Saturday 29 March 2008

Brain fizz

You can be pottering along for ages, thinking thoughts, doing stuff, making plans...and then every now and then there gets to be so much stuff in your brain, that it starts to fizz. I think at the moment its the fault of too much fabric in the house.

The big quilt is nearly finished; below is a preview.

The end is tantalisingly near - just a few more rows to stitch and then I can trim it and put on the binding. So with the end of the quilt in sight, I figured I could start planning the next one, right? Oh, and maybe give myself some time to sew a few bits and pieces for pregnant friends. Oh, and maybe an apron or two as well. And then there is my first sewing swap to plan - I will have to make a practise bag before I make the real one. And then...


At times like this you need a list or two!

Things made recently:

  • an apron - possibly for me, possibly not.
  • a couple of book covers, including one in fabrics that co-ordinate well with my iPod cover
  • half a dozen bibs
  • many, many hair scrunchies
  • nearly a whole quilt

Things to make soon:

  • more book covers
  • more bibs
  • the scalloped edged baby blanket from Bend The Rules Sewing
  • a practice Pleated Beauty Bag for my swap
  • the final Pleated Beauty Bag for my swap
  • some placemats for my sister's new house
  • another quilt (or two)
  • an apron on the theme of Havana Nights for Tie One On (tricky, this one)

My trouble is that I look at fabric, look at sewing books and just want to make everything.


This apron, made last weekend, is from Amy Butler's In Stitches. I love the pattern so much - the apron ends up looking very well finished, and the pleats always make me feel very competent.


The book covers are brilliant. They are from The Crafter's Companion. I altered the size a little bit to accomodate slightly larger books, and now I think I am going to have to make covers in a variety of subtly different sizes to fit a wider range of books.


So today, I am putting down my needles and avoiding eye contact with my fabrics. I am baking Driftwood's rhubarb and orange cake for my brother-in-law and lovely new sister-in-law who are coming round this afternoon. And I won't talk about fabrics to them for hours on end. No, I won't. Really.

Sunday 23 March 2008


The daftest things I do on a regular basis:

  • Come in from the garden holding some eggs and put them down somewhere 'safe' and only find them hours or days later.
  • Wave to complete strangers across the street thinking they are someone I know well.
  • Run down the tube escalators at rush hour. I never think I will get vertigo half way down and I always do.
  • Sing while I am listening to my iPod.
  • Put on my glasses in the evening when my eyes are tired. But forget to take out my contacts first.
  • Read scary books when G is away for the night and I just have two sleeping children and a creaky old Victorian house for company.

Easter Day

Today has been the coldest Easter Day I can remember. We woke up to the first snow of the winter here in London. Actually the spring equinox was a couple of days ago, so in fact we have had no snow all winter but instead some right at the beginning of spring. How mad is that?

So to keep ourselves warm and toasty we abandoned our plans to go treasure hunting and decided to stay indoors all day instead. It has been a lovely, mellow, family day. This is what we have done.

Eaten vast amounts of chocolate.

Drawn, coloured, cut and glued a collage to go on the kitchen wall (having been inspired by this brilliant book). Its kind of a farmyard, but there happened to be an elephant visiting as well on the day the picture was drawn. O, who has limitless patience, glued on 47 separate flowers, and I got into trouble with G for glueing his birds on upside down without realising. C drew the sweetest little chick for our flock of hens.

We read books and played board games.

And just before teatime, we waved G off as he left to stay with his parents prior to his first triathlon of the season at dawn tomorrow morning. I think he might be cold.


Monday update:

Thank you on G's behalf for your kind wishes. It was indeed snowing but the race went well. In a triathlon you do the swim first and then do the bike ride and run in whatever you wore for the swim. Happily, G wears a tri-suit, but he said that there were some men running around Bushey Park in the snow in Speedos this morning. And now you have that delightful image in your heads, I shall wish you all well for the week ahead.


Thursday 20 March 2008

Easter eggs - a little bit early

It hasn't felt much like Easter yet - too cold, too wet, not enough sun, too soon after Mothering Sunday and no school holidays. Bah humbug. But finally, this afternoon, I am in the mood.

I picked up these ceramic eggs from Gill's shop.

I painted them with C & O after school last week and now they are all glazed, and prettily brightening up my egg tray in the kitchen.

Then I baked a batch of cupcakes (always good-mood food), mixed a bowl of pastel icing, and then let C & O decorate them when they got in from school (which actually involved plonking mini eggs quickly on top of my artfully placed icing, demanding to lick out the bowl and then hurtling off to play).

