Lulamae’s cake and do

On the last Wednesday of the month Lulamae’s holds a cake and do, this month we made these cute little hearts, just getting ready for Valentines day. It was so lovely to chat and eat cake (again!) I love the fabric which is one from Mollie Makes. 

the back is lovely too! 
I have been enjoying needle felting, which is dry felting you can shape the wool by stabbing it with a long sharp needle. I made this little teapot badge, it is such a therapeutic hobby, and so easy to achieve results with. 

Re-invention of wooly wonder

This cushion started out as a jumper from a charity shop, it is a gorgeous cashmere wool jumper in a lovely delicate shade of pink, although the computer does strange things with colour! It is also square, but the angle of the camera gives it a slight wedge shape! 
Before the transformation, I love the scarf too, but give me time and it will magically transform to something else. 

Here is the detail of the middle panel which I have smocked, I love the depth of the smocking it really gives the cushion some lovely structure. 
Will post a tutorial on how to make your own but could not wait to share, as you can see it still has my chalk markings on it! 

More vintage finds

I could not resist these two little beauties in my local charity shop, it is a great place to find some gorgeous china. One is jasmine and the other is camomile, but they are lovely bone china and I adore the wide brimmed shape, they have a lovely fluted design on the sides. They are marked as Royal Suffolk, I could not wait to get them home, give them a wash and then get out the tea pot. They are delightful to use, and my friend T is coming round soon, so I guess it is time to re-fill the pot! 

Girlie Birthday Party – tea cake and crafting!

I bought this lovely basket last year and when it had finished flowering I put it in the garden, last week I discovered the bulbs had pushed through the snow so I brushed it off and put it on the kitchen window sill where I can enjoy it while I wash the dishes. It is a lovely reminder that spring is not that far away. 
I had a lovely weekend, after the gym on Saturday I just hung about the house enjoying having very little to do, and on Sunday I had my Girlie birthday party at Lulamaes in Arundel. Its ages since I had a Birthday party but this was a very grown up affair, with cream tea, cakes and crafting. There were ten of us in all and everyone went  home with a lovely felted brooch or pendant they had made. The cafe itself is beautiful, so delightfully decorated and the cakes are home made and sublime. Everything was provided for us and all we had to do was sit down, chat and enjoy ourselves. I went home feeling thoroughly spoilt with some beautiful gifts – definitely a birthday to treasure for a long time to come.  

If wishes were fishes…

January is supposed to be the most depressing month of the year, but is usually a month where I ponder on all the opportunities that lay ahead- the large blank diary that sits on my desk is a physical manifestation of all those days on every page waiting to be filled. 
After the bustle of Christmas and the high exuberance of seeing in the New Year, I feel now is the best time to make plans,  when everything is closed, it is too cold to go out and the spring flowers and bulbs are buried deep beneath the hard frosted earth.  
I find it heart warming to make plans about places I want to go and things I would like to do. Winter is a time for resting offering an opportunity to simply dream and plan.  So many people are down on winter, but I think contentment comes from acceptance of what you can’t change and turning it to your advantage. It is about focussing on what makes you happy, so for me winter means cosy nights – snuggling on the sofa in my warm home while the rain drums on the windows and the wind sings round the roof. 

So I come to my wish jar – it was just an ordinary jam jar, but now it is a very elaborate one. It has no top for a reason,  a magical element to it – it is about attracting what I want in my life, so no barriers or lids, I want to draw it all in.

The idea is to fill the jar with things I want to do – this can be about life ambitions, or simply about gallery visits, or places of interest or even fun activities. So I have the John Soanes museum in there already: I have been meaning to go to the museum for ages but have never got round it it. 

Other things are shopping lists of plans I have for my home – I want a mirror wardrobe in the bedroom. 
The idea is that at least once a month or maybe once a week, you take out a wish and make plans and allocate time to do that – not necessarily there and then but book a date – then do it! If you can’t do it alone, get a friend to do it with you.  
Is it magical really? well I am not sure about that, some people would suggest that it is about ambition, focus – other people would say it is all about the law of attraction – I just know it works and I believe in it wholeheartedly.  
A couple of years ago I wrote that I wanted to be a published writer, and within a few months I just happened to go on an outing with a friend of mine – he was into photography and wanted to see an exhibition with some friends of his. Well they were nice guys, but very into the technical aspects of photography which left me a little bit out of the conversation – but I was enjoying listening to them. One of the guys suddenly sat down next to me and asked me if I enjoyed sewing – it was such a bolt out of the blue – completely unrelated to what we talking about. It turned out that his wife was an editor of a sewing magazine and she was looking for contributors. Within days I had met with her and talked about thirty ideas I had – three of which she commissioned – within a few months I saw my name and article in print and got paid for it. 
I don’t really mind how you see it, wether you think it is magical or not, for me I like to believe in a little magic, that somehow it is possible to draw things into your life that you want. I know that it all sounds very simple, but there is a flip side to this. It is called gratitude – it creates a connection and a joy of seeing the wonderful gifts that are given to us every day – sometimes all it takes is the ability to focus – have eyes to see them. The second is to be thankful – to send a message back of appreciation. 
So I have a thank you jar – there are two lovely elements about this jar – who doesn’t like to be valued? A thank you is always something that shows appreciation and it also means that it is more likely to happen again – back to the laws of attraction. So it is also an invitation to the universe to send more! 

