if you are in need of a little inspiration for exciting things to make for halloween, head over to martha stewart who has a great big section called halloween central for all sorts of mad ideas. There are pumkin carving tips, fab costumes.... and these super cupcake ideas.
I love the green hair and bugs 'earth' costume its fantastic and really simple.
Another of our developing family rituals is to watch the Stroud fireworks display that always happens the Monday night of half term (ie 2 weeks before 5 November much to hubby's chagrin!). We don't head to the flashing lights and disco music of the fairground, instead we put on waterproofs and gloves, dig out the torches and climb up the side of the National Trust Common that our garden backs on to.
This year it started to drizzle just as we left home and by the time we had perched our bottoms on the rug (with cowpat underneath) it was driving rain. However with our picnic supper to hand we sat watching the lights of Stroud waiting for the display to start. I always do the same meal of hot dogs (again) and soup, washed down with red wine. This year the soup was lentil potage, a firm family favourite, combining the flavours of lentils, cumin and lemon. By the time the first fire work exploded we were as cosy and content as could be (on a wet October night!).
To make lentil potage:
Soften an onion and some garlic in olive oil and cumin (powder)
add a chopped carrot (or 2), a stick of celery, a few celery leaves and a load of red lentils
pour in some vegetable stock and a bouquet garni and let bubble till lentils are cooked
blitz in magimix and add salt, pepper and juice of a lemon to taste
I know I've mentioned before how I love the opportunities to create family traditions and hopefully wonderful child hood memories for my own children. Something that seems to have become a bit of a ritual for us is an Autumn visit to Granny's to make the Christmas Cake. Half term presented the chance for us to head over, don aprons, make a huge mess and bake cake.
It was a 2 day process (so that the fruit could soak up the alcohol overnight), which meant that the children didn't lose focus on the main job, and hadn't fled the kitchen before the most important part happened... Stirring the stiff cake mixture with a huge wooden spoon, releasing smells of Christmas spices and booze and making a wish. Of course I don't know what the children wished for as that would break the spell, but I'm sure a lot of presents were requested.
Now the cake stays at Granny's where she decorates it. Then, just before the 25 December, she'll come over for tea with the thickly iced cake and it's surprise decor is revealed.
Apologies to one and all for my absence of late. There simply haven't been enough hours in the day! I foolishly agreed to do a couple of autumn fairs - touting my wares, so my blogging time in the evening has been taken up frantically making cushions and doorstops..... anyway the last fair is done and so I am back! Anyway I have been sadly neglectful of my lovely fellow bloggers so I will be paying a little visit to sam and jeska later on, however this morning I clicked on ohdedoh by mistake when trying to open a file, and I am so glad I did, because it really made me smile.
Last year Jo bought my little boy a copy of 'where the wild things are' for his birthday. It is one of his favourite books, and always gets a groan of 'not again' from his big sister when he chooses it for a bedtime story. Anyway ohdeedoh had a link from the impossibly titled booooooom.com who had run a competition to build a wild things den.
I couldn't resist posting some of the photos, especially as den building is such a favourite with Jo's and my kids, (and Jo and I if the truth be known!!)
Den building is such an underrated pastime, but as you can see from these fab photos the results can be stunning.
This one was the overall winner, and its made out of old palattes and string.
I love this picture it reminds me of my childhood (I think its the colours, the balloons and the bubbles - no I did not live in a circus!)
This one is my kids favourite, and my favourite is derfinately the first picture with the tissue paper flowers and bunting, I am now going to find our old wooden clothes maiden some eiderdowns and get building!!!
I'm not sure who was more excited, me or our little girl, when we visited friends last weekend and she received a belated birthday present. This wonderful miniature sewing machine. It sews with a simple chain stitch, doesn't have a bobbin and is easy to thread so we now have great plans to make endless dolls clothes and bedding with it.
I remember spending many happy hours, as a child, with my grandmother 'designing' and then making clothes for my dolls (I particuarly remember the red leather mini skirt and waistcoat outfit I made for Snoopy's twin sister Belle!). I really hope that my girls and I will enjoy sewing together in the same way, I may have to wait a few years for true appreciation though.
Ever since our trip to Sustain on Friday I've been buzzing with excitement having seen the work of and speaking to Penny Leaver Green (who kindly said we could use images from her website of her beautiful work). I think her work is just beautiful and can just picture some of her embroideries on our bedroom wall so I was thrilled to hear of upcoming opportunities to see her some of her work at the RWA Autumn Show in Bristol during November, and then a fascinating sounding display at Harvey Nichols in Bristol in the New Year called Button Phobia.
