February 2015 archive

Recipe freebie: Yummy chocolate paste

IMG_2515

IMG_2515

I was spoiled with this recipe, years ago in France, visiting my good friend Yvonne. Imagine getting up for breakfast and this fresh homemade chocolate paste awaits you…

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I realized she made it early in the morning, just for our breakfast. She was ever so friendly to give me her recipe and since then I am now the perfect host, spoiling my friends with this super treat!

Ready? It’s ever so easy!

You’ll need:

  • 250g simple white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 150gr of excellent chocolate
  • half a cup of milk
  • 250gr of butter

Start by adding a beaten egg to 250gr of sugar (use your mixer ).

In the mean time, melt the chocolate in the milk. Then add it, but mix immediately to avoid the egg going funny!

Cut up butter in small pieces and add it slowly, whilst mixing immediately and constantly.

Put it in your most decorative vintage container and allow this mixture to rest in the fridge for about 1 or 2 hours and you’re in for a treat!

Do let me know whether you fell in love with this cutie

Signature

Free sewing course from scratch (4)

IMG_0597

IMG_0597

Let’s first talk about the most basic thing: your stitching machine, how to use it and then we’ll start some easy exercises: stitching straight. I know you want to start straight off, with your first quilt, but let’s do first things first, I told you, it is a very basic course from scratch.

(more…)

Romance springs to mind: the Claddagh ring

handen-k-en-du00B2

handen-k-en-du00B2

Steeped in history and tradition, first crafted more than 400 years ago in a fishing village on Galway Bay, worn by millions worldwide, made by thousands of independent designers and searched by vintage collectors, behold the Claddagh ring. It represents heirloom quality, being one of the most recognizable and enduring symbols of Celtic heritage and has become much more than just a beautiful piece of jewelry. The Irish word “ an cladach” means stony shore. The name “Claddagh ring” was not used before the 1840’s.

Although the Claddagh ring is known as Irish, it has to be said that there is similarity with the “Faith rings” or “Fede” rings, dating back from Roman times and popular in Europe and Medieval times. “Fede” is the Latin word for loyal or true. In Roman times, the gesture of clasped hands, was a symbol of pledging vows, thus the rings were used as engagement or wedding rings in medieval and Renaissance Europe. It is also said to be derived from the Italian phrase “mani in fede”, hands joined in faith/ loyalty or “plighted troth”.

But unlike the old “fede” rings, however, the Irish ring doesn’t feature two right hands, instead, two hands (one right, one left) holding a heart, on which rests a crown.

Proud owners share wearing this ring with many, throughout history: most women on the West coast and off-shore islands of Galway, Queen Victoria, King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra. Even Prince Rainier and Princess Grace of Monaco, were presented gifts with its motif, set in Connemara marble.

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I discovered that Ken and Darline, friends of mine, just married, were wearing them as their wedding rings. Of course I had to take their hands as the main picture. The immediate response to my reaction, was Ken giving me the meaning of the symbols: the hands represent friendship, the heart represents love, and the crown represents loyalty. And they were aware of the importance of giving the right signal, when wearing the ring, as the ring shows the wearer’s romantic availability or lack thereof.

When I Asked him why he chose this ring his anwser was the following:

In Celtic spiritual tradition, it is believed that when you connect with another person and become completely open and trusting with that individual, your two souls begin to flow together. it is said you have found your Anam Cara or soul friend. According to John O’Donahue, an accomplished Irish poet, philosopher and Catholic priest, “…You are joined in an ancient and eternal union with humanity that cuts across all barriers of time, convention, philosophy and definition. When you are blessed with an anam cara, the Irish believe, you have arrived at that most sacred place: home.

They immediately told me they didn’t wear it as it should be… Wearing it on your right hand, with the heart toward the fingertips (the heart is open), means you’re single and maybe looking for love. Wear it opposite and you signal someone has already captured your heart.

When wearing it on your left hand, ring finger facing outward (away from your body) it signals you’re engaged. Worn with the point of the heart toward your wrist, shows you’re married.

The fishing village Claddagh, just outside the city of Galway, where the river Corrib opens out to the Atlantic, is supposed to be the oldest fishing village in Ireland. Its ships and sails, took their fishermen to sea, with the Claddagh crest to warn foreign fishermen that this area was not to be entered or death would follow, at best they would be chased away. The fishing fleet consisted of traditional sailing boats, called “hookers” ( boats to withstand strong seas) and is still remembered each year in the ancient ceremony of “The Blessing of the Bay Festival”, held at the start of the herring season. On a mid-August Sunday a Dominican priest, standing on a hooker, still blesses all the boats. Afterwards the local choir of altar boys sings, while the boats make a tour of the Bay.

