Sunday, 25 March 2012

Rainbow Salad

Yay, it's spring! Time to shake off the depressing shackles of winter, ignore this deadly drought we're having, and start munching down plant material in the vain hope that this will be the year you'll look good in a bikini (newsflash: it won't be). But well, you can't have a spectacular failure without at least some good intentions, so here I am to talk about them. I've started back on the Couch to 5K plan. This week is supposed to be week four, but I got derailed a little, so I think I'm going to have to repeat week 3.

Anyway, everyone knows that looking good is more about what you put in your body than what you try to get out of it, so let's see what I had for early lunch today:

Aww yeah, rainbow salad! Doesn't it look good? So fresh and crisp and tasty? So what's in it?

  • The white stuff is mooli (AKA daikon radish). It's a giant radish that is originally from Asia. Low in calories but full of vitamin C and very filling with a delicious subtle tang of flavour. My favourite way to prepare it is Korean style, but here I just cut it into matchsticks. It was a bit of a sad old radish (last on the market stall), so it didn't need salting.
  • Next up we have everyone's favourite root vegetable- carrot of course! Carrot has lots of vitamin A which is good for your eyes, and they're so so cheap which I why I always have a fridge full of them.
  • Red bell pepper adds a shot of scarlet and sweetness to the dish. Don't buy them from the supermarket, they're going to charge you upwards of 60p for a single one. At my local market you can get 5 for £1. They're smaller and less perfect looking, but they're just as tasty. Red peppers have twice the vitamin C content of green ones, and also contain lycopene.
  • Padding out everything with lots of water and fibre is that old salad staple, cucumber. Cucumbers contain vitamin K and potassium as well as a whole bunch of antioxidants.
  • And to garnish everything off and add some more flavour, spring onion (AKA green onion, scallion). This little superstar contains iron, more vitamin A & C, and apparently a substance that prevents the formation of blood clots. 

Mmm, healthy. For protein I served mine up with mushrooms dry fried with garlic, and for dressing I used sweet chilli sauce and a splash of sushi vinegar. If you want to add carbohydrates (I like to have carbs with my midday meal to keep me energised), then you could have some crisp bread or rice cakes. I had a pack of baked crisps.

One thing I've learnt from my time in London is that the produce aisle in the supermarket is a rip off. Go to a local market instead- no, not a foodie market like Borough, where I shopped last year for 5 year cured meats and cheeses made by blind angels- but a market like East Street in Elephant and Castle where you can find traders selling everything off in £1 bundles. 5 for £1 on bell peppers, a whole bowl of carrots for £1 (I bought that last week and nearly overdosed on them... so many), 3 mooli for £1, 4 bundles of spring onions for... you guessed it, £1. There is no such thing as a food desert in London, although you do have to be quick and available to get the nicest stuff. 

Go before noon, especially in warm weather, so that your veggies haven't been sunbaked. Bring a comfortable canvas bag and make sure the market guys use it instead of their flimsy blue carrier bags. Take your time and walk around to make sure you're getting the best deal, and there's no reason why someone on even the most studenty of budgets can't eat delicious fresh plants for most of the year.

Mmmm, fresh plants.

One last thing, I'm really sorry I haven't been doing much craftwise recently, but I am super out of cash and applying desperately on Gumtree for any job going. Hopefully on Monday I will be getting my sewing machine out to Camberwell, and then I'll get back to working my way through my stash and making something beautiful that isn't edible!
Although really, it's not like I hate making stuff like this:

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Chinese Newspaper nails

Recently, I've started to get a little bit obsessed with nail polish. Maybe it's because I haven't been doing much studio work lately, so my hands have had some time off. Maybe it's because I find it therapeutic to listen to make-up and nail care videos on Youtube. Maybe it's just a manifestation of underlying solvent abuse.

The point is, I like having pretty hands. And although because of ignorance on my part and horrible weather (yes... that's it... it's the weather's fault) I have nasty cuticles, I still like to paint my nails and pretend my hands are beautiful delicate blossoms on the ends of my fat arms. You know, as opposed to gnarled workman's paws.

So today I went to Sally's Beauty Supply on Shaftesbury Avenue (which was hell because of the St Patrick's day celebration in Trafalgar Square) and bought my first ever China Glaze- Oxygen, which is a lovely off-white on the pink side of things (dare I say Magnolia?). And then I went to Chinatown and snagged a free newspaper. And then I went home and watched this video.

Et voila: Chinese newspaper nails.

Okay, so they're not perfect (I am still pretty crap at painting my nails). But it was fun to do! Almost like a free nail transfer, except of course you have to buy rubbing alcohol AKA surgical spirit, although you can use vodka.

I think I'd do it again some time, although it was pretty messy. Turns out surgical spirit has the power to dissolve crappy varnish on homemade desks... who'd have thought it?

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Fairy Cake Ice-creams

Today I visited the studio of the lovely ceramicist Anna Barlow. At the moment, she makes astoundingly realistic ice creams out of a combination of clays and glazes. Check them out. Anyway, I am a great believer that guests asking for favours should bring cake, and I'd seen a tutorial on youtube ages ago (I think it was this one) for individual cakes that look like ice creams, made by icing a cupcake/fairy-cake on top of an ice cream cone. They looked pretty easy, and they were definitely appropriate, so I had a go at making them!

