Comfort Food – Quick Cock-a-leekie In The Soup Maker!

Hi, how are you doing?

If you are outside the UK you may not know we are now in our third lockdown.

Thank goodness for modern technology so we can stay in touch with friends and family. I’m taking each day as it comes; I’m lucky as I have my crafts to keep me occupied, (nothing different there). I like to get out into the countryside, nature is very important to my wellbeing. There are some lovely walks on my doorstep so I can get my daily exercise. I have especially enjoyed walking in the snow, it’s a winter wonderland out there.

The weather has been cold, I don’t think the frost has entirely given since Boxing Day so I’m making lots of heart warming comfort food.

Yesterday I made sourdough rolls and a fruit and nut bread, also rye bread but somehow I mixed up the rye and fruit loaf dough so the fruit one became a loaf and I’ve made rye rolls for the first time 🙂

They were left to prove overnight by the log burner so they were ready for the oven this morning. I wish you could smell them.

We look forward to our cold wintery walk each day, with soup and bread to come home to. The great thing about the soup maker is that you can come home to a lovely bowl of heart warming soup.

The soup of the day today is my quick cock-a-leekie. If I have some leftover chicken I make it with that, and boil the bones to make stock. Today I don’t have any so I chopped up half a chicken breast and microwaved it for a few minutes to cook it off.

Here’s my version, it’s maybe not the recipe you find online but I don’t know anyone who puts prunes in soup.

Quick Soup Maker Cock-a-leekie

Leftover chicken meat, or some chicken cooked as above.

Chicken stock, or one chicken cube and one vegetable cube.

2 tablespoons of barley I use flaked barley in the soup maker, or alternatively I boil pearl barley in a pan of water for a few minutes while prepping the veg.

I medium carrot, 1 parsnip, 1 small onion, 1 small leek chopped small.

1 tablespoon of red lentils, not traditional but I love lentils in soup as they help thicken it.

Pepper.

Everything goes in the soup maker, fill to the line with stock or hot water, cook on chunky setting.

Then I go for a walk and come back to a steaming bowl of goodness.

Delicious 🙂

2020 What A Year!

It goes without saying that most of us have never experienced a year like 2020. I have tried to remain positive with the help of my family, my garden, taking pleasure from small things and by making the most of this down time to make things for myself.

I started with my waffle blanket.

Comfort blanket is finished

Then there were masks, lots of masks for family and friends.

The weather was so good in spring we spent a lot of time in my garden, we grew vegetables which were a disaster, and we made a pond which has been a triumph. The garden became a large part of staying positive, the VE Day celebration was probably the highlight of my year.

pond

I learned punch needle technique and made some cushions.

Punch needle cushions

I haven’t yet mentioned sourdough. I resisted for a while but it was futile, in the end I caved in and I’ve been baking all my own bread since.

Sourdough

Channelling my inner hippie I did some tie dye.

Tie dye T shirts

Being in the garden so much was such an influence, I did an awful lot of eco printing, I made a book called “My Garden Sanctuary 2020 “ as a memory of this year and finding pleasure in the small things. I wrote haiku and learned some new techniques while working on this book, I didn’t rush it so it kept me involved for months. The garden seemed to be the extent of my world. I feel incredibly connected to this little book in a way that’s deeply emotional. I am planning more ecoprinting this coming year, I have dyers plants and seeds on order and I have a plan 🙂

During the dark winter months knitting and crochet have kept me busy in the evenings I started another waffle blanket, knit a jumper, a cardigan and some socks. I made a couple of dresses in spring, but they still haven’t been worn.

I’ve taken a few online painting courses this year, I particularly enjoyed getting back into watercolours with Dena Adams and Sarah Stokes. I regret having such a long break from watercolour but it’s all coming back to me.

I noticed the bulbs are shooting up when I was in the garden yesterday, in some ways this year has gone so fast but in other ways it seems to have gone on for ever, time does that when each day is the same, don’t you think?

So here I am, I’ve come full circle, I am making a list of stock needed to replenish my shop, I am making plans of where I want to go with my work, new makes, new techniques to try, a new year brings optimism, we really need that now.

And so I wait and watch for the first snowdrops to bloom so I can smile, then get to work on making my snowdrop ceramics, just as I did in January last year, and years before……… the more things change the more they stay the same.

I’m making ceramic snowdrop hearts today in time for Mother’s Day

Here’s wishing you a happy and healthy 2021.

Stay Safe And Well This Christmas

For most of us this Christmas is like no other we have experienced, but there’s light at the end of the tunnel. I hope everyone stays safe and well this Christmas, and now we have hope for 2021 so here’s to better things for us all next year.

