Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Royal Visit

One decided it was about time to give One's crown an outing, and visit one of One's loyal subjects, and so yesterday One packed up One's carriage and made a visit to Hastings on the Sussex coast. (One hasn't quite got the hang of being in charge, as One had to lug a holdall full of beading and crochet stuff for the once-over as instructed by One's subject). So, orf I trundled in my ancient carriage down the A259 - what a journey One had! Tractors, road works, every pensioner on the planet heading towards Eastbourne.....and an idiot in a van who tried to kill both One and the poor soul driving the articulated lorry in front. (He has since been reported - what a berk driving like that with the name of the company he works for plastered in 3ft high letters all over his van).

On arrival in Hastings, One was very unfairly accused of oversleeping being the reason for One's late arrival. Hmph, One was not amused. One's subject did however make One a very welcome mug of coffee to revive One's spirits and my subject and I then spent a very happy couple of hours oohing and aahing over beads - One's subject does however have the ability to cheese One orf by collecting amazing beads for bargain prices at boot fairs. Hmph again.

Then came the biggest indignity of all. Brace yourselves, loyal subjects. One was involved in a soap experiment. Nothing wrong with that, I hear you cry. No, nothing at all.....except for the fact that One's subject ordered One to wear a bright blue hairnet, red plastic sleeves and white latex gloves. (One supposes it was at least an attempt to be patriotic with the red, white and blue, but One is still miffed). The experiment was however a success - it has taught One that One's soap recipe is not up to scratch and needs some serious tweaking - no wonder One produces so much croap. Oh, and One's subject knows that she will be sent to the tower for immediate execution should she even consider posting pictures of the get-up One was forced to don. You can read about this experiment here if you're interested, and there are updates too.

Following that, One's subject helped One to make some jewellery for One's Mum. (One has had these beautiful semi-precious stones lurking in One's beading box since January and thought it was about time something was done with them). One's subject produces gorgeous jewellery herself and so One was very grateful for her subject's advice. Here are the results, and One hopes One's Mum likes them - if not, they will be reassembled into something else.

After an exhausting day (including a visit to a building One is told is called a "supermarket", where One's subject bounced (literally) down the aisles and One had to announce that shoppers were not to worry, but One's subject was only allowed out once a week, and only then under supervision), One packed up One's carriage and headed back to the safety of Brighton. Thankfully One had a much easier journey home but went to One's boudoir absolutely knackered. One did however have a very pleasant day (but One's subject needn't know that or it'll just go straight to her hairnet).

Thursday, April 23, 2009

More bag bling

I did a bit more faffing today to see what effects I can get with different yarns. This one was done with a 1mm hook, and fine yarn that I'd normally use for the doilies. You need very good light for working with a hook and thread that small. Oh, and I attached a recycled sparkly bead in the middle for a change.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Bag Bling

A certain person, who has ever-so-slight bossy tendencies (but is very sweet really), has been on at me to make crochet flowers to decorate bags or to use as brooches. So, as ordered, here they are :-) I'm calling them bag, what sort of price do I sell them for? I hate putting a price on things I make.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

I really should get out more......

I had an unexpected day on my own today, so I started off watching "Some Like It Hot" (which I've never seen) but it was too early on a Sunday to concentrate. I've been hatching an idea for a soap so thought I'd have a go today - what did I learn? Blue lye water does NOT equal blue soap. Hmph. It's skulking under some towels now while it goes through gel. Maybe it'll look more the right colour tomorrow.

On a roll in the kitchen, I made a yummy lemon drizzle cake (failsafe recipe so no problems with that one). Only problem is you have to wait for it to cool completely before you can attack it - it was an agonising wait.

After I'd stuck yet more laundry in the machine, my little brain was whirring with ideas so, as you do, I made some "bag bling". Crochet flowers to use as brooches or bag decorations. These are a bit different though - what you can do with a couple of plastic carrier bags, eh? :-) So, here you have it (I really should get out more I think) - plastic bags
recycled and made into flowers. Not sure they'll catch on though :-/

Thursday, April 16, 2009

What can you see?

What can you see on this palm tree?

