Saturday, 30 January 2010

I see a Wolf Moon Rising

If you hear strange sounds tonight when you're out - be aware that it is Full Wolf Moon night. Isn't that the most exciting name for a moon?  According to Farmers Almanac, in the cold and deep snows of midwinter the wolf packs would circle Indian villages and howl hungrily seeking food.
Googled image
Don't miss it because tonight's full moon will be the brightest and largest of 2010 - so if the skies are clear maybe it's time for a howl! See here for more moon facts.

This being the first new moon of the decade could be the starting point for making plans and envisioning dreams. Read about creating your own Full Wolf Moon dreamboard at Jamie Ridler's studio and see more of her inspirational ideas.
Maybe I'll try combining Sarah's inspiration from yesterday with moons and wolves!!! 
Yet more about dream boards here

Wolf moon over Yosemite, Beijing, China!

Need a good book to read? I just could not put "Wolf Totem" by Jiang Rong down. 
"As Chen Zhen looked through the telescope from his hiding place in the snow cave, he saw the steely gaze of a Mongolian grassland wolf..."
 It is the most incredible story and you will find so many wolves! It is based on the author's own experiences in the 1960's in Inner Mongolia.

Friday, 29 January 2010

Inspiration from Unravellers...part1

Don't you just love it when you open a blog for the first time and the page makes you go 'Wow'!
Well that happened yesterday morning when I took my first look at my online pal Sarah's Etsy site.
I just love the way she combines paper, fabric and stitches to create something so beautiful yet simple. Her blog also reflects the same ethos.

Take a look at Sarah's portfolio to see more. 

My workroom is filled with paper, yarn and textiles from my travels. I love them ... yet they sit unused on my shelves. Inspired by Sarah's art I decided to seize the moment and quickly gathered together this selection....

'The Sea, The Sea" - (never finished the book) but that's what I feel is coming together here.
2 hours later..... the fabrics remain uncut and the brow is furrowed - it seemed so easy to assemble to constituents but what now! 
I promise to come back on Sunday with a start. 

If you feel Sarah's superb pieces inspire you then stop what you're doing (after you finished reading this blog!) and collect together a few pieces from your creative lair. Then photograph it and please send it to me. I'd love to see it and the best  collection is going to receive a little chinese Tiger in the post from me, to welcome in the New Year of the Tiger on February 14th - and have it's own spotlight on this blog. Of course - like me you may just decide the smartest idea is to go to Sarah's site and buy one.

Sarah by the way is one of the amazing co-unravellers on the photo journalling course I am on now. Click here for info on how you can Unravel! 

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Snow time like the present

To remind ourselves of how much fun the snow is 
 because it's disappearing fast, 
here is a Rufus mosaic 
showing how good life can be
 if you are born with 
the equivalent of Ugg boots for skin covering.

I just discovered Mosaic Monday at Little Red House today 
and decided that 
even though I was 2 days late 
I would join the fun. 
If you want to have a try, 
Mary has instructions to tell you how to do it. 
If I can manage it .... 
then you know you can too.

Rufus says "Go on - have a roll in the snow, you know you'll love it!"

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Josef Frank and Astrid's chair

"The home does not need to be planned out in detail, just put together by pieces its inhabitants love."
Josef Frank

That lovely quote is a lead in to my show-and-tell today...... the fabric I bought last week to cover our version of the Astrid chair, which is pictured below. I searched and found nothing in the furnishing section, until my favourite cotton stall had one roll of this gorgeous fabric winking at me. I just felt it was a Josef Frank wannabe.
I loved his fabrics 22 years ago when we lived for a few months north of Stockholm. But at the time I could not justify the expense of buying a few metres. Now at 1290 swedish krone ($180 or £120) a metre I wish I had bought some as an investment!! 
My fabric is not trying to be a copy but is more in the spirit of. 
I think it will look stunning on the Astrid chairs, don't you?

Here is the chair again to remind you!

Josef Frank was an Austrian/Swedish architect, who though born in Austria, moved to Sweden in 1933. For more than 30 years he was the main designer for the renowned Swedish furnishings firm of Svensk Tenn
He advocated a more humane form of Modernism than was popular in the 1930’s, believing that designs needed to respect people’s needs and allow for historical influences. I think eclectic is the perfect word to use to describe his designs which are colourful, imaginative, modern yet look back to a more poetic time. They really are timeless.

