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.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

(Big) Bit fed up....

Well its been a beautiful warm sunny day here in WSM.  And what have we been doing?  Going to the beach? Noooo! Having a barbeque with friends or family?  Noooo! Sitting at Dr Fox's drinking one of their new milkshakes? Nooooo!  Scraping up rubble from under the floor and making our house look worse not better.  Yay! 
Glamorous or what?!

Assorted items found under the floor - note the pieces of broken mirror, could explain a lot.

I am so bored of renovating this house now and I despair of it ever being finished.  Mr D had to go out to a band practice at 4:30 so couldn't put the laminate floor back down and we are busy over the next few weekends so I am stuck with my kitchen looking like this for ages. 

When he'd gone out I had a bit of a despairing cry but then I forced myself to at least get something out of the day so I sat in the sunshine with a G&T for a while which did cheer me up a bit, at least the garden looks nice, even if the house is rubbish. 

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Well, how lovely - since my last post I have had lots of new comments and followers, thanks everyone.  I've been having a browse around lots of other blogs this afternoon and am really starting to realise what an amazing thing blogging is, so much potential to connect with all sorts of people in all sorts of places.  I was delighted earlier when I saw that Cuckoo has passed on an award to me, but I will need to do a bit of pondering before I can do what needs to be done with it - decisions, decisions.

It's been a bit of a funny old day today - one of those times when I've been busily doing stuff around the house all day but haven't achieved anything much.  I think everyone has those, I have them quite a lot unfortunately.

The flowers on my mantlepiece were looking a bit....brown but there were a couple of peony buds left so I went into the garden and grabbed some hydrangeas to put with them.  They look quite pretty in this jam jar which was left over from the table flower displays at my sister's wedding.  It was a lovely day and it's nice to be reminded of it.

Mr D has been doing some work on the kitchen floor today.  The floor of most of the downstairs of our house was knackered, to put it politely.  We had to replace all the joists in one of the rooms as they were rotten and covered in dry rot, and before we had the kitchen done a few years ago, I came home from work one day to find the units had dropped a few inches below the bottom of the splashback as they were sinking into the floor.  The smell of mould under the floor is absolutely horrendous and it really hits you in the chest.  It's all the fault of the previous owner of our house.  I can't think of a polite word for him, so I won't say anything.  Anyway, today's job is a relatively minor one, but still causing lots of swearing (by Mr D) and disrpution (for me). 

Just as the day got started the little monkey-cat Christa started her strange bladder-infection behaviour (weeing blood in the corner of the fireplace).  I had to take her to the vet last week because of it too.  She's got an underlying kidney problem so probably doesn't have a very long life in front of her, but I love her so much and want to keep her around for as long as possible, so I panic whenever anything goes wrong.  The vet has given her some more medication and we have to take her back tomorrow.  She seems a bit happier this afternoon, despite the grumpy face:

She looks like she's rolling her eyes and telling me not to make such a fuss
We are having cottage pie for tea tonight.  I always get confused between cottage and shepherd's pie (or sheep herder's pie as Mr D likes to call it), but cottage pie is made with beef and shepherd's pie with lamb.  In which case really the beef one should be called Cattle Farmer's Pie, or the lamb one should be called Bungalow Pie or Terraced House Pie.  Consistency is important.  Can't see it catching on though.  So I thought I would share with you how I make my, er, pie.

1 500g pack extra-lean beef mince
1 onion, chopped
1 tin Heinz baked beans
1 clove of garlic, crushed
a couple of tablespoons of Bisto Onion Gravy Granules
You can also add whatever veg you fancy, I often put whole buttom mushrooms in
"Some" mashed potato - the quantity is difficult to say as it depends on the size of the dish you are using.  For my 20 cm square dish I used about 700g (uncooked weight).
(With a blog title like Made From Scratch I really should be ashamed of that list of ingredients!)
Some scratch.  It's my blog and I shall define words as I wish
1. Fry the onion in a little oil in a large, heavy-based frying pan until starting to soften
2. Add the beef mince and cook until it is all browned.  I quite often do this with mince straight from the freezer, just scraping the cooked bits off the block as I go along.  Not sure if you are supposed to cook mince from frozen but so far no mishaps have resulted
3. Drain off as much fat as possible from the pan.  I do this by draining it into a bowl through a colander.  I developed this in my student days when I could only afford Tesco Value mince which is really fatty, but I still do it now as even the lean stuff has quite a high fat content.
4. Return the mince and onions to the pan and add the garlic, beans, gravy granules and some hot water.  I'm not sure how much water as I just add it until it looks right - probably about half a pint.  If it looks too runny (remember it has to support the mash) you can just simmer it for a bit longer to reduce it down.
5. Simmer for about 30 mins
6. Put the mixture into the bottom of an oven-proof dish.  Spoon or pipe the mash over the top.  Yes, I know some might say life is too short to pipe mashed potato and this is probably true - HOWEVER it is an excellent way to practice your piping skills without wasting icing and also gives you the chance to do soppy things like piping "I love you" onto your husband's dinner.At this point you can put it into the fridge until the following day.  You could probably freeze it too, not that I ever have enough room in my freezer to do this!
 7.  Cook in a pre-heated oven at about 180C for around 30 mins or until the potato is browned on the top.  Normally I serve it with peas but tonight I couldn't be faffed to cook them.

