Thursday, 30 April 2009

The May List!

May has to be a strong contender for the best month of the year, doesn't it? A teasing peek of summer to come, flowers in bloom, and best of all - not one, but two bank holidays! woo woo! So this May, I am:

Planning to

- Finally get round to visiting the Madness and Modernity exhibition at the always-fabulous Wellcome Collection, which looks really interesting. (picture 1)
- Check out the Slow Food Market on the Southbank this weekend. It promises "40 stalls furnishing a delicious array of artisan food and drink, including rare cooked meats, fresh mezze, salads and sweets such as cakes, pancakes and baklava... and a programme of free access demos, tastings and workshops." (picture 2)
- Start on something from my lovely new Kim Hargreaves book (picture 8), very possibly with some organo-phosphate free and (fairly) local alpaca yarn from the Farm Yarn shop (picture 9)

Lusting after

- This gorgeous gathered print skirt (picture 3) from Sika, who use vintage fabrics sourced from Ghanaian markets to make their fabulous creations. All pieces are hand-made by local seamstresses in Ghana using traditional techniques such as tie-dye and batik and the income received from their sale goes back into the local community.
- Jess LC's handmade State Street necklace (picture 6) and earrings (picture 7) . Classic but funky, they would go with everything.

Looking forward to

- Visiting my lovely friend Shelley in picturesque Devon (picture 4)
- Starting a six-week beginners tennis course! (picture 5)

Hoping for

- Sunshine! (picture 10) - see items 2, 4 and 5 above!!

Picture credits (all from Flickr Creative Commons): Slow Food - Orin Optiglot ; Tennis Ball - StuSeeger ; Totnes - dachalan ; Sunshine - JunCTionS

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Objects of my desire

Since coming across these on the Brightside Project a couple of days back, I have been completely enamoured with these gorgeous hunks of wood...

The ingenious idea is a shoe which can be created new as often as you please just by changing the ribbon that is threaded through the base. The base itself is made from sustainably grown cherry wood, and the sole comes from recycled tire rubber.

There are a number of different base options available, and each purchase comes with five ribbons of your choice, although you can use whatever works to tie them up.

I just think they're awesome. Coupled with the fact that 'Mohop' is a totally catchy word, I have found myself more than once in the last couple of days just going 'mohop, mohop, mohop' in my head, a little crazily...


And read about the woman behind the shoes in this interesting interview:

Monday, 27 April 2009

Dirty u-bends and therapeutic flying

photo from
An interesting weekend just gone... The most part of my Saturday was spent balancing on strangers' feet, as per the colourful picture above, practicing 'elephant walking' my hands, stacking my bones and getting to grips with 'therapeutic flying'.

It was all part of a one-day workshop hosted by the co-founders of acroyoga Jason Nemer and Jenny Sauer-Klein. They basically play with yoga poses, bodywork techniques (especially thai yoga massage) and acrobatics to come up with a whole host of flying poses and moves which can be invigorating and spectacular or relaxing and therapeutic. Eventually practitioners can move together in a kind of vinyasa practice transitioning smoothly from pose to pose.

Whilst it took me a little time to get used to letting my upside down head rest on a stranger's belly, I really liked the playfulness and weirdness of it. Try doing the 'walnut' pose, where you're folded up over your partner's up-stretched legs, with your head tucked through and your hands gripping your touching feet - it just feels freaky, in a kind of wonderful way. It made me feel like I was a little lemur or something hanging out in the forest...

We were also introduced to thai massage, which I haven't experienced before. I really like the precept that it's all about allowing the body to work in the most effortless and efficient way - stacking the bones and using their weight rather than using muscle exertion and effort. In this way it serves both giver and receiver through being a gentle but firm touch for the receiver, and an interesting yoga work-out for the giver. Something I would definitely like to look into further

We finished the day with great big back bends giving a real sense of expansiveness and openness, and then an exercise called the 'water bed', which involved a lot of shaking, giggling and energy - the room must have looked quite crazy but I think everyone finished on a high...

Apart from the balancing and bodywork, I've also been inspired by this blog on the acroyoga site, which recounts a challenge by one of the acroyogis to keep every piece of rubbish (trash) for the duration of a three-month tour. Adi carried a bag around with her with every piece of (non-food) trash she produced. Surely this is the ideal way to really get in touch with what we are throwing away so flippantly all the time. Waste disposal has been so easy for so long that I guess most of us take it all for granted, with just a vague idea perhaps of the fact that it all has to end up Somewhere.


I had a particularly unpleasant illustration of some of what I throw out on Sunday, when the water refused to go down the kitchen sink plughole. After a lot of poking around we decided to get under the sink and unscrew all the plastic piping. And wow, what an ungodly stinking mess we uncovered. Thick brown sludge that has accummulated there over time. It really made me think about how unthinkingly we flush away and pour away and disappear what mess we produce.

(We were quite proud of our plumbing efforts though, neither of us having ventured into such territories before!)

