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
While my Mum was visiting I abandoned sewing and my workroom for the much more sociable and garden friendly crochet.
I was prepared. Having made a fairly simple blanket as a beginner project I thought I’d tackle something a little more complicated and was tempted by the Sunshine and Showers blanket by Janie Crow which is running as a CAL (crochet along) on her blog here.
You make two identical sections per month for twelve months and then join some sections together and you should end up with the above which looks hideously complicated to me. Look! there are flowers and little hearts and bobbles and things – but I’m hoping to learn as I go along. There are two versions – one in a merino mix yarn and the one I’m doing which is in Stylecraft Special DK which comes in some splendiferous colours. I decided to go with the same colours used in the CAL because there will be less room for confusion and I like them anyway.
I have completed one of the sections for the month of May – the wave pattern is intentional and not due to wine consumption –
Now I have to make a second, identical one and wait for June’s section to be released when, apparently, I will learn ‘puff’ stitches – I can hardly wait and, although I know that sounds sarcastic, there is a an element of truth in it. Simple pleasures……..
I had forgotten how much I hate doing long foundation chains 😦
A glutton for punishment, however, and wanting something easier to do in between waiting for the sections to be released, I bought the yarn to make Lucy at Attic 24’s Hydrangea Blanket for which the pattern is on her blog here
At first glance I wondered why these colours were anything to do with hydrangeas but Lucy explains that she watched how the blooms changed colour over time and has some great photos on her blog (one of which below) showing how right she is.
Wool Warehouse stocks the kits for Attic 24 patterns so I went ahead and sent for them here and began the repetitive, yet addictive, stitch which forms a really nice dense texture.
I like to look at the balls of yarn in their basket. Such a range of colours is hard to resist and, although I avoid 100% acrylic in knitting projects that I am going to wear, in my house a blanket needs to be put in a washing machine. Also, after struggling with a cotton yarn that splits as soon as you look at it in my fusion quilt (squares of fabric with a crochet border) this is an absolute pleasure to crochet with. I’m hooked! Sorry, not sorry.
This is where I am with it so far but progress might slow down a little now Mum has gone back to the U.K. and I am drawn back to the sewing room.
Just in case I wasn’t already knee deep in crochet, I made a hat. For an egg. Well, why wouldn’t you?
Actually, it’s not really for an egg, although it could be, it’s for a bottle. I can’t remember where I saw it mentioned first but Innocent Drinks are, once again, asking for little knitted (or crochet) hats to put on the top of their smoothie bottles in the supermarket and, for each hat-wearing bottle sold, they donate 25pence to Age UK. Since 2003 , 6 million hats have been knitted which has helped raise over £1.9m and increase awareness of the great work done by charities like Age UK.
On a selfish note, it helps me improve my crochet ‘in the round’.
You can read about it here if you fancy putting your needles (or hook) to good use – the deadline this year is 31st July.
The fabric haul from my Walthamstow Market visit has arrived with Mr. T. from the U.K. He has got a ‘pulled’ shoulder muscle from the weight. I blame it on the black flecked jersey on the bottom there which is heavy and there is 3m of it.
I’ve given him some Ibuprofen, treated the affected shoulder with a cursory massage and told him to buy a cabin bag with wheels.
Close ups and potential uses for the precious cargo to follow .
You may remember that I am making a wallhanging for behind the bed and am using a pattern from Kaffe Fassett’s book Passionate Patchwork which features hatboxes each in their own little cubby hole complete with ‘shelf lining’ and ‘wallpaper’.
I am making twelve 12.5 inch blocks for a 4 x 3 layout wallhanging and using Liberty of London tana lawn for the boxes and bands and scraps of what I hope are complimentary fabrics for the backgrounds.
Kate over at Tall Tales from Chiconia is making a full size quilt for herself from the same pattern and we pledged to make three a month. Kate has more to do than me (you can see her progress here) and these are (possibly) my final three.
This is probably my favourite one this month.
The ever popular Strawberry Thief design.
This gorgeous pink tangle of blooms was one of the fabrics I bought in a 50% off online sale that Liberty were having on their tana lawns – the band was from my box of Liberty scraps as all the bands have been.
Now I have all twelve or, as I hinted above, have I?
