Friday, 20 November 2015

Hooking in the Summer House

I don't know about you, but we have been very lucky weather-wise here in West Norfolk, recently. We went to Norwich yesterday to book our flights for Christmas in New Zealand, and had the best of the day in sunshine there, windy and rainy by the time we got home. Then again today it has been brilliant sunshine ALL day. Chilly, yes, but to be fair it hasn't been unpleasant. Jim's been working in the garden all day, and by lunchtime I decided the sun was too good to waste so I took myself down to the summer house to crochet. No heating yet, as we still have the electrics to be connected up, but was lovely and sunny and pretty comfortable with a warm cardigan and thick socks to keep me warm!

It really was peaceful, the clock ticking away in a slow, sleepy fashion, me hooking away happily, safe from marauding cold-callers on the phone, and, later, Jim joined me for a mug of coffee. We love our new sunny space! Do you want to see a few more photos of what we've done? Of course you do!

This is my view of where Jim sits, there is the coffee table I painted earlier this year, the pale blue oak chest Jim found in Ely Antiques, and the cheap mirror I found at The Range and painted chalk green. Just peeping into shot is the settle we found in a junk shop in Wymondham; I had intended painting it, but we like it the way it is. Two cosy quilts complete the picture.

Oh, and the little side table I painted mauve, was a tenner from another junk shop in Wymondham!

The settle before I put the quilts on it. The rug is an old, rather flood-damaged Laura Ashley which I can't bear to part with!

It has all come together beautifully, and we are extremely pleased with it. I'd been busy making crocheted throws for our chairs, way before the room was built.

They are made with Rico Cotton Blend and were lovely to work up. Jim's is, naturally, the more restrained blue and green one. I think they look rather good draped casually over the side of our chairs!

Once I'd finished the throws I was lost until I decided to have a go at Lucy's (Attic 24) Ripple Blanket. I have always loved this pattern but never believed I could manage the pattern (My crochet is very basic!) But her instructions are SO GOOD and very simple to follow, with photos every step of the way. So I took the plunge, and when we were up in Hexham the other month I found a lovely wool shop and she had the Ripple draped over a chair in the shop, with the yarns required in a basket beneath. Serendipitous, I'd say, wouldn't you? So I got stuck in, and once I had learned each stitch and how to do the increase / decrease, I was away.

And here it is! There are some colours which I'm not too happy with, so didn't repeat them, but on the whole I love it.

What do you think? And would you believe, I  have begun another using slightly different colours! You can just see a tiny bit of it in the header photo on my little side table.

So, it's been all go here, with one thing and another. Some majorly sad events at both world and domestic level, and we have all been deeply shocked and dismayed. I hope none of you have been personally affected. Suffice to say that I hope you join me in staying calm and refusing to be drawn into  victimisation. Unity is what they hate and fear, let's stand together in refusing to play their wicked game.

Finishing off- as one should - with the weather. We are expecting Wintery Weather soon in the UK. How seasonal! As long as the airports don't close down until we are safely airborne! Take care and catch up with you next time.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

An Eventful Month

I'm in a really strange position of having cleared a lot of "stuff" out of my life (not necessarily for ever) in order to calm things down a little, and yet still feeling I'm on a roller coaster, because the weeks are flying by and I'm barely keeping up with what's going on. Sadly I'm not making much headway on the music front, just can't find my way back into it, and we've been so so few gigs lately I've forgotten what's happening where! Also, I had to cancel two craft fair events due to stuff happening at home. So that's two things I really enjoy doing which seem to be very much on the back burner at the moment.

I did finish this latest appliquéd blanket cushion cover, I love the colour scheme, the wool felt appliqué really "pops" against the deep blue blanket. The header photo shows a cushion cover and a throw I crocheted to go over the back of my chair in the summer house going up in the garden. Speaking of which, here's a photo of the concrete base, waiting for the guys to build the rest of it. I can't wait to start putting in the things we've discovered on our tour of the junk shops, though some of them still have to be cleaned up and painted. I'll be sure to show you the results.

