Author Archives: sablefern

Welcome to the world 

Welcome to the world 

On the 22nd October, in a bit of a whirlwind 4 hours, our newest little person arrived. Boy. 7lb 14oz. Natural home birth. Perfect. 

  
This tiny little new life completes us as a family. The Girl Child and Boy Child 1 (as he shall now be known) are besotted. He sleeps a bit, he poops more, he eats a lot. The eating is draining – thank God for Netflix (I’m 32 hours into a major Buffy marathon). 

I’d forgotten the ‘newborn’ – the love, the tiny hands, the fierce protection, the extreme sleep deprivation. He graced me with 4 minutes sleep that first night. 4. The next night was an improvement,  I got 11 minutes. So it was going in the right direction. Thankfully eBay comes to the rescue during the long nights and, because it’s a dream like state, you completely forget what you ordered so the mystery parcels turning up are very exciting!

But we survived week 1. 
     

Into week 2. He sleeps more, I sleep more. It’s not consistent but it’s manageable. And it’s way more than Boy Child 1 ever slept. Because he never slept. Ever. 

I still haven’t managed a school run. I’ve been dressed before 12. I’ve drank hot tea and I’ve had to microwave my dinner on more than one occasion. So it’s swings and roundabouts. 

I’ve read a few blog posts and articles online recently which talk about ‘the village’. They say it takes a village to raise a child and I am lucky that I have that, in the very truest sense. The offers of help have been overwhelming and as this is child number 3 I am over any sense of ‘proving’ myself and will readily accept any help that comes our way, should we require. We are very lucky to have what we have.

And so we survive week 2. 

  
And he just needs to slow down. He’s lost his scrunchiness, he’s awake more, he’s figuring out those crazy hands. It all passes so quickly. 

While the others are at school, he’s my new sidekick and we shall have many adventures. He definitely seems the adventuring kind.

Simple puff pastry apple puffs with caramel sauce

Simple puff pastry apple puffs with caramel sauce

So when I woke up this morning, it was a typical rainy British bank holiday Monday that we love, know and expect. Although we had no plans so it didn’t really matter, it just makes the day a bit miserable! 

So naturally, I thought ‘I’ll make some caramel’ – this is an obvious thought process on such mornings. So make caramel I did. I also like apples. And pastry. And I made these quick wee parcels of appley pastry-y goodness. 

  
They’re nothing fancy. But quick, simple, tasty little bites which work well as snacks, for lunch boxes, dessert served with ice cream or, in our case, breakfast. 

You will need – 

Apples. Any apples will do and I used 2 apples to make around 10 puffs

Ready rolled puff pastry. Don’t be ashamed of the ready rolled pastry, I’d actually rather do anything else than make puff pastry from scratch

*Caramel sauce* 

250g caster sugar (and some for sprinkling) 

4 table spoons of water

150ml double cream 

50g butter

Let’s make yummy things! 

*1 

Pre heat your oven to gas mark 5, 190 degrees C. Unroll the pastry, cut a strip approximately 4″ wide and cut into 4 triangles. Sprinkle with a little caster sugar.  

 
*2 

Cut the apples into chunks around 1″ thick. You can peel them if you like, I chose not to because I was hungry and wanted food now the skin is good for you. But it’s up to you! Place the apple chunks along the edge of the pastry triangle, in the centre. 

  
*3 

Wrap the pastry around the apple chunks. I wrap the shorter edge in first, then the long edge around. Sprinkle with sugar, place on a baking tray (mine was clean but this was actually the second batch so don’t judge me) and pop into the oven for around 20-30 minutes or until golden. 

  
While they’re cooking, let’s make the sauce! 

*1 

Put the caster sugar and water into a heavy bottoms pan over low/medium heat and stir until the sugar has disolved. 

  
*2 

Increase the heat so there are gentle bubbles and keep mixing! It’ll begin to thicken.

  
*3 

The sugar will start to turn golden and thicken more. Keep mixing! You don’t want it to burn. And yes, I’ve changed from a plastic spatula to a wooden spoon, well spotted. This is because I stupidly forgot how hot sugar gets, melted the spatula and had to pick pink plastic out of the caramel dropped it on the floor.

  
*4

Once you have a smooth, golden caramel remove the pan from the heat and mix in the cream and the butter. Slowly and carefully! 

  
Then all you have to do is remove your puffs from the oven, allow to cool for a few minutes (they really are best eaten warm) with lashings of sauce! Hooray! What a wonderful breakfast. Or pudding. Or both. Let’s not put limits on things now. 

