Soup & trying to knit weather

Tuesday

At 0800 it’s -3 on the thermometer and doesn’t really change all day, except to get colder. The so-called Beast from the East, a very cold weather system from Siberia, is blasting the UK. We’ve got off lighter than many areas but it’s very cold. There’s no snow until late afternoon, although the village pond is already frozen solid. The canal is going that way too. As I watch the narrow boat go I can hear the ice cracking! In the time it takes me to click the photo my gloveless hand begins to tingle and hurt with the cold.

It seems a very good day to spend one of my Christmas gift vouchers on some warm West Yorkshire Spinners Shetland Tweed. I’d seen a particular cowl in Loop, Islington last year and haven’t got it out of my mind. I buy the pattern when I’m home, but can’t make head nor tail of it. There is no number of cast on stitches to start with, and more confusion besides. Nearly £5 and it’s a pretty awful pattern, touted as suitable for lace knitting beginners but it’s clearly not. I should have have taken more notice of the zero reviews. I check it’s not me, missing something obvious, and ask a very clever test knitter and designer who I turn to for knitting advice occasionally. She says it’s one of the worst patterns she’s ever seen. You just don’t know this until you have the pdf unfortunately. I email the company selling the pattern (it’s also on Ravelry, for even more money) knowing they have a zero refund policy, once you’ve downloaded the pdf. My email contains a list of issues with the pattern, provided by my contact. I have a full refund and apology by 9pm. Drat though! That cowl has been in my thoughts for ages. My star knitty friend then goes above and beyond. My instagram is suddenly beeping like crazy. She sends me links to 13 lace cowl patterns: “Which are on Ravelry and far better written.” I chose Edenvale. It’s going to be a very warm cowl as it’s in aran weight wool, but I’m hoping I don’t find it too scratchy to wear…

I feel chilly and can’t get warm, so I wear my Holey Cowl over the top of my Mira Cowl. I’ve never worn either inside the house before.

I get my nostepinne out to wind a skein and Someone texts me:

“Stick the oven on, I’m just leaving”

“Argh!!! I’ve got a skein of wool wrapped around my knees!”

Wednesday

It’s -5 at 0742 so I’m staying in bed reading for a while, because I can! It’s so cold sticking your arm out of the covers, even with the radiator full on.

I meet up with Mum and we go to the library and pop to the supermarket for her groceries. When we come out the car park is swirling white with a snow blizzard. It’s hard to see where the car is parked! We go to her home for soup and toast. Barty naughtily sits on the worktop, watching the snow fall.

Thursday

The window thermometer tell me it’s -4 and there are gusty winds with light snow at 10:00. I plan to make chicken soup, update my card details on the national Lottery website (ready for that huge jackpot win) and start my cowl. The heating is on full blast, but I’m still cold. I dig out my Poncho and am so pleased as it instantly warms my shoulders.

I relearn how to do a long-tail cast on. If you’re also a leftie watch Bill Souza teach the left handed LTCO, he’s very good.

Next I need to do a tension swatch, but can I do flat knitting for what will be a circular knit? Instagrammers tell me I can, but there’s a special technique to it. Purl Soho have a good guide. I check my swatch after an inch or so, because my Knitting Answer book says I will be able to tell how it’s going by then. They say to measure 4″ and count the number of stitches, it’s easier than my usual method of the other way around. My tension is perfect for the cowl pattern! Wey-hey I don’t think that’s ever happened before.

I need to cast on 120 stitches. My book describes various methods to decide how long to leave your tail. I choose the one where you allow an inch of yarn per stitch. Someone is incredulous and says “But that’s 10 feet of wool!” and indeed he turns out to be right. It seems the easiest method, so I get the big tape measure out of the junk drawer in the kitchen. It is more than enough, really and truly. My little piece of knitting is destined to have a massively long tail. It’s a waste of good Shetland Tweed. Maybe next time I’ll try another method and calculate the tail measurement by multiplying the circumference of the finished item 3 1/2 times. What do you do? Cable cast ons are an absolute breeze in comparison.

At the end of a mere 5 hours I have relearned the cast on, swatched for circular knitting, cast on 120 long tailed stitches, painfully knit the first round (my CO is so tight that the tweed feels like garden twine cutting my poor fingers) and slowly knit 3 rounds.

I think this cowl had better look half ok, because I’m fighting my perfectionist tendencies all the way. I will not allow myself to unravel a single bit. I can’t have spent 5 hours in total today with nothing to show. Sometimes it’s better to actually use new skills and refine them as you go, while accepting the first item will not be the best. I find this hard. My natural tendency with tricky knitting is to undo it again and again. I lose heart. Decide I just can’t do it, it’s rubbish and then I move on to something easier different. Not this time! I want to crack lace knitting. Hard lace knitting, not mere holes in cowls.

