Category Archives: Projects

Me Made May – or, finally joining in.

*fanfare*….ta daaaaa…..Me-Made-May 2014

YAY!!!!!!….I’ve made my pledge, I’m doing it! I can’t remember when I first came across this project and decided that next year would be the year that I’d do it and every next year it turned out that I was no further forward with my me made projects and May would roll along and another year would pass me by.

Well, this year, I decided to just do it. I’ve pledged something that is 100% achievable and yet will still be a challenge for me (when you consider that I work full time and about 40% of my evenings are already spoken for across May, not to mention that (seriously) about 80% of my weekend time is already booked). So, here’s my pledge:

‘I, Susie of Sosusie: The Midlife Ramblings of a Teenage Mother sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May ’14. I endeavour to wear at least two me made items (clothing and accessories) each week for the duration of May 2014’

As a part of this, I plan to: 
Finish off at least one of my knitting projects that I’ve started for myself.
Make one of the four items that I have on my list of makes:
The By Hand London Elisalex dress, Gertie’s Pencil Skirt or Sultry Sheath, or the idea that I’m formulating in my head for a dress.
This is definitely a challenge for me.

Tee hee…I’m too excited. I’ve printed off the final page of the Miette pattern (the cardigan is finished, and has been for at least a year, except for the button band and buttons!) and I’ve sorted through my stash of fabric. I’ve been wanting to get sewing ‘everyday’ wear for myself for ages and this is the kickstart that I need. I also want to do more knitting for myself – it’s not that I haven’t produced anything in the past couple of years, it’s just that none of it has been for me. So, here goes a month of selfishness (and long may it last).

Though I did promise D that his would be the next knitting project that I took on. I don’t think finishing things off counts as breaking that promise though..does it?

 

 

Advertisements

Stir it up Sunday or…make whenever you feel like it, Christmas Pudding

I’m not normally a fan of Christmas pudding, it’s too rich and too dense and solid for my liking…and I don’t like Brandy butter to boot but, many years ago my sister-in-law introduced me to the pudding she makes each year and I became a convert.

Sometimes we get together and make the pudding, along with her children and mine, sometimes L makes it and sometimes I make it. This year, pudding making duties fell to me (actually it was more like I claimed them) and a week or so before Christmas day, I could be found chopping a mountain of dried fruits and nuts.

Christmas pudding weighing fruitNot quite a mountain, but this isn’t even the half of it!

Honestly, if you do everything by hand, which we always do, it does take quite a while to get all the prep work done but this pudding is SO worth it and…more than that, it’s ridiculously easy and doesn’t need to be made ages in advance. In fact, it really doesn’t matter when you make the pudding because you simply freeze it, uncooked, and when you’re ready to use it, thaw it and then steam for 5 to 6 hours, depending on the size of the pudding.

Christmas pudding fieryThe finished pudding, doused with a ladleful of brandy and set alight (we did manage, as usual, to set a few other things on fire too).

This pudding tastes ultra-rich, moist and decadent but at the same time, with all that fresh fruit and veg, it is light and manageable. Every mouthful is bursting with gorgeous flavour and texture.

So, without further ado, here is L’s

Really, THIS is the ultimate Christmas pudding

Makes enough for 5 pints. I normally make two 2 pint and one 1 pint puddings but this year I made one 3 pint (to serve 12) and one 2 pint (to serve 4) both of which had enough for leftovers.

Ingredients
8oz raisins
8oz sultanas
8oz currants
8oz dates (I suggest getting ones that have already been stoned) – chopped
8oz prunes (again, get ones that have been stoned) – chopped
8oz mixed soft brown sugar and white sugar
4oz blanched almonds – chopped
4oz butter
4oz suet (I always used vegetable suet and the pudding is none the worse for it)
8oz grated carrot (do use organic, if you can, as they really are so much more flavoursome)
7oz fresh breadcrumbs
5oz plain flour
¼ tsp mixed spice
½ tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg (freshly grated is best – even in this small quantity)
1 tsp baking powder
1 orange – grated rind and juice
2 apples – peeled and chopped
3 – 4 medium eggs
2 tbsp black treacle
1 tbsp golden syrup
¼ – ½ pt stout or milk (I use stout, bien sur)
3 tbsp good rum (or, a good slosh of the stuff)

Method
Firstly, you will need a really big mixing bowl for this. I use a large cooking pot.
Secondly, prepare your pudding bowls by lining with lightly greased greaseproof paper.

