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

The world’s largest photo booth July 26, 2010

Filed under: Places to go — lauravw @ 6:04 pm

I was ill for much of last week, and developed a case of cabin fever as a consequence. By Sunday I was well enough to be allowed out into the world again, and so we went to see the latest exhibits at Nottingham Contemporary.

There are two on offer at the moment: some colourful (and a little bit creepy) art by some artists from Transylvania, and and exhibition of photos, most of which were taken in the US in the 1960s. These I enjoyed looking at very much – they had a great deal of atmosphere about them.

And then downstairs there is a photo project for visitors to take part in: a giant photo booth. You sit on a little stool and a camera very quickly snaps a series of photos of you – so quickly that many of them are blurred, or show people adjusting themselves once they’ve taken a seat. Behind the little photo booth there is a large flat wall, and onto this they project all the photos that have been taken. Which means that, shortly after you’ve had your picture taken, you see it on the wall, much larger than life. And then the pictures get added to a set on Flickr.

I can’t draw, paint or sculpt, and so I really enjoyed this opportunity to participate in an art exhibition.


Turning tablecloths into bags, skirts, and goodness knows what else… July 14, 2010

Filed under: Crafts,Sewing — lauravw @ 6:49 pm

By nature, I am the sort of person who saves things ‘for best’. I’ll buy a nice dress and only wear it on special occasions, or I’ll have pretty candles but won’t light them because I don’t want them to be used up.

For the last couple of years I have been fighting this instinct, and trying to enjoy the things I have while I have them, accepting that yes, they may get used up in the process. So these days if you visit my house in winter, you’ll find I’ve lit plenty of scented candles. And if I write to you, I will use my favourite notecards.

It’s in this spirit that I have, at long last, taken the scissors to an Orla Kiely tablecloth that Megan sent me for my birthday last year (or was it the year before?). It has been living with my fabric collection ever since it arrived, and every now and then I’ve taken it out to admire it, pondered what I could make from it if only I could summon the nerve to cut into it, and then put it away again.

But this weekend I really did cut into it. I made a little bag using the Cath Kidston pattern I’d used once before, and I have plans to make a matching skirt (not that I would wear the skirt and use the matching bag at the same time, you understand).

And I had a rummage through the button jar to find some suitable buttons for it. I’ve not made my mind up yet, but I think these bluey-green ones at the front are the main contenders. All the buttons pictured came from my grandmother’s button jar, which I inherited several years ago.

I also found some Ikea fabric I’d bought some time ago – a lurid print of giant sushi pictures. And I’m thinking about turning that into a skirt too. I wonder if a sushi skirt is a step too far? Where is the line between quirky/individual and just plain weird, I wonder…


Now with cake forks July 13, 2010

Filed under: Domestic matters,Food — lauravw @ 6:40 pm

As we walked back to our hotel on the last night of our holiday, my mother noticed a kitchenware shop. I had expressly told her that shopping options on this trip would be very limited, since we’d be in small towns and even smaller villages, and so this unexpected shop really captured her attention. Since it was evening, it was closed, but she kept mentioning it, and asked if we could head back up there in the morning when it opened.

Fortunately there was a bus that went up that way, so we were able to go in. Mum had become fixated on the idea of buying me a set of cake forks, and I was worried that we’d find some in this shop, but that they would be outrageously expensive (a lot of things are pricey in Switzerland).

They did have some, and they were reasonable, and so that is how I have come to be the sort of person who owns cake forks. I used them for the first time this weekend to eat some banana bread I made. I’ll be buying doilies next…


Switzerland part 3 July 12, 2010

Filed under: Travel — lauravw @ 6:40 pm

Our day in the Lauterbrunnen Valley had been hot and humid, and left us feeling rather tired. So we changed our plans a little: we’d been planning to take a little train right to the very top of a mountain, to visit an alpine botanic garden. We thought the sun up there would be a bit too much for us, and so instead we spent the entire day on a boat, zig-zagging across Lake Thun.

The boats on Lake Thun and Lake Brienz are mostly used by tourists. They stop at all sorts of pretty places, and it was relaxing to be able to sit back and watch as we moved around the lake. You see waterfalls, mountains, chalets, sailing boats, swimmers, swans and plenty of castles. They serve food on the boats too – so you don’t even have to get off at mealtimes.

The day after this, we headed to Lake Brienz, where we spent the morning on an old-fashioned paddle steamer as it made its way around the lake.

We had to head straight to the airport after this, and so we took the opportunity to stock up on some Swiss chocolate at last (we’d not been able to buy any until then because it was 32 degrees and so anything we’d bought would melt very quickly). The chocolate to buy in Switzerland is by Cailler – they don’t export this to the UK, and it’s a real treat, made with condensed milk.

