Monday, 30 December 2013

"I'm not sending Christmas cards this year..."

I like sending Christmas cards.

No, start again. I like making Christmas cards and sending them to friends and family, a little note p say thanks for being there for us over the year - a subtle but clear indication that you value your friendship with them.

I make the same design card for everyone and vary the greeting on the front.

When people announce that they aren't sending Christmas cards but "giving money to charity" I find myself thinking - yeah right, followed by a series of wonderings - how much are they donating - why does no one say exactly HOW MUCH? I mean, if they're donating the price of a box of 20 Christmas cards from superdrug, that'll be £2.99 then (tight arses). Or would that include the price of 20 first class stamps, so £14.99 now) ? And which charity are they supporting? Why don't they tell us? Why the big announcement without any more detail? You see - I might have been thinking the same and I might want to support the same charity as you...

The other thing they could do is buy charity Christmas cards and hand deliver them (If they didn't want to pay for stamps) - that way you *can* still support your chosen charity and spread a bit of Christmas cheer to people you're not always in touch with or wouldn't normally buy a gift for.

But if you do decide that you're definitely *not* doing Christmas cards then, I'd like to see someone saying this:

I'm not sending Christmas cards this year, but instead I'm donating £25 to a friend's JustGiving page (raising money for Cancer Research) - and if you think this is a worthy thing to do, don't just LIKE this post, visit their page and make a donation too [enter URL of JustGiving page here].
PS, I lied about not sending Christmas cards, I'm doing that as well.

One of those things that women don't talk about

According to some etiquette thing you can't ask a woman her age or her weight, and if you asked her she'd probably slap you, and certainly wouldn't tell you.
But I'm one to go against the grain (sometimes) and I've decided that it doesn't matter who knows my current weight. It's only a number and it doesn't tell you what size clothes I wear or how fit I am (or aren't).

I had a (stillborn) baby in June and as part of the pregnancy process I put on weight. In July I decided that before I got pregnant again I'd get myself in the best shape ever and decided to start with my weight.

I wanted to get back into normal (non-maternity) clothes, because wearing maternity clothes made me feel depressed, a constant reminder about what had happened and I kept thinking: I wasn't pregnant so shouldn't be wearing maternity clothes.

My first weigh in was: 

16th July and I weighed 86.1kg. I have been heavier (when I was younger) but I couldn't be sure how much I weighed then, I was probably on the cusp of being a size 20.


I used 2 apps on my phone:

Libra - to record weight
My Fitness Pal - to record food consumed

Here's what I did:

  • I weighed myself every weekday (probably a bit too obsessive).
  •  I reduced my portion sizes.
  •  I changed in between meal biscuits/cakes for fruit.
  •  I took up regular exercise (back to netball & spinning)
  •  I drank more water
  • I monitored what I was eating and how much (using My Fitness Pal


My goal weight:

My goal was 78kg (last known pre-pregnancy weight) and I wanted to be there by 7th December.
On  Wednesday 18th December I reached my goal weight. 78kg, I'm a bit late but I'm there.


  • I feel fitter.
  • I am back in all of my normal clothes (some are too big now).
  • I am still a bit wobbly in places and could do with toning up.
  • I'm glad I reached my goal without any crash/faddy dieting (meal replacement, counting sins/syns, points, starving myself, on/off days).
I've let myself enjoy Christmas & New Year and will be back to spining and netball in the New Year (w/c 6th Jan)

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Pigeon Loft Cake

This post is incredibly overdue, but it's here at last - better late than never (just in case you want to know how to make a pigeon loft cake for a friend this Christmas!)

My brother Matthew (or Corny to friends) is into pigeon racing. My brother turned 30 on 31st December 2012. Yes, he's young and yes he enjoys pigeon racing. He's been doing it since he was about 10 and has done very well, he's made the national pigeon racing magazine, British Homing World and the envy of my allotment neighbour, John, who also races pigeons.  He often tells me he's seen Matthew in the paper, and most of our conversations tend to be about pigeon racing, despite the fact I don't really know much.

Matthew's pigeon lofts (yes there are 4 of them) in my parents garden and he's been encouraged and supported by them over the years.

When Matthew's wife Nichola asked me to make him a cake for his 30th, I didn't need any persuasion I knew exactly what I'd make, a pigeon loft, modelled on one of his own.

One of my brother's pigeon lofts
I took a picture of one of his racing lofts (the prettiest looking one actually) - drew it up on paper and then planned how I'd make it out of edible loveliness.

My pigeon loft cake plans

The final cake would sit on a board approx A3 size and the cake would be plain sponge glued with homemade raspberry jam and buttercream and then covered in coloured icing and other sweets.

I also included a little dog, my attempt at a Jack Russell (if you couldn't tell) my brother's dog which lived near the pigeon lofts, he died in summer 2011 but he has a place up there.  And I made a poor attempt at some pigeons.

I'm rubbish at making people and animals, I attempted to make the dog twice, the 2nd version is bigger than this and still sits on my mum's kitchen windowsill. My friend Kate, Cakepoppins also make some pigeon cakepops which weren't part of the cake decorations but we're handy to give to the smaller children who came to the birthday meal we had on New Years Eve.

Building a pigeon loft out of cake:

Stacking & sticking with jam and buttercream

 The main loft was just made from rectangular cakes stacked, stuck together with jam and buttercream and then cut to form the sloping roof and the entirely covered in buttercream and then chilled overnight.

Then the roof beams (mint matchmakers) and the wooden panelling added (brown icing with lines printed in them, and then hung.

The roof was added (a piece of grey icing) and the rest of the sides done in 'wooden panelling'

The side panels were slightly longer than the sides of the cake, and on the front I didn't panel all of the front - as I needed to include the doorway.

As you can see the doorway was done with black icing and I cut out 3 windows too.

