Sewing, stitching, baking, cooking, gardening, shopping and general homemaking.

Monday, 29 March 2010


Some people are talented bakers, some people are enthusiastic bakers.  I'm enthusiastic and bake often, sometimes with good results, sometimes with not so good results.  My baked goods always taste ok though.  Now, on the other hand, my DH is a talented baker.

If I'd have made these scones they would have been flat as pancakes but, as you can see, these rose beautifully.  I'm looking forward to having one after dinner with plum compote and cream.  This situation of enthusiasm versus talent doesn't deter me, I will carry on baking and hope that one day I'll attain that magic touch.
Our clocks went forward on Saturday/Sunday night, this always throws my inner clock out of sync.  As mentioned previously, I had to get up early today and be out of the house for eight o'clock.  So, I went to bed at my usual time (by the clock), and had an hours read, but could I get to sleep - it was at least two o'clock before I dropped off and I had to be up at six.  Then it dawned on me, I did go to sleep at my usual time, it was really one o'clock in old time!  I got to the venue early, as I usually do, I'm one of those people even if I think I'm late I'm early.  I sat there all day doing nothing but chat with a group of lovely ladies who felt the same way that I did about the situation (see a previous post re what I was there for).  Then, at three o'clock we were told we could all go home and not go back until a week on Wednesday - what a relief!!!  At least next week we don't have to be there until ten o'clock.

Friday, 26 March 2010

An Unproductive Week

This week has been wasted, hardly anything done at all because I've felt so tired and I don't know why.  I did get two more Ohio Star blocks made and some more cut out.
This is more the look I want and I'm pleased with how the colours go together.  I kept waiting for this tiredness to go off but it hasn't so far, I could have got more blocks sewn up if it had.
I did a bit of baking and made an apple and cinnamon cake, no picture because it's about all eaten.  In my quest for a cake suitable for a diabetic I tried a cookie recipe.  They don't look much like cookies to me, they tasted more like a scone and my friend tried one with low fat spread and said they were acceptable but I think she was just being kind!  They had no fat in them and the granulated sweetener.
There is a bit of cheerfulness in the garden
Miniature daffodils
Primulas that I took out of the vegetable plot and just roughly stuck in this tub, they are doing well
I love the colour of this pulmanaria.
No gardening got done again, it's been quite a wet week, we have had intermittent sunshine though.  My broadbean seedlings are now outside in the mini greenhouse and my tomato seedlings are doing well but are a bit stalky.
I hope I recover from this tiredness soon, next week is going to be a bit of a challenge.  I have to be out of the house by 8 am on Monday and I'll probably be away every day for the rest of the week.  I haven't had to do this for several years and I'm not looking forward to it!!!

Monday, 22 March 2010


After I decided to have a go at the Ohio Star block, I realised that I needed more fabric.  What - more fabric - I must be mad!!!  The problem was, that even though I have enough fat quarters and enough good lengths to start a fabric shop, nothing matched how I wanted it to.  Luckily(?) the Fabric Guild let me know that I could visit either Friday or Sunday.  My intention was to buy some coordinating fat quarters, about 12 altogether, but once you enter their warehouse plans can easily change.  I didn't buy one fat quarter.  But I did buy
Now I don't know if these are as good a buy as the fat quarters but I just couldn't resist them.  They are Quilters Mix and are ready coordinated for you.  To me they look like samples that you would get in a sample book but I don't have to worry about matching the blocks up now and I'm sure they will get used up better than the fat quarters would.  These varied in price from £2 to £4.50.
There were so many things I couldn't resist
How about these, 3 yard lengths for £3.75 and already done in a patchwork design, great for some quick cheater quilts.
A ready printed cat just waiting to be sewn together - 99p.
Some more lengths, the one on the left 3 yards for £3.75, top right £2 a yard and bottom right 99p a yard.
I also bought buttons at 40p a pack, some broderie anglaise trim at 99p for 3 yards and, of course some sewing machine thread at 60p a reel.  Couldn't show a picture of them as it came out very blurred.
There were also some paper craft bargains that I just had to have.
That was my Sunday, no sewing or gardening got done at all.  I did visit my DS and DIL on the way home as they live quite near to the area of Leicester I went to.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Rainy Saturday

