Wednesday, 28 October 2009

hallowe'en and elephants

Freddie the elephant ~ a present for my one year old cousin, who I'll be meeting in November during a week-long holiday in Brighton. It's exactly the same pattern as Peanut. Country Threads is really good for remnants, so he cost me less than £4 to make. The striped blue happens to be the same fabric as my regency wrap, and is an incredibly soft brushed cotton. I made one mod. - adding a square of the contrasting fabric to the end of the trunk, instead of gathering in the four corners.

I'm also going to give him Orange Pear Apple Bear, which I fell in love with during the Lit. Festival. My foodie experiences at the Mission Theatre also inspired me to try a new tarte, and I found this recipe on Delia's website for Parsnip and Stilton tarte. It's good, but not as bursting with flavour as Sarah Raven's spinach and gruyere.

Are you excited about Halloween on saturday? I already have my pumpkin done!

Have a fun weekend!

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Lord Nelson :: a hero

James, dressed as Lord Nelson

(you can't really see, but he has long hair tied back in a queue with a dark velvet ribbon)

give you joy of the day!

James's hand-drawn (with a quill) map of the battle

Julian Stockwin himself

Naval artifacts
Julian Stockwin signing books

James's hand-made signs, others included the Lower Gun Deck for the basement, the Poop Deck for the first floor, and the Wardroom for the staff room.

Captain Hardy

Emma Hamilton
Beau Brummel

Saturday, 17 October 2009

tis the season to bake your christmas cakes (!)

Having never embarked on the whole christmassy-menu-plannery-thing before, I was surprised to be informed by one of my fellow booksellers that he had already baked his christmas cake. Apparently tis the season!

I promptly borrowed his loose-bottomed 8" cake tin and had myself a baking day. One cake for my Dad, as a christmas gift, and one for my own household, as we are having people to stay this year. Having never done this before, I was shocked at the sheer quantity of fruit involved - it's such a dense cake. I used easy-roll marzipan and icing, and nearer the time I'll add some gold or red ribbons.

Here are some 'outtakes' from my hair-messing - I took photos in order to see the back of my head/various angles. I tried the effect of a ribbon, but didn't want to cut the one I had (the blue clashes with the wrap so I won't be using it) and instead I'll try and find a white ribbon in Bath. I don't have long enough hair to create a voluminous bun, so have plaited my hair and tucked it up at the back, I'll try and get it more even next time. You might also spot that I have 'tested' the hairstyle with the dress...

Friday, 16 October 2009

historical hairstyles

Tomorrow I'm going to mess around with my hair a bit and attempt some regency styles in prep for Wednesday. I usually just tie my hair back for work, and I'm generally not very proficient, so this will be a challenge, but I'll give it my best shot with some hot rollers for curls and volume to create a classical bun. I've done a little research into regency hairstyles, but mainly I'll be trying to emulate the hairstyles in my favourite costume dramas. I thought I'd share some of these that I aspire to...


Thursday, 8 October 2009

promised post - part two

I found myself spending a lot of time working at the Bath Children's Literature Festival in September, which I loved doing, although admittedly I had one of the best gigs in town, at the Mission Theatre. I had never been to this theatre before, and its small but utterly charming. Barely more than a tiny entrance, two auditorium, and a cute bistro cafe up some 200 year old, very worn, stairs. It was one of the smallest venues (read: very little work involved) and it was the only venue that laid on a tab for the booksellers. As I am extremely greedy, I thought this was great. They served up warm parsnip and camembert quiche, three salads, and cake. Yum!

I got to see some nice events too, my favourites being the Elmer birthday party (Elmer paid a visit!), the Emily Gravett event (I love love love 'Orange Pear Apple Bear'), and the flower fairies!

All the little girls came dressed as fairies - mostly flower fairies but there was a tinkerbell too - and on the stage was a very realistic gnarled and ivy covered tree, with subtle fairy lights and plenty of spreading roots. As the mini-theatre progressed, the girls helped a young woman find all the pieces of an adult fairy costume hidden on the tree, which she then dressed in, to become the Tansy Fairy. The Tansy Fairy has a beautiful yellow dress, and teaches all the little fairies to dance, so they did! Later on they coloured in pretty fairy wings to take home, but were also given a pink glittery pair. I spent the hour wishing I was seven.

But, I did come away with a great freebie, one of the publishing staff gave me her event t-shirt...
It has a little pink fairy and a butterfly...

Did you know that Bonne Maman are currently giving away Bonne Maman aprons and tea towels over on their website? I love their jams, I love that they have whole pieces of fruit in them, and I gleefully entered my three coupon codes a few weeks ago. And look what I got!

It even came in its own Bonne Maman paper envelope! I'm currently working my way through a jar of apricot jam, and then I'll start on getting myself some tea towels : ) I like the red check, so simple, but so attractive. Gosh, this is starting to sound like an advert isn't it. But the empty jars are the best for homemade chutney.

And finally, I have a new cousin, aged one, who I have promised to make a Peanut the Wee Elephant for, alas he is a boy, and all the fabric in my stash is pink. So, once I solve this little dilemma, there will actually be some crafting going on!

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

promised post - part one

Thanks for the comments on my previous post, I hope you will forgive me for being terribly lazy in not responding individually, I really do appreciate them.

So, the most exciting news first!

During a casual conversation with a guy I work with named James, about his love of all things Nelson related, I commented on how cool I thought it was that he dressed up as an Admiral for work on Waterloo Day. I think you all know that I am a devout fan of Patrick O'Brian's Master and Commander series of books, and I've spent a great deal of my life immersed in the other great writers of historical naval fiction. James is rather more into the actual history, than the fiction, and possesses a sword.

Anyway, this led to a small knot of us dreaming up an event that gave us all an excuse to dress in regency costume for a day. It just so happens that James owns a variety of complete, accurate, reproduction naval uniforms from the regency period. I think they include Midshipman, Lieutenant, and Captain, as well as the aforementioned Admiral. The plan was that he would lend these out to similarly sized colleagues who were willing, and that would give him a good excuse to have a new one made. Alas, his wardrobe naturally does not contain a dress, but the Bath-based tailor who produces these costumes for James agreed to hire out dresses for me and for another gal, Fran, for the day. This was a huge favour, as neither of us can afford this, and needless to say, we were both on cloud nine. These dresses were to be authentic reproductions, in white muslin, and made to measure. But why the past tense? Because, in a moment in my life when my feet actually left cloud nine, James produced these dresses for us with the casual words "oh, you can keep them, they're yours".....!

I am now the ecstatic owner of an empire-waisted, white muslin, regency dress, bliss! I have wanted to try out regency costume for years, my heart ached that I couldn't join the Jane Austen parade when I first saw it, and who hasn't dreamt of being an extra in a costume drama? And now, unbelievably, my dream dress is hanging in my wardrobe.

The only thing left was to choose a day in history worth such celebration, a nationally important day that we could turn into an 'event', in order to convince the boss to let us do this. No problem, as any naval history buff will know, Trafalgar Day falls on October 21st.

This was all a few weeks ago, and things have snowballed; James has arranged for Julian Stockwin to come and sign his latest book in the Kydd series, 'Invasion' for fans, and Roy Adkins, author of 'Trafalgar' and 'Jack Tar' will be around for signings too. There will be a prize draw to win some authentic 18th Century rope and a real musket ball. We've ordered in masses of books about or set in the period, for instance Dudley Pope, C.S Forrester, and of course, Patrick O'Brian, as well as biographies of Nelson and Emma Hamilton, and a variety of history books. We're going to put sea shanties and naval tunes on the cd player, and there are seven of us in costume.

So, back to the dress, here is a peek....

I thought it might be a little chilly in October, so I've decided to channel Emma Thompson for the day and wear a wrap made from this blue, striped, brushed cotton fabric I found in Country Threads. I think the colour is perfect, the stripes hint at the Navy, and it's warm, incredibly soft, and drapes beautifully. I'll attempt to put my hair up in a suitable style that uses only pins, and since I won't be wearing a bonnet, will add some demure flowers to the back.

I will of course post a full-length photo of the complete ensemble on the day, and I'll take as many photos of James and the others as I can get away with.


Thursday, 1 October 2009

just a bit of baking... see out the last days of summer

tarte au citron, from my french table

victoria sponge cake

hint: turn the bottom layer of sponge upside down before spreading with jam, and maybe then it won't all run off the edges!
I use a basic recipe for this cake which involves weighing the eggs, then weighing out the flour, sugar and butter to the same weight. It produces a fantastically light, fluffy cake. I also use bonne maman jam, strawberries and whipped double cream. Its a fairly simple combination of flavours, but is just amazing.

and here's the view from my kitchen window, ahh, I'll miss those sunny days!

I have some very exciting news for my next post, involving bonne maman and flower fairies, Trafalgar Day and a white empire-waisted dress, and a baby elephant.