(traditional Slovenian) Wild Mushroom and Potato Soup

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If you were to ask me what a traditional dish from where I come from is, I’d probably say Potica, because it’s what every Slovenian says from the top of their head. And I would then explain to you that’s it’s a cake and all of it’s variations and … But then you might ask me about savoury dishes and I’d probably have to take a minute to think about my answer. It’s hard to define our culinary national identity, lots of the dishes we claim are “ours”, you can also find all around central and eastern Europe. But then I’d remember this wonderful soup, so simple and ubiquitous in the specific area where I come from (The area around the Pohorje mountain), no-one probably even thinks about it as anything special. Every shady restaurant will serve a variation in mushroom season (late spring-early autumn), but if you’d actually take the time to go to one of the mountain cottages (they’re usually quite large and can host more than a hundred people, the “cottage” part is just an expression) you’d get something so delicious, you’d speak about it for years. (Just ask my friend D….).

Traditionally it would be served with one of the best things that ever came out of a kitchen, something I’m going to call buckwheat polenta, because I don’t think the word “Žganci” has an actual translation. You make it by cooking coarse buckwheat flour until you get something resembling potato mash – but because I had no buckwheat flour on hand, I couldn’t make it here and won’t write a real recipe until I try it with available products (In Slovenia you can obviously buy a product called buckwheat žganci). Then on top of the poletna and soup, you’d get a large spoonful of ocvirki – pig fat and cracklings, which is pretty much the only thing in the world that’s slightly better than bacon.

Anyway, here’s the recipe for the soup part of the dish. It has potatoes in there, so the buckwheat is more a luxury than a necessity and if you really wanted to have something meaty in there (and didn’t have “ocvirki”) you could add bacon lardons and that would probably be almost as good as the version you’d get on Pohorje. My version also had carrots in it, because I feel guilty if there’s almost no vegetables in my dinner and because that’s how I’m used to making it.

You’ll need

(for 2 hungry people if it’s a main, 4 if it’s a starter)

  • 2 cups wild mushrooms, cleaned and cut into strips (I had 4 porcinis and 1 chantarell that I brought back with me from Slovenia. The soup is better with more chantarells, but it’s really tasty with just porcinis. Using store bought button mushrooms would probably produce something good to, but that just wouldn’t be the same.)
  • 1 cup diced potatoes (very small dice. Around 0.5 cm)
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 1 medium brown onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp dried majoram (or use oregano, but than use ¾ tsp. They are basically the same, oregano is just a bit stronger)
  • 1 bunch of fresh parsley
  • around 700 ml (3 cups) vegetable stock
  • around 100 ml (around 1/2cup) dry white wine, preferably from the north east of Slovenia;) (if you don’t want to open a bottle of wine, use around a tbsp of white wine vinegar and add more stock)
  • 3 tbsp soured cream
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • salt and pepper to taste

sestavine

1. In a soup pan heat the oil and butter and add the onions and carrots. Saute on medium heat until the onion gets translucent. Add potatoes, saute for 2 minutes.

2. Add the garlic, saute until you can smell it (30 seconds) then add the mushrooms. Add a good pinch of salt and saute for 5 minutes, all while mixing everything gently. (don’t break the mushrooms into too small pieces)

3. Add enough stock to cover all of the dry ingredients and the oregano and let simmer for 15 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked. In the meantime chop parsley.

4. Add the white wine or vinegar (it is VERY important to wait with the wine until the potatoes are cooked. If you add acid to cooking potatoes they magically won’t cook at all), cream and a tbsp of parsley and cook for 5 more minutes.

