Christmas crochet projects

So Christmas is over for another year and we can all relax now...phew.

It gets kinda hairy those few days beforehand doesn't it?  Having to brave the supermarket on the day before Christmas Eve is particularly not good for ones blood pressure, that's for sure!

So this year I relaxed (well kinda) by crocheting pretty Christmas Stars and gorgeous Christmas Trees.  I made these in loads of different colours then bunged a ribbon on them and attached them to everyones presents.

Maybe the little stars and trees will get a place on their Christmas trees next year.  Ah that would be nice.

The Christmas Star tutorial was from way down under and the fabulous Jellywares blog.  Visit Jodie at Jellywares here or look at the Star Tutorial here.

The Christmas Tree tutorial was from The Royal Sisters and you can visit Michelle (the royal lady herself) here or look at their wonderful Tree Tutorial here.

I love both these patterns and it is so great that these blogging ladies go to all the time and effort to put them up with easy to follow pictures and instructions and all for free....thank you Jodie and Michelle.

Merry Christmas.


how to make avocado salsa

We made this wonderful Delia recipe on Sunday for lunch with our family.  It went with Nigella's Mexican lasagne (Delia and Nigella together for Sunday lunch..cor!), which itself is utterly divine but together with this salsa it really becomes WOW.

This is a lovely dish, it is so zingy and tasty and full of flavour, we will surely be making it again and again (mainly because we eat Nigella's Mexican lasagne again and again), give it a try, go on, its dead easy.

Now Delia's recipe says it serves four but we are a greedy lot so we doubled up some of the ingredients and this is what we used.

4 fairly large tomatoes
2 avocados
1 red onion
2 limes
salt and pepper
teeny tiny bit of coriander (or loads if you like it but we're not that keen)
optional - tabasco sauce

All you do is cover the tomatoes in boiling water for a few minutes so that you can skin them (I always make a tiny slit in the tomato once it's submerged and this seems to make the skin peel away all by itself).  Then skin, chop in quarters, remove the seeds and roughly chop.

Chop the avocados into smallish pieces and add to the chopped tomatoes.

Finely chop a red onion, we used almost a whole one as it was a whopper - add this to the mix.

Give it a mix up and season well.  Add the lime juice and mix it up again.  Add your coriander (if you like it) and tabasco (if you think you need it) and cover with clingfilm.

Pop it in the fridge and leave to stew for a good couple of hours to really get the flavours going.

Ta da! It's like you're a professional chef and everything (well this is how it makes me feel anyway)!


Urban Decay Book of Shadows Volume IV

Only a few months since the wonderful Anniversary Palette and Urban Decay have done it again with their Book of Shadows Volume IV.  It's so pretty, I'm in love, for the second time in as many months.  How annoying.

They've gone and done it again with their colours, lots of really pretty ones and a whopping ten of them are new...TEN whole new colours....brilliant.

My favourite colours are the amazingly named Bender - a lush dark olive green with a gold shimmer and the beautiful purplely Gravity which has a multicoloured glitter (could be tricky to work with).  I am also in love, love, loving Hijack a pretty blue/green - although I stuck my finger in it when I opened the box for the first time...hmph!

Now this brings me to where and how this box disappoints.  The reason I jammed my finger in Hijack is because the box is full of lots of pointless bits of excessive nonsense which makes it big and cumbersome and difficult to open.

For instance, you get a speaker!!  I mean, how silly and completely not cool Mr Urban Decay. The other items are more useful; you get the standard mini tube of primer potion (always useful), some 24/7 liquid liner instead of the usual 24/7 pencil eyeliner (nice for a change) and also a tiny little sample of the super curl mascara (again, nice for a change).  Only trouble is, I would have loved the palette without these little additions and it also would have made the palette a more suitable size.

So here are all the beautiful colours in all their glory.

Blue Bus is BRIGHT!!! huh?

The other reason I'm in love with this palette is because it has more neutrals than normal....it makes it more useful and better value for money too....an excellent Christmas present maybe...I would be hinting by now but I got this super cheap when we were in San Francisco - which was necessary because this is a pricey little bleeder...oh yes.


I passed my exam in swotty style

I do apologise in advance if this post is a bit show-offy but I'm just bursting to share my exam result news because I got a completely unbelievable DISTINCTION!!!!  Yes I did, a DISTINCTION!!!!! A few more exclamation marks might make it sink in a bit, however I have checked and checked and checked again in case they've made a mistake and it does indeed seem to be my actual result.

