Wednesday, 27 March 2013

March Snows, Wordy Wednesday 27th March 2013

We have snow in March, the same day last year it was 21C... I don't think anyone is particularly enjoying it, and I could not resist a shot of our wood pigeons looking extremely grumpy and put out!

Sunday, 24 March 2013


Or as Lord Percy would say, "Can it be true, a nugget of purest Green?"!

I had a fabulous time yesterday with a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda and my cabbage dyed fabrics.  It was the stuff of witches' cauldrons; just one teaspoon dissolved in approx. 4ltrs of simmering water had an instant, and very lively, effect on my mauve.  It also smelt, overwhelmingly, of cabbage!

This morning, following the ironing (every bit of fabric work at the moment seems to be preceded by at least an hour's ironing...) I pressed the fabrics; which are still smelling (though slightly fainter maybe?) quite distinctly of cabbage!  I still do not have my blue, the fabric did not sit in the initial dye long enough I'm guessing, but instead a beautiful green which, sadly, is not photographing anything like its true colour.  It is a beautiful, and rather apt, sea green with, as the photo below shows, a lovely whorl of blues on the linen piece.

One of the joys of natural dying, I'm discovering, is the rather magical unpredictability of it all. It is also possible to keep playing with the same piece of fabric, I'm guessing, and the only time to stop is either when you're happy or you've gone too far in the wrong direction!  The linen, whilst not blue, is a beautiful colour and I am tempted to use it for the corset.  I do however still have the two cottons, neither of which have absorbed the colour like the linen and which I think I will play with further.  I'm tempted to try red onion this time, anything to escape the smell of cabbage! and to mix maybe half a teaspoon of bicarb into the dye before I add the fabrics.

As I've been playing, my ideas for this corset are becoming far more organic than the original "halloweeny" intention.  With so many individual pieces, I think there could be some lovely playing with colour and texture and vegetable dyes seem to have a natural affinity for working well together.  The three fabrics now are quite different colours but, tonally, match perfectly.  If I'm careful, I think there could be a little magic to be worked here, and the starry night effect that I was originally looking for, and would still love to achieve, could be added with paints, sequins and bead work.

But I'm getting ahead of myself, and learning with this project, that it does not seem to like being pinned down at all!  We are away for the Easter weekend so I will have to wait till I return and then we will see what colours come next.  In the meantime, a little light holiday reading will involve learning the theory of cording the corset... eek! 

Monday, 18 March 2013


Yes, well, it didn't quite go to plan.  My fabrics are still, resolutely, mauve... and the burnt bits look even more burnt than ever.  Less nebula, more disaster!

except where it was resting on the rather beaten up, uncovered metal bit, of my rather beaten up airer.  Then it's a tiny hint of slightly aqua blue.

But I've been doing my homework, apparently bicarbonate of soda does the trick.  I'm going to reboil of these in a solution of it as a test, and then I think I may have to start this whole experiment from scratch.  It's rather good fun though, I'm rather enjoying the random experimenting of it all!  

And I found this... a top that I bought a couple of years ago, two sizes too big, just because I loved the colours of the sequins.  I think it has to find a home on the corset, somehow, somewhere...

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Colour for the Corset

It has been crazy busy lately, and I just have not been sewing... but I have been thinking about the corset - mostly thinking that I will just never get it done! - and it's lead me down some new and interesting paths.  One was that I should try dying my own fabric using a homemade vegetable dye.  It took a couple of hours and then I left it under the boyfs' supervision for 20 minutes and it looks as though I might have to start again!  Not that I'm going to completely give up on my efforts just yet, I'll wait and see how they dry out first.

I decided on red cabbage (and a red onion that would otherwise go to waste) which was chopped up to a medium dice and put on to simmer in a large casserole pot for about an hour.  I then added my fabrics (a white cotton, a white linen and some cream canvas - all offcuts) to 4 parts water and 1 part white vinegar and brought them to simmer for an hour.  Once the fabrics were done I rinsed them in cold water until they ran clear and squeezed out the excess water.  I lifted the cabbage and onion out of the dye (it'll be a perfect treat for the chooks) and put the fabrics in to simmer for another hour under the watchful eye of the boyf... in theory... this is where it all went wrong? right? as 20 minutes later I came back to the smell of burning!  The fabrics are probably now not a keeper, but I'm going to let them dry and see what comes of it all. In theory my mauves should be blues and the burnt areas (after I'd finished huffing and puffing) made me think of nebulas and galaxies.   It's either that or the chooks will soon be eating a lot more cabbage!

We'll see....

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Mould, beautiful mould! Wordy Wednesday 13th March 2013

I wouldn't necessarily say I'd think mould beautiful, but my gourds have taken on a fascinating life of their own which I am very taken by!  Grey mould (top pic) is now hollow, I just need to work up the pluck to don HazMat style gloves and wash the no longer helpful mould off!

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Red Thai Root Vegetable and Lentil Curry

I took the lovely boyf out to dinner last Saturday, with our friends the Bs.  A gorgeous little restaurant with only 20 covers, designed to make you feel like you were eating at home albeit a very, very nice home with fabulously attentive hosts!  They knew in advance that I don't eat meat and dairy and did me proud, not only was the food delicious, but my meals matched the other options, how lovely not to feel like the odd foodie out.  And the "only 1 bottle left" wine list was a real treat, the boys took it as a challenge and Mrs B and I thoroughly enjoyed having a taste too.  To top it all off, it snowed in March, and we ended the meal watching huge, beautiful flakes fall outside through a proper "picture window".  Perfect evening.

