Monday, 6 August 2018

A New Handbag

The happy event of my friend Lucy marrying her fiance, Jamie, last Friday, meant that I had an excuse to purchase a rather beautiful dark, peacock green silk dress to wear to their wedding. I had a pair of shoes (Boden, leopard print heels, I LOVE them) but needed a bag. I didn't want a clutch bag because, while I like a clutch, they are a pain when you are trying to also hold a drink, canape, camera etc, and so a bag with a strap was necessary. It also needed to be big enough to hold a pair of flat sandals so that I could change shoes and do some dancing later. Can you tell I thought this through? Honestly, if only I was this thorough when planning everything in my life.

Happily, while browsing Instagram recently, I found this lady and then the pattern for this, her Half Moon Bag. It looked perfect, and I knew that I could use it time and time again after the wedding, so I bought and downloaded the pattern. 

It calls for Bobbiny 5mm Cotton Rope, which I'd not used before, but comes in a great range of colours. I chose peach which I thought would go well with the dark green, and bought mine from here.

The pattern is really easy and clear and, with a 10mm hook, fast to make too. You could easily make one in a couple of hours from start to finish. I always love the stitch definition you get from a large hook and chunky yarn.

The strap I ordered from eBay  and, with pattern, yarn and strap, the whole thing came in at around £20 which I thought was pretty good for a new bag.

Something I really liked about this pattern was the inclusion of a free, extra suggestion for the leftover yarn. Around a quarter of the ball was left, not enough to do anything with, but the designer had given a simple pattern for a crocheted basket which I thought was a nice touch.

Without that, it would've sat in my leftover yarn basket until I forgot all about it. 

But instead, I have a pretty peach basket for my little succulent.

I foresee more moon bags in my future, in different colours too. I like their cross-body, slouchy style, but could do with one slightly bigger. I wonder if I could modify the pattern slightly....

For now I'll leave you with a couple of photos of me and my bag. 

The wedding was completely and utterly lovely by the way, in the most beautiful setting deep in the West Sussex countryside, and I had so much fun sharing their happy day. 

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Sky Watching

We've spent a lovely few days in Durham this week, visiting family and taking the opportunity to explore some of the surrounding area. I will admit I was looking forward to the slightly cooler temperatures up north, but was totally unprepared for the drop to around 12°C when we got out of the car at the service station at Wetherby. We were all shivering and looking for coats, stepping over puddles, it was comical. Once the rain stopped it warmed up a little and for the rest of our time away we were treated to a mixture of sun and cloud, and some spectacular clouds at that.

This was Ziggy's first long journey and he coped much better than expected. Never the happiest traveller, he settled down once we were on the motorway and slept a lot of the way there. We took him out and about with us as much as possible which was lovely, and he seemed to enjoy Warkworth Castle, sniffing a lot but thankfully not peeing up against any historical monuments.

Warkworth beach was wild and huge, and not overly warm either. I love the beaches of the Northumberland coast, they're so vast with their miles of sand and wide open skies, quite different to the crowded, shingle beaches down here. 

Angus, John and Ziggy played football, Bella hunted for pebbles to paint, I took photos. Everyone was happy.

Inland, the wild flowers were in full bloom and I was struck by the soft purple and gold tones everywhere from the heather and grasses. Ziggy was spoilt for walks while we were away with the moorland and beaches, and the cooler temperatures meant we could walk for much further and longer than we have been in the heat. 

 We couldn't visit Durham without a trip to Seaham beach to hunt for sea glass. 

John and the kids always roll their eyes and make out like I'm dragging them all there (it's a twenty minute drive!) but, once we're there, they all have as much fun as me. 

Bella got really into it and collected a bag full, and John found some gems. Angus explored the caves and searched for interesting pebbles and stones to add to his Interesting Things box.

 And Ziggy was happy just to wander between each of us, occasionally having a paddle in the surf or going to say hello to another dog, but I think it's safe to say he had as much fun as I did.

 I find searching for sea glass very soothing. You can just lose yourself in what you're doing and let your mind wander. 

I sat myself down on the sand and looked out to sea, then ran my hands through the sand around me, and unearthed so many treasures. I could have sat there all day. And these were the afternoon's treasures: mostly green and white with a few bright jewel colours and a couple of gorgeous, large pebble-like pieces. They've been added to Bella's collection.

So a brief trip but a nice one, and we enjoyed the time together. Today has been busy as we did errands and jobs like laundry, ironing, washing the car, and getting ready for a break in Devon next week. I'm out all day tomorrow at my friend and colleague's wedding so I won't get anything done then. Everything happens at once and this summer holiday is filling up rapidly.

I took lots of crafting projects to Durham with me of course (I needed something to do on that long journey) and I have made a start on an EPP hexagon patchwork quilt (much, much more on that another day) and crocheted a bag which I will show you soon, but the main thing I was working on was this gift for my friend, the bride.

