Sunday, 26 December 2010

But what about the reindeer?

Father Christmas got his mince pie, clementine and Calvados.
But what about the reindeer?

Not even a carrot?  I love carrots.

And what are all these big socks doing here?
And why is there a tree in the house?

I'm very confused.

And now there's half a roast chicken in the kitchen that nobody seems to have noticed.
I'll have to cry for two hours until somebody deals with it.
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Saturday, 18 December 2010

Christmas creations

In 24 hours I have gone from this:
 and this
to this
and these

My old Christmas cards, from several years back, chopped up and zigzagged onto cards.  Was quicker than I thought.  You know the feeling, starting a project and going beyond the point of no return, then thinking oh, hang on, this is going to take me until next week to do.  Well it didn't. 

This post, on the other hand, has taken two days.  Partly courtesy of Blogger's shenanigans, but also underestimating the time it took to break off for the careful and altogether sticky process of filtering and bottling and labelling my Christmas booze presents - Sussex Sloe and Wealden Wodka. 

May have something to do with the necessary quality control checks.

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Sunday, 5 December 2010

Richard's pies

 When I saw Gina's mincepies with this recipe I just knew I had to give them a go, not least because of Richard Bertinet...

About a year ago, I found this video of Richard Bertinet making dough and fell head over heels...I even bought one of his dough scrapers (or "scrappeur" to pronounce it correctly).  I did try making dough his way, but there isn't enough free airspace between my worktop and my kitchen wall cupboards to sling it about like that, and it all got a bit messy...

ANYway, the Girl must have caught hold of the name, because soon after a character arrived at the Royal Perquencwoo (a Lego town built on her bedroom floor which I have to try and hoover around) called.....Richard Bertinet.  And he appears quite regularly in her stories and newspaper articles about the Perquencwoo as well.

So here is Richard Bertinet, and his mincepies.

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Friday, 3 December 2010

Little quilts


I finally finished something for my Wednesday Workshop A4 quilt.

I dithered for ages (approximately 10 months) with what to do for my quilt, and finally got fed up of dithering last week.  So I grabbed some fabrics and a collagey piece made as an experiment, and stitched them all together.

And the Girl, thus inspired, set about making her own. 

I lowered the machine speed right down to 100 (stitches per minute?) but after a short while she was confident enough to get it up to 200 (I usually have it set on max, 880).  She also got the hang of lowering the needle into the fabric by using a half-hitch on the foot pedal and swivelling around her corners, learning faster than some adults I have known. 
Start 'em young.  She'll be wanting her own machine next...

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Saturday, 27 November 2010

WMD mincemeat

I made some mincemeat, using a recipe off the 'net, attributed to Mary Berry...

All recipes looked different, and the sainted Delia's recipe didn't seem to have enough alcohol...only 3 tablespoons...the supposedly MB recipe I found had 200ml.  That's a third of a pint.  I had to rummage on the top shelf under the stairs to find enough booze in one bottle, as our purely medicinal calvados is down to a thimbleful and the brandy from That Supermarket is reserved for the cake.  Some dodgy rum from a French supermarket should do the trick...

As soon as I poured it in, I knew we were in trouble....just one teaspoon of the mix to "test" and I had my wobbly boots on...and the experimental baked apple with mincemeat stuffing made for a distinctly drowsy evening semi-comatose on the sofa.

Hopefully if we keep it at the back of the cupboard it won't spontaneously combust and will mellow nicely ready for next year.  I will have to try again, and yes, will probably use the Delia recipe along with the rest of the English-speaking mincemeat-making world.

Much more successful was a new ginger cake recipe found here

Don't pay any attention to what it says about rubbing in the butter - just melt it in the pan with the sugar and syrup and milk, then pour it all into the dry stuff.  And when you add the egg, mix it all up quickly - I was afraid it would scramble.  The only fiddly bit of the recipe is chopping the stem ginger. 

 Definitely the easiest ginger cake ever made, only one egg required leaving lots of eggs available for more cakes, and very delicious with custard: the Girl was deeply chuffed - spag bol for tea, followed by cake and custard.  Apart from an imminent piano exam clouding the horizon, it doesn't get any better than that.
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Friday, 19 November 2010

Where else...

....would you put two trumpets and two trumpetees, other than a summerhouse at the end of the garden?

And whose idea was it to give 30 nine year olds trumpet lessons? 
With free trumpet, no excuses, no get out?
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Sunday, 14 November 2010

Misc stuff for a misc week

Embroidery, done as a teaching sample but I liked it so I did some more and stuck it on a card.

Birthday cake for someone's breakfast - the candles are in dog years...

And a quick round of pop-up pirate whilst cooking dinner:

Sort of sums it up, really.

