The Great Reduction – update

I’m sure I’m not the only person who can’t believe we’ve reached the end of August already!  Where has the time gone?  I really don’t feel like I’ve achieved very much this year for various reasons, certainly not in terms of sewing projects that’s for sure.

There will have to be a concentrated effort to produce some autumn and winter wear as the new eating regime introduced for Mr Jane Makes continues to have an impact on my waistline and some of my clothes are decidedly loose.   While I’m happy to take in seams on dresses and tops where necessary, I’m not sure I can face all the unpicking of my previous hard work to adjust waistbands and linings on skirts.  There may be more tucking in of tops than usual to fill the space!   It’s also a good opportunity to start from scratch with some lovely new or re-purposed fabric from charity shop finds (which I don’t mind pulling apart).  I’ve already got quite a bit ‘in stock’ which was acquired last winter and never got as far as the sewing machine.

Back to the main event.  Mr J-M has shown a dedication to his diet that has surpassed anything I was expecting, even allowing for the fact that he had the major fright of a heart attack to motivate him.  Those of you who know him will be aware that he had an impressive appetite and was never known to refuse food!

He’s still working towards his self-imposed target but the current statistics (as at last Sunday) are as follows :

  • Total inches lost (waist) : 5
  • Total weight lost : 15.1 kilos

I could also include number of miles cycled (on his new bike) but I don’t have that information to hand.

Whilst much of his wardrobe is now falling off him there are several things which have always been somewhat snug which are experiencing a revival.  I’m planning a BEFORE and AFTER photograph once the target is reach, which is anticipated within the next month.

One thing I do love about this time of year is the opportunity to pick blackberries.  There are lots of brambles along our walking routes (I’m trying to achieve at least 10,000 steps a day) and we’ve had a few foraging trips.  The first thing that springs to mind when I’ve got a bowl of blackberries in the kitchen is a crumble but as all added sugar is now being avoided I had to come up with a revised version.

Blackberry Crumble

I’ve noticed that fruit does taste sweeter when you’ve eliminated chocolate etc. from your diet so I decided not to mess around with the blackberries for the filling.  I added a couple of nectarines and a pear that were going a bit squishy in the fruit bowl and sprinkled over a teaspoon of vanilla essence.

For the crumble element I used :

  • 50g spelt flour
  • 50g oats
  • 50g ground almonds (I ground these myself in the blender)
  • 75g chopped dates
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil

The dates were pre-chopped as this was all the local supermarket had in stock when I discovered the jar was empty.  The pieces are coated in rice flour to prevent them sticking so I blended them and then rubbed the resulting sticky wodge into the dry ingredients.  I stirred in the olive oil and pressed the mixture on top of the fruit.

The crumble was cooked for 35 minutes on 170° and here it is.

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Next time I will add more oil to the crumble mix as it didn’t hold together very well and wasn’t especially crumbly but it tasted pretty good and was even better cold.  There was no custard obviously (sad face) and I’m still thinking about possible alternatives.  There is an oat milk cream which looks quite interesting so I might give that a go.

We have an enormous fig tree in our garden which started life as a tiny plant in a pot.  The figs are just stating to ripen and with the next haul of blackberries I added some figs and made an approximation of a cobbler with the same ingredients but this time I cooked the dates in a cup of water and added all the liquid so that the mixture could be made into patties.  Not quite as good as the crumble but it all got eaten!

There were also some breakfast pancakes with grated apple which tasted fine but were very messy and certainly not photogenic.  More work required.

It will be September tomorrow so here’s to autumn sewing plans but hopefully there are still some warm sunny days ahead before we have to abandon summer clothes.

 

 

 

Experimental Baking #2

There has been very little sewing going on here (more of that later) as in my current role as post-heart attack nutritionist I am primarily working in the kitchen!  The new regime has had an impact on my sewing in another way in that I too have lost some weight so my current wardrobe needs reviewing.

On the food front, our meals are generally looking quite green!  I’m not really following any specific recipes, although I did order a very good book entitled Eat Your Way to Lower Cholesterol which has some really good recipes.  W’s daughter also sent him a helpful book on recovering from a heart attack so we are becoming experts.

