Saturday, 30 April 2011

2" Scrappy Quilt Finished

I actually finished this quilt several days ago, but knowing that my mother was coming to visit I held it back (cunningly) so that I would have something to show over the weekend.

I have not been the most prolific quilter since I started about five years ago - but I am picking up pace. Of all the quilts I have made I have to say that this is one of my favourites - which is typical because it just came into being without any planning and only because I had so many scraps leftover from my fussy cut quilt. Be that as it is, I still love it -

I love the wonky mismatched blocks -

And I love the dragonflies on the back -

There is just something about this little blue quilt that makes me happy.

Have you ever made something, anything handmade - not just a quilt - and put your all into it and when it was all done looked at it and thought, 'Yuck!'? I have. More than once. That is why I am so pleased with myself when it goes right. Maybe, for me, it is just that it has taken me this long to reach a point that I am comfortable with my quilting and trusting my instincts more. Who knows, but I have more happy moments than yuck incidents these days - and that is so nice!

And now for something completely different. We had a volcanic eruption here today. Honestly! We did!

It involved two girls, paper mache, bicarbonate of soda and vinegar. Great stuff - because it worked. There was no parental involvement in this project at all other than to say helpful things like, 'Oi, that's my best cookie sheet you are using!', and, 'Do not use all of my bicarb of soda please.'

They said that next time they would remember to add dye to the mixture so that the 'lava' comes out red. There's going to be a next time? Oh!


Friday, 29 April 2011

Quick Summary

I think that this must be a living hell time of year for hay fever sufferers. I see the beauty everywhere around me but I really feel for those sensitive to pollen. If you do suffer from hay fever you might want to look away from these shots because I went back to the bluebell woods, with my mother this time. As it was a week day we practically had them to ourselves. The beauty was stunning and I saw the flowers this time, not my children.

The drive through the back roads was gorgeous in its own right. Not just because I love the timelessness of these Northamptonshire villages, but because I love the way the rape seed fields look when they are in their full neon glory.

When my mother returned to the UK approaching thirty years ago she brought her Canadian recipes with her. Soon after she made some daft decision that Canadian baking recipes didn't work over here and chucked the lot out. (What?!?) Luckily for me I had copied some of those recipes down in my late teens and still possess them today. Lucky for her I agreed to give her a trip down memory lane and make double decker brownies. These are chocolate brownies with coconut splodges on them.

As they cook the coconut sinks in and gives you a two flavour brownie. Scrumptious!

Recipe on request!
Because we awoke today to watch the 'wedding' Helen promptly decided that we needed 'wedding cakes'. Oblivious of my newly made treats and with a sweet tooth that would scare the pants off many a dentist she produced once again - thankfully waiting until after I was awake this time.

So we ate the wedding cakes (not all!) and watched the wedding. (Not John!) Helen thought the bride was suitably beautiful. Emily wanted to know why the vicar - I didn't get into the church hierarchy bit with her - didn't say 'You may kiss the bride'. She returned for the balcony scene and then asked if they would have a full snog and was very disappointed at the chaste offerings that she witnessed.

Do you think I am very afraid of her teenage years? Oh yes indeed!!


Thursday, 28 April 2011


I put my name down for Aneela's Crazy Scrappy Block sew-a-long. I did so with the best of intentions even though I knew that my scrap pile was limited. But I wanted to give it a go. So I did. Why does everyone else's crazy scrappy blocks look good and mine (unfinished) looks like something that went horribly wrong?

You may argue and say it looks fine (or you may not) but if you look at the upper left hand side it just does not look right. I went wrong somewhere. All those sort of maybe triangles where they shouldn't be. But it is what it is, and it is going to be the only one. Not because I made such a pig's ear of this one. But because I discovered something about Crazy Scrappy Blocks.

They take up much more fabric than my meagre little scrap pile can cater to. I have all those little bits that I refuse to throw out but I do not have that many long bits so once the scrappy block gets past a certain size that is it - I am cutting into my fabric stash rather than using up bits that might not have a use otherwise. That makes this whole project counter productive for people like me. I am actually creating scraps trying to come up with the appropriate fabric. That is somehow very wrong.

