January 25, 2016

For the love of Roger

One of the reasons I moved to this quirky abode was the fact there were two sheep in the paddock. Roger & Dave the elderly & overweight Romneys grazed happily year in, year out. Every year they were shorn and initially the fleeces were usable, in later years not so good. I had 2 of the good fleeces spun up into a nice yarn.
Every autumn I’d pick up all the windfalls in the village and in our orchard and give them a couple every day, this meant that every time they saw me they’d Baaa.
As with every life there is an end and Rogers came yesterday. He had struggled with arthritis for a while and the regular injections were not helping. The vet came and with blackbirds singing in the twilight he took his last breath. Dave is now a batchelor, he too struggles under his immense weight but we will make a fuss of him and hopefully her will be happy for a while longer.
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January 9, 2016

Lewes Women in Business

I recently joined Lewes Women in Business to make new friends and learn from others about running a successful business. I decided to give up the WI in favour of LWB.

On Tuesday we had a short seminar on Social Media and how it can help in getting our businesses ‘out there’. I already use facebook, twitter and instagram on a daily basis but I’d never created a video before. This morning I did! So easy too!

Here it is….
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I think the link works but it all looks odd!

December 30, 2015

Baking for Christmas, GF or otherwise

I recently joined the Lewes Women in Business group, a fantastic group of very talented women with skills that I lack. Our leader a wonderful cook was hosting a Christmas baking day at the community prep kitchen in Lewes so I thought it would be a good idea to join her. Being the awkward one I requested GF flour and Stork margarine for my cakes.  With just 4 willing students Chloe introduced us to the joys of mixing by hand with ingredients that had so much brandy in them the fumes almost put us over the legal limit.

After a day of baking we had produced Christmas Biscotti, chocolate hazelnut biscotti, gingerbread dough and some delicious smelling cakes. I could barely carry my stash to the bus stop-blinding wind & rain didn’t help. I duly ‘fed’ my cakes with more brandy over the following weeks then waited for the orders to come in. Seems people in the village didn’t need gluten free cakes. Plan B. Luckily I have several friends who appreciated the opportunity to eat cake that wouldn’t make them ill so I was just left with one small loaf shaped cake-perfect for MOI.

A couple of weeks later I was asked to make regular cakes complete with marzipan & icing. I love a challenge! 2 x Yule logs & Mince pies too…..

Now my kitchen is tiny, in real life it isn’t a kitchen, it’s a space you walk through at the top of the stairs. My workspace is 4′ long, needless to say it took military precision to organise the baking, storage and decorating of these cakes. I pulled it off. whew. Even made a chocolate snowman cake for a special GF customer.white cake12317341_1072790349408291_1312000709_n

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GF snowman cake

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Falling bauble cake

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square cake

 

October 2, 2015

WI competitions or how not to make chocolate truffles.

Being chief organiser of the competition entries for our local WI it fell to me to make a Christmas stocking (not knitted or crocheted) and some truffles as well as the tea cosy I actually wanted to make.

Now most people know I don’t like chocolate so whatever I make I will not try, luckily I know people who do,like the stuff so volunteers are easy to find. Determined to find a dairy free recipe I trawled the trusty Internet and found several vegan recipes. Good old Jamie Oliver has come up with a dairy free one, about time some famous chef didn’t actually produce a recipe that didn’t have piles of cream and butter in. Don’t get me started…..

so the mixture was made and I put it outdoors in the shade to ‘set’. Looked ready, the toasted coconut and nuts were waiting, how on earth are you supposed to roll a ball of soft chocolate mixture in your hands without it melting?    Needless to say I have odd shaped balls……

The other recipe I found included canned pumpkin and since it’s coming up to Halloween I thought it would be a nice touch to make Pumpkin truffles, except I’d forgotten to buy the almond butter and I wasn’t going to pay over £6.00 for some almond flour either. It seemed odd to be putting flour in a truffle mix that wasn’t going to be cooked so I used ground almonds instead and made my own almond butter. Well why not when you have almonds in the cupboard?

This mixture needed chilling before dipping in chocolate so it wasn’t quite as messy as Jamie’s recipe except I had a pumpkin mess all over my hands rather than a chocolate one. I’m hoping the judge will like my pumpkin truffles, and I hope I can find someone to eat half a dozen of the J.O. ones and all the leftover pumpkin ones. I’m thinking up ways to use the leftover truffle mix now…… Maybe mix with some icing sugar to decorate a cake?

