A great day out


Yesterday I went into London to spend a day doing some of my favourite things. I found myself taking lots of photos and decided to share them with you.

Now, before I begin I have to say that I’ve done Stoptober and someone has just offered me a surprise cider and some dry roasted peanuts, as he’s about to drink a beer and munch said nuts while he watches the second half of Wales against Scotland rugby match. I’ve taken the tiniest of sips and already my head is spinning, so forgive me if this disintegrates into utter nonsense by the end! **

My sourdough loaf had not long been out of the oven before I set off and so I didn’t try some until this morning. Breakfast of Queens. It makes such good toast. (Every blog post must mention sourdough.)

I met my brother for a light lunch in our favourite Itsu on Baker Street and topics of conversation included: casseroles, eating fish, physio and the benefits of setting an alarm so you remember to do them (that was me, doing my bossy slightly-older sis thing excellently) meeting up with old friends, buying a car, plans for the weekend and Blenheim’s hidden bridge rooms (See here.)

It was such a sunny and crisp autumn day yesterday that I decided to walk along to Marble Arch, duck into Hyde Park and walk to The V&A. There seems to be a trend for roadworks at the moment; everywhere I went I came across them.

The contractors were really busy: starting to set up for Winter Wonderland. It’s basically a fairground, with massively overpriced food and drink like bratwurst, burgers, chips, candy floss and mulled wine. I’ve quite enjoyed the festive atmosphere when we’ve visited, but at points it’s so crowded that I’m hyperaware of tucking my bag and purse under my arm, with my hand on the zip. Going bagless with your ‘phone stuffed into one side of your bra and your purse into the other might be a solution?

While I walked my WhatsApp pinged with an ‘I’ve cut the bread’ pic. The No-knead Stretch and Fold technique is one I adopted in the summer. I’m sticking with it: it’s so easy and you can make a loaf one-handed. Perfect for me at the moment.

Walking past Harrods after coming out of the park

I love the V&A so much, I’m so grateful to have my membership, plus a guest pass, renewed every Christmas. It’s one of my special places in London.

I wanted to see this exhibition before it ends on Sunday (tomorrow.) I feel regretful that I didn’t visit before so I could recommend it to you sooner, as I know some of you read about my visits and then go. I went mostly because a friend had been and was describing it last weekend when I saw her in Birmingham.

Rather than go on and on about it I’ll leave it to my photos of the signs to give you an idea. The V&A is excellent at provoking thought, entertaining and amusing. This ticked every one of those particular boxes. I think the section that made me reflect most was the digital footprint many of us will leave, what we might want to happen to our bodies (think cryogenics or saving a complete digital imprint of our DNA) and the impact technology has had on community and where we live.

I’ve got to know so many people now through sharing hobbies on social media, taking part in online groups and, of course, blogging, which often results in meeting up in real life. I believe technology can and does enable greater connection, if you’re willing to take a chance and meet up in person. There are some I’ve chatted to for years and might never see, but there’s definitely value and concrete positives in the sharing of opinions, giving advice and encouragement.

It was rather disquieting to reflect upon how much has already become the norm; many of us use technology everyday to show us how far we’ve walked, how we slept, what we’ve eaten and record where we went. We post instant photos online, send messages throughout the day, set alarms which we jump to respond to (or not, in the case of my exercise alerts!), have devices like Alexa listening in on our conversations, are beginning to get devices which can be controlled by Smart ‘phones to record a programme, alter the heating temperature, boil a kettle or toast bread….


There was a 10 question multi-choice quiz to take about how you see technology impacting upon the future and what this might look like in 20 years. My result was I am an All-round Optimist. This was the same as the greatest number of participants outside and within the exhibition. Hurray! I like being one of the crowd, especially when it’s a positive result.

A poor photo but did you know? I certainly didn’t.

Oh! My eyes teared up at this one.

I thought of Teresa Kasner making and wearing her pussy hat and writing her protest posts at the time.

Walking back at 4pm I noticed how low the sun had already become. Just look at that golden light highlighting Harrods and the buildings further along the road. Beautiful!

Harrods windows are blacked out, which must mean their Christmas window displays are in progress.

A swan with attitude and their posse on the Serpentine in Hyde Park, with the golden sun setting behind autumnal trees. What a lovely photo to end what was a great day out.

