Sunday, 30 September 2012

It lives!

An update on today's home brew - the yeast is alive, we didn't kill it with cold. It's fermenting faster than the wines we've made from wine kits (the ones with very concentrated grape juice that you mix with water). If all goes to plan we'll have six bottles of wine for £4.

The yeast floating around prettily

Starting to froth and giving of 'wine farts' - what we've started calling the gas bubbles that
pop up through the air lock
If you would like the recipe let me know and I'll share it in a future post.

Real scotch eggs (and yet more home brew!)

We got some sausage meat from a supermarket bargain bin the other day and result was these lovely scotch eggs:

They were surprisingly easy to make. We looked at a couple of recipes to see how to make them and it's a case of boil the eggs, shell them, sprinkle them with flour, wrap them with blobs of sausage meat, dip them in beaten egg then breadcrumbs, and fry them. There's a good recipe and a brief history of the scotch egg here. I have to say, having seen the amount of oil they absorb as they cook they are terribly unhealthy, but deeply tasty and filling. And they're as different from supermarket scotch eggs at they could possibly be - no rubbery old egg rattling around inside a thin shell of grey meat, coated in orange crumbs. Oh no indeed; think fresh egg in a thick jacket of good quality, seasoned meat and tasty breadcrumbs, served with a blob of wholegrain mustard.

It's been a lazy Sunday where once again we'd planned on picking elderberries but were thwarted by the weather. However we had four litres of fresh grape juice in the fridge from when they were on offer in Fultons so we started a batch of white wine with it. I'm concerned that the juice may have been too cold and killed the yeast though, but I'll know for certain if it hasn't started fermenting by the end of the day. 

Friday, 28 September 2012

A quickie

A quick update on current projecty bits today. I made a couple of Christmas cakes last Sunday using this straightforward recipe from Being Penny Wise . I'll be 'feeding' them with brandy every week leading up to Christmas so they should be good and boozy by the time the festive season get's going!

Speaking of which, we've bottled our quick brew wine, racked off the strawberry wine into a fresh demijohn (we havn't got enough bottles yet to bottle it all) and racked off the mead to give it a second clearing.

We've called the wine we bottled today 'Isaac 2012' as it was ready on the same day that our friend's son Isaac made his first appearance in the wide world after a long and arduous labour.

Plenty of wine for wetting the baby's head!
The blue Christmas blanket is coming along nicely - I've joined all the squares and am crocheting the border now. I'm already planning the next blanket - so many possibilities where the good old granny square is concerned.

I've been reading about the planets for my astrology course and am finding it interesting so far. Interesting enough to read it in the bath too, a sure sign of enjoyable reading.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Magazine grumble

Today in the supermarket I stopped for a glance around the magazine aisle and my eye was caught by a new magazine called 'The Simple Things'. I had a flick through and it looked OK, what you'd expect - recipes, gardening, things to make, places to go, articles on living more simply. All this for £4.99...! 

£4.99 to 'Embrace the simple life' as it says on the cover. Phew, that's a lot of money for people who are looking to simplify their lives.

I think it's great that more people are thinking about simplifying their lives and learning to appreciate  simpler things, it's a really positive change and a silver lining to the recession's grey clouds. But I think it's cynical to try to sell that lifestyle to people, to commercialise a lifestyle that includes more thoughtful, less rampant consumption. I know it's a trend like any other for many people, but selling a make do and mend, simplify your life kind of lifestyle in a £5 mag full of advertising kind of takes the piss.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Home brew progress and a new book

I got this fab book in the post today, it's a pocket sized guide to foraging by Richard Mabey. It's got over 100 plants, mushrooms and shellfish (is it still foraging if they're shellfish though?) and a calender at the front showing what's available for foraging each month of the year. For each thing it explains how it can be eaten and even has some recipes and advice on making jams and jellies out of wild fruit. I'm looking forward to taking it out with me on a walk and seeing if I can find anything. There's a phrase in the preface that made me laugh; the author says that now he's older he doesn't forage for large amounts any more but just likes something to nibble on whilst walking - 'ambulant consumption'.

Today we racked off the mead and strawberry wine into clean demi johns. The strawberry wine can be bottled in another couple of days and the mead needs one more racking off them a campden tablet to kill any lurking bacteria before being bottled and stored for as long as we can bear to leave it. We also started a quick brew kit today. It takes a week to ferment before being bottled and left for 3 months - just in time for Christmas!

