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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Sunday, 10 October 2010


Found the above inside a building at the Weald & Downland museum.  I went in to look at the woodcarvers, but found this old piece of horticultural netting woven with ribbon and lolly sticks by school children much more interesting...
And while I'll never be able to afford a weekend course at West Dean, I can at least watch someone scranletting in front of it:

So after a day spent in the open air watching ploughing and hurdle making, meeting lots of long dogs (not all friendly), finding piglets playing in the coppice and breathing wood smoke, I have returned home with an urgent need to
  • dig out my drop spindle and find someone who can teach me to use it
  • find instructions for making nettle string
  • help N find a tractor - just a small one; I believe a Massey Ferguson 35X would fit the bill
  • find a little place with a log fire and a few acres to plough up every now and again, and an orchard and a few piggies and some chooks and a veg patch and some sheep (for the fleece)
  • buy a lottery ticket?
Meanwhile, my blog ban didn't last, but I may have found a way to deal with the creative block thanks to a  book I splashed out on at the Knitting & Stitching Show.  So I have got my To Do list under control and may even throw out my Tyvek...
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Sunday, 3 October 2010

Brownies badge crafting

 Girl has been working towards her Brownies craft badge. 
 The lethal weapon above is a selection of paper beads, recently varnished, drying..
We have already stitched an owl and we're very pleased with the result despite a slight incident when his head exploded due to over-zealous stuffing, requiring emergency surgery...Will post a pic when the sun comes out long enough to allow a decent photo.
Meanwhile, I'm going to try a self-imposed blog ban for a few days.  After an hour spent sat at my desk moaning because I didn't know what to do or where to start and I had to start cooking dinner soon anyway, it has been decided (by committee)  that I need to concentrate on my own ideas and not get sidetracked by all the beautiful blogs with too many ideas and things to try and websites about bento boxes and sticking things on stones and vegetable based recipes and oh look, a Crocs sale....
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