27 February 2012

and back down to earth

Where the aliens have landed.

This year I am determined not to muddle up my spuds when they go in the ground.  They will be mapped out not on a piece of paper, but in a bona fide allotment notebook which will not get lost.  The varieties have already been scribbled down, an eclectic mix chosen foolishly in the same way a non-betting person might put money on a horse, by the name or colour.  So this year's choice includes  Highland Burgundy, Shetland Black,  Beauty of Bute and the intriguing, low yielding and beautiful violet fleshed Vitelotte.  Maybe not so down to earth after all, but a romantic risk taker at heart.

26 February 2012

infinity and beyond

Yayoi Kusama's Infinity Mirrored Room -Filled with the Brilliance of Life  

At Tate Modern.

My friend and I were floating among the stars. Quite the most amazing thing I've experienced all year. 

Get there early so you don't have to share it.

25 February 2012


Lightbulb moments on a trip to Brighton last year
I seem to have been to a lot of exhibitions over the last few weeks and am still mulling over some of the things I've seen. Thinking too about the line between inspiration and plagiarism. Take my quilt.  The traditional log cabin pattern is well known, but it wasn't until I saw a version in this book, from my local library as it happens, that I knew it would work for the "darker" version I had in mind. That's the wonderful thing about libraries.  Even if authors only get 6p a loan, they're still getting paid for their work and it all mounts up.  Not so with the internet, as Annie and Rattling On noted recently.  And if you get a chance to visit the Picasso in Modern British Art, that might set you thinking too.

Earlier this year, I read an article seeking the views of artists on creative inspiration and what struck me most was how different the responses were.  Around the same time I read and very much enjoyed Jane's set of posts in response to advice on trying to be creative.  Now she's gone a step further.  Visit her blog and take a look at the delightful animation "ten tips for creativity".  Truly inspiring.

Now I need to think again about what might my top tips be?  And what about yours?

PS Annie has a giveaway and she wants you to know.

24 February 2012

short shrift

It seems suitably lenten to eat kale and leeks and potatoes, but I suspect that, strictly speaking, the eggs should have stayed on the other side of Ash Wednesday.  Fact is though that I love colcannon.  This was made from one giant potato, mashed; a head of kale, steamed; a large leek, sauteed in plenty of olive oil, then mixed in the pan with the other ingredients until they start to singe a bit.  Make 4 little depressions with a spoon on the surface, gently break in eggs, and finish in a moderate oven.  Eight minute seems to be the right time for the eggs to set to an oozing goldenness.  Sometimes I get it wrong, and they set too hard, but today it was just perfect.

With thanks to Joanna for inspiring me with her post about her vegetable box.  And I saw when I visited today that she is aiming to take a picture a day for the next 40 days.  Me too.

23 February 2012

a smaller picture

Not quite David Hockney's Woldgate Woods in Spring, but the best I could manage on my ride back through Mile End Park after a bit of yoga.  The sight of the crocuses had pretty much the same effect as when I saw Mr Hockney's Bigger Picture at the Royal Academy.  It made me smile like a fool.  It was as if he had worked in a frenzy of activity to capture the change of season just in case it never happened again.  The merest hint of spring can make you feel like that.

I came home and after a snooze - yoga flow can have that effect on me - sat on the back doorstep, doors open wide for the first time this year, and soaked up a bit of sun, cup of cocoa at hand just in case it turned nippy.

22 February 2012


Our Fluffy cat laid claim to a work in progress that should have been wrapped up for Christmas day but wasn't.  I didn't realise quite how long it would take to hand quilt and sew a border round a large quilt.  So the cat got to lie on the UFO a little bit longer and my boy had to wait.

Until yesterday.

This may not be to everyone's idea of a comfort blanket, but actually it's rather jolly and vibrant close up. And the contrast between the crazy skulls and roses is quite comedic. Even though it looks much smaller in his hands than it did in mine, the boy likes it very much

Thank goodness.

