Saturday, December 14, 2013

Hilary's growing frock and spiced mandarins

Yesterday was a beautiful day. It was sunny, but not too hot, and I spent the morning sewing and preserving. What fun!
Preserved mandarin segments in spiced syrup
First up was a dress for Hilary, who needed something to see her through all the gigs she has booked in the lead-up to the birth of her second child.
She was after a simple A-line dress with capped sleeves that she could wear on stage, sometimes over jeans, and then layer up as the weather gets cooler. Oh, and of course the dress needed pockets, as all the best frocks have.
vintage floral pockets
The result is a bias-cut A-line dress, cut extra wide in the front, but with a tie at the back so that it can grow as required, and then be pulled back in once the bubba is born. The brown spotty is the last of a queen size quilt cover I picked up at some stage, that has seen me through quite a lot of sewing projects. I love the irregular polka-dot! The dress has doily cap sleeves (thanks Zara!) and pockets from a vintage floral print. 
doily sleeves and stripey bias binding
Turns out that Hilary and I are exactly the same size, so I got to try the dress on to make sure it was alright. I checked I could fit a pretty big bump in the front (yes!) and then contemplated keeping it for myself, as I very often do when I make something I particularly like for a similar-sized lady. 
Tie at the back to make it just the right size, all through the growing
Once the dress was all done, I set to work preserving some mandarins that came our way recently. Last week sometime we came home to a big bag full of mandarins sitting on our outside table. We had no idea where they came from - there was no note or signal of any kind - but we were grateful nonetheless and immediately ate several each. A few days ago Oscar and I were across the road picking native raspberries (yes! It's that time of year!! I love that we can tell the date by what we're picking and eating off the side of the road) and our neighbour's dad came up and asked us if we'd like more mandarins. Mystery solved and yes please! But what to do with them all? While they are tiny and delicious, there's only so many a family of four can put away. I thought some preserved segments in some kind of sugar syrup would make a pretty great winter dessert teamed with Tilba Jersey cream, so here's what I did:

First up, I sterilised my jars in boiling water. 

While they were boiling away, I peeled the mandarins, getting rid of all the white stuff. That stuff is the pits, though I did force myself to eat it when I was pregnant because apparently it has something good in it... 

Then, I made my sugar syrup, which was about 2 parts sugar to 5 parts water. I added to this a couple of cloves, a star anise and half a cinnamon stick, which I fished out of our chai mix for extra tastiness. 

When the sugar was dissolved I packed the mandarin segments into the jars, poured over the syrup, then closed up the jars and boiled them in a water bath for 20 minutes. 

I haven't tasted any yet (gonna wait 'til fresh mandarins are all gone and I'm hankering for some sweet citrus) but they sure do look purdy.


  1. Doily sleeves are the best, as are dresses with pockets. The dress is stunning Annie, Hilary will be very impressed I'm sure.
    I'm the same with mandarins, I have to pick off all the white thready stuff before eating them.

    1. Thanks Zara! ha ha.. so glad to know that I am not the only one with such particular (some may say fussy) tastes. Happy new year x

  2. I had an interesting "Pearl and Elspeth" moment tonight. We were invited over to a neighbour's house for dinner - this is a woman my partner Catherine worked with at school, and I said to our host "is that a Pearl and Elspeth skirt" - and she said 'Yeah - this is from my sister!"!

    Meg and Jerry are just gorgeous! We all had a terrific evening and I was really excited to see your work 'in the flesh!'

    Such a teeny tiny little world sometimes!


    1. Wow Mel, it is indeed a tiny world. Thanks so much for reading our little patch of blogland. Happy new year to you x