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Sunday, 7 November 2010


The first thing I did when I was Programme Secretary for our Embroiderers' Guild branch was to book Carol Naylor to come and give a talk.  She came yesterday, and despite a few technical hitches with the slide projector, we had a lovely afternoon.  I just love her work.  Sigh.

I have also worked out why my jeans don't fit any more:

There are four Granny Smith apples in there somewhere, the ones that were sautéed in butter, they seem to be buried under that mountain of whipped cream...somewhere on top of the layer of toffee....not quite as far down as the crumbly biscuity it's a fruit-based dessert, almost a health food in fact...
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Saturday, 6 November 2010


It's amazing what you find when searching for recipes for romanesco cauliflower...

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Hedgerow jelly

Finally remembered to ask my neighbour if I could help myself to their crab apples to make my hedgerow jelly: all the other ingredients have been lurking in the freezer since September, and we needed the space...

A combination of sloes, elderberries, blackberries, rosehips and crab apples, which produced a lot of little jars of very dark purple very sticky jelly.  There is a very definite elderberry tang to the taste, though... 

I made elderberry jam ealier in the autumn, as I couldn't resist picking them.  I knew there must be something I could do with them, and a friend told me to make jam to use as a cough remedy - dissolve one teaspoon in a mug of hot water at the first sign of a cough or cold.  But the stuff tastes so foul that nobody around here dares even sniff....

But what do I do with 8 jars of hedgerow jam with elderberry tang? 
I was going to give my neighbour a jar to say thank you, but I'm not sure now...
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Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Dolly got some new clothes

She'd already had the haircut.

Her companion was created a few weeks back:

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Fudge 2

Just to completely finish myself off last night with more standing around in the kitchen boiling up sugar, I had another go at the fudge.  Success!  Not fudged, but fudge!
What I was looking for was something like this, possibly the best fudge in the world.  What I made in my second attempt wasn't the best fudge in the world, but was quite good: it had the crumbly texture we like, not sticky or gooey, and best of all it didn't split or burn or end up in the bin....
Fudge 2
150ml milk (I used 50ml double cream and 100ml milk, to use up the cream)
50g butter (I used unsalted - again, to use it up - but added a teaspoon of salt flakes)
1tsp vanilla extract
400g sugar (I used a mix of golden caster, and ordinary white granulated)

Put everything together in a pan (use a large, heavy based pan as the mix bubbles up and takes up more than twice its original volume when boiling).

Heat on the lowest heat possible, stirring all the time, until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved. Tip the pan from time to time to check for granules. This will take ages, but don’t be tempted to turn up the heat.

When you are ready, stick in a sugar thermometer – clip it to the side of the pan if possible. Crank up the heat and get the sugar bubbling.

Watch the thermometer like a hawk and turn off the heat as soon as it gets to “soft ball” or 116°C. Stir the boiling sugar mixture occasionally so that it doesn’t burn on the bottom, but be very careful not to get splashes on your skin – use a long-handled wooden spoon! The mixture will have changed colour a little, becoming more golden.

Leave it to cool for 5 minutes (set a timer) then beat the living daylights out of it with your wooden spoon. As soon as it starts to look less glossy, a little grainy around the edges, pour it into a lightly greased 20cm square baking tin. If you wait too long to do this, it will set hard in the pan….spread the mixture to the edges and smooth out as best as you can with a firm spatula or metal spoon. Leave it for about 10 minutes then cut it into squares, then leave again until it is completely cool.

It won’t keep long…

The secret this time round seemed to be boiling it up more carefully, stirring the bottom of the pan.  The previous batch seemed to have caught on the bottom, which made it much darker in colour.  It had probably overheated which is why the butter separated out...I think the salt might help too...I did spend quite a lot of time on Google trying to work this out...It also has half the butter, so it's better for you.  Ha!

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Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Thanks for that

Thank you Hugh for the wasted two hours and the washing up and the lake of brown butter that was poured off the gritty grainy mass of brown sugary squidgy stuff currently "resting" in my baking tin and pretending to be fudge...A wonderful way to spend a rainy afternoon!

Any fudge experts out there?  Why did my butter separate?  Should I have used salted butter (Hugh calls for unsalted).  Should I have stirred it while it boiled up to soft ball (Hugh says don't stir).  Did I heat it too long before boiling up?  I was patiently trying to get the sugar to dissolve...Did I whack up the heat too dramatically to reach soft ball?  Did I beat it too much while it cooled?  (Hugh says it can take up to 10 minutes of beating).  Is there any way of rescuing it?  I tried reheating it but to no avail...

