Friday, 24 June 2016

Make, Bake, Sew, Grow

Thank you for your kind comments on my clutch bag. I am really glad you like it. You find me pretty shaken this morning by the the EU Referendum results here in Britain but as always life goes on. Today felt like a good time for a Make, Bake, Sew, Grow post, my little meander through all the things that are going on in my home and garden at the moment. My comfort blanket.

{ Make }

Two current obsessions: French plaits and peonies.

I have - until recently - never been able to master the French plait/braid.  This annoyed me greatly as I don't like not being able to do things. Many of my colleagues wear their hear in a variety of styles - full French plait, a little side plait going into a bun, a dutch plait/braid - and it always looks so pretty and I just kept thinking, it can't be that flipping hard. If I can crochet and sew, surely I can plait hair?

So, using my nine year old daughter and her waist length hair to practice, I have been working on Operation French Plait this week. These two pictured are a little wonky, but the two plaits she went to school with today (which took twenty five minutes and meant I didn't have time to make the beds or empty the dishwasher) looked pretty good. 

Next objective: learn how to do a Dutch plait and fish tail plait and - even better - do one of these creations in my own hair. If you need me I'll be in holding a hairbrush with aching arms.

Peony season is short and sweet and they must be bought and appreciated. I also like them against the grey wall in the dining room, but I like anything against that colour if I'm honest. 

{ Bake }

From the kitchen, rhubarb shortbread. Thank you for the idea CJ

I made a batch on Saturday and it was so good that I made another on Sunday. 

 Fish pie for a meal with my parents on Father's Day. 

I poached cod, salmon and smoked haddock in milk then, when the fish was cooked, strained it and used it in the white sauce. 

I flaked the fish into large chunks and then added some leeks I'd cooked for a while, plus lots of king prawns and sweetcorn. I like sweetcorn in fish pie, it is a good match -  it reminds me of chowder. I also chucked in loads of freshly chopped parsley, then topped it with mashed potato and baked it. I nearly forgot the prawns and had to push them in, one by one, under the mash, then cover it all over again. 

I made a separate one for the kids without the prawns, leeks or parsley and served theirs with just broccoli on the side. They both asked for seconds. Veg on the side of the plate is acceptable to them - even tasty - but veg mixed in with fish in a sauce is still regarded as Highly Suspicious.

It's a bit of a faff, fish pie, the kind of dish that uses four saucepans, but it's so worth it. 

{ Sew }

I made a start on my sampler and now that I've started, it's all I want to sew. Those little motifs are just the right size - small enough to be quickly completed without getting bored, and big enough that you feel satisfied when you complete one. I'm going to enjoy this project.

I continue to crochet the odd row here and there on Angus's blanket. 

It's still at the stage where it looks like a scarf though. I've got a long way to go yet.

{ Grow }

Everything is decidedly very green in the garden at the moment, but a little lacking in colour. The riot of pinks, reds and purples in May has gone over now, and I remember from last year how May was the best month in the garden. I need to figure out this colour-through-the-summer thing. Find plants that flower in June and July. 

We remain on hollyhock watch and they grow taller and taller, well past the top of the six foot fence.

I very much hope these are buds, as they run up the stem in clusters with their odd, slightly geometric shape.

The redcurrants are reddening.

The blackcurrants have a way to go yet.

Funny how I am suddenly very interested in these, since ice cream became a possibility.


I wish you all a very happy weekend. We are going camping. It's probably going to rain but there will be much laughter and friendship, chatting around a campfire with wine and putting the world to rights - just what I need today.


  1. Fabulous plaits, well done you. I went to a wedding the other day and the bride had the most gorgeous loose plait in her curly hair which seemed to hold itself together magically. I would love to know how it was done. Glad you enjoyed the shortbread. I shall make some more before the end of the rhubarb season. Hope you have a good weekend. CJ xx

  2. Lovely plaits. My daughter is now 33 years old and I never did master them. I am a short hair girl (too many curls to manage long) and I just never did get the hang of them for her. Curious that she is now a short hair girl too! Beautiful thick hair, just doesn't have the patience to fuss. Will have to try the shortbread, my neighbors have a ton of rhubarb and are always happy to share.

  3. My tip for braiding ones own hair is to just do it with your finger, no comb or brush involved, that seems to work for me.


  4. I love these posts, they epitomise the all round human being you are and remind me of what makes me happy too. I am guessing you are the kind of rounded individual that is pretty sad about what you woke up to this morning too. We are miles apart but so alike Gillian. On a more frivolous note, I will send you a link to a wicked rope twist for hair that takes half the time of French plaits because I am rubbish at those aswell. Jo xx

  5. I recall a friend plaiting my hair for me as a teenager. I slept with it still and used copious amounts of hairspray as I could never master them. Your camping weekend sounds just the thing after this weeks events. x

  6. The peonies look stunning against your grey wall, they are one of my favourites too. Beautiful plaits! All your food looks scrummy, especially the fish pie. Have a wonderful weekend.

