Monday, 12 December 2011

Picnics will never be the same again.

Last week I made a resolution to myself to post a new blog entry every Monday. When I made this promise, I think I was probably overestimating both the fertility of my imagination and the excitement of my social life, as a week has now gone by and I haven't done anything worth blogging about.

Creativity-wise, I have spend the week pretty much chained to my sewing machine like some sort of cobbler's elf, working through a list of custom orders for lovely people who - for their sins - wish to buy items from me to give to their friends and family for Christmas. Which is trusting of them, and I appreciate it enormously.

Apart from a small aberration on Friday night where a cheese and wine party ended - for me - at 6.30am, some hours after the declaration "I'm not going home until we've drunk aaaall this port (hic)", nothing else of note has really happened.

So instead, I am going to steal from the Significant Otter's life, as he has been far more creative than me this week. Hope you don't mind, dearest...

This week he has been mostly making this:

For added value, if you look closely, it also says 'Bush' on it. Snigger.
It is a vintage record player box, with the innards removed, and replaced with a wonderful array of cocktail-making ingredients and equipment, complete with handmade-from-scratch leather straps and moulded leatherette cushioning. Nevermore shall we be at a picnic and face the embarrassment of not being able to provide a properly-mixed Negroni at a moment's notice. Gone are the days of drinking pre-mixed G&T's out of a plastic cup. At the drop of a perfectly brushed hat we can provide you with a vintage Babycham glass brimming with the tipple of your choice.

Of course, it weighs a metricfuckton and he hasn't worked out how to create an ice compartment, but I think you'll agree the Otter has outdone himself this time. 

Pour me a Manhattan, darling, and pass the mini quiches.

Monday, 5 December 2011

What's yellow and black and can't reach the pedal?*

I'm on the right. With the machine that is apparently glowing like it came out of the TARDIS
As should be fairly obvious by now, I enjoy sewing. It is among my top five favourite activities. The others shift according to mood, but currently include eating cheese, drinking Manhattans, and watching the Argos Christmas advert with the blue aliens. However there is no getting away from the fact that machine sewing (much like watching the Argos advert), is generally a solitary activity. The common sewist (I know the word is 'sewer', but I can't get past the effluent connotations), is typically to be found alone, hunched over in the glow of their machine, swearing quietly.

The crafts of knitting, crocheting and even embroidery are enjoying somewhat of a renaissance currently, due partly to their portability to and from clubs and knitting circles and the crucial realisation that these get-togethers can take place in pubs. Wine plus handcrafting may result in the odd dropped stitch, but driving your Bernina when under the influence can be a great deal more painful.

So imagine my joy when, this weekend, I found myself part of a rather lovely sociable get together of machine sewists. It can be done!

My local theatre group, the South London Theatre, is about to put on its annual pantomime. As usual, the pantomime involves an inordinate amount of small children (a concept I find almost as horrid as the idea of pantomime itself). And, as society dictates, small children have to be dressed when on stage - in this case in a variety of medieval peasant garb. Tunics a'plenty.

After years of solitary and frantic sewing every winter, someone had the bright idea this year to gather together all the people who could drive a machine in one place for an afternoon and wrestle with mounds of Lincoln Green material whilst enjoying tea, chat, and swapping gossip.

Granted, the hum of the sewing machines can reach a rather deafening level when you get all four of them going at once, and the vibration is enough to require all pincushions to be sturdily anchored to the centre of the table, but on the whole we were the happiest little pantomime-costume sweatshop you ever did see.

Everyone was fairly experienced, but we also all went away having learned at least one or two tips and tricks from our fellow machinists. I learned that you can sew over pins, if you do it carefully enough, which will save me, I have calculated, 21.2567675 days per year unpinning as I go along. Caroline learned how to mitre ribbon (but only in one direction - we'll have you an ambi-mitreer before long, Caroline), and in turn taught us all that it is possible to use one's knee to press the pedal if there is not enough room on the table for your machine and you have to put it on a chair. We all learned that we have even larger capacities for tea-drinking and mince-pie-eating than we thought possible.

We have all agreed that we had such a lovely time we will regroup in the new year, each choosing one pattern to work on and taking advantage of the moral support, tea and companionship to move on to even greater crafting heights. I might even work out how to get a hem straight.

How about you, fellow crafters? Have you got involved in any 'Crafting Bees' yet? If not, what are you waiting for? You just need some like-minded friends, and in the case of machine-sewing, someone with a sturdy table and understanding neighbours. Oh, and of course your group needs a name. You can't have 'Make It Sew', though. That's taken.

*A sewing bee! I'll get my coat.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

The Emporium has a new home!

The dust has settled from the wedding, we have realised that married life is much the same as pre-married life just with more credit card bills to pay, and it's back to business as usual here in Lemur Land.

Not one to sit still for long, though, I have been a busy bee, interwebs-wise. After a good while immersed in metatags, photo compositing, Search Engine Optimisation and all sorts of other complicated words that I can't believe I have had to make room for in the already overcrowded dusty attic of my brain, I have built a website!

Me! On my own. Well. OK, with quite a bit of help from the Significant Otter, who does a great line in Making It All Better when I get bored half way through a complicated task, or when I throw a strop and fling the laptop at the cat because I can't get the stupid pictures to line up properly on the stupid page.

He also made all the pretty bits look pretty, while fielding conversations such as:

ME: I think the lemur should have a hat. Don't you think?
SO: Um...ok....what sort of hat?
ME: Well, not all the time, that would be stupid. Just, like, when I have a sale on, he should have a party hat then. And possibly one of those blowy-party things in his mouth. Can you do that?
SO: Uh, yeah, I guess so.
ME: Oh oh oh, and at Christmas he should have a santa hat. Do that too.
SO: *Sigh* OK.
ME: We're married now. This is what you signed up for.

So do please make it all worthwhile by tootling over to and seeing what you think. My main shop is there now, too, so start stocking up for Christmas!

(The lemur does not, currently, have a hat.)

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Reader, I married him. Or 'How to do a wedding, the awesome way'

Part of the reason I so rarely update this blog is that I don't tend to do anything interesting enough to write about. That and I'm lazy. But recently I did what is probably the Most Interesting Thing I Have Ever Done.

I got married.

That makes it sound a little bit like it was an everyday spur of the moment thing, like deciding to have takeaway for tea or going to the pub or buying a two seater sports car on a three year hire purchase scheme because it looked cute and you felt sorry for it in the showroom. (The last one might only apply to us). But it wasn't, there was an 18 month engagement period during which we discussed all sorts of Important Wedding Questions like "What colour flowers should we have", "How many Doctor Who references is too many" and "Where should the Dinosaur Jager Ice Luge go?"

