Thursday, 29 April 2010

I would like to...

1. Make my own sourdough starter and bread
2. Do more crochet
3. Start composting
4. Get some nice houseplants (and keep them alive!!!) - succulents I think
5. Do yoga teacher training (one day!)
6. Get better at making *good* clothes purchases

I'm copying Wife in the City's neat little list of things she would like to do, because I liked it.

These are my preoccupations currently. What are yours???

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Totally Scrummy Choc-Banana Bread

My boyfriend and I are very different in many ways. One of these ways can be illustrated through the following story... We had invited friends over for brunch and B was going to go out to get some milk. He asked if I needed anything. I thought perhaps a banana would be a good addition to the fruits I already had for fruit salad, and asked for one, adding to pick up maybe a kiwi or some other more exotic fruit if there was anything nice.

45 minutes later, guests were due to arrive and he finally returns (he'd been for milk via the bike shop to check on progress of his new handlebars - another way in which we differ; I'm a little more 'time-sensitive'...), bearing a bunch of 8 bananas, and two mangos as big as rugby balls. Fine, if we were expecting 20, but no, I only had 6 mouths to feed...

Me? I probably would have come back empty-handed because the choice between fairtrade bananas that looked nice but you had to buy in 6s in plastic packets and the normal bananas which were looking just slightly too ripe for my liking was proving a bit taxing. And then I might have started thinking about airfreighting and whether maybe another pear would be better, and then the decisions would all get a little too much and time would have been ticking on and I'd just turn back round and go home again...

Anyway. After I'd used the one banana that I actually needed, we had a whole load of ripe bananas that sat there steadily ripening. Something had to be done before they were only good for the bin, and that something is normally banana cake... (do you know of anything else to do with overripe bananas?)

I tried Joy the Baker's Oatmeal Banana Bread recipe on the Friday, and we wolfed it down so fast, I made it again on Sunday, with a few tweaks this time. This is the kind of cake I absolutely adore. It's got a wholesome satisfying feel to it. It's soft and not too dry and pairs beautifully with a cup of tea. It feels at home as breakfast or dessert, or afternoon tea. It leaves you feeling like you just ate a warm hug. And you get the benefit of knowing that there is all kinds of goodness in there - vitamins and minerals in the wholemeal flour and oats and bananas, some protein from the eggs, complex carbs so it's not too sugar-rushy. Why it's practically a health food.

So, my adaptation of Joy's recipe is as follows:

First, preheat oven to 350F/180C/Gas 4. Grease and flour a loaf pan.

You are going to need three bowls.

In one, put:
- 11/4 cups wholemeal flour
- 1/2 cup muscovado sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 3 tsps cinnamon
- 1 cup porridge oats
and stir together

In the second, mash 2 or 3 ripe bananas. Add:
- 3 tsps sunflower (or other) oil
- 1 egg
and mix, then add:
- about 50g dark chocolate, chopped into small chunks

In the third bowl, beat 2 egg whites until medium stiff peaks form.

Fold bowl 1 into bowl 2 (recipes always say put wet into dry, but I always put dry into wet, just because it leaves the dry bowl less messy for washing up). Then fold bowl 3 in as well, in three additions.

Pour batter into tin and bake for 45-50 minutes until top is firm to the touch.

Let cool in pan for 5 minutes, then cool on wire rack.

Monday, 26 April 2010

oh weekend!

oh weekend! the first breath of your air as I leave the office behind, so sweet and full of promise.

the long, sumptuous hours of yours I can relax into. the luxury of laying head on hands and squinting up at budding branches from sun-warmed grass.

the pottering, the sorting, playing around, getting bits done, smelling the fresh baked bread as it sits and cools on the side.
the gloriousness of the ordinary moments - walking down the road to get an ice cream after dinner; being on a bus but not commuting; wandering the heath and seeing all the others at leisure with dogs and kites and prams and picnics; stopping for tea and talk; relaxing with a magazine; snuggling up to watch the snooker.
oh, i love you, weekend, you beautiful thing.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Etsy (and more) round-up - Homewares

I've expanded my sights this time to include bouf, a shop full of interesting things by independent designers, which I recently came across. It's not the nicest site to browse in navigation terms, but there's plenty of interesting stuff on there. So, this time, home-y stuff...

