Thursday, 27 March 2014

My New Arrival

When I started looking into which sewing machine I should purchase and where I should purchase it from, I found and received an abundance of advice. This advice in fact was so abundant that it became not only overwhelming, but also completely redundant in its usefulness.  

After some thought I decided that I would look for a sewing machine that fitted the following criteria. The sewing machine needed:-
  • To be cheap. The purpose of the machine was to save money by up-cycling things that I already have. It needed to be good enough for the job at hand but in the likely even that my learning to sew was a failure I didn't want to waste too much money.
  • To be local or to be lightweight, so that I could bring it in my suitcase on my next visit to the UK.
  • To be simple. I already knew that I was terrified of sewing machines. I didn't want to have a panic attack when I first sat in front of it and I wanted to be able to conquer it, rather than it conquer me! (At this point I was still doubtful about who or what would win).
  • To have very few bits that could easily break. This also meant that I wanted a machine with manual and mechanical settings rather than electronic settings.
  • To have a very small number of settings and functions. I wanted to learn to sew. I never had any expectations of being able to sew well or to learn more than a handful of stitches of techniques. In the event of such a miracle occurring, I could, of course, upgrade.
  • To be easy to use. Actually it needed to be more than a little bit idiot proof. I think perhaps that if I had found one with voice control that would have suited me well. The memories of hours trying to thread machines at school before even attempting to sew still come back to haunt me and it has been many many years since I was at school. At this point, if I could sit in front of a machine and learn to thread it, it probably would have been enough to keep me going for a while, in the way of achievements.
After some time planning and dreaming I actually started to look forward to the big day. The decision was made to go ahead, the seed was planted - but I needed to wait a few months.

Following in the tradition of Fiddler on the Roof's Motel Kamzoil, I would like to introduce my new arrival.

Sunday, 23 March 2014


As an Expat' Brit I really do miss a nice bit of Crumpet!

British crumpets aren't sold where I live and living without them wasn't an option so I went in search of a recipe. After taking the bits I liked (the easy bits) from a few recipes, I devised one that worked well. I often get asked for my Crumpet recipe so now I am sharing it. 


450g Flour
300ml Warm Milk
300ml Warm Water
1tsp Salt
1tsp Sugar
1 Sachet of Yeast (or 5g/7g appx)
a little oil

If you have egg rings like these, they are superb for crumpets. If not, you could cut the tops and bottoms of some tuna tins I suppose but that isn't one that I will be doing as a veggie! You could even use biscuit cutters - your imagination is the way to go on this one. 


Put all the dry ingredients into a bowl (I told you this was simple). Pour in the milk and the water to make a batter and beat it well. Set this aside for about an hour in a warm place.

Stir the mixture well to get rid of the air trapped inside it.

Grease a frying pan or a heavy bottomed pan (I love this term) and heat up the pan.

Pour some mixture into the rings until they are about half full. It takes about 10 minutes to cook the crumpets.  Once you have good holes and the mixture is almost solid you can flip the crumpets to toast their bottoms (or tops depending on how you define these).

These crumpets are really simple to make but the key, as you see is to make them ahead of time due to the hour's waiting time in the middle of the method. The great news is that I have frozen crumpets that I have made from this recipe and they freeze brilliantly. They don't need defrosting and can be toasted or oven cooked from frozen.

My Grandma, Knitting and Sewing

As a child, my grandmother taught me to knit. I'm probably not the worlds best knitter but I am quite competent and I love the peace and relaxation that knitting affords me.

This little guy is City Bear and is a treasured possession of my son, knitted for him by my grandma.

My grandmother was also an excellent sewing machinist. Having worked for many years as a seamstress, the task often fell to her when we needed repairs and alterations doing. This talent for precision and patience, with a needle and thread, never made it to the next generation or to the one after that. When it came to sewing classes at school I was beyond anything my teacher had seen before. When my friends made 2 or 3 garments a year, I failed to complete one plain blue cotton t-shirt in the same time. Sewing, simply isn't something that I have a talent for.

Sewing is something that I have always wished that I were able to do.  This is because I rarely find clothes that I like in the shops. I have many many clothes that no longer fit me or no longer suit me and I longed to be able to do something with them. After all I have lots of material that I love and it would to superb to make things that I actually like and that actually fit me properly from it.

Last summer I treated myself to a lovely pink sewing machine and started to learn to sew. As I wanted something quite specific I carried it across the globe in my suitcase. This effort ensured that I will continue to use it and not give up! I am never going to be an expert. It just not something that I am naturally good at. I am going to keep trying though. I don't ever want to make clothes from patterns because even the thought of doing this bores me silly. I hope to up-cycle as many of my clothes as possible though rather than just throwing them out. In this world where so many things have become disposable, it is a good feeling to re-purpose and re-fashion things. 'Make Do and Mend' - I hope my grandma would have been proud!

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Welcome to 417 Days A Year

417 Days a Year

This weekend, in a moment when I should have been doing something far more important instead but didn't really fancy it, I decided that it was time to write a blog. 

I have attempted to write a blog a couple of times before but like many things, it takes time.  Spare time, of course is something most of us don't have much of.  While thinking about what to call the blog, it occurred to me, that if we just had more time in the day, or more days in the week, or even more weeks in the month, we could possibly accomplish so much more. From this idea, came the name for my new blog, 417 Days A Year.

In 417 Days A Year I would cook more, knit more, travel more, up-cycle more, do considerably more genealogical research, clean and tidy more (OK I probably wouldn't) and generally take more time to enjoy doing those things that make life more enjoyable. We only get one life and it isn't a rehearsal, so this blog will be about some of  the things that I manage to squeeze into my time, as well as the wonderful things that other people manage to squeeze into theirs. It is dedicated to those who never got the chance to make their own dreams come true.

I never knew what I wanted to do when I grew up and to be honest I still don't. However, I am now in some people's eyes grown up, that is; I have qualifications, full time employment (and a few sidelines), I have workplace experience, I am married and I am a mother I have left the country of my birth and started a life in a new country and therefore I suppose I must be grown up. I still have no idea what I want to do when I grow up though, so in the meantime I will be posting about things I enjoy and things that happen while I am living the life that I live, while waiting to decide what I will do when I grow up. I feel that I can't be alone in thinking perhaps this wasn't the life I ordered but as I am not sure what life I would have ordered instead, I plod on. After all, the life I have is pretty wonderful - its just not the life I thought I would have.