Monday, 29 September 2008

Blackberry Muffins

Blackberry Muffins
1/2 cup butter at room temp
1 cup caster/white granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt (a pinch)
2 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blackberries
2 cups self- raising flour
1/2 cup milk

1 tablespoon light brown sugar
2 tablespoons porridge oats
Heat oven to 375° F (180° C ish).

Grease 18 regular-size muffin cups (or 12 large size muffins) or line muffin tins with paper cases.
In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.

Add eggs one at a time, beating after each.

Beat in vanilla, baking powder and salt. With spoon, fold in half of flour then half of milk into batter.

Fold in the remainder of the flour, and then the remainder of the milk.

Gently fold blackberries into the batter and spoon into muffin cups.

Combine topping ingredients and sprinkle onto each muffin.

Bake 20 minutes, or until golden brown and springy to touch.

cooks notes: we picked our blackberries from the thicket in the park around the corner from our house. M says these taste nicer than my blueberry muffins. I'm not the biggest blackberry fan but it was fun picking the berries together as a family, and it made me remember all the times I used to pick them as a child to be made into blackberry pie served with vanilla ice-cream. H said he wasn't going to eat any as he was in a stroppy mood but he still managed to eat two.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Tales on the Farm

When I was small we lived in an old farm house in rural New York State. My mother is of the opinion it was an awful place full of hicks and horrible winters. We moved away when I was 5 but I can still remember the wonderland I thought the farm was. We had goats, geese, chickens, cows, cats and dogs, I was in kid heaven, but I had my enemies too.

The billy Goat for instance.. he loathed me, just me was fine with my parents, with all the other animals but hated one small girl child with wild brown hair and holes in the knees of her jeans. Every day my mother milked the goats and every day the billy goat would rear up on his hind legs, paw at the air and bleat at me. I was terrified so my mother gave me a stick, I'm not sure if that counts as animal abuse or not but the Billy Goat would loom over me and I would wave the stick in his general direction, and miracle of miracles he would back off. For a bit anyway then he would loom nearer and stand on two legs challenging me, and I would brandish my stick and wave it at him.

We also had a goose and gander, the goose thought my mother was her mother and would follow my mother everywhere on the farm, into the house out of the house, everywhere that my mother went the goose went. The gander on the other hand, well he was pure evil, spawn of the devil himself. Everyday after kindergarten he would wait by the fence for me to step off the school bus.

I would hop off the school bus, the big bus if the bridge was ok, but the short bus if the bridge was broken, or under repair and no heavy trucks allowed, slip through the gate and there would be the gander. He would charge me honking and flapping his wings and I would run in terror to the farm house braids flying. If I wasn't quick enough the gander would nip at my heels, and my clothes. This happened every single school day. I still don't know what I ever did at the age of 5 to incur the wrath of the farmyard.

I had one more enemy though, one of the cows, a brown Jersey cow with beautiful dark liquid eyes and long lustrous lashes. My parents thought it might be fun to put me on the cows back. The cow thought otherwise and bolted leaving me hanging round her neck as she bucked and kicked rampaging through the barn until I fell off into a rubber feed bucket listening to my parents laughter. I loved it all though and missed it when we moved on to new adventures in California.

Why am I reminiscing about the past? Because I am feeling a bit lost and homesick at the moment. This is the first autumn since I moved to England that I won't be flying back home to the states. I know very well that this is my home here, my house, but I miss the states, I miss my parents, and my friends Meg, Jaci, and Gin, I miss pumpkin patches, apple orchards, Cinnabuns, yard sales, and just being in the US of A. M says we will be flying to Seattle in spring, then the long drive across Washington State to reach my parents home in Northern Idaho. Its a long time till spring though and my thoughts will be with my other home. What I wouldn't give for some decent Mexican or Vietnamese, or even french fries and a strawberry shake at Denny's!

Tonight my friend Frizbe is taking me and the kids to Asda Walmart, for a wander down the Halloween isle so I can have a few moments to look at glittering plastic spiders, vampire teeth, horrible candy and orange plastic jack-o-lanterns. A small piece of America in Derbyshire.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Its all Done with Smoke and Silver

smokey quartz and sterling silver braclet

A few pieces of jewellery I crafted yesterday in a attempt to get some more stock for they esty shop and to take up to the shop in town that has been selling my jewellery for me. I adore the hill tribe silver toggle clasp on the smokey quartz bracelet. And the red and white polkadot bracelet looks good enought to eat.

