Thursday, 28 January 2016

Kirigami update 2

Just a quick post today as I wanted you to update you on my Kirigami-a-day project. It's going well and I look forward to those moments of calm cutting out each day. Here's what the past 2 weeks have brought.

11 January, above, was a snowflake design which reminded me of a spiral of coral.

12 January: What do you see in this this one? I see ladies with bouffant hairstyles, arms raised, holding hands!

13 January and possibly the most boring pattern so far. It was meant as an introduction to using fancy-edge scissors - mine are deckle - but surely it could have been a more interesting design?

15 January: Now this is more like it! One of my favourites so far.

You might have noticed I missed 14 January. Well, there was no kirigami that day - just instructions on creating a cutting surface for a craft knife, which we'd be using for...

...16/17 January. Not the most exciting of patterns. I need to work on my craft knife skills though as the cutting came out a bit scruffy.

19 January: reminded me of a cog.

20 January: great excitement as it was the first of the pop-out designs. There are a lot fancier ones to come :)

21 January: this reminded me of a stained glass rose window.

22 January: lots of rotating suns.

23/24 Jan. Oh no, a boring one to end the week.

I hope you're enjoying the updates. I fear that writing about kirigami is much less engrossing than actually doing it :( However, for my own records, I'm going to continue to post a photo of each design. There are some lovely ones to come too. x

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Feeling the Burn(s)

Yesterday was my annual Burns Night supper. My friend Gordon is Scottish and it also happens to be his birthday the week before, so it's become a tradition for him, his wife and son to come over to celebrate.

I always try to do something new and, this time, I found some printable flags from Activity Village and made some bunting to hang on the mantelpiece and decorations to stick in the dessert. We also indulged in my version of a Tartan Trembler cocktail - one measure of whisky and campari shaken with ice, topped up with Irn Bru (made in Scotland from gir-ders, as the ad used to say!).

We follow the traditional Burns Night running order which you can read about on my previous post. You'll also see there the tartan shirt I wear every year as it's the only vaguely Scottish thing I own!

The main course has to be haggis, neeps (swede) and tatties (potatoes). I tried a new recipe for the swede, roasting it in olive oil, honey, cumin seeds and mild chilli powder - yum! Will definitely be making that one again.

Another yum for the dessert, Black Forest cranachan. Layers of chocolate coated, toasted oats, cherries and cream. Best to take it out of the fridge half an hour before serving though as the oats do set quite solidly in the bottom of the glass!

And no Burns Night is complete without some activities. There was a word search (again from Activity Village)...

...tossing the caber pencil. Balance the pencil on your finger on the floor, then flick it up and see how far it can go.

And our favourite, potting the haggis ie throwing furry pom-poms into a flower pot. As popular as ever though some of the competitors seemed to lack concentration.

To finish, a spot of Burns conga around the living room to that classic, Doon in the wee room, before settling down to watch a DVD. I do enjoy Burns Night - it's one of my favourite nights of the year :)

Today I tried to work off some of the haggis with my new exercise regime. I'm easily bored so I'm following a plan which involves lots of different exercises and you don't spend more than 2 minutes on any of them.

Meet the Home Jules gym:
Chair - for doing squats. Stand in front of it and bend to sit, standing up as soon as your bum hits the seat.
Step - for stepping up and down, or for tapping your feet against (the bottom step of some stairs would do fine).
Weights - for lifting your arms in various directions.
Yoga mat - press-ups, leg lifts, side plank, reverse curls and a few yoga poses for good measure.
Hula hoop - to give that tummy more of a workout - mine needs one!

I should add that I'm only a week into it so it's early days and I'm taking it at a steady pace. Feel the (slow) burn!

We're also trying to eat a bit healthier though that goes astray with things like Burns Night! This afternoon I made me and Chickpea a Mexican Hot Chocolate which has almond milk, cocoa powder, maple syrup, vanilla, cinnamon and cayenne pepper. So far so good. Until I added a dollop of cream left over from last night. Hmm, must try harder! Though it did make it luscious.

I'm also still doing the kirigami and will be updating you on progress soon - this one is from last Monday.

