Sunday, 27 September 2015

A dance of flour and salt with fire

After researching crafts ideas, my favourite has been salt dough, as it's so easy and cheap to do. It's gone, down  increadbly at work  as it's incorporates baking and cutting shapes out with cookie cutters. So,  I was going to make some to decorate my tree with as I want a truly DIY Halloween tree. 

I've been practising on making salt dough and this is my fifth or sixth batch,  I'm getting to feel the correct consistency of the dough, the right measurement ingredients, and cooking times. 

The recipe I've developed:

  • Cup and a half of flour
  • Cup of salt 
  • Cup of water
  • First add the flour and salt and mix, I would recommend adding half a cup of water then mix in the bowl. Depending on the consistency add about a quarter of water and mix.  I've found if you add too much water it can make the dough too sticky if the dough becomes too sticky add more flour. 
  • Once the dough is mixed, start kneading the dough and use flour to prevent the dough from sticking to the surface and add flour as required. 
  • Knead the dough until its smooth and has a slightly firm consistency. (My cheat is to put in the fridge for about 20/30 minutes).

If the dough is too sticky when you pick the items up, it can stretch and destroy the item.

  • Add flour to the rolling pin and roll the dough until 1cm thick and cut out using cookie cutters and place onto a flat cooking tray. Poke a hole through the dough where you'd like to hang place a ribbon to hang the item, I used a match stick to create a hole. 

  • Before cutting out, preheat the over to 150 centre degrades and turn down the heat to 50 centres degrades. 
  • Last night, it took me a few hours to cook and I regularly turned the salt dough cookies over. I've found slow cooking works best as I prevent air bubbles that can create a weakness.  

Here are my finished items; I'm planning to decorate them. 

I mainly used Halloween cookie cutters from Pound Land and used a couple of  Easter cookie cutters from pound land I'm going to decorate the chick as an owl and a vampire rabbit, it's a local legend in Newcastle.

O hallow tree, O hallow tree ....

I feel as though the last few weeks have gone so fast because work has been so, busy. I don't want to talk about work; I want to talk about Halloween, eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee, with a prodigious amount of glee. I feel like a kid waiting for Christmas since Halloween falling on Saturday, it's going to be so much fun. I've been researching for crafts and idea to implement and trial at work. Over the last few week, I came across Halloween DIY projects that I've fallen in love with and inspired me to try out.

The main thing I've wanted to try is Halloween tree with my hand made decor and anything else I fancy.  I know the only time you see the trees is at Christmas. Even throughout history and personally, there is some connection to trees or forest areas. Throughout mythology, trees have held great reverence and significance for providing the essentials of life, warmth, nutrition, and habitats. Trees for many have held spiritual functions, home for the gods, predicting children lives, trees manifesting as deities producing blessings through fruits and flower, trees being portal to other worlds and even holding the knowledge of good and evil.

Trees have played an enormous significance in life but developed sinister connations as provide fuel for those condemned to burn at the stake for witchcraft or religious heresy. Trees have served a place for those hung or lynched for their crimes. Most significant hanging trees most sinister were during the European and Salem witch trails.

I am diverting back on track here are some website that have served inspiration to me:

For the base, I had found a stick from one of the branches I cut when I hacked pruned the boyfriend's front. I am planning to find a few more branches and paint them black. This one is amazing to hang things up.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Leeds Trip

I spent the night in Leeds two weeks ago on Friday evening; it came about as the Boyfriends Union has moved up to the North for their Union meetings for both convenience and finances savings. The only advantageous thing is I get to see different parts of the country, while they're debate and protect the rights of the public sector workers.

Leeds is about an hour and a half via train from my home city of Newcastle upon Tyne. Leeds is the largest town in The North and has prosperous from mining and textile industries fuelling the Britain’s Global Empire and the Victorian Industrial Revolution. As very typical of the North, after the decline of the textile and mining Industries caused a financial decline to the city, where regained its financial wealth through media and retail. Leeds is considered the best places outside of London for shopping.

Leeds is known for its vibrant music scene; it also had one of the most prominent Goth scenes outside London. Leeds is the home city of one most prominent Goth bands, The Sister of Mercy. Leeds University theme centred around and avant-garde art scene of fine art led to the creation of soft cell, progressive is popularising electronic. The corn exchange that is shopping for the alternative crowds if feature independent designers and specialist shops. They have one of the largest selections of the alternative night including the famous Wendy House.

Even in the 21st century where the alternative scene feels although it has declined, in Leeds.There appears to be a thriving goth scene with the formation of Leeds Gothic apperception Society in 2007, states “ to celebrate all aspects of Gothic culture, whether that be music, fashion, architecture, films, literature, art and performing arts, etc.” and help other Goth students meet up with people with similar interests. Last year, the was an event at celebrating thirty years of Goth.

The Day started with me peeping out of the window to observe the weather that was gloomy, and damp, typical Northern weather I went out to explore the city. My first port exploration was the Leeds Market, sells an array of crafty goodies, fabric, baking goodies, and card crafts. Leeds Market is the largest covered in Market in Europe. The market established in 1822, between 1850 and 1875 the building work began to covered market, and the architecture design was inspired by Crystal Palace located in London.

I found a fantastic fabric shop, which had an incredible selection of fabric and reasonable priced. I ended up purchasing a selection of Halloween fabric and pattern fabric, so pretty, and I plan to make a dress and will use the pattern below.

This unusual fabric pattern is designed to be cut to create# I've never seen this style of material.

I found this adorable black cat fabric, not sure what I want to with it yesterday.

I've been exploring new crafts and started making my own cards, I'm stocking up on Christmas decorations for my family for 50p.

I also bought.

I got a hair clip for £1

I found a fabric shop that sold sewing pattern for £3 and interested in making a tunic and leggings

After I regrouped with the BF to have a break and cuppa of tea, where we were discussing the group whole array of topics. The boyfriend headed to get his train back, where I stayed to explore more of the city.

I went to explore the Leeds minister, sadly, it was shut. I got some interesting photos of the minister.

I headed to the Leeds art gallery that had an impressive collection of Pre-Raphaelites paintings.

he last place I visited the oldest St John the Evangelist Church, built in 1634 and paid for by John Harrison, a wool merchant. The church adapts perpendicular Gothic style with decorated with battlements on the side of the roof and diagonal buttresses. The interior is far more Jacobean interior with white lime walls, and decorative ceiling. I found the most impressive were the carved figures in the corners of the roof with hermaphrodite figures and the carved figures on the ceilings.I even got cuppa and carrot cake muffin for a small donation during my visitor

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Inverness- Part 2

On Friday, the 21st was my birthday, I turned 27 years old. Honestly, as I grow older with some wisdom and my insanity increases, the nostalgia and excitement of my birthday’s wanes in comparison to the excitement, when I was a child it. I am not sure the reasons for my apathetic feelings this year,  it felt like any other day. It was lovely receiving so many wishes for a happy birthday on Facebook.

It was my second birthday I’ve been with the boyfriend, and instead of buying me presents he takes me away for trips, last year it was Bristol and Bath. I prefer having the trips away to create memories and experiences than have gifts or material items, apart from the cake, but then cakes always amazing.

The boyfriend had suggested planning the places to visit. Unfortunately, I never accounted for the reduced bus services in Inverness. Despite being a very popular place for tourists the lack public transport is appalling the buses run only every half an hour and drop you approximately one/two miles from any tourist attraction. In comparison to where I live I'm so spoilt for bus services where I live; hence I highly recommend driving. Over with my rantings. I would like to thank Carol aka The HouseCat at Domesticated for her wonderful advice in regards to places to visit.

After having breakfast, I opted to visit Urquhart Castle and Chanonry Point, we left and got a taxi from the B&B to Inverness city centre, which took about fifteen minutes. On the journey to the town centre was breathtaking with copious amounts of fells with steep inclines and covered in verdant vegetation. It was staggeringly beautiful but rugged simultaneously. The sky was overcast with grey clouds over-looming, yet the sun managed to find gaps through the cloud to stream its sunbeams through. On the journey, I saw a beautiful lake, I thought it was  Loch Ness, I think it may have been the Moray Firth estuary.(I'm rubbish at Geography).  I fell in love with the landscape immediately;  it resembled my ancestral home of County Kerry in Ireland. After visiting, I can understand the reason people fall in love with theHighland's beauty, and it became the muse of poets and artists. 

Victorian Market 

We looked through the Victorian Market that had a variety of traditional and independent shops. The Victorian market originally was an open air market in the 1870’s and after it burned down was rebuilt in the 1890’s as an indoor market. There wasn’t much to see, it was one the places I wanted to visit out of curiosity. I purchased a silly fridge magnet when I travel; I like buy a fridge magnet as a reminder.

Inverness Library 

We headed off to the bus station and waited for the bus to take us to Urquhart Castle, which operates every 2 hours. While waiting, I popped into the local library opposite the bus station. I explored the library and found the back corridor filled with displays about the history of Inverness and Highlands, Highland Traditions, information about local places of interest including Fort Augustus, Urquhart and Chanonry point. My favourite part of the displays regarded the Lock Ness Monster, which provided substantial information about the legend of Nessie, alleged sightings and attempts to find the monster. 

Journey to Loch Ness

Once we were on the bus to Urquhart, the boyfriend discussed his unproven hypothesis of the Lock Ness Monster. He believes dolphins who reside in the Firth Moray swim up to the lock and play trick with spectators. The Firth Moray estuary connects to the River Ness and feeds into  Lock Ness. A pod of dolphins swim up the river to the loch when the Dolphins swim in a line they resemble Nessie’s serpentine shape. Spectators of the event are slightly befuddled and assume that it’s the Lock Ness Monster.

A pod of dolphins that resemble a traditional or recognizable Nessie shape, it has potential I guess, Lol. He is so much better at describing it, so he kept me hysterics all weekend with his hypothesis.

On the bus journey, I got my first view of the famous lake from the bus windows,  I  saw the journey of the River Ness merging into the lock. The scenery was incredible, it conjured up poetic thoughts and my wild imagination of fairies and other fantastical creatures racing through my head.   

There was a thick, miasmas fog that made it feel as though Nessie had brought the veil of fog with her to disguise her from prying eyes of sightseers while she surfaced the loch. The fog created an ominous presence that added to the ethereal atmosphere. I ecstatically kept peering out of the window in the hope to see Nessie, but I didn't see anything.


It took about 35 minutes to reach the castle, but it was more of Scottish romantic ruin set in 360 degrees of stunning views of the rugged, mountainous scenery. The day started out quite grey and cloudy; the typical unpredictable British weather turned into a gorgeous sunny day. The Castle was abandoned in 1692 when it served as an English garrison; the last of the soldiers blew the castle up using gun powder preventing the Jacobite from seizing the Castle.

The Castle looks relaxing and picturesque, yet the castle has had a violent and turbulent history as the site is a prominent strategical point for military purposes. Intern, this has been the central point of local infrastructure with a small tuon supplying the castle with essentials for it running.

Legends states this was the location of Emchath, a Pictish leader while on his death bed, invited St Columbus to baptize him as a Christian in 580 AD. However, evidence dates the Pictish habitation back to the late 700's and early 800's. During the medieval period, the castle was taken by Edward I in 1296, and after the death of Robert the Bruce the castle became the only resistance against the English in Highlands. Later, the MacDonald's Clan, Lord of the Isles regularly raided the castle as they tried to increase their power, resulting in the Castle exchanging ownership from the Crown to the Clan. The last attack was in 1545, devastating to the owners of the castle and stool a vast quantity of valuable property. The castle property of the Scottish Crown until the barony was bestowed a to the Grant Family by James IV in 1509

The boyfriend and I enjoyed visiting the castle and learning about its history. We had considered booking a ferry tour, which included exploring the Loch by boat and only offered an hour to visit. We didn't do this as the tour I wanted was fully booked. I am glad we ventured via the bus, as we found it took about two hours to explore the site thoroughly. 

Upon entering, we explored the small museum that displayed artifacts found on extrication digs and information of the castle's hierarchy and info about the daily running of it. I was intrigued and happy to play with the light button on the model of the castle's original layout. There was a short film outlining the castle's turbulent history.  The boyfriend is knowledgeable about medieval history and warfare, so it felt like I had a personal tour guide.

We had a discussion with a museum assistant in regards to the current location of the visitors centre, which became an interesting discussion about the history of Urquhart, and it may locate on the old toun.  The assistant discussed that the castle was never fully excavated and that any evidence or artifacts would have been either destroyed or removed, during the year it was abandoned.  To commence a full Archeological survey would be difficult.

The Grant Tower offered an unusual opportunity to admire the spectacular views and to capture some stunning photographs of the complex and surroundings  The tower extends down to the vaults up to the roof. The Tower was the Grant family's living space for when the castle was abandoned and left to decay; the Grant Tower was the most complete part of the castle. During a severe storm in 1715, the tower was damaged, and the tower still retains the narrow staircase.

Urquhart has been transformed into a poetic ruin that intrigues visitors, including myself. The castle has been left to decay and exposed to the elements, especially the tempestuous Scottish weather. Many of the castle's walls have been quarried for building, and nature has reclaimed much of the ruins adding to its fanciful beauty.   During the 19th century, the castle experienced a resurgent in interest with a popularity of history, romantic architecture and revival of Highland culture. The Castle in 1913 came into stewardship of the Scottish state and frequent by millions of visitors every year.   

I loved the composition of the Ravens, who reminded of the witches of Macbeth, the way the Ravens huddled together. My mind was running wild with my thoughts believing the Ravens were a coven of witches having their annual meeting disguised as Ravens to hid their meeting from the public. Unfortunately, the photo didn't quite capture that feeling.

Overall highly, I loved visiting the Castle, despite the numerous of tourists visiting and blocking the pathways taking selfies. I felt intrigued by the castle's romantic and haunting atmosphere and surrounded by Loch Ness water attempting to spot the international celebrity herself, but to no avail there was no sign of Nessie. I had fun exploring, and photographing every aspect of the castle and fairy-tale landscape. I even enjoyed the of silly fables my imagination was conjuring up.

Inverness Cathedral 

On the way back we visited Inverness Cathedral designed by Alexander Ross, The Bishop Canterbury was invited to lay the first foundation stone in 1866 and the building finished in 1869 opening to the congregation. The original plans included a 30-metre tower on the west side of Church, but the idea was revised after the lack of funds. The cathedral was an attractive design of Victorian gothic revival features (I have a lack of knowledge about architecture) of high decorative arched windows with stained glass, decorative corbels and gable styled roof. It has elaborate and ornate church frontage depicting saints and religious imagery. I enjoyed walking around cathedrals and found that this was a somber design still worth visiting. The churches design and outline reminded me of more of sedated version of York Minister. After speaking to Carol, who has an immense knowledge of architecture, that Scottish churches tend to utilize simple design.

Chanonry Point

Inverness has a local population of bottlenose dolphins that reside in the Moray Firth.
Chanonry point is meant to the best place to watch the dolphins as they usually stay close to shore over the summer and provide the best opportunity to see them while they catch salmon. 

These are photos of the dolphins at Chanonry Point:

We headed to the Bay, which was half an hour journey to Fortrose on the bus. The nearest bus stop to the point meant a two-mile hike. This time I didn't see any dolphins, but I did get some lovely photos of the bay. 

Eden Courts Beer and Cider Festival

To finish our first day in Inverness, we attended The North Hop a Beer and Cider Festival at Eden Court, which resembled a barn gathering used hay stacks to create the feeling. The event also included an array of live bands and an acoustic guitarist. There were food stalls and independent craft vendors selling various crafts, bakery goods and coffee. I drank Strawberry Cider, exceptionally sweet and tasted of strawberries and cream, and Elderberry Cider was refreshingly summer cider sweet. Both were brewed by the Thistly Cross Cider, who a produce Scottish Farm Cider.

Birthday Cake

When I got back to B&B to celebrate my birthday with a triple layer Victoria sponge with cream filling and icing, decorated with berries and my birthday candle. 

Life Update.

Hi, it's been a very long hiatus, not to say the least. Since my last post, a lot happened in October. I had a death in the family ...