Monday, 27 July 2015

Meals on Mondays and an old fashioned tea loaf.

We returned from our short break in Suffolk this weekend and now I am faced with mountains of washing (and that means ironing too) and not much in the fridge. At this point it struck me that it might be worth while writing a regular blog post on Mondays.
I was born in the 1950s when the whole ethos was "make do and mend" and "waste not, want not".
World war II had meant rationing of vital foodstuffs so that everyone had a small and reasonably fair share. I suppose this is what  leads to me hating food waste. I love cooking and usually am a bit of a spendthrift when it comes to food but I always make a point of using up the odds and ends left from the weekend. Cold meat from a Sunday roast might become a cottage pie, curry or hash; cold roast potatoes and leftover greens become "bubble and squeak". Winter lunches mean soup to my husband and so vegetables are never wasted.
The week away meant that the pickings were sparse. The fridge revealed a few eggs, some chorizo sausage, some ever so slightly over-ripe tomatoes and onions (always onions!). I googled for recipes with chorizo and found a recipe on BBC Good Food for Rigatoni with spiced prawns, chorizo and tomatoes. We always have a few varieties of pasta in the cupboard so I will probably use penne or farfalle instead of rigatoni. I was short of the prawns but as I was only cooking half the recipe 100g of prawns were all I needed. Mike ran the errand for me so I could continue my chores.

I had noticed several almost empty packets of dried fruits in the cupboards and a  half empty jar of malt extract. Malt loaf was a childhood favourite of mine so I decided to throw one together before tackling the ironing. If you have never tried making this and have only tried the commercial version I can really recommend this recipe. It is so easy and you will not need a mixer just a large bowl, a large spoon to mix the ingredients and either a greased and lined 2lb loaf tin or 2 x1lb tins. I use the paper linings from Lakeland to save on the greasing and lining.

Heat the oven to 170°c or 150° fan oven. Shelf in the middle of the oven.

Ingredients for Malt Loaf
sunflower oil, for greasing
150ml hot black tea (I used Assam tea for a maltier flavour)
175g malt extract, plus extra for glazing
85g dark muscovado sugar
300g mixed dried fruits
2 large eggs, beaten
250g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • note: I bought the malt extract originally in our local health food shop.
  1. Throw the mixed dried fruit (mine was a mix of sultanas, raisins with a small amount of currants), malt extract, sugar and hot tea into the bowl and stir well until mixed.
  2. Mix the beaten eggs in.
  3. Add the plain flour, stir well then add the baking powder and bicarb. Beat again to combine.
  4. Quickly pour the mixture into the lined tin and place in the centre of the oven.
  5. Bake the small tins for approximately 50 minutes. A 2lb loaf will take about 10 minutes longer.
  6. Test with a skewer to check that there is no wet mixture at the bottom of the loaf.
  7. Leave in the tin for 5 minutes or so then remove to a rack to cool.
  8. Brush the top with a small amount of malt extract while the loaf is warm to glaze.

  • If you can bear to leave the loaf in a tin for a day or even two the texture of the loaf gets a bit stickier and more luscious. Slice and serve buttered with a cup of tea. Yum!!!!

  • Dinner turned out fine too. Mike did not manage to get raw King prawns as the recipe intended but I tossed the cooked prawns through at the last minute and they were almost as good. The pasta I used was Gigli. This is a shape I had never heard of before. I searched online and apparently Gigli can also be called Campanelle (little bells, bellflowers).

It looks a bit of a dog's dinner here but it tasted good. Try the link to the original recipe for a better photo!

I hope to get back to some crafting tomorrow. We are having a lunch party for friends in a few weeks and I would love to make some bunting to pretend we are having a summer party- when will the sun shine again, do you think?

Meals on Mondays might become a regular feature to encourage me to blog regularly. I hope you like it. Please leave comments and let me know what you cook.


Friday, 17 July 2015

Preparing for a break with a Friday finish.

I finally got it together and delivered 3 quilt tops to Sue Phillips of School House Quilting. I finished Isobel's bear paw top and then realized I did not have enough of my chosen fabric for the backing so I made a detour to Newent to buy what was left of the bolt, another 1¾ metres. I spent a frantic hour working out the best way to piece the back.

