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.
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
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.
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.
Stunning crochet by Jane Crowfoot
Rich tones at Triskelion Yarns
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.
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.
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.
We all have a favourite yarn, season, stitch, technique or colour don’t we? For me the yarn would be anything deliciously soft and expensive, the season would be winter, the stitch would be mmm…you know I’m not so sure, I guess it depends on my mood. As for colour it would have to be orange…..or pink…..or better yet a combination of both. So it’s a little strange to have so much blue yarn sitting on my desk this week.
I like blue but I don’t LOVE it…. unless it’s a really vibrant turquoise bringing to mind warm tropical breezes, cool rum cocktails and soft white sandy beaches. In general blue tends to leave me a little cold and it although it doesn’t feature largely in my wardrobe there are some notable denimy exceptions. I mean who doesn’t wear denim in one form or another?
As for the fate of all this blue yarn, the chunky baby alpaca is for a friend’s surprise birthday gift that I