Taking Stock – September

Making : sourdough pizza, because Friday night was made for it

Cooking : spicy lentil soup, the first of the new season

Drinking : red wine, it’s particularly fine for autumn

Reading: My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout (only just; sort of as I got halfway through the first chapter last night and woke up a couple of hours later with the light on in the early hours…)

Plymouth Hoe

Wanting: to crochet again

Playing: The Police, Greatest Hits

Polperro, with a boat ready and waiting outside the house

It still has an active fishing port

Deciding: whether to have a dry October or not, what do you think?

Wishing: for these lovely warm sunny days to continue

Porth Ledden Bay near Capewall

Walking some of the SW coast path from Cape Cornwall to Levant

Enjoying: my new Sony Bluetoooth speaker. Saw it on someone’s Instagram, mentioned it and had one for a birthday surprise!

Waiting: for Invisible Sun to play next

Trengwainton garden, always a must-see

Liking: Apple picking socialising while sharing recipe ideas: pork and apple, apple crumble, apple jam, chilli & apple jelly, apple cake….

Wondering: about trying baking baguettes. Have you ever ?

Loving: my audio book. Only an hour left now, then into the new Robert Galbraith Lethal White

Some of the many Trengwainton Scarecrows, made with local primary school children. The theme this year is Inspirational Women

Emmeline Pankhurst and Frida Kahlo

Pondering: nothing high powered

Considering: going to the V&A soon

Buying: birthday wish list gifts

Watching: The BBC’s Repair Shop (S2:8) for the first time, it won’t be the last episode I watch. So good to see skilled people at work

Saffron Chelsea buns, we shared one. Delicious

Fantastic little bakery in St Ives, must buy another SCB next time

Hoping: my right hand sorts itself out by my next appointment (4 weeks time)

Marvelling: at how many people have talked about the Bodyguard series

Cringing: that I saw a major spoiler on the cover of the Radio Times magazine, which put me off watching any episodes. Viewers no longer watch programmes as they are screened and this was only a few days later

Needing: to drink something soon

Barbara Hepworth Museum & Sculpture Garden, St Ives

Questioning: what am I currently questioning? Anything?

Smelling: orangey perfume

Wearing: comfy house clothes, actually I always call them ‘dags’ like my Aussie friends when I was living in Australia

Nicest bookshop in Cornwall? The World? In Penzance. So many signed copies too as many authors live nearby, including John le Carre and Patrick Gale

Following: my own instincts

Knowing: these things come and go

Thinking: fluffy thoughts

Admiring: the way everyone’s taken to autumn clothing

Cornish Cheese Tea: cheese scones with cream cheese and a spicy tomato chutney

Cornish Cream Tea: one plain and one fruity scone with Cornish clotted cream and strawberry jam

The cafe at Trengwainton is always a must-visit too

Penzance harbour, our week away was mixed weatherwise but we walked every day regardless

Waking to Marazion watching the kite surfers pass St Michaels Mount; which is only accessible by the causeway when the tide is out, or by boat

Sorting: summer clothes to put away

Getting: used to team cooking, one-handed doesn’t work *that* well. But no washing up (always so much despite having a dishwasher.) One. Good. Result

Bookmarking: articles about personal power

Back to Plymouth for a night, arriving at lunchtime in torrential rain. Finding the lounges of the hotel full of people having a drink to hide from the weather, so decided if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em

Coveting: more local gins

Disliking: wrist pain / hating that sock knitting. Ride in a Time Machine please? (Which reminds me; new Dr Who on Sunday)

Opening: multiple webpages and crashing my middle aged iPad

Giggling: at Life in Pieces. I’m on S3 now

Dyrham Park National Trust, Gloucestershire, it’s an impressive filming location for movies and tv (Poldark, Far from the Madding Crowd and Sense and Sensibility, to name a few)

Feeling: chilled

Snacking: no carrots!!!!! Argh!!!! Hate running out

Helping: increase family’s carb intake by baking them sourbread. I bake much more than I eat

Hearing: the fizz of tonic and the chink of ice, my G&T has arrived (yes, spoilt)

Mixing: in red wine later with dinner

Two rye sourdough loaves I baked this morning

Worrying: I’m a sourdough bore now (but you’re lovely. I know you don’t really mind)

Slicing: and peeling a few cooking apples then completely stopping as OUCH! Not the working definition of Do Not Use Your Hand for Three Weeks

Celebrating: Autumn produce; Barty’s Bramley apples, the picking of which he was closely supervising, sitting by the asters! Trengwainton squash and blackberries all along the SW coast path in Cornwall

Forgetting: where I left my watch on 12/9

Pretending: I’ll find it, but it’s looking more and more unlikely. So hard not to keep looking at my wrist, like it’s going to magically appear there

Hello Autumn. I’m ready. It’s been a lovely summer but I always like to see you

Sneaking: M&S buttermints and blaming Mr Scrappy (remember him?)

Embracing: walking, reading and good tv

Hoping you’re fully functioning in a two-handed healthy fashion, cross your fingers / pray / send out vibes (or some chocolate) for my right hand please. I’m chipper, but concerned. Who wants a stupid third of a sock, needles and yarn??!?!

Inspired by my book & more sourdough adventures

Recently I came across The Endless Beach by Jenny Colgan, the sequel to The Seaside Summer Kitchen. I first read the book above last year and remember really enjoying it as we travelled around the Highlands of Scotland. Likeable characters, a beautiful setting and heavenly descriptions of locally produced food. What’s not to like? I came across this copy in the library and thought it would be nice to refresh my memory about the characters, and what happened, before reading the next. I’m not saying it’s a complex read; it’s a lot like many of Jenny Colgan’s recent books in fact, but I like the warmth and gentle humour. This is a pretty perfect summer read.

On Tuesday when I read about Flora making oatcakes, I found I had flung down the book, run to the kitchen and turned on the oven before I really knew what I was doing.

“What are you up to?”

“I’VE GOT TO MAKE OATCAKES!”

At Christmas I’d come across the recipe in Nigella‘s Domestic Goddess cookbook, that I’ve owned since it was first published, I had idly wondered about making some, but hadn’t got round to it with the frenzy of seasonal shenanigans and wrapping up of piles of presents.

Now I don’t think I would ever really want to buy them again, they are incredibly easy to make and very tasty, without the somewhat cardboardy texture of shop bought versions. A little bicarbonate of soda (aka baking soda) gives them such a satisfying crunch.