I’ve also discovered that I quite like beetroot when I’ve always thought I hated it.  I think this goes back to school lunches when the vinegar soaked beetroot was always next to the hard boiled egg in our salads.  I have a major aversion to eggs unless the white and yolk are really well combined and there was something about a rubbery egg white turned pink by the beetroot that was the final straw.

I’ve been roasting beetroot as well as using it raw and in a new baking experiment I used it in some sugar, egg and fat free brownies.  The first attempt was passable, not spit out disgusting anyway, and W thought they were OK but rather bland.  I had used raw cacao powder as chocolate and beetroot do work well in ‘normal’ cakes and he thought that some chilli in the background might help.  The second version was a great improvement and they really do look like cake.  I would point out that I don’t have a napkin embroidered with every possible vegetable but it just so happens that I do have one with what appears to be a beetroot on it.

This is the recipe I’ve arrived at so far.  I’m really not suggesting anyone tries it because they are definitely not a sweet treat and are an acquired taste but W likes them and they are a better option than biscuits or chocolate.  I just thought you might be interested to see how my mind is working!

Beetroot ‘Brownies’

  • 1¼ cups dates, chopped
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 red chilli, cut in half and seeds removed
  • 2 medium sized beetroot, cooked.  I peel, quarter and roast mine in a cast iron casserole in the oven for 45 minutes – 1 hour.  I did a whole bunch in one go and used the rest in salads
  • ⅓ cup raw cacao powder
  • 2 cups spelt flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • pinch salt
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 2 medium sized apples, grated (mine were Braeburns)
  • ¼ cup fluid (I used oat milk as there was a carton open but you could use water or apple juice)

Preheat oven to 175° (fan).  Line an 8″ (or thereabouts) square cake tin with baking parchment.

Place the chopped dates in a pan with the water and chilli and bring to the boil.  Simmer for five minutes, remove and discard the chilli and allow to cool.  Once cool, place the dates in a food processor with the beetroot and cacao powder and blend until smooth.

Mix the flour with the baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt in a mixing bowl and stir in beetroot mixture followed by the chopped walnuts and grated apple.  Mix well and add the ¼ cup of milk/juice/water.  Spoon the mixture into the the cake tin.  It is quite an alarming colour at this stage so I’ve not included a photograph.

Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until firm and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.  Cut into squares when cool.

If you are planning any sugar/fat free baking bear in mind that things don’t keep well, although I thought they tasted better the day after baking.  The first batch of these went mouldy very quickly so the second lot are in the freezer.  Interestingly, I have genuinely found that you lose the sugar craving very quickly and I have refused chocolate offered to me on more than one occasion.

Onto some sewing.  I’m a big fan of the Colette Laurel dress and have already made three versions.  I’d been invited to the races at Goodwood through work.  I’d never been before, it really isn’t my thing, but obviously needed something to wear!  I’d bought some very pretty Liberty fabric at a special event at Clothkits a while ago and thought this would be just the thing.

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My original version of the Laurel was a size 6.  I had subsequently cut the size 4, mainly because I didn’t have quite enough fabric on that occasion, and it was slightly skimpy.   As I have now shrunk slightly I went for the 4 again this time.  I underlined the fabric as it is quite delicate and slightly see-through.  I tried on the almost finished dress and W looked dubious – “it’s a bit sack like” he said.  He was right.  At this point I didn’t have time to do anything about it so decided to wear something different to the races and put the Laurel to one side.  A couple of days later I went back to it and took the side seams in by a maximum of an inch or so each side and that did the trick.

What I especially love about the Laurel is the cuff option which I’ve now used three times.  The dress did get worn quite soon afterwards as I was also invited to a cricket match.  I don’t know much more about cricket than I do about horse racing but it was a lovely sunny afternoon.  The photo of me wearing it isn’t great but the cuff looks nice!

