30.9.12

Giraffe PJs

Dear Laura,

I have taken the leap into trousers. Sewing them, not wearing them, I have some trousers in my closet. Last week when buying some elastic I accidentally bought a lot of lovely lovely material (well 4 different ones but who's counting). In this little pile of mine, there was some giraffe material. 

I loved it and thought it would make the best PJs. I haven't made trousers before so I am pretty unsure about what needs to be what and where I should make sure there is excess in case of mistakes. I used a pattern which I found on the internet, (I can't find it now so no link I am afraid but there seem to be a ton of them). I got half way through before supper and then this morning as soon as I woke up I finished them off. They are aces. In fact I am wearing them right now!





Lots of love
Annie

p.s. I hope you are feeling better, I love the hat, you are a crocheting queen!

28.9.12

a crochet hat

Dear Annie,






It has felt like a long week. R and I have both been poorly, and have spent a lot of time sofa-bound. The only advantage to this has been that I have managed to fit in a little crochet.

Using a pattern that I found via Pinterest, I had my first try at a crochet hat in some chunky King Cole yarn. It was surprisingly speedy to make! I might even be tempted to make one or two as Christmas presents this year.


I still have some of the yarn left, so I have invested in this huge crochet hook so that I can make a chunky cowl to match. Sarah from Annaboo's House has kindly put the pattern up on Instagram for the lovely ones that she makes and I am planning to give it a try.

Love from,

Laura

PS: Hat details are, as always, on Ravelry.

26.9.12

Window Repair

Dear Laura,

There hasn't been much time for crafting lately as we have been on a home renovation mission. The weather is turning and we are thinking of sealing the house for winter. This involves lots and lots of window repair. We have been doing this on and off for two years and are pretty good now. Mostly it involves long ladders, holes, stripping and painting. Oh and my going to work with hands that look like I have been bare knuckle boxing all weekend (must remember to wear gloves when DIYing)







Although it is hard to see what we have actually done, the joy I get from being able to look out of the window and being able to open the window makes all the hard work well worth it.

lots of love

Annie

24.9.12

rosehip syrup

Dear Annie,






It has been our first Autumn in our new home in the countryside, and we have been making the most of it by foraging for all manner of things from the hedgerows. The boys have loved it, and they take great pleasure in the growing stash of jars, bottles and frozen berries which we have 'put away for the winter', just like in one of their their favourite books, Brambley Hedge Autumn Story.

This weekend it was rosehips that we were looking for. Using Lou's recipe, D has made a batch of bright rosehip syrup, bursting with vitamins. We are hoping that a little a day will ward off the inevitable coughs and colds.

Love from,

Laura

23.9.12

African Art

Dear Laura,

One of the things that is so wonderful about living in DC is the quantity of art readily and freely available on our doorstep. R and I will often wonder down to the mall to any number of exhibitions and galleries. Last week we stubbled on a brillant african art gallery, we were a just in time to have a quick look around before it closed for the day. 





I wanted to take this bird home with me, but it was sensibly behind glass so I couldn't get my hands on it! 
We just managed to scoot to the shop to bring back this picture. It is cut out with material behind it. I love it.
I can't wait to go back and have a proper look around.

Lots of love


Annie

20.9.12

apple & blackberry scrumping cake {recipe}

Dear Annie,










Today was S's first full day at school. I knew that he would be tired when he got home, and also that he would be hungry. An after-school snack was required, so I combined some of our recently picked blackberries with windfalls from a friend's apple tree in a Scrumping Cake.


The recipe is adapted from one by Sarah Raven. It is a hearty and satisfying Autumnal cake, full of fruit and just perfect for hungry little boys.


Apple and Blackberry Scrumping Cake


225g butter

350g self-raising flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
175g caster sugar
200g blackberries, fresh or frozen *
250g apples (about 3 smallish ones)
grated zest of 1 lemon
3 large eggs
demerara sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 180/ 160 fan/ gas mark 4

Line a 20cm cake tin with baking parchment.

Pulse the flour, butter and cinnamon in a food processor until it looks like fine breadcrumbs (or rub it together using your fingertips). Put into a large bowl and stir in the sugar.


Peel, core and roughly chop the apples. Add to the other ingredients with the blackberries and the lemon zest. Lightly beat the eggs and stir them in.


Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin. It will seem rather dense, but don't worry, just spread it evenly and smooth the top. Bake in the preheated oven for 1- 1 1/4 hours, or until firm to the touch. You may need to cover the top with foil towards the end of cooking to prevent it from browning too much.


As soon as you remove it from the oven, sprinkle the cake generously with demerara sugar. Let it cool in the tin on a wire rack.


Love from,


Laura


* I spread my freshly-picked blackberries on a baking tray, freeze them and then decant into freezer bags. This means that it is easy to pop a handful into a cake, pancakes, crumbles, etc. and also that they hold their shape better in cooking and don't tend to dye the mixture purple.

