Time for a few small repairs

One of the first quilts I made is a double bed quilt.  I started it in 1998 when 1930s reproduction fabrics were all the rage.  I chose a pattern called Nine Patch which was popular in the Thirties.  I pieced the quilt top in California, quilted it in Scotland in about 2000 and finished it with a prairie point border in 2002 with more fabric I bought on a trip to North Carolina in that year.

A few months ago we noticed that the fabric at the top is beginning to fray and shred after 15 years of use.

I got my ‘precision’ hat on, measured up and made a cutting list.

It has been a very long time since I’ve done any quilting, like four or five years of a long time.  I’ve really been enjoying myself!  I’ve taken over the dining tables in our salon and have been ‘coming and going’ to the work over the past few weeks.

When I culled my stash a few years ago, I’d got rid of most of my print fabrics.  D’oh!  So I had to order a pack of 50 different 5″ squares from the States, which pretty much matched my original fabrics.  I turned most of them from back to front, so they would tone in better with my gently faded quilt top.

When I made the quilt, I ‘stitched in the ditch’ around all of the seams, but didn’t quilt inside of the white squares and triangles.  Now that my repairs are made, I’m thinking of quilting those.

My quilt is called ‘Nellie’s Nine Patch’ named for my mom Nell who was a girl in the 1930’s.  On the back of the quilt is her school picture, probably from the 5th grade when she was about 10 years old.  I printed the photo onto fabric back in the very early days of printing onto fabric.  I used Bubble Jet Set to prepare the fabric, then ironed it onto freezer paper to stabilize it.  In 2001, I didn’t have a computer at home, so I used the one at the little library in Haddington, Scotland and the nice ladies who worked there very kindly let me use their printer for this first experiment.   You can see how much the photo has faded over the years.

Just below her photograph is a very faded poem that she and I found on a sundial in 1976, when we were on a trip Back East together just four years before she died from cancer.

Time flies, suns rise
Flowers bloom and die.
Let time go by and shadows fall
Love is forever, over all.

I’m planning to print her photo onto sheer fabric and stitch it over the faded one.  I’ll also revive the poem.

There is something very poignant about the fading of the photograph and the words.  It brings to my mind the fading of memories and that remembering keeps people, things, and places alive.  One root of ‘memory’ is the Serbo-Croatian word mariti “to care for”.  Perhaps to remember a person is to care for them.


Rock & Roll Patisserie

I volunteered to make some baked goods for the Moreton Music Day Coffee Morning.  I was going to make a scrumptious cake, but it just so happened that I was on a patisserie course on Wednesday,  so I took some French pastry instead.  Much of the fun was deciding what appropriate names to give my offerings.

I’m a very confident baker and had signed up for a 5 week course at a local college so I can expand my skills and learn a few new tips.  It was a less expensive option than the cookery schools in the area.  Unfortunately, the classes were somewhat shambolic with incomplete ingredient lists, a dearth of basic cooking equipment, vague tuition and some other issues I will not bore you with.

We made palmiers from puff pastry.  The recipe sheet called for Ready Roll, which I finally managed to locate.  It turned out that block pastry was better and luckily, the instructor had some extra to spare.  I wasn’t clear on how much sugar to sprinkle on to the pastry as it was being rolled and folded, so they came out quite dry and not very sweet.

After double dipping them in melted dark chocolate, I made some apricot glaze and brushed that on the other side.  This improved them immensely!

I normally find baking a very relaxing and creative activity.  At home, when I get my recipes, ingredients and utensils out I feel that I am embarking on a pleasurable journey that invariably leads to a delicious and satisfying conclusion.  When I was a kid and a teenager, I was the baker for my family and neighbors.  It was an important part of my life that gave me pride and positive feedback.

I feel that patisserie making, as with most baking, is a practice that requires precision and a certain level of control.  I was quite stressed out over the lack of organization of the course and it was with some disappointment that I have dropped out of the course after the first two  sessions.   I’ll continue to bake at home and will look out for a short course at a cookery school to expand my repertoire.

