Monday, 31 December 2012

Maybe Christmas means a little bit more...

I am one of five sisters and this year was the first year we have decided not to get presents for each other. I decided that I would make something instead, something that doesn't cost a lot but means a lot.
I had borrowed my mums photograph album of when we were all little a while back with every intention of scanning them in but never had got around to it. So I set to work on scanning them all in its quite a laborious and tedious task so I started in the summer holidays and finished it in half term. I was just going to put them on a cd then give one to each of my sisters but one of the teachers who I work with always makes a video montage of the children's time in infants and plays it to Take That's 'Never Forget' its lovely and there is not a dry eye in the house when it is played at the school concert at the end of the year, so I decided to do something very similar, using photo story 3 which is easy to download onto the computer I set to work making a DVD that would display photos of us throughout the years all to the sound of Take That's Never Forget. It's very straight forward then you burn it onto a DVD it's fantastic. The final part of my gift was packaging I took some old CD cases, printed a old picture of each of my sisters and a group photo of all of us and mum for my mums to stick in the front of the case, this would act as the label to tell me who each one was for, then I made a label to go with each on each with a quote from 'The Grinch' which summed it up perfectly. 'Maybe Christmas doesn't come from a store maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more'

Handmade Christmas

This year I wanted to really get into decorating the house for Christmas as well as using old favourites to decorate the tree I wanted to add more that I had made myself.
I started with the tree , most years I decide on a theme and stick to it duck egg blue features highly in my lounge so on previous years I have had red and gold with blue, but last year I was given some small vintage style baubles as a present from one of the children's parents at school. This gave me the inspiration for this years tree , they were small, one was gold, purple, red, orange and green made out of crackled glass. I wanted my tree to be colourful like these. So first step- lights I had coloured lights instead of the usual white. I keep some of my old baubles but added more different coloured ones luckily I was able to borrow some off my mother in law who bought new baubles near enough every year and had lots to choose from I also borrowed some quite retro looking lantern decorations which reminded me of some we had as a child I was told that these were older than me!
I also had some old favourites that I had picked up along the way. My glass stars/snowflakes I bought from Jo Downs glass in St Ives, the two handcrafted snowmen I bought from the Christmas markets in Manchester, the Father Christmas and angel I bought from Woolworth's for our first tree in our new house 9 years ago and a little Venetian glass angel given as a present off a friend from her holiday in Italy. I also added this year a handmade decoration to remind us of the year we got Max. A little felt Max the red nose reindeer decoration.
I like to look at a tree and remember the different stories that go with each one.

I also made some crochet snowflakes to hang in the windows, some small ones and big ones and next year I'll do more. Pinterest has been a massive inspiration for Christmas decoration ideas I pinched an idea for hanging candy canes with ribbon and a garland over the kitchen window, I also got an idea for making a driftwood tree that I stuck on to a canvas and put battery operated lights. The driftwood I collected on a beach in Anglesey when we went camping in May at the time my sister slated me for collecting it but even she had to admit it looked pretty good.
I also had a party and made bacon wrapped sausage rolls or pigs in duvets as I like to call them! I made my own mince pies and snowmen cakes.
It has all been time consuming and hard work at times but in the end it all looks good..I'm actually wishing I could decorate the house the whole year around because it gives me an excuse to be creative.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Wearing my poppy with pride.

Last weekend was Remembrance Sunday. A time to remember the fallen or injured soldiers and wear or poppies with pride.
When I saw a free pattern for a knitted poppy I knew I wanted to try it I hadn't knitted in a while so I had to remind myself of a few techniques but it was quite easy to do. I added a felt leaf and did the centre of the poppy with felt too.
Of course the most important thing for me to do was to log on to to make my donation. I had so many comments about it that next year I might make a batch of them and sell them in aid of British Legion.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Food for free!

In August purchased a collins gem book called 'food for free'  a guide to foraging. I have always liked the idea of foraging for food but worry about poisoning myself I decided to start with something easy like berries, when we were younger I remember going picking winberries (also known as Bilberries ) from around Entwistle reservoir and enjoying it so much, they start to ripen from late July. So when we went for a walk late August we didn't expect to find many and there weren't very many around Entwistle but we managed to pick lots from Rivington pike. All in all we got about 500g and bright purple hands but it was good fun.

