Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Yearly Round-up

In 2013 many things happened. These were some of them:
I learnt how to jive and started going to live music again * I joined a Knitting Group * I sort of joined a Cooking Club * I spent a lot of time being grateful * I loved and lost my lovely car, Tabitha * I sort of joined a Book Club * People moved in, people moved out, in, out (shake it all about) * Depression reared it's ugly head and my headaches came back * I re-discovered skirts and dresses and colours and patterns - and my style changed * I wrote lots of love letters * I hosted a four course Portuguese banquet * I started learning to sew and made a bag, a purse, four dresses, one skirt and one and a half tops * I lost my Grandma and some other people * I went to Portugal to see my Spiritual Guide teach in public for the last time (he is in his 80s, you know) * I had an extraordinary term at work (I've said it before and I'll say it again: I love my job!) * I had a British Christmas by the seaside with some small children including going to the Panto (yippee!) * I made a few new friends

Some of my more memorable facebook statuses:
13th Feb - Yesterday night I had car trouble on the way home from Rochester, and a lovely man at ASDA told me what I needed to buy and then came out in the dark and cold to help me get it sorted. I got home just fine and I learned a bit about cars. Thank you lovely ASDA man!

11th March - It's like there is a conspiracy to make me happy or something....

20th April - No, you did not see me dancing around with a random man in the High St to some xylophone music. No, not at all. Nothing to see here, move along please. 

19th Aug - 'I know my purpose in life is to change the way people see the world. And themselves'

19th Sept - The lady at the cafe gave me a free piece of courgette and coco cake- sometimes life is delightful 

30th Sept - I love my job I love my job I love my job I love my job

11th Oct - I have a physics module called 'Fires and Explosions'. I think this term is going to be fun!

19th Oct - Oxfam are having a sale on coats and jackets, so I went in to get something rainproof and came out with a calf length, light grey, fake fur coat that is not in the slightest bit rainproof but is in everyway ridiculous. All I need now is some red lipstick and a set of pearls!

16th Dec  - Ah, who can top a lecturer who compares bits of the EU to celebrity chefs and incarnations of the Doctor! I mean, really!

And now I have to go and eat cake and drink tea (and possibly gin and maybe even prosecco) with Mrs Im. Whatever you are doing for New Years I hope you have a wonderful time. See you next year!

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Christmas Actually

This year my dad and step mum are away so I didn't go over to them for the holidays as I usually do. When I mentioned this to Fairy Princess Mummy she immediately invited me over for Christmas with them, I didn't even have to ask which was lovely.

FP Daddy picked me up on Monday night, I had a brief glimpse of a very sleepy Fairy Princess before she went up to bed. FP Daddy went out to get the shopping in for the next few days and FP Mummy wrapped some presents while I made some table ornaments - I was supposed to be covering polystyrene snowflakes and bells in glitter (a la Kirsty Allsop) but really I covered myself and, well, just about everything in the process.

On Christmas eve, we all had a late breakfast in our pyjamas and played with the girls for the morning. We ended up smashing a glass that had table decorations in it. In the afternoon, the family was going to the Panto. I'm usually out of the country and my parents are foreign so I've never been to Panto before... It was so exciting! It started at 2pm, the theatre was tiny, I managed to get a seat near the rest of the family which was lucky. It was an amateur production of Cinderella so it was a little bit rough at the edges which was fun. There was a fairy trying to get her wings and wand by helping Cinderella, Buttons was hilarious, the Prince was Charming (though a bit wooden really), his assistant was brilliant and the Ugly Sisters were fantastic pantomime dames. They had all the brilliant references to pop culture - Who let the dogs out, What does the fox say, One Direction - and the classic lines - It's behind yoooooou!, Oh no it isn't! Oh yes it is! and saucy jokes from the Ugly Sisters. We had to shout things, we had to look under our seats for a lost key and we had a little sing-song competition between one side of the theatre and the other (it was a draw, of course). It was everything I'd expected, I had so much fun! 

We then went back to the house and had dinner and a few drinks with FP Nana and Grandad, which was nice. We ended the night by putting out milk and stollen for Santa and some food for the reindeer (porridge oats, pumpkin seeds, glitter and some chunks of carrot) and the Princesses cleared the way around the fireplace so that Santa could get through. ('It's a very small fireplace, how does Santa get through?' 'I'm not sure, maybe he's magic' 'Maybe he magics himself small'). Once they'd gone to bed we put all the rest of the presents under the tree and FP Mummy finished sorting out their stockings while we watched a few episodes of 'Psych'. As it was we ended up staying up until half past one and getting really quite sloshed.

