Ramblings of an Old Kitchen Witch

Discovering crochet – and getting obsessed with it!

Earlier this year I managed to catch ‘flu.  Proper, horrible, aching-joints, high temperature, no appetite, can’t stand upright ‘flu.  Ugh.  I took an ENTIRE week off work poorly (I’ve never done that!) but by the Friday afternoon I had serious cabin fever and insisted The Hubster took me to The Works in town for a mooch around.

I resisted buying large amounts of craft stuff I’ll probably never use, any more pretty notepads or post-it notes, and moved on to the books.  I’d been rather enviously looking at several versions of The Woodland Blanket designed by the gorgeously talented Lucy from Attic24 on Instagram in January, and I mentioned this to The Hubster as I picked up a Dorling Kindersley book entitled ‘A little course in… Crochet’.  I remarked that I couldn’t crochet to save my life, having tried several times as a kid to learn.

“Go on, buy it.  It’s only three quid,” replied Himself, who was jolly tired of standing in The Works and wanted to get home for a cuppa and a battle on Clash of Clans.

So I did.

And when I got home, I dug out a tiny kit containing a plastic crochet hook and three small balls of wool that had been attached to a magazine I’d bought eleventy-thousand years ago and never threw out, even though I couldn’t make head nor tail of the instructions.

I retired to the sofa and started carefully reading, fiddling with wool and hook, and with a bit of practice (and some highly inappropriate swearing), began to crochet.

I was (pardon the pun) HOOKED.

I did this.IMAG0794

And this.IMAG0796

And this.

And then I made a granny square, which took two hours.  TWO. WHOLE. HOURS.Fotor_152140392372083

And then I ran out of wool.

But lo, this is the age of INTERNET SHOPPING, and more specifically, AMAZON PRIME.  I ordered a set of different sized metal crochet hooks (pretty colours!  A different colour for each size!) and a bag of ten different colours of 25g acrylic yarn.

So more granny squares in lots of colours!

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That was eight weeks ago.  Since then, I’ve been given A LOT of leftover wool from an old neighbour and a friend’s daughter.  I’ve also ordered from LoveCrochet, who put an adorable little sweet in the delivery and it all came in beautiful organza bags.

I’ve been reading the Attic 24 blog like it’s a novel RIGHT FROM THE BEGINNING (I’m still somewhere in Autumn 2013), followed some amazingly talented people on Instagram and given up playing Candy Crush, Zombie Castaway and Gardenscapes on my Kindle.  I have crocheted, and crocheted, and crocheted.

I have kinda let the housework slide a tad.

Because crochet is more FUN, infinitely relaxing and YOU GET REAL STUFF YOU ACTUALLY MADE AT THE END OF IT.  This is IMPORTANT.  This means it is like GARDENING and GROWING things.  It is like BAKING.  It also means I’m officially old and GRANDMOTHERLY, according to my darling Witchlet Number 2.

I don’t care.  I’m loving it.

It’s all the ‘flu’s fault.

 

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Sunday Snow Day – Vanilla Loaf Cake!

Ah, Sunday.  Day of rest and relaxation… yeah, right!  More like a day of frantically washing sports kits that the Witchlets couldn’t be bothered forgot to put out for washing, ironing supposedly crease-free shirts, putting up shelves (ok, not a standard Sunday thing!) and hoovering downstairs AGAIN even though you did it yesterday because the cats seem to be shedding enough fur to stuff a mattress.

But oh, there is always time for baking.  Gluten-free choc chip cookies get baked on a Sunday ready for lunch box treats every time, but today I wanted CAKE.

Simple, easy, plain old Vanilla Loaf Cake.

It’s basically a Madeira cake with vanilla essence instead of lemon rind and lemon juice (I love all cakes, but lemon is a if-that’s-all-there-is-of-course-I’ll-have-a-slice rather than my FIRST CHOICE.

Easy-peasy no-lemon-squeezy recipe!

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240g softened butter

200g caster sugar

4 medium eggs (get these out of the fridge at least a couple of hours before you want to use them – room temperature eggs are better for cakes – apparently.  I always forget, and my cakes are edible, so feel free to ignore me on this one)

210g self-raising flour

90g plain flour

Extra caster sugar for sprinkling.

