Saturday, July 30, 2011

Country Roads, Take me Home

Ah, Saturday morning (even if my Blogger time/date are still on London time!). It's my 5th morning waking up in Wisconsin. All glorious (even if one was pouring with rain all day and one was overcast). The sun in beating down in yellowy goodness again today. Wisconsin may have hot and muggy summer and cold, snowy winters but I do prefer its weather to the largely unpredictable, yet rather small range of weather options offered by London.

This is summer.

tuesday morning
The view from my parents patio at the ungodly early hour I woke up on Tuesday

I've thus far not gotten up to terribly much. I saw the one high school friend I try to keep up with. We hadn't been able to actually see each other in 2 1/2 years and she's not the best at online stuff. She and her beau (of 10-ish years) got secretly married last September. They've never been big on the idea, but did it for various reasons. Neither choose to wear a ring. I find it odd, but really quite fitting for them. And I wasn't as shocked upon hearing the news as I would've been for any other couple!

fairies in the garden

Tuesday I mostly loafed around the house until spending a few hours in the late evening with aforementioned friend. Wednesday brought rain storms (awesome midwest summer storms - warm, humid air, and rain that's not too cold to walk in) and the outdoor chamber orchestra concert I'd been looking forward to for months got cancelled. Rather a bummer. It was re-scheduled for Thursday, but ended up not happening as planned due to fear of rain (though the sprinkles of the overcast day ended up moving off before the evening time for the performance).

the backyard

I've really been enjoying my parents' house. Since they've been living abroad for the bulk of the past few years some of the plantings have gotten a bit overgrown. In my opinion, this is great. In theirs, not so much. But, for now anyway, it's really just beautiful. Probably one of the greenest summers I can remember, all-around. All the crops look amazing and everyone's yards look like some sort of catalogue. It's really pretty.

hello, sunshine!
Friday brought marvelous sunshine again

My brother flew in from California last night. He's around just til Sunday afternoon before flying back West to work and life. No idea what we'll be getting up to today. But it's sunny. And I've mostly gotten through the sorting of boxes of college/early single life that are stored here the family home! Next weekend there will, hopefully, be a pretty epic yard sale. From crafty stuff to home stuff (lots of kitchen things from me) to furniture - it's clean-out time around here. And that's a good thing.

For now, we're just hanging around a bit. More travel-at-home adventures to come!

just hangin' around

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A short wander. Soon a very long one.

Today the boy and I walked about 6 miles. (We'd estimated perhaps up to 7, but then actually put our walk into an online walking map thing. It was just about 6). What started out as a little wander to fill the afternoon turned into being on the other side of London and having a pub dinner.

We walked through busy bits and quiet bits and picked blackberries off wild bushes. It was quite fun. We're really lucky to live right along The Thames Path. If living along a river (albeit a gross one at times) wasn't lovely enough, the Thames has foot/bike paths on both shores from source to sea. It's pretty cool. If you ever get the chance, I highly recommend it. Even if you're just visiting London, have a bit of a walk. It's totally worth it.

Tomorrow, I jet off to my homeland.

I hope to post a bunch during my vacation. Lots of fun things planned: family time, a short visit from my brother, a baby shower for my sister, helping my parents sort through the masses of stuff left behind in their house by we adult children, a yard sale...and that's all just before The Scot flies over! (After that it's the State Fair and island getaways and Chicago and a train journey to New Orleans!). So much planned and so much left to chance, too. It should be a good one.

It's worth noting that those 2 photos of our walk today were taken by the boy. SIlly us both forgetting our cameras. He snapped a couple on his phone. He also told me he hopes to start blogging more.

Now I'm off to finish the last bits of packing (dolly-related, mostly) and get some well-earned sleep.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Potter Pinterest Pretties

Last Thursday was a magical night for me. After over a decade of book reading and film watching, my love affair with the Harry Potter series met its last love. The final film came out and I was lucky enough to attend a midnight showing. I was also lucky enough to see Part 1 of the 2 part finale just before. So it was a double bill of awesome.

New HP-tastic 3D glasses in tow, I smiled in between films and cried throughout both.

DSCN8191 copy
I also ate a lot of popcorn.

I spent a bit of time last Thursday creating an end-of-an-era Harry Potter gallery on Pinterest. Here are some favorites:

(via ThePhantomMoon)

(via Caroline Hadilaksolo)

And, after all these pretty thoughts, here's one last one. Who knew Matt Lewis (in all his buck-toothed glory) would turn out so yummy?

The next morning, I boarded a train from Kings Cross station and reflected that Harry's vision was indeed far, far, cleaner.


I didn't take a ride to Hogwarts. But I would've liked to.

Maybe next time ;)

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Weekend Away

On Friday morning, after a late night of Harry Potter love, I hopped on a train from King's Cross (still feeling very wizard-like) and headed to Scotland. The boy and I were off to a short break with his family.

