:: Catching up – A trip to Iceland ::

Yes, I’m on catch up, getting back into the swing of regular blogging, checking messages and seeing what my blogland friends are up to. I’m catching up. Not only with what you’ve all been busy doing, but letting you know what I’ve been doing to. So here we go with the trip to Iceland!

Now, you are warned, this is a biggy! Get yourself a cuppa and settle down for a read and a ponder over my snaps.

Back in October Mr. Mixture43 was the BIG 5 0, and to celebrate we went to Iceland. Now it wasn’t as simple as that… we were scheduled to go in February but of course my health took a turn for the worst and we rescheduled. We went at Easter, over Easter weekend  in fact.

Oh we were so excited!20150402_123224

We flew from Glasgow to Reykjavik, didn’t take long, and as I hate flying (I really do)  I took my Diazepam!! It was relatively painless.

The scenery was stunning – still in the depths of their Winter, with the snow just starting to melt away.20150402_16215320150402_180353

Finally we arrived in Reykjavik at our hotel, the view was fantastic! There was a lot of low cloud, and we resigned ourselves early on that we probably wouldn’t see the Northern Lights, but there was much more to do.20150403_080717

I can see why the Icelandic landscape is used for movie sets etc, particularly space scenes, it was like landing on another planet, another world.20150403_132843

The contrast between black lava volcanic rock and the pure untouched snow and ice was stunning.  20150403_154141

On our first venture out of the main city, on a tour of the local area, we were able to see just how isolated the out lying villages are. It was bitterly cold, -10c and we were suitably wrapped up against the wind. 20150403_095726

At Thingvellir National Park the blizzard didn’t stop us from exploring the Tectonic plates, the site of an Ancient Viking Parliament (I’ll let you read about it here if you want to) – The European and American plates here are moving apart all the time – I’m sure you know Iceland is highly volcanic and every home is built to Earthquake standards!_DSC0174

The Rift Valley was spectacular; visibility was actually quite good!_DSC0177

One of the most spectacular places we visited was Gullfoss Waterfall – the largest in Europe. It was immense in it’s power, force and with all of the winter snow starting to melt, it was phenomenal to hear.20150403_161002   20150403_160932 20150403_160918

The colour contrasts were breathtaking. 20150403_160904 20150403_160342

The shop also does a warming cuppa and cake – well it was bitterly cold and blizzarding out there!20150403_162232

Geysir next and the power of the underground geothermal hot springs. Yes it did smell a bit of rotten eggs, all that sulphur you see, but the ground was warm to the touch and the steam itself was hot.20150403_172059 20150403_170652

Now, I’m not a very brave person when it comes to water. I love walking, relaxing and spending time near water; rivers, lakes and the seaside. However I’ve never been a strong swimmer, or enjoyed being on a boat. I’ve always been sea sick. So going Whale Watching on a large fishing vessel, rolling in the sea, in a super large padded waterproof onsey with buoyancy aid – really? Yes, really! Well it’s a look

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But I wasn’t the only one looking stupid… so that was ok._DSC0231

Got a great view looking back at Reykjavik and the harbour.20150405_132015

_DSC0285_DSC0283Out to the ocean and glaciers.20150405_132220

We did see some dolphins, whales and porpoise, but they are too small to see on the photos, so the memory card in my brain will just have to store them!

A must do, when in Iceland is the Blue Lagoon, the geothermal spa hot springs. They are wonderful! The water is soft, smooth and almost silky as it is rich in the minerals from the volcanic rock it seeps from. Just bathing and relaxing in them was bliss, and they weren’t smelly at all. They were the most wonderful duck egg blue colour, and they come out of the ground at 38c

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You may be thinking well all of these wonderful tourist attractions are great but what are the town and the people like? Well they were friendly and relaxed. However after the economic crisis that hit Iceland, and then the rest of the world a few years ago, things are quite expensive. Coffee, tea and food in particular, however eat locally (this means fish) and you’re fine. I did enjoy my freshly caught lobster tails and mushroom risotto.20150403_201935

But there were many other sights that really showed the character and humour of the Icelanders. Here are my snappy snaps around town gallery!20150403_21401920150405_105513

So many wonderful window displays.20150405_105122 20150405_10513920150405_113340 20150405_11332120150405_110239 20150405_110245

In a town where they build homes from tin and the earth is black or grey, these flashes of colour really shout out in a busy side street!

