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Saturday, 22 December 2012

Christmas oranges

So it is nearly Christmas again! This year has been an interesting one and unfortunately I have been ill for quite a lot of it. As a result I haven't been able to post as much as I would have liked to. Fortunately I did manage to keep making things and remained in the habit of taking photos. So over the next few days I am going to backdate my blog with the projects I have done this year. This may seem like cheating to many bloggers out there but this blog was set up as a scrapbook of my projects. It seems a shame not to use the photos I have taken - hope you enjoy! 

In the mean time a Christmas treat - dried orange slices. I have always seen oranges as a Christmas fruit and love them hung on the tree or in garlands. I don't know why I hadn't realised they were so easy before but this year I actually made some and they really are very simple. 

1. Cut your oranges in to equal slices about 0.5 cm wide is ideal (I used 2 oranges which filled a small bowl)
2. Line a baking tray with baking paper (this will stop the oranges sticking to or reacting with the metal tray)
3. Lay your orange slices on the baking paper and sprinkle both sides with icing sugar
4. Put in a cool oven (I used about 100 degrees centigrade) and bake until they are dry and hard (can take some time - the thickest of mine took ~ 2 hours)
5. Hang with ribbon for the tree or garland or put in a bowl with cinammon and cloves for a classic Christmas smell!

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Bubble jewellery

The beads in this necklace and bracelet set remind me of bubbles hence the title. There are so many ways to braid wire with beads and each one looks different which means with some very basic techniques you can make endless individual pieces. Here I have used a mixture of bead sizes, shapes and colours and intertwined silver wires (three for the necklace and four for the bracelet) to create a random pattern of spots - so pretty!

Bubble bracelet

Bubble set

Bubble necklace

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Pastel horses

I recently started using chalk pastels again and in the process was playing with the movement of horses in my sketchbook. I grew up with horses and trying to draw horses that look as if they are moving is something I keep coming back to. It is actually quite difficult and I struggle to keep the proportions of the horses right. Here are this weeks attempts:

A horse at trot

A horse rearing

These were drawn on textured pastel paper which really made a difference to the way the pastel worked. It is something that I would like to experiment more with in the future. 

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Lighthouse painting

Another new painting with chalk pastels over the top:

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Silver necklace with autumnal beads

A new necklace made from loops of wire with beads hung from the joints. 

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Photos from Battle Abbey

Nick and I visited Battle Abbey during the week and what a beautiful day for photo taking! Here are a few of my favourites:

A Dove on the Abbey walls

Light distorted by the phone camera lens in the basement

Stunning patterns in the mud floor from

And a doorway that made me think of a secret garden.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Plaited bracelets with beads

After the five and eight strand plaiting last month I thought I would settle with some "easy" three strand braid when I introduced beads. Experimenting with threading beads at different intervals in the plait produced some interesting and quite different results. I like the glass beads with the silver wire especially when the light is shining on them. Here are three variations:

Small round beads make a very tight, neat braid. Here the beads were threaded on every time a wire crossed another. 

Oval beads make a nice open design. The beads here were also threaded on every time a wire was crossed. 

In this case oval beads were only threaded on when the wire crossed to the right so all the beads point in the same direction. 

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Seahorse photo frame

As usual I was struggling to work out what to get my Dad for his birthday. I decided in the end to decorate a photo-frame for his bedside table. I went with an under the sea theme as this seemed like it had some possibilities. The seahorse, shell and starfish were made with silver plated jewellery wire and small beads. These were then attached to the frame with PVA glue (which dries see-through so can't be seen). I found a frame that looked like it had sand waves on it and added some extra waves with more metal wire.

The shapes before they were mounted ...

and after.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Crochet bracelet

One of the new skills I have learnt this year is the basic crochet stitch - I am not the most talented at this I have to say; it doesn't come naturally. After quite a lot of practice I managed to make this bracelet. It isn't as complicated as it looks I have simply chain stitched nine lengths of very thin jewellery wire and then plaited them. These three plaits have then been woven together with some beads added in for extra prettiness. The result is this beautiful bracelet that (as long as you don't sit on it accidentally) can be worn again and again. 

