Sunday, 12 November 2017

Patchwork: Lloyd and Lola - Llama!

This week, I have been continuing with the Lloyd and Lola quilt. Sewing is a great activity when it is cold and rainy, and generally autumnal outside. Although, starting with the llama face was rage-inducing: the pieces are so tiny and I had to unpick a couple of seams (which reminds me, I have still lost my seam ripper)! I may have cursed a little and thrown it across the table.

But, you can't deny that it doesn't look cute! My mum thought it looked like a cat (before it had ears) - no it is definitely llama-ish.

The llama body was so much easier than its face, which is a relief. I tried to pick out the same colour palette as the pom pom trim for the poncho and will use the same fabrics for the second llama.

So, I'm not sure whether this is Lloyd or Lola, but I think I am making good progress. I need to pedal back a little and revisit the missing blocks for the quiltalong before I move onto the second llama.


Mrs Jones x

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Books: September and October Reads

My Sister's Secret by Tracy Buchanan
A quick read, about an obsession with underwater forests which is passed down through a family. I loved how the threads of the story interlinked. 

This is a strange, character study of the passengers on a bus heading toward Mexico to which occur a series of mishaps. I couldn't exactly say that I enjoyed it, but the writing is very arresting.

I listened to this non-fiction book which was also narrated by the author. What a fascinating story behind finding the diaries and the lengths that the author goes to to discover more about the diarist whilst at the same time, not wanting to find out too much. I really enjoyed this and was delighted with the ending.

Another book that I really enjoyed. Sofia is accompanying her mother for treatment for a mysterious illness to a Spanish resort. She has become enslaved to her mother's whims but embarks belatedly on discovering her own freedom in her adult life when she meets an intriguing German girl.

This was recently made into a film called Nocturnal Animals with Jake Gyllenhal and Amy Adams. Of the two, I actually prefer the novel. It is a novel within a novel, and the one contained within is horribly disturbing.

I haven't read anything by Jane Smiley in about 15 years. This wasn't one of her better ones. An eclectic group of friends and family spend ten days in the hills shortly after the start of the Iraq war. The narrative rotates from one couple to another with some frank sexual scenes [made for quite an embarrassing moment when winding the window down to swipe into the car park as I was listening on my commute] and is interspersed with opinions about films and war. 

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Patchwork: Lloyd and Lola - Pom Poms

I am making good progress on Fred's Lloyd and Lola quilt (pattern by Elizabeth Hartman). I have never really tackled a quilt like this before, and to be honest was a little overwhelmed with all the cutting required. So, I concentrated on sewing up the Pom Poms first, because I generally find that once you have started, you just want to crack on with it.

I bought huge swathes of black quilting cotton and some Essex yarn dyed fabric for the llamas themselves, but have used fabric from my stash for the Pom Poms themselves.

Here, I have laid it out on Fred's double bed - I'm quite impressed with the size of it. You just have to envisage two lovelorn llamas in that space!

The red looks quite festive and would be great as a row of baubles on a Christmas quilt.

Next step will be the llama faces, and I confess, I am a little scared!

Love Mrs Jones x

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Seasonal Food: Apples, Pears and Parsnips

Autumn is a great time of year when there is a bounty of gorgeous fruits and vegetables just waiting to be turned into something comforting to eat. I have posted before about the cooking apple haul that my Dad gives me each year, and have shared my favourite recipes here

Eating Apples
I have been seduced into making these pretty Rose Apple Tarts which are all over Pinterest at the moment. They take about three minutes of prep with some basic ingredients, and are a great way of using up some leftover puff pastry and any eating apples that have been rejected by the kids for cosmetic reasons (you know how I hate food waste)! Mine caught a little on the top but still tasted great.

My pears have been taking an age to ripen in the fruit bowl so I have taken to poaching them and eating them for breakfast. My husband's reaction was "How decadent!", but these really aren't the same as pears you would poach in alcohol and serve with cream and nuts. My breakfast poached pears are much humbler: cooked in a pan of water with a little vanilla, cinnamon and honey added. In twenty minutes, you have a lovely healthy breakfast! 

Another recipe that I really like with cooked pears and parsnips is Jamie Oliver's pork and pear traybake.

