Thursday, 31 December 2009

Happy New Year

Wishing everyone a Happy New Year.  For myself I hope our financial situation improves so I can stop worrying & I very nearly have a good fitting pants sloper that I can base my SWAP pants on.  Not that I've got any fabric sorted yet, although there is some cheap denim on sale in town that would do a pair.  How long they would last is unknown but beggars can't be choosers.
I've taken up knitting & find it relaxing, a pair of socks & a hat so far with another hat in production.

Friday, 4 December 2009

SWAP 2010 The Candy Shop SWAP

It's that time of year again.  I started & fell pretty much at the first fence last year.  This time the rules are different & I really think this time I can make it work.  I've chosen Option 1:
6 tops - t-shirts, shirts, blouses, or camisoles
4 bottoms - jeans, pants, shorts, skirts or kilts.
1 your choice (not an accesory)
2 garments may be purchased or previously sewn.

1 may be knitted or crocheted.
1 will be a matched print or stripe.
1 will feature embroidery, beads or sashiko.
1 will have buttons as the star feature OR use unusual or alternative closure(s).
Now as a rule I dress  fairly conservatively, BUT I just made a jacket that goes a little way outside my usual comfort zone & I like it & I like that everyone who has commented has done so favourably.  Put simply I wanted about 5 buttons but couldn't find enough that matched in the vintage button stash at work - I won't buy any if I can help it when there are so many in this stash!  Then I spotted some pink ones & remembered I had some pink top stitching thread, except there weren't enough pink so I looked again & found some identical purple ones.  Thus the Smartie jacket came into being!

This now fits in with the buttons as a star feature, own choice garment & one previously sewn.  It's a black stretch denim twill with a lighter thread so I could get away with grey pants as well as black & I wear it with blue jeans too.  Quite versatile.  I will need to think a bit more about what pants I make as they will need to be able to be worn with the jacket.  Tops will likely be a mix of tees & shirts.  I have visions of maybe three or four shirts each named after a sweet or two!!!  I will start to go through my big stash of Burda WoF later for inspiration.  In the meantime how does Blackpool Rock, Humbug or Peppermint Cream sound for a blouse?  Stripe?  Hmm.  I think I can do this if I cut creatively eg. on the bias, maybe side panels on a princess seamed top or a  chevron effect on a yoke.
I have to remember too that I dress for comfort & practicality.  I walk to work in all weathers, but have a uniform when I get there.  I walk the dog nearly every day so need pants for that - I generally put walking boots on for comfort.  I go into town maybe once a week, often on foot, usually in what ever I happen to be wearing but I need to make more of an effort.  Finding comfortable, practical but good looking & reasonably priced shoes is always a hassle for me & does affect what I end up wearing.  The designer in me is having a field day, especially as I need to really start thinking outside the box a little & get more adventurous.  Trouble is I can envisage another swap along side this one called Chocolate Heaven to go with a jacket my daughter bought me two years ago that doesn't get worn very often.  All this food thinking must be due to being on a weight loss plan.  VBG.

