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Discount coupon

So even though the Spring Sale is over, I think I have yet to meet someone who doesn’t like a bit of a bargain, so maybe this will be of interest to you. Using the coupon code HAPPYCHOICE2020 you can get yourself a 10% discount in my Etsy store on the item (or items) of your choice. Just add in the code at checkout to benefit. As the code suggests, it is valid for 2020, so keep it safe somewhere, just in case!

Go for it >>> HAPPYCHOICE2020

Felt Dala horse

felt dala horse
Many of us have become aware over the past couple of months, either through personal observation or via the media coverage, that the period of lockdown seems to have had a positive effect on our environment. Animals have been leaving their natural habitats to venture into city centres, no longer clogged up with traffic and pollution — and have provided a spectacle that very few of us have ever seen before, and are unlikely to ever see again. We have seen levels of pollution drop (though I fear only temporarily) and for those attuned to these changes, the air will have seemed sweeter and the skies much clearer.

Whether it has something to do with the current coronavirus problem and the changes mentioned above, that I can’t say, but certainly I have been feeling a need to simplify my life and remove some of the ‘sophistication’. I’ve been looking for greater contact with the ‘basics’, doing away with empty ambitions which only take me further from my roots and the people and things I love most.

Sadly, I can’t just retire to the woods and ignore all my connections with modern society — but I can concentrate more time on those creative activities which soothe my soul. Strangely enough, technology features quite importantly in these activities, because it has given me a way to connect with family and friends and to admire and be inspired by the creativity of people around the world.

So using this new world as a starting point, I will be applying myself to newly found handcrafts — and honing my skills in old favourites. Here’s hoping that there will be occasions to share them with new and old friends both virtually, and in person.

Dala horse sewing kitAvailable on Etsy

Make protective masks

Making masks — whilst it is not possible to make and contribute homemade masks to medical staff, it is possible to make them for your local community where masks are hard to find. In some places (areas of northern Italy for example), people are obliged to wear them outdoors, so in the face of the shortage, homemade becomes a useful source.If you want to have a go, take a look at the two mask patterns Spoonflower is offering for free, both accompanied by a clear video tutorial on how to make them. Scroll down the Spoonflower web page to find the tutorials towards the bottom, along with the mask download links.

I must reiterate that these masks are NOT medical masks and are intended for community use only.

Click for free mask tutorials

Palm Sunday 2020


A beautiful day, but a very subdued Palm Sunday for those who usually celebrate. No religious celebrations for the community and in the UK, Queen Elizabeth made a public speech from her quarantine quarters in Windsor Castle — a special occasion and something that she hasn’t done in many years.

But there seems to be a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel — at least for some of the northern regions of Italy, where new cases of coronavirus have been a few less, and the death rate not quite so high — which means that there is hope that we can soon move into the next phase and begin to ‘live’ with the virus instead of just hiding from it.

Fast & Furious cake

This is one of my ‘go-to’ recipes if I’m looking to cook up a quick breakfast or dessert. What makes this truly, ‘fast & furious’ is that — using a silicone cake form I can put this in my microwave oven at approx.750°C and within 7 to 8 minutes, have a good looking cake to serve up! But I must also add that the microwave version will dry out very quickly, and so it’s best with the addition of some jam in the middle, or even with a scoop of ice-cream or a drizzle of cream, custard or sweet sauce if you are serving it as a dessert.

Yield: About 12 slices

Simple, fast & furious cake

Simple, fast & furious cake

Simple cake recipe to whizz up all in one go in your kitchen robot

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Additional Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes

Ingredients

  • 200g Flour (can be self-raising, plain or wholemeal)
  • 200g butter or margarine
  • 200g sugar (demerara is ok too)
  • 1 x 16g packet of raising agent
  • 4 medium eggs
  • Optionals:
  • Flavouring if desired
  • Chocolate chips or chopped nuts
  • Icing sugar to dust top of finished cake
  • Fruit jam of choice to spread in the middle of the cake

Instructions

  1. Turn on your oven to 160°C
  2. Prepare the baking tin (27cm diam.) by rubbing all over with small knob of butter and then dusting lightly with flour.
  3. Prepare the robot with a non-cutting blade
  4. Sift together flour & baking agent -- if using wholemeal flour, first sift & then add the chaff which remains behind in the sieve.
  5. Spoon into your robot along with any flavouring eg. cinnamon, vanilla etc.
  6. Add the sugar
  7. Cut the butter into small pieces, then add to robot.
  8. Turn the robot on at half-speed until the butter is mixed with the flour, then increase the speed for about 30 seconds.
  9. Break the eggs, one by one, into a cup so that you can check for pieces of shell, before adding each into the flour mixture
  10. Turn on the robot full speed until the mixture becomes smooth & slightly shiny. That should take a couple of minutes.
  11. At this stage, if you want to add some chocolate chips, throw them into the mixture & turn on the robot for just a few seconds so they mix in evenly.
  12. Carefully transfer the mixture to the cake tin, & if the oven has reached temperature, slide on to the top shelf.
  13. Cook for about 35 minutes, checking a few minutes before the end of cooking time with a wooden skewer in the cake to see if it comes out dry or moist. If too moist, you may have to extend cooking time a few extra minutes.
  14. When cooking time is up, take the cake from the oven and leave it to stand for 5 minutes before turning out onto a cake rack to cool
  15. When the cake is cool you can add a little extra interest by slicing it in half horizontally & adding a jam spread in the middle -- or more simply, by just adding a dusting of icing sugar on the top

Notes

Cooking utensils:

  • Round cake tin 27cm diameter
  • Kitchen robot
  • Kitchen scales or measuring jug
  • Sieve (for flour)
  • Spatula
  • Spoon
  • Knife

Early resolutions

Though it may be a bit early for any kind of new year resolutions, I have decided to award myself a credits’ system to organize my day a bit better.