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Plaited wire bangles

Until this week I had only ever plaited with three strands but found some instructions for 5 and 8 strand plaits. At first this seemed impossibly complicated but a little practice and it started to make sense and the results were some lovely silver bangles. 

They aren't perfect (as I'm sure you can see) but I am pleased considering it was a first try. I need to learn to size them better (both turned out huge!) and I need to find a better way to hold the two ends together when they are done. Getting an even plait also proved to be quite difficult particularly with the 5 strand plait. But otherwise I am there ;-)

Definitely some potential for these with considerably more practice! 

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Butterfly fall tree

So as I promised there is now a second tree. I couldn't resist decorating this one with brightly coloured origami butterflies! 

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Star tree

I have recently started to play around with metal wire to make jewellery. I however came across this thicker metal wire (aluminium I believe) that was very pliable. I instantly thought that I wanted to make a tree, I don't know why just one of those things. Anyway once the tree was made I decided to decorate it with paper origami stars in purple and lilac and here is the result:

It stands about a foot tall (ish) and has made a lovely calming addition to my studio (spare room) :-). I have some other ideas so watch this space for some more trees in the near future (hopefully)

Saturday, 23 June 2012


I have always loved foxgloves, they are so bright and beautiful. We planted some seeds in the garden a while ago and this year they have come in to full bloom. A great opportunity to get the camera out and take some photos. 

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Spring herbs in a fish supper

The garden is bursting with herbs that have overwintered and are really coming back to life. These are the perfect way to enhance the British classic of fish supper. We served it with home-made chips but it would be equally tasty with a couple of slices of bread and butter. 

Preheat the oven to 210 degrees (190 degrees for a fan oven)
Serves 2 (although easily doubled)

2 cloves of garlic
Rind and juice of half a lemon
3 slices of bread
2 fillets of white fish (we used haddock but you could use pollack)
8 sprigs of fresh mint
A handful of soft herbs (we used parsley and chives)
Frozen garden peas
2 tomatoes
Olive oil

1. Blend the herbs with the rind and juice of half a lemon and 2 cloves of garlic in a food processor. Add three slices of bread (crusts removed) and a tablespoon of olive oil and continue to blend until well mixed and chopped.
4. Put your fish fillets on a plate and spread over your herby breadcrumbs. Drizzle with olive oil, this will stop the fish drying out. Rinse the food processor out because you will need it in a minute.
3. Cut the tomatoes in half and put in a pyrex dish or baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and put in the oven.
2. Boil some water in a saucepan and then add the peas (about half a cereal bowl) along with the mint leaves. Boil for three minutes and drain. Put the peas, mint leaves and a little oil in the food processor and blitz. Season with some black pepper.
5. Once the tomatoes have had 15 minutes put the fish on the same tray as the tomatoes and put back in the oven. 
6. Once the breadcrumbs on the fish have started to brown (approx 10-15 minutes) put the mushy peas in a frying pan and heat over a medium heat. 
7. Serve the fish, tomatoes, and mushy peas with some chips or a couple of slices of bread a butter. 

Variation: The breadcrumbs also work well baked on large mushrooms. Ideal if you have a vegetarian in the family or simply fancy something different. Put the mushrooms in with the tomatoes and add the breadcrumbs when the fish would have gone in! 

Friday, 27 April 2012

Wholemeal rolls

I have recently started making my own bread - it does take time but is so rewarding and actually much better for you than most shop bought bread. I have been experimenting with different flours and this is my favourite combination yet. These rolls aren't too heavy because of the addition of white bread flour but do have a lovely texture and a crispy crust. The preparation only takes about 20 minutes in total but you do need to leave the bread to rise so the whole process takes over 3 hours (although obviously you can do other things while you wait). 