Saturday, 31 October 2009


Pork was always chops or sausages or paté but now I've been educated.  I spent an hour back at Sillfield Farm with Peter Gott & learned a little more about the pig.  And wild boar.  But mainly the humble porker.   Peter showed us how they butcher pork & which cuts benefit what method of cooking.  Being a fan of slow cooking ('specially now I've got a slow cooker) & usually this means cheaper cuts of meat, I found it very interesting.  Needless to say I came away with some "steaks" best suited to slow braising, probably Monday or Tuesdays tea.  Oh & some wild boar stuffed chicken rounds.  I have ideas aplenty for paté too!  I really want to just buy my pork from Peter now I've seen his pigs, stroked one of the boar & seen the piglets!!   Proper British pork, outdoor reared & welfare top of the list.  The prices aren't bad either.  It does help to see & understand how our food is produced.  Next on the list?  Need to find a beef farmer, chicken farmer & sheep farmer who do what Peter Gott does down at Sillfield.  Kendal Food Festival is something I do hope is repeated, it has been well worth it for my food education, not to mention my sons.
Tonights tea was slow cooked supermarket pork steaks, supplied by mother.  Potentially bland.  Flavour was added in the form of apples & onion & fresh sage.  Easy recipe, brown the meat in a little butter, put in casserole, brown the onion & apple in same pan, add to pork.  Deglaze pan with a little white wine, or cider &/or stock, pour over pork & put in slow cooker & forget for 6 + hours.  Stir cream in before serving if desired.  Served tonight with reheated braised red cabbage & apple, (much improved by reheating), roast butternut squash, roast left over new potatoes with sage, carrots & green beans.  Filled me up & set up Joe for an evenings trick or treat.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Food, glorious food

Kendal Food festival has been a very good idea I think.  We've enjoyed it so far!  Joe in particular.  The only drawback is that it's half term week - good for the kids - but it's also the last week of the month & money is in short supply.  So we've been limited as to what we could do.  However money was very well spent on the sausage making course down at Sillfield Farm with Peter Gott.  We came away with over 2KG of unique own recipe sausage & boy are they good, not mention cheaper than we could buy anywhere made with free range pork & a low fat content.  I do like to know what I'm eating isn't rubbish.  Today Joe made bread rolls for free courtesy of Kendal College.  They're good too & will be warmed up tomorrow for lunch along with homemade soup & paté.  Not to mention the lessons Joe has learned about breadmaking & sausage making & some of the science behind the recipe proportions.
Nearly forgot, I came across a blog by another South Lakes lady, Audreys Tea Shop, the apple & date chutney sounds yummy.  But the trip to Mums has provided me with some of her Autumn chutney & some spicy apple chutney, so I'm set up for a while now!

Sunday, 11 October 2009


Two posts in one evening!!  I shall definitely be visiting Natland Millbeck Icecream Parlour during the food festival week, it's only around the corner!!  And dear Joe fancies sausage making down at Sillfield Farm near Endmoor, with Peter Gott, he who supplies Jamie Oliver no less.  Oh such a lot of goodies to anticipate.  Then I must remember that mother wants me in St Annes to conduct some business with her solicitor that week as well.  As long as it doesn't clash with the food, cos the food might win!!
Apples, apples, apples.  And no photos, as I only thought about that just now!  I've made apple & damson cheese, spiced apple butter, damson & apple jelly, crumbles, pie fillings, apple & blueberry muffins & I've run out of apples!   I have yet more recipes for apples that I want to try, so I shall have to raid my friends orchard again, if there are any left that is.  Apples & plums were taken down to Mum as she's the chutney queen & I love her autumn chutney.  There's no point me making any as I'm the only one in the house that eats it! 
We've emptied the local trees of a bumper crop of sloes this year & have plenty of gin on the go.  I prick the sloes, cover with sugar & gin & forget about them until I need the jars the next year, then I bottle it.  I discovered some 2006 damson gin this year so instead of discarding the damsons, I removed the stones & covered them in melted dark chocolate ready for Christmas.  Waste not, want not. 
The biggest problem with all this food is that I'm having to watch my weight & I do not like not being able to eat what I like so I came to the conclusion I will just have to get yet more exercise to counter the effects!!
Actually exercise is readily available in the form of Dillon.  He loves to go out, doesn't always want to return home when I do but we go out every day for a good hour when I get back from work.  This leaves me just enough time to get a meal on the table before the anorak has to go to work.  I must get more organised!!  A slow cooker is in my future despite t'other halfs opinion that he doesn't reckon much to them.  I also want a dehydrator for next summer & maybe a food mill to help with the food prep. 

