Challenge over?

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Back at the beginning of the month I threw myself into this blog challenge having been inspired by accounts I follow over on Instagram. My main motive was to help me focus mentally  as part of my recovery and although I’ve struggled on some days to write a post ( in person I never seem to stop talking even if it is gibberish) I’ve discovered that I’ve really enjoyed sharing a little bit of me with you. It’s been great to connect with old friends from the Edinburgh days when I ran a yarn shop as well as making new friends and finding new blogs to follow. We all know how dark and turbulent the world is at the moment and I figured that with so many voices shouting in anger I prefer to keep my home here more of a positive space. My headspace is very different now compared to 12 months ago and it doesn’t mean that I’m unaware or uncaring it’s just that reducing stress is much healthier for me.

So what are my plans now that the 31 day challenge is over? Well thanks to some very lovely comments telling me how much they’ve enjoyed my ramblings I plan to keep writing regularly (the plan is twice a week) to let you know what I am or have  been up to. Who knows I may even be able to do it within 15 mins  but like a kitten with a torchlight I’m still easily distracted so who knows.

Before I sign off for today I hope you’ll pop over and have a look at the blogs and or Instagram feeds of the people who have helped to make this challenge such a pleasure to undertake.

Louise Tillbrook 

Lynne Rowe 

Beauty Beyond Bones

Deniz Yakim

Nothing But Knit 2 

The Ramblings Of A Rose

Astrid Ann Larsen

Unravel Knits

Smart Veg Recipes

Funky Air Bear

The OM Project 

Cooking Without Limits

Dawn’s Chronicles

Anja Ge 

The Shameful Sheep 

Iesha Parker

BirLinn Yarn

Kyle Bean

There are some truly beautiful souls in the world, don’t let those with dark intentions and dubious hairstyles make you believe otherwise.

J x

Celeriac, sweet potato & parsnip dauphinoise

31 Day Challenge catch up post

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In yesterday’s Skinny parsnips post I promised that if it wasn’t a complete disaster and tasted ok that I’d give you the dauphinoise recipe from our Sunday dinner. Well thankfully it tasted pretty good with enough leftover to serve another meal so for those of you who’d like to try it here’s what I did;

350g celeriac

350g parsnip

150g sweet potato

160ml full fat creme fraiche

260m semi skimmed milk

2 – 3 cloves of garlic depending on how strong you like it

fresh or dried thyme

50g Parmesan cheese

Salt & pepper (optional)

First of all peel and thinly slice the vegetables (around 3mm if poss). Now I mentioned trying to do this with a mandolin to start with but if, like me, you value your fingertips take your time and use a knife. It may seem brutal but this is my weapon of choice in the kitchen.

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Crush the garlic, grate the cheese and set to one side. Put the milk and creme fraiche into pan large enough to add all the veg (if not you’ll have to do it in two batches). Gently bring the liquid up to the boil – now at this point I have to admit that I had a bit of a wobble as mine started to curdle. Given that I didn’t have enough to start over I decided to strain it over a bowl thinking that I’d use the liquid and throw away the solids but as it then seemed to come back together and more importantly didn’t taste like it was going to kill anyone I thought ‘sod it’, put it back in the saucepan and carried on. Add the garlic and the veg and simmer for about 5 mins. Taste the liquid (which is creamy and garlicky by now) then season with salt to taste and black pepper if you like. Next layer the veg in an ovenproof dish and sprinkle with the thyme in between. Lastly pour over the leftover liquid and sprinkle with the cheese, and if you like a crusty top just add more!

Bake in the over for around 1 – 1 and a half hours but just check after the first hour that the top doesn’t burn or that it doesn’t dry out.

Enjoy, but don’t blame me for the calories!

J x

 

Neither young nor funky

31 Day Challenge Day 30

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‘What came first’ Copyright Kyle Bean

I don’t really like to going to networking events. People who don’t know me will laugh when I describe myself as shy but I am in situations such as these. I just can’t help feeling awkward. Anyway on Friday night Sam and I went along to a Glug meetup that was held at Patterns in Kemp Town. Organised by Crush Creative and Agency Rush the meetups are designed for young and funky creatives to get together, drink, chat  and collaborate.  Yes I’m well aware that I’m neither young nor funky but our friends Ben and Ceri are and Sam worked in the creative /advertising industry for over 20 years.

