25.1.10

dancing on ice


Firstly, thank you to all you savvy fashionistas for your advice on my 2010 Summer attire - I shall indeed be seen wearing a duvet cover, in warmer temperatures naturally, and you will be the first to hear should I be the envy of South East London or the butt of many jokes. Also, you will be even more pleased to know, the beloved gloves were found - truffled out in my utter desperation from a very messy and muddy floor in the school cloakroom and now in need of a thorough wash.

When I was a child, between the ages of six and seven, my family and I lived in America. My father taught Art and being young and wanting to experience life a bit more, applied for a year's teaching exchange. Dreaming of spending 12 idyllic months based in Vermont or even California, he was a little "dischuffed" when he found out we were to be sent out to Detroit, Michigan. Nevertheless, we packed our bags and off we went.

Leaving behind a small sleepy Yorkshire town, we swapped everything with a teacher from a large High School in Detroit. My father took on her job, we lived in her family home, we were taken in by their friends and we embraced an American lifestyle. Completely. My brother and I went to a local school, wearing our "dog tags" with surname and address on for fear we should be lost! I've still got mine even now, a round red metal disc with silver writing engraved on it.

Since I was so young, my memories are sadly very few and what memories I do have, could well be the remembrance of stories that have been told so frequently with photos as evidence instead. For example, I was in the school band and my big (!) part was playing the triangle - a single note right at the end of the score. I don't actually remember playing that one note but have a vision of doing so because I know the story so very well.


Another so called memory is skating on a pond. Of course, American Winters are colder than ours, even more so than this coldest Winter in thirty years, and lakes freeze over thickly enough to allow a spot of skating. I'm suddenly thinking Angelina Ballerina on Miller's Pond here and distinctly remember my parents regaling me with tales of how we used to skate on such a pond (Lake St Claire). Of course, that's all I do remember and so I have this marvellous vision of little ol' me skating to perfection ('Dancing on Ice' eat your heart out), playing ice hockey even. But we all know that's not what really happened and having taken the children skating just yesterday, I've just realised it too!!


We went to the final day at Somerset House with a group of our boy's friends and family from school. What a hoot that was, watching several nine and ten year olds on the ice rink, all that testosterone and bravado was certainly the best way to overcome any initial nerves. And for the under eights, there was a mini rink with these penguins; cute little zimmer frame-type things that worked a treat until the bigger rink beckoned. Of course, not much skating to be had for grown ups, but a great deal of back strain from all the bending down and picking up! I later thanked my lucky stars that I didn't take my camera onto the ice as, yes indeed, I did take a tumble. Or two! Thankfully, though, there was someone on hand to take some snaps of the children in action.


So with my 20 Minute pledge in mind and wanting to encapsulate some lovely skating memories, I reached into the trusty stash for some Michael Miller fabric bought earlier this year and made up a skirt for my very own little Jane Torvill, looking for all the world like a penguin!



Enjoy the week x

22.1.10

lost and found


I'm feeling a bit peeved this morning. You see I've just today lost my beloved Brora cashmere long pointelle gloves, in beautiful elderberry which match my beret. It's one of those situations where I have no clue where they could be which is driving me nuts. Even more irritating is the fact that they were last year's colour so I can't even replace them. I'd be just about prepared to buy them in aubergine, only that colour's sold out. Grrrr!

However, just the other day I had a good rummage around in my cupboard and found these hand painted beauties ..


I bought them quite a few years ago and never wore them. I don't really know why but anyway I'm wearing them around the house right now ...


And suddenly I don't feel quite so bad. Deep down. Maybe. S'pose!!

Have a wonderful weekend x

20.1.10

20 minutes, and a few answers


I've just discovered a new CD, which is helping the crafting along very nicely. Dionne Bromfield is Amy Winehouse's goddaughter and if you can get over the fact she's thirteen (!) then perhaps you may enjoy it too. There is something a bit creepy, I think, about such a young girl singing about love but the songs (covers of vintage soul and pop) are the sort that put a smile on your face and get you moving, thus warming you up and possibly saving on the heating bills at the same time which can't be bad. Perfect crafting material even, you just need to try and stay sitting down!

