27 August 2013

Good Old Annie Sloan Chalk Paint

In my kitchen, I have a pine dresser. I have had it for about 15 years and although it is now a bit scratched and battered and going a bit orange, as pine sometimes does, I really like it and it's extremely useful for storage. I have been meaning to attack it with a tin of chalk paint for absolutely ages but I have not really had the time. Until yesterday. Yesterday I was in a very bad mood. My lovely truck had to go off to be scrapped because the head gasket had gone and I couldn't afford to get it fixed, I discovered that the bag of organic layers pellets had gone mouldy because it had been resting against a damp towel in the laundry room and I had to throw it away and my hideous neighbours were once again being vile and all this was before about 8am! Not a good morning and because of my bad mood, I knew there was no way I would be able to sit down and concentrate on sewing because I knew that I would be unpicking more than I actually sewed so I was slumped on the sofa watching awful bank holiday TV in a very grumpy mood. 

Then, while I was rummaging in the spare room looking for a magazine to read, I spotted the tin of Old White Chalk Paint that I had earmarked for the dresser. I had this mad idea that paining might get rid of some of my frustrations so I grabbed the paint, found a brush and after I had moved all the things off the dresser, I attacked the dresser with the paint. 


Three hours and two coats of paint later and the dresser was transformed. I have to say I love it but I am undecided as to whether I should sand it back and distress it. My mum says I shouldn't so I might just give it a coat of wax to give it a bit more durability. 


Unfortunately, as usual, having something newly painted in a room tends to show up all the marks and blemishes in the rest of the room so now I just need to paint the walls, paint the ceiling, paint the doors and paint the beams ........hmmmmm maybe painting that dresser wasn't such a bright idea after all :-)

25 August 2013

New Technology and a Beautiful Stained Glass Light Catcher.

Splashing out on frivolous new technology is not something I would normally do. I don't automatically replace things when a newer, shinier version is brought out, my phone is a hand-me-down from my youngest daughter, my digital camera is almost 10 years old and I am firmly of the belief that if it's not broke, no need to replace it! Lately though, I have been finding myself increasingly out and about with not much to do and also, with a lot of time at the market when I could be doing things like writing blog posts but, being woefully lacking in the up-to-date technology department was causing a few problems. So, a few weeks ago, I finally caved in and I bought a tablet. I won't mention the brand because I don't want to be accused of shameless plugging of a product and I also have to confess to being slightly doubtful at first because I thought I might have made a bit of a mistake by spending so much money on something that I might not be able to justify. I have to say though, I am now totally in love with it. I also found, very helpfully, that I could get it interest free from my catalogue and pay for it over 3 months. An ideal solution. It has a wifi and a cellular package so I can connect to the internet wherever I am and it has a great camera on it too so I have been snapping away with it at anything and everything to try and get a feel for it. In fact, it seems to have almost replaced my digital camera because there is no faffing about with cables to download the photos, it just sends them via miraculous technology straight to my laptop or, I can even post them straight to my blog. It's amazing! Here are a few of the snaps I took with it. 

Butterfly on the Buddleia (spot the bumble bee hiding under the butterflies wing!)

Metro Snuggled up on the Sofa

Moth in the Hallway

I also wanted to show you my new stained glass light catcher. It was made by a very talented young lady called Louise Hawkins who has a stall called "Made by Paws" at the market. She does the most beautiful stained glass light catchers and tiffany-style lampshades and pictures and also fabulous house signs and key racks. A couple of weeks ago, when she was at the market, she was working on a beautiful light catcher. I fell in love with the colours she was using and I asked her if I could buy it from her. She dropped it off yesterday morning along with a house sign for my gate. Here is it. I absolutely love it.

23 August 2013

A New Obsession and An Unusual Visitor to the Market

Earlier this year, I went to a one day course at my local craft shop to learn how to make amazing pictures and rugs using an Oxford Punch Tool. You can read the post HERE. Then I joined the Market at Trerulefoot and sewing took over from pretty much all other crafts and the punch tool and my wool stash were put away in my craft room and forgotten about. Until now. This week, I decided that I wanted to do something different and I that I really wanted to make some wall hangings for the market so, I rummaged through my wool stash, nipped up to the craft shop for some supplies and I began making an owl wall hanging. After about 3 hours, this is what I had accomplished. 

