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March 2011
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May 2011

Rambling thoughts

Tree-canopy
Tree canopy

Being back on a school timetable means fitting in my morning hill walk once again. I love the familiar path my feet take each morning while Pippi trots alongside stopping at her own favourite spots here and there. I was amazed on Tuesday to find the same paths I trod three weeks ago now covered by a thick canopy of leaves. These walks give my brain a chance to ramble, it's very good at rambling, even when I don't want it to. Here's an example.

Copying is bad. Whether it's school work, peoples' art or an author's words. A person who copies another person's work not only acts immorally but also robs him or herself of the chance to grow creatively. I've had work copied, and believe me, it's more than a little heartbreaking to open a book and find a project I created on someone else's printed pages; but I chose to do nothing because I'd rather move on than fight. It seems nowadays more people than not have had a similar problem, maybe I should have had the heart to say something. It's good to keep in mind that there are positive ways of trying to correct these wrongs and that some people just need educating about online courtesy and copyright practices. Pat has an excellent post about the subject and World Intellectual Property Day and Pam has a very well worded letter that she has generously offered to share here.

When I chose to make this online journal public, I decided from the start to keep my most treasured projects to myself, my friends and family or for paid publication; as I discussed with a friend recently, my very favourite things don't make it onto this blog space. The Internet is a wonderful place where anyone can find almost anything but it can also be a terrible place for the very same reason.

Etsy is a well known hotbed of talent, but also an open sourcebook for copycats and it seems there's little Etsy can (or will) do about it. Two friends, Lisa and Sonia, each for their own reasons, have left the Etsy umbrella and are now selling with Big Cartel. For a seller of handmade work it's important to look long and hard at the pros and cons of various selling platforms. Sonia gave a detailed and eloquent explanation for why she made the move, it made me think (and of course ramble;) I currently pay a monthly fee to a very good e-commerce company for my neglected Stitch Village shop but I will probably change to Big Cartel myself, it's templates are neater and it's less expensive for a small time seller like me. I'm working towards selling more items soon.

Quickie gift
Quick chain stitch gift

Last night Gracie asked me to make a quick birthday gift for the older sister of a friend, she's turning 11 today. I put together this necklace using just a chain stitch and vintage beads. Gracie was so happy that we could create a present in such a short space of time (about 20 mins); I'm lucky G values handmade gifts.

There are many more subjects for my ramblings that I wanted to share but this is getting way too long. I'll save my love of the RAC who saved me on Easter Sunday, my link to a new favourite site found via Erin, recently found treasures and fun WIPs for later. I end with another thank you for more unexpected gifts that have come to me in the post. I'm so touched by the thoughtfulness of friends.

I hope this hasn't been too long and dull but sometimes links to the mundane stuff is helpful to me, thought it might be for you too.

Happy Friday!

Jx

P.S. Happy wedding William and Kate.


The long days of summer... I mean spring

Tree sculpture
Magical 

We have been so blessed with the warmest spring I can remember in my last 14 years here in England. The last two weeks have been summer temperatures nearly everyday and we've woken each morning to be surprised by the gift of another day of sun. 

While in Kent we spent some glorious days with special old friends and warm and generous family. A trip to the beach one day and a long walk in our favourite bluebell woods was a treat. The image above left is one of many sculptures dotted through the landscape there. The sculptures are suspended in the trees without the use of any hardware that could pierce and damage the tree trunks or branches.

Blue woods
Blue woods and old friends

Photos never can quite capture the ethereal colour of those bluebell woods.

Easter colours
Colouring our Easter

On Saturday we dyed eggs with a mixture of natural food colouring and vinegar. I was happy to see these yellow poppies in my sweet sister-in-law's garden. When my husband and I were married, nearly fourteen years ago, we gave California wildflower seed to our guests in tiny clay pots and my SIL planted them. The poppies continually reseed themselves in her garden and now they can be spotted here and there throughout her village.

Cambridge cottage
Visiting 

Visiting the home of friend Fi and her family is always a treat. Her beloved garden is beautiful, our children adore being together and many cups of tea with her famous rock cakes are enjoyed. The only problem is that it's very hard to leave. 

Studio
A painter's garden

We ended our time away with a huge feast at another dear sister-in-law's with grandparents and cousins too, even some mates for Pippi to play with. We've brought home bags full of chocolate eggs and bunnies that will easily see us through to the new year but we also brought back more happy memories of fun time spent with wonderful friends and family. My camera battery died not long after arriving so most of these images are from my phone, lesser quality images are better than none I think.

