Saturday, 28 April 2012

Proper chuffed

I've had a gloriously self indulgent morning at Spoilt Rotten Beads in Haddenham, taking a workshop in art clay silver ring making. I booked it at the last minute, having intended to try and make rings myself for aaaaages - I've made sterling wirework and hammered rings, but the potential for shrinkage and thus difficulties in sizing had held me back from silver clay ones.

Our lovely tutor, Juliet, took five of us through from sizing through rolling and embellishing, drying, filing, firing and finally polishing. She was very calm, most of us were a bit twitchy but at the end of three hours, we had all produced gorgeous rings that fit and sparkled.

I had a tense moment when my band cracked, but with a goodly dollop of silver paste all was well.

I love my new ring. It fits, and thanks to the edges I spent ages bevelling, it is really, really comfortable. I'd like to make another one straight away, but I have a secret squirrel project I need to finish for tomorrow so I'd better get on with it.

Slightly horrified by my wrinkly hands - just be glad I didn't zoom in!

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

The end of an era

Three years ago we took on an allotment. It was a reclaimed bit of field, and we dug and planted and used gallons of suncream in whipping it into shape. The first season was fabulous - freshly picked sweetcorn, armfuls of cut flowers, endless potatoes and the most delicious beans and courgettes and butternut squash.

The second season started well - our potatoes were frosted in late May, but undaunted we carried on, cultivated the areas we had left fallow the first year and planted crops - which subsequently failed.

Last year, I determined to get to grips with the plot that was by now threatening to go back to nature. I gave in and used Roundup on the most stubborn weeds, something I had promised myself I would never do. Our little patch of paradise began to resemble a derelict building site. 

I started to lose sleep over it. I started to feel like a failure.

So, we have decided to give it up. I went up last night to say goodbye and thank you and to collect the last of our tools. I felt nostalgic on the long trudge up the path to the middle of the windy hillside, and wavered for a moment - until I saw that something had broken down our fence and there was a rabbit lolloping about in it.

I picked the last tulips, hoisted my barrow and headed back to the car. And breathed.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Decisions, decisions

We've lived in our 100 year old house for 12 years now. In that time we've had two children, overhauled the garden, started and abandoned an allotment, left a job (me), started a company (Mr DC), learned to play the piano (me) ... the one thing we haven't done is repainted our bedroom. And it shows, believe me, it shows. We've gone through all the other rooms and are now back to the point where most of them need repainting, but still, our room is a shameful secret, the one where I close the doors if anyone comes to visit and needs to go upstairs to the bathroom.

But no more! We are finally going for it! Someone is coming to remove the old wallpaper and rehang it and paint it for us. And I am very excited BUT it means we have to choose wall colours. I'm not good at this. We have made big decor mistakes in the past and had to live with them (the orange living room had to be seen to be believed) so we're going to be a bit restrained. But still, I am not ready to magnolia my life.

So, shades of cream? Tasteful Country Living style colours with fabulous names? The trouble is, they don;t look the same in the pot as on the wall, and they don't look the same in different parts of the room or at different times of day - you all know this, and the photos make it abundantly clear. As a result, our walls are patched with blocks of colour. And are we closer to a decision? Maybe ...

At the moment, the lightest shade (it's called Wildwood, but let's face it, it's beige) is winning for the "feature wall" (hark at me) with the paler cream for the remaining three walls, but nothing is set in stone.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

An end to lunchbox tedium?

I don't know how many of you watched the Fabulous Baker Brothers a while back on Channel 4. I found them extremely entertaining, though possibly I wasn't supposed to laugh out loud at the program quite as frequently as I did. They reminded me of some of the boys I went to college with. That may or may not be a good thing.

Anyway,  they did have some tempting recipes, and one that really caught my eye was the Sliders. Not the burgers, as past experience has led me to believe that burgers and I will never be friends (I love red steak but cannot countenance a rare burger, and if it's cooked as thoroughly as I need it to be, it resembles a hockey puck and is about as digestible). I have no idea why they're called sliders. I suspect I may not want to know. But the buns - now we're talking.

The recipe is here, and they were easy and altogether too delicious. I can't make these too often because they are small enough that it is far too easy to trough one every time you pass them. But they were very good for lunchboxes and made a refreshing change from Hovis sandwiches. How I loathe making  Hovis sandwiches for children's lunches seemingly every day.     

And as luck would have it, we'll be near Chipping Sodbury in a few weeks time so I might just pop into the Hobbs House Bakery and try the originals for myself!

Friday, 13 April 2012

Beaded herringbones

I recently splashed out on a copy of  The Beaded Bracelet by Carole Rodgers. I think I've mentioned my old love of working with seed beads before; I love their colours, and their size, and the fact that you can build up a collection of colours relatively inexpensively. My favourites are Japanese Miyuki beads - the colours are gorgeous and the beads are fairly consistently sized so they're easier to work with than some others. I don't always love seed bead designs, and have made my fair share of exceptionally ugly creations but you can't have everything!

Anyway, I spent a happy few hours sitting at the table in my parents' kitchen last week while my girls played with their cousin, learning various new stitches and playing with beads from my stash. One of my favourites was this bracelet with a bead mix called "Vineyard" in tubular herringbone stitch.

If you look very closely you can see the beads sloping together and apart, hence the name I guess. I used some brushed silver spacer beads and made it marginally tighter on my wrist than I usually do - but it's a very soft and forgiving piece and I barely even notice I'm wearing it. Fast becoming a favourite here!