The apple puffs will keep for a few days in an air tight container (ha! Ours were gone within minutes) and the caramel sauce you can also keep in an air tight container in the fridge (unless you have a 4 year old who enjoys drinking any neat sauce, caramel, gravy etc…). 

The girl child decided that she would be making these when she appears on Junior Bake Off (in her little baking dreams) as they ‘look quite easy’ however, she is worried she would be expected to make her own pastry. So I guess she better get practising! 

Enjoy your puffs! 

  

  

From the garden to the kitchen – August

From the garden to the kitchen – August

Our garden, like all gardens, is a work in progress. Gardens take time, planning, effort and there’s a lot to think about! 

When we moved to Thornfield last year, we were lucky to inherit a garden which ticked all the boxes. It had been cared for and loved for over 100 years, although recently less so. There are areas for flowers, lawns, fruit trees – everything was once carefully thought out. 

My main aim for the garden was to provide food and I want it to give us produce all year round, in one form or another. We inherited an extremely well established and crazy-unstoppable-grows-like-wildfire rhubarb, an amazing plum tree and a lovely apple tree (which over produces fruit at an alarming rate). 

  
Truth be told, I don’t even like fruit. Apples are acceptable. But it’s lovely to grow, the children think eating ‘stuff from the garden’ is amazing and it looks pretty. Plus, I can make jam. And I like jam. 

A few months after we moved in we added two cherry trees, two pear trees, two more plum trees and two more apples. These did try and produce fruit this year but they were bloody rubbish not very successful, being so young. This apple tree managed one tiny apple. Next year however I think they’ll do just fine! 

  
Last year our plum tree had an infestation of plum moth. It was disgusting. At least a quarter of the crop was infected, easily spotted by the fruit ripening very quickly and inside? A horrid little grub and loads of grub poop. However this year, I see no evidence! Hooray! 

  
But what to do with all this fruit? My favourite way is to simply preserve it. Jams, pickles and chutneys – anything that will last and I can give as Christmas gifts because people love homemade gifts (well, I think they do. Basically it saves me a heap of cash too so I can buy shoes. And chocolate). 

So my plans for the apples are – chutney, apple sauce, general eating, crumbles, pies. I love apple crumble, I think it’s one of my all time favourite puddings! 

Plums – we have so many that we’re giving lots away, they ripen quickly and need to be used before they turn although soft fruit is fine for jam! So plum jam and chutney is the main use for these. 

Rhubarb – the rhubarb has been ‘gifting’ us fruit since mid May and to be honest, I’m over rhubarb. It’s only really good until mid September and then we let it die and compost back down into the roots. So the race is on to make some jam! The smell of rhubarb jam is amazing, it make you want to stick your face in the pan (although you must not do that because you will end up in hospital with jam stuck to your face and third degree burns). 

Tomorrow I’m going to pick plums, make some glitter plum jam and write up the recipe. Everything is better with glitter in it! 

Patchwork blanket sewing tutorial – a simple sew for beginners

Patchwork blanket sewing tutorial – a simple sew for beginners

 
I love blankets. Cotton, quilted, crochet, knitted – I’m not materialist, I just love blankets. I buy lots. I make less but I should make more! And writing this tutorial made me remember how simple they are to sew. 

If you can switch on a machine and sew in a (relatively) straight line, you can make a blanket like this. Definitely. No problem. Just take your time. 

And here’s what you need to do it – 

-Co-ordinating, or crazy random, fabric. 100% cotton is nicest I find but you could use anything or even a mixture! Great for getting rid of any scraps and making them useful. A little note on pre washing fabrics – I didn’t pre wash these as they are all cotton and all a similar colour. Although ‘most poeple’ would advise you to always pre wash. If using fabrics of different materials they could shrink differently when washed for the first time or mixing dark/light colours that could run, pre washing is probably a good idea! Unless you never intend to wash your blanket, that is. 

-Square template. Decide how big you want your squares to be. Mine were 5″ square, with the edge pieces being 2.5″ x 5″ and the corners being 2.5″ square. I just cut mine out of card. 

-Cutting mat and rotary cutter. Ok so this isn’t essential but if you need to cut a lot of squares I do recommend it! If you don’t want to cut your own squares you can buy pre cut, usually coordinated packs called Charm Squares – there are just hundreds to choose from here on Etsy and I have used packs before myself when I haven’t had the fabric I wanted. 

-Soft, cuddly backing fabric. I simply bought a soft, fleece blanket and cut it down to size (this is often cheaper than buying fleece by the metre & I just used a blanket I already had). 

-Thread. I keep it simple and use white on light fabrics and black on dark as they won’t be seen anyway but you can colour match if you wish! 