The only other recent sewing for me has been a refashion of a charity shop frock.  It was a size 18 sundress (I forgot to take a before photo) with lots of lovely fabric in the skirt.  I wanted to keep the fullness so I just chopped off the bodice, added some in-seam pockets, gathered the waist and added some elastic for the waistband.  I couldn’t find a blue to match so went for pink!  I’ve worn this several times and have another dress lined up for similar treatment.  Who else is following the daily posts from Portia on this year’s The Refashioners?  Some great inspiration and I do have two pairs of jeans awaiting attention for the Community Challenge.

For any of you following W’s progress, the statistics are now :

Total inches lost (waist) : 3.5

Total weight lost : 10.7 kilos

An Overall Success

I’ve just realised that this is my 100th post on Jane Makes.  A blogging century!

We have a brilliant charity shop in Chichester run by St Wilfrid’s Hospice called Retro & Vintage.  W and I usually make at least a weekly visit and rarely come out empty handed.  Amongst a treasure trove of china, clothes, vintage board games, jewellery, hats and more there’s usually a good pile of vintage dressmaking and knitting patterns as well as some fabrics and notions.  They also have an annual sale in the Assembly Rooms which is well worth a visit if you don’t mind a crush.  The next one is on Friday 26 August from 9.30 am – 3.30 pm.

I don’t have much experience of vintage patterns, although I do pick them up in charity shops when I particularly like the illustrations.  This one for example.  I’d love to make W one of these and perhaps when he’s completed his diet regime the medium size will be the perfect size.

Dressing Gown

The image for these little dungarees/overalls is just so adorable I couldn’t resist buying this one.  I’m guessing the pattern is from the early 50s but perhaps someone with more knowledge of such things can enlighten me.

Weldon’s Patterns were the creation of Walter Weldon, a journalist turned scientist who founded Weldon’s Fashion Journal in the late 1800s.  I believe the paper patterns came into being around 1879. He was also responsible for the Weldon process for recovering manganese dioxide for re-use in chlorine manufacture, which seems a world away from sewing patterns!

This one, which cost me £1, doesn’t have a separate envelope, it’s just a sheet of paper folded into three with the instructions printed on the back and the pattern pieces placed inside.

The pattern was complete and very neatly folded and to start with I thought it was unused.  However, when I looked more closely I could see evidence of tiny pin holes so I’m hoping that Mrs Parker, whose name is pencilled on the front, did actually make them up.  The pattern pieces have no printed markings on them, just a series of punched holes which indicate the pattern piece number, notches, grainline, pocket placement etc.  It’s a one size (age 4) pattern.

I decided to have a go at making up the dungarees as my introduction to sewing vintage patterns.  I used some floral fabric I’d picked up in the same charity shop and had already made a bag from (and have a skirt cut out waiting to be sewn).  The instructions were pretty straightforward and easy to follow.  There were no fit issue either as at that point the project was entirely experimental.

The pattern instructs you to face the front arm holes with binding and I decided to use some floral bias binding along the edge rather than as a facing so I could to add to the overall floweriness.  I continued the binding across the top of the bib as I didn’t like the way it looked when it was hemmed as per the pattern instructions.   I also bound the edge of the back facing and understitched it to give a better finish.  This fabric frays quite a lot as it’s a loose weave so I zig-zagged the seams and if I make this pattern up again I would probably follow the alternative suggestion to use French seams as this would give a neater finish inside.  This fabric is a bit bulky for French seams.

I started with pattern matching on the bib and the straps match each other where they button at the back but I gave up after that and the little pockets are so sweet I wanted them to show up (that’s my excuse).  The repeat on this pattern means that pattern matching requires far more fabric than I wanted to use.

I rarely do buttonholes but was pretty pleased with this one.  I never fully believe my machine will actually do this all by itself!

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As the dungarees came together and I realised just how cute they were going to be I started to look around for a suitable four year old to try them.  Luckily one of my colleagues has a little girl who is almost four and when I showed him a picture of the dungarees in construction he said he was pretty sure she would love them.

I finished everything but the final attachment of the straps at the front and the hem.  I just tacked them so they could be adjusted if required.  Ruby was getting quite excited about her assignment so off they went for a fitting.  She loved them and apart from the length they were a great fit.

I’ve now finished them off and here they are in all their glory ready for their new owner.