I’ve now made four loaves of sourdough bread! Two white and two wholemeal. I’m hanging up my oven gloves for a week or two. Everything in the kitchen is covered in flour and quite frankly we need to eat only salad for a bit. My sourdough starter is lying dormant in the fridge for a little holiday now.

This was a loaf I made on Friday. It’s far too good toasted with honey!

After looking in many shops for crumpet rings I ordered Lakeland’s set of four. It’s good to support your local high street shops, but only if they are selling what you need.

This morning I used up all my discarded sourdough starter on a batch.

I’ve found pouring the starter into a plastic measuring cup is a very fuss-free fast method, rather than faffing about with scales, but it’s easy enough to convert the quantity to ounces or grams if you prefer.

Sourdough Crumpets

3 cups of starter

1 1/2 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp of bicarb

Whisk up the sugar and salt into the starter in a large bowl, then add the bicarb. The mixture will froth up and increase.

Heat an oiled non-stick pan on a low to medium heat. Add well oiled crumpet rings and barely half fill them with batter, it will rise so you need space for them to grow.

When they’re slightly shrinking back from the edges of the rings, with bubbles appearing and look drier on top, lift the rings off using tongs.

If the rings don’t slide off easily give the crumpets another minute or so to continue cooking. Flip them over briefly to colour the tops.

Cool on a rack and toast. Or eat hot right away! They’re better toasted I think, as you get crispy tops and bottoms which contrast nicely with the fluffy insides. Try a few and see which you prefer!

This quantity made about 16 crumpets.

I played with the temperature of the pan as you get more bubbles with a slightly higher heat, but don’t want the bases to burn.

I’ve been reading some tips and it seems you need a runnier batter if you want more holey crumpets. You still start with a 100% hydration starter but play around with the crumpet batter. By the way, that slightly scary mathematical term simply means you’ve fed your starter with equal quantities of water and flour. It’s nothing more complicated. I discard about half of my starter (putting it into a bowl, or loosely covered container, in the fridge to save for making pancakes or crumpets) then feed the remaining with 100g flour and 100g water which is equivalent to 4fl oz on my measuring jug. 4fl oz is the easiest to read and so is fast in the mornings. I know it’s a mismatch of imperial and metric, but whatever works, works!

I’ll get back to you if I find an amazing fail-safe realllllly holey crumpet recipe. Mine came out light and fluffy with enough holes to identify them as crumpets I think. I liked them very much. Too much, if you know what I mean…

The evolution of crumpets

What about you: what are you enjoying reading and cooking at the moment?

Sourdough adventures

Last weekend my friend Safron posted these yummy photos of her first loaf of sourdough bread and homemade baked beans on her Safrolistics Instagram page. (Check out her papercuts, they’re amazing.) Safron was inspired by a friend, who makes his own sourdough bread and she inspired me in return. This is her first bread since a disastrous attempt at school. Wow! What a beauty.

I started my own sourdough starter last Monday. Apart from a phase around 2013 with Herman the German Friendship Cake, which I eventually turned into a loaf of bread, as we found there really is a limit to how much yeasty flavoured fruitcake you can eat, I haven’t maintained my own sourdough starter before.

It’s been a lot like when I first learned to crochet: researching how to do it, reading many blogs, books, checking out You Tube vids and making so many notes I’ve used up pages and pages of two notebooks (one upstairs, one down because I’ve truly been obsessed and found myself searching for answers to questions at all sorts of moments!) There are so many ways to end up with pretty much exactly the same thing, just like crochet (UK/USA terms, ways to hold the yarn/hook/start with a magic ring or chain and slip-stitch into a ring etc etc…) So in the end I decided to initially follow one method and stick to it, trying not to look at random websites and blogs anymore.

Sourdough starters and making sourdough bread can be incredibly complicated according to some people; I’ve seen articles written where people have made mathematical equations for the ratio of flour to water, the ambient temperature it needs to sit at etc. But really it boils down to just flour, water and the natural yeasts in the flour and your home environment. If pioneers could make it in one lidded pot over the hot embers of their campfire, we really do not need to make it too hard for ourselves.

I really like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Bread with Character article, written for The Guardian. He simply suggests using 100g of flours, and enough water to make a batter that’s roughly the consistency of paint! How easy is that?! I couldn’t quite be that haphazard free spirited especially at the beginning, so I have been using an equal flour to water ratio which is clearly working. I followed the excellent instructions on the Kitchn website. Luckily I had a bag of organic Doves Farm white flour in my baking cupboard, as it’s already my preferred flour when making bread using commercial yeast. There’s definitely a difference in taste and texture between using this flour and a cheaper alternative.

I was amazed that even after a couple of hours bubbles had begun to appear in the starter. ‘What kind of magic is this?’ I wondered with glee.

When baking the bread I mixed it up a bit: Patrick Ryan’s fridge tip for the second prove was a relief; as I was beginning to imagine I’d still be up at midnight watching the slow rise. I used his recipe for quantities of flour and starter etc for the dough. (Though a little less salt.)

There are about 3-5 hours between the top and bottom picture. This is when I decided to pop it into the fridge for the night.

On Sunday morning it sat out on the worktop again, for about 2 1/2 hours to bring it up to room temperature. It can be a slow process making sourdough but it’s well worth it. And it’s not effort, just patience that’s required.

I placed a tray half full of water onto the bottom shelf of the oven before I turned it on, it seemed a safer strategy for slightly clumsy me, than popping a tray of boiling water into the oven just before the bread. I also used Hugh’s method of putting a tray into the oven to pre-heat five minutes before the bread went in, then flouring it with wholemeal flour before the dough went onto it (although the dough was 100% white, I’d read that wholemeal flour is meant to prevent dough from sticking much more effectively than white.) This is also so much faster than oiling loaf tins and easy-peasy to wash up afterwards.

I felt nervous tipping it out of my new banneton proving basket (thank you Sainsbury Nectar points) but it fell softly onto the tray like a plump soft feather pillow. I actually cheered, which brought Someone running to see what excitement was going on!

I do need to find a better quality, thick baking sheet as it will be better for cooking the base of the loaf. Alternatively trying to make one in a cast-iron lidded pot (aka Dutch Oven) appeals. But I need to get one before that can happen… All the professional British bakers, that I’ve read so far, use a baking sheet (or pizza stone) to bake their loaves on, but I fancy trying the pot method sometime.

For a first loaf I didn’t expect much at all, I was prepared for a sodden lump but….

