Down the Rabbit Hole

When I was growing up, my local shop for crafting supplies was a fabric factory shop. It was, and still is, an Aladdin’s cave of all things fabric-y, with a supply of wools and yarns for good measure. I grew up in sheep-country, where the local economy in years gone by was built on wool. I loved going to this factory shop, and I’ve built quite a stash from my trips over the years.

BUT. As might be deduced, it caters to a select handful of crafts: to quilters and dressmakers, to embroiderers and cross-stitchers, to knitters and crocheters. All things fabric and yarn, in fact.

Now, I’m generally fine with this; I am primarily a cross-stitcher, with occasional crocheting and dress-making thrown in.

Leaving home, though, meant that I had to find a new supplier for my crafting needs. And so I found Hobbycraft.

 

Hobbycraft, if you don’t know it, is less an Aladdin’s cave, more a rabbit-warren of crafts. Chances are, you will find what you need, and then, getting lost on your way to pay, you will find other things. Things which glitter and sparkle, which call to your crafter’s heart, sing out a siren’s song, and you will find yourself walking out with a whole new craft to start.

Me, I have started dabbling with papercrafts; with scrapbooking, in particular. I’ve cross-stitched a few cards in the past (it’s a nice way to use up small kits and patterns), but otherwise stayed out of the paper aisles. I mean, I’ve always like notebooks (love Paperchase!), but otherwise paper doesn’t inspire me like fabrics and threads.

Until earlier this year, when I got myself a scrapbook to do something with those small cross-stitch kits which come free with the magazines. I wasn’t turning them into whatever they were suppose to be; I was just stitching them and tucking them, out of sight, into a Projects Drawer. Which is a bit of a waste, when you think about it.

And now, when I go into Hobbycraft, I find myself wandering the papercraft aisles, looking at the pretty papers and the stickers and the sparkly pens. I’ve even started looking at scrapbook kits on eBay.

I can resist, sometimes. I mean, I have other projects, and not enough time to spend on another craft, but oh the paper’s so pretty, and it wouldn’t take all that long, would it? It’s just arranging things artfully and sticking them down, right? And it’s not like I’ll be worrying about Proper Layouts – mine’s just for my cross-stitching.

 

VCT: Dominican Republic

I am strongly of the opinion that my world-geography knowledge will be vastly increased by the time I have completed this Tour.

I will admit that I had no idea where the Dominican Republic was, but I didn’t think it was where it is. Which is in the Caribbean, on one side of the island which is also home to Haiti. Which I did know was somewhere in that direction.

Named after St Dominic, patron saint of astronomers and the falsely accused, the Dominican Republic (according to Wikipedia; I know, how terrible a source) is home to the first cathedral, monastery, castle, and fortress built in the Americas, and the Colonial Zone, where they are to be found, is now a World Heritage Site.

My image of the Caribbean is one of rum, and spices, and warm beaches, and cool cocktails. It’s also coloured by a recipe I have for a Creole Christmas cake that puts my alcohol-soaked cakes to shame…

However, the chocolate this week is another Moser Roth bar from Aldi, so there’s a description on the back. It reckons this 75% plain chocolate has “fruity notes in combination with rich dark nuances”.

As with the other Moser Roth chocolates, this uses FairTrade ingredients, and is 99.5% FairTrade.

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I’m not sure about the fruity notes – so far all I’m getting is a nutty flavour, kind of like a walnut with that brown skin left on – but this is certainly a very rich, dark chocolate. It breaks cleanly and melts smoothly on the tongue and it tastes, very definitely, of cacao.

In fact, it reminds me of a Death by Chocolate cake made by a lady in the parish where I grew up, and which was just the best chocolate cake ever. I continue to regret that I never got the recipe from her before she died.

It was the sort of chocolate cake which made no allowances for the taste-buds of small children. You know how chocolate recipes often say to use milk chocolate if making for youngsters? This cake was chocolate, through and through; a rich, dark, sticky, cake with dark chocolate fudge icing. It was, actually, the colour of this 75% Dominican Republic.

I think it sits at level pegging with the Peruvian 62%, for the memories of Sylvia’s Death by Chocolate alone. But it is a good chocolate, which tastes how chocolate should.

Chocolate Tasting and Marshmallows

I’m having a month off from my Chocolate Tour.

Okay, what I really mean is that I’ve run out of single-origins and haven’t got around to finding more yet. And I think my writing camp this month is going to be enough ‘travelling’ for me. One trip at a time, after all.

