Friday, 30 September 2011

Loving today...

Today was an illness-free day.  These days are to be cherished.  If you are not sick, if you go through most days in a healthy state, please please make sure you take just 1 second to stop and appreciate it. Your health is the biggest Happy Thing you have.

Other things making me feeling happy today are...

The last of the garden's tomatoes waiting to ripen...

Tomatoes ready to ripen

The latest issue of Mollie Makes...I just love this magazine...

The latest Mollie Makes - can't wait to get stuck in!

Mollie Makes issue 6!

Uncovering long-forgotten colourful granny squares and motifs....

Uncovering forgotten creations :)

A supply of little jars waiting in the sun for a makeover...
Jars waiting for crochet covers :)

Ah, lovely things and a good day:)

One thing I am not particularly enjoying though, and I don't wish to sound rather ungrateful...but this weather.  Where's my autumnal freshness?!

Linking up with PaisleyJade :)

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Granny Square Therapy

There are days when nothing goes right. With full on ulcerative colitis, a daily barrel load of steroids and the endless of pressure of juggling work and home life I have had more than a few of Those Days recently.

On Thursday last week, after a bad nights sleep and hours of pain before I had even left the house for work, I found myself sat at my desk at 8am drained and exhausted.  I got the important work done, then jumped in my car and drove home in a daze to sit on my sofa and rest. 

Living with chronic illness is hard.  But this has never stopped me before, I've come through worse. Besides I'm treating myself with a new therapy - Granny Square Therapy...

Making mini squares

I got home, I picked up a hook, found some Kentish alpaca yarn and just started making mini squares, loads of them.  I lost myself in the repetitive hooking and endless weaving in of ends. As they are so teeny, just two rounds in each, the are very satisfying to make; no sooner have you started than you have a little pile of finished squares.  I made 48 squares in all.

Making mini squares

Then I crocheted them all together, added some edging and my favourite picot stitch and...

Granny Square wrist warmers

Granny Square wrist warmers

I now have a pair of soft, cosy hand warmers to get me through autumn and winter!

I crocheted together my mini granny squares leaving a small thumb gap, then I edged the thumb and top edge with a simple single stitch (I am talking in US terms here).

Close up of top edge

For the bottom edge I used my favourite picot edge stitch, pretty!

Close up of wrist edging (picot stitch)

Of course no less than three days later the weather turned and instead of the lovely autumnal drizzly fresh weather we are SUPPOSED to be experiencing, we are now in the midst of a heatwave.  You have me to thank for that.  Just think what might have happened had I made an entire jumper.

All this talk of Crochet as Cure reminds me that I need to share with you the progress of the Big Happy blanket, I haven't forgotten of course :)

Right, best make the most of this blasted heat and get the next load of washing out.....


Monday, 26 September 2011

Crochet jar covers

I'm in love...again.

Another pattern I simply had to make immediately :)

And with all these baby yoghurt jars lying about waiting for a new life, well, what better thing to do...

Crochet jar covers

...than to make them into gorgeous candle holders...

Crochet jar covers

Crochet jar covers

The pattern is on Ravelry and it's only about £3 - click here to go and get it for yourself!  It's simple to do, although you need to use crochet thread and size 2mm and 1.5mm hooks, which takes a bit of practice let me tell you...very fiddly!  But sooo worth it!

Next I am going to make some with pink thread for the girls' room (with battery operated candles of course..) 

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Horge - a crochet creature

Sometimes I come across a crochet pattern I just have to have.  My eyes go all starey, I get the look of a hunter about me, my debit card twitches in my purse... Horge was one of those patterns. 

Horge - crochet creature 4

The pattern is from Mr Fox's Toy Emporium on Etsy, a UK seller whose shop is stuffed (geddit?) full of wonderous, and sometimes scary, crochet creatures.

Horge - crochet creature 3

Horge - crochet creature 2 

Horge is small so is incredibly quick to make - I made mine over the course of two evenings in front of the telly. I couldn't find the recommended 16mm eyes, so mine are 10mm (from Hobbycraft) but I think they work just as well (dare I say even better...)

 Horge - crochet creature 1

If you too now have the starey eyed look of one desperate to make your own Horge you can buy the pattern here.

Thanks for those who left comments on the last post, at least now I know it is possible...even if I can't do it myself.  I am still trying to sort out my laptop problems, in the meantime I am stealing time on my mum's work (during breaks of course...ahem). 

Speaking of work, I am still slowly trying to find the balance between working four days a week, commuting, doing the school run, being a mum in general, crafting and well as being rather unwell with this blasted ulcerative colitis.  Will there ever be a balance?  Probably not.  In the meantime I am finding lots of cheats to get through.  Today for example I took these pictures using my iPhone 4 on the window-sill at work...the light is pretty good at 7:30am. If you look closely you can see the London Gherkin building...