The next morning the Princesses had already opened their stocking presents, then when I came down about 8am they opened Santas presents (and got really excited when they saw that the stollen had been eaten and the milk had been drunk). We had breakfast (bacon butties, and a cheese and tomato toastie for me) and then we all opened the family presents together.  I got a little short story by Alice Munro, Rogerson's Book of Numbers and Finn Family Moomintroll and a Christmas cup full of sweets and a tiny felt Christmas pudding made by FP Mummy. Both the kids were so surprised and happy about all of their presents it was lovely. We managed to smash another glass and drench my panettone in champagne - oh well, we cleaned up the mess and I got changed while FP Daddy poured me another glass of bubbly. Some neighbours came round for a while and then Elder Princess and I had a bash at putting a snow globe together and played with lots of other things while FP Daddy got to work in the kitchen.

We had a slightly unusual Christmas lunch - everyone else had a salmon and prawn mousse as a starter, while I had cheese and crackers, for the main we had paella (I got the veggie one). Not exactly turkey and roast potatoes and sprouts but that was fine by me! In between the two courses, the girls and I messed around with our crackers and pretended they were mustaches, ships, horses, earrings, hairpieces, necklaces, snakes, flutes, trumpets among other things. We pulled them over the main course and told all the terrible jokes and put on our paper hats. After the paella, we took a break for a while (in my case literally - I went up for a half an hour nap) and put together a lego snowman and played Peppa Pig. Later on we had dessert - which consisted of making up our own knickerbocker glory sundaes. So brilliant! 

Several other neighbours came round, I think I met the whole street by the end of the day! We broke another glass - I can really say that I had a smashing Christmas! Once the girls had gone to bed we cleaned up and watched Doctor Who regenerate (bye bye Matt Smith, hello Peter Capaldi) and some QI and then had a good old chit chat before hitting the hay.

This morning the family were due to go to FP Nana and Grandad's and I was going to be put on a train. The trains weren't running and the car decided it wasn't going anywhere so we all trooped back in the house and had some lunch while we waited for the roadside services to come out. An hour later the car was tickety boo and we all piled back in and set off. They dropped me back near home somewhere and I got to come home to a cold house all on my own. I found a package of gifts waiting for me from my dad: Integral SpiritualityPhenomenon of Man and Will of an Eccentric. I'm not short on reading material! I've put the heating on, I've started a new dress and I've got music cranked up.

It was such a lovely few days - it may not have been my usual routine, but I got my family Christmas after all! Smashing!

Monday, 23 December 2013

Have Yourself a Swishy Silly Christmas

Miss T and I swapped our Christmas presents yesterday over a mulled wine and some porridge (with ice cream and molasses!) in the Chocolate Cafe. Her present is only half done but she gave me one half:

She gave me a series of envelopes with instructions on when to open them: one for when I feel sad, one for if I cut my finger, one for when I feel like a big kid. I opened the one marked 'for when you have something to celebrate'.

So much fun! I will have to appropriate this gift idea... and I've got more coming! I'm going to get the next installment in the new year.

May I present Miss T's Christmas present! It's the first thing I've sewn for someone else, and also the first time I have made a circle skirt. She knew I was making something for her because I asked for her measurements. I asked her about fabrics and she said quite firmly that she wanted no florals, and if I was going to give her colours the least I could do would be some ridiculous animal pattern. Luckily I found a fabulous fabric that is not too colourful so she needn't panic.

Cutting the skirt was easy peasy lemon squeezy - I followed the instructions in this post by Dana Made It and drew the pattern out onto parcel paper. Then I cut the fabric and stitched together the pieces and put the pockets in. I actually did most of the skirt myself (hurrah!) but I consulted Fran about putting the waistband in. I had to go over that a few times because I'd gotten fabric caught while I was stitching but I got there in the end. I also learned how to do a button hole on the machine.

There is an attachment that you can use that will gage the size of the button and then stitch a hole to that size. It was being pretty temperamental but Fran got it to work in the end.

Then I just got a seam ripper and ripped a hole in between the rows of stitching.

Then I did the hem and went over all the seams including the pockets. Because every skirt should have pockets.

Then it was all ready to be wrapped and put under the tree. Or in this case handed over with a glass of wine.

She was really happy with it, so happy she has decided that I will be her personal tailor (like the costume designer in The Incredibles!). She wants to commission me and pay me for skirts because she loved the fabric so much. She put it on over her jeans and it fit. Phew! This will definitely be out for the next Jive night!