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The centre of Reykjavik was unlike anywhere else I have been; buildings built to withstand earthquakes, using what appear to be the simplest of materials, concrete, tin and wood..20150405_122825_DSC0247_DSC0246

The spectacular church.

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But of course my creative crafty mind just had to seek out all things woolly! With such a unique yarn – the fibres behave differently and are strong because of the climate in Iceland – there were many woollen products, but these were my favourites.

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This was hanging on display in the bus station! Along with fabric bunting, cultural artwork and poetry. Amazing!bus crochet

Traditional knits – all handmade and very expensive. I know there is a lot of work in them, there were so many varieties but I liked the monochrome ones with undyed yarn. So beautiful.4752944-Wollen_Icelandic_sweaters_the_original_pattern_Reykjavik

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I absolutely love this from Carregyarns, the tonal colours remind me of the green lychee and moss on the volcanic rock across the landscapes.

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Yes, I did come home with yarn….Lettlopi

And ordered some to arrive after we got home from the Alafoss shop. They have online sales too, but beware of the shipping costs!

So there you go, I hope you have enjoyed catching up with my trip to Iceland. We want to go again, unusual as we don’t often revisit, but we loved it so very much. In fact, as different as it is to my home life and environment, it is the kind of place I could live. A trip next summer, during Icelandic spring will be fantastic.  In the meantime I have many projects to consider with Icelandic inspiration. Hmmmm…. where to start? Happy hooking. :O)xxxxx

:: Getting out::

It’s been a strange two weeks: being ill, recuperating, readjusting and letting my body heal has been a difficult process. Being stuck in the house, too cold to go out side for my fragile lungs and airways, not having the energy to put on my boots, round after round of Doctor’s and Asthma Clinic visits, has now passed. So with oxygen and energy levels up and  feeling remarkably light this morning, I decided I was getting out. I went for a walk in the village.

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I put on my super snug Merrell boots, I love them so much, and my Toft Alpaca knitted hat (bought the kit at Yarndale), took my inhaler, wrapped myself up and there was no stopping me!

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It is such a dark, grey and damp kind of day here in The Lake District. Not the beautiful, snappy, crackly frosty days we’ve had of late. But it felt so good to have the fresh air in my lungs and to feel the cool air on my face.20150212_112119

I loved seeing the colours and textures of the hedgerows and the vibrant lichens and moss that are everywhere at the moment.

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The clouds looked ominous, but I trundled on, past the cow sheds, the new house being built (wow that has really come on!) and through the farm yard up the hill.20150212_111457

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I loved getting out- it started my creative mind working again, thinking of colour combinations, patterns and shapes.

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It reminded me of what I have missed- February! Cold, dark, grey, damp February. Or most of it.

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So backhome for a treat, coffee and homemade Coffee, Banana and Cardamon cake. I made this cake the other day – I was a bit naughty because I tore the page out of a Country Living Magazine at the Doctor’s surgery whilst waiting for one of my many appointments. It looked and sounded so delicious and with my tired and jaded appetite I thought it would be a great pick-me-up. I was soooo right! I’ve written it up for you here.

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So now feeling triumphant and refreshed (and a teensy bit shattered- well a lot actually) it is time to have a rest. I’m loving  the start of my Simply Crochet Simone Francis Poncho from issue 25. You can get the pattern here if you don’t have the magazine and I got my Drops Nepal yarn from Wool Warehouse. They are absolutely brilliant at getting your yarn to you super duper quick! So I’m off to have another round or two before lunch. Oh it was good getting out, I’ll be off for another walk tomorrow I think. :O)xxxxx

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::Coffee, Banana and Cardamon cake – Country Living Magazine::

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I was recently at the Doctor’s and being a bit naughty, I tore this recipe out of the magazine.

20150212_124854It was a Country Living magazine from April 2014, and the cake looked and sounded so good I thought I’d give it a Gluten-free and Dairy-free try!

Here is the recipe that I made.

225g raisins

150ml Hot strong coffee

2 tablespoons of French Brandy (I use Sainsbury’s value and it’s fine)

110g sunflower dairy-free margarine (I use Pure)

140g Dark brown Muscavado Sugar

1 teaspoon of crushed cardamon seeds (about 15 pods)

2 medium eggs

2 ripe bananas (180g peeled weight)

225g Self raising Gluten -free flour (I use Dove’s farm)

1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

For the icing

275g icing sugar

2 teaspoons strong coffee diluted in hot water

I soaked the raisins in the brandy and hot coffee for  about 4 hours. Mix the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy, slowly add the eggs (beaten) and spoonfuls of flour until well mixed.Add cardamon seeds then bananas. Add bicarbonate of soda then the raisins and their liquid. I used a 23cm square tin, like a tray bake tin, and lined it with baking parchment.

