Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Only intravenous sugar could give you a bigger rush.

10 30.



Old school iced doughnut. Only intravenous sugar could give you a bigger rush.

Monday, February 26, 2007

what a week

We have had an exhausting week, mainly due to Nick's Uncle who has been visiting from Norway, and Nick's Mum who came on Friday too. It was good fun but tiring.

Following my morning of sewing on Friday (prior to the arrival of Mother-in-law) I got really enthusiastic again about quilts. This is a bit of a miracle for me - a crafting hobby that has lasted nearly a year? whats going on?? Normally I try something, learn everything there is to know about it, master the skills, and then move onto something else.

I think the reason that quilting has held my attention for so long is because a) You can't master the skills in a month; there are always more things to learn, and b) It is more of an art form than a craft, which means the possibilities are endless.

I am a bit of a self conscious artist. I get a bit embarrassed making art for arts sake - like I am bearing my soul a bit too much. Perhaps that's why I like making quilts and useful things like that. I can create art that has a purpose. No-one can look at it and say 'so what are you trying to express here?' If they do I can reply 'nothing, it's just a bed spread', and keep the meaning and symbolism to myself.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

musings of the unoccupied mind

Today I am a bit low. Dunno why.

BUT tomorrow I can have a whole day at home with my favourite chickens! They never fail to cheer me up with their ridiculous antics and inquisitive faces.

I am also going to have a good long sewing session. I am halfway through a new quilt for our bed and I lost momentum on it about a month ago. (too busy with my website.) It is going to be lovely when I get it done but double beds quilts are so massive it takes yonks to sew all the blocks, let alone assemble and then quilt it.

I have taken the technique I used on Margaretha's quilt a bit further, using more layers of double cutting, and using pieced layers to create more complex results. I love this technique because you never quite know what you will get when the strips are sewn back together again. Sometimes the blocks are so beautiful I wish I could recreate it, but it's impossible to do the same thing twice. The blocks in Margarethas quilt are arranged in a very regular and ordered fashion, but my new quilt is much more fluid, with the blocks joined so that you can't really see where one starts and another ends.

Margaretha's quilt

When we were in New York I went to this amazing quilting shop. The Americans are really keen on patchwork and quilting, and I got some really unusual fabrics. Half of the american fabrics I bought are in my current project, which is such a nice reminder of our trip. There are also a couple of Nick's old shirts in it, and some fabric my middle sister bought me, so it's very personal. There is something very special about looking at a quilt and knowing a stroy about the different pieces in it.

I also bought some beautiful hand dyed fabric bundles in New York that are the more stunning subtle colours. I keep them stacked where I can see them, imagining all the things I could do with them. Whenever I decide, I end up changing my mind because I worry I might waste it. It's a silly way to think - it would be far better just to leap in and actually use them. The real waste would be if they sat on my shelf for years and never got turning into something special.

For my birthday Nick bought me three books in the Elm Creek Quilt series. Boys, you won't like them. Girls who like sewing and gossiping and family intriuge will love them. They are very gentle and the stories revolve around a group of friends who run a quilting school in Pennsylvania. The life stories are sort of mirrored in the quilts they sew - it's all very relaxing and calming. (Nick also bought me a Dick Francis and another action thriller novel, so don't go thinking I just read about sewing. Nothing beats a bit of kidnapping)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Recipe for my Granny's Shepherds Pie

Even though I say so myself, my Shepherds Pie is the best in the world. I have never tasted one as good. It is my Granny's recipe and I am about to share it with you here. You lucky, lucky people.

Chop up an onion and put in a big casserole pan with a pack of lamb mince.
Fry on a high heat until it has all turned from pink to brown.
Sprinkle in a bit of rosemary and any other herbs that take your fancy.
Season well, especially pepper.
You can also put in a lamb stock cube if you want.
Don't drain off any of the fat - you need that for flavour.

Now, put the pan in a super hot oven - the hottest it will go.

