A little Geisha

Just look what I found in a charity shop, a pretty little dollie from Monsoon. It looks as if someone had a go at making her but lost interest just the sort of project I love. 
Now I don’t really need a doll, but I thought she would make a lovely doorstop. I used the soap powder bottle as a way of giving her a bit of stability and filled it with salt to add weight to so she can hold the door open. It was such a lovely little project to work on and she does do a grand job, don’t you think?

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Beautiful and functional!

I think I must have been a magpie in an earlier life, for I am always picking up pretty little things, I think the place you create is just as important as what you create. I love to have things around me that are not just pretty but functional these two lovely dishes make the perfect place to keep pins and sequins while I am working.

I made the pin cushion I could not resist the fabric when I spotted it in a patchwork shop in Romsey. The felt centre is part of a dying phase I went through a couple of summers ago. I would collect old blankets and dye them beautiful colours, a much cheaper way of getting felt. The centre button is vintage reminding me of the hours of joy I had playing with my Nan’s button tin. I love the heart shaped pins they as so pretty but impractical they are too thick!

I also pick up paperweights they make it so much easier to lay out patterns and you can adjust and measure much easier when trying to measure the straight of grain. 
Ribbon does look lovely when it is all rolled up, they look like little peg dolls!

If you are going to have storage, then I think it should look pretty, these little jars and bottles make finding things just that little bit easier, and they are inspiring for projects. 

Tea Tales in Winchester

It is difficult to get the real size of this cup, but it was as high as my waist! 

I had to visit Winchester for business, it was not the happiest of visits, but when I came out my mood was lifted when I discovered that Winchester Library had an exhibition on Tea, celebrating the Great British Love for the amber nectar! (Ok I know that phase is Aussie, but it sounds good!)

I used to visit the library years ago and the building was impressive but it was the epitome of libraries in the 1980’s full of very dusty books and prim librarians. What a change!
The Winchester Discovery Centre is a fantastic library certainly the way ahead, full of interactive displays computers and books! they have a permanent display space that can host exhibitions for local groups as well as their own.

This is one of the earliest ‘teas made’ dating to the 1950’s. I had one when the children were small and they are excellent.

The tea cosy has a little china doll figure at the top, my Nan had one very similar. They were so pretty those days I remember I was not allowed to play with it. I have been thinking of doing a similar type of tea cosy, but have yet to find the right doll!

The pincer things are for breaking up the sugar into cubes! and I did love the pretty victorian china cup beside it.

Some of the signs really were beautifully done, I can just about remember liptons

And Lyons tea, but I have never heard of Nectar tea or County tea. 

This lovely picnic basket was complete with its flasks and tea cups, imagine lugging that around today? The little tin was a pretty sleigh design, I love the pretty design of the cake stand, reminiscent of the 1950’s as it formed part of the celebrations for the Queen’s Coronation. 

It was the Duchess of Devonshire who set the trend for Afternoon tea, to bridge the long gap between luncheon and Dinner, which in the 17th Century was often as late as 8pm. In those days the lady of the house would have a little water urn and make the tea for her guests, so there were lots of silver urns made in that period. Tea was a very expensive luxury, and tea caddies were often locked. 
The tradition about wether or not the milk goes first came about during this period, china manufacturing was in its infancy and therefore only the most expensive porcelain could withstand the heat of the tea without cracking, hence by putting in the milk after the tea shows the quality of the service and the wealth of the hostess. 
This tea urn is Russian, they are also a nation of  black tea drinkers  however, it is usually served very sweet and black.

It was a great exhibition and totally free! Which is always a great thing.

Skirting around the issue

 I love the feel of cord, it is such a lovely soft fabric and it feels better as it ages. It is one of those comforting fabrics that you put on during the first chills of Autumn.

I discovered this little skirt in one of my regular haunts; I often look at the shape of something rather than the colour, I simply have never been a beige kind of person, but it was a very lovely skirt and it called to be given a new identity.

A line is such a flattering shape so I decided that I would change the colour and see what happened. The problem is that there are so few dye colours about, I had the choice of purple or fushia pink, (among others but not half as exciting!).

Since cord is mostly cotton it took well but the ribbon had changed colour and was rather insipid. Just when I was trying to think about what to do next I spotted a flower design on someone’s skirt. It gave me an idea.

I never tire of looking at other people’s clothes and have been known to admire the pleats in someone’s skirt or the detail on the sleeve. Most people find it odd when I complement them in that detail as most people simply say I like your skirt but then I have never been ordinary.

Sometimes that is how a project goes, I get so far and then I am not sure what to do next, but by sheer chance I had been invited to meet the editor of Sewing world. I had to come up with a number of ideas, and I had taken the skirt along together with an idea of my version of the flower. It was my first commissioned article and it did prove to be quite a challenge, my advice is to stick with your first idea!  Some would say, it is more my colour, some would say they could never wear something that bright, but I love it. More importantly, it is unique, recycled and feels so lovely and warm.

poppy

This is the second poppy painting and my favourite, it is acrylic on canvass. I painted it as a wedding present for a friend of mine. I love the way the centre of the poppy seems to come out of the painting. I love poppies for their deep colour, this was my second painting ever, so I was very pleased with the results. Sometimes I wonder why I don’t do more painting! There are just not enough hours in the day. 

We are all a little fragile

I used to read lots of blogs, in fact I had subscribed to so many there was hardly enough time for me to write my own! I would create a new project, photograph it and be all enthusiastic about writing it up and showing the world what I had done, however, the first thing I usually did was look at what everyone else was up to. By the time I had seen everyone else’s projects mine suddenly did not seem so great. Suddenly I would lose interest in what I had done, often not blogging it at all.

