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Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Gloves of love & lucky pigs

For this year's Christmas present swap, my dear friends L & A decided that we should (for creative and budgetary reasons) make the theme 'hand-made'. How fortunate that we are all creative and resourceful individuals ;)

As A is spending much time working to set up her exciting entrepreneurial venture Anna Mae, L and I thought it would only be appropriate to create presents which would tie in with this nicely.

To keep A's hands toasty while she serves up the tastiest, tenderest pulled pork with home-made BBQ sauce at her market stall, I felt that a pair of Andrea's Mitts were in order. Who says you can't look good and stay warm?

Here they are blocking out:

Seems to be a good fit..

Luckily A liked them very much, as we exchanged pressies in a Soho ice-cream shop - it was about -3 outside at the time, so that probably says a lot about our obsession with ice-cream..
L had out-done herself creating a little mascot for Anna Mae's in the form of a very cute fluffy piglet, complete with name tag which I felt was a touch of genius.

A, I hope you don't mind if I nick your photo?

In return we received the most enticing jar of flavour combinations I have seen for a long time:

Having just about made it home before ripping the lid off and sticking a finger in to try, I can say that it tastes amazing! A little blob of this awesomeness is all that's needed to transform my morning porridge from bland to yum. Who knew that salted caramel and rosemary worked together so well?!

In other Christmas gift-giving news.. My Secret Santa target at work happens to love pigs, especially small cute ones. How could I therefore not knit up a trio of Chichesters for her?

Happily she loved them, and I do hope that they will bring her a trough full of good luck for 2011!

Monday, 6 December 2010

Sinful Sponge

Some say it's a sin to put it in.. the microwave that is. To be honest I always believed that the combination of baking and microwave could only really lead to disappointment. Even the initial excitement of purchasing a pack of 'microwave mug muffin mix' waned as the rather pallid and wobbly mushroom-like muffins emerged from the microwave.

So it was with some trepidation that tried this recipe for yes, MICROWAVE syrup sponge! Syrup sponge is one of those recipes that I've never really bothered to make before as it seemed to involve complicated things like steaming, so the whole microwave thing actually sounded justified.

Apart from all the syrup migrating over to one side of the sponge during cooking, it actually turned out pretty well and even looked edible:

Might also be worth noting that I didn't bother with risking cling-film (or Saran wrap as they call it in the recipe) in the microwave, favouring just to plonk a small plate on top of the bowl during cooking.

Highly recommended, especially with lashings of custard.

Ice Queen & the Forgotten Cowl

Ah 'tis the season for Secret Santa! I was lucky enough to receive this beautiful lace cowl from T last week at our knitting Christmas dinner.

A beautiful specimen of Ice Queen:

It is already a staple in my wardrobe as the cold snap persists.

In fact I usually wear it underneath this chunky seeded cowl, which I admit I was intending to give away for Christmas. Alas it proved much too snuggly and warm so I decided to be selfish. In fact I started wearing it as soon as it was finished and hence completely forgot to (b)log it..

I have no idea what that piece of rubbish under the chair is either.

Looks almost like chain-mail.

Although it sometimes feels as though I'm wearing a neck-brace with these two around my neck, the warmth is just amazing.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Christmas spirit (finally)

I have to admit that sometimes the spirit of the festive season can pass my by, so I was as shocked as anyone to find myself laying out carefully wrapped presents and sellotaping fairy lights to my bookshelf the other day. How did that happen?

Well, I believe that it may have started last weekend with my parents. Having nabbed a free copy of the new IKEA cookbook I was quite curious to give a couple of the recipes a whirl. Spending a couple of days in Churt gave me the perfect opportunity to do just that.

First up: Jitterbugs. My granny used to make these funny, meriguey, biscuity creations. Chewey, crunchy and *very* tasty. Possibly also the weirdest method of making biscuits I've ever experienced, involving rolling up the dough like a swiss roll with the meringue inside and chopping it into slices. Slightly messy:

Post baking (not that much of a difference appearance-wise, but believe me the texture was *very* different!):

Next up: Cinnamon Buns! These weren't actually from the IKEA book in the end, but from the Swedish domestic cookery bible which is the Rutiga Kokboken. That volume tells you how to cook ANYTHING.

