Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Patchwork: Christmas Mini Norway

I have been desperate to make Thimbleblossom's Norway quilt for ages and bought the pattern some time ago. I don't have time to make the full quilt at the moment, but I thought that one of the blocks would make a good mini quilt which I could use on my Christmas table this year.

I am a big fan of Nordic Noir, such as The Bridge and The Killing, and I love the fact that the design looks like it has fallen off of one of Sarah Lund's big sweaters, and at the same time it looks very festive (snowflake?)!

I am linking in with this month's Le Challenge theme: Space - thinking about making space for guests at Christmas, space on the table and making a space look festive. However, I still can't decide whether I am brave enough to risk this having cranberry sauce spilled on it or whether I will hang it up in the dining room instead.

I still plan to make the full quilt at some point, but I am definitely going to buy some jelly rolls to make it from - it is hard work hand cutting all the strips!

Le Challenge 

Mrs Jones x

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Make: 3d Reindeer Decorations

I thought I would share with you some inexpensive 3d Reindeer Christmas Decorations that I made with a group of people yesterday. The brief was to find a Christmas craft activity for people of all ages that can be replicated at home and at little cost (the original card I used was from the centre of a roll of wrapping paper). I found this wonderful template on Pinterest for 3d reindeer which is free to copy and share. However, I couldn't get it to print from my ipad, so used the idea to free-draw my own shapes.

Once you have cut your shapes you need two short pieces of straw between the three shapes to make him appear 3d. I added a button nose to mine, but you could also bling it up a little...

For more inexpensive Christmas craft ideas, check out my Pinterest board.

Love Mrs Jones x

Monday, 26 October 2015

Sewn: Dressing Gown (Dress A Clothing for Everyday Wear)

It has been a fair while since I actually sewed myself a garment, partly because I was a little disappointed with the last couple of things I have made and also for much of the last year my weight had been unstable due to medication. But, I wanted to get back into the swing of sewing without the constraints of having to have a perfect fit, and a dressing gown seemed like the perfect solution. 

I really liked the Buchanan Dressing Gown by Gather (which is also available as a kit) and this gown by Purl Soho, but then I remembered Dress A from Stylish Dress Book: Clothing for Everyday Wear by Yoshiko Tsukiori which always looked more like a dressing gown than a dress to me!

Pattern Description
Wraparound dress with pockets


The instructions and diagrams were so clear easy to follow.

Fabric used
I found a gorgeous blush/cream medium weight cotton which I think is a perfect weight/warmth for the Spring to Autumn seasons. It probably isn't thick enough for Winter.

The back of the dressing gown should have been cut in two pieces and sewn together, but this seemed a little daft to me, so I put my pattern piece on the fold and made it just the one piece. 
I used my current dressing gown as a model for placing some internal ribbon ties in addition to the drawstring. The drawstring I have left as an external belt so that I can tie it together at the front of the gown.

I also reinforced the shoulder seams with some leftover self-made binding.

Sew it again?
Definitely - I am already envisaging it in brushed cotton! I am loving Ms Wabi-Sabi's version here.

Love Mrs Jones x

Monday, 19 October 2015

Travel: Toronto, Canada 2015: A Vacation

I have just returned from a wonderful vacation in Ontario, Canada visiting my family. I always knew that Canada was famous for its Autumn colours, but they were just so spectacular.

These photos were taken at Chudleigh's Apple Farm, Halton Hills where we spent a wholesome Canadian Thanksgiving in glorious sunshine picking (and eating) apples and eating the best corn barbecued whole and spread with melted butter.

One of the best ways to make the most of a short stay in or around Toronto, is to pick up a Citypass which allows you access to the top five attractions (the CN Tower, Toronto Zoo, Royal Ontario Museum, Ontario Science Centre and Casa Loma). You save as long as you visit three of these -we didn't visit Casa Loma.

We were blessed with brilliant weather at the CN Tower which led to fantastic views. We paid extra to go right up to the skypod which is great but you can definitely feel the sway of the tower in the wind so is not for the faint hearted!

Following on from the dizzying heights of the tower, we walked to the ROM which seemed a good idea but was much further than we thought - allow at least 45-60 minutes walk between the two (or take the subway from Union to Museum, which we did on the return journey)! We completed our long day in Toronto with a trip to see the Toronto Raptors play at the Air Canada Centre (basketball). 

No trip to Toronto is complete without a drive (about an hour) to Niagara Falls. Unless you are big into tackiness, the actual town of Niagara is not worth a second look but the falls themselves are pretty spectacular. My family did the Journey Behind the Falls whilst I had a sedate stroll around, followed by a hot chocolate in the overlooking Welcome Centre.

