Archive for the ‘crafts’ Category

Yoghurt and crochet

For Christmas I requested and received a yoghurt maker from Lakeland.  I had the equipment to make yoghurt years ago after mum bought me a contraption that looked a bit like heated rollers with individual glass pots at a jumble sale.  When I turned it on to test it there was a slightly odd singeing smell which made me nervous so rather than make a decision about it, I tucked it in the back of the cupboard where it stayed unused for years.  I do this often, but I’m not sure why.  Perhaps I’m under the impression it will improve with age.  It’s gone now and has been for some time although I can’t recall exactly when I decided it wasn’t worth keeping.

Part of my ‘do a thing’ resolution is to stop clinging to these old and unnecessary items.  If I ever need the item and have thrown away the old and decrepid version, let’s face it, nowadays we aren’t far away from the new and improved model for probably a third of the price.

Back to my yoghurt maker.  Normally I would plan to make yoghurt for some time, read the instructions, contemplate them and then maybe get around to doing it.  Not this time!  Out of the box, cleaned as per instructions before first use and switched on.  Two teaspoons of live yoghurt, a pint and a half of boiled milk and eight hours later I had a large pot of my very own yoghurt.  It’s good too, creamy and fresh, and I have the satisfaction of knowing I made it myself from our own milk.  Now I’ve done it once it’ll be more straightforward next time.  I’ve even frozen some to use as starter for the next batch.  I also received butter-making and cheese-making equipment so that’s on my schedule, but I’ll keep you informed.

Another thing on my virtual list (it hasn’t yet made it to paper) is to do something with my very basic knowledge of crochet.  I’ve been researching various stitches online and yesterday I designed (as I went along, truth be known) a crochet flower to use as a brooch.


It looks black but it’s a shade of blue.  S’alright, isn’t it?  I’m quite chuffed. 

Today my ‘thing’ will be to pack away Christmas and sort out the cupboard I store everything in.  At this rate, by next Christmas I might have a handle on it.


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Use ’em up!

I’ve been quite productive lately with my cardmaking and have spent many quiet hours concentrating on getting the effect I want.  This morning I’ve been playing with a stamp by Serendipity called ‘Winter Fenceline’ which I first saw on Pinterest and had to have.  I decided to do the background with watercolour pencils so rummaged around in the drawer to find a set. 

I ended up using a set that had belonged to my grandad who died in 1996 and as I started using them I heard his voice in my head telling me off.  As children we were never allowed to touch his stuff even if it wasn’t particularly expensive so consequently this set of pencils is almost intact.  I can’t help feeling that sense of preserving everything and keeping it ‘for best’ didn’t actually do him a lot of good.  I don’t mean that in a disrespectful way but he should have used them all the time until they were gone, which is what I intend to do.

The finished results are quite different and will be put on to cards when they’re dry.  I’ll probably be doing more – in fact I may keep going until the watercolour pencils are nothing but nubs.  Then I’ll throw them away.

I’ll enjoy that.

Here are the first two –


The greeting is from Stampin’ Up’s Wetlands set and works brilliantly with this I think, even though it’s crooked on one picture.

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I’ve started going to a craft group during the day organised by my friend Myra once a month in a nearby hotel owned by her brother. Most of the time we make cards but in order to do something different she arranged for someone to show us how to make Easter cake decorations from fondant icing.  As you may recall, my favourite place in the house definitely isn’t the kitchen, but I wanted to go along for the experience – I’ll try anything once (well almost anything except maybe bungee jumping which I have no urge to attempt).

Much to my surprise I was rather good at it.  I seriously didn’t expect to be and I don’t wish to blow my own trumpet too loudly so here are the finished products so you can make your own mind up.  I enjoyed myself so much that I may even attempt it on my own.


My first effort.  It’s an Easter bunny obviously and stands about three inches high.


Easter ducklings.  Aren’t they cute?  These are smaller and are only about an inch tall.  Steph reckons the one in the middle looks a bit angry but I poked too big a hole for his eye which gives him a slightly manic expression.


My third ‘project’ is the chicken on the left.  I didn’t like him so much, which is why I didn’t take a photo of him on his own, but he looked better once his beak was snipped open.

I’m not sure I’ll eat them although I don’t know what to do with them if I don’t.  I may even have to bake a cake!

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Sunday 9 September 2012

I’d like to say I gave myself a ‘summer break’ from the old blogging thing, but truth is I’ve been either too busy, too lazy or too completely apathetic to get around to it.  However, today I’m feeling a little more enthusiastic so here goes (warning: could be a photo-heavy post!).

The girls came home with their respective partners shortly after my last blog entry and we went on the West Somerset Railway to Blue Anchor, then on from there in a coach to Chapel Cleeve Manor for the ghost tour.  Although the girls have been on the train before they were obviously too young to remember and spent most of the previous journey asking whether we were there yet.  This time they found it much more exciting; we trailed up and down the train comparing the various carriages, most of which are different, until we came to what Steph called ‘the Harry Potter section’.  I think this carriage would have originally been a first-class car and had compartments with doors.  The seats were extremely squishy but we had it to ourselves and their excitement was contagious so it felt like a proper adventure.