Today I was out walking with Dillon for a good two hours, would have been quicker but most other dog owners see him & want to talk to him.  He's such a sweetie.  Not to mention the fact I had to retrace my steps twice, once as I missed the footpath, & the second time I had to walk back half a mile as I didn't want to walk through a small field full of cattle on & around the footpath.  I was once chased by some young bullocks & knowing dogs can encourage them to show more than a passing interest I decided I'd rather walk back along the road.  It's fun exploring the local countryside.  The two dogs we had before, Sindy & Jess, didn't need so much exercise, so now I'm walking off the pounds & enjoying the fresh air.  Even if sometimes it's wet & windy.  It also means I get to pour over maps which I loved to do as a teenager.  We have some wonderful countryside here outside the Lake District.
Yesterday I happened to pass Oxenholme railway station with Dillon at the time lots of enthusiasts were gathering to watch a steam loco, the Royal Scot, pass through.  Later info revealed the engine to be the Duchess of Sutherland for those that want to know these things.  I rang home to get Joe up with a camera, (we don't live far away) but some bright spark had been messing with the camera & all Joe managed was a shot of a carriage.  I was busy keeping Dillon in check as this huge puffing monster went rushing past & boy did it move fast.  So I went back later to catch it on the return journey & was lucky enough to discover the new Tornado loco was due as well!

The last week of the month is Kendal Food Festival which I'm looking forward to.  We have some damn good producers locally, & it will be interesting to see just what will be on offer.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

New Arrival

Meet Dillon.  The new love of my life!  I'm besotted.  Completely.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

It doesn't take much.

............ to get another dog!  Thursday afternoon we went to the local animal rescue & found Dillon the Dobermann.  We collect him tomorrow & I'll have to get some photos.  He's underweight but quick to learn & seems reasonably obedient so we'll see.  14 months old & he hasn't had his tail docked either so his mood is easy to judge, lovely eyes & so happy to be with people.   Meanwhile Simba , my daughter's dog has been staying while they move house.  She wants to play with the cat but he is having none of it, growls worse than a dog!!

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

RIP Sindy

We said goodbye to Sindy last night after 16 very happy years.  She didn't come out of a fit properly & was very distressed so straight to the vet.  She was my dog rather than anyone elses & I miss her terribly.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

I'm really not much good .........

.......... at keeping up with this blog lark! Still inspired by the photos taken at my step-daughters wedding I'm going to try & get back into photography a little. Afterall I do have a fancy DSLR to play with. Well it's basic by a pros standard but that's what I'm not!
I have a great pic of my hair for this wedding, styled by my hairdresser at Igloo in Kendal & very kindly photographed by Pete of Lawson Photography at the wedding. Thank you Pete.

To fill space, some recent pics I took at the Dales Falconry centre. The other half took a days course where I trailed around as official photographer. I took our Joe last week who now wants to do a days course!

I had the wrong lens on to photograph this owl, I'd just been trying to catch a Saker Falcon in the air. They fly that fast it's damn near impossible! G force of 9 or 10!!

Saker Falcon in flight

Friday, 20 March 2009

RIP Jess

Our much loved Jess went to the Rainbow Bridge earlier today. RIP sweetheart.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

I do wish.........

I could keep up with this blog. Never mind I've been busy making cakes to see what my stepdaughter wants for her wedding. Most of the samples have now been eaten of course.

Also our beloved dog Jess is deteriorating, not sure if she will still be with us later in the week. She perked up earlier & I snapped this pic of her.

Typical pose.Had a good trip to the Sewing for Pleasure expo at Birmingham NEC last week & came home with THE fabric for my outfit for Michelles wedding. Plus lots of ideas for projects that I really don't have time for. Did I say I'm also making a wedding cake? Not icing it, that's for a professional. Just waiting on receiving the recipe from Mum, it was last used for my wedding cake & first used for my grandmothers cake around 1915, nearly 100 years old! Good job the ingredients will be more recent!!

