Monday, 19 December 2011

Thailand Snapshots

Safely back from beautiful Thailand, and thank you to everyone who wished me a good holiday. Just flying by to share some of the hundreds of photos we took:

And the best bit of the holiday? We managed to get engaged! So just to add to all the excitement of Christmas and moving house, we're now planning a wedding. Please expect my rather sporadic updating regime to continue into the new year...

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

CPSH November

This month's Crafty Photo Scavenger Hunt categories have been chosen by Emma at The Gift Shed.


This print is on my kitchen wall and was made by my youngest uncle, a successful fashion designer, when he was at college. Sadly, he took his life a few years back, but having some of his art on my walls is a constant inspiration.

Something I made...

This recipe was too silly to deserve a post of its own but I quite loved it... 'burgers' made with bubble and squeak, fried eggs and mushrooms.


... appear where you might not expect them.


... is entirely subjective


My bed curtains.

Go and see Emma to find out what other people have been photographing this month, and to see next month's categories.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Weekword: Content

This week's word is 'content' and hosted by Sally at Diario.

As I'm about to jet off this evening, my contribution this week is just going to be a list of things that mean contentment to me:

  • taking my heels off at the end of a long day
  • coming in to a warm house after a frosty walk
  • waking up on a weekend morning with nothing important to do and nowhere to be
  • realising I'm still only halfway through reading a book that I'm loving
  • ticking off the last thing on my To Do list
  • sitting on the bus with a coffee and my headphones in, not caring about the traffic

And looking through my pictures to find one from a point when I remember feeling contented, I think this one is the winner.

Seems very apt, as it's very similar to what I'll be doing for the next two weeks! See you in a fortnight.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Things to do in December

(if you're not going on holiday....)

Apologies that my posting hasn't been terribly regular just recently. And even more apologies that it's not going to get much better for a few weeks... 

I'm off on holiday tomorrow (hurrah!), have been entangled in trying to find tenants for my flat as I'm moving in January (again, hurrah!), and the actual day job is proving annoying time-consuming. Mostly good things, but it's meant doing all my Christmas planning now, along with putting things in bags and boxes and trying to understand tenancy law!

Safe to say,  none of that is blog-worthy. Or not this blog, anyway.

We're off to Thailand for a fortnight, which I'm very excited about. I've not been to anywhere near that part of the world before. And the sunshine!

However, there are a few things I'm going to be sad to miss:

The Got Craft event at the Tram in Tooting on Sunday, all the way from Canada! It looks amazing and I think is going to be very well supported - people keep telling me they're coming to Tooting and I can't believe I'm away the one weekend it's actually the place to be!

The Crafty Pint Handmade Christmas, again at the Tram, on December the 3rd.

And the second New Vintage in Brixton on the 10th December. (I've only just noticed Nick and I are in one of the pictures of the last one on their blog!)

Anyone who's going to any of these - let me know what they're like so I can be vicariously crafty?

Friday, 18 November 2011

Week Word: Sunshine

John at The Healing Seed hosted this week's word, which is 'sunshine'.

For me, the first thing I thought of was the last two lines of my favourite poem, and then some of the sunflower photos I took back in the summer.

However, in the interests of creativity and originality, this is what I ended up with when I started scribbling after thinking about the word.

It looks more like the moon than the sun, I know. And demonstrates that I've been reading a lot of post-apocalyptic books recently as what came into my head was the recurring sun imagery in Ballard's The Drowned World (again...) and the novella I read this morning where an elderly man sits on a beach as the sun goes down, and tells the story of the end of civilisation. (The Scarlet Plague, by Jack London)

Gosh, that's a pretty miserable result from such a cheerful word! Sorry, and here's hoping for a sunshiney weekend.

Monday, 14 November 2011

New Vintage, Brixton

Having explored Brixton market a little while ago I was very happy to head back there this weekend for The New Vintage, a market held in a bar featuring handmade things with a vintage twist. A wee word of warning though, if you're planning on having something to eat whilst in the area plan ahead! It gets very busy and we ended up doing increasing starving laps of fantastic looking cafes and restaurants whilst hunting for a table!

My favourite items from the fair...

This British Gastronomy print from Lucy Loves This. She also had local and London themed prints but had only ventured as far south as Balham so far. I suggested they should do a Tooting one...

And this pillbox hat from Little Miss B Designs. My love of hats is well-documented and I have a number of weddings to go to next year so am definitely bookmarking her Etsy shop.

There was also a very enthusiastic swing dance demonstration and, for the less energetic, offers on beer and cocktails. The next on is on the 10th December and I think would be well worth a visit.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Week Word: Tea

I happen to work just down the road from a place that's very famous for afternoon tea and I think it dominated my tea-related scribbling for this Week Word.

I doubt they serve party rings, Rich Tea biscuits or fondant fancies there, though.

Head over to The Gift Shed to see what other people have done with 'tea' and to see where to go for next week's word.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

If I were you...

I'd head over to visit Emma at The Gift Shed

Emma's one of those people who seems to manage to squeeze more out of her days than the rest of us, and her blog's making that very apparent at the moment.