The crest, featured on a ring, became the sole major investment of a fishing family, handed down from mother to daughter, when they came of age, based on the motto: “This is my heart, which I give to you, crowned with my love”. When hands holding the heart where angled towards the girl, it meant she was taken, but when the heart faced outwards, she was single.

Did you know that when wearing a sweater with cable stitches, those stitches actually depict fishermen’s ropes and represents good weather at sea?

Irish law (dating back to 1637 reign of Charles I) states that all jewellery of precious metals, hast to be stamped with the official hallmark. The traditional letter symbol for the year it was crafted, a fineness mark guaranteeing the purity of the gold and the official insignia of the Irish Assay Office in Dublin Castle (the seat of the Irish Government), has to be on it.

The ring made his way throughout history, not only as jewellery, it became an icon of Irishness to be seen on gravestones, pub signs,;always associated with the wish: “Let love and friendship reign.” Its enduring legacy kept on going with the Irish escaping the “Great Famine” and fleeing to America.

Originally, gold or even silver, now you can buy them in industrial metals, mixed metals, colourful editions, with gemstones, added Celtic knot bands and even laser etching, often still handmade and custom made or not.

Many legends surround the origin of the ring. The most famous ones talk about a native silversmith from Galway, in the 1700’s, Richard Joyce. On a ship, bound for the West Indies plantations, he was captured and 14 years enslaved to a Moorish goldsmith. On his return, he gave his ring, made in captivity and carrying his initials, to his bride to be and started his own shop, selling the very first Claddagh Rings. Only three other rings, of that time, mention another goldsmith: Thomas Meade. Too many stories to tell such as: how an eagle dropped it in a maiden’s lap, an ancient king’s unanswered love that made him decide to take his own life and be buried with his hands chopped off and placed around his heart, as symbol of his undying love. Some even go back to ancient Celtic times and gods.

Of course this ring of love had to belong to a country where Oengus was the God of love, beauty and youth, whose kisses became birds, a man, who, transformed himself into a swan, to be united with his love. He went in search of his beloved Caer and found her chained to 150 other maidens, all to become swans at the time of Samhain.

The ring is even the topic of a well known Irish song: “The Old Claddagh Ring , The Rose of Ornamore”, starting with : “The old claddagh ring, sure it was my grandmother’s. She wore it a lifetime and gave it to me. All through the long years she wore it so proudly.”
And with all that in mind, it becomes quite clear, this ring and with it loyal love, is in vogue for many years to come!

Signature

Vintage cribbage boards a heirloom game to play

3cribbage-boards-blog

Cribbage, immortalized in Charles Dickens’s the Old Curiosity Shop (story of an eccentric shop worker named Richard Swiveller, who teaches a young slave girl he dubs “The Marchioness”, how to play the game), is a card game that goes as far back as the seventeenth century.

(more…)

Valentine’s Kindred Heart’s Spirits

IMG_1835

IMG_1835

February, more than ever, is the time to open up your heart and pour your heart out to your kindred spirits, telling them: “You’re in my heart”.

Tell your partner, or the people you love around you, they’re the man or woman after your own heart. Don’t be halfhearted about it and use this time of year to have a heart-to-heart talk. It’s a good excuse, for a nice “get together”, small party, a little cutie to offer.

We do need kindred spirits in our lives, even though love can thrive on diversity. But to have that one person in your life who knows you more than anybody else, who accepts you for who or what you are, no matter what, is priceless! It’s good to tell them and show appreciation for having their heart at the right place!

When I’ve got my heart set on something, I normally go for it, but my heart nearly missed a beat trying to find out some interesting facts about the origin of the heart symbol, it took away all the romance of my little precious handmade hearts. So I decided not to write about it. Nice in its shistory though, is that the earliest known representation of the heart as a symbol of romantic love, appeared in a 13th century miniature, with a suitor offering his heart to a lady. The traditional “heart shape” appeared on a 1910 St. Valentine’s Day card.

I can’t resist hearts, small or big, they get stuck to my fingers.Like this one, bought in France and what a cute idea to make!

IMG_1925

For years I’ve been finding heart shaped stones on my path and I take them along on my life journey, some of them go way back in time.

IMG_1926

Last Christmas, my stepdaughter Ruth, attached little red homemade hearts to each present under the Christmas tree, so cute, so lovely and what a grand idea! And that is what hearts do to me, they add that extra touch to a present and are preciously hung up in my house. They’re my small everyday reminders: you can never be too lovely!

IMG_1923

Getting at the heart of the matter, pour your heart out and tell me : Do you love hearts? Have you made some cuties with hearts? Do you decorate with hearts? As always, I can’t wait to hear from you and your ideas about the topic or your creations.

Let’s take heart and grab our needle and follow our heart in doing what we like the most: putting our heart and soul in our daily life and of course our needlework!

PICT4752

From the bottom of my heart

Valentine Signature

ps: This little wagtail, coming to say hello each day, steals my heart again and again:

IMG_1872