Friday, 24 August 2012

The Traveller Returns.

I was at Heathrow airport at silly o'clock this morning to meet someone special.
The bedroom is cleared, the fridge is stocked and
I'm very happy to have my boy back home.
Although sad that he has had to cut his travels short because my Dad is so poorly.
But proud that he has come home early to spend time with his Grandad.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

The Perfect Flapjack

You might remember that at the end of last month I set myself quest to find the perfect flapjack. I was looking for the right combination of taste and texture. I had started with a Nigella Lawson recipe from "How to be a  Domestic Goddess" to which I had added chocolate chips, which I found too dry and crumbly. The family however demolished them in record time and they were given a thumbs up for flavour.
But still not quite perfect... and so my quest continued... much to the detriment of my waistline, I might add. The second recipe I tried was from Jane Brocket's book "The Gentle Art of Domesticity". There is an awful lot I like about this book... but unfortuantely it turns out that the flapjacks are not one of them. They were too sweet for our taste and far too hard and chewy. So chewy we were all in fear of our teeth.

So, onto version number three from a recipe given by Joanna, which you can find in the comments section of the original post. I suppose for the purist they might not be considered a flapjack with honey rather than golden syrup and the addition of eggs. But these were so good I am willing to overlook such deviations from tradition.

Moist, sofly chewy and packed full of wonderful fruit... I think I found my perfect flapjack.

But Elizabethanne had also left a recipe in the comment box so it seemed only fair to try these too. These were tasty and we liked the addition of coconut but they were a little to hard and brittle for our liking.

Although that was very likely my fault as I was on the phone to my Mum when they were in the oven and may have over cooked them a little!

But the winner was definitely Jo's fruity flapjacks. So good, I made another batch this week, this time with golden syrup instead of honey... just as tasty! Already a family favourite.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012


I am craving space and order in my life... both physically and metaphorically. I'm having to clear space in bedrooms this week and it has made me aware of how much "stuff" I accumulate and store. I know I cannot be alone in this, so where do other artists/tutors store their "stuff"? I have framed work on the walls, framed work stacked up against the walls, other work rolled up under the beds or lurking in the back of wardrobes. There are dozens and dozens of sketchbooks, drawings in folios, boxes and files full of samples and endless folders full of notes, not to even mention all the fabrics, threads, paints, dyes etc... and I just want rid of it all.
But there lies the conundrum. To exhibit both in galleries or Open Studios at home, to sell my work, to teach... I need this "stuff". I cannot see how to achieve that space and order that I feel I'm desperate for right now. And this is making me question what I do and more pertinently, what I want to do in the future. Just a couple of days ago, I spoke about moving forward with my work and exploring new ideas but I now know I'm not ready to do that yet.

At some point I need to re-evaluate what I'm doing and make decisions but I can't do that at the moment. I do know I'm not ready to start making new work that will end up under the bed! And until I'm ready to make those decisions I need to stay within my comfort zone... which means spending time with my family, pottering in my garden, doing a little bit of knitting and crochet and of course, spending time in the kitchen. 

Today, I made bagels... inspired by last night's episode of The Great British Bake Off. I might have thought I was in my comfort zone but the results were far from comfortable! Mishapen, badly risen and far too salty for my liking (although my team of testers are slowly demolishing them). Paul Hollywood would have sent me packing in no time!

But in the weeks to come I think there will be a lot more baking and family stuff here until I feel ready to step outside that comfort zone once more. I hope you'll stick with me?

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Walk Like a Man

Training is going well for my walk.
I've even got a walking companion on the night.

I completed seven miles this morning.
An hour and three quarters, striding out and singing along with Frankie Valli like some mad woman.
"Ooh... walk... walk... walk... walk...
I'm gonna walk like a man...
Fast as I can...."

If you would like to sponsor me but haven't got around to it yet you can find my page here.
Every penny helps and feels like a huge great cheer to keep me walking as well as raising much needed funds for the Garden House Hospice.
Now if you will excuse me I think I need a shower.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Rites of Passage

To celebrate the end of my "Fifty Miniature Books" project... I made another book!

This time I used the online sevice Blurb to make a  hardback book about the project with photographs of every single one of the limited edition books from  book number one, "Be my Valentine"

all the way through to book number fifty "Write On".
I've never used this service before but I am delighted with the quality and ease of use. It's also wonderful to have this lasting memento of each of the books I have created.

Of course there have been others as well as this fifty... twenty Jubilee books and eight extra Japanese books (the last remaining few are still available in my Etsy shop and could well be the last ever). And in addition I've had requests for books that came after the original fifty were already spoken for. And that is what I've been doing this week... finishing off the few remaining orders.

A rather delicate little book on the theme of "Hand Stitching"

One of my favourites I think, although it would be hard to pick an absolute favourite. If you are reading Sue... I'll bring to our meeting in September to save the postage!

