Challenge over?

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Back at the beginning of the month I threw myself into this blog challenge having been inspired by accounts I follow over on Instagram. My main motive was to help me focus mentally  as part of my recovery and although I’ve struggled on some days to write a post ( in person I never seem to stop talking even if it is gibberish) I’ve discovered that I’ve really enjoyed sharing a little bit of me with you. It’s been great to connect with old friends from the Edinburgh days when I ran a yarn shop as well as making new friends and finding new blogs to follow. We all know how dark and turbulent the world is at the moment and I figured that with so many voices shouting in anger I prefer to keep my home here more of a positive space. My headspace is very different now compared to 12 months ago and it doesn’t mean that I’m unaware or uncaring it’s just that reducing stress is much healthier for me.

So what are my plans now that the 31 day challenge is over? Well thanks to some very lovely comments telling me how much they’ve enjoyed my ramblings I plan to keep writing regularly (the plan is twice a week) to let you know what I am or have  been up to. Who knows I may even be able to do it within 15 mins  but like a kitten with a torchlight I’m still easily distracted so who knows.

Before I sign off for today I hope you’ll pop over and have a look at the blogs and or Instagram feeds of the people who have helped to make this challenge such a pleasure to undertake.

Louise Tillbrook 

Lynne Rowe 

Beauty Beyond Bones

Deniz Yakim

Nothing But Knit 2 

The Ramblings Of A Rose

Astrid Ann Larsen

Unravel Knits

Smart Veg Recipes

Funky Air Bear

The OM Project 

Cooking Without Limits

Dawn’s Chronicles

Anja Ge 

The Shameful Sheep 

Iesha Parker

BirLinn Yarn

Kyle Bean

There are some truly beautiful souls in the world, don’t let those with dark intentions and dubious hairstyles make you believe otherwise.

J x

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Joy

31 Day Challenge Day 21 & 22

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Yes, I know I’m cheating. It’s Day 22 of the #31dayblogchallenge and I’m merging both yesterday and today’s posts but I’m sure you’ll forgive me. Sometimes the lure of the virtual, digital world of social media, great as it may be, can’t beat the actual, tangible world where there is real, physical interaction with other people. People who fill you with joy just to be in their presence.

This weekend I’ve been catching up with a couple of close friends who I’ve known since the late 80’s when we were  all textile design students at Amersham College. Throughout our time at college we formed a tight bond of four mates one of us – Natascha- studied printed textiles design (or as we put it, turned to the ‘dark side’) whilst myself, Angela and Wendy followed the true path and became knitters. I absolutely loved those days, getting to grips with the perils of machine knitting  and combining those newly acquired skills with hand knitting and embroidery to explore my creative style. Fast forward many, many years from 1990 when we graduated to present day.  Our paths may have taken us in different directions and geographically we’re very spread out with Nat living in South Africa, Wendy in Berkshire, Angie in Kent and I’m in East Sussex whilst professionally I’m the only one still knitting.

With both Wendy and Angela having kids too it’s not always easy to find time to get together but no matter how short the time those precious hours are always fun (actually they’re hilarious)  and worth every effort. So this afternoon as the last few hours of the Sunday slip past and the sun is going down I’m going to sit with a cuppa, a movie and some relaxing knitting and chuckle to myself as I think back on my weekend with my daft, beautiful, crazy friends.

I really hope your Sunday is full of joy for the weekend you’ve had not full of dread for the week to come

J x

Medicine

31 day Challenge Day 19

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This morning I bypassed the usual onslaught of depressing morning news and took time to sit in silence for 10 precious, peaceful, mindful minutes. I then went for a 60 minute power walk along the seafront bathed in the morning sunshine with my fingers tingling from the cold, icy air. I now feel I’m truly ready for another beautiful day doing what I love.

It’s said that laughter is the best medicine. Well for me this view comes a close second.

I hope you had as good a start to your Thursday

J x

Following the Ear worm

31 Day Challenge Day 10

This morning I awoke to the sounds of McFadden & Whitehead’s ‘Ain’t No Stopping Us Now’ bouncing around my head. Now for those of you who don’t know an ear worm according to Wikipedia is;

‘sometimes known as a brainworm, sticky music, or stuck song syndrome, is a catchy piece of music that continually repeats through a person’s mind after it is no longer playing. Phrases used to describe an earworm include “musical imagery repetition”, “involuntary musical imagery”, and “stuck song syndrome”.

I’m not sure how my newly challenged brain managed to plucked this particular piece of music from my childhood memories after all I haven’t heard it in ages. But I remember it had anthemic status in our house and we used to dance around the front room as the 12 inch version played endlessly on the record player. My big brother Wayne was an avid clubber back in the late 70’s and early 80’s and although I was far too young and annoying a little sister for him to hang out with I loved seeing and listening to his most recent record purchases. Among them was Space Invaders by the Yellow Magic Orchestra (which I think appropriately was on yellow vinyl https://youtu.be/OkkFST5qrLg), Can You Feel The Force by The Real Thing (which I thought was red vinyl https://youtu.be/MYMMfaxruGA) and Stomp by The Brothers Johnson (can’t remember the colour but who cares https://youtu.be/Ug4bV013KEk).

When checking the realease date of ‘Ain’t No Stopping..’ I was really sad to read that one half of the partenership John Whitehead died in 2011 after being fatally shot in Phillidelphia, USA. He and Gene McFadden were more than just one hit wonders and in fact wrote several hit songs for other artists including ‘Back Stabbers’, ‘For The Love Of Money’ and ‘Wake Up Everybody’ to name just a few. So today, in tribute, I’m going to follow the ear worm and listen to a few of John McFadden’s best tunes whilst I work on some charts, starting with this

See you tomorrow

J x

 

Pen to paper

31 Day Challenge Day 7

Can you remember the last time you wrote a letter?

