Monday 24 August 2015

Last Week I ...........

Had a wander into town and spotted one of the local 'Trotters' Trail' ...
You may have heard of the 'Paddington Trail' that charmed the streets of London at the end of last year and raised over £930,000 for Childline when some of the bears were auctioned off at Christie's in December.

You may also have heard of the 'Shaun the Sheep' trail which has also graced London and is currently on display around Bristol. Again, once the exhibition is finished, the sculptures will be 'ewe-sed' to raise funds for another children's charity.

You may even have heard of the 'Scrumpty' trail, currently on display in Gloucester to celebrate the Rugby World Cup 2015.

I even spotted a 'GoGo Dragons' sculpture trail on a friend's Twitter feed this week.  This trail brings 84 large dragon sculptures to the City of Norwich.

So, you can only imagine my delight when I started to spot evidence that my local town, Tamworth, seemed to be jumping on the bandwagon, with the introduction of its very own 'Trotters' Trail', inspired by our spectacular Sandybacks.  You can find out more about the 'Trotters' Trail' here.

Went on an impromptu Geocaching walk in the local countryside with mum and dad ...
Mum rang me on Monday night to ask if I fancied going out on a Geocaching walk with her and dad on Tuesday.

Well, I'd got a bit behind with my daily constitutional so I jumped at the chance.  It was only a short walk of about three miles, with 11 caches to find, so it sounded just about right for me.

They picked me up bright and early and we drove out to Harlaston, a small, and very pretty, village just outside of Tamworth.

It was a lovely day and we had a really good walk, it was nice and flat, with really well marked paths, and we managed to find all of the caches to boot!  We also ended up meeting up with lots of other cachers, who were also out and about.
We also saw plenty of the local wildlife, some fairly traditional, others ..... not quite so ....

Received an exciting delivery of a stack of new fat quarters ...
I am more excited and inspired then I can tell you just thinking about what I can do with these beauties.

Made a ruffled wallet and a tooth fairy cushion ...
It's been a long old time since I did any serious sewing and I have really enjoyed getting back into it. I've surprised myself with how well these two experiments have turned out and I already have my next projects lined up.

I mean .... a tooth fairy cushion .... how come I never had one of those?

Monday 17 August 2015

Hand Made At Number 27

One of the things I really wanted to do when I finished work back in 2014 was to be more creative. I really wanted to devote time to crafting and see what I could do. 

Well, if you know me, or you've been following my blog for a while, then you will know that I have done a bit of dabbling. 

I started out with beaded bracelets, which were the mainstay of my Christmas gifting last year. 
I now have a cupboard full of beads and have really exhausted my present giving opportunities for family and friends. 

I really wanted to carry on making bracelets but needed an outlet for the finished product so, after much deliberation, and lots of research, I decided to open an Etsy shop. 

I found this really great article at Six Figures Under that talked through all of the details and also offered a link that would give 40 free listings, so I decided to go for it. 

My shop is called Hand Made At Number 27 and I've gone through the process of setting everything up, including all my shop policies. I've even had some business cards made and have created some stickers too. 

I've added a link to Hand Made At Number 27 on Etsy to the left hand margin of my blog, so feel free to have a browse. There isn't much there at the moment, but I hope to build up my range over time. 

I've started off with some wooden beaded bracelets that I've made.
You'll also know that I've recently completed a crocheted throw as a wedding gift. This was quite an ambitious project for the first crocheting I'd done since my teens, but I'm really pleased with how it turned out. 

I really enjoyed getting back into crochet and I've also had a go at some cushions.  The first incorporated a crocodile stitch pattern, which I found on  This ended up being a birthday gift for my sister.
The second is made up of small flower granny squares and I love it so much that I just can't bear to part with it!  I am calling it my 'Berry Burst' cushion and have started to make another in different colours as a gift for a friend.
I am really pleased with how both have turned out, but I am finding that this kind of crochet is very slow to progress so whether or not it will be viable or cost effective for these to end up in my shop, time will only tell. 

Last week I had a bit of a crazy crafting week and tried a few new things out. 

I started off with these decorative clay hearts, which are made from bake in the oven modelling clay. 

I moved on to a cushion cover made from some owl design fat quarters that I have had in my stash for a while now. It's been a while since the sewing machine has been out and it took a while to get going but I love how this has turned out.  As well as the patchwork, I've added embellishments and even done a bit of top stitching.
I've already ordered a stack more fat quarters so I can make some more. I'm sure these will appear in my shop some time soon. 

