Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Do you like seeing the creative process behind products, do you like knowing more about the makers and hearing their story first hand.
You know that I do, I was actually banging on about that in one of my last posts. I love it when a maker shares a process video or behind the scenes pics. I love to hear the genesis of an idea and seeing a product in action.
New Australian site Pitchi does just that by combining video with buying to give you a little more insight into lots of creative products. This site gives little businesses with great ideas a short video format listing to share their story.
I love video, I’ve outed myself before as a visual learner and my current addiction is to online courses via sites like Skillshare, Creativebug and my old friend Youtube.
So buying with video seems like a no brainer. Pitchi is like an addictive cross between Vine and Etsy.
I loved discovering new products browsing through the site and a couple, like these innovative shoe clips, this neat little key ring or this clever magnetic cord holder are bookmarked for present ideas this Christmas.
For process images these boot makers just blew me away:
And the story behind these rugs is fascinating.
But I think its the handmade, handcrafted videos that show the whole story and include some process that I find really fascinating. Like this pitchi about handcrafted sandstone lights:
I’m very tempted to make an epic tea towel video to post on the site, so stay tuned for that. But in the meantime if you are inspired and make one yourself, or pass the idea on to an entrepreuner or inventor you know send me the link!
This post in collaboration with Pitchi.
Wednesday, 3 December 2014
I make apricot jam every year. There is nothing like homemade apricot jam, have you tried it? It is delicious, like golden summer in a jar. I savour mine all year on my toast until that last precious jar runs out.
Because of the timing of the apricot season it is a tradition that marks for me the last weeks of the year when everything is on fast forward and the lovely slow days of summer holidays beckon. Its always hard to fit a batch of jam into that crazy mix, but its imperative, because I'm away after that and its my only chance for a year of jamminess.
On the weekend I made my annual batch of apricot jam. It was quick and easy and worked beautifully. The jam gods were smiling on me.
I looked at those lovely glowing jars, and I thought about all the people I know who love apricot jam, and the smiles on their face when I gift a jar, and I decided to make another two batches. In my experience small batches work best, I've been burned trying to double or triple up so I don't do it anymore.
So jam making is really not that hard. And if you haven't made jam before then apricot is the perfect place to start. My recipe is cobbled together from a few places, jam recipes are basically half fruit/half sugar. This year I based my quantities and most of the technique on Stephanie Alexander's recipe from the Cooks Companion (here on Nigella's site).
This is how I make it.
1.5kg apricots, quartered, seed and stem removed.
1 cup water
juice from half a lemon, abt 2tbsp
Take the apricots and rip them open to remove the stone and stem, then rip them into smaller pieces. You can do this with a knife but I find it quicker and easier with my hands (that photo above of neatly cut apricots is from another year!).
Put those apricots in a big stock pot. You want a big pot for jam so when it bubbles up it doesn't overflow.
Add the juice of half a lemon, about two tablespoons, and one cup of water. Put the pan on to simmer till the apricots are soft, about twenty minutes.
Meanwhile warm the sugar in a low oven (about 100 degrees celsius) for about ten minutes, till its warm to the touch. You don't have to do this but its a simple step and it keeps the jam from cooling.
Take the stones from about half the apricots and crack them open to reveal the kernels then wrap these kernels in a piece of muslin or light cotton (vintage sheets make a good muslin bag) and throw into the pot. The kernels help impart pectin which is the magic setting ingredient. The lemon juice does this too.
Once the apricots collapse squish them up a bit and add the warm sugar, stirring so it mixes through.
Then turn the heat up to high and bring to a rapid boil. You want your jam really hot so it reaches setting point. This takes about 15-20 minutes. Keep stirring so it doesn't burn on the bottom of the pot. I use the Sally Wise hint about adding a couple of stainless steel forks to the pot to help avoid sticking.
Don't walk away and leave the jam at this point. You do not want to burn your jam!
I test jam set by putting two saucers in the freezer and when I think the jam is set I take one out and smear a bit on a my very cold saucer. Leave for a moment and then run your finger through the jam and if it doesn't flood back in where your finger has been, and if you can sort of push the jam so it wrinkles up then your jam is set. Don't worry if it doesn't seem fully firm when you put it in jars as this process continues as it cools. Keep trying this every few minutes swapping the saucers back into the freezer until you have success.