The second element to the Thank You jar is that when something lovely happens it is jotted down and put in the jar – so at the end of the year it gives a great record of all the lovely things that have happened. They can be simply getting great service, or the kindness of a stranger or the sheer joy of walking in the pristine white snow. What this exercise does is create positive memories of the year. 

There is a school of thought that time flies when as you get older, the theory is that it is unique experiences that embed in our memories – it is why we have so many childhood memories and so few after that time. Each new experience marks time so that by the end of the year we have packed a lot in – as we get older, our brains switch off from repetition so that there are no markers to look back on – hence time flying – a year can pass and we wonder what we did. 

Well this jar is a beautiful way to see how many blessings there are in your life – I expect mine is going to be full to the brim by the end of the year. 
It was such fun, I haven’t done painting for ages! The jars are brightened up with a mixture of glitter and PVA glue – it usually needs a few coats with drying periods in between to build up the glitter. The objects are then just glued on using a hot glue gun! I have trouble stopping at this stage as there are so many opportunities for glitz! I used butterflies on each jar because for me they represent transformation. 
You can make one any time of the year, birthdays, holidays or simply wet wednesdays. 

Coffee Break

I have not abandoned my sewing machine, I have been busy stitching away, but I cannot really share what I am up to as I have to send it to be published! However, I can share with you my little coffee cosy which is published in Sewing World this month. I also wrote about our local sewing group called the Blake Belles.
I was inspired by a small box of ribbons!  This makes a good two or three cups so I needed to keep it warm, but coffee cosy sounds so odd! 
The weekend flew by in warm contentment, I spent most of Saturday playing around with fabric as it was too cold to go anywhere, the snow had settled – the roads icy and hard. 
 I made a fruit cake this week, with a few seeds and nuts in the mixture. I have quite a sweet tooth and so I try to have something on hand that meets my needs but isn’t too calorific, but most importantly is good for me. 
Sleet settled in for the afternoon, but I took the dog for a walk in the wintry conditions but really did not stay out that long – the dog kept on stopping and looking up at me every few moments! 
I made some lovely red pepper soup – I really like the intensity of flavour you get from slow roasting peppers – they are so sweet. I am also trying my hand at bread making, with some success. It is very simple to make the hardest thing is having the patience to wait for it to rise. Like us all it is also about staying warm! 

January snowfall

It was a lovely surprise to wake up to snow this morning – we don’t often have it in this part of the country. The weather forecast was for rain this afternoon so I took an early morning stroll with the dog and my camera. 

There is a wonderful peacefulness that seems to come with a snowfall, sounds are muffled and for a moment it feels as if I have stepped into a christmas card. I love that first step onto a pristine white path – the sound as the snow compresses under my feet –  the footprint patterns and the dog bounding around enjoying the new scents. 
The gold fish pond is frozen over, the brown skeleton weeping willows stand like silent sentinels waiting for the thaw of spring. I feel as if I am the only one awake in this silent world,  a lovely way to start the day. 

Simply the best

It is all well and good trying new recipes but my success rate has taken a bit of a bashing recently, after all the festivities and rich food, what  I wanted at the weekend was a touch of simplicity, –  I thought I would go back to an old favourite of mine, Victoria Sponge. Named as I am sure you know, after Queen Victoria. 
This is a foolproof recipe – this cake is made from 6 eggs, simply weigh your eggs, add the same weight of sugar, self raising flour, and softened butter, (not straight from the fridge it won’t work!) a good teaspoon of vanilla essence and a teaspoon of baking powder ( for every three eggs – 6 eggs =2 teaspoons). Mix together to form a soft dropping consistency – using two lined round cake tins – place in a moderate oven for around 20 – 30 minutes. You will know it is cooked because it will shrink slightly around the rim, have a golden colour and will not leave any cake mixture on a cocktail stick that you can push through the centre to check. 
It is important to let the cake cool completely before icing. 
Victoria Sanwich relies on the combination of butter and vanilla, so I always use butter and not margarine, however Stork can be a good alternative for the cake, but I always recommend butter for icing. While I am a great fan of the cupcakes, I prefer my victoria sandwich with just a little Raspberry jam, but you can ice yours with buttercream if you wish. 
What I love about this recipe is that it works for me every time, there is nothing more disappointing than using good ingredients and spending time in the kitchen only to have a soggy or disastrous cake, but this really has stood the test of time even my daughter uses the recipe. 
I love to get out my china tea service and really push the boat out, I feel very Duchess of Bedford! (She invented the concept of Afternoon Tea so I am told!) China tea cups really do make the best cup of tea, not to mention a good full bellied pot! 