Monday, 17 September 2012

Enrolled - finally!

After much procrastination I enrolled on an online course for a Certificate in Astrology yesterday with The Mayo School of Astrology. I've been interested in studying it for awhile but have been putting it off. I told myself this was because of the cost but I dug a little deeper and realised that the cost was just a smokescreen.

What was actually holding me back was fear. It seems obvious now of course but up until Saturday I'd managed to pretend that I wasn't at all scarred and I'd start the course in six months when I'd saved the money. But that didn't sit right so I thought about it, got in a muddle and finally did myself an Angel Card reading that helped me to clarify matters. The card related to letting go of past patterns and fears and moving forward. So that caused me to ask "What's really holding me back?". After all, I could pay for the course on my rarely used, low interest credit card and comfortably pay off large enough chunks that the debt would be gone pretty soon, long before finishing the course. I was scarred of making the commitment then changing my mind, scarred of failing, scarred of having to get myself organised and stick to a home study routine. I even felt guilty about spending so much money - my money - on something for myself. As soon as I pulled each fear out into the light they looked a little lame to be honest. The fear of commitment was much worse than actually making the decision because now I've made it I feel like a weight has been lifted. The fear of failure is based on past attempts at studying that havn't worked out, but when I think about it they've been things I've studied because I felt I should, not because I was really interested. As for being apprehensive about not being organised enough for home study - well my dear girl, the way it works is you get your arse in gear and you do it! I'm organised enough to excel at a varied and often pressurised job with six different people asking me fourteen different things at any one time, so I know really that I'm capable of being organised enough for home study.

As for the guilt over spending a chunk of money on myself - well, I'm generally very thrifty so it's ingrained to save rather than spend, but sometimes you have to, and since it's money I've earned and it's a course that interests me it's a worthwhile spend.

I feel happier now I've made the decision to do the course and am excited about studying. It feels so good to have stopped procrastinating! And it's a relief to have been honest with myself about it and admitted my fears. They're so much worse when they're vague and unidentified - when you look at them in the cold light of the day they're often not so bad.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

One month in pictures - Day 30

I love the feeling of being in the middle of a project that I'm enjoying every
step of

Saturday, 15 September 2012

One month in pictures - Day 29

Spending £2 at the greengrocers has given me a vase full of sunshine

Friday, 14 September 2012

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Leeds Knit and Natter

If you're in Leeds and you knit, crochet, sew, cross stitch, make jewellery or partake of any other portable craft there's a new knitting/craft group in the city centre.

We meet in Costa on Briggate, Thursday evenings from 5pm to 7.30pm.

If you fancy learning to knit or crochet there will always be someone there who can show you how.

We're a small and friendly group so come along for a drink, a knit and a natter.

(There's also a group on Ravelry - 'Leeds Knit and Natter')

One month in pictures - Day 27

Wonderful refreshing cider with a lady holding an apple almost the same size of her head.
My sense of proportion is being messed with here.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Four days of fun

I've had a long, four day weekend and I've enjoyed it so much that I've now got that end of holiday feeling as I'm going back to work tomorrow. It's been an excellent few days of day trips, relaxing, making things and a few surprises too. 

I've made progress on a crochet blanket:

Finished a pair of socks:

Found stash yarn for the next pair (the yarn's left over from previous socks so it feels like free yarn):

And the strawberry wine's finished fermenting so we've added the finings and it's having a day to clear:

I've also started crocheting some rose brooches to sell on the next Hope Pastures open day, picket a ton of blackberries and done some batch cooking for the freezer, so it's been quite a productive time. Done bugger all around the house mind you, it looks like a bomb hit it! We've got guests at the weekend though so that means a Friday After Work Special - attack the mess swiftly and mercilessly (and fudge it ie. shove stuff away in drawers and cupboards!).

Ah well, back to it tomorrow after a refreshing four days of fun, frollics, foraging and footling about.

One month in pictures - Day 25

Our last visit to the alpacas of Alpaca Maraca today due to other commitments. It's sad they we won't see them again but it's been fun getting to know them over the past 18 months.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Sunday, 9 September 2012

One month in pictures - Days 22 and 23

I had a day off from posting a picture a day yesterday as it was my 5th wedding anniversary and I wanted to enjoy every minute of it. Mr CB surprised me with breakfast and buck fizz in bed then we went for a walk near by and picked blackberries. It was a good haul and we had enough to make a crumble today and freeze two bags. How relaxing it is to pick blackberries - standing in the sun picking them, wandering from patch to patch.

