Sunday, 30 November 2008

The next generation of list writer

At the last parents evening we went to for O, I noticed that her class teacher had written in her maths book the comment "O is a little unsure of how to write a list".

The cheek of it! My daughter knows how to write a list! I mean, she has list writing genes!

Since then - of course, wouldn't you? - I've been secretly turning her into a proficient list writer. Shopping list needs jotting down? Get O to do it. Gift lists for Christmas need compiling? Get O to do them. Never again will a teacher say that a child of mine does not know how to write a list!

However, I now think I may have been taking things a little too far.

I came downstairs, bleary eyed, yesterday morning to find this stuck to the mantlepiece:

She had been inspired by one of her favourite TV programmes on CBBC at the moment, Gimme A Break, a programme in which the children draw up the family rules....

House rules
  • No ballet
  • No walks
  • No veg
  • No accents of any language
  • No moaning

She explained to her querying parent, that 'No ballet' meant no ballet by anyone in the house other than her. I don't think we meet her high standards.

'No accents of any language' is apparently for me and C who enjoy conversing with each other in whatever amusing and entertaining alternative accents we can think of. C is going through a Jamaican phase and my specialty is Southern Belle. Can't really see what the problem is there.

'No moaning' was one that I approved of, but then she explained that it didn't mean children weren't allowed to moan - it meant that parents were not allowed to moan about the house rules.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

So much sewing

In between taking photos of my shoes last week, I've also been sewing madly.

Anna sent me this charity shop bargain she found - a dressmaking manual published in 1972 (a metric re-issue!). Its awesome!
I was enchanted first by all the photos and drawings - the epitome of weird and eccentric 1970s elegance.

But once I started reading, I could not stop. The manual is crammed with full sized pattern pieces and detailed advice. You could totally teach yourself to sew clothes with this book.

Later in the week, the first edition of Sew Hip plopped through the letterbox. I've been looking forward to this for months now, and I wasn't disappointed. Like my dressmaking manual, it is crammed with patterns, but also interviews, ideas and inspiration. Love it!
On Thursday evening I went back to The Make Lounge for another sewing course. This time I did the Knockout Knickers course and brought my two sisters-in-law along for company. We had so much fun and all came away with knickers that fit - amazing!
Sewing elastic and stretch jersey is as fiddly as I'd imagined, but I picked up so many tips from the tutor that I'm sure I will have a go at making some more at home. The knickers can be made from printed cotton as well as jersey and I can't get out of my mind the thought that a pair of knickers made from a Kaffe Fassett printed cotton would be an amazing thing to have!
Here are the ones I made on the course. I didn't cut the elastic short enough, so they are a little big - they should pucker up a little more around the waist and the leg. Next time I won't be so nervous about making them too small.
Finally, I've finished sewing the things I am going to send to Christie for the 2008 Holiday Traditions exchange. I need to put together all the other bits and pieces for her now and then send it all off to South Carolina with good wishes for the holiday season.
Then I need to bind C's quilt - its nearly quilted now.
And THEN start making Christmas presents for everyone!

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

A week in my shoes :: Day 7

You will be able to deduce from the shoes and tights I wore today, that I wear much fancier clothes to work than I do at home.

On the way to the tube station this morning.

On the tube (the man next to me was asleep so I didn't feel too weird leaning over to photograph my (and his) feet).
Coming up the v..e..r..y.. long escalator at St Paul's station.
Sitting at my desk. The shoes in the distance belong to my colleague who sits opposite me, the lovely Mrs H. Mrs H is very sensible and wears trainers to work, only changing into heels once she gets there. I've never been able to bring myself to do that, so when I buy a new pair of heels I spend a long time in the shop trying them on and making sure they're going to be comfortable.
Thank you all for your kind comments this past week. I am don't know whether to be slightly worried or deeply impressed that so many of you can spot a Boden coat from a tiny glimpse in the corner of a photograph!
I hope your shoes have taken you to nice places this past week.

Monday, 24 November 2008

A week in my shoes :: Day 6

I had a very nice day off work today - using up an odd leftover day before the end of the year.

I brought the milk in from the doorstep.
I took the children to school - this is our front path, with the original, Victorian tiles. I love this path. One day I will make a quilt of it - right down to the colours and everything.

It was wet, cold and nasty outside this morning, so when I got back home I put on another pair of socks my mother knitted for me. This time a bamboo pair that are incredibly soft.