One pigeon loft with crazy paving

The front of the loft was done in a lovely grey concrete slab (excuse my irregular slabs - and I'm sure my brother would have a thing to say or two about how I've laid them too - he's also a bricklayer)

 The aviary bit on the side was the next bit and done with gelatine sheets and a mint matchstick frame - I'd made a couple of random looking pigeons and decided to put them in the aviary too.

Credit to Mr Lisa who did the aviary bit
As you can see - these are Mr Lisa's arms/hands in the way here - mainly because he was in charge of the construction of the aviary, it was a bit fiddly and done with melted chocolate fusing the frame and gelatine together - plus he likes mint matchsticks so ate the leftovers.

Also we added some more matchsticks to the roof - to replicate the little fence that's up there (i think it's supposed to stop the pigeons landing on the roof?)

And then to finish it off I surrounded the rest of the loft and aviary with grass and flowers and pigeons and the dog.

Th finished pigeon loft cake & handmade card by

As you can see, the Jack Russell and pigeons are far too big.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Christmas gift buying stress

I sometimes seem to get myself all in a tizz about buying Christmas presents.

I decide who I need a present for, think of something suitable, find something appropriate and then immediately doubt and question my actions:

Will they like it? What if they don't
Will someone else be buying this for them? So should I still get it?
Do they actually *need* this? I don't want to buy them something that they've already got or don't want.

I don't suppose I'm the only one to think like this, but it gets me down, wears me out and knocks my confidence.

And then I lose the sense of excitement I normally feel about Christmas and I go all 'bah humbug' and think, oh just fuck it, if they don't like it they'll get rid of it, if they've already got one then it's their problem.

I need some words of reassurance or words of wisdom to help me change my way of thinking about this and not let the buying of Christmas presents stress me out and make me unhappy.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Needle felting- beyond the class

I bought some needles and wool for needle felting, because I loved it so much (see previous blog post), and I decided to have a go at home.

I've made 2 things since the class.

The first was a fine moustache, similar to Fairfax/Carstairs (the British Airmen from 'Allo 'Allo) and the second item was supposed to be a rabbit, but it might be a mouse now - I haven't decided yet.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Made Cafe Class: Feeling Felty - my favourite class yet!

A few weeks ago I attended the Feeling Felty class, held at Made Cafe Whitley Bay, the last time the class ran must have been a good 6 months ago, I've been dead keen to try it since seeing the creations from the previous class and I like birds - and decided that I wanted one for my house (as a pet).

I've always had a thing for birds, when I was growing up my dad had an aviary and kept budgies, doves, cockatiels, finches and canaries and we had birds as family pets; a budgie called Brian, a cockatiel called John, we nursed a baby cockatiel for a few weeks called Percy.  Even now, my dad and brother race pigeons and dad has chickens.  I have an ornament-budgie as my office-desk companion and I would love to have chickens (I currently have 2 carboard cutouts in the house) and I'd like to have a pet  Myna bird (who I'd call him Verloc).  And I am a bit of a twitcher (I used to be a member of the Young Ornithologists Club with the RSPB).

Back to the class.

The class was led by a lady called Carolin from Birds in the Attic and Feltwerk she provided us with all the equipment we needed to create a needlefelted bird.

There were 6 on the class and no one had any real experience of needle felting before.
Carolin talked through the process of needlefelting and creating basic shapes.
We made a Christmas pudding decoration first (pic at the end) which helped us to get the basic technique of stabbing the barbed needle through the wool, creating shapes and adding layers of colour - everyone created their own unique take on the Christmas Pudding.

And then we were ready to create our birds - and staying with the Christmas theme we chose to make robins.

We had a couple of pictures of robins on the table to work from (if we wanted), but essentially we could make them how we wanted.  I was keen to make a 'real' looking bird so made sure I kept checking with the pictures on the table.

A ball of un-spun wool

So here's how my robin (now called Steve) was made....

We began with this 'uncarded wool batt' which looked like a cross between the stuff you get out of your hoover/tumble drier and belly-button fluff.  It was actually un-spun wool- the stuff that people would turn into wool using a spinning wheel.  We were also advised that it wasn't merino wool, because apparently merino wool is quite hair-like and a bit different to work with.

Carolin gave us two different sized (ever-so-sharp) needlefelting needles to work with and talked through the process of getting started, which was all incredibly simple. 

Watch the birdie
Then we all fell silent, stabbing the wool and creating the birdiness, the head, the wings and the back - leaving the tail until the end.  We were all engrossed, in flow, as they say - and loving the transformation, turning a bouffant of wool (akin to my hair when i let it dry naturally) into a smooth, tight, defined shape that began to resemble a bird.

The fiddliest part of the course was creating the legs - from copper wire, and everyone seemed to struggle a bit, not as easy as Carolin made it look.  Adding the the legs to the body was easy - just needlefelt them in place (no sewing, no glue).

Once the base colour had been needlefelted we then added other colours in thin layers, the white breast colours, the tell tale red breast, the dark-brown head and back.

We were all absorbed in the activity, and nearly didn't stop for a cuppa, but we did.  Jeannie brought a plateful of delicious cakes to nibble on (all part of the workshop). 

Teabreak over, we worked on: thinned, shaped, needlefelted and cut the tail into shape, finished off with eyes (needlefelted) and beak (yes, needlefelted too) and he was done. 

Oh hang on, I just need to tinker with it a bit more...
and a bit more....
and a bit more....

And now he was done.

Steve the robin
 And here he is with the other robins that were made on the day, as you can see everyone's was completely different.


It was a lovely craft to learn how to do and I thoroughly enjoyed getting lost in it, it's definitely something I'd like to do again, and I've already been researching googling where to buy supplies from, and listing what I'd like to make next: a pigeon, a blue macaw, a rabbit, a snowman and a cat (for my auntie).  Oh and here's that Christmas Pudding (it's a Christmas tree decoration).

