Wednesday 30 September 2015

Make Life Beautiful!

make life beautiful

This isn’t my usual choice of book – but I have just joined Bournemouth Libraries [I’m already signed up with Dorset] and grabbed my first half dozen books at the end of a shopping trip last week. I knew nothing about  Camilla Morton, I confess, but the title of the book intrigued me.

CM is a London-based fashion writer and author of How to Walk in High Heels – a book which “advises young women on everything from appreciating wine to understanding modern art, placing a bet to playing poker, wearing a hat, to finding the mains, and generally helping women to navigate life's challenges with style.”


Here she is with designer Matthew Williamson, one of the contributors to Make Life Beautiful. This book has contributions from 50 different people in the world of fashion; dress designers {Williamson, Ozbek] Shoemakers [Blahnik, Kirkwood] Bag-makers [Guinness, Cambridge Satchels] stores [Harrods, Liberty, Anthropologie, TopShop] milliners [Stephen Jones] Homewares [Kidston] and many others

They have each added an idea for making something inexpensive and ‘beautiful’ which the reader can copy. Harrods show how top dress a teddy bear in a Balmain outfit; Cath Kidston gives instructions on making imitation cakes with felt, sponges, and embroidery; Paul Smith customises a bicycle by wrapping the frame in coloured electrical tapes, Jasper Conran puts an orange felt lobster on a plain black cushion cover. Manolo Blahnik decorates biscuits to look like exotic shoes. There are ideas for personalising sweaters, making jewellery, turning a scarf into a dress…

blahnik biscuitchinti and parker sweater


Some of the ideas are fun, some quite crazy, most are colourful and made me smile. I have to say that none are particularly original – decorating biscuits, making sock puppets, or folding a paper hat out of newspaper, or making a mock Faberge egg are things which craftspeople have been doing for years- but the book has a certain quirkiness.

Anya Hindmarsh has a recipe for pretzels – and warns that you need rubber gloves and goggles! I notice that Paul Hollywood’s recipe on the BBC Food site is very similar, but doesn’t carry any safety warnings. Mary McCartney has a recipe for grinola [it’s ordinary granola, but she calls it grinola because it makes her smile]

Is this a serious craft book? well, no – many of the instructions are incomplete and require guesswork – and some of the ideas are too stupid to bother with. Does it give you ideas for making and creating and personalising things? yes it does.  Like Edith Schaeffer’s “Hidden Art” it works on the premise that we can make even everyday items interesting and beautiful – even if they are only flimsy and to be enjoyed for a brief time [like the paper “Hermes Handbag” or the straw scarecrow]

It was a fun read, and I did enjoy it, even if I doubt I shall ever copy many of the ideas.  I rate this ***  Will I search for How to walk in High Heels now? I doubt it – I was born in Essex, and high-heel-walking is in my genes!! [and playing poker is not my game at all]

Tuesday 29 September 2015

Money For Nothing – Trash To Treasure

sarah moore money for nothing bbc

We’ve been catching up with this BBC series about recycling stuff that other people are throwing away. Have you watched any of these programmes?

Each episode follows exactly the same format - At the council tip, Sarah Moore saves three things from being dumped, finds craftspeople who will transform them into bespoke and valuable pieces, then returns the profits back to the people who threw the items away. Some of the changes are brilliant – like these  black chairs thrown out by a tennis club [restored by Jay Blades]


Others are a little more quirky, and not what I’d want around my home. Like weird lamps

ragandbone mans lamp0

And I am constantly amazed that Sarah takes things like this – made out of old scrap metal, and manages to find someone in London who will pay £650 to have this in their home!

When I had my first flat, in 1977, Joan, a friend of my Mum, gave me an old writing bureau that she was planning to throw away.


It looked something like this – about 26” across, 40” high – with a sloping drop flap at the top, revealing three sections, and sliding doors at the bottom. Its made of pretty cheap timber, stained dark brown. When I acquired it, there was no glass in the middle section. I kept books and things in it.

