Autumn is here

It’s absolutely crazy how quickly the summer holidays have passed by! I suppose this was our first proper summer holidays, with Max’s first year at school over and us enjoying ‘us-time’ for a couple of months.

We had family staying over both from my side and from Ian’s side almost back to back, which was lots of fun for everyone! Ok, so the weather wasn’t terribly summery (except when my sister-in-law Jo and co stayed over, then it was faaaaabulous!! – I mean we even ate breakfast on the patio!), but we definitely made the most of it and enjoyed any bit of sunshine, either on the beach in Wales or in the garden. We discovered loads of new places in the area, which now doesn’t feel as new and strange as it did four months ago. Four months!!! Geez, can’t believe we moved in four months ago!

I’m looking out of my kitchen window as I write this, how the sun is shining on the garden and the swing we put up on the old apple tree and all the space, and still can’t believe we live here, and how lucky we are. But I can also see that the leaves are slowly turning colour, which can only mean that autumn is here!! I love autumn! I love the colours the smell of the forests, I love putting on a cardigan and I love wearing my boots! And recently I’ve discovered that I love making the most of our fruit trees! We have apple trees, pear trees, plum trees and hazelnuts. The apples are still ripening and the hazelnuts are all being carried off by squirrels (grrrrr!!!!!!), but the plums are in full action and very tasty.

We picked as much as we could and I’ve been busy trying out making jam and tarts. Want to see? Hmm?? Oh, ok then, if you insist!!

The plum jam was so much easier to make than I thought it would be.

2 kg plums (boil this up in 1 pint of water in a preserving pan)

2 kg preserving sugar (gradually add to the plums, once they’ve boiled mushy and keep simmering for about half an hour or until the set-test works – see below)

1 lemon’s juice (add to the 1 pint of water in the beginning)

The tricks were:

I put 3 saucers in the fridge when I started the whole process and when I thought the jam might be ready I took one of the saucers out, put a spoon full of wanna-be-jam on and waited until it cooled down. If it wrinkled up, the jam was ready to be taken off the cooker, if not, keep simmering for a few more minutes and try again.

And also, have the jars as clean as you can have them! Steam them all and put them in the oven at 80C for 15 min. (do this while the jars are still warm, or else they’ll crack!) When you fill them, they have to be hot still, or else the glass will crack. Oh, and it helps to put the jars on a tea towel when you fill them.

Pretty, no?

Then there was the plum tart. Mmmmmmmmmm….. plum tart….!!!

My good friend Jocelyn gave me a recipe for this, which I had to alter a little bit, as I didn’t have her My Secret Kitchen ingredients, but it still worked beautifully (maybe because I used my mum’s Hungarian plum jam – much runnier than my jam – as a substitute)

Here’s the recipe as given by Jocelyn:

Figgy Plum Tart 

Sweet Pastry Tart Case

250gr. Plain Flour

125gr. Butter

100gr. Icing Sugar

3 medium egg yolks

Rub butter and flour together until a fine mix is obtained.

Add icing sugar and quickly mix, then add egg yolks to the mix to form a smooth pastry – some times a little more egg yolk is required – wrap in cling film and put in fridge for one hour – roll out and gently place in 22cm. loose bottomed flan tin, pushing pastry in to the sides with thumb and forefinger then crimp neatly around the top. Keep in fridge.

Frangipane

125gr. Butter

125gr. Sugar

125gr. Eggs – weigh without shells

125gr. Ground almonds

13gr. Plain flour

Mix butter and sugar until light and fluffy, add the eggs, then the ground almonds and flour – the mix is now ready to use. Keep in fridge.

Cut six Victoria Plums in half and de-stone

Melt  25gr. Butter in small frying pan, add 2 tablespoons MSK Fig Pudding Pickle

Stir off the heat until melted – add plums cut side down and bubble until syrupy – spoon mixture over the top of the plums to glaze.

My other lovely friend Nicci, from Home Gurrown has a very similar recipe, which was featured on ITV the other day in their ‘Country Wise Kitchen’ series. Here’s the recipe and here’s the video.

(picture off Nicci’s website)

You can read all about Nicci and all the fab things they do on her wonderful website. On a side note though: she’s a super lady and a wonderful friend and mum, who loves what she does and seriously gives 100% to it all. I wish I had half the determination she has! I would recommend their produce and catering to anyone in a heartbeat. If you live in Kent, find them at the local Farmers’ Markets and buy some of their food. Yuuummmmmmmieeeeeee!!!!!

Getting there

The Studio is coming along nicely. There’s still so much to organise though. I need to get lots of things and I need to paint lots of furniture before it is the way I would like it to be, but it certainly is getting there!!

I thought I’d show you what happened to the taped down wall

I was almost sorry to have to put the shelf on the wall and hide my lovely stripes! After I finished with it, I couldn’t stop smiling every time I went into the Studio. It’s sort of a cross between a circus and candy cane, don’t you think? The other side of the room is painted completely in the blue and the two ends of the room are painted in the Timeless White I used for the white stripes. Next on the list is the brown table on the picture and the chair.

I’ve painted the sewing/pattern/useful table but while the turquoise is a nice colour, I was too impatient with the drying time and didn’t wait long enough between the red base coat and the top turquoise, which means I can’t expose the red… Still, it’s better than it was before and I might paint it again. However, my darling husband helped me with raising the top of the table, so it is now at a perfect hight and my amazingly clever friend Jocelyn was ever so sweet and helped me cover it with interlining and a nice piece of fabric so I can now do this:

The table top is now thick enough that I can stick pins in it, and it doesn’t slide, so the fabric stays put. Good stuff!

