Something old, something new…

November 22, 2014

Recently a friend asked me whether I could make her a cot quilt for a baby girl. I’m no expert, but have made a few quilts now, and she’s just beginning to learn and didn’t feel confident enough yet to make one for a present. She didn’t need to twist my arm, although I have lots of other calls on my time just now; quilting is always a pleasure and a welcome retreat from the stresses & strains of everyday life. She wanted me to use new materials, and I happened to need to take a trip down west, so off I trotted to the lovely Becca’s Fabric Larder and ran riot with her budget. I need to point out here that making a quilt with new fabric of decent quality isn’t a cheap exercise; you can find fabric much cheaper, but will it stand up to the regular washing an item in constant use will get without shrinking or shredding? I actually prefer to use old, pre-used fabric, which is pre-shrunk and often of much higher quality than anything I can afford to use that’s available now. However, I do go to local quilt group stash-sales, and sometimes pick up bits other people haven’t used at affordable prices, and two of these fitted in with the other fabrics rather well, so they got used too.

Anyway, having over the last few years invested in some good-quality secondhand tools, after much patient watching, stalking & last-minute-bidding on Ebay, I was able to cut, piece, back, quilt & bind a 3′ x 4′ raggy quilt in a little over 4 days, alongside general family & business activities. Becca didn’t have the batting I wanted, but I was lucky enough to find a king-size portion online that someone else hadn’t used & was selling for less then half the price of buying new, including postage; it’ll do 4 cot quilts and a few bags too. And when it came to the binding, I wasn’t able to find anything ready-made that went with the fabrics I’d used. But at the market on Saturday, I was offered a deal I couldn’t refuse, by one of the house-clearance firms; three boxes, one containing filthy vintage handbags, one containing vintage clothes, and one of fabric scraps, for £10.

There are 15 high-quality leather handbags in the first box, including a Prada bag. Well worth cleaning up; they’ll earn that £10 back, and a fair bit more! Enough decent clothes in the second to keep me from clearing the clothes rails in my shed for a while, and in the third, some excellent fabric, including a length of pristine pure wool tweed, worth over £10 on its own. But what clinched the deal was spotting some dusky pink glazed cotton, just exactly the right colour to bind the quilt, easily enough to make a number of bias cuts. Imagine my surprise on getting it home and finding that there were two generous pieces, already cut on the diagonal – and two more blue pieces, cut just the same – they’d clearly come from a quilter’s stash! So I gathered my courage and cut my own binding; to my surprise it wasn’t hard, and I won’t be scared to do it next time. Anyway – quilt finished, washed, tumble-dried to fluff up the raggy bits, and handed over.

Raggy cot quilt

Raggy cot quilt

 

But there were bits left over… another friend had recently asked me to find her a knitting needle roll, and as she’s been kind enough to give us 3 beautiful budgies over the years, I thought I’d like to make her one to say thank-you. So the little left-over bits got themselves made up into this one:

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Knitting needle roll pieced from small scraps

And then I realised that the friend who’d asked me to make the quilt had a birthday, the very day that I was handing the quilt to her! And she’s rather fond of yarncrafts too, so the bigger leftovers, along with a few other scraps, were whisked up into this one:

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Big scrappy needle roll, with space for scissors, patterns etc.

So, I may have had to spend some money on all this (although it wasn’t actually my money anyway) but I have to say I’ve had so much fun with a  few bits of fabric that in my mind, at least, it was money well-spent!

 

 

 

 

Freeee foooood!

November 8, 2014
pumpkinsoup

Pumpkin, green pepper & spring onion soup

Once again it’s that time of year, when people leave perfectly good food lying around on their doorsteps for days, until it goes mouldy, then throw it away. We are a very strange race…

So here’s a link to a rather nice local story. It just so happens that Venus is a friend of mine, and we have been lucky enough to be given a portion of one of the heroic pumpkins in question. There’s a lot of good eating in a decent pumpkin & they’re “a good source of Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), Pantothenic Acid, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium and Copper, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Iron and Manganese.” (Quoting from http://nutritiondata.self.com.) Most people I know have at least one good pumpkin recipe, usually Pumpkin Pie or soup, but there are plenty of others out there. Here’s one of my favourites, which makes 3 delicious loaves; one to eat, one to freeze, and one to share.