Friday (today)

-4 at 0800 and it’s clearly snowed some more overnight. It’s now about 4″ deep. We decide to go out for a walk and so wrap up as warmly as we can. It’s -2 by the time we go, but the BBC weather app tells me with the wind chill factor it feels like -9. Pretty soon my legs and bottom feel numb. Someone smugly tells me he’s toasty, because he’s wearing his fishing thermals. Wah! And I’m wearing jeans, which I know, I know, are the most useless thing in this weather. My legs are red like lobsters when I take down my jeans, back at home. Luckily I have the brilliant idea of leaving a spicy lentil soup to cook in the slow cooker, while we’re out. I delegate the chopping and initial cooking of spices, onion, celery and carrot while I shower. What a brain wave. It is super (souper!) to smell lunch ready and waiting for us when we return.

Not many are out at all, we see a handful of people with sledges but it’s bitterly cold for the dogs and their walkers. With the icy wind cutting across our cheeks and snow beginning to fall, it’s a big relief to be home.

It’s been snowing steadily for over an hour now. I will knit my 4th round soon. Wish me luck!

My cousin has been holed up in a pub in Lincolnshire for 2 nights. It isn’t that far from where she lives, but the roads are impassible so she hasn’t been able to get home. There are definitely worse places to be stranded; if that were me, I would drop my Dry Lent like a shot.

How cold, or warm, is it where you are? Any snow? Let’s share a weather report from around the world.

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.

Striping

I’ve dug my Stripy blanket out and actually it’s nice to be adding to it again. Isn’t it bright though?! I kind of forgot how much it’s a bit in your face. It took me aback when I saw it again yesterday, which was a very lazy Sunday afternoon.

I’m reading Y is for Yesterday by Sue Grafton at the mo. I’ve had it from the library for more than a week, but getting into it has taken a while. It’s an absolutely brick of a hardback. If you need a doorstop, this is the one for you. Having read a whole chunk yesterday made me feel more engaged with the story. I think I know exactly how one storyline will play out, but I’m not going to say anymore.

I was really sorry to learn of Sue’s recent loss, her books have brought pleasure all around the world. It’s sad too that this is the premature end of the alphabet series, however I’m glad a ghost writer is not going to be brought in to write Z. I’d rather it was the original author, or nothing at all.

As you know, I always have an audio book on the go too, after the compelling Three Things about Elsie by Joanna Cannon I fancied something completely different. My Audible library has contained Danny Baker’s 2012 autobiography Going to Sea in a Sieve for a long time. I bought it after enjoying the BBC tv adaptation Cradle to Grave in 2015. If you’re outside Britain I’m not really sure you’ll ever have heard of Danny Baker, but it’s still worth watching for the entertainment value. Peter Kay plays Danny’s Dad with only a bit of accent slippage! I’ve only heard 35 minutes of the audio book, with Danny narrating, and Ilove it. After the prologue I found myself repeating the story of the burning car and the game of chicken, while Someone made some smoked mackerel pate for lunch. Then I felt compelled to rush into the dining room to wave my iPhone in the air and play the bit about Nigel Slater’s ‘lamentable’ book Toast (I sort of agree about that) while he was trying to eat lunch and catch a bit of the Winter Olympics. I can feel myself trying to remember other little snippets to repeat later. This is always the (painful for others) sign that I’m loving a book. It’s just so cheery and authentic that I want to overshare.

What are you making and reading?

I’m joining in again with Ginny’s now monthly Yarn Along.

2017

This year’s makes were mainly small gifts and blankets. Every year I say that I’ll put blanket making on the back burner and concentrate on other things; but I’ve realised that’s not working at all. I simply enjoy making blankets, even more so when they keep popping up on friends’ Facebook feeds or when I visit family. Nothing beats seeing a blanket den or a blanket on the head picture, a snuggly sofa covering, at the end of a bed or a glimpse of one on a pram.

A mix of longer term and quick projects are so satisfying. So whatever 2018 brings will be fine, there’ll be no rules or resolutions this coming year, apart from one. (Can you guess?)

I have three things on the go right now: The garter stitch blanket which was planned for pub knitting at Knit Group and is definitely a longer term make. My first ever sock paused after the heel, but I’m definitely going to end next year with a pair of socks to show you. I hereby solemnly swear that you will see two handmade socks in my 2018 montage, unless death or imprisonment stop me. (Even then I imagine that in an open prison I might be able to do some craft therapy or activity, so socks could still happen. There’s no excuse really. Unless they make me give them away as part of my rehabilitation? I really don’t know how these things go. Now I’m wondering if any of you know?*) As for the lovely blue Hitchhiker which was Mum’s Christmas present, and finished in plenty of time** that now might be an Easter gift. Let’s not talk about that malarkey just yet, I can’t face it.