The reason for this very un-British and unashamed glee is that I have never, ever, EVER received a distinction in anything and I was so overwhelmed when I got this email that I cried.

So much time and effort goes into sitting exams, endless hours of revising and wondering when I'll be free to go and watch Ice Road Truckers again like a normal person..... and I usually do just alright (which is fine by me) but never better than alright and never proper swotty.... so this came out of nowhere and made my day...sod that, it has actually made my year!

Right boasting over, I'll squeeze my ginormous head out of here now and calm down a bit eh..maybe a nice cup of tea.

Toodle-oo for now..
The very brainy and swotastic me.


Tilly attempts to break both legs

Gorgeous T-dog pictures courtesy of Mr P

Tilly is nearly nine months old and so far we've only had a couple of scares with her; once when she was tearing around the garden she banged her leg on a bench and screamed her head off.  The other time resulted in an expensive trip to the vets after we got up to find her bed completely filled with puke, lovely.

So we are most certainly not used to drama, she's quite a hardy young pup.  But then, last weekend she properly hurt herself whilst out walking with Mr P and she has the scars to prove it!  Poor Mr P was devastated and sought solace in the gin....which, as I'm sure you know, just made him even more miserable!

Here's the story then....they were out walking and it got dark just as they reached the last stretch which happened to be the cemetery.  She started to do her loopy running around thing (she just runs round and round in big circles all excited like!) and the next thing Mr P heard was her screaming.  He ran over and she was crying and unable to walk so he picked her up and carried her home.

When he got home he discovered that she had obviously run straight into something because both of her legs were cut (oh sad face).  We went back the next day and one of the graves has a low, wire fence around it so this was obviously the offending article..tsk.  It would seem that the force of the impact had literally ripped all the hair out of her legs in two little patches, like violent threading. Oh my!

"Look at my bald spots Mummy and ooh haven't I got a shiny coat (and really weird eyes...eek)"
The good news is that she is okay, Mr P made sure she could walk (she could virtually straight away) and then checked her legs to see if they were broken or if they hurt her, she didn't seem bothered when he touched them so we are pretty sure they aren't busted real bad.  In fact by the time I got home she was all chipper and running around pleased to see me, poor Mr P was sitting gutted on the sofa.

The skin was all sore and weepy - as you can imagine it would be after having all the hair ripped out with force and so we've been bathing them with a weak Dettol solution and checking them a lot.  Unfortunately she is quite happy to sit and lick them all day long so every time they scab up and get ready to heal she dutifully picks them off and makes them red and sore again....so they still look quite bald a week later but she's absolutely fine, she even managed to pose for Christmas photos on Thursday so she must be okay ;o)

"WHAT? just what is this hideous thing doing around my neck"?
Whilst we are sure she's okay, she is her normal self and running around like a lunatic most of the time after all, we are a bit worried about her hair growing back.  I really hope it does otherwise she is going to look a little odd....although (and Mr P won't be happy with me saying this), it does give her a distinguishing feature ;o) we googled it and apparently sometimes the hair grows back white!!  She'll be our Cruella Deville doggy then won't she!!


the week I learned how to crochet

lulaveggie on Etsy
I have long been a fan of crocheted blankets in particular the so called 'granny blankets' made up of small crochet 'granny squares' that are usually brightly coloured and crocheted together to look really pretty especially when made with bright colours and edged in black like these examples.

lulaveggie on Etsy
So, I decided in my infinite wisdom, that I was going to learn how to crochet so I could make my own granny blanket! Nothing like starting small and working your way up huh?  Off I went to get a crochet needle, a book and some practice wool in green and blue, sat down and started trying to crochet.

Have to say, easy to do a stitch...hurrah!  Anyone can do it, just put a slip knot on the needle and pull the wool through the knot.  Ta da!

Not so easy to get the hang of stitching, double stitching, treble stitching etc and all the other stuff you need to do in order to be able to create the pretty squares you see above...much respect for the crochet genius like lulaveggie above.

Not easy peasy at all, I sat for hours trying, trying and trying again until my fingers were hurting (seriously), but I was determined - with furrowed brow and everything - to get it. 

Well after three days of practice, intense scrutiny of various excellent YouTube crochet teachers and sheer determination I created this....

