Tuesday, 24 December 2013

golden December - and a Happy Christmas to you!

Before going off for a blog break to celebrate Christmas and New Year's Eve, I'd like to show you - and the Colour Me Happy bunch too - what is my favourite sight in (a normally snowy) December: the twinkling, golden lights in an icing sugar-dusted town! There's no snow right now, but I'm still dreaming of a white Christmas as the song says - although I have a feeling we might get the proper wintry weather in the new year instead of tomorrow...

In this last post of the year here on Idle Needle, I'd also like to wish all of you a very merry Christmas, and a brilliant, happy New Year - and thank you for reading, visiting, conversing, being inspired and inspiring!

I will be back in the new year with the usual topics, and who knows, maybe with some new ones too!
xx Aniko xx

Monday, 23 December 2013

last-minute Xmas craft: snow dome DIY

This Christmas I've been quite content with the idea of just baking cakes and planning the Christmas menu and all the cooking that goes with it. Instead of crafting or decorating extensively, I've been enjoying thinking about recipes, scouting and hunting for ingredients, as well as helping my boyfriend, who's a braver cook than I am, to try out some never-tried-before dish elements...

Instead of feeling guilty about the lack of festive crafting, I will share a little DIY that was prepared last year but never made the blog on time. It is a last-minute, suitably easy-peasy project that has every potential to end up in a simple yet charming snow dome.

  • a figurine or a small group of objects - all must be water-resistant and non-porous!
  • die-cut glitter (the type that will sink in water - the fine craft glitter won't do as it just floats on top)
  • a suitable jar with a well-fitting lid
  • an extra lid of the same size from a similar jar
  • a bottle-top (or a pebble, for example, as elevation for your object/s)
  • a hot glue gun
  • ribbon
  • water
About the glitter - if you want you can make your own die-cut glitter by chopping up sequins with a pair of scissors into very small bits. It will take some time but you will have glitter that will work for this project. I tried the snow globe with whole sequins and other die-cut shapes, but they were too big and heavy and sank very fast to the bottom without creating that nice glittery snow storm effect.

I picked up a ceramic figurine in the junk shop, a kitschy little white dog whom I regarded as the perfect 'snow dog' to star in my very understated snow storm scene. Of course you can use any object as long as soaking it in water won't be a problem. Take into account that the snow dome will slightly enlarge and/or distort it - try your object out by submerging it into the chosen jar to see how it will look.

Anyway, start by giving the glass jar a very good rinse especially from the inside. Then put the glitter in, add water in a slow stream but leave space for the figurine/s and some. If the glitter has lots of air bubbles stuck to it, stir to release them.

Fire up your hot glue gun. It's important to use hot glue for this project, because other types of glue won't necessarily hold well once soaking in water. Glue the two same-size jar lids together by their flat outer side, top-to-top. Then glue the bit you are using for elevation into one of the lids on the inside, and then fix your figurine/s on top of this elevation with a healthy gloop of glue.

When this phase of the gluing has fully dried, apply a generous amount of glue around the inside of the lid, where the lip of the jar will screw onto. Submerge the figurine/s attached to the lid and screw down the lid firmly onto the glitter- and water-filled jar. Wait until it fully dries before turning it over, so it definitely won't leak. It's best to leave it alone for quite a few hours actually.

When it's finally turned over, tie a decorative ribbon into a bow around the base, and there you have it! Although you can of course decorate it further with anything you fancy.

Sharing this quick Xmas DIY on Less Laundry, More Linking.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

lucky mail: vintage fabric in a romantic old tin from Australia

It felt like Christmas came early when this beautiful treasure tin got delivered to me after a long journey all the way from down under.

A while ago I was the lucky reader in Rebecca's giveaway. Rebecca blogs over at Naughty Shorts - about her life and small business, vintage cotton prints and the beautiful dresses she designs and makes out of them. Her home, which is filled to the brim with envy-inducing vintage finds, is often featured on her blog too.

