...seen through a slightly smudged, secondhand pair of rose-tinted glasses

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

St George's Day egg cosy

I'm on a bit of a roll with my Saint's Day cosies. Lovely feedback about the Leprechaun last month, so, thought I'd have a crack at St George.

And also seeing how many egg puns I can get in a post…

St George's Day egg cosy
St Patrick's Day egg cosy

I crocheted the head and the egg cosy body for a good fit - the other bits are knitted because I'm a little more confident about my knitting abilities. The sword is a covered cocktail stick (point cut off!)

Have to admit I had to look up when St George's Day was, and it seems I'm not alone - apparently two thirds of us don't know the date. Probably because there's no national holiday - sure we'd all know it if we got a day off, like Scotland and Ireland.

A few other facts about the patron saint of England found out along the way:

He wasn't English.

Born in what's now Turkey in the third century, he became a Roman soldier and was eventually imprisoned, tortured and executed for protesting against the treatment of Christians.

St George has been the patron saint of England since the Middle Ages because he represents the traditional English ideals of honour, bravery and gallantry.

The myth of him slaying a dragon and saving the princess symbolises good driving away evil. In medieval mythology, the devil was depicted as a dragon.

Other myths about St George include: surviving being boiled alive in molten lead, forced to swallow poison and crushed between two spiked wheels before finally being beheaded.

By the by, Shakespeare's birthday is said to be on the 23rd April too.

So, time to celebrate, maybe with an egg? (possibly chocolate?) …if you're English that is, which I'm not. Anyway my 9 year old wants St George, which is fine seeing as he's more English than me. And he's my only egg eater.

Now I just need to work out how to knit a kilt…

Monday, 21 April 2014

Disney Dreaming

Lovely to get away for a bit, and we were blessed with the weather - the sun shone every day; even a faint watch strap mark to show for it.
We aren't usually so lucky with Easter trips to France; I packed plenty of jumpers and coats just in case, but blue skies and sun meant we weren't stuck indoors at all. Still, we didn't do much - everyone was tired - so just enough to keep the kids happy, with the promise of a big-time treat at the end of the holiday. Worked wonders you know!

The youngest two were bursting with excitement about going to Disneyland Paris - the almost 12 year old doesn't do bursting with excitement anymore. Seriously not cool.

This was our first ever family trip to a big theme park - I don't know how we've got away with it for so long. Well, actually I do. I hate rides, and all that themed razzmatazz. Yeah, yeah, I know it's not about me, and even for an old sceptic, Disneyland is an experience - spectacular, familiar, gigantic, magical...and mobbed, obviously. It was the Easter holidays after all, and another blistering hot day. Really, when it's busy it's not possible to do many rides. We managed a good 8 hour stretch in the various parks, and spent most of our time queuing or walking.

We walked miles - something I didn't think about, so wasn't wearing the most sensible foot attire! But I did bring plenty of food and drink, because I am the Picnic Lady. A law-abiding one though, so when my husband said he'd seen a 'no food' sign as we approached the Bag Search area, I was about to turn on my heel and take all the stuff back to the car... He was winding me up...as long as it's not a hamper, you can take snacks in, and it's worth it to stave off the nagging for expensive food stops - you're talking over 15 euros just for five drinks. Anyway, if you don't get nagged for food, you're bound to get nagged for Disney merchandise - honestly the shops are easier to find than the rides. So many of them, all selling the same stuff. Spending a whole day in fantasyland is a type of retail torture; wearing you down until you eventually give in.
I'm being an old grump again (could have actually bought a Grumpy t-shirt) and it was kind of lovely seeing so many little girls swirling about in sparkly princess dresses. Not lovely enough to be persuaded to buy one for my little princess though...but we didn't come away empty handed.
It's like being in the best toy shop ever. For hours. Parents haven't a hope.

Somehow the kids managed to persuade me to go on the Hotel Hollywood horror ride - basically a lift dropping at speed. I must have been caught up in all the Disney magic, because it was hellish beyond words! Truly my idea of a nightmare. Never again.

That was me done after that, apart from a few goes on the teacups; so while the others queued for nearly an hour and a half to go on Crusher's Coaster - yes, an hour and a half….I sat in the sun, watching the world and Mickey, Minnie, Goofy et al go by.

Lovely it was too - don't get to sit still doing nothing very often - though I was in earshot of the Monsters Inc Screamometer, so it wasn't exactly quiet.

My husband looked positively green after the Nemo ride, of course the kids thought it was the best thing EVER.

It felt like we did a lot, but looking at the map we barely scratched the surface. Still, by 6 o'clock everyone had had enough, so we headed back to our hotel.

