Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Almost too good

This summer is almost a sensory overload; I go to peg out the washing and miraculously, real deep warmth envelopes me, the rich honey scent of the clover beneath my feet makes me stand and stop midway. Colour is everywhere, subtle and dramatic, the birds are quieter now, but the bees hum happily, a nice little background music for a perfect summer day.

And outside the garden, the colours are more subtle, but still lovely, and song comes from the skylark and the growing lambs instead.

Not all the colour is outside. Maybe the riot that's going on in the garden and beyond made me buy this fabric! And I finally finished a dress that I started about a month ago. It was a first attempt at shirring, which was scary at first, but actually pretty easy, once I got into the swing of it.

It was based on the Mendocino sundress but I wasn't 100% sure if it was going to work for me, as, shall we say, I'm not a tall willowy type...ahem. But I took some advice from my ever reliable sister, and also found good tips at Weekend Designer. It seems I wasn't alone being unsure, but it worked out quite well - although it probably will stay as a garden and beach dress, but that's just fine with me. I think it helped to have the fabric wide enough to go around me twice, and have the shirring quite far apart - about 2cm. Oh yes, and to try on a variety of different things to go underneath.

My boys like it, "Oh, you're wearing a rainbow, Mum!" And it feels lovely floating around in a gentle breeze....

The other thing I LOVE about summer, are all the special recipes you can really only make with fresh summer food, at its very best. Right now, we are really enjoying the classic French Clafoutis, which is one of my husband's favourites. It reminds him of his childhood. You can make it with lots of different fruit, but the one in the photo is blueberry and cherry - it had a lot of fruit in and was very juicy - yum! Cherry Clafoutis is, however, the classic.

So, here's our recipe, and I have it on the authority of my husband's grandmother that you should leave the cherry stones in for better flavour.

4 eggs
9 soup spoons castor sugar
pinch of salt
5 soup spoons plain flour, sifted
25g (1 oz) butter
1/4 litre (half a pint) milk
a few drops decent vanilla essence
500g (1 lb) cherries

Heat oven to gas mark 6/200 degrees C/180 fan oven

Butter a big flan dish, then wash the cherries and place them evenly in the dish - you can remove the stones beforehand, but it's a bit of a faff. Beat the eggs, sugar and salt then gently add in the flour, beating to make a smooth batter. Melt the butter,allow it to cool a little then add it to the milk, along with the vanilla essence. Mix this in with the batter, ensuring everything is well combined. Pour it over the cherries, stick it in the oven.

I find it take about 30 mins in my hot oven, but it could take 45 mins. Cook it until the batter is set and slightly browned. Dust lightly with icing sugar before serving. It is best eaten slightly warm.
I usually roast lots of tomatoes with loads of garlic in the oven at the same time and just serve them with some pasta, cheese and salad, which is nice and easy-peasy and lets me get back outside again quickly!
What are you eating this summer?
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Sunday, 28 June 2009

Soaking it up

There hasn't been a lot of blogging recently despite the computer having been coaxed back into being. I think it's because there's just been awful lot of living going on instead. Winter nights here are so very long and dark that the boys are happy to snuggle up into bed, and we don't move more than a few feet away from the fire, so it's easy to sit pottering with the computer. But summer...well! The nights stretch on almost endlessly, light pours into my studio in the evening, the garden calls out to be tended and no-one wants to sleep. It almost feels immoral to spend time in front of a screen.

And these long days cry out for journeys, to use every moment of light and sun, somehow to store up energy and experiences to draw upon in the blackness of winter. So recently we headed up to the very north coast of Scotland, across the wide empty spaces of Sutherland. Even in summer, these are impressively desolate places, you travel for miles without seeing anything manmade other than the winding single-track road.

Then suddenly, twenty or more deer alongside the track, the stag eyeing us up warily, watching us as we watch them...then miles more of moorland and heather-covered hills, following the path of a river. Sometimes, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, a small loch would have a tiny rowing boat moored - a sign that someone visits from time to time, after all.