So let’s make blankets, yay! 

Step 1 – Choose your fabrics. You can pick anything you like, anything! This is your blanket. I chose cool mint greens and creams as I made this for our new impending neutral arrival due in October. You could just choose two and do alternate squares, you could choose 20 and have them all different!  I chose 3 Co-ordinating prints and 2 plains for the boarder. 

 
Step 2 – Have an approximate idea of the size of the finished blanket in your head. Lap blanket? Baby cot? King sized bed? Cut a few squares and start laying them out so you can get an idea of size and design and see how many of each square you need to cut as you go. Some people like to doodle it out in a notebook but I find that seeing the fabrics together is much more helpful. 

  
Take a photo! This will help you when you inevitably drop a big pile of squares and forget where you wanted everything. 

Step 3 – Time to start stitching. Start with the top row of your squares and place the first two squares print side together. Stitch together down the edge using the edge of the foot as the seam allowance guide. I’ve folded back the stars fabric so you can see that it is print side facing with the polka dots. 

  
Take the next square in the row and place it print side facing onto the square you just stitched (so I would place mine onto the stars as I’m working left to right) and stitch together. Continue this along the row until you’ve sewn all the squares together. Then move onto sewing the next row down and so on!

Step 4 – Ironing. Apart from when I really really have to, I never iron. I apologise to my slightly creased looking family for this but it’s such a boring job I find it hard to fit into my busy life. But sewing, sewing requires ironing. So iron! Iron down all those seams. Some people iron to the left, some to the right, some open them up to press. I just pick a side, any side. 

  
Step 5 – Now you have all your long strips it’s time to sew the blanket top together. My blanket top consisted of 8 rows (when I’d sewn each one I lay them back down, in order so they didn’t get jumbled up). Starting at the top, lay your first strip print side facing onto the strip below, then sew the seam along the top. Just like when we sewed all the squares together. You should now have two rows of your blanket topper sewn together, hooray! Sew each row to the one above until they’re all joined together and look like this. 

    
Let’s just have a little side note here about lining up all those seams. Even with a template and pretty accurate cutting and sewing, some of the seams just won’t line up. If you’re using different types of fabrics this could be to do with the stretch in each making it look a bit wonky or the odd square slightly bigger than the other. Don’t worry about it. It doesn’t matter. If it’s one square and its out by a lot, you could unpick it and re sew it but generally it’s the little quirks and imperfections that make handmade what it is. 

Step 6 – Iron all those seams flat again! 

Step 7 – Backing fabric. Lay the backing fabric down and place the patchwork blanket top face down onto it (nicely pressed seams facing upwards). Pin it, pin it to death! It will move and stretch so I pin the corners, down the sides, top, bottom and a couple in the middle. I’m not a pinner usually, I tend to just hold things together and sew but when you need pins, you need pins. Cut around the blanket top to make the backing the right size. This doesn’t have to be that neat right now. 

  
Step 8 – Stitch all the way around the blanket but leave a gap to turn the whole thing through. Leave a gap! A gap of about 4″ was enough for my blanket but you might need a bigger space if your blanket is larger. 

Step 9 – Trim those seams. Trim the seams around the edge of the blanket and remove the pins (if they’re still in there). Snip the corners off, being careful not to cut through the stitching. This will give your blanket sharper corners.  

 
Step 10 – Turn your blanket through the gap you left, poke the corners out with a knitting needle/pencil and give it a good shake. Looks like a blanket, yay! 

Step 11 – Iron your blanket. Last time, I promise! Tuck the edges in from the gap you left too and iron them flat. 

  
Step 12 – Top stitching. Top stitching is what it says it is, stitching over the top. You don’t have to do it but I think it makes for a better finish (and believe me, if there’s a corner to cut somewhere when doing a job, I’ll do it). I stitched all the way around the edge of my blanket. Oh! And it also closes up that gap we left to turn it through too. 

  
And that’s it! One new blanket. Time to grab some wine, stick a film on, snuggle under and be a bit smug with your new creation. Hooray! 

  
Here’s another one I made for a friend’s little boys 1st birthday, using Cath Kidston quilting cotton with co-ordinating prints. 

  
I’d love to see if you make your own blanket! Happy snuggling. 

Whimsy Woo hobby horse pattern review – stitch your own best friend! 

Whimsy Woo hobby horse pattern review – stitch your own best friend! 

Both of our small human children love thundering around on hobby horses but I didn’t think the shop bought ones reflected their style and personalities. So I was on a mission to stitch them some best friends.