Saturday, 21 December 2013

It's Starting to Look a Lot Like Christmas

Happy Yule everyone - it's starts getting lighter from now on. 'Tis the season to be jolly.... and we jolly well were last night! V hosted Christmas drinks with a few nearest and dearest. We had a few glasses of wine, Christmas crackers and nibbles, while Mr. Middle B took control of the music situation. This soon descended into anarchy that involved a lot more wine and some ridiculous dancing. The lads left at about 1am ('Have all the heterosexual men gone home?!') at which point the really cheesy tunes came on - cue much more drunken singing to Celine Dion and Mariah Carey and a lot more silly dancing and general drunkenness. I got to bed about 3.30am - thank goodness it was my last day at work.

This morning, on less than 5 hours sleep (and, dare I say it, a mild hangover), Middle B and I met up to go into London for our Christmas-before-Christmas. We were trying to get to the Icecreamists for ice cream and cocktails (and maybe ice cream cocktails) but we walked around Covent Garden a few times, checked the website and facebook (oh the joys of smart phones) and tried to find it but alas! it was nowhere to be found! We were quite disappointed. We did find a giant reindeer though, so all was not lost.

We did a bit of Christmas shopping (in one of the shops one of the workers was leaving her job so we got caught in a shopwide sing-along, in another an elderly lady helped me when I couldn't decide on a present for Fairy Princess Daddy) and then went off to find The Primrose Bakery. We are slowly working our way through Tea and Cake London. The bakery is tiny so we had a light lunch in a near by cafe and saved our cupcakes for later. (One was Christmas cake and the other was cinnamon. Yum!)

We looked at the paper shop, the Moomin shop and the market through the day and I got pretty wet dashing in and out of shops. Both of us were feeling pretty slow, we had to take our time and let people dodge around us. We also popped into a very large travel bookshop (oh bliss! oh joy!) and I managed not to buy anything (If I had started I don't think I'd have stopped. I did write down a few titles to hunt down at a later date). We had a wander to Leicester Square and went for coffee in a really teeny cafe (the baristas kept having little play fights behind the counter) and exchanged presents.

I made Middle B a dress, a Butterick 3513 (from the 90s I think...). This is the basic design but I added a belt and pockets later. I only got the fabric through from Spoonflower the other day so it was a tight squeeze but I managed to get it all done in time. I reckon all in all it took about 15 hours maybe (that includes messing up the zip and having to do it again!). So Middle B has the slightly dubious accolade of having the first ever dress I have made all on my own with no outside assistance!

I made some pockets with the help of this tutorial from A Fashionable Stitch

And yes, that is willow pattern fabric! Really! I will put up more photos of Middle B in the dress when I have them. The strip at the bottom is the design that you get round the rim of willow pattern china plates. I suggested that I make her a little bobble hat or a fascinator and then she could dress up as a tea pot for Halloween. She suggested she wear a knitted cardie as well and then it would look like a tea cosy. Genius!

Middle B's present was absolutely awesome: she has signed us both up to participate in The Ampersand Project - we both have a little canvas to make an art work about ampersands or the concept of 'and'. We need to have it arrive to New York by 15th Feb so we have time to think and potter and figure out what we both feel like doing. The idea is that we all paint a canvas, send it off to be exhibited and then when the exhibition is over we each get someone else's piece of art. The art will be digitised so we'll be able to view everyone else's pieces even if we can't make it to the exhibit in person. It is an utterly wonderful Christmas present for many reasons - we both get to create things, we will most likely hang out together while creating them and it is all based around ampersands which are my favourite punctuation mark. I'm really looking forward to this project!

We ate our cupcakes in St. Pancras station waiting for the train to take us home, we were tired but happy. It's been a lovely couple of days. It really is looking a lot like Christmas now.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Love Actually

Yesterday Julie and her Mr finally walked up the aisle. What a beautiful day it was!

A group of us turned up at the train station for 12.45 to get on a minibus. It was pretty multicultural - we had a Brazilian lady, a Portuguese lady who lives in the Netherlands, couple from Belgium and Portugal, and a few of us from the UK. We stopped to pick up a lady on the way called Alison from a tiny little train station. There was all the usual gossip about how you'd met the bride or the groom, where you are from and what you do. Alison regaled me with tales of travelling around Peru and other places.

We arrived at Dode after a magical mystery tour where none of us knew where we were going, probably not even the driver. It is a medieval church that was built in 1100 but stopped being used as a church around 1300.

It was pretty small from the outside. Round the corner there were some druid stones (though it was pretty muddy so I didn't explore too much).

The inside was tiny, but beautiful. We all milled around and chatted until the bride turned up and had talked to the registrar. There was some music on in the background, and I noticed a piece from the score of The Princess Bride!