Checking set is really the only tricky bit in this process, but you get more confident about it as you make more jam. You can also put a tablespoon of jam in a small bowl and put it in the fridge, this should set a bit and show you are on the right track.
I watch the jam as it boils and there is a point where you see the bubbles change texture, they look stronger, more toffee like. The foamy watery layer has died down and you can see the sugars turn glossy.
To sterilise my jars I put them sitting upright in a big stock pot with watering covering, lids off but in the pot as well. Bring them to the boil and boil for at least ten minutes. Its easy to have them on another hotplate as you make your jam so they are ready at the same time. Turn the burner off when they are done and take them out with tongs when you are ready to bottle.
Remove the muslin bag and forks, and jar up the jam while its warm. This helps to seal the jars. I save my jars obsessively all year round, I like the recycling aspect, and I love a mishmash of jars, but you could buy some from a kitchen shop if you wanted them all to match!
Now stand back and admire your beautiful golden orange apricot jam. Perfect on a piece of pane di casa from the local bread shop!
Thursday, 27 November 2014
The photos in this post are a catchup of my fortnight. Building, baking (by one of my boys for school), tired feet, a night out, some lunches, screenprinting new turquoise teapots... and the exciting news, which I can finally share, I will be teaching two workshops at the Sydney Finders Keepers Markets in December!!
My popular Fabric Printing with Hand Carved stamps class will run on Friday night December 12th and on Saturday morning December 13th in the wonderful space of the Technology Park at Alexandria Its going to be fun, I can't wait to workshop in amongst all that creative buzz and surrounded by fantastic inspiration. And get some shopping in too. If that sounds like something you'd like to do too please come and join us!
The other thing that happened recently, and I'm a tad late, is my seventh blogging anniversary which was on November 11th!
Seven years, phew!
I've been thinking and talking a bit about blogging this year. Thinking and talking about my corner of the blog community. Trying to articulate what I write about and why I write it.
Its a big call but over that time I've seen the slow, handmade, creative, family-centric, sustainable, artisanal, craft and making blogs and their popularity change the world in their own little way. Yes that is a big call, but I'm making it!
Over those years I've seen the handmade, handcrafted, homegrown and heritage movements become more fashionable and more mainstream. I'm really proud to be part of that. I am a big believer in what we celebrate with these journals and I'm glad to see the best of those values catching hold.
From small beginnings online, blogging has helped like-minded souls find and support each other. Its been easier to document and share the making of our lives and homes. Now from being a small corner on the internet this movement, this documenting, has grown and thrived, along with the shared ideas, as people have seen and read and been inspired to join in.
Funnily enough I never imagined that I would be blogging so long when I started out on my first tentative posts. I thought the whole concept a bit strange. But once online I met so many like souls and quickly developed a whole new world of friends, a virtual community, the strength of which keeps me here.
So many of those first few friends I made online are still my friends today. Lovely friends, real friends, the type I could ask something of and it would arrive without question. Special people. Makers and doers mostly. Inspiring women who combine family, growing, making, art, cooking, small business, big business, writing, selling, life. Thank you friends!
This sort of sharing seems so common now when everyone mini blogs on Instagram. Social media is the theme of the times and visual diaries like ours are much more common and widely shared.
It takes a bit more time and discipline to write a real blog on top of that. For me though I find its worth it to write my blog and read those others. I like the back story - how things work, what inspired it, where the recipe is, what yarn you used, where you got that cute pattern, which tutorial you used, what that landscape is, who those people are, what you ate and most importantly, how you felt.
I love the writing and reading behind the pictures.
That said I'm probably more selective these days on which blogs I read, I used to have a million on my reader, but not any more. And I probably drop in less, though with my favourites I rarely miss a post.
Blogging has given me so much in seven years, more than I can quantify, friendships, inspiration, education, opportunities, publicity, community, swaps, my small business, laughs, tears, conversations, great recipes, patterns, techniques, motivation. So I'm going to keep on blogging a little longer. Thanks for visiting and commenting and being my friend.