Friday, 31 August 2012

flea friday: hangers & plastic animals

While boyfriend was at the dentist, I went to one of the junkshops that I don't visit so often.
Came away with some sweet little items that made me smile. Cheap and cheerful!

I found some wooden hangers with all sorts of inscriptions - again I restrained myself to buy just two. We are short on them so will be back another day to pick up some more.


Rummaged around in the kids' section in search for some large plastic animals to  make some of those cool upcycled planters which I've been seeing everywhere for a while now. I found some small ones, not really the size I wanted, but I just had to have these particular three.


I love their colours, all muted and very seventies - the ram in the middle is dated on its tummy Britains Ltd. England ©79.



Then I dived into the junkshop's big basket of loose buttons and picked out a lozenge-shaped amber-coloured lucite button, three large mother-of-pearl coat buttons, and a toffee-coloured vegetable ivory button with intricate surface detail. They are of course for my ever-growing vintage buttons collection.


By the way, I've got a post on vegetable ivory buttons in the pipeline so if you are wondering what they are, the answer is coming soon!

Sunday, 26 August 2012

jam harvest & redcurrant three ways

redcurrant harvest blackcurrant jam cooking preserving ribizli befőzés szüret

redcurrant jam jelly secateurs metszőolló ribizli lekvár

There is a redcurrant bush in the garden where we are staying at the moment - it's been said that the harvest is left to the birds every year because the fruit is too sour and tangy. When I saw the heavy branches laden with fruit I thought the birds will have their share but this year I'll be filling a few jam jars with that ruby-red.

I love the look of the bunches with the shiny pearl-like berries - they have the prettiest colours even when not quite ripe.

sokszínű ribizli fürt redcurrant colours beads jam cooking

We've been having a very rainy August - the day of the harvest wasn't an exception either. There were rainbows during the quick downpours with big dollopy raindrops pierced by golden sunshine.

esőfelhő szüret közben raincloud over redcurrant bush

I sat in the redcurrant bush to  hide from the rain and to carry on with the berry picking. It was like sitting in a green tent adorned with ruby chandeliers everywhere - I get all poetic yes, but I really felt like a very lucky child.

redcurrants close up bush ribizli bokor szüret

sun illuminated redcurrants ribizlifürtök napsugár átvilágítva

There was a lot of quiet goings-on in the redcurrant tent - there were spiderweb hammocks and other little tenants like snails and tiny bugs.

pókhálók ribizli bokor tövében spiderweb in redcurrant bush


csiga ribizli levélen eső után snail on redcurrant leaf after rain

snail in redcurrant bunch csiga ribizli fürt

Then the day of the jam cooking came. I had a small amount of blackcurrant that I picked off a very sparse old bush - their wild forest taste gave me an idea to make differently flavoured batches of redcurrant jam.

I had about 3 kilos of currants and planned for two big half litre jars of each of the following (recipes and ingredients at the bottom of the post):

  • Plain redcurrant jam with blackcurrants
  • Christmas spiced redcurrant jam with orange peel, cinnamon and ginger
  • Redcurrant jelly with hot chillies 
befőzés lekvár főzés recept kellékei redcurrant jam preserving cooking jar recipe

I got busy with brewing the bubbling lava of jam but didn't get to record much of it. The light wasn't great in the kitchen so excuse the less than exciting pictures (plus the jars I bought turned out to have too bumpy a surface for my vintage redcurrant labels to stick properly...) .

But the cooking process was very exciting - there's something very satisfying about melting these nice berries into a scorching hot sauce of deliciousness while licking jam-coated wooden spoons.

It took me about 4-5 hours to cook the 3 different lots - the preparation time took almost as long, so I watched a couple of movies while picking the berries off their stalks.

redcurrant jam jar chilli christmas jelly ribizli dzsem lekvár befőtt chillis karácsonyi

The recipes:

Notes:
- The cooking process is the same for all 3 variants of jam. Pick fruit off stalk before cooking.
- Preserving sugar has a natural jelling agent added like pectin or gelatin, for reduced cooking times. You can use regular sugar or raw cane sugar but you will need to cook the jam longer to achieve the right consistency.
- If your jar doesn't have metal parts (unlike mine) you can sterilize them in the microwave. Otherwise use boiling hot water rinses, let dry naturally and no wiping!
- These jam variations contain the seeds and skin of the currants and the other ingredient bits - you can strain your jam when cooked, put back on the heat to boil once more, then fill into jars for a smooth jelly.
- I looked at jam recipes online for inspiration - find the originals in Hungarian here, here and here

