Wednesday, 23 November 2011

A Day for Gathering Strength...

........ finishing some items - taking inspiration from recent photographs and making plans.

Sometimes a day where we do not set ourselves too many targets is just what we need. Recognizing the need to take stock and allow ourselves relaxation just for the sake of it is important.

Yesterday was very busy - making, listing trying to re-focus my plans in the light of the changes to Folksy - followed by getting daughter to and from music lesson in order to get us all back to school (8 miles away) to support her saxophone performances and her brothers 'techy' efforts on the sound and light desk. We are all getting too tired and we are only just at the start of the 'pulled-in-every-direction-at-once' season where schools, scouts, guides and our own families all expect attendance/chauffering/contributions in kind.....

My daughter missed the bus this morning - I was cross - a 16 mile round trip for me - why couldn't she run like her brother? Its not as if she had the sax or her art portfolio today! Probably because, like me she's tired. Time to forgive ourselves for being feeble and have a 'quiet' night in. Music is my daughter's passion and I can hear the guitar - quiet might not be the right word!

Comfort food - cooked with minimal effort - cottage pie perhaps and some of our pears with chocolate sauce - that should set us all up for a more productive day tomorrow!

Embroidered Brooch - Berried Tree

Now available at Lynwoodcrafts. One of three I have listed today ( the others for my shops at Folksy and WowThankyou ) - I hope you like them!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Cooking Brownies!

-ie Brownies engaged in cooking - NOT practice for which my warrant would be removed!

Mushroom Soup

You will Need:

24 Brownies (7 to 10 year olds )
3 Owls ('harassed' - Brown, Snowy and Sooty)

450 g mushrooms
2 leeks
500 ish ml stock
salt and pepper

Supervise hand-washing, hair fastening.....
Double check allergies on registration forms!

- Wash and slice mushrooms and leeks (Brownies under supervision! - in two groups- one owl/group -one spare for emergencies!)
- Heat a small amount of oil in pans - cook leeks and mushrooms until soft - Brownies take turns to stir.
- Dissolve stock cube - add to pans (Brownies)
- Wash and chop parsley (Brownies)
- Simmer for about 20 mins (remove to hob in kitchen - Brownies tidy up)
- Brownies prepare bread rolls and set tables.
- 'Blitz soup' with hand held blender (OWLS - NOT Brownies - we're not that brave!)
- Try soup. Offer serving to 'tasters' (parents arriving for promise ceremony)
- Wash up - enrol new Brownie.

Apologise to waiting parents (standing in dark car park) for over-running finish time - Oops!


One of our better evenings. Soup was great. Veg-wary Brownies tried and liked it - most of them. Parents liked it and were surprised/pleased we had made it with mushrooms - as opposed to tin or powder presumably!

Everyone survived - although I needed hot tea on tap to recover.


A new embroidered brooch at Lynwoodcrafts today:

Monday, 21 November 2011

'Value' for your money!

Times are increasingly hard and many of us are trying harder to spend our money wisely. We don't have a large family income and it can be a challenge  to get what we want from our purchases. With four of us to feed, clothe and entertain and two of us to educate, wouldn't it be better to whizz down the 'value' aisle in our supermarket 'pocket the difference' and then indulge ourselves in more mass-produced, ethically dubious 'stuff' - pleased to have been clever with our cash.

Perhaps I am greedy, but I want far, far more for my money than that - perhaps now more than ever with the inevitable squeeze most of us will feel. I shop at our local farm shop - beef and lamb are home - reared, pork and venison are locally sourced. They make their own sausages, burgers and pies. Bake wonderful cakes, stock local cheeses, vegetables and potatoes and give a helpful and welcoming service. The door of our supermarket is opened for me as I leave but not by someone offering to help carry my purchases whilst thanking me for calling! If meat bought this way is sometimes expensive, we eat meat-free meals to compensate. I enjoy the experience of shopping, feel good about cooking meals with good, local produce and we all enjoy eating the results - for me I am eating food which I 'know'. That knowledge adds greatly to the experience!

