Sunday, 30 September 2012

Handmade Boutique, Mailbox, Birmingham

From my last post with my own jam making and crocheting baby blankets to the handmade efforts of the professional artisan in this.

I attended the opening night of the Handmade Boutique (5th floor of the Mailbox, Birmingham) on Wednesday. It's open 11am to 6pm 7 days a week from now until the end of December, so if you want to pay a visit you'll need to do so in the next few months.

The store has been set up by Tracie Bedwood (who makes the candles above, in vintage glassware and ditsy tea-cups) with help from her favourite producers drawn from Midlands craft and handmade fairs in the past few months. I know the guys at the Black Acres Soap Pantry and went along to support.

Their soaps are great, really moisturising and smell great. My husband absolutely loves them and they're very reasonably priced (most products less than £5) so it's not hard to treat yourself!

The night was a good opportunity to speak to some of the makers themselves and understand just how much effort and time goes into the products, not only to make them but also to professionally package and present. 

I really liked the pieces from Perlina Jewellery who have a workshop in Lichfield. The jewellery is particularly striking and the necklaces would need a bit of confidence to wear, but I am positive that you'd feel a million pounds wearing one. There are also some simpler pieces (bracelets and rings) which would suit the more conservative jewellery fan.

Photos above by Gary Price photo.

I stopped by the chocolate counter of Daniel Jones and sampled the extra-dark chocolate, which was really good, being very dark, bitter but not at all sour like some of the commercial dark chocolates. Daniel is doing some live demonstrations at the shop at 1pm on Saturday 13th October, and the shop is sure to smell gorgeous whilst that's going on!

I was really impressed by the folded and woven paper handbags (yes, handbags!). They are really intricate and would be an amazing gift, clearly they take a lot of time to put together. I particularly like the antique map and crossword bags. These little beauties are made by Weave and Stitch.

If, like my sister in law, you're always looking for that special gift or an item to treat yourself with that no-one else has and is not mass produced for the high street it's in little shops like these that you'll find a good selection in a warm and comfortable environment. 

I've also included the direct web links for each maker I spoke to, if anything particular takes your fancy! 

Just to note, this is not a sponsored post and the opinions expressed are genuinely my own.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Making things (food and sewing)

Making things.

I have felt a distinct need to make things recently, perhaps because it is getting distinctly colder and I feel Autumn is coming on.

My father has brought round so many bags of redcurrants it's untrue so I have got round to finally using some of it up. I have made two jars of jelly and one of (less sweet) ice-cream topping.

It's really easy to make jelly, just cook through the redcurrants and add the same weight of sugar. Boil it up until the mix in the pan starts to get syrupy and then drip some on a cold plate. If you gently push the   blob of jam and it wrinkles slightly it's ready, if not it needs a few more minutes before testing again.

Then, sieve your lava-hot mix into sterilised jars and (using oven gloves) screw on the tops. If you're recycling jars the 'pop up' bit of the lid will suck itself back in.

The evidence........

The redcurrant jelly has been great in yoghurt, on pancakes, on ice cream and on cold meat. In fact, one jar has gone already and two jars have been sent off to my parents!

I have also been creating things for the pregnant ladies that seem to be popping up all over the place at the moment in my life. I've done two pairs of baby trousers following the tutorial over at 'Made by Rae'  it's a really easy go-to pattern which fits 0-3 month (and slim 6-12 month) babies really well (or so I am told by the recipients of the previous versions. I'm not posting this lot yet as they have not been given away yet - but they are like the previous versions I've blogged about the new ones are a little fancier with ribbon and contrast panels, but it's the same idea. I have also made a number of crochet baby blankets, no tutorial required, one is using a granny-square stitch.

The other two are stripey variations using double crochet chain one and treble crochet chain one. The first is red and white stripes and the second is baby pastel purple. Lovely!

I also attempted the 'sprocket' cushion from this tutorial  over at Cluck Cluck Sew. The tutorial was great, and I got right to the very end of its creation, only for the upholstery fabric I was using to fray mercilessly when being turned the right way round (cue lots of holes on the seams and maybe a little cursing). It looks good, but I can never use it - sniff! I am now in the long, long process of unpicking the backing so I can at least re-use that. Definitely project - FAIL.

XII Apostel, Cologne, Germany (Twelve Apostes)

We'd been in Cologne for a long (4-night) weekend break and had, several nights, walked past the XII Apostel without really meaning to, noting that it looked lovely and that we really ought to go.

On the night we'd decided to go, we absolutely could not find it again! Cologne's a lovely city to walk round and very manageable on foot but all the shopping streets really did look the same that night. We'd had a long day doing touristy things and were tired, and I'll admit to the search being a little fraught :) After deciding we were not going to find it - we relaxed and just looked round for the nearest place, and lo an behold it appeared (like magic!).

