Thursday, 22 September 2011

Me and my Sewing Machine: A Love Story

Well, not quite, but we do get on very well together. Despite a few broken needles, which were speedily replaced, there has been no project too tough for us to tackle together. So, in the interests of helping any new sewing fans find their mechanised soul mate, I wrote a piece on Daily Waffle about how to choose your first sewing machine. If you, or anyone you know, is looking to take the plunge and invest in your first sewing machine, please take a look. And spread the word too.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Proof that my kids have been brainwashed.

As if proof was needed that I'm warden to three tiny geeks, Jake revealed where his true allegiance lies in a conversation with his dad. Recently Jake has been fixated on the idea of best friends, and the boyfriend wonder, eager to prove that Jake had been claiming that his daddy was his best friend, initiated this exchange.

D: Jake, who's your best friend?

Jake: Optimus Prime.

D: Okay, who's your second best friend?

Jake: Bumble Bee.

D: Well who's your third best friend?

Jake: Another Optimus Prime.

The boyfriend wonder was a little deflated after that. But to be fair, Jake has also claimed that ugly fudge (the name the twins have given the little black and white kitten) is his best friend, as well as his teacher, Batman and, of course, Ben. Poor Daddy.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

What I'm Working on (or How I'm Avoiding Studying for an Imminent Exam)

Whenever I finish an assignment, I tend to throw myself into crafts and/or lazing about, to make up for the amount of work and stress I'd put into it. Inevitably, this continues a little longer than would be desirable, and I give myself a panic stricken week to write the next assignment before starting the whole cycle all over again. It's a wonder I haven't given myself a stroke.

But the end is in sight. On October 11th I sit an exam that I am, as of yet, in no way prepared for, and then I can focus on a lovely, sedate creative writing module followed by a summer off before I start the heavy literature stuff again. I've already planned all the nifty little crafty things I'm going to be doing, including some nerdy cross-stitch and hopefully, somewhere down the line, an etsy shop. Provided I survive my first exam in 4 years, that is.

Currently distracting me from the task at hand is a handful of random bits that I started with gusto once my assignment was submitted.

I'd been hearing so much about other people's knitting projects recently, that I was having withdrawal symptoms, so I decided to knit some Christmas presents. The green knitting in the background is a half finished scarf for my cousin. I've gotten to the stage in my knitting career where I finally understand the mechanics of certain stitch patterns and techniques, so this is my first project knitted without a pattern to follow. I'm noting down the pattern as I go along, and so might share it someday, if it works out that is. The scarf will have little pockets at the bottom, for those days when he forgets, or loses his gloves, as kids tend to do. The boyfriend wonder also wants a version of this scarf, so I'll be knitting his with 3 strands at a time on big needles, to save time. I bought 8 balls of the green marl yarn on eBay quite cheaply. It's a 30% wool acrylic mix, and while I tend to avoid acrylic, it will wash much better and both my little cousin and the boyfriend wonder are prone to losing scarves, so no point splashing out on expensive wool.

The red and white things are pieces of a Christmas decoration project that I just have to embellish and sew up. I'll share photos when I'm done. I used random red and white yarn from my knitting bag, and because I never check the gauge of my knitting, the red pieces are slightly smaller than the white. I've completed one of these already, and it isn't noticeable in the final piece, but it makes the sewing up a little trickier. If these turn out nice, I might make a whole batch as they are so quick and easy, and in that case, I'll buy more uniform yarn.

The final, and only completed project thus far, is some Hallowe'en bunting made with one of the remnants I mentioned last time. Because I only had a small amount, I used black and white polka dot material for the back of each flag, and spaced them out a little further on the binding tape. I made two strands and wrote up a tutorial which I'll be posting shortly. I'm really quite pleased with them and they'll look great when they're all strung up on the wall.