The drive between Niagara Falls and Niagara on the Lake (30-40 minutes) takes you past some beautiful Canadian countryside, vineyards and the most gorgeous houses. I just can't believe I didn't stop to photograph them. Niagara on the Lake is again a bit of a tourist honey trap but is full of lots of lovely shops, including Reiners where I indulged in a leather Moose (don't even ask how I got him home)!!

Ontario Science Centre felt a little dated and is not the easiest location to access by public transport (take the subway from Union to Eglinton, then the No 34 Eglinton East bus, getting off at Don Mills Road), however, they did have Felix Baumgartner's spacesuit and capsule and lots of hands on science for all ages.

Crawford Lake was where we saw the best Autumn colour, and is a lovely, deep lake with a boardwalk surrounding it. There are also Iroquoian longhouses here. We were lucky enough to hear a milksnake rattle its tail, and see some turkey vultures. There are also turtles in the lake, but we were unable to spot any.
Whilst we were in Canada, Er Shun, the giant panda gave birth to twins at Toronto Zoo. Whilst they will not be on public display for three - four months, it was still fascinating to see the Panda Dad, as well as an array of other animals.
Love Mrs Jones x

Sunday, 27 September 2015

In my Garden: September 2015

It is a beautifully sunny weekend here and I am enjoying the last a few jobs out in the garden, preparing it for winter. We have mown the grass for the last time and tidied up the borders a little. but not too much as we like to encourage wildlife. I have to confess that I am a fairweather gardener and by the end of October will not be venturing out gardening until the weather warms up!

I have no idea what this pretty plant is which produces beautiful Autumn colour, but it has been badly attacked by something this year, although it does look like delicate lace with its holes!

I have lots of ferns in the shady areas of my garden - they do like a damp spot.

This rose is flowering again after a month or two. It is the rose that I was given to me when I left work last year and has the most wonderful blush to it.

The skimmia is coming into its own at this time of year, as do the trees and bushes behind our boundary fence which are covered in berries.

And of course Atticus is still enjoying his strolls in the garden, weather permitting.

Love Mrs Jones x

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Bake: Pitta Bread

We are such bread fiends in this house, and I have recently been branching out from the usual loaves of bread that I make in my bread maker to other types of dough and different shaped breads. With the help of this excellent book The Ultimate Bread Machine Cookbook by Jennie Shapter, I made some pitta bread. 

They combine the Dough setting with a super quick bake, so are perfect if you are in a hurry.

210ml warm water
1 tbsp olive oil
350g white bread flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp caster sugar
1 tsp easy blend dried yeast

1. Put the liquids into the bread maker pan, ensuring that your dough hook is in place (a lesson I learned early on with my machine)!

2. Add the flour, salt and sugar and then the yeast.

3. Set to dough and press go.

4. Depending on the machine it will take approximately 1 1/2 hours. Turn onto a floured surface and divide into 6-10 pieces depending on the required size (I made 8).

5. Roll lightly into a ball, cover with oiled cling film and leave to rest for ten minutes while you preheat the oven to 230C.

6. Roll each piece into an oval and cover with the cling film for another ten minutes.

7. Bake for 5-6 minutes in batches. The pittas should puff up and be a light golden brown.  Turn onto a wire rack to cool.

Stuff with your favourite filling or use with dips. My favourite fillings are Carrot & Hummus, and Falafel with some shredded lettuce and minted yoghurt.
Love Mrs Jones x

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Sewn: Amelie Bag

I fancied making an Autumnal bag and turned to the Amelie bag pattern in Tanya Whelan's Sew What You Love. I opted for the larger size because small bags aren't all that practical for me anymore (I need to fit in my purse, phone, a large diary, a reading book and usually lunch too)! This is also my Wilderness entry for this month's Le Challenge - as it combines a selection of wildlife/nature fabric.

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you know that I am a great believer in making things work with the materials that I have to hand, so instead of using an interfacing for this bag I used quilting batting which was going spare. I am really glad I went for this option as it feels so much sturdier than interfacing alone would.

You may recognise this fabric from my second pair of pyjama trousers - foxy! I added a tiny strip of top stitching detail on one side of the bag just to hold all the layers together.

I also altered the internal pocket - the pattern shows it divided into two pockets. but the size of phones these days are getting bigger so I left mine as one. The additional fabrics used are remnants from the Hello Bear cot quilt that I made.

The instructions for the bag were mostly very straightforward, but I really didn't understand how the straps were meant to fit to the main bag pieces, and I probably made it harder for myself with the additional thickness of the quilt batting. As a result, one side of the bag looks much neater than the other. Part of me thinks I will unpick it and start again, but I will wait until I have used it more and see if it still bothers me, I think!

My final departure from the pattern was to add some topstitching around the top of the bag, mainly because I think it looks better that way.

