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

Amy Butler’s UK visit July 29, 2009

Filed under: Crafts,Sewing — lauravw @ 10:56 am

Amy Butler is doing a tour of the UK this August – there are only a few details about it on her website so far, but I was interested to see she’s spending a few days at the NEC’s Festival of Quilts. Could this be to launch a new fabric line? It seems it’s been a little while since new fabrics from her came out, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed. The website for one of the venues, Cowslip in Launceston, says: “Amy Butler reveals her newest fabrics and publications, and offers an insight into her unique talent.” Sounds promising!

I’d love to see new prints in darker colours that I can use to make clothing – many of her prints recently have been rather pale, which, pretty as they are, don’t suit my colouring. Her tour doesn’t bring her anywhere near me – but lucky Amy is getting a visit to Liberty’s in London, which I’m sure she’ll enjoy.

Tour dates:

  • August 11
    The Fat Quarters at the Village Community Centre, Newcastle
  • August 14
    Five Valley Designs at the Berkely Arms Hotel, Gloucestershire
  • August 15
    Millie Moon at Old Bath Arms, Frome
  • August 15
    Cowslip, Launceston
  • August 16
    Cowslip, Launceston
  • August 17
    Doughty’s, Hereford
  • August 17
    The Knitting Parlour at the Abbey Hotel, Malvern
  • August 18
    Liberty of London
  • August 19
    John Lewis, London
  • August 20-23
    Festival of Quilts, NEC Birmingham
  • August 22
    Dinner and creative lecture at the Hilton, Birmingham

Floral flavours July 22, 2009

Filed under: Flowers and plants,Food — lauravw @ 6:37 pm

Yorkshire Lavender FarmEven if you don’t have a vegetable patch, you might still find something edible in your garden: flowers.

The Cafe Flora cookbook details the many kinds of flower that are in fact edible – and I was surprised by just how many there are. The one that jumped out at me was lavender – I love lavender, and have all sorts of lavender-scented goodies around my home (lavender cleaning products; home-made lavender sachets; Botanics lavender room spray…). The picture on the right was taken when I visited the Yorkshire Lavender Farm.

I have even eaten lavender – while on holiday I tried lavender creme brulee at Cafe Flora in Seattle, and I was interested to read about the lavender waffles they serve there. I don’t have a waffle-maker, and so lavender-infused pancakes were the next best thing I could think of to try.

Lavender pancakes


  • One batch of pancake mix (using Nigella Lawson’s recipe)
  • A few stems of fresh lavender from your garden – English lavender will work best
  • Honey to serve


In creating a recipe for ready-made pancake mix, Nigella Lawson has saved us all some trouble: you make up a batch of the dry ingredients, and then when you wake up on a weekend morning you simply have to mix in a little egg, milk and butter.

It’s at this point that you can add the lavender: use around one teaspoon of chopped lavender for every 150g of pancake mix. Remove the flowers and discard the stalks – you may also wish to chop the flowers into smaller pieces (this will make them easier to eat, and it will also release more of the lavender fragrance into your pancakes).

Cook your pancakes according to Nigella’s instructions, and then drizzle some fresh honey over them when you serve them – if you’re lucky you’ll be able to find some locally-produced lavender honey.


The Fourth Plinth

Filed under: Places to go — lauravw @ 6:26 pm

Every time I put the computer on at home I have a little peek to see who’s on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square, and what they’re up to. Have you seen any of them? At the moment there’s a man in army clothes, reading a book – which isn’t very exciting. But some of the people have been dancing , or playing ball games – and I saw one girl who had a bubble machine up there with her. They change over every hour, on the hour, until 14 October – it’s worth a look if you have a couple of minutes to spare.


Passion flowers July 19, 2009

Filed under: Flowers and plants — lauravw @ 10:41 am

Passion flowerThis morning I was lucky enough to be out in the garden just as a passion flower was opening. I’d been out there for a few minutes and noticed that only one was in bloom today, but when I glanced over at the plant a few minutes later, I spotted that a second flower was opening up. The petals unfolded slowly – you couldn’t quite see them moving most of the time, but occasionally there was a little jolt and you’d see the petals and stamens moving into place. The whole process took perhaps five or ten minutes, and a bee was very quick to pay a visit to the newly-opened flower.

I’ve looked at these flowers a bit over the last few weeks – they each seem to be open for only a day, which is amazing when you see the amount of detail and effort that must go into producing each flower.

