Dreary Monday

IMG_0001Despite it officially being Spring the weather is filthy down here today. It’s grey, windy and wet and all I want to do is snuggle up under a blankie in front of the fire and knit.

I try not to let this foul weather get me down but the endless lack of blue sky is really beginning to get to me. The builders start work on the house tomorrow (that means the kitchen from hell will soon be a thing of the past) but even shopping for a new kitchen can only lift my mood for a little while. Thankfully though there was a little ray of sunshine.  A beautiful bunch of flowers that I received from my lovely friend, textile artist Ealish Wilson. Originally from the Isle of Man but now based in San Francisco we met when studying at Heriot Watt Uni for our Mdes in Textile Design and in fact if it wasn’t for her I wouldn’t have met the entertaining Mr Sloan. So whilst I’m enjoying my flowers, the fire and swatch knitting for a new design pop over and have a look at her website. Her work explores a number of techniques including printing, pleating, smocking, photography and digital manipulation with final applications ranging from cushions and scarves to bags and large scale art pieces.

Her Design Bahn website can be found here.

Less whingeing next post, promise.

J x

A clear head

It’s been a stressful couple of weeks.. first the fridge/ freezer gave up the ghost within a whiff of the builders arriving to start the kitchen renovation and then the full on days and nights of knitting up my denim design. Life really is back to normal. It’s now nine and a half months since my craniotomy and I’m still incredibly grateful that life is so normal and that this is all I have to worry about. Those little ‘problems’ are easily resolved; we have a new fridge/freezer (it’s amazing how keeping the milk in a cool box for a week makes you appreciate modern appliances) and the beautifully finished garment has been carefully wrapped and dispatched.

Last Monday I dipped my toe back into serious waters with a visit to see my neurosurgeon for my second post op check up. It’s more than a little bizarre that I’ve met him only four times and yet he knows my brain more intimately  than I do. The fantastic news is that the MRI scan that I had before Christmas shows no sign of tumours (or lesions as he refers to them) and although he can’t give me any answers as to why I still suffer from migraines and occasional dizziness he’s happy with the scan results and won’t need to see me until next year. I may have an awful memory and occasional migraines but I’m truly grateful that he’s given me the ‘all clear’ and whilst I’ve been sweating the seemingly small stuff I have to remember that this is what really, really matters.

(The pre op MRI is on the left -the white mass in the top right is the larger tumour and the post op MRI is on the right showing all clear).

Thank you to everyone who has supported me over the last 9 months. Have a fantastic day

J x

 

Radio silence

The reason you’ve not heard a lot from me over the last week is because I had a busy and stressful week that was thankfully peppered with the odd joyful moment that kept me from falling into utter panic. Back in the days of the old brain the design commission  I was working on would generally have taken me less than a week to knit, then translate into written pattern instructions with charts for submission to the appropriate magazine. However with the new brain it turns out that even knitting one of my own designs whilst enjoyable, was also exhausting and frustrating almost in equal measure.

The design in question is a simple slash neck sweater in mosaic and purl stitch texture and it was originally designed last March (I think) before the brain squatters were diagnosed. Having decided on a simple, easy to wear silhouette I was really looking forward to getting started. Having cast on and knitted the first few repeats I thought I’d got the hang of the 16 row pattern.  Then of course I’d lose where I was  or just rock on for a few rows forgetting to decrease when needed so back I’d go, rip, rip, ripping it out and cursing under my breath. Damn brain! It took longer than planned and took more yarn than requested due to a definite difference between Rowan’s old denim and the new definitely skinnier-in-the-fingers ‘Original Denim’. (Just a word of caution, if you’re planning on knitting a vintage Rowan Denim design using the newer yarn take the time to swatch before you cast on for the garment).

By the time I’d finished sewing it up over a year after it was originally submitted although I’m happy with the results my lack of confidence issues mean there were lots of nagging doubts whilst I was knitting and praying that the commissioning magazine is equally as pleased. Oh and that it fits ok.

It was only once I’d cleared the decks and finally posted the garment off  that I could truly, truly relax. I’m not sure in what issue of the The Knitter it will appear but here’s a little sneak peek of the lovely purl and mosaic textures.

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Back at the hob

It’s been incredibly windy here this morning as the UK is being hit by storm Doris, really who comes up wth these names? I love being able to hear the roar of the sea as I lie in bed and when I went downstairs to make breakfast I found that the cool box we’re currently using as our temporary fridge had been blown up the drive at the side of the house.  Luckily the meat, cheese, salad and goose fat leftover from Christmas were all still safely intact inside.