Have a peaceful Christmas

Jill

Christmas card

Chocolate Ginger Cake, Great With A Cuppa, Or As A Pud.

There’s nothing like a slice of cake on a dull dark afternoon to cheer the soul. I do love cake but I don’t particularly like icing, it’s too sweet.

Gran’s Wartime Ginger Cake is a firm favourite with everyone who has tried it. It’s also suitable for vegans, and it’s great warm with some custard, cream or ice cream as a pudding. You can find the recipe here.

IMG_0048

I thought it might be an idea to try a chocolate version of this cake. I found half a jar of stem ginger in syrup the fridge that needed using up so chocolate ginger cake it is. Chocolate on it’s own would work well but then I would add all the golden syrup to the recipe, chocolate chips would be good but there’s the possibility they will sink. Dusting them in flour i meant to help prevent fruit sinking so that might work, I will have to try it next time.

Chocolate and Stem Ginger Cake.

2 cups plain flour minus 2 tablespoons.

2 tablespoons cocoa

1 cup sugar

4 oz butter or margarine

1 cup hot water

pinch of salt

2 large tablespoons stem ginger in syrup, chopped fine

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1 teaspoon of baking powder

vinegar

Method

Grease and line a loaf tin

Heat the oven to gas mark 4 or 180 C

  1. Melt the fat and golden syrup (if using ) in the water
  2. Sieve the flour into a bowl with the sugar and salt
  3. Make a well and pour in the liquid and stir in the ginger.
  4. Mix the bicarbonate of soda and baking powder with some vinegar in a cup, it will froth up, quickly pour into the mixture and beat everything together. Pour into the tin and bake for about an hour, watch the top doesn’t burn.

My cake sank a little as I took it out of the oven too soon, my main oven is broken so I cooked it in a combi microwave. It still tasted good.

It’s nice and chocolatey, squidgy with a lovely lovely warm ginger note, again this cake would be great as a pudding with some ice cream or clotted cream.

I ate it in front of the fire with a mug of tea after a bracing walk, it was just the job.

Last Minute Gifts From Kiln Fired Art

Looking for a last minute gift ? Here are some gift ideas that I have in my shop.

I can post directly to the recipient and if you want I can include a message for you too.

I can’t guarantee delivery in time for Christmas as this is out of my control but I will do all I can on my part.

Ten pounds and under.

Handmade gifts £10 and under

Ten to twenty pounds.

Over twenty pounds.

I may decide to close my shop on Tuesday but you can always message me if there’s something you would like.

It’s been a busy week.

I’ve had quite a busy week with packing up orders every day. It’s been a bit dull so difficult to get photos to list new items to Kiln Fired Art on Etsy, but eventually I got there. I made a simple stand to photograph my ecoprinted scarves, what a difference that has made to sales. It just shows the importance of having good photos of your work.

The first 2 scarves are ecoprints on viscose, these are really large lightweight sarong sized scarves, so many ways to wear these and also very affordable too.

The peach ecoprinted scarf below is a heavier weight silk crepe scarf, it’s such a pretty colour.

I managed to get out for a walk in search of inspiration once the rain stopped, I found a lot of inspiration in the woods, forest bathing or shinrin yoku as the Japanese call it really lifted my spirits.

Today I am framing and photographing ecoprints, also making paper packs for crafters. I am wondering what my next ecoprint project will be as I want to bring them into my paintings in some way to give a sense of place, I’m thinking collage.

I would like to thank everyone who has watched the Youtube video of my little book, in a week it’s had over 1200 views and some amazing comments, I knew it was precious to me but I am overwhelmed so many people love it too.

Enjoy your Sunday and stay safe.

My Ecoprint 2020 Book Is Finished!

My little handmade book is finished. I’m really pleased how it turned out but sad that it’s now finished as I enjoyed making it so much. Sometimes I felt slightly uneasy at how much this project has meant to me, it certainly helped me focus on the small pleasures in life that made me happy in these strange times.

The book originally started as a few ecoprinted concertina pages but as I didn’t want to lose the end pages I decided to make signatures and have these as pull out pages. More pages were made, some with pockets. There was damage to the folds in places so tissue and metal leaf were used as a ‘sticking plaster’, I thought this kind of fitting.

I wanted to add some drawings of birds and mammals that had visited my garden, I was going to glue in my drawings but they didn’t look right, I scanned, printed on a laser printer then did an image transfer using Citrasolv to get a printed look. Once I worked out how to flip text using Open Office I added some words. We wrote some haiku one evening, I thought this would add another dimension to the book. I think the combination of haiku with the ecoprints is a beautiful thing, I will be doing more of these in future.