He's actually now completed but I haven't got around to taking a photo yet and I'm still trying to figure out a way to hang him on a wall but, as  first attempt, I'm quite pleased with him. I'm already planning my next picture, I'm thinking a vase of brightly coloured flowers on a lovely swirly background. I think there is a very good chance that I could become very addicted to making these wall hangings :-)

As for the unusual visitor to the market, I was outside at the market yesterday morning just after we had finished setting up, chatting to one of my friends when we spotted one of these, hovering in front of the buddleia plants sucking the nectar out of the flowers. It's a hummingbird moth and it really does hover in front of the plants just like a hummingbird. We were thrilled to bits. Sadly I was too slow with my camera and this is an image that I found on the internet but you can bet I will be carrying it around with me today in case it comes back again. 

Online picture can be found here

The Scene of the Sighting :-)

21 August 2013

Deliciously Easy Eggy Recipes.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I currently have eggs in abundance thanks to my two lovely chickens laying two eggs a day and, after scaring the poor septic-tank-emptying-man half to death with my wild woman impression, I thought I should try and find ways of using the eggs in a slightly less alarming manner. 

Easy Eggs

1) Spray the muffin pan with nonstick spray or grease with a little butter.
2) Place a slice of ham in the bottom of each muffin well. 
3) Place about a teaspoon or so of diced tomatoes on top of the ham.
4) Sprinkle some shredded cheddar cheese over the tomatoes. 
5) Break one egg into each spot.
6) Sprinkle a little bit of salt and pepper on each.
7) Bake at 180/350 degrees for 18-20 minutes or until the yolks are as firm as you desire and the whites are cooked through.

You could also add smoked salmon to the bottom of the pan instead of the ham or some maybe chopped bacon. You could also add some herbs such as parsley or maybe some snipped chives. 

Scotch Eggs

You Will Need

Eggs - however many you need 
Sausages - 1 sausage for each egg, I used pork and leek sausages in the ones I made in the picture.
Breadcrumbs - a couple of slices of bread, preferably a bit on the stale side, whizzed in a food processor to make crumbs
1 beaten egg for coating.

1) Hard boil your eggs and cool in cold water when done. 
2) Take the skin off a each sausage in a pack of your favourite sausages. 
3) Whizz the bread in the food processor to make breadcrumbs.
4) Flatten out a sausage and mould it around the hard boiled egg making sure it's covered.
5) Dip the sausage covered egg in the beaten egg and then roll in the breadcrumbs until completely covered.
6) Place on a baking sheet and bake in the oven at 190 C / Gas mark 5 oven until lightly browned, about 25 minutes.

Baked Tomato Eggs

900g ripe vine tomatoes
3 garlic cloves
3 tbsp olive oil
4 large free range eggs
2 tbsp chopped parsley and/or chives/or basil (I prefer basil)

1) Preheat the oven to fan 180C/ conventional 200C/gas 6. 
2) Cut the tomatoes into quarters or thick wedges, depending on their size, then spread them over a fairly shallow 1.5 litre ovenproof dish. 
3) Peel the garlic, slice thinly and sprinkle over the tomatoes. 
4) Drizzle with the olive oil, season well with salt and pepper and stir everything together until the tomatoes are glistening.
5) Slide the dish into the oven and bake for 40 minutes until the tomatoes have softened and are tinged with brown.
6) Make four gaps among the tomatoes, break an egg into each gap and cover the dish with a sheet of foil. 
7) Return it to the oven for 5-10 minutes until the eggs are set to your liking. Scatter over the herbs and serve piping hot with thick slices of toast or warm ciabatta and a green salad on the side.

This is en extremely cheap and easy supper but it is totally delicious. I like to add some grated garlic to the tomatoes but that's just because I love garlic. You could also add some chopped bacon if you like or some diced ham. I also like to use some anchovy fillets draped over the top and I usually sprinkle some grated cheese over the top of everything once they are almost cooked and pop it back in the oven so the cheese melts and bubbles. 

