Saturday, 25 August 2012

Keep on Buzzing

Have just given Sandra her Beehive Tea Cosy so I can now post a picture.  I didn't want her to see it before I gave it to her because it was part of her birthday present.  

6oz wadding makes it extra plumptious but it needed the walking foot to help it through the machine.

A close-up of the bee and honeycomb flower.

I've been writing the pattern for this over the Summer Break.  David cut me some bees and there will be a hand-painted bee included in each pattern. There will be some patterns available at the Mad Hatter's Tea Party (all proceeds to Macmillan).  Click on the link on the right for details and do come along to the Crafts House to support this - it will be great fun.

It's raining outside and I'm going to snuggle up under a quilt (August Bank Holiday weekend - really?) and do some knitting this afternoon although I can feel a bit of a snooze coming on.  I shouldn't waste good crafting time snoozing but sometimes your eyes just get too heavy don't they?

Later I will be continuing with some goodies for the Autumn Craft swap which I'm thoroughly enjoying - I'll put pictures up after I've sent them off just in case Anne peeks!  I'll also be putting the finishing touches to some Mavis and Gladys things ready for the first class on 24th September which is also Steph's due date!

Friday, 24 August 2012

Oh no - spending again!

I was craving a bit of peace and quiet this morning so I decided to go up to Stichin' Heaven on the 697 for a browse (I'm kidding - I wanted to get some fabric).  I spent a bit more time on my own in the car than I expected because there had been a crash on the Southbound side of the A1 and everyone was slowing down to have a look.  Strange things aren't we?  It took an hour to cover seven miles.  

Anyhoo I arrived at the shop and picked up some lovely country purples and golds that I REALLY needed.  Then, as it was well gone lunch time by then I decided to call in at the Milkhope Centre at Blagdon for a spot of lunch.  Mmm, ham and cheese flan with salad and a delicious mug of coffee.  Of course it would have been rude to leave without having a quick peep in the Pine and Cane shop.  Lo and behold they had a little milk jug that I had been looking for since my friend gave me a mug a couple of birthdays ago. Joy!  By the time I had called in to the farm shop for a piece of beef so our Sunday lunch I was feeling rather spent up.

Oh and the postman delivered the Sizzix dies I had ordered last week.  I better check my bank balance to make sure I can get the shopping in for this 5 week month.

I put my name down to the the Cosy Autumn Swap at Blueberry Hearts .  I'm teamed up with Anne at Marmalade and Catmint and I'm really looking forward to it.  I'm a swap virgin and am childishly excited at the prospect of a) having an excuse to make something and b) getting pressies in the post when it's not my birthday!  

I have already sorted a couple of items so I will be getting my head down very happily this weekend for the other things.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Umami and other pleasures

When I was at school we were taught that there were 4 flavour groups the tongue could distinguish - sweet, salty, sour and bitter.  Not so many years ago I discovered that there was a fifth distinct taste - umami.  It was actually identified over a hundred years ago but I didn't know that the flavours I love (marmite, mushrooms, anchovies, worcester sauce, soy sauce to name a few) had a name.  

My mother had the same experience when she was younger.  One evening, when we were visiting my uncle and aunt, she confessed that she didn't know what an orgasm was until she was more than thirty years old.  My father looked crestfallen.  When she saw the look on his face she assured the assembled company, much to the embarrassment of my brothers, cousins and I, that she knew what it felt like, she just didn't know the word.

Language is a wonderful thing.  My father, physicist though he was, loved English Literature.  His shelves were full of books ranging from Shakespeare's sonnets to particle physics and he never lost an opportunity to slip a new word into a conversation, even apparently when we were babies.  Thanks to my mother though I learned the meaning of such words as abstruse and verbose at a very young age.

Not knowing words doesn't mean that you haven't experienced their meaning at some point in your life, but knowing how to express the subtle nuances of meaning certainly gives me pleasure.

Tescos (according to myth £1 in every £7 you spend is at Tescos) sell the pleasure of Umami in a bottle:

What I would like to know is - when are they going to bottle the other thing?

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Baba Ganoush and Baby Blocks

Ta dahhh!  The Baby Blocks (Tumbling Blocks) quilt is ready for action!  I had a lovely day today, painting in the morning - a good natter with everyone. Great to see David has passed his exams and got a place at Uni on his 18th birthday, congrats David.  I also came home with a lovely new stamp and some mini pegs with beehives on them and it's not even my birthday.  Thanks Sandra.  

