Monday, 29 November 2010

radio bliss

Just a quickie...Radio 4's Women's Hour have a new 10-part dramatisation of one of my favourite books; Wives and Daughters.

It starts today...

Wives and Daughters

Sunday, 31 October 2010

new home

here is a sneaky peek at some corners of my new fireplace and pantry

On saturday I went to the Vintage Bazaar in Frome, which was a real treat. It was crammed with stalls selling vintage homewares, kitchenalia, fabric, trimmings, vintage clothes, books, and even handmade cloche hats.


gibraltar mojito DSCF7930
DSCF8001 DSCF8028 DSCF8101
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Gibraltar, mojitos, flamenco, tagine, Morocco, nelson, beads, beach, cafes

The homelyheroine in me had a lovely time too....

There was an amazing bead shop in tarifa, with hundreds of hand-painted wooden beads, and gorgeous jewellery made from the beads...

This is my little haul...

I also bought this pretty lilac leaf ceramic dish...

There were some delicious cakes...

And some lovely tiles...

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Oh dear, its been a while...

...since I've put my head round the door isn't it. Faithful readers, I am still here.

Well, what's the gossip?

I had a lovely holiday in Spain, it was a much prettier place than I had imagined, and I daresay I'll post a mosaic of photos for the curious that will give you the gist of it.

I've moved house, and I'm all safe and sound in my new home, a dear little cottage that I like to think is a bit like the one in the 1995 'Sense and Sensibility' film. Plenty of white wood panelling, and a fireplace is practically every room. A proper little kitchen too which we've managed to fit a dining room table into, and a pantry.

I've started my OU course, which was pretty terrifying at first, but is so far not too difficult. Maybe I'll report differently after the first assessment...

I had my first ever house-warming party, to which I lured people with the promise of a chocolate fountain, and was stunned by the generosity of a relatively new friend who has some game in the cake department. She showed up with this stunner...

And yes, those roses are entirely made of sugar, and she made them with her own fair hands, impressive, no? Needless to say she is baking her own wedding cake (she of the Westonbirt wedding, which has now changed location to a Devon cliff with a private beach for the day).

More soon, there is much to tell, and many blogger-friends to catch up with.

Thursday, 2 September 2010


Thanks for all your lovely messages of support, and practical advice! I managed to get the cake there, and assembled it at the bar while Mr HH and my sister shielded me from view. Perhaps I overdid it with the chocolate cream filling, as by the time it was served it had melted down the side of the cake a little, and was 'artfully' disguised by the waitress who added yet more cream on top of the white roses. On the whole though, it was successfull, my mum seemed pleased at least!

Tomorrow I am going on holiday, hurrah! My bags are packed, I have my euros, nothing left to do but catch my flight. I'm flying to Gibraltar, Gib, The Rock, the port for British sailors since the days before Aubrey and Hornblower (ok those two are fictional), that strategic military base with roaming monkeys...

But I'm not staying there, I'm heading for an empty beach on the Costa de la Luz, rural Spain, with a view of Africa across the Straits...

Hopefully there'll be a few day trips, to Cadiz and Tangier, whale watching and churro eating.

And some good reading, I'm taking 'Anne of Green Gable' which I've never read (!) and the new Muriel Spark bio just out in paperback. See you in two weeks!

Thursday, 19 August 2010

and breathe...

I am T minus 2 days away from my mother's 50th birthday party in Brighton, and I am responsible for providing the cake. I am stressed about this on several levels......

My plan is to bake a chocolate sandwich with a layer of chocolate whipped cream between and on top, to place this on a cake board and garnish with fresh white and pink roses, with pink candied rose petals scattered on top. Fine. Except I also have to get it to Brighton intact and fresh, and that means surviving a 4 hour car-journey. The cake is for 20 people.

It'll be ok though, because I have an elaborate plan to transport everything separately- sponges, cream, flowers, and assemble at the restaurant. I'm trying not to think about it, mostly.

On the other hand I did manage to get Robert Opie's '1920's Scrapbook' on sale at work...

It's a fantastic collection of newspapers, adverts, and memorabilia, arranged into chapters such as 'hair and hats'. Excellent social history record, and very nice to open randomly and pore over. There is also a '1930's Scrapbook' which I'd love to get hold of...

