Saturday, 31 August 2013

Books and Baking

This is a blog post of two parts. I was going to write about cakes and baking (nothing new there then) and then I remembered I was going to do a post about reading. But then I couldn't decide which one to do do first so have ended up combining the two. Which is actually just a diversionary tactic so that you don't notice the lack of any interesting textily stuff going on!
Regular readers will know that I belong to two book clubs and one of them is not very serious. We are all avid readers but when we get together it is usually to eat, drink and catch up on gossip. We don't all read the same books each month but instead we bring along anything we have enjoyed and do a bit of a swap. Which of course is more difficult now several of us have Kindles... so we just eat and drink some more!
My other book club meets each month and we all read the same book... and actually discuss it. In August we read The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. I'd read this years ago and still had my old copy but I read it again. I didn't enjoy it anymore this time and felt it very dated and self indulgent. But it gave rise to interesting discussion about mental illness and its treatment. During the discussion someone mentioned The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell... another book about mental illness.

I had a copy of this on my shelves too and had read it before but immediately wanted to read it again. I devoured this in two days. It is a wonderful book and I can highly recommend it. It's both engaging and shocking and calls in to question what is normal... or not.

Which leads very nicely into the book we have to read for September. Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson. This is another book I have read before and I will happily read this again before the book club meet in a couple of weeks. A really good read and I can recommend this too. So that's the books... what about the cake...

Maybe the return of The Great British Bake Off has inspired me again (I'm still peeved that I didn't even get through a first round) but yesterday I made a fruit flan...

and a chocolate pavlova (requested for our next non- serious book club meeting since I put a photo on facebook) both for a lovely evening of shared food with friends.

and today I made a raspberry and almond cake for a family lunch. Probably one of the easiest cakes I've made but also one of the best. Recipe courtesy of Nancy... Thank you... I'll be making that again!
Maybe something textiley next week... or maybe not. I might just read another book and bake another cake!

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

A Shopping Opportunity

After yesterday's minor disappointment I took a friend's advice to down my G & T and fire up the Etsy shop.
There you will find tea and cake, vicars and monsters... all mixed up together.

Six new items listed so far and more to follow if I get my act together

Perfect gift shopping if you are one of those people who are terribly organised for ... well you know what... I don't want to mention it in August.

And a little bonus... if you are a newsletter subscriber (you'll find the link on my side bar) I'll be offering a small discount only available to subscribers.

So... what are you waiting for...

Christmas? (oops... now you've made me say it)

Monday, 26 August 2013

Show Stopping?

We were up bright and early to set up my stand in the Craft marquee at the Ashwell Show where we have sat all day in a hot tent.
I felt I had a wide variety of stitched goods to cater for all tastes and purses, I did demonstrations of needle felting and monster making and yet the interest was underwhelming to say the least!

Perhaps that is unfair as several people did make positive comments, especially about the sock monsters... althought it's always the negative things that stick in the mind. Like the lady who on picking up a £7.50 pin cushion (that probably took at least a couple of hours to make) and remarked in a loud voice of disgust to her friend... " Have you seen the price of that?" Not to mention the numerous children who seemed to think I was there merely to provide a table full of toys for them to pick up and play with.

Don't get me wrong. It is a great show and a lot of people put in an awful lot of hard work. But mostly it is about horses and dogs... and a day out for the family on bank holiday Monday. People don't seem to come out to go shopping. And I feel a little deflated.

I did sell one tea cosy and one sock monster (Rowley has gone to a new home)... that was all. On the positive side though, it was enough to buy a bottle of gin, a lemon and a couple of bottles of tonic water on the way home. Cheers!!!

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Star Gazing

Let me introduce Betelgeuse... a star studded monster.
Betelgeuse will not be coming with me to sit on my sales table at the Ashwell show on Monday, nor will he be appearing in my Etsy shop... that is beacause Betelgeuse has donned his very smart walking boots to accompany me on a Starlight Walk.
We are both in training to walk the 10 mile nightime Starlight Walk around the streets of Letchworth on September 7th to raise funds for the Garden House Hospice.

