28 November 2012

yarn along :: in brief

There aren't enough hours in the day at the moment. And I know that it'll only get more frantic next month. In lieu of a well-considered, pithy and thought-provoking yarn along post (still working on those things), here's one of this year's projects in use this morning.

In short; I'm knitting an age seven Bulle, using this wool, and I'm really excited about it. So far it feels like the best quality garment I've ever made. Which might be because I'm taking my time and doing it properly, swatching for gauge, alternating my skeins and everything. Also, I'm totally engrossed in reading this amazing story. Recommended by a member of our book group (apparently the author is a friend of a friend of a friend or something) the jacket blurb made me think no, this is not up my strasse at all. But I went for it anyway, and I'm enjoying the long lazy 4am nursing sessions with my wee Kindle light on more than I can tell you. It's awesome.

27 November 2012

you say flapjack, I say flapjack

Everybody knows that in America biscuits are called cookies. And I'm led to believe that they call scones* biscuits. And by scones, I mean scones, not what sassanachs refer to as drop scones. Drop scones are pancakes. By which I mean pancakes, and not what the French call crepes or what the Americans have for breakfast. And then I heard that Americans sometimes call pancakes flapjacks.

So what do Americans call flapjacks?

Confused yet? Let's not even get started on macaroons...

The Boss' new best friend was coming over for tea after school, and I had no shopping in. What to do? The answer was flapjacks. Because every Scottish household has porridge oats, and everything else can be cobbled together.

While I knew the principles, I'd never actually made flapjacks before. So it might have been a bit of a risk to allow the quantities to be dictated by what I had left in various packets. But they turned out pretty good.

They are so quick too. I put the Dragon Baby in his bed at noon, and the flapjacks were in the oven with the dishwasher loaded twenty minutes later.

It might have been beginners luck. Meaning that I'll have to make these many more times. Just to be absolutely sure.

spiced seed flapjacks
makes 20
200g unsalted butter
2 tablespoons runny honey
6 generous tablespoons golden syrup
325g porridge oats
1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds
1 tablespoon sunflower seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
generous pinch ground nutmeg

- preheat oven to 180*C
- roughly line a tin of some kind with parchment (mine is... hang on let me go and measure it... a 20cm x 26cm rectangle. A touch smaller might be better because the flapjacks will be thicker.)
- oil your tablespoon measure (this prevents the syrup and honey sticking to your spoon)
- put butter, honey and syrup in a pan to melt
- mix the dry ingredients together and pour into the pan with the liquids
- mix together and press into the lined tin
- bake for 20 minutes
- let your tea steep while you cut the flapjack into squares in the tin
- let them cool on a wire rack (except the warm one that you have with your tea)

*Scone rhymes with gone in my house btw. When scone rhymes with phone my skin crawls. No idea why.

26 November 2012

the countdown's on :: gifts for stationery lovers

My name is little macaroon and I am a stationery addict. There I've said it. I can't always spell it (I have to look it up every single time, ary? ery? whatevs) but I LOVE it. I might love it more than flowers and chocolate and puppies. More even than flowery chocolate puppies.

I love stationery so much that, for five years (while working a full-time job and then quitting to have a baby work another full-time job), I made elaborate wedding stationery for dozens of friends and relatives... for free! Some of it was rather nice even if I say so myself.

do you think anyone is allowed to help themselves to the contents of these drawers? I think not.

All of which brings us (now that our American friends have got Thanksgiving out of their systems) to the C word. I think it's time we talked about Christmas. About the wee baby Jesus. About peace on earth. And about gifts.

Come on, you know you want to. 

