Friday, 31 January 2014

The owl has hatched

In August I blogged about a new crochet project. Confidently I wrote about how quickly I would finish it, given that it was made with four strands of super-chunky wool and the pattern was really easy. I should know better by now...

Well this particular owl took five months to hatch! He has now finally settled down to roost in the corner of our bedroom:

He is a bit of a monster, and is holding at least two duvet covers, sheets and assorted pillow cases. This photo gives you an idea of the colour scheme in our bedroom. It is deliberately very calm, and the owl appears quite at home.

Curtain update: I have cut out the panels of lining material, and am currently tacking them together to make the right width. 

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Hot Cross Pudding

When I was a child, hot cross buns were a once-a-year treat, consumed eagerly on Good Friday; toasted and dripping with butter. I have always enjoyed them so I was pleased to find a yellow-stickered packet at the supermarket at the weekend.

I had been looking out for some as I had spotted a recipe for bread and butter pudding made with hot cross buns on Frugal Feeding. Like its name suggests, this blog is dedicated to producing excellent food cheaply. Bread and butter pudding is a great way of using up stale bread; it is a favourite of mine so I was keen to try a variation.

The recipe, (here), was clear and very easy to follow. The results were lovely; real comfort food. Everybody cleared their plates and demanded seconds - you can't get a higher accolade than that!

Saturday, 25 January 2014


Back in August, (yes, August!), I ordered some material to make curtains for DD's room. It has been languishing on the top of her wardrobe since then, while I made all sorts of excuses why I couldn't possibly start on them. Yesterday I finally stopped procrastinating.

This is the first time I have made curtains. Determined to finally master sewing, last year I invested in the book from "The Great British Sewing Bee". 

Image from Mollie Makes
It assumes no prior knowledge whatsoever, which in my case is a good thing! The instructions for making curtains appear reasonably clear. There is also an instruction video from the show here.

It took me a whole hour to figure out what size panels of material I need to cut out. The material isn't quite wide enough, so I need to sew two panels together for each curtain. To complicate matters further, there is a repeating pattern. I haven't even picked up a pair of scissors yet! For two pins I would put the material back on top of the wardrobe for another six months, which is why I am writing this post. Hopefully in a few days I will have some progress to show you!

Friday, 24 January 2014


These made me happy today...

One of the techniques which DH has been learning to help him cope with Aspergers is mindfulness. As far as I can tell it is trying to live in the present moment and noticing the world around you. As I had to take a short cut through some woods today, I thought I would give it a try. I noticed that the birds were in full song - a little early surely - and the catkins were out. I am no arboreal expert, but I think these are Hazel catkins. Spring is on its way!

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Catching up...

For this post I am imagining that you and I are having a chat over a cup of tea and a biscuit. As this is an English winter it is probably a bit chilly outside but the sun is shining. (Now you will need your imagination!)

So what has been happening in the Calmly Creative household over the last few months?

DS is still very much into wildlife photography. We were very excited and proud when he won "Young Photographer of the Year 2013" at a local country park with this photo:

Speckled wood butterfly
He was very keen on buying a new "bridge" camera which is somewhere between a point-and-shoot and an all-singing, all-dancing SLR camera. For six months he saved up his pocket money and drooled over camera web-sites. His 11th birthday was two days before Christmas, so we broke a cardinal rule and gave him a joint birthday and Christmas present. I really wish I had recorded the moment on Christmas morning when he unwrapped his new camera; it was very special.

Since Christmas he often has his camera trained on the bird feeders, and he has taken some lovely shots. He has started his own private wildlife blog, but hopefully he will let me share some of them with you!

DS is still waiting to be assessed for Autistic Spectrum Disorder. It has been quite difficult for the whole family to watch his struggles, but we are all learning to cope. On the other hand, DH has thrived since his diagnosis of ASD. He is on some very helpful medication and is on a much more even keel.

DD is in the throes of choosing her GCSEs, which are the examinations English children take at 16. She has a core of compulsory subjects, (English, Maths, Science), and then she can select from a variety of subjects. It is very hard to make such important decisions at 13 as whatever decision you make, you are closing down a number of future pathways. At the moment she wants to follow a career in design and so is making appropriate decisions. 

DD is also starting her Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Award, which involves volunteering, learning a new skill, a physical activity and participating in an overnight group expedition. I was very pleased when she chose baking as her skill! She decorated DS's birthday cake, (with a little help from her mother!):

And what about me? I have been re-evaluating my life and my many and varied roles. I have been going to visit a very wise friend who gives me coffee and lets me talk. We crochet together and somehow things fall into in perspective. I am still mulling things over; no big decisions made yet!

It has been fairly quiet on the creative front, but I am starting to change that. I have discovered that creativity is important to me, so I need to make time for it. I have several projects on the go, and a stash of yarn which seems to multiply when I am not watching! So, no craft shops for me, but plenty of finished projects. Here's hoping, anyway!

Monday, 20 January 2014

Mincemeat muffins

I am very fond of mince pies, and most years I produce a fair few jars of homemade mincemeat in November, in anticipation of the creation of dozens of festive treats. Christmas this year was relatively quiet, and I only used one jar in anger. I didn't even manage to offload any onto unsuspecting friends. Apple and mincemeat crumble accounted for some of the surplus, and at the weekend I made mincemeat muffins. This is a recipe which a friend gave me about ten years ago, when muffins were the new baking trend. I have no idea where it came from!


10 oz plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
0.5 tsp bicarbonate of soda
0.5 tsp salt
3 oz granulated sugar
1 egg
8 fl oz milk
8 fl oz mincemeat
3 fl oz vegetable oil
3 oz sultanas (optional)
icing sugar for dusting


1. Line a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cases, or you can just grease them if you want.

2. Sift all the dry ingredients, (except the sultanas, obviously), into a large mixing bowl.

3. Put all the liquid ingredients into another bowl. This is easiest if you use a large measuring jug and start with the mincemeat, then add the milk on top so that the level reaches 16oz and then add the oil. Break the egg into the jug and give the whole thing a good whisk. 

4. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry. Using a wooden spoon mix them quickly together, until no dry flour is visible. Strangely, the batter is supposed to be lumpy! If you are using sultanas, add these with the last few stirs.

5. Fill the muffin cases until they are three-quarters full and bake for 20-25 minutes at 190C/ Gas Mark 5. They are ready when the tops spring back when they are gently pressed. Dust with icing sugar when cool.


These didn't hang around very long! I prefer muffins to the sickly sweet cupcakes which supplanted them in the cake-eating public's affections. And as for cake is just too short. (Apologies to the very accomplished bakers who can actually make them!)

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Returning to blogging.

A quick glance at my side bar will show you that it has been a long time since my last post. I didn't mean to stop blogging; life was busy and my daily store of time and energy didn't stretch to posting. Once you've left a long enough gap, it is difficult to start again.

Life is still busy, but I have missed the community spirit and all the friends I have made here. I also need the accountability and discipline that blogging imposes; my creative output has slowed somewhat lately! So to everyone who is still listening, "Hello" and "I've missed you!".