It is a year next week since my Dad died of cancer and I am doing this in his memory to raise money for the hospice which offers help to suffers and their families.

If you would like to sponsor me you can do it by visiting my Just Giving page (just click on the link). And this is where Betelgeuse comes in... if you would like Betelgeuse to live with you, just sponsor me for any amount you like (every little helps!), leave me a comment here to tell me that is what you have done and after our walk I will put names in a hat and Betelgeuse move house and live with you.

Of course I understand that you might not want him to come and live with you... he does look a little bit scary.. in which case you can just sponsor me! I'll only include you in the draw if you let me know that is what you would like.

This morning it was raining so he stayed on the sofa and listened to his music and left me to walk on my own. He won't get away with that on 7th September!

Monday, 19 August 2013

Spot the Difference...

The macaron on the left is made from eggs, sugar, almonds, white chocolate and raspberries and tastes rather yummy...
But the one on the right is made from fabric... and you can't eat it.

I had so much fun making this and avoiding my paperwork on Friday afternoon... The stitching isn't quite as neat as I would like but the fact I actually stitched in a zip to something that small is a feat all on its own!

I can take no credit for the "recipe"... which you can find here.

Thank you to my friend Pam... who knows how much I like a frivolous project. Especially if it takes the place of lesson planning on a Friday afternoon!

Friday, 16 August 2013


I am still groaning under the weight of too much cake but have been indulging in some exercise of the knitting variety. Not only have I been creating monsters in recent weeks... but I've made sheep too. Well... a sheep to be precise.
After finishing this one I decided knitting my own flock was probably a step too far. To be honest, I'm not sure I'd even succeeded in knitting one. Unclothed, he couldn't look less like a sheep.

More like a donkey... or a strange dog.

But dressed up in his rather fine coat he just about passes the sheep test... a donkey in sheep's clothing perhaps?

And more monster news... Fernley has packed himself into a bag and is now off to live in California without so much as an "I'll miss you".

Maybe he'll write to me when he arrives?

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Book Club Baking

After getting out and about last week I now seem to be trapped inside a vortex of never ending paperwork while I try to catch up with all those things I put aside until I had a few weeks free from teaching during August. Those few free weeks are rapidly disappearing under reports, planning and newsletters but I did manage a blissful day off baking yesterday.
There were cherry bakewells (not a bit like Mr. Kiplings) which I've wanted to make ever since I spotted them In Lily Vanilli's book Sweet Tooth.

Raspberry and white chocolate macarons... with their secret splodge of raspberry coulis. (recipe from The Pink Whisk)

And my trusty dark chocolate brownies with chunks of white chocolate and walnuts. All this for my book club supper last night. There wasn't much talk of books but we did eat a lot!

Now if you'll excuse me I need to go to the gym... I've got about 7000 calories to burn off.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

A Monster Mash

After meeting the charming Tattiebugs at Missenden Abbey last week, I was inspired to delve into the depths of my sock stash (all new and unworn I hasten to add) and do a bit of monster creation... and these were the results. A motley crew if ever there were.
First of all are Lexus and Lucretia... a rather well behaved brother and sister, not known for getting up to monster mischief..

Their close friend Presley is also very quiet and well behaved and can usually be found with his head in a book... although to be honest, I'm not entirely sure he knows how to read, but he thinks it makes him look intelligent. I don't really like to tell him.

Fernley considers himself a bit of a foodie and was passing judgement on our lunch today (beetroot hummus and soda bread). He really is a very rude monster.

And finally this is Rowley who is still a baby and likes nothing more than to hide in boxes.

I have a stall at the Ashwell show at the end of the month and I'm hoping all these monsters can be rehomed. Surely someone, somewhere will find it in their hearts to love them... or maybe not?