Horge - crochet creature 5

Horge is now off to live with his new owner, K, who writes over at Grillyfish.  K is my friend and co-worker (and talented children's book illustrator/writer) who is selfishly abandoning us in return for nothing more than a higher salary and a better job, pffft, some people...



Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Super Chocolately Brownies

Hello hello!  Lovely and sunny here in Kent today, sunny and fresh and very autumnal, just the way I like it.  I've been doing a bit of blog maintenance at last, I stole my mum's lovely fresh, new, working laptop and have at last been able to get some stuff done without waiting 20 minutes for each page to load.  So if you look above *points enthusiastically upwards* you will see some new buttons! 

There's an About Me page full of useful stuff about me, why I started this blog, links to some of my favourite bits etc.  I also made a page just for the Happy Hooker Backwards Project so I can log all my efforts in one place - I was actually rather surprised to see I am onto the FIFTH project!

I also changed my comments settings so that anybody can least I thought so...but now it seems I can't comment on my own blog...How does that make any sense at all?  So if anybody could tell me their settings I would be very grateful so I can work out what I am doing wrong.  Also if you get a minute if could attempt to leave a comment to see if it works that would be very handy too.

Enough of this jibber jabber anyway.  I thought today I would share with you a recipe.  I was sat here fancying a little something sweet and I thought I would rustle up my super chocolately brownies.  These are extremely easy to make and very cheap too, plus the recipe uses mainly cup measurements so no fussing about with scales.  I've always made them from memory so the process and ingredients keep changing but here's the recipe I used today...enjoy!

Super chocolately brownies
  • 200g butter (I used Stork as I always have some in the fridge)
  • Half a cup of cocoa powder
  • Two large pinches of salt
  • One teaspoon of vanilla essence
  • Two cups (yes two!) of soft brown sugar
  • One cup of plain flour
  • 2 medium eggs
  • A heaped half cup of chopped walnuts
Preheat the oven to 190 degrees and grease a shallow baking tray with butter.

Melt the butter and cocoa powder over a low heat in a large saucepan, do this gently and don't let it start to boil. 

Once it's all melted together add in the salt, sugar and vanilla, I really love Sainsbury's Madagascan I'm not being sponsored by Sainsbury's!  It's just what I like to use :)

Stir the lot together and take the pan off the heat, then sift in the flour and mix that in too.  Add the eggs and give it a really good beat until everything is smooth and silky looking.  Then stir in the walnuts.

Pour the mixture into the baking tray and spread it evenly.

Put it in the oven for 20-25 minutes.  Then let it cool in the tine before cutting into squares and scoffing down with a cup of tea.

 All very quick and simple, perfect for when you need a quick sugar fix.  This recipe works really well with other nuts, like pecans, too...or if you are really desperate and the local shop is shut you could always just make them without the nuts.  And if you are feeling really decadent you can finish the brownies off with a drizzle of chocolate icing...mmmm!  Enjoy!

Saturday, 17 September 2011

I'm a mei tai convert!

You may remember that I finally finished my mei tai baby sling back in July and was mightily pleased with the result. It was Gretchen (who writes the June at Noon blog) that first floated the idea of the mei tai in my direction but I wasn't convinced I possessed the sewing know-how to make one. Then the mum of one of Lillia's school friends showed me the mei tai she had made to carry her 4-year-old during last year's snow fall, she showed me just how simple they were and I decided I might have a go after all. And now me and my mei tai are inseperable. It gets slung in the baby bag as one of the essentials - nappies, wipes, drink, sling... During the summer it really came into its own and I became a fully fledged baby carrier!

Here I am at Elham Valley Vineyard carrying a sleeping Phoebe in her mei tai and a tired Lillia...

Mai tei making it possible to hold a sleeping baby & tired 5-year-old

Waiting for the miniature steam train to Dungeness...

Waiting for the steam train

Soaking up the sunshine on the beach at Folkstone...

Folkstone (mei tai in action!)

After a day walking around Port Lympne animal park it was ideal for Lillia and her aching feet, now that's how you give a piggy back!

Mei tai being used by a 5-year-old with tired feet :)

Mei tai on the "Monkey Trail"...

Mei tai and the Monkey Trail at Port Lympne

Mr Snipsnaphappy is a convert too...

Hubby with our two girls :)

And lastly, and perhaps most importantly, my mai tei frees up my hands for holding my wine can't ask for more than that!

The mei tai!

How did I survive before? Even popping to the supermarket I quickly pop Phoebe in her mei tai, it's quicker than getting the pushchair out of the boot and she just loves it. I have two more of these to make for my sister-in-law and one of my best mates so there will soon be more converts I am sure. If you fancy making one yourself the links to the tutorials I used are in my previous post here.


