Archive for category Life in General
I think I have said on this blog before that life is too short to stuff a mushroom but, evidently, it’s not too short to paint rose petals with egg white and dust them with sugar.
Why, I hear you ask, were you engaging in the sort of shenanigans usually only bothered with by celebrity chefs and contestants in baking competitions? Because I was making a dessert for a Ruby Wedding celebration is my answer and I thought it appropriate to have red rose petals sprinkled artfully over and around said dessert. Well – they were definitely red to start with but after a brush with the egg white they turned a pinker shade of red. No matter – they were pretty anyway and I move even closer to my Domestic Goddess status .
Some friends of ours were celebrating 40 years of marriage – and look! they’re still laughing.
A mixture of French and Brits were present to help them celebrate and, of course, being a Ruby Wedding Anniversary, there had to be a Ruby Murray on offer. Firstly because you can’t get a decent curry here for love nor money unless you make your own , secondly because we are Brits and we have to have curry occasionally in order to survive and what better excuse than when the name is in both titles? For those not in the know a ‘Ruby Murray’ is cockney rhyming slang for a curry.
The occasion demanded another foray into my new passion for freehand machine embroidery.
Colin is a massive Chelsea Football fan and so I had to portray him wearing something with the crest on it and Jan has got a gorgeous mass of curly hair. They are dog lovers and have a particular soft spot for golden retrievers which they generally find in re-homing centres and so they had to be in the picture too. I must perfect my dog breed representation but you get the drift. I was gratified to see that, despite not having seen my gift at that point, Colin had dressed to match it.
I had a bit of a scare because when I showed my French sewing buddy the embroidery last week she told me that a Ruby Wedding is not 40 years of marriage and, even though I would practically have signed away my house on the certainty that I was right, I did have to Google it when I got home and discovered that the French call it a Ruby Wedding at 35 years – trust them to be different 🙂
So, I didn’t have to undo any stitching and the French friends and neighbours present at the ‘do’ all happily went along with our quaint foreign ways anyway – even sampling the curry!
Anyway, back to the rose petals which I used to adorn a fruit tart – my contribution to the dessert table. If I tell you it was an adaptation of a Nigella Lawson recipe it won’t surprise you to know that it probably didn’t do anybody’s cholesterol levels any favours. Originally a black and white tart – using blackberries and whitecurrants – this was, once again, from her ‘How To Be A Domestic Goddess’ book which is now my go to bible for puddings/cakes and other wickedness having rediscovered it on my bookshelves recently.
I thought the raspberries would look like little rubies – well big ones actually – if you had one that size in a ring or a couple in a pair of earrings you wouldn’t complain would you? **
The digestive biscuit base was ‘enhanced’ by a spoonful of cocoa powder and the mascarpone filling was ‘further enhanced’ by some melted white chocolate, the remainder of which was grated on top (well, most of the remainder, some might have found its way elsewhere 😉 ) Anyway, I think it was good but, by the time I got up to the dessert table, it had all gone.
The dessert table – before
I should have nabbed a slice instead of taking photos 😦 Luckily, I have made it once before, without the cocoa and the white chocolate and I know that version was good and, as it so happens I have a photo of it too, albeit taken on my phone in artificial light.
I only paint rose petals on special occasions 😉
** I was reminded here of one of my favourite one-liners from Only Fools and Horses where Del buys Grandad some strawberries and he complains they’re not very big to which Del replies ‘What do you mean they’re not very big? You wouldn’t want one of those up yer nose for a wart would yer?’
What do you mean they ain't very big? You wouldn't like one of those up yer nose for a wart would ye
Even though the patchwork block swap I’ve been participating in hasn’t quite finished yet – there’s one month to go – I have actually made all the blocks I need to and I’ve already started getting withdrawal symptoms. Kate and Sue who have run the F2F (Foot Square Freestyle) swap for the past two years, have decided they need a break from organising duties and as I am more of a participant than an organiser I didn’t offer to take it over so, sadly, when Claire receives her 24 blocks from 8 other quilters around the world by the end of February, that will be it.
I found that participating in the swap really motivated me to improve my work, try out some new techniques and get things finished on time
So, what to do next?
I searched around the web for other swaps but the few I managed to find had either already started or didn’t appeal.
Kate has started making a quilt – unusually it will be for herself – from a book both she and I have had for years.
We’ve both been in love with one particular quilt inside it – I even made the templates for it and one block back in the mists of time – but never got any further.