My credits will be divided by work, pleasure, duty, relax. So the idea is that each day I try to do at least a small portion of each of these four areas. If one day I miss out on the pleasure, I can just put a point for that forward to the next day (or whenever suits me best) and take it off the area which got a double (or more) helping of credits. Which means that if one day I spend more time working, I can just award myself more pleasure the next day. Not sure if that is clear – and maybe my calculations are a bit askew, but you probably know what I mean!

Going ‘French’

Well it’s been taking up a whole bunch of room gathering dust on one of the kitchen shelves for a couple of years now, so I knew I would be called to justify its existence at some point. I had thrown out our 5 roller hockey sticks and skates without batting an eyelid, so how could I possibly claim sitting rights for a huge bread machine that we never use.

The time had come to put it through its paces again. The awful part of all this is that in the past, apart from the tantalising aroma of home baked bread, the actual bread itself had always been a major disappointment to the palate. So I studied at length the manual because I had always been told to RTFM, and decided that perhaps I should try a different recipe – the ‘French’ bread. Just the very name had always put me off in the past – here I am in Italy using a recipe for French bread! I daren’t tell my mother-in-law since her state of health is already a bit iffy.

Almost 4 hours later – the kitchen floor smothered in sprinklings of flour, sugar, salt and oats – after an irritating sequence of whistles and beeps and churning blades, the ‘French’ bread is ready.

I think my daughter must have followed the aroma from her house further along the island, because just on cue, she arrived with the spud heart in the picture and begged a chunk of newly baked bread to take home for tea. Hubby complained sorely about the amount of crumbs each time you cut a slice, but as you can see, the loaf is almost finished, so it couldn’t have been that bad, even if it was ‘French’ !!!

Framed at last

I may have mentioned that for a number of reasons we have been downscaling our home. One reason was the need (albeit theoretical) to pack our 30 years of marriage into a barge. A more immediate reason has been my daughter’s 99% move away from home. By my calculation, the remaining 1% can be put down to her dirty washing which still finds its way into my washing machine all too often.

So sorting through her mountains of ‘must-keeps’ I came across this old scrap of cardboard dating back to her ‘Gothic period’, a very trying time for both of us. For her because she was going through that terrible adolescent stage of ‘I-hate-the-world-and-nobody-understands-me-least-of-all-that-idiot-of-a-mother’, whilst I, for my part, was suffering a similar sense of distress for my apparent incapacity to keep things on track.

But anyway, finding this declaration immortalised by her own hand, I somehow felt a duty to keep it within ‘eye-shot’ so to speak, just to remind me of what we had come through together.

She could hardly believe that I had actually paid to have her graffiti framed – and was gobsmacked that I had dared to hang it amongst all our other ‘art’ on our lounge walls!

Lest we forget …

Keeping the chocolate hot

Keep the hot chocolate hot

is what I said. There are all sorts of occasions for wanting to take a cup of hot tea or cocoa to someone outside – maybe it’s for the lads working under the car bonnet – or for the gang around the bonfire letting off fireworks – or even for the snowball fights when there’s too much fun going on to drop everything and go inside. Helps you to keep those dirty feet outside the door for a bit longer too!
So this is my solution – a thick felt holder for hot mugs so that you can take the hot drinks outside and be sure that they won’t go cold straight away. What do you think?

Back on Track

Probably a slight exagerration as far as titles go as I really am just dipping my feet back in here to let friends know that I’m still alive and kicking!

So briefly, arty stuff has been keeping me incredibly busy for the past 3 or so months…you can see some of what I have been up to on this site: www.festivaldelleartigiudecca.org  which I built up for a big local arts festival which all happened mid-September. It’s not really over yet as there are lots of loose ends to tie up and a lot of brainstorming with the organization on what needs changing…adding…plus building on a few new ideas whilst we are still in festival mode.

Great fun but sooooooooooo much hard work as most of us were not only organizers, but also performers in one way or another. I had some photographs on show and also ran a couple of trash art workshops…one in a local school and the other in a street location. We also tried to run here, there and everywhere recording the events with our cameras, videos, microphones and being an audience to the things we enjoyed.

Anyway…I hope everyone had a wonderful summer…I got to the UK briefly for some of your cool weather in September (15°C having left over 30°C here…bit of a shock to the system). I bought a few crafty bits form the wonderful chain store “Staples” which I am real pleased with. Nicked the metal hooks off some of my mum’s old coat hangers. Picked up a couple of useful crafty tools and bought lots of books from Waterstones. So a good trip in spite of the weather! Back home here managed a few trips out on the motorbike and signed myself up for a couple of Open University courses to keep me out of trouble this coming winter.

Be in touch if you have the time and let me know what you have all been doing with your arty selves!

Made by Hand

When you buy something from an artist, you are buying more than an object. You are buying hundreds of hours of failures and experiments. You are buying days, weeks and months of frustration and moments of pure joy. You are not only buying a thing, but a piece of heart, a part of the soul, a moment in the life of someone.

by Giacomo Cinque
'La Sartoria Antica'
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