I decided to have a quick look online before I embarked on drafting my own pattern. To be honest, I could have done this myself but sometimes it’s just nice to have someone to hold your hand, guide you through and not have to worry about anything. Tried and tested! So quickly into my search I came across the Whimsy Woo pattern by Emma Marie. I mean, look at these horses. Who can resist??


All the ‘wooies’ above were made by Joanne over at Cherry Blossom and they’re just gorgeous! She’s made over 100 wooies, yes, over 100! And look! There’s even a wooicorn.

So I’d had this pattern about a year before I’d even printed it out. I procrastinate like to prepare, take my time and think things through. Yes. Anyway, the first two I made were for a friend’s twins birthday, I made one more ‘girly’ and one more ‘boyish’. The pattern was simple, well written and, if there is a tricky bit (like sewing the bloody ears on) there is a wealth of help on YouTube or the wooie Facebook page! Mine took 3-4 hours each. All the materials you need are clearly listed at the beginning so it is easy to gather these in advance – DO THIS! Don’t just wing it, honestly do not think ‘pfffft, I can sew these buttons with a normal needle, I don’t need a doll needle’ (what kind of an idiot would think that *cough* me) – you need a doll needle. A really long one.

If you’re a beginner and thinking ‘I love it… But I can’t sew!’ Never fear! This pattern is really good for anyone of any level because you can add as much or as little as you like. Read the instructions, take your time.

Unfortunately I didn’t take any photographs of the two I’d made because I totally ran out of time and just finished stitching 10 minutes before the party the lighting was pretty bad. But I have collected a selection of photographs from some amazingly talented makers – this show just how diverse this pattern is, that you can really go wild with your imagination and create *exactly* what you want.


Above the top two are created by Georgie Porge, I mean… Look at them. Look! They are works of art. And they take hours, hours and hours but they are amazing! The wool mane and floral headbands are super special too and Emma (a different Emma to the Whimsy Woo pattern creator) has created her own tutorial so you can have a go too! You can find those here.

The bottom two wooies are by Kim over at Kim’s Peanut Gallery. I think Kim makes the most wooies out of everyone I’ve ever seen, she is always busy making beautiful ponies for her customers. She even makes adorable little carrots, feedbags and apples!


I love the superhero mask on this wooie, I think both my children would adore this idea! He’s by Vanessa over at  Leviolets Lovelies, he even has a name!

I’ve seen this pattern be adapted for making dragons and dinosaurs, sea horses and everything from Cowboys to princesses. Made to match dresses, bedroom decor and even really mini ones! The possibilities are endless.

The next one I’m planning, which I will take photos of and share with you all, is for our girl child. Her favourite colours is blue and she picked out some Fairy Frost by Michael Miller which is super sparkly. I collected all the other bits together and I think it’ll make a lovely Wooie.


You can buy the Whimsy Woo pattern here (along with add ones for a Wooicorn and masks)

The beautiful wool mane and floral headband tutorials are available here

I’d love to see if you make one!

Why I love Liberty – a little shop of wonders

Why I love Liberty – a little shop of wonders

  

IMG_5442-0-e1437385725506

I love everything about Liberty. It is a magical place, an emporium full of wonders – many of which you won’t find anywhere else.  It encompasses everything for me that is quintessentially British, completely eccentric and homely. My Emma Bridgewater Liberty mug is one of my favourites in my Emma Bridgewater collection.

The iconic store in Londons Regent Street was built in 1924, using the timbers from two ships to recreate the Tudor style during a popular revival. Sadly founder Arthur Liberty did not live to see its completion. Here he is pictured below, looking very much like my Uncle David. I appreciate you won’t get the similarities because you don’t know my Uncle David but trust me, they’re very much alike.

IMG_5464

Every time I go to London I visit Liberty. I have to confess though that I’ve never actually bought anything in there and I find it ridiculously busy because it is so loved, so renowned, people travel from far and wide to see inside its doors. So my advice is to get there early. And yes, there is always a queue at opening time.

My number one favourite thing is, obviously, the fabric. Yards and yards of beautiful fabric. I’ve always loved Liberty prints, they range from the traditional floral to the more modern, I think there’s something for everyone! I have nearly 150 different prints in my hoarding stash  collection and I am always on the look out for anything baring a Liberty print. Shoes are a particular favourite but I think they require their own post of appreciation!

Beautiful things featuring Liberty prints always catch my eye, from homewares to accessories to clothing. Most of the fabric I sew with is Liberty, it’s pretty special stuff. I’ve picked out below my favourite products featuring Liberty from Etsy (which is where I do most of my searching and shopping, the best place to find something handmade and totally unique!).

