Monthly Archives

April 2013

Knitting

Wild knitting (4KCBWDAY2)

30/04/2013

Day two? Why don’t we try for part 2 instead? I swear overly optimistic is written through me like a stick of rock. But I love the blog topics suggested so I’m just going to have to have a Knitting and crochet blog week month instead.

Day 2: A Mascot Project

In the corner of my stash cupboard in the room that was once my sewing room there is a box. A nice sturdy brown cardboard box. With Swedish post labels and an address that bears my name. Nestled inside are skeins of beautiful fluffy angora wool mix, some in dark sage, flame orange, rosy pink and the brilliant green of tiny newborn leaves popping out of the knarly branches of an apple tree welcoming spring.

It’s a kit. A Bohus kit for the Wild Apples jumper and it represents both the pinnacle of my knitting aspirations and the very essence of a typical Monkey knitter project. I mean, 10 colours in one row, it’s a monkey if ever I saw one.

So why is it still sat in its box, its skeins unwound, its pattern instructions crisp and fresh, free from the inevitable dog ears and knitterly scribbles? Well for one thing I have yet to see what the combined effects of two pregnancies and nursing will ultimately do to my figure. I don’t mind the changes to my body per se, but if I’m going to put all that effort in I’d like it fit for more than a few weeks, and a jumper is less forgiving than a cardie. But really the reason is that I want time. I want to relish every stitch of this knit, to take my time. It’s going to be the epitome of slow knitting.

If I were to start it now I don’t doubt that I would enjoy it, but with relatively little crafty time at the moment I think I’d miss the satisfaction of finishing something that stays finished (unlike laundry, washing up and tidy clean houses, to name but a few). So I’m making cute little baby jumpers and socks, trying my hand at tiny girl dressmaking, and wrapping my family up in quilts and feeding them cake.

When I open the stash cupboard to try to squeeze a few escaping skeins back where they belong I can see that box on the shelf. For now at least, it’s enough to know it’s there.

Blogging Crochet Designed by me Embroidery Inspiration Knitting Work in Progress

Once a monkey always a monkey (4KCBWDAY1)

22/04/2013
It’s Knitting and Crochet Blog Week 2013, and while the pervasive intervention of real life means that I’m nowhere near as prepared as I’d have like to have been, I’m more than happy to spend a week chatting about all sorts of lovely fibery things, so in an entirely characteristic move I’m diving in feet first and we’ll just have to see where it takes us.
So for challenge number one, it’s time to sort the Manatees from the Peacocks in The House Cup (think Harry Potter and the sorting hat).
I’ve always considered myself somewhere in the grey area between an all out process knitter and a product knitter; I’m unlikely to knit anything that I wouldn’t wear, use, or gift, just because of it’s construction, and I think that my pathological reluctance to swatch if I can possibly avoid it would make me a square peg in the process knitter round hole.  But then in the same breath I couldn’t knit acres of stockinette just for the product, and my reaction to a pattern I love is always “I want to knit that”, not “I want to wrap up in that”. 
 
At the end of the day, like most of us I suppose, if I’m going to spend my time and pocket money, I need the whole package, beautiful yarn, engaging stitches and a sensational finished product; life’s far too short for unloveable knitting.
I think I could just about claim that I’m project monogamous within each craft, so long as we entirely overlook the single sock that’s been lurking at the bottom of the knitting bag for at least the last three years.  At the moment I’ve got one pair of socks on the needles, one baby cardigan ready to cast on, three knitting designs rampaging round my brain and niggling at me, a just finished quilt, the just finished Wrap Around crochet shawl, a cross stitch cushion for Kitty that I haven’t touched since before her second birthday, and half an embroidered Christmas cottage ornament.  I|t’s all one at a time, sort of.  And that’s before we count the projects queued up in my cupboard, or my head.  Which we most emphatically don’t.  I may have made plans for them, but for now they count as stash (unless and until anyone challenges me to declare the size of my stash in which case they’re definitely projects of course – I know, once a lawyer, always a lawyer).
So where do you classify someone whose reaction to seeing or dreaming up something beautiful is usually:
“I want to make that; I’m sure I can figure it out.”?
I read through the options (Bee, Manatee, Monkey or Peacock), I read them to H, we turned to each other and with one breath, said
“Monkey!”

