Saturday, August 1, 2020

A Year of Learning - Crochet

I've always been a fan of knitting and I've knitted on and off for years making quite short projects because I like to get things done. But despite buying a crochet hook years ago I've never got round to learning how to crochet.

July is the time to learn! Erin decided  to join in with me and I bought her a hook too and stocked up on wool.

We started off by watching a tutorial on Youtube. It was for beginners but the girl crocheting was going too fast for us and every time we looked down to check we were doing it right she'd done something else before we could see what was happening. We had quite the hilarious time and laughed so hard that my sides hurt.

We both managed to do a slipknot okay and found chaining very simple but after that it all went downhill.

We were struggling. It's really fiddly and we weren't totally sure what we were doing. We both started again after our crochet started to look uneven and changed to a video that said it went 'super slow'. Maybe this would be more our speed.

It wasn't. So I decided to blame the wool. It was made up of three threads which made it very easy to muddle up the threads when we were trying to yarn over and go in between Vs. (Crochet lingo :D). We decided to start AGAIN with wider wool that I was currently knitting with to make a scarf. We got quite far this time but something was going wrong. I was trying to crochet a simple square and this happened.

Haha! You might notice that it's more triangular. Argh! At this point we're both wanting to give up and do something more fun. Something less fiddly. But we persevered.

We carried on crocheting just a bit every day. After another week of this I decided crochet wasn't for me. I didn't enjoy it and had to force myself to do it each day. I could've carried on for the purposes of this blog post but I didn't. Crochet was something I always wanted to learn and now I have. I've learned I don't like it.

Erin on the other hand, loves it! She's kept going and crocheted with all different thicknesses of wool to experiment. Which is really pleasing for me because I encouraged her to join me in learning and now she's found a new hobby. It also lets me off the (crochet) hook because now I have pictures of Erin's crocheting to share. 

She even made me a crocheted pan rest for my casserole dish. Thanks Erin! :D

Next month: Graphic Design

Saturday, July 25, 2020

5 MORE Alternatives to Pepperoni Pizza

Another 5 pepperoni pizza-like recipes I've found so I can enjoy some variety while the kids get their pizza fix. It's impressive how many recipes there are out there for similar food.

Pizza Stromboli

I adapted the recipe I make from one I saw on Tasty but this one is pretty much it.

It's much more delicious than it looks here. It's full of melted cheese and pepperoni oil making it all tasty and pizza-ry. Again, we sometimes have it with marinara sauce to dip the crusty bit in.

Frying Pan Pizza

Ok, this is definitely just a pepperoni pizza but it's cooked in a different way so it counts as a variety because I'm the one making it and a change of method is good enough!

Everyone really enjoyed this pizza. The pizza base had a nice crunchy texture to it. I used a lid to help the cheese melt a bit but it works really well. I'd still prefer to bake a pizza but if you only had a hob you could whip up a tasty pizza if needed.

Pizza Braid

This pizza braid is a great alternative to pizza. Puff pastry filled with tomato puree, mozzarella and pepperoni. So easy to put together with ready-made pastry and tastes great. We all enjoyed it a lot.

No Yeast Pizza

During these lockdown times, yeast has been hard to get hold of so I've had to experiment with pizza without yeast. It worked out really well, it was just more like a flatbread style pizza.

We all really enjoyed it but missed our usual yeasty pizza with it's huge crusts. Still, it's good to have this no yeast alternative in my repertoire for times when there just isn't yeast to be had.

These are a cute alternatives for regular pizza. Using a muffin tray to make individual cups. This would be great for little kids to make so they could choose their own toppings. We all had slightly different ingredients too because JD is the only one who likes olives on pizza.

Bonus - Chocolate Pizza

There's no recipe for this one. JD made a more biscuity pizza dough with added cocoa powder. He rolled it thin and spread chocolate ganache on the top along with chopped chocolate and flaked almonds. When it was baked it turned out pretty good.

