Sunday, 27 December 2009

I Got You A Present!

Did Santa get you what you wanted for Christmas? I hope no one got a lump of coal, but if you did, well, coal is fairly useful.

On my part, I managed to stuff a 12 course dinner into my gut on Christmas Eve, and then spent Christmas Day working it off in a strenuous session of computerised arse-kicking, courtesy of Marvel Ultimate Alliance. Because I'm tough.

Anyway, because this is my 100th post, I've decided to give one reader a late Christmas present, to say 'Thanks' for sticking with me! I''ll be giving away a very colourful granny square bunting, handmade by me! Hang it on your walls or over your windows to brighten a dreary day, or just wear it like a scarf, as I've done in the picture below.

The bunting measures 90 inches in length (that's over 2 metres!) and is made up of 16 granny squares, so you'll have lots to go around. I've also included two loops at the ends so you can hang them on nails.

I'll also be including other goodies in the package, such as vintage postcards, a couple of scrap paper notebooks, and some little handmade notecards with envelopes. If I find any goodies from my trip to Swallow Falls next week, they'l be going in to! So, a rather large package will be winging their way to one lucky blog reader.

To enter this giveaway, all you have to do is tell me your favourite thing about winter. Just leave a comment below, and you'll automatically be entered into the draw for the giveaway. I'll be picking a winner out of a hat on January 4th (eep, that's next year!) and posting the results here soon after that. I'll be happy to post internationally, so anyone can enter. If you haven't got a blog account or anything like that, just email me at: and I'll enter your name into the draw. And if you want to remain anonymous, please leave me some way of contacting you if you do win.

Remember though, you have to tell me what your favourite thing about winter is, or you won't be eligible for the giveaway. Good luck everyone, and Happy New Year!

Edit (02/01/10) - I'm extending the giveaway til 10th Januuary, as I'm fairly busy this weekend. Good luck everybody!

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Shovelling Snow

The Mancreature and I are going for a short holiday next week, so things'll be quiet round this here blog for a week or so. I'll leave you with some photographs...

Happy Festivus, everyone!

Friday, 18 December 2009

Snow, Socks and Squares

It snowed here late last night/ early this morning, and I woke up to find the view outside covered in a lovely thin veil of white! As you can see, it wasn't a lot, but some snow is still prettier than no snow! Even the cars looked cute, like little snow-covered turtles crawling about.

So I guess it's a good thing that I finally finished the other sock on Monday morning, seeing as it'll be getting rather nippy these days. It took me only two days to finish the first one, and yet, I spent a week trying to finish up the other side! Is this an attack of the dreaded second sock syndrome?

In other news, remember me mentioning the giveaway I'll do doing when I reach my 100th post? Well, here's a sneak preview - a whole bunch of little granny squares. But it's not gonna be a blanket...

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

A Year of P's and Q's

Quinces are rather neglected fruits, don't you think? Sure, pomegranates are pretty, and pretty fashionable these days, and apples and pears make for stalwart kitchen companions, while durians always get their moment in the spotlight whenever some middle-aged, middle-class TV host decides to film a 'daredevil eating adventure'. But what about the humble, oft-forgotten quince?

Looking (and tasting) somewhat like a lumpy, yellow cross between an apple and a pear, the quince can be eaten raw, although it's slightly  sour,  crunchy bite may not be to everyone's taste. However, should you spend some time cooking it gently, you'll be rewarded with a tasty dish laced with a delicate, rosy perfume.

The quinces had started appearing at the grumpy grocer's down the hill about a month ago, sparking off my current quince obsession. Honestly, I don't even know why I keep thinking about quinces, since all I've ever really had of them has been in the form of quince cheese - those deep red blocks of stewed, jelly-like quince paste that go so well with cheese. Because I haven't had much experience with quinces before, I restrained myself from buying up a box of them, until I could think of a suitable reason excuse to start stockpiling. The excuse came last week, when a friend suggested we have a Christmas meal together, and share the cooking. To which I replied 'Well, I'll just HAVE to make a quince pie!'.

Dissatisfied with most of the recipes I came across, I decided to come up with a simple one of my own over the weekend. As it was an experiment, I used store-bought shortcrust pastry, which I deeply regret -insomnia, unhelpful baking beads and stupid broken pastry all contributed to a dramatic bout of tears in the kitchen. The Mancreature may be off in his own little post-apocalyptic digital world most of the time, but he does have his uses, and saved the day by saving my pie.