And first up, some glasses with pretty winter trees on. I'm really quite taken with these - I think the trees on the glass is really lovely. From Snowden Flood at bouf.

We get through a lot of coffee at ours, and have between us something like 5 stovetops, so I think this teatowel would be apt, as well as pretty chic. From Mengseldesigns at etsy.

Love this scorched cherry bowl by Makye designs at etsy. Perfect for fruit, although I almost wouldn't want to cover it up I like the look of it so much (and I think it's actually a bit small).

It helps that a long time ago I was involved in one of those ongoing work email-chats which had touched upon my colleagues fascination with cephalopods and went into further and further detail about his escape from the land of petty publishing into owning a magnificent cephalopod centre... (ah, those were the days, I work with auditors now - stories about crocodiles in suits and cephalopod dreams have been replaced with questions about the technicalities of International Accounting Standards). Anyway, even if the sight of a squid didn't make me smile for that nostalgic reason, I would still like this graphic cushion from olofsdaughter on bouf a lot.

Neat little wooden coasters by peppersprouts on Etsy. I don't know why chairs look so good drawn out, but they invariably do. (e.g. this cute print by JaniceJ)

And finally, finishing where we started with Snowden Flood on bouf. This crockery set has rivers printed on it. My map-loving mother and any other geography nerds would like these. I think they're pretty cool too.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Top banana

Just a little note about a new (to me) ingredient. I actually know a good number of people who find bananas and their smell in particular quite offensive, and who would be wrinkling their noses in disgust right now just at that picture above. If you're one of theirs, move along - there's nothing to see here!

For those still reading, I don't know about you, but I've only ever come across those hard glazed banana chips before - bananas + oil + sugar. Then I was picking up ingredients for muesli the other day and came across these (from Tropical Wholefoods, a fairtrade company), which are just dried banana and nothing else. So I gave them a go, and am quite smitten. They're incredibly banana-y. Great chopped up in muesli (I tend to chuck in whatever I have to hand - a mixture of grains, always loads of toasted seeds and coconut, then some dried fruit and maybe nuts), I think they would also go quite nicely in a muffin, with toffee maybe, or pecan. And good for no-sugar snacks (although I realise all dried fruits have pretty high natural sugars, I guess they still have most of their nutrients and much better to scoff a handful of these with some nuts than a Kit Kat).

I got mine from a local organic shop, but apparently they're sold in Boots and Morrisons too.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Bump update

I never intended to put much pregnancy stuff on this blog. In the beginning there was very little I wanted to talk about, I just felt sick and a bit grumpy and that seemed to be the sum of pregnancy for a couple of months. And I really wanted this to be a spot for cooking, craft, cafés and all that jazz, and I didn't want to muddy it too much with personal stuff (I'm not what you'd call a 'sharer'...).

However... As the bump has grown so too has my interest. I've lost the nausea and the grumps, started picking up on my reading and research - both hard copy and online - and there's several little things I thought I might like to share, so I'll interrupt what - let's be honest - is not much of a coherently-themed blog anyway to go all preggo for a minute.


For personal stories, I've really been enjoying That Wife . Beautiful photos and very open, eloquent, fascinating and funny posts covering all aspects of her pregnancy (stretchmarks, incontinence, perineal massage and all). In particular, I nodded along with her thoughts on taking risks whilst pregnant, found her birthplans really useful and interesting, enjoyed the week by week shots (have become completely fascinated by other womens' bumps!), and was introduced to the idea of having a birth photographer (not for me, but those photos are amazing aren't they?). (update - since I started writing this post TW has now had a beautiful baby boy! absolutely amazing photos on her site)

Project Subrosa finished with the whole pregnancy part a while back and is now well into motherhood. I've really enjoyed her insights and sharing too and in particular was shaken up recently reading this on postpartum depression, or the 'baby blues', which is beautifully written and seemed to be a very valuable and important thing to have read.

From the personal to the professional, I've recently gotten into a couple of midwife/doula blogs.

Stand and Deliver - lots of interesting information and food for thought on this blog by Rixa, who is a doula and has written a doctoral dissertation on the modern unassisted birth movement. Also a great links list which I am delving into slowly.

Helping Mothers Give Birth Joyfully Without Fear - from a doula and childbirth educator in Israel - is another blog I've found lots of interesting posts on.


I haven't done an awful lot of reading yet, but these are those I've read so far:

Up the Duff by Kaz Cooke - I read this during the early stages, and it really suited me then. It's light-hearted and silly and made me feel comforted talking about silly thoughts and icky things in a comic manner. Early on I shied away from anything too 'involved' so this was perfect for easing me in. It goes week by week with a fictional diary and some information and I still like to flick to the appropriate week every now and then to get a little nugget of information to informatively share with B ("it can hear us now", "it's all hairy and red now" etc.)

The New Experience of Childbirth by Sheila Kitzinger - I just finished this and really thoroughly enjoyed it. Throughout my second trimester I've got progressively more and more happy and excited about what's ahead, and this is a really positive and helpful book that has helped me put down some more solid knowledge about childbirth and think about the psychological aspects of pregnancy and childbirth. I like that she is writing from a position of a lot of very varied experience and I really like that she emphasises 'preparedness' - of body and mind - rather than putting an emphasis on a particular style or method of birthing. Very helpful.

I've just started also on Ina May Gaskin's book of childbirth. If I do another bump update I'll do a brief review then.


I was impressed recently by a new-mum colleague who hasn't brought a pram yet because she uses a sling all the time. It looks so comfy and easily manoevrable. I'm hoping the baby and I both take to slings, as this would be a great option for a big city. Big Mamas Slings has a great range.

I want to try out cloth nappies, but the choice is completely overwhelming, so I'm planning on going to a 'Nappuccino' event, where various different types are demonstrated and sold. They arrange afternoons all over London.

For maternity wear, I've found Mamas and Papas to be very good. Everything I've bought from them (so far, two bras, two pairs maternity tights and two dresses is the sum total of my bump wardrobe) has been a big success. I tried some maternity jeans from Topshop, but they seemed to be all style over substance as they didn't actually stay up - not sure they'd quite worked out how to make elastic top work! So I returned those and will stay away from high street maternity ranges in favour of specialist shops I think. Hoping not to buy much more now.


I've been going to pregnancy yoga at Triyoga twice a week most weeks since 13 weeks and absolutely love it. There's a lovely warm and communal atmosphere, you get to chat to other bumpy ladies a little, and the movement and exercise always makes me feel really good. Definitely recommend for those in the London area.

The bump

And finally an update on my belly - this is the bump at 25 weeks. I can see what my yoga teacher means about needing to sort out that dip in my spine. Must tuck that tailbone down! (and yes, btw, that is a sporran on the wall - B is Scottish and it was hanging around the house so I hung it there one day, as is my style of 'tidying up' - i.e. just kind of moving things around - and it's stuck there ever since.)

Monday, 19 April 2010


Just got an email with the title 'why can't my holiday snaps look like this?' and this pic attached...

Hilarious. Made me smile anyway - hope it does you too.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Etsy roundup - jewellery

Another collection of lovely handmade loot from the labyrinthine realms of Etsy. Concentrating on jewellery this time...

I like this pendant from yoola a lot. Even more, I like the fact that she sells pdf patterns for her unique crocheted wire products on her shop too, so budding craftistas can create their own. How much fun...

I like the natural feel to these leaf-inspired earrings from Liz Kennedy. Check out her shop for lots of very classy silver pieces.

This is very cute isn't it? And kind of clever. A bow made of recycled glass. I like that a lot. Lots more recycled glass products at Fox and Clover.

These are both from eninaj, whose shop I love browsing. She does some amazing stuff with leather cut with lace-patterns, which is very unusual. But my favourites are these very modern and interesting pieces - a brass and leather bracelet and architecturally-inspired gold earrings.

This gorgeous Hawthorn cluster necklace by Abigail Percy would make any outfit look special, I think. It's super super pretty.

