Thursday 29 August 2013

Crafty inspiration

I almost couldn't decide on today's blog post - do I do a show and tell of my knitting/crochet essentials a la Inverleith and Lazy Daisy Jones, or a crafty book post in the style of Ladybird Diaries?!

Okay so it took all of about 30 seconds to decide, because apart from the gorgeous bag Miss Jones made me for my crochet to go in, the rest of my yarny essentials really truly need sorting out.  I think maybe their blog posts could inspire me to do this once the holidays have finished!

So...crafty books in my collection.  I grabbed them off of the book shelves and photographed them into categories; knitting, crochet, dressmaking and general crafting.  Here's what decorates my shelves and inspires me...






Favourites by my bed

I have to admit, I also get a lot of craft books out of the library as all-to-often I have ordered a book only to find I don't want to make very much from it at all.  Getting the book from the library serves as a good way for me to decide if I actually want it. 

However, despite having all of these books, plus a subscription to Mollie Makes magazine (I have every issue!) I tend to get most of my inspiration in blogland.  Boy there are some very talented people out there and more often than not, I am left longing for the talents that they possess.  But as someone recently reminded me, I can only be myself, everyone else is already taken.

What's on your bookshelf?!

G x

Wednesday 28 August 2013

Prepare for a heatwave

Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell
Published by Tinder Press

As it's published in paperback today, I thought I would share my review of Instructions for a Heatwave.  I hope you enjoy it!

It’s July 1976 and London is in the grip of a heatwave.  It hasn’t rained for months, the gardens are filled with aphids, water comes from a standpipe, and Robert Riordan tells his wife Gretta that he’s going round the corner to buy a newspaper.  He doesn’t come back.

The search for Robert brings Gretta’s children – two estranged sisters and a brother on the brink of divorce – back home, each with different ideas as to where their father may have gone.  None of them suspects that their mother might have an explanation that even now she cannot share.

The heat, the heat.  It wakes Gretta just after dawn, propelling her from the bed and down the stairs.  It inhabits the house like a guest who has outstayed his welcome: it lies along corridors, it circles around curtains, it lolls heavily on sofas and chairs.  The air in the kitchen is like a solid entity filing the space, pushing Gretta down into the floor, against the side of the table.

Only she would choose to bake bread in such weather.

I loved this newest novel from award-winning novelist Maggie O’Farrell, to the extent that I read it in one day.  The cover looks like a beautiful poster from long-ago with its image of children on the beach interspersed with a table set for dinner.  This is such an atmospheric novel.  I don’t remember the heatwave from 1976 and after reading this book, I’m glad I don’t.  The descriptions of just how hot and still the air was during this summer were so well written that I could believe I was there.  Even though it is less than 40 years ago, the way society and people have changed in that period is immense.  O’Farrell mixes the story alongside segments of the Drought Act of 1976 which only increases its ambience.

Gretta’s husband disappears on his way to get a newspaper.  She doesn’t worry until later that day and summons her three children to help her to find him.  Each of them has their own worries to contend with and the book brings them together with all of their problems.  Son Michael Francis is an unhappy teacher looking forward only to the start of the summer holidays; his wife is behaving very oddly and his two children need looking after.  Middle child Monica has a husband who is distant and two step-children who barely know she exists; she hasn’t spoken to her youngest sister for years.  Youngest child Aoife has fled the country for a new life in America, the odd-ball of the family, she has her own demons to deal with.

O’Farrell weaves her magic into this delightful Irish family nest.  Can they all pull together to find out what happened to Robert or will their own problems only cause them to fall dramatically apart?  This is the perfect summer novel.

Tuesday 27 August 2013

Today I am...

Excited about sitting out in our new patio area.  Hubby worked very hard this weekend to make sure not only was it started, but finished too.  Just another half an acre to go!

Looking forward to reading my new book Apples for Jam.  Having gone on about it for a while, primarily the lack of available copies, at what I deemed a reasonable price, hubby ordered me one from ebay.  It arrived today. I am in stroking mode!

