Spicy Pumpkin and Pear Soup…and a little sewing

So, remember our pear tree? Yes, the one with an awful lot of pears on it. We’ve been really enjoying eating them in crumbles, purées, stewed but mainly au naturel and sometimes with cheese. Delicious. But they don’t store. I know, I tried it out. I spent ages wrapping a load up in newspaper and storing them somewhere cool and dark only to find a horrible, stinky mush a few days ago. Nasty.

Luckily we really did make the most of them and one of the dishes I made was a hearty soup using some of the crisper, under ripe pears left at the very end.

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Ingredients (serves 4 as a main course)

  • About 1kg of pumpkin or squash (peeled, seeded and cut into cubes)
  • 3 medium pears (peeled and cut into cubes)
  • 50ml olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon each of ground cumin and ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon of fresh ginger (peeled and grated)
  • 1 level teaspoon of hot chilli powder (or to taste)
  • 3 cloves of garlic (peeled and crushed)
  • 1 tin (400g) coconut milk
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Smoked pimenton to serve

(Inspired by a recipe from the book Economy Gastronomy)

Heat the oil and add the pumpkin. Fry on a medium heat until it starts to colour a little (you may need to do this in batches) then add the spices and garlic. Cook for a minute then add the pear, coconut milk and stock. Simmer for about 30 minutes, blend to a texture you enjoy (I used a stick blender) season to taste and serve with a sprinkle of smoked pimenton.

For any of you who are wondering what the heck I’ve been up to in the absence of great cooking facilities (and apart from house renovations), I decided to set myself up with a little winter project. I am hand making a patchwork quilt, following (sort of) a design pattern.

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Am really enjoying making the quilt top but may back out of hand quilting it myself. We’ll see.  Perhaps next year I’ll be eating this soup snuggled under my quilt!

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Sewing Sunday – Fifties Franken Frock

Morning! Hope you are all having a wonderful weekend.  Just a quickie from me today, another of my little sewing projects.

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This summer dress is made from a beautiful vintage fabric I bought in a second-hand shop in Hastings Old Town over a year ago, when we were house hunting in the UK. The shop sells bric a brac, crockery, books etc and I just happened to ask if there was any fabric tucked away. Luckily for me the owner told me that a man had come in that morning with a suitcase full of fabrics he had found when clearing out his late mother’s effects. He believed the fabric had been purchased in the 1950s and then never used. What a find, I snapped it all up.

I was happy to think that I could turn this beautiful, summery fabric into a Happy Dress, I hope the original purchaser would have approved.

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The dress is a bit of a Frankenstein, in that it has been made up from parts of different patterns. The top of my Vogue Going to the Wedding Dress and the skirt (with some added pleats) and pockets of my recently made Tiramisu.

I know I will enjoy wearing this dress the whole summer through.

Old Favourites and Favourite Gadgets

When we were in England, people asked us what we missed about Spain. Mostly it was the light, which sounds odd, I think people expected us to say “the sun”.  We missed family and friends of course, we missed the gatherings and fiestas. But we knew we’d be back and we were having fun too.

I missed being able to cook “properly”, I didn’t have all my gadgets with me, so being back in my fully equipped kitchen with my hand blender, my food processor and my terracotta bowls has allowed me to make some old favourites.

Salmorejo (do click on the link for the recipe and a “how to) is a summer favourite, and now that I can buy tomatoes without taking out a mortgage to do so, this will be made every few days.

Salmorejo (2)

Of course, I was able to make pil pil while in England, but it does taste so much better when cooked in the traditional terracotta bowl. And just to prove that you can “pil pil” so many different things, this week I did clams.

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And sewing…oh sewing. How I missed my sewing machine. We’ve only been back a week but that wasn’t going to stop me getting my hands on some fabric gifted to me, and a beautiful pattern from the very talented Steph over at 3 Hours Past and making up her wonderful Tiramisu dress pattern. If you fancy making the wonderful dessert instead of the dress, do head over to Karen’s fabulous post which tells you how!

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Steph designs and makes patterns for real women – curvy ones, slim ones, straight up and down ones.

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The designs and patterns are beautiful with excellent instructions and I’m thrilled with my new summer dress.

