Exponential growth and the joy of spring

We’re near the end of April and though the weather is definitely more springlike, it’s still got plenty of wintry bite. Irish weather, eh?! yesterday we had a fierce hailstorm. The TV weather forecasters call such showers of hail  followed by rain with cold north winds ‘ Wintry Micks’ – okay, not really. Wintry Mix. And, this morning, following a very cold night, there was ice on the car. How very rude.

I could hear the wind last night and pulled the quilt around my ears (it’s a feather and down and felt like a warm cloud… ahhhh) to shut out the windy squirls and skirls. It could have been the bagpipes at Shrimpies place on Downton though.

I’m reading a collection of Victorian ghost stories and came across the following words: ‘The house was subject to many external annoyances’, and thought it very apropos. Of all the stories in the collection, my favourite by far is one called ‘Playmates’ by A. M. Burrage. It’s a very sweet story about invisible playmates who turn out to be ghosts and not imaginary friends conjured up by a lonely child.

Did you have any imaginary friends? I had ‘The Germans’ that I, apparently, chattered and played with for a very long time.

This month’s book club selection is David Baldacci’s ‘The Guilty’ which I’ve yet to start. I got sidetracked by various other books that jumped into my library bag, including Sophie Dahl’s ‘The Man With the Dancing Eyes’ which charmed me enormously. It’s a short book that you would read in half an hour or so but is a delight, especially as each page has beautiful illustrations by Annie Morris. Gorgeous little book.

Home renovation is still ongoing. We basically have only weekends and evenings to devote to it so progress isn’t exactly zipping long. Still, progress is being made and the downstairs bathroom is nearly finished. Then it’s time to look at the sewing room. Then we’ll be looking to install the new fire surround and mirror in the living room. A big job. Redecoration and new flooring. We’re trying to work to a one-room-a-month schedule so we’ll see how it goes.

The sewing room is obviously one of my favourite places but I get so fed up vacking in there. Lint, thread and fibres, those cardinals of carpet crap, cling like cooked eggy bits in a poacher. We’ve decided that the carpet needs to go and we’re putting down laminate flooring which will make clearing up the bits an absolute doddle.

The lounge still has a machine on the dining table, the sewing room still being full of stuff to be organised, so am happy to say that my sewing passion can still be indulged. Last night I dropped the dog feeds and had a play with some free motion sewing to appliqué a spring hare onto grey linen. Everything else is hand-stitched and overlaid on fine cream gauzey linen to try to create a naive, primitive effect. I like the end result and hope to make a cushion from some charcoal coloured tweed and sew it onto that.

A lavender bird came singing into spring as well. This one is slightly different to the Samsara birds that I usually make. The top semi-circle is stitched on over the filled semi-circle giving a padded edge. The photo doesn’t show it very clearly but IRL it looks quite cute. My lavender is nearly all gone so about time to get another kilo from Blackadder via Amazon. Can’t remember how much the last kilo was but it was very reasonable. I do freshen it with pure lavender oil from time to time as it takes a while to get through a kilo of dried lavender and it naturally loses its scent a little.

Here is the Lavender Birdle looking perky hanging from a decorative (well, it is now) coffee pot.

Signs of spring are definitely here. These two planters are resplendent with daisies and purple pansies. Buds are appearing everywhere and the hydrangeas are full of promise to be as blowsy, ostentatious and outrageously colourful again as they have been in previous years.

I was looking for a USB and couldn’t find my regular one so dug this What-O Gent USB out of the drawers. He’s quite a splendid chap and when I got him, around 6 years or so ago, his 2GB was fairly respectable. Not any more, as you know! These days, you need a capacity of around 64Gb to command techy ‘respect’. I confess, his 2Gb was more than I needed and the only large capacity device I really need is my back up drive, a 2 TB bad boy . No doubt, Moore’s Law with its predictions of exponential growth, will see this device as somewhat lame and lacking in a year or two. Until then, it does me.

Well, back to the other stuff that must be done today. Have happy thoughts and a good day.

Bee Cake

The cake got finished and is delicious. It’s not strictly a lemon madeira, more that it is very similar to a lemon madeira but nicer, IMHO.