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With perhaps an undertone of Manatee.
The Monkey house prefect it seems would be a challenge junkie, always looking for something new and interesting.  While not every project I knit or crochet expands my skills, I can’t deny that that rings a little true.  My project list includes intarsia, stranded colourwork, steeking, traditional fairisle, double handed knitting, Bohus knitting, lace, beading, entrelac and short row shaping.  I’ve played with different increases and decreases, cast ons and offs and all sorts of ways to sculpt fabric (Baby Surprise Jacket I’m looking at you), and my biggest design challenge seems to be resisting the overwhelming desire to put everything I can think of into one pattern and thereby render it unknitterably complicated. (and yes I think I may have invented a new word there).
I’ll claim a little underlying Manatee because I do have a soft spot for a pair of vanilla socks for a little soothing knitting to restore serentity and regroup after a long day; plus you always need something to knit if you’re going to have to pay attention to a good film; but if the cap fits…
So which house are you? Eskimimi’s four houses are here, (as well as a poll to see how many compatriots you have).
Baking Cooking Family Recipes

Rebuilding a recipe book

20/04/2013

If there was one culinary constant in my childhood it was this, the All Colour St Michael Freezer Cookery Book:
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It’s a classic of 1970’s style, including such recipes as “Chicken breasts a la Kiev”, “Chicken and mushroom vol-au-vents” and “French fried potatoes”, all presented and photographed with such an overwhelming harvest gold haze you can practically feel the polyester velour backdrop. Mum had a whole cupboard of cook books, but with the exception of the Australian Women’s Weekly Children’s Birthday Cakes book, I don’t recall her ever consulting another.

It was published in 1976 and must still have been popular in 1978 when Mum and Dad married, I wonder whether it was a wedding present? She ended up with two copies, one in our house in Devon, and the other in the school accommodation we lived in while Dad was teaching.  When my sister and I set up our own homes, and she and Dad retired, she gave one to each of us, and promptly spent so much time on the phone to Zee double checking the recipes that she gave Mum another copy.  They are all three a little battered, fall open at certain pages, and are liberally sprinkled with Mum’s notes and adaptations; changes to method, or notes on oven temperatures and timings.
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If I want to make a childhood favourite and I can’t remember off the top of my head, I open up St Michael, and whilst I’m unlikely ever to attempt the gelatinous wonder that is “Tomato and herb ring” any time soon, this is one cookbook from which I won’t be parted.
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But there are a few things that aren’t there, the recipes that Mum knew off by heart or ‘shock horror’ got from somewhere else. They’re my nursery favourites, the food that reminds me of being cosseted and nourished as a child, the ultimate in comfort food. I want to be able to cook them for my little family, and so there’s only really one thing to do; culinary reconstruction.

Actually, that’s Plan B, Plan A, when the Riverford box arrived with a glut of baby spinach, was to phone Zee to ask if she had the recipe for Spinach and Almond flan.  Her answer?

“Isn’t it in the St Michael Freezer Cookery Book?”

(I rest my case)

And after a little experimentation, I’ve concocted something that, if not exactly the recipe Mum used, produces the taste I remember.  Family, friends, passing internet acquaintances and the googlebot, may I present to you:

Spinach and Almond flan a la Gill

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Ingredients:
for the pastry

6oz (150g) plain flour
3oz (75g) butter
1oz (25g) ground almonds
1 egg

for the filling

1oz (25g) butter
1 onion, peeled and chopped
8oz (200g) spinach (whole if using baby spinach, centre stalk removed for grown-up spinach)
1oz (25g) flaked almonds, plus a small handful for sprinkling on top
2 eggs
1oz (25g) cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 pint (300ml) full fat milk
pinch of salt and pepper

