Friday, 29 June 2012

Jammin' at the School Fete

Despite the torrential downpours, floods and hailstorms, it really is summer here in the UK! And so the lovely tradition of the school fete means I have been rather busy lately building up my jam stocks. Today was the first fete for me this year at a local junior school. We had some obligatory rain, but luckily the school was prepared and most of the events were easily moved indoors. For privacy reasons I'm not going to post lots of pics of the fete, it is a school thing after all and it doesn't feel right to share pictures of children without their parent's permission. But here are some shots of me and my set up.

 I like to be within easy reach of a fire alarm!

Setting out tasters has really helped my sales. I found people were reluctant to pay homemade prices until they tasted homemade products and realised it was worth paying more than supermarket rates. Plus it looks good, and it's a great way to interact with the customers.

I've made chocolate bark as christmas gifts before. It's quick and easy to make, looks great, and tastes even better.

This is the first time I've sold it, and it went down pretty well. As did the Ginger Beer, another new product on the table. Luckily I still have a half bottle at home and enjoyed a glass while watching Wimbledon, another great summer tradition. The weather may not realise it's summer yet, but ginger beer and tennis remind me that it's June :)

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Not so Chicken after all

Our 'Head Honcho' chicken is called Vader, so named because of her delightful temperament. Well it seems she's decided that pecking at the others isn't enough to seal her position as Chief Chook, now she's discovered a new trick to wow the flock.

"Hey Girls, watch this!

"1 . . . 2 . . . 3 . . . "


A little high-wire walk . . .

Down some tricky steps . . .

Then flap like crazy!


Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Midsummer Elderflower Cake

Can you believe it, Midsummer is almost upon us! Tomorrow is the Summer Solstice, or Litha as it is also known ~ the longest day of the year, and a time for faeries and flowers. This year I am celebrating with cake!

I'm terrible for tweaking recipes. I know you should never mess with baking recipes but I do it all the time and they mostly work. This time I took my favourite basic vanilla cake recipe and substituted the vanilla for a double dose of elderflower cordial (from the recipe I posted here). I also added lemon zest and juice to the mix before baking in a silicon flower-shaped mould. As soon as the cake was done (it always takes a lot longer in a silicon mould) I turned it out onto a plate and drizzled on a mixture of elderflower cordial, lemon juice and sugar. This cake is quite dense and takes a drizzle really well, plus all the ridges in the petals get a nice crunch. The original plan was to cut the cake tomorrow, but we couldn't even wait for it to cool!

Friday, 15 June 2012

Christmas Craftalong Tutorial ~ Pretty Pinny

This month's tutorial came along quite by accident, as indeed most of my makes do. I was scouring the shops for a union jack t-shirt or something prettily patriotic to wear for the jubilee celebrations. But as all the ladies reading this will know; The Ultimate Law of Shopping states that if you have a specific item in mind and enough money to buy it, you will not find it! In the end I gave up and decided to wear a lovely red Cath Kidston dress and make a pinny from a Union Jack tea towel to go with it. The lovely Georgina Giles has an awesome tutorial for making a full length tea towel apron here, but I needed a pinny for my purposes. And here's how I made it:

You will need:
a tea towel
approx 6' / 2m of 1" cotton tape (enough to go twice around your tummy) plus an extra 16" / 40cm

Start by pinning your pleats in place. Find the centre of the tea towel by folding in half and marking the spot with a pin, then work outwards from there. I left a gap in the centre to allow the red stripe to show through, then put in three large box pleats by folding approx 1" forwards, then 1" back.

here I've highlighted the folds I made:

Press them sharply into place. Now take your long piece of tape, find the centre, and pin to the tea towel so that half the width overhangs the top.

Stitch carefully in place. I say carefully, because the hem of the teatowel will be very close to your sewing machine foot and if you get a bit over-excited and go too fast (as I did) the hem may push you off course as you go over the thickness of the pleats.
Next, take your shorter piece of tape and pin in place on the reverse of the apron tie, so you cover the back of the pleats. Stitch carefully around all four edges. (these photos get worse don't they! Hopefully they help clarify what I'm talking about though)

Et voila!

This style would work beautifully with a chintzy floral tea towel. It also looks a whole lot better if you iron it before posing for a blog photo (d'oh!)

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Look What the Postman Brought III

I know, I shouldn't keep on sharing my shopping, but this is way to cool to keep to myself!