And speaking of love, it would seem that I was not the only one charmed by the Tattiebugs. Mr. Sock, who was the very first monster I created, a prototype for all that followed and who now lives with my friend Jude, spotted the Tattiebugs on his tablet and has fallen in love! I fear it could be unrequited.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Quilts not Monsters

If you have dropped by today expecting monsters... then sorry, I have dragged you here under false pretences. The monsters will have to wait until tomorrow because I had such a lovely day at the Festival of Quilts with my friend Catherina yesterday that I needed to tell you all about it.  As ever the hundreds and hundreds of quilts on display just felt overwhelming. I find it impossible to pick out favourites or to even discern those that are well constructed. Most of the time I don't understand what the fuss is all about.  But there are one or two things that stuck in my mind (closely related to the very few of my photographs that actually came out!)
I really loved the mixed media work of Stephanie Redfern (pictured above) which appeared so fresh and modern.

We were both quite taken with the work of Mandy Pattulo, pieced together from various recycled fabrics. Her wall hangings and garments were fabulous and so rich with texture and history.

Catherina and I are both interested in Art to Wear but mostly we were disappointed with this year's exhibits however we both loved this soft wool jacket with its beautiful kantha stitching by Pauline Macauley. I would happily wear this!

And I also loved this back and white quilt constructed from the most beautifully mono-printed fabrics by Sarah Welsby. It relates directly to some of the work I've been doing with Spectrum as well as some plans I have for new work which is probably why I found it so appealing. But the highlight of my day... the lovely Kaffe Fassett who spoke to me! There he was surrounded by glorious colour and a posse of admiring women just gently knitting. When I asked if I could take his photo he replied "Sure"... that counts as speaking to me doesn't it?

Which leads me on to my purchases... quite modest considering what was on offer.

We each bought a bundle of these beautiful shot cottons from Oakshott fabrics - inspired by both the colours and a lovely table runner that was on display. I don't particularly want a table runner... and I don't make quilts... but now we have set ourselves a challenge to each make something from our fabric purchase. 

But my best buy... this amazing Kaffe Fassett ribbon. Who even knew he designed ribbons (not me obviously). I limited myself to just one metre but could have easily bought masses in all the different patterns and colourways.

So it was a wonderful inspiring day... except for the ridiculously overpriced cheese sandwich which was frankly quite disgusting! I wished I'd bought another couple of metres of ribbon and had gone hungry.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Blogging is Dead?

Well thank you all for your response to my last post. It does seem that many of us think alike and that we still like blogging and reading blogs, it's just that there isn't always time to leave a comment and sometimes there isn't anything we particularly want to say. And I have to put my hand up and say I am frequently guilty of reading and not leaving comments. But at the end of the day, much as our blogs might be for keeping a personal record etc it is a public platform and it is good to know there are people out there reading... so keep talking to me because I like to read what you have to say!
Having said that... apparently this week Time Magazine declared "For years now pundits have declared that blogging is dead, rendered irrelevant by alternate means of personal publishing such as Facebook and Twitter". Well I say Pah! I like blogging and I like to buck the trend so I'm here to stay!
So what I have I been up to while I'm not working.... As well as catching up with stuff about the house and catching up with friends, today I took Jacob into London to see the Bowie exhibition at the V & A before it closes at the weekend. He hadn't seen it before and it was my third visit but I loved it just as much as my previous visits.

I then hopped onto the tube to the other side of London to see the Zandra Rhodes exhibition at the Fashion and Textiles museum. Marian had mentioned it on her blog and it sounded worth a visit. I think it is well worth visiting if you are in town and combining it with something else. There was some stunning bead embroidery and some really innovative printed textiles taken from sketchbook images but what I loved seeing best were the sketchbook pages and watching the film where Zandra Rhodes spoke about drawing. When she is travelling away from her usual working environment she tries to draw something everyday, whether it seems inspirational or not. And the drawings don't necessarily relate to finished designs but lead in a "diagonal way" to her work. So true! (Students of mine... are you reading this?)

I have long been a fan of her work and the exhibition reminded me of some earring I made years ago inspired by Zandra Rhodes beaded safety pins. I was surprised I could still find them... and I'm tempted to wear them again. I think I've got a red pair somewhere too.

I've also been creating monsters this week... but you'll have to wait until Friday to hear more from Frankenstein Ferrari...

Because I'm off to the Festival of Quilts tomorrow.  It's all go, this not working lark!