I'll be posting again later today or tommorrow... a bit about Halloween, homesickness for the states, and the state of the house (we have a fence now!) brownies, and the school PTA...

Polkadot bracelet- red and white jade

pale faceted rose quartz and sterling silver

Friday, 19 September 2008

Good Spirit

Gilbert the Ghostie

I'd like you to meet Gilbert the Ghostie, he is a little bit shy and tends to wear his heart o his sleeve. Well he would if he had sleeves that is. He is a bit rubbish at being scary, in fact he is proably more afraid of you then you would be of him. He loves musicals, spagetti westerns, hot cocoa, and popcorn. You can often find him wandering round the forrest singing show tunes to his friends the trees.

onyx, orange carnelian, and sterling silver, bracelet

I know its over a month until Halloween but its my favourite holiday of the year, candy, coustumes, monster movies, more candy whats not to love about it? The bright orange carnelian faceted bades arrived in the post yesterday from Bobbi and I couldn't wait to pair them with some black onyx for a scintalating Halloween treat.

Gilbert on a small recycled paper notebook

And here is Gilbert again, gracing the cover of a tiny recycled paper notebook that has been floating around various boxes since well before the move. all items with any luck should be uploaded to etsy later this afternoon.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Deep Blue Sea

blue quartz and silver bracelet

How fantastic are the blue quartz beads in this bracelet? They arrived yesterday and I couldn't stop playing with them until I created this. I know I am one for not linking fussy jewellery but these beads really do stand alone. They are synthetic quartz but beautifully cut into faceted pillow shapes and pair beautifully with my favourite sterling silver seed beads. The bracelet reminds me of the sea.

crystal quartz, onyx, and red jade bracelet

I know another black and red theme but I saw necklace in a magazine and I had to do something with the faceted quartz crystal beads I ordered the other week. It looks quite effective and sits nicely on the wrist.

lace agate and white jade pendant

Last but not least is a red lace agate and white jade pendant that I made for the diabolical that was the Marehay Show. It didn't sell but was often looked at. Too expensive for the venue I suppose though I really love the piece, its very pretty though the light escapes every time I attempt to photograph it. I will be placing it for sale on etsy Friday.

As American as Apple Muffins

cinnamon apple muffins


1/2 cup butter at room temp
1 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (or 1 and ½)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt (a pinch)
2 1/2 cups Pink Lady apples (peeled cored and chopped into small pieces)
2 cups self- raising flour
1/2 cup milk

Heat oven to 375°.
Grease 18 regular-size muffin cups (or 12 large size muffins) or line muffin tins with paper cases.
In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.

Add eggs one at a time, beating after each.

Beat in vanilla, baking powder and salt. With spoon, fold in half of flour then half of milk into batter.

Fold in the remainder of the flour, and then the remainder of the milk.

Gently fold the chopped apple into the batter and spoon into muffin cups.

Bake 20 minutes, or until golden brown and springy to touch.

alternatives: you can cook the apple before hand but I prefer the apple to be recognizable in the muffins. you can top the muffins with a little sugar, or a crumble topping.

cook's notes: on the previous weeks shopping Pink Lady apples were buy a bag get a bag free, which was all well and good until M realized his bargain apples had skin tough as shoe leather. The muffins turned out lovely, and smelled and tasted like a muffin equivalent of American apple pie. I may just be the teeniest bit homesick for all things Americana as we won't be visiting the states until spring.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Dyed Turquoise

dyed turquoise and onyx bracelet

I found these lovely square dyed turquoise beads on a trip to Spellbound Beads in Lichfield on Saturday. The string of beads was reduced as it was missing a few and they were also having a sale on semi-precious beads so it was meant to be. I love the pairing of the turquoise and the black faceted onyx.

dyed turquoise and sterling silver

With the remainder of the string of beads I made this simple one, I love the feel of the beads they sit well on your wrist and the colour is so vibrant. I could have spent all day digging through different trays of beads before being shouted at by H that he was a) hungry b) thirsty and c) board to tears. oh well next time then.

oh and to round off my playing with bead I made this simple little key chain with some lovely purple beads that Bobbi sent to me ages ago as a gift with an order. I can't remember what stone they are, my brain is frazzeled and caffeine deprived, but seeing as I broke my normal keychain I needed something to carry my keys.