So what to make with them?? I froze half and made a cake from my hummingbird bakery book, Blueberry and sour cream loaf but substituting wimberries for the blueberries and very nice it was. I still have the other batch of wimberries in my freezer which I think I'll eventually make into a small wimberry pie because my mum is desperate for me to make it because it reminds her of her childhood.

Just after we had got Max obviously we were walking more and I kept seeing more and more blackberries ripening so we took a bag out one weekend when we took Max for a walk at the nearby Longsight park. We managed to pick 800g which I washed in salt water to kill any bugs that may have been in them then rinsed them through and froze them until last week when I was off for half term, I found this recipe on the BBC good food website it needed 1kg blackberries for the recipe so I added apples to make it up, this meant I had to cook the fruit for longer but it really does add to the flavour. I had made Jam before but this time I treated myself to a jam thermometer which I then went on to reading wrong and thinking that I had let it boil for too long because it went past 105 but I looked at Fahrenheit instead of Centigrade so I took it off the heat. Luckily it must have been at the correct temperature because it set really well. I called it 'Abigail and Mum's blackberry and apple jam.' because we picked the blackberries together and then we made the jam together too.

I made five jars of it all together and it tastes lovely on toast...
..or in donut muffins...yum!
I think we did well for our first attempts of foraging!

Bonfire Night Party

It has become a tradition of mine that every first weekend in November we have everyone from my both sides of the family around for a few fireworks in the back garden. One of the best things about Bonfire Night is the food. You could do a barbecue or a one pot like chilli or pasties, all of which I have done over the years, but growing up we had the same tradition of having fireworks in the garden and we would always have meat and potato pie or corned beef hash, always served with red cabbage, pickled onions and pickled beetroot. This year my mum came around to cook the meat and potato pie and my sister brought a corned beef hash. It is really simple to make and a lovely warming meal.

Meat and Potato Pie
In an ovenproof dish, fry 500g Mince and onion with a sprinkle of mixed herbs in some oil until the mince is browned and the onions are softened, add potatoes, celery and carrots, seasoned with salt and pepper and cover with beef stock or gravy, cook for 1hr to 1hr 30 until vegetables are softened, leave to cool.
Make the crust 8oz flour, 4 butter, pinch of salt mixed together with some water to form a dough, refrigerate.( we did all this the day before)
The next day about an hour before everyone comes roll out the pasty and place it on the top of the meat and potato and glaze the pasty with egg. Put the oven to 220c Cook at this temperature until the crust is a lovely golden brown (about 15 mins) then turn down until ready to serve.

Corned Beef Hash
This is such a simple and cheap recipe. Take 1 tin of corned beef cut into cubes,1 onion, 2 carrots, 1 stick of celery (all chopped ) a bay leaf, cover with beef stock and season with pepper. Cook for 1hr - 1hr 30 in oven at 200c. It the veg will soften and the stock will reduce down, so it should be quite mushy. If you like you can put a crust on it.

Another staple of a bonfire night in Bolton is Black peas, as far as I know this is just a Bolton tradition, these are basically peas that are black, you have to soak them over night with a little bicarbonate of soda in the water then you rinse them and boil in water until the are mushy, when they are ready stir one tablespoon of treacle in, then serve in a mug or a polystyrene mug with plenty of salt and vinegar. It might sound disgusting but its actually really good.

Of course you must have treacle toffee, this one was made by my friend Sandra.

And its also customary to have parkin cake, but I'm not keen on that because I find it quite dry so I make my signature bake 'Soft gingerbread cake.' I have been making this cake since I was about 13 and it never fails. You need to make it a few days before you need it because the longer after you make the more stickier and moist it gets.

Soft Gingerbread
Melt together 125g butter,125g golden syrup, 150g dark treacle and 125g granulated sugar then allow to cool.
Sieve together 275g plain flour, half tsp salt, 2tsp ground ginger, 1 tsp ground cinnamon and 1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda.
Pour contents of pan into flour, mix in 1 beaten egg and 225 ml milk.
Pour into a greased baking tin i have a square silicone tray that i use.
Bake at 160C for an hour but check after 50 minutes. Insert a skewer into the middle if it comes out dry its done, let it cool then put in a airtight container for a couple of days. Cut to into cubes or slices, it should be very soft with a sticky top...delicious!

