Thursday, November 17, 2011

Must Try Harder

I make my own bread from Dove's Organic Wholemeal and White Strong Bread Flour. I do a 50/50 mix. Yesterday I went to the cupboard to make a new loaf only to discover I had run out of the wholemeal and only had 250g of the white flour. So I made these lovely rolls instead. There were four of them but they were so delicious that two got eaten before I thought of taking a photo. I'm the type of person who thinks I can work stuff out by myself, with only the barest of instructions, so though I knew that kneading the dough is an integral part of bread making, I only ever kneaded the dough for a minute or two because, well, it turned out okay like that.

It's only very recently that I've started kneading the dough for the full ten minutes (after watching one of the baking programmes on TV), and what a difference! It really is much lighter and airier. And more delicious.
"Paula will get an 'O' grade without too much effort. But more effort would get her a V good pass."

My mother is completely unsentimental when it comes to keeping stuff from the past. She's constantly on at my dad to go through drawers and cupboards with her to throw stuff out, and will list items that have been in their bedroom walk-in cupboard for 30 years that they've never used. My dad is the complete opposite and keeps everything just in case it comes in handy. This means that when I left home my mother disposed of most of my childhood toys, which I find quite shocking because, eh, well, I thought they belonged to me, and I never got the opportunity to say whether I wanted to take them with me or not. This included board games, dolls, and books! A few things survived, and when I realised what had occurred I would rescue any remaining items I could, mostly books (though very few actually made it). The last time I visited my mother she said she'd come across an old school report of mine, which she gave me. 

The above report sums me up pretty well. I get by in most things without much effort. I pick information up pretty quickly and managed to be in the top sets at school (except science, which I was in the second set for) for all subjects and managed to get a 'B' or an 'A' pass fairly easily, only having to cram for a day or so before each exam.

But recently I've been thinking a lot about what I could achieve if I put actual effort into my work. My friend Janie recently completed her BA in Music and got a First; she then went on to do her Masters in Music and got a distinction in that too. I know exactly how much effort and application is required to achieve this. I got a 2:1 in my first degree and I also have a Masters degree (each without distinction, though I did get a distinction for my final piece of work in my BA and was chosen as one of the four top students out of the whole year - something I've just remembered). 

But anyway, the point is, I am aware I need to apply myself to my work with the hope that I will achieve more. Though I know I work better when I have a deadline to hit.  
And onto more frivolous subjects: Meg had brought a mouse in just as I was making lunch. She set it under the table (where I was working) and wasn't too interested in eating it. I disposed of the poor wee thing in the bin and then sat down to eat poached egg on toast. She then jumped onto the table and kept trying to nose her way onto my plate. I fended her off until the last couple of bites, then I had to push the last of my egg on toast to one corner while she licked the rest of the plate. She likes the butter, but I think she likes egg yolk too.
And this is an amazing tree root near where I live. It's taller than me (I like scale) and is so impressive close up. One of my favourite things is to be outdoors scampering about the countryside. I like having a purpose (collecting kindling, looking for the river) but just being outdoors in this beautiful Scottish landscape with the colours and the light is amazing.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Pay It Forward

A couple of years ago I responded to this offer and this week I received these lovely gifts from Caireen:
A Clutterbucket, which is a great idea for keeping current projects in. I filled it with my knitting immediately. A long time ago I bought some plain, faded green material to make 'project bags' for my many unfinished knitting and sewing projects, the idea being to line them all up, with a photocopy of the project on the front, so I could easily pick up the project at any time and continue. Anyway, I think clutterbuckets are a better idea as they are reversible, compact, and easy to see what's inside already. And they sit perfectly on the shelf.
My current knitting project modelling the bucket :)
Caireen also sent me these gift tags, which she's recycled from magazines by sticking cut out pictures onto card. I love anything stationery so these appealed to my messing-around-and-making-things streak.
It was SO lovely to get something fun and exciting in the post, and in the spirit of the original entry, I am now offering a 'Pay It Forward' myself.
So, the first three people to leave a comment on this post will receive a home-made gift from me within the year. I have a few ideas of what to make and pass on.

Looking forward to hearing from you! 

Monday, November 07, 2011

Bonfire Night! and Monday Morning

We had a great Bonfire Night this year. We always try to celebrate with the Burnses and this year it was much easier living only 8 miles away. I wanted to keep it as easy and stress-free as possible, so we stripped it right back to: bonfire :: takeaway food :: fireworks.

During the afternoon we collected firewood with our neighbours and their kids (having a truck, a chainsaw and a mini-wheelbarrow really helps!), then the three wives did a dash to the fish and chip shop (and Tesco's for wellies and dry socks) while the husbands continued to build the bonfire. After food Pete and our other neighbour Hamish (who had turned up with his one mega-box of fireworks) disappeared into the darkness and from then on the rest of us watched the lovely colours and sparks and heard the bangs. We could just make out Pete and Hamish beating a hasty retreat from the occasional larger firework. It was great fun, and so lovely to be outside next to a warm fire. I missed lots of good photo opportunities by leaving my camera back in the house after we returned with food. There was a particularly good shot of three of the kids lined up with sparklers, which I missed. It was great to see the kids getting involved in the wood collecting with much gusto! Nate and Peter and Guy threw themselves into the adventure. JJ was struck, almost as soon as he arrived, with very wet feet and was out of action until the wellies came to his rescue. 

I also enjoyed walking back to the field the following morning (bright sunshine, crisp and frosty) to collect the spent fireworks and try to return the ground to its former state. Though I did think that if a woman had been setting up the fireworks she would have carefully laid the removed clod of earth next to its corresponding hole, for ease of return, rather than what looked like Pete and Hamish's excited frenzy of flinging the clods willy nilly across the field making them difficult to find :) But, you know, boys and their toys.
This was the lovely reflection above our fireplace this morning.
My jumper progress. I'm liking it more and more. Though I feel I should stop once I complete the front, and work on Christmas presents instead.
I wanted to capture the close-up detail of the stitches but I think I need a macro lens to do that.

I'm thinking of knitting more of the capped 4-ply jumpers to use as vests through the winter. I never really knew what to do with that jumper until now, but it really adds insulation to wear it as a vest (on top of my actual, cotton vest - one can never have too many vests in winter in Scotland). It only uses four balls of wool and is an easy knit. 

I'm also thinking of re-designing my new winter accessories range and going for charcoal and purple as the colour theme. I loved the charcoal base of Lynsey's mittens, and I think purple snowflakes on the mittens would be striking. I'd also knit my favourite winter hat pattern in Big Wool charcoal, and put purple pom poms on the bottom. Then I'd just have to decide on the design for the scarf. I like the idea of chunky cables somehow, though I also thought of repeating the snowflake pattern at each end of the scarf. Lots of winter knitting coming up!