I’m not turning into a mad cat blogger, but I’m just so glad that the little kitten who slept in Mum’s garden, when he needed respite from the two young boys of his house next door, or in a chair in her kitchen when it rained, came to be adopted by her in the summer. His family ended up returning to their home country, a long, long way away and the cost of taking him was prohibitive. They told Mum she was the obvious person to take him. But I know he’s been missed because one of them called on Boxing Day to wish Mum a Happy Christmas, and asked how he is doing! So, there you have the full story of the little black cat with the powder puff tail. I’m taking him to the vet on 5th January for his booster jab. I hope he still likes me afterwards!***

Today it’s my blog’s SIXTH BIRTHDAY! Wooo! Where did the time go? Here’s my first post. So many metres of yarn and blankets later. Initially I planned this as an online diary while I carried on learning to crochet, without a plan in mind. Of course I wouldn’t have carried on without readers, so a big warm THANK YOU to you all for reading, for the comments, emails and messages. Welcome to all my new readers too, it’s great to have you along.

Have a lovely New Year’s Eve and Happy 2018.

* I’m not tempting fate am I? Now I’ve worried myself. Whatever happens please believe I was in the wrong place at the wrong time and I’m innocent Governor
**Well sort of – 24th December, apart from the ends
*** Not a mad cat blogger at all, apart from a longish paragraph about him on my end of year post….

Snow!

This is what I woke up to on Sunday morning when I looked out of the window. SNOWFACE! Apparently I always get an excited, wide-eyed, slightly deranged look when it snows. I took a few selfies when we went for a walk and oh I really do have a snowface! Maybe that will be the expression I wear for a week month when I win the lottery jackpot. If you look to the right of the shed you can see that the snow was still steadily coming down. It carried on snowing all through the day. There was about 6″ when I took these photographs, it seemed to be falling at about 1″ an hour.The birds were out in full force using our feeders, lots of blue tits ate the nuts. They really looked beautiful with their yellow and blue against the white snowy branches. At one point I saw four pinging about playing together. Sadly they were too fast moving to capture on camera.Someone danced about so much with the snow shovel, while I took photos, that he dropped the shed padlock into the snow. I didn’t laugh at all of course. Ha ha!When I’m out and about in cold weather I have to work hard not to stare at people’s knitwear. I always fail spectacularly. There was nothing particular to report about the humans, but the dogs merit a mention. The sheer number of dogs wearing fair-isle patterned coats seem to indicate a strong trend. No, they weren’t woolly, but I liked this very stylish dog-wear.

There were so many families were out and about with sledges.  They were mostly plastic but I did see some of those classic Victorian type sleds, you know; the wooden ones with metal runners. The kind that can really take off and make you wonder if you’ll stop before you hit that huge tree looming in the distance.

Facebook was full of jubilation on Sunday afternoon as some learnt that their workplace or school would not be open the following day, but there were quite a “bahs!” from others up in the north. This included my various Yorkshire friends who had been promised a huge ‘dump’ of snow, but didn’t have anything much at all. We get snow so infrequently here that everything grinds to a halt (my best January one year was when we ended up having five snow-days during the month. I know we staff were high with excitement, but I’m not sure the parents felt the same….)  The roads are not always gritted due to funding cuts and so turn into skating rinks, bus companies undertake safety surveys and usually err on the side of caution about running any services, trains can’t seem to cope with snow. Cars get stuck on motorways for hours; as people don’t know how to drive in ‘extreme’ conditions, so there are jack-knifed lorries and multiple shunts. I know this is laughable if you’re in Canada, for instance, but that’s England for you.After an hour long walk in 1 degree temps I was pleased to get home and make a coffee. I used up the last of my limited edition Nespresso capsules. The type? Snowball! Coconut and vanilla.

I must do some more knitting as I’ve got to my last 10g of wool, so will be finishing my Mum’s Hitchhiker, just in time for Christmas. It always seems to be the same; I finish one thing after the other in a short space of time. Then the page will be clear for new projects, apart from the nagging matter of that half finished s—. I can’t bring myself to complete that word.

What’s the weather like where you are? Do you also have a snowface?!

A Drum-roll seems only fair!

Last night I chose my border colours and sat down to start the tricky first row. I don’t think I want to crochet through the end posts again, yes it’s less gappy than working around, but it means you’re in danger of pushing out some of your darned ends. Phooey! It’s also damned tricky to do. That made me pack up my Hitchhiker knitting to take to Knit Group instead; as I didn’t think the light would be good enough to see, or the company would want to hear my groans and sighs.

I would very much like a drum-roll please while I complete the border, it seems only fair!  This has taken me far longer to finish than adult sized 6’x4′ blankets. Warm summer days, where the last thing I wanted was a blanket on my lap and sweaty yarn in my hands, and a house move contributed to the slowness of the making, not that there has been any rush really. I’ll show it to you once more with all the details including the yarn colours when it’s finished, before it goes to little baby Winnie next week.