This is not necessarily the final layout and not a particularly sharp photo as I had all the blocks clinging to a flannel sheet hanging from some shelves and they kept falling off so I had to take it quickly but my dilemma is – do I keep the dark pink box with the strong gold/yellow background in this mix or not? I did wonder when I first made it. I really like it but I’m wondering if it’s too strongly coloured to blend properly with the others – although the purple one is strong too.
I am going to quilt them all separately using the quilt as you go method. The quilting will be simple as I can’t do complicated and then I’ll join them with sashing – another colour decision to make – and then tadaah! it will adorn our bedroom wall (if Mr. T. is in agreement – he’s always resisted ‘fabric art’ on the walls before 😉 )
So, do I ditch the one third from the left on the first row or do I keep it? What do you think?
WARNING: Photo Heavy and mainly of dogs, cats and plantlife – look away now if you are here for knitting/crochet/sewing/baking.
When Alys at ‘Gardening Nirvana‘ recently compiled a video of the lovely plants in her Californian garden, I commented that we didn’t grow cultivated sweet peas (she has lots and lots) but we do have wild ones up on the hillside and she said she’d be interested in seeing some of my garden so I took my camera with me on the morning dog walk and, even though the wild sweet peas aren’t in bloom yet and we are desperate for rain, here it is now in mid-April in S.W. France in the midi-Pyrenees. Our garden is very large and very steep and terraced. We only plant up the first couple of terraces – the rest we keep brushcut but only lightly so that it is a haven for insects and birds. ((Note, the use of the word ‘we’. It should really be ‘he’)
Sometimes one of the cats accompanies us …….
….and sometimes one of the dogs spots it
He should have paid attention to the notice! I put this here at the top of the garden to prevent people thinking it’s a public footpath although it doesn’t always work.
This Judas Tree has been quite spectacular in previous years but seems to be getting a bit old now and the purple flowers are a bit more sparse. You can see it from Montségur which is on the green mound just underneath the highest snowy peak opposite. The Château de Montségur is famous as the last Cathar stronghold, which fell after a 10 month siege in 1244. A field below the hilltop castle is reputed to be the site where over 200 Cathars were burned alive, having refused to renounce their faith. It’s quite a climb up to the ruins but the views are amazing and it gives me the opportunity, when my heartbeat has returned to normal and I can speak again, to say ‘you can see our house from here’.
Back on our walk – Flo usually leads the way.
I keep Stan on the lead on the way up, and Flo on the way down, otherwise they tend to run off together and make mischief – which usually involves fox poo and a wash down afterward.
Taz is our old boy who usually brings up the rear.
Somebody has made a little monument. I don’t know who as we don’t walk on the public footpath and it is rare to see anybody else up here. The hunters come through in the season but I can’t imagine them faffing about with something like this. I like to think it’s a secret admirer who has found an ‘L’ shaped rock and placed it as a little message to me. Actually, I hope not as that would be beyond creepy.
Although the wild sweet peas aren’t out yet, the wild orchids are.
Back down through the garden gate now and the ball game can begin.
Though somebody is only interested in the newly turned out compost bin contents.
I love this viburnum which, soon, will turn white and look like lots of little snowballs.
Phlox does very well here and this is growing over one of our many dry stone walls.
A beautiful tree peony being photobombed by Flo.
The chooks in their lilac bower. This is just one of many lilacs we have and the scent in the late evenings and early mornings is lovely.
A tiny yellow rose growing up another stone wall on our terrace. It blooms its little heart out for ages and, if we’re lucky, we get a second flush of flowers a bit later on.
Just in case you were worried about Leon.
He made it down the tree and back down the garden safely.
He’s not a year old yet and not a large framed cat and I couldn’t understand why he has such a saggy tum.
After a bit of research I discovered that some cats are genetically prone to something called a ‘primordial pouch’. This is meant to protect their internal organs from damage in a cat fight and also provides extra space to stuff with food in times of shortage. It also gives them more leeway to bend and stretch . That’s something new I’ve learnt and also saved money by not buying special diet food from the vet. So, if you have a cat that looks a bit saggy underneath, this may well be the reason. I wonder if the same principle can be applied to muffin tops.
I’m not fat – it’s my primordial pouch.
Last but not least – the first poppies are opening.