20150210_162615Pop all of the batter into the tin, it was quite loose but spread well. I baked it in the top oven (roasting) of my Aga, about 180c/200c. It only took about 35 minutes and I checked it after 25 minutes and gave it  a half turn to even up the colouring. I skewered the centre and when it was a lovely golden colour and the skewer came out clean I put it onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Then for the icing. I mixed the coffee granules with some hot water, not much just enough to mix the icing sugar into a thick but moveable paste.

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I cut the cake into  16 squares about 2 inches square.

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It’s absolutely delicious with a lovely cup of proper coffee (as my mum would say!) A great pick-me-up and so very moist. A real treat. :O)xxxxxx

::Cosy, calm Christmas::

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Oh wow it’s been a while. What better time of year to catch up with old and new friends than Christmas. So here I am. All ready to roll through my Christmas so far and the cosy, calmness of it all. Lovely.

wreathMy Christmas celebrations started with my Stitching group meeting once the children had broken up from school. It is always a rush around to get to this meeting, but so worth it once there: the friendly and warm chatter of familiar faces, calming cosiness of the log fire and the scent of the newly gathered foliage, the mulled wine, homemade mince pies, and then the creativity and delightfulness of wreath making.

I started from scratch this year with lots of fresh bouncy Ivy to make my ring then embellished on top, with orange slices, pine cones, holly and berries. I finished it off with a tartan ribbon. Well it just looked right. I wish you could smell the scent of the pine and orange. Oh wow! I’m pretty pleased with the results.

cakeThen there was the cake decoration. I lovingly made the cake back in the October half term with my good old Mary Berry Aga christmas cake recipe, see last years and it has been hibernating, developing and maturing ever since. Until the time came for it to have it’s glorious Ta-dah moment! This season’s trend for silver and white was my theme and it was a very simple, but effective and delicious affair. Particularly the edible silver glitter with it’s shimmer and shine. Oh and a good lump of Yorkshire Wensleydale!

CAM00133Walking and getting out and about is an essential part of our Christmas especially after eating so well and so much on  Christmas day. Even as big kids, they enjoyed the traditional opening of presents in our dressing gowns, with croissants and jam for breakfast. The excitement of surprises never seems to leave at any age. I roast a turkey at christmas, we have always enjoyed the aroma that fills the house, including all of the trimmings and relish the thought of all of the left overs including turkey soup. Following our meal, we headed out for a local walk, just a mile up the road and back.

family walk xmas dayYes, here we all are, doing the selfie thing. It’s a great picture of us all at a time when my youngest will be turning 16 years old in the very New Year! OMG (oh my gosh)! 16 seems so very different. My eldest will be 20 years old at Easter – oh wow!

On Boxing Day as last year we go for a walk, generally we pack a Christmassy picnic, a big flask of coffee and one of hot chocolate for the teenagers, turkey and cranberry sandwiches, christmas cake, stollen, sausage rolls and some yummy crisps and off we go! This time we went to Buttermere – only 35 minutes away so perfect for feeling like you’re on a day out, but not too far either!

boxing day collage

Following all of the torrential rain we’ve had recently, the waterfalls were bursting and really gusty.
It rained, that spitty kind of rain, then it got a bit stronger and splashy. We knew we weren’t going to make it around the lake. The frost, and a sprinkling of snow on the tops of the fells made the whole area look stunning, even in the drizzle. The water was so clear.

You may remember in October we had a very special birthday in our household – yes my lovely husband J was the big 5 0. He had no idea what he wanted for his birthday and so I went ahead with a rather big present- but it combined with his Christmas and when I announced it at his surprise birthday in October he was over the moon! So, over the festive days that followed Christmas, I booked our trip to Iceland! Woohoo! So exciting.

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Iceland looks so beautiful and I’m sure there will be lots of opportunities to explore the stunning scenery and the wonderful knitwear and wools in the town. When we’re not Viking horse riding, enjoying the Blue Lagoon or glacier walking!.

