Friday 24 August 2018

Since last time...

I have visited an exhibition... for the second time.
I loved it but then I have a long standing fascination with the life of Frida Kahlo.
There were photographs and films, clothes, objects and paintings and I came home inspired to paint and work in my sketchbooks every day.
Have I done it? Have I heck! I also came home inspired to make an effort to dress up more, but that's not happened either!

I took the train to the exhibition but I have also driven to London in the past week and loaded up my car with all the stuff I drove there just three months ago. After three months of London life youngest son has decided he would be better off living in Cambridge... which is what the rest of us thought three months ago. Are you impressed that the words "I told you so" were not uttered once, not even as we sat in traffic for an hour queuing to get through the Blackwall tunnel.

He's going to live on a boat moored on the River Cam. I'm not sure how I feel about that but I have the pleasure of helping him clean it this weekend. He tells me it is full of spiders. I definitely know what I feel about that!

I've taught a book making class which was good fun and as a result I'm trying to put together a downloadable tutorial with step by step photographs. It is taking forever!

I'll let you know when it is finished... I might need someone to test it for me before I put it in my shop. Give me a shout if you are interested.

I have been dress making. I bought a pattern and fabric when I was at the Festival of Quilts two weeks ago. It seemed like a good idea to make myself a dress for wedding number three... which just happens to be a week today. Do not judge me, do not say a word... it seemed like a good idea. I've put the zip in today.

I made cakes... fifty of them. Well there were actually sixty eight and we kept some for ourselves. But I delivered fifty of them for a party organised by Clic Sargent via a Free Cakes for Kids referral.

I've been to a book club meeting where we discussed our latest book The Whole Day Through by Patrick Gale. There were mixed reactions at book club ranging from a good read to okay but I enjoyed it. Which was just as well really as I had recommended it. After reading voraciously all summer I seem to have ground to a halt and I'm struggling to find something that captures my interest. Suggestions are most welcome.

In this interview with Patrick Gale he says it is cake bakers who wield the power using cake and sugar as bribes. I'm not sure how I feel about that, although I did take some of the spare cakes into my class this week... I wasn't really trying to make them write nice things about me on the end of class feedback forms... honestly!

I will be baking more cake this coming week as I am making the wedding cake...  three tiers of sponge in three different flavours. And talking cake - The Bake Off is back next week. I'm quite excited as it is one of the few things I actually watch on TV.

So that was my week that was. I hope you have a good weekend. Spare me a thought battling the spiders. It will be a challenge given I can't stand to be in the same room as one.

Wednesday 15 August 2018

A Fishy Tale

I have not eaten meat for over twenty years... if you don't count the half a sausage I had at a barbecue last month in the absence of any alternative. I don't really have any moral objection, hence the sausage, I just stopped eating it as a result of taking one of my children to a town farm where there was a chicken shed. These were meant to be humanely kept chickens but the smell was so disgusting I stopped eating chicken from that day onwards. I gradually stopped eating other meats and I find I generally prefer vegetarian food. But I cook meat and I've always eaten fish and sea food so I have never called myself vegetarian. But until recently I have never eaten octopus... ever.

When we were in Greece my daughter-in-law's mother asked did I like octopus. There may have been something lost in translation in that Maria's English, although good, was a bit rusty and my Greek is... well, non existent shall we say. So I ended up trying some delicious little white cubes of fish... yes, I like octopus.  So when we were out with friends last week and one of the starters was octopus on a bed of smoked aubergine puree and everyone else was waxing lyrical about it I decided 'Yes, why not, after all I like octopus'.

However, I wasn't prepared for the creature from the deep that was dished up on my plate... it was a dirty great tentacle for heavens sake. It looked like it might crawl off the plate and wrap itself around my neck! Not wanting to look like a complete Muppet by screaming "I can't possibly eat this"as I ran from the room, I gave myself a good talking to... I could do this... just don't think about those little round suckers...  I cut off a small piece and with my eyes shut popped it into my mouth.

And I have to say... it was absolutely delicious! I cleared my plate without looking at what I was eating but I can now definitely say I have eaten properly eaten octopus for the first time. I may never do it again but I've done it. Another sixty by sixty bites the dust... only three more to go.

When we were at the Festival of Quilts, Gill thought I could add 'teaching at the FOQ' and 'staying in an AirBnB' to my list as these were also firsts for me but neither really seemed too much of a challenge... not like eating an octopus! So my total still stands at 57. As always suggestions are most welcome.

Sunday 12 August 2018

Seasonal Stitching

Well I'm back from a lovely weekend away at The Festival of Quilts. I enjoyed the challenge of teaching a couple of machine embroidery workshops in the space of just one hour which seemed to go down well despite some hiccups with threads on the first day...and one particularly rude lady who could do with brushing up on her manners but the less said about her the better. Thankfully most people are absolutely lovely. I met up with old friends and new, may have made a couple of small purchases of some beautiful fabrics and mostly felt overwhelmed by all of the quilts. I can admire the all the work and effort (some were absolutely spectacular) but they aren't really my thing. And there were so many of them! Best of all was spending a couple of days with my friend Gill... we are on the same wavelength as far as quilts... and people are concerned!