Steve is now living nesting on the mantle piece in our living room - I'll give him a stroke and say hello to him every day.  I love Steve.

Monday, 18 November 2013

My lunchtime exercise class: Spinning

Let's get some bits and pieces out of the way about spinning as a form of exercise.

Spinning is NOT

  • what you do where you hold your arms out & turn around and around to make yourself dizzy.
  • what you do where you find a big curtain and turn around and around so it twists up, mummifying you inside it, sometimes pulling your hair, sometimes pulling the curtain off the curtain track, and almost certainly - getting told off by your mum.
  • the thing that you do with a wheel until you prick your finger it makes you sleep for a hundred years.
  • performing Kylie Minogue's 'Spinning Around' in skimpy hotpants*

Spinning IS

  • just like riding a bike, only these are like exercise bikes
  • like going for a bike ride with a group of people BUT you're never the last one at the back
  • hard - but it's all controlled by you - you can choose to increase the resistence when the instructor shouts "up one" (or not)
  • is done in a darkened air-con room - so no one can see how hot and red and sweaty you get (until the lights go on at the end)
Anyway, a few weeks ago (end of September) I decided to go spinning with my colleague Will.  It's a lunchtime 30min session and is good exercise.  I have had experience of spinning, when I tried it about 18months ago and couldn't walk down stairs properly for 3 days.  Anyhow, that aside, I decided to give it another go.  Two reasons why I wanted to do it:
  1. I wanted to get fit
  2. I wanted to get the adrenalin-fuelled drunk-tipsy-happy buzzy look that Will often had when he returned to the office after a spinning class.
So I gave it another go.

The Class

Each class is 30 minutes: sometimes standing on the pedals,  sometimes doing press-up arms on the handlebars, alternating stand-up and sit-down riding, or sometimes pedalling so hard and so fast you think your legs are going to drop off.  The Monday class is led by a girl called Leanne (same name as my older sister), who screams out "UP ONE" to increase resistence or "FASTER" when we have to pedal faster.  I like Leanne's classes, and think there must be some psychological connection, that I enjoy an exercise class whereby I'm being shouted at by a girl with the same name as my sister.

The other reason I like this class is because of the music that Leanne plays, there's a great mix of old and new, all with a pedal-pushing beat and each week there's a song (or two) that'll have me singing (quietly) to myself whilst I drip with sweat.  Music goes from Placebo to Lady Gaga to Stereophonics to Kings of Leon to Right Said Fred to Basement Jaxx to Right Said Fred to Chemical Brothers.

This is high-intensity training, some blocks of exercise will be high-resistence and slow (like cycling uphill) and other parts will be fast and energetic (like going downhill, except I don't do what I often do on my normal bike - which is stick my legs out and shoud "weeeeee")

Classes are hard work - and some weeks I get 10minutes in and decide I absolutely hate it, and never want to come back, but by the end I've got that adrenalin-fuelled drunk-tipsy-happy buzzy feeling that I really like, and I'm back again the very next week.

The Results

I've been going every Monday since mid-September - which is pretty good commitment.

I can't say if it's improved my outdoor-biking technique (I've only been to the allotment and back on my bike) but I think it's improved my overall fitness (I can run up the escalators at Haymarket without getting out of breath at the top).  And I feel happier inside too - must be those endorphins.


And I'm sorry if I've put Kylie's Spinning Around sing into your head - so just for you, I've embedded the video, so you can watch it now.

Friday, 8 November 2013

More embroidery - matryoshka

I love matryoshka dolls - I think it's something to do with the symmetry and order of them, a bit like butterflies...

After I made the embroidery sampler, I decided to create something else beautiful from threads - it was either going to be a matryoshka doll or a butterfly, so I created a scrapbook of images in Pinterest and chose from there.
Original by

I found this image of a matryoshka in Pinterest, the original creator is: Alexis (Fifi & Florence) - who also blogged about it) I liked the simplicity of it, and decided to recreate it for myself.

I used an old pillowcase, referred to Mary Corbet's Needle n' videos to remind me of how to do the stitches and I bought a 'washable fabric pen' to trace the pattern onto my fabric, and be able to wash it off afterwards.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

If you could invent one thing, what would it be?

My niece asked me this question in February of this year (& i forgot to blog about it). My niece is 11 (she was 10 when she asked).

This was a tricky question to answer...of all the possibilities i could have said, like cures for diseases or ways to end poverty,  I decided that I would invent a door.

This wasn't any old household door, it was a special door - a portal to anywhere in the world. 

Before you stepped in you would key in a postcode of any place you needed (or wanted) to be: a holiday destination, a place of work, a family home (on the other side of the world), a friends house.

Then when the door had a fix on the postcode it would be activated.

All you need to do to use it is open the door, step through (with your family/suitcases etc) and when you close the door behind you, you are teleported to that destination.

If there wasn't a door at the destination then you would be able to get there - but you'd know before you set off.

The door would reduce the amount of other forms of travel (rail, sea, air, car) and connect you to anywhere in the world, saving you time, money and the inconvenience of delays/traffic jams and all that stress. For those people who suffered with travel sickness or fears, then this would literally open up a whole new world for them. You could live absolutely anywhere in the world and use the door to commute to work, no more delays due to low rail adhesion, no way!

I would use it to visit family and friends, knowing that the journey wasn't going to take an age, or be disrupted by weather, timings, cost or vehicle issues.

So my weekend might look like this:
Friday evening I would visit my mum after work, saving myself a 50min train or 1hr car journey and we could catch up, staying for a couple of hours before going home for tea.

I'd spend a leisurely Saturday morning at Made By Bob in Cirencester with my friend Kate, and Saturday afternoon in Made Cafe Whitley Bay, doing something crafty. And Saturday evening Mr Lisa and I would pop over for a bite to eat with my friend Auntie Gemma & her family in Beijing.