It’s rows of vintage hatboxes made to look as if they’ve been covered in wallpaper, as olden day people used to do, and each one set in the angle of a little cubby hole with a floor and two walls. So, lots of design decisions to be made.
Kate has been busy with it for a few months now – you can see her progress here – and I decided I would join in with her and we would aim to make three blocks per month and publish them on our blogs at the end of the month. This will be my motivation.
I am making a wall hanging for my bedroom rather than a quilt – there is an empty wall behind the bed and I thought this might go well there rather than a picture. I don’t want it to dominate the room or anything so I’m not making it too large, just four blocks wide x three blocks high. If I make three blocks per month, it should be ready to start putting together in May.
Each ‘cubby hole’ is constructed by joining two trapezoids, one reversed, plus an 8.5 inch square which is set in to the angle of the trapezoids. Eek! I was so pleased when I got it right first time and then realised my perfect seam would be covered up with the hatbox appliquéd on top – still, that’s patchwork for you. Here’s a ‘blank’ just so you know I can do it.
And here’s the block after the hatbox has been added.
I decided to use scraps for the backgrounds where possible and Liberty tana lawn for the hatboxes. I realised too late that, because the tana lawn is so fine, you have to be careful what you put underneath it. You can see the stripes of my ‘flooring’ vaguely show through but I thought it sort of looks like part of the design on the box so I’ve left it.
This one is a darker print so I got away with it here but, for the other blocks, I won’t use that particular striped fabric. I am not usually an ‘appliqué person’ but Kate has got me trying several techniques I’ve either never done before or previously said I’d never do such as foundation paper piecing so here’s one more to add to the list. I am using Bondaweb to attach the hatbox shapes and then using a turquoise thread and machine appliquéing on to the background.
This next one had to be re-done because I had used light coloured tana lawn for the hatbox and the ‘floor’ was showing through and making it look as if there was a shadow across the box. I had to peel it off – a tragic waste of both Liberty and Bondaweb -and use a darker design. You live and learn.
I’m enjoying making these hatboxes but my workroom is a mess – strewn with fabrics over every surface as I audition them for ‘wallpaper’, ‘flooring’ , the hatboxes themselves and the bands. Decisions, decisions……
I will finish by proudly announcing that I have managed to complete Dry January without a drop of alcohol passing my lips – apart from that used in cooking which doesn’t count because all the alcohol comes off as vapour (boo!) . I never usually touch Pastis – the favourite aperitif of the French – because wine is my poison and the aniseedy alcoholic tipple makes me go woozy very quickly which is a feat in itself. However, Ricard (the favoured brand of the French when imbibing their favourite aperitif) make a version called Pacific which has no alcohol, no sugar, no calories, no nuffink apart from quite a few E numbers but I haven’t looked them up to see whether they are dodgy ones. As with the real stuff, you dilute it with 5 parts water but, unlike the real stuff, it is already a cloudy colour.
This, and Bucklers non alcoholic beer (which is really Lager if you are British) , kept me on the straight and narrow when temptation threatened to overcome me. I don’t know whether you can get it (or Bucklers) outside of France but, if you can, and you are the designated driver or want an alcohol free evening for any other reason, I would recommend it.
A bit of culture for you today – you can’t say my blog posts aren’t eclectic.
April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
from The Wasteland, T.S. Eliot (1922)
Yes, yes, that’s all very well but it’s obvious that Mr. Eliot had never tried ‘Dry January’ because I can’t tell you how glad I will be when the 1st of February comes around and I can have a glass of wine. Here are my own thoughts on which month has a lot to answer for –
January is the cruellest month, drinking
Water is dead boring, mixing
Syrup and lemonade, stirring
Dull concoctions without wine.
from The Wagon, Tialys (2017)
Just to be clear – I haven’t got a drink problem but I do like a glass of wine (or two) when I’m cooking the evening meal (and when I’m eating it) – but only at weekends, although I do count Friday as being the weekend.
I expect my liver will thank me but there are four weekends in January – one more to go! – and it has seemed like an incredibly long month. Now I know how to slow down time.
Despite having six cats and three dogs roaming around the place, we put up a large ‘real’ Christmas tree in one room and a smaller ‘artificial tree’ in another. They survived – relatively unscathed – until the new kitten (don’t ask) discovered he could shin up the centre of the artificial one creating havoc and mayhem among any food and drink stuffed, semi-comatose humans in the vicinity who were then forced to move at an unwelcome rate in order to prevent bauble breakage on a massive scale. I suppose he found it all very amusing as, once achieved, he repeated it ad nauseum until, last night, I got fed up and took it down.
