Monday 22 February 2016

50 Things to do before I'm 60 - 11 to 15

Hi there everyone

Well, last week I let you know how I was getting on with the first 10 of the 50 things that I want to do before I'm 60.

This week I want to share the next 5 things that are on my list so here goes ...

11 - Either go camping again or ...... get rid of all the camping stuff!

It may not sound like it, but this is a big decision for us.  We love nearly everything about camping and we've had some really lovely camping holidays.  The one thing that we really don't like though, is having to pack up in the rain and we've had to do this the last two times we camped.  What this means is a marathon effort when you get home to dry everything out.

Added to that we have both Martin's and my ever increasing creaking and aching joints, which makes the getting up and down from airbeds not the most fun activity.

Actually, I don't really like peeing in a bucket in the night either and as for the showers .........

I think I know what I need to do with this one, but I can not tell a lie, it will be a sad day.
Well ... having written all of that and convinced myself that camping was no longer for me, and now having hunted out photos for the above collage, I didn't realise how many times we'd been camping and I've remembered just how much we do love it.

I'd also forgotten how slim and fit my lovely husband was when we first met!

Perhaps I'm not really ready to sell on the gear after all.

12 - Have a cottage holiday on one of the Channel Islands

Yay!!  Another one done.  We had a lovely holiday on Guernsey last year, which you can read about here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

13 - Run my own Business

When I wrote this goal, I never really thought that I'd do it.  But my little craft business Hand Made at Number 27 is up and running.  Its definitely in its infancy and nowhere near being in profit as yet.  I'm not sure how far I want to go with this but, for now, I'm enjoying making all sorts of different bits and pieces and really enjoying the feeling I get when other people say they like my stuff.

14 - Finish off the Explorer 232 Geocaching Series
Image result for geocachingImage result for explorer 232 os map
Our caching exploits really seem to have tailed off over the last year.

We started this series, what seems like years ago, and it involves finding a cache in 232 of the grid squares on the OS Explorer map 232, which covers the Nuneaton, Tamworth, Lichfield & Atherstone area, so it's pretty local to us.

We started out really well and have already completed caches in 191 of the squares, so just 41 left to do.  Maybe this will be one for when Martin retires later this year and we can get out and about a bit more.

15 - Visit Rosslyn Chapel

Like lots and lots of other people I was enthralled by Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code.  A number of years ago I visited Paris, with my brother, who was also enthralled and we visited The Louvre and followed the Rose Line at the St Sulpice church.

Ever since I saw the film, I've wanted to visit Rosslyn Chapel, it just looked so beautiful ... and fascinating.

Knowing that this was something I really wanted to do, my lovely husband planned in a surprise visit, on our way back from The Cairngorms last year.

It did not disappoint.  It was an absolutely beautiful chapel, in a lovely spot.  Inside is as fascinating as I hoped it would be, though the film considerably extended the crypt!

It's somewhere that I'm really pleased I've managed to see and I would most definitely recommend a visit if you're considering it.  It was well worth the trip.

So that's 11 to 15 on my list.  Not bad going so far, really need to make that decision on the camping front this year though.  Will we risk another trip to see how we get on, or will we come to terms with the fact that our camping days are over?  Watch this space ...

Monday 15 February 2016

50 Things to do before I'm 60 - An Update ...

In 2014 I hit the big 'FIVE OH' and I can't quite believe it's been a year since I published this post about 50 things that I wanted to achieve before I got to 60.

Well ... I thought it was time for a progress update.

Back in February last year these were the first 10 things I posted from my list and now I can let you know how I've got on so far ...

1 - Hand make Christmas and Birthday gifts

I think I've done pretty well with this one.  In 2014 the mainstay of the hand made Christmas gifts were beaded bracelets for the ladies.
I had to come up with something new for 2015 and came up with a selection of new gifts, including: a crocheted cushion, a tooth fairy pillow, a button art elephant, button art hearts, a selection of zippered make up bags and purses, more bracelets, home made wine, jams & chutney and even an oven glove!

2 - Make bramble jelly jam

Another objective firmly ticked off the list. I've now made a couple of batches of scrummy bramble jelly jam, from our blackberry foraging.

