Sunday, 28 June 2009

Kitchen Hunt

We spent all day yesterday on a mission to find a kitchen. It's been a long time coming let me tell you, but without tempting faith I think we may be 3-4 months away from finally having a one, horrah! I was armed with enough photos, tear sheets, drawings and plans to send any man into a spin (as only women can!). Here are some snaps to give you an idea of what we're looking for (I've got plenty more & have even started a dream file for 'the next house'!). Anyhow, let's get this one first and here's hoping it turns out half as nice as these...

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Homemade Bunting

I've been in my element all week busy-beeing with my homemade bunting. I'm not quite finished but thought I'd share the process so far with you.

I firstly pulled out some of my fun summery fabrics
and chose which ones I was going to use.

I made a bunting triangle pattern from a piece of A4 paper which I firstly folded in half lengthways. Then i measured down the centre fold to about 23cm and made a mark here. Finally I drew a line with a ruler from this marked point up to the opposite top hand corner and then cut along this line to give a triangle once opened out.

Then to cut the triangles out I pinned the paper pattern on each piece of fabric making sure the pattern was going in the direction I wanted it to (you can see this through the paper). Mostly I made most economical use of the fabric though when cutting out. The pic above is of some old pj's which have had their day. If you feel confident you can double the fabric over to speed things up. Use a good fabric scissors and obviously work out how many triangles you will need, allowing two triangles per piece of bunting (for back and front).

This is where I had got to with embellishing
my fabrics as described in this post.

To embellish them further I sewed some beads and sequins on some of the pieces. I thought the sparkles would be twinkle nicely on a sunny day in the garden.

I also did some hand embroidery using a metallic embroidery thread (which I split to make a little thinner). I used a variation of the blanket stitch to highlight Martins initial. Obviously this needs a good iron now before I go any further.

Then I had a go at free stitching some flowers on my initial. Don't think I did too badly. Again I went for bling and used a metallic pink thread.

Anyhow, once all the really fun creative bit is taken care of it's time to start sewing up the bunting. For good strong bunting I like to strengthen any flimsy fabrics like the very light cotton here. I cut out a triangle of interfacing (from any good haberdashery) by pinning the fabric triangle on top and then with the bumpy side against the wrong side of the fabric gave it a quick iron to stick. If you don't feel confident doing this then throw a pillow slip or other piece of fabric over it to help protect your bunting piece.

Now that all pieces are ready, decide which pieces you want to go with which - you will need a front and back. It doesn't matter too much as obviously you will only see one side or the other when hanging but it's still a consideration so you have a good mix of colours and patterns in the finished bunting. Place right sides of each pair together and pin them together down the two side to the point but not across the top (you can tack them with needle and thread first if you dont feel confident to get straight on the machine with the pins in).

Machine sew them together along this line, removing the pins as you go (again leaving the top open). Trim any excess threads (I like to go back and forth with the machine at the beginning and end to secure rather than go back over by hand).

Carefully trim the pointy end off straight across near to the stitching and then trim from here about 1-2cm up each side also. This helps with achieving a nice pointy tip (and is more important to do the thicker the fabric). Then simply turn the triangles inside out and use the point of a small scissors to gently push the thinner end of the fabric through to give a nice tip.

Next, iron the triangular pieces to neaten them up. I like to iron the seams down first to help give nice crisp edges. Then, lay out flat and iron again on both sides to give a nice firm bunting piece. Be careful of any pieces with sequins or beading as they may melt - protect them with a layer of fabric over or use a very cool iron. Nearly there now (once you have repeated with all pieces)!

You could also add another touch to your bunting with dangling ribbons. This will have to be done as part of sewing up the triangles. Simply lay your choice of ribbons down the length of the right side of one piece of fabric, tacking them down at the point end. You can also tack or pin the ribbons down half way (which will help prevent them moving around and potentially getting caught up when machine sewing). Lay the second piece of fabric right side down and continue as normal (removing the centre pin or tacks once turned out).

