Tangerine Dreams Quilt ..in progress

One winter’s day when I was still in the depths of a miserable flu bug (which really annoys me as I rarely succumb to the bug of the year) I decided to venture out in search of fabric for a quilt.

No real plan of who it is for, or even what pattern it would be.

As the Workroom was having a pre-inventory sale, I thought the timing was right.

This is what I came home with:

Tangerine Dreams quilt fabric selection

Tangerine Dreams quilt fabric selection

This is definitely a bolder selection than what I first started with at the shop.. but I just couldn’t find the right combination in the more subdued colour palette.

When I saw the lovely fabric with the purple and orange butterflies,this one:

Butterfly fabric swatch

Tangerine Dreams quilt butterfly fabric swatch.. the rest just fell into place when I saw this!

the rest just fell into place.

Now to prepare the fabric!

1. Washing the fabric – you really must do this, unless you plan on dry cleaning or never washing your finished quilt!
2. Aligning the selvages and establishing the true grain of the fabric -this also allows you to see how much fabric you actually have – not all fat quarters or metres are equal!!
3. Pressing the fabric so that it is all smooth and neat for cutting.

Tangerine Dreams fabric washed, trimmed and pressed.

Tangerine Dreams fabric washed, trimmed and pressed. The bundle of thread is what was cut off after washing.. you can avoid this if you pink or zig-zag the fabric first. I don’t own pinking shears at this time and well, didn’t worry about the edges. N.B. the scissors shown are not my proper sewing shears, but a serviceable set I got at John Lewis, perfectly acceptable for trimming the stray threads!

Now the fabric is ready to cut… but into which design?

While perusing the interweb I came across the Missouri Star Quilt Company’s you tube video tutorials. They are very informative and helpful.

Check out their one piece bias binding tutorial, it is brilliant and it works!

I decided that I liked the look of the X’s and O’s quilt blocks as some of the pieces were large enough to showcase those butterflies. You can see how to make them here.

I did make a couple of test swatches with scrap fabric first, just to be sure! Didn’t photograph those but got right to cutting and piecing!

TDQ chain piecing

Chain piecing the quilt.

The next part is really the tricky bit.. how to arrange the pattern. Sometimes I know exactly what it should look like at the beginning, and really, most times it is necessary to know this before you start cutting and sewing. Not this one. It was a bit of a ‘work of the moment’ from the get go.

Here are the options I came up with:

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And the winner was…Random no. 2!

Tangerine Dreams Quilt, top as pieces before sashing, quilting and binding!

Tangerine Dreams Quilt, top as pieces before sashing, quilting and binding!

The overall layout of the larger fabric sections was most important, and this one seemed to tick all the right boxes in terms of light versus dark & plain versus patterned. What do you think?

Next to consider the borders and the backing…more about that soon.

Wishing you a beautiful day!


Decadent Fudge Brownies

Is there anything more comforting when you are craving chocolate than the chewy goodness of a home baked brownie? Maybe, but if a decadent slice of goodness is calling you then this recipe may be just the ticket.

This is the first of three Brownie recipes in my collection. Each of them differs in texture and execution but each sure to satisfy.

These Decadent Fudge Brownies could also be called triple textured brownies (but that would confuse them with my Tri-Layer version) due to their having a cookie like crispy top layer, the dense chewy fudge layer and then a cake like layer at the bottom. Don’t be alarmed if when you cut these into squares the top crumbles – this is due to a void that forms between the top crust and the fudge layer. This is completely normal for this recipe.. but also if this doesn’t happen, your brownies will still taste marvellous!

Dress them up or down as you please.

Chocolate Buttercream icing makes a lovely topping, or simply dust them with icing sugar.

Like most brownies, these are happily eaten with barely sweetened whipping cream or with vanilla ice cream.

I do hope you enjoy these!

The recipe follows below, or if you prefer to access the recipe via a printable pdf page, please click here.



Decadent Fudge Brownie served with Chocolate Buttercream in a puddle of heavy cream.

Decadent Fudge Brownie served with Chocolate Buttercream in a puddle of heavy cream.

