Sunday, 28 July 2013

Today's blessing


Today's blessing for me is traditional crafting . I found myself admiring a wonderful cross stich wall hanging which was given to me by my husband's grandmother and decided to add it as a blessing. The grandparents and great-grandparents who developed the art of needlecraft, knitting, crochet, weaving, woodwork and pottery. Without their commitment to learning their creative skills we would not now be able to follow in their footsteps and make our own art and so play our part too in the development of arts and crafts. I love the intricate details she has added to the bottom section and the home and garden at the top. Its one of my most treasured pieces of home décor.

A guide to the real England.

So many times I have spoken to people I have met here in Jordan and when I tell them I am from England their assumption is that I am from London. Most times I ask them about their visits to the UK they also exclusively talk about London. London is a beautiful city, but it's not England. If you stay in the capital every time you would miss the true heart of the country. So I am posting a series of  features about all the places I think you should visit if you have a holiday in the British isles. As I am the author my first post will be my own favorite places. But as there is so much to add I will have to have more than one post on those places too as there are a lot!!. I will try to add information of interest as well as the beauty of England is in the stories behind the landmarks. So lets start because there is a lot to see.



Derbyshire

Now this part of England is especially close to my heart as it is where I was born. Its romantic wild countryside has been the perfect setting for the heart stopping novels of Jane Austin. The Kira Knightly version of Pride and prejudice was filmed in Derbyshire  and its not difficult to see its appeal for both the writer of such a wonderful piece of literature and the director who wanted to capture the essence of its charm. Its a great place for bookworms, for those who like to create their own romantic story, for sports men and women, writers and poets, and even collectors of antiquities. There is something for everyone.

Chatsworth

Defiantly a jewel in  the crown of Derbyshire only comparable to the queens residence in London for grandeur. With its vast gardens and beautifully preserved house which are both open to the public you can imagine yourself transported to times long past and the elegant past times of high society.

There are many organised events during the year which are advertised locally and at the house. One of the most famous is a series of concerts with fireworks which are really worth seeing. They also have a shopping hall with wonderful gifts and a farm shop which sells dairy, fruits and vegetables, meat and fish which are farmed and produced in and around the Chatsworth estate. They also have a lovely restaurant . Chatsworth is a great place for the family as it also has a working farm which is open for visitors and little ones can go and see the animals and watch milking time. There is also an adventure playground which is set in a woodland area with tree houses and climbing ropes.
One of the most famous scenes of Pride and prejudice was shot overlooking the great two story building high fountain which stands in front of the house.
On a personal note There is also a garden centre which has memories for me as its been there for a long time. I remember as a child going with my parents to meet my grandparents. I have no idea why but every time I remember its always raining. The car park is surrounded by thick leafy trees and vegetation and I remember the earthy smell and the smell of the wet leaves. I used to visit my grandparents there as it was half way between our homes. I remember going to the café there and having a hot chocolate or a cup of tea and sitting watching the rain or looking around the shop which not only sells plants but clothes, bath stuffs and books. Will defiantly be going there next time I am back in the UK as its really beautiful at Christmas. I am posting a link below for the official site for more info-
http://www.chatsworth.org/?gclid=CP6BvNzj0bgCFfMctAodslQABg


 

Castleton

Now this beautiful little village is just a stones throw away from where my grandparents lived during my childhood. This is one of the only places in the world where you can buy the precious gemstone Blue John. Its quaint building are a wonderful forefront to the ruins of Peveril Castle ( pictured below)


There are also several caves which are open to the public and you can go on a guided tour of one of them which is a great experience as there are many tales told about life in bygone times. There is a road that goes between two of the hills of Castleton called Winnit's pass which has a spooky story about a newly married couple who come by Castleton on their way and are ambushed and killed on the pass. Legend says their ghosts still roam on the pass and relive their final moments every night. Which is why the near by cave has a special Halloween tour which is spooky and not for the faint hearted! Castleton is in the Peak District National Park so its a great place for walkers and hikers everywhere. If you have stamina its great for Bikers- I say if you have stamina because of the many hills lol. Castleton is a wonderful place to buy gifts and get a good lungful of British fresh air. Here is a link for Castleton and the National Park-
http://www.castleton.co.uk/



