Friday, 31 December 2010

Thing's I've done over the holiday - In pictures

Momma taught me to make her honey roast ham with meat from the pig we owned at the farm.

I made more food for other people than I care to think about. Did a bit for us as well. Mmmm chocolate caramel shortbread!

I gave some food as gifts. Chutney and jam for most people.

I turned this pile into 5 bags, 2 pairs of arm warmers, 1 tailors ham, 1 pin cushion and a t shirt.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Moose countdown

I have the front, back and bum done. I've started the head. Once I've done that there are the 4 legs, 2 antlers, snout, tail and 2 ears. Sounds like a lot but they're all really small pieces.

Now where did I put the pipe cleaners to put inside the antlers?

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Baking complete

621 items.
288 mince pies, 75 chocolate caramel shortbread pieces, 84 gingerbread muffins, 24 choclate muffins, 60 plain fudge pieces, 30 choclate fudge pieces and 60 white chocolate pieces.

Man I'm tired.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Last minute moose

Ok so this year I have done really well with my presents. I got everything that needed posting in the post last night so it will go with the last post before Christmas. Usually I miss the last post and my gifts arrive in January. I only have one gift that needs to be completed before Christmas (the others can be done over the holidays as we'll be visiting folk with them). That last gift is for Spadgersdottier. Yeah I'm a bad stepmum.

So I am in a state of emergency knitting of the strawberry moose. I will be knitting in my dinners and on the way to and from work. Also before bed. Maybe through the night! To be honest there should be no issue. It's not that complicated a pattern and I'm quite confident after the Zebra.

I'm starting next years presents in January!!!

It's a good job I like baking

Have you seen the running total I keep publishing? 477 baked items. Man my feet hurt so very much. 4 days straight of at least 5 hours stood in the kitchen. But I do like baking and people are willing to buy the ingrediants for me to bake for them. It surprises me how many people don't bake themselves at Christmas.

I should be doing the last lot tonight. This consists of 5 dozen mince pies, 3 dozen muffins and 60 pieces of fudge. Then I can start on the stuff for us! Yes that is right, I haven't baked anything for my family yet. But I'm on it I promise.

Monday, 20 December 2010

477 items and counting

Tonight I made 102 baked items taking my total to 477. This breaks down as:
240 x Mince pies
75 x Chocolate caramel shortbread squares
60 x Gingerbread muffins
12 x Double chocolate muffins
60 x Plain fudge squares
30 x White chocolate fudge squares

Must sleep now!

375 baked goods

I've just done a quick count up and I've made 375 (individual) baked items for folk at work so far.

Phew my feet hurt!

Thursday, 16 December 2010

A change of outlook

Hey guys. It's been a while. I've been planning posts on all the fun things I've been up to I just haven't sorted out the pics to go with them. Let's just say I've been busy.

But today I feel like having a little bit of an in dept chat about my life. Since this doesn't need pics I can just go ahead and write it. I suggest you go get a beverage and nibble of your choice and settle in for this one. Done that? Good, then I'll begin.

This is how my life runs at the moment. Monday-Friday I work 8 hours a day in a office organising printed items for a national chain of care homes. I was originally employed as an office junior really and am slowly gaining more responsibility which is not what I wanted. I like the lack of responsibility. I do not dislike my job particularly, though the throwaway nature of the products we deal with does offend me mightily. I know darn well that there is no way I am going to find a job that pays so well that I like any better at the moment so I am sticking it out. However I am not really enjoying it. Because I don't really care about the job I know I have not been giving it my full attention of late (look I'm writing this while working, what does that say?!). So there have been a few mistakes. I've made my first one that cost the rep I work for any money, though in my defence it wasn't just my fault. The scary part of it was that I didn't really care. I was concerned that it could lead to me losing my job as I can't afford it but I didn't really care about the money. The rep makes enough as it is. Much more than me and the rest of my office.

Saturdays I spend mostly at the farm. I've not been lately as I've been up to my neck in Christmas stuff or it's been shut due to the weather. I love my Saturdays there. Even if I don't really feel like going I enjoy it when I'm there. I love being outside, planting and weeding and mucking out. I love standing in the garden when there is no one else there and imagining that this is my homestead. I wish it was.

Sundays are spent doing all the stuff around the house such as cleaning.

Week day evenings are spent baking, sewing, knitting, spinning etc. Except Thursdays which are the rehearsals for the AmDram group I joined.

There is never a quiet moment. Ever. Now if I didn't have to spend 35 hours a week working for someone else I would be much happier and less stressed. Because that is what I am at the moment. Stressed. I've let my meditations slip, I honestly can't remember the last time I did it. I resent the rehearsal time as I am so burnt out by Thursday but I feel I can't quit as my friend set it up and we are really short of members as it is. I'm sure that I would be more enthusiastic if I weren't so tired.

