Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Thoughtful Friday 13

"Only when he no longer knows what he is doing, does the painter do good things."
Edgar Degas

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Craft Sanity

As you know I have been travelling quite a bit with my work over the last few months and this week it was up to Sheffield and back. During these long journeys I usually work and prepare on the way there but on the way back I treat myself to a podcast, usually from Craftsanity. I downloaded all the podcasts I was interested in and am now working my way through them. They are very inspirational, I have to say and if you haven't ever listened to one then do give it a try. Today I was listening to Betz White being interviewed and it was fascinating to hear how she got into felting and her own business. I recommend it!

Now these lavender cupcakes featured in my last post and Pink Purl asked me for the recipe so here we are:

150g soft butter

150g caster sugar

150g self raising flour

1 teaspn baking powder

3 large eggs

a couple of tiny spriggs of lavender (just the flowers stipped off the stalks)

Mix everything in a food processor if you have one or a mixer or by hand and put in large muffin cases (this quantity makes 12 good size cakes) and bake at 175 C or Gas 4 for 20 - 25 mins - probably less for fan ovens.

When cool, ice with lavender coloured icing - I used Squire's Violet food paste and just an absolute smidgen. Top with a tiny flower of lavender and there you have them. There was just a hint of lavender fragrance in these but if you wanted to taste more then just add more flowers! Enjoy!

I shall do a post tomorrow night early for Thoughtful Friday and then I will be away for just over a week. Oh, maybe I need to do two Thoughtful Fridays then!! It will be frantic last minute work and packing tomorrow and then a very early start on Thursday - 4.30am I think for the shuttle to France at 8am. Did I tell you that we are going to visit my penfriend (we started writing to each other when we were 14!!!) who has moved back to France in the last year having lived in England for the last 20 years? Can't wait to catch up with all her news. There will be lots to share on my return so be sure to check back. Until then, I hope for all of you in the UK that the weather BRIGHTENS UP!

Sunday, 17 August 2008

The Craft Evening!

Friday night was craft night at my house. I had arranged it back in June when I went back to my old workplace and got chatting with a friend who was beginning to take up sewing and jewellery making again. We decided that there might be others who would be interested in getting together so the date was set and I was delighted to be the host and to provide supper. There were five of us in all (3 much younger than me I might add!) and we had a delicious pasta and chicken salad with homemade bread (Pilgrim's bread again - check the archive for the recipe) and well woman bread from the farmer's marketFollowed by strawberries and blueberries and lavender cup-cakes! This was my first time at putting a little lavender inside the cakemix and on the icing - they were yummy and went down a treat. Date slices were also availabl!
I took this picture outside as the sun was still shining and it certainly produced a better photo.
So after filling our tummies after a long hard day and talking about all that we had been up to, we went into the living room and had a time of 'show and tell' with some of the crafting things we have been up to. I got out my socks and quilted cushion cover etc and others had brought cards or explained how they had made some trousers and bags. Others told of how they had been composing songs or putting together dances and it was all very inspiring. Then it was time for us to learn something new and we set off into the dining room to learn how to put a pair of earrings together as one had brought all the findings and beads necessary.
What fun we had and look at the results!(sorry about the fuzzy photos)

Then it was time to finish and for them all to go and get a train home, but before they did I gave them each a goody bag I had made especially for them. I do love making these up. It is such fun to think about what to put inside. Here they are all lined up and ready to go and see the next pic for a little view of the contents!
These included some Christmas fabric, a rubber stamp, some decorated paper, some stickers from Canada, a sewing pattern, a card made using a brayer technique with a watermark, a recipe for the date slices, some brads and a chocolate bar! I hope they liked them.
It was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed hosting and preparing. Maybe we'll do it again just before Christmas. I have an idea for a Christmas Tea served in delightful bone china cups with yummy squares of all kinds, Christmas music playing the background, candles alight -ohhh I mustn't go on. We are still in summer and I want to enjoy it and not be planning too far ahead. But I wish you could come too. So many crafty bloggers with so many wonderful 'show and tell' stories and creations to share. Maybe one day we will meet..... until then we have blogs. Speaking of which I shall very soon be having my first anniversary of blogging so there will have to be something fun, maybe a giveaway. Before that we are taking a little holiday to France so maybe one more post before I leave for about 10 days and then hopefully lots of wonderful photos. If you are into quilting take a look at this wonderful quilt shop in France - not sure if I will be able to visit but I would certainly love to if possible: Magicpatch, the magazine, did a special issue featuring this shop and the Canadian who runs it. It is an absolute feast for the eyes! Enjoy! and I will be back soon. Hope you have all had a great weekend.