3 - Have a posh afternoon tea

Now this one seems to have become a regular occurrence, with a number of visits, with a selection of different friends to The Old School House at Weeford, which has fast become a firm favourite for afternoon tea.  I've also tried the afternoon tea at Dobbies, in Mancetter, with mum, which was also very nice, and the afternoon tea at Buzzard Valley, which, to be fair, was not so good.

4 - Visit Balmoral Castle

Well ... I feel like I'm on a bit of a roll, as we managed to take in a visit to Balmoral when we stayed up in Ballater in Spring last year.  Somewhere I would definitely recommend and we will definitely be returning to take up a land rover tour round the estate, which looks brilliant.

Balmoral was everything we hoped it would be.  We were really lucky and got to see it with no one else around.  We got there really early and did the recommended tour backwards, so we saw the house first, before anyone else had got there.  Definitely worth a thought if you are visiting.

5 - Make something in mosaic

Well, this is where it all starts to go downhill. Whilst I have got everything I need to get cracking with this, stuff to mosaic on, stuff to mosaic with, tools and plenty of books, I haven't actually done any mosaic as yet.  The closest I have got is  my button art.  This is one I definitely want to have a go at this year.  I've got no excuses now!!

6 - Complete my online photography course

I have at least made a start on this, though I haven't made as much progress as I would have liked.  I think, subconsciously, I am waiting for Martin to retire, so that we can do this together.  The plan then, is to go out and start taking photos worthy of competition entry, so we may see more progress on this one later in the year.

7 - Holiday on the Suffolk Coast

Now, I did really try this one, I really did.  I have spent many an hour looking for the perfect cottage to suit Martin and I, in the perfect spot on the Suffolk coast.  So far, the only cottages that I've liked have been either too far North or too far South.  I need to just keep looking for that one that is just in the right spot for us to be able to see everything that we want to see.

8 - Christmas in a holiday cottage

Those of you who follow my blog will know that we managed to do this for 2015, with a family Christmas break in Marsden in Yorkshire, staying on the Crow Hill Estate in The West Wing.
We all had a really nice relaxing break, with plenty of chill out time.  Would we do it again?  Not sure, I think would be the answer.  We had a great time, but for me, it was quite a rush to get everything that we needed to get done at home done, in time to get away, and packing was like a military operation.

I think the consensus was that next time, we might give it a try over the New Year instead.  Maybe something for New Year 2018.

9 - Holiday in all of the National Parks of Great Britain

This is an ongoing one, but at least we can add The Cairngorms to the list of Parks we've holidayed in.  It was, as have all the others been, absolutely beautiful and we will definitely visit again.

10 - Up cycle my old placemats

Yay!!! Another one done.  We love our 'new' placements, with all their wrinkles and creases! Not something I think I'd do again, it's probably cheaper, and definitely less hassle, to buy a new set.

So, how have I done so far, in my first year?

Of my first 10 goals I can say that so far I have ...
  • Completely achieved six
  • Made progress on two and
  • Not really got anywhere with the other two
Whilst I am quite pleased with what I've achieved so far, I guess I might need to get a wriggle on, with 46 goals left to do and nine years to go!!

Next week, I will share my next 10 goals with you and, hopefully, some of these may already have been started, so watch this space.

Monday 8 February 2016

Brussels Sprouts & Bacon Pizza

Still got sprouts kicking around?

Fancy doing something different with them?

Seriously ... why not try this Brussels sprouts and bacon pizza?

I've been meaning to share this recipe for ages, I know it may sound a bit random, but really, its pretty darn good ... and if you don't fancy the topping, I know you'll like the pizza base recipe as its just so easy.

The topping is a bit of an adaptation of a recipe that I found on a blog that I follow here.

Martin then discovered a fab pizza base recipe that has no actual yeast in it but always works an absolute treat. It's a Good Food recipe.

Pizza Base Ingredients
To make two medium sized pizza bases

  • 300g self raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 300g natural yoghurt

Basically you mix together the flour, yoghurt, baking powder and salt. We tend to do this with the electric mixer, with the dough hooks on, till the ingredients are all well combined.

Martin then kneads the mixture for 5-10 minutes until its a a nice smooth ball of dough.