Whoohoooooo..I danced about a bit, much to Mr P's astonishment but the relief at finally 'getting it' was huge.  I then immediately started learning how to change colours, create borders and everything, well not everything but you know what I mean.

Soon I had created two granny squares, edged them and crocheted them together.....phew.  Not long before I'm a champion crocheter, eh?...ahem!  I've spoken to my real life granny (aka Nanny) and she has also offered to help me out a bit with technique and stitches etc, which is great because it means I'll be learning from the best.

My next (aka first) project is taken from Nicki Trench's amazing crochet book Cute and Easy Crochet - I lurve this book and spend hours drooling over the cool and pretty things she's crocheted (I know, bit sad huh), and this blanket caught my eye.  Well its the first in the book and supposedly to be relatively easy so I'm giving it a go because its got me by the teeth and won't let me go.

Should be relatively okay, these are the squares I learned from so essentially I just need to crochet, oh, you know, 432 more of them (432!!  Blooming heck!)..ha ha.  Will keep you posted on my progress, wish me luck!


Tom Ford Black Orchid Lipstick

Oh my goodness I have been eyeing up this lipstick for ages and at the airport I finally cracked.  Seriously expensive though, gulped visibly when she told me how much at the till (note to Mr P, I will never, EVER tell you how much it cost), and sheepishly handed over my credit card.

Firstly let me tell you that I never usually buy dark lipsticks, they don't really suit me and I think it gets harder to pull them off the older you get.  But this one is quite beautiful and therefore needed to be in my life, well my makeup bag anyway, if only for it's sleek black case which whispers shut..oh yeah.

The lovely makeup artist Lisa Eldridge has created a great video on this lipstick showing all the different ways it can be worn and thankfully it isn't quite so scary if you just dot it onto your lips with your fingertip.  Applying it this way leaves a lovely little plummy stain on your lips - brilliant for daytime looks and lasts a long time.

Alternatively if you want to go for a full on goth look (note, this is what Mr P told me I looked like with it on), then apply with a lipbrush.  It is quite dark and very stainy so it's worth using a similar coloured lip pencil first to achieve a perfect finish.  Be warned though it is totally plumtastic and very mysterious and I'm certain that wild, adventurous things will happen to you when wearing it - so wear at your peril.

The final way I would wear it would be blotted - it's quite nice blotted - with a smear of clear gloss over the top, very nice look indeed and brings out a few sparkly hints in the lipstick too.

A lovely makeup purchase, if anyone tells Mr P how much this cost I will track them down and haunt them - maybe in the next life though, not sure I can be bothered to go to all that effort in this one!


all about San Francisco

So we are back from outer space (well that's what jet lag makes it feel like anyway!!), and loving being home in gorgeous, wet, orange-coloured England - love, love, LOVE this time of year!

So, it was a weird old trip because it was so last minute and not a holiday in any real sense of the word at all.  We were offered the chance to spend a week there so we could investigate the area to see if we liked it, to check out housing, residential areas and the cost of stuff.  Not an easy task but necessary so that Mr P could make up his mind about a job offer.  So every day was spent travelling around and house-hunting and boy was it tiring, the Bay Area of California is huge!

On the first day we looked to the east, visiting the beautiful leafy towns of Lafayette and Walnut Creek.  The next day we had a tour organised by a relocation specialist and we went into San Francisco and then out to Berkeley, which was really gorgeous and a great foodie haven.  We then went down south to Stanford and finished up in Marin County which is north of the Golden Gate Bridge.  Phew...!!

Obviously we found time to fit in some shopping, got my bro some Levis - which are so cheap, probably because they were invented in San Francisco (I never knew that...did you?), and Mr P got himself his longed for iPad even with me tutting, rolling my eyes and refusing to enter the store.  You know the store I mean, the one with all the hollering, crazy employees, makes me shudder even to think about it.

We also did some touristy stuff.  We went to Pier 39 and saw the sea lions, which just freaked me out frankly...bit like Blackpool with a heap of big lovely sea monsters crammed onto a floating pontoon....weird!

We also walked up the very famous and wiggly Lombard Street and that really was amazing.  So high and so steep, I never did realise how steep the hills are in SF, the films just do not do them justice, I mean you could see for miles at the top of some of the hills.

So we did it, we loved visiting but we ultimately have decided not to accept the fabulous offer of a job there and you know the main reason why??  Tilly pooh-face....that's why!