The lady Alison turned out to be a surprise that Julie had organised for us: she did little paper profiles of us so we could remember the day. She got quite a few done before the service started. (To see more of her beautiful work look at her website www.alison-russell.co.uk)

The service itself was pretty short: a poem, some words by the registrar, the vows, the ring and the kiss. I didn't even have time to cry!

Afterwards when the happy couple were off  outside with the photographer, Julie had a arranged a spread of tea and doughnuts for us! So we all got to chat while the photographer and the portrait lady wandered around and did their thing. Naturally, the bus driver, the photographer, the registrar and Alison all got some time for tea as well. The groom handed me the bouquet while he drank his tea (earl grey) and declared that I was clearly next - when I said that I hadn't caught it, he said he'd be happy to throw it at me if it meant I was the next one getting married.

We got a few more photos outside of us all. By now dusk was starting to fall and the church looked pretty magical with all the Christmas decorations up. We all got to throw some confetti.

Then it was back on the bus to the city for dinner at Cafe du Soleil. We had the whole of the top floor to ourselves, we all chatted, drank prosecco and ate delicious food. I ended up sitting by all the kids which was fun - we were the naughty end of the table. We started off with garlic bread and oil, then the starters were calamari, or a plate of cold meats and pate and for me it was olives and mushrooms and a small plate of mussaka. For the main course, there was beef wellington with macaroni and cheese, spaghetti with mussels, while I had spinach and butternut squash risotto. For dessert there was a trio of lemon sorbet (I love lemon sorbet exclaimed the 12 year old opposite me), some eton mess and two profiteroles. We were absolutely stuffed by the end!

There was no dancing and no speeches, but there was still cake. Julie followed a woodland theme (the bottom is chocolate, the middle is Victoria sponge and the top tier is lemon).

The dress was absolutely stunning with a slight Victorian feel to it, but with flowers and sparkles all over it and flowers in her hair. She had a matching lace shrug that she kept on all evening.

Mini-Julie had a floaty white empire-line dress, with a long sleeved cardie over the top and an amazing white furry capelet. I was wearing a big, grey, fake fur coat, a fuschia dress (with matching belt) and a single string of (real!) pearls. She ended up cuddling me and stroking my coat quite a lot and I felt like a big teddy bear. We exchanged coats several times during the meal - I did wonder if she was going to try and disappear off with it at the end of the night!

The waiting staff were lovely, the kids were amazing! All of the kids were well behaved during the service, and maybe one of the babies cried a bit over dinner. I was sat next to a Sottish and Finnish couple over dinner with a three month old, and she was stunning. The older kids ran around a little bit, and then towards the end of the night they completely cleared the tables for us - they took all the silverwear, glasses and china back to the kitchens. The staff were amazed. After that they made swans out of tin foil, did card tricks and played more board games. The bride and groom got to talk to everybody, and Julie kept asking everyone if they had had a good evening. The staff said it was one of the most relaxed parties they'd seen.

It was a beautiful day but right at the end of the evening it started tipping it down. As we walked through the restaurant downstairs, a few of the ladies at dinner were exclaiming about the rain, but ever practical as always Julie even had a special white wedding umbrella. I walked them up the road to the hotel on my way home, holding the bottom of the gown out of the rain til she was over the threshold. It was a lovely end to a lovely day.

All in all, it went off without a hitch. Everyone looked stunning and I met some really interesting people. I hope they have a long and happy life together!

Friday, 13 December 2013

This Week

Things that happened this week:

I had a meeting with my boss. It was nice. He told me I was doing well. Hurrah!

Last Jive Night of the year. It was petty low key but there was a lot of sparkly cake. Miss T got rather drunk on gin (turns out she gets a bit lairy after a few drinks!)

I saw M for the first time in a while. We had a little meditate outside in a courtyard. We also had a little hand jiving with our scarves over coffee afterwards. It felt like I was in a Charlie Chaplin film.

I bumped into Knitted Tie Man (you know, the one I asked out for coffee and who turned me down) going shopping for his Mum's Christmas present. He asked me to comment on a couple of perfumes. It turns out he has good taste! I liked the Prada one best, which was the one that he bought, he said if she didn't like it he would give it to me! (I wish!)

Most of the men in my life appear to want me to open a sewing business. M even suggested he would be my manager. Steady on, chaps.

I'm going to a wedding tomorrow, so much agonising over accessories has happened today. So far a brief poll on facebook would suggest that people think I should wear the calf length, light grey, fake fur coat. I'll keep you posted.

