On the menu: more blueberry goodness

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Tuesday

Blueberry loaf from Ruby Tandoh’s column (recipe is second one down) in The Guardian. It’s a healthyish cake (although as I’m calorie counting my bakes, heck everything at the moment, interestingly this cake is 6 calories more per portion than those divinely delicious and naughty tasting Friends blueberry muffins I made last week, the Friends muffins are much higher in fat though). This cake is healthyish because it uses yoghurt and oil instead of butter, the oil is meant to be almond oil (couldn’t find it anywhere) and although Ruby does suggest sunflower oil as an alternative, I used olive oil as it’s healthier and well I didn’t have any sunflower oil anyway. Consequently the cake does taste a bit of olive oil, which isn’t too bad, after all there is such a thing as olive oil cake but it is a bit of an acquired taste. The cake also has a bit of an oily texture to. But it was easy to make, satisfied my blueberry cravings and is edible but not so edible I’d eat four slices at once (*ahem* last week), which is actually a good thing really.

A London Day Out

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It’s nearly the end of the summer holidays, we’ve had a lovely break and it’s (almost) over way too quickly. We haven’t had many days out because we’re a bit broke and well, having lived in London so long (well the kids have been born and bred here), we pretty much exhausted the normal kiddy options ages ago (we have been to Kew though and will be doing so again – the joys of annual membership and free kid entry – which is always fun, despite the expression on Boy Lacer’s face most the time – except when ankle deep in mud or clambering along an obstacle course). But I couldn’t let the summer holidays past without one proper excursion, so we did a bit of a two in one (which is not really that advisable, specially when it’s so easy to get into London from where we live on the outskirts, so it’s much more kid friendly to do smaller trips, but the kids are getting older, so I thought I’d stretch their stamina a bit). In the morning we went into Shoreditch to have a look at some street art, we didn’t do an organised tour (that would have been stretching Boy Lacer too much) but I remembered most of the route I took when I took a tour a couple of years ago. We also stumbled across quite a few street art tour groups, so I have to admit if we saw a group down a particular alley, we did go and see what they were looking at! I do think though that bored younger kids aside, a street art tour is the best way to go, as I know I missed bits from the tour I remembered going on, as I couldn’t remember where the streets were and also the street art is changing all the time, so it pays (and it is always worth supporting) to go around on a tour with someone who really knows the area.

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August street art 1

august street art 2

We then made our way to the Felt Cornershop, which is about a 5-10 minute walk from the edge of Shoreditch in Bethnal Green (or 15-20 minutes if you’re on the wrong side of Shoreditch as we were). It was worth the walk (although if you want to see it hurry, it’s only there until the end of August).

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We then got the bus back towards the river and headed for the Tower of London. I wanted to see the Tower principally because of the poppies  (see getting my art in even with my history) but as we were there and I owed Girl Lacer a trip into the Tower from about two years ago, we went in to see the Tower as well.

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We did the kids activity trail in the Tower, which was quite good, it made the Tower fairly manageable (you don’t see everything on the trail, but we had been before) and we got to see and learn about bits which I wouldn’t have necessarily picked up otherwise. My favourite bit was in one of the towers were they held posh prisoners, there was beautifully intricate and neat graffiti on the wall, you’d have thought being held in a tower with direct views over the lawns where people got their heads chopped off would be inspiring some more desperate and scrawly graffiti, not something so neat. But as Girl Lacer (who’d read more of the labels than me) pointed out, apparently the prisoners would sometimes hire expert stone masons to do it for them!

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As well as the trail we also went in to see the Crown Jewels, which had been updated a bit since I last saw it. The queue to get in was very long (about half an hour) and really, once in the building, it still effectively is a queue, you’re just slightly more entertained. It reminded me of the entrance to a theme park ride, you know how you queue up for ages outside it, get inside the ride and still queue up some more whilst looking at some ride related stuff and then the actual ride, once you get to it, is over quite quickly? Well the Crown Jewels are like that, they even have a travelator (quite slow) which takes you past the crowns, so everyone gets a chance to see them and you’re not trying to peer over a crowd. I did quite like the films and stuff you see before the actual jewels, as they feature the jewels filmed in quite stunning close up, which, when you actually get to see them, is in more detail than you actually see. However, warning, I’d recommend a toilet break before you get in the queue if you’re with an eight year old who has already drunk two bottles of water….

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Fox and sunflower

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I was feeling a bit under the weather recently and I thought a nice bit of crafting would help make me feel better, unfortunately my go to when feeling poorly project, my blanket, wasn’t then an option, as I was out of yellow wool (that has since been remedied) and none of my other on the go projects or projects lined up in my head seemed simple enough. So I had a look through my far too extensive embroidery pattern collection and found a couple of patterns from Cozy Blue that I’d bought ages ago, so decided to do those. Now as I was feeling a bit poorly and my second packet of Sulky Solvy had finally arrived (had waited 2 months for that as the original package never turned up) and I didn’t fancy transferring the pattern by hand, I printed them out on Sulky Solvy (shrinking them a bit, as I wanted them to fit 10cm hoops). Now my instant love affair with Sulky Solvy has waned a bit whilst I was waiting for that second package, I don’t like using stuff that means I’m going to have to get my embroidery wet, due to the risk of my *ahem* supposedly water safe embroidery floss dye running, particularly when using reds, which is one of the reasons why I don’t like using water soluble pens either. I’m also not keen on Sulky Solvy as it can make my stitches look loose and it tends to make the fabric feel stiff after washing BUT it is great for transferring complex designs (or less complex designs if you’re feeling poorly), it is also great for transferring designs onto coloured fabric, which is why, much to my whinging, on finishing this project I’ve just spent the last hour fiddling with my printer (much to the annoyance of Mr. Lacer, who is trying to tidy his desk, which the printer is on), making sure the scale is right for my next project, which would have been a hell of a lot more tricky without Sulky Solvy. BUT back to the fox and the sunflower, I have a new nitpick about Sulky Solvy now, Sulky Solvy is sort of beige colour, not that much different from white I know but it has made a difference with the colours in this project, whilst stitching these with the Sulky Solvy on I was happy with the colours I was using, once washed of though and I was seeing the colours against the white background, not so happy. It’s that yellow really, I’m not sure it goes with anything but it looked a lot better against beige than it does white.

