Monday, 5 January 2015

2014

My creationMy creationMy creationMy creation

Its one of my annual New Year traditions round here to look back over the last year's creative efforts. Its so interesting to scroll back through my Flickr account and see what I've been up to.

I'm always surprised to see how much I've actually achieved over the past twelve months. It really helps combat that feeling that I'm not getting anywhere!!

In the case of 2015 the last quarter of the year was consumed with renovation which made getting anything done harder, though ironically at the same time I took on a market, some new designs and more workshop teaching including my Finders Keepers spot, and spent a week away looking after my Mum. Somehow it all worked out though! Whew.

Its very exciting for us that this year, when we return from holidays it will be to a bigger house, with more space to do our thing! And when I get back I won't be sharing my workspace with builders. Nice as they were, that was a bit exhausting. So double yay!

We still have lots of work to do to finish the renovation, but the builders and the structure they've made are just about complete. We are still walking around marvelling at the extra space and light, pinching ourselves really, and looking forward to time alone, to enjoy it, to make it our own again. I can't wait to get the garden back to its old self, or rather its new self, with level changes and different aspects. Its going to be fun.

Some of you will have been following along on instagram, but I can't wait to share some pics on the blog.

2015 will hopefully bring a wired in kiln of my own, and more time to play and experiment with clay. Looking over my mosaic I can see how much this new making consumed me this year. I had so much fun exploring the different possibilities for decoration, finding how my style translated to ceramics.

If anything it has reinspired my other making, I love the way my textiles and clay complement eachother. Both are so tactile and usable in my domestic world too. Love, love, love.

This was the year of cheese too! Sadly the domestic restrictions have put a damper on my cheesemaking, but I'm hoping the new year will see some more. It was a delicious pastime, easy and worthwhile. A new larger kitchen will make this easier.

In 2014 we were blessed with lots of new babies in the family and I made two baby quilts, one for Sid, one for Astrid and a baby wrap for Zoe. Little Frankie arrived too late in the year/renovation, but I haven't forgotten him!

My other great breakthrough this year was in clothes making, and pattern drafting. I haven't even blogged or photographed my last make, a Fancy Tiger Crafts Sailor top, but I did wear it to my Finders Keepers workshop, also unblogged. Hopefully I can catch you up on all that stuff in the New Year. I think I need to sit on a beach and think about what my goals and plans are for next year.

Thanks for reading this far, and for spending time with me in 2014, I wish you a Happy and Creative New Year. Here's to a creative 2015!

(To see what I made in other years here are the links: here's 20132012, 2011, 2010, 2009 and 2008.)

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

pitchi

pitchi

Do you like seeing the creative process behind products, do you like knowing more about the makers and hearing their story first hand.

You know that I do, I was actually banging on about that in one of my last posts. I love it when a maker shares a process video or behind the scenes pics. I love to hear the genesis of an idea and seeing a product in action.

New Australian site Pitchi does just that by combining video with buying to give you a little more insight into lots of creative products. This site gives little businesses with great ideas a short video format listing to share their story.

I love video, I’ve outed myself before as a visual learner and my current addiction is to online courses via sites like Skillshare, Creativebug and my old friend Youtube.

So buying with video seems like a no brainer. Pitchi is like an addictive cross between Vine and Etsy.

I loved discovering new products browsing through the site and a couple, like these innovative shoe clips, this neat little key ring or this clever magnetic cord holder are bookmarked for present ideas this Christmas.

For process images these boot makers just blew me away:


And the story behind these rugs is fascinating.

But I think its the handmade, handcrafted videos that show the whole story and include some process that I find really fascinating. Like this pitchi about handcrafted sandstone lights:


I’m very tempted to make an epic tea towel video to post on the site, so stay tuned for that. But in the meantime if you are inspired and make one yourself, or pass the idea on to an entrepreuner or inventor you know send me the link!

This post in collaboration with Pitchi.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

apricot jam recipe

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I make apricot jam every year. There is nothing like homemade apricot jam, have you tried it? It is delicious, like golden summer in a jar. I savour mine all year on my toast until that last precious jar runs out.

