Monday, 18 August 2014

Making a house a welcoming home .x

Well hello , how are we all ?
I am just about surviving the summer school holidays !
But the advantage of spending many many hours at this time of year in our house is that I can tackle some of the jobs that have been niggling me in the busier months .

Last night I finished a job I started a few weeks ago on the 23 rd July and if any of you pop by my facebook page for Handmade Over yonder, you may recall me posting  about stripping my hall and stairs carpet.  Some of you on facebook noted an interest in seeing it when it was done  .


I remember it was on an unbelievably hot day and my husband kept texting me , checking I wasn't over doing it in the very hot temperature as I'd been unwell previously to that . But he knows when I get an idea in my head there is no stopping me . Well what was the idea that had made me start ripping  carpets up?? The fact that they were done in and I was fed up of looking at our tired old ( slightly bald in areas ) carpet  was the reason . Particularly as this was the first thing you saw as you entered the house and I do like to have a nice home for us to live in and as handmade and done by us as possible .We had no money for new carpets so I had the idea of painting the hall floor and stairs , I thought the idea was both practical (no need to use the carpet cleaner every time the kids trample muck into the carpet or spill something ) and it may also be financially do able . I did also have a secret motive as well , in that if it worked and it looked nice I wanted to do the same with our living room floor . The hall way and stairs was the first part of my strategy to get |Mr P. to agree to the idea  and once he saw how nice it looked in the hall and on  the stairs surely my plan would be achievable .So I did a bit of research on the Internet  for nice floor paints suitable for wooden floors . I settled on a Farrow and Ball floor paint and I have used their paints in the past very successfully, the next job was to decide on a colour as they have 132 colours to choose from  (  www.farrow-ball.com  ). It didn't take me long and I decided on a colour called 'Dimity' which I would describe as warm creamy off white . So I've spent many evening preparing the wooden floor and stairs and skirting boards and filling oh so many gaps , then I  primed the areas with the Farrow & ball floor primer ( 2 coats) and then applied 2 coats of Dimity  We are soooooo very pleased with the result . I also had plenty of the wall paint left so they got a fresh coat too . So for those who wanted to have a peek I've taken a few shots .
First coat of primer going on .












Mr P . is so pleased with the hall and stairs  that he is eager to start our living room ,  we think we have enough of both paints left to do this and even though the paint is quite expensive ( Mr P. nearly fainted when he was at the till ! ) it is well worth the money and as they say " you get what you pay for ! " . It has definitely worked out drastically cheaper than carpet and on the plus side I don't have to drag a hoover up n down the stairs , I just sweep it which in turn means I'm cutting down on my use of electricity . In fact now all of the down stairs of the house is swept rather than hoovered  that will make a small saving on our electricity bill . Additionally if there are any accidents and spillages which result in a damaged surface we just repaint the area .
I am quite conscious that we do need a little protection for the floor as well as  comfort and warmth under our feet in strategic places , so for this reason I am going to put some rugs about the place. Some we already have and some I am going to make as we don't want to or have the means to go out splashing cash on new rugs . With painting the floor it has reignited my enthusiasm for a project I started some time ago , a crochet rag rug. Now I have somewhere for it to live  I'm going to finish it  . But in my head I am also planning one for the living room too !

It's nice when you have an idea that works and I am finding  that  I am loving areas of our home I'd fallen out of love with , as they were looking very tiered .
There is one room  I never fail to be happy in and that  is the Kitchen , today has been no exception . I was in charge of two extra children today for a dear friend  and I know both her girls love to do baking so I hatched a plan for today ( I seem to be hatching a lot of plans at the moment !  ) . I fancied doing a no bake cake/ bars that would be an enjoyable experience and tick the box as baking for the kids but with as little mess for me to wash and clear away . So I had a wander on the Internet and saw a white chocolate toottie fruity  rocky road recipe on pintrest that inspired me . So I adapted the recipe I found to our families own palate and changed a lot of the ingredients for U.K alternatives as the recipe that  inspired me was from America .






So here is my own  version of a toottie fruity white chocolate rocky road bar .

