A little catch up

Hello! Happy new year to you. I hope you had a nice Christmas? My favourite part is the build up. I love decorating the house, watching festive movies, listening to Christmas music. My favourite Christmas song has to be Last Christmas by Wham. I ordered myself a copy on vinyl the other day. It was very emotional listening to it this morning. George Michael played a huge part in my musical upbringing. I still can’t believe he’s gone. So very sad.


I hardly had chance to blog much before the big day, I was so busy. Would you like to see what I was up to?

Well, I actually managed to do all the baking I had planned. First came fudge. Chocolate and cranberry fudge to be precise. The cranberries were soaked in orange liqueur overnight so they had a little bit of a kick to them.


I gave these to some of my neighbours and friends, I hope they went down well.

Next there was good old fashioned peppermint creams. There’s a very unhealthy theme going on here…


And lastly, mince pies.


Although these look ok in the photo, I made the mistake of leaving them in the baking tin too long (multitasking) so they got stuck and just crumbled to pieces when I tried to remove them. Oh well, I shall remember for next time.

There was a fair bit of Christmas crafting happening in December too. My friend arranged a Christmas crafts day at her house for a few of us in aid of MIND (mental health charity). She provided all the materials (of which there was enough for the whole of my village to have joined in!) and we all brought some food for a little buffet lunch and made a donation to the charity. It was lovely. We made some string balls first which was rather messy. It involved balloons, glue, yarn/twine and glitter, great fun! Then there was jars with paper cuts of snowy scenes inside with fake snow and fairy lights, then the outside coated with glue, soda crystals and glitter. They were so pretty. And lastly was our snowman hot chocolate jars. Three jars stacked upon each other filled with hot chocolate powder, marshmallows and chocolate treats and candy canes. Then the jars were decorated with buttons and ribbon for a scarf. We slightly overestimated how much we could get done in a day, especially with a toddler around, so we ended up coming back another day to finish off. Sadly I didn’t get around to taking any photos of our makes.

I made a few gifts for people this year. You’ve already seen my nan’s one here, I’m pleased to say she liked it very much. I also had a play with oven baked clay. It was just some little decorations for my friends to hang on their tree with their children’s names on.


These didn’t turn out how I’d hoped, there’s definitely more practice needed here! The thought was there though.

I crocheted my mum and mum-in-law an infinity scarf and wrist warmers set each. I was quite pleased with how these turned out. Here’s my mums one.


The yarn I used was Stylecraft cabaret in rainforest, I absolutely love the colours. It has a slight glittery fleck to it which is really pretty. Here’s the other set…


I made this with a gorgeous chunky acrylic/wool blend called Shetland Mist. I got it when I went to Yarndale  in September. It was the first time I’d used a real chunky yarn and I loved it. It worked up really fast and is super soft.

With both of these I’d completely underestimated how much yarn I’d need so ended up buying more. I actually have a whole ball of the Shetland mist left over so I might make something for myself. Maybe a beanie?

I haven’t picked up a crochet hook for a few weeks now as I just haven’t had the opportunity. I’m actually a bit concerned that I’ll have forgotten how to do it if I don’t get back to it soon! I also have a new craft obsession. After playing with my friends big shot to make the paper cuts, I mentioned how much I enjoyed it to my hubby. On Christmas Day, I unwrapped my very own one! It’s very addictive I have to say, but also very expensive to buy all the dies. I got myself some gorgeous Christmassy ones in the sales but will gradually build up my collection, as and when I see a bargain.

I spent yesterday de-Christmasing the house. It’s a big job and I’ve still got cleaning to do but it feels so much better already. I do love a post-christmas de-clutter. Everywhere feels bigger and more organised. Just need a nice bunch of flowers now and then ‘normal’ can resume in our household. I’m looking forward to getting back into a routine, I have big plans for this year. Slimming world being one of them. I think I’m going to be brave and share my journey with you. It might give me that extra kick up the bum I need to keep going.