I really like this simple edging. As you probably know I don’t really go for ornate borders, I reckon it can just be too much on a patterned blanket. But conversely an unedged blanket is a rather sad object, with a raw, unfinished look. There is a happy medium, isn’t there?

So on to Knit Group; do you remember reading this this post? (Oh sigh, please let’s not have porridge-gate all over again, tee hee.  I’m looking at you Vikki and Jill! Just whizz past the pictures and find the paragraph where I described what people were making…!) Teresa asked to see some pictures of what was being made and last night I asked if they minded me taking a few photos. It was a smaller group than usual, just a select four of us, but such an easy, relaxed night with lots of laughter.

First here’s A’s 4ply cream cotton bedspread in progress,  it’s one her mother began and she’s finishing, along with other half finished items. There need to be 20 squares or so and I think she was given 12. Look at those criss-crossing stitches and the detail on the leaves. Isn’t it lovely? It looks impressively complicated to me.

A. also brought along this gorgeous crochet shawl that she’s made for one of her young daughters. Apparently the yarn was cheap stuff and on offer in the local wool shop, but it feels luxuriously soft. Privately I thought it would rather suit me when I wear my smart black woollen coat and could imagine shimmering into a carol service, but sadly it was popped into a bag on the floor across from me. No stealing. Rats!Next there’s J’s Lego Man Mitts for her husband. They’re so fun! Not that the process of making them both has been much fun, as I understand the other mitt came into contact with a small boy and a pair of scissors…. He was taken to the wool shop to choose more wool and had to ask ‘the lady’ for the correct sized new circulars (yes, they were snipped too) which he didn’t enjoy. Lesson learned hopefully. She found the little figures in the bottom of her knitting bag. They look quite cross about me wearing the mitt I think.And P’s is currently a tea-pot cosy making machine, I can’t say anything much about it (secret squirrel) but it is making me want to try crocodile stitch. I’ve never been particularly keen on the stitch, now I wonder if it was the items I’ve seen made with it. P makes everything look good. The other knitted cosy is sooo special that I’m not dwelling on it, as it makes me feel knitty-knotty inferior! Yes, she does have a drink problem.I posted a pic of my Hitchhiker scarf the other day on Instagram. Click on the pink camera on the sidebar if you want to see how it’s getting on. After Winnie’s Wave Blanket that’s the next thing I need to finish for Christmas, for my Mum. Then the world is my oyster. Anyone who types the words ‘sock’ or ‘garter stitch blanket’ will be blocked. I mean it!

I chose this book first for my cosy Christmas reading, it’s so lovely, absolutely perfect.

What about you: Have you done any crafting with friends lately? What are you making and reading? Managing to resist the early festive treats or giving in completely to mince pies, stollen, chocolates or …..?

 

Feel free to add a link in the comments, to share your own Yarning Along post showing what you’re making and reading.

Cosy

Finally all the ends are darned and I can crochet the border! I can’t wait to visit little baby Winnie and give her this Wave Blanket.

It’s December 1st and so I’ve dug out my new-to-me books. I love reading Christmas fiction and a good friend passed on Coming Home for Christmas months ago. I think she’s got more for me too. I know she’s been looking out for them for ages, which is very sweet. I picked up The Little Christmas Kitchen in a charity shop months ago. Cosy reads for a cosy month. I’ve got several M.R James ghost storie anthologies on my Kindle, so will read some to balance out the gooeyness of the other books.

Talking of cosy; I’ve stocked up on Cadbury Drinking Chocolate and mini pink and white marshmallows too. I also bought a pack of All Butter Mince Pies yesterday. Well, you have to do these things right, and I’m not sure about icing sugar or frangipani topped pies. Isn’t that too much of a good thing?

What are you making, reading and eating at the mo? Go on, I’d love to know….

It felt like Spring, for a day 

But now it’s back to grey and drizzly. Oh well, you have to make the most of the blue sky days and sprint outside when you can. 

I have given myself permission to start something new, as long as I darn blanket ends as often as I can. I dreamt I was knitting on Sunday night, so I decided that must be what I really want to do next. I used my nostepinne for the first time and find the centre pull wool ball fab. I’ve always unwound from the outside and the balls jump out of the yarn bowl. No movement at all with a centre pull. It just sits quietly making no trouble at all.

 I’m knitting a gorgeously soft scarf with sparkley Louisa Harding Orielle (in ruby) which is 97% baby alpaca. You increase a stitch at one end and decrease a stitch at the other. There’s a lot of plain knitting involved which might get dull, but hasn’t yet. I started with 72 stitches and realised I should check that I still have 72 . There were 66!?!? How did that happen? This is fairly typical of me and knitting. I think it’s all very straightforward, and just in case I get muddled I use a row counter app, but it always goes astray somehow. The perfectionist in me is tempted to rip it all back, but the voice of reason says “It’s only a scarf, get over it. Just add 2 increases until it’s 72 again.” Alright then!

