Saturday, 31 March 2012


The kind lady from Sunshine International Blankets of Love is going to take my Lent blanket when it is done. (Soon, dear readers, soon). I was worried about where to send/donate it because in my usual fashion, I raced ahead to make the thing without any real planning! She has also said she will let me know where it ends up, that will be nice. But for you hooky people I have a question. I blocked the squares and once 'set and dried', unpinned them and the little blighters pinged back into their original wonky forms. I am thinking that it could be due to the slight difference in the DK yarns that I am using. Anyway, for the first time, the joined squares have a sort of angle! The girls tell me it is nice and it feels lovely. When I get the pics up, maybe someone could point out the issue for me? Must go now and blitz this house as BIG J COMES HOME TOMORROW MORNING and we want him to get off the plane and feel that 'it's so nice to be home' feeling as he walks through the door. The gig is tonight too and RISING TIDE has had this great review.....gonna be awesome!!!

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Frugal sewing

Em is keen to make a skirt too, a bit like her sister's, so rather than schlep all the way to the nearest fabric shop and fork out a fortune, yesterday we had a poke around in a local charity shop where she found a size 16 skirt with a ton of fabric in it to cut up and use to make one! It even has a good zip and at £3.99 that is a pretty cheap way to start off learning to sew. She is busily unpicking bits of it now. Han spent a number of weeks looking for something to rehash and in the end we bought her fabric, but next time she may be lucky and find the right thing.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Sun shiney day

It has been lovely having the day off today. A very early start saw me blocking out the last squares of the Lent blanket for sewing together tonight when Celia B comes over for our crafty session. Then it was out into the garden for a serious bought of weeding. While doing this our neighbour's cat turned up to check out the goings on. She is very nosey, but friendly and pretty. She has a habit of poking around where she really shouldn't and of course when my back was turned she took her chance and shot into the house. Her sudden absence had me suspicious, one minute she was eyeing off Bosley from the patio and next she was gone... but after checking around it was only a tell tale thump when she leapt off a piece of furniture and the ringing of her collar bell, that gave her away. She was poking around in Em's room! But she looks as if butter wouldn't melt in her mouth. Here she is in the garden before breaking and entering.
I planted up some foxgloves, hoping to get them to flower this year. The dry earth is real cause for concern and today the grape vine got a bucketful of recycled water. (We keep a bucket in the shower now to catch the excess and I use rinsing water from the kitchen sink as well for the garden). Bosley demonstrates the dryness of the soil in the next shot. See how he has his toes in the bluebells, it must feel cooler.
Finally, this beauty is in blossom prooving just how lovely tulips are when they are open - as opposed to the cup like shape we all go for in the shops.
Big J and I had a chat on Facebook and all in all it has been a great day so far. Bolognaise sauce in the slow cooker for Francoise style pasta tonight. Francoise tosses spaghetti into the meat sauce with grated parmesan cheese and then bakes it in the oven. Delicious. We have enough for about three meals!

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Kitchen beauty salon

I get my hair cut and coloured at home by my friend and very talented hairdresser, Dawn. I used to go to her place of work, but when she went freelance, I went too and have never looked back. My hair in its natural state is snow white/silver grey, like my mother and all my maternal aunts (five of them)...the youngest is 70 and the oldest two in their eighties, and they look great, but I am not quite ready to embrace silver yet. So about every 6 - 8 weeks we have a session in my kitchen with lots of tea and coffee and I get my hair done. The girls sometimes have a trim and Adam too. Tonight is one of those nights. Dawn and Hannah have been working on a style for Hannah's hair for her prom in May.
It is a nice way to spend an evening. Chatting, getting lovely.... and saving a fortune - because the at home rate is only a fraction of the salon rate.

Monday, 26 March 2012

An evening in spring

How wonderful is this weather? After work today when I got home, Em and I played badminton in the garden. Han rode her bike to her flute lesson and back and we were all keen just to be out there.