So here are my scraps - not all of them but the ones that I like and that fit into my colour sorting piles. I do have a fair number of other scraps which I got - not saying where - but let's just say someone interpreted modern and colourful as dark and darker. I have yet to think of a use for those scraps. (And if anyone out there has a hankering after dark scraps of any sort please tell me and I will post them to you forthwith.) Back to the bright scraps -

I might not be able to do the crazy blocks project but I like the way these scraps look all sorted out. I know, I know - thousands of quilters out there always have their scraps colour sorted and all their stash carefully stored according to colour, etc but then they are not me. I had all my scraps stuffed in one large zip lock bag (told you there weren't a lot) and all my fabric lives in one of the girls' old toy boxes. When you need to find something near the bottom the only way to do it is to haul just about all of it out and have a good look. Unless you are my children and then you will dig, and overturn, and worm your way about it all, dragging out your chosen piece of fabric and leaving the rest in merciless disarray.

So what shall I do with this little pile of rainbow scraps? Ah! I have an idea brewing in my brain and need time to play with the pictured bits and bobs. Then I will show you. But my mum is here so I shall be out and about with her rather than snuggled up to the sewing machine so there shall be a slight delay. Oh, and my idea is not some radical new idea. It will just be my play on blocks well used by many others.

Meanwhile I think that I might be able to turn that scrappy orange block into a pillow, or trim it down and use it as a pin cushion and poke the poor monkey in the eye repeatedly (eeuuuuww!), or something. Any suggestions would be welcome.

Well they have had three days in school so I suppose the girls need a holiday again. Bring on another four day weekend. Wedding to watch - one girl dead keen and the other more cynical child asking what is so important about two people getting married. As you have been reading about the girls for a little while see if you can guess which one has the attitude and which one is the die hard romantic? You would then also have a good idea which one is already hell bent on being a goth. I have already been told where her piercings will be. Oh joy!

Enjoy your holiday weekend.


Wednesday, 27 April 2011


A few thoughts that have been flitting through my head.

I am cleaning my house because my mother is coming. My mother has never criticised my housekeeping. So why do I feel that I have to have it in better than its natural state before she arrives? My mum is coming to see us, not give the house the white glove treatment. Good thing too because I think that dusting is evil. Laundry? No probs. Cooking? Generally love it. Clean loos? Nice. Even hoovering can be accomplished without too much problem. But dusting! Why?! It just comes back right away. Sort of like cobwebs.

I had a different sort of clear out the other night. Not of my house but of the bloggy part of my computer. I only started reading blogs over the last Christmas holidays. Before I knew about Google Reader I popped every other blog I came across into my favourites. There were a lot there. I mean a lot! So I went back through them one by one, and looked not only at the current posts but at past posts too and then decided whether I would continue to read them on a regular basis. I had to be a bit brutal because as much as I love the fact that people are reading my blog, and I have a great time reading other people's, there are only so many hours in the day and at some point you have to decide that life is more important that the computer, no matter how compelling it is.

So I switched to being a follower of the blogs I wanted to continue reading and deleted the rest ruthlessly. Most of them were excellent blogs but over the past few months I have learned a lot about myself and blogs. I have learned which ones I prefer to read and which ones give me more enjoyment. I have also learned about myself.

I am not even sure what compelled me to start writing this blog. Curiosity? Wanting a new challenge? I can't remember. What I have learned is that I love doing it. I like this online diary that I am keeping. If no one was reading it I would still be writing it because I look back over the posts that I have done and I am seeing that I have created records of good memories, some of them quite small which might have fallen through the cracks in my mind. I am glad I have entered this unique world and I am glad that I am sharing it with others.

Which brings us to the type of blogs I most enjoy. It is the blogs that are written by the people who are becoming my online bloggy friends. I have no one around where I live to share my love of making things. In these new friends I am finding people who share my enthusiasm, and equally, I am learning about them through their blogs.

And through this process of writing a blog I have become a happier person. More content to be home and making the things I love. I do not need to be anyone but who I am, pure and simple. And because I blog I have become more productive because, let me tell  you, if I don't make anything then I only have myself to talk about and that would bore me as much as it would bore you.

