Friday, October 28, 2005


I have been having a flurry of crafting activity the last couple of weeks. The Girl-twin quilt (still waiting for better inspiration for a name) top is done and I'm hoping to finish it this weekend. I have two knitting projects on the go and was even contmplating knitting something for a colleagues baby shower next week. But that would mean outing myself as a knitter at work. Hmmmm...I might lose my street cred. Oh that's right - I don't have any ....nothing to lose. Meanwhile I have bought some of this animal fabric for Boy-twin quilt - you can't see it in the picture but there are also crocodiles and kangaroos - I think its really cute (maybe a bit too cute for some tastes).

I've gone right off the star design and am now thinking a simple coin design with lots of bright splashes of colour. (The purple squiggle represents a penguin)

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Manos Scarf

I don't have enough projects on the go at the moment so I started two more on the weekend. This is my new winter scarf to be - made out of special Manos del Urugauy wool from New York. Well I bought it in Purl but its not originally from New York - its from Uruguay where it is hand made by a collective of women artists. Its soooo soft and squishy. My knitting guru Pauline suggested the mistake rib stitch and I think its showing off the colours perfectly. A nice brainless project perfect for CSI and Lost viewing although Lost almost lost me last night - why is only every second or third week any good?! I'm persevering with it ...but only because there's nothing much else on.

Monday, October 24, 2005

London shopping: Liberty


Apart from one or two other craft related activities on the weekend, I met up for coffee with Tim and sneakily lured him into Liberty on the pretext of showing him how unbelievable it is inside but with the secret agenda of buying knitting needles.

After deciding we wanted ALL the furniture on the fourth floor, Tim directed this arty shot of the colourful wool and I managed to grab some needles before he dragged me out again (thats not true actually - he was very patient).

Look at this wood panelling (sorry – bit dark). This place is really a gallery rather than a department store.

And these lights!!

Friday, October 21, 2005

Sneak Preview - Girl Twin Quilt

Sneak Preview
Originally uploaded by Hells Bells.

Inspired by Kaffe Fasset's 2x2 pastel design in Patchwork and Jane's beautiful 'Etre et Avoir' colourful version I decided to make this for one of the twins. The girl one. Hopefully I will come up with a better name by the time I'm finished. For the quilt that is not the baby . I'll leave that up to Shaz obviously.

Sharon isn't much into pastels but I think I can get away with this combo with the browns and creams to tone it down. I (selfishly) couldn't resist the pinks and lavenders.

I'm pretty happy with the colour combo and am now waiting for some more of the striped fabric for the edge trianges. I bought a small piece of it NY and its perfect but frustratingly didn't have enough. Especially with the mistakes I made cutting it out late last night.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

It makes no sense!

So. I thought I would make this quilt from Kids Quilts in a Weekend by Elizbeth Keevil for one of the twins (Sharon's - a diffferent set from the beanie and jumper twins). Happily she has let us know she's expecting a boy and a girl. Much easier for gift selection.

But. The finished squares are meant to be 61/4 inches (71/2 cut out size including 5/8 seam allowance) but the template for the stars is 4 inches - at 50% of the finished size. So by my calculations that would make it 8 inches when enlarged by 200%. Right?? I am confused. Does anyone else have this book...or any ideas?

And. More of a problem (possibly) -the stars are backed with fusible webbing and just ironed on without any seam (raw edge).

But. I don't think that would look v. good after many washes. Does anyone have any opinions on this? Is it possible to make them with a seam tucked under (difficult with the points?)?

If anyone has any ideas on this please let me know...

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Twin beanies

Twin beanies
Originally uploaded by Hells Bells.

I finished the second beanie last night and now just have to sew the two jumpers together. They will be quite plain so I'm considering extra decoration ideas. I was thinking about some crocheted flowers - once I find out how to make them. Or maybe some applique - but am not sure if I like applique on a knitted background.

Monday, October 17, 2005


Originally uploaded by Hells Bells.

It was a quiet, yet busy weekend. The main event was the 10km run on Sunday when we joined Paula Radcliffe and a few thousand others to become walking Nike advertisments. We were in the first tranche at 9:30 which meant getting up early but was worth it as Hyde Park was really lovely - slightly misty and cool. The autumn leaves are beautiful. I know 9:30 is not that early but ....Sunday.

The run was good but even better was lunch at the Black Sheep Cafe at Crystal Palace after. Newly discovered (by us that is)...why hadn't we been before - good atmosphere, really good food and couches so comfy Beth and I were nearly asleep.

Saturday morning I woke up early (two early weekend mornings - v. weird) and started baking. Chocolate and ginger cookies were good - better if i hadn't over cooked them. Version two of the Peach tart was better - no lumps this time but was let down by very tasteless peaches. Will have to try and remember the tricks to this recipe for next summer.

