Sunday, January 27, 2013

February Lady Sweater

Phew. I started in June, took a bit of a break, and have now finished my February Lady Sweater. For those of you who haven't heard of it, Elizabeth Zimmermann (the Delia of knitting, I'd say) originally designed this as a baby sweater, featured as the "February" project in her Knitter's Almanac. Then, an enterprising knitwear designer realised it would make a great sweater for grown-ups and scaled up the pattern.

It's knit in one piece (yay - no seams!) and the pattern was fairly straightforward to follow. My sleeves are just past the elbow, mostly because I was running out of yarn (I have about 2 metres left).

The buttons are from Halfpenny Home in Needham Market. I finished it on Tuesday and have worn it to work on Wednesday and all day yesterday and today. LOVE it. The yarn is really soft (silk and cashmere - yum)! and the colour goes with everything. I'm not a huge fan of the puckers at the underarms but there's no way I'm starting over!

Ravelry link is here, for those of you so inclined.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Oatmeal cranberry cookies with dark chocolate chips

I made these back before Christmas. I based the recipe on (what else?) Smitten Kitchen's oatmeal raisin cookies, but instead of raisins and walnuts I put in dried cranberries and dark chocolate chunks.

Oh, hi, red Kitchenaid! Yes, I love you, too.

They were seriously good - not too sweet, and felt vaguely healthy. They were the closest I've come to the cookie that my mom and I bought on the way back from Grandma's funeral last February. I've googled and it looks like we stopped at Kessman Farms, in Pawling, NY. Oatmeal cranberry raisin cookies. If you're passing through, that is. You could just make these instead...

Aw, rats. Now I want to go make some cookies.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Review: Afternoon Tea at the Cambridge Hilton

One of my book group buddies shares her birthday with John and my dad (yay, December 27th), and she suggested a Girls' Day Out in Cambridge for afternoon tea.

We were recommended the Hilton by another friend who had been there for a party a few months before, so off we went, on the Saturday between Christmas and New Year.

I knew I'd be cranky if I went all the way to 3pm with no food, so Anna Karenina (on my Kindle) and I went for brisket udon just before noon.

The first thing we noticed when we rolled up at our appointed hour was how EMPTY it was. Granted, the weekend between Christmas and New Year isn't going to be their top weekend of the year, but Cambridge itself was packed with people. There were two other tables (and about 4 staff).

First, it took them about 10 minutes to figure out where to seat us. Why, I have no idea. But whatever.

Then, it took at least another 10 for them to ask us if we wanted tea or coffee. I said that we did, but that I had read online that there was a full "tea menu." The waitress looked surprised, then thought for a few moments, and then wandered off and returned with the tea menus, as per teh interwebs. I had a darjeeling, and the other two had Russian Caravan (apparently didn't taste of either Russians or Caravans, which was probably a good thing) and Earl Grey. The tea was lovely, and was in rather snazzy pots that held the leaves in a funny little basket. Only drawback with the tea was that you couldn't remove the leaves to adjust the strength - it got rather stewed by the end.

After about half an hour, the platter below arrived:

On the bottom, sandwiches: salmon, egg & cress, and cucumber & cream cheese. Slightly stale bread (they tasted like they'd been made that morning or the previous day), but otherwise fine.

For the middle tier, the scones were excellent - warm, with very tasty jam and clotted cream.

On the top, a selection of cakes: slices of fruitcake, a chocolate square thingy with raspberry mousse, mince pies, and a cake/cream concoction with a gilded blackberry on top. It was all rather pretty, but I thought that the cakes were too sweet (and the mince pies DEFINITELY came from a factory).

Um, we ate it all.

Overall, I would give the service 2 out of 10, the scones 8 out of 10, and the rest of the food 6 out of 10. We were right next to the window, on very comfy couches, which made the terminally disinterested waitstaff less of an issue. I think there are plenty of other places to eat in Cambridge, where our £14.95 would have produced less food (it was WAY too much), but of higher quality.

