Saturday, 22 January 2011

Wool etc

I've done plenty of crochet lately, and to be fair, a fair amount of knitting too. Not one to rest on my laurels (I am in love with that little teddy bear I made, still can't believe I did it!), I decided to get onto another project. And to be completely honest with you, it kind of happened by itself.

The yarn? You might remember it from last November. I bought it from Woolfish at the Glasgow Country Living Christmas fair. It's so so yummy, so so soft, and I just couldn't think of a good enough project for it. Something that would be simple enough to showcase how amazing it is. 70% merino, 20% alpaca and 10% silk... lushissimmo!!

And then I saw this. I fell in love with this pattern. The way the cowl just droops, but has a lot of body, the stitch. I simply fell in love. So not much was separating me from some soft warm neck action, apart from the needles. I found an internet shop that sold larger needles that could fit onto my Denise circular cords, so I'm off.

Wish me luck. I've never done any knitting on circular needles. And needles that big either for that matter. And I don't want to screw it up because the yarn is gorgeous, and it deserves better than to be frogged. Fingers crossed!

Thursday, 20 January 2011

A new sibling

Good morning! Today, I'd like to ask you your opinion about something. Here's the story.
I'm an only child. I'm not sure if I conform to the stereotypical only child though, I don't think I'm a spoilt brat and I do share my toys (although find it a lot more difficult to do that with food - anyway). When I was growing up, I never had someone close yet slightly older to compare myself to. And I certainly didn't have anyone that I seriously envied, no one who was allowed to stay up longer than me and go out when I was told I was too young to do so. I never felt that anguish and jealousy some feel towards their older siblings. I thought I was missing out.

Until now.

Obviously, it's not really my older sibling. But it feels like it at times. Boyfriend has an older sister, and in a way, I'm developing some 'older sibling feelings'. I'm afraid to say, not in the "looking up to her" way though. More in the "why is it that you have everything I want" way. This basically comes down to her having a lot more money than us (and more than we could ever hope to earn), being a lot slimmer than us, and achieving things we'd love to do, if only we had more money and better physical abilities.

Her and her husband seem to do everything by the book, living together for a while, buying a house together, getting married bla bla bla. Do you sense jealousy? I'm afraid you do. I'm not proud of it, but that's the situation I find myself in. We will never have the same financial facilities as them, and sometimes it kills me. Even though no one compares us to them, we can't help but do exactly that. Whatever you do, you find someone else has done it before you and you can't help but compare your dismal self to "the other".

This is all new to me, and I'd love to hear from you if you have older siblings and have been going through a similar thing for your whole life, or like me, have an "adopted" older sibling who's making you feel inadequate at times. Because it's only human to compare yourself to others, we all do it. We all know there are people much better off, but we also know there are people a lot worse off. Only when you have the "better off" category thrust in your face, it's a little more difficult to deal with it and stay content with your own predicament.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Arc en ciel in progress

It's been a while since I've given you an update on my arc-en-ciel blanket, but to be fair, it's been a while since I've done any work on it too.

What I often see as an advantage of crochet (over knitting for example) is also one of its downsides. You can leave it off at any point, there's no row to finish, each stitch is very much standalone. This also means that it gets put aside and forgotten about.

Consequently, this blanket is both a work in progress, and a regularly used blanket. It keeps me company in the evenings, and I occasionally pick up the hook and add a few rows to it.

I'm planning on getting this finished in the near future, as some serious travelling time is coming up. Can't wait to have it all done, it's so pretty and colourful! You can't help but smile when you look at so much colour. It's against nature I tell you.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Flowers in the post

When I saw this post over at Little Birdie Secrets, I knew I had to join in the fun. This project was perfect for me, as it combined my love of card making with my ever-growing love for crochet.

My crochet skills are however a little iffy at times, and I struggled with the pattern provided. Not one to be defeated, I just made my own!

This is so simple, and so so quick. I hope you enjoy my first ever crochet pattern!

  • yarn (2 colours is best)
  • appropriate size hook for the yarn you're using (I used a 4mm)
  • sewing needle
  • scissors

  • Chain 3 stitches.
  • Make 15 trebles into the first loop (originally the cast on stitch).
  • Link up to the second stitch from the start with a slip stitch.
  • Change colour and chain three.
  • Made 2 trebles and one double crochet into the same loop.
  • Slip stitch through the next loop.
  • *Made 1 dc, 2 tr and 1dc in the next loop. Slip stitch through the next loop.*
  • Repeat ** until you've come round full circle.
[pattern in Ravelry here]

Monday, 17 January 2011

When art and history come to life

Art and history is what I learnt about on Saturday and I don't think words can convey how much fun it was. I spent the afternoon at the Victoria and Albert Museum with a friend and it was truly wonderful. Not just for the company of course, but the setting was rather charming too.

