Saturday, 31 October 2009

beef madras

Inspired by the trip into Luton's Bury Park and a HUGE bunch of coriander, we had Beef Madras for a couple of meals.
I always get a bit carried away and add too much curry paste which makes it too salty and therefore... I throw a few chopped potatoes in. And lots of chopped spinach - which is more substantial than English spinach and a bit like silverbeet. I found that and the beautiful vine tomatoes in one of the many Asian grocery stores too.

This is the recipe I nearly followed. (If you use this amount of surry paste, the amount of salt won't be an issue).

Fry 1 sliced onion in vegetable oil for 8 mins. Lower the heat and add 4 cloves, 4 green cardamons, 2 whole star anise, 4 fresh grn choppped chillies, 2 fresh or dried chopped red chillies, 3 tbspn madras paste, 1 tsp tumeric.

Fry for a further 3 mins. Add 450 g lean diced beef , cover and cook until the beef is tender, approx 1hr. (I added around 200ml of water here).

Then, due to the saltiness of my curry, I added 3 chopped potatoes and 3 large chopped vine tomatoes. Cook for approx 40mins on a low heat until all ingredients are tender.

Finish with 1 bunch cooked and drained spinach and 3 tbsp tamarind paste.

And sprinkle a lot of coriander over the top.

I served ours with low fat creme fraiche (we didn't have any natural yoghurt) and mango chutney as it packs quite a heat punch.

Friday, 30 October 2009

slime monsters

We are getting closer to Halloween... the skeleton is hanging on the door, (and the window.) The 'boo' bunting is out, the treats are bought... All ready for 22 children popping over tomorrow. All involved are bringing something, so I am hoping it will run as clockwork. I think a quick tea on blankets in the lounge, then some sort of treasure trail out the back, through the underpass and by the church. A piece of cake! Well, I always think that beforehand...

You may recognise the style of these goggle eyed monsters - we took the craft from this Usbourne book. The boys are loving anything slimy, spooky or ghosty. This book is perfect!

It involved splashing about some watered down green paint onto green thick paper and cutting it into a simple slime monster shape. Then making separate bloodshot eyes (just a dab of red paint in the middle of circles and then blown out with a straw), cutting them out and pasting all onto a one of the many cereal box cards I have accumulated. Freddie has added lots of spooky drawings inside his monster... have the ghosts been eaten??? Who knows?

(I have no idea why this pic has rotated itself, but can't seem to get it back!mmm)

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

gruffalo walk 2009

Back by popular demand, the NCT Harpenden and District event was a great success. This time almost 20 families headed off into the deep, dark wood for a leisurely stroll.

This year, we had TWO gruffalos (Freddie and Harry) courtesy of some adapted furry waistcoats (I stitched paper-stuffed horns onto the hoods and stapled purple prickles to the back).

The craft was really simple and suited the slightly younger age of this year's children.

I had made some 'G' clay pendants (left from another NCT event!) and they were threaded with paper leaves and real leaves onto a stretchy plastic cord.

I found these cords for a pound at the 'lifestyle' shop in Bury Park, Luton. Bury Park is a real treasure trove of the unexpected. There are Asian fabric shops with wonderful embroidered pieces, and unusual grocery stores, plus every plastic storage item you'll ever need. Park up and have a wander, we had an outing with Mum yesterday before she headed back to London.

Friday, 23 October 2009

christmas stockings

o, I'm sure it's not too early!!

Certainly it's not to early to stock up ready for fairs and craft shows. Here is the beginning. I have 10 ready to go but am so pleased with the design, I will do lots more.

It's a chance to use some of the lovely fabric from fabricworm as posted earlier.
These ones are listed on folksy.

harry george montgomery armstrong 1913 - 1992

I have just dropped some banana cupcakes to the Methodist Church in the village for their poppy appeal. I really hope they are ok... I usually make teeny ones in the pampered chef tin, these are normal, grown up size!

Anyway, the poppy appeal always brings back memories for me of my 'Poppy'. He was a really sweet grandparent, twinkling eyes, smart trimmed moustache, always gardening and offering us lollies (or sweets if you are from the UK)!