 On the baking front, I've been experimenting with sourdough again, and, armed with a starter gifted to me by a friend, I've made a couple over the past two weeks. They were quite tasty, though I didn't get the rise I'd hoped for. Since then I think I've managed to kill off the starter, unfortunately.

Back to the garden, we've still got a few flowers hanging around, though they are mostly struggling to show their heads above the sea of fallen leaves. And in the plastic bins are some parsley and chard, rescued from my Square Foot Garden which has had to be re-sited because of the sumner house.

In the space of half a dozen weeks, we have celebrated my birthday, Jim's birthday, and our 45th Wedding Anniversary. We're still amazed to be able to say that, it's a bit of a record these days, but we know how lucky we are to still have each other, because very sadly a good friend of ours recently died unexpectedly at home. It's taking a while for it to sink in to be honest; for a short guy Dave had a very big personality. Coming suddenly like that it certainly makes you pause and count your blessings. I hope you all have lots of wonderful things to find yourselves blessed with!

Monday, 19 October 2015

I'm Quitting Sugar

No! Don't panic! You haven't come to the wrong blog! Textile Treasury will continue to be the same as it always was, a mixture of textiles, music, food and family and whatever else is currently tickling my wayward fancy. However, since I decided to nail my colours to the mast and post on face book that I intended giving up sugar, I've had so many requests for information and updates I thought it would be easier to blog about the experience and keep the information in one place. Someone suggested I start a blog (!) but to be honest it is all I can do to keep up with posting on here. So I thought I would dedicate one post a month to Quitting Sugar, and if it doesn't float your boat, you can just scroll past that particular post each time it rolls around.

I shall be pretty open and frank here as I know that there are a lot of folks out there who are interested in the whys and wherefores of quitting  sugar. I'll make a couple of disclaimers first. Although I have a nursing and public health background, I am in no way presenting this information as a substitute for your own research and medical input. Also, this is about our PERSONAL experience (Jim is wholeheartedly supporting and joining me in this) and the way I approach it will be highly individual; I'm not proselytising. You do your own thing and I'm making no judgements, but I have been asked to do this.

Also I don't want to make these posts too word- heavy, there's nothing more off-putting I think than wedges of unrelieved text. So the information will be stretched out over the months. I will give you some suggested reading and viewing, however so you can do your own research.

There is a lot of information out there, the media have latched on to this grudgingly, as it has meant them contradicting their long-time love-affair with the low-fat philosophy embraced by most of us in the western world for a couple of decades. If you search the archives of, say, the Telegraph, the Guardian and the Independent here in the UK you will find several articles, and I'm sure there are more world-wide.

My own introduction came initially from a book I bought in a supermarket, written by Sarah Wilson, called " I Quit Sugar For Life". I bought it, flicked through it, and put it on the coffee table. And that's all I did.

Now at this point, as many of you know, I was cooking a fairly healthy menu in this house. I cook mainly from scratch, I don't use polyunsaturated fats, and I love olive and coconut oil. Processed meals seldom find their way into the house and we don't really have much in the way of junk. We eat lots of fruit and vegetables, bread is usually wholemeal and often homemade, and I tried to keep the fat content down. I tried juicing but was not entirely convinced. I've read a lot about various diets over the years - heck, I've tried most of them! And my weight has soared. I have asthma, and a poorly functioning thyroid, both of which conditions mean I take medication. Once a year I catch a cold, it becomes bronchitis and I am them laid very low with an exacerbation of asthma, all requiring antibiotics and oral steroids, which I hate taking, but I do. This happens less frequently since retiring and not being in close contact with a lot of poorly children with respiratory infections! Being overweight is bad for my health and bad for my mental health; I HATE being overweight and it gets me down very badly at times. Lately I have been getting more and more concerned about what lies in store for me, health-wise - as you do when you get to my age!