I am not sure if today's post has a purpose. Just things I have been thinking about. And I am avoiding getting on with the cleaning so I am going to give myself a mental slap and get on with it. Thank you to my new friends for helping open up a new world to me. I am not alone. There are tons of us nerdy, make stuff type of people out there - it is just now that we are coming out of the wood work and owning up to it. Watch out world!

Now I must go clean the shower. And a final thought. It has to be a man who invented shower cubicles that can only be cleaned properly if you get inside naked and get on with it. Why!? Can we not be left with a thread of dignity? Obviously not, but at least there is no one home to witness this.


Tuesday, 26 April 2011

One of Those Special 'Girl' Moments

We've all had them. You know, those moments when you know the person talking to you is thinking, 'She's just a girl.' I had one today. I am not in a bad humour about it - mostly because the person who did this to me is also helping me out in a very good natured and most needed way. So I can humour him for being a boy.

It starts with that car. You know, the one I hate. The one that John took to driving again due to my caustic comments (plus he likes it). Well that car has another problem. This time with the lift pump. John diagnosed it easily enough - for him. Don't ask me for details. I am just very intelligent at taking notes so that I know what to say to the garage when himself is back away for the week in my Freelander.

So I dutifully got on to our regular garage this morning - and they are chockablock with other people's cars who also seem to be having problems. Who knew?! I thought it was just us. So I tried the near by Landrover specialist. Nope, his mechanics have the week off. So I tried a garage here in the village and they have come through for me, thank goodness.

So here is the girlie moment I was referring to at the beginning of all this waffling. I told them on the phone it was the lift pump. And when they drove over here to get the car - I wasn't sure it was drivable - I told them it was the lift pump again. And when I opened the bonnet of the car I pointed right at the lift pump (having been trained by him who knows more about cars than I do) and said, again, that it was that - the lift pump. Then I started the car so that they could see the lift pump spurting fuel this way and that and the very nice mechanic guy said - wait for it...

... 'Oh, it's the lift pump. Well that's easy enough to fix. I was worried it was something serious.'

And he took my car away and  I just took a phone call informing me that the vehicle is repaired. So I don't care what that man did or didn't think I knew - he fixed the car and I will be able to pick my mother up from the train station tomorrow and life is back on track so all is okay. Phew! Thank goodness for that.

Meanwhile, I have been sewing binding on and piercing my finger repeatedly with the back end of the needle. The thimble does not want to fit on that finger anymore and I am  not sure why. Quite sure that that particular finger has not had any drastic weight loss in its tip. Shall have to get several more in different sizes for different days.

And my evenings have a new project. I bought this Debbie Bliss Prima, which is 80% bamboo and 20% merino at the same time as when I purchased that hand dyed Chilean yarn.

And I have decided to try a new granny square pattern. I didn't have instructions in my crochet book so I looked at some different projects online and then had a play, pulled out the first few attempts and eventually came up with this - which is the first four squares joined together to see how they looked together.

I'm liking the chocolate brown with the little flowers. Something a little different from what I have been doing. Maybe I will even have enough yarn to finish the project to my plans for once - though this will be a small one so it will be easier to meet my demands.

The temperature dropped today which seems so fitting after having had such nice weather every day of the holidays. I can live with it. Took some work to convince the girls that they should and would require a jacket today though.


Monday, 25 April 2011

If You Go Down to the Woods Today...

... you're in for a beautiful surprise. If you go down to the woods today, you won't believe your eyes.

It's bluebell time folks. We love bluebells. It is not a Canadian phenomenon. And as each year comes around we do our own little Standen family tradition. Down to the woods for photos. We have Helen in the bluebells at the age of one and two, and then Emily joined in the fray once she was able to stand on her own two feet. So today was the day the Standens were taking their photos.

Now let me make this clear. John was the photographer. I was just there for crowd control - if I had any purpose at all. He then downloads his photos into Photoshop, and tweaks them, and they have huge resolutions, etc. In other words, too big and too difficult and too much of a pain to try and get them copied from his computer to mine and then onto here. What follows is me and my point and shoot efforts.

But we had a fantastic time and it was a perfect way to end what was just about a perfect holiday. The sun shone brightly again, and it remained t-shirt weather. No complaints from this end of things.