As we headed for Geneva airport by train, I shrieked when I saw CERN, home of the Large Hadron Collider. I surprised myself at how excited I was to see it – apparently I even even more of a geek than previously realised (by me, at any rate).


Switzerland part 2 July 9, 2010

Filed under: Travel — lauravw @ 2:11 pm

I suppose you could say we were lucky with the weather while we were in Switzerland: if you like hot weather, you would have been very happy. I prefer a cooler, crisp day, but the hot sunny weather certainly was a bonus in terms of taking photos of the sights we saw. The humidity made it hard to sleep though – I am still catching up on my sleep now!

On the second morning of our trip, we travelled by train to the Lauterbrunnen Valley. If you’ve seen the Star Wars films, you may find it a little reminiscent of the planet of Naboo. There are cliffs on both sides, snowy peaks all around, lots of geranium-decked chalets, and spectacular waterfalls. It is a paradise. You can walk the length of the valley – there is a wide footpath that goes along the bottom of it, with no cars near it – but there is also a bus and with mum’s dodgy knees, it was the bus for us. It takes you right through the valley, and the last stop is in the hamlet of Stechelberg, which is a no-horse town if ever there was. It’s so pretty there – and you feel very close to snowy mountains.

We had a particularly healthy lunch on this day: banana splits. Important to keep up the fruit intake! At a table near us, people were tucking into hot food, which we couldn’t believe, as it was just so very hot that day.

We took another bus back to Lauterbrunnen village, stopping off to look at a waterfall. This was a diversion from my very carefully crafted itinerary, and with hindsight it was something I wouldn’t have visited if I’d known. A waterfall sounds like such a pretty thing, but we’d failed to spot that this one was INSIDE the mountain. And that means you access it by going on a deadly vertical railway thingy, which is also inside the mountain. In fact, as we walked towards the entrance to the waterfall, there was a scale model of the scary railway thing, and we joked about how terrifying it looked – not realising that we were headed right for it! Lesson learned. If you visit the Lauterbrunnen Valley, you’ll find there are plenty of waterfalls that can be visited without going inside any mountains, by the way.

We headed back to our hotel for the evening, and I sat on the balcony with my mum while she tested out the colouring pencils she’d treated herself to.

More to come!


Down from the mountains July 7, 2010

Filed under: Travel — lauravw @ 7:28 pm

It’s been all quiet on the Busywork front: I’ve been in Switzerland, enjoying the scenery (not so much the food) and pottering around admiring all things Swiss.

I travelled with my mother, and so I had spent the weeks beforehand carefully planning every train, bus and ferry ride to ensure that she didn’t have far to walk (which is why you’ve not heard much from me lately!). She has artificial knees, and recent problems with one of them mean that while she can walk, she mustn’t be on her feet for too long. From that point of view, Switzerland is an excellent place to visit: their transport system is so well integrated that you can get off a bus and straight on a ferry, since they are all timed to coincide with each other. And this is why, if you’re travelling in Switzerland, you will see extraordinary numbers of elderly tourists, happily travelling around with their walking frames and other mobility aids.

We flew to Geneva, which is a city I’ve passed through a few times now and never really found appealing. The following morning we took a train to Spiez in the Bernese Oberland, which is just about the most perfect little town imaginable. It’s pretty: on the shore of a lake, with its own castle, snowy mountains in the distance, and chalets dotted all over the hillsides. And it’s also convenient: it has a station with trains to all over the place, ferries that travel all over the lake, and a shiny and well-stocked supermarket. (The supermarket has a wonderful cafe, with views of the castle and lake – it must be the best located supermarket cafe in the Western Hemisphere.) I’ve stayed in Spiez three times now, and am already making plans to go back again next year.

Once we’d checked into our hotel, we headed for the lake. There are two ferries an hour, and they stop at pretty villages dotted all around the lake. Our destination for the afternoon was Schloss Oberhofen, a fairytale castle on the edge of the water, right next to where the ferry lands (which again means it’s very easy to visit if you have mobility problems). We had a potter around the castle gardens, and then enjoyed some cake in a Konditorei – cake is something the Swiss do very well. When the ferry came back, we hopped on and headed back to Spiez for dinner in a restaurant down by the water. As a vegetarian I don’t do terribly well in Switzerland, and the main foodstuffs on offer don’t appeal to me much (other than the chocolate, which I could eat all day long). Having said that, the supermarkets are of a very high standard, and so if I stayed somewhere that was self-catering I could probably improve things considerably.

More on my time in Switzerland shortly!