On Sunday we'd have breakfast in our own bed :)
Then for the afternoon we'd arrange to meet up somewhere child-friendly and cycle friendly with friends (possibly somewhere Scandinavian) and have a blast on the bikes followed by cake.
And Sunday evening we'd meet up somewhere in Newcastle for dinner with friends, staying out as late as we wanted - we'd go through the door to get home.

The doors would exist in every town/village, they would be free to use and always available. No one would own them, and no one would get rich from them. They couldn't be broken or vandalised and would be there for everyone to enjoy.

This might reduce the number of journeys on our travel networks but it offers so many amazing possibilities.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Fashion trends I don't understand: Uggs

Uggs.  In my head, Uggs is a shorter version of the word Ugly.  And I think they're FUggly.
It's the only way I can describe these weird fat boots.

I don't doubt they're comfortable and warm.  But they're so ugly.
They go over the trouser, not under and make your feet look like they've swollen to twice the size they are normally.

Their suede outer isn't very practical either; notoriously difficult to keep clean and as soon as they get wet they seem to take on sponge-like properties, soaking up the water.

They look fairly rigid, but they're not and when they slouch they make you look like you've got swollen ankles, something I'll leave to pregnancy (or old age, thanks very much).

Wikipedia has some very detailed stuff about the origins of Uggs, but to me they're just fugly.
If I want warm winter boots I'll buy warm winter boots, I won't by Uggs.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Fashion trends I don't understand: Onesies
When I see 'onesies' I think of giant babygrows and George Dawes and wonder, Why would a grown adult want to dress like a giant baby?

I don't find them attractive and don't think they're that practical - especially going to the looThe only thing they're useful for is dressing babies -that is to say, real babies (anyone under the age of 3).

I got the Christmas catalogue for Next the other day, and they're advertising onesies for women, but describing them as 'all-in-ones' essentially it's the same, it's just a giant babygrow
There is also something a bit old fashioned about them, like the longjohn (or Union Suit) that men used to wear...But even so, they were worn as underwear and not outerwear, which is what people do these days.

I have seen students (I work in a University) on campus wearing a onesie, some Uggs (don't get me started on these) and a hoodie.  I'm thinking that the logic is, stick a hoodie on and you can go outside in it.  To me - that's like going to the supermarket in your nightie/pyjamas and slippers (wrong on all levels).
Fancy dress costumes - fine.  But that's all it is, fancy dress, a one-off event or party, not every night.

What people do behind closed doors is fine, lounge all you like in your onesie, but get dressed when people come round to visit - make an effort, don't just sit there in your onsie - it'll look like you're about to go to bed.
Don't ever buy me one, I won't thank you, I won't even wear it.  I might cut it up and reuse the fabric or just burn it in the back garden in one of these.

Burning onesies on my allotment

That is all.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

My first zumba class

Tonight I went to Zumba, I know I'm about 4yrs behind the times & the 'next zumba' is probably doing the rounds but I decided to go with my colleague Hanna who's been encouraging me to try it for ages.

My summary of what it is: it's a cross between salsacise (which I've done before), Bollywood-dance (which I've never done), aerobics (as in, there's a routine to follow) there were a few Barre type moves I recognised and there was an awful lot of hip thrusting, circling and wiggling - which  I felt a bit self-conscious about. I didn't manage to get all of the moves but the  instructor was friendly enough and said that if we couldn't get it - 'just make it up'.

My feedback: I went. I tried it. I had a good workout. It was okay. However, I can get the same workout from an hour on the Wii Just Dance game. So, I probably won't go back. I'm had I've tried it though.

Monday, 30 September 2013

October Challenges - my commitment

I've set myself two challenges for October, and they're both exercise challenges. I must be mad.

Challenge #1

By 31st October I want to be able to do a 3minute plank.
I'm starting on 1st October with a 1 minute plank and then increasing the plank by 4 seconds each day, by 31st October I should be at 3minutes.

Challenge #2

Every day in October I plan to do the Tracy Anderson arm workout, there's an 8min video on YouTube - it looks a bit mental and I know it will nack.  I'm going to take a "before" picture of my 'bingo wings' and an after picture, of my 'Madonna arms' :)

Sharing Progress:

I'm planning to blog weekly and tweet daily #OctoberChallenge
And I'm using the free version of to remind & support me

My new shoes: shiny red wedges (Clarks)

I spent a long weekend with my friend Kate who lives in the Cotswolds, just outside Cirencester. We did all sorts, spa, pedicure, pilates, shopping, walking, eating, drinking and catching up. The weather was spot on too (this time last year we went to Padstow).

My new shiny shoes
Anyhow, on our shopping trip to Cheltenham I picked up these shiny wedges from Clarks shoeshop, I've already got the shiny black pair and they're my staple workwear shoe. Comfy, smart, in a size 8 that fits (don't get me started on shoe size variations) and with a cheery shine that made me smile. So when I saw these "wine" coloured ones I said to Kate, "in 'avin them" and so I did.

They feel as comfy as the black ones.

When I got them home and showed Mr Lisa I started tapping the heels together "No!" He called out "You never know where you'll end up" so I stopped.

I did try again at the metro station this evening. The platform was very busy, like there'd been a delay. Then a heavily pregnant woman came and stood right next to me on the platform and rubbed her belly. I felt my eyes fill up and sting with tears. I forced myself to stay where I was, I have to get through this - crying around pregnant women. But I couldn't cope any longer, I'd have to move sooner or later so thought I'd "use the shoes"

So I wiped my eyes, stood tall, gripped my bags tightly and I tapped my heels three times repeating the immortal words..."there's no place like home, there's no place like home, there's no place like home, there's no place like home..."

Of course they didn't work - fucking useless they were. The metro turned up instead so I got on and went home.

