Thursday, 23 February 2017

Enjoying simple treasures

A few weeks ago, a few friends and I went to a Sue Spargo’s workshop organised by Red Thread Studio.  And what a treat it was!  Not only the workshop, but the whole trip.  We travelled to Stuart, Florida the night before and got to enjoy a great meal by the water.

I am not very familiar with Sue’s work but I had chances to admire work by one of her student.  Mary always praised Sue’s warmth, eagerness to share and I was not disappointed.

We worked on a very manageable project, a needle case.  The cover and the body are from Sue’s wool.  The kit can be found on her website (and btw, you can order it in this new aqua colour). 

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Starting with the dots on the back of the cover, we tried our needles on 8 different stitches, Sue taking time for demonstration at each table (4 of us per table).  I’m pretty sure her needle case was almost finished by the end of the day.

Sue Spargo

The front dots were worked on at home.  Changing the size of the stitches, mixing them up, trying different thread colour… It is very addictive, I just wanted to add more and more.

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If you want to know more about our day, go and visit Rene’s post.  Check her case:  it looks quite different and so cute, I love the hot pink binding she used and the extra row of flowers on the spine of her book.

Other treasures I wanted to share are my last two reads. I am having a good start of the year.  My first book is the latest John Irving, Avenue of Mysteries .  I’ve been in love with John Irving for more than 20 years (my husband knows, he introduced my to him :-).  I’ve said it in the past, but reading a book from John Irving is like meeting with good friends and family, the territory is familiar but different each time.  Same themes and similar characters and still a different story.  It is quite a slow book, not much is happening, it goes from memories of the past to dreams unless it’s the present. 

Reading wise, I also finished reading The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide.  It is a very poetic little book about a couple and the cat visiting them.  Not much is happening, just the husband and wife observing the cat, their garden.  It’s a little windows into Japanese way of life.  I really enjoyed it, and it made me want to go back to Japan.

That’s it for today, now I’m off to bed because I’m at Quiltcon tomorrow.  Getting pretty excited!

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Sunday, 12 February 2017

Trying new things and realising I’m a picky eater

It’s official, I am a picky, snob-ish eater.  Let me explain, I have been receiving offers after offers to try services like Hello Fresh or Blue Apron (no link to their website, I am not here to promote their services).  So I decided to give it a try, and selected Hello Fresh (I think the offer was better than the other service)

The registration process is super easy.  There are 3 meal plans options.  I choose the Classic Plan for 2 (there’s a Veggie plan and a Family plan too).  Once registered, again it is very easy to choose when the plan starts, to put a week on ‘pause’ and to select 3 dishes out of the 5 options.

My first box was delivered last Monday, I was not home so I was a bit anxious about how it will keep fresh (Florida’s winter is not cold).  The packaging is incredible: from the outside it looks like a normal cardboard box, but the inside is padded with thick thermo-lining and there are additional large ice-packs on the top and at the bottom.  Honestly, I think the box can stand a couple of hours outside even in Florida.

Each meal is individually packed in its own compartment and comes with its own recipe card.  The cards are double sided.  One side shows what the meal looks like once cooked, the back side is a pictorial description in 6 steps of the process in pictures.

I started with the Sesame chicken noodle.  The prep was minimal: poaching then slicing the chicken, chopping the onion, crushing the garlic, mixing the ingredients for the sauce and finally cooking the pasta. No cooking skills necessary.

Search results for Hello Fresh

What we like: the Asian flair.
What could have been better: replacing the linguini by real Asian noddle.  The linguini absorbed lots of moisture and got mushy.  More veggie and some coriander, and we only used half of the chicken,

Day 2, the Chili.  Again, it was very very simple to prepare for a meal ready in less than half an hour.

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What we like: simple, fast and filling, perfect for a busy evening.
What could have been better: not enough vegetables to our taste, and the portions were a bit large for 2 girls eating at night.

Day 3: Parmesan crusted cod, probably our preferred meal of the week.  After the 2 previous experiences, I knew it was going to be lacking on the veggies front so I added 4 carrots to the recipe.

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What we like: fish is always a winner for us.  I fed 3 people on this, the portions with the added carrots worked perfectly.
What could have been better: more veggies, but we fixed that.

Overall, I don’t think pre-packed, pre-thought meals are for me.  I have a large repertoire of meals and I don’t really need  recipes for everyday cooking.  I found that there was far to much packaging: in term of preserving the ingredients it makes sense, but in term of protecting the environment it is pretty annoying.  I have checked with Hello Fresh whether they would pick up and recycle the insulated box: the cardboard is to be put in the recycle bin, the box liners can be sent back to them and they also gave me advise on how to recycle to rest.  Also, I don’t know whether the ingredient are organically grown, I should probably send Hello Fresh an e-mail as they have reply to my previous question very fast.

Hello Fresh claim that ‘Cooking with fresh ingredients helps you stay healthy and beats any type of convenience, frozen, or fast food. Plus, we’ve got a dedicated team of chefs and dietitians creating recipes on a weekly basis to ensure that your dinners are balanced and wholesome.’  I feel that to be truly healthy their meals should have much more vegetables.  Also, frozen ingredients have the same quality as fresh ingredients as long as they were kept frozen until cooking.

Although I don’t think this programme is for me, I am actually getting another box for when I am going away.  I think it will work well for my husband and kids, they won’t have to think about dinner or shop for the ingredients.  If your life is super busy and you don’t have much time or energy for shopping, I think it is a good option.  It is also a good way to build some cooking skills and demystify the ‘cooking from scratch’ concept

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