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Folks, the second week of August is International Scone Week!

If you’ve never heard of it before, that’s because Joanna, Heidi and I made it up in 2010. Since that time, it’s been a very casual gathering, where bakers all around the world make scones in August and share their photos of them.

I’ve hosted the event in previous years, but things are incredibly hectic here at the moment and I’m not really in a position to run it anymore. Thankfully, lovely Tandy at Lavender and Lime has offered to take it over from now on. It’s an extremely fun week, so please consider joining in!

International Scone Week will run from 10th – 16th August. Everyone is welcome to participate, whether you’re a blogger or not. And if you need some inspiration, here are links to the scone photos from previous years. I can’t wait to see what we all come up with this year!

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International Scone Week, 2012

International Scone Week, 2013

International Scone Week, 2014

Small Man spotted him first, wandering along our street.

This Common Pheasant was very tame and showed no fear whatsoever as he strolled casually up our driveway to the backyard. It was a couple of months ago, when the late autumn sun was still shining, and before the hailstorm battered the garden. His plumage was stunning – you’d think a bird that tasted so good would have evolved less conspicuous colours by now…

We threw him a little chook feed which he obligingly gobbled up, but we couldn’t get much closer without startling him…

He was more than happy to pose for photos…

Such a magnificent, beautiful bird…

I managed to get a close-up of his iridescent head…

After half an hour of observing, we thought we should probably try and capture him, as he was clearly someone’s lost pet. But the minute we got within a metre of him, he opened his wings and flew straight up in the air and onto the neighbour’s roof. And then he was off…

Our pheasant friend hung around for weeks – he discovered a ferny patch of our neighbour Mark’s backyard and made himself a bivouac there. We loved having him around! All the children on the street came out to admire him, many convinced he was a peacock, and the adults would give way to him in their cars as he casually strolled across the road as if he owned it. He wasn’t particularly street smart.

We later discovered that he had escaped from a house around the corner. I suspect he never made it home. A neighbour who works in the local pet store said that a customer had been in asking for “pheasant food”, so we’re all hopeful that he’s been adopted by a loving family. Safe travels lovely bird – thank you for visiting!

This is the last polarfleece post for winter, I promise!

Over the years, I’ve made more than five hundred of these beanies. I started in 1996 when Big Boy was in preschool, making them to sell at the school fete. Back then, polarfleece was Polartec, and it was expensive and high tech and hard to come by. I bought the fabric online from the US, turned it into kids’ hats, and sold one to every parent who walked by that cold winter’s morning.

A few years later, a handful of sewing friends and I turned these out by the truckload and donated them to charity. They were lightweight, soft and extremely warm – the perfect thing for someone sleeping rough.

Last week, I decided that young Evan desperately needed a hat, so I set up the sewing machine, rummaged around to find the pattern, and sewed one for him. And then I was off! My dear friend Peter Bryenton asked me if I had a beginner’s pattern he could use, so I tracked down the guide I’d written for the charity sewing and sent it to him.

To make it easier to understand, I made up a sample and took a few photos to send to him as well. These were taken at 10pm, so they’re not terribly polished, but I thought I’d write them up anyway in case anyone else is interested.

. . . . .

Click here to download the pattern: Adult Polarfleece Beanie. It’s sized to print out on A4 paper, and the pattern piece should be 42cm (16½”) from the point to the base. Again, apologies for the lack of polish  – it was written a long time ago!

1. Buy half a metre of decent quality polarfleece (200 weight is great, if you have a choice). This should give you enough for two hats. Cut out four identical pattern pieces, all with the stretch going ACROSS the piece (not up and down – this bit is important).

2. A note on polarfleece, it curls to the WRONG SIDE when pulled across the stretch. It doesn’t fray, so it won’t need any edge finishing. With a piece of tailor’s chalk or a bit of sticky tape, mark the wrong sides so you don’t get confused.

3. Place two pieces RIGHT SIDES together. Stitch from the point to the base down one side. I use the width of my half my pressure foot as the seam allowance (about 6mm) and sew with a long (say 4mm) straight stitch. Repeat with the other two pieces. My sewing machine has automatic tensioning, but if you’re using one with a manual tension, you might need to loosen it a little to handle the thicker fleece.

4. Place the two halves RIGHT SIDES together. Pin.

5. Stitch from one side all the way up in a long arc through to the other side. Use the long straight stitch again and the same seam allowance. When you get to the bit in the middle where the seams meet, open the seam allowances out flat and sew across carefully.

6. Flatten out the seams with your finger – they should press quite flat. Never use an iron on polarfleece or it will melt. And really, this isn’t precision sewing! Trim all your end threads off neatly as you go, even though I didn’t. (Well, I did, but after I took this photo.)

7. With the WRONG SIDE out, fold up a cuff of 12cm (4.75″). Pin in place. Try to open out and flatten the seam allowances to make them easier to sew. I think this is the only really fiddly bit of the whole process.

