Archive for April, 2012

It’s been a better week; No more bad news at any rate!

Recent events mean that I’ve been put back a little bit with projects that I’ve been working on, so over the last couple of days I’ve had to get my head down and do some serious catching up.

And with the weather continuing to be fairly vile I’ve also decided that it’s probably not a good idea to take myself off somewhere in the camper van. So, for the moment, I’ve put my gastronomic travel plans on hold until the torrential rain decides to stop – apparently the weather forecast predicts at least another week before the sun puts in an appearance and we finally start to dry out! What a pain 😦

I have still been busy cooking up my own little storm though – so I thought I’d share some of my recent makes for this week’s blog….

Cute, crocheted, calorie-free cupcakes.

I’ve been making these delightful little treats for a while now –Β They’re very easy to make if you can crochet, and I like the fact that you can let your imagination run riot when it comes to the myriad ways of ‘decorating’ them.

Easier than it looks!

Here’s a very basic pattern to get you started (please note that it does not include details for creating the toppings, fluted edging etc):

Round 1: Use the magic ring method to form a loop, working 6 dc into the centre of the ring (6 sts). Join with a sl st to the first dc. Make 1 ch.

Round 2: 2 dc in every stitch (12 sts), join, 1 ch.

Round 3: (1 dc, 2dc in next st) six times (18 sts), join, 1 ch.

Round 4: (1 dc, 1 dc, 2 dc in next st) six times (24 sts), join, 1 ch.

Round 5: (1 dc, 1 dc, 1 dc, 2 dc in next st six times (30 sts), join, 1 ch.

Rounds 6-7: 1 dc in every st (30 sts), join, 1 c.

Round 8: (1 dc, 1 dc, 1 dc, 1 dc, 2 dc in next st) six times (36 sts), join, 1 ch.

Rounds 9-11: 1 dc in every st (36 sts), join with a sl st to first dc, 1 ch.

Round 12: (1 dc, 1 dc, 1 dc, 1 dc, dc2tog) six times (30 sts), join, 1 ch.

Round 13: 1 dc in every st (30 sts), join, 1 ch.

Round 14: (1 dc, 1 dc, 1 dc, dc2tog) six times (24 sts), join, 1 ch.

Round 15-18: 1 dc in every st (24 sts), join, 1 ch.

Round 19: Work in back loops only – (1 dc, 1 dc, dc2tog) six times (18 sts), join, 1 ch.

Before continuing, trim off and tie in any loose ends. Stuff with a BS standard toy filling.

Round 20: (1 dc, dc2tog) six times (12 sts), join, 1 ch.

Round 21: (dc 2tog) six times (6 sts), join, 1 ch.

Cut the yarn leaving a 15 cm tail and pull the end through the stitch on the hook. Pull tight to fasten off. Thread the yarn end through a darning needle and gather up the final six stitches to close up the hole. Weave in loose ends.

Add toppings, beads sequins etc as desired…….

The finished item looking good enough to eat – Perfect to offer to the Vicar when he next comes for tea πŸ˜‰

They look great when arranged together on a vintage cake plate!

Crocheted cupcakes and knitted Battenburg – Yummy!

Next week sees the start of another month and a new theme – Sewing! I’ll be starting off with a simple, hand sewn item that you can use as either a keyring or bag charm. Until then, Happy Crafting!

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This is definitely a week to be feeling more than a bit fed up!

I’ve seen my uncle get rushed in to hospital with a burst appendix that’s needed three operations to sort it out, the Mother in Law has had a bad fall on a dodgy pavement which has resulted in a visit to A&E to diagnose a broken toe and on Friday the 13th a really close family friend passed away suddenly; My mum found his body………. He was three years younger than me and more like a brother than a mate.

I don’t really feel like jumping in the bus and having adventures at the moment. Hopefully I’ll resume posting next week…

I’m in danger of transforming in to a Domestic Goddess – It’s true!

The Easter break has seen me chained to the kitchen stove in an effort to keep up with demands for sickly sweet, chocolate laden desserts and snacks. I’ve done very well in coping with it all if I’m honest but I did have to draw the line and decline quite firmly a request for deep fried Cadbury’s Creme Eggs! Some depths of depravity even I can’t stoop to…….. And just because Nigella Lawson makes them doesn’t mean it’s necessarily right you know πŸ˜‰

Here’s a link to the recipe I was presented with:Β http://www.nigella.com/recipes/view/deep-fried-cadbury-cream-eggs-1217

Do let me know the outcome if you decide to try this – I’d love to know the results.