** How did I do?

Taking Stock – October

Making : a hot water bottle cosy. One half done. I started the other yesterday, but you really don’t get very far along in a 10m session, and I’m not up to everyday yet either. Try setting a 10m timer for the fun of it. It goes so fast. Then make yourself stop. It’s really hard!

I did feel like whooping yesterday when I posted this pic on Instagram. It was fab to have something to show and join in with the buzz of all the Autumn making 

Cooking : sourdough pizza last night, on a Sunday night. I hadn’t made any since August, it was time

Drinking : peppermint tea, Stoptober still going ahead here

Reading: The Music shop by Rachel Joyce and Never Greener by Ruth Jones, I’ve got a bit caught up in both

Wanting: a positive outcome to my appointment with the Hand and Wrist Consultant and Hand Therapist this week (i.e. no nasty injection or talk of surgery again)

Playing: some of The Music Shop book’s playlist

Deciding: not to try anymore crochet for several days now, as hand is sore 

Wishing: for a car to fall in my lap, I can pay but I just want someone else to find, test and choose!

Enjoying:  sunny blue skies and crisp weather. Driving to Birmingham, on Saturday morning, I noticed an orange snowflake appear on the dashboard to indicate the outside temperature. It had dropped down to 4°. It’s 7° today, crisp and bright – basically my favourite type of autumn day

It’s Christmas in Selfridges, Birmingham. I know it’s really early but actually I got swept into the joyful atmosphere

Waiting: for a telephone call from a company

Liking: thinking about which soup to make next

Wondering: what to have for dinner

How pretty are these Lola’s cupcakes? (Also in Selfridges, Brum)

Loving: seeing everyone’s colder weather makes on Instagram (I know some of you are in the southern hemisphere and I do like seeing your flowers and garden pictures too!)

Loved having a legitimate colder day to wear my Mock Cable mitts last week. You can knit some too

Pondering: natural ways to keep those limescale and splash marks off the shower doors, without resorting to nasty chemical sprays that you’re not meant to wash off. Any suggestions? I’m thinking of something like you rub on half a lemon and a bit of white vinegar in a half-hearted kind of way. I’m not sure if either would be effective Considering: going for a walk in the sunshine

Buying: frozen butternut squash, it’s a great standby for soup making

How white is this dog? She was eye catchingly pretty. Her owner said she’d just come from the groomers; she’s a perfect ad for their services! I had to ask if I could take her photo for my blog. She’s called Molly and posed like a true professional. My friends know I’m much more of a cat than a dog person, but she’s clearly gorgeous

Watching: I’m still working my way through Stella. I’ve just finished Series 4. So far series 3 has been my absolute favourite; it was so funny. She and ‘Michael Jackson’ were brilliant together. 

Hoping: no one tells me what happens at the end of series 6

Marvelling: at the range of items we can borrow from our libraries. I’m working my way through all the library’s Stella DVDs after getting hooked on the first two or three episodes for nothing on Amazon Prime, but then they wanted a lot of money to rent or buy the series. No way! I can reserve a DVD for £1.20 and borrow it for a week for another £1.20, then it’s 30p per every additional day afterwards

Cringing: at how bad you can feel during your period some months. It’s awful and you can’t really explain how fluctuating hormones can make you feel and react so emotionally to what you’d normally shrug off, or suggest discussing sometime over a burger and a milkshake. I think it can sound like an excuse to anyone who doesn’t experience it, but it’s very real. Afterwards you hardly recognise the emotional mess you became for a while

Not your usual charity shop find is it? No, I didn’t buy them!

Needing: to water my plants

Questioning: why the boiler keeps making that odd noise despite a recent service

Smelling: rose perfume oil, mmmmm

Wearing: jeans and a t-shirt with three-quarter length sleeves, it’s warm behind glass in the sun

Crossing the bridge over the lake, looking back towards the obelisk, Blenheim Palace in the autumn sunshine

Following: some incredible new designers that seem to have suddenly snuck up during the time that I haven’t been knitting and crocheting

Knowing: designing is probably never going to be my special talent, but I do love writing

Thinking: about my rumbling tummy, I always seem to be either hungry or thirsty when I write these posts

Admiring: some crochet jumpers and cardies

Nala the cockapoo, one of the salon dogs relaxing on the hair-wash chair. She’s either resting her head on your knee asking for love, or curled up on a chair. It’s clearly a hard life. Cora her Goldendoodle half-sister is often asleep by the front door, waiting for the postman who always brings treats. They are probably part of the reason why I’m so much more comfortable around dogs. I like my hairdressers a lot, so it wasn’t a difficult choice between leaving because of the dogs, or staying and getting used to them. This year I’ve patted them both once. This might not seem impressive, but believe me it is!