This is Stephanie and her partner Carl in the first choice of seats before we decided to move around the train.

And this is Alex and Mike who were sitting opposite Steph and Carl – they took photos of each other!

Blue Anchor station.

Alex got told off for sitting here “in case a train came along”.  “Without me noticing?” she asked.  “Well, they do move quite quickly” the Station Master said, despite all evidence to the contrary and the fact that the line was long, straight and you could see for about half a mile in either direction!

At Blue Anchor we waited until greeted by our guide in a long, black sweeping Victorian coat which he wore with flair despite the fact that it was really warm, who escorted us to our coach.  There were six of us and four other people on the tour and we were taken to the house.  As ghost tours go it wasn’t very scary – in fact it was quite hammy – but the little bit of the house we saw was interesting.

This is the ‘ghost’ of a bride who drowned herself in the pond after being told her fiance was killed in the war.  I wonder if the actress realised that whilst she was dancing around in front of the large window, her dress was almost transparent?

The following day we were going to go to Hestercombe House to look around the gardens, but the rain was pretty heavy so we decided somewhere indoors might be better.  This is Tyntesfield House near Bristol, a National Trust property.

By early afternoon the rain had stopped so we were able to look around the gardens.

The bees were out in force.

Once the girls had returned to Cheltenham life got fairly boring!  I’ve made several things – runner bean chutney from a recipe on the internet, mozzarella cheese (which actually tasted like mozzarella cheese, much to my surprise), and a large selection of birthday cards.

Gordon and I were invited to view a canal a friend had worked out during the early part of the year so we went to Chepstow, walked the canal, had some lunch then came home.  On the way along the canal bank I found some excellent fossils that had obviously been turfed up when they were clearing sludge from the waterways.  My friend told me one is called a devil’s toenail and the other is a small ammonite on top of a piece of a larger one.  I’ll photograph them soon to show you.

Part of a series of locks still waiting to be cleared.

My shadow on the opposite wall of a lock.  Looks harmless, but there was a drop of about twenty feet directly in front of me.

On Friday this week I went with friends to Clevedon to see the Waverley come in at the pier.  Even though I live fairly close I don’t think I’ve ever been to Clevedon and I’m told the Waverley is the only sea-going paddle-steamer left in the world.

It was quite impressive tying up alongside the pier at high tide.

Once the passengers were on board it set off and I was surprised how quickly it was going.

We walked along the seafront, had lunch and were still there to see the Waverley return in the afternoon from Wales.

This week Gordon and Daniel have been busy haymaking – just in time judging from the weather conditions outside now.  We’ve had a week of fairly dry weather and now the rain’s returned.  Luckily most of it is safely stacked in the barn.


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A Day Of Numbers

Sunday 29 April 2012

Following a stormy night Gordon discovered two cows had calved.  Three calves were born.  Two were twins obviously.  One twin was male and the other female.  The female was dead.  The male died later – it was a cold night and they were both small.  It may have been for the best as the female half of male/female twins is often unable to reproduce due to male hormones in her system.  They’re known as freemartins.  The surviving calf is another heifer and at the close of day was hale and hearty.  Let’s hope she stays that way.

The mother of the twins is ‘down’ with what looks like milk fever and if she isn’t up by tomorrow she’ll be put on a course of medication to get her back on her feet.  She’s an Alexandra, one of our older ones.  She’s a good cow with a permanent callous on the bridge of her nose where she’s learned that if she knocks the feeders in the milking parlour, more cake will fall down into her trough.  She can always be bribed with cake!

On top of that it has rained all day.  We went out at one stage as Gordon was getting a bit stir-crazy and the roads were covered with green: leaves and twigs from the hedgerows.  At milking time I snapped this photo of the cows in the rain looking a bit like water-buffulo with their ears down.

Yesterday evening I went to my once-a-month craft group where one of our members whose preferred hobby is scrapbooking gave us a lesson.  We were told what supplies we needed and she helped us through the design stage of a scrapbook page of our own.  I’ve seen this done before of course but never tried it myself, preferring the digital version on the computer and I have to say I enjoyed the evening a great deal.  I took two of my favourite photos, one of Steph and another of Alex, but the one of Steph didn’t quite go with the paper I’d chosen.  This is the result of the evening’s work, as yet unfinished although I’m pleased with it so far.

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Wednesday 28 March 2012

Well, here we are again, catching up.  Where does the time go?  I’ve been busy gardening/farming/socialising/shopping!

The garden is now pretty much ready to start planting things in, although I’ve yet to devise a way of stopping the cats crapping in all that lovely prepared soil as if it was a giant litter tray.  I thought large electric fences might work, but I’m sure that would come under some kind of animal cruelty law so am trying the netting from around large bales of hay.  One layer doesn’t work and two layers is struggling as they’re still digging through it.  Yelling at them isn’t working either.  Last year you may recall they scurried around enough in it to displace a percentage of the seedlings I’d taken the time to plant so once again I’m open to suggestions.

