Thursday, 30 July 2015

Checking In - July

Making: A lovely cowl using this pattern from The Little Room of Rachell (see above picture)
Cooking: My vegetarian chilli. Secret ingredient = bisto, it's vegetarian and adds a meaty taste!
Drinking: Anything but wine after a slight indulgence at last weekend's wedding...
Reading: Nothing at the moment, I need to start something new.
Wanting: A bit of sun, it's so cold!
Looking: Forward to a mini break in Lisbon we have just booked for September :)
Deciding: What to wear to the next Summer wedding in August (I like outfit planning)
Wishing: The cats could learn how to hoover. That would save some time. Or that they were bald and didn't have so much hair ;) 
Enjoying: The last summer of not being in full-time work (hopefully)
Waiting: For 4th September - official thesis deadline!
Loving: How they did my hair for the wedding at the weekend (above) - I have notoriously fine hair and they managed to get it up and in place all day!
Pondering: What to do with myself while C is away at the cricket this weekend, I think it will end up being crochet and cheesy films, rock and roll!
Considering: Some crafty makes for friends' September birthdays.
Buying: Holidays ;)
Watching: Just finished the series of Hinterland on Netflix. Really good Welsh crime series.
Hoping: The sun comes out soon.

Marvelling: At how beautiful my university campus is (above). I'm going to miss it when I finish.
Needing: Some more sleep, I'm shattered!
Smelling: My yankee candle, we've been trying to make a conscious effort to light it more. It's 'summer meadow' I think.
Wearing: Jumpers - boo.
Noticing: How much quicker I can walk up stairs since I started swimming again.
Knowing: It really is the final countdown to a thesis-free life.
Thinking: About having my third cup of tea of the morning.
Sorting: Out a huge pile of washing.
Coveting: Some more wall space to hang more pictures.
Disliking: How cold my feet are - I have poor circulation not helped by the weather.
Opening: Lots of junkmail - how do they get my address?!
Giggling: At Outnumbered - I'm watching it during lunch breaks at the moment.
Feeling: Content.
Snacking: Scones - yummm.
Hearing: My new favourite album - 'Rockland' by Katzenjammer.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Some Wedding Gifts

We're just back from the beautiful wedding of two good friends in Cirencester. Absolutely exhausted but lots of happy memories, and their wedding day was sunny and bright - heavy rain the day before and day after so they were super lucky! I was honoured to be bridesmaid and wanted to make them some handmade gifts to go with their main present. Being last minute I finished some of them off in the car on the way there, so the only photos I have are in the hotel in bad light the day before the wedding. Oh well.

First up are a set of facecloths, my first excursion with Rico Creative Cotton. I liked the texture, which was thick and durable but it could have been a bit softer!

2. Then I thought this heart doily was very well suited to a wedding present. I tried to match it to their colour scheme. I really like this pattern, it's simple and works up quickly and I think it's really effective. It's free and can be found here.

3. Finally a cross-stitch wedding sample in some terribly blurry photos. I'm really pleased with how this came out :)

Now to finish off some long-standing WIPs. Have you ever made wedding gifts? I have some more weddings coming up and thought I might keep up the habit :)

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

The Year in Books - July

This month I haven't managed to read as much as I'd have liked, but I managed to read two very interesting novels about the Second World War.

Now I've tended to avoid novels about this war because it always reminds me about the thesis I'm writing. Interrupting supposed leisure time with thoughts of work in other words ;) I always go on about my thesis but I'm not sure I've ever properly explained. Essentially I am researching the representation of the German military during the Second World War within post-war novels and films. I am comparing those produced in East Germany with those produced in West Germany in the 1950s, and I'm looking at it from a gender studies perspective - how these texts renegotiate masculinities, femininities, gender roles and relations in the shadow of the Nazi years, defeat and occupation. I've found it absolutely fascinating and loved it (mostly) :)

But anyway I digress. 

