Wednesday, 31 July 2013

It is Tuesday, isn't it? No? No, it's not really Wednesday? What? Already?

This holiday is too short. Really, 5 and a half weeks is not long enough for everything I have planned. Like long lie ins (I haven't had one yet; DH has a thing about leaving me in bed so I keep getting up for a cup of tea with him and staring blankly into space for an hour after he leaves wondering why.), catching up on the washing, reading a book a week and sitting in the sun sipping cider. My pleasures are sweet and easy to fulfil. Well, except the one about the washing. That's a big job.
And days out; I have a few of those planned as well. Liverpool is a lovely place to find unexpected treasures. We have parks, coasts, wildernesses and all sorts within a short drive. Yesterday I took my three to a hidden treasure.

Hale Village has parts that date back to 1081 (St Mary's Church was formed then, although the present building is a little younger, like mid 14th century) and loads of thatched cottages and bigger that, were the village in the Cotswolds would have people swooning over the cuteness and quaintness. As it is, Hale sits next to Speke and under the flight path for the airport, so people tend not to flock and definitely not to swoon. I like it, planes and all, and my children had never seen it.

The most famous old resident was the Childe of Hale, a giant of a man at a reputed 9 foot 3 inches. He was presented to James I, beat the King's Champion at wrestling and won £20, which was stolen off him on the way home. He's a local legend, with the inevitable pub named after him and a portrait in Brasenose College, as well as in local Speke Hall. The carved tree trunk which used to stand outside the church was removed and now a rather tall 3m brass statue stands there. For my eldest son, the tallest by far in his class, it was interesting to meet a person from history that he had to look up to!

And the potato fields around Hale were smothered in butterflies. The Princess had to stand and watch as they performed Swan Lake, darting and swooping around her. No pictures, my point and press was too slow, but a lovely memory anyway.

 The building behind the statue caught me eye, too. Look at the balustrade and the details, a fancy home in miniature, and all for show, as the side and back appear to be plain brick built!

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Put another Shrimp on the Barbie and chuck me a Canny.....

Oh my! It has just been soooo hot! And last week I managed to score a whole week of work in a nursery class, so there was a lot of hanging around outside, playing with water and keeping in the shade. I love nursery and reception because something as easy as brushing up the mess under a bench becomes a life lesson (keep your habitat clean) that they can carry forward to later life.

And we have been doing stuff at home, too. The princess has a fascination with barbecues, apparently.
I hadn't owned one since about 1998, when I put it aside as too much stress and danger to do with young children, and sheer laziness stopped me getting a new one.

 But I saw a £10 barbie at a time when I had a spare tenner, so this year we are rediscovering the joys of burnt sausages and flames that lovingly flicker around cheap burgers. Oh, and of toasting marshmallows (yum) which we usually do as an aperitif as the flames flicker inches high and before the hot embers are at cooking point.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Happy Birthday Aunty D!

This is my Mum (on the right) and my Mum's cousin who celebrated her 80th birthday last Sunday (end of June).
Yesterday I drove up to her house (about 60 miles) to collect her, bring her back to Liverpool and take her to the Adelphi which she had NEVER been inside and always wondered about. They don't do afternoon tea mid week, but the restaurant in the basement, called Jenny's, deserves great and lavish praise because they not only prepared a pot of tea and coffee, but treated my Aunt to her birthday cake for free. Say what you like about Scousers (and my Dad does) but they can be the kindest people around.
And my life lesson for the day? I don't want to wait until I'm 80 to do something on my bucket list. Live now. Now!!!

Happy Birthday Aunty D!!

Monday, 8 July 2013

Meal Planning Monday

When I lose my Filofax I can't plan properly. I know it is just upstairs, but I can't be bothered to walk up. It's just too darned hot. So this week's meals will be easy, not oven based, and quick.

Mon;Pork Fajitas made with an Old El Paso kit. Too easy after a day out with elderly relatives and before WI (7pm!!!)
Tues; Sausages with rice and red pepper. I have some red peppers left over from last week. I am trying to buy as little as possible this week. Please.
Wed; Burgers made from fresh mince with cheese and grated onion, served with homemade bread, potato rounds and salad. More salad please.
Thurs; Bacon pasta, made with a Lloyd Grossman sauce and 
Fri; Homemade pizza for the kids and risotto for the adults.
Sat; My parents have invited us for KFC as a treat. Yum.
Sun; Possibly roast leg of lamb. The church are having a gala afternoon and I think I can slow bake a leg of lamb while we go.

