staying in the warm and dry today to work on some drawings - it's not nice outside! i've had lots of hot tea and fresh warm crusty bread to keep my spirits up on such a dark day. i'll be curling up by the fire later for some reading and getting stuck into my sewing pile (just mending, nothing exciting).
thanks to all of you who have visited this space over the past year and for your comments, have a good one! x
notes: here's a piece that's been in the making for a while which i'm pleased with, i like the way the shapes lean into one another and the white peeks out around the edges of the burning like it's being eclipsed. these burn marks were a real pain to edit in photoshop, i won't be mixing the burns again in a hurry!
i still can't believe christmas is only 10 days away, how did it manage to sneak up on me like that!? there are still cards to be written and sent, i really must get on with that. christmas is an uninvolved as possible affair for me, i've got no time for the massive spendathon that it's become and have tried to keep things as simple as possible on the gift front making as much as i possibly can. this year i've grown extra cut flower plants for giving, made this lip balm in my favorite scent, put together cd compilations as always and have 2 recipes in mind: these spicy candied almonds & some lemon & white chocolate shortbread both to be bagged up and given on the day.
this weekend is expected to be strangely mild and i've got some walks, wood chopping and drawing planned - how about you?
i'm still in the process of listing some of the older pieces i mentioned the other week from the vaults. in other news i'm hoping to spend some time from now until the new year working on some new pieces and completing some other pieces started earlier in the year. i'm starting to feel more settled in my work space and the urge to get creative is back with me, fingers crossed.
so, i've learned a hard lesson over the past couple of weeks, don't let your domain name which you have had for YEARS expire because it will be sold to a zurich based media company and you will not be able to get it back and you will spend hours of your life trying to rectify the problem.
my new (old) website has moved to: www.oliviajeffries.co.uk
my new email address is: info (!a) oliviajeffries.co.uk - and if you've emailed my anytime since probably the end of july i won't have received your message but do try again on this new one :)
also, just a reminder that there is 10% off in the shop until tomorrow evening - just enter the code 'bonustime' at the checkout.
it's been a year and a few weeks since we moved to this house and one of the main projects i've had on the go is our back garden. i love gardening and it's been wonderful to finally have a space to shape as i please and make my own. it's a small but manageable spot bearing in mind i have a giant allotment 60 seconds away and i'm proud to say i've made this on a tight budget. it's slowly coming together and i can't wait until next summer.
the top two pics show it how it is today, i had a cottage/secret garden in mind, the borders are edged with found materials all of which were either laying around or dug up in the garden. there were flints, old bricks and roof tiles, pieces of marble and victorian garden edging. these have all been lightly set into the soil so i can reshape areas if i need to. the plants were a mixture of ones i've accumulated over the years from previously rented houses which i brought with me like sedums, ferns and aquilegias. some were already growing here or sprung up after i dug some areas over such as foxgloves, feverfew and lemon balm. luckily there were a couple of mature trees and a grape vine already in place to give some structure. others have been grown from seed to fill the gaps such as all kinds of poppies, bronze fennel and sea hollies. i'm still waiting for some shrubs to grow up around the boundaries to make it more private but they will grow in time.
money has only really been spent on gravel, a few shrubs and some packs of seeds and i would estimate that i've spent less than £100 in total, all i need now is time for it to mature and start rambling.
pic three is mid-summer - still a work in progress and experimenting, one day some giant buddleias will hide our neighbor's solar panels!
pic four is how it was when we moved in - patchy grass and weeds ugh!
it's been a transformation that's for sure and i'll be doing some updates over time to show its progress, i hope you like it!
i've been having a little sort out through my plan chest this week and found a whole host of drawings which have never been in the shop before! i'll be adding around 15 new (older) pieces to the shop over the next few days so keep your eyes peeled for those and as a little xmas bonus i'm offering 10% off all orders with the code - 'bonustime' - at the checkout from now until next friday.