I don’t mean a hastily scribbled shopping list on a Post It note. I mean an actual, thoughtfully hand written letter to someone you care enough about to devote that amount time. However small.

To be honest I can’t think when I last wrote a letter. I began thinking about the practise of letter writing when I was looking through a chest of drawers this morning. I was looking for…well it doesn’t really matter what I was looking for but in the process of searching I came across a number of letters written to me by parents. My parents are old, in fact they are very old. Mum is 87 and Dad is 93 and over the years, wherever I’ve lived, they’ve written to me at some point. It was really touching to re-read their words this morning, sometimes telling me that they were worried about me (obviously sent when I was ill) and at other times just telling me that they missed and loved me. Some letters fill a complete side of A4 paper whilst others are only a few lines long but after my first reading of them I obviously found it difficult to simply throw them away so I’ve kept them, folded and hidden away in a ‘safe’ place. To an outsider they don’t mean a thing but to me they’re an extension of my parents’ love and I’m still touched by them years and years later. Of course I will have replied to them in kind but I can’t remember when I last hand-wrote more than a garbled shopping list. (Actually now I even compose those on my phone).

When I was in secondary school my Deputy Head Teacher Mr Scott used to compliment me on my handwriting. In fact he liked it so me he’d regularly ask me to write the day and date at the top of each page in his official school diary. In those days of course there were no laptops so we wrote everyday and as I recall I loved writing (and drawing) particularly with a fountain pen.

Fast forward a gazillion years and my writing really isn’t what it once was. Nowadays we’ve become accustomed to predictive text and those few occasions when I do write something ‘old school’ the results are…well let’s just say, were he still alive, Mr Scott would not be impressed. So this weekend I’m going to sit right down and write each of my parents a letter. They won’t be expecting them but that element of surprise, and the process of handwriting them, will make it even more enjoyable.

Now where’s that fountain pen?…

 

J x

Gin & tonic cake

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Now just so you know from the outset I’m not claiming this  recipe as my own.  In fact I found it whilst trawling Pinterest for cake recipes to celebrate my 10th wedding anniversary and whilst I’m more than happy to stuff my face with cake of almost any description Mr Sloan is definitely more picky. 10 years is a pretty good milestone for any marriage but ours has gone through LOTS of ups & downs and the part of the ceremony that mentioned ‘in sickness and in health’ has sadly kept rearing it’s ugly head. (No craniotomy pun intended). So when planning a little get together I wanted a surprise centrepiece that would sort of sum us up in cake form and, as any of our friends know how we love a good G&T, this cake ticked a number of boxes;

  • G&T is our favourite tipple
  • it’s definitely an adult cake
  • it’s not overly sweet
  • it lent itself to being pimped up

(You may also be pleased to know that it’s made with rice flour which makes it gluten free which is an added bonus if you’re gluten intolerant).

Now despite being a greedy cow and watching every episode of the Great British Bake Off I didn’t feel confident scaling this cake up by myself (blame it on the still wonky brain) and I also knew that if I was going to surprise Mr Sloan there’s no way I could bake it at home. So, I turned to my close friend Lucy (a trained chef) to give me some tips, give me a lend of her oven and stash the cake until needed. The original recipe by Victoria Glass can be found on the Great British Chefs website here and whilst I’m not going to re-publish all the ingredients here I will  let you know what we did differently.

The original recipe calls for a 22cm diameter savarin tin but as ours was for a centrepiece we made two cakes – each 3 times the quantity of cake batter – and baked in a 30 cm diameter tin. Neither Lucy or I had worked with rice flour before and whilst the recipe called for an ‘all in one’ method which made it easier the texture of the finished sponge was a little weird and completely unlike a sponge made with regular wheat flour. When the cakes were still warm we drizzled them with the syrup then allowed them to cool completely. If your sponge isn’t that deep just watch how much you use, you don’t want to make the cake too soggy. Now at this point I should say that we put the sponges in the freezer for a week because we were making in advance, it freezes really well by the way.

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Around a week later we were ready to make the cake up so we sliced each of the cakes through the centre to make 4 layers then lavished 3 of them with lemon curd and Chantilly cream and topped them off with the 4th layer. We did find that the recipe for the icing produced a really runny consistency that wasn’t gin enough for our tastes so feel free to up the icing sugar and the gin to suit your own tastes. Just be careful that the icing isn’t too runny, you want it to sit on top – Lucy made me an icing bag so that I could pipe rather than drizzle the icing over it. You can leave the decoration at that or, as I did go all ‘cheffy’ and pimp your cake up. I decided I wanted to sink a bottle of 10 year old Tanqureray into the cake and decorate it with the fondant icing flowers to echo the dress I wore on our big day 10 years ago. So, at our last stitch and bitch we set about making. Now when I say ‘we’ I actually mean Lucy, Lucy, Katie, Clare and Wendy. I had a sudden attack of ‘diva’ and kept saying ‘that’s not what I want’ whilst unable to make any useful flowers of my own. (I blame the brain but someone had the cheek to mention post-marriage bridezilla, what a bloody cheek).

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I love how the cake turned out, and more importantly so did Sam. Having sneaked around for 2 weeks (and after telling a few porkies about where I was going) it looked & tasted fantastic thanks to my wonderful friends.

Now the question is ….what do I do for our 20th?

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