Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Things that please

I am really enjoying my participation in Project 365, as a result of the need to take a photograph every day I am exploring the world around me in a new way. Each day I look around me for things to photograph, I examine the way the light casts a shadow on the wall, I notice the fading red paint on a garage door that we pass every day on the way to school each day. I look at the garden afresh, no longer as a whole but examining odd corners, unusual perspectives, the small details in the bigger picture.

The image I post each day is usually just one subject of many that I have photographed that day. I do not take a great deal of time over most of the shots, just grab the opportunity to snap. I do wish that my technical knowledge and skills were better but I love the way I am using my eyes more.

The result of using my eyes in this way means that I am finding pleasure and enjoyment in unexpected corners of my life.

project 365, 27-02-2008

This little bowl was never meant to be on display. It was a little pinch pot made idly one day while just playing with the technique. It was never good enough to be fired, the only reason it was fired was a means to test a new glaze. It is completely imperfect.

I am not sure how it ended up on the windowsill, it should be outside in the shed, or even destroyed. However, somehow, it ended up on the windowsill and somehow it became a receptacle for odd shells emptied from pockets after days at the beach. Somehow, it now looks quite beautiful to me, the chalky colours and textures of the shells are so comfortable with the satiny glaze which sits so well against the sandy, biscuity outside with its imperfect thumb dimpled surface. The colours say seaside so clearly and I feel pleasure every time this little bowl with its precious contents catches my eye.

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Monday, February 25, 2008

I had a request for the Chocolate Chip and Peanut Butter cookie
recipe from A Homely Heroine and as I was making another batch today and they really are rather good, I thought I would share them with everyone.

This quantity makes about 9 cookies, a strange quantity I know but perfect for my family, 2 each and a "test" one for the cook. The recipe could be easily doubled.

  • 50g (2oz) butter75g (3oz) soft brown sugar (I use dark because that is all I ever have but I am sure light brown would be perfectly OK)
  • 100g (4oz) crunchy peanut butter (I use a no added sugar butter which seems fine with this amount of sugar, you may want to reduce the sugar if you think your butter is quite sweet)
  • 50g (2oz) self raising flour
  • 50g (2oz) rolled oats - obviously the oats make these practically a health food, hence the reason the cook can eat three with no worries whatsoever.
  • 75g (3oz) chocolate - I use whatever is handy, sometimes, plain, sometimes milk, sometimes both.
  1. Preheat oven to Gas mark 3, 170C or 325F
  2. Cream butter, sugar and peanut butter
  3. Sift in the flour, add oats and mix, add chocolate and knead until you have a soft dough
  4. Place slightly flattened balls of dough on a greased baking tray and bake for 15 minutes, until golden.

Pour tea/coffee, put your feet up, perhaps peruse a blog or two and enjoy your "test" cookie.

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

My shiny new toy

project 365, 21-02-2008

The Technical Advisor is rather good at present buying. For the most part he sticks to jewellery and has a really good eye for beautiful contemporary pieces which are exactly my sort of thing. He is also ra
ther good at surprising me with pampering products from the Clairns counter, I know there are women who might be offended by a gift of wrinkle creams but truly I am very glad of them. They are just the sort of thing that seem far to much of an indulgence to buy for myself, not to mention, I am always a little scared of the ladies who work on those counters. The Technical Advisor has no such fear and usually charms them into parting with a great many samples too. I really love samples, something about the dinky little sizes and the experimental feeling.

His latest gift was a complete surprise and in honour of no special occasion.

A beautiful new Dualit mixer. I love my new mixer, really, really love it.

I do have a great big Kenwood which in spite of its grand old age (at least 25 years old) still does a sterling job and certainly has its place but this new mixer is small and convenient and will probably see daily use.

I baked chocolate chip peanut butter cookies to say thank you.

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Friday, February 22, 2008

Feeding the addiction

I promised you more Japanese goodness and I apologise
for delivering late on my promise.

This is ISBN978-4-579-11132-9, girly style wardrobe. It is packed full with beautiful patterns and as always, images to inspire. To begin with, I am weak at the knees over the front cover and that gorgeous blue/brown combination, I really need to copy that cardigan, I think I have a suitable pattern somewhere.

I love the shape of this little blouse, it would be great with cropped trousers in the summer.

The perfect skirt to twirl in and a pocket too.

I really like the neckline of this dress and those sleeves are very sweet.

Oh, oh oh! Be still my beating heart. I really, really like this blouse, I wonder if I can size it up to Mummy size? It looks very easy too, but then they all look pretty easy when you cannot read a word of the instructions......