Later we went for a nice meal then sat in the garden drinking cocktails and enjoying looking at the stars.

Today we went to the Otley Vintage Transport Extravaganza (there's a great word that doesn't get used enough!). Lots of impressive old vehicles, stalls, charities - and ferret racing!

The racing was to promote a local ferret rescue charity. The ferrets were relaxed and happy being handled (and cuddled!) and all in all seemed very contented with life:

We saw these dogs too. They raise money for animal welfare charities and are Huge.

After dinner we went for a walk and enjoyed the view.

 It's been a weekend full of unexpected good things. 

Friday, 7 September 2012

One month in pictures - Day 21

I finished a frivolous frilly scarf and visited Max the cat at Goldenacre Park - here is a picture of both 

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

One month in pictures - Day 18

I'm getting back into visiting the library and am enjoying reading all these craft books
for free

Monday, 3 September 2012

One month in pictures - Day 17

We visited Adel Dam Nature Reserve for the first time this evening - lots of busy birds and animals and
it was a peaceful place to be after a day at work.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

One month in pictures - Day 16

Today we went to the opening of the new Hope Pastures visitor centre - Pimms, cakes and a celebration of the sanctuary's work and volunteers.
We met one of the sanctuary's newest residents, Banjo the donkey who was rescued in the nick of time from being made into pet food and who is such a gentle, cuddly guy.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

101 in 1001: August 2012

Completed goals: 3
Goals in progress: 21
Days so far: 17
Days to go: 984


29) Go to a knitting group.
Last week I finally went to a knitting group and this week I went again. It's in the city centre after work and the people there are welcoming, friendly and fun to be with. Since moving to Leeds, 95 miles away from my family and with most of my friends scattered throughout the country, I've been quite lonely. I went to a couple of craft groups when I first moved here but the size of them overwhelmed me; about 25 people at one and about 40 at the other. After that I slipped back into my old shyness and became quite scarred of meeting new people. I put 'Go to a knitting group' on my goals list because I knew it would be a challenge that could improve my life if I faced up to it. I was so nervous before going! I'd prepared for that though and had some calming self talk ready, so I reassured myself (repeatedly) and went, and I'm so glad I did. If you live in Leeds the group meets every Thursday from 5pm to 7.30pm downstairs in Costa on Briggate, opposite Marks and Spencer (there's a group on Ravelry for it - search for 'Leeds Knit and Natter').

11) Learn to make a great cream of tomato soup
This may seem an odd one, but it stems from the following equation:

I love Heinz cream of tomato soup
It costs 85p a can
I'm stingy
I  want something cheaper and better

Mr Crafty Blueberry beat me to this one but following a spouse to spouse soup tutorial yesterday I've made a big batch of tasty cream of tomato soup using this recipe that totally kicks Heinz's arse and half of which is in the freezer, stashed away.

17) Write a letter to myself to be opened on day 1001
I wrote about why I embarked on this list and what I hope to get out of it. The letter's sealed, labelled and  in a place I won't loose it.


The main progress I've made is on goals relating to health and fitness. I've been doing a lot of exercise at home, walking on my lunch breaks, swimming and eating way less sugar and fat, lots more fruit and raw veggies and drinking enough water to stay hydrated. So far so good but the real challenge is to keep up the good work - to take it from being a novelty to becoming habit. I feel up to it but the main threat to my routine will be the Winter, when I go a little odd, have no energy, feel crap and just want to sleep. For that reason I've been working on a SAD action plan - planning preparations I can make, nutrition and health through Winter and planning for improved well being. I just hope it pays off. Once I've done it I'll post it here in case anyone reading is affected by SAD too and finds it helpful.

Other than health goals I've started learning chess, painting my living room, making a blanket for Christmas and planning my finances. An accurate saving and spending plan's essential for many of my goals as I need to save up for them, such as studying Astrology, travel and saving for a house deposit. It was quite scary, initially, writing down my outgoings accurately but it's clarified what I can save up and how long it will take. Now I just have to get the saving started and cut down on spending - the hard bits!

Oner month in pictures - Day 15

It's a boring picture of a door painted with white gloss, but it's proof that I've
finally started painting the living room!