How’s your garden doing at the moment – is it too dry like ours or are you having too much rain? Are there plants you would really like to grow but aren’t suited to your soil or climate? I would love some foxgloves but they wouldn’t grow well here
With apologies to the Pet Shop Boys for sort of ripping off their lyrics for my title, I hope you’re all enjoying a lovely long Easter/Spring break and doing whatever it is you like to do at such times.
Last time we had a chat I asked you for help in deciding on a border for the Friendship Braids quilt and then mostly ignored what everybody said anyway. The Quilt Police will not be happy but I decided to dig out a vintage sheet I had actually bought a couple of years ago with the backing for this quilt in mind and use it for the border.
Tell me I was wrong.
I’m not normally a ‘green’ lover but I think it makes it look very fresh.
It is quite a low thread count I believe but, just to be sure, I washed it, made a sandwich with a square of quilting cotton, wadding and sheet and had a go on the machine. I didn’t have any problems with tension or thread knotting or snapping or anything and I certainly won’t be doing any quilting this close together so I’m going to go ahead and if I’m arrested and given a long sentence it will just give me the opportunity to sew mini hexies together, learn to love cross stitch, do a degree in psychology and concentrate on trying to make an orange jumpsuit work with my complexion – although that would only be if I got arrested by the United States Quilt Police which is a possibility as I think they are the most rigorous.
As I’m in confession mode, I must offer as evidence to be taken into consideration M’lud that, even worse than it being a sheet, there might be a touch of ‘poly’ in with the cotton as there’s a vague chemical smell when I iron it.
With this in mind, I decided not to go the whole hog and use it for the backing as well. As luck would have it, I had just dug a duvet cover out of the clean laundry basket that has been subjected to numerous treatments and washes in an attempt to remove some oil (I think it was some sort of body oil) that Mlle Tialys the elder had managed to spill on it some time ago. There was a patch of oil that refused to come out and, if anything, appeared to increase in oiliness as time went by. I cut out the patch, harvested the top Cath Kidston like floral fabric for future projects and pondered using the checkered side for the back as it is serendipitously the right colours and size. (Woohoo, I got to use ‘serendipitously’ – and again!)
I did make another sandwich, it worked fine, it is now cut to size for assembly so it’s too late to tell me if you don’t think it’s a good idea and, anyway, you know I don’t always listen don’t you. It is, at least, 100% cotton.
I rest my case.
I did have a vague idea about giving this to my Mum when I’d finished it but I think it might have too much green in it now for her liking. She has a thing about green and, as with most of her superstitions, has passed them on to me. Even though I don’t really count myself as a particularly superstitious person, I like to err on the side of caution. I don’t put new shoes on the kitchen table, I don’t bring lilacs into the house, I don’t tell Friday’s dreams on a Saturday in case they come true, and other such tosh. However, for years I believed the colour green to be unlucky until it turned out that her basis for believing that was that her own mother had once lost a purse while wearing a green coat. Sometimes I worry.
So she will be getting my first ever crocheted blanket instead which, as far as I know, has no bad luck associated with it and will go very nicely on her sofa and across her knees if she gets a bit chilly
Flushed with success after harvesting 450g of gorgeous tasting brown mushrooms from the pot on the right and watching the new babies grow (you can just see them if you squint) – I spotted a pot for white mushrooms (or champignons de Paris as they are called here) and thought I’d give them a go too. It’s quite amazing how much better they taste when plucked from their very own compost just before you cook them. I’m a convert and our earth floor wine cellar – which never gets used to store wine as we drink it too quickly – may well be put into use as a mushroom growing room in the near future.
I found this little stool in the junk shop last week and, as with much vintage French furniture, it was covered in a very dark brown thick varnish. Yuk. I forgot to take a ‘before’ photo but it was a flat, uninteresting, no grain showing, almost black, dark brown. Mr. T. had a go with the varnish remover and the sander and got it down to this.
I’m going to treat it with some woodworm killer – just in case – and, if all of the varnish has gone I want to use a white wax on it but, if not, I will probably use a chalk paint and then distress and wax it.
Off to baste a quilt before somebody stops me.