Now many people would say that I need to cut some stuff out of my life to make more time. I kind of agree. The thing is I would prefer to cut out the working for someone else. I know that I don't really. I just need a rest. I need to get back the joy I feel in doing all these things for myself. The pride I feel in making things from scratch, be it bread or clothes. I don't want to cut anything out because honestly, waht would I do with the time? I just need to change my outlook.

The plan for the new year is simple. Save money like it is going out of fashion so we can get the homestead as quickly as possible. I intend to properly set up my little crafting business, BlueFrogSticks. There will be a Folksy and a RedBubble for these. This will mean registering self employed which has always put me off a bit as I'm scared it will be complicated but my Momma assures me it is easy. I will be selling my photography through RedBubble and sewn/knitted/spun/jewellery/hair ornaments through Folksy. All money from these will go straight into the savings. I'm going to spend more time on my spiritual enrichment next year. I would like to find a retreat, either on my own or with Spadger. I think I need to gain a bit more focus and I have found weekend courses to be very refreshing. I might even look into a week long course.

2011 needs to be a year of focusing for me. I feel I have lost my way in everything I want to do. Things are so much effort at the moment and they didn't used to be. Work, farm, cooking, cleaning, gardening, being a parent, being a girlfriend, being a daughter, sometimes it's all just a bit too much. I know I can do it all, I'm just not feeling it right now.

Ok ranty whingey type thing over, I promise.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

a little bit of slap

Now then I am no stunner. I didn't fall out of the ugly tree, don't get me wrong. But I've not won any modeling contracts. But I find it amazing how many compliments I got last week. I put my hair in pin curls one day as I am trying out various styles for the Christmas party. So I went to work with a side swept rolled fringe and side curls. Now you can't wear a vintage hair like that without a ton of red lippy :o)

It seems as soon as you change your look the compliments start flying. I sometimes wonder if people really mean it when they say something looks good or if they just feel that they should say something. I also never know whether to be insulted or not when people comment that I look nice when wearing make up. Do I look that bad normally? hehehehe I know that's not the case and it's just a matter of complimenting the change.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Christmas dress 2010

I've been working on this dress for a few days now. So far I have made 2 muslins of the bodice to try and alter the pattern to fit me better. I have had one temper tantrum and I think it it now ready to sew. It's not perfect but quite frankly I just don't know enough to make it any better. This has cemented the idea that I need to get some good reference books on fitting. I'm stabbing in the dark here.

But I am now ready to cut my fabric. The actual sewing of this dress should go pretty easy. It has 4 bodice pieces and 2 skirt pieces plus 2 pockets and lining. There are 4 darts and it has a wide neckline at the front and a deep V right down to my bra strap in the back. I'm going to have to attach it to my bra in some way to stop the straps falling off or my bra straps peeking through :o) Because this should be quite quick I plan on making a huge petticoat like this one to go under it. Ok so that one has 10 layers and I might not go that mad. But somewhere between that one and this one maybe :oD

I'm still searching for the perfect hairstyle to go with it and as soon as I've done that I'll figure out what hair accessory to craft. I'm thinking copper to go with the colours in the fabric. But that is less important than the dress so I won't get hung up if I don't get round to it.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Ooh what to talk to you about today? I feel like writing but don't really have any idea what about. So be warned, this might be a bit random.

I had one of those really vivid dreams last night. You know the ones, you wake up and you can't forget it. I tend to have them about people I haven't spoken to in ages. Sometimes I'm still in contact with these people, in which case I usually drop them an email or a text. Sometimes they are people I haven't spoken to in years and I'm left with a deep sense of loss and wondering if they are ok. Last night's was about an old schoolfriend and thanks to the wonders of Facebook I was able to say hello.

I find dreams fascinating. I used to keep a dream journal when I was younger.I always found it amazing that the simple act of writing it down made me retain details for so long. I could re-read them and it would be fresh in my mind. I love the fact that dreams can either make sense or be surreal, be from your view point or 3rd person, remembered for months or forgotten before you've really woken up.

I've never had a repetitive dream but I do have repetitive places. I've never had a lucid dream but when I have a repetitive place I quite often realise I am dreaming I just can't control anything. I quite often get sleep paralysis. Mine is hypnopompic and it really is terrifying. I feel I can't breath and panic sets in. I know I'm asleep and just need to wake up and it's such a struggle to manage it. Occasionally this is linked to the hallucinations and I feel like I'm drowning or being suffocated. A bit mental really.

Ok so that was a bit of a wander. Told you it was going to be like that :o)

Ok more sensible topics, lets see. Tonight's plans are quite full. I need to make tea (chinese curry from scratch), bake bread, make cake and biscuits (before Spadger starts complaining), sew the 2nd muslin for my Christmas dress and then if it is still a descent time start cutting the rest of the patterns for Christmas presents.

Yeah, not much.