Spicy Pumpkin Bread:

Dry Ingredients:

4 cups of grain flour – I used 2 of spelt flour, 1 of fine oatmeal and 1 of cornmeal
2 cups sugar – my original recipe, an amalgam of 3 old ones, called for 3, but 2 works just as well if you ramp up the spice a little
1 tsp salt. Yes, it does make a difference.
2 tsps bicarb of soda
1 tsp each of nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice & ginger – you can play around with these quantities.
1 cup dried fruit – raisins, sultanas, cranberries, currants, cake fruits – whatever you’ve got.
1 cup nuts & seeds – pumpkin & sunflower seeds, flaked almonds, walnuts, pecans – any or all!
A sprinkle of demerara sugar.

Wet Ingredients:

2 cups cooked pumpkin – pressure-cooked or roasted, scraped clear of skin
1 cup oil
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

Method:

Set your oven to heat up to Medium/Gas Mark 4/160℃. Combine & mix the dry ingredients until lumps & clumps have gone. Mix the wet ingredients; a hand-whisk is fine. Combine wet & dry ingredients & stir well, then pour into 3 x 2lb loaf tins. Sprinkle with demerara sugar & cook for an hour, or until a wooden skewer comes out clean.

Freezes very well, makes a good on-the-hoof breakfast, and makes a great pudding served with cream or custard, as well as being very satisfying just served warm with a cup of tea.

pumpkinbread

And here’s a very off-the-cuff idea; when you’ve just nipped up to the shops for a tub of bicarb, and the heavens suddenly turn black & disgorge the opening volley of our annual monsoon, and you’ve left your hat on the kitchen table & your brolly in the umbrella stand, what do you do? You take the standard supermarket carrier bag you’d stuffed into your pocket, rip it open down one side, tie the two bottom corners together, pop it over your head with the knot at the top, and tie it by the handles at the back. Voilà! A have-a-go rainproof turban!

Luckily none of the Offspring caught sight of me…

Mmmm – why Pinterest?

November 7, 2014

I can spend hours poking around Pinterest; who can’t? And whenever I Google just about anything, images or pages from Pinterest will appear on the first page, and, oh dear! That’s me gone for ages, browsing around other people’s collections of images of things they like & admire, maybe adding a few to my own, wishing I had good taste & a sense of style like everyone else on there seems to, and just a little more money so I could buy all the things I love… HANG ON A MINUTE! I smell a rat…

Something tells me that it’s no coincidence that for days afterwards, little ads will pop up on other pages that I visit, showing things just like the ones I looked at. The same thing happens with things I look at on elsewhere too, which sometimes leads to hilarious results, particularly when I misspell something. And sometimes it’s quite informative as to what other people have been browsing on the family computer. But I’m pretty immune to pop-up adverts and sites very obviously trying to sell me stuff; it’s so unsubtle it’s a complete turn-off, like a desperate double-glazing or energy salesman, and makes me want to run away from whatever they’re offering.

Yet nothing can make me feel quite so quietly inadequate as Pinterest, and in my book that makes it rather dangerous; surely everyone creative uses it, it’s just like an ideas/story board, just an electronic pinboard of good ideas, excellent design, all the things I’d like to aspire to – and quite a lot of things I didn’t even know I desired until I saw them…?

Surely just a few pounds spent on nice things here & there wouldn’t hurt? And isn’t it a good way of keeping track of trends? Hmmmm – it might even be quite a good way of creating trends too. And if I’ve thought of that, you can bet the people who own & run it have, too. I have a suspicion that they might just be paying for all that server space & web traffic for their own benefit, rather than mine. But at the end of the day, it’s just a tool; I can use it for my own benefit, or I can let it use me. And if you think about it, and realise that it’s not there for our benefit, but for the benefit of the people who created it, own it & use it to market things to us – jolly clever they are, too! – then there’s no problem, is there? I’m sure everyone else has thought of that, too…

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Not p-interested…

Eeeek – 6 weeks later!

