Friday, 24 July 2015

Patchwork, Pudding and Peas

One of my favourite pastimes is sewing patchwork quilts;  I've been making quilts on and off for over 20 years.  I don't pretend to be brilliant at it or an expert but I do love it.  I handsew the quilts as I find something infinitely relaxing about quiet rhythm of needle and thread.
I'm lucky enough to belong to the village quilting group; a group of lovely ladies who meet up twice a month to chat, drink coffee and tea and sometimes enjoy cake - and yes some sewing takes place.  I'm an oddity in the group as most of the ladies use machines and produce the most beautiful work;  one of the joys of the group is the open hearted admiration and support for everyone's work, as well as the wealth of knowledge when it comes to troubleshooting problems with techniques.

At the moment I'm sewing a simple nine-patch quilt for a friend.
I'm using the paper piecing technique, where each part of the quilt is backed with papers (which are removed before the backing and stuffing are added). It's an old fashioned technique but very easy to learn and gives you nice sharp edges to the blocks.

 I'm using florals and cream to create the nine-patches which are arranged in a random colour way on an 8x8 grid with each colour appearing only once in each column and row - hence the carefully numbered piles of blocks, so I know what block goes where!

 Blocks joined into strips.

Strips being joined together.

The blocks all pieced together.

A close up of the colours which sadly look a bit washed out in the rain drenched light.  :-(
They look really crisp and pretty in real life - honest.

 Ironing edges in the first border strips.
I still have to sew up the simple narrow blocks for the outer border and then add the bias binding before I start to take out the paper pieces - a tedious task I have to admit -
and then the quilting begins; I'm going for a random selection of different sized heart shaped outlines.  
Hopefully our friend will love it.

Now for something completely different....
all this rainy weather with below average temperatures has meant that the usual salads and light quiches has given way to more autumnal meals and as it poured down last week I dug into the freezer for the ingredients for ....
 ...steamed steak and kidney suet pudding.
This sumptuous comfort food is a real favourite with Jean-Luc and takes over 3 hours to cook as you cook the filling first.  The great thing about this is you can make loads of filling and then freeze the excess for another day.  The recipe is from Nigella's  Domestic Goddess book; which, as you'd expect, is filled with wonderfully luxurious recipes to treat yourself with.

I had some leftover suet pastry and having found some leftover damson jam in the fridge which was a little past its best for smearing on toast but perfect for spreading over the pastry which was then rolled and baked for jam roly poly.  Oh yes we had it with custard and resulted in a very happy albeit very full Jean-Luc.

We served the steak and kidney pudding with light vegetables including our first small crop of home grown peas.  Hooray!  They are along with the lettuce, chard and hopefully broad beans are the few meagre veggies which have defeated both the slugs and the dreadfully cold and wet summer this year - unlike the kale and courgettes.
Oh well, lessons learnt I suppose but extremely frustrating, especially after my glowing visions of abundant produce filling the freezer for winter.  Pffeh as the Nu would say.
Glorious and delicious garden produce.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Diamond Days

Today the weather is dismal, stratiform cloud and associated persistent and heavy drizzle; however on the bright side, the garden and surrounding environs are wearing filmy veils of pearlescent grey studded with diamonds.

 One of the plants that wears this look best is the bronze fennel with its delicate tresses set off by the tiny diamonds of rain caught in its foliage.

Of course it has competition from the necklaces of spider silk and diamonds that dazzle from spiders webs.
When we were children my sister and I used to come across these beauties in the early mornings and imagine that fairies would gather these necklaces to wear to their festivities and even now I find something magical about their delicate elegance.
A reminder to me that even the dullest of days contains its own unique beauty.

Monday, 6 July 2015

Odds & Ends

I just had to post a picture of this stew.

This is a delicious cannellini bean, 3 tomato (canned, fresh and sun-dried) and pepper stew.
It's 340 calories and on a 5:2 fasting day that was cold and wet, it was the perfect warming dinner.  The portion looks huge, tastes great (yes even Jean-Luc likes it!) and is full of healthy veggies and beans.
The 5:2 is going well, I've lost a stone, despite over a month off when we were on holiday and I was ill with bronchitis.  I feel healthier, some clothes which didn't fit me now do and I'm not finding it difficult to stick to it at all.  I love the fact that although I normally fast on Monday and Thursday I can change the days I fast around to fit in with the rest of my life; this week I'm meeting a friend for dinner on Thursday so have changed my days.  I love the fact that if I choose to eat a muffin on a non fast day I haven't 'broken' my diet, if I eat pizza or chocolate (in moderation), that's ok.   I love the fact I don't have to say I can't eat that, I say I can't eat that - today.  I don't worry about 'sins' or 'points' or whether I can eat carbs, fats or drink a glass of wine.
 I love the fact I can establish a healthy relationship with food and lose weight. 

On a completely different topic, we received some post today.....
.....and yes the Nu has more economic cachet that we do.  She was sent two free food sachets and two vouchers for cat food; obviously someone at Tesco had spotted her food purchases and sought to curry favour with the most influential person in this household.  Unfortunately, they hadn't done all their homework as she doesn't eat this food; I did offer it to her but she wasn't convinced.  I rang Tesco clubcard customer services on her behalf - her suggestion was that a local cat charity might benefit from any future presents; I had a laughter filled conversation with a charming man (I think he was relieved it was such a trivial issue) and he quickly said he would make sure her food preferences record was corrected and that any future bribes should meet her standards.  
I find it incredibly creepy and intrusive that a supermarket is monitoring our purchases but hilarious that when they use that information they get it so wrong.
We certainly won't be shopping at Tesco's any more frequently than we do already and we certainly won't be 'faithful' to that supermarket.
The Nu prefers to keep her food preferences private.