“It tastes as good as the loaves I used to buy at the village shop” oh my goodness! What praise from a sourdough aficionado, especially for a first loaf. It was delicious and I’ve never been a major eater of sourdough bread. Hugh’s right: sourdough is definitely bread with character!

Discarding half of the starter to maintain it, after the initial five days, was so unappealing that I’ve spent a fair amount of time searching for ‘discarded sourdough starter’ recipes. I hate wasting food and especially when I’ve used very good quality flour. Crumpets are already one of my favourite breakfast things, but I’ve never made them before.

I love the evolution of my crumpets, from left to right, the first pancake is always the manky one and that was definitely the runty crumpet! The last has proper crumpet bubbles and the texture was fab! They were just out of the frying pan here, cooling, before I toasted them under the grill.

I decided I would have the worst one, and the best one in the interests of fairness (it sort of makes sense, I think!) as a reward. After all, it was me who had talked to, fed and peered at the starter all week. It worked well; we both enjoyed them for breakfast. Someone had his with Marmite and butter, mine were with honey and butter. Yum, yum, yum.

Now I’m keeping all my discarded starter in a container in the fridge to make a batch of crumpets (I used this recipe.) I need to buy some crumpet rings. Crumpets can be frozen so I’ll make some, have a couple and store them. Fast! Before I eat them all.

I’m still on a complete crochet and knitting ban due to injury, as you probably know. (Boo!) This all started in April and I’ve now stopped counting how many weeks its been, as it can be a bit deflating. But I’m diligently doing my exercises, using ice and heat packs and seeing my physio every week. I am hopeful that I can begin again at some point soonish. Finding a new creative outlet, creating a sourdough starter and baking new kinds of bread has been absorbing. Not to mention homemade crumpets! Homemade crumpets….oh YUM!

If you like making or eating bread and fancy trying sourdough I’d say: Go for it!

You just need flour and water to begin. It’s great. It’s actual magic. And although it’s currently popular again, it’s hardly new; sourdough is thought to originate from the Ancient Egyptians, if not before!

Taking Stock – February

Making : Slow Cooked Beef Brisket, recipe here except I added lashings of balsamic vinegar too. Cooked for 8 hours on medium, then sliced the beef and gently reheated it in the sauce, in a heavy based pan on the hob, the next day. I think slow cooked food is always better eaten the day after, to meld the flavours. I thickened the sauce with a tbsp of cornflour mixed into a little cold water. Delicious.

Cooking : the above to eat with potatoes, petit pois and kale

Drinking : lots of jasmine tea this morning, 2 x 1 pint mugs

Reading: I’ve just given up on the rather tedious The Old Curiosity Shop by Dickens. To be honest I had a sneaking suspicion I was going to do an Oscar Wilde. He reportedly said: ‘One would have to have a heart of stone to read the death of little Nell without dissolving into tears…of laughter.’

Wanting: to spend my Christmas gift cards, but still haven’t found anything apart from new socks at Fatface. These,these which I’m wearing now and this delicious pair

Looking: at these Dr Who props in the BBC lobby on Saturday. My friend and I walked past and went to peep in the windows. A security guard invited us to come in to look. We watched the last few minutes of the Winter Olympics curling on one of the huge screens. (We lost to Japan.)

Playing: my friend’s Adventure Bus Game on foot, my nifty adaption. You set off walking in a random direction, with no destination in mind and take turns to choose left, right or straight ahead at the next junction. We ended up in the BBC, then Regents Park. After 5 miles we went for a late lunch here.

Deciding: to go to the library for new books soon

Wishing: to meet the UK winner of Friday’s £78 million euro millions win. What did they decide to do first? I had a message when I was walking down Baker Street, London on Saturday morning – “Did you see this news article? (‘Massive Jackpot Split between one UK and one Spanish winner, £78 mil each’) Is it you?! Have you checked?”

Enjoying: lots of winter warmers featuring tasty sauces – lamb hot pot and that beef brisket last weekRegents Park croci

Waiting: for dried mealworms to arrive by post, the Blue Tits can’t get enough of them. The robin doesn’t use the stick on balcony window feeder here, but they do. You look up and see a little blue and yellow thing looking at you!

Liking: the bright blue skies and sunshine, although it’s very very cold. Currently we have wind blowing from Siberia, so on Saturday it was 5 degrees but with the wind chill factor felt like 1. Brrrrr. Also, really liked seeing the first blossom in Regents Park

Wondering: if the media are making a huge unnecessary OTT fuss about the ‘dire weather’ coming this week and next. My friend G just Whatsapped to say the news site is advising people to be home by 6pm tonight in her area. Woah!

Loving: my new slow start yeast, the bread is light and rises like a rocket

Pondering: which colours for the next strip, then realising my tension must have been way tighter so redoing the entire third strip

Considering: whether to sew or crochet the strips together, crochet usually wins hands down

Buying: lamb mince to make koftas

Watching: Grace and Frankie

Marvelling: at the ages of the four main characters, it’s excellent to see seniors leading a successful series

Hoping: I’m still as fit and able at Jane Fonda’s age

Cringing: at my renewed nail biting

Needing: a new book

Questioning: if any of you have read Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty? Good? Might have asked this before…

Smelling: Dry Roast Peanuts

Wearing: a head of Crystal Tipps (and Alastair) hair

Following: the dire water situation in Cape Town

Noticing: how dry my skin is in this weather Icicles on the water features at Waterperry Gardens shop

Knowing: there was no way Muller Light yoghurt can replicate raspberry doughnut flavour. Indeed, it’s horrid

Thinking: Ruby Wax’s analogy about thoughts being like leaves swirling past, along a pavement is very apt

Admiring: people’s openness in discussing tricky topics on IG and the respectful, often very supportive comments in reply

A rather deliciously wicked meeting place: Lola’s in Selfridge’s, Oxford Street London

Sorting: out which snowdrop pics to keep, so many taken at Waterperry Gardens yesterday

Getting: down to gently look at the insides of snowdrops. This is something I’ve copied from my Mum, it’s often surprising how much colour is inside these little white flowers

So many varieties: singles, doubles, dwarf, tall, big and plump, fine and delicate. Snowdrops are very special

Bookmarking: new recipes, any meatless recipes you enjoy and can recommend? Variety is good

Coveting: “What am I coveting at the moment?” “Other people’s gin.”

I’m doing Dry Lent once again….

