Archive for December, 2011

pretty arrangements central

Strings for pretty things (including a tea towel made by my future sister-in-law)

Then I spent a lot of time turning the ‘laundry’ into the ‘pantry’. The washing machine is the only indicator that this room, viewed from the kitchen, might be a laundry. So a whole lot of preserves, appliances and cake tins suggest otherwise. In your face, whiteware.

The only thing about my new kitchen is its definite lack of bench space. Fortunately this little table fits neatly in front of the old hot water cupboard, next to the stove. Perfect for wooden spoons and teapots.
Then it was time to pick strawberries and my first courgette. Also this week I have dug up my first crop of Maori potatoes! When I find camera cord I can  demonstrate the power of the purple potato salad.


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Probably should go move house now or something…

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Further musings on speculaas

So, you may remember my earlier (and might I say, highly successful) attempts at the wonder that is speculaas. For Rata’s first birthday I followed the recipe to the T, while at her second I played around a bit with the instructions. Well, I was going to make them again for Louis’ pending 30th, mostly because his aunty is making an appearance and I’d long ago promised I would make her some. I was… and then I found that in all the hubbub of moving and working and general STUFF going on, I couldn’t be bothered with the hoo-hah. But I still wanted yum spice things to eat with almond paste in them.

So I turned instead to the recipe for Belgium biscuits in Ladies, A Plate. I put in the speculaas spice mix from the speculaas recipe and reduced the butter and sugar to the levels allowed in the notes (it gets too greasy on a hot summer’s day). Then I made the almond paste from the speculaas and added a dash of rosewater instead of almond essence because that stuff is highly offensive to my nose and palate. And then I left both dough and paste in the fridge for two days for alas! out of time once again.

On Sunday night, I did this little thing called rolling out the dough, rolling out the almond paste over half of it, folding the dough in half and continuing to roll it until it was roughly what I considered to be ‘biscuit thickness’. With me this is always rather uneven as I am not terribly good at rolling out dough, even after all these years. Then I just whipped my pastry cutter along lines to make diamond shapes, baked them for about 15 minutes and presto!

They are wonderful – for starters I was impressed by how even that strip of paste is in the middle of (most of) them. The Belgium biscuit layer is crisp, while the almond is chewy, so it seems to me a winning combination.

Now I just need to keep them safe in the tin until Saturday… I should have kept to my word about staying off the sugar. Still, nine weeks sugar-free is nothing to sniff at.

*** P.S. I did play around a bit with the making of it and did a little experiment to see what this combination of dough was like layered as it is in the speculaas recipe, with the thicker layers. It was crap. Don’t do it.

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It has served me well.

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The other day a little brooch arrived in the post from Charlotte, who is currently studying in Charlotte, North Carolina. The little brooch gave me a jolt because about a month ago I found this lovely coaster in the opshop. (Did I mention that I quite like the primary colours at the moment? Did I? Because I do)

Well, I said ‘what I coinky-dink!’

But then later, Charlotte (who reads my blog and knows the ins and outs of the haunted button jar) wrote me this lovely email:

I really think the brooch and the coaster are not just a weird coincidence or even just ‘Jesus loves you’ (although that is very true), but I really think that is something specific from God – he tells you that he hears your heart, that he hears not just the prayers you pray or the words you speak or the thoughts you think, but that he hears the heart from where it comes, he hears your real voice and hears the real you and he knows the heart you have for your family and he wants to talk with you more and be part of your life. And he cares about the things you care about it. He cares about your child and your relationship with Louis and baking and all of your creativity and craftsmanship and skills and he wants to help you choose buttons and show you things he knows you’ll like, the way you want to show Rata things you know she’ll like. He wants to be your daddy and your helpful friend and your go-to guy.

Like a human trying to get the attention of a sea monkey… it’s sometimes hard for him to talk to us without breaking us, and that’s why he speaks so quietly, but he works with whatever part of your life you let him into. Even if it’s only the craft room or the laundry!

