Friday, 16 September 2011

A gift for a bride

Long time no see.. I've been a busy bee with work and then off to the USA for a friend's wedding, and so haven't had a chance, or the energy, to blog. However, my knitting needles have not been idle. 

I wanted to knit something for my friend that she could wear at her wedding, but given she was getting married in the US in summer a shawl seemed too warm. I settled on the idea of a cardigan that would be wedding suitable, but also suitable for everyday wear. The thought was that given a lot of the wedding was outdoors it might get cool in the evening, and an extra layer would be welcomed. As it happened it was quite balmy and warm all evening, so the cardigan was unnecessary, but the bride still seemed thrilled to have a nice new cardigan to wear.

After deciding that a cardigan was a good plan, and MUCH searching on Ravelry for what I wanted I settled on this; the whole-wheat cardigan by Alexandra Dafoe. 

Here are some shots of the cardigan pieces blocking:-

Obviously this was pre-sleeves...

Just so you can see the pattern more clearly.

I hope to have some photos of the recipient in the finished object but didn't get a chance while in the USA. It's ravelled here.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Happiness soup, yummy lentil burgers, and shelves!

This weekend my family came to visit, and as well as catching up and having fun there was lots of eating. Also my awesome dad put up some shelves for us in the kitchen, my cookery books no longer need to lie down on the dresser, they're now on display in a more useful way!


To feed a family with two vegetarians, one peanut allergic, and one on a gluten-free diet can be tricksy, but on Sunday we happily munched on lentil, rice and nut burgers with guacamole, and fried eggs and homemade coleslaw (made by mum) on the side - yummy!

I invented the recipe a while back to use up some leftover rice and it goes something like this (be aware it makes a lot! you can always halve the quantities):-

200 g lentilles vertes (puy lentils would also work) - boiled.
1 portion cooked brown basmati (~150 g cooked)
1 medium onion
100 g cashew nuts
50 g sunflower seeds
2 eggs
3 cloves garlic
~5 mushrooms (optional)
EITHER mushroom ketchup or soy sauce
soy flour to bind (optional)

Blend ingredients in food processor, fry a small bit of mixture and taste for seasoning, adjust to taste.
The first time I made these I used mushrooms, soy flour and mushroom ketchup, having toyed with various seasonings.  This time, I'd run out of mushrooms and mushroom ketchup and used soy sauce instead. With the mushrooms and mushroom ketchup the mixture was a bit wet, so I used soy flour to bind the mixture and add extra protein. With soy sauce the mixture was fine without the soy flour. 
Shallow fry the mixture as patties and enjoy! They're nice hot or cold, and with the nuts and lentils are nice and filling.

For Sunday dinner Chris and I decided to harvest some of our homegrown produce -

Yummy Yellow Courgette.
With our 450 g giant courgette we decided to make Happiness Soup, one of our favourite recipes from Nigella Lawson's Forever Summer. This soup really lives up to its name and made us feel summery and happy even though there was torrential rain outside.

We ate our fluorescent yellow soup with some freshly-baked bread.

Courgette soup for the soul.
To make the meal even more perfect we followed this up with apple crumble :-)

Happy days.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011


Over the weekend I was a busy bee making jam.
Our lovely neighbour gave us a big bag of yellow plums from her garden, as she's had a bumper crop this year. Also, we've had lots of rhubarb (our garden's big success this year), so roll on plum jam and rhubarb jam...

For both recipes I used my 1970's copy of the Good Housekeeping cookery book, which is filled with lots of wonderful recipes and used the "plum jam" recipe for the plums. Here are the jars of jam:-

I used the pressure cooker to cook the plums, in the hopes that their colour would stay better if I cooked them under pressure for 5 min vs. 30-50 min in a normal pan. As the pressure cooker is stainless steel, it's also the ideal place to make the jam.

While the plums cooked I found a recipe to use the rhubarb in, the imaginatively named "Rhubarb Ginger" which, believe it or not, has rhubarb and ginger in it.

Here's some of the rhubarb:-
Yay - we grew this!

There was no added water in the recipe, and the way to deal with this was to prepare the rhubarb the day before making the jam, by chopping it up and layering it with the sugar:-
This was covered with a tea-towel and left overnight, and by the magical process of osmosis the water from the rhubarb seeped out into the sugar, and made it all ready to cook.

