The Adventures of Montgomery Mcvitty…..

My Mr Sharp works very hard, very hard indeed! I wanted to give him a little something to make him smile; something he could have on his desk at work to cheer him up when it’s all getting a bit stressful. I pondered a while. “What does Mr Sharp like when he is feeling a bit overworked?” I wondered…..”Tea!” thought I. “And what is better than a mug of tea?” I asked myself….”Tea with biscuits!” I replied! I thought and thought of how I could combine the two to be a permanent fixture on his desk at work. And from my pondering, Montgomery McVitty was born.

Biscuit mug!

Montgomery McVitty is no ordinary mug… oh no. Not only does he sport a well-groomed moustache and a distinguished gentleman’s monocle, Montgomery the mug has a mouth. “A mouth?” I hear you cry. “Yes, a mouth” says I. “But what use does a mug have for a mouth?” you ask. I agree, it’s quite obserd. But then again, it is actually a very useful thing for a mug to have. Our chap Monty simply looooves biscuits. He can’t get enough of them! When you fill his head with tea, biscuits are what he craves. So pop some tasty biscuits in his mouth and he will willingly share them with you whilst you sup tea from his brow.

"Nom!" says Monty as he stuffs biscuits in his mouth.

I do hope he will enjoy his new home at Mr Sharps office. I will be sending him a fresh supply of biscuits every Monday to see him through the working week. This week, Monty had Double Chocolate Chip Shortbread, and he decreed that he liked these very much. They really are truly delicious. So delicious in fact that the batch I made on Sunday to last all week had been devoured by Monday evening – oops! I’m now hurriedly baking another, much bigger batch to hopefully last Monty and Mr Sharp until Friday.

The recipe is very easy to make with just a handful of store cupboard ingredients. Here’s the recipe incase you fancy baking some too:

Ingredients

  • 175g butter, softened
  • 85g golden caster sugar
  • 200g plain flour
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 100g chocolate chips (milk, white or dark)

Method

  • Mix the butter and sugar together with a wooden spoon. Stir in the flour and cocoa, followed by the chocolate chips – you’ll probably need to mix it together with your hands at this stage. Halve the dough and roll each piece into a log about 5cm thick. Wrap in cling film and chill for 1 hr or for several days. Can be frozen for up to 1 month.
  • Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Slice logs into 1cm-thick rounds, transfer to a baking tray lined with baking parchment and bake for 10-12 mins. Cool on the tray.

Shortbread is definitely one of my favourite types of biscuits to bake at home, but I always feel guilty eating them when I have seen just how much butter goes in to them. I wonder if there is such a thing as a healthy, low-fat biscuit that actually tastes good? If you have such a recipe, I’d love to hear from you!

Biscuit mug

While Monty’s face would cheer the most solemn of folk, he does look rather sad whilst bobbing around in the washing up liquid…. His happy little face suddenly looks a bit panicked. Fear not Monty my friend, we won’t let you drown, it’s merely bath time dear chap! You need to look smart for your first day at the office.

Hope you are all having a wonderful week so far folks 🙂 TTFN! xx

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A wonderful mum

Me and my mum, 1983

I am blessed to have a wonderful mum, and a wonderful mum is she. She raised me with patience and love, inspired me, taught me, encouraged me, mopped my brow when I was sick, held my hand when I was scared, wiped away my tears when I cried. She put up with me as a moody teenager and still loved me unconditionally. She made my world a beautiful place filled with the wonders of nature, imagination, books, art, theatre, museums, galleries, experiences and adventures. We have been through a lot together me and my mum, but we’ve been there for each other every step of the way, standing strong together. I don’t know what I would do without her.

I often forget to take the time to tell my mum just how much she means to me. So, this mothers day I decided to make it a little bit special. I cooked a special lunch, baked the very best treats, laid out the best china and put flowers on the table.

A real hit was the cheese and onion tart I made, mum even asked if she could have a copy of the  recipe. I thought you guys might like a copy too, it’s so easy to make!

Ingredients:

For the pastry:

  • 250g plain flour, plus extra for rolling
  • 125g butter, cold and cubed
  • ½ tsp salt

For the filling:

  • 2 onions, sliced into rings
  •  1 tbsp oil
  •  2 eggs
  • 284ml pot double cream
  • 250g of any cheeses you like!   – I used a third each goats cheese, cheddar and brie

Method:

  1. Put the flour, butter and salt into the bowl of a food processor, then pulse until the mix looks like fine crumbs. Splash in 4 tbsp cold water, then pulse to a dough. Turn onto a lightly floured surface, shape into a smooth disc, then wrap and chill for at least 10 mins. Heat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6.
  2. Roll pastry out on a floured surface until large enough to line a 23cm loose-bottomed tart tin. Line the tin with the pastry, leaving any excess pastry overhanging. Line with baking paper, then fill with baking beans. Bake on a baking sheet for 15 mins. Take out the paper and beans, then bake for 10 mins more until pale golden and cooked.
  3. While the pastry cooks, soften the onions in the oil over a medium heat for 10 mins until golden. Beat the eggs and cream together, then season to taste. Crumble up the hard cheeses and chop or pull the creamy cheese into small pieces. Scatter the cheese into the pastry case, add the onions, then pour in the egg mix. Turn the oven down to 160C/fan 140C/gas 3 and bake for 40 mins until set and lightly golden.
  4. You can serve it warm, but I personally prefer to eat it once it’s been chilled in the fridge.

In keeping with my handmade pledge I made her a card using buttons from the button tin that has been passed down from my grandma, to my mother, and on to me.