I also like to make
Spicy mulled cider 
Put 3 x 568ml pear cider, 6 long strips of lemon, 1 cinnamon strip, 1 vanilla pod, 250ml clear apple juice, 2 tbsp caster sugar and 100mls brandy in a large heavy based pan , warm over a gentle heat but do not boil. Turn off the heat and leave to infuse for at least an hour. Reheat slowly and serve with sliced pear.
This year I did this in the slow cooker and it worked really well.

We had fireworks and sparklers and a good time was had by all, apart from Max of course he hid in the bedroom until the fireworks were over but he was quite happy to come down to play with our nephews before and after and loved all the attention.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Felt craft

Do you like my car keyring? I made it from felt in the likeness of my beloved Maxi. I posted it on Facebook and my sister wants me to make her one and my friend sandra wanted me to make her a cat one. I quite enjoyed doing it which has made me think that I might make a few christmas decorations too, maybe even a Maxi themed one. What do you think?

My dog, Max.

This is Max, he is a 7 year old cross breed I think part Jack Russell but not sure with what else and now he's all ours!
 He used to belong to my sister she had him from being a puppy but her circumstances have changed which meant she could no longer keep him and we are more than happy to have him with us. Don't get me wrong he isn't perfect he hates travelling in cars and isn't the most sociable dog but whats good about him far outways the bad. He has a real personality and he's very affectionate, he loves nothing more than a snuggle on the couch with us.
One of the best things about having him is that it makes us get out in the open air (although going out at 7 to take him for a walk doesn't always fill me with joy but at least it wakes me up). We normally take him down to the country park called 'Seven Acres' at the bottom of our road, its wonderful there you can walk along Bradshaw brook or there are a few fields for a big run. Its been really good to watch the seasons changing from Summer to Autumn and see the different wildlife, we regularly see herons there.

Friday, 3 August 2012

In the last month...

What a busy month I have had, I have a new nephew, got my first swimming certificate, I completed my first year working at the school, enjoyed a lovely 2 week holiday in Cornwall, I turned 32 and started my IVF injections.

Firstly my sister had a baby on the 29th June, he is called Edward and is a cutey. I am working on a crocheted blanket for him.

A few months ago I decided to go to swimming lessons to help build up my confidence in deep water I could swim 25 metres but only next to the side of the pool and I was very nervous in deep water, but since doing the lessons my confidence and stamina has come on in leaps and bounds and I did my 800metres and got a badge and certificate! I was so proud of myself even if the certificate is a children's one if someone had told me last year that I could swim 800 metres I would not have believed them.
My achievement

I finished school for summer after completing my first year as a teaching assistant there and I have to say this year has gone so fast and I have enjoyed every minute of work this year. It was sad saying goodbye to the year 2 children, but I look forward to the next lot of children in September.

On the 13th July we went on our holiday to St Ives and despite the weather not being too good recently we didn't have it too bad, we had more sunny days than not. On the first weekend Matthew and I went for a walk 6 miles along the coastal path to Zennor when we set out it was cloudy so I didn't have suncream on by the time we got to Zennor it was glorious sunshine and my face and shoulders were bright red - not a mistake I will make again - it was so painful!
On the coastal path - before the sunburn!
 I also went swimming in the sea with my new confidence of the water and we rented wet suits and body boards on the recommendation of my swimming tutor and I loved it!

On my birthday which was on the middle Sunday of the holiday, we went to Wadebridge and hired bicycles and rode 6 miles to Padstow. We had a lovely day there, a picnic, a paddle, some geocaching and cycled back again, I really enjoyed cycling I felt like I reclaimed part of my youth when I was overtaking Matthew and riding so fast with the wind in my hair!
Padstow on my birthday!

Cycling the camel trail.

Matthew got me a Kobo e-reader for my birthday with a book that I really wanted to read 'Home to Roost' by Tessa Hainsworth, the 3rd book of a true story about moving to Cornwall. Which I read within a day and Matthew being Matthew and a little bit cheeky also put on '50 shades of grey' a book which I was determined not to read, because of the hype around it. I did and although at first I thought it was a bit annoying I stuck with it and it does draw you in. Its perhaps not the best book I have ever read, but its not the worst and I will get the next two books to find out what happens next.
I love my Kobo though it is so easy to read with it and easy to take it anywhere and obviously it saves you from being embarrassed at reading '50 shades' in public!

