Thursday, 24 December 2009

merry christmas

The mince pies, carrots and a glass of port are waiting expectantly on the hearth, we've read 'Twas the night before Christmas' and 3 very excited children are upstairs trying to sleep. So, just before I embark upon a long evening of stuffing stockings and drinking wine by the fire, I wanted to wish you all a very....


love Jo

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

cranberry and pistachio biscotti

I didn't realise December would be so busy. Along with all the activities the end of term brings I seem to be making endless visits to the supermarket. Partly to stock up on Christmas goodies but also to buy ingredients for various gifts I've been making with the children.

I'm really chuffed with this recipe I found for Cranberry and Pistachio Biscotti. It's really easy to make and looks wonderfully christmassy with the jewel like cranberries and amazing green of the nuts.

We've put a load in a kilner jar (decorated with ribbon & flowers) and plan to give it as a gift with a bottle of Vin Santo, an Italian dessert wine. For best effect, and a decadent Christmas, dip the biscotti in the wine! A good alternative for non drinkers would be some really good quality coffee.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

the great iced cake

This weekend saw the arrival of our Christmas cake. The one the children helped Granny make in half term. She always keeps the cake so that she can add the apricot jam, a wodge of marzipan and a thick, solid layer of icing. All in all almost doubling the size of the original cake.

Then there is the cake decoration. It's not that it's mum's forte but each year it is different and each year it is a surprise. And this year it was very different...

Any regular/astute readers may realise that the inspiration behind this years decoration is a painting by Alan Peacock. And with the talk of snow (possibly) arriving over the country tonight it seems rather apt.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

sew pretty christmas homestyle

If you still have some Christmas presents to find and would prefer to sit in front of your sewing machine rather than traipse around the shops in the cold and wet then take a look a sew pretty christmas homestyle.

I've recommended the original in this series in an earlier post and this book is done very much in the same style, so you spend a lot of time admiring the pictures and lusting after the fabrics.

I was instantly struck by the angel wings and absolutely had to make a pair for baby and as I don't seem to have any fabric that is remotely fitting I raided hubby's wardrobe and used one of his old shirts. I have to say that I think the result is enchanting and it really didn't take much time to make. A perfect Christmas present for any little angels out there!

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

a cold and frosty morning

When Sarah wrote her post about Attic 24 I really enjoyed having a browse through Lucy's blog. November was such a grey and dreary month and the site was bright and full of welcome colour which really made me smile.

Thankfully November has ended and what a beautiful start to December today was. Jack Frost had been and covered the view out of our window with tiny ice crystals and the early morning sky was bright and clear with just a hint of pink (I chose to ignore the shepherd's warning). If this wasn't enough excitement for the children, who were eager to 'skate' to school, it was also the first day of advent and there were windows to open.

Before children I used to make hubby an advent calendar every year. Now, as with so many other things, he's been relegated and the children are the benefactors. Last night, once Boy's birthday celebrations were over and the children were tucked up in bed, we set to making little numbered envelopes with which to make advent bunting. Inside each one is a paper elf to be hung on an 'arrangement' of sparkly, glitter covered twigs over the next few weeks.

Envelope 24 contains a Father Christmas so come Christmas Eve he'll have 23 little helpers to fill those stockings and hopefully we'll also have a nice table decoration for Christmas Day.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

kate loveday exhibition

As you may already know from my feature on decor8 'my favourite things' Kate Loveday is one of my most favourite artists. Some of you may recognise her name as her beautiful Gloucestershire home was featured in Country Living magazine a couple of summers ago. It is a house to covet!! Kate has an amazing eyes for colour which is manifested in the beautiful still life vignettes aroud her home and on in to her paintings. She opens her house filled with paintings as part of the Stroud open studios each june, and is an event jo and I look forward to each year.