So now I have a lot to write about but unfortunately am still lazy. And have left it two weeks before writing anything so it's now all getting a bit vague. So here, in no particular order and more than anything as a reminder to myself in the future, are some of my favourite memories of the truly awesome day that I married my Significant Otter:

I'm actually a little bit jealous of my own bridesmaids
Observe the majesty. And try to ignore the fact that it looks a bit like a dog.
  • Getting up really early and then realising I had nothing to do until about twenty minutes before we were due to leave the house because a) I couldn't even touch my insanely white dress until I was ready to put it on and b) short hair is a helluva timesaver in these situations. 
  • My bridesmaids looking INCREDIBLE in their skull and crossed-swords dresses. Which apparently my Nan thought were flowers until most of the way through the day. Bless. 
  • My friend Vera reading from 'A Lovely Love Story' by Edward Monkton, but being so excited she forgot to use the dinosaur glove puppets (now there's a sentence you rarely see on wedding blogs).
  • The nervous giggles from the congregation as SO's sister started reading 'The Day The Saucers Came' by Neil Gaiman. 
  • Struggling to provide the photographer with at least one straight-faced photo of us signing the register as our friends began surprise-playing the theme from Baywatch on the ukelele. Shortly followed by 'It Must Be Love', during which the congregation began singing along and I felt like I was in a Richard Curtis movie, but in a good way, not a hideous mawkish Love Actually way. 
  • Coming down the steps from the town hall to see a horde of well dressed chaps smoking pipes. And having my hipflask thrust into my hands.
  • The dinosaur Jager ice luge. Everything about it. Seriously, if you're not married already and you get married one day, make sure there's an ice luge. I can't imagine how people manage without them. 
  • Walking in to the venue to discover not one but TWO surprise TARDISes that had been painstakingly made as a surprise for me. 
  • Cutting a cake that was flanked on either side by Battlecat and Panthor. 
  • My wonderful friend Pete singing a surprise song that he had written for me (well us, but, y'know, mostly me), as an ode to SO, entitled 'You're Better Than David Tennant'
  • A late night drunken mission into the nighttime streets of London after someone declaring that they had seen a Delorean parked around the block. It was gone by the time we got there. Reports of a spinning licence plate and smoking tyre marks may or may not be true.
  • A noble expedition across to the local supermarket to buy more tonic. Followed by another, shortly after, to secure more gin.
  • Homemade cakes making their way to the reception from all over London and beyond by any means possible, including clandestine drop-offs at service stations on the M4.
  • The incredible, awe-inspiring selflessness of so many people who helped on the day - catering, setting up the tables, washing up, and generally putting themselves out to a degree that I am still flabbergasted by and the warm fuzzy gratitude for which will stay with me forever.
Most importantly though, the day was full of so much laughter, joy and downright silliness that I would do it all again in a heartbeat. To the same man, obviously.

This is as serious as we managed to get. All day.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Ebay. Filling my house with tat since 2002

Yesterday, on my way to work, I almost crashed my bike.

Normally, this would be because someone decided to entirely ignore my turning signal and overtake me anyway, or due to an encounter with one of the bafflingly huge number of people who can afford 4x4's the size of Bolivia but apparently don't want to wear their indicator bulbs out in case they have to buy new ones.

Today though, it was all Captain Picard's fault. A charity shop I passed by had this proudly displayed in the window:

Look at it. Just look at it.
I couldn't ignore it. Look at the glorious, awful, hideous brilliance of it. But £25? Hmm.

Then this email conversation happened:

Me: It was £25. And apparently it's not 'done' to haggle in charity shops.
SO: Make it so.
Me: Even I am not going to pay £25 for a commemorative plate of Captain Picard.
SO: You could eat off it at the wedding.
Me: .............
SO: Are you still there?

I was not. I was on eBay.

So. Long story short. Now we own these:

£30 the lot. In your FACE, charity shop.
I honestly think I need help.

Of course, my shopping-for-tat addiction can sometimes cause a strain on our relationship. This purchase, for example, caused some heated words last night:

Me: Of course, I'm having Khan.
SO: Why do you get Khan?
Me: Because I bought them. So I am going to eat cake off Khan's face. That's something every girl dreams of on their wedding day. You can have Riker. Or the stupid spaceship one.
SO: That's a Klingon Bird of Prey. It's from that one where they had to rescue the whales and flew under the Golden Gate bridge.
Me: Oh yeah. [brief silence]. Well, nobody's going to want to eat off that one.

Eventually we decided to share The Plate Of Khan and use it to eat our first slice of wedding cake, together.

Romance. We has it.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Why we are awesome at this wedding stuff.

So last night the Significant Otter and I decided to tackle the one task most dreaded by soon-to-be-weds everywhere. The task that has driven better people than us to jacking the whole wedding thing in, changing their names and faking their own deaths rather than attempt.

The Seating Plan.

Unless you are forced into working out who sits where for the hour that it takes to listen to a few speeches, gulp down a couple of glasses of fizz and toy with some sandwiches, you will never truly realise how complicated the most seemingly-benign group of family and friends can be.

Working out who can and can't sit next to each other is like playing a massive game of Sudoku, but with people instead of numbers.

So, in the spirit of helping engaged couples everywhere, I have used my experience to compile the definitive How-To Guide To Doing A Seating Plan:

  1. Put it off for as long as possible. There is always something less hideous but still important that you can do instead. Like buying bunting on ebay. Or playing with hair clips. Or looking at your wedding shoes and making sure they are still happy in their box. Only when this stage has been thoroughly completed can you move on to stage 2.
  2. Open wine. (If you can justify this further with "We need to test this one. We might buy it for the reception", you get extra points. Even if that statement is not true). Pour wine.
  3. Get massive piece of paper.
  4. Remove cat from massive piece of paper.
  5. Write the names of all the guests on another piece of paper, then cut them all out individually, as if you were going to put them all in a hat and pull them out one by one. (Come to think of it, that would actually be a really good tactic. Do that).
  6. (Assuming you didn't do the hat thing). Have small argument with fiance where he insists that the whole thing can be done better on an Excel spreadsheet whilst you brandish scissors and wine and exclaim that you have to do it this way because "otherwise it won't work IN MY HEAD".
  7. Divide the names into family and friends piles. 
  8. Take out all the family and friends who should be on the 'top table'.
  9. Realise this is nearly everyone. And that you don't really want to sit next to your parents anyway.
  10. Get momentarily distracted by 'The Great British Bake Off'.
  11. Pour more wine.
  12. Decide that the whole top table idea is far too complicated and that in fact the answer is to have one table that just has the two of you on it and a huge bottle of wine.
  13. Argue about whether you can therefore be called "The King And Queen Of Weddingland" when sitting at the special table.
  14. Plump for "The Table Of Excellence and Power" instead, even though this name will not actually be used. (It blatantly will.)
  15. Attempt to divide up the rest of the family tables.
  16. Realise family are far too complicated and move on to friends.
  17. Create tables based on groups that might like to sit together. Feel quite proud to have achieved something until you realise that this gives you three tables of 7, one of 14 and another of 3. 
  18. Accuse fiance of drinking your wine as it has all disappeared very quickly.
  19. Pick up Doug the cat and ask his opinion. He is non-committal. Announce bright idea of dropping Doug on the table, letting him roll around in the names "and where they end up, there shall they be seated".
  20. Receive sigh and disappointed look from fiance.
  21. Throw all bits of paper back into one big pile.
  22. Deal them all out into sets of 8 (agreed table size). 
  23. Move on to allocation of table names according to theme of "Big Damn Heroes".
  24. Have minor argument about which table deserves to be the Fox Mulder table. 
  25. Sit in stony silence for a while.
  26. Allocate Fox Mulder to a random family table because "they will have heard of him". Secretly vow to self that a large proportion of the actual reception will be spent visiting all the tables and explaining exactly who their 'hero' is and delivering potted history of the character whether the guests like it or not.
  27. Loudly declare "I just don't WANT Al Swearengen*. I want The Awesome Table Of Excellence And Power to be the Gene Hunt table."
  28. Allocate Al Swearengen to another table.
  29. Remove Al Swearengen from that table as there is a 4 year old seated at it and somehow this seems inappropriate. Give them Benton Fraser instead.
  30. Allocate all other tables at random as it is now time for bed.
  31. Let fiance type the resulting lists into Excel.
And there you have it. 31 easy steps towards a harmonious wedding reception.

You're welcome.

PS I am aware that I have missed off the acute accent on 'fiance'. Believe me, this is annoying me just as much as you. I can't work out how to make blogger do it. Presumably French people don't use blogger. Merde.

*Ian McShane's character in Deadwood. All kinds of sweary Western goodness. You'll never look at Lovejoy in the same way again. 

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Oh, hai Internets! Long time no blog.

In my mind, this is what the ice sculpture will look like.
So today I remembered I have a blog, and that it's been a metric eon since I updated it.

Well, lots of things have been happening in the world since we last spoke. Ice ages have come and gone. Huge gangs of disaffected yoof attempted to set fire to London in pursuit of new trainers. I finally finished watching every single episode of The X Files (can I get a 'hell yeah'), and Lemur Lady's Awesome Emporium has been going from strength to strength.

Turns out people seem to like my goodies, so I have been spending more and more time sitting, tongue-out-for-balance, at my sewing machine, batting away the cats and creating new items of awesomeness for all my lovely customers.

Oh yeah, and I'm getting married next month. That'll be where all my time's gone, then.

The wonderful thing about a wedding, to a crafty sort of a badger like me, is that the DIY possibilities are endless. The bad thing is that, well, the DIY possibilities are endless.

So far the handmade bunting has gone out of the window, figuratively speaking. 150feet of the stuff has been duly purchased from an ebay crafter with much more time on her hands than me. Paper chains, ditto. Handmade 'Woo Yay' flags (a la Offbeat Bride), origami bouquets, handsewn garter - all consigned to 'good idea at the time' pile.

On the other hand, I've been keepin' it crafty. My flowers and hair thingy (this is the official term), are from Etsy, my cake toppers and place cards were specially made by Folksy sellers, and my dress is being run up as we speak by my wonderfully talented mum (from whom I learnt all I know. Including the bad habits).

But I do still have my own to-do list. It's more modest than it originally was, but with just over 6 weeks to go it's still bringing me out in cold sweats. Once I've got the four bridesmaid's boleros cut and sewn (seriously, have you seen how much these things cost in the shops? How hard can it be?), I've just got 100 muslin teabag favours and boxes to create and label, a TARDIS shaped card box to make and a three tier cake to bake and ice the night before. All while keeping the Lemur Lady stuff ticking over. Simples.

Excuse me. I just have to go and run around in a panic for a minute.


Ah, that's better.

Since some of the details are still secret-squirrel, I will be posting pictures, links, and thanks to all the wonderful and creative crafters who have contributed to the Wedding Of The Century once the day is over and I have sobered up and picked the confetti out of my hair.

(Incidentally, the best thing about the whole wedding stuff so far has been having cause to say "Of course, the dinosaur ice sculpture will need to arrive through the side doors during the table changearound". Brilliant.)

Tuesday, 21 June 2011


I'm going to start with a disclaimer. Normally I think about my blog posts in advance (believe it or not) and have a vague idea of what I'm going to write. This is a bit of a spur of the moment job, so bear with while words fall out of my head and through my clumsy fingers and onto the screen.

I've been having one of those evaluating things moments when you stop and take stock of what you're up to and where you're going and how you're getting there and all that. This was precipitated (is that the right word? Isn't that to do with rain? See what happens when you write all spur of the moment, like), by the fact that I was doing my Lemur Lady accounts this evening and it would appear that, without really noticing, I seem to have started a Proper Little Business. I've gone into healthy triple figures in the 3 months I've been selling stuff, and whilst the actual profit is not enough to feed a church mouse with a cheese allergy, my hobby is at least not costing me anything and is making a little bit of pocket money. Looking across the room, I can see that the tiny carrier bag of sewing stuff that I had only a few short months ago has grown into three huge storage boxes, one of which is so full I just broke the handle on it and had to spend a good five minutes swearingly picking everything up off the floor.

This is All Good. Very good in fact. Problem is, it's too good. I'm now at the point where I have more stuff waiting to be made than I have time for, around my Real Work. Sitting in the broken-handled box are, variously, Superman, Batman, Alice in Wonderland, 1950's housewives, owls, skulls, dinosaurs and more. All in fabric form, I might add. Otherwise it would be no wonder at all that the box broke. Plus I reckon Batman and the dinosaurs would have had an awesome fight. Superman wouldn't have got involved though because he'd be all 'ooh, no, don't touch the stegosaurus, it's endangered', and Alice would be sharing pineapple upside-down cake recipes with the housewives and the owls would be standing in the corner with the skulls talking about how Superman is such a girl scout.

Where was I?

Oh yes, rambling, that's right. Aaaanyway, my point is, now I'm all discontented-like. And devising Life Plans. My life plans mostly involve the SO win the lottery so that I can stay at home all day making Stuff out of Things. Even though I actually quite like my job - I work for an ace company and all, but here's the thing:

There is so much Stuff in the world and so many Things I want to make out of it. Not just sewing - rediscovering my crafty side has made me want to take up drawing and painting again for the first time since school, and learn how to bind books, and finally find out what scrapbooking is all about. But I have no time to do all these lovely things in because I have to earn stupid old money to buy stupid food and pay stupid rent. *kicks imaginary stones with trainers in stroppy manner*

Sigh. Ah well, one step at a time. Maybe one day I will be big and brave and clever enough to be able to make a few more pennies from my makings and Lemur Lady will be known around the world as a purveyor of awesomeness and I will only be able to go out in dark glasses and that will not just be because I am always hungover like it is now but also because I am so very very rich and famous and followed everywhere by paperazzi from the Crafting Times and suchlike.