Decadent Fudge Brownies

¾ cup organic cocoa
Pinch of sea salt (optional)
½ teaspoon baking soda
2/3 cup melted butter
½ cup boiling water
2 cups organic white or light brown sugar
2 medium or large organic, free-range eggs
1 ½ cups unbleached white flour
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup walnuts or pecans (optional)
Small amount of butter and flour for coating the baking pan

Large mixing bowl
Measuring cups and spoons
Electric mixer ( or wire whip)
9 inch square baking pan or a 9×13 inch pan (this will result in thinner brownies)


Preheat oven to 350°F (325°F if you are using a glass or ceramic pan)
Butter and flour a 9 inch square baking pan

Place the cocoa, salt, baking soda, half the melted butter, and the boiling water into a large mixing bowl. Beat on medium for 3- 5 minutes or until thickened.
Add the remaining melted butter, the sugar, both eggs, and the vanilla.
Beat on medium speed until thoroughly mixed, about 2-3 minutes.
Stir in the flour on low speed until blended.
If you are adding nuts, stir them into the batter with a spatula at this time.
Pour the batter into your prepared pan, spreading evenly.
Bake in the centre of the oven for 25-30 minutes. Actual baking time will depend on your pan, the thickness of the batter, and the individual oven.
Use a knife, skewer or dry spaghetti or soba noodle to test. If the chosen object comes out clean when inserted into the centre of the pan, then your brownies are done.

Cool in the pan on a wire rack.

When cool, ice with chocolate buttercream icing or simply dust with icing sugar.

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Rhubarb Custard Crunch

Rhubarb is one of those amazing plants that just doesn’t get enough credit.. think about it. The leaves are toxic,  never, never, ingest them, the roots have medicinal properties, and the stems are gorgeous for eating either raw, dipped in sugar, cooked into jam, or baked into pie or my favourite: Rhubarb Custard Crunch!

This dessert is cinch to make  in either a deep dish pie plate or rectangular baking dish. The custard bit is really not custard in the creamy pudding kind of way at all. Think of it as a more like a fruit pie with a crumble topping but without the crust.. a lovely sweet and tart spring pudding.

I have been making this dessert for aeons and never actually noticed how low in fat it is, virtually none. I love butter and don’t bother to calorie count  but it is nice to know that this springtime treat whilst having the feel of decadence about it, is one of the better choices for those who prefer to keep the fat content to a minimum.

With rhubarb’s healthy attributes you may even feel good about serving this dessert…but still, moderation is the key!

Lovely Rhubarb stems being prepared for cooking.

Lovely Rhubarb stems being prepared for cooking.

If you are lucky enough to have a garden, you might want to plant some of this wonderful and relatively hardy plant in a corner of it. There are several varieties available, or a friend or neighbour may be able to offer a root to get you started.  Red and green stemmed varieties are available, it really is a matter of aesthetics as to which you prefer. Just be sure to cut your rhubarb into pieces no longer than 1 inch or 2.5 cm. The outer layer can become fibrous upon cooking, and the smaller pieces eliminate this being evident or problematic.

Rhubarb Custard Crunch, the recipe:

4 cups fresh rhubarb cut into ½ inch thick slices
¾ – 1 cup sugar
2 tbsp flour

1 egg
1 cup milk
½ tsp pure vanilla extract

1 cup white cane or light brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
1 large organic, free-range egg
Pinch of sea salt (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 °F
Butter and flour your chosen baking pan.

Place the sliced rhubarb into a large mixing bowl
Add the sugar and the flour and stir to blend. Let rest for 10 – 15 minutes.
Pour the rhubarb mixture into the buttered and floured baking dish.
In the same bowl that the rhubarb mixture was in – thoroughly beat the egg.
Now stir in the milk and the vanilla.
Pour the egg mixture over the rhubarb.

Make the crumble topping:
In a medium sized mixing bowl mix the sugar, flour, baking powder and salt.
Beat the egg in a small bowl (or use the big one that had the egg & milk mixture in it to save on the washing up)
Pour the egg into the sugar & flour mixture.
Stir to blend evenly, use your fingers or a pastry blender to rub the egg mixture through the flour if you prefer.
Spoon the crumble topping evenly over the rhubarb mixture in the pan.
Bake until bubbly and golden.