Puffy Puffy Wow

We did our Annual Big Giant Kitchen Spring Clean over the past couple of weekends. Took absolutely EVERYTHING off of all of our shelves, degrimed, discarded the superfluous and put it all back. 

We realized our cast iron frying pan needs a re-seasoning, so I made an oven puff pancake for breakfast on Sunday morning.

Oven Puff Pancake

  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup flour
  • ½ cup milk
  • Dash of salt
  • 4 tablespoons butter

Set the oven to 450°F/220°C and put a large skillet or Dutch oven into heat.
In a glass pitcher, beat the eggs, flour, milk, and salt together.  It’s important to  mix all the ingredients together at once; otherwise your pancake won’t puff.  The more air you beat into the batter, the higher it will rise in the oven.

When the oven is hot, toss the butter into the skillet and let it melt.  Pour the batter into the skillet and return it to the oven.

Bake for 12 – 15 minutes, or until the pancake is puffed and golden.  Cut in half and serve immediately with maple syrup, coffee and the morning paper.


I’m still feeling unwell.   This is frustrating because I’ve been trying to carry on with my ‘outside life’ of work and responsibilities, and keep getting knocked back from a persistent low grade fever and various respiratory ailments.

A couple of days ago I was gently tidying my studio and came across a Bach Flower Remedy which is Oak (Quercus Robur).

‘Aha!’ I seized on it and promptly took a dose, hoping to gain the strength of an English Oak.

The Oak person is one of ‘tremendous will power, courage, devotion to duty, strong powers of resistance, superhuman endurance, unbroken hope, and high ideals’.  They may feel frustrated and unhappy if illness or exhaustion mean they are forced to do less than they want.  So much is positive about the Oak person, but the negative side is the stubborn refusal to rest or sit back when the need for rest is obvious.

The Oak Flower Remedy is for those who are struggling and fighting strongly to get well . . . .  While still “strong as an oak” the individual will now meet obligations to work and to others with a balance that allows time for rest, rejuvenation, and pleasure.  This is one of the Bach Flower Remedies that is indicated during recovery from a long term illness. When the patient has grown weary of the routines of recovery and the dependencies of an illness, Oak will provide the power to persevere.

This chimes with my tendency to be ahead of where I am right now and the gift of this persistent illness can be to call me to come back in to the present moment.   So I have been very mindful about when I need to stop and have a cup of tea, take a nap or simply do nothing in particular.

Yesterday I woke up and watched the tree outside of our bedroom window, one of my favourite pastimes throughout the year.  It still is somewhat wintry outside and nice to be inside and snug.

The tree is winter-bare, but I can see tiny buds just beginning to swell all along the twigs and branches.

In this time of slowing down and being present to my body’s needs, I am being filled with the Presence in the moment.

Emptifulness, pen on paper, 2017.


Spring Greens

I’ve been enjoying fresh and vibrant greens these past few weeks.  I always forget  how much I love spring greens and then can’t get enough of them when March rolls around.  My friend who has an allotment gave me some kale and purple sprouting broccoli, including the leaves.

Delicious steamed and tossed with butter and lemon.

I’ve had a lingering chest infection for the past few weeks and felt that these wild nettles from the Exeter Farmer’s Market would give me some fresh energy and deep nourishment to make the transition back into good health and Springtime.

I made Nettle Soup!

Nettle Soup

  • Olive oil
  • Chopped onions
  • Potato and/or carrot, peeled and chopped
  • Wild nettles, only the leaves *
  • Chicken or vegetable broth
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Double cream to finish

Sweat the onion.  Add the nettle leaves and other vegetables.  Pour in the stock.  Simmer until the root vegetables are soft.  Puree in a blender or food processor. Season to taste.  When serving, stir in a spoonful of cream to make a pretty pattern

Delicious served hot or cold.

* Steam the nettles for about 2 minutes.  This will take the sting away and make it possible to pick through the leaves and remove the stems.