I did some food shopping today for the weekend – it’s only Thursday but Mr. T. arrives home tonight and I count Friday as the weekend – mainly so I can have a glass of wine (or two) but also because it feels like the weekend to me. Sometimes I come home with unusual things like this Romanesco – a cross between a cauliflower and broccoli which, so far, looks better than it tastes but I think that’s because I haven’t perfected my method of cooking it yet. I love all those little mini fir trees in fluorescent green although last time I cooked it in the oven and overdid it a little so the mini trees looked as if they had been in a mini forest fire.
Today I discovered this mushroom shaped pot of mushrooms, if you see what I mean. I couldn’t resist it because you are supposed to get three harvests out of this pot – obviously the first one is ready to pick.
But look at all these little baby ones ready to spring into life and become friends with eggs and bacon.
I try to have little adventures all the time, even when I’m doing the food shopping. Don’t judge me.
The postlady surprised me yesterday morning and not only because she arrived before 2 o’clock in the afternoon. She delivered a little package which had me racking my brains trying to think what I’d ordered from here in France – my online purchases are usually from further afield. Then I spotted the sender’s address and realised it was from Claire a fellow British expat. She is very generous with the results of her many talents and often sends little unbirthday gifts out to friends – both real and blogging – which is such a sweet thing to do. I might start to prefer ‘unbirthdays’ as you don’t have to get another year older when you have one. This lovely little needlecase features a little egg in the centre and I’m embarassed to say I don’t know exactly how she’s done it. It doesn’t look quite like cross stitch and it isn’t hardanger as I know you cut bits away with that – so I’m stumped. Pardon my ignorance but I don’t do all that fiddly stuff on tiny squared fabric – just admire those who do.
Inside, some stitch markers for both crochet and knitting and some pins – all in a lovely turquoise colour which goes beautifully with the crochet project bag I showed you last time.
A long time ago (Lordy, 2 years ago – I just checked), I started a quilt – you know the story – and now I’ve brought it back out into the light of day to finish it. I have my Mum’s birthday in mind but I’m not 100% sure it isn’t too bright for her tastes. I’ll finish it first and then make a decision about its eventual home. The design is called ‘Friendship Braid’ and is made using a jelly roll from a book about using jelly rolls called something I can’t bring to mind at the moment. The fabric I used was Gypsy Girl by Moda.
I have two questions for both quilters and non- quilters who wish to venture an opinion.
I need a six inch border around the outside. I can’t use plain white (as they have in the book) because my quilting wouldn’t stand up to the scrutiny. I need something with at least some sort of design on it. There is a white fabric in the braids with tiny green spots – do you think something like that would work? What I decide on will depend on the answer to my second question.
Obviously I can’t ‘quilt as you go’ with this one – not at this stage anyway – what sort of simple (very simple!) machine quilting design would work do you think?
How do you feel about sending quilts out to be professionally quilted? I’m pretty sure I’ve asked this question before but it’s one that vexes me. I know it’s fairly common in the States to do so but I have recently seen a company in the U.K. who does it for quite a reasonable price and I’m interested to see how it would turn out. I am the first to admit that I’m a piecer not a quilter but is it cheating? (O.K., that might be three questions) I would have it back afterward to put the binding on so I would feel as if I’d done the ‘finishing touch’ but I can’t quite decide what to do. If I did something like vertical lines it would be fairly easy – apart from wrestling my smallish sewing machine into submission – but would that look O.K. Help!
It’s the end of March already so it’s time to show and tell the three hatbox blocks I’ve finished in time for this month as pledged to Kate over at Tall Tales from Chiconia. Kate is making a full size quilt from her blocks so needs to make gazillions plus she has been battling Hurricane Debbie for the last couple of days over in Australia and has had other things on her mind so if she hasn’t made her three this time I won’t be casting aspersions – even though we did have a bit of snow here the other day accompanied by thunder and lightening which, to be fair, only rendered me slightly perplexed rather than full on terrified.
Here’s a bit of Chinoiserie for you as a change from florals. As you might remember, I’m using Liberty of London tana lawn for all the hatboxes and scraps of other fabric for the backgrounds. I bought this when Liberty had a 50% off sale recently – I did give you all a heads up at the time and apparently cost some of you money.
The book that this quilt pattern comes from – Passionate Patchwork by Kaffe Fassett – has been on my bookshelf for ages and seems to be quite hard to get hold of now (at a reasonable price) . I had always fancied making this but was newly inspired when Kate started hers.