5. Sprinkle with more fresh parsley, serve and enjoy.

6. Dober tek!;)

juha

Amsterdam by (mega)Bus

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As much as I didn’t mind or even slightly enjoyed the coach journey to Brussels, I hated the one to A’dam. Firstly, it was significantly longer -we took the night bus and crossed the sea by ferry, which takes an hour longer than the tunnel and well, Amsterdam is further away. Secondly, this time the coach was completely full, there were no empty seats. And the last, but definitely not the least important reason for my hatred of the journey-the bus was full of drunk and loud young Brits, who were extremely, and I mean extremely annoying. The journey back was a bit better, because they were all tired and slept, but the bus was still completely full… If you’re thinking about buying a ticket, think twice. Or at least don’t go in the Summer, I guess loud youngsters aren’t that keen on partying in the Netherlands in the colder months.

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The main reason for this trip was neither partying (too old or at least too granny-like for that) nor all the wonderful sights and museums you can visit there. Those are left for another day. The main reason was to meet up with the core group of my high school best friends, who live scattered across Europe. Vegerafinja Lives in Brussels, where she has a fancy EU job, N. lives in Zwolle (a small Dutch city), where she has a beautiful family, and D. lives in Berlin, where she has a much better chance of making the world a better place (she enjoys working for non-profit organisations). (And I’m in London, doing nothing.) Another high school classmate of ours lives in Amsterdam, and she was kind enough to offer us accommodation and showing us the not so touristy sights of the city.

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Most of the time we didn’t do much. We ate approximately a ton of Cheese (no, really, no kidding, I’m pretty sure I ate more than a pound in the four days). We also watched the NED-MEX game in a very cool abandoned factory next to a beach like setting (B. brought us there and I’m sure she told us how it’s called, but Dutch words are the worst).

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*The orange Madonna was put there just after the first half. I’m not religious, but… ;)

Then we drank a reasonable amount of beer, most of it in the awesome Brouwerij’t IJ, which is a tiny craft brewery right next to a windmill. Drinking beer next to a windmill while eating cheese was probably the most touristy thing we did.

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We also went to one of the markets, the very famous one, the one that also has a Dutch name. It’s great for fabric shopping, if you don’t need to save money as much as I do. It’s even better for buying cheese, especially if you do need to save money, because one of the stands offers large pieces of AMAZING cheese for 2.5€. They also make poffertjes there…

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The highlight was definitely meeting all of my friends in one place after a year and a half, then watching the game, seeing the Dutch win and celebrate and then walking back from the venue to the city centre right before a short storm, roughly around sunset. I don’t think I ever took this many pretty phone pics in such a short amount of time. Afterwards, some of us were happy enough to stay in the centre for some more beer and a stroll through the Red light district (it was D.s first time in A’dam).

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Amsterdam is incredibly pretty in sunshine, D. noted that it mostly looks fake, because it’s so close to what you see in pictures. There’s beautiful houses, millions of canals, everything is small and everything looks more or less the same. Without a tour guide, you’ll definitely get lost. But that’s not that bad- there’s always a tram or a bus going back to the central station and there’s always something adorable to discover among the wobbly streets. Like pretty street art or delicious pommes frites.

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London Vignette 2: Where thoughts go to die

 

So… here’s the thing. I’m not like Disney’s Rapuntzel (who, when she makes a promise NEVR EVER breaks it. Have I told you my BA thesis was about Disney princesses?). I break them. Especially the ones I make to my (imaginary) blog readers. So, here’s a few excuses why the thing I said was going to happen every Wednesday didn’t: first Wednesday I didn’t have Internet, then my cousin came to visit and we had too much fun together to bother writing something and … you know… I’m forgetful (More about that tomorrow). There’s also the small issue that once you start looking for awesome things happening around you, nothing happens. So we’ll make this London vignette thing a monthly thing? Biweekly maybe? Not even a thing? We’ll see. But anyway, here’s number two, the one I started writing three weeks ago, when it still felt like summer here…

Where thoughts go to die

It’s useless. I tried unsticking the shirt from my body twenty times in the last ten minutes, but the air is to warm and too moist and I’m sweating as if I’m walking through a tropical jungle, not an east London marsh. The trees are tall and old and the undergrowth dense and strong. The only thing that makes it obvious we’re not somewhere near the equator are all of the people trying to enjoy this hot summer Sunday outside. They turn the forest path into a hipster boulevard.