They were £49.99 and come in shiny black, matt black and shiny wine, buy yours here:

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Toilet habits

I don't like to use the toilets on moving vehicles: trains, planes, buses, boats, ferries. So I don't. Instead I'll just hang on for as long as I can.

I don't have a fear of them, I don't come out in a hot sweat or panic attack I just find the whole concept of weeing and moving quite strange.

Toilets in moving vehicles are often filthy and disgusting anyway, which is another reason to avoid using them.

If I get desperate and I'm nearly beyond control then I'll use them, but I'll hang on for as long as humanly possible.

Today I did a 4hr train journey without going.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Rikki Tikki Tavi

I always knew that Rikki Tikki Tavi was something from my childhood but I didn't quite know what it was, who it was, where it came from or why I'd remembered it.

Then my boss said the phrase "Rikki Tikki" and I instantly wanted to (& did) add the word "Tavi" to it. Normally when I say what's in my head it's often rude, doesn't make sense or is just random. But in this case he knew exactly what I meant and said it was a character from a Rudyard Kipling story.

I still don't remember the story or the character, but it puts my mind at rest knowing that this Rikki Tikki Tavi was a real (ish) thing and not just nonsense taking up space in my head.

Now I need to find out about Rikko Tikki Tavi and see if I'm any wiser...

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Still catching up - copying from the "old" blog

I had a blog at work, and a few years ago I decided to move from the private work blog to a public blog. 

I took a dump of the posts from the old blog and I'm still in the process of copying/pasting posts into here - so you might notice that my entries increase in the 2006-8 period, which is when I began blogging in the work blog - I'm adding them back with the original publishing date.

I know it's now 2013 and you might be asking why I haven't caught up yet - I have no excuse other than being lazy and distracted by other things, food, cakes, beer, pies, making and having dreams.

It's the same crazy nonsense as this, and I'm sure that it'll be my undoing - used to section me in years to come, but please take a look at the old stuff, and decide whether it's just as random than the recent stuff.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013


I was asked today (at work) if I'd ever eaten dog biscuits.  I replied "yes" - and even before the time we had a dog! It reminded me of a childhood fishing event that I still remember and need to blog about, in case I ever forget it.

Years ago I used to go coarse fishing with my brother and his mate, my brother is 4 years younger than me.  I must have been about 14 at the time, maybe a bit older, maybe a bit younger...Anyway, I was a bit of a tomboy (sometimes) and go fishing, play 'heads and volleys' in the local park and pinch veg from the local gardens to make a 'stew' on someones camping stove (but that's another story).

I was quite into coarse fishing, my brother got me into it - and before I knew it we were watching John Wilson's Go Fishing buying Coarse Fishing magazine

I found it relaxing, setting up the rod, the line, choosing the float and weights to attach, adding the bait, casting into the pond and waiting...watching for the nibbles, and the bites and picking the right time to strike (to hook the fish).  I was just a bit rubbish at landing the fish, that's the bit when you've got your rod in one hand, a landing net in the other and need to scoop the fish up without hurting it.  Once landed, I was alright with removing the hook (we always used barbless) and putting it into the keepnet until hometime (when we'd count them up and let them go).

I also liked experimenting with different baits: sweetcorn, luncheon meat, cheese, bread, maggots, dog biscuits (which is what triggered this memory) and making up groundbait to catapult into the water and attract the fish to my hook.

Image from: (bait we used for fishing)

But most of all I loved to organise my tackle box (that's not a euphemism) each item of fishing kit had it's own special place in the tackle box, and if it didn't fit - it had it's own storage box: hooks, lead shot, hook extractors, floats, bait containers.  I didn't have a proper fixing seat-box, so I used an old wicker basket which we picked up from a jumble sale.  I loved it. (Mine was always much tidier than this)

We'd go fishing on a Saturday morning after we'd been to the tackle shop in town for maggots (we always bought maggots) and my dad would drop us off somewhere, often a pond at Streetlam, just outside Northallerton, which was nice and quiet.

Anyway, back to this story...On one such occasion, just me my brother and Joth (that was his nickname) went fishing, had had a good day and started packing up - for when my dad came to pick us up (he moaned if he had to sit around waiting for us).  And we started getting rid of the bait that wouldn't keep (mainly the maggots).  This time, instead of tipping them into the pond my brother decided to catapult them into the water, and then decided to catapult some at me.  At the time I didn't mind, I shouted at him, but I wasn't frightened of them, I could shake them off my coat and as long as I didn't swallow them - I could put up with a shower of maggots.

What I didn't like was on the way home in the car feeling a tickling in my belly button and finding a maggot - I picked it out, chucked it out of the window and screeched at my brother, who found it highly amusing, and yes I did deck him in when we got home.

As an aside, I remember my brother's friend Andy once got a barbed fishing hook caught in his mouth or eyebrow, I wasn't there that time, but I remember my brother telling us the story and crying with laughter.


"Deck" meant to beat someone up
"Pack it in or I'll deck you" or "I'm gonna deck you"

Also the same as "brayed" or "brayed in"

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

I think I'm turning into my mother

I went to my mum and dad's house at the weekend and I was just catching up with my mum about what I'd been up to: work, cakes, allotment and home stuff.

I told her I'd been having a sort out of one of my kitchen cupboards, the one that I keep my tupperware in.  I'd got to the point where I'd just chuck things in and hope it didn't fall back out on me.  I would often tidy it up, organising the smaller containers into a bigger one, but more often than not I'd actually need the bigger container before the small ones and so all the others would get scattered on the shelf and fall out whenever the door was opened.

My tupperware, labelled with letters
I told her about an ingenious idea I'd had for organising the plastic containers I got from the chinese takeaway (I reuse these for freezing chicken stock, leftovers, surplus veg etc). I can never find the right lid for the bottom.  So I sorted them out matching the bottom with the lid and then I labelled them, taking the first contained labelling the top A and the bottom A, the next one was labelled B (for the lid) and B for the bottom, can you see where I'm going.