I hope you enjoyed a warm and wonderful holiday weekend too.

Jx


Grateful for spring and friends and things

Sunny-tree 

Sometimes I feel like a tree with big heavy branches. My trunk, the core of me very strong and rooted to the earth; my branches though can at times feel a little weighed down and overburdened. No doubt you know the feeling.

Hedgerow life

Right now I'm bolstered by the sun and it's warm and propped up by the newness of spring and the kindness of friends and family. Unexpected gifts and inspiring words make the days even brighter and more special.

Unfurling

We've been enjoying the unfurling of new life every day and feeling lucky to have so many sunny days and we are grateful.

Walking 

Now we're off for an impromptu trip to visit to see people we love.

If you celebrate Easter, Happy Easter, if not happy spring. See you when we return.

Jx


Simple food and things

The-colours-of-yum
Lasagna in the making

If we all wanted different meals when we were younger we always got the same response from my mother, "This isn't a restaurant." Entirely the most appropriate response, especially with four young children to please. Though I always thought I'd have four too, I'm finding two children is often the perfect number of offspring. Making lasagna to order for instance; I simply layer each side with different ingredients. Each has their own favourite veg and sauce. Tristan is a pesto lover and Gracie likes tomato. Gracie eats all vegetables but Tris is more selective. When it comes to putting it all together they often do the layering themselves.

I recently asked the children to make a list of their favourite meals and this veggie lasagna made it into both their top fives.

The baking dish we use makes 4 portions or 3 large portions. If I'm making this just for the two children then there's enough for their dinner and leftovers for their lunch the next day.

This recipe fits into a small baking dish 20cm x 28cm (8 x 11 inches)

We have no recipe for this lasagna but this is how we make it.

Ingredients:
6 sheets of fresh lasagna pasta
250g pot of ricotta,
A few handfuls of mozzarella grated (roughly 1.5 cups)
1 egg
Selection of lightly steamed vegetables (Peas can go straight in fresh or frozen) 
Olive oil to drizzle 
Sauce of choice (we use green pesto on half and tomato sauce on the other half)

Preheat the oven to about 190 C and put one large pot of water on a gentle boil.

We don't have a pasta maker but we use fresh lasagna sheets from the supermarket fridge section.

Lightly steam a variety of vegetables and add a handful of fresh or frozen peas to the selection. Set the veg aside.

Mix one pot of Ricotta with a few handfuls or grated mozzarella (I'm guessing a little more than a cup) and one egg to bind. Mix well with a fork and set aside.

Put a couple of fresh pasta sheets into the boiling water for a minute or two. 

Spread a little sauce on the bottom of your baking dish. Take the two sheets of parboiled pasta from the water, let the water drip off of them then lay them over the sauce, covering the bottom of your dish with them (my dish was covered with two large sheets of lasagna pasta).

Add another layer of sauce over the sheets of pasta then spread over a couple spoonfuls of the cheese mixture. Top the cheese with a selection of vegetables.

Pop another two sheets of pasta in the water for a minute or two then repeat the process of layering pasta, sauce, cheese and veg again. Lastly, top with another two lightly boiled pasta sheets, then the remaining cheese mixture sprinkled with more grated mozzarella, enough to mostly cover the pasta. I also drizzle a little olive oil to the corners and edges so be sure it lifts out of the dish easily.

Bake for roughly 30 mins or until the cheese browns a little.

Note: We use the fresh pasta and partly steamed vegetables to cut down on the baking time I find it helps keep the veg and pasta from getting too gloopy and mushy.

Button-backs We've been spring cleaning up a storm and I'm happy to say we've excavated our way to G's floor. I'm only wishing my energy could stretch to the garden, it's in need of some hard graft, harder than I can muster this year. We might have to forego the vegetable plot, but who knows, the sun is shining today and it's nourishment might provide enough energy to at least get one bed dug up and ready for planting.

I also shipped out a few packages earlier this week. Lately I've taken to using mother of pearl button backs. Many of the mother of pearl buttons are scratched and dull on the fronts but are dotted with delicate colours on the backs, flipping them is a happy solution.


Bluebell-time
Bluebell time

We welcomed a new babe into the family this past week too. One of my sister-in-laws has two grown-up children and her eldest gave birth to baby Lily on Wednesday, we can't wait to meet her. Congratulations to Debs and Chris.

We're off for a walk, it's bluebell time, a spring highlight for us.