It is quite a wet mixture but don't worry, just use plenty of flour for dusting when kneading and all will work out well.
We then tend to leave the mixture for about an hour to 'prove', though it won't double in size as there is no yeast in the dough.

Once you are ready to use the dough then just roll and stretch it out to the shape that you want.

The thing that surprised us with this recipe, apart from there being no yeast, was the fact that you bake the pizzas in a 200c fan oven for about five minutes until they begin to rise, before you add any topping.
Then you remove them from the oven, turn them over and add your toppings before putting back in for another 5-10 minutes.

We have found that a just a couple of tablespoons of pizza sauce topping is plenty for each pizza and actually less sauce makes the pizzas hold together better when eating and all of the toppings don't just slide off.

Brussels Sprout & Bacon Pizza Topping Ingredients

  • 2 tbsps BBQ pizza sauce
  • 1/2 red onion finely sliced
  • About a cup of Brussels sprouts cut into 1/4s
  • 3-4 slices bacon, chopped
  • Grated cheese

Fry off the chopped up bacon, then add the quartered sprouts to the pan and fry until crispy.

When the pizza base has been cooked on the one side, as described above, remove from the oven, flip over and add your toppings.

We used a BBQ flavoured pizza tipping, from a jar I'm afraid, spread over the top of the pizza, topped with the fried bacon and sprouts, then raw thinly sliced red onion, before sprinkling with a liberal layer of mixed grated cheese.
As I said at the beginning of this post ... it might sound a bit random, but it always works out a treat and ... so pretty too.  Give it a go and ... enjoy!

Monday 1 February 2016

Birmingham's Rag Market

A week or so ago I had a trip into Birmingham to suss out the Rag Market, looking for suitably priced fabric for making bunting.  From working out how much fabric I needed to make a decent length, I had decided that doing it with fat quarters just wasn't viable.
I hadn't been into Birmingham on the train for ages and I was pretty much blown away by what they've done with the concourse at New Street Station  and the old Pallisades, now known as Grand Central.  It took me a while to get my bearings, but I soon managed to find my way to St Martin's Church, where I was meeting mum.

It was a glorious bright sunshiney day and the city looked impressive.

Now, you may ask why we didn't travel together ...Well, it's all to do with free transport!  As the wife of someone who has worked on the railway since the year dot, I get a certain amount of free rail travel each year and, as a pensioner, mum gets free travel on the bus.  Hence, in the name of frugality, whenever we go anywhere on public transport, we each make our own way.

We headed into the Rag Market, where we knew we would have a long, slow browse of all that was on offer, hence leaving dad at home.

I was dead excited to be greeted by one of the owl sculptures that I had missed seeing last year.  Not sure how it ended up here, but I was really pleased to get to see it.

There weren't as many fabric stalls as I expected, but there was a really good choice of fabric that would hit the spot for £2 a metre, which is a really good price, compared to what I've seen elsewhere, even on the Internet.

There were lots and lots of other stalls selling all types of crafty bits and pieces and I couldn't resist a stack of zips, of all different colours and sizes for just 10p each and some decent sized square cushion pads for just £1.50 apiece.

As well as looking round The Rag Market its also worth a wander around the outdoor market, where we picked up some more fabric, and the meat market, which has a really good craft stall right at the back.  It's not all about meat, though if you're squeamish, you need to avoid looking at some of the stalls.
Laden down with our purchases, we decided to have a quick pitstop and we ended up in the cafe in St Martin's Church, which was actually quite nice, and was absolutely fine for a sandwich and a quick drink.

Ready to head for home, we couldn't resist a wander round Grand Central, which is packed full of lovely shops like Cath Kidston, The White Company and John Lewis.  There are also loads of cool looking places to eat and some of the patisserie just looked out of this World, I wish I'd taken some pictures.

I was soon back on the train for the short journey home and had managed to walk back home by the time mum was halfway back on the bus!!

I was really pleased with the fabric I bought, it was perfect for bunting and I've even made a patchwork cushion with some of the scraps.

If you are looking for cheap, but cheerful, fabric, I would definitely recommend The Rag Market, it's well worth the trip and I will most definitely be going again, probably quite soon.