And last but not least on the day I went on holiday I started my IVF injections, I had to take an injection at the same time everyday I chose 7pm and if we went out for the day I took it with me. There were sometimes I had to take it discreetly in a car park but apart from that everything has gone smoothly because I was on holiday I wasn't spending all day dreading it and thinking about it.On Monday I went to the hospital to have a scan to check the drugs were working then I had to start on the second lot of injections as well so now its 2 injections a day. I look a bit like a pin cushion and the side effects, like the hot flushes and generally feeling bloated and sick and achy is starting to get me down. But it is a step in the right direction so I have to be positive.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Instagram obsessed

I have to admit I'm a little bit Instagram obsessed since joining Instagram at the beginning of May. I have posted 160 photographs and have 58 followers. I've always liked taking photographs and I've always been told I take good photos but it's funny until a total stranger says it you don't really believe it! I love all the pics that I have posted on my Instagram and I sort of see it as a collection of all the nicest photos I have taken and I'm quite proud of them..a little bit sad I know but I really think any one of them would look good hung on a wall. I've even bought myself a brand new camera to take my masterpieces with!
If you want to follow me @abbiefh  :-)

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Cool camping!

And when I say cool I mean it in both senses of the word. At May Day bank holiday we went to Anglesey, North Wales, in what was our first camping trip in 2 years. We went to Bagnol caravan park on a recommendation that Matthew had got and it didn't disappoint. We met up with my sister Christiana and her boyfriend Matt there and they stayed in our tent along with their dog Max.
 The campsite was very close by to Trearddur Bay just 5 mins walk, we hadn't been to this part of Anglesey before and it was lovely and peaceful and the campsite itself was really nice.

Bagnol Caravan Park
Trearddur Bay
 Unfortunately the first night temperatures were below freezing so we all ended up sleeping in our clothes and hats. The next day we set out to explore Trearddur Bay in our coats and hats but soon the sun came out and by the end of the day I had a sunburned face. Talk about one extreme to another!

Our view from the tent
This last weekend, 'Jubilee weekend' we went for our second camping adventure of the year this time on our own, we stayed at a campsite called 'Middlewood Farm' which was ideally located for Robin Hoods Bay which I had heard about a lot but never visited before. 
The campsite was good, the only down point was that because we were on a field that they'd opened up for the bank holiday, we were 3 mins walk from the facilities and if you've got a bladder the size of a pea like me this is a difficulty! 
 The campsite was on a real working farm so from the tent we could see horses in one field, cows in another and sheep too. I have also never seen (or heard) so many different types of songbirds! 
The walk to the bay from the campsite was great, first through along a path at the side field of beautiful big eyed cows, then through an enchanted woodland before opening out to a lovely quaint town with cottages huddled together then out to the beach. 
Walk from campsite to Robin Hoods Bay
We had a fantastic weekend even though it was a bit cold at times and cloudy but it was definitely fun filled.We had walks along the beach and rocks. We did some rock balancing sculptures on the beach and when one fell and smashed we discovered some fossils,took pics to go on instagram (abbiefh) we went for a walk and did some geocaching (matt_n_abbie) which lead us to this beautiful little National Trust cove called Boggle Hole, We went to Whitby stood under the whale bone then climbed all the steps up to Whitby Abbey. We ate fish and chips (or Whitby scampi and chips as I had) on the seafront, ate '99' ice creams, had fresh crab sandwiches and barbecue food and had lots to drink. I loved it!
Our last night in Robin Hoods Bay

New name... new start!

After finding great difficulty writing about things that I have made for my 'Abigail makes' blog. I decided I wanted my blog to be less rigid in what I could put on, more like a diary than anything else. So 'What Abigail did' was born...
 In this blog I *hope* to write once a week at least about things that I like from crafting to baking to photography but also about my journey going through IVF for the second time after it failed last year.
 However in no way do I want it to become sad and depressing, more to help me get my head around it. I have started to come to terms with the fact that my life is not turning out the way I'd planned (and for a control freak that was quite hard!) but I am thankful for the things I do have.. a wonderful husband who loves me as much as I love him, a supportive family, good friends and a fantastic job. It has not been easy at times but I am now more determined than ever not to waste anymore of my life (as I have for the last 4 years) and try and make the most of it.