A good week. Not too much prep and easier cooking for the summer. My daughter wants a barbecue soon. maybe next week, or the week after when they finish school.

Weekends are so precious...

As a busy mother of three, sometimes I just need a break from everyday life and a time to reconnect with my handsome husband, even if we do no more than sit in a coffee shop and sip together. But when my parents offer (or are encouraged to offer) a longer break, then we jump at the chance.

This weekend was such a chance. We left the children in school on Friday morning, jumped into the car and drove off to t'North East. Way aye Mon, it's a canny distance theer. At least, sometimes it feels it! We drove through Kirkby Stephens and on to Barnard Castle, where we stopped off for a lovely lunch at a tidy and reasonably priced even while being really lovely tea shop called Clarendon's. Yum! I had a prawn and avocado open sandwich, while Mr K had a rather delish chicken club sandwich.

The castle here was owned by the Earls of Warwick, and inherited (from his father in law, locked up and attained so his property was confiscated) by Richard III.

 Having spent a couple of weeks in the 15th Century living vicariously through the novels of Philippa Gregory, it was brilliant to see a place that she writes of. Of course, it's now a ruin (apparently the owner in later years also owned Raby Castle and chose to take stones from here to fix there) but even so I got a real sense of walking in Anne Neville's footsteps as I walked around.

Just outside of Barnard Castle is the Bowes Museum, a really interesting purpose built building created by John Bowes and his french wife, Josephine. I loved how the french heritage was apparent in the building. This wouldn't look out of place as the Hotel de Ville in any french town, would it? The collection was eclectic, heavily furniture and porcelain based but included an automaton swan dating from 1774.

How does it work? I have no idea!

And on to Durham. We stay at the Travelodge just outside the town, but within walking distance of the restaurants and sights of the city. It never disappoints. I love the feel, with the Castle and Cathedral dominating the skyline, and the fact that the Lindisfarne Gospels are there at the moment was the seal on the weekend. Good food, good company and good craic. What more could I want?

Thursday, 4 July 2013

My June Ta Dah! Finished and now revealed.

If you read my post, I Know Something You Don't Know, you know I was busy for a week in June. I bought the cotton yarn (stylecraft cotton DK), set to with a will and a 3.5mm crochet hook and I made granny squares. 30 in total, 12 plain and the rest a lovely mix of red, yellow, orange, blue and ivory.

Vintage Pretty soon guessed what was in the ether, and here it is in all its glory, my very own, don't ask for the pattern cos there wasn't one, bag.

I joined the top squares with a line of single crochet on matching ivory, but I decided to sew the plain ones together so there was a contrast between the pattern and plain in texture as well as colour.

I used folded squares so that the bag could be long enough without being too long, but to make a shorter or longer bag would only be a matter of taking or adding a row or half row to the bag. It means the base is angled rather than squared, but I like that.

The strap was easier than I thought as well. I single crocheted the first five rows around the top, remembering to increase at the top of points and decrease in the valleys, before chaining the straps to the length I wanted (I copied it off a bag handle with a strap length I liked) and carrying on for another eight rows all round.

Ultimately I want to line the bag, but I'm still trying to decide/find the right pattern and whether to use pockets inside or not. The straps have curled around on themselves, but I like the effect, so I'm not bothered, and all in all I am a happy bag lady.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

I could never make daisy chains :,0(

During the long, hot sunny summer days of my childhood (and they were all long, hot, sunny and summer, not like now) one of the greatest skills a 10 year old girl could possess was to be able to make daisy chains. Usually a big sister or sometimes an elegant mother with long finger nails painted red and dark kohl lined eyes initiated the lucky girl.

It took skill, effort and perseverance. You needed to break off a stem long enough to link, but not so long that the chain looked just green.
You needed to softly flatten the stem, such a contradiction, but effectively just to slightly lose the roundness to give a surface into which you could slip a sharp, strong, thin fingernail. Flat nails worked better than curved, unless you were an adept and could curve the stem to match the nail. And nails had to be at least 3mm long to give you a chance to get the hole through the whole stem.

Make the hole about 1cm (in those days we were supposed to be metric; actually we probably worked in cm and feet; such a blend of units) and tease gently apart.
Put the second stem gently through the hole. It helps to remove any leaves or sticky out parts on the stem. Pull through carefully, letting the hole slide up until it is comfortable, not under too much strain but the new daisy is happily nestling into the hole. Repeat. And repeat. And repeat.

