Chinese New Year

Lots of cranes

A couple of weeks ago Emily and I had a Chinese New Year party, this was partly because it’s fun to have a party but mainly because Emily wanted to cook a shit load of Chinese food and I wanted to eat it!

I spent my Saturday decorating the house with strings of red paper cranes and apparently (according to Pinterest) traditional chinese paper cuts.

Paper cuts

We had a pretty ambitious menu and Emily did almost everything single-handed, but I made a few sweet things and was her kitchen bitch for the prep. I utterly failed to take photos of all the delicious food as I was drunk (bar the uncooked dim sum below – I cut the square wanton rappers into a circle with a cookie cutter so they looked pretty) but here’s our menu, you can use your imagination!

Dim sum

Menu

Starters
Freshly deep-fried prawn crackers
Pork dim sum
Spring rolls (Clair made these – also fucking delicious!)
Pork buns
The most amazing ribs of all time!

First Course
An entire crispy roast duck with all the trimmings

Second Course
Beef in black bean sauce
Char sui pork
Salt and pepper prawns
Stir fried cucumbers in hot spices
Braised Aubergines
Pak Choi and soy sauce
Sesame tofu and vegetables
Broccoli in hoi sin
Steamed rice

Dessert
Fortune cookies
Almond cookies
Lychees
Jasmie tea

Lotus flower origami

We had a very tight prep schedule so Emily allowed me Saturday evening to ‘go nuts decorating/setting the table’, so as well as the cranes I made these lotus flowers for the table. They are ace because they use up the leftover ends of the A4 sheet of paper you used to cut out the squares for the cranes – genius right?!

Incredibly accurate future telling devices these fortune cookies

I made the fortune cookies from scratch which was super fun, it’s basically like making a tuille biscuit so you really need one of those rubber mat things (which luckily I have), you paint them onto that and then put them in the over for about 3 mins, which them out and use your extremely tiny window of opportunity to insert the fortune, fold and seal it. I started by putting about 8 in at a time but there was no way I had time to fold them all so I reduced it to batches of 4. I used this recipe which was not only delicious but helpfully suggested cooling the cookies in a muffin tin to stop them uncurling.

Almond cookies

I also made some almond cookies which were a bit shortbready (recipe here), they were so easy to make and went really well with the jasmine tea, I ate a LOT of these.

Crane

The cranes look so pretty I don’t want to take them down, I might move them to the craft room, it’s definitely not busy enough in there with all the crap I make.

Spring!

Last thing: this is the symbol for Spring, it’s supposed to welcome it in so I’m leaving it up until it actually arrives!

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Cake and a Boring Conference

It’s better than it sounds, I promise!

Boring pack

Ok so this photo isn’t helping but last weekend I attended the Boring Conference, it’s a day dedicated to the mundane, the ordinary and the dull. ‘Fascinating!’, I hear you cry, ‘now where’s the cake?’

But really it is, because these people who came to talk about their weird obsessions with the overlooked actually gave produced some real beauty, hilarity and of course good old fashioned British self-deprecation, they really made me want more boring in my life, but glad I wasn’t quite at their level!

The best bit was my friend James beating the Swivelympics world record, check it out! (Watch too as my disbelief in him turns to vicariously getting off on his win, idiot)

There were 19 speakers in total so I won’t go into too much detail but my highlights included:

Mr Wowser on his study into the standardisation of toasters, I particularly enjoyed the toast colour bar chart and the new rating system design based on settings you find on irons.

Kathy Clugston from BBC Radio 4 explaining the shipping forecast, I now understand this and must attend numerous pub quizzes in the hope of showing off.

And lastly Andrew Male who talked about how yellow lines shaped planning in London, he had really done his research and that was interesting because that research was shaped by a photo of his mother visiting the Festival of Britain he had found when she had died earlier in the year, it was actually a really touching and compelling narrative.