It isn't the most dog-friendly of places, lots of concrete and gazillions (I mean GAZillions!) of cars and we had to compare what her life would be like there compared to here where we have the gorgeous-ness of Swinley Forest right outside our front door and so much greenery that sometimes it makes me feel a bit dizzy.

So we did it for you pooh-face....you better love us forever now!

You know what as well, going out there to seriously consider moving thousands of miles away from home made me realise what a proper Brit I am.  I pined for home; single lane roads, left-hand drive cars and a nice cup of tea!  And I wouldn't know what to do without my family and friends, so hooray for us, lets celebrate gorgeous GB and finally making a decision after three weeks of stressing and worrying about it.


off to San Francisco

No blogging for a week as we are off to San Francisco to see if we like it enough to live there for a few years!!!!  Oh my GOODNESS!!

image copyright macmanuslab

We are very excited and more than a little nervous, there is so much to think about not least what we can do to make the move work out for Tilly - because there is no way we are leaving her behind.

So, we have lots of exploring to do, lots of questions to ask and lots of thinking to do.


four ways to get your oats!

I love this porridge time of year, can't wait to get my first packet of Scott's Porage Oats out for the season and my little blue and white Whittard cup that I seem to have had for years and yet is only used for this porridgey purpose.

I know that lots of people don't like porridge or think that it's boring so I thought I would show you four ways to make it a bit more interesting.  I normally have one of the three fruity versions and then I decided to throw in a wild card version I saw on an american food blog.

Apple and Cinnamon/Banana and Walnut
Peanut Butter and Jelly/Brown Sugar and Sultanas

For all versions you need to cook your porridge in the usual way - 1 cup of oats with 2 cups of water or milk (I use a water and milk mixture) and microwave for three and a half minutes.  Check your porridge packet for alternatives or stove top instructions.

Apple and Cinnamon.

This is one of my favourites,  when you are cooking the porridge include a teaspoon of cinnamon in the mixture, you could add some sugar too but I don't think you'll need it.

When cooked, slice an apple on the top, drizzle some honey or syrup over the top of the sliced apple and sprinkle with some more cinnamon.  For my apple slicing I use this ace apple corer and it makes such a pretty picture (like an apple flower), I though I'd include it in this post :o)

Banana and Walnut.

Take your standard porridge mixture and stir a chopped banana in saving some for the top.  Drizzle with honey or syrup and add chopped walnuts.

Brown Sugar and Sultanas.

Brown sugar is lovely on porridge, sprinkle lots on and then add a handful of sultanas.

Peanut Butter and Jelly.

Okay, okay this is a complete wild card but try it..you might like it.  Just stir in a tablespoon (or two depending on your love of peanuts) of peanut butter and add a blob of jam to the top.

Ta da! There you have it, lots of ways to make your porridge taste good, you've got no excuse now.

Me? Well I could happily eat my porridge plain (with just a touch of salt), but it makes mornings interesting to add something tasty in there.  Give it a try, you might like it.


just walking the dog

I love autumn, oh have I mentioned that already?

This year it's been made even more special because we are walking Tilly in the forest every day and boy do we live next to a good one.  We're so bloody lucky to live across the road from Swinley Forest a huge expanse of trees and loveliness, all owned by the Queen (it's part of the Crown Estate).  Don't worry she lets us commoners tramp around in there to our hearts content so we're not trespassing.

So mushroom season has just finished,.  They've all pretty much died off, or been picked, crazy mushroom pickers were often to be found ferreting around in the undergrowth!  There were some really pretty ones like these little spotties nestling in amongst the heather (and spiders by the looks of it) and some monster ones like this brute - check him out, he looks like a big steak and kidney pie!!

It's lovely when the sun shines at this time of the year, it's a different kind of light, lower in the sky and it really brings out all the colours and makes everything look so much prettier.

Every time I try to take an 'arty' scenic picture though Tilly goes and stands right in shot (see top and below)...makes me laugh, I could do a montage of scenes with Tilly just stood in the middle...well it would make me smile anyway.

This final shot wasn't taken by me, Mr P captured this little mushroom family.....so cute!  Only, is it just me or do they look a bit like a little family of willies?!


Malta #2

It's hard work you know, having to go to away for a bit and having to stay in an apartment with this for a view!

