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

A visit to the Hummingbird Bakery November 28, 2009

Filed under: Books,Food — lauravw @ 2:59 pm

Not literally, though: instead I was happy to find a copy of the book in my local library. Until I sat down to read it, I had assumed it was an American bakery, but they are in fact based in London (which means there’s a good chance I could get to visit them one of these days). The inspiration is definitely American though – and the whole branding of the place really captures the right atmosphere.

I’ve tried out a couple of the recipes and they turned out well – unfortunately for me someone else reserved the book at the library and so I didn’t get to keep it for as long as I would have liked. But I made a few notes on how to make their vanilla cupcakes, and hopefully the book will be back on the shelves soon so that I can take another look.

Pictured here are some of the vanilla cupcakes I made – topped with vanilla frosting, also from the book. I loved how these tasted – I switched to using proper vanilla in my baking a few years ago now and would never go back to the cheap stuff.

And on a slightly related note, Habitat are selling glass hummingbirds as Christmas ornaments this year (not on their website though). I have resisted the temptation to buy some so far – I bought a lot of new baubles from Habitat last year and so really don’t need any more… (Although I’m not sure that ‘need’ is ever a valid reason to buy baubles.)


Amy Butler pattern: The Liverpool shirt dress November 13, 2009

Filed under: Sewing — lauravw @ 6:38 pm

I have started my Christmas shopping in earnest now, and so I am feeling a little bit smug about the whole festive season. There are some people whose names I can already tick off my list, and I’ve picked out some pretty cards to send, and even bought a new ornament (a little papier mache bird from John Lewis) (and I’ve already had to hide said ornament from the cat, who was very much enjoying attacking it). But one thing I am really struggling with is what to answer when people ask me what they can get ME for Christmas. I have only one thing on the list so far, and that is Amy Butler’s new shirt dress pattern, the Liverpool. So I was thrilled to see a review of it and get a better idea about what the finished product can look like: Susan at Pink Chalk Studio has not only made the shirt dress, but she’s taken very clear photos illustrating all the details, front and back.


Collecting coloured glass November 9, 2009

Filed under: Collecting,Interiors — lauravw @ 7:48 pm

glassbowlIf someone had predicted five years ago that I would have a collection of coloured glass vases and dishes, I would not have believed them. And yet, that’s exactly what I have: for the past few years, I have been snapping up coloured glass vases and I now have what amounts to a collection. It was not something I planned, and just grew bit by bit. I am very careful with what I buy and won’t bring a new vase into the house unless I love it. At the same time, there are a few I already own that I can see being replaced by other ones over time.

I’m not entirely sure how it started, but most of the vases I have came from charity shops on our local high street. There is even one shop that we refer to as the ‘vase shop’ since, a trip there has a high success rate when it comes to finding a coloured glass vase. Others have been bought new in shops, and a few more have come from family members, passed down through the generations.

As with most things, I’m very fussy: I only buy things I love, and so that has helped to keep the collection to a manageable size – there is plenty of room for more. (Though being so fussy can be a problem if and when kind-hearted friends and relatives find something they think I’ll like…) I know nothing about glass and so I’m not influenced by what might be considered fashionable, collectable or otherwise lucrative to own.

riihimakiOver the weekend we found a pretty (to my eyes) green vase in a junk shop here in Nottingham. The asking price was a lot more than I usually spend (most pieces I’ve bought have been £5 or less, with a few exceptions), but we got the seller down to £20 and walked away happy. The shop’s owner thought it might be vase by Danish glass producers Holmegaard. A little searching on eBay led us to conclude that it wasn’t, and we then found similar vases by a company called Riihimaki. I’m confident that they are the creators of this particular piece – it seems to come from around 1970.

This was a bit of a step forward for me, in that I have now learned the names of two manufacturers who produce things that are to my taste. It opens up all sorts of possibilities in that I can now monitor eBay for these keywords, but I think I’m going to stick to my serendipitous methods and just look for glass objects in charity shops and junk shops, wherever I happen to be. (Though I’m sure I will have the occasional peek to see what’s on offer online…)

And it doesn’t end there: I have a couple of other collections too – again, unplanned ones. Firstly, a collection of pencils – all of them pretty. This is a useful collection to have, as it lives by the phone and is in use all the time. Plus it only occupies the tiniest space – they all fit in a mug.

Secondly, I have been collecting books on etiquette for some years now. I love to read all the advice dished out to people on how to behave. I would never claim that reading these books has made me a better behaved person, but I certainly have a clear understand of how to behave better.

I’ve put an album on Flickr containing photos of my glass collection if you want to take a peek.

Now I’ve confessed my rather unfashionable hobbies, what about you – do you have any collections?




Putting Halloween back in its box November 6, 2009

Filed under: Halloween — lauravw @ 9:09 am

pumpkinsOur Halloween party was great fun – but exhausting! I think I got a bit carried away in terms of baking *everything* myself – next time I might be tempted to buy in a few things to supplement the home-made goodies. In the rush to get everything prepared, I made a mistake when baking the cornbread: I left out the baking soda, which meant the end result was flat and stodgy (and it wasn’t until after the guests had left that I worked out what I’d done wrong). But everything else was delicious – in fact I’d been hoping to have some of the leftover pastry bones for lunch the next day, but there were all devoured at the party (so quickly that I didn’t manage to get a photo of them).

The highlight of the evening for me was when dusk fell and our local neighbourhood bat (who I call Florence – even though there are two bats, but I haven’t yet decided on the perfect name for the second bat…) arrived and started circling the garden. We turned out all the kitchen lights and watched her for about 15 minutes. All the money in the world could not have bought that kind of perfectly-timed Halloween entertainment! And it was also pleasing because we had carved a picture of her into our pumpkin this year. The pumpkin is now outside in the garden, so I like to think she’s seen it (or picked it up on her sonar) and knows we appreciate her.

We had two knocks on the door from trick or treaters – and both groups were very young (with parents), in costume, and with good manners. A big relief since our house was egged by pesky teenagers a few years ago.

Now that bonfire night has been and gone I’m going to take down all my Halloween decorations and put them back in their box until next year. This means I need a new project to keep me out of trouble for a while – might have to have a rummage through my craft supplies and see if anything inspires me…