Adding the finishing touches to the girlies' school bags in the shape of key charms.  I got some inspiration from my new library book The Handmade Home by Cherry Menlove.  Full of crafty ideas and recipes, this is one craft book I've not been disappointed by.

Giddy for the big birthday, if only because I want this book but am trying to be good by not ordering it and asking for it instead.  I'm making do with a feature on it in this month's Mollie Makes magazine.

Practising my vegetarian cooking as hubby has decided that this is the way forward for him!  Apparently my butterbean bugers from Cook Vegetarian magazine were delicious!

Expecting deliveries - my new winter coat and my caravan paint for Agatha are both due today - we shall see!

Trying not to think about this being the last week of the summer holidays and my girlies going back to school.  In particular, the 4 year old who will be starting big school this year.  I will miss them!

G x

Saturday 24 August 2013

A grown-up fairy tale

The Ocean at the end of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

It began for our narrator forty years ago when the family lodger stole their car and committed suicide in it, stirring up ancient powers best left undisturbed.  Dark creatures from beyond this world are on the loose, and it will take everything our narrator has just to stay alive: there is a primal horror here, and menace unleashed – within his family and from the forces that have gathered to destroy it.

His only defence is three women, on a farm at the end of the lane.  The youngest of them claims that her duckpond is an ocean.  The oldest can remember the Big Bang.

It was only a duckpond, out at the back of the farm.  It wasn’t very big.
   Lettie Hempstock said it was an ocean, but I knew that was silly.  She said they’d come here across the ocean from the old country.
   Her mother said that Lettie didn’t remember properly, and it was a long time ago, and anyway, the old country had sunk.
   Old Mrs Hempstock, Lettie’s grandmother, said they were both wrong, and that the place that had sunk wasn’t the really old country.  She said she could remember the really old country.
   She said the really old country had blown up.

Neil Gaiman has constructed a grown-up fairy tale with his latest novel The Ocean at the End of the Lane.  When our nameless narrator finds himself outside his childhood home, on his way to a funeral, he is surprised to notice that the inhabitants of forty years before are still there, and haven’t changed a bit.  But then, they always did seem a bit strange, especially Hettie Lempstock, his childhood friend who has been eleven forever.

When an opal miner is found dead at the end of the lane, the narrator meets the Hempstock family, three women who live in the farmhouse there.  They seem to have powers that other people don’t possess.  When the villagers mysteriously start receiving money, the narrator and Lettie realise that the opal miner’s death has started something otherworldly and needs to be stopped.  Unfortunately they release it into this world, with potentially horrifying consequences.  Can the narrator, a child of seven, and this mysterious girl, with a duck pond for an ocean, return things to normal?

I was gripped by Neil Gaiman’s short, but enjoyable tome.  It’s a fantasy but at the same time, believable and very well told.  I loved the Hempstock family, with their quirky powers, and in particular Lettie.  This is a book about returning to your childhood, but not a book for children.  Despite its length, it manages to be powerful, gripping and magical.  The Ocean at the End of the Lane transported me to another time and place, and I loved it.

G x

Thursday 15 August 2013

This week

Haven't been up to much this week.  The weather certainly can't decide what's it up to, so the plans I had in my head never came to much.

Monday saw the girlies and I take a trip over to Stoke to Abakhan to get the fabric for the interior of Agatha.  Now she has been moved into her permanent spot I couldn't wait to go and get the material that she will finally be decked out in.

Want a sneaky peak?

Of course you do!

This is the fabric for the main seats

This is for the seat backs

This is the curtain fabric - needs a good iron!

 None of that was what I had in mind when I went shopping, but I saw them and they worked together in their own strange way, so that is what is happening.  The next thing is to choose the colour for the outside, which I think I've done, a sort of grey colour.  Fingers crossed it looks as I imagine in my head!

Yesterday was a bit glum so we did some library book reading, and then because of reading this

 We ended up doing this

 We love Julia Donaldson books!