A vintage tapestry kit . . .of HMS Victory! It comes with original skeins of yarn, and at 27" x 22" it's ginormous! It just about ticks all the boxes ~ it's vintage, it's a craft kit, it's ocean-related, and it's a ship that lives in my home town of Portsmouth! I can't wait to get started :) But I think it could be a while. Regular readers might remember my last Look what the Postman Brought post, and the fabulous vintage tapestry kit that had just arrived. Well that was back at the beginning of May, and I've only done this much:

The kit was originally meant to be done in long stitch but I wanted it in regular half cross stitch as I'm going to make it into a cushion cover. I live with a dog who thinks she's allowed to sleep on the sofa, so I figured shorter stitches were safer! As a consequence it's taking me a lot longer to fill in, especially with all the other boring life-consuming stuff going on (housework, job etc!) Guess I had better get stitching :)

Friday, 8 June 2012

Cordially Inviting

June is a funny old month. In our minds we imagine it to be a sunny summer month without the oppressive heatwaves of our imaginary August, but with a softly deepening warmth. Yet in reality it's often one of the wettest times of the summer. The past couple of days we've had such intense wind and rain that it seemed that we'd skipped summer altogether in a Python-esque leap, and gone straight to October's stormy lashings. Thankfully I had a gentle floral reminder of the warm sun that has occasionally peeped out over the past few weeks ~ my homemade Elderflower Cordial.

This sweetly fragrant drink is not just delicious, it's also believed to help relieve the symptoms of hayfever and sinusitis. Plus, the Elder tree is the bestest place of all to spot faeries, especially on Midsummer's Eve ;)

Here's the recipe:

10 heads of elderflower
900g sugar
600ml water
1 lemon

  • Shake the elderflowers and check there are no lingering insects, then place in a large bowl.
  • Put the sugar into a pan with the water and bring up to the boil, stirring until the sugar has completely dissolved.
  • While the sugar syrup is heating, pare the zest off the lemons in wide strips and toss into the bowl with the elderflowers. Slice the lemons, discard the ends, and add the slices to the bowl. Pour over the boiling syrup, then cover with a cloth and then leave at room temperature for 24 hours.
  • Next day, strain the cordial through a sieve lined with muslin (or a new j-cloth rinsed out in boiling water), and pour into thoroughly cleaned glass or plastic bottles.
  • Serve with ice and a slice, and maybe a couple of pieces of lemon peel in the glass
Makes approx 1 litre.

I found it a little sweeter than I would like (which is really saying something coming from someone with a mouthful of sweet teeth!) so next time I think I would lower the sugar a little and maybe use an extra lemon.

Elderflowers are only around for a little while so if you want to try this, go do it now! Try not to pick too many blossoms from one tree as you want to leave some to ripen into berries for the birds, and for other delicious recipes we can make in the Autumn :)

***Please note, this will only keep for a few weeks in the fridge before mould begins to grow. This is caused by spores which occur naturally on the blooms and apparently even boiling sugar syrup isn't enough to kill it off, but a crushed campden tablet added before bottling should help preserve it a lot longer. If you prefer not to use these, then try freezing the cordial in small plastic bottles so you have a ready stash throughout the year***

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Pride and Pageantry

This weekend marked the 60th anniversary of our Queen's coronation ~ her Diamond Jubilee ~ and the celebrations were truly epic. We had pageants and parties galore, mile upon mile of bunting, and everywhere you looked was the glorious red, white and blue of our fabulous flag :)

Sunday saw the first river pageant for more than 350 years, with over 1000 vessels large and small parading along the Thames in tribute to her Majesty who was aboard the extremely ornate "Spirit of Chartwell"

I love the floral swags, and the ornate gilt finishings.

Here a workman puts the finishing touches to Old Father Thames.

On Monday night a concert was held at the Victoria Memorial directly in front of Buckingham Palace, and the palace itself was used as a backdrop for an amazing series of projections by Trunk Animations, which transformed the palace into a series of terraced houses and blocks of flats. This link should take you to some Youtube footage, check it out!

But now the Jubilee weekend is over, though much of the bunting remains up, and hopefully will do for a while yet. I'll leave you with one of my favourite pictures of Her Majesty, an iconic image of our newly-crowned Queen by Dorothy Wilding, the first woman to be awarded a Royal Warrant to be an official royal photographer.

God Save The Queen!

Hip, Hip, Hoorah!
Hip, Hip, Hoorah!
Hip, Hip, Hoorah!

Monday, 4 June 2012

And the winner is . . . .

It's time to draw to see who wins this month's craft!

As I had made 2 frames I decided I would draw 2 names, and they are . . . .

Shadow and Barbara!

Congratulations! If you could please email me your address (you should be able to find my email on my profile) I'll send your frames out as soon as I can.

I've created a flickr group for you to share pictures of the frames you've made ~ don't be shy! I'd really love to see how everyone interprets and personalises their frames :)