Monday, 25 January 2010

New kitchen!

We've spent the last two weekends moving house. First, just the essentials came across and we revelled at how we echoed in the big new space like pinballs in a giant game. Then we spent a day packing and a day shifting boxes into a van, out of a van and into our lovely new space (I of course didn't do much lifting or shifting - bizarre to be incapacitated when you don't feel as though you should be...)

So, there's still a lot of unpacking to do. We are amazed and slightly disgusted by the acquisitions we've amassed. But the kitchen stuff is all in its new cupboards and I have already been baking. We've gone from having a tiny kitchen with no windows and very little space, to having this:

There's space! Light! Lots of surfaces! Loads of cupboards! Chairs and a table! I've been listening to a lot of Radio 4 and pottering around. Knitting at the table whilst potatoes bake; taking the time to wash up as I go along; spending all evening in the kitchen - that kind of thing. It's absolutely lovely.

This chocolate sandwich cake I baked yesterday, as a celebration of having all the baking stuff finally moved in. It's nothing spectacular - I won't bother giving you the recipe as I don't think it's worth it, but it comes from my newest cookbook, which produced some super scotch pancakes a couple of weekends ago - I will post the recipe for these soon.

And finally, here's me in the new space, looking very pleased with myself, and showing off my little 14-week bump (which I have to admit just looks like I do normally after a big meal and sticking my tummy out!):

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

The Make Lounge

So, yesterday evening I spent three hours tussling with zipper foots, interfacing, unruly zigzag stitching and a whole host of other sewing vocabulary that previously read like a foreign language to me.

I was, with 9 other women, attending the second part of an A-line skirt workshop at the Make Lounge in Islington. The concept is social, short workshops on all things crafty in a friendly and stylish atmosphere.

I bought a second-hand sewing machine last year, and leapt into trying to sew without any real idea of what I was doing. Unsurprisingly my attempts were a little disappointing, to say the least. The Make Lounge appealed because it only required a one or two week commitment rather than the longer courses that I'd found at local colleges or sewing shops. The idea of nibbling and drinking while you learnt also appealed to me, so I signed up first for a cushion cover workshop.

That was pretty good. It turned out that the proffered snacks only extended to tea, warm Pinot Grigio and those little packets of biscuits you get in hotels, but we learned a lot, and I loved being able to take home something complete (and quite cute, if I say so myself) at the end of it.

This time - the A line skirt workshop - the sewing stepped up a notch, and I found a little streak of sewing rage emerging (not surprising given the tube rage, road rage, not-winning-at-board-games rage, people-who-don't-say-thankyou-when-you-hold-the-door-open rage, and various other afflictions I suffer). First of all my fabric was too light, and the zigzags wouldn't work. Then I found I hadn't got the right type of zip and I had to rip it all out and re-sew.

I started to feel a little bit like I was back in Mrs White's textiles class, circa 1995. Albeit, a textiles class with Lily Allen on the ipod, the aforementioned white wine, and a much lovelier teacher than Mrs White ever was. (Do they still do 'Textiles' at school btw? Ridiculous name really - I didn't learn anything about textiles, just how to do some dodgy batik and tie die).

However, when I finally got to take home an (almost!) finished skirt I did start to feel a small sense of accomplishment. My aim in taking the course was to equip myself to be able to read a simple pattern and to sew - properly - by myself. I think now I should be able to make something very simple to a decent standard.

So, rubbish snacks, nice environment (though pretty cramped!), nice teacher, ok teaching, pretty expensive, all-in-all though a worthwhile use of three hours and a good concept.

They've recently also expanded the little shop that fronts the workshop space, which is full of terribly trendy embroidery patterns and sewing books. They could do with adding a nice little café; somewhere people could stop by in the day and grab a juice and a flapjack after they've browsed books or patterns, or where they could get hot drinks and snacks from during or before doing a workshop. It would be full of people stitching, knitting, planning, discussing craft projects. Could be pretty nice.

I would love to have some kind of workshop space attached to the imaginary café. Or just to use the space after hours for classes, courses, clubs. Sewing requires a huge amount of equipment and materials, but there would be other easier things peripatetic teachers could use the place for. It would be nice.

See more Make Lounge workshops here:

Picture from Make Lounge website, as above

Monday, 11 January 2010

nice chairs!

This furniture set, sweetly named 'Seating for Eating' was featured in the FT weekend this weekend, and I don't know what it was about all that wood and straight lines but I just swooned.

I love it.

I know, it doesn't look especially comfortable on those little stools and the upright backs of the long chairs, but don't you think it's got a stark and simple kind of beauty?

Though I think The Imaginary Café is more likely to have a mish mash of second hand furniture that I can pull together, I would be quite quite delighted if it could have lovely looking 'Seating for Eating' like these.

Photos (and lovely furniture) from:

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Inspiration: Paris

Three days in Paris to start the year. Absolutely freezing cold, but glorious food.