For dinner is Chicken Lemon and Pea Rissotto, (with soya beans as we like them more than peas.) Lovely to know what is on the menu when I get home and to have everything to hand.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Sewing Sunday

Han cutting out her first pattern - a skirt. It has been quite a day, a big learning curve for her and for me, boy have I forgotten stuff about sewing.
So as not to scratch the kitchen or dining room tables we cut the fabric outside on the patio and spent a lot of time chasing bits that blew away.
Sorry about the nauseous slant to this photo.
The skirt is assembled, now we have to add the yoke and zip. But there is a mock maths test on Tuesday, so sewing is on hold now for revision and the test.
However as an incentive to complete this project, we have the launch of the Rising Tide EP on Saturday night, so maybe it will be done by then???
Roast dinner tonight. Lots of lovely roast veg too.
I am listing things on ebay as well and that always makes for a busy evening.
I wonder if I have my fingers in too many pies?

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Saturday and sunshine

Another dry, sunny day in the South East. We have bought a skirt pattern and some fabric for Han to make her own garment.

Much bulk cooking was done including 'My Big Fat Moussaka' from the Love Food Hate Waste web site. It was not such a trial to assemble, but the potatoes were not waxy enough and I missed the aubergine in the traditional versions. Looks like we may have two more meals out of this effort.
Some broccoli was blanched and frozen and yesterday a big bag of carrots was done. I also did some red onions. The menu last night was kedgeree and there is container of that in the freezer too.

So, what happend to her crochet you are all thinking? What's all this with the food thing? It is still going on in the background. The Lent blanket is slowly being sewn together. The bunting is blocking and this week, with all these meals ready prepared, I will HAVE MORE TIME......yippee.

I hoped to go for a walk with my camera today, but only got as far as the green. I felt really self conscious taking photos on my home turf.

My three varieties of daffs:

I then took some in the garden.
This is one of my favourite flowers - the quince blossom;

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Another day

battling this thing. I am seriously fed up now. It has not changed. Today energy levels were low, but I did manage a bit of frugal cooking. A dozen carrot muffins and a cheese and veg frittata, the remaining half of which was frozen after dinner for later. I did try and get the two dishes ready to get them in the oven together, or at least over-lap them, but timed it all wrong. Still, early days. The pantry is extremely bare and poor Adam came home tonight, tired probably needing a bolognaise fix, but there was little to be had other than eggs, ham, beans etc. I have told him of the menu planning and the attempt to be more organised and he reckons loads of his friends' families do it, so he is cool.
On a happy note, BFF wrote from Japan and is coming home for a month in the summer and this time we want more than one day to hang out.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012


I got up, showered, stripped the bed and put the sheets on to wash. Our washing machine has ECO settings, which I dutifully use, but it takes about 90 minutes to do a load and there is not much ECO about that. While waiting, I hauled the washing line out of the shed, and with much effort, got the thing open and up. A wipe down, ready for the sheets, but no...they are still faffing about. I was feeling worn out and wondered where has the benefit of all those hours in the gym with the weights gone? I then did a mercy run to school to deliver a forgotten lunch box and nipped to the chemist to get a stash of meds and tissues. By now I was flagging and a whole cup of tea later, finally, the sheets went out onto the line into the sun.
I will sleep with the sunshine in my bed tonight, but am disappointed that it has all been such a physical effort.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

In bed with me tonight

are the Cotton Club collection, some of the finished bunting, some wips and some little squiggly bits of frogged bunting that just had to go. Colour choices elude me in creation. In general life I think I have a great eye for colour - well a not bad eye maybe and I understand all about the colour wheel and blending and contrasts as well, but there are times when I will gleefully crochet one colour to another and the result is horrendous. A few such horrors tried to slip through the net on this latest project 'Betti's baby's bunting'. Betti's baby is due soon and it was obvious that the some of the colour combos in my attempt at the lovely carnival bunting might just scare the life out of it. One thing I did try hard not to do is copy Penny's colours to the letter. It has to be my work and while I think hers is gorgeous, it still has to be mine.

I managed to slip into some sloppy clothes and out of my sloppy pjs a few hours ago and cook a delicious red onion, pancetta and zucchini frittata for dinner. It went down a treat and is now on the meal planning list.

