Monday 28 February 2011

Manic Mondays!

I've got a quick window of opportunity to tell you about the Make It Craft Fair myself and best mate Claire went to yesterday.

Held in Farnborough, Hampshire it is the biggest event of it's type in southern England. It is quite heavily paper craft based with the list of sponsors including Lets Make Cards, Crafts Beautiful, Lets Get Crafting and Making Cards Magazines. There were lots of card making and rubber stamping exhibitors but Claire has always wanted to give card making a try so off we went!

I was very restrained and did not succumb to the temptation of a new crafting hobby but did buy these items;

From the one fabric stall, I purchased a yard of lovely blue/green mens shirt type material, a pretty scarf with hearts on, the sewing patterns came with a magazine, a couple of small rubber stamps complete with their own ink, a bobbin organiser, an apple paper punch and some little pre-made card toppers.

Claire however was far less restrained and came home with paper and card stock, rubber stamps and blocks, pro-markers, tweezer sets, peel offs and also has on order one of these fabulous craft storage cabinets!

Hers is more cabinet-like and will have doors on the front and I think she customised the interior differently to that above but it was attracting alot of attention at the show, and deservedly so!

It's being delivered to my house in flat pack form (as Claire works and wouldn't be home to receive it), I have warned her that it might get 'acquired' by me and as that old saying goes 'possession is nine tenths of the law!' - only joking!

Friday 25 February 2011

Show N Tell Saturday

Look what I made! A cutesy storage cube courtesy of the tutorial from Crazy Mom Quilts found yesterday.

It was so quick and easy to put together, I'll definately be making some more this weekend.

The fabric is BLOMMA by Clarke and Clarke, it's a remnant I got from my local fabric store, it's heavier than quilting material, probably curtain material but I just loved the pattern.

Decluttering - Mini Missions W/C 21FEB2011

Half term school holiday has been a challenge! I was poorly for the first few days but the boys were very good, bless them. It rained and rained, so we had to find lots of indoor activities. Luckily both boys are interested in art so we've been painting, drawing, aqua drawing, cutting paper snowflakes... as well as cinema afternoons with popcorn which were great for a poorly mum!

But alas all this entertaining children has meant I'm almost a week behind with my decluttering missions. It's Friday already and I've just realised I haven't checked out any of this weeks missions yet!

The first paragraph of the missions page has me a little anxious already!:-
This week we are going to do something a little different with our mini missions. I want you to pick a room in your home that has a clutter issue, and this room is going to be the focus of your mini missions this week. Make a vow to yourself that you are not going to add any extra clutter to this room.

I immediately thought of my bedroom, I tend to dump stuff in there and close the door! All I do is sleep in there and it's usually dark when I get up and go to bed... you see where this is going don't you?

On with the missions:-

Monday - Tidy off one elevated surface in your focus room putting everything away in its proper home.

Tuesday – Go back to your chosen room again and pick another elevated surface to clear off. Once again put everything away in its proper home and move any unwanted clutter to your clutter departure points.

Wednesday – Today you are going to clear off the floor in your chosen room. Pick up anything that doesn’t belong on the floor and find a home for it. Once again move any unwanted clutter to its departure point.

Thursday – Choose a drawer in this room and declutter it. If you have no drawers choose a small area that is out of sight. A box under a bed, a shelf or a small cabinet.

Friday – Repeat the same task as Thursday.

Saturday – Declutter an area of your own choosing in the room today. By now the room should be in pretty good shape.

Sunday – Put your donation items into your car and plan on delivering them to their new home/s ASAP. If this room still needs some decluttering, vow to finish it in the near future and make a promise to yourself not to clutter this room again.

Uh oh! It's going to be tricky to catch up with this one, I know what's up there!
I found this great tutorial on Crazy Mom Quilts for storage cubes;

Perhaps If I make some of these it will help!

Friday Finds on Flikr

I saw the term 'Friday Flikr Finds' on another blog and thought it a great way to share our inspiration.

Although my very first quilt isn't finished yet I'm completely in awe of all the fabulous work out there and have ideas flying around in my head day and night!.  Here are some of my current favourite snaps from Flikr.

P.s. I'm new to this importing photo mosaic tool thingy, so I hope I get it right!