I’m about to start listening to The Silent Tide by Rachel Hore. I liked A Gathering Storm and enjoyed Gerri Halligan’s narration before, so am looking forward to it. 

PS: I finished We are all Completely Beside Ourselves (see here) and quite enjoyed it in the end. I did read another novel after the spoiler and before continuing though. 

I’m joining in again with Ginny’s Yarn Along

A crunchy walk

Such a good walk in the woods. We went at midday and the car thermometer was showing it was a mere 1/2 a degree. But by the time we’d walked for an hour and a half it had risen to a heady 3 degrees! The tracks would normally be very muddy, but today they were actually crunchy underneath your boots because they were frozen. I loved it. The best part is finding virgin ice on frozen puddles and stomping on it. There’s that satisfying crunch as the ice shatters.  It was silent in the woods, there was no one but us and birds singing in the trees. I swear the same robin flew from branch to branch following us all around.

I really appreciated coming home into a warm house, with the option of Spicy Lentil and Root Vegetable or Carrot, Ginger and Orange soup (see this month’s Red magazine for the carrot soup recipe.) I’ve been making soup every week, often trying some new recipes. I can easily make my own, without a recipe, but like to experiment. The next ones are Parsnip & Apple, Chinese style Chicken & Sweetcorn, Chicken, Rice and Miso and I’ve got a Sweet Potato with something linked in an email too. It’s the best thing to have in the fridge; especially when you’ve stomped around a frozen wood and need an instant winter warmer. 

Now the snooker’s on and I’m getting hints about how nice a Nespresso would be…then I’m planning to crochet at least two more rows on the Blackberry Ripple. I don’t mind the background hum of the snooker, but think I’ll plug myself into my  new audio book. It’s really good so far.

Yarn Along

  The light is fading fast this afternoon, so I’ve lit the candles and made mugs of hot chocolate. I spent the morning cooking and cleaning as we have guests for dinner tonight, it’s very nice to sit down and relax now. I shall crochet a little more of my blanket. See last week’s Yarn Along post if you’re curious about why I’m only showing you the ends for now.

Last night I read ‘Lost Hearts’ in this M.R James ghost stories collection before sleep. As usual I felt quite spooked out. I’m going to read another tonight and anticipate feeling pretty scared, the sweetener is that at least it’s while snuggled down warm in bed. I’ve learnt it’s best to go to the loo before reading, so I don’t have to run there afterwards dodging shadows! 

If you fancy reading some very old ghost stories (late 1800s, early 1900s)  M.R James anthologies are free on Kindle. At least they are here in England. 

I’m joining in with Ginny‘s Yarn Along again.

Perfect

   
    
   Today we pulled on some warm clothes and went out for some fresh air, after a few days of socialising, eating and drinking. A swift five mile walk was just the thing.  On Boxing Day it’s usually great fun seeing children whizz by on their shiny new bikes and scooters, with everyone nodding and smiling their hellos, but it was a rainy day and so the hibernation continued.  I’m so glad we decided to postpone a wander around the shops this morning. Walking alongside peacefully grazing sheep, while admiring the stark beauty of the trees against the rapidly darkening sky felt absolutely perfect. 

Yarn Along 


I can’t show you what I’m making, except to say that it’s a blanket; as requested by my cousin. The colours were chosen to compliment Emma Bridgewater china she collects. I think the plan is to have the blanket over the back of a church pew she has near her dresser in her cottage. When I said I was going to look for a pumpkin shade of orange, to match, she said she’d far prefer Space Hopper orange. Oh my..! Then:”How about some lavender too?” She’d noticed I’d used it in other blankets.

The out of my colour comfort zone has become a bit of a joke here, so when I took it out after a break (I’ve finished the V Stitch scarf) the Mister suddenly yelled out in mock horror. I was so startled it made me leap up out of my chair!

I have checked that it’s going to hit by the spot by showing her man, who says she’ll love it, it’s exactly what she wants colourwise. He even said how soft it looks and how warm it will be; he knows just what to say at times.The blanket design is a surprise and as I’m not sure how often she looks here it’s going to have to stay under wraps for now. We’ll do our usual late Christmas celebration sometime earlyish next year. But don’t say I didn’t warn you about the colour combo!

The third Rosie Hopkins book is turning out to be quite an entertaining read, and not so sickly as expected. 

I know you know this, but I’m joining in with Ginny’s Wednesday Yarn Along link up again. 

Taking Stock in December

Making: Crocheting the last third of the V Stitch scarf, then back to the blanket 

Cooking: Lamb daube, purple sprouting and baked potatoes  

Drinking: Red wine 

Reading: I just finished The Improbability of Love (it’s good. Funny to visit Waddeston Manor the same week. Spot the connection for 10 points?) so it’s time for a soppy Christmas book now

 
Wanting: a Happy Christmas for all my family and friends and you, of course 

Looking: Rosy 

Playing: Words with Friends. I’m about 5 years behind everyone, I know 

Deciding: Not to just plan to wrap presents earlier than Christmas Eve, but to actually DO it 

Wishing: for another glass of red wine

  Enjoying: The anticipation of getting our tree 

Waiting: For presents!

