Sunday, 31 March 2013

Happy Easter

Hope everyone is having a wonderful day, not matter how you choose to spend it.

And if you are enduring this gloomy English spring winter you are still having fun. Apparently it helps if you have a sister to throw snowballs at.

Snow banks to leap into and little lambs frolicking in the fields you are crossing help too.

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing - a very Happy Easter to you.


Saturday, 30 March 2013

Family Matters

When my father was in Canada recently he was sorting out his flat there. When he returned to England he brought back a couple of items that he thought would be of interest to me. They are indeed.

First up is this item -

This was made by my great-grandfather  He was a whitesmith. This is like a blacksmith, but does not involve the working with horses bit. Whitesmiths makes things from metal. I believe my great-grandfather must have worked with copper a lot as I have some candlesticks made by him as well. The above item (if you know a name for it please do tell me) is used for crimping pastry and sealing the edges of a pie. Cool, huh?!

Before I laid eyes on it I was more interested in my grandmother's cook book.

As you can see, she received it for Christmas in 1937. Unfortunately there are a lot of blank pages in it. And the recipes that are copied in are few and far between. The few recipes that are there are mostly cut from magazines and newspapers.

And as interesting as it sounds (?) I don't think I am about to produce a Raised Pork Pie Made with Tinned Sausage Meat. I think that bit where it says use 3 ozs of fat from the tin is enough to put me off the very thought. (I wonder just how much of the contents of the tin were fat and not meat?!) But it is very much a recipe of its time in post war rationing Britain.

The best bit of the cook book is the hand made cover. The stitching is gorgeous.

Useful, or not, these items are part of my family history and to be treasured just for that fact. Now, if I could have only had her button tin too, but I think disappeared into wherever button tins disappear to long ago.


Friday, 29 March 2013

It's All About the Food Today

First up, let me say I am waaaaay behind in my comment replying. Sorry, life has been busy. And a sick kid was tossed into the mix. It happens. Something had to give and emails was it.

Meanwhile, I have been in the kitchen just about all day. Well ever since I returned home from procuring a ridiculous amount of food. We have friends coming round tomorrow and I have been prepping for that as well as dinner tonight.

Seriously, I have cooked the chicken parts, made the bbq sauce to finish them off tomorrow, made a potato salad, made some humous, made garlic bread, prepped the veg for dinner tonight and got a herb crust on a side of salmon ready for cooking.

But the best bit are the brownies that I have been making. This is not my recipe. It is lifted directly out of the Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream cook book. The brownie recipe is for brownies to be used in their chocolate fudge brownie ice cream - which is divine. But the brownies are so good that they are worth making in their own right. So I did.

There is only one thing I change about this recipe and that is I don't cook them in a 9"x13" baking pan. As you can see by the photo I use cupcake cases. I find the tray bake leaves gooey brownie in the middle of the pan that is just a bit too gooey for me. Fine when I am using the brownie for ice cream but I prefer a little more structure when snacking on them. Cooked in the cupcake cases they have a nice crispy outside and a lovely moist gooey inside.

Recipe -

4 oz (100g) dark chocolate
1/2cup (1 stick/4 ozs) butter
4 large eggs at room temperature
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup plain flour

Preheat oven to 350F/180C/Gas Mark 4.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over simmering water. Let cool to room temperature before using in the recipe. (Or, like me, melt the butter and chocolate together in the microwave and stick your finger in to make sure it isn't too hot to cook the eggs in the batter.)

Beat the eggs and salt until very fluffy. Gradually add the sugar and vanilla and beat well. (I whack it all in in one go but I am telling you the 'proper' way.) Fold in the cooled chocolate mixture. Then fold in the flour until just incorporated. As there is no leavening agent in these brownies you want to fold carefully to retain as much of the air that you have beaten into the mixture as possible.

Pour the batter into the cupcake cases - about 80% full. Pop into the oven for approximately 25 minutes. The tops should be slightly cracked and crisp looking when ready.

Eat and enjoy. We will be having ours tomorrow with vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce and squirty cream. Everything is better with squirty cream, isn't it?


Thursday, 28 March 2013

The Big Reveal is Almost Here

For one year now I have been in the Stitch Tease - An International Mystery Quilt Bee. There are eight of us under the auspices of our Queen Bee Di - Random Thoughts of Do or Di. The brief was we each make a block or strip for a quilt we would like to have and then the others would make a block or strip to go with it.