I just saw a brilliant thing on Alan Titchmarsh's Love Your Garden programme.  They made some beautiful window boxes for a terraced house just like mine.  Unfortunately there is no photo of it on the website. I have thought about having them downstairs but they had them up and downstairs and it looked wonderful.  So I dashed upstairs as I wasn't sure if I had outdoor windowsills upstairs but I have - yay!  However, Mr D, the killjoy, said they would need to be secured otherwise they might get blown down - it does get pretty windy here as we are quite close to the sea.  They didn't mention that on the programme, the meanies.  Oh well I am still determined even if it does make it a bigger job than I'd thought.  

It would be remiss of me to blog today without mentioning the Glastonbury Festival.  I've never been!  I wish I had gone when I was younger but I think it has probably changed too much to be worth it now.  We go to this festival though Beautiful Days Festival which is brilliant - mainly because its a 5 minute drive from my mum's house so she can drop us off and pick us up again afterwards!  I don't do camping.  On Thursday night I had an early night and sat in bed listening to Glastonbury on the radio, knitting and drinking hot Ribena! That's about as close as I need to get, which probably makes me very middle-aged.

Finally, look at the shape my ball of wool has gone into!  It's a wool flower!

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Busy oven day

My oven has been busy busy busy today.  Firstly I made some scotch eggs from this recipe Home made scotch eggs.  

I used a pack of cumberland sausages and deconstructed them for the sausagemeat.  My top tip would be to wet your hands when flattening it out.  Oh my goodness they were SO yummy. They made Mr D's face do this:

I like scotch eggs anyway but I don't think I'll be able to eat a bought one ever again - and it's nice to know the eggs are free-range. 

Then I made some flapjack.  We had the most delicious flapjack in Pret-a-manger the other day and this is my attempt at copying that.  I used an ordinary flapjack recipe (from the Cookie and Biscuit Bible) and then added dried cherries, blueberries, apricots and cranberries, plus some pecans and pumpkin seeds.  I was pretty pleased with them until I spoke to my sister and she reminded me that I had meant to put coconut in as well.  Ggrr!
 I also did a red onion and brie tart which was really easy (particularly as I used ready-made puff pastry - oh no that makes a lie of my blog title!) and tasty.  Also it made Mr D look slightly crazed but happy so that was a good achievement.

I was looking at the Dulux website yesterday for some paint colour ideas - they have one called Baking Day which I will have to have somewhere in my house, even though it is a slightly boring shade of beige!
Right I must sign off now as I haven't knitted a stitch all day and am having withdrawal symptoms.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Various stuff

Hello multitudinous followers,

I really must look into ways of (slowly!) increasing the number of people reading my blog, particularly given that 50% of my followers are my one sister, who gets to hear probably more than enough about my coming and going on the phone anyway!.  Blogging is quite satisfying for its own sake, it’s good to have a record of the stuff I’ve been up to, but I can’t help feeling envious when I see all the comments which other bloggers have from all their followers.

I’ve been to Knit Club this morning; it was such fun, a perfect way to spend a rainy Saturday morning.  I spent quite a lot of time in the kitchen laughing at some of the ridiculous designs in the new Rowan magazine.  It was almost worth buying it for the comedy.  You just cannot believe that anyone would ever even consider making these things.  There was also some slightly childish giggling at the use of the word “gusset” (again) – it’s that naughty Suzie, she starts me off.  

 It was lovely to see Cuckoo again too, she was crocheting a very cute goauuuurrrrt (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CQd5Ieprung) for her husband for Father’s Day and had it nearly finished by the end of the session. 

 I was unable to resist buying some yarn for my next pair of socks.  I’d picked out some rather faffy pastel colours, but I was the others staged an intervention to save me from myself and made me buy these instead.  Scary.  The bottom one is actually a dark purple.

 When I got home the weather had dried up so I went and checked the garden.  One of the things which caught my eye was this flower:

Lovely, isn’t it?  Looks quite exotic, you’d think it was from some special ornamental plant… Wrong!  I’m growing potatoes in bags and the flower is on one of those plants.  Who’d have thought that something so ordinary would have such a glamorous flower!