   

  
Liking: The smell of roasted chestnuts, a traditional snack still sold on London streets 

Wondering: If we’ll have any snow before year end. Considering it was a balmy 15C today it’s doubtful

Loving: Christmas programmes; looking forward to Downton, Sherlock and the Agatha Christie costume drama on Boxing Day

Pondering: Whether I’d like to go to Space

Considering: Buying some stollen, but maybe I should make it instead

   
 Buying: Glacé cherries, moisturiser and nuts 

Watching: The Breakfast Club, it’s good still

Hoping: Love Film have St Elmo’s Fire 

Marvelling: At all the Christmas lights  
 Cringing: at nothing in particular 

Needing: Some fresh air

Questioning: Why ‘Chantenay carrots have recently been revived in the UK, having not been available in this country since the 1960s.’ (Wikipedia.) Why have they not been available since then? So few varieties of fruit and vegetables are available, when there are hundreds of very old varieties

 Smelling: Fragrant! (Clinique Elixir, darling) 

Wearing: My favourite chunky red cardie 

Following: The mission to The International Space Station and our astronaut Tim Peake 

Noticing: How weirdly mild the weather is at the moment; it’s the warmest December in over 50 years 

Knowing: I’m nearly all organised for Christmas 

Thinking: About what to do when, in the coming week

Admiring: People’s knitwear 

  
 Sorting: Books and DVDs again, 2 more trips to the charity shop last week

Getting: Our tree tomorrow. Much better around 20th than having it from 1st December, too much, too soon!

Bookmarking: All sorts, but always forgetting to go back to them

Coveting: …Father Christmas knows!

Disliking: Music bleeding loudly from others’ headphones, do they not realise they’re harming their ears? And being a royal pain

Opening: A pack of salmon fillets wondering why it’s always so difficult  

 Giggling: At the Croydon Lucozade story (knowing I shouldn’t)

Feeling: Healthy, positive and energetic 

Snacking: On chantenay carrots 

Helping: A girl find her lost keys at the bus station 

Hearing: My audio book: Brooklyn by Colm Toibin
The Taking Stock list is from Pip’s Meet me at Mike’s blog, you can use it too.

Warming Vegetable & Pasta Soup

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The other day I was looking in the pantry for pasta to go with my leftover puttanesca sauce (Recipe here from Nigella) and came across a bag of these little pasta shapes. They look macaroni sized, but are in fact much smaller, absolutely tiny. I bought them in a hypermarket in France last summer.

This morning it was 5oc which is 2oc up on yesterday, but it’s a bitterly cold wind which blows. Time for soup. I had a good Goggle for minestrone recipes, but nothing really grabbed me so I made my own up as I went along. It turned out to be a corker.

The Mister is away working in Stockholm this week and I do intend to save him a bowlful as a warming welcome home, but I’m not sure it’s going to last! He is texting about having rich and delicious moose meatballs for dinner. A couple of weeks ago he was in Toulouse and it was all cassoulet and sausages.

Here’s what I used, because you might fancy making some really warming soup too:

Vegetable and pasta soup

2 tsp olive oil

2-3 garlic cloves, crushed

1 onion, finely chopped

2 ribs celery, finely chopped

1 large carrot, finely diced

1/2 red & 1/2 yellow pepper, chopped

3 rashers smoked bacon, finely chopped

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp mixed herbs

1-2 bayleaves

400g tinned tomatoes (best quality the better)

500-750ml vegetable stock (depending on how thick you want the soup)

2 handfuls of small pasta shapes (I have small hands!)

Seasoning to taste

——————-

Serves 4. Or 3 if you’re into really hearty bowlfuls!

::Heat oil in a large pan, cook onion till translucent, add rest of vegetables and cook slowly, covered, until softened.

::Add bacon and cook for a few minutes. Add smoked paprika and cook for a minute.

::Put rest of the ingredients into the pan and cook till vegetables tender. Stir now and then so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.

Serve. Try not to go back for ‘just a little more’.

** The peppers could easily be missed out, especially as you’re using the holy trinity of onion, carrot and celery as a base for the soup. I just included them because I had a few to use up, and I love pepper. Instead of, or as well as, the pasta you could throw in some lentils, chick peas, cannellini beans or butter beans.**
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Who needs Swedish meatballs or cassoulet?

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Homemade compliments

I’ve just read Sarah of Crafts from the Cwtch blog post about how her new knitted Colourblock Shawl has prompted compliments from strangers on the street. This reminded that when I wore my crocheted ribbed scarf to evening class on Tuesday I was complimented on the colours. It’s so gratifying to make something handmade and have it noticed. (For the right reasons!) Shop bought rarely gathers compliments; I guess the colours and designs can be too generic to stand out.
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If you want to crochet a ribbed scarf the pattern’s here. Or, you could dig out your knitting sticks and make Sarah’s cosy shawl.
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Currently I’m rippling away still, full speed ahead. The end is in sight, bar the darning and border. I have about 19 more stripes to crochet and I’m whizzing along to (don’t judge me) Glee: season 4. I gave up on Glee at the beginning of series 3 which was shown years ago here. It was so samey and they looked far, far too old to still be hanging around a High School music room! Series 4 was apparently broadcast two years ago, most of the originals have moved onwards and upwards which makes it fun seeing their next steps. It keeps me singing along as I fiercely hook, hook, hook on the sofa. To be honest I am absolutely dying to make some small fun makes, but I know I have to get the zesty raspberry ripple finished and then go back to the motif blanket. Both WILL be completed in time for Christmas.

What are you up to?

Brian – V Stitch Scarf / Cowl

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A couple of people have asked me what I’m crocheting at the moment. I should be concentrating on my motif blanket, and ripple, but I’m really enjoying simple crochet. I woke yesterday feeling really unwell and today don’t feel much better, and this is perfect. I watched my first Disney film, Tangled, in years yesterday afternoon. Maybe the first since the Little Mermaid? I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed it, that’s a definite sign of my custard brain. The animation seems more like 3D than before, perhaps Disney have had to adapt their technology to keep up with Pixar type films? The characters, especially Rapunzel, looked just like Blythe dolls, all huge eyes and small faces.

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I had some good news – Lang have NOT stopped making Tosca Light it’s just that for some reason I couldn’t find it on their website. I’m so pleased. If you look under Autumn / Winter on their website you’ll see the range of colours. (I know…they should make me a Tosca Light ambassador.) Lang is a Swiss company in case you’re wondering, TL is made in Italy.

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I’ve been looking out for other types of v stitches in my Harmony Guide to Crochet Stitches. I was lucky enough to find it in a charity shop for a song a few years ago. They call this one Three-and-Two Stitch, it’s descriptive but a bit dull…

I’ve run out of yarn as I had only one 100g ball left and my scarves tend to need 150-200g as I like them lonnnng. Time to find some more. If I won the lottery I’d just fill a room with it. Oh, why not a house actually?

I was really pleased to hear that Kate’s (Greedy for Colour) Mum; Mrs A in Australia (Rambling with me) is crocheting a V Stitch Scarf, using my last pattern which you can find HERE. The power of the internet eh – sharing what we’re making with others all over the world. I really love it. I should put pattern links on Ravelry. One day.

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I asked what I could call this scarf and had “Brian” as the answer. Well, why not? I did ask!

Brian v stitch scarf / cowl

5mm hook – if you’d like a lazy, looser type of fabric, but try a swatch and see what you feel. I tried with a 4mm hook and it was nice too, although quite a firm fabric with far less drape.

150-200g DK yarn depending on the length of scarf or cowl you prefer
Lang Tosca Light is 100g/400m a ball 55% new wool, 45% acrylic.

Width: 22cm / 8 5/8ths ”
I’m aiming for – Length: 80″ / 203cm
Will probably be – Weight: 150g -200g

V stitch = 1 tr, 1ch, 1tr (UK)V stitch: 1 treble, 1 chain, 1 treble into same space (UK terms)
ch = chain
tr = treble
v st = v stitch
ss = slip stitch
st = stitch
tch = turning chain
sp = space

Foundation Row: Ch 50
Or a multiple of 6 st + 2 to get the width you want
R1: (Right side) Work a v st into 5th ch from hook. *Miss 2ch, 3tr into next ch, miss 2ch, work a v st into next ch; rep from * to last 5ch, miss 2ch, 3tr into next ch, miss 1ch, 1tr into last ch, turn
R2: 3 ch, *miss 2sts, work 3tr into centre tr of next 3tr, work a v st into ch sp at centre of next v st; rep from * ending 1tr into top of tch, turn
R3: 3ch, *v st into sp of next v st, 3tr into centre tr of next 3tr; rep from * ending 1tr into top of tch, turn

Rep R2 and R3 until desired length. I’m aiming for about 80″/203cm.

If making a cowl join short ends together using ss; bearing in mind before you join the ends that there is a right and wrong side to the fabric. Finish off and darn ends.

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I’ve been meaning to say this for a few years(!) when I get to the turning chain of the previous row I always find it easier to use a 3mm hook to go into and make the last stitch, aiming for the same tension as the rest which I’ve made with a 4-5mm hook. That might be a useful tip if you’re new to crochet and have trouble seeing or feel like you’re forcing the hook through the top of the chain, it depends on your tension and eyesight probably!