I'll be refining the recipe and posting it soon, but here's a short run-down of what I did. I got 3 large quinces (which came to just over a kilo) and 4 little Braeburn apples (I'm not an apple expert at all, I only knew they were Braeburns coz the sticker told me so), and poached them for about two hours in a slowly simmering pot of water, with rosewater, cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar all thrown in for flavour.

Once I took the fruits out of the poaching liquid, I was left with a beautifully cloudy, soft pink liquid, which I thought was too pretty to throw away. It tasted of the quinces and apples that had been soaking in it for the last couple of hours, so I decided to make some jelly with it on the spur of the moment. All I had to do was add two packets of gelatin, stir it through, then pour the mixture into little containers. I put them on the balcony because there was no space in the fridge, and when I checked on them a few hours later, they had set! I have a balcony-sized fridge!

Also, it's exactly a year ago today that I started up this blog. I chose to forgo a proper introduction and simply rambled on about my unfinished Moebius cowl (which I still wear). It's been a year, and nearly 100 posts of me ranting and rambling on about eating and making! I hope I've been at least a little entertaining, if not very useful, and to those of you who've been checking in every so often to find out what's been happening in this little world, thank you so much! My 100th post in coming up very shortly, and I'm going to do a giveaway soon to celebrate this whole 'blogiversary' business, so check back in a little bit!

Monday, 14 December 2009


Friday night saw me leaving my lovely lair and venturing to Bethnal Green for a 21st birthday celebration. The  other guests were...shall we say...a little grey, so the Mancreature, our friends A and B and I moved over to the foosball table in the corner and indulged in four pulse-quickening games of little-men-on-sticks-pushing-a-ball-around.

The Mancreature and I lost heavily (I'm sad to say, my very last goal happened to be an own goal, how embarrassing!) but it's inspired me to look into making a foosball table. I'm thinking of getting little Barbies or Action Man figures and drilling holes through them so I can attach them to metal sticks. Not sure about how to actually go about making one of those fancy weighted tables though, so it will be a very rudimentary set-up.  I want to be a winner at foosball!

Black beret - 'Everything £5' shop, Red jacket - vintage Jaeger via opshop, Black t-shirt - Uniqlo, Polka dot dress - It's so old I can't remember!, Grey and black belt - car boot sale, Bag- Singapore

Our little foosball-team guys happened to be painted in black-and-red, very much like my get-up that evening. Although, a cursory glance in my wardrobe (aka pile of clothes on the floor) just confirmed that most of my wearables tend to fall within either Red team or Black team anyway. I guess I need more blue stuff in case I ever end up playing on the blue foosball side.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Christmas Tree

These were finished a couple of weeks ago, but I wanted to make sure the people they were intended for received them before I posted pictures.

The Christmas tree 'bracelet' is actually a wearable pincushion, for sewing on the go. Or just to wear if you want to feel like a Christmas superhero. I made two of these - one for my Mumsie and another for the Mancreature's Mama. They're very simple to make, and you should be able to whip one up in about half an hour, if you need some emergency stocking fillers or gifts. By the way, I'm sorry there aren't more 'process' photos, I didn't really think about making a tutorial until I'd finished them, then I was too hungry to make another one, with photos. Please don't give me lumps of coal for Christmas.

You'll need -
felt (in the colour of your choice)
embroidery thread (I used a matching green for the blanket stitch around the outside, and two strands of red and yellow for the stars)
stuffing (Polyfill, cotton wool, yarn or fabric scraps)
5 inches of elastic
scrap of fabric, about 8 x 4 inches (optional, you can choose to use pretty ribbon or lace and make the pincushion tie around the wrist instead) to enclose the elastic
paper stencil, in the shape of a tree (or any other shape you feel like making, I guess)

- Use the stencil to trace the shape onto the felt, then cut out two pieces, one each for the front and back. To make sure that both pieces are the same size, pin them together before cutting.

- Embroider some 'stars' on the front piece of felt. You can use a washable or disappearing ink pen (like this) to map out where you want the stars to be, but I just placed them randomly. I used cross-stitch for them, first in red thread, then going over those with the yellow thread.

*You can skip the next two steps if you're using ribbon or lace.
- Sew the long sides of your fabric (to cover the elastic) together, making a long tube, then turn it inside out so the stitching and seams are hidden. Put the elastic into the tube (I find it easiest to use a safety pin to guide the elastic through the tube). Pinch both of the elastic and sew them together, making a circular band.

- Ok, this is the part where I just jammed everything together, so...erm...
Sew the ends of the fabric tube together somehow, so you get a stretchy, fabric-covered 'bracelet'. Sew this bit to the back portion of the felt tree shape.

