Monday, March 31, 2014

Currently Monday #7

Study area in the gorgeous new Library of Birmingham, which I got to visit this week

Time and Place // 2.17pm. On my bed (what a surprise)

Eating and Drinking // Just had lunch! I'm a grazer, so to keep up my own interest in eating lunch at all I tend to have an assortment of stuff rather than just one thing. Today it was 3 cherry tomatoes, a stick of celery, some cheese, a clementine and a couple of oat cakes.

Reading // Once again you've caught me between books. I'm debating whether to start Railsea, by China Mieville or The Enormous Room, by E.E. Cummings. Anyone want to weigh in with a vote?

Watching // The final of The Musketeers was last night :-( At least it's already been commissioned for a second series!

Listening // Our cat chirping away to herself . . . we're discovering that she's quite the talker!

Making // This week I started and finished a quick stitch, which I can't show on the blog quite yet because the person it's for has been known to check the blog occassionally. I also started another spring design, which I'll hopefully have finished in time for Easter!

Blogging // Here I rounded up my haul from the NEC Hobbycraft show and made my first recipe for The Cookbook Challenge. On my book blog I made a bookish bucket list, reviewed The Crimson Ribbon and asked how you deal with long books.

Hating // When my distance university's website goes down when I'm trying to study!!

Loving // The increasingly sunny days! It's nice not to need a coat quite as often and (strange as it may seem) do jobs like washing windows in my own time rather than in any hectic break in the weather

Anticipating // Going to Miranda on tour this weekend. We booked our tickets months ago, so it's nice that it has finally rolled around.


Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Cookbook Challenge: Edmonds Cookery Book

Last week, as promised, I got onto using my cookbooks for the Cookbook Challenge. We had multiple guests over the weekend, so I was filling the baking tins anyway. After lots of browsing, I chose a recipe I hadn't tried before from the Edmonds Cookery Book.

The Edmonds Cookery Book is a New Zealand classic. Like most Kiwi's, I grew up watching mum use it, did some of my first cooking from it and was duly presented with my own copy when leaving for uni. It covers everything, from sauces to baking to party food to meat & fish. It's one of the few cookbooks I own that I use all the time - it's my go-to for classics like mustard sauce and banana loaf. Fool-proof, classic cooking. 

The recipe I tried was for Peanut Brownies . . .

I struggled with getting the oven temperature right, which meant some turned out a little crispy! But the recipe was extremely easy and the biscuits (even with the crispy) turned out very morish - hard to eat just one. I suspect its a recipe I'll use again, hopefully perfecting the oven temp - like so many recipes in the Edmonds it's simple to put together and yummy. All the makings of another go-to recipe. 

One down. . . on to the next cookbook on the shelf! 


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

NEC Hobbycraft Haul!

On Sunday I got to spend a few hours at the NEC Birmingham Hobbycraft/Sewing for Pleasure show. I knew of it, but hadn't really been thinking of going (we already had a really busy weekend planned) until I won free tickets from a Cross Stitch Collection magazine draw on Facebook. Needless to say, I wasn't going to let free tickets go to waste!!! 

It was a really enjoyable and new experience for me. I'd been to a similar themed show in NZ once, the biggest in Australasia - the NEC show would have been over 10 times the size!! It was great fun to be surrounded by so many like-minded people and take in all the shops etc. I didn't find the Hobbycraft portion of the show that good, it was predominantly paper-crafting, but it was definitely worth attending for the Sewing for Pleasure side. There were lots of lovely fabric stalls, embroidery stalls and free workshops. I had prepared a list of things I was on the look out for and stuck to it (for the most part), but bought home a little haul of new stash. 