My sister gave me a large bag of her home grown parsnips. I love them roasted, but I am the only one, and I am not very keen on parsnip soup. So, I tried out this BBC recipe for Parsnip Hash Browns, which were delicious with a poached egg and a little tangy tomato chutney on the side.

Love Mrs Jones x

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Sewn: Bird Cushion

I made this cute garden bird cushion back in the summer for my son, Albert's girlfriend. As her birthday has now just passed, I thought I would share it here. The brief was for it a) to be handmade and b) something birdy! I would have loved to have time to make her a quilt (for example this amazing flamingo quilt) but never mind.

It was so warm the day I made it, that I did most of the sewing outside - what a treat! I have never done that before, but it is something I will definitely do again.

I bought the fabric in my local fabric shop, Dotty Dolly in Wellington, Somerset but can't for the life of me find any reference to what the fabric is called - it's so cute. If you know what it is, can you let me know?

For the reverse, I used a triangle fabric from the Makower Baby Jungle range which picks up the colours of the birds on the front, and the closure is a simple button fastening. It's not the neatest closure, but it'll do.

What have you sewn lately?

Love Mrs Jones X

Friday, 13 October 2017

Patchwork: Quilt-a-long 2017 - Propeller and Rolling Nine Patch

Still a couple of months behind on my patchwork blocks for the Fat Quarter Shop Quiltalong, but these two were much quicker to sew than some of the previous ones. The only way to ensure I get my sewing done is to literally schedule it in to my diary!

Propeller is sewn up in a lovely grey Alison Glass fabric:

And Rolling Nine Patch in this lovely mustard Lewis & Irene fabric from my local shop:

I think these are the only two fabrics I have actually purchased for this project. I am still short on mustard fabric, so will have to buy one more mustard colour way.

 So, 48 blocks made, 24 to go! At one point I was doubting my colour scheme, but I often find that is the way when you spend such a long time with a set of colours. 

I have also been sewing some of the Pom Pom garland for Fred's Lloyd and Lola quilt which I will go into in more detail in a separate post. 

Love Mrs Jones x

P.S. I've misplaced my seam ripper - any bright ideas where on earth it might have gone?!

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Bake: French Apple Tart

I have had and loved this French Apple Tart recipe since I was a child - it is so old that it is written on my Victoria Plum recipe paper and has imperial measurements! So, I have no idea on the source of the recipe but I can guarantee that it is delicious and will feed four comfortably. I usually use an 8 inch flan dish but have managed to stretch it to a 10 inch dish this time.

5 oz Plain flour
Salt (pinch)
2 1/2 oz butter
1 tbsp sugar
2 tsp ground almonds
1 egg yolk
Cold water

3 large cooking apples, peeled, chopped and cooked to a purée
2 cooking apples
2 oz sugar
Grated zest of 1/2 lemon
1 tbsp apricot jam
2 tsp water
1 tsp lemon juice

1. Put flour and salt into food processor. Add butter and blitz to breadcrumb consistency.

2. Add sugar and ground almonds and whizz again.

3. Add egg yolk and a little cold water and whizz until all combined.

4. Wrap and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

5. Oven at 200C. I usually purée the apples at this point. Add 2 oz sugar and the lemon zest to the purée.

6. Roll out pastry and line 8 inch flan dish.

7. Add the apple purée.

8. Peel and thinly slice the other two apples and arrange on top of the purée.

9. Bake for 25-30 minutes.

10. Once baked, put jam, water and lemon in a pan and heat until syrupy. Brush over the flan. I had no apricot jam, do used strawberry (hence the blush on my apples)!

Serve with creme fraiche - delicious!

Love Mrs Jones x

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Autumn Days

I love the beginning of a new season. Although it doesn't seem quite cold enough yet for Autumn (and I am one of those who tries to hold out on putting the heating on until October half term) but the leaves are starting to colour and everything feels a bit cosier!

I am enjoying some local walks, and the Heath is covered in this wonderful purple flower which the ponies don't seem interested in....

...however, something has been eating the mushrooms...

...and even this toadstool!

There is nothing like returning from a walk to tuck into a brownie. I made these using this recipe from the BBC.

I am inundated with cooking apples, but used all my sugar up on the brownies, so my plans for apple pie are postponed! I am dying to try out an autumnal pastry design! They will store fine in a box for quite a while.

