Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Supermarket sweep..............

I've always considered myself to have a very diverse repertoire of cooking, but now I'm faced with a really bizarre dichotomy. Dutch supermarkets have an awesome selection of Indonesian/Surinaam ingredients - 2/3rds of which I have no idea at all what to do with - and an amazing dearth of some of the most basic ingredients in the world, like bicarbonate of soda, strong flour, golden and maple syrup.

As a result, I'm having to learn a whole new genre of recipes (awesome!) and innovate madly to replace some of the basics of baking and dessert making (scary!). Watch this space............

Monday, 29 October 2012

Insomnia strikes

After another night of insomnia, and trying very hard to count sheep ( did you know they come in multicolor versions?) I ended up retreating to reading until the early hours...

I've been reading a lot of works in the 'urban fantasy' genre recently , and I've kinda worked my way through the majority of the well known authors - as far as I know. But I really had the hunger for a bit more bad-tempered witchcraft vs various other supernatural beings. I managed to find one author I havent read so far : Kevin Hearne. I've made my way through the first book, am two thirds through the second, and I can forsee an Amazon-expensive future...

Worth a gander?

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Autumn Soup days - Pumpkin/Coconut soup

With autumn closing in and the days getting increasingly dark and damp, I'm getting real cravings for warm hot soups. I was going to have left over chilli last night, but just couldn't resist jumping up in the 3 minutes between two activities and throwing together some soup.

Amounts are approximate but it's hard to go wrong as long as you taste as you go :

1/2 a small squash/pumpkin
1 large sweet potato
Stock ( vegetable or chicken, your choice, I used chicken)
1 medium sized knob of fresh ginger
1 small carton ( about half a tin) of coconut milk
2 limes, juiced
salt/pepper to taste
1 chili ( optional)
lots of chopped coriander

Peel and chunk the pumpkin, sweet potato and ginger (chili if desired). Pop in pan with stock and salt/pepper, and simmer til tender. Blend til smooth, add coconut milk, coriander, and lime juice and heat til warm again. Voila - delicious served with a lovely fresh hunk of bread.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Making paper

I've never made paper before! Today is make my own note paper for writing all those lovely memos and reminders down on. I was given a paper making kit for Xmas years and years ago, and it's time that it saw the light of day and got put to use.

Having read through the *brief* instructions in the kit, I decided that I wasn't going to invest in all the other gubbins it called for, and invent as I go along. First, pulp creation - lots of A4 paper,cut or torn up into lovely small strips, and soaked for hours. Note to the clumsy : don't attempt to remove the tip of your finger with the scissors as you cut the paper up. Now, I have a soupy mush with a hint of blood tinting it - and whilst it may have some strange mystical meaning behind it, it really isnt a very attractive color. So, cooking expertise to the fore : what's the one spice you want going absolutely no where except for directly into it's chosen dish or container - tumeric! I added a generous dollop to the mush and it's tinted it a pleasant shade of yellow. I have also found a use for all those 'orts' ( tail ends and bits of colored threads from changing colors in your tapestry) you collect as you stitch and knit  : a generous handful of woolen orts makes for beautiful red/gold inclusions across the paper.

I can't wait til it's dry to show you, so here's the drying out version! 10 sheets of A4 computer paper made enough pulp for 4 sheets of A5 thick crafting paper. You could probably do better, and get thinner paper if you dipped in the mulch vat instead of pouring out of a mug into the draining frame but nonetheless, I'm happy with the results.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

It's not easy being Green

I've been reading my way through blog after blog of 'how to recycle cheap junk' over the last few days, and I have some serious craving to try some of those ideas out. It's probably very appropriate given my current straitened circumstances , and the economic climate, plus it feeds an innate desire to be a bit less consumer driven than I have been in the past.

Whilst in my native habitat (UK), that's not such a difficult thing to do, since charity shops and cheap shops abound - all the more so since the crisis has caused so many other shops to close down, and landlords are desperate to fill shop space. However, I'm currently in Rotterdam, NL and it's remarkable difficult to find out what thrift shops are called when you don't speak the lingo! I've managed to trace down 'kringeloopwinkel'  as a common term for recycling shops, and identified that the dutch don't seem to do the charity shop thing, it's all commercial recycling in 'circle of life' shops. Interestingly, the Dutch are the best at recycling in Europe, hitting an awesome 70% recycled target compared to the UK's 35%. They are so good at recycling their waste now, that they don't have enough combustible waste generated to fuel their waste-combusting powerstations  and have to import from surrounding countries.