So there you have the background story. Overweight, desperate to find a way I could feed us healthily without getting hung up about it, and needing to take care of the old bod. To the rescue comes my daughter-in-law in New Zealand, Krissie. Without making a fuss about it, Krissie had been taking on board some of the food concerns I had raised over the years, and begun to use coconut oil to fry with, increasing their veggies, and having seen an online video about quitting sugar, had enlisted the support of her husband, our son Kit. An ex-Royal Marine Kit likes to keep very fit, but along with all the healthy stuff, and the running he does, Kit was consuming a lot of sweet stuff. A LOT. And so was Krissie. They watched the video, decided to give the quitting sugar a try, and went for it. And with three children and both having full-time busy, responsible jobs, that was no mean feat. Krissie sent me the video link and I came to the same conclusion. I remembered the book I'd bought and re-read it. I also read a lot of other, more medically-based papers, and watched a load of youtube videos both from a lay perspective, and from a medical, evidenced based perspective. I even watched Jamie Oliver's "Sugar Rush" video, but I can't find it on-line anymore . What I discovered made me angry, worried, and determined to get this stuff out of my life. I discussed it with Jim and he said not only would he support me but he would do the same. I won't go into detail about the information I gathered here, but I'll give you a couple of suggestions to have a look for yourselves.

Sarah Wilson "I Quit Sugar" and "I Quit Sugar For Life: menus and recipes" is a good start and she has a website, blog and Facebook page, for practical information on how to get started.

Dr ROBERT LUSTIG is a paediatric endocrinologist, and he has written "The Bitter Truth" and  "Fat Chance" and his videos were the final spur for getting me started. I urge you to watch them, easily found on youtube. He speaks only to evidenced data, and he goes into the bio-chemistry if you are interested. But his passion, and anger at the untruths which have been foisted on the world by industries with vested interests only in their own profits, will be very enlightening. DAVID GILLESPIE is another  name, an Australian lawyer who was concerned about his weight, found out about the sugar trap and challenged himself to quit. His book "Sweet Poison" came out to great acclaim down-under and he ask has several videos on you-tube. A mother's point of view can be read about / watched  in the book by EVE SCHAUB  "A Year of No Sugar"and video of the same name.  That should get you started , or just inform you.

This is not the Atkins diet, in fact it isn't any diet. We quit sugar, processed foods, and anything marked "Low Fat".  Next month I'll give you a run down on what we DO eat, and why, and I'll give you an update on how we are doing.

For now, we have been sugar-free for just a week. We have totally enjoyed our food, and plenty of it. Even after only 5-6 days we notice our taste-buds are sparklingly alive - flavours are enhanced quite naturally. My complexion is a little clearer (I have very rosacea-prone skin) I have no desire to snack between meals because I am regaining my appestat (more of which next time) and I feel full. My rings had been getting a bit tight and now they are looser, and my feet are no longer swollen by evening time. Oh, and I lost 2lb. Not a huge amount, but satisfying, especially when you consider we have not cut back on our meals, and are eating full-fat.

So there you have it. The I'm Quitting Sugar Post. I hope I haven't bored you to death. I'm sorry for the text-heavy, photograph- light post. I hope I've whetted your appetites (so to speak!) to find out more for yourselves, but most of all I hope you'll keep on reading Textile Treasury so we can continue the lovely conversation we've been having for the past  three years or more.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Still Cooking up a Storm

Life is fairly tranquil at the moment; busy, but tranquil. Mum hovers between really lucid days, and days like yesterday, when she seemed quite confused, and we spent a long time talking about family members and events, to try and anchor her down in reality. I know her condition is progressive, she won't be getting better, but it is so sad at times, being with her. Then she'll say something so funny we both have a good laugh and a cuddle, and it seems we may manage after all, for a while.

I did a craft fair at Fakenham Makers Market last week and sold a quilt to a lovely couple. They were expectant grandparents and I even got to see the ultra-sound scan print-out! My stand was near the entrance to the church which was a great spot as I was able to spread myself out.

The quilt I sold was the very end one on the left, a folk sampler I made some years ago; it has lots of small images for a little one to point to and learn from. The couple were so pleased with it, I hope the new parents are as well!

