Sewing Group Success!

I am feeling quite inspired and the sewing machine has come out of the loft already.

Thanks for hosting – I enjoyed it so much.

It’s given me the sewing kickstart I needed.

Such a great evening.

A fab evening of chatting, sewing, tea and cake.  Met some really lovely people.

I absolutely loved it …. Can’t wait for the next one!

Karen The Draper’s Daughter and I thought we might be sitting by ourselves eating all the cake at the first meeting of the new Chichester sewing group, so Wednesday night’s turnout was nothing short of phenomenal!  Thank you to everyone who came along and made the evening such a success.  As you can see, the feedback we’ve had since has been really encouraging.

Apart from my recent blog post and a couple of posts on IG we had kept it fairly low key so were pretty overwhelmed when 20 people arrived at the church hall!  Sewists were arriving from about 6.30 – two people had driven over from Portsmouth – and they were still coming through the door with their sewing machines after 7.00 pm.

Karen and I kicked off with a quick introduction explaining the outline plans for the group but making it clear that the future direction will be guided by everyone.  Ideas were already flowing during the evening so I don’t think we’ll be stuck for activities.

Individual introductions took a while but I’m afraid it was all a bit of a blur …. I think Karen and I were in a state of shock!  There were several familiar faces, including old friends, as well as some virtual friends I only knew from IG.  It was so good to finally meet Cathy from @cathysewsstuff.  We’ve been following each other for ages and she was as lovely IRL as I knew she would be.

It was also great to see Anna and Dhurata from The Eternal Maker.  Anna will shortly be celebrating the 10th anniversary of her company and it was a dressmaking course there about seven years ago that encouraged me to start sewing my own clothes after years of only sewing bags, aprons and cushion covers.

We didn’t think that much actual sewing would get done the first night but we were wrong!  Once the introductions were over everyone got stuck in and the sewing machines were whirring.

It was great to see people helping each other.  My friend Sally received some expert advice from Cathy on altering a dress she’d brought along.  This was the first dress she’d ever made and the fit was not quite right.  By the end of the evening she’d unpicked the sleeves, put in some new darts and is already planning her next make. With a little help from her friends another new sewist started and nearly finished a pillowcase dress to take on holiday.    There were some lovely hand painted tea towels being hemmed for a gift, some people were cutting out new garments and there was also some crochet going on.

Karen and I did absolutely no sewing!  We had both cut something out to take along but we ended up speaking to everyone, making tea and cutting cake instead.  There was A LOT of chatting going on in the hall, the atmosphere was amazing!

I was very pleased that some of my ‘surplus to requirements’ fabric on the swap table found a good home, as did some patterns.  In exchange I acquired this New Look pattern which I’m very pleased with as it’s one I’ve thought about buying in the past.

There was also cake.   My kitchen has been like the Bake Off recently what with birthday cupcakes and the sewing group.  The beautiful Victoria Sandwich in the picture was made by Karen.

Here’s some photographs of the evening which hopefully show just how busy it was!

The next meet up will be on Wednesday 12 July, same time (7.00 – 9.00 pm) same place (St George’s Church Hall, Cleveland Road, Chichester).  We’d love to see everyone back – and any new faces too.  There will be a £5 charge each month to cover the cost of hiring the hall and refreshments and what’s left over will accumulate to pay for equipment, tutors, visits etc.  We already have some ideas in the pipeline.

If anyone would like more information just leave a comment below or DM Karen or me on IG – @thedrapersdaughter @janemakes

We will launch straight into sewing next time and Karen and I will definitely get something stitched.

Last but not least, a big thank you to Karen’s lovely daughter who came along to help.  She shifted furniture, made tea and washed up.  We couldn’t have managed without her.

 

Birthday Cupcakes

Baking is only a occasional event in my kitchen since the decision to reduce sugar and fat consumption in our lives but I do like to rustle up a batch of cupcakes for birthday celebrations.

This is my go-to recipe for cupcakes which I thought I’d share because it is so quick and easy – no beating required, just stir liquid ingredients into dry ingredients, spoon into cases and bake.  It was originally published in Good Food Magazine some years ago and I’ve used it many times.   The cakes are lovely and moist and keep well.  The white chocolate icing is also yummy and because it sets hard in the fridge there is less danger of it getting squashed during transportation.  I used to pipe icing, I rarely bother any more!

It was my mother’s birthday at the weekend so I made a batch on Saturday morning.  I added fresh raspberries to the mix which worked really well – I used a 150g pack minus the 12 I saved to decorate the tops.  I cut each one in half before stirring them in.  I made sure each cake had some raspberry in it, although I wasn’t as diligent as my grandmother who used to ensure that every little cake contained exactly the same number of chocolate chips to avoid any argument!  My sister and I sometimes picked them out to double check.

A strong warning was issued to Mr Jane Makes NOT to eat any of the reserved raspberries before I had a chance to put them on the cakes!

I also used freeze dried raspberry pieces on the top.  You can find these in the baking section of most supermarkets and, not surprisingly, they taste just like raspberries!

I might try fresh cherries next time – they would go well with the ground almonds in the cake mixture.  It’s my birthday in the not too distant future and disappointment/displeasure is expressed in the office if cakes are not provided by whoever happens to be celebrating.

 

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

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.

 

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!

 

 

Pancake Day!

As I haven’t been sewing lately I thought I’d better switch to the Baked element of my blog title to keep things ticking over until the sewing machine starts whirring again.

A lasting memory of Pancake Day in my childhood is of my mum’s frustration as the first pancake always ended up as a splodgy mess in the frying pan!  Once that was out of the way all was usually well but it does seem to be the case that you need to get that initial attempt out of the way before things start to come together.

I rarely make pancakes on Pancake Day or at any other time but I had a hankering for something sweet on Tuesday night.  I was surprised when W didn’t seem too bothered (he is normally very quick off the mark when it comes to consumables) and he was adamant that we should only have them if it didn’t mean shopping for ingredients.

Not to be defeated I decided to use up the remains of some spelt flour I’d bought to make soda bread last year and found this recipe online.  As I assembled the ingredients it dawned on me that as we don’t drink milk I was going to be stuck for one of the main components!  The only potentially suitable liquid I had was coconut milk so I gave that a go.  My slightly amended list of ingredients was as follows :

  • 2 cups spelt flour (I had to top it up slightly with some ordinary plain flour as I didn’t have quite enough)
  • 2 tablespoons golden granulated sugar (if you have a very sweet tooth you might want to increase this)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder (I thought this seemed quite a lot but decided to go with it!)
  • a pinch of salt (as opposed to ¾ of a teaspoon)
  • 1¾ cups of coconut milk (this is just under a can full and I used the remainder up in my breakfast smoothie)
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (instead of 2 – I like vanilla but only a subtle hint)

I followed the method in the original recipe and they came out really well,  although the first one was slightly anaemic as the pan wasn’t hot enough.  They were very easy to turn over as they are fairly substantial.  I’m not very proficient at flipping crepe-type pancakes!

We topped them with creme fraiche, blueberries and honey and ate the lot!

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These would be perfect for breakfast/brunch too, especially if you made the batter the night before to save time in the morning.