Also, when crocheting in rows after I turn I’ve always taken the hook out of the stitch, rather than twisted the stitch. Do you? I’ve always wondered if that’s correct, me being pernickety or just silly?

Happy v stitching your Brian scarf / cowl!

It’s a beginning to feel a lot like Christmas!

I always feel excited about Christmas at some point in November but then sadly the excessive adverts, relentless songs and push turn me off until about this point every December. As a family we never put the tree up early, I don’t think most people did really. Decorating from the 1st of December seems a relatively new practice. The only thing we’ve always done was open an Advent calendar, or burn a little of an Advent candle each day. I do start buying presents and planning the who, what, where and how in November but then the rest waits till about the 18th/20th onwards. So….this weekend it’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas!
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Oxford Christmas market – traditional Bratwurst, Onion Bhajis and Mulled Wine?! There is a pretty good selection of stalls though, some very decent offerings. I have to admit that the Onion Bhajis were tasty!

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The Town Crier doing his thing admirably.

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My little cottage (fuzzy photos as it was raining!)

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Do you like my cosy fire? Pretty tree? Comfy chair?

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Perfect place to crochet isn’t it?

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Oh alright, busted! But isn’t it sweet?

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I’d love to buy a defunct red telephone box one day. I’d set it up as a free book exchange.

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Guess why we were at this plant nursery today?

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Yes…We went to buy Christmas trees but all got distracted by FREE hot chocolate! I wish I’d taken my marshmallows. HC & MM is my tiptop Winter treat.

It’s the Strictly final tonight. I’ve submitted my five online votes for the first round of the final, and now have to wait half an hour to see who goes through and wins. It’s been brilliant viewing this year – just perfect sparkly Winter TV.

How are you doing?

A winter walk

After a very big Sunday brunch sandwich we just went for a walk on the meadow, avoiding deep icy patches which are still full of flood water. It’s steadily snowing again today.

It amused me to see so many sledges in use, not only for pulling along children, but shopping too!

There were lots of lovely waggy, springy dogs frolicking in the snow too, including a very funny border collie called Mogsie who ran full tilt up to S then lay down for a tickle. Dogs are so stupid. :-D

If you want to see larger versions of these photos click on one, and you can view them in a larger gallery setting. (I just found this out myself!)

What have you been doing today?

Warming

It’s -2 0c today, it’s snowing steadily (The blobs on the top photo are snowflakes sailing down close to the camera lens) and we’re expected to have 6″ inches by the end of the day, with it continuing to snow over the weekend. 60 schools, and counting, are closed  with announcements that many are to finish at lunchtime. I love the drama!

I also love the warming winter food. This is today’s menu so far:

Porridge with apricots for breakfast

Carluccio’s Florentine hot chocolate for elevensies

Bacon sandwiches later for lunch. YUM.

What’s the weather doing where you are?

Chilli & Lentil soupyness

It’s grey and rainy today. In the middle of our wonderful summer! Yes. This is irony.
I wondered about salad for lunch and then decided what I really craved was lentil and chilli soup. I just felt the need for something warming. It’s a BBC Good Food recipe that I’ve used time and time again, usually in the winter months!
It’s been a good chance to fill up my new masala tin while the soup gently bubbles away.20120716-133607.jpg20120716-133613.jpg

 

 

Do you fancy making this too?

Lentil & tomato soup

Heat a pan and dry-fry 2 tsp cumin seeds and a good pinch of chilli flakes until they smell nice and pungent.
Add a tablespoon of oil and chopped red onion, cook for five minutes.
Stir in 140 g of split red lentils with 850ml of vegetable stock and 400 g can tomatoes. Simmer for 15 minutes until lentils have softened.
Whizz in a liquidiser or use a stick blender until its chunky. Put back into the pan and add a few tablespoons of chick-peas. Makes 4 portions. Serve garnished with chopped coriander and a swirl of yoghurt/creme fraiche/double cream.

Yum!

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Winter cooking & reading

I’ve never been one for chick-lit, but the cover and title of this book appealed to me last week, so I ordered a used copy through Amazon and started it last night…

…the main character bakes something yummy every day and it got my taste buds going; which is why I was measuring out various dried fruits and dark brown sugar at 11pm! I made a strong brew of earl grey tea, then left the sugar and fruit soaking overnight for a tea-loaf….

The oven was on by 8:00 and by 9:00 the kitchen smelled gorgeous with the scent of ground cloves.

As the oven was on it seemed sensible to roast some vegetables to go with couscous, a bit of bacon and a little creme fraiche for lunch…

Then, because it really was cosy in the kitchen with the radio playing and me sipping my new blossum earl grey (lovely orangey flavours) I made a casserole with the contents of my fridge: beef, aubergine, carrots, onions, red pepper, tomatoes and some herbs….

Now all this cosy kitchen stuff has to stop because I’ve got to do the not-so fun stuff on my list this afternoon, but I will look forward to a nice warming slice of tea-loaf!