That's all from the extra pizza recipes, I think I've got enough recipes in my arsenal to keep things diverse from now on :)

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Harrogate Cheap Eats - Fodder On The Hoof

Hurray, we're back! It's been a bleak few months not being able to lunch out but as places start to cautiously open back up we can get back to trying some great Cheap Eats food again.

Fodder's Cafe is still closed but their On The Hoof outside takeaway silver van is up and running, serving hot food and drinks.

They have the queue set up for social distancing quite well with yellow footprints marking the distance between queue places.

The menu is quite basic as they only serve a few hot sandwiches (bacon, sausage or double egg all under £4) and Fodder Burgers. They also sell cold sandwiches, a few bakery items and hot drinks. We haven't visited before so it could be that they're serving a reduced menu at the moment.

We were served by a girl wearing a full visor and she had a card machine for payments on a pole which she pushed out to us so we could pay without getting too close. Clever idea!

We each chose the burger (£6) which turned out to be very nice! One of those large flat burgers but very meaty. You would expect Fodder to use quality ingredients for their food and you can tell by the taste. We also had a slice of flapjack each (£1.50). JD was disappointed he couldn't have a Millionaire's Shortbread for 50p extra but I was being strict with the budget. Only £7.50 each for a Cheap Eat! Turns out the flapjack was delicious, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

A handy quick stop for a  tasty lunch! I fancy going back to try their breakfast sandwiches sometime.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Playing Silly Burgers 37: Chicken Alfredo Burger

37 different burgers so far! Sometimes I wonder what I'm doing with my life. BUT, it stops us getting bored of what's for tea! Plus there's only 3 more burgers left to make after this one and then I'm done and can move on with my life. Move on with making some other kind of food a ridiculous amount of times probably. Everyone needs a hobby, right?

Today I'm making a chicken alfredo burger. A burger version of chicken alfredo pasta. Essentially a chicken burger with alfredo cheese sauce on top. Sounds good to me.

Instead of making a chicken burger froem scratch I used some breaded southern fried chicken steaks to make things quicker and easier for a week night meal. I then made up an alfredo sauce, which is just a cheese sauce made with parmesan.

Put spinach on the bottom burger bun, then the chicken and then a generous dollop of sauce. Top with the burger bun and consume!

Yum, I really liked the moistness of the sauce on top of the chicken. It was a bit messy to eat but very tasty. JD and I both enjoyed the burger and feel curious what cheese sauce would be like on a beef burger.

Ratings: JD - 3, Emma - 3.5

Saturday, July 4, 2020

A Year of Learning - Meditation

I've always been a worrier. When there's something on my mind I often overthink it and it can affect me physically, bringing on a headache or my back hurting. I'd like to feel more in control of my thoughts and not have them spiral out of control when I worry about something going on in my life.

I've recently been made redundant from my job due to the corona virus lockdown so this seems a good time to try focus on meditation and my thoughts of doubt. I'm worried about getting another job in these uncertain times. I'm worried it could lead to money troubles. I'm worried I will lose the confidence in myself that my new job brought me.

I'm starting with this website -->

My first experience of meditation was short but interesting. I just sat on the sofa in the morning after breakfast. Neither of the kids were up yet and JD was busy playing on the Quest. It was quiet and comfortable. I started off with my eyes closed trying to focus on my breath. Following my breath with my mind, in and out. I soon realised I'd started wondering if I looked serene! Haha! I went back to focusing on my breath and did that each time my mind wandered. I only did it for a couple of minutes but I enjoyed trying to focus and was amused by the thoughts that tempted my mind away.

Do I look serene? :D

The second time I tried for 5 minutes and found it much harder. Maybe I just had more on my mind that day but I felt my mind constantly bringing up thoughts and I got frustrated trying to bring my focus back to my breath. When I finished I felt a bit more stressed than I was before.

Mindful also do guided meditation practises so I decided to try one of those. I chose the 10 minute one and found it to be very relaxing having a voice instruct me in my meditation. I feel this is a more natural way to learn what to do instead of going it alone. I finished this 10 minutes feeling much more optimistic about being able to meditate.

