Thursday, 31 January 2013

Adjusting

I've been a good girl this month.

Not one packet of biscuits brought into the house.

(I haven't been sneaking them into the shed either!)

Only one magazine bought. 

(I so rarely make anything from the crafty ones, and I only drool over the pretty pictures in the house-y ones.  Pinterest is a perfectly good alternative!)

More walking, fewer car trips.

More culture - books, films, classical music.

(Why listen to certain irritating so-called disc-jockeys helping the nation vent their spleen when you can put Classic FM on instead?)

And absolutely NO new projects!

It's not like I do New Year's Resolutions, it's just that a brand spanking new year deserves a few, shall we say, 'adjustments'.

Anyway, the adjusting means that I have finished off not one but two scarves (mentioned previously but not shown)...





(Modelled by 'Buffy' my trusty tailor's dummy, as the ones  tried to take of myself were, frankly, laughable!)




Lovely Noro wool for one...




This is the dastardly '7-stitch wrap' that a friend and I both tussled with for ages, before finally managing, well, kind of...




The 7-stitch wrap was not worth the effort with the fluffy wool I got from the bargain bin for a pound - you can't really see it! Boo!





 Also finished this month were the bedroom curtains, the ballet wrap for Zosia and - drum roll, please! -  the 'Snapdragon Quilt'!  Yes, you read right - it is done!




The binding was laboriously sewn by hand on both sides as I couldn't get it right with the machine for the front side. Very annoying (and probably something to do with my salvaged blanket wadding).




It is lovely and weighty - it almost clunks when you chuck it over your knees...

I learnt that getting slap-dash with the 'scant 1/4 inch' seams causes big problems with the borders (don't look too closely at the corners) and will resolve to try better next time!




My hand-quilting improved as I went along - it doesn't look TOO bad on the back (and the print I chose- 'Whitewash' by Meg Hawkey of Crabapple Hill Studio -  is quite forgiving).





DONE!


But all this finishing off is a little too virtuous.

You'd forgive a girl if she felt the need for a little bit of planning...





Maybe a bit of a 'feasibility study'...




 A 'prototype' perhaps?




An eeensy-weensy bit of a 'mock-up'?






I'm sure none of these things really constitute starting a new project.  

I'm right, eh?




PS.

Looking forward to getting back to reading and writing blog posts, now I've finished my stint at proper work...


Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Snowy days...



Yes, we too have had snow.  It came on Thursday night, dusted everything prettily, closed most local schools for a day, hung around for the weekend, then mostly melted away, till last night when we got caught up in the edge of the 'snow-bomb' and received another dousing. 

Cue the essential blog-land snow photos...







What better excuse could there be for a bit of this - sitting in front of a glowing wood-burner with a gloriously hefty quilt-in-the-making, stitching away to try to finally shift this off my list of works-in-progress...




Hand-quilting is not something I've done before, and it's not very neat.  Let's call it 'rustic charm' shall we?




The fact that I've used a bit of thick old woollen blanket (from the 'Dog Blanket' section of a local charity shop - apologies to dogs in general for depriving them of this one!) means the 'rocking stitch' technique I've read about for quilting is impossible, so each stitch has to be stabbed through individually.  I have my right hand at the back and the left at the front, so am getting to be a more ambidextrous stitcher, but I think my left hand still needs to improve for more even stitches.




I have now quilted twenty-four-and-a-half of the thirty-five squares - maybe I will get this finished before winter is out?




Sustenance has been provided on a regular basis by Mr U-t-B, who is rediscovering his culinary prowess since stepping out of the daily grind.  Last's week's soups were a work of genius - I will share a recipe soon!




In other news I spotted some really scrummy vintage fabric on the Rag Rescue website...




...which duly arrived the day after ordering.




Who needs to go out in the snow when such beauties can be delivered via the post, the very next day?




Also slipping in on this order was this sweet little child's coat hanger.  We used to have ones like these when we were little, so I couldn't resist when I saw it!




Although I am not starting any new projects at the moment,  I have been planning and preparing. Well, once I've ploughed through all those jobs I've been putting off so long, I really will deserve a reward.  So, in preparation for a birthday some months down the line, I ordered some adorable 'Out to Sea' fabric...





