Wednesday 28 February 2018

Old Farts

Old age creeps up and catches me unawares.  Example: one day, I could suddenly see that those llift out chairs (HSL advertise quite heavily) might actually be a good idea, one day.   If only they weren't so darned ugly!

My SIL had her hip done (or it might have been her knee, I can't remember now.  Another bit of old age creep) .   My brother bought her a single motor Riser Recliner chair, advertised locally to him on Gumtree.     It worked really well for the intended purpose.  I vaguely looked at them, but DH wasn't interested (we already have electric recliners in the sofas) and I didn't bother.

Time moved on.  A couple of weeks ago,  my brother bought a better riser recliner. It was in tip top condition,  was  a petite model,  and had a dual motor.  It was much better made than the other one,  and he was singing its praises.  So much so, that he went and got another one for himself.

The other day we popped over to see them, and he was keen that we tried the new chairs just to see why they were so good.  I sat in one and it was surprisingly comfortable.    I got DH to try it.  He wasn't too keen, but 'had a go' to be polite.   He really liked it.

And so, I did some research,  looked around to see what was available, and found a bargain of a Sheborne leather chair in the next town,  and  a top of the range HSL fabric chair near that.  We arranged to see both.

We went along to see the leather chair first,  and had agreed a code phrase before hand just in case  it wasn't possible for us to signal to each other if we didn't like it.   It was immaculate,  used for a month, and very comfortable.  It was on Gumtree, and we decided to buy it immediately.  I messaged my brother to let him know we'd joined the Old Farts Chair club.

The second chair was on Ebay, and the auction was still running.  We wanted to see it to see whether to bid or not.       It was another immaculate chair, and this one hadn't been used.    We decided we'd bid and see if we won.

At home with the first chair, we had nowhere to put it without rearranging everything,  and no point in rearranging until we knew whether we had to fit in one or two chairs.  Luckily the auction was a short one,  we won, and we braved the snow to collect it.  I told my brother we now had two Old Farts Chairs, and he started to guffaw.

We then spent hours trying to rearrange the furniture to fit them in. We knew that something had to go, either one of the two seaters, or our lovely Gravity chair.   Currently, the Gravity chair has been relocated, and we're seeing how it goes.  The living room looks a bit like an Old Folks Home sitting room,  like an assortment of chairs has been dropped in at random.

We've had to do some artful arrangement to try and make it look a bit more considered, and this means we've lost all our hidden storage (the space behind the sofas). We have a pile of stuff that needs to be reviewed and stored, donated, or chucked.

My brother turned up to look at the chairs.  He's always so enthusiastic, even if they'd been a disaster he would have found something positive to say.   He liked both of them.    We sat in the living room and chatted,  and the new furniture arrangement made this much better than the old arrangement. 

Usually we end up in the kitchen,  but maybe we'll socialise more in the living room now?

The cats have been exploring everything, and are completely confused about where they are allowed to sit.

When we put the chairs in the room, before we started arranging, Izzy got up in the same place whereshe usually gets up... only now it was a single chair, and there's no nice fluffy cat bed.   She did look surprisingly comfortable though, and she was most put out when I made her get off. 


We've got to sort out the side tables next, but we need to know whether we're staying like this or whether one of the sofas is going.  The room looks of furniture right now.

We'll give it a day or so, and see how it beds down.

Friday 23 February 2018

Bread head

Long and difficult day yesterday, might write about it some other time.

Today DH, my brithers, sister in law, and I went on a Nordic Breadmaking course at the lovely Willow Bakery in Shepperton.      Willow Bakery is a home bakery, open one day a week.

I don't make many sweet breads, so this was  really interesting.   In addition to the Pulla (Finland), Cinnamon and Cardamom knots, we made some Swedish rolls and a Danish Rye Bread.   it was a jam packed course, only possible because Nicky had weighed out most of the ingredients in advance.

Of course we have double of everything. One of the Pulla loaves will be sliced and frozen;  we've frozen all the uncooked Knots, we can bake them from frozen as we need them.  We'll start eating the Rye in a couple of days when it has had time to mature.  The rolls are waiting to be eaten.