Haddon Hall

Now this place is a little older than Chatsworth and is another location  of a  film set but this time for Jane Eyre.  Its a rugged wild setting which is absolutely perfect for the passion of this classic ghostly tale of love and adversity. Its a beautiful place to visit and has guided tours and a restaurant. Its well worth a day trip, especially for those who are interested in seeing a real life Tudor home. What I have always love about its deep wooden paneled walls and stone floors is the pungent smell which I dream is the same as when It was first built. Thus I am able to time travel just a little as I walk through its rooms and when I leave I have felt what it is to stand in the same time  as Henry the eighth just for a moment. Again here is a link for Haddon hall-
http://www.haddonhall.co.uk/


 

Bakewell

Down the road from Haddon hall is a local town called Bakewell which is the original birth place of one of the most delicious puddings in the midlands the Bakewell pudding. Its authentic recipe is kept a closely guarded secret but it is really worth a taste. There is also great shopping there and lots of little nooks and crannies In which you can find the most amazing bargains. As well as a fantastic local farmers market . Again the link is below-
http://bakewellonline.co.uk/




Tissington

Tissington is a great place for those who love biking as there is a trail on which you can ride for free as far as you like. On the trail ever so often are Peak district stops and car parks and shops so there is a safe place to park your car and also refreshment stands so you have everything you need! The countryside on the trails is breathtaking there are also bike renting buildings so you don't even have to take yours with you. They also have infant carriages available to fit on to adult bikes so your little one can have a lovely ride along with you.


Further on at the village of Tissington there is the lovely local hall which unfortunately though not open to the public has a very good restaurant which offers a hearty lunch to visitors. There is also an absolute gem of a shop there called Akanthas which is a bit like Aladdin's cave. Its a beautiful little shop crammed with  interior décor and little trinkets which are crazily cheaply priced. Its one of the places I always have to visit whilst in the Uk as many of the new fashionable items which carry quite a hefty price tag on the high street are found here at a fraction of the cost. Now the next bit is for non Muslims - at Christmas they have a special event every year of several evenings in which they stay open and serve mulled wine to customers so that they can mill about at their leisure whilst deciding what to buy for loved ones. There is also a really great shop just around the corner from Akanthas which is devoted to vintage and retro sweets and a small collection of vintage home wares. The whole shop is in the theme of post war England. I love the fact that I could get some of the sweets I used to hoard during the school year plus their ice creams are to die for!!!!
Not forgetting the ford which is a low stream which runs over the road. I remember as a child my father used to drive into the middle of the ford, stop the car and tell me that is was broken. He then always used to get me to tell the car to start three times and then he would turn the engine on as we cheered and drove into the village. Here is the link-
http://www.tissingtonhall.co.uk/
I did a bit of extra research and found that apparently Tissington hall is open 28 days a year so you can see it. Yay!!!
Will post more of my favorite Derbyshire sights in a second part later so keep posted. There is something for everyone!!!!




Friday, 26 July 2013

A little help from an expert

As its Ramadan I decided to make a bunting for my living room. I wanted to crochet the word Ramadan but was a little daunted by the shaping involved with making letters. But thankfully Tamara Kelly at  http://www.mooglyblog.com/the-moogly-crochet-alphabet/ came to the rescue with her fabulous Alphabet patterns which are amazing . I have to recommend her site as it has some fantastic patterns and advice for newbie crocheters, knitters, embroiders and quilters. Her directions are quite clear and she has provided photos for every letter so you know how the end result should look. Alternately Stichnstacy has very kindly posted a whole set of video tutorials on youtube for crocheting alphabet letters in which she takes you step by step from start to beginning so no need to sweat the small stuff!!!.
Now here are some pictures of the finished bunting

 
I am really happy how the letters cam out and added a small flower and granny square as a bit of extra decoration.
 