I didn't make much progress on the twin's sets but hoping to finish them this week - if I can figure out how to make crochet flowers for added detail.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Peach Tart

Peach Tart
Originally uploaded by Hells Bells.

After the Delia Cooking day I thought I would attempt the Peach Tart for Steve’s birthday. I gathered all the ingredients including organic Peaches from Borough Market and a FIVE pound vanilla pod from Selfridges food hall. I’ve since seen vanilla pods for much less but of course couldn’t find one at our local Morrison’s (they didn’t even stretch to vanilla essence).

I think after the Chef demo’d six dishes in the space of two hours I was under the illusion that it wouldn't take very long to make. But with so many components – pastry, peaches cooked separately, filling and fruit glaze I ended up in a bit of a tizz with pastry needing to be frozen and rested and blind baked. Talk about high maintenance. (Unfortunately Morrison’s didn’t stock frozen short crust pasty either – bugger).

Anyway so by the time I came to the cream filling there was equipment, dishes and packets strewn across the kitchen. I was closely following the instructions – In a pan mix sugar milk and the (extortionately expensive) vanilla and boil it, then blend egg yolks with something else in a separate bowl – ok no problem. But…still following instructions…I then poured the milk into the egg mixture….and watched with horror as the eggs began to take on a very strange texture. I managed to scramble them. Total panic – I couldn’t start again as I didn’t have any more vanilla. Time and patience were also almost all out. So I pulled out the stab-mixer and blended the hell out of it while yelling at Steve that I was having a major disaster. He yelled back “didn’t Alex say something about that – to pour it in slowly to stop it going funny?!”. Oh. Yes. He did. Whey the hell didn't he put it in the instructions though?!!

So although the end result looked divine(if I do say so myself) – the slightly rubbery, lumpy texture let it down a bit(Steve and Naomi both made very polite yum noises - thank you).But I’m not going to let this experience put me off – I’m going to try again this weekend with the very last peaches of the season.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Up North

Little G & Nomes
Originally uploaded by Hells Bells.

We went up North on the weekend to say goodbye to the cottage. No more BBQs in the backyard, stepping next door to the pub and being lulled to sleep by the beck. But we rescued some of the kitch that is close to our hearts so Beth can still dance around the Chinaman lamp at our next get together.

We had a wonderful dinner with Jake and Jo - it was chilly up there so we had total comfort food - braised lamb and roast veg. Feeling hungry just thinking about it.

As always the kids were super excited to see us. I should really say - to see Uncle Steve. I think they've eventually accepted that I'm a regular extra. Georgia has stopped calling me "THAT girl" anyway. And they sometimes call me Aunty Helen... usually when they want something. Its facinating watching them play. Sam LOVES anything to do with vehicles, especially cars, trucks, trains and likes to build complex road and rail systems for them....whereas Georgia will spend hours colouring in, writing and making crafty things. It seems to be completely hard coded. If you try to interest Sam in drawing he will simply say "thats stupid" and G will lose interest in building anything in two seconds and drift away. I remember loving playing with lego as a kid but was also into my dolls in a big way. I wonder if just having sisters makes a difference?

Rail Construction
Originally uploaded by Hells Bells.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Holiday highlights #4: Great Yarmouth, Delia Smith and other adventures

We arrived back from New York on Wednesday morning and drove three hours to up to Norwich, the location for Delia Smiths cookery courses. Steve gave me the “Dinner Party for Friends” day last Christmas so we’d been looking forward to it for awhile.

We decided to stay near Norwich the night before. I had the brilliant idea it would be nice to stay somewhere on the coast so we headed straight for Great Yarmouth as it looked like it was relatively large and close to the city.

Mistake number one. By the time we got there we were too tired and jetlagged to find an alternative. The brochure proclaimed it as the “Entertainment Capital of the East Coast”. What it should have added is “for old age pensioners”. This picture pretty much sums it up. We couldn’t believe that such a place existed in the UK. Or anywhere outside Vegas really, although apparently its not a patch on Blackpool (the entertainment capital of the West coast?). Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find a picture of the impressive array of neon lights along the beach front but you’ll just have to take my word for it.

Mistake number two. The hotel. We asked the tourist office to find us a hotel with a double bed. That was the only requirement – I didn’t think it was that demanding. This was the result. Two single beds hardly distinguishable among the profusion of floral curtains, wallpaper and carpet. We were a looong way from the Hudson.

Hotel in Great Yarmouth

What the picture doesn’t show is the special disabled lift up the stairs and the two coach loads full of grey (and blue) haired ladies having their dinner at 5pm in the restaurant. And it doesn’t really show the towelling sheets to their full effect either.

The “huge range of international restaurants” in the brochure included a steakhouse, Mexican and Pizzeria. Luckily we were able to find quite a good Indian which helped quell the rising hysteria.

