Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Blackberries

Hello all. I have moved my blog address and I'm now at happyelastic.co.uk. Because of this I have lost all your lovely comments for a little while, but I've set the ball rolling to migrate them back here again which should be completed soon. It gave me a bit of a fright to notice they had all gone!

Over the past few weeks I have been slowly filling my freezer with an absolute mountain of blackberries, I'm up to about 4kg now. I'm lucky enough to live a short walk from a massive supply of them and it's become a bit of an obsession to head on up there with my wellies on and wade waist deep into the brambles. I quickly discovered that the best ones grew off the beaten track and if I was going to get to them then I had to put up with being prickled a little bit! I found that a plastic 4-pint milk bottle was the best thing to collect them in as there is less chance of dropping the lot when a sudden thorn in the hand makes you jump. I tried using a plastic carrier bag but they get caught and rip. I've lived here for 7 years and it's the first time I had thought of going to pick any! What a waste. It doesn't appear that I have had much competition for them either, apart from the birds. So what have I done with my haul?


This is the first thing I made. I discovered this Cider Crumble Slice recipe on the Caked Crusader blog a few weeks ago. I was intrigued by a cake with so little butter and made with cider and made it straight away. The mixture looks strange but oh my word, it is one of the best desserts I have ever eaten (added smugness points for making it myself!) It is still nice cold, but it's best when it's still warm and served with cream or custard. Mmmmmmm! As a variation on the original I made it with blackberries instead of the raisins and used an Apple and Blackcurrant cider made by Rekorderlig. I thought the cake might turn out a bit purple but it didn't.

Secondly I made some jam! I've only made jam once before and it was a disaster. I found a proper jam pan from the car boot sale for £4 but it was finding some jars that caused me the most headache. I ended up going to Ikea twice to get some of these. Never believe the online stock checker! For giving away jam as gifts the Ikea jars are a little bit big so I need to find some smaller ones before my next batch. The recipe was one I got from The Cottage Smallholder. It was full of handy tips about sterilising the jars and setting the jam and the blog owner has helpfully replied to her blog comments so it is well worth reading if you are new to jam making like I am. It gave me just a little more confidence.


I put 1kg of blackberries with about 400g of bramley apples (also bought from the car boot for 40p for a big bag)


I cooked them till the apple was soft. This smells absolutely gorgeous!


I don't like any seeds in my jam so I passed the mixture through a sieve, once through the one above and then through a finer one. I wish I had a food mill! It took ages.


 Then you are left with this. I weighed the juice and pulp and it came to 1.480kg so I added the same amount in sugar along with the juice of one lemon.


Then it was time for the cooking! I didn't get chance to take any more pictures after that as it was a bit manic getting cold saucers out of the fridge and wondering if it had reached setting point or not. I think I overset it just a little bit but not so much that you need a knife and fork to cut it. Then there was the juggling of hot jars and hot jam. The kitchen has never been in such a mess! We had some of the jam for breakfast and it was lovely. I'm so pleased with it. Yay, I made jam!

I'm hoping to make some blackberry vodka as well but am having a bit of trouble sourcing some empty bottles. Beer and jam making supplies seem so expensive. It's not too bad if you are keeping it for yourself but if you are wanting to give some away you lose the jar or bottle and it's worth more than the contents. I think I have been too efficient with my recycling and should have saved some empties.

My yarny mojo is still missing. Beginning to wonder if it will ever come back.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

The best £2 I ever spent

Hi there! Things have been busy busy busy around here. I've been making a lot of cakes, I did some cupcakes for a charity day at my hairdressers. I was halfway through the 52 cupcakes and it was about 11pm and my hand mixer decided it couldn't possibly go on and went up in a puff of smoke. Typical! I carried on doing the icing by hand and didn't finish till gone 2:30am. Next day I also had to make a second cake for Miss D to take to her aunties so she could celebrate her birthday with her friends that she knows over there. I found that Delia's Children's Cake recipe topped with the milk chocolate covering from Nigella's Custard Birthday Cake is great for when you have no mixer as they both are made using melted things. A lot easier on the hands.

Once I had delivered my cupcakes to their destination I came home to a delivery of fence posts and panels that means my garden will finally be enclosed. Once they are put up that is. As Mr J isn't supposed to be lifting things and the delivery lorry was too big to get near to the house, I spent a good hour helping my dad carry everything down the lane. Mr J is currently on a 24 hour heart monitor to see if anything untoward is happening. He has a little diary to note down any abnormal occurrences so they can see on the read-out if anything changes with his heart rate at that time. Of course being me I see it as a fab opportunity to sneak up on him and shove cold vegetables from the fridge down his trousers. He wrote in his diary, 16:23 - Wife thinks she is funny.