Disliking: The taste of sweeteners

Opening: bird books and many websites, then putting a pic on my Instagram account to ask for help to identify a bird – the consensus was that it’s a female chaffinch

Giggling: at Barty apparently not deserving his new catnip toys. Sunday morning Mum was in her sitting room and noticed a sparrow walking across the carpet in front of the window!

Feeling: thirsty, I always seem to write that when TS

Snacking: on radishes

Helping: motivate a friend, but not taking my own advice

Hearing: an aeroplane

Mixing: tonic water with ice and lime, pretending it’s as good as a G&T

Worrying: well, there’s always something

Slicing: onions for virtually every recipe this time of year

Catkins and beautiful twisty trees at Waterperry Gardens

Celebrating: the busy garden birdlife, since I’ve been typing I’ve seen: a Robin, multiple Blue Tits, a Coal Tit, a couple of Great Tits, a male Blackbird and the female Chaffinch is back

Forgetting: what I need to add to the shopping list

Winning: at life? Urgh, smug expression

Pretending: nothing

Sneaking: extra oddments of nibbed hazelnuts, flaked almonds and walnut pieces into the museli. It’s getting close to being an end of packet dust situation!

Embracing: brighter and longer days, it’s light at 520pm still

For the full list to fill in your own Taking Stock post visit Pip. It’s fun to do.

The last seven days

The Winnie the Pooh exhibition at the V&A was lovely. It’s so interesting to see E.H Shepherd’s original pencil drawings. What talent. There were many illustrations that I’d forgotten, but which were instantly recognisable when I saw them again. Winnie was a big part of my childhood. The exhibition is on until April 8th.

We saw the film Darkest Hour last weekend. It’s good. As good as the media hoo-ha and talk of an Oscar for Gary Oldman. It seemed a good time to see the Winston Churchill exhibition at Blenheim Palace, (his birthplace, home of his grandparents.) En route I noticed there are daffodils beginning to appear. It won’t be long before they’re everywhere in bright clumps of yellow. I love them!

I was held up in traffic on Thursday morning and quite glad when I noticed a large patch of snowdrops in a wood, on the hill at the side of the road. I wouldn’t have had the opportunity if the traffic had been better.

The joins make me think of those foam play mats we have for blocking.

I’ve spent a bit of time playing with my yarn leftovers and planning out my next strip of moss stitch (aka linen and granite) blocks. I thought it might be easier than trying to do it in the pub at Knit & Sip, in the semi dark. We ended up not meeting anyway this week, but no matter; it’s quite nice to have a plan. The fewer brain cells used during the evening, the better I find. It’s not my brightest time. Nor is very early in the morning. My optimum time seems to be between 10-3pm! This isn’t new either. I’ve always been the same. Are you at your best in the morning, evening or middle of the day?

A friend made me smile yesterday as she said she’s having a break from going to Slimming club. Her evenings are precious and she’s fed up hearing the same people complain about how hard it is to lose weight, when they don’t eat fruit and veg. I had popped into the garden centre to buy the birds a mealworm feeder and found myself wanting to shout ‘salad dodgers!!!!’ at the top of my voice. I refrained.

I haven’t made cheese scones since at least last summer. Yesterday I made a batch and this was the last three, with what I always call the knobble, made from the last bit of dough. The fact I haven’t made any for ages has been remarked upon lots. I reckon I’m close to being asked to sign a legal document, requiring me to make them at least once a month.

Once, years ago, I made heart shaped cheese scones for Valentines Day. Don’t do this; they look like bottoms.

The Hitchhiker is coming along. I laid it out to compare with mine. I still can’t believe it was finished and now look, so much still to redo! Ah well. There were nine teeth to knit yesterday, now only seven. ‘A tooth a day and it’s done’ I say to myself.

I came downstairs this morning to a surprise bunch of daffodils. Lovely. On Monday I collected David Sedaris Theft by Finding Diaries, vol 1 from the library and it’s a whopper of a hardback. A real brick.

If you haven’t read any of his other writing, I would suggest you start elsewhere. It’s not as funny, but I’m enjoying the insights into his experiences. Some of it’s pretty grim and sad.

What are you up to? Have you had a good week?

Taking Stock in September

IMG_1278IMG_1260Making : another star ripple blanket
Cooking : Dorset Apple cake with windfall apples from the garden, orange and ginger tea-loaf, pasta sauce with home-grown tomatoes and chillies, raspberry jam…

IMG_1154Drinking : nothing at the mo
Reading: Resistance is Futile by Jenny T. Colgan (85% through)
Wanting: to finish the book as the twee language is irritating meIMG_1267Looking: out at grey clouds and weak sunshine
Playing: solitaire games on my new lap top

IMG_1247Deciding: whether to finish another pot-holder, do the last section of my Hitchhiker shawlette, or re-edge my ripple, or make something new from cotton from my Hook, Yarn and Crochet book
Wishing: those 100+ baby cashmerino blocks from my long ago CAL would organise themselves into a blanket
Enjoying: using up oddments of yarn on the star ripple blanket

IMG_0667(2)
Waiting: for a yarn delivery, I’ve run out of pink mid-way round the last row (not really the point of stash bushing makes, I know!)
Liking: that I could use a little of my birthday voucher for the order, thanks my friend

IMG_0763Wondering: if it’s silly to try to sell on Etsy, there are SO MANY similar items listed. But none made by me…
Loving: thinking about what to cook with home-grown produce from here and family: apples, carrots, courgettes, garlic, onions, chillies, tomatoes, peppers
Pondering: Life and the Universe
Considering: buying a lottery ticket for the Euro millions draw tomorrow
Buying: capers so I can make putanesca with more of the tomato glut
Watching: Girl Meets Boy, we’re giving it one more episode.. It feels like an attempt to educate and teach people how to think, rather than a good comedy which it promised to be in the first episodeIMG_1272Hoping: for late summer weather again tomorrow
Marvelling: at the number of sparrow fights on the bird feeder
Cringing: at the way the house sparrows are ganging up against the tree sparrow (4:1)
Needing: a long walk
Questioning: what will happen long-term in SyriaIMG_1131Smelling: smoke, some plonker is polluting the air with a huge bonfire
Wearing: comfy home clothes
Following: no one new blogwise. I’ve been seduced by IG but really enjoy catching up with my fave bloggers
Noticing: how much more enjoyable it is to read people’s stories and hear their voice in writing, then the quick fix of a stream of photos
Knowing: I need to go and drink my peppermint tea.IMG_1148Thinking: I’m really thirsty
Admiring: People who have their own sense of style
Sorting: more stuff to go to the charity shops
Getting: organised
Bookmarking: recipes for seasonal produce
Coveting: a winning lottery ticket
Disliking: lock down because I closed every window in the house because the house is getting kipperedIMG_1055Opening: windows again soon, I hope!
Giggling: over silly vids people post on FB
Feeling: thirsty *getting up to go and drink that cold peppermint tea*
Snacking: on raw carrots…shortly
Helping: others by taking some of their glut and then passing on slices of cake etc
Hearing: the wind now whistling outside

Thanks to Pip for the list, it’s fun to play again. If you join in too let me in the comments below. I’d like to read yours.