This dessert is lovely served warm, just as it is. No additional dressing up required!
If you must gild the lily, serve with fresh real whipped cream or natural vanilla ice cream.

Delightful accompanied by strong black coffee or a brisk cup of tea.


Rhubarb Plant Photo

The leaves of the lovely and versatile Rhubarb plant…just don’t eat the leaves!


Fixing Make-up Mistakes, Simple Corrector pen? I say not…

This is one of those products that at first glance, seems to be a good idea, but the reality here is less than stellar. As a product reviewer for Boots.co.uk, I was quite excited to receive this product to review. I have had a similar item for removing/ fixing nail polish mistakes, and it worked beautifully. Consider, however, that a nail polish corrector pen only has to remove nail polish..

The Simple Kind to Eyes Make-Up Corrector Pen cannot distinguish between mascara, eye liner, and/or eye shadow. When I tested this product to fix the annoying little bits of mascara that sometimes end up on the eyelid – sitting atop the eye liner and eye shadow, it removed everything, not just the mascara mistakes. This required a total re-do of the eye make-up application not just because the shadow, liner, and primer had also been removed, but the pen left an oily film on the eyelid that was most unpleasant, and to be honest, it stung!

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For my money, one is fat better off to stick with the tried and true method of leaving your mascara mistakes to dry then carefully lifting them off with a cotton bud (aka cotton swab or Q-tip).

This make up corrector pen also requires cleaning with its sister product: Simple Kind to Skin Cleansing Facial Wipes. After using the pen, I did clean it with the wipe as instructed, but it would not come clean. While the product that remained in the ‘felt-like’ tip did not come off on my skin when tested on the back of my hand and on the cleaning cloth, its unclean appearance did not instil confidence.

It also is worth mentioning that while this product is marketed as good for those with sensitive skin, I found that the product burned the skin near the outer edge of my eyes as I used the pen to attempt to correct a too far flung eye liner ‘wing’. Another strike against this product. I have to say that it worked marginally better for correcting the over-enthusiastic eye liner, but the oily residue needed to be blotted off and then the foundation and powder needed re-application in that area since the eye make-up corrector pen removed those products as well; no, it really cannot distinguish between various make-up products.

To summarize: as a former make-up artist, I would not recommend this product for any purpose, better stick to the more environmentally responsible and more effective choice of cotton buds used either dry for mascara mistakes, or moistened for eye liner or eye-shadow mistakes.

Sorry, Simple, cannot recommend this one.



Ecotools Bamboo Angled Eyeliner Brush review

On a recent trip, I brought along my pot of black  Shiseido gel eyeliner but forgot the brush at home.  I had my Revlon liquid liner with me, but went on a search for a new eyeliner brush anyway. I have a wonderful angled brush by Versace, which I received from the company when I worked for them, but I prefer to keep that one for applying eyeshadow as liner, either wet or dry,  and thought it better to have a dedicated brush for the black gel.

Ecotools Earth Friendly Beauty, Bamboo Angled Eyeliner Brush & packaging

Ecotools Earth Friendly Beauty, Bamboo Angled Eyeliner Brush

I came upon the line of brushes at London Drugs in Winnipeg.  The range looked good and had many of the ecologial credentials that I look for whenever possible.  While I am not ready to give up wearing make-up, I will at least try to purchase those items which have a reduced negative impact on the planet. Also, I know that when I buy things, I tend to buy good quality so that they will last a long time. No cheap stuff that just ends up in a landfill right away. I have one brush that is 24 years old, seriously! and several that are in the 10 – 15 year age group.  I hope that this one will last as long.

It is difficult to pick out a brush through sealed plastic packaging, but rather this  be the case for hygienic reasons. Luckily, and to the company’s credit, they had a set of open brushes on display. Great! there is really nothing like being able to feel the texture of the bristles, and the overall feel of the item’s quality.

This eyeliner brush has lovely, perfectly trimmed synthetic bristles that were not too long, and not too short.  Just right for being able to pick up enough product from the pot, and are incredibly soft without compromising accuracy in application.

As a rule, I prefer natural fibre brushes, but these are gorgeous.  Easy to work with, your eyeliner glides on in a beautifully thin line, but  thicker, more dramatic lines can also be created .  The brush is not scratchy or harsh on the skin at all, soft, soft, soft!

The brush washes well, no splitting, shedding, or splaying of the fibres. The bamboo handle is comfortable and of an adequate length. The ferrule (the metal bit where the bristles attach to the handle) which is made of recycled aluminium, has a more of a mock double crimp, rather than an authentic crimp to secure it. This concerns me somewhat, but one of my oldies has the same configuration and has not let me down yet.

Shiseido gel eyeliner in black, applied with Ecotools Angled Eyeliner Brush no. 1204

Shiseido gel eyeliner in black, applied with Ecotools Angled Eyeliner Brush no. 1204

So would I recommend this brush? Most definitely.

Will I buy more from this series? Yes. I do not have a foundation brush and have thought about getting one, so it will be an Ecotools foundation brush. I almost bought it at the same time as the eyeliner brush, but wanted to err on the side of caution before investing too much.

The cost of these brushes is reasonable too. I brought the eyeliner brush in Canada  on sale for 6.99, a dollar off the regular price and I was happy  to find that this brand is sold at Boots in the UK, where I live, for a comparable price.

To sum up:

Ecotools, Earth Friendly Bamboo Eyeliner Brush no. 1204

* made with cruelty free (in this case, synthetic)  bristles – so also good for vegans

* made with natural and recycled materials – handle is bamboo and the ferrule is of recycled aluminium

* reusable carry case – this would come in handy for keeping your make-up bag clean on trips so yes, I will use it again.

Feels good,  a pleasure to use, and does what it should.

All the best!



Shiseido Eyeliner, Ecotools Bamboo Angled Eyeliner brush with Orchid plant.

Shiseido Eyeliner, Ecotools Bamboo Angled Eyeliner Brush, model no. 1204,with Orchid plant.



On holiday…

Hello, just wanted to let those of you who check in here at De Materia Domestia regularly, that I will be away for a bit visiting family and friends.  I may take this opportunity to get my facebook page up!

Look for many new recipes, tips,  and more after March 8th 2011.

Remember,  ”Possunt quia posse videntur” – they can because they think they can, and so can you!

See you soon!

Quick dinner, onigiri, miso soup, beans and mushrooms

Quick dinner, onigiri, miso soup, beans and mushrooms. whipped this up in 15 minutes, even though I was a bit under the weather... felt better after with good healthy food!


Speedy Soba Noodles with Mackerel for lunch…

Bundle of soba (buckwheat) noodles before cooking with band

Bundle of soba noodles before cooking with band

Here’s a recipe for a quick, tasty, and nutritious lunch of soba (buckwheat) noodles with pieces of Mackerel, garnished with green onions, soy sauce and sachimi.

With only two main ingredients, this quick and nutritious lunch couldn’t be simpler. Soba noodles are thin, square,  Japanese noodles made with buckwheat and wheat flours. The darker the noodle, the higher the buckwheat flour content.  The darker noodles also have a stronger, more earthy flavour. The lighter noodles are more commonly found and are a  good starting point if you have not had them before.

The ones shown here (the ones I had for lunch today!) are the stronger variety.

Soba and Mackerel with greem onions and garnishes; in blue bowl with Chopsticks

Quick, easy and nutritious lunch made with only 6 ingredients.

As some of you many know from previous posts, I am a vegetarian. I have never been comfortable with eating animals for various personal and ethical reasons. I have contemplated the vegan option but have not gone that route quite yet but do try to limit the amount of dairy products and eggs in my diet.

A common alternative for many people who move away from meat is to head for the fish counter. We have fish on the menu on a somewhat regular basis, maybe once a week. Eating fish, however, also has its problems from an environmental perspective.  It can be hard to know what to do and what to eat so that one’s health is optimizes but not at the cost of the earth and our fellow creatures.

When eating fish, considerits size. Smaller fish are generally a better option. Farmed fish may seem like a good and sustainable choice, but there are problems associated with aquatic farming as well. So rather than eat farmed fish that are fed on a meal made from little fish, why not just eat the little fish instead. Sardines, herrings, anchovies, mackerel, and other smaller species have as much goodness and taste as larger fish like salmon and tuna. The End of the Line is a thought provoking documentary about the fishing industry that is worth watching. Also please consider joining the Fish Fight to give fish a fighting chance at survival.

