Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Bread Update and Ink

Two posts in two days, what is going on? No reno work thats for sure.
Here is an update on the bread as promised. Up until now I have had to add yeast to my sourdough bread to get any rise out of it what so ever, so although I was getting the sourdough flavour, it just wasn't true sourdough. I have been using the kitchen aid to do the initial kneading of the dough, enough to bring it all together, then doing the hard yards myself but still with little success, plus the fact, when kneading the dough the bowl of the kitchen aid gets well and truly stuck in the base, has anyone else had this problem?
I use my bread maker constantly but only to make dough and always have lovely textured wholemeal bread, so thought I would just substitute the sourdough ingredients and do the same thing. The feel of the dough was a vast improvement on any of my earlier attempts and it rose up beautifully while sitting in the kitchen during most of yesterday, my timing was all out to leave it overnight in the fridge, so did it as I normally would with a yeast dough but over a much longer period.
The moment of truth came for me to flip it out onto a hot tray, use the trusty lame to give it a quick slashing and then hope for that "oven spring"

Well it sprung all right, but only at one end? So I ended up with this weird looking loaf and yes the end is missing because I just couldn't resist tasting it piping hot straight from the oven. So if anyone reading this has any idea why this may of happened, please leave me a comment, it's a mystery to me. I thought maybe my oven is a lot hotter one side than the other, very possible as it is an absolute heap of junk and I can't wait to get another but we won't go down that path right now.
It could have been cooked longer and the crumb isn't perfect, but it is slightly chewy with a beautiful crust and tastes just great.

I made my starter and bread using this cookbook

The Italian Cookery Course: Over 300 Authentic Regional Recipes and 40 Masterclasses on Technique

It is one of the best cook books I have come across for a while. The bread making section is brilliant and not too complicated. The starter is simple and straight forward and as long as you use organic flour and filtered water, amazingly quick. I have the happiest, bubbliest starter sitting in my fridge ready for my next attempt.

I used the recipe for the Rustic White Bread with Madre, substituting the white flour for wholemeal and increasing the water content by 50ml.
I put the ingredients into the bread maker in the order I would if making a yeast wholemeal dough and used the dough setting.  This is the closest I have come to that perfect sourdough loaf, and by using the bread maker, the one that took the least amount of effort. It has been over two years now since I went out and bought a loaf of bread, so hoping I can get this method to work with consistent results.

On to the Inks and stamps, they arrived yesterday afternoon, too late to do anything with, so this morning I went out the back to play around with them. They are so versatile and I know I am only scratching the surface of what they are capable of but here are a few pages I have started and some "handmade" tags.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Bevy of Bits

The reno's are steaming ahead, when the weather allows us and now becoming inside jobs that make living here just that little bit more challenging. However I have still managed to start some stuff and do some stuff so here is a quick rundown of some of the things that have been happening.

I have a table of body parts awaiting stuffing and some wooden disks that were posted today.

I have started this purple and green creation using the Flip La K technique, but now sure where I am going with this now.

Bought some zentangle books, still waiting for one to arrive, as fancy getting back into a bit of tangling.

Here's my practice page.

Re-discovered these, bought them a while back and forgot all about them, have now ordered 12 more colours as have become addicted to them all over again.

Had a play with my limited colours and a few other bits and pieces to make a couple of journal pages and tags.

Finished these

Started these

And nearly finished this.

Planted some seeds.

Managed to keep the herbs alive despite being covered in sawdust at least once a week.

Bought some wicker breadbaskets and a lame. 

I bought the baskets from Breadtopia, they were wonderful and quick with the delivery and have great tips and recipes for breadmaking. I'm still trying to make a crusty sourdough. I have another starter going and today tried making the dough in the breadmaker. As you can see, it is now sitting in one of the baskets, and fingers crossed, it's looking and feeling much better than my other attempts.
If it works out I'll let you know. By the way those bread lames are wonderful for giving yourself a quick hair cut! My hairdresser left to have a baby, and has decided not to come back to work, who can blame her really, but I have lost the only person that understands my bizarre hair, so in desperation took too it with the bread lame and gave myself the perfect hair cut. Just don't think too hard about the fact you could possibly scalp yourself in the process and you'll be fine, and yes I do change the blade before it goes back to the kitchen for it's intended purpose.

Lastly the three new girls have settled in beautifully, they are so well behaved and friendly. I emptied the compost bin a few weeks ago, and after lifting off the bin, left them to go through it and break it all down before it went on the garden. Was like the biggest chicken birthday cake for them and kept them busy for days.