The other talks were all great, some funny, some incredibly niche and some just plain wierd, (I’m excluding the shitty performance art piece, it was like being back at Goldsmiths FFS), unfortunately I was a bit too knowledgeable on a number of the tv related talks to find them sufficiently geeky, and a few were pretty underwhelming. But anyway if you, like me, like boring stuff, you can find a far better write up here and it thoughtfully includes links to the speaker’s twitter accounts and websites too.

Ok, cake, you earned it:

Maple and pecan loaf

So you know me, I love a loaf cake, they are quick, easy and delicious and you don’t even have to ice the fucker, just serve a slab with a strong cup of tea and you’re done.

This was a recipe found via Pinterest, there is loads of tasty stuff on that board, check it out. It’s pretty dense as it’s bound with oil and yoghurt plus it’s not cheap, what with the maple syrup, and I added the pecans, but it was delicious and took 15 mins to make before bunging it in the oven.

Unravel

Unravel

On Sunday my hangover and I dragged our sorry arses down to Farnham for the spectacular knitting show Unravel. I was lucky enough to win a free ticket from the lovely Clare at Nimu Yarns but sadly in my morning alcohol-addled confusion I forgot the ticket (I’m sorry Clare, I din’t have the guts to tell you when we saw you at the show, I was ashamed) so had to spend £9 on the door, what a loser!

But it was worth it! The show was much bigger than I though it would be and was entirely wool/yarn craft based (none of those poxy card making stalls or any of that crap. They also made such a huge effort to make it look great, balloons covered in knitting lined the bridge to the show, the cafe had knitted tea-cosies galore and the whole interior of the show had been yarn-bombed to within an  inch of it’s life.

We spent the morning looking around the main marketplace, there were loads of smaller artisan producers so you were looking at different things all the time and lots of people had made the effort to bring loads of samples of

their patterns so you could see what they are like in real life. We also did a lot of yarn touching, so soft…

We had lunch outside in the sunshine and pissed everyone off by laughing raucously and generally ‘causing a scene’ whilst people around us sat quietly knitting.

Things we bought:

 

Susan Crawford‘s mammoth vintage knitting pattern book ‘a stitch in time’, we got a cute eco bag with it and had a good chat with her stall buddies who were very cool. They also teased us about the secrecy surrounding her coronation collection (due out in May) and wouldn’t give us ANY hints, the meanies 😉

Neptune

 

I bought the Purl Alpaca’s Neptune Cardigan pattern which I have been lusting after for ages and mum bought two balls of their DELICIOUS alpaca yarn, it’s so soft I just want to smoosh my face in it! The woman from there was lovely and told us all about keeping alpacas and that they make great pets so we have decided to buy some (you have to get a few as they are pack animals). We are going to get three boys and call them Richard III, Lord Corston and Dumbledore. Mother will look after them of course I will just reap the yarn bounty.

Mum bought two skeins of Nimu Yarn’s Seatoller which is a fantastic luxury yarn and was a show sale – we LOVE a show sale –  in a beautiful acid yellow colour and Amber got her the 3/4 Hap Shawl pattern to make with it, it’s going to be beautiful. Also very impressed that we could pay via PayPal with Nimu, 2012 techno-bonus.

We spent ages at the Millamia stall cooing over their fantastic patterns and bought their book, Wonderland. I’m planning on making the Alexander sweater for a little boy soon. My mum and sister bought the yarn and pattern to make their adorable fairisle cushion too. They also had a show sale on all their yarn the clever people!

I bought some british 4ply yarn in grey, cream and tomato for an as-yet-undecided fairisle project from The Mary Kilvert stall.

Some bits and bobs form the vintage knitting accoutrements stalls and other random yarn. We went home laden with bags.

Things I didn’t buy but want:

A curly, rare-breed, grey sheepskin rug from Well Manor Farms, they were ever-so-slightly out of my price range but worth every penny!

