Thursday, 14 September 2017

Puppy Preparations




We are a very excited household tonight. We've been counting down the sleeps for weeks now, and there is just one more to go before tomorrow morning, when we go and collect our new whippet puppy.

We've met him a couple of times - this is him about four weeks ago:


He really is very cute.


The breeder, who is the nicest lady, has been regularly sending us photos of him as he grows.



They're not the best quality, sorry, but I will take many - so many! - more over the coming days and weeks. 

I swing between feeling excited and terrified. I've been warned about sleepless nights, endless puddles and accidents, destroyed furniture, chewed shoes, I've even been told it's "like having a newborn in the house" (surely I'm not expected to breastfeed?!)

I think the reality will be a bit of all the above, and certainly a lot of disruption over the coming weeks and months, but a lot of love and joyful moments too. 

Wish us luck. 

Monday, 11 September 2017

My idea of a good Saturday afternoon



I moved lots of furniture around over the weekend. This made me very happy. I shifted one sideboard from the spare room to the kitchen, another from the kitchen to the living room, and my mum took a chest of drawers I've never been mad about off my hands which saved me the hassle (guilt) of selling it. I sorted and folded, went through old toys and games, made a pile for the charity shop, faffed around arranging candles, moved pictures to new walls. There is now the small matter of where to put the hundreds of CDs we own, but there's a Billy bookcase in the garage that John says he's going to put up in the spare room...

But I just love moving things around and having a change. I find it really refreshing, the way just moving something to a different room can make you feel like you have a whole new piece of furniture. A corner you walk past every day and ignore suddenly gets a little lift. 


This is the spare room above, half way through being sorted out. This sideboard held a TV that no-one watched, a broken xbox, and lots of games and craft materials, much of which needed a good sort. 


So I thought I'd move it to the kitchen-dining room, where this walnut sideboard has always stood. 

And this is with the white one:


It's a lot smaller for starters, which is good as our kitchen is not huge, but I absolutely love the white against the grey wall. 


It's still roomy enough to hold everything the other one did; tablecloths, place mats, vases, candles, etc.

And the corner of the living room which previously held this chest of drawers....


...now has the sideboard from the kitchen. Come on, keep up! If you're confused imagine how John feels...



And best of all there is a huge, blank wall above it ready to be filled with lots of pictures in a family gallery wall. I do like a gallery wall and I miss the one we used to have in our old dining room.


I found that glass lamp base wrapped in bubble wrap in the cupboard under the stairs - I think I'd forgotten I had it! So that was fun, like unwrapping a present. 

I hope that wasn't too boring. I'm hoping that, like me, you're all secret furniture rearrangers underneath. I blame my mum; she was, and still is, always moving things around the place and would regularly put her back out trying to move the piano. And I have also inherited from her the terrible affliction of not being able to go up to bed without plumping the cushions on the sofa.

So that was most of my weekend, but there was also food shopping, cake, crochet, Strictly Come Dancing, ironing, gardening, and an epic roast beef and Yorkshire pudding dinner followed by sticky toffee pudding, all cooked by John. Oh, and I'm joining Slimming World on Thursday. 

Have a great week everyone. I hope, wherever you are, that you are staying safe and dry and are not affected by the serious storms happening in some parts of the world. 




Friday, 8 September 2017

Cookery Calendar Challenge


It's Friday! We did it, we got through the first week back at school and work, and it was ok, better than ok actually. I am genuinely very happy to be back in my job; I was reminded how much I like my colleagues and how much I enjoy working with them all, and how completely brilliant the children are. Neither Bella nor Angus would admit to being thrilled at being back at school, but I know they are happy - they are so full of chat and stories after school, their little growing brains are being nourished and challenged again. We were all very ready for the six week holiday to end. Friends in other countries who have twelve week long breaks - I do not know how you do it. 

How are you all, everyone ok? It's rained every day this week and has often been so dark in the mornings that we've had to turn the lights on. But it's still mild, the kind of weather that makes you feel a little chilly when you're sitting around indoors, but the minute you go outside and start doing anything you feel warm again. But the grey skies and blustery winds mean that summer feels longer ago than it should this early in September. And is it me or are the trees turning a little earlier this year? 

Well, I almost forgot to join in with Penny's Cookery Calendar Challenge in August, and only remembered to cook from my chosen book Mexican Food Made Simple last Sunday. I blame holiday brain. 

The recipes in this book are a million miles away from the kind of Mexican - well, Tex-Mex really - cooking most restaurants and pubs serve here; "Fageetas" served with under cooked onions and smothered in so much grated cheddar and sour cream that you can't really taste anything, and I'm not being snobby, I've ordered that before and probably will do again. The recipes in this book are lighter and fresher, full of smaller dishes, starters, sides and salads, lots of vegetables and lots of fresh herbs and spices. 

However, I was in a hurry and wanted something that would appeal to all without giving me a migraine, so I chose "An easy, speedy chile con carne", not remotely authentically Mexican. I was intrigued to see if it was better than John's version, which is one of his favourite things to cook and he's very good at it. (He uses minced beef and bacon, chopped onions, carrots and celery, kidney beans, tomatoes, stock, and it cooks in the oven for a few hours.) This recipe is based around beef stewing steak - I used briskett - and chorizo for the meat. You brown the beef in large chunks, then the chorizo, then the vegetables, then put everything back in the pan with stock, tomatoes, lots of spices, chilli, beans, all sorts. 


