Thursday, 27 September 2007

Short Row Serenade

After months of crochet on the as-yet-still-unfinished ripple blanket, I've picked up the knitting needles again to work on this Calorimetry as a birthday pressie for a friend. The yarn is Wendy Fusion which I've used before in the red and orange colourway. This time Clare had spare balls of the purple which she kindly distributed amongst the Foyles knitters.

The Calorimetry pattern is worked in short rows which I've realised is one of my favourite knitting techniques - there's something rather magical, I think, in the way straight lines can become three dimensional, just by leaving behind stitches. One of the most satisfying projects I've knitted was the A Capella cape, which is all short rows.

[photo: Leo Bleicher, via Knitty]

Although the picture of the project didn't sing for me, I saw it knitted up and it's wonderful. My Mum is devoted to her purple one and wears it most days during the winter.

I have my eyes on another promising short row project, the Lizard Ridge Throw, also on Knitty.

[photo: Laura Aylor, via Knitty]

Its so gorgeous I can hardly contain myself! Sadly I have exactly one ball of Kureyon in my possession and am without the financial means to acquire the enormous pile the project requires. Oh well, I can always dream!

Saturday, 22 September 2007

Local Colour

I must admit that went I first moved to N15 several years ago my knowledge of its charms was limited to the fact the the rent was affordable and the house inhabitable. When Miles and I came back last year having bought our flat, I felt I knew a little more about the area but I'm always surprised at the treats that it has in store in the most unexpected places. I found one of these last week in the form of the wonderful interior of a Chinese restaurant on Kingsland High Street. Once an eel and pie shop, the tiles are a fantastic teal and green (two of my favourite colours). There are great details like the entwined eels on the mirrors and there was a mosaic of an eel by the door. The food was lovely too ("Buddhist Monks'" Vegetable Hot Pot" plus dumplings and spring rolls) so I'm definitely going back.
Today Miles and I went for a walk down the River Lea, taking in the end-of-summer fine weather. The river is a great little oasis, so slow and quiet compared with the city all around it.
We were walking south and got as far as the Walthamstow Marshes where we found cows! I've seen them before from the train but it was such a treat to see them there, just getting on with their grazing in the middle of London. I love those little flashes of the rural which you occasionally find in the city - like having the best of both worlds!

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Extreme Sushi

Miles and I made a new friend yesterday. Meet 'extreme sushi', so raw there isn't even any rice. We decided in the interest of health, detox and being thinner for the wedding (ha!) to try one night a week of raw food. Rather depressed by visions of endless salads I was excited to find this sushi recipe. It uses a pâté in place of the rice, making them rich and still filling. They are noticeably harder to roll than normal sushi, though, as the pâté is much squishier than rice and so just wants to come squirting out the end!

We made our pâté from carrot and red onion, hence it is rather more 'orange' than the 'pink' of the original recipe. Frankly, there was substituting going on all over the place - we used rocket instead of watercress and sun-dried tomatoes instead of the evil cucumber. Also, I didn't quite have enough cashews so almonds found their way in too. I think the moral of the story is, this is actually a very flexible recipe so I suggest going wild (well, as wild as vegan raw food night gets!).

(For a master class in rolling sushi, the first episode of the Post Punk Kitchen TV show has all you need to know. Have a look at the video and the sushi tips page on their website.)

The recipe we used was originally printed in Waitrose magazine a couple of years ago as part of a feature on the café at Triyoga in Primrose Hill, which, at the time, served mostly raw food (it's changed management since then, I believe).

Pink Sushi

Serves 6 as a starter
Preparation time: 40 mins, plus chilling

11g pack nori sheets
100g bag watercress, stalks cut off
1 carrot, peeled and cut into julienne strips
2 x 5cm pieces cucumber, cut into julienne strips
1 avocado, peeled and sliced
1 tsp tamari

1 small red pepper, deseeded and chopped
1 medium beetroot (raw), peeled and chopped
100ml olive oil
50ml tamari
2 tbsp cider vinegar
200g cashew nuts
1 tbsp roughly chopped ginger
1/2 red chilli, roughly chopped
1 tbsp maple syrup

Put all the pâté ingredients into a blender and blend till completely amalgamated and smooth (may need to scrap down the sides a few times). Refrigerate the mixture for 2-3 hours to firm up or, if you're in a hurry, freeze it for 30 minutes.

Lie a nori sheet on a sushi rolling mat or clean tea towel. Arrange a handful of the watercress on the lower half of the sheet then spread about 1½ tbsp of the pâté over the watercress. Arrange some carrot, cucumber and avocado over the pâté, then a little more watercress. Carefully roll up the seaweed to create a neat roll, using a dab of tamari to seal the sushi. Slice with a sharp knife and serve immediately.

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Architectural Adventures Chapter 2 - Open House Weekend

Sometimes London weather really comes into its own in September and last weekend was no exception. As part of London Open House Weekend, Miles had planned himself a comprehensive tour of art deco buildings (this is his third year of deco OHWs - we've decided that next year may be time to look at other things!) and I tagged along for a few of the highlights.