No gardening got done today, it has rained all day.  It's perhaps a good thing really, we both felt a bit tired with all the physical activity that we haven't been used to for quite a while now.
So, instead I decided to start a quilt.  I saw a fabulous quilt on Laurie's blog and she told me that the pattern is Ohio Star.  I went over to Quilters Cache and found the instructions.  Here's my first block
It's not quite how I wanted it to look but I did enjoy making it.
Right, about the cake I made yesterday.  It was a bit stodgy and not very sweet but it was acceptable.  I didn't get around to icing it because I wanted to try it and it was still warm when I cut it (mmmm yummy).  I was glad that I'd added the orange to it, I think it would have been a bit too bland without it.  If you want the recipe leave a comment and I'll post it on my blog for you.  I will make it again as it is a good, no sugar alternative to my usual cakes.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Diabetic Cake

I have a friend who is diabetic and loves baking.  She will often bring cake to my house for Graham, who loves her sponge cakes with buttercream.  I always feel a bit sorry that she can't enjoy a piece of cake when she visits me so I thought I'd try to bake a sugar free cake, then I could offer her a piece with her cup of tea instead of the boring digestive biscuit she usually has.
This cake is orange flavoured, I used the boiled, pureed whole orange idea that I'd used for a non-diabetic cake I'd made recently.  Anyway, I just took the cake out of the oven and, so far, it looks good.  It rose beautifully but is rather pale (apart from one area, my oven is terrible for an uneven heat).  The paleness won't matter as I intend to cover the top with a low fat soft cheese, diabetic suitable, icing.  The sweetener I used was Canderel, I used this in particular because my brother was instrumental in developing this sweeter (the clever old thing!).  Later I will ice the cake and try it then tomorrow I'll report on the taste and texture.  If I think it is ok I'll put the recipe here in case anyone wants to try it.
Garden Report
I spent another morning in the garden.  The weather was so warm I actually took my jacket off today.  I now have five raised beds and it still leaves plenty of areas where I will be able to place tubs and pots.  I'm growing a few things from seed but next week I'll go to a local nursery where I buy my vegetable plants and see what they've got for sale.  It's still a bit early for a lot of things but last year I had success protecting the plants I put in early by using garden fleece around the bed.  Last year I only planted the big raised bed and one row of beans in another bed due to the situation with Graham's health.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Sewing Kit

Do you remember towards the end of last year I asked if anyone wanted to do a swap with me?  Well, one of the emails I had was from Marion saying she would like to have a swap.  As it was, by then, rather near to Christmas, we decided that we would wait until the new year before swapping.  This is what I received from Marion
A fabulous sewing kit
This is what it contained, how generous is that, I love the teacup pincushion.
The interior of the bag has compartments for everything.  I was so excited to receive this sewing kit - thank you Marion, I love it.
Garden Report
I spent another morning in the garden.  Another raised bed was refurbished and I pruned quite a bit off a contorted willow.  I didn't realise this tree would grow so big and now I want to poll the top of it or it will become a nuisance and start to block our driveway.  This has happened with several other so-called 'small trees' I've had, they get massive and take up loads more space than I expect.  My broad beans, that I sowed on the window sill, are sprouting well and should be ready to go outside soon during the daytime to harden off.  When they are off the window sill I'll be able to sow something else to give it a good start.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Another Lovely Day

I can't believe, that after all that really cold, frosty weather, that we are having such warm days.  It is so nice to be outside and not freeze to death.  I had my jacket on and got too warm.  It was lovely.  We got another raised bed sorted out.  This one needed the timber sides replacing as the originals had rotted.  I felt very satisfied with what we accomplished again.
They are the ones at the back with the black plastic covering.  Tomorrow we are going to tackle the one in the middle on the right.  The bricks surrounding this one have crumbled quite badly so we'll replace them with the timber boards.  It will also be slightly shorter, that way we can fit in another bed between the two at the far end and the two in the middle.  This part of our garden is very sheltered.  It can get quite windy where we live at the top of a hill but the veg plot is protected all around and it really cuts out a lot of the wind.
The rhubarb has survived and is growing well.
The snowdrops are still flowering, I've never known them so late.  These are from my great aunt's garden and must date back quite a few years.
This must have self seeded because I didn't plant it.
It seems that my Mother's Day request was taken seriously doesn't it, looks like my vegetable plot will be just how I want it within a couple of weeks.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Sour Dough Mk II