P1020279Then it got a makeover. Bob removed the drop flap, gave it a coat of paint, and it went into Steph’s bedroom in Kirby. Since she went off to Uni, I have used it for storing haberdashery. But now it has been changed again. I have removed the sliding doors at the bottom and it is a bookcase.


No longer having any kitchen bookshelves, this is now where most of my cookbooks live, and a few craft books as well [taller tomes are on an adjacent bookcase]. It forms part of the Ferndown Library-On-The-Landing, which is something of a work in progress.

joans bureau

Maybe the changes to my bureau are not as dramatic as the ones on Sarah’s programme, but it is still good to transform something which was destined for landfill into an item which is both attractive and useful. I don’t suppose that Joan would have ever imagined I’d still be using her old bureau nearly 40 years later.

Have you any special pieces of recycled furniture?

Monday 28 September 2015

Broaching The Subject

Kezzie has had three lovely posts recently about her brooch collection [here, here and here] so I thought I would share five of mine. I too love brooches – and most of them have arrived as gifts from friends and family.

P1020273My little Indian Lady in her sari, with her bindi on her forehead and her bangles on her wrist – made at a Fairtrade Prohject, she was a gift from my friend Elizabeth, and reminds me of all my Asian friends back in Leicester.P1020274

My newest brooch is this little felted daisy [very Mary Quant, don’t you think?] a gift from a friend on the WWDP Committee. Felting is one craft I have not tried [yet!] but I love the results.P1020276 These next are not so much brooches as badges – the top one came as a gift from the Baptist World Alliance Women’s Department, when I organised a huge conference for them, and the second from the European Baptist Women’s Union. My cousin gave me the bottom one on my 60th birthdayP1020277.

These are Australian pearls, set in silver, and my Uncle in Perth gave it to my Gran. When she died, he said I was to have it. I am so glad that when we were burgled, it was on my jacket in the wardrobe, so did not get stolen with all the other jewellery.P1020271

Finally, another felted flower, handmade by a blogfriend. This one always gets compliments when I wear it!

I love all 5 of these. My wardrobe does have a lot of green, blue and stripes, doesn’t it?!

I looked up the definition of broach – and was surprised to discover it has two meanings;

1; to raise a [difficult] subject for discussion

2; to pierce a cask to draw out liquid [e.g. a beer keg]

It comes from the Middle English brochen, to pierce, probably from broche, a pointed weapon or implement. Which presumably is the same root as that of brooch – an ornament which is fixed to clothing with a pin.

Sunday 27 September 2015

Of Minions And Minyans


So, there we were, walking along the East Cliff in Bournemouth, after our trip to the Museum, and I said “There’s a minion, bobbing about in the sea!” We stopped and looked more closely.


It wasn’t a minion – it was one of the yellow buoys that mark off the swimming area, and warn jet skis and boats that the maximum speed is 8 knots. But you can understand my initial mistake. We had a conversation about the difference between a minion and a minyan.

minionsMinion; Evolving from single-celled yellow organisms at the dawn of time, a minion lives to serve, but finds himself working for a continual series of unsuccessful masters, from T. Rex to Napoleon. Without a master to grovel for, a minion will fall into a deep depression.


These little yellow people are not to be confused with Minyan; a properly constituted group for a public Jewish prayer service, made up of at least ten Jewish males over the age of thirteen.

I have known about both minions and minyans for quite some time. But what I hadn’t really thought about until quite recently was what the minyan rule means for the Jews – basically it says

unless there are TEN adult males present, you CANNOT have a public prayer service

and so smaller groups, and groups of women don’t count. Which makes it even more wonderful to reflect on the words of Jesus in Matthew 18, where he says to his disciples

For where TWO or THREE gather in my name, I AM there with them.

Isn’t that an encouragement to us to pray, even if we are only few in number?

Saturday 26 September 2015

Bargain Hunt!