Spadger will be putting the finishing touches to my Christmas present so I can hopefully show you guys this week. I'm very excited but I think it will have to be hidden from me so I actually get on with the presents :o)

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Dedicated follower of fashion?

I've never been a fashion bug. What is hot this season does not define what I will be wearing. I am capable of leaving the house without make up on and with my hair scraped back.

I thought I would just get all that out of the way before I started this post :o) You see dear readers I am going though a funny phase at the moment. I suddenly have a great interest in what I am wearing. I've been looking at my make up box for the first time in years. I've been coveting shoes. I'm not sure what is happening to me. Now it's not like I'm going to go all Sex & the City on you all but I do feel a girly moment approaching. I think I can identify the things that have started it. Let me show you.

1) At the beginning of the year my office amalgamated with another. So we went from 2 blokes, me and our lady boss who is not girlie to us plus 1 other dude and 4 other women. Out of those women 3 are quite girlie.
2)My life is broken up into work, farm and evenings at home. None of these offer any real opportunity to dress up and none of them require a polished appearance.
3) I discovered this blog. I can't even remember what I was Googling for at the time. I am fascinated by her make up and a tad jealous as I've never been able to do anything half as interesting.

I used to wear make up everyday. Not a lot, I was never a full set of foundation all the time type of gal. But mascara and eyeliner played a mighty part of my life. I've never been trendy but I always liked clothes. I had going out clothes and casual clothes. Clothes for different occasions.

When my life changed and I started to think about my impact on the planet, living a more frugal life and all things like that, clothes and make up kinda went out of the window. I don't buy clothes now I make them. But I have been cautious not to over make. Mostly due to Spadger saying I can't make an outfit for everyday. Well why not? I feel at the moment that I am in a rut. I wear the same clothes week in week out. The sensible part of my brain says I should be grateful to have more than one outfit. It says, why do I need loads of choice? Why do I want?

The simple answer is I don't know. But I would like a bit more excitement in my wardrobe. I still plan on making it all or buying from charity shops. But I would like to get back into caring about what I wear. I also plan to get back into make up. I don't intend to wear it everyday but I'd like to learn a little bit more and start wearing it at times other than the rare occasions that we go out.

Has anyone else been through a point in their life like this? Please comform me that I'm not having some sort of midlife crisis!
Man I am so busy at the moment!

As I'm sure you are aware that season is upon us. Yes there are only 36 sleeps til Santa comes now which means I am up to my neck in Christmas presents. Where is my pack of elves to help me sort all this? This year I will be making everyone's gifts. I tried this last year and failed miserably. I took too much on and had no organisation at all. This year I've been a bit better but I'm still starting a bit later than I would like. I just can't get into the mood for Christmas presents til November.

I've limited what I'm making this year to food, soap and a few sewn/knitted goods. Food is a good one as I can do a lot of it the night before we go visit people rather than having to have all this stuff done ages in advance. I've got some jars of chutney and jam for some people and I'll do biscuits, cakes and maybe truffles for others. I have 3 different kinds of soap curing at the moment which will be wrapped up prettily for various folk. For the 4 small children in our friends group I am making soft toys; a bear, a mouse, an owl and an turtle. For friends I am planning on making some messenger bags and needle rolls for those who knit. For my Niece I'm going to make accessories and maybe a make up brush roll. I am a little stuck for my Nephew so I'll have to ask his mother for ideas. I'm going to stencil a tshirt for one of our male friends (boys are so hard to make for I think). For the cold pawed of my friends I'm going to make some wristlet/mitten things using this tute from Erin at Luck and Bliss. Charity shop jumpers here I come!

All this in 36 days. Plus I need to make my dress for our Christmas party which is on the 10th. Yeah I've taken on too much again. The frustrating thing is none of it will take too long as long as I stay motivated. With this in mind I joined Crafty Christmas Club. I'm hoping that presenting my goodies to the group will motivate me and all their pretties will inspire me. So here's counting!

Oh, and one more thing, I need to make an advent calendar and fill it my the first. I think I need a lie down.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Remembrance day

Image courtesy of News of the restless

Today is Armistice day. I've always honoured the 2 minutes silence as I think that those who have died in our armed forces and their families deserve a moment of respect. I am incredibly anti war but this does not mean that I cannot appreciate the individual sacrifices. During the 2 mins I try to reflect not only on the service folk but the civillians as well. People who have nothing to do with the conflict who lose their lives just because they are there. The people who are displaced, wounded or left without family.

Our little one asked us recently if we coudl have one wish what would it be. Spadger responded that he would like war to dissapear. Not that he wanted peace but that he wanted the concept of war to go. I couldn't agree more.

Today please spend a few moments thinking about the horrors we perpetuate upon our own species because we spend too much time focusing on our differences and not enough time appreciating that we are all the same. Look to your fellow man and love them today and everyday.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

You remember I said I was tired?

Well it's 22:53 and I've just finished making 2 jars of stewed plums, 4 jars of hedgerow jam, 4 jars of strawberry jam, 2 big jars of plum and bramble jam and have 2 loaves of bread in the oven. Spadger has just handed me a mug of finest cocoa and I intend to sit on the sofa with a book and sup it. There was a plan for some stewed rhubarb too but there is only so much I can do :o)

The Lady Grey coat

I finally finished the coat just in time to meet my girlfriends for a drink last week. Bonus. I'm not 100% happy with it but I guess we are our own worst critics. My momma used to make clothes for a living and she thinks it's great. Likewise B~'s grandma was a seamstress and she thinks it's cool too. I've had lots of compliments on it so far and thought I would share with you guys.

Please excuse my less than happy face. The place I wanted to take the pics had been gated off and this meant the wonderful arty shots were not happening. I was not happy with the prospect of using our garden but I think Spadger did a wonderful job on them.

Did I really need more exercise?

Ok guys, you remember me telling you about the epic clearing of the goat pens? Then the trek uphill on Sunday with 2 stone of flour in my backpack? You would have thought that I'd had enough exercise for the week right? Right??


Yesterday me, Spadger and our friend B~ helped our 2 friends S~ and N~ move a piano from the church up the road to their house. The church wanted rid of it and said they could take it for a small donation. They were so desperate to get rid of it that we had to move it last night or it was getting skipped. So in the pouring icy rain the 5 of us shifted the piano.

0.2 miles/321.868 meters/1056 feet/352 yards

That is how far we took that piano. We lost 2 casters on the way and had many people looking out of their windows at us as the remaining casters didn't turn well so there was a really nasty scraping sound. We did manage to get it there without damaging the piano or their house.

S~ and N~ then fed us a gorgeous homemade veggie curry and tiny little shop bought steamed puddings with custard. Man did we devour it! Today I am covered in bruises and so very tired. But it was a really fun night.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Who needs a gym subscription?

Well yesterday we put that to the test. Me, Spadger and my momma spent the day at the farm clearing out the old goat pens. The lass who owned the goats got rid of them months ago but has never gotten round to clearing the pens. There was at least a years worth of compacted straw and muck just waiting to be moved. We agreed to clear it if we could take as much as we needed to help enrich our growing space.

Between the 3 of us we managed to clear 2 of the 4 pens and the central space between both pairs of pens. So out of 6 spaces we cleared 4. It took us about 5 hours of solid s**t shovelling. Oh dear lord was it a workout! Honestly, no one needs a gym subscription. They need to do some manual labour. I have a pleasant ache in all my muscles. To add to this we walk 2 miles-ish home from a friends last night and then today Spadger hefted all the bags of poo into a truck and then back out of it again at our house and I walked the horribly steep hill from the shop to our house carrying nearly 2 stone of shopping on my back.

Yeah I'm sore! It hasn't hit him yet but it will tomorrow or Tuesday.

This evening we're shlebbing out on the sofa with a beer and a film. I think we've earned it;

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Lyrics that touch you

Music is an amazing thing. There are songs that bring back memories or make you feel a certain way every time you hear them. For me a lot of music I like is irrevocably linked to a feeling of sadness or despondency. This week they seem to be playing all of those songs on the radio at work :o(

I thought I would share with you a few of these songs and my favourite lyrics from them. I'm also planning on doing more posts on some of my favourite songs and what they say to me. But for now let's look at the radio's way of digging into my past. I would have put videos for them up but I just didn't get round to it. So I really hope you find the songs and listen to them as you read. But if not, no biggie.

Maroon5 - She will be loved
The album this song is off was one of 2 albums I listened to as I decorated my room in the house I lived in after uni. I had moved in with my ex and one of his friends as a room had become free and I needed somewhere to live. I didn't want to move back in with a parent and it was cheap. It was one of the worst mistakes I have ever made. I should never have stepped foot in that town again let alone so close to him. The next 2 years robbed me of all the confidence and freedom I had gained at uni. They took me back to the emotionally crippled 15 year old that is my inner self. They were bad years. This song reminds me of those times just by listening to it.
It's not always rainbows and butterflies
It's compromise that moves us along, yeah
My heart is full and my door's always open
You can come anytime you want

This lyric in particular moves me. At the time I was lonely and seeking comfort in all the wrong places. There was a boy who loved me but not enough to be with me and that was tearing me apart. This song summed up the bittersweet nature of our relationship. Things are not easy but I'm here for you. That kind of sentiment.

Nickleback - How you remind me
During those 2 years I hit bottom in many ways. I went back to self harming in a big way. I took an overdose. I let myself be manipulated and broken by my ex. I felt unworthy of love. I find it very hard to listen to this song without feeling both angry and hopeless. Yet I do like the song so it happens.
This time I'm mistaken
for handing you a heart worth breaking
and I've been wrong, I've been down,
been to the bottom of every bottle
these five words in my head
scream "are we having fun yet?"

