty gas fire in front of it.  We had the gas fire removed and were left with a piece of board with a letter-box shaped hole in it - I shone a torch through the hole and saw the lovely cast-iron bit - I was SO happy.  We have the original tiled hearth too - it's a bit cracked but I can't bring myself to replace it, just keep telling myself it's "shabby chic"!  My sister recently moved to a house without an open fire so I have inherited her lovely log baskets and firelighter tin (as well as two ENORMOUS bags of kindling) - lucky me!

Right I must be off - there is crochet to be done!  I have good intentions of blogging more often, fingers crossed!  Lots of love to you all.  xxxx

Sneaky update: Seeing as I am so good at making bendy crochet I gave rippling a try:
Sorry about the dreadful photography but you get the general idea.  Not bad for a first attempt! xx

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Beautiful Days Festival


Hope everyone has had a great summer.  It's been a bit of a strange one here; I was constantly waiting for it to start but it never really did!

We had a fantastic time at Beautiful Days at the end of August.  It's a festival run by my favourite band, the Levellers, which very helpfully happens in a field not far from my mum's house.  I don't really "do" camping, so my mum drops us off and picks us up each day - not very cool I know but at least we get a comfy bed and a proper shower.  I expect by the time she is in her seventies she probably won't want to be doing it any more but hopefully my dream of getting a split-screen VW camper will have come true by then!

We got to see loads of great bands; as well as seeing the Levellers twice we saw Carter, PWEI, Gogol Bordello, and the amazing Tim Minchin - Mr D even met him backstage, I was VERY jealous.  Next year I am going to get him to get ME a backstage photo pass.

As well as the music, there was lots of lovely food to eat, cider to drink, stalls to shop at and groovy people to watch.

I didn't take him up on the offer but lots of people did!
Mr D enjoys a lovely pint of Poltimore cider

I also got loads of inspiration for things to make - bet I was the only person there thinking up knitting patterns and designing patchwork! Before next year I'm going to make a big patchwork flag with glow-in-the-dark bits so that when Mr D returns from taking photos he can find me in the middle of a crowded field.
Tickets for next year go on sale in the next few weeks - I'll definitely be getting mine!

I've got a few more photos to show you and bits and pieces to tell you about, so will try to do some more posts over the next week.  We are going on holiday this time next week - SO excited! 

Much love,


Tuesday, 13 September 2011


Have you missed me?!  Sorry I haven't been around but have been a bit busy attending committee meetings, sending millions of emails, putting up posters, talking about balloons and learning the words to Jerusalem.  Its all in a good cause though as a week today will be the launch party of WOW-WI - the Women of Weston-super-Mare Women's Institute!

WOW-WI aspires to be a modern, fun, forward-thinking organisation which appeals to a diverse range of women.  We want to reflect the traditions of the past and develop our own traditions for the future.
Our members will benefit from opportunities for personal growth through education and friendship as well as making a meaningful contribution to their community by being involved in charitable and campaigning activities.

We will offer a varied programme of events, allowing members the change to learn more about our event themes; Arts & Crafts, Community, Environment & Public Affairs, Food & Cookery, Health & Wellbeing, Home & Garden and Inspirational Women.

The launch party is at the Blakehay Theatre on Wadham Street in Weston-super-Mare on 20th September from 7:30 - 9:30 pm.  If you are happy to travel to Weston for meetings, we are happy to have you as a member.

Women Of Weston-super-Mare Women's Institute (WOW-WI)
linked in:
Women Of Weston-super-Mare Women's Institute (WOW-WI)

So please come along and support us if you can - if nothing else tempts you there'll be lots of cake!  Feel free to spread the word to anyone you know who might be interested.

Normal "Made From Scratch" service will hopefully be resumed soon.

Love to all


Saturday, 13 August 2011

Wedding Anniversary

It was our 4th wedding anniversary last Thursday.  It's amazing to think that so much time has gone by.  Our wedding day was wonderful, I spent many happy hours planning it, looking for bargains and making bits and pieces.  I did all the stationery myself, my sister and I made our tiaras and a friend helped me make sugar roses for the cake.

We had a civil ceremony in a lovely hotel in Clevedon, followed by ceilidh dancing in the evening.

So, because our anniversary was on a Thursday and we were working on Friday we just had a quiet meal at home on the actual day, followed by a meal at an Italian restaurant on Saturday night.

I set the table with the place name tables from our wedding and made braised lamb shanks with crushed herb potatoes (potatoes and thyme grown from scratch of course!), followed by home-made strawberry ice-cream with rosewater biscuits:

 As the evening went on we did get a bit silly with the letter biscuits:

 Should have predicted that really!  It was a lovely evening with lots of happy memories of our special day and of our marriage so far.  We're so lucky to be happily married and it's always good to take time to remember that.