17.9.12

bramble jelly

Dear Annie,









Last week, the boys and I spent one of our last weekday afternoons together (before S starts school full time) wandering through the fields picking blackberries.There is really nothing nicer on a sunny September day. Once the boys were in bed, I made a batch of dark purple bramble jelly.


How I relish these autumnal pleasures.


Love from,


Laura


PS: Jam labels from here, via Lottie.

15.9.12

I might have trouble baking, but I can definitely set things on fire

Dear Laura,

All this talk of film SLRs is making me want to go and dig mine out. Your pictures were beautiful and the wedding looked fab.


As you know I am a long time fan of Dr Who, I loved it as a child and I love it now. On the BBC America site, there was a recipe for some wonderful Dalek cakes (here is a link, you might want to take a peak at what they were supposed to look like!). I really wanted to make them but had very little excuse. Then it turned out to be the birthday of the only other Brit in the office. So I thought to myself, at least one person might know what these things are and off I trotted.






Now this turned into one disaster after another. Firstly the recipe had three stages, including the rather complicated ganache making and decorating. I went wrong from the start. Pulling the cake out of the oven it had sunk completely in the middle. I tried to "save" the cake, this involved cutting most of it off, I think I ended up wasting most of it, and assembling the daleks by sticking it together. I went to a different recipe for the ganache which thankfully turned out ok, and tried my best to finish them so that they at least looked edible. By midnight on a Sunday I was pretty much willing to take anything into work.



From the beginning I had decided that what I really wanted to do was to stick candles in for their arms and set them on fire to make them look like flame throwers. And so I did, and the disaster of the previous days mistakes all melted away as I giggled to myself at having a dalek cake in front of my with its arms on fire.



(a colleague said they looked like alien soldiers, so pretty close)

My baking skills need help, however, my childish instincts and pyromania seem to be fully intact!


Lots of love


Annie

14.9.12

shooting film

Dear Annie,




I have had the film from my Olympus Trip developed. It was with great excitement and considerable anticipation that I went to the camera shop to collect the prints! 


The results were mixed. Some of the photos pleased me, some disappointed me. By an large, the steepest learning curve was the focusing - more shots than I would have liked were out of focus. Unlike the autofocus on a DSLR, on a Trip you focus by turning the dial on the lens to the relevant symbol, so the person for close up portraits, the mountain for landscapes, etc. These symbols correspond to distances in feet or meters, and estimating the distance from from camera to subject is a skill which I clearly need to work on!


Here are a few of the photographs that I took with the Trip at a wedding that we attended a few weeks ago. It was a beautiful weekend and we, like most of the other guests, took along our tent. 







Having discovered Poundland film, I am ready to re-load the Trip and have another try. I rather fancy experimenting with a technique that I used to play with in sixth form: multiple exposure. I am planning to shoot a roll of film with landscapes, re-load and then shoot portraits over the top. I am hoping that shooting at a fixed distance will give me a better chance of getting my focus right. I will let you know how I get on!

Love from,

Laura

12.9.12

Bee-Megedon

Dear Laura,

I can't believe little S is already starting school, I hope he is having a wonderful time. We have been having a first on this side of the atlantic too. Some were calling it beemegedon (me), somewere calling it bee-pocalypse (R), whatever we named it we had a bit of a bemergency last weekend (ok I'll stop with that silliness now). 


We decided to honey harvest, it was our first real proper one, where we have actually got a lot of frames filled with honey. R did a small harvest a few weeks ago and went in with full confidence that we could do it easily, quickly and cleanly. Well that didn't quite happen! 





 sweeping the bees off the frame and into the hive
A frame full of capped honey
That is a lot of bees

Lessons learned:

1. When stealing honey from the bees, make sure they can't find it again
2. ...

Well actually that is it. 

You see what happened was, we went and put the honey in our new shed, which has just holes for windows and doors and we covered it with t shirts. Apparently bees aren't stupid. We left the honey with three bees hovering around, after 15 mintues I was sat by the window thinking, wow there are a lot more bees going at the honey now. Well we ran down and tried to save the honey but there were too many bees, we swept around 10 frames clean of bees hid it (properly this time) leaving 4 frames to be robbed and striped clean of honey by the bees. The bees kept pinging down one after another after another, the back garden was full of them. 



 Lowering the stolen honey off the roof
 a lone bee drinking as much of the honey as she can
Covering the frames with t-shirts (note to self, this does not stop bees getting the honey!)

Then a tornado hit, it rained, and rained and rained. Bees do not like water, they found some shelter but most just fell out of the sky. We returned to find an extractor full of bees and hundreds of dead wet bees on the ground. It really was bee-pocalypse! We took the opportunity to clean up the rest of the honey and pour the wet bees into the empty boxes in the garden. 

On Sunday morning the bees were still coming down to the shed and still buzzing in the garden (bee memory takes a while to clear). But the tragedy of the dead bees has been lessened by seeing that there are still plenty of bees forging and busy and enjoying the clear, clean, bright sunshiny day that rose from the previous days storm.



Now we just have to extract the honey, more on that next week!

Lots of love

Annie
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