I do get asked why I don’t do craft fairs right now. One reason is that my current best-sellers are mostly custom-made so can’t be made ahead of time. I also don’t have transportation right now either, which makes it difficult to get to craft fairs.
It’s thick, a little tangy, a little sweet, slightly hot with the tiny chunks of ginger, and gorgeous with a mature cheddar. You can use unripe pears and then blitz a few cups of the cooked chutney while hot to make it less syrupy and more thick. (I did).
10 cups peeled and chopped pears (fairly finely chopped) (15-20 pears, depending on their size)
3 medium red onions, diced
3 cloves garlic, finely minced or grated
4 cups white sugar
3 cups apple cider vinegar
1 cup seedless raisins or sultanas
1 cup crystallised ginger
1 tsp salt
3 star anise
10 whole cloves
2 sticks cinnamon, or 2 tsp ground cinnamon
6 crushed juniper berries
Pour the vinegar in the pot you are going to use to cook the chutney in, then add the pears to it as you chop them up so they don’t turn brown. Take 1 cup of the sugar and the ginger and put in a food processor. Pulse the ginger and sugar together until the ginger is finely chopped, then add to the pot. Add the rest of the ingredients. Stir well and bring to a simmer. Stir regularly so the bottom doesn’t catch. Cook gently for 1-2 hours or until the pears are cooked and the chutney has come together. You can blitz a couple of cups of the chutney if the pears haven’t broken down at all, just leave out the whole spices from blitzing.
Sterilise clean jars (you’ll need 8-9 pint jars) by placing them in a tray in the oven at 100’C for 20 minutes. Put the lids in a bowlful of boiling water for at least 5 minutes. Quickly fill the hot jars with the hot chutney to 4-5mm from the top, keeping the rims clean (if you’ve spilled the chutney on the rims, wipe them with a wet sponge and wipe dry). Dry off the lids and screw them on to finger-tight. Leave on a clean dry tea towel on the counter for several days before moving. I usually fill 2-3 jars at a time, then put the lids on.
As long as the lids stay sealed, the chutney will last for years.
About a month ago, I was approached by Hiya Hiya Europe regarding stocking their products. I wasn’t sure, so asked quite a few questions, which were cheerfully and quickly answered.
I had a good look at their catalogue, trying to decide if I should go for it or not. I had some unexpected expenses in September – my printer had to be replaced for one – and didn’t go ahead right away. I let them know I was interested but that I couldn’t order right away and they extended the introductory offer for me.
I ordered this week and it only took a couple of days to arrive. I got a retail pack, so a good assortment of Hiya Hiya bamboo,steel fixed and interchangeable needles and lots of accessories. The sheep needle gauges are especially cute!
I spent 3 days writing listings and editing photos and they are now live! Join me on my Facebook page – Looking Glass Designs to enter the Giveaway on the pinned post!
Yup, you read it right. Rice Crispie Chicken. Sorry, there’s no marshmallows in it. It’s a baked chicken dish my son and I made for dinner tonight. We had some rice crispies that needed using, so… we coated boneless chicken thighs in the crushed rice crispies and baked them. My son did most of the work, I only boned & skinned the chicken thighs for him, but you can buy boneless, skinless ones.
It turned out better than expected, so I thought I’d pop the recipe on here for you to try. It would work with other cereal as well like cornflakes or bran flakes.
Rice Crispie Chicken
5 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 tbsp water
salt & pepper
2 cups rice crispies or other crisped puffed rice cereal
Preheat the oven to 350’F. Beat the eggs and water together in a bowl with a little salt & pepper. Put the rice crispies in a freezer bag and crush them with a rolling pin- you’ll need to crush them more than you think you will, or you’ll have whole ones that won’t stick to the chicken very well.
Add a little salt & pepper to the crushed cereal, or any other spice you’d like to add and put on a plate. Dip the chicken in the egg, then into the cereal, covering the chicken, press down then flip and make sure that side’s coated well. Place on a greased or parchment covered cookie sheet. repeat with the remaining chicken pieces, then bake for 15-20 minutes
I’d add some cayenne or paprika when we make them again, rice crispies are sweeter when baked! We had them with pesto pasta and steamed veg, but they’d be good in buns too.