So, in summary, it was great and we will definitely be going next year, see you there 🙂

New Year = more blogging (subtitled ‘Empty Promises’)

Okay so it’s WAY past new year and I’ve yet to post anything so I thought I would end the drought tonight REGARDLESS of what I actually wrote.

I’ve made loads of stuff over the past two months (lots of Christmas presents) but  have totally failed to photograph most of them, so lets forget them for now, they are dead to us until such a time as their new owners take and send me photos.

Let’s look to the future, and projects I have planned for this year:

Number 1: Roseling Cardigan

Roseling

This is amazing, I’ve bought the wool for this and will be starting it next week, it will be a challenge as it involves steeking (which I am freaking out about but doing anyway) but it’s so cute it will be worth it.

Number 2: Coraline Knitalong

Coraline

Lizzy and I are planning a knitalong to make Ysolda’s Coraline cardigan, I’m planning on following the mods by Lolita Blahnik (as pictured above). If anyone wants to join Lizzy and I just shout, the more of us there are the better the motivation!

Number 3: Little Cat Fianna

Fianna

I’m going to make these for my friends children, so cute!

Other projects include finishing 2 quilts, (yes, one of them is the never-ending quilt), the Ruffles quiet book and some cushions for our new lounge. Not to mention the baking I have planned.

So I should have no problem keeping the blog up to date right? HA!

Pinterest Pin-ups: Presents for Teachers

My sister is a teacher and it’s her birthday this week so perfect timing for teacher gifts, loads of kitsch items you thought you had lost to the school yard, enjoy.

Gold star necklace
Clipboards
School clock
Rocking chair
Personalised stamp
Apple cupcakes
Leather satchel
Vintage pencil pin

PS I’m aware I haven’t done any ‘proper’ blogging for a while but I’ve got two corkers coming up I promise, just got sew on buttons and block, sigh…

Friday Pinterest Pin-ups

I’ve been spending a LOT of time on Pinterest recently and I thought I’d put it to good use by sharing the pretty things with you. I was browsing recently and on discovering the oilcloth below was reminded of our brilliant mexican party last year which got me in the mood for this:

MEXICAN FRIDAY!

Find them on Pinterest:

Beautiful Embroidery
Bling Piñata
Hand-Painted Tiles
Mexican Oilcloth
Penguin in a Sombrero Egg Cup
Seven Layer Chilli Dip Shot

Disclaimer:
It’s annoying but Lightbox (the image plug-in I use on here) won’t allow me to create a gallery with links to the original pins. Hence the list beneath the gallery, I know it looks shit but I can’t do anything about it. Sorry.

Yarra Class Bunting

Yarra Class Sign

Ooh how exciting, more classroom craft! To be honest this is a fairly flat ending to a long overdue project, not because of the overall effect just due to the time it’s taken to get it finished. In the end it was a family effort, I knitted the majority of the pennants (although Amber and Lizzy did some too) and my Mum embroidered the letters onto them. I finished the knitting for these in September of last year, just as my sister (Amber) was taking her own class for the first time. All the classes are named after rivers of the world, although on closer inspection the Yarra isn’t even a good one! The Yarra is a river in east-central Victoria, Australia (see you’ve learnt something today), it’s not the longest, or most important, just ‘a’ river in Australia, lame.

Sign in situ

The pattern for the bunting is from Green Mountain Mama, and it’s a piece of cake, however, I would recommend charting the letters into the pattern rather than embroidering them afterwards just for speed really. I used the never-ending Rico cotton, which knitted up really nicely for this project.

Anyway, this is the best class sign I’ve ever seen, if you’re class had/has better; let’s see it!

Week off joy

Simon and I had the week off together, not to go away or achieve any particular goal, just to spend some time together and with the kittehs.

However I obviously wasn’t completely idle…

Simon went on a butchery course I had bought him for Christmas and came home with a huge bag of meat so that night we had herb crusted rack of lamb – yumarama!

Meat!

And I made Nigella’s cream cheese brownies for dessert, they are amazing, go make them now.

