Saturday, 28 January 2012

A Bits & Pieces Kind Of Week

Yet again this past week I've been struggling with a cold/catarrh so it is an effort to do anything and I feel tired all the time. However, although I feel in the doll-drums, on reflection, I've got quite a lot done this week. I mentioned in my last post that John made some candles in memory of my Dad and here they are. We continued to burn them last Saturday. They are blue and white although the white looks rather golden here for some reason. You'll also have to take it from me that they have a wonderful vanilla smell. On second thoughts ....... I'll take it from John that they smell heavenly, since I can't really smell anything at all at the moment!!

What on earth is this? It was bread soaking in water! I was expecting my god-daughter, Hannah, to come over last Saturday. I love her coming over and I always like to do something special with her. Since I've been trying to loose weight, we seem to have a lot of unused bread around. To be honest, the birds are beginning to get fed up with bread, so I thought Hannah and I could make some bread pudding. Yes ...... I know ...... if I'm on a diet, do I really need bread pudding around? Probably not! However, it could always go in the freezer if it looks too tempting! So, since the bread was a bit hard, I started it soaking quite early.

In the end, Hannah didn't come round but I obviously had to go ahead and make the bread pudding. I have always used a simple recipe from my Mum. I have no idea where she got it from, but it is as follows:

Bread Pudding:

4oz butter or margarine
4oz dark brown sugar
1lb bread that has been soaking in water
1lb mixed dried fruit
1tblsp mixed spice

However, because I thought it's a given that I'm going to try a piece (!) ...... I wondered if I could make it with slightly fewer calories and so I tried a little experiment.
I only used 3oz margarine and 2oz sugar and then worked out how many teaspoons in 2oz sugar and dissolved the appropriate number of sweeteners in a little bit of hot water to take the place of 2oz sugar.
I also decided to add 2 stem gingers and cut them up really small to add to the fruit. John likes ginger :)

  1. So ..... how to make it! Set the oven to 200 degrees C.
  2. Cream together the margarine and 2oz sugar until fluffy.
  3. Squeeze out as much of the water as you can from the soaking bread and add the bread to the margarine and sugar mix. Squeezing out the water can be a bit messy! Don't worry if you think there's too much water; it just might increase the time required to cook.
  4. Add the dissolved sweeteners, dried fruit, mixed spice and chopped up ginger and mix everything thoroughly.
  5. Put mix in a lightly greased baking tray and cook in the oven for about 1.5 hours. Please note that the surface fruit can get easily burnt, so it is a good idea to cover the tray with foil.
And voila! Bread Pudding! Let it cool a bit before cutting out pieces to serve. If I wasn't on a diet, I would also lightly dust with caster sugar, but to be honest it doesn't really need it ...... and that extra sugar really isn't good for you :)

Yummy! It's probably best when it's warm but it keeps for about a week and pieces can be easily warmed up in the microwave. It rarely actually lasts a week :)

Did the alterations to the ingredients work? Well ..... both John and I (don't mention the diet ......... my bit was small) tried a piece and it was great! The change had no effect :)

Here's something else I managed to finish this week; a knitted scarf/shawl.

Excuse the awful photo of me ..... not feeling well and no makeup is not flattering!

Anyhow ...... the knitting ....... I'm not really a knitter to be honest! A friend's Mum did teach me basic knitting when I was about 7 years old but I've never got on with it and knitting patterns always look like advanced Russian to me! However, back in April last year, I won a lovely give-away on Joy's blog and it included some lovely but unusual yarn that I just didn't immediately know what to do with. You can see what it's like in the photo below:

It's more like string with fluffy bits every now and again! I did wonder if I could crochet with it (crochet I can do even if knitting escapes me), but it didn't look like it would be good for crochet. Then, back in November, I wondered if I could just try using 'knit' stitch to make a scarf using the biggest knitting needles I had. I am lucky in that an Aunt gave me loads of knitting needles when I was little and I've never thrown them out!!