Not a lot of houses, - the legacy of the Highland Clearances, but when there are, some of them are perfect - almost defiantly jolly in an often bleak landscape. I like that. One small gathering of half a dozen houses had every door, window frame, gate and every other paintable surface rendered in a striking shade of emerald green. Was it on special offer? Was it the only colour available? Or was it a collective decision to cheer things up a bit?

We met with a group of friends to camp. It was a brave decision as only the day before it had been pouring with rain and even snowing slightly up north - yes, in June! Midsummer madness? I don't know, but we went anyway, and were rewarded with glorious sun, empty beaches and beauty all around. But...the night was VERY cold. I had a 3 season sleeping bag, thermals, flannel jammies, 2 fleeces and my hotwater bottle. I was still frozen! But amazingly the children didn't seem to notice it at all and woke up fresh as daisies, as their parents grumped around in search of a hot cuppa.

Having finally thawed out and woken up we headed off in search of unknown places and were amply rewarded by a tiny but beautiful bay, complete with rock pools, sand, a peaty coloured burn, harbour, ancient wrecks and new fishing boats enclosed in a diminutive harbour. What more could we want? Hours slipped away as we munched and dug and made dams and piles of stones. We checked the wrecks for pirates and loaded up buckets with 'treasures' (sparkly rocks - I'm no geologist, as you can tell, but they are very pretty).

This isn't the place to go on a shopping trip really. You might get a paper and some loo roll and tea bags in the few little shops we saw. But how about this for a craft shop/garden centre? Complete with it's own honesty box as well.

So, if I'm not blogging, I'm out living. In all these summer days I know I have to stash it up for the time ahead. But I'll be back soon, I have some fabby summer recipes to post and some crafty projects to share. Hope you are having a good time living too!

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Monday, 22 June 2009

Catching Up

Well, hello, hello, I'm back! Two weeks of no Internet connection - which also means no radio or telly either - made me realise how sadly dependant I am on my computer. However, I did get on with lots of other things and my beloved was away for 10 days which meant I didn't have much time or energy anyway. So it's time for a wee catch up!

For my birthday, I had some friends around for a lovely evening of eating crepes and doing a bit of sewing. Look at these fabbydoo cakes! A friend made them using squished raspberries to make the icing that gorgeous pink colour. They tasted really fruity too, totally yummy. I'm drooling again..

We almost didn't get any sewing done, as we were too busy eating and blethering. And in the middle of the evening there was a great big storm which knocked out the phone line and the electricity a couple of times. It was a dramatic night, but in the end we didn't have to stitch by hand in candlelight! We made a number of blocks for a quilt that I hope will be finished for a cheery summery kind of a quilt. Maybe this summer, maybe next summer.

But it was a wonderful evening and it was great that some of my lovely friends were game for trying something new. Thank you!
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Wednesday, 10 June 2009

I've not gone away!

Our modem got blown up in a thunderstorm last Friday and so until a replacement arrives and I work out to install it - give me a sewing machine anyday - I'll be offline for a few days. Which is very sad as I have lots of lovely quilting pictures to show you and stories of the coldest camping trip ever...you'll have to be patient!

In the meantime I'm off to dig big rocks out of my garden, battle against the midges, and get some new plants in. Oh and finish up some boxes of birthday chocolate....THANKS for the postacrds that have been sent in, it's very exciting. Given the modem troubles and not being able to get at my email account I'm extending the deadline until July 15th on the Postcard Competition!

Catch up with you soon!

Monday, 1 June 2009

Giveaway Winner!

The Sew Mama Sew! May Giveaway is closed now and I'm happy to announce that Treasures of Joy has won! A bag of goodies will be winging its way to her this week, and I hope to get a postcard back. A MASSIVE thank you to everyone who took part, it cheered me up greatly reading all your comments - what a nice bunch of people you all are. If you want another chance of winning something, please do take part in my Postcard Competition - click on the piccie on the right for details. In the meantime, drop by again soon!