Fresh ginger was cooked in with the rhubarb and then removed, crystallised ginger (made by cooking fresh ginger in sugar syrup) was added for the jamming process. My jam thermometer was great for the process, and I learnt with the plum jam to trust it more (it didn't seem to be setting so I boiled it longer, ignoring the thermometer, and the plum jam is now set rock solid).

Here's a picture of my final hoard from a weekend boiling fruit in sugar:-


Monday, 1 August 2011

July Socks - Finished in July!

July has been a success sock club-wise - I finished the socks last night at about 11pm, so just within the month's deadline.

I've been stashbusting recently, and was not sure what pattern to use for the regia colour silk I had in my stash. After some searching on Ravelry for patterns good for self-striping yarns I settled on Broadripple, with a few tweaks to make it work for the thinner yarn I was using.

I cast on 64 stitches, and for the ripple pattern used K3 yo K3 ssk k2tog K3 yo K3, leading to a slightly different ripple, but the same overall effect as the original. It's a nice easy knit, with a nice rhythm to the pattern. They're ravelled here.


I haven't decided yet what August's socks will be, but hopefully i'll choose soon so that I have most of the month to get them done!

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

How exciting!!

So Lien in our knitting group (Oxford Bluestockings) organised for us to be in the gallery section of The Knitter. This involved us sending off projects and headshots with a small blurb about what we'd knitted, did we like the pattern, what yarn we used and so on. I was very excited when in this month's edition there was my wedding shawl!

See Lien's post here for a peek at our projects, and pick up a copy of issue 34 of The Knitter if you want to see the pictures properly :)

On Sunday I was at knitnation taking Franklin Habit's Lace Edgings: before, during and after. The class was my first knitting class and it was great fun and very informative, I think you'll be seeing decorative lace edgings on a lot of things I make! Including a new lace top i've finished and will post about soon. Knitnation was great fun, although I was slightly disappointed that the marketplace was quite so yarn heavy (as i'm not buying any at the moment) and few stalls had much to offer other than yarn. I was in the market for a variety of knitting accessories, such as needles, dye and row counters, but there was very little choice (in some cases there was one option). Had I been buying yarn I would have been a happy bunny though and probably would have bought some Habu as it looked very exciting, though not as much as Mikal!!!!

I'm in Germany right now for a collaboration, but therefore have a bit more knitting time, so am finally making headway on both June and July's socks. I'll pop a picture of July's socks up soon. Sorry for the lack of piccies in today's post!

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Tiny Cardigan, and Big Jumper

I've been working on a jumper for my lovely husband, but it's big and so slow growing.. I'm about halfway to the point where i'll add armholes, so making progress. Here's a sneak peek:-

To break the monotony of the jumper, and to make a pressie for a friend with a baby, I completely copied Liz and made the Drops Baby Cardigan with Short Raglan Sleeves, but in the 6-9 month size.

I used some yarn that was leftover after a complete online shopping fail. I'd ordered 6 balls of wool for a jumper for myself, and it arrived in two batches. This should have warned me of what was about to happen, but I was new to all things wooly, and so began crocheting my jumper... A week or so later the other half of my yarn showed up and was, although the same colourway, an entirely different colour and texture, and made in an entirely different country! When I contacted the seller about this and the fact she had sent me stuff from two dye lots, she insisted she'd done nothing wrong (even though what she'd sold me was unfit for the purpose it was bought for) and would only refund unused balls. Therefore I had two balls left, and an entirely unsatisfactory shopping experience.

Two balls however, were plenty for a diddy cardigan for a diddy person, and here is said cardigan blocking to counteract the fact I rewound the crocheted yarn without soaking it first (so my stitches were v wonky). The cardigan is ravelled here.

I dropped off the finished object (with added buttons) this weekend, but the recipient was out, hopefully it'll a) fit and b) be liked! I however, really enjoyed knitting such a quick garment and the little bit of lace was a welcome break from cabling... I think more baby garments will be making it onto my "to knit" list, at least partly as people I know keep having babies!

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Busy busy busy...

So we've been busy busy recently.
Here's what we were up to last weekend, not exactly uneventful!

First we went to the wedding of some lovely friends of ours:-
 Here's the outside of the Church, can you guess which building's nearby?

Beautiful flowers in the church.

The very big, very shiny organ in the Church

The service was lovely, though filled with hymns that I have not encountered before. Both bride and groom looked radiant, though I don't want to put piccies of people up without their express permission, and they're on honeymoon :)

We all walked a few minutes round the corner to the reception venue, and after a wonderful wedding breakfast we had a disco in this room:-
It was a lovely day celebrating with Julian and Liz, and I hope they're having a lovely honeymoon and that we'll see them soon.

