Sunday, 29 September 2013

An Abberviated Recap of the Past Few Days

It has been busy round here. More so than usual. To give you an idea here is what I have been up to over the past three days.

Thursday I dropped the girls at school and went the most stupid route to Ange's house, adding miles and miles onto my journey, and losing out on valuable Ange time. For future reference, there is a junction 21A if you are northbound on the M1, but you have no access to it if you approach it in the southbound lanes. Let's just say that was the first of my mistakes.

But, eventually I got there. And had a lovely old time. I didn't do an iota of sewing. Ange attempted to do some fabric cutting. Apparently we are not good at multi-tasking when we are talking that much. I only got a photo of her 2.5" squares she was cutting for Hadley's bee blocks as she wouldn't (can you believe it?!) let me take a photo of her pregnant arse self.

I was seriously happy when she outed her pregnancy recently because I have known for just about forever. At the FQ Retreat this summer Ange was sat beside me for the dinner out that I organise. When she ordered a non-alcoholic beverege (out of character shall we say) I flippantly asked, 'What are you, pregnant?' Well, you should have seen her face! Dead giveaway. It was so funny. Our menus went up to hide behind - rudely I might add - as we did the, 'No, really are you?!!' conversation.

For the lack of a photo of her developing bump here are some of her low volume squares.

The second photo is my kitchen. It rarely looks so pristine so I thought I would take a photo just to prove that it could happen. The ocassion for this unwarrented cleansing of the kitchen, and the rest of the house, was me wanting to avoid total humiliation.

Friday afternoon saw the arrival of a German exchange student here. Helen will be returning to this girl's house in Germany in June. We have been so lucky as we are hosting the most fabulously nice girl. Genuinely lovely. (Phew!) That was enough to make me happy, but on top of that she gave me this lovely FQ bundle. Seriously nice fabrics here folks! You can't see much of the clothes pegs on the bottom FQ but I am in love.

Aren't those sewing notions to die for?

Yesterday we headed off to London for the day. First on the list of things to do was shopping on Oxford Street. On a Saturday may I add. Good lord it was busy! The time spent in the massive Primark was enough to turn me off shopping forever, but the girls were happy. That was what it was all about I guess. And I found my happy place again when we went off to Chinatown for lunch.

After lunch was all about sightseeing. We walked from Chinatown through Leicester Square, and then on to Trafalgar Square. We went into the National Gallery and I had one of those moments when we came out, taking in the view and thinking what a truly marvellous city London is.

There were human statues and street performers, and I went through a tonne of loose change, but we did have a good time.

The girls climbed the monument and did some lion taming.

Then we walked down Whitehall taking in the sights, until we got to the Houses of Parliament.

Then it was back on the Tube and time to head home, exhausted. I'm still exhausted with all that has been going on. Sewing time has been severely dented. And in a few moments I am taking the girls to hang out with some horses. I think I will sleep all day tomorrow when they are in school. Can. Not. Wait.


Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Bee Block Catch-Up

The roller coaster ride of computer useage continues. My computer has died for the third time. I am fed up. I can't put it more simply than that. And that, simply put, is why I had another mini blogging break. But I am starting to get some sewing done, so not all is lost.

I am behind in my bee blocks. No surprise there then! But I am working in redeeming my name. First up I did Jennie's Brit bee blocks. She provided the solids used and some guidance in the type of block she required. I hope I have met her expectation. The hardest part about these blocks was remembering they weren't identical, they were mirror image. My sewing brain doesn't work in mirror image without a few mistakes, but I got there in the end. Phew!

Next up I did Hadley's Stitch Tease blocks. She required 98 individual 2.5" squares to be cut, the majority to be low volume. Thankfully my stash seemed to be able to accommodate this. The sewing together was just a matter of nose down and do a lot of chain piecing.

As Hadley is such a good friend and I know she would appreciate it I snuck in a few Heather Ross prints.

One more set of bee blocks and another smaller project and I will be caught up on my commitments, until the first of October that is.


Thursday, 19 September 2013

Autumn Harvest

The hedgerows are heavy with blackberries around here. And one of my lovely friends has more apples on her trees than she knows what to do with. The girls and I went over to her place late afternoon yesterday and filled our boots bags. We already had blackberries freshly picked, waiting in the fridge.

So it was up to me to do something with all this bounty. I made a job lot of pastry, got out the apple peeler/corer thingy, and got to work.

The pies are all in the freezer now, waiting for those cold weekend nights in the winter when hot apple pie with custard/cream/ice cream (choose your favourite) is the perfect dessert. I sprinkled some of the blackberries in each pie too, and then used the rest of the berries in a apple blackberry crumble that we will have tomorrow night.

