The London Report, part two

No London trip is complete with at least a little bit of shopping. And while shopping wasn't the primary goal of our trip, we did manage to stop by most of the stores I was hoping to visit. The Cass Art flagship store was great, as was Foyles and Forbidden planet (geek heaven!). And of course, the fabric and haberdashery sections at Liberty was fantastic as always. Above are my Liberty finds: gorgeous washi tapes, a pretty lavender sachet, and... What's in that white package, I wonder?

The above is a phone picture I snapped as we were unpacking our bags on Sunday. With the exception of apparel (because really, this is not a style blog - I doubt you'd be interested in a couple of Primark cardigans) and a few gifts, this is everything I bought on our trip. Of course, leave it to the librarian's daughter to pack her suitcase full of books she could just as well have bought online from the comfort of her living room... I can't help it, books just call out to me! But I also happen to think that books make great souvenirs - every time I pick up a particular book I'm reminded of how and where I got it, and that's the whole point of souvenirs, isn't it?

As you can see these books are mostly my regular brand of non-fiction, but there are a couple of craft/art books in there too. My plan is to learn how to draw faces and draw people in 2015! I also got some postcards, brushes and art masking fluid for a watercolor project I'm planning. And of course there are a few geeky things in there too - the Deathly Hallows key ring has since been turned into a necklace, and the chocolate frog has been devoured.

But now, for the all important fabric reveal. Get ready to drool!

Seriously, how amazing are these?? I've been trying to pick a favorite but it's just too hard! I love the Kayoko Tana Lawn, I bought it in red this time but I actually have it in another colorway (pink/cerise) as well. But I think my favorite of these is actually the red and green print at the top of the stack, I can see myself using that a lot next year. The only problem with Liberty fabrics is that they are so nice, you almost have to force yourself to cut into them. But I wan't these fabrics to be used, not just sit around, so I will have to get over that. Any tips on Liberty-worthy projects I should add to my list?

The London Report, part one

My one week blogging break somehow turned into two - my apologies! Things has been a bit hectic since we got back from London. The past week has been all about job hunting stuff, Amnesty activities, Christmas prep, and hosting a Glögg get together for most of my extended family. It's been a great week though!

So, time for a report from our trip. We arrived on Wednesday afternoon and left Sunday morning, so in all we had three and a half days in London. It felt like a lot of time beforehand, but of course time flies when you're having fun! Still, I do think we managed to find the perfect mix of shopping, sightseeing, good eats and just hanging out with friends.

The most time consuming (and fun!) thing we did was the tour of the WB Harry Potter studios in Leavsden - our bus left at 8 am Thursday morning and we weren't back in the city until 3 in the afternoon. It was totally worth the time though, there's so much to see! I loved the whole experience, but some favorites included seeing the Diagon alley set, the Great Hall and the amazing set of Dumbledore's office which had SO much detail. We spent about three hours going through the exhibit but you could easily spend another five I think!

My birthday on Friday started with a huge breakfast at Pret a Manger - I used to work at Pret when I lived in London so I am naturally biased, but I just LOVE Pret sandwiches. Then we spent a couple of hours exploring St Paul's cathedral - despite living in and visiting London a ton of times, I had never been up in the dome before. The last part of the climb was a bit nerve-wracking, but the view from the top more than made up for it. If you're curious, there's a virtual tour of sorts on the St. Paul's website. After a bit of shopping and a change of clothes at our hotel we headed out for an amazing dinner and cakes with our friends Johanna and Marc, who had booked a fantastic indian restaurant (I love indian food) for the occasion. A great time was had by all!

On Saturday we did a bit more shopping, and then headed to the V&A museum for the necessary dose of culture (my dad the librarian would be disappointed in me if I spent all that time in London without visiting at least one museum). V&A was fantastic, even Johanna who is not usually a museum fan was swayed. The evening was spent at Johanna and Marc's place in Wapping, enjoying some excellent vegetarian shepherd's pie (beer might have been involved as well) and talking. And then on Sunday morning it was time to check out and head back home. I can't believe how much fun we managed to squeeze into those four days, but it was tough to go back home again. Can't wait to come back again!

In my next post I thought I'd show you some of the shopping I did. I didn't buy too much in the way of clothing, but I did get a lot of books, craft supplies, and of course, fabric! We didn't make it to Goldhawk road for fabric shopping in the end, but that was probably just as well since I already spent a ton of money on fabric at Liberty. Lucky for me, Keith's parents had made a secret deal with him that if I found something I loved that they would pay for part of it as their birthday present to me. A big thanks to Maria and Dennis! Anyway, more on that later. I'm off to start wrapping the Christmas presents!

ETA: I almost forgot to mention: I'm guest blogging today over at The Pickled Herring today for Kathryn's Scandinavian Christmas series! My post this year is about making pomander oranges, one of my favorite Christmas decorations. Head over there if you's like to read my tutorial!