So, I think I'm going to challenge myself to take up my own rubbish-carrying experiment to see how much I really produce, and what else I can cut out. I'm pretty good at buying unpackaged veg now, but there are so many other areas I need to think about. Over the next month or so I'll think about ways I can reduce what I am throwing out even more, and then - let's set a date - go for a month of waste collecting in June! There, I'm committed to it now. Slightly terrified by the vision of trying to cart around a suitcase full of junk, so I'm really going to have to concentrate on cutting it down! Any good waste-reducing tips willingly received!

Saturday, 18 April 2009

sewing project one

So it was a sunny day a few weeks back, and I was walking round Chalk farm and stumbled across a sewing shop. A brief browse and friendly chat with the proprietess later and I emerged with a paper pattern and a plan. Only chink in the plan - no sewing machine.

I'd noticed years ago a little shop selling used and new sewing machines, just down the road in Camden. So, fired up with the plan, I hopped on the tube and lo! the shop was still there so I entered and had a little chat about sewing machines.

I almost purchased a second hand toyota, a bulky new looking thing. And then I saw this in the window - a similar model to the machine my Mum got for her 21st birthday which is still running perfectly today.

I asked after it, and the helpful sewing machine shop man told me elna was like the rolls royce of sewing machines. Swiss made, and very reliable. I fell in love. I bought it!

The shop, by the way, was still run by the son of the man who established it, way back in 1936. It was lovely and cosy and they were happy to stay open half an hour after closing time to give me a demo and to find all the pieces and chat about the shop. A truly lovely shopping experience.

Anyway, I got home and I looked at the pattern and it was like trying to read Arabic, so I put it away again and waited until the weekend before last, when I was heading home.

My mum isn't a prolific seamstress but she made her own lime green suit to wear to her first interview, she made all our ballet costumes when we were little, and I remember her in home-sewn clothkits clothes back in the 80s. She knows what she's doing...

And she has this fine sewing stash!

I cut my pattern out of newspaper in case it went wrong, and because I thought if I cut it out I wouldn't be able to use it again. Not sure why I thought this, now I think about it a little more rationally, but there we go. It was quite a lot of work and I started to get disheartened. It had looked like a simple pattern to me and I'd had this lovely idea in my head that I'd just 'whip it up' in an afternoon....

Fabric cut, the sewing began, as did the arguments. I enlisted help, then stroppily refused it as the logics of the pattern frustratingly eluded me. I tried my hardest to be patient, but it is not something I am skilled at when it comes to making things - I kind of want to Just Get Going!

But I was a good girl, and I did lots of pressing of seams, and pressing of this and that (you can see here though where I neglected to cover up my gathering stitches - oops!)

Two days, and a lot of wonky sewing later....

...I finally ended up with something (almost!) ready to wear. So, it still needs a zip, and the bodice doesn't sit quite right. I also can't decide whether to make it a short dress or a long top (it's shown folded under here). I have however, kind of suceeded! Woo!

But now I realise what I thought was a simple pattern really wasn't that simple, and think I need to start off a little easier, really build up the basics.

So, if anyone has any recommendations for good sites with free basic patterns on, good books which will be a reference easy enough to understand for a complete novice, please pass my way!...

Thursday, 16 April 2009

switching off

Apparently next week is TV turnoff week, or ‘Digital Detox’ week as it’s now been renamed, as our lives fill up with more and more screens of all shapes, sizes and kinds... So currently I’m debating whether I want to join in the week more than I don’t want to miss a week of Great British Menu (so nice with a cup of tea when you come in all tired!).

My parents moved in to the house that they still live in in 1975 and have never bought a TV, nor wanted one. My two sisters and I grew up in the 80s and 90s as curiosities to most of the kids we knew, who didn’t understand it (we didn’t and still don’t have a fridge or freezer either, to make it even more fun!).

Whenever anyone asked us what we did (which was always the first question, followed by “are your parents hippies?”) I never knew how to reply because I never had to consciously think of how to fill my time; I just did stuff, you know. Thinking back now, we played a lot – lots of make believe, (inventing sandwich shops and a new religion for our invented country!), and we spent a lot of time eating... Then there was reading, knitting, playing clarinet, tidying up, writing, making stuff, just hanging around annoying each other. And when I got older I spent a lot of time lying on my bed listening to music and feeling the teenage angst, and walking up to the phone box to call people (ah, the days before mobiles and email...!)

I never missed TV, never felt deprived; on the contrary it was something that made us interesting and different, and although kids at school would talk about the X files and the Big Breakfast, it didn’t make me feel left out or wanting for a TV. It just never really appealed that much.

When I moved up to London I began to become quite besotted with the box. I pretty much got addicted to Big Brother series 4, cutting phone convos short and skipping home early from graduation drinks to go and watch it. And at points I’ve gone for months just coming home and sitting in front of the TV until I decided to haul myself up to bed. I used to go to my sisters just to watch TV together on a Friday night; I looked forward to Wednesdays every week when Teachers was on, and Sex and the City. I loved America’s Next Top Model just a little too much. And like all good students, I became very familiar with daytime TV (ah, Diagnosis Murder and Ed, those were the days…)

But I did often hate that feeling of being just stolid and stuck and stultified by having this box jabber on at you about things you’re not really interested in whilst you solidify on the sofa. Too often I watched just out of inertia.