The next day I listened to the 15 minute guided practise and found it to be just as relaxing. My mind still wandered a lot but with the encouragement of the guide I felt much better about it and managed to bring my focus back to my breath each time.

Next, I tried an app for guided meditation called Serenity. It has a series of guided lessons in meditation. 10 minutes a day for a week. I liked these even more than the Mindful ones. You practise slowing down your breath, thinking of things to be grateful for and stretching at the end of a session. I've done 5 days so far and it feels like a nice addition to my usual routine. I have 10 minutes peace and relaxation as I start my day. I like that the Serenity meditation has soothing background music so it feels easier to ignore noise around the house. I completed the first week which you get for free then it's usually £17 for 6 months. Not bad if you use it every day.

I decided to move on to trying a different app and chose Calm as it seems very popular. It's also free for the first week to try. Turns out I like their guided meditation practises even more than Serenity. It feels so much more laid back, not really like you're trying to focus and more like you're trying not to. I started with the 30 day learn to meditate course and after a few days something clicked in me about why I want to meditate and what it means to me. I've been wanting to control my mind when really I should be learning to let things go.

When the week free trial finished I went back to meditating alone with no guide and found it much easier using the advice I'd learned from Serenity and Calm. There are lots of meditation apps and I feel it's just a case of finding the right one for you. I'd recommend making the most of free trials to find out which one you like best.

I've really enjoyed my month of meditation. I think it will be something I carry on with after this month. There's much more to learn and I'm intrigued to see where it takes me.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

My 2020 Reading Challenge - 10 Different Genres

For my 2020 reading challenge I want to try reading from a range of different genres. Especially genres I've never read. Such as romance or historical fiction. I suspect I'll stop enjoying reading soon if I keep this up! Haha :)

First up is Gothic Fiction. I picked up this book in a charity shop and enjoyed reading a mix of poetry and short stories. Some of the stories were great (some not so much) and they were really varied in content. My favourite was a story called The Gold Bug which was part detective, part pirate themed. Plus there was a skull :D

Second is Science Fiction. I have read some SF but not much and it's not one of my favourite genres. JD loved this book and when he found out I was doing this challenge he bought me a copy to read. I must admit it was a great book with very political themes. A study of capitalist versus socialist societies which describes people being dissatisfied living in both.

Third is Self Help Book. Again I've read some self help books before but mostly found that they have one idea and then seem to expand it to fill a book without adding much substance to the idea. This book was very different and somewhat blew my mind with it's detail, backed up my research facts and the span it covers. We're born as Intuitive Eaters but mess it up by dieting or trying to eat 'healthy'. I've learned so much from this book and I'm going to try put it into practise.

Fourth is Classic Novel. I have read widely in this genre but there's always room for more. This novel follows several generations of the Brangwen family experiencing love and sex in England during the early 1900s. It was banned and over 1000 copies were burned after it was taken to court in an obscenity trial in 1915. Must be worth a read for the that fact alone, haha! Spoiler: it wasn't :|

Fifth is Fairy Tales.Wow, this book is an excellent example of story telling done the right way. If all books about myths, history and other such traditionally boring subjects were written with such wit, humour and wisdom then I'd be a well read scholar indeed.

Sixth is humour. This genre can be a bit hit and miss as humour varies so much from person to person. I borrowed this book from my sister Sal though so it should be good. I was right, it was good but not that funny. Still an interesting, thought-provoking page turner.

Seventh is I'm not sure what. It's a book of essays (obviously) which could be classed as politics or philosophy, I guess.  I enjoyed reading his views on Patriotism and Wealth. Wallace Shawn has a great way with words.

Eighth is Thriller. More of a gory thriller than I'm used to and another loan from Sally. I hope it doesn't give me nightmares, ahah! Hmm turns out it wasn't that gory. Or well written. Not keen at all, I prefer a more competent detective not one who guesses and then ends up in danger. Well, you can't win them all.

