Crafting Achievements during Lockdown

Like lots of people, at the beginning of lockdown I felt a need, I wouldn’t go so far as to say pressure, but a definite need to be productive. To not waste the enforced time at home. I guess, to make a bad situation a little less negative so I started making a list of all my crafting ‘drumroll’ moments during lockdown. The mistake I made was to assume that firstly lockdown would only be a couple of weeks and secondly that there would be a defined moment when lockdown ended and normality resumed in the same way that normal did before 23rd March and that that would be the time for me to proudly list and record all my achievements on this little platform.

Well, reality’s gone a little bit differently, hasn’t it? Are we still in lockdown? Kind of, sort of, ish! I could, if I wanted to, go to a pub or a restaurant, but I’d likely be surrounded by people wearing masks, I may have a timed slot and I wouldn’t be allowed to stand at the bar. I could jet off on holiday, but again masks would be ever present, lots of attractions wouldn’t be open and I may get stranded or have to unexpectedly quarantine on my return. I’ve had my hair cut and coloured (thank the Lord) but my lovely hairdresser was wearing a visor, she couldn’t offer me a drink or a magazine and while my colour was cooking I had to sit in my own little cocoon (being the stereotypical introvert I actually quite liked this part). I’ve been to the dentist but I felt like I was on the set of Ghostbusters! So, we have what seems like partial normality, but it may be the new normal, at least for the foreseeable future.

Anyhow, the point behind this rambling, is that I’ve decided to share my crafting makes, some more impressive than others, now as it doesn’t seem that there will be a definitive return to normal point. So, bear with me while I scroll back eleventy million weeks on my photo reel to the beginning of this weirdness.

Week one of lockdown and I finished my first project and posted it off to its intended recipient (or his mum and dad anyway).

It’s the Bunny Parade blanket by Kerry Jane Designs and it’s currently (actually, probably not literally ‘currently’ given that it’s eighty in the shade today) being enjoyed by my new nephew, Leon.

Next to be finished was a knitted project rather than my usual crochet.

I bought the pattern and yarn for this jumper over a year ago when some friends and I visited Wool Warehouse and met Lucy from Attic24. I knitted it on and off and used this extra time to finally finish and assemble it. I love it, but again, far too *warm *hot *sweltering (delete as appropriate) to wear it right now.

Next I made some masks eases for a nurse friend.

Wearing masks all day, every day becomes very uncomfortable, but is obviously necessary for our key workers, and becoming more so for us all. I hope these helped keep her a bit more comfortable.

Speaking of key workers, I crocheted two rainbows to display in our windows to show support for NHS workers and other key workers.

The bears are there to cheer up children as they walk past. I saw this idea on the news and knew I had to join in.

Next I decided to catch up on some Little Boxes of Crochet that I hadn’t found time to do. First was this delicious tea cup.

Included with this box was a little sewing kit to make Margaret the Corgi.

How thoroughly British!

Next up was the fabulous beachcombing blanket CAL (crochet along) by Eleonora of Coastal Crochet. This is truly my lockdown blanket and it filled my days with yarny wonderfulness and dreams of the seaside at a time when it could’ve been so easy to be fed up (to say the least).

After this things got a bit festive!

These were a kit from Aldi the Christmas before last. We even had a Christmas dinner around this time. Everything was just so strange that. Christmas dinner seemed appropriate!

A bright and colourful bag came next. This was another Little Box of Crochet project.

Niffler looks really cosy in there.

Another Little Box of Crochet next, this time Honey Bloom the Cockapoo.

Next was a little project that I saw Attic24 do ages ago.

I bought the hangers from Amazon a couple of years ago but never got round to making the covers.

I was spending such a lot of time in the garden during lockdown, especially when I was furloughed and the weather was so good so I decided I needed a pair of shoes that I could keep by the door to slip on when I came out. So I made some.

Next came the most recent Little Box of Crochet which was designed by Eleonora from Coastal Crochet (such a busy lady!)

It’s Marilla the Mermaid. Amanda from Little Box of Crochet and Eleonora came up with this gorgeous project way before the awful incident in America with George Floyd and the ensuing Black Lives Mather campaign but the timing of the box was very apt. BAME people are very under represented in the crafting world, both as designers and in the actual projects, so I hope this starts to redress the balance and that things change for the better.

Marilla fits in perfectly to my new Harry Potter themed office. As do my newly framed mystical cross stitches and long stitch.

I can’t give lockdown the credit for these because I actually finished them in the year 2000, but I did get them framed during lockdown.

Finally, I decided to get crocheting some wreaths. I’ve always wanted seasonal wreaths to hang on the front door throughout the year but have never found the time to make them.

Here are the first three that I’ve completed.

On the left is my Autumn wreath. The fox curled up at the bottom was a previous Little Box of Crochet project. He’s called Gareth. I designed the spider, the bonfire, fireworks and sun and cloud myself and I scoured the internet for patterns for the rest of the elements.

The middle is my Winter wreath. I love this one. It almost makes me want it to be Winter (almost!) Most of this is from patterns I found on the internet or in various books. The snowdrops are knitted rather than crocheted. I embellished it with diamanté pins.