The machine stitching will obviously sew the ribbons in place at the point end so when you turn the piece inside out the ribbons will perfectly hang out of the end as shown (and are also handy to pull the fabric through when gently tugged). I added some beads (which I took from an old bikini before throwing it out) to one of the ribbon ends. The flower was already on the end of the pink ribbon but you could sew a small flower on yourself.

Anyhow,'s a small stack of some of my pieces (I think I have about 21 in total). I now just need to order some gorgeous gingham bias binding I have spotted on the net and then I can have great satisfaction in whizzing them all up together and hanging them in the garden! Will give you and update once I get to that stage.

Friday, 26 June 2009

hooked on handtowels

We made another tiny step towards making this house a home tonight when we finally got around to hanging a hook and hand towel in the bathroom (a momentous occasion!). The door frame seemed the perfect spot for the hook (from Avoca) as it is right beside the sink, so Marty screwed it on there.

Meanwhile, I was busy gathering ribbons, buttons and thread to make a tag to hook it on with. We bought two identical hand towels in Anthropology when in New York last year (a bit like our Avoca with more of an Urban Outfitters edge) so that one could be in the wash when the other was being used. They are actually face cloths but I think they are large enough to use as hand towels and their pretty antiquey edges and embroidered flowers are too pretty to not have on show.

Anyhow, to sew the hooks onto the towels, I firstly doubled my chosen ribbons over themselves to make them stronger but also because one of them had a right and wrong side (and obviously both would be on show so I had to hide the wrong side). I machine sewed (yay, the machine is out of storage!) the edges together using a thread the colour of the towels (which contrasted with the colour of the ribbons and buttons and therefore bringing them together). After a quick press with a cool iron, I then folded the ribbons in half to create a loop. Then, I hand sewed their frayed edges down onto the corner of each towel. Next, I hand sewed the buttons on top of the frayed edges of each ribbon to disguise them. Finally I gave the towels a good iron and hung each one proudly on the hook to see how they looked...

Friday, 19 June 2009

creatively crafty

I've been beside myself with excitement the last couple of days as I've been attending a fantastic textile class. For a long time now my inner creative child has been craving something other than working with food but she just hasn't been given the time or space, so when I heard about this course I cleared the diary and fell wholeheartedly into it.

Rebecca Devaney & Paget Scott-McCarthy are two fabulous textile designers and gorgeous girls who ran the course as described here. They have totally inspired me to get back into working with textiles, were bursting with hints, tips and inspiring ideas and even reintroduced me to the world of potato printing (amongst lots of other things of course!).

We covered things like hand embroidery stitching, free stitching on the machine and printing with paint using a variety of methods. We then worked on our own little projects to bring all of these skills together and I choose to make bunting (having heart palpitations as I speak!) and greeting cards while I was at it. Here are some snaps of work in progress..

I'll post more about making bunting once I start to get it sewn to pull my sewing machine out of storage in the meantime....oh how happy is my soul?!

Saturday, 13 June 2009

A is for Apple

Oh I am so excited to tell you about our amazing new delivery here at Friendly Cottage..her name is Apple and she is the most gorgeous green Dutch bike with red & white polka dot pannier and basket liner. I found her in an adorable shop in Angel in London called Bobbins.

So far I'm loving cycling her around Dublin. Today we (that's Apple & I!) even came across a cute little girls cake sale on our street and bought some delicious goodies. There's none left to share with you, sorry, but here's a yummy apple tart recipe you might like to try...

(c) Jack Caffrey


This might seem like a bit of a lengthy recipe but you can make the pastry in advance and keep it in the fridge for a couple of days or freezer for a few months. Or if you are a total domestic goddess you could even have the tart case already baked blind in advance and again stored in the fridge or freezer.