In fact i must stop being jealous of Jo's lovely Cleo Mussi hand because I have a Kate Loveday still life which makes me smile on a daily basis, it is a painting which radiates sunshine and happiness. Anyway this year Kate is having a gallery exhibition which starts today in Stroud. So if you are around pop in and see why Jo and I are such fans. My scan of the poster doesn't really do justice to Kates wonderful suble blends of colour

Monday, 23 November 2009


hello everybody, I know its been a while, more about that later in the week, along with the photos of vintage handmade, but for know I will give you a bit of blog love!! Jo and I have been trying somewhat unsuccessfully to teach ourselves to crochet for quite some time. Anyway I happened across a new (to me) blog after meeting a lovely lady who came to see some fabrics.
Anyway she told me about attic 24 and suggested I take a look.

well I am so glad a I did as it was just the ticket for a gloomy winter day, and the lovely lucy inspired my to dig out the hook and have another go.
lucy has some really straightforward patterns to follow, and even a complete crochet numpty like me managed a granny square (which has been a goal for ages!!)
the only thing is, my attempts above are a bit let down by the old bits of wool which I had lurking, I feel a debbie bliss splurge coming on, so watch this space I might show you a lovely blanket (in 10 years)!!
stop by later this week for lots of lovely vintage handmade pictures.

the great party bag debate

It's a busy time for Sarah and me as our first borns reach their 6th birthday this weekend. Normally I relish the opportunity to go mad and organise a birthday party but this year the idea of a number of over excited boys exerting their energy in our house, fuelled by sugar, filled me with dread and we negotiated a birthday treat instead.

This involved a trip to the cinema with 4 friends followed by a Happy Meal. It was easy and Macdonalds were even doing Fantastic Mr Fox meals to tie in with the film we had chosen to watch. I even thought I would get away without having to do the dreaded party bags.... until I was told otherwise.

But then I found I was actually slightly relieved. While I loathe the plastic bags sent home with squished cake in grubby napkin and bits of pointless plastic which end up in the baby's mouth I realised that I do like the opportunity to be creative. So I dashed off, bought a few sweets, and made these little, pink, (but I had no complaints from the boys) bags. I also found these fab cup cakes in Waitrose which they devoured in Maccy D's post Happy Meal, meaning the whole event came to a sticky end. But not in my house.

But, is a pretty bag of sweets really any better than a bag of plastic tat?

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

book making

I had a real treat of a day on Saturday. Firstly I had a bit of a shopping spree at the fantastic Christmas Vintage and Handmade fair in Chipping Sodbury. Sarah was there with her camera and will elaborate further I'm sure but, needless to say, I came away with bags a bulging. Then I whizzed off to the Brewery Arts Centre for an afternoon course in contemporary book making with Katherine O'Connell of The Quality Bureau.

It was a really good course, well thought out and we learnt a lot in just 3 hours. I came home with 7 little books of various sizes and styles, as well as plenty of ideas. I would definitely recommend it to any one else curious to give book making a go.

Well that's a few Christmas presents sorted!

Sunday, 15 November 2009

gardening tip

You wont find many gardening tips from me. Whilst I love the idea of the garden looking lovely and the veg patch bulging with produce I don't have green fingers.

Today there was a break in the rain and I decided that I really ought to get some bulbs planted. However, I have been so disorganised that I only had a bag of 12 daffs and the bulbs from last years pots (I have know idea how many of them will actually re-flower). So with hubby busy working on someone else's garden I headed off to the garden centre with 3 children in tow.

The children were thrilled because all the Christmas paraphernalia is up. There were Santa's and flashing lights, reindeer and singing snowmen, angels and gingerbread men....

BUT - my handy tip for those of you who have still some pots to fill - all the bulbs and seasonal flowers were half price or less. I came a way with Viola's already in terracotta pots for £1, a huge bag of mixed daffodil bulbs for £2 and snowdrops for £1. I've never had such a cheap visit to the garden centre and I've filled more pots than I had intended too.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

toys to sew

It's got to the time of year where I pull out all my books and search through looking for ideas for children's Christmas presents. One of my favourites is Toys to Sew by Claire Garland. It's got some great toys of varying levels of difficulty. The felt toys are fairly simple but look really good but my favourite has to be the basic doll, and then all the clothes you can make to go in her wadrobe. And there is a boy's version, the jolly pirate.

I made the doll for our little girl's birthday present last year, along with frilly undies, pyjamas and a dressing gown, (this is the book I plan to use when I sit down to make doll's clothes with our little girl and her new sewing machine). I bought a cheap toy bed from Ikea which I painted and then covered the bedding supplied by Ikea with a nice linen, appliqued with a butterfly to match the pyjamas.

ok, I know the eyes are a bit odd, but that just adds to the character!

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

leek and potato soup

It's a cold, grey drizzly day and thoughts have turned to the stomach. Nice warming stews, cosy cups of tea with moist, just-out-of-the-oven cake and, of course, soup.