If you are interested in joining in Le Challenge, a new theme is announced in the middle of each month. Check out all the other entries here:

Le Challenge

Love Mrs Jones x

Saturday, 29 August 2015

In my Garden: August

Well the weather hasn't been too kind to us here in the South West this month, but it did mean that the last of my crops in my veg box have been watered well. I harvested the last of my salad onions earlier in the month and made a batch of pickled onions with them. My courgette is still flowering but unfortunately the slugs are enjoying the courgettes before I get a chance to!

All I have left are my tomatoes (I have been picking the cherry tomatoes but the big heritage cooking tomatoes have yet to ripen), some leeks and just emerging from the soil are some radishes. As I am still learning with the vegetable growing - does anyone have any recommendations on what I could sow now?

Japanese Anemone

Usually at this time of year my garden is looking a bit shabby, but with the addition of a few new plants and the maturing of some others, I do actually have some plants in flower!
As always, Atticus, my Maine Coon is a constant feature in my garden and he can't resist "helping"!

Love Mrs Jones x

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Sewn: Ipad Mini Case

I made a case for my ipad about 18 months ago, but with daily use it had got really grubby. Unfortunately as my original case had cardboard inserts it wasn't suitable for washing and there were some other things that were annoying me on it too, such as the elastic being too loose and the top flap refused to lie flat.

So, in this model, I ditched the cardboard in favour of craft foam and dispensed with the batting altogether because that is what made it buckle and not sit flat. 

And inside, I have added some more secure corner supports at the base (the previous model was all elastic). This makes it so much more comfortable to hold.

I have a little bit of a gather going on inside, where my sewing foot kept catching on the foam (grr...)

The fabric is by Makower and I have also seen it in pink and blue colourways.

Love Mrs Jones x

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Pickled Onions and Biscotti

An odd combination! I have had some kitchen successes and failures this week: the pickled onions were a success, but alas the biscotti were not!

The pickled onions were originally spring onions that I left in my veg patch a little too long and had become salad onions. I can't see why they wouldn't work in place of the button onions/shallots that you would usually put in pickled onions.

The recipe I used was based on this BBC one, but I substituted about 1/5 of the malt vinegar with balsamic vinegar (I love honey and balsamic vinegar in a salad dressing so thought it would also translate well in this recipe). I halved the recipe as I only had a small amount of onions - just enough for one jar.

Given a shake now and again, they will be perfect with some cold meats and cheese at Christmas!

What didn't go so well were the Chocolate and Hazelnut Biscotti. Again, inspired by Great British Bake Off, I thought I would have a go at some biscotti - I loved some that an Italian friend had made once.

Contrary to how GBBO portrayed it, they were ridiculously easy to make, and look fairly good too, but sadly they just taste so disappointing - there is not enough flavour at all. It hasn't put me off making some more but I would go for a recipe that has some kind of spice or a much richer flavour.

Love Mrs Jones x

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Patchwork: Hello Bear Cot Quilt

Finally a quilt finish to report on with this cot quilt/play mat, which I have made for my step-sister's new baby girl. I really have no excuse for it taking me so long, because a cot quilt is one of the smallest things to make, but you know how it is - life just gets in the way of sewing sometimes! 

The fabric is from the timber colourway of the Hello Bear range by Bonnie Christine. I love the fact that it is both modern and cute - perfect for a baby! 

Each block is comprised of a square and two rectangles - from memory (the gift is on its way), the finished blocks were 25cm. I did write the measurements down at one stage, but that has since been lost!

The quilting was kept very simple with stitching in the ditch around each block. I followed the format of my first couple of quilts by quilting the top and batting together before adding the back and thus skipping the binding. The reason is that I think it will hold up to more frequent and vigorous washing this way.

My one regret with this quilt, is that I didn't fussy cut the main animal fabric, but it was so difficult to keep it in line with my chosen pattern.

Love Mrs Jones x

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Bake: Black Forest Gateau

Who doesn't love the return of the Great British Bake Off? It has been such a long time since I baked (unless you count the breadmaker bread I make four times a week), so I was inspired to have a go at a Black forest gateau. One of the few phrases that I remember from learning German is "Schwartzwalderkirschtorte mit sahne, bitte" - an everyday essential!!

The recipe I followed was this one from The Hairy Bikers, although if you read the recipe through, the linked photo doesn't resemble the description at all!

As usual, I meddled with the recipe! Firstly, I left it as a two layer cake - my sponges were pretty thin and I didn't think they would stand up to being split into two. I didn't have any Kirsch or cherry brandy so used Creme de Cassis instead - just one dessertspoon drizzled over one of the sponges before spreading it with sour cherry jam, and I did not included the dried cherries either.

I learned a valuable lesson about rescuing overwhipped cream too, as my son was in charge of the whipping (see how granular it looks in the centre). Just add a little more cream and whisk by hand until it is incorporated - it will loosen up to the desired consistency.

If you are inspired to bake, here is the link to the recipes from Week One.

Love Mrs Jones x