No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better...

Saturday, April 30, 2011

No going back now

I am forty one today.  Which means that I am now definitely in my forties.  I didn't mind turning forty a year ago.  I loved my thirties and felt that my forties would be even better.  And besides, there was somehow both a feeling of achievement to it and a sense of still being able to dance across the line back into my thirties if I wanted to.  But now I am definitely forty something.  No turning back.  Mmm - not quite sure what to make of that.

I have taken no photographs today.  But here, for no reason other than I like the image, is one I took a couple of years ago.

Maybe my forties will be the decade where I dress up in nothing but balloons....

Or maybe not.


Friday, April 29, 2011

Lest you think we don't know...

We were up at 5am in the House of NKK, eating bacon sandwiches and sipping tea.  We would have had champagne but I had to drag myself away from the television at some point and go to work.  Not before the ceremony, the TWO kisses on the balcony and the commentary on the dress.  Sigh.


Sunday, April 24, 2011

Dandelion clocks and DIY

I seem to remember that Easter was the time when DIY stores in the UK went into a frenzy of advertising, as if the resurrection took place so that we could all re-tile the bathroom.  While our tiling days are yet before us in the house of NKK, we have been dabbling in a spot of DIY nonetheless.  Mr. P has been picture framing.

I can't get enough of these old LIFE magazines and have amassed quite a collection now.  But this one is  so trippy that it makes me smile every time I see it.

I indulged in a spot of 'styling' when we hung it up.  So now it hangs above a rather uninspiring tallboy from Ikea that used to live with the lid up revealing a mirror and lots of clutter that had accumulated in the shallow tray underneath.  But now I have closed the flap of the top of the tallboy and put together a jug I found for 20p in a car boot sale last week, and a bowl from Anthropologie that I bought awhile back to keep my earrings in (when I remember).

It's really transformed that corner of the room and now the lovely tile that used to hang gamely trying to hold its own against all that magnolia paint in our rented apartment has some company.

The tile is by Xenia Taler who has nothing to do with the other kind of tiling that goes on at this time of year...

I've been reading that England is awash with dandelion seeds.  So I thought you might like to see this lovely thing, also found last week.  (Okay, so I exaggerated when I said that we did nothing but house-hunting...)

Isn't it just lovely?  I just love dandelion clocks.  It's resin.  How do they do that?

Happy Easter everyone.


Friday, April 22, 2011

Home sweet home


I have clearly gone into nesting overdrive since we found our house.    And today I made this.  I had these lovely buttons among the treats I bought in Sydney at All Buttons Great and Small which I wrote about here.

And a lovely old jumper that I'd bought two winters ago for $5 in a charity shop.

It's cashmere and was always a little two small for me, but I wore it anyway until the elbows gave out.  So I decided to try my hand at felting.  (I know, boiling cashmere is more than a little decadent, but I reckoned it had probably had enough life as a jumper and might like to be something different now....)

It took three boil washes to get it to a point that I was confident enough to cut into it.  But today I'd had enough of having a doll sized jumper in my wardrobe so I snipped a sleeve off just to see what would happen.  And miraculously, the line held and nothing unravelled.

I already had the photo frame and was a bit bored with the flower photo that had lived in it for years.  And the creamy white backing is a section of course weave cotton from a much bigger piece with red blotches on it (more of which another time).

If I'm honest I wanted the pictures on the buttons to line up nicely with the holes for the thread.  But they wouldn't.  So I've made do with roughly aligning the washing line instead.

But all in all, I have to say I'm chuffed to bits with it.  It'll definitely be coming to the little old lady house.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Phil and Kirstie would be proud...

Hello there,

Thanks so very much for all your best wishes and support. You really are a lovely bunch of people. And of course you're right - it wasn't meant to be and we would likely have had trouble with the seller down the road, so best by far to walk away with a sigh of relief. I can say that now because you are also right that there was something else better out there all along - we have found our house! It's amazing really how life works. You think you want one thing. And then something else comes along and when you see it the thing you thought you wanted no longer is the thing at all. In fact, you wonder what you ever saw in it - dresses, men, menu choices, jobs... It was ever thus. And of course, it also applies to houses. ESPECIALLY to houses.

We thought we were looking for a crofter's cottage in a particular town. At least that's what we found first time around. So we set out to find the same again. In fact, we nearly bought a place that was bigger, better, smarter than that a few days ago in the next town along on the coast. But then the self-evident truth slapped us around a bit until we admitted to each other that it might very well be a decent house, but it wasn't in the right place at all. We have set our hearts on a town and that's where we want to be so there was really no point looking anywhere else. (Location, location, location...) Lots of appointments in random places made and cancelled. And then we were taken to see a house in the perfect spot in 'our' town. Minutes away from the sea and just off the High Street. Such a pretty location. It wasn't exactly love at first sight. This is a little old lady house. With little old lady decor. I couldn't see it at all. But Mr. P was determined.  And then slowly it worked its magic until all the little old lady decor fell away in my mind's eye and I could picture a cool contempory luxury look with lots of space and light.  And that was it.  Sold.

