Monday, 29 March 2010

Free seeds!

I've been a bit swamped at work recently, so no free time to play with the blog. Lining up exciting posts on almost-perfect pastry, more rudimentary sewing, misshapen crockery and there would be a cardamom brioche one too if it hadn't turned out like a lump of lead...

In the meantime, just wanted to point you in the direction of this offer from the BBC:

Put down your name and address and they'll send you mixed salad, courgette, french bean, basil and carrot seeds with a booklet on how to grow them. For free!!!

We have outside space for the first time in years in our new flat, and I am eager to get some soil and seedlings up on the terrace, so perfect easy way for me to get back into growing. I can't wait...

Thursday, 11 March 2010

A treasure trove...

So this imaginary café, I'd like it to be a place you can buy nice bits and bobs, as well as be nourished with yummy wholesome food. There's a lovely little place round the corner from us in Kentish Town, MAP studio and café, which was shut for refurbishment last time I looked sadly, but they sold a whole range of pottery there, which they also served the food and drinks in (see photo, left, from their website). I really liked the look of it and the fact you could read about its maker and browse it there. (I can't remember the name of the collection for the life of me though!)

I also like Frevd in Covent Garden, with its ever changing art displays you can purchase. It makes the place interesting, and I like the idea of being able to take home something you fall in love with whilst eating a toasted sandwich (at which Frevd are rather good; see also their milkshakes and evening cocktails).

So, I envisage my café with art works on the wall, and little displays in nooks and crannies; just a few interesting bits and pieces you can buy. Probably quite present-suitable stuff; pottery, jewellery, accessories, kitchen items, small home furnishing type items. And from local independent creators.

I'm rambling... the point is, that all this musing was inspired by being on Etsy today, browsing through lovely handmade things, looking for things to put in the present cupboard*. So I thought I'd share my favourite picks today - the kinds of things I think would be absolutely super in the imaginary café:

From left to right:

Rosebud necklace by Calexandra, who also has lovely hairclips and brooches
Wool necklaces by Kjoo
Seahorse vase by oneblackbird

I always find Etsy incredibly difficult to browse, tending instead to come across good finds through blogs; if you've found anything lovely recently I'd love to know; please do tell!...

* my attempt to mitigate my terrible habit of never getting people birthday presents on time because I can't find the 'perfect' thing; I snap up lovely things as soon as I see them, then see if there's anything in there that's suitable when it comes to birthdays. It's a new initiative so yet to see if it really works...

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Woo! I made something I can wear.

So, the weekend just gone, I finally got round to hemming the A-line skirt I made in the Make Lounge workshop I posted about a little while ago. Miraculously it fits snugly around emerging bump and managed to withstand a day at work. 100% cotton fabric is very creasable though and could do with a lining. Still, feel quite impressed that I finally managed to sew something passable. Now, I need to maintain my budding sewing skills and find a new project to start on...

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

29 gifts - week 1 report

A little while ago, I mentioned I was thinking of taking on the 29gifts project. The idea being - very simply - to give something every day for 29 days.

So, a week's gone past and I thought I'd update on how it's going. I've been making notes/scribbles on paper (above) which I'll transcribe below...

Day 1: I give positive comments to all the bloggers of blogs I enjoyed today. At first it feels like a cheat, especially as I am putting my link on hoping they might visit me. But when I read them back I feel a little warmer and hope the recipients do too.

Day 2: I took cakes to work but Andy bought some in too so I took mine home again... I sent a birthday message to an old friend instead.

Day 3: I have had emails from birthday friend and a blog I commented on - it's coming back to me already! BUT, I fail to give anything today :-(

Day 4: A packet of coffee for a work friend who has shared her cafetiere with me recently.

Day 5: My attention and patience is my "gift" today. Which makes for a nice dinner to end the week. Coffee-friend thanks me and there's new sweet comments on my blog - I am definitely feeling the ripples from my small actions.

Day 6: I take some bits and pieces to the charity shop. Does that count? I feel like I miss an opportunity when I chat to a lovely woman in pregnancy yoga who is due to give birth in two days time and fail to wish her good luck at the end of the class.

Day 7: Dinner cooked for sister and brother in law. I offer a DVD I've watched and don't want anymore but sister's already watched it so dinner will just have to count for today!

So, my observations at the end of week 1:

Firstly, it occurred to me that a lot of the 'giving' I was doing was plain old-fashioned politeness and it shocked me what a lack of politeness I ordinarily had. It's not 'scatterbrained' to miss birthdays, as I often do, it's rude. And it's only polite to thank kind sharing with a gift, and to thank bloggers for the enjoyment and inspiration they provide. One of the best 'gifts' I received all week was when I accidentally bumped into a woman walking down the escalator on the tube, and she turned and smiled and said 'don't worry!'. And, honestly, just that small gesture, made me smile and relax and feel more amenable all evening. And that's just politeness. It's not just me that is lacking in that - 99% of tube travellers act outright rude to each other. But that is no excuse for me to do so too.

Secondly, it was clear through the whole week that the benefit was mostly mine. Whether it was the delight of receiving my own comments through my increased commenting, or enjoying a meal with my boyfriend more through making an effort to be patient and listening, or feeling relieved at de-cluttering the shelf of the stuff that went to the charity shop. I can't be sure whether the gifts' recipients benefited but I know I definitely did.

So, I'll update in another week and see what else comes out of this experiment. One thing is for certain; this should not just be a 29-day blip in my life. Giving, in the form that it's taking so far, is not like a cherry atop a perfectly good cake - pretty and delicious but essentially just an optional extra - it's like the proper butter and eggs and other ingredients that you need to make the cake. Without it it's a hydrogenated vegetable oil and e-numbers cheap and nasty cake - kind of looks the same but it doesn't have any goodness, any delightfulness. The cake will hold up but it will make your mouth feel nasty and always slightly underwhelmed. The proper butter cake will fill you with a little touch of happiness.

I always know it's time to bow out when my metaphors are getting this dodgy...

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Blue skies and purple cakes

Woo! Two days in a row now I have walked out the front door to greet not the familiar grey drizzle of the last few months, but brilliant blue skies, and even - craziness of craziness - the weak warmth of winter sunshine... Oh, what a difference it makes.

(NB - no, you eagle-eyed readers who are wondering where the beach is in London town, those photos aren't of London today; just the only blue sky photos I happen to have on this computer - of the west coast of Scotland, Andalucia and Queensland. )

After feasting my eyes on the fabulousness of the cupcakeblog I posted about on Friday, I decided in the end that attempting something complicated would only end in disappointment and a sugary mess. So I decided to follow Baby, Picture This' lead and go with plain vanilla cupcakes, using The Hummingbird Bakery recipe she linked to. And I'm glad I did. They were springy and soft and perfectly cupcake-y. I added a bit of lemon zest to the recipe and iced with blackcurrant icing (butter icing with blackcurrant jam and lemon juice) which made for a deliciously sharp contrast to the sweetness. Scrumptious (although not nearly as pretty as BPT's! - I'm no artistic icer)

Although I've confessed to not being a big cupcake fan, these would definitely earn a place in the imaginary café.

I also made the peanutbutter and chocolate cookies over on Color Me Green, and thought I had photos to put here, but must have got too distracted eating them - definitely one of the best biscuits I have ever made (I normally find biscuits disappointing). Salty and crumbly and chocolatey and all-round good. Mmmmmm.....