Rocky Road II

Rocky Road

250g dark chocolate (70% or higher)
2 cups mini marshmallows
1 cup pecan nuts (toasted)
1 cup digestive biscuits (graham crackers) broken into small pieces
½ cup raisins (sun maid of course)
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
¼ cup cream
Line a 8x8 square pan with waxed paper

Melt the chocolate and the butter in the microwave or on the stove top, add the cream, sugar, and mix thoroughly.

Add the nuts, biscuit pieces, and the marshmallows. Mix until just combined.

Spread into lined pan and refrigerate until firm.

Dust with icing sugar and cut into squares or rectangles.

You can also try adding dried fruit (dried cherries, coconut, dried mango, dried strawberries, etc) or candy (m&m’s, reece’s pieces, Turkish delight cut into small pieces), or use white chocolate instead of dark

cook's notes: we made this a few night ago with H, and his friends. M was unimpressed by the addition of the raisins, but the kids loved adding them in the tiny little raisin boxes. The use of the plain simple digestive biscuits made for a nice salty sweetness that made the rocky road my best yet. The plate is one that H painted last summer and though rocky road is a bit fugly to look at its divine to eat.

Friday, 12 September 2008

strange fruit

faceted onyx and red jade bracelet
Ok I totally admit to being obsessed with black and red jewellery at the moment, and here is another example of black and red, a second Poison Apple Bracelet, with a single vibrant red jade bead and a silver plated apple toggle clasp. How cute is this? well I think it is anyway, and it will be going up for sale on my etsy shop later today.

a larger image of the whole bracelet

purple jade choker

I am also in love with this simple purple jade choker, I wish that the sun would come out because this image does the necklace no justice, its really pretty I just love the mauve-y purple colour of the jade beads. I really really want to keep this for myself because its my favourite shade of purple.

what else have I been up to recently....?

vintage green linen handkerchief

Oh yes I remember....I found this green linen handkerchief in a basket at the antiques store in town, there are some lovely embroidered treasures there but I was looking for something that was plain to embroider myself. When I found this brilliant green handkerchief I knew it was perfect to practice my doodle embroidery on. And I even knew who it would be for, Katy as she loves green, and she sent us some beautiful flowers a few days after we moved house. I sadly neglected to photograph the flowers, something to do with not having found the box the camera was in yet.

I must have doodled a dozen different motifs and squiggles before I decided on a shoe and the words "shoe love", if you know Katy and her blog then you will know why. Oh and it had to be in orange, I was quite tempted to do a Halloween doodle with Gilbert the Ghostie and a pumpkin but I think the shoe works fine and I hope Katy likes it.

closeup of orange shoe love embroidery

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

and the winner is.....

freshly picked from a random number generator as I'm too tired to find the box that has paper in it to write out names. Its been a very long day. oh yes where was I? the winner yes thats it..
the winner is comment number 2.

Incywincy thats you... I will e-mail you when I get the chance and parcel up something for you when I have interrogated you more about your likes and dislikes. :o)

Monday, 8 September 2008

First Day of School

Today was H's first day of school, he went off like a happy little trooper swinging his bag and eager to run into the school. We shall see how long that lasts before he tires of it. I cried of course, once we got to the safety of the car, and again when we got to my happy place AKA Starbucks for a sniffle over a latte. I am so proud of him for being such a brave little boy happily going off to his first day of school but at the same time where did my little boy go? my little baby?

