Taking Stock – October

Making : a hot water bottle cosy. One half done. I started the other yesterday, but you really don’t get very far along in a 10m session, and I’m not up to everyday yet either. Try setting a 10m timer for the fun of it. It goes so fast. Then make yourself stop. It’s really hard!

I did feel like whooping yesterday when I posted this pic on Instagram. It was fab to have something to show and join in with the buzz of all the Autumn making 

Cooking : sourdough pizza last night, on a Sunday night. I hadn’t made any since August, it was time

Drinking : peppermint tea, Stoptober still going ahead here

Reading: The Music shop by Rachel Joyce and Never Greener by Ruth Jones, I’ve got a bit caught up in both

Wanting: a positive outcome to my appointment with the Hand and Wrist Consultant and Hand Therapist this week (i.e. no nasty injection or talk of surgery again)

Playing: some of The Music Shop book’s playlist

Deciding: not to try anymore crochet for several days now, as hand is sore 

Wishing: for a car to fall in my lap, I can pay but I just want someone else to find, test and choose!

Enjoying:  sunny blue skies and crisp weather. Driving to Birmingham, on Saturday morning, I noticed an orange snowflake appear on the dashboard to indicate the outside temperature. It had dropped down to 4°. It’s 7° today, crisp and bright – basically my favourite type of autumn day

It’s Christmas in Selfridges, Birmingham. I know it’s really early but actually I got swept into the joyful atmosphere

Waiting: for a telephone call from a company

Liking: thinking about which soup to make next

Wondering: what to have for dinner

How pretty are these Lola’s cupcakes? (Also in Selfridges, Brum)

Loving: seeing everyone’s colder weather makes on Instagram (I know some of you are in the southern hemisphere and I do like seeing your flowers and garden pictures too!)

Loved having a legitimate colder day to wear my Mock Cable mitts last week. You can knit some too

Pondering: natural ways to keep those limescale and splash marks off the shower doors, without resorting to nasty chemical sprays that you’re not meant to wash off. Any suggestions? I’m thinking of something like you rub on half a lemon and a bit of white vinegar in a half-hearted kind of way. I’m not sure if either would be effective Considering: going for a walk in the sunshine

Buying: frozen butternut squash, it’s a great standby for soup making

How white is this dog? She was eye catchingly pretty. Her owner said she’d just come from the groomers; she’s a perfect ad for their services! I had to ask if I could take her photo for my blog. She’s called Molly and posed like a true professional. My friends know I’m much more of a cat than a dog person, but she’s clearly gorgeous

Watching: I’m still working my way through Stella. I’ve just finished Series 4. So far series 3 has been my absolute favourite; it was so funny. She and ‘Michael Jackson’ were brilliant together. 

Hoping: no one tells me what happens at the end of series 6

Marvelling: at the range of items we can borrow from our libraries. I’m working my way through all the library’s Stella DVDs after getting hooked on the first two or three episodes for nothing on Amazon Prime, but then they wanted a lot of money to rent or buy the series. No way! I can reserve a DVD for £1.20 and borrow it for a week for another £1.20, then it’s 30p per every additional day afterwards

Cringing: at how bad you can feel during your period some months. It’s awful and you can’t really explain how fluctuating hormones can make you feel and react so emotionally to what you’d normally shrug off, or suggest discussing sometime over a burger and a milkshake. I think it can sound like an excuse to anyone who doesn’t experience it, but it’s very real. Afterwards you hardly recognise the emotional mess you became for a while

Not your usual charity shop find is it? No, I didn’t buy them!

Needing: to water my plants

Questioning: why the boiler keeps making that odd noise despite a recent service

Smelling: rose perfume oil, mmmmm

Wearing: jeans and a t-shirt with three-quarter length sleeves, it’s warm behind glass in the sun

Crossing the bridge over the lake, looking back towards the obelisk, Blenheim Palace in the autumn sunshine

Following: some incredible new designers that seem to have suddenly snuck up during the time that I haven’t been knitting and crocheting

Knowing: designing is probably never going to be my special talent, but I do love writing

Thinking: about my rumbling tummy, I always seem to be either hungry or thirsty when I write these posts

Admiring: some crochet jumpers and cardies

Nala the cockapoo, one of the salon dogs relaxing on the hair-wash chair. She’s either resting her head on your knee asking for love, or curled up on a chair. It’s clearly a hard life. Cora her Goldendoodle half-sister is often asleep by the front door, waiting for the postman who always brings treats. They are probably part of the reason why I’m so much more comfortable around dogs. I like my hairdressers a lot, so it wasn’t a difficult choice between leaving because of the dogs, or staying and getting used to them. This year I’ve patted them both once. This might not seem impressive, but believe me it is!

Sorting: my shredding and coming across all sorts of funny notes, including one I wrote to Someone who was on a conference call: ‘We have a situation in a k cupboard, I think it’s contained…. but I’ve left the bin outside the front door.’ 

Getting: a new mini sieve at Birmingham’s Rag Market, to try to make even better poached eggs

Bookmarking: articles about psychology and friendship

Coveting: new clothes 

Disliking: shopping for ‘em!

Opening: the veg drawers and finding a half rotten cucumber I’d forgotten about

Giggling: at Celebrity Goggle Box in aid of Stand-up for Cancer on Friday night. Danny Dyer and his daughter were hilarious

Sewing with my Mum. Just like old times: “You don’t need to stand over me, go and find something to do.” At least she didn’t tell me to “Go and have a run around the garden!”

