Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Cupcakes and Forward Planning

Busy week here in the Northern Hi-lights household...Adjusting to new school hours and the start of football training,swimming lessons, Beaver Scouts etc.. for the boys.  My crochet classes are going well, I think (you are always your own worst critic!), and a lovely surprise when my parents came to stay for the weekend.  My Dad is a DIY genius, and I enlisted him in solving our lighting problem in the dining section of the kitchen.  The new red pendant lamp is now hanging proudly over the table, and the dark nights which are currently creeping closer to tea time mean it will be in full use very soon.

My new pink dress had an outing on Saturday night to celebrate a friends 40th birthday. I whipped up a batch of cupcakes to take along..

They were quick and satisfying to make in an evening, I made the pattern up as I went along, but can write it down if anyone is interested.  My next crochet focus should be perhaps the charity Christmas fair I have a table at with my mother-in-law in November. I am terrible for last minute rushes, so some forward planning would perhaps be wise - anyone have any links to any Christmassy crochet patterns?  I made these robins for a similar event last year and they sold well, they were easy to make and assemble - did I just mention Christmas in August?

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Chipping Away at the Chaos

Don't be fooled by this calm, composed photo.  I'm not a big fan of housework and cleaning, but usually manage to get by with my superficial cleaning methods, indulging in the odd deep clean when we have guests coming to stay.  The long school summer holidays have really taken their toll on the chaos -right now the house feels like a snow dome that someone has picked up and shaken.  I have decided to use any spare time this week to just chip away bit by bit.  Today I have tried to get to grips with my crochet work -which is literally lying all over the house in various unfinished states.

Open the lid.......what a tangled mess!  I bought this box a few months ago from 'The Box Room' (our local thrift furniture shop) for a mere £15.  I loved the green fabric on the lid, it goes perfectly in our living room.  But aesthetics aside, I badly needed somewhere to store all my wool and crochet bits and bobs and this was just the ticket.  But just look at it!  I really need to stop buying any new yarn, stop starting new projects I  can't finish and be more disciplined about tidying up!

One tiny step on the road to order....

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Friday, 20 August 2010

Simple Cotton Floral Decoration

During my last visit to Newcastle, I visited a yarn shop in the Granger Market and picked up a huge ball of 100% cotton yarn for a song.  This week, in preparation for my first crochet class I have been experimenting with a small crochet flower, trying to come up with some different ways in which you can use it.  I love crocheting garlands - they are made in one long piece, no loose ends to weave in at the end and hugely versatile and pretty to decorate corners of your house.

 Not the best photo, as the white wall doesn't really show it off to its best! But my flower decoration looks quite sweet sitting in the corner dangling from my orchid.

Small Cotton Floral Decoration Pattern.

1. Chain 30
2. SS into 6th chain from hook to make a loop
3. 10 SC into centre of loop

4. Crochet the following stitches into the first SC to make a Petal (1SC, 1HDC, 1DC, 1HDC, 1SC)
    Slip Stitch into 2nd SC
5. Repeat step 3& 4 into 3rd and 4th SC to make 2nd petal and continue this around until you have 5 petals
6. Chain 16 (or more depending on how 'strung out' you want your flowers to be) and make another flower on the chain as described above.
7. Continue until decoration is desired length
8. Finish off by chaining 25 if you need another 'lenght' to string it up with
So simple and satisfying to make, you could alternate colours for the flowers, or make a yellow centre if you wanted, or applique a string of 2 or 3 to an item, endless possibilities!

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Back to School

First day back at school today for the start of a new school year, and ok, I'll admit that even though I skipped all the way home after dropping them off, I did kind of miss my two little shadows..

I spent a blissful morning crocheting in preparation for the first class I am teaching next week. I want to be able to take along lots of different styles of work to try and inspire people, and make my new students love crochet as much as I do.  I still find it hard to get my head around sitting idly crocheting during the day, it seems outrageously decadent as it is usually a hobby I do in the evenings when the little peeps are sleeping, but today I ignored the dirty, untidy house and sat at the kitchen table (feels less slobbish than the sofa for times like this) working away - bliss!

I did pause at lunch time to go for a run around the forest, and then made a banana loaf to feed the hungry boys on their return from school.

After years of trial and error, this is probably my idea of a perfect banana loaf recipe - moist, but crunchy on the outside.  I used the recipe in the Humming Bird bakery cookbook where you whisk together sugar, eggs and the bananas to make almost a mousse and then add flour, ginger and cinnamon followed by melted butter - really easy to whip up.  I added toasted hazelnut piece for the topping and needless to say there is about a quarter of a loaf left!