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My sourdough starter, courtesy of Sawsan’s “how to”, is bubbling away nicely, so at the weekend the mixer with the dough hook will be put to work and I think I’ll really feel like I’ve settled back in again properly.

Edwardian Style Standard Lamp

Isn’t it always the same…when you’re looking to buy something you can never find it in quite the right style, shape colour? And then, when you least expect it, something perfect throws itself at your feet?!

Ugly sofa too - don't worry, it's not permament!
Ugly sofa too – don’t worry, it’s not permament!

One of the exciting things about our new project here in Bexhill is that we get to furnish it too! When we set up our home in Spain it was relatively easy as we both already had furniture and we merged, purged and started making new memories. Here we had nothing. Starting from scratch is fun. Not starting anew though as we are both agreed that we like buying second hand, preloved, vintage, antique and car boot bargains. Clearly car boot bargains cost less than antiques, but they give us just as much pleasure. Half the fun is restoring, cleaning, seeing the potential.

Grubby Feet
Grubby Feet

The property is part of what would have been an Edwardian Family “Villa”. This means it was built around 1903, from what we can tell, and whilst we don’t intend to live in the past completely….we need a decent oven, tv and internet for goodness sake…some older touches will also work well.

Dashing around the other day I popped into a local shop which deals with House Clearances. Some of the stuff they have is junk, some is clearly high quality and very much loved (and priced) antique furniture. And some of it falls between the two. I spotted a wrought iron standard lamp with a very ugly pink lampshade. It spoke to me. Really, it did. I could hear a most refined Edwardian Lady reclining in the bay window of her drawing room on a chaise longue saying “Pray, take this lamp stand home. Clean it, love it and it will add some much needed elegance to your home. Oh, and your hair could do with a brush…standards are slipping”.

Clean Feet!
Clean Feet!

So we haggled a little and the bemused owner helped me put it into the car with the back window down so that it would fit and off to House Number 2 I drove where Big Man was impatiently waiting for me to arrive with a bag of masonry nails.

Looking much better now
Looking much better now

It was dingy brown and I had planned to clean it and paint it black and then buy a new lampshade. So I cleaned it and underneath all the grease and grime it was a beautiful cream colour. Then I popped out to the supermarket and was waylaid in another House Clearance shop (I know now where all the good ones are) and found a perfect sized lampshade in a gold colour and once more turned up at House Number 2 with nothing for dinner but an unexpected  bargain that I wore on my head for extra effect.

Dressed to impress
Dressed to impress

Then I rummaged in a bag of goodies given to me my Best Friend’s sister who is downsizing and used to make costumes for shows, curtains, clothes and found some beautiful lace and a strip of beading. Two evenings later it was done and I heard my Edwardian Lady murmur in approval “Beautiful my dear, very elegant indeed. But your hair could still do with a good brush”.

Sewing Sunday – Summer Skirt

Remember my Safari Skirt? When I bought it, I also came across another one, in a pretty pale blue pattern.  This was more fitted, made up of panels, but way too small at the waist. It also had a zip.

Here´s how I made it fit (and I can be quite determined when I want to be)!

First I cut the skirt from around the top to give me the length I wanted less 2cm (I was going to add a waistband).

Then I unpicked the zip from the piece I had removed (you may need to do this first if it overlaps into the section of skirt that remains). I unpicked the side of the skirt to the length of the zip and reinserted the zip.

The skirt was now too big around the waist for me, so I added some darts at the front and back to make it fit comfortably.

Then I cut the piece of fabric from the top of the skirt lengthways to make two narrow strips which I joined together to make one long strip (this would become my new waistband, although I would not need it all as it became one very long strip).

This was pinned wrong sides together round the outside of the skirt.

I left a few cm at each zip edge to turn in.

This was stitched down, then the waistband turned over and under on the inside of the skirt and stitched again. I did this by hand because I enjoy hand stitching, but it could be done more quickly with machine stitching.

Finally I tucked in the ends of the waistband to give me a little overlap to add some snap fasteners and I also reinserted the hanging loops which I had recycled from the original waistband.

