Friday, July 25, 2008


There is a definite shortage of peace and quiet around here
. School finally broke up last Friday and we are nearing the end of the week one of the school holidays. The weather has been pretty good here and there and the days have been spent outside, splashing noisily in paddling pools, shrieking around the garden, there have been tents of course and plans to camp. Three attempts for Dylan, he set the tent up by himself (mostly), made it cosy and inviting with sleeping bags and cushions. Gathered his supplies, a camera and tripod, a telescope, a British Birds Handbook, his sketchbook, colouring pencils, head torch, a good book of course and Geoffrey the bear. All seemed ready, I gave him a walkie talkie for emergencies. The first night he made it until 9.15pm, the second night 9.00pm, the third night he was joined by Miss Tilly who fidgeted and talked, fidgeted and talked and came in just before 9.00pm, delighted to be going to bed so late. I knew she had no intentions of staying out, I suspect she may be more of a mini-break girl, she likes her luxuries. Dylan, I did feel sorry for, I know he really wants to do it, as he said, "I want to camp out but I don't want to, do you know what I mean?". Yes, Dylan, I know just what you mean.

Last night it was back to normal and both in bed by 7.30pm, the peace and quiet which followed was heavenly. I love having them home all day, I love not having to rush out in the mornings, the slow, winding pace of our days is good but sometimes I crave my peace and quiet.

This top is made from a gorgeous off-white linen which I have had stashed for years, yes, years! I finally took courage and cut. This linen seems to whisper peace to me, there is something so tranquil about linen, so serene.

I made my own pattern, hurrah, those Japanese books have brought me so far! Once upon a time I would never have thought I could do this but it really wasn't so very hard. I knew exactly what I wanted and I started drafting from a similar pattern in one of my books, I was making a lot of changes but actually it was quite simple. I love the pleats, they took a bit of fiddling and a reasonable amount of pin stabbing but they worked in the end.

I worked on this over a couple of evenings, while keeping an eye on my little part-time campers. Moments of peace quietly enjoyed. I feel a little more serene when I put it on, a little more peaceful, able to blur the edges of the shrieking and splashing.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A little linen
Goes a long way. A tiny bib and rabbit both made of linen, probably not the most practical of fabrics for a bib but where's the fun in a practical gift? Tilly drew the horse and I traced it onto the fabric and embroidered it very simply, I love the little speech bubble she added.

This gift is destined for Tilly's teacher who is due to have her baby very soon, it is unusual for me to give a baby gift before the actual delivery but in this case it seemed a more appropriate end of school year gift, it seems all the class are so excited about this baby and they have been following Mrs Jones' progress avidly (poor teacher, just imagine the sorts of questions she must have been fielding all year!).

The rabbit is from the same linen, I just drew the shape I wanted and sewed it up but for some reason she seems to have come out rather feminine looking. I would have made another but typically had left the whole thing too late and had run out of linen, so hourglass rabbit it is.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Sweet nostalgia

My copy of Cherry Cake and Ginger Beer arrived last week and is every bit as good as I had hoped. Jane's writing style and personality, so familiar from her blog, are very much in evidence in this book and it is indeed my very favourite sort of cookery book, interspersing recipes with plenty of prose. The sort of book that will leave the kitchen frequently, a pleasure to browse through in bed and a delight to read while sitting on a swinging seat in the garden, a child on either side, browsing, discussing, making a list of things to cook and a list of books not yet read.

For me there are books remembered, the books my children are not yet ready for, the Swiss Chalet stories and the girls of St Clare's and Malory Towers. I remember these books so well from my childhood, how I longed to go to boarding school and have midnight feasts. I remember well the summer my next door friend and I made arrangements to rise early and watch the sun rise from the end of the garden We planned to take flasks of blackcurrant tea and jam sandwiches for this adventure. It would be just as we had read. I cannot recall which book this came from, one of the St Clare's stories I think. We had no idea what blackcurrant tea might be (this was 1970s Belfast and fruit and herbal teas had not arrived) so we made a guess and mixed jam into hot water, I remember it being very good. That was the same summer that my friend and I spent climbing out of bathroom windows on the flat, tarry roofs of our kitchens, communicating across the hedges by complicated morse style codes. Flashing torch signals at night, hiding in the apple trees and visiting each other through the secret hole in the hedge. So much of this was inspired by the books we were reading, especially Enid Blyton.