Sunday didn't want to be outdone by Saturday's excitement, and so we hopped into the car and drove to Milton Keynes Bowl where we joined 65,000 other people to watch the Foo Fighters!!

First up were The Hot Rats, whose songs seemed surprisingly familiar given I hadn't thought I knew any of them. They were enjoyable to watch, and seemed to enjoy having quite such a large audience.

Next up were one of our favourite bands, Jimmy Eat World. For the most part they stuck with playing the old favourite songs, including half of the Bleed American album! They did play a few from the new album though, and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing them live again. I was particularly happy as they weren't in charge of the support bands. When we've been to see them live as the headline band, the support bands have been generally disappointing! Something that we have never quite understood, given how much we like Jimmy Eat World's music.

After JEW the next band up were Biffy Clyro. I saw them live about 9 years ago in Cambridge where I was impressed at how well their music came across live. Often when bands come out with albums with complex riffs and you see them live the complexity of the music fails to translate, or the ability of the band to play in sync with one another does not live up to the expectations set up by the recording. Happily on Sunday Biffy Clyro do not cause any of these disappointments as they played extremely well and the whole crowd seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves.

Here's what 65,000 people (well, a small portion of...) looked like on the pleasant Sunday afternoon:-
 If you look closely you'll see the lovely Dave Grohl on his runway stage in the middle of the crowd. I sprained my ankle recently, so Chris and I refrained from trying to get close, and just hung out on the side of the bowl. 
Chris made a very good observation of Dave Grohl, that he resembles an overexcited puppy! He was full of energy and running all over the place for the entire time they were playing. Being Dave Grohl though it's not like the running around diminished any other aspect of his performance as he still sang and played extremely well. 

Here's a view of the stage after the sun had retreated for the day:-
My camera's not so good at low light levels, but i'm sure you get the idea.

Not content with playing to entertain us for two and a half hours, the Foos also thought some guests would be a good idea. When playing their new song Dear Rosemary they had Bob Mould on stage with them, who recorded the song with them and can be heard singing away with Grohl. 
While the rest of the band were taking a well deserved break toward the end of the set Grohl was joined on stage by a couple of other special guests, namely Seasick Steve and John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin! Dave Grohl hopped up to play the drums and the three of them played us a few songs.  

Overall the gig, and the whole weekend were lovely, we had a lot of fun, but given we only got home at about 2am Monday morning (it took a long time to get out of the car park) it was quite a tiring weekend!

I've not been entirely idle, and will have a new finished object to show you soon, and even some July socks on the way (we're ignoring the fact the June ones aren't finished.. they're still plodding along in the background).

Friday, 24 June 2011

Crafty Prizes!

A while back my lovely new husband ran a Warmachine and Hordes tier tournament and he asked me if I would be kind enough to make prizes for the overall winner, and the winner of best painted army. I had made him a couple of Warmachine related t-shirts before (see here for an example) and this is what he wanted me to do. After the tournament I spoke to the happy winners about what they wanted to have on a t-shirt and one wanted a Bronzeback Titan, and the other wanted Ashlynn, a warcaster from the mercenaries. Neither looked simple, but I set about making stencils...

I traced both of the pictures, but it was still a struggle to get that much detail into the stencils!!

Once I'd cut the stencils out, I set about very carefully ironing them onto the t-shirts.


Then the painting, with my most adventurous colour schemes yet. This was done in stages with me waiting for a colour to dry before painting the adjacent colour.

I know, I know, I can't even keep within the lines!!

After leaving my somewhat messy looking t-shirts to dry overnight, they were ironed to fix the paint, and the stencils were very slowly peeled off. Chris helped with this bit, until he got too frustrated at the metallic paints sticking the paper down..

Oh good, I didn't need to stay in the lines :) Pretty convincing pictures eh?

At the UK Warmachine masters tournament (at the UK games expo in Birmingham) Chris handed the t-shirts over to their new owners. A couple of happy customers i'd say!

I hope you like my handiwork. I'm very happy that the recipients seem to! 

I will have some new knitting to report soon, but haven't had much time to do any recently. June's socks are progressing, but slowly, and won't be reportable, as they're going to be a present! This may happen for several of the socks for the coming months, as they're handy pressies :) I'm hoping that soon I'll have a bunch of knitting time, as I'll be away for a week at a collaborators lab, and so might have time in the evenings with not a lot else to do...