So now, whenever I need a container I find lid A and bottom A and I know that they're a pair.
How ingenious is that?

Mum's tupperware, labelled with numbers
My mum was impressed.  She told me she'd recently had a sort out of her tupperware.  And she'd come up with an ingenious idea too, labelling her tupperware with NUMBERS bottom number 1 needs lid number 1!!

How strange is that?????

Thursday, 12 September 2013

The truth about Syllabubs, Possets, Fools & Panna Cottas

I was convinced that a syllabub, a posset, a fool and a panna cotta are the same thing, but called something slightly different so that restaurants can put 4 different things on the menu, but it all looks the same when served.

Rhubarb Fool
My homemade rhubarb fool/posset/syllabub/panna cotta
Anyway, instead of wondering I've got my google fingers out and have taken a look at the wikipedia definition, so here are the 'official' definitions.

Syllabub "an English sweet dish....made of milk or cream, curdled by wine/cider or other acid, and often sweetened and flavoured" Wikipedia definition of Syllabub

Posset "was a British hot drink of milk curdled with wine or ale" hang on, haven't I just typed that? "The word "posset" is mostly used nowadays for a cold set dessert loosely based on the drink, containing cream and lemon, similar to syllabub." Wikipedia definition of Posset

Fool "an English dessert...folding pureed stewed fruit into sweet custard.  Modern fool recipes often skip the tradidional custard and use whipped cream" Wikipedia definition of Fruit Fool

Panna Cotta "is an Italian dessert made by simmering together cream, milk and sugar, mixing this with gelatin, and letting it cool until set" Wikipedia definition of Panna Cotta

As you can see, I was essentially right(ish).

So next time you're in a restaurant pondering over the syllabub, posset, fool and panna cotta - just be aware that they're all interchangeable and amount to the same thing.

Last night I dreamt about my dad, Gateshead & the man off the Crystal Maze

Last night I dreamt about my dad, he'd been asked to go away with work for a few days (note: this has NEVER EVER happened, nor will it) and he refused to go. He told the office that he'd sent back the paperwork, but in reality he chucked it in the bin saying it was a waste of bloody time. He knew that by the time the office chased up the paperwork and sent more out he'd miss the deadline. Me and mum were tempted to get it out of the bin, but we knew he'd still refuse to go.

I dreamt there was a secret underground cinema in Gateshead, discovered during some excavating work. You could go on visits to have a look around, like the Victoria Tunnels in Newcastle.

I also dreamt that Edward Tudor-Pole (the man who took over from Richard O'Brian in The Crystal Maze) was the new Doctor Who.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

My name in...Chocolate

A few weeks ago I went to an EAT Festival event 'Handmade Chocolates at Home' run by Bev Stephenson, she shared her tips on tempering chocolate and creating some quick and easy chocolate gifts.  So I thought I'd put my tempering skills to use - the only difference being Bev used a microwave, and I used a bowl over a pan of simmering water (because I don't own a microwave).

Once melted, I decanted it into a piping bag and had a go at piping some buttons, words and 'artistic squiggles' - unfortunately I didn't get the chocolate quite in temper - because when it set, it set dull rather than shiny, and it didn't snap like it should.  It still tasted like chocolate.

So why did my baby die?

Today we got the test results from the post mortem of my 25wk fetus, my tiny baby girl. Ellie.

They told us that she didn't die as a result of something I'd done, eaten, touched or smelt (my paranoia had taken me into Daily Mail territory of ridiculous thought).

They told us that there wasn't anything wrong with my body that caused it.

They told us that everything inside her was developed normally, organs and skeleton.

They told us that, they just don't know why she died. Her heart just stopped. No reason why.

They don't know why my body kept hold of her and didn't try to expel her.

This is the best outcome. But it still feels hard to accept.  In my way of thinking, having a reason means that I can do something to stop it happening next time, a drug perhaps, change my behaviour or give up a bad habit.

I have to tell myself that we stand a good chance of a successful pregnancy next time.

I would have been 36weeks today.

Last night I dreamt I made a cake in the shape of a tractor

Last night I dreamt I built a tractor out of cake, it was a green John Deer tractor and I was making it with fellow cakebook cake maker Hannah Bayman. She sent me to the local co-op to pick up green-fizzy liquorice to cover the bonnet and black liquorice for the wheels.
Later in the dream I was queuing for the toilet and I thought I caught the pregnant-bump of the lady behind me, but it was only her massive handbag. Then because I was talking to the handbag lady a kid pushed in front of me and took my place.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Homemade fox mask & costume for The Great Gatsby/Noah's Ark Housewarming party

When my friend Claire moved into her new house she decided to have a housewarming party - cool.

She also decided to have a fancy dress housewarming party double-cool.

The theme for her fancy dress housewarming party was Noah's Ark meets The Great Gatsby - Mega-cool.

I love fancy dress - see my halloween costume from a few years ago

Mr Lisa doesn't like fancy dress.  And he politely declined the invitation.  But it didn't stop me.  I decided early on that I wanted to be a fox.  A fox dressed in a 1920s dress.  And when everyone turned up I guess the whole scene would look a little bit like a Goldfrapp video, quite surreal and dreamlike...

My costume wouldn't be a quick "buy a mask off ebay" oh no, my outfit was going to be a masterpiece.

Making the mask

I bought a small blank mask from a craftshop and used it as my template, taking inspiration from this YouTube video on 'Making a Masquerade Mask' and using tin foil and papier maché (strips of newspaper coated in flour & water paste) to enlarge the mask with a forehead and ears and a foxy snout.  It took about 2 days to dry and looked great (although it wasn't symmetrical).