I'm frantically trying to pack for another caravanning holiday - we are off to Derbyshire for a few nights tomorrow - hopefully the weather won't be as predicted which is for rain, and thunder!!!

I'll be taking my caravan crochet blanket to continue working on, but in the evenings here I've been knitting my poncho.  It's been a bit of a disaster, the pattern is not written very well at all (neither me or my mum could figure out what it was trying to say), which resulted in 5 hours of work only for me to realise it was totally wrong and have to undo it all back to the start and begin again!  Can't say I was too chuffed about it, and I think an email to Sirdar to point out their error may be in order.  I'm back onto ball 3 of 8 now so am getting there at last!


I also had some lovely post from the publishers at Headline today, more books to review!

That should keep me out of mischief for a bit! 

Thank you for all your lovely comments, and hello to my new followers.  I've found a few more blogs to follow this week so seem to be spending an inordinate amount of time on blogger!

Hope the sun is shining on you this week.

G x

Sunday 11 August 2013

Tales of a crafting caravan

Arrrggggh!  (That's meant to be a squeal of delight but it doesn't sound like it does it?!).  After lots of pushing and pulling, to-ing and frow-ing, Agatha is in her final resting place ready to become my crafty haven.

Am very excited.  In fact, I immediately want to start attacking her and recovering her seat covers and replacing the curtains, and painting the get the picture!

For now, here are some photos of her before anything happens to her!

In place in the woods

Ready for her close up!

I have to admit, she is just peachily perfect.  Her layout is ideal, all I've got to do is remove the toilet so that room can become storage space and she's good to go.  I can't wait to start using her.  Hubby has promised a decking area outside all ready for the big birthday in November, as she is my present after all!  Can you tell I'm a little bit very excited?

Hope you're having an exciting time too?

G x

p.s thanks for all the lovely comments about the conditioner I posted.  Pretty Notalgic magazine even tweeted about my blog post which I'm so chuffed with.

Saturday 10 August 2013

Hair we go!

Thank you for asking for the recipe for the conditioner that I mentioned in my last post.  I didn't want to include it until I had tried it out, but now I have, it's here for all to try.

Coconut, Lemon & Mint Conditioner


1 tin of coconut cream (it took me two different supermarkets before I found cream rather than milk.  It's stocked in the same aisle as the stuff for making chinese/indian foods)

1/2 lemon

2 tbsps sea salt

1/2 cup of boiling water

1 small handful of fresh mint

How to prepare

Dissolve the salt into the cup of boiling water.  Pour the coconut cream into the mixing bowl and stir out the lumps.  Add the salt water, juice of the lemon, and mint, and mix well.  Pour into a bottle and keep in the fridge, where it should last a couple of weeks.

How to use

Rub into dry hair, until completely covered.  Leave on for between 10 minutes to an hour.  Rinse out of your hair and shampoo as normal.


The protein-rich coconut feeds the hair and gives it strength, reduces frizz and defines curls.  The mint stimulates the scalp for healthy growth.  The salt adds volume and the lemon smoothes the hair shaft to add shine and over time, adds multi-tones of colour.

My results

I will say I was intriugued to see if this would work.  I don't have the easiest hair by any account; it's frizzy, bleached and there's a lot of it (even though I've just had it all cut off) so I wasn't expecting any miracles.  It seemed odd to be conditioning my hair before washing it but I followed the instructions and waited to see what the results would be.  Amazingly my hair wasn't that tangled after washing it through with shampoo and brushed well.  I still needed to use my straighteners afterwards but it looks shiny, healthy and for the first time ever, a little bit fly-away.  It cost me less than £1 to make and I think I will keep using it as the results are surprisingly good.

This recipe came from the latest edition (8) of pretty nostalgic magazine and can also be found here along with more home spa treats.

Hopefully we are hoping to move Agatha down to the bottom of the garden this weekend, so I might be able to get inside her and take some photos to show her off next week!