"There's nothing wrong with mixing old and new, with combining different furniture styles, colours, patterns. Anything that is in your taste will fuse to form an entire relaxing environment." Josef Frank

Cost is not everything but it does give me a warm feeling inside to know that I paid less than £2 or $3 a metre for my fabric at Beijing's fabric market. In fact maybe I should go back to buy the rest of the roll in case any of you would like some too!

I love how Svensk Tenn describe his fabrics as "concealing a wealth of details to help restore a feeling of harmony and well being."
I think that will be the rationale behind my next quilt!!!

 "Every human needs a certain degree of sentimentality to feel free." 
Josef Frank
What a great thought to leave you with for today.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Canelloni Recipe from Marino d'Antonio

It was delicious... believe me it looked good too, sorry I forgot the before shot!
Here is the magic formula kindly shared with me by Chef Marino d'Antonio at Sureno, Opposite House, Beijing.

Canelloni Ripieni
For 3kg of Ragu sauce:
600g ground lean minced beef 400g coarsely ground lean pork
200g pancetta diced or chopped 100g chopped onion
100g carrot diced 100g celery diced
1kg peeled tomato (canned) 300ml dry white wine
500ml fresh milk 3 bay leaves
black pepper and salt to taste

Method for Ragu sauce
  1. Place the pancetta in a large, thick bottomed stainless steel saucepan, stir and cook over a low flame until the fat is melted. Add the onion and keep stirring till the onion is translucent.
  2. Add the carrot, celery and bay leaves and keep cooking until the vegetables start to soften and get some colour.
  3. Turn the flame up high and add the ground meats (previously mixed and seasoned with salt and pepper and mixed well by hand).
  4. Keep cooking and stirring with  wooden spoon until the meat is well done.
  5. Pour in the white wine and keep cooking until the wine has evaporated.
  6. Briefly process the tomatoes in a blender and add to the pot. Continue cooking slowly over a low flame for at least 2 hours. If it becomes dry add some beef stock.
  7. Add some milk and chicken stock, stir, reduce heat and leave to simmer.
  8. Continue adding the milk and stock over the next 60 minutes while simmering.
  9. Season to taste and leave to rest.
  10. Traditionally the ragu sauce should be served with tagliatelle - not spaghetti.

Method for Tagliatelle/Canelloni
For the dough:
1kg pasta flour
8 whole fresh eggs
  1. Mix the flour and the eggs by hand or in a food processor
  2. Cover and leave the dough to rest in a cool place for 2 hours.
  3. Roll out the dough with a pasta machine.
(If making tagliatelle arrange in the traditional nest shape and leave to dry.)

Making the Canelloni:
Cheese stuffing:
Ricotta 100g
1 egg yolk 
Spinach 100g
Parmigano cheese 50g
Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl.

Besciamelle sauce:
Butter 100g
Flour 100g
Milk 1 litre
50g parmigano cheese
  1. Boil the milk.
  2. In another pot, cook the butter with the flour for 5 minutes. Pour the milk on top of the butter and add the parmigano. Stir well together
  3. Dough: Roll into sheets with pasta machine and cut into 14 squares each 10cm x 10cm. Roll one canelloni and stuff with Bolognese sauce and the other with the cheese stuffing. Repeat for each serving.
  4. Place the 2 rolls in an ovenproof dish and cover with besciamelle sauce. Cook for 10 minutes at 200C. 

Now you have it - the genuine mouth watering recipe for real Bolognese sauce.
This recipe is promoted as part of the 2010 International Day of Italian Cuisines and aims to try ensure that Italian cuisine around the world is cooked according to certain basic principles. I have never added milk to make a Bolognese sauce - but from now on I know this is the way to go. No more spaghetti either - has to be tagliatelle with the bolognese if we are going to do it way it is meant. To learn more and find other great recipes click here.
Hope you have enjoyed the recipe slot this Sunday. Do leave me a comment if you have any suggestions or feedback.
Thanks so much for signing up and following - hope you will share me if you like what you see.

The best Canelloni ever

No, we aren't done with Ian's birthday yet. 
I need to share with you aspects of our delicious lunch at Sureno, the Italian restaurant in the Opposite House, Beijing. There is stunning contemporary chinese art to enjoy as you enter and delicious dishes to savour when you descend to the restaurant. 
In  the photo you see my dessert of 'Crisp fracatti with raspberry curd'... mmmmmmm, below it is my empty dish - all that was left of the most divine 'Canelloni Ripieni'. Described on the menu as 'handcrafted Italian rolled pasta, filled with angus beef ragout, spinach and ricotta'. Simply the best canelloni ever. 
I think Reggie Osila, the charming Operations Manager, obviously recognised this because without my asking he kindly presented me with the chef's handwritten recipe for it. Touched --- I was speechless. To top this Reggie then reappeared with 2 glasses of sparkling Prosecco to celebrate Ian acquiring another year and more grey hairs.
Interested to learn more on how to make this? ... Well I may just have to share, as it is a long way for some of you to come for lunch - but hey , if you live in Beijing you know where to go.