We stayed at his dad's house, which has the sweetest little flowers throughout the grass in the little back yard. On Friday it was a little sunny.

lovely luna

Saturday was a bit of an adventure. The rain came and went and turned between sprinkles to crazy downpours on twisty country roads! We took a drive to the Scottish Borders to Kailzie Gardens (that's with a silent z). They have a wildlife area, an osprey watching place, fishing ponds and classic walled gardens. Beautiful.

god's garden

luna and a statue

luna and a stream

Also - a Chicken Village!!!! Chicken. Village. Who thinks of these things?

chicken village!!!


The duck pond had no ducks on this particular day, but the lily pads were beautiful.

rainy day lilypad

Sunday was more family time. And rain. No chance to get a shot of Luna in my favorite tartan dress. Next time! It was a great little trip and a nice run up to my American adventure which begins next week. Family time (even if not exactly my family) is pretty great.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Looking for Love

If you know me well, you know I am an animal lover. When I started my first full-time teaching job a few years ago, I was feeling a bit lame in a huuuuge 2 bedroom apartment. I had a fishtank with 2 black moor goldfish (Laverne and Shirley, RIP), but it wasn't the same. In the same town there was a no-kill Human Society shelter. I couldn't help but look at the beautiful cats looking for homes. So many non-kittens that needed love! There, I found Presto (one-eyed wondercat) and Morgan (sassy calico love).

When I had the opportunity to move abroad, I didn't anticipate being gone long. For one year, the cats stayed at my parents' house and then moved on to a foster-y home with cousins. Rather unexpectedly, they've decided that they can't keep my fluffballs. My parents are beginning retirement and will be traveling a lot. So they can't take them. And bringing cats to the UK is both a nightmare with quarantine and also not a possibility with our building's rule and The Scot's allergy.

HELP! kitty eviction

I will be visiting the US in a week and a half for a few weeks. It's a trip I'm really looking forward to. Hopefully while there I can bring Presto and Morgan to a new home. Do you live in the Midwest? Love cats? Have a welcoming home for 2 sweet kitties who are good with kids? Please be in touch!

Thanks, dear readers. It would break my heart to not find a place for the kitcats.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Flying off...

My dear, darling readers - you have heard mention of my upcoming trip stateside. I am absolutely elated to have nearly a whole month in the US and really glad to get to spend much of it with my family and introducing my love to so many important places that are a part of me. The catch? Underemployed teachers aren't so thick with the cash. I've had a bunch of cute Blythe things sitting in my Etsy shop since the Springtime and I'm very much hoping that a little promo will help a few of them leave the nest (and help me be able to do more than hang out in my parents' yard while in the States!)

Do please stop by and see if there's something that tickles your fancy. And, if things stay slow teaching-wise, I might just get some new sewing added into the shop before my trip! (2 weeks away! Eeeps!)

Thanks, oh lovely readers!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Tale of a Tasty Tart

The last few weeks have definitely been quite good for baking at Chez Crafty. A couple weeks back I spotted raspberries at the store and, feeling a bit lazy, picked up some refrigerated shortcrust dough (which is super uncommon for me as I'm a bit of a crust snob - but the less flaky nature of the fridge dough actually works well for a tart, I found). Then I came home and thought a bit. Some sleuthing, and some assessing what I had on hand, led to a little adaptation of a few tart recipes I found. In the end, I'm so glad I made my changes and adjustments. Because, yum yum yum, it makes a great dessert! I liked it so much, I made it again! (And the 2nd time was even better than the first!).

Laura Kate's Lemon Custard and Raspberry Tart
Preheat oven to 400°F/200°C
*1 shortcrust
*3 eggs
*2/3 cup sugar (caster sugar for the non-Americans)
*grated rind of 1 lemon
*juice of 1/2 - 1 lemon (to taste)
*1/2 cup heavy or double cream (and more for whipping, if desired)
*2 cups(ish) raspberries

1 - Either make your favorite shortcrust pastry or use a refrigerated type.
2 - Roll it out and place it in a 9" pie tin or, if you have one, a fluted tart/flan tin.
3 - Fill with rice or baking beans and blind bake for 15-20 minutes, removing the filler for the last 5.

Now time to mix up the custard!
3 - Whisk the eggs and the sugar together til nice and fluffy then add in the lemon rind and juice and whisk again
4 - In another bowl (a big one is best), whip the cream to soft peaks and then fold in the eggy mixture.

Berry fun!
5 - Place about 2/3 of your raspberries into the blindbaked crust. I like to put them down in pretty circles.
6 - Pour the custard mixture over the berries gently. Try to make sure they're all covered with the liquid.

Baking time!
7 - Put it all back into the oven for 30-40 minutes or until the custard is just set (wobbly but not hard).
8 - Let the tart cool at room temperature.