None of these tasks would have been achieved without my handy dandy peeler/corer/slicer. That Victorian invention is absolutely awesome. I would still be there peeling otherwise. And I am not that dedicated.

Nor do I wish to suggest that I spend every hour in the kitchen turning out home cooked food. Dinner tonight was courtesy of Sainsbury's. I would like to thank them.

I still have apples left, but I've run out of pie plates. I think I may buy one more so we can have pie on the weekend. I'm not using one out of the freezer yet!


Wednesday, 18 September 2013

What Was I Thinking?!

It seemed like a good idea when it was just that, an idea lurking in the furthest reaches of my brain.

Yes, why don't I just stitch in the ditch around all the little HR bits of fussy cut and turn the quilt every two inches? And then do five rows of straight line stitching around each rectangle in the white bits (more freaking turning of the quilt)? And to top it off why not fill in all the blue bits with FMQ in a pebble(ish) type of quilting? Why not?

Because I do like to torture myself.

But, I do think that it will look good when it's done. Sort of like child birth, I will forget all the pain. Not that I ever managed to birth a child. Failed at that spectacularly. The two of them would still be looking for the exit if we had left it up to them!

Time to step away from the sewing machine. And I am not quite as deranged as I sound. Just joking. Really, I am!


Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Wooden Spools

I bought some thread at the market in the summer time. For no other reason than it was on wooden spools.

I only paid £2 for the six spools. The large spool I bought when I was down in Hastings earlier in the year.

I love them. They are tactile, and beautiful, and make me smile when I look at them. I would call that money well spent.


Monday, 16 September 2013

When I Wasn't Looking...

... some new fabric seems to have snuck into my house. Not much. But what is there is pretty - I think.

First up is for Helen as she has requested new curtains in her bedroom. She caught sight of this Nordika print and fell in love. So it it destined to be her curtains, when I've bought the lining fabric and other necessary bits and bobs.

Somehow, not sure how exactly, I managed to buy a few other bits while I was searching for a shop that still had enough yardage in stock for the curtains. I am sure these FQs were entirely necessary to my well being.

Then, when I went to my lqs for some wadding I found these two bits in the sale bin. Posy in the sale bin? I think not! I rescued it as was only right. Not sure what the blue is but I thought it was pretty.

There might be a little bit of fabric in the USA for me too, been held there by a great friend in case I want to add anything more to the envelope before she amalgamates it and sends it. For the life of me I can't even remember what I ordered so that's going to be a fun one to open!


Friday, 13 September 2013

Baking Is A Precise Science...

... or is it?

Today was a cookie sort of day. You know, grey, a bit of rain, cool after the lovely heat of the summer. There was no reason to avoid being stood by a hot oven, and every reason to actually enjoy it. Then there was the rewards from the actual toil. cookies still warm from the oven are one of life's great pleasures.

Today I wanted to make a tried and trusted, my mum made them for me, recipe. Lots of people have a ginger cookie recipe and are partial to their own version. Just like the stuffing for the turkey at Christmas, the recipe you grew up with is the best one because of all the memories associated with it. Anyway, that's the sort of cookie I needed today.

Out came the recipe card, written out for me by my mum when I left home at eighteen. Because I asked her to. (That comment is for my brother who wonders why she did it for me and not him!) Now, here comes the bit about baking being a precise science.

Where the recipe calls for shortening I use butter. I just do that, all the time. I think it goes back to when I first baked in England and shortening was not an ingredient you saw here, and I didn't know what the equivilent was. So I just always used butter. Next is the precise measuring of the spices. A tablespoon of ground ginger becomes rather a heaped one in my hands, because I like spice. Cinnamon gets heaped in its teaspoon too. And somehow a good dash of nutmeg finds its way in.

The recipe calls for molasses, something else not often found on English shelves. But treacle is. Treacle is a product of  molasses according to the tin. Not sure if that makes them the same thing or not, but it is what I use - except on days like today when I realise I don't have enough in the store cupboard, so I make up the difference with Golden Syrup.

You roll the dough in balls - when I was growing up you then rolled the balls in sugar but I don't bother now because that is just a faff. Then you bake them, and despite all the tweaks to the recipe along the way they come out great. Crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside, and yummy all the way through.

Here's the recipe if you are interested -

Ginger Snaps

Preheat the oven to 350F/180C/Mark 4

2 cups of plain flour
1 tbsp of ground ginger
2 tsp of bicarb. of soda
1 tsp of cinnamon
1/2 tsp of salt
3/4 cup (6ozs) butter
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/4 cup molasses/treacle

Mix the dry ingredients together. In a large bowl cream the butter and sugar. Add in the egg and molasses and beat well. Gradually add the dry ingredients. Roll into balls of equal size and place well spaced apart on a baking sheet. Bake for approximately ten minutes or until a lovely dark golden brown. Enjoy.