  1.  A fat quarter of fabric for an Easter project I have planned
  2. Some bicycle ribbon trim which I just couldn't resist
  3. A skein of DMC metallics for another upcoming project
  4. The 'Tis the Season' stitchery project book, from The Birdhouse. I'd been promised this as a birthday present, but hadn't gotten around to ordering it online, so saved myself some postage!
  5. Some perle thread for getting started on the stitcheries
  6. Two small Lizzie Kate patterns, Snowman '10 (which I've been wanting to stitch for literally years) and one of the 6 fat men series, which I'm collecting slowly so I can do all 6 together. Like the ribbon, these weren't on the list, but they were such a good price that I couldn't leave them there. 
I also did one small workshop and tried Decoupage for the first time. I would have loved to have done more of the workshops, as there were some lovely ones there, but we'd had a really hectic weekend and I just didn't have the energy. Next time I'll hopefully be better prepared and know what to expect!
I covered this little star. It will make quite a sweet Christmas ornament once I've put some string on it! I certainly wasn't the best on the table and I don't think I'll be taking Decoupage up often, but it was great fun to have a go!

The show was a lovely new experience, I'll be looking forward to the next one.


Monday, March 24, 2014

Currently Monday #6

I'm enjoying being a new cat-mum!

Time and Place // 1.28 pm, on the couch for once!!

Eating and Drinking // Crackers + Pepperoni + much much tea

Reading // I'm between books! (not counting audio). Just finished Siege and Storm, by Leigh Bardugo. Haven't decided what to pick up next - I had an ultra good library trip on Saturday, so much to choose from.

Watching // Trying to catch up on everything we've missed from the past week, which has been extremely busy

Listening // Audiobook! A new one this week, David Attenborough's New Life Stories. Whoever decided that letting David Attenborough talk for five minutes at a time about whatever he felt like was a good idea was a genius.

Making // I filled the tins this week with chocolate peanut biscuits and ginger tart. A little bit of stitching going on, and lots of project planning for the next month or two.

Blogging // Here I blogged about the spring/Easter ornament I made up this week. On my book blog I reviewed the wonderful The End of Your Life Book Club (one of my top reads of the year thus far) and did a Thoughts on the Classics post for Jane Eyre. I gave the book blog layout a redesign this week and am enjoying its fresh look!

Hating // When I accidentally go waaaayyy over an essay wordcount and struggle to bring it down!

Loving // Having a new member of the family! We got to bring Tilly home from the RSPCA this weekend. She's a 20 month old black short haired and apart from the usual settling in problems has been a delight. There was never a period of my childhood where we didn't have a cat, so its nice to have the first one of my adult life.

Anticipating // A job interview this week for a good position, and a (hopefully) quiet weekend!


Friday, March 21, 2014

Spring Stitching

A week or two ago I had one of those weeks where I just needed something simple to do, calm the mind! Stitching is very therapeutic, but my brain didn't feel like it could cope with colour changes, half stitching or anything more complex than a few crosses really! So I went in search of a simple, one colour pattern I could spend an hour or two on. I chose a cute Easter bunny pattern from Alexandrina at Matrioshka Biscornu and spent a couple of hours happily stitching away on a scrap of some misc. fabric (don't ask me what count because I have no idea. I found it wrapped up inside some heat-proof interfacing while we were moving).

This week I finished it into a cute hanging ornament to celebrate Spring.

I think it turned out beautifully and was a joy to stitch and make up. It was just what my tired brain needed in fact! It's nice to have a spring decoration in the house too. . . . it has even inspired me to go on a hunt for some more simple spring themed patterns, so maybe watch this space.


Monday, March 17, 2014

Currently Monday #5

Spring daffodils brightening up our landing

Time and Place // 2.41pm, same place as always!

Eating and Drinking // Leftover potato bake. I forgot to have breakfast. And lunch (I was working on an essay), so this is breaklunchafternoontea

Reading // Just started The Crimson Ribbon, by Katherine Clements.

Watching // Nothing? All our favourite evening shows seem to be coming to the end of their seasons.

Listening // Audiobook! Which I forgot to mention above. Really enjoying The End of Your Life Book Club, by Will Schwalbe

Making // With husband away for the weekend I did a heap of sewing and finished one set of blocks (out of two) for my current quilt-in-progress

Blogging // Here I showed off my new cross stitch start, and introduced a new personal challenge. Over on my book blog I talked about the joy of having bookcases in the house again, reviewed Terms & Conditions and Robin: Lady of Legend

Hating // The person who stole our organics bin. Why??? What do you need a green wheelie bin half full of grass clippings for????