I was very lucky to receive a bundle of fat quarters of vintage printed cottons, and some other goodies that'd make any girl jump for joy.

Looking at these fabrics together inspire me to make a quilt of some kind - I have never tried my hand at quilting before but I think I'd really enjoy the hand-stitching aspect of it. I'll mull over the idea, but in the meantime if you have any suggestions or even quilting tips for me, I'd love to hear them!

Saturday, 21 December 2013

winter solstice and banana bread (with recipe)

Happy winter solstice, everybody!

The thought of slowly lengthening days and more natural light from now on is filling me with warmth and makes me want to dance around the room. I still wish for quietly tumbling fluffy snowflakes to carpet the earth first - because without the white sparkle of snow the winter landscape is as dark and lightless as a black hole. Currently the only snowflakes in sight are tumbling from the ceiling in my kitchen, in a form of a wooden mobile (plus these snowflakes in the social media). So I celebrate the promise of spring and summer in this longest night / shortest day of the year.

We are not going to spend Christmas in our home, but we still felt like decorating a little bit. And we baked a warming, yummy banana bread too. It is a really nice cake, and goes superbly with afternoon coffee - find the recipe right after the pictures!

Banana bread
with cardamom and dates

150g butter (or coconut oil) softened
225g granulated sugar
2 eggs
275g flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarb soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cardamom seeds
3 ripe bananas
a handful of pitted dates (chopped into small cubes)

a little butter (or coconut oil) to grease the tin
a small amount of breadcrumbs

1.) Pre-heat the oven to 170 C. Grease a loaf-shaped cake tin with a little butter (or coconut oil) and dust the greasing with a small amount of breadcrumbs.

2.) In a large mixing bowl whisk the butter (or coconut oil) together with the sugar. Add the eggs one by one and mix well.

3.) In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, bicarb soda, salt and cardamom.

4.) In a third dish, mush the bananas with a fork, and stir in the chopped dates.

5.) Now start adding the flower mix and the banana mix into the butter/egg mixture bit by bit, in an alternating fashion - like 3 tablespoons of flour mix, whisk together, 2 tablespoons of banana mix, whisk together, 3 tablespoons of flour mix again, whisk well, and so on until both the flour mix and the banana mix runs out.

6.) When all the ingredients are well mixed together, pour the mixture into the greased-breadcrumbed loaf tin, smooth down the top and bake it in the middle of the oven at 170 C for 50-60 mins. If baking in a fan oven, reduce the baking time. At about 50 minutes, check the cake by sticking a long thin needle into it (I use one of my thin knitting needles) to see if the cake is cooked through. If the needle comes out without any cake sticking onto it, then your cake is done. Tip the cake out of its tin,and let it cool on a wire rack.

Enjoy! This cake keeps well for 3-4 days in an airtight container.

Sharing this recipe on Less Laundry, More Linking.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

par avion

After 11 months in the making - gosh, how time flies! - my Craft It Forward 2013 project is finally ready.

Steph, Suki, Anna, Evdokia and Helene - your little parcels are winging their way to you now. There's one more to send - now Tina's parcel is posted too. I hope you'll all like what's been made...I'll show what's in the packages after Christmas, or as soon as everybody's got their crafty mail.

Hope all of you is having a nice weekend, with a drizzle of snow perhaps (at least for us on the wintry hemisphere)!

Friday, 6 December 2013

flea friday: a warm shawl, an old lampshade, and a festive runner

Hello again! Let's kick off December with some warming, seasonal finds.

Do you remember the vintage Finnish wool blanket that I had thrifted a while ago? I have been dreaming about a smaller version of it ever since, so I could wrap the snug warm woolliness around my neck as a scarf when I go out into the everyday winter wonderland of the Finnish cold season.