Yes, dear readers, meal/menu planning is another string I want to add to my very tangled bow. In line with living a more simple life, spending less, wasting less and taking back more time. Keep you posted on that.

The first day of spring looks nice

from the bedroom window. Yep, the VIRUS has me in bed today in a determined attempt to get rid of the thing. It feels as though I am wasting life, but then I do a lot of that on the internet so why should being in bed be different?
I have written some emails, read some recipes, looked at loads of blogs, and had a little FB chat with Big J in Hong Kong. Sometimes the voice of a loved one can work magic.
I called work, because there was a question from my other work half on my mobile and today she has help in the form of Nichola (of the the little Japanese doll) and is finding it better which makes me feel less like a slacker.
I had a sleep and then Han came home and made me some ginger tea and chatted to me about some of the books she loves. I recently finished Eat, Pray, Love, which she gave me for my birthday, and we talked about that.
She has given me a mask to wear - very Asian - people wear them when they have colds, so as not to spread germs, not usually because of pollution, which is the popular notion. So here I am in bed, a masked, pajama clad woman. How alluring is that?

Monday, 19 March 2012

The Diagnosis

It is a viral infection....pretty broad really when you think that EBOLA is one too as is HERPES SIMPLEX (although I think we can safely rule out both of them.) The doctor actually said 'Olbas is the way forward'. Steaming Olbas in fact. So that is what I will do, later. I have had to call work and say I cannot go in tomorrow as well. It strikes me as very odd letting them know in advance of my illness. Comes from being imprinted at an early age with the notion that whatever the ailment, it was 'probably nothing' or a bit of 'attention seeking' and unless one was unable to physically drag oneself there, school/work was NOT TO BE MISSED.

I am going now to tuck myself up in bed again, and to get some rest. I hate for the girls to come home to a listless mother, so I will snooze while they are out.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

The Visit

I usually love having friends to stay and the last few days have been no exception, except that I have been sick. A very painful throat, swallowing actually hurts, not the regular irritating tickle, no voice and a nasty cough. It is now nearly 6 days since this started and there is no change. Not good. I do not want to miss work, which I go back to tomorrow and that is because I have a stupidly over developed sense of responsibility.

Fact: The NHS can live without me
Fact: I have a brilliant job share partner
Fact: People (even the hard nosed like me) get sick

If I am honest as well, I could have tried less when my dear friend Francoise was here. But she completely spoils me when I go to her, so I wanted her to feel as spoiled here.

So, we went to Hastings one afternoon. The weather was glorious and we poked around the old town and enjoyed the higgledy piggledy streets.

We saw a lot of charity shops all during her stay and she came away with a fab pleated skirt and me a little blouse.

We went to London to see the David Hockney exhibition but were defeated by the 90 minute queue. She is due a new hip and there is only so much a pair of old pins can bear at times. Consolation was a visit to Liberty London. I have been looking at dress-making patterns on the sly, while deep in side questioning the sense in doing MORE when I want to create more space and time to enjoy what I already do. I gave in as you will read below! I am still however, totally thrilled by this sort of thing:

We went to the Stitch and Craft Show at Olympia. I was not a well bunny that day, but really grateful to be driven to the station, to bus it all the way from Victoria and to be collected and brought home afterwards.

Maybe it was the malaise, but the show did not grab me. There was something a bit shabby about the whole thing. The quilts for the Olympic Games were the most disappointing collection of quilts I have seen in a very long time. (My opinion readers, this is my blog!). There were a great many nice stalls, some brilliant works in all the crafts and the funky Mollie Makes yurt

but something was missing.

I kept thinking that under that roof were some supremely talented individuals and some amazing materials to be had, but think that some of that was lost in presentation. Some stalls were so messy and in fact one or two were even a bit grubby, I was shocked.

I bought a piece of fabric to make a dress and feel all confused inside about my creative 'direction', but in Primose Hill at a lovely place called Sew Much Fun I got a pattern. The owner is a lady called Roz and she was just so informative, experienced and helpful, I left there thinking that sewing ones own clothes (as I used to) is a really cool thing to do. It is really a matter of planning and making sure the job gets finished.