It features flowers from her bouquet (cream roses, green hypericum berries, white bouvardia and baby's breath/gypsophila) and around the bouquet, I have embroidered their names and the date of the wedding. 

I've backed it with cream wool felt and tied a velvet ribbon to the top of the hoop so it can be hung.

It's not my usual style of embroidery but I went with it and just embraced the bridal frothiness of it all. I'll show you a finished photo of it soon. I hope she likes it.

Saturday, 28 July 2018

Making the Seasons: July

Welcome to July's Making the Seasons post, the summer fruits edition. As always with these posts, my intention is to make time for some kind of seasonal and creative activity, be that sewing, dyeing, crochet, gardening or in this case cooking. I'm doing this with my friend Lucy of Attic24 and our hope was that you might feel inspired to do something similar too. The heat has meant that I've felt no inclination to bake over the last few weeks, but I have still enjoyed pottering in the kitchen, always one of my favourite places to retreat to when life gets busy.

In our garden we have one redcurrant and two blackcurrant bushes. I know nothing about growing fruit but I do realise how totally low maintenance these plants are, to the point where I forget all about them and am surprised when I see their stalks hanging with fruit. The blackcurrants are a joy but I do have a bit of a love-hate relationship with the redcurrants. I always feel that I should appreciate and enjoy them more, do something with them other than pick them and put them in the freezer, because they're not my favourite fruit. It's not the tartness, but the texture and the seeds that get stuck in your teeth. With any other fruit that I had stashed in the freezer, I would quickly use it up by throwing it in with apples into a crumble, but I never want to do that with redcurrants. So this year I decided to really go to town with my soft fruit harvest and enjoy every currant that grew on those bushes.

The first thing I did to use up last year's frozen harvest was make a few jars of redcurrant jelly using this recipe, which I would really recommend. And Delia's right, homemade redcurrant jelly is a world away from shop bought jars. Some I turned into a sweet chilli dipping sauce, the rest will get used up later, probably at Christmas. I also made the happy discovery that warmed redcurrant jelly is pretty amazing poured over vanilla ice cream, with the combination of creamy, sweet and tart flavours.

The fresh currants were used in Summer Pudding, a very traditional English seasonal dessert which I'd never made before, probably because I was put off by the redcurrants. You line a bowl with white bread, crust removed, then fill the bowl with stewed redcurrants, strawberries and raspberries, before placing a bread "lid" on top then covering the bowl with a weighted plate and refrigerating overnight. All the juice soaks into the bread so by the time you turn out the dessert and eat, you can slice it and the bread is soft and delicious. 

I wasn't sure how much of this we wanted to eat though, so made four individual ones, which were much bigger and more filling than they looked.

Served with whipped cream they were summer on a plate, although as predicted the children found the redcurrants too "bitty".

Next, blackcurrants, and what to do with the kilo of fruit I picked from my two bushes. I love these berries (providing they are sweetened!) and could have made everything; gin, crumbles, fools, cordial, jelly, sorbet...the possibilities are endless. Eventually I decided upon jam, compote and ice cream.

I've never made blackcurrant jam before and so I followed a recipe rather than just making it up using half fruit/half sugar as I usually do. This recipe suggested simmering the fruit before adding the sugar to soften the currant skins, which I thought was a good idea, and it worked. I love making jam. I love the way the fruit changes throughout the cooking process, the way the liquid becomes glassy when the sugar is added, then thick and sticky at the end, and I find it one of the most mindful and absorbing types of cooking. 

Doubling the recipe gave me three and a half jars of jam, and the half jar went straight into the fridge where I ate some on top of toasted sourdough for breakfast the next day.

Compote (you know I love a fruit compote) is the best way to use up a small amount of fruit, especially the kind which benefits from a little sugar, and I eat it over yogurt, porridge, overnight oats or pancakes. No recipe needed, just throw in a pan over a low heat, add sugar to taste and cook for a while.

And finally - I saved the best for last here - blackcurrant and liquorice ice cream. I've wanted to make this for a while but never got around to it but now I know how easy it is, I will be making this every summer, forever.

The recipe, from the book Simply Nigella, is a no-churn ice cream so very easy, it's just a question of mixing ingredients and putting it in the freezer. I can't see the recipe online but this one is very similar, just without the addition of liquorice.

I bought my liquorice syrup from here and found that, for me, the ice cream needed a little more on serving, but I really do love liquorice.

I feel like I've really made the most of the seasonal fruit this year, and now that the soft fruits are coming to an end I'm thinking about the blackberries I'm seeing in the hedgerows (bramble jelly! crumble and custard!) and the apples and pears ripening on the trees. Before we know it it'll be time for pumpkins and squashes and my favourite time of year. Summer is whizzing by and I want to make the most of every delicious moment.

Please do pop over to Lucy's blog and read her July Making the Seasons post which is just full of summery goodness.