Sunday, 7 February 2016

Japanese Trip

A Geisha Welcome
As part of my recuperation I have recently taken a trip to Japan. A few mysterious days there, (I say mysterious as it was totally weird), were a real experience (never to be repeated). Here are a few photos to whet the appetite.

View From Hotel in Tokyo
The Twenty Second Floor
(With a glass outdoor elevator!)
A Temple In Kyoto

Welcome To The Royakan
We travelled around Tokyo taking in all the tourist sights and staying in high rise hotels, took the bullet train to Kyoto and then stayed in a royakan, which is a typical Japanese home/hotel complete with wooden baths, paper walls and futons. It was just a little westernised, but not totally to my taste. The food and green tea in particular were fairly odd, all looking very attractive but tasting unusual. There were beautiful geishas everywhere.
In the exclusive Japanese Royokan in Kyoto we sat at the Chef's Table for a Speciality Meal. It all looked so very beautiful but was a complete mystery to us all ... nine courses and not a thing I recognised!

I should love to say that I really enjoyed the holiday - but I would be lying. I loved the fact that all the Japanese are so very polite, that the country is totally clean, that the food is fresh, but truly hated the high rise life style, the fresh but totally unrecognizable food, the noise and bustle and the weird and wonderful ways I encountered. I was also rubbish with chopsticks and truly hated green tea and sake. I also really missed a good old fashioned English cup of tea!

The Chef - Japan's Answer To Jamie Oliver

Breakfast - The Only Meal I Ever Really Enjoyed

Japan Here I Come Again - Maybe Not!


Friday, 5 February 2016

Sensory Bands

Dementia Muffs
Sensory Bands

Have you heard about twiddle muffs or sensory bands - a basic muff for dementia patients that uses left over wool, buttons and ribbons and keeps anxious hands busy? Apparently these basic muffs are helpful to dementia patients as they gave them something to fiddle with while their hands are encased inside the muff making them look more serene.

The muffs should be very busy with lots of loose ends, buttons, ribbons and other attachments and are a simple way of using left over wools and ribbons and odd buttons and bows.

I have been making some myself - no knitting expertise needed - just a love of colour and lots of odds and ends. This was my very first attempt ...

A second in progress on circular needles

I used buttons, bows, sari silks and multi odds and ends of wool and just knitted a long tube and turned it in on itself as a lining - the inside is just as busy! The pattern above is so easy and can be make on circular needles or just the plain old stick variety - both so simple. Send to one of the above hospitals.

Do give it a try.
(We all know someone whose is just a little demented!)

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Superb Cheese Souffle

Cheese Soufflé

Today I made ...

Well risen soufflé
Perfect lunch

Today I have made a lovely soufflé for lunch with friends - and believe me it was totally easy. This is the recipe I used ...

Easy Classic Cheese Soufflé

50 g butter
25 g breadcrumbs
50 g flour
1 tsp mustard
300 ml milk
4 eggs
100 g grated cheese

Heat oven to 200 centigrade
Put baking sheet in the oven
Butter soufflé dish
Sprinkle interior with breadcrumbs
Prepare a collar to stand 3 inches above the dish sides
Make a white sauce with the butter, flour and mustard and cook gently
Stir in the milk and bring to the boil
Mix thoroughly and then stand to cool
When cool add the egg yolks
Whist the whites and fold into the mixture gently
Cook in oven for 25 - 30 minutes


Learning To Weave

Tiny enchanting studio in Founders Park

Beginning Weaving
On a recent holiday in December I visited a wonderful weaving studio and over a period of two days learned a very little about weaving. The studio was in Founders Park, Nelson, NZ South Island and was an enchanting old fashioned studio full of looms and materials and an excellent weaving teacher.
Full of wonderful materials and samples
Looms of all shapes and sizes
Beautiful hand made samples
Even more looms
Space for a cup of tea
And more looms
Looms as far as the eye can see
And a really large loom with a room all to itself
I found the whole experience really exciting and came away feeling that I needed to learn more about this wonderful craft. My first attempts were to weave a simple sample on a loom already warped and ready for use. This sample can be seen below. I concentrated on colours I love - mainly pinks and blues and each of the squares were in different styles and stitches - a real example of what can be done in a very short time.
Beginning weaving
Feeling the blues
Messy back
In the pink
My first zig zag
As you can see I am a true beginner but so wanting to learn. I found three weaving classes in my neighbourhood and was keen to join one but all three have since been dropped due to lack of interest. Very disappointing. Consequently I have spent many happy hours on You Tube learning the basics and now intend to buy a small loom of my own to continue alone with this wonderful craft. Any help or advice would be gratefully received.
Is there anyone out there, (near London/Surrey borders), who would be willing to teach me?

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Homemade Lampshades

Elegant Lamps

I just love these lamp bases - a lovely present from Mr Whizz Kid for my birthday. They are antique French brass and very beautiful and we needed equally beautiful shades to go with them.

I ordered some beautiful fabrics from Laura Gunn, (my favourite fabric designer), from the USA and when it arrived tried to make my very first lampshade ever. With the help of hubby - definitely needs two hands - these were the perfect shades to go into our sitting room. With a little left over fabric I made a small cushion cover to go onto an occasional chair in the room.

These are the finished products of which I am so proud.

Ta Dah!