After cooking all day Tuesday I managed to actually do some knitting yesterday but alas we’ve run out of batch cooked meals so I’ll be back at the hob later today. I managed to cook my way through a whole cauliflower which became a pretty bland, pale coloured slop which did surprise me as I used this James Martin soup recipe . (More likely to be my fault than his to be honest). Luckily Sam stepped in and pimped it up with some red lentils, curry powder and his favourite ingredient celery. Although it’s not the most appealing colour it’s now delicious – how annoying – and I’ll be having the last of it for lunch today.

The pork loin and king prawns became a divine tasting Thai herby salad with the meat and fish flavoured with a Korean marinade. If you’re thinking that the portions look a little on the large size you’re right. They were HUGE! We did try inviting a couple of friends round  to share the load but none could make it (well no meat eating friends anyway) so we were forced to indulge.

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On a lighter, less gut busting note the butternut squash and feta became a rather lovely quiche which we had for lunch yesterday and actually was much less pasty looking than it looks below.

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And finally last night we had nachos using up the beef chilli I made. Yummy and rich I can’t imagine how I ever made good chilli  in my student days without a good whack of cumin and a few squares of dark chocolate.

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Well I’m pleased to say there’s no more meat left in the freezer (my gut is screaming and I’m beginning to feel bloated) …oh hold on… I’ve just remembered there’s a small M&S beef roasting joint to deal with. That’s what happens when your shopping impulses are based on the lure of a yellow reduced price sticker. Thankfully  though there’s also a pack of Quorn mince too so it looks like veggie bolognese tonight and fish pie tomorrow before we’re back on the meat wagon again.

Can’t wait for my new kitchen

J x

The fridge made me do it

When we moved into this house last July we knew that the there were elements of our new home, inherited from the previous owners, that we hated but would be fixed in time. The kitchen is primary area of concern – no scrub that- less concern more outright hatred. It’s small, dark, pokey and badly laid out with two and a half sinks and no draining board. Who needs two and a half sinks but nowhere to drain dishes?! Being more used to gas the halogen hob meant nearly every meal I cooked in the first few weeks was blacker than my hair used to be and the main oven which we were told ‘is a bit temperamental’ doesn’t work at all. That’s why we had to barbecue our 12 lb turkey at Christmas.

But hold on, I’m more zen-like and calm these days so I can put up with all this. After all the builders are due to start work at the end of this month and they’ll be ripping out the old cursed, kitchen and creating a modern, airy open plan dining, living & kitchen space of my dreams. So why the rant I hear you ask? Well with what can only be described as a bloody annoying ‘white goods’ extra sensory perception the hideous inherited fridge-freezer seems to have got wind of the fact that it’s soon to be dumped and has decided to stop working…. Yesterday. And of course the freezer is full of food. So today I’m having to cook, cook COOK rather than knit.

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Pack of tiger prawns – thawed
Beef mince – thawed
Fillet of pork – thawed
Butternut squash – thawed
Endless left over bits of homemade pastry…. well you get the idea.

Being slightly forgetful I thought ‘I know I’ll cook a few meals and then store them in the fri..’ Dammit the bloody fridge is knackered! In fact it’s so ‘gone’ it’s  warmer inside than the actual kitchen is and we’re currently storing our milk, cheese and butter in a cool box outside the kitchen on the doorstep. Oh for a larder!
Expect to see a few gratuitous food shots as I fight to save the dearly defrosted from the same fate as the heap of junk fridge. I’m off to cook
J x

Happily Unravelled

When I completed last month’s #31daychallenge to blog everyday I had such high hopes and plans to blog twice a week and less than a month later I’m failing….. miserably. I do have quite a bit of work on at the moment and this seems to be turning my brain into mince so almost every word I type first appears like the 7 letter selection you get in Scrabble. Absolutely nothing makes sense until you take time to untangle the letters. Anyway, I’m not posting on a grey Monday morning to dribble on about any head yet again but rather to say what a fantastic time I had on Saturday at the Unravel festival.

I was really looking forward to going having had so much time out from yarnie gatherings so after being picked up early by Christine, my lovely editor from Knitting, we toddled off to Farnham Maltings for the show. When I say ‘toddled’ I actually meant that Christine drove while I sat, knitted and double checked the sat nav wasn’t going to lead us up a narrow one way street with a deep muddy puddle at the end of it.