Goo Goo Dolls - Iris
This next one came out when I was 16 and was just at the beginning of the 2 complicated relationships that defined my adolescence. I was also just starting my dependency on self harm. I found that when I couldn't cry I tended to hurt myself more. So you can see why the below lyric resonates so much.
And you can't fight the tears that ain't coming
Or the moment of truth in your lies
When everything feels like the movies
Yeah, you'd bleed just to know you're alive

Ok so that's it for what the radio has been playing. I'm now going to introduce you to a few other songs that are important to me for various reasons.

Matchbox20 - Push
Now this one is a very important one to me. The first time I heard it was with my ex. At the time I was, well, I was his bit on the side. There really is no better way to put it. I spent a long time hoping to be good enough for him to go out and he messed me around for a long time before we finally did. We were together on and off for 3 years and engaged by the end of it. But he never made me feel like I was worth anything and not long after going away to uni I finally got the confidence to leave him. I got the confidence to believe that someone else would want me and I didn't have to settle for him.
The words to this song stayed with me and would be guaranteed to make me cry if I was feeling the slightest bit down. It was the song I played as I took my overdose.

That said it is still probably my favourite song and I do listen to it often.
She said I don't know if I've ever been good enough
I'm a little bit rusty, and I think my head is caving in
And I don't know if I've ever been really loved
By a hand that's touched me, well I feel like something's
Gonna give
And I'm a little bit angry

Dashboard Confessional - Standard Lines
This one speaks to me of a love that is damaging. One that bruises and breaks. One that will never last but will be with you forever. It speaks of the time after such a love. Being lost without it.
I am a lover of the tragic romance so I think this some appeals to that part of me.
But your taste still lingers on my lips like I just placed them upon yours
and I starve for you.
But this new diet's liquid
and dulling to the senses.
And it's crude but it will do.

Darren Hayes - Unlovable
I have no lyrics from this one as it is the whole song that touches me. It reaches into my heart and sings to all my fears. I spent most of my life believing I was unworthy of being loved. I was an early developer physically and looked older than my years which meant I was desired before I was fancied. Until meeting Spadger There has been been no one who was either willing or capable of sustaining a relationship. Those unwilling wanted me on the side. Those incapable were too broken to manage and I can't blame them for that. It was their shattered natures that drew me to them. I know now that I am loved. I do not doubt it for a second. But that 15 year old wreck is still a part of me and the music touches her.

So that is a look at some of the more maudlin music of my life. I hope you have gone and found the songs and listened to them as you read. I'll be back soon with more. Maybe even a few cheerful ones :o)

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Making soap - Adding honey

I've made another batch of soap today and I've made 2 alterations. The first is to the recipe itself. I've added honey to it. I added it at a light trace and it's turned the mix bright orange. This should cure out to a beige colour I believe. The second was to the method. We have been mixing the soap with a handheld electric whisk (not bad) and a big kitchenette type (not great) and it has taken hours for the stuff to reach trace. So we finally splashed out and bought a stick blender. My god it hit trace like a rocket!!!

I'll be back with pics of the bright honey soap soon.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Lady Grey: my nemesis?

Yeah so I'm being melodramatic. But my evening of peaceful and fulfilling sewing has not gone well. First the thread I'm using threw my tension off which meant I had to learn how to adjust my needle tension. So bad that it went but now I've learnt something new. Bonus.

Then I got halfway through my first actual buttonhole on this coat and suddenly had the paralysing though that it actually didn't want one where I'd put it. S'ok, it's double breasted so does need one there and I can even add an internal button if it needs one. So definitely a panic but I learnt what a double breasted jacket is.

I wanted to be at least half way through sewing the shell. Instead I've got half a buttonhole. Ah well. It's not the end of the world. However you wouldn't have believed I could utter that sentence if you'd seen the full on tantrum I had earlier. Phew, toddlers would have cringed!

So I leave you with a pic of my practice buttonhole. Not bad really.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Were there kittens?

Unfortunately there were no kittens. This is some yarn I found in a big bag of stuff Spadger's Nana gave me. There are several lumps of what were once skeins of yarn. Some in this pink and some peach. Now I'm not a fan of either colour but it's good sock or lace yarn. So I'm unknotting. Now I should let you into a little secret here. I adore unpicking knots. Even the ones you get in necklace chains where you have to get a pin to manage it. Love them love them love them. I find it very therapeutic as you cannot be angry or wound up or upset in any way to successfully unpick a knot. You have to be calm. So the activity is calming. It centres me quite effectively. So I've been unravelling this mess onto a stick.