A horse's face or a little bum, or both?

The most diabolical yet?

Does this one win the prize for the most diabolical yet?
Hmmmmmm we'll see :-)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Beaded cuff bracelet

When the strong wind calmed down a bit, I managed to make this too (I rarely sit inside if the weather is nice in Portugal!). I've never done this stitch before, and although I used the wrong thread so it's not as rigid as it should be, I really enjoyed making it.

This was made using Peyote stitch in a mix of cylinder seed beads and ordinary seed beads in a combination of sizes. If I can find the right "thread" here in the UK without having to pay a ridiculous amount of money for it, I want to have another go in a different combination of colours. I might do a "matte" version too just to see the different effect you can achieve

Diabolical Doilies

As I get easily bored - and making "cream" doilies can get a bit tedious - I've decided to do a trawl of the "Chinese shops" in Portugal as they stock a range of the (in my opinion) most hideous variegated threads. For want of a better name, this series will be called "Diabolical Doilies" and is just for fun :-)

Portuguese "lace" crochet

I learnt to do this kind of crochet a couple of years ago, and although I'm not personally very keen on the things I enjoy the challenge of making them - I know, I'm a bit weird!

So, this little lot was done in the last 10 days or so..... keeps me occupied when I can't make soap :-/

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Alentejo coast

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Instead of driving back on the motorway from Lisbon, we decided to drive all the way down the Alentejo coastline. We pottered back and it took us about 8 hours in all, stopping off wherever we felt like it having a look at pretty little beaches and villages.

After we left Lisbon, we headed for Sines, which is the birthplace of Vasco da Gama. It could be a very pretty little fishing village if it weren't for the dirty great oil refinery lurking in the bay! It was a very nice place despite that, and the bayfront area is very well kept - maybe kept in good condition by the oil refinery, I don't know! After that, we drove down through Porto Covo and stuck to the old road which goes all the way to Sagres in the far southwest of the Algarve.

We "nipped" in to a beach called Praia de Odeceixe too - well, nipped is a bit of a bad word to choose. The track bumped its way round the river and hills for about 20 minutes and when we got to the end of it, there's a very pretty little cove. There were a fair few campers there, most of them parked away from the "road" as it was just a very dusty dirt track. It made us proud to be British though (not!) when we spotted right on the turning point at the end of the track, a pair of idiot Brits parked and eating their sandwiches. Where they'd decided to camp in this pretty cove was the spot where every car that went past covered them and their sandwiches in clouds of dust. Given we went past twice, their sarnies can't have tasted too good by the time we left :-)

I'd recommend the drive along this coast as part of it's a national park and there really are some beautiful places to stop and enjoy nature. Our last stop was in Aljezur before we headed back down to the start of the motorway at Lagos to take us back across to São Brás de Alportel up in the hills behind Faro.


I went to Lisbon for a couple of days with Mum & Dad. We drove from the Algarve and it took about 2 1/2 hours on the motorway (toll road and cost about 20 Euros). The drive to the bridge across the river was fine, but after that.......DON'T DRIVE IN LISBON UNLESS YOU ARE COMPLETELY INSANE! We ended up going round in circles even though we stopped twice for directions. Finally Dad got in a taxi and we followed him to the hotel - we'd never have found it otherwise.

We wandered around the old part of town on the first afternoon - there are some beautiful old buildings and quaint alleys but we found the traffic and noise a bit of a shock! If you're interested in museums and churches then I'm sure you'd thoroughly enjoy the place as there's lots to see, and if you like big noisy cities you'll love it! It was a bit of a shock for me to see how many poor souls there are begging and just lying on benches, but I suppose it happens everywhere sadly.

The only part we didn't have time to visit was Alfama, which is where they believe the Portuguese Fado music originates. I quite like some Fado music and would have liked to listen to some in Alfama but maybe I'll have to save that for next time!