Feeling: relaxed

Snacking: on nothing at the moment

Helping: my friend enjoy her holiday without guilt for having fish and chips etc. Life is too short, have some family fun and healthier eating can wait for a few days 

Hearing: bugs ding into the window outside

Mixing: lemon, ginger and honey later for a warming drink

Worrying: about something it seems I can do nothing to resolve. It takes two to tango/ talk 

Favourite lunch: toasted crumpets, avocado mashed with a little salt, poached eggs and homegrown cherry tomatoes

Slicing: that rotten cucumber, I’ve salvaged half. Hate throwing food away 

Celebrating: autumn 

Roses & orchids, amazing. Yes, spoilt

Forgetting: lots! It’s my age dear

Winning: £8:60 on the lottery a few weeks ago

Pretending: I’m a calm, wise and mature woman, not an emotional soggy mess on occasion

Sneaking: M&S Butter Mints from the car 

Embracing: my beloved in his new cashmere jumper 

~~~~

Hope all’s well in your world. What are you up to?

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??!?!

10 from this week

1. We can put our food recycling waste in any kind of plastic bag now, rather than having to buy the compostable ones. I know in other areas you can simply put it straight into the recycling bin, but sadly we can’t. This is at least a good way to use some of the plastic packaging that comes with everything. At least it’s being reused for something, rather than going straight to the rubbish bin.

2. My sourdough bread baking fever continues, albeit with fewer larger holes then I would like, but I’m going to go back to trying the second prove in the fridge overnight, and maybe doing a no-knead version, folding and stretching the dough instead. I asked Kat Goldin (sourdough baker extraordinare) about the secret to good holey SD and she said that you don’t want it too holey or the butter gets out! She’s my kind of girl.

3. This was my amazing Monday find. It kept me smiling broadly for at least another two days after that. You know when you pop into a charity shop, not really looking for anything in particular but just wandering? Well I turned away from the bookshelves and saw this beautiful cast-iron pot. It’s my favourite colour red and completely unmarked. I grabbed it as fast as I could, instinctively. I couldn’t see a price on it and didn’t want to put it down, (mine!) it was love at first sight. I asked the assistant how much it was and I nearly dropped it on both our feet when she located the label and told me it was £3. I’ve never moved to a till so speedily! It’s 24 cm across and the 28 cm version of this brand sells new for around £45. I’ve never come across such an amazing charity shop find. It’s pure treasure. I’ve already road-tested it by cooking a one pot chicken and rice thing on the hob and oven. It’s absolutely superb, what a bargain.

Incidentally I’ve had my personal Facebook account since 2007, in that time I’ve posted all sorts of really important life events and celebrations. But do you know which post garnered the fastest likes/loves ever? Yep, it’s these pictures which I excitedly took when I put my treasure into the boot of the car.

4. Another find in another charity shop on the same day, not that I bought this, but my it brought back some memories. It’s just like a set my family had when I was very young. I have seen Kiln Craft on old TV sitcoms, but I don’t recall coming across a whole collection. This was priced much more realistically at £28 for the set.

5. A quick walk through the library and the cover of this book just jumped out at me, it made me chuckle.

6. I thought you’d like to see my Edenvale Cowl after blocking, it makes such a difference to lace. This weather is perfect for blocking and drying thick items. I’m really pleased with this knit. I did try it on and was thinking about doing a photo, but really it looked ridiculous as I was wearing a spaghetti strap top with bare arms!

7. Naughty, naughty Wednesday morning breakfast but these sourdough pancakes are delicious. I took the recipe from Tastes of Lizzy T blog. It’s good, too good. If you know what I mean.

8. A new lunchtime dish I made: it’s baba ganoush. You grill whole aubergines until the skin is blackened then scoop out and chop the soft flesh. Mix with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper. Delicious with toasted pitta or flatbread, a few olives and salad.

The recipe is from Paul Hollywood’s Bread book which I’ve borrowed from a relative. It’s got a good range of bread recipes, and for each bread there is one for an accompanying dish. The photography is beautiful and I want to make a lot from it.

The ingredients for salmon pate are on my shopping list for next week’s lunches. Needless to say I’ve added the book to my birthday wishlist.

9. A kilo of gooseberries picked from my Mother’s garden turned into my first ever batch of goosegog jam. I’m all about raspberry jam usually in summertime, but I’m glad I’ve made this because it is delicious, as you can see from the mere half remaining of one of the jars, after just a few days of opening. I’ve only eaten it once on two crumpets and it’s going down so quickly that I’ve grabbed another jar and put my initials all over the label! His and hers jam seems a good plan….!

10. Today I’ve baked my first loaves of bread in my 2lb tins for over a month. I’m now calling this doddly bread; as in it’s a doddle with commercial yeast. Does what it says on the tin! Unlike sourdough which dilly dallies. As the kitchen’s so warm, with our continuing high temps, the bread dough rose as fast as anything, sooo easy.

Are you busy in the kitchen? Have you found any treasure lately? What’s made you laugh this week?

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.

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!**

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!

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?

This morning

We’d run out of bread yesterday so I decided to mix up the ingredients for another artisan loaf last night.

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This time I used strong white bread flour and left my Kenwood mixer bowl in the airing cupboard overnight as the residual heat is greater than leaving it in the, unheated, dining room overnight.

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We’ve just tried half a slice and crust. It’s got a crispy, chewy crust and soft texture. Wonderful! But how can I take any credit when you simply mix, leave, shape and bake? I don’t feel like I’m doing anything.
If you missed it here’s my first loaf with links to the recipe.
I won’t go on about my bread anymore. Promise.

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Right, back to the little room where I’m sipping peppermint tea, listening to
The Great Gatsby soundtrack and crocheting. What a nice Monday!