Ingredients you will need :
4 x 150 g bars of good quality white chocolate .
1 x 42 g bag of Jelly Tots ( cut each Jelly in half )
2 1/2 cups of small marshmallows ( I used the little ones usually used for on the top of hot chocolate drinks )
85 g Orange & Lemon Jelly slices  ( I used a mixed tube bought from Morrisons on their baking isle )
100 g Natural glace cherries ( Rinsed and dried then cut into quarters )
30 g packet of Cranberries 
70 g Hazelnuts roughly chopped ( you could substitute this for a nut your family like or leave out if allergies are an issue ) 

Prepare a tray that measures 10 " x 7  1/2 " by lining it with grease proof paper , make sure you have a good amount over lapping the edges of the tray as you will need it to help you lift the mixture once it has set in the fridge .
First start by  preparing & chopping  the glace cherries , jelly slices , jelly tots, cranberries and nuts and place them in a large mixing bowl with the marshmallows and give them a good mix. 
Next beak each bar of chocolate into pieces in  a heat proof  bowl and place over a slightly simmering pan of water . 
Once the chocolate has melted pour over your fruit, nut, marshmallow & jelly  mixture in the mixing bowl and mix thoroughly and quickly . Then pour this mixture into your prepared tray and spread evenly .
Put this in the fridge for about 1 hour 20 mins . 
Once the mixture has hardened remove from the fridge and lift the mixture out by lifting the excess paper . 
Now you can divide into appropriately sized bars . I have done mine into dinky 1 inch square sized bars .
Then enjoy , nom nom !!

This would be an ideal recipe for edible presents or as a party/ celebration treat as it isn't cheap to make .

But its been great popping by and sharing and thank you for popping by .
So ta ta for now . Tracy xx


Sunday, 3 August 2014

Popping by xx



Well I've comendeered this evening to come say hello to my much neglected blog , I've told both boys and hubby I am not to be disturbed this evening as I am blogging . But OH MY GOODNESS ME I haven't been by in 7 weeks ,  can I tell you  it feels wonderful to be here . 

I am in the full swing of the school summer break and I have decamped my work at home for this time ( I am priodically making short trips to The Studio to collect the odd piece of equipement I need when making my little creations ). It's great that my creative making time is building up to a nice managable pace once again , I am happy to inform you that my mum no longer really needs my help ( she only needs help in small ways ). We are still waiting for her neck fracture to heal but she is taking life at a happy gentle pace and is enjoying her indipendance once again . This is so great to see and I feel blessed she is healing and here to be a part of our lifes.

 So what has been keeping me busy these last 7 weeks ??
Creatively I have been getting back into the flow of  making in the studio by doing some of my signature pieces. This has at times meant keeping my head down and ignoring some of the world around me . 


I just love hunting for and sewing with antique or vintage textiles , breathing a new life into tired or unloved pieces that where once work by someones creative hands.



 This piece of antique Malteese Lace was either a Victorian or Edwardian lace collar and it has now been made into my next Mrs Mill Mouse bridal skirt , Mr & Mrs Mill Mouse will be unveiled very soon . I have been  sat today knitting her shawl from a lovely Rowan fine tweed yarn.

I have really enjoyed producing my Linen Hares which are the first batch of the year , I have got my next batch under way and I am looking forward to getting on my sewing machine this week in between spending time with my boys  and doing housewife duties . 
I adore working with Liberty lawns and good quality Linen as well as the pleasure of using quality pure fibre yarns to crochet and knit with . I also get very excited when playing with colour combinations .

My next batch of Yorkshire mill Mice are under way as well ,  I have started producing some of the little knitted shawl and scarfs ,  I am doing a couple of  Mr mill mice too for those folks who feel  their Lady Mice in need of a companion .
  My pie tin pin cushions were the last batch for a while as I have used the last of my tins , so I need to keep my eyes peeled for some more .
 Creatively I am keeping things ticking along and in the back of my mind is a calender and I'm mentally counting down the weeks to Yarndale . This is because I will having an Open Studio event on the Friday (the day before Yarndale ) and  Saturday  27 th September the 1st day of Yarndale . Detail are to follow shortly to do with times but you will be able to visit the working space of myself and Lucy on these two days  . It will also be an opportunity to come and look at and buy some of my work . Even get your hook/needles out and have some yarn therapy in our creative space ( please note seating will be limited as our studio is quite bijou ).

I have also been busy in my kitchen , we still strive to have a much  simpler life and try to produce more for ours selves and spend less  .  I am really enjoying the challenge of learning to make things from scratch that the whole family enjoys . I am still making my own butter every week and it has been two months now since I last bought butter . I have also had a go at making my own peanut butter with great results . I  like the fact that the time and energy spent making these things has its own rewards other than working out cheaper that shop bought and you know what ingredients are going into the product , it often works out that you end up with a good surplus supply to store away for later use in the months to come . I am also sticking to the rule that we only make things in bulk that we would normally buy as I can't afford to make costly experimental mistake by making something we won't necessary like or use . As many of you will know where children are concerned they don't like too much change , so making home made versions of shop bought favourites is a good way to start I think .


I am also trying to look around me and be inspired by making  food with things that are in season and not just the fruit and veg !