First, she's guest hosting this month's Crafty Photo Scavenger Hunt and everyone's welcome to join in.

Second, she's picked this week's Week Word and chosen 'tea'. 

And she's also going to be at The New Vintage in Brixton this weekend which I'm really looking forward to.

Anyone else planning on popping along?

Monday, 7 November 2011

Remember, remember...

Pleased to report that the 17th century supper was a success. It was very definitely historically inspired rather than accurate though, as Tooting Sainsbury's is not well known for stocking usefully obscure products. 

(They do sell jellied eels though. Just FYI.)

All my recipe inspiration ended up coming from the same website, the marvellously named Seat of Mars, except for the dessert which I made up a bit. Links below to the original recipes along with anything I changed.

This should have been mutton, but I wanted to do lamb for the next course so went with pork instead. The flavour was amazing... we all thought it reminded us of something but couldn't figure out what. Still haven't.

Red Coleslaw

You can get tinned oysters. Did you know? Very useful here. And artichokes in jars, too. The recipe for the spinach fritters misses off the amount of spinach and eggs, but a full bag of spinach and two eggs seemed about right. Oh, and use dried breadcrumbs, not fresh.

The red coleslaw I made up as I thought we needed something a little bit fresher and lighter. I figured 17th century people probably would have had red cabbage, purple carrots and beetroot. If not mayonnaise...

Cider Syllabub

I felt that cider was more authentic than sherry, so went with that. It was supposed to have been served with gingerbread  but that... was not a success. So I grated some ginger Green and Blacks on top instead. Cocoa had just about made it to Europe, right? 

Cider Syllabub

300ml double cream
rind and juice from half a lemon
50g caster sugar
125ml cider
15ml sherry

Mix everything except the cream together in a bowl until the sugar has dissolved. In a separate bowl, whisk the cream until it forms stiff peaks then slowly fold in the liquid. Divide into four bowls and refrigerate until ready (a couple of hours, at least).

I think the most revelatory thing about this meal was that everything tasted amazing! I'm not usually a fan (at all) of fruit in savoury dishes, and would never have dreamed of cooking with oysters, but everything got eaten and enjoyed. It was a really good experience in stepping outside my comfort zone, both in terms of ingredients and style of cooking.

Playing Trivial Pursuit later, however, taught us a different lesson:

Friday, 4 November 2011

No-Bonfire Night

Saturday is bonfire night. I like bonfires and fireworks and the excuse to wear wellies and mittens. Despite the fact that I only ever go to London fireworks these days, and it's generally warm enough to have spent the day wandering about without a coat, I still find it impossible to go to a firework display without putting on wellies, about fifteen layers and, if at all possible, mittens on a string through my coat sleeves. Anyone else do that? A mother's influence lasts a long time...

Anyway, the Powers That Be have decided that due to the Economic Situation the good people of London aren't allowed free firework displays anywhere useful (read: near my house) this year. So we're not going to one. 

(I'm sure there's something insightful to say about the wisdom of upsetting the general populace by not allowing them to celebrate people failing to blow up the establishment, but it's Friday afternoon and I can't quite find it...)

Instead people are coming for supper. And I decided I wanted to cook something suitably themed, so have spent today coming up with a 17th century menu in honour of Guy Fawkes. 

Bangers and mash and a pudding with sparklers in just seemed too obvious.

Come back on Monday to discover whether it was a success! I shall tantalise you with the information that people in the 1600s seemed to really like meat. And prunes. 

When not thinking about meat and prunes (that sounds like an innuendo, it wasn't meant to) I've been working on my keys design:

I'm thinking greys and/or browns for the colours. But that could change.

Have a good weekend, bonfires or not.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

New Quilt!

Finally finished prepping all my squares for the new quilt and can start putting it together. It's always a bit disheartening at the beginning, as it feels like there's so far to go. This one's got larger pieces than the last one though, so should come together a little quicker.

Obviously, I forgot what size I was planning on making it in between cutting out the right number of pieces and starting. So I'm fully suspecting I'll end up with one too few or one too many squares. After spending a good hour lying on the floor trying to make the maths work I gave up and started anyway, deciding that if I end up with a gap I'll just add a red piece and it can be charmingly idiosyncratic.

And thankfully I've got the last quilt to sit under whilst I'm sewing this one, for inspiration.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Blitz: London's vintage department store

Popping over to Brick Lane for the Experimental Food Exhibition last weekend also meant we were within hopping distance of somewhere I'd wanted to visit for a little while... London's new vintage department store, Blitz.

It does actually feel like a department shop, as opposed to the jumble sale vibe you get in lots of vintage shops (not that there's anything wrong with that, of course), with home-wares, books, bikes, furniture and all the usual clothes and accessories. It's also got a little cafe which definitely looked more impressive than the usual weak-lemon-squash department store affair.

Books and quilts. Perfect.

Hats! Unidentifiable wooden things!

Lovely bikes, not sure why they were guarded by
slightly unnerving naked armless children...