But since that hasn't happened yet, I guess I'd best go to bed. Work in the morning, see.


Tuesday, 7 June 2011

But seriously: in praise of handmade

Even cooler in real life.
I have just got back from work to find an exciting looking padded envelope on the doormat with my name on. Seriously, is there any more glorious feeling in the world than that of the padded envelope discovery? Unless you work at a postal depot, I suppose, and it smells faintly of anthrax. But I don't, and it didn't. What my envelope of joy contained was a lovely new necklace that I had bought myself from Flame Haired Jewellery Designs on Folksy. Isn't it awesome?

This got me to thinking. When I started selling my wares on Folksy, I got varied reactions. One of these was a skepticism that my particular brand of gothy/kitschy/irreverent oddness would have any sort of market on there. The name 'Folksy', to the uninitiated, often seems to conjure up images of beardy folk art, hippies selling crocheted lentil-warmers, or at best piles of chintz and gingham. 

Not that there's anything wrong with chintz and gingham - it's just not my thing. And not the 'thing' of a lot of people I know. If you want flowers, patchwork, quilts and teacosies Folksy has them in abundance and hurrah for that, but here's the thing - that's really not the be-all and end-all of handmade. 

Handmade can (and often is) cool, funky and trendsetting (ugh, what a horrible word). The only old-fashioned thing that is pretty much guaranteed to come with a purchase from a crafter is the nice glow of knowing that you've given your hard-earned cash to someone who deserves it, in return for a one-off item that is more often than not better than anything you could get in the shops. Take my necklace - I messaged the seller (Hazel, by the way - how often do you know the first name of the person you buy your jewellery from?) on Thursday asking whether she could perhaps shorten the necklace for me. She did this on Saturday, posted it on Monday, and I got in on Tuesday. All that for less than fifteen quid including postage. Try and get that sort of service and quality on the high street.

I'll climb down from my soapbox now and leave you with just some of the other items I've bought from Folksy in the last few months. Proof that handmade isn't all for yoghurt knitters and tree huggers:

 Godzilla greetings card from Little Black Heart
 Straightjacketed zombie embroidered notebook from FionaT (sister of Little Black Heart - too much talent in one family if you ask me).

Oatmeal, honey and milk soap from Scrub Up Lovely. I've become a bit addicted to handmade soap recently. There is a Soap Mountain building in my bathroom. But that's another story.
 Plantable birthday card from Arbee Cards. It has seeds embedded in the paper. I know, right?!
 Marmite and Toast Necklace from Little Red Star. Bought for a Marmite loving friend of mine. Vera, you know who you are...

And you can even buy presents for your furry friends! This splendid tigerprint breakaway cat collar came from Mogs Togs.

Friday, 20 May 2011

In which I say something nice about a tent. For the first time ever.

OK, this is the tiniest, pointlessest (I started that word and was damn well going to find a way to finish it), blog post ever but I had to share this and a Facebook link just wasn't enough.

I hate camping. I hate the smell of the tent. I hate the soggy grass. I hate the fact that no matter how much horrible canvasy plasticy sheeting crap you have on the floor there will STILL be a puddle of rainwater in the morning exactly where you put your clothes from the night before (even if it hasn't rained). I hate stupid not-really-working camping stoves. I hate the enforced jollity and the fact that someone will always bring a guitar. I hate being cold (and it is always cold when camping, even if you wear your fleeciest Where The Wild Things Are pyjamas and zip the sleeping bag over your head). I hate having to trek across a dark field full of possibly-shagging-weirdos to the communal toilet (if there is one), and unzipping all the arctic gear just to have a pee.

Camping, basically, makes me want to cry.

So I will never buy a tent. BUT. If if ever had to - like I was suddenly rendered homeless in the event of a Mad Max style apocalypse and everyone was being killed off by a toxin that was stopped only by the barrier of canvas and I had already eaten my cats to survive and there was absolutely no choice – I would buy this one. Because even though it is a tent, it is awesome.

That is all.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Off piste.

I promise both myself and my house look less moody than this in real life...
One of the - admittedly extremely few - drawbacks to my newfound and still quite baffling mild success at making stuff and selling it is the fact that I can't keep any of it myself. I'd love a skull handbag, or a Viewmaster Cushion, but if I just hoard everything I will a) never get any money for it and be back at square one and b) have a house even more full of mismatched cushions and handbags I don't really need. Not that there's anything wrong with having loads of handbags. Really. In fact, everyone should have at least a dozen handbags. And they should buy them all from me. Ahem.

Sometimes though, I come across something that's just so god-damned amazeballs that to see it go to someone else would just make me weep. Such as the truly epic Robert Kaufman horror movie material I bought last week. Normally I tend to buy fat quarters and half metres of fabric, but this time I new it would be so cool I had to buy a full metre (I know, easy tiger). And then when it arrived, I couldn't bear the idea of chopping it up and selling it on.

So. A metre of fabric, covered in awesome Hammer horror monsters. Frankly, I was happy just to wrap it around myself like a blanket and sleep under it, but I knew that it needed to be seen by the wide world. So I decided to make a dress.

I've only ever made one dress before, and that was a fiendishly complicated 1950's job, which turned out OK (against all odds), but was entirely pattern based. This time I decided to fly solo.

How hard can it be?

Well, not very, it appears. Even I managed it. I folded it in half, sewed it together up the side, and put a length of elastic at the top to hold it up. So far, so good. Then for a waist, another length of elastic, this time sewn straight onto the back of the fabric with a zigzag stitch. I have no idea if this is how you are meant to do it, but it seemed to work. A hem at the bottom (courtesy of my eternally patient Significant Otter who pinned it up while I stood on a chair and made picky comments), and ta da! A tube dress is born!

I love these so much they have their own shelf. One day I may get them a spotlight.

It needed a belt to hide the fact that it is, basically, a sack, but I'm still pretty chuffed. I added a couple of straps to make a tie-up halterneck just in case the elastic were to give way under the enormous weight of my heaving bosoms (yeah, whatever). 

And the best thing? For the first time ever, I have an entirely co-ordinated skirt and shoe ensemble. I know! I'm a proper grown up!

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

In which I very nearly begin to act like an actual grown up but get distracted by furniture joy

New desk, avec half-made Doctor Who cushion cover. Note Useful Pen Tray to right.

It's been a while since I last blogged (bless me internets, it has been many days since my last confession). And that is because I have been terribly busy building my All Conquering Sewing Empire.