So you don't have the same issue it's here, just outside the Heumarkt metro station (don't confuse it with the Neumarkt station like I did)

Heumarkt 68-72

Tel +49 221 250 830 22

The restaurant is lit up beautifully at night.

When we arrived we were given a drink quickly, and the restaurant was really busy. My husband celebrated his first success at being able to achieve a pint of beer, beer in Cologne normally being sold in much smaller volumes. Our (really friendly) waiter explained they'd had an offer on that night and it had been really popular. The business meant that the big restaurant had a vibrant feel about it and, as we were seated near the kitchens, we could watch the theatre show that was the chefs at work.

The twelve apostles of the name are represented in the newspaper-style menu as pizzas. They have really unusual toppings (Peter having salmon and creme fraiche, Judas being spicy with rocket and spicy meat). The pizzas going to other tables meant that we went straight for that, as they looked really good (good-sized, well topped). The restaurant also does a full complement of meat, pasta and other Italian dishes - but I'd have to go back again to comment on those!

Our waiter was very patient with our rubbish German (we'd both learnt French at school, which doesn't help much) and helped us along with some encouragement in perfect English. Despite being run off his feet he was prepared to put the time in to deal with us as individual customers, excellent.

The pizzas were amazing, as they had looked, satisfyingly crisp (but not hard) bases and plenty of topping but not swamped with cheese. Accompanied by a cold beer I'm not sure what the actual apostles would have thought of it but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

A big, fat recommendation for this one.

And a gratuitous Cologne pic...

This is the cathedral for which the city is famed. We did the full tourist thing and went to the 4711 perfume shop to buy gifts for our Mums, we went up the high tower, did the cable car over the river (and right over the top of the nude part of the hot-spring spa), and saw the padlocks attached to the bridge. The idea is you put a lock with your name and a special date on the bridge and throw the key in the river, so to remove it (and break the relationship) requires special effort. There are literally thousands on there - look

My husband and I also visited the marvel that is the Jack Wolfskin shop. It's a shop, and it has a full-sized proper pond in the basement. We could not believe our eyes! This wasn't in the guidebook, but it really should have been....

It's the shop at Minoritenstrasse 2, 50667 Cologne (I think, right in the centre just down the street from the Aldi shop), talking of the Aldi I was very proud to get the hang of how you recycle your plastic bottles to reclaim your deposit, all in German. I know, the English are rubbish at foreign languages, but it's always good to have a go - right? It's probably different when you speak the language I am mangling.

A long post - but it was a great holiday!

I've been invited next week to the opening of an artisan co-operative shop full of handmade goodies (in the Mailbox, Birmingham). I am trying to include lots more pictures in the blog and I am looking forward to the goodies in store there. Hope you are too.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Weston Super Mare, a trip to the seaside

A lovely trip this week to the seaside at Weston Super Mare (not sure how you spell it really - but it's here...)

Now, having lived in the middle of England most of my life I absolutely LOVE a trip to the seaside so the very first thing I wanted to do on arrival was run down the beach (shoes and socks off) and have a paddle in the sea.

So, the first bit went well until we got onto the damp sand. Ew!!! It's very soft, silty and like stepping through very soft clay. Boo. What can you do on a beach where you can't get near the sea? (I must admit here that later as I walked down the promenade I did see several signs warning you not to try to approach the sea at low tide due to soft sand, in my excitement I must have missed those. Oops)

My friend had been before and guided me over to the lido-type area. This is essentially a massive infinity pool where a bit of the sea has been held back and you CAN paddle and frolick in. It's not quite like 'real' sea as there are no waves or anything, but it is nice and warm and very safe for children. So, go there when you go, and don't try and reach the actual sea.

For lunch (cooked) we went to the Old Thatched Cottage. A friendly welcome and decent portions, I had ham, egg and chips and my dining partner fish and chips. A lovely little restaurant location and we left full and satisfied!

The promenade is one of the key attractions in Weston Super Mare. There was loads going on down near the beach! A steam-powered funfair had chairoplanes, carousels and lots of candy floss. There was a dog show on the green, stalls, games and donkey and horse rides on the beach. The day was quite windy and there were also a lot of kite-flyers.

The Grand pier is worth a walk along and there are a few of the usual seaside cacophony of penny (now twopenny) falls, arcade games etc. There's quite a nice looking place at the end of the pier for afternoon tea - however it was closed for a wedding so comments on that will have to be for next time!

On the way round the prom there is a good ice cream parlour near the pier - unfortunately I didn't note the name but the turkish delight ice-cream was amazing!

I had a very good, skippy day out in Weston Super Mare. Thank you.

After Weston - back to Bristol. But that's another post, it's 11pm on a work-night so I need to go to bed now :)

Night all!