Speaking of social history, top of my wishlist at the moment is this book by Shirley Hughes. It contains a painting for every other year from 1900 to 1950, and 2 pages of text and black and white drawings summarising the social, cultural, and political history of that year. Most of the paintings depict meals, and my favourite is the very first...the kitchen of the grand townhouse.

I just got my registration papers back from the OU, I am officially started on my history degree, an ambition of some 6 years excited!

Just as long as the cake turns out ok....

Friday, 13 August 2010

paper art

Here's a book to fall in love with....'Playing With Books'

It has a number of projects to turn beautiful books, pages and covers that will never be read into decorative and useful items, such as a clock, bag, or flowers. Then at the back features some serious artists practising the craft. The dress on the cover for instance, but also 'butterflies' and my favourite, a tiny but perfect age-of-sail ship cresting the wave created by the pages of a book.

Have a look at the website of Tracey Bush, I adore what she does, particularly the use of maps.

Another nice book is 'Things on Toast'. Yum, yum, yum.

There won't be any more children's books featured for a while because I am on the long-list reading panel for the Children's Book Prize run by my company, and I cannot divulge the titles.

I tried salt-dough today for the first time, no pictures yet because its in the oven, and I need to find some paints...

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

This July just gone

So I've missed a few mondays, how predictable! Life had been pretty hectic, but before I elaborate ::

monday 5th :: read this book.....'The Complete Borrowers'

monday 12th :: read this book...'Swallows and Amazons'
monday 19th :: read this book...'Kensuke's Kingdom'

monday 26th :: read this book...'The Voyage of the Dawn Treader'

All of these books are suitable for adults, seriously, if you read them as a child read them again, I promise you will get more out of them this time around. 'The Complete Borrowers' is wonderfully told, I almost attempted to make my own 'borrowers' house with walls lined with writing paper from the waste paper basket and stamps as portraits. 'Swallows and Amazons' is a very peaceful book, with a couple of high-excitement chapters, oh the sailing! 'Kensuke's Kingdom' is so original, so realistic, so unusual, so moving. 'The Voyage of the Dawn Treader' is a typical adventure, and has a fantastic opening line that indicates the humour in the book....
'There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.'
C.S Lewis

I also happened through sheer luck to win my workplace world cup sweepstake, and bought this...

Last weekend I went to the beautiful Brecon Beacons to do adventurous things with my Brownie Pack, like cata-canoeing (which is fun because you can't capsize the boat, on the otherhand that's no good if the instructor picks you up and throws you in the lake) and camping. It was exhausting, but not more tiring than house-hunting, which I'm delighted to say has come to an end!

I have a new sewing home in fabric. I was inspired by the very talented Marmalade Rose, and her awesome machine-sewing project...

These are my own beginnings...

Monday, 28 June 2010

monday :: read this book

Charming, idyllic, funny, full of period detail, you can almost smell the air, hear the water. Beautiful, can't believe I haven't read it before.

Monday, 21 June 2010

monday :: read this book

There are so many books I have read recently that I want to recommend to everyone I know, i've decided to space them out a bit and have myself a regular monday feature :: read this book. I'm not one for book reviews....never know quite what to say, inarticulate and all that...but I'll only ever put a book up if I loved it so much I know I'll re-read it.

First on my 'you must try this book' list then ::

Alone on a Wide Wide Sea

Michael Morpurgo

I read lots of children's books because I work in the children's department of a bookstore. I've never read any Morpurgo before, and I loved this. I think he is better known for his animal stories, but this is a biography-style book with a hefty dose of sea-faring which made my heart leap. Lovely book, good writer, gorgeous mix of line drawings and photographic illustrations on the cover, and on each chapter heading.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

project development

The wedding quilt (I'm going to call it a quilt rather than a blanket because it sounds nicer) is developing, I've found lots of inspiration and decided on my square size :: 8".

I've found some beautiful crochet square designs :: flower burst square, victorian dream square and cygnus square, which may not make it as they are a bit complex, and if i worked them in my aran weight yarn, would end up as larger squares than I intend. The last one measures 12" sq when finished.

I've also found some lovely motifs :: motif 46, motif 41 and motif 118 I particularly like.