Then once I've gotten to the other end (I have no idea how long that will be as I don't know how many skeins there were and they're all in one lump now) I make a nice neat skein by wrapping the yarn around 2 pegs on my peg loom, tying it up and then folding it into a skein.

Pretty, no?

Friday, 15 October 2010

Making coloured soap

Today I made coloured soap. Green to be exact. Coloured with nettles.

Please note image has been altered to try and reproduce the right green. Damn the indoor photos!

For what feels like months I have had a jar of oil with nettle powder I made myself sat in a cupboard. Occasionally we shook the jar to stir it up. This was so the nettles would infuse the oil with lovely green colour. It took longer than it should have because we stupidly took the jar out the the shade and put it in the sun which faded the colour so we had to infuse it for longer! But finally we decided it looked green enough and got on with the mad science.

I love making soap but get a little flappy as I'm sorting out all my kit. It is after all a very dangerous process if you're not careful. So once I'm all suited up (don't I look great!) we start the process. You measure your oil/fat into a pan. In this recipe I have around 15.5 ounces of olive oil. Then you measure your water (6 ounces) and put that in a heatproof container.

Next is the lye./caustic soda. This is the dangerous chemical. If you've seen fight club then you know what I'm talking about.

The lye is added to the water. Never the other way round. I try and sprinkle it gently and stir it as quickly as I can as it tends to clump in the bottom and goes quite hard. It will be really cloudy and will release some nasty fumes. You want to be in a well ventilated space and not leaning directly over the bowl. Even doing that I end up with a bit of a cough and a heavy feeling in my chest for a few hours after. Heck I felt like that when we did it outside! Really not a nice chemical. Once all the lye has dissolved the water will start to clear and you can stop stirring.

You now leave it to cool to 110F. This is when you should start heating your oil. Now I always make the same mistake and forget how quickly oil heats up and so end up desperately trying to cool it back down. You need them the same temp (ish) as you will be adding the lye water to the oil. What happens when you add water to oil when the oil is much hotter than the water? Much spitting and fizzing and general stuff you don't want! Trust me I did this once and it scared the bejesus out of me.

Once you've added them together you want to blend them. A stick blender would be quickest as those babies spin at a helacious rate. We have a normal blender. This is our first time using the beast which is a big heavy blender given to us by Spadger's Gran. Before we were using a handheld electric whisk and man our arms used to ache. The beast is no quicker but at least you don't have to hold anything. You whisk it until it reaches trace. Be warned this can take an eon!

Trace is when a drizzle of mixture sits on the top for a moment before sinking in. We have successfully made soap when we have stopped at the barest trace. You don't want it too thick though. Decant your traced soap into a mold or several. We use a silicone loaf tin as I found it useless for cooking and you don't have to grease it. If you are using a rigid container grease it lightly with a little oil first or it will be really hard to remove. Wrap your soap in a nice thick towel and leave over night. Once it is no longer squishy to the touch you can remove it from the mold and slice (if needed). All that is left now is the curing process. Lay your soaps out on a wire rack. This is very important as you want good air flow all round them. Leave them to cure for 4-6 weeks. We leave it 6 usually. turn them occasionally to ensure even curing. This process removes the last of the lye from the process. Most is used up by the saponification process which is where your mixture turns into soap. You could in theory use the soap straight away but only as a household soap as it would still be caustic. (Please do not do this without seeking greater advice than mine. I am merely a hobby soap maker.) Now you may enjoy your gorgeous soap. Pure olive oil soap is great but doesn't foam up all that well. Great as a soap but not a shampoo. Who mentioned shampoo I hear you cry. Well I use my home made soap as a shampoo as well. It cleans well and is much less damaging to my hair. For my personal soap I use 50% olive oil and 50% coconut. It doesn't take as long to reach trace as pure olive and it bubbles up like you wouldn't believe!

It's much greener than the picture would have you believe.

So there you have it. A quick lesson in soap. I'll be back with more pics as I'm doing some experimental batches over the next few weeks as Christmas gifts.

For more information please visit the below links.
soap calculator
Teach Soap
Cranberrylane - pretty soaps

I made a calendar

Last (gardening) year I kept a record of the high and low temp for each day and the rainfall. I did this on an old training planner form work. I've now got to input that into excel for it to be any use which I have realised is going to be a ball ache. So this year we will be imputing it directly into a spreadsheet. However I wanted a calendar to keep track of when to plant and harvest things and also to help me organise my weeks so we get everything done! So I made one.

As you all know I love taking pictures so it makes sense that I would make my own calendar. It took me a while to find a company that was a good price and easy to use. In the end I went with Photobox and would definitely recommend them.

Here are the pics I used. This is a gardening year one still so it runs from October to September.














Saturday, 9 October 2010

Cold Antler Farm

Hey guys

I've been following this blog for a while now. I love her style of writing and it's great to see somone doing what we want to do. I'm entering this giveaway as I've just been on a spinning course myself and would love to learn some more with a it of the worlds grumpiest sheep.