Friday, 15 August 2008

Thoughtful Friday 12

"Learn as if you were going to live forever.
Live as if you were going to die tomorrow."
Mahatma Gandhi

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Mindful Knitting

"The act of knitting is inherently built on the formation of a stitch, the creation of fabric. When we knit, we place our attention over and over again on the natural rhythm of creating fabric from yarn - insert needle, wrap yarn, pull through a new stitch, repeat. Following this simple repetitive action is the basis of contemplative practice. It continually reminds us to stay focused, to stay in the moment. When we knit with this attention, we have a almost indescribable feeling of satisfaction and contentment. This is knitting as meditation" so says Tara who wrote the book I am reading at the moment. This has been a really interesting journey for me. I am naturally reflective and I suspect that many knitters and crafters are, but I used to find knitting very stressful. However since returning to the creative world after much time away doing a pretty responsible and heavy day job, I have since come to find it very relaxing and therapeutic. It is just the very 'being in the moment' that creates that calmer sense of being.

The book is based on Zen Buddhism but I am not a Buddhist, I am actually a Christian and I reckon the book translates well into any faith (or none) context. It is a mixture of knitting with patterns for some interesting projects at different levels (I am about to start a tea cosy knitted on circular needles which is one of the easier projects) with hints and tips about process and the skill of knitting, combined with the art of meditation and quiet reflection and how the one encourages the other.

Life can become so busy, can't it, with so much to do, so many people to see and so many things to think about, and time and space become a rareity. But it is at our peril, I believe, that we let this go unchallenged. Just a few minutes of quiet knitting (and I know you will know this in the very core of your being as I write this) can provide just the 'centering' that we need to cope with the next task/chore/person/email/report/phone call or whatever.

I haven't read all of the book yet but what I have read I like and it has made me realise that my return to knitting (and crochet and sewing etc) is as much about that time and space as it is about creativity. Let me leave you with another quote from the introduction by Tara:

"By simply creating a quiet state of being, you can begin to notice - notice your thoughts, notice your feelings, and notice the workings of your minid and experience. Through this process of noticing we can begin to develop a kindness - toward ourselves and our world".

Let me know if you have read this book and what you think of it. In the meantime I am going to try and work out how to put an amazon widget on my sidebar so I can show all the books I love and would love to recommend!

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Crafty Update

I promised to give you an update on my crafty endeavours of late so here goes:
A pretty pink scarf for daughter no.1. It is a lovely pink variegated wool and I used fairly large needles to get a more lacy effect.
Then there are these, my first ever knitted socks, which (if you read this blog on a regular basis you will know) I have been knitting since around March for daughter no.4. Knitted in Arucania 100% 4ply wool (very soft) they should keep her feet very cosy indeed. They are now carefully wrapped up and awaiting her return from Hong Kong, China and Veitnam where she is currently travelling before going to Uni in September. I still haven't got the hang of the toe piece exactly but I will have more practice as I have already cast on for another pair, this time for daughter no.2 who may be going overseas for two years soon!!

I managed to finish hand-quilting this cushion cover while I was away recently and am really pleased with the result. It now looks like this:

And today I have just got the sewing bug and have sewn a couple more patchwork tops for cushions:

Not so sure about this colour combo but I was just using up the remainder of some squares I had in the stash ready cut.

So what else will I be doing now that I have finished some projects which have been on the go for a while. Well, it is definitely time for some more crochet so I have just started two crochet blankets/Afghans too. One is completely new and using the most fabulous coloured wool I bought just one large ball of in the US a couple of years ago now and the other is another go at a ripple. What is it about these Ripple Afghans!! Is it just me or is that first row a killer? Not sure whether it is because I get distracted or what, but by the time I get to the 219th chain I am never at the same place as the pattern suggests!!! I am pulling down my first row tonight AGAIN and will concentrate hard to see if I can get it to work.
Knitting Club
I went to a, fairly local but not on the doorstep, knitting club last week to try it out. I have been in the shop a few times and the folk there have always been very helpful. Well, would you believe it, I got in there and someone said "I know you!" I didn't recognise her at all but to cut a long story short it turns out we knew each other some 30 years ago just around the time I was getting married!! Anyway the owner of the wool shop was doing some lovely projects, one a lacy wrap for a bride and the other knitting with beads!!! It was quite inspiring and she has some fab ideas for the autumn one of which is to make frienship bags knitting squares in a pattern of our choice using each other's yarn and then we will all have a bag made by everyone! Not sure I will make it to the club every week but I hope to dip in again for sure.
And I haven't forgotten my promise to post something about mindful knitting - look out for it in the next post. Hope you have had a great and crafty weekend!

