Saturday, December 30, 2006

Present problems solved....

Christmas is passed. Presents have been bestowed, with much delight all round.

Sadly, for our first Christmas together, I was up at 4am to sort out the Boy's stocking, but he didn't get my hints, or my leaving out of stocking, and all mine were under the tree and not at the end of my bed come Christmas morning. I was only able to maintain disappointment for a little while before the gluttony and heartfelt thought processes of what he'd chosen for me became apparent....Better luck next year though!

Here's one of the little projects I wanted to share: a cat blanket for the new parents of Tilly and Frobisher.

Holidays in Pictures

The dress tags in all their glory... Soldiers to follow...
Last minute present for a dear dear friend and my old English teacher...Christmas Eve Lunch with my almost-in-laws using the beautiful table linen set given to me by my lovely Mum and the silver napkin rings given by my best friend and her boy. I was given special dispensation to open those early!!

The calm before the gluttony... The same table, the next day, when neither of us really wanted a huge dinner after the seven hour dining and nibbling marathon the previous day, but both relishing the quiet serenity of eating together.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Yuletide festivities

Very merry Christmas wishes to you all. This is my sister eating free chocolate fountains at the Globe while shopping at this year's Frost Fair. Festive? Kinda...

Yesterday went to Broadway Market to buy fish for today's lunch with the almost-in-laws - it was caught on Friday by the incredibly helpful fishmonger's brother. Then I bought cheese which had matured in the helpful cheesemonger's farmhouse cellar in Cheshire for two years. Then I bought a croissant. Which hovered in my hand for two seconds before being inhaled.
That's the best kind of Christmas shopping.

I like my little corner of London village.

Happy thoughts and *speak* after the holidays

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Merry Christmas (that includes all you killjoys out there)

Just had to post this - I think it was the National Elf Service that did it for me.

Bah humbug indeed xx

Darned DHL

Nothing quite like the disappointment of a really funky outfit chained up inside a very small flat because the DHL man hasn't come when he said he would.

The list of jobs to do outside seems to be taunting me, not least of all because I'm going to be stuck inside a waiting room at Guys & St Thomas' having my tonsils investigated for most of tomorrow.

Yuck boo and pants.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Fudging It

Paola mirror mirror makes the most amazing fudge I have ever tasted. It's not chewy Cadbury Roses fudge that glues your jaw together. It's more like Kendal Mint Cake but not minty, a bit granular and drier. She is beautifully generous and includes a sneaky taste of two squares in with every order from mirror mirror.

At the moment it is being shipped in boxes from Seattle. I thought I'd have a bash at making it myself, despite being scared off candy making since a bad toffee apple experience as a child. *shudder*

The recipe* was one of those beauties that are handed down from family to friend and back again, and so the recipe amounts were 'a pack of x' and 'enough to moisten' and such like. Perfect when you have the recipe giver with you for the first effort. Not so great when good ol' supermarket stocks a variety of sizes and I've an overly liberal glugging hand with crucial moistening ingredients.**
Melt butter with sugar.

Butter melted

Sugar dissolved.

Increase heat and stir. Hard. Watch for splashes.


After decanting the boiling hot fudge-mess into two different pans (and changing hobs as the front left was now emitting a rather pungent burnt sugar smell)... I carried on with one pan. Just to be safe. In this one, you can see the difference in colour of the two pans. The one at the front has caramelised and is ready to go into prepared tray. The one at the back was next. The recipe said 'Stir to prevent sticking'. Now I was worried that my mix wasn't sticky enough, as it was still the consistency of thin yoghurt. So I turned on the tap to prepare for the cleaning of the hob. And left the stirring for 20 SECONDS. Honestly.

Good thing it was separated into two batches!!!

Poured into prepared tin. I have one tray of rather thin but pretty damn good fudge, with occassional patches stirred in of fudgey goo which I think was my overheating for fear of underheating. ***
As you can see, I rescued the hob.
As you can see, I rewarded myself with one square for doing such a good job.

*Paola is currently in talks with the recipe-giver as to the possible publication of it in detail on the net. When that's been okay'd, I'll be back to pass it on.

** Yes that includes wine... and no not for making fudge.
*** On that basis, I think it's only fair that this batch stays in the comfort of my home for now. Will do another for passing on to mirror mirror customers. If I can bear it!!

Soldier Boy / Tag You're It

Inspired by the deliciously talented Anna Maria Horner's beautiful dress tags and living with the Boy whose nickname is TinSoldier*, I have created my own male-friendly tags. Promise to share a piccy when I've done the deed and coloured them in myself later!!

I warn you, I horrified myself with the degree of importance I placed upon keeping inside the lines when colouring the dresses in. God speed!!