I’m doing my best not to complain too much about people who don’t know anything about cycling-pedestrian etiquette, the number of men with beards and other hip stuff until something catches my eye… And it’s just…

There’s coconuts, all over the side of the path. A very unusual number of coconuts, piled in-between the nettles. They all seem to gravitate toward an opening in-between the tall green plants, into the forest. And they do, because these coconuts, are not random coconuts. They’re arty coconuts. Someone has carefully positioned them around a pile of sawdust with a hole in the middle, making in seem like there some sort of ritualistic sacrificing going on. And there’s a sign, nestled in the middle of the hairy brown globs. “Where thoughts go to die.”

Just when I’m about to start my rant about the wasting of food, a noise growing louder and louder stops me. There’s something rhythmical in the air, suspiciously similar to ceremonial drums. I guess I must be going mad from the heat and my thoughts are really on their path to death, escorted by the coconuts, waiting to be sacrificed to the hollow coconut gods.

But then something completely normal happens.

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Not So Obvious Helpful Illustrator Tools for making Patterns

I’m a self thought Adobe Illustrator user. I know there’s nothing special about that, I’m just telling you this so you won’t go all:” Doh, EVERYONE knows this thing exists, you’re an idiot” on my post. Not everyone does. Adobe programs have so many functionalities that there’s approximately a million ways of doing something and some are more efficient than others (the ones I use probably usually go in the later category). And then there’s a bunch of things you can do that aren’t really essential so they usually don’t pop up in the tutorials I still use to learn. I mean, some of them do, but I usually hear about them after I’ve been doing something more or less wrong for a very long time:)

Anyway, here’s a list of my top 3 Illustrator “tricks” (I’m using this word because I really can’t think of a better one) that really help with pattern design, that I didn’t know existed for way too long. I do get that for some of you this might be basic knowledge, but I’m pretty sure there’s beginners out there who might find this helpful.

A thing I’ll call the “Line mode”, a.k.a.Ctrl+Y
(oh, yes, I’m probably the only person in the universe still using a PC for any kind of graphic design. Don’t make fun of me, I’m poor. But even if I wasn’t, I’d still stick to a PC. I just hate apple products so much … Anyway, I guess you press the weird apple button and Y or something, if you do use an Apple.)

This is one of the things I stumbled upon completely by mistake, because the Slovenian keyboard has the QWERTZ layout, whereas the English one uses QWERTY. Imagine my surprise when I tried to undo something while my keyboard was secretly set to ENG UK and instead of getting one step back, everything was suddenly just black and white and lines and WHAT? It had to happen a few times before I realised what it was and how I can use it to my advantage. A good example is this Peruvian inspired design I’m working on. It’s made of a ton of small rectangles and it’s kind of hard to say if they are overlapping or just casually hanging out next to each other. Press crtl and Y and you can see that with no problems. It’s also supper useful to check if you have open curves and stuff like that.

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Edit->Edit colours->Recolor artwork

This one definitely takes the cake. It is probably the one I’m most ashamed of not knowing but also the most useful one. But how was I supposed to know it existed? It never occurred to me to ask Google if he knows of a better way of changing the colours in a pattern in any other way than changing each tiny piece (I usually grouped everything of the same colour or layered it or something, to make it easier). But this… this…. this is just f-ing genius. (I learned about that via some very good instructions for a job on odesk.)

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Objects->Art boards->Fit to selected art

I’m not going to admit how long it took me to realise I can save jpegs that just contain everything that’s on the artboard. Nope. (Oh yes, I used to crop shit out in Photoshop, I’m crafty that way.) Than it took me another painfully long time to find out I can make the artboard the size of something in my artboard, like a rectangle that’s in the background layer of my design. This way it’s really easy to resize the tile you’re using to make your pattern, if you decide the pattern would look nicer if it was made of a different building block.