Once again my fabrics arrived the day after I had ordered them - this time from 'The Eclectic Maker'.

Each fat quarter was intriguingly folded.  I have tried to work out how the folding had been done, but failed.  
I am now looking forward to the moment I can justify cutting into these to create the quilt I am planning.  Having this carrot dangling in front of my nose is definitely helping me focus on getting on with the unfinished one.





It's snowing again!  

Back to the quilting and a warm drink ...


Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Mozzarella, cherry tomato and basil muffins



I'd never made a savoury muffin before Sunday, but I will definitely be making these again!

Makes 6

Preheat oven to 200 degrees C/fan 180 degrees/ gas mark 6.

Sift 150g plain flour, half a tablespoon baking powder and half a teaspoon each of salt and pepper into a large bowl.

Melt 50g unsalted butter and cool slightly.

Beat 2 large eggs and 120ml milk together, then stir into the flour with the butter.  Fold in 150g mozzarella which has been drained and cut into small cubes, 3 tablespoons freshly torn basil leaves and 25g mi-cuit tomatoes, quartere..

Divide the mixture into a greased 6 hole muffin tin (Ha!  I used cases and it was a devil of a job to get the muffins out of them - next time, no cases!) and bake for 25-30 minutes until risen and golden.  Transfer to a wire rack and serve warm or cold.




Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Ta-Dah! Tuesday

The 'Not-Really-Sewing' job finally got finished on Thursday or Friday (can't remember - whichever day it was I was complaining about it!) and the curtains then languished on the banister over the weekend as we had more exciting things to do than put up curtains.  This is not a great photo but just to prove that we at last got round to hanging them this evening...


Better photos MAY follow - light and room tidiness permitting!


Since last Tuesday, I also managed to finish two scarves that had been hanging around minus their buttons since before Christmas 2011.  I know a scarf with buttons sounds strange - but this is the pattern to show why... 




...and I have worked on two other of my unfinished projects - nothing new has been started whatsoever.  This constitutes major progress!

It snowed a bit yesterday,
but not enough to give rise to school closures round here, so I found myself back at work! 


The hellebores looked pretty with their fluffy white caps!


It's ages since I've done a full day teaching and 
I was pooped at the end...
Too much singing, I think it was - 'Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes' or, rather, 'TĂȘte, Ă©paules, genoux et pieds' more times than I'd like to recall, plus a good number of verses of 'Alouette', all with lots of enthusiatic actions - it quite did me in!

Today was better, even though I probably sang even more.  I think this shows that singing improves fitness!


At the weekend, we had a bit of a party to toast the New Year with friends.  I love making nibbly bits to go with drinks, and as the party was a pretty informal thing, starting at three on Sunday afternoon, there was plenty of time to get organised.  I think it was the first time I have ever been ready for more than one guest with half an hour to spare! (I can just about manage to be ready for coffee with a friend ahead of their planned arrival...)


I tried one new recipe - Tomato, Basil and Mozzarella Muffins, which were yummy...




...made up a new filling for filo baskets - Roasted Mediterranean Vegetables and Goats' Cheese - not a 
great-looking creation, but rather scrummy...




...had fun piping tiny plain and chocolate meringues...





...then failed to find time to decorate my Snowflake Cookies nicely, so just threw glace icing and silver balls at them!





Miss U-t-B was pleased to take charge of mixing cocktails, though we only offered a choice of two, this being the first time we'd made use of the shaker I was given for my birthday last year.  There was 'Berry Blush' (vodka + raspberry liqueur + lemonade) or 'Swedish Polar Bear' (vodka + blue curacao + Sprite) - I had wanted to make either 'Antifreeze' or 'Jack Frost' or 'Sub-Zero' but they either required heaps of different drinks we didn't have, or tasted revolting!


Most fun of all was colouring sugar and frosting the rims of the glasses!





WE had a good time, so hope our guests did too!  We'd definitely repeat this format - a Sunday afternoon into evening, in early January, all ages welcome, as it was pretty relaxed, and it wasn't a late night.  In fact by eight o'clock, I COULD have been tucked up in bed with a cup of cocoa - though I wasn't, as I'd already fallen asleep on the sofa...


