c January 2017 | Garden, Tea, Cakes, (Books) and Me

Cruise Around Britain - Edinburgh Port of Call

Our very first port of call on our Cunard Cruise around Britain was Edinburgh. Anchored off Newhaven port this would be a tender stop. I had decided not to get off the ship but to stay on board and spend the day with my mum, who did not want to take the tender ashore.  My sister and dad were taking an organised excursion to visit the amazing engineering feat of the Falkirk Wheel.
Cunard Cruise around Britain Edinburgh port of call
The ships tenders docked in the calm of Newhaven harbour 
Staying onboard
From on board the ship we had excellent views of the Forth Bridge, Edinburgh Castle and Arthur's Seat. We were also treated to a performance on board from two Scottish pipers in full costume, they gave an excellent performance in the foyer area of the ship. As you can see from the photos below my mum and I had found an excellent spot.
Cunard Cruise around Britain Edinburgh port of call

Cunard Cruise around Britain Edinburgh port of call

Although we had explored the ship on our first full day at sea the previous day, it was nice to just stroll around at our leisure. Many people had taken the opportunity to visit Edinburgh so it there were fewer people on board, not that it ever felt busy with people.

Excursion Falkirk Wheel cruse ship cunard cruise around Britain
Falkirk Wheel excursion
Falkirk Wheel
My sister and dad caught the tender service to join their excursion to visit the Falkirk Wheel. Although the excursions were well organised, when it came to transferring from the ship to the port by tender it was a time consuming processes - only so many passengers can fit into the tenders. Preference is given to those booked on excursions.

Excursion Falkirk Wheel cruse ship cunard cruise around Britain

The Falkirk Wheel is a rotating boat lift in Scotland, connecting the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal. The coach trip included commentary about the local area, a short boat trip along the canal with commentary and history about the Falkirk Wheel whilst on board as you go through the Falkirk Wheel.  My sister really enjoyed the excursion and says it was definitely worth while excursion - a marvel of engineering. 

That evening we enjoyed a wonderful meal on board in the formal Britannia restaurant, followed by a light and delicious dessert of meringue with fresh fruit.
Cunard cruise ship food britannia restaurant queen elizabeth

Next stop on my cruise around Britain...Invergordon 

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Cunard Cruise around Britain Edinburgh port of call cruise Europe Queen Elizabeth


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5 Perfectly Pretty Oven to Table Pie Dishes

The humble pie dish, we all have one or two in the cupboard. They are such a versatile dish that can be used to bake, serve or hold a range of foods. If you are looking to buy a Pie Dish I am sharing some of my favourites, two pie dishes I use all the time that are pretty and decorative to those more practical and functional. Suitable for all budgets from bargain prices to something of a treat for yourself, or a perfect house warming gift.
5 Perfectly Pretty Oven to Table Ceramic Pie Dishes. Best Glass Pie Dish to Buy Budget

I have used mine to make deep dish fruit pie, Fruit Crumble, Savoury Pastry Pie, Fruit Salad, Cauliflower Cheese,  Fish Pie, Eves Pudding.
Pretty Pie Dish to Buy Oven to Tableware

This pretty pale blue and cream pie dish from Kitchen Craft is a favourite of mine. A beautiful blue and cream with a crimped decorative edge, and used many times  - it is perfect for baking goodies such as Bread and Butter Pudding to Chocolate and Rhubarb Pudding.  The dish measures 26 cms width 7 cms deep. Currently priced £14 on Amazon.
Photo credit: Emma Bridgewater
Who can resist a piece of Emma Bridgewater pottery, this delightfully pretty floral heart shaped design makes the perfect dish from oven to table. Tiny Scattered Rose dish £34.95 and measures 20cms diameter. 
5 Perfectly Pretty Oven to Table Pie Dishes Kitchen Tableware
A shaped pie dish makes an attractive addition to a table setting and perfect to serve a pudding or fresh fruit salad. This pretty heart shaped polka dot design pie dish from Katie Alice called Highland Fling is a delight, it even comes complete with a cute pie funnel. The dish measures 26 cms width 5.5 cos deep.
5 Perfectly Pretty Oven to Table Pie Dishes Kitchen Tableware5 Perfectly Pretty Oven to Table Pie Dishes Kitchen Tableware
A glass pie dish will go with any decor and is perfect for seeing inside your bake too. This oval glass dish measures 25 x 20cms and 5.6cm deep from Wilko.com is a bargain at just £3!  Neutral grey colour round utility earthenware pie dish from Wilko is just £5. Perfect for a pudding or shepherds pie. Measures 24cms width 6cm deep.
5 Perfectly Pretty Oven to Table Pie Dishes Kitchen Tableware
My Emile Henry red fluted pie dish is the perfect decorative fruit dish for a special breakfast table laid for Mothers Day. I have also made cherry clafoutis in this dish, a sweet fruit batter style pudding.  The dish measures 26.5 cms round and costs approx £25 and comes in a variety of colours.