Lavender Shortbread 
Everyone in our house loves shortbread and I feel quite pleased to feed the family it as a treat especially as it is also made with my own butter .  A couple of weeks ago I was pootling about in my back yard and noticed  the little tiny flower on the Lavender plant were out  and I suddenly remembered Mr P  had made some beautiful Lavender short bread some years ago . Yes I did say Mr P , it was in his house husband days when our roles were reversed for a couple of years .
So I hunted down the recipe and gave it a whirl , it is a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstal recipie from his 'THE RIVER COTTAGE YEAR ' book on page 151.


 So to make 8 very generous portions as above or 12-20 fingers if using a 18 x 28 cm tin  . Beat together 160g of softened butter with 80g  caster sugar and add 2 teaspoons of fresh lavender flowers ( they are a little tricky to harvest but well worth it !) beat until pale and creamy . Sift in 240g plain flour or 160g plain flour and 80g corn flour and work to a smooth dough. then turn your mixture out into a lined tin either 18 x 28cm or I used a regular sandwich cake tin .Press it out firmly and evenly in the tin then prick with a fork pushing it fully through the mixture. Bake @ 170 degrees C/ gas mark 3 for 20-25 mins and until very light in colour and firm to touch . Then remove from the oven and sprinkle with caster sugar and mark into either 8ths as above or into fingers , press only a couple of millimetres into cooked shortbread . leave to cool and harden then carefully remove from tin .


 I used an extra couple of pinches of the Lavender flowers to decorate as well as some lavender stems on the side of the plate .
At this point there is nothing else to do other than put the kettle on for a cup of tea/ coffee and a slice of shortbread .

 More baking has taken place in the last week with my eldest celebrating becoming a teenager , I can't believe my eldest is now 13 . Oh boy these years are whizzing by !! He put a request in for a chocolate birthday cake . So in need of some inspiration I popped over to pintrest ( yep I'm on there under my business name of : Handmade Over Yonder, if you fancy to popping by ) . I saw this style of cake on pintrest and new he would love it . A very big indulgence for a very special day and boy I wasn't wrong he thought it was fab , one happy birthday boy !




 I really am enjoying what my little yard has to offer me at the moment in the way of produce , mainly courgettes as I have 3 different varieties growing .

 So before I picked my next batch which were ready to harvest I had a think about what I could make.  I wanted something that could be stored away and enjoyed at a later date . Then Piccalilli came to mind I was going to make it last year but I never got around to it . My mum always recounts her childhood when ever I  mention Piccalilli , she has memories of helping her mum, grandma and Auntie making batches of it all together in one big session of Piccalilli making . So in paying homage to a family tradition that had died long ago ( & the fact I would like to take my mum some home made Piccalilli on my next visit ) I rooted some recipes out . All the recipes recommended picking 5-6 veg from cauliflower , courgettes ,pickling onion or shallots , marrow, green beans , celery and peppers. Bellow are my choice for my Piccalilli.
 The recipe I opted to use was from this old book I've had over 20 years and I made a mild sweet version with 3kg of veg which meant I used 500g of cooking salt to steep the veg in overnight . I did this by layering the prepared veg with salt in a very large bowl which I then covered with a weighted plate on top to ensure all the veg really steeped in the salt . Before making the Piccalilli I thoroughly washed all the veg ( in small batches in a colander) with cold water to ensure all the vegetables were thoroughly rinsed and drained .


These are the veg once rinsed and drained and ready for cooking .


I got all my ingredients ready as listed above under the mild sweet sauce recipe with the addition of 1 tablespoon of yellow mustard seeds .
next you put the turmeric , dry mustard & mustard seed , ginger, sugar and all but 3 x 15 ml spoons( 3 tablespoons )of vinegar in a large heavy bottomed saucepan . Mix well then add all the veg and bring to the boil and then simmer gently for 15 to 20 minutes , testing occasionally the degree of crispness or tenderness . This is all down to individual taste but do not overcook the veg .
 When ready, remove the vegetables with a perforated spoon and pack into hot ( pre sterilised  jars) , If you notice any standing liquid collecting in the bottom of the jars drain off liquid back into pan , I found holding a slotted spoon over the neck of the jar stopped any veg escaping back into pan .Dissolve the cornflour in the reserved vinegar  and stir into vinegar mixture in the pan , bring to the boil and boil for 3 minutes stirring continuously . Pour the sauce over the veg and cover at once . Ready in 6 weeks .


 Another little glut buster I made today , but this was a 2kg box of tomatoes at a bargain price . The recipe is one a friend gave to me years ago and it was passed onto her from her mum out of a magazine . but I make a batch every year as it's so scrummy and very versatile it can be used a bit like a sweet chilli dipping sauce .