This is the sort of thing that I was much more willing to attempt …..

Triple chocolate muffins with a miniature Cadbury's Creme Egg centre all ready to pop in the oven!

Not really the best thing to serve up for an Easter Sunday breakfast in bed - still........quite nice with a good cuppa!

In fairness, the weather has also kept me inside; It’s been suitably vile! Β Howling winds, snow, driving rain and a 20 degree dip in temperature since our outing to Sandsend.

But Easter is a Bank Holiday; Appalling weather on a national day off work has become par for the course. It’s an English tradition that it’ll piddle it down; We’ve all grown to expect it and I don’t think anyone in the UK has been disappointed this week!

That’s another nice thing about a camper van……. if it’s raining you’ve got a comfy retreat away from the elements. Life can pretty much carry on regardless…….

So with that in mind I decided to unchain the shackles and take the ‘home away from home’ to another local destination……. to do some more cooking!

This week I was feeling a bit cocky and asked people on my Facebook fan page to choose somewhere for me to go. A bit risky as I anticipated more than a few rude suggestions. Turns out that I’m not the only one sporting an angelic halo though, as the response was quite positive and my designated destination was an old favourite for me……. The Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Just 23 miles and 32 minutes away.

Easter Bunny?

Hare Sculpture by Sophie Ryder

I always want to eat soup when I go to the YSP! I think it probably stems back to the first time I went there when a lengthy trip around the grounds ended with the indulgent treat of a steaming bowl of delicious Broccolli & Stilton with lots of crusty bread to dip into it.

Here’s my favourite soup recipe of the moment – really easy to make in the camper van as it’s quick to cook and uses baked potatoes that we invariably have left over after the BBQ from the night before πŸ˜‰

The Big Blue Bully Bus’ Baked Potato Soup (Serves 2)

Ingredients:

  • 4 slices of Bacon (Miss this out if you’re a vegetarian – It’s really only used as garnish at the end)
  • 50 g Butter
  • 30 g all-purpose Flour
  • 555 ml Milk
  • 1-1/4 Large Baked Potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1-1/4 Spring Onions, chopped
  • 45 g shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 75 g Sour Cream
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  1. Roughly chop the bacon into small pieces and fry until crispy – set aside.
  2. In a large saucepan, melt the butter – being very careful not to burn it. Whisk in the flour until smooth. Gradually stir in the milk, whisking constantly until thickened. Stir in the potatoes and most of the onions. Bring to the boil, stirring frequently.
  3. Reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes. Mix in the cheese, sour cream, salt, and pepper. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the cheese is melted.
  4. Place in some lovely retro style soup bowls and sprinkle the remaining onions and crispy bacon pieces on top to garnish. You might also want to add a few croutons and a little more grated cheese for extra indulgence and added heartiness.

Very Nice! I would have included pictures but my batteries ran out in the camera – never mind though. I’ll have it fully charged up ready for next week’s trip out! Wonder where I’ll end up next…………?

April: Another month and time to change to the fourth theme of my ’52 Crafts in 52 Weeks’ odyssey: Home.

Fellow camper van owners around the world would possibly all agree that this can be wherever you park it – and there’s certainly nothing quite like embarking on a road trip when you’ve got all the comforts you’ll need to set up ‘house’ right there in the interior of the vehicle that’s getting you from A to B. It doesn’t even matter if your ride isn’t the fastest or prettiest on the highway when you rest safe in the knowledge that you can pull over at any time to make a cup of tea and rustle up a snack before setting off on your way again. And even better to know that once you arrive at your destination you can simply take the key out of the ignition, reach into your fridge and pull out a nice cold beer and relax without too much worry about setting up camp πŸ˜‰

My bus - And home away from home πŸ™‚

So this is the home I’ve chosen to conduct current proceedings from – My wonderful hi-top, T25 camper van, known to the world as ‘Vince’. Β And my weekly craft feature will focus on making delicious things to eat wherever I choose to pull up and stop along the way. It’s also a great opportunity to share some of the beautiful places that are within easy reach of my more permanent bricks and mortar base and a brilliant excuse to pack up and go on a regular weekly road trip.

Parked up nice and early at Sandsend, North Yorkshire.