The finished skirt, which will is cool and comfy…I love soft cotton which is slightly “worn”, perfect for running around in the heat.

Get Shorty!

The photo makes it look very short and “stumpy” – I should have removed the half-finished top from Marilyn, I am sure that would have helped!

 

Sewing Sunday – Safari Skirt

As some of you may know, I enjoy a trip to the local (well, 50km away) Charity Shops, I think they´re known as Thrift Stores in the US. There are several reasons for this. I´m not a sylph-like babe but I´m not a pensioner yet. Many clothes made here in Spain for the more…shall we say…curvaceous woman, are designed with a 90 year old widow in mind, so I don´t tend to even find many new clothes which I´d actually want to wear.

Secondly, I love to sew and enjoy the challenge of refashioning a well made garment into something for myself and knowing that rather than ending up in a landfill somewhere, it´s enjoying a second life.

Finally, the charity shops are there to provide much needed help to those in need. The two shops in the little town I go to support different causes. One (CUDECA) is a Cancer Hospice for the terminally ill which makes no charges at all to anyone living in Andalucía who needs to spend their last days in such a facility.  The second, (APARIV) rehomes stray dogs, of which there are a huge amount. The second charity also ensures the dogs are fit, well and (very importantly) sterilised or neutered, before they go off to their new homes around Europe.

So…here´s a typical refashion for me. I find a lovely dress which is way too tight across the chest, but fits me from the waist or hips down. I couldn´t get it onto my mannequin Marilyn, as she is set up to be roughly my shape (poor thing), but you get the idea. Do make sure to wash the garment first (apart from the fact that it will need a good wash, you want to make sure it doesn´t shrink after you have altered it). I loved this fabric as, apart from being in my favourite orange, the print made me think of safaris (a dream of mine)!

I started by measuring where I wanted the hem of the skirt to be on me.  I then pinned the outer fabric and inner lining all the way round just above my natural waistline and then cut the dress just above the pins.

After tacking the fabric and lining together (you could also machine this) I turned the fabric in to create a new waistband leaving enough space to thread ribbon or elastic through. I´ll show you another day how I do a similar refashion but with a zip. I sewed by hand (because I enjoy it) but this could easily be done with a machine.

Finally I threaded some ribbon through (I have since bought some matching ribbon, but it ties and hangs on the inside anyway).

The finished skirt, which will be enjoying the summer with me up the mountain!

This is a great technique to use on any skirts you have hanging, forgotten, in your wardrobe because they are a bit tight at the waist. As long as you don´t mind losing a little length, you can cut them down from the waist and – voilá – you have a wider waistband which you can then refashion as above and either insert elastic (or ribbon) or move the zip down.

And don´t worry, the top half will be refashioned into a new top for one of my more petite friends.

Going to the Wedding Dress 2

Sewing Alert –click away now if you´d rather read a recipe!  Why not try this one for a change of scenery.

The second dress, a Butterick Pattern (B5556) was finished in time for the wedding last night. Ooh it was a typical late night, so am feeling rather jaded today.

As I stood in the garden asking Big Man to take some snaps for the blog, the wind whipped up and you can´t really see  the general soft meringueness of the skirt with the petticoat underneath (with a layer removed).

I did a few twirls to show off the five, yes five, metres each of skirt and lining which I finished the same way at the Going to the Wedding Dress 1.

Give us a twirl!

I hand stitched the zip, which turned out well and was very happy with the dress apart from having needed to be a little braver in taking the waist in a little more. I loved the stand up/fold down collar.

Elvis Collar

Hey ho, at least it meant I could eat in comfort.

And there was plenty of room in the dress for hugging and kissing the bride and groom, most of the 500 guests (gulp…that´s not a wedding, it´s a Corporate Event) and eating cake.

Going to the Wedding Dress 1

Sewing Alert –click away now if you´d rather read a recipe. Why not try this one for a cold, rainy Saturday?!

So, the Vintage style dress is finished and I have to say I am really very pleased with the way it has turned out.

The pattern is Vogue V8789, view A.

Wish I had a waist like that!

I have also made a silk shawl with a hand rolled hem to go with it, to cover up my shoulders.