Christmas Sunday and yet another walk. It was a beautiful day for a walk around the block, I’m so lucky to live in a beautiful place with rolling fells, the Solway and Dumfriesshire over on the horizon in the not too far away middle ground.

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It was an invigorating walk. The crunchy ice puddles, sugar coated frosty ferns, a jet stream screeching through the sky, raw fleece caught on the barbed wire frosted and crisp, and the long shadows of the low sun. The light was wonderful and such a welcome change from the last few dark, wet days.

christmas sunday collage

autumn rippleFinally I’ve enjoyed cosying up under my latest wip, my Autumn cosy ripple blanket crocheted in Stylcraft special DK. Inspired by both Lucy attic24 and Heather @Patchwork Heart, I chose my colours carefully to reflect my autumnal mood. But more of that later. Many evenings leading up to Christmas under this growing and deeply satisfying blanket with it’s soothing rhythm. So I’ll say bye for now peeps, I’m going to make that Turkey soup now and continue my cosy, calm Christmas. xx

::Food fest at our house::

I love summer food. A food fest. Salad, coleslaw, especially red cabbage coleslaw, and lots and lots of lovely juicy fruit salads. Then there are the savoury salads, oh my! Avocado, walnut and peach – yum yum. Feeling inspired to try a new salad courtesy of my blogland friend Loopy, I decided to team it with some homemade pizzas too. Here is the post that set me off on this food fest at our house extravaganza.

20140805_185434Look I made it- however I didn’t have pumpkin seeds so I used toasted walnut pieces instead and I used cider vinegar (not as sweet or sugary). It was yummy. Hmmm… but what to have with it? A good fest needs to have … more food!  So I started some gluten free bread in the bread maker – I know cheating but I was busy packing for my holiday and writing this post!

I used 450g of gluten free bread flour,  270ml of warm water, pinch of salt, 1 yeast sachet, 1 teaspoon of sugar, knob of butter and that was it.

If not using a bread maker then mix and combine, and once mixed put in a warm bowl and cover with cling film for about 1 1/2 hours. then knead it until soft and forgiving. I used it to make two bases by rolling it out. I covered two large baking trays and then left them for about 15 mins whilst I did the rest.

20140805_184047I fried off some red onion and some portobello mushrooms which were not going to last a three week holiday, no they weren’t. Added garlic to some chopped tomatoes and whizzed them up to make a tomato sauce for the base.

20140805_184100This one had the tomato base, the onion and mushroom mixture, olives, and some ricotta cheese blobs. I added the rest of the grated cheddar towards the end.20140805_191900Then I made one for the boys with plain pepperoni, ham and cheddar- they don’t do olives and ricotta!20140805_190335

It was all so very delicious and food fest like. So a blogland friends post about her well-being and recipes turned into a food fest at our house! Oh how lovely it all was, and there is even a bit left over for lunch tomorrow. Hmmm… what to have then- I’ll be checking with Loopy to see if she has anymore ideas!

 

::Simple Mixtures::

I often think about how life can, at times, be a wonderfully simple mixture of a whole bunch of happy things. A great cup of coffee, a piece of homemade cake or a snatched moment of something creative. Crochet, family, food and a feast of sensory delights is my idea of the simple life – not necessarily in that order – a happy mixture.  So today I focussed on the things around me that brought me a simple pleasure – May Mixtures.

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Whilst catching up with all my Facebook and Blog friends, I saw this cushion and was immediately reminded of Lucy’s projects over at Attic24 for Yarndale this year. She’s championing Mandalas- It’s May Mandala Mayhem! The idea is really simple but incredibly effective. I saw this photograph a while ago, and it happens to be the same one that has inspired Lucy with her Yarndale project, from Finnish artist Anu Tuominen. Simple and stunning.

ImageThen there is the amazingly glorious Babette blanket from Ellblo on Ravelry, this stash busting arrangement of granny squares is the best I’ve seen so far. I LoVe LoVe it so much. It makes my heart squeeze and swell with adoration. Simple mixtures of colour and sizes, no black or white was her only rule. It works brilliantly.

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It always fills me with delight waking on Saturday mornings after a hectic week at work, to my crochet, Saturday Kitchen and a lovely leisurely breakfast with super good coffee and maybe even toast! Toast is such a simple pleasure- buttery, crispy and warm. No time during the week, oh no, porridge it is at 6.30am to fill me up until playtime (10.30am). Oh yes, toast is a simple pleasure for a simple life especially when someone else makes it for you!