He fought in World War II and was interned in a German prisoner of war camp. I have heard stories of him being in charge of the cricket green for the competitive cricket matches and also the shows the prisoners put on. I remember his left foot, with its smallest toe removed due to frostbite. Once back in Western Australia he was granted one of the first farms in a scheme for the returned servicemen. My mum was one of four daughters who joined my uncle to be raised in Moora WA.

I wish I had a photo of Poppy to add to this post... when Mum gets home to Australia, I will ask her to send one across.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

NCT Nearly New Sale - Harpenden

Phew! It's almost done and dusted for another season...

There is a Spring and Autumn sale for our branch of the NCT. It involves a HUGE amount of stuff which is labelled up, brought in to the Harpenden Halls, sorted, sold and then leftovers sorted again and taken home.

I am somewhere in the middle of this all, and register and organise the sellers in three villages.

From the queues you can see how popular it is.

Lots of money is made for the NCT, lots of women are organised and empowered, and best of all, lots of things are re-used instead of wasted.

It is a great fun weekend, but a little exhausting. Just recovering, now... once again I have over extended myself and am suffering from a stinking cold.

Monday, 19 October 2009

kew gardens

Granny is here! Hurray!
We spent the day at Kew. There is so much to see and it took about an hour to drive there. If you are thinking of it, there is 20% off - up to 6 tickets - available via kew gardens online.

The treetop walk is spectacular... beautiful green parrots flitting around and wonderful views. Perhaps not quite as high as the one wandered by Elle Macpherson in Walpole, Western Australia!!
And there is a great indoor (nature related) play area with snapping venus flytraps, giant seed pods, tunnels and this challenging blossom...
We had the most glorious weather. Sunny, with a chill in the air and lots of crackling leaves to kick.
This afternoon, after school, we used our finds for some leaf prints. The idea is to turn them into Christmas trees, so we kept to a simple palette. Just coat the dryish leaves with green paint, and press down carefully. Granny showed Freddie how to do a reverse print. The next step is the add a Xmas star at the top and lots of glitter. The pinecone tips were painted and Harry wants to hang them on the Christams tree with cord.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Harpers Shopping Day

What a lovely day, and well done to Amanda and co for all the organising. The stalls looked fabulous and there were lots of great products available. Once again, there was an interesting range, great for early Christmas presents.

I did get my capes ready on time. There are 3 left with a super 'S' on the back. And I have some blanks so please request an initial and a colour choice and I am happy to personalise.

I would have loved to have Harry modelling the cape again, but he is at nursery and childcare today.

I waited in vain for the phone to ring with all of those supply teaching offers!!??

I have been registered with a local agency for AGES but to be honest, they've been a bit crap. Doing supply in London was very different... I could pick and choose the days: if I'd had a big night out, I could sleep in and not worry. Oh well! Plenty to do around the house, sewing, cleaning, washing. (Not in that order, unfortunately).

Wednesday, 14 October 2009


Wow! there is a great blog I visit - And I found out about fabricworm through it.

And my order arrived today.

It is great, some Xmas special prints plus some stand-out patterns - can you see the robot?

There is so much to do... so if only I had another 24 hours before the fair tomorrow!

superhero harry

Last year I made some great gingham capes wand appliqued a 'S' on the back. I was really happy with them, and have another batch coming... hopefully ready for tomorrow's 'shopping event' at Studham (Harpers).

Here is Harry trying one on, in prototype stage. Notice the extra WOOSH available with the satin.

baby isabella

Here are the proud parents holding their new bundle. Jon and Alina are very happy with this lovely little girl (who wouldn't be... I can almost feel my ovaries bumping around!)

I visited on Sunday, bearing my accumulated pink stash of clothes and some handmade bunting. There is a matching nappy pouch for Isabella, somewhere in my sewing room. Where???

Baby is putting on lots of weight, Jon also cooked a great lamb roast so I'll be doing the same, I guess.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

tim minchin

Watch this! I don't know how to include it in the blog... but is worth the effort. This guy is fab, he went to school with my brother, Jon, back in Claremont, Western Australia. He is very witty (pretty rude in places) and a fantastic musician. The video we watched today is a bit strong on the language and imagery... but this song from youtube is an anthem to encourage canvas bags at the supermarket... it can't be bad!

Friday, 9 October 2009

Love Apples!