Sarah and I have also been to see Cleo Mussi's colourful exhibition, Pharma's Market, at the Brewery Arts Centre, when that finishes there is an exhibition on paper called 'cut & fold' which sounds really interesting and includes work by Jennifer Collier, some one else whose work I love.
jo and i paid a visit to a great exhibition called SUSTAIN in the space in Stroud. It is a great venue, small intimate and well lit.
I always like being surpised by something new, and we were delighted to meet the Bristol based artist Penny Leaver - Green. She was exhibiting some delightful framed butterly and bird embroidered pieces, which made me yearn for my old studio space at MMU where I did my embroidery degree.
My favourite piece was this buuterfly picture - entitled 'invasion of the painted ladies', it was stitch on an old silk map (I think!)
Also exhibiting were beacoco - sustainable jewellery in beautiful colours (they put me in mind of a kate loveday painting - same uplifting cheeriness).
and Edwina Bridgeman - a perenial favourite of mine.
Along with Cleo mussi's beautiful mosaics (I am so envious of Jo's hand one) - there was a lovely green one which I was coveting (are you reading this Mr H?!!)
anyway the exhibition is on all weekend and its well worth a visit, the only sad thing for me is that we asked if we could take some photos and got a resounding NO - its a real shame as it would have been nice to show you how lovely the work was in situ.
Today is Sarah's birthday and there is something very enjoyable about giving presents to people when you know what they like! Unusually for me, I happily spent time scouring charity shops for a nice tea cup and saucer (in the knowledge that Sarah would appreciate the challenge I had set myself if nothing else!). Then I happily sorted through my ever-so-dangerous craft cupboard (everything is so shoved in it's like a jack in the box exploding when you open the doors) looking for old scraps of paper, fabric, sewing paraphnalia etc to put together the above parcel.
In fact perhaps this parcel was more about what I got out of creating it then what Sarah got out of receiving it. Tied up with garden twine and a Dahlia (which I know Sarah loves) I presented the box to her yesterday with a supply of old Selvedge magazines (unfortunatley not for keeps), an aforementioned Tarte Tatin and pot of cream.
I'm hoping she got a chance to sit down in peace and quiet, have a cup of tea (in the sterelised cup and saucer), with a slice of the Tarte and the pile of Selvedge... that would be my idea of birthday bliss
With the lovely sunny autumn days we've been harvesting the last fruits of the season before we lock up the doors and hibernate in front of the wood burner for winter. My tomatoes never really got around to ripening so my little girl and I collected all we could and spent a happy afternoon chopping them up and making green tomato chutney (Thinking ahead here - Christmas pressies for play school teachers).
Then, having stripped our own apple and pear trees we received, a bumper delivery of apples from a neighbour so I decided I had to make some Tarte Tatin. I have a fab cook book called The French Kitchen, by Joanne Harris (of Chocolat fame) and Fran Warde. The photos make you dream of living in France and the recipes are for simple, rustic French food. I love the fact you are encouraged to 'slightly burn' the pudding in order to caramalize the apples further. Enjoy with vanilla ice cream, or in our case, with cream from the new Woelfuldane Dairy in Minchinhampton.
One often meets the nicest people in the most unlikely settings! take last week for instance I did a fair at the East Glos Club in Cheltenhem selling my wares in aid of the Macmillan Nurses charity. I met a lady called Kath who had given up her full time job to follow her heart and be an artist.
She makes the most exquisite little pendants, buttons, brooches and cards and also stunning bowls - which would make fabulous wedding presents.
I am going to place an order for some buttons and make a few more button necklaces for christmas pressies. I also love the cupcake and heart hanging decorations.
Kath is exhibiting at plenty of local (Cheltenham) craft fairs and her work can be found in the M.A.D.E gallery in Cirencester. She also has a very accessible website, here.
Kaths work put me in mind of another ceramacist whose work I love, Jo Heckett. Ever since I was at college I have loved all things typographic, from print blocks to monogram linen, it is a passion that has never waned.
Jo makes lovely magbnets and jewellery in gorgeous candy colours, with imprinted textures and letters, they can be bespoke made to suit your messageThese little stars and animals etc would make a great christening gift.
Our little girl celebrated her 4th birthday with an ice cream extravaganza yesterday. We stuck to some good old fashioned party games before sitting the children down to hot dogs (easy) followed by the all important ice cream.
I used plastic champagne flutes (thankfully much smaller than real sundae glasses) which I filled with umbrellas, flags and tissue paper and pipe cleaner for each child to make their own tropical flower* whilst they were waiting for the ice cream to be scooped out.