We don't like to be deterred by the weather and often set off on a family walk regardless of the rain, just so long as the walk has some sort of purpose to keep the children happy. Normally that focus is a picnic lunch of homemade soup and homemade bread rolls 1/3 the way through, and a pub 2/3 of the way. Of course the thought of home and a roaring fire gives us momentum for the final lap.

I usually end up doing this last minute and the flavour of the soup is determined by what's in the fridge/veg basket. But I nearly always have leeks and potatoes and I use a simple recipe of my mother's:

Chop leeks and soften in oil

Add chopped potatoes about 1 cm cubes or bigger (I generally don't even bother taking off the skin)

Add vegetable (or even better) chicken stock and some salt and pepper

Let it bubble away until the potatoes soften. (The longer you can let the soup simmer for the more the potatoes disintegrate the thicker the soup becomes.)

Pour into thermos and off you go

Monday, 9 November 2009

lovely cushions

Too many other things were happening this weekend so I didn't make it to the Rag Fair, and thus don't know if Polly Lyster was actually there this year. However having mentioned her in my previous post I remembered that I had also bought a number of tiny, lavender filled, cushions from her at a textile fair at the American Museum in Bath a couple of years ago.

Hubby can't see the point in endless cushions, especially ones this size but I wanted to share them with you as the fabric/colours are so pretty. It also prompted me to try and find out a bit more about Polly and in the process I came across a blog called the warp and the weft . For those with keen interest in textiles and/or all things French it looks really interesting and I can't wait to have a really good scroll through it.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

smashing pumpkins

ok, so I have squash envy when i see this picture posted on I try each year to grow an abundance of winter sqaush, beacuse we love them! but every year i forget to water them enough and every year i get one solitary fist size specimen!!
I never understand how people get those super smashing pumpkins (actually I do and next year perhaps I'll be less lazy and do more watering at the bottom of the garden, instead of sitting on the terrace at the top of it tucking into olives and a large glass of chilled wine......

Anyway i am posting you a squash recipe made with some yummy sqaushes from the farmers market and loosely based on one from this fabulous food book by sarah raven - one of my most used cookbooks. The Sarah Raven recipe is vegetarian and uses creme fraiche but i only had cream so i used that, and we like a bit of spice so i added a pinch of chilli flakes.

take 1 large butternut squash (for 2 people - or use a whole small one per person) and cut in half scooping out the seeds. (if you are using little cricket ball size ones then just cut off the lid and scoop ouot the seeds). drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and cumin and roast covered with foil for about 40mins - 1hour till soft and tender, about 10 mins before the sqaush is done take off the foil and put 3 or 4 rashers of streaky bacon in the tin with them, cook till fairly crisp.
scoop out the flesh out of the sqaushes leaving a shell, mash the flesh with a fork adding a good slurp of double cream (about 3tblsp) add 3 tbls grated parmesan and crumble in the bacon, season with a pinch of chilli flakes and some fresh tyme leaves. I also added dollop of elderly garlic and herb cheese (because i was going to throw it out if i didn't use it!!) and I think this was a good addition. spoon the mix back into the shells and bake at 180 for about 15mins. You ABSOLUTELY MUST allow it to cool for 5-10mins before tucking in or you will take off the roof of your mouth and not enjoy its deliciousness!!

Thursday, 5 November 2009

any old rags?

Just a reminder to anyone that's around that the Autumn Rag Fair is this Saturday in Bisley. I went a couple of years ago (heavily pregnant, I had to use my bump to fight the hoards) and picked up a lovely bag of scraps from Polly Lyster. She is known for her use of natural dyes but also uses vintage fabrics and when I got home and ferreted properly through my bag I found some lovely old tickings, ancient toile de jouy and a piece of fabric that Sarah admired so much it's pinned on her notice board as inspiration for a design she hopes to do.

I came across the bag the other day whilst I having a sort through my fabrics, looking for something completely different and I decided to make these cheeky, clove scented, robins using some antique french linen and some of my Polly Lyster scraps.

If you get to the fair - Happy Searching

Sunday, 1 November 2009

pumpkims galore

I can't believe it's the 1st November already, where has this year gone?

