Love at first sight

31 Day Challenge Day 17

 

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I first came across John Arbon’s Alpaca Delight way back in 2015 when reviewing it for Knitting Magazine (issue 154). Writing yarns reviews is a job I really enjoy as I get to ‘play’ with a wide range of yarns from a variety of spinners and dyers, some big and some not so big. I can’t begin to think how many I’ve swatched over the years but I fell in love with this yarn at first sight, well actually it was first touch. It’s a 4ply blend of 70% alpaca 30% Falklands merino with an incredibly soft feel and just the right amount of blur.

Now you may imagine that I’ve got the world’s most mountainous stash (Sam already thinks I have) but no, thankfully I return the yarns to my editor Christine once the job is done and it’s just as well otherwise I’d be the mad, bald, wool-stashing woman of Hove. Somehow though this yarn never quite made it out of the house (coughs) and it’s destined for a one hank design that I’ll be working on today. Not quite sure how that happened (coughs again) but I do love my job….

J x

Goals and milestones

31 Day Challenge Day 16

Back in the first of my 31 day challenge blog posts I talked about how my work planning now needs to be more detailed in order not to overly stress my wobbly brain. I remember at the time thinking I needed to make some new years resolutions but given that mentally I can only cope with one thing at a time, it all became a bit too much to process and so none were made.

I recently started following Kristine Ofstad (@blogitbetter on Instagram) who offered some encouraging and inspiring thoughts on setting yourself goals. Based on studies done by the Dominican University the thinking is that we’re more likely to achieve our goals if we actually write them down. More than that (apparently) we’re even more likely to achieve them if we write a progress plan and share it with others. Gulp. To be honest that seems more than a little scary to me, I suppose like a lot of us, fear of failure and disappointment is holding me back. With this in mind she suggests setting short and long term milestones to chart progress (such as what do you want to achieve and by when) and share it on your blog to make yourself accountable. What? That’s even more scary!

So, as I said to myself before I went for my recent level 1 cycle training session ‘it can’t be more scary than having your head sliced open’ so I made a list of goals and milestones for 2017 and here they are. (Some are work related goals, some projects I’d like to make from my Ravelry Favourites and others are personal fitness goals).

Read 6 books in 2017. This may not seem much but I still have problems with concentration.

Start driving again before the end of February. I had to stop driving when my tumours were diagnosed and haven’t driven for 7 months and the longer I leave it the more nervous I’m getting.

Walk from Hove to Rottingdean by 1st April 2017. 7 months off work has meant I’ve put on a lot of weight. I’m horribly unfit and need to shift my bum.

Cycle from Hove to Kemp Town by 1st May 2017. I never cycled as a child but learned as an adult and am hilariously wobbly on two wheels.

Knit a top down garment. I’ve been in love with Bristol Ivy’s Svalbard for a long time now so this will probably be the design for tackling this technique

Design a stranded colourwork garment using some of my Jamieson & Smith 2ply Jumperweight stash.

Design using the double knitting technique. I recently learnt to do this intriguing technique and loved the results

Complete the 31 day challenge then commit to blogging regularly twice a week

Publish 12 new designs by the end of 2017 whether independently, collaboratively or in a magazine

De clutter my office of excess knitting books and my loft of excess yarn by the end of 2017. Contrary to popular belief you can have too much.

All I can say is watch this space

J x

That Sunday feeling

31 Day Challenge Day 15

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Slow roast lamb served with roasted veg and cauliflower rice

I feel a bit of a cheat calling this post ‘That Sunday feeling’ given that I’m writing in on dreary Monday morning but I’m sure you’ll forgive me. Yesterday I awoke in the same foodie mood as on Saturday when I made the baharat spice blend. I had planned to spend the morning prepping lunch so I wasn’t running around when our guests arrived or doing too much last minute cooking in our horrendously laid out kitchen. (Don’t get me started on THAT kitchen). However that didn’t happen of course, my plans went completely out the window and although she doesn’t know, it’s all Helen Graves’ fault.

Helen is a food blogger and writer based in South London and I came across her Food Stories blog when I was looking for some last minute tips on cooking the lamb for yesterday’s lunch. (As it was I ‘winged it’ when it came to the lamb and you know what? It was absolutely delicious and went down a storm see below*). I was however running around at the last minute because I spent 2 hours, cup of coffee in hand, reading Helen’s brilliant blog which is funny. Not, slightly, wry smile at the side of the mouth, faintly humourous funny. I mean laugh out loud, ‘I know exactly what you mean’ funny (particularly the Craft Beer Pub Rant which you can read here ).

So I know it’s now Monday but if, like me, you love cooking and unpretentious food writing with a wicked sense of humour then it’s well worth a read.

See you later

J x

*After rubbing the lamb with the baharat blend and leaving it overnight I added around 3 tablespoons pomegranate molasses, loads of onions (or as Helen would say ‘shit loads’), half a cup of water and a lamb stock cube to a roasting pan, then covered in foil and slow roasted it for 4 hours. Get in contact if you’d like more details

A perfect blend

31 Day Challenge Day 14

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As it’s a Saturday, like many other people, whose stomachs rule their heads I’m thinking of food. I’ve pretty much given up on my longtime favourite viewing Saturday Kitchen as it still hasn’t recovered from the loss of James Martin and continues to be hosted by an array of (albeit) brilliant chefs none of whom can quite lose that ‘rabbit in the headlights’ look when reading from an autocue. (Mind you I’m not saying I could do any better).