Do you recognise the fabric? I think my friend Sarah might, as I used it when I made this cat for her beautiful little girl Zoe. This time though, I’m making a dress for Anabelle:

View 1. Should be sweet.

Well, it’s getting there! And look at that, you can even see the table and my inspiration board! That’s still a bit empty, but I’m working on it!! Can you believe I picked it up at a Boot Sale for £2? Bargain. I miss my Boot Sales.

Well, to finish the post off, I’ll include a few pictures of these wonderful Red Kites our friends and us saw recently at a feeding station. My wild life photography isn’t very good, so excuse the blurriness please!

Cheerio!

Oreo Pops

Here’s something super yummy!:

Oreo Pops!!

A little while ago I ordered some plastic (reusable!!!) lollypop sticks and some candy melt with the intention of making cake pops Bakerella style!

Well, with absolutely no time on my hands and two children demanding dessert, I quickly popped some Oreos at the end of a few sticks, melted the candy melt, dipped the Oreos and sprinkled with some cake decoration. Et Voila!

It went down really well!

On another note: I found this table at the junk auction the other week. This will be my perfect sewing table.

That’s Ian helping me out with sanding the old paint off. Thank you honey!

I was inspired by my friend, Jocelyn’s sewing table and have decided to paint the table turquoise with a deep red under coat. Somehow I doubt it will look as fabulous as hers, but it will definitely look better than its old state.

Yes… umm… whooooops!!! Well, honestly how well did the paint-mixing-woman put that lid on? Surely it shouldn’t have come flying off at the first little knock over!

(and no… I didn’t dip the Oreos in the paint instead of the melt!)

Just to finish off the post, here’s a little sneaky peak at my studio going through its transformation:

oooooooh, what will this be??

Leeds Castle Visit

I love sunny days in England. In fact I love sunny days anywhere, but when I’m in England, I like it in England!

What I love even more is sharing the lovely sunny days with people you like to hang out with.

After school drop off the other day, Karen (one of the mums from our school) her little girl, Caitlin, Anabelle and myself got in the car and headed to Leeds Castle for the morning/lunch/early afternoon. We had THE perfect day for it. It’s April so the place was almost empty with no groups of people, and plenty of parking. Not to mention we couldn’t have asked for a better, sunnier, warmer day. Proper summer’s day actually!

The girls were absolute angels and enjoyed each other’s company. We could even walk through the castle and look at all the rooms before going to the castle playground.

I can’t believe we have never gone before! It’s a beautiful place that I think everyone should visit who comes to Kent.

It really was a lovely day out. I hope you enjoyed looking at some of the photos I’ve taken. (obviously not the areal photos)

xx

Gifts

My friend Andi and I make each other’s Christmas pressies. It cannot be just bought, it HAS to be made!

Last year she made me a lovely wooden storage box and a bottle of rose hip juice. I made her a recipe book with my favourite made up recipes.

This year this is what she got from me:

I wasn’t sure if I should turn the cut around after I finished with it, so it would be all white, or leave my sketch visible. I thought it might be quite nice to follow the process within the picture, so I left the pencil lines in.

Ok, so it’s not perfect, but not too bad for my second try! And to be honest, I think the design is lovely. The flower is a Hungarian motif. I have a book with lots of folky Hungarian flowers, that give me ideas…

Phew…

So she’s done!

 

I just hope Zoe will like it!!

So, again, this was a Wee Wonderfuls pattern in Hillary’s lovely little book called….. yes, you guessed, Wee Wonderfuls! There are still plenty of adorable little things to make from the book and although so far I’ve only done one, I can say that it was very easy to follow. And I would highly recommend it!

One thing I would do differently next time though… I like to embroider the face before the head is stuffed. I find it easier to work with the fabric if I can turn it over. And it makes it neater too. For me anyways.

But this was the first time I made a little dress! How exciting!! And it worked!!! yay! Now to make it in 18-24 months size… Just blow the pattern up, right??

Ideally I would still need to make two more things out of my new fave book, for two more gorgeous little girlies. Let’s see, I have… how many?… 3 days left…

Chop, Chop!

 

Race against time

It’s always so exciting to receive a new book. I love books. I also love sewing, so sewing books are always double exciting.

Here’s what I received in the post a couple of days ago:

I have recently discovered Hillary Lang’s blog, Wee Wonderfuls and loved the dolls she makes. So, of course when I spotted her book, I had to have a copy.

Just the right timing actually, as I need to make a little something for an adorable little girl called Zoe in New Zealand. It really needs to be done yesterday, but because I was down with tonsillitis for a week then had an essay due, I only just started!! Here’s what I’ve taken pictures of:

This is some of my sources. I love it that nothing in there matches until you have a project, and then you find just the right stuff!

Here’s a sneaky peak at what I’m making. This cat is just so cute! I adore her shoes!

I think this colour combo is really nice for her. I hope that my theory will prove right!

All drawn up!

All chopped up. It’s funny to think that when I first start tracing, I start off with nice writing and spelling out, like Body, Cut 2, Body Fabric and by the end I end of the millions of cut out, I end up with B, x2, BF.

So, i really hope I will finish by Saturday. It HAS to be finished by Saturday, otherwise it will miss the big jet plane that offered to fly it all the way to Auckland! So sew hands, seeeeeeeeeeewwwwww…….

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