The final one is the latest special kit from Little Box of Crochet designed by Kate Eastwood of Just Pootling. Some of the elements of this were quite fiddly, especially as my tension means everything I do turns out small (even when I go up a hook size!) but it was so worth it because I’m really happy with how it turned out and it makes me smile every time I come in the front door (even if that is less often than usual given lockdown!)

I’ve also done quite a bit of jigsawing during lockdown. Luckily I got back into this at Christmas so I had a few lying around, and also got a couple from Amazon.

I’m very glad that I also made masks, because, while I’ve been sat here on the swing chair writing this, it’s popped up on sky news that masks are going to be mandatory in all public indoor settings from 8th August.

Here’s me rocking the masked look!

Right, I have got to skedaddle because we’re off to the seaside for the weekend the minute hubby finishes work and I haven’t packed anything yet! Toodles!

Lockdown Expansion

AKA baking frenzy! They were discussing one day on Loose Women (which I’m now watching daily as I’m furloughed!) the trend for women reverting to 1950s house wives during lockdown. Now, I’m certainly not doing that in all its glory – I haven’t touched the hoover any more than normal (never!) and as for ironing, well, I’m pretty sure we own one, but whether it works or not – who knows! However, I have felt an almost uncontrollable urge to bake!

This is not good for several reasons, most importantly, my waistline, but also because the rest of the world also seems to have decided to bake, so getting hold of self raising flour and caster sugar is not an easy feat! I managed to get caster sugar in our local shop but I still haven’t managed to get self raising flour.

This was my first cake of the lockdown which I made for our wedding anniversary on 16th April.

This is the king of cakes in my humble opinion. You can’t beat a simple Victoria sponge, filled with butter icing and strawberry jam and finished with a dusting of icing sugar and edible glitter. It didn’t last long!

The Victoria sponge used up all the self raising flour that I had in the house pre-lockdown so I had to be creative and make something flourless next, so I tried flapjacks. This was my first attempt at flapjacks and they tasted really good, but I think they had too much golden syrup in them so it was pretty much impossible to cut them into individual pieces. Better luck next time.

Next I realised I had plain flour in the cupboard so I searched for recipes using plain flour and stumbled upon a recipe for vintage chocolate chip cookies on the BBC Good Food website. I didn’t measure the salt and I think I probably put more in than I should have but they tasted amazing, so mental note – always put salt in cookie mix!

Ah, the classic Rice Krispie cake but made with Coco Pops instead. I still had no flour at this point, having used all the plain flour in the cookies. I did manageto get a click and collect slot from Asda, they didn’t have any flour of any kind! They did provide me with Coco Pops and marshmallows so these were the next to be made. I don’t know if these count as baking since the only cooking involves melting the butter and marshmallow. I’ve reminded myself that there are several of these left so that’s dessert sorted for later then!

I completely forgot to take a photo of this before I’d cut it! This was a lime drizzle cake made using my Aunt’s recipe and plain flour (with baking powder) that my brother-in-law managed to find for me. It should have been lemon drizzle, but I didn’t have lemons and did have a surplus of limes due to Asda giving me a pack of four in my click and collect instead of just the one I asked for. I think one of the good things to come out of the awful circumstances in which we find ourselves, is that I’m much more conscious of not wasting food. The shock of certain items not being readily available at the beginning of lockdown certainly had an impact on me, hence I didn’t want to waste the limes.

I spread the joy with this cake and dropped off slices to my best friend for her birthday and to my brother-in-law and sister-in-law (only fair as they provided the flour). Fear not, social distancing was maintained at all times (in fact I didn’t actually see any of them) and I was legitimately out and about because I was dropping off food to my Dad (who also had a slice of cake).

Oooh, this one was gooooood (even if I do say so myself!) Basically a chocolate Victoria sponge filled and topped with chocolate butter icing. The raspberries needed eating so this saved wasting them, and the giant buttons, well, that’s just good sense!

Just looking at this one is making me want to make another, but I really mustn’t, for the sake of my circumference! Honestly I’ll be able to roll down the motorway when we can finally go back to work!

This doesn’t look very pretty, does it? Again this one was to use up food that was on its way out – in this case, very ripe bananas. It was another BBC Good Food recipe, this time for chocolate and banana cake. It was supposed to use self raising flour, which, as you know, I don’t have, so I substituted plain flour and baking powder, but it doesn’t seem to have worked and it collapsed in the middle! It tastes good though so I’m counting it as a success. It’s turned out as more of a pudding than a cake, if that makes sense.

The chocolate and banana cake called for two whole eggs and two egg whites, which meant I was left with two egg yolks, so, not wanting to waste them, I searched what I could do with egg yolks and lemon curd popped up. Coincidentally I love lemon curd and I ran out a couple of weeks ago and hadn’t replaced it, so I made some. It’s currently cooling in the fridge so I can’t tell you if it’s successful or not, but I really hope so because I used the last of our butter to make it which means we have no butter for our breakfast so we’ll have to have toast and lemon curd sans butter!