this is my allotment, acquired in april but due to overwhelmingly terrible weather this year not much really occurred there until the beginning of september. and now i dig, every morning (weather permitting) for one hour i dig up the grass. i turn the soil over and over hunting for weed roots in the sticky soil hoping that i can get a good chunk finished before the ground freezes up for the winter and that next year will in turn bring bounty aplenty.
for the past 18 months or so i've been playing around with an assortment of bread recipes and trying to learn the techniques that go into making a truly artisanal loaf. i started out with monty don's recipe from fork to fork, a book i've mentioned before as being one of my all time fave gardening/cooking books. i just love it when the two things come together in one volume and i love monty so it had to be the right way to make bread. his was a bit of a faff involving an approximation of a starter dough and a no-knead style mix. the dough was bubbly and the bread chewy and rustic but not all together reliable to make.
around this time last year we moved house and all making of food items from scratch essentially went out the window until a couple of months ago when i decided it was high time i got back to my bread experimentations. sadly i was unable to make head nor tail of my own handwritten notes regarding my finely tuned bread a la monty recipe and had to start again from scratch.
this time around i decided to cut out some of the messing around that came with monty's bread and cut to the chase - the straight up no-knead loaf which has been everywhere on the internet for all of time but which i had not quite gotten around to trying. the results were tasty and pleasing to the eye however wholly unpredictable resulting in airy chewy goodness one day followed by cakey stodge the next.
it just would not do.
so i hit up my local library and borrowed a wealth of books on the subject, tartine, how to make bread and river cottage bread have been my handbooks in this challenge and by jove have i made some tasty loaves. all of these books have helped me to understand the essence of what truly makes a fabulous basic loaf and now i'm on to some new bready challenges. i'm excited!
this morning we were having the biggest hail storm i ever recall seeing, practically pitch black at 8am and i decided it was time to have another crack at the rosehips, this time without the sugar.
i went through the 2 stewing and straining processes as for the syrup and then set about doing quite a few taste tests and infusing a small amount of the juice with lemon, ginger and cinammon and also making different combos of those flavours to see what would work for the best.
now, if you're not familiar with the taste of a rosehip it is very tart, slightly berryish with an underlying earthy quality. my taste tests revealed that it doesn't work too well with lemon as it's already quite sharp but ginger and cinammon is absolutely wonderful and very refreshing.
follow the instructions as for the syrup below but instead of adding sugar do the following:
- measure your rosehip juice into a saucepan
- for every 100ml add roughly 1 thin (about 2-3mm thick) slice of fresh ginger and about 1/6 stick of cinammon - a small piece of unwaxed lemon peel does add quite a nice accent but no juice or flesh is required
- bring to a rolling boil for a few minutes and then leave to cool in the pan
- strain through a sieve
- leave until room temperature and then chill (it would probably stay fresh in the fridge for only a couple of days unless stored in sterilised jars or bottles)
- once chilled pour into ice cube trays and freeze
- to use either defrost in advance or just pour boiling water over the cubes - dilute to taste, i like mine about 50/50 with boiling water and you could add honey to taste if you're that way inclined and enjoy! ;)
something i've become interested in recently is the idea of foraging. nature's bounty harvested and used to concoct delights for free (or thereabouts).
i came across a recipe a couple of months back for rosehip syrup and was instantly excited. i recalled drinking it as a young child, not the foraged kind but the stuff you could get in bottles. i forget the brand name but you don't seem to be able to buy it these days. later on in my youth a friend's mum had a beautiful wooden box of herbal teabags - something we didn't have in our house - and i always chose the rosehip tea, such a wonderful earthy/fruity flavour.
so it was with high hopes that i headed out down the lanes and footpaths in search of hips of my own to stew up and concoct a syrup of my very own.
i managed to harvest just under 2kg and excitedly went about putting together the sticky syrup recipe. what came about was 3 different versions of the syrup which despite tasting really awesome had one off putting - to me - characteristic; it was just too sweet! what i really wanted was something i could use as a warming beverage to sip through the cold winter afternoons and keep me warm. the diluted syrup left me feeling rather queasy to say the least although i think it could have some good uses.
here's the low down (it's a mash up of recipes from river cottage preserves and sarah raven's complete christmas):
makes about 1.5 litres
- rinse your freshly foraged rosehips, give them a good pick over and make sure there's no bugs or rotters in there.