I’m hoping to get some photos of Ruby modelling them – if I do, I’ll post them next time.

STOP PRESS :

Latest statistics in Mr Jane Makes’ reduction programme :

  • Total inches lost (waist) : 3
  • Total weight lost : 9.6 kilos

He’s pretty pleased with himself!

 

 

 

Experimental Baking

My initial attempt at sugar/fat/egg free baking was surprisingly successful and I can confirm that the carrot muffins responded well to freezing.  Time to try something else.

Mr Jane Makes has a penchant for peanut butter and, although there is now a ban on eating it straight from the jar, nuts are a good source of protein and can form part of the new ‘in moderation’ diet. Faced with some bananas that were deteriorating rapidly in the hot weather, I decided to combine the two in some cookies. The rest of the bananas have been frozen in chunks to go into smoothies.

Peanut & Banana Cookies (makes 16 smallish cookies)

  • 2 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 2 cups porridge oats
  • 1 cup dates, chopped
  • 1/3 cup peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 18 degrees (fan oven).  Line a baking sheet with baking parchment (very important).

I’d read somewhere about turning porridge oats into flour so I experimented with one cup of the above amount using the grinding blade of my Nutribullet. It produced a lovely smooth result in seconds so I’ll be incorporating the flour into future makes.

Mix together all the ingredients thoroughly in a bowl.  It was quite a stiff mixture and if I’d had any fruit juice to hand I might have been tempted to add it but it really didn’t need it.

Use a dessertspoon to measure spoonfuls of the mixture onto the lined baking sheet.  I experimented with one cookie to see what happened and the mixture really needs to be pressed down to squash each cookie flat before cooking because the mixture doesn’t spread in the oven.

Bake for 12-14 minutes until golden brown.  Cool on a wire rack – the cookies lifted off the sheet very easily with a palette knife.

I wouldn’t want to mislead anyone by suggesting that these are a replacement for a sweet chocolate chip cookie but after a few weeks with little or no sugar they are pretty satisfying! There will be variations on this theme.

No weigh in this week but the diet is being strictly adhered to by Mr J-M and it is definitely working! A shirt which was previously refused permission for wearing in public is now a perfect fit.

Our meals and snacks are looking very much like this at the moment.

 

And the winner is ……

Thanks to everyone who responded to my last post with the Orla giveaway.  This time all the names went into W’s latest charity shop purchase, a 1950s genuine Stetson which is apparently worth a good deal more than he paid for it which he’s delighted about.  He spent last weekend cleaning and steaming it – there are a surprising number of videos on YouTube giving advice on cleaning your cowboy hat – and I think it rather suits him.  The toothpick apparently adds authenticity. I have washed the lining since this photograph was taken, I discovered that the picture is actually embroidered and covered with plastic to protect it.

I think I’ve always had a thing for cowboys … I was a big fan of Ben Murphy in Alias Smith & Jones back in the day!

ben-murphy-alias-smith-and-jones

The first name out of the Stetson was ……….

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Karen from wakeymakes.  If you’d like to send me a DM on Instagram with your address Karen I’ll get the pattern – and the pink zip – in the post to you. I hope you enjoy making the Orla.

A New Way of Eating

This was originally supposed to be a sewing and baking blog so that gives me an excuse to talk about my latest efforts in the kitchen.  Following W’s heart attack (I still find it hard to write that – or say it out loud – without feeling shocked) he knew that some major dietary changes were needed!  He’s well known for having a hearty appetite and apart from five days when he wasn’t allowed to eat after the previous life-threatening incident (I’ll spare you the details) he’s never been known to refuse food!

I’ve got an ‘O’ Level in Food & Nutrition so obviously consider myself to be well qualified to be his dietary advisor but just in case Mrs Jones didn’t cover everything required back in the day we’ve been doing a lot of internet research.  We’ve always eaten reasonably healthily at home but portion control is not W’s forte and when he’s been unsupervised all sorts of bad behaviour has been going on!

His new diet is now carefully monitored (by me) and involves a lot of porridge, vegetables, oily fish and pulses.  It also includes a daily matchbox size piece of cheese as advised by a good friend of ours who had a heart attack last year, a suggestion supported by the cardiac rehab nurse. This is a small matchbox and not a box of Bryant & May extra long matches as he might have hoped.  He is very determined and there has been absolutely no back-sliding.