So, combining my twin loves of stationery and gifts with a magic sprinkle of Christmas fairy dust, I have to share some of these brilliant new things with you - just in case there's a hoarder of tissue-lined envelopes and pretty sticky tape in your family. And if there is one of that breed in your brood, you need to take note (on a nice pad, using a lovely pen, natch). Now make yourself comfortable, here goes:

Living in Singapore was very very bad for my stationery addiction. Those red dotters do paper shops well. And there are few better than Prints, the Scandi/Sing collaborative daddy of them all. Notebooks, calendars, diaries, files. In plastic, fabric, leather, card. Covering every colour of the rainbow (and more) and embossed with flowers, checks... I could go on. And on. And on. You won't believe the beautiful quality and, as special stationery goes, it's really affordable. (And they've just launched an international online shop, Hallelujah!)

Look at this little beauty! Under a tenner from Prints

Now when was the last time you used an eraser? Hmm, me neither. But that isn't the point. Just look at this lovely, lovely thing from the Design Museum. I would thoroughly enjoy making many mistakes in my homework if I had one of these. In fact, I promise to write all my thank you letters in pencil... with my left hand.

Eraser pot, just £16.50 earth pounds from the Design Museum shop. Yum.

Regular readers may notice that I have a bit of a thing for kikki.K, an Australian brand with a Scandinavian lineage, and another dangerous weakness that I cultivated in Singapore. Their "My organising" binder series has revolutionised my filthy old shambles of a recipe folder, and I would love to extend those powers to the rest of my chaotic life. Probably in the form of this fabulous new product... I think I would even manage to do my tax return on time if I had one of these. It's not cheap, but they do seem to have free standard delivery over US$150, which could justify it. Especially if it saves me a fine on my tax return.

Santa Baby, slip these binders under the tree, for me! 189SGD from kikki.K

Brothers and sisters-in-law are always tricky aren't they? What to give to people who must be given to, but who you don't see that often. I decided upon a Christmas hamper. And on further inspection found them to be largely filled with marmalade, coffee, stilton and wine. My brother doesn't like marmalade, coffee, stilton or wine. And my sister-in-law is a divinely glamorous size zero (at a generous estimate), so I'm guessing she doesn't eat all that much of anything at all. Therefore, Christmas hamper = crappy unimaginative cop out idea. Until...

The brilliant company I buy coloured envelopes from for all those weddings sent me a Christmas catalogue containing (deep breath now) STATIONERY HAMPERS! (The Hallelujah chorus is now coursing through my veins.)

And because good gift giving is buying something you really love and giving it (ungrudgingly, ahem) to someone else (right?), big bro and his lady love will be given all colours of gorgeousness in the form of this and this and a couple of these. Yes, yes, I have mailed off my application for sister of the year. And while we're here, let me just share this with you. A stationery hamper worth £350. Don't drool now.

tiny picture, fabulously ginormous price tag, from bureau direct

Sit still at the back, we're nearly done. And this last one's a real cracker. Urban Cottage Industries is a family of small businesses doing totally genius stuff. I could wax lyrical about the personalised letterpress birthday card I got this year. I could gush about the MoleskinePress, CardPress, and PencilPress. And that's before even getting on to the clever things they do with lighting. But what I'd really love to share is Kornflake - business and greetings cards, letterpress printed onto recycled cereal boxes. Their Christmas cards look hard to beat, and I want all my business cards made of old packets of coco pops.

I want that hard. I'll just have to think up a business first.

You're welcome stationery lovers. Now where's my 12-step programme.

snowflake cards made of Frosties packets, they're grrrrrreat! from Kornflake

17 November 2012

the award for 'dinner least attractive to children' goes to...

Embarking on my random recipe at 5pm on a weekday night, with The Boss bouncing off the walls and The Dragon Baby babbling on his mat, was not a recipe for domestic harmony.

The rules for this month's challenge found me randomly selecting page 117 of Nigella Lawson's How To Eat, and a recipe for aubergine moussaka. But, as she points out "This is a Lebanese version, very different from the traditional Greek". It's basically aubergine stew.