Anyone who says they're not interested in this museum, because it's supposedly all about art and fashion and they have no interest in those two matters, simply haven't given it a chance. I cannot say I'm particularly interested in art, although I can appreciate it, I don't always understand it fully, and fashion, well, one only needs to have a look at my wardrobe and general attire to get the drift. Not really my thing. But this museum really is about a lot more than just that.

I have walked through it numerous times, wondered through galleries of sky high statues and diamond encrusted necklaces several times. I have enjoyed lunches and teas in the old fashioned cafe, gazing at the ornately decorated dome whilst listening to the enchanting music being played on the grand piano in the corner. But never, never have I enjoyed my time there more.

The reason for such enthusiasm? My friend and I joined a couple of tours. Free tours I should add. Yes indeed, education is there for all to grasp, you just have to reach out and take it. And take it we did, because we attended two tours, one after the other. We'd barely recovered from an hour of British Galleries, from James I to the Great Exhibition, when we were taken on an introductory tour of the V&A, admiring a selection of objects which truly brought the museum to life. It wasn't a simple building full of thousands and thousands of objects anymore, it had become all about the pride and joy of Prince Albert who felt very strongly about educating the masses and making art accessible to all, about statues given by the Grand Duke of Tuscany to Queen Victoria, about the shock a five meter high statue of a naked man (Michelangelo's David) caused and the 1 meter wide fig leaf subsequently commissioned to hide some of David's attributes during visiting hours...

Truly inspiring and educational, in the most fun way ever. I urge you to attend these tours when you have the opportunity, you won't regret it! Obviously, there are about 50 volunteer guides there, so it is likely your experience will be different to mine, but all I can say is this: I will no longer wonder around this museum aimlessly, and I shall try and join tours anywhere possible. When you have limited time and most importantly limited knowledge of what it is you're looking at, it's the best way to enjoy it and come out a different person, one a little more knowledgeable.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Peppermint yourself

For today, to finish off the week beautifully, another recipe!! Ah yes but wait, don't go!! No I'm not trying to make you fat, today's all about a recipe for your body :-)

I made this lushious body scrub for my mum for Christmas. I had to post about it because it really is the easiest thing to do. Once you get hold of the necessary ingredients, all that's required is a little weighing and some mixing. End of. So there's no excuse not to make this.

I used some I had leftover and it was lovely. Knowing exactly what was in it was a definite mood lifter. And skin smoother of course!

  • 300g coarse sea salt (from the supermarket! You can go for the fancy organic type or standard, both work!)
  • 20g green seaweed flakes (struggled to find this; best I could find was Clearspring green nori sprinkle)
  • 100g granulated sugar (I'm sure other types of sugar would work just as well)
  • 15 drops of peppermint essential oil (I got mine from Neal's Yard Remedies)

  • Mix the sea salt with the sugar.
  • Add the seaweed and mix well.
  • Finally add the essential oil and mix lightly.
  • Fill a kilner jar and tie some garden twine and a shell around it!
To use: take a handful and massage into wet skin.


[original recipe taken from UK Handmade online magazine, summer issue 2010 pages 40-41. Original recipe called for 50g of seaweed, I think 20g is plenty]

Thursday, 13 January 2011

French galette

La galette des rois. Hands up who knows about this? I don't suppose many of you do. Somehow, it's one of these great French traditions which hasn't made it to the UK. Probably because France is traditionally a Catholic country and England Protestant. Anyway, here's one you'll want to embrace. I'm about a week late with it, bit it doesn't matter really. This is something which will cheer those of you who're feeling a little under the weather, a little down about what January has to offer. And if you don't have any mincemeat leftover, this is the one for you.

It is associated with the celebration of Epiphany. What it means in practice? You get to eat a lovely cake (scroll down to French King Cake to read more about it), nothing too fancy but very, very tasty. And there's even a fun bit to it. When you make the cake, you hide a ceramic figure in it. Whoever gets the trinket is the king for the day and gets to wear a golden crown (typically provided by the bakery who you buy the galette from!). Only here, there aren't any bakeries (don't get me started on the prices charged by a French bakery chain in London). So last night, when we sampled my first ever home-made galette des rois, there was no crown, and to be completely honest, there was no trinket either.

But what there was was the tastiest galette I have tasted in a while. Actually, the first galette I have tasted in a few years. And it was yum. The best bit? It's dead easy (if you cheat a little tiny bit and buy the pastry). So go on, you won't be disappointed. Try it out, for me, and I promise, you'll be the first making one next year.