Wednesday 23 February 2011

Fabric Giveaway

Julie at Jaybird Quilts has a fabric giveaway on her blog today sponsored by The Fabric Quarter.

The Fabric Quarter is going to give you this yummy bundle!!
It's a half yard bundle of Magnolia Lane from Michael Miller with a few companion fabrics... totaling 7 half yards of fabric!

So head on over the Jaybird Quilts at the link below for a chance to win but be quick, you only have till 10pm EST on Thursday the 24th to enter!

Black n White Quilt Back

I'm kinda making it up as I go...

I had a lovely piece of embroidery anglias, so I've bordered it with 5" square scraps of the black and white material I had for the quilt front.

I'm told that making a king size quilt was a bit ambitious for my very first quilting project so I am determined to get it finished before I start my next project (for which the fabric has been ordered and should be delivered any day now...).

Friday 18 February 2011

Finished Quilt Top!

My first ever quilt top is finished! Yay!
I'm really chuffed with myself!

I know it's not perfect, it's wonky in places amongst other things... but it's mine... :o)

And now onto the back...

P.S. my 5 year old son Lucas won a Maths Achievement Award at school today! and that makes me doubly proud :o)

Tuesday 15 February 2011

Decluttering, a Misson.

As a Cancerian, born in July, I'm an untidy person and a hoarder.  I'm terrible at letting things go and always stash them away 'just in case'! But with 2 children and all their associated stuff, our house is bursting at the seams.

Just after the new year I saw a link on for a website which sets weekly missions for decluttering your life called 365 Less Things.  A few days late but 'decluttering' became one of my 2011 resolutions.

I started off well, attacking my wardrobe, the back of the kitchen cupboards, the junk in the bottom of my handbag(s) (I have far too many - another item to be whittled down!), but then came the heading: The Black Hole....

Everyone has one, it's a place in your home where everything seems to get dumped.  But I seem to have multiple black holes; the hall table, the corner of the kitchen worktop and the dresser in the dining room.

Having tackled the dining room dresser at Christmastime I made a beeline for the hall table yesterday.  I hadn't seen the table top for several months as the childrens school artwork was providing full coverage.  My youngest son is 3 years old and uses ALOT of glue and paint, so things get left on the table to dry but then get covered with yet another masterpiece the next day.

I was ruthless!  I found an old art case and stored away some special pieces, I stuck some of the more colourful paintings on the playroom wall and recycled what was left, which was a heck of alot but I kept saying to myself, "you can't keep everything".

And now I have a lovely clear table which I thought I would make a quilted table runner for.
The shelf underneath is another mini mission in itself, there are hats, scarves and gloves galore on there!
And, the next black hole is the kitchen worktop...
Lucky for me, it seems others have the same black hole as me and an article has been dedicated to organising this space;

The 365 Less Things mini missions for this week are;

Monday - if you decorate for Valentines Day then weed out those decorations that have seen better days.  This one was not applicable for me.

Tuesday - Vases, how many does one household really need and how many do you have? Can any be donated to charity? My mum is a part time florist to I'll have to speak to her about this one next time she's here.

Wednesday - Writing Paper, how many notepads do you have and how often do you actually write a proper letter?  Could your stationary stash be whittled down?

Thursday - making things for others is a nice way to show affection but do you have unfinished projects lying around? If so perhaps you should finish them or wipe your hands clean of it. Either way you'll feel better for it.  Immediately the half finished advent calendar made from raisin boxes springs to mind! I think I'll recycle it. 

Friday - Did your loved one take you out to dinner on Valentines day? If so did you wear something sexy or are your sexy items stashed in the back of a draw somewhere never seen but not forgotten. Use it or loose it! If you have items like this that you know are never going to be used do yourself a favour and remove them. They are the worst type of aspiration clutter. If you do feel the need for an item of this kind in the future just buy yourself something new that suits the current you.  Ahhh, yes. There are a couple of items back brave Karen, just do it!

Saturday - A closet - Pick one in your home and assess what is on the floor of it. There's sure to be at least one thing there that can be decluttered.