Meanwhile chop up a carrot onto tiny little cubes.
Get the pan out the oven and add the diced carrots along with some frozen peas.
Stir it all in, and using a spoon scrape all the burnt bits of lamb mince off the sides of the pan. They are the best, most tatsy bits EVER!

Then peel and chop your potatoes and put them on to boil.

Every 10 minutes or so keep taking out the mince and scraping the burnt bits off the side of the pan and stirring it all around. You are sort of roasting the mince. If there was plenty of fat in the meat it won't go dry.

When tender, mash the spuds with some butter and then beat in an egg for extra fluffyness.

Spoon the mash onto the mince and using a fork make the top really textured. The sticky-up bits of spud will go crispy. Grate lots of cheese on the top. Red leicester is good, but use your favourite cheese. (half fat cheese, although healthier, does not melt very well and looks a bit weird)

Put the pan back in the oven for another 20 mins until the cheese has gone nice and golden.

Serve with some nice steamed veg.

The leftover pie keeps really well in the fridge for a couple of days and reheats perfectly. (We never usually have any leftovers though, it's so yummy we just scoff it all in one go.) If you are skint this recipe can make one pack of mince stretch to feed 6 people - just add another onion and carrot, and put lots of mash on the top. Some people seem a bit disappointed when they first see my Shepherds Pie because it doesn't have the mince in a gravy like normal, but once they taste it they recognise the genius that was my Grandmother!

Looks like I will actually have to work...

I'm quite upset that one of the world's best skiving excuses has been stolen from me. Usually I can drag out a visit to the dentist for at least half the afternoon. Unfortunately working on the High Street opposite my dentist has rather reduced my travelling time, as well as ruled out a spot of illicit shopping after the check up.

Nope, yesterday I had to nip across the street, have my check up and nip back to my desk within 20 minutes. The doctors surgery is just as handy, so no skiving there either. My only time-killing refuge is the world wide t'interweb. Thank god it is so vast.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Take That torture


Please save me from this torture. My colleague was given the new Take That album for Valentines and insists on playing it in the office at least once a day.

The thing is – they haven’t done anything different at all. It could just be a collection of B sides from the first time round and you would be none the wiser. I suppose I should be grateful they haven’t tried to reinvent themselves and go all rock starry – at least they are doing what they know: repetitive cheesy ballards with predictable chord changes and soppy lyrics. Doesn’t make it any less irritating though. I must try to stop grinding my teeth…

Monday, February 19, 2007

Buy one get one free?

I'm not normally pedantic or argumentative but today I made an exception.

I was in Au Naturel at lunchtime. I bought some pretty boxes. They were buy-one-get-one-free, so I put two identical £2 boxes and four identical £1.50 boxes in my basket. I calculated that this would come to £5. (£2 + £1.50 + £1.50)

I went to the till. She scanned the barcodes. It came up on the computer as £5.50. Slightly irked I asked her if there was a mistake, and that I thought it should come to a fiver. She was, bless her, a bit thick, and couldn't add it up in her head, so she re-scanned them. The she turned the computer screen to show me that the correct total was indeed £5.50.

A queue was forming behind me but I didn't care. She explained that it was BOGOF and that the cheapest item was free. Therefore I had to pay £2 for both bigger boxes, then I would get 2 of the £1.50 boxes free, plus pay £1.50 for the third box and get the last £1.50 box free, bringing the total to £5.50.

This wasn't fair I said. If I was buying two identical £2 boxes, then one of them should be free, surely? She started to look a bit harassed, but I wasn't leaving without my 50p, goddammit. She shrugged and looked a bit hopeless.

'Right' I said. 'I just want to buy these two £2 boxes please', taking the other 4 off the counter. She scanned them in, I handed over a £2 coin, and she put them in bag. 'Now I want these 4 boxes please'. She scanned the second batch in and I handed over 3 £1 coins. She looked confused. I looked smug. The people behind me in the queue looked pissed off. I spend my hard earned 50p on a bun from the bakery on the way back to work.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

New word.

