Finding work for idle hands: making, baking and more.

It’s in the post February 27, 2010

Filed under: Collecting — lauravw @ 2:48 pm

Not all post boxes are created equal: we noticed a few years ago that the post box nearest our house has the letters GR on it – while most of the ones in more modern housing developments say ER. And then this week when we were out and about near Nottingham Castle we spotted one that said VR.

These letters relate to the monarch who was reigning at the time the post box was installed – Elizabeth’s had a good long sit on the throne now (since 1952), and so that’s why her post boxes are prevalent. Our GR post box likely means that King George V was running the show when it went in – he became king in 1910 and remained so until 1936, and the houses on our street were built around 1930.

The Victorian post box in this picture must date somewhere between 1837–1901 – a rather large range of dates! I will try to take pictures if I spot any with other monarchs listed on them. Let me know if you see any unusual post boxes in your neck of the woods!


‘An act of cultural vandalism’ February 26, 2010

Filed under: Radio and TV — lauravw @ 5:16 pm

Sometimes it’s the simple things in life that give you the most pleasure. For me, that often means listening to something good on the radio. I have a couple of digital radios (I like the Pure ones, if you’re considering buying one) and I listen to BBC 6 Music all the time. I love it that the music they play is so diverse that you never hear the same thing twice within the space of a day, and that many of the presenters know a LOT about music.

I’m so sad to hear there’s a possibility that 6 Music may be closed down – and I am desperately hoping that it won’t happen.

Former 6 Music presenter Phil Jupitus has a lot to say on the subject: “As I listen to 6 Music today, I keep hearing tracks and thinking, where else would I hear this kind of radio during the day? The tragic answer to that question is nowhere. The end of 6 Music at this moment in the BBC’s history is not only an act of cultural vandalism, it’s also an affront to the memory of John Peel and a slap in the face to thousands of licence-payers.”

There are Facebook groups being set up, Twitter ribbons you can use, and all sorts of other ways to get involved if you want to. I think I’m going to send an old-fashioned letter.


Baking with vanilla paste February 22, 2010

Filed under: Food — lauravw @ 1:33 pm

When I was a child, I didn’t like vanilla-flavoured foods. I now realise that’s because I never really ate any of them – we used to have that vivid yellow ‘vanilla’ ice cream, and other food items that have never even been near a vanilla pod, but which are labelled as vanilla.

As I’ve mentioned previously, when I bake nowadays I use a proper vanilla extract, and it makes a world of difference. There are other sources of vanilla that I’ve had my eye on for a while, and I recently treated myself to a little jar of vanilla bean paste. This weekend I used it to make buttercream icing for a batch of Hummingbird Bakery vanilla cupcakes, and they were so delicious that all of them had been eaten before I even got the pictures off the camera. If you look at the larger version of this picture, you’ll even be able to see the little black flecks of vanilla – I must make another batch of these soon, because I’m hungry just thinking about them.


Yet more snow February 21, 2010

Filed under: Nature and wildlife — lauravw @ 3:20 pm

Some time before dawn today, I woke up and looked out of our bedroom window. Our security light had come on, which usually means one of the neighbours’ cats is walking across our patio. Sometimes it means there is a fox out there, so it’s always worth a look. This morning I didn’t see whatever it was that had triggered the light, but what I could see was that it was snowing. Again. At that point, everything just looked like it had been dusted with icing sugar, but more snow was falling.

A few hours later the snow was thick, and covered every surface – all the trees and plants, rooftops – even people’s washing lines. And it was still snowing.

We got up, put on our wellies, and headed to the park to see what that looked like covered in snow (even though it’s a sight we’ve seen many times this winter). Because this time the snow had arrived on a weekend, the park was full of people building snowmen. It’s been a very sunny day, so it’s all melting quickly – I don’t think those snowmen will be around for long.


Handmade Nation in Nottingham

Filed under: Crafts,Places to go — lauravw @ 9:03 am

Nottingham Craft Mafia are hosting an event at Nottingham’s Broadway cinema in March: they are screening Handmade Nation, and hosting a craft fair where you’ll be able to buy goodies made right here in Nottingham. It’s great to see things like this happening here – if you’re interesting in going, buy tickets soon as there are only 100 for sale.


Liberty desktop wallpaper February 19, 2010

Filed under: Interiors,Shopping — lauravw @ 6:40 pm

You know about this already I’m sure, but there are free Liberty-print desktop wallpapers available to download on the Target website. (Via decor8 and pretty much every other interiors blog I read.)

I find the idea of Liberty collaborating with Target bizarre. Part of Liberty’s whole brand is the way it is because it’s out of reach to most of us, so to see a whole line of pretty things for sale at affordable prices in Target is a very big change indeed. I can’t imagine them collaborating with a UK-based store that sells things most people can afford – it would be like them going into partnership with Next or Sainsbury’s.

Would it reduce the appeal of Liberty fabrics and other goodies to me if they became affordable – cheap, even? I don’t know. But I do know that I wish I lived near to a branch of Target. Sadly the Atlantic ocean separates us, but some of the collection will be available at Liberty in London, and I have a visit planned there for next month (fingers crossed it will have arrived by then).


Keeping up appearances February 17, 2010

Filed under: Domestic matters — lauravw @ 12:43 pm

The domestically-minded amongst you may enjoy, as I did, reading Hannah Betts’ article in Tuesday’s Times. She spent a day in John Lewis, being taught how to clean, mend and generally care for her clothes.

“My flat has gone beyond the point of looking as if I have been burgled and now resembles the lodgings of a truculent Shetland pony: all discarded drinking receptacles and strewn bedding.”

“A household of my size (er, one) should be undertaking three washes a week: a dust mite and sweat-busting 60C cycle for towels and bed linen, a coloureds wash at 40C, and a delicate cycle at 30C. …Those who merely chuck everything into a quick cycle — guilty as charged — are missing a trick.”

I really do chuck everything in the quick cycle (doesn’t everyone?) – in my defence, we bought our washing machine second-hand, and it did not come with instructions. And on the rare occasions where I’ve tried the machine’s other settings, it makes such a racket that I’m surprised local dogs don’t start howling.


A day off in Manchester February 12, 2010

Filed under: Places to go,Travel — lauravw @ 3:14 pm

Yesterday morning I took the train north to Manchester for a day out with a friend. We both went to university there, but didn’t know each other then, so it was good to be able to explore a city we both knew and share stories of our time there.

Since leaving university more than ten years ago, I’ve been back there for day trips about once a year. This particular visit was prompted by a comment left on this website: I was asked by someone who works at Urbis if they could use a couple of my pictures in an upcoming exhibition. If you haven’t visited Urbis before, time is running out: the museum closes at the end of this month. I’m really sad about this – it’s the sort of museum that is fun to visit, and the exhibits change regularly so there is (was) always something new to see. When we last went to Manchester in 2007, Urbis had an exhibition about the Hacienda (a place I spent more time in than the university’s library during my student days) and another one about playing in urban environments. Our pictures from that visit are on Flickr, and someone from Urbis found them and asked if they could use them. They told me the museum was about to close, and I didn’t want to miss the chance to see it again (before it gets turned into a museum about football. Grr.), so a day trip was planned.

We didn’t get to see everything we set out to: the city is so big that it just wasn’t possible. But we walked through my favourite part of the city first – I love to walk up Oxford Road into the city, past the Central Library and into St Peter’s Square (which was adorned with red lanterns for the Chinese New Year). From there we headed to the shops for some retail therapy – Heal’s was the most fun place to window shop, but I left empty-handed (most of what I liked there was too breakable to buy in a shop so far away from home). I got myself a few goodies elsewhere though, including a pretty brooch in Accessorize.

After lunch we went to Urbis to see ‘Urbis has left the building’ – a show looking back at everything they’ve exhibited since the museum opened. We would have been happy to spend much longer there, but there were still other places to visit and so we didn’t dawdle. It was exciting to spot my photos, and to see my name credited next to them – I don’t think I’ve ever had anything exhibited in a museum before!

During the course of the day I took quite a few pictures – it was a clear and sunny day, so the city really sparkled.


Vintage Good Housekeeping book February 9, 2010

Filed under: Books,Interiors — lauravw @ 9:02 pm

I found this 1960s Good Housekeeping book recently in a charity shop, for the princely sum of £4. It’s a domestic encyclopedia, explaining all about how to run your home. Written in the late 1960s and updated in 1970, it has a lovely yellow cover with pretty gold lettering – and so once I’ve finished leafing through it, it will have pride of place on the shelves in our living room.

The pictures are very interesting – the two suggestions shown for decorating a living room here both look like places I’d want to live in.


Making a Cath Kidston bag February 8, 2010

Filed under: Books,Crafts,Sewing — lauravw @ 12:34 pm

I mentioned a few weeks back that I had started work on the Cath Kidston bag featured in her Sew! book. Since then the unfinished bag has been sitting forlornly by my sewing machine, because I’d reach a point I was unsure about: buttonholes. I’d never sewed a buttonhole before, and was daunted by the prospect. I fished out the instruction book for my sewing machine, and did a trial run on some scraps of fabric. And it wasn’t so hard after all! Not something I would describe as straightforward, because it was a little bit fiddly, but it certainly was possible. Once I’d got the hang of it I was able to put the finishing touches to the bag. I’m pleased with how it turned out, because to my eyes it looks exactly like the one on the front of the book.

And inside the book, there are a few other patterns I want to try out. One seems to be for a bag I already own a shop-bought version of. It’s a really useful bag, with pockets inside and out, and I’m quite surprised they’ve shared the pattern for it since it must be a big seller in their shops. (Speaking of which, I’ve just been looking at the website and now have seen all sorts of other bags I like.)



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