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A new beginning

So, I think it’s fairly obvious that I’ve not been keeping up to date with this blog. Work commitments, amongst other things, meant that I just didn’t have the time to do much crafting or cooking, let alone blog about it! However, I have news – I’m intending to start blogging again, but it seemed best to begin anew. So farewell to the old, and come on over to my new space at http://landofbreadandhoney.wordpress.com/!

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An unexpected absence…

Oh dear, oh dear…it’s been a long time. I’m not quite sure what happened, except that like everything else in life blogs become more difficult to return to the longer you leave them! I genuinely didn’t realise how long it had been since I last posted. In fact, my absence wasn’t for lack of anything to say; I’ve been working at various craft and cooking projects over the past few months, a good number of which I’ve been extremely satisfied with. I’ve even sold one of my papercut pieces – without really intending to, I might add, although I was extremely flattered and pleased to have been asked to sell.

I’ve clearly also missed blogging about the build-up to Christmas; as usual, I made a number of presents this year, including more chutneys as well as some sloe, hawthorne and rowan jelly, but was prevented from making more than I did by my ridiculous procrastination with one particular present, for my sister. Isn’t it frustrating how something that would usually come to you so easily turns into a gruelling slog as soon as you decide to make it for a specific reason?

Hopefully I’ll be able to catchup with some highlights of what I did up until the end of 2011, but overall I’m going to pretend that the unfortunate blip of the last couple (well, maybe more like ‘few’) months didn’t happen, and just keep writing. Although weirdly, according to the traffic report, I’ve actually been receiving a steady flow of visitors every day right through my little hiatus – more, in fact, than I had been receiving previously. Hmm… Well, a warm welcome to all my new readers, and I hope the presence of an actual author here doesn’t put you off!

Finally, a picture from warmer months, to keep you going in these grey and gloomy times. Happy New Year to all.

Bye-bye sixties beige, hello…stripes and les publicités?

A month or so ago, I was asked if I was interested in the sewing machine that was being given away by a friend of a friend – obviously, having been thinking about saving up for one, I said yes! The sewing machine was bought in 1964, which I am perfectly happy with – it’s from an era when things were built to last, and there’s no unnecessary computerised bits to be repaired at spectacular expense.

The case, however, was another story…

Really not nice. The machine and the horrific case having been sitting in the corner of my living room ever since, and today I just couldn’t bear it any more!

I started by pasting this stripy tissue paper (recycled from my birthday presents) along the top and sides of the case, using pva glue mixed with water.

After spending an inordinate amount of time placing and rearranging bits of paper, I settled on this arrangement for one side (this photo was taken while the paste was still wet, hence the bumpiness!) The pictures were from a calendar of mainly French advertisements from the twenties and thirties that I have been storing for about three years…

The other side, which took just as long! I found some ribbon left over from Christmas to cover the handle – I’ll probably swap that for some nice material at some point, so this ribbon is just taped on. It looks better than manky brown plastic for the time being…

All done. For now – I’ll probably add to it in the future! It’s now back under the window, an unbelievable improvement on what was there before. Now to learn how to use that machine…

It’s the simple things…

…a really good book, a homemade meringue (just look at the crackled, golden shell, the promise of gloriously chewy marshmallow underneath…) and a bubble tea. All together now – ahh…


By the way, this is book 3.1 of “A Song of Ice and Fire”…a fantasy series of the highest level, currently being shown as an excellently-realised HBO series on TV. I’d recommend both – the books are brilliant, but if you want to watch the series in suspense it’d be a good idea to start with that and catch up after.

How does your garden grow?

For some reason I haven’t mentioned my garden on here so far. Possibly because throughout the winter it didn’t really deserve to be called one? Anyway, it’s time that I remedied the situation.

I have always loved gardens and plants, although I was fortunate enough for most of my life to take the fact that I always lived with a wonderfully established garden for granted. Then I went to university…strangely enough, halls of residence don’t usually come complete with your own little bit of green. I felt the lack of green space much more keenly once we’d moved into private flats, places that felt more like home than first-year halls…but had no outside space whatsoever. I was lucky enough to have a massive south-facing windowsill one year, which allowed me to grow tomatoes and basil, but it’s not the same. It was obvious, then, that once we had moved out of the city and into a house (with stairs!) that a garden would be high on our list of essential criteria. It didn’t have to be huge, but there had to be some outside space where we could sit in the fresh air and grow a few plants.

We ended up with…well, it’s not perfect, but it’s a one hundred percent improvement on nothing. The soil is appallingly poor – there used to be a railway line to a colliery running through the end of it, and so the ‘soil’ is made up of clinker, coal, bits of rock, lumps of metal…all topped off with a centimetre or two of dusty earth. I’m not exaggerating. Plus, the winter gales tore down the fences on either side and one still hasn’t been replaced, so it’s hardly a haven of private tranquillity. But – with the help of a couple of raised beds, an inordinate amount of compost and manure, and a good helping of determination – stuff is growing!

Some of the vegetables are just starting to get big enough to eat…like this tricolour radish!

(The cucumber and tomatoes weren’t from our garden…but they will be in the not-too-distant future!)

New potatoes, out of the soil and into the saucepan within 5 minutes (I counted). So, so good…

A new camera!

Yes, I have a new camera at last! I’ve been making do with my phone for so long that I’d forgotten how nice it is to have a real camera…and one that doesn’t make an annoyingly loud ‘shutter’ noise when you take a photograph!

To make life even better, this camera is a million times better than the old one (although I loved that one dearly…) I’ve not done anything except point and click yet, but already I’m in love.

And that last one is the baklava that T made for my birthday…be very jealous.

The Turtle Moves!

Another foray into fantasy / sci-fi crafting, this time influenced by the incredible Discworld series of books. I had such fun making the Dr Who t-shirts for a Craftster swap that I knew I wanted to make some for myself – but not just Dr Who!

This is Great A’Tuin, the turtle that swims through space, carrying on it’s back four elephants – Berilia, Tubul, T’Phon and Jerakeen – that in turn support the weight of the Disc, the flat world populated by witches, wizards, dragons and policemen. (Just read the books…)

I used a pen-and-ink design (not my own this time) that I printed off, outlined in thick marker pen and placed under the material. Easy, I thought, I’ll just trace over it… That method worked ok-ish for the turtle’s flippers, shell and the rough outline of the Disc, but failed miserably for any detail, such as the elephants and A’Tuin’s head. A couple of the elephants may look a tiny bit odd if you look really closely, due to the fact that I had to draw them freehand – not a problem with pencil and paper but trickier with thick sticky paint and a white t-shirt – once this paint is on, that’s it – not coming off!

I added the green swirls in an attempt both to represent the turtle shell and to detract from the slightly wonky legs of the elephants. I think the t-shirt actually needed the swirls to lift the design a bit, but if you try anything similar yourself, beware! You need a really steady hand…I completed the swirls in about 3 sessions, with one minor disaster (since concealed with relative success), since the pressure of having to maintain constant and very light pressure on the tube of paint at the same time as carefully drawing tiny swirls made my hand tremble appallingly!

These are the paints I used. I would use them again for similar tasks; they wouldn’t be suitable for stencilling or blocks of colour, but they do work well for outlines and detail. I also like the pearlescent, slightly 3D finish.

And I have one more plain t-shirt to decorate…