Do you have a favourite pie dish recipe?

If you purchase any of the dishes above using my link, I will receive a small commission. This income allows me to share my recipes, reviews and crafting adventures with you.
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Cruise Around Britain on Cunard Queen Elizabeth

I have been so meaning to share with you my experience of cruising for the first time.  So where did I go? Well as it happens not too far at all, choosing to explore and cruise around Great Britain for 12 nights with Cunard Cruises on the prestigious Queen Elizabeth ship.
Cruise around Great Britain Cunard Queen Elizabeth review deck 8
I travelled with my sister and my parents, all of us first time cruisers. I truly had no idea what to expect, I knew that standards on board would be high and that the food would be amazing, but it far out weighed my expectations.

I was so impressed with the checking in and boarding process, no hanging around or endless queues, it was nothing like travelling by plane, thankfully. We sailed anti clockwise around Britain, visiting Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and the Channel Isles.
Cruise around Great Britain Cunard Queen Elizabeth review

Great Britain Cruise Itinerary

  • Southampton
  • Edinburgh
  • Invergorden / Inverness
  • Kirkwall
  • Stornoway
  • Greenock
  • Belfast
  • Liverpool
  • Guernsey

Cruise around Great Britain Cunard Queen Elizabeth review
Foyer area Queen Elizabeth Cruise Liner
Cruise around Great Britain Cunard Queen Elizabeth review
One of many stunning fresh flower displays on board 
Queen Elizabeth Cruise Ship
What a breathtaking ship, I know I have nothing to compare it to but it was beautiful. Our room on deck 8 had space and plenty of storage, a sofa and balcony so we could sit out and enjoy the sun and spectacular views and relaxing feel of the water. You can order complimentary room service at any time, quite often I enjoyed relaxing on the balcony with tea and scones, literally watching the world sail by. It was from our balcony my sister and I spotted dolphins off the coast of the top of Scotland.
Balcony Room Deck 8 Queen Elizabeth Cruise Ship

Food served in the Britannia restaurant was spectacular. I never did manage to eat all 3 courses that were available, although I seemed to have no trouble finishing the petite fours. 
Cruise around Great Britain Cunard Queen Elizabeth review
Britannia Restaurant Cunard Queen Elizabeth

For the occasional evening and usually at lunch the Lido buffet restaurant offered very good choices too. There were several other restaurants on board including a pub The Golden Lion, but we just did not find the time to eat in all of them. Though I did seem to eat quite a lot!
Britannia Restaurant menu Cunard Queen Elizabeth review
Amazing menu in the Britannia Restaurant 
Afternoon Tea
Regular readers will know all about my love of Afternoon Tea, so there was no way I would miss out on enjoying Afternoon Tea on board the Queen Elizabeth. Every day a formal Afternoon Tea is served at 3.30pm in the Queens Room. This was such a wonderful event, white gloved waiters served delightful finger sandwiches, scones and small cakes along with endless cups of tea. This was accompanied with wonderful live music.
Cruise around Britain Cruise Ship Cunard Queen Elizabeth review