When I got home all was peace - Will was out on his bike, John was at rugby training and Steph was in Newcastle.  Despite the heat I decided to crack on with the last session on the Baby Quilt.  Even though the rest of the quilt was hand stitched I decided to machine the binding because it makes a much better edge and saves my poor finger tips.  Here it is:

The colours are not showing up very well - it's blue and white not blue and light blue.  I hand-stitched the binding to the back of the quilt and then fell asleep! Not a very good idea when it is so warm. I've loved doing this in the simple colour-way but may start a little ongoing project using colour values which I think will make a very interesting pattern.  Next on the list for the baby is the strippy quilt and a little knitted blanket to keep him cosy when the cold weather comes.

Last night we had baba ganoush (aubergine puree).  I charred the skins over the gas and then baked the aubergines until they were tender -

These are the other ingredients although I only used half the chilli -

So simple - just mish everything together and serve with whatever is in the salad box.  The garlic was a bit powerful though as it is not cooked but there were no vampires within a hundred miles last night!

I absolutely love having lettuce leaves with dip, don't know why but they just taste good, especially the soft leaves.  This was a butterhead lettuce, cheaper than chips! 

We had crispy chicken tonight with desiree potato wedges and cabbage stir fried with a little bit of bacon and cream but we were all so hungry we ate it all up before I could take any pix!  The crispy crust was made with breadcrumbs and polenta mixed with a little grated parmesan and some chopped lemon thyme and loads of freshly ground black pepper.  The polenta makes the coating extra crispy.  My brother sprinkles it over roast potatoes - mmm.

I'm back to work on Monday getting ready for the GCSE results next week. I've enjoyed my two week break even though I haven't crossed much off my to-do list.  The days aren't so long in the holidays so I'll have few more essential jobs and projects done before the kiddlywinks return to school in September.  I've nearly finished Sandra's guinea pig.... more on this next week.

So a bit of prep work tomorrow and back to the day job - I've enjoyed the extra time to paint, quilt, blog and share recipes.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Quilts, bumps and another salad

The 12 rows of the tumbling blocks are done and ready for the borders. First I trimmed the extra bits to make a straight edge along the top and bottom.

Now it is ready for the borders. 

I was going to use one of the three fabrics from the blocks but they didn't really go because all three touched the inner border at some point and made the pattern 'float' out. So Steph, her bump and I decided to go to the Cotton Tree, have a bite of lunch, and choose some inner border. 

We chose the inner border but the cafe was closed (boo hoo) so we went to the garden centre across the road. 

We came home via Mothercare and Mamas and Papas.....  How much??? Luckily they have been given a lot of things for the baby but I'm pretty shocked at the cost of things - and the amount of things those kind multi-national firms think that people 'need' for their children.

Tea tonight?  Another salad. 

Lovely fresh (bag of) leaves together with roasted butternut squash, a bit of crispy bacon, some feta and a sauteed baked potato (left over from yesterday's tea but not normally part of this recipe).  It should have had pine nuts but when I got there the cupboard was bare.  

John turned up with a bottle of bucks fizz (£2 Aldi) and a tin of rice pudding. Dined like kings we did.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Button up!

It's all quiet in the house while the babies (24 and 26) sleep.  I am going to have a little session with the tumbling blocks before breakfast - I'm on row ten of twelve now. Hopefully I will be able to get the borders on and sandwich it ready to quilt, maybe not today but tomorrow should do it. Tumbling blocks are quicker to quilt than to piece so that's one of my to-do list that looks achievable.

This week I have been enjoying a bit of button therapy:

I think I'll make some cards with the little hens.  The watermelons may very well feature in a summer wall-hanging at some point - I'm thinking around a picnic theme and the bees are all part of the guinea-pig project.  All will be revealed soon.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Basking in the sun

This morning was taken up with giving the blog a bit of a face-lift.  It's a work in progress at the moment.  I have a guilt complex because it is so sunny and warm at the moment and I shouldn't be sitting indoors.  I don't like squinting in the bright sunshine and I don't like being too warm, but there was a bit of a breeze and I do need some help with the Vitamin D so I found some shade and took my little table outside.  I am working on some hexagons for a project so I took a break from the tumbling blocks.  I love the crispness of the blue and white but my soul craves deep rich colours.  

I am actually going to change the design slightly for this project (Sandra is going to be my guinea pig), so the hexagons will feature in a modified format - but more of this later.

The breeze was wafting the scents from my little herb garden.  I have some lovely pineapple sage and quite a few different thymes as well as rosemary and bay.  The  marjoram is in full frothy flower at the moment:

The lemon thyme next to it has finished but it was lovely being able to decorate dishes with the fragrant flowers.  There are a few blueberries lurking on the bush in the foreground which I have earmarked for blueberry muffins.