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Turning Japanese

I have mentioned before my addiction to Japanese Craft books. Really and truly, the discovery of these books completely turned my sewing around. I had grappled with nasty tissue paper patterns and over-complicated directions before but the discovery of these simple, beautiful patterns and the fact that really, all those complicated directions are not needed because somehow the execution of these patterns is made easier by the lack of instruction. Sometimes, as I spend too long scanning the jumble of lines, trying to identify the bits I need to trace, sometimes, I think that it would be nice to be able to read the instructions, but mostly, I feel quite freed by the lack of direction. I have to think around problems for myself and I feel enthused rather than daunted. The lack of direction encourages me to break out and alter the bits I want to change, a fully legible pattern would make me afraid to break the rules.

Since my discover of these books, the majority of Tilly's clothes have been sewn, either based on patterns from these books or sometimes, emboldened by my new found pattern drafting confidence, they are entirely my own work, from starting sketch to finish.

This dress was based on a pattern with elasticated neck and sleeves, I made it, according to pattern, last year.

It turned out well but unfortunately did not receive much wear as it proved unsuitable for tree climbing, the pockets snagged on a branch the second time it was worn and the rips were beyond mending. Oh well, these things happen.

The second version, is based on the same pattern but I made the sleeves longer and created a button placket opening. Instead of elastic, I created random pleats.

I love the fabric, a liberty print babycord and I do love the design but sadly I do not think they work together. It is OK but not exac
tly as I imagined. I will make it again, perhaps in darkest denim this time, with bold, bright buttons to close. In the meantime I guess this one will do for tree climbing.

This book, ISBN4-579-11054-4, has been a particular favourite, well thumbed, coffee stained, stuffed with patterns which have been used and used again.

I began this post because I have new book to share but I seem to have already rambled far too much, I will share the new book tomorrow.

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Friday, February 15, 2008

Something old
I photographed this match box for project 365 yest
erday and taking the time to photograph it got me thinking about what draws me to something old. The Technical Advisor acquired this particular old object from somewhere or other and I eagerly rescued it from one of the piles around his desk, certain that it deserved a more prominent position. It was in a very sad and tatty state but The Technical Advisor polished it up and revealed its beauty.

project 365, 15-02-2008

Neither of us smoke but I like to imagine that (back in the days when smoking was cool) a handsome young man, perhaps a young Sinatra look alike, would have pulled this from his pocket and with one casual flick struck a match to light the cigarettes of both himself and his date. I like to imagine their conversation and in quieter moments in my head, I like to imagine their ensuing romance. The match box may have been a coming of age gift from his father or his brother, sadly now died in battle, perhaps it belonged to his brother and is all he has left to remember him by. I like to imagine what the initials might have stood for and what each bump and dent means. As I rub my thumb across the edge I think about how many times this object has been smoothed like that, a patina built of years and years of being.

The piece of paper folded inside is an old card scoring card, I wonder about the game that was played, I imagine a group of friends around a table, I think about their clothes and hair, what they were drinking, what their lives were like.

I want to use this matchbox to light my candles at night, so much prettier than my current long pointy gas wand thingy. The matches are old and damp, I need to find some that will fit the box.

Most important of all, I want to use it. I don't want this object to just lie around in a drawer or on a shelf because for me the joy of old objects is in using them, enjoying them as part of our lives, just as they were used and loved by someone before us. Adding our own imprints and memories to the existing patina.


Friday, February 08, 2008

a recipe for memories

project 365, 08-02-2008

Radio 4 is currently running a light drama series on
Friday afternoons, entitled "Have Your Cake". The series is about a group of friends who meet to bake on Friday afternoons and is developing into an enjoyable listen. You can even try their recipes for yourself, although the **chocolate cake containing mayonaise is perhaps (to the huge relief of the long experimented upon Technical Advisor) a culinary adventure too far.

As I listened to this afternoon's episode, I was in the kitchen, baking. I pretty much always bake on a Friday, the children normally have a home-made after school snack or some fruit every day of the week but something baked is particularly important on a Friday. It somehow signals the weekend and rounds off the working week. Of course it is some years now since I worked in a normal 9-5 weekday environment but I still get that Friday feeling and Fridays remain one of my favourite days of the week.

While listening to the radio today, I thought about how important baking has become to me. My mother didn't bake although I remember one Christmas she made mince pies and I remember those mince pies as being the very nicest I have ever tasted, she never made them again but I still remember them clearly and it is such a good, happy memory.