 
Buntings like this are a great way to celebrate any occasion and rather than adding flowers and granny squares you could add an appropriate applique like a slice of cake for a birthday or a Daffodil for spring etc


Monday, 22 July 2013

More pink Hats for my nieces

 
 
This is my most recent pink hat , made for my niece. She absolutely loves it and who wouldn't . Actually am thinking about making one for myself now as its so girlie and pretty and it brightens up any day!!! I also added a new flower to another hat I have posted a picture of on before to add some pizazz to it.
 
 
I made the outside of the flower in a light pink and thought it blended in too much with the colour of the hat so I simply sewed split stich around the flower to make it stand out more. I got both patterns from www.ravelry.com and seriously recommend it to anyone who loves knitting, crochet in all its forms, lace making and weaving and spinning. There is something for everyone there!!!!
 

Todays blessing

I wanted to post this blessing as an encouragement to everyone who reads it as well as myself . As we all need to pep talk ourselves a little sometimes . That little internal chat to keep going whilst facing adversity. So this post is to celebrate the power every human being has within them regardless of faith. That immense quality to persist and keep trying until we reach our goals despite the negative opinions we hear. We are taught from our childhoods that there is a limit to our capacities, a cap as it were. That when we reach this peak of potential we cannot become any better. I disagree completely with this belief. There is no limit to what we are capable of as a species if we simply put our minds to it!


We see these amazing miracles every day- the 92 year old woman who completed the London marathon, the small baby who overcame all odds and survived being trapped in a bathroom pipe, those men and women who put their lives on the line every single day to help others in need. There are so many examples of bravery and strength in every adverse situation which we experience. My blessing today is for that thing within us which helps us to cope with whatever hits us great or small. And to call upon the world to use this strength not only during times of stress and worry but in every day life. To use the power of our thoughts to make our normal lives better hour by hour. This ability to turn a negative into a positive does not have to simply be a skill we call upon during painful times but can be a useful and wonderful way to make every aspect of our lives more positive, our relationships better and best of all tunes our ability to make the dreams we have all been conditioned to believe are not possible for us really become reality!
This ironically is something I am telling myself as much as you as It is so easy to forget this during the craziness of daily life that I have to keep reminding myself. And What I use Is a small crochet flower which I keep in my pocket. And every time I start to feel negative or my negative self tells me I can't do it I take out my flower and remember the immenseness of our abilities and what great positive things we are capable of !.


something new

During this Ramadan Its important to remember those who are closest to our hearts. Ironically like Christmas it can be a very stressful time as everyone is busy with the activity of fasting but with the added rumbly tummy. Its so easy to forget the real message behind Ramadan. I have to say I am no saint and have found it quite difficult when over tired and hungry to remember the message is about . Ramadan is a great opportunity for us to meditate over all the things we have and be grateful for our blessings. Through the fasting we truly walk in the sues of those who have no sustenance. Through our devoting more of our evenings to prayer we become closer to our faith and feel more at one with each other. Through our acts of kindness we show our ability to put our own challenges aside and help others. For me this is Ramadan .


A couple of extra yummy ideas for our before fast meal.

Tomatoes and flat bread
A personal favorite with my son and crazily easy.
Simply fry chopped onion with 3-4 cloves of crushed garlic.
Add chopped tomatoes ( now this can be tomatoes you have chopped or a tin of chopped tomatoes - however if you use a tin it tends to be more liquidy)
Add oregano and basil for a Mediterranean feel or Arabic mixed spices for an Arabian feel or even a bit of curry or garam Masala. Serve with piping hot flat bread.. Absolutely scrummy!!!!







