Saturday, 26 February 2011


There have been some sure-fire winners coming out of the oven lately.

Oreo brownies going into oven

The current favourite of No2 is Cookies and cream fudge brownies, by Lorraine Pascale.  I loved her Baking Made Easy series and have tried several of the recipes with great success.  I can also recommend the breadsticks and her meringue was perfect – soft and marshmallowy in the middle. Oh, and the crème brûlée


Oreo brownies on plate

I picked up a great tip in this series – to buy vanilla pods in bulk. It sounds a bit stingy, but I was finding it hard to justify spending almost £3 on just one pod for a batch of these brownies that got wolfed down by hungry boys, so a search online found me here. 25 pods for less than £10, now that’s more like it.  The smell was divine when I opened the package, which arrived the next day.


This fabulously sticky ginger cake is from River Cottage Everyday (I couldn’t find a recipe link).  It seems to get better and better the older it gets!


Sticky Jamaican ginger cake


My current favourite is packed full of currants – Hot Cross Buns, but without the crosses!  I have never made these before and I don’t really know why I was so surprised that they actually tasted like hot cross buns. I mean, what did I expect?!


Hot Cross Buns going in the oven


I think it was the jam glaze brushed on as soon as they came out of the oven, that made them look like the real thing.


Hot Cross Buns close-up


Yesterday, I made the same recipe but instead of making individual buns, I made it in a loaf tin and have been enjoying it sliced and toasted.

I am in a wonderful new relationship with the dough hook on my mixer and am no longer scared of yeast!  Today’s baking will be this… and this!

Thursday, 24 February 2011

February at Kew…

After some debate by email that continued late into Tuesday evening, Kristina and I decided to brave the weather forecast and go to Kew yesterday.

Kew hellebore (2)

I am so glad we did.  I think that the month of February is one that always seems grey, yet is filled with the promise of new growth and spring.

Kew pink camellia close-up

Kew didn’t disappoint and the early spring bulbs were just the antidote to the rain and drizzle.

Kew white crocus


Kew February bulbs

Kew blue bulbs


Kew scilla

Kew snowdrops and silver birch


I think I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.


We thought these snowdrops looked stunning set amongst this wonderful almost black grass.


Kew snowdrops with black grass

Monday, 21 February 2011


I’m not just peeling potatoes here, you know.

Peeling potatoes

I’m peeling potatoes wearing my new apron.  So I’m a little behind in the apron fashion stakes, but I got there in the end and I’m so glad I did.  It’s my version of Emmeline and I love it!  I knew I’d love it ever since I saw it way back here, it just took a while to come to the top of my list.  I made a couple of minor changes.  Firstly, I don’t really have any yard pieces in my fabric stash and so I couldn’t really justify spending £30 or so on fabric for this project, so I used four half yard pieces by adding the contrast to the bottom of the skirt to match the bodice.  I bought these Amy Butler half yards last year in a sale.  Being reversible I have got two aprons in one!

Emmeline cutting out
Emmeline pieces
Emmeline back unfinished

I think this is the first time I have actually made something to wear from a pattern since I was at school!  Over the years I have gained more and more confidence with my sewing from making things for the home and now quilting, and so I found the pattern really well written and straightforward.  I checked out the Flickr group discussion for any  tips or errata, and went with making the top bodice band double width and folded rather than seamed all the way round, and made the opening at the bodice side rather than the bottom of the skirt.  Nancy also suggested making the bodice a little longer as we’re both quite tall.

So here I am, posing in my kitchen ready to start my vegetable preparation marathon for family lunch!


Today’s sewing has been of much different proportions…


My arms are aching from just lifting this amount of fabric about…

Monday, 14 February 2011


I’ve got a free day today – the only one of this week.  I have been weak and so I got out my stash of Katie Jump Rope to have a play with for the thing that was supposed to wait in line.


KJR stack

I thought it was high time that this line of fabrics came out of the box and took centre stage in my workroom.  I’ve had a rough idea of how I wanted to use the fabrics and before I got my hands on the chair, I had the opportunity to have a play at upholstering a box cushion for a friend with the leftover scraps from the quilt I made her for Christmas.


Box cushion collage


Box cushion collage #2


The end result was just as I’d hoped and so I started out by cutting 2 1/2” strips and a 4 1/2” square for the middle.


KJR cutting strips


KJR 2inch strips

Then, starting with the square piece, I started going round it in a log cabin style…


KJR beginnings

…until it was the size I needed for the top of the seat cushion.  As this is only quilting weight cotton, I have decided to quilt it in pieces to hopefully give it a bit of strength and durability before I make up the actual cushions themselves.  I made a quilt sandwich with some batting off cuts and some muslin from my stash.  At first I quilted around each block but soon decided that I wanted something that looked more significant… so out came the seam-ripper!


Unpicking KJR


Now I am quilting it either side of the seam of the first square and then throughout the rest of the block.  I’m hoping this will give it a nice graphic feel.  I won’t be holding my breath over this project but it is something that I can pick up at any time and have a little go at when time permits. I’m already loving the feeling that I will be doing this project purely from materials that I already have, so the cost is virtually zero other than the reels of thread I am bound to get through. 


The rest of the week will prove to be quite heavy: I am visiting one of my bereaved parents tomorrow; I have supervision for my support work on Wednesday; I will be at St Mary’s on Thursday and on Friday I have a writing deadline to meet.  Today’s distraction has been most welcome.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Dipping my toes in…

I strongly believe in things finding me rather than me finding them.  A few weeks ago now, I was having a relaxing Sunday morning lie-in, with a big mug of coffee and my laptop when I read Lynn’s post.  I’d been thinking about doing a photography course for quite a while and when I followed the link, Vivienne’s words spoke to me very powerfully and before I knew what was happening, I had signed up!


Sitting down on the job


It has been such a great thing to do and has really pushed my own boundaries with my camera.  As you know, I am a huge fan of macro and close-up photography but have never considered turning the camera on myself.  The activity for the first week was to capture our own reflection and then when we liked what we saw, to send a message to ourselves.  Vivienne encouraged us to be silly and playful and I have to admit, I have often ended up in fits of giggles at the mere thought of what I have actually been doing!


Walking with Pippin


The second week was about exploring the world around us and going on a photo walk.  It was about beginning to show more of who we are through the way we spend our time.  There was also a photo scavenger hunt, which I really enjoyed interpreting in my own ways.


Kicking up the leaves (2)


For the third week, we focussed on movement.  It had been so windy that past week that every single leaf left on the ground in my garden had blown up to the top and made it feel almost autumnal out there again so I couldn’t resist going outside to have a kick around in them.  I found a bargain of a remote control for my camera and I was off, snapping away at myself!


Now, in our final week we are being encouraged to find our own voices in self-portraiture. It’s about seeing our true selves in our photography.  I’ll be working on that in the next couple of days.


It is the first e-course I have done and it suits me down to the ground.  I have been able to fit it in around everything else and there has been no pressure to meet deadlines or dates.  There has been a wonderful community ethos within the private Flickr group that we share our photos in and it has been endlessly inspiring to see how the same brief is interpreted by everyone else.



(photo by Vivienne McMaster)

I have already decided to sign up for the next one which starts next week. It feels like I am not only learning more about my camera, but also about myself…

Sunday, 6 February 2011


I have many things to do and many more things I want to do and so I am having to be strict with myself.
I just had a tally up and I have seven Roman blinds and one pair of full-length curtains on my to-do list.  How on earth did that happen?  I wasn’t even aware that I still did curtain-making! None of them are for me, I hasten to add.  Luckily I have made two blinds this weekend (they aren’t included in the seven!), so my plan is working.
My sister was getting rid of this chair and I immediately saw a patchwork opportunity not to be missed.

Chair - blank canvas

I put my favourite quilt on it to get a feel of how it might look when I’ve finished with it.

Chair with quilt

It really will take every ounce of discipline I possess for me to keep it in line with the other jobs that really ought to take priority.

As a tiny reward for exercising a huge amount of discipline this weekend, I allowed myself a frivolous 10 minutes play and created this heart garland.

Tray with heart garland

Sooo  easy and satisfying to make.

Hearts garland

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Splash of Colour…

Pink hyacinth


Three fabulously pink hyacinths in my kitchen, filling the whole house with their sweet scent.


Perle skeins 

A rainbow of new perle threads purchased at the weekend.  No2 thinks I’m quite mad, keep rearranging them into satisfying rows of colour.  He has no appreciation of these things!

 Perle thread blues


Perle thread blues (2)


Perle thread aqua 


Perle thread greens


Perle thread oranges


I have no idea what I will use them for.  Yet.  But I am confident inspiration will strike.  Possibly in the form of French Knots…

Check out more Splashes of Colour here.