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Sunday, 30 September 2012

Elderberry cordial

I'm on berry alert when ever I walk through the field at the back of my house (which is most days, actually). There has been so much fruit this year, very glossy and plump and inviting. As I've also been coughing and sneezing my way through the entire month, I decided to try and make a hedgerow cordial to ramp up my vitamin C reserves. I came across a recipe for elderberry cordial and decided to give it a go.

I simmered the fruits for half an hour, then added some sugar, fresh ginger, cinnamon stick, cloves and lemon juice. I boiled it all for about another half hour, feeling at this point just a bit like a witch with a cauldron.
Popped in some citric acid, so it will keep, and decanted it into bottles.
It is really rich, a deep, dark purple, and smells so spicy and fruity. Apparently, it's full of vitamin A, C and lots of anti oxidants. 
I'm ignoring the fact that elder was once considered to be the Devil's own wood, and in some areas, if you burn it on the fire, it is said that Lucifer will  come down the chimney  (I found these fascinating facts in my new library book, Foraging, by John Lewis-Stempel which I am really enjoying). 

So, there we have it. A tonic for the winter. Here's hoping...

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Saturday snap

Spotted this gorgeous 1950s tin in the Oxfam shop window yesterday and couldn't resist its cheery colours and fantastic graphics. 

red teapot, toast rack and a toasting fork

Definitely one for the collection.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Thursday snapshot

I was really cheered by the sight of these rather fine handmade tea cosies in my local branch of White Stuff today. I popped in for a browse and the staff were handing out free cups of coffee and wearing the cosies on their heads (as you do! Actually, it was for charity).  It was one of those mornings when I was feeling a bit ho-hum, and then a few small nice things happened. First, the sight of those tea cosies, then I picked up this brand new book from the library:

And a couple more:

The Best in Show book made me laugh. I love this knitted cat (instructions on how to make it are in the book, but I think it's way beyond me).

Sometimes it really is the little things....

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Memory lane, just a quick trip...

I think it is a combination of reading Jenny at The Custards lovely nostalgic blog, a very big birthday next year and  a university reunion over the weekend, that has sent me on a rather lengthy visit down memory lane recently. 
Jenny recently wrote about her prize in a Blue Peter Keep Britain Tidy poster competition in the 1970s, and coincidentally, I won something in the same competition. This is my poster, carefully kept by my parents' for many many  years. 

I was nine when I painted this, and part of my prize was to have the poster printed. That was a thrill, but at that age, by far the most exciting part was when David Cassidy, my idol and my pin up, read out my name on air. I had no idea that I had won a prize, so I was calmly eating my tea when the hallowed one spoke my name (he stumbled slightly, as I have a rather unusual surname). I was quite overcome. I do still have my Blue Peter badge, and photos from the local newspaper as I posed with my prize (my first camera!). The hoarding gene is strong in my family...

Friday, 21 September 2012

Friday finds

There was a small antiques fair on the meadows close to my regular fruit and veg market today, so I arranged to meet a friend for coffee there. I didn't want to buy, because I am saving every penny I can for a new camera, but as we were drinking our coffees I spotted this tablecloth winking at me from a nearby stall. 
It was not expensive, so I bought it, together with three pieces of floral fabric for £2 each. The tablecloth is Chinese, thick linen, and quite unusual. I have had the little rose cups for a long time.

Pretty fabric for cushion making

And when I finally got to the food market, I bought these lovely delphs - the last gasp of summer?

How beautiful are these? A dreamy blue.

Have a lovely weekend. 

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

The charm of children's books

Of all my collections, I think the one that means most are my old children's books. I have been fascinated by them for as long as I can remember. When I was young and working in central London, I always sought out book sales and library sales, where I would add to my stash. Then, when my eldest was a baby, and we lived in Hackney, we were just a couple of streets away from a very old fashioned second hand bookshop, one of the dusty, musty sort, where I could get a first edition for a couple of pounds, so our afternoon walks to the park often took a small detour. When the boys were small, I'd buy lots of their books from Oxfam, and if I saw an old Puffin with a cover I recognised from my primary school days, I'd get that, too. Now, my collection is pretty huge. 

I have hardbacks and paperbacks. Annuals and board books.

Just recently, my father-in-law entrusted us with his beautiful selection of tales from his childhood. He is 94, so these are very old, and very special. Quite a few of them are illustrated by Arthur Rackham. It is amazing how different books for children were in the early 1900s. None of the cutesiness of the above stories from the 1960s. No, some of the drawings would be downright terrifying for a small child, and the stories themselves can be very brutal. 

A feisty heroine by Arthur Rackham

More titles from my father-in-law's collection (above)

I have many favourites, too many to call really. I do love the Milly Molly Mandy stories, and the school books by Antonia Forest. I never read the really jolly hollysticks ones by Angela Brazil etc, because I went to a 1970s secondary mod, and I couldn't relate to them at all. Antonia Forest's books were set in a boarding school, but the characters' problems seemed more universal and I read them over and over again. Anyway, more on those another time, this is more of a pictorial post.