Much more appetising after a short spell in the oven:

Having gotten the creative juices flowing by this stage, I suggested some wreath creating.. After raiding the garden we had neat piles of Holly, Ivy and various ever-greens:

Probably worth noting that I have *no* previous wreath-creation experience, so Lord knows why I suddenly decided to have a go.. Anyway, after some battling with various greenery and lots of metal wire, this was produced:

Not too bad for a first go. My mum made this pretty one:

On returning to the big smoke, the next problem was attaching it to the door.
This seemed like a good solution...

...until I considered the health and safety aspects :/

In the end, this prevailed:

Hope the postman doesn't hurt himself on the holly..

Friday, 26 November 2010

Damn you boyfriend hat!

I am sure you are all familiar with the 'Curse of the Boyfriend Jumper'? Girl meets Boy, they fall in love. Girl happens to knit and wants to show her affection by knitting a jumper for Boy. Girl works tirelessly to create her masterpiece, foregoing social life and friends in order to reach her goal. Giddy with delight, she hands over her finished object to Boy. Boy says 'It itches. And it's lumpy. Oh and did you see the slight mistake in the seam here?' The relationship is now doomed.

It was therefore with some trepidation that I commenced work on a beanie for M. He is not really a huge fan of knitted clothing so really I'm not sure why I insist on trying to convert him to the joys of being fibre-clad. Anyway, it was all going to be fiiine.

After having sped through the pattern, and used nothing less than 100% cashmere, the hat was ready to be tried:

Huge problem: ladies and gentlemen, we have *earlobe*. It seems that in my rush to complete the project I had scrimped slightly on the length. I had already extended the ribbing, but obviously this was not enough.

Intent on not being beaten, I furiously frogged the decreases and added another couple of centimetres. Ta dah!

Finally all is well again in the household. Sadly this little hat didn't quite withstand the -22 degrees in Germany last weekend, but it will suffice for London's current cold snap.

Felting fun at Harvey Nicks

While accompanying M on his (unsuccessful) mission to find a tweed suit at Harvey Nichols last week, I happened upon some mannequins wearing interesting felted headgear. Please excuse the slight motion blur, I was a little concerned about being rugby tackled by staff.

Who says that felting isn't an art form?

Slightly reminds me of the animal masks from the Abattoir Pages Halloween event last year.

The headpieces are the creation of the slightly eccentric Barbara Keal of 'Kealworks'. The smaller ones with ears are £80, while the larger horned pieces are £150. Though apparently she is also selling 'Animal Hat promises' for Christmas, where recipients may choose their own design.

At last something to do with all that roving which is skulking around in my yarn stash. That'll be me getting an antler stuck in a Tube door then...

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Ishbel the Second

After spying my first Ishbel a few months back, my mum declared that she would like one just like that for her Birthday too. So what could I do if not oblige?

Last weekend it was finally handed over:

Next shawl is already on the go - an Icelandic creation apparently. Deciphering the Danish pattern is taking some time, but I would rather go slow and get it *right*!

Wednesday, 17 November 2010


Having perused one of my favourite feminist-inspired websites Bitch-Buzz yesterday, I happened upon a lovely recipe for courgette and gruyere tart. I decided then and there that it would be mine!

A quick shopping trip later and I was ready to go. Really, why don't I make tarts more often? It's so easy! Especially if you use pre-made puff pasty (or is that cheating?).

Pre cooking:

Post baking:


Monday, 8 November 2010

Cacophony of Cake

There has been a slight theme when it comes to the past couple of weeks: CAKE!

The first encounter was Miss Cakehead's 'Eat Your Heart Out & the PRETOX Potion' pop-up cake shop featuring rude and disgusting-looking cakes - the first over 18s only cake shop apparently. Of course there was a queue when we arrived..

First up, road-kill cake:

Mysterious-masked-lady-meets-a-bloody-end cake:

Who hasn't felt like this during a particularly boring lesson?

Various gross cakes, which were selling like er, hotcakes..