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Here’a an example of when this came in very handy. This is one of my designs for the upcoming Spoonflower weekly contest( and it’s not finished yet, I just thought it’s a very good example.) I realized I needed more variety in the spools and that that would be easiest if I “elongate the rack”. The artboard was previously set to a square, but after I got the size I wanted, I just enlarged the rectangle in the background and set the art board to it’s size.

Bonus: Patterns

This is a fairly new thing, I think it came with CS6. Ever since I can remember you could make patterns by selecting a bunch of things on your art board and dragging them into the swatches. But now you can double click on the tiny rectangle in the swatches and you get a bunch options to edit the pattern. I also discovered that by mistake:) It’s super useful if you’re designing a faux quilt design and I promise I’ll make a tutorial for that one day.  I really do.

I guess it would be smart to use a book or something to learn how to use Illustartor, not random tutorials, so I wouldn’t waste so much time trying to run when I can’t even walk. But on the other hand, I think I have developed a number of techniques for doing things that seem pretty efficient to me, and I’m usually pretty happy with how things I design turn out. But it’s nice to learn helpful things, so, brave readers: do you know any similar “tricks”, that you hoped you’d known about before you learned how to use them? You can share, this is a safe space:) Or do you know of a really good book?

Ps: Khm, I totally didn’t forget about a Wednesday promise that I made, but I’ll talk more about that on a Wednesday;))

London vignette 1: The Lonely Man

I’ve been living here for almost a year- time flies by so fast. And while it takes away your youth and the ability to recover from a night of drink in a 2 hour sleep, it also takes away your sense of wonder. You just stop noticing  amazing things happening all around you all the time and even living in London starts to seem like the most normal thing in the world. Like something you’ve been doing since you were born.

I’ve noticed that I felt like that a lot recently and made a tiny promise to myself that I’ll stop taking things for granted and really enjoy everything. I mean, I’m pretty sure we’re not staying here forever (well, no one stays anywhere forever, but I’m thinking of the fact that we’ll probably have to move once Norb is a doctor). And today, a wonderful tiny thing happened. A magical London moment, that probably couldn’t happen anywhere else. At least not where I’ve been before. I wanted to take a picture, but it went by to fast. So I decided I’ll start writing tiny tiny stories. Vignettes. (I used to write passionately and I recently rediscovered around a gazillion of my poems and short stories on my backup drive and got inspired… I used to be good at writing. In Slovenian, that is, but I’ll do my best in English anyway. So here’s another tiny promise I’m making: I’m going to write on of these things each week. On a Wednesday, Wednesdays are great days. Middle days. Not beginnings, nor ends and thus perfect for this. So here it is, my first London Vignette:

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a picture to set the mood

The Lonely Man

The Dog is pulling me through the thick foilage, forward and onward to his unreachable goals. I desperately wanted to take another picture of a snail on a tree, but he must have other plans. My hair is sticky and my fingers cold. The drizzle is slowly turning into something even the Brits would have to call rain. I can hardly see, my glasses are full of raindrops, but I can smell even better and everything smells like the most pungent freshly cut wet dress.

The dog finally stops, we reached a milestone. He has to sniff this tiny grassy crossroad before we enter the path by the canal. I try to be annoyed for a bit, but it doesn’t feel right. There’s something in the air. Music. I can’t really hear it, the rain is falling harder, but I can almost be sure it’s coming closer. I wipe my glasses in a desperate attempt to see, as if that would help me hear the music better. But it’s good that I do, because, just as I recognise the song, I see where it’s coming from.

Two narrow boats are driving towards us, surprisingly fast and painfully slow, like only narrow boats can move. They’re tight together and have the most magnificent captain I’ve ever seen. Enevn though the raindrops obscure my view and change the shapes of everything, I can see his burgundy red velvet coat, so different from the grey and green surroundings. I can see his crow black top hat, sitting on top of his unruly dark hair. He might be smoking a pipe or I might be imagine things.And with him travels the song. “All by myself, doooon’t want to beeeee …”

He’s stirring his boats, slowly fast, towards, hopefully, a place where he doesn’t have to be all by himself with both of them any more.

