17 October 2011

New craft on the block

I'm going to the Make Lounge tonight to learn how to crochet.


It was a birthday present from the boy. He didn't have a list of potential presents this year, as I wanted a surprise. The boy did good.

Double yay.

I've been trying to teach myself crochet for ages. I've felt like I should be able to do it. But it's annoyed me that no matter what I read, or however many YouTube tutorials I watch, I still can't get the hang of it, and the patterns remain a foreign language.

The closest my crochet hook usually gets to yarn is picking up dropped stitches in my knitting.

So I'm really looking forward to tonight's class. And then I saw this in Saturday's Guardian magazine.

Now firstly, crochet is (apparently) going to be the cool craft this winter. But secondly, IRONIC?! How dare they! Very disappointing given how much coverage they give to crafts.

So it seems that with crafting, I'm simultaneously cool and a dork. 

16 October 2011

We interrupt our regular programming with...

... a Gin off!

I do love a good drink. Generally it's a vodka and tonic, on a girls night out it's a cocktail (cosmopolitan or caipirinha, thanks for asking), and there's usually a bottle of bubbles around on a girls weekend.

But then I spotted a link to making your own gin on Twitter (through @Craft, I think), which was seized upon by one of my real life twitter friends.

We have competition history, me and Mrs R. We started the bake off at work together, so a gin off seemed a perfectly natural thing to do.

So last week I headed down to South Wimbledon to be the independent judge in the gin off. Mrs R and three of her friends had been hard at it making their own gins, and all were lined up and numbered by the time I arrived, so I didn't know who had made which one.

The contenders

I was hoping to be like Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood, but I was probably a bit more Mel and Sue.

We tried every gin neat (with an ice cube), and then with tonic water.
All marked up and ready to drink
Line 'em up
And it was only fair that we compare them to some 'proper' gins - Bombay Sapphire and Whitley Neill. I'd never had Whitley Neill before, but it's very nice.
The 'control' gins: Bombay Sapphire and Whitley Neill
My (very rudimentary) understanding of the process is that the botanicals used in the process influenced the final colour of the gins. As they weren't distilled, they were never going to end up clear like the Bombay Sapphire or Whitley Neill, but that was to be expected.

After the neat gins, we tried them with tonic.
Gins with tonic
Ice and a slice?
And then lined them up in order of preference, both neat and with tonic.
Scores on the doors
As you can (just about) see from the scores, judges were split and favourites differed when tasted neat and with tonic. Two of the gins had been flavoured with rosewater, and this was just too fragrant for me when neat, but a really nice drink when tonic was added. Actually, I'd drink all of them with tonic (I've never been a big fan of neat spirits).

Mrs R was an excellent host, and provided us with canapes and nibbles, and an abundance of cheese. I promise we ate more than just cheese with fruit (it's just that this is the only food I got a picture of, honest).

Mmmmm, nibbles
And in case you were wondered what was added to the basic vodka to make such wonderful drinks, well, here you go: 
  1. Rosewater, cardamon pods, juniper and black pepper
  2. Rosewater, cinnamon, cloves, orange and lemon peel, and juniper
  3. Juniper and coriander seeds, cinnamon and lemon thyme
  4. Juniper, green cardamon, black cardamon, black pepper, lemon peel, cloves and angelica.
Gin 4 was victorious, and I think all were agreed the angelica was the winning addition. It was a bit of a plus point that this was made by the host.