Saturday 29 January 2011

The List Writer's 25 favourite things to do in London

Inspired by all your lovely comments on my Wedneday walk along Regent's Canal this week, I have finally put together my list of 25 favourite things to do in London - something I have been meaning to compile for ages.

You can have a look, and download the list, from Google Docs.  There is a link directly to it on the right hand side of this blog, or you can click here.  I'd love to know if you do (or have done) any of the things I love so much - do you agree with my list?

Wednesday 26 January 2011

Wednesday walk #3

For today's walk, Miss Moss Stitch and I tried out another long, eight and a half mile route.  I can't say my legs are any less achey than they were after our Olympic walk, which was a similar length, but perhaps it takes longer than three weeks for these muscles to adapt!

We started at Little Venice, which is just outside Warwick Avenue tube station, close to Paddington rail station.

Little Venice is a canal junction surrounded by great, grand houses, where the Grand Union Canal joins The Regent's Canal.  It was a lovely, dramatic and open place to start our walk.

Little Venice

Setting off along the Regent's Canal, with the Maida Hill tunnel in the distance

Big houses, along the Regent's Canal at Little Venice

The rather sinister entrance to the Maida Hill canal tunnel, by Little Venice

We set off from Little Venice and walked all the way along the canal towpath to Victoria Park. Along our route we walked around the edge of Regent's Park, through London Zoo, past funky, hippy Camden, to new building works near St Pancras and King's Cross, through Islington, and on past Hackney and finally ending at Bethnal Green.

This whole walk was fantastic, and we didn't tire of admiring (and photographing) all the covetable narrow boats, moored along its length.  Most of them were beautifully maintained and decorated with flower pots, doilies, chintz curtains and dumpy little chimneys.

The Chagall, with solar panels on the roof

Sweet Emily at Little Venice

Even the pontoons are kept neat - pots of daffs and jerry cans by Regent's Park

A narrow boat taxi, at Camden Lock

Bags of coal, piled onto the red roof of a narrowboat in Islington

With boats, come mooring posts and rings.  I hate standing too close to canal edges - those black, still waters are rather sinister - but still managed to take some pictures of my favourites.

"you are beautiful" in Hackney

Mooring ring, at King's Cross

This one in Islington reminded me of an overflowing pint of Guinness

In Islington the canal goes through a tunnel which doesn't have a towpath, so pedestrians need to come up to street level for about a kilometer, and follow the tunnel above ground before descending back to the towpath.  Dotted along the pavement, every few steps, are little markers to show you that the tunnel is still underneath your feet.  I liked the simple, unmarked blue ones best, but also loved how there were several different designs.

For that last photo, Gill kindly sacrificed some of her drinking water to clean mud off the plaque so I could get a good picture!

And as with all our other walks so far we passed plenty of oddities, as well as plenty of pretty things to photograph. 

In Camden we saw a cow on a balcony.

At Kings Cross we saw the sweetest little lock keeper's cottage.

There was some very good graffiti in Hackney.

And we learnt that the people of Islington have been very poorly.

It was an excellent walk, which we both really enjoyed.  We are planning on doing it again in the summer, when the trees are in leaf - it will look completely different, but probably still test my leg muscles as much.

The only part of the walk I didn't enjoy so much was creeping through the dark, cramped tunnels under the bridges which are dotted along the towpath.  Here we are walking through Eyre's tunnel, at Lisson Grove.  Just listen to how spooked I am when I walk over some loose paving slabs, and then my relief when we get out into the daylight again!

Friday 21 January 2011

Spiced raisin bread

Okay - as requested, here is the recipe for spiced raisin bread!

I usually make this dough in my bread machine and then transfer it to a loaf tin and leave it for a second rise before baking.  You could of course do the whole thing by hand or the whole thing in a bread machine.  More details on method follow below.

  • 1/2 teaspoon dried yeast
  • 400g strong white bread flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon milk powder (optional)
  • 15g butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 heaped teaspoons mixed spice, allspice or cinnamon
  • 6 tablespoons raisins
  • 280ml water

If you are using a bread machine, bung all the ingredients in, in the usual order (for my machine, it is yeast, then flour, then other dry ingredients, then water - but machines do vary).  Put on a dough setting, then remove and knead briefly.  Put into a 2lb loaf tin (see here for my thoughts on imperial sized tins!) and leave to rise. 

If you are making by hand, combine the yeast with the water (from the hot tap), sugar, salt and milk powder.  Leave for 5 minutes to activate the yeast and then stir into the remaining ingredients with a wooden spoon.  Tip out onto a floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic.  Put the dough into an oiled bowl and leave to rise until doubled in size.  Knock back and transfer to a 2lb loaf tin for a second rise.

Once the bread in the tin is risen, transfer to a hot oven (Gas mark 7) and bake for 35 minutes.  Tip onto a wire rack to cool.