Christmas pudding ingredients on tableMost of the necessary ingredients (please note, none of the bowls you see in these photos turned out to be big enough – dunno why I never remember this, and I did have to resort to the cooking pot)

Then:
Sift the flour, baking powder and spices

Christmas pudding spicesGorgeous smells of Christmas

Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs
Add the breadcrumbs and the suet
Add the sugar, carrots, dried fruit and nuts

Christmas pudding grated carrots in bowl
Grate in the orange rind
Add the chopped apples

Christmas pudding diced apple in bowl

Break each egg separately, give a gentle whisk with a fork and add to the mixture
Add the treacle, syrup, orange juice, rum and stout or milk. Add enough of the stout/milk so that the mixture just drops off a wooden spoon.
Plop the mixture into your prepared bowls, hiding in a few cleaned and foil covered pound coins as you go, cover with greaseproof paper and foil or a lid, and freeze until ready to use.

Christmas pudding finished mixtureTa daaaa….a rather gros looking (and, at the moment, tasting) mixture

Make sure you leave enough time for the pudding to thaw (I’d leave it overnight) and steam for around 5/6 hours, depending on the size of pudding.

Serve however you wish, this year one of the puddings was served with Brandy butter and cream and the other was served with Rum butter. Nom nom nom, as they say.

The pudding can certainly be left in the freezer for a year or so but equally, you can make it and then cook and serve – there is absolutely no need to make ahead. Sorry Stir it up Sunday.

 

A Room with a (Keble) View

As an add-on to my job, I was given the opportunity to help organise a residential conference which took place early in September. I have worked on events before but nothing quite like this and it quickly, though not quickly enough, transpired that rather than just helping out here and there, I was actually the conference organiser. In the couple of months that led up to the conference I was snowed under but thankfully, I was able to rope in a helper – in the form of one of my colleagues, who was an absolute dream. If I’d not managed to get N on board I don’t think that I would have managed to pull off a success, let alone the great success that the weekend was.

The conference was being held at Keble College which is one of the University of Oxford colleges; it is made up of stunning red brick buildings (designed by William Butterfield) and quite unlike most of the other colleges. I think people often think of it as ugly, in comparison to the more traditional looking colleges, but I think it is drop dead gorgeous and if you’re in the area you really should take a peek at the chapel and the hall (which made us all feel as though we’d stepped straight into a Harry Potter set).

ESLRR Keble signMaking sure we didn’t get lost.

Some people got rather duff rooms but mine was great, it was spacious and peaceful and I was seriously impressed with all the storage they’d managed to hide (so much so that H, who had a similar room to me, didn’t even find half of hers!).

A Room with a Keble viewAnd I had the most gorgeous view out of my window…

Anyway, the conference went so well that jokes abounded about my boss chairing the next one and us returning to Oxford again – hahahahaha, not without a team of people to help me I say. I’m a bit of a perfectionist and I’m also a worrier and the two together do not always a winning combination make.

Oxford, I loved you and I did enjoy flouncing about pretending to be a student there but…I’m STILL recovering. Also, I didn’t think much to my night out in the town centre but then, I do live in London where we are utterly spoilt. I had a super supper at Brasserie Blanc the night before the conference began and I’d certainly go there again.

Cooking with Red Magazine and Shelina Permalloo: Part 2 – afternoon

After washing an exceptionally tasty lunch down with plenty of wine, the tables were cleared, returned to work benches and it was back to watching Shelina demo a couple of dishes one of which was our dessert to be and the other, a little take-out treat.

Before making our dessert we assembled (because Shelina had made the filling and we were using samosa wrappers) our potato and pea samosas which were to be fried by the La Cucina Caldesi staff whilst we got on with making and eating the syllabubs.

I must say, I’m a bit of an idiot when it comes to making every bit of a meal but I’m sold on samosa wrappers.

My potato and pea samosas in the frying lineMy samosas, waiting to be fried until golden and crispy.

Mango, rum and lime syllabub

The finished syllabubs, waiting to be devoured.