Love Mrs Jones x

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Day Out: Bournville and Library of Birmingham

Just returned from a great weekend dropping Albert back at uni. Whilst there we had a look around Bournville - it was free to look around many of the buildings because it was Heritage Open weekend. Bournville is a model village for the workers of Cadbury based on higher housing and living standards with larger open spaces and free sports facilities.

This is the Rest House in the village green at Bournville, paid for by the Cadbury workers for the silver wedding anniversary of Mr and Mrs Cadbury.  Can you imagine that happening these days?

We also visited Selly Manor Musuem which is a really interesting house. I love the espalier fruit trees in the garden - something I would love to grow in my own.

Back to the centre of Birmingham, we visited the Library of Birmingham which is an amazing building. I have wanted to explore it since glimpsing the roof terrace when we were in Birmingham at Christmas.

However, the main roof terrace was just a small taste of something much better...the Secret Garden a few floors above and far more secluded! The smell of the herbs was quite intoxicating.

And obviously, being a book lover, the inside of the library was like heaven for me!

Mrs Jones x

Friday, 8 September 2017

Books: July and August 2017

My summer reads were all pretty dark, with the exception of a bit of light relief in Santa Montefiore. 

Burmese Days by George Orwell
I began July with this classic Orwell about the ill fated Flory in Burma whose only real friend is a native doctor at a time when racism and bigotry is rife. The portrayal of the vile orphaned Elizabeth Lackersteen who is brought to Burma to find a husband was wonderful. I found it hard to know whether to feel sorry for Flory or bloody frustrated that he was such a weak man!

Plague: A Cross on the Door by Ann Turnbull
Quelle horreur! I downloaded this audiobook from the library thinking it would be quite a dark listen. Three or four commutes later, it ended. Only after, did it dawn on me that this was a kid's book! 

Canada by Richard Ford
I began reading this following my return from Toronto. This is one of those books which has more impact after you have finished reading it - it stays with you. A great story which is laid out right from the start as being about a bank robbery followed by murder...but not as you know it. The narrative follows the son of the bank robbers as his innocence is lost living under the bizarre and violent influence of Arthur Remlinger in Canada.

The Believers by Zoe Heller
Quite a gripping tale from the author of Notes from a Scandal, this time a family saga as famous lawyer and womaniser, Joel Litvinoff lies in a coma, and how this becomes a catalyst for change for the adult children and finally his stubborn wife, Audrey.

The Italian Matchmaker by Santa Montefiore
I started this shortly after starting my new job as some light relief. Not the kind of book I usually go for but finished it in just a few days and was the perfect antidote to a busy new job. The descriptions of the Italian resort were heavenly, especially the palazzo and the lemon groves. A light love story with a smattering of the supernatural.

What have you read this Summer - any recommendations?

Love Mrs Jones x

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Home: Dining Room Refresh

We are finally tackling some of the long overdue decorating jobs in our house. My husband (bless him) has spent a fair portion of his summer holiday decorating the lounge and dining room. I am particularly pleased with the dining room.


The location of the dining room is in the apex between kitchen and lounge, and also holds the only doors to the back garden, so has become more of a thoroughfare over the years. 


We have played with the furniture in this room over the years, adding a rocking chair, a subbuteo board (don't even ask) and a bookcase which just looked awful in there. It is a dark room, and although this seems contrary to perceived wisdom, I opted for dark paint colours: if the light isn't there in the first, let's just embrace dark and dramatic!

The walls are painted in Dulux Pebble Shore and Sapphire Salute. The latter is the only wall which I painted - I have a steadier hand! I love the blue - it gives good coverage and the colour is really rich.

I fell in love with this picture as I walked past the shop window. It's from a new shop in Bridgwater which sells a range of new and refurbished furniture and furnishings (see below).

Love how the colour from the kitchen goes so well with the dining room.

Carpets will be ordered shortly...and shortly after that, Atticus will probably trash them...

Who me?

Love Mrs Jones x

Furniture: The Old Creamery (not new)
Lamp: B&Q (not new)
Curtains: Dunelm 

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Patchwork: Quilt-a-Long 2017 - Homestead and Round the Corner

Trying to catch up with these quilt-a-long blocks whilst also working hard and starting a new course (CIH Level 4 in Housing)! Anyway, I do love being busy!

