Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Our garden was started almost literally from scratch not all that long ago. Last year a attempted to grow a great many things from seed because we didn't really have any money to spend on the garden. This approach is not for the impatient, but I think my foxgloves were worth the wait. The are huge great triumphant things, which get a smile from me every time I look out the door.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

small items of domesticity squeezed from the week

So over the course of the week, despite really having no time for this sort of shenanigans whatsoever I have managed to squeeze out a few bits of crafty goodness.

It started with  making a birthday cake as a gift to a joint birthday party last Saturday. A simple chocolate sponge with vanilla butter icing. This was so successful however, that in a effort to lift spirits at home a little I immediately had to make a batch of similar fairy cakes on the Sunday. I was chuffed to bits with how these came out. Super soft and fluffy in the middle with just the right amount of pale green icing on top.

Please excuse the grill pan which doubles up as my cooling rack. And I had to eat that one before the photo was taken because it was all deformed and ugly. Honest.

During the week I started my second pair of cycle socks, this time in light blue. And for some reason, after an afternoon spent in the vegetable patch yesterday I decided to break out the headband. It's the remains of a shirt color of an old liberty shirt I picked in a charity shop some time ago that have been sat on top of my dresser for a year a least. Last night I bound the rough edge with some vintage bias binding I've always had in a lovely sage green, added an elastic grip across the opening and embroidered over some of the flowers with odd buttons from a rapidly dwindling stash and silver thread. I have to say I rather like it. The silver thread just seems to lift it slightly out of being just a scrap of cloth which is what I often wear in my hair.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Practical Cookery

"Practical Cookery and The Etiquete and Service of the Table" cost me the grand total of 80 pence in one of my local charity shops. This brilliant little book was produced by the Department of Food Economics and Nutrition, Kansas State College of Agriculture and Applied Science in 1932, although this is a 16th edition from 1936. Wow, is all I can say. I haven't got the faintest idea how such a thing ended up in north London.

It really is an amazing thing, with such highlights including: the inner workings of an all manner of stoves and cookers; cooking from very first principles; detailed tables of boiling times for vegetables; scorecards for bread and dinner parties (though it doesn't say if this is to mark your own work or other peoples); detailed place settings and pictures of every knife, fork and spoon you will ever encounter.

However the true treasure is the handwritten brownie recipe on the back cover page. This reads as follows:

1/2 cup Spry
2 oz choc.
3/4 cup sifted flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup nuts

Melt Spry & choc. together over hot water. Cool.
Sift flour with b.powder & salt
Beat eggs until light, add sugar, then choc. (unknown word) and blend.
Add flour, vanilla & nuts & mix well.
Bake in 8 x 8 in. Spry greased pan in moderate oven (350F) 35 min.
Cool & cut unto squares. Makes 16

Now I have to admit I was flummoxed over 'Spry', I looked and looked again and that was definitely what the word said. A little detective work has revealed this and this. Spry is some kind of vegetable shortening used to back cakes - potentially in exactly the same period this book was printed, which is what I was most excited about. There's no date with the recipe, but the Spry, handwriting and ink makes me want to think it's circa 1940's too.

New things

The tartan dress was bought from a charity shop on my local high street. £4.99. It's handmade from medium weight woven wool tartan - the seeming is beautiful and it fits perfectly. One of those occasions when the item in question calls out as soon as you step over the threshold, demanding to be taken home and loved.

The bag was from sini&sanna on Etsy. It's also fantastically well made with the double virtue of being big enough to dump my daily life in - laptop, lunch box, paper work, knitting. It's actually a very fine cord though you can't tell that in this picture. The deep tones with that streak of yellow and turquoise  buckle just gives it that slightly clashing colour combination I love.

Finally my white cycling socks. These are actually finished now, not quite so well made perhaps, but they do the job I designed them for. As you might be able to tell from the picture they're toe up socks based on the Universal toe-up sock formula on Knitty incorporating a fairly simple lace feather/chevron pattern and knit in 4ply 100% cotton. The reason why both were being knit at the same time was simple - a very limited supply of yarn. They were going to be short socks so that wasn't a problem but I did have to knit them simultaneously to make sure I got socks the same length. Unfortunately the  lace pattern I chose doesn't actually stretch that well so they're slightly baggy and also a little difficult to get on... but this is only my second pair of socks ever and the first in cotton, so you live and learn.