After a day of sewing I was feeling a rather house bound and headachey. The sun came out and I grabbed my walking boots before dashing out for a late walk on Wanstead Flats as the sun set.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

A week in my shoes :: Day 5

No shoes today. Just some very, very cold toes as I ran outside in the snow, wearing only sandals and pyjamas to feed the hens this morning. I threw some corn in to them, ran back inside and didn't venture out again all day. Brrrrrr.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

A week in my shoes :: Day 4

It is Saturday. The sun is shining. So clearly I need some brightly coloured tights again. This time I chose purple ones.

Before breakfast, on the world's most awful carpet (in our hall). Accompanied by rather a large number of snippets of thread. 2009 will definitely be the year in which that carpet goes.

In Wanstead, before lunch, on my way to buy a newspaper and a bunch of coriander.
I love how my crazy tights can barely be seen next to the vividness of the tomatoes and spinach at the greengrocers. Just a shiny, patent toe peeping out.
Back home, after lunch, next to the fire. Now the fire is lit, I'm in for the day.
Other people's shoes
Ali has a fabulous pair of red boots on. If I had red boots I think I would wear them solidly from October until March. After I've paid for a new carpet, red boots may be at the top of my spending list.
My mother-in-law wore these shoes to have coffee with friends.

I hope your shoes are taking you to nice places this weekend. Or else that you are cosied up indoors next to a fire with some thick socks and a good book.

That's where I'm off to - right now.

Friday, 21 November 2008

A week in my shoes :: Day 3

In haste this morning, I jammed on the first pair of shoes that came into my hand as I rummaged. These lovely pale green pumps with a short, 4cm, heel. They are over five years old and I still love them but don't wear them very often. I need to be in a pale green mood.

See how beautifully they match the lichen on the pavement!
However, they were the wrong shoes. By the time I got home from the morning school run my feet were like blocks of ice. I put on these amazingly beautiful and warm socks (knitted by my mother from Kaffe Fasset Regia yarn), and did not remove them for the rest of the day.
This afternoon's school run was done in trainers.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

A week in my shoes :: Day 2

These astonishingly bright tights are from Gap and I adore them! Perfect for grey autumn mornings doing nothing in particular.

Walking to school.
Waiting with G in the playground for a parents' numeracy workshop (very good - G and I were swots and put our hands up to give the answers quite often - ha!).

In the car on the way back from the supermarket.
In the kitchen as I baked a cherry and almond cake.

Notes from yesterday:
  • My mother bought some boots - I was merely there to advise and tut over the price, in a complete role reversal from my teenage years.
  • The parcel was from Clothkits and is for O for Christmas....

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

A week in my shoes :: Day 1

It was trainers all day today as I was having a pleasantly busy, walking-around kind of day.

In the playground at school.

On my bike as I came back from picking up a parcel from the sorting office.

Walking down Oxford Street on the way to meet my mother.

In John Lewis trying on boots with my mother.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

A week in my shoes :: prologue

Tomorrow I am starting a week of short, daily posts about where I’ve been and what footwear I wore to get there.

If you would like to join in - even if just for one day - then please do. Just leave a comment here so that we can all go and admire your footwear and find out what you've been doing!

Tonight, at the end of a day at work, its thick tights and slippers for me, as I sit in front of the TV and sew. There is even a snippet of thread on one of my feet already. They get everywhere!

Saturday, 15 November 2008


I have been tagged by Willow from Contemplating Change in a Six Random Things meme. Love this.
  • My favourite articles of clothing are aprons and hats.
  • When G and I first started dating, each week he would buy me a bunch of flowers so enormous that I did not own a vase big enough to put them in. So he had to buy me an enormous vase too. I was very impressed.
  • This week I bought a bottle of ink. Probably for the first time since I was at school. I dithered for ages in the shop about which colour I should get. I went with classical black eventually, but I'm now thinking blue would be nicer.
  • My favourite girls name in the whole world is Edith. G vetoed it when we were expecting O. Quite vehemently as I recall.
  • I am reading a Marion Keyes novel at the moment - Watermelon.
  • I like eating smoked salmon for breakfast, but I rarely do. If I did, I'd have so much Omega 3 in me that I'd surely be a genius. A poor genius though.

And to finish things off, here is a very random photo of my copper coal scuttle.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Experiments in sewing

The first part of my week - at work - was madly busy, tiring and draining. Long hours and late evenings at the office.

And when it came to my days off, yesterday and today, I couldn't face any kind of to do list or busyness. After I'd taken the children to school yesterday I just headed straight back home and immersed myself in fabric, thread and ribbon. The very best de-stressing treatment there is!

