Tuesday, 31 July 2012

I'm on a Quest

To find the perfect flapjack

Moist, chewy and with the right amount of sweetness. Yet in all my years baking I have never found a recipe with the right combination of butter (salted or unsalted?), golden syrup (only ever Tate & Lyle), oats (jumbo or normal?) and sugar (brown, demerara, white?) to make that perfect flapjack. Cooking times and oven temperatures seem to vary just as much as ingredients.

Today's attempt came from Nigella's Domestic Goddess. I had high hopes given some of the other wonderful things that have come out of this book and I only tinkered with the recipe to add some chocolate chips... perhaps that was my downfall. My chief taster declared them "a little dry but tasty"... but I beg to differ. They are very dry, not at all chewy and not nearly sweet enough for my taste.

Although I did manage one with my afternoon cuppa.
What's your favourite flapjack recipe... have you found the perfect one?

Friday, 27 July 2012

And the Winners are...

Just popped by to let you know that I've picked some winners...

of the little bag...

the corsage...

and the Japanese book.

I seemed to spend all afternoon copying out names, some of them up to four times depending on the various ways you happen to network with me. I then got my trusty assistant (Stewart) to pick out three names... and so in the order they were picked out... Dotty Cookie has won the bag, Indigo blue has won the corsage and Dandelion Dreamer has won the Japanese Book.

Well done to all three and sorry you couldn't all win something. However, taking a leaf out of Vivienne's book I have decided there will be more stuff given away over the next few months but I will pick people from random from those who happen to comment on a regular basis as I rather like the idea of surprising someone. And I thought I would start with Vivienne who is a loyal follower and regular commenter on my blog... who will also receive one of my corsages.

And should you really be disappointed to have missed out on the Japanese book I have just added the final three to my Etsy shop.

I made a series of 8 Japanese books for my Open Studios, sold four, have given away one and so these are the last three remaining. Japanese stab bound books covered in screen printed papers with origami butterflies on the matchboxes.

I've also dropped the price of the three remaining Jubilee books... when these are gone there will be no more Japanese or Jubilee miniature books... well, not from me at least!

Monday, 23 July 2012

Free Stuff!

That's Open Studios done for another year. Visitor numbers and sales were down on previous years but I still met lots of interesting people, some first time visitors and others regulars. It was also a chance to chat and catch up with friends so all in all it felt like a successful couple of weekends with lots of lovely visitor comments. There are always one or two slightly odd comments and the best this year came from a man (who actually made several odd remarks) who, after looking at all my work told me that his Mum did cross stitch too.

Now, I've nothing against cross stitch and have even been known to do some many years ago but there is nothing of my current work that even hints at cross stitch so where he made the connection I do not know. It amused me enough that I put it on my Facebook status... and then on Saturday a friend (you know, I am beginning to wonder) visited my studio with a gift for me... a cross stitch kit as pictured above... and the gauntlet was thrown!

So in between visitors yesterday I sat and stitched this little chap... although I had to add my own interpretation... and I am well aware that not all my stitches go in the same direction and I've probably mis-counted on several of the holes  (my eyesight is not up to pale yellow on cream linen... especially 26 hpi).... but there you go it's done!

Any way that little story is just a digression because today my blog is five years old... that's five years of me waffling on, so as a sign of appreciation for those who have stuck with me I'm giving away some stuff. First of all a machine and hand embroidered make up bag made from felted wool and a suitably colourful lining.

Next one of my machine stitched corsages made from recycled fabrics, lace and buttons.

And finally one of my miniature matchbox books... Japanese stab bound, covered with Japanese papers and the box decorated with an origami butterfly.

All you have to do is leave me a comment by Friday this week... but in an unashamed attempt to get more followers, fans and subscribers and generally get myself more publicity I'm offering extra ways to win.
If you are a subscriber to my blog, you get an extra chance to win, if you are a Facebook Fan, you get an extra chance to win and if you are a newsletter subscriber you get an extra chance to win. Potentially you could have your name go into the hat four times... be sure to let me know when you leave your comments. You can tell me what you'd prefer to win too, if you like... although I make no promises!

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Bella Pasta

We eat a lot of pasta in our house. Mostly because it is so quick and easy. In the time you can boil up a pan of water you can whip up a quick sauce and hey presto, a healthy nutritous meal in half an hour. So when Ben bought me a pasta machine for my birthday my first thoughts were more along the lines of "I wonder if I can use that for printing" rather than "Oh good, now I can make my own pasta."