So, we did a lot. The slow cooker worked its socks off a few times and Han made a great meal for us one night.

Francoise went home on the Eurostar today and I will miss her, but I need to refocus on my family now and my plans for our home/life and my crochet and sewing.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Today was another good day. Despite the croaky voice, headaches and sniffles, it was a very good day.
This morning Mr H brought back the sewing maching and it literally purrs. It has the neatest, smoothest stitches I have ever seen. AND he gave me a one year guarantee and said just to call him if there are any problems. What a hero!
Then I went to London and found Loop which was nice enough, but better for having to wind my way there through lots of antiques stalls. Loop has heavenly yarn, but I have to say, I found it very expensive, because I could not imagine just making a blanket. (I am only up to making throws and blankets at present.) It would have to be something very special to justify buying some of their yarn. It did though, give me loads of inspiration and as we are off to the Craft Show on Friday, I will keep my eyes peeled for similar but less costly versions of the yarn I desire.
F is here now pouring over my backlog of Mollie Makes and noting down the places she would like to visit. We plan a day in London on Saturday to see the David Hockney exhibition and fabric (her) and yarn (me) shop.
Ready for bed, with a cup of tea and a book.
Sleep tight all.

Monday, 12 March 2012

the art of cleaning and the dramatic arts - two topics in one post.

Tonight I went to see the year 11 GCSE drama performance that Han and her group prepared. The subject matter was far more adult than anything we would have tackled in our day. Pretty thought provoking. These young people are not children any more. They were good, and keen to have feedback as this all goes towards them improving for the actual assessment later in the week.
I also did what I call my Big Fat Gypsy treatment to the kitchen - this is not meant to be derogatory; I have been fascinated by this documentary and to be truthful, by travellers all my life. I think there was more interaction in older days, certainly my mum has told me of travelling women she knew. Much press is given to the big frocks and the fights and the stereotypes. But I have to say, they can clean. My very Irish mother and grandmother are/were the same. Every surface gleams(ed) and there is pride in that. I know that as a modern woman being house proud is way way down on the list of life's goals, but hey, who doesn't like it when you look around and things just look orderly and clean??
So I got a big sink of hot soapy water which I used to wipe down all the surfaces, while at the same time soaking labels of some jars for this years sloe gin...It looks fab and I feel better for it.
My head and throat are throbbing and there is some bug or other hoping to get a foothold in there, but NOT THIS WEEK MATEY. I am off work for three days and plan to go to the Craft show at Olympia, relax with my Belgian friends, crochet, potter and just have some wind down time.
The Lent blanket is more than two thirds done and it is looking lovely. I have also got some bunting to show you all, but find I am struggling with the tassels. I think Francoise may be the source of all knowledge on this one, there is very little the woman cannot make.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Sunny Afternoon

a la The is such a cool song...

Lots done and feeling happy.

Two kitchen drawers cleaned out.

Downstairs loo revamped with some cool cowrie and other shells in a glass jar and scented with a lavender oil.

Baking cupboard cleaned out, anything past its use by date has gone.

Baking shelf washed down, jars washed, jam decanted into Polish pottery jars, the fruit trug has been replaced with a Polish pottery platter - cracked so it can't do lasange anymore, but still functional.

The trug is for magazines now, craft mags in fact.

Shower recess done.

Slow cooking an amazing bolognaise sauce.

A thrify shopping spree to ALDI... (I am so loving this place now), on foot, saving gas.

Big pile of cotton spools sorted for when the sewing machine gets back.

And a lovely long chat to Big J who is back in Hong Kong again. He will be home in less than three weeks for a quick break. Whooopeeee!

