Thursday, February 28, 2013

Next crafty kit project...

I can't remember which month this was from, but it's to make a Japanese-style notebook with traditional stab stitching. Here's the kit...

and here's the finished product!

It was reasonably straightforward to make but I don't think I measured the gaps for the holes properly (as you can see!) and I should have made the holes bigger before I started trying to sew because it was REALLY difficult to get the needle through the first time!! And the bamboo skewer they provided to help make the holes bigger snapped on the first try - but it honestly was straightforward and I've ended up with a neat little notebook. Next!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Chloe Hanslip

My orchestra has a concert coming up in a couple of weeks - we're playing Fanfare from La Peri (well the brass section is playing this!), the Elgar Violin Concerto and Beethoven's 3rd Symphony. Our soloist for the Violin Concerto is the amazing Chloe Hanslip...

Homemade bath bombs - the results!

Here's a picture of the remaining 2...

This looks quite impressive as the picture's taken showing the bottom which was pressed into the muffin mould - here's the slightly more rustic top!

I missed the christening of the first bath bomb as I had to stay behind at work for a dull meeting but apparently it was very fizzy and Zachary described it as chewy as well! I think that means it was not quite as crisp as the ones you get in the shops!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Good Food

For dinner tonight - lovely miso-soupy-salmony meal

Thank you Mr Caple!

And I've had a go at my friend Paul's award-winning chocolate cake - mainly because I do not have a good chocolate cake recipe and when we tried one of Paul's, it was fab-u-lous! The boys helped with the baking - the recipe is in cup and teaspoon measurements, and it meant that they both had a good lot of jobs to do in helping measure things out.

Thank you Mr Weston!

Crafty Creatives

I really enjoy craft bits and pieces, and before I went back to work (and had a bit more crafting time), Leigh showed me the Crafty Creatives website and I signed up.

Basically you pay a monthly fee and get delivered a box of random (yet themed) craft bits and pieces. It's not just one sort of craft either - there always seems to be a bit of everything, paper, buttons, beads, fabric and bits and pieces of crafting equipment (this month it was some needle-nose pliers). Also each month there is a complete craft kit for a small project. Up until this weekend I hadn't done any of them and I have resolved to try them out in the evenings.

The boys have been helping me this weekend - this month's box was spots and stripes themed and the kit was for making a spotty/stripey necklace. With Mother's Day coming up and 2 bored boys yesterday, we made spotty heart necklaces for the grandmothers yesterday (Zachary went a bit mad with spots - it was all I could do to stop him covering the whole thing!) -

Sadly, only one chain came with the kit which the boys managed to break in a couple of minutes, so I need to buy some replacements (!) but other than that it went really well.

We tried another kit this afternoon - make your own bath bombs! The boys love these and we're a regular visit to Lush specifically for them. It was great - the only ingredients are bicarbonate of soda, citric acid and essential oil (all of which were included in the kit and which we more or less have regularly round the house) and although there was a mould included with the kit, we used silicone muffin cases for ours so that the boys had the same each. They're currently drying out...will post a photo tomorrow!!

If you are interested in crafting - the blog on the website is great. There are lots of ideas for using the elements included in the kits as well as links to other people who use them and have posted their ideas too. I am resolving to make more use of these wonderful bits and bobs.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

The Miraculous Mandarin

We have another impossible piece of music to play this year - huzzah! Last year it was Daphne and Chloe, which actually turned out okay and this year it is The Miraculous Mandarin by Bartok. We're not playing it until the summer concert but given its complexity, have had a rehearsal looking at it so we have some idea of how it goes before we begin in earnest. And sadly we're not playing the full ballet version - the music has specific cuts built in to transform it from the full ballet to a concert version of the suite and that's what we will be attempting. The plot is a bit odd to the say the least...

