A Birmingham Christmas.

When I came home and regaled hubby with tales of my wonderful trip to Birmingham, I knew by the longing in his eyes that I would be making another trip very soon, giving me a day off on Monday he enticed me back on Tuesday, although to be fair, I didn’t need much convincing. img_5882We started off at John Lewis enjoying a late breakfast of builders tea and hot buttered toast with marmalade, just the thing to set one up for a trot around the German Market.  I loved these plates in the restaurant, quite amusing. img_5894We had a quick tootle around the Christmas decorations.  I nearly bought foxy home, so cute. img_5896Who wouldn’t love to drape their fireplace with an assortment of fir cones. img_5890Or adorn doors with beautiful wreaths with which to welcome Christmas visitors with.  There were so many beautiful things but it was time to leave and carry on with our adventure. img_5909The station is simply wonderful, lovely restaurants and cafes, wine bars and gorgeous shops.img_5916Next we found a cereal cafe, with over a hundred different types of cereal to tempt you with. That was quite something to come across, having heard of it in London but never having seen one. img_5928And then we were out, marching briskly in the cold. img_5949Hubby seems to be having a nice time. img_5955So many pretty things to see, these are delightful when they are lit up with a candle. img_5957Handblown glass balls. img_5995Just getting dark enough to appreciate the lightsimg_6009of the carousel. img_6017The boys are beginning to cook up a storm for the visitors that will flock for the hot Bratwurst sausages. img_6019and German beers and Gluwein. img_6024Stars begin to twinkle in the darkening sky. img_6028Next we came across these Himalayan salt lamps and I simply swooned at their prettiness. After a little convincing that hubby really did want to lug a 5 kilogram lump of salt home and that I didn’t really want the 20 kilogram version that was absolutely the most beautiful thing I have ever seen, img_6039we came home with this.  A lovely reminder of a wonderful day.

Day trip to Birmingham.

Although storm Angus and the very enthusiastic weathermen and women did their utmost to put the wind up me so that I nearly cancelled I managed to find the strength to get out of my cosy warm bed in the pitch black,  shower in an ice cold house and make it to the train station, wind whipping through it as usual, just before nine, shortly to be followed in by Jane.

Wrapped up as snug as bugs in rugs we chatted enthusiastically as we waited for the train to take us to Birmingham and soon we were trundling through wind torn countryside to arrive at New Street in time for coffee before the shops opened up for Sunday trading.

It is one of life’s greatest but simplest of pleasures to spend a day shopping with a like minded, love all the things, creative friend.  John Lewis called us with its siren call and we entered and quickly found their stationary department, me mainly to stock up on some ink but also to just look at all the pretty things, and look we did.  We gaily trotted around, off to find the haberdashery department, dashing across the wide expanse of floor to find the make up department, admiring, cooing, wanting, as we went.  Eventually leaving John Lewis, with a deep, I had such a good time sigh, we headed off to M&S to stock up on a few necessities and wander around admiring Christmas jumpers and gorgeous lingerie.

Having found that storm Angus had danced its merry way onwards we wandered the German Christmas market, so many pretty things to see. birmingham-1It was the greatest fun to look at all the Christmas baubles and decorations. birmingham-2Walking up to the canal basin we enjoyed lunch of the dirtiest, tastiest beef burger I ever did eat, rocket fuel for a cold day, which was just what we needed. birmingham-3And then heading back, waving at the Birmingham Rep as we went, through the German market on route to Selfridges to spend an hour wandering, with another sit down for a drink and a little light shopping of a bright orange half price Radley purse, go me!  I must say Jane was a brilliant guide, knowing Birmingham so much better than I, showing me short cuts I never knew existed.  Seven hours and seven miles later we wended our way towards the train station, both of us planning to come back another day very soon with our partners.  Chattering non stop on the journey home, its a wonder we noticed our train stop, it really was the best of times, with a great friend I simply haven’t seen for ages, we must do it again and soon.


This is the second time in just a few weeks that the fifteen year old boiler is on the blink. Last night when it caught me unawares I looked like this.
wrapped-upAll praise the wondrous power of wool from sheep and alpaca and actually the earthy toned scarf was yak. Currently I am a big ball of wool, from the tips of my toes to the top of my head and it is an attire that I am very glad to own. Put simply, wool works.

When we moved into this house some years ago we were warned about the boiler, how old it was and then it carried on for another ten years, I think it made its 28th year, it was only retired when the combustion chamber cracked.  It was a sad day indeed, what with it being New Years Eve and we went through a cold winter without central heating, just the toasty warm coal fire and a ready supply of hot water bottles and blankets. Do you know it was the best winter we ever had, the boys came down from their computer driven dens and we read books together, played board games, watched films and generally enjoyed an old fashioned winter.  Yes it was cold and yes I was very grateful for the open fire and the independent emersion heater, but I still remember the good times much more than the cold frosty starts to the day.