Saturday, 12 January 2013

More Toddler Philosophy and a film recommendation



It was an absolute joy earlier this week to be looking after Zosia once again.  It was three weeks since we'd had our regular Wednesday together, and luckily she seemed happy to be here and got straight back into her usual routines.  





She's not yet reached the stage where 'No' is the answer to everything, so early in the day, just as she was beginning to get every item out of the toy basket to ascertain that all was present and correct (brown bear - check; three mice - check; 'We're Going on a Bear Hunt' (alternatively known as 'Uh-oh!') - check; etc etc etc) we asked her a few questions about her Christmas.

'Did you have a good time in Poland?' Mr U-t-B queried.

'Yesh,' came the reply.

'Was Grandma well?' continued the inquisitor.

'Yesh.'

'And Grandad well?'





'Yesh.'


Did you have lots of nice presents? Was it cold?  and Did it snow? followed, all of which were answered with a very sweet,


'Yesh.'  



Secure now that no answer other than yes was going to be forthcoming, Mr U-t-B then posed the question'

'What's the answer to everything?' 

A short and thoughtful pause followed.





'CHEEEESE!' came the reply.


(Back in October she seemed to proclaim cheese to be the key to success and long-term fulfillment - see here.)


She's learning to count.  Fingers, toes, curtain rings and buttons being favourites.  Counting the buttons on my blouse, she went; 


'One, two,' with confidence, 
then more quietly, 
'sree, sore, sive,' 
by which time the buttons had run out.  

However, to my surprise 
(as we'd only been going up to five) 
she then said, 



'Six...



Seven...



BOOB!'


In other news, Mr U-t-B and I went to see a film.  We began a campaign to visit the cinema each week last winter, but failed quickly when family commitments got in the way.  But this year it looks like more of a possibility as we now have a cinema in Aldershot, after probably a decade of the town being cinema-less.  




(Shame that with the Morrisons we got this...


The most ghastly and ENORMOUS green and yellow patchwork wall, plus strange 'We-haven't-finished-building' metalwork - what an eyesore!)



It's only a ten minute walk away and is in a complex with lots of 'eateries' so there's even the possibility of combining a film and a meal out from time to time!  How very grown up!

Anyway, we went to see 'Quartet', a film set in Beecham House, a home for retired musicians.  It was directed by Dustin Hoffman and stars Dame Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly, Pauline Collins, Sir Michael Gambon and Sheridan Smith.  

I could give you a resume, but this trailer does it so much better...







Great performances from everyone, including the many older musicians who swelled the cast list and made me rather wish I'd stuck at the violin, become a great performer and could spend my twilight years in a lively, pleasantly cacophonic place like Beecham House!


I really enjoyed the film, which was funny, sweet and life-affirming.  


Friday, 11 January 2013

A bit of fabulous-ness for a Friday

I am in a haberdashery sort of a mood this week.

Maybe it's because I am doing an job that I hate - one that pretends to be sewing but  is really just hemming mixed in with a bit of wrestling, a spot of weight lifting, a bit of furniture moving, heaps of crawling around on the floor and lot of time pushing pins through impossibly thick 'stuff'.  Yes, I am finally trying to finish off the curtains for our bedroom - we have be curtain-less for too long and if we don't get something up soon, I think the neighbours will begin to complain!

So whilst I do my not-really-sewing, I am dreaming of prettier jobs, and of surrounding myself with all manner of desirable sewing paraphernalia, courtesy of two suppliers I have recently come across.

First, there is Maison Sajou, a 'resurrected' French company, purveyors of every imaginable joy for the lover of sewing and vintage!   I'm not going to pretend that what you find on this lovely website is cheap, but one has to dream!  And make birthday wishlists!


Traditional costume reels




Folding embroidery knives




Empty bobbins to buy



Vintage style boxes and needlecards




Thread organisers




Embroidery, cross-stitch, tapestry and lace patterns


Beautiful scissors of many designs




Thread organisers


Rosettes of pins



Merchant and Mills have the same vintage appeal, but in black and white. They have just opened a shop in Rye - I think a trip along the coast is required...









All sorts of pins



French safety pins



Measuring implements



Beeswax



Selected notions box


Now where is THAT lottery ticket?