Thursday, 15 September 2011

A summer in Kent


My laptop and I are very nearly ready to part ways. After 7 years (how long is that in laptop years? 100?) it is now coming to a spluttering halt. I am going to need to fork out some cash this month to get a new one but until I get paid that just isn't an option.

Well I am sad to tell you that I am back at work after ten months off on maternity leave. But I am happy to tell you that the smiling person with the two beautiful girls below is Me!

Phoebe, Me, Lillia & the Best Tree in the World Ever! 

We had a wonderful summer break and I thoroughly enjoyed the last few weeks of being a stay-at-home mum. I have very mixed feelings about my return to work. I work four days a week, three of which I work in an office in London and on those days I leave so early in the morning my girls aren't even awake and I am home with half an hour to spare before bedtime. It's not the life I had planned. But more on that another time. I have so much to share! So many crafty projects, crocheted loveliness, navel gazing and lots of other things.

Today I thought I'd start with a mammoth post to share with you our wonderful summer break down by the coast near Dover in Kent. The photo above was taken at Goodnestone Park, a real surprise of a place where we spent a wonderful day. The tree we are on is quite possibly the most wonderful tree I have ever come across, I mean seriously, look at it...

Best Tree in the World Ever! 

Best Tree in the World Ever!

I love big old trees and we stayed playing around and on it for quite some time before continuing our adventures around the grounds. Goodnestone Park has a big grand old house and the most gorgeous walled garden, one day I would love to live in a house with a walled garden, though perhaps on a slightly smaller scale :)

 Goodnestone Park, Kent, UK

Walled Garden at Goodnestone Park 

Walled Garden at Goodnestone Park 

Walled Garden at Goodnestone Park 

Walled Garden at Goodnestone Park 

Walled Garden at Goodnestone Park

When we were tired of walking around it was time for a spot of tea and cake (of course)...

Goodnestone Park, Kent, UK 

I was delighted to find an array of mismatched china teacups lined up alongside the cakes, as well as other cute little country style details...

Goodnestone Park, Kent, UK 

Goodnestone Park, Kent, UK 

Goodnestone Park, Kent, UK

It was one of those days where you decide last minute to go somewhere and it turns out to be a gem.

We stayed in a cottage on an arable farm in Kent, a beautiful location with loads of walks right outside the front door. Lillia used to hate walking and I don't think she's the world's biggest fan now to be honest, but she did enjoy investigating and finding big lumps of chalk to take home and use on her chalkboard.

Our cottage 

The farm  

A walk around the farm

Meeting the local residents...

 Lillia meeting the local residents

Our neighbours...

 A home for ducks

We visited quite a few award winning vineyards whilst on holiday. I love my wine as you know and I really love good English wine - Chapel Down and Biddenden being among my favourite producers. We've been for lunch at Elham Valley Vineyard a few times too, which is a lovely place to visit. Though my favourite English wine of the moment is definitely from Barnsole Vineyard in Kent, well worth popping down there and buying a case or two of their award-winning tipple.

Handmade masks at Elham Valley Vineyard...

Masks at Elham Valley Vineyard 

One of my favourite day trips was when we took the mini steam railway from Hythe to Dungeness. If you have never heard of Dungeness it is one of the largest areas of shingle in the world, it's on the coast of Kent and is home to a large nucleur power well as many very rare varieties of plants and insects I believe. If you haven't been, go. Seriously, it's the strangest place you will ever visit.

Dungeness - the weirdest (but wonderful!) place on Earth 

Dungeness - the weirdest (but wonderful!) place on Earth 

Dungeness - the weirdest (but wonderful!) place on Earth 

Dungeness - the weirdest (but wonderful!) place on Earth 

Dungeness - the weirdest (but wonderful!) place on Earth 

Dungeness Lighthouse 

Steam train to Dungeness

On our travels around the county we also spend a glorious few hours on the beach at Dymchurch (aptly titled "Children's Paradise) where Lillia built this rather amazing creation...

Sandcastle masterpiece 

But by far one of my favourite places to visit in Kent is Port Lympne animal park in Lympne. It is set in endless beautiful grounds overlooking the edge of Kent and out to sea. Every time I go there I enjoy it and it always seems to be sunny, granted £8 for 3 ice-creams nearly made me faint, but you can't fault it otherwise :)

The view from Port Lympne out to sea...

The view from Port Lympne out across the Kent countryside to the sea 

View from Port Lympne out across the Kent countryside to the sea 


 Monkeys at Port Lympne

On safari...

 Giraffe on safari at Port Lympne

So it has been quite a summer, and to be honest even if my laptop had survived I probably wouldn't have had time for much blogging of any kind until now anyway. And now I am back at work my time is more precious than ever, but the call of blogging is too strong to resist!

I hope you've enjoyed my photo tour of Kent, see you very soon :)

Windmill, Kent, UK