Feeling slightly traumatised by the whole Great Yarmouth experience we drove to the Norwich Football Club the next morning where our cooking day was held. We thought we were early (20 minutes before the start time) but were the last of about 70 people to arrive. I quickly realised this was serious business. All the seats were taken but luckily for us the host for the day shared the same name as Steve and he rallied to find us some comfortable bar stools on the side and we had a great birds eye view of the demo. It turned out that we were sitting next to the chef, Alex Mackay who was from NZ so he and Steve instantly bonded and we got a bit background beforehand.

We had a whirlwind demo of 6 dishes over the two hours with lots of handy tips and tricks. The dinner party theme meant an emphasis on dishes to cook in advance which was handy and provided ideas for two different three course meals. Alex was hugely entertaining and enthusiastic. This led me into a totally false sense of security when attempting one of the recipes but more on that later.

Chef Alex McKay
Originally uploaded by Hells Bells.

After that we had a wine tasting and delicious three course meal. We were seated with some hard core Delia fans and picked up even more cooking tips. (e.g. whatever you do don’t attempted her Fallen Chocolate Prune Cake recipe. It is Not Good. Well with a name like that….). And we also got a strict warning in undertones not to mention the “incident”. Steve was quite outnumbered but there were probably more guys there than I would have expected and they weren’t all dragged along by their partners either.

During lunch the original UK TV cook herself arrived and came around to each table for a bit of a chat. “Hello”…”Having fun?” ……”Buy lots of my cookbooks”. No she didn’t really say that last bit but it seemed to be implied by the huge table of Delia merchandise at the front door. So of course I obliged. I just couldn’t resist the Chocolate one. Or the Soup one. Or the new Kitchen Garden one. But then I made her sign them all which she did with a friendly chat. It was really a fantastic day and we were even given goodie bags stashed with cooking goodness to take away.

Lunch at Deliah Smith Course
Originally uploaded by Hells Bells.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

New York highlights #3

Hudson Lobby
Originally uploaded by Hells Bells.

This picture is attempting to catch the sleek sexiness of the Hudson Hotel where we stayed in NYC. Behind the stunning chandelier and the reception area is the “Private Park” (also known as an outdoor bar). On the other side is the Hudson Bar with sleek Philippe Stark Ghost chairs and nightclub loud music on the weekend. We studiously sampled the lychee martinis from both and came to the conclusion that they were all good. Our room was tiny as the reviews promised and the whole hotel was dark dark dark. But we felt like rock stars

Glamour cocktails at Hudson bar
Originally uploaded by Hells Bells.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

New York highlights #2

Soho buildings
Originally uploaded by Hells Bells.

Steve and I both loved SOHO and the interesting combination of old buildings and funky, beautifully designed shops. We drooled over ibooks and ipods in the warehouse meets high design Apple store. I think we also went into every clothes store – very happy with my new black flippy skirt – bought in an attempt to make my wardrobe (slightly) more girly.

We then rendez vous’ed with Mary of Mamie Makes for lunch. So fun to meet Mary in “real life” after sharing emails and enjoying her fab blog. I was slightly nervous but Mary’s clever choice of cafĂ© next to gorgeous knitting store Purl quickly broke the ice. Steve was completely mystified by the squeezing, stroking and talking in hushed voices over balls of wool and left to find a safe happy place. Some time later (apparently quite a while) I finally decided on some lovely multicoloured wool for a winter scarf and some pink stripey wool for my Sock Challenge. I think there is definitely a gap in the market for a shop like this in London.

Mary has given me her “easy” Happy Socks pattern so hopefully I’ll end up with something resembling wearable clothing. And also gave me some fab fabric from her stash which was a lovely surprise.

Mary in Purl
Originally uploaded by Hells Bells.

Monday, October 03, 2005

New York highlights #1

Scenes at the Met
Originally uploaded by Hells Bells.

Even after first Monday at work I’m still on a bit of a high after such a good holiday. Something about New York makes me feel inspired and energised (I’m sure I’m not the first person to experience this!).

We arrived Saturday and soaked up the scene walking around in the afternoon. Jetlag kicked in pretty quickly and we woke up on Sunday incredibly early. For some bizarre reason I thought we should get up and go out “to make the most of it”. Of course nothing was open (and we didn’t see anyone else except keen joggers out) but we managed to find some brekky and undrinkable coffee at a dodgy caff until the Metropolitan Museum opened. I think it’s definitely the best art gallery I’ve been to. We then went to the small yet perfectly formed Frick gallery (when it FINALLY) opened after 12. (so ironic from someone who is very rarely up before midday on Sunday).

After all that walking around and looking thoughtfully at paintings we were pretty hungry and Steve was steering me quite determinedly in the direction of a “nice” restaurant. I was kind of wondering why the need for such extravagance but finally clicked when he passed me a little box with “here you go” or something equally romantic. Of course when I saw the sparkler in the box I couldn’t remember what he’d said anyway! Very sneaky (in a wonderful way of course).