Sunday, July 31, 2011


Last week, I had a hankering for cheesecake. John didn't eat cheesecake for years (mostly because of the whole lactose-intolerant thing), but since we found Lactofree cream cheese, there's nothing between us and amazing cheesecake.

I saw the recipe for Berry Shortbread Cheesecake in the August Good Food, and had to make it. My only quibble is that they made it in a loaf tin, rather than in a loose-bottomed pie pan. I have NO idea how they got it out of the loaf tin looking like it does on the website. Mine came out, er, in a blob. Looks lovely with raspberries on the top and tasted delicious, but a 0/10 for presentation. Did I miss something? I lined the tin with parchment paper and everything...

The fruit at the supermarket (and from our back yard, thank you, raspberries) has been delicious. I love the "ripen at home" peaches and nectarines. YUM. With blueberries. And icing sugar. Because John accidentally topped up the sugar bowl with icing sugar, so now it's a silly half-and-half mix that we need to use up before we can start over. Poor me.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Coming down with something?

Achy, tired, and generally blah.

Remedy: husband cooked dinner, poured me some ginger ale, and tucked me in with the quilt, my bears, and my laptop. Oh, and the latest LLBean and Boden catalogues, this month's BBC Good Food, and my library books. Could be worse.

And because I can't post without a picture, here's some gooseberry crumble, from last week. YUM.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Initial design: NY Rangers Heritage Jersey quilt

My brother doesn't really like stuff - he is a fan of fairly spartan living. After he saw pictures of the Tufted Tweets quilt, he asked if I would make him a quilt. Wait, you want a quilt? Like pieces of fabric sewn together that will sit on your couch? You're sure? Ok, then.

I asked if he had any particular designs in mind, and he said that he'd like a NY Rangers quilt. Specifically, one inspired by their new Heritage Jersey. Thank you, google image search. I looked around online and unlike the NBA, MLB, and NCAA, the NHL do NOT license fabric. Ok, fine. I also checked Flickr and the interwebs in general and there don't seem to be many (any?) Rangers quilts out there.

This is the design I've come up with:

My brother is a huge bike geek, so when I found this fabric on Spoonflower, I was pretty excited. I'm going to use it for the red stripe at the bottom, and possibly some of the applique. I'm definitely going to use it on the back, as well.

bicycle symbol red and white

The plan is to find a few different blues (possibly in a super-fun adventure to Purl Soho when I'm in NYC in September), and then applique the NEW YORK onto the quilt. I hope he likes it. I haven't decided what to use for the binding yet - white (will it get too dirty?), more red, a blue and red stripe, or some other colour entirely.

Oh, and John has been making cinnamon raisin bread. Yummy.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Review: Tess of the D'Urbervilles and Major Pettigrew's Last Stand

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, by Helen Simonson, had been on my to-read list for a while. And no, it has nothing to do with Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day.

I should have taken the hint from Alexander McCall Smith's blurb on the front, "A beautiful little love story."

As AMcS says, it's a love story, set in a village in Sussex, typically English (including the underlying currents of xenophobia and a healthy dose of NIMBY).

Major Pettigrew reminds me a little bit of my mom's cousin, Charles - extremely well-mannered, chivalrous to a fault, and very distinguished. I loved the character, and found his hapless son deliciously bad.

My only complaint about the book was the continuous rant against Red Brick Housing Estates Built On Former Fields. Well, I'm sorry, English Countryside peeps, but not all of us can afford to live in country houses.


My mother-in-law makes the Best Pies Ever - I helped with this one (I made the decoration) last weekend at a big family supper that we had. YUM.

On my Kindle, I've been plodding through Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles. I quite liked the first half, but have now given up. Hardy just put one block after another in front of poor old Tess - I got tired of it. I was bad and gave up and read the Wikipedia entry about the plot and will now be moving on to the next book. Sorry, Tess.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Gooseberries for me!

Last year, sawfly ate my gooseberries. This year, I am eating my gooseberries. With help from John and my work buddies, that is. I used BBC Good Food's recipe for gooseberry & almond streusel squares, and substituted some of the flour with a handful of oatmeal. It made it a little closer to crumble, although I think next time I'd use a little more liquid in the mixture because it didn't hold in bars at all. It was exceedingly tasty, though.

The dry ingredients, all ready to be mixed:

The crumble mixture and the gooseberries:

Layers 1 & 2:

Look at those gooseberries!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Why I live in Suffolk

These golden-hour pictures from the church tower (the ringing chamber, really), in Preston St Mary, Suffolk.

Sorry, NYC...Suffolk wins on this one.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

(NOT) Sweet Peas

How is it that Spotify has been available in the UK for, um, years, but that it has taken my American peeps to be super-excited about it (thanks, Em) for me to actually download it? I realised that I even had a login - I put my email address in and it welcomed me back. Oops?

Taylor Swift, embarrassingly, you rock my world. Sorry, cool police. Google+ is also creeping in to my life - if you're on, shout!

And here comes a public service announcement: did you know that the peas on sweet pea plants (pictured above) are toxic? Um, I didn't. A bell-ringing friend gave us some sweet pea seedlings back in the spring, which I planted outside the kitchen door. They started to make peapods, so I announced that I would put them in some dinner…maybe a curry. The Husband's reaction? "NOOO! They're poisonous!" Oh, really? (Checks internet…) "Why yes, they are." Then why the heck would they name them something like sweet peas? C'mon guys, give me a fighting chance. I hereby suggest a new name: "Very Pretty But For Pete's Sake Don't Eat The Peas!" Thoughts?

Here's my attempt at bokeh, through the plant on the windowsill. I have some work to do, I think.