So in order to inspire us guest speakers are invited  down to give short presentations (actually more like chats) about their work and on Friday night the first speaker was a London based artist called Kyle Bean. Now normally I’m more than a little cynical about the advertising industry having been around it in Edinburgh and seeing a little of how it works. The Glug blurb described Kyle as having “a passion for handcrafted design and tactile illustration” and to be honest I had no idea what to expect from his talk. Well I’m so happy that I dragged myself out of the house because I loved his work and his attitude to it. He’s a true craftsman in every sense of the word and his work is often playful and witty.  In a world where lots of the advertising images thrown at us are comped together in Photoshop or created using CGI his ‘illustrations’ often use simple coloured paper (in varying grades) but could also include other random media such as toothpaste, plastic piping, vegetables or egg shells. I absolutely love the hours of work and the level of detail that each hand made piece demands. He’s worked on campaigns for Moo, Emirates, Google and Wallpaper Magazine as well as creating installations for fashion brands like Matthew Williamson and Hermes at Liberty, London. In particular you should watch the Honda ad which was filmed using the same stop frame photography method used for ‘My First Tv Ad‘.  You can see more of his work on his website here

Enjoy his work and all going well there’ll be an extra post today to catch up. Then there’s only one more day to go!

J x

Skinny parsnips, a dangerous mandolin and other foodie tales

31 Day Challenge Day 27 & 28

I’m back after a couple of days of, well slack posting to be honest and I can only apologise for that. The week has gone so fast and suddenly it’s the weekend, well actually as I’m writing it’s Sunday afternoon. If you’re familiar with me and my  home here on the blog you’ll know that I like to eat and really enjoy cooking so at the weekends my mind turns to little else but food.

Today the weather is is grim and grey so I’ve decided to hunker down in my jammies (pyjamas) and cook something wholesome for dinner and for me that means a roast. Having mixed together garlic, tarragon, butter, salt and pepper I pushed it underneath the skin of the bird, sat it on a bed of vegetables in a roasting pan then added a stock cube and some liquid and threw it in the oven. Today the liquid is actually some flat cava that’s been lying around since last weekend, I’ve not tried it before but let’s keep our fingers crossed that it tastes ok.

For a change,  I thought I’d make a dauphinoise dish instead of making traditional roast potatoes hence the title of this post. Now I may be romanticising a little but I’m sure when I was a child that parsnips were fat, white, hefty looking root vegetables. But it seems that nowadays all the supermarkets can offer us are pathetic looking, skinny efforts that aren’t even worth lifting the speed peeler for. I think one of the keys to a good dauphinoise is to cut the vegetables into lovely, thin slices and having remembered where it was I went into the utility room and rescued the mandolin from the dark corner it’s occupied since we move into this house 5 months ago. Once I’d unpacked it and inserted the 3mm blade I remembered what it is I hate about using it. The blade. It’s sharp. And I mean REALLY sharp. Yes there is a guard on it but having once removed it because it was ‘hampering my progress’ I then sliced off the tip of my finger while making coleslaw. Lesson learned I boxed up the offending gadget and now hardly ever use it because it gives me the heebeegeebies.

I kind of winged it with the recipe and if it works out ok I’ll do another post later with the recipe for you to try for yourselves. IN the mean time here’s how the whole meal turned out, and yes it was delicious.

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As for other foodie tales Sam and I were lucky to have had two great dining out experiences last week. Having missed the delights of haggis, neeps and tatties last Wednesday we ate out at The Gingerman on Thursday evening for a friends’ birthday meal. We don’t do a lot of ‘fine dining’ because apart from it being expensive we eat very well at home. But as this was a treat for Ben we decided to treat ourselves too and it was more than worth it. The ambience was refined but without making you feel uncomfortable and the food was truly exceptional, skilfully cooked and beautifully presented. There are a number of restaurants and pubs in the Ginger group and we’d previously only eaten at the Ginger Dog in Kemp Town. If you get the chance, book a table and try one – you won’t regret it.

Our other eating out experience couldn’t really have been more different, still brilliant but more ‘everyday’ in terms of price. We managed to grab a table at VIP (Very Italian Pizza) on Friday night and as we’d heard they do the best pizzas in Brighton we kept our fingers crossed because there seems to be a lot of mediocre pizza around. But thankfully from the seafood starter to the crispy sourdough based quattro formaggio pizza I couldn’t stop my mouth from watering. It was easily the best pizza I’ve had since leaving Edinburgh. VIP have a couple of venues in East Sussex and the Brighton one has a lovely deli feel to it with pasta, grissini breadsticks and other provisions lining the walls. I genuinely can’t wait to eat my way through the rest of the menu and although I couldn’t finish Friday’s pizza I took the leftovers home in a doggy bag and had it for breakfast yesterday morning. Class!