I wish you all the happiness but none of the stress of Christmas!!**

* For being so darned tall and skinny

**I would like to add that this mini-project has nothing to do with the 4,000 word essay that is currently locked somewhere inside my brain and all to do with the good in my heart. Honestly, 4,000 about Ken Livingstone's cultural policy??! I can think of two. And they're not suitable for your innocent eyes.

Nigella's Ginger Cake

This dark, molasses sticky concoction is fast becoming a Boy/Blogger Christmas tradition, not least of all because it was the autumnal cake of choice I took with me to 'meet the parents' two years ago. Shame the only cake that The Boy's dad doesn't like is Ginger Cake. Shame he has a caustic sense of humour and wouldn't let me forget it that weekend, or any since. Good thing they're great people. And this is a great cake.

As Nigella loves to preach, any cake that involves combining wet with dry and whacking in a baking tray is good in her books, and though this falls in the Child category of Domestic Goddess, it's there as a good, easy, impressive tray bake to keep grandparents happy at cake stalls.*

Anyway, on with the photos of me making it wrong!!

The recipe calls for mollasses and golden syrup (in weighed rather than spooned volumes) to be added to melted butter. I could think of no other way to do this, while maintaining sanity, some cleanliness and minimal wastage, than putting the hot pan on my scales. I thought this the ideal time to take a picture of golden syrup with one hand, while holding spoon up with other and all at speed so as not to melt my scales... Note dribble of syrup on edge of pan, about to hit said scales... Domestic ...what was that?

Was unconvinced by lumpiness of 'liquid mix' (no seiving of flour mentioned, not that I usually bother) but gave it a good beating and poured into pan. Sadly, the cake is dotted with little snow white parcels to greet its nibbler and threaten inhalation and choking at any point....

Ah well, this is the steaming goodness and I can vouch that two thirds of the picture below is now in the Boy's belly, and the other third is in my sister's belly. I played no part in the devouring...**

*I was yesterday told that there is something fantastically Enid Blyton about me. I think I'm going to take it as a compliment, and possibly even as my mantra in the New Year.

** Not true in the strictest sense, but good for guilt-tripping and excuse to make another!!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Columbia Road at Christmas

Went to Columbia Road Flower Market at the weekend. It was a cacophony of beautiful natural evergreen and jubilantly unnatural sparkly pink.

Had a mooch, discovered they were around on Christmas Eve, so put the bouquet together in my head and will return in a week. I think a few of the incredibly fat blood red velvety roses, some pussy willow and something starkly white... perhaps the cotton heads that seemed popular everywhere. Hmmmmm.....


The biscotti were dreadful.

Truly awful.

The diet starts tomorrow.


Sunday, December 17, 2006

Presents presenting problems...

Having a similar quandry to Anna Maria... Been crafting loads of presents but the one I really want to blog about is for a reader and her man. Will post pics soon but so very excited I had to share the concept of the excitement first.

Ridiculous, non?!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Making friends with Postman Pat

Borrowing Royal Mail delivery bags, skipping post office queues and coordinating delivery and pickup times for Signed For slips that need to be checked and stamped...

I think *flirt* is too strong a word, but it certainly pays to be polite and have a winning smile.

One day, you poor little blog, you will return to your former glory and shall bear the fruits of hours of crafting, sewing and baking. For now, you can wallow in your daily delivery reports...

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Mince pies and tea

Deliveries akimbo around here. Sadly, all to do with Mirror Mirror and none to do with Christmas presents for me!!

The only way to get through the deluge of everpopular bath melts is with warm mince pies and a cuppa.

Toad in the Cold

Last night's splendour...
Eaten in a home lacking a working boiler and in an apparent black hole for boiler repairmen to come with any form of haste.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Carols, Cash and Cardboard Boxes

S0rry for the mini-break. Trust me, I did not get swept away to exotic climes. I have instead been having the usually busy busy week* that involved me getting very little done and being in a permanent state of diary-checking to see where I was going next.

Monday saw the welcome of my co-students in my first craft sale/christmas soirree in aid of Great Ormond Street.

One of many happy customers, wearing my scarf, clutching my fudge, and brandishing the cash that contributed to the £100 raised!

Tuesday and Wednesday evening was a double whammy of carol concerts. I went from having none to having two offered over the weekend and before I could say free mince pies, there I was, descanting where none would dare and having a beautiful time.

Lincoln's Inn will chiefly be remembered for its burningly toxic mulled wine (portly barristers sure do know how to get the mingling started) and St Bartholomew's (on behalf of Mencap) will be remembered for the bizarre amounts of corporate labelling at the end of the service. It seems saying thank you in the 'programme' (their words - surely it's an Order of Service??!?) was not sufficient and the organ pealed out merrily after over five minutes of genuflecting to Her Royal Highness Prince Edward's Wife and thanking all the corporate sponsors for their donations and the Church Warden for allowing 'the use of this beautiful space'. I think my face looked something like Duckface's....**

Tonight sees me hosting soirree number 2, though I have now been awake and 'sitting in' for the broken boiler man to come and make my house warm again since 8am this morning and I'm not sure that the party will get into full swing if I have to dish out jumpers along with the mince pies.