How lucky they are, Parisians, to have beautiful looking fruit and vegetables seemingly on every street, and to have markets full of such lovely wares as in the pictures here.

We pigged out a little bit. A perfect posh croque monsieur (goats cheese, another cheese and ham and the most delicious bread) for lunch. Steak, frites and tarte au pommes at Le Relais d'Entrecote (strange place, we both had been meaning to try for a while). A good meal in a Chinese/Thai restaurant. Bounteous salade nicoise. A smattering of chocolat chaud. Several pastries. Mmmmmmmm......

Above: an omelette stuffed with sauteed potatoes and lardons, and my poshed up croque monsieur. I adore the French for their salads. I like the lettuce tasty and the vinagrette vinegary. This was a perfect example!

PS - also; recommend the Musee Carnavalet, a lovely little museum which 'tells the history of Paris through Objets d'Art'. Incredible recreation of an Art Deco jewellers and lots of interesting old furniture and recreated interiors, as well as Paris related paintings and drawings. And free!

Friday, 8 January 2010


I made my first proper tortilla the other night. They always seem such simple things, I was surprised at how much time and prep it took, but the end result was just about worth it and it's a marvellously cheap dinner.

The recipe I followed fairly faithfully from the first Moro book which I like but rarely use.

The first stage is preparing your onions and potatoes. I used 1 and a half medium onions and about 5 small-medium potatoes, which worked out well (I don't have scales, so I always have to estimate if the recipe gives me grams).

You slice both fairly thin, and then put the onions into fairly hot olive oil in a frying pan, turn the heat down and let them cook slowly for 30-40 minutes until they are dark and sweet and soft (stir every couple of minutes to prevent sticking).

Potatoes you can do in a deep fat fryer or - as I did - in a couple of inches of sunflower oil heated up in a big heavy-based pan. The oil should be hot enough to cook them but not too hot - they take about 20 minutes to get tender. Drain and reserve the oil once they reach this point.

(As an aside - I added rosemary and garlic to my oil thinking it would add a nice 'twist', but any flavour they imparted was completely overwhelmed by the sweetness of the onions, so it was pretty pointless. Don't skimp on the onion cooking by the way - without their deep flavour I think it would have been much the poorer).

Once your onions and potatoes are cooked, beat 5 eggs, and mix in the vegetables. Season.

Heat some olive oil until it's just smoking in a frying pan, then pour the mixture in with one hand whilst shaking with the other. This bit is fun! After about 3-4 minutes, once the underside is golden brown, put a plate on top of the pan, and carefully flip the whole lot over.

Put a little more oil in the pan and let it get hot, then slide the tortilla back in, runny side down. Breathe a sigh of relief as it all stays together.

3 mins more cooking and it should be cooked through.

I served mine with a hastily put together ratatouille-type-thing, and a simple salad. It was a pretty good dinner...

Monday, 4 January 2010

Happy New Year!

I would think that 'readers' of this blog at the moment would be mainly of the imaginary variety, but I'd like to wish you anyway a very Happy New Year for 2010!

I am a real sucker for new year. For as long as I can remember I have been a planner, a list-maker and an improver. I love blank sheets and I love the promise of a better, newer, shinier me. I shouldn't fall for the seduction of new year's resolutions I know, because they never work, but my brain can't help itself. It starts out small, thinking maybe it could just commit me to sticking to my budgets. Then it thinks, oh and why not add yoga twice a week, because that's not so hard and I do really want to do it. And then I read something about Buy Nothing New promises and start thinking I'll maybe only buy food and nothing else new this year. Then I just get carried away, and things start popping up and being added to an imaginary list and before you know it I am vowing to swim twice a week; always cook from scratch; do my hair differently every day; smile at at least one person on the daily commute; wear high heels more; write letters the first tuesday of every month; host dinner parties; learn how to make hollandaise; sauce do a photo course; knit seven items; grow some vegetables on the terrace; read Seneca, and keep the bathroom clean!

It seems such a lovely vision, this organised, healthy, fulfilled life, that I get reluctant to give up these notions and to accept that I make these plans every single day of my life, and I have never yet in my 28 years had the right balance of time and willpower to feel like I am fitting in everything I mean to.

So, I think I should try and set intentions instead. Unlike resolutions which are focused on an end-goal and which you can either fail or pass at (most likely fail and become disspirited), intentions are ways of doing things, ways of being. And if you feel yourself slipping you refocus on it and get back on the path.

It's more difficult to set my intentions, because it's more inviting to think of the collectible and measurable achievements that my resolutions tend to be. But when I think about what is behind all of them, I can see some common threads:
- using my time wisely by doing things I know will make me feel happy and satisfied (e.g. going for a walk, knitting, phoning friends) rather than anxious and dissatisfied (watching TV, slobbing around)
- keeping myself and my environs in a manner which makes me feel pleased rather than a little depressed
- keeping up old and making new connections.

So, my intentions will be these:

- to pay attention to my need for creativity and fulfilling and energising activities
- to be open to others and open to connecting to others

For more on intentions see the following articles: