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

Chillies by post July 31, 2007

Filed under: Food,Shopping — lauravw @ 11:58 am

We seem to use several chillies a week in our cooking, but our local vegetable shop only really has two options: red ones or green ones. They are of an unspecified kind, and, while they do the job, I love the idea of trying out the fancier types of chilli when I cook. The South Devon Chilli Farm lets you buy fresh chillies online and have them sent to you in the post. Brilliant! And from the looks of things, the cost of postage is very small (as it should be, considering the weight of what you’re ordering), which makes the idea of ordering some chillies very appealing. Plus they sell all kinds of chilli-related goodies.


London calling July 29, 2007

Filed under: Food — lauravw @ 11:35 am

Another little something to add to the list for my next visit to London: cupcakes from the Hummingbird Bakery. The pictures of their cupcakes and cookies are inspiring, and I’m very keen to try some Mississippi Mud Pie – mainly because I love the sound of it, but whenever I’ve tried to make it, it has not been a success. The website says they’ve just opened a store in South Kensington, which means it would be a great place to combine with a visit to the Natural History Museum…


Snowhome July 27, 2007

Filed under: Shopping — lauravw @ 7:45 pm

Another find in York: I have often whizzed past Snowhome whilst on a bus to visit family, but there’s always been a train to catch or some other obstacle that has prevented me from getting off the bus and going to take a look at this great shop.

We went the other day and I loved it – I’d like to go back soon and perhaps buy something. There seemed to be things to suit most budgets, ranging from pretty stationery and votive holders to furniture and oversized cuckoo clocks. The designers on sale included Tord Boontje, Philippe Starck, Lotta Jansdottir and Orla Kiely. We’ve recently had some new shelves put up, and so I would like to buy something pretty to put on them – I’ll save a few pennies up for my next visit…


What not to wear July 25, 2007

Filed under: Shopping — lauravw @ 7:02 pm

I was interested to read in the Times the other week that Trinny and Susannah have designed a range of clothing, which is being sold through Littlewoods. I thought it would be a good opportunity to find myself a good coat, and now that I’ve looked on the website, there are a few nice-ish ones. But what surprised me most about the Trinny and Susannah collection is that every single one of the items I’ve looked at is dry clean only. Littlewoods, as you may know, is a clothes catalogue that specialises in selling things to people who can’t afford to pay for them all in one go – typically payments are spread over one to two YEARS. Which means some bright spark in their design department thought that someone who has to pay for a pair of trousers costing £45 over 20 installments can afford to pay to have those same trousers dry cleaned every few weeks. Not likely.


Chocolate surprise pudding July 24, 2007

Filed under: Food — lauravw @ 12:19 pm

Chocolate surpriseOver the weekend we had some friends round for pudding and board games. I made Nigella Lawson’s Chocolate Surprise Pudding, and it turned out pretty well. I would suggest, however, that if you plan to make this, it is VERY rich and people can only eat a small portion of it. The book says it feeds six to eight, but I think you could stretch that a lot further. If I make it again I would also serve it with a huge scoop of vanilla ice cream, to tone down the richness of the chocolate sauce a bit. I made this one with some of the dark chocolate I brought back from Switzerland – I still have a few bars left, so hope to make a few more chocolatey things in the near future.

It is an odd recipe to make – you mix up a sort of cake batter that forms the body of the pudding, and put that in a big dish. Then on top of that you sprinkle a significant amount of sugar and cocoa, and then pour on almost a pint of hot water. As it bakes, these three ingredients form a chocolatey sauce that covers the pudding.

The recipe is from How to Eat, and I like that in her family, she says they call it Lemon Surprise pudding – the surprise being that it’s chocolate.


Little bits and bobs July 22, 2007

Filed under: Flowers and plants,Shopping — lauravw @ 10:26 am

Lavender, tied up with stringThe sun has come out! There’s more rain on the way though – I have been reading about the poor people affected, and looking at all the pictures. How can there be six feet of water in these places? On my last post where I mentioned the monsoon season we’re experiencing, Melissa left a comment – she lives on a boat on the Thames and so is somewhat better equipped to handle all this water. Go read her website about her boat, Hendrik, it’s fascinating.