                                                                      Lemon Curd
Picture courtesy of BBC food 

4 unwaxed lemons, zest and juice
200g/7oz unrefined caster sugar

100g/3½oz unsalted butter, cut into cubes
3 free-range eggs, plus 1 free-range egg yolk

1) Put the lemon zest and juice, the sugar and the butter into a heatproof bowl. Sit the bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, making sure the water is not touching the bottom of the bowl. Stir the mixture every now and again until all of the butter has melted.

2) Lightly whisk the eggs and egg yolk and stir them into the lemon mixture. Whisk until all of the ingredients are well combined, then leave to cook for 10-13 minutes, stirring every now and again, until the mixture is creamy and thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

3) Remove the lemon curd from the heat and set aside to cool, stirring occasionally as it cools. Once cooled, spoon the lemon curd into sterilised jars and seal. Keep in the fridge until ready to use.

This definitely beats anything you can buy in the shops and can be made with different fruits such limes, grapefruit and even strawberries, which gives it a consistency of kind of a fromage frais and is delicious if you eat it with shortbread. I also use this lemon or lime curd in my sponge sandwiches instead of jam when I want something a little bit different. 

Does anyone else have any favourite egg recipes??

20 August 2013

Look Out For The International Space Station

Where I live, in deepest darkest Cornwall, there are hardly any houses and there are no street lights. This means there is hardly any light pollution at all and consequently, it's possible, on a clear night, to see hundreds of thousands of stars. I often stand outside at night, when I'm taking the dogs out, staring up at the sky (not surprising really that my neighbours all think I'm mad!). It's totally, amazingly beautiful and kind of puts into perspective what a very small part of the universe we really are. This week, I discovered that along with the millions of stars, it is also sometimes possible to spot the International Space Station with the naked eye. The best time to observe the ISS is, obviously, when it's night time but, because of its size, it actually reflects a large amount of sunlight so it can also be seen at sunrise and sunset because of the suns rays hitting it and being reflected off it.

Now for the geek bit :-) The ISS is a habitable, artificial satellite in low Earth orbit. It was launched in 1998 and it measures just over 72 m long by around 108 m wide and 20 m high and is maintained at an orbital altitude of between 330 km (205 mi) and 410 km (255 mi) travelling at an average speed of 27,724 kilometres (17,227 mi) per hour. It completes 15.7 orbits of the Earth every day. There are three people permanently manning the International Space Station. The crew are on a rota and each rotation is between 4-6 months. When the shuttle goes up, it can carry up to seven additional people so there can be as many as ten people on the station when the shuttle is there.

For any of you who fancy having a look, you can find the ISS page HERE and you can put in your location or your postcode in the search box on the right or you can move the map to your location and you can go out tonight and have a look and see if you can see it. The green bars on the chart indicate how bright the ISS will appear on its pass.

I have seen it twice now, once on Thursday night, quite by accident and once on Saturday night when we were actually looking for it. It looks a bit like a plane passing overhead but it's brighter and it doesn't flash. 

Long Exposure photo of a visible ISS pass Credit: Mark Humpage

Sadly my attempt at a photo is not nearly so beautiful and consisted of my daughter snapping away with her iPad. 

19 August 2013

One More Reason to Make Do and Mend

Before I start, I want to point out that this is not a post, that in any shape of form, is intended to knock Ikea or it's products, or any other furniture shop for that matter. I was just staggered when I read an article in the papers about the amount of resources that are used in the production of new furniture and I wanted to write a post about it. 

I'm sure we have all, at some point, visited an Ikea store. I know when I lived in London it was quite a regular occurrence and like most people that visit Ikea I was also guilty of coming away with a whole load of stuff that I didn't really need but seemed like a good idea at the time....... they are very sneaky at marketing and product placement in Ikea. Launched in 1943, the Swedish business has grown to become the world's biggest furniture company and according to an article in The Guardian, in the last financial year, 655 million people flocked to its stores, of which it currently owns 298 in 26 countries. Quite an amazing fact but, the most startling fact of all is that last year it used 13.56 million cubic metres of solid wood and wood-based board materials, not including paper and packaging, which amounted to almost 1% of all wood used commercially in the world. Staggering!! Although Ikea are now attempting to increase their existing sustainability policy, it still got me thinking. 

