Tuesday, December 28, 2010


So, I haven't been on here for a while. I set myself the task of doing an advent photo every day on Facebook (up until 24th Dec) so that took over. Plus, I've been working full time for the last month or so, and haven't had much time for crafty stuff. I've pretty much been working, bathing, sitting in front of the coal fire, and watching TV!

Here are some of the images from my month:

Hagos's mum was supposed to come to us for Christmas. She made it as far as Carlisle on the train (from Kilmarnock) and had to turn back due to a 5-hour delay! She was due to arrive in Norwich at six o'clock, so five hours extra (and who knows how many more would have been added along the way) meant she wouldn't have got here until 11pm at the earliest. That's a long time for an elderly lady (or anyone) to be hanging around cold train stations. We were all disappointed, and on Christmas Eve and the first couple of hours of Christmas Day Hagos and I didn't really know what to do with ourselves as we'd been expecting company. Anyway, after we'd opened our presents, Hagos had a bath, I poured myself a glass of port and started baking a banana, walnut and chocolate cake for Christmas dessert (Bette was bringing the Christmas pudding and brandy butter!) and the rest of the day went very smoothly and pleasantly. Giving in to doing nothing when we're so used to always doing something, was very welcome indeed! 

I've started a new DK jumper so will upload photos soon. x x x

Monday, November 08, 2010

Long-sleeved TV jumper!

This jumper has been hanging around for too long waiting for me to sew it together. I hate sewing jumpers together, and it was delayed further because when I sewed the first sleeve in place I noticed this: 
The stripes didn't line up! They do on my three short-sleeved versions, because that's how Sarah Dallas, the designer, designed it. (The pattern is from Vintage Knits, by Sarah Dallas.) I hadn't taken this into account when adapting the pattern to make it a long-sleeved jumper.

Anyway, yesterday I finally decided there wasn't anything I could do about it and finished sewing the other sleeve in place, and then the sides together. I did wonder if I could/should unpick the sleeve and try to push and pull the stripes to line up, but I knew it wouldn't work.
So today I am wearing it for the first time, and I really, really love it. It's completely comfortable and warm and neat, and the stripes not lining up can't really be seen when my arms are by my sides, which is most of the time.

I definitely want to make another, but this time I would dispense with the stripes altogether. I know it adds interest when knitting and to look at but apart from working out how to line up the stripes it just adds unnecessarily to the cost (Kidsilk Haze is about £8 a ball now!). I really want a jumper in Rowan Cashsoft Redwood next.

Before I do that, however, I have the red and purple loop jumper to finish (still!), my second purple and green mitten (though I've decided that will be next year's winter accessories instead of this - I'll get another year out of my green and white mittens, scarf and hat), and my black double knit Cashsoft jumper.

I also bought two balls of the Rowan Cashsoft Redwood in a sale at John Lewis at the weekend, along with some new acid-green beads and want to knit another pair of beady bed socks.

I think I'll pencil in the Redwood long-sleeved TV jumper for next winter!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Beady Bed Socks - 3 lots

I finally decided the time has come to replace my old beady bed socks (last two pictures) with the new beady bed socks I recently knitted (above).
 The reason I didn't start wearing them as soon as I'd knitted them was because I wanted to knit another pair for my friend's birthday at the beginning of November but I wasn't sure if they would be ready on time and I thought I might have to give her my own instead!
Thankfully I have finished the first of her beady bed socks (the green with red beads). I think green is more her colour, and I absolutely love the yellow of mine.

I experimented with the pattern while knitting the green pair. I much prefer knitting socks in-the-round, and the Debbie Bliss pattern for the socks is knitted flat and then sewn together as a back seam. It pretty much works because of the rib at the heel and the sole - you can't see the sewing together there, just up the back above the ankle.

Knitting the pattern in-the-round was better I think. There isn't an obvious join. The only thing I wasn't so happy about was I had a couple of little ladders where the needles changed. It's only slight, and I did try to avoid the gapping. But the biggest benefit was not having to sew them together afterwards! I just had to sew together the heel and the toe. So, I think it was a success.

I really like this Rowan pure wool 4-ply. I love the feel of it. Very textured and old-fashioned, as I've said before.
 These are my old faithful bed socks. I've worn them constantly for about two years so it's no wonder the sole has worn in places.
The good thing is that when I pull them apart I will be able to save and re-use the beads in another pair of socks!

