Sunday, 20 March 2016

It's hot cross bun time

While I miss having a full kitchen, stocked pantry and baking supplies on hand, it’s special occasion baking that I miss the most.  Geoff’s birthday involved cupcakes procured from Crumbs and Doilies (delicious, don’t get me wrong).  Christmas mince pies, cakes and the pudding were supplied by various high street retailers (M&S all butter mince pies being the clear favourite).  And now it’s time for hot cross buns.

Our favourite - a good amount of fruit, a little bit of peel and just enough spice

A couple of years ago I took an Easter baking class at the Gewurzhaus, in the Prahran store which has a generously sized classroom in the rear.  Taught by a German woman, we covered a variety of European easter baking.  I’ve made both the Torta Pasquale (spinach and egg pie) and hot cross buns many times since.

Piled high at Marks & Spencer

This year, as we are bereft of baking supplies and necessary kitchen equipment it will be procured hot cross buns all the way.  The M&S chocolate chip hot cross buns have already been recommended, with lashings of salted butter – they’re the ones in the blue packet.  There are plenty of other options – more than in Australia – such as apple (rather than mixed fruit), St Clements (orange) or fig and cranberry.  We have been trying the full gamut of options, starting from 27 Feb, which we agreed was the appropriate start date.

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Ibid by Maria Taniguchi

Ibid. London is currently hosting a small exhibition of Maria Taniguchi’s work. 

A series of 8 large paintings of bricks, each just pencil lines and black paint.  

 Image copyright Ibid.

Mesmerising and suggestive of movement, despite capturing something so solid. 

  Image copyright Ibid.

Free, until 2 April 2016.

Monday, 14 March 2016


After a week of illness, eating soup and dry toast, and general malaise, the sun shone on the weekend and we re-emerged. 

Like most Londoners, we’re tired of the grey of winter. The daffodils and magnolias have been blooming for some time now due to the mild winter, but sun light has been a rare beast. 

Though still wearing our winter coats, we enjoyed opportunities on sit in the sunshine and soak up the rays. 

While there is still cold weather ahead of us, we can see that Spring truly has begun.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

The brutalist Barbican

The Barbican is ugly.  You won't find too many who would disagree with that statement.  The buildings containing very expensive apartments are brutal, and look a lot like the much derided council estates in London. 

The apartments are the tall building in the far left

It opened in 1982, and reflects the brutalist building style of the 1970's.  There have been vague attempts to make it more attractive, but most of those changes have been removed and the buildings are mostly back to their stark selves., embracing orange, purple and concrete!

Inside the gallery space called 'Curve' there is a brilliant exhibition of miniature paintings by Pakistani artist Imran Qureshi.  The Curve, as the name implies, is an exhibition space which is effectively a curved corridor and you can't see the end of it when you enter the gallery.  

Filigree, gilt, trees.  The paintings are like jewels in the darkened gallery.  Qureshi isn't constrained by the boundaries of his canvases.  On the paintings themselves, the work expands to fill the frame with delicate droplets of paint. 

Expanding further, the walls and floor have drips of deep red pain, over which he has pained flowers and leaves.  The works are darker, more thoughtful as you go further around the bend. 

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Penguins, by Anna Maltz

Late last year, Anna Maltz (aka Sweaterspotter), released Penguins, a book of knitting patterns.  The patterns aren’t slavish to the topic, but are fun and whimsical, focussing on an element or a colour to link it back to the overarching themes. As well as 11 patterns, the book contains loads of lovely photographs.   

Penguins, Anna Maltz, Sweaterspotter, Socks Yeah, Rachel Coopey

I was lucky enough to be able to attend the book launch, which included an amazing penguin inspired cake, as well as penguin inspired savouries!  There was also a trunk show, and I was able to try on the Aptenodytes – a cardigan that I would usually bypass as the short waterfall-style fronts are not very flattering.  However, the pattern includes a couple of buttons and buttonholes – minor amendments you may thing, but essential.  This means that the cardigan fronts can be buttoned into a low hanging cowl neck, or (the more flattering on me) a relatively shallow cowl that sits just below the collarbones, which I thought looked great on me!

I have knitted 2 patterns from the book so far.  I knitted the Flower King (or Flower Power in my Ravelry notebook).  To me, this pattern has a Marimekko feel, and I am a sucker for that brand! I used a variety of yarns that I had in stash - including some Wollmeise DK for the flower.  I added an extra segment of 20 stitches, as the yarns I used were a little lighter than the yarn called for in the pattern.  Also, I had recently knit another colourwork hat using the Wollmeise DK with 120 stitches in the body of the hat, so I knew that it would fit well.  This resulted in a flower with 6 petals, which is not as aesthetically pleasing as the original 5 petals, but certainly something I can live with to (a) knit from stash and (b) end up with a hat that fits. 

Penguins, Anna Maltz, Sweaterspotter, Wollmeise, pompom

The second pattern I knit is Fledgling, which is a mitten pattern in Anna’s book.  In my version the end product is socks.  I used the mitten tip pattern on the toes and altered the increase rate so that there were increases on every second row, and I simply extended the chequered pattern on the underside of the toes to go over a few extra stitches, and for a few extra rows.  I also incorporated Clare Devine’s Ossa sock pattern (more on this later, but I have a tendency to combine patterns where I can so I can knit all the patterns) for the foot and simply followed Clare’s instructions, converting to toe up, rather than cuff down.

I changed it again for the leg, as I want to try and incorporate ribbing into the legs of socks where possible. I’ve noticed that my older pairs of socks are saggy and baggy around the leg after just a short while of wearing, so I hope a ribbed leg will hold it tighter for longer.  So I modified the Ossa pattern so the slipped stitches ran up the legs vertically, rather than twisted as on the foot, to leave room for some ribbing. 

Penguins, Anna Maltz, Sweaterspotter, Socks Yeah, Rachel Coopey

Knit in coral and grey, the little penguin’s face is not as obvious as in Anna’s lovely mittens, but I am still enamoured!