I have, though, got a bit of light reading for round the camp-fire which has nothing to do with my writing plans: A Chocolate Tasting Kit, which I stumbled across during a browse of the book-section in my local TKMaxx.

I (almost) couldn’t resist. I wanted to find out if the language of chocolate tasting is as pretentious as wine tasting. Going by the descriptions I’ve read, it certainly has the potential for it. I am disappointed, though, that there was a lack of a chocolate bar in the kit. Can’t have everything, I suppose.

Instead, I have a camping favourite. Marshmallows. Only, naturally, mine are chocolate-covered. Just right for the beginning of the camp…

TBR Book-Tag

For various reasons, but largely because of time and trying to do too much, and because I’m lazy, my Library is making its way into the Cocoary.

I used to talk books here, occasionally, and then, just over a year ago, I decided to create a book-space and focus more on Life and Crafts here. Now, though, as a result of much soul-searching and discussions about the future, my books are returning here. For those who did find the Library, you may recognise some of the content, as I transfer the books. I shall endeavour to break the old up with new as I go.

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A portion of our book-collection…

However, I thought, to begin, I should start with my To-Be-Read pile:

1. How do you keep track of your TBR pile?

Physically, I have a small pile of books by my bed, and I have a good memory for my books, bookshelves, and those I have already read. Otherwise, I have a very long list of titles spanning several dozen pages of those I’d like to read.

2. Is your TBR mostly print or e-book?

Print. My Kindle has been neglected for…oh, pretty much since I got it. It has its moments, but I prefer print books.

3. How do you determine which book from your TBR to read next?

Does it need to go back to the library soon? If there are no library books in the pile, how am I feeling? Which looks the most interesting or entertaining?

4. Book that has been on your TBR the longest?

I can’t remember the title – something like Under the Sky, can’t remember the author (Harris, maybe? Barry? Radcliffe?) – but I was given it for my birthday as a teenager, and I still haven’t read it…I can picture both the cover and where it is on my shelf, and I know it has something to do with WWII.

5. A book you recently added to your TBR?

To the pile: Mark’s Warhammer novels. Does that count? There’s quite a few of them, and the collection is growing…

To the list: Black City Saint, by Richard A. Kraal.

6. A book on your TBR strictly because of its beautiful cover?

 The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry, in the Waterstones edition. So pretty! I read The Watchmaker of Filigree Street because of its cover too, and enjoyed it. Sometimes, you can judge a book by its cover…

7. A book on your TBR that you never plan on reading?

The rest of Trollope’s Barchester Chronicles. I read the first, doubt I’ll read the rest. And I doubt I’ll ever read the aforementioned war book…

8. An unpublished book on your TBR that you’re excited for?

Probably the next Cormoran Strike novel, although that isn’t specifically on my list. I don’t know which on my list are unpublished. That’s the thing with working in the book-industry. I come across all sorts of books but don’t very often pay attention to the publication date.

9. A book on your TBR that everyone recommends to you?

Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. Although I am slowly working my way through them. I’ve had a lack of recommendations recently, though, and I don’t keep up with current bestsellers – see below.

10. A book on your TBR that everyone has read but you?

Probably most of the current bestsellers. I haven’t yet read the Peculiar Orphanage series – Ransom Riggs, is it?

11. A book on your TBR that you’re dying to read?

Can’t think of one – such an emotion about a book only really occurs with series, and I’m not currently in the middle of one. Unless you count the Strike novels? But I can wait for that one.

12. How many books are in your Goodreads TBR shelf?

No idea. My Goodreads bookshelf, like my Kindle, has been neglected since shortly after opening the account… I know, I’m terrible with technology.

 

If you feel inclined to answer the above questions yourself, consider yourself tagged.

 

 

 

To-Be-Stitched: Keeping Track of Future Projects

I have the same problems with cross-stitch patterns that I have with books: Quantity and Time. My TBR list is longer than my arm, and I have a box full of cross-stitching magazines and a drawer full of kits. And not enough hours in the day.

I don’t help myself, either, buying a new magazine each month, usually full of many patterns which I want to stitch. And then by trying to design my own patterns, too.

About ten magazines into my collection, though, I came to a decision. I was marking the patterns I liked by folding down the corner of the page, but I wasn’t really keeping track of them, for suitable occasions in the future or just-becauses. So, I did what comes naturally to the planner.