So, what to try? I don't have a sewing machine handy, and I was never terribly good at dressmaking. There isnt a lot of space out here to fill with pretty 'clutter' projects and actually utilitarian items such as furniture might be of more use to me at the moment. That said, I've also decided I have a real dislike of painting lovely natural wood and woodstained items  in pastel colors and declaring it to be 'gorgeous'. So I guess I'm not going to make it big on the refashionista circuit anytime yet with 'easy' 1 hour furniture projects!

 I've self imposed myself a limit of €10 per project, and a max of 3 crafting projects in progress at anyone time (with knitting and beading projects in flight that limits me to 1!), so now with my extremely abundant project float, I'm going thrift-shop hunting.
So, off to try and trawl the grey rainy streets to see if I can spot some by eye!

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Where to find that wool from?

I was talking to a very good friend the other day, and mentioning that I've been picking up the knitting again..........and he mentioned that his menagerie sheds sufficient fur to enable him to make his own wardrobe, if he so desired......

I'm now wondering if I should be asking him to start collecting the fur balls, or storing the cat fur I retrieve from Louie on a daily basis.........I have got the carding and spinning equipment......and for inspiration......


Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Knitting the threads of life

So, I've decided to try and dent my craft stash some : I have probably exceeded 'SABLE' (stash accumulated beyond life expectancy) but since I'm still unable to stop myself oooooohing and pulling out the wallet at junk sales, craft stores, and miscellaneous thrift shops, it's time to do something about utilising excess materials.

My knitting skills have never been extreme - generally maintaining the right level of tension on the thread has been an issue, with jumpers turning out significantly looser and baggier than intended - so I've eased myself back into it with a basic scarf, out of a lovely 'eyelash' wool in red and gold shades.

Minor hiccup number one : I clearly haven't purchased enough wool when I bought it on spec, and the balls have long lost their identifying labels. Cue an extended search of UK and US knitting and yarn shops in a desperate attempt to try and match the wool. Finally identified through a process of reduction ( I don't recognise any of those brands, it's definitely 'eyelash wool', it's classed as 'fashion wool ) I managed to find the brand and type but, since fashion wools turn around almost as fast as fashion clothing, no shop continued to stock the precise color. However, eBay to the rescue - sourced 2 more balls from a seller and think I may just have enough!

Monday, 22 October 2012

Shibari OCD cat life

Its been a long break. Life kinda got in the way, and somehow I just didn't have the inspiration to write a blog. Most of the thoughts I was thinking weren't really printable, and job applications have a monotony and routine that are uniquely depressing in their own right. Maybe one day, I'll write my "how to apply to jobs" page, but I don't find it interesting whilst I'm in the middle of it. Generally it's a cycle of 'wow, I got a cool call from an agent/interview request/positive feedback' followed by extended silence then 'oh, sorry, you don't have the experience in 'n' industry ( no, really? didn't you read my CV before you made me spend time and money on interviews????)

Still no job, but I've got myself back into crafting and that's given me a bit of a buzz about life again. So I think the 'nomady' will continue - a bit less about travel, and a bit more about whacky wonderful life. As a taster to start the day, let me introduce you to Louie.

Louie is a slightly overweight, extremely verbose, OCD cat that I spend a lot of time with at the moment. He starts the day, with an extended demand to chew on fingers - not just the tips, but a desperate vertical guzzle that maximises his ability to fit the totality of your finger in his craw. And as each finger is duly drooled and munched on, he decides in his own particular fashion as to which finger he will go for next. I say OCD, because if you attempt to disrupt his sequencing ( and it's pretty much identical every morning) he gets extremely miffed and expresses his displeasure in verbose and strident terms. So my morning routine at the moment is two step : desperately dodge cat whilst acquiring coffee, followed by submitting to a feline manicure with coffee drip on hand.

I've been trying to find a way to encourage Louie to exercise a bit more, but as he lives in a 3rd floor flat by a major road intersection, outdoor freedom is not really an option. With a bit of trawling around, I came up with some bits of rope and decided to try some feline shibari to make a harness. Unsurprisingly, Louie was unimpressed initially - but as soon as he got outside, he decided that cats are just as capable as dogs at going for walks.

Louie, the Shibari cat!