Muffins anyone?

Well I had this great idea to make Friday my food blogging day. However Ian's birthday took over and so though I plenty of eating on Friday, it has taken 2 days to get round to sharing!
Hmmm ... Friday started for me at 4.30am - I had not finished sewing the quilt I was giving to Ian that day, so it started early for me. I had it all done by 6.30am but then had to make some special muffins for breakfast because I had been so busy sewing all day Thursday I had forgotten to buy anything special for his birthday breakfast!! 
Are you like me - loads of muffin recipes but can never remember which is the really good one? I decided to try a new one - partly because I had the ingredients and partly because it gave me an excuse to get out my everso much loved red Kitchenaid mixer.
As you see from the photo - the muffins did good and Ian felt properly celebrated. 
So if you would like to try them here is the recipe:

Lemon Blueberry Muffins

Preheat oven : 375F or 190C
Makes 12 muffins

2 cups (500ml) all purpose flour
1Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup (175ml) sugar
finely grated zest of one lemon
1/2 cup (125ml) butter, softened
2 eggs - at room temp
1/2 cup (125ml) whole milk
1 cup (250ml) fresh or frozen blueberries
1Tbsp flour

3/4 cup icing sugar- sifted
1.5 Tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed

To make:
  1. In a medium bowl mix the 2 cups of flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  2. Place sugar, lemon zest and butter in the mixer bowl. Attach the flat beater (if using a Kitchen-aid). Set to speed 4 and beat till light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Stop the mixer and scrape down every so often. Add the eggs, one at a time and beat well after each addition. Scrape down bowl again. Set to speed 2 and beat in flour mix alternately with milk. Remove the mixer and scrape the bowl.
  3. In a small bowl lightly toss the blueberries with 1 Tbsp of flour. Use a large spatula to carefully fold the blueberries into the batter.
  4. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups. Bake in the lower middle of the oven for 20 -25 minutes - or until golden brown. Leave to cool in the tin for about 5 minutes before removing the muffins to a rack.
  5. Meanwhile prepare the glaze by whisking together the sugar and lemon juice until smooth. Brush n the warm muffins.

Recipe from ‘The Mixer Bible’ by Meredith Deeds and Carla Snyder

Oh and in case you wanted to see the quilt - here it is. The reason I was so rushed was because I only started on it 4 days beforehand. From my amassed piles of shirting fabrics I included some squares from his favourite old, red twill, gingham Thomas Pink shirt. In fact it was news to Ian that the red twill shirt was no longer in his wardrobe! But it lives on now - 3 squares down from Rufus's nose ( who is searching for muffin crumbs I think).

Let me know if you try the muffins and how they taste.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Fabrics galore

What a great time I had yesterday at one of my fave places to shop in Beijing - Mu Xi Yuan  (the fabric market). 
This little mosaic captures a few elements of my day. Never a dull moment... whether it is the offloading huge bales of fabric or the sweet little boy all wrapped against the icy temperatures (that is a lollipop in his mouth!)
Just a few of the fabrics that came home with yesterday and yes I did find a wonderful fabric to cover Astrid's chair with... more of that later.
Been very busy all day sewing - a surprise that will be revealed on Friday.
When you come to Beijing and have seen the Great Wall and the Forbidden City, this is the next wonder to behold. It stretches for acres and even though they keep knocking parts down there never seems to be a day that I can't find fabric to buy.

I just wanted to say how much it means to me to see friends faces as followers - thankyou. You make my day .... everyday. Have a great one.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Photos from my iPhone

photo: Ingrid Duffy

Wanted to share some photos I took this morning and show you what cool apps there are for the iPhone camera. Can you believe I could do this with just one click (and the Hipstamatic app too)?
I mentioned a couple of days ago that I am doing an amazing online course in photo journalling called Unravelling. I am learning so much from everyone there and this app was something that one of the great co-unravellers shared with our group. So if you have an iPhone could be that you need it too - unless you don't like scratchy retro feel photos.

