Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Easy Christmas Stockings

I last made Christmas stockings 29 years ago, just before my daughter was born, during that last adrenaline rush that comes with the nesting instinct.  They are still in use and are filled every year for my grown up children who reciprocate and fill stockings for us with delightful and amusing  things.

This year, or the first time,  my daughter will not be at home for Christmas and so I made stockings for her and her partner to have in their new home.

I thought minimalist would fit their lifestyle best, so I used a neutral coloured background and did not add any appliqué.

The original stockings are in traditional Christmas colours and have gingerbread men and snowmen appliquéd on.

The Snowman who is stained with age and use 

The Gingerbread Man, always the favourite

Back view - a silk wreath

Back view - a Christmas Tree

I used an old linen skirt that I couldn't bear to part with, but can no longer wear.  Following a paper pattern made from tracing the old ones, I cut out four stocking shapes. I added some Liberty fabric for the toes and cuffs, varying the colours so that they could be distinguished from each other. I lined them so that they wouldn't collapse when filled.  Finally (not shown), I sewed purple ribbon loops on the backs so they can be hung. Today we visited my daughter's new house and they are full and plump and hanging up, ready to be opened before they set out to Yorkshire for Christmas with his family.

Almost finished

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Retro 50's Tea Towel Apron

Fabric called 'Urne' by Sanderson, printed in the 1950's

This apron was quick and easy to make.  For me, it is a little bit of nostalgia.

My original intention was to use the towel in landscape, but the print goes one way, so I cut it to length and added a coordinating fabric for the tie and pockets. There is a piece of the tea towel left to make a pot holder should I get around to it.

What inspired me was remembering the church bazaars and Christmas fetes of my childhood.  There were always lots of aprons, some charming and some really quite extraordinary, like the bar/barbeque aprons for men which tied at the waist and were split into two to resemble trousers.  Each part tied around a trouser leg. I'm sure I have one somewhere in the loft along with a Christmas-themed apron which I used to wear each year.  Maybe I'll find them and blog them next year. The loft is a scary place, packed with long-forgotten items and I have no burning desire to go there before Christmas.

Another view

Tied with a pretty bow at the back, it is certainly reminiscent of the 1950's.

Add a wooden spoon tied with a cheeky ribbon and it makes a lovely gift.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Mid-Week Winter Warmer

The cosy bar and restaurant where we had the soup

A hearty, warming dish

This is a great dish for cold weather, and brrr, is it cold in London today.  My mother used to make it , but I hadn't had it for years until we were in Amsterdam.  Hubby and Hubby's friend found it in a little bar and restaurant after a morning at the Resistance Museum. While riding the tram, they spotted this place, alighted and tucked in.  The next day, a rainy start had us riding the trams to avoid the weather and see some of the city.  We were promised a treat and this was it.
Not content with one bowl, I decided to make more as soon as I returned home.
This dish required a little advance planning.  It is necessary to soak the split peas overnight and then cook them thoroughly (30 - 40 minutes).

The ham hock, parboiled and ready to cook 

with the other ingredients

Green split peas, onion, carrots, celery sticks and a bay leaf

You will need:
1 ham hock or a slab of bacon
3/4 lb split peas, soaked overnight in cold water and then drained
1 T olive oil
1 large onion
2 celery sticks
2 carrots 
1 bay leaf
5 cups (20 oz) water
Salt and pepper
Dried sausage or chorizo (optional)

What to do:
Soak the peas in cold water overnight and then drain.
Cover the ham hock/bacon with cold water and bring to boil.  
Drain off the water and put the meat to one side.
Gently soften the chopped celery, onion and carrots in the olive oil for about 10 minutes. Do not allow it to brown.
Return the meat to the pan and add the peas, water and bay leaf and bring to the boil.  Lower the heat and allow the soup to cook for 40 minutes.  
Remove the meat from the soup and take the discard the fat.  Remove the meat from the bone(s) and chop it up.  Then put it back in the soup. Add in the sliced sausage (if using) and bring back to heat and cook until the sausage is hot.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Quick Christmas Present - Puff Ball Brooches

Pretty puff ball brooches

 These puff ball flower brooches are quick and easy to make and if you wanted to do a lot of them, you could set up a sort of one-person assembly line.  You need some discarded men's ties, clean and silk, if possible; some coordinating lining fabrics; some pretty buttons and some brooch pins.

  • First unpick the ties by hand and remove the interfacing and lining.  Then press them flat, taking care to use a low setting on your iron.
  • Cut three circles: one 8 1/2 inches in diameter, one 6 1/4 inches and one 3 inches in diameter. I got the maximum number of circles out of each tie before cutting out complementary coloured circles. 
  • Iron a small circle of interfacing to the inside centre of the largest circles.  This will make it easier to attach the brooch pins. 
  • By hand run a gathering stitch around the edge of each circle, then gather them ensuring that the right side of the fabric is on the outside. 
  • Stitch the circles together, attaching each layer firmly.  
  • Add a pretty button to finish off the flower.  
  • Stitch a brooch pin near the top of the back.

Add a pretty button to finish each flower

Stitch on a brooch pin.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Amsterdam on a November Weekend

Sunday afternoon on the Single Canal

The last time I was in Amsterdam was in the summer in the 60's.  My friend and I stayed in a B & B on the Single Canal and danced all night in the discos near the Dam, walking back to the B & B as the flower markets were setting up for the next day.  Glorious.

The little liqueur bar, referred to as W F.

This time we did our annual pre-
Christmas trip with friends and it was a wonderful, but altogether different experience. We did not dance all night for a start.  We went at a much more stately pace and enjoyed the city and its beautiful architecture, ate good food and stayed at a posh hotel.

The old bottles are still there and below them, a rank of delicious liqueurs.

Queuing for a 'slurp'. My favourite is half and half,
an orange, cinnamon flavoured drink.

The most amazing thing was

The stairs in the old houses are narrow and steep. You can just see hooks
on the top dormers, used to attach pulleys to take furniture to the upper floors.

finding this little bar which sells liqueurs made in a distillery down the road.  The bar, called Wynand Fockink, hereafter referred to as WF, has been there since the 17th century.   My friend and I had been here in the 60's and I remembered that it was down a little lane by the side of the hotel. Much has changed in the area and the passageway is now covered in glass and filled with modern restaurants, cholate shops and bakeries, but WF remains the same. It's a magical place where you can sample the liquors in tiny glasses, filled so full you are advised to 'slurp' the top before attempting to carry them across the room.  It is always packed with customers and dusty bottles on the walls remind you of its age.

Behind our hotel, on the Single Canal

The Hotel Krasnapolsky where we stayed. Quite a change from our old B & B

A Bridge on the Single Canal

Waiting for the Thalys to take us to Brussels and
then the Eurostar to take us home. Brrr...