Sunday, October 31, 2010

Nigella and I

Schnecken - You'll be cleaning you teeth with a jack-hammer for a week after these

Nigella and I go back a long way. While we’ve never met, I’d like to think that we would get on like a house on fire. At first I wasn’t sure. She appeared to be just a well dressed cook who had trouble keeping her fingers out of the food. I promptly changed my mind while honey mooning. I found a copy of How to Cook while waiting for my dearest to return with a coffee. For a book with no pictures, it certainly makes you hungry. I’m pretty excited to hear that there is a new one and even a new series on the TV. Please don’t call on Tuesday nights, the phone will be off the hook.

Despite keeping the books tucked away with my recipes, I’m not sure you could call them recipe books. These are the first cook books I have regularly sought out just to read. I seek them with imagination and time to spare. If I wanted a plain, no fuss recipe, I’d be looking elsewhere, perhaps in the Edmond’s. When I finish reading, I’m often left in awe and wonder, daydreaming of fantastic feasts. I’m fully equipped with the knowledge of exactly what I would do if my local Pak’n’Save started stocking the more exotic ingredients – golden icing sugar for burnt butter cupcakes, Maple essence for autumnal cake. I don’t always immediately cook after reading them but the inspiration does stick.

The recipes throughout the books on my shelf (How to Eat, How to be a Domestic Goddess and Nigella Bites) have largely been met with success. All apart from the liver and dried apricot baby food that is. The fact that I was convinced my kids would eat something I wouldn’t touch with a bargepole is more of a testament to her writing than my children’s taste.

I can’t begrudge her the fingers in the mix either. I am convinced that this is how she and her culinary team, tweak their recipes. This is based purely on the fact that the mixes taste so good. When I tried to make the Danish pastries I swear I could have devoured all the pastry before the second rising. However, I am not about to taste the meatballs as i roll them to check if the same holds true there.

On the other hand, some recipes have proven to be too sweet for me. If Nigella and I were to play chicken with spoons of sugar, she’d win. I’ll just have one molten baby-cake, thank-you and just the tiniest morsel of the peanut chocolate slice. Don’t get me started on the cleanup from making schnecken – my teeth, the oven, the dishes all covered in delicious walnut flavoured toffee.

The recipes are to be savoured, read over and anticipated. If you want quick, this is not the place to look (though, might I suggest the baby bundt cakes?). They all deserve the time and attention that they demand. It would be sacriledge to go all Julie and Julia on them. I’m sure someone has tried. Me, I’m just content with my books and looking forward to the next one.

* If you're looking for the schnecken recipe try here

Friday, October 29, 2010

Some Bee Blocks

I'm still working on the Australasian Bee. Here are my latest blocks to head off to their new owners.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tea Towel Debates

I've been lucky enough to win a give away over at Dear Colleen. Colleen is a graphic design talent with a twisty sense of humour. If you get a chance, check our her blog. She has been delving into the differences and meeting points between craft and design. While I'm still not sure what side of the fence, or even if there needs to be two sides, I'm reading along with great interest.

This little beauty is going into the "too good to use, or maybe just glasses", pile in the linen drawer. My husband is objecting to the "too good .." tea towels taking up space in the drawer. I maintain that when the Queen comes to tea, she would be delighted to use the fresh clean tea towel* with the corgis when she washes up with me. I couldn't let her down, you know.

*certainly not the manky ones that have accidentally been used to dry cast iron pots. They have their own pile and yes, I do have a corgi tea towel.

Monday, October 25, 2010

When Heart Break has Teeth and a Tail

This is not an earth shattering heart break, not a momentous one, merely a small breath taking moment. I caught my breath and held myself still for a moment when I saw this.

There have been mice in my linen drawer. It appears that they have a refined taste for hand embroidery and cotton lawn. The embroidered throw over did not fare well. The rest of the linens and the mouse traps I set lay untouched. I tried bacon, I tried peanut butter but as I said, these mice are refined.

There have been other signs too. Occasionally my fabric drawers have rendered up a sample that looks like it has been attacked by a 3 year old with blunt scissors. In fact, this is what I told myself it was the first 3 times. I set a mouse trap there too, on the off chance something might happen.

I am bold, but squeamish when confronted with these little things. I once scooped a mouse out of my cutlery drawer. In my not so calm state, I knew that 1 - I didn’t want to kill it and 2- I didn’t want it in my flat. I ran to the street and threw it as far as I could before I could stop to think just what might have happened when the thing landed.

I imagine troupes of mice filing past my little traps and giggling at my efforts. I know a simple trap with extra buttery mashed potato or a plate of warm custard would have me in an instant. I get the feeling these mice do not think with their stomachs in the same way that I do.

In the end I relented and rather than sacrificing any more treasures, I set some poison carefully, beyond the reach of little fingers. I dread the thought of the girls trying to rescue the chalky blocks. For now my linen drawer appears to be safe. The poison might have worked or it could be that the weather has improved and they have moved outside. Maybe I’ll set another trap just to be sure.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Library Love and Promiscuity

I’ve been getting a lot of library love lately. I spend a copious amount of time in our local library, but recently I’ve been casting my nets a little further. I’ve joined the Wellington City Library and I love it.

Losing my big city library card was one of the few downsides to moving to a small town. It turns out that by virtue of working in Wellington, I can get my card back. It is well worth it, as the selection of craft books is to die for and my issues are limited only by what I can carry home on the train.

This week I’m dreaming of decorating my house with Scandinavian style Christmas decorations and flashy Amy Butler bags.

However, I’ll still be keeping up with my local library. I highly doubt that the entire staff of Wellington Library will ever say hello to me, my kids and greet us by name like they do at out local. There are some things that are better smaller.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Camping at Home

We went camping with some sunlight, string, a bedspread and a touch of imagination.