Because of the timing of the apricot season it is a tradition that marks for me the last weeks of the year when everything is on fast forward and the lovely slow days of summer holidays beckon. Its always hard to fit a batch of jam into that crazy mix, but its imperative, because I'm away after that and its my only chance for a year of jamminess.

On the weekend I made my annual batch of apricot jam. It was quick and easy and worked beautifully. The jam gods were smiling on me.

I looked at those lovely glowing jars, and I thought about all the people I know who love apricot jam, and the smiles on their face when I gift a jar, and I decided to make another two batches. In my experience small batches work best, I've been burned trying to double or triple up so I don't do it anymore.

So jam making is really not that hard. And if you haven't made jam before then apricot is the perfect place to start. My recipe is cobbled together from a few places, jam recipes are basically half fruit/half sugar. This year I based my quantities and most of the technique on Stephanie Alexander's recipe from the Cooks Companion (here on Nigella's site).

This is how I make it.

Apricot Jam

1.5kg apricots, quartered, seed and stem removed.
1 cup water
1.5kg sugar
juice from half a lemon, abt 2tbsp

Take the apricots and rip them open to remove the stone and stem, then rip them into smaller pieces. You can do this with a knife but I find it quicker and easier with my hands (that photo above of neatly cut apricots is from another year!).

Put those apricots in a big stock pot. You want a big pot for jam so when it bubbles up it doesn't overflow.

Add the juice of half a lemon, about two tablespoons, and one cup of water. Put the pan on to simmer till the apricots are soft, about twenty minutes.

Meanwhile warm the sugar in a low oven (about 100 degrees celsius) for about ten minutes, till its warm to the touch. You don't have to do this but its a simple step and it keeps the jam from cooling.

Take the stones from about half the apricots and crack them open to reveal the kernels then wrap these kernels in a piece of muslin or light cotton (vintage sheets make a good muslin bag) and throw into the pot. The kernels help impart pectin which is the magic setting ingredient. The lemon juice does this too.

Once the apricots collapse squish them up a bit and add the warm sugar, stirring so it mixes through.

Then turn the heat up to high and bring to a rapid boil. You want your jam really hot so it reaches setting point. This takes about 15-20 minutes. Keep stirring so it doesn't burn on the bottom of the pot. I use the Sally Wise hint about adding a couple of stainless steel forks to the pot to help avoid sticking.

Don't walk away and leave the jam at this point. You do not want to burn your jam!

I test jam set by putting two saucers in the freezer and when I think the jam is set I take one out and smear a bit on a my very cold saucer. Leave for a moment and then run your finger through the jam and if it doesn't flood back in where your finger has been, and if you can sort of push the jam so it wrinkles up then your jam is set. Don't worry if it doesn't seem fully firm when you put it in jars as this process continues as it cools. Keep trying this every few minutes swapping the saucers back into the freezer until you have success.

Checking set is really the only tricky bit in this process, but you get more confident about it as you make more jam. You can also put a tablespoon of jam in a small bowl and put it in the fridge, this should set a bit and show you are on the right track.

I watch the jam as it boils and there is a point where you see the bubbles change texture, they look stronger, more toffee like. The foamy watery layer has died down and you can see the sugars turn glossy.

To sterilise my jars I put them sitting upright in a big stock pot with watering covering, lids off but in the pot as well. Bring them to the boil and boil for at least ten minutes. Its easy to have them on another hotplate as you make your jam so they are ready at the same time. Turn the burner off when they are done and take them out with tongs when you are ready to bottle.

Remove the muslin bag and forks, and jar up the jam while its warm. This helps to seal the jars. I save my jars obsessively all year round, I like the recycling aspect, and I love a mishmash of jars, but you could buy some from a kitchen shop if you wanted them all to match!

Now stand back and admire your beautiful golden orange apricot jam. Perfect on a piece of pane di casa from the local bread shop!