Thursday, 22 May 2008

The France list

This time last year, I was packing to go away. I showed you my packing list on my first ever blog post.

One year on, I am packing again, but the list is much shorter - none of those camping essentials like blankets, coffee pots, thermals, size D batteries and sleeping bags are needed where we are going. Besides, we are travelling by train, so whatever we need we will have to carry ourselves. There's an incentive to pack light.


We are heading to the Aveyron Gorges in the far south of France, for a week of hiking, biking and eating croissants for breakfast. I think it will be an adventure.

One thing that hasn't changed in a year though, is the ability of lists to calm and reassure me. Just seeing the word 'passports' written down, means that I am not going to forget them. Even if I do have to double and triple check that I have them in my bag, more times than is strictly necessary before we leave....

See you in June!

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Simple Sunday treat

Sometimes we all need a small Sunday evening treat to cheer us up before going back to work or school, or tackling the Sunday evening ironing pile.

Very Simple Cherry & Almond Buns
  • 100g butter or marg
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 80g self-raising flour
  • 30g ground almonds
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 50g chopped glace cherries

Cream the butter and sugar. In another bowl mix the flour, almonds and baking powder and set aside. Beat 1 egg and the almond extract into the butter and sugar, then stir in half the flour mixture. Beat in the other egg and the rest of the flour mixture. Stir in the cherries.


Spoon into 12 paper bun cases and cook at gas 5 for 15 minutes. If liked, drizzle a little white icing over the top when the buns are cool.


These are so simple that I made them this evening while I was preparing a pasta sauce for supper. I put the buns in the oven when we sat down to eat the pasta, and they were ready in time for pudding.


Thursday, 15 May 2008


People often say that I am organised. I think it comes with being such a fan of lists and planning.

Last week I went to St Pancras to buy tickets for the Paris Metro, because in a week's time we will be crossing Paris in a great hurry to make a very tight train connection, and I don't want to waste precious minutes at the Gare Du Nord queuing to buy Metro tickets. The woman at the Eurostar ticket office commented on how organised I was to plan in advance in this way. I thanked her and felt more than a little bit smug.

But this week, a couple of things have thankfully wiped away that smugness. The first is my Cupboard Of Shame. Here is a picture to show you how the cupboard earned that name:

It is a cupboard in our bedroom that bulges and threatens to spontaneously burst open each time somebody walks past. It is STUFFED with suitcases, old clothes of the children's and all the files and textbooks from when G and I were studying for our accountancy exams.

I qualified nine years ago and G qualified five years ago. We have not looked at these books or files once since then. I think it may be time to throw them out. And all those children's clothes that are too small? Well I have plenty of friends with younger children or babies who could make good use of them, and there are several skirts and dresses of O's that I could cut up to start a collection of fabric for a quilt for her.

And we will need the suitcases next week when we go to France - with the Metro tickets that I was organised enough to buy in advance. Ha! As soon as I have written this, I am off to clear out the cupboard. I feel the shame.

The other thing that has made me reconsider the benefits of being organised, happened last night. After a really tough week at work I decided I needed an evening out. I've never been to the Waterstones at Piccadilly and after discovering that they have a cocktail bar on the top floor I thought that it might be a good destination for a bit of after work relaxation.

When I got there I discovered that the sewing books were next to the cocktail bar - how about that for good planning? And once up on the 5th floor, who should I find browsing through the Kaffe Fassett quilt books but my good friend Miss Moss Stitch! She was killing some time before meeting her chap for a night out at Gordon's, so I got her evening off to an unexpected start by whisking her off to the bar. We had a wonderfully spontaneous time poring through quilt books, chatting and drinking sublime cocktails. Not bad for a Wednesday night!

One of the things we chatted about was my new Pleated Beauty Bag that I received from Kathryn through the Bend The Rules Sewing swap. You can read Kathryn's blog about making my bag here.

I love that Kathryn picked fabrics based on the lush greens in my photographs - so thoughtful - so to honour her choice, I took some photos of the bag hanging in our lilac bush.

Isn't is a beautiful bag? Thank you, Kathryn, I love it!