But it seemed only polite to give a try for its intended purpose. The dough was surprisingly easy to make... just flour and eggs.

Rolling it out was actually fun... (maybe I should get out more)

And I got quite excited when it cut me strips of tagliatelle!

Admittedly this whole process took about an hour so not something to be done when you need a meal in a hurry... but the resulting pasta was superb. Much lighter than any shop bought stuff with a lovely flavour of eggs (from our own hens)

Tagliatelle with a spicy aubergine, tomato and olive sauce.

We had pasta again this evening... but after a day of Open Studios I opted for the quick version!

Friday, 20 July 2012

Art in Action

Well I'm not sure where that week went... two good days of Open Studios, dinner with friends, a trip to Farnborough to talk to the group "Textile Expressions", a last minute evening at the theatre, lots more rain... and here we are, Friday again! I did manage a rather splendid day out with friends yesterday to "Art in Action". Ignoring the fact that it took two hours to get the five or so miles from the M40 to actually getting into the show (muddy fields, alternative parking, shuttle buses... they'll have it sorted out by Sunday!) it was a good day with plenty of inspirational art work on show... and the food was great too!

Lots of fabulous work but these were four of my favourites:

Amazing figurative paintings onto a background of painted stitched papers and fabrics by Susan Macarthur.

Wonderfully subtle and understated work with print, stitch and embellishment from Dionne Swift

Quirky, funny and delightful automata from Jane Ryan.

And beautifully delicate textile inspired ceramics from Gwen Bainbridge.

It got me thinking there needs to be a bit of action in my own art work right now. I seem to have hit a hiatus, where if I'm not actually working on a commission everything I do is geared up for teaching to make sure I have fresh samples etc. I don't feel I'm doing anything very new or exciting and somehow want to change that... not that I actually know what it is I want to be doing, although I do need to step outside my comfort zone.

But with another weekend of Open Studios coming up there wasn't much time today for innovation and exploration... so I put together another flower garland... partly because I need some more samples for a class I'm teaching at Bee Crafty in November

And partly because the left over flowers make good cards to replenish my diminishing stock.

I'll face the problem of my comfort zone next week!

Meanwhile, my house is open for another weekend.
Saturday 21st and Sunday 22nd July 11 am until 6 pm.
Full details here:
I would love to see you!

On Monday, my blog is five years old so I think that might warrant some sort of celebration don't you? I might even give something away... to make way for all this new and innovative work I plan to do!

Friday, 13 July 2012

It Feels Good...

...and I knew that it would!
But why does it take the threat of strangers visiting my home to make me tidy up my workspace.

I did take a "before" photo a few weeks ago but I was so ashamed of the disgusting state of my studio that I deleted it. The floor and desk were obliterated with piles of paper, fabric and general rubbish. But I have worked all week and it is now clean and tidy... and I actually feel inspired to work there. Let's see if I can keep it that way.

Must dash... labels to put up and more work to put out before I go off to our Embroiderer's Guild supper party this evening (Quiches and cheescake made this morning!) to hear Gwen Hedley talk. Then it's open to the public all weekend... please come and visit.

Monday, 9 July 2012


As I have mentioned, I still have a handful of miniature book orders to finish but after having one returned it has made it really difficult for me to get going on them again. Silly I know, but I'm paranoid that the recipients won't like them, I've have binned two or three ideas (literally, in one case) and I've been reluctant to share the ones I have finished on here.

But I have decided to bite the bullet... so here goes! Book number 45 is for Joanna who wanted something based on the art work that has inspired this project.

So I have combined images of phone boxes, my piece of work "Regeneration" and pictures of the work in situ, together with some of the lace used in the work and a copy of my artist's statement, all in a simple stitched book.

Book number 46 is titled "Madonna" and I have used several images of the Madonna, painted in an icon style combined with lots of gold.

The book is a simple stitched book but I have tried to model the cover on a triptych made in three parts.

Let's just hope the recipients like them this time!

If you are still waiting for your book.. they are on their way but it might be another week or so as I really do need to get myself organised for Open Studios. But I do aim to get all the current book orders done by the end of this month. And talking about Open Studios... my house is open:

14th & 15th July and 21st & 22nd July
11am until 6 pm.
Details of how to find me can be found here:

Would love to see you because something else I get paranoid about is that no-one will turn up!