Friday, 8 August 2008

Thoughtful Friday 11

"Not everything that can be counted counts,
and not everything that counts can be counted"
Albert Einstein

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Pilgrim's Bread

When life gets a little too stressful, then it is time to bake bread! So this is what I did on Sunday evening.

Nothing like pounding that dough to let some of the tension subside! And look what you get into the bargain!

This is a three flour bread (cornmeal, wholemeal and white) and comes from the book "More with Less Cookbook" which I have had since we were first married and I see from Amazon is still available. In these days of credit crunch and feeling the pinch, it is good to get back to basics and rediscover old recipes that were family staples in the past. And if you would like to have a go at this one here it is:

Combine in a bowl:

half cup of cornmeal

half cup of brown sugar

1 tablespn of salt

Stir gradually into

2 cups boiling water then add one quarter cup of oil and cool to lukewarm.

measure out One and half cups wholemeal flour and three and half cups white flour and add a packet of dried yeast. Add the flour to the liquid and knead for three mins or so.

Put in a clean bowl covered with clingfilm in a warm place until doubled.

Take out and knead again for three mins then shape dough into two greased loaf pans. Cover and let rise again until double in bulk. Bake at 375 degrees for about 45 mins - if you have a fan oven then it will be less but you will smell the wonderful smell of baking bread and be drawn to open your oven!! Happy baking!

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Being back home!

It's funny, isn't it, how you look forward to getting home after being away. There is something about home that is quietness to the soul, that earths us and centres us. But what do you do when you come home to a Miss Angry or a Miss Pre-Menstrual or a Miss Ready for Independence but Not Quite? Yes, you've guessed it! Daughter no.4 was not a happy bunny when we arrived back on Friday evening and after a conversation about money matters on Saturday she was even unhappier! There was much slamming of doors and loud music and today it was words - tough words to hear which 'cut me deep' in the words of the donkey in Shrek. I know it is mainly stress (she goes away travelling for a month on Thursday and there is much to sort out before then), and some of the usual time of month stuff but I can't deny it hurts and hurts quite a lot actually. So in an effort to apply my mind to other things while she is out, I will tell you a little about last week. It was a combination of work/conference and two days holiday just outside of Wells in Somerset. Here is where we stayed:
The weather was good for the first few days and on our journey down we stopped off at Lacock (home to the filming of Cranford) which was a delight. We had a cup of tea at King John's Hunting Lodge

It is a charming village which I imagine sees lots of visitors because of the BBC series.
During the week on our days off, we visited mum-in-law who is now 82 but doing very well in her own little flat, and Wells itself where the cathedral is quite stunning and where there is a very interesting yarn shop!!!
And a very lovely walled garden with cafe/restaurant serving homemade soup and bread very reasonably and as this happens to be our favourite meal we thought we would indulge.
Then it was on to the yarn shop called Wendy's Wools in Mill Street. It has a very small frontage but I was absolutely amazed to find how big it was when inside and there was a huge amount of stock!! It was quite incredible. I asked the manager if she minded me taking a couple of photos and she and her colleague seemed a little bemused that I should want to do such a thing but I didn't spill the beans and say it was for my blog!!!

Now I expect you are wondering if I bought anything? Well, it's like this, I was on the finishing rounds of the second sock for daughter no.4 so I thought it would be a good idea to get some more sock yarn to knit for daughter no.2 who will be going overseas for two years in February 09 (that gives me a bit of time to get going on them!) so I did buy some Regia sock wool but only two balls so I think it was quite restrained really.
The journey home was gorgeous with sunshine all the way (after heavy rain during the day) and we took the A303 across Salisbury Plain and the fields were amazing
So all in all a good week where some important work got done, a seminar or two was attended, a visit to family and an outing or two, plus some concentrated time (in the car and elsewhere) to knit and sew. And there I must stop but come back soon for a post on Mindful Knitting and a glimpse of some of the projects I have finished. I hope you have had a good weekend and that there is harmony where you are just now!

Friday, 1 August 2008

Thoughtful Friday 10

"Every human has four endowments- self awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom... The power to choose, to respond, to change."
Stephen Covey