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Dear Readers,

From now on I will be blogging primarily at For the Love of Bookshops. Alas, my love of book culture and bookshops is greater than my love for craft. Thanks for the love!

Join me at FtLoB!

Erin

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Oh my goodness, y’all, I’ve done it. I found the one recipe that will completely set me back on my new year’s fitness resolution.

Wanna know a secret: The truth is I’m a once-in-a-blue-moon chocoholic. I know, it’s shameful to say to all you chocolate lovers out there.  Most chocolate desserts simply don’t tempt me. So many chocolate cake recipes are too try or else too rich. Tiffin and other such Millionaire Shortbreads are too grainy-sugary and, again, too rich for my tastes. If I’m having a chocolate craving I prefer to forgoe the messy bowls and pans of baking and just grab a bar of Green and Blacks espresso dark chocolate. A couple squares of that and I’m good to go for at least 24 hours.

But I’m telling you, when my hubbie and I saw this brownie recipe on the BBC the other day I felt the early tremors of a conversion experience. The recipe is coming to you  express from Lorraine Pascale over at Baking Made Easy on the BBC. The former model had quite a few yummy recipes on there, I must say. Well worth watching the entire episode on iplayer.

I had to go for a run as soon as these came out of the oven… to justify eating these later — I’m sure the smell alone is worth 100 calories!

The recipe is easy enough:

Just 165g butter, melted in a sauce pan. Take off the heat when melted.

Add 200g of grated dark chocolate to butter. Let stand until melted. Then stir.  (I was on a budget so I used plain ole Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference brand, but I’m sure G&B would be divine).

In a big bowl beat 3 eggs and 2 egg yolks with 2 tsp of vanilla extract. Beat until fluffy.

Add 1 cup of sugar in 2 parts. I used half brown sugar, half white. Beat into the eggs.

Then pour the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture (pour it along the side of the bowl so as not to deflate the fluffy eggs). Add 2 Tbsp flour, 1 Tbsp cocoa powder and 1 pinch of salt. Gently fold in the dry ingredients, careful not to press out the air in the eggs.

Crush about 6 or 7 oreo cookies and fold into the batter. Then pour into a greased baking dish. (I used baking paper as well, as it’s easier to lift the cooked brownies out of the dish.)

Finally, garnish with another 10 or so broken up oreo pieces, submerging them into the batter slightly.

Bake at 350/180* for about 25-30 minutes! I baked mine for about 25 minutes and they were plenty gooey inside, one might even say underdone, (which is the way I like ’em). You do want them to be at least a little gooey inside so don’t over bake.

Let cool completely before cutting them into squares.

Enjoy!

Winter reaches us on the Bristol Downs

Hi! Happy be-lated New Year!

Yes, it has  been a long time since I posted. I’ll skip the excuses and get on to the goods.

So remember I’d been knitting several gifts for friends/family for Christmas? Well, here are the pictures I have of those. Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures of all of them before I wrapped them up. But as the French say, tant pis!

I’m sorry the lighting isn’t so good for some of these. I do the best with what I got.

Mittens and a matching tam (not pictured) for Momma in Choclate, by Deborah Norville. They match the scarf I made for her last winter — my first ever knitting project. Isn’t that sweet? I’m a married woman but I still like to make things for my Mom in the hopes that she’ll put them on the fridge.

Why yes, that is a Melanie Fallick pattern from her delicious book Weekend Knitting. The pattern was straight forward (my kind of project) and the final product looked pretty darn good for my first pair of mittens — another box to tick. I made another pair for my bro-in-law’s gf out of Wensleydale wool in Oatmeal. Unfortuantely I don’t have a picture of those, but i can tell you they were lovely and neutral and super warm because I lined them with fleece. I used a little bit of the leftover yarn for the strip in my hubby’s hat, pictured  below.

Next here’s the hat I knitted for my fella. I used the wool I bought when we were on our honeymoon in Maine. (I subsequently accidentally deleted all of our pictures from that trip, so little momentos like this are pretty special, if you know what I mean).  It’s spun by the last living Shakers in the world  from their community at Sabbathday Lake. And yes, we did go to a Shaker community on our honeymoon.

It’s warm and wooly with 2×2 ribbing. It’s a basic man hat. No frills. They like it that way.

Isn’t he cute? And the scenery’s not bad either. This was on our sledding day. England in the snow at Christmas is so ridiculously picturesque and nostalgic. We’re talking Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

Last but not least, another man hat for my new bro-in-law. J’s got the crazy personality to pull of a slightly slouchy hat (though in this pic it looks like it fits him pretty snuggly). The yarn is ” Linus” by Knit One Crochet Too. They do a whole range of colors specifically designed for men. Isn’t that cool? I love the orange gradations splashed into the manly pine color.

Here he is rocking it.

