Calling Time

We have all the time in the world…. 
I struggle to balance everything, I have so many ideas, I buy fabric inspired by a project, then another project comes along and my studio space fills and fills and fills. The days go by, I read blogs and am inspired, flickr is full of beautiful hand crafted items, ideas flood my imagination until I simply reach saturation point. What I crave is the time to create. 
I have often heard others say the same, they have no time for creativity; usually at this time of the year I make a resolution to spend more time doing.
I am determined to really crack it this year, so I am resorting to a time management technique by doing a time audit. Although for a week it is tedious to write down every fifteen minutes what I am doing, but it will hopefully help me to appreciate where my time goes. (Best done when we have all returned to our normal routine in January!)
As a creative I struggle with schedules, I hate timetabling but housework will take as much time as you will give it. It is hard to spend all afternoon sewing while a pile of washing sits in the corner. Scheduling can be a friend, it means that everything is divided into manageable chunks, so that once the chores for that day are done, the washing pile is not so intimidating because I know that I have scheduled time for it to be done I don’t have to worry about it. 
Another great friend is a menu plan, it saves the constant worry that creeps into my sewing time knowing as the hours tick by that hungry people will be looking to me to be fed. Menu plans not only help with the daily choosing of what to cook, (which can be draining in itself) but it makes shopping more effective as you only buy what you need. It means that your food is not frozen solid hopefully because you can check the menu plan and get the items out of the freezer. If the idea of a menu plan seems daunting, just look back on the last few weeks and you will be filling in your plan in no time. 
One poem that really puts time into focus …

Imagine there is a bank account that credits your account each morning with £86,400. It carries over no balance from day to day.
Every evening the bank deletes whatever part of the balance you failed to use during the day. What would you do? Draw out every penny, of course?
Each of us has such a bank. It’s name is TIME.
Every morning, it credits you with 86,400 seconds.
Every night it writes off as lost, whatever of this you have failed to invest to a good purpose.
It carries over no balance. It allows no over draft. Each day it opens a new account for you. Each night it burns the remains of the day.
If you fail to use the day’s deposits, the loss is yours. There is no drawing against “tomorrow.”
You must live in the present on today’s deposits. Invest it so as to get from it the utmost in health, happiness and success!
The clock is running!! Make the most of today.
To realise the value of ONE YEAR, ask a student who failed a grade.
To realise the value of ONE MONTH, ask a mother who has given birth to a premature baby.
To realise the value of ONE WEEK, ask the editor of a weekly newspaper.
To realise the value of ONE HOUR, ask the lovers who are waiting to meet.
To realise the value of ONE MINUTE, ask a person who just missed a train.
To realise the value of ONE SECOND, ask someone who just avoided an accident.
To realise the value of ONE MILLISECOND, ask the person who won a silver medal at the Olympics.
Treasure every moment that you have! And treasure it more because you shared it with someone special, special enough to spend your time with. And remember time waits for no one.
Yesterday is history.
Tomorrow is a mystery.
Today is a gift.
That’s why its called the present.

Happy New Year, I hope it will be one filled with fun and creativity.

Merry Christmas

Living in a flat I did not have the room for a large tree, so I decided to make this little area my Christmas decoration. It is hard to photograph but with the little lights twinkling around the mirror and along the top. The little house has a little tea light holder and I love the snow globes. I like this gorgeous retro blue, instead of the traditional reg and green. 

This is a close up of the little tree decorations, the cotton reels are no bigger than 2 – 3 inches, (you caught a peek of them early in November) I hung a few beads, some lone earrings,  I just love the little kissing doves. 

This might just seem a rather modest little decoration but after living with other people for the last couple of years, it is so nice to finally have a space of my own to decorate. I look back to last year when I had just moved in and was living on my own I am in such a wonderful place now I feel truly blessed. 
Wishing you a very Happy Christmas and a year full of health, wealth and happiness for 2013. 

Cushy number

We are having family to stay over Christmas and bought a lovely white sofa bed. The great thing about the colour is that is possible to update or change the look simply by sewing different cushions. I had some of this clarke and clarke fabric left over from a few projects so I thought I would make some new cushions. I simply love this design the birds and roses are lovely. There are so many colours and the duck egg blue is one of my favourites. Once I had made the cushions I thought it needed a nice fringing  to give them a finishing touch, which was all the excuse I needed to go to the Eternal Maker
After walking round Chichester in the pouring rain purchasing the final gifts for Christmas I decided I would treat myself to a visit to the store which is simply delightful. Not five minutes through the door I was offered a lovely cup of tea and decided to participate in their make and take. It was a little button tree, which was delightful to make as there were huge pots of buttons to pick from. Daisy talked me through the project and it was like sitting with a good friend. Living in West Sussex is wonderful there are so many fantastic fabric shops, clothkits is in Chichester too, one of the many reasons I am so happy to be here. 
Little button tree made at the Eternal Maker. 

Top of the Pots

I never used to understand why people would make pot holders until I bought a lovely cast iron skillet. After years of using tea towels, scrunched up or oven gloves that always seemed to be so padded I ended up nearly dropping things, these little pieces of cloth are perfect! 
The heart is embroidered with a fancy machine stitch, I created it as a practise piece when I was trying to get to grips with my sewing machine and never really knew what to do with it. It was also another fad of dyed wool blanket which came out a beautiful thick consistency and a lovely christmassy red. 
I love the cosiness of the red and the white and the bias binding was a great ebay purchase all the way from Poland. I think they will be my latest fad, there are so many variations and designs out there and it is a small simple project to play with, far more manageable than a huge double quilt! 
With time so limited these days, I often just want to make something quick in the afternoon in the short time I have available, and these are ideal, I am sure I shall be adding to the list of pictures over time. 