  • 375g puff pastry
  • 2 eggs
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 70g soft butter
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 1 tsp almond essence

  • Beat one egg and the white of the second egg (keep the yolk for later) with the almonds, butter and sugar.
  • Add the flour and almond essence. Mix well.
  • Split your pastry in half and roll out one half (ideally in a round shape, about 25cm in diameter).
  • Spread the frangipane mix on the rolled out pastry, leaving a good 2cm all around.
  • Brush the pastry left apparent with a little water.
  • Place the trinket in the frangipane.
  • Cover with the leftover pastry (that you will have rolled out to a similar shape) and crimp the sides shut.
  • Make fine slits (not all the way through the pastry) with a sharp knife and little holes now and then (so some air can escape during cooking).
  • Brush with eff yolk.
  • Bake for 25min at 190degrees C.

It's simply delicious and is a brilliant tradition. It would typically bring all your close family together again, which is quite nice after the madness of Christmas. I still vividly remember when mum and I used to go spend the day at my grandparents to have some galette des rois. Brings a smile to my face.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Finishing it up

Well hello there!! Today I'm going to give you a little post-Christmas recipe to use up some of that mincemeat you've got leftover in the fridge. What do you mean you don't have any left because you scoffed mincepies down your throat for 2 weeks non-stop?!! Well for those without a ravenous family or who made enough to feed an army, here's a little something to warm your January cockles.

  • 400g mincemeat
  • a couple of tablespoons of booze, I used apricot brandy (which I'd used to make the mincemeat)
  • zest of an orange
  • 375g puff pastry
  • one medium bramley apple, peeled, cored and chopped finely
  • one egg
  • a tablespoon of granulated sugar mixed with 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

  • Mix the mincemeat, the zest, the apple and the booze in a bowl.
  • Split your pastry in half and roll out two rectangles about 15x45cm big.
  • Place one of the rectangles on a baking tray and place the mincemeat mix on top, leaving a good 2cm margin of pastry.
  • Take the other pastry rectangle, roll it out a little bigger. Fold it in half and make slits about 3cm apart, 3cm from the folded edge.
  • Back to the baking tray. Brush the pastry left showing with a little water. Place the slit pastry on top (open it up).
  • Crimp the edges. Brush the whole thing with beaten egg, then sprinkle the sugar-cinnamon mix on top.
  • Bake in the oven at 200degrees C for 30min.
(adapted from a James Martin recipe found in Desserts)

Enjoy as it is, or with a little bit of cream/ custard/ ice cream. It's delicious and really not all that bad for those January hips. Hey, it's still winter so we need a little comfort food right?!

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Late Christmas crafting

Eurgh, I mean you didn't think I was finished did you?! What with all the travelling I've been up to? No chance! And to be fair, how many of you finish everything before the 25th? What about those people you want to give a little something to, but won't get to see until the new year... there's no rush is there? Which is the situation I find myself in, although I'm meeting up with the friend in question this weekend, so I pulled my little socks up and got crafting.

The friend in question has been going through some rough times emotionally, has felt quite lost at times, not knowing which direction to take. I've tried to help but I feel this little reminder of what really matters will help her even more to stay focused. Life has its ups and downs, but surely, there's bigger better things out there that we should concentrate on rather than the multitude of negative thoughts, fighting to get our attention.

So that's my little summary of it all: Live, Love, Hope

What do you reckon?

I hope she likes it!

Monday, 10 January 2011

Wales part 2: Betws

As I mentioned in last Friday's post, we only spent one night in Aber. We then went on to spend a couple of days in Snowdonia, about an hour or so north east of Aber, in a lovely little town/ village called Betws-y-Coed.

This was our first time in Snowdonia, and we're already thinking of going back. Spring would be a perfect time to go there, when the days are a little longer and temperatures a little higher. But regardless of the daylight allowance and weather conditions, we simply fell in love with the place.

Endless stunning landscapes, mountains, hills, forests, lakes. Tons and tons of waterfalls to photograph. Oh how I enjoyed experimenting with my camera!! Such fun ;-)

The only downside to Betws is the lack of good places to eat. Admittedly, we didn't try out the more expensive places, but I guess we didn't find somewhere than served good value meals. And there's no traditional pub. Actually, scrape that, there's no pub! We only found hotel bars and a place resembling a Wetherspoon. On the other hand, we did find the nicest little pub in the nearby town of Trefriw. So if any of you has been to Betws and knows of a good pub, do let us know!