Sorting: my shredding and coming across all sorts of funny notes, including one I wrote to Someone who was on a conference call: ‘We have a situation in a k cupboard, I think it’s contained…. but I’ve left the bin outside the front door.’ 

Getting: a new mini sieve at Birmingham’s Rag Market, to try to make even better poached eggs

Bookmarking: articles about psychology and friendship

Coveting: new clothes 

Disliking: shopping for ‘em!

Opening: the veg drawers and finding a half rotten cucumber I’d forgotten about

Giggling: at Celebrity Goggle Box in aid of Stand-up for Cancer on Friday night. Danny Dyer and his daughter were hilarious

Sewing with my Mum. Just like old times: “You don’t need to stand over me, go and find something to do.” At least she didn’t tell me to “Go and have a run around the garden!”

Feeling: relaxed

Snacking: on nothing at the moment

Helping: my friend enjoy her holiday without guilt for having fish and chips etc. Life is too short, have some family fun and healthier eating can wait for a few days 

Hearing: bugs ding into the window outside

Mixing: lemon, ginger and honey later for a warming drink

Worrying: about something it seems I can do nothing to resolve. It takes two to tango/ talk 

Favourite lunch: toasted crumpets, avocado mashed with a little salt, poached eggs and homegrown cherry tomatoes

Slicing: that rotten cucumber, I’ve salvaged half. Hate throwing food away 

Celebrating: autumn 

Roses & orchids, amazing. Yes, spoilt

Forgetting: lots! It’s my age dear

Winning: £8:60 on the lottery a few weeks ago

Pretending: I’m a calm, wise and mature woman, not an emotional soggy mess on occasion

Sneaking: M&S Butter Mints from the car 

Embracing: my beloved in his new cashmere jumper 

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Hope all’s well in your world. What are you up to?

Why would you put an egg on it?

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A wander by the river admiring the beginnings of autumn colour then lunch al fresco. The pub fires were lit but it was really too warm to be inside, such a lovely day. I had a starter of wild garlicky mushrooms on sourdough toast with a surprise poached egg on top which I ate, although they’d obviously done that poaching trick as it tasted faintly of vinegar. Then my friend and I decided a starter and a sinful pudding would be perfect, because we were only having a light lunch. Women’s logic is infallible. Mine wasn’t around long enough to snap but I can tell you it was swimming in sauce and had a good dollop of clotted cream on top!

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By noon today and yesterday it’s been 18 degrees and people are strolling about in t-shirts again. It’s incredible weather for October, we haven’t even had a frost yet.

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The flowers in the photo were in troughs alongside the tables and there were stunning hanging baskets behind us, all bursting full of begonias, freesias and other pretties. This is weird weather – but I like the temporary respite from autumn and I’m trying to make the most of the mini Indian Summer.

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I popped into my favourite yarn shop after lunch and grabbed an extra graphite, raspberry and lime for my ripple. £1.60 for 100g, super value isn’t it?

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I’ve just remembered that I was told off for pausing and squealing at the celeb version of Gogglebox the other night – Miranda and co were on a sofa with a granny square blanket hanging off the back, but also…..THIS:

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Even ripples are mainstream now. Is it the death knell for crochet? My e-pal and I were saying typing at the weekend that the handmade revolution can’t last forever and she reckons the cool kids will stop as everybody else gets on board. White walls and minimalism will be back with a vengeance, and the yarn shops will close again. But not for a while I hope!

There is an interesting feature in the new issue of Inside Crochet with Sara of Black Sheep Wools, all about how the business began, subsequently stalled and what happened when knitting and crochet came back.

I’ve just caught up on the first of the specials of the Great British Sewing Bee for Children In Need, it’s not great without Claud and doesn’t feel half as good as the usual series, but I like Edith, she’s very cool, and Dave makes me giggle. I won’t say who won in case you’re catching up too. I’ve got the other two to see as well.

You?