Weekend baking

I like to make a cake at the weekends I came across this lovely recipe for Cinnamon and apple crumble cake. I have also been investigating spices and herbs as medicine; cinnamon has sugar balancing properties, which help the body deal with the highs and lows of a sugar rush. It is an all round good spice which also has anti-viral properties which is why it is an excellent cake to eat this time of year. 
 Since I am a huge fan of apple crumble this seemed to be the perfect cake for me, however the perfection in the recipe book has eluded me, if you look closely you will see that the sponge base disappears in the centre. I find recipes that don’t work really annoying, this is my third attempt to get the cake to work and I am disappointed again! It tastes ok, but still does not look like the picture promised. 
The first time I made it the sponge base was uncooked, despite lengthening the time in the oven, the crumble topping began to burn. (The method was to put the apples onto the uncooked cake batter)
The second time I made it I cooked the sponge base first, then added the apple and the topping, but the crumble did not work well. I finally realised that in order to make an effective crumble you need to use butter straight from the fridge, otherwise the flour and butter blend into a dough needing more flour which results in a dry cake. This third attempt, back to cooking all three layers together did not work, the rising cake mixture had no where to go so ended up disappearing from the middle and going up the sides. 
So now I think I have perfected the recipe, so here goes. (will post a picture at the bottom when I have made it again, but for the moment we have too much cake!) 
Apples 
Peel, core and chop two large or three small apples and place in a saucepan, cover in water, add two tablespoons brown sugar, a teaspoon of cinnamon, and a handful of cloves, bring to the boil and simmer until the apples are softened but not mush. (about 10 minutes) Drain and leave to cool, pick out the cloves as they are not tasty to chew on, but they do bring out the flavour of apples so well. 
For the sponge base
4 oz butter, 4oz soft brown sugar which you beat together until pale and creamy
Add cinnamon (to taste) and two lightly beaten eggs, gradually, add 4oz flour a spoonful at a time between each addition of egg to stop it curdling. 
Add a teaspoon of baking powder and mix together and then put into a 8inch cake tin. 
Cook at 180 GM 4 for 10 – 15 minutes until slightly firm. 
Cover the sponge with the apple and return to the oven to continue cooking. (By cooking the sponge first it gives it the room to expand before adding the apples). If you put the apple directly onto the raw cake mixture it will have no room to expand and will move round the edges. 
Crumble topping
Rub in 4oz of chilled butter into 6oz of plain flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs
Add 3oz of demerera sugar and cinnamon to taste (1 – 2 teaspoons) mix together. 
Remove cake from oven and top with the crumble mixture, cook until the crumble topping is brown and golden and a knife comes out of the cake clean. You can see the cake mixture has escaped round the edges and landed all over my oven! hence the suggestion to pre-cook the sponge. 
Delicious when warm with custard. 

Perfect Christmas?

December is always busier than I realise, I get lulled into a false sense of security the shops start selling Christmas goods in September so I learn to ignore them until suddenly its the second week of December and Christmas cards drop through the letterbox which gives me a sense of alarm as I have not written any yet! 
I do enjoy Christmas it gives a tremendous focus for creativity, not just present making but decorating the house and cooking special food. It has taken me a number of years though to get the balance right. When I was first married with a young baby, I would try to create the ‘perfect Christmas’ which often left me worn out, stressed and not great fun to be around. I would put so much pressure on myself, mostly fuelled by the magazine articles of ‘create the perfect Christmas’ or ‘The best Christmas dinner menu’ or ‘wonderful party food’ that I somehow lost all the fun. 
Now I put on my filters remembering that Christmas is just one day and it is all about having fun with those you love and care about. I plan a menu of what we are going to eat, not because I want it to be the best turkey ever, but it means that I don’t overbuy, in turn meaning I don’t over eat. I have lost count of the number of times I have filled my trolley with Christmas essentials, nuts, chocolate, fruit, cakes etc, so that my home is a constant buffet. I eat chocolate thoughtlessly, fruit very often turns because I have overbought, and I don’t enjoy the lovely meal because I am full of chocolate! 
I learnt to let go a little, the children got far more pleasure out of decorating the Christmas tree than I did with my careful arrangement, sometimes it was a case of balancing it up a little when they were asleep but I began to take pleasure in subverting the ‘Christmas perfection’. It was revolutionary not to be perfect; less stressful and a whole lot more fun.
I am far more competitive than I realise, but the competing that is going on is not against anyone else it is against this ‘illusion’ that is created by magazines usually in August! The competitiveness is from my desire to reach that ideal, re-create the perfection for my family, and it begins to sound rather like a nasty critical taskmaster in my head, pointing out the faults in my home crafted imperfections against glossy illusion. I have taken part in a magazine shoot and seen behind the glossy images, now when I look at the stunning home ‘set’ I look for the practicalities, yes it may look beautiful but you cannot live that way. 
This taskmaster voice that suggests everything should be ‘home made’ so that I have very little energy to enjoy visits of friends and family. Now I just decide what is more important? To impress someone because it is made from scratch, or simply to relax and enjoy their company. 
I found the same was true for the rest of the year, I used to hide the cake that sunk in the middle, or the biscuits that had gone a little too ‘caramelised’ but now I laugh with my friends about these things;  it helps to shatter the perfection illusion and allows them too to be imperfect. I think that is the greatest gift of all.