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C, or 160°C if you have a fan oven, or gas mark 4. Line a 22cm loaf tin with grease-proof paper. I didn’t have any (some person who will remain nameless but I gave birth to in 2008 has pinched all of mine to use as tracing paper) so I lined with kitchen foil.  Worked just as well.

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  1. Measure the sugar and butter into a bowl. Add the vanilla essence.  You’re going to cream these together with a hand-held electric whisk thingy – really, really don’t try doing this by hand.  How my Grandmother used to whisk butter and sugar together by hand and get a light, fluffy mixture I will never know.  My arms would drop off.  I’m a wimp, I know.

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Expert I-learned-from-experience Tip – mash the sugar and butter together a bit with a fork first before whisking it together.  Saves swearing at the large proportion of the sugar that will immediately shoot out of the bowl and over EVERY SURFACE IN SIGHT if you don’t. Or maybe that’s just what happens to me.

  1. Beating. The. Damn. Mixture. When you think it’s soft and fluffy, keep going for another five minutes.  It will go from this:  IMAG0918to THIS:  IMAG0919Paler and fluffier.  Yeah.  THAT’S what they mean by pale and fluffy.

 

  1. Crack the eggs into a bowl and whisk together with a fork. Honestly, this step makes incorporating the eggs easier – no digging shell out of the cake batter!

 

  1. Measure the self-raising and plain flour into a bowl. Don’t bother sifting it – just give the flour a mix around with a whisk.  Works just as well!

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  1. Add about a third of the beaten egg to the beaten sugar-and-butter-mixture. Add a big heaped tablespoon of the flour mix (this will prevent the mixture splitting as the egg is whisked in.  Whisk this in with the electric whisk thingy.  Repeat until all the egg is mixed in.
  1. Carefully stir in the rest of the flour – use a spoon or spatula for this.  It stops you beating all the air out of the mixture.  Apparently this is called folding in.  Yeah, I’m still not sure why.

    Blob all that gorgeous cake mix into the lined cake tin. You’ll have to scrape out loads – stop eating it – and get as much as you can into the tin.  Honestly, however good it tastes now, it’s much better cooked.  Smooth the top.

 

  1. Sprinkle about two tablespoons of caster sugar on the top. This gives it a delicious crust.

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  1. Place into the middle of your oven for approximately ONE HOUR. Check after 45 minutes by sticking a metal skewer or knife into the middle of the cake.  If it comes out clean, remove from the oven.  If not, keep baking for another ten minutes and check again.

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  1. Once cooked, remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before removing from the tin and resting on a baking rack. I don’t have one, so my cakes sit on a chopping board!

 

  1. Do.  Not.  Eat.  It.  Yet.  Let it cool.  Or it will be hard to cut.  STEP AWAY FROM THE CAKE.  Go do something useful.

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  1. Once cool, make yourself a cuppa and grab a slice.

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Apparently this will keep well for a week if wrapped up in tinfoil, but we demolish it long before it gets to a week old!

Off to get the kettle on.  There’s cake to be had, and it won’t eat itself.

OKW

xxx

The Beast from the East! Or how we got a five-day weekend…

I’m sat on the sofa feeling rather warm.  (No, not a menopausal hot flush!)  It has been a balmy FIVE DEGREES CELSIUS today!

Before you shake your head and consider me a total nutcase, we have survived five days in the grip of what our wonderful UK media called “The Beast from the East” and Storm Emma.  It has been COLD.  Minus six with a wind chill of minus eleven.  This called for fleece-lined thermal leggings under my jeans.  And that was inside.

The Witchlets were delighted when we reached Witchlet Two’s breakfast club at school last Wednesday to be greeted with the news that the school would be closed for the day.  I was even more delighted when I got a text from MY school – closed as well.

We dashed home, got changed out of uniform and work clothes, and went out for a walk.  And a snowball fight.

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We walked all the way to the park, throwing snowballs and kicking through the soft, fluffy, completely unspoilt snow.

I realised the wind was starting to pick up – and we would be walking into it on the way home.  Joy!