Eventually we saved enough pennies and did enough research to be confident of our choices and got a new boiler, but not until the spring.  Now we are back in that position, but the boiler is only fifteen years old, which means its nearly half the age of the previous boiler, half!  I listen to the argument for efficiency, but really, if I do the maths on even the most casual of basis its going to take ten years before I break even and working on the current inefficiencies of how boilers are built, that might only be seven years.  Its a bit like the Kenwood that was built to last fifty years as apposed to one built today.  You would think though, that if landfill and the green arguments in general were true, that companies would be making things to last, or at least produce the parts for twenty years not ten after production ends of the main item,  not try to get the consumer to upgrade because  a product might be more efficient by a certain percentage. We all know of course that that doesn’t make a profit. tempLets all hope the engineer can fix it on Monday and we can then play the game a little further of, ‘how longs it going to last’.

Wrapped in Paisley

wrapped-in-paisley-3I started the design of this quilt as being a play on light and dark, of course being at the mercy of the jelly roll and layer cake in Wrapped in Paisley by Moda, it didn’t go exactly to plan, but I am still very pleased with it, not least in that I achieved a nicely sized (as in big) quilt with one layer cake and one jelly roll.  To start with I separated eight light coloured strips to make the binding with as I wanted the binding to have a nice contrast to the quilt when finished and then went from there. wrapped-in-paisley-2Firstly I  made the triangles in light and dark, squaring them up and then playing around with squares and oblongs of fabric until I had what I wanted and sewing it all together, firstly in squares, then in stripes and then all together. wrapped-in-paisley-1I quilted it by quilting in the ditch (or trying to) all the straight seams and then I quilted the diagonals then adding quilting 2 inches each side, which meant there was at the widest point 3 inches of space between the quilting, which was the widest my chosen wadding would allow.  How to quilt it took a bit of figuring out but in the end I was pleased with the route I chose and I think it suits the quilt well. wrapped-in-paisley-4

And as I have finished the quilt a couple of months ago it has been road tested and I can assure you all that it is as cosy as it looks.
wrapped-in-paisley-5I think it is my favourite quilt so far. wrapped-in-paisley-6

I have named it Beloved Butterscotch after a friend said it reminded her of molten toffee, along with the date and place and my web site address should anyone discover it in a dusty corner of a second hand shop in the far and distant future.  But that is a long, long way off and for now it is to snuggle under at the merest hint of a frosty night and perhaps to keep toasty warm, hot chocolate in hand, whilst gazing at the largest supermoon since 1948 tomorrow night.

Slow sourdough bread.

It all started peacefully enough, the mixing of water and flour in the hope of making a sour dough starter.  After a week and a couple of floury feeds to my hungry new born I had this, sourdough-1a happy little fellow indeed, burping away. And then disaster struck, the oven died on the very same day that the central heating did. Hubby ordered the parts for the cooker and phoned British Gas and I looked at my sourdough baby and wondered what to do and decided to make the bread as far as I could and slow it down in the fridge if need be and hope that the cooker would spring back to life with a new part – there was no guarantee at this point.

I made the dough by adding water and flour until I had a dough that I felt was about right, adding a little salt with the flour and then kneaded for fifteen minutes.  I think it was just slightly too wet but it was a lovely dough and was springing to life under my hands, it really was a pleasure to work.  I did a bulk rise, which took longer than expected,  we had a very cold snap so it was sat in an icy kitchen and this happened to be a good thing as when the mail arrived the cooker part was not with it.  Oh, so I finished the bulk rise overnight in the fridge with fingers crossed that it would arrive soon.

The next day the part came and hubby fitted it and ‘hurrah’ the cooker sprang back to life and I was able to knock back the dough and set it for its second rise in a heavily floured tea towel sat in a bowl. sourdough-2And that rose for about three hours, sourdough-3I then plopped it into a heavily floured cold cast iron dutch oven, slashed it with a knife, covered it with the lid and popped it into a cold oven, whacking the temperature up to its highest as I did so. I quite like the cold oven baking, I think it gives you a nicely flavoured bread without the burnt bits. The dough was very soft, so spread a little,  I wonder if it is worth baking in a bread tin in a dutch oven?  I took the lid off for the last twenty minutes to colour the bread. sourdough-4And 50 minutes later we had a lovely sourdough loaf to go with some home made butternut squash soup and slithers of vintage cheddar cheese. Time taken 9 days. sourdough-5But you know it was worth it.

