Tuesday, 27 September 2011

So, I've been keeping a little secret....

And before you ask - NO! I'm not pregnant! hahaha.

Earlier in the year I had the good fortune to come across some very lovely ladies who work at All Craft Media, the publishing company that produces such brilliant magazines as Handmade Living, Sew Hip, Knit and Inside Crochet.  The link was made through the Folksy blog, as they were looking for craft writers. I sent off a quick 'hello' with some ideas, fully expecting to hear nothing in return. To my amazement I was offered a regular gig - a monthly column at Handmade Living. Yippppeeeee!

I've got a few editions under my belt now, so I wanted to share them with you. I wanted to keep this under my hat for a bit, because it didn't seem fair to share the content of my pieces with those who had not read the magazine. I'm going to use my blog to share the back story of my pieces, and to point you to the places you might buy this magazine of fabulousness. It's available from Hobbycraft, WH Smith, Morrisons, Asda, Sainsburys and Martins. Good local newsagents will order it for you if you ask them. You can download an individual digital edition by clicking here, or you can subscribe by clicking here.

Here was my first piece:

Tea at nans

Called "Tea at Nan's" this piece reminisces about my summers as the youngest child of a gaggle of 10 cousins. We would chase each other around the vegetable patch, play hide and seek and feed our dolls with a bakelite pink plastic teaset.


nans tea 6


Sunday tea was always a special occasion. There were loads of us crammed into my Nan's best room - twelve adults, ten children and sometimes other friends and neighbours. The adults *all* smoked - the men mainly smoked pipes, from what I recall, and I still remember it's heady scent, mixed with the tang of coal dust, fondly. After tea we were allowed a sip of sherry mixed with lemonade, if we were lucky. I don't even think that the adults were allowed undiluted sherry, and one was very definitely everyone's limit. My Nan was extremely concerned about What The Neighbours Might Say.

Nans tea 2


Whether it was winter or summer, tea was always tinned salmon sandwiches (cut into triangles; a luxury in our house), plain crisps bought from the pub, salad separated out into individual bowls and pork pie. Woe betide the person who ate the last slice of pork pie! Pudding was a community affair - my mum and most of my aunties were keen bakers, so we often had a selection of home made shortbread, chocolate cakes and - best of all - my Nan's pointy little rock buns. These delights were usually served with warm Cornish ice cream (Nan had no freezer, so someone would dash to the village cafe for the ice cream before Tea, and we would eat it semi-melted.) Strangely enough, our family would also eat bread and butter with their pudding - my Mum tells me this is a war time trick to make the good things go further. Even if it sounds weird, brown bread and butter with ice cream is delicious, believe me.

During The Tea, my Grandad's friend would always turn up with a contraption that was something important to do with racing pigeons. To this day, I'm not sure what it was. As a five or six year old, I was never allowed to accompany Grandad to talk to this man in the hall. Instead I used to stand next to the door, and push my face against it's creamy, smooth gloss paint in an effort to work out this mystery.


nans tea 3

I thought I'd share with you the recipe for my Nan's delicious buns. The photos are ones that I took this summer, having given them a bit of a modern facelift. Nan's were always plain and, as I said earlier, always pointy. They didn't come in fancy cases either. This is a war time recipe passed down my family, and it's still just as good today as it ever was. I only need to bake a batch to be transported back to my Nan's happy, hot and slightly damp house. My sons love them too, unaware of the history behind them. Enjoy! X

nans tea 4


225g Self Raising Flour

85g Margarine

30g Vegetable Fat (like Trex)

110g Caster Sugar

2 eggs, mixed with milk to make 1/4 pint


1. Pre-heat the oven to 90C / 200F / Gas Mark 6

2. Rub the margarine and fat into the flour, or whizz in a food processor, until it has a breadcrumb-like texture

3. Mix in the sugar

4. Whisk the eggs and, if they measure less than a 1/4 pint, top up with milk

5. Add the egg mixture slowly (I drizzle it in whilst the food processor is whirring). The final mixture should be a dropping consistency - slowly add more milk if it's dry.

6. Spoon the mixture into greased bun tins, or paper muffin cases.

7. Bake for 15-20 mins until golden brown.


You can change the recipe by adding 110g of dried fruit, glace cherries or chocolate chips. You can also substitute 30g of cocoa powder for the self raising flour. Decorate with melted chocolate and brown sugar.


Friday, 9 September 2011

Starting Anew

"Starting Anew" has been the caption under my Facebook profile for a good couple of years. Way back in the dark days of 2009, it was the only way that I could put a positive spin on the depression. Part of me, deep down, knew that I would get better, and that I would move on and maybe even flourish on day. "Starting Anew" sounded a bit like I was getting divorced (again), but I knew what it meant to me, my husband didn't mind, and so it stuck.

Well, today I am actually starting anew in a real and tangible way. Here before you stands a student! I have not been a student since 1997, although I was slimmer and prettier then, so I'm kind of hoping my new status invokes some of the old. But even so. Me, a student! Wow!

My last post didn't actually work in the way it was intended. I doubt very much that the tutor visited my blog as no-one responded to me email. Boo, Hull College, poor show. On the other hand, maybe this was a nudge from the hands of the Gods. Maybe Hull College was never meant to be. Rather than an Art Foundation course (which, if you think about it, is designed just to lead on to other courses), I am now a student on no less than a BA (Hons) in Textiles! Get me!

The course looks brilliant. It's with OCA and well worth a Google. I am desperately excited at being given the opportunity to experiment with new techniques and to make things with art as their primary function (for me, that means aesthetic and meaning, rather than being something that needs to be useful first and foremost). I've already done a BA once, but didn't feel confident enough to tackle an MA in a different subject, especially after all these years. The only real consequences are time (it'll take about 5 years to complete the BA, but that's cool, I'm enjoying raising my family at the same time and wouldn't want to short cut that) and money. It's eye wateringly expensive, for us, at least. I do worry about money, and I know that Dom does. But it's important to find some sort of meaning in the experiences of the last couple of years, and I really need a new direction in my career. I have high hopes that this course will suit both.

I'm very intrigued by the other students I will meet. Unlike last time, pretty much all the students will be "mature" like me. They all have their own talents, opinions, thoughts, families, home circumstances and personalities, and I'm really hoping that I get the chance to meet as many fellow students as possible, even if it is just online. University is quite unique in bringing together likeminded people, I think.

It's a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. I'm thrilled, excited, terrified, anxious, worried about how I'll fit it all in, buzzing with ideas and really keen to actually get stuck in. I'm also going to have to get a grip on our finances to enable us to do what we need to do with the resources we have. It's going to be a challenge, but I'm hoping it'll be a good one.

So, that's me! Back at school and feeling rather first day-ish. I'll keep you posted.

Lots of love

Claire x