On Saturday we visited the Unilever building at Blackfriars - with its amazing deco facade we'd both wanted to have a look inside for a while but it only finished a massive redevelopment earlier this year. The exterior looks fantastic but the inside was a real shock - they've gutted the building and fitted a completely souless glass atrium-type interior. But to try and accentuate the positive I include here some pictures of the carefully restored handsome exterior.
The angles of this light are wonderful.
These little birds are a great detail - I'd have missed them if Miles hadn't pointed them out. Each pair makes the apex of the zig zags on the gates.
On Sunday we made it all the way down to Tooting for 10am(!). While waiting I noticed the library and wonderful old advert on the building across the street.
We actually went to see what was the Granada cinema. Now a bingo hall (the saviour of so many cinemas) the facade is relatively demure...
...but it conceals a fabulously over the top 'Shakespearean Medieval' interior.
We then progressed to the Park Lane Hotel. The bit we'd really wanted to see was the ballroom but there was a wedding going on (imagine how much that must cost!). We got to see the ballroom lobby though, which was incredible - a sea of silver leaf and mirrors. Here you can see Miles in action too.
The metal work shapes in the light fitting were echoed in the banisters too.
We were also taken to see one of their suites (the rack rate is over £2000 a night!). It was the favourite of Marlene Dietrich, apparently, and she was known to entertain guests from the bathtub!
And to finish, one more pretty picture: these lillies were from some dinner guests last week and I think they match our fireplace beautifully.

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Architectural Adventures - Twyford Abbey

Earlier this week, thanks to my ever amazing Dad, I got an opportunity to poke around a remarkable, forgotten gem of a building. Tywford Abbey was built in 1807, in full gothic style, as a country house in what is now sunny Park Royal. The building was a nursing home until the late 80s but has just been falling apart in planning limbo since then. Dad came across the building when he was asked to lead some local area walks in Park Royal and has now got involved in campaigning for its preservation. There was an article on the building in Time Out last month which explains the history in more detail.

One of the strangest aspects of the building, when viewed straight on, are the balconies. These must have been added in the 50s (I rather like the design of the railings!) and so we decided there might have been a recessed court yard entrance in the original design.

We were only able to get into three of the original Georgian rooms. Two had obviously been kept in good condition and their ceilings still look amazing. These pictures were taken in the dark, just with flash but you can imagine how they would sparkle in candle light.

I love the amazing red of this room - it was actually less pink in real life. The wonderful ceiling rose does not deserve that manky light bulb!

Sadly much of the building has been very badly damaged by water. I took this picture in the hallway next to the rooms with the beautiful ceilings.

The water has meant the things like this have appeared: mushrooms growing out of the walls.

Even more impressive, though, was the tree growing out of the back of the building.

The Time Out article explains the details but much of the problems with development of the site are that, not only is the building listed, but the wild, rambling grounds are also under conservation orders which means paralysis. Such a shame as this is pure Jane Austen fantasy!
As I was on my way back home I was thinking how lucky we are as Londoners that at least constant usage means people are aware of the architectural value of our tube system. Park Royal station is a wonderfully functional art deco building: this view of the stepped back of the main building is from the platform.

I'm looking forward to this weekend as it's London Open House, so expect more architectural adventures detailed next week!

Saturday, 8 September 2007

Life on the Inside

This last week has passed in a blur of staring at the computer screen and not much else. The chapter I've been working on is based on the three books in the picture above - I feel like I know them inside out, which I guess from the point of view of my PhD is a good thing but it does get a bit claustrophobic. This feeling is certainly reinforced by stretches of 48 hours plus not leaving the house! Spending that much time in the same environment does always encourage me to try and see the old angles with new eyes, though. The picture below is the view from our bedroom which I normally think is pretty grim but I realised that by focusing on the green and white of the foliage and the brown of the brick it's actually rather nice. This does mean ignoring the concreted over garden of our neighbours, filled with washing and the enormous satellite dish which the people downstairs put on our wall, but that's the beauty of framing!
My reward on Friday was dinner at Mum and Dad's which of course offered amongst its many attractions (good food, lovely company)...cats!

Pity the video is so dark - sorry! But I love how you can see the thought to go for Pip's jugular run through Agnes' head before she does it. They make me giggle those two.

Monday, 3 September 2007

Bread & Fire

One thing I wish I was better at is bread making. All my previous attempts have been middling to poor, the problems generally boiling down to heavy, unrisen, yeasty smelling bread. Not to be defeated when I saw this book on sale at Foyles last week I was wooed by the step-by-step photography and snapped it up. The first loaf I made turned out beautifully. It was a Nutty Yogurt quick bread - perfect for me as there was no getting your hands sticky or waiting for it to rise, just mix everything together in the bowl and then put it straight in the tin and on into the oven. One hour later, voila!

It was very gratifying to hear Miles walk into the kitchen and exclaim, "It looks like proper bread!". And it tasted proper too. I'm looking forward to working my way through the book and to overcoming my bread demons.

Finally, a little historical tidbit.
Miles and I spent the weekend with his parents at their house in Winchester. Along the road that runs from their house to the centre of town are these old cottages (I'm not sure of the date, but given that a bit further along the same road there is a building from the 15th century I think we can safely say they are pretty old!).

The detail I love are the little plaques you can see on two of them.
They are fire insurance marks: before municipal fire brigades, insurance companies ran their own private brigades. In the event of a fire the firemen would check for a plaque to see if the building belonged to their scheme before setting about tackling the blaze!