Friday, 30 April 2010

Greens and Yellows

More dyeing experiments with (from top) fennel leaves, dandelion stems, and daffodil flowers. I also had a second jar of dandelion flowers on the go at the same time, but they're not pictured because I've taken pictures of those before.

The fabric and threads are currently mordanting (is that even a real word?) in alum, salt, or a mixture of both, so I'll post photos of the final results when they're dry. Just a word of warning to anyone attempting something similar - fermenting flowers smell worse than the Devil's own gunk after 5 days in a jar, so PLEASE hold your breath when opening the jars up. 

Also, for anyone interested in home dyeing with natural ingredients/materials, I highly recommend a visit to the beautiful Tinctory blog for some inspiration. 

Thursday, 29 April 2010


Here are the results from the solar dying experiments I did last week. I left these in a jar for about 5 days, then rinsed them out and dried them.
Mercerised cotton thread soaked in (from left): strawberry, raspberry and loganberry tea infusion, forsythia flowers, and dandelion flowers.

I was pleasantly surprised at how vivid the yellow turned out to be from the forsythia pot, the colour looked fairly weak when it was soaking. 

From left: polycotton in strawberry, raspberry and loganberry infusion, linen in same, polycotton in dandelion flowers brew, and linen in forsythia brew.

The first two pieces of fabric on the left don't seem to have absorbed any of the dye at all, and the other piece of polycotton has been dyed a very faint yellow hue, although it just looks dirty here. And again, the linen soaked in forsythia came out in a fairly strong shade of yellow. I wish they were still flowering so I could gather them up and try and obtain a stronger shade of yellow, but sadly, all the bushes around here seem to have shed most of their flowers.

But I have got four other pots on the windowsill right now, and I will post results when I rinse and dry out the swatches. 

Saturday, 24 April 2010


A sample of sunshine last week - solar dyeing with flowers, and a delicious pastry.

Forsythia flowers and leaves.

Dandelions, about to be plunged into boiling water (top), and 'cooking' (below). The jar on the left contains the forsythia brew. 

Pastel de nata for breakfast. 

Thursday, 22 April 2010


Some second-hand goodies I picked up recently.

Awesome Halina 35x in fairly decent condition except for a little ding on the metal bit near the lens. I've run a roll of film through it to test it out, and should get it back tomorrow. It was attached to a leather case which was falling apart and missing the front flap, so I'm working on making a little padded bag to ferry it around safely.

Some awesome tea and biscuit tins. The bus-themed tin is a recent Marks and Spencers biscuit tin, and the bottom two are much older, the one on the right is a Twinings tea tin. They both contained a heap of old buttons, beads, and a crochet hook, so it was a double score!
Blue polyester cardi from the £1 rail that was in perfect condition and looked virtually unworn, and a white faux-fur scarf that actually fastens with a magnetic clasp. 

A mega-ton of old photographs, including a photo album that isn't pictured here, and some mini Swiss postcards.. I'm gonna try and scan them all in so you guys can enjoy them too. Most of them were still in their original paper envelopes, from Boots! Their photo packing was so much nicer back then. That little photo of the father and son (I assume?) at the top right corner makes me a little sad. Also, don't you think the son looks a little like Michael Cera?

Speaking of old-school packaging, I also ended up scoring a beauteous Avon pressed glass jar. The top looks like metal but is actually a type of plastic coated in silver paint. It's only little, but surprisingly heavy for its size. I'd probably be more tempted to purchase Avon potions and lotions if they still came in such pretty jars. 

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Pear, Walnut and Ginger Cake

The good thing about moving and unpacking is that you get to discover things you never knew you had. Unpacking one of the numerous boxes we brought along turned up a treasure chest of unread recipes books.

Once I'd decided that I'd unpacked enough boxes for the day (a grand total of about two!), I duly took a break and had a flip through some of the books. One of the recipes that caught my eye was the one for a 'Pear and Ginger Cake', in an Italian cookbook. I had some pears, I had powdered ginger, I like cake, and I have a new oven that needs testing! Isn't it great when things work out great and you get to have cake at the end of it all?

Pear, Walnut, and Ginger Cake (adapted from What's Cooking: Italian by Penny Stephens)

200gm butter, softened
170gm caster sugar
200gm self-raising flour
3tsp ground ginger
3 eggs, beaten
2 pears, cored and thinly sliced
1 tbsp brown sugar
50gm walnuts, roughly chopped (optional)

- Lightly grease and line a cake pan (the book says to use an 8-inch pan but I used a 7-inch one as it was the only one I had). 