Some years I make preserves – jams, chutneys and canned pears (we have a pear tree). This year is one of them, for chutneys, anyway. I used to make this apricot chutney when I was a chef, for adding to sandwich plates and Indian food. It’s not an Indian chutney but the flavours work well with ethnic foods. This chutney is delicious with roasted chicken or pork too. I have to confess we mostly eat chutneys on ‘nibble plates’ – what we call a ploughman’s lunch.
It uses dried apricots, so can be made any time of the year and is easily doubled or tripled if you want. It only needs a few ingredients, and nothing in it is hard to find either. It’s pretty too, a chunky dark orange chutney with flecks of red onion and green rosemary.
1 kg dried apricots
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
3 small red onions (or 1 large)
800ml apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
Finely slice the apricots; you can use a food processor but they tend to get mangled a little. Finely chop the red onions too. Put everything in a large heavy pot, and simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. The chutney will be thicker, a little syrupy and heavily smelling of vinegar. You won’t be able to tell what it tastes like until it’s cold and is even better after sitting for a couple of days.
You’ll need about 5 x 454g jars or enough other sizes to that hold much chutney. Wash and dry the jars, then place in a roasting pan and into oven on 100’C for about 20 – 30 minutes to sterilise them. Place the lids in a bowl and pour boiling water over them about 5 minutes before filling the jars.
Have a clean tea towel or 2 on hand and another laid out to place the hot, filled jars on. When the chutney is ready, take out the jars from the oven and quickly fill them to 4-5mm from the top with the hot chutney. You can fill a glass measuring cup or use a soup ladle and a funnel, but try to keep the rims clean. Wipe the rims clean if needed using a clean damp sponge or paper towel. Quickly dry the lids and screw on, finger-tight. Leave on the tea towel on the counter. I usually fill a few at a time, then wipe and screw on the lids. Try to fill quickly enough that the jars are still warm/hot when you screw the lids on. Leave the jars alone for a few days. If you have a part-filled jar, put it in the fridge once it’s cool.
I don’t often make clothes – by clothes meaning jumpers/sweaters, cardigans, socks, that kind of thing. (Actually I’ve never made socks!) But I got an email from a local-ish lady wanting to know if I was able to knit her a jumper – extra large, plain and using a very thick yarn. Many more emails later, we met up to talk and to get measurements.
She had picked out a yarn (Rowan Cocoon in “Clay”) and was looking for a pattern. Usually it’s the other way round, but I managed to find a pattern – plain, big, and one that I could add her requirements to – a polo neck and long cuffs that she can turn up. She had bought the yarn, so gave me that and 50% of the agreed price. (The remaining amount is due when half the work is done).
I started on the jumper – bulky yarn and 6 & 7mm needles mean it knits up quickly, but when you have to frog…. not so much fun. I knit up the front to about 2/3 done after swatching, then washed and blocked it – even without pinning it out, just laying it on a clean towel, it stretched 3″. So I took 1″ off the front and back length and started again. The front and back got done fairly easily, then I sewed the right shoulder seam together and started in on the neck to get the polo part started.
The sleeves I also started – 6″ and a 4″ cuff to check that which length she wanted and part of the sleeve as well. We met up for her to try on the pinned together jumper front and back and see how long she wanted the polo neck and the cuff length. 6″ cuffs it is, then…. 🙂
I also checked her arm length, as the shoulder seams come down over the top of the shoulder onto the upper arm. She was very happy with the partly done jumper – it will definitely keep her warm; there is going to be about 800-850g of yarn in this jumper once done and it’s thick as well. I haven’t washed it yet, so it will grow a bit. The yarn is a single ply wool and will soak up water. I’m going to wash it carefully by hand once it’s finished and all sewn together so the seams can support it.
I got busy and didn’t manage to get back to this post. The jumper is completed and is waiting to be picked up. I washed it once I sewed it together and it kept its shape well. I washed it in my bathtub, keeping it flat and making sure I didn’t wring, twist or agitate it so it didn’t go out of shape or felt.
I am happy with it, and I hope my customer is too!
I have finally managed to re-wallpaper my background board, it was looking a bit ratty. I had to wait until the weather got better- wet weather and wallpapering don’t mix very well. I used the same wallpaper, so no change there.