We're disappointed and forlorn.  Even the puppy looks sad, but he's a whippet and it's raining and Dad went away for the day with his waterproof coat in the boot of the car...
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Friday, 22 October 2010

Now we're getting somewhere

How about combining both bits of felt, using both "wrong" sides?  Aha.  I think I like where this is going now.

Meanwhile, we had a night out - with babysitters and everything (yes, literally - slippers, knitting, dog, dog bed...) - first time for about two years - I'm not kidding.  And what did we go and do?  We went to see this:

And I whilst I wasn't the only girl, the audience was mostly male and slender...GOSH I want to go and see the Tour again!  We 'll have to get the child into a posh school so we can go on holiday in July...

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Frosty morn

Woke up to a frosty morning - not this view, unfortunately, but frosty nevertheless. 
I say "woke up", but as the whippet had cried three times in the night (4ish for a spot of business in the garden, 5ish and 6ish because he was cold and we'd forgotten his pyjamas) I wasn't really asleep...
The above is Mother's track to the cottage in Wales, taken in February.  I forgot to take my camera out this morning , too busy being cold with hands shoved in pockets.  Also too busy being tired and too busy trying to recover from last night's teaching - an observed teaching session.  In other words, someone came and sat in the corner going through my file, then kept trying to chat to me but was unable to due to:
  • five machines with tension issues
  • one machine continually snagging the thread on the needle and needing constant rethreading. 
  • two people with embroidery feet they didn't know how to fit
  • one embroidery foot inexplicably jamming up and stalling the machine
  • several cases of people stitching their hoops into their work
  • one wonderful textural example of what happens if you leave the presser foot up whilst free machining
  • one exploding foot pedal, complete with acrid smoke
Could have been worse - the three who removed their feet altogether could have stitched through their fingers.
(That last sentence only makes sense if you are a  machine embroiderer).
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Wednesday, 20 October 2010



I discovered a book about how what you do for a living should be as much like play as possible (I haven't read it, just reserved it at the library).  In the meantime, I've been playing with my embellisher, because it is still sitting on my desk from the weekend's experiments.  But how can I get paid  for doing this?  That's the question.  Hopefully all will be revealed...


My husband suggested that because the sewing machine and embellisher are now "out" on the same desk, perhaps I could work them simultaneously, a bit like Jean Michel Jarre or Rick Wakeman...two foot pedals, two pieces of work, off the embellisher and onto the sewing machine.  Now THAT's multitasking...

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Monday, 18 October 2010

While the cat was still away...

On Saturday I took over the kitchen and dyed some old wool blanket, recently acquired from the charity shop.  Boiling bits of it up in a pot was slightly more successful than using a plastic tray, particularly when I discovered (after pouring in a kettleful of boiling water) that one of my trays had a crack in the corner.  It didn't really "felt" though, and I know from bitter experience, and a long session with buckets and towels and rubber gloves, that putting it all through the washing machine on a hot wash just clogs the filter...
So after creating lots of blue fluffy mess, which I left to drip dry in the bathroom, I was feeling a bit despondent.  So I tried something else.  I used wool fibres, and silk, and fabric scraps and thread snippets to try making some "paper" using cellulose paste to bind it all, in the same manner as making silk paper.  So the sample above is one sheet drying on the washing line, and here is some more:
Not sure what I'm going to do with these yet, but I have a few projects in mind...the top one reminds me of a highland landscape, with a distant red tin roof peeking above the peat bogs.  That's if I squint at it with my lenses out, otherwise it's just a blue thing.

Reinspired, I then dug out the ol' embellisher on Sunday morning.  One of my soggy woolly dyeing experiments was a piece of prefelt which I have had kicking about for months, to make a background for another "chimney" piece.  It had dried overnight, so I embellished it together with another piece to create my cooling towers.  I then wet felted it, and as I was rolling it and unrolling it and rolling it again, I came to realise that I preferred the back of it to the front.  Except the cooling tower was then on the wrong side. 

So I had to do another one, reversing the positioning, so that the cooling tower would be on the right side of the wrong side...if you see what I mean....except I now prefer the right side of this second sample, not the wrong side, which means that the cooling tower is STILL on the wrong side....

And lo, I ran out of time because the little Brownie returned and slept for 12 hours and now it is Monday morning and time to clean the bathroom.

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Saturday, 16 October 2010

While the cat's away...

The cat in question being a 9 year old Brownie away at camp.  The mice being her parents.

(I did make 12 chocolate cup cakes for said Brownie to take with her, so I'm not that mean...)

It's ages since I posted anything, mostly because I haven't taken any decent photos of things I have done or made...I took a photo of my soup the other day (chorizo and cavelo nero) but it didn't look that exciting.  I thought a sticky chocolate cake was marginally more interesting...
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