Twelve Things: March's Sewing

In my mission to keep trying new things each month of this year, March's activity was a sewing project. Our little flat is on the ground floor and has fantastic big original sash windows, so the only downside is people wandering and peering in as we're watching TV in our dressing gowns on a Saturday morning! The sheets of tracing paper did a temporary job, but getting re-inspired by this year's series of The Great British Sewing Bee, I thought I'd make us some "net" curtains. With a new sewing machine (thanks Mum for the newest hand-me-down), some inexpensive muslin and curtain cord from good ol' Wilkos, I was ready to go.

1.   measure up your windows
2.   add extra for the hems +2cm for the side seams, +4cm from the top and bottom seams plus any extra you might want for gather (we chose ours to have only a little gather)
3.   doing the side seams first, fold over twice by 1cm, press with a hot iron and pin, then sew along each edge. repeat with the top and bottom, this time fold over by 2cm twice
4.   finally thread through the curtain wire, add the eyes (attach hooks to the windows if they're not already there) and hang up your lovely, simple "net curtains"


Apple & Beetroot

The obsession with vegetable cakes continues... recently we had some gorgeous golden beetroot and Local Greens recommended trying these apple and beetroot muffins. The golden veg has a delicious sweet flavour and, alongside the apple, goes incredibly well with the spices. As with the courgette and parsnip cakes, the beetroot keeps the cake moist. The recipe is very simple so whether you can a golden beet or the more conventional red one, give it a go!


Sensing Spaces

Sometimes you just need to be inspired or reminded about the reason you are doing what you chose to do. Last weekend Helen and I visited the Sensing Spaces exhibition at the Royal Academy, a collection of architect design installations. Having been given one brief, each exhibit was so different from the next, clearly indicating the architects' distinctive influences and inspirations be that culture, Japanese woods and smells, or social collectiveness, through participatory hands on building. Hearing the architects speak about their work was motivating, to see that they are able to design according to their beliefs. All the more, the exhibition was exciting and interactive; it was great seeing kids of all ages running around and getting exposed to architecture and art.


Baby Blanket

When I was growing up, my bed always had a hand crocheted blanket on it that my Nanna Eileen made and they are still used to this day. I certainly inherited her love of wool crafts and a while back I started making a crochet blanket of my own. When we found out there would be a new little person in the family I thought a traditional crochet blanket would be perfect for a cot or pram. Crochet squares are one of the best ways to start learning to crochet. Once I'd laid out the squares selecting the more ladylike colours, I found this tutorial on how to join them together. There are a number of techniques to do it, but this one continues the pattern of the squares and does so subtly. After a border around the edges of all the joined squares, the baby blanket was complete! 

A week later Penelope arrived, and I gave her the blanket when we went to meet her at 8 days old. Hopefully it'll keep her warm over the cold months, and when she gets older she might want to wrap her dolls up in it to keep them toasty!

PS. This is my 500th post since I started this blog in June 2009!!


Mr Morris

Last week Ma and I travelled up to the very opposite end of the Victoria line to Walthamstow and the William Morris Gallery. A grand townhouse set in Lloyd Park, the gallery is in the building Morris lived in as a teenager and today hosts a wealth of his Arts and Crafts work from early drawings, to furniture, to fabrics, to ceramic tiles. Mum has seen more of his work in situ at Red House and Standen, but this free-of-charge gallery is a gem in London. Walthamstow itself was full of surprises for me: historic churches and cottages nestled into the north London suburb. All well worth a visit!


Twelve Things: February's Pasta

For Christmas this year we didn't exchange presents and instead booked ourselves into a Jamie Oliver Recipease Pasta Master cookery class which we did this evening. The biggest revelation is how simple making your own pasta is - when we were in Montepulciano, the gnocci we made was pretty time consuming, but pasta is speedy and easy. The class was taught really well and concisely, and the chefs Jimmy and Simon came round and gave us extra tips and answered our questions at the end. We made four types of pasta: spaghetti, linguini, pappardelle and farfalle and a classic tomato, basil, garlic and chilli sauce with lashings of balsamic vinegar and virgin olive oil and with mounds of parmesan to taste. We all sat down after with a glass of vino and enjoyed the fruits of our labours. Now we know that pasta making is so achievable there is no excuse not to make it fresh at home... just need to get a pasta machine!

Looking back: in January I started to learn to swing.


Parsnip & Ginger

These days I don't even bat an eyelid when I hear about a vegetable being utilised in a sweet cake. Over the past year it has been a theme or a challenge to try the less usual - courgette, beetroot and now parsnip. To say I am obsessed with the Edinburgh bakery Lovecrumbs is an enormous underestimate; I almost squeal with delight when a new picture is posted on their Instagram feed. The parsnip and ginger cake was one such occasion and immediately afterwards I hunted down this recipe from Baking Mad. The parsnips came from our weekly veg bag - which we are really enjoying. I was in a bit of a rush to make the cake this weekend and made the mistake of not reading the recipe fully before I start. See the egg picture above: I should have melted the butter first, so ended up straining out the egg (which I saved for an omelette last night), melting the butter and re-adding fresh eggs. Faff!

To the cake: it's delicious! Give it a go! The parsnips make the sponge light and the ginger in the cake and icing give it a fantastic spicy kick. My work colleagues today devoured it, which must be a great sign. So... which vegetable next?


Twelve Things: January's Swing

This year I'm going to do a new thing each month. In January this was starting swing dancing or the lindyhop. A gaggles of us girls went along to the first class of the new year at the Electric Social in Brixton and there were many others who looked to start off 2014 with a dancing new year's resolution. The atmosphere is so upbeat and the music takes you back to another era which all of these images evoke memories of. There are some great videos here, here and here, and a fab collection of images here. I've always loved dancing but the lindyhop is simple to pick up, and who knows, one day I might be swung over someones shoulder! If you've ever thought of learning a dance, definitely give swing a go!
Images sources 1, 2 & 3


Hen House

How cool is this hen house come kitchen garden? By Studio Segers it has a really simple but beautiful aesthetic and being modular the parts are interchangable so you could swap a seat for a rabbit hutch or add a chicken coop next to the compost bin. Ma and Pa don't have chickens anymore but for a while we've been conjuring up an idea to design and build our own. I've been collecting some more ideas here.
Images from Studio Segers