My Nana did bake, she always brought us an apple pie if she came for dinner on a Sunday and it was such a good apple pie, the right combination of tart and sweet, sugar sprinkled on top. There was always a big ice-cream tub full of little fairy buns, she didn't usually ice but she often added glace cherries or currants and I loved them. It was the 1970's and tupperware parties were only just beginning, my Nana didn't have any tupperware, only empty ice-cream tubs, strangely I don't remember her ever having any ice-cream...? I do have a little memory of being in Nana's kitchen while she baked and "helping" but she died while I was still quite young and my memories are not as many as I would like. Still, I like to think that she is responsible for my baking gene (and the knitting one too actually) and I am glad that I do have those apple pie and fairy bun memories.

**If anyone out there has tried the mayonaise chocolate cake or intends to try the mayonaise chocolate cake recipe then please do tell me about it, I am open to persuasion on most matters of food.

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

twice as nice

project 365, 06-02-2008

This has been one of those weeks. Dylan has been running a temperature and very poorly for three days now, this morning I was forced to admit defeat and visit the doctor for some proper drugs and gratifyingly he has perked up a little this evening.

Dylan is something of a martyr to his health (a true man indeed) and has really suffered this week. He has attempted a number of self diagnosis, including Scarlet Fever. On Sunday he appeared to be suffering with no more than a cold but was milking it beautifully, when I told him he just had a common cold he spent the rest of the day bandying the term around but in a tone which conveyed all the gravity of a most serious Victorian style illness. I was rather disgusted but forced to repent when he woke up on Monday, properly ill. He has in fact been the sweetest of patients, apologising for being sick and cuddling up on the sofa. Of course, the house is terrible tip but at least all this sofa time does allow for some extra knitting.

The patient was to ill to enjoy pancakes with the rest of us on Shrove Tuesday but did think he could manage one, "just with lemon and sugar", today. I was happy to oblige and whisked up a batch, unfortunately I was forced to eat them all myself as he could only manage half of the first one. So, the essence of it is, in two days, I have eaten enough pancakes to make me rather seriously un-pancake like of figure.

All this nursing has rather kept me away from the computer and I am dreadfully behind in responding to comments and emails, I am so sorry. I am especially remiss in being so tardy to respond to Zoe, Nora and Elizabeth who been very kind in passing on the "You make my day award" to me. This really was an enormous thrill especially in a week filled with thermometers, Calpol and little sleep. Elizabeth has written a really eloquent post on the difficulties of passing the award on and I love her cocktail party comparison. I have been churning over the possibilities and this question also serves to remind me of how badly my list of blogs in the sidebar desperately needs updating. I have a very long list of my favourite blogs in my bookmarks, I have tried things like bloglines but just cannot get the hang of it (there is a very good reason why I married a man with technical skills).

Obviously I read, Zoe, Nora and Elizabeth and updates from any of them certainly "make my day" but I guess it isn't quite right to simply pass the award back to them so here are some other offerings, I hope, if they are new to you, that you enjoy them as much as I do.

Cornflower - it amazes me that Karen can manage to find something to write about, and write about very well, on an almost daily basis and I love that she introduces me to so many new books.
Joyous Knits - so many wonderful knits
KEDkrafty - the queen of lace is turning her hand to colour this year, I look forward to following her progress
marie fly fly - gorgeous jewellery, beautiful photographs, great knitting and interesting posts
Peace & Serenkitty - Vicki's photographs are gorgeous feasts of colour and she is one of those people I just know I would feel comfortable with the instant we met
Saidos da Concha - so crafty and such a great eye for colours and patterns
Red Yarn - I love to see her drawings
Chronic Ennui - not only does she knit but she is laugh out loud funny
honeyflake - quite new to me but I am so pleased to have come across her blog.
craftoholic - so much knitting to see and some rather splendid sewing too

So there we have it, a list of 10, no pressure to take up the challenge, but it is nice to let you guys know how much I enjoy your posts. I have left out so many blogs that equally make my day and I really, really need to stop being scared of html/template tampering and sort out my sidebar links.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Finally Ruby

project 365, 03-02-2008

I have been thinking about this knit for a long time, I knew it would be quite a big undertaking in terms of both skill and cost but I just could not get it out of my head and last week I finally gave in and made a start on Ruby.

I cannot find a single real Ruby out there in virtual knit world which is frustrating. However, A Friend to Knit With tells me she has seen and tried the real thing at a show and assures me it is just as good as the pictures.

I am totally absorbed by the rhythmic knitting of the cables. They are soothing to knit, a little like that magical, meditative power of lace knitting. My desire to see the next turn of the cable appear keeps me addictively knitting, just one more row, just one more row.

I love the rich chocolate yarn, Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran, although my goodness, does it attract the dog hairs! So far all goes smoothly and there have been no tantrums or tears, just row upon row of comforting, squashy cables. Hopefully this is a good sign.

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