Five things 

I’m making a few loaves of bread again at a time, one to eat and the other(s) to freeze. The freezer lately seems to be full of stewed apples from the glut last Autumn, and frozen trout because of my knowing a talented fly fisherman. No sooner had I baked two loaves on Sunday than 3 whopping fish were brought home; one brown and two rainbow trout. Luckily family and friends are more than happy to have them as they are or potted or smoked.

BBC radio 2 are broadcasting Sounds of the 20th Century, it’s ‘An audio journey through five decades, starting at 1951. Archive recordings include George VI overcoming his stammer to open the Festival of Britain.’  I’m going to try to listen to them on the iplayer because it’s fascinating; no commentaries or explanations, just music, news, programme clips etc from each year. I’m listening to the first from 1951 now.
“The average housewife works for 75 hours each week and does overtime at weekends….according to a Mass Observation study…”

“Coupons will continue to be required for meat, cheese….”

Poor little Princess Margaret “born into disappointment as the Nation longed for a little Prince.”

It is compelling listening for a social and economic history junkie.

On a Saturday jaunt to Marlborough it was lovely to see clumps of snowdrops under trees. It really feels as if Spring is on its way now; with blue skies and sunshine, albeit interspersed with showers. Washing has been hung on the line a few times this week already and partially dried in the gentle breeze, this is a very good thing.

Johnnie Ray is now being asked about why he cries as he sings and how long he’s worn hearing aids. We’ve just watched the three Rock and Chips specials on Netflix (an excellent prequel to Only Fools and Horses) and his music was featured in the first one…

I’m a terrible procrastinator where some things are concerned, like sewing up knitting. This little baby jumper was something I knitted it in 2013, just something I saw in a knitting mag and thought I could give to a friend. I also knitted a cat (recently sewn up by a Nana in my friend’s craft group, which sells items in aid of the Deaf Access charity) and a tank-top which I subsequently undid. I blogged about the sewing up then. Oops.

Forty thousand feathers on a thrush!”

The silly thing is that I did the sewing while listening to my current audio book: The Minotaur by Barbara Vine (excellently narrated by Sian Thomas) and it was really painless. I guess in the interests of complete honesty I should admit that it took so long to finish because my cousin had it for ages, it was she who actually sewed it up. But I sewed on the buttons! This took several months, but it’s all done now.

You are the lone ranger!”The next is better; I sewed up my headband. It only took 2 weeks or so after finishing it. Improvement, yes? Here it is with a little card, ready for posting. The P.O has put in self-service machines and for some reason I really got flustered trying to gauge the size of the packet, type in the address for a proof of posting certificate etc. It was all too much but the new cheese counter take-a-ticket-wait-for-the-number-to-be-called wait was far too long.

“…without cotton many mills in Lancashire would close down…”The friend who sent me Clara Parkes knitting book also popped in two balls of yarn. This one was bought in iknit, London, she was going to make an entrelac something or other but ended up unravelling it without keeping the yarn band. It feels like wool, or a good wool blend, and is sock or lace weight (are these really so similar in weight that they are virtually the same?) I like using a really fine thread, it’s different.

“There will be more houses to let, more houses to sell, more houses for everyone…..the Conservative pledge will be kept in full…”

“The time is now six fourteen and three quarters…”  What an excellent programme, if distracting listening to it while writing here.

What are you enjoying listening to or reading at the moment?

If you write your own Five Things post then feel free to add a link in the comments below, then we can all see what you’ve been up to.

** I just had a text and selfie of the headband being worn, this was super fast delivery as I only grappled with the self-service machine yesterday! It looks really nice and will definitely be in use next week on the ski slopes. Hurrah!**

Polenta Bread Recipe

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It’s definitely homemade soup and toast weather at the moment especially with the threat promise of snow which hangs over each day at the moment.

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Back in the summer I bought this huge bag of cornmeal, aka polenta, to make a lemon polenta cake when we had guests here for lunch. Since then it’s sat in the pantry neglected really, apart from the first time I tried this polenta bread recipe. Yesterday seemed the perfect opportunity to bake some more and I’m so glad I did as it’s really delicious.

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This is the bread recipe book I use most. I first borrowed a copy from the library to try a few recipes. This had such good reviews on Amazon UK, and I was still using recipes I’d photocopied, that it seemed daft to ask for any other book for my birthday last year. A good decision as I haven’t had a disappointing loaf yet!

I thought I’d share the polenta bread recipe with you in case you have need for a soup and bread meal too.

Polenta Bread

Makes 1 loaf
Preparation time: 15 minutes + proving + 25 minutes
Freezing: Recommended

“Polenta (or maize flour) has a slightly grainy texture and a vivid yellow colour that makes an everyday loaf a little more interesting”

350g (12oz) strong white bread flour
115g (4oz) polenta, plus extra for sprinkling
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fast action dried yeast
25g (1oz) butter, melted
275-300ml (9-10 fl oz) hand-hot water

1) Combine the flour, polenta, sugar, salt and yeast in a mixing bowl. Add the butter and water and mix to a soft dough.
2) Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for 8-10 minutes until smooth. Cover and prove in a warm place until doubled in size.
3) Grease a baking sheet and sprinkle with polenta.
4) Knock back the dough and shape into an 18cm (7″) long oval. Place on the baking sheet. Using a sharp knife, make deep cuts on alternate sides of the loaf.
5) Cover and prove until doubled in size.
6) Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 7 / 220oc / 425of
7) Sprinkle liberally with polenta and bake for about 25 minutes until golden. Cool on a wire rack.

From Women’s Institute Bread: Over 100 Easy-to-Make Recipes by Liz Herbert.