I really wasn’t convinced by the dessert ingredients which included ginger biscuits (ginger nut stylee), mango, desiccated coconut and rum,  I dunno, it’s the ginger biscuit that doesn’t appeal and even after devouring a sumptuously decadent and delicious tasting dessert I still, intellectually, think nooooooo… It feels like ruining perfectly good mango, it isn’t though – it’s indulgent but fresh, sweet but not cloying and sickly, vibrant (that’s the lime) and also well rounded (that’ll be the vanilla) with a beautiful crunch laid on by the ginger biscuits and the coconut. Honestly, if you’ve got the book, try out Mango, Rum and Lime Syllabub.

Loading up the dessertMango on mango

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The only daytime drinking I can get away with is festival beer and my reasoning for this is that it’s so watered down it hardly makes a difference. In any case, I’m somewhat tiddly in this photo as, on top of my wine with lunch, Peta and I had a bloody good slosh of rum in our puds and I believe I snuck in a glug to boot (just to make sure the rum was okay though…).

Slightly tipsy and so happy

Cruncy samosasAhhhh…these were so tasty. Anyone want to invite me to a party? Perhaps I’ll bring some of these along to share.

Shelina and SusieWhat a happy day I had. And it didn’t end here, I went on to meet up with an old old friend that I hadn’t seen in years who just happens to be best friends with a new friend of mine. We were joined by a few of their girlfriends and we spent a most pleasant evening supping beer and chatting away.

Happy Anniversary

That’s the message I just got from WordPress. It is, apparently, this blog’s FOURTH anniversary. This is my fifty second post. Pah ha ha ha ha. Well, we all know – I, thus far, am not a natural blogger but I do actually enjoy it so I shall keep on going.

I started this blog, in part, to be able to get involved with the Blaggers’ Banquet event of which much has been written. I also wanted a way of chatting nonsense whenever I felt like it and I thought that this could be a good way of developing my writing because I do (like so many others) harbour thoughts about someday writing that book.

I did get very involved with the Banquet and loved every moment but I haven’t, like some of the key Blaggers’ players, gone on to forge a career in food (to be honest, it was clear already then that those who have done; Niamh Shields, Signe Johansen, Mathilde Dewilde– I’m surely forgetting some – were going to do so, what they have done in the past four years is no less impressive though for having been obvious that they were on a course to do it). I love cooking and I’m good at it but I don’t have the absolute passion and dedication for food that these women have so…no surprises then that I’m still only on post number fifty two whilst they have each written, and had published, at least one book since the Banquet.

What have I been doing then? I have ended my career as a band manager, I’ve sent my daughter off to travel the world, sent her off to uni and to live in France (yes yes, I know strictly speaking she has been the one doing the doing but seriously, in managing the trauma of saying goodbye to her time and again I feel as though I’ve been getting a serious emotional and mental workout), I’ve sent my son off to university (equally horrendous), I’ve become (a sometimes uncaring) carer for my father, I’ve successfully held down a job for over three years (which is an enormous achievement for me as I do tend to constantly want to try new things), I’ve been a market trader for three years, been a teacher (knitting), set up knitting groups and encouraged creativity and crafts in people, I’ve listened and talked and listened some more, I’ve met amazing people and made lots of new friends, I’ve also lost a friend who was one of the great loves of my life (through falling out) and am slowly slowly rekindling that friendship, I’ve seen people start new relationships which have blossomed while mine has fallen apart (I’m happy for them, of course), I joined a dating site for all of a month, I’ve spent WAY too much time and energy worrying about my body size and more recently my body shape, actually – just worrying in general, I’ve genuinely enjoyed getting more active through going to the gym and taking dancing classes, I’ve started getting back in to sewing, I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, I’ve ranted and I’ve raged, I’ve travelled a bit more and I’ve been having a lot of fun. Taking the briefest of moments to look back over the past few years, I have to say – I am okay with what I’ve done and how I’ve handled things, there have been a hell of a lot of major changes to my life and I’m still smiling and I have no intention of stopping.

Here’s to the next four years of glorious living (which is to say, the standard ups and downs of anyone living and working in a First World city).

This post is pretty over the top. This is a good thing.