After two hours cooking you remove the meat, shred it with two forks then return to the pan.



It was gorgeous. Rich and oozy and full of flavour, and quite perfect for the rainy grey day on which I cooked it. We served it with rice, tacos and lots of accompaniments. Bella and Angus love tacos because, lets be honest, they are basically like giant tortilla chips, so they think it's like having crisps for dinner.

To go with this meal, I also decided to make a Fresh Tomato Salsa and Classic Guacamole, and this is the part I most enjoyed preparing and eating. 


Avocado, chilli, lime, coriander - my favourite flavours, zingy and fresh. 


I don't usually like salsa and I think that's because I associate it with the supermarket dip selection packs, you know, the ones that come in a pack of four. It's always the one I leave as it's just tomato and so much chilli that is blows your head off. But this was a revelation; sweet, sharp, fragrant and refreshing, and it was even better the next day when the lime juice had mellowed the red onions a little. I am converted.

Now the guacamole - that is the only recipe we'd previously used from this book and so often that it falls open at that splashed and stained page. The book is almost worth it's cover price alone (although, actually, I seem to remember this was a gift from my friend Rachel when she found herself with two copies) for this recipe because the guacamole is so, SO good. It's nothing like supermarket guacamole, but creamy, spicy, soft, crunchy, herby and so full of flavour, it's like you can taste every ingredient. 


That last photo is making me quite hungry! Now my next challenge will be to remember how good this book is and actually get it off the shelf and cook from it more. 

My book for September will be The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman. Happy weekend everyone, I've got nothing much planned except food shopping, rearranging some furniture, and lots of crochet. 


Sunday, 3 September 2017

Fruit and Flowers


Thank you so much for your comments on my holiday embroidery. I'm really glad you liked it, and I really appreciate that so many of you took the time to say so. A few people have asked if embroidery is hard and how I learnt. It is not hard at all, but it is time consuming and you need patience. I am by nature a very impatient person, so you'd think I'd prefer whizzing things up on the sewing machine, but no, hand sewing is a relaxing indulgence for me. As for learning, well I am learning new and better ways all the time. I am a beginner, an enthusiastic hobbyist, and have never been on any courses or anything like that. I remember sewing a little with my mum and Grandma as a child, but I didn't really pick it up again until a few years ago. I just sort of feel my way and go to YouTube when I need to learn a stitch, like French Knots. I worry that people think embroidery is a lot harder than it actually is and are put off for fear of doing it "wrong". For me there are no rules, I don't care how untidy the back of my work is, I just enjoy the process, the colours and the textures. So if you are thinking that you might like to try it, just start. Just play around with colours and threads on a small piece of fabric. It's fun, I promise.

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The changing of the seasons has been really noticeable this weekend. Yesterday was warm and sunny but today it's wet, windy and about ten degrees cooler. I've spent the day in the kitchen, cooking for the week ahead and making a big chilli for tonight's dinner. 

All the photos above were taken in West Dean Gardens last week, or perhaps the week before - the days are rolling into one and the weather makes it feel like so much longer ago. It was beautiful though and I think it's lovely there whatever time of year you go, especially with all the glasshouses. At the moment there are still the most stunning dahlias, and apples and pears growing on the trees, and we went for a long walk through the surrounding woodland with my family, picking blackberries and collecting feathers, before finishing the day with a cream tea.

I made another trip to the Pick Your Own farm in the week, buying green beans, corn on the cob and yes, more dahlias.  


It's been another busy week but I've tried really hard to carve out some quiet time at home, although that does seem to inevitably get spent on housework and chores, before work starts tomorrow. I had a long list of things I wanted to get done over the holidays: decorating, cleaning out the garage, sorting through the filing cabinet, tackling some jobs around the house and garden. We did get most of them done.

As well as my France embroidery, I've had a few crochet projects on the go this holiday. I made a wall hanging for Bella's bedroom using some leftover cotton yarn. I made it in exactly the same way that I made this one, for anyone who might be interested. 



I've been cooking a lot, baking cakes and cookies, and stewing fruit. I love the plums cooked with a little sugar and spice on top of porridge or yogurt. And I've been peeling, coring and slicing apples from my sister's garden for the freezer. It's a tedious job but it's great to pull out a bag of frozen apples, one of blackberries and another of crumble mixture and have created a pudding with minimal effort. 



Do you remember the crocheted vegetables I made for the school I work in? I've started on the fruit. 


I was hoping to have them done by the start of the school year but there just isn't going to be time.


As I'd hoped they are just as much fun to crochet as the vegetables were and I am thoroughly enjoying this project.


Finally, I'm delighted that this blog has been nominated again for an Amara Interior Blog Award! Thank you so much to whichever person nominated me, I can't tell you how much it means to me. It's a popular category and there are some big blogs in there so it's stiff competition, but if you would like to vote for me then that would be absolutely lovely, and you can do so here. I hope you know how much joy I get from sharing my love of crafting and interior design with you all here.