So here are the girls, in all their posing glory (with a few bluebells thrown in for the hell of it) -

And proof that he takes his photography more seriously than I do -

I would have taken more photos but guess which numpty forgot to check if her camera was charged? And guess which numpty didn't bring the case with the spare battery? So guess which numpty has no proof that previous visitors to the woods have left a wonderful legacy of swing ropes and the like which made for a wonderful play session for the girls - when they weren't climbing trees or balancing on logs?

It would be this numpty -

I managed to wangle one photo off John's computer once he shrank it down to a moderate size.
Proof that it isn't just my girls who like to have fun.


Sunday, 24 April 2011

Bunny Invasion

In this house it wouldn't be Easter if there wasn't a visit by a certain bunny during the night. Well that bunny did come, he did his hiding tricks and there were two ecstatic girls this morning scrambling about high and low in search of -

- playful bunnies and the like. And then they entertained themselves posing their chocolate hoards. With instructions for me to take photos. Because they like the fact that I blog. And they love the fact that they appear in the blog. And now they think that if they can create the perfect photo ops than they will be on the blog more. Ha! They outwitted themselves this time as the bunnies made the grade, not them.

As I said yesterday, it would be a day in the kitchen, and it was. No recipes to pass on this time but I wanted to show you this -

It is a little flan dish with a recipe for Lemon Meringue Pie printed on it. I got that dish from my late-step-grandmother many years ago when she no longer felt she had a use for it. The recipe on it is a good one. The reason I have photographed the dish by the measuring tape is this - the pie dish is 7" across. The recipe on it is for an 11" pie. Huh?!? What were they thinking?

Now here is a totally gratuitous shot of the Lemon Meringue Pie that resulted from this recipe. I am only putting it on today's blog because my brother loves Lemon Meringue Pie and I am a little sister and this is just the sort of thing we do to older brothers when they live several hundred miles away. So, Andrew, check this out -

I will refrain from mentioning that my lemon filling failed to set properly and that though the pie tasted excellent it looked like it had been hit by a two ton truck in its presentation.

Somehow, I managed to cut the apron strings and get out the kitchen long enough to have a little play at FMQ (free motion quilting) on my mini blue quilt. I decided on looping hearts which is really a lot more twee than I would usually go for but just seemed to be what my mind was set on today. I have never done them before so it might just be that I wanted to experiment. Whatever the reason, it is done and I have no intention of torturing myself by picking it all out again so this is it.

A bit wobbly in a few places, but overall not too bad. Now the binding is cut, sewn together and ironed but needs to be attached to the quilt. Maybe tomorrow, or maybe Tuesday when the girls are back in school.

I'm knackered. But it was a nice day with the In-Laws who are nice people. Hope your Easter was good too.


Saturday, 23 April 2011

Me, my machine and I - and some Sherbet Pips

I was left behind this afternoon. John took the girls out for a bike ride and left me at home. Am I complaining? Uh, no. In fact I declined to go with them. Horrible mum that I am I explained to John that as much as I loved him and the girls I hadn't really had a moment alone in over two weeks - unless it involved me and a grocery store, which just doesn't count. So I opted out.

Speaking of which, I had to pop out to Waitrose today to top up on some 'bunny stuff' for the morning as Tesco had such a uninspiring selection yesterday. Seeing as how I was in Daventry, which is two thirds the way to the quilt shop, it seemed silly not to detour on the way home. Only problem was I had to speed shop because that chocolate in the car was going to form into a puddle faster than I could say 'Oh no!' if I didn't just grab the first suitable fabric and get out of there. So I did, and you would have been very impressed with me.

Add today's speed purchase to the arrival of my fabric from the USA and I am all set to start finishing off some quilts.

The dragonfly print is what I bought to back the small blue 2" square quilt. Once everyone was out the house I got to work in blissful peace. I layered it up and pinned it.

Then I had a look at what was left on my bobbin in the way of thread because I did not want to run out once I started. There was very little left. I do have other bobbins, but they have other colours of thread on them. I know that I need to invest in a heap more bobbins. Let's just add it to the list of things I need to get to make my sewing life easier. It will happen when it happens. Meanwhile I am getting by admirably most days.

