harvest

In Praise of Autumn

This weekend has been a beautiful one so far, in the way that only a crisp, October weekend can.  Chilly mornings, pierced with brilliant sunshine and a newfound freshness.  In the park, horse chestnuts crunched under our feet and leaves swirled in the breeze; we wore our coats and scarves for the first time; shedding them after only a few minutes as the warmth broke through.

Inspired, Harry and I carefully picked some pumpkins and gourds and gathered armfuls of pine cones in the forest.  Last night, with a glass of wine in hand, I made this Autumn Lady who now graces the kitchen and wears the season in the folds of her skirts….

Harvest Lady

Built around a simple chicken-wire base, her dress begins with scraps of leftover silk fabric (from long-ago curtains). then branches of willow sprayed with coppery glitter. Dried poppy seed heads (from these flowers!) and faux crysanthemums mix with tiny fir cones, parting to reveal a giant, Cinderella-esque pumpkin…

Pumpkin dress

 

Pumpkins and gourds

The top of her dress is a simple length of linen, wrapped and tied with one of my belts (I am reassured by the fact that it strains a little more on her waist than mine…)

Autumn lady

Her presence in the kitchen has received a mixed reception from the household; it’s true that she does impede the direct line between kettle and fridge.  Also true that when you venture downstairs in the early-dawn, her profiled, looming figure can look startlingly like an intruder hell-bent on murderous attack (takes a few minutes to recover from that, I can confirm).

But still, she’s staying awhile…

p.s.

A winter dress, and a breath of Springtime.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend!

handbag logo

One hundred and twelve red apples

Red apple seasonal tablescape

It was my birthday last weekend and we had a handful of close friends for dinner; one of those cosy, informal dinners that feels just right as the seasons turn and the nights close in.  I went to the garden centre after work looking for flowers I could use on the table and instead stumbled across a stall filled with windfall red apples; a few minutes later I had purchased 4 huge bags of apples for around £4.50/$7, and had developed biceps of steel carrying them to the car.  Very satisfying.

I filled a basket with some of the apples and rested it on a stool to the side of the table, then literally rolled the apples along the centre, adding a few other bits and bobs to add height and interest..

Apple styling

Apple centrepiece decor Apple centrepiece

Simple and inexpensive, it took about 10 minutes to set up, but as a low-effort way of adding a touch of seasonal colour it worked a treat.  For dinner we ate a kind of deconstructed chicken and mushroom pie which I prepared in a large casserole before adding personalised piecrust tops to serve with each;

Personalised piecrust!

I cut large circles of ready-made puff pastry and used cookie cutters to create cameo silhouettes and tiny letter cutters for the initials of our friends (you can make them the night before of course and just chill overnight).  Brush with a little egg glaze, bake for 10 minutes and serve on top of the pie filling; a little bit of fun…

Personalise piecrust toppers!

And finally; a pan full of fudgy, raspberry-stuffed brownies, still warm and with a scattering of icing sugar and a scoop of salted caramel ice cream.  I’ve gradually tweaked and adjusted various recipes over the years and come up with one I love; the quantities are huge so do adjust depending on your needs (but then who doesn’t need 24 brownies?  No point doing things by half). Recipe below..

Fudgy raspberry brownies

Raspberry fudge brownies

Finally, thank you SO much for the lovely comments last time about my quilt post and the blog in general; they really made me smile.

Have a great weekend, when it eventually comes; we have bonfires and fireworks planned, and a couple of days of nesting after an unusually hectic period of travel and juggling.  I can’t wait…

handbag logo

Weekending: Home Harvest

Planted Wellies

Are you having a lovely weekend?  I hope so.  It’s been 48hrs of sunshine and woodsmoke here; the epitome of seasons on the turn and the kind of weather that has you itching to be outside, sleeves rolled up, doing nature-y things.  We planted up an out-grown pair of wellies with vibrant autumnal chrysanthemums, and they now stand proudly outside the door to The Little House.  I lined them with plastic beforehand so that they can be worn again by the feet of smaller cousins in due course, but for now they will be perky sentries at the playhouse door until first frosts arrive.

We bought a new gadget and immediately tore off the packaging and set to work; a telescopic apple picker which makes light work of plucking the biggest and juiciest apples from the top of our ancient apple tree.  A family production-line ensued, with Harry-the-fearless given the task of checking for bug holes and nasties, whilst I cagily packed the safe ones into plastic plant-pot trays salvaged from our local garden centre.  Wrapped in newspaper beds and stored deep in the cellar, I’m dreaming of endless apple crumbles and pies through the winter.