They look the part though, and are bringing a bit of spring-like cheer into the kitchen.


Tomorrow the long weekend starts properly and we are celebrating by going out to brunch with Grandparents, Uncles and Aunts before heading on to the National Gallery for some exploring. And of course we will be having eggs for breakfast all weekend!



I have been tagged by Gill with this interview about my blog:


Why I started my blog ....

I wanted to get in the habit of writing regularly, and overcome my fear of letting other people read my writing. I was also inspired by beautiful, witty blogs like Yarnstorm and Pea Soup which I had been reading for a while.


How I came up with the name of my blog ...

I'm not really sure! I knew my blog would be based around lists, and I suppose the 'philosophy' part of it meant that I would be thinking and reflecting quite a bit in my writing.


Do my friends and family know about my blog? What do they think of it?

Yes - everyone probably knows about it by now! I know my Mum is a big fan. I'm not sure what my brother and sister think about it though. I am guilty of standing over G after I have put up a new post and nagging him to read it "There's a new post! Read it!". Very un-cool.


How do I write my posts ...

I just sit at the computer and type. Usually I have absolutely no idea what I am going to write about until I sit down.


Ever had a troll or had to delete unkind comments ...

No, but occasionally I get slightly mad, but kind, comments in another language, which I do delete!


Do I check my stats? Do I care who/how many read my blog? Do I try to increase traffic?

Of course I check my stats - I'm an accountant! I love stats! I don't do anything to increase my traffic, but I love seeing the counter tick steadily up and I have a cool new widget which shows me where abouts in the world my readers are.


What I like and dislike about blogging...

I love all the comments best. And I dislike all the hours faffing around with my camera and photos - resizing them and uploading them is very dull.


I am going to tag Anna on All Things Lovely and my fellow Eglu owner, Dragonfly, with this interview next.

Tuesday 18 March 2008

The daily commute

On work days I leave the house at 8:30am and get to my desk at 10am. I have a long commute, although I don't travel very far. I have been doing this same commute for years now, and it is often the most restful part of my day.

8:30 - leave the house with C and O plus all our bags
8:35 - drive the four miles to school
8:45 - park the car at the childminder's house ready for that evening and then walk to school
8:50 - arrive at school, shout goodbyes to C and stand in line with O
9:05 - leave school and start walking to the tube station
9:15 - get to the tube station and wait for a train
9:45 - get off the tube at St Pauls and walk to the coffee shop
9:55 - arrive at work with iPod headphone cable tangled everywhere
10:00 - dump iPod, coffee and bags on desk, and start my day

I find the repetition restful in a strange way. I love all the tiny, tiny details that I know and salute each morning - like the bank of violets that blooms at the edge of the path by the childminder's house every spring, the cooking apple tree that is laden in the autumn, the strange house near school that has stone lions by the front door, the exact point in the road where the queue for the roundabout starts, the broken step at St Paul's station that I avoid if I am wearing heels, and the group of three houses with lavender bushes in their front gardens which I rub between my fingers each morning.

The journey takes a long time but is very easy. I can do it half-asleep and only really wake up properly when I get to my desk!

There is a great group on flickr called Daily Commutes. Go and have a look and marvel at how other people's commutes across the world are so vey different from your own.

Sunday 9 March 2008

Weekend list

This weekend has been about:
  • sewing presents for people
  • chatting with my mother
  • baking
  • more baking
  • gazing up at clear blue skies wondering if there really is a giant storm heading our way
  • C & O doing mysterious things together
  • eggs
  • friends who always make me feel good

I hope you had a lovely weekend too.

Thursday 6 March 2008

Books, books, books

It is World Book Day today and I have just taken delivery of two parcels full of books for C and O. To celebrate this abundant bookishness, today's list is going to be the first part of a one that I have been meaning to put up for a while. A list of my favourite children's books.

The reason I haven't put the list up before now is that whenever I make notes on it, the list just rages out of control. There are so many fantastic childrens books out there. All the ones I remember from my own childhood plus all the ones that I have read for the first time with my own children and so many others recommended or stumbled across.

So to make it more manageable I am going to narrow the list. Today's list is loved books that are being read by O at the moment.

She is at a difficult stage for books. She is only 5, can read well and loves to read, but has not got the stamina to read chapter books. She is past First Reader books but not yet ready for things like Horrid Henry, Milly Molly Mandy, My Naughty Little Sister or The Magic Faraway Tree (all of which I love and cannot wait for her to read!). I want to encourage her, but not put her off by bombarding her with suggestions.