I began to note each pattern down, in a notebook, complete with the edition it was in, the length of time it supposedly took, and a complete list of all threads and fabrics required to complete the pattern. My Project Notebook. I also make a note of potential recipients.

And when it’s made, it gets ticked off the list.

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Do you have a To-Be-Stitched list? How do you keep track of it?

VCT: Ecuador

I was going to remain in Africa for my Chocolate Tour, go to Ghana this week, but I changed my mind. The Ghanian 35% I found was too floral, too perfumed, for my liking, and I want to find a darker chocolate before I pass judgement.

So, instead, I’ve gone to Ecuador via Marks & Spencers, who offered a 72% bar. They also had an absolutely delicious 52% Peruvian with Clementine. (NB: I haven’t received anything from M&S. Or from anyone with regards this Chocolate Tour.)

So, Ecuador. It lies to the west of Peru; indeed, it used to be a part of the Incan Empire before Spain and the Europeans arrived with their nasty foreign white-man diseases. The name, the Republic of Ecuador, is the Republic of the Equator, and the official language is Spanish.

Given how much I enjoyed the Peruvian bars, I’m hoping the relative closeness of the two countries will offer similar chocolates. It comes in a handy, indulgence-friendly 35g bar. Almost as helpful as the Moser Roth packs of 25g bars.

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Like Tesco, M&S hasn’t bothered with fancy packaging or a wine-like description. Just a simple, brown wrapping. Unlike the Tesco Côte d’Ivoire, this M&S Ecuadorian bar is a decent bar of chocolate.

This is a smooth, rich chocolate with undertones of coffee. I dislike drinking chocolate, but I’ve always liked the combination of coffee and chocolate. A family ritual when I was growing up was a monthly treat of cappuccino chocolate from the FairTrade stall at church.

I’ve always liked the Hotel Chocolat cacao-nibs (so good for energy levels), but I’ve had a harder time finding them recently. With its coffee flavours, I’d say this Ecuadorian chocolate makes quite a good substitute. I can just feel the caffeine flooding my veins…

 

 

FNWL: North Rode Rally

Up until about Easter this year, I hadn’t driven in about six and a half years. Then, some time in the last year, I volunteered (was volunteered) to be a co-pilot on a 48-hour, 1500-mile drive around England in May. In my nearly half-century Triumph Herald.

So I had to relearn to drive. Which didn’t happen until about Easter, and the first car I drove happened to be the Herald. Around an empty Tesco carpark for half an hour. A month before the Drive.

And then I did the Drive, with a 2-hour stint in the early hours of the morning along an empty motorway (such a lovely time to be driving!), and I discovered another reason to add to the original for why I wanted a Triumph sports-car in the first place. The original reason was because they’re so pretty, particularly the Spitfires, Heralds and Vitesses. Now though, I’ve discovered I prefer driving the Herald to modern cars. The only thing I have to remember is the lack of synchromesh between first and second gear, which means you can only put it into first when at a complete standstill. Otherwise they grind horribly and Dad gets cross…

Anyway, having rediscovered my love for such pretty cars, I’ve been lusting after photos of them on eBay and wishing I had the money. Or at least the time and space for another restoration, although not such a complete strip-down and rebuild. Learnt my lesson from last time. Don’t mind stripping down for a respray, mostly because chances are I’ll want to change the colour anyway. But this is all by the by.

 

Mark is less keen on the beautiful Triumphs; he’s much more interested in American muscle-cars, which have their place, but I do have concerns with their ability to cope with windy English roads. Mind you, there was a quite fabulous Vauxhall Cresta at the rally, which probably has much the same problems.

But I still persuaded him that the North Rode Rally, advertising itself on Congleton high street with a Standard Vanguard, would be worth a trip. There would be military vehicles, which he rather likes, as well. Fortunately, he indulges me and my dreams of a Triumph of my own, and we duly set off.

Although it was quite a small rally, being just the one large field, it was an enjoyable few hours, wandering around and admiring some really beautiful cars. And not just the Triumphs (see above for the blue Vitesse and white Triumph TR2). Mark was stopped short by a Ford Mustang – the yellow and black above. And then by several of the military vehicles. And we were both amused by what appeared to be a Tractor Beauty Pageant, although only from a distance, so we’re not sure quite what was going on in the ring.

And there’s another rally in mid-September, so I’ve already marked it in my diary…