I really enjoyed creating all the little pages of hand stitches.

There has been another Pisces book, the third one I've made.

This time with fish made with foils (saved from Easter eggs!)

A book about Crows

And finally a book about the Bard...

Filled with favourite quotes... which is another of my favourites.

And now I have only four more to make... and that is it! So if you are waiting, it shouldn't be too long.

In total I will have made eighty six tiny books in matchboxes since February, which is an awful lot of books. I did think I might try to get to one hundred, and I still might, but for now I'm thinking it really is time to move on to something new. I'm mulling about some new ideas concerning "Rites of Passage" but as yet nothing concrete. I'm hoping by closing a door on these books, another one will open... in itself a passage of sorts.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Going for Gold

Yesterday we had a day out at the Olympics!

Our tickets were not for the Olympic Park but Stewart, Jake and I decided we would like to start the day by visiting the park in the slim chance we could get day tickets. We'd tried on-line during the week with no success but had no luck on the day either... instead we made our way to the river to see the Olympic rings hanging from Tower bridge.

And then spent the day soaking up the atmosphere along the South Bank and generally enjoying being in London at such an exciting time. Ben joined us later in the day when we made our way to our venue... the Excel Centre

To watch men's feestyle wrestling! (Not my choice I might add!) The atmosphere inside the stadium was brilliant... and very noisy... (and all those seats were full by the start!)

But try as I might I could not get excited by the wrestling! Silly rules, lots of grappling, and not much action!

However, I was quite excited to witness a medal ceremony

and see the men's under 74 kg champion from Russia get his gold medal.

I haven't a clue who he was...

but it was exciting all the same!
I also have to add I was incredibly impressed with the transport system, the helpfulness of all the volunteers and the general atmosphere everywhere in London which made me feel proud to be British. Everything was wonderful.

And just in case you happened to miss my last post... I'm going for my own personal gold in a few weeks time and trying to raise some money for a very good cause. If you would like to cheer me on you can sponsor me here:

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Keep on Running... or Walking?

I was never particularly sporty at school... it was pretty much a case of if you weren't in the netball team then you were considered no good. Once a year we were all walked over to the local park (our North London school didn't have the luxury of fields) and expected to run 400m for Sport's Day. Not the most inspiring start. Wind forward fifteen years and two children later I decided I needed to get fit and so at the age of 29, inspired by watching the London Marathon I took up running. I literally walked 100 yards and ran 100 yards... and it hurt!

But just one year later on 17th April 1988 I ran that marathon. It took me over 5 hours but I did it!

I think this photo of me at the finish with Ben is one of my favourites ever.

And later that evening we celebrated with family and friends... including my brother who also ran the London Marathon that year. ( I make no apologies for wearing what looks like over sized children's pyjamas... it was the 1980s!) Those medals felt like Olympic Golds to us!

From then on, running became a part of my life. I loved that all it took was to put on a pair of trainers and go out the front door... it always gave me a buzz. Ten years and another two children later I ran the London marathon again, this time taking over an hour off my time... despite pouring rain and my arm in plaster.

So you can imagine that when osteo-arthritis in my knees put an end to my running days I found it really difficult. I've tried swimming (too wet) and cycling (too much traffic) but nothing else really came close. However, I have kept on walking as regularly as I can so when I spotted an ad in the local paper for a 10 mile charity walk it seemed like just the challenge I needed... these wonderful Olympics have a lot to answer for! On September 8th I will be walking in the Starlight Walk... 10 miles at 11.30 pm at night.

And as a bonus it is a chance to raise money for the Garden House Hospice in Letchworth. It just so happens the hospice movement is a charity close to my heart at the moment as my Dad is very poorly with cancer. If you want to support me you can find my JustGiving page here:
I started training this week and already I've got two huge blisters so I think I'm going to need all the support I can get!

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Fifty Shades of...

...Matchbox books.

I've finished! I've reached my target to make fifty miniature books in matchboxes. And before you email me to say "hang on a minute, what about mine..." yes, I know, I still have some to make. But when I first embarked on this project my aim was to make a limited edition of fifty books and those are now complete. In addition I've made some Jubilee books and Japanese books (some of which are still available in my shop) and I've had another dozen or so requests for books which I still have to finish.

But it feels good to have done that fifty! The last few have included another book for a Piscean... decorated with tiny sequins.

One designed to show that moment that dandelions release their seeds which I've named "Make a Wish"

Number 49 was a real challenge with a theme of "Hobbits" - a subject I know nothing about!

 But I'm hoping a box decorated with Hobbit doorways and a book with excerpts from "The Hobbit" will fit the bill.

And the final book was on a theme of "Writing"

With a little origami flutter book of alphabet letters.

And if you are still waiting for your book... I promise they are on their way. I've enjoyed making them so much I think after I have finished the special orders I may well continue to add new books to my Etsy shop as I think of new themes... I'll be sure to let you know if I do!