Right, although it’s been lovely being back in blogland for a bit, I must go and clean, tidy, mother, potty train and all that other stuff I do on a daily basis. Thanks for reading xx

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My week in pictures 

My first harvest of delicious sweet peas. They smell divine. I’m looking forward to having a constant supply of these beauties for a good while.

A tired toddler after lots of jumping in muddy puddles.

A spot of baking….. Oreo cake. Find the recipe here.

I got my colouring books out for the first time in yonks, anything’s better than watching the boxing.

Trying to vacuum with this lazy pooch. She was budging for nothing or no-one.

Birthday celebrations for our littlest of the bigger kids. Lovely teppanyaki restaurant near China town in Liverpool.

The youngest is becoming a teenager way before his time. He’s pinched my spot in the dining room with my cushions and my phone. So many videos of Thomas the tank engine on YouTube to watch!

I’ve re-covered the chair in the bathroom. No more wet towels on here kids, please??

Now this coaster was made about a month ago. I fully intended to make a whole set of them in different colours. They were to be gifted to a very lovely lady. Unfortunately, I ran out of time so instead she received just the one coaster, along with a couple of eggs from our girls wearing my Egg Cosies and one of my Lavender bags too. I hope she likes them 😊

The weather has been awful here. Rain, rain go away….


There’s been more pretty bunting being made. Not for me this time, for an order. Yes you heard that right, a paying customer 😊 !!


Some more baking, it’s hungry work sewing you know. Although these are quite healthy cookies, full of oats, seeds and fruit. The idea is that when I’m peckish I can grab one of these instead of chocolate.


And finally this…


I couldn’t resist lighting a fire last night while sewing. It was so cold, it felt like winter. Where’s our summer gone?

Vicki xx

Blanket boredom

I knew it’d happen, I’ve reached that stage where I’m just a bit bored of the Kermit cosy blanket. Don’t get me wrong, I am enjoying it. It’s THE perfect project for hooking up on the sofa while you’re watching TV. It’s easy, simple, repetitive, mind-numbing……it keeps your lap warm and cosy too. You don’t have to think about it. It’s just gotten to the kind of ‘samey’ stage. Here’s how it’s looking as we speak.

   
 I’m at the point where I’ve just about used a ball of each colour. Considering I only bought two balls of each I think I seriously misjudged how much I was going to need. I think I’ve probably made it a teeny bit wider than it needed to be which won’t have helped matters. I’ve decided that I’ll get to the end of the second balls and see what I think then. It might be that the stripes can go vertically instead.

Anyway, while I’m taking a little break from it, I decided to make a start on a whole new blanket. Well sort of new. Do you remember when I was doing the unidentified blanket here? Well I just gave up on that, This was what I ended up with..

  
I hate to waste anything though so I will turn it into a cushion of some sort to go with the new blanket. The new one has a name and I have a plan so it should stand a good chance of success! It’s my first C2C blanket. C2C means corner to corner, where you start at the corner (funnily enough) and increase each row until you get to the size you want, then decrease back down to the opposite corner. I followed a tutorial on YouTube by Bella Coco and got it after about the third row. Another very easy one, it’s actually all the same stitches as the cosy blanket, just trebles. It seems to be working up nice and fast too.


As requested by its future owner, it’s going to be made up of two solid blocks of colour which suits me just fine. (Hardly any ends to sew in!) Although not my favourite of colours, these yarns do have a pretty glittery shimmer, which is extremely tricky to photograph.

Can you just make it out there as the sun shines in on it?

I think I’ve probably mentioned before that it’s not very easy to get much hooking done while there’s toddlers around. Especially when they decide to go walkies with your wool!


It was actually quite cute for a second, until he took it all around the room, through his trains and round the table a couple of times! Hmmm. Despite that, I managed to untangle the mess and get to the end of the first 50g ball.


Long way still to go but not bad for a days progress. I know I’ll get bored with this one too after a while but if I keep swapping the two blankets over it shouldn’t be too bad. I might even get chance to do the rest of my egg cosies.