Ninth is Religion. I don't think I've ever read a book on religion but my daughter Erin loaned me this book about Wicca to read so I'm going to. It was an interesting read, I especially enjoyed learning about the phases of the moon throughtout the year and how nature features strongly in Wicca.

Tenth is Poetry. This book was fantastic, such powerful poems each with heart, sadness and determination. I might consider reading more poetry books if I can find more like this!

It's been a weird year for reading so far. It's taken me much less time than I thought to read 10 different genre books. Due to the pandemic I've read quite a bit more than usual but I've also lost my source of cheap second hand books as the charity shops are all closed. I've had to borrow several books from family (luckily I borrowed from Sally before the lockdown) plus I've had to buy several brand new books. I've enjoyed having more time to read and I've liked reading more diversely too. I'm really looking forward to the library being open again from 4th July, I'll be heading there once it's safe to top up my to-read shelf.

I notice that I managed to avoid reading a book from the genre of romance even though I mentioned it in my intro! Maybe another year, haha!

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Family Game Reviews - Traditional Games

We've been trying out some old fashioned games I used to play when I was a kid. We play a lot of video games together but I wanted to get back to basics playing some more simple games together from my childhood.


I bought a set of marbles from ebay and we made a (not very circular) circle out of string on our living room floor. We each had a large marble and placed all the smaller marbles inside the circle. You have to take turns to flick your large marble at the marbles in the circle and hopefully knock a few out. You get to keep the marbles you win and the player with the most marbles at the end of the game wins. It's much harder than you'd think and it took us a while to get a good flicking technique going.

I quite enjoyed playing even though I wasn't very good and never won. It's a game that takes skill and practise to do well at. I remember playing marbles at primary school but not very much and I think I used to watch others playing it more often. Maybe if I'd joined in more often I would've easily beat my family at it.

Ratings: JD - 3, Emma - 3, Val - 1, Erin - 2  TOTAL 9

Pick-up Sticks

Another ebay purchase which was a nice little box full of pick-up sticks. You drop them onto the table and then take turns trying to pick them up without moving any other sticks. This takes skill, patience and eagle eyes from everyone playing. It's really tense to play when you're trying to slowly slide a stick out of a precarious position. It's a very simple game but really fun.

JD really enjoyed this one mostly I suspect because he's good at it. Like a pick-up stick ninja he's in and away with a stick before we see what's going on. Me and Erin got better at it as we played more and gave him more of a run for his money. We all enjoyed it more than I'd expected though and since it's quick to set up and play it's a handy one to keep on the game shelf near the dinner table for after dinner fun.

Ratings: JD - 5, Emma - 4, Val - 0, Erin - 3 TOTAL 12


Yahtzee is one of my alltime fav games and I like to play it any time I can get someone to play it with me. JD got me this lovely Yahtzee board as a gift several years ago and I love it.

It was nice to have a game with everyone. JD's got a scoring app on his phone which we've been using since we ran out of scoring sheets a while ago. It's quite handy and does the adding up for you too. Which saves any dispute about bad maths!

Yahtzee is a quick game to set up and it doesn't take much more than 10-15 minutes to play depending on how many people play. Not everyone loves it as much as me but it's still the highest rated of the 4 games we played for this blog post.

Ratings: JD - 3, Emma - 5, Val - 2, Erin - 4 TOTAL 14


I also love a game of doms but it's not a love shared in my house. JD isn't keen on dominoes and is always slightly annoyed you can't add dominoes anywhere except the ends. Also everyone is displeased that doubles are placed differently. It's not my fault, I didn't make the rules. I just enforce them! Haha.

It's another game that takes hardly any set up and is quite quick to play. Simple but fun. We had a couple of games but I forgot to take a picture so this is a recreation with just me and JD.

Ratings: JD -1, Emma -4, Val - 1, Erin - 2 TOTAL 10

The results were that we all enjoyed Yahtzee the most and Marbles the least. But they were all quite entertaining for a bit of after dinner fun. I'm going to keep my eye open for other traditional games we can play.
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