- Using a whisk, combine 150gm of butter with the caster sugar, flour, ginger and eggs, then mix to a smooth consistency. Stir in walnuts, if using.

- Spoon the mixture into the pan and level the surface.

- Arrange pear slices over the mixture, sprinkle with brown sugar and dot with the rest of the butter.

- Bake in a preheated oven at 175 degrees C for about 40-50 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

- Serve with ice cream or cream.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Two Cakes and A Fire - So Much Excitement!

All I wanted was to get a kilo of prawns this past Saturday. Alas, this plan was scuppered when I came out of the op-shop just after mid-day and was greeted by this...
That's right, smoke billowing out of a car! It was all so sudden - things were moving along normally, we went into the op-shop, came out 5 minutes later, only to be greeted by a crowd of people who were staring at something to the right of the shop. I smelt burning plastic, turned around, and was greeted by this sight about 100 metres away! 
It all happened fairly quickly, and no one was hurt, but it was probably one of the most exciting things to happen along that stretch of road in quite a while. The cops managed to cordon it off just after the fire started, and all the excitement pretty much died down within about 10 minutes, though there were still some gawkers lingering around, which is fairly understandable if you see the burnt-out carcass of a car in front of you.
And if you're wondering what this all has to do with me not being able to get some prawns...well, you see that yellow sign in the picture above that says 'Wing Tai...Daily Fresh Seafoods'? Yes, that was where I was planning on getting my prawnies from, and they were right in the path of the stinky smoke (if you look closely, they're in that blue box beside the guy in the apron holding a broom). I certainly didn't feel like eating smoked prawns after all that!
Still, the day wasn't a complete washout. I invited two friends over and we had a huge hotpot meal that stretched on for a couple of hours. There was a mountain of food (but alas! No prawns!) - lean, thinly sliced beef, oyster mushrooms, chewy egg noodles, two types of stock (spicy, and miso), and various kinds of fish-related products. 

The feast was topped off with not one, but two birthday cakes for yours truly. It's become a birthday tradition, and one I like very much.
This cake was a joint effort between The Mancreature and I. He'd actually baked one the night before, but the oven was stupid, and we ended up throwing it into the bin. So he work up extra early on Saturday morning to bake a whole new cake for me! It's just a basic cake recipe that we sliced in half. We then sandwiched some mixed berries compote in the middle, and topped it all off with a nice glossy layer of dark chocolate ganache (I made that!). Then some fresh strawberries to make it look pretty. 
The second cake was made by me dear friend H, with his grandmother's recipe. Doesn't it look delicious? You'd never guess he baked his very first cake only two months ago! I felt a bit like a proud mother when I cut into his cake, because only two months ago, he was calling and asking for help with his first cake, and now he'd baked me a birthday cake! 

So, all in all, a fairly exciting day! Now I'll have ridiculously high hopes for my next birthday, and a car will probably have to explode (showering bystanders with burning hot shrapnel) before I'll be satisfied. 

Friday, 9 April 2010


Saltimbocca with mushroom sauce, and a side of cous cous. This was the first pretty meal I cooked in our new kitchen.

Prosciutto and Jarlsberg cheese sandwiches.
Possibly the worst cupcake ever! A complete waste of calories. It tasted very strongly of box-mix, and the frosting was curdled. It looks like scrambled eggs in this photo. I took a snap of it because it was so unusually horrible. Cupcake = Major Fail!

Easter Sunday brekkie: instant Polish fermented soup - Barszcz Biawy - sounds gross, but it's actually delicious. With hardboiled  eggs and tinned hotdogs because we didn't have any Polish sausages. It's supposed to be a Polish Easter tradition to eat this on Easter morning.

Fried patties of minced pork, buckwheat, capsicums, and onions, served with a mushroom and red wine sauce. The Mancreature made this.

Pear, walnut and ginger cake. Recipe coming very soon.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Park Life

It's only a few more months to summer, so I thought it was finally time I got around to showing you these photos I took last summer.
Ruskin Park

Horniman Museum

These were all taken on my Hanimex 35DL, the 'DL' standing for 'dual-lens'. The lenses themselves are plastic, and are fixed on this wheely-thing (yeah, real technical words, eh?) that you can turn around, depending on whether you want to use the wide-angle or the close-up lens. I can never tell which one I'm using, so it's always a bit of a surprise once I get the pictures back. There's a battery-operated flash built in to the body, which I never use. I find that the best shots tend to be ones taken in bright sunlight, as the lenses aren't really equipped to deal with low levels of light.