ladies in stitches

Every other Tuesday I get together with five other friends for a day of stitching, knitting, crochet and general chat.  We egg each other on with unfinished projects, teach each other new skills and put the world to rights over a mug of tea and a bowl of soup.  Today I was hosting.  It was perhaps not the ideal day for me to chose as the builders had come over to catch up on a few snagging jobs, our fabulous duo of cleaning ladies were wielding their magic and a massive translation job came in….

However, now that I have my own little studio we took our tray of tea and date and walnut loaf and left them to it.  I had intended to get on with the cardigan I am making my mother for Christmas, but on the grounds that I knit every evening I thought I could better use my time catching up on the unfinished bits and bobs.  Two hop pillows and eight lavender bags (using our own hops and lavender no less) it was time for my fellow ladies in stitches to head home.  But I was on a roll, I cast my eye around for something to do.

When we lived in the north of Scotland I accumulated a lot of tweed.  Not a little tweed, a LOT of tweed.  Enough tweed to, well let’s just say come the apocalypse we won’t be cold in our little hobbit hole.  There was one particular off cut from a suit that the Boss had made that was deliciously soft and had been winking at me for a while.

Et voila two cushions and a dinky little tea cosy for the tea pot for one that is currently without a cosy2017-11-21 17.09.53

All in all I reckon it took me about half an hour to make all three.  Dead easy,  I promise.

First cut a strip of material at least two and three quarter times as long as your cushion and wide enough to drape over the cushion to the tension you wish (ie do you want a loose or tight cover) plus a generous 3/4″ to 1″ seam allowance..

Hem the two short ends and wrap around the cushion.

2017-11-21 15.21.48

Mark with the pin where you want to run the side seams.  Remove the cushion, pin and sew side seams.  Turn right side out and the proverbial Bob is your uncle.

As for the tea cosy.  Two arcs of tweed, two arcs of liner (I used soft brushed cotton, an old sheet) and two arcs of interlining (you want to keep your tea warm after all don’t you?)  Make the tweed two inches longer at the bottom along the straight edge.

Sew tweed – interlining – lining together in that order and turn up the two inches of extra tweed at the bottom for a hem.  Repeat for the other side.  Turn right side to right side and sew two sides together.  Cut excess hem along the curved edge and turn right side out.  Bob’s your other uncle!

Love Gillie x

manky tomatoes

The tomato harvest has finally come to an end.  We mostly grow cherry toms and on clearing out the greenhouse we were left with a bowl of rather mixed and manky looking tomatoes.  On the basis that we, the humans, get first dibs before the chooks the sad looking collection was transformed into bottled roasted tomatoes.

 

2017-11-16 13.40.38

Place the tomatoes on a roasting tray and sprinkle with salt, pepper and olive oil.  Place in a very low oven (50 C or less or the bottom of the Aga) for at least 8 hours or overnight.  This really is where the Aga comes into its own.  Check on them every now and then after about 8 hours and when they are dark, soft and almost caramel like pop into a sterilised jar and cover with olive oil.

Perfect as the basis for a tomato pasta sauce.

Love Gillie x

herb oil

2017-11-15 16.08.09

 

Yup it’s that time of year again.  Now we all know that a cute little baby elf will die every time somebody puts up a decoration or sings a carol before the beginning of December?  What you didn’t know that?  Shame about all those poor little elves.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t plan, in fact you need to plan, unless of course you a bloke with a woman who does all the planning for you.  Massive generalisation I know,  but if the cap fits …

Rather smugly I can say that present wise I am pretty much sorted.  Well, I still have to finish a pair of socks and start a cardigan but the rest is pretty much sorted.  Today was hamper day.  Some exceptionally lucky people are getting a little hamper of home made goodies.  What do you mean “poor sods I hope she doesn’t give them botulism”?!

Today was herb oil.  The lovely bottles originally contained a rather lovely Rosé from Provence.  For reasons of which I am unsure we only drank four bottles.  I may have to purchase some more.  Anyway, I originally bought the wine because I loved the bottle and I loved the glass stopper.  The wine was a pleasant bonus!

Wash and dry bottles and add herbs of your choice.  I tend to use stronger woody ones that can survive in the oil without curling up and looking manky! A whizz round the garden produced:

  • Rosemary
  • Bay leaves
  • Lemon thyme

To which I added:

  • Sliced garlic
  • Red peppercorns
  • Long peppercorns (also known as Indonesian peppercorns)
  • Penja black peppercorns
  • Juniper berry

Topped up with olive oil and sealed.  I’ll tie a pourer around the neck and they are all ready for the little hampers.