The coaster came in its original packaging with a little typed note about the pattern:

“The rosette is a copy of the ancient messianic rose of Bible days. it has a long history and proves the strong relationship between religion and superstition. found on many hex signs, the rose has power over evil and strong Christian symbolism. The hearts differently coloured express love for all and kindness and gentility towards ones beloved.”

Now, my spiritual beliefs are on their lunch break at the best of times, but I do think that what Charlotte wrote is insanely beautiful and comforting and just, well, lovely. God is in my washing basket. Does he like folding?

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Greetings. Things come in threes! Over the course of eight days we will be celebrating Louis’ 30th birthday, moving house, and then marking the birth date of the Baby Jesus.

Oh, and working three days between moving and Christmas, and somehow fitting in a few other things like exhibition openings and Playcentre meetings. Oh, and you know, I just finished organising a bake sale for Playcentre. Just a small undertaking, yes?

But you know, the wonders of social media have meant that since circulating this image I have sourced a yard broom and the offer of a potential support group for fellow list-makers. Writing the list also helped remind me to book some strapping lads to move the whiteware. And you’ll notice that I have left my own name off the cleaning duty. That is the beauty of being the boss. And cleaning the house the rest of the time.

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Butterick 5605, part two

After a wee bit of the kind of pinning that only comes when female relatives drop by, my step-mother and I worked out what changes needed to be made to my dear little dress. Kath put the strappy-joiny bit into place, then worked out where the zip needed to be. I carefully unpicked what I had done, drew the new centre-back seam and machine basted it. (Yes, I remembered to draw it on the pattern piece too for future reference).

I had to be very careful with the zip once I’d taken it out because I had cut the top off it. This dress really is about how many things one person can do wrong in the same garment. I seem to be going for the record here. My zip is still not quite perfect, and I’ve come to realise belatedly that having a proper zipper foot for my (borrowed) machine may help matters. I have one that kind of does the job, but it’s not strictly for a zip and only goes down the left side (heaven help you if you have pinned it with the intention of starting on the right side). There’s really nothing for it but to purchase one in the near future.

Once on, it was certainly tighter! But it still gapes ever so slightly on the right hand side where the back curves down to the zip. Fortunately that problem only occurs when I am standing up straight with my shoulders back. My friend Bel put me onto the fact that bad posture is actually a “THING“. Problem solved!

I’m still not quite sure what material this is, but my mum thinks it may be viscose based on its chief failing: it will not stayed pressed. I ironed and ironed and ironed (different temperatures, more steam, less steam) and PING! back to a soft fold once again. I toyed with the idea of a thousand tiny slipstitches around the neckline, then went the sewing sacrilege route and topstitched. It doesn’t look TOO awful and everything sits better now – gaping at the back is minimised and the lining doesn’t get to think about peeping out.

I finally felt ready to hem it, so I hopped on my bike last Thursday to see Bertie and get her to pin the hem. While I was there she said ‘go through my buttons to see if there’s a match’ and lo and behold, five perfect buttons popped out. They have ticked all the boxes really. They are a shade lighter than the blue so they don’t disappear into it and their shape quietly echoes what is going on with the pattern without competing for attention. I am now completely relaxed about their inclusion and am ready to let go of my feelings about that aspect of the pattern (but if you’ve googled the pattern by all means learn from my mistakes over here). At first I had a yellow button on the back but once the other buttons were in place I replaced with another button that jumped out of the Meister button jar.

(this photo is a better representation of the colour of the fabric)

Now I’m just working on a petticoat. The one I have is a tad too long, so I’m working out what to do with it – a layer of polka dot ruffle peeping out below the hem? A layer of blue with the geometric roses appliqued on? Perhaps I will just have to deal with the fact it is two inches shorter than I want it and move on… either that or I’ll fit in a few other projects (like oh, I don’t know, moving house and Louis’ birthday and Christmas?) before I do the decent thing and show you WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE ON?

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