- If you're using ribbon or lace, sew it to the back of the felt tree shape as well, but you won't have to go through all that hassle with the elastic and all. You can leave the ends open so the recipient can tie it to fit their wrist. I should have thought of this when I was making my trees!

- Using the green thread, start blanket stitching around the top third portion of the tree, then stuff Polyfill (or whatever you're using) into the portion that's already stitched. Keep adding blanket stitches and stuffing alternately, until all the stuffing is inside. Knot the thread neatly and securely, then cut of the ends, and you're done! Wearable pincushion tree!

I also crocheted some heart shapes from thin metal wire to send to my family, so they could hang it on their tree. Although my sister tells me that they may not be having a tree this year, so I guess these ornaments won't be going up...

I don't actually have a tutorial for these, as the pattern isn't mine. I got the pattern for the hearts from here - I found her crochet hearts a lot prettier compared to most others (which are mainly made of of rows of single crochet - boring!).

All I did was string some beads onto thin copper wire, then crochet the hearts, and add a bit of yarn to the top for hanging. They didn't take too long to make either, although I found working with the wire very fiddly. You can always make it in nice yarn if you want to be kind to your fingers.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Upcycle Auction

Just wanted to let everyone know that all the items that are in Folksy's Upcycle Competition have now been listed on eBay, ready and waiting to be bid on! Get your fingers over to the Folksy blog for more information about the competition winners, or hop on over to the eBay shop that the Folksy team have set up.

And that reminds me - I haven't got around to showing you guys a picture of the last item I made for the competition. After knitting countless metres of icord, I then looped the resulting rope around several times, and attached it at one point with a small piece of fabric knitted in the same material. The yarn came from this baggy batwing jumper that I'd picked up from Sue Ryder Camden. Voila! A long, loopy scarf...made with 100% cotton.

Monday, 7 December 2009

S Is For...

a) Spiral bedsock - Started and finished my first sock (yes, just the one, for now) on the weekend. This spiral pattern is great for novice, nervous sock knitters like me, because there are no heel turns to fiddle around with. It's basically a cuff-down tube that's grafted together at the toes. The wonderous part is that the 3x3 spiral ribbing helps it fit your feet perfectly.

*Sorry for forcing my horridly misshapen feet in your face. I don't think I ever realized how freakishly long my second toe is. Sorry :(

The pattern comes from this trusty, obviously well-thumbed booklet (perhaps the best 50p I ever spent!). I did only one and three-quarter repeats, making them anklet-sized. While the instructions actually call for double-knit yarn, I decided to go with the much thinner sock yarn my sister recently sent to me. I also switched to 3.25mm needles instead of the recommended 4mm ones, and knit them in the largest size so they would fit.

b) Second - sock. Which I started this morning and hope to finish VERY VERY soon. So I can start on another pair of socks.

c) Sunny's blog - My awesomely talented friend Sunny has just started her blog, chockful of sexy ladies and crazy creative doings. Go check it out.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Hoa Viet (Or Hindsight Is Often 20/20)

On hindsight, the fact that 75% of the menu was dedicated to Chinese takeaway standards should have tipped me off, but I guess my hunger over-ruled my (gut) instincts...

Now, I'm not an expert on Vietnamese food, but I've eaten plenty of it over the years, and I've eaten enough food to form an opinion on what I think constitutes good food. And our dinner at Hoa Viet in Camberwell certainly wasn't.

Feeling flush with the takings from my stall on Saturday (thank you Christmas shoppers!), I insisted on taking the Mancreature to dinner on Sunday night. He decided it might be a good night to try the food at Hoa Viet, a sparsely laid out Vietnamese place we'd often passed by on the way to Morley's (fried chicken and ribs, more on that next time). They have tinted windows out front, which always gave me the impression that it was dimly-lit inside, so I was fairly pleasantly surprised to be confronted by bright fluorescent lighting when we entered. I like seeing what I'm eating, and it helps with photography.

Upon perusing the laminated menu, though, I was shocked to see a large portion of Chinese takeaway dishes (lemon chicken, various sweet and sour meat dishes) taking up a substantial portion of the menu, with the Vietnamese portion relegated to the last 2 pages. Hidden, if you will. The ubiquitous summer rolls (vermicelli, prawn and pork bits wrapped up in rice paper with a dipping sauce) weren't even on the menu. Right...okay, your sign says 'Authentic Vietnamese Cuisine' and yet you haven't even got summer rolls?