Ps: Here’s a picture of a snail on a tree.

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Moth bag

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When I bought my first sewing machine (Lidl, 70 €, still works perfectly) about 5 years ago, I bought it because I wanted to sew bags. Looking back, I have no idea how I got the idea. At the time I wasn’t reading blogs, didn’t follow any crafty forums or had a particularly big interest in crafting (I did dabble in jewellery making and cutting up and drawing weird stuff on T-shirts in high school. I also knit for a short while but never got past the basics. But that was all different.) I guess I must have caught the raising popularity of sewing with the corners of my eyes.

I’m still a crappy seamstress, especially for someone with 5 years of experienced and that’s mainly due to the fact that I’m not patient and like shortcuts. But I was even worse at the beginning. My lack of skill, however, didn’t stop me from sewing an abundance of bags, so the last time I made a new one was 3 and a half years ago.

I couldn’t really justify sewing new ones for quite some time, because I didn’t really need them. Luckily I didn’t move all of my experiments to London and the bag I was using most of the time here (the one form 3.5 years ago) was slowly showing signs of wear. I proclaimed it dead after a liter of baklava syrup got spilled all over it a few weeks ago and I finally allowed myself to make a bag again.

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My sewing skills did improve a bit, but I’m still lazy and impatient, so I decided to just go ahead without a patter, making everything up along the way. I have the great “Bag making bible” book form Lisa Lam with patterns that would have been perfect, but no… Just cut the fabric, no drawing, think later, sew now.  Now!

I do really like my new bag. It’s pretty and violet and has a moth in the front. But it does show that I haven’t made a bag in while and that I just winged it. Even Norb noticed and commented on the shape of it, although I think he thought I might have made it that way on purpose? Yes, it’s extremely narrow and deep, because I like digging in bags for a long time. Makes me feel like I’m Hermione Granger and I placed an undetectable extension charm on it. (Only, it’s kind of detectable from the outside.)

I didn’t add any closures to it, because I don’t have any in my stash and I also never use them. Since the bag has a flap, gravity keeps it closed anyway. There’s a pocket with an invisible zipper in front, because I got one extra when I ordered a bunch on ebay (and I also didn’t have any other zipps in my stash.) There’s just one special pocket for my phone on the inside, because I’ve learnt from experience that I never use extra pockets in the lining anyway, so if I put them in bags I make for myself, it’s just wasting time and materials. I probably won’t even use the zipped one in front, it’s there just in case I take the bag abroad and I need a somewhat secure place for my passport. I guess.

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The shoulder strap is also pretty wide, but let’s say that was on purpose, because I hate it when bags cut into my shoulder. It doesn’t look proportional to the bag, but what can you do? (you can plan ahead, yes, but psssst.)

The last thing I want to mention is the fabric. Almost all of it (except half of the lining, which came from the remnants of the swallow dress and the inside of the strap) is from a craftster swap (the “Printing fabric by hand” swap, which got me back into printing by hand. I can’t wait to actually finish some projects!.  The fabric is all hand printed and extremely pretty. I got it from this lovely lady.

 

Brighton and The Seven Sister Country Park

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This was the first trip me, Norb and Ari went on in the UK. Norb’s parents were visiting and they’re not really city people, so a day or two of sightseeing around London was more than enough for them. Because they stayed for almost 9 days, we had to fill the rest with something (mostly it was eating baclavas, walking the dog around the marshes and looking for a small rectangular light coloured head scarf for Norbs grandma, which was almost mission impossible). So this was the perfect opportunity to rent a car and go somewhere out of Oyster reach. (I don’t have a drivers licence and Norb prefers having a second driver in the car). We didn’t need much thinking to decided that going south is the best idea, since we’re all huge fans of the sea.

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I guess there’s lots to do in Brighton, if you want to do stuff, but we just walked around, took pictures and enjoyed the sun and sea air. We also ate some fish and chips, because I heard that’s what you’re supposed to do there:) We went to a pub, we also had to check “more or less traditional pub” from their “what to do in the UK” list. The pub has something to do with baskets or weavers or maybe basket weavers in the name and we were really happy with our choice. The food was amazing!