I’ve been back in the baking room too and made Mary Berry’s apple crumble which was delicious.  I also made some millionaires shortbread.

   
 Not the best idea as I’m trying to be good and lose a few pounds. Oh well, there’s always next week.

Have a great weekend and I hope all you with kids off school are holding up ok!

Vicki xx

Easter treats

Happy Easter everyone!

Yesterday I got that baking bug again, it’s becoming a bit of a habit at the weekends. It was a bit late in the day but I spent the whole evening in The Baking Room , donning my Cath Kidston apron and surrounded by flour, eggs and chocolate. I had some good music playing and multiple cups of tea so it was ok.

First up I made some brownies. These are not just any brownies. These are Creme egg brownies. You can find the recipe here. I didn’t go the whole hog and do the topping but I have done it a couple of years ago and it was oh so good. Super charged with sugar and all things naughty!


Next I made some Easter cupcakes. These too are extremely bad for the waistline, but hey, it’s Easter. Next week I will be starting work on reducing the waistline.


These are plain vanilla sponges with buttercream icing and topped with a cadburys flake and mini egg. Even though it was 11.30pm, I couldn’t resist rewarding myself. Well, I had worked very hard.


On the crochet front, I started to make some cute egg cosies a couple of months ago but put them on hold when I needed to get the two blooming flower cushions made for Mother’s Day. I’d hoped to get them finished in time for Easter but haven’t had the time. Here’s a little look at progress for now, and I’ll be back to show you properly when they’re finished.

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Happy Easter to you all 😊

Carrot cake and crochet

At the weekend I was once again in a baking mood so decided to have a go at something new, a carrot cake. On went the apron which immediately makes me feel much more like a domestic goddess. I used Mary Berrys recipe but just left out the walnuts as I’m not a big fan. In went the ingredients ready to mix, fresh eggs courtesy of our girls of course.

  
Once these were whizzed up, I added the carrots. I actually got asked by one of the kids if there’s actual carrot in carrot cake. It does make me worry slightly!

  
When I was adding the spices, the smell just took me back to my childhood and memories of my mum baking. They smelt heavenly. Then this image popped into my head…

  
Does anyone else remember Fred from Homepride? He had to feature in most kitchens in the 70’s, I’m sure!

Once the rest of the ingredients were all combined they were ready for the oven.

  
They don’t look too appetising at this stage do they?

While they’re baking, I’ll show you where I’m up to with my latest crochet project. I’m affectionately referring to it as the Cosy Kermit blanket!

  
It does look like it might glow in the dark doesn’t it?

  
It’s 16 stripes, 32 rows in so far. I don’t think I’ve made bad progress for about 12 days. I tried to get at least a couple of rows done each day. I’m still loving the easiness of this one too, not taxing on the brain at all when you’ve had a busy day. It’s just getting large enough to keep my lap warm too which is always a bonus.

Now, back to baking. As the cakes were cooling, I made the icing. Always the best bit in my opinion!

  

The decorating is the fun bit and I was so pleased to find my local sainsburys sold little chocolate carrots to finish it off perfectly.

Ta dah!……

   
    
 
The first slice went to Baby J, unfortunately before he got to eat it, the dog did! She seemed to like it anyway!

I’m actually quite pleased with my first attempt, it’s lovely and moist and the cream cheese icing is not too sweet, just right.

Before I leave you all, I wanted to share these beautiful daffodils with you.

  
My hubby brought them home from work for me. There’s that many I managed to split them into four vases so they bring a little sunshine all over the house.

Vicki xxx

This and that

This last week has been made up of all sorts really, here are a few highlights…


Date night with the hubby. We went to see the very talented Postmodern Jukebox. If you’ve never heard of them, please do give a listen to some of their stuff. It’s amazing. They take a modern song and give it a retro/vintage/bluesy/jazzy twist. It was a fantastic show, full of energy.