Another really great download is Polardroid which allows you to turn a photo into a cool retro looking polaroid with just a click of the button. Then print it on photo paper and cut it to polaroid size and you have almost the genuine article. Thanks Kendra for the heads up on this.

photo: Ingrid Duffy

Playing around with photos can be so much fun. Please share any cool tips you have with me and my small but loyal? band of followers.
Which reminds me to ask if you like what you see on this new little blog, please make my day and sign in as a follower. Do share it with friends if you are feeling extra enthusiastic.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Astrid's Chair

When I opened Anthropologie's latest email, the name "Astrid's chair" caught my eye.... my eldest daughter is also called Astrid. So I had to click and see what chair Astrid should be sitting in, and this beautiful chair appeared on my screen - just perfect for my beautiful daughter.

Now take a look at these chair frames -made by our very talented friend "Mr Summer"- a chinese master craftsman in furniture. Do you see a similarity? Well obviously they are waiting for me to find the right fabric to cover them in!
So they remain undressed at the moment - just waiting for me to venture to my favourite place in Beijing - the fabric market! I don't think I will find orange dahlia's - but who knows? Maybe next week the temperatures will rise enough to make it bearable to be outdoors browsing the thousands of bolts. I'll keep you posted!

This is the original french antique chair that provided the inspiration - seen better days.

Take a look at Anthropologie's spring preview. Just wish they were in Beijing! Still I see they have their first store in Europe in London - so maybe we can visit them when we are back in February!

Enjoy the weekend - great day for staying inside and looking forward to a thaw!
Check out Astrid's gorgeous blog here

photos: Anthropologie and Ingrid Duffy

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Everyone's making houses

I was just checking one of my fave blog sites - listed to the side when imagine my surprise to see they too were making little houses - for gnomes. I want to live in them, never mind gnomes!!!
If you want to see some lovely versions of this house quilt go to see film in the fridge blog spot.  Also try looking here.

I never got one house square made today - so got 12 to do tomorrow! I guess I needed this inspiration.
 Here is a photo of Rufus loving the snow - if the quilting was sending you off to sleep.

houses on every quilt

Started a new quilt today.......I have got a theme for the year ... houses.
Every quilt I make this year is going to have a house on it somewhere - maybe everywhere.
I was inspired by some photos I found on flickr for best house quilt ever and had to give it a try. Rather than white  background I am going for grey...... my new fave colour. Yes turquoise is still a love but just after grey now.
So with 30 house blocks to make, I am aiming to make 6 a day and have it done in a week.
Feeling very motivated this year- must be the unravelling course I am doing. Just love it.
I hope that by focussing my creativity on houses, I will find the house of my dreams this year - near the sea and in the Suffolk (UK). 
I'll keep you posted and have you round for tea when I find it.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

coffee break

photo: ingrid duffy

I hope that reading my blog will be as enjoyable as drinking freshly brewed coffee from a beautiful china cup.... like the one I was given yesterday by m.o.m. (my old man).
Interesting - 'January 9th is a special day in your household?' you ask.
No, it turns out that he had forgotten to wrap it up as a pressie for me for christmas (he did go nuts in the Royal Copenhagen shop in November) and so my christmas was already a happy one.
In fact maybe he felt I did not deserve too many good things on one day and was saving it for my birthday! But then became all generous yesterday and hopped up to his secret store place and produced 2 beautiful cups for our coffee. Whatever the true story - I love drinking from it.
I do love Scandinavian design and have several great blog suggestions to follow if you do too.
Just for starters, take a look here. Love these photos on My Scandinavian Retreat.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Is snow really that cold?

I must be crazy. I have just been out in the garden at -10C with my slipper off to photograph my foot in the snow.
I'm doing a photo journaling course and needed feet photos. So trying to be different I went out barefoot.
First problem was that I could not balance on one leg and take a photo. Why on one leg ? Because the instant I had put my barefoot in the snow a sharp pain was experienced and I had the immediate urge to remove my foot from said snow. This led to a balance problem. which led to the foot falling back into the snow.... and so the process repeated several times.
Yet... having frozen my foot in the name of art I was not going to retreat indoors without a trophy photo.
The original idea was for Rufus and I to be barefoot in the snow together - he shot back inside the house and so the only way I could reunite our feet was in the warmth of the kitchen...

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

A snowy start

Just wanted to set the scene for Beijing 2010. Rufus is checking I'm not lost in the drifts.

Walkies is not such a hard ship when you feet are snuggly.

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