You will need:

  • fairy-cakes/cupcakes, baked and at room temperature 
  • Ice cream cones. Make life easy for yourself and get the flat bottomed ones. If you can't (I couldn't) just bodge it like I did.
  • buttercream icing
  • decorations- sprinkles, 100s&1000s, wafers, flakes
  • a pallet knife for spreading icing
  • icing bag if you have one (sandwich bag with the corner cut off works too)
  • [if you're using pointy cones] a surface to stick your cones to. I covered a piece of corrugated cardboard in tinfoil.
Okay, let's get started!
If you bought pointy cones, like I did, start off by evenly cutting off the bottom using a serrated knife and no pressure. Test your cone to see that it can stand up. With a large dollop of icing, glue your cone to your surface. Trim the the pointy end of the cone, fill it with icing and invert it inside the main body.

If you bought flat bottomed cones, you can weight them down with sweets for extra stability. 

Spread a layer of icing around the rim of the cone...
...and invert your cake onto it. Do this for all of your cakes and cones and leave them a little while to affix both to the board and to each other. This will make decorating less precarious. Here you can see I stuck mine on a board with very close quarters, so they'd fit inside my cake transportation box. This made them pretty difficult to decorate. I recommend giving them a personal space perimeter of at least 4cm on all sides for easy decorating!

Now it's time to decorate. You can stick with vanilla buttercream, or add cocoa powder to make chocolate ice-creams, even experiment with extracts and food colourings to make different ice cream flavours. I want to try mint choc chip! To decorate, you can either smear your icing straight on with a pallet knife, or pipe it on in a big swirl starting at the base. Either way I find you have to smooth over with a pallet knife for a good finish. This is why flat base cones are easier- you can pick them up and put them back down.

If you want sprinkles, put them on straight away! As soon as the icing starts to harden you will have trouble making them stick, and unless you want to waste your life applying sprinkles with tweezers, you'll have to go without.

To stick in a wafer (do this AFTER sprinkles), make a hole with the fat end of a wooden chopstick and then gently push the wafer in. If you're using fan-wafers, I guess you'd make a slit with a knife and push them in.
And that's it. You're done. Leave them for the icing to set, or devour them straight away.

They are quite top heavy and do not transport well without a lot of care. If you wanted to make these for a party at someone else's house it would probably be best to take all the crap with you and assemble them there. You could even make an ice-breaker activity out of it!
Here are mine chilling in Anna's studio:

See how much better everything looks under natural light? The light in my flat is awful, I hate all the stupid sodding blinds and net curtains sapping all the light away! Although that can't be blamed for the pictures in this, as I finished making these at 30 minutes past midnight.

Here's how they look with a bite taken out of them:

As for the taste? As long as you don't spread the icing too thick, they're pretty tasty without being super sickly. If you're worried about it, you could go for a cream-cheese icing instead. I don't think they'll be a regular thing I make, because they're kind of gimmicky, but they would be fun for a beach themed party or a kid's party. And they got a good reaction from Anna, so that's the main thing!

Friday, 9 March 2012

"I shouldn't have eaten that"

Today I finished something that I started way back last year when I was in halls and had no money for anything but had enough canvas bags that I could cut up one and not miss it. I've had a bunch of embroidery thread knocking round my room forever- when I was younger I occasionally did cross stitch, and I had a whole mini business making friendship bracelets at one point. Shut up in winter in the city with no money but an embroidery hoop and a back catalogue of 4od documentaries, I sat down and started this.

I don't usually do embroidery, for a number of reasons:

  1. It takes too much patience and visual concentration. Unlike knitting where you can get into a rhythm and look away, you nearly always have to look at what you're doing.
  2. It's kinda pointless. When you're done you don't really have anything of use.
  3. It's delicate. The end product can snag on things or fade or get distorted or get ruined by dirty hands.
But here, well, I had no money. I had nothing to do. Embroidery takes up very little space. It encourages concentration. For me it was practically free (I had to buy a pack of hand sewing needles).

I like the ship a lot. There are probably a few people out there who think I should have stuck with the ship and avoided the puke wave and dinosaur, but I started with the dinosaur, so that's kind of a moot point. Originally it was going to be an artist dinosaur puking a rainbow.

If you look closely you might notice that this is all freehand and crazy. I made up half the stitches instead because in my opinion many traditional stitches use too much thread (especially something like satin stitch).

And yes, if anyone is wondering, it is for sale. I haven't decided if I am going to do an Ebay auction or put it up on Etsy with a fixed price.

This is the kind of thing I do as procrastination from everything I'm supposed to be doing . I will get a Second Class degree, but damn, I'll have some weird things in my bottom drawer to show for it.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Work work work

I haven't been doing much making at the moment, hence the lack of updates. I'm now settled nicely in my new flat in Camberwell, but I still don't have my sewing machine or any knitting stuff here, and at the moment I just don't have time to make stuff! Things have been a little hectic, with 3 university projects on the go (none of them really making based), and work typing up interviews. Money is pretty tight at the moment too.

As soon as I get some time and spare cash, I'm going to get to work setting up a terrace garden so I can grow a few bits and bobs out here. The lack of plants is depressing! Just one of the downsides of living in an ex-council flat I suppose (other downsides include dog shit everywhere and a recycling dumpster that never seems to get emptied).

I can't really talk about my uni work because I don't know what to say... it's a group project. The easiest thing to do would be to link you to our collective blog, so here you go.

For now, enjoy this photo of me looking goofy and exhausted after turning half a perfect sphere on the lathe (very technically challenging!)