Earlier this week I took advantage of the gorgeous sunshine and record temperatures and made the journey to a beautiful coastal village in North Yorkshire called Sandsend. My driving companions consisted of two English Bull Terriers, and Mr Other Half.

Sandsend - Just down the road from Whitby, North Yorkshire

Sandsend is 92 miles and around two hours away from where we live and the journey there takes you through the breathtaking North York Moors National Park – Home of ‘Heartbeat’ and the fictitious Aidensfield. At one end of the bay, approximately two miles away, is historic Whitby – the legendary home of Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’, Captain Cook’s birthplace, a medieval Abbey and one of the best fish and chip restaurants in the country; at the other end of the bay is Sandsend, start of the Cleveland way coastal path and once the scene of a busy alum mining industry.

Old picture showing Sandsend at the height of the alum mining era.

On arriving, we put the kettle on to have a quick cuppa before setting off for a two hour walk along the cliff top to Sandsend Ness – a slightly incongruous lunar landscape attributable to the industry that once thrived there. The sun was beating down, the birds were singing and it was lovely to see signs of Spring bursting forth in all directions!

A cinder pathway leads along the top of the cliffs.

Heralds of Spring - English violets growing wild at the side of the pathway.

Sandsend Ness. The quarried spoil heaps look like some kind of lunar landscape - stunning against the backdrop of a blue sky and glittering sea.

Sandsend Ness was our final destination before turning round and heading back for lunch. It’s a slightly strange and eery spot, and a lasting legacy of our British industrial heritage. This barren and arid landscape can be attributed to one of the extraction processes of the once thriving alum industry – the shale burning ground. It’s an operation that’s been closed down for nigh on a century yet still nothing grows here!

View from Sandsend Ness looking further up the coast towards Kettleness

The walk back to the bus was equally breathtaking! We certainly worked up an appetite and a hefty thirst for a cup of tea in the process πŸ˜‰

Whitby - As viewed from the clifftop path on the walk back.

We had to make lots of stops - It was such a hot day!

Back at base camp the two bullies of the bus flaked out whilst Mr Other Half took charge of preparing the vittles – I was supposed to be doing this, but in honesty he’s much better at making delicious stuff to eat, so I was relegated to making the tea whilst he whipped up lunch πŸ™‚

Yup! The tea cozy now takes pride of place in the Bully Bus πŸ™‚

And this is the essence of this week’s blog post really – making something that addresses the theme of ‘Home’. Courtesy of Mr Other Half.

Mr Other Half preparing lunch. It's a case of standing well back after lighting the blue touch paper!

He chose to make a hearty goats cheese and marmalade toasted sandwich – delicious!

Here’s what he did:

Cut a large bread roll in half and place crust side up under a hot grill – remove when toasted and spread a generous layer of marmalade on the untoasted side. Add a layer of finely sliced mushrooms and tomatoes and top with thick hunks of goats cheese. Add a few extra halves of tomato for garnish. Place back under the hot grill until the cheese begins to melt and bubble – leave it longer to brown on top if you prefer. Serve up with a light green salad dressed with lemon and olive oil. Very filling, extremely tasty and guranteed to set you up for the rest of the day!

Delicious! Mr Other Half's marmalade & goat's cheese toasted sarnie.

I guess some people would consider this a bit of a weird combination – but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it; it’s seriously good. And you could always substitute onion marmalade if you have a more savoury palate. Here’s a link to a really nice recipe that’ll keep for about 6 weeks in the refrigerator:Β http://www.rivercottage.net/recipes/caramalised-onion-marmalade/

Whether the idea of this appeals to you or not it must have at least smelled nice as we had a crowd of unexpected visitors for lunch!

We had guests over to dine in the form of a few inquisitive ducks.

Once our meal had settled and the teapot had been drained we went off for another walk – but this time along the beach. Fossil hunting, digging holes in the sand, lots more sunshine and a nice dip in the briny to round off the day πŸ˜‰

First fossil find of the day - Crinoids!

The sea has sculpted these wooden groynes into some weird version of Stargazy Pie!

A late afternoon paddle in the briny was just the thing to cool down toasted tootsies.

The bullies of the bus! Absolutely shattered after a fun packed day and ready for the trip back to Leeds.

On the way back the bullies of the bus crashed out on comfy cushions at the rear and dreamed of sandcastles – Lovely!

It’s like they say though, home is DEFINITELY where you park it πŸ˜‰