Winter wooly Samsara bird, meringue nests and the dimensions of failure

That ‘Christmas in July’ thing has started

I know we’ve had a bit of a mixed bag of weather this summer with some very chilly days and nights but I’m starting to get those e-mails from crafting sites reminding me about Christmas. Or, more accurately, trying to encourage me to embrace (buy into – literally) Christmas and start shifting some of the Christmas stock they’ve ordered in and want gone before the end of December.

I usually delete them without even looking. The end of September is plenty advance notice for me, thank you.

Samsara winter woolie bird

Having said that, I had the urge to make another Samsara bird and use some winter wooly tweed. Here she is looking cute with her pom poms on. They came off a scarf I got from Vincent’s for €1. Brand new with its Penney’s tag on. Well, I couldn’t buy the trim for that AND there were 3 metres of it.

The rest of the materials were full price… Anyhoo, this one’s for me. Stuffed full of dried lavender and smelling gorgeous and now I am floating on a cloud of serenity despite the sufferings and dimensions of failure I have endured recently.

The dimensions of failure – meringue nests and the Bincident

First I made a batch of meringue nests. I’ve made them hundreds of times. No bothers. What I forgot was that I’d tipped a full box of fruit sugar (fructose) into the sugar tub and so measured out 6oz of ‘sugar’ unwittingly using a sugar whose natural sweetness is much greater than that of caster and should have been a third less….

I thought the mixture seemed runny when I started beating in the sugar…

While they were in the oven I made a fruit crumble – Bramley apples, blueberries and pears. What could go wrong? I used the same effing (‘f’ for fructose, obviously) sugar, didn’t I?! And made it to the same proportion of caster sugar to flour and butter. It was  S.W.E.E.E.E.E.T.

Now, this was before it was cooked. I always taste mixtures when raw (except egg white – eew) and decided to add more butter and flour just willy-nilly. There was plenty of time, you see, as the meringues were still cooking away.

And they were still sitting there in the oven over an hour and a half later, (oven turned down a bit) giving me more opportunity to mess with the crumble mix. I kept adding a bit more flour… a bit more butter… taste… uuh… It ended up a bit bleh (A LOT BLEH).

Finally, after 2 hours – plus, I got fed up waiting for the meringues. They were not drying out. Their physical properties were now defying  Newtonian physics. They were like squidgy life forms from Star Trek. I thought and thought (yes, I had to sit and think about this) and finally decided they had been a failure. A total Fructose failure. Two tray loads of them. So, pulled out the first tray and what happens? The sheet of baking parchment they were on just slid off the tray and the whole load just fell face down on the hot oven door. Steaming heaps of slurry covering the glass front. I just made a whole heap of hot garbage.

I took a bit more care with the second tray. They were like sticky toffee while hot. Like a packet of Murray mints left in the sun. Still, I transferred them to a cooling rack. Maybe they’d dry out and improve for it. What was I on??? Another dimension of failure.  I tried to throw them out to the birds but they wouldn’t leave the cooling rack. Stuck down like industrial strength epoxy resin. I had to prise them off using almost Nexus 6 replicant finger strength, coating my hands with quick drying splints (Yes, now they dry out) of what could easily have been Plaster of Paris. Or concrete.

And so to the fruit crumble

Anyway, I should have realised something was very wrong. Anyone in their right mind would have realised something was wrong. Anyone with half a mind would have realised something was wrong. But I didn’t. My critical faculties had totally deserted me. So I put it in the oven and cooked it.

Maybe it would improve by cooking. This course of action just defied logic. It was like checking out room 237 of the Overlook Hotel and seeing only the ‘lovely-lady’ even when the mirror showed her looking like a compost heap covered in cabbages.  I have no excuses. I was as thick as a whale sandwich.

Anyhoo, back to the crumble. Did it improve? Of course it bloody didn’t. It went in tasting like old plasterboard and came out like mouse-mat motorway surfacing.

But, like Gloria Gaynor, I will survive. Did you think I’d crumble?

Here Goes… At Last!

** I have opened an Etsy shop – whooo-hoooo! It’s called Ellie Emyn!! I’m new to it all so will find the ‘proper’ Etsy badge and post it when I get more time but it’s there!! I did it!! **

I think this will be the first cutting file I’ll place on Etsy as either a PDF template or actual papercut. This one is custom made, obviously and was for a winter baby, hence the snowflakes. But the main part of the template is easily (ish) customisable although I#d have to find a substitute for the snowflakes. And the moon wouldn’t be appropriate for a day time baby….