I had aspired to sew up a tent (very Weekend Sewing) or even a medieval tent to hang from the trees. Somehow, I still haven't made the time. After rescuing this bed spread and letting the kids direct the building process, I'm wondering if I even need to.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Signing Up - Christmas Ornament Swap

I'm signing up for the New Zealand Christmas Ornament Swap. It has moved and this year you can find it over here.

Ornaments for 2009 in the making

I'm already trying to think of something new to make for this year. Maybe some felt, hopefully something I can put together on a train.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Finally - A Finished Quilt

Could it be? In the distance , yes that is really a finished quilt. It has been a long time since I have actually reached the finish line on a quilt.

A little bit closer and you can see it is the strings quilt I started well over a year ago. It was nice to have a break from it, as it was like catching up with an old friend again as I stitched the binding on. I remember those scraps of park slope with a few other treasures in there too. While I mourned cutting into every last piece I had, I'm not regretting it.

A close up of the stippling shows the hard work Viv has put into this. It started out as a swap for one of these for some quilting and became a bit of an epic when the back didn't behave. Viv really has done a wonderful job on this (I've asked and she's open to orders too).

Troublesome Back - GRRR

I just had to hold onto the trimmings when the blocks on the front were squared up. They made for some loosened up piecing on the back.

Of course, it wouldn't be complete without a proud new owner too.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Cherry Blossoms and Getting Away

The picnic set is dusted off and the cherry blossoms are out. It was a low key affair this year. The camera memory was full, so after snapping the cup of tea we ran around, chased balls, followed chickens and carefully looked for bumble bees. It made for a nice afternoon, just being there rather than frantically trying to record the moment.

The picnic set is Gaydon Melamine. It goes nearly everywhere with us. I think it might even be from a caravan set rather than a picnic set because I have yet to work out why you would need egg cups and butter dishes on a picnic. While this is not strictly a morning cup, I'm joining in on the Morning Cup over on flickr.

We're also off on bit of a break. The camera is coming, but the computer is not. The picnic set is about to earn it's keep.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Sending Tops to a Good Home

In the quest to get my craft room sorted, I have not only found some orphan tops, but a really good home for them. Cat is collecting up blocks, tops and supplies to put together quilts for children in Christchurch. You can read more about it here.

The first top I’m sending off is from my make it all work stage. The fabrics are largely from a bulk bag of fabrics from the thrift store, supplemented with a few reds from my collection. After cutting everything into 2” strips and sorting by light and dark only, the courthouse steps came together. A friend I was quilting with at the time, held the belief that you can make any combination of colours go as long as there are no brights. I have to agree, but the end products always appear to be brownish. I miss my brights and so this one has sat unfinished for 4 years.

The second one is from my shabby chic phase. I started it at a night class 3 years ago and haven’t touched it since. I had wanted to finish this for Little E’s bedroom, but I’m not so sure anymore and my shoulders dread that ache of machine quilting.

The quilts are off and I’m sure will soon find somewhere to call home. If you are in the slightest way tempted to send something also, please get in touch with Cat. She’d love to hear from you.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Attacking the To Do List

My sewing space has been taunting me. There are so many projects lined up across the couch that I’ve forgotten when I was last able to sit on it. I have even indulged in offsite storage. My Mother’s spare room is overflowing with boxes of fabric I have run out of room for. Recently, she has threatened to spring clean. It was when she mentioned making a pyre that I knew it was time act.

Sometimes I have no idea where to start. My inner geek is wondering if I should be making a spreadsheet of costs incurred, cost to complete and time to complete before checking the important criteria - desire to complete. There are the children’s skivvies cut and ready to sew for winter wardrobes, the reclaimed tapestries waiting to be loved again and numerous unfinished projects. Then there are bounteous piles of fabric pulled from my collection simply because I have an idea. My inner geek wants to get them sorted, my bossier hoarder is resisting for fear that this means I have to give up on something.

In the mean time I am casting around for projects that I have started and already have all the materials needed to finish. This sampler cushion meets that bill.

The sampler pattern is from Jenny Hart’s Embroidered Effects. It was started earlier this year. The log cabin blocks are part of a wonder bundle from Joanna and I received the embroidered buttons are from Lorna in our swap earlier this year. Everything else I just had on hand – a cushion inner with a dated cover, half a metre of cotton duck (thrifted) to stabilise the pieces and a meagre fat quarter of blue hazelnut fabric.

It turns out my Mother was talking about making a pile rather than a pyre. My mental image of forlorn projects throwing themselves on a burning heap has been dashed. While the urgency is gone, I still need to get some things sorted. The spreadsheet is starting to sound almost reasonable*.

If you listening carefully you can hear my dearest chuckling in the background and mumbling something along the lines of "You SO would do a spreadsheet"

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Turnips - I Just Can't Love Them

I consider myself a very vegetable friendly person. I'll eat everything on my plate. Broccoli is my friend. But, I just can't love turnips.

I tried roasting them - but no.

I tried boiling and mashing them. The house needed some serious airing out after that.

As they bolted to seed in the spring heat last week, I heaved a sigh of relief and planned to plant swedes in their place next time. Though, they were pretty.

Friday, October 1, 2010

On My Feet Again

I'm back. It has been a pretty busy and exhausting month but I'm back on my feet. There was a dead line that tapped me on the shoulder and whispered "Shouldn't you be doing something else?" every time I turned the computer on. There was also a nasty cold that knocked me out with different symptoms whenever I thought I was getting better. But, enough of the woe is me.

The deadline was met in its own way and I'm feeling a lot better, so I can say with confidence - I'm back. I have some crafty plans and even a holiday in the works.

How have you been?