This month I read 'Two Brothers' by Ben Elton and 'Interrogating Ellie' by Julian Gray. Both of these books are based on the authors' family members' experiences of the war, in Germany and Austria respectively, which I found really interesting. This was more immediately obvious in 'Interrogating Ellie' which was written in a more factual style, and Gray makes it clear from the start. Elton reveals all in a section at the end of his novel.

Two Brothers is about the fate of two twins. Otto and Paulus Stengl live in Berlin with their Jewish parents, Frieda and Wolfgang. Frieda is a doctor and Wolfgang a Jazz musician. The novel starts with the birth of the boys, which is the same day as the foundation of the Nazi Party in Munich. When one of the twins Frieda is carrying is stillborn she adopts an orphaned newborn baby without hesitation in the hospital. The boys grow up side by side, not knowing they are not blood related, and it is only with the increasing persecution of the Jews and the introduction of the Nuremberg racial laws that their parents reveal the truth. The novel follows the experiences of the twins from birth, alongside the beautiful millionaire heiress Dagmar Fischer, who they are both in love with, and Silke Krause, their maid's daughter. We see the exciting Weimar Berlin replaced with the restrictive and terrifying National Socialist rule, and the impact on this family, transformed from Berlin citizens like any others to persecuted outcasts. I don't want to give anything away, but I loved it. It's very well researched and I liked all of the characters (except Dagmar, if you read it you'll understand). The novel received very mixed reviews, but I found it a real page turner - I couldn't put it down!

Interrogating Ellie is about a British woman who married an Austrian and experienced the war living in Austria. Written by Ellie's son, the novel is quite frankly fascinating. You follow Ellie's movements following the breakdown of her marriage and her subsequent experiences of wartime Austria, including the occupation of Vienna by Russian soldiers in 1945. This website explains a bit more about the novel, and gives some background information. I really enjoyed the novel, I don't know much about wartime Austria, for instance I had no idea it was the Russians who occupied Vienna. It's an easy read and provides a fascinating insight into the Anschluss of Austria and Germany in 1938 and the experiences of ordinary people during the subsequent wartime years. 

As always I'm linking up with Laura at Circle of Pines, head over there to see what everyone else has been reading :)

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Summer Days and a Trip to Stratford

We've certainly been enjoying the warmer weather. The back door is open most of the time and we generally have two lazy cats lounging around in the garden. I'd like to be a cat.

We have even been eating breakfast in the garden, including a yummy breakfast of waffles and raspberries cooked by hubby on Saturday.

I'm crocheting away trying to get some face cloths done for my friend who is getting married next Saturday. This is number two of hopefully four. I'm using Rico Creative Cotton for the first time, not the softest but I bet it lasts for ages.

On Sunday we had a lovely day out in Stratford upon Avon with my MIL. I'd never been before and thought it was a really pretty town. Lots of Tudor buildings, including of course Shakespeare's birthplace - top left below.

And lots of corresponding tourists! We didn't go into any of the main historical houses, they seemed astronomically expensive to us and full of crowds. We were in more of a meandering mood. We enjoyed various statues of Shakespeare characters we encountered...

The weather was quite cloudy and as soon as we sat down for a picnic the heavens opened! We couldn't have timed it better... We were very British and continued with said picnic for a few minutes but as the rain got heavier and the sandwiches got soggier we retreated to the nearest tree for shelter.
After the downpour we decided to head off on a gentle cruise of the River Avon. It was so relaxing hubbie fell asleep (!)

After that we had afternoon tea by the river and meandered home. All in all a lovely relaxing day :) I get my final thesis feedback tomorrow, finally, so the next weeks will be nose to the grindstone in order to meet my submission deadline of 4th September. Motivation needs to be found and quickly!

Monday, 13 July 2015

The Best Scones

After my last post several people asked for the recipe for my scones, I'm pleased to share them with you here. This recipe originates in a tiny Devonshire tearoom, and came to me via the mother of a school friend. They are by far the best scones I have ever made, but the declaration that they are the best is some what subjective ;) I have converted the measurements into grams as well just in case.