There’s also almost a whole can of puréed pumpkin to think about too……

Truffle anyone?

truffles

September 20, 2015

Baking experiments Part two. Or Having a Portfolio career.

Pastry made with gluten free flour was very ‘short’, delicious but short. Half of what I created sold but I had to eat the other half, life as a baker is really tough! However, muffins made with GF flour using a ‘normal’ recipe were an epic FAIL. I could have built an outhouse with them. Dry, tasteless,claggy. Just a few words that my official tasters came up with. I didn’t think the birds would enjoy them either so in the food recycling bin they went.

It makes a change to talk to people about something other than wool, to say my life revolved around wool is an understatement, get me started and you’ll be asleep before I’m finished taking about my favourite breeds and their uses. My Mastermind subject- wool, favourite holiday destinations- anywhere there are sheep. Favourite meal- Roast Lamb.  But, now I can hold a conversation about gluten free recipes too. Who’d have thought it?

I can even start a conversation about the highs & lows of running a monthly market, I feel a bit like a juggler with 3 balls on the go at the same time, apparently there is a NAME for this, not multi tasking, oh no, that is So last season. I now have a Portfolio career. Yes really, it is a known THING according to my self employed Copywriter son. Many people choose this style of life rather than having a boring old 9-5 job until they retire, juggling charity work alongside paid jobs, I saw an article in the Times about it. (so it must be true)

I am rather enjoying my Portfolio career and so glad I wasn’t pensioned off at 60 as I might never have achieved this milestone in my life. My pensioning age is now 65 1/2 so I will enjoy the next 3 1/2 years in this line of work and see how many other balls I can collect along the way.

Recipe books sit alongside my collection of knitting and felting books now but there may have to be a shuffle soon as the bookcase is hanging off the wall! I have had to make room for all the extra ingredients I have to buy and am already stocking up with dried fruit ready for the GF Christmas cakes I plan on baking. New cake tins have already arrived.

Next time I order business cards I wont have to add, baker or market organiser to the other titles I have , I just write Portfolio Careerist.

September 15, 2015

Baking experiments. Part 1. Using gluten free Flour.

I gave up volunteering at Oxfam after over ten years of service. I miss the camaraderie and the rummaging but it did mean I could now attend the Country market held every Tuesday morning in the village hall. I thought it would be a great place to sell some of my cards & felt items. I wasn’t expecting to be asked if I could bake?

I used to bake for the children & husband, loved making special celebrations cakes for them and the family but now I rarely bake as there’s only me.

Trawling through recipes I found some simple ones to start me off, everything would be dairy free as any leftovers have to be EATEN. First week I sold a few things but the jam tarts were ignored. I became bolder and after talking to other bakers & customers it was obvious they needed a gluten free supplier too. That was all new to me so I trawled more websites and found delicious looking recipes, headed to town for the ingredients and gave them a go. Successes and disasters ensued.

My daughter ( a dietician) told me I had to be careful about cross contamination with regular flour into the gluten free bakes as this could cause serious problems for coeliacs. So I decided I would only bake GF & DF things in my kitchen on a Monday and make sure all pans & cake tins were thoroughly scoured.

My coconut & almond macaroons were an instant hit and my flapjacks are a weekly staple. I’ve had varied success with gluten free cakes though and the chocolate one last week looked like cardboard and didn’t rise. I thought I’d try making pastry-by hand- dairy & gluten free, now there’s a challenge. It formed ok and after it warmed up a bit after resting in the fridge for a few days I was set to roll it. Kept breaking… more kneading, more rolling, I was going to make old fashioned apple turnovers ( I ran out in the pouring rain to pick the apples earlier). I cut 3 circles, placed on non stick reuseable sheet and added a little of the cooked & cooled apple, added the egg wash to stick it together but then as I tried to fold the other half over it just broke. I couldn’t turn back now so carried on with all 3, gave it a good egg wash sprinkled with golden caster sugar & shoved in oven. They turned out ok, well 2 of the 3 looked presentable, I had to ‘try’ the third. Very short pastry as I suppose it would be. Plan B, the remaining pastry was turned into 6 mini apple pies. 2 of which got stuck in the tins so 4 are going to market & 2 are for dessert….