Wrap bracelet // Bunny toy // Strawberry thief tie
Teacup fascinator // Little purse // Hair bows

Hair bows and bunny toys are top of my list, I love bunnies so a bunny/Liberty combination is completely dreamy.

So if you haven’t been to Liberty, do go. It’s packed with treasure and like no shop you’ve ever been to before.

Organisation for the disorganised, inspirational workspace 

Organisation for the disorganised, inspirational workspace 

I can’t lie and I can’t hide it, I am disorganised. I’m a classic type B person, if you choose to believe such things, so perhaps I’ll go with ‘relaxed’ and ‘laid back’ rather than disorganised. But however you look at it, I can’t find things when I need them, everything looks untidy and it just makes my head hurt. So over on Pinterest I’ve been looking for inspirational workspaces to help me get things under control.


Light and bright with some colour and lots of lovely pictures and nicknacks and some practical storage are the things I was looking for.


So this is my space. It’s not perfect and I want to add a few things (like a peg board to the right where I can hang up all my tape, pen pots, scissors and notebooks) and I need to revamp and up cycle my desk! I bought the desk for a whopping £3 from a jewellers that was closing down and I love it but it needs a make over. The tissue paper tassel garland I bought home from the Blogcademy I went to a few weeks ago. They were just throwing them away! And as a self confessed hoarder I couldn’t let that happen. Plus, they’re so pretty!


I need a pinboard as it’s where I pin little bits of inspiration but also everything that I need to do that day, week or month. The one by my sewing machine is full so I decided to split it up and having sewing tasks on my sewing pin board and admin tasks on this one. I made it look a little less plain just by using some pink cut out washi tape (similar here) around the edges. Simple but effective!


I love this quote so much, I found it in a magazine and thought it was perfect just above my desk as a little reminder. I’ve even added a plant – it’s like an actual, proper, grown up working space where grown ups do work and get stuff done. But with added glitter pencils and rainbows and unicorns.

So I’m hoping my lovely workspace will help me to stay focused and organised. I’m sure that over the next few months the pictures above the desk will grow, I’ll swap things around and add and take away and change things until I find what works. And I will revamp the desk!

Simple gratin dauphinois recipe – an authentic taste of France.

Simple gratin dauphinois recipe – an authentic taste of France.

I ummed and ahhed about this first post, choosing to bypass the ‘hi this is me and this is what I do’ (after all, you can read that here) and jump right in with food. Who doesn’t love food!    

 

Gratin dauphinois is a potato side dish which originates from the south west of France. Our family were introduced to this *amazing* food when we lived in the region and it was something that my dad continued to cook for us throughout our childhood. It is my ultimate favourite food, it can accompany everything from pie to fish and salad. Just a bowl on its own is pretty good too!

So let’s get on with cooking!

You will need –

*An oven proof dish (any size will do, from individual portions to mammoth offerings depending on the amount of people. It works well as left overs so if in doubt, over cater!)

*Waxy potatoes (my dish was approx. 12″ x 8″ and I used 8 medium potatoes)

*3 large carrots. Ok so I’ve never read a recipe that had carrots in it before but this is how we always had it when we were little. Feel free to leave them out but they definitely add something good!

*3-4 tablespoons of crème frâiche

*Approx. 300ml of single cream or milk (I use milk, I don’t think it makes a huge difference)

*Black pepper

*Grated cheese

Pre heat the oven to gas mark 5, 190 degrees.

1) Slice the potatoes and carrots. I like to slice mine so they are almost transparent but the thickness varies from wafer thin to as thick as a coin as slicing isn’t an exact science. It doesn’t matter too much, thinly sliced is fine. Alternatively you could use a mandoline.

2) Layer the potato and carrot slices into your dish to the top. I seem to alternate two layers of potato, one of carrots but you can mix this up how you like.

3) Add the milk or cream. I fill the dish about half way with milk, so it depends on how large your dish is. Too little is better than too much as you don’t want there to be lots of liquid.

4) Expertly and artistically ‘blob’ on (technical culinary term) the crème frâiche.

5). Cover liberally in black pepper. The eagle eyed among you might notice my pepper is rainbow pepper, not strictly black pepper but it is essentially the same. Don’t skimp! The pepper is very important.

 

6) Sprinkle over the grated cheese, lots of! Cover with foil and pop into the oven for approx. 60-90 minutes. This will depend on the size of your dish, mine took around 90minutes. Remove the foil 10 minutes before the end to make the cheese nice and crispy. You can check if it’s done by poking it with a knife, if it slides through with little resistance, your food is cooked!

And that is it! Cook, eat, enjoy.