Unintentional fabric haul

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Somehow it had escaped me that the market in our nearest big town runs on a Thursday as well as Fridays and Saturdays, and so I was caught with my defences down this afternoon and ended up buying quite a lot of fabric.

The butterfly print was £6/metre, and was the choice of the little person, who has requested that I make “bags and flags” with it, and that I get started right away.

I don’t have anything in mind yet for the floral print, but at just £2.50/metre it seemed a good buy, and could be useful as a pretty lining, possibly of the aforementioned bags and flags.

And finally, deserving a photo all of its own, is this glorious material (£3/metre), which looks like a rather patriotic tea party, and which is going to become a tablecloth.

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Harpic and Jane Eyre

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I recently opened a cupboard, looked inside just a little more closely than usual, and saw to my surprise three bottles of Harpic and two of Mr Muscle. Now, just to clarify, this wasn’t a moment of “bowl me over, it’s the passage into Narnia” amazement, more a mild wonderment that here was a family of cleaning products living completely under the radar.

It reminded me of a long-held dream, where one day everything in my home is under control. No standing in front of the tumble dryer hoping that the clothes inside are ready because they are needed immediately. No nagging guilt about just how long it has been since the kitchen floor was washed. No leftovers lurking at the back of the fridge until it’s no longer safe to eat or freeze them. Or possibly even to touch them. Nope, a perfect home, with a place for everything and everything in its place, run using streamlined systems.

And I thought of the moment in “Jane Eyre”, where our heroine is just about to leave Lowood School and go to become the governess at Thornfield Hall:

“The box was corded, the card nailed on… I had brushed my black stuff travelling-dress, prepared my bonnet, gloves and muff; sought in all my drawers to see that no article was left behind; and now, having nothing more to do, I sat down and tried to rest.”

It had always seemed marvellous to me to have reached a moment where there was nothing more to do. To be up to date with everything.

But Jane Eyre’s world at this point is an incredibly narrow one. She has had no contact outside Lowood for years, and is now leaving because, in her words, she is gasping for liberty.

I continue to yearn after order (and a dry pair of jeans), but I’m also so grateful that my life is not the circumscribed one that Jane Eyre sought to escape.

There is comfort as well in knowing that I am not alone. Nella Last – a superlative housekeeper – noted on 19 December 1941:

“I had a little time to spare this morning and decided to get my Christmas cake and the box of Christmas decorations from under the stairs at the back. When I packed odd bits and bobs in any handy tin, and put them away to save, I did not think of labelling them, and really had some excitement this morning, finding things. I find I’ve two pounds of lump sugar, one of icing sugar, and a lovely tin of mixed chocolate biscuits.”

And what of the rogue cupboard? Reader, I tidied it.

O frabjous day!

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(The narcissi aren’t actually growing out of the book, they just really wanted to be in the picture)

Look at what arrived today!

I tried to talk myself out of buying Mary Berry’s new book, “Foolproof Cooking”, which accompanies the television series, on the grounds that recipes from the programme are on the BBC Food website. But, like Oscar Wilde, I can resist anything except temptation.

Not having yet cooked anything from it, any thoughts at this point would be perilously close to judging this book by its cover, so I’ll stop for now. (That said, isn’t it an elegant cover? And the fresh, clean look continues throughout. It’s like springtime in hardback.)

Right, a cup of tea and a stack of post-it notes beckon.

Getting out of the supper rut

Recipe books

I’ve realised that I’ve been cooking the same dishes week in, week out. Tasty, comforting dishes that no longer require much thought. But now is the time to change things up and try some new recipes.

So I’ve set myself a goal. Every month I’ll revisit a cookbook that I haven’t used much or for a while (or, in a few cases, at all) and cook four new dishes. Now, I realise that this isn’t a challenge on the level of, say, climbing the north face of the Eiger, but it will still require a bit of planning and effort.

The recipes chosen will need to meet a few key criteria:

  • they must be fairly quick as these are midweek suppers
  • they can’t include obscure ingredients
  • ideally some will be suitable for batch cooking and then freezing

Kicking things off in March is “Save with Jamie”. Who says that resolutions have to be made on 1st January?

 

 

Toy storage bag

 

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Ta dah! (Vinyl from Amazon, owl fabric from Hobbycraft, ribbon from my wonderful sister)

When the little person was truly little, she had just a few soft toys and some of those crinkly-paged books with a mirror at the back. (Allegedly this is because babies love looking at themselves. An alternative theory is that it’s a rather cruel trick to ensure that parents regularly catch sight of just how haggard they look on little to no sleep.)

Now, however, our home looks like we’re showcasing much of the Sylvanian catalogue. In case you haven’t come across the Sylvanian Families, they’re rather adorable animal characters who live in a gloriously retro world. But as the adult Sylvanians are only a few inches tall you can imagine just how small their clothes, food and possessions are, and how easy these are to misplace or – horror – vacuum up.

So I’d been wanting for a long time to make a clear storage bag to keep everything safely together but easily accessible. Sheer terror, though, at the prospect of using vinyl due to visions of my sewing machine somehow combusting or snagging irreparably had put me off. But faint heart never made a toy bag, so I plucked up courage and followed this fantastic tutorial. (The generosity of crafters around the world in sharing their ideas never ceases to amaze me.)

And it all went very well. The tip to put sticky tape on the presser foot and plate stopped the vinyl from sticking, and the instructions were very clear. I used ribbon rather than making a drawstring as I was running out of time, and when I next make one of these bags may put the vertical seam of the fabric section opposite the seam of the vinyl section, rather than matching them up, otherwise you see the seam every time you do up the drawstring.

And now I’m off to make dozens more bags so that I can keep everything I own in them.