I love this bread toasted and spread with just butter.  O likes it with honey, and C favours it with apricot jam.  G will eat it with anything!  It makes awesome bread & butter pudding, and I have high hopes for the French toast from it tomorrow.  Enjoy!

Good things

Good things on a sunny Friday:
  • Quilt progress.  I have sewn dozens of leaves already, and am not sick of them yet. This is promising.
  • A backlog of Americana and Food Programme podcasts on my iPod to keep me company while I sew.
  •  A lemon drizzle loaf cake for the weekend.

  • This really lovely spice mix, from Anna.  I've been adding it to everything I can think of.

  • But mainly spiced raisin bread.  This is the last of the midweek loaf, and today I made another so that we can have spiced raisin French toast for brunch this weekend.

Good times.

Wednesday 19 January 2011

Wednesday walk #2

It was a much shorter walk today. And in the sparkling winter sunshine, through the centre of town from Covent Garden to the City, it was also a more picturesque walk.  Along High Holborn, where the lawyers hang out, we saw some highly decorated buildings.

Shervington's - the famous tobacconist's in High Holborn

Entering The City at Holborn

High Victorian gothic architecture in High Holborn - the Prudential Assurance building

The Old Bailey - central criminal court

Inscription above the door of the Old Bailey: "Defend the Children of the Poor & Punish the Wrongdoer"

Then we came into The City, very close to where I used to work near St Paul's Cathedral and Cheapside.  It was really good to remind myself what a incredible place The City is to have an office. 

There has been a whole new fancy-pants shopping centre built and opened down Cheapside since I left work.  For a moment, it all felt a bit too new and different for my liking.

One New Change shopping centre

Workman painting red stars on a bollard down Cheapside

But then around another corner were old, familiar sights.  The City is the oldest part of London, and although buildings go up and buidings are pulled down, it doesn't really change.

Sir Thomas Gresham's golden grasshopper in Lombard Street

A procession down Gracechurch Street - no idea who they were, but lovely, embroidered gowns

Cranes down Bishopsgate - I do love cranes, and there are always cranes somewhere in the City

London in the sunshine never fails to delight me.  This is my home.

Saturday 15 January 2011

Quilt progress

It's as if I am destined to make this birthday quilt in a record quick time.

On Friday a delivery van arrived with a fat parcel full of fabric for the quilt back.  All the way from California to East London in four days - amazing.  I bought the fabric from Fabricworm - who has an incredible selection of gorgeous fabrics.

This is the Village Path pattern in Saffron, from Anna Maria Horner's Folksy Flannels collection.  I especially wanted this particular fabric in this particular pattern and colour, because I knew from making O's strawberry quilt that flannel on the back of a quilt is very cosy, and the colours of Anna Maria Horner fabric are incredibly saturated and rich.  Just what I wanted, and worth ordering from California to get exactly what I wanted.

The fabric arrived just an hour and a half before I had to pick up C and O from school - just enough time for me to cut it, sew it back together the right size, and then layer and pin the whole quilt on the front room floor.

The colours in this picture above are awful - you wouldn't believe that I took this picture in front of our huge bay window at about 2 o'clock in the afternoon!

And then last night, with everything layered and pinned, I could start quilting the leaves onto the centre panel.

I've cut dozens of leaves from scrap fabrics in greens, browns, yellows, reds and oranges, and I'm attaching them by quilting their veins, through all layers of the quilt, in perle thread (thank you to Dragonfly for all her late night perle thread advice last night!).  I had a tiny bit of green perle thread in my embroidery box, so I've made a start on the green leaves.  I've ordered a whole load more thread in the other colours I need from Cotton Patch.  I draw the veins on with fade out pen, and then just stitch over the lines.  Already I prefer sewing the simpler oval shaped leaves to the more spiky maple and sycamore style leaves!

Once I've sewn on all the leaves there should be very little of the cream calico panel left showing.  I'll add some quilting to the borders and then think about binding...but I shall ponder more about that later.  For now, there's a quilt to be finished.

Friday 14 January 2011

Lavender love

I still stir my hands through the lavender bowl whenever I walk past, and think of what designs I might use to make some lavender cushions and lavender sachets.   My fabric scrap basket is quite literally overflowing, so I might need to incorporate a solution to that as well.

I finished the three stalks of knitted lavender last night, and those are also featuring in my lavender cushion  and sachet plans.  They are knitted from Debbie Bliss baby cashmerino yarn and the pattern is from this glorious book.  The pattern is very easy and once I had it memorised and did not have to keep looking at the book, I could knit a stem in well under an hour.

Next up might be woollen snowdrops. They're not out in the garden yet, so why not knit myself some?  I also see with excitement that Lesley Stanfield has 75 birds, butterflies and beautiful beasts to knit and crochet coming out next month.  I could knit myself some worms to improve my soil quality!