Giveaway update: I haven't had a chance to sort things out for the giveaway so I'm going to let it run till Wednesday the 10th and give everyone a few extra days to sign up. thanks everyone for the lovely comments so far its really touched me the kindness of everyone.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

poison apple jewellery and a blunder into the Surreal

poison apple bracelet- onyx and red jade
Well I had my first fair experience today at the Marehay show.. not technically a crafts fair... it was different... not all together bad.. the venue changed about three times due to the rain and we ended up squashed in at the Marehay Miners Welfare.. yes it was as dire as it sounds.... and we were pushed up against the wall in a room with all the show vegetables, so even though the fair was to open at 12 it didn't until nearly two because the judges were so intensely viewing the vegetable entries....the day was filled with muttering old biddies, grumbling old coots arguing the toss over who's cabbage was best, and there were some shop bought beets and corn that were severely disqualified.
My competition in the jewellery stakes was a stall selling very cheap plastic and glass and metal (not even pretty glass in my opinion) I was a bit confused with what wares she was actually selling as she was a bit slap happy with the makeup the satellites she wore for hoop earrings and apparently she left the house before she put a skirt on. Not that I'm a prude but put some clothes on woman. I sold a few pieces about £41 which isn't bad for Ripley, had a few inquiries and handed out some of my cards.
My sales though were to my Mother in Law, two friends who bought a bracelet each, a lovely mute lady who my fellow stall holders thought was being rude before they figured out she couldn't speak. and A drunken lout who bought a key chain for his girlfriend.
oh and did I mention the pornographic flower arranging demonstrations? three of them in all... all about wide bottoms, tassels, and blowing roses to open them up.. very peculiar day...
strawberries and cream - white jade and strawberry quartz
In preparation for yesterday's surreal experience of attending Marehay Show to have half a craft stall I have been busy making a few bits and pieces of jewellery. I ordered the red jade beads a few days ago and they are delicious looking, beautifully vibrant and juicy looking, like ripe red berries, or poison apples, and pair beautifully with the black onyx coin beads. I got loads of interest buy not buyers for the piece at Marehay show, its not really the thing that biddies and codgers like to purchase, perhaps a bit too goth for granny?

Gilbert the ghost- embroidery wip

oh and meet Gilbert The Ghost. Gilbert is small and not terribly good at being scary, he likes spagetti westerns, 80's movies, and has an unhealth obsession with musicals.

he is a work in progress from a quick doodle in my go-everywhere- notebook. He is embroidered because I havne't got my paints unpacked just yet. But keep a look out, I'm sure he will find his way into acrylics and vintage book pages sometime soon.

don't forget to leave a comment on my giveaway post!

Monday, 1 September 2008

two hundred and fifty

Percival likes to Party
No not the new house number but this is my 250th blog post! I know I have been scarce since the last post ages ago, but we still haven't got an Internet connection at our new home. The move went well, though the things we own seem to have multiplied and there seem to have been far more boxes of unidentified objects than previously thought. M had man-flu and the busiest wedding weekend of the year (10 weddings in all though M only shot 5 of them, he had to edit them all) so it was up to me to sort out boxes(moving boxes upstairs that needed to be down stairs), build furniture (much swearing was involved), and filling a massive skip full to the brim with garden rubble), stripping of hideous dark wallpaper(H helped), and painting over a godawful blue in the bathroom (4 freaking coats of cream).

There is still a lot of work to be done on the house, there is a sinkhole in the kitchen in front of the sink from water damage, leaking radiator, burnt kitchen cupboard door, weird lighting and wiring, dark yellow painted ceiling in the living room, doors that are so dark they might as well be painted black, and a garden that was so neglected we discovered a broken shed hidden under a clematis plant, and a magnolia tree being smothered to death by some evil laylandaii trees. It will get done bit by bit, and its not all together a money pit, the house on its own is beautiful, on a lovely little Close, a driveway and garage, a second bathroom, a dinning kitchen and dozens of children live on the street and H has been slowly integrating himself into their society. We are all happy and the absolute best bit is I get a craft room/office!

M thinks it will be his office too but once its strewn with half finished craft projects I think me may abandon all hope... Besides he is a photographer he has his own studio to play in... I want one piece of the house to put my beads, my paints... my books, and call it mine.. some place other than the kitchen, because we already established the fact that the kitchen is my domain and M is only tolerated in it.

In celebration of moving and reaching 250 posts I would like to offer a giveaway. As to what I giveaway, well you tell me, leave me a comment telling me something about yourself, you favourite book, fairy tale, colour that makes you happy and I will give the winner a commisioned piece, it may be art it may be jewellery, it will be a surprise specially made for the winner. So please leave a comment and in a week's time, on Monday the 8th of September I will draw a winner and create something special just for them.