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Then, we went on to the Seven Sisters Country Park, which was simply magnificent. I imagined it was going to be quite crowded and windy (I like to prepare for the worst), but it wasn’t either. Some German school kids were going back when we went towards the beach and then we were almost alone. There was a pleasant light summer breeze and all you could hear were birds, waves and sheep in the distance.

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We all wished we went there earlier, you could spend a whole day there, just walking around and enjoying the view. Everywhere you turn and look, you see something amazing. Then you walk approximately 5 meters, and everything seems even prettier.

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I’m not a fan of long car drives on winding roads (I don’t feel well four hours afterwards), staying in the sun too long without a hat, or heights, so when we went on top of the first cliff, I wasn’t exactly happy. The dog enjoyed it a lot, though, he doesn’t mind being an inch away from dying at all. He even set down half way up, just on the edge of the path, and scratched his ear viciously for approximately a million years and I almost fainted just looking at him. Even thinking about that now makes my stomach turn…

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We both enjoyed the top though. Being away from the edge, but still being able to see everything made me happy again, and he was even happier about all of the lovely presents the sheep have left for him. (It was poo. He loves it. Eating it. Rolling in it. Eating whatever is left over from rolling in it.) There were many lambs and baby rabbits all around the meadows, so the beauty was improved by some incredible cuteness.

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I think it was the perfect day trip. If you’re quite new to the UK and wonder what to explore, I’d definitely recommend The Seven Sisters. Brighton is quite nice too, but a bit too touristy for my taste.

Sunday Market Swallow Dress

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This dress was materializing in my mind for years. I love 50ish dresses, I love pastels and I love tattoos. Ever since I’ve realised the potential of my embroidery machine, I knew I wanted to make a top or something in the line, that would have two swallows positioned on each side of the top of my chest, kind of where a lot of girls have tattoos of birds. I really like how they look, but I don’t like the commitment that comes with getting a tattoo in such an obvious place.

I bought the swallow design from Urban threads in one of their sales, just because it’s so pretty. At the time I didn’t connect the design with my dream dress, after all it wasn’t obvious that I could separate the birds and put each one on one side of something. Than one day I decided I’ll sew the Elizabeth dress from the Burda Style Sewing Vintage Modern book as a kind of muslin, from cheap fabric, to see how well the size I think I am fits me, before I try any of the other patterns in the book that are based on the Elizabeth dress. (The concept of the book, If you don’t know it, is that you have a few basic patterns and then it shows you how to make a wide variety of other clothes based on those patterns). Than I found this pretty pink fabric and knew I wanted to actually wear the dress that would grow out of it, but I also knew I had to embellish it somehow. So I searched through my library and there it was… Eureka! :)

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I just separated the two swallows into two different designs with PE design (the software came with the machine, that I bought second hand. I’ve had it for 4 years now and still don’t know how to use it properly) and changed the size a bit (one of the birds is a bit small now, but I don’t mind that). The positioning is not exact either, but I’m OK with that, too (as you can see, I’m far from a perfectionist;)).

The one thing I wanted to try out to make the pattern a bit more interesting, was to “spice up” the back a little. I really like cut-outs and I think trying a simple one on the back is a good start. My trusted Elsa (my tailor’s dummy) was a HUGE help, I couldn’t have done it without her. It’s was so easy with it though, I just pined the pattern to the back and could mark the desired position and shape of the cut-out exactly. I think the cut out is the most successful part of my experiment.

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I also sewed my first lapped zipper into this dress – mainly because I’m too impatient and lazy. The local fabric store where I bought the fabric didn’t have either invisible or matching zippers, so I bought a contrast one. I had to hide it a bit and a lapped zipper seemed like a good idea. I think it was. :) It turned out better than I expected it to, but again, far from perfect. :) (I learned the basics of how to do it with help of the free class on zipper insertion techniques on Craftsy)

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The sewing of the dress was a good exercise in positioning embroidery, cut-outs and trying out new zipper techniques. It also helped me to see that the fit needs a bit of improvement, but I’ll work on that on the next one.