Anyhow on to the interesting part of this blog post. A few months ago I picked up a Greist vintage buttonholer from an antique market for £2. At that point I wasn't sure how on earth to use it or whether or not it would fit on any of my machines. I thought for the price that it was worth getting just in case (why I didn't apply that logic at this weekend's car boot I don't know. I left something I later really wanted behind!) I knew that the Singer buttonhole attachments were good as my friend Lisa at Lisa Sews has one set up on permanently on a Singer machine to use for all her button holes. Lisa was the first person I ever met from the internet and I am forever grateful to her for not being an axe wielding murderer.


In the box you get a blanking plate and a set of dies that go inside the buttonholer from underneath. I'm pretty lucky as it comes with the full set of 10 so a lot of sizes to choose from.

Everything from eyelets to keyholes for coat buttons.


The lever on the side goes from wide to narrow stitch widths.
Unlike the Singer which uses the machine's zigzag stitch, the Greist overrides the stitch selected and works a satin-like stitch independently.



To use it you remove the screw that holds the foot onto the needle arm and take the foot off. There is a small hole where you can replace the screw to hold the buttonholer in place. There is a small fork that needs to be on the bar at the side of the needle screw. (hope I'm making sense!)

It wasn't as easy as just getting it out of the box and being good-to-go. Firstly I had to find out how it works and found this fantastic YouTube video. He's a guy in a vest who knows all about buttonholers. My hero! Thank you Brian.

To be able to use the buttonholer you have to be able to either blank off the feed dogs (moving things under the needle that push the fabric along) with a plate, which adds bulk, or isolate them on the machine. I have two machines, a Janome my parents bought me as a teenager and the Toyota I replaced it with once the Janome developed a few annoying traits that I think could probably be sorted out with a service. My Toyota is very basic and the feed dogs can't be dropped as far as I could see. Another problem some people have is the buttonholer being caught on the lever that lifts the needle arm up. On the Janome it isn't on the back but on the side so avoids it completely.

So I had to go across to my mother-in-law's to retrieve my Janome from her garage where it had been serving penance for being a pesky machine. As pesky as it is it has an easy switch lever inside to drop the feed dogs. The machine was filthy and still had the same blunt needle in as about 10 years ago or more but as I'm impatient I couldn't wait to have a go. It started up straight away.

And here it is, my first buttonhole


Isn't it pretty awesome? I'm so happy with it!

Getting it to work was one of the hurdles I needed to get over before I can start work on my skirt I talked about a couple of posts ago. The other was to find some fabric. I have found a few good shops on my travels, my favourite so far being Ditto Fabrics. There are some good choices also on Croft Mill and Fabric Land though I find the site really awkward and you can't order online you have to call them.

So, not quite there but progress.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Birthdays

It's my birthday today, but 6 years ago I had a very special present - a daughter. Now every year I have someone to share my day with. Well for as long as she is willing to, she might have gone off the idea by the time she is a moody teenager. That said I don't think Miss D has been moody for longer than 3 minutes at a time in her entire life.

Today we went to Blackbrook Zoological Park. Mr J had booked the day off ages ago but unfortunately as he has been off sick over the past few weeks and has only recently gone back to work they cancelled it. I still wanted to have a nice day for Miss D's sake so chose somewhere that wouldn't be too busy or hard to get to and also wouldn't have me pulling my hair out by the end of the day. My friend from knitting group kindly came with us too in case I had any moments with the kids that required more than one set of hands. Like when one of them (not mentioning any names, but he's small and blonde) decides to run away and gets mistaken for a girl by old folk who look very confused at me calling him a boy.


We went for a little look round before lunch.. The lunch which was a teeny bit of a disaster given that we're vegetarians and they had no cheese, at all. I'd even called them yesterday to ask about what they had available and you'd think that that would make them pop a note on the shopping list, but nope! It wasn't too bad though and we managed ok with salad sandwiches and soup.


First off we saw this horrifyingly scary terrible nightmare bird, the Cassowary. Not cute, not cute at all! It was glaring at us and rubbing that bony fin thing on the top of it's head along the fence menacingly. Scary biscuits!


Then we saw the pelicans that were having a grooming session. They were all clicking their beaks in unison, very strange to hear. They can also turn their throats almost inside out, something that Miss D was fascinated with and tried to describe to anyone within earshot.


We saw flamingoes, but I think these faded in the wash and need a new dye job.

A very pretty duck


It's equally pretty swan-like counterpart


A hugely fluffy chicken

A zebra, there were 2 but the other one was hiding out of shot


And this. What the heck?! It looks like someone welded a dog to a rabbit.

We finally found the penguins after being duped into thinking it was a duck enclosure by the fake-penguin ducks. You can see one just behind.

Miss D meets an owl

There was plenty of time to get around to all of the feeding times. First up the pelicans. Eldest was right next to the bucket of fish and got a teeny bit sprayed with fish bits.