We did all the kneading by hand, which was a lot of work because these particular doughs are very wet - and two of them were enriched with butter.    Nicky is building a workshop in the garden to house the bakery,  and this will enable her to provide mixers for at least one of the doughs in future.
I'll certainly be using a mixer when I make these at home.  Now I know what texture I am looking for, it will be easy to tell when the mixer has done it's job

I have no pictures.  I just didn't think to take any. 

It was good to spend the afternoon laughing and concentrating on other stuff.

Tuesday 20 February 2018

Sew Pleased!

Half term week.

We looked after Small Person for 3 days.  She spent one and a half days playing on my starter sewing machine, with mixed success.  She did well at sewing fairly straight lines (at least as well as I would do, without my trusty guide foot).     She did well at turning corners, with practice.     She did well at inventing stitched together bits and pieces,  but couldn't grasp the need to sew right sides together and then turn out.  Maybe next time.

She's a bit of a butterfly, so I was surprised (and impressed) that she stuck at it for such a long time.   I'll be interested to see if she wants to do more another time.

We had a day on our own, which we mostly spent faffing about.  Then the Twins arrived.  Their parents left them here for the afternoon and went off on a long walk (much longer than they meant to). 
Twin S spent the afternoon with her grandfather, learning how to use a 3D printer (she printed a cat shaped phone stand), and then how to build a motor from scratch. 
Twin G spent the afternoon with me,  learning how to work with stretch fabric and, specifically, how to make leggings.   She had brought her sewing machine from home, and made two pairs of leggings.  She wore one of the pairs out to dinner.
Saturday morning,  Twin S and Granddad finished building the motor,  and Twin G used the cardboard template we made to cut out fabric for 2 more pairs of leggings to make when she got home.

That makes up for my lack of creative makes for the  month so far, I think.

Monday 19 February 2018

Faster Pasta

I have a few kitchen gadgets,  and I don't ever buy gadgets on impulse.

As a young adult, I would be swayed by demos at my first couple of Ideal Home Shows.   When I got home, often the gadget just didn't work the way it seemed to when demoed

As I started to move into more expensive, often electrical, gadgets,  I learned to look at the gadget more critically, and really see what the flaws were.  Would it really do somethng better than I could do myself, or an existing gadget could do?  Would the cleaning routine really be worth the effort?

If I'm interested in a gadget,  I look at it critically, research it,  and (usually) I walk away from it. In these internet days, I store my research in folders, just in case I decide to look again.  Often the itch goes away. Sometimes it doesn't.   Sometimes it goes away for ages and then comes back....

A while ago, I heard about an electric pasta maker made by Philips.  It looked.... surprisingly good.   I read about it, but decided against buying one.  We have pasta rollers for our Kitchen Aid, and these work really well.

A few things then happened.

My KitchenAid has recently been supplanted by a different mixer.  I didn't sell the KA, I put it in the loft.     I did, however, decide to sell the pasta attachments. 

While thinking about selling them,  I looked again at the Philips Pasta Maker.    They now had two sorts,  a big one and a small one.  A Facebook group related to one of my machines had a discussion about them, and one chap had both sorts.  I quizzed him a bit.        More people bought one or other of the machines, more raved about it.  

I couldn't justify the expense, but I did set up an Ebay and Gumtree alert.  A machine came up at an inexpensive price. The seller  had gone gluten free, so wasn't making pasta any more.  One part of the machine was cracked,  so I googled to see how much a replacement piece would be.

My googling revealed some interesting things.   A better-loaded model, not available in the UK,  was available from Amazon in Germany at relatively low price.   That same model was more expensive - a lot more expensive - on all the other European Amazon sites that I visited.     I couldn't understand why it would be so 'cheap'.  Even with shipping, it was cheaper than the small version, and this one came with lots of extra dies,  it had integrated scales.....      When I looked at the second hand model I was considering,  added in the cost of the extra dies and the cost of a replacement lid,  there wasn't much in it.

I ordered it.

