Wednesday, 30 October 2013


A quick word about the course I decided to take.

Looking slightly ahead, I obviously will need to earn money and I really, really do not want to go back into a school to do so.

In the next few days, I will produce posters and flyers offering my services as a tutor! I can teach both Maths and Science from the age of 9 or 10 up to 16 (GCSE). As Gloucester has lots of pupils for whom English is not their first language, it seemed a good idea to brush up on my English and offer basic lessons in that too.

Really, I would need a TESOL course for that, but they are just too expensive. So I have opted for a TEFL course, which is more for people who want to teach English abroad or online. The company I chose the course from was also offering a free specialist course and I have also booked the teaching English online course. I have recently become friendly with a young woman who does teach TEFL online to people all over the world, and is doing well in this.

After some procrastination, I started the course this morning. It begins with a 30 hour Grammar course and today I studied nouns: Concrete nouns, proper nouns, abstract nouns, group nouns, plural nouns, possessive nouns, and countable and uncountable nouns. I did find it quite difficult to grasp abstract nouns and got a couple of quiz questions on countable nouns wrong but then watched a you tube video which helped.


My head is bursting

With ideas...that is!!

Hubs has wanted to produce a calendar for some time, using pictures from our vast postcard collection. Although it is probably a bit too late for a 2014 calendar, we decided we might as well give it a go. We looked around online for blank calendars that you can stick your own pictures to. I was quite excited by this, because it is an area that I could have contributed to. However, hubs (quite rightly) decided that it wouldn't be professional enough. So then he got some quotes from local printing companies, which were actually reasonable, and he'd picked out one of these to go with.

Then, at the last minute, a friend suggested that we print them ourselves using Microsoft Office and glossy lightweight card. It is easily doable, as Hubs found out in just a couple of hours play. All that is needed now, is to sort out the right photos, add details of Hub's business (he's a picture framer) and design a front cover.

Also, by doing it this way, we can more or less print to order.

So, this then got my creative juices flowing. Why not use the same photos to produce notelets. I could present these in either a box or a gift bag.

As I own a binding machine, I could also produce notebooks in various sizes, again with these photos on the front and back covers.

Can't wait for Sunday when Hubs will produce the final versions of the postcard views we will use.

Friday, 25 October 2013


It's Friday, so it's baking day. I concentrated on cupcakes today as family will be coming for the day on Sunday. The first cakes I made were strawberry flavoured. As I added white chocolate chips to the icing, they weren't going to be my first attempt at piping! White chocolate curls are then sprinkled over the top. Sorry the photo is not the best. It was taken in artificial light which seems to cast an orange pall over everything in the kitchen.

The second batch of cupcakes are Red Devil cupcakes. I was finally able to use my new icing kit that hubs bought me last weekend. It was surprisingly easy to do, and surprisingly (or not!) messy. Even though the washing up water was very hot, it was incredibly difficult to get the buttercream icing off everything, even though I had made a sterling effort to scrape off and eat all that I could. I used a sponge, a dishcloth and eventually a paint brush to get the buttercream out of every nook and cranny! Here is the result. Not sure it was worth it!

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

My Prize

I was so excited when the postman delivered the mail this morning that I almost cried. In among the regular bills and circulars was a small parcel. When I opened it, I found that I had won a prize from one of the papercraft magazines that I buy. I only entered the competition last week and it was the first competition that I had entered for a very long time. It is a craft resource CD and a couple of stamps.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Card Making

I am an avid postcard collector and now have several thousand. I have a large collection of Edwardian Gloucester and Gloucestershire and also many greeting postcards. For a long time, I have been thinking about incorporating them into my card making.

A few days ago, Hubs photographed some of the cards for me. I then printed them out in various sizes.

This afternoon, I picked out a few images to try. The first thing I did was emboss them to make the card look more like glossy postcards. To go with the traditional feel I wanted, I stuck to layering the mini postcards on plain card, using some lace, ribbon, gems and paper roses. I love the cream and pink card. The black and white one still needs a greeting on it. I am not quite so pleased with this one. I wish I had used some red card for layering as well as red embellishments.

Again, I will need to make boxes to put them in.

Making Boxes

I had made 3 cards a few weeks ago using both my felting machine and traditional methods. I decided to put the felted pictures inside a small box frame to protect them. The result is quite pleasing.

The cards would, of course, not fit in an envelope because they are too deep. So I spent a couple of hours this morning making boxes. A boring job!!