In other news - it's a funny old time for us at the moment. Lots of changes afoot :) and I feel a mixture of excitement and fear.

Mostly on my mind: how to make proper money.

Saturday, October 09, 2010


I decided I would clean the kitchen today, so I got up, had breakfast, and made myself a half-caf cappuccino with the percolator.
 Then I went for a bike ride and did my shopping: books back to library, veg and fruit from the greengrocer's.
 Meg was relaxing in the front room.
 I got out my collection of jars and decided to make...
...Plum and Apple Jam!

This year I stoned the plums first, because trying to scoop them out of the pan while it was at a rolling boil was far too scalding and messy.
And this is what I ended up with: two jars for my friend's birthday (she really liked the jar I gave her last year), one little jar for me, and a big jar possibly to give away to someone else.

And this evening, some mitten-knitting and watching Strictly Come Dancing.

The kitchen cleaning might get done tomorrow.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Chocolate Pistachio Macaroons

My first attempt at macaroons didn't go so well. I think I folded all of the air out of the whisked egg white when I added the ground pistachios. So that, when I went to spoon the mixture onto the waiting baking trays, they glooped and merged into a big PUDDLE.

I tried whisking the whole mixture again to thicken it, but could tell it wasn't going to work.

So I had a BRAINWAVE to spoon it into little paper cups, to enable them to hold shape while baking.


I then made the chocolate ganache, and sandwiched the macaroons together with it.
They didn't look like the glossy photo in the baking book, but they tasted absolutely heavenly.

And everyone at work loved them.

As I had lost some of the mixture when I first tried to spoon it onto the baking sheets, I only got 12 macaroons. Luckily there were a few people off today so I didn't need that many, but nonetheless I felt I should bolster my offerings with something else. I didn't have the energy to begin baking anything else from scratch and remembered I had half a Bishop's Cake in the freezer. 

I defrosted that, cut it into 9 pieces, and we managed to have a merry little feast after all.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Knitting and Reading

So, I unravelled the dreadful orange and purple mittens, bought myself some Rowan pure wool 4-ply green wool, and started knitting these green and purple mittens instead! And I am so much happier with them. I know they're right.

I was interested to read Livvey's blog entry called The Brain Drain recently, because that is exactly what my head has been feeling like too. Except my headings are: Work; Housework; Hagos's Schedule; Accounts; Writing; Maintaining Weight; and a few other headings I don't quite want to reveal. But BUSY. And out of kilter time-wise. 

I'm sure at some point next year it will all fall into place in terms of priority but right now writing takes a back seat to pretty much everything else. And focusing enough to write is something I'm finding difficult at the moment. And peace of mind. 

I need a less busy brain.

But reading is something I'm doing a lot of, and really enjoying. I'm glad I have enough concentration for that.

At bedtime I'm reading The Emergence of Memory: Conversations with WG Sebald; and during the day I have just finished the Millennium trilogy, and will either begin Regeneration by Pat Barker; Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson; or Room by Emma Donoghue. I'm thinking probably Regeneration.    

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Planning Ahead

My friend Janie told me about another friend inviting her to lunch recently and how this friend, Ginny, was such a great hostess and produced a lovely afternoon tea, with home made scones. I instantly rose to my own challenge (I have such a competitive streak!) to produce an even better afternoon tea when Janie comes to visit me on Tuesday. 

So now, as Tuesday draws nearer and suddenly my schedule is really busy, I'm having to decide what to actually make. I got the Covent Garden Soup Co recipe book out of the library on Saturday and settled on the above recipe.

I'm also planning to do home-made bread, and various other additions (tomatoes, homous and such). And for dessert I think I'll make Nigella's chocolate pistachio fudge. 
Our Shake 'n' Bake at work is still going really well. We're on our third round and I think there are about 12 of us doing it. I'm really pleased that everyone is so enthusiastic and I also love the range of things that people make. On Friday Gavin made strawberry pavlova; the week before Sheila made raspberry muffins and rhubarb and ginger tarts.

So, with that in mind, and having just drawn up a new rota, I got a few chocolate recipe books out of the library as well. And I think I've decided to make chocolate pistachio macaroons and chocolate and mint biscuits (above). I've never made macaroons, though I am a great meringue-maker, and I really like the idea of sandwiching the biscuits together with peppermint icing sugar and then dipping them in chocolate! My Shake 'n' Bake turn is in the first week of October. I'll let you know how I get on. 