Hope you’re enjoying your Sunday too

J x

 

 

 

 

From would be butcher to knitter

31 Day Challenge Day 26

fullsizeoutput_354There was a time, way back in my childhood, when I thought I wanted to be a butcher – yes I think I know what you’re thinking. But back in those days there was no such thing  as vegetarianism in our Bajan household and my parents found that if they wanted to feed a family of six the cheapest way to buy meat was to get it  wholesale from London’s Smithfield meat market. I think I was about 11 years old when was I first woken at 5 am and dragged along to help Mum carry bags but I became fascinated with the sights, sounds and (disgusting) smells that surrounded me. Obviously I didn’t become a butcher but I’m telling you this because it’s meant I’m not squeamish and don’t scare easily when it comes to blood and gore.

I’ve been through a lot of over the years and really believe that visualising any illness helps me to focus on the recovery. Back in Edinburgh I asked a registrar  if I could see my breast tumour after my first mastectomy. He quite didn’t understand and offered to show me the actual removed breast. I replied “if I want to see my tits I can look down now”. Needless to say he exited the ward quickly.

Anyway I would have really loved to have observed my brain operation (a bilateral craniotomy) as the process truly fascinates me.  Last night as part of their Hospital series BBC2 aired Episode 3 which focuses on the work of the neurosurgery team at (I think) London’s Charing Cross Hospital. You can watch it on the iplayer here.(Obviously expect some blood and gore).  Although it doesn’t show exactly the same procedure as mine it does show how brutal yet sensitive brain surgery is and how, despite the immense pressures of an underfunded, over subscribed system the unique and brilliant NHS and it’s incredible staff continue to save and improve lives for all of us.

And I am very grateful that it does

J x

 

 

Knitting mojo

31 Day Challenge Day 25

I’m really enjoying this blog challenge but have to admit that some days are a more of a challenge than others when it comes to writing a post. It’s been a bit of a strange week for me, one moment I’m mentally focussed and the next my brain ‘flatlines’ when it feels overloaded (I’ve been working with a tech editor on some designs completed before my operation – now there’s a strange headspace to try and get back to). The one thing that is giving me more enjoyment than ever is the actual process of knitting. The click of the needles, the snaking of the yarn through my fingers and the wonderfully repetitive process of in, over, round and out as stitch after stitch is created. There have been a few periods over the last couple of years when I really thought I’d lost my passion for a craft I’ve loved for so many years and as a designer I felt unfulfilled, unsuccessful and uninspired. It’s probably quite common for people whose living depends on their creativity but it’s also very unsettling not knowing when (and if) your mojo will make it’s return.

Well in my new mindful habit of living in the moment I am embracing my newly returned mojo and following wherever it leads me. Let’s hope it sticks around for a while

J x

When fashion is too fast

31 Day Challenge Day 24

I’ve always hated the concept of ‘fast fashion’. I think it encourages waste and diminishes the value of a well designed and crafted garment. It leads people to believe that clothes should be cheap and that it’s ok to pay less than a tenner for a pair of jeans or £17.00 for a pair of boots. Now don’t get me wrong, like everyone I know, I like a bargain and have been that person in the pair of £17.00 boots but largely I prefer to buy fewer, less frequently and better quality pieces that will last. I think it was around 20 years ago when the fast fashion trend started to rear it’s ugly head that I first started to rant at my poor husband that clothes were becoming too cheap, there wasn’t enough being produced in the UK and there would be a price to pay.

Sadly it’s generally being paid by the low paid pieceworkers in places like Bangladesh and Vietnam who work in cramped conditions to produce the clothes that we in the West just can’t live without. Or so you would think.

Last night on Channel 4 the Dispatches program took another look at the garment industry here in the UK, a subject they first touched on back in the 1980’s. It showed an undercover reporter called Bilal working at factories in Leicester for companies producing garments for the likes of River Island, New Look and boohoo.com. (I’m not singling them out they were the companies named in the report). He was paid around £3.00 per hour despite the national living wage in this country being £7.20 for aged 25 and the clothes being produced included dresses and knitwear none of which retailed for more than £20.00. Whether it’s here or abroad it’s appalling that workers are being exploited in this way and I’m not even sure where I’m going with this rant. If we don’t already we can make better, more responsible and informed choices about where we buy our clothes and although some may argue that we would have to pay higher retail prices if companies were to pay their workers better wages I’d be prepared to do that.

As knitters we truly understand the value of the fibres with which we choose to knit and the time we invest in each row and stitch. It’s difficult however to convey that value to the Instagram generation who aspire to look and dress like their idols who are always dressed in the latest trends and, with thousands of social media followers, seem to have it all. I just hope that some of them take the time to watch last night’s program, and if you missed it, it’s well worth a watch here (the second part airs next Monday on Channel 4 at 8.00pm). As for me, having already resolved to ‘make’ more in 2017 I’m also going to buy less and more responsibly. Slow fashion suits me better

Sorry for the rant, see you tomorrow

J x