Over the past few weeks, minus the lads, we have been living a pretty simple life. I have taken it on myself to reduce the mountains of THINGS in my home that really do not play a part in our daily or even seasonal lives.
I have also become a mammoth fan of Frugal Queen and her blog. In the days of yore, when I was a single mum in Japan I eschewed any type of frivolous spending and worked my tooshy off to make sure we had a roof, food and something to fall back on 'in the future'. I carried my habits with me to this marriage, but over the last 6 or so years, have begun to lapse. It is all too easy to dip into that purse for wants rather than needs.
Anyway, little sprouts of ideas about the pennies and life are reappearing again and Big J and I had a small conversation about it today. We are going to have a big conversation about it when he gets home at the end of the month.

But, dear readers, the time for that will come and I end today feeling happy with my lot, my lovely family and the fact that I can put my toes up this evening and do some crochet.

Friday, 9 March 2012

The fan and Facebook

Rising Tide played in Burgess Hill last night and Em and I went along. Han stayed at home to do some homework as final GCSE assessments are looming. She will be with us all for the EP LAUNCH ON 31 MARCH though.

I took my new camera and from a not really good distance (i.e too far from stage and too conscious that I am a mother figure and might bring shame on my daughter - easy to do - and even, bless them, the band...) snapped away like an amateur.


Bass guitar - Adam Rutherford

Drums - Frankie Sparrowhawk (real name)

Guitar and keyboards - Emma Newlyn

Guitar, vocals - Martyn Wilson

There is a lot to learn about light and shooting, but I was pleased with most of the shots. The band was too. I have NEVER had so many facebook hits!

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

sewing machine hero

A few years ago I bought an old Singer 337 sewing machine from a local man who said it had been his mother's and it had recently been serviced!! It came fixed into its own table with fold out work area.

It did not work...well it lurched and screeched and chewed up miles of thread, even though we had given it a test run before buying. Disappointed, we thought we either swallow the loss and splurge on a new one, or, take it all the way to T'Wells for a service. And so the days turned into weeks, they turned into months which turned into almost TWO years...(for shame).

(May I say though, that it was a handy spot to place one of our keyboards, which do get played, so as an item in the house, it was useful, like having a treadmill or some other exercise equipment to hang your towels on!!)

Then Celia B mentioned that her Mr H was coming to her house to service her machine. She gave me his number and this morning, a tall, very, very elderly man came to see what the problem was. It needs an overhaul, maybe a new belt, a new plug (the old one is illegal according to electric regulations now), but he did say I got a bargain, that the machine itself is in great nick. I have all the original bits in the original box and the manual. This model was made in 1964 and 1965, here in the UK.... and that is a long time ago....

Mr H, sewing machine hero, carried it off and said he would be back next week this time if all is well....really excited now!

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Wet and windy

it may be but there is lots going on out there.

The crimson camelia is blooming

the tete a tetes are showing

and the sunsets have been wonderful this week

this photo has not been altered in any way.

I have done almost half of the squares of my LENT blanket, but I had a little break from it today to work on some of Planet Penny's lovely bunting.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Another face of Hong Kong

Here are some of the images of a day out on an island, Lamma, a short ferry ride from Hong Kong island.

There are no cars on the island, only a sort of quad bike with a trailer for getting goods around. Folk use bicycles and hook them on the railing at the pier at Yung Shue Wan for hopping onto when they get back from Hong Kong island.

It can be quite chilly on Lamma! He was such a dear!

Lamma has a beach

which is really well maintained with good changing room/shower facilities and a life guard team.

It also has a WHOPPING big power station on it. With three chimneys. Only two are functional, the third is there because of Fung Shui. But we have swum here, the water is nice....

We took a walk over the island, across the top and down the other side.

You can just see some big tankers waiting on the horizon. It is such a busy and exciting stretch of water.

Some local plants and bird life

This is a red whiskered bul-bul.

and a local wood pigeon

Some great old trees
and then, our destination

Sok Kwu Wan
Home of the most delicious seafood; like prawns in garlic butter

crab with black bean sauce

and scallops with fresh ginger

The view from the restaurant is of pontoons, boats and ferries

We all thought we might like to stay there, but after the fabulous meal and a cold Tsingtao beer, we had a sleepy ferry ride back to HK island. Brilliant day, brilliant place.