Well, what do you know, dreams do come true and I did find a vintage woollen shawl from the same designer in the fleas just recently. It's in the nicest shades of hot pinks, and is in impeccable condition. Now I'm almost always looking forward to braving the blizzard and hail every time I need to walk to the grocery store.
This time around last year, I found my first vintage scandinavian Christmas table runner. This year is luckily no different: my current (barkcloth?) find has really cute elves on it, and the colours are super crisp. 

Could it be that a seasonal thrifting tradition is starting? Well, if every year I find a nice table runner like these, it would be quite alright! 

Sometimes I pick up things from the thrifts that first I have no idea what to do with. One of those things was this old glass lampshade with an intriguing bumpy design. It cost next to nothing, something like 5 cents, so I wasn't too torn between getting it or not. I thought it would make a nice random ornament or a pencil holder as long as we won't lift it...

Well now I'm thinking LED tealights! This particular lampshade won't take a real candle because its plain glass surface is painted red from the inside, and exposed to a flame it would quite possibly melt or even catch fire. However, a battery one will light it very nicely for the festive season.

How is the festive thrifting situation where you live? Have you find some nice things for the holiday season?

Sharing on A Living Space and on Me and My Shadow.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

soft focus morning (with playlist)

A lovely morning of sleeping in and then knocking about in the softly lit flat, while waiting for the sun to rise (which is a bit after 9am at the moment). Crafting too, in fact putting the finishing touches to a project, which is good news for those of you who have been waiting for your Craft It Forward packages...!

I put together a playlist of soft sounds to share this mellow morning with you lovely readers. Wishing all of you a softly Sunday, and a relaxed first day of a hectic month!

Sunday, 24 November 2013

little lights

Still fascinated with the dramatic change in light conditions in this country. I feel I'm a little better armed this winter than last year.

I finally joined in with the tradition and obsession of lighting candles on the dark balcony at 4pm, and letting them burn in their jar as long as the wick is. In the kitchen the oil lamp is on, and we started to make room on the wall for the string lights. Of course we use our normal electric light fittings, but it's somehow different in effect. Darkness already begins just after 4pm and lasts til 9 in the morning. Its presence seeps thickly into the rooms whether you keep the shutters closed or open. Either way it is quite heavy on the mind. It's really soothing to light little fires outside and in the kitchen in a way that we see it from the living room.

I went to an interesting exhibition recently, and there was a neon installation that captured me with its glow. The two words mean 'I am' in Finnish.

Neon art by Marja Pirilä (I AM/LIGHT)

If you'd like to see what it is like in Finland in the winter and the summer, watch this video if you have a few minutes.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

in two minds

I like being close to nature. In natural nature more, than in a museum.

I like animals better alive. Seeing them stuffed in a Museum of Nature is convenient (for personal safety), interesting and saddening in the same time. We were assured by the staff that they arrived here naturally dead or dead by regulation. Some were donated by a zoo, after the death of an old or a terminally ill animal. Some were donated by a forester whose job is to survey the forests and the seashore, and to cull certain species according to law.

So there. Feeling conflicted, interested, controversed and intrigued, I examined the exhibits in the still life set-ups like a good museum punter, respecting their fragile beauty and deadness by resisting to pat their fur, boop their nose or tickle their paw. Looking at the beautifully preserved dead animals, I couldn't help but wish that all the taxidermy was still alive running around unseen by me in the wild. I got out of there just before those silent, life-like glass eyes started to seem too alive.

No beauty without pain, no rose without a thorn, no museums of nature without dead animals... I'd be lying if I said I wasn't glad to get back home to the little plastic zoo that I keep in a jar.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

mary mary quite contrary, how did our balcony do?

Now that flora is in decline and fauna is withdrawing to warmer places in anticipation of winter, I thought it'd be a good time to have a look at what our little balcony produced over the summer months.

I think we were a bit pessimistic about what a 1.5m x 3m east-facing balcony is able to turn over in the spring and summer, so we didn't plant very ambitiously and stuck to basic types of herbs and veg. We planted spinach, chards and some cavolo nero kale for green smoothies; lettuces,radishes and tomatoes for salads; kitchen herbs for general use: parsley, mint, chives, coriander. I added into the mix some rescue plants which were to decorate with their flowers and foliage.