I also thought I'd join MarmaladeRose's 20 Minuters challenge. I'm not one for resolutions, since I don't believe I've stuck to a single one. Ever. However, crafting is something I do pretty much most days anyway so here we go, should be straightforward? We'll see. Now I've got Dionne for company there's no stopping me!

Do you remember the blouse I made for my little friend not so long ago? Well, it was such a roaring success I thought I'd make one for myself too.


But not wanting to ruin any of my precious fabric should it turn out wrong or, heaven forfend, just plain not nice, I thought I'd do a mock-up, a toile I believe the technical term is. However, in the absence of any calico or muslin, I reached for a 1970's duvet "bequeathed" to us by guests who brought it when visiting us in Dorset once and then flatly refused to take it away again (despite the pressure they were put under)! I had intended to convert it into a pair of pyjamas for one of the children but it was shouting at me and not one to refuse, out came the scissors. What I had in the back of my mind, you see, was that if it turned out half way decent I may even wear the thing, albeit to do the gardening or in the event I should ever go backpacking!

Anyway, almost made and with 20 minutes to go, I gave my pledge to MarmaladeRose before smugly completing the requirement for Challenge Day One!



Now comes the dilemma and I'm hoping all you vintage fashionistas will come to my rescue here. The question is, should I actually wear this now that it's done and I'm not just talking about when I'm doing the painting or messy stuff with the children. Be honest now, hip vintage chick or dweeb in a duvet?



And now the moment you've all been waiting for ... and here are the resoolts (said Tess Daly-style) from my previous post and it's this moment that I wish I could do one of those fun collagey-type things - only I can't!)

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Did you get them?

Enjoy your day. I'm off for a spot of Dionne - it's a bit cold x

18.1.10

brain gym anyone?



Good Monday morning to you. Did you have a lovely weekend?

Mine, I have to say, was so quiet I can barely remember what happened. In fact we had a really lazy time of it which, yes ok, has to be done from time to time without feeling guilty but, nevertheless, you could still call it a throw-away weekend. So I've decided not be boring with tales of a non-fascinating weekend here in Londonium but instead thought you may like a little brain gym to start off the week and hopefully have a teensy weensy bit of fun into the bargain. Fancy playing along?

As you may know I am totally in love with my new camera but am also in the getting to grips with it stage and finding out what it can actually do for me. Chapter One: Macro Settings. Thus far I have always been a bit of a "point and shoot kinda gal" and I know I should really just sit down and learn that manual but, annoyingly it's in disc form which I am finding irritating to say the least. It's not too convenient, is it, when I'm out and about and suddenly need a little helping hand from Mr Manual?

And so onwards to the Gym. These photos were taken on said macro and some have even been, ooh-la-la wait for it, cropped - another feature I had a play around with over the weekend. So, you see, I did achieve at least two things after all! Some of the pictures may be a little out of focus but hey, you can't have everything and anyway, focus would make them way too easy. Actually they are all way too easy, particularly for you craftly lot because they are, after all, objects that most of us will have in our cupboards and may even, dare I say it, use on a very regular basis. Probably more regularly than me! Just think how smug you are going to feel for the rest of the day, knowing you have, indeed, had a full work out at the Brain Gym!! Ready? ...

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Told you it was easy. Let me know what you think they are (and how many nanoseconds it took you to do it) and I shall reveal all on Wednesday. And by the way, if they are all seriously easy and you feel your intelligence has been well and truly insulted - all I can say is oops, I tried, oh well, never mind and sorry!!

(Actually I'm on the point of regretting this post for fear you feel "duh, even a ten year old could do this" but hey what the heck, I'm going to press the "publish post" button anyway!)