Some very art nouveau style flowers here – would they be fritillaria or some sort of poppy do you think? – or do you know?
These are definitely poppies – even I know that – and this one might be my favourite this month, although I do like the Chinoiserie one at the top just because there be dragons.
Unlike Kate, I’m only making a wallhanging 4 blocks across x 3 blocks high so I only need 12. I’ve already made 9 but I’m not sure about one of them so there may be 4 still to go.
Then I’ll have to think about how I’m going to quilt them – I’m not convinced about the suggestion in the book. I’m going to do each block separately using the quilt as you go method. If you quilt, how would you tackle it – something simple perhaps or something more squiggly?
It’s not the Fetes de Mères (Mothers’ Day) in France until the end of May but as my Mum is English and in England, today is Mothers’ Day as far as I’m concerned. Also, since Mlle. Tialys the elder lives back in the U.K. now, I only stand a chance of being remembered on Mothers’ Day if we stick to the U.K. one because she will see all the palaver surrounding it beforehand and remind her sister who is still in France and would otherwise be blissfully unaware of it.
Who better than your mother to practice on when indulging your new sewing passion?
Unfortunately, even though my crochet hook has been a blur, I didn’t manage to finish the blanket I was hoping to give her for Mothers’ Day but, being my Mum, I’m sure she’ll forgive me.
Remember the Stitching Santa organised by Sewchet I participated in last Christmas? When I received my goodies from Pippa at Beads and Barnacles she included this turquoise drawstring pouch. I was thinking I could use it to keep my current small crochet project in and saw another opportunity to practice the freehand machine embroidery I’ve become keen on.
Just the right size for keeping my Fusion quilt squares in which, as you can see, is progressing slowly but surely, one square at a time.
The yellow thread started out as a representation of a slip knot. It went a bit awry but you get my drift.
It can hang on my pinboard which I am very happy with as a way of keeping my tools and other bits off the surfaces but within easy reach. I have two of these side by side and painted them duck egg blue to go with the woodwork on the top floor of my house which is where my sewing room is.
I bought my own Mothers’ Day gift – just in case my girls didn’t remember – this cool ‘maker’ pin from Jodie at RicRac. I thought it would be just the thing to wear when I’m selling my wares at the fund raising craft fairs I sometimes do and, in fact, will be doing one next Saturday. (It wasn’t really a Mothers’ Day gift to myself – just an everyday indulgence – but it was an excuse to show it to you)
A craft fair next Saturday? Sounds like another opportunity for some freehand machine embroidery I hear you say – and, of course, being a fund raiser for a retirement home for unwanted old and disabled dogs, it had to have some sort of pooch on it.
Much as I love the effect of the stitches against linen, this was a complete pain to thread the flex frame through at the top due to the linen itself being thick, plus a layer of fusible fleece and a cotton lining. So this will be unique in the true sense of the word and not in the sense of ‘rare’ or ‘unusual’ which seems to be in common usage these days because I really am only making one of them. I am going to rope in Mr. T and see if we can work out a way to make the channel at the top somehow separate from the body so I don’t have to go through all the thicknesses. I’ve seen one done like this but the channel was not the full width of the case, and I prefer it if it is, so maybe I could adapt that.
Meanwhile, so far today – it’s 09.20 – I took Mr. T. a cuppa in bed and said ‘Happy Mother’s Day’ in what I hope was a sarcastic manner, although I know I’m not his mother. There is no sign of a card anywhere nor email nor text from the U.K. nor from the room at the end of the corridor where Mlle. Tialys the Younger will doubtless remain entombed until around 1300h, which is her usual habit of a Sunday.
I’ll let you know if things change.
There was a lot of staggering and muttering ( and very possibly a lot of husband/father involvement) and these appeared. The morning staggering was even more pronounced than usual as we forgot to put the clocks forward last night so time was confused.
They looked better than this before I unwrapped them and then hastily wrapped them back up again for the photo so I could show daughter in the U.K. what she had instructed her dad to get me 😉
I must confess to a nostalgia for the early days when I got a cup of tea and croissant brought up to me in bed, a flower out of the garden on the tray and hand made cards with masterpieces such as this within.
Not the most flattering of images conjured up of me there but I’m guessing the rhyme was the important thing.