Happy Sunday,

Jx


A very important day

Mom and Dad web
April 15th is a very important day in our family; my mom and dad were married 50 years ago today. So young, they practically grabbed their degrees then tiptoed down the aisle. Here they are full of dreams for family and future. They're loving, generous and supportive parents; we're blessed to be able to witness them reach this milestone. See you in the summer mom and dad, we love you.

Jx

It's also a special day for Margie, a kind, talented and an immensely inspiring friend. Happy birthday to you Margie!


Bunny droppings

Bunny-pattern,-Japan
Dandelion and Buttercup 

Dandelion and Buttercup here are going to be popped in the post later today to hitch a ride all the way to Japan. They're taking part in Operation Bunny Drop and they are very excited.

Operation Bunny Drop, organized by Liz Minnick is about "...crafting soft and simple bunnies for children in Japan who are recovering from the effects of the recent natural disasters, many displaced and all needing LOVE and HOPE."

To take part, fill out the simple registration form here. Whip up some sweet bunnies and send them off to Japan stuffed with your own love and hope. There is a Facebook page dedicated to the effort where you can find patterns and share images too.

Dandelion-bunny
Dandelion showing off her needle-felted wool roving tail

I learned about this project from Pat just after my last post linking to my free Sunny Bunny pattern. I looked through my felted wool stash and a gentle, butter coloured blanket spoke to me. It was just begging to be stitched up into toys for children. Dandelion, the Cuddle Bunny, is from Pat's pattern and is a real joy to hand stitch. Gracie is extremely fond of him and has made me "pinky swear" that I will make her one just like it. Buttercup is a Sunny Bunny.

Well we must go and get ready for the post.

Happy, sunny Tuesday to you.

Jx

update: excuse my earlier brain fade when I wrote "Lisa" instead of "Pat" regarding Cuddle Bunny

 


Boards and bunnies and things

Inspiration-board-redo
Filling my new, old board

This week has been about doing a lot of nothing except simple, mindless projects and hanging out with my two favourite little people who are off for Easter break. The last few days have brought sun and warmth helping to inject a bit of much needed energy into my days.

I've been dragging around this old pin board for yonks. It had a small Laura Ashley print on it that I hated so I never bothered to make space for it here where wall space is at a premium. When I moved my glass cupboard one result was a big enough wall for my board, but I still had to do something to cover up the print. I chose one of my coffee bags that I use mostly for school projects, decorating at harvest festivals and things. I decided one could be spared for my board and I'm happy with the result. 

Twine-trim
Gluing a couple rows of jute twine over the stapled edge

Very easy, I just stretched it across, staple-gunned the edges a whole lot then covered up the staples with jute twine. I'll darken the frame with a bit of stain or some shoe polish but I was too impatient for that and desperate to start pinning. Before pinning I sprayed it with water and ironed it, the sack pressed and flattened really well.

Fair-Isle-bunny
Fair Isle Bunny gift

We made a few teacher presents like this quick bunny from a very thick felted fair isle jumper. We stuffed a chocolate egg in him (poor bunny) and secured his, ummm..... bottom with a slide button closure.

Bunny-bottom
Slide button bum ;)

He was made for a special teacher; this post shows how we made him. If you'd like a stuffed bunny softie pattern you can get the one I created last year here. Or check out the bunny pattern we'll be stitching up this year, Pat's super cute little stitched bunnies; available here.

House-camp
Camp heaven

T & G set up camp in the family room at the weekend with a small sun shade tent, not weather-proof for real camping. They've slept there each night, Pippi too. Mostly they're excited to have Pippi with them; I'm a mean mama and won't allow a doggy upstairs in the house so normally she sleeps alone. She's been in hog dog heaven, a very happy little pooch. I'd planned for the tent to come down after a couple of days but after I said goodnight and switched off the light two nights ago I heard T whisper "Night Gracie, love you." And then heard Gracie return the love - sniff. The tent stayed up.

Book-nook
Cozy place to read

Sunday it was turned into Mummy's Palace for Mother's Day. I was allowed to sleep in (not in the tent), had breakfast in bed and went for a wonderful walk to the pub for a pint - a lovely day. Yesterday was spent at the beach basking in the warmth. I filled one of my Forager bags and chased the dog from one picnic to another, greedy little thing.

I'm off to walk the greedy little thing now. Sorry for a lack of visits and emails, extra focus is needed elsewhere right now. Thanks for the sweet comments on my last post.

Happy Friday to you.

Jx