Moulding the shape with foil & preparing to papier maché Papier Machéd and drying out

I bought ginger fur from First For Fabrics and picked up some offcuts of white fur/fabric from a Made Cafe crafty swap (1st Wed of the month) and glued them on with PVA glue, in fact PVA was fantastic for this project.  I also was surprised about how much fluff would be deposited during this project - I must have hoovered the entire downstairs of the house three times during the project, that fluff gets everywhere!

Giving Mr Fox a hair transplant Adding more hair And the white bits in the ears and under the chin

I folded the ears over a bit, to add character, made a nose from a piece of card which I coloured in black and blackened the eye sockets a bit too.

We stripped back some of the material so that we could put the elastic fastening on, Mr Lisa helped with this bit, he drilled through the mask and made 2 holes on the left & right to thread some elastic through, tied the elastic and then we stuck the material back down.  So when it was attached it was held by 2 pieces of elastic on under my hair (below my ear) and the other over my hair and above my ear.
I did consider stitching in some whiskers - a bought some fine leather strips, but decided it didn't need it.

My tail was a strip of the ginger fabric folded in half, with a pointy bit of white fabric at the tip, and I added another ribbon too - to make me look a bit more girly-fox.

The hat was just a piece of card covered in Washi tape and the mesh was from the packaging of a Badminton set from the £1 shop (I bought it just for the mesh), and a piece of ribbon tied in a bow.  It was attached to the mask with a safety pin.

 "Smile" - I was actually smiling under the mask

 The Outfit

The dress cost £4.99 from a charity shop and some extra sequins were glued to the front to give it a bit of an extra flapper-esque look, the thick white stockings worked well, as did the driving gloves.  I wondered about trying to make my skin the colour of  the fox (without going furry) so I tried out wearing a pair of American Tan tights - my head through the gusset and arms in the leg-holes (they were brand new and clean btw) but we decided that this might look a bit too black & white minstrel, so they came off.

The Party

At the party there were some really impressive outfits: badgers, pandas, flamingos, pandas, cats, rabbits - it was so much fun.  I had such a bad hangover!

I loved making my mask and building my outfit - can't wait for the next fancy dress party!

Friday, 6 September 2013

Hot drinks sometimes give me hiccups

Hot tea and coffee can give me hiccups.
Not sure why, but it happens.

Ears nose & throat

If i clean inside my ears with a cotton bud i can feel a tickle in the back of my throat, and i think its because your ears, nose and throat are all joined up (somehow).

The random Russian woman at Haymarket metro

On my way home, at Haymarket metro, I was stopped by a Russian sounding woman who asked if I had 5 minutes. She had a toddler in a pushchair and a kid with her, I thought she was after directions, the time or something like that. So I said okay.  I'd never met her before in my life.

She asked me to read through a text message she wanted to send to a bloke (her boyfriend I assumed) and tell her if the phrases she'd used were okay, and if it sounded strong enough and if she should send it.

She told me how she felt about the relationship, she seemed tired of him taking advantage of her, swanning in and out of her life as it suited him, paid her little or no attention, left her with the kids, used the house and left, often leaving his phone off and not paying her any attention when she came back from a family visit.

Now I'm no relationship expert but I could tell she was pissed off with him and just wanted to know where she stood.

I was stood there for about 10minutes talking to her, listening to her Russian-geordie accent, she'd add the word "like" to a couple of phrases, to be honest I just think she just wanted to have a rant about him and for someone to listen to her.

I told her to send the message.  I hope she gets the answer she wants from him, but I know I'll probably never see her again.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

My name in....Lexicon cards

On holiday I stayed in this cottage at they had Lexicon cards, I've never played the game I just did words and took pics...

Of course I also wrote sweary words and took pictures of them too, but I'll keep them and use them for greetings cards/greetings messages on Facebook or Twitter

Turnip Dauphinoise

I've invented a kind of turnip dauphinoise.

Before we start let's get one thing straight here, when i say turnip I'm talking about these little pink-skinned fellas, with white flesh. They are eaten small. The seeds i sowed were called turnip. In my Yorkshire world they would be called swede, but that's another blogpost.

To make turnip dauphinoise to serve 2-3 people:
  • 2 or 3 good sized turnips, peeled and thinly sliced
  • Butter
  • Garlic granules (or fresh garlic crushed, I'd run out, so I used granules)
  • 150ml double cream
  • 50ml milk
  • 1teaspoon mixed herbs
  • Salt & pepper
You'll need a small ovenproof dish, and the oven on about 200°C

  1. Boil the sliced turnips in water for 2mins. Whilst this is happening butter a small ovenproof dish (we've got one that's about the size of A5 paper and 1 1/2 inches deep), then sprinkle it with garlic granules (as few or many as you like).
  2. After 2mins drain the turnip & put the pan back on the ring, add the turnip back to the empty pan, pour over the cream, milk, herbs, salt & pepper and give it a good mix.
  3. Heat it all up until it simmers gently. Let it simmer for about 5mins.
  4. Get your buttered/garlicked dish and pour the turnipy-cream mixture in.
  5. Whack it in the oven for 20mins
  6. Serve as a side dish.

Last night I dreamt about buying fish from a fishing boat

Last night I dreamt that I spent over £60 on fresh fish from a fishing boat, this included a whole (massive) salmon and a Cornish Hake, plus some other smaller fish.

I also dreamt that a bloke  at work died whilst he was out on a boat, and then he came back to life.  Note - the bloke at work isn't called Jesus

Thursday, 29 August 2013

My name in....chocolate

I went to an event organised by the Newcastle Gatehhead EAT Festival about Chocolate, run by Bev at North Chocolates, she showed and shared her experiences of creating gifts and treats using tempered chocolate (she also shared her experiences and tips on tempering chocolate too) - easy and simple if you have a microwave (I don't).  

The short session included several opportunities to sample her creations with exciting flavour combinations such as lemon sea salt, raspberry and white chocolate, chill chocolate, mixed peel and fruit.