Plain Redcurrant Jam with Blackcurrants
Ingredients:
1kg redcurrant
a few handfuls of blackcurrant
1.2kg preserving sugar
a small glass of hot water

Christmas Spiced Redcurrant Jam
Ingredients:
1kg redcurrant
1kg preserving sugar
2 - 3 level teaspoons of cinnamon powder
the peel of 1 orange, cut into small chunks
the peel of 1 lemon, grated
thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
the juice of 1 orange

Redcurrant Jelly with Hot Chillies
Ingredients:
1kg redcurrant
0.5kg preserving sugar
a small glass of hot water
small piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced into thin strips
a couple of turns of the black pepper mill
1 red jalapeno chili - seeds removed, vein left in and sliced finely
(if your jalapeno is weak like in this country you can add 1/3 of a habanero chili for a proper kick, like I did)
  1. Take 200grams of the sugar and heat it in a big 3litre pot stirring with your clean untainted wooden spoon (couple of minutes).
  2. When it melted add the small glass of water/orange juice for the Christmas version and cook into a syrup, stirring continuously (5-10mins).
  3. Add half of the berries and cook until they start falling apart (5-10mins); stir steadily to help them along. 
  4. Then add the rest of the sugar and melt it into the fruit, stirring all the while (5-10mins).
  5. Then add the rest of the berries and any other ingredients - spices, peel, chilies, etc. - and cook into a good consistency. Keep stirring as you go along, and make sure your jam is not catching.  You want your jammy lava to bubble away nicely between frequent stirring sessions but not to catch or burn the sugar in there. Test consistency by letting your wooden spoon cool for a minute - if the jam coating your spoon starts solidifying nicely it's good to go. Redcurrant is high in natural gelling agents (pectin) and will achieve a good consistency quite quickly; 15-30 minutes will do it.
  6. Fill into clean sterile hot jars, seal well and put your jars into 'dry steam' to cool off: I take a big basket or a cushy armchair, line it with blankets, old coats, jumpers and put my hot jam filled jars into here, then cover over with more blankets or coats. Leave until it cools entirely (up to 2 days). Once cool, prettify jars to taste and store them in a cool, dry place - a pantry or an allocated cupboard.
We are having some of the chili jam this weekend with some roast Provencal chicken and crushed new potatoes. Mm-mmm!

Have you been preserving anything this season or tried a new jam recipe? I'd love to hear about it!

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

eyes for Teddy

vintage teddy gets new eyes mother of pearl button collection régi maci mackó új szemeket kap gomb gyűjtemény fellvarrva

I vaguely remember having Ziggy Stardust in mind when I did this a few years ago.

This is my childhood teddy, it's been around since I can remember. It had many crazy and dangerous adventures. When I grew out of him, my brother and then my sister played with him... he's seen a lot and some more.

His whole arm came off at some point - my mum darned it back on. He sure had to go for a spin in the washing machine, not even once.

He got buried in sawdust in the shed and was left there for a whole winter - we forgot him... Then we remembered, and when we dug him up a black beetle crawled out of his leg. In the wash he went again, then more needle&thread repairs took place.

During all this turmoil he lost an eye first, then both.

old teddy bears vintage button collection m-o-p eyes kopott macin sok antik gomb szem

My little sister fixed that problem - she stitched some red buttons on with the thread crossing in the middle. Better than being blind, she said.

This fellow must have imprinted on me when I was tiny because I just couldn't bear those red crossed eyes on him. Took those off but couldn't really stand him being blind either. I tried half of my vintage button collection on him pair by pair, but nothing looked right. Eventually I had the idea of making him bright-as-a-button eyed with precious carved mother-of-pearl buttons. In fact, my whole collection of them.

Strangely enough now he looks just right. He seems to be wearing them like medals for his lifetime achievement of being a very special first friend. And for surviving it.

old vintage teddy paws stitched régi mackó maci talpai megfoltozva


I'm linking this post (and Teddy) up with the Favourite Thing link party over at the Mockingbird Hill Cottage.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

zombie swap at Yarnigras

zombie doll Halloween craft swap Yarnigras blog snail mail party
Zombies in Storybook Land - Halloween themed craft swap at the Yarnigras blog

I never thought I would say this, but I'm hoping for a zombie coming my way sometime in the autumn... Why? Because I signed up for the 4th Annual Halloween Swap over at the Yarnigras blog!