Sawdust and wood at Ikea's particle board factory in Sweden (Pictures Courtesy of National Geographic)

In my house, mostly due to lack of funds and a need to be thrifty, all the furniture I have, with the exception of my bed, is either recycled and bought cheaply from second hand stores or re-purposed, re-painted and given a new lease of life. The things I have in my house I love because of this and not in spite of it. I can think of nothing nicer than finding a piece of furniture that is tired and boring and giving it a new lease of life. I love car boot sales and I especially love rummaging around in junk shops however, it seems that junk shops have now cottoned on to the fact that more and more people are upcycling. Thanks, in no small part, to tv programs like Kirsty's Homemade Home and her new program Fill Your House For Free, prices in junk shops now seem to be rising sharply as more people are bitten by the upcycling bug. There are still bargains to be had but they do take a lot more rummaging to find and a bit of imagination, which is totally fine by me I'm all for a good rummage :-)

Anyway I thought I would post a couple of picture of my junk shop finds. Firstly, here is our old piano. No one actually plays it but it would cost an arm and a leg to get someone to come and take it away and it's handy to display photographs and things on. It was so horrible and scratched that it looked awful so I decided that a coat of paint would be just the trick so, I painted it pink. 

This useful little table was given to me by a friend who was moving to Spain and was having a clear out. A coat of Chalk Paint and it was transformed. 

This gorgeous over mantle mirror was bought for £10 from an online auction site and was chipped and tatty with weird splodges of bright orange paint. A quick coat of chalk paint and it looked fabulous hung over the fireplace.

I really enjoy doing these mini makeovers and I was talking about my  junk-buying obsession with one of my friends from the market. She suggested that I do a few small pieces and take them to the market to sell. I'm seriously thinking about it. Not only will it bring a few extra pounds into the kitty but if people buy upcycled, repurposed, preloved items, it's one less tree that needs chopping down and I'm all for that!

If you love recycling things too, there is a fabulous blog called fleachic here that has the most amazing transformations. I absolutely love this blog and it has given me loads of ideas for transforming things I have bought. 

11 August 2013

Car Booty and An Unexpected Visitor

We are well into the swing of the car boot sales this year and apart from a couple of days when the weather was wet, I have been happily trundling along to my favourite one at 7am every Sunday morning. This morning was no exception and I managed to grab some lovely bargains. My best bargain this week was a beautiful 100% cashmere scarf for an amazing 50p! I love scarves, I have hundreds of them and I love how they can change a plain outfit into something fabulous and they come in really handy at the market when the weather turns cold. I have a sneaky suspicion though that the nice young gentleman who sold me the scarf will be getting a bit of a telling off from his girlfriend when she finds out how much he sold it to me for because most of the stuff on their table was obviously good quality and it was all quite pricey. She had left him manning the stall while she went and grabbed a cup of tea and he was having a whale of a time selling off everything for 50p and a pound. 

I also found a beautiful hand thrown bowl for £1

And some amazing fabrics, trimmings and embroidery thread for £2 and she even threw in the basket!

I also found out why the chickens had started to lay their eggs outside recently. As I was cleaning out their house this morning I discovered this cute little chap buried under the hay in the nesting box! The chickens are obviously are none too keen on sharing their house with him so he was relocated to the bushes near the pond in my field :-)

10 August 2013

My Eggy Dilemma

Some of you might know that few months ago, thanks to a lovely present of a hand-made chicken house from one of my market friends, I finally realised my dream of getting some chickens. Now, before I got my chickens, there was some debate as to how many we should get. Never one to do things by halves, my first instincnt was to get six. My ever sensible daughter advised I should get two. After much discussion, good sense prevailed and we became the proud owners of two very spoilt chickens. I love having them in my garden. They are totally hilarious and the little clucking, squawking sounds they make whenever I go into the garden to see them is very sweet and, of course, the eggs they lay are truly delicious.

When I first got my chickens, it took a few weeks for them to start laying and when they did finally start to lay, I was ecstatic. The two teeny pullet eggs I got every other day were enthusiastically consumed in a variety of different ways. Fried in a little butter or scrambled on a thick slice of buttered toast for breakfast, in an omelette with some cheese and a couple of home grown courgettes and salad leaves for a lunchtime treat or as home-made scotch eggs which, even though I say it myself, were delicious and even more so because it was the first time I had ever attempted them.

