Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Lemon Tart

We had some friends over for dinner on Saturday and I decided to make one of my favourite desserts, Lemon Tart. Recipe here. I really like this version because the pastry has lemon rind in it, meaning you get an extra lemon hit from the crust as well as the filling. I served it with Raspberry and White Chocolate Kapiti ice-cream which is very sweet and goes well with the slightly sour citrus. Yum!

Wednesday, 23 July 2008


Ahh, London. Noisy, crowded, huge, lovely London. Before we moved to London, I thought I was a city girl through and through - I had lived in the "huge metropolis" of Wellington (about 400,000 people including Hutt City) for 6 years after all! But after 18 months in London I discovered that I was actually a small town girl at heart. I loved that in London Europe was on my doorstep, and the theatre, music, markets, museums and food that comes with a big city, but I didn't like the commute, the traffic, the frustrating bureaucracy and the hordes of people. It was great to go back as a tourist this time though, and not have to stress about everyday things.

When we lived in London, I wasn't particularly crafty, apart from doing a bit of cross-stitch, so before we left New Zealand I did some research to find out the best crafty places to visit in London. There are good suggestions here and in the comments here and here. In the end I only got to visit a few places on my list, but I figure I'll be back there one day, so it's nice to have something to look forward to next time.

I didn't want to make this the longest post ever (although I suspect it may become that), so here are just a few favourite craft and food places I went to and would recommend. A list of links to other places that I liked is at the end of this post. I've restricted this list to craft and food places, but the links above list many other museums, parks and places of interest that are also well worth a visit. The picture at the top of this post was taken in St James' Park - a nice haven of calm to relax in after a few hours of touristing.

*Loop. The well-known knitting shop certainly lived up to its reputation. It is a tiny place, full of delicious yarns, fabulous patterns and other bits and pieces. Downstairs below the shop is an area where they hold knitting classes. There was a class being held when I visited and every now and then a roar of laugher would make its way up the staircase. Sounded like they were having a lot of fun. Even though the shop is small, I still spent ages deliberating over what to buy. In the end I picked up some pattern books and some wonderful Clover bamboo DPNs. Yummy though the yarn was, I just didn't have space in my bag. The lady working there told me that they do ship to NZ through their online shop though...

If you are visiting, I would allow plenty of time to get there and even more time for browsing. The shop is situated half-way between the Highbury & Islington and Angel tube stations - about 15 minutes walk from each station.

*Liberty. I had visited Liberty when we lived in London, but that was just to see inside the wonderful Tudor building more than anything. It is only in the last two years or so that I have realised that the wonderful tana lawn fabric I have seen in lots of craft blogs is from Liberty. I have to admit that I did get a bit overwhelmed by all the crafty goodness and in the end only bought some rolls of grosgrain ribbon, although I did spend a lot of time oogling the countless rolls of fabric (both the Liberty fabric and the huge range of cotton quilting prints), and the Rowan knitting yarns. No pictures for you though - the sales people were pretty attentive so I couldn't take a sneaky pic.

Liberty is pretty central - just off Regent St and close to the Oxford Circus tube and Carnaby Street.

* Spitalfields Market. This was a favourite market of my mine from the time we lived in London. Since then it has been revamped and now has permanent shops as well as market stalls. Most of the stalls sell art and crafts and a lot of it is handmade rather than imported. There seemed to be quite a few emerging designers selling their clothing labels. Sunday is the busiest day (it's closed on Saturdays) and on Thursday is the antiques/vintage market which we didn't get to but sounds like it would be fabulous (a friend we caught up with said that the vintage market is great for taking photos).

The market is about 5 minutes walk from Liverpool St tube station. It is also within walking distance of Petticoat Lane market and Brick Lane so you can make a bit of a morning of it.

* Borough Market. My favourite food market in the world (well, I've only been to a few, but this is the one I liked best). If you've watched early episodes of Jamie Oliver's show, you might recall that he would jump on his scooter and go to a fresh food market to pick up his supplies - apparently that was Borough Market (though I never saw him there and we used to go most Saturday mornings). This is the place to go on Saturday mornings to get your fresh veges, meat, bread, cheese, olives, wine or just soak up the atmosphere. Apparently some of the stall holders come over from France for the day to sell their local cheese or other produce. When we lived in London, I discovered a stall-holder selling kumara (NZ sweet potato) and bought a few at great expense to roast on Christmas Day as a reminder of home.

Our Saturday morning routine often consisted of going to Borough Market in the morning, getting a 'proper' coffee from the Monmouth Coffee stand, having some raclette from another stall, a brownie for dessert and then picking up some olives, bread and cheese to take away for later. I was pleasantly surprised to see that after 5 years, most of the stall-holders were still going strong and a lot of them were still operating from the same location in the market.

Borough Market is close to London Bridge tube station.