I don’t take any responsibility for the lame title, I asked for suggestions and it was better than my ‘Not cool’ or ‘Washing on the line again.’ Not cool was obviously because of the temps but …..well….it describes this blog too! Don’t pretend to be something you’re not. Be yourself. Ya de yah. *Grin*

Roasted tomato & garlic summer soup

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I’m happy to class myself as a tomato bore at the moment! I don’t mind if you’re thinking it…

There are various bowls around the kitchen full of ripe and ready to eat tomatoes, alongside those still ripening. It’s fun deciding what to eat them with. We had bacon and vegetable risotto with roasted tomatoes (simply cooked in the oven with a drizzle of olive oil, nothing else, they are so sweet) last night.

When I got up this morning I really fancied making a light summer soup for lunch. The temperature has dropped by about 10 degrees in the last few weeks, instead of a blissful 28 0c it’s now 17/18 0c at best and feels so cold!
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There are many versions of this soup floating around the net and I’ve made own version; using homemade garlic oil. I always have some on hand for when I’m feeling lazy and use it instead of fresh garlic, or if in this case, I want an extra garlicky kick to a dish. It’s easy: just add 3-4 peeled and halved garlic cloves into a glass jar or small bottle of olive oil and leave to steep for a few days. When it’s all used up I throw away the garlic, wash the bottle and begin again with fresh.

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I love all the bright colours. Don’t worry about the amount of garlic in the recipe, when it’s roasted garlic loses it’s stinkiness and just becomes rich and sweet in flavour. I’ve just opened the door for a delivery and the guy didn’t recoil when I breathed over him to sign for the box!

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While the vegetables roasted I hung out a basket of washing, a lot of looking at the sky, muttering and toe crossing went on. So far it hasn’t rained…

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The tray of charred vegetables might not look like much, but they smelt delicious. Ok, so this next bit might not seem a good advertisement; but if you do have a smoke alarm I’d recommend keeping the kitchen door closed while you’re roasting the vegetables. That’s a little tip I’ve learnt when I make my roasted butternut soup in the winter time!

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Make sure you scrape the roasting tray out well;  you want to use every bit of caramelized vegetable that you can, to give the soup as much flavour as possible.

The black specks you see in the soup is ground black pepper.

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Yum, yum in my tum.

Roasted tomato & garlic summer soup

1 tbsp (garlic) olive oil
500g ripe tomatoes, quartered
2 large red onions, peeled and cut into wedges
1 bulb of garlic, divided into peeled cloves
1 red pepper (or 1/2 a red & 1/2 a yellow pepper) deseeded and quartered
600ml / 1 pint hot vegetable stock
3/4 – 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
3/4 – 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
Salt & pepper
Fresh basil leaves to garnish

Preheat oven to 220 0c/400 of/ gas mark 7

::Put the vegetables into a large roasting pan, drizzle with the olive oil and season
::Roast for about 45 mins until the edges are charred. I gently turn them all over after 15 and then 30 minutes. The house fills with a delicious smell.
::Remove the tray from the oven and leave the vegetables to cool
:: Whizz the roasted vegetables with the balsamic vinegar and Worcestershire sauce (add quantity to taste, I’d recommend 3/4 tbsp of each) and stock in a food processor or a liquidizer
:: Put the soup through a sieve to remove tomato skins, easing the last of the liquid through by rubbing the vegetable skins etc with the back of a ladle
:: Reheat, scatter with torn basil leaves to serve

If it’s tropical where you are (lucky things!) you can serve this summer soup well chilled with a few ice cubes in the soup.

Serves 4

Enjoy!

Lazy Sunday, happy Sunday

What a lovely Sunday, eating Thai food then browsing for spices, exotic drinks and foods at the Asian Supermarket next door. Then home for a bit of cosy crochet and to read my new Mollie Makes mag. It’s -1 degrees here today, with some snow covering the hills after the snow-storm yesterday. It’s hard to believe we had brown grass in the garden from the dry, warm start to Spring this time last year! (Isn’t it funny how every blogger will, at some point, mention their local weather wherever in the world they are; I always thought this was a purely British obsessive topic of conversation.)

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There’s been much rain and snow that there’s even flooding in parts of the city now.

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I think most are staying warm at home as this is usually a buzzing restaurant.

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Mum has asked me to crochet her a scarf. I like the circularity of this as I grew up wearing and using home-made knitted, crocheted and sewed scarves, hats, mittens, gloves, cardies, jumpers, dresses, gym bags for my plimsolls and much more.

I chose shell pattern 2 from the Vogue Crochet Stitchionary I won in a giveaway last year. 

I trebled the stitch count and hey presto it’s just right for a scarf. The scalloped sides are really pretty, I like the pattern a lot.