I thought I'd use my newfound tempering skills and have a go myself, I did manage some very neat writing, and wrote my name in dark chocolate.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Last night I dreamt about the test results

Last night I dreamt I went to the doctors to get the test results for the baby I had in June. In the dream the doctor said that they couldn't find anything in the tests. They couldn't explain why she'd died. Nothing had caused it. And there wasn't anything wring with me or her which caused it.

We get the results in September, so I'm still thinking about why it happened. Plus I had a little cry before bed because I was thinking about why it had to happen.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Last night I dreamt about a flying poisonous spider

Last Night I Dreamt about a big flying poisonous spider that terrorized everyone. I spent most of the dream running away from it.

It turned up at Barre class, in the swimming pool with 10YO stepson and at a restaurant, where it was caught in a napkin only to bite them (kill them) and fly off.

I hate spiders like that.

Monday, 5 August 2013

I've cried every day for the last month. 

I've cried every day for the last month.  Not all day, but at some point every day.  I didn't really think that it was possible, but I understand now why people do.
I cry for what I've lost, what I wanted, what happened, what I went through and what might have been (30weeks this week).
I've been busy.  Making and baking and allotmenting, cake clubbing, watching comedy, visiting friends, having friends and family visit.  And back to work.  My life isn't on hold, it's not at a stand-still, it has to keep going. 
If I keep busy then the days pass quicker.  I was told that it gets easier each day, if I can make the days pass by quicker then it's going to get easier, isn't it?
When I'm not busy I think of Ellie (the name we gave our little girl), usually when I'm on the metro, or winding down in bed or in the first few moments of waking up.
I know I'll never forget what happened, or forget my baby. I just have to do the best I can.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Last night i dreamt about an all-night dance party

Last night i dreamt Mr Lisa and I went to a dance party in a hotel, for some reason I ended up wearing Mr Lisa's trousers. The music was okay and  there were waves of shit music and good music.
Later on at the party I saw my friend Kathryn, she didn't see me as she was too busy headbutting someone that she'd had a disagreement with, only Kath's head could only reach the chin of the person she was butting and it looked quite comical. The person she was headbutting DID come off worse.
I also woke up with the song "Sincere" by MJ Cole in my head, here's the YouTube link if you like,
*i think I dreamt this because Mr Lisa and I were talking about going to see The Chemical Brothers in Manchester in December, i want to go but he doesn't - boo*

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Clandestine Cake Club, Inspired by History at The Knit Studio on 22nd July 2013

Melanie's Edwardian Recipe: Kitchen Garden Cake
This was my last Clandestine Cake Club (as organiser) so I was filled with mixed emotions, will I be able to keep away? will I be able to hand over to Iona thoroughly enough for her to be able to do it? Will I cry when I do my little 'welcome' speech?

Hannah's French Revolution Cake
For this last gig I'd decided to take advantage of my position as organiser and chose my favourite venue, so I picked The Knit Studio at Blackfriars.  The Knit Studio (shop, workshop, meeting place, magical treasure trove of all things 'knit') welcomed us for a third visit and we were well looked after by Anne and her 'helpers'.

And as always The Knit Studio proved to be the perfect place for us, a large table for our cakes, space for us to gather (around the table), and sofas to chat, all surrounded by nooks and crannies filled with amazing colours and textures of materials, yarns, books, equipment, clothes, and  things to inspire you to have a go...

The theme for the gathering was, Inspired by History because of the history of Blackfriars - and our cake bakers took up the challenge (as always).

So let me take you all on a journey through time presented through the medium of cake (click the baker name & cake for a picture):

A Jurassic Ginger Cake baked by Iona
We began our journey as far back as prehistoric times with a Jurassic Ginger Cake (baked by Iona) with a reenactment of the decline of the dinosaur era (FACT: Dinosaurs died out because their gingerbread bodies couldn't cope with the hot weather & their gingerbread legs buckled in the heat).....Then our time travels moved (very) swiftly on several hundred (million) years to celebrate the Chai Spice Trade (baked by Kate) and the French Revolution (baked by Hannah).

We stopped for a bite to eat (only a thin sliver of cake from each) a cup of tea and headed back onto our journey of cake...

Battenburg Cake baked by Lisa
We took another sliver of the brightly coloured & marzipan smothered Battenburg cake, circa 1898 (baked by ME) followed by our full daily complement of fruit and vegetables in a traditional Edwardian Kitchen Garden Cake (baked by Melanie)

We stopped somewhere in the 70s to sample  an Upside Down Peach Melba & Coconut Cake (Nelly), A sophisticated coffee cake (Val), a Cheesecake (Rose) and a Carrot Cake (Lauren)  
Sorry Rose I didn't get a pic of your cake, but it was the perfect palate cleanser

Orange & Poppyseed Cake baked by Catherine
Our final decent into the present day saw our bakers take snippets from recent cake-histories, recipes from families, friends, travels, and previous CCC events, sampling Armenian Orange & Almond Cake (Lauren), Orange & Poppyseed (Catherine), Banana, Cherry and Chocolate Chip (Claire) and Cinnamon & Walnut Soured Cream Cake (Seymour)

Until we crashed - full of cake, stuffed happy and educated in the history of cake!

Thanks again to our bakers - you did the theme proud, I hope I've told the history how it was ;)

Welcome to new CCC member Catherine, who successfully pulled off her mum's Orange & Poppyseed cake - even though her scales broke!! And Chloe from Living North Magazine - I hope we've inspired you to bake a cake for the next gathering!

Thanks again to Anne for letting us use your wonderful space in The Knit Studio .
And good luck to Iona who'll be running Newcastle Clandestine Cake Club gatherings - all members will be notified of any changes via emai, and I'll be along as a baker - don't you worry :)

View all of the photos from the event in my Flickr account