G x

Thursday 8 August 2013

Two uses for a lemon

Make a Coconut, Lemon & Mint conditioner for your hair

Make Lemon Drizzle cake

G x

Tuesday 6 August 2013

A stitch in time

I've been doing a little stitching and crafting this week in the free time that I've found.  We are very lucky here in that every summer there is a free children's club that runs for 3 hours a day for one whole working week - 15 hours of time where the girlies can run riot,and glue and stick to their hearts content, and I can do me things.  Today this included catching up on a Miss Marple and the penultimate episode of The Returned - blimey it's been good and there's a second series in the pipeline; seriously if you haven't seen it, do watch it before it airs again.  I've not been this excited about tv since The Killing series 1!

Anyway, I digress, back to the stitching.  After taking the dog away with us and discovering that she didn't have a towel with her, I've decided to give her some of her own from some old ones found under the bed.  This is the first effort:

I got the template from my Cath Kidston Patch book.  Now, at least, she has her own towel to wipe her feet on.

I also decided to try and make the girlies their own pe bags for school, after being inspired by a facebook post by the lovely Mandy from over at daisy moon.  I found an old pillowcase and some fabric snippets to have a try.  I think it would have been a whole lot easier if I had worked on a flat piece of fabric rather than having to navigate it's pre-sewn sides but the 7 year old is very happy with it which I guess is the whole point.  Now I've just got another to try to do!

This morning, on the first of my 3 hour 'rest' days, I decided to make a pincushion that was featured on ladybird diaries blog.  I don't think it turned out too badly, but I clearly need some more pins to put in it!

I don't know if you remember but I mentioned a while ago starting on something that Pixie had prompted me to try from over at the crafte nook.  Well, I'm pleased to say I'm finished!

From this:

to this:

Yes I made socks!  On two needles!  I used less than 2 balls of Sirdar Snuggly to make them and they were surprisingly easy.  Snuggy winter feet here I come!  I think I'm going to have to make some more.

Thank you for all of the nice comments you have been leaving, it makes my day to read what you think of my blog.  This is my 50th post!  I'm quite pleased with that, and welcome to my new followers too, though I do have to say that today's post makes it sound like I don't have an original bone in my body!

Is it sunny where you are?!

G x

p.s. I'm still having issues with Blogger, as you can clearly see from the fact it keeps highlighting my opening paragraphs.  It's driving me mad.

Friday 2 August 2013

The Great British Bake Off

Well not quite, it was a few scones a la Mary Berry, but a girl can dream can't she!!!  On what was meant to be the hottest day of the year, I decided to bake, but I think it was really just an excuse to use my new bowls - snapped up for £3!

I made the scones from Mary Berry's Cookery Course which was supplemented in the newspaper a few weeks ago.  I think they came out quite well!

I then decided to use my latest cookery purchase - Lavender and Nutmeg sugar that I found in The Deli when we went over to Bishops Castle last week.

I decided to make some lavender shortbread after adapting a recipe I found online.


4 sprigs of lavender
25g granulated sugar
150g butter
75g caster sugar (plus extra for sprinking)
200g plain flour


Heat oven to 190 degrees.

Strip the lavender from the leaves, add to the granulated sugar and whizz together in a mixer.  Here I substituted this for my lavender sugar.

Mix the butter and caster sugar together until soft and creamy, then add the flour and the lavender/sugar mix.

Turn out onto a floured board and roll flat.

Cut shapes and place on a greased baking tray.  Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes.

Once cool, sprinkle with the remaining caster sugar.

Even the very fussy 4 year old ate one and said it was delicious!

I'm now in the process of altering a dress I bought this week that is oceans too long for me - oh the joys of being 5'3"!  Problem is, I can't quite finish it off as my iron has decided to stop working.  Am nagging poor hubby to take it back for me (I hate returning things).

Until the next time!

G x

By the way, apologies if there are any formatting errors in today's blog.  I've been struggling with Blogger on my pc for a few posts now - it won't let me compose them, etc so it's all getting a little stressful!