I’ve had a stall at Unravel in the past and although you always plan to have a good look around there’s never quite enough time and before you know it the show is over. This year it was lovely to have a leisurely mooch around with a friend who drools over yarn as much as you do and will step in when needed should you look like you’re about to make an impulse purchase of an expensive yarn in an unflattering colour that won’t even knit a pot holder. No danger with Christine and I though. We were really very restrained.  When we first arrived Christine had to pop over to interview Louisa Harding about her recently launched Yarntelier range of luxury yarns and while she was gone I seized the opportunity to  have a coffee, look through the catalogue and make a plan of action based on who was showing where.

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Cards by Tilly Flop Designs

The internet is a very strange entity as it can make you feel that you already personally know people whose social media account you follow when in fact you only ever see tiny, daily snatches of their life. Well once I met back up with Christine we started off in the Great Hall and after saying a quick hello to Maggie and Colin at Textile Garden  we wandered up to the stage and found JulietTillyFlop. (I know that’s not her actual name but that’s how I know her on Instagram ). Now I’ve never met Julie in person before but we gave each other that ‘we’ve never met but I know who you are’ look before actually introducing ourselves. Oh yes and she’s also got one of those wonderful, broad smiles that makes you feel you think ‘I do know you…don’t I? Like the lady herself there is a genuine warmth and wit to Julie’s work and despite swearing to myself that I wasn’t going to buy anything my first purchase was a handful of her beautiful cards one of which will be winging it’s way to it’s recipient in London later today. You can shop online through here Etsy shop Tilly Flop Designs.

I spent the rest of the day chatting to, being inspired by or flashing a quick hello to the likes of (deep breath) …. Triskelian Yarns, Easyknits, Fine Fish Yarns from Belfast  (who I hadn’t known before so thanks to Bronagh Miskelly who I also saw for flagging them up) Louise from Sincerely Louise (who from this week will be working full time with Iesha previously one of my Kingston Uni students), Lyn Roberts whose solid silver crochet hooks, dpns and cables needs are just exquisite, Mariusz and Vida from Namolio, Nicola & Louise from The Knitting Shed, my lovely friend Jane Crowfoot, Sarah from Bigwigs Angora who chatted so affectionately about her 100 rabbits from which she ethically sources her British angora fibre, Heather from Sparkleduck, plus Rachel Coopey, Joanne  Scrace (notsogranny), the ladies from Waltham Abbey Wool Show (who recognised me whilst I looked at them blankly, I’m so sorry my memory for faces is even more crap than it used to be), Francesca Hughes & Juliet from John Arbon, Belinda Harris Reid, Sue Blacker and Woolly Wormhead. Phew! Oh yes Christine and I also had a lovely long chat with Susie and Emma from The Little Grey Sheep whose display of soft, juicy coloured, hand dyed yarns smacked you in the face as soon as you entered the hall and whose Hampshire Chunky yarn I’m looking forward to using for a design to be published in an upcoming issue of Knitting. Of course I’ll post more details nearer the time.  Now whilst this may sound like a hideous round of name dropping it’s really just to give you an idea of the great selection of makers, spinners and designers that the Maltings brings together so if you weren’t fortunate enough to have visited at the weekend, get it in your the diary for next year.

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Yarns & books from The Little Grey Sheep

There was lots of chat at the weekend about the Edinburgh Yarn Festival which is the next stop for a lot of those showing at the weekend and whilst I’m hugely jealous that I won’t be there I hope they have a great time. I’ll content myself with the good vibes I got from meeting so many lovely people on Saturday and look forward to Unravel 2018.

J x

NOT a Valentines Day Post….

(…or why I love leftovers)

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Like a lot of people I don’t do Valentines Day, after all I love very openly everyday of the year so why should February 14th be any different? Don’t get me wrong I don’t begrudge anyone who wants to spend a horrendous amount of money on a bunch of flowers or sit in an overpriced bistro trying desperately to look besotted with their dinner guest. So why the gratuitous shot of the heart shaped pie I hear you ask? Well I cooked a rather fantastic beef stew a couple of weeks ago and rather than hog the whole lot down my neck I decided to  pop the leftovers into a bowl for  when I fancied a night without having to cook. The dish- well it happened to be heart shaped, the homemade pastry –  buttery and crumbly and the pie – with it’s double egg glaze – tasted sublime.

That’s why I love leftovers. Happy Valentines Day

J x