I have learnt a new word: Anosmic.

This, according to my boss who suffers from the complaint, is the inability to smell. He feels very strongly that the medical profession do not take anosmia seriously enough. He is probably right. If he couldn't see, or hear, or feel, they would help him, but somehow not being able to smell is not seen as a disadvantage.

My Grandfather can't smell, and never has been able to. He always maintains that it was an advantage in his career. He was a GP and often had to go on house-calls to visit smelly poorly people. He felt very glad that he was impervious to the smell of leaking pus and gangrenous wounds.

I suspect that Nick wished he was anosmic, especially when I have been eating butternut squash soup.

Scottish food that should be banned.

When I moved to Scotland I discovered many uniquely Scottish gastronomic delights that I never knew existed. Some are delicious. Some, frankly, should be made illegal they are so gross. Here is my list.

Thumbs up

Haggis. Not very slimming but so tasty.
Empire biscuits (2 shortbread biscuits sandwiched together with butter cream, icing on the top and finished off with a single jelly tot. They look a bit like biscuit boobs.)
Tablet. Sort of sugary buttery fudgey stuff.
Morning rolls Nick thinks these should be called air rolls because they are very light. But I like them.
Cullen skink. An absolutely amazing fish soup.

Food to be outlawed

Deep fried mars bars. (Deep fried poo?)
deep friend haggis. Just too greasy.
Scotch pies. Or as I like to call them, grizzle pie. Bleugh.
Macaroni cheese pie. (how many carbs can the body handle in one sitting?)
deep fried pizza. Just wrong.
Clootie dumpling. So stodgy you can't walk afterwards.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


Scott: Hello. I am calling again about the plotter you are fixing for us.
Printer Maintenance man: oh yes. Sorry I didn’t call you back.
Scott: yes, well, never mind. We urgently need to get the plotter returned.
Printer Man: erm. Well, that might be a bit hard. We still need to test it.
Scott: well can you test it today and send it back please.
Printer Man: We can’t test it today because we haven’t got any ink.
Scott: you mean to tell me you are a company that specialises in printer maintenance and you don’t have any INK?
Printer man: Yes. and we won’t be getting any til next week. You'll just have to wait for your plotter.
Scott: ??????????

Sales is not her forte.

Me: (in sewing shop) Just these 2 reels of cotton please.
Elderly shop assistant: (scans in cotton – sucks in breath) oooh these are expensive!!!!
Me: are they?
Shop assistant: yes, £4 each
Me: oh that's fine
Shop assistant: (starting to put the cotton back on the shelf) do you still want them?
Me: (retrieving the cotton from the shelf) yes please
Shop assistant: (looking incredulous) Are you sure?
Me: yes.
Shop assistant: (huffing and puffing) well, you must be sewing something very special.
Me: Just give me the goddamn cotton!!!!!!!!!

(I didn’t actually say the last bit out loud. I wonder if the shop owner knows what an excellent sales woman she has employed)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Knicker Discs

Roll up roll up - get your knicker discs here.

I have been laughing about these constantly for about 4 days. Dunno why, they just tickle me. Currently I have only made them in the cream and taupe fabric, but more colours are to follow soon.

It's a pity I didn't get organised in time for Valentines, but never mind. Mother's day is next, and what could be a better gift for a Mum than a pack of 3 knicker Discs! Hurrah!

Kitty news. Maggie (the cat) has settled in like a dream and is now in charge. Well, she thinks she is, but I know different.

Chicken news: Margo is still not laying any eggs, but Omelet and Scramble are more than compensating, laying 6 eggs a week each. We had the most fabulous scrambled egg on Sunday - it was bright orange! Our back garden is a disaster Zone. The hens have eaten nearly everything in sight. Roll on spring - I need the lawn to start growing again!