I recall so well the food from those books, the midnight feasts, the splendid teas. I longed to discover Ginger Beer and now I have a recipe for it, hurrah. I think this recipe excited me more than anything, I am waiting for the children to finish school and then we will make some, I am saving bottles and rather marvellously, Jane notes at the start of the recipe that she cannot guarantee the resulting drink will not contain a tiny amount of alcohol, I can already picture Dylan swigging this happily and imagining himself drunk!

This book has charmed and thrilled me and I will cook from it and read it often, the most delightful thing for me though is the family appeal of the writing. It is one of those cook books that the children can read too, the style is perfect for igniting their interest in both cookery and discovering forgotten titles to read together.

Our first recipe from the book? Milly Molly Mandy's Little Patty-Pan Cakes. They are very good and alarmingly addictive, (I ate five in one day.)

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The continuation of a love affair

Firstly, thank you to everyone who has left comments recently, I am rather behind on responding and unlikely to catch up. There is a stomach bug rampaging at the moment and myself, The Technical Advisor and Dyl
an all fell foul of it on Sunday. We are recovering nicely but there is so much to catch up on, especially on laundry. So many thanks for the comments which are each and every one so appreciated.

Now, let us not think of laundry for the moment but rather of Liberty. My love affair with Liberty Tana Lawn continues, I do so love the silky feel of this fine cotton, I love the colours and the details of the prints, if I won the lottery I would buy bolts and bolts of this gorgeous stuff and just gaze happily at it all day.

For the mean time I must content myself with the odd metre here and there. This time another dress for myself. This particular print was always destined for me, too grown up for Tilly I decided, so a skirt for me. A skirt with pleats.

So here it is, a dress, what? Fickle? Who me? A skirt with pleats would have been lovely but I got side-tracked by a dress, a dress with a collar. My very first collar and boy am I pleased with myself. Once again I have Japanese craft books to thank for my foray into the world of collars. I have gazed often at the collared shirt in the Sew U book, full of awe and terror but the glorious lack of comprehension that comes with a Japanese pattern removes all that terror and nerves. Hey, it's just a matter of cutting out the bits and putting them together, I can do that. And I did.

So pleased.

Pleased as punch.

Oooh, and this time I got my machine to sew the button holes the way it is supposed to. Usually it sews them beautifully on my test fabric but starts chewing and spitting as soon as I begin the actual real ones. This time it did what I wanted. This time I didn't check the instructions before beginning. Could it be that throwing away the instructions is the way forward for me?

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Anyone for lunch?

I love to lunch and even on those days when I am at home alone, I always make time to sit down and eat lunch, I never stand and quickly re-fuel, I always sit and digest. When the sun shines I eat in the garden, soaking u
p the warmth, mentally adding Vitamin D to my list of nutrients.

I know many people who skip lunch, some of them even skip breakfast too, I marvel at how they last all day on a diet of tea and coffee. I cannot imagine leaving the house without breakfast, I can recall those occasions when I have been rushed, perhaps on my way to catch a boat or plane and I have delayed breakfast thinking I will pick something up mid-transit. Before long I feel jittery, weak and queasy, my empty stomach churns, reminding me that this could have so easily been avoided.

Lunch I will skip if I must and it is rarely a heavy affair. We eat our main meal in the evening and I do not believe I would enjoy the heavy lunches of old, well, I might enjoy them but I would slump in a sleepy heap for the rest of the afternoon. So something light is fine, I love sandwiches, I never slap a piece of ham between two slices of bread and my heart sinks when this is requested of me but on the other hand, last night's gammon when thickly sliced, dressed in mustard mayonaise and sandwiched by a fresh, soft granary bread is a feast. Perhaps a little piece of local made extra matured cheddar, tangy and nutty and something ripe and juicy to follow that gammon, the ripest of peaches or a nectarine, sliced and dripping juice. A bite of sandwich, a slice of fruit, a piece of cheese, heaven. I eat lunch whilst reading at the table, something I couldn't do if I had company. It is lovely to slowly eat, flicking through the pages. I don't read novels at lunch but flick through the pages of recipe books, japanese craft books, Ceramic Review, a Rowan magazine, something that can be dipped in and out of, something pleasurable to look at.

Today's lunch was indoors, the day is mild but heavy rain frequently interrupts the sun. I ate pate and spicy apple chutney on sourdough toast. I often make bread but this is my first successful sourdough loaf, I began the leaven last week, following Dan Lepard's instructions. The result is very satisfying, and the chewy toast with its crunchy crust is a perfect companion to the creamy, rich pate. I leafed through the pages of The Handmade Loaf considering my next loaf, planning another lunch, perhaps an Irish Soda with smoked salmon and a mustardy dill dressing?