Potatoes and egg
This one is really great if you r forgetting the old carb free diet ( which we all kinda do during Ramadan lol!!)
Fry 3-4 potatoes which have been cut into small cubes. When the potato is cooked and golden and crunchy on the outside then add 3-4 lightly beaten eggs and heat further until the eggs are cooked through. And serve with flat bread.


Fool
This is probably spelt wrong lol. But you'd  be a fool not to try it lol. Its the easiest recipe. All you need is a tin of broad beans , some chilies and a little olive oil and you have a great healthy start to your day whether fasting or simply wanting a high protean start.
First you pour the tin of broad beans into the pan keeping back a third of the liquid . Boil the beans until they break down into a slightly mushy mixture don't  be put off by this it does taste nice!). Add salt to taste. meanwhile finely chop the chili and add it to the olive oil. When the beans are cooked mash them ever so slightly with a  pestle  and then add your extra liquid and mix a little. Drizzle the chili olive oil mix over the paste and serve with , yes you guessed it flat bread.

Three really fast breakfasts which are both filling and fun to eat. These are morning meals my extended family here in Jordan eat on a daily basis. And the bonus is they keep you full for a long time.




Monday, 15 July 2013

Last nights first attempt at crochet with really fine thread

I saw my mother in laws beautiful crochet piece she was working on yesterday and wondered how difficult it would be to crochet with string or thread instead of wool. So I had a try and this is my first result which isn't too bad. Although I used the whole bobbin. I think it was worth it.

Last night I decided to have a bit of a play about with flower patterns too using all different types of wool , even t-shirt yarn which was really interesting.
My t-shirt yarn flower which was a really great recycled craft - now just have to find something to put it on.
A small ball of what I would call arty farty wool which was not enough to make anything at all really but great for a corsage.

This flower I am still working on as it is made from really fuzzy wool and I want to add a few more rows of petals. Plus part of me is a little afraid its starting to look like a sea anomie rather than a flower lol.
And these couple of amazing little flowers I found online .

Sunday, 14 July 2013

An evening thought

My brother in law has made the most beautiful garden for his new wife this Ramadan. It has a gazebo, a lawn and some flowers and plants. And to this he has added tiny lights to create the right mood. I will post some more pictures of his garden during the daytime as it is really quite pretty. here are a few photos of the lights. It makes me smile to think of someone turning a small corner of earth into a little haven in which others can have a tranquil moment.
 
Ramadan is a good time to consider these lights like the stars in a clear night sky. How small and short our lives are in the great scheme of things. And is it not through looking at the millions of stars connected through space that we realize that we too are connected to one another regardless of religion, race or political opinion. When we forget the things which make the space between us seem as great as the stars we see the real humanity in ourselves and our variety and endless potential. We no longer focus upon what we dislike about others or what we fear about them and recognize the good in everyone. P.s that was my message for the day and my blessing.
 

An idea for those anoying small balls of wool!!!

I don't know about you but I always end up with lots of small ball of wool I can't make anything like a jumper with so this time I thought - why not make a couple of egg cozies for my dad for Christmas. I am starting to get some little gifts ready for my visit to the UK in December.
And what better than a lovely bowl of apple crumble and custard for a comforting treat. And even better to share with my family here in Jordan as an authentic British sweet. Hopefully this will win me some brownie points with my mum in law ;)

Think Pink!!!!!

As my sister in law has got a beautiful baby girl on the way very soon I have been on the go with my crochet hook and knitting needles and have started making some gifts for her delivery in September.
And I then made another hat for another little niece .
 
I have also made a lovely flower to decorate it with . And when another of my sister in laws saw this one she asked me to make two more for her two daughters. So it seems that July is my pink month!!!
 
All this pink reminds me of the classic movie 'Funny Face' with Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn. Think Pink when you shop for summer clothes, think pink when you want that quelque chose!


 


Wednesday, 10 July 2013

My Prayer for Ramadan!!!