** I didn’t have any butter so used a tablespoon of olive oil this time. It worked well, although the slightly buttery taste is best. I use my Kenwood mixer and dough hook, so cut down kneading time by half (to around 5 minutes). To knock back the dough I give it a quick whizz again in the mixer. In the winter the warmest place for proving is the airing cupboard, so put the covered (cling film) mixing bowl there. Typically it takes an hour, to an hour and a half to double the first time. I put the oven on to heat after about 30-40 minutes, while the dough proves the second time, then it’s reached temperature by the time the dough has doubled.”**

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Polenta bread is best eaten fresh, when it’s moist and the knife slides through each slice as if it’s butter. It seems to go stale quite fast, but that’s no matter as it makes the crunchiest, tastiest toast. Perfect with chilli and lentil soup! Here’s the soup recipe.

What are you enjoying cooking and eating at the moment?

Timely surprises

What a week!

I’d had a very efficient start to the year, getting all those boring but necessary appointments and tasks ticked off a long list. I was feeling rather pleased with it all last week. The Mister brought the first surprise – my favourite Austrian chocolates from Stockholm airport on his way home after a week working there again. It was great to see him, after all the socializing over Christmas the house had suddenly become far too quiet. Then…he started feeling unwell and coughing. I definitely wasn’t getting it too, so went to bed early, took vitamin C and started off the next day with a scratchy throat…

2015/01/img_4819.jpgA few days later my cousin sent me a quick message to say she had posted one of my Christmas presents. I wasn’t entirely sure why because we often have a late Christmas catch up a few weeks or months after. One year it was in June, to the amusement of restaurant staff who watched as we all exclaimed over pretty wrapping and enthused about a pile of gifts!

I’ve found this about last year’s late Christmas. I never really look back at my blog posts but I might start; to see what I was doing this time last year(s).
2015/01/img_4817-0.jpgAh! What a great present. I can totally see why she sent it this week. I’ve looked at those make an origami-whatever or solve a daily crossword type of calendars, but have never seen a crochet version. It’s an American product which my cousin saw in a garden centre here. I bet you can buy one online.

Because I have GOT to keep on with the William Morris motif blanket I haven’t looked all through the January patterns as it’s too tempting to start some, but there are a some sweet makes.
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I am itching to make those mitts. I’ve never done granite stitch but saw a Kat Goldin pattern in a recent crochet mag which uses it. That’s going to be my next new stitch soon.

The third surprise was from my friend who has been sent free tickets to go to Excel to the Stitching, Sewing and Hobbycrafts show in March, and wondered if I wanted to go with her. Yes please, thank you actually!
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I haven’t really been able to do anything other than cough, ache, wheeze, shiver and groan crochet and watch Netflixs: Life on Mars, Black Books and the excellent BBC version of The Lady Vanishes, or listen to my current audio book: Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell. I’ve darned all the ends on the little doll blanket and now it’s ready to edge. I think it needs something very simple like rows of DC to finish it off, anything else will be too over the top.
2015/01/img_4837.jpgYesterday we both turned a corner, despite coughing in tandem at 5am. In the end we gave up trying to sleep and got up and made mugs of tea at six to take back to bed. Later I felt well enough to cook a little batch of cheese scones, then I collapsed back onto the sofa for a bit of Glee S4. But still, I felt better than I had the rest of the week.

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Last night the football was on and so I immersed myself in the new issue of Country Living which came yesterday. It’s a Springtime goodie and full of lovely designs in greens and blues. I became completely engrossed in this article about British hedgerows. When I’m enthused about something I can’t help sharing what I’m reading and giving impromptu pop quizzes. “So, how many thousand miles of hedgerows do you think we have?” “How many of our lowland mammals’ habitats are in hedgerows?” “How can you estimate the age of a hedgerow?” Luckily I get away with this and had some intelligent answers and a bit of chat, alongside the football commentary. The article brought back long-ago memories of a hedge layer giving my primary school class a talk and demonstration of his craft. It’s so interesting.

How’s your week been?

 

Treats, rewards and more baby hexagons

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This is a progress photo from earlier in the week, it’s 28 days worth of a baby hexagons. Well, what can I say? They are addictive and so easy to make! But LOOK – 28 only measure just over 16″, so for a decent sized blanket by 31st December we’re going to need to crochet one a day, plus lots more!

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So now I’ve kind of abandoned the whole baby hexagon a day concept. Although a one a day CAL is a lovely idea I don’t think this one was properly thought through measurement-wise. So now I’m just doing a batch when I feel like it, and I plan to continue this throughout the year. It’s impossible to just make one a day anyway, the one turns into five or sometimes (prepare yourself) I don’t feel like crocheting anything at all.

Isn’t it turning out pretty though? I’m using leftover yarn from my zesty raspberry ripple blanket and pinching colours that I’m using for my motifs. It will change though as the plan at the moment is to add new colours from whatever I’m making in Stylecraft as the year goes on.

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When I decided to redesign my William Morris colour inspired motifs I was slightly panicked by going from a blanket which was a third complete, with a basket of semi-finished motifs to absolutely zero. So I hooked new versions without pausing to darn any at all. Argh! I ended up with so many ends that I’ve had to stop and do nothing but darning. Argh! On Sunday I divvied the remainder into seven little piles to tackle like homework each night. I missed last night because I was out, but it’s a good idea to tackle the last of a tiresome job in small bits. For the next fifty motifs I will make one, darn it, then move onto the next. I really will.

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I saw my dentist last week “Ah you always have stunningly good teeth” he said before I even opened my mouth! Afterwards I bought a bone handled 1935 cake knife made to commemorate the silver jubilee of George V who was the Queen’s Grandfather. It was a bargain £4, after some Googling it seems most online sellers are asking £15 plus for one! I bought it because I really wanted a cake knife, rather than grabbing the first knife which comes to hand when we have guests, but what a lovely find.

This week I’ve had an eye test. Have you ever been shown photos of the back of your eyes? It’s amazing being talked through how they can tell you probably haven’t got diabetes or glaucoma, and seeing your optic nerve captured in action. I hate the puff of air and the flashing light so the new book by the very talented Kat and a cheese scone for lunch were my rewards! I’m thankfully now at the end of my mini MOT…
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I’m so lucky to have been given membership to the V&A in London, officially known as The Victoria and Albert Museum. I’ve used my card for the first time and loved swooping into the Wedding Dresses exhibit with a simple flash of my card. Do go if you can before it ends. You “Wow!” your way around. I also visited the members’ room which was described to me by a room guide as ‘the inner sanctum’. It was certainly very peaceful and comfortable. The water jugs were donated by Waterford Crystal and even the tray is lovely! My membership includes a guest so I’m hoping to take friends and family to events over the year. Thank you Father Christmas.
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I’ve baked my first loaf of Artisan bread in my new cooker. I started to use silicon coated baking paper last Autumn because you can place it gently down into the heated pyrex while safely holding the strips of paper. I adjust the oven temp down to 220 oc from the recipe’s 230 oc to comply with the paper’s instructions, but this oven has a much better seal and there is a huge gust of steam as you open the door. I’d quite forgotten ovens do this and have had a hot facial a few times. The problem is this time the paper became melded to the bottom of the loaf. It might have been a wetter dough than usual, or the new oven. While I’m not fussy I don’t like the chewy texture of silicon. (Yes, I did try it.) So I might go back to gently plopping the loaf in sans silicone because it’s a tragedy to have to cut the crust off.
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How’s the third week of 2015 going for you?