- put 800ml of water in a small pan and bring to the boil.
- meanwhile blitz your rosehips in the blender (NOTE: these hips are rock hard, unless there has been a really hard frost or two in your area freeze these first to soften them, defrost before blitzing).
- add the hips to the pan and bring back to the boil then turn off the heat and leave to infuse for at least 15 minutes but the longer the better.
- pour through a scalded jelly bag or muslin and leave to drip into a large bowl for half an hour (NOTE: a sieve won't do the job, these hips have tiny hairs inside which are an irritant if swallowed).
- bring another 800ml water to the boil and add the strained pulp back in, bring them back to the boil and leave to infuse again.
- strain into the bowl with the first lot of juice and leave to drip for an hour.
- pour your liquid back into the saucepan, add the sugar and heat. stir until dissolved.
- boil for 2-3 minutes then pour into warm sterilised jars or bottles with lids.
- use within 4 months or 7 days once opened. this syrup can be water processed to make it store for longer if required.
i tried this 3 different ways: plain, with cinnamon and with cloves, star anise and cinnamon. each was good in its own special way but i liked the cinnamon flavour the best. when reheating and adding the sugar add any combination of a stick of cinammon, 2 cloves or 4 star anise and strain before storing.
it's pretty late in the season but there are still some hips available in my area. if you want to make your own - the spice infused version would make an awesome xmas gift - first make sure you know what a rosehip is - there's plenty of info on the web - and ensure to pick away from any really busy roads.
whilst this syrup was too sweet for me, I have since found a good way of using these hips. stay tuned for more adventures with rosehips!
two completely different books made my heart and mind do a little skip today. don't these both look awesome? i felt so inspired that i made a few simple sketches and thought about sitting down to flesh them out.
i'm not much of a reader, certainly not fiction. I haven't read a novel for years, I just don't have the attention span for it, but when it comes to gardening and cook books I can spend hours pouring over the pages and pictures feeling inspired, plotting and planning with my notebook. luckily we have a really well stocked local library which is helping to fuel things along and at the moment thinking about a polytunnel is taking up some serious brain space, but we shall see...
in other news, I have been doodling and have a small itch in the back of my brain to draw.
and if you've tried to contact me at all in the past few months i've been meaning to say - my website is down! - and i don't know when it will be back up (it's a long story) but if you've emailed me since the end of july i would not have got your message.
visited some (rather late in the season) yard sales at a nearby village this weekend. scored a log basket perfect for kindling, anatomical atlas and jam pan all for a few pounds. also came away with homemade cheese straws and cake but there was no time to snap those before they got munched :)
made some time for bread making and berry picking as well as some wood sorting and stacking as it's starting to turn rather autumnal here.
my scarf smells nicely of smoke from a bonfire this morning. i'm spending a lot of time outdoors at the moment and am finding it so hard to be indoors and get on with work! i've got itchy fingers, itching for something new, to be making and doing and generally feeling restless. i've not been drawing much but what i have been doing is...
- making light rye no-knead bread
- getting used to chilly mornings and chilly evenings and watching autumn roll in
- making my first bread and butter pickles - so so good!
- loving going out each morning and digging the allotment - getting it prepped for next year
- prepping for making some rosehip syrup next month (just waiting for some frost to soften them up)
- listening to david byrne & st. vincent on repeat
- prepping to dive into a pile of paperwork i've been putting off for a while
- planning a summer display for the garden next year - black peony poppies & blue eryngiums included - i'm excited!
- making lists, making plans
i must remember to put my camera in my bag more often, all of my pics of late have just been around the house and studio.
i must try to draw more but can't find the space in my brain for it right now. here's hoping that winter keeps me indoors and then i can get on with some!