Check her out!

A day in the life of - warning: we lost another chicken

Hey folks. Firstly I would just like to say a huge thank you to everyone who commented on my ranty post about the chickens. You all rock. Jackie: I haven't read that article yet but I will this evening hopefully. Kristen: kung fu chicken? Love it!

So I thought I would do another day in the life of, it's been a while. Today is not really an ordinary day but it's quite a good one to illustrate my life I think.

Got up in anticipation of sorting out the last rooster. Out of the 4 original chickens we have been unlucky enough to get 3 roosters. 2 have already met their maker and been various meals. Today was the Turn of Boniface. Seems the little bugger knew what was coming though. Trying to get hold if him was impossible. Partly due to the fact that he was so much bigger than the others I just couldn't keep hold of both his wings. So Spadger had to come get him. Then he decided to take forever to die. Now I was holding him by the legs just like I did with Gregory but he took so long to give up that my arms are still shaking now. Exhausted muscles! Then it took me over an hour to pluck him. Those feathers were just not letting go. Plus he was really loose skinned on the chest and I tore it a couple of times. I felt really bad about that til Spadger said he'd seen his Grandad do that and he did it for a living.

Finally done I came down for breakfast. 3 slices of cheese on toast later (I was hungry!) and 1 cup of coffee I felt much better. My arms are still shaking though. Now we are just waiting for my Momma and Spagersdottier to get here and then we will go to the farm. We decided that while we are ok for her to see the dead chicken she really didn't need to be here while it was all happening. Baby steps.

The day at the farm was spent in the big poly tunnel harvesting the last of the tomatoes and cleaning up. We spent from about 11:30 to 4 in there and managed to clear out all the green matter, old plants and weeds, and clean and roll up on of the weed mats. It was good satisfying work and we managed to fill 3 of the large crates with toms. Most were green but that just says chutney to me. Since there were so many J~ gave us some extra on top of the share. Definitely chutney making this week! Once we got home a cuppa was in order and then on with the evening's tasks. Bread making for me as we are out and I also promised my brother some for tomorrow.

Spadger has just finished gutting and cleaning the chicken and it will be shower time for us soon. I get the feeling it will be straight to bed after that. It's been a long day and tomorrow isn't going to be any better. So I'll sign off for now friends. See you soon!

Sunday, 3 October 2010

New Chickens

In a terrible turn of bad luck it seems out of the four chickens we originally bought we got 3 roosters. Yeah that's right, two of the remaining 3 were roos.

You caught the past tense huh? This mornning was an early one for us here. Gregory met his maker. It feels odd to be so blase about it but it's just part of life I guess. I took a bit more of an active role in it this time and held Gregory while Spadger did the deed. I'm not squeamish but I expected to get a little upset by it all and was quite surprised that I didn't. I'm not sure if it was that I never really took to Gregory or just that I feel quite pragmatic about where my food comes from. Again I was in charge of plucking and it went much easier this time. Instead of hanging him I just laid him on my lap on a couple of towels. Being able to change the angles I was plucking at made it so much easier. I managed to get away with only one tiny bit of bruising on a wing.

Boniface is still with us for the moment. We're not up to processing two birds in one day so he will be dealt wih next weekend. That leaves only Pius from the original batch. How unlucky are we?

So what's with the title I hear you all cry. Well we decided to go and get replacement chickens today. The lady we buy them off had some that were not ready to lay yet but which were much older than the age we bought the first lot at. In fact they are the age we first started having our suspicions about Cornelius. They are fairly certain to be hens this time. Fingers crossed. I have no problem with the slaughter and preparation of my own chickens but I'd rather not have to do it too often. I will introduce them properly later on in the week with pics.

It's been a touchy subect of late for me. When I told all my colleagues that we had a rooster and were going to have to get rid of him this news was met with outrage. There was much "I don't know how you can", "I couldn't" and my personal favourite "you're cruel". For their information the dictionary definition of cruel is:
adjective, -er, -est.
willfully or knowingly causing pain or distress to others.
enjoying the pain or distress of others: the cruel spectators of the gladiatorial contests.
causing or marked by great pain or distress: a cruel remark; a cruel affliction.
rigid; stern; strict; unrelentingly severe.

Now I'll admit that the roosters may have been distressed. They may even have been in pain. But I get the feeling it is the second meaning that people are trying to apply to me. At no point during the processing of either bird have I enjoyed any possible pain or distress. We have tried to make it as quick and painless as possible. Being called cruel by people who eat meat really offends me. Were the statement made by a vegetarian it would be a totally different matter as their beliefs are different. Heck, I've been vegetarian so I get it. My beliefs just changed. But for someone who eats meat to say it really does anger me. They wouldn't call a farmer, butcher or supermarket cashier cruel but they are all closer to the death of their meal than they are. It seems to be the fact that I am so close up the chain that bothers people, the fact that I have know my food while it was alive. That I have seen it scratching around, fed it from my hand and seen it's personality for myself.