I used a kit from Needcraft and this lovely fabric - all three by the designer Laura Gunn from the Michael Miller Fabric Collection.

Beaded Stripe
Day Lilies
Wing song
Thanks for looking 

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Back To My Happy Place

For All My Family, Friends, Bloggers,
 (And Just The Curious) ...

I Am Back In My Happy Place!

UPDATE: Sadly, my cancer returned and after more major surgery, and months and years of treatment and recuperation, (I have now had cancer four times in four years and have just finished another course of radiotherapy and am feeling fairly well),  I am now back to continue my passion for sewing, knitting, crochet, cooking and travelling, ... and life in general ... and following all the lovely craft blogs out there - I so missed you all.

I intend to "live a little before I die a lot!"

I am back to sewing and knitting, travelling and gardening and have taken a particular interest in cooking. I was not great at cooking cakes in the past as I cook in an Aga, which is generally too hot for cakes. Recently I bought an electric table top cooker just for cakes and it has been a revelation! I have taken plenty of photo's and will bore you all with them over the next few weeks   ...   here are a few to start me off gently ...

My garden is blooming.


The herbs are stunning. 

The flowers cheer me.

Today I am making a cake - a Magic Custard Cake - it is an easy recipe and has such an unusual taste and is so very delicious. Do try it. It is perfect as a pudding with fruit and lovely on its own with a cup of tea and it keeps well in the fridge.


1/2 cup (113g) unsalted butter
2 cups (480ml) milk
4 eggs, separated
4 drops white vinegar
1 1/4 cups (150g) icing sugar
1 tablespoon (15ml) water
1 cup (115g) self raising flour
1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract
extra icing sugar for dusting
Preheat the oven to 325 f/165 c Lightly butter or grease a 8"x8" baking dish.
Melt the butter and set aside to slightly cool. Warm the milk to lukewarm and set aside.
Whip the egg whites and vinegar to stiff peaks. Set aside.
Beat the egg yolks and sugar until light. Mix in the melted butter and the tablespoon of water for about two minutes or until evenly mixed.
Mix in the flour until evenly mixed. Slowly beat in the milk and vanilla extract until everything is well mixed. It should now look like a fairly thick batter.
Fold in the egg whites, half at a time.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45-60 minutes or until the top is golden. Allow cake to completely cool before cutting and then dust with icing sugar.

This is the cake directly from the oven before sprinkling with icing sugar. It shrinks a little as it cools.

Ta Dah!

PS. Thanks for sticking around!

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Quick Knit Slippers

Just Like Grandma Made

Hand knit cosy slippers
Based on a 1940s pattern

I have recently had new carpets and they are a very pale beige. Lots of my friends have been turning up in wet and soggy boots and I am keen that they leave them in the hall. One neighbour recently objected so much to removing her boots that she hasn't visited since. So ... I remember a Japanese friend always having a pile of knitted slippers in a basket in the hallway and we would all take off our shoes and boots and put some on. Apparently it is very rude and unacceptable to wear outdoor shoes inside a Japanese home. I decided to copy this idea with some homemade slippers in my hall.

Searching the net for simple knit slipper patterns, they all appear to be similar, and very quick and easy to knit. So I decided to design my own based on some of the simple designs I found on Ravelry.
For the sizing I measured my foot from toe to heel (9 inches) and detracted 1 inch as the knitted slipper will be stretchy (8 inches). I am a size 5.5/6.0 UK - and these fitted perfectly. The slipper can be made smaller or larger by decreasing or increasing the garter stitch rows, or by using different size needles and different gauge wools.

The materials were just what I had in my stash -

2 x 50 gram balls of multicoloured sock wool in 4 ply - to be used together
1 pair of size 7 mm needles
A darning needle

The Slipper - Make 2

Using both balls of wool at once and No 7 mm needles
Cast on 30 st
Knit first row into the back of the stitches
Knit 30 rows in garter stitch
(Approximately 5.5 inches)
Next row purl
K10, K 2 tog, K6, K2 tog, K10
Next row purl
K 9, K2 tog, K6, K2 tog, K9
Next row purl
K8, K2 tog, K6, K2 tog, K8
Next row purl
K7, K2 tog, K6, K2 tog, K7
Next row purl
K6, K2 tog, K6, K2 tog, K6
Next row purl
K5, K2 tog, K6, K2 tog, K5
Next row purl
K4, K2 tog, K6, K2 tog, K4
Next row purl
K3, K2 tog, K6, K2 tog, K3
Next row purl
(Approximately 2.5 inches)
Leaving 14 stitches on needle thread double strand through all stitches and draw tightly.

Sew the toes together until you reach the garter stitch area
Sew the back seam

The Bows - Make 2

Cast on 7 stitches using No 7 mm needles
Knit into back of stitches for first row
Knit 15 rows in garter stitch
Knit into back of stitches for last row
Cast off

The Ties - Make 2

Cast on 3 stitches using No 7 mm needles
Knit into back of stitches for first row
Knit 7 rows in garter stitch
Knit into back of stitches for last row
Cast off

Make up bows and attach to slippers

Sadly blogger is misbehaving and so the photos are not at all where they are supposed to be ... still I think they will give you a picture of just what I did - though not necessarily in that order!

NB. While I was making the slippers the bad cat puked on the carpet - so these were unable to save the carpet from stains!  Ggrrrr!