Monday, 21 October 2013

Craft Cupboard

This is the cupboard that I decided to sort through this morning!!

Fortunately, I found the wool I wanted to look at pretty quickly! 


My knitting is only proceeding slowly, despite the fact that I simply must get the cow finished. That didn't stop me looking at more wool when we were out on Saturday. I saw it at the supermarket, Aldi  of all places. They have some 400g of Aran for £7.99 which is enough for the cushions I want to knit. They also have a 200g chunky for £3.99 which I could use.

But before I do that, I know I bought a couple of bags of cheap wool a few years ago which are hidden away in the attic. My husband says he will look tonight. I also know I have some Aran weight wool in both cones and big balls which have got to the back of my craft cupboard. So I am off to sort that out in a minute.

Hubs finally decided to help me die cut some shapes yesterday evening. We set the die cutting machine up, and the handle just would not turn. It was fine Friday!! It really upset me because it is one of 2 machines that I use all the time now, although I hardly used it at all the previous 3 years. It would cost at least £100 to replace and as I'm not working at the moment, it would make a big dent in my finances.

So out came the screw driver. Hubs was convinced it was one of the teeth on one of the 3 gears, but it wasn't. More of the machine was stripped apart, with me getting more panicky. Still the handle would not turn at all, and it became obvious that it was a bearing, which hubs assured me we could easily buy. Out it went to his shed, he knocked the bearing out and told me that he could easily sort it and we would be back in business. True to his word, he got it running again.

So at 9.45pm we finally started cutting out the shapes. It worked perfectly.

Thank you, Hubs xx


Confession a child, I bit my finger nails. I didn't stop until the day my ex walked out. Over 20 years ago now.

Although my nails have always grown during the school holidays, they have always ALL broken off the day after I go back. As a Science teacher, I used chemicals and as we were a small school, I did the washing up too. Also, I have noticed that my nails are very affected by stress.

They are now incredibly weak too. They peel from the center downwards, and split from the sides across. Nevertheless, I persevere because it has always been my dream to have long(ish) nails.

So for the last few weeks I have gone through my nail paraphernalia and I always have a clear varnish of some sort on my nails. And my Mum bought me Sally Hansen nailgrowth miracle serum which seems to be working too. I have only had 1 nail break in the last couple of weeks. Fingers crossed.

Friday, 18 October 2013

More cases!

During the week, I cut out another batch of birds and owls. This time I decided to sew them onto the front of the cases. They look very effective, but did take quite a time to put together and I don't think I would be able to ask any more money for them if I were to sell them.

I also tried making some of the birds and owls 3D.  I have an idea that I will add ribbon so that they can be hung up. I have already found some metal trees on Ebay and I think they will make nice gifts with several birds hanging from the branches.

It's scone

I decided to bake scones today. The first time in years. I just used a standard mix and probably too much flour when I rolled them out. They were easy enough to make but cooked lopsided. They taste fine, though, if a little floury on top!

I then made my Friday cupcakes. I had bought a lemon drizzle cake mix from Morrisons. I have made the cake with no problems several times, so decided to adapt and make cupcakes with the mix. I managed to get 12 quite large cupcakes from the mix, but again they cooked lopsided. (I will have to keep an eye on the oven and check if an element has blown). I decided to change them into butterfly cakes. They are perhaps not the best looking cakes I have made, but they are absolutely delicious.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Losing my cool

I wasn't going to make any cases this afternoon, then decided to try something different on a Kindle case. I tried a freehand design using felting wool rather than felt. I quite like it and will probably use this one myself, though I realise it is not everyone's cup of tea.

While making this case, 2 of the needles broke making a total of 3 broken out of 12. So I decided to change them (rather than wait for hubs to get home). I managed to dismantle it okay and I DID put everything safely aside. One of the needles would not come out, so I had to pull sharply and then one of the little nuts flew off the table. I was in tears. I hunted for over 45 minutes and couldn't find it. I rang hubs who said he would bring a very strong magnet home with him. Then suddenly I found it and managed to put the machine back together AND it is running perfectly!!

The case depicts rather large flowers growing in a field! I do like the way I have done the sky though.

Baking and other things

Friday has become my baking day. Particularly when we have family coming to visit over the weekend. At the moment, I have to confess, I am using bought cake mixes (gasps) and (sometimes) putting my own twist on them. They have been turning out really well, and disappearing very quickly. I find Morrisons to be the best supermarket for baking supplies. Their own cake mixes are very good. I have also tried a Betty Crocker mix which I used to make the chocolate cupcakes.