Love Gillie x

 

 

 

the solid shower

I was reading a satirical agony aunt page in the Sunday papers and a young man was concerned that following the arrival of his girlfriend into his flat on a “try before you buy” basis, a total of 52 beauty products had turned up in his bathroom.  The agony aunt assured him that the girlfriend had not moved in permanently as 52 items was most certainly only a small selection of her collection.  Amusing, but there is an element of truth in that.

I have never been a massive beauty product shopper.  I will confess to being seduced every now and then, well perhaps quite a few times, but I have never had the time or energy to undergo a mini spa routine every day.  Furthermore, deep down inside I didn’t really think they were up to the job and bearing in mind it was only as recently as 2010 that some shops unilaterally decided to ban parabens from the products on their shelves I was always uneasy about precisely what it was I was putting on my  hair and skin.  My mother brought me up to wash with a cloth and water, remove makeup with olive oil and tone with rosewater and witchazel.  We made rosemary vinegar hair rinses and raided the fridge to make facemasks for a girly night in.

Since then I have flirted with commercial products but then another factor came into play. Packaging.  Not only was I concerned by the content of the product, I was downright irritated by the packaging it came in.  Rethink required.  My paraben free EWG approved shampoo and conditioner came in a plastic bottle.  The bottle can be recycled, but it can’t be refilled and in my opinion  recycling should be the last option before landfill, not the first.

2017-11-06 22.17.25

This is our shower shelf now.  From left to right, salt and almond oil scrub (home made), rosemary infused apple cider vinegar hair rinse (home made), cream block – solid conditioner (comes wrapped in paper from Funky Soaps), white block – rosemary Marseille soap (bought unwrapped from producer), dark brown block – solid shampoo (Funky Soaps again).

The salt scrub is merely almond oil mixed with sea salt.  You can add essential oils if you like, I don’t bother.  The ACV rinse is merely ACV in which I have infused fresh rosemary for a couple of weeks.  Simples.

The proof of the pudding – does it work.  Well my husband voluntarily commented how soft my hair was this week.  Praise doesn’t come higher than that.

A final comment.  I know that a lot of zero wasters swear by Lush solid shampoo.  Personally, quite apart from the fact that I can’t pass by one of their shops without feeling a little queasy, any company that has only this year decided to use a seaweed based glitter in their products whilst spending the previous decades waxing lyrical about their eco-friendly approach and using plastic glitter in their bath products, is not going to get my pennies.  We do not need glitter in our baths.  In all honesty do we really need glitter at all?

Love Gillie x

 

 

Arthur and Marilyn a tale of two ferments

Meet Arthur (Miller)

2017-11-02 11.26.26

 

He is a kombucha scoby.

This is his wife Marilynn (Monroe)

 

2017-11-02 11.27.44

My sourdough starter.  Sadly they are separated as Marylin has to live in the fridge whereas Arthur would die in there.  However that has not prevented Arthur from producing vast amounts of offspring who were starting to clog up the family home.  So drastic measures were taken and the kids were given a makeover and converted into scoby  fruit leather.

For those of you perplexed by the term scoby it stands for Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeasts.  For anyone who has ever had a vinegar mother – it is much the same thing.  Place it in alcohol and it will convert it to vinegar, place it in cold tea with sugar and it will produce a delicious probiotic filled drink called kombucha.  However that is another post, this is about what to do with all those pesky children who keep turning up.

Ingredients are very simple:

  • Scoby
  • fruit
  • sugar to taste (I don’t use sugar but it’s all about your taste)

There, that wasn’t too hard was it.  Whizz your scoby up in a blender.

2017-10-30 10.34.51

Turn your mind to the fruit.  I had a selection of elderly and pretty unidentifiable soft fruit in the freezer.  If you don’t have a black hole of a freezer like me you will want to produce a softly cooked puree.  Shove the fruit in a pan with a little sugar to taste and heat gently until you have a lovely mush.  Add to the scoby puree.

 

Spread your goo over a baking tray (I use a silicone sheet to prevent sticking) and put in a very low oven.  No more than 40C otherwise you will kill off all those probiotic goodies.  If you have an Aga the bottom oven is perfect.

2017-10-30 10.43.04

Leave until completely dried out.

Peel off and eat 🙂

2017-10-30 18.23.36

Love Gillie x

 

bits and bobs pumpkin coconut curry

I’ve never been a great one for Halloween (if anything I have always been more of a Samhain girl) so it surprised even me when now that the girls are all away at university I came home with a pumpkin today.  I had the urge to do a little carving.  I even found myself googling pumpkin carving ideas.  Wow, there are some serious artists out there.  I am not in that league.