Photos were printed in black and white or desaturated colours, some were toned down with coffee. I included the rare special days like V. E. Day, when I baked my Gran’s wartime ginger cake recipe for our tea party in the garden. Also the one day we had drinks with friends, another happy memory to hang on to.

This photo collage shows some pictures of my little book’s journey.

Here’s my finished book, I hope you like it as much as I do.

Just as life isn’t perfect my book isn’t perfect but there is beauty in imperfection.

Are you a tortoise or a hare? I’m definitely a tortoise.

When I was out for my jog I decided to try a longer distance, the first 5k in ages. I took it slow and steady, and I got to the finish without having to resort to walking, I felt I had achieved something. The tortoise approach definitely works.

I’ve found being a tortoise is a good thing during lockdown. Slow and steady gets things done. This week I have been working on occasional custom orders, champagne bottles flattened and returned to their owners. I hear some interesting stories from my customers as to why they want their bottle flattened to hang on the wall as a memento of a special time in their lives.

champagne bottle flattened to hang on the wall

I am stocking my shop, I list something daily trying to keep stock levels up. I’ve slowed production down now, it’s not a time to get stressed with the workload. I still have more items to list over the next week or so. Here’s a couple of gift ideas that I added last week.

Ceramic soap dishes, I love the way this glaze breaks over the texture.

https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/888468444/soap-dish-soap-drainer-with-holes-rustic?ref=shop_home_active_8

Recycled bottle spoon rest this one has gold sparkles to add a bit of bling to the kitchen.

https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/902410615/flat-bottle-spoon-rest-melted-bottle?ref=shop_home_active_9

Slowing production has given me more time for packing up parcels, time for jobs round the house and also most importantly a bit of ‘me’ time to get through this strange situation we find ourselves in. I’m trying to get out and enjoy nature, and burn off some sourdough calories, I’m knitting and reading and I have been working on my little ecoprinted book but that will be revealed later.

How are you coping with lockdown? Are you taking the ‘tortoise’ approach?

Kiln Fired Art

It’s All About The Leaves.

I’ve been trying to get out for a walk locally every day weather permitting. I go out with the intent of finding something in nature that lights me up. This week has been all about the leaves. I am a kid again crunching through piles of dry crisp leaves. I explored a disused quarry to get amongst the trees and to smell the damp earth and foliage, am I weird in loving that smell?

It’s all about the leaves

While I was looking through the leaf litter I discovered badger and deer tracks in the mud.

I definitely found my happy place in the woods.

As the weather has been good we had a raku firing on Friday. I use dry leaves in the combustion bucket, they spark and crackle as they catch alight, I have this idea they impart something of themselves onto my raku leaves.

It’s all about the leaves
https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/KilnFiredArt?ref=seller-platform-mcnav&section_id=25110253
It’s all about the leaves
https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/KilnFiredArt?ref=seller-platform-mcnav&section_id=25110253

There was some ecoprinting from the leaves I collected last week on the way into town.

https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/KilnFiredArt?ref=seller-platform-mcnav&section_id=25213462

All in all it’s been a very leafy week, I think it’s amazing that something so humble as a fallen leaf can provide me with so much pleasure.

The leaves have kept me in my happy place this week, I want to pass that on so I am having a giveaway on my Facebook page Kiln Fired Art, pop over and leave a comment on my giveaway post for the chance to win one of these 4 ecoprints in the “Woodland Floor” series.They come in a mount ready to frame.

It’s all about the leaves
Woodland Floor ecoprints giveaway from Kiln Fired Art

I will announce the winner next weekend. Enjoy your Sunday.

Get Creative During Lockdown.

The UK is about to start a second national lockdown, this time we won’t have the sunny weather and relaxing in the garden to look forward to. But it’s not as bad as it seems.

Imagine how you would feel if you had the opportunity to go on an art, craft or wellbeing retreat for a whole month. Well now you can even if it’s just a small part of your day or one day a week.

Plan your ideal escape, whether it’s reading, meditating, writing, cooking, art or craft related, you can make your retreat anything you want it to be.

I love the idea of nurturing oneself at this time of year, it may be cold and dark outside but little things can make such a difference, breakfast in bed with a book, snuggling up in a blanket by the fire in the evening, and spending some of my day doing all those art and craft projects I’ve wanted to try out. Do as much or as little as you want to, no pressure.

Do you want to join me?

I have a Facebook group here where we can chat.

Today I’m ecoprinting, and writing haiku so I will have something to show you tomorrow.

Stay safe and well. x