Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Say hello to my little friend: Deer Amigurumi

Last month the lovely Amanda (@pidgecrick on Twitter) posted a picture of an amigurumi deer pattern from June's Inside Crochet. A keen fan of cute and/or kitsch deer, especially the Babycham one, I knew I HAD to make it so eagerly awaited this month's issue. When I finally tracked down a copy this week (all the local shops stock an abundance of knitting magazines but never crochet  ones), I was a bit disappointed with the rest of the patterns. I had a flick through Simply Crochet and was delighted to discover the exact same deer pattern in there too. Yay! There were more patterns in there I liked so I plumped for Simply instead. 

I got straight to work on my little deer and was amazed at how quickly it worked up - it's a long while since I made anything this small! The pattern was pretty straightforward, although I had to improvise a bit as my first attempt at his ears were nearly as big as the deer himself. Once I had all the pieces completed, however, I remembered why I rarely make amigurumi: I do not enjoy assembling them. 

I think he turned out OK though and I'm pleased I actually managed to finish something for the first time in ages. My current list of ongoing projects is getting bigger by the week but I've come to realise that I need lots of different things on the go to stop me getting bored. Switching between two crochet throws, two knitted scarves, a crochet cushion cover and several hand embroideries seems to be working so far but it might be a while before I get any of them finished!


Monday, 10 June 2013

Summer's here!

Or at least, I hope it is. The last few years we've had a week of glorious weather only to be plunged into grey, drizzly misery for the rest of the year so I've been taking full advantage of the warm, sunny days and working mainly from my garden or the nearby beach. Ah, the benefits of working from home!

Glyn and I joined the National Trust on our visit to Lyme Park last month (hello middle age!) and I'm quite excited about the prospect of free days out for the next year.  This weekend, we headed into North Wales intending to spend a lazy day picnicking in the sun. We ended up in Bodnant Garden, just a short distance inland from Llandudno. I'm more of a wild, untamed nature lover than a pretty garden fan but oh my word! Bondant is without doubt one of the most beautiful places I've ever been. June is a great time of year to go, as the flowers are in full bloom, the trees are lush and green and the entire place is just a riot of colour, but pictures from autumn look pretty spectacular too. Covering 80 acres of land, we only made a dent in the gardens but I'm sure we'll be back before the summer is out. 





Friday, 31 May 2013

Lycian Jollies

I could literally talk about Turkey, and the Lycian Coast specifically, for days but will try to resist. Glyn and I had a slightly more luxurious and sedate holiday in Kalkan than usual as we were joined by my parents and stayed in a fantastic villa for 10 days. 

Highlights: Catching up with all our lovely Turkish friends, having tortoises in the garden, celebrating our friend Sarah's birthday with fireworks and sparklers, adopting lots of cats, drinking endless glasses of Turkish รงay and jumping out of bed and (literally) straight into the pool. 

Low points: Getting a little burnt for the first time in 10 years (the shame!), coming home.

"Smelly", one of our villa cats
Ataturk statue in Kas
Wheelbarrow o' towels
Pretty shop and a pretty cat
I want a pink shop!
Mediterranean Blue 

Turkish Cay is the new Yorkshire Tea

Lunch under the pergola
The view from my bed

Villa cat no.2, named Teeny

My mum and dad
Sarah's amazing birthday cake
Me and Glyn
Me and my lovely mum
Do you think it's dinner time?
Flaming veggie moussaka, bit scary on a breezy evening

Monday, 13 May 2013

The Perfect Cup of Tea

I came across this short BFI film from 1941 this week and thought it deserved a share! All the golden rules of tea-making are in here.

"Don't spoil good tea by bad preparation."

Tea Making Tips (1941)


Thursday, 9 May 2013

The Ultimate Brownie Recipe

I'm a tough crowd when it comes to brownies. They have to be extremely chocolatey, moist, squidgy and rich, or what's the point? Shop-bought brownies are usually dry, heavy and disappointing, and many homemade ones are just as bad. I had never baked brownies before as I'd eaten so many rubbish ones that I thought it was inevitable that they turned out dry and flavourless unless you added huge amounts of oil. Then I discovered that there was a secret ingredient you could add to your brownie mixture in place of oil. It retained the rich, moist texture oil provides while also lightening the calories and fat:

I located a few mayo-brownie recipes online but all used full-fat mayonnaise. I only had Hellmann's Light in the fridge so tried that and it worked just fine, plus, it lightened the calories and fat even further. By the way, did you know Hellmann's only use free-range eggs in their mayo and have done for the past few years?

These brownies are among the best I've ever tasted. If you like your brownies rich, gooey, dense and chocolatey, this is the recipe for you!
Ultimate Brownie Recipe, adapted from this one


Makes 24 brownie bites or 12 large brownies

  • 85g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), broken into small pieces
  • 85g plain flour
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 40g light muscovado sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 medium free-range egg
  • 2 tbsp buttermilk (I made my own substitute with semi-skimmed milk and a squirt of lemon juice)
  • 100g light mayonnaise
  • Handful of chocolate chips (optional)

1. Heat oven to Gas Mark 4/180C. Melt the chopped chocolate in a large bowl over a pan of hot water, stirring occasionally and being careful not to over-heat as the chocolate will go gritty. Once it's melted, leave it to cool slightly.

2. Line the base of a square cake tin with baking parchment  and lightly grease the sides. Add the caster and muscovado sugars to the melted chocolate and stir in with a wooden spoon. Add the vanilla extract and buttermilk and one tablespoon of warm water. Beat in the egg then gently stir in the mayonnaise. Finally, add the flour, cocoa powder and bicarbonate of soda. Gently fold in until well combined. Add the chocolate chips if using and gently stir in.

3. Pour the mixture into the tin, gently spreading it into the corners. Bake for 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean with a few chocolatey crumbs stuck to it.

4. Leave to cool then tip out onto a large plate and slice into the desired number of squares. The brownies will keep for three days in an airtight container...if they last that long.