It needs LOTS of work.  I am lying awake at night moving walls around in my head.  Trying to figure out the art of the possible on a strict-ish budget.  But I know we'll get there.  And I can't wait.

Sorry there are no pictures - it really wasn't that kind of holiday.  And the little old lady house is camera-shy for the moment.

And lovely to be back in blogland.  I've missed it.  More soon.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Best laid plans

Put simply, a week after the completion of the sale of my flat, the seller of the house we'd set our heart on, the house by the sea, decided that the price we had agreed wasn't enough after all. He decided he wanted £50,000 more for the house by the sea.

Fifty thousand pounds! So, as politely as we could, we thanked him kindly and walked away.

And there you have it. No house, just house hunting. About to get on a plane to England. And instead of spending the time buying furniture and thinking about curtain fabric, we'll be doing a mad dash around other people's houses, wondering whether one of them could be ours.

Fingers crossed.


Sunday, April 10, 2011

The best of excuses

It was Mr. P's birthday yesterday.  So of course that could only mean one thing...

I first made this cake in my teens and made it so often I copied it into a notebook (hard to believe I was ever that person).  But then for some reason I stopped and haven't made a chocolate fudge cake for years and years.  It was always going to be something chocolatey for Mr. P.  I tried to push the idea of Nigella's chocolate and ginger as recommended by Annie of Nimble Fingers and Steady Eyebrows but Mr. P was having none of it.  (Sorry Annie, but I will doubtless find another reason to bake that soon...)   And it being his birthday, I couldn't really say no.

It's a simple recipe (see below), which is really just an excuse to make the icing...

... which is oh so sweet, but somehow just perfect.

The cake stand was put to work again, and this is just the cake it was made for....

The weekend wasn't all baking though.  I tried to make an ipad case with this lovely fabric that I mentioned here...

I will post about the disaster that followed another time when I've stopped sulking and figured out how to fix it.  I may be some time.

My head was full of sewing on my way to brunch when I came across this:

I was running late so didn't have time to go an investigate.  I suspect it was for one of the local hairdresser, but what if it was the sewing fairy come to tell me how to fix my fiasco?

Hope you had a lovely weekend.

Chocolate Fudge Cake
6 oz butter or marg
6 oz dark brown sugar
2 large tablespoons cocoa blended with 2 tablespoons boiling water and left to cool
3 eggs
6oz self raising flour
2 oz ground almonds

2 oz marg
3 tablespoons milk
1 rounded tablespoon cocoa
8 oz icing sugar

Mix all the ingredients together until smooth.  Divide between two 7 inch sandwich tins.  Bake for 25-35 minutes at gas mark 4. (Simple!)

Place milk, marg and cocoa in a saucepan over low heat until marg melts (do NOT allow to boil).  Cool a little.  Sieve icing sugar into bowl and add cooled mixture.  Beat until smooth  Leave to go completely cold before icing.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Brooklyn flea

Across the East River from Manhattan, Brooklyn is something of the cooler, inde younger sister to its sleek, sophisticated older sibling.  And every time we go, I wish we spent more time there.  But Manhattan creates its own bubble around its residents (think of that episode from Sex and the City where Miranda meets a guy who hasn't left the island in ten years...), so we don't make it over the river as often as we should.  But last weekend, in the first watery rays of a Spring Sunday, we ventured out to the first outdoor weekend of the Brooklyn Flea Market.  Normally, the Flea occupies a school at the weekends, but from April to November, it'll occupy a new outdoor space in trendy Williamsburg (or B'burg to those in the know).  Even the dogs are too-cool-for-school in B'burg...

Not my dog...

We got there early, with a long suffering Mr. P wondering what could possibly be so good as to get him out of bed on a Sunday morning.  Even if he's still wondering, I wasn't disappointed.  The Flea has everything a girl could wish for and more,  advertising itself as a mix of vintage, antique, handmade, and food vendors.  And it delivers...

Great second hand book stalls...

The ever-present granny blanket...

... dapper bowtie stalls...

...with knitted ties too...

And several things I'm coveting still even though I left them behind...

... and some quirky, bizarre stuff (strong man anyone?)...

In the end I confined myself to two things that I couldn't leave behind.  This 'my first embroidery sample' little picture seemed to call to me.  It's a bit grubby so I'm wondering how I might clean it up without ruining it (all suggestions welcome).

And this lovely old cushion cover, which the seller informed me was both hand spun and hand dyed.  Even if that's not true, I just love the colour combination and design.

I suspect I'll be making lots of trips over the river as the weather warms up. 


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A tale of two cakes

Inspired by my fab new cakestand, I decided to have a go at baking some cakes.  This isn't something I would normally do.  There are two of us in the house of NKK.  Even if I bring some cake in to work, that still means way too much cake around the place calling to me (just a wafer thin slice more...).  But we had a visitor come and stay for a few days, which somehow provided the perfect excuse. 

I decided to have a go at one of Bill's afternoon tea cakes from Bill's Open Kitchen (more about Bill here) ....

... a nutty cake...

... with lots of proper icing that would look good on a cake stand...