8. Using the free arm of your machine, stitch the cuff up using a long zigzag. I use a 3mm wide, 4mm long setting.

9. Turn it RIGHT SIDE out, fold up the cuff and voila!

. . . . .

I’ve been cheerfully sewing up beanies for the neighbourhood littlies. The snake hat was for my friend Beej

For Lucia’s and Rosie’s hats, I’ve added small pieces of folded ribbon, taken from the treasure bag of trim that Nancy sent me earlier in the year…

The pattern I’ve provided with this tutorial is for a medium to large adult sized hat. If anyone needs me to trace and scan a small (toddler) or medium (child or small adult) sized piece, please let me know. Stay warm folks! ♥

Edit: As requested, here are the smaller sized patterns:

Beanie pattern: Small and Medium

. . . . .

My friend Beej just sent me this photo. She put her beanie on to catch the bus this morning and hasn’t taken it off yet!

At the Artisan Markets a few weeks go, I had a cup of the most delicious beef and barley soup.

The following week I found myself craving the taste again, but I had a busy morning planned and didn’t have time to fuss over a pot on the stove. So I pulled out my Römertopfs and let all the ingredients simmer away in the oven.

The end result was a thick stoup (my friend Joanna’s term for a stew-like soup). It wasn’t quite as caramelised and unctuous as traditional versions, because I didn’t brown the meat and veg first (I was a bit pushed for time, and I didn’t want the extra washing up), but it was delicious nonetheless.

I used beef brisket (it was in the freezer) and assorted root vegetables. Below are approximate quantities and instructions – I filled two clay pots, so please reduce the amounts accordingly if you’re only planning to use one.

  • Beef brisket, cut into small cubes (I used about a kilo in total)
  • potatoes, 3 medium, peeled and diced
  • swede, 1 large, peeled and diced
  • celeriac, 1 large, peeled and diced
  • carrots, 3 medium, peeled and diced
  • onions, 2 medium, peeled and diced
  • a couple of bay leaves
  • plum tomatoes, 4 medium, diced
  • Swiss brown mushrooms, 2 large, peeled, de-stemmed, and diced
  • thyme, a few sprigs
  • pearl barley, 1 cup per pot
  • homemade beef stock, about 1 litre per pot or as much as needed to cover the ingredients
  • salt and pepper
  • Worcestershire sauce

1. Presoak the Römertopf base and lid in a sink of water while you prepare the ingredients. Arrange the oven shelves to fit the pots, but don’t turn the heat on yet.

2. Pile the ingredients into the wet base of the pot and season well with salt and pepper. Stir well, then pour over the stock. Add a splosh of Worcestershire sauce. Stir to combine, then cover with the wet lid and place the pot into the oven. Turn the heat up to 200C with fan.

3. Bake for two hours, pulling the pot(s) out every hour or so to stir. Then reduce the heat to 160C with fan and bake for a further one to two hours until the beef and barley are both tender. For the second half of the time, check the pot every half an hour or so, stirring and adding more hot water if needed (be careful not to add cold water to the hot pot).

This was warming and delicious and exactly what I was craving. I rang Carol and invited her over for lunch, and then froze boxes of leftovers for future meals. It’s so thick that it tends to defrost like a porridge rather than a soup, but I don’t mind at all!

This hot chocolate recipe, from David Lebovitz’ The Sweet Life in Paris, is so simple that it’s almost embarrassing to blog about it. But please trust me on this one, it’s incredibly good, and worth the little bit of extra effort and washing up…

It’s made with just three ingredients – milk, good quality chocolate and a pinch of sea salt. The secret is to prepare it in a saucepan on the stove and to simmer the brew for a few minutes. The end result is thick and unctuously silky, with the consistency of luscious pouring custard.

It’s so rich that it coats the side of the glass when poured…

Here’s the basic recipe – adapt according to your personal preference. These proportions make a very rich hot chocolate which can be diluted down with milk if desired.

  • 500g (2 cups) milk (full cream or low fat)
  • 140g (5oz) really good quality dark chocolate, chopped or in callet form (I used Callebaut 811 54% cacao)
  • good pinch fine sea salt

1. Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil over a medium heat, whisking constantly.

2. Turn the heat down as low as it will go and simmer for 3 – 5 minutes (the longer it simmers, the thicker the finished hot chocolate). Keep whisking!

3. Serve in small cups or large mugs, with or without whipped cream (it’s a very rich drink, and I’m a bit lactose intolerant, so I sip it in small doses). Store any leftovers in the fridge as a restorative tonic. According to David Lebovitz, it should keep for up to five days – reheat it gently in the microwave or on the stove.

I pour a slurp in with my decaf coffee (made with biodegradable EcoCaffe pods – I wrote a bit about them here) for a truly fabulous mocha…

I love having a jug of this in the fridge – I pour myself little espresso-sized shots during the day and warm them up in the microwave. It’s the perfect cure for winter greyness!

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