Loving // Husband being back from France. And the wine, cheese and sausage he bought back with him :-) Not to mention the extra kitchen equipment (he went to France to pick up some things we had left with friends there two years ago)

Anticipating //The Sewing for Pleasure/Hobbycraft show this weekend at the NEC Birmingham! I entered a Cross Stitch Collection Magazine draw for tickets weeks ago, but didn't realise I'd won until they showed up in the post.

Friday, March 14, 2014

A rather late new start

I made a new cross stitch start this week, yay! I've been waiting to start this one for about a month, but wanted to finish Tuscany first.

What is it? It's the husband and I's third annual Christmas ornament (I would link to the previous ones but I can't find them on the blog. How about I show them to you when I finish this one). I'm only starting it three months after Christmas!!! I had the best of intentions, but with our across the world move I only got as far as picking the pattern before Christmas and didn't even order the kit until mid-January. Better late than never I suppose??

I try to pick an ornament to represent our lives at that time, so this one is vaguely travel related (very vaguely) and features a sentiment that we had to keep close in mind at the time!

I'm not going to reveal what the pattern is just yet, but I'll give you a clue. It's a Dimensions kit and is already driving me up the wall, as it features cross stitch in 1, 2 or 3 strands, half cross stitch in 1, 2 or 3 strands, a TON of backstitch and lots of stitches using strands from multiple colours. I think it's one of the hardest to read patterns I've ever come across.

The other half is away for the weekend, so I'm planning lots of stitching to keep myself occupied!


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Intoducing the Cookbook Challenge

As it turns out, a fairly large part of my crafty life is baking. And cooking in general to be honest is starting to creep up there too. And I love books. Which means. .  . I love cookbooks. I love owning them, paging through them, covering them with post-it notes.

I'm just guilty of one little thing . . . not actually using them. I have a massive stack of gorgeous cookbooks and my go-to for new recipe ideas is still the internet. There's a couple I use regularly, but even then it's only particular recipes and great chunks of the book go completely unloved.

So I'm challenging myself to expand my kitchen horizons and give my cookbooks some more love. Of course, I need some way to keep myself on track, so I'll be sharing my attempts and thoughts here on the blog.

 The Rules (self imposed)

1. I have to try out at least one recipe from every cookbook I own and document it here on the blog. If it's a cookbook I already use regularly, I have to try a recipe I haven't used before. 
2. There's no official time limit and I'm not going to beat myself up if I don't manage it, but I'm going to be aiming for one recipe a week. 
3. Any new cookbooks that come into the house while the challenge is ongoing must be added to the official list. 
4. I can put off using cookbooks I don't have the equipment for ie: since moving to the UK we haven't bought a microwave or a slow cooker yet. 

Fairly straightforward I think. So without further ado, here's my master list of cookbooks. I'll be adding this list to it's own tab on my header and hopefully linking up my progress as we go. Cookbooks that I use regularly already and have to try something new from are marked with a *

The Classic 1000 Cake and Bake recipes, by Wendy Hobson
1 Mix, 50 Cakes
1 Mix, 50 Cookies
Three & Four Ingredient Cookbook, by Jenny White & Joanna Farrow
Joan Bishop's New Zealand Crockpot & Slow Cooker Cookbook*
Slow Cooking, by Katie Bishop
Macaron, by Alison Thompson
Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, by Jeff Hetzberg
Microwave Bottling, by Isabel Webb
Bake, by Allyson Gofton*
A Year's Worth: Recipes from the Dunsandel Store, by Sam Mannering
Country Calendar Cookbook, by Allyson Gofton
Good Food Made Simple, by Allyson Gofton
The Hairy Biker's Great Curries, by Si King & Dave Myers
Complete Comfort Food, by Bridget Jones
Edmonds Cookery Book* (not pictured)

Wish me luck! Are you like me and an avid cookbook collector and not user? Or do yours get lots of use? 


Monday, March 10, 2014

Currently Monday #4

Who doesn't love a pristine hard copy?