As if that wasn't enough I went on to have a bit of a button art frenzy, as you can see below. 
Button art is great. It's quite cheap to do and, once you know what you are doing, you can turn out a finished article quite quickly. I do have one button art piece in the Etsy shop and hope to add more soon.

When it comes to my Etsy shop, I've not sold anything yet, but people are looking and I guess it will take time for someone to actually take a leap of faith and be my first customer. But hey, it's not costing me anything to give it a go for now, so I will stick with it and see what happens.

Monday 10 August 2015

Road Trip '15 and Beacon Park

GeocachingAugust is always a bit of an exciting month in the Geocaching calendar ..... if you're a Geocacher that is!

This year to celebrate 15 years of Geocaching there are six new 'virtual' souvenirs up for grabs, by taking part in the Geocaching Road Trip '15.

So far, we have managed to grab 4 ..........

'Fun with Favourites'
Fun with FavoritesAvailable to all Geocachers completing a Geocache with 10 or more favourite points.

We earned this souvenir by completing a very sneaky little cache, the like of which we've not come across before, just outside The Parlors Hall Hotel in Bridgnorth, when we visited for the weekend with friends.

We were Geocacher 234,564 of 365,176 (so far) to earn this souvenir

'Meet your Road Trip Crew'
Meet Your Road Trip CrewAvailable to all Geocachers attending a Geocaching event.

We earned this souvenir by attending a Geocaching event at a local pub for an evening of catching up with old and new Geocaching friends.

We were Geocacher 39,839 or 51,857 (so far) to earn this souvenir.

'Let's get Extreme'
Let's Get ExtremeAvailable to all Geocachers  finding a T5 or a D5 Geocache.

Whenever a Geocache is hidden it is given a Terrain (T) rating and a Difficulty (D) rating.  The description for a terrain rating of 5 is ......
"Requires specialist equipment such as scuba diving gear, a boat, rock climbing gear etc"
The description for a difficulty rating of 5 is ......
"The most extreme mental challenge.  Requires specialised knowledge, skills or significant effort to find, solve or open"
We managed to find a Geocache, fairly close by that had both a T5 and a D5 rating, so it was going to be tough.

That was a bit close for comfort!
This cache involved working out a number of puzzles beforehand to work out the final co-ordinates of the cache hiding place.  From reading previous logs it seemed that it did most definitely require specialist climbing equipment and there may be cows.

We arrived close to GZ and parked up easily.  We followed a distinct Cachers' trail through the undergrowth and ducked under the hedge and then climbed the fence.  Easy enough so far.  We soon worked out the steps we needed to take and headed back to the car for the specialist equipment and all was looking good.

Specialist equipment in place and ..... Oh no ...... Cows!! Heading this way. Quick, back over the fence, me and mum moved like lightening. Martin soon followed, leaving all equipment behind. I managed to get a couple of decent photos from behind the safety of the fence and Martin managed to shoo the offending animals away.

Martin was the brave one.  He headed back to GZ to make the find, whilst mum and me felt like a right pair of frauds, so, in the end, we did brave the cows, they had moved to a safe distance, and had a quick look at the find, before we all packed up and headed for home.

We were Geocacher 28,683 of 55,555 to earn this souvenir

High-Five for the Earth'High Five for the Earth'
Available to all Geocachers finding an Earth Cache.

This weekend we were on a mission to pick up this souvenir and we picked up Mum and headed over to Lichfield for a visit to Beacon Park, where our closest Earth Cache was located.

Beacon Park is a real treasure.  It's right next to the busy city centre and just across a busy road from the cathedral and Minster Pool, so it is really accessible.

It is a very traditional municipal park.  It's full of things to look at and things to do and it was a real treat to see it so busy, with so many families enjoying pic-nics and children making full use of the open space.

It was a glorious day and we wandered past the cathedral and through the more formal area, with statues and lots of summer bedding.
We went past a more natural area with a stream before coming across a fabulous children's play area with not a witches hat or boring old roundabout in sight. It was packed full of children enjoying burning off some energy in the summer sunshine.
We did what we needed to do to claim our Earth cache, before taking a welcome pitstop in the Bistro, where we sat in the sunshine and watched the world go by.
We then headed back across the stream, where we saw great views of the cathedral and the biggest swans I've ever seen, before heading back to town.
We wandered through more gardens, with herbacaeous borders, packed full of planting and even passed the circus on our way.
Beacon Park also has plenty of wide open areas, a crazy golf course and a pitch and putt course, so more than enough to do to keep you busy for an afternoon.

I'd definitely recommend a visit if you're in the area.

EarthCache - Large IconWe do love an Earth cache.  They take you to really interesting geological features in the most unexpected places.

We were Geocacher 32,544 of 35,196 to earn this souvenir

We now have just 2 of the 6 souvenirs left to collect.  We have a mystery cache to do, which we will need to complete after 14 August.  The final souvenir is a bonus, for collecting the first 5, so once we have the mystery in the bag, we should get the full set.

Well. it gets us out and about!!

Monday 3 August 2015

In the Garden - July

July - In flower .....
The borders in the garden continue to be very green through July.  I definitely need to get to the garden centre and find some plants that flower at this time of year.

The pots however, are doing me proud.  The lilies and the sweet peas have put on a fabulous show, with me being able to have a constant supply of sweet peas for the kitchen window sill.

The zinias I planted from seed are starting to look quite impressive.
And the hanging baskets are still going a storm.
It's not all completely green in the borders.  The hemerocallis came and went, the crocosmia is still looking mighty fine and the white climbing rose is doing well on its new obelisk.  The white daisies are looking pretty good too.

July - What we've been up to .....
Lots of watering, lots of deadheading and lots of feeding has been going on this month. We've also done plenty of harvesting.  We've had the last of the strawberries and the majority of the cherries and there's plenty of strawberry and cherry jam bottled up to see us through the year.

July - What's next .....
Well, August should see us with the first of the plums, hopefully plenty of blueberries, possibly the few apples that we have and maybe the first of the tomatoes.
The piece de resistence is going to be this baby though.  The agapanthus is looking pretty darn amazing.  It clearly likes it's root bound home and I have no plans to disturb it whatsoever.

July - And finally .....
I have a feeling that Courgette & Apricot chutney may be on the cards .....

Morello Cherry Jam

This year the Morello Cherry tree has been amazing.  It has been absolutely laden with fruit and we've been waiting patiently for the cherries to ripen so that we could make our favourite jam.

We've only actually made this Morello Cherry jam the once, a few years ago.  There just hasn't been enough fruit to make it worth the effort since then, but this year there has been plenty.

Not only have we had enough for a good batch of jam, but we also have a few tubs in the freezer for pies and crumbles and enough, teamed up with the first of the blueberries, for a very nice sweet and sour clafoutie.

As cherries are very low in pectin, additional pectin needs to be added to achieve a good set.  Adding commercial pectin is an easy way to do this.  Jams made in the this way need only a short boiling time and little or no water.

Makes sufficient jam to fill 7 small jars

1.2kg Morello cherries (weight is after pitting)
45ml lemon juice
1kg sugar (there is no need to use jam sugar)
250ml liquid pectin

The original recipe also called for 150 ml of water. However, after pitting the cherries we had 150ml of cherry juice so didn't include any water at all.

  • Place a small plate in the freezer to help test when your jam has reached setting point.
  • Put the cherries (including the juice) and lemon juice in a large pan.  Include the water if using. Cover and cook for 15 minutes, stirring until the cherries are tender.
  • Add the sugar to the fruit mixture and stir over a low heat until all the sugar has dissolved completely.  
  • Bring to the boil and boil rapidly for 1 minute.
  • Add the liquid pectin to the pan and stir it into the jam.  Return the mixture to the boil and cook for a further few minutes, until the jam is ready to set.
  • You can test whether your jam has reached setting point by placing a drop onto the plate that you put into the freezer earlier.  If at setting point the mixture will ripple when pushed with your finger.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and, using a slotted spoon, skim off any froth from the surface.
  • Set the jam aside and then leave it to stand for 5 minutes.
  • Stir the jam briefly to distribute the fruit evenly, then pot into sterilised jars and seal.

To add a final professional touch we've managed to find a 'jam labeliser' website, where you can print your own personal labels. Though we didn't believe it would work, we've stuck the jam labels on with milk ....... yes, I really said milk.  I don't understand the science but it works a treat. 

Give it a go!

So having made it, bottled it and labelled it, there really is only one thing left to do .......

We are really pleased with how this jam has turned out. The fruit is spread right through the jar and the taste of the cherries really comes through.