I'm a big fan of rose gold, and am completely enamoured with this rose gold, opal set ring. It's classic enough to go with everything, but really unusual and intriguing with those hollowed-out bands at the same time. I love it. From artisan look.
And finally, I think this simple but bold pendant by Mischief by Loki would be another piece which you could wear with virtually anything, and which would work really well to brighten up the plain and quite dull clothes I usually wear to work. I like the weightiness it looks like it has.
Have you come across any etsy (or other handmade) treasures recently?

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Etsy roundup - ceramics

I've been trawling etsy for more goodies again (work is getting on my nerves and it's the perfect late afternoon time-wasting/relaxation technique I find)...

There were so many tempting lovelies, I decided to separate into categories. Today I'll show ceramics; more categories should follow (unforeseen interruptions to my procrastination sessions notwithstanding!)
1. yogagoat's hibiscus mugs. I love the solid chunky shape of these - just like my favourite tea mug - and the pretty colours. There are a whole host of other patterns and some stunning patterned plates in the store.
2. Not strictly ceramics - this plant pot is made from concrete! Which appeals to me and my clumsy nature as I'm assuming that would be pretty sturdy. I think this would look cute on a patio or terrace with other random pots in similar shades. From impure vessels.

3. These dinner plates from Cloudwest really appeal to me - simple but with a satisfying weight (I imagine) and curve. There's also enough dip there to hold some serious sauce - we only have one deep plate that is perfect for stews and other saucy dishes and I wish I had more.

4. Two gorgeous pieces from Kim Westad - a vase and bowl. I love the lines and the pattern like little bubbles fizzing all over the surface.

5. And finally, I'm a real fan of the colours on these big cups - cappuccino, soup, cereal, hot chocolate; all sorts would be suitable for these beauties from JD Wolfe.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

More elementary sewing

I'm really not a very good sewer. (Is that a word? As in one who sews, not the thing that transports sewage...) I get impatient with all the measuring and pressing, which really seems to be the most important part, and then I get on the machine, and it feels a little like trying to control a wayward puppy - everything just bouncing along towards the end helter skelter. My lines are rarely straight.

There's a little part of me that thinks I ought to just quietly lay the sewing ideas aside and concentrate on getting better at the things I can do. But then I really really yearn to be not just a competent sewer, but a good one, one who can make myself dresses just how I want them and create clothes that will fit and last (in my dreams, I can whip up beauties such as this from the very desirable Sarah Seven shop on Etsy...). Absurdly unrealistic as that may be, I find myself slowly persevering at my most basic skills, hoping somehow some super sewing skills will unexpectedly blossom.

So, I got down to cushion covers the other weekend. I'd found some lovely patterned linen from the Cloth House (thanks for the tip on that to London Zest) and I had a book from the library. It instructed me to cut two pieces of cloth - one a square with sides equal to my cushion plus 3 cm, and one the same but with an extra 15 cm on the width. The larger was cut in half and the two halves got one hem each. These then get put overlapping, right sides together on the square, and the lot is sewn together. As Alexander the Meerkat would say, seemples.

Except for when you get a bit lackadaisical with the cutting out and end up with not quite a square... I learned my lesson and recut.

And finally... corners snipped, cover turned inside out, hems pressed and cushion inserted, it actually looked pretty decent and I felt quite proud to have made something I can actually use. Not quite a master seamstress but not bad for now.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Vegan chocolate cake

Yes, I know I'm a little late for an Easter-themed cake, but after a manic week at work I'm finally catching up on some posting, and I really wanted to tell you about this lovely recipe I used for these cupcakes, which were served up to general appreciation for brunch desserts on Good Friday.

They're from Joy the Baker, which I've only just discovered, and is an absolute delight. I made two of her oatmeal banana cakes this weekend because the first one was so good it didn't even last a day.

This particular recipe is unusual in that there are no eggs or butter, and instead avocados provide the fat. I've made vegan cakes with tofu before, and I've made cakes with potatoes, parsnips, beetroots and carrots in, but never seen an avocado recipe. My curiosity was piqued!

I liked to let people eat them first before telling them what was in them; in my experience people can be ever so prejudicial against vegetables in their bakery products. They were pretty impressed at the alchemy. As was I. They rose beautifully, produced lovely shiny cracked crusts and were soft and moist and springy to eat. Lovely.