Both sprogs decided that it was too cold to walk with their eyes open, so I ended up with a child attached to each of my arms, clutching on as if their lives depended on it.  Which they probably were, considering we had to cross two roads on the way back!

Day 2 of Snowpocalypse was less outdoors-y.  We walked to the shop, but the compacted snow on the pavement was very slippery, and all of us fell over at least once.

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Witchlet One retired to his bedroom on our return, logged onto whatever latest game he is coding and emerged only for food.  Witchlet two joined me in creative endeavours (me crocheting, her drawing anime figures) at the dining room table.  We chatted, told jokes, ate (gluten-free) cookies and drank tea.

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Snow Day 3 dawned and when I stepped onto the drive to go out to see what the pavements were like I slipped and slid down the slight incline of our driveway.  Bit icy, then.  Another day indoors

Being off school created lots of unexpected free time.

I crocheted.

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I baked.

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I made stew.

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And pancakes.

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I (gasp) tidied, cleaned, mopped and filled three bin bags with rubbish.  Which is still cluttering up my hallway EVEN NOW because it is The Hubster’s Job to Go To The Recycling Centre and he does things In His Own Time.  *sigh*

Today was back to normal – the snow has all but melted and the schools were open.  I took a small detour on the walk to work to wander through our local park.  It was soft and silent in the mist, away from the busy road.

Goodbye snow.  Can we have Spring now?

OKW

xxxx

Has it really been over a year? Wow.

Hello!  Long time no write.

I started this blog to chart my attempts to get all organised in 2017. Oh, the plans I had!  The dreams I dreamed!  It was all going to be utterly AWESOME! 

Yeah.

Didn’t happen.

I was gonna Anna Paquin the HELL out of 2017! It was my year!  I was ready! Yep!  Nothing could stop me!

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I may have eaten a little bit too much chocolate over the Christmas holidays.  I was probably asking for trouble.

It wasn’t long before things got a bit tough.

The Hubster found himself out of work for three months.  We survived on my wage as a full-time Teaching Assistant and the last of our savings.  And our overdraft.

Work got hard for me.  I was working at least as many hours at home, unpaid, as I did at school.   I simply couldn’t do my job to my satisfaction within my paid hours.  And I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so I didn’t take the advice of EVERYBODY:  “You’re a TA, not a teacher, ease up on yourself.”

My 25-hour working week turned into a 50-hour one.

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(is there ever any reason NOT to add a Dean Winchester meme in?)

Ouch.

Bujo-ing, blogging, organising came to a standstill.

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After breaking down several times in the Deputy Head’s office, I had to reduce my hours.  By the time we crashed, exhausted, into the summer holidays, I knew I couldn’t carry on doing the afternoon work I was doing.  I was heading down the black hole of frequent and debilitating anxiety attacks.

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So in September, I went back to mornings only, and rediscovered my love for the job!  Yes, I still do additional unpaid hours, but nothing compared to what I was doing before. I also started working with an amazing coach, but I’ll get to that another time.  (She’s incredible.  I think she may have saved my life.  She certainly saved my sanity, whatever’s left of it.)

So I find myself with a little more time, a lot more energy, and a desire to get writing about my life in this kitchen… (even my computer is out here now!)  Who knows, I may even get properly organised!

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(stop laughing!)

Hang around, maybe?

OKW

xxx

More Organising – Jumping on the Bullet Journal Bandwagon…

I am an inveterate LIST MAKER.  I make to-do lists to organise my to-do lists.  They are on backs of envelopes, on post-its, in spiral notebooks, hell, even on the back of my hand.  I have been looking for a better way to do these things FOR A VERY LONG TIME.  Honestly.  It’s on several of my to-do lists.  And then I discovered BULLET JOURNALS.

 

Are you BuJo-ing? It’s the in thing, you know.  Just go Google Bullet Journal.  Go on.  I’ll wait.  Unless you decide to stick Bullet Journal in the Pinterest search bar, in which case you will disappear down a rabbit hole and not be seen for three days, and I will have got bored and wandered off (seriously, if they ever make Pinterest 3D and totally immersive, there will be DEATHS as people forget to eat and drink.  I mean it.  When it happens, you heard it here FIRST.)

So, for the few of you who are going “Eh? What the heck is a Bullet Journal?” (Hi Mum!) there is a fabulous site by the original Bullet Journal creator here, which will walk you through the basics.  And a great YouTube video here.  Simple, huh?  Yup.

Well, there’s some amazing Bullet Journal people out there.  With some crazy talents.  And a hell of a lot of time on their hands, because it takes TIME to make stuff look so beautiful.  They really can’t have children, or jobs, or cats, or husbands, or wives, because that stuff must take ALL DAY.  It’s beautiful.  It’s bloody ART, dammit.  In fifty years, some of this stuff will be WORTH A FORTUNE.

One of my personal favourites is Boho Berry.  Kara is amazing.  She has the sort of website I could only dream of creating, and the artistic Bullet Journalling ability that makes me green with envy.  I don’t know how she does it.  If you don’t hate her already because she’s so damn good at it, look at this page of hers, telling you her top twelve Bullet Journal tips.  Yeah, I hate her too.

But anyway, back to me.  Because while I may not have the talent of the Amazing Bullet Journallers, I am at least giving it a go.  And I’m doing it on a budget, because new house/TAs don’t get paid much/kids gotta eat/did I mention TAs are paid sod all?

So I found an old journal with plain pages (yes, it would be lovely to have those dots or squares in PROPER BULLET JOURNALS, but I can’t justify dropping £15 plus on a gorgeous Moleskine or Leuchtterm) and HAD A GO.  So this is my Bullet Journal.  I’m not sure how useful having the weather on it will be, or even tracking my reading habits, and I’m not sure how much better than my old back-of-an-envelope-to-do lists it will be at keeping me organised, but hey-ho – it’s another attempt to get ORGANISED.  I’m not going to beat myself up if I don’t organise EVERY DAY in this way, but I’m going to do the best I can.  So, I’ll check in with a BuJo post every month to show you what I’m doing with it, what I’ve discarded, and how it looks.  Don’t expect works of art.  I have too much to do to make it look pretty.

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For those who like to know the details:

Plain hardbacked journal found several years ago in The Works outlet at Junction 32, Castleford

Pens are Scribblicious Rollerball pens, also from The Works (and CHEAP!! CHEAP, I tell you, CHEAP is GOOD in this house!)

So, do you BuJo?  What do you put in yours?  Show me pictures!  Make me hate you!

 

Cover image found here…

 

I’m Gonna Get Myself Organ-a-sised!

Before I go any further, I need to tell you something. I USED to be organised. I used to be really, REALLY tidy. I also used to live alone with no husband, kids or cats and had far more time on my hands than my thirty year old self knew what to do with. But now I do have all of the above, and disorganisation and untidiness appear to have attached themselves to me like a bad smell. But lo! I spy a brand new year (hence a good excuse to start afresh) and (more importantly) I’ve just moved house so if I don’t do it now…

… I’ll be drowning in crap and you’ll be seeing me on an episode of Hoarders shortly.

First things first.  Last year I began using a yearly planner, which I found here.  This appealed to me for several reasons: it’s free, there are lots of choices of styles and colours, it’s free, you can print it in large (letter or A4) or A5 size and did I mention it’s FREE?

(There are also amazing other printables on The Handmade Home which are well worth a peruse, too!)

Unfortunately I drifted away from using it, much to my chagrin, but I’m going to try again this year.  I’ve got a lever-arch file that was hanging around not doing much, so I stuck a picture I liked to the outside.

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First page inside is a full 2017 calendar.  I tend to use this to count up weeks to go before the next school holiday.  Which is VERY IMPORTANT to me.

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Inside I now have twelve months all perfectly printed out.  At the beginning of each month I’ve printed out a monthly overview, to which I can add all the events, birthdays, anniversaries, school events and anything else I know in advance:

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After each monthly overview there is a two page weekly view, and this is where I can add stuff like days the kids need PE kits, school clubs, music lessons, quick notes – whatever we might need to know that week:

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And after all the monthly and weekly spreads are some more specialised pages – contact details, emergency contacts, and this one – birthdays and anniversaries:

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And there’s some inspirational quotes dotted about through it.  Y’know, the sort of thing that will keep me going if I’m having a positive day, and probably make me want to throw it out of the window if I’m not.