I’ve just signed my life away to a mobile phone contract for the first time ever.  I wanted a smart phone so I could connect easily to the internet when I was out and about, having coveted the ones belonging to the girls, so am now the proud owner of a Samsung Galaxy Ace.  It’s very shiny and fast especially when compared to the one I was using before.  I switched providers, which was traumatic enough in the first place, but having trawled up and down the high street in Bridgwater, most of which is mobile phone shops or charity shops the new provider offered the best deal.  Of course, when I phoned O2 to ask for a PAC code (important, apparently) in order to transfer my old number they were adamant they could have provided me with a better deal.  I explained that perhaps they should tell that to the guy in the O2 shop who assured me ‘yes madam, that is our cheapest pay monthly tariff’.  As it turned out, their cheapest tariff was about £6.50 dearer than that of Three so that’s who I’m with now even though the guy on the phone tried really hard to persuade me to stay with them since I’ve been one of their most loyal customers.  “Bit late now” I told him.

We have sixteen heifer calves so far and they’re all doing well, growing as they’re supposed to.  The cows are finally out in the sunshine, enjoying the grass and the warmth on their backs.  They were very excited to be out on their first day, but have already got very casual about it.  Ferdinand is up to his old tricks of blocking their way in then refusing to let them out into the fields after milking, but he gets bored with that eventually and they push past him.  As long as he doesn’t get aggressive we should be all right.

A week or so ago a group of us went to the Manor House Hotel near Okehampton.  You may recall I went there last year around the same time of year and came home with handmade goodies.  This time there weren’t as many activities available but I did falconry on the lawn with my friend Chris and took some photos, as well as archery on my own.  I silk-painted and did a small ‘creative’ embroidery, both of which were passable and may yet be framed, so I’ll post photos of those if I ever decide to do that.

This is Ethan, the Harris Hawk

This one is of Jasper, the Eagle Owl (yes, I know I called him Oscar, but on reading it again I realised that was wrong).  Apparently owls that hunt during the day usually have orange eyes.

The little American Kestrel was called Fidget and was the smallest bird in the group.  We held out our suitably gauntleted hands with delicacies such as chicks’ legs and chunks of meat and the birds swooped in to grab it up, posed for photographs for a minute then flew back to their handler.

This little robin was not quite hand-tamed, but definitely wasn’t bothered as it went about its business collecting worms.

Oh, and my internet is rubbish again, dropping constantly and irritating me half to death.  Gordon thinks this might be it now for the rest of the summer!  Ever the pessimist!

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That Darn Cat!

Friday 27 January 2012

On Wednesday evening I ‘hosted’ a craft evening at the house.  The group has been meeting for a long time in a nearby village hall, but over the past year the numbers have been dropping as so often happens with these sorts of things and the lady who runs the group was trying to decide whether to continue or not.  Rather than lose something I really enjoy I volunteered the use of my large dining room table and we were amazed that over ten ladies made it here on a horrible, wet evening.  We had a great time even though I was slightly stressed that everyone would leave covered in cat-hair as Thomas has taken to sleeping on the fabric dining-room chairs and even though I vacuumed them as thoroughly as I could, cat-hair tends to linger.

As you know, Thomas is large, hairy and molts a lot.  Add to that the fact that it’s quite wet outside at the moment so not only is the chair of the day covered in hair, more often than not there’s mud involved too.  The thing with Thomas is that he rarely lies on the same chair twice.  No sooner has one got dirty than he’s on another one.  He knows he’s not supposed to be on them as I hear him jump down when I’m walking into the room.  At least he has the grace to look guilty, but I know the moment I’m out of sight he’ll be back on there.  This morning I’d had enough and shut all the cats out all day, but even I’m not mean enough to shut them out overnight, especially in this weather.  I ranted to Gordon about the mess they make, especially since one (not sure if it is Thomas) has taken to walking over everything – work surfaces, the sink, tables – with muddy paws during the night.

Gordon tells me we have three choices:

we either cover the chairs

we get rid of all the cats

we put the doors back on our rooms to keep them confined to the kitchen.

Tough choice, but I decided the easiest option would be to cover the chairs with something that didn’t look particularly untidy but could be whipped off when visitors arrived, leaving lovely clean chairs ready to be sat on.  Consequently I’ve been on an internet quest to find something suitable.  It isn’t as easy as I thought it would be.  I can find chair covers in linen, faux suede, or taffeta with bows.  I can find plastic covers to protect the seats, but unfortunately just the seats, not the backs, which are also fabric.  The only thing that looks even vaguely suitable seems to be something that resembles a large plastic bag that decorators would use to cover chairs when they’re painting.  It isn’t quite what I was looking for, but may be my only option.  If you know different, please let me know.

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