I tried out a few new techniques (well, new to me). A horsehair hem, hand stitched to finish it off. This adds a little body to the hem. I had bought a net petticoat to wear underneath but when it arrived I looked like a giant meringue so back it went into the wardrobe.

I sewed a satin bias binding in a contrast colour to the lining.

I hand stitched the bodice lining to the bodice. I really enjoy sewing by hand.

A grosgrain waist stay (I think that is what it is called) was hand stitched around the inside and this really adds shape to the waist when it is worn.

But…the weather has turned cold and damp. The wedding is next Saturday so I have started work on the other Vintage style dress I had planned to make as it has sleeves. It´s the Butterick 5556…hopefully I´ll have it finished this week and then depending on the weather I can decide which one I´ll wear.

Meanwhile, the dogs snooze in the not so sunny sun room while the rain comes down, and I´ll get on with my sewing.

Yes, that is a jamon bone on the sofa which they had clearly dragged in out of the rain and which I only noticed when I downloaded the photo! Naughty pups...

And now, if you enjoyed seeing my Going to the Wedding Dress, why not check out my blogging pal Evie´s Actual Wedding Dress.  What a very talented and beautiful bride!

Sewing Sunday – Vogue V8789 Dress

So, look away now if you don´t want to read about sewing!

Still with me? Good! On my last trip to London I treated myself to two very nice dress patterns and some fabric with the idea of making myself dresses to wear to weddings. There are an awful lot of large weddings to attend each summer as it´s typical to invite the whole village. Factor in the fact that Big Man is one of 10 children and you can imagine how many nieces and nephews there are to be married off over the years!

Wish I had a waist like that!

Last year I was in the UK and stumbled across a find of vintage fabrics which the shop owner told me had been found packed neatly away in a suitcase. The lady who had bought the fabrics had died and her son had been going through her things, a sad thing to have to do, but I am glad that her fabrics have seen the light of day again.

New and Vintage Fabrics

The son believed they dated from the mid 1950s, a time when rationing in the UK was being eased off and the rules which applied to dressmaking during the war we done away with. This is true, because of the chronic shortages of pretty much everything, there were even rules about how wide skirts and trousers could be, restrictions on pleats and darts..because it all used up so much fabric. Think about the tailored looks during the 1940s and then (especially for women) the full skirts of the 1950s. I can imagine a young woman going out and choosing some lengths of brightly coloured fabrics anticipating what she would make with them. I wonder why they were never made up?

There was not enough fabric for me to make up the Vogue pattern I chose with a full skirt, so I adapted. The photo doesn´t really do the fabric of the dress justice. It´s a grey Sunday here in Spain so the photos look a little dull.

Should have ironed it before snapping it!

The dress is a trial run for the Going to the Wedding Dress. The second one will be made out of a gorgeous orange and brown fabric and will be fully lined, and I will be using some techniques which are new to me. French seams, a grosgrain waistband and a horsehair braid hem.

I should finish it this week, so as soon as it´s done, I´ll post more photos.

Crafty Catch Up

No food today (well, I will be eating some of course!), so click away now if you´re not interested in crochet, knitting or sewing.

Now that you´ve received the Up the Mountain “Reader´s Warning”, on with the update…

Winter means cooler weather and I can get out my scraps of wool, find out who is expecting a baby (there are usually quite a few in the family who are “in the family way”) and get knitting and crocheting.

We have a niece expecting twins and one of my best pals Donna is about to become a great aunt.  Sshh, I´m not allowed to call her that!

I´ve made baby blankets…

And a funky coat/jacket for one of the babies (we know she´s going to be a girl) when she reaches a few months of age…

Just needs a couple of bright buttons...

Lots of the men in my life got a beanie for Christmas…thanks to Mandy at The Complete Cookbook for the instructions.

I made myself a little bag…

Then lined it with some pretty fabric I had, which will also make it stronger and less liable to stretch too much.

I made a pinny for Donna (she´s a lucky girl) who moves house next week from London to Lewes. I thought she could run around with a feather duster looking like a 1950´s housewife in this. Recognise the fabric?!

And of course, the enormous orange blanket which the dogs, Luna and Alfi, are On No Account Allowed To Lie On!