I also sold a Japanese pouch, some post cards, several pincushions, and a needle case. Not huge sales, but the quilt made a heck of a difference. I have just one more craft fair this year, at Shipden Church later this month.

Meanwhile I'm still enjoying being busy in the kitchen, more jelly making, using a generous bagful of apples from next door -

Note the somewhat improved Heath Robinson jelly-straining apparatus! Though because of the long drop I did get a few splashes on the wall, which was easily cleaned this morning.

I've really got into the middle-eastern / Mediterranean cooking lately. Jim loves it and it's such a joy to prepare. Mind you, I have the luxury of not being at work any more, I can spend hours in the kitchen. It is so much harder to be creative with your cookery if you have a young family to consider, or work outside the home - or both! We were discussing at lunch time what a double edged sword the whole supermarket thing has been for British women in particular. Liberating in many ways, I feel we really threw the baby out with the bath water,  in so many others.

This was part of a mezze table I laid on last week. On the left, a dish of gigantes - butter beans slowly cooked in a sauce of onions, garlic, tomatoes and olive oil. I cannot begin to tell you how delicious these were, I shall be making them again soon. Very easy, and very quick  -  I used tinned butter beans - and cheap. With flat bread and a salad they are a complete meal, and you can eat them hot, warm or  cool. Next to them is a dish of chick-pea hummus, which we ate with flat bread and raw vegetables. On the end some slow roasted peppers and tomatoes.

Another day I made some lamb meatballs in onion, garlic and tomato sauce, served with giant cous-cous, a nice change from rice or ordinary cous-cous. In the small bowl there's some baba ghanoush, Jim's all-time favourite, topped with a sprinkling of sumach.

And here is the Spanokopita I made this morning, only the second time I've made it, but to be honest it isn't terribly difficult or time consuming. A box of filo pastry, some ricotta, some grated Lancashire cheese because that is what I had in the fridge, a bag of spinach, half a medium onion, an egg, grated nutmeg, salt and pepper, some olive oil and some melted butter to brown the top.  I made it in a medium deep cake pan, well oiled (the pan not me!) and it turned out beautifully. I can claim no real credit, because the filo pastry just ends up this way, when you fold over the overhanging ends, and use the final two pieces of pastry torn in half and scrunched to give this lovely effect. We'll have it for lunch tomorrow with some left over roasted pepper and tomatoes, and perhaps some flatbread if I can get it right this time!

So there you have it. Still can't get back into the music, sadly but I am listening to it in the car now. We are well into autumn now, having seen the last of those lovely warm sunny days we were unexpectedly gifted with. The clocks will soon be going back, and once more my car clock will read the correct time! For another six months, anyway!

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Autumn Cooking and Crafting

I drifted into Autumn in a bit of a daze, but soon got up to speed. On the textile front, I've been busy making another cushion for craft fairs, and an angel panel for a commission. I'm so enjoying working in this medium, I hope enough people like what I make or it's going to get a bit crowded round here!

   The folk birds seem quite popular, and I enjoy finding new ways to incorporate them into my cushions.

   The beautiful variegated threads are a delight to work with. As usual I'm using Perle Cotton no. 5

              Still using the green dyed blanket; I must do some more, I'm running out of this one.

         I don't always make buttons for the back, but I think the simple overlap works well.

        Meet Flora, commissioned by a lovely lady from Holt. She wanted a "non- Christmas angel" .

  I've enjoyed stitching these stylised flowers, first used on my Molly Dancing top hat, and cushions.

                 The request was for a slightly 'shabby chic' colour palette. I hope this fits the bill.

I've just done another Fakenham Makers Market. I didn't sell any cushions this time, but I did sell some pin cushions, a needle case and a little Japanese pouch. I also sold A QUILT! Yes, two about-to be Grandparents were deliberating over which one to buy for their expected grandchild, and they chose one of my folky sampler quilts. They were so excited, we had a long chat about how the images on the quilt would be enjoyed by the baby, and they even showed me a photograph of the ultrasound!