With this MAGICAL planner, I will NOT miss another birthday.  Or anniversary.  People will get cards on time.  People will GET CARDS.

(People will be shocked.)

The MAGICAL Family Planner is being left open on the weekly view in the kitchen, so everyone can see what is happening that week.  Sports kits will be in school ON THE RIGHT DAY.  Bins will be put out ON THE RIGHT DAY.  The CORRECT bin will be put out ON THE RIGHT DAY.  Cats will be de-flea’d and wormed on schedule.  Rather that when they start scratching…

(If this actually works, this will indeed be The MAGICAL Family Planner.  Because no other system has yet managed to keep the chaos that is my life in check as yet.)

Just to add more pressure another challenge, I am trying to do the 52 week savings challenge (find it here).  I like this one because the amount you save goes up each week right until the middle of the year, which is when it starts decreasing again.  I’ve always fallen foul of these weekly savings challenges before because they build up through the year and then by December you’ve got to find fifty-odd quid a week in the month where I SPEND THE MOST MONEY, NOT SAVE IT, DAMMIT!

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So, there’s my first part of getting organised this year.  Whaddaya think?  Bets are being taken on whether I keep this up by the members of this household, so I’m going to need you to keep me accountable.  And if there is anyone out there who is reading this who is organised (unlike me) and wants to share any hints or tips – all are gratefully received!

OKW

Organisation! My new middle name! (Stop laughing.)

Ahhh… I love the peaceful days between Christmas Day and the New Year. For me, it’s the time the New Year really begins – with rest, multiple cups of tea and PLANNING. This year, (I say to myself every year) I’m really going to get my shit together. I’m going to be ORGANISED.

I’m going to glide through this coming year with grace, a smile on my face and I am going to achieve ALL OF THE THINGS.  The witchlets will be happy.  The house will be clean and tidy.  The Hubster will be in awe of his organised, beautiful wife.

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(Jewel Staite.  The reason The Hubster has watched Firefly countless times…)

But I end up sliding exhausted into an anxious, overwrought heap in the middle of the lounge floor at 2 am Christmas morning, with greasy hair, at least half a dozen presents to finish wrapping and wailing (quietly, because my DARLING children, who can sleep through an earthquake, choose this night of the year to wake to the sound of a mouse farting) “I HATE MY LIFE!”

I don’t (of course) hate my life.  Actually, I have a comparatively brilliant life.  But in those exhausted last few moments of a year that ALWAYS sees me descending into disarray, frustration and panic, I really do.  I look at my snoozing cat and vow to return as a feline.

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Or a man.

Now I have read my fair share of self-help books.  I scour Pinterest on a daily basis for life hacks and WAYS TO GET MY SHIT TOGETHER.  And one thing that seems to come up time and time again is ACCOUNTABILITY.

Hal Elrod summed it up well in The Miracle Morning:

“Accountability is the act of being responsible to someone else for some action or result.”

Yup.  If someone is relying on me to do something, I get it done.  The witchlets need to eat, so I cook every day.  Everyone in the house needs clean clothes – the washing gets done.  No biggie.  I do this without any issue.  You won’t find me curled up on the sofa hiding in yet another adventure down the rabbit hole that is Pinterest when it’s tea time, or the washing basket is full.  THAT SHIT GETS DONE, DAMMIT.

So I need some accountability in every other damn area of my life.  So here we are.  A new year, a brand spanking new blog.  Of course, there are several million blogs out there doing just the same as me – I know, I read many of them! – so I am under no illusions that there is any body ACTUALLY reading this, but I’m hoping –

PRAYING –

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that writing this blog will give me some accountability.

Now, what I SHOULD be doing is finding a REAL, LIVE, HUMAN BEING to be accountable to.  If you read ALL ABOUT MOI here you will probably understand why I can’t do that.  Well, not yet.

(That’s something else I’m trying to do.  Add the phrase “Yet,” on to the end of every “I can’t do it,” I utter.)

So, here we go.  Welcome 2017, I’m coming to getcha!