I've nearly got my Christmas shopping done. Nearly. Splendid splendid. All I need now is mulled wine. Oh wait I had some of that with Middle B yesterday. The moral of that story is never buy wine for £2.79, even if you are going to mull it for a while.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Holistic Hair

Today I had a haircut for the first time in a couple of years - I only tend to think about haircuts when I'm going to weddings, the last one was for Bendy and Jamface's wedding, and since Julie and her Mr are getting married this weekend I thought it was high time for another one. I always dread the hairdresser a bit because I have quite fine, pretty frizzy / curly hair that is so wayward and I have had some pretty awful cuts in my time so I tend to be a bit conservative about what they do with it.

There is a lady who has just started doing holistic haircuts upstairs above the shop so I thought I would try it out. It wasn't supercheap but it wasn't too expensive given the price of haircuts these days. She is called Frances and she is quite floaty with a slightly hippyish thing going on until she starts cutting your hair and then she gets a bit more focused and professional. She trained with Vidal Sassoon and worked in fashion for quite a while but she left eventually because she felt like there wasn't much time to pay attention to the client and a lot of the creativity was lost. I did wonder what was holistic about it - would I get an Indian head massage or something? I didn't as it turned out. What it was about was really working with the natural texture of your hair how it is - so she asked me to wash my hair and let it dry naturally without products. While cutting my hair she put no products on it apart from spraying water on every now and then so she could work on it. She says she is looking into making her own products that are all natural, but that takes a while because they have to be tested. She spent the first 10 minutes just playing with my hair, which was lovely - feeling how it falls, looking at the texture, looking at it in context with my face - and then she pinned up most of it and started shaping it from the bottom up. She didn't seem to take much off, but she told me at the back she had removed more than three inches in some places. She said my hair was in great condition and that I had hardly any split ends! Hooray for me! All in all it should have been an hour but we got chatting for an extra half hour (I know, you never would have expected that....) before I ran downstairs to pay and get back to work. And before you ask - we didn't talk about holidays once! We mostly talked about family backgrounds, the changing relationships with your parents as you get older, her career as a stylist, what made us both come back to the area, and cafes we love. I would recommend her and I will probably see her again... maybe even before the next wedding, who knows!

Sunday, 8 December 2013

If I had a Hammer....

Yesterday in town there was a huge Christmas procession that I had to extricate myself from and ran away down a side street where I accidentally found a vintage shop I'd never seen before. There was  also a man wearing a bowler hat playing the violin while walking a tightrope. A tightrope! It was extraordinary. The whole day was like being in a parallel universe.

Today I had a pretty long day sewing - I finished off Miss T's Christmas present (photos once I've given it to her) and I finally got round to finishing off the belt to go with dress no. 2. When Fran wandered in with a hammer in hand I knew that I would have an unusual lesson!

So this little innocuous thing has a round bit at the bottom that you have to hammer into the fabric and it punches out a hole.

Then you put one end of the rivet into the hole.

Then you flip over the belt and put the other bit (like a washer) over the rivet. Then you place it on this little thing with a spike on it (that is a technical term, you know).

Then you place the tube of metal over it....

and then hammer it a few times until the rivet is squished into the fabric.

and there you have it:

I get the feeling that I'll be making more belts in the future, only because they are easy peasy and exceedingly classy you understand, not because I get to hit things quite hard. No, not at all.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

It's Official! I Can Now Listen to Christmas Music!

Happy December y'all! I'm a bit late off the mark thinking about Christmas presents but I have to get things in the post. I have to admit I love Christmas shopping because I really love buying presents for people. I've already started to make Miss T's present (photos when it's finished of course) and I'm waiting for fabric to arrive for Middle B's present (it might not arrive in time, eek!) but the rest is going to be trawling the shops and the internet for excitingness. I'm going to the seaside this weekend so I'll pop into a few independent shops and see what I can find.

I saw M for the first time in ages yesterday and it was delightful as usual. We tried out a new cafe in town called Cafe Turquoise. It's a little on the pricey side, but it's got a nice atmosphere and they do tea and cake and Turkish coffee and macaroons and light lunches. They've also got a stack of old books and a gramophone in the window and they were playing some very lovely old jazz. Perfect atmosphere. I spotted a new burrito place a few doors down so I suspect we'll be trying that at some point.

After we'd had coffee, M gave me a lift back home on his bike. I was wearing a skirt (minorly inconvenient but still decent) and I had boots on (thank goodness) - but I did remember to take my earrings off before I put the spare helmet on. It was pretty exhilarating but very chilly, now I understand why bikers wrap up warm! It was the first time I've been on a bike for about 15 years, and I must say I didn't feel entirely secure on the back but we were only going a few minutes up the hill. We zipped past all the cars waiting in traffic, it was exciting, but I wouldn't want to do it everyday! Next time I'm wearing jeans and a warmer coat that's for sure.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Memory Lane

My mum is moving house so I had to go back and pick up my stuff which involved going through lots of old bits and pieces. I had two bin bags full of rubbish, two more full of paper for recycling and about two thirds of my old books have gone to charity. Phew! I took some time to go through some old photos and to throw some away - you know all those ones that are blurry, or have the thumb over the lens, or of people I don't remember anymore. It was a real trip down memory lane - all the photos from school and Sixth Form and from Uni... so many photos of my year abroad in my third year, and going clubbing with Miss R in my fourth year.... I was pretty trigger happy, probably a lot more than I am now actually.