Mackerel is classed as an oily fish, but they are the good oils including Omega 3 and Omega 6. Available fresh, mackerel fillets are also readily available in tins packed in olive oil, spring water or other suitable liquid. I prefer those packed in olive oil. After removing the fish pieces for whatever dish you are making, keep the oil to use in cooking. Just be sure to use it the same day, or keep it in the refrigerator to use the next day.

Selection of Asian noodles, udon, somen and soba.

Selection of Asian noodles, udon, somen and soba.

The seasonings in this very easy to make lunch are items that should be staples in your kitchen if  you make any amount of Asian foods:

Sesame oil – this adds a delightful and unique taste and aroma to dishes. You only ever need to add a few drops to appreciate its impact.

Soy Sauce – Naturally fermented and low sodium soy sauce is so different from what most of us have experienced at the local Chinese Take-away. Standard soy sauce is cheaper, yes, by a bit, but the taste is acquired by artificially fermenting the sauce and adding artificial colourings; and it is mostly salt. So pay the little extra and appreciate the richer, deeper and more complex flavour of the real thing.

Shichimi- this is a dry seasoning that means Seven Spices. It is a blend of chillies, Shichuan pepper, dried orange peel, black  sesame seeds, white sesame seeds, Japanese pepper, ginger and seaweed. The overall taste is one that is hot and sour.

Here now is the recipe for Soba Noodles with Mackerel.  Serves one or two.


2 bundles soba noodles

1 tin Scottish Mackerel fillets packed in olive oil (125 g)

½ – 1 tsp Sesame seed oil

2 – 3 spring onions

sodium reduced and naturally fermented soy sauce

Shichimi seasoning to taste


Boil soba noodles for about 5 minutes or until done. They cook quickly and you don’t want them to be mushy.

Drain noodles, pop them back in the pot.

Sprinkle with the sesame seed oil, toss to coat.

Place the noodles portions in the bowls.

Add a couple pieces of the mackerel fish to each bowl.

Garnish with the spring onions.

Season with soy sauce and Japanese Shichimi spice blend.

Serve with green tea or genmaicha (green tea with roasted rice)


Quick and easy Japanese style lunch; Soba noodles with Mackerel, green onions and seasonings.

Organic Hemp Seeds, how to toast them

Whole organic hemp seeds in bowls; raw in back, toasted in front.

Bowls of whole organic hemp seeds; raw in back, toasted in front.

It seems that every other week there is a ”new” food that heralds a miracle cure for all the worlds’ ills. Have you noticed, they are almost always fresh, organic whole foods, usually from the kingdom of the plants: grains, pulses, fruits, vegetables, almost never anything highly (or even a little bit) processed. Hemp, the seeds and its oil,  is actually a very old food and well worth consideration as a ‘super-food’.

One of the few plants to offer a complete protein complement of 10 essential amino acids (quinoa is another), hemp also boasts an optimum balance of Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids and an abundance of micronutrients and minerals. While favoured among athletes for these aforementioned properties, you don’t have to be an athlete to benefit from or appreciate its other health optimizing properties which include: immune system enhancement, improved recovery time, and anti-inflammatory qualities. Grown without pesticides or fertilisers it is also good for the earth.

Hemp seed oil, like all vegetable oils, is best when organically grown and cold pressed. The colour is quite a dark green and it has a distinctive flavour. Keep it in the fridge once it is opened. It loses much of its value when heated significantly and has a low smoke point, so is not good for frying. Instead, substitute 1 or 2 teaspoons for your regular vegetable oil when making salad dressing for extra goodness. Add a spoon of it to finished dishes, or take it by the teaspoon, straight up as a tonic!

Organic Hemp Seeds & Oil in original packaging

Organic Hemp Oil & Seeds in original packaging as purchased online from healthysupplies.co.uk

Organic hemp seeds can be found for sale either whole or shelled. Shelled are significantly more expensive than the whole seeds, and do not have as much fibre. Pre-toasted hemp seed snacks are also on the market, but at a much higher cost than making them yourself. It only takes a few minutes and allows you more control over the finished flavour. The closest thing I can compare them to for taste and texture is whole roasted pumpkin seeds. Eat them on their own or sprinkle them on salads or other savoury dish.