There are 2 outdoor pools with hot tubs on board the Lido and Pavilion, which everyone can use. There is also a spa which offers numerous spa treatments and access to sauna, steam rooms, heated loungers and a hot plunge pool, which you have to book and pay for. My sister and I did use the spa, in fact we book a spa day. I am afraid I have very few good words to say about the experience. I have been to many spa in the UK and abroad and this was the worst I have ever experienced, and yes we did complain. 
There are numerous shops on board selling everything you could want and not want. I did enjoy looking around the art gallery, there were some beautiful paintings and sculptures. They also have one of the largest libraries on a cruise ship, I love a library!
Relax and Enjoy
There are so many activities and events on board the ship throughout the day. I enjoyed watching the cake decorating demonstration, but I also enjoyed doing nothing. The midships bar the perfect place to enjoy a cocktail and a book, or relax listening to background music of Micheal Bubble singing. The Commodore Club which enjoyed spectacular views looking out of the front of the ship was another spot for relaxing as the ship sailed.
Cocktails and cakes Midships Bar Cunard Queen Elizabeth
Cocktails and cake at Midships Bar Queen Elizabeth
The Weather and the Sea
I enjoyed the experience of cruising, I never once felt sea sick and the majority of time I would not have been able to tell you we were even at sea. The weather for the UK in June/July was good, we had some sunny but fresh days when we sailed and visited the islands of Scotland. However I was a little disappointed that fog descended when we arrived in Guernsey, and luckily we were one step ahead of the rain in Ireland. 
Cruise around Great Britain Cunard Queen Elizabeth review
Walking the promenade deck
We did have a few peculiar moments, twice one evening the ship lost all power and it was plunged into darkness. We were reassuringly informed by the captain that we were not in any shipping lanes and were safe. We hit choppy water at the top of Scotland, so had to adjust our course and back track slightly, this was the only time I felt like I was at sea and whilst at the aft of the ship was a little unsteady on my feet.  
Cruise around Great Britain Cunard Queen Elizabeth review
Here I am enjoying fine dining in the Britannia Restaurant
You had to pay for wi-fi access, it was around $40 for an hour. Therefore I hardly used my ipad and social media with the exception of one very important thing. Whilst on holiday the final Game of Thrones episode of season 6 was broadcast, so I did pay for wi-fi so I could download it onto my Sky Go app somewhere off the coast of the Orkney Isles. Phew! I would not have survived the holiday not knowing what happened. 

Ports of Call
I wanted to find a balance of enjoying the ship and using the facilities whilst also enjoying the ports of call. Each destination offered the opportunity to explore with numerous organised excursions available for a cost. Or you could step of the ship and explore on foot. I had not really given it much thought when booking but the ship did not dock directly at all the ports, a number of them the ships anchored off shore and the port was accessed using the ships small tender boats. Time consuming and not a particularly pleasant experience if I am honest. 

I have much more to tell you about the different ports of call, so do check back over the next few weeks as I publish more blog posts about my cruise around Great Britain.

Cruise around Great Britain Cunard Queen Elizabeth review

Will I cruise again? 
I think so, but I don't think I will be a cruise fanatic. I certainly enjoyed waking up and finding myself in a new destination without the chore of feeling I had travelled there.  I do fancy a cruise around Norwegian Fjords, or through the Panama Canal. 

Have you cruised? I would love to hear your recommendations.

Read my next Cruise around Britain blog post  - Port of Call Edinburgh & Falkirk Wheel.

If you know someone who would find this article interesting please do share it with them. Or if you have any questions please leave me a comment below and I will do my best to answer.

Cruise around Great Britain Cunard Cruise Ship Europe
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Cath Kidston Knitting Book Kit Striped Scarf

I have completed my first knitting project of the year. A funky, bright stripy scarf created from a Cath Kidston Knitting Kit. I received the kit as part of a campaign to promote knitting to keep warm during winter.

About the Knitting Book Kit
The scarf knitting kit comes in a tin that is decorated in a pretty design that looks like a book, and is perfect to have out on display.

Inside the kit you will find  a pair of bright red metal knitting needles, six balls of acrylic yarn, a pattern sheet and and instruction booklet on how to knit.  The instruction booklet has lots of detail on the different aspects of knitting such as how to create different stitches, including how to cast on and off, how to change coloured wool. You can choose to knit your scarf using the basic pattern with the knit (garter) stitch or one of several others detailed in the pattern sheet. Which very usefully includes photographs of each design.
Changing Yarn Colour
I have knitted a scarf previously but always with the same colour yarn, this scarf design required numerous changes of yarn to create the stripes. Following the clear instructions this was something I easily mastered. This particular pattern also has a slit in the scarf so that when wrapped around the neck the one end slots through the slit to secure the scarf. You need to cast off and cast on stitches part way through a knit, another first for me. It was a little tricky at first casting off some stitches and continuing knitting part way through the row, I think my yarn tension could of been better when casting the stitches back on in the next row. But I know for next time.

It took me around two weeks to complete, some days I knitted 2 rows a day some days 4 and occasionally none at all.  I had no problem knitting with the acrylic yarn, the colours are just perfect. There are a large number of stitches per row and it is a tight squeeze on the needles, but I managed. I did have to add a drop of superglue when one of the knitting needle end fell off. 

This is a good knitting kit suitable for both a beginner and someone with more skill who can follow the advanced patterns. 