After an orchestral introduction depicting the chaos of the big city, the action begins in a room belonging to three tramps. They search their pockets and drawers for money, but find none. They then force a girl to stand by the window and attract passing men into the room. The girl begins a lockspiel — a "decoy game", or saucy dance. She first attracts a shabby old rake, who makes comical romantic gestures. The girl asks, "Got any money?" He replies, "Who needs money? All that matters is love." He begins to pursue the girl, growing more and more insistent until the tramps seize him and throw him out.
The girl goes back to the window and performs a second lockspiel. This time she attracts a shy young man, who also has no money. He begins to dance with the girl. The dance grows more passionate, then the tramps jump him and throw him out too.
The girl goes to the window again and begins her dance. The tramps and girl see a bizarre figure in the street, soon heard coming up the stairs. The tramps hide, and the figure, aMandarin (wealthy Chinese man), stands immobile in the doorway. The tramps urge the girl to lure him closer. She begins another saucy dance, the Mandarin's passions slowly rising. Suddenly, he leaps up and embraces the girl. They struggle and she escapes; he begins to chase her. The tramps leap on him, strip him of his valuables, and attempt to suffocate him under pillows and blankets. However, he continues to stare at the girl. They stab him three times with a rusty sword; he almost falls, but throws himself again at the girl. The tramps grab him again and hang him from a lamp hook. The lamp falls, plunging the room into darkness, and the Mandarin's body begins to glow with an eerie blue-green light. The tramps and girl are terrified. Suddenly, the girl knows what they must do. She tells the tramps to release the Mandarin; they do. He leaps at the girl again, and this time she does not resist and they embrace. With the Mandarin's longing fulfilled, his wounds begin to bleed and he dies.

(Thank you Wikipedia!)

There's a very 'interesting' passage for the violas toward the end - it seemed okay on the first run through, and then we played it at the proper speed....never mind, there's plenty of time to try and work out what I'm supposed to be doing! At this point, my main aim is just to know where I am in the music at any given point...!

Here's a quick You Tube video of the Berlin Philharmonic playing part of the concert version which includes the viola section I mentioned above.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Making it up

I was very kindly given a £50 personal shopper gift for Debenhams, for Christmas which included a beauty consultation with one of the cosmetic counters in store. My usual make-up buying experience goes something along the lines of 'nearly the cheapest I can find in Boots' (not the cheapest - I've had some bad itchy eye experiences with really cheap mascara) and my usual skin care routine in the morning is face wash, moisturiser and perhaps a swish of mascara if I'm feeling really either in need of a lift or can be bothered!

So I asked my personal shopper to pick the beauty counter and it was fabulous being treated to a full facial makeover. But it reinforces why I don't really go in for make-up all that much - full face of make-up took nearly an hour! Now clearly this wouldn't be everybody's everyday routine, butI really don't think I've got the energy or the inclination to go for anything much more than I do at the moment. Mostly because I'm lazy!

But, should I wish to follow a new skin care and make-up regime a la today, it would go something like this -

special face serum
eye cream (which I bought some of - naughty!)
something called meterorite balls (I think?) whose purpose seemed to be just to give my skin a little extra sparkle
primer for my lips
lip gloss
eye shadow - about 5 different colours blended in various combinations and applied to specific parts of my eye lid to give shape and definition

Hmmm...I think it's going to take a lot for me to swap an extra 20 minutes in bed for that. Is that wrong?

Friday, February 01, 2013

No-Bake Fridge Cake

Leo got Justin Fletcher's annual for Christmas and we came across a fridge cake recipe inside which looked an easy and fun thing to make with him.

Here is the finished product

I found it was pretty crumbly and broke up a lot when I tried to slice it - I don't know whether that was because we didn't crush the biscuits enough (there were some biggish pieces left in the mix because I thought it would make it a bit more interesting texture-wise) or whether I could have done with adding some more liquid to it (extra butter/chocolate). Never mind - we ended up with a really tasty fridge cake and a bowl of bits to snack on!

225g milk chocolate
125g butter
2 tbspn golden syrup
2 handfuls of raisins
small pack digestive biscuits

8" round or square tin, greased

- melt the chocolate, butter and golden syrup in a bowl over a pan of simmering water

- crush the biscuits and put the crumbs into a bowl with the raisins

- add the chocolate mixture and mix well. Pour into the prepared tin and press down firmly.

- chill for at least a couple of hours