Over the weekend, I was a bit poorly and craved comfort food. It all went a bit Mary Berry in my kitchen, I did her Parmesan crusted chicken for dinner which was delicious, followed by blueberry muffins.


These weren’t so good, sorry Mary but I won’t be trying these again. I will be giving her carrot cake a go though this week. Yum!

I treated myself to a bunch of the prettiest tulips I think I’ve ever seen. Don’t they look perfect on my dining room mantle? Especially sitting in their jar with a woolly jar hugger.


I’ve been doing a bit more painting with the chalk paint too.


These are to go with an order from a friend for these painted Kilner jars. I really enjoy doing these. I’m looking forward to trying out some new colours too.

The weather here has been a real treat, blue skies, sunshine and a mild enough temperature to get out in the garden. My hubby has been very busy out there getting it tidied up from the winter. My contribution in the garden is not much, but I am a bit of a perfectionist with a broom. It looks so much better when it’s had a ‘vicki’ sweep! It’s quite a workout too as we have Astro turf and when the chickens have been out trashing the joint, half the flower beds end up on the grass.


This is Baby J’s first proper year for playing out in the garden, and he loves it. Last year we built him this beach hut playhouse and I just know he’s going to get so much use out of it this year.


I have a feeling that these next few months are going to be filled with lots of fun, outdoor play and plenty of warm fresh air. I can’t wait!!

Colourful Christmas blanket…Ta Dah!

Happy Christmas Eve everyone! I bring you this post with a completed blanket, just in the nick of time. I actually finished it around 1am this morning and then spent the rest of the night attempting to sleep in a toddler bed, with a toddler poking my eyes out and with an already sore neck. It’s safe to say, this morning I’m a wee bit grumpy.

So, when I last left you, I still had a little way to go with my squares. Just as I was about to finish the last one, disaster struck. I realised right near the centre I’d not done enough stitches and it’d thrown the whole thing out. Arghh!! I was devastated. So, I had to unpick it down to this and redo it. Not what I needed when the pressure was already on.

  
Even my hubby knew how I must have been feeling and gave me a reassuring rub on the arm. 

Once all 9 squares were finished and ends sewn in, I did my first bit of blocking. I’m not sure if I did it right, but they did look a bit better afterwards.

   

My nice little pile of squares, ready to join..

   

Once joined, this was the result.

   
 
It actually looked larger than I expected, bonus! I decided that to get this blanket bigger and better and fast, I needed to get back to the very reliable, good old granny stitch. 

  
I went round once in each colour. I was going to do the same again but time was pressing so I began the final descent. Two rows of double crochet then a nice bumpy border.

  
I really enjoyed doing this border, apart from the fact it meant I was close to finishing, it had a nice flow to it. Perfect for doing while watching Christmas movies.

So here it is, my Christmas pressie to my lovely nan-in-law…

   
    
    
    
 
I’m really quite happy with this. I’ve enjoyed making it even though there were some tricky bits too. I’ve especially loved working with the stylecraft yarn, I’m definitely a convert.

Well, I’m going to sign off now. All my presents are wrapped, food shopping done. Time to maybe make some gingerbread men and peppermint creams. And if I’m lucky, a glass of mulled wine in front of a black and white Christmas movie.

Have a wonderful Christmas everyone xxx

    

Nans stew

The nights are drawing in, the holiday tan is fading fast, the Ugg boots are on and the central heating is keeping us toastie warm. It’s this time of year when you really need comfort food so I thought I’d share something very special with you. My dear nans recipe for beef stew and dumplings. It’s too good to keep it a secret. My nan Irene has been gone for over sixteen years now but her famous beef stew and dumplings lives on.

This can be cooked in the slow cooker if you wish but I’m doing it on the stove, like nan. Here’s what you’ll need.

  
The quantities very much depend on how much you want to make. I was cooking for 7 hungry people plus leftovers.