Next up: pumpkin cookies of my own making. These actually came about because of American/UK portion size discrepancies.. Having successfully scored some tinned pumpkin, I carefully followed on the on-tin pumpkin pie recipe, pre-made pastry case in hand. However, after having filled said pastry case I found that I had about 3/4 of the mixture still remaining..

Well, I wasn't going to waste some perfectly good pumpkin pie mixture. I therefore piled in some flour, butter and baking power until it began to resemble something akin to cake mix. After spooning and baking, the result was a cross between a cookie and cake:

Taking inspiration from Cookie Girl, I created some of her marshmallow-esque filling and got spreading. The result? Pumpkin and marshmallow sandwiches:

Not bad, although next time I might make them a little smaller. Also, the marshmallow mixture had a tendency to creep out of the sandwiches and ooze onto the grease-proof paper.


Lastly some bat-snacks made with my niece last weekend - ok they were from a mix, but I think we lent them some originality with our icing skills:

Cake, such a flexible medium.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Bustle hassle

For those unfamiliar with White Mischief events, let me just say: the costume's the thing. You can spend hours getting ready for these events, feel like a Christmas tree all the way there and then finally arrive, take a look around and suddenly feel under dressed.. Then again, I'm one of those people who gladly spends more time than is strictly necessary planning my outfit, checking that I have the right false eyelashes and make-up, perhaps crafting a couple of items for the event.. I even have a little costume rehearsal a day or two in advance to check that everything is in place. I can't explain it, I'm just a costume geek.

Therefore, when I spied a bustle tutorial on Cut Out and Keep I knew I would have a reason to wear one before long. After initially struggling with the metres of silky material, I decided to do myself a favour and not be too much of a perfectionist. Things went a lot better after that, although I did manage to snap two sewing machine needles. It was worth it in the end though.

Apologies for the slightly dubious photo quality. Shiny textiles and flash obviously do not go together too well..

The front:

The back:

The whole thing:

I don't have many pictures of it being worn, but hope this one will do:

The cabaret acts were a bit of a mixed bag this time around (the Irish rapper was one of my faves), but the people-watching was pretty amazing. Always good to be around like-minded costume freaks.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010


As soon as I saw this tiny pig pattern, I knew I wouldn't be able to resist for long.
Isn't he the cutest?

He really is remarkably small:

So quick to do. Perhaps some people might be getting pig-shaped Christmas presents this year.. After all, they are a traditional Swedish Christmas decoration!

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Big in Japan

Japanese pop culture event Hyper Japan took place between 1st-3rd October. It was a heady mix of fashion, food, gadgets, all things anime and more fashion. How come I didn't know about it until about 3 days before the event?! Clearly I'm losing my touch..

Or perhaps not, as it turned out I was able to nab a press pass through work and escape for some 'serious research' on the Friday afternoon - yay!

I kicked off my taste of Tokyo street culture with an interview with Misako Aoki. Don't know who she is? She undoubtedly has one of the coolest job titles in the world: Japanese Ambassador of Cute. I am not joking. In addition to miscellaneous duties connected to this, she splits her time between working as a model of Lolita fashion (more of that shortly) and a nurse. Oh yes, only in Japan folks.

So what does the Ambassador of Cute look like? Well, positively doll-like:

Don't you just want to go 'aaw'?

After being grilled with questions such as 'don't you ever get tired of being cute?', the interviewer moved on to Tania Tanzil, who apparently is the queen on Lolita fashion in the UK:

Rather impressive hair!

The final guest with Naoki Matsumura, Supervising Editor of Kera Magazine - Japan's top Lolita fashion mag. Here he is looking rather at home between the two lovely ladies:

As you've probably guessed, there were plenty of Misako admirers in the audience and they had even gone so far as to create a little scrap book for her with materials amassed from UK Lolitas. So Lolitas do 'scrappin'? Who knew?

And then all the Lolitas in the audience were asked to come up on stage for a photo opportunity. Tidal wave of cute:

Worth noting that most of the audience had made an effort. This was the view from my seat:

Once the show was over I picked my way through the exhibition, checking out cutesy clothes with kittens and strawberries on. Worth noting that one of the very pretty shirts I picked up cost £125. Yipes! Looking cute obviously does not come cheap.