This dish is inspired by my main course, our host kindly gave enough tips to start me off.  It's not exactly as his was, I think I would need a homemade red Thai paste for that, and I've added in my latest great find, fish free king prawns.

Red Thai Root Vegetable and Lentil Curry (serves 4)

Mixed root vegetables (I used 2 carrots, 8 baby parsnips and 5 new potatoes) washed and chopped to approx. a 1 cm dice
240g Puy Lentils
3 tbsp Red Thai Paste
400ml Coconut Milk
1 tbsp sugar
Prawns (if using)

The lentils went into a pan with 3 times as much water, brought to the boil and simmered for 20-25 minutes, until soft but not mushy. They were then strained and set aside.

Once chopped the vegetables were also brought to the boil and simmered until just soft.  Once strained, they were also put to one side.

In a large pan, I warmed 3 tbsps of EVOO and then cooked the prawns for 10-15 minutes, set them aside and added the vegetables, lightly frying them. 

Once they had some colour, I added the red Thai paste and the prawns, stirred them all through for a couple of minutes and then added the lentils and the coconut milk.  This simmered for a further 5 minutes before I stirred the sugar through and served.

I forgot coriander but, had I had some, would have also stirred a chopped handful of that through the dish before serving.

It was a lovely meal, warm and gently spiced, filling too - perfect for eating in front of the fire on what was another snowy evening.  The dish from Saturday had more clarity, less of a creamy sauce, which may have been due to a low fat rather than regular coconut milk, or more oil in a homemade red paste, but the flavours were spot on and the prawns a nice touch.  Its also been added to the "again" list by both the boyf and the 11yr old, hurrah! because I loved it!

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

The week that was....

So the Finn is, touch-wood-fingers-and-toes-crossed, on the mend.  The last 48 hours (it feels far longer) I have been acting like a slightly demented anxious mama and I am very lucky to have kind and patient friends!  I am too much of a control freak to deal well with the vagueness of just waiting and seeing.  There is a list of what I can ignore and what I should phone the vet about, but the ignore list contains some pretty scary symptoms/side effects and I can't help but wonder when ignoring is no longer an option.  That, combined with the fact that my little man seems to be discovering the art of manipulation, and I am fretting far more than is sensible... we're back to the kind and patient friends :o)  So, tomorrow, baring anything really horrible happening in the morning, I am going to (wo)man-up, resist those gorgeous big ears and doleful eyes and just make sure I'm home super quick!

In the meantime, the Megs is behaving super well.  I was thinking that she would be a nightmare this week, without all her usual treats and nibbles (there would be no way of making sure Finn didn't share) and instead she's been the calmest I've seen her in a long while.  We are careful about what they eat, all natural, nothing bleached or coloured but perhaps there's more to them then we thought, there's certainly no denying the change. Poor Megs, she may just have lost her bribe rights!

Other than that, I've done none of what I planned, no sewing and very little homework, but we have booked a holiday!  The lovely boyf seems to have got on well in Boston and I've certainly not had too much spare time to mope about missing him (sorry hon!) but I'll be very glad to see him on Friday.  And the 11yr old has been a good giggle; putting up with stressed mum, eating everything I've cooked without complaint and making sure I'm all caught up on Glee, and now Primeval - watching her watch it is just hysterical.  She spends the majority of the time hiding.  We also bought ourselves a Red Nose each, all ready for the 15th, and are practicing our poses!

So, here's to a calmer Thursday and Friday, and a happy weekend everyone, where I promise not to disturb anyone unless its really, truly important! 

In celebration of lighter evenings! Wordless Wednesday, 6th March 2013

6pm Friday 1st March.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Keeping the faith

I truly believe that whatever happens, however much of it happens, however difficult at the time it is, nothing happens that we cannot cope with.  It is my mantra, my one personal truth, and it has got me through some tough times.  It does, however, seem to like to test me.  As I've mentioned before, it's becoming a family joke (the not so funny kind) that, when the lovely boyf goes away for work, the proverbial hits the fan.  At the beginning, I did not cope, admittedly it usually involved me being flat on my back ill and still managing the house, but I was not gracious in my not coping!  As time has gone on I've done it, I've got stronger and healthier and cope.  Yes, there is still the odd moment of ugly weepy, but at least I'm not crazy ladying it anymore!

All that said, I can't help still wondering when is it going to stop; he gets on a plane and my first thought is "what now?"  It used to be the 11yo and I with various variations of flu.  Then it was the house and work and now it seems to be our animals.  There was trouble with the chooks and the small furries.  Most recently it was Megs and daily vet visits following the op on her less lumpy leg and this time it is my little Finn.  He's at the vets now, on a drip, while they try to find out why he is vomiting blood.

So, breathe deep, trust that it will be ok and keep the faith.  It is the last leap of faith I guess, to truly trust.  Maybe when I have learnt not to ask the question, I will no longer need the lesson.
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