October 5, 2014
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This week’s haul…

That’s what £6.50 got me at the market this morning: 2 punnets of raspberries, one of small but delicious strawberries, & two of seedless grapes for £3, a big carrier bag of “marked” locally-grown apples for £1, two pots of carrots, two of broccoli and one of courgettes for £2.50. I didn’t need tomatoes, as we have plenty of our own still to use up, or onions, parsnips, garlic or potatoes, all of which were available, but I have more than enough already. The raspberries are already in the oven, in a Rasberry Clafoutis, half of the broccoli is inside us, and the apples will be bashed along with our rather-splendid crop of quinces later on this afternoon, quite probably to make spicy Apple & Quince Butter to enliven our winter breakfasts. Given a few spare minutes, I’ll add recipes later.

I’ve been buying & using the 50p fruit & veg all along, but haven’t had the time or, to be honest, the inclination to write about it. Someone (not likely to look on here) made a pointed remark about middle-class people writing patronising money-saving stuff, and I went into a bit of a tailspin; it’s really not my intention to make people feel that they’re Not Doing Very Well if they have no option but to buy things in supermarkets or DIY superstores at full price. But it is my intention to alert those who do have other options, that those options exist & may not be as impractical or unachievable as popular opinion would have us believe. And I’d recently begun to wonder just how much that remark was simply aimed at pulling me down & undermining my confidence. Then, yesterday, at Boscombe Vintage Market, one of our lovely regular customers said how she’d missed A) the market and B) reading my blog… thank you, dear customer! Normal service will be resumed forthwith…

There’s also the fact that writing is actually addictive. It doesn’t matter whether anyone would actually want to read my maunderings; I can no more stop writing than breathing!

Week 2 – what I did, what I didn’t, and what’s new…

August 24, 2014

Having set myself this little challenge, how did Week 1 go?

Most of it has been used up. The marrow’s still waiting to be curried, but doesn’t appear to be in any hurry. Nor are the shallots, which are scheduled to be used up in tomorrow’s Bank Holiday supper. Two small aubergines from the tray of 6 are still waiting too, but haven’t developed any bad patches so are still good to go.

This week’s haul includes 3 more lots of tomatoes; one of 50p salad toms, for lunches, and two 50p lots of the big vine tomatoes for (yet more) soup. 4 corn-on-the-cob for £1, more celery – can you have too much? Surely not! – for 50p, 5lbs of Jersey Royal potatoes for 50p, 10 lemons & 10 limes for £2, which will make lemon & lime curd, with some home-laid eggs. I also bought a big butternut squash for £1, as last week’s has already been used. I could have bought either of two varieties of cabbage, but didn’t; I still have an uncut one from Friday. There were no carrots or parsnips on offer, but I have enough carrots & one big parsnip should keep us going all week, unless I want to do a rosti, in which case I’ll visit the greengrocers. Two punnets of small strawberries were down to £1 each and will go into jam with the blackberries I’m about to go & gather in before the stormy weather makes them rot in the hedgerows. If no-one’s eaten them already, that is! The 50p peppers will almost certainly be eaten whole & raw, like apples, by our tame vegetarian, and one of the 50p leeks has gone already.

I’ve also made a big jar of kimchi, started off a ginger beer plant, and made 3 bottles of blackberry & apple cordial. Plus I bought two full carrier bags of apples towards the end of the car boot sale on Tuesday, reduced down to 50p each, to make apple butter with this week, as our crop isn’t going to be up to much this year.  And another trader has offered me a sack of windfalls, from her mother’s garden – lovely jubbly! The more the merrier.