Speaking of baking - did anyone watch the 'Great British bake-off' last night on TV? It was interesting to see all the different interpretations on 'signature' cakes, and got me thinking about what mine would be, could be a future blog post....

Monday, 16 August 2010


Edinburgh was great...mad, crazy, crowded, inspiring and utterly exhausting.  I had forgotton just how busy it gets in Edinburgh during August, with it's population more than doubled, the streets, cafes and pubs are mobbed with people.

We watched some funny, bold and absolutly bonkers acts at the festival.  It was slightly nerve racking trying to keep tabs on the boys at all times in the crowds, but if you've ever been to Edinburgh before you'll know  you are never too far away from a park or a green space for a bit of a rest and ice cream stop.

Weather wise this weekend has felt like summer at last and we were so grateful for warm dry weather.  As for the campsite, it was fantastic, and I would throughly recommend it as a great way to see Edinburgh on the cheap. 

I have completely amazed myself this summer how much I love our little caravan, and can hardly believe how utterly peaceful and relaxing I find caravan life.  Even at a busy campsite you still feel like you have your own little haven.  The boys of course love the freedom a campsite offers, which in turn gives us a small break and occasionally a short window of adult time -utter bliss after a busy day pounding the streets of Edinburgh!

(I was sharing that bottle of wine by the way - I can see how it looks now I've uploaded the photo!)

We stopped in at Ikea before heading home back up North - usually a must whenever we are staying at or passing through Edinburgh.  It's been ages since I have been there, and I have to say it didn't do it for me this trip - and probably for the first time in my adult life I left the store having spent less than £10!  You can't fault some of it's innovative style though, given that it's mass produced, and I loved this simple bottle opener, and of course at 79p, had to have two!

So, really thats the end of our summer holidays for this year - the kids go back to school this Wednesday, and admittedly I am feeling utter relief at the prospect.  We've had fun this summer, managed to visit our loved ones, done loads of different things and throughly enjoyed our caravanning experiences. The weather has been a total let down, theres been a lot of fighing and bickering between the boys which I have found  very stressful and tiring. It's a love/hate thing with the long summer holiday, but thank goodness thats it over for another year!!

Friday, 13 August 2010

Thank Crunchie its Friday!!

Yippeeeeeee!!! it's Friday at last.  Just finished packing up the caravan and as soon as big R gets home from work we are heading off to Edinburgh for the weekend to sample some delights of the Edinburgh festival - I can't wait!  Hoping to bore the boys with nostalgic tales of days gone by (we met whilst living in Edinburgh almost 17 years ago) and hoping to fit in a pint or two of 80 shilling at the Canny Man or the Auld Toll!

Affordable accommodation in Edinburgh during the festival is non existent, so this is a first for us to be able to spend a whole weekend there with the kids during August - We are booked into MortonHall caravan site, about a 30 minute bus journey from the centre of the city.  We are still new to this caravan malarkey, so fingers crossed it works out OK!

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Rainy Day..

We're having one of those days.  Its been raining heavily since dawn, we are all still in our pajamas past lunch time and I have exhausted my Mummy 'crafting repertoir'.  I can confess we are now snuggled up in a duvet on the sofa at 1pm in the afternoon, watching a Harry Potter film.  I don't feel too guilty, this is the last week of the school holidays after all, and I think the first time this holiday I have had to resort to a DVD during the day.  The boys are happily tucking into a bowl of microwave popcorn and I am about to pick up my crocheting - I have started a Granny Stripe (Lucy Attic 24) and it's wonderfully easy and addictive to work on - I'll take a photo of its progression when its a bit bigger, but right now its' working up well.

I cracked open some new poster paints and box canvas's I have been hording this morning.  I was really pleased to see the boys taking their time and thinking about what they wanted to make, and their pictures are wonderfully colourful.  I have never really taken to painting, I'm no good with a brush and prefer the crisp precise line of a marker pen (goes back to my university days I think where I studied Industrial Design and used nothing but markers and pencils), so I sketched a picture on my canvas using a chunky permanent marker - I might colour it in with some water colours later, but at the moment I am pleased with the black and white image

I haven't made the time to do any drawing for a long time, but I found the whole process very relaxing this  morning, and the boys were happy and content too - a rare treat!

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Shoe Shopping of the Non-favourite kind

For a lot of children in the UK, schools require them to wear a uniform.  This works well for me, a few pairs of smart grey trousers, white polo shirts and the school sweatshirt are all that are required  and I don't have to think too much day to day about clothes organisation.  A smart pair of black shoes are also part of the uniform, and this is always the last thing I shop for as it is a dreaded task!  Throngs of children and lack of sizes are always a problem, but with only a week to go until school starts again, I couldn't put it off any longer.  We started off in a Clark's shoe shop, for my youngest  son with broad feet, there was only one style of shoe, and the other son's choice also limited, but shoes we needed, so 15 minutes later we left the shop £80 lighter!!!