While I use it now and again, I'm not a huge fan of How To Eat. This might have something to do with the complete lack of photography (which in this case is probably just as well, because a photo of aubergine stew isn't bonny). I'm not wild about the prose style either, because sometimes you have to work quite hard to find the actual recipe. But, gripes aside...

I couldn't buy baby aubergines or pomegranate molasses, and I couldn't be arsed soaking pulses. So I used big aubergines and canned chickpeas. Oh, and since we do actually still seem to be griping, I didn't peel the aubergines "to look like like Edwardian circus tents". (Really Nigella? Really? Give me strength.)

Bugger it, ground-level babbling has turned to wimpering, but we're too far in to stop now. Dance my love, dance to amuse your brother, dance like a dervish!

She says the aubergines smell like a grocery shop. I know what she means.

Bugger it again. Nigella wants the tomatoes rinsed, peeled, seeded and quartered. Not. on. your. life. They'll be roughly chopped if you're lucky. (And isn't all the flavour in the seed jelly and skin anyway? Why on earth would you chuck them?)

The wimpering has turned into wailing. Sing sweetie, sing to him like our lives depend on it!

It's all getting a bit fraught, and rather noisy, but here's the bit I was looking forward to: adding the cinnamon and allspice. Nice festive smells will make it all better.

But hang about, the combination of vegetal grocer aroma and Christmassy spices equals... what is it? It's very familiar... YES! It's that gag-worthy section just before the checkout at the garden centre where houseplants and artificially scented candles combine to form a collective speech bubble above everyone's heads saying "why the hell is all this odourous tat in a garden centre when all I wanted was a bag of compost?".

I don't really want to eat the stew-formerly-known-as-moussaka. And very forcefully, neither does The Boss. She says it's too brown (pronounced 'braaaaan' invoking her cockney sparrow heritage) and it's hard to disagree. I end up having to make a more child-friendly alternative. While the poor Dragon Baby cries himself hoarse.

It tastes absolutely fine, with couscous and yoghurt, but I'm too scarred by the whole experience to ever consider it again. And there are many, many better things to do with cinnamon and allspice at this time of year. Just please don't put them in a frakking candle.

liebkuchen, my contribution for my first visit to a local baking club last night, and a much better way to use cinnamon

14 November 2012

our lives in stripes

The Puerperium (below left)
The first two tiny weeks. I'm a sack of spuds high on adrenaline. Waddling rather than walking, whilst substantially and absorbantly padded. Afterbirth pains - nobody told me about those. Breastfeeding agony - I knew all about that. He is staggering and beautiful and perfect.

The first Beyond Puerperium (below centre)
Walking is back to normal. Astonishing Pammy A sized ta-tas. Visits to the bathroom no longer feel like a violation. He continues to be divine, gaining a pound per week. But my decreasing adrenaline is inversely proportional to increasing tiredness, reaching a perfect storm around week six, during which things may be said and later regretted. Mummy, what does "flipping" mean?... Why did you call Mr Funny Bunny "that flipping stinky rabbit?"

The following week brings some personal progress, and a routine begins to emerge. And baby giggles. Lots and lots of giggles.

The second Beyond Puerperium (below right)
Who knows what the next phase will bring, but those colours spell Christmas...

Joining in with Yarn Along this week - though I'm afraid there's been no time for reading round these parts. Must try harder...

13 November 2012

the five-day lipstick fix

The day the Dragon Baby turned six weeks old I had a haircut. Not a fan of going to the hairdresser (low boredom threshold) I only go about twice a year when I absolutely have to. So as I sat there, being quizzed about my non-existent holidays by a heavily made-up local lovely, I got to thinking how unfair it is that some people always seem to have such great hair, while mine always looks like utter shit.

Lightbulb moment: they don't just magically have lovely hair, they go to the hairdresser more than twice a year. Duffer. Hang about, that means people aren't born magically well-dressed, naturally fragrant or genetically glossy either. Those people are that way because they makeabitofaneffort.

