Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Fruit picking and subsequent baking

I only have one memory of fruit picking as a child and that was with my Aunty in South Wales.  We picked strawberries, blackberries and raspberries growing wild in fields near to her house.  We went to Ireland quite a lot in holidays where I only remember picking apples from another aunty's garden and so I can't say that this very British past time reminds me of my childhood.  However, this was the first time we took our children and I hope it will become a Summer tradition we will maintain.

For our first foray into the world of fruit picking, we went to a Fruit farm and collected 2 varieties of plums; Jubilee and Victoria.
We discovered (through tasting) that the Victoria plums were sweeter and collected more of those.

It really is an activity for all the family even Michael was able to help with the tasting and Daddy was in charge of quality assurance.  The girls were chief pickers although towards the end, the bag was very heavy!
 The picking would be nothing without the eating and the question suddenly arose of how on earth can we eat 1kg of plums?!  I haven't made much pastry or many pies before but I attempted a short crust pastry recipe using some blackberries I picked which grow wild at the back of our flat (I suppose it wasn't our first fruit picking outing if we count last years blackberry picking but that did seem like quite a minor introduction).  I didn't roll the pastry thin enough on the bottom and so didn't have enough for the lattice on the top.

 But when served with ice cream , it really didn't matter!

My next endeavour was much more successful although the cake did dip in the middle.  I found a recipe for a plum sponge which used 4 eggs- in hindsight, I think I will use a different one with only 2 eggs as this took 1 hour 20 mins to fully bake.  It was however, sooooo good!

Finally, another first for me, I made jam and chutney!  I followed the recipe's closely for both and they seem to be the right consistency and colour.  The whole endeavour took up a lot of time last week as each jam/ chutney require lots of peeling/ de-stoning, chopping, stirring and cooling etc.  But first tastes are very good and it's a start on my Christmas presents.
 I suppose it may not be seen as traditional crafts but definitely new to me and certainly in the home-making tradition which is what this blog is also all about :D. 

Monday, 25 August 2014

National Trust

We recently became members of the National Trust which has been great timing for the Summer Holidays as it means there is always somewhere for us to go to.  It costs us £8 a month which I feel we have gotten good value for money as we have made several trips already.  At Easter we went to Croft castle and since then we have visited Hanbury Hall, Dudmaston Manor and Brockhampton Estate.  There have been nature trails for the kids to do and other nature based activities at a small charge.  Most of these sites have fantastic play areas for the kids as well as the beautiful interiors of the houses to explore.  There have been lovely natural play areas within the grounds too which add variety and adventure to these trips which could otherwise be seen as boring.  There is an initiative taking place which is a scrap book of challenges for children to do before they turn 11 and 3/4 including building a den and tree climbing which we have begun.  Here are some pics I've managed to take along the way of our little family enjoying ourselves.

 Hanbury Hall: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/hanbury-hall/

Dudmaston Estate: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/dudmaston-estate/

Brockhampton Estate: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/brockhampton-estate/

Friday, 1 August 2014

parties and presents

As we settle into Malvern better, the children get invited to more and more parties which is lovely but still poses a problem when I have to buy gifts but then I don't really know the parents or children.  They have been invited to quite a few recently and I have actually known the children in the most recent cases.  This allows me to get a little crafty and make presents for them.  Here are 2 bags I have made in the last couple of weeks, one for a boy and one or a girl who were both turning 1.
I began by usng the bigshot to cut out some squares of fabric.  I confess I love the fabric I used in the bonnet and so used it again with a few additions in places but the colour scheme was the same.  Once I had 16 squares, I arranged them and then sewed them together.
 I also used the big shot to cut some circles from the same fabrics ad then made yoyo's (or Suffolk puffs).
 Yet again using the Big shot, I cut some mice out of a pretty lilac floral fabric and sewed one onto the back piece as an added detail.  I hand sewed another mouse onto one of the squares on the patchwork front piece.
 I added the  party girl's name onto the corner of the bag as a little personalised detail with a die cut flower and button centre.
 I then layered up buttons onto the yoyo's and sewed them onto the patchwork front piece along with some pretty wooden buttons and a crochet doily.
 You may guess I was really going for the 'embellished' look!
 Here is the 2nd Mousey!
 Once I was finished with the front and back pieces, it was time to do te lining with a lovely mint green, large gingham piece and a co-coordinating fabric which had a wider flower spacing.
 I attached the front and back pieces together bottoms  together and then added the lining to the combined piece right side facing, leaving  small gap to turn the whole piece right side ot and then hand sew the opening closed.
 Then the moment of truth bit where you turn it out and check there are no holes!
 I admit his next bit may be seen as excessive but it as possibly my favourite part!  I then took a piece of tulle and gathered it to make a ruche.
 I added this  to the top of the back section so hat the bag can be used either way.
  I finished the ruched tulles with a piece of crochet lace.
  Lastly I added the handles.
after uploading these pics and writing all about this lovely bag, I realise I did not get a pic of the final piece! Aghhhh note to self- take pictures of your makes. Doh! Fortunately, I can on this occasion ask my friend to take a pic and I will upload it once she replies!
 This was the bag I made for the other little boy who was turning 1. I didn't have quite as much time this time and I also find boys harder to make for- mainly because my fabric are all floral!
 And then since it was the end of the school term, I baked a boiled fruit cake from a family recipe for the teaching assistant and for her main teacher, we bought 4 beers and I fashioned this little paper/card holder, which believe it or not, took about 4 hours!  Hand cutting takes ages- measuring, scoring then cutting, glueing etc.  I was pleased with the end result though and that's all that matters.  I doubt he had any other gifts quite like this and I believe the TA was very surprised to have had a present made for her.  I have since made  2 other cakes for picnics which were well received and eaten quickly! Praise indeed.  I'll try and take pics next time before they're demolished!