The hitch was we wouldn't get to see the blocks being made during the year. They were sent to someone else in the bee and that person would piece them into a quilt top and send them to the intended person at the end of the bee year.

Well, that time has arrived and eight quilt tops are now in the hands of the postal system making their way to five different countries on three different continents. I pieced Di's quilt top and it has been sent. Soon, very very soon if the postal people do their job, Di will see this quilt top.

Only she will finally see the unpixelated version. The only bit she can see clearly in the photo above is from her original block so no big surprises revealed there.

I am pretty sure she will love it. I do.


Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Playing With Fish

I've just been having a play with my new fabric and thread. No great creations, just one wee small one. A needle book.

          Front...                                                             Back...                                                            Inside.

It is only now that I have finished it that I realise I haven't top stitched the edges before sewing the seam to fold it in half. Oh well, I'm not ripping out any stitches. I like it how it is well enough.


Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Doing the Happy Dance

I am almost afraid to tell you all this, but a little while ago I won another bloggy giveaway prize. Only this time it was like the grand lottery of all giveaway prizes. Jump up and down and squeal good prize.

The lovely Kim - My Go-Go Life - writes a great blog, makes beautiful things and writes great tutorials. If you don't read her already you should. If you need incentive then look at this amazing block that she has a tutorial for -

Photo from Kim's blog.
Viewmaster tutorial can be found here.
I was completely gobsmacked when Kim emailed me and told me I had won. Well, wouldn't you be if you won this?!

You can hear me swooning from wherever you are in the world right now, can't you? Two of my most favourite things - Heather Ross fabrics and Auriful thread. Could a girl get any luckier than this?

The thread card is such a brilliant thing to have. No more guessing games in the thread ordering. Besides which, it is just mesmerizingly beautiful to look at. Kim chose the three larger spools to match the Heather Ross prints perfectly. Surprisingly for me, I love the brown. Maybe that's because it is such an excellent chocolate shade.

And the Heather Ross! What can I say? Other than the night before I found out I won, a very close friend emailed and asked if I had any of two particular HR prints that I could spare. Exactly these two prints. Serendipity! I will be sharing with her as she is as much a Heather Ross fanatic as I am. And it would be cruel and unkind not to make her smile as much as I am.

So life is good in this household today. Despite the child still being ill. And the car coming home from the garage with a hefty price tag. How can all that get you down when you have these wonderful things to cheer you up?


Monday, 25 March 2013

Last But Not Least

I started working on my final bee block for the first round of Stitch Tease last week but then I ran out of bondaweb. I ordered some the same time I ordered more wadding, but apparently one company needs two and a half days to place one item in the post when another can get a big old roll of wadding to you first thing thing the next morning. Let's just say I know which company I will be returning to sooner than the other.

Today, despite the other child getting the first child's germs, I managed to continue on with the sewing of the bee block. But I can't show you. The big reveal will come in a few weeks time.

All I can show you is this little sneak peek of me FMQing round a letter. In impeccable wobbly style.

Sick child and a school run to do. Well, she is all medicated up and being very stoic. Thank goodness for that.


Sunday, 24 March 2013


Last week I gave you a sneaky peek of a little wall hanging that I had made. Last night the recipient - my dad - received it so now I can show you what I made.

My dad is mad about boats. Has been all my life. It was known to drive me batty when I was a child. When I say 'mad about boats' I mean totally obsessed. I would never be like that...

... unless it was about fabric and quilting. Dad thinks that this sewing stuff is nice, but boring. I need to talk to him about the enforced looking at boats torture of my childhood.

The main feature of the mini is for Dad. The boat obviously.

The fish feature was for me. I couldn't do the mini without something quirky in it. So I embroidered the fish. I thought that a mermaid would have been a good idea but that was after the fact, and I was in love with me wee fish by then. Not sure if my artistic skills are up to a mermaid anyway.

I hope my dad likes looking upon this while he is at his computer, looking at boats online most likely.


Saturday, 23 March 2013

Not Quite What We Planned

My brother came down from Aberdeen on Thursday. The plan was to have lovely walks along the canal, a pub lunch (or two), admire the daffodils and frolicking lambs, and show him how much balmier the weather was down here 'in the South'.