Since we moved, I have been trying to use my best Hornsea china at least once a week, if not more. It is sturdy and oven and dishwasher safe, so with reasonable care, I hope not to have many accidents! In the last 36 years, only one bowl has been smashed. When I am in Charity Shops, I always check the china shelf. In the past month, I have collected these pieces – for £5.50 the lot [from 4 different CS]


The bowls are a great size for individual cottage pies/lasagnes etc. I have never had the Cornrose salt and pepper, or an egg cup before. Jugs and jampots are always useful!

Bargain-Hunt-Tim-WonnacotOn the subject of Bargain Hunt – what has happened to Tim Wonnacott? Is he coming back to the programme? Or has he lost his golden gavel for good?

Friday 25 September 2015

If It’s Chilly, Try Chillis from Chile!


Last week I said I was going to make some Chilean Empañadas. I did, and I remembered to take a photo just before we finished eating them. But I forgot to post the recipe.

Spiced beef empanadas - Makes 12

prep time 20 mins [plus chilling] cooking time 20 mins

For the pastry

450g/1lb plain flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

60g/2¼oz butter, diced into 1cm/½in cubes

60g2¼oz lard, diced into 1cm/½in cubes

For the meat filling

2 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

1 green pepper, seeds removed, finely chopped

400g/14oz lean minced beef

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp chilli powder

30g/1oz raisins

12 green olives, pitted, roughly chopped

2 hard boiled eggs, chopped

1 tsp dried cumin

Pinch salt

1 beaten egg [for sealing/glazing]

Preparation method

Turn the oven to 200C/fan 180C/Gas 6 and line a large baking tray with baking parchment.

1. For the pastry, mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Add the diced butter and lard and rub into the flour using your fingertips until the mixture has the texture of fine breadcrumbs. Add cold water

one teaspoon at a time, mixing between additions with a table knife,until the dough comes together into a soft dough (the dough will take anything between 3-6 tbsp water). Roll the dough into a ball and wrap well in cling film, leave to rest in the fridge for an hour.

2. For the meat filling, boil the eggs for 10 minutes, until hard boiled. Cool under running water, then peel and chop. Set to one side.

3. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan, add the onion and cook on a low heat until transparent and softened. Add the green pepper and minced beef and fry over a high heat until the meat has browned, then add the paprika and chilli powder. Remove the pan from the heat and add the raisins, olives, cumin and chopped eggs. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

4. To assemble the empanadas, remove the pastry from the fridge, and roll out to pound coin thickness (3mm). Cut circles from the pastry, using a saucer as a guide, or else use a 12cm/4½in pastry cutter.

5. Put two teaspoons of filling onto one half of each pastry circle. Wet the edges of the pastry with a little water, fold the non-filled half of the pastry over the filled half, and crimp the edges together to seal or use a fork to mark the edges. Repeat with the remaining pastry circles.

6. Put the empanadas on the baking tray and brush with beaten egg. Bake for 15–20 minutes, or until golden-brown.

recipe tips It's important not to overfill the empanadas. Try making these into mini versions and serve as canapés. P1020214

For true authenticity, these should be deep-fried and sprinkled with caster sugar, but I am trying to cut down on fats and sugar!

Thursday 24 September 2015

Oh I Do Like To Live Beside The Seaside!

Walking down the side of the Russell Cotes Museum, to the entrance, we spotted loads of amazing little seaside themed sculptures fixed to the railings. We were amused by their diversity – here are a few of them

Holiday gear –bikini, sunglasses, flipflop, bucket and spade – and a beach hut in which to store them.



Activities – fly a kite, build a sandcastle, play ball, eat an ice cream or some Bournemouth rock – and search for treasure with a metal detector.



Creatures - who live in the oceans or on the cliffs


I SPY -  look through the binoculars – can you see a mermaid, or a shipwreck?




Actually, if you DO look through the binoculars, you see the tiny silhouette of a drowning man!These artworks were clearly a source of fascination to many others who were walking along the path. It was great to see grannies and toddlers chatting together.

If it is too far to walk, have a ride on the little train!