The pink cakes were some that I put my ideas into. Mum had given me a mini cupcake maker so I made a plain sponge mix and cooked 20 tiny cakes. There was also enough mix for the 2 big cupcakes. I made a simple buttercream pink icing and then sprinkled sparkles over this. There was so much icing left over that I then made a simple sponge cake too. I baked this in a silicone bread tin and cut it down the middle. I spread strawberry jam and buttercream, then sandwiched the cake together.

I bought a cupcake book at the weekend, along with further ingredients and I intend to be much more adventurous this Friday.
I have also been looking for recipes online and have found an excellent website on

Thursday, 10 October 2013

More cases

I've just finished putting together all of the cases that I had material prepared for.

I am particularly pleased with the owl!!
I think if I am going to make a lot of these that I will need to buy a better quality felt. 

Try, try, try again

I spent a couple of hours yesterday cutting out owls, birds and flowers with my die cutting machine. I then attached them to larger pieces of felt with my felting machine. I am much happier with the results and I am going to go with this design. I even remembered to make sure the Kindle case was actually large enough for the Kindle! I am aware that the cases are quite feminine, so the next task is to come up with some cases that men would be happy with.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013


As I have lots of felt left from when I taught craft lessons, and as I also own a felting machine, I decided yesterday to trial a phone case and Kindle case. I have some lovely cotton fabric so cut some pieces out of it and felted them on. i wasn't too pleased with the results. The cotton frayed too much and I had to cut the edges right back. But now it's settled, I am quite pleased with the effect. Nevertheless, I am going to cut felt pieces out today and use felt on felt and see how that goes. I also cut the Kindle case a bit too small, but it is a perfect fit for Hub's ipad. he doesn't want it, though, because pink is so not his colour!

Ali's Fish Pie

I have taken the liberty of naming this after me because it is totally made up and not based on another recipe! It was absolutely delicious. Sorry...there is no photo yet because I was elsewhere when hubs dished it up. I will add one next time I make it.
The oven was put on to warm up to 180C/Gas Mark 4. I peeled and quartered (about) 6 potatoes and put them to boil for about 20 minutes. I also hard boiled 2 eggs.
Meanwhile, I took the 2 defrosted fish fillets (I think they were pollack!) and placed them in a dish with a bit of butter, milk, salt and pepper. I then microwaved for 5 minutes to cook the fish so that I could cut it into small chunks. I then transferred the fish, leaving the juice behind, into a saucepan and added a jar of fish sauce (mine was Asda but I don't think that matters) and a small packet of prawns. I brought the mixture almost to the boil, then simmered for 3 minutes. I then stirred in the chopped hard boiled egg and poured the mixture into my baking dish.
The potatoes were now ready, so I drained them and put them back over a low heat to dry them out. This seems to make the mash fluffier. I added a knob of butter, milk, white pepper and a small teaspoon of mustard. I then mashed this vigorously. I had grated 75g of cheese, and put 2/3rd of this into the mash and stirred it to melt it. Then I arranged the mash over the fish mix and forked it up. The final touch was sprinkling the rest of the cheese over the top. It was then put into the oven for 30 minutes.
This should be enough to serve 4 people with generous helpings of veg!!

Monday, 7 October 2013


The start of October is always a time of remembrance for me. Two of the people that I was closest to died in this week.
My Dad died 8 years ago yesterday. He had been ill for some time, so it was not at all unexpected. But it was still very difficult because we adored each other. He was always my champion, particularly in the run up to and after my divorce. He was never a young dad because he was 37 when I was born, but he was always a fun dad. My eldest son was travelling the world at the time, and Dad was adamant that he was not to be told until after he had died, because he would have come home. He did not want him missing out on the opportunity of a lifetime. I was the one who told Rorie after the funeral and he was devastated because he hadn't been able to say goodbye. He was so far away too. All I could say was that he should look for the brightest star in the sky and think of his Granddad and tell him how he felt. To this day, I still look for the brightest star when I want to be near Dad.
My best friend Val died on the 11th October 2 years ago. Always so bright and bubbly. Always able to look forward and to see the absolute best in people. Heart of gold was coined for her. She'd been so ill for so long and always made the best of it. She could have lived longer, but took a chance on a pioneering treatment because she didn't want a half life if she could have a whole. She had a bone marrow transplant from a donor, but her body rejected this and she rapidly got pneumonia and died. To this day, I cannot believe she has gone. How do you get over losing such a good friend? I still have her email address and phone numbers on my mobile phone.