You will need:

1lb (500g) Self Raising Flour
4oz (120g) Margarine
2oz (60g) Caster Sugar
½ pint Milk
1tsp Baking Powder
Flavouring if required: this recipe works well with sultanas or cherries or cheese in my experience, I usually add the amount by sight J
A greased Baking Tray or 2, depending on how big you make your scones.
A very good blend of tea and teapot at the ready.

1.       Heat oven to 200 degrees/180 fan assisted

2.       Rub the fat into the flour using your fingers until it resembles breadcrumbs

3.       Stir in the sugar gradually, and add the flavour if using

4.       Mix in the milk gradually until the mixture holds together – it shouldn’t be too wet

5.       For a very handmade look break off sections of the dough and roll into balls, place on baking tray and flatten slightly. For a more polished look roll out the mixture gently (about 6/7cm thick) and use a glass to cut out

6.       Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes

7.       When they are done allow to cool for 5-10 minutes, put the kettle on in anticipation 

      For a very authentic afternoon tea serve with jam and clotted cream :) I normally just have jam unless it's a super special occasion...

Friday, 10 July 2015

Five on Friday

Back again to join up with the lovely Amy for Five on Friday. This week I want to share five things that have made me happy during the week, which has largely been a quiet pottering around affair.

1. We have been sorting out the house a bit, tidying here, clearing out there. I made this cute little mat using left over yarn from my cushion using this pattern. And then cleared the bedside table so I could put it under a sample of my (admittedly too large) earring collection. It's really nice to be getting on top of the house, we often away and things can pile up - we are definitely making inroads now though!

2. Flowers. I moved away from my usual selection (generally chrysanthemums/carnations/gerberas) for the vases this week and picked up some beautiful peonies and irises. 

3. Baking. I made scones using my much loved recipe and we've been enjoying them with lots of tea. The recipe came from a school friend's mum who got it in a tea shop in Devon. It's definitely the best recipe I've ever used,

4. Zumba. I've been going to my zumba class on and off for about three years now, and I've been enjoying being a regular. I always hated PE at school and really haven't ever been much of an exercise bod, but Zumba is so much fun it doesn't feel like exercise. I've also starting swimming again and it's doing wonders for my asthma, I'm feeling healthier than I have for a long long time.

5. Another crochet project started.... woops! Attempting to use up all my aran yarn rolling around!

Have a great weekend! Head over to Amy here to see what every one else has been up to this week.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

48 Hours in Madrid

Last weekend I was lucky enough to head off to Madrid for a couple of days, for the hen party of a good friend whose wedding I'm bridesmaid at in July.

I had never been to Spain before, and so was doubly excited! My friend grew up in Madrid, and her sister and best friend from school were there as well so we were in excellent hands.

We had an activity planned for Saturday, and most of Sunday was spent lounging by the pool (it was over 40 degrees so I think anything else would have been too adventurous!) so we didn't spend much time in Madrid itself. What I did see however I really really liked, and once the wedding is over I'm heading back with my friend to be a proper tourist :)

We stayed on the Plaza Mayor which is one of the big squares in the centre. The buildings were beautiful and there was a great statue in the middle.

On Sunday morning a couple of friends and I walked to the Cathedral and palace quickly, just to get a sense of the city, I loved the streets and buildings!

This is the cathedral, mass was being held so I didn't go in.

And the palace... so beautiful!

And finally when we headed back I took some quick snaps out of our appartment window. In one direction ramschackled red rooftops which looked very Spanish to me, and out of the other the main square.

I can't wait to explore more of Spain!

Thursday, 2 July 2015

My First Cushion Ta Dah

I finished my first cushion! A simple granny square affair using 'join as you go' I used the yarn I bought in Berlin last July, so it's a nice souvenir.

Sadly C isn't convinced still, but it's found its way onto the sofa and he doesn't seem to object too much ;) My next goal is to keep it away from cat claws...

The only thing I'm not happy with is the button arrangement. I just used an assortment of odd buttons and as you can see they're not very evenly spaced. My only excuse is that I was exhausted and couldn't be bothered to rectify the situation! Maybe one day in the future.

So I feel some cushion mania coming on, it's a very satisfying project! They might have to be gifts for now though...