This is my patio rose.  When my lovely sister got married she bought one of these for herself, Mum and me.  The name of the rose is Patricia, which was our Nan’s name; she died when we were small and didn’t have a headstone so this is a nice way to remember her.  As you can see the flowers always droop over so you can’t see them, but they are so beautiful.  A bit like people really, sometimes the most beautiful aren’t the most obvious.

This courgette is nearly ready to be picked… mmmm, I love courgettes, looking forward to eating the home-grown ones.

Very kind of my neighbour to grow the yellow thing which looks so pretty with my blue and pink things!

 Lupin progress:

My mum came up this week and we did some sewing.  We made some pink and blue gingham curtains for my niece and nephew’s room.   

I haven’t used my sewing machine for ages and ages and I really enjoyed it. I’ve left it out on the table and if I can drag myself away from blogging and knitting I might try and make something tomorrow.

The other big news this week is the inaugural committee meeting of the Women of Weston WI.  Well it's big news for me, maybe not in the grand scheme of things. I am involved in setting up a WI for Weston with some of the girls from Knit Club.  It is going to be brilliant – we want it to be a modern, fun group and we’re all bursting with ideas for events.  Apparently there is a group in Worle which sings Jerusalem, God Save the Queen and Land of Hope and Glory!  I don’t think we’ll be doing that.  

Recently I have been working my way through the BBC Good Food magazine website’s Top 20 recipes (http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/content/recipes/favourites/all-time-top-20/).  I made the biryani and it was gorgeous; in fact I am making it again tonight.  Last time I did it on a Sunday night and followed their suggestion of stirring mayonnaise through it to make coronation chicken salad for the following day’s lunch.  I also did the almond raspberry cake which was equally good and would be a great dessert, served with some whipped cream or ice-cream.  These photos are from when I was making the courgette lasagne.  You have to grate 6 courgettes so I used the grater attachment on my food processor.  I just thought the colours and patterns looked really cool.  The meal was pretty good too!  Even better the next day actually.

I have got really into the American tv programme Big Love recently.  It’s a drama based around the lives of a polygamous Mormon family.  I don’t think I’d like to be in a plural marriage and I certainly couldn’t be doing with the religious aspect, but I can’t help thinking at least one of those “sister wives” would be kinda handy to do the housework and leave me free to get on with my crafting!!

On that slightly ridiculous note I am going to sign off and deal with the glass of red wine which is calling to me…..

Thursday, 2 June 2011

A day in the garden

It's been a beautiful day today and I've spent more or less all of it in the garden.  When we moved down to Weston 7 years ago our garden was a scruffy lawn with some tatty flower beds.  I was delighted with it though as the previous owner of our old house had concreted the entire garden and painted it red!  So just having soil was a welcome change.

Since then we've done lots to it, particularly over the last couple of years when I've been working part time. I was really inspired by Alys Fowler's Edible Garden on BBC2 last year and since then I have copied her idea of mixing vegetables and flowers in the same beds.

This is a photo illustrating a perfect day for me - knitting, BBC6 music and a sunny garden!
One thing I have never been able to grow successfully is lupins.  Every year I plant them, only for slugs to come a long and om nom nom them.  Then every year I say never again until I see them growing in someone else's garden and I go and buy some.  This year, a momentous event has occurred - one of my lupins has a flower!

Fingers crossed if I maintain my slug pellet regime (sorry I am not very good at being organic/cruelty free!) the rest will do the same soon and I will get that lovely cottage garden effect.

Today I have had a whimsical moment and I made a little plum slate fairy path to the fairy door which I had for Christmas.  I love fairies and have quite a few in my garden.  Unfortunately it is difficult to get a good photo of them as they just look like ornaments when you point a camera at them!

This is my hydrangea.  It's a white one which I think is nicer than the bright blue and shocking pink ones you see in old ladies' gardens.  This one starts off pale green, then turns white and at the end of the season it goes to a dark reddish pink.  Last year I put some into a vase in the living room and felt very smug at having home-grown cut flowers!
The courgettes in the mini-greenhouse are looking good and it won't be long until some of them are big enough to eat.  Last year my courgettes didn't do too well and succumbed to mildew so I only had a few edible ones.  This year I have used a mildew-resistant variety (Tuscany); however there is still a bit of it on some of the leaves, but I am brushing it off regularly and it doesn't seem to be affecting the plants too much.

 This is a variegated jasmine plant.  I've had it for a few years and it was getting a bit overgrown so I hacked it back quite harshly earlier this year but it seems to have recovered quite well.
This is a mimulus flower.  It's a bedding plant.  I had never seen them until last year but I looked out for them specially this year as they are so pretty.

I'm not generally a fan of lilies as I don't like the cloying smell  but I love the colour of this one and it is unscented.

Beetroot, leek and swiss chard all doing quite nicely

The view from my sun lounger!
As well as all the planting and weeding I managed a little nap in the sunshine and a few chapters of my book - bliss!