I made some really sweet apples for last week's Apple Fair, I have just 3 left. Comment or email me direct ( to let me know if you would like one! They are £5 (this includes postage within the UK).
I used this pattern, if you would like to have a go yourself. I didn't worry about a template, just fudged it.... but I like the organic nature of the shape.

And I had a real giggle this morning when I picked up the photo. I found that Freddie has been taking pictures with the camera!

Here is his brother, the star model:

And some stuffed favourites (nicely framed, I think):

And an edgy shot with a balancing car:

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Thursday at the Barn!

Here is a close-up of my fabulous vintage fabric apron. I picked up the fabric from the flea market, and fashioned a flattering deep-pleated half apron. The kitchen print is really effective, the colours just slightly faded. I have a petite small version plus a large one left. poppyart [] to buy now, or see it at my next Fair.

There is a wonderful oak barn in Studham. It is a venue for weddings, and is nestled behind a brilliant farm shop called Harpers. Harpers has supplied us with huge hams over Christmas and new year (experimented with Jamie Oliver's Jerk recipe - a GREAT success). The service is excellent and it is perfect for pre-ordering Christmas meats.

Anyway, I am at a shopping event at the barn this Thursday 15th October. From 10.30 , there will be very good quality gifts ready for Christmas. I will be there with lots of fabric buckets (which are flying off the shelves - well tabletop...) and brooches as well as my favourite aprons, bibs and sacks. There is a coffee shop on site as well, and plenty of parking.

Come along!

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Isabella Grace

My brother Jon is one of my favourite people. He is calm, kind and a bit cool. I am so lucky to have him living here in the UK. He is in Wimbledon with his family.

Jon and Alina have had the most beautiful little girl, Isabella Grace. She was born last night and I did get the vital details but I answered the phone in a sleep-fog so can't remember them!

Well done to Alina and congratulations to her son, Arnas as well... he will be a fantastic big brother.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

easy pea and ham soup

Well, 'genius' may be a little bit of a stretch, but I am feeling pretty clever. I made some fantastic pea soup. And it is so easy! Last night we had boiled gammon, and I used the stock. Along with lots of chopped veges - carrot, fresh sweetcorn, parsnip, onion, celery - and a couple of thick pieces of chopped gammon. Plus the celebrity ingredient, mushy peas! We always have some in the cupboard (note to self - re-stock cans) as Keith loves them with his fish and chips. Please try and ignore the bright colour... it is the brand I had to hand. There are others available which don't have colouring. (Mushy Peas for the uninitiated are marrowfat peas, cooked in the tin and the 'vegetable' of choice inthe UK with fish and chips)

For today's hearty, warming, tasty offering, I sauteed the veg, added the stock and then 3 tins of peas so it is nice and thick. Harry loves it, and the soup is perfect as we are experiencing a cold and wet change in the weather.

Monday, 5 October 2009

the boys

Here is Freddie and Harry, Freddie sporting a turquoise t-shirt, as an example for a customer.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

fabric buckets and yo yos

I love yo yos. I have a pile ready for brooches, it is turning into quite a production line.

I use some on my new fabric buckets - I sold lots at the Harpenden 'bumps, babes and beyond' fayre so have whipped up a few more. The buckets are ready for the Apple Fair at Highfield Park in St Albans. A bit late notice... but it's tomorrow!

Friday, 2 October 2009

kebabs for the boys

The boys always love any sort of hamburger, and this time I borrowed Delia's Shami Kebab recipe for inspiration. I actually had a bit of get-up-and-go beofre dinner, enough to throw this together. (Usually I am so uninspired! Please don't think this is an everyday thing in our house.)

I was supposed to include 1 drained tin of lentils... but I didn't have them ... just 8 tins of red kidney beans, for some reason.

Anyway, I used
400 g minced lamb
1 red onion, chopped finely
1 generous tblsp curry powder

1 tsp each crushed cumin, coriander seeds, salt, fresh ground pepper
(should have added egg. none of those, either!)

Mix up well, mold into small patties and place in a frying pan with 2 tbsp hot oil.
We have a huge frying pan, bought cheaply from Nisbetts, a catering company, and I was able to do the whole lot in one batch.
Cook until well done and then drain on paper towel.

The boys enjoyed theirs with hummous, lettuce and cucumber. I snuck a couple with tzatziki. And toasted wholemeal pitta bread.