Suffice to say it came to a bit of a head this week and almost decended into a full blown argument. I'd just had enough. Ah well.

Friday, 1 October 2010

End of a long month

Thank all that is holy that it is October. September was not my favourite month of this year. I don't really know what it was about the month that made it so hard. There was a lot on at work. There was a lot to do at the homestead. There was a lot going on in my family.

There was a lot. Yeah that will do to sum it up. At times it felt very overwhelming. Almost tot he point that I stopped enjoying a lot of the things I do. I'll be honest, everything felt like an effort, a task. Nothing really felt fun. This is a bit of a travesty really as I do love my life.

I've learnt a lot though. I really do need to be more organised. I need to know roughly what is going to need doing over a week, any times I know I'm going to be going away and plan around these things. Hopefully by doing this I'll be able to fit in the things I like doing without feeling guilty because I want to spend time for myself. Now I'm one of those people who likes lists anyway so this shouldn't be hard to do. I'm making myself a calendar at the mo (I'll share the pics when I've sorted them) and I'm going to use this religiously to plan my life. A bit anal I know but I think it's going to be necessary. I don't need another month where I spend most of it wanting to cry!

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Self Stitched September 30th - and a review

So we are at the end of SSS. Phew it has been interesting. My stats are thus: 2 fails, 15 orignal outfits and 13 repeats. Not bad all in all. I didn't sew much new stuff to be fair, just finished off some things that were languishing in the UFO pile.

I did learn a lot about my wardrobe though. My tops consist of vests (most of which are now in the re-fashion pile due to the stain fairy being my new best friend). Yeah, that's it. I have a grand total of 1 top that I have made myself. So my mission once I have sewn my coat is going to be make myself some tops. I have grown less fond of lycra vests of late and desire some better fitted tops.

I've enjoyed the experience but I'm not sure if I would do it again. As much as we try not to be wasteful in this house I have to admit that I may have a weakness for variety in my clothes. I like having a choice. Being limited to 15 items got very dull by the end. I am painfully aware just how bad that it and how so many people would love to have 15 items to choose from. But I think this might be a little indulgance of mine.

Lady Grey Muslin take 2

So I decided that my muslin did need a bit of tweaking. I'm not going to all this effort for nothing right? So I asked for some advice and was told maybe a smaller size with an FBA. This would sort the shoulder issues for sure. Now I know that an FBA would do this, I have done them before. But the thought of cutting out new pieces made me feel a tad queasy. So I put the muslin on Vera and pinned like a mad thing. The result? I took out some excess material from the centre back, right side back and both shoulder seams. One fitting coat.

On the front I have decided to take a wee smidge out of each lapel to stop it gaping.

Once I have sewn that bit and put the collar back on I can mark up the roll lines for some of the tailoring shenanigans and then I can take it apart, trim off any excess from the seams that I don't need and think about cutting my actual material.


Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Lady Grey Muslin

Well after much busyness I have finally gotten time to sew my muslin for the Lady Grey sewalong. It only took me a short while last night to knock together and I am quite pleased with it so far. I'm gonna post these pics to the Flikr pool and ask everyone's advice. as much as I would like to leave it as is I know I should really take advantage of all these wonderful people and their knowledge to fix all the niggly problems.

My only real beef with the pattern is that is doesn't seem to wrap as far round me as it should despite all the measurements being dead on. I could do all sorts of adjustments to make it so that it does. But instead I'm gonna move the button holes. It wraps round plenty and I am warmer than Satan's undies most of the time so that little extra wrap round would probably leave me hot under the collar. Plus it does have a belt do it ain't going anywhere!

Over the next 4 weeks we will put together the actual coat and hopefully be done by Halloween. Can't wait!

Self Stitched September 29th

Today's repeat is the black skirt/petticoat combo.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Self Stitched September 28th

Today's repeat was the red spotty skirt.

Self Stitched September 27th

Today's repeat was the yellow and white tablecloth skirt.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

A birthday dress and my first sleeves

It was the birthdays of 2 little girls this weekend. I only managed to get one of their presents done. However R is only 1 so I don't think she'll mind it being late. For A I made a dress from one of the vintage patterns I bought.

Look, look I did sleeves. Now I know they are puffed sleeves which have a huge margin for error but I am still rather proud of them.

Now can you spot what is wrong with it? I changed the patterns form button holes to a zip for speeds sake but I don't seem to have taken enough material out of the back at the neck line. I think this is going to hang really wrong. But I'm sure I can fix it should I need to. The only other thing I'm not happy with is the fact that I used white thread for the visible stitching. I'm sure black would have been better. But having said that I quite like it round the bow. What do you think?