* Mildreds restaurant. This is a great modern vegetarian restaurant in Soho. I read about this place on another blog before we went to London and knew we just had to go there. Their menu is really varied, reasonably priced for London and would probably satisfy carnivores as well. We had two lovely meals there, one night before we saw Phantom of the Opera and also our last night in London. I would happily have eaten there every night. Their varied menu has also inspired me to try some new recipes at home.

Mildreds is in Soho and is therefore within walking distance of several tube stations - Oxford Circus, Tottenham Court Road, Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square.

Rolls of ribbon from Liberty, other ribbons from VV Rouleaux, coin purse from Marimekko and knitting books, needles and project bag from Loop

Other places I enjoyed:
* Carluccio's Caffe. A chain of cafes started by chef Antonio Carluccio - their Bicerin coffee, cream and melted chocolate drink is to die for.
* V.V. Rouleaux. Shop selling ribbons and trims in Marylebone. Not as impressive as the ribbon shops in Hong Kong, but still wonderful to browse in.
* Cloth House. Linen and vintage trims. In Soho.
* Marimekko. Fantastic! The shop I visited was in St Christophers Place, just off Oxford St.
* Treacle. Cupcake shop in the Columbia Road flower market.
* Bar Italia in Soho - an espresso or cappucino and cannoli here is a must-do. I think their cannolis are better than any we had in Italy.
* Brick Lane - Bangadeshi curry houses lining the street. On a busy night the touts outside offer you discounts to dine at their restaurant.
* Hummus Bros for reasonably priced healthy fast food, all based around hummus (yes really). Their tag-line is "Give (Chick) Peas A Chance".

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Rainbows of ribbons

While I was in Hong Kong, I made a special visit to the area of Sham Shui Po. This is a little district north of the centre of Kowloon that I had heard was a paradise for crafters. There are several streets filled with wholesale shops selling fabric, beads, ribbons, trim, zips, sewing notions and so on. I only had a couple of hours, so just managed to look in a few ribbon and bead shops, but it certainly lived up to my expectations. Imagine tiny shops with aisles only wide enough for one person, crammed to the ceiling with rolls of ribbon of almost every shade, pattern and width you can imagine.

The three photos above show rolls of ric-rac, a wall of ribbon and a ribbon shop. I'm not sure if I was allowed to take photos, but no-one told me not to and I knew I couldn't blog about how great the shops were without some eye candy for you!

Though most of the shopkeepers I encountered spoke little English, and were used to dealing with people buying in bulk, they were only too happy to sell small quantities to me. I have to admit I did get a bit overwhelmed by all the choice and completely forgot what I already had in my stash at home. In the end I went for a few ribbons that "spoke" to me. From the picture below it looks like velvet, spots and stripes in bright colours are what caught my eye that day. The most I paid for any of these was around $1 NZD per yard. Most of it was about 50c per yard.

In addition to the ribbon shops, I also visited a few bead shops. I picked up some findings but resisted the urge to buy any beads as I knew my suitcase was getting rather full. Again the bead shops were tiny, crammed full of drawers and bags of beads. In one shop, they sold plastic beads by the pound (the spoon is for scooping up your selection):

I didn't make it to any of the fabric shops, but apparently they are just as good. If you are ever going through Hong Kong, I highly recommend a visit to Sham Shui Po. I can almost guarantee you will not come away empty-handed!

P.S. Craft2.0 was fantastic as always. This time I got to meet a few local lovely craft bloggers in person as well. It's nice to finally meet people that you only know online, although it does feel a bit stalkerish saying "Hi, I'm Louise, I read your blog". But Helen, Helen, Kimberley and Steph didn't run the other way screaming, so I must have come across as harmless. It was lovely to meet you ladies!

Friday, 18 July 2008

A few things

Despite the grey weather, there are some things that are making me smile this week:

  • Craft2.0 is tomorrow! If you are out in the Hutt between 11am and 3pm, try and call into the New Dowse and check it out.

  • CraftFetish is up and running again. This cool site is an online community for NZ crafty peeps plus a marketplace a bit like felt or etsy where you can sell your creations.

  • The Wellington Film Festival starts today. I was a bit disorganised and only bought my tickets this morning, but the good news is there are still tickets available for a lot of sessions.

  • I finally joined Freecycle and got rid of our old compost bin (we upgraded to an Earthmaker a while back and the old one has been taking up room in the garden). I love the Freecycle concept and I'm looking forward to sending some more unwanted-but-still-usable stuff off to new homes.

  • Sukin face wash. I think my search for an eco-friendly, organic, non animal-tested, foaming face wash that is also reasonably priced may have finally ended. This stuff smells great, foams really well, and is at least a third of the price of other similar products (Living Nature, Trilogy) that I've tried. Plus, the bottle is actually recyclable in NZ. I've seen their range so far at Health2000, CommonSense Organics and Farmers.