I decided that there was too much thread to pull off the bobbin and waste so it would better to find something else to sew. And I did. It was blissful. The sliding doors were wide open. The sun was shining, but not in my eyes. Birds were singing. The occasional baaaaa could be heard in the background. The neighbours had friends/family over and there was much laughter and the addictive smell of a barbeque overrode it all. I was happy!

So I made a little something. And it used up the thread on the bobbin. Therefore it is now fully loaded and ready for the next session. Only it won't be tomorrow because my sister-in-law and mother-in-law are coming over. My SIL will be staying for a brunch - the full cooked brekkie thing - and my MIL will be staying on (she lives close by) and having her dinner with us too. I shall be in the kitchen most of the day and I do not expect to be spending that time taking photos and documenting what I am making. (Sorry!)

Before I go, here's a look at what I made today -

I thought the Sherbet Pips really lent itself to this little bag. What do you think?


Friday, 22 April 2011

My Most Requested Recipe - Ever!

Or an alternative Easter Dinner for those who do not want to do the full on roast with all the trimmings in this glorious weather.

I have made this meal numerous times for the family and many times for friends, family, guests, etc. I don't think that there is anyone who I have made it for who hasn't then requested the recipe. It is just one of those kind of meals. My kids hoover it back and who on earth would argue with children devouring huge quantities of salad?

So if you fancy a barbeque this weekend, instead of a leg of lamb slow cooked in this summer heat, then I have this suggestion for you -

Oriental Beef and Spinach Salad

I originally found this recipe on I don't know if it is still there. They called it Pacific Rim Beef Salad. I am sure they wouldn't mind me passing on any recipe that encouraged people to eat beef.  I, as per usual, have made some slight changes to their recipe - the main one being the cut of meat used. They specify top sirloin. I don't.

Now don't get me wrong. I am not adverse to a good piece of top sirloin chucked on the barbeque and then decorating my plate. But for this dish I suggest you use skirt (I think it is called flank in North America). Skirt is a highly overlooked cut of meat and it shouldn't be. Most use it for stews or pasties. Here is why I think it is perfect for this dish. (a) It is very lean; (b) It is sliced against the grain so never chewy; (c) It is a very tasty cut; and - this one is important especially if you are feeding a few - (d) It is cheap. What's not to like about it then?

I deviate from the recipe right at the beginning then. And next, in the first step I am so sure that you will love this that I recommend that you buy twice as much beef as you need (please note the plug for beef and then freeze half of it so that you can have the meal again when you so require.

Right, on with the recipe then -

Flank Steak - as much as you think you need

See, told you it was lean!
3/4 cup soya sauce
1/2 cup sugar
thumb size nob of ginger - grated
2 large cloves of garlic - crushed

Mix marinade ingredients until the sugar is dissolved. Remove two tbsp of the marinade and reserve for use later. Place beef in marinade and put the whole lot into a zip lock bag and leave to marinate for at least 3-4 hours but preferably overnight.

1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 tsp Asian hot chili sauce
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp sesame oil
the reserved marinade

Mix all the above ingredients together until emulsified. (The original recipe calls for cooking the dressing and leaving to cool but I don't and do not feel the recipe is compromised in any way.)

The salad ingredients are entirely up to you but spinach is the green that I would recommend. It is hearty enough to stand up to the strong flavours and the beef it is served with. When we have this salad some of our vegetables of choice are: tomatoes, red or yellow peppers, red onion sliced thinly, cucumber, grated carrot, radishes, etc. Go with what you like.

When you are ready for your meal light up the barbeque and get grilling. Remove the required amount of meat from the zip lick bag and then reseal and freeze the remaining meat still in the marinade until required. The meat can be cooked indoors of course. I usually sear it in a hot pan quickly and then finish it in the oven. Barbequing it is better though! Cook the meat to your desired preference - medium rare works really well with this salad but if you are not one for that then don't worry, the marinade tends to keep the meat moist and it can take a little extra cooking without compromising the dish. I know because I have been known to  miscalculate cooking times but still enjoyed my dinner just as much.

When the meat is cooked leave it to rest for ten minutes before slicing. When you do slice it, do so against the grain in in fairly thin slices.

Told you I overcooked it at times. It happens!

Pour any meat juices that have collected on the cutting board over the meat.

Serve with the salad and dressing on the side. The dressing is nice on the meat as well as the greens. We have this with copious amounts of sesame seeds sprinkled all over. You could toast them first but I certainly never remember to!

I would have tried to get a photo of all the meal together but by the time I got back in from the kitchen with the beef Emily was already digging into the salad.

Not much to report for today. Spent the morning in B&Q and then Tesco. I now know why they put the wine in the very last aisle. Because if you haven't completely lost the will to live by that point then you might buy yourself a treat. Proof -

I have had a play (successfully) at the machine while I worked on what to give my Pay It Forward participants. Oh, news flash, I have another taker! Only one spot left. The lovely Nikki has jumped on the bandwagon but I can't email her and tell her thanks because my perpetually troublesome email is being troublesome and refusing to talk to anyone. I shall tell Mr IT Man when he isn't looking so hot and bothered about the crap bike rack he just spent all afternoon sourcing and then installing only to find out that it was - well crap to be frank.

So here is a sneaky peek at what I got up to but not all of it and no one knows who it will go to or if the girls will win out and get to keep it for themselves.

Have a great Easter weekend. Don't forget your suncream!


Thursday, 21 April 2011

Rise and Shine; The Day Has Begun

Did you awaken this morning to sun streaming in through the gab in the curtains, listening to happy little song birds warble? No! Neither did I.

No, I awoke to this - 'Mum, we don't have any vanilla left.'


It was 7:03am and Helen had a cake just about ready to go in the oven but we didn't have any vanilla. What the **** did she want me to do about it? She may have started my day but I almost ended hers!

Needless to say, we have a cake. A very nice cake. I did point out - once I had achieved human form again - that we also had raisin buns left and that I had made a whopping big banana cake yesterday. Guess we will be surviving on sugar for a while. Just what my svelte body needs!

But, the cake is nice -

The girls have a friend around to play again today. This was the reason that Helen wanted to make a cake. Fair enough. I shall make sure that their friend takes some home with her as well. I am sure her little sister would like to partake. While the three girls were eating their lunch mine told their friend about some information I had armed them with. They quickly hatched a plan.

It all started with this -

Which I got Helen for Christmas. Both of the girls love it and use it a lot - though Helen gets a little wound up when Emily uses up the proper origami paper. They are getting really good and can turn out stuff like this -

Shortly after Christmas I was flipping through the book with Helen when I came to this page -

- and I said (I think my big brother can see what is coming here), 'That's what Uncle Andrew used to make water bombs out of!'

Today they started a factory in the sitting room -

And then proceeded directly to outside. Let the games commence!

You will notice they rapidly used up their supply of 'bombs' and went for the more direct approach - throwing full cups of water and water from bottles - with liberal use of the outside tap to keep themselves topped up. My only iffy moment with it all was when they managed to get a direct hit on my just about, nearly there, almost dry bed linen.

But I thought what would I rather have? Children who remember growing up and having water fights and wet laundry? Or children who remember having a wet blanket for a mother who never let them have any fun? Wet laundry won hands down. It is still sunny and there are two or three more hours that lots of evaporating can happen in.

And we still have this to look forward to tonight -

Just about enough left in that bag for the first barbeque of the season. Oh bring it on! I am already excited. The coleslaw is made and so is the potato salad. All we need is himself to return from his working week for a four day weekend and the coals are lit! Of course I left the bag of coals in the garage because I would have cried if they got that full of water. I can almost smell those German sausages sizzling. Mmmm!

Finally, I am pleased to announce that the crochet is done. Bigger than I expected for the minimal supply of yarn used. It measures about 42" square. I like the finish I managed to achieve and am happy with the finished result. Does that mean I can go back online and order more yarn? Please say yes!

Okay, I lied, that last bit wasn't the final bit, this is. I am going to go play with leftover 2" blue squares looking for inspiration for Jane at Sew Create It  because she is the only blogger to put her name down for my Pay It Forward. Please follow the link if you missed that post. I would be more than happy to have two more takers. But meanwhile I am trying to formulate plan for Jane's pressie.