I took all my stuff back with me and now my room is looking pretty full. I decided that I should probably do a clear out so G very kindly came round and helped me clear things away. We're only half way through, but we have cleared away quite a lot. It feels quite nice to be throwing things away... I can feel a shift inside myself, I'm ready to clear up, get moving, start afresh. In addition to that Fairy Princess Mummy is letting me store some stuff at her place where they have a lot more loft space and she is taking away some of my charity bags for me because she has a car, which is very kind. But just for one night I'll be at home in one room with all the stuff I own in the world.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Big City High Tea

I kept meaning to get to London and see Miss H's new flat and then before I knew it suddenly it's November and neither of us have any free weekends til Christmas... life moves fast sometimes,doesn't it? I haven't even had time to moan about the short evenings and the chill in the air because it's not long now til the evenings start getting longer. Well, anyway, it turned out the we both had Saturday free so I grabbed the opportunity to see her and jumped on a train post haste.

We met at Goldhawke Road tube station and had a coffee and a wee chat before heading out and tackling some fabric shops. I wasn't quite prepared for the sheer numbers of fabric shops on that street! You walk out of the tube station and there are about ten in plain sight already. We went into Classic Textiles (as recommended by Roisin on her blog) and I picked up some plain lilac cotton and Miss H found this really amazing toile that was white with red print that looked a bit like willow pattern from a distance but actually turned out to be rustic farmhouse scenes (complete with chickens). We both got really excited about it, so I bought some and said I'd make it into some sort of garment for her - she looked delighted! Next up we went across the road to A-Z Fabrics and had a look. They had some really amazing beige heavy weight fabric with Victorian era news print on it, complete with illustrations of hot air balloons and pictures of serious men with cravats and sideburns. Alas, it was £25 a metre. Oh well. I was planning to make Miss T's Christmas present and I decided that I needed something much more exciting so we popped into the shop next door which was covered in sparkly, sequinned, lacy, day-glo, furry, and generally ridiculous textiles. It seems like a good bet for me to find something quirky - and so I did. Look out for a post about that soon.

As much as I love textiles, it must be said that after a while I get saturated by colours and shapes and generally run away without buying anything because I can't process it all. (Actually this happens to me with any other type of shopping too.) Around this time we decided to run away and have lunch so we wandered up the road and found this lovely little sushi place and shared the vegetarian platter. I haven't had sushi for ages - yummmm!

Then we caught the rail replacement bus (hooray for scheduled engineering on the tube!) up to Highgate so that she could introduce me to her area. It's a nice 15 min stroll from the bus up to the house and it becomes increasingly gentrified as you walk up the hill. It is a wonderful area though, right up my street. We went for tea at a tea shop a stones throw from the house called High Tea of Highgate which was quirky and delightful but still genuine and all things a tea shop should be. It sells art prints and tea and tea pots and aprons and harmonicas and scarves and blankets as well, so there was a lot to do. I had Christmas tea which smelled fabulous and Miss H had some elderflower, and we shared a slice of lemon drizzle and a slice of lavender cake. We giggled about ridiculous things and sang along to the Christmas music they were playing and chatted to the bar staff. It felt like old times. Then we walked back down the hill and I jumped on a bus to go home. I will most definitely be visiting again, so hopefully I'll get a chance to look around and explore more.

Fun times! A lovely day catching up - it did me the world of good. I'm sure I'll be back down to buy fabric again at some point in the new year, so I'm quite sure that Miss H will be coming with me.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Jive Night: Betty's Doghouse

A week earlier than normal with only two days notice the legendary Phil announced that he had invited Betty's Doghouse, a rockabilly trio from the Netherlands. This was the last Jive Night of the year, but the turn out was pretty poor - there is a gig on next week and the Rhythm Riot was last week so I imagine most people were either knackered or skint or both.

The band played pretty fast and loose. They played three sets, so at least we had a chance to catch our breath at some point. They did lots of classics (I had a very haphazard dance to Johnny Cash) they were adaptable too - a DJ put on the rockabilly version of 'Tainted Love' in one of the breaks and they performed that next. The name refers to Betty Boop, they had a little doll of her attached to the drum kit so that it looked like she was helping play the drums, it was adorable. I had a wee chat with a couple of the band on the way out, and Miss Mac even managed to get a dance with the drummer.