This is a cat (just in case you weren’t sure and were embarrassed  to ask).

2017-10-31 17.42.24

So now I am faced with a lot of pumpkin flesh.  I am not a fan of pumpkin soup, there are far more exciting and tasty soups out there and if I had to choose a pudding pumpkin pie wouldn’t be top of the list.  And anyway even though I chose the smallest pumpkin I have enough flesh to make more pumpkin soups and pies than either of us will ever want.

We are eating down the freezer at the moment so in the spirit of make do with what I have I bring you Bits and Bobs Pumpkin coconut curry.  There is little in the way of measurements because this is a chuck it in and taste recipe.

  • Pumpkin flesh
  • Elderly mushrooms
  • Half a manky red pepper
  • What I could salvage from an almost dead aubergine
  • An onion
  • Some garlic cloves
  • A chunk of ginger
  • A red chilli
  • Tumeric
  • Tamarind paste
  • A tin of coconut milk
  • A tin of tomatoes
  • Some veg stock or water
  • Lime juice
  • Salt and Pepper

Chop the onion (I left mine reasonably chunky) ditto the rest of the veg. Chop/crush/grate the garlic and ginger and dice the chilli.

Soften the onion gently in oil (of your choice I used vegetable) in a large pan.  After a couple of minutes add the chili, garlic, ginger and a generous teaspoon of tumeric.  Continue to cook for another 3 or 4 minutes.  Add the rest of your vegetables (including that pumpkin flesh) and stir to cover them with the tumericy paste (at this point take lots of deep breaths, the smell is divine).  Add the tin of tomatoes, tin of coconut milk and enough water/veg stock to cover all that yummy veggie stuff.  Stir in a couple of teaspoons of tamarind paste and the juice of a lime.  Leave to simmer until you can’t wait and have to eat it.  I might add a dollop of sour cream.

2017-10-31 18.21.23

 

Happy Halloween and Samhain Blessings

Love Gillie x

 

 

 

 

whittle down that wardrobe

One of the advantages of going on a lazy holiday just the two of you is that there is no urgency to keep anybody else happy or occupied, you can potter around at your own pace, you can visit the places you want to and stop for lunch whenever you want for as long as you want.  The other advantage is that you have time.  I have almost finished knitting a pair of socks, have had read  several books and have caught up on all those blogs I follow but often don’t get around to reading.

At this time of year (with apologies to my readers from the Southern Hemisphere) it would seem that the minds of many turn around to where and how to store their summer clothing and bedding.  This is a concept with which I have some trouble getting my head around.  Granted, I do wear more jumpers and scarves in the winter, I give up bare legs and wear woolly tights.  But I don’t have a separate summer wardrobe, I just wear more layers in the winter.  As for our bed.  We have one duvet, I’ve no idea of the tog value, it’s feather and down and if I am too hot I toss it off and if I am too cold I wear pyjamas and put a couple of blankets over the top.

Why on earth do we need separate wardrobes and separate bedding?  What shocked me even more was that many of the earnest discussions about the best way to store said belongings were on websites and groups dedicated to minimalist/low impact living.  Surely the essence of low impact living is to ensure that your belongings are multipurpose?

There are a few items that only see the light of day in summer or winter.  Bikinis, woolly hats, woollen long-johns.  I am struggling to think of any others, my standard summer footwear (Birkenstocks) become my winter indoor slippers worn with lovely thick hand knitted socks.  Those handful of season restricted items hardly need a drawer of their own let alone a purposed wardrobe or cupboard.

2017-09-25 16.43.12

So today I am still on holiday in the south of France.  It is warm but not excessively so.  I am wearing my birkies, navy leggings and a long floral shirt.    If I were at home in the north of England where I am reliably informed by friends it is somewhat cooler!  I would maybe wear a tee-shirt under my shirt, a cardigan or jumper on top and put on socks and shoes when going outside.  Likewise I have linen dresses that I wear in the summer and then in the winter layer up with tee-shirts and jumpers.

I do have some woollen skirts, dresses and trousers, but surprisingly few for somebody who lives in the apparently frozen north!

Before you start dividing up your wardrobe into Summer and Winter and thus consigning your clothes to be worn for only 6 months of the year, take another look.  If you are looking to downsize your wardrobe start looking at ways to wear most, if not necessarily all, your clothes all year around.  You can wear linen trousers in winter if you want, you just need a pair or tights or long johns underneath!

It also  makes packing for travelling a whole lot easier too if you can make your wardrobe work for two seasons instead of just one.

Love Gillie x