Nick news: I hope Nick is not overdoing it at the squash club. He is top of his league at them moment and is playing about 3 times a week. Last week I had to pummel his aching buttocks because he didn't stretch properly after a particularly gruelling match. Well, that was the excuse he gave me anyway.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Rachel Simons Design

Finally I’ve done it! My website is online and open for business. You can check it out here.

As loyal readers will know, I have been selling my cards and soap for a while now, but in a very small way. A few local shops have stocked my stuff, and I have done a couple of craft fairs with Jane as my very able assistant. (In fact she was invaluable because she is good at adding up and giving the right change, whereas I was far too over excited to do mental arithmetic)

For the website I have augmented my product range with some really lovely fabric covered notebooks, and hand dipped candles which I make in the kitchen in the company of Radio 4.

There will also some more new products on the way shortly, such as my brand new ‘Knicker discs’ – a quirky way to ensure your pants are always fragrant. I’ll let you know when they are up there.

I would really appreciate any feedback you may have about the site – as long as it is constructive. You can leave comment here or e-mail me.

On a final note - if you like the site and my products, I would be so grateful if you would link to it from your site/blog. My current Google ranking is 0. Help me out here!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Hillfoot Harmony

I have joined another choir. I have been going for 4 weeks and last night I did my audition, which I passed. It is a complete departure for me because it is a barbershop chorus - a totally different style than I have been used to. Although it's sometimes quite formulaic, the close harmonies can be tricky to sing. I am singing a middle part which is musically the most difficult place to be in close harmony. Good for my ears (and brain) though.

The best thing about singing barbershop are the costumes. If you have ever seen a ladies barbershop chorus you will know what I mean. For concerts we have a variety of costumes ranging from gold glittery ponchos to black diamante tunics with matching false eyelashes. We all have to wear the same bright make up. It is hilarious - totally camp and fabulous.

I have quite alot to learn - everything is sung from memory and there is a fair bit of choreography with each song. Luckily everyone is really friendly and don't mind poking me when I'm supposed to be doing some complicated swooshing movement at the same time as remembering the words to 'give my regards to broadway' that I only picked up 10 minutes previously. Then of course there is a whole new make-up technique to be learnt. Rouge, Barbie pink lipstick and turquoise eyeshadow - mmmmmmm

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Cyber twin test results.

Primrose Hill is officially more like me than most other people. Not alot, I admit, but enough!

The results are as follows:
Claire: 6 matches
Tracey: 5 Matches
Tony: 6 matches
Chris: 9 matches

Primrose Hill: 9 matches, plus half for question 15

Therefore the average of the 4 'control' guinea pigs is 6.5, meaning Primrose Hill is more like me than they are. (Chris, our brief time of house sharing must have had an influence so I probably should discount you. You are obviously a man of taste. You are welcome to come over for Spaghetti hoops any time.)

Late result
Jane: 5 matches

Therefore new average = 6.2
Even later result
Liv: 8 Matches

Therefore new average = 6.5

Primrose Hill is still more like me than anyone else.

Here are my answers, just in case you were wondering:

spaghetti hoops
no marmite (bleugh)
Sting. REM, as everyone knows, are annoying and whiney.
Love actually. Man, I cried and cried.
Spice girls, but only because I can't abide that Ceris woman.
Autumn. Gotta love those crisp days.
Dick Francis. I love a good thriller novel.
Hoovering over washing up any day
Bananas. yum.
1994. I loved being 17. It was brill. 2000 was shit
2005. The year I was married. 1997 was also shit. I was ill.
Angel of the North - such a fabulous sight.
Rollercoasters. Being spun around makes me sick
Blondes. Preferably Jack Bauer lookalikes. :-)
Italy. Mainly due to the ice cream
Chinese. Mine's a chilli beef and fried rice.

Just so you don't think I am making this up about my work room, here a snap for comparison. The top photo is Primrose Hill's room. The bottom picture is mine. Points to note: Position of desk to window to shelves. Position of sewing machine. Position of PH's roll of material to my roll of paper. Position of boxs of fabric in right hand corner of images. I rest my case.