And one final thing, I have fallen head over hills for the Blackcat Cougar and am desperately trying to convince Santa that I must absolutely have one for Christmas.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Little Progress, A Tragedy and A Show

I am not even going to bother to make excuses for not blogging, it just ain't happening right now.

Little Progress

The weather has continued to be awful making the progress of the reno's painfully slow. Hopefully as the evenings become longer and the weather dries up, for surely it must do soon, we can get back into it and make some headway.

A Tragedy
My three lovely girls pictured in the previous post, have, in the words of their former owner, been "kidnapped and assassinated". On a wild and stormy night, when part of our roof got blown sideways and let in lots of rain, a sneaky fox got in and took them. I felt absolutely terrible having been entrusted with their care and couldn't believe that a fox would come into suburbia with so many dogs around, but apparently they are everywhere. Having fenced off the bottom of the yard just for the chickens it seemed a shame not to have them scratching around. So after constructing a very tall side gate and fence, completely re-inforcing the chicken coop and pinning the bottom of the wire fence with very long stakes AND adding indian bells to the fence AND installing a sensor light, we went and got three new chooks.
So meet Lilly, Ruby and Dora, (chickens just have to have names!)

They were completely of the don't touch me variety when we bought them home, but soon learnt where all the treats come from and now when I let them out for their afternoon stroll through the veggie patch, they are quiet happy to come up and try and rip the buttons off my shirt or cuddle up and read a recipe book with me while I decide what to make for dinner. Ruby is even brave enough to follow me into the kitchen, there is something behind my fridge that just fascinates her, strange bird!
So I still have a constant supply of lovely fresh eggs and three new characters to keep me entertained.

A Show
A couple of weekends ago I went up to Dungog for the annual Quiltarama. This year is was held a month earlier and put on in conjunction with Dungog Railway Centenary. It was a busy weekend with lots of people coming through the quilt show. I had made a new workshop banner this year and decorated it with kanzashi flowers and Steve made a stand for it to hang on along with the bird quilt. I had dyed up about 80 new 1/2 meters and some other fabrics and threads so my stall looked especially bright this year.
I met lots of lovely people and hope to see some of them at workshops next year. I also met some lovely ladies that organise the Stroud Quilt and Craft Interlude, which I am going to visit later in September.

I have just bought some e patterns and have an online workshop I haven't had the time to start, so have plenty of new projects lined up, now I just have to find the time to do them.

Till next time, which will be - who knows when!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Change of View and New Boots

The view from the back deck has changed, I have adopted three very cheeky birds that deliver three beautiful brown wholesome eggs every morning.
They have the bottom of my garden to scratch around in and a pumpkin plant to hide in. They came with their lovely coop, which they continued to lay in for the first week, but have decided a quiet spot under the pumpkins and beside the compost bin is much more to their liking. It's only a little space and they are queued up in the mornings waiting their turn to lay their eggs.

 I tried to encourage them back to their nesting box, but they seem so much more content with their chosen spot, that in the end I relented and rather than have muddy eggs each morning, lined the spot with straw. They have just about cleared out the old veggie patch of weeds and are doing a wonderful job of it too. They spend hours digging looking for anything that dares move. I'm amazed at how fast they have adapted to their new surroundings and have a daily routine and their own preferred spots for a afternoon siesta or a good old dust bath.

I have become a fan of the old Ugg boots, and mine were old beyond a joke, well they have been a joke with my family for years as I have a curly toe, one they like to point skyward and puts holes in all my socks and some of my shoes, the Ugg boots did not take long to surrender to the unruly toe and for years I have walked around with a grey tufty bit sticking out of my right boot, yes I tried to patch it and only had grey sheepskin to work with. They are beyond doubt one of the comfiest things I have ever worn and live in mine during, well most of the year. This year I did admit it was time for a new pair, they have changed the design slightly with a bit of reinforcement around the toe, so who knows, these ones might withstand the toe! My old ones are well battle scarred, stained with indigo and god knows what, but they are now my chicken boots, they can stay outside and I don't have to worry about chicken poop following me in the house. The chickens just happen to love that tufty bit, I sometimes find myself with a chicken attached to it as they are determined to relieve me of it.

 The Old and the New

The holidays are nearly over, I haven't done anything like the amount of things I planed to do and for the next 5 days Steve will be home so we will be working on the house, trying to make headway in the never ending reno. No Easter holiday here, but hopefully some progress.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Chairs and Stamping

Now that our house renovations have finally started, I can look forward to them being finished and start thinking about what will go into the newly renovated house. While flicking through some junk mail the other morning, I came across this lovely chair.