Instead he got a sick niece yesterday and then pummelled by snowballs today. In the scheme of things, not what we planned but, in terms of the snowball fight, very good fun.

I have no photos of the snowball fight as I just might have been actively involved. I do have my brother helping Emily in fort construction, growing up in Canada having made him an expert advisor.

Helen industriously got on with snowman making safely out of shot of their snowballs.

I darted back and forth helping whacking anyone I could with snowballs. The general feeling around here is a happy one, despite the unseasonable weather.

Now, I just need the roads to not freeze tonight as my brother and I are supposed to be taking my dad out for dinner, to celebrate him turning 80.


Friday, 22 March 2013

Let Them Eat Cake

I have my older brother (much, much older - yes, he reads this) visiting this weekend so there won't be much sewing done. But there will be cake eaten so I thought I would share the recipe.

The banana cake that I make is based on a recipe out of the Fanny Farmer Cook Book (I know, snigger away). Like a lot of recipes I tweaked this one. The cook book recipe is good, but I like mine better. If I didn't I would have returned to their recipe obviously.

Ingredients -

4 ozs butter (1/2 cup)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup mashed banana (about three medium sized bananas and I don't mash mine, I just chuck them into the mixer and let it do the job for me)
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups plain flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup crème fraiche (or sour cream)
1/2 cup unsweetened dessicated coconut (optional, but it is nice with the bananas)

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Butter and flour a 9" square tin, or just line it like I do.

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add in the bananas and beat the hell out of it if you haven't pre-mashed them like me. Add in the eggs and vanilla and mix. Mix the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl then dump into the butter mixture in one go. Mix well, giving the bowl a scrape to make sure it is all incorporated. Add in the crème fraiche and the coconut, and mix until it is all blended.

Place the batter in the prepared baking tin. Bake for approximately 45 minutes, until a tooth pick poked in the middle comes out clean.

Have your first piece while it is still warm, like I did. Promise you won't regret it. Hope you like it as much as we do.


Thursday, 21 March 2013

A New Project

Because we have firmly established that there are always new ideas lurking in the corners of our minds, I did a bit of paper cutting to enable me to start a new project. I'm thinking half hexies surrounding whole hexies. Like this.

The fabric I pulled is a very limited palette, especially for me. Navy blues, greys, and then some vivid pinks on reds. What do you think?


Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Something For Me

My Home Sweet Home mini quilt is finished. Originally this mini was meant for someone else. But then I made something better suited for her, and fell in love with this myself - so I am keeping it. I have just made the last stitch on the back to secure the binding down and what began as an experiment has resulted in something that is quirky, fun and mine. (Did I mention I am keeping it?)

I bound it in a bright blue with small yellow flowers. I contemplated a navy text print for quite a while but decided to stick with the light and fun theme right to the end. I even, in a rare moment of forward planning, remembered to sew in the corner pockets so I am one step closer to being able to hang it on my wall.

I am happy with the little details I managed to include in this mini. Some of the fussy cuts are the only bit of fabric I had in that particular print so I am pleased with how they all fit in to their particular locations so well. Making this mini was a learning process for me and I had no concrete plan, just added in different things as I sewed and the mini grew.

And I am so very pleased that the British bulldog is in there due to all the advice and encouragement I received from you guys when I mucked up my first attempt to put him in the picture. Thank you to all who helped.

So that is another finish. I wonder what I will start next? Do you ever worry about running out of ideas, or are you like me - lying awake at 5am this morning thinking of a layout for epp that I would like to try out, and mentally auditioning different fabrics and layouts in my mind rather than doing something sensible like sleep? Will we ever have enough time, and fabric?


Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Flying Geese

The lovely Di - Random Thoughts of Do or Di - asked for flying geese blocks for the Modern Stitching Bee for this month. She specified the colour palette and that the background be grey. Other than that we could make whatever block we wanted as long as it was on a three inch scale. So we could do a 6" x 24" block, a 12" block, or a 15" x 9" block, whatever. The dimensions were our choice, as was the layout.

I went online for a tutorial for making flying geese without any leftover fabric. I've done it before but I needed reminding of how to do it. I highly recommend this tutorial as it tells you how to make the blocks, and - more importantly - the maths involved to make geese of whatever size you would like.

Once I worked out my requirements the sewing was simple, and chain piecing was easy.