Approx 1 kg fresh diced beef

Approx 1 cup pearl barley 

Approx 1 cup red split lentils 

1 pack prepared diced carrot and swede

1 large onion 

Mushrooms (optional)

1 box tomato cup a soups 

1 beef oxo cube 

1 beef stock pot

Approx 3 pints water

1 pack dumpling mix

Maris piper potatoes 

Lard

Salt & pepper 

Season-all

  
I started off with all the beef in my super duper massive pot. I could probably make a stew for about 50 people in this pot! 

  Cover it with the water, a lid, and heat for about 10 minutes. You’ll get a yucky, brown froth on the top of the water, just scoop that off and rinse away. Now add the lentils and pearl barley. These are an essential part of every stew.

  
  
Next add your chopped onion, diced swede and carrots, then mushrooms. I sometimes buy a whole swede and bag of carrots and chop myself which does actually taste better I think but often time is an issue so today I cheated. The mushrooms weren’t part of my nans original recipe but I added them as we love them and it seems to work. Cook for a further 20 minutes. 

Time to pop in your oxo cube, stock pot and all four sachets of the tomato cup a soups. In my nans day you could buy one large packet of tomato soup powder but I haven’t seen it for years so had to improvise. I think this is what really gives it it’s great flavour.

  
It’s important to keep stirring the stew as it gets stuck to the bottom. We always have our stew with roasties but my nan used to do boiled potatoes. For the roasties I peel & chop the potatoes then parboil them for about 10 minutes. While they’re doing, I heat the lard in a roasting tin. I know lard isn’t the healthiest option but in my opinion it’s the tastiest. When the potatoes are done, drain the water, then with the lid on, give them a good shake until they’re all fluffy.

  
Transfer these straight into the hot lard and shake the tin so all the potatoes are covered in the lard. I sprinkle over salt, pepper and season all.

  
  
Pop straight into the oven and cook at 200 degrees for an hour or so, giving them a shake every 20 minutes.

For the dumplings, I cheat again and use a packet mix where you just add water. I find these just as yummy. You can also get frozen ones but they’re not as nice. Make them up as per the instructions and pop on top of your stew for the last 30 minutes.

So once it’s all ready, serve with some fresh, crusty bread.

   
    
   
I thought I’d light my autumn leafy candles as we had company, and lit a fire too. It’s so lovely and cosy.

So there you go, my nans beef stew and dumplings. Go forth and make it, share it, tell your friends and pass it down through your family. 

Miss you nan xx

  

The Baking Room

Hello! Well it’s finally time to show you all the work that’s happened in our kitchen, or as I like to think of it now, the baking room! I’ve been in the mood for baking lots recently, wonder if it’s anything to do with the new kitchen? Let’s hope this mood is here to stay.

I took just a couple of before pictures, just before it got ripped out and taken back to nothing.

   
 
We decided to keep the floor as it was, the range cooker, dishwasher and the island. Everything else has changed though. We’re lucky to have a really good sized kitchen and it has high ceilings so we tried our best to make the most of that and chose an ikea kitchen which is a bit more flexible. That also helped us overcome our odd shaped room. It has a funny angle on one side.

Here’s a few progress pictures to see how it came together.   
   Now I know the units are incredibly high but it creates a lot of useful storage which would be just dead space otherwise. We’ve already filled all those cupboards, it’s amazing how easy it was. I have a handy little step-stool to help me reach.
So here’s the finished product… 

    
    
    
    

 The work tops are solid oak so weren’t cheap but I’m so happy with how they look. They took about 6 coats of oil before we could use them and will need a light sand and oil every year but they’ll last us for at least 20 years if we look after them well.
I’m loving the Belfast style sink too, it’s huge! 

   
It took surprisingly more effort than it should have but I got my shelf above the sink to have all my jars on. Been waiting ages to use my chalk pen & labels. 

 On the other side of the kitchen is one of my favourite parts, the dresser unit. 

    
 Finally got all my lovely collections on proud display, including my beautiful TG Green Cornishware. My hubby and I have been collecting this for as long as we’ve been together. I’m always on the look out for more to add to it, if anyone sees a coffee pot lid please let me know!