Having feasted on a brunch of bacon & pancakes with maple syrup and blueberries (yes it does work) my mind is turning to the next meal, well actually it’s tomorrow’s lunch. We’re having a couple of close friends over and I thought I’d add some Middle Eastern flavour. So after flicking through my collection of cookery books I’m making baharat, an Arabic spice blend which I’ll rub on a shoulder of lamb that will be slow roasted and served with…well I haven’t quite got that far.

Whilst I was preparing the various ingredients I reflected on who it was that first came up with this mixture of flavours and how long it must have taken to get it just right. There’s black pepper for punch, paprika for sweet smokiness plus cumin, coriander, cardamon, cloves and nutmeg, a spice that always reminds me of my Mum’s Bajan cooking. It may not be the perfect blend but it’s a perfect blend – one of many mixes of balanced elements that hits just the right note. As well as cooking I’ll be knitting a few more rows of Sam’s hat, watching TV (not Tom Hardy’s brilliant Taboo we plan to record them all and binge watch it when it’s finished) and perhaps even indulge in a glass of red wine.

So, like me and my baharat I hope you’ve got a variety of indulgent enjoyable and/or delicious things planned this weekend.

Right, now the baharat’s done I’m off to shop for laminate flooring….

J x

 

The magic of Twitter

31 Day Challenge Day 13

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Meg with a batch of her Hebridean sheep

I joined Twitter (as @jeanettesloan) way back in 2010 and somehow have gathered a following of 665 lovely souls who seem happy to read my sometimes random tweets. (And given the way my rambling brain now works I’m glad there’s a limit of 140 characters ). There’s been a lot of negative things said about social media platforms like Twitter with people often tweeting before thinking about how their harsh words and opinions can sometimes be hurtful to others. That said there’s also a lot of good to be found there and I’ve had lots of lovely interactions with other users whether it was discussing the disappointing lack of sloes pre Christmas or finding out about a new yarn. Well earlier this week I was really happy to find that I had a new follower and, as is my habit, I clicked the link in their profile to find out more about them. I’m so glad I did because I’ve discovered a new yarn company.

The Birlinn Yarn company is based on the Isle of Berneray in the Outer Hebrides. It was started in 2015 by Meg Rodger who felt there was real value in the wool produced by the herd of Hebridean sheep she rears on the family run croft, Sunhill. With an emphasis on sustainability and small batch production the product range features natural coloured yarns and specially selected sheepskins but there are also exciting new products currently being developed. I was really interested in the back story to this new yarnie discovery and having had a few email conversations with Meg I found out that she is also a practising artist. Along with another artist Peter Ferguson she’s showing her work as part of Elemental, an exhibition exploring each of their relationships with the wind and weather of the Outer Hebrides.

Having made contact with Meg I look forward to reviewing her yarns more formally in a future issue of Knitting Magazine. In the meantime I hope she’s wrapped up warm as it’s bound to be freezing up there at the moment. If you’d like to find out more about her yarns visit Birlin Yarns’ website  and for more info on the exhibition visit Taigh Chearsabhagh website here 

J x

 

Knitting IOUs

31 Day Challenge Day 12

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Some knitters are super organised and work away all year lovingly and patiently creating every stitch and row until the cast off is complete and the last end sewn in. I, however, am not that knitter. So having promised Sam a hat to match a pair of cabled mittens made for a previous Christmas present I’ve settled down in front of the woodburner to honour that IOU.

Currently the weather is foul with icy showers forecast across the UK both tonight and into tomorrow morning and that gives me the perfect excuse to stay inside and cosy up. Thankfully the yarn I’m using – *Lang’s Merino 50 – is a dream to knit. Not only does it have a lovely fat, rounded handle but it’s also got a wonderful bouncy construction that makes for soft but perfectly formed cables and I’m working them in a panel contrasted on either side by beautifully even stocking stitch. I’m not exactly sure how the two balls I’ve got found their way into my stash but I’m really happy they did. Another huge bonus is that it knits up quickly (the ball band recommends 9mm needles but I’m using 6.5mm) and that’s just as well because given how cold it’s going to get tomorrow I’m sure Sam will be wearing it as soon as the last end’s been sewn in.

Wherever you are I hope you’re keeping warm.

J x

*This is not a paid review but is entirely based on my personal experience of working with this yarn

Put simply..thank you

31 Day Challenge Day 11

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First I must apologise for this post being a day late and once you’ve read this post I hope you’ll understand why.

Having used a PC for more years than I care to remember, after a LOT of nagging from Sam I eventually made the move to Apple last year and treated myself to a MacBook. Fast forward 14 months and I still haven’t really got to grips with how the damn thing works and yes, ok so there’s been a very good reason why. Whilst the day to day stuff is very straightforward my brain just ‘flatlines’ when it comes to loading new programs as this works very differently on a Mac compared to the Windows platform. So with some design work to complete I needed to invest in some new charting software and thought, having heard lots of good things about it, that I’d give Stitchmastery a try. Well TRY I did….and try…and try…then I gave up because my brain had had enough….then I tried again (and just to clarify the fault lies with me not the program). Throughout this process I emailed Cathy at Stitchmastery for technical help and though I must have driven her to absolute distraction she was prompt in replying, patient, polite and incredibly helpful.

So Cathy whilst this isn’t the most innovative use of your genius charting software (I hope you’ll excuse my first attempt at using it) I just wanted to say a huge thank you