The music was good, though because the pace was pretty fast mostly it made jiving pretty difficult. We managed a few strolls and Miss Mac and I had a good old bop to some of the faster songs. I danced with most of the lads at least once, and got a dance in with Ingrid before she left. It took me a while to get into it this time, I was a little off my rhythm. I hadn't seen Miss Mac for a while so we got a little bit of gossip in outside by the pool tables a few times over the course of the evening. She spent a bit of time trying to teach me to Charleston - I think I need a good dance around my bedroom to perfect that one, maybe I should ask for some Cole Porter music for Christmas?! I had a dance with a lovely older man that I've danced with before and we managed to have a chat after which was nice - he gave me some advice on my dancing which I really appreciated ('Keep your arms firmer') and he introduced me to his wife, they have been Lindy hopping for years, they don't go to the classes but they try to get to the events when they can.

I was wearing Dress no. 2, (the flowery, slightly wayward one) and the legendary Phil declared that I was looking resplendent. How very lovely of him to say so! I got a fair few compliments ('You look like such a lady!' said N), especially when I mentioned I'd made it. It's got definitely got some twirl to it, that dress! N was wearing a fabulous black and white rock n' roll dress with a petticoat and everything, and Ingrid was wearing a lovely red wiggle dress with a fake fur coat. Apart from that most people didn't really dress up, and for once the men had made more effort than the ladies - there were a few good ties and some waistcoats and even a couple of hawaiian shirts. P had been away recently and brought me back the second tackiest fan in Paris - it has a picture of the eiffel tower, a baguette, an old Fiat 500, and even a croissant. Apparently the most tacky fan in Paris had ruffles and frills on it and she just couldn't bring herself to buy it for me. The fan came in very handy since it was boiling in there, but I have to say it was a chilly evening, I was pretty glad to get a lift back with Miss Mac.

I'm never going to say no to a dance, but I must say it was a bit of a flat end to the year. I really enjoyed the band though and I'd like to catch them again sometime.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

When the Moon Hits Your Eye like a Big Pizza Pie

I spent the weekend with the Fairy Princess family by the seaside which was very exciting as always. I love staying at their house, the girls are adorable (if a little wayward.... I believe the phrase 'she's knows her own mind' well applies to both of them in different ways) and they always think of something fun to do. It's like having a mini-holiday.

On Saturday, FP Daddy made some pizza dough for us and we all made our own pizzas and calzones. Well, maybe more pizza pie and giant cornish pasty, but hey, who's counting?! It was so much fun - I love playing with my food!

While the pizza creations were in the oven, the big Fairy Princess and I watched Wreck-It Ralph. One of the reasons I like going round there is that I get to watch kids films, I'm not ashamed to admit it. It wasn't amazing but I liked it. In the evening, once we had stuffed ourselves and put the girls to bed, FP Mummy cracked open a bottle of white and we watched Midnight in Paris. It was so very lovely and got me thinking I should probably read more classics! I've never read any Hemmingway, can you believe it? There were so many famous characters in the film I'll have to watch it again to spot them all. And I must say that Marion Cotillard got to wear some fabulous dresses.

The next day we all had breakfast together. mooched about and played with some balloons. Then some friends came round and so little FP had someone to play with while big FP and I watched Tangled. I'd never seen it before, but nearly everyone I know loves it, so not before time. As usual, it was a relaxing and fun weekend.

Pizza Dough

enough for 6 - 8 medium pizzas

1kg strong bread flour
1 tsp fine ground salt
2 x 7g packets of dried yeast
1 tbsp caster sugar
4 tbsp olive oil
650 ml luke warm water

- Sift the flour and the salt into a bowl and make a little well in the middle.
- Mix together all the other ingredients into the water. Leave for a few minutes for the yeast to activate and then pour into the well. Start mixing the flour and water together until you get dough.
- Place the dough ball in a flour dusted bowl with a damp cloth over it and place in a warm room for about an hour. The dough should rise to almost double it's size.
- Remove the dough and knead it. (If you don't want to use it immediately cover it in clingfilm and put it in the fridge or freezer.)
- Roll out the dough and leave for a few minutes before you add your toppings.
- Bake pizzas for 10 to 20 mins depending on the thickness of your base.

We ended up using some thick spicy tomato sauce and then had a variety of toppings to choose from including fried mushrooms, spinach, gorgonzola, mozarella, cheddar, pepperoni, salami, peppers, meatballs and falafels. The kids made pizzas and because the dough was so thick they looked more like pizza pies.