The Mk II version of my sour dough bread looks much better than the Mk I.  I didn't add extra water than recommended to the dough and left it quite dry.  It rose beautifully overnight and I used a bread tin to bake it in.  I also baked it at a higher temperature and for ten minutes longer.  Plus, I put a bowl of water in the oven to provide a more moist environment.  It did split along one end but I think that was caused by the way I'd folded it.  Next week I'll try another technique for the proving that is used at River Cottage.
I spent another morning in my vegetable garden.  The weather was lovely, even better than yesterday as there was no wind.  A robin joined us for a few minutes, he found a few insects in the soil we'd turned over.  I put the manure and some pelleted chicken manure onto the new bed, cleared the big raised bed and marked out another bed ready for making tomorrow.  I've covered the new bed with the black plastic, for two reasons really, to suppress weeds and to also stop the foxes digging holes in it.  I did notice that a fox has started to dig a tunnel under our garage!

Monday, 15 March 2010

Preparing For Spring

The weather is getting much better and I was able to get up to my vegetable plot yesterday and DH helped me to dig out an old shrub and prepare the ground for another raised bed.  He didn't have enough timber in his garage so he went and bought some.  Today we finished making the new bed and also went garden shopping.
The boots I usually wear had to be thrown away a couple of years ago so today I bought myself some Wellingtons.  I wanted black ones but nowadays it seems you can only get green or startlingly, bright coloured ones, I went for green as you can see.
Instead of going to a nearby stables to buy manure I bought a bag from the garden centre, it's easier for us to do this even if it is a bit more expensive.
I tried to find a roll of black plastic to use as a covering for the raised beds but the only sort I could see was the type you use under gravel so I just went for a roll of black plastic waste bags.
While I was at it I bought a few seeds too, chantenay carrot, boltardy beetroot (my favourite to grow) and marketmore cucumber.  For growing in the greenhouse I decided on the tubs of bell pepper and chilli pepper (Poblana, a mild variety).
Because my vegetable plot is quite small I thought I'd try some vertical growing.  I've used this sort of hanging planter to grow flowers in before but never to grow vegetables, apart from the miniature tomatoes that I grow in hanging baskets.  The Flower Pouches includes everything you need, the planter, feed, moisture gel and a gadget for easy watering.  The Hanging Flower Pouch is just the planters so I bought a packet of Nutrigel to go in it.  Then I saw the Reusable Growbags - what a good idea, just like a little raised bed type of thing, this will be very useful.
Apart from the manure, I bought everything from Wilkinson's and I only spent £20, not a bad bit of shopping I think.
This year I'm not going to let the weather put me off being in the garden.  I know last year was a bit different what with Graham being ill.  I intend to spend as much time as I can out there, tending to my plot and to not get carried away with craft activities in the house.  Being outside after spending so much time indoors this winter will do me good, I'm sure I need the vitamin D.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Mother's Day

I've had a lovely card, a beautiful bunch of flowers and a box of Black Magic chocolates from my son.  And from my husband I want some help to get my veg plot organised.  Is that too much to ask???  I've been growing my own veg for about 25 years, it's something I enjoy very much but, because of my 'bad back', I have difficulty these days and need a bit of help.  My DH and I have different ideas about what a veg plot should look like.  To me it is a piece of ground where I grow veg.  To him it is an area that is totally organised and good looking.  To me it looks good if there are lots of veg growing, it doesn't matter if there are no straight lines, the veg still tastes like veg.  You get the idea I'm sure - we have a difference of opinion so nothing gets done.  I wait and wait for that bit of help.  Half an hour a day for a couple of weeks would be great, that's all I want for Mother's Day.

So, a bit of nagging was in order today.  I'm not usually a nag but I felt entitled to complain as it is 'my day' today.  He's just left the house to check if he's got the timber edging and the plant pots I want to use.  I know he's got them but he still has to check.  I'll go up there in about ten minutes to see if it's all out of his garage (which is full of really good stuff) and ready for me to use.  I'm not allowed in his garage, I might move something!!!