Here is how to toast your own hemp seeds:

¼ cup whole organic raw hemp seeds.
½ tsp good quality olive oil
½ tsp Cajun blend spice and/ or ½ tsp Mexican chilli or taco seasoning
(Or any spice blend that you prefer.)
The spice blends I use don’t have salt in them, so I do add a pinch or two of sea salt.

Pour the seeds into a small, non-stick pan, and heat over medium heat.
Toss the seeds regularly to insure even heating. You can do this by shaking the pan a bit.
After about 3-4 minutes, the seeds should start to heat and colour a bit.
Drip the oil over them and toss to coat.
Continue to toss the seeds, and sprinkle them with your chosen spice or spice blend.
Toast for another minute or two then pour into a shallow dish to cool
When they are cooled enough to be comfortable to eat, they are ready for snacking.
Store them in an airtight container; they will keep for several days.


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Baba au Rhum, a grown up dessert

Baba au Rhum cake being treated to the rum glaze.

Baba au Rhum cake being treated to the rum glaze. This is essential to the cake’s final taste and texture.

Rum Baba, as it is also known,  is one of those desserts that, for me at least, has a vintage feel to it.  One of those elegant desserts that would be served when one invited the boss over for dinner and when one wanted to impress. A decadent treat that would be met with oohs and aahs and whispers of delight at swanky dinner soirées. A centrepiece of delight with a tinge of decadence… and not too sweet.

The mystique of the Baba au Rhum may come from its more aristocratic roots, or from the key ingredient that lends its name to the confection, rum.  Evocative of an era when rum was a specialty import from distant tropical lands; unlike now when we take for granted that anything in the world can be had for a reasonable number of pounds or dollars at a nearby shop.

Or perhaps the mystique is the rather uncoventional method of construction. Rum Baba is a yeast based cake with raisins and currants that is soaked, quite liberally, with a rum and sugar syrup once it is baked. Gifts of the Caribbean. Don’t worry, it is not soggy in the least. The texture of the bread-like dough holds itself up beautifully.

This is a dessert made in four simple but distinct steps (prepare the batter, let the dough rise, bake the cake, soak with syrup), each of which requires adequate time for the ingredients to perform effectively. It is  best, therefore,  to make this treat early in the day or the day before you want to serve it. If you choose to make it the day before, be sure to bring it to room temperature before serving. You can find individual sized Rum Babas in good Italian bakeries these days, had one on my recent trip to Milan,  but I have always made this in large angel food cake pan. A bundt style pan is also a good choice.

Baba au Rhum cake rising in the Kugelhupf (Bundt) pan. Ready to pop in the oven!

Baba au Rhum cake rising in the Kugelhupf (Bundt) pan. Ready to pop in the oven!

Like all of my recipes, they work best when you use only the finest of ingredients. When it comes to selecting the rum to use, be sure to use a good quality dark or amber rum of at least 8 or more years. The taste will be compromised if you use an inferior product.  If you want to minimize the alcohol content but keep the flavour, simply add the rum to the sugar syrup while it is still hot instead of waiting for the syrup to cool. The heat will burn off much, but not all, of the alcohol.

Do eat this cake responsibly, and please note that no matter how you prepare the syrup, it is not suitable for children, pregnant women, or anyone else who should not consume alcohol, in any form.

For those of you who can partake, I am sure you will enjoy a slice of this after dinner with a dollop of fresh lightly sweetened whipped cream, garnished if you like with dried fruits which have been macerated in rum for a day or three, and a good strong cup of black coffee or tea.

I hope you enjoy this treat.

See you soon,


Please find the recipe for Baba au Rhum here.

Frangipani (Plumeria sp.) Blossoms, white variety, photo taken in The Gambia

Frangipani (Plumeria sp.) Blossoms. The Frangipani is the national flower of Nicaragua who is a producer of good quality amber rum. Select one over 7 years old at a minimum.