Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Thoughts of sunnier days

It's Burns Night today, which brings the joys of haggis (I like it) and whiskey, but today's whether can best be described with the Scottish word, dreich. In other words it's dark, dull and wet! So to cheer myself up, weather-wise, I thought I'd have another look at the photos I took at Kew Gardens last April. It was the first time that I'd been and I took so many pictures I filled the memory card on the camera and had to resort to my camera phone!
A colourfully planted urn by the pond near the entrance to kew.
The big glasshouse at Kew.

Inside the glasshouse there's lots of green, leafy plants. There may not be many flowers, but I find that all the different types of leaves and greens are just as pretty.The ribs on this plant are sculptural.
A tree fern (I think, plant names are not one of my strong points).
Beautiful variegated leaves. I wouldn't mind working these into an embroidery patter, perhaps just using the shapes rather than recreating the leaves themselves.
You wouldn't think that something so harsh and prickly as a cactus could produce should delicate flowers.

A strange mix of blue and white flowers on the same flower spike.

Orchids. They're supposed to be really easy to keep (well the ones you can get for your own home) but I'm very good at dispelling that!
Even the leaves are frilly on this one.
I used this picture to create my Father's birthday card last year.
I like the way tulips go when they're fully open.

I love magnolia flowers, they're one of the first flowers you can see in spring. It's just a pity that they trees after they've gone are a bit boring.

Going through my Kew photos have really brightened my, if not the weather.


Saturday, 15 January 2011

Making more bread

One of my new year's, well the only one really, was to do more baking. To this end our joint christmas present last year was a food processor from John Lewis (we also bought a really good Kenwood hand-mixer). I made foccacia and short-crust pastry last week, but decided to make some bread rolls this week (and I even made sure I had all of the ingredients in! Those who have read my previous posts will know what I mean). So I donned my new Cath Kitson pinny (another christmas present) and took the processor out of the cupboard.
Whilst in Scotland last October, I'd bought a bag of Orkney beremeal that came from Barony Mills in Orkney and decided to replace half of my strong white flour with this. Bere has been grown on Orkney for thousands of years, both for human and animal food. In the old days, it was called Bygg, and this is still the name given to barley in Norway. Although meal is called beremeal, the crop is usually called corn in Orkney. It has been the staff of life in Orkney - in the form of bere bannocks and home brewed ale - since time immemorial. It is a variety of barley, although it differs in both appearance and taste. The flour produced at Barony Mills is fine with an off-white appearance.
I used a simple recipe 500g of flour, 1.5 tsp (teaspoon) of salt, 1 tsp sugar, 7g dried yeast, a tablespoon of oil and 300ml of warm water. The advantage of using the processor is that you can just put all of the ingredients in in one go so that's what I did.
I gave the dough a bit of a knead when it came out of the processor (you don't have to knead it as much as it gets a bit of knead in the machine) and divided it up into 10 rolls. These were left to rise (prove), covered with a cloth on the top of the cooker. As the oven is already warming up, the heat also comes up through the vent at the back and this is just enough to assist in the proving process.

Once all nice and risen, the rolls went into a hot oven (gas mark 8) for fifteen minutes. When they came out of the oven, they were put onto a cooling tray with a tea towel on top. The towel traps the steam and make the crust of the rolls nice and soft. If you want a crusty roll, brush the rolls with hot water just before they go into the oven and don't use the tea towel when they're cooling.

The rolls that were produced were beautifully soft and were delicious when filled with pastrami and salad. It's difficult to put into words what a difference the addition of the beremeal makes to the taste of the rolls. All I can say is that they were really delicious, and would encourage you to try baking with it yourself or eat something made from it if you ever come across it.
Buon Appetito (as they say in Italy).


Saturday, 8 January 2011

The first work of the new year

I've started the year running (well sat down really - I definitely don't run!) having completed a dozen cushion covers for Elsie May and Bertha over the past couple of days .

This as meant that I've been able to start using some fabric that I bought from the Victoria and Albert (V & A) Museum when I was in London last April. They were holding an exhibition on quilts 1700 - 2010 and, with Liberty Art Fabrics, produced a range of fabrics based on some of the fabrics in the quilts. Unfortunately, I was unable to actually view the exhibition itself, but I did visit the exhibition's shop where you could buy the fabrics.

The fabrics were available in metre and half-metre lengths or as fat quarters (for those who don't know, a fat quarter is a piece of fabric that is half a metre in length and half the width of the fabric. As most fabrics are 1.5 metres wide, this makes the fabric wider than it is high, i.e. 50cm x 75cm, hence the 'fat'). The big problem I had was choosing which of the fabrics I wanted. I liked them all, here was an array of fabrics all the same type (cotton) so they could be used to together and there was so many things running through my head that I could make out of them. As I couldn't have one of everything (if only I could!), I ended up doing eeny, meeny, miny, mo and came up with the three fabrics pictured above.

The red one is called 'seed head' and is from a patchwork coverlet of printed cotton and linen  with applique and embroidery that was made in England between 1802 and 1830.

The one with the dark brown background is called 'India flower (green)' and was taken from a patchwork coverlet composed of block printed cottons of the 1780s and 1790s. The coverlet was made in Britain and is dated 1797.

The pale blue backgrounded fabric that I've used in the above cushion cover and the one in the first photo of this blog is called 'petals' and is from a patchwork coverlet pieced from various early 19th century printed cottons. It was possibly made in Wales and dated 1830 - 40.

 Although the exhibition has now closed  you can still get the fabrics online from the V & A shop .


Wednesday, 5 January 2011

The start of a new year

The house is really looking empty as the Christmas decorations have been taken down, so to cheer us all up here's some pictures of my Mother and Father's decorations that were really good this year.

The tree

Here's a couple from my sister's house.

Having had a great Christmas break, lots of relaxing, reading, television viewing and too much eating, I'm now back to work on projects for Elsie May and Bertha, including reorganising the site and creating new items for sale. Follow my progress through the blog and at Twitter (@emandlo).