We stayed at the Paxton Resort and Spa, about 10 minutes drive from Disneyland Paris. It sounds swish, but was in fact a lot more reasonable than the Disneyland hotels, especially for just 2 nights; and believe me, I looked. I spent hours searching. The longer I looked the harder it got, and when you put 5 in the guest number box, things get tricky. 4 is fine, but not that many places seem to cater for a family of 5, unless you're prepared to take the extra hit and pay for 2 rooms. Anyway, the Paxton had family rooms for 5, and once we'd got over the black wall, stripy carpet, 80's decor thing going on in the foyer and corridors, the room was actually a pleasant surprise: bright and clean with everything we needed, plus breakfast included. Best of all, a comfortable bed, which is definitely what you want after a day trekking round Disneyland.

Everyone was exhausted, so lights out by nine, and when I closed my eyes I was back on that bloody lift…

Linking up with The Photo Gallery - this week's theme is Easter.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Foiled again

When it comes to kids and Easter eggs
no matter what you say,
the foil gets ripped to tiny shreds
that seem to go astray...

So once all eggs are eaten,
and chocolate is a chore,
there'll be shiny bright reminders
sprinkled on the floor.

They somehow spread from room to room,
like Easter time confetti,
there's bound to be a few of them
stuck behind the settee.

And however much you hoover,
however much you try,
You can be sure
that sometime soon
a glint will catch you eye.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014


I'd like to think that somewhere there's a special toy lab full of slightly eccentric people trying to out do each other with ideas for the weirdest, wackiest things they can fit in a Kinder egg.

'…hey, what about a scary baby on wheels sucking a dummy?'

'…wait! wait! I've got one! A baby in a turban...on a magic carpet, that can levitate!'


And so it goes on.

Maybe they're all computer generated now, but I'd rather hang on to the image of some toy techie person trying to work out how to get a bug rowing a pea-pod boat into a small orange capsule.

Kinder Surprise! There's a good chance you probably will be…surprised, that is.

Some of the toys are truly inspired in a crazy creative kind of way, with little moving parts that slot together; like mini feats of engineering.

As you can probably tell, I am a fan: I've been collecting them on and off for over twenty years.

What can I say? I love tiny.

Wasted on kids in my opinion.

Though they're not always brilliant: not always a swiss clock with a bird popping out kind of brilliant...

Sometimes just a boring lump of plastic, or - my least favourite surprise - a puzzle.
So disappointing.

But the ones that move, or wobble, or fly or even light up - like this dragon - well, you've got to be happy with that…(or maybe just me?)

Probably my favourite one is the mice in a box - frightening to think it's actually about 20 years old.

Simple but  clever: a little mechanism inside means every time you slide the box open either way, a mouse pops out.  I'm also quite keen on the kung-fu monkey that karate chops a piece of wood.

He really does.

I want to say they aren't as good now as they used to be - and I think they did take a dip into dull. But recently the Kinder toys seem back on form - a pony with a ring that clips on its back you can wear (well, not me..) I'd show you if I could find it. My daughter loves the flower fairies with petal skirts. Again I'd show you...

For some reason I still kind of weigh them by hand, in the possibly mistaken belief that heavier is better. And I still give the chocolate to anyone who'll have it.

Surely no one buys them for the chocolate?

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Ode to Croissants

Beaming crispy crescents
lying in a pile,
Hard resisting something
that looks like a smile )

The flaky bakey loveliness
sets many tums aflutter,
Possibly because they're made
with half a ton of butter.

Try not to look, to catch a smile
and focus on the bread,
But it's no use, I leave the shop
with five croissants instead.

(no prizes for guessing where we are at the moment…enjoying some sunshine and frequent visits to the Boulangerie :)

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Sweet potato curry with cherry tomatoes

One upside of a new school, endless driving, and too much time spent hanging around car parks is I've met a lovely bunch of people. New friends who quickly swept me under their wing when things got tough: when Dad took a turn for the worse: when I needed help most.
We don't have family nearby, and as despair gripped hold, they calmly gathered up the children and packed me off to the airport. No fuss. No bother. Amazing.

I was just thinking about all this, because the mum who looked after my youngest came round yesterday and I wanted to make her something special. A chance to dig out a favourite recipe that's done the rounds (another joy of new friends..)
She's Vegetarian and Sweet Potato curry has got to be my top veggie meal - I'm pretty sure anyone who's ever come here long enough to be fed has had it. Vegetarian or not. Possibly a reflection of my limited recipe repertoire, but mostly because it's a cracking curry.