  7. Peonies look fab, they are one of my favourite flowers. I learned to do French plaits on myself and think it's more difficult to do my daughters' hair than my own. It does help plaiting if the hair is damp. My girls like it when I plait their hair after it's been washed so it's wiggly the next day! Yes, fish pie is a faff, isn't it, but delicious :-)

  8. It is great to visit you here and see life is good. It has been a pretty awful day for Scotland and I am in total shock (being Swiss and Italian by birth, Scot by choice and all). Love Angus blanket and your fish pie looks delicious, too. I never thought of putting sweetcorn in my fish pie but will try to remember next time I make one. Have a fun camping weekend. x

  9. Lovely post Gillian. I can plait, but not french braid, so you are doing well. I've planted a peony here, but they can be a bit hit & miss in Oz. Look forward to seeing the progress on your sampler & crochet. As for your fish pie, it sounds delicious. I've made one similar, but it only had white & smoked fish with the white sauce and mash on top. I'll make a note of yours for next time, which may be soon in this freezing weather, where we even had a "very" short snow flurry, which is nearly unheard of here. Enjoy your camping & hope the weather is warm and sunny. Take care.

  10. You have been so busy. Not having had any girls I find the french braid to be very fiddly. You did a great job and oh those peonies, they are so gorgeous.

  11. Hi Gillian. Loved the sound of the Rhubarb Shortbread - a good way to use some of the allotment produce. But I'm a bit confused about the recipe - I followed your link, but it said to use "2 grams golden icing sugar" - which just can't be right. How much did you use?

    1. Hi Lynda, sorry it took me so long to respond. I thought the same and questioned it, added more and found it too sweet. Where it says 2 grams perhaps a couple of tablespoons? Hope you enjoy the recipe.

      Gillian x

  12. My niece in California texted me late last night to make me aware of the vote tally and I am concerned as well even from across the pond from you in Boring, Oregon. I'm glad you can go camping this weekend with friends. I am catching up on your news today and loved seeing your pretty and practical tile work in the kitchen, your "helper" concentrating, your lovely chevron bag, your luscious looking rhubarb shortbread and fish pie, and your perfect peonies against the gray wall. Wishing you a happy camping trip in the rain or shine :) xx

  13. I still can't quite get my head round the fact that there will indeed be a "Brexit" - I was walking around rather heavy-hearted most of yesterday morning, until I became too busy to care much.
    Anyway. Your post is lovely as always, and I was just the other day thinking how good pale pink peonies would look against my new grey wallpaper in the living room :-)
    The rhubarb shortbread looks yummy!! On the plait topic, I can not really comment - my hair has never been long enough for that, and now it is even shorter (and I love it). I admire all those ladies and girls with beautiful long hair, but have long (!) ago resigned myself to never being one of them.

  14. Such a lovely post: great French plait (well done, I never entirely managed to get the hang of them!), beautiful peonies, amazing embroidery and crochet, and you're obviously making the most of your lovely, new kitchen. Enjoy your camping trip. xx

  15. Hey Gillian,
    All good things to share in light of the madness that surrounds us at the moment. I love fish pie, but no one else here does. I'm envious of your hollyhocks too. Every year I mean to grow them, and then I forget. I must do it next year. Have a fab weekend camping.
    Leanne xx

  16. I love fish pie but for some reason the fishy smell lingers for weeks after! I've had to strip the oven down and clean it, and still it lingers in the fan! Any ideas?
    French plaits! I just about mastered them by the time my daughter insisted on short hair! Very fine and flyaway so difficult anyway.
    My pale pink peonies always succumb to the rain and go brown round the edges - I think I should cut them as soon as they open and enjoy them indoors. Have a great weekend!

  17. Your peonies are beautiful! Homemade fish pie is so good isn't it. I like it with some peas in, but I guess not for those who like their veggies on the side! I finally managed to get some dissolvable canvas today after being inspired by you so looking forward to having a go with it!

  18. I have to say I'm pretty shocked and saddened by the Europe result, love these posts though, have a good weekend camping I'll keep my fingers cross for dry weather for you
    Clare xx

  19. I love french plaits. I can plait my own hair but don't know if I could plait someone else's! The dutch plait looks gorgeous, I might try it. We have a wedding later this summer and I was hoping to find a style I could manage myself, perhaps this could be it x

  20. What a lovely post, full of nice things. Love the peonies, your battle with french plaits, have to say you're winning and the though of rhubarb shortbread.
    As for the EU referendum, I hold my head in my hands!

  21. I hope you enjoy the camping, it sounds like the ideal respite from the wider world. Beautiful colours in the blanket, and the octopus is very cheery! x

  22. Your peonies are gorgeous. I now know for sure what the really tall plants that just keep growing are in our garden that Father-in-law gave us saying they marigolds!!! The french plaits are looking good. I used to often do them for Abi. Once you get the hang of them you can do them 'inside out', just pass the bit you add under instead of over . It makes the plait really stand out and if you do it from the top centre and curve it around one side of the head to the centre at the bottom then carry on as a normal plait, you can pin the normal part of the plait up the other side of the head creating a coronet! x

  23. Your peony photos are outstanding, Gillian. That grey wall is such a fabulous background! Well done on the plaits. My daughter despairs of my hair-styling skills (or lack of!). Lovely to visit you here and see all your good things. In these turbulent times, we need to focus on the stuff that makes us feel good. Sam x

  24. I seem to have missed your blog since you moved house! How lovely to find you again. Fish pie mmmmmmm and well done on the plaits, I usd to be able to sort of do my own but dear god it kills the arms.

  25. The rhubarb shortbread looks lovely, I must give it a try - we're never short of rhubarb. Well done on the plaits, I could never do them on myself - the arms just gave up! Have a lovely weekend xx


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