My little virtual shop has become a doorway to a veritable virtual world - a new, bright, shining, slightly geeky world of Folksy forums, Facebook business pages and, let's face it, a lot of sewing.

So much sewing in fact, that my Significant Otter decided that he had had enough of carting the kitchen table the length of the flat to the living room, where I can sew in the light of the massive windows (they of the legendary curtains), and, more importantly, in the light of the television.

So he trollied off to the Oxfam and bought me my Very Own Desk. I can't begin to explain how terrifically exciting and important this is. Right now I am typing this on a laptop, on my very own desk, with my very own ANGLEPOISE DESKLAMP. Imagine! This is what proper grown ups do when they work at home. I've got a cutting board on one side - which one day I will even use - and my sewing machine on the other, and a huge pile of papers in between to make me feel important, and there's still room for the laptop!
This stamp makes everything better, even filing. Thanks skullandcrossbuns

And what's more, there's drawers. Mmmm. Storage joy. You know that lovely feeling when you get a new handbag and you allocate a whole afternoon to emptying your old one and reordering everything into all the new pockets and bits of the new one? Yes, you do. Don't pretend you don't. Well these drawers are like a humungous version of that. I don't know where to start. I've even got one of those little shallow ones at the top with the little bits in for paperclips and wotnot and I've already spent a happy half hour finding little thin things to fit in it.

Earlier this evening I even did filing. For fun. Now I have an accounts folder and a desk. I've got to get a swivelly chair and then I'm pretty sure the next stop is total domination of the world of business.

Must go. I've just realised that I can fit all my bobbins in the pen tray.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Playing at Post Offices

Right at the beginning of this blog I said "I'm not Etsying or Folksying". Well, that's now only half true. In a U-turn that I would compare to something to do with politics if I knew anything about politics or could be bothered to think of an example, I have given in to the capitalist machine and started to put my wares up for sale.

This partly came from the fact that, as mentioned in my earlier post, I can't stop buying pretty fabrics and making stuff from them. After a while, this becomes unsustainable. That's just maths. Having had some nice feedback from a few friends who have received items of mine as gifts, I was finally convinced that maybe I could try and recoup some of my outlay by garnering a few pennies from the paying public.

Also, I've always wanted my own shop. Like Emily in Bagpuss. Damn I hated that smug little bint. How did she even get a shop? How was she paying the business rates? What, if anything, did she ever sell? I digress.

Actually, there was a time before I wanted my own shop. When I was very little my mum had a friend who worked in Debenhams and I thought that was the most impossibly glamorous thing in the world. Debenhams smelled of perfume and the leather from new handbags, and everyone had to wear a silk scarf as part of their uniform and use tills with an immense and unfathomable amount of buttons that were incomprehensibly exciting to a small proto-nerd like me. When I grew up, I wanted to work in Debenhams.

A thing. From my shop. Maybe someone will buy the thing.
Sadly Debenhams isn't like Grace Brothers any more and the excitement of the till system has waned, but I still have a deep-rooted sense of unfulfilment that I never got my own shop. I want a tea-and-gift shop, where I would sell all sorts of wonderful kitschy things and serve tea from real china and have book clubs on Thursday afternoons and go next door to the bookshop every day for long liquid lunches with my friends Bernard and Manny and develop a new laugh with a turn and I'd be a summer girl.

But since apparently I can't live in an episode of Black Books I'm doing the next best thing for now.

Because I am an expert in digital marketing and computermabobs, I have managed to get a clicky box thing on the right of this page to link to my little shop.

It's called 'Lemur Lady's Awesome Emporium'. Because I like things that are awesome and I also like saying the word 'Emporium'. That's the sort of sound business judgement that will make my tea shop a success. One day.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Insert 'it's curtains for you' pun here.

A few people (who are either kind, or mad, or both), have asked me why I haven't written anything for a while. The answer is that I haven't done anything worth writing about. If I'm honest, I have spent most of my recent free time watching a lot of The X Files.

The SO and I decided to re-watch the whole nine series and two films of this landmark of 1990's sci-fi in order, from the beginning. This was nearly two-and-a-half years ago, so a large proportion of our own relationship has panned out against the backdrop of Mulder and Scully's adventures. Together we have enjoyed the heady, hopeful early days of seasons one and two, when the monsters were plentiful and Scully's hair was big, helped each other through the dark times of the baffling government conspiracy mire that marked four and five, and struggled into the light of season six, when it got good again all too briefly before plunging back into the confusion of season seven, as Duchovny left to embark on his glittering Hollywood career (how's that working out for you, Duchovny? DUCHOVNY!!). We're now halfway through season eight, getting fed up with Scully's pregnancy and wishing Mulder would return and bring the spark back. (I realise the relationship metaphor got lost somewhere along the way there, which is probably no bad thing).

So what with all the ups and downs of that, I've not been up to much.

 It's sort of difficult to get an interesting picture of curtains, but here they are.
I did make some curtains. Let this be a warning to you from someone who has been there and survived - don't do it. 'How hard can it be?', thought I 'they're basically squares'. (Everything is basically squares when you come down to it, I've found. Scale that up and you can make anything. 'Taj Mahal? Yeah mate, piece of piss. It's basically squares, innit?').

So with 15 metres of Ikea's finest material staring at me, I set off to make six curtains for our unnecessarily big lounge windows (we had wooden blinds, which the cats had recently discovered could be used as rope ladders to swing on while re-enacting the Pirates of The Caribbean for the benefit of passers by. At least I presume that's what they were doing, nothing else would explain the destruction they had managed to wreak). After cutting, hemming and ironing one, I started to get bored. After three, I lost the will to live. And by the time I got to number six all that was keeping me from tears was the sheer grim determination of a woman possessed and the promise of a gin and tonic at the end of it all.

Apart from all the hemming and ironing, and the patience of a particularly patient saint, you also need a large area of floor to lay it all out on. I have a large area of floor, but it is generally full of cats. So extra time needs to be added for shooing the cats away, hoovering the floor, cutting the material, shooing the cats away again, retrieving your tailor's chalk that they have decided to take with them for a snack, then hoovering the finished curtain again because despite all your care they have still managed to somehow will their fur onto it from another room.

Still. They're up now and seem to have turned out OK. They're pretty much curtain shaped and the right way up. I'm nursing a mild hangover as I write this and they are doing a good job of preventing the sun's evil rays from burning into my retinas so they fulfil their primary objective.

Now. More X Files. Come on Agent Doggett, Scully's up the duff and Mulder's still gone, it's just you and me now.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

my name is lemurlady and i am addicted to pretty patterns

Since my first tentative forays into sewing only a few short months ago, I have developed a problem. It's not recognised by the NHS and as far as I know there aren't any treatments available, but it is becoming a serious concern.