Cyber Twin test

Right Primrose Hill – lets sort this out once and for all. Tell me which, out of the following options you prefer, a or b.

a)baked beans or b) spaghetti hoops
a)marmite or b) no marmite
a)Sting or b) REM
a)Nottinghill or b) Love Actually
a)Catatonia or b) the Spice Girls
a)Autumn or b) summer
a)Dick Francis or b) Maeve Binchy
a)Washing up or b) Hoovering
a)Apples or b) Bananas
a)Singing or b) dancing
a)1994 or b) 2000
a)1997 or b) 2005
a)Angel of the North or b) David
a)Waltzers or b) Rollercoasters
a)Blondes or b)brunettes of the opposite sex
a)France or b) Italy
a)Chinese takeaway or b) fish and chips

In order to get a fair assessment of the results it is crucial that anyone else (who can be bothered) also tells me their preferences. The average of this ‘control’ section will be pitted against Primrose Hill’s answers in order to find out if she is more like me than the rest of you.

Library war

I sometimes go to my local library for half an hour in my lunch break. (Well, I am 30 now, got to slow down a bit.)

There is a lovely big armchair in the back corner where I take my books and read. It is MY chair. I will NOT have little old ladies sitting there looking at knitting patterns.

This has happened 3 days in a row now, and I have been forced to sit in the teen section, surround by judy Blume novels and comics. I have tried giving the Trespasser evil looks but they have gone un-noticed. I have tried arriving a little earlier than normal, but she seems to get herself ensconced well before my lunchtime begins.

This is serious now. I may have to resort to dirtier tactics. Any ideas?

Monday, February 05, 2007

Is Primrose Hill me in another universe?

I have been umm-ing and aah-ing about writing this post, but today was the final straw.

I think there is a parallel universe, and somewhere in cyberspace these 2 universes are meeting. Let me explain.

It all started with a comment left on my blog by Primrose Hill. What a nice girl she seems, I thought. She must have found my blog through the Practical Poultry Forum, and soon she became a frequent visitor.

Pretty soon I realised that she and I seemed quite similar. She moved to Scotland, like me. She did up her house, like me. She keeps chickens, like me. So far, not too wierd.

But then, one day I was reading her blog and Nick looked over my shoulder and said, who's that? she looks a bit like you. (looking at Primrose Hill on the beach). Her next post showed a photo of her work room. This is where is starts to get a bit freaky. Her work room is set out EXACTLY like my work room. The position of the desk and shelves in relation to the window and garden beyond - even down the location of the sewing machine under the window.

Then I started reading about Primrose Hill's manic sewing sessions. Sounding familiar? Then I find she is just 34 days younger then me. Today - the final straw - she is a gin and Tonic fiend.

That confirms it. Primrose Hill is me in a parrallel universe. Either that or we were separated at birth. God help us if we were ever to meet. It could be the end of the world as we know it.

Here is Primrose Hill's blog. It's a lovely read. Naturally she is an excellent writer - she gets it from me you know....

Nick is getting out-numbered

Nick is getting out-numbered by girls. My cat Maggie has come back to live with us after an extended visit to my parents' house, so now there are 5 girls in our house, and only one man.

Dad drove maggie up on Friday and she seems to have settled in very quickly. She is fascinated by the hens and her ears prick up at the mere hint of a cluck. The hens don't like her much but they'll all have to learn to get along.

It's amazing to think that we took her temporarily to Mum and Dads and she ended up living there for 3 years! Anyway, I'm really happy to have her back despite her already ruining my carpets and leaving white fur everywhere!

I have been very busy all week teaching myself to build websites in dreamweaver. I am finally getting round to making an online shop to sell my handmade products. (I tried using ebay for a while but it was a bit restrictive.) Anyway, I seem to have grasped the basics and am a good way through my new site. When it's a bit more deveoped I will put up a link here so you can have a look and give me your feedback.
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