Saturday, 28 May 2011

A Special Shawl - Part II

I said previously that I had of course finished my wedding shawl, so here are some pictures. I loved knitting this pattern, and think i'll be doing a lot more lace. It's ravelled here

Here it is unblocked.

Here it is blocking on our spare bed, and yes that's a double bed the shawl is stretched over!
I used this method to block, as I have no blocking wires. I just used some spare laceweight yarn in a contrast colour run through the top of the shawl.

Here's a detail shot...

After its first blocking, the shawl sprang back quite a lot, but a lot of people had said that might happen, and so I left my blocking line in place. 

I gave the shawl a second bath.. and pinned it out again. I left it pinned out for several days and this time it seemed not to spring back so much when I released it.

The shawl got packed up safe and sound in some tissue paper, ready for the big day.

Friday, 27 May 2011

April sock club - finished

So I've been away for a little while.. and there's a jolly good reason for that! I've been a little too busy with wedding planning, and actually getting married to blog my crafty stuff. That's not to say I haven't been crafting, I just haven't been reporting it!

So here we go...
You've seen the start of April's socks, and they were finished ehem.. not in April, but mid-way through May (there are no May socks, but you never know I might catch up and still manage twelve pairs in twelve months).

The socks started out for me, but when asked what she wanted for her birthday, my lovely friend Laura replied that she wanted something I'd knitted, and so the socks became slightly smaller than planned, and became a birthday present.

Here are the socks on the morning we were picking Laura up the morning before the wedding...

And here are the socks on Laura, on her birthday, a few days later!

I'd say we have a happy customer :)

I'll be back to blog the shawl, the wedding and all my other ongoing projects very soon!

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

April sock club

Due to knitting the wedding shawl (it's finished! - piccies soon) and spending time organising the wedding and sewing the bridesmaids dress along with many other things (such as a full-time job..) the March socks took a lot longer than they ought to have done. They were not finished in March, but on the 21st of April...

Because of the big overrun of March's sock club I didn't even start April's until Saturday, but here is how the sock was looking on Sunday morning

The yarn is bamboo sock (80% merino, 20% bamboo) from fyberspates, and has a lovely sheen to it :)
The pattern is Hedera from Knit.Sock.Love by Cookie A.

I'm thoroughly enjoying the pattern so far, and had the chart memorised by about the third row in..
These socks are for me, and are quite refreshing that there's no real deadline associated with them, and they aren't part of the uber wedding planning fiesta that's going on in my life at the moment. All in all they're quite refreshing...

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

March sock club


So I can finally show you March's sock club, as the socks have been handed over to their recipient and he is very happy with his new socks.

Here they are hanging out in their natural environment...
Obviously they were inspired by spillyjane's mittens with pints on, but I charted myself out some pints with a foamy head.. the second row of each pint (top down) is purled to make the head of the pint nice and 3D foamy.

This was my first time using an afterthought heel, which I did using contrasting black and a short row heel. I used the same short rows for the toe too.

When coming up with the plan for these socks in my head I knew that I wanted all the pints to remain in tact through the sock, hence afterthought heel so that no increases and decreases were needed. I also knew that I didn't want pints on the underside of the foot, and I also didn't want to carry the yarn over and thus make a very bulky foot. As you can see I succeeded in these aims, but not until a great deal of googling had been done and a new technique learnt!

The technique I used is called festive knitting, and is a cunning method of working colourwork in the round without having to carry yarns all the way.

The idea is that the first time you encounter your colour you knit it as normal for colourwork, then continue round. When you get to the colourwork section on the next row the yarn will be on the wrong side!!! All you need to do is work across the colourwork section in your background colour and whenever you encounter a contrasting stitch you slip it purlwise. When you reach the end of the colourwork section you flip your work over and do the reverse.. i.e. you slip the background colour stitches and purl the contrast stitches until you get back to the beginning of the section.

Carry on round the round (easy if you are using dpns, if using a circular you'll need to slip all the stitches back over again..) and next time you reach the colourwork the yarn for the contrast colour will be in the right place! Alternate these two rows of knitting normally, and slipping and then purling stitches and your colourwork will build up as normal.