If you purchase any of the items above using my link, I will receive a small commission. This income allows me to share my recipes, review and crafting adventures with you.
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3 Kitchen Cleaning Tips You Need to Know

Let’s face it - cleaning the kitchen is probably not your favourite pastime. Luckily, there are a few simple tips you can put into practice that could help put the sparkle back into your cooking space. To find out how to fine tune your cleaning regime, keep reading.

Photo credit: Pixabay

1. Swap your harsh scouring pads for a damp, lint-free cloth

While scouring pads do have their uses, did you know these kitchen accessories could be doing your cooking space more harm than good? The rough bristles of the pad might be good for removing tough stains and splatters on some surfaces, but they could be too harsh for others.

For example, if you have solid wood worktops, it’s likely these surfaces are covered in a protective oil. By using a scouring pad on this type of material, you could risk rubbing the oil away, meaning your countertops are much more susceptible to damage. As kitchen specialists Worktop Express point out on their website, you should use a damp, lint-free cloth instead, being careful to use only a small amount of soap and avoid using multi-purpose cleaning products containing harsh chemicals.

2. Clean your microwave with lemon slices
Your microwave is probably one of the most useful gadgets in your kitchen. However, since it’s likely that you use this appliance on a regular basis, it can be easy for its interior to become extremely dirty. The truth is, cleaning it out can be awkward and a bit of a hassle, but if you’re not careful, dried food and liquids can build up over time, leaving you with a microwave full of germs and bacteria.

The good news is, there is a simple trick that will make cleaning your appliance much easier. Simply fill a shallow dish with a few slices of lemon, place it in the microwave and turn it on for two minutes. The steam produced will soften the dried food, making it easier for you to wipe it up, while the lemon slices will leave it smelling super fresh. It really does work and is a method I have used time and time again.

3. Get a squeaky clean oven by using bicarbonate of soda
Like your microwave, cleaning out your oven can be tricky. Even if you put in plenty of elbow grease, you may struggle to get the inside looking squeaky clean. So, if you’re fed up scrubbing to no avail, you could try using bicarbonate of soda. Although you might be more used to using this as a baking ingredient rather than a cleaning tool, it can be highly effective in helping get rid of muck and grime that may have built up inside your oven.

To see how it works for yourself, open your oven door and sprinkle the bicarbonate of soda on the door, bottom of the oven and, if you have one, inside your roasting tray. Next, spray water on the soda until damp, then leave it to sit for a few hours. When you come back, you should find that you can wipe the dirt away quickly and easily.

4. Get Shiny Clean Chrome Taps
After using the lemon slices to clean the microwave, rub them on your chrome taps. They help with limescale build up and add extra shine.

By following these four simple tips, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy a super sparkling kitchen.

Disclosure: This post is a collaborative post.
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Patchwork Wall Art Mollie Makes Issue 65

A few months back I made my first patchwork item, using fabric swatches and a pattern from Mollie Makes magazine issue 65. There were a number of craft suggestions including some easy items suitable for novice sewers, me being me jumped straight into difficult. At first I was some what confused by the terms patchwork and English Paper Piecing (EPP), what are they, were they the same?. I can not say I am particularly clear on it all now but I do know that I enjoyed making my first piece of patchwork using English Paper Piecing. 
Sewing patchwork star art Mollie Makes issue65 tutorial video

I find kits very reassuring to use, no need to think about having the right amount of materials, do the colours work together, what size template do I use.  Most of these issues are taken care off, you can just get down to the fun of creating. I needed to supply the thread, button and material used for the panel.
Sewing patchwork star art Mollie Makes issue65 tutorial video

Watch How I Made My Patchwork Wall Art - Fun Stop Motion Video 
Whilst I was creating my Star shaped patchwork I took photographs of each stage and put together a rather clever stop motion film. It was fun to make the video I do hope you enjoy it. 

Want to see more of my crafting and unboxing videos - check out my You Tube Channel. 

How I made my Patchwork Wall Art
The instructions were reasonably straight forward, though a little basic for someone with no EPP experience.  I did have to do a little looking up on the internet to make sure I stitched my EPP templates to the fabric correctly, and the type of stitch to join my final star shape. 
Sewing patchwork star art Mollie Makes issue65 tutorial video
As with anything you make for the first time you always learn something. For me if you have corners in your EPP design these need to be accurate, making sure you have stitched your shapes together neatly is key to a clean looking patchwork design. Basically do not rush it and take your time.

Would you rather create using a kit or do you like to let your creativity run free?
Sewing patchwork star art Mollie Makes issue65 tutorial video
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