Friday I'm off back to Cheltenham to see my parents and exchange presents.

* The busy-ness is chiefly due to MirrorMirror's ability to go from strength to strength, make it into any number of glossy magazines and entice its customers to spend lots of their hard earned pennies! Most popular items include the ever-pungent bath melts, ceramic milk bottles, egg cups and delicately girlie salt & pepper shakers. When I run my b&b when I'm grown up, these will be on each table at breakfast.

**The rather random reference to Duckface is because St Bart's is where the final wedding of Four Weddings... is filmed and no, it's much much more beautiful in real life.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Save your pennies

Dontcha just love a find? When you can say not only do you know where I found this, but guess how much it cost?! I'm a bit of a pain when it comes to price. I fear many crafters are: it comes of valuing your time and understanding about quality of materials. I have turned my back on Primark (and others of its ilk) mostly over concern about the disposable attitude to clothing and styling that it has engendered.

I don't think it is style or elegance that enables someone to see an outfit in a magazine, buy a knockoff for considerably less, wear it once, throw it to the back of the wardrobe and then rinse and repeat for the next event. Style and elegance can be achieved on a limited budget by understanding what suits you and what you have in your wardrobe and mixing and matching to create any number of new outfits.

I admit that I am biased and have the ability to create new outfits quickly and cheaply through the power of my sewing machine, but I'm sticking to my guns. I absolutely do not have a minimalist wardrobe, home or life, but I do have some plains that I can mix with my prints and some jeans that I can mix with my dresses.

I digress beyond the scope of concentration and fear I may have lost you all. The point of this posting is to announce the fabulousness that is the Bargains page of the Homes & Property Section of Wednesday's Evening Standard has been put online!!!!!

I don't think it's possible to overestimate my love of this page, not least of all because it introduced me to mirrormirror a couple of years ago and we all know where that got me. It also brings to the attention of mere mortals the kinds of treasure troves only known about by designers and stylists for years. A small child could navigate the site blindfold (which is probably how most £2 tops in Primark are made) and there are handy divisions into date, area of home and bargain and outlet of the month. The fact that it is online also saves me my 60p paper fee and catalogues all the articles for me, a job I've been meaning to do for years. DOUBLE BARGAIN!!

On an aside, Daily Candy is an email alert site that sends you details of designer discount shows and end of line events around the globe. You just select your nearest city, grab your most comfortable shoes and get your elbows sharpened.

Brace yourself, ladies, there is a world of bargains out there.

I just hope I get there first.

Festive Shoho

Read the other day that the little pocket where I live is called ShoHo, a contraction of Shoreditch and Hoxton. That makes me happy.

Anyway, that is by the by...

As you can see, Christmas has arrived in our little flat. The Boy (a terminal scrooge until 11.53pm, 24 December every year) is not impressed.

Saturday, December 02, 2006


Another gem from James Martin's Winter cookbook.

The recipe isn't difficult but rather annoyingly fiddly. Lots of in the oven, out the oven, lower the temperature, cut the slices, in the oven, out the oven, turn over, in the oven, out the oven, leave to cool. Combined over three baking sheets.

Also, the first step of mixing beaten eggs to flour and sugar to get a doughy consistency beguiled me. He warns that you may not need all the egg, but I'm just so used to baking cakes with a batter of soft dropping consistency that I fell into the trap and overegged it. In every sense. Some resurrection but remain ultimately stumped as to how to make a dough of any form without making an almighty mess. The biscotti are supposed to be very much thicker, but the wet dough spread far more than any of us expected. They look scrummy, but I fear they lack the crunch and the density of my Italian faves.

Another not-quite-how-I-intended-but-think-it-may-just-be-passable-to-friends-who-don't-see-the-recipe-picture event.

Post Script: For the sake of market research, took the tin into the front room last night with the DVD and a cup of peppermint tea. I ate 5. I think they're going to be fine.

Jars of Goodness

Having the quandry again... These were made to be handed out to difficult* relations. The fabulous glut of mangoes I purchased yielded 7 jars of chutney and the onions and apples bought to contribute to them yeilded a further 4 jars of onion marmalade and 3 of sultana, apple and caramelised onion chutney.

Now, to sell or to share??!

*difficult = already has too many possessions, books, socks, sweaters and gadgets and would never speak to me again if I purchased a toilet in Tanzania on their behalf **

** ie all the men I have to buy presents for
In case you're wondering, the gingham used to dress the jars is an old shirt of my dad's, passed on to the Boy until he wore out the collar and then trimmed using a CD as a template. The Good Life would be proud.