So this is only a snippet of my life recently and as any woman ,mum/carer ,wife/partner and employer/employee will know life is one major juggling act  and unfortunately in my life it is my poor little blog that takes the hit . But I do try and make up for it when I call by .So thank you so much if you keep popping by but it is ta ta for now .    Tracy xx


Sunday, 8 June 2014

In my Kitchen

Well it's the last evening of the Spring banks holidays for me and my youngest we've had two whole weeks off together , Mr P. went back to work a week ago and my eldest went back to school a week ago too .

So, today all I wanted to do was spend some time in the kitchen and do some preparing for the busy week ahead . The kitchen really is my go too place to chill and boy I've had fun today ! I MADE BUTTER , I'm soooooo excited . This is something I've wanted to do for ages and today I made my first ever batch ( well actually that's a small lie I do vaguely remember making it at primary school when I was about 8 years old , 33 yrs ago !  ) .

I used a 600ml carton of double cream and popped in  my mixer set it to medium power and about 2 minutes later I had butter and buttermilk , wahayyy  one very excited me. I separated the butter and buttermilk ( saving the later for making some soda bread ) , In a fine mesh sieve I quickly rinsed the butter , then I started the process of patting it with two wooden spatulas to remove any remaining butter milk  , it was at this point I added a small amount of sea salt flakes. Once no more liquid was coming from the pat I popped it in the old butter dish my husband grew up with . Wow , I am impressed at how easy this process was and best of all the by product I can use in baking .
Buttermilk is ideal for Irish Soda Bread , this is a spiced fruit version I've started making for breakfast and I love the fact I can use my favourite second hand cast Iron pan to bake it in .



It is really simple to make ( preheat oven to 200degreesC/180Cfan/gas6 ) :Put your oats in a mixing bowl and add the diced butter . With your fingers rub the butter into the oats until they are totally coated .Stir in the Flours (note I use only Plain flour as that's all I've and in and it works fine ) ,caster sugar, bicard , mixed spices, 1tsp salt , the raisins , sultanas , dates and mixed peel .
:Pour over the buttermilk and quickly stir in with a round ended knife , note the mixture is a little wet . Tip onto a floured surface and gently bring together to a ball. Put on a floured baking sheet and cover the dough with the demerara sugar slightly pressing it into the top . Using a floured knife cut a big cross in the centre and bake for about 30 to 35 mins until crusty on the outside , note mine seem to take about 40 mins and I use a skewer to check its cooked all the way through , just like checking a cake .
Serve warm or cold with a bit of butter , nom nom .
 So in preparation for the week ahead and making everyone's packed lunches I made a batch of scones and a Madeira cake too . For my packed lunches down at my Studio this week I thought I would go with a nod to Greek cuisine , I made some Tazziki and some marinated Feta cheese .



At the moment there are quite a few buzz words like self sufficiency , sustainably , simple living and living frugally that keep coming up in conversation between me and Mr P when we're discussing our lives at present and what we want for the future of our family . We dream of living on our own little parcel of land and becoming quite self sufficient ,but  just because we've not got there yet , doesn't mean we can't start approaching our lives with as many of these ideals as fit with living in a Terraced house in town . 
So to the kitchen on my quest to be more self sufficient !!
Yesterday I was on a take it easy sort of day  ( exhausted as well as either a pulled muscle or trapped nerve in the left of my neck from all the lifting, after packing/cleaning my mums flat for her move then unpacking it all the next day in her new place . But we left her with a fully functioning , comfy , dressed flat that she could just start living in without loads to do . That was well worth any tiredness and aching body parts . ) , so yes a very take it easy sort of day and in the morning I had a thought . Why am I buying dried herbs that I grow in my garden ? I do use them fresh but in Autumn /winter their not at their best so I resort to my dried herbs and have you seen the price of herbs recently !! So I decided I should be preparing my herbs for drying while they are abundant and at there best , so scissors in hand ( and still in my p.j's ) I went off into my little back yard and started snipping .




So I have little bunches of Rosemary , Sage and Thyme wafting their heady sent in my kitchen whilst they dry  , the sage is wrinkling up nicely and its only been hanging for 1 day   . This should help save a bit of money in the future.

Tomorrow I'm back to working in my little studio space and my next lot of makes have been making slow progress through the holidays so I need to knuckle  down to it .

        But here is a date for your diaries the last in our present programme of Rag Rug Day workshops  .
As it says on the poster , recycling never looked so good !
So thanks for popping by and I hope you all have a lovely week , if your interested in booking on the workshop please just pop over to my face book page for Handmade Over Yonder and message me and I will get in touch .
Ta Ta for now 
Tracy xx