This is a very simple quilt.  Even so, I learnt a lot from putting it together,  For a start, it's not the machine work that takes the time, but deciding on the fabric layout and cutting accurately.  I learnt especially that quilting is not a cheap pursuit when you use new materials - as the cost of cotton has soared, so has the price of fabrics and wadding.  I tried out some cheaper fabrics, but they didn't cut the mustard, so were wasteful in the long run, unless we go back to Hastings for Pirate Day.  It reminded me of a lesson I've learnt making other things - that if you are going to invest precious time in making something, then you want it to be the best you can afford, especially if you want it to last a good while.

I looked at lots of quilts and fabrics before I finally decided on this simple giant log cabin style and I discovered another couple of things.  Firstly, there are many quilts that I don't like; and secondly, so what?  Because anyone who bothers to reconfigure bits of fabric, and experiment with colour and shapes, and hand quilt yard upon yard of lines up and and down and around, must surely be doing it for pleasure, their own or someone else's.  So here's to the memory of getting back ache cutting out and stitiching; fretting over whether it was going to look good; handing it over with a bit of love; and hoping that one day he'll enjoy looking back at the memento of his skateboarding days.

14 February 2012

cold hearted

I like my Valentine's card.  It is very tiny, and very cheap...

Cheapskate Cards strike again
It will join the rest of my collection of Cheapskate Cards.  (Excuse the focus, everything was a bit of a blur  by this time of night.)

We also celebrated his birthday today with the last decent food from the freezer and the cupboards - a turkey, cranberry relish and home-made chocolate mousse.    He is very happy with his birthday present - what's not to love about an apron made from a sack and a badge with a chainsaw gift tag?  I am very happy not to have over-priced flowers, though I could do without the heartburn.

Dumb swans perhaps.  With thanks to Sir Philip Sidney.

From Astrophel and Stella.

Because I breathe not love to every one,
Nor do not use set colors for to wear,
Nor nourish special locks of vowed hair,
Nor give each speech the full point of a groan,
The courtly nymphs, acquainted with the moan
Of them, who in their lips Love's standard bear;
"What he?" say they of me. "Now I dare swear,
He cannot love. No, no, let him alone."
And think so still, so Stella know my mind,
Profess indeed I do not Cupid's art;
But you, fair maids, at length this true shall find:
That his right badge is worn but in the heart;
Dumb swans, not chatt'ring pies, do lovers prove;
They love indeed, who quake to say they love. 

03 February 2012

taking stock:: two

I noticed that I had three unpublished posts from a while back and decided to have a clear out.  This one,  from January 2010, with a picture of a frozen canal with chilly coots, was labelled "cold war"'

"I have decided to embrace austerity this year, use my car as little as possible and buy as much as I can from shops I can walk or cycle to. It doesn't mean I won't go to the supermarket at all, just that I will be constrained by my carrying capacity. Both the pannier and the shopping trolley* are coming into their own. Thus it was that when I left the house to go shopping the other day my son remarked on my somewhat eccentric appearance - russian style hat, bulky greatcoat - 'you're dressed like something from the cold war."

It stopped there, somewhat mysteriously.  Now here we are again in a cold snap, with snow forecast tomorrow, the bank of cold air over the continent holding back warmer air to the west.  At home, a different cold war is taking place.  We have been eating our way through the freezer**, and our stocks of cans, jars, bottles and potatoes in the cellar.  We've eaten rather well, much better than the Ingalls, did, though whether the gods of austerity really required libations from my mum's Christmas gifts of a bottle of Bailey's Irish Cream and Harvey's Bristol Cream Sherry is debatable, if not shameful.   We are down to last knockings now: a menu of cauliflower soup, turkey and rhubarb pie should at least take us to the point of defrosting.  We may have to share the bag of prawns and coley with the cats to get there.  Alleluia!

And I almost forgot.  When I was clearing out  my posts I realised that today is my fourth anniversary of writing this blog and my next post will be my 500th.  I think we may have to celebrate, don't you?

* I think you should know that I upgraded to a fake leopardskin one after my brother said he saw Helen Mirren with one in the butcher's in Wapping, and if it's good enough for her...
** I was very taken a while back with Esther's post on doing without either a fridge or a freezer.  I think she may be on to something.