We spent the day yesterday carving the pumpkins that have been sitting pretty, adding a burst of Autumn colour in our porch to make halloween pumpkins to scare of the ghouls. I have to say I found it rather hard work. Our pumpkins were grown by Nona (hubby's mother) and were small and fleshy! I think the super markets sell large pumpkins with little flesh which are much easier to scrape out. I soon found myself alone at the kitchen table, surrounded by pumpkin seeds and not much else. In the end my great intentions of making a pumpkin pie were dismissed and I decided to call back the troops to help design and carve out the faces.
We ended up with rather a motley crew, but our little girl was thrilled to come 2nd in a Pumpkin competition with her entry (the one on the right)

Friday, 30 October 2009


if you are in need of a little inspiration for exciting things to make for halloween, head over to martha stewart who has a great big section called halloween central for all sorts of mad ideas. There are pumkin carving tips, fab costumes....
and these super cupcake ideas.
I love the green hair and bugs 'earth' costume its fantastic and really simple.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

lentil potage

Another of our developing family rituals is to watch the Stroud fireworks display that always happens the Monday night of half term (ie 2 weeks before 5 November much to hubby's chagrin!). We don't head to the flashing lights and disco music of the fairground, instead we put on waterproofs and gloves, dig out the torches and climb up the side of the National Trust Common that our garden backs on to.

This year it started to drizzle just as we left home and by the time we had perched our bottoms on the rug (with cowpat underneath) it was driving rain. However with our picnic supper to hand we sat watching the lights of Stroud waiting for the display to start. I always do the same meal of hot dogs (again) and soup, washed down with red wine. This year the soup was lentil potage, a firm family favourite, combining the flavours of lentils, cumin and lemon. By the time the first fire work exploded we were as cosy and content as could be (on a wet October night!).

To make lentil potage:

Soften an onion and some garlic in olive oil and cumin (powder)

add a chopped carrot (or 2), a stick of celery, a few celery leaves and a load of red lentils

pour in some vegetable stock and a bouquet garni and let bubble till lentils are cooked

blitz in magimix and add salt, pepper and juice of a lemon to taste

christmas cake

I know I've mentioned before how I love the opportunities to create family traditions and hopefully wonderful child hood memories for my own children. Something that seems to have become a bit of a ritual for us is an Autumn visit to Granny's to make the Christmas Cake. Half term presented the chance for us to head over, don aprons, make a huge mess and bake cake.

It was a 2 day process (so that the fruit could soak up the alcohol overnight), which meant that the children didn't lose focus on the main job, and hadn't fled the kitchen before the most important part happened... Stirring the stiff cake mixture with a huge wooden spoon, releasing smells of Christmas spices and booze and making a wish. Of course I don't know what the children wished for as that would break the spell, but I'm sure a lot of presents were requested.

Now the cake stays at Granny's where she decorates it. Then, just before the 25 December, she'll come over for tea with the thickly iced cake and it's surprise decor is revealed.

I wonder what it will be this year

Saturday, 24 October 2009

where the wild things are

Apologies to one and all for my absence of late. There simply haven't been enough hours in the day! I foolishly agreed to do a couple of autumn fairs - touting my wares, so my blogging time in the evening has been taken up frantically making cushions and doorstops..... anyway the last fair is done and so I am back!
Anyway I have been sadly neglectful of my lovely fellow bloggers so I will be paying a little visit to sam and jeska later on, however this morning I clicked on ohdedoh by mistake when trying to open a file, and I am so glad I did, because it really made me smile.

Last year Jo bought my little boy a copy of 'where the wild things are' for his birthday. It is one of his favourite books, and always gets a groan of 'not again' from his big sister when he chooses it for a bedtime story. Anyway ohdeedoh had a link from the impossibly titled who had run a competition to build a wild things den.
I couldn't resist posting some of the photos, especially as den building is such a favourite with Jo's and my kids, (and Jo and I if the truth be known!!)

Den building is such an underrated pastime, but as you can see from these fab photos the results can be stunning.

This one was the overall winner, and its made out of old palattes and string.

I love this picture it reminds me of my childhood (I think its the colours, the balloons and the bubbles - no I did not live in a circus!)

This one is my kids favourite, and my favourite is derfinately the first picture with the tissue paper flowers and bunting, I am now going to find our old wooden clothes maiden some eiderdowns and get building!!!

Sunday, 18 October 2009

sew excited

I'm not sure who was more excited, me or our little girl, when we visited friends last weekend and she received a belated birthday present. This wonderful miniature sewing machine. It sews with a simple chain stitch, doesn't have a bobbin and is easy to thread so we now have great plans to make endless dolls clothes and bedding with it.