December is here!

I can't believe it's December already! I'm already starting to feel the holiday cheer, and since this weekend was advent first, I don't feel guilty for getting started on the Christmas decorations. But before I go into full Christmas mode, I have something else to focus on: This is the week we are going to London to celebrate my 30th birthday! I've been looking forward to it for months and I am thrilled to finally be going. I will be taking a blogging break for the rest of the week, but I hope to be back next week with lots of pictures from our trip. Have a great week!

Super simple Nutella cupcakes

Today I'm sharing a quick and simple recipe that I really love. I like baking, but I rarely feel like I have the time to, especially if I'm just making something for Keith and me. That's why I like this recipe - it only takes three ingredients and very little time!

These Nutella cupcakes have a more brownie-like texture than regular cupcakes, which I appreciate. I made them several times over the summer, and they usually go over very well. If you want to make them really decadent, a coconut or cashew cream frosting should work well with the Nutella flavor - I usually just powder some icing sugar on the top, since the cupcakes are so rich as they are.

Three-ingredient Nutella cupcakes

1 cup Nutella
2 eggs
1 cup flour

Preheat your oven to 175 C (approx. 350 F). Put cupcake liners in a muffin pan (this recipe will make around 12 cupcakes). Whisk together Nutella and eggs in a medium size bowl. Add the flour, and whisk until blended. Spoon batter into the pan, filling the liners about half-way up.

Bake for 8-12 minutes, just until the tops have set and cracked slightly. Test with a  toothpick in the middle, the toothpick should come out wet and sticky. Allow to cool.


Crafty London

Exciting news: I'm going to London in less than a week! It's my birthday next week (turning thirty - eek) and we're flying over to celebrate and to spend time with one of my closest friends, Johanna, and her boyfriend Marc. I used to live in London when I was younger and I absolutely love the city - and the last time I was there was in 2011 so it was about time for another visit!

Now, we only have 3,5 days in the city and we want to have as much time as possible to hang out with Johanna and Marc, but I couldn't resist putting some crafty things on the to-do list as well. I thought I'd share them here as inspiration, if you're planning a visit to London anytime in the future.

Image by Gryffindor (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0] via Wikimedia Commons

1. Liberty of London. Of course, no visit to London is complete without a trip to Liberty's. This department store has an amazing fabric section selling (among other things) the signature flowery fabrics. I plan to stock up on some Tana Lawn and soak up the atmosphere before taking on Oxford street.

2.Cass Art. When I started looking around for the best arts and crafts shops in London, this one kept popping up in all my searches. Looks like they have a great selection of paints and tools, can't wait to visit!

3. Paperchase. As a stationery nut I LOVE Paperchase products, but unfortunately they don't ship to Sweden. So I'm planning on stocking up during my visit!

4. IF we have the time, I would so love to visit the fabric shops on Goldhawk Road. Apparently, this is THE place to shop for fabric at reasonable prices. It is going a bit off since we will be staying in and spending most of our time around Shoreditch, and I'm not sure whether we'll find the time. If we do go I promise I will update you on my loot!

Image by Karen Roe, The Making of Harry Potter 29-05-2012 [CC-BY-3.0] via Wikimedia Commons (image has been cropped)

We have lots of not-so-crafty plans as well, for example we will be spending almost an entire day at the Harry Potter Studios outside London. What can I say, I'm a geek! Also, Keith has only visited London once before so some touristy stuff is a must. A lot of the "standard" sights we did last time he went, like Trafalgar square, Parliament, that sort of thing. We've done the London Eye and visited Tate Modern, so this time I'm thinking the St. Pauls whispering gallery, the Tower (I loved it when I visited as a kid!) and the V&A museum (I've never been!). And I'm also considering booking a Jack the Ripper tour of Soho - a fun way to introduce Keith to some of the history of the city.

I can't wait! I promise I will share some pics of the trip once we're back home again.

Utility sewing: Cover or cozy for my LG Pocket Photo

Most of the time when I make things, it's as much for the joy of making as for the finished product itself. The process is usually the purpose, and I revel in learning a new skill, exercising my creativity and making something with my hands. Not always, though. Sometimes crafting is all about utility - when you really need something, but despite the sea of products out there in our consumer culture, you can't find that specific thing ANYWHERE. Such was the case with this cozy/case for my LG Pocket Photo.

The Pocket Photo is an awesome mini printer which lets you print off smartphone photos in one click - I love mine and use it lots for smash booking and memory keeping. Since it's so small (less than 13x8 cm) and light (220 grams), it's ideal for keeping in your bag, ready to use whenever you feel like it. However, if you're anything like me, that bag is also used to house a ton of other stuff which could potentially scratch, dent or damage your awesome printer. I spent ages searching for a Pocket Photo case or cozy to prevent this, to no avail. I wanted a case that fit snugly and didn't take up too much space in my bag, but still had some padding to protect the printer from wear. Unfortunately, that turned out to be near impossible to find!