Wish me luck, I've got to get a move on with this or I'll be too late again this year to have a really good crop of the things I want to grow.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Sour Dough

My first experience of making sour dough bread was ...hhmmm... interesting.  Each day I fed and watered it and wondered if I was doing it properly.  It seemed to be bubbling up well after two or three days, then it seemed to do nothing on the fourth day.  I decided that it prefered to be in the plastic mixing bowl rather than the glass bowl.  Also, I don't think there was any need to change to a clean bowl each day.  Then last night I got the 'sponge' ready but I think I made it too wet.  This morning I looked at the sponge and was amazed at how it had risen, just how it was supposed to.  However, I was right, it was a bit too wet and I had trouble getting it to stay in a loaf shape.
It spread out rather more than I'd hoped as it was baking.  Never mind, it was my first go and I'm looking forward to having some at lunch time with some soup.  The starter is now in my fridge waiting for me to have another go.  Next time I think I'll bake it in a loaf tin, then if it is a bit loose it will stay a better shape.  It is a fun way to make bread, just hope it tastes as nice as it smells.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Cards & Cake

I haven't spent much time making cards recently.  I think this is because I made a lot in the past and ended up with too many to know what to do with.  Now that I haven't got so many hanging about I thought I'd get going with card making again.
I made four like the above then ran out of ideas, I couldn't show the other two because the picture I took turned out blurred.  So, when I need ideas I do a bit of surfing and came up with this blog and it really sparked off some inspiration in me.
I don't usually do so many layers on cards, my cards tend to be a bit minimal but maybe I need a bit of a change.  Rubber stamping isn't really something I enjoy, even though I've got a box full of stamps.  I prefer decoupage and I think this is the look I'll go for.  I have a small craft group that meets at my house and I think they'll enjoy making this style of card too.  We used to meet every Thursday but last April I closed the group down.  This was due to knowing Graham wouldn't be well enough for me to carry on with it for a while and also because I think we all needed a break.  We met for the first time again last Thursday and the old enthusiasm was back (plus one lady wasn't invited, which made a difference to the mood).  We'll meet alternate weeks this time, that will give me time to come up with new ideas for them to try and still leave me plenty of sewing time.
The cake I mentioned yesterday turned out really nice.  I don't usually fancy cakes with banana in them, I imagine them to be soggy but this cake tastes lovely and has just the right moistness.  The next one I want try from my new recipe book uses an orange in the ingredients, the peel as well as the pulp, so that will be an interesting one to try.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

That's Better

After spending all that time reorganising and cleaning in my craft room yesterday, I think that it looks much better.  I sorted out a couple of shelves and managed to free one up for all my storage jars.

Then I tackled all my wadding, plastic bags and cardboard boxes that were spilling out all over the place.  I tied up the plastic bags and have them stored in a bin under my table.  Some of the cardboard was recycled into our recycling bin ready for collection by the council.  I was glad that I'd kept the tall box that I'd had some flowers delivered in (from my DS &DIL for my birthday) because I was able to use it for all the small bags/pieces of wadding that were always sliding out of that corner.
Now doesn't that look neat and tidy!!!
There are still areas that need sorting out but at least some of it's done.  The trouble is I can't motivate myself to do any crafting today, I just want to admire the tidyness!  Something I have done today though, is start off some sour dough.  I've never tried this before but when I read Melissa's really easy instructions, I just had to try it.  When I finish this blog post I'm going to make a Walnut, Date & Honey cake from my new recipe book.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Driving Myself Crazy - Again!

Today I decided to tidy my craft room.  I wanted to put things away that I'd used recently and give it a good dust.  It's amazing how much dust is created in here.  I've got two tables, one for sewing and general use and a small one where my guillotine stands, ready for when I'm card making.  The first thing I did was move everything from the small table and put it onto my work table.
Now I've got places where I keep all the tools and that will be easy enough to tidy up.  BUT - where shall I keep all the fancy storage jars and other decorative stuff?  That set me off and I started to get downhearted.  I'm sick of shuffling everything around to try and get some order in here.  I gave away a load of crafty items just before Christmas and now I concentrate just on sewing and card making.  There still isn't enough room in here.  One corner in particular always gets out of hand
It's where I keep all my wadding. for some reason it keeps escaping (because I rummage around under there looking for things).  I keep telling my DH that I need three craft rooms but he disagrees every time and refuses to let me turn all three bedrooms into craft rooms - the old meany!!!  No, he's very patient really and tries to help me sort it out.  We have different ideas about what 'sorting out' means.  To me it is to have everything in it's place and readily accessible.  To him it is to put everything away - full stop.  And why do I always want to keep cardboard boxes and plastic bags?  Well they might come in useful, won't they?  Oh well, I'll spend another hour in here then have a cup of tea.