Brownies

I also made some gorgeous chicken stock from the bones of the filleted chicken which will be transformed into some delicious soup very soon.

I received a very unexpected package in the post. I’m sure you’ll agree it’s always exciting to receive a parcel but even more so when you aren’t awaiting it! A mysterious box with a ‘par avion’ stamp, how fun!
Simon handed it to me and read from it (in a resigned voice) ‘yarn’. But I hadn’t ordered yarn…
This is what I discovered on opening it

Surprise!

My lovely blogging friend Pam had sent me this treat as a ‘thank you’ for helping her with her first pair of socks, how sweet and lovely is that? It contained this delicious shi bui yarn (not available in the UK) and a hand made card. This really made my day, if not my week!

If you haven’t read Pam’s blog now is the time, she is the goddess of Christmas craft, check her out on http://gingerbreadsnowflakes.com

We spent a lot of time playing with the kittens, some photos for you to squee over below

Hey kittehs - what you doing? 'nuffin, honest...'

On Saturday I went to the De Beauvoir Association bric-a-brac sale and bought this old library book (I’m a bit obsessed with buying old library books, this one used to be part of the Islington Libraries Hospital Group), a hardback of course, isn’t it pretty?

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

And on Sunday went to the Rio cinema in Dalston to see:

The Complete Metropolis
With Original Music Score Reconstruction by Frank Strobel.
For the first time since its 1927 Berlin premiere the lavish and spectacular epic that is METROPOLIS actually makes sense. The addition of 25 minutes of newly-discovered footage has transformed Fritz Lang’s much truncated mother of all sci-fi movies from a jumbled treasure trove of visionary, iconic and influential imagery into a dazzling modern masterpiece. Its tale of a futuristic city and its divided society of masters, men, machines and a mad scientist is equally timeless and the movie remains as powerful and relevant as ever.

It was brilliant, all in all, a perfect week off.

I Knit Weekender

Royal Horticultural Hall

Okay this was a while ago but I’m a busy girl you know. Lizzy and I had a lovely sunny Saturday out in Victoria. The Royal Horticultural Hall was amazing, a stunning art deco building with all the original fittings was very exciting, I felt like I was in Poirot.

We went to a talk by Debbie Bliss which was blighted by a major powerpoint fail, not a big deal as she clearly didn’t need it but the security guard would NOT let it go and kept buggering about with the screen and projector which was very distracting. To be honest we were impressed that Debbie Bliss was a real person and not jut a brand, more than anything else.

We spent a lot of money on yarn, but we could easily have spent more, it was nice because it wasn’t too busy you couldn’t chat to the exhibitors and everyone was really friendly. I bought the last of the wool I will need to get started on my sweater as well as some ‘secret-squirrel’ Christmas present making yarn.

For my money, although smaller (and yarn only based), this is a million times better than the knitting and stitching show which is just a bloody nightmare, too busy, not enough space or seats and no freebies – all for more money, lame!

More Baby Gifts

Following on from the Harwood’s Quiet Book post, I realised that we had been made some really beautiful things when we were little. My mum’s friend Lynn, who she met when they lived in the States made this fantastic embroidered picture for my little brother when he was born, isn’t it just the most lovely present? And imagine how long it must have taken her, she really is very talented.

The carriages have the date, time and day he was born all immaculately embroidered.

And how much he weighed (sorry about the blurry photo)

I think making these sort of things for boys must be hard anyway but this is just brilliant, I would really love to make these for my friend’s children but where does one find the time? Also do you think she would have used a kit, or a pre printed pattern or just made it up?

This is currently hanging up on the staircase in my parents house in France, just a little further up on the landing I found this embroidered picture which I remember from when we were little but have no idea where it came from.

Look at the detail in the stitches, isn’t it amazing. I really must take the time to learn to embroider properly, I’d dearly love to be able to make things as intricate as this. Another thing to add to the ever-expanding craft ‘to-do’ list…