We did find the nicest b&b though. Not sure I should be telling you this, but I'm sure it's not exactly a secret! It was truly lovely, and the location couldn't have been better. Within 2min's walk of the centre, it was slightly out of the way along the river. Again, you can't beat waking up with a view of flowing water and forests. Truly inspiring. I wonder if people who live in such amazing places ever get bored of it, or even blazé...We certainly didn't.

We obviously didn't have time to do major walks or treks up the mountains, but we're looking forward to doing some one day. That and visiting all the other things that were closed due to bad weather and the time of year (Trefriw Woollen Mill and Llanberis Slate Museum, I'm talking about you here!).

So there, another little holiday over. And while all this has been happening, a new year has started. I'm not really feeling the new year vibe just yet, maybe because I didn't have much time to stop and think over the Christmas break. But I'm now ready to embrace it, be more tidy, try out recipes from my latest foodie magazines and make crafty projects from my crafty magazines. All this fresh air has given me a new lease of hope and filled me with newly found energy. Fingers crossed it lasts!!

Friday, 7 January 2011


I was inspired by Pebbledash's post yesterday to have a play around with Wordle. I entered my blog url, and I must say, I'm quite surprised by the result!!

What do you reckon?! I didn't realise I'd mentionned Christmas so much! Actually, looking at the words more closely, I see that it's only picked up on the words that must be appearing on the first page of the blog. Because it cannot be that there is no mention of crochet or knitting!!!

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Wales part 1: Aber

Hello hello! Well I'm glad you enjoyed my photos of Granville! And actually, I quite like this little French ambassador title you've given me! I think it suits me quite well ;-) But back to the UK. Back to my lovely adopted country. Not totally adopted though, it's still half mine. Anyway, here's the back story.

New Year's eve is totally overrated. I know some of you agree with me, so it won't surprise you to learn that I like to avoid mass celebrations like the plague. I find them rather boring, and trying to get home in the middle of the freezing cold night is not my idea of fun. Call me boring, that's just how it is. So, in order to remedy this NYE ba-humbung-ness, we decided to reconnect with Boyfriend's roots and drive down to Wales. Aberystwyth to be more precise. Not for long, just for one night . Enough to go there, have a nice curry, the last one of 2010, and wake up with the sea as a soothing companion.

I feel there is nothing better than waking up facing the sea on the first day of the year. Saturday January 1st of 2011, I woke up and enjoyed a cup of tea watching the waves break on the beach.

Aber is a lovely little seaside town. I've never been during term-time when it must be bustling with university students, or during the summer when it's crawling with holidayers. I've only ever seen the place in the winter, and I love it that way. It's so calm, so relaxing. Not the tacky sort of seaside town, it still feels very much local, very Welsh and it's perfect that way.

As usual when going to the seaside, I revelled in my love of boats, or more precisely, taking photos of boats and their reflection in the water. So please, let me indulge one more time. I hope you enjoy this display as much as I do.

Have a lovely Thursday xx

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Granville, Normandie

I mentioned Granville in yesterday's post and today will be all about this wonderful little town. I'd never been there before, and I can tell you something, I'm hoping to go back later this year. I completely fell in love with it, and I wholeheartedly encourage you to go if these photos make your heart skip a beat.

Granville is not your standard average seaside resort. I'm not sure calling it a resort is fair actually. It's a town in its own right, irrespective of the tourists who come and enjoy some time there. We obviously didn't bump into too many of those, it being winter and straight after Christmas, but I can't imagine it gets too touristy in the summer either. There are so many other places which attract Parisian crowds amongst others (Deauville, Trouville, Cabourg), Granville has managed to stay pretty, small, with a good dose of local attraction.

What I loved about it was that it had a nice marina, but also a working port. I got the most beautiful looking tins of sardines, tuna and mackerel from a local cooperative and can't wait to tuck in! We saw fishermen leaving the port early in the morning darkness, as the tide was coming in. We saw them emptying their cargo later on in the day, attracting mesmerizing flocks of seagulls. We met a local fisherman on the beach who had just come back from picking several kilograms of whelks (a mollusc). It was a truly inspiring encounter.

I very much enjoyed my time there because we were able to take long walks along the sea front. There are several good walks to be had there, some around the old town and working lighthouse, others along the beach.

We came back feeling very much refreshed and we had rosy cheeks to prove it!!

For those of you interested in art and fashion, you might like to visit Christian Dior's childhood home, a beautiful house perched at the top of a long stairway with direct access to the beach.

It is now a museum dedicated to him, but unfortunately it was closed when we went. We did make the most of the beautiful gardens that surround the house. I can't imagine how beautiful it might look in spring.

I've been brain-washing Boyfriend with this ever since I came back. I'm determined to go back. I will go back. I feel content and relaxed just thinking about it. That can only be a good thing I reckon.