Six weeks of night feeds, nappies and walking to school in the rain is not conducive to effort. I look and feel like a shambles and it's time to do something about that. The haircut is a good start. Well, it's a mediocre start to be honest but at least my hair got washed before it walked off by itself.

I book my next appointment before leaving the salon and capitalise on this newfound cleanliness with a squirt of their perfume tester on the way out. Mmmm, feeling more like J-Lo by the minute.

the five-day lipstick fix

Day 1: Friday
Most of the really well-put-together people I can think of do the following: red lipstick, statement glasses and headwear (not necessarily all at the same time). A 61cm head rules out most hat options for me, statement glasses involve shopping (not up to that yet), but red lipstick? Can.

Vow to wear it all week.

I dig a tube of dark red lipstick out of the bowels of an old makeup bag. With a smear of tinted moisturiser and a smudge of grey eyeliner, two minutes effort does make a remarkable difference. Teamed with tracksuit bottoms, a stretched old t-shirt and snow boots, remarkable really is the only word for this get up.

Day 2: Saturday
Something's got to be done about these clothes, and there's a voucher kicking around in a drawer somewhere for a shop that's w-a-y too young and trendy for me. On close examination, none of their tops are suitable for breastfeeding (surprise surprise), except perhaps a soft flannel girly lumberjack-ish shirt. By some minor miracle, the larger size is too big. Flattery will get them everywhere, the deal is done and the medium-sized shirt is mine.

Decide to unzip the vac-packed bag of dreams that is my pre-baby wardrobe. Wasn't going to do so 'til Christmas (too soon = tears) but the shirt success breeds contempt for the rules...

WHOA cowgirl, step away from the skinny jeans. Technically they do "fit" (the fly will close) but dove grey drainpipes are a tough look at the best of times. The dark blue bootcut ones are more forgiving, despite having cashed in their fashion credits long before the recession. There's still an astonishing muffin top though, testament to overindulging in its namesake during the pregnant months.

Day 3: Sunday
No more cheating on the diet - this week will be exemplary. The weight is falling off pretty quickly (thanks to constant breastfeeding), but there's a lot more to go. Plan: weighed portion of All Bran with raisins for breakfast, ham salad sandwich and a clementine for lunch, moderate portion of usual family dinner. Nothing to eat in between. NOTHING. Most diet plans seem to advocate eating little and often, trouble is eating a little bit too much a little too often gets you nowhere.

Absolutely starving by the time the children are in bed. Amend my plan: a couple of dates and a handful of walnuts are preferable to eating one's own fist during the night feeds.

Day 4: Monday
The red lipstick thing is a weird one. The other mums at the school gate have only known me heavily pregnant (grey-faced, massive and exhausted) or during the infant phase (grey-faced, massive and exhausted). They're gonna think there's some kind of bizarre nervous breakdown going on behind these lips. Well, get used to it ladies, because today is diy home manicure day. Naturally the baby wakes up just before the varnish is completely dry so will have to take the whole smudged lot off later on. At least I tried.

Day 5: Tuesday
Back at the school gates with my lippy on. And my jeans. In the pouring rain. Fleetingly long for my comfy old leggings or tracksuit bottoms. But lipstick and stretch waistbands together do not go, so the jeans it is. The trip to school is a kilometre each way, so between drop off and pick up I'm striding out 4km per day at least. That's got to be good for the muffin top, the saddle bags and the love handles, especially as there's a big hill involved. However, on sunny days I could push the buggy further and decide to invest in a cheap pedometre to help with goal setting.

The grand old age of seven weeks approaches, and I'm on the road to recovery. I'm getting used to how my face looks with red lipstick on, and I know those grey jeans will look good again one day. The Dragon Baby has his first official check up with the doctor tomorrow, and in order to avoid the appearance of an angry skin condition (on account of Revlon smooches), I'll need to leave off the lipstick in the morning.

I might even miss it.

That's progress right there.


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