Sunday - There is usually one room in our homes that is more cluttered than others. Go to your clutter room and contemplate where the problem lies. Why is this room a collection point for clutter? Pick an small area of this room and declutter it now. While you are doing this have a note book and pen handy and jot down ideas on what else you can do to unclutter this area.

Turning Recycling into a Craft!

And I don't mean making things...

Where we live the rubbish collections are fortnightly, alternating with the recycling collections.  It's great beacuse it forces you to make sure everything that can be recycled goes in the right bin ensuring the rubbish bin doesn't overflow.

So into the recycling bin goes paper, cardboard, newspapers, magazines, plastic household cleaners/detergent bottles, plastic shampoo, shower gel etc. bottles and aluminium cans.  We also have a seperate collection for glass once a month.  But we could still only just get the lid closed on the rubbish bin every fortnight which horrified me somewhat!

I started to collect up the items that could be taken to a neighbouring towns recycling point, these included tetrapak cartons (used for juices and soups), aluminium foil trays (small cakes, shop brought pies, takeaway foods) and tin foil.  I didn't amass many of these but when I did finally get to take them I saw a new plastics collection bin - is it wrong of me to admit I was a little excited at the thought of what it might take?!

The lovely people at Recresco had provided a bin for mixed plastics! Yay! I was either sending them to landfill or to the school for crafting activities but recycling made me much happier.

PET1 and PP5 items seem to feature alot in my bin.  They are the plastic trays that fruit and veg are pre-packed in at the supermarket, and the plastic tubs that yoghurts, cream and coleslaw come in.

Pre-packaged fruit and veg I hear you cry! I know, it's sinful! Our supermarket doesn't offer much in the way of loose vegetables and as a busy mum I was doing all my shopping in one place to save time and effort - but not the planet!  So off I trotted to the local green grocers shop across town with the ONYA weigh-it bags I was given for my birthday, they are small bags made of a stretchy netting to be used in place of the polythene ones offered in supermarkets.

Of course the selection of fruit and vegetables was lovely, loose, local and therefore seasonal.  I gorged myself of different types of onions, having only had the option of white or red at the supermarket, and tomatoes which have been transformed into a delicious ketchup.

They also stock local free range eggs at a cheaper price that the supermarket and local honey too! What a treat!  Of the 15 or so brands of Honey on the supermarket shelf, not one was from the UK, let alone from Hampshire!

And then I saw on Facebook a family in Gloucestershire who were undertaking to reduce their waste to zero, see, so I headed off to their webpage for a good snoop around.  The site is packed full of helpful hints, tips and information on how to reduce, reuse and recycle all manner of items.

They have a link to a charity who collect crisp packets and empty toothpaste tubes,  You post your items to a Southampton address and they forward them to the Philippines where they are upcycled into handbags, shopping bags, lunch bags etc. Fabulous!

I also found links to UK based companies who recycle polythene bags, see here for one of them  So now if I do buy fruits or vegetables in a bag, like potatoes and grapes, these bags are kept in the garage until I have enough to post. 

Polyprint can recycle:
    •    Bags used to cover electrical appliances or furniture
    •    Bread bags (shaken out)
    •    Bin bags (clean)
    •    Bubblewrap
    •    Can & drink pack outers & joining rings
    •    Carrier bags
    •    Cling film (clean)
    •    Compost sacks (clean)
    •    Courier bags (without paper labels)
    •    Drycleaning garment covers
    •    Mailing wrappers (without paper labels)
    •    Polythene recycling categories 2 and 4 (as marked on the film)
    •    Thin bags used in supermarkets for fruit & veg etc (shaken out)
    •    Toilet roll and nappy pack outers

I'm also saving used postage stamps for charity;

And as a result, this week, my rubbish bin was only half full! I'm quietly very pleased with myself :o)

Tuesday 8 February 2011

Fabric Stash - A Beginning...

I only know one other quilter, Judith, and she has a beautiful sewing room in her converted attic and what a fabric stash she has!  I was very jealous!

I've seen online too many photo's of lucky quilters with the most beautiful stash of materials, so I recently ordered my first selection online and they arrived today! The 4 colourful pieces of Robert Kaufman on the right, thank you Celtic Fusion Fabrics :o)

My closest fabric shop is Heocks Patchwork in Liss, Hampshire but unfortunately just as I've found her, she's closing up to move to Dubai.  I popped in today and most things are 30-40% off, so I got some lovely bright red brick fabric and the black and white pumps fabric.