Monday, 26 January 2009

Sewing with(out) a plan

SWAP is what I'm up to. Or not. My ideas are biggger than my stash & better than my current lifestyle so I had to have a rethink. I'm getting there slowly. I even took 3 days off work to sew. And so far I have one top that is good & two near misses. Almost wadders. The trousers have been saved although they aren't brilliant & the blouse for work - well I shall put it away & get it out to frog stitch at a later date. Grrrrrrrrrr.
MOTTO: Make a muslin. Make a muslin. Make a b!"£$%^&* muslin.
On the bright side I know I can't be far off a decent fitting pair of trousers. And I know which blouse style doesn't work on me. Pity I used good fabric. I tell my students over & over to make a muslin. Time I followed my own advice I think.
I won't be making a muslin for the jacket I have in mind as it's by way of an experiment anyway but first I need to find the pattern to compare the sizing with my block so I know if I've added enough ease. However I have no idea where it could be. And I only have tomorrow morning to sew as I have French class in the afternoon.
I need more time off to sew but will have to wait a few more weeks, then it's half term & I'll have Joe in tow so won't get much done I don't suppose.
The Swap. Oh yes. Clothes to fit the body I'm in now & the life I live now. Not having a clear plan is both a hindrance as well as a help. On one hand I'm wallowing in the dark, on the other I can make snap decisions & sew random items & hope most of them go together. I can also tell myself that I'm sewing a part 2 item to go with part 1, & when I do get the cash to fabric shop I can choose colours to go with what has already been made from the stash & extend the wardrobe further. Sound convincing? No I thought not. Still I'm getting my colurs done at the end of February so it could all change anyway. How long do I have left to get this done? The end of April. There's hope.

Monday, 5 January 2009

Bread & blackcurrants

You simply cannot beat the smell of homemade bread, at least not in this house. I don't have the time to make it by hand very often although I do find it very therapeutic, so I invested in a new tin & paddle for the unused breadmaker that has been sat in the corner since it began to leave unwanted grease & bits in the bread, a year or two back - I discovered someone had been immersing the whole lot in water & it obviously didn't like it & I couldn't resolve it, so it sat there until I decided last week enough was enough & a new set had to be bought.
I've also just bottled one lot of blackcurrant syrup for the coughts & colds season. In clearing the freezers I "found" a substantial amount of currants, black, red & white, obviously left there to make syrups later on so that's what I'm doing. The second lot is gently simmering right now to extract the juice so I can deal with it tomorrow.
There would be photos but the light is bad in the kitchen at night so maybe tomorrow if I remember.
Dear son now wants homemade bread rolls for his packed lunch tomorrow so that breadmaker is getting a good workout tonight. Me, well just another hour or so & I shall hit the sack, I managed to hit "snooze" on the alarm for over half an hour this AM & was late going out. It's also forecast to be cold tonight & the heating isn't co-operating, I just had to reset it twice tonight already. Brrrrrrrrr. bed socks tonight me thinks.

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Saturday 3rd January 2009

Another ramble on life as it is right now! Tomorow is another new beginning in this new year. I shall be 50 & intend to celebrate by starting as I mean to continue. Enjoying life as much as I can, getting as much out of it as I put in. There shouldn't be any presents as I tried to insist those I received for Xmas were more than enough to cover a birthday too. OK a couple of the Xmas pressies weren't really what I would have chosen to receive from my other half but they are OK if you like olive green & camo!! So I shall be grateful that I have a waterproof jacket & boots, even if they do hurt a little.
My dear Dani bought me the stick blender I had planned to get myself & a bouquet of flowers arrived today too. I love flowers. Mum had sent some money so I invested in a few books from my Amazon wish list & also some new bakeware from Lakeland Ltd. I love that shop, it carries all the gadgets that you didn't know you couldn't live without. LOL!
I'm working with the theory that to make good meals from very little, having the right (ie well made, long lasting etc) equipment will surely help.
What I would like to do tomorrow really is sew, without interruption, but in reality I think we'll be going for a walk, & I may visit a friend & get some of her wonderful free range eggs. Which means I could be baking tomorrow evening. I would also like to buy some more fabric to get on with the SWAP sewing - lots of plans just no fabric to execute most them.
We had ice cream for pud tonight. Homemade with chunks of chocolate & toffee. Yummy.
I also took it upon myself to defrost the upright freezer & clear out what was never going to be eaten. Next will be the chest freezer & if I can I'm going to empty it & switch it off until we start to produce more of our own veg & fruit. There's another resolution, shop the freezer more often.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Another year, another chance to start afresh