It turned out quite well and had an unexpected lightness to it.  The icing, made with lime juice, had that delicious tangy sweetness that I love, and had Mr. P and I bickering over the drippy bits on the cakestand.

Here then is the recipe for Coconut and Lime Macadamia Cake:

200g macadamia nuts
40g self-raising flour
a pinch of salt
6 eggs, separated
165g sugar
finely grated zest of a lime
45g desiccated coconut

Preheat the oven to 180°C

Place the nuts, flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor and process until the nuts are ground.  Place the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl and beat for 3 minutes, or until the mixture is pale and creamy.  Fold through the zest and coconut, then the nut mixture.  Place the egg whites in a clean, dry stainless stell bowl and whisk until stiff peaks form.  Using a large metal spoon, fold lightly through the nut batter.

Spread the batter evenly into a 23 cm greased or non-stick springform cake tin.  Bake for 40 minutes, or until the cake is lightly golden. Remove from the oven and leave to sit for 10 minutes in the tin. Turn the cake out onto a serving plate. Spread the lime icing over the warm cake, allowing it to drizzle down the sides.

Lime icing:
125g icing sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix until smooth and glossy.

Spurred on by this success, I decided that I needed a cake with rhubarb.  I could (and perhaps should) have made a rhubarb tart.  But I wanted something a bit more adventurous.  So I made this instead:

Nigella's rhubarb cornmeal cake. 

I think the kindest thing to say is that this did not end prettily.  There will be no slice shot. All the fruit sank to the bottom.  I have since learned on the internet that this is because the fruit bits were too big and that I should have coated them in flour before going in the cake mix.  And I took it out of the tin before it was cold so it's a bit saggy...
Not quite Nigella...
But despite its many flaws, I have to tell you that this cake is delicious.  Moist and juicy and tasty.  Of course it would be better with the fruit all the way through, but even all collected at the bottom the rhubarb is there in force.  I'd definitely make it again.  I'm sure that even Nigella didn't get everything right first time....

Recipe for rhubarb cornmeal cake:

500g rhubarb
300g caster sugar (please remember to split into 100g and 200g portions and not pour the whole lot over the rhubarb and get in a panic about rescuing it...  Yes indeed.)
150g plain flour
155g fine polenta or cornmeal
1tsp ground cinnamon
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
125g unsalted butter
250g plain yogurt, preferably bio

23cm springform cake tin, greased with butter and base lined.
Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4 / 180C.

Trim the rhubarb and cut into 1/2cm slices. Place in a large bowl with 100g of the sugar and leave aside whilst you prepare the rest of the cake. Don’t leave for longer than 30 minutes, otherwise too much juice will leach out of the rhubarb.

Mix the flour, cornmeal/polenta, salt, cinnamon, bicarb in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, cream the butter and remaining sugar until light and fluffy. In a small bowl or ramekin, beat the eggs with the vanilla extract and then slowly add this to the creamed mixture. Beat well until mixture is fluffy again.

In alternating spoonfuls, add the flour mixture and yogurt to the creamed mixture. Mix these in very slowly to preserve the fluffiness of the mixture. Finally, fold in the rhubarb and all the sugary juices.

Pour into the tin and smooth the top. Bake for approximately one hour until the top is springy and a skewer comes out almost clean. Check after 40 minutes and cover with foil if the top looks as if it is going to overbrown. Let it cool, in the tin, on a wire rack until just warm or leave to cool completely if not eating immediately. It can be reheated in the oven if wrapped well in foil.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Packages (2)

Like most people, I do love a parcel.  And when I got home the other night, there were not one but two cardboard boxes waiting for me.  Mr. P is very good and doesn't tell me when such parcels come so as not to spoil the surprise.  I have to say I would not be so disciplined, and would likely rip into them to have a good rummage inside before ever he had the chance.  But anyway, these parcels were both ebay purchases.  I have not mentioned this before but I love ebay.  We used to live in the desert in North Africa before we came here, and before every holiday, I would go onto ebay, with the result that I always had parcels waiting for me at my sister's house when we went home.  Most of it was stuff I now don't have (what does this tell you...) - summery things and jumpers (who knew you needed jumpers in the desert).  But not housey stuff.  No point in carting housey stuff back to the desert only to ship it on to, well, wherever we were going next.

But now.... Now is an entirely different ebay experience.  Which leads to purchases like this...

... and this...

I am now the proud owner of a pink milk glass cake stand...

...with a beautiful, intricate lacey pattern which will be so easy to clean...

... and which stands elegantly on a pedestal adorned with patterns that look like musical instruments (I gave up piano when I was nine)...

Really I don't know how I have limped along in life without this until now.

AND, a sewing basket....

... with pretty faded fabric on the lid...

... and more shouty fabric inside.  Of course now that I am a seamstress, I will definitely have use for this.  And I haven't a single other box or tin or cupboard or drawer where I could store my sewing things.  No, I'm sure I don't.

Do you ebay?


Friday, April 1, 2011

March sampler

Hello everybody,

Feeling a bit less beaten up today.  Thanks so much for all your good wishes.  I've managed to contain myself and not do another sampler until the end of the month, but here at last is March's offering.  Hope you like it.  C.x

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...