I popped into Mitchells Fabrics in Haslemere, Surrey on Saturday and got this very pretty remnant to play with.

I've got black and white bits and bobs left from my current quilt project - but I'm sure I'll use these up on the back of the quilt.

And last but not least I've got some Union Jack Flag fabric from ebay.  I'm not sure what I'll use it for yet, but I just had to have it!

Monday 7 February 2011

Any UK Quilters Out There?

I only started Quilting last month, Jan 2011, and although the internet is a great resource I would love to find some other UK based quilters out there who can share information on the best places to buy fabric, websites, tutorials, events etc.

Please get in touch!
Thank you :o)

Marrow and Ginger Jam

Heather Bowery's Marrow and Ginger Jam recipe.

Marrow & Ginger Jam Ingredients
approx 15 fl oz pectin as extracted from apple peel & cores.
1 marrow (about 2 kilo's in weight) peeled, deseeded & diced.
3 inches ginger root, peeled and shredded fine
2 kilos sugar
lemon juice - approx 2 tbs, enough to make the mix taste sour

Mix the sugar and diced marrow in a bowl and let it stand overnight OR microwave diced marrow in batches, cook it until it turns a lovely sunshine yellow and juices start running.
Put everything into pan and boil to setting point (wrinkle point)

Bottle and seal in the usual way.

I made several small to medium jars as I was giving them as gifts at Christmas.

I used the microwave version but I do have another marrow that needs using up, so for the next batch I'm going to use the overnight version and see if there is a difference, but this batch does taste lovely!

Heather's preference is for the overnight version, "I think the texture is a bit better, but its very marginal. Another variation is to add the grated zest of a couple of lemons, and have only a hint of ginger (or none at all) The last time I did this I boiled it until it only just set and the soft marrow was a lovely contrast to the lemony syrup/jelly."

Let me know if you try it and what you think of each method.

KitchenCraft - Making Liquid Pectin

One of my lovely Facebook friends Heather Bowery shared some recipes with me on my self sufficiency page for spicy apple chutney, marrow and ginger jam and liquid based pectin.  Already a chutney lover and having been given a marrow to use I decided to give her recipes a try.

I had read about fruits with high or low pectin levels and how this effects the setting of jams but hadn't needed to make or use pectin before...

Hopefully she won't mind if I share the wisdom with you!

Take the peel and cores from approx 4lb of apples, (the apples were used in the chutney) put in a pan with barely enough water to cover. Simmer gently with lid on for 1 hour.

Pour the contents of the pan through a colander or sieve - remembering it's the liquid you want to keep!! To get more liquid out you can push the contents of the sieve with a spatula but don't rub it, think in terms of squeezing the juice out.
Return the liquid to the pan and boil down to about 15 fl oz. If you are making it to store, bottle and seal hot. 

This quantity of pectin can be used to set marrow and ginger jam.

Sunday 6 February 2011

My First Quilt

I asked my husband if sometime this year, 2011, we could redecorate our bedroom?  We hastily painted it a lilac colour when we moved in 9 years ago but now I'd like it much simpler, in white.

Having been to Ikea recently, I had seen and fallen in love with some HUGE wardrobes which had fully customisable interiors and they had a misted glass sliding door with a white panel behind and a flower design just visibile in a shade of grey.  Then onto the textiles section of the IKEA warehouse and I found a lovely black and white material with trees, flowers and birds on, and just the slightest hint of green on it.  'Curtain Material' I thought!

Next came a bargain duvet and pillow set brought in Asda, in black and white with a floral design but not so much that it offended him indoors!  A positive step in the direction of a newly coloured boudoir I thought!

I needed a project for my new sewing machine and said so on my facebook page.  I was pointed in the direction of some quilting pages which provided much inspiration (and awe!), and I found the Moda Bakeshop website which provided step by step tutorials for beautiful quilts.  I came across the Sugar Pop N Change tutorial and thought it to be a lovely quilt;

A trip to the Hobbycraft 'massive clearance sale' provided a jelly roll of fabric in black and white materials and a subsequent facebook post from a friend that the local fabric shop was closing down and that I might get some bargain fabric with which to practice, yielded even more fabulous fabric.