The other quilts were the Japanese +X quilt top which was finished ages ago and my English Country Garden appliqué quilt. I have asked Sue to baste the appliqué quilt and I will be quilting it with perle cottons.

So on to my Friday finish. Ta dah!!!!!

This is the Vintage smock frock coat for the new baby that Jenny is expecting In September. This is the 0-6 months size knitted in Drops baby alpaca/silk in the Powder colourway. It reminded me of ballet pink tights.

This is meant to be a sport weight yarn but I found it more like a 4ply (fingering) weight. The pattern is by Sublime yarns and was written for a 4ply yarn. I did knit a tension square at the start for once and the Drops was just right as a substitute. There were a few comments on Ravelry about the yarn. I noticed I had a similar problem to other knitters in that my stitches looked uneven- or should I say more uneven than usual! The short soak and blocking seems to be sorting that though. I soaked it for a short time with Eucalan in off-cold water. The label said 30° but I wanted to err on the safe side. I gave it a gentle swish and blotted the excess moisture on an a fluffy towel. The coat is exactly the right measurements without any pulling or pushing for once. I must say I love it.

I am taking a short break next week as we head to the beach at Walberswick in Suffolk for an old-fashioned English beach holiday with Sam and Lexie. I am looking forward to enjoying my grandchildren's company, paddling, catching the crabs by the bridge over the stream, eating fish and chips and ice-cream, going on Southwold Pier and all those things that make a proper holiday. I am praying that the sun shines for a few days.

Still collecting our fruit from the garden. I have been trying to get a few pounds of raspberries into the freezer before we go.

There should be another two or three trays tomorrow and then I suppose the squirrel will eat the rest while we are away.

I am linking up to Freshly Finished Friday and Wool on Sundays with the baby coat.
Also to On the Needles with Patchwork Times.
 Links in the right hand column.

Have a restful weekend and a great start to the school holidays here in the UK.


Sunday, 12 July 2015

My Bear Paw quilt progress

The weather has not been too good for the last couple of days which was a great excuse to get my sewing machine out to sew and watch the tennis finals from Wimbledon. I realised I had not reported on a "quilt in two day" class I took in April with the lovely Sue Warren at Busy Bees Patchwork so I dug out the blocks and fabric and got to work.
This quilt is for Isobel. She is about to go from a cot to a junior bed in preparation for the arrival of a new baby. She is only two so I wanted something pretty and soft coloured. I chose my fabric way back from the Patchwork Basket in Newent. A soft rose coloured print from Moda (Pattern 46196, Collection for a Cause) and a Lecien floral in soft green with rose and yellow flowers.

Sue's design was for a bear paw quilt with setting blocks of a cross. I must have been on a go slow that weekend because I only managed to complete one row of the bear paws and one of the crosses! Mine is in the middle.

So today I got going and I am determined to finish the top in the next day or two.

The claw blocks have to be squared up and trimmed to 1¾", a great excuse to sit for 20 minutes and watch a few games. Federer does not seem to be at his best!

This is the progress today- I have only 2 more rows to make, one each of bear paws and crosses. I have cut all the pieces for the remaining blocks so that I'm ready to sew either tomorrow or at the Cutting Edge group meeting on Tuesday.

The soft fruit harvest continues both for me and for the local birds and other wildlife.

I spotted this little squirrel through the kitchen window. He had squeezed into the fruit cage to liberate a raspberry or two. If the weather improves tomorrow I will be picking all the ripe fruit to freeze at least a few pounds for us.

Congratulations to Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic. I really enjoyed the men's final!!!!

Novak Djokovic

Current tournament:Wimbledon (Men's Singles)
N. Djokovic
R. Federer
Jul 12, Completed
N. Djokovic
R. Gasquet
Jul 10, Completed
N. Djokovic
M. Cilic
Jul 8, Completed
N. Djokovic
4th Round
K. Anderson
Jul 6, Completed

Enjoy the rest of your weekend.


I'll be linking this post to a few of the link parties in the right hand column.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Where did June go?