The first things I photographed using it were these neutral chunky mini-blankets – I also moved where I take photographs, so hopefully the lighting will be better. These came out well, I had to adjust the white balance and exposure a little, but I usually do. These were knit using 15mm needles and super-chunky yarn. It felt like knitting with broom sticks and rope, after the 4mm needles and fingering yarn I’ve been knitting shawls with!
There are 3 colours – cream, grey and light brown. They are perfect for layering under a newborn or popping under a sitter. These are great photography props! Each one is available in my Etsy Shop. Which is your favourite colour? I think mine’s the grey…
Another guest blog post – the first in a short series featuring UK Etsy Shops.
This first shop is Hopetheblackdog and is owned by (or is it the shop that owns the person?) Amy Alice Donoghue from Nottingham. She’s opted to answer a few questions about her and her etsy shop. (Click on the captions to see the item’s listing).
Hi! I’m Amy, 26, from hope the black dog, and I live in Nottingham with my fiancé and two pet rats called Marie and Rosa. I have Generalised Anxiety Disorder and I love teaching myself new crafts. Winston Churchill used to call his mental illness “a black dog” when he was suffering with depression and bipolar disorder. I wanted to take this imagery and make it more positive, so I took that black dog and I named it hope! I find a lot of inspiration from quotes, Instagram, Pinterest…
Blocking, what’s blocking, I can hear some of you ask. Especially if you have visited to look at my recipes…. Blocking is magic. It transforms a crumpled up a used tissue-looking piece of knitting or crochet into a fabulous piece of lace, cabling, plain stocking stitch hat/scarf/cowl/sweater/whatever that no one would be embarrassed to wear.
Sometimes the transformation is subtle, sometimes it looks like it’s not the same piece at all. There are whole threads on Ravelry.com about blocking, how-to do it and the results in photos… lots of photos….
This is an example of crochet. Not my crochet, I got this vintage crocheted table runner off ebay. It’s original measurements were 14″ x 22″. I think it was also ‘tea-dyed’ as when I washed it, a lot of colour came off and there are now some paler patches. I wonder if it was white, but was dyed after a tea-spilling accident?
When I washed it, I put it in a bowl of body temperature water, with a tiny bit of Eucalan, a non-rinse hand detergent. Then I swished it around a bit and left it in the water to soak and relax the fibres. When I got back to it a couple of hours later (usually I soak for 20 minutes) the water was tea-coloured and the crochet runner was lighter – not a lot but noticeably. I squished as much of the water out as I could then rolled it up in a towel and squeezed it again. Then I laid it out on my blocking mats (I have to get some that don’t have holes!) and began pinning out the middle 8 motifs.
This photo shows 7 of 8 center motifs pinned out. I started pinning like a clock face at 12,3,6 and 9 then pinned in between pulling the motif into as circular a shape as it would go. Then I moved onto the next one. There are about 20 pins for each motif.
This shows one corner pinned and stretched out. I pinned all 4 corners first, then started pinning from each corner towards the middle of each edge. I found that the middles would stretch more than the corners so tried to pull out the middles enough, but not so much I ended up with a piece with bowed out edges. You can see how much the crochet has opened up!
This is just a close-up of one corner.
The piece completely pinned out. I actually had to go out and buy more pins as I ran out even before I finished the center.
It stretched out to 17″ x 27″ and I suspect I could have stretched it out more. There are some ends of threads I’ll trim that have popped out because of the blocking, I don’t think it had ever been blocked. I’m not quite sure yet what I’ll do with it, I might sell it as is, for a photo prop layer, or I might sew it onto a little velvet blanket for a mini-bed prop…
I get asked to make all sorts of things. Some I can make, some I won’t make (copyright infringing items, mostly) and some I don’t know how to make but can figure out.
This comes into the last category. How do you get 2 crocheted boobs attached to a piece of fleece?
I started off making the boobs. I altered my pattern to make them wider and flatter than the other boobs I make. I then cut out a piece of fleece and folded it in half and stitched it together.
Then I pinned the boobs onto each end and managed to sew them on with my sewing machine. (My machine rocks!) Here are a couple of photos, one on the machine and one all done, I haven’t decided if I’ll list it or not…….