The downside? I’m running out of reclaimed jam jars already…

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Week 2’s haul of reduced fruit & veg…

The 50p veg challenge…

August 17, 2014

Lately I’ve taken to popping down to our local market close to closing time on Sunday, the last of the three days it’s open. The two fruit & veg stalls have a habit of offloading anything perishable that hasn’t yet sold for 50p a pot or punnet, or sometimes a mixed bag for £1, or two bowls for £1.50. Since one of The Offspring has become a vegetarian, this has been a bit of a good moneysaver…

I hasten to add that I actually buy everything I can foresee needing for the week at full price & peak freshness on Friday morning, chosen to match whatever fish & meat I’ve found best value for this week & bearing in mind any special events. It’s still a darn sight cheaper than buying it all in the supermarket. What I’ll pick up on Sunday is supplementary to this; sometimes there isn’t very much left, or what’s there isn’t something that any of us will eat, so it would be daft to rely on it. And sometimes it’s a challenge to know how to use up what I’ve found. But also, fun…

This week’s haul includes celery, which is something I use a lot, as a fresh savoury herb in cooking, rather than raw in salads. If I have an absolute glut, I’ll pop some into my dehydrator; it dries quickly & the taste is concentrated. Dried celery is a great standby for soups, as are carrots, which also found their way into my trolley. There’s spring onion, which goes well in stir-fried veg, a tray of aubergines, which a friend gave me an excellent tasty, inexpensive recipe for, and 4 large ripe mangos. They’ll be in my slow-cooker tomorrow turning into chutney, with a couple of large apples from our tree. I picked up two trays of vine-ripened tomatoes, and popped over to the butcher’s stall for some soup bones for £1. That’ll make a lovely middle-Eastern-style soup for our lunches for the week, as the bones are lamb. There was a butternut squash, much loved by our vegetarian, and a marrow; I have plans to try out curried marrow or marrow bhaji…

Not to mention garden produce – the apples are coming down fast now, the quinces are almost ready – and what I can forage from our local hedgerows and even sometimes other people’s gardens. With their permission, of course! Blackberries feature strongly in my plans for the week, mostly fresh or as jam, as does the first “run” of apple butter with windfalls, possibly also using some crab apples from the riverbank; they looked just ripe for picking when I walked my friend’s dogs earlier. The lurcher clearly thought the windfalls were just perfect for eating, too… It’s not going to be a great crop of apples this year, but what’s there has had the grace to ripen up when I actually do have the time to deal with it, for once.

Anyway, the plan is, to record here what I find each week & what I plan to do with it. Then the next week, to report back on whether I did actually stick to my plans, or whether, shame of all shames, we just have some very well-fed chickens… It’s a bit of a challenge to myself, to keep me on track & keep unnecessary expenditure down, but please feel free to join me, in the comments, with suggestions for me, or tell us what you yourself have found or grown, & what you’re going to do with it.

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Home grown Blenheim Oranges.

Phew! What a summer!

August 7, 2014

My feet haven’t touched the ground… We’ve “done” the Larmer Tree Festival and I’ve opened a second, smaller stall, at Toad Hall Country Vintage, which is closer to home and has a very different atmosphere to Molly’s Den, as well as all the normal whizzing around associated with having a bigger family. Especially in wonderful weather, when you live close to the beach… So I haven’t managed to find much time for writing lately, but now I may, just may, have a few calmer weeks in prospect.

Yesterday the weather forecast was grim, so I’d planned a day of catching up at home, but by the time I got up (reasonably close to the crack of dawn) the sun was merrily blazing away, so I hauled the girls (Elder Daughter, Younger Daughter & my Trainee-Daughter-in-Law) out of bed, packed them into the car & we set off to a little town about 35 miles west that’s well known for its “Vintage” scene, as well as excellent local food. We had a great day; the weather held up, we had a treat of a lunch very cheaply at a cafe a friend had recommended, and we found some lovely stuff amongst the “overpriced tat” just like the things that I find & sell!

But my pride & joy for the day is a large yellow & orange insulated water carrier, found at the Household Recycling Centre on our return, for £1. We already have a red & white one, which is slightly smaller & originally belonged to my brother when his children (now parents themselves) were tiny. It’s marvellous; keeps water cool all day (longer if you add ice, which is easy as it has a wide mouth) and holds a useful amount, with a push-tap that even youngsters can operate. Because there were & sometimes still are 7 or more of us, I bought a more recent one a few years back, which needless to say sprang a leak after a couple of years & is now pretty useless, but the old one is still fine. I tested the new-to-us one yesterday evening; it’s clearly seen a fair bit of use & is probably about 5 years older than our original one, going by popular colours, but there are no leaks or drips & the tap works well. So I’m a very happy bunny, having more than doubled our cool-water-carrying capacity! Brilliant for the beach or picnics – or even for days out to places with interesting Vintage Quarters!

watercarrier

More treasure – with an interesting twist.

