Friday, 19 August 2016


It's the jam season.  The trouble is - we don't eat that much jam in our house so I'm always on the lookout for alternative ways to enjoy the fruit we grow.  Whilst I'm partial to a little homemade jam on my pancakes...
...and perhaps on toasted fruit bread or a hot cross bun, I usually end up giving it away!  
However, I do enjoy making jams, jellies and chutneys.  There's something very satisfying about picking our fruit and preserving it to be enjoyed long after its season in the garden is over..
I love seeing rows of jewel coloured jars with their pretty labels.

I printed these myself after finding a lovely selection of free downloadables on this site for jar labels.  The ones I used were created by Yours-Is-The-Earth and The Elli Blog.  As well as blackcurrant jam and jelly, I've made several blackcurrant cakes, so tangy and moist using ground almonds instead of flour and lovely, plump berries.  I followed this recipe by Sarah Raven from a lovely book my Mum has.
Whilst the blackcurrant bushes were prolific, our strawberry crop was poor this year - too much rain I think - or possibly the plants are just getting old.  This photo is of last year's fruit!  Berries which maybe aren't as pretty but still taste fine are ideal for this cake.  It's called Fantasy Cake and I made a couple of these.
Let's not forget the rhubarb - I've been cropping our rhubarb since May.

I prefer to bake my rhubarb - it holds its shape better being baked in the oven rather than stewed on the hob - and I've made lots of rhubarb pie.  Pastry is not at the top of my list of kitchen triumphs so I'm not ashamed to admit that I use bought pastry cases - sweet for fruit pies and savoury for quiche.
We've just started eating the batch of rhubarb chutney I made a month ago.  Now chutney is something we really do enjoy.  I've also made some gooseberry chutney for the first time this year. Our gooseberry bush was only planted two years ago and produced little in its first year.  What a difference a year makes - gooseberries galore!
 This puree is in the freezer now in batches to be brought out and made into gooseberry fool at some future date.  I can also heartily recommend this gooseberry crumble cake - an excellent way to enjoy this often underrated fruit.  My recipe was taken from a well-thumbed 1980's recipe book by Katie Stewart but here's a Gooseberry Crumble Cake recipe by Nigel Slater which is pretty similar.
Really delicious!

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

I Heart Cushions!

This craft project grew from a desire to brighten up a dull corner in our dining space.  We live in an old croft house and the thick walls and low ceilings which characterise cottages like this also tend to make it rather dark.  I love this Ercol chair, which my parents bought as newlyweds in 1959, but its most recent visit to the upholsterer left me as flat and dull as the serviceable beige fabric I'd chosen.
I also wanted to find a use for this hand felted piece I created at a local class last December -
but not as a piece of wall art.  (Our house definitely doesn't need any more textile wall art!)
When my husband chose this jolly picture for my Christmas a few years, we positioned it above the Ercol chair where it would be bright and cheerful.
The chair, though, badly needed a cheery makeover - so I thought I'd make a cushion.
I trimmed up my hand felted piece.
Then chose some lovely batik fabric from the specialist quilting shop in our village - Rainbow Fabrics.  It is a deceptive tardis for needlecraft fanatics - to see inside look at this Rainbow Fabrics by Google Maps
A bad experience in secondary school sewing class has meant the sewing machine and I haven't always been friends.  I searched for an on-line tutorial and found this one by Womans's Weekly entitled how to sew a zip on a cushion cover.  I liked that this guide included an instructional video as well as the same instructions in written form.  Some cutting, pinning, tacking and pressing later...
...the only bit I struggled with was sewing round the zip.  This happened...
Hey - that's what the seam ripper is for!  My second attempt was better...
...and I managed to insert a zip reasonably neatly into my cushion cover.  Funny thing is, after all my  efforts with the sewing machine, you don't even see the zip as it's on the under side of the cushion!  
I heart this cushion <3.  How about you?

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