Time and Place // 3.39pm. Sitting on my bed, as always! (I should say that I'm not lazy and stay in bed all day, my laptop just lives beside the bed - so blogging = bed)

Eating and Drinking // A digestive biscuit and a cup of tea. Afternoon tea time!

Reading // I just finished Cress, the newly released third book in the BRILLIANT Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer. Seriously, if you haven't heard of these you should look them up. A retelling of classic fairytales set far in the future - the first in the series is Cinder, which retells Cinderella. Just started Terms & Conditions, by Robert Glancy (courtesy of Bloomsbury/Goodreads First Reads).

Watching // Hubby and I started watching The Musketeers when it started, as we both have a liking of the source material. I'm finding it's getting better and better as the series goes on. Have any of my fellow UK bloggers been watching it?

Listening // I've just discovered KatyB, who I'd literally never heard of before I moved to the UK. Funny how some music travels more than others!

Making // It was a slow week for me, for a variety of reasons. Hardly any making at all! I finished a quick stitch which I'll show you soon.

Blogging // Not much on either blogs this week! I showed off a quick needlebook finish.

Hating // Contractors across the street who think it's a great idea to use a tile cutter at 7.30 in the morning.

Loving // Domestic bliss. Hubby and I are feeling more settled in our home now and it's surprisingly nice to spend a sunny Sunday doing things like mowing the lawns and vacuuming out the car.

Anticipating // Grocery shopping this evening. I'm one of those weird people that genuinely enjoys grocery shopping.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

A needlebook and the feeling of improvement

Last week was my sister-in-law's birthday, so we headed down to Wales to celebrate with her. She'd already had a joint birthday/christmas present from us, but I thought I'd make her something small as an extra surprise.

I have a folder of completed cross stitch that just hasn't found the right home yet, so I raided that and my fabric stash to put together a needle book.

What struck me while I was making it was just how much me sewing has improved since I made my own needle book, way back in 2011. I love my needle book, but it's lumpy and uneven looking, I had to follow a tutorial very closely and wasn't at all confident with the steps.

Although my sewing is by no means perfect, I can see and feel the improvement from two years ago. My knowledge of item construction is good enough now that I didn't follow any tutorial. My machine sewing is more even and my hand sewing is almost invisible (I asked husband to try and find the turning hole and he couldn't). I feel confident with the processes and with my own ability. My reaction to a mistake is slowly becoming 'I can fix this,' rather than '$**#@% stupid sewing machine, now what do I do!'

I know I still have much to learn (I've been watching the latest series of The Great British Sewing Bee and have been wowed by the creativity and brilliant sewing, while simultaneously being confused as to how one can be such an accomplished sewist and not know what piping is). . . . . but it's nice to have the added confidence from small accomplishments. And it's quite fun looking at the early days of this blog and seeing how far I've come (my photography also seems to have improved, which I'm grateful for).

Have any of you had a moment when you suddenly realise how much you've improved?


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Currently Monday #3

Quiet late night stitching with trashy TV

Time and Place // 12.08, so it's technically Tuesday. But I'm calling it Monday, just coz I can

Eating and Drinking // Fresh pasta! Yum (a grocery night treat)

Reading // I just started Adorkable, by Sarra Manning (light and fluffy, as promised last week)

Watching // Catching up on weekend TV that we missed while spending (lovely) time with family. Room 101 etc.

Listening // Late night boiler noise. Trying to get back into audiobooks after a few months break, so just downloaded Someday, Someday, Maybe, by Lauren Graham to try.

Making // I whipped up a quick needlebook this week as a small present for my sister-in-law. Also a couple of new cross stitch starts - more on those later in the week.

Blogging // On my book blog I reviewed The Blind Assassin and asked how you feel about second chance reading. Here I showed off my new practical pincushion and my weekend of stitching from the IHSW.

Hating // Not having a job. It's really not the end of the world and I haven't been looking for long, but I'm the type of person that would really rather work than not work.

Loving // Time with family, both in person and over the phone!

Anticipating // The nested tables we just bought in the Oak Furnitureland sale arriving! Will be nice not to be using hubby's toolbox as a coffee table