To make myself feel less bad about what was almost an impulse buy,  I sold my Kitchen Aid pasta rollers and I also sold my lovely food processor.  It was fab processor - I just don't need to use it anymore.  Last time I tried to sell it, I wrote the ad and it made me not want to sell it.  The same thing nearly happened this time,  but I made  myself go through with it.    The money I made almost covered the cost of the pasta machine.

It arrived quickly, and we had pasta that same night.  It was amazing!

Now, it's not at all the same as making pasta by hand.  You don't atually make a dough at all.  You put the flour (or semonlina, or combination) into the machine,  you add the egg and water (or just water),  it mixes it to something like breadcrumbs and then a few minutes later, it extrudes it through a die into your chosen pasta shape.

The resulting pasta looks crumblier than conventional home pressed pasta.  It cooks beautifully and tastes wonderful.  We've had pasta about four times since we bought it.      It takes just a few minutes from putting in the ingredients to having pasta ready to cook.  We can have pasta on the table within 15 minutes of deciding to have pasta for dinner.

We can also make noodles, we just haven't tried that yet.

It is a big machine. The little Philips Viva is much more compact and (by all accounts) works just as well

I'm really pleased we went for the all-singing model.  We put in the dry ingredients, press a button, and it tells us how much liquid to add.  No guessing. 
It's here if you are interested (this is not an affiliate link)

What's your position on gadgets?

Saturday 10 February 2018

Personal space

Poppy laid her first egg (since moulting) yesterday.     That means that 3, possibly 4, of them have now laid at some point in the last week.     Nest Box Wars have broken out,  each Girl is very vocal when she finds the nestbox already occupied.

We have 5 hens and 4 nestboxes.  Each nest box is big.  Big enough for 2 hens to sit end to end with a big gap in the middle  3 of the could sit side by side.

They all, however, have to use the same nest box.  They all have to have it to themselves.  And they all like to take their time about it.

I'm surprised the neighbours haven't complained about the racket.

Thursday 8 February 2018

Does this count?

Last night I decided I would DEFINITELY do something creative today.
I bought the last of the patterns I wanted to get printed,  organised them into a flder ready to upload, and noticed that one was missing.  I contacted the designer, using their web contact form,  immediately.

This morning, I hadn't had a response, so I emailed them.  They are a US company so should have had time to look at my query yesterday.   If I don't get this sent off soon, I won't get the printed patterns back in time to sew a top for Small Person at the beginning of next week

It was distracting me from my planned task.  I printed out the instructions for several of my existing patterns, including the two I was dithering between making.  I recognised the instructions for one of them, I've obviously printed them before.  So,  I decided to bind the instructions into a booklet and, of course,  I had to print the instructions for the other patterns i've already got so that they could go in as well.

I moved to clear the cutting table, still undecided about which pattern to make.  One of the items to be cleared was a book about sewing jersey with a sewing machine (a birthday present for my sewing grand-daughter, who is coming at the end of next week to learn to make leggings.  It reminded me that I had meant to order some ballpoint needles for her sewing machine,   so I went and ordered those before I forgot again.

And then while I was in Ebay,  I saw those aluminium flat pieces that I'd toyed with getting to help me mark and press long seams.    I thought about the duvet cover upstairs and decided that today I'd order them.  When I had several of varying widths in my basket, free postage,  I realised that I'd get them cheaper if I went direct.  So I did.

So I've been doing stuff which will enable me to be creative.

Does that count?

Wednesday 7 February 2018

Spoke too soon

I was feeling very pleased with myself after sticking to my creative goals in January.

So how come it's now 6th February, and I have done NOTHING?  Not even for my best friend's birthday!

I've really not been in a creative frame of mind.

I've spent a lot  of time= looking at downloadable patterns, which I don't need as I have ny Surefit Designs body blueprint and I can use that.  And I can use thechildrens kit for Small Person.

A while ago I bought some patterns which I planned to get printed on A0.  I've done this before, it's fab.  I wanted to get them printed,.  The main cost of printing is postage, which is the same whether I have 1xA0 pattern piece of 20 A0 pattern pieces.  I decided to finally buy those one or two that I keep looking at -  they were children's ones, which included options for raglan sleeves,  hoodies, cowls and all sorts,  so it was a reasonable purchase.  Smnall Person is here next week and I want to try making her some tops,  which will help me learn how to do these techniques.   