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J decided to take me and little J out for lunch. We decided to go to Priest’s MiIl at Caldbeck again as I haven’t been since I was ill at February half term. I found my first glimpse of the bluebells that begin to fill the verges and hedgerows here, they sweep beautifully , nodding their heads in the breeze.ImageImage

Aren’t they just adorable?

Lunch was a simple affair; leek and cheddar tart and a mixture of delicious homemade salads, (they do the best apple chutney) with another good coffee. In fact it has been a good coffee day!

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A pop into the Wool Clip, for more Wild Wood Wool from Cecilia and Jean’s collection of delicious yarns. I went for a mixture of darker plum, grey and navy shades this time. I have a quick and easy project in mind. Image

On the return journey home we passed some beautiful trees, I just had to take a photo of them. Simple colours in nature but stunning.

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Today seems to have been a mixture of lots of simple little bits and bobs, but I think they come together well enough in their own patchwork of simple snapshots.  It always fills me with joy to be reminded of the simple things around me, pulling me out of work mode and the intensity of work life at this time of year with the year sixes and all their changes. Enjoying the simple pleasures of life, mixtures and bubbles of calm moments, help to ground me over the weekends. Recharging my batteries, connecting with the world around me and stopping me in my tracks to appreciate all that is simple and good in my life brings me calm. I cherish it all. :O)xxxxx

::Wasdale – Part two::

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It has taken me a couple of weeks I know to come back to this post about our Caravan trip to Wasdale – I have been so very busy with school, family and getting sorted that I almost forgot that I’d left this one just hanging there!!

Waking up in Doris the caravan in Wasdale was incredibly funny- the sun blazing through the windows (note to self, get blackout blinds) at 4am, was both lovely and conversely irritating. It did enable a quiet cup of tea and a little bit of crochet ripply happiness whilst J and little J slept. They didn’t even stir when I boiled the kettle – although I did catch it before it began to whistle it’s happy tune!

For day two we decided to go for a picnic up to a tarn adjacent to Scawfell Pike. My back was feeling lots better and although I wanted to have a good walk, I was conscious of not overdoing it.

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ImageImageImageThe tarn was a shimmering, flat, oasis in the middle of the grassy, bumpy, flatland between the fells.

The sky reflected beautifully and it was quite bizarre to find it nestled there 240m up!

The ground was very soggy so we sat on our coats to have our picnic.Image

There had been a deluge of water up there, only a few days before, and the sight of a big blob of Frogspawn, in the middle of the grassland confirmed how deep the water had been, but also how much it had receded. Unfortunately this bunch of early frog life wasn’t going to make it now, in the clear warm sun. I was assured that it wouldn’t be right for me to interfere with nature, as I tried to think of a way of returning these little guys to the water. J and Little J were right of course. It was nature’s way.

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The walk back was lovely, with that satisfying tired feeling of having accomplished something, physical tiredness as against the mental tiredness I experience mostly as a teacher. I enjoyed retracing our steps as we followed the cairns, seeing how the light had changed over the hours we had been walking, and also thinking of ice-cream rewards!!

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We returned to Doris, satisfied, hungry and ready for a snuggly caravan evening; a little bit more crochet ripples, good cups of tea, and we made plans for the next and final day of our mini-break.

We decided that we had weary legs, (well I did anyway) and so St. Bedes would be a great place to see. It is the  western start of the Coast to Coast walk, the Wainwright path, and also I had heard it was quaint and untouched. So off we went. It was a much more blustery day and we could feel the Western coast chill in the air.  I needed my hat!ImageImageImageImage

We climbed up the coastal path to see the sea and view the town below, feeling the cool air and the warmth of the sun on our faces. Lots of caravans in the static caravan park. It’s a bit of a shame that there was some vandalism and graffiti, which did put me off a bit really. The old part of the town, inland a little, was so much more piratey and smuggler-like. But as it started to rain we decided to go for a cup of coffee and cake instead.Image

 We ventured over the Gosforth Pottery for a souvenir of our trip and I bought a lovely hand thrown vase that now sits beautifully on my kitchen table with my favourite floral delights.Image

It has been lovely going away in our Doris caravan, and visiting Wasdale, my favourite part of the lakes. I have enjoyed being with J and Little J, sleeping almost outdoors, being away  from the rough and tumble of life during the working week, and most of all connecting to the beautiful countryside and drinking in it’s glamour, glory and power.