While I was working on the little quilt in the previous post, I had it thrown over one of my lounge chairs, how good would a chair look upholstered in my mini quilt! Ok lots of scraps need and hours of machining, but the end result would look amazing, sitting next to my planned little wood burner. Thinking about chairs, I remembered another long, long ago project I had in mind, we have here two very old leather chairs that sat in my mother in laws hall way, they come apart and the seat wraps around them so they can be moved around. I have no idea where she got them, but they always reminded me of something that would be taken on an african safari. A quick image search for old safari chairs came up with this image, which are very much like the two chairs I have, stashed away - somewhere......

The ones I have are actually nicer than these with a bit of wood turning on the legs and a second rail that goes all around the bottom. I had always intended to renew the leather seats, backs and arms and do some fanciful leather carvings on them. They would look so good on my lovely new back deck.

Ok back to reality, I have been playing around with stamps over the past few weeks, trying out lino, rubber blocks and sticky backed foam sheets to make them from. I really wanted  a nice horse stamp of a certain breed for my next little quilt. I tried the rubber block first as it was the easiest to carve, but didn't like the result, even with a new sharp lino cutting tool, I got crumbly edges and not very neat corners, so next tried the lino. Better image, but harder to print as was getting lots of lines from the background so my horse looked like he was standing in long grass, admittedly, I haven't mounted the lino onto a wooden block yet, which does help to get a cleaner print but I wasn't happy with the original image anyway. After a few tweaks to the horse, I cut it from the foam sheets and got a lovely clean print.

 Here are the three block and yes the horse is facing the other was in the foam block, which seemed to make a huge difference to the finished print.

 Here are some experimental prints, you can see what I mean about the long grass effect. I also did another little lino but wanted all those lines so this block worked well.

 Here are a few of the blocks I have been making. the stripes and checks are really effective. I used the small check in the previous quilt.

 And here are my final two border pieces printed and ready to go. The background for this one is a piece of indigo and I'm hoping all the hand dyed fabrics will really jump out from it. I have to wait for an order of paint sticks to arrive before I can go any further with this one. School holidays are coming up soon so hopefully I will have time to get it finished.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

First of Hopefully Three

I have started making some small, half meter-ish sized mixed media quilts. Why? well to try out some new stuff. I have ideas for three and here is the first.
This one sprang from the scrap box obsession I have at the moment. After cutting up all those hundreds of squares in my last post, hang on, I think I'm repeating myself here ....... Yes indeed, I have shown you this picture of my background fabric and scrap pieces last time. So on the next pic ............

I have laid out all those bits in a geometric sort of design. I tried to use the scraps just as they were, haven't done any trimming, just shortened a few longer bits and added a couple of hand dyed cotton tapes to bring it all together.

Next I wanted to experiment with a couple of lino blocks I had cut last year and some other texture plates  I have used for other things, but never printed with. I used lumiere paints mixed with a little textile medium and applied the paint with a piece of sponge.

I also wanted to try using some heavy threads through the machine, so bought some 12 cotton perle  and 30 wt Cebelia, well I think that's what it's called. It says made in France and that sounds pretty French to me so I'll go with that. The 30 wt was a little heavier than the 12 perle, I would rather have got the 40 wt, but of course didn't have it in white. As it happens the 30 runs through the machine fine and I think I now prefer it.
So I got out the dye pots and without much thought, dyed up some bobbin length skeins. Then decided I would like some lighter colours so dyed up another lots in bigger quantities this time.

After a bit of playing around with tension on the machine and working out which stitches would work and which wouldn't, I started stitching madly all over the place.

I knew at some stage I would use gold thread on this piece, so used gold as my bobbin thread for all the stitching. If the bobbin thread did show through, which it did at times, it just added to the gold anyway.

I finished off the stitching by adding some gold squares, particularly in the negative areas to bring the whole thing together.
I wasn't sure what I was going to do with this piece when it was finished but once it got to this stage it was just screaming out for some coloured tabs along the top. 

I then bagged the top with a piece of stripy Indian cotton, I know I took a picture of this but it seems to have disappeared. 
I finished the edge of with a row of heavy gold stitching.

And tied it to the backing with a few random gold diamonds 

So here it is, another awful photo I'm sorry. I set out to:-
  •  use my scraps 
  • try out some printing blocks 
  • experiment with some hand dyed threads 
  • not use any satin stitch in an appliqued piece
It's now hanging in the door way between my two work rooms where I hung it to take it's picture, think I might just leave it there for a while :)