Polenta bread

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I baked my usual couple of loaves last Friday and decided to also pick a new recipe to try from my Bread book. (I can’t recommend this book enough, I’ve made quite a few different loaves and they’ve all turned out well.) I’d ordered some polenta, aka fine cornmeal or maize flour, for a lemon polenta cake for dessert on Sunday. There was only the option of buying a 1kg bag so using some for a loaf seemed like a good idea!

I put this photo on IG and had a request for the recipe – so here goes:

Polenta Bread

From Bread by Liz Hebert, this is a Women’s Institute recipe book.

Makes 1 loaf. Can be frozen.

350g (12oz) strong white bread flour
115g ( 4oz) polenta, plus extra for sprinkling
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fast action dried yeast
25g (1oz) butter, melted
275g-300ml (9-10 fl oz) hand-hot water

1) Combine the flour, polenta, sugar, salt and yeast in a bowl. Add the butter and water and mix to a soft dough.
2) Turn out onto an unfloured surface and knead for 8-10 minutes until smooth (I use a dough hook on my mixer and knead for about 5 minutes.) Cover and prove in a warm place until doubled in size (Up to an hour but depends on warmth.)
3) Grease a baking sheet and sprinkle with polenta.
4) Knock back the dough and shape into an 18cm (7 inch) oval. Place on the baking sheet. Using a shape knife, make deep cuts on alternate sides.
5) Cover and prove until doubled in size.
6) Preheat the oven to Gas mark 7 / 220oc / 425of
7) Sprinkle liberally with polenta and bake for about 25 minutes until golden. Cool on a wire rack.

This loaf has a really nice texture and flavour. Family ate the rest of the loaf – so it’s definitely a tried and tested approved recipe.

Happy Friday everyone!

Create Make Bake Nurture Enjoy

This is maybe a bit of a syrupy sweet title but it nicely describes my Summer days at the moment.

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Picking strawberries; Mum on one side of the row, me on the other. Trying to keep up my end of the conversation with strawberry juice running down my chin! Sun warmed, juicy and sweet they were – oh yum.

Three large punnets of raspberries and one of strawberries picked, some very posh meringues bought from the farm shop and then home to my sugar mountain.

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The recipe was from my Good Housekeeping Book of Preserves It’s here in my jam making post from 2012 if you fancy making some too. It’s so easy and pretty fast; my eight pots were full of raspberry jam by 10:30.

Brrrr if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere! It seems to be all about sock knitting, blanket making, log fires and snowfall with some of you this week.

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Homemade breakfast. Yum. There is nothing more satisfying than eating homemade toasted bread and jam. It really gives a glow to know that you’ve created something from scratch; whether it’s food, flowers or craft, doesn’t it?

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I’m doing the sourdough starter thing again, I started this on Monday.

Get a 1 litre kilner jar, or similar, put in 70g strong white bread flour and 70ml water, mix well until there are no lumps. Repeat this feeding process daily for a week. After 3-4 days it should be bubbling nicely. At the end of the week it’s ready to use. It’s as easy as that.

Google sourdough starters at your peril; there are so many sourdough starter nerds and pages of bumpf out there detailing exact temperatures and micrograms of this, that and the other when it’s basically a very simple process that people have been doing for hundreds (thousands?) of years.

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I took these two pics yesterday afternoon, it was doing great. Then late last night I came downstairs to whip the aerial out of the socket, after seeing the sky lighting up with strange horizontal silent lightning, and smelt the starter really strongly. The jar was sat in a puddle of starter, it was seeping out of the closed container like a slow volcano! It was about 28 deg here yesterday, probably hotter in the house, and look how much it grew in a few hours. I must have trapped some super-powerful natural airborne yeast! It’s now in a large mixing bowl…

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My first posy of sweetpeas. I sent Trish a packet of seeds as part of her birthday present in the Spring and we’ve been sharing pics of our first sweetpeas on IG.

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Some Saturday mornings I get up and really feel like baking something. This morning I chose to bake Citrus Muffins from this book. A little like lemon drizzle cake with a zesty lemony syrup drizzled on top when they were hot from the oven. You also put lemon and lime zest in the muffin mixture. I’d double the zest next time to make them even more citrusy.

Have you created, made, nurtured and enjoyed something this week?

Productivity

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I was given Beyond the Square for Christmas, but haven’t made a single motif until this week. The other evening I thought I’d play with #118 and figure how to join it as I went. It took five tries and I got it, I think. Others might have sussed it out differently but mine looks like it will probably work. Since then I’ve had a little production line going making middles and am now round twoing them all.

I have no idea what I’m making, or for whom, as it’s been so spontaneous but it’s another way to use up some of my oddments of Stylecraft.

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As I crocheted half-finished motifs, and tossed them into the basket beside me, I realised the colours are echoing those in my bouquet. This is nice, I like it.

Some stack their middles and half-done motifs beautifully, others lay them out in imaginative patterns to photograph; mine are tossed into a basket ends up and bedraggled! It’s all about doing some crochet again, not artful photographs. I can attempt to redress the balance and make sure they’re laid out with a CK mug of coffee in the background (tho I mostly drink tea) or my socked feet in the picture if you like? All the blogging photo cliches by request.
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Stop being silly and go into the garden.
The potato leaves are looking lush and healthy, hopefully the potatoes are too. I can’t wait to dig into the soil and see them.

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So many strawberries for one plant! My friend’s are redder and huge too, I think they get more sun in her garden, but I’m pleased my plant came through our wet Winter so well.
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The first tomato. I bought two varieties this year; yellow Golden Sunrise and Gardener’s Delight, a red cherry.
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The pepper plants look ready to fruit too. I’ve grown extra to swap with family this weekend.