I made one 12" square block and it came in only slightly bigger than the unfinished 12.5" required measurements. The instructions said to use a scant 1/4" seam so I suppose I was a little more scant than required. I am hoping Di can still work with this.

For my second block I was going to do a long strip but in the end I decided to send Di six 6" square blocks so she could slot them in where required, or piece them together if that worked better.

The blocks took me far less time than I thought they would and I am happy I don't have a whole bunch of left over HSTs taunting me and demanding that I do something with them.


Monday, 18 March 2013

Let The Sun Shine

I mentioned yesterday that I have a number of items to make that need to be completed in the next two weeks. I have managed to make one of them but can only show you a sneak peek until the person it was intended for receives it. Until it lands on the recipient's doorstep I can only show you this much.

I hope this casts a little sunshine into their life. The fish? Well, I seem to have an affinity for them of late.


Sunday, 17 March 2013

Under Pressure

I have a list as long as my arm of things I have to get done in the next two weeks. These are not things I would like to get done, but must. Family birthday presents, bee blocks, bee quilt top, etc. Meanwhile, my sewing area is littered with half finished projects cluttering up the surfaces.

To try and get things in hand this morning I grabbed the Siblings Together quilt top, that has been basted for ages now, and sat and quilted it with only a stop for breakfast. I went with a double loop sort of pattern. I want the quilt to be soft and squishy, cuddly to wrap round a body, so I didn't want any heavy quilting. Plus I wanted to get it done.

I had completed about 95% of the quilting and my thread spool ran out. I hadn't even noticed it was getting low I was concentrating on the fmq so much. I found some more, checked the bobbin was okay and continued. The thread broke. I sorted that out and finished the quilt. The machine wasn't as happy as it had been though.

When I looked at the back of the quilt where the thread had originally broke there was a lump of lint tangled in the thread. Ooops!

I lifted my foot plate and had a look. Seems I hadn't been in there for a while and usually I manage to stay on top of this. Today's quilting showed me why I shouldn't let things get so fluffed up inside.

The machine has now been defluffed, oiled and is ready for the next project. Now I have to manage to pull fabric and cut the design without dithering away the rest of the afternoon. Not an easy thing for me to accomplish.


Saturday, 16 March 2013

Palette Building

Have you all seen the contest over at Intrepid Thread to build a colour palette based on a picture and upload it to Flickr? The premise being that you think a bundle would be nice in the colours in your palette. The winner will receive a FQ bundle based on their palette. You need to use the palette building link they have on their blog post and it isn't as easy as I thought it would be. Play-Crafts tends to find the browns and the muted shades more than I would have liked, or maybe my eye is not as good as I thought it was in finding the predominant colours in a photo. That would be a much more likely scenario.

I went on Google and tried all sorts of photos before I decided on this one as my entry into the contest.

Why not go and see what you can come up with?

Meanwhile, as it rains incessantly outside and I manage to get little done inside, I thought I would show you the cushion that Emily made the other day. She had a little help from me only in appliquéing the heart and closing the gap with hand stitching after she had stuff the cushion. It measures about 9.5" square as she used two layer cake squares in the making of it.

She quilted is using fmq, stippling and making little looping hearts. Then she embroidered the little eyes and moustache on one of the circles on the back - which I think is absolutely inspired. (But I am her mother.)

She made the cushion for a friend of ours. It went of to its new home, along with the HR cushion I made, and has been received today. I didn't want to let on that My Precious was being rehomed as it had to be a total surprise. It was. Both cushions are already dearly loved which was just the outcome we hoped for.


Friday, 15 March 2013

Plucking Papers

Today's post title is not a euphemism for swearing. Really, it's not. It is to do with how I have been filling my 'free time' the past few days.

Because I have finished piecing my Walk in the Woods epp star.

These went together way faster than I anticipated. The star measures over 26" from opposite points. I love how all the half hexies makes such interesting patterns.

Isn't it funny how I started this with one idea in mind which didn't work with the limited colour palette in this range, but it is this very colour palette that makes this star work so well for me? As it is too big for a cushion I think I will appliqué it onto a whole piece of cloth and turn it into a baby quilt.

Meanwhile I have a whole lot of papers to pluck.

Paper plucking - isn't that what everyone does with their Friday evenings?


Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Miscellany of a Day

My world became a happier place today because I am once again in the world of the smart phone. Dropping my iPhone was not a good move, and I have only been saved from the world of stupid phones by the generosity of this lady who has given me the use of her old phone. Thank you! I am back to texting, phoning, email replying whilst out, and Instagram fun again. Happy me.

Whilst out getting a memory card for this phone, I also got cushion inserts for several cushions so even less of the world's ugliest sofa is visible now. Happier me.

Then I finished basting my charm pack of Walk in the Woods into half hexies. I lay them out in my planned scheme and quickly discovered it wouldn't work as there wasn't enough colour contrast to make it look good. (I forgot to take a photo so you will have to trust me here.) I played about for ages until I landed on this idea.

I know, a little odd and I have no purpose for it as of yet but I already started sewing the pieces together so it is too late to stop me.

Meanwhile, Helen has some layer cake squares to play with and she has jumped right in to making a Siblings quilt, bless her. Though I probably get bad mum points for letting her use the rotary cutter with a strapped up hand.

Not a serious injury, just an irritating taking forever to heal one.

And Emily has got hold of two more layer cake squares and had me applique a heart onto one. Now she is stippling them and shall be turning them into a mini cushion I am told.

I love that look of concentration.
And that's (mostly) what's been going on round here.


Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Cushion Love

I am happy to report that the corduroy was a dream to sew with. I am totally in love with it and have added it to the list of things that I must have (even if I can't have them right away).

Now I am sure that there will be people who shake their heads in despair at me, but I thought it a really good idea to use the selvedge edge to sew the zip to as the cushion back wasn't lined or quilted. This way I didn't have to deal with hemming and other faffing about stuff. It worked a charm as far as I was concerned.

You may also have figured out that the only long zips in my stash are blue. The same shade blue that pop up in my cushions time and again. It may be time that I invested in more long zips, though I must admit the blue has worked with just about everything I have done.

But let's skip all that stuff and get right to the important bit. My HR cushion is complete! Woohoo!

I am not sure that I have the words to say how this cushion makes me feel, so we will stick to a simple, easy word - happy.

The zip went in a treat not having to deal with layers of fabric and wadding like I usually do. There was next to no stretch in the corduroy so hence no muttering and cursing from me.

Now I can just sit and look at this cushion - absolutely no one is putting their butt near it!! Just saying. Nope, I'll just sit, look and smile. Happy me.


Monday, 11 March 2013

Simple Does It

After much dithering I finally decided to keep the quilting on My Precious HR cushion cover ultra simple. I went with a double row of stitching between all the blocks, and stitching in the ditch around the middle (white) square. I want the fabrics to be the feature, not the quilting.

Then, this morning I trundled off to the quilt shop with it and held it up against a myriad of fabrics and eventually chose a lime green cordoroy. I rather like the combination though I know some people are not fans of green.

Well, it's bought now so that's what I'm going with. You green loathers - please lie and tell me it works perfectly well.


Sunday, 10 March 2013

It Is Not Mothers Day...

... If you live in North America, or Australia, or many other places in the world. But it is Mothers Day if you live in the UK. And call me shallow, but I love it.

I don't ask for a lot for Mothers Day, in fact for me it is not about gifts that money can buy but about the small wonderful things that your kids can do that just make you smile all the more. Oh, and the fact that himself is ace at making me the best breakfast in bed going. I kid you not. I've blogged about it before, but his smoked salmon eggs benedict is amazing!

Then there are the homemade cards. My girls are funny because they can never make up their mind what design to go with so I get more than one from each of them. I like that.

Emily made me laugh particularly hard this year as she had typed this out on the computer and then taped it in one of her cards.

There was a lovely box of chocolates, and some homemade presents - a bracelet, a little pouch with handmade soaps in it and a dream catcher.

Best of all was the big family cuddle in bed, and the laughter. Which peaked when Helen got the trebuchet she made in school last year and used it to fire wet cotton balls at Emily. Between that and the party poppers they set off my bedroom is going to take some serious cleaning up tomorrow but I don't care because it was worth it.

The last gesture from the girls today is this cake that they made with absolutely no assistance from me at all. Their Auntie Francine is going to be sooooooo proud (my best friend in Canada is a professional cake maker and taught them all they know).

There's a chocolate cake hiding under that beautiful exterior.
Wherever you are - Mothers Day or not - I hope you have had as lovely and happy a Sunday as I have had.