Makes 6 rolls

300ml lukewarm water
2 ½ tsp dried yeast
1 tsp brown sugar
225 g strong white bread flour
225 g strong wholemeal bread flour
1 tsp salt

  • Mix the yeast and sugar in to half of the water and leave for about 15 minutes.
  • In the meantime mix the flour and salt in a large bowl.
  • When the yeast is ready make a well in the flour and pour the yeast mix in.
  • Stir the yeast mix into the flour
  • Add the rest of the water and combine into dough – this is easiest with your hands!
  • You are aiming for slightly sticky dough that pulls all of the mixture away from the edge of the bowl. You may need to add some more water, do this one tablespoon at a time until the dough leaves the bowl clean.
  • Flour a flat surface and knead until it is completely smooth and elastic, this may take 10 minutes but it so worth the effort.
  • Get a clean bowl (or clean the one you were using before) and use a piece of kitchen towel to spread some olive oil in a thin layer around the inside. Put your dough ball in to this bowl and cover with some cling film and a tea towel. Leave in a warm place (e.g. airing cupboard or windowsill) for 2 hours.

  •  Prepare a baking tray by sprinkling it with a fine layer of polenta grain (this will help to stop the rolls from sticking).
  •  Take the dough out of the bowl and on a floured surface knock it back (literally push your fist in to it to knock the air out) and then knead for about two minutes (this might seem counter-productive since you have just left it to rise but is vital if your bread is going to behave properly!)
  • Shape your dough into 6 equal balls and place on the baking tray.
  • Loosely cover the rolls with cling film and a tea towel and put back into a warm place for about 30 minutes.

  • Preheat the oven to 190 °C and boil a kettle of water. Find a deep baking tray or oven proof dish.
  • Once the oven is warm put the deep baking tray on the bottom shelf filled with boiling water, the rolls need to go on the top shelf for about 30 minutes. They are ready when crispy brown on the outside and the bottom, when knocked, sounds hollow.
  • Leave to cool on a wire cooling rack – enjoy!

Delicious with soup or as a sandwich! They will keep for a few days but also freeze well for a couple of weeks.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

A New Skirt

Sorry it has been a while, how time flies when you are having fun! We have had a busy couple of weeks what with the Easter break and the garden demanding more and more of our time. I have however managed to get to my sewing machine and the result is this new skirt. Now this is the first time I have ever made a piece of clothing without a pattern (and to be fair I have never been all that successful with a pattern). It isn't of the highest standard but I am learning fast (for example don't put a pleat right next to the zip because it just looks odd!) and to be fair I would wear it out in public (which is probably a good sign). 

The design is very simple. An interfaced belt section provides some structure to the top of the skirt and then the bottom is too rectangles (one front and one back) that have pleats in the top to make them the same length as the belt. This allows some volume and gives you the "bell" shape. The inside is lined in satin and the outside is a heavy cotton.

Since making this skirt I have also started to make a waistcoat (which is much more complex and may be a step too far). I will hopefully be able to post photos of the finished article (good or bad) in the coming weeks along with an update on the garden and hopefully some new recipes! 

Monday, 26 March 2012

My first loaf of bread

This weekend I made my first ever loaf of bread! I have made focaccia and flat breads but never a proper loaf. Home-made bread always tastes so fresh and it was very rewarding to see it rise in the oven to something that looked like a real loaf! :-) This time I followed a recipe to the letter for a white loaf but I think in the future I might start to experiment with different flavours and flour combinations. It is amazing that this loaf was made from only three ingredients; strong bread flour, yeast and sunflower oil. The key to the crispy outside and moist inside was a tray of hot water in the bottom of the oven that generated steam whilst the loaf cooked. This was very effective and something I will definitely do again.
The salad plants are also doing well; they have survived  being transplanted last week. I have found that they are becoming more and more thirsty (which is not surprising considering they are growing fast and the weather has been so warm). 

 The seeds I have planted over the last few weeks are germinating well and making the most of the warm, sunny weather we have been experiencing. We have had temperature as high as 18 degrees over the last few days and it really feels like spring has settled in. The broad beans and mange tout seeds that were planted in toilet rolls filled with coir last week are coming on nicely and should be going in to the soil in the next few weeks. Planting seeds in to empty toilet rolls filled with compost proved to be very productive last year. The rolls help to absorb moisture so you have to water less often, you don't need to use as many plastic pots and best of all you can plant the seedling in to the ground still in their tube; protecting the roots from damage. All round this is a very easy way to recycle and the cardboard will bio-degrade over time to enhance the structure of the soil in your flowers beds. This technique seems to work particularly well with beans, peas, climbing plants, butternut squashes and courgettes. We now collect toilet rolls all year round with a plastic bag on the back of the bathroom door.