Friday, 6 July 2012

A Story of Banana Toffee

I have been fortunate enough to receive some really lovely, thoughtful birthday gifts from family and friends. But somehow Sam (son no. 2) always has a knack of finding something simple that hits the spot and makes me smile... after he got over his "all girls like candles" phase that is! This year as well as some special bath goodies... "all girls like bath bombs" : )...  he bought me a bag of banana toffee. I admit that it is not the most conventional of birthday gifts... but there is a story. Are you sitting comfortably?

Many years ago when I was  just a small girl in primary school in Bury St. Edmunds, there was a little boy named Stephen. I remember him as a tiny boy with blond hair although what was most memorable about him was that Stephen had a withered arm - the result of an accident when he was a toddler, although that is not really relevant to the story.  One morning break, Stephen said or did something unkind that made me cry... I can't remember what... probably just something silly. Stephen used to go home for his lunch and when he came back after lunch he had brought me a single wrapped banana toffee to say sorry for making me cry. And I've always remembered that toffee and how it felt like such a lovely thing for him to do.

Stephen disappeared from our school without explaination very soon after and there were awful stories spread about him dying because he drank bleach. I really hope they were just rumours and that somewhere there is a man called Stephen who remembers nearly fifty years ago giving a dark haired little girl a banana toffee. Isn't it funny the impact some people have on our lives and the things that stay with us. It made me realise the importance of being able to say sorry...

and gave me a life long love of banana toffee!

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

I give you cake...

Because it's been a while since I've posted pictures of cake. In fact it's been a while since I've made cake.

A rich chocolate fudge cake* with raspberries for our last Spectrum meeting before the new term in September... because Gill had a birthday at the beginning of the week and I've got a birthday at the end of the week. 

It seemed like a good enough reason.

* As a couple of you have requested it... the recipe for the cake, which also happens to be gluten free and quite easy peasy!

250g dark chocolate (I used Green & Blacks)
250g unsalted butter
6 large eggs
125g caster sugar
75g ground almonds.

Preheat oven to 190 deg C. Break up chocolate and put into large bowl with the butter over a pan of simmering water, to melt. Stir occasionally to combine. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Meanwhile grease and line a 23cm springform tin. Separate the eggs and whisk the yolks with the sugar until thick, pale and creamy. Gently stir in the cooled chocolate mixture until combined. Fold in the almonds. Finally whisk the egg whites into soft peaks and fold into the cake mixture. Pour into the tin and bake for 35 minutes until firm. Leave to cool completely in the tin.

Chocolate fudge topping
150g dark chocolate
150ml tub of double cream
25g butter

Break chocolate into a bowl. Heat the cream until almost boiling. Add to the chocolate and stir until melted. Stir in the butter until melted. At this point the mixture will be quite runny but it will thicken as it cools. Keep stirring while it cools until it reaches a spreading consistency. You can put it in the fridge but it does tend to solidify if you don't catch it at the right moment. Use the topping to coat the top and sides of the cake and decorate with fruit/ more chocolate/ cream as desired.

I take no resposibility for the amount of calories consumed in eating this cake!

Monday, 2 July 2012


I feel as though I have been under house arrest for the past week... only venturing out for bare essentials.

But at last the bunting is finished... all 12.5m of it! (That's metres not miles)

12.5m made in two lengths consisting of a total of 46 individual flags.

Each one has been embroidered with reminiscences of street parties and celebrations ranging from the silver jubilee of George V in 1935 up to our recent jubilee celebrations.

Each one has been made from vintage embroidered table linens, much of which has been donated by you, my blog readers. Thank you so much for for supporting me yet again and being part of this project.

The bunting will hang out side the Cambridge Folk museum this weekend to coincide with the Olympic torch coming to Cambridge. The torch leaves Cambridge for Huntingdon early on Sunday morning July 8th and will pass right past the folk museum along Castle Street. After that the bunting will hang in the museum tea room which is open at weekends. It has been a great project to be involved in although it has taken far more hours than I originally thought and because we were waiting on collecting the reminiscences it has all been very last minute.

I did give myself a day off yesterday and we worked in the garden all day. As ever I completely forgot that I'm not as young as I used to be and a full day in the garden has left me barely able to move today... I never learn!

Good job all I had to do was sit at the sewing machine and stitch bunting all day today!