The bee hive is of simple construction – I’m sure you can see at a glance how it was made: yellow fondant icing rolled into coils and wrapped around the cake. The daisies are made from white fondant popped out of flower cutters. Time was short and it had to be finished by 10.00 so there wasn’t time for anything too detailed or difficult so it had to be relatively informal. The end result was very lovely and I was relieved and delighted it had turned out so pretty.

I’m thinking the cake mix would do well in little bundt tins and topped with frosted primrose petals or other edible flower petals (edible is the operative word here. Wash and pat dry on kitchen roll, brush them with egg white and dip in fine caster sugar. Leave them to dry and then use them to decorate your cakes and bakes).

The cake was delivered just in time: my friend’s daughter was just round to pick her up and whisk her off to a garden centre. Her face lit up! She called round later to say it was delicious and thank me again! That was nice and I was made up.

Finally finished a teapot cosy that was made back in… dunno. Victorian times… well, a while ago. It simply needed ribbon inserting for the tie at the top and elastic in the bottom. Both two minute jobs but had been left forever. So, procrastination – no thanks- positive action, Yes Please, and I got on with it. All cosied up with a teapot and ready for active service now.

I’m sitting here listening to Radio 4 and delighted that my favourites are all available:

  • I’ve Never seen Star Wars
  • The News Quiz
  • The Unbelievable Truth
  • Bleak Expectations
  • Wordaholics

There are others, these are just my first glance down the screens. Comedy is the best. Love comedy and on that note I was shocked to read that Victoria Wood died yesterday. Such sad, sad news. Dinner Ladies is often repeated on the telly and I can watch it again and again and still laugh, snicker, snirtle and snort.

In memory to Victoria Woods a tiny couple of lines from the brilliant ‘Dinnerladies’:

‘You’re not pregnant then?’ ‘Not unless sperm can get through a sash window’.

Pressure at work can affect your sex life, they did a questionnaire [reading] “Are you too busy to have an orgasm?”Orgasm? I’ve not blown my nose since Wednesday!

Off to a good start

Good Morning! The sun is smiling on Ireland today. It’s a lovely, sunny fresh start to the day. Do you eat breakfast? I always do. It’s the one meal I rarely go without. It’s usually a slice of toast with a poached egg on top or fruity porridge.

Mr Smiff ALWAYS comments that Chia seeds look like frog spawn. You can see for yourself in the pic! I prefer to think it’s more like semolina. They are supposed to be very healthful. I soak mine in almond milk or coconut milk overnight. I’ve read that eating them dry and chasing them down with a glass of water or other liquid can be dangerous as they swell very quickly and can cause an oesophageal blockage. They wouldn’t be very nice to take dry, anyway, but are delicious when plumply juiced after being steeped.

Goji Berries are another favourite. These you can eat dry and are very tasty. The rest of the goodies in my fruity breakfast porridge include:

  • apricots
  • raisins
  • sunflower seeds
  • sultanas
  • coconut oil
  • almond milk
  • brown sugar

Don’t they make for a  nutritious breakfast?! The brown sugar may be a bit naughty but I like it. Sometimes I grate an apple and / or a carrot in as well. Sometimes frozen raspberries or blueberries. Scrummy.

Paper Cutting

With all the DIY work we’re up to our eyes in, I still found time to design and cut a papercut for my newly decorated and laminate-floored ‘office’ wall. (I wear my halo with pride though it’s a little tight today, lol).

It’s not quite right – the hare on the left does look like it’s engaging in something ‘anti-social’… and the mushrooms – ner – just not right. I will re-draw and recut. It’s to be expected, design work is somewhat iterative and can be a PITA but preliminary proof of concept and prototypes are the name of the game. And, it’s easy to get rusty so you have to keep your hand in.

It didn’t help that I was trying to rush it a bit having lemon shortbread in the oven. Sadly, another fail! I left it a little too long and they were a bit browned off – like me.

Today I need to take more care as I’m making a cake for my neighbour’s birthday tomorrow. It will involve a spherical cake tin, lemon madeira cake with lemon syrup, lemon butter icing and roll out fondant with some modelling skills that I hope I can lay claim to. Time will tell. Pictures will also follow at some point. Even if it’s an epic FAIL. Promise.