Homespun Vintage – Book Review

I love books and there is nothing I enjoy more than sitting in Waterstones with a pile of books to browse through, a cooling latte at my elbow and time to relax!

My family know me so well that they give me book vouchers for Christmas – to me they are a ticket to adventure – book shops are just like travel shops each one offers an experience to travel from your armchair! This morning I spent a very happy hour, (always best alone so I am not dragged out! I can browse for a long time without feeling guilty!) in Waterstones Chichester.

I found this delightful book by Jane Crowfoot, the photography is delightful – giving crochet and knitting projects that charm. She has caught the vintage trend very well, but has broadened it out with folksy projects (Folk Tales) alongside Art Deco (Two tone Chic), and modern vibrant retro vintage (Time for Tea) to create a timeless collection of patterns and designs that are inspiring and will have knitters and hookers reaching for their wool.

Saucery in the soup Kitchen

All packaged ready to go
My vegetable delivery comes on a Friday from Able and Cole and the fridge was still full of vegetables, two large butternut squashes, three large red peppers, tomatoes, carrots, 1kg of onions, 1kg of shallots, mushrooms and sweet red potatoes! We were only just finishing up the Christmas food so I decided the best solution was to make soup and some roasted pasta sauce.  
It is more than likely the easiest method for making soup – I chopped the butternut squash, onions,  a clove or two of garlic and sweet potatoes into a large roasting dish, covered them with some olive oil and slowly roasted them for about an hour in a low oven, (gas mark 4). 
I also chopped up the red peppers, tomatoes and some more onions in another pan, smeared basil and olive oil over putting them to slowly cook. Making use of the whole oven, I filled smaller oven bowls with mushrooms & garlic and simply shallots in oil. The only attention it needs is a mix now and then, just to even out the cooking. 
In an hour or so, the vegetables have gone beautifully soft and dense with flavour and the aroma fills the house with a lovely home cooking smell. You can leave them with the oven switched off to slowly cool – for me it intensifies the flavour as I imagine the oils being absorbed into the vegetables as they cool.  
To make soup;
Use your largest pan – sweat off some onions in olive oil, moving them slowly but not over mixing
until they are soft and translucent. 
Add your roasted vegetables ensuring you scrape every last bit of oil from your roasting dish with a spatula – every drop of oil is infused with flavour it is a shame to waste any of it. You can also pour  some of your hot stock  into the roasting tray, this will make sure every last bit of flavour goes into the soup. 
The amount of stock you might need is dependent on how many vegetables you have – you want to aim for one third vegetables two parts stock. I use Kallo organic stock cubes, they don’t contain monosodium glutamate, and they give a lovely flavour. 
Allow your soup to slowly simmer, you want to aim for the odd bubble to surface not a rolling boil, leave the lid off and let the soup condense. 
Depending on your preference, you can blend the soup or simply leave it chunky, it is just a case of waiting until you have the consistency you enjoy. Be aware that if you have used salt, the saltiness will increase as the water evaporates – I tend to leave salt out as the stock cubes often have salt in them. 
You can add some fresh chopped ginger, or turmeric, both of which have ant-bacterial qualities which are believed to help immunity.  To give it a really lovely flavour add two or three tablespoons of creme fraiche or yoghurt. 
For the pasta sauce add;
Add a tin of chopped tomatoes to the red peppers and tomato mix, a couple of tablespoons of Balsamic Vinegar, a dash of worcestershire sauce, two teaspoons of brown sugar and then finally the whole mushrooms and shallots. You then slowly re-heat in a saucepan when you want it. Like all good sauces allow the flavours to develop over a day or so, but don’t leave it more than three and always ensure you warm it up properly.
You can freeze these in batches, but this must be done as soon as it has cooled.  I decided to take a couple of jars of soup to some friends, they are a great pick me up, full of organic goodness, just what we need during the winter months.