This week I have a day class teaching "Seasonal Hoops" - little free machined applique pictures representing the four seasons mounted in embroidery hoops. I designed and made the one with two little rabbits ages ago... during the spring in fact when I was inspired by all the blossom on the trees. It was used to advertise the class

But I never quite got around to designing the remaining three until last week.

But they are now all done and ready for my class.

So a few questions you can help me out with... do you have a favourite? Do you think they would make good cards?

Is it the sort of thing you would buy a pattern/tutorial for? And if so what sort of price would you be prepared to pay? Happy to hear your thoughts on these questions and anything else you might think...  well specific to these embroideries I mean... not that I'm not happy to hear your thoughts on other subjects of course... and saying that you would be willing to pay is of course in no way an obligation to buy anything from me at all... sorry, it's late and I'm wittering

But it's just that I'm pondering some different ideas which may or may not amount to something... and may or may not even be good ideas at all.
Thank you!

Friday 10 August 2018

Food for Sharing

Since before the first wedding (and it will probably continue up until after the third one at the end of this month) we've had an almost constant stream of house guests as our various children have stayed for the occasional one off night to a few days here and there. James, Lizzie and Joe have all come back from extended travelling and have been between jobs and more permanent accommodation so have needed a base. Jacob pops back on a regular basis and will also be between flats for a little while next week. And then when Kirsty gets married we have Scottish family staying with us as well as at least four grown up children. So as you might imagine instead of quick meals for the two of us there has been extended catering and many leisurely meals eaten in the garden. It has been lovely to cook for lots of people again... it was one of the things I missed when they all left home. There have been lots of quiches and salads, pasta and fish... easy to make and easy to share food. James and Lizzie also cooked several meals for us which was a real treat.

There have been occasions when we have taken food out to share too and last weekend we went to campfire party. As the emphasis was very much on barbecued meat I felt that a veggie option would probably be welcome so made a batch of these courgette fritters. It was a bit of a risk never having made them before but they proved popular and they all got eaten. Either that or someone was slipping them to the dog!

There was a tin of cookies and cream Brownies too... essential campfire eating I think!

It was a brilliant evening with shared singing as well shared food that went on until the early hours. Fortunately the neighbours had all been invited too!

And then this week we had our book club supper club gathering for which I pretty much always make the dessert. It was a key lime pie but without the key limes. I'm not entirely sure what a key lime is but ordinary limes sufficed and it was all eaten up with relish! We may have discussed books at one point during the evening but I can't really remember!

And then yesterday the weather turned and it was cold and wet so I fancied something warming. We had a butternut squash tagine and I discovered the hotplate on which I make pancakes is perfect for making flat breads, also great sharing food. I'm not sure why that had never occurred to me before but I'll make them again before we sell the house and I no longer have a hot plate!

But although it has been lovely to have friends and family with whom to share food - one of life's greatest pleasures I always think - tomorrow I am off to Birmingham to the Festival of Quilts to teach a couple of workshops (Saturday is full but there are still a couple of spaces on Sunday) and I have a whole weekend with no cooking at all, which is equally nice. Variety being the spice of life and all that!
I hope your weekend is good whatever you might be doing.

Saturday 4 August 2018

Go Ape

We started the day on Thursday with a carb loaded breakfast as I finally made Danish pastries. When we were in Copenhagen I fell in love with Tebirkes, an almond filled pastry topped with poppy seeds that are not easily found outside of Denmark. My version looked nothing like the ones we had and I'm not sure they tasted much like them either but they were rather tasty nonetheless. Tasty enough in fact that I managed to force two down!

But in my defence I was going to need lots of energy... ready to Go Ape! James, my stepson and his wife Lizzie had given me my treetop adventure as a birthday present, so it was lovely that as they are staying with us at the moment they could join in with our day out.

Lizzie and I braved the treetops whilst the boys stayed firmly on the ground... to look after the dog and sample cake apparently (I know, after all those pastries too!)

There were loads of very wobbly crossings, from rope bridges to tightropes

Some amazing high speed zip wires (I loved them!) to bring us down to ground from the tree tops

And best of all a very high up free-fall Tarzan swing that was so exciting I was disappointed only to get one go!

And it is official that I am now a gorilla! (and I've ticked off another sixty x sixty

I know I am just a little bit crazy and tree top adventures may not be everyone's idea of fun but Thetford forest is a lovely place for a day out with plenty of beautiful walks through the forest... although I was already eyeing up the Segway track for another time.

As long as you don't mind all the gorillas swinging overhead!