This is what our table on the back porch looks like. Yes, I know we need the rain. But does it have to rain every day, for hours? And can it be a little warmer than 15C? I don't really want to wear trousers and slippers and a hoodie IN JULY. Thanks.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Review: Wolf Brother

Michelle Paver's Wolf Brother caught my eye ages and ages ago (years, I think), but I never managed to add it to my library queue or pick it up at the bookstore - there were always books ahead of it.

It arrived for me at the library last week, and I blasted through it. Granted, it's a children's book (I'd say 8 and up), and the print was a bit big, but it was totally immersive. I found the chapters distractingly short, but it made it really easy to "just finish the chapter." I know I'm into a book when I'm reading at lunch and one of my team comes into my office, calls my name, and I either don't hear them at all or am so startled by the presence of another human that I jump.

Set in prehistoric times, Wolf Brother is the story of a boy and a wolf cub, both left alone to fend for themselves. Together, they thrive.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Review: Leuchtturm1917 notebook

I was sent a Leuchtturm1917 notebook to try, a few months ago. I've tested it extensively (as in, I carry it around the office like Linus and his blanket, and write work-notes in it fairly constantly).

Apparently, it's gaining traction as a Moleskine-Killer, and I can see why. They are expensive notebooks, but they are very well made and they have some really interesting details.

My favourite parts:

-the pen loop (sold separately). Just right for my Uniball Micro (fine) pen, which bleeds through a tiny bit but not enough to notice. I don't keep the pen in there when I'm at my desk, but if I'm moving around, it comes with me.
-the hard back. I can write anywhere.
-the binding. It lies flat and doesn't turn the pages by itself.
-the feel of the paper - it's really smooth.
-the size. It's the "Master Slim," which is pitched as A4+, so that you can put sheets of A4 inside without them getting crumpled at the corners.

-the dots. I'm not sure if you can see them in this picture, but rather than a line or a grid, there are dots that I can use to make diagrams, draw charts, use as lines to keep my writing straight, or doodle on. The paper reads as "plain" but I end up with nice neat lines of writing.

Sigh. Love.

My only complaint so far is that I've noticed a tiny tear in the (faux-leather) cover, just on the spine. Maybe some superglue is in order...I don't really want the tear to get bigger and I have quite a few pages left.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Review: Trudi Canavan miscellany

I arrived rather late to Trudi Canavan - John read most of the books when they were first released, but they weren't really on my radar. I finished reading the Black Magician Trilogy a few weeks ago, and bought these right after TC visited Bury St Edmunds for a book signing (damn you, Waterstones, for not telling me about it until afterwards). At least I have the signed copies.

I finished The Ambassador's Mission last night - I didn't like it as much as The High Lord (my favorite), but it scooted along very nicely. I think I wish it were more about the main character's parents, but I think he's going to feature rather heavily in the next few so I'd better get used to it!

Look - all signed!

I've also picked up the last (NOOOOO!) Eva Ibbotson, One Dog and His Boy. I think I'm going to have to save it, as it was published posthumously and there definitely won't be any more. Must not panic.

One more thing: welcome, new arrivals from ModernDayQuilts. Thanks for coming to visit! It'll be a miscellany of books, quilts, cooking, expat living, and general musings, if you'd like to stick around.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Flickr link: Texters, by Joe Holmes

These pictures of New Yorkers texting are amazing. (via the NYT bits blog)

Mission: Coatstand. Accomplished.

I've been looking for a coatstand for months. MONTHS. Too expensive, too ugly, too office-y, just plain wrong... you get the idea.

I had Pinterest-ed this Muji coatstand a few months ago, here on Pinterest, but I didn't feel like paying the shipping charges and was kind of secretly hoping that the really amazing 1930s one from Elemental would have a twin appear in their store.

And then, I got tired of the coats on the chair. And so this arrived today.

And has now been put to good use.

So there we go.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Gabi's popover dress, or Measure Twice, Cut Once

When I received an email from Quilter's Haven to say that they had new fabric in that was based on artwork from Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar, I knew I had to go and get some for my favorite toddler.

I hunted around the internets and found this free download for the "popover" dress from Oliver + S, which I thought was really cute.

I printed it out, pasted the pieces together, cut my fabric, sewed up the dress, and went, "Huh. That's REALLY little." I got out the ruler and the size 4 length was supposed to be 20 inches. Mine was 14. Um, that's not going to fit.

Turns out my printer and Preview were trying to be helpful and resize the patterns to print vertically. Thanks, technology! That would be the tiny pattern on the left, and the real one on the right. FAIL.

Fortunately, I'd seen this blog post about cutting the pieces from HALF of the folded fabric, which meant that I had enough left over to make the second dress once I had downloaded Adobe Reader, wrestled with my printer, and printed out the Right Darned Size.

The good things:
 - The dress came out much better the second time (sizing aside): my seams were neater, I avoided any pinning pitfalls, and the curves are better.

The bad things:
 - I have two dresses. Well, I guess that's not really bad, as I'm sure Miss Gabi will find a doll or teddy or unsuspecting cohort to put the smaller dress on. I rather overzealously made the size 4 size, for a 4-year-old (she's 2 1/2), but she's tall. It can be a floor-length gown this year, just right next year, and a squeeze when she's 4. Or something.

It's going in the mail tomorrow (and I had a blast wrapping it)! There's a fair amount of fabric (in funny scrappy shapes, obviously), but I'm sure I'll come across a fun project. The original plan was a matching bag and/or hat, but since it took me the extra 3 weeks to sort out the pattern size, I want to get it to her so she can wear it a few times before summer's over!