Owl

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Over on Feeling Stitchy, Flor has written a review of the new book, Sew Cute to Cuddle. I stitched a pattern from it to, the cute and cuddly owl above. It was great fun to sew (the only minor niggle being no seam allowances, but at least the patterns were full size, which is always much worse if they’re not!) and there are so many lovely patterns in the book I will most definitely be making more! If you fancy a chance at winning a copy, head on over to the link above to enter.

On the menu: muffins from Friends

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Tuesday

I think I’ve referenced these on the blog before but I’ve never actually blogged about them, that’s because I haven’t made these for years, much to Mr. Lacer’s fairly regular grumbling. You see I used to make these blueberry muffins from Cooking with Friends all the time, when I first started to learn to cook. Cooking with Friends was actually the first cookbook I ever bought for myself. I still remember it clearly, browsing in one of the many chain bookstores that no longer exist, on Oxford Street, with the then relatively newly married Mr. Lacer, I came across the cookbook section and thought “hmm, maybe I should buy a cookbook? I dunno, am I actually going to use it?”, fast forward 15+ years and now I’m actively avoiding cookbook displays so I don’t buy anything. Despite the possibly dubious premise, it’s actually a really good cookbook and I do have some fond memories of the recipes I made from it and it wasn’t just the blueberry muffins that I made over and over again. Although I did move fairly quickly onto Jamie Oliver in his Naked Chef days, which expanded my repertoire from not just the sort of food imaginary sitcom characters eat.

I like baking with blueberries and I have tried many different variations on blueberry muffins (and cakes) from various food writers since. Mr. Lacer would invariably eat it and proclaim that it wasn’t as good ‘as those blueberry muffins you used to make’ and ‘when are you going to make those blueberry muffins again’. I don’t think Mr. Lacer gets that there are so many different recipes out there and so little time. I do think though that yep, these muffins, even after all these years, are still the nicest blueberry muffin recipe I own, due to basically the fact that they’ve got more butter in than most recipes, so considering I’m trying not to bake because I’m meant to be on a diet, perhaps I need another 15 year gap before I make these again.

(Unfortunately I can’t find the recipe on line and the book is out of print, however there are plenty of low priced second hand copies on Amazon last time I checked and it is worth it, even just for the nostalgia value),

#craft365 1-30 and the first part of #spoonchallenge

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After #30for30crafting, I was definitely up for documenting some more WIPs, so I started my own personal challenge of #craft365. I’d tried #craft365 before on Flickr, which is a great group but I struggled uploading something there every day, so I never completed, so this time I’m just posting the pic to Twitter. My own personal rules for this is that it has to be the first project I sit down to do each day, I often work on more than one thing each day and I didn’t want to get into having to make judgement calls about which one of my projects on a particular day was the most photogenic. So sticking to the first project each day means that a lot of the photos aren’t that photogenic and there are a lot of blanket photos (as the blanket is a great mindless wake up activity / I haven’t done any crafting all day and it’s late activity / I’m ill and brainless activity).

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So anyway each 30 days I will blog about the WIPs I’ve featured, I won’t blog about the things I’ve actually finished (which was the vintage flower embroidery this month) but the others, well there are plenty of things that aren’t going to be finished for a very long time.

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In this challenge I’m including in my definition of ‘craft’, stuff like art and baking as well as my normal stitch work and knitting and as it happens I’ve also been participating in the #spoonchallenge this month, a series of daily drawing prompts from Spoonflower. Some of them happened to be my first craft activity of the day, so also counted as my daily #craft365. Whether they’ve appeared as part of #craft365 or not, here are some of my favourites, it’s been good in particular to practice my Illustrator.

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#Spoonchallenge 2 #Craft365 day 15 – mountain

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#Spoonchallenge 6 – lemon

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#Spoonchallenge 8 – arrow

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#Spoonchallenge 13 – beetle

Percy Jackson and the Battle of the Labyrinth

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Me and Boy Lacer continue our journey through the back catalogue of Rick Riordan, we raced through this one, which is a sign of how good it was, Boy Lacer, like me, will find excuses to do something else, if a book is not totally gripping him. Consequently it took us a while to get through book 3 but it most definitely not a problem with this one. Maybe Boy Lacer has a little bit of my love of stories set underground as I do or maybe it was just pretty much the constant action in this one. Luke’s evil Titan army has possibly found a way into Camp Half-Blood and Percy, Annabeth and friends have to find a way to stop them using it. Cue lots of underground labyrinth action sequences, very exciting stuff. Can’t wait to start the next book.

***** (out of 5)