June 15, 2014
Warnes1

Warne’s Model Cookery and Housekeeping Book

The autoharp wasn’t the only treasure to come my way yesterday. This elderly cookery book, from 1895, also found its way into my bag. I rather like old cookery books, as much for the social history aspects as for the actual recipes: “The footman is required to make himself generally useful, though, of course, the number of men kept will diminish or increase his work…” I was surprised to find that it, too, is probably worth much more than I paid for it, but I’m not going to part with it until I’ve “mined” it for useful recipes, if ever! There are sections on preserving, pickling, cheesemaking and winemaking as well as everyday cookery, and although I will happily use modern aids and methods, old-fashioned methods have their place in my armoury too. Especially when the modern ones don’t actually work.

Whilst the pages are mostly in good condition and the cover is pretty clean & bright for its age, apart from a few fingermarks, the spine is very worn and only attached by a sliver at the back. And I was intrigued and entertained to find proof that our ancestors didn’t waste anything much:

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Recycling 1895-style!

The adverts are as much fun as the recipes:

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Fancy cooking on one of those?

But some of them would cause hilarity rather than improving sales, in this day & age…

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I hope Her (previous) Majesty enjoyed…

Off now to find out what some of the more arcane ingredients are in modern parlance, always supposing they are available – or indeed legal – today! Saleratus, anyone? Lambstones? Puff paste…?

Another dilemma…

June 14, 2014

A quick whizz round the car boot sale at our local National Trust property this morning brought me this little treasure at a very reasonable price:

autoharp

 

I know they’re not worth a fortune, as they were made in East Germany under communist rule, mostly in mass-production factories, and any of the traditional craftsman makers who may have been involved were not allowed to sign them. Many of them look very pretty but are too cracked or warped to play, or have loose pegs. But the only fault I can find with this one, now I’ve removed large amounts of dust & replaced a couple of the springs which had wandered off under the strings, is that it’s out of tune. It’s entirely possible that a harp-tuning wrench will do the job, and we just happen to have one of those in the house, as one of the offspring is currently learning to play the harp.

So, the dilemma is, sell it, or learn to play it? It’s a very pretty item & I have a feeling it would sell very fast, quite likely to someone who just wants it for its undeniable good looks. And I know that they are far from the best autoharp for new beginners. But – it’s the one I happen to have! And it’s something I’ve had a hankering to learn since I was in my late teens. I think I’ll have to give it a go…

Booty!

May 17, 2014

Any day that brings me five new-to-me fans, is a good day!

fans

Fans, gloves, scarves = vintage glamour!

Elder daughter and I went out hunting at a big local car boot sale and the market, and came back laden with little – and not-so-little – treasures. Certain things always seem to spell glamour to me; fans, gloves, bags, hats, scarves & jewellery spring to mind, and there was plenty to go around, which was just as well as we met several of our fellow-traders out a-hunting too, all well-laden.

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Real value for money!

Different types of stall attract different buyers; I glanced over plenty of stalls offering more modern, big-name bags, and none of them looked half as smart as the much-older patent leather one I’d found, once I’d cleaned it up. It even came with a pair of navy-blue lacy gloves inside.

But my best bargain today had to be the little blue Olivetti typewriter for £1. It looked very, very sad; mildew on the keys, and no, you’re not mistaken, it is bent sideways. “I don’t think it actually works,” the vendor said doubtfully.

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All folorn…

But a couple of hours later, with the aid of WD40, the judicious application of a mallet (I kid you not) some Swarfega, tweezers, a good stiff brush and a hoover, it not only looks a whole lot better, it actually works, and works well! Someone’s going to get a real bargain, and I’m chuffed to bits to have returned a decent bit of kit to good working order.

typewriterafter

Restored!

 


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