I pray this year that we all come closer to each other as a human race. I pray that intolerance in the world is somehow weakened just a little more this year. I pray that we can all look to our similarities more rather than what separates us from each other. I dream of a day in which all religions live side by side in peace united by the same desire for an existence in which ignorance is rejected in place of knowledge and truth. I pray that those Muslims who are being led astray will come to realize the real battle of Islam is with ourselves. The real battle is in that we have the free choice to tread the good path and show the world what good Muslims are or to cause pain and sadness where ever we go. During Ramadan it is also important to remember one of the most vital parts of Islam is that the very meaning of the word is peace. And so to cause destruction in the name of peace cannot be seen as anything but insane and cannot be  carried out in the name of a Peaceful faith.
I also pray that everyone's fasts are easy for them as this year the fasts are quite long and warm - being in the summer. I pray that all those without food for their breakfasts are provided for and that all people who are sick and unable to fast are remembered in our prayers. I pray finally that this is a wonderful Ramadan for everyone and for those who are not Muslim I pray that you have a wonderful July as it is a month full of good excuses to have fun while the weather is good.

Before fast snak ideas!!!


One of my favorite things in the whole world is toasties with a piping hot cup of tea. I absolutely adore toast with a thin layer of tomato pasta sauce and some lovely cheddar melted on top.  I am always trying to invent new toasties . Like for example my recent favorite cheese and mango pickle which is fantastic because of the sweet fruity match with savory which is great. I once had a friend who used to dip their piece of tomato n cheese toast into their tea before devouring it. And yes it does kinda seem yucky but you will be strangely surprised by how good it is. I also like tuna melts which are a close second. And then there is old fashioned white bread with good butter on.
I love peanut butter on Toast. I especially love foods you can eat with your hands like chips and dip which go really well with the evening TV. Plus there is popcorn in its many guises- crunchy and toffee as my dear sister in law Sousou made for me this last week or chicken stock cube popcorn- a bit strange but really Moorish or your bog standard salty.

Ramadan Kareem


Today is the start of Ramadan so have to wish everyone taking part a happy Ramadan!!!!! Its actually a really special time of the year for me during Ramadan because I feel as though I am making a stronger connection with my faith. Fasting during daylight hours is actually a way for me to understand and experience true gratitude for the amazing wealth I am blessed to have at my fingers. I am part of the small percentage of the planet who do not have a problem feeding myself, have a comfortable home with electricity and water and Internet. Telephones to connect with others, freedom of speech and on top of that and most importantly access to medical care. There are countless millions of people who do not have these things and part of the reasoning behind Ramadan for me is to give myself a reality check every year and remind myself of the many things I take for granted so very easily. My family here in Jordan also offer food to those who are less fortunate in the form of whole banquets they donate to the local mosque which has daily breakfasts and offers local people on the poverty line and the homeless to dine free of charge. For those who are not Muslim its like  you know the happy spirit you experience during Christmas , no, not the stressful part buying the presents and killing yourself in shopping queues!. The peaceful feeling you get once in a while when everything has gone right and you are there next to your crackly fire with a glass of ( whatever) and the carols are playing and you have a feeling of true goodwill towards the rest of the world . So much so that if in that moment someone needy were to appear on your doorstep in the snow with a flat tire you would likely invite them in give them a drink help them fix their car and see them on their way with a mince pie in their hand. Well Ramadan is very much like this one moment . Yes there is the other part of trying to get everything in the shops and everyone a little more grumpy as their tummy's are growling. But the uniting emotion that Allah ( god) is somehow closer to us during this month makes the whole community want to be as in that one moment for the majority of the time. And that makes it magic.

I am looking forwards to the first of a month of closer family time. Every afternoon there is a buzz in my mother in law's kitchen as everyone comes together to cook the huge enormous banquet which we all enjoy at Maghreb ( which is the prayer to signal sundown). Its also been a good chance for me to have a cooking lesson or two from my mother in law who is well known for her fantastic meals. Also a good chance to have a chat over the carrots and veg preparation.