It's also the reason why there's nearly always a jar of red thai curry paste in the fridge - a favourite cheaty cheeky shortcut - perfect for giving a dullish meal a quick, warm, lemony, garlicky boot up the behind without all that tedious chopping. I'll probably get bored of it soon because it's going in EVERYthing - soup, savoury rice, pasta sauces. Just a little, mind: a friend once mistakenly used a whole jar…. I love a chilli hit, but that floored us all.

I've even been known to pop half a teaspoon into some of the kid's meals to jazz things up a bit (spice by stealth you see..)
No one's complained yet.

Anyway, back to why the paste's in my fridge in the first place. This delicious, quick and easy curry.

Serves 4

3/4 medium sized sweet potatoes, peeled, chopped or cubed
1 onion chopped
2 cloves of garlic crushed or finely chopped
1 tin coconut milk
inch of ginger finely chopped
half teaspoon of chilli powder (optional)
2 stalks lemongrass finely chopped (crush with back of a knife first)
1 tablespoon red thai curry paste
half a chicken or vegetable stock cube
1 punnet of cherry tomatoes
juice of half a lemon
fresh coriander

Gently fry the onion until it begins to soften, and add the chopped garlic, ginger, lemon grass and chilli powder (if you want the extra heat) 

After a few minutes pop in the curry paste and stir.

Next, get the sweet potato pieces into the pan, give it all a good mix about, and stir fry until the potato just start to soften.

Pour in the coconut milk, plus half a stock cube and add a little water so the liquid just covers the sweet potato. Let it gently bubble away for 8 to 10 minutes, then add the tomatoes and cook on for another 5 or so, to heat them through. 

Season, and add lemon juice to taste.

Serve with a good sprinkle of chopped coriander.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Ups and Downs

It's been a funny old week: after we limped over the £12 Challenge finish line, I just seemed to drift back into clouds of melancholy. Thinking about Dad.

Being outside in the garden helps - always has when sadness or anxiety crowd in; but I've not been able to get out much. Instead, rushing from one thing to the next and getting nothing done: like pedalling madly and going nowhere.
Tell you what really didn't help though - my eldest eejit leaving the bath running and flooding the place...

The Challenge was a good distraction - glad when it's over, but always glad we've done it. Makes me cook with more imagination and makes me think about things I take for granted.
Usually leaves me brimming with good intentions too: the thing is, I know it doesn't take long for bad habits to creep back into my kitchen and my trolley. So, a return to spur of the moment mundane meals and the same old same old. I'm going to try a bit harder this time, and force myself to meal plan more often, because it does save money (and sanity), and I'm going to stick to making bread at least once a week. Think I'm quite quick and it now.

To celebrate the end of the Challenge, I bought these…

..honestly I'm hoping they won't get used for aaages, it's just they were cheap! £2.50 in Asda. And it's sod's law isn't it that if you leave sledge-buying till it snows, they'll be as hard to find as hen's teeth. Pretty nifty forward planning I thought. Certainly for me!

The highlight of my week is without doubt The Great British Sewing Bee. Love, love, LOVE it. Simple pleasures. On Tuesdays I shoo the kids upstairs by 8; daggers if anyone dares come down again.  I'm totally hooked this year; they're such a happy, talented group, and seem genuinely fond of each other. Makes me cry when one of them has to leave. Though, to be fair, it doesn't take much at the moment. I'm in awe of what they produce in such a ridiculously short space of time. Mind you, making clothes is way outside my crafty comfort zone, I don't have the patience for a fabric pattern and am still slightly nervous around sewing machines.
At least mine is out in the open now. And sometimes gets used.

I'm more at home with hooks and big needles. A bit of click-clack comfort. I took some needles and wool with me when I went over to Northern Ireland to spend time with Dad in hospital. He slept a lot, and it was sad but peaceful sitting there with my stepmother and my sister - nurses and visitors coming and going. I don't think I've ever sat so still for so long. Not speaking. Sorrowful silence.
Reading didn't feel right, so I started knitting. Don't ask me why, but I made a kangaroo…? Shame I didn't write the pattern down, - don't think I could knit another one. Anyway, it made Dad smile. Happy/sad memories when I look at it now.

The dalmatian was for Dad's birthday a few years ago. He really loved dalmatians - they had one when he remarried, and Dad adored her. She was totally gorgeous, but mad as a brush.
So, this is Dotty.

It's a Debbie Bliss pattern and possibly one of the trickiest things I've knitted...not just dealing with random dots, but when I'd finished knitting, there were about 28 pieces to sew together.

With the sea between us, I didn't get to spend a lot of time with Dad, so there aren't that many reminders or associations with him here. And I think, while it's all still raw, this kind of helps me just trundle on with things; but there'll come a time when I know I'd like to have more of Dad about.
Maybe I'll ask my stepmother if I can have Dotty.