I got cutting...

And sewing...
And one square became 3 very quickly...
And before I knew it I had 16 squares.  The original pattern only calls for 9 but my bed is king size and I measured up and decided that a 4x4 pattern would work for me.

The pattern is great for newcomers to quilting as it all starts coming together very quickly and results are visible.  I found that any slight cutting or sewing errors resulting in uneven lines could easily be rectified by trimming down the squares slightly so that they all ended up exactly the same size.

This latest photo shows my squares in 4 rows of 4, but I have since sewn them all together to form one piece, and cut the edging strips too. 

So my very first quilt top is almost finished!

Sewing Machines

What do you buy the woman who has everything for Christmas? This was the dilemma my husband faced this year.

I have embarked on this quest to grow my own, cook my own, make my own and be a lot greener. Although he's not on board with all the things I've got going on he does respect the fact that I wouldn't want mindless gifts that I'd never use and end up giving away to charity.

He kept asking and asking; "what would you like?" and my reply was always very vague, so off he trotted to ebay...

And here's what he came up with...

A beautiful antique Singer sewing machine, in working order, via the hand crank on the side.  The chap he brought it from said it was 1940's-50's, but after we had looked up the serial number on the Singer website it appears to be 1895!

It sits on a cheaply made wood and mdf base - which is probably where the 1940's bit comes into it.

I did a bit of searching online for Singer machines of that era and found this picture of what it would have looked like on it's original tressle table.  I was expecting a swivel table but this one is called a Coffin Top!
Now funnily enough, years ago when we first moved into this house, we visited the local furniture warehouse to look at dining room furniture and they had a portacabin full of house clearance items.  After we'd brought a lovely dark solid wood table with hidden leaf and 6 chairs, including 2 carvers for a bargain £330 and a dresser with plate rack and a corner unit aswell, we noticed a singer sewing machine table in the corner.  My lovely Nan brought it for us as a house warming gift to go in our conservatory as a plant table.  It is the exact same cast iron base as pictured above but ours has a white marble top, not the original wooden one with drawers - if it had it wouldn't have been so cheap that's for sure!  I will endeavour to take a photo of it and post it here for you to see.
And back to my christmas story...
then in the evening when we were all sitting around discussing sewing, (or rather learning to!) he gave me his credit card and told me to get online and order a new machine while I was at it so that I could have a proper manual and learn properly! What a gem he is!

Even before new year the January Sales started. I found a Toyota sewing machine, originally priced at £349 at half price.  It had lots of accessories and freebies with it and had lots of different stitches so I clicked 'add to basket' and on I went to checkout my purchase...

During the checkout process a note pops up 'use this code for an extra 20% off', so I typed the code in and bob's your uncle my sewing machine was only £124! And here she is
And I have to add here that I was very impressed with the very little packaging it had. The box, 2 pieces of polystyrene and 2 polythene bags with extras/accessories in, which were very clearly labelled so I know i can recycle them. Well done Toyota! I'll keep the box and polystyrene until the guarantee is expired and then one will be recycled and the other broken up to go in the bottom of plant pots for drainage!

Happy sewing days ahead!

The Makings of a Vegetable Patch?

Our house faces East and our back garden faces West. We live right next to a Protected Woodland and we have nine (9) very large, old and protected trees in our garden. Pines and Chestnuts. During the summer months when the sun is high, it shines over the house in the mornings to the middle/ right hand side of the garden, as it comes around, it shines across the back of the patio and the front part of the lawn but then, soon after lunch the trees shade the whole garden for the day.

In 2009 I planted in containers and placed them along the edge of the patio/lawn to maximise their sun exposure, the salad leaves did well, I only got a few tomatoes, I had 3 potato bags and 2 of them got blight?!? and the spring onions did nothing at all!

We have a very small front garden which was made up of prickly bushes and lawn. The front of the house gets sun from dawn until about lunchtime, so I thought I'd try some veggies in the front garden instead.  Last year we removed all the prickly bushes and planted sunflowers, kitchen herbs and some lavender there but nothing more as my husband Jez was poorly and in and out of hospital.