The Cambridge Hilton have a great location and good facilities, but it was let down by indifferent service and mediocre food. I would HATE to be there on a busy weekend in the summer (unless possibly we were the victims of "all the normal staff are on vacation." If anyone else has had a different experience, let me know!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

In case any of you were under the illusion that our house is perfect, please see Exhibit A, the front hall, below.

This is what happens when you have a very small entryway, 2 adults, one part-time teenage resident, and white carpets. We all wear slippers in the house (because of the carpets and also because we all tend towards chilly feet), so the first thing we do when we arrive is kick off our shoes.

We were looking for some sort of shoe rack at Ikea when we were there last weekend. My thought was to get a smallish one, to go in the living room underneath the coat stand. But then John spotted the PS 2012 bench. And while black would probably have been classier, we both really liked the red. If we get sick of it, we can always paint it black.

The top is being used as our "outbox" at the moment - there's a bit more on there than there should be! I figure that since we're going to have lots of shoes in the front hall anyway, we may as well make it look intentional. (And, a week later, it still looks tidy. SUCCESS!)

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Tutorial: re-covering an Ikea footstool

We've recently reorganised our living room - we've made room in the study upstairs for some of John's trains and moved two of the bookcases downstairs. We moved the cabinet that was holding the boardgames upstairs, gave away several meters of unused books, and ended up with an extremely cosy nook in the living room (which John now refers to as The Library). It's not exactly Downton, but it'll do! 

So, in said Library, I found I was sitting in the armchair, but either dragging the one footstool over from the couch (which then mean that the boys don't have one for the couch), or not putting my feet up at all. (It's genetic, this feet-up business - my grandmother ALWAYS put her feet up. She also kept folded plastic bags on the top of her ottomans to protect them from her shoes. We wash the ottomans (and wear slippers in the house).

Anyway, a quest for a footstool for the Library had been ongoing for a while, and kicked into high gear once the rest of the furniture was settled. I had looked on the Ikea website and was looking at trying to recover the Poang footstool, but when we saw it in person on Sunday (yes, we braved Ikea between Christmas and New Year), it really wasn't doing anything for me.

I did, however, find the Solsta Pallbo. The cream one was out of stock (and I knew I was planning to re-cover it), so we bought the grey one. £14! Bargain!

Here it is, pre-hacking, all assembled.

This is the fabric I picked up at CallyCo in Cambridge over the summer - it's upholstery weight and looks like it's still available, here.

I draped it over the footstool to make sure I liked the idea, and then got started!

The (naked) footstool seemed a little sharp for my clumsy self, so I wrapped it in quilt batting scraps, using my handy-dandy staple gun.

All wrapped!

Then, I sketched the box, and marked the measurements on my diagram. Because the fabric really wouldn't have looked good upside-down, I decided to make a tube for the sides with a lid on the top. I added 1/2 inch for all the seams on all sides, and managed to use the width of my fabric to go 3/4 of the way around the box.

So, I cut two pieces that were width-of-fabric x 16" (height plus 1").

This is the "back", where the two seams are. I thought about having two equal-sized pieces, but decided that I'd give this footstool a definite "front" and "back."

Once I was sure the tube fit, I hemmed the bottom edge. I should have used a ruler and an iron - I just folded the edge over twice, and topstitched.

Here's the detail of the hem, inside-out:

Then, I put the tube on the footstool, wrong side out. I centered the "lid" on the top, wrong side facing out, but with the "front" the right way round (i.e. the top of the design at the same side as the seams).

I pinned and pinned and pinned some more. I made sure the top was reasonably tight (but that I hadn't pulled up the fabric from the floor, either) I really wasn't sure what to do with the corners, but guessed that I'd be able to ease around them. I was, with lots of extra pinning and slow sewing at the corners.

Ta-da! The fabric was fairly wide, so I only used two 16" strips for the whole thing (and have a few pieces left over).

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Favorite picture of 2012

My favorite picture of 2012:

Taken on the day we went to sea (just a little bit). I love the composition and I REALLY love what it represents. Here's to fair winds and blue skies in 2013!