It seems that a lot of crochet squares look radically different when they are done with added colour yarns or variegated yarns. Sometimes the colour brings out the detail wonderfully, like this one, which is actually a very simple design ::

Some crochet squares are beautiful but the design can disappear when worked in one colour only. So I need to be careful choosing my square designs. I also don't want it to be too 'busy'...I want to stick to a small number of different patterns. I don't want it to be a sampler-style blanket.

I think I might add some knitted lace squares, like this tulip square, and below it the simple vine square (thanks 'vogue ultimate knitting book'...I forgive you for being so ugly, as you are so useful). Neither of these have been blocked, by the way.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

read this....

Thanks awfully for your nice comments on the wedding and my dress, very blush-making.

I'm planning a post this weekend about the wedding quilt (sounds nicer than blanket) which is coming along nicely, but had to pop in and tell you all about a delicious book called 'Good Evening, Mrs Craven'.

It's published by Persephone, and contains the wartime short stories of Mollie Panter-Downes, 21 in fact, who wrote 'A Letter from London' in "The New Yorker", between 1939 and 1944. Some are a little sad, some are quite funny, all are absolutely fascinating.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

decision time

I've bought a skein each of drift and tulip from the Blue Sky Alpaca dyed cotton range! Amazing how exciting it is to buy yarn again, even 'once removed' on the web. I used Loop in London, who I've found to be good at calling me when there are issues, and prompt shippers. Also I think they have a gorgeous website.

Thank you for you comments...deciding is the hardest part, so many options! I'm going to go for mixed whites, mixed patterns, and just sort it all out once I've done all the crocheting. This way, if they stop producing the whites I'm starting with (though unlikely) I can use other brands/shades, and if I discover a great pattern in a few months time I can easily incorporate it.

I've had some fun today brushing up on my crochet...I realised I hadn't actually done very many granny squares before, and I found purlbee's wonderfully clear tutorial very helpful. It was also easier to start with string and a very big crochet hook, so I could understand the details better. I havn't yet attempted the garden square...I need to decipher some of the terminology first.

Monday, 24 May 2010

plans for a wedding present

So, I've had an idea for a wedding present for the pembrokeshire wedding couple ~ clifftop ceremony in a ruined chapel, picnic 'reception' on the beach ~ that I need some advice on

They live on a narrow boat, he is a buddhist, she is into crystals, reflexology, natural fibres, and a vegetarian. She is knitting him a sweater (don't worry, she already has the ring so won't be affected by the curse), and he has talked about knitting a blanket for their bed. Now you know them a little better. I have to say they are the most serene couple I have ever met, and she is particularly good-natured, calm and affectionate; an old-fashioned, lovely heroine.

My original idea was to make them a wedding quilt, however I don't think I can quite run to this, and although I'm quite happy with my beginner quilting skills, I know they are not up to making such an heirloom.

But I can crochet. So I thought I could make them a crocheted wedding white yarn, maybe organic cotton, made up of pretty but not fussy granny squares. I know they are also keen on having babies straight away, so it could also be used as a baby blanket.

The questions are:

Which granny square pattern/s should I use?
Should I stick to one square design, or mix a few?
Should I use a few different shades of white? Or maybe a variegated white?
What yarn should I use? It needs to be affordable, but I want to use the best I can.

So far I've found a few patterns I like, and I'm quite keen on Blue Sky Alpaca's Organic Cotton yarn in these shades....

614 drift
616 sky
615 tulip

Garden, by
Patrizia Pisani

standard, by

What do you think? Any pattern/yarn suggestions, or advice would be very welcome! I'm quite keen to get started on this straight away, I haven't knitted or crocheted in months!

Sunday, 23 May 2010

hello again

Well, I've been away from the web for a while, and now I'm sitting here late at night, it's far too hot to sleep, so time to write my diary. Thank you for any comments I've recently received that I haven't personally replied to, I do appreciate them!

Lots of inconsequential bits and pieces have been going on; I got through a Brownie sleepover, with 5 and a half hours sleep (my lovely pink sleeping bag was very comfy); developed a new chocolate cake with my lovely sis (add whole milk, risky but worth it);

received a stellar late birthday present;

read 'Land Girls' which is really good, if a little silly; 

tried baking a new cake (Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's) Lemon and Poppy Seed from one of the sunday papers;

and finally, bought a Norwegian flag for a little Eurovision party on Saturday night.