I made a calzone, so instead of laying it flat like a pizza, you turn the sides up and secure them together like a cornish pasty. It's helpful to roll the dough out pretty thin for this, but not too thin - I ended up patching up a hole! FP Daddy meanwhile had the biggest calzone I've ever seen, it even needed an especially large plate! He ended up having half of it for lunch the next day.


Saturday, 16 November 2013

Sew Inspiring!

I saw this on Sew Retro and had to share. This is the work of Angela Carter, Auckland based artist.

Coralline dress by Angela Carter

Hydra dress by Angela Carter

Angela Carter, otherwise known as Mermaid's Purse, made these out of recycling - she made the fabric out of plastic bags and then made amazing dresses out of them! Yep, those blue bits in Coralline are the logos of the plastic bags. The two pieces were entered into the Cult Couture show this year, and the Hydra dress won the Recycled Revolution prize.

Coralline and Hydra dresses by Angela Carter at Cult Couture
This has really inspired me to think more about the types of fabrics that I use in my creations. I have been thinking for a while that I would like to start sourcing ethically where I can, but this opens up a whole new dimension in terms of what is possible in terms of recycling, upcycling and 'make do and mend'. I would also like to play around a bit more with texture and colour so this is incentive for me to get on and become a good seamstress - as Fran would say 'you have to know all the rules first before you can break them'. If you look at her blog, you will see that both dresses took a lot of time, effort and experimentation - but I think all the effort was worth it, don't you? How extraordinary!

More details about the processes and construction about Hydra here  and about Coralline here.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Oh! Those Buttons!

This is the third dress that I've made, it's based on Vogue Vintage V2960

This time I was focused on buttons and buttonholes. I chose a duck egg blue cotton with white polka dots.

I decided to do some covered buttons (with a little help from Miss T)

And used some grosgrain ribbon for structural integrity

Ta dah!

Monday, 11 November 2013

Good Night, Sweet Prince

There is a lovely man who was a member of our community, I've known him for years. He used to make me laugh, ask really good questions in teachings and he always had a ready smile and a compliment for everyone. He was British but his parents went out to India so he grew up there and then came back to Britain in his teens. There were a bunch of girls that he used to hang around with at school ('beautiful girls, they were, beautiful') but he never thought any of them would be interested in him because he was only about 5'4. One day one of them kissed him and eventually they went on to get married and have three children. He was an engineer for most of his life, you could tell by the types of questions he asked. He started teaching Buddhist meditation around the same time that I did, so maybe about six years ago, and he had to stop because of his health about two years ago. His teachings were precise, funny and very heartfelt. All the kids are grown up now and have their own kids, and they and his wife is now mourning his loss. He had two battles with cancer, one many years ago before I knew him ('the chemotherapy played havoc with my hormones, I can really sympathise with women's time of the month, I can tell you!'). The cancer returned again and I watched him deal with it with acceptance for his own situation and with compassion for his family who were suffering so much on his behalf. He got on with his life and continued to care for those around him in whatever ways possible. He was a real inspiration to me - I can only hope I take life with as much grace and joy. After three years of treatments, he finally went into a hospice last Tuesday night, and he died peacefully on Sunday morning. I didn't see him very often, I didn't know him that well, but I will miss him and his sparkly smile. Good night Frank, I hope flights of angles sang you to your rest.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Weekly Roundup

I trust you've all had a good week? Other than being pretty tired and having a slight case of post-festival blues, everything is pretty tip top at the moment. The air is pretty crisp, but still fairly sunny, so I get some sunshine and yet still get a chance to eat lots of soup, drink lots of cocoa and wear lots of knitwear. Which is surely the best reason for winter existing, right?

I met a lovely young man a couple of weeks ago just before I went away. He was wearing a knitted tie! and it was stripey! It seemed like we had a bit of chemistry, so when I got back I sought him out and asked him out for a coffee. I'm sad to say that he didn't really take me up on the offer. Oh well. I did put myself out there and I'm not usually very good at that type of thing so well done me.

In other news, I have just had a little mini spending spree - I would say it's to console myself, but frankly it's just because I like fabric - which is why I shouldn't go on the internet in the middle of the night. But it's done now, so hey ho, I'm just going to have to enjoy it all coming through the post. My friends have been bothering me about how much I would suit a wiggle dress, so I picked up a copy of a pattern that I've been umming and ahhhing about for a while, the Elisalex dress:

I also picked up a couple of 1940s blouse patterns from Etsy including this one:

and some delightful fabric from www.equilter.com including some of this:

I'm also nearly finished with dress no. 3, so you'll have an update on that soon so a few more sewing posts in the next few weeks I think. Hurrah!