I have been particularly pleased with two recent purchases - one 'food' one not. Our son was 18 a few days ago. He planned to walk, in the hills round Llangollen, with two mates and then we all went out for a meal.   Our son has always liked smoked trout. On the way to drop them off we passed a local trout fishery with smoked trout available. We called on the way back. Having selected some smoked fillets, and been tempted by a jar of very local honey, I commented on the supply of gluten-free bread flour. At this point I was directed to the freezer which contained some gluten-free, smoked trout sausages reared, smoked and prepared on the premises. A little pricey perhaps, but earmarked as a contribution to a family meal at Christmas time. My son thinks as I do and I know he will smile when he realises the connection to his birthday celebrations. Worth every penny!

I have a friend who I seldom see now - but we still exchange birthday and christmas gifts. She thinks very much as I do. I had been on the look out for a small, practical yet attractive gift which could easily be posted to her. I was delighted to receive my order of a folding shopper bag from Moody Cow Designs. Attractive and carefully stitched and so useful for someone who pops out on foot to shop locally. 'French' seamed to avoid any raw edges, Trish has chosen to make the final row of stitching an integral and attractive part of the design. The bags folds for ease of carrying until re-use and the folds are secured by a button and loop fastening. I will take care to include one of Trish's business cards in the parcel - I am sure her shop will appeal to my friend. I am very proud of the 'value' acheived by the money paid for that purchase. My friend will be delighted with her bag, and I am very happy to have bought from a fellow craft worker whose items I have long admired.

What value do I hope people find in the items which are purchased from Lynwoodcrafts? My items are individually and carefully hand-crafted. I use a variety of needle craft techniques. Many of the materials are from vintage, family stashes, others are hand-produced, such as the lovely fibres which I have recently sourced from My Heart Exposed Fibre and Yarns occasionally materials are recycled. I try to add originality and beauty to ordinary items  - notepads, needle books, pincushions, key rings....... Lynwoodcrafts brooches are popular. I can't claim that brooches are 'practical' items - however, I do take care to ensure that they are carefully made to a high standard. My embroidered brooches are very distinctive and are stitched in many different styles - miniature landscapes, floral embroideries, stitchery 'reproductions' of famous masterpieces, abstract geometrical designs....... Felted, embroidered, knitted woven, beaded, crocheted all items embellished with hand embroidery. If you, or someone you know would see the 'value' in my embroidered, hand-crafted designs why not visit one of my shops - details on this blog - I look forward to seeing you!

This is today's listing at Lynwoodcrafts' shop at Folksy:

Friday, 18 November 2011

Folksy, Friday and Fish - in search of the familiar!

Have given up on Folksy for today.

As regards fish, always a Friday tradition in my childhood, we enjoyed a lovely fish meal last night - son is away for the week-end and we wanted to share it with him!

Excuse the poor layout of this recipe - and total absence of quantities - use what seems right!

1  Cut a large sheet of baking parchment per portion. Fold in half - now needs to be large enough to wrap fillet of fish and roll/fold to completely seal.

2 Place fillet of fish (frozen or fresh) on paper.

3 Add 'thin sticks of carrot' -can't do chef-speak - do they call them julienne?

4 Also add any of the following or similar ( veg suitable for oriental recipes) baby corn (sliced) , mushrooms (sliced), onions, leeks, grapes (in half), cherry tomatoes, celery, sugarsnap peas....... to each fillet .

5 Add squeeze of honey, splash of soy sauce (wheat and gluten free in my case), splash of apple juice, squeeze of lemon, small pinch 5 spice powder.

6 Fold each fish parcel to seal. Place on baking tray in oven (about 180) for about 15-20 mins depending on thickness of fish.

7 Cook rice, cous sous - or in our case quinoa (yum), pour contents of fish parcel onto individual serving of  quinoa - enjoy!

A quick and easy recipe - all we could manage after a stressful parents' evening.

Any other suggestions for wheat free, yummy fishy dishes very welcome!

Monday, 7 November 2011

In Search of a Chess Set

a disappointing visit to Chester.

I used to shop in Chester frequently as a child and young adult. There were our favourite shops, shops we visited for special gifts, shops into which we could hardly afford to peep - let alone step inside. There were branches of multiple chains but also local independent businesses. There was a fish monger with a game license, a small department store with a lovely food hall, some excellent bakers and tearooms, fabric shops, expensive jewellers...... A real mixture of shops to suit all tastes, needs and pockets all set in historic streets set out on  a Roman street plan. Some of these businesses remain, but they are, sadly, very much in the minority.