I am addicted to shopping for pretty fabric.

It all started with the awesome dino-fabric, then I moved on to the harder stuff - woodland animals, skulls, retro 50's prints....I don't know where it will end.

Websites such as (which sounds like it should be a source of help, but only feeds my addiction), are like catnip to me. I trawl through the pages and just need to own the stoned owl print, or the psychedelic butterflies, or that autumn leaf pattern that looks oh-so-temptingly like the sort of thing they printed on dinnerware in the 1970s. Must own!

Problem is, there's only so many cushion covers and bags I actually need, and only so many polite friends offering to take them off my hands. But I can't stop, not while there's still robot fabric I don't own (oh bugger, I was only joking then, but now I really want it. Argh).

Still. I have made use of some of it. I made this bag from some fabby voodoo-skull cotton, and luckily a friend has very kindly accepted it as a present and appears to be very happy with it, so at least I'm sharing the love (and the awesome skull print).

I've got another one of these on the go, with the same pattern but with a white background to the skulls and black canvas.

For something nice and mindless to do this evening, I decided to whip up a cushion cover from a woodland animal print I'm particularly fond of. The plain brown back has a pillowcase-style opening so it can be taken on and off (much easier than zips and none of that zip-imprint on your face when you get drunk and pass out on it. Don't pretend you don't know what I mean). It matches nothing in my house but frankly when you've got cartoon mooses colour co-ordination becomes redundant. I'm especially enamoured of the bear that looks like he's just remembered he left the gas on in his bear-house.

I made the pattern up as I went along and I'm pretty pleased with it (yes, I know it is essentially just a square but humour me, I'm only a beginner. There was a lot of measuring, honest).

So. If you need any cushion covers or small satchel-like handbags let me know. Might I suggest something with robots?

Friday, 25 February 2011

To whoever stole my bike this evening

I hope you need it more than me.

Which is highly unlikely, actually, since you are a thieving little scrotum who will probably either a) ride it about for a bit performing shitty little wheelies to impress your pram-pushing girlfriends and their velour-wearing friends before dumping it to rust in a hedge where it's no good to anyone or b) sell it on for barely any money as it was only worth £300 new a year ago.

I, however, needed that bike to get to work and back, a concept that is probably as alien to your workshy little brain as nuclear physics or clothing without writing on it. I've just spent a fortune on car insurance, the equivalent of the national debt of Bolivia on healing my sick cat, and am supposed to be saving for a wedding so another £300 on a new bike to get to work in order to earn money to pay for it is really not what I need right now. So thanks for that. I also don't give a monkey's toss if any of the above sounds terribly middle class, I'd rather be middle class than a scum-sucking invertebrate like you.

Yours, hoping you get run over by a bus, but not while riding my bike because it doesn't deserve that,


PS The first gear ratio doesn't work. I hope you find that out at the bottom of a really big fucking hill.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Messy are the Cheesemakers

Someone else's halloumi. Not my halloumi, as I ate it all before remembering to take a photo.

This week I made my first foray into the mysterious world of cheesemaking. I always assumed this was very complex and involved huge amounts of equipment, white coats, stainless steel vats, and temperature monitoring to rival NASA. But then I realised, hang on, much like yoghurt, cheese is just gone-off-milk, and that is something I acquire regularly in my house without even trying. So I decided to have a go.

I started simple, with halloumi.

Squeaky Cheese (as it is correctly known), should really be made with sheep or goats' milk, however since the former is tricky to get in West Norwood and the latter is horrible, I went with full fat cow juice.

First, you throw all the milk in a pan (I used 4 pints, as any less isn't really worth the bother) and heat it gently to 35C. The fishtank thermometer finally earned its keep here, but to be honest it's really just blood temperature, so if you put a finger in and you can't feel hot or cold, that's about right.

Then drop in some rennet, according to the instructions on the packet. The Vegeren that I had only had a recipe for junket, and I was using four times the amount of milk specified for that recipe, and wanted cheese, not junket (has anyone even eaten that since 1957 anyway?), so I just guessed and sloshed in four-and-a-bit times as much. I also left out the strawberry flavouring.

Put the lid on the pan and wait for half an hour or so, poking it intermittently to see if anything's happening. Just as you start to despair, the milk will separate into curds and whey. I didn't take a picture as, frankly, it looks dishearteningly like baby sick at this point. You then pour the whole lot into a big sheet of muslin. Then - if you're me - you must stand there while you realise that you don't have any string within reach and thusly no way of hanging it up without making an unholy mess.

Make an unholy mess.

Return with string taken from an old gift bag (I knew there was a reason we were keeping those), tie the muslin parcel up and hang it from a cupboard door over the pan for 24 hours.

Meanwhile, take a pint or so of the whey that drips from the muslin and put it in the fridge with 2 or 3 teaspoons of salt in it.

Stay awake most of the night waiting for the splash that means that the gift-bag string has snapped and the whole proto-cheesy abomination has fallen off and covered the kitchen in sour milk.

The next day - assuming the last bit didn't happen - unwrap the muslin to reveal what is now mozzarella-textured, white cheese. It tastes quite nice - not 'cheesy' as such but sort of creamy and bland. It is essentially paneer at this point; the last stage is what makes it Squeaky Cheese.

Put the pan - with the whey that drained out of the cheese in the night - back on the heat and bring to the boil. Carefully place slices of the cheese into the whey and boil gently for about 20-30 minutes. It won't look or feel much different when it comes out, but once it's cooled, put it in a sealed container and cover with the brine you made the day before. After a few hours - presto! Squeaky Cheese! The four pints of milk made the equivalent of about two packs of the commercial stuff.

It gets saltier and more halloumi-eqsue the longer it is left in the brine, and apparently will keep for a good couple of weeks. I've had it 5 days so far and it's tasting yummy.

Now at least if I ever meet Alex from Blur I'll have something to talk about.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Winning Masterchef does not give you the right to confuse me with spoons, Thomasina Myers.

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day, so my Significant Otter and I dragged our arses away from the X Files for an evening and went out for Romance. We’re pretty good at Romance. We have it down to a tee. It usually goes something like this:
ME: Oh. You ate half my waffle.
HIM: Yes, but I didn’t eat all of it. ROMANCE!
It’s like being in a Richard Curtis movie sometimes.
So, last night we went out to see The Princess Bride at the Prince Charles Cinema (which is ace, if you haven’t been there, go. They’re showing Flashdance on 4th March. Go then. ).
But before that we went to Wahaca in Soho for some Mexican food.
Wahaca is weird. In many ways.
The food is good. There’s nothing wrong with the food. But...well....
When you get there, they ask you if you have been there before. DO NOT SAY NO. If you say no, this happens:
“Welcome to Wahaca. My name is Meg” [writes ‘Meg’ in big letters on your paper menu thing, in case you forget, or wondered how it was spelled]
"This is the menu. This ‘Drinks and Nibbles’ section has all our drinks and nibbles. The main courses are here, where it says ‘Mains’, and sides are over here. Under ‘sides’....” This goes on for about 5 minutes.
I’ve never understood places that do this. "Ah, you’ve never been here before? Then you must be completely unaware of the concept of a menu, here’s how it works..."
Later, she brings some salsa to the table. “This is salsa. It goes with your food.” Does it? Good. Glad you pointed that out, I was just about to pour it into my beer. “This sauce is HOT. Don’t eat this one unless you like HOT sauce because it is HOT”.
Oh good. I’m glad you flagged that up:

For pudding I had cheesecake with hibiscus syrup. They love hibiscus at Wahaca, it’s in everything. They also put hibiscus flowers on top of everything, even though, unless they’re opening elegantly in the bottom of a champagne glass, they actually look like some sort of dried insect made of suede. The SO had ‘Flan de Casa’ (crème caramel, to you. Cold custard, to me).
All very nice indeed.
BUT. They make you eat it with a bright pink plastic baby spoon. I kid you not, look:

It’s not even got a concave bowl. It’s basically a spatula. A pink plastic spatula. You try eating crème caramel with a spatula. It’s not easy. It is very funny, but it’s not easy. For a moment I wondered whether the waitress had just seen my dinosaur bag and made a judgement call on my mental capacity but no, everyone else was using toddler cutlery too.
And then there’s the toilets.
To start with, the entire wall into the toilets is glass. I hate glass walls in pubs and restaurants. Mostly because when I am in these establishments I am likely to be drunk for at least a portion of the evening. The drunken fly-against-a-window dance is not a good look.
Anyway, once you get in there are four doors with a picture of a woman on (fine), and three with a picture of a man (we understand this). Then there is one with a picture of a woman dragging a man by his tie. I mean, what? You’re with me, right? Is this the shagging loo? Don’t get it.
There’s also a MASSIVE tiled arrangement in the middle of the room that could be a) a sink, b) a urinal or c) the Diana Memorial Fountain. At least two of these things should never be confused with each other.
So, yeah. Wahaca is just plain odd. Or possibly I'm not hip enough to understand it.
The Princess Bride was ace though.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Bag Lady

A while back I got some very cool fabric with dinosaurs on it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with it, other than make everything out of it because all things are made at least 350% better with the addition of dinosaurs. Science fact.

I finally decided to start off with a bag. I cycle to work, lugging everything there and back in very uncool panniers. This means that at lunchtime, if I want to pop out to take advantage of the vast array of high-end shops on Clapham High Street (ok, Neros and Boots), I have no handbag and have to wedge all my stuff in my pockets. With this in mind, today I embarked on my first bagmaking project, using the dinosaur print and some canvas to make a basic satchel, with pockets for my phone, Oyster card, and MP3 player, and a big main section the right size to take a book. Everything I might need for my lunchtime adentures, and all in a bag that can fold up tiny and light and stick in the pocket of my panniers. Yes, I am this sad.

I also made a little purse out of some dinosaur scraps. Scraps of dinosaur fabric, that is, not discarded scales.

Surprisingly, they actually turned out not too bad. Hurray for dinosaurs!

Saturday, 12 February 2011

I believe in the Baby Cheeses

This post was originally going to be titled 'Whey-hey!'. Be thankful for small mercies.

Another dairy success today, this time in the form of some lovely yoghurt cheese, made simply by leaving the raw yoghurt in a muslin to drain for 24 hours. An entire litre of milk drained down to make about 500g of pure white, creamy yumminess:

It looked a but like mozzarella but is actually more like the texture of Philadelphia. Not being a 'true' cheese, it doesn't taste particularly..well..cheesy, but rather has a very fresh, clean creamy taste that could swing towards either sweet or savoury depending on what you put on it. A bit like creme fraiche.

So another successful addition to the list of 'things I shall no longer hand over my hard-earned to Mr Supermarket for' - cream cheese. In your FACE, Sainsbury's. (I choose to tactfully overlook the several extra gallons of milk I'm buying from them per week).

'But', I hear you cry (if I listen very carefully), 'if one litre of milk went into this and a mere tiny pot of cream cheese came out, what happened to the rest of the milk? By what alchemy is it disappeared?'.

What a good question. I'm glad you've been paying attention.

This process resulted in over a pint of 'leftover' whey. This stuff may look like a sample taken from someone who has been told by their doctor to start ringing round all their past partners, but it's actually full of goodness.

Whey is about 25% protein (apparently), and is the same stuff that is dried and powdered to make those very expensive (and a bit gay), bodybuilding shake things. It basically contains most of the goodness and vitamins of the raw milk, but with the fat taken out. If it weren't for the fact that the term is entirely made up by pretend doctors, I would call it a Superfood.

So, waste not want not. A quick trawl of the interwebs confirms that this unicorn nectar can be used in place of milk or buttermilk in baking. An idea was born. And it was a good one.

'Buttermilk' Cinnamon Scones

What you put in
8 oz self-raising flour
1.5 oz butter
1.5 oz sugar
5fl oz whey
1 tsp cinnamon
Pinch salt

What you do with it
Rub the butter into the flour till it resembles breadcrumbs.
Stir in the sugar, salt and cinnamon
Mix in the whey and draw together to form a soft dough. (This is a tried and tested scone recipe I always use - if you don't have whey or buttermilk you can just use the same amount of regular milk).
Roll out to 2cm thick and cut with a small cookie cutter. Tip - when cutting scones out, never twist the cookie cutter. It'll make the scone rise unevenly.
Bake for 12 minutes at 220C.

What you get
12 very tasty scones, and burnt fingers from being too impatient to cut them open and try them. An interesting side effect of using whey instead of milk was that they didn't come out as white as they normally would, instead they were a pleasing wholemealy colour which made them look healthy even though they certainly didn't taste it (something all food should aspire to, if you ask me).

I ate mine with a dollop of the yoghurt cheese, some of my good friend Warmbreadandhoney's delicious homemade orange, vanilla and honey marmalade, and a generous sprinkling of satisfaction at having created such a delicious monster.

Plus, everyone knows that homemade food has no calories, so everyone's a winner.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Busy Busy Busy

As is pretty self-evident, I haven't posted anything for the last few days. This is not because the yoghurt was so monumentally, overawingly exciting that I had to lay down in a darkened room before my next project (although, blimey, it was bloody terrific), but because it's awfully busy being me, sometimes.