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I’m definitely going to wear it, I think it would be a shame not to. It seems like a dress one would wear to go strawberry hunting to the Sunday markets, doesn’t it? Hence, the name… :)

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Ps: I do realise my one sided braid was not really the perfect hairdo to showcase this dress. But as you can see, I don’t particularly enjoy modeling, so I decided these pictures are good enough;)

 

Brussels by (mega)Bus: a Weekend Trip Across the Sea

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Ever since one of my best friends (who we shall call Vegegrafinja, because that’s what we called her on my previous Slovenian blog and it was one of the best nicknames I ever created) moved to Brussels, she was trying to convince me that I should most definitely visit. I always thought I don’t have enough money to do that. Plane tickets are expensive and than you have to drink litters of beer there, buy fancy chocolate and eat waffles and …

She (and her boyfriend) came to visit us in London last year and they came by bus. They travelled in Asia for 8 months so I assumed they’re used to long bus rides, on the other hand I could NEVER survive 7 hours stuck in a smelly crowded vehicle. But she kept on inviting me and ensuring me that my only costs would be the beer (but that they will buy me some of those, too) and that the bus ride is really great and you can get tickets for 1 pound (really. They did. I didn’t, mine were 18 in each way) and Brussels is amazing and… The last obstacle for me was my mortal fear of the Euro tunnel (I have mild claustrophobia and it gets worse if I’m stuck in a place with lots of people under ground. I just imagine all the horrible ways I could die if something gets wrong.) but everyone, even the Megabus website ensured me that we’ll take the ferry. So there were no more excuses left and I bought the tickets.

Just before I started the journey, I read somewhere on the internet that I should really lover my expectations for Megabus. That it was going to be horribly crowded, late, stinky and just like a modern level of Dante’s hell with loud people on phones, small children screaming directly into your ears from all sides and your legs slowly and painfully dying from no blood circulation. So I borrowed Norb’s fancy noise cancelling earphones, packed all of my modern means of portable entertainment (computer, smart phone, kindle) and prepared myself for the worst journey of my life.

But let me tell you, it was the exact opposite. Well, I’m not calling it the most pleasant journey ever, after all I was lucky enough to travel first calls to the US once, but it was not bad at all. There was absolutely no crowd- everyone who wanted it had 2 seats for themselves. All of the passengers were more or less grown up and they were quiet and pleasant the whole ride. All the staff, from the chek-in ladies at Victoria to the bus driver, were super nice (the bus driver was also very funny and made some great jokes along the way) and we left the station almost on time – 5 minutes late, because a passenger that checked in didn’t come to the bus (we could complain about her, but she was very British and apologized to the whole bus when she finally arrived). The sit where I sat had no electrical sockets ( I sat in the 2nd row), but I later learned the the ones in the back do. There’s also some very slow wifi available while you’re still in the UK, but it was waaay to slow for me. So all in all, the ride is amazing for the price. There was the one thing, though…

You’ve probably already guessed that we did take the Eurotunel after all. When the bus driver announced it at the beginning of our ride I contemplated running out of the bus screaming for a few minutes, but at that point my thirst for Belgian beer was too strong. For some reason I imaged the tunnel and train to be a small and dark place, kind of like a tube or metro, just with cars and buses squeezed into it. But in reality it’s quite spacious and there’s enough light and I almost didn’t panic at all. I waited till that point to get my computer out and started watching something just before we went in and I only looked away from the screen for a few seconds. So I was pleasantly surprised that we were out of the train even before the episode of Charmed ended. From that point on, I just enjoyed the ride.

eurotuni

 The bus boarding the train that goes into the tunnel

Vegerafinja awaited me in Brussels, and although the bus arrives straight to the city centre, I decided that I’ll leave the sight seeing for other days. Brussesl is tiny and I didn’t really want to visit any museums this time, so I had plenty of time to see all the sights at least twice in the three days. They are (almost) all lovely. (I was not impressed by the manneken piss at all, as you could imagine.)

pis

 I am standing right in front of the thing. Not far away as one might imagine. 