Yesterday I was thrilled to find boxes of the Mudlark stationery I mentioned a while ago, for sale in House of Frazer. I’ve bought a box of notelets, and am tempted by the soaps and scented candles…

Finally, if you have lavender plants, it likely that they are in full bloom right now and so could stand a little cutting back. In the few hours of dry weather we had last weekend, my grandfather let me cut quite a bit of his lavender, and a friend at work also cut some for me, so now I have plenty of the stuff. It’s all hanging upside down like a bat in our airing cupboard, so when it’s dried out I can make some little lavender sachets to leave on our pillows.  And one more thing – this picture of Angry Chicken’s cutting garden made me think it’s something we should have a go at planting next year, so that in the summer we have a supply of flowers to fill vases with.


Rain, followed by more rain July 20, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — lauravw @ 7:25 pm

If you’re in the UK, I suspect that in recent weeks your outdoor activities have been thwarted by the weather. Someone’s asked Metafilter what’s going on, and it’s interesting reading to see what people think the cause is.

The comments point out the hot weather we had in April – it didn’t rain for much of the month, and yet since then, that’s pretty much all it has done.  Recently the North of England got hit, whereas today it’s mainly been the South. Here’s to hoping you are high and dry, wherever you are. Perhaps it’s time to start thinking about building an ark?


House Proud

Filed under: Books — lauravw @ 6:45 pm

While visiting York last week I got to look around Borders (they are building one in Nottingham at the moment, which is wonderful news – finally we will have easy access to American magazines! And fingers crossed, a larger Paperchase!) and found this lovely book called House Proud by Danielle Proud. The reviews are somewhat mixed, but mostly positive. She has a website too – with a DIY section containing instructions for a few projects.


Pretty packaging July 16, 2007

Filed under: Books,Christmas,Food,Gifts — lauravw @ 7:26 pm

Pretty packages of goodies.Some time around the start of the year I bought Chronicle Books’ Holiday Treats Kit (ie just after Christmas, which is when the kit is designed for – timing was not on my side!). I have enjoyed looking at all the little goodies that comprise the kit since then – patterned paper and cellophane bags, two kinds of pretty string, gift tags, and a whole load of nice stickers.

The other weekend we wanted to offer a small token of thanks to some helpful friends, and so I made some rice crispy treats (the recipe I use is here), and packaged them up in the cellophane bags. It was such a simple way of making something look fabulous – if you make little food gifts for people, now or at Christmas, I really recommend treating yourself to this book/kit. The little book that comes with it has some lovely ideas and recipes for things to make to put in the bags.


Life in a chocolate factory July 15, 2007

Filed under: Food — lauravw @ 5:19 pm

Chocolate cataloguesI spent an interesting couple of hours yesterday poring over old publications put out by Rowntree’s chocolate factory in York. The factory was a significant part of the lives of its workers, and offered them the sorts of facilities that modern workers can only dream of. There was a theatre, library, gymnasiums, swimming pool, and much more – the factory took a real responsibility for the welfare of its workers. In reading some of the staff newsletters, I saw articles about staff members who had been off work sick for years – and yet they were still being paid by the factory.

My grandfather, Bert, worked at Rowntree’s for fifty years – making display stands for shops and other things for the advertising department. His skills were mostly to do with woodwork, but he’s a creative type and so got involved in a variety of projects. He’s kept a box full of old catalogues from the 1920s and 30s, which show illustrations of boxes of chocolates from that era, including some of the most fussy and ornate easter eggs imaginable.

He’s also kept dozens of staff newsletters, one of which dated back to 1902 (before he started working there). The articles are lovely – there is guidance on what type of vegetables to plant and how, features about the site’s gardeners and stablehands (because horses were used to transport things around the large factory campus), and even articles from abroad (some of which would be considered racist by today’s standards). He told me that once women got married, they stopped work at the factory – I saw a few articles about “what the girls are up to”, recounting their achievements and engagements.

I’ve taken a few pictures, and will hopefully get chance to take a few more next time I visit. There’s a set on Flickr if you’re interested, and you can read more about the Rowntree’s story on the Nestle website, and on Wikipedia.