I’ve lived in 4 of my 12 London addresses without TV, and we lived in our current flat for 9 months sans TV before the decision was made to get one. I liked the quiet and I liked coming home and having to think what to do, rather than just collapsing in front of the default option.

Now we have a TV and luckily things haven’t changed much. I watch it when there’s something specifically on of interest, or if I just really want to have a morning vegging out. And we use it for DVDs quite a lot. But I feel like I have a choice over it. I am now able to switch off rubbish TV, rather than sitting there shaking my head and wondering why I watch it. Which is good.

So, I don’t think it’s awful per se, but it definitely is another one of those things that is better in moderation. And it is amazing how much more time you have when you go from a TV-orientated household to a TV-less or TV-quiet one.

Maybe I will do digital detox week after all. It will be a good chance to remind myself how much I like the freedom that not sitting at the TV affords, and maybe I will get some more of my perpetual to-do lists done.

How about you? TV love or hate??? Would you or will you switch off for a week?
Image from adbusters

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

global politics, detox diets and metaphorical sunshine

How was your Easter weekend? Good, I hope.

I spent my weekend back at my parents' house, enjoying getting out of London and being warmed by the sun. Staying with my parents invariably involves large amounts of wine and cheese being ingested and Easter weekend was no exception.

I decided before I went that it would be hopeless trying not to partake in the traditional dairy and fermented grape binge, so I vowed instead to return to a sparse diet of just vegetables, fruits, pulses, nuts, seeds and a few wholegrains*. The plan is to go from today until Friday - so far I'm doing pretty well although I've had a low grade headache all day - caffeine withdrawal? I'll update you on how that goes later...

Meanwhile, a few interesting web finds to share with you...

First off, I've been ploughing through the Make Wealth History site, which is a real mine of information and food for thought on matters environmental and economic. It fills a political/global gap in my blog reading and ties together a lot of topics I am interested in but feel quite ill-informed about. So I am feeling quite educated and inspired.

On a lighter note, I saw a link to The Bright Side Project over at Heart of Light . Their mission statement is to: "...bring you a little metaphorical sunshine every day, to help you stop for a second and remember life is (still) beautiful and there is goodness in the world." Which they do by giving away lovely handmade goodies to commenters - you just go along and answer the question posed and see if you win something. Lovely! metaphorical sunshine indeed...

Anyway, I also enlisted my Mum as a sewing instructor at the weekend, so as soon as I get my photos on the computer I'll post the results of that. Otherwise, I'll leave this little miscellaneous ramble here...

* nb - i called it a detox diet in the title because it sounded better, but I shy away from that word because i think all that detox stuff sounds like pseudo-science, and all i'm trying to do is give my poor gut a rest - i can tell it struggles with the massive amounts of sugar and wheat and whatnot i throw at it! also interesting for me to be experimenting with a kind of vegan diet, because I do think there's a lot to be said for that - not least in the environmental impact of it.

Friday, 3 April 2009

the inaugural swap party

So, last Saturday I finally got around to hosting a clothes swap party. I kept putting it off for ages, worrying about how it would work, and whether people would come, and how rubbish my clothes were etc. etc. ...

But in the event, like a lot of things I worry about, it was really very good and none of my imagined problems came to bear...

I forgot to take photos, so I've whipped up some drawings in Excel to illustrate this post (drawing in Excel another pastime dreamt up that Looks Like Work But Is Really Just Me Whiling Away The Time). It's kind of fun!

So, hear's what I learned:

1. You don't need that many people - we were 6 in the end. Out of about 25 I invited, there was a lot of interest expressed, but loads who just couldn't make it and I was a bit worried it just wouldn't work size and taste wise but it was fine and I actually think much more would be a bit of a challenge in terms of logistics - lots of people wanting the same thing for example, and even just the time it takes to look through everything!
2. You definitely want a few drinks and nibbles. We ended up sitting around chatting and eating/drinking for a couple of hours before getting down to swapping. It helped everyone get acquainted and in the mood to run around trying on clothes like crazy

3. It really is satisfying when something that looked kind of ok on you, looks completely awesome on someone else.

4. There's quite a lot of flexibility in sizes. I am currently wearing a skirt whose previous owner weighs about half what i do, but although i have to wedge it over my thighs it fits the waist and is fine. Likewise, some stuff in bigger sizes looked good on the smaller people.

5. Mirrors are good - I could probably have done with another few, and especially a full-length one but we managed with just the ones in the bathroom.

6. It's really true that something you hate someone else might totally love. I put out this old tweed suit kind of for fun, because it looks just awful on me, but both parts went, whereas the cool Reiss skirt I thought would be snapped up noone really fancied.

7. It's a lot of fun - both having the party and having a whole load of new clothes to work into your wardrobe. Definitely worth doing. It's just such a win-win thing. You clean out your wardrobe of stuff that's just making you feel guilty for buying it or fat because it doesn't fit, or just taking up space and getting old. You get new stuff for free and you have a fun night out. Beats shopping any day...