The ground is still pretty empty of vegetables and salad (although they are coming on) but some of the herbs are really doing well. We have sage, chives, oregano, thyme and even parsley that has overwintered on the patio.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Two new bags

This weekend I made two new bags from this gorgeous material I found last week. The bag above is for my Grandma so that she can carry her canvases to art class. It has long and short handles (for ease of carrying) and a small zip pocket for bus money (or as I suggested to Grandma the far more important cake money).

I had some material left so decided to make myself a satchel for work. The material itself is heavy cotton designed for curtains and is very easy to work with. The sides are reinforced with heavy interfacing and it is lined with satin. There is a long zip pocket on the back and a cross body strap. I was also thinking I might spray my bag with a waterproofing spray so that my stuff doesn't get too damp in a downpour. 

Quite a productive weekend I think, and since I have only ever made shopping bags before I am quite proud of the satchel. I didn't use a pattern (rather just made it up as I went along) but if I was to try something more complicated I think I would. There is a little bit of material left so I will have to think of something else to make. :-)

Thursday, 15 March 2012

A Goldfinch

Just a quick post to say I finally got around to making another drawing of the birds in our garden - this time a male goldfinch. I have started using marker pens to do my sketches because you get such a good range of colours and they are so quick. Compared to paints they are so convenient and I love that you can start a drawing and then leave it for a couple of days before you come back without having to worry about not having the same colours etc. I am still getting used to blending them (they don't always behave how I expect them to) but I think there is definitely some potential there. 

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Winter Salad Experiment - an update

About 7 weeks ago I decided I wanted to see if it was possible to grow salad indoors during the winter because frosts outside meant that there was a fairly limited supply of home grown veg. This week the seedlings finally looked strong enough to plant up! As you can see from the Lettuce plant above the seedlings have grown some lovely strong roots but they were starting to suffer a little from overcrowding. The most important thing when potting up seedlings is not to damage the stems (as this will kill the plant). Start by filling the pot or tray the seedling is going in to with compost and make a well in the soil for your new seedling. Support the seedlings with two fingers just below the leaves but keep the pressure of your fingers very gentle. Use a teaspoon or something similar to gently lever the roots out of the soil and then put gently in to a the well in the new pot. Carefully firm some soil around the plant so the stem is supported and all of the roots are buried. Put a few drops of water around the plant to wash the soil down and tap the pot very gently on a hard surface (this gets rid of any air gaps that will cause your roots problems). These tops that you can get for water bottles (which you can find in most good garden centres or online) are great because they allow you to drop or sprinkle water around your seedlings without the pressure being so hard you squash and break them!

 I have started using a new (to me) peat substitute called coir (the outer fibres of a cocunut shell). There are so many reasons not to use peat but finding a more eco-friendly alternative is not as easy as you might think. The coir comes in compacted blocks and by adding a few sachets of nutrients, a few litres or water and some vermiculite (and leaving for a couple of days) does seem to produce a lovely product. I will definitely be giving it a go and will report how it goes at the end of the season. One thing I like already is how little space it takes up for storage because it comes in compacted blocks. 

So the Chard, Rocket, salad plants and Spring Onions have been potted up and seem to be doing well. The Florence Fennel is also doing well and can probably be potted up in the next couple of weeks. The Spinach on the other hand has done nothing! No sign of life. So I am leaving it in the propagator for now but I think I am going to have to plant some more and see if we have more luck a second time. The salad crops can start to be sown outside soon and from that point will be planted every 4-6 weeks to provide food throughout the spring and summer.

This weekend we have also planted Butternut Squash, Broccoli and Cabbage seeds, as well as some of the annual flowers, Sweet Peas and some more Broad beans and Mange Tout. The temporary greenhouse is up and ready and the cold frame has been cleaned for the new season. It really does feel like spring is here and the ladybirds think so too; they are everywhere! :-)