And yes, that is a pet rat in his lap. Isn’t he adorable? His name is Mango and it makes me sad that he’s way over in NC while we’re in England.

How did y’all’s knitted gifts turn out? Did your peeps like them?


 

Did you all see this article a couple days ago? About how some guy got all worked up when he saw a sign on a tree in an Abbey garden warning visitors to “Beware Falling Conkers: Proceed with care.” The guy kind of used the event as an excuse to get on his soap box about how ridiculous health and safety measures have become in England.

While I agree that it’s slightly pedantic to warn people about falling chestnuts when every school child in Britain knows what a horse chestnut tree looks like and that every fall they drop large, thorn-encased conkers, I do see that the folks at the Abbey were just trying to be considerate.  Whatever.

Conkers. They’re apparently a big part of the collective subconscious over here.  Obviously, I need to get with it.

Did you know that they even have a world conker competitions? You can read all about how the game is played on their website.

Event_CB2009_0672.jpg

Okay, I promise that’s all I’ll say about conkers or chestnuts or any other nuts for that matter.  For a while anyways.

*Photos of the conker competition (including the one of man playing conkers while wearing a cheese hat) are available from the conker world championship website.

I’m not a veil kind of bride.  Let that go on the record.  I have no legitimate reason except that, in my twisted mind, veils are all wrapped up (forgive the pun) with the virgin sacrifice imagery I see everywhere in modern weddings. Blah.

But…

recently I’ve surprised myself (and everyone who’s ever heard me rant about weddings) by falling in love with these gorgeous fluttery, whispy, head covering thingies.

Casablanca Bridal Comb

I love the whispy floral look of this bridal comb by Emily Wooton at BlumeBloom. She also has a similar comb/veil made out of dogwoods that I absolutely adore (it’s my favorite flower and the state flower of NC, fyi).  Unfortunately, I can’t see the brown taped wire looking good against my blond hair.

Side Swirl Tulle Birdcage

Here’s a stunner by Fascinating Creations. I love how unabashedly poofy it is without being 80s bridezilla.

Bandeau Style Veil

Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. Yes, I am actually saying that about a strip of vision-obscuring Russian veiling. Another from Fascinating Creations. I am pretty sure that if I went for a birdcage veil I wouldn’t want a full one à la Reese Witherspoon in Sweet Home Alabama. Although this one is nice — not full-on facial coverage.

Flower Fascinator Veil

Now the question for both the bandeau style veil and this flower fascinator veil by Tessa Kim:  flower or no flower? What to you think?

In keeping with Craft is a Verb principles, the next step is to make one of these little do-hickies. So this weekend I’ll head over to the fabric store to pick up some Russian veiling and maybe some tulle.

Can anyone suggest a good tutorial for making a birdcage veil?

Sure, we’ve all heard how important beginnings of novels are, but what about the endings? Check out my guest article for SilverWood Books for lots of tips on how to plan, craft and pull-off the perfect ending.

This year I’m taking a creative writing class titled “Researching and Writing a Novel.”  Sounded like exactly the good kick-in-the-pants I needed.

Our class spent first two weeks coming up with ideas for our novels.  Some people had already written the first couple chapters of their novels.  Other’s had a fairly well formed idea that just needed a little deep tissue massage to work out the kinks, and still other hadn’t a clue. I was nervous enough about my own abilities to come up with good story ideas back in the spring when I signed up for the class, so I spent most of my summer researching and working on one.  In the end, one session of in-class work-shopping was enough to tell me that my brilliant idea was not as brilliant as I’d thought.

Scrapping an entire summer’s worth of work, I went back to the drawing boards and spent the next two weeks coming up with a better idea.

In six years of writing, what I’ve found about this tormenting stage of the writing process–coming up with ideas –is that it doesn’t have to be… tormenting, that is.  With a little practice, it can become second nature.

Let me explain. Although I ended up rejecting that idea (putting it away in a drawer, actually – good ideas are still good even if they don’t suit at the time of their conception), I found that that summer had put me in planning mode.  Like a young basketball player who practices dribbling every day until it becomes as natural as walking (and from there he can add tricks and speed and what have you), actively practicing coming up with ideas, even ones that end up in drawers, trains the brain to recognize good ideas even you’re not aware that you’re searching for them.

So lesson #1:  Practice.  And practice a lot.  Get in the habit of looking at the world through a story-teller’s lenses.  Consider news stories, personal experiences, and observations of the world and prod them like a biologist would an amoeba.  Look at them from every angle and ask what-if questions until you have a story.  And if you can think of no story worth telling about that particular amoeba, move on to the next one.

In my next entry, I’ll be going into a bit more detail about ways we practice coming up with ideas.

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"The purpose of art is not a rarified, intellectual distillate -- it is life, intensified, brilliant life." ~ Alain Arias-Misson

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