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Onions and Garlic for Winter

I've been drying my onions in my mini-greenhouse the last few days, and today decided to string them up and hang them in the shed, along with the garlic. It's the first time I've grown both, so I'm really pleased with how they've turned out.
I really like the idea of having enough produce to put by for use through winter. Very 'Good Life'. I haven't managed it this year, but would like to at some point.
I've taken the last couple of days kind of off. I've been feeling overloaded. Like I'm in one of those transparant balls that you can roll around in. Everything is shifting around me. So it was good to just be at home with Hagos and let go of my own expectations. String up vegetables, snuggle up on the couch with Hagos and fall asleep to an old film, read for pleasure, discover a new writer (Scarlett Thomas), and go to the cinema.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

How I occupy myself when my husband is sleeping after staying up all night in the studio

  • I knit
  • I read - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson; and, The Emergence of Memory: conversations with WG Sebald
  • I eat chocolate cigarettes
  • I mess around on the internet
My jumper is coming along nicely and I'm keen to finish it because then I shall have TWO long-sleeved new jumpers, and I can then get onto knitting my next project (possibly my black DK jumper).

It took me a while to get into The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, as everyone said it would, and then the pace finds its rhythm and I'm completely in and reading all the time, which I love.

Today I picked up The Emergence of Memory: Conversations with WG Sebald from my local library. I was lucky enough to have Max (WG Sebald) as my teacher when I did my Masters Degree at UEA. There is a little anecdote he tells at the end of the book, about a rat, and it so reminded me of the pattern our tutorials took every week. He always began by relating some little tale that had caught his attention during the week. It always started off well, and quickly deteriorated. And he would chuckle and we would eye each other warily as the story began, and then chuckle with him when it ended badly. 

A new old-fashioned sweet shop has opened up in Norwich and it sells chocolate cigarettes, which I LOVED as a child, and LOVE as an adult.

Hagos came home today after being in the studio all week. He was just half an hour away, but studio work is entirely absorbing. There is no room for anything else. He was up until 5am finishing off this morning. So he has been sleeping on the couch accompanied by old films on Film 4 while I am quiet in the kitchen.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Beetroot Relish, and some garlic bulbs

So I took this
and turned it into this.

I was really pleased that my beetroot worked this year. I sowed Boltardy seeds, and true to their name, they came through.

I'm planning to keep one jar, and give the other jar to friends for Christmas. 
I pulled up three of my garlic bulbs and have hung them in the shed to dry. Every time I go in it smells amazing!

I'll pull the remaining five bulbs up this weekend and hang them too. And I think it's about time to pull the onions and do the same with them.

The gardening is almost done for another year. I'm still getting a good crop of tomatoes. My favourite dish at the moment is onions, along with my own garlic, fried in some half-fat butter, add the tomatoes, add to pasta - and it's so delicious, quick, and low on points (I've been doing Weightwatchers for a while). There are still a lot of tomatoes waiting to come through so I should have some for another couple of weeks, and then I'm hoping the Romas will be reddening. I have one more tub of potatoes to pull up and then they'll be finished too. I might pop some more garlic and onions in over winter.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Good Things From Today

Meg, my little friend. This is her lying with her legs across me, belly to belly.
My oddly-shaped tomato!!
My home-grown carrots, that are so long they had reached the bottom of the tub.
Pure escapism! An adventure, and a Weightwatchers Cookie Bar and cup of tea.
Curry, made with my own carrots, garlic, potatoes and tomatoes.

I was also pleased to read about Kate Atkinson's new book, and curious about a book called Room, by a writer I'd never heard of before, Emma Donoghue. The book has been longlisted for the Booker.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Especially for Rik

Rik - we pretty much ate the Bishop's Cake before I could photograph it. But here is the first ever Bishop's Cake I made for Hagos's birthday this year.
It's such a more-ish cake. Not good for people who are watching their figures!

We got the recipe from Hagos's mum, who had made the cake for us at Christmas (probably one of the best afternoon teas I've ever had: home-made soup, Bishop's Cake, crystalised ginger dipped in chocolate, and coffee - mmmmm! Very Famous Five).

Apparently it's called Bishop's Cake because, when cut, the cake looks like a stained glass window due to the glace cherries, mixed peel and angelica (my cake doesn't have angelica, which is green, as the local baking shop didn't have any that day).