Aside from stitching I've been busy in the kitchen. My header photo shows just some of the wonderful fresh produce I picked up from the veg man on what remains of the lamentably reduced Kings Lynn market, and the fruits of our son's apple trees. You can also see a demijohn half-filled with damsons from the market, blackberries from the lane, sugar and……. GIN! I'm shaking it every day at the moment.

I'm entranced by Greek and Turkish dishes at the moment. I made Baba Ghanoush (roast aubergine puree) , roast tomato and pepper dip, and stuffed peppers. I served it with flatbreads and a small salad.

  My Heath-Robinson method of jelly-straining! Jim is putting me a hook up somewhere a bit better.

Apple - Chilli Jelly, made from our Mike's apples, and chillis from our greenhouse. I've never made this before, and it tastes pretty good!

I also made 6lb of apple and damson chutney on Friday. It was an interesting experiment. Certainly not as pungently smelly as I'd expected it to be. But it was a bit of a faff to be honest, and to tell you the truth, we don't eat a lot of chutney! However, it was fun, and I thank Sue of The Quince Tree blog for pointing me in the right direction and firing me up. I don't have a photo of the chutney at the moment, but I'll try and remember when we open the first jar.

Quite a few blogs are talking about jamming and bottling at the moment. It's such a comforting thing to do - if you like being your kitchen, of course. We don't NEED to continue making home preserves, but it's so satisfying looking at the gleaming jars on the shelf, and also knowing exactly what went into them. Our next door neighbour has kindly allowed us to go in and raid his apple and pear trees, so I shall be thinking up some more ideas to make use of the bounty. I hope you are enjoying the turn of the season, wherever you are.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Autumn Look Back

What does Autumn mean to you? Cooler weather? The end of summer? Nights drawing in? Downhill all the way? Personally, I've always enjoyed Autumn. Possibly because September is my birthday month, but mainly because I've always seen it as a New Beginning. This stems from schooldays, of course, but decades later, that feeling lingers on. I look forward to a change in my cooking, what I'm wearing, and sometimes even an improvement in television programmes! I don't focus on the coming bad weather, or being clogged up to the knees by fallen leaves in our garden. Our cottage, dark even on the brightest summer day, comes into its own when the weather is grey, enfolding us with its thick walls;  the low, beamed ceilings and small windows keeping the warmth in. Autumn is a good time to pause and look back at the year so far, and I've been doing this a lot recently.

Remember in early spring, I said I felt an uncomfortable restlessness? That feeling manifested itself as a very strong desire to move further east of the county, to a lovely market town called Fakenham. I'm not going into the whys and wherefores, suffice it to say, that after a good deal of effort on my part, we shall NOT be moving. I'm very sad about it, but there we are, not up for discussion on here because to be honest a) it still upsets me and b) I am totally bored going over and over the reasons why and why not. Instead, we have an action plan for changing a few things round here, both in the cottage and in our lives. Sometimes out of sadness comes forth sweetness. I think that's a quote from the bible but no idea where.

So that, in a nutshell is why there have been few posts this year. Too much going on, and then, finally, too upset to post. Even my beloved Burwell Bash didn't happen for me this year, though we did drive over there for the Friday afternoon concert. It was a good move, and re-connected me with my "Other Family", in fact I was hugged to death, I felt so happy to have been remembered by everyone.

The moment when Tola Custy, fiddle tutor and internationally renowned fiddle player, noticed me in the audience. Also seen are my lovely friends Debs, Jayne, Thelma, and Jude, with Nicky at the back with a tree growing out of his head!

I have done a couple of craft fairs this summer, at the Fakenham Makers Market and also the second summer at Back to the Garden in Letheringsett where the sun shone both days, I sold a bit, got a commission, and interest shown by the owner of an interior design shop in Kensington. (I didn't follow this one up, as I don't want to change what I do, nor be burdened by deadlines, but it was very flattering, nonetheless.)