So ...... I just cast on 60 stitches and started knitting! I found that this yarn is quite rough on the index finger of the right hand, so I had to wear a protector finger bandage to stop getting a blister! I have got into the habit of knitting whilst watching things on the TV! It's been quite a relaxing thing to do ........ unless Flossie has been anywhere near as she takes great delight in chasing the moving yarn or the knitting needles! Since I got 5 balls of wool, I decided to use 2.5 and see how long it was and this is the result! It makes a pretty good loose weave shawl or scarf. I'm going to use the other 2.5 balls to make another one :)

So thank you again Joy for the yarn. It's been fun to use :)

This week I've also managed to finish de-cluttering our smallest bed-room with a view to making it into a little office for myself. I don't have any 'before' photos! You'll just have to take it from me that it was a mess! It was a dumping ground for all sorts of stuff, including a lot (and I mean A LOT) of needlework materials I inherited when John's Mum passed away 2 years ago. I have actually been sorting things out since the beginning of January ..... and can't believe how long it's been taking!

Here it is, almost done! All of the needlework and crafting stuff has been carefully sorted and boxed in plastic storage boxes and put in the wardrobe in this room (you can't see it here) and the desk is all ready for use! But ...... those curtains! They were a make-shift that John's Mum gave us when we moved in ........ Too long for the window and a rather tacky crimplene-type material! Not nice but they have done for now!

However ..........

in our local Charity shop, I found some rather nice curtains that had clearly never been used! They only cost £7.50! They are not lined, as you can see, but perfectly adequate for what we need and actually look quite good in the room. In practice, they don't look quite as thin as this photo seems to suggest!  I actually bought them because the material caught my eye ...... but now I could see that keeping them as curtains was probably the best idea. Here I was hanging them just to work out how much material to cut off :)

I've never actually altered curtains before! I measured, measured and measured again and carefully noted how the original hem was done so I could copy it exactly! However, I found that my machine had a bit of trouble sewing through certain areas where there were several layers of fabric. Possibly it needs a new needle? The stitches kept jumping and creating a thread tangle underneath. In the end, I used the machine for the bits it could cope with and hand sewed through the thick bits ...... and it was thick!

All done and looking much nicer! One final thing I did this week to complete this room was to file away a lot of paperwork that had been accumulating over ...... well ...... I dread to think about it! But it was a few years! I then had LOADS of stuff for John to shred!

Here's Minstrel beside the bag of shredded paperwork to give it some scale! It will get gradually added to our compost bin!

Phew! A busy week!

And I must share this one final photo! Minstrel as a techno-cat :)

He does like to help :)

Friday, 20 January 2012

Under The Weather

No ... not Flossie but me! I've just used a photo of her from last year as having the cats around can help to raise my spirits! Firstly, I must say a very big 'Thank You' to Joy for her comment on my blog the other day in her efforts to make me feel better. I was particularly down in the dumps that day and I sounded it! .....

Firstly, the cold that started in the week before Christmas and turned into severe catarrh by Christmas day was still with me and, indeed, it still is today having added the insult of a lovely cold sore on my lip just to really top things off! I've never had a cold and catarrh hang on for quite so long, especially with it being so severe that it's affected my hearing on and off over the time since Christmas. It's really making me feel energyless and everything is such an effort! Including doing anything with the blog!

Secondly, I program my iPAQ to give me early warning when people's Birthdays are due and last week it reminded me that my Dad's Birthday would have been today, 20th January. This has made me feel an odd mixture of emotions. It set me to thinking about Dad's 80th Birthday last year when he was very confused and didn't really understand what was going on. I had to help him open his cards and he didn't really even comprehend what a card was as, once opened, he just wanted to give it back to me. I feel sad that he's not here and also well on his Birthday. However, I'm sitting here at the moment burning a blue and white candle that John made especially (Dad was a fervent Spurs supporter) and sending up a prayer in his memory; he's in a better place now.

I think that calls for another cat picture to try and raise my spirits :)

Minstrel looking slightly scruffy from last year :) If you look closely, he has bits of garden debris on his fur as he is a real boy, loving to roll around in the dust in the garden.

There! Perhaps just a little bit better :)

Friday, 13 January 2012

Christmas Gift Tags

This is going to be my first 'January' effort for the Make A Month 2012 Challenge, although, in many ways, it seems almost like cheating as it is very, very simple!

When putting away the Christmas decorations on the 6th January, I hate throwing the cards away! Instead, I use them to make Christmas gift tags for next Christmas. In doing this, I am following what my Mum always did and it has become very much a Christmas tradition with me as well.