It was my first trip to the tiny island of Malta set adrift in a lonesome part of the Mediterranean and I was not disappointed.  It is unique and quirky and surprisingly untouched by the mass tourism that dominates the rest of the Med, which makes it a great place for a holiday , well if you like that kind of thing that is.

We only went for a short, short trip owing to me having an exam and Mr P going away with his work so we were keen to make the most of it.  Our friend's apartment was in the small and rather chic town of Mellieha in the northwest of the island.  From Mellieha, and in fact from their balcony, you can see over to Gozo and the tiny island of Comino which sits in between.

We visited the pretty, pretty port of Marsaxlokk (pronounced marsha-shlock).  It is a tiny village and very pretty, the port is huge and filled with the traditional Maltese luzzu boats that are brightly painted, always in red, blue, yellow and green.  The harbour is full of them, we stayed and had lunch in the sunshine.

I'll leave you with a picture of the yummy Maltese pastini biscuits that we have been scoffing almost constantly since our return.....I am actually glad to say that they are nearly all gone because I absolutely can NOT resist them.  Yum.


Malta #1

Yeah, she's a little bit gorgeous isn't she.

So we are off on holiday to Malta tomorrow morning and Tilly is going away too.  She is going to stay with a lovely dog-walker lady called Tracy and will spend her days off walking in the forest with Tracy and her daily dogs, between ten and twelve of them.

We think it will be great for the Tilster, she needs that interaction with other dogs and Tracy has a dog too so Tilly will be sharing a house - again good experience for her.  It's going to be weird handing her over and saying goodbye tomorrow morning, what's the betting I have a little cry....gulp.

I'm really looking forward to visiting Malta, I've never been and Mr P has loads of times because his family is from there so it's going to be like finally getting to see something that is talked about often and loved a lot.  Plus it's great because I can finally start to join in the conversation.

Also I'm so looking forward to some sunshine - although it's been lovely in Blighty this week, proper hot and sunny and everything, it's been quite nice getting all my summer holiday clothes out again...hurrah.

Will provide a full update and pictures when I get back.

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I ♥ Manchester

What is Manchester famous for?

Manchester United is probably what most people would say, and after all it is probably the city's greatest worldwide export. Well I say pah to football and instead celebrate the fact that Manchester is the home of indie music with some of the best bands EVER hailing from this northern metropolis.
You can't argue with the likes of The Smiths, Happy Mondays, The Stone Roses, Inspiral Carpets, New Order.. .oh my goodness the list is endless and I didn't even mention Oasis!!

Anyway, we went to visit our family in Manchester last weekend. I've never been before, didn't know what to expect and was really not expecting too much, 'yeah, it's a city right'  's'pose it'll be alright'. So it was with delight that we found Manchester to be very much to our taste. It's just big enough to be big and wowy but not too big to be scary and intense.

All the areas are nicely defined and so it's quite villagy, we were right next to Chorlton which apart from being where the wheelies come from (please, please say you remember them?), is very lovely, leafy and full of chi-chi little shops...which I didn't have a chance to go in but will definitely do next time.
Chorlton is also the home of the most brilliant shop ever, the shop that makes me want to pack my bags up and move north.....the Unicorn Grocery.  Oh what a delight, a shop that has NO meat in it whatsoever. Ta da. I felt like skipping through the aisles, in fact I think I did a little bit...and even better than being a vegetarian shop, its actually a vegan shop so no dairy or eggs either. We purchased lots of lovely vegetables, some mason jars and some delicious pasties to eat on our long drive home.

We also took Tilly for a walk at a place called Alderley Edge which has lots of ancient and wizardy connections. It was very beautiful with great views over the city but shame the weather wasn't better so we could get some better shots, ah well.

Manchester is out there...somewhere
It was a great walk, the dogs loved it (we went with Tilly's new friend Peggy a Border Terrier), and so did we....although there were no poo bins, not even back at the car park...which is a bit odd.
Anyway, much more to see next time we visit, can't wait.


autumn, the best season of them all

Another great thing about dog walking is getting out and about every single day, it's a real pleasure to see the season changing from summer (eh? what summer), to autumn.  It's my favourite time of the year and I love collecting things when I'm walking and taking pictures.

Tilly in particular likes the beech nut casings...we have a huge copper beech in our garden and there are hundreds of the things....she likes to eat them?? I'm sure they're not good for her!