However, everyone needs a treat now and again so part of my Googling activity involved investigating healthier, low fat and low sugar alternatives to cake!  I’m reluctant to get on the bandwagon and use coconut oil as it contains an enormous amount of saturated fat and I’m not sure that its apparent benefits make up for this.  I have tried it in the past and am not that keen on everything having a background flavour of coconut!

I was also trying to avoid the addition of alternatives to refined sugar which crop up in many recipes – maple syrup (an old favourite on porridge), agave syrup, honey, etc. which are still sugar at the end of the day.  I’m also not sure about Stevia which is apparently 200 times sweeter than sugar and has no calories, particularly as it has been found to lower blood pressure and W’s is already being kept low with medication.

I finally found a recipe for a fat, egg and sugar free carrot cake here.  The sweetness is derived from dried fruit which is high in fruit sugars so not for excessive consumption but OK for a weekend treat.  I adapted the recipe by using spelt flour because (a) I already had some and (b) I think it has a more interesting flavour than wheat flour and is apparently more easily digested.  I also decided to bake the mixture in individual muffin tins which dealt with portion control.  I did find I had to add extra carrot juice, a least three times the amount stated, to achieve the right consistency.

I really wasn’t convinced this recipe would work but I was wrong!  The ‘muffins’ were delicious warm and cold and will hopefully still be good after being in the freezer which is where the bulk of them are stored. The best compliment was my sister eating a whole one as she very rarely eats cake/puddings/biscuits.

I now have plans for variations on this theme involving other vegetables, nuts and dried fruit and will report any successes here.  Following a comment from Linda at RemakeRemodelRecycle on my last post suggesting I feature healthy meals and tasty salad ideas from the new regime I may just do that too.

I’m also tempted to report regularly on W’s progress in terms of weight and inches lost – just to encourage him in public.  As of 13 July the statistics are as follows :

  • Inches lost (waist) : 2.5
  • Kilos lost : 7

Pretty impressive, even if it does sound a bit like an entry from Bridget Jones’ Diary (and I’ve mixed up Imperial and metric measurements).  I’m very proud of him and he is looking more handsome than ever!

 

 

Life Laundry and a Giveaway

I’ll start by thanking everyone for their good wishes for Mr Jane Makes’ recovery.  He’s making great progress and the diet is working, a belt is now required on his shorts!  He’s supposed to have a daily walk but is also back on his mountain bike for a gentle ride down the road.  In my opinion the roller blades should wait a bit longer!

The life laundry project continues following my recent wardrobe cull and ironing fest.  During my sewing plan planning exercise (yet to be completed and implemented) I carefully reviewed my pattern collection.  It’s not extensive but there are a good number that have never been used or even opened.  I decided to be ruthless, particularly as I’ve just signed up to a subscription to Seamwork magazine so there will be more patterns coming along in the future!

I’m a big fan of Tilly’s Coco pattern and there are several Cocos in my wardrobe to prove it.  As a result I was tempted into buying another pattern for a top, the Orla.  I’ve seen some lovely examples of this made up, not least by Becky at Back to Blighty, and Becca over at Redwsews who even got personalised advice from Tilly on her hemline when we were at the Knitting & Stitching Show earlier this year.

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Sadly, I know I’m not going to make this top –  it’s just not quite my style.  Absolutely nothing against Tilly’s patterns and her book, Love at First Stitch, is single-handedly responsible for teaching me to insert an invisible zip without supervision.

The upshot of this is that I’m going to give this pattern away to someone who will make use of it.  It is pristine and unopened and I’ll throw in one of these zips, also bought from Tilly, which are exactly the right size for the exposed zip at the back of the Orla.

Just leave a comment below (saying which colour zip you’d like) and a name will be pulled out of the hat on Monday 18 July.  Please feel free to bid on someone else’s behalf if you’ve already got the pattern yourself!

There may be more giveaways in the future as life is streamlined further to free up time and space for the important stuff!