9 - Now take the rest of the raspberries and place them over the top of the tart. Make sure the tart has cooled all the way through before cutting or it'll be a bit too gooey inside to plate up! If you like, you can whip up your remaining cream for a lovely topping (I like adding a touch of vanilla or almond extract for extra tastiness). Dusting with powdered or confectioners sugar is another nice option.

Mmmmm....tastes like summer!

Friday, July 8, 2011

A Little News

I wrote this post in late May. It's been sitting in my drafts waiting to go out to the world. A little FB announcement by the subject of this post means I can finally stop keeping *ahem* mum.

Family is super important to me. Especially my mom's side. This photo lives on the shelf in my living room (and has for years). 3 generations: my great grandma (who died just before I was born), my mom, aunt, and grandmother. The print is dated March 1970, so I presume it was taken within the previous few months of that . That would make my mom in her mid 20s at the time. Nearly my age.

My mom is pretty awesome. Together with my dad, she raised 3 kids who all have quite different lives. She's been quite excited by the idea of being a grandmother for years. We were pretty sure I was her only hope on this front. Sometime in late Autumn/early Winter one more generation will be added to the lineup. (But it's not my turn just yet).

This means that the summer will involve some crafty auntie knitting time!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

On and On About the 'Con

It's been quite a week so far for my adventures in planning BlytheCon UK 2011. We launched the fashion and photography contests (well, put out details for them though their respective organizers, anyhow), and all sorts of things have been arriving at my house.

On Saturday, just as I was heading off to join up with friend for our London Blythe meet, I got a little package from Moo. It should be noted that I *love* Moo products. Especially minicards. I got some of my own ages ago, but hadn't gotten any in a few years. And since I think the size is far cuter than business card size. So that's what I went with. The front side of each has the logo, etc and the backs are customized to ticket types: attendee, stallholder, and guest. I'll be writing on the ticket numbers by hand before they go out. But I think they're a really cute way to manage the ticketing.

Look what arrived at my house yesterday :)

The second arrival at Chez Crafty came on Monday. I had been hoping and hoping it would arrive before Saturday's meet so I could show the gals there. But that just didn't happen. Anyhow, it was fabric samples!!! I'd talked to a few people about designing an exclusive fabric for BlytheCon UK 2011 (after seeing the adorable designs/success of this for the Portland BlytheCon) but those never panned out. So, what's a creative girl to do? Design it herself, of course! I wanted something unique and something that fit our event well. What's both rather outdoorsy (going with our theme "Let's Have an Adventure") and British? TARTAN! Admittedly, I have a particular affinity for Scotland, so this was a fun one. I designed 5 tartans and ordered sample fabric swatches of 4. 3 of them were great and 1, well, let's just say I was glad I got a test swatch! (the tartan was too wide in its stripes, etc to work at the small scale).

o hai, fabric samples

The samples were also in various types of fabric. While the sateen cotton was absolutely the loveliest, the cost was a bit prohibitive. And the plain cotton was nearly as nice. So, for BlytheCon UK 2011 fans that's what's on offer (in our spankin' new Artfire shop). In 4 colorways named for the event!

4 colourways

After working on pre-orders of fabric cuts for a couple days, today's arrival was also super excited. The lovely Ruth (of Eurotrash) had gotten a great stamp made for her wares from English Stamp Co. and I can't say enough for them. I'm so glad I took her Flickr tip! Ordered, created, and delivered within a week! And in the merit badge style we've been going with for other event elements! ♥♥♥loves♥♥♥

stampy stamp

It's been a very BlytheCon UK centric week here at my place. I'm getting more and more excited about the event. So many more little details and surprises to come. I can't wait to share (some of them anyhow. Some will just have to wait until the day!).

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Meeting of Minds

(or, at the very least, dolly people).

Yesterday afternoon I met up with the lovely Shelley and Laura for a little Blythe fun. We were hoping to be joined by a few other friendly faces, but circumstances left just us 3. Which was still pretty lovely. Shelley brought along her adorable little daughter (who I'd only heard tales of previously) and we all took a wander to the British Museum to fun with dollies.

ada, alba, and fauna
Pretty ladies having a lounge.

We were in the Egyptian section on the main floor. Sarcophagi, sculptures, and scrolls and such surrounded us. Were we taking much notice? No. We were snapping pics of dollies...

iris joins in the fun

Shelley got a good shot of Laura and me "in action":
London Blythe Meet

It was a fun little afternoon out. I followed it up with a backyard barbecue at the home of one of The Scot's workmates and then birthday drinks for another of his friends. It was a long but really lovely Saturday.

And I am left wanting a mohair girl.
ada is suspicious
Isn't Ada gorgeous?

All week I've been hoping to snap pics of a fun tutorial for you lovely readers, but sadly my materials aren't quite cooperating. I hope soon! Because it'll be great fun!

Now it's time to bake a tart. Nom nom nom. Happy July, folks!