How long you made your chain depended on where you were and how long you had. Morning break made bracelets and coronets, just enough to wear back into class laughing and teasing Miss about how you were a Fairy Queen. Dinnertime was Great Gatsby season, with long chains that hung down like strings of flappers' pearls and were swung around gaily to show everyone that you were fast, talented, patient and free to fiddle.

I was never a daisy chain maker. If you have ever seen my hands or nails you know that neither the slim, strong nails nor the uber controlled operation of them is mine. Not now, not ever. But I was a good weaver of tales and some Daisy fairies will make a coronet or a bracelet in return for a story in the rippling heat, as you sit under the shade of the Horse Chestnut or lean back gratefully to soak up the damp coolness of the sandstone wall that separates school from graveyard. And often a ring can be cadged from the excess of flowers poured in tribute on the ground, or from the discards of errors that have split too soon and are left dropped on the path.

And when Miss had smiled and laughed or accepted her offering of watch or posy carelessly tied with green grass, she would cough, and pull the board around to the Maths or English and order the game ended, the crown removed, the jewels discarded. And they would pour onto the centre of the desk to sit and fade as, dry and barren, the classroom desert sucked us in.

Now I prefer to crochet my daisies. It's simple; a chain of 6 joined into a ring, chain 2, treble 9 and slip stitch to form a circle, change to white. Slip 1, then make a petal thus; Working into the next stitch, slip 1, double 1, treble 1, double 1, then slip 1 into the stitch between. Repeat until you have 5 petals, slip the white circle together and fasten off. Simples. A green chain makes the stems and a simple hoop made from the break off yarn makes a hanging daisy. I hung about yesterday waiting for the sun, which proves as elusive this year as it was effusive in my youth, before desperately taking some shots 'as good as it gets' in half light.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Meal Planning Monday.... on Tuesday

My my how time flies..... How often do I say that? But it really does, don't know how.

Our menu this week;

Mon; We had chicken with pesto rice. Love it. Well, actually, I don't like pesto so I had rice with  a teaspoon of Marigold Bouillon powder to make spicy rice instead.
Tues; Pizza for the kids and then risotto for me and Mr
Wed; Spaghetti and meatballs. Cheats recipe using a Lloyd Grossman pasta sauce with herbed mince meatballs.
Thurs; Sausages cooked anyhow. Probably with mash because I have a bag of potatoes that need cooking.
Fri; Durham. Ha. A weekend off cooking.
Sat; Ditto
Sun; Back to reality. Probably something with noodles and quick to cook so I don'y have to come back to earth too quickly.

Have a good week! See you next Monday (Tuesday)!

Time to WOW......

I have been a secret member of an organisation for 6 months now. From 11th February until now.... and now I've decided to go public.

Am I a spy?

Am I a secret shopper?

Do I spend the day listening in to GCHQ?

No, it's more esoteric than that.

I joined the WI.

Woolton now has its own WI, called WOW (Women of Woolton). And I love it. A lovely lady called June set it up, because the waiting list for another local WI was too long. We have 95 signed up members and more waiting for a chance to join. That must show a local need for an organisation whose avowed intent is to inspire women and to campaign for a better world. We need jam and Jerusalem, as well, but the modern WI wants to be involved in the community and I like that avowed intent.

So far our meetings have included a talk on a local victorian priest who set up a local care charity, the care and upkeep of bees and how to do felting. The group try to alternate between a crafty creative meeting and a   talk about anything relevant to the locale.

 I made this bird, who takes pride of place over my fire after a session on birdy crafts led by two members. I love how the skills and contacts of the women who belong are being used. We already have a walking group who walk once a month at least and a monthly quiz group who are hoping to enter the heats for the national competition. And I have dreams of a craft session and a bookclub. Just need a venue....

The National WI pages are here and the Lancashire Federation (how lovely to be part of Lancashire again) are here.  Woolton WI has its own website with a very skillfull administrator who set it up (ahem; that would be me then) and you can find it here. We are on Facebook and enjoying combining what is sometimes seen as an old fashioned organisation with modern technology. I love the idea that at a time of national stress and austerity the WI comes back into its own. Certainly the resurgence of crafts and interest in skills means that 'cool' people who might once have run a mile are setting up and running WIs as a way of passing on skills and meeting friends. See here from the Telegraph, and these cool members from New York! 2015 is the centenary year of the WI and it is brilliant to see a society that started in response to the international crisis of the First World War as a means to unify women and coordinate their war effort still going strong and wanting to make the world a better place. That's why Jerusalem still has relevance as the going forth song. I could do a whole post on what that song means to me....... Now that's a good idea!