You can see from the picture of O's bookshelves below that she is not short of books - here are the ones from her bookshelf that get read most often at the moment.

Particularly appealing for 5 year olds are small, compact books. I think they find them more grown up after the enormous (though sumptuous) books of toddlerdom. Both C and O at this stage have loved reading the Ladybird classic fairy tales, of which we now have an enormous selection.

They are beautifully illustrated, with a hand drawn colour picture on every double page spread, and the stories are straightforward to read but are not over simplified.

Picture books with more text such as those by Shirley Hughes, Judith Kerr and Janet & Allan Ahlberg really come in to their own at this age. O loves the Ahlbergs' Starting School more than almost any other book at the moment and when I was her age I used to pore over The Tiger Who Came to Tea for hours at a time. I so wanted to go out to supper wearing my nightie and black wellies, didn't you?

Good authors of this type of book who weren't around in the mid-70s when I was little include Janey Louise Jones, the author of the gorgeous Princess Poppy books. Princess Poppy is a little girl who often behaves like a bit of a princess and not necessarily in a good way. The heavily moral conclusions to each story balance the sugary-sweet pastel illustrations. And O just adores them.

We also love these:

Here is a picture of O's bedside, taken this morning, which is the best illustration I could find of how much she is enjoying being able to read!

And here are pictures of C and O dressed up for the World Book Day parade at school today. Dennis The Menace and The Pony Mad Princess (who has a wicked gap in her teeth after loosing two more earlier in the week - quite startling when she grins!).

Saturday 1 March 2008

Happy Mothering Sunday

Happy Mothering Sunday, Ma.

Thank you so much for passing on to me your love of good food and home cooking. If I can pass on half as much to C and O, then I will be very pleased indeed! N. xxx

Yellowness and a new toy

I was lying in bed early this morning, enjoying the fact that for once I was awake earlier than G, and pondering whether I could slide out of bed without waking him. After a few minutes he rather unnervingly popped open one eye and said "You're wondering whether you can get downstairs without waking me so that you can go and gaze at your new mixer, aren't you?".

Such is the deep connection between us after over 11 years together. He can now read my mind.

A few days ago, after dithering for the past two and a half years, I finally bought myself a KitchenAid mixer. It is a thing of great, great beauty and I love it. After G woke up I did go downstairs ("Would you like a cup of tea in bed, darling?") and stroke the mixer.

For the mixer's inaugural cake I wanted to find a recipe that would ordinarily involve lots of beating, mixing and aching arms, just so that I could really appreciate the mixer's brilliance. I also wanted something light, bright, yellow and spring-like - suitable for St David's Day and the abundance of daffodils. I eventually settled on one of Nigella's recipes from How To Be A Domestic Goddess: Damp Lemon and Almond Cake.

Like Nigella I have a bit of a thing for almonds. Especially in cakes. Last summer when we were visiting my Grandmother in the far corner of the North Yorkshire Dales, she served us the nicest Bakewell Tart I have ever eaten (and I have eaten a few in my time because I LOVE Bakewell Tart). She had bought it at the local bakery. Since then I have been experimenting with different jams, pastries and quantities of almonds and almond essence to re-create that Bakewell Tart, but still haven't quite managed it.

This lemon and almond cake of Nigella's is a sort of Italian influenced Bakewell Tart. Yum.

Nigella Lawson's Damp Lemon and Almond Cake
  • 225g soft unsalted butter
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 50g plain flour
  • 225g ground almonds
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond essence
  • grated zest and juice of 2 unwaxed lemons

Preheat the oven to Gas 4 and butter and line a 21cm Springform cake tin. Cream together the butter and sugar until white and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, adding a quarter of the flour after each addition. Stir in the ground almonds, lemon zest, lemon juice and almond essence.

Spoon the mixture into the tin and bake for about 1 hour (Nigella says approx. 1 hour but it only took 45 mins in my oven so I suggest you start checking after about 40 mins). The cake is ready when the top is firmish and a cocktail stick inserted comes out with just a few crumbs stuck to it. Let the cake cool in the tin for 5 minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack and let it cool completely.

It tastes wonderful all by itself, but with the addition of a few raspberries and a dollop of creme fraiche it would enter another league altogether. I do love Nigella's recipes.

PS You don't need a mixer to make this cake - and indeed it so delicious that it would be worth having slightly achy arms after making it!