Wednesday, 28 April 2010

fairs fair

Sarah and I had a successful day last Friday, our first fair of the year. Held in the beautiful cotswold village of Rodamarton (known for it's impressive Arts and Crafts Manor) we were based in a lovely village hall on a beautiful summer's day, perfect for a bit of spring time buying!

And we've more fairs coming up, one in Grittleton on 18 May and the much anticipated vintage and handmade fair at Chipping Sodbury on 2 July.

And if you're are looking for other things to do in May there is so much on this month I don't know where to start. I'm desperate to get up to the V&A to see both the Quilt exhibition and the Princess Kelly:Style Icon exhibition but closer to home there is plenty to do too.

The Stroud Textile Festival is on from 1 -23 May. Selvedge Magazine recently wrote 'Stroud looks set to become to textiles what Hay-on-Wye is to literary festivals' so Sarah and I are very lucky to have this all on our doorstep. Our old favourites, Studio Seven, will be showing, and a host of other fascinating textiles artists.

And the New Brewery Arts Centre has an intriguing sounding exhibition starting in May, Clothing Fabric of the East, showing work by Dorothy Reglar and Tim Parry-Williams.

With all this going on I'm not too sure when I'll find time to make more goodies to sell at our fairs, I'll be too busy being inspired!

oh, rhubarb

It's the time of year that beautiful deep pink stalks of rhubarb shoot out of the ground and take over the vegetable patch. I'm a huge fan and it evokes strong childhood memories but recently I've learnt that I've missed out on something special. Dare I confess that I have never sneaked into the garden with a bowl of sugar, picked a stem of rhubarb and dipped it in the sugar?

I've watched a number of cooking and gardening programmes where the presenter has revelled in the ecstasy of the tangy, sour rhubarb and sweet crystals of sugar, chanced in the hidden depths of the vegetable patch. When a neighbour offered me some of her excess rhubarb I accepted enthusiastically. You can imagine the children's delight when I appeared from the kitchen with a bowl of sugar.

Suffice to say it was delicious, an easy way to get the children to eat one of their 'five-a-day', though I don't think the dentist would be too impressed!

ottolenghi meringues

we had some old friends for supper last week, they are great old friends, people who have seen us through the good times and the bad, the best type of friends, they type that you don't feel you have to try with, they are just easy company. I always think that when I am trying super hard - especially with cooking it always comes out wrong, you can cook something that you regularly throw together in minutes, but put in lots of extra effort and it never tastes as good as when you fling it together with little regard. Anyway because I knew we would be out all day I put a piece of Gloucester old spot pork into roast on a low temperature for 5 hours, and made Ottolengi meringues in the morning. It was all so effortless that I even had time to set the table before they arrived!!!!

Anyway the meringues were an absolute triumph (the pork is a regular fixture so i wasn't so excited by it!!) From now on this is the only way i will make meringues. The recipe comes from one of my favourite, favourite cookbooks 'Ottolenghi the cookbook', you can buy it here.
You do need a freestanding mixer for this, eg a kitchen aid or a kenwood, but i guess you could do it with an electric whisk.
It is hard to give an exact recipe because the book says 10 egg whites - which would make a catering size batch, so I scaled down and worked it by weight.
So, if you are making it for 4-6 people you probably need 4 egg whites, separate the eggs and weigh the whites, (i know it seems an unusual way to proceed!) in a separate bowl weigh out double the amount of sugar I used half and half of golden caster sugar and soft light brown sugar - i never use white sugar for meringues because I like that slight caramel taste that brown sugar gives. So if you have
100g egg whites you need 200g sugar. put the sugar on a baking tray (line it with a silicone liner or greaseproof first - less washing up!!) and put it in a hot oven for about 8mins. put the whites in the bowl of the mixer and start to whisk. gently add the hot sugar and whisk on high for about 5-10mins. The mixture will become really glossy and very thick. Turn the oven down to about 110. Now you can go very gourmet and add a flavour or colour, i used a mixture of cocoa and waitrose hot chocolate powder (I am sure the lovely folks at ottolengi would shudder!!) but crushed pistachios, flaked almonds, toasted crushed up hazelnuts would also be good - put a layer of whatever you choose on a flat plate.
Get 2 big spoons and pick up a big blob of meringue on one and gently roll it over the plate of cocoa (or whatever), use the other spoon to help you, then dob it onto a big baking sheet covered with a non stick liner (homebargins 79p - cannot live without them) they need quite a bit of space as they expand a bit, keep going till you have used up your mix, then bake for about 2hours (i only Left mine in 1 1/2). leave to cool in the turned off oven and revel in the delight that your whole house smells of a patisserie!! top with cream and fruit pavlova style!
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Tuesday, 20 April 2010

alls fair

jo and I are very excited to be participating in our first fair of the year on friday. Organised by two dynamic local ladies who wanted to get something going which connected women in rural business and allowed us to network, while at the same time offering a lovely shopping opportunity straight after school drop off.
anyway, i thought i would give you a little taster of some of the people showing, it was part organised by the lady who owns quayles, the lovely deli in tetbury.

my great friend (and taste supremo - totally gorgeous house!!) victoria leslie, is showing her fab pictures.

memo boards and accessories from sarah ramsey. (weirdly I met sarah in marlborough last week!!)

funky home accesories from monty and me.

fantastic french bath stuff from branche d'olive

stunning clothes (tiny pic doesn't do justice!) from Anna Lizzio.

great kids gifts from Rachel stanley Evans

fab faux flowers from floralistics

and simply stunning linens from beyond france
this is only a tadter of the people who are showing, there are lots more. if you aren't busy on friday and want to come along, there will be tea and cakes, various refreshments, plus a whole load of lovely shopping activities. £2 entry, car parking available. but do come and say hello to Jo and I who will be cowering under a table because we are such rubbish sales people!!!