150g unsalted butter + extra for greasing
225g plain flour + extra for dusting
75g icing sugar
1 whole egg + the yolk from another
200ml apple juice
1 lemon
100g caster sugar
4 eating apples
100g unsalted butter
100g icing sugar
25g plain flour
100g ground almonds
2 eggs
1 vanilla pod
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

Make the pastry, firstly gathering all the ingredients. Weigh out the flour and butter and tip them into a food processor. Whizz them together to give fine crumbs while weighing out the icing sugar. Tip that in and pulse again briefly. Next add the whole egg and seperate the second egg to give the egg yolk, adding that too and blitz again to bring the mixture together to form a dough. (Use the leftover egg white as part of the mixture for an omelette or quiche or of course for meringues). Remove from the processor and knead on a lightly floured surface into a smooth ball. Flatten into a disc, cover with cling film and refrigerate for about 20 minutes.

In the meantime, have a clear down (you will need the processor bowl and blade again so wash, dry and set this back up) and gather the ingredients for the apples. Measure the apple juice, out and pour into a wide pan. Halve the lemon and squeeze the juice in also (watching out for any pips). Place the pan on a medium hob heat and then weigh the sugar out, adding that too. Bring the mixture slowly to the boil, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves. Meanwhile, core the apples and cut each one into 6 wedges. Add the wedges to the syrup and reduce the heat to poach gently for about 6-8 minutes until just tender. Remove the apples with a slotted spoon onto a plate and leave to cool. Simmer the remaining syrup until thickened, syrupy and reduced to about 6-8 tablespoons. Leave both aside.

Again, have a clear down and then lightly grease a fluted 23cm tart tin that is 2.5cm deep, placing it on a baking sheet. Returning to the pastry roll it out on a lightly floured surface until about 3mm thick and wide enough to line the tin. Carefully lift it into the tin, pressing the edges down and leaving excess pastry hanging over the edge. Refrigerate again for about another 20 minutes.

In this time, have a clear down again before weighing out the butter for the frangipane, tipping it into the processor and leaving it at room temperature to soften. Put the oven on to preheat to 180C (Gas Mark 4). Then sit down for a cup of tea, run the hoover around the house or whatever else can be done in the remaining time.

After this time, remove the pastry case from the fridge, line it with a piece of parchment paper and then fill it with baking beans (or dried pulses which you can reuse for this purpose over and over again). Leave to bake for 15 minutes (this is baking blind).

In this time, make the frangipane filling. weigh out the icing sugar and add it to the now softened butter already set in the processor. Blend them together until really smooth and pale, scraping down the sides if necessary. Meanwhile, weigh out the flour and almonds and add them too, pulsing to blend in. With the motor running crack each egg in one at a time until blended. Split the vanilla pod in half, scrape the seeds out and add to the mixture along with the cinnamon, giving everything a last blitz together. (Pop the remains of the vanilla pod in a jar of caster sugar for delicious vanilla sugar).

Once the tart case has cooked for 15 minutes it should look pale in colour and be just beginning to set. Remove the paper and baking beans and return to the oven for a further 5 minutes, allowing the base to set a little. Have a clear down again and have everything ready for assembling. Take the tart case out again and leave to cool a little.

To assemble, firstly neaten the pastry edges by carefully trimming the excess pastry off with a sharp knife. Spoon the frangipane filling into the case, spreading it evenly. Arrange the apple wedges in whatever pattern you like on top, keeping them in a single layer and pressing them down just slightly. Return the tart to the oven for a final bake of about 30 minutes while you have a final clear up and then head off for a cat nap.

Once cooked the tart should be set through and golden brown on top so remove it from the oven. The reserved apple syrup will probably have set a little too much by now so return it to a low heat to loosen it up. Brush the syrup all over the top of the tart, reserving a little to serve with it. Either leave to cool a little or completely before serving with some ice cream, custard or softly whipped cream.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Homemade Elderflower Cordial

So the sun seems to be gone (hopefully only temporarily!) but luckily I made the most of the last rays yesterday by gathering elderflowers from our garden tree to make cordial. The elder tree is a bit of a crazy grower so we are constantly cutting it back (you probably know it, it grows all over the place in hedgegrows, on wasteland and in the countryside etc). We gave it a really good haircut last weekend and then I dreamt about how many pleasant days we're going to have sitting under it once the garden is finally sorted out (whenever that may be..).