I mean, you may think you have a hectic life, but right now, these are just some of the things on my 'To Do' list. I have to prioritise them otherwise I don't know where I'd be:

Short term:
  • Finish this can of Shandy Bass (we had a bit of a retro moment in Sainsbury's last week. To save you your own 49p, it's not as good as it was when you were ten. Don't bother).
  • Remover tht cat from teh kuyboard,
Medium term
  • Crochet Boba Fett amigurumi doll.
  • Become so pleased with Boba Fett doll that I have to immediately start on the rest of the Star Wars characters.
  • Make matching shopping bag, make up bag and coin purse out of newly acquired canvas and dinosaur fabric (really quite excited about this one. My mum always said that proper ladies have coordinated bags and purses. I can't wait to be a proper lady. I wonder what it's like? I've got a Cath Kidston biscuit tin now so I'm already nearly there. I bet it's brilliant.)
  • Tomorrow morning - check to see whether yoghurt draining in fridge has successfully turned into soft cheese.
  • Make scones out of whey from yoghurt/cheese creation.
  • Investigate making halloumi with newly acquired bottle of rennet.
  • Finish reading Queen Victoria: Demon Hunter
Long Term
  • Make a LOT of bunting for wedding reception.
  • Get married.
  • Knit second elbow-length batgirl glove to go with the one I finished in November then got bored with.
  • Polish the stair rods, tumble dry our doilies, hoover the roof and whistle down the chimneys.
Having looked at the above:
  • Get out more.
See? You thought you had problems.

Although to prove how ultra-efficient I am, I've just completed both of my short-term goals in the time it took to type the rest. I should be a life coach.

I plan to start on some of the others tomorrow. Right now, I'm all crafted-out. I'm off to watch My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding with the cats. Don't judge me.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Yoghurt Win

I doubt anybody out there got a wink of sleep last night, what with tossing and turning all night wondering whether my yoghurt had successfully yogged. I know I didn't.

Well, this morning I bounded into the kitchen (I blatantly didn't bound. It was 8am.), and peeked into the Thermos. Lo and behold, all that friendly bacteria had spent the night busily growing, breeding, building tiny cities, inventing religions, creating rudimentary systems of economy, fighting wars - and in the process turned my boring old pot of cow juice into delicious, creamy yoghurt.

It was just the right consistency, smooth and spoonable and actually tasted better than the poncy Yeo Valley Organic stuff I'd used as a starter.


Now, a less adventurous sort would stop there. Not me. Oh no. I decided to take the process one step further. I know. I live life on the edge. Stop reading now if the excitement is getting too much.

I decanted half of my yoghurty winnings into a pot to have as it is. The other half I put through a muslin cloth and left to strain while I went out for a few hours, thusly:

(I have included the above picture as it makes me look like a proper cook who actually has things like muslin, sieves, and ambient yet sensual kitchen lighting).

 When I returned I had - ta da! Greek Yoghurt! Well, Greek style I guess - I should clarify that before herds of irate Hellenic types start pelting me with olives.

It really is as yummy as the expensive stuff from the supermarket - if not more so. I've mixed mine with honey and it is divine. It'll be lucky to last till morning.

Here are the yoghurt babies:

The one on the right is not half eaten. That is how much Greek yoghurt you get from the same amount of ordinary yoghurt. The other 50% is whey. I've heard that you can use this in place of milk in scones or bread, but that's an experiment for another time.

Here's the thing. This was probably the easiest bit of 'cooking' I've ever done. All I did was make milk hot, let it get a bit cooler, then leave it for a number of hours. Bit it's funny how the simplest things are the most rewarding. Look at that warm snuggly feeling you get from baking bread, for instance. Making something very basic out of other, even more basic things. It's brilliant, like magic.

I think everyone should knit their own yoghurt. Dairy alchemy: it's the way forward.

EDIT: Things I learned about yoghurt knitting
  • Fishtank thermometers only go up to 40 degrees and are thusly useless for yoghurt knitting, which is an oversight on the part of the manufacturers, in my opinion. 50 degrees can be measured by sticking a clean finger in the milk. If you can hold it in there for about 10-15 seconds before it gets to the 'Ow, that's quite painfully hot now' stage, it's about right.
  • The milk powder addition is essential if you want a nice thick yoghurt.
  • The whole 'skipping gaily downstairs to have fresh yoghurt for breakfast' thing doesn't work. When you open the Thermos, the yoghurt will still be warm. Warm yoghurt is rank. Science fact. Put it in the fridge and have it tomorrow.
  • I still don't know how you're really meant to spell yoghurt. Does it even have an 'h'?

Monday, 7 February 2011

In which I knit my own yoghurt

When I was little my mum had a Bel Yoghurt maker. Once every six months or so this contraption would come out of the cupboard and it would be time for the trek to the health food shop to get a precious pot of live yoghurt as a starter. This was before bacteria was friendly, when 'live' yoghurt was the preserve of the hippies and spoon benders and would more often than not be made of goats milk.

What happened then is all a bit hazy. I seem to remember that she put the scary bacteria-infested yoghurt into the big white pot, added some milk (full fat was allowed in the house for only this purpose), and three weeks later I would be made to eat some revolting sour white goop that tasted nothing like Petit Filous. Child Poison.

Now that I am a grown up, I have forgiven natural yoghurt its sins and come to quite like it. I've also found out that the Bel Yoghurt maker was actually just a thermos flask with a thermometer hooked on the side.

So - my next project. I shall turn this unassuming pile of ingredients into a whole litre of delicious yoghurt. Yes, I know nobody needs a whole litre of yoghurt. But that's how much my thermos holds, so that's how much I'm getting.

What you put in

A litre (or so) of milk. I'm using half full fat and half skimmed, because that's what I have. Yes, our milk is in a jug. This is not because we are a family from a breakfast cereal advert, but because in an effort to be economical we use those 'Jug It' bags of milk from Sainsbury's, and the bloody things ALWAYS burst when we try to put them in the proper juggy thing. Anyway, that's a rant for another day.

A small pot of live yoghurt (you can get this in the supermarket now. I know, how progressive!)

A spoonful of powdered milk (this thickens it a bit, apparently)

What you do with it

Bring the milk to the boil. This evicts all the bad bacteria, making space for the good ones (or something)

Let it cool to 50C. You need a thermometer for this, ideally. I don't have one but have just remembered that there's one in the fish tank. Hmmm....

Add about a dessertspoonful of the live yoghurt to the milk and mix it in, trying not to lose too much heat.

Pour the lot into a wide-necked thermos and put in a warm place overnight.

Skip gaily down the stairs to the kitchen for breakfast, secure in the knowledge that the dairy alchemy has worked and you have outwitted the supermarkets yet again.

Pretend you like it because it's healthy. Then mix in loads of Nutella when nobody's looking.

Now, I've never done this before, but yoghurt is just gone-off milk with style, surely?

How hard can it be?

Off to make it now. I shall report back tomorrow....