I was initially going to write a post about my lockdown achievements, after we were released from lockdown, but as it’s going on rather longer than I think any of us thought, I’m racking up the accomplishments so I decided to break them down into categories and go for it! So, I hope you’ve enjoyed perusing my kitchen creations and I hope that having written about them will stop me making any more and save the groans on my bathroom scales!

It’s Chriiiiiistmas!

The run up to Christmas has been a bit different this year, partly because I’ve had a much longer break before the big man pops down the chimney than usual. I’m normally still at work on Christmas Eve. We always get let go at noonish but have to take a full day’s holiday to book the day off, so it’s a no-brainer to work it really. This year though, the office closed on Friday and I had holiday left so I broke up on Wednesday – a full week before Christmas Day.

We have a tradition at work of having Christmas breakfast sandwiches on Christmas Eve picked up from a bakery near work called Wedges. This year, as we weren’t in, three of us made our way over to Wedges anyway to keep the tradition going. I live seventeen miles from the office, so you can see how much the tradition means to me!

Mmmmm mmmmmm! Lashford sausages on crusty white bread with LOTS of ketchup! Delicious. Lashfords are a Birmingham company who’ve made award winning sausages since 1889.

As you can tell, Slimming World has been slightly abandoned over Christmas! As well as my sausage buttie today, I’ve had two Christmas parties, but, you know what? It’s been totally worth any pounds that I might have put on (I don’t know yet!)

The steel industry isn’t particularly robust at present so work weren’t able to pay for a Christmas do for us this year, so I arranged our own mini party at Miller and Carter last Thursday. One massive pro of arranging our own party was that we could invite three ex-colleagues, two of whom retired this year and the other who left more recently to pursue other challenges. It was soooooo good to see them and catch up on their news.

Miller and Carter turned out to be a good choice. We had one long table for the ten of us (which turned out to be nine due to a chicken pox related issue). This meant that the people at either end couldn’t have a chat, but the restaurant didn’t kick us out when we finished eating so we were able to switch seats and have a chinwag with people at the other end. We were also able to choose from the festive menu or the regular a la carte menu. I went for the festive menu so I could have turkey because we’re having a chicken for Christmas lunch. It was really good value too at £22.99 for two courses.

It was quite dark so my pic doesn’t do it justice, but suffice it to say, there was nothing left on my plate, not even a sprout!

I don’t often have a dessert out but, well, it is Christmas! This was really rich, but I managed to force it down! Chocolate and salted caramel gold bar with orange sorbet or, alternatively, plate of deliciousness! It was all washed down with a couple of glasses of Sauvignon and great conversation and laughs. I work with, and have worked with, some fabulous people. You spend more waking time at work than you do at home so you can count yourself as very lucky if your colleagues are also friends.

The very next day I went on my gym Christmas party. This was an organised do at the NEC and it was a Moroccan Fire night. They’d taken up a whole hall and turned it into a Moroccan wonderland. It reminded me of the entrance to Islands of Adventure in Orlando, but with a champagne bar and a cocktail bar!

When we were seated we were lucky to be right in front of the show area so we had a really good view of the entertainment. There were a couple of performances of aerial ribbons where acrobats perform in the air wrapped up in ribbons of fabric and also some trapeze work – the strength that the acrobats have is really impressive.

These were performed while we had our starters (tomato and basil soup for me) and mains.

Dark photo again! I went for chicken with the usual seasonal trimmings.

The final show, after we’d had our dessert (chocolate pudding with ice cream) was really good but also slightly uncomfortable to watch! I didn’t take any photos, but essentially there was a big arm high up with a wheel on each end with a guy all dressed up in harem pants inside and then the whole thing started spinning. So the guys had to keep running or jumping so they didn’t fall out. For the finale they moved to the outside of the wheels while the whole thing was still spinning and this is about where I stopped watching in case they fell!

There were also fairground rides which was quite exciting. I went on the bumper cars and the flying carpet but, given the fact that rather more alcohol was consumed this evening than the previous one I decided that the waltzers would possibly not be a good idea!

My wine had this little octopus from my cracker on all night!

Yesterday I caught up with my best friend at a local garden centre. Amazingly we both managed to get parking spaces relatively easily. We had a wander round and a chat over a coffee and a cake in her case and a diet Dr. Pepper and some crisps in mine, and swapped our Christmas presents. I managed to restrain myself from buying plants and just picked up a couple of nibbly things which I took round to my friend’s house yesterday evening for another Christmas catch up and pressie swap.

We had some nibbles (see the lack of Slimming World continuing!) and more good conversation. My friend Jane had baked these cute little penguin biscuits.

Almost too cute to eat! Almost! My contribution was some sausage rolls which I’ve also made for Christmas Day. Does anyone else have to leave instructions like this for their husband?

And some banana bread which I’ve also made for Christmas Day …

… along with some blue fairy cakes!

I didn’t do red or green because everything seems to be red or green at this time of year, so blue it was!

Anyway, nearly time to go and pick up poor hubby who’s had to work today, and, according to plane finder, Santa is on his way …

…so I’d better do my last minute preparations.

Merry Christmas lovely readers. I hope you all have a magically festive time and I’ll see you on the other side.