As you'd expect, it's not cheap. You're paying extra for the pretty styling and the whole experience. But prices weren't as steep as I'd feared and the quality seemed very consistent. Which meant I bought a frock. Justified by the fact that it cost about the same as you could pay for a new dress on the high street, and there was no way anyone else would be wearing it!

Blitz can be found at 55-59 Hanbury Street, E1 5JP and

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Double-Decker+ Mud Cake

This year*, some mysterious how, all my school friends and I are thirty. 

Thirty. Actual. Years. Old.

Thankfully, this does mean we've had at least twelve years to practise partying (read: drinking) and dancing like loons.

And all these parties justify cake.

So, for one of the parties this weekend I attempted this double-decker mud cake from an Australian Women's Weekly book. (I love these books, and have lots. Why isn't the UK Women's Weekly anywhere near as good at recipes, I wonder?)

As there were going to lots of people celebrating this birthday I decided to double the recipe. The vague aim was therefore to end up with a quadruple-decker mud cake.

My oven disagreed. Despite putting four tins of identical cake mix in the oven, only one of them rose enough to be sliced in half. I have a feeling this might have been due to something of an inaccurate eye when dividing the cake mix into four, and an equally slapdash approach to knowing what size my cake tins are... This theory is backed up by the fact that all the layers were the same consistency and ready at about the same time.

Undaunted, I powered though and the final cake had five layers. It also required a little bit of trimming to get all the layers the same diameter, but I consider this a vital part of baking: you get to test the trimmed bits and check it's not horrible. I've not yet made a horrible cake, but I always think it's wise to check.

Yes, it is a bit wonky. But I decided that added to its charm and, anyway, I was serving it to drunk people. There was no way they'd notice.

Because of its remarkably height, it looked a bit... boring just covered in icing. So I stuck some grated white chocolate to the sides. If you do this you will have to tell every single person you offer it to that it's not coconut. But just consider that a useful icebreaker.

(Also: sticking grated white chocolate to the sides is nowhere near as easy as it sounds, gets a lots of mess in a lot of places, and may result in having to eat the left-over chocolate and icing from a saucer with a spoon to unstress afterwards.)

Due to the aforementioned drunkenness of all parties at the, um, party I didn't manage a decent picture of the inside of the cake. But I'm so proud of my achievement I want it recorded for posterity and am going to post rubbish ones anyway.

(Oh yes, there wasn't a big enough knife so I had to cut it with a butter one. Which was pretty much consumed by the cake.)

This cake was possibly one of the best-received I have ever made. This may be almost entirely due to the quantity of alcohol all the receivers had consumed, but I'm pretty sure all the bits I tested (when sober) were also delicious. Consequently, I think this may be a new favourite recipe; it's clearly impossible to screw up regardless of how slapdash or inaccurate you're feeling.

*Academic year, of course. Hence the thirty-parties only starting now. 

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Dodos, eagles and meal worms.

This Sunday saw the Experimental Food Society's annual exhibition, at the Truman Brewery in Brick Lane.

I think pictures will do a better job of explaining than I will...

Curly-Wurly Eiffel Tower

Not-gingerbread cottage

Dodo. His feathers looked strokeable but were entirely sugar!

Equally sugary eagle.

Sugar flowers

Levitating table (look closely...)

I did a fantastically bad job at making a note of who made each thing, but a full list society members can be found here.

My favourite bit, though, was The Gastronaut, Stefan Gates. (I'd not heard of him before, but apparently he does stuff for the BBC.) He was offering an Extraordinary Snack Box (for a very reasonable £6.95) and then did a fifteen minute talk on what it contained.

Extraordinary Snack Box

And what was in it? Well...

- A bum sandwich. Yes. You had to sit on it. It demonstrated that food generally tastes better at body temperature. And meant there could be lots of references to bumming your sandwich.

- Noodle salad with jellyfish. Really delicious, although that was mainly due to the dressing... Jellyfish doesn't have much flavour, but is low calorie and full of protein and fibre. And manages to be both crunchy and squishy at the same time.

- Pan-fried lambs' testicles. Served on couscous and tasting just like little meatballs. Not surprisingly, the girls found these easier to eat than the boys... 

- Sweeties with a packet of cochineal bugs, to show where the pink colour comes from. 

- Gold and silver wrapped sausages and a packet of Space Dust... just for fun, and to remind us that food should be exciting!

- Mealworms with yoghurt and honey. (Except we had to call the honey 'bee vomit'.) This was the hardest thing for me to eat... my mum used to feed her birds meal worms! But they didn't have any particular flavour so once they were in your mouth if felt mostly like eating yoghurt and muesli. Insect protein is much, much cheaper to produce than animal so it might be something we all find ourselves eating more of. 

Oh, and a carrot trombone.  Mostly just to make a stupid noise...

Friday, 21 October 2011

Week. End.

Hurrah for Fridays. Today I have mostly:

finally finished my thistles design and created something I'm happy with...

been thinking about keys...

and celebrated the start of the weekend in all its glory with a little Friday Treat...

Happy Weekend, one and all!