Apparently the Elder tree is known as a medicine chest - the flowers, leaves and berries cure all sorts of things from colds and flus to asthma, painful joints and headaches! Actually the tree is said to have a spirit called an Elder Mother, (I'm loving this legend already!) with many powers including protecting the land from negative energy and lightning attacks (!). Apparently we should show great respect for the Elder Mother and ask permission before picking the flowers and berries and cutting branches. Oops...we didnt realise this until recently but Im sure she appreciated all the trimmings to keep her looking good. Anyhow...onto the cordial...


The elder tree flowers for about 6 weeks between May & July. The flower heads are best picked on a really sunny day when they are all open. Only pick the bright flowery heads that are laced with pollen (obviously not great if you suffer from hay-fever, so beware!). It's advisable not to pick from a tree that is beside a traffic polluted road for obvious reasons. Please remember to be careful when climbing up a ladder or wall! The citric acid in the recipe helps preserve the cordial. It can be bought in pharmacies or health food stores (but you might have to search a few as not all stores sell it - it is said to be used by junkies also!). Read the label carefully as it can cause irritation to the skin if not handled correctly. I used those gorgeous French Lemonade bottles which we had leftover to store the cordial. And remember..don't forget to ask the Elder Mother for permission to pick her flowers!

**Click here for 2010's Elderflower Cordial story**

Makes about 2.75L
(you will need enough stopper or screw topped bottles to take this amount)

2kg caster or granulated sugar
1.2L water
about 40-50 freshly picked elderflower heads
3 unwaxed lemons
75g citric acid

Stir the sugar and water together well in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Bring very slowly to the boil stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves.

While that is heating up, gently rinse the elderflower heads to get rid of any bugs and pick off any leaves or brown flowers. Place the flowers in a really large bowl, or even better a bucket (in fact I use a clean cool box).

Remembering to keep an eye on and stir the sugar mixture still, shave a few pieces of zest off the lemons with a peeler or small knife. Thickly slice the lemons and scatter them over the flower heads.

Take the dissolved sugar mixture off the heat and stir in the pieces of lemon zest and then the citric acid to dissolve. Carefully pour the sugar syrup over the flowers and lemon slices and stir everything together to make sure it is immersed. Cover with a tea towel and leave in a cool dry place to soak for 24 hours.

After this time, you are ready to finish and bottle. It's important to sterilise the storage bottles (to avoid any nasty growths) so wash them in hot water and then dry them out in a low oven (about 170C) for about 15 minutes (or alternatively, run them through a hot dishwasher without powder).

Strain the soaking flowers through a very fine sieve lined with a piece of clean muslin, j-cloth or coffee filter into a large jug. Squeeze out as much of the syrup as possible from the flowers (but not so much the lemon slices) so as not to waste a drop!

Then the easiest way to bottle the cordial is though a funnel. Pop the lids on tightly and store in a cool dry place for a few months (although some people say up to a year - just keep a check out for any fur!). It can be frozen too but perhaps use smaller bottles so you can defrost a little at a time and use plastic instead of glass bottles (leaving a good gap from the top to allow for expansion on freezing). Once opened it should be stored in the fridge.

Use the cordial as a refreshing drink obviously - use enough cordial to sparkling or soda water to taste and with plenty of ice and some mint sprigs if you fancy too. It is also delicious with a swig of gin or vodka or added to bubbly. Also use the cordial to make jellies, sorbet or ice-cream. Use it to sweeten gooseberries or rhubarb in cooking too.

These are ideal to give as gifts to friends. Pretty the bottles up by sticking fun labels on, covering the tops with fabric or paper and then wrap with colourful ribbons.

Next, I'm thinking elderflower champagne and then elderberry wine in the autumn....