I seem to have got into the habit of a flurry of posts early in the month then nothing. The weather was too good for a while to spend inside with any crafting. However it is Wimbledon and so I am in front of the TV with my knitting.
I promised to knit a bunny girl for my oldest granddaughter Alexandra. She is 5 now and I thought she may be a bit old. However when she saw Isobel's blue bunny girl she asked if she could have one too. Her colour preference was for silver and gold! I searched high and low for the silver yarn, I can tell you. However the bargain bin at Hobbycraft came up trumps with this variegated grey and silver thread yarn. It is Rico Creative Reflection print. Full details on my Ravelry project page 
The Bunny has been left half finished in the bottom of my knitting bag for ages but we are travelling to Wiltshire tomorrow to stay the night so I cracked on this morning and she is finished.
All the bunnies I have made seem to have a different character. I suppose it depends on the shaping of the face. So tah dah..... here she is,

Here are the girls, all together.

Full details of the pattern are on my Ravelry page.

I'm making progress with my green cardigan too and have started a baby coat for Jenny's bump. More on these later in the week.

I'm hoping I am not too late to link up with Wool on Sundays (even if it is Tuesday!)


Monday, 15 June 2015

Garden flower bouquet and a Monday finish

I love this time of year. The sun is shining and the garden is looking beautiful. This is the result of of all Mike's hard work, but under my direction, of course. The best thing is that there is plenty of choice to fill a vase for the house.
Today's choice is a mix of pink shrub roses, late flowering honeysuckle and Sambucus Nigra "Black Lace". The last is a version of the wild elderberry that we planted in the quarry garden years ago. I'm afraid that part of the garden is a bit of a mess but this bush is a towering display of tiers of pale pink blooms.

Last year our bees made a bee-line for our chimney for the winter. Unfortunately they died out early in the New Year. We were lucky enough to be offered a swarm of bees last week and we are thrilled to have honeybees in the garden again.

 Half of the bees were tipped gently into the top of the hive and the rest were left on a sloping board to make their own way into the hive. They instinctively walk upwards to the opening.

The hive is right down at the bottom of the garden and the bees seem to have settled well. They have been  drawing out the comb from the foundation and are busy bringing nectar and pollen back. Hopefully, the queen will start laying this week.

So to my finish. Ta dah!.....

It is the finished foundation pieced table runner. I have appliquéd the centre flower with whipped buttonhole stitch.

The glass bottles are all Victorian in origin. Mike rescued them when he excavated the ice house here on the farm. They are a mix of seltzer, medicine and poison bottles! We found a dozen Victorian champagne bottles too. The ice house must have become redundant and was then used a a dump. I think the bottles look just right with the colours of the table runner .

I have spent the afternoon preparing for tomorrow's masterclass by Harriet Hargrave on invisible machine appliqué. Bags now packed, machine checked and all the class requirements ticked off. I think I'll need my brain in gear tomorrow so I will be having an early night.

I will be linking to several of the link parties (see the right hand margin for the links)

Hope the sun is shining on you too today.


Thursday, 11 June 2015


I have been having a bloggy conversation with Glenda of Patchwork Dreams recently. She posted about a giant centipede that made it's way into her bedroom. She lives in what looks like a subtropical area of Australia with huge trees and a lush garden of tropical flowers. Very warm and humid.... and so you would expect giant insects. Apparently spiders eat birds there. Ugh!

I thought I was safe here in South Wales. A temperate (sometimes a bit too cold) and gentle climate. Just see what showed up this afternoon in my conservatory. I have no photos of this insect alive as I was too busy looking for the fly spray.

The wingspan was 2 inches.

I'm afraid I had to kill it and once sprayed it took over 10 minutes to finally die. I was concerned that it may be the Asian hornet but it would appear to be a European hornet. The Asian sort has yellow tipped legs. The photos do not do it justice as the hornet curled slightly once it expired.

This is so totally off topic for my blog but it provided a bit of excitement.

My table runner is now sandwiched and ready for machine quilting tomorrow.

Lets hope tomorrow holds no surprises.