Enjoy x

14.1.10

butter


With schools closed, dreaded white stuff on ungritted roads and more falling from those deep grey skies we've become so accustomed to, what shall we do now? We've done all the snowman, snow angel, snow fort, snow igloo stuff but hey, there's that cream in the fridge that we bought the other day. Let's do something with that! And so we made butter!


We've been making butter for quite some time now. Why? Because it's impossible to get hold of in an unsalted, unpasteurised organic form, that's why. Blame the EC directives, grrrrr! Unpasteurised, because it retains all the real goodness (and flavour) that is destroyed by pasteurisation and we like a bit of goodness in our household, yes we do. After a long internet search for local suppliers, we found this one who comes to Blackheath farmers' market each Sunday morning. Then there's Modbury Farm who are an hours drive from us when we're in Dorset. Modbury is a day trip away but very often turns into a wonderful treat. They have the most beautiful herd of Jersey cows, and pigs and chickens which the children love watching in the barns. But also Burton Bradstock has a restaurant worth making a detour for, The Hive, which is practically on the beach. They do the usual sandwiches and baked potatoes sort of light lunch food but the best thing is the fish menu. Not cheap but for a treat, a must!


Our man Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall says to make butter you need a large jar and a pair of arms which is true. But you also need a lot of strength in those arms as I found out the other day and if you have to keep stopping to rest, it's quite time consuming too. For the children there is a real novelty value in being a human butter churn but sadly that wears off fairly quickly and the trouble is, once started there's only one way to go and that's onwards! Unfortunately I'm not built to shake a large kilner jar for hours on end, so large my hand only just manages to grab hold. Shaking with the right amount of force also fills me with a fear that I'm about to knock my teeth out, or put my back into spasm instead and if I don't develop arms like Madonna's, then I shall want to know why.

Ah ha, thought I reaching for the antique butter churn and giving it a thorough wash. Job done! But there is a problem with that, too. Yes, it sure beats the shaking but most of the cream was beginning to stick against the sides of the jar, so the inside was turning to butter while the outside decidedly not. And changing back again to the kilner needs a lot of willpower since the paddle is covered with a mixture of cream and butter, so it's like eating a cream tea without the jam and the scone. You see, sometimes the child never leaves you and there's forever the urge to lick the bowl!


But in moments of dire need, fresh ideas generally come and so it was that a new method was born. Move over HFW. Sitting down (sounding good so far) and rolling the jar backwards and forwards, gripping on for dear life of course, and just as I was giving up hope of ever seeing butter again, hallelujah, the wonderful sound of sloshing buttermilk rang out loud and clear. Suddenly those newly bruised thighs didn't seem to matter so much and the possibility of getting to bed was also becoming more likely. Now I could push thoughts of getting onto the trampoline aside.

But yesterday, having still some cartons left over and not being able to face all that palaver again, the whole lot got spooned into the Kitchenaid. Creaming hook fitted, I switched it on, keeping constant vigil and do you know what? Glory be, butter was made in a matter of minutes - literally! So much for Madonna's arms!

And if I haven't put you off and you fancy having a try yourself, here are some tips below -


If you let the cream come to room temperature it will save you a very long time. Use a maximum of 1/2 kilner jars worth of thick cream at a time and don't forget to use a seal. Now start shaking (this refers to the jar, there is no need to be nervous)!

As you shake the cream will become thicker ..


and thicker ..


and thicker still ..


until you hear the sloshing, which is buttermilk. Save this because you can use it in the scones that your butter will be so delicious on!


Drain off the buttermilk and put a small glassful of cold water in the jar. Shake again, then drain and repeat this process until the liquid in your jar is clear at which point, hey presto, you have butter.


If you make it in a mixer, put it on a low to medium speed and watch it the whole time since the process is very quick. Follow the same method as before, although once you reach the buttermilk stage you will need to transfer it to a large jar as I found to my cost as water spurted around the kitchen!


Believe me, when you make it yourself, it tastes even more delicious. Once the shoulder pain has stopped, of course!
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