I remember spending many happy hours, as a child, with my grandmother 'designing' and then making clothes for my dolls (I particuarly remember the red leather mini skirt and waistcoat outfit I made for Snoopy's twin sister Belle!). I really hope that my girls and I will enjoy sewing together in the same way, I may have to wait a few years for true appreciation though.

what's on

Ever since our trip to Sustain on Friday I've been buzzing with excitement having seen the work of and speaking to Penny Leaver Green (who kindly said we could use images from her website of her beautiful work). I think her work is just beautiful and can just picture some of her embroideries on our bedroom wall so I was thrilled to hear of upcoming opportunities to see her some of her work at the RWA Autumn Show in Bristol during November, and then a fascinating sounding display at Harvey Nichols in Bristol in the New Year called Button Phobia.

November is a busy month, Stroud International Textiles are holding their Autumn Rag Market on 7th November, and the same weekend is the Oxford Fine Press Book Fair.

Sarah and I have also been to see Cleo Mussi's colourful exhibition, Pharma's Market, at the Brewery Arts Centre, when that finishes there is an exhibition on paper called 'cut & fold' which sounds really interesting and includes work by Jennifer Collier, some one else whose work I love.

Then of course there is the Christmas Vintage and Handmade Fair at Chipping Sodbury on 14 November.

The only problem is that there's so much opportunity to spend money on beautiful things for myself that I'm slightly worried about how I'm going to afford Christmas....

sustain exhibition stroud

jo and i paid a visit to a great exhibition called SUSTAIN in the space in Stroud. It is a great venue, small intimate and well lit.

I always like being surpised by something new, and we were delighted to meet the Bristol based artist Penny Leaver - Green. She was exhibiting some delightful framed butterly and bird embroidered pieces, which made me yearn for my old studio space at MMU where I did my embroidery degree.
My favourite piece was this buuterfly picture - entitled 'invasion of the painted ladies', it was stitch on an old silk map (I think!)

Also exhibiting were beacoco - sustainable jewellery in beautiful colours (they put me in mind of a kate loveday painting - same uplifting cheeriness).

and Edwina Bridgeman - a perenial favourite of mine.

Along with Cleo mussi's beautiful mosaics (I am so envious of Jo's hand one) - there was a lovely green one which I was coveting (are you reading this Mr H?!!)
anyway the exhibition is on all weekend and its well worth a visit, the only sad thing for me is that we asked if we could take some photos and got a resounding NO - its a real shame as it would have been nice to show you how lovely the work was in situ.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Happy Birthday Sarah

Today is Sarah's birthday and there is something very enjoyable about giving presents to people when you know what they like! Unusually for me, I happily spent time scouring charity shops for a nice tea cup and saucer (in the knowledge that Sarah would appreciate the challenge I had set myself if nothing else!). Then I happily sorted through my ever-so-dangerous craft cupboard (everything is so shoved in it's like a jack in the box exploding when you open the doors) looking for old scraps of paper, fabric, sewing paraphnalia etc to put together the above parcel.

In fact perhaps this parcel was more about what I got out of creating it then what Sarah got out of receiving it. Tied up with garden twine and a Dahlia (which I know Sarah loves) I presented the box to her yesterday with a supply of old Selvedge magazines (unfortunatley not for keeps), an aforementioned Tarte Tatin and pot of cream.

I'm hoping she got a chance to sit down in peace and quiet, have a cup of tea (in the sterelised cup and saucer), with a slice of the Tarte and the pile of Selvedge... that would be my idea of birthday bliss

last fruits of the season

With the lovely sunny autumn days we've been harvesting the last fruits of the season before we lock up the doors and hibernate in front of the wood burner for winter. My tomatoes never really got around to ripening so my little girl and I collected all we could and spent a happy afternoon chopping them up and making green tomato chutney (Thinking ahead here - Christmas pressies for play school teachers).

Then, having stripped our own apple and pear trees we received, a bumper delivery of apples from a neighbour so I decided I had to make some Tarte Tatin. I have a fab cook book called The French Kitchen, by Joanne Harris (of Chocolat fame) and Fran Warde. The photos make you dream of living in France and the recipes are for simple, rustic French food. I love the fact you are encouraged to 'slightly burn' the pudding in order to caramalize the apples further. Enjoy with vanilla ice cream, or in our case, with cream from the new Woelfuldane Dairy in Minchinhampton.