My new source of vintage books is our local YMCA shop. The manager just puts out a few really old books in a suitcase every day. It's on my route to our design office, where I only go once a month (probably a good thing really!), and I almost always end up buying one or two. The prices are low, £1 or £2 usually. Today, I bought the one in the top photo, and the one above. Also, a fantastically illustrated Christmas book, which I'll save until nearer the time. I think this post is one to be continued....

Monday, 17 September 2012

Village yard sale

Last week a little sign went up in our village shop: 'posh junk sale, this Sunday, 10am - 3pm.' It was to be held in the garden of a very pretty old house five minutes away from our street. So, on my way to fetch the Sunday paper, I called in. I bought these two chippy old rose platters, above, and another, rather amazing object. Can  you guess what this is?

Apparently, it would have been used to skim the cream from the milk in a traditional dairy. Very Tess of the D'Urbervilles! I don't know what I will do with it, as it is absolutely mahoosive, but I just fell for it. I think it made from elm, and it has some cracks and old woodworm holes, but the patina is just gorgeous. It is so smooth and burnished. And for only £5, I couldn't resist it. I can imagine using it at Christmas, although I'd need about a tonne of oranges to fill it up. I also came home (staggered really) with a pretty little Victorian bedroom chair. My son was incredulous. "Mum, I thought you said you were just going to get the paper!" 

Saturday, 15 September 2012

A new season

What a completely stunning early autumn day it turned out to be. I was hoping for fine weather, as we had lots of fashion shots to do for the magazine and we needed to work on Saturday, as our models are both at school in the week.

For the first time, I borrowed some clothes from our local John Lewis, quite a big step for us. The store picked some outfits for us, and then I chose our location and photographer Lesley Anne took the pics. The girls looked great, and did so well, as they are not professional models.
Of course, our location helped: the Foxtail Lilly garden rode to our rescue once again and provided a stunning backdrop.

Here's Lesley Anne setting up another shot. 

Beautiful borders. 

Similar colour combinations to the clothes! I can't wait to see the finished photos. 
Finally, I had a lucky find in a charity shop on Friday, something that I've been wanting for ages now:

Enjoy the weather if it's sunny down your way, too....

* Let me know if you have any problems viewing these photos :)

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Suitcase upcycling

Suitcases rescued from the shed...

It has been a funny sort of week around here. The magazine is almost ready to go to press, but I always find myself waiting for the last few contributors' articles, and twiddling my thumbs. So I've installed a little project in my study, to fill those quiet moments. I fished some old suitcases out of the shed, which is now looking a lot less full, and decided to give them a makeover. Both cases were a sorry sight, they lacked handles, had cracked leather and falling apart seams, so I wasn't committing any crimes against antiques.
I cut up some of my scrap fabrics and set to work with a pot of Wilkinson's extra strong border adhesive (a bit like PVA glue).

This one got a ribbon handle

Excellent for storage...

A great way to use up small scraps, and much faster than patchwork... 

I was quite sorry when the computer pinged to let me know that my emails were in and I had to get back to the day job! 

Sunday, 9 September 2012

A set of cards

When I am working on the local magazine, I always join forces with photographer Lesley Anne Churchill, and we put together shoots for our front covers, fashion and interiors sections. We have been working together for about four years now, and it has been a very enjoyable learning curve! Our budgets are very small so we have to be inventive, begging and borrowing locations and using our own props (and houses), and friends' lovely daughters as models. Recently, we decided that as we put so much time into our covers, it would be nice to turn a selection of them into cards, so they hang around a bit longer. Thanks to Lesley Anne's hard work, we have now done this, and we got our first little batch this week. We used a local, family printing firm, Spiegl Press, who use traditional techniques (they even have a Heidelberg Letterpress for really old fashioned printing). We chose four designs to start with, each one representing a season.

The cards made their debut at the sale yesterday but I really need to find a vertical stand to do them justice. 

* Thanks for your feedback. The cards are available to buy at £1.50 each, or four for £5 (just specify which designs you'd like). They are fold out cards, not postcards, blank for your greeting. Postage and packing is 75p. Cheques or postal orders only at the moment. If you are interested, please drop me an email: and I will let you have my address etc. 

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Summer sun for the sale

Pretty covered suitcases by fellow stallholder Sharon

Sparkly jelly moulds on the Annie Sloan painted table...

What a lovely day it turned out to be at the Foxtail Vintage sale. I wasn't sure if I'd make it, as I have been coughing and spluttering my way through the week, but I rallied round when I woke up and saw the sunshine. It was a really relaxed day, with gentle tunes from yesteryear drifting across the courtyard from a Dansette record player, no breeze and buyers who were content to browse (and buy, as well, thankfully!).

You never can tell what is going to sell. Today, china was popular, vintage toys, and thankfully, I sold almost all of my cushions. A large garden table and chairs, a Lloyd Loom cupboard, some linens and fabrics, and a stepladder have also made their way out of our shed to new homes. 

These things are from Sharon's stall, she always puts colours together really well. I have lots of her things in my house from fairs over the years. 

I was pleased that I sold some toys. The rabbit so very nearly sold, but his purchase was vetoed by a husband (this happens rather often, I find!). My little baskets were popular, too. Only one left now. 

Plenty of teas were served. And I even got to wear my Cath K dress for an entire day.

Thanks to everyone who helped to make this such a great day....