I'll make it for you one day.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Some nice stuff

I made Tomato Relish again. I used my own home grown tomatoes and garlic. I had hoped to use my own onions and chillies too, but they weren't ready in time. I had a really nice day at home in the kitchen making it, along with a Bishop's Cake for Hagos.
And the first Beetroot! I've roasted half of it for dinner tonight (along with other roast veg and a chicken!) and we ate the other half raw. I really liked it! It was a fairly mild taste.
And the last of my earlies: Charlottes! My friends didn't get such a good crop out of theirs so I wasn't expecting this many. Also having some for dinner tonight.

We went camping last week for a couple of days to the Peak District. Very P&P. Our friends were staying in a chalet there. I really enjoyed being out of Norfolk, and seeing friends. We always have a silly, adventurous time with these friends, and I always laugh a lot.

I need more of that.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Jumper progress

So I've knitted all the parts to my first long-sleeved TV jumper. I'll sew it together and knit the collar next weekend.

I really love this pattern. I've blogged about the three short-sleeved versions I've done many times. The pattern is from Sarah Dallas's Vintage Knits.

I'm already planning to make another in Rowan's Cashsoft Redwood colour.
In the meantime I'm back to knitting this! And I know I'll get it finished this time. I've finally figured out the pattern, which didn't suggest using a circular needle but requires one, otherwise there are LOTS of ends and joining-in.

I'm now on the front, the final piece, having knitted the back and sleeves already.
I also bought some black Cashsoft DK in the recent John Lewis sale, and I'm thinking of either using it to knit the jumper on the front of this book, or a zip up cardigan from one of the Rowan magazines from a few years ago.

I'm really enjoying working my way through all my unfinished projects. Here is my list so far:

Kaffe Fassett daisy green skirt
Ikea Sew Easy dress pattern (material cut out, just needs to be sewn together)
Amy Butler Chelsea Handbag
Sarah Dallas long-sleeved TV jumper
Red and White Norwegian mittens (2nd mitten and two thumbs to be knitted)
Green and purple jumper from Rowan magazine (barely begun)
Red and purple loop jumper from Rowan magazine (front only to be finished, then sewn together)
Yellow bed socks with red beads (one knitted, one to knit!)
Yellow cotton slippers (bases knitted, tops to knit and sew together)

I'm even looking forward to knitting my green and purple jumper from Rowan magazine, that - after the initial excitement of buying the wool - I've never felt any enthusiasm for! Though I have knitted the back rib due to airport delay a couple of years ago.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


I finished knitting my long-sleeved TV jumper a couple of weeks ago and decided that instead of sewing it together and knitting the collar to completely finish it and make it wearable, I would knit the second sock of my yellow and red beady bed socks.

The wool is the Rowan pure wool 4 ply. I really like it for it's old-fashioned look when it's knitted up. Some of the more expensive wools are so smooth and feel great, but sometimes I like the roughness of a retro-type wool. Especially for socks.

I'm not sure if I'll keep these or pass them on as a present. I may be tempted to keep them for myself. I only have one other pair of bed socks, and in winter they're just the right thing. 
I also made a start on my winter mittens, BUT, oh, I don't like these two colours combined at all. I've knitted a good enough amount, to give it a good enough chance of growing on me, and there have been moments when I've thought I could be swayed, but most of the time I look at it thinking, hm, it doesn't quite go together. I think it's the hand-dyed effect of the orange wool, offset by the light purple. If the orange was a flat colour, or the purple was darker it would stand more of a chance, but as it is...NOPE.

It's a shame because I was really enjoying knitting two colours again and making the mittens, and I knitted this up quite quickly.

So now I'm thinking of ditching the orange all together and exchanging it for a flat green. Green main colour, with purple snowflakes and contrast.

The SENSIBLE thing to do would be to take my purple wool and purple coat into John Lewis and hold them up to several balls of green wool (or another colour if it looks right) and see which is the best combination.

I remember when I was knitting my white and green mittens, and my purple and blue mittens, I thought the colours were so amazing together, I loved the combination while I was knitting them, as well as the finished product, and I just don't feel that way about the orange and purple mittens as they are.

I'll probably use the orange wool for more socks. I do love it. It's such a warming, cheerful colour.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Perfect Peas

This is about our fifth pea pod from the plant.
They are amazingly sweet and satisfying.
Also bought today: new 4 ply wool for making my winter mittens, and hat.
I got it from a lovely independent yarn shop in Norwich. It's just the right colour and will be combined with purple.