We are all human as children we are grouped together and put in order, tests tell us where we are in the scale of who is better at tests, that comparisons become human nature, we do it without thinking. We walk into a room and we notice who is thinner or prettier or who has the nicest dress, we might cover it up, we might smile and engage in small talk, but at the back of our minds is this small 7year old girl who knows exactly where she stands in the group.

What makes matters worse is that we censor what we write, we project a truth about ourselves that is not entirely the whole truth. Mostly because no-one really wants to read that you found a spot on your chin, but also because we feel that we have to have it together, because it seems everyone else is! So today’s post is about not getting it together!

My friends are always giving me so much encouragement, they marvel at my new creations which really boosts me, but they also believe that I a some sort of super woman. A lovely friend of mine comes here to learn how to sew and making mistakes is part of the learning process but she told me she expects I never made a mistake! I told her I had to throw away most of what I made for years before another wonderful friend did exactly what I am doing, took me aside and very patiently helped me to sew.

So here is my little confession! Since I moved my cooker has not been getting up to the correct temperature, however this only became clear when another fault developed and I had an engineer come out. Well every time I have tried to bake cakes they have ended up flat as pancakes! They were often so bad that I did not even tell anyone I had made them! I would hide them in the bin. I could not understand why I was doing exactly what I had done for years but it just did not work.

I joined a marvellous ladies group here in the village called Blakes Belles, I had signed up for a cake decorating day and had to bring along some home made cakes! EEK! So I decided that I would buy a cake! big mistake! I did not hide the fact that I had bought my cake but what I did not realise is that shop bought cakes are very soft! Each time I touched my cake with the icing, a huge chunk would come away!

here it is!

What a disaster! It was so terrible but the teacher reassured me that it would all be ok! I watched everyone else smooth over their buttercream with envy! I found it quite funny and it made me realise that cheaters don’t win! 
The teacher was correct though! Once the royal icing was over the top of the cake the disasters had been covered up! It was a miracle! 
I have always been wanting to try cake decorating, and the day was wonderful, once it got down to making things with the icing I was fully absorbed as was everyone else. The day was wonderful, everyone went home with beaming smiles because they had made cakes they were proud of! 
and so I did finally create a cake to be proud of, even if it was a bit of a journey. Like everything in life, it was a lesson learnt – nothing really is lost, it is just a case of perseverance! 

Golden harvest!

I thought I would try some different varieties of carrots on my little allotment.
I got these seeds from an on line catalogue they were a mixed variety some were purple others were yellow. They have grown up beautifully, and these taste divine!

I think carrots in the shops are pretty tasteless unless you buy organic, but by far are the ones you can pull up yourself, wash off and eat!

Carrots are very simple I found the hardest part is the thinning out, it seems so cruel to pull out the tiny seedlings, but unless you do the carrots don’t have room to grow. The other great thing about carrots is that you can plant all year round, summer and winter.

Strawberry Shortcake Butterflies


A friend of mine gave me a butterfly cutter that came with a cake decorating magazine, I was having a tea party for friends and thought it would make a different version of the strawberry shortcakes. Mine were just a simple outline of a butterfly but you may be able to get the push button ones from a cake decorating shop that does the impression as well as the cut.

You will discover there are two types of shortcake recipes some versions create a softer mix which is added to a shortbread mould, but this recipe requires a mix that can be rolled out.

Many recipes will allow you to use either butter or margarine, but for shortbread it really does have to be butter, it is not only traditional but gives shortbread its taste, using margarine will give you a bland tasting shortbread. I know butter is very expensive compared with stork, but if you are going to the trouble to make something why scrimp on the ingredients?

200g / 8 oz of soft butter (leave at room temperature for a while it makes beating easier)
100g / 4 oz Caster sugar
250g / 10oz Plain flour
50g / 2 oz Semolina

To decorate: Whipped cream, strawberries and a little strawberry jam.
If you are using fresh cream you need to keep them in the fridge until ready to serve, or you could use buttercream.

Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, you will see the mixture gets paler the more you beat. When it drops off the beaters easily it is about right

Using a fork, gradually mix in the semolina and flour until the mixture finally comes together, try not to handle it too much or you will lose the air from the mixture.

Press together to form a large ball and then place on a floured surface.

Flour your rolling pin and roll out until it is about 1/2cm thick.

Starting at the edge of the dough, cut the butterfly shapes out carefully – press into the mixture and then use a fish slice underneath to transfer to a greased baking tray, then remove the cutter. It helps to maintain the shape of the butterflies.

Make in pairs cutting the second butterfly along the middle to divide the top wings, move the wings slightly apart from each other so that they will cook separately.

Using a cocktail stick or a butter knife, make indentations to the wings like a butterfly.

Keep cutting the butterflies in pairs until all the mixture has been used up.

Bake in a moderate oven, 160c / 325F or GM 3 for around 20 minutes, until golden brown.

Do not touch the biscuits until they have cooled a little as they will be very soft and fragile. After 20 minutes or so gently ease them off the baking tray and put them on a cooling rack, until they have cooled down completely. (essential as the cream will run if the biscuits are hot).

Take one of the flat butterfly biscuits and place two teaspoons of cream and half a strawberry on each side, and cover with a small spoonful of jam.

Add another small spoonful of cream in the centre, and then press the inside edge of the wing into the centre cream and allow to gently rest on the strawberry. Repeat for the other side.

Continue until you have created all your butterflies.

You can dust with a little icing sugar if you wish, or some edible glitter, and serve.