Monday, 8 June 2015

Monday morning

It is sunny outside and I've woken up feeling optimistic and happy. For some reason I started thinking about the song "Monday, Monday" by the Mamas and the Papas; anyone remember it? Well it was a long time ago (1966) so you are forgiven if you don't know it. I checked out the lyrics and find they are so sad- that's really weird. I'm not sure why I associate it with feeling good. I must never have paid attention to the words. Still, it is a brand new week full of possibilities.

First, the almost finished top of a table runner.

I took a class on foundation paper piecing with Jeannie Duncan-Farr at Cutting Edge last week. I love FPP- the way you just cover the paper and get accurate points. Jeannie had designed a colourful table runner with a flying geese border.

Jeannies table runner from the Cutting Edge website
 I had chosen an entirely different colour palette for mine and struggled a bit as I did not have any green for the leaves. Still, here are some photos of my progress.

I have pieced the whole top now but still need to appliqué the central flower. It will be interesting to see how everyone else got on when we meet tomorrow for our monthly meeting. I plan to start a new embroidery as it will be something that is easy to do in the garden while enjoying the sunny weather.

Mike and I took a trip to the National Botanic Garden of Wales yesterday and what a treat! The main aims of the garden are conservation and research that is accessible to all. This gem of a garden is only an hour away from Cardiff and yet I only visited it once in the year it opened to my shame. The planting has matured and there is something for everyone to explore; history, sculpture, plants in medicine, bees, glorious gardens and the largest single span glasshouse in the world that was designed by Norman Foster and partners. A few photos....

It was difficult to show the scale of the glasshouse because of the way it nestles in the landscape.

If you are planning a trip to Wales try to get to visit the garden. Something here for everyone.

Have a great sewing week,


I'll be linking to several link parties this week and I have the links in the sidebar on the right;

A brand new to me Monday link party Monday Makers run by Nurdan of Hug-a-bit Quilts. It would be nice if you could drop into her party and show some support.
Anything Goes Mondays seems to be missing this week.
 Linky Tuesday (Freemotion by the River) and So Cute Tuesday at Blossom Heart Quilts.
 Esther Aliu's WOW and WIP Wednesday (Freshly Pieced)

Monday, 1 June 2015

Waste not, want not.

Life has been super busy and enjoyable recently. We were away in May for a few days staying near Rutland Water. Our bedroom had the most fantastic view of the water framed by a pink clematis on one side.

We had time to visit Oakham and Stamford but the main reason for visiting the area was to attend a private event at Althorp, the home of the Spencer family. Charles, the 9th Earl Spencer, read Modern History at Magdalen College, Oxford. My husband studied chemistry at Magdalen in the 1960's before changing direction and reading medicine. The Magdalen Society was invited to Althorp for a reception and lecture by Earl Spencer on his new book, Killers of the King- the men who dared execute Charles I. The lecture was fascinating but the best bit of the visit was being able to wander around this wonderful Grade I listed house wine glass in hand. Click through for history and official photos of the house.

I spent several days preparing for a lunch party for special friends to celebrate their Golden Wedding anniversary. Mike has known Mike and Peggy for more than 30 years.  I decided on a traditional summer lunch of poached salmon with new potatoes and green bean salad followed by meringues and strawberries. I also made a cake but chickened out on the icing by using fresh flowers as decoration.

So what has this got to do with the title of the post? Well the consequence of making 48 meringues were 8 leftover egg yolks. I hate wasting food so put the whole egg yolks in a container and added a small amount of cold water to cover. They keep well for a couple of days in the fridge like this. Today I felt recovered enough to do some cooking and decided that a good use of the eggs would be to make lemon curd.
I found a recipe online which just needed the yolks and not whole eggs. The only thing I changed was to increase the amount of sugar- in fact I doubled it! The curd was still fresh and lemony but not mouth puckering.

 Butter, sugar, lemon zest and juice are combined in the same bowl and heated gently over boiling water, making sure the bowl does not touch the water.

 The finished product- delicious!

So sorry once again for the blogging drought, I hope you understand.

We had a meeting of the Honey Bee group here last week too so I will post about that soon.
Have a great week,