On the second day we bought a day ticket on the Carris sightseeing bus tour of the city. You can get on and off as many times as you like and the buses stop at all the most important sights. It was well worth the money (about £15 per person), especially if you're only staying for a couple of days. The buses have an open top deck which allows you to see a lot more - word of warning though, put some decent sun cream on your face or you'll end up like a beetroot, and if you wear a hat be prepared to spend the trip holding on to it :-)

If you stop off at Belém, make sure you try out a "pastel de Belém" which is the famous custard tart. Much to my annoyance I didn't know about it until afterwards as a little custard tart and a nice coffee is my vice when I'm in Portugal.

Belém is the part of town that has the famous Tower, fantastic views of the 25 Abril bridge, and is the part of town where the wealthy and famous have their homes, including the President.

Even though we only had a short stay, we enjoyed what we did and saw. I can't say as I'd rush back though, but then I don't like big noisy cities so that might just be me!

The photos in this post came from which is a great site for information if you're planning to visit Lisbon.

We stayed at a great little hotel near the Botanical Gardens. It's very simple, clean and friendly, and the rates for Lisbon are very good - Hotel Botânico - they have a few rare parking spaces if you do arrive by car (which is a godsend!) and it's about a 20-minute stroll down into the old part of town. They also sell tickets for the Carris bus trips and the nearest stop is about a 5-minute walk away on the main Avenida. I'd thoroughly recommend staying there, but if you're not too good on your feet be warned it's up a very steep, cobbled hill so you might need a taxi after a hard day's sightseeing or a good meal out in the evening!

I'm back!

Well, we went to Portugal for about 4 weeks, and as always stayed longer. I've got severe soapmaking withdrawal now - fingers are itching to get going. Luckily (?!!!!!) the weather is rubbish back in the UK so this Easter weekend I might just get a chance to make some.

It gets harder and harder to return to the UK each time we spend some time hidden away in the Algarve hills. I need to make some major life decisions and either take a leap and try living there or keep faffing about living a half life spread between the UK and there! Not an easy decision to make as I have family here and we're very close. I put out some feelers for work whilst I was there, and there are a few things that could come up but I'm not the type of person that likes uncertainty and the thought of not having something definite lined up makes me nervous! I'm such a coward. Maybe I was a real risk-taker in a previous life and this time around I'm a wimp!

Anyhow, we were extremely lucky with the weather in March - the driest for a decade in the Algarve - and watching the garden spring to life after all the rain they had at the beginning of the year was wonderful. When we arrived, my plum tree (under which I sit contemplating my navel and staring at the clouds) was completely bare. A few short weeks later and she's sprouted a beautiful crown of leaves so there's now shade to sit in and watch the birds and sky. For some strange reason, I feel a real affinity with that tree - she's very old and gnarled but she valiantly springs to life every year - and I do a lot of thinking sitting there. (Am I losing the plot finally?!!!) Oh, and I also make hideous crochet doilies sitting there - more to follow in another post :-)

Our lovely Portuguese neighbours were as kind as ever, giving us fresh eggs, vegetables, lemons and delicious winter oranges. We were invited to dinner twice for traditional Portuguese food which was a lovely treat for my Mum & Dad who were staying with us. They cooked "Bacalhau com batatas ao muro" which is dried salt cod (soaked in milk I think) cooked very slowly with garlic, onions and small baked potatoes which are slightly crushed. Mum & Dad said it was delicious. As I'm veggie, they made me a separate meal of freshly picked veg and eggs, and homemade soda bread. I was really touched by that - Regina knows I'm allergic to yeast so she made me my own loaf of soda bread and it was delicious. Whenever I make it, it ends up like concrete. They then produced 2 massive dishes of what Mum said was the nicest ever creme caramel as well as about 3 other desserts - would you get that kind of hospitality in the UK any more? I'm not sure.....

The second meal was a spur of the moment thing because when Regina was picking the broad beans I offered to help and just asked how she cooked them. Next thing we know, her son Rafael was telling us dinner was ready! We abandoned our half-cooked dinner and went round to find she'd cooked another traditional dish of "favas com choriço" which is broad beans cooked with potates and sausage and fried pork. I had to pick out the meat this time but the beans were delicious :-)

This is turning out to be a long waffle isn't it? I think I'll separate the other things we did into different posts before you all lose the will to live reading this lot! Congratulations if you got this far by the way :-)


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