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 C.
  2. Put the flour, butter and ground almonds in a food processor and blitz until it resembles fine breadcrumbs (alternatively rub the butter in by hand).
  3. Add the egg down the funnel with the motor running and keep it running until the pastry just comes together.  If your egg is small or it just doesn’t seem to be working, add cold water, a spoonful at a time.
  4. Wrap the pastry in greaseproof paper and pop it in the fridge for at least 20mins.
  5. Melt the butter in a large frying pan. Sauté the onion in the butter until translucent.
  6. Add the spinach to the frying pan and cook over a gentle heat until it has wilted.
  7. Add 1oz of flaked almonds, stir, and set aside to cool.
  8. Roll out the pastry and use it to line a metal non-stick tin approx. 20cm x 30cm.  Don’t grease the tin, that way lies a soggy bottom.
  9. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs with the milk and season.
  10. Put the spinach and almond mixture in the pastry case, then pour over the egg and milk.
  11. Top with grated cheese and a small handful of flaked almonds.
  12. Bake at 180 C for 30-35 minutes until the pastry is a light brown and pulling away from the edge of the tin and the cheese has turned golden.
  13. Allow to cool for a few moments before serving.  It tastes pretty good cold too, if you can make it last that long. 

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Family Kitty {this moment}

{this moment}

19/04/2013

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Joining in with {this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, ailment special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savour and remember.

To see more, check out the comments to Soulemama.

Baby Elma Family Finished Kitty Knitting Motherhood

Old wives knew a thing or two

17/04/2013
For the most part I take old wives’ tales with a hefty pinch of salt.  In the course of two pregnancies that have both gone a fair way past their due dates I’ve tried just about everything to induce labour, only stopping short of anything involving the ingestion of copious amounts of cod liver oil.  For the record, the only one that I consider has any impact was acupuncture, although the glass of champagne was very nice.
One theory suggests that babies don’t come until their knitting is ready for them, and it’s true that I’ve always finished the knits before either of my tiny girls made an appearance, although I’ll freely accept that babies that take their time do give their Mamas more time to finish, so the data, whilst supportive, might not actually be evidence.
However, old wives’ tale or not, no one wants to be the reason why some poor Mama-to-be is sat watching endless repeats of bad afternoon telly, waiting and waiting and waiting for a sign that things might be getting going, so when a baby I was knitting for showed all the signs of taking a little time to be persuaded into making an appearance, I wasn’t going to take any chances.
I cast on. I knit while my own snuggly baby kicked and wriggled in my lap, or snoozed in her Moses basket beside me, I knit while Kitty and H watched Mulan (again), and I knit while my lovely daughter single handedly exhausted my parents-in-law.
I cast off at 11.39pm on Good Friday.
And at 4.47am on Easter Saturday I became an Auntie, and more importantly, my little sister became Mama to a teeny tiny adorable baby boy.

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Who says old wives’ tales are all hokum?
We visited the newest addition to the family last weekend and introduced tiny nephew to his cousins. 

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At 7lb 4oz he’s less than half the size of Elma, who currently clocks in at a bonny 15lb 1oz, and smaller than either of the girls have ever been, with a cute little nose, long fingers, a dusting of silky brown hair, and really long feet!
 
Kitty thought he was very interesting; and promptly tried to give him all the toys, but was easily distracted by persuading (and by persuading, I of course mean demanding) her uncle to read all of the story books.  Several times over. 
 
Elma took a long look at her little cousin when they were laid down together for a moment, and then turned to gaze back at me with an expression that suggested utter astonishment at the existence of another person smaller than herself. 

The young man himself mostly slept.

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And the knitting? Well it’s no surprise that it’s another Baby Surprise Jacket.  I love this pattern; it’s fun to knit (and quick) and a really practical baby cardie. 

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It’s not self striping yarn this time; I put together five different colours of DK yarn, mostly Baby Cashmerino with a dark teal Rowan Wool Cotton, and a red Sublime DK, and changed colour as and when I thought it looked good, and entirely at random.  It’s definitely a perk of the pattern that you don’t need to remember your stripes to be able to repeat them later.

It’s warm, snuggly, and the perfect way to say:

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your Auntie Carie loves you lots.