The birthday cake was a giant pink meringue. Once the candles were blown out it was smashed to pieces and added to the selection of sweets and fruit that were put out for the children to decorate with.
I'm not a huge fan of party bags so I always try and do something slightly different. Boy was given the important job of handing out ice cream tubs filled with ice cream shaped sweets and a bright coloured plastic spoon wrapped up in good old cellophane as everyone left.
*Tropical flowers: are really easy to make and can be used to create fantastic garlands or, as in this case, to quickly entertain the children whilst something boring is going on. Get 2 pieces of tissue paper and cut both into a figure of eight. Place one piece of tissue across the other creating a quatre foil. Stick the pipe cleaner in the middle and twist in the centre. Manipulate pipe cleaners to look like stamen.
I may have been quiet recently, but I've certainly been busy. Last weekend saw us trying to whizz up the M5 for a wedding in Whitley Bay. A while ago the Bride and Groom asked me if I could make them a wedding book for all the guests to sign as a memento of their day. I jumped at the opportunity to get my creative hat on, not realising till too late that I haven't a clue how to make a book. Thankfully I had a very useful chat with, and was kindly lent some books by Katherine O'Connell of The Quality Bureau, a resident maker at the Brewery Arts Centre. I used the a picture of the St Mary's Lighthouse as this was where the wedding ceremony took place and then looked at old books, typed up some bits of love poetry (using THE typewriter) and dug out some old scraps with an Italian theme (they're honeymooning in Italy) and lo and behold I had a book.
I'm definitely not an expert, but I'm off on a contemporary bookmaking workshop run by Katherine in a couple of months and I'm really looking forward to learning more.
I made these little scrumptious morsels to take to a girls dinner party (mine and jo's nct lot!) they are loosely based on a recipe from the marvellous 'Ottolenghi, the cookbook.' Ottolenghi is an amazing deli in Notting Hill, if you are local to that area,or holidaying in London its definately worth a little gourmet visit. I am rubbish at making pastry so I made them with Nigellas shortbread recipe, wodged into little mini muffin pans (I did have to press each tart shell down half way through baking with the end of an elderflower cordial bottle as the pastry was puffing up). the recipe follows.... 40g raspberries (i did it with a dob of backberry compote as I didn't have raspberries! 180g good white chocolate 20g butter 100mls double cream 6 teaspoons raspberry jam (or blackberry compote again!) 6 prebaked tart shells (or a dozen mini tartlets - just do whatever recipe you feel comfortable with - i often use ready made sweet shortcrust as I am rubbish at pastry)
crush the raspberries and rub through a seive, set aside. put the white choc, and butter in a bowl. heat the cream and bring just to the boil, immediately pour it over the choc and butter and stir gently till you have a glossy, smooth ganache. dob a bit of raspberry jam in your pre baked tartlet case, and pour the mix on top. (if it starts to set warm it in a bain marie) spoon a tiny dot of raspberry coulis (or jam, compote, etc) in the top of the white choc and swizzle it around with a skewer in a cheffy manner to make a swirl!! leave to set, then scoff unashamedly without thinking of the fat content!
these are a great dinner party desert totally doable in advance, and I reckon you could make it in an espresso cup with a sharp compote at the bottom, if like me your pastry skills are bad!
p.s. a note on photography - jo and I do not lead a charmed existence for all who think we might, I had to get Jo to stand outside holding a cushion with the tart balanced on it for this photo - much shaking of head from Mr H and muttering of ..." you two are mad". And then I added this much manhandled tart to the tray going to the dinner party......................sorry kate!!!!!
Jo and I went to the summer vintage handmade fair with our friends Kath and harriet, and it was so great we got horribly over excited, we were a bit like kids in a sweetie shop and didn't know what to buy first! Well there is going to be a christmas one so now i am really really excited, especially as one of my favourite sellers is going to be at this one - donna flower, who sells super vintage fabrics. Also featured will be some of our fave southwest bloggers, keep the date free and hope to see some lovely south west blogger ladies there. here is a list of exhibitors and some weekend reading links to their blogs......
Based in the Cotswolds, near Stroud, we met 6 years ago when we were both pregnant. Despite going on to have 5 children between us we soon realised that we had more in common than just 'the kids'. Play dates would become an opportunity to discuss recipes, gardening tips, view Sarah's designs, talk about new trends and soon we were recommending blogs to each other. While Sarah is an accomplished designer Jo is a repressed one, we have a lot of shared interests, but not always. Now we want to share our thoughts with you.