Now that my mother has raised us kids and has taken retirement, she finds great joy in tending her garden, so I decided to buy her a cherry tree as a new addition for her little haven. Cherries are her favourite fruit, so I hope it will give her lots to eat!

It’s also my mum’s birthday tomorrow, so happy birthday mum, I hope you have a wonderful day and get spoilt rotten! You deserve it. xx

A whole lotta Rosie

“Animals are such agreeable friends – they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms.” ~ George Elliot

Amongst all the knitted creations here at Gizmo and Stitch Towers now lives an actual real life cat! And a very sweet cat is she. A few months ago, Mr Sharp and I adopted a dainty little elderly cat and named her Rosie (also affectionately known as “Catface”).

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We adopted her from a local cat rescue charity who had found her wandering the streets, very underweight, very confused and in a very bad way. She was lovingly nursed back to health by the devoted staff at the rescue centre and once she was feeling better they set about finding her a new home. Enter Mr Sharp and I, who once we met her, fell instantly in love with the teeny tiny but very elderly kitty, and took her home to live with us.

She wants for nothing apart from a lap to sit on and something to eat. Her hobbies include sleeping, cuddles, and purring. Oh, and walking up to us, standing by our feet, looking up at us with adorable ‘puss-in-boots-from-shrek‘ big eyes, and giving us a very loud meow for seemingly no other reason than to say hello.

Despite her elderly lady characteristics, every now and again, the kitten in her awakens and she hunts a little knitted mouse that the rescue centre gave her as a goodbye gift.

The little knitted mouse is very cute and lovingly made. I asked the lady at the rescue centre where it came from and she told me that some local little old ladies knit them up for the cats to play with, and sell a few at the local vets to help raise a bit of much-needed cash for the centre. However, the knitted mice where selling quicker than they could be knitted. The knitter in me got incredibly excited, “I could help this cause” thought I.

I contacted the lovely people over at Bustle and Sew to see if they wouldn’t mind me using their lovely knitted mouse pattern for the cause, and they agreed whole heartedly.They have even given me permission to share this pattern on this here blog so that maybe I can find some fellow knitters to help raise funds for animal protection/rescue charities up and down the country. So, are you a knitter? Would you like to help me raise funds for local animal rescue centres?

Ain't they just the cutest?

My plan is to knit as many mice as possible, and sell them at local vet practices, craft fairs, to friends and family, or online at my Folksy and Misi stores. All proceeds made will be given to the rescue centre to help them to continue with their good work.

Maybe you know of a local animal centre that could benefit from a charitable donation (lets face it, they could all use a bit of help). You could whip up some cute little cat toys to sell and raise some cash for them.  If you might be interested in helping to knit for charity you can contact me by leaving a comment below, or by emailing me at gizmoandstitch@live.com. Let’s use our knitting powers for good folks, lets help some charities and some furry friends.

My Nanny King

Whilst scrambling about in our very dark, somewhat musty, field mouse ridden, and disorganised loft, I stumbled across something that made me come over all sentimental, reminiscent and emotional. I found my Nanny King’s little blue knitting case. 

My Nanny King was called so because she was from the King side of my family; my mother’s side. The other nanny, from my father’s side was known as Nanny Ethel. I never quite figured out why one was named by surname the other by first name. She passed away when I was 16, and she had spent most of her last years quite poorly in hospitals, so all my real memories of her come from when I was much younger and she was still very active.

I remember odd things about her; the way she smelt of face powder and violets, her carrots were the nicest and sweetest I have ever tasted, how she was scared of her microwave (she was convinced it would give you radiation poisoning), when it rained she wore one of those see through plastic rain hats (I think I might try to make those the new fashion trend of 2010), how she used to put a little plastic cowboy on the box that contained the ringer of her phone so that she could tell if someone had tried to call her (which I never fully understood because she wouldn’t know who it was that had tried to call anyway thus making it all a bit pointless but very endearing), her horn rimmed glasses, how she would put empty glass milk bottles along her windowsill so that if someone broke in in the middle of the night she would hear them and be ready to strike – forgetting she was 7 storeys up, see through pears soap on her wash basin, a china doll on her bed that had red painted finger nails, and the crazy old lady who lived next door to her that loved saying “up yer bum”. The other thing I remember about her was her knitting, and her little blue knitting case.

I wish that she was still here so I could get to know her better, I kinda took her existence for granted growing up and I feel immensly guilty for that now. I found out recently that we share a love for the same hobbies; she used to be a dressmaker, something I am very passionate about and am doing numerous courses in, and she was a brilliant knitter. I wish she was here today so that I could learn some of her talents from her. She tried to teach me how to crochet when I was about 7 but I threw a massive paddy after about 2 minutes and she never tried again. I’d love to learn from her now.

When I opened the case, I suddenly felt as though I was back in her little Brixton flat. There was a faint smell of her on the wool. I even remember her using some of the wool that remains in there. I miss my nanny, she was an amazing woman and very inspirational. I wish I had a chance to know her better and still have her in our lives.

Inside that little blue case is a bewildering array of  knitting needles and crochet hooks that have not been used in many years. They are sadly not fulfilling their knitting destiny, and this weekend I intend to remedy that. In an ode to my nanny, I will arm myself with a pair of needles and attempt to conquer my fear of knitting patterns and try to figure how to knit something other than a scarf. I plan to do so without developing Tourettes and without causing harm to myself or others.

I may even attempt one of the many extremely retro/vintage patterns that I found within the case, they are fabulous (or hideously old fashioned, can’t quite decide…)