One of the things I wanted to try and make was a suffolk puff - one of these:

I love the look of them, but never had any success with the cunning gadget from Clover that is meant to enable you to make them. But then I found a tutorial on Whip Up showing how to make one by hand - easy peasy.

I had ideas about turning the suffolk puffs into some kind of Christmas tree decoration for my swap partner in the 2008 Holiday Traditions Exchange. But I haven't come up with a way of using them that I am happy with yet. More experimentation (or inspiration perhaps?) is required.

Holiday Traditions Exchange 2008

However, I then went off on a tangent with some applique, inspired by this great book, and I now have one Christmas tree decoration for Christie that I am happy with. I just need to make a few more for her now.

Today was a non-uniform day for the children at school (in aid of Children in Need) and O wore her Clothkits funky chicken skirt. As I waved her off at the school gates I remembered that when I ordered the kit for the skirt, I also ordered the kit for a matching hat and bag. The kit had been languishing in my sewing box ever since and it was about time I made it up.

For some reason I was very nervous of this one - I think because I couldn't quite visualise how the hat (lined as well) was going to fit together. I imagined it to be very fiddly.

But in the end it was fine - it came together in under two hours and I'm really pleased with it.

So I've had two days of no work and plenty of sewing. I can't tell you how much of a treat that seems. And this weekend I'm going to have supper with old friends on Saturday, and then lunch with my extended family on Sunday. Work feels like a world away now. Enjoy your weekend!

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

A spicy after-work supper

I've been busier than usual at work lately. And I have found that the more I have to do at work, the more I think about food.
Not just in that 'I wonder how long is it until lunch time?' that comes over me whenever I'm in any kind of office. But also in a 'I'm not going to get home until 8 o'clock and I've just got a packet of mince and an old aubergine in the fridge and I've only had a sandwich and a satsuma to eat since breakfast and I'm starving!' kind of way. You know.
And the strange thing is that often when I get home after such a long day, that's often when I cook some of my nicest dishes. Suppers that take about 15 minutes and very little effort to make and which both satisfy and comfort me after a stressful, cerebral day.
Here's tonight's super-quick store cupboard triumph.

Quick spicy lamb with couscous
  • 500g pack of lamb mince
  • 1 aubergine - diced
  • 1 tin of chickpeas - drained
  • 1 red onion – finely sliced
  • 1 tin tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp Moroccan spice (see photos below)
  • Bunch coriander – finely chopped

    Couscous or toasted pitta breads to serve.

Unless you buy extra lean cuts, which are much more expensive, lamb can be very fatty. To get round this I use a tip from Hugh F-W. Fry the lamb mince on a dry non-stick frying pan over a high heat, stirring occasionally until no pink meat is left. Then tip the mince into a metal colander or sieve to drain away the fat, while you cook the vegetables.

Add a slug of olive oil to the frying pan that you used for the lamb. Fry the onion and aubergine over a high heat until browned and softened. Add the Moroccan spice and the lamb, drained of its fat, and continue to stir fry for one minute.

Tip in the tin of tomatoes and the drained chickpeas and leave to bubble steadily for 10 minutes while you sort out the couscous.

To serve, sprinkle over the chopped coriander and spoon onto couscous. Add a dollop of natural yogurt too, if you’ve got some.

Oh, and I haven't been so busy at work that I couldn't catch up on Nicole's wonderful month of daily recipes as part of National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo - I can't say that no matter how slowly I speak). Check out the utterly amazing Red Velvet Cake - I can't decide whether I am truly freaked out by it or whether I'm just in awe. A little bit of both I think.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

10 bags seen on the tube

10 bags seen in one tube carriage between South Woodford and St Paul's, yesterday:
  • 1 plastic laundry bag - stuffed full.
  • 1 orange mesh bag with ribbon trim (very nice ribbon trim - got me thinking...).
  • 1 hippyish, Peruvian, embroidered shoulder bag in turquoise. On shoulder of same woman as the orange mesh bag. She looked fabulous.
  • 1 very battered and squashy, navy, leather bag with buckles.
  • 1 smart and stylish, navy, leather bag with buckles.
  • 2 non-descript, faux-leather handbags.
  • 1 old satchel made from grungy, green plastic.
  • 1 elegant, gold shoulder bag. Huge but empty.
  • 1 Cath Kidston bookbag in new red paisley print (mine).