A jumper for Hygge.

I have been meaning to blog about this jumper for quite a while, having finished it weeks ago, but then the wind turned to come from the North and I started to wear it and found out exactly how snuggly it is, all thoughts of blogging forgotten.  I’ve not worn Rowan Cocoon as a jumper before and found the first shed of excess mohair was like a Newfoundland’s first moult of winter fur on a warm spring day, that is to say heavy and ongoing. But after a quick brush up it became less irritating from all those loose hairs spreading across clothes and into eyes and just became a lovely comforting jumper with a large amount of Hygge about its person.

This jumper’s pattern was Lyra Vee by Sarah Hatton from The Cocoon Collection in Rowan Cocoon, colourway in Seascape. jumper2 jumper1Now the arms might be a touch long, but all the better to keep cold hands warm with on brisk winter walks and the body might be a tad short, but all the better to go with woolly winter skirts and thick tights, I really don’t mind, and one day, I might block it!, to shorten the arms and pull down the hem a little. But until that merry day when it needs its first bath, again, probably in the spring much like the aforementioned Newfoundlands, I will love it, just the way it is.

Covering Midori Traveler’s Notebooks.

And so the bullet journalling continues, some of you may remember the August post of my exploits into the world of bullet journaling.  Now I am some six months on and as always there have been new to me buying opportunities. I love my Leuchtturm 1917 with a passion, but its too big to carry around, as is my colourful, love all the stickers Erin Condren.  I still use them both daily, but wanted something a little smaller.  I tried a passport sized Stamford travellers journal, but found it too small on some occasions and the way it fastens irritates as it makes the notebooks crease at the edges, which I don’t like. It’s fine for days when I want something super light as I am carrying other things but it wasn’t my unicorn. 

And then I heard about the Midori, Oh the Midori Traveler’s (yes it really is one l) Notebook is a thing of utter beauty.  It is so simple yet so adaptable and the paper that Midori use is fountain pen friendly and super smooth, it is just gorgeous.  Eventually after much consideration and googling I ordered the camel in standard size. img_5822I thought the colour was quite a feminine choice. I put a couple of gold beads on the elastic and a couple of beads on the bookmark and was a happy camper, setting it up with two graph paper books, one for bullet journaling and one for journaling in a more private way.img_5834And a craft file  to store a few bits and bobs img_5823with cat paperclips.img_5832And a free (meaning unmarked) weekly diary. I decided against the plastic pouch as most of the time it will be living in a handbag anyway, so I felt that was unnecessary and the same reason to forgo a pen holder, preferring to place my fountain pen upright in my hand bag to lessen the likely hood of a mini disaster.  I also didn’t want to overload it, preferring to keep the aesthetic of the Japanese clean lines.

And while this was going on we have been sorting out the house, getting rid of piles and piles of unnecessary tat, when I came across a couple of twenty year old but very beautiful atlas, as well as a complete set of Encyclopaedia Britannica all sat unused by our boys, the internet had really taken off by the time they needed to research information for homework, I think they looked at the books once or twice, that was all.  Now even I won’t start cutting up a set of Britannica’s, well not unless I can think of a crafting project worthy enough to do so, but felt the atlas were fair game. So while hubby was out this evening, he gets a little sensitive to things like this.. I thought I would cover my notebooks.

First choose your page, and then cover the outside of your notebook in glue, I chose a pritstick as my weapon of choice. img_5810Place your notebook on the reverse of the picture that you want, press down, and then roughly cut the page out and then trim down the edges until they are flush with the original cover. img_5813Like so. img_5811And I must say it worked really well. img_5819I repeated this twice more, the first was a page on Antartica, perfect for winter I thought, the second was part of the country I travel through most often and I actually managed to squeeze my home town on and can see the route to London as well as lots more of course. It will give me something to look at during the long car journeys we so regularly seem to do.  The third was the southwest of the country, so I can while away the hours on said travelling trips trying to pronounce the villages in Cornwall and wondering which ones would be lovely to visit.

Isn’t it just perfect for a travellers notebook and would make lovely presents for people, you could theme them to the person so easily.  Friends from all corners of the globe could have their very own map covering inexpensive notebooks in their Christmas stockings, and an Atlas can be bought for a couple of quid if one looks carefully enough, as well as their being Bible Atlas’s and Truckers Atlas’s, as well as a myriad of other types I shouldn’t wonder. img_5821-1All finished img_5823-1 img_5825 img_5827 img_5828and reinserted back into my Midori.

Mission accomplished.