A  bumblebee hovered around the flowers for about half an hour.  He disappeared and came back with some friends.  I took some pictures but the camera is not good for close-ups. However I got some overtime for some weekend work we did in July so I am going to treat myself to a camera that will be able to take close up photographs with much sharper detail.  I used to have a fabulous camera back in the day when you had to load film in.  I have a picture of Will (number one son) on the beach - the picture is so sharp you can see the separate grains of sand on his fingers.

Well I'm going to sew some more tumbling blocks tonight and maybe cut the fabric for a baby strippy quilt, but not before I tuck into the pizza which John has just brought in!

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

A salad for all seasons

I love raw food.  Not because it's quick to prepare although that is a distinct advantage when you're late home, hungry and tired.  I love it because I feel better when I've eaten it.  You can't always say that about food.  Well I can't because sometimes I eat rubbish. I always regret it but there's something in your brain that craves the sugar, or the salt or the fat and I'm not very strong willed - quick gratification nearly always lead to long term regret. I love salads of nearly every description and this one never fails me, winter or summer.

Gathering the ingredients for today's version:

New potatoes
Chorizo (it's usually smokey bacon)
Gruyere Cheese
Romaine lettuce
Avocado pear (rare addition)
lemon and oil dressing

I decided to dry fry some pumpkin seeds for texture.  They swell up and are slightly nutty when fried.

Assembled and ready to eat in less than 15 minutes (that includes cooking the potatoes).  A small glass of merlot and a few shavings of parmesan over the top finish the dish perfectly. Light enough for summer and satisfying enough for winter.  Each bite has a nugget of flavour and you can choose your favourite ingredients  for a an infinite variety.  I had one with 'gesiers' instead of cheese and bacon but I'm not sure what they are and not sure I want to know!  They tasted good though.

New Season Mavis and Gladys

If you click on the Mavis and Gladys tab you will see the plan of the next few classes.  We're really looking forward to continuing the journey with the 'bees'.  No surprise that the first block of the month will be a Tumbling Block.  It's always better to have a made up sample of a block - even better if it can be in a quilt.  Pictures really don't do any quilt justice.  I'm busy working on a Cot Quilt for John and Steph's baby at the moment - it is due the same day as the class so I may not have it with me after all!  

There are different ways to build up the tumbling blocks quilt.  If you're not sure of the final orientation of the blocks it is best to make them up separately and then sew them together.  It is much quicker (not to mention more thrifty with the thread) to build up the quilt in rows.  This is how my quilt is coming together:

I have left the bunny ears on the edge to show how they are sewn on.  I trim the sides as I go.  The top and bottom are not trimmed until I'm ready to put the inner border on. 

I haven't crossed too much off my to do list (with the exception of sitting staring into space) but I feel much refreshed and the house is a bit tidier.  I'm staying at home this afternoon waiting for a delivery so I'll be sewing more blocks.  First though I'm going to iron and then finish the little charms I got at Sandra's on Saturday.

Tonight for tea we will be having Salad Paysanne.  I first had this in France on a camping holiday when the boys were small.  (When we went there was only one pool - the smallest one in the picture if you click on the link)  The salad has new potatoes, cubes of gruyere cheese and little pieces of smoky bacon in it.  You can add other things like chopped up de-seeded tomatoes, or maybe some toasted sweetcorn, but the base must be a good crispy lettuce (not, heaven forfend, the ubiquitous iceberg).  It's mixed up and well dressed  - not like the plates of separate, naked salad items that you get in this country - no grated carrot or watery cucumber.  I'll take a pic tonight.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Yipee! Let the holiday begin!

I have two weeks and one day of wonderful holiday. No foreign trips, just me at home doing what I love.  Work has been a long hard slog for months now. We are having an £8m refurbishment at school and we have had to 'decant' into half of the building.  Getting up at 6am and coming home after 9pm is not quite how I would want to spend my time.  However, the move is done, the school is closed for two weeks and the builders have moved in.  It will be nearly two years and a few more moves before our building is complete but for now the quilt lamp has been lit.  I started my break with a cup of builder's tea and a scone and then I prepared my sewing:

This is my must-complete project for the summer (well before 24th September to be in time for the 'special' event).  I love tumbling blocks. Sometimes I piece them in rows and sometimes in blocks as above.  I always iron my blocks as I piece - it's personal preference of course - I use a dry iron and press straight down.  No steam until the final press and then only a little. Turning the seams makes for a nice flat finish and suits my sense of order. Order is my blankie in times of stress.

I have a long list of things I want to do (or should do - like decorate the hall) but I know I probably won't get through everything.  I am, however, determined to make the most of the time I'm at home because I've felt like I've been wading through treacle lately.  I will also make sure I have time to stand and stare, I'm good at that!

For now I'm just off to make some scrambled eggs on toast for tea and then I'll be back stitching and listening to the Olympics.  Mmm - holidays.