I’m going to get fat……

I will pesevere with this. Lessons learnt- always line baking tins, greasing & dusting with gf flour doesn’t make the tin non stick and pastry will be very short.

September 11, 2015

Brighton Mini Maker Faire 2015

What an amazing day! arriving early meant I had the opportunity to meet a few of the makers before the public arrived en masse. My stand didn’t need much setting up, just needed more chairs & another table, 4 in all and I think 16 chairs. I met folk with 3D printers,a mosaic creator, a couple with huge structures made of crazy coloured ‘straws’. The dalek was waiting in the foyer. PCB’s, LCD’s and other things I had no idea about, slime that you make at home, tiny creations made from fimo, sewing machines, a knitting robot, a spinning wheel and a host of gadgets that you could play with.

Volunteers made sure I had all I needed, even a packed lunch appeared mid morning. These guys work their socks off.

After last years faire I came up with the idea of felting selfies, or felfies as I like to call them. Due to surgery interrupting my creative year I had to think of an alternative to making a hundred or so balls which I’ve done previously. I tried felting onto a piece of upcycled wool jumper and it worked a treat. Much less work cutting up the fabric (old jumpers) and took up much less room in my suitcase too.

So I was organised, 2 helpers were confirmed and the flood gate opened at ten, it was a slow trickle at first but then it was all hands on deck as the seats were filled and the activities began. Everyone was given the health & safety talk then they were able to create an image of themselves with wool.

Of course many went off piste, we had landscapes, seascapes, aliens, animals and anything else they felt like felting.

IMG_1400bmmfselfie1bmmfselfiebmmfselfie2IMG_1397
IMG_1399 (1)IMG_1398IMG_1402 IMG_1403IMG_1408IMG_1409IMG_1412So, just a few images of the imaginative needle felt selfies and non selfies created with a little wool & big imaginations!

June 1, 2015

What do you do with my Longwool curls?

I thought you’d like to see a couple more creative ways to use British Rare breed wool locks. I really look forward to seeing these images!

Cheryl of softnwoolly https://www.etsy.com/shop/softnwoolly created the unicorn, My very talented friend Hilary created the Tart. All her lingerie is machine embroidered. Her hair is natural black Wensleydale.

There are some very talented ladies out there!

IMG_4982

The Tart

Needlefelted Unicorn with Teeswater mane and tail

Needlefelted Unicorn with Teeswater mane and tail

May 18, 2015

Masham fleece, Ardingly Spring show 2015

I was lucky enough to catch the sheep show at the Ardingly Spring Garden & Leisure show this year and noticed there were some Masham sheep waiting to be shorn as part of the sheep show.

A quick chat to the shearer and he marked the ewe that had the nicest fleece, I was on spinning duty with the alpacas so couldn’t wait to see her being shorn.When I had my next break I caught the end of his show and then he sold me the fleece.

At the first opportunity I started to wash it and realised just how beautiful it was. I have washed the entire fleece now and about half is dyed. I have managed to spin some too, from the locks, no carding required. The locks are very lustrous, super soft and not very curly.

This has to be in my top 5 favourite fleeces. I think I have the fleece that I will spin up for the Masham sheep fair. I certainly won’t be selling all of it! Call me selfish!

Rose Petals

Rose Petals

Raked leaves

Raked leaves

Truffles

Truffles

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FullSizeRender (30)

April 30, 2015

How people use my British Rare Breed Locks

Having just been asked if I had any ‘wool’ suitable for doll hair I said ‘Is the Pope Catholic?’

I couldn’t tell what was suitable over the phone so my friend popped round with her scantily clad ‘lace project’ a beautiful fabric doll wearing a lacy negligee, lace stockings, suspender belt, bra and panties. But she was BALD! We trawled through baskets of sorted curls and bags of unsorted curls until we decided on overdyed black Wensleydale. As she is a work in progress you’ll have to wait until she’s complete before she is revealed.

Previously the same friend had asked me for curls for her mermaid, well, here is the result. The embroidery and beading is all hand stitched. I’m in awe!

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This next project (different maker) is a male doll about 60cm tall, he is in the ‘raw’ so avert your eyes if you are of a delicate nature.

Who knew this is how my hand dyed locks would end up!

male doll with Teeswater hair

And now for something completely different, a needlefelted bear!

bear

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