You still have a little time if you want to sign up - applications close at midnight 10th Aug (Los Angeles time!). Just click on any of the links above to head to Yarnigras' blog to find out more and to join the swap.

three-line thursday: Blue Terracotta

textile fabric moth blue terracotta hand stitched insect
Fabric moth by Blue Terracotta
I love the textile insectarium of Blue Terracotta.
She has the hand-stitching bug for making wonderful cloth specimens.
I want this cream moth sitting on my shoulder.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

childhood books (and ruining them)

Rabbit reading a book by puikeprent
source

I'm a sucker for illustrated kids' books and cute scenes of animals busying themselves with human occupations. So when I saw puikeprent's lino cut illustrations, I couldn't help but burst out in utterances of 'awwww' as I clicked from one to the other.

When me and my siblings were kids, we were all very creative, which is great for kid and parent alike. We were quite happy roaming around in- and out of doors enjoying a lot of freedom exploring and doing our own thing, while our parents could get on with their stuff rather than having to entertain bored offsprings.

On the downside it also meant that no book or magazine in the house was safe from our scissors, crayons and transformative ideas. The more we liked a book the more it was a candidate for abuse. Luckily my mum is a huge bibliophile, and a librarian, so while probably grumbling about the defaced specimens, she couldn't help but introduce us to more beautiful publications. I'm sure we were told off many times about the crix-craxes and cut-up pages, but were never discouraged to engage with the books the way we liked. That's all well and very lucky, but doesn't change the fact that we practically destroyed most of our favourite books.

My mum, in one of her generous motherly packages, sent me one of these long-forgotten favourites.

A surviving favourite book - Tales of Pom Pom - with my own and my brother's additions
Same book, different handwriting - my sister's additions
I often have an itch in my hands to stitch some embroidery but fail to begin because I can't quite put my finger on what to stitch...
It would be great to come up with something, based on childhood memories. I'll keep running that thought over and over in the mind, in hope that I get kissed on the forehead by a childish muse eventually...

In the meantime, I show you a couple of my favourite childhood books that can be found for viewing online - (don't worry about the language, the images tell it all):
Zengő ABC
Pöttyös Panni

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

what's with hoarding buttons..?

I still dream about the stresses of our recent big move, the big leap of faith we decided upon and carried out a few months ago. Sorting through every single thing we've owned, packing our lives into boxes and trying to make the NO pile bigger than the YES or the MAYBE pile.


I had a lot to sort through, being a natural born magpie, a flea-market addict always jonesing for junk. Actually, I leave the junk on the shelves - it's the treasures I take home.

I often wonder about what it is that sets junk apart from treasures. It's got to be whether the object has a meaning to me or not. Treasuredness, I reckon, is in the eye of the collector.

So lets have a quick look at what's on my look-out-for list when I go bargain hunting:
  • vintage toys and children's books
  • old buttons and sewing equipment
  • embroideries that have a certain character
  • paper ephemera of various description (what namely category do vintage Hungarian cheese labels come under?)
Plus other bits that I spot and have an instant magpie crush on.

Over the years I came across many magpie crushes and hoarded the ones that came under my 'must-have bargain' label. Yet I gave up some, actually, most of these collections on more than one occasion during a big cull. Why, you might ask?

Well, there was the broken marriage mega spring clean, then there was the recent uproot-to-move-countries downsizing operation.


I did bring some things beyond the absolutely necessary of course - beloved objects I could not let go of.

For example, I brought with me 5 kilos of vintage buttons. And that was the absolute must-keep selection! I went through it all selling and giving away dozens of kilos jar by jar, box by box...still 5 whole kilos remained that I wanted.


I'm pleased I did keep the ones I did. Yet while I see the roots of my attraction to vintage toys and kids' books, I can't really define the roots of my attachment to old buttons.

Could it be some primitive desire to have lots of small pretty things in piles that make tiny 'clink' and 'tock' sounds when you count them - are they a subconscious representation of money and wealth?

Or is it something stemming from the female psyche of our prehistoric gatherer-hoarder-stasher cave woman existence?


Looking through my pile of beloved buttons is the perfect occasion to be ruminating on that dilemma. And, starting with this little constellation of buttonsy goodness above, I'll be showing my collection off to you readers here instead of just squirrelling them all away for myself.

Is there anyone else out there who has the stashing bug? What do you reckon it is with hoarding buttons?
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