It is very simple to do! All you need are the cards and some pinking shears. If you want to be 'posh' and make gift tags with little cotton ties, you would also need a hole punch and some thread ..... although I don't bother myself!.

How do you go about this? Well, you first need to carefully look at each card and where it's been written on to see if it's suitable.

This is one I discarded! You could possibly make a 'jokey' gift tag for an adult, but this isn't to my taste!

This one has much more potential. In particular, the top right-hand of the picture with the 'Christmas Wishes' caught my eye.

All I did was to fold the front of the card so the words were central in what will be the front of the gift tag.

I then used the pinking shears to cut round what will be the edge of the tag. A word of warning at this point! Only use a pair of pinking shears that you don't want to use for fabric! After using them to cut card, they will be useless for fabric! Believe me, I've done it! I actually ruined these pinking shears in this way, so this pair is for card only and I have another pair for fabric! Also, it may be because these pinking shears are old and quite heavy but cutting card with them is quite heavy on the hands. Be prepared to take a rest every now and again!

Here's the finished tag. As I said, you could punch a hole in the top left-hand corner and tie some thread through it, especially if you wanted to make these as a fund raising item. However, I don't bother with this! When I actually come to use the gift tag, I stick it onto the present with some sticky tape.

The finished tag from another angle!

With this card, The 'Merry Christmas' was all I was interested in.

So I had to fold the card this way to get the tag I wanted ..... one with a fold at the top.

A simple but effective tag that would look good with a solid coloured wrapping paper.

For this one, I only wanted a portion of the card with the snowflakes in the top right-hand corner.

So I have to eye-ball where the card needed to be folded as you can see above. You'll be amazed how quickly you can see the possibilities with any given card!

Again, a quite elegant gift tag. Although with the examples I've shown, I've only cut out one tag from the cards, in practice you will possibly find you can make several gift tags from each card. It all depends on the picture really!

With some Christmas cards, like this one, there may not be an obvious fold-line to produce a folded tag. However, this jolly snowman can be turned into a nice gift tag for children.

Just cut round the outside edge of the snowman. To use this one, fold the white pom-pom of the hat. You can write on the other side of the snowman and stick the tag to the present using the pom-pom as the anchor point. Of course, you could use a hole punch to make a hole in the pom-pom and thread through some thread to make a threaded gift tag.

So ..... after a couple of hours work, I have a nice selection of gift tags for next Christmas.

I probably could have make many more from the cards I had, but this lot is plenty enough for me!

Also, the eagle-eyed might spot something else I managed to salvage from my Christmas cards in the bottom left-hand corner. Two pieces of ribbon, a button and a little Father Christmas charm. All will come in handy at some time or other :)

New Year and Change Is Afoot!

Mind you, 2011 was a year of quite a few changes. Primarily, my Dad passed away so that, along with coping with the emotional impact of his loss, I now don't have the three trips each week up to his care home. Also, at the end of October, both John and I were made redundant. We initially spent time redecorating our kitchen and utility room, stopping in the run up to James' 21st Birthday and Christmas as we didn't think we'd get the living room (the next on the list!) done in time. I have got a new but very spare time, working from home job but we're still adjusting to life not working.

2012 promises to bring an equal number of changes. Firstly, we are now empty-nesters as, on 3rd January, James and his girlfriend moved into a flat together. It's still a bit odd not having him around! Still .... they haven't gone far and we see them a couple of times each week.

I was going to say that I'd made a New Year's resolution to blog more regularly but you can see I've already not been keeping that one! My 'excuse' is a terrible cold that started before Christmas and is still with me in the shape of catarrh causing me to feel terrible and not feel like doing very much. However, whilst true, another reason has been wondering whether there's any real point in keeping a blog! The jury is still out on that one!

Still, as you can see from the picture, I have also decided to sign-up for the Felt Fairy's a Monthly Make for 2012 as an encouragement to actually make something every month. Usually, my projects tend to be ones that takes months to do, so I will be trying to ensure I also do something simpler!

And .... yet again! ..... the eternal diet! Perhaps I shouldn't say it like that as being negative means probable failure! I'm inspired by the Felt Fairy's similar quest ..... although my slogan aught to be 'Fat Free By Fifty Three'! Still, we've been out for several long walks already this year and I've already lost 4lbs.

Onwards and upwards! Let the New Year commence :)
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