It snowballed a bit.

I'm embarrassed and a little ashamed.

I know it's a distraction thing.  No time to sew because I've been looking at these patterns.  I've been  rigorous in my evaluation (mostly).     

It's done now.  I'm not buying any more, and I'm going to send these off tomorrow. I'd send them off now, but one of the designs where I was expecting an A0 pattern didn't come with one.  I've contacted the designer, but I guess it might take her a little while to get back to me.

On the plus side,   Small Person surprised me by saying she wanted to try sewing next week.    I'm thining a tote bag or a pencil case to get her started.

Monday 5 February 2018

Holy Smoke!

The loins and the lardons were ready to come out of their cure.  We decided to smoke 1 piece and ost of the lardons, leaving the other 2 pieces unsmoked.

It's been a while since we last cold smoked anything.  We went through a cold smoke phase a couple of years ago, it was surprisingly easy to do. We'd got a range of smoking dusts, and it was interesting to try the same sort of food smoked with different dusts.

We liked things with a hint of smoke, rather than really smoked.  Smoking stuff ourselves enabled us to control just how smoky things were.

Hot smoking, which cooks the food as well as smoking it,  has never really appealed to either of us, so our inexpensive and reliable ProQ Eco has been ideal.

After some headscratching, we retrieved theProQ Eco smoker box from Myshed.  I remembered that it retained the smoky smell, so we knew it wouldn't be in the loft with the  smoke generator and sawdust.  Instead of trying to remember where I put it,   I imagined that it was in front of me and needed putting away; where was the most sensible place?  I find that technique qorks well for most things..

Anyway, I digress.

We sniffed the open packets of smoking sawdust  (apple, oak, beech) and decided that, unsurprisingly,  they'd lost their aroma. We opened a new packet of apple, as  Apple would go really well with the cider/apple cure.

And off we went.

DH went out to check on it after about ten minutes,  and again after half an hour;  it's just as well he did.

I've now placed an order for a Thuros smoker.   This one also does hot smoking and I think we might try to hot smoke some sausages.   It's too late to smoke the remaining bacon.

It's a compact size,  it's got a lot more adjustability,  it can be used for both cold and hot smoking, and it's not horrendously expensive in the scheme of things - £159 vs about £30 for the cardboard Eco.   And it's  metal.   We may well have decided to upgrade to this anyway,  recent events just brought the purchase forward a bit.

We also had to replace the smoke generator,  so I ended up buying the Deal
from AngusAndOink.  It was a bit cheaper anyway  than buying the two items, plus it had some sawdyust, chips, and BBQ dust included.   I'd never heard of Angus and Oink before:  they hadn't come up when I was googling,   I found them through their YouTube video of them using the Thuros.  

I noticed that a lot of places were out of stock of the Thuros,  so I messaged Angus and Oink to check if they had any in.  Luckily for me they did,  so one will be with me soon.

Thursday 1 February 2018


I've managed to complete January and I've done something creative (or related) almost every day.  Of course my definition of "something creative" is a bit elastic: I've included butter making, pork butchery,  fiddling around with the embroidery machine.... but I'm happy enough.

My last make for January was another card

I had several attempts at this.  The first one used a Westie-dog fabric, which had the Westies so far apart I had to cut and stitch them together first (and I didn't like the result).

The clamp frame works really well,  but the design of it means the amount of  embroidery space is really limited.  I had originally added a built-in thin border around the design (the better borders were too big to fit) but it started to unravel after I'd removed everything from the embroidery frame, and I had to unpick it all.

I quite like the "linen" fabric look - it makes a change from my usual felt - but it really does fray! Next time I'll have to shrink the design more and use a bugger, solid,  border and trim to that.

All good learning.

For February I'm going to try and do some clothes related sewing rather than embroidery machine stuff.  I'm not sure I'll manage something creative almost every day.... but we'll see.