***Ellie Emyn – NOW ON ETSY!!**

And what if the baby’s name was more than say, 13 characters or so long?  And shipping out a flimsy piece of paper makes my toes curl. How could it survive the rigours of the PO?

Just trying to think though the logistics and whether I’m prepared for all eventualities… off to read up and research but fingers crossed. We shall see.

The White Rocking Chair

A quick pic of the now-white rocking chair without the cushions. This came from a charity shop and was a dark brown colour. Now, with its fresh white paintwork it’s transformed into something lovely. It’s stored in the gloryhole of my back room, which is also waiting for a paint makeover… Isn’t it always the way, you do one thing up and suddenly everything else looks the worse for it! Meh!

We stripped off the wallpaper a long time ago – one of those washable ones that leaves a lining paper behind it and have still not got round to either re-papering or painting. One day…

Anzac Biscuits

Okay, this post isn’t really about Anzac biscuits. I just got all excited because I made some, wrapped them in greaseproof paper and secured them with washi tape and just loved how sweet they look!

The recipe for the biscuits is here: BBC Good Food

They are dead simple to make and are cooked by the time (8 to 10 mins) you’ve finished clearing up.

Cushions & Kitties

Cushions galore. After cutting paper for ages, the urge to run up a few new cushions took hold of me.  See the white rocking chair – this is the one I got from a charity shop recently. Big, sturdy and strong. But it was a dark brown and I wanted a clean, fresh colour and this egg shell off-white was perfect. I’ll take a bigger picture of it when I finish with the red rocking chair….

The strawberries and cream patchwork fabric (it’s a print, not real patchwork) cushion is intended for the red rocker. I made the most fabulous ruffled cushion to go with it but it got snaffled! It got bought! And before I could get a picture of it! It was the donkey’s conkers for being so pretty.  I tried to make another but the colour combination didn’t have the ‘Wow’ ( the green and cream bon-bon cushion above). It’s nice, it’s sweet but just doesn’t quite do it.

The inky blue and white florals are for the white rocker. Good Ikea fabric.

Finally the round one – used up the last of some Ikea fabric I’d had for ages to match one I made a while ago. It’s a very retro, 60s sort of print. Colours all sorts of sour oranges, green olives with pink-gin angostura bitter tones. Delicious. I topped it off with some fat bobble trim in a dark olive green and love it.

You can get a better look at the bon-bon here cushion here. And, while you’re looking, see the bookcase on the left? It’s a manky makeover in progress.

Manky Makeover

It’s not finished, not quite, but nearly. I’ll show you the original:

Since we moved in a couple of years ago we’ve done a lot to get the house sorted. There’s still a way to go with big ticket items like a new boiler, new shower room and some other stuff to save for so everything else we try to do on a shoestring.

It’s actually kind of fun to do it this way though time means that nothing gets done super quick. But it makes us think about ways to repurpose and upcycle stuff we would have just chucked or given to charity. Look at the manky unit in the picture. Jess is giving it a thorough once-over. It is minging. You can see why it had to go.

Originally it was an old MDF built-in ‘wardrobe’. Not my cup of tea so we ripped it out.  Then we thought it could make a useful tool box for down the shed so a box was made. Then I thought, ‘why not make a couple of shelves and turn it into a small bookcase?

And the almost-finished bookcase in the second picture above  is the result so far. It’s been cleaned, smoothed and papered. Where it wasn’t quite square there are some dark lines showing at the corner – this is wall paper paste with some brown colour that’s leached out of the MDF. No bothers – will touch up with some white paint and when that’s dry will Modge it and trim any bits of paper just proud of the frame.

For info, the papering job took about 3 hours and cost €9 for the roll of wallpaper from B & Q. Wallpaper paste was €1.49 from Dealz.

The Modge will bump the price up a bit but it’ll be worth it for a nice little bookcase which we really need. The first bookcase we made over (bookcase) is full and I have piles of books by the bed, the sewing room and my little bedroom office space.

Red Rocker

The red rocking chair got its first makeover a while back. (Rocker) BUT it was nothing more than a paint job. The trouble was that the piece of wood at the top of the chair had been replaced with plywood. It didn’t match and even with the paint, you could see the gritty (shitty) surface of the panel. Hence the throw over it in the shot.

We’ve had a piece made for it and it’s been replaced. Then the whole chair needed painting again to get an even colour but now it’s gorgeous. All I need to do is add a doty little stencil across the panel in cream, fit its strawberry and cream cushion and it’ll be perfect.

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