In preparation for my creative writing module, I needed to buy some writer's notebooks, as the course encourages copious note taking to help get ideas flowing. That's hardly a new concept to any writer, and I have tons of notebooks lying around with half finished ideas and plans in them. I usually just get whatever lined notebooks take my fancy in the supermarket or stationary shop. Nothing fancy. But while browsing WH Smith, with an eye to picking up a Moleskine notebook as a treat, I noticed they had a 60% off sale on Paperblanks. For those of you who aren't familiar with the brand, Paperblanks produce a range of notebooks and diaries that are as beautiful as they are horrendously expensive. But with such a good deal, I picked up a few to help me get inspired and excited about writing again.

The blue one in the back is from their Tiffany range and actually feels textured liked leaded glass. Hopefully if I start producing anything of any worth, I can share some short stories here and finally get over my fear of putting my writing out into the public eye.

And finally, one quick photo of my littlest dude, Olly, who turned one on the 9th. We are rapidly leaving the baby years behind us, and while a little, tiny part of me is sad to see them go, mostly I'm massively relieved as I've pretty much been exhausted for the past three years.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Daily Waffle recipes and more

You may not be aware because I've only mentioned it about a couple of hundred times, but I write in a more professional capacity on Daily Waffle every week. While I appreciate that a lot of my articles appeal to a pretty niche community, I try to write a few less geeky ones every so often. However, the thing is, the site is not attracting the traffic it deserves and it's starting to get everyone down.

There are a heap of people like me over there, writing about the random things they know and are interested in. So there have been heart wrenching articles about dementia and others about anti-bullying campaigns. There is sport and humour and really something for everyone. But, today I'm going to talk about some of the cookery articles. In particular, my fellow writer, Sera McDaid who has lost an absolute ton of weight with Slimming World and is sharing some of her favourite syn free meals (syns are the Slimming World equivalent of Weightwatchers points, as I understand it.) If you are trying to lose weight, or even if you aren't, you should check out her delicious recipes.

This Eton Mess has to be my favourite. I haven't tried to make it yet, but it looks absolutely divine. While not being absolutely syn free, it is low in fat and calories, and if you're worried about all the sugary, fruity goodness, well, just make sure to brush your teeth extra well afterwards.

If you are trying to diet, or just eat a little better, but are missing take out food, Sera has devised a syn free Rogan Josh made with fresh ginger, delicious spices and tons of vegetables. For any curry lovers out there, this is an excellent recipe.

And meatloaf doesn't exactly sound like an ideal slimming food, but it does sound good on cold September days when it's grey and wet outside. So, Sera's meatloaf is perfect as it is syn free and filling for cosy autumn nights in.

I can't wait to see what else she shares with us every week, so if you like the look of Sera's brand of cooking, why not subscribe to the site via RSS, Facebook, Twitter or e-mail and keep up to date with all the latest articles. You can follow Sera on Twitter too and keep up with her slimming exploits. The girl's got amazing style too and a good eye for a bargain, so she's well worth following. @sera_mcdaid

I'm also going to start hosting all of my tutorials over there, and will list the links in my sidebar here. I should have a bunting tutorial to go with my cushion covers in a little while, and I have many more planned. So please, pop over, read, comment and show a little love for eager writers trying to get out there.

And the winner is...

Thanks to all who entered my very first giveaway. A lot of people came over from my MIL Angie's blog. And while I would love to take part in WOYWW I don't actually have a workspace to speak of, just the kitchen table as and when I need it. Maybe when the kids grow up and move out I'll have a workroom. Only 15 more years to go then :D

Anyway, thanks to everyone who entered. The winner has been chosen randomly and it is...

... Maggi!

Congratulations! Send your mailing address to me at chickpeasoup [at] and I will send your prize ASAP.

Thanks again for all the entries and new followers. I will be back soon with a few ongoing projects and one completed one. I also hope to get around to all of your blogs when I have a bit of peace XD

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Last Chance to Win!!

Only two entries to my first ever Dropped Stitches giveaway! Why not go enter while there's still time? The winner will be chosen tomorrow evening.