Image

Sew-a-longs

So I’ve decided to join a sewalong. I think I’m being a bit silly clothing wise at the moment, I’m doing what one should never do which is buying clothes that don’t quite fit because I’m losing weight (well…slowly putting it back on but that’s just failing to get out of my Christmas over-indulging) and I’m going to do the same with the skirt I’m going to make as part of the sewalong. I’ve been kind of keeping my eye on knitalongs and sewalongs and there are blogs that I absolutely love that have initiated them but they’ve seemed always to choose projects I’m not in love with. I am in love with this project – http://shop.byhandlondon.com/product/charlotte-skirt and I’m really looking forward to making it and have to admit I kind of just want to charge on with it but…the whole reason I decided to join a sewalong was to make sure that I do this properly and learn more about making adjustments etc. I’ve already learned something – you should never cut the pattern printed on the tissue paper you should always trace it out to something else! Makes perfect sense…particularly for someone like me whose size and to a lesser extent shape is on the move. Anyway, I haven’t even got any fabric for this project yet so I can’t really get too ahead of myself.

This isn’t a well thought out blog – this is definitely a ramble. I’ve been working on my tax return all day and my stall accounts and meant to get to this earlier but I am snowed under! Anyway, I plan to make more things for myself this year, and to spruce up my look a bit so here’s to that!Charlotte_Peplum_New_BC

Sewing class

So this week saw me do the first of three sewing classes at the sickeningly gorgeous Ray Stitch on Essex Road. I met Mrs Ray, not her real name, at a Selvedge Magazine Craft fair in June 2010 – I’m not quite as stalker-y as I sound I just remember because the fair was held across the road from a friend of mine and having not seen her for a while I thought it an opportune time to pop in on her too only she had buggered off to Glastonbury Festival (a distant memory for me now, expect I won’t go there again). Anyway, Mrs Ray and I got to talking about selling wool amongst other things and she said she was looking for premises for a shop but had recently lost out on somewhere.

Jump forward a year, and my not having made any purchases from the Ray Stitch online store whilst still lusting after the just so Ray Stitch lifestyle or even just style, and my friend J (a very cute hip young slip of a girl) knowing that I liked all things sew-y and knitty told me about this shop she’d noticed that was due to open soon that she thought I’d like. Well, even though I was excited about the prospect of Ray Stitch in the flesh it still took me a couple of months to visit the shop – all I can say is I need a new better paid job because it’s like fabric porn in there and the little café is pretty good too with a lovely and very friendly young man behind the counter – their flat white was even, dare I think it, better than the one I get from Shoreditch Grind!

Desperately wanting to take one of their new sewing courses, and yet able to sew from a commercial pattern already so definitely not a beginner and maybe not really an improver, I plumped for the make a blouse improvers course run over three weeks. I reasoned  that I lust after the Ray Stitch look because on the clothes and projects they feature the lines are so clean and simple and they only work because they are beautifully made. I can make more or less anything but I’m not the most careful crafter on the block so I thought that this lesson would get me back on neatness track.

I’d gone in to the shop the week before and bought some beautiful Anna Maria Horner fabric from her Little Folks range so that I could pre-wash it (shown below at the cutting stage) and now I was ready for my class.

Cutting out the Anna Maria Horner fabric
Cutting out the Anna Maria Horner fabric

The lessons take place in the basement, a lovely space – though I found it not big enough for cutting out the paper pattern and the fabric, set up for six students one of whom turned out to be Mrs Ray!!…hehe. We were offered wine and there were nibbles including some delicious bruschetta topped with a sweet red onion relish and a generous couple of slices of meltingly soft goats cheese and smoked salmon and cream cheese.

We all introduced ourselves and got on with measuring ourselves, deciding which version of the blouse we wanted to make, cutting out the paper pattern, one of the cult Colette patterns, and cutting out the fabric. That’s as far as I got because there wasn’t quite enough space for us all to cut out at the same time and I’ve realised that I tend to think because I’m the biggest person in the room, usually, I need to try and make sure I take up as little room as possible so I preferred to let the slip of a woman sitting opposite me and the one to my side (both of whom seemed really pleasant) have first dibs at the space. In other words I didn’t finish everything we were meant to by the end of the night so I’ve got homework!!…Serves me right for being all – I do know how to sew you know.
 
I’m really looking forward to the next class and I promise I won’t leave my homework until the very last moment.