In the end I enlisted my dear mom so help me sew a cozy specifically for the Pocket Photo, and this is the end result. It's made of a heavy cotton with a felt lining, and I used velcro for the closure because I didn't want any metal zips or buttons that might themselves make marks on the printer. I'm actually quite pleased with the end result. It may not be something to write home about, but it does exactly what I need it to, and for once that's all I ask!

Cushion cover in the works

Wait, how is it the weekend already? This week went by in a flash, but unfortunately I don't have much to show for it, craft-wise. I'm still working on the photo cushion cover I wrote about a while ago - this week I finally pieced the front together, but I still need to buy a pillow insert and finish the back. I am completely in love with the photo fabric by the way, I keep thinking of new projects to make with it!

Speaking of photos, one of the worst things about living far north is the lack of daylight this time of year. At the moment, the sun rises about 8:30 am and sets at 3 pm here in Stockholm. That's not a lot of daylight as it is; and add to that the cloudy, rainy weather we've been having all week. It really gets on your nerves! It's also near impossible to take good photos this time of year, so my apologies in advance if you see a lot of photos on this blog in the coming weeks that don't quite measure up. I promise I'll do my best!

My Pinterest To Do-List

Are you a Pinterest fan? I totally am! I find it a great way to bookmark craft ideas, patterns and tutorials, as well as images that simply catch my eye in some way - a color combination, an unusual fabric, a spark of inspiration... Sometimes though, Pinterest can become less about finding inspiration for actual craft projects, and more of a black hole which sucks you in - and before you know it, three hours which COULD have been spent crafting are instead spent in front of the computer. So to challenge myself top actually MAKE some of the things from my Pinterest boards, I compiled a list of some favorite projects that I've pinned over the last year or so. All are reasonably simple projects which include instructions, so I really have no excuse to just GET GOING ALREADY.

1. Sashiko embroidery @ the Purl Bee 2. Awesome elastic pen strap @ 3. House satchet @ a Spoonful of Sugar 4. Heart friendship bracelets @ HonestlyWTF 5. Zippered pouch @ A Quilters Table 6. Earbud Circle Pouch @ 7. Brilliant Potholder @ Miss Mary Sewing Classes 8. A faster way to make plus quilts @ For the Love of George 9. Quick hair iron cozy by gatheringtwigs @ Craftster

So much inspiration! I actually already started one of these projects a while back - fabric house ornaments made using the excellent tutorial from Retro Mama. I'm planning to turn them into lavender sachets for our closets.  

See, I've already come this far. About time I finish these! I will keep you updated on my progress. :-)

First Lomo'instant review (and an unusually long post)

It's arrived! Feels like I've been waiting for the Lomography Lomo'Instant camera forever - I backed the Kickstarter project early on in June, choosing the special Kickstarter edition of the camera (for specs, see here). But yesterday it finally arrived! I was totally giddy as I opened the package.

I thought I would post some of my first thoughts here for those of you who are still waiting for your camera to arrive, or are deciding whether to buy one. Now, I have only spent an hour or so with my Lomo'Instant so far, so this will be far from an exhaustive review. Just some initial impressions and  a few test shots - I'm sure there will be more to come in later posts as I get to know my new friend better!

Straight out of the box, a few things to note:
  • The camera is large. At 14 x 10 cm it is significantly larger than it's Instax counterpart, the Instax mini 90 Neo Classic. I like how the rectangular proportions are more reminiscent of a regular camera (whereas the Instax 90 is almost square) but nevertheless, the extra bulk will be a challenge.
  • Despite it's size, the Lomo'instant is very light. Again, compared to the mini 90 this was a surprise. As a novice I figured more features, more weight, right? But not so! Straight out of the box the Lomo'instant is actually lighter, but once you insert batteries and attach a lens it outweighs the Instax by about 100 grams. Which is still not that much, so that's fantastic!
  • As advertised, the camera is completely analog. I love this fact, just holding it feels like you're catching a little piece of fleeting history. This also means though (and I know, I should have realized, but it didn't hit me until I actually held the camera), the camera will require regular alkaline batteries.Took a bit of scrambling until I found some in a drawer!
  • Lots of moving parts! Another thing which I was expecting, but which influenced my over all feel for the camera (see more on this below).
  • The lenses! Having never owned a SLR/D-SLR camera before, I first found the multitude of lenses a bit intimidating. But they are actually quite easy to use and the do lend a very "professional" feel to the camera. More on the different lenses will have to wait for another post though, there's so much to discuss! 
Once I inserted the film and batteries (getting the battery hatch open was a huge challenge for some reason!) I decided to try a quick test. I set the Lomo'Instant to auto mode and auto aperture, and snapped a quick test shot of my bookcase. I then snapped the exact same shot with the auto setting on my Instax 90. You can see the difference here:

Obviously this is just one of a million ways you can shoot with the Lomo'Instant, but I still think it captures something essential about the camera. The two shots have a completely different feel to them! While the Instax shot looks almost like it could have been shot by a low quality digital camera, the Lomo'Instant shot has a much more "lomo" feel. The overall image is darker and there's tons of vignetting. You can also see how the wide-angle lens warps the image slightly (making the bookcase look crooked). This means that just whipping out the Lomo'Instant to snap a quick photo will be challenging - getting the best shot will always include some fiddling around with the settings. Whereas with the Instax I can usually get a decent shot in auto mode, the Lomo'Instant challenges me and forces me to learn - which is something I like!

In a way, this does take some of the "instant" out of "instant photography", but in the end it really depends on what you plan to use the camera for. I had this expectation in the back of my mind when I ordered the Lomo'Instant, and since I already had the mini 90 I was looking for something that could complement, rather than replace, it. It does mean though that the Lomo'instant will probably get less use than the Instax - personally, I see myself using it more for artistic exploration, longer photo sessions and experiments, rather than as a "party trick".

One reason for this is the sheer complexity of the camera. With three different lenses and two packs of tiny color filters (I will need to find some way to store these or I can see them getting lost in the black hole that is my hand bag), the Lomo'Instant will be less likely to get tossed in my bag as I head out for dinner, a party or some sightseeing. Another reason is that, as I mentioned, the camera has lots of moving parts. The shutter itself is a lever, not a button as on most modern cameras. Then there's the focusing zone lever and the way the front (orange, in my case) part of the camera sort of pops out when you change the focusing zone setting; there's the MX switch, and the exposure compensation dial. Maybe this is just me being overly protective of my new friend, but it does make the camera feel more fragile. I will definitely need to look for a good camera bag for my Lomo'Instant - I'm hoping that the awesome folks over at Lomography will get to work on one soon!

Some more test shots: The above are a couple of quick shots I took of Keith this morning (which is why he looks so adorably sleepy), using the portrait lens and a couple of color filters. I wanted to show the different effects you get with the two focusing modes (1m-infinity and 0.4-0.9 m, respectively). The first shot is taken with the longer focusing distance (which is the default), and even though I felt like I was looking up his nose the result doesn't show it at all. The second shot is taken at the same distance (I'm guessing about 30 cm) but using the shorter focusing range. Whoa! Huge difference in size and detail rendering. It's easy to forget this setting if, like me, you're used to digital cameras and auto focusing. But I will have to learn to remember it!

Also, a side note: I LOVE the color filters! The camera comes with four filters (blue, red, purple and yellow) and four additional ones were sent to all Kickstarter backers as a reward for reaching one of the stretch goals. They are all fantastic! And an added bonus: Since the camera has an unlimited multiple exposure setting, you can mix the colors by using one color filter for your first MX shot, and another for the second. How cool is that?? I'm hoping a mix of red and purple might get me some awesome pink MX selfies!

Whew, that was a long post! So what's the conclusion? All in all, if you're looking for a convenient way to take quick snapshots on the go, then I'd say you're better off sticking with the Instax mini 90 or the Instax mini 8. But if you want the chance to get more artistic and imaginative, by all means - the Lomo'Instant is for you!

Geek week: Harry Potter crafts

Alright, this will be the last of my "geek week" posts. But since I am a huge Harry Potter fan, it didn't seem right to do a "geek week" without including some Potter-inspired crafts!

1. Handmade Hogwarts Notebooks 2. Owl paper cut 3. Gorgeous necklace by Guilia Snape 4. Amazing Death Eater mask by Epbot 5. Snitch Christmas Ornament tutorial 6. Free Owl Post printable 7. Awesome Potions book including instructions 8. Deathly hallows paper piecing 9. Amazing handmade wands

The above are a collection of some of my favorite Harry Potter crafts from around the web. I especially love crafts that aim to recreate magical items from the books in detail, like realistic looking wands, school books or magical sweets. Quirky, but still grown up, you know? I don't want my home to look like the Warner Bros' merchandise store threw up all over it... I don't have a lot of Potter memorabilia at home, but I do have one distinctly geeky home decor detail. Here we go:

Yeah, that's a picture of our toilet. A completely normal, muggle toilet. Right?

NO! In fact, it's the entrance to the Ministry of Magic! This is a nice easter egg for visiting Potter fans - I'm sure it looks completely crazy to everyone else. :-) It was a quick craft to do, all I did was do a google image search for "Ministry of Magic", print out the logo and cover the whole image with scotch tape. That way it's firmly attached to the inside of the toilet lid, and you don't have to worry about messing up the image when you're cleaning.

Does your geekiness show in your home? How?