The hare cushion could have sold several times over! I must make another one of these, they seem popular.

I did the June Fakenham Makers Market as I told you in my last post; in August I didn't have a stand but had promised to provide some "musical wallpaper" with my two friends Marj and Rob. We played for two hours and enjoyed ourselves. Apparently we went down well with the punters and stall holders.  I'm busy preparing more cushions for this month's craft fair, at the moment.

Earlier this month I attended a great mosaic workshop with the lovely Carolyn Ash, who incidentally made one of the Go-Go Dragons exhibited around Norwich. I've always loved mosaics and am now busy collecting and smashing crockery to make my own. Here are some photos to give you an idea how we got on.

My effort, un-grouted. I could have placed the pieces closer together, but you learn as you go along.

My "Heart" mosaic, grouted and some glitter added to the spaces. I'm quite pleased with it.

Two small mosaics by the other students on the day. We had great fun!

                                One of Carolyn's mirror frames Oh! Look! Who's that??

A lady who was a student of Carolyn a couple of years ago, now makes her own brilliant mosaic art. Sue Welfare, a novelist, felt-maker, artist and mosaicist, lives in Norfolk and is also a regular on the craft fair circuit. I saw this wonderful piece on her stand at the Burnham Market Craft Fair a couple of weeks ago.

This is "Star-gazey Pie" and I love it to pieces. I have a very special place in mind for this which I'll tell you about in another post. I just love the amount of detail Sue has managed to suggest in this piece; the fresh sardines sticking their heads out of the pie-crust, sitting on the kitchen table next to a vase of flowers, in front of the kitchen fire-place. Absolutely genius! I'm off this week to see more of Sue and Carolyn's work at Mosaic Madness, an exhibition being held until the 19th September at the Dragonfly Hall in Watton, Norfolk. Do go and see it, you Norfolk readers!

So there we are, finally got my act together and got this written. Profuse apologies to all my blogging friends - having distanced myself from my own blog I found myself unable to even look at yours let alone read and comment on them. I have a huge amount of catching up to do! Fingers crossed I won't be as slow getting the follow-up written! Happy Autumns, everyone!

Tuesday, 14 July 2015


 A very big thank you to all of you who have contacted me via the comments after my last post, or by email, or Facebook. There has indeed been a long delay since my last post; life can be nothing more than a series of bumpy rides sometimes. However,  time to re-engage a little and try and produce something you might find remotely entertaining. Not really up to a lot of editorial, so a series of photos I think, is the order of the day.

My second Fakenham Makers Market. A slight rejig of my stand presentation, Jim made a cushion stand for me, I painted it various colours, you can just see here.

Lovely friend Yvonne Autie loaned me her hanging rail which made the quilts much tidier and easier to view. It worked! I sold a large double quilt!

Another Moonlit Hare cushion attracted much comment, but did not sell this time.

     A Lemon Meringue Ice Cream - a rousing success, many thanks to Jane-Ann for the recipe!

A young man called Luke Horncastle presented his first two-day Folk Festival - Folk in a Field, at West Acre, Norfolk on the sunniest weekend we've had (though there were a few showers). An excellent event, family friendly and great music. Here some dancing going on.

Our friends Julie and Rob with their wonderful baskets. Both are genuine Master Basket Makers, Julie also teaches workshops. The quality of their work is excellent. Jim has commissioned a traditional fishing creel from Julie.

I could NOT leave out a couple of shots of the brilliant toilet facilities! Better than your average festival, wouldn't you say?

     And finally, a great shot of Rob and Julie unable to resist taking time out to have a sneaky jive!

We enjoyed ourselves immensely, unfortunately my photos of the actual performers are rubbish so I can't include them here. Especially sad as many of them are our friends!

Well, that's it. I have been having a life away from Blogland, although to be honest it has been very low-key these last couple of months and possibly may be for a little time to come. I hope you have a lovely summer, my friends, all those festivals, gardening, and ice cream! See you soonish, I hope.