Chooky Bird Doorstop

These triangular chooky birds are all over the net. They are everywhere. I’ve made many of them as lavender sachets, doorstops and paper/dressmaking weights. They are a hoot to make and you can go to town making them up from fabric scraps. This cheeky chookie used up some oddments of fabric (Ikea), prairie corners left over from some cushions (beak), a petal from a pincushion with a tinchy bit of stuffing inside (wattle) and a crochet heart stitched onto batting for the comb.

If you Google for triangular chickens you’ll find instructions and tutorials from Missouri Star, Debbie Shore and many, many more.

The one in the picture is a chunky chooky and weighted with sand and new kitty litter. I’m calling her Peggy and she’s my latest doorstop.

Anyway, off to make The Cake so fingers crossed it comes out well. The neighbour’s birthday is tomorrow. I’ll stay in the kitchen until it’s pretty much done. Probably stick Downton Abbey on the telly, as I’m fairly immune to the frilly upsets that go on but it can engage me sufficiently to hang around without getting absorbed. Sounds odd but I don’t want anything that will capture my interest and distract me from the Big Bake. BUT, I get bored and if there’s nothing else for me to do, I’ll wander away to Enchanted Ground and forget the cake. As we know, dear reader, that is a bad path to go down!

Well, away to the oven and let the cake making begin.

Peanut Butter Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Topping

Here’s the recipe for the peanut cupakes, the salted caramel sauce and the buttercream icing. The batch I made didn’t last long. Just enough time to drizzle with edible fairy dust before they got scoffed!

Click the link for the free PDF:

Hope you make them – they’re a real treat. Enjoy.

Time to fly

The grey bird (see the last post)  is winging off to Cavan to make its nest with a lovely lady in a lovely traditional Irish cottage. He’s stuffed with Highloft and lots and lots of lovely, fragrant lavender to enjoy and relax to. Bye, Bye, Birdie.

I have lots of strips from wooly blankets rolled into a ball to make lots more birdies. Well, one of them is a ball. The other is like a heap of boiled spaghetti, respectfully called ‘His Noodliness’.

The colours are beautiful and warm. I just wish it had the wild beardy trim like my Big Grey Ball:

Like a big, wooly cabbage, isn’t it? I’m using it up on Wooly Sam birds. All along its edge it has a wild, wooly beard. The sort that properly clever good-at-maths professors have! Lol! The kind they can tuck a couple of protractors, a slide rule and a bunch of doughnuts in with no sign of bulging.

And other kinds of wooly balls – how about this furry ball of fun? Gracie wanted a selfie but couldn’t work the camera. Told you she didn’t sleep all the time!

Jess wasn’t interested. She was too busy looking out of the window:

Sky TV.

Something got her laughing. Probably my joke… Lol.

I got stitching and made a Spool Bird. I’ve wanted to have a go since reading about them here: Spool Bird

Quick and easy to make and ideal for stuffing with Lavender and High Loft. She’s sitting on the heart over the fireguard. The contrast isn’t great but you get the idea, besides, you’ll see lots more if you Google for  Spool birds. This picture does remind me that the fireplace will be gone in the next month or so – see the post below for the beautiful new firesurround waiting to be installed. I am so excited.

Posing the Spoolie got Gracie interested. She keeps an eye open to see what fun she can have. When I’m baking and spending a lot of time in the kitchen, Gracie sits by the radiator and watches me. She had a marathon viewing over the weekend.

This yum-yum piggy’s bum is a Salted Caramel  and Peanut Butter Cupcake. I’ll write up and post the recipe. It’s a definite keeper. I wasn’t sure at first but after leaving them for a couple of days they came to life and are proper gorgeous!

I also made The Mary Berry Simnel Cake. Drop-Dead-Gorgeous. I think it’s my favourite cake ever. More than Christmas Cake. It keeps calling to me like a siren to dash me on the rocks of Big Knickers and steel girder-reinforced bra contraptions. I’m having to exercise tremendous willpower to stop myself eating it all. Oh, Mary Berry, how do you stay so slim?!

Anyhow, Google for the recipe and make it. If you like fruit cake, you’ll LOVE it. Trust me on this.

Finally, I posted a  set of bootees on Etsy:

The bootees aren’t a new design but the box is. If you want to see more pictures of them – or are interested in buying them – click on the ‘I Sell On Etsy’ badges on this site and it will take you straight there.

Have fun and don’t forget to smell the flowers.

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