I took this photo yesterday, so this particular flower has already completed its work and the petals have folded back up.


Broader than beans July 15, 2009

Filed under: Food — lauravw @ 7:00 pm
Broad bean and bacon risotto

Broad bean and bacon risotto

The people at Abel and Cole were kind enough to send me a vegetable delivery to try out. It was great fun – when the delivery arrived, our little cat Daisy was most intrigued and spent some time trying to remove the string that was tied around the box. Inside the box I found carrots, new potatoes, broad beans, courgettes, cherry tomatoes, spring onions, a melon, 6 bananas, some apples, and a cucumber. Everything was very fresh and nicely packed.

I live very near shops and walk past them on my way to and from work, so I am sometimes a bit last-minute in my approach to planning meals – since I know that I can simply stop and buy ingredients on my way home. But the vegetable box presented a new puzzle to solve: how to use all these organic goodies without letting any of them go to waste. I sat down with a few cookbooks and came up with some plans, and then posted a question on Twitter about what to do with the broad beans (confession: until last week, I had never eaten broad beans, let alone cooked them. And I’m a vegetarian!), which Suzical kindly answered for me. Her suggestion was this broad bean and bacon risotto, which we made on Saturday night (with fake bacon). It was pretty good – I can’t say it made me want to eat broad beans all the time, but it was certainly a pleasant meal.

What else did we cook? Well, we had peppers stuffed with a rice mixture that contained grated carrots and courgettes. I noticed when I was preparing the carrots that they really smelled of carrot – which is an odd thing to say, but what I mean is they smelled really fresh and natural. They tasted good too! We also made quesadillas – which used up the spring onions and the tomatoes. I was hoping that some of the bananas would be left over so that I could make banana bread with them, but they have already all been eaten. All that remains in the box are a couple of apples and a courgette, so I need to get on with eating those while they are still nice and fresh.


Long day in London July 13, 2009

Filed under: Places to go,Travel — lauravw @ 2:22 pm

On Thursday I made another day trip to London – not to visit anyone this time, just to potter around and be a tourist. I had a lot of fun but it felt like a long day – next time I need to pace myself a bit better and go to places where I can stop and sit down for a while. I wish I had taken my pedometer, as I walked an extraordinary distance during the course of my visit.

LSO at St Paul's

London Syphony Orchestra at St Paul's

First up was St Paul’s cathedral, which was well worth the (quite steep) admission fee of £11. It is absolutely beautiful on the inside, and you could look at it all day and still not manage to take it all in. I was lucky enough to be in there while the London Symphony Orchestra was rehearsing for a performance – their music provided a great atmosphere in which to explore the building. (I was also lucky enought to be able to sit in the cafe in the crypt eating a vanilla bean ice cream – I think that’s the first time I’ve eaten ice cream in a crypt…)

I walked over the River Thames to Tate Modern, and to an extent, it was the wrong place to visit after exploring a cathedral. While I don’t claim to be a big fan of modern art, I generally do like looking at some of it. However, seeing it in such close proximity to the ceilings and other decorations at St Paul’s made much of what Tate Modern had to offer look a bit lazy and simple – so I didn’t stay there very long. I walked along the Thames towards Westminster, where I admired Big Ben on the day before the 150th birthday of the bell itself.

From that point on, it was retail rather than culture: I went to Selfridges, John Lewis, and Liberty. The kitchen section at Selfridges had lots of goodies that caught my eye, and I treated myself to a Krispy Kreme donut (while marvelling at the retired Japanese couple in front of me in the queue, who bought three dozen!). In Liberty I saw plenty of nice fabrics, but the ones I liked best are available elsewhere, without paying Liberty prices, so I came away empty-handed. I’ll be back though!

I’ve put some of my photos from the day on Flickr.


Nottingham Craft Mafia event July 12, 2009

Filed under: Crafts — lauravw @ 2:21 pm

Next week there’s a Nottingham Craft Mafia event that I’m hoping to pop along to: Get Made at the Malt Cross. Some years ago I used to go to a knitting group that met every couple of weeks at the Malt Cross – they do very nice hot chocolate, if I remember correctly. (I’m not sure if they still meet there – the Knit Club website looks like it’s not been updated since about 2006.)

Anyway, the Get Made event is on 21st July from 6pm – 11pm, at the Malt Cross, 16 St James’s Street, Nottingham. Hope to see you there!