Our son will celebrate his 18th birthday soon. We have a number of gifts in mind, but the item which we wanted him to choose - the 'look-back-on -at-the-age-of-fifty something' gift, remembering that his parents gave it to him on his 18th birthday, is to be a chess set. He's not into jewellery, so many of the items which we might have considered have now embraced digital technology and will only last a few years before becoming obselete and he enjoys playing chess. He also has an appreciation of natural materials and craft skills and we hoped to find something in a lovely choice of woods, attractive board, nice balance/weight/style to the pieces. Chester did not appear to have anything to offer us. Instead there was noise, over-powering artificial perfumes, mass produced, bought today, landfill in a few weeks 'items' which we might probably find on almost every high street. I fear this is the problem - these items are to be found on every high street. The earth's resources are plundered to provide things we don't need, can live without, and, increasingly can not afford to pay for.

I hope the items which I make are not seen in the same light. Many of them are items of jewellery and are, therefore, not essential possessions. However, each is individually considered and carefully crafted. Many use recycled or vintage materials preventing these from slipping into landfill.

I have often described my storage crisis and the various 'containers' which have been employed in an attempt to resolve the problem. I have a small suitcase, with my father's initials on the top. At first glance, it appears to be 'pig-skin' but is actually a type of varnished cardboard. It has a lovely leather handle which I am very sorry to say has been broken in trying to support the rather too heavy contents. It is this little case which houses my collection of velvets and silks. Many of them are very small pieces and I use them with care. Some of my most popular creations are brooches, although these do not appeal to everyone. We all have keys and a need for keyrings. These might as well be attractive and carefully designed, and in my case, stitched. The supply of velvets from my little case has given rise to the first two of these keyrings. The third one uses a small remnant of furnishing fabric. I hope you like them:

Thursday, 3 November 2011

"Don't they make pink ones?"

A lovely day out - Rhug Farm Shop, Betwys-y-Coed, Trefiw and Conwy.

Neither of our children has a regular commitment after school on Wednesdays. That means we are not required to produce a meal by any particular time or to provide a taxi service. Able to take a day off, my husband suggested a mid-week excursion pottering along the North Wales coast - the sort of gentle day out which we enjoy occasionally - and our kids hate!

Passing the Rhug Farm Estate, not encumbered by the kids, we stopped to stock up the campervan fridge. Organic beef, pork and lamb shoulder - they usually have burgers from their bison herd!

We stopped for a cup of tea on a lay-by with this view:

On to Betws -y -Coed, where I spoilt myself by the purchase of a new waterproof - my so-called waterproofs - really only shower proof had always been a disappointment. I had bought my son a more suitable (and expensive) version for his recent Scouting trip to Sweden, and he persuaded me I should have one. We also bought a Trangia meths bottle for his sister - hoping not to have any future arguments caused by her borrowing his.

On to Trefiw Woollen Mills - producing lengths of cloth featuring traditional Welsh tapestry patterns. I bought a hank of recycled sari silk yarn from the mill shop. The craft workshop in the grounds was closed for lunch. We retired to the van for a picnic lunch. My husband offered to brew a pot of tea whilst I 'popped back' to the workshops. Fifty minutes later, my tea was cold, he was more than a little fed-up, but I had enjoyed a chat and purchased some silk rods; mixed packs of hand-dyed silk and mohair fibres, a bag of carded sari silk and two small twists of hand-dyed silk and wool yarn.

We arrived at Conwy much later than expected - with me feeling more than a little guilty, and parked in the shadow of the castle. There was still time to have a stroll around the shops and the harbour. 

We phoned the kids to check that they were home and safe. I mentioned to my son that I now had a waterproof like his. 'What exactly like mine?' Well - yes. That brand really only does that version - in black - at that price level. I didn't want to pay more! 'Well now I'm going to keep grabbing yours off the rack by mistake!' A fair point - and the reason why I was warning him - his shoulders won't fit into mine!  I did begin to wonder how well he knows me, on several counts, at his next question - 'Don't they do a pink one?' Me?? Pink???

The lovely fibres I purchased, blended with some from my stash have given rise to this embroidered brooch and embroidered barrette: