Enough already!

Fresh, life-affirming, creative, quirky, fun (funny?), forward-looking, friendly.

The self-pity party is over. Rejoice!

Orchid

Tangled

Over the last month or so, I’ve been learning to crochet.

Correction, I’ve been failing to learn to crochet.  What I’ve in fact been doing is my usual trick of taking something fun and pleasurable and making it into a life-or-death pursuit of perfection, putting my whole sense of self and (limited) self-worth in the balance. I have injected it with my bastard melodrama and anxiety.

I’ve found it hard, to say the least. Verity has seen the tears as I fail to understand diagrams or endlessly re-read the paragraphs about how crochet is “easy”, “only 3 stitches”, “kids can do it!”. Kate has sat with me and tirelessly demonstrated the same basic methods, over and over.

Today however, with a fresh mind and a little perseverance, some pennies have finally dropped.

All the books are fine, my tuition so far has been fantastic and greatly appreciated. What I’ve been doing wrong I realise, is taking it far too seriously.

Yes, me, taking something too seriously! Imagine!

What I learnt:

  1. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Perfection is a pursuit, and part of the fun is knowing that  there’s room to improve next time.
  2. It doesn’t have to be right. Getting something right first-time means you haven’t learnt anything.
  3. It should be fun. If you’re not having fun and enjoying it – you’re doing it wrong.
  4. It should only occupy your mind a ‘healthy’ amount. Relaxing into it, not over-thinking every single action – that’s when it started to feel good, and become enjoyable.

And here’s what I’ve achieved so far. Please don’t mock – I am very very proud of my humble beginnings.

With a little more confidence and practice, I’m going to be in a position to start making the granny squares for my blanket. I’ll be blogging everyday about my progress and thoughts during Knitting and Crochet week between 28th March and 3rd April.

So there we go, crochet eh?

Ork Deff Dread

Deff Dreads epitomise three main ideals of Ork warfare: big, shooty and stompy. They thunder and clank towards the foe, limbs waving as heavy weapons spit death into the enemy ranks and powered shears snip excitedly in anticipation of the bloodletting to come.

~ From the GW Website

Gosh! Scary aren’t they?

This model has been really fun to paint. There’s so many little details on the model and different textures and materials for trying out various paint effects. I’ve had a go at (with varying degrees of success):

  • Weathering powders to make rust, dust and soot;
  • Oil spillages;
  • Glowing ‘plasma’ weapons;
  • Verdigris;
  • Chipped paint/battle damage.

Still got a lot to learn in terms of refining those techniques, but overall I’m very pleased.

Oh yes, pictures. Please excuse the carpet backgrounds, I couldn’t be bothered to crop them onto my normal background:

Plugging away

Making a dent in my stash of models…

It’s an Ork Deff Dread (grrr!). This one’s been kitted out and modified for a Big Mek (they’re really clever when it comes to all things mekanikal, with wurky bitz).

I’ve been having a lot of fun painting up this bad boy. Having a go at some new techniques like verdigris, glow effects and using weathering powders (dust, rust and soot) has been really cool.

He’s about 90% complete and I’m looking forward to posting more pictures when he’s properly finished.

Chairman of the Hoard


There’s so much stuff in my life no room for me to grow
One day I’m going to break from my life due south down to Mexico
I’m going to burn down my house it’s the only way to let it go
~ James, Waterfall

Okay, so that’s a slightly extreme response, but seriously people, I think I need help. And soon.

Continuing a break from maudlin introspection, I’m asking for help; not because I’m a madster (as my dear friend E-J put it); but because I’m crazy in another way. I don’t expect you to be kind, in fact I think I need the brutal truth and your directness.

You see, I have a dirty and not-so-secret secret.

For the last 7 years I have been painting Games Workshop models. Yes, to anyone whose been round my house (or even erm… looked at this blog) it’s not a well-kept secret I grant you.

In those seven years, my skills with a paintbrush have increased greatly, and I’m genuinely proud (if slightly embarrassed) of the models I’ve produced. I’ve even given some as bespoke gifts to friends. Spread the shame I say! 🙂

However, I’ve come to realise that in those years I have become much more proficient in another aspect of this ‘hobby’ as the following photo will demonstrate:

stash

This is my secret. This is my shame.

This photo of boxes and sprues and containers of unassembled/part-finished models; covering an entire double bed; isn’t even the full extent of my stockpiling shame. I have more boxes scattered around the house. Oh, and the models I’m currently ‘working-on’.

I dread to think how much money I have spent on these little plastic and metal soldiers over the years. I’d hazard a guess at £800. I suspect the true figure tops a grand.

Ouch.

So it is with a heavy heart that I am forced to admit I am far more skilled at buying, keeping and hoarding miniature models than I am at assembling and painting them. I have more than enough models now to last me the next decade (especially at the speed I paint).

And yet… and yet…

There’s still more models I would like to own. More fascinating little (and not so little) sculpts and characters I wish to add to my collection. And I know that I will buy yet more models this year. This month. This week even.

What does that say about me, and hoarders like me?

That I’m shallow and materialistic?

I hope not, although I know I can be. There’s always the new clothes or shoes I want. I’ve wanted a MacBook Pro for ooh, 4 years now and counting. But that’s aspirational, rather than being materialistic and demanding right?

I think the fact that I’m willing to pour so much of my time and energy into creative hobbies and crafts shows I’m not the vapid airhead I sometimes appear to be (although there are certain occasions – that Kate and Alan will attest to – where I am waaay to ditzy to be allowed out on my own!)

That I have a magpie mind?

Oh, yes. Of that I am certain. I know that my mind is never at rest, always looking for the next thing to absorb my attention, fill me with wonder and present a delightful distraction. I know that there will always be…

…ooh, new shoes… …pretty…

That I’m indecisive?

I think it could be argued that the collector or avid hobbyist is indecisive and unable to settle on a task until completion. That being said however, serious collecting of craft/hobby materials requires a great deal of discipline and an organised mind:

  • Keeping track of the items in your stash and being able to locate bit ‘x’ or part ‘y’;
  • The acquisition of beautiful storage boxes (us hoarders love this bit!). After all we need the boxes to enable us to pursue our hobby ‘properly’ – right?
  • The little white lies we tell (and have to keep track of).
    That new box or packet we come home with and shove to the back of the cupboard.
    “What? No, I’ve had that ages, look where you found it, I must have had it for a year or two.”
    “Oh no, not too much, I think it was about £8 *cough* and they had an offer on or something, and quick! what’s that behind you…”

That I have vision?

Whatever you’re doing, whether it’s painting little models, woodturning, or knitting – I think one thing that all people who enjoy craft-based hobbies have in common is quite simple:

  • We can see the promise of wonder in the materials we acquire.

Every box of sprues, every ball of yarn, every block of wood contains the potential to ‘be’ something beautiful. And not just one thing. In it’s raw unfinished form – there are myriad opportunities for us to give it love, to have some fun and to create something unique. Something that is more than the materials it’s made from.

Collecting the raw materials of a craft or hobby is as much a part of the hobby as the hobby itself. You cannot have one without the other.

Please remember that, when you come to judge us hoarders with our piles of accumulated ‘rubbish’. Contained within each box of ‘stuff’ is hope and opportunity. Our little dreams to make something delightful out of something small are held tight within each lovingly organised container.

Squeal! Lovely sorted boxes!

And so dear reader, I ask for your help.

  • Don’t help me throw away or sell off my piles of plastic men.
  • Don’t hide my credit card and prevent me visiting little plastic model shops.

No, instead, help me to keep painting and offering encouragement.

That is all I need. That is all us crafty creative people need.

We all like to hear it, just a few little words:

“That’s kinda cool”

“I really like that”

“You made it yourself? Wow.”

Who knows? Maybe if you’re good boys and girls, I’ll repay the encouraging words by ‘gifting’ you with a finely painted Ork! 😉

For now though, I leave you with a few pictures of models I have finished. The few that balance the many, so to speak:

Orks! I am such a geek...

Gluten free mince-pies

My quest to find recipes that all my friends can eat continues.  The sweet almond pastry gives a real indulgent ‘Marzipan’ richness to the mince pies.

Apologies also that I’m about 5 weeks too late publishing this. You can always save it till this Christmas!

Ingredients

For the pastry

  • 100g/4oz Ground Almonds
  • 200g/8oz Rice Flour
  • 50g/2oz Caster sugar
  • A pinch of Salt
  • 100g/4oz Butter
  • 2 tbsp Clear Honey
  • 2 Egg Yolks
  • Almond Essence

For the filling

  • 1 jar of mincemeat (approx 454g)
  • 1 apple
  • Brandy or rum

Method

  1. Mix together  the ground almonds, flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl.
  2. Make a well in the middle and put in the butter, honey, egg yolk and almond essence. Mix to a dough. Knead until smooth.
  3. Wrap the pastry in cling film and rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes before rolling out.

Tip: This pastry can be really crumbly, I found that rubbing a little olive oil on my rolling pin worked much better than dusting with flour.

Mincemeat filling

Finely dice the apple, and mix with the mincemeat and a tablespoon or two of the booze.

Assembling the pies

Preheat oven to 200°C (gas mark 6, 180°C for a fan oven).

Roll the pastry out on a clean work surface to about 3mm thick. Cut circles with a cutter and line each pit in the tart case.

Fill the pastry lined pits about 2/3 full with the filling.

Cut extra circles to sit on top of each pie, and over brush with a little milk.

Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until richly golden.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool. They are still fab eaten warm (don’t burn your tongue!)

Note: The combination of ingredients in this pastry means they come out browner in colour than a regular mince-pie. Don’t worry, they are still delicious!