The sunflowers were great for our first try, the boys planted and watered them and were amazed at the quick growth.  The tallest one was almost up to my bedroom window and the head was the size of a dinner plate! We also had some of the smaller, bushier, multi headed variety as well.  They attracted lots of lovely bees, ladybirds, butterflies etc to the garden which we were able to observe through the sitting room window.  With the boys being so young they often get over exuberant and excited so I was glad we were able to watch the comings and goings without fear of trampling or scaring the bugs away!

The soil is full of rubble! Whilst undertaking the double digging we're picking out all sorts of things from bricks and stones to rather large pieces of glass and drainage pipes.  I'm doing my best to dig and sieve out the soil but it's hard work and I've only managed about 2 of the 4 or so sqaure metres.

I invested in a cold frame and a very small plastic covered greenhouse which I've stood against the wall, and we've been given a half barrel for planting out too.  I've got some onions and garlic in the ground and kitchen herbs and strawberries in propagators on my windowsill.  I also have a whole load of seeds for carrots, brocolli, cauliflower, leeks, tomatoes, radishes and more all waiting for the right sewing time.

It's not a 'full sun' spot but does enjoy the shelter of the house and warmth / support of the front walls so I'm hoping it will be more successful than the damp and shady rear garden.


Well you can see my picture over there on the right hand side of the page but what about the rest of the family?

I married my husband Jez back in 2003.  He's my toyboy being 2 years younger than me!  He's lost quite a bit of weight since then... but I haven't!

We have 2 sons, Lucas age 5 and Daniel age 3. This picture was taken last year when we visited Jez's aunt down in Devon.  Alas, we don't have our own chickens.

This is our dog Buster.  He's a rescue, we got him in September 2010 from the Celia Cross Greyhound Trust near Guildford Surrey.  He is a Lurcher / Wiemeraner cross so we tell people he's a Lurcheraner! He was all pooped out after a long walk when this picture was taken.

And here is our home, looking all pretty in the snow last year.

And last but not least, here is the legend that is my Nan! Bless her, she is introduced to everyone as Nan and known to all as Nan, but her name is Hilda.  This photo was taken at Christmas, the dog on the right is Beejay, Nan's dog. He is a papillion / chinese crested cross.  The dogs, wanting to escape the pandamonium of kids and toys on the floor, decided to take refuge on the sofa!

So that's us for now... I'm sure more of the family will pop up over time :o)

KitchenCraft - Learning to Cook from Scratch

Since having my boys I've been trying to learn to cook from scratch.  It started with an Annabel Carmel book with recipes for making purees for your baby and just went on from there.

I like to follow recipes from TV chefs or from the internet as I prefer to see what I'm supposed to do and what things should look like. I guess as I gain more experience and my confidence grows this will change.

I have lots of cookery books, old and new, my favourites are anything from Jamie Oliver and Marguerite Patten - the latter was brought for me by my nan. 

Talking of Nan, she used to be a school dinner lady back in the day when they used to budget for, buy all the ingredients and cook the meals on site.  She is a mine of information on traditional recipes and techniques and always amazes us when she comes to stay by whipping fabulous things up from items at the back of my cupboards!

I've graduated from risottos to paella, from casserole to pie (made my first Steak and Kidney pie recently with Nan's supervision! and I was very chuffed with myself!), I've even tried my hand at a couple of roast dinners - although my timing needs work!

A few of my friends are great bakers, so I call on them from time to time for this side of things, here's a delicious Chocolate Tart my friend Sandra helped me with.

I'm also branching out into preserving and have made apple chutney (pictured), orange marmalade, chilli jam and also things my kids like; peanut butter, chocolate and hazelnut spread and tomato ketchup.

I love to scour car boot sales, charity shops and antique shops for pots, pans and utensils.  I got some bargain pans for preserving this way.  My husband (Jez) brought me a food processor and slow cooker just before Christmas, I'm okay with the basics but need to get to grips with them properly 

I'd like to share my successes and failures with you and if anyone has any good recipes or hints and tips for me - all is welcome, thank you ;o)
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