I'm not sure who this antlered dog was, but I blame him for what happened next..

Just as I had finished photographing the above mentioned deer-dog, I nice lady came up to me asking whether I would mind being interviewed. I hesitated for a millisecond, but then thought 'well, how bad can it be?' Hmmmmmm.

I was brought over to a big screen and introduced to two presenters who indeed seemed to embody the 'hyper Japan' vibe. They began by asking me a bit about myself and I told them I was looking for innovative bits and pieces for our Global Innovation Reports which they seemed to find quite exciting.

Soon I noticed that in addition to being able to see myself on the screen in front of me, there was also text flowing over the picture (mainly in Japanese). I didn't realise until later that I was in fact being broadcast live on the Japanese video sharing/streaming website Nico Nico Douga - 13th most popular website in Japan, if Wikipedia is to be believed. This is Lotta, live from London.. This also made what came next infinitely worse.

I was interrupted during my Global Innovation monologue by one of the presenters who said: 'Are you married? Are viewers would like to know!' I then noticed the over-layed text flowing across the screen, containing the words 'pretty' and 'beauty' along with lots of '8s' which I took to mean that lots of Japanese people were indeed sending me little happy messages from the other side of the globe.

I stammered something about living with my boyfriend, and the screen suddenly filled with little 'yay' and 'boo' messages. Incredible! The presenters then asked if I knew any Japanese music and whether I would sing for them. Erm, hello? A) I don't know any Japanese music, or even any Japanese for that matter B) I cannot sing to save my life. Of course I had to drop myself in it though, by gleefully saying: 'Oh, I don't know any Japanese music, but being from Sweden perhaps Abba would be more fitting?' Me and my big mouth.

The presenters proceeded to do lots of hopping about in excitement and said in unison: 'Yes! You sing 'Dancing Queen!' One, two, three go!' Oh crap. So I had no choice but to perform approximately one verse of 'Dancing Queen'. Live. Oh dear.

They then asked me about my favourite Lolita fashion style, to which I replied that I actually preferred Steampunk. They seemed confused by this so I, obviously beyond mortification at this stage, got my digital camera out and showed them a pic from the last White Mischief party. Obviously one presenter grabbed my camera and proceeded to shove it into the lens of the recording device. The screen filled with 'ooooooo' and 'eeeeeeeee'. I sensed it was time to go.

Walking around the rest of the exhibition, I felt oddly liberated. There were a lot of stalls selling very pink cutesy items:

And pink cutesy foodstuffs (I have no idea what that woman is wearing):

The only other point to mention was that I has to stop by the Kera Magazine stand and purchase a copy or two of the infamous publication. I even had them signed by Miss Misako herself, so there!

Otherwise that was quite enough excitement for one day. However I was back on Sunday for just a little bit more.

Misako and Naoki were back in action, rocking new outfits:

Tania this time sporting a more Gothic look:

Both looking pretty as ever though:

It should be noted that at this point, my camera decided to call it a day and pack up. My iPhone did a grand job of filling the gap, but the remaining pics are slightly more dodgy in their quality - apologies.

There was then a brief fashion show from the main Lolita fashion houses as it were. First up 'Innocent World', showing something of a classic, yet understated Lolita look:

Then 'Sexpot Revenge' showed the punkier side of Lolita fashion:

Lastly, 'Angelic Pretty' showed the popular 'sweet Lolita' look:

Next we were introduced to Mami Honda, Lolita hair and make-up artist extraordinaire:

Mami proceeded to add about 4 hair pieces by 'Loves Change' to Tania's willing head:

Producing something spectacularly bouffant:

Having been lured by the promise of humongous hair volume I decided to check out the 'Loves Change' wig stall and had Mami herself clip some blonde hair pieces into my mane. After a bit of styling, she looked at me and pronounced me 'kawaii'.

It's clear that for most who dress in Lolita fashion, it is only a bit of harmless dress-up fun, although it does worry me when I read articles like this that allude to the darker side of it all.
Personally I am intrigued, and although I may not be sporting dresses with sweeties on any time soon, it was so much fun to experience just a little of Japanese culture ahead of my trip next year.