Saturday, 17 April 2010

butterflies and bunting

After a week of doing nothing in Devon it was my intention to come home and not leave my sewing machine for days however the amazing weather we've had today has meant any sewing attempts have been futile.

I sat in the garden with a pair of scissors and a pile of fabric cutting triangles for this bunting I've been making out of old embroidered tablecloths. Ever since Julie Arkell taught me that it is ok to tear up old books and make them into bits of art I have a new approach to anything old.

Meanwhile the children spent a happy morning waving fishing nets in the air trying to catch butterflies. I love the way such simple past times can amuse the children for hours and with The Bumper Book of Nature we have we've endless fun ahead of us. It's got plenty of ideas of things to do outside, much of which wont be new to anyone who grew up in the country, but it is a great reference book from bugs to birds, butterflies and wild flowers, and nicely presented to boot!

Thursday, 15 April 2010

ship wrecked

We've just been for a fantastic holiday in Devon. There's nothing better than a good British beach holiday. It's such easy entertainment for the children and we've returned exhausted, wind swept and glowing.
There is something about the landscape, colours and light of the seaside that make me happy (I know the St Ives Group worked this out years ago). And to prove it look at this. We were walking along a huge silty grey beach, surrounded by vast sand dunes with scarce, wild grasses when we discovered this wonderful wreck.
Whilst the children thought it a great climbing frame I got carried away with the camera and trying to capture the endless layers of ancient peeling paint that contrasted the almost bleak surroundings so well. And every time the sun was covered by a cloud the colours would lose their intensity and take on a new softness; it's impossible to reproduce the various permutations.

And if you're planning a boating holiday this summer and don't want to end up like the above then take heed of these instructions on 'Handling Hawsers'. Boy and I came across them in an old Naval Manual and they really made us chuckle!

Sunday, 11 April 2010

weekend reading

As I am not getting around to posting some weekend reading till Sunday, its only fitting that it should be baking related (or is it only me that bakes on a Sunday?!)

Anyway i am featuring a blog by an amazing cook, hostess, mother (take my hat of to you H - don't know how you manage 4 children, 3 schools various animals and a job!!) and baker, who actually lives down the road from me. did she tell me she had started a blog, no dear readers she did not, i had to find it for myself, so today I spread the word!

this really interesting cake made with beetroot can be found here.

Heather writes eggs, cream and honey from her gloucestershire kitchen (it is my dream kitchen - huge, big windows, big table, lovely decor). She is American by birth but has lived in the UK for quite a while and she makes fantastic cakes. not mean and stingy English cakes, but big lush American ones, generous ones!!!

anyway have a read of her blog here, there are lots of bits of family life intermingled with great recipes. enjoy. I am sure she will make you smile as much on line as she does make me smile in person.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

beautiful beautiful colour

on my little jaunt to London last week for design week I stopped at the Designers Guild showroom and shop in Kings Rd. Designers Guild and Osborne and Little (my old employers!) don't show in Chelsea Harbour, they chose to retain their old showrooms on kings rd, and I am so glad they did, it is much nicer to go there than the homogeneous chelsea harbour showroom complex.
I love the space and the styling in Designers Guild. Tricia Guild is ever so clever, a bit like Nina Campbell and Cath Kidston (now I know the three of them have nothing in common in terms of aesthetic, but i shall explain!) - all three of them have stuck to their design principles, they have a style, they know their style, and they are good at their style. They don't stray, they just do it and build on it. They have a recognizable but (perhaps with the exception of Cath Kidston) indefinable 'look'.
Tricia Guild and her team do colour brilliantly. She has an innate sense of colour and what works. she is not afraid of colour, and is not afraid of what many of us would consider challenging combinations.

the space and light in the designers guild showroom is so lovely, it enables customers to feel that the DG world is accessible to them and they can be part of that look.
there was alot of this colour around and about at design week, that yellowy green that doesn't seem to have a definable name - i call it mimosa in my range! here Designers Guild have teamed it with various shades teal and grey, and it works really well.
Incidentally there was a lot of grey popping up in various showrooms at deign week, i do believe it works better in interiors than in fashion - i still can't get a grip of wearing school uniform colours - so dull.

it was nice to see a few old friends hiding in the DG showroom too, julie arkell above tucked next to some glamorous wallpaper, and apolline below on the end of a childs bed. - very nice for me to see an apolline creation in the flesh.

sorry I know i have posted loads of pictures again but its nice to see lots of visuals.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010


I can't believe that Easter has been and gone in a flurry of chocolate! I really wasn't prepared for it this year. Having got the Crazy Chicks sent and the Easter Tree up I didn't have much else to show for my Easter efforts.

So Hubby was duly sent out with our little girl to pick armfuls of joyful yellow daffodils to adorn the house. The week before I had spied these three glass sundae dishes that I just couldn't resist at the Friday morning stall in Stroud (of course I managed to pick up some old buttons, ribbons and thread whilst I was there).

I had already visualised the glasses on the table filled with eggs to tantalise us whilst we devoured our traditional Roast Lamb and mint sauce - that was my justification for buying them!