Sunday, 13 July 2014


My name is Katie and I am a poor example of a blogger.  It has been over a month since I last posted.  I had so much to tell a month ago with visiting the Showground, Sports day and then Sickness (dum dum duuuum).  It started with Michael getting sick- hand, foot and mouth amongst other things followed by me getting ill with a Gastric flu type bug right before we were due to go to Prague  to celebrate our 10 year wedding anniversary.   It was a 24 hour jobby so although weak, we went away leaving the sprogs with lovely (brave) family members.  Mikey's sickness and my bug ended the 1 year breast feeding fest a little too abruptly for my body resulting in a bout of mastitis.  Not to be deterred, I had a lovely sojourn with my good friends at my Father in Law's caravan in beautiful Bewdley.  That brings us up to date with yesterday's hat festival here in Malvvern.  I have hundreds of pictures from this month so here are just a few.

This was an outfit I hastily made a few years back for my eldest daughter for a jubilee party.  Fast forward a couple of years and it's still going and here is worn by my middle  lady for the commencement of the World Cup.  Needless to say, she hasn't worn it since this day!

On the same day as the other pic was taken, we collected wild flowers for Nanny from the park.

These are pictures taken from the 3 Counties Show which was fab!  There was a tent devoted to forgotten skills- weavers, spinners, rope tying people, whittlers of wood and others I can't recall now.

The girls had their face painted and the  lady was  brilliant.   I especially loved the dragon.

Pictures of a Prague skyline taken from the palace.  No photo can do the view justice though.

 Outside view
 Inside view!  Just stunning
Charles Bridge from Lesser town

 Lesser Town from the foot of Charles Bridge

 Stalls from a flea market

 Had to get a pic of these Tone Finnager creations!

 One end of Wenceslas Square

 The other end of Wenceslas Square 

 An average market stall selling tourist trinkets in the daily market.

 The restaurant we ate in at  St Nicholas square

 The food- delicious!!!

From Prague to sunny Malvern Hat festival.  Me and the girls with a lovely Community Officer who allowed the girls to 'decorate' her hat.

 Some paraders
Girls enjoying the activities 

 This was my creative efforts.  I'd been  on pinterest and  thought a bonnet may be achievable so set to work the night before sketching a basic idea and cutting out the concentric circles with the big shot and then old fashioned drawing around a plate for the bigger ones.  I was interrupted by my teething baby which meant that I only came to do all of the sewing on the morning of the parade.  I began around 10:15 and finished just after 11:30.  My machine is a bit sticky on the zig zag stitch so I gave up on the top band (which is now already fraying so I will have to go over it.  I had hoped to have brooches  and corsage embellishments but just ran out of time.  I will complete it and perhaps keep hold of it for an Easter parade in the future.  I really am  pleased with it and am happy I managed to make something as it has been ages!
Here's a side on view.  Other than the pink lace (which I bought in France on a market 2  years  ago) all of the fabric was from charity shops or the car boot.  My sister bought me the Cath Kidston binding tape which really finished it off for me.  Lastly, here's a pic of me in it.  I did get a lot of amused looks throughout the day but I figure, it's just a bit  of fun and I want the kids to get into the frivolity and celebratory spirit so why not?