This was my second time in Brussels so my main objective was to actually drink as much beer as I could mange without passing out, eat at least one real Belgian waffle (you get the best ones from the vans. really) and buy some chocolate for home. I also had to eat an unhealthy amount of fries- they are Belgian, not French after all.

pivos

pivis

 Moinette was my favourite

But Vegerafinja also showed me around their neighbourhood, which is very close to the lovely Parvis de Saint Gilles where normal (by that I mean not-hipsters, which was a refreshing change from home) young people like to hang out in the evenings, twe went to see some traditional Palestinian dancing, they showed me where to get very tasty cakes, wonderful art nouveau buildings, …

pisi

 Banksyish manneken

My favourite part by far was our trip to the market at Gare du Midi. I lovelovelove markets, so this was a real treat. They said it’s the biggest one in Europe (and I trust them, so I won’t do any fact checking:)) and I guess you could buy anything there. There’s the stalls with fancy Italian foods, all kinds of cheese, cheap Chinese electronics, cheap clothes, fabric and toys, cheap chocolate, expensive chocolate, fired everything, and all kinds of produce. We had some amazing wraps with olives, cheese and honey (olives and honey seem like one of the most unappetizing combinations ever. But they actually make a great pair) and bought a ton of strawberries for 2 € (I’m still trying to find anything remotely similar around here.)

wrepsi

 

The only disappointing part of the market was the selection of fabrics, which was far from great, but I guess Walthamstow raised my expectations of cheap fabric markets a bit too high.

All in all, the trip was much more fun and a lot less stressful than I expected it to be. It opened me up to the whole idea of bus travel, and we already bought some tickets to Amsterdam. There is a whole new world of possibilities out there for me, and you can expect more posts about my travelling to different cities (which, I can imagine, are probably quite boring to most people. but I like them. :))

čips

 I love the look on the face of the guy behind me. He must really dislike tourists taking pictures of eating fries:D

Artdecoish Lilly of the Valley design (Spoonflower weekly design challenge)

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I’ve been thinking about designing an artdecoish pattern with a rhombus for the base (this whole concept might have a proper name… ;)), featuring some kind of fauna and gradients for quite some time. Something that looks a bit like a Liberty print. (Just a bit, I’m obviously never going to pretend I could get on the same level:))

For no particular reason I haven’t done any Spoonflower designs in quite some time. Most of the weekly contests either didn’t appeal to me or I just didn’t have the time, so I didn’t even visit the website for a month. Then, on Sunday, I went to check out what contests are coming up in the future, thinking I could practise some of the techniques I want to really learn in Illustrator. And there it was, this week”s contest.

Lilies. I love flowers SO much. Huge lilies in general aren’t really my thing (they always remind of funerals or tacky holiday postcards), but their tiny sisters, lilies of the valley, are one of my favourites. They have been popping up around the routes where I walk my dog every day in the past few weeks and it’s really hard for me not pick them all and bring them home.

So it was almost perfect. Lilly of the valley was one of the most popular flowers in the art deco era (maybe it wasn’t and I just notice all the deigns that feature it more, I don’t know) and they are perfect for a rhomboidal design. Unfortunately, I only had two days to make it, so it’s not where I wanted it to be. I had quite a lot of trouble working out the repeat so some other features of the design aren’t even there (like stems or leaves intertwining). But all in all, I’m still very much in love with it.

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And, as usual, if you like it, go to Spoonflower, and vote for it. I don’t think I really stand any chances, the fat quarter preview doesn’t show the design at all. But I didn’t want to make the rhombuses (god I love this word) to big, so it is what is. I kind of really want to order two yards of it to make myself a dress, but I can’t really justify the costs. Just the customs and handling fees were 12 pounds the last time, so… No. Or maybe?

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