Thank you all for your very kind comments about my quilt. I am ridiculously proud of myself, and have already planned about four more I want to make! What is it about quilts that does that?
The pattern for the quilt is from Amy Butler's In Stitches. The pieces were all sewn onto muslin, which is an unusual way of making a quilt; I think it would be easier to piece in the traditional way. The next one I do will be a BIG log cabin one that I started fifteen years ago - yes really - see earlier comments on being 'organised'.

Saturday, 10 May 2008

My quilt

It is finished!

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Child of the 70s

When I was small enough to have my hair washed just once a week (and always on a Sunday night) the only good thing about having to endure my ears being singed by my mother's terrifying and antiquated hairdryer, was being able to read a catalogue while my hair was dried.

The catalogue I loved the most was the Clothkits catalogue. Many of my clothes came from Clothkits and so did those of my friends in the village where I grew up. Clothkits sold fabric to make clothes for children and adult in mad, bright 1970s colours and bold designs. The colours of the girls dresses were so weird that Clothkits also sold matching tights and knitwear because you'd never be able to find that exact shade of turquoise or burnt orange anywhere else. I would gaze at the catalogue for hours loving all the matching colours and funky patterns. I don't remember asking my mother to make me anything specific from the catalogue - I loved it all.

When I came back to sewing after my children were born I remembered Clothkits and tried to find out where I could buy their kits. I was so disappointed to find that they had gone out of business in the late 1980s.

And then...bored at work and randomly clicking through sewing blogs and flickr, I discovered that in February of this year, Clothkits was relaunched! Their new range is breathtakingly beautiful - the colours and simplicity are still true to its 1970s bohemian origins but with elements of modern design that are bang up to date.

At present their range is small - the children's clothes are only for girls up to age 6 and there are just two skirts for adults - but they are planning on bringing out more very soon. O already wears age 7 clothes so I haven't bought her a dress pattern, but I couldn't resist the Cloth Kitty doll pattern. I had at least one (possibly both?) of these original Cloth Kittys when I was small and I remember my friends having them too (and we used to dress our Sasha dolls in Clothkits dolls outfits too - remember Sasha dolls?)

Today the parcel from Clothkits arrived...

..and I was very, very excited because not only is the kit just how I remembered, but it is packaged so wonderfully as well - all wrapped in tissue paper and accompanied by a hand written note thanking me for my purchase. With customer service like that they deserve to be back in business!


The other post I got today was pretty amazing too. This note from Anna in the Cath Kidston stationery I was drooling about in my last post. Incredibly, it's even nicer in real life than I had imagined - there is a sticker to fasten the envelope!

And O had a parcel from my mother with this beautiful cardie inside - knitted in the softest angora yarn and trimmed with ribbon. I didn't even know you could knit in ribbon

Friday, 2 May 2008


I'm usually very late in getting round to listening to podcasts, because I have so many of them on my iPod. I think I am collecting them. My current subscriptions are:
You see? Its no wonder there's usually a backlog of about 40 or more waiting to be listened to.

So this week I finally got round to listening to Craft Sanity episode #69 from February of this year. Jennifer interviews Samara O'Shea, author of For The Love of Letters, and they talk all about their mutual love of letter writing and letter receiving, and how in this era of emails and instant messaging, the letter has not gone away.

This really struck a chord with me. I love letters, parcels, postcards and notes - both sending and receiving. I think for me it originated with a childhood obsession with stationery, that has not gone away as I've grown older. Really, I could just buy notebooks, paper, pens, envelopes, postcards and stickers until I was down to my last penny. I find it impossible to go into a museum or art gallery and not come out with a few postcards, slipped into a small paper bag (and I love those small, perfectly sized, paper postcard bags too!).
Here is a photo of my stationery box, that sits on my desk at home.

And here is a photo of the whole desk, which also shows Samara O'Shea's book ( I ordered a copy after listening to the podcast, and I'm very pleased I did - great book), a parcel waiting to go in the post, an email that I need to reply to, plus a beautiful correspondence folder that my parents bought me for my birthday many years ago. It is made from red leather and I love it quite a ridiculous amount.


In it I keep a few letters that are too precious ever to throw away. They include this one sent from Iraq by my brother-in-law while he was on duty there last year.


Has there been anything in your postbox this week that has made you smile or think fondly of someone far away? I hope so! If not, here is some stationery love to inspire you.