Makes approximately three dozen cookies depending on how much cookie dough you eat and how big you roll your balls.


Thursday, 12 September 2013

My Current Conundrum

While at the FQ Retreat (oh so long ago it seems) I did Katy Jone's EPP Triangles tabletop session. I can't say I got a lot done. Other than giving my laughing ability a good workout. It was a fabulous class, with a very funny bunch of women who said it like it is, and then some.

The gist of this converasation I am having with you here is that I got about half of one sixth of the block made in the duratoin of the class. Then in my most recent bloggy computerless void I decided to get on with finishing it.

I rather lost faith in my fabirc choices as I sewed. I wondered how I came up with such an odd assortment. But then I finished it.

And I really, really like it. Especially if I squint at it. I'm odd like that Now I want to turn this into a cushion, but am at a loss of what the background should be. I've placed it upon Kona charcoal, Kona ash and black Essex linen. I am not sure if any of them are right, though I am veering towards the black linen and thinking close straight line quilting in a variegated yellow.

But that somehow doesn't work in my brain either. Am I completely wrong? Should I look at a purple or orange background? Should this be a hand stitching project - in which case it will have to get in line as I have a backlog of hand quilting to do?

What would you do, if it were you?


Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Away Day

I ventured off into the Cotswolds today, to meet up with a very good friend. We had an excellent day. Burford is the most pretty of towns, and has enough lovely things to look at, both inside the shops and out, to keep us entertained.

I loved that old phone pbox peeping out in the corner of someone's garden.
I pressed my nose up against a number of windows, but tried not to leave drool marks.

But I kept my wallet closed with great restraint, despite temptation. (Okay, I may have had one of those lovely treats from one of the windows above!)

Love that brass plaque!
We chose a great pub and had lunch, and I fell in love with the tractor seat bar stools, and now want them in my some day dream house.

Then we saw this sign, and seeing as how I had 'permission' (as if I need it!) I treated myself to new slippers.

Then I came home and my stupid computer was buggered again. But himself had a back up for me to use. Which I am using now. Let's hope it plays nice. So far so good.

Spending a day with a fab friend in a beautiful place is a highly recommended activity. It was good to drop the girls at school and keep driving. I must do it more often.


Monday, 9 September 2013

Anyone Still Out There?

I've got a working computer again! At least for the time being. It is probably on its last legs but himself waved his magic wand and got it talking to me again last night. Ridiculously it did what it was supposed to do without too much bother for him, and everything that it refused to do for me. Obviously it needed to be talked to nicer than I did when it wasn't playing nice!

Either way, for the moment me and my computer are friends again, and I have wisely backed up my files so I won't be such a head case if and when it throws a wobbly again.

So what did I do while I was absent from this bloggy world? Well, I took the girls to London again - with a friend - so Emily could have her requested birthday treat of afternoon tea at the Royal Horseguards Hotel again. They loved it as much the second time round as they did the first.

And then I became the mother of not one, but two, high school students. How did that happen so quickly?!

With a relived sigh I can tell you that Emily is settling in better than we hoped for and dealing with all the changes that life in a big school brings. Homework is rather freaking her out, and she is tired, but that is par for course. We can deal with stuff like that. And it looks like if we continue the way things are that we can avoid a year like we had last year. Woohoo!

And me? I'm settling back into routine too. Slowly starting to claw back a little sewing time. Seems strange after doing so little for so long. I decided that despite the need to catch up on bee blocks I would ease myself back in by picking up my favourite project. The HR Fan Club quilt.

I finished piecing the back. Went and bought some wadding on the weekend and got it basted. I even started quilting - miracle of miracles. The plan is to quilt in the ditch around each and every HR piece which involves a lot of quilt wrestling as I turn it again, and again, and again. But I think that it will be worth it in the long run. And then in the white I am doing close straight line quilting to frame each block. One block down and eight to go.

While I was dependent on my iPad for communication I came to some conclusions. Flickr sucks totally on the iPad. It will not open properly and just when you get a flicker (pun intended) of hope the thing instantly crashes again and again. Impossible. Bloglovin' is not filling me with love on the iPad either. You don't have the flexibility that you have with it on the computer, and again, it crashes so often that you I just get pissed off and give up eventually.Oh, and having to open each blog in 'original version' each time that you want to comment is an embuggerance too.

So, it's offical. I've told you about the girls. I've done some sewing. I've had a bitch about something. I am most definitely back. And glad to be here!