Sunday, February 28, 2010

This weekend

This weekend the British forces Animal Rehoming Centre near us held a clean-up morning. One way or another we are becoming quite involved with BARC. Our neighbour Laura works there, Jim has just taken on a role as vice-chair of the committee, and of course it's where Bella came from.

So we spent Saturday morning doing a very small part and helping out with the clean-up. I was assigned the job of painting part of the cattery and befriended a lovely cat called Trio, who helpfully decided to sit on me whilst I was doing the painting.

A visit to BARC also provides the opportunity to stock on some home made jam which is sold to raise funds.

Presentation really is everything isn't it? I love the label on this and its little fabric hat. I should also give a nod to my wonderful 'Nifty Fifty' Canon lens which I used to take this photo. I confess I had it for many months without fully grasping its capabilities, but now I have been introduced to the finer points of bokeh, it has turned into an essential bit of kit.

I also had a craft swap this weekend. The aforementioned Laura took a shine to my cushions last weekend, so we struck a deal, she got her own...

And in return I got one of Laura's lovely mosaic pieces...

I only realised after we did the swap just how appropriate it was to swap patchwork for mosaic, both of them being the art of reusing leftovers to create a new piece.

Friday, February 26, 2010

It rained...

We have had rain at last. So all the desert dust that was hanging around in the atmosphere is now streaked down our windows and splattered all over my car - but at least we can breathe safely again!

The dogs are not enjoying the wind and rain though. Macy was sulking at the top of the stairs this morning. Although I think maybe she was just guarding the upstairs from the Little Dog and Oscar the Pointer who is staying with us for a week. They have been running round like maniacs, and Macy doesn't always approve.

This photo also shows off our nasty army issue carpet. It comes in 4 colours. Depending on the quarter you are allocated you either get beige, blue, green or terracotta. I dream of getting the beige one day... Well actually I dream of a life entirely devoid of carpets - but that's a long way off, the army are obsessed with it - So for now I just dream of having a colour that vaguely matches the mud the dogs bring in from the garden.

This weekend I need to crack on with some sewing. Do you remember the springtime colours? Those squares of fabric are taking shape as my first snowball quilt. I need to get it finished soon because the next project is my parents quilt and I have just 4 weeks to complete it before I go back to the UK for Easter. I am also doing a craft swap with my neighbour Laura, she's taken a shine to the cushions I made last weekend... why are there always more projects than time?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Falklands

A place very close to my heart has been back in the headlines again this week. A British company is drilling for oil off the Falkland Islands, and the Argentines have once again claimed sovereignty.

When the Falklands first hit the headlines in 1982, families across Britain had to get their atlases out to work out where this British overseas territory was. In the three decades that have passed, a whole new generation has grown up unaware of where these astonishing islands are, but there's a very good reason why I am not one of them...

Four years ago next month, I was sent to the Falklands on a six month detachment with BFBS. I was fresh off civvie street, I'd never worked with the military and I'd never been that far south. I boarded the 16 hour flight from RAF Brize Norton with a great deal of trepidation.

What I found was a beautiful unspoiled wilderness with the most stunning beaches in the world, a welcoming local population and the most incredible wildlife.

Yes, it is cold (sadly it'll never be warm enough to properly sunbathe on those perfect beaches) but it can also be bright and sunny - When I arrived in March, the end of the Falklands summer,  it was 20c.

Of course there is another reason the Falklands are so special to me. A few weeks into my stay there I met my husband, Jim.  We had gone to school in the same county, but had to travel 8,000 miles from home to meet each other.

As the debate over sovereignty rumbles on, they'll be many who question why Britain continues to exert its claim on the Falklands, and others who remember 1982 and will be quick to drag out old cliches about the "barren windswept islands."

Frustratingly, there will also be repeated errors by journalists who insist on calling the capital "Port" Stanley (one error, by one journalist, repeated a thousand times) and there will be many who fail to understand that there is not one island, or two, but in fact an astonishing 778, that make up this South Atlantic archipelago.

If you find you are part of one of these conversations, you can now say that you know a girl who thinks the Falkland Islands are one of the most magical places in the world, and desperately wishes she'd bought an SLR camera, and taken more photos to prove it...

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A busy weekend...

This weekend I made cushions. The first one on Saturday, the second one on Sunday. In between I spoke to my mum and told her what I was working on. She said "Did you back the front and put a zip in?" and instantly I regretted short-cutting. So I made the second one today with backing and a zip.  I now have a pair of subtly non-identical cushions. One with a mother's influence, one without.

We also had another gift of lemons, some as big as grapefruit and all with stalks and leaves attached; beautifully fresh. Jim came home from work on Friday with a carrier bag straining under their weight and a freshly printed recipe for lemon cake...

It was delicious.

The best lemon-related idea I could suggest was more lemonade... We're are drowning under the stuff. A bottle will accompany each of us to our workplaces tomorrow...

And of course, we took the dogs for a couple of long walks. In Cyprus, dogs are banned from beaches, but each municipality is legally required to designate a dog friendly beach in their area. Although this has been a legal obligation since 2003, only one local council (Ayia Napa) has actually nominated a beach.

So we'll keep our side of the deal, when they keep theirs....

Call in back for the competition winner tomorrow night...

Friday, February 19, 2010

Waiting for rain...

It's not all sunshine and lemons in Cyprus you know...

A huge cloud of African dust is currently hanging over the whole island, swept here by a winds and a low pressure system over Morocco, and now just hanging around waiting for rain to bat it out of the atmosphere.

The dust concentration in the atmosphere is apparently over 4 times the safe amount, which is providing the Cypriot newspaper with plenty of material for horror stories about the potential dangers to health.

Light rain is forecast on Sunday, which will clear things up, but which will also mean that all the dust currently suspended in the air, will end up smeared down our windows, and all over my newly washed car... oh well.

PS - I am LOVING hearing all your Valentines stories. It seems like the stereotype of couples having a romantic restaurant meal is not true in almost all cases! Keep them coming and I'll pick a winner on Monday...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Green Monday & Shrove Tuesday

Yesterday was Green Monday in Cyprus, which is the Cypriot (and Greek) holiday for the start of Lent. It is traditional to spend the day with family outside in fields, eating shellfish and flying kites. As I drove home from work yesterday, there were barbecues taking place in orchards, cars abandoned haphazardly in the bondu, and the sky was dotted with multi-coloured kites. A wonderful relaxed family atmosphere.

Of course us Brits celebrate this holiday a day later on Shrove Tuesday, and fortunately enough, the traditional pancake feast also coincides with the citrus season in Cyprus!

The trees are absolutely heaving with lemons at the moment and Jim came back from the golf course  at the weekend with handfuls of them. The weather has been very springlike over the last few days and the lemons were actually still warm from the sun when Jim handed them over... you don't get that in Tesco!

So what do you do with lots of lemons? Well obviously some will be used for pancakes, but I've also been making lots of lemonade. I use the recipe from here.

Its an absolute doddle to make and the quantities are easy to remember. One cup of sugar and one cup of water for your syrup mix, with one cup of lemon juice and then top the bottle up with water. It takes a couple of minutes to make and tastes amazing. I really need to buy more bottles so I can start gifting it!

Also for a more grown up version, it also mixes quite nicely with a dash of vodka!

What do you like to make with lemons?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Jelly roll quilt

Third quilt of the year... Finished! This quilt was made from a Moda jellyroll that I've had sitting in my stash for far too long. It's turned out baby quilt size and to be honest, at the moment I have no idea what I'm going to do with it. I'll probably just keep it as an emergency baby gift or charity auction donation.

It's the first time I've used a jellyroll and I don't think I'll bother again, it was all a bit too "painting by numbers" for me. Personally half the appeal of quilt making is putting the fabrics together, and never being entirely sure what the end result will look like. Even though I could, of course, have done a much more complex pattern, this was still a bit too predictable for me.

Anyway, with this one out of the way, I can now crack on with a couple of projects I am itching to do! First a snowball quilt for my mum, which needs to be finished by Easter when I go back to the UK, and after that I want to make a mixed patchwork and applique quilt inspired by a design that I saw on Kirstie's Homemade Home.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Jim's banana bread

In Canada we used to get our banana fix on a Sunday morning with banana pancakes. Jim mixed mashed bananas into Aunt Jemima's pancake mix and topped it off with real Canadian maple syrup. Yum!

With no Aunt Jemima in Cyprus, we had to look for other ideas. Jim decided to try making banana bread and has been refining a recipe over the last couple of weeks. It's adapted from this one, but his new version is even better!

It's a doddle to make and tastes awesome! he's made two batches today. One for neighbours we are visiting this afternoon, and one to keep at home.

If you want to have a go, here's the recipe...

3 or 4 bananas
1/3 cup of melted unsalted butter
1/4 cup of soft brown sugar
1/2 cup of caster sugar
1 egg beaten
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of ground cinammon
Pinch of salt
1 cup of plain flour
1/2 cup of self raising flour

Optional : 3 or 4 tablespoons of chopped toasted walnuts and 1/2 cup of sultanas

Mix butter into mashed bananas, then add sugar, egg, vanilla, salt, cinammon (and sultanas and walnuts is using) sprinkle baking powder. Fold in flour. Do not over mix. Pour into a 4 x 8 inch loaf tin. Bake for one hour at 175c

Thursday, February 4, 2010


The British Forces postal service is, on the whole, a pretty wonderful thing, but it has the potential to both delight and disappoint in equal measure.

The idea behind BFPO is that you can post anything from the UK to a forces base overseas for the price of UK inland postage. This is achieved by the Royal Mail only taking the post as far as a sorting office in London, and then the military distributing it from there onwards.

The mail for Cyprus travels onwards from the UK by ship or plane depending on its weight. Small packages under 2kg get flown here and usually arrive in 4 or 5 days, bigger boxes come via regular ships which unload in the middle of the week. Any post from them usually reaches us on a Thursday, thus Thursday morning is always weighed down with expectation and Thursday afternoon is often shrouded in disappointment.

I ordered some accessories for my sewing machine and a dress (supposedly for a New Year Party!) six weeks ago and I've been on this Thursday rollercoaster for the last month, becoming ever more certain of success, and ever more disappointed as each week passes.

Still, sometimes BFPO delivers above expectations where you hold least hope. You may recall that when I signed up for my dressmaking course recently, I had to place a rush order for some Amy Butler & Anna Maria Horner fabric from the US (see above) and just ten days later it is here, having flown into the UK and out again. I also had a delivery of some customised labels from Singapore which also came via the UK and got here in two weeks.

So maybe next Thursday will be my lucky week for the sewing machine and clothes....
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