Tuesday, 25 January 2011

The Marmalade Factory

I'm no longer a marmalade-making virgin! This weekend I made two batches and while it takes a lot longer than jam it's very satisfying and the results are absolutely delicious.

The window for making is quite narrow if you're going to use Seville oranges - and you should - as these rather bitter oranges are absolutely perfect for the very best breakfast experience! The Sevilles are in the shops now and tend to get snapped up quite quickly. I bought mine from a fruit and veg shop - I noticed Sainsbury's don't stock them - probably because they don't conform to the supermarket ideal of horrible, uniform, flawless, ersatz, plastic-looking orbs. The two kilos I bought were in all shapes and sizes and the skins were very gnarly looking. Wonderfully real!

When you cut them open (oops forgot to take a photo of that!) you'll notice immediately that they're full of pips - that's probably another reason the supermarkets don't like them  - but these plentiful pips are what give the pectin needed for a successful set.

On the radio recently someone was commenting that sales of marmalade have declined dramatically in the UK - and immediately this provoked a corrective backlash of people rushing out to buy some. As someone pointed out, hopefully the sales decline is down to more people making their own. If you haven't tried it give it a go - you'll enjoy the results for months to come.

>> Here's the foolproof recipe I followed

Clare F

Monday, 24 January 2011

More from Maia! - silk painting

My ten year old neighbour Maia (see the piece below) called round again this evening to show me her latest handiwork - this time a delightful silk painting.

She told me that the piece of silk had to be stretched on a frame first. The dark lines that separate the colours in the painting are done with something I'd never heard of before called un gutta, which creates a barrier to prevent the colours running.

The overall effect is a bit like watercolour painting  and I'm sure you'll agree Maia has done a lovely job. She told me she also made a painted silk tie for her grandfather in Cyprus - as he grows olive trees she depicted an olive tree on the tie. I'll bet he was chuffed to bits with that!

Here's a close up of the painting - I think it has a feeling of Matisse about it!

I really like the effect of the silk painting and so plan to investigate this technique further when I get some time and do a how-to piece on the Make it and Mend it website.

Clare F

Thursday, 20 January 2011

10 year old Maia shares her handiwork

My lovely next door neighbour Maia is ten years old and already a talented make and mender. She showed me her hand made book cover, purse and a beautiful pottery jug. All of these were made by Maia at her school, St James.

When we started Make it and Mend it, we wanted to ensure that skills and crafts are passed on to new generations and we were bemoaning the fact that so rarely are skills like this taught at school. Maia is certainly benefiting from a great art teacher (Mrs Hay) and sewing teacher (Mrs Pickles) at her school.

Maia made a delightful Binca cross stitch book cover for her copy of her favourite Paddington Bear. This is a sampler of a number of different stitches, including herringbone, zig-zags and magic stitch. Binca fabric is a great way for children to get started on sewing and embroidery.

The Peggy purse is also made using Binca and again has a great range of different stitches.

Finally Maia told me she made the pottery jug by cutting out 2 cardboard templates and using these to cut the sides of the jug. The patterning on the jug was made by rolling a piece of lace over the clay, before joining the pieces together and adding a base. They were joined using slip (clay mixed with water). The clay handle was added, again after using lace to pattern the edge. The piece was finished by firing in a kiln, then painted and glazed and fired again. Maia tells me putting the pieces together was the most tricky part of the operation.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Tip of the day

MIAMI member Angela (check out her great tea cosy knitting pattern on the website) sent us this useful tip today:
When you buy a head of celery, you usually only want to use 3 or 4 stalks in a recipe... then what do you do with the remainder of the celery? You could, of course, make soup... but suppose you don't have time right now? Wrap the remaining part of the head of celery in foil, and put it in the salad drawer in your refrigerator. It will keep fresh and crisp as the day it was bought for up to 3 weeks.
>> Angela's old fashioned tea cosy pattern 

Friday, 7 January 2011

Clare F's New Year Resolutions

Listening to the radio today, I heard how one of the commonest new year resolutions this year is to spend more time with friends. The recession and the further belt-tightening we're told lies ahead, has caused a lot of us to start prioritising our personal relationships over our bank balances. Amen to that!

Hilary's requested each of us MIAMI founders write up our NYRs. I don't usually make NYRs - I find them a bit like a noose round my neck. But in the spirit of collaboration...

I'm afraid not all my plans for 2011 will burnish my MIAMI credentials - as first of all I want to replace my car. I'm going for a smaller cheaper, more fuel efficient model - but I know, being a Londoner, I should try and manage without one at all. But hell - nobody's perfect - least of all me - and i've come along way as a reformed petrol head.

My second confession is that I want to go to Australia this year - so adding some long haul travel to my planetary burden. But this is not just a frivolous holiday - I plan to do some work while I'm there, visit my brother's family and do some research for my novel. And it would be good to arrange a MIAMI meet-up while I'm there - so any Miami members in Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane get in touch!

Right that's the confessions out of the way now - here's the other stuff:
  1. I'm going to re-join my weekly art class. Devoting a morning each week to water colour painting is a marvellous form of relaxation, and in my case a form of meditation. I've been really missing this weekly ritual.
  2. I'm going to spend the rest of the art class day either making things or getting inspiration from others by going to a gallery, to watch a film or visit a museum or garden.
  3. I'm going to finish my novel
  4. I'm going to finish my quilt
  5. Last but not least I'm going to make sure we get our first MIAMI book completed and on sale - watch this space!
Now that I've gone public on all that I'm jolly well going to have to deliver it. That's the trouble with NYRs - they hang over you like the Sword of Damocles!

If you need a bit of help keeping to your NYRs check out this website http://www.43things.com/

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

My sustainable Christmas Tree

I’ve just undressed my Christmas tree and rather than being left with a rather sad, naked and past-it old thing, my tree looks like it’s been on a rehab and top vitamins programme this Christmas. Look – this is it after 2 weeks in a centrally heated house!

This is because I was road-testing a tree from the fabulous people at Christmas Tree Angels who grow Christmas trees in pots on a wild Scottish mountainside for 11 months of the year, bring them south for a bit of tinsel-time in urban homes and then pick them up and drive them home to Scotland for another 11 months of Highland air and a foot or two of growing time.

Well Christmas Tree Angels – you have my 5-star, thumbs-up award for a lovely looking tree, a great fragrance, virtually no needle drop (or droop) and a full door to door delivery service. And best of all, no trees were destroyed to decorate my living room. A truly sustainable way to enjoy a real tree at Christmas.

Also, I’m told by CTA’s Bill Harte, we can have the same tree here again next year. Yes, please Bill – we became rather attached to it and would love to see it back in London for Christmas 2011. Please accept my order.

It feels as though MIAMI’s been leading the way with sustainable upcycling Christmas advice. The media’s been full of advice and tips about hanging on to your Christmas cards and paper to use next Christmas. Aside from the sustainable Christmas tree (now on order) I have a cupboard full of used cards and wrapping paper. Perhaps the whole of Christmas 2011 can be an upcycling, sustainable festival in this house? What do you think? Can we do it?

Clare OB