Having mulled (and drunk) enough red wine not to want to count the empty bottles, I decided to get up off my arse while still possible and hike up a small mountainside with the dogs. I made Mr. T. take a photo of me to show me wearing my hat that came in one of my Stitching Santa parcels. Despite the dark glasses and luminous dog harness I am not registered blind – just saying as I suddenly realised it might look like that. Stan’s harness actually says ‘Ball Junkie’ and not ‘Guide Dog’.
Ignore the clove stuck orange – she didn’t send me that – I was on the way to mull (yet more) wine when the photography urge came upon me.
Pippa had made some very useful pouches and a bag for me to keep stuff in and even a length of bias binding she had made. Can you spot the blue fabric in the middle? I did take larger photos of it but the colour didn’t come out right so this is the best view of it. It is boiled wool jersey which I have never used before. Any tips or suggestions on what to make with it? Pippa suggested a sweater. I have 1.5m and it has a slight stretch to it.
Also in the parcel was a useful pattern and one of her lovely knitted hats which I am modelling for you in the above dog walking picture just to prove to her that I will actually wear it – she seemed doubtful for some reason.
As I’m a knitting person as well as a sewing one, I thought I’d go for the knitting Santa too and, just in the nick of time, a day or two before Christmas, my package from Anne in Australia arrived.
(There’s that orange again – don’t worry you won’t see it again as it is now saturated with spiced wine – a bit like me – at the bottom of the bin)
Anne chose two lovely hanks of wool from Plant Craft Cottage in the Botanic Gardens in Melbourne where the yarn is hand dyed – these ones with eucalyptus leaves apparently – so I’m now looking for something to knit with them – there is 25g of each colour, it is 8 ply Australian wool, needle size 4mm and gauge 22st to 10cm. Any ideas knitting friends?
Three beautiful ceramic buttons were in the package
Plus a lovely pencil drawing of a shell from Anne who is a talented nature and botanic artist so I’m very happy to have a little example of her work.
I was chuffed to bits to receive all these generous gifts and thanks again to Sheila for organising us all. Sign me up again for next year!!
There was another gift that wasn’t quite so successful. A few days before Christmas I went out to lunch with a friend of mine and we browsed about in some shops for a while. We went into a home décor shop where each section was themed by colour and, as we passed through the orange and yellow ‘retro’ section she said ‘I can’t stand those two colours – I wouldn’t have them in my house’
Which was a shame because this was what was in the gift bag I’d handed her to put under her tree when I picked her up at her house earlier.
A more successful gift was this satchel that Mr. Tialys made for a close friend of ours who spent Christmas Day with us this year.
It is modelling for me on the bonnet/hood of her car as she was leaving the next morning with the bag stashed in her boot/trunk and I remembered I hadn’t recorded it for posterity and made her unpack it again.
So, that is that for another year. I have made a couple of New Year’s resolutions but, after the disasters last year of my Firsty February (where I attempted not to drink any alcohol for a month and failed) and my Fabric Fast (which lasted 4 months instead of my pledged twelve) I will let you know what this year’s ones are if I actually manage to keep them and, if I don’t, nobody but me will be any the wiser.
Have a brilliant 2017 and I hope everything you wish for comes true.
Considering I’m always trying to avoid making clothes with zips, I have been taking the bull by the horns, facing up to my fears, throwing caution to the wind, putting the zipper foot on and making zippered bags like a woman possessed.
Here are some boxy ones – a shape that I think would make a cool man’s washbag too in the right fabric. It’s always difficult finding hand made gifts suitable for blokes I find. Unless you knit socks, which I do, but very slowly.
Some cosmetic pouches (or anything you want pouches).
I’ve got some lovely linen/canvas type fabrics in my stash that I don’t use for patchwork or clothing so these are ideal.
Everybody’s getting one of these for Christmas this year – maybe even my Stitching Santa partners but I’m not spilling the beans.
A sneaky peak at what I’ve sent my stitching partner and, no, that’s not a cot bumper at the back.
Not to be opened until Christmas morning!
I found the knitting Stitching Santa a bit more of a challenge for reasons I won’t divulge.
However, it is packed up – just looking for the right size box and it will be on its way.
So, speaking of handmade gifts suitable for men, I now need to get my act together and finish Mr. T’s quilt otherwise his stocking will be a bit empty on Christmas morning.
How are your festive preparations coming on? Why does time appear to pass much more quickly at this time of year?
My daughter went on her Christmas ‘works do’ on Friday night. I vaguely remember her telling me where it was being held but it had slipped my mind.
She has a friend called Ricarda. a pretty young german girl with long blonde hair.
So when she sent me a text with this photo of herself – in something I took for a flight simulator – I texted back ‘Fantastic photo – is that Ricarda?’
It was only when Mr. T. , through his incredulous laughter, reminded me that the company she works for had taken over a section of Madame Tussauds in London where there is a Star Wars exhibition on at the moment, that I realised I obviously need some stronger reading glasses.
Wookie warrior, pretty young german girl – what’s the difference?
Here she is later in the evening fraternising with somebody from Game of Thrones.
Only joking about that one but I know this isn’t Carrie Fisher.
Star Wars mania passed me by.
I want to say this was a real Specsavers moment for me but I don’t know that anybody outside of the U.K. would know what I mean. Specsavers is a high street optician which has the tagline ‘Should’ve gone to Specsavers’ – they’ve even had approval to trademark the word ‘should’ve’ I believe – and, over the years, they have produced a series of ads with various situations where the person comes a cropper through not being able to see properly. I know I’ve directed you to a few ads lately so I won’t do it again.
Oh, go on then.
This is a very good one because of the beautiful music but, I must confess, I’m rather partial to the one where the vet starts to panic when he can’t find a cat’s heartbeat, only to realise he is trying to operate on his assistant’s furry hat.
I blame it on the hideous cold I’ve had – I think it might have affected my eyes.
Back to the arts and crafts next time – I promise.
I have been laid low by my first cold in years – which I could have coped with – but it turned into laryngitis. I don’t know that I’ve ever had such a hideously painful throat in my life before but my memory’s got further and further back to go these days so I can’t swear to it. OMG – the pain was excruciating. So much so that I – who have a phobia of being anywhere near a hospital – nearly took myself off to A & E on Sunday morning as swallowing was so painful and as I was trying to cough at the same time I thought it would cut off my breathing. As is clear, I am still here but have been silent since Saturday morning. Mr. T. had always fantasized about such a thing but was soon disabused of the notion it might be ‘a good thing’ when I was unable to answer requests, questions, commands, etc. yelled from the other side of the house but could remain serenely silent and await the yeller – being Mr. T himself or Mlle. T. the younger – to actually approach me and speak in measured tones. Then, the waiting game began whilst I scrawled my replies on a block of notes which finally became useful after years of perching on the edge of the desk. It transpired that, over time, where my handwriting has been abandoned in favour of the keyboard, it is now almost illegible. There followed scenes of what would have been hilarity if I’d been up to laughing, where husband and daughter tried to make sense of my scribble in a desperate attempt to communicate with me. I think I might actually try it again one day when I’m only pretending so that I can sit back and enjoy the show.
In an effort to take my mind off the throat that seemed to have taken over my whole body and made it all hurt – I decided to press on with joining my F2F Block Swap quilt together and, encouraged by Kate, who is also joining one up with the quilt as you go method, and the fact that I sort of realised I’d quite like to present this to the husband for Christmas, I started cutting up the strips. I won’t bore you with the strips put on upside down, the not catching the binding in at the back first time round and all the other little mistakes I made in my Paracetemol/Ibuprofen Alternating state of mind but, suffice it to say, it didn’t go well at first. However, here are the top and bottom corners of the quilt, laid side by side for ease of ‘fit in photograph’ and now I have the right side to do which will consist of two sections of 3 blocks across x 3 blocks down. Then, there will only be one long vertical strip to sew down between the left and right hand sides and I will have a 5 x 6 block sized, husband sleeping on his own in London (at least he better be!) sized quilt. Kate was thinking that this method would avoid the necessity of doing long strips between each completed row and, so far, it seems to be a good idea. Kate explains it much better here should you be interested in going down this path yourself.
Then this came in the post and I was very touched by it as Claire is always making little impromptu gifts for people and sending them out to them and it’s almost as if she knew I was in need of a bit of TLC. So germ infested hugs and kisses to you Claire for such a lovely thought – your timing was perfect.
I love this ad from Poland which is really sweet and funny, encouraging for a post-Brexit Britain and so in the spirit of Christmas so, if you haven’t seen it yet, enjoy!
I’m off to drink more honey and lemon in hot water – I’m almost up to adding a tot of something stronger in it but I’ll wait until after 6.