I’m using Lang’s Tosca Light which is 55% new wool with 45% acrylic, a really warm and soft mixture. I can vouch for this yarn as I used it to knit myself a lacy purple scarf a couple of years ago, and wear all the time. I also knit a green one for my sister-in-law which she loves. I’m using  a 4mm hook, though think a 3.5mm would also work nicely.

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I hope you’ve had a lovely Sunday too.

Ed’s Easy Diner

This is Ed’s Easy Diner Rupert Street, Central London. We’ve been going to this one and the Soho diner for years. The burger are yumalicious and ohhhh the shakes! I just can’t remember if mine (pictured) was pnb or banana & pnb, but whatever it was mmmmmm.

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If you go I defy you not to end up singing along to the classics and bet you (also) end up doing a bit of chair dancing!

A Winning Sunday

There’s nothing like going out for lunch on a Sunday, admittedly I went out for lunch on Saturday too with a group of friends, but Sunday is different somehow. It just feels more relaxed, there aren’t hordes of people rushing around, the pace is leisurely and well, frankly rather lovely.

I haven’t had Peroni for ages and doubt I’ve ever had an egg on a pizza! It was all good and if you’re Oxford way I’d recommend this pizzeria for a spot of lunch.

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This morning I had an alert saying ‘We have news about your lottery ticket’ and in the time it took to log on to The National Lottery website I’d gone from buying a Penthouse by the Thames in London, to an apartment in New York and one in Sydney. My whole life had changed, in my imagination, and I was about to tell S to leave the shopping and just come home now!

It wasn’t quite a life changing amount (£10) in the event, but I have ordered another crochet book. Woo hoo! It’s one I browsed in the library a few weeks ago. It had the most appealing patterns and the colours are well thought out.

I’m excitedly looking forward to owning my own copy.

I’m not allowing myself to start any big new projects as the Rhubarb Ripple and other items are well in progress still. (You know the ones: the Alternative Granny Squares and, probably, the Spring Flower Squares. I say probably to the last because I’m having an iffy doubting feeling about those at the mo, but that’s another story…)

Only 20 more stripes until the ripple’s completed. I’m planning on 80 I think, rather than 85. It’s feeling like a ripple marathon to be honest and I’m ticking off stripes in a notebook as I go! Seems like a good thing to do to break the psychological barrier to finishing a rather massive project ;-p)

Hope you’re having a good weekend too.

It’s the weekend

Today for lunch I made Spiced bulghar, chickpea and squash salad It’s scrummy. Absolutely delicious.

• 1 butternut squash, about 1kg/2lb 4oz peeled, seeded and cut into small chunks
• 2 red peppers, seeded and roughly sliced
• 2 tbsp harissa paste
• 1 tbsp oil
• 140g bulghar wheat
• 600ml hot vegetable stock
• 1 garlic clove, crushed
• juice of ½ lemon
• 150g natural bio-yogurt
• 400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
• 180g bag baby leaf spinach

::Heat the oven to 200c/fan 180c/gas 6.

::Toss the squash and red pepper in the harissa paste and oil. Spread the chunks out on a large baking tray and roast for 20 mins until softened and the edges of the vegetables are starting to char.

::Meanwhile put the Bulghar wheat in a large bowl and pour over the hot stock, then cover tightly with cling film and leave to absorb the liquid for 15 mins until the grains are tender, but still have a little bite.

::In a separate bowl, mix the garlic and lemon juice into the yogurt and season to taste.

::Let the Bulghar wheat cool slightly then toss in the roasted vegetables, chickpeas and spinach – the leaves may wilt a little.

::Season, if you want, drizzle with the garlicky yogurt and serve warm.

Recipe from the BBC Good Food website

***The changes I’d make to the recipe are to roast the garlic with the butternut and peppers, but still have a yoghurt-lemon dressing as this works really well drizzled on top. I’d also recommend seasoning the vegetables before they go in the oven.***

And with the dressing….

This is a really tasty, healthy and filling lunch. Win win!

I’m going to crochet a few more of these over the weekend…

….while I wait for the feather cushion pad I ordered for the blooming flower cushion. The circle for the back is now complete too. It’s just a case of waiting patiently for it to arrive. I’ll post a picture when the cushion’s complete. The part I’m really looking forward to is dc-ing around the edges. Joining using dc stitches is my favourite joining method, so far.

Enjoy your weekend.