Did you spot the wallpaper? It’s lovely isn’t it? 

 I saw it in my Ideal Home magazine and had been looking for ages without any luck. I just knew it was the one as soon as I saw it. It was available online only, and was quite expensive but I’m so glad we went for it. It really finishes the look off. 

 Makes a nice backdrop for my vintage tins bought at auction a few years ago. As you can see I’ve used every last bit of available display space! Here’s my jug collection on top of another cupboard.  


And finally, after some gentle nagging, my hubby put up my tin signs which I love so much. 

   I’m so happy that it’s all finished now, it was quite stressfull while the work was getting done, but so worth it. 

I’m off to The Baking Room now to get my apron on and bake some yummy cakes and cookies. See you all soon, Vicki xx
  
 
 

Happy weekendy stuff

I woke up on Friday morning and looked out of the window to see a grey, rainy and generally yucky day outside. But something was telling me I needed to get out there. Like I needed to breath in big lungfulls of damp, warm, fresh air. So after breakfast that’s exactly what we did. I needed to go to the shops for a few baking and bbq bits so with coats and rain-covers, we headed off by foot instead of the car. It felt good. It was so peaceful and still, the rain had stopped but everywhere underfoot was wet. I absolutely love the smell you get after the rains have been. A real earthy, leafy smell. The smell of the outdoors and nature. It’s only about a twenty minute walk to our closest supermarket, and a rather nice walk it is too.

  
I’m sure we’ll be paying many visits to these fields with Baby J and a ball.

  
It was spookily quiet out, not another soul to be seen.

After we’d been to the shops we walked back the same way, admiring the gorgeous colours sprouting from the old walls.

  
I’ve been wanting to have a go at making elderflower cordial, so have been on the lookout for elderflower growing in the hedgerows. I’m not 100% sure what I’m looking for really. I saw this on our way home but need to do a bit more research. If anyone out there knows if this is the right stuff, do let me know!

 
Once home and Baby J tucked up in bed, I made this yummy cake ready for my step-sons 13th birthday.

  
Not bad for a packet mix. Tasted good and got brownie points for adding mini Oreos & chocolate fingers. We finished the day with another bbq as the weather had been kind for the rest of the afternoon.

Saturday morning was glorious. Look at that blue sky …

  
We were able to eat breakfast, lunch & tea outside which was lovely. 

  It was very warm, and I managed to get a wee bit sunburnt, oops! I sat outdoors and did one of my favourite summertime things, podding peas! I remember helping my nan do it when I was a little girl & have loved it ever since.

  
Look at those perfect peas ready to be popped from their pod!

  
It’s a wonder that so many made it into the bowl. They’re so scrummy to eat straight from the pod. A lovely way to spend half an hour, with a little magazine time of course. August’s issue landed on my doormat this morning, can you believe it!! I’ve never got why they’re so ahead.

Late afternoon we decided to bundle everyone into the car, dogs and all, and head ten minutes to the beach. It was so nice, very breezy, but not too many people about. Perfect for the dogs to have a good run & Baby J to have his first proper paddle. He loved it!

   
 

He cried when we had to leave, aw, I did feel bad. We’ll definitely go back soon and for longer.

Sunday morning was forecast for heavy rain, but it wasn’t actually too bad. So me, hubby, baby j & the dogs piled back in the car and went off to west kirby marina for a walk. It was still tough to get parked even with the weather.

   
  

 

It is a good place to come for a walk, just the right length. It takes about 30-40 minutes to get around the whole lake. You can see right across to Wales from here, it’s an amazing sight.

   
   

Well that’s it for my tales for now. I hope you enjoy taking a little peek into my life and out & about on my mini travels. I know I like having this blog to be able to look back on. I really will be doing some crafting this week too so I’ll be back soon to tell you all about that and show you my fantabulous new kitchen too. 

Xxx