The only differences I found were that my colourwork was a bit tighter working back and forth, so I had to be careful to loosen up a bit, and that when you look at the inside of the sock you can see that where there is colourwork all round the carried yarns alternate down the sock, but in the top of the foot they are paired.

All in all it was a very successful technique, and I may well find myself using it again.

Just to round off, here's a shot of how well the socks fit their new owner!! I was very pleased considering he had no clue of the socks existence until they appeared, completed, before him :)

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Pasteis de nata (yum) and dress progress

Last night I decided it was time to try making Pasteis de Nata again (traditional Portuguese custard tarts). Last time they were nice, but I'd used too much pastry and in my old oven the filling didn't cook how I wanted it to.

This time, they were a success!!
I followed the recipe here - except I made a few tweaks of my own.

Here is the recipe as I followed it:-

3 egg yolks
100 g ground xylitol (instead of caster sugar, I ground the xylitol in my herb chopper to make "caster xylitol")
2 tbsp cornflour
230 ml single cream
170 ml milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
250 g puff pastry (I bought a block of pastry, chopped it in half and rolled one half out and froze the other for later)

Over a medium heat I mixed and stirred the egg yolks, xylitol, cream, milk and vanilla extract. With a little bit of the cold milk I mixed up the cornflour into a smooth paste and then added this to the cooking custard. I mixed the custard until it thickened, then took it off the heat and left it to cool.

For the pastry I rolled out 250g then sprinkled it with cinnamon and icing sugar. I then cut the pastry in two rolled up the pastry pieces into a long thin sausage like snail, and cut 1.5-2 cm pieces of pastry. With each of these, I turned them on their side, so you could see the spiral shape, and then rolled it into a flat circle of around 10 cm diameter. This was then pressed into a greased fairy cake tin and filled with about a dessertspoonful of custard. The tarts were then baked at 200 C (in a fan oven) for 20-25 minutes, and this is what they looked like..

Unlike in my old oven, where they wouldn't brown on top (as the bottom had already burnt) here the pastry is nicely cooked and the filling nicely browned on top. YUM!

Chris approved...
In the lab today, the two Portuguese thoroughly approved, so success all round i'd say :)

I've also been working on the real bridesmaids dress.. the mock-up is still somewhere in the post on its way back from America, so I'm having to remember where I put all of the seamlines last time, but it's coming together..


I had the good fortune to attend the 6th UK-Japan Cell-cycle workshop last week, which was held near Ambleside by Lake Windermere.

We were graced with lovely weather for a lot of the time, including our afternoon off, and it was really a lovely setting for the conference.

 This was my room for the duration of the meeting - swanky ne?

And this little guy/gal was sat on my bed awaiting my arrival - quite an apt cuddly toy to be waiting to greet a knitter! In the hotel where the conference was actually taking place people had cuddly sheep-dogs on their beds - it seems to be a lake district thing to have cuddly toys to play with?!

On our afternoon off, a lot of people went off on a boat trip around the lake, but I felt the need for some exercise as we'd been sat listening to talks from 8.30 am to 10 pm each day! Several of us grouped up and headed up to the Skeghyll woods for a bit of a hike. The 3 or 4 miles of walking was very invigorating, especially with views like these:-

 Wild garlic growing alongside the paths. It was everywhere!

A nice view looking down the lake.

Some of the sheep we encountered on the way..

They seemed resistant to me wandering over and pinching a bit of their fleece. Wonder why?

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Kitchen! and garden

So we do now have a functional kitchen!! the process of getting there wasn't pleasant but the end product (bar a few niggles, and needing to do tiling etc) is good.

I think my favourite thing (aside from the fact we now have a decent sized kitchen with sensible work-space) is our new hob. It's an induction hob, and aside from a couple of times when we've put pans on to warm up and then realised they're not magnetic, it has been fantastic. It can heat a pan of water in about a minute! and so far seems just as controllable as gas, but without the whole flame aspect.. Induction hobs are also the most efficient, as they induce the pan to heat up, but the hob itself doesn't heat up (except heat that transfers back from the pan) and so heat isn't lost so much. This has the added bonus of meaning you don't get boiling hot while slaving over the (not hot) stove!

Below are some pictures of the kitchen in its new shinier state..

 Baking in progress...

 The product baking in the new oven..

 The magic induction hob!

 A monkey enjoying the new worktop.. and thinking how nice it would be to have a bath in the new sink..

Obviously we will tile and decorate at some point, but not right now :) a little too much to be thinking of..