Well, there are a number of reasons to make a fresh start, one being keeping this blog up to date!

Life has thrown a number of lemons my way lately but I am going to make lemonade from them & add a shot of vodka just for the hell of it!

We are going to simplify our lives where we can, not by removing things so much as changing how we use what we have. Projected income reduction due to the current economic climate is a motivating factor of course, & increasing the family happiness factor is the other!

We've started menu planning again, not sure why we stopped really but it's underway again to be economical & to think about what we do buy. Joe mentioned ice cream, so I realised there was a tub of cream that needed to be used now, we had eggs & milk & sugar, so the egg custard is chilling now! There is left over Xmas pud to stir in some & some toffees to melt to pour over the rest! The egg whites are now turning slowly into meringues in the oven for another pud at a later date as they will keep a week or two.

And the anorak has said he wants another allotment. YES. This time we will make sure we find enough time as that was the final deciding factor to give it up last time. I have so missed our own grown veg & fruit. In fact I just used up the last blackcurrant syrup last week when I was suffering from a lousy cold. Sloe gin helps as well. Got to make the 2007 vintage last, there were no sloes in 2008.

Guess what? I discovered that the microfibre cloths that only need water to work on cleaning actually do just what it says on the label! Feeling guilty as I hadn't cleaned the bathroom for a week, I thought I'd try one out. It works no problem. Next I need to make up some disinfectant using some essential oils, about time I used the knowledge from my now defunct aromatherapy qualification. That's another small economy to contribute to the bigger picture.

Yes you guessed correct, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle are hot just now!
Actually we already recycle quite a lot, the usual plastic, paper, glass & cans. So it's just a case of taking things one step further.
Reduce, what? Well if we buy meat from the butcher instead of the supermarket, like I did at Christmas I can reduce the plastic wrapping. This isn't quite so simple as the supermarket is very handy, very close & cheaper in many cases than the butcher who I can only get to once a week as long as I continue to go into town at the weekend. No big deal as it isn't very far but it does mean I have to be organised. Ha ha. Fuel, well I aleady cut down the milage by walking or cycling as many places as I can so I can't reduce that any more right now but I can remember to give DH the fabric carrier bags for the shoppping more often to reduce the ones he usually brings home. Also I am going make net bags for the loose fruit & veg shopping so that's less plastic bags too. Water, I'm going to be keeping a careful watch over the loads in the washing machine. Leading on from this & as above, the cleaning products I use are going to gradually change as I reduce the bought where sensible & efficient, to use the simpler, but still as effective, methods.

Reuse, well we already share the bath water some days as an economy. Plastic bags that we do get, get used over & over for shopping, dog poop, rubbish where necessary, I haven't bought bin liners now for months. Foil containers, not acquired very often but the ones that do come home if DH splurges on a ready meal, are often strong enough to be reused for baking or freezing. Fabric is already reused for bags of varying sizes.

Recycle, the afore mentioned fabric bags are usually old curtains from work that would otherwise go to landfill. Terrible waste but I already got rid of loads to the local animal shelters & charities. Compost. I have to admit we have a neglected bin on the back garden, but we are going to clear a path & start over with it this week.

Another wordy post, I really do need to get out & about with the camera & my new lens to see what I can snap.