The lushness of the summer growth was lovely. It really made a difference to our small concrete- and dark wood- clad outside space. Any amount of garden is a real garden, with living plants to tend to, therefore to learn about. I believe it's important to know how to care for and raise plants that are able to feed you - even if it's done in an amount of space so small it can barely be called a garden.

I like plants a lot, I like their quiet ways of responding and their colourful, winding, blooming, pollinating, fruiting communications. It's therapeutic to interact with a pot of earth and the magic in it on a daily basis, and to wonder about the sun-fed, root bound, leafy and petaled beings it nurtures which then will nurture us. I could gush on about plants and get lost in ponderings about how they work and how undeniably conscious they seem in their doings.... but let me trade in words for pictures that I'd collected about our mini garden and its edible residents over the summer.

Can you taste those sweet tomatoes? We had plenty of green smoothies too, of chards and spinach. Mint was enjoyed in a refreshing watermelon mint and rocket salad with a hoisin dressing, and in many a cup of fresh mint tea.

There were tender green beans too. We had a couple of good dinners and supplemented salads from a few bushes of low-growing, low-maintenance french green beans. 

The chards are still standing despite having been frozen by a few nights of -5 C. They are waiting to become smoothies a couple more times, then they will stay outside for the coming Narnia. I wonder if they will rise again in the spring for their bolting year as they should. We'll see!

Have you had any gardening joy this year? What do you think of raising plants in small spaces?

Sunday, 27 October 2013

the colours of october

The allocated colour for October is chocolate brown - as declared on Colour Me Happy.

I see the connection. Chestnuts, tree bark, the supple suede of gloves, the velvety brown of espresso on a sleepy October morning.

But there is so many other colours to this month, I cannot help but show what comes before the colour of bare tree trunks and mulch takes over.

This is the view that greets me every time I emerge from my street - I love how the flaming blood red of that trailing plant beautifies the bleak boxy building, don't you?

This time last year there were already lots of snow on the ground. I'm enjoying the colours this year while they last - the unifying white is sure to come soon!

Friday, 25 October 2013

flea friday: the best granny cushion ever and some other roaring finds

Hello again, nice to be back from the autumnal hiatus with some finds in tow that I'm quite excited to show off.

Every time I see this cushion I just want to hug it, it's so nice in the most brilliant way. I've been sort of fancying these types of chunky crosstitch cushions for ages, but to be honest not really a fan of florals or pixelated scenes (except for this one that I've seen here).

Well, this granny cushion is on a different level! There is a lot going for it: the chunky wool texture; that geometric pattern, all random and asymmetric; the freely combined, awesome colours. I even like that a trio of these colours look like the Hungarian flag... Can you spot it?

It was in the end of summer sale for a single euro in the local hospice shop. It found its cozy spot on the vintage leather recliner that my boyfriend bought in the thrifts this summer - I think it softens the sternness of the black leather rather nicely.

Then, a few objects of useful purpose - these could not be resisted and had to be given a new home.

Here they are. An alpacca ashtray - a bit rubbed but wonderful in its mid century modern shape. It was made in a nearby silverware factory which does not exist any more. Furthermore - and the objects I myself find most useful - an Arabia Birka coffee cup and saucer, and a Poland-made enamel mug with a sweet apple on it. How very nice. I do enjoy sipping my morning coffee from a quality stoneware cup that was bought for less than the price of a kiosk coffee... oh the joys of thrifting!

Lastly, an old illustrated book... of dinosaurs! I believe that the red binding whispered a roar to me from the jumble sale shelf with its golden writing on the spine. I was not disappointed when I looked inside. It's from 1957, and translated to Finnish from a Danish original. Beautiful illustrations every turn, and the end papers are simply gorgeous. I'm a total kid when it comes to old books - can you blame me?

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