Anyway, for the last 6 weeks or so, my chicken have been laying 2 eggs each day, regular as clockwork and, much as I am grateful for all the lovely eggs, I am totally running out of ideas of things to cook with them. I therefore decided, in the spirit of sharing, that I should maybe give some of them away to friends and this is where I hit the snag. Every single one of my friends has chickens! My neighbours have chickens ......... the people with the field behind mine have chickens ......one of my market friends has 8000 free range organic chickens making my two eggs a day look like small fry compared to the amount of eggs she has to deal with so, not surprisingly, I was having a little bit of difficulty finding someone to bestow my delicious eggs on.

It was while I was trying to decide what to do with the two dozen eggs that had steadily accumulated in my cupboard that the very nice man came to empty our septic tank ....... a smelly, thankless task at any time of day but at 8am, even more grim so, I decided that I would cheer him up. I grabbed six of my eggs and rushed outside to bestow my gift on him only to receive a somewhat startled look of what can only be described as pure terror. Nevertheless, he accepted the eggs, thanked me and quickly scuttled back to his lorry to finish his task. It wasn't until I glanced in the mirror on my way back into the kitchen that I realised why he had looked so terrified. At 6.30 that morning, I had taken the dogs out into the field in my pyjamas for a run and had slipped over while trying to retrieve the rope chew thing from the tree where I had accidently chucked it. The dogs and I had then continued to have a roaring time playing fetch, hide and seek and seeing who could dig the biggest hole until it was time to head back inside for breakfast. Unbeknown to me I had managed to get mud all over my face and in my hair along with some unidentifiable vegetation and a couple of spiders for good measure and I looked like a complete wild woman ..... or possibly some lone survivor of a lost civilisation dressed in tartan pyjamas, green wellies and a fleece!! It's no wonder the poor man had scuttled off to his lorry, I'm surprised he was actually brave enough to take the eggs from me at all.

8 August 2013

Time To Get Back Into The Swing Of Things.

Wow it's been absolutely ages since I posted anything on here and I really have no excuse other than the fact that things have been really hectic around here, with most of my time spent sewing things for the market, going to lots of lovely car boot sales (although last Sunday's one was cancelled due to bad weather) and general, normal, everyday life stuff. That is really no excuse though and I am going to make an attempt to post every day now so I can get back into the swing of things again. It's amazing how easy it is to get out of the habit. I have still been keeping up with reading all the lovely blogs I follow though. I love to spend half an hour catching up with my blog lists and reading about all the interesting things people are getting up to. It does, however, make my blog look a bit boring! 

Next week, I am off to do a food hygiene and handling course which has been organised by the market manager. Technically, I don't suppose I really need to do it, I mean ..... the only food I handle while I'm sewing is the tea and biccies that I have when I take a break but, you never know when these things might come in useful and it's at a reduced rate so I thought I might as well do it. I did also think that once I have done it, I might make some fudge to sell on my market stall. I love baking and cooking but there isn't really much I can do to take to the market with me because there are other people there who sell cakes and pasties and things and I would never want to upset anyone but, there is no one who makes fudge so I thought I might give it a go. I have an amazing chocolate fudge recipe which is really easy so when I have made my first batch I will post some picture and the recipe so you can all have a go at making some yourselves.

On a less than happy note, my car died! It looks like the head gasket has gone but I am waiting until I can get a mechanic to take a look before I decide what I am going to do with it. In the meantime I bought an old car from a friend of mine to tide me over. Living where I do, in the middle of nowhere, it's almost impossible to function without a car. It's a 20 minute walk to the nearest shop with some really mean hills to negotiate and there are no buses so even an old car, which I bang my head on every time I get into it because I'm not used to such low ceilings, is a godsend and I was extremely grateful to Lynn for selling it to me. I did, however, have to do a fair amount of walking while I was in-between cars so I took the opportunity to snap a few pictures of flowers and hedgerows while I was out and about.

Walking up the lane to visit a friend for coffee
Beautiful White Fuzzy Flowers in the Hedgerow ..... not a clue what they are :-)
Yellow Fuzzy Stuff .... again no clue as to what they are.
Finches in The Trees
Wild Honeysuckle Growing In The Hedgerow
Beautiful Pink Roses in my Garden