Next we popped into TK Maxx, I needed a new kettle as my usual stove top one was badly abused on our last caravan trip  - how great is TK Maxx??

£14 for this smart enamel kettle, I'm really pleased with it, I love the slightly taller, narrower shape, and it looks pretty good in the kitchen. 
On the way out I had a quick look at their display of school shoes - all priced at £9 ! A couple of the shoes were very similar in style to the ones we had just bought, so after establishing they fitted, a purchase was made and a refund at the Clark's shop - a saving of £62 ! Quite incredible, just shows you what a scam children's shoe manufacturers are running, playing on the guilt of parents who are made to believe you have to go to a proper shoe shop and buy specially fitted shoes, half the size and almost twice the price of adult shoes, only to go back again in 8 weeks because their feet have grown!!

Friday, 6 August 2010

Friday Cupcakes

Everyone needs a Friday treat...I saw a great photo on Poppytalk, which spurred me into baking action with the boys this afternoon.  I made these cupcakes from the Humming Bird Bakery cookbook, the recipe called for very little fat, which was quite surprising, but anyway that doesn't really make much difference given the huge dollop of butter icing that is on the top!  Go on, treat yourself, its FRIDAY!!!!!

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Potatoes and Pillowcases..

My crochet suns must have worked....! the second half of this week has felt much more like summer, and as a consequence we have been out and about doing things and generally keeping busy.  I dragged my two up to my allotment today, they have never been particularly keen on going there, unless they think there is a possibility of meeting one of their friends, but once there, the lure of digging up some new potatoes won them over.

A quick visit into a charity shop a few days ago brought a reward in the form of a pair of lovely vintage, brushed cotton pillowcases.  I washed and dried them on the same day so I could use them straight away, and last night they felt so soft and cosy...

Ahh, just looking at that photo of my comfy bed is making me want to go to bed early and finish off my book, so on that note, I think I just will.....oh, and by the way - my book stack is running low, can anyone recommend a good read?

Monday, 2 August 2010

Bring Out the Sun...(with pattern)

OK, so July was a bit of a summer wash out, but that's in the past, it's August now and I have been crocheting a few rays of sunshine to hang about the house to encourage a sunnier month..

This sun motif was quick and easy, made up of only 2 rounds and is adding a nice splash of colour, if nothing else to my kitchen

Sun Motif Pattern (US Crochet terms)

1. Chain 8, and ss into first chain to make a ring.

2. 2ch,  and then 23dc into ring, ss into 2nd chain to join

3. 8ch, 1sc in 2nd ch from hook, 1dc in the next 4ch.

4. Skip 1st dc from 1st round and 1dc into 2nd dc. *Chain 5, 1sc into 2nd ch from hook, 1dc in each of next 3ch. 1dc in top of dc (below previously made below 5ch) Skip next dc in round and dc into next stitch*

5. Repeat from * to next *

6. Continue around, until you have 11 'rays', ss into 3rd ch to join and chain approx 25 to make a length to hang sun from. Fasten off.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Hooked Hangers

I am starting to hit the wall at the four week mark of the school holidays now.  My days go by, the house is a mess, the weather is lousy and I feel like I am accomplishing very little.  But last night I surprised myself by picking up some old wooden coat hangers that were given to me by a friend, and using my bamboo tape, making some covers.  The result was surprisingly pleasing.

They were easy to make, I made a chain the length of the hanger (approx 65ch) and using Single crochet, crocheted enough rows (approx 8) so the piece was long enough to wrap around the wooded hanger. I then inserted the wire hanger through the middle of the crocheted piece and sewed up the sides and bottom.  I have a glut of crocheted pink flowers in my work bag at the moment, so I sewed one of them on too for decoration.

I would love a wardrobe full of these, but vintage wooden hangers are hard to come by - I wonder if it would work covering a cheap plastic one?

oh, and just in case you were wondering..

Small Flower Pattern

1. Chain 6 and join with slip stitch to make loop
2. 10 SC into centre of loop
3. Crochet the following stitches into the first SC to make a Petal (1SC, 1HDC, 1DC, 1HDC, 1SC)
4. Slip Stitch into 2nd SC
5. Repeat step 3& 4 into 3rd and 4th SC to make 2nd petal and continue this around until you have 5 petals
6. fasten off