The Homestead block (May) is the turquoise block with a slightly floral pattern and was really easy to sew up after the hideousness of the Star and Cross. However, just to throw a spanner in the works, the  June block (Round the Corner) also involved about a million miniscule pieces - enough to drive me round the bend (see what I did there)!! Not sure if anyone else has found this, but this block finishes at a smaller size?!

So, at the halfway point, I thought I would reflect on the blocks I have already made by laying them out together. I am actually really happy with the colours and I am particularly pleased that I added the mustard into the mix.

To date, all the fabric I have used has been from my stash - very satisfying. I have just bought a sumptuous fat quarter of a grey Alison Glass fabric for the next block though. It may have just jumped into my basket when I bought some fabric for a quilt I will be shortly starting for Fred!

So, I bought the new Lloyd and Lola pattern by Elizabeth Hartman (two fabulous llamas) to make into a big quilt for Fred. It's totally different to what I have made before but I can't wait to start.

Love Mrs Jones X

Day Out: Mapperton House & Garden

I visited Mapperton House in Dorset a few weeks back with my family. The house has been used as a film location many times, most recently in the Carey Mulligan version of Far From the Madding Crowd.

It is a beautiful house and you can have a guided tour inside which we opted to do. There is some amazing history related to the collection in the house which contains the diaries of Samuel Pepys and Captain Cook.

But, for me, the most interesting part was the Italianate garden, which is in a coombe to the rear of the house.

It is laid out so beautifully with arbours and fountains and statues galore. Each way you turn, you happen upon something else to catch your eye. You can imagine wandering down with your gin and tonic and watching the sun set!

The house is currently occupied by the Montagu family (the Earl of Sandwich, whose ancestor famously was too busy for lunch so just asked for a piece of beef between two slices of bread!) and the tour guides are often surprised at something unexpected that the boys have placed in a room!!

There is also a lovely cafe on site, obviously I opted for a sandwich, albeit smoked salmon, not beef. Mapperton House is a beautiful location and well worth a visit, although quite expensive - we paid approximately £70 for entry and lunch for four of us. 

Love Mrs Jones x

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Books: May & June 2017 Reads

The Rescue by Anita Shreve
This was such an entertaining listen for me. A paramedic is called to the scene of an accident involving a woman driving under the influence, and falls in love. However, her alcohol dependency has a huge impact on their fate together, and also that of their daughter. I will definitely be checking out more of Anita Shreve's books.

Five Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain by Barney Norris
This is one of those stories where there are five pretty ordinary characters and how the same event impacts on their lives. It was an interesting read but some of the ways that the characters crossed paths became a little too unbelievable.

The Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota
This has been on my "To Read" pile for a while but I caught the end of a program on Radio 4 about it that prompted me to start reading it. It highlights the struggles of a number of Indian immigrants (legal and illegal) in their determination to survive and thrive in the UK for the sake of their families back home. There are some really gruelling parts to this novel but without a doubt it is an absolutely brilliant read.

Not Quite Nice by Celia Imrie
This is the kind of book which I would never buy for myself (it was a gift) but usually really enjoy and this is no exception. I picked it up after a day in hospital and read it pretty much in one sitting. A very light but engaging read about an older woman moving to Nice to escape her vile daughter, and her capers with the other ex pats there.

Love Mrs Jones X

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Bake: Vanilla and Blueberry Buns

I bought a blueberry bush three or four years ago, and finally it has borne enough fruit for me to not only have with melon for breakfast but also to bake with! It was a toss up between a blueberry and white chocolate loaf cake and these. It was the marzipan that won me over.

Vanilla and Blueberry Buns
Golden buns with a hint of cinnamon and swirled with marzipan and home grown blueberries with a sugar glaze.

The recipe is by Bronte Aurell and the original version can be found here on the Waitrose website. I made a few tweaks :
  • replaced the ground cardamom with 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • I didn't weigh the blueberries, I suspect I had less than the recipe requested
  • I omitted the toasted flaked almonds, at the request of Fred (good job really, because I didn't have any anyway)!

Once rolled out and filled with berries, I froze half. The recipe makes 16 buns - even I am not that greedy! 

I ate mine warm and sticky with the glaze. Absolutely delicious.

Love Mrs Jones X