Then the penguins
And the meerkats. They are very cute but the do eat some horrible things. Dead baby chicks - eaww! I wish I could un-see that and just think about how cute they are instead.

A bouquet of meerkats

They do spend a lot of time staring randomly into space. I can do that too.

The kids had a lovely day, there was a park to play in and ice creams to eat before we went home. Littlest one managed to get three splinters in his finger that he has yet to let me remove but otherwise all was ok. Every year I have been getting someone to take a picture of myself and Miss D together on our birthday but it is so so hard to get one where one of us isn't pulling a weird face! This year was no exception. I think we must have taken at least 50 but I've yet to see them as the camera battery died. Hopefully one of them will be good enough for the album.

It's also my 1 year blogversary today. I haven't been organised enough to do a giveaway but I will try and get one sorted as soon as possible. I'll take this opportunity to say a big thank you to everyone who reads and comments otherwise I'd just be talking to myself!

See you soon



Monday, 15 August 2011

Craftstipation

That's what I've got. So many ideas yet I have produced exactly - nothing! I think after all the Blue Circle Cushion love I wanted to make something just as fabulous but everything I have cast on hasn't been right. Meh! I have quite a lot of the Kaffe Fasset Regia that I want to use up but I'm finding it a bit tough to find a pattern I like that isn't socks. I don't think I'm in the mood for socks yet. May have to put the stripy sock yarn back into the stash again for a while.

I have bought a new pattern though. I found it on Ravelry yesterday while I was searching for something else entirely and fell in love. It's Chadwick by Stephen West. Isn't it fab? I had a bit of a drink and ended up buying it. That's the trouble with Ravelry - instant shopping gratification. I'm not sure on which yarn to use. I'm drawn to a couple of colour schemes but not sure if they are a bit too loud. I'm trying to wear a bit more colour (I say typing away with Thomas The Tank Engine blue nails) as I wear a lot of black. I tend to get like this when it's almost my birthday. I feel like I need to overhaul my appearance, which doesn't always happen for long before I go back to 'normal'. I now have a random collection of accessories that never see the light of day as they seem too fancy for my day-to-day life.

I found a vintage skirt in the charity shop the other day, it spoke to me (yes, a talking skirt!) It was a lovely shade of mustard yellow (my favourite) with buttons up the side that I imagined I could swap for some colourful random ones from my collection. It was even my size and it would go nicely with my new red boots (always buy boots in summer - much cheaper.) I went to the changing room only to find it didn't fasten! Oh I was sad. As the skirt is vintage it has a very small waist and, well, I've never had a waist. Just a place where my trousers finish and the rest of me starts. When waists were handed out I wasn't in the queue, I must have got into the tummy queue twice by mistake. That's why I very rarely wear skirts, they start off much too high up and travel upwards all the time when I walk. If I buy them to fit comfortably round my middle they are too long and much too flare-y and I look like a bell.


A pic of the label, there is no way my waist and hips have a 10" difference. Not unless I lose a few non-essential internal organs (oh ok, and some weight as well!)


Excuse dark evening pic, colour is much brighter!

On closer inspection the skirt had seen better days, loose threads and missing a belt and button, but the length and hips and flary-ness were just right. So I decided that the skirt was coming home with me regardless and between us we'd try to come up with a skirt I can actually wear. Just need to sort some fabric and figure out how to use my new buttonholer. I have to say the fabric so far seems elusive, I have no idea what to search for on Ebay and there is so much of it! If anyone has any links to good sites for fabric could you let me know in the comments, pretty please? I know lots of places to buy quilting cotton but not so much for clothing. Ideally I'd like some mustardy heavy cotton fabric but I haven't found any of that at all. Possibly because I'm 40 years too late? Either that or some wool or tweed.

I also sneaked a pic of my new (old!) peg bag because I love it (50p!). I had to take it close up as I was in view of the new neighbours and I didn't want to be 'the woman who takes pictures of her peg bag and a manky old skirt' Not yet anyway.

Ooh I also took delivery of my new wool duvet this morning. It is supposed to give you better sleep, which remains to be seen. We've given our bed a bit of an overhaul, we had a new mattress last week and I had always fancied a wool duvet but not the price. I found one on a good offer and decided to go for it. Eldest boy helped me change the duvet cover over and I immediately dived under the covers to see if I could feel any of the sheepy magic. Eldest climbed in too and I told him it was made of wool and he shouted 'Euuuurgh!' and jumped straight back out of the bed again. Mr J just thinks it's an underhand way of sneaking yet more wool products into the house.

I had better go as I am birthday cake baking tomorrow and so far have no plan for what I am doing and need to hit the internet. Thank you for all the comments on my FO post last time, it made me very happy!
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