Well, time to heat up those Burns leftovers. Enjoy the rest of your Sunday. x

Sunday, 17 January 2016

The Whitworth and the Snow

It's been a busy weekend. Unusually for us, we've been out both days and then, of course, there has been the added excitement of snow! But more of that later.

On Saturday, we headed into Manchester to meet up with some friends. We arrived to blue skies, sunshine and bright splashes of red from Chinese lanterns, all ready for Chinese New Year on 8 February.

Terminal by Bernard Schottlander

There was more red at the Whitworth Art Gallery where we were having lunch. It underwent a major renovation project in 2014/15 which included building a lovely new cafe/restaurant with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the park. Needless to say it's very busy and we had to queue a little while, particularly as there were 9 of us.

Well worth it though as the food was delicious. Here's my pastrami sandwich, taken with the 'food' mode on my camera. No, I'm not sure what it does either but I did think the detail and colour came out really well.

Then it was time for a walk around the Art_Textiles exhibition. There were works by some famous names like Tracey Emin and Grayson Perry but I preferred some of the other exhibits. These are a few highlights. Mind you, I had to be selective as some of them weren't suitable for family viewing!

I loved these 2 quilts by Risham Syed and particularly the one on the right because of all the little characters - you would never tire of looking at all the details.

Ghada Amer - Sunset with words

Lyn Malcolm - Why have we so few great women artists?
 This was one of Chickpea's favourites. She liked the way the name of the work was carried through the different objects.

Mary Sibande - Sophie-Velucia/Madame CJ Walker
And we all thought this was one of the most thought-provoking and interesting of the exhibits. If I remember rightly, the Sophie of the title represents the artist's mother. The woman in the portrait is Sarah Breedlove who was a self-made millionaire and the first in her family to break from domestic servitude: her fortune was made from hair care products. There's an article about Mary Sibande and her 'Sophie' works here.

Lastly, nothing to do with textiles but I really liked this 'mobile' and the lovely colours and patterns it reflected on the wall. I'd definitely recommend a visit to the Whitworth if you're in the area.

After arriving in those blue skies, it was a surprise to get off the train at home to find the car covered in snow! What is it about snow that's so thrilling? Chickpea couldn't stop breaking out in excited giggles as we drove home.

This morning it was still there. Hurrah! We were going out again but I couldn't resist a quick walk beforehand, so I pulled on my boots and headed out around the lake.


I hope these aren't the last of the snowy scenes this winter :)

I couldn't stay out long though as we were going to the cinema to see Room. I loved the book and have to say that the film didn't disappoint. The child actor was amazing. Highly recommended.

And that was my weekend. I also have my kirigami update to show you but will save that for another post. We have another busy weekend next week as it's my annual Burns Night supper.

Hope you enjoyed your weekend in the snow or otherwise. Have a lovely week. x

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Kirigami & other news: week 1

Well, here's the first of my kirigami updates, showing the patterns from 5-10 January. I'm enjoying those few minute each evening spent in quiet concentration and, even though there's an illustration of each pattern, it's still a thrill to unfurl the paper to see what appears.

In the case of the one above from 5 January, it's not quite the same as the illustration. If you look closely, you can see that the centre doesn't match - I think I hadn't been accurate enough folding along the lines. I really like my version though and it's one of the most interesting patterns so far. It was also the first to use the starburst folding technique.

6 January: Another to use the starburst fold. It reminds me of cogs or something mechanical.

7 January: a more intricate design and my favourite so far. It was more difficult to cut out because of the wibbly bits around each 'spike' and the layers of paper but worth it. Chickpea says it reminds her of a holly wreath.

8 January: Another new fold pattern to learn - the spider! Looks like the 4th July, said Chickpea.

9/10 January: A boring one to end the week :( The most exciting part was the Hints box on the instructions saying that I'd soon be needing scissors with a fancy cutting edge and a hole punch! I've peeked ahead and there are pop-ups and all kinds of fancy patterns - can't wait!

In other news:

It was the first meeting of 2016 of my quilt group. We had a demo of string quilts from Jean who brought along endless quilts, samples and patterns to share - so much inspiration.