The Apple Harvest

Walking to our local coffee shop for sustenance, we stumbled across this beautiful tree; the only one on a footpath of green which was beginning to turn.  It turned our thoughts to New England and our eagerly-awaited trip (not long now..).  After admiring it, we stuffed our pockets with fallen leaves, and inspired by this picture, had a go at making leaf table confetti with craft punches from my art cupboard.  (The leaves still look lovely at home, but it’s funny how nothing quite compares to seeing them outdoors – I can’t wait for Vermont).

Fall Leaf Table Confetti

Our hedges are full of rosehips, and I filled a trug with them, mostly just so that we could put them in a bowl and admire them.  My brother mentioned that you can cook with them (“I think they taste like cranberries”), so I searched briefly online for recipes, most of which cautioned gravely about the need to remove all seeds from them to avoid ‘significant gastric disturbance’ and ‘problems of the bowel’.  Hmmm.  As a fairly slap-dash cook this was warning enough, so instead I trimmed them and tumbled them into a vase for a welcome splash of colour.

Hedgerow Foraging

Rosehips

If you thought rosehips in vases were a little surreal, then may I introduce you to my tomato hat;

Tomato Hat

Around this time every year my friend Lou holds an Annual Tomato Festival, which is essentially an excuse for an evening of alcohol-fuelled, competitive merry-making under the guise of a genteel event.  Categories this year included Most Oddly Shaped Tomato, Best Wine to Drink with Tomatoes, and The Crafty Tomato, as well as the more conventional Best Tomato Dish.  Last year’s category of Most Adventurous Tomato was won by a cherry tomato which found itself tied to a sky lantern and set on fire, and was last seen floating over the Thames.  On safety grounds, the category was rested for 2013.

My hat was made with ping-pong balls, red spray paint and the tops of real tomatoes, and that is probably detail enough; I don’t think it could be classed as a mainstream crafting project, after all.  I won a Highly Commended certificate, and as a consolation prize was invited to judge the food, which of course meant tasting every dish.  Delicious, but not without consequence; 24 tomato-based dishes represent a culinary marathon rather than a sprint.  I write this evening cresting on a wave of mild acidic discontent, with  - whisper it – a distinct hangover.

Tomato festival

Good times…

Have a great week!

Kate

 

 

 

The Great Blackberry Caper

Homemade Blackberry Jam (and other recipes)

We’ve been mercifully distracted from preparations for the start of school, and have spent all our free time over the last few days foraging in hedgerows.  The unusual combination (for England, anyway) of endless sunshine interrupted by intense downpours of rain has ensured that nature is putting on a glorious show as the seasons turn; blackberries are everywhere you look; acorns are likely to fall from the sky and render a nasty ding to your forehead should you be foolish enough to stand still, and the air is perfumed with cider as a million windfall apples quietly ferment in the grass. (Do I sound a little tipsy and effusive?  Blame it on the apples..).

blackberry picking

Harry has proven to be a stoic and unflappable blackberry-picker; whilst I bumble along, shrieking and tossing my pail in the air with fright every time a bug walks over my hand, Harry tuts gently and gathers our fallen harvest before starting over again.  We returned home a little sweaty and scratched up, but with enough blackberries to fill several baskets and make for a weekend of berry-tastic cooking.  We started with our favourite… JAM!!

blackberry jam recipe from katescreativespace


I’ve found through trial and error that presentation is everything when it comes to homemade jam, and minimises the chance of recipients gingerly clutching their gift whilst stealthily examining the jar for mould, unconventional ingredients or smeary fingerprints. I made berry coloured labels for ours and then cut disks to cover the lids from a print-out of the photo above (at least there’s no doubt about the contents..).  Sparkly thread covered the rubber band and completed the look.

decorating jam pots

with approximately a bathtub’s worth of berries leftover we decided to invent a new recipe; blackberry crumble bars, which combine sponge cake, blackberries, jam and crumble, and thus contain all the main food groups.  All the ones we’re interested in anyway..

blackberry crumble bars

blackberry bars recipe

Exhausted – and deliciously full – we decided to abandon all further attempts in the kitchen and instead to package up our leftover berries and take round to friends and neighbours.  I found these pretty trays on sale and added labels with recipe suggestions, and then Harry practised his balance and co-ordination skills with moderate success…

blackberry gifts

And now, in a further fit of procrastination as I avoid all school-related thoughts; what to do with our first apple harvest?  We taste-tested these, and once we’d managed to un-shrivel our taste-buds, roll back our eyes and breathe without gasping, decided that they are probably a little too tart to be eating apples.  If you have any to-die-for recipes for cooking apples I’d love to know; at the moment I’m just enjoying their beauty and scent as they adorn our kitchen table (but I know I need to act soon….).

apples on kitchen table apple harvest

Have a great weekend, when it arrives!

Kate