Things weren't looking too good when the waitress came over to take our orders, and seemed confused by what was on the menu. A few looks of puzzlement were exchanged between us before we managed to get our choices across. The Mancreature and I split three starters - banh xeo, the aforementioned summer rolls, and some dumplings. We also ended up ordering two bowls of pho - I asked the Mancreature if he wanted to  share a bowl and he claimed he'd be able to finish everything.

I didn't get a picture of the dumplings, so just believe me when I tell you that they looked like any other pan-fried dumplings. Basically just pork bits wrapped in a slightly stodgy, thick dough wrapper. The innards were fairly dry, without tasty porky juices oozing out when we bit into them. I also didn't detect the presence of any vegetal matter, which I like in a dumpling as it helps provide a bit of crunch.

The banh xeo (rice flour pancakey thing with stirfried prawn, chicken and veggies) was the second dish to arrive, and I hesitated for a bit before biting into it. The few times I've had banh xeo, the dish usually comes with a dipping bowl of sauce (usually fish sauce, sugar and water) on the side. I though the waitress had simply forgotten to carry it with her this time, and so waited for a bit, but she didn't seem very forthcoming with sauces, and we weren't sure if that was how they served it there, so we just left it at that. (Can someone tell me if it's usual to have a dipping sauce with banh xeo? I've always been served one whenever I've had it, but maybe it's a regional thing? I don't know!)
Although the bright orange shade of the pancake was fairly shocking (how did they get it so orange? Turmeric? Curry powder? There wasn't much discernible flavour) the stir-fried bean sprouts, prawns and chicken stuffed into were nicely seasoned and had a good, fresh factor to it.
It was a little greasy, but the fresh lettuce leaves and pickled salad on the side helped cut the grease immensely. The best (and messiest, at least in my case) method of eating it was to break apart a chunk of the pancake and stuff it into the lettuce leaf, with a forkful of the pickled salad on top of it all.

Next up were the summer rolls. They're one of my favourite dishes, and I've been known to eat a helping of eight fat ones for lunch. And it's safe to say that these two measly rolls we were served were the WORST ones I've had. Not that they tasted really bad or anything. They were just very...meh - the rice paper wrapper was slightly dried out, and the fillings were simply anaemic. Even the dipping sauce didn't taste like much - I think it was hoisin with a blob of hot chilli sauce, possibly Sriracha as there were bottles dotted around on the tables, although all we could taste was hoisin. Blah!
Lastly, our much-anticipated bowls of pho. The wind that night had been bitingly chilly, and I was looking forward to a steamy bowl of pho to warm me up. It looked promising enough - thick, greasy broth covering a generous helping of rice noodles, with finely sliced beef - still slightly pink - perching on the noodle mountain and swimming around in broth.
Our waitress also put a plate of garnishes down, which again led me to utter an inward sigh - the plate contained only bean sprouts, and two lemon wedges. Where were the other garnishes - the fragrant basil, sprigs of mint, freshly cut onions? It was unlikely that they had run out, after all, it was fairly early in the evening, and the restaurant hadn't been very busy or full when we arrived.

Another factor that added to my irritation about the whole evening was that just as I was about to tuck into the pho, a pink-haired alterna-wannabe strutted in with her old pseudo-hippy parents. She then loudly announced to the waitress in such a loud voice that everyone in the place (which by this time was fairly noisy) could hear her, that she couldn't eat gluten, and then went through the whole menu for at least 10 minutes talking about other things she couldn't eat. Her voice was so loud the whole time we were in there that I almost went to punch her in her stupid head. I didn't, because she told her parents (and the whole restaurant) her new address, down to the postcode, and it's near where I live, so I'm just going to go by and drop off a little flaming bag of turd. Isn't it fun having such intense hatred for a stranger?
Anyway, after that talk about flaming turds, let's get back to the food. As I often do, the first thing I did was try the noodles. I think it's because that always takes up so much space, so I want to find out if it's any good because I move on to the other ingredients. These rice noodles were, frankly, pathetic (almost as pathetic as you, alterna-tryhard that I'm pretty sure is studying at the art school nearby). Limp, grey, stodgy - they just didn't have the delightful sproingy texture of most rice noodles. They tasted like they'd just been sitting in warm water for ages. The broth was also rather flavourless, though it did warm me up. The Mancreature and I ended up just finishing up the beef, although he gave up on his dish before I did, even though he was the one who'd decided that he could devour a whole bowl of pho on his own.

So, although it did warm me up, the meal left me rather disappointed, as I don't like wasting stomach space on medicore food. I didn't leave them a tip, haha!

Hoa Viet
42 Camberwell Church St