There was also discussion around our exhibition and a reluctant decision to postpone it until May 2017. Quite a few members have decided to leave and there was concern we might not have enough large quilts to show. Disappointing but it's given me more breathing space to finish mine.

I had a walk around the lake in the brief interlude between rain yesterday. I've never seen the water level so close to the path. No cause for concern though as the lake is in a hollow and the level would have to rise considerably before it overflowed.

This weekend also saw the first pick for 2016's cookery challenge. Each week I'll be picking a book or magazine out of a hat (well, a jar) and have to make at least one recipe. Nigella's Kitchen was first out and I made poached chicken with lardons and lentils. You can see the recipe and the lady herself making it on Martha Stewart's site. I admit Nigella's looks more appetising than mine which, in all fairness, looks like brown sludge. My version uses chicken thighs rather than breast (which I prefer as they have more flavour) and I broke the pieces up rather than having them draped decoratively. Very tasty.

Tonight we're having pasta with gorgonzola, spinach and pine nuts. It should have been feta but I had gorgonzola in the fridge which needed eating up. We've had this combination before so I know it will taste good. You can see what I made from Kitchen in the 2014 challenge here.

I'd forgotten how hard it is photographing food under electric lights, then, lo and behold, I found out today that the camera has a 'food' setting! The mind boggles!

And that's been my week. Well, the bloggable bits anyway. Hope you had a good one and enjoy the rest of your Sunday. I'm off to make the pasta. x

Sunday, 3 January 2016


New year, new craft. I hadn't planned to have a go at something new but I came across this Kirigami calendar at half-price in a garden centre. Kirigami is the Japanese art of cutting and folding paper. I'm sure you'll all have made snowflakes and paper chains when you were little. As you can see from the cover, these are bit more intricate - if you do an image search on the internet you can see some truly awe-inspiring creations.

As well as trying a new craft, I liked the idea of crafting every day, even if only for a few minutes. It fits really nicely with the ethos of mindfulness which I'm keen to try again after attending the short course last summer.

Each day you're given a different design and you use the sheet from the previous day to cut it out. The sheet has an outline printed on it to cut out, folding lines and a list of equipment. There's also a set of cards to show you the different folding patterns: snowflake, spider, starburst and so on.

This snowflake design is from 1 January.

And this is from 2/3 January. I'm planning to post the results each weekend. I've struggled to get back into the blogging habit lately and I think having a regular schedule will help.

So, as well as the Kirigami, I thought I'd tell you some of my other plans for 2016. They're not resolutions as such but I do like to have something to aim for.

Quilting has to be a priority. It's my quilt group's exhibition in June and, at the moment, I have very little to enter except 7 out of 12 journal quilts and a few mini-projects (like the bird quilts from the Elizabeth Wall workshops I attended). The double quilt above has been languishing in a drawer for probably a year. I adore patchwork but not the quilting and finishing. I know it will be 'quilt-as-you-go' but had been struggling to decide on a pattern for the machine quilting. Jackie from my quilt group has come to the rescue and suggested large circles which she showed me on one of her quilts. Now I just have to get on with it.

I'm aiming to read more in 2016. Mostly I seem to be aimlessly flitting between magazines and blogs so it's time to tackle my ever-growing pile of books. I'm teetering on the edge of signing up to The Year in Books after hearing about it on Louise's blog. You have to read at least one book a month. That doesn't sound like a tall order does it? Maybe I'll see how I get on this month with my first pick which I found in a charity shop - Us by David Nicholls.

Having spent 2014 on my Cookery Book Challenge, I really missed it last year and found that I quickly reverted to cooking the same old things. So, for 2016 I'm resurrecting it but with a slight twist: I've included issues of my Good Food magazines for added variety. Not sure yet if I'll blog about it - maybe just the highs and lows. You can read all the installments from the 2014 Challenge by clicking on the tag on the right.

I'm also going to continue getting out and about, if this rain ever lets up. More specifically, we'll definitely be exploring more of the Irwell Sculpture Trail which has been a great discovery and taken us to lots of places we wouldn't have visited otherwise.

There you go, some very modest but achievable aims. And there's no time like the present so I'd better sign off and start with the reading.

Happy new year to you all and enjoy the rest of your weekend. xx