  • The Big Shwop - fantastic idea for refreshing your wardrobe, plus it's free and eco-friendly.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Travel knitting

I had big plans to knit lots of things while we were travelling, but the weather in Italy was so hot that a lot of the time I didn't really feel like knitting on a humid train. I did however manage to finish a kimono cardigan for my brother's baby, due in late October. They are having a girl and I will become an aunt for the first time. She will also be the first grandchild, so I can see she will be very spoilt. I used the 8 ply version of the seamless baby kimono pattern found here. The yarn is NZ Naturally Merino et Soie in a dusky pink. This is now my go-to yarn for 8 ply baby stuff. It's really soft and knits up well, and is cheaper that the other merino/silk blends I've found. The pattern itself is very clever - all knitted in one piece so there are no bulky seams and it knits up quickly. The sleeve in the 8 ply version is a standard sleeve shape, but I preferred the flared kimono-ish shape of the sleeve in the bulky (12 ply) version, so I created my own version of the flared sleeve for 8 ply weight wool. The details are below.

8 ply flared Kimono sleeve
Knit kimono cardigan as in pattern here. For sleeves, do the following:

Evenly space the 36 sleeve stitches on 3 DPNs

With the right side facing, locate the centre bottom of the sleeve opening. Leaving a tail of 8 inches or so, pick up two additional stitches from the left of the opening and continue knitting the round, picking up two additional stitches at the end of needle 3 (40 stitches total).

Decrease round: k2tog, k2tog, knit to last 4 st, ssk, ssk (36 stitches).

Knit 26 rounds.

Increase round: k1, m1, knit to last stitch, m1, k1

Increase every 4th round 3 more times (44 stitches total)

Alternate purl one round, knit the next round for next 4 rounds.

BO loosely.

Note: you can choose not to pick up the stitches at the start and just knit 28 rounds of 36 stitches, but I tried it that way and I was getting holes under the sleeve. I think picking up the stitches and then decreasing them helps eliminate this. You can also fix up any holes when you weave the ends in - that is why I suggest leaving a long tail of 8 inches.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Blue and White China

I haven't mentioned it on this blog before, but I have a bit of a soft spot for blue and white china. Our everyday plates and bowls are white, but our mugs are a mismatching collection in shades of (mostly) dark blue made by local potters, picked up on my travels around New Zealand.

When it comes to "fancy" china, my favourite pattern is the blue calico floral, made by Burleigh of England. It's an old-fashioned, all-over pattern which is transfer-printed by hand onto earthenware, as opposed to bone china - as a vegetarian, the idea of buying bone china grosses me out a little (though strangely I don't feel quite the same way about the vintage bone china I've inherited from family). Until our recent holiday however, my collection of Burleighware consisted of one cake plate, as it is rather expensive to buy in New Zealand.

Anyway, when I heard from a friend a couple of years ago that Burleigh actually had a factory shop that you could visit, I decided that next time I was in England, I would have to make a special trip. Just over 3 weeks ago, I finally made it there, and I'm so glad I did!
The Burleigh pottery is located in Stoke-on-Trent, which luckily for us, was on the way from Liverpool to London, so we didn't have to go too far out of our way. Stoke-on-Trent is also the home of Royal Doulton, Wedgewood, Spode and a number of other well-known English names in pottery.

The shop carried a wide range of factory seconds, a lot of which didn't seem to have any visible faults (at least to my inexperienced eye), all at half retail price. Despite sussing out what I wanted to buy before we got there, I still took a long time to pick out just-the-right milk jug or the perfect teapot. While I was dithering, Alex patiently took some great pictures of the shop, which I have uploaded to Flickr.

We managed to leave my well-wrapped purchases with friends in London while we were in Italy, but travelling back through Hong-Kong, I cradled my full day-pack like it was a newborn baby! Luckily I managed to get it all home with no breakages.

I think a tea party is now in order - what do you think?

Monday, 14 July 2008

Home again

I'm back from holiday, still in one piece, though a bit spaced out today from jet-lag. The last thing I wanted to do was get up and come to work. Hopefully I will be a bit better after a coffee.

A quick update from me before I attack my inbox.

The holiday was fantastic. Italy was great, but unseasonably hot - 35 degrees most days and quite humid. Almost too hot for me. Though I understand the weather was awful in New Zealand while I was away and have been instructed not to complain too much about the heat in Europe! Hong Kong was also humid, with 30 degree heat and thunderstorms. London was a bit more pleasant - overcast and 20 degrees.

I managed to get to a few craft places in London and Hong Kong - posts and photos to come. We also ate a lot of great food, but I have discovered on returning home that pizza plus gelato plus pain au chocolat times four weeks of little exercise equals trousers that are too tight. Hmmm. Will have to do something about that.

While on holiday I had a lot of time to think about what I want to do with this blog and my crafting. I've made a few decisions which I'm looking forward to sharing with you in the next little while.