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I’ve baked wholemeal and a white seeded – poppy, sunflower and pumpkin – loaves for this week’s daily bread. The white is a bit darker brown than usual on top, I blame that motif I was trying to whizz around – rather than just putting it down and getting to the oven a few minutes sooner. It’ll be fine though. The bottom and sides are a nice colour.

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For a week I’ve felt under par, waking up in the early hours with a thumping headache and sore neck/throat, had a hacking cough with lots of sighing and a bit of grumping. Today is the first time I’ve truly felt like myself and even slightly dynamic, rather than going through the motions. Three lots of washing washed and hung on the line too. It’s been a good day.

Oh and now it’s raining again, doesn’t that always happen just after you’ve done the watering?!

How are you feeling this week?

 

Oh by the way rather than just staring, hearting and commenting on others’ pics (only in the last few weeks – what can I say, I’m slow) I’ve started to join in on Instagram. Only three pics so far, but there’s scope for more! Let me know if you’re there too. I like the way you can swap quick chatty comments and search for hashtags, it feels like the best aspects of blogging and twitter. However I can’t imagine it replacing blogging, for me, because you’re limited word-count-wise…!

Dough!

At the beginning of the week I started to read Little Beach Street Bakery. I’d read The Ghost Hunters and May we be Forgiven and just fancied a really fluffy read. Four chapters in and I was itching to bake some bread from scratch: kneading, proving, knocking back – the whole caboodle. The artisan bread is no effort and all very well but I don’t always plan to make bread ahead. The artisan bread is better left overnight I’ve found, so I haven’t made it as often as I expected.

I grabbed a handful of my many recipe books to compare quantities and decided to use Jamie Oliver’s basic white bread dough from The Naked Chef. This was his very first book, published in 1999, he looks so young on the cover (lots of cheap copies to be had on Ebay I see.) I’ve had it years and never tried the bread recipe. The great thing is that he gives all sorts of variations to make with the basic dough. I decided on two….

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A 2lb white loaf and an olive and rosemary focaccia.

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I don’t know what happened to the end, my shaping obviously needs some refining. The loaf rose SO much that it touched the shelf above; that’s why it has a dark patch in the middle! The bread is so light and tasty.

I cut down the salt to 2tsp overall for 1kg of flour as think the stated amount of 30g is crazy, especially when you’re adding salt to the focaccia top along with a good lug of olive oil.

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I had to take some crochet books back to the library on Thursday and dived into the cookery section grabbing these two. The WI Bread book looks great, it’s packed with recipes.

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More dough, but I didn’t have enough strong white bread flour and also ran short of plain flour so used some wholemeal too. It was probably 300g out of the 1kg total. I added slightly more water too.

I’ve always got SR, plain, strong white and wholemeal but by the end of this week I’d run out of all apart from a sprinkling of SR! I’d made an Hawaiian macadamia cake for Easter Monday teatime and also Herman the German Friendship cake. A neighbour brought some Herman batter to us a few weeks ago in return for a trout. We’ve since passed on batches of the dough and today three family homes are scented with the delicious smell of baking. I’ve had messages and pictures to say how yummy the cake is.  If you haven’t made a Herman – do, it’s worth all the stirring. The original cake recipe with apple, raisin, walnuts and cinnamon is the most delicious treat, especially eaten warm from the oven.

Tonight I found that there’s a website so you can make your own starter and spread a bit of Herman to friends and family too. There are different variations too.
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Herman the German Friendship cake. The cake batter has melted butter and a good sprinkling of demerara on the top which makes for a wonderful crunchy topping.

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My final shaping again needs work, it’s ages since I made bread from scratch, but it’s meant to look rustic huh?

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The rolls were delicious, it’s a great basic dough recipe. I had aimed for mini loaf shapes but will just go for the classic round next time! I’ve shared some of the different breads with family. I’m going to top some with sunflower seeds and others with poppy seeds again next time. I’ve written down some different glazes to try from one of Mum’s bread books too.

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A friend was meant to be coming on Saturday but sadly she came down with a horrible lurgy, poor thing. Chatting with her about the necessity of soup when you’re ill made me realise how much I craved some; so I made a quick batch of lentil and tomato. Homemade soup with a fresh warm roll…..mmmm.

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There really is nothing like homemade bread: the taste, the smell, the process of making the dough is so relaxing and very therapeutic. I’m going to carry on making bread regularly. Although we buy good loaves from the local shop, homemade is definitely tastier.

I was lucky enough to grow up on homemade bread and cakes, homegrown fruit and vegetables. You really can’t beat it, but at the time I could never understand people getting excited about apple crumple, pie, rhubarb fool or gooseberry whatever, to me it was ordinary everyday fare. It wasn’t until I was older that I appreciated how well fed we were.

20140427-195447.jpgI had a strong indication that my dough obsession was being encouraged when I was given this little lot (and 2 boxes of yeast) today! Apparently the checkout woman’s eyebrows were all the way up to her fringe as she heaved the bags across the scanner. When she asked if Someone was planning on doing lots of baking he told her we have a lot of wallpaper that needs putting up. Ha ha..groan…..

The pantry shelf is full: plain, self raising, Doves Farm Rye, Doves Farm Malthouse, Doves Farm Strong White and their Wholemeal too. Woo hoo!

I’m planning on making a Malthouse loaf (recipe on the bag) next week.

Sandwich anyone?

2013

A selection of this year’s highlights. (Top of my list for 2014 is to enjoy putting the CAL blocks together, after a refreshing break. You should know I’m basically pre-empting comments here!) I’ve got many, many more photos of craft events, exhibitions and shops I’ve been lucky enough to visit too, probably enough for another gallery times ten. What a fun and creative year.

Meeting other crafty peeps has been a highlight, I see I wrote the same on last year’s gallery 2012.  I’ve always loved meeting new people and not being a shy sort find it all a bit of an adventure. Putting on some music, the radio or an audio book and settling down to make something is one of my favourite ways to relax, apart from reading, cooking or baking. But I have to say that there’s nothing like meeting others – having a good chat and seeing what they’re making. Social crafting seems to be one of the best ways to meet people too. I reckon if you’re shy then joining a crafting group works well as you can always focus on what you’re crocheting, knitting or sewing or whatever to calm your initial nerves. If you’re stuck for conversation just ask what kind of yarn (or whatever) they’re using and generally you’re off!

Have you joined any new crafty groups this year? Taken part in any workshops? Do you enjoy social crafting, or prefer it to be solely during your alone time?