Meat and Potato Pie

This was my Dad's absolute favourite. I always thought it was difficult to make because it is so tasty, but it is really easy.
I buy 500g of best beef that has been trimmed and diced. Mum buys a cheaper cut because she says that it is the fat and tendons breaking down that give the lovely taste. I put this in a saucepan with a large chopped onion. I then put 4/5 large teaspoons of gravy granules in and to the pot and mix these into the beef and onions. I then put about 3/4 pint of cold water in and stir continually while the mixture comes to the boil. It is then left to simmer for about 2 hours. Stir every so often and add more water if it is needed.
Set the oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4. I then peel and thinly slice 750g of potatoes. As with other recipes, I use baking potatoes because they don't go to mush. I boil these for about 10 minutes.
In a large baking dish, I spoon out the beef and use this as the bottom layer. The sliced potato is then arranged neatly over the top. You should have quite a bit of gravy. Spoon some over the potatoes and it will soak in. Keep the rest to pour over any vegetables.
I never make my own pastry. Why bother when there are so many excellent ready prepared fresh/frozen ones available? It really doesn't matter if it is puff pastry or shortcrust for this recipe. I prefer puff but hubs likes shortcrust so that is what we tend to have. And it makes less mess when you eat it!
Roll the pastry out (if you need to) so that it is just bigger than the baking dish. Place it over the top. I always crimp the shortcrust round the edge of the dish, and cut 2 small holes with a knife for the steam to come through. Decorate with left over pieces of pastry if you want to. Then cook for at least 30 minutes or until the pastry is cooked.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Ham and Cheese Bake

I had a busy day yesterday, as I also made a ham and cheese bake. This is a recipe I got from a newspaper. I have started cutting out recipes I like and sticking them in a cheap notebook. The internet is also a good source of recipes.
Again, this is a lot of work but well worth the effort.
I prepare everything first, because I tried just to work through the recipe the first time I  made it, and nearly ended up slinging everything at the wall!
So, take 700g of potatoes (I use baking potatoes because they don't break up), peel and cut into thin slices.
Next I grated 150g of cheddar, Then 150g of mushrooms which need to be wiped and sliced. 150g of ham needs to be diced and 6 spring onions trimmed and sliced. I also weighed out 30g of sunflower spread and 30g of plain flour. Finally 450ml of semi-skimmed milk. Phew!
Put the oven on to warm to 180C/350F/Gas mark 4.
The potatoes need to be boiled for 5 minutes, and then drained. At the same time, gently heat a tablespoon of sunflower oil and add the mushroom. These need to be gently cooked for 2/3 minutes until soft.
In a large baking dish, I layered half of the potato, mushroom, ham and spring onions, then layered the other half.
I melted the spread and stirred in the flour. The milk is added bit by bit and each time is stirred into the butter flour mixture. This should make a smooth sauce. If it doesn't, just pour it through a sieve to get rid of the lumps! Heat the sauce up until it thickens, then add 2/3rds of the cheese. Stir until it melts then pour over the mixture in the baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top and place in the heated oven for 35 - 40 minutes.
I also made a baked rice pudding which was a disaster and won't be mentioned again until I get it right!

Tomato Soup

This is a bit of a faddle to make, but well worth the effort because it tastes divine.
I try to use ripe tomatoes, even ones slightly passed their best. You need to skin 750g and it is also best to take the stalky bit out too. They then need to be roughly chopped. Chop a large onion as finely as possible, then melt 25g of butter and fry the onions and a good shake of garlic flakes on a gentle heat for about 5 minutes or until soft. I made up 1 pint of beef stock, but I think vegetable would be fine. I added half of this to the onion mix and then poured the tomatoes in. It was simmered for 15 mins.
I used my stick blender to blend the liquid, and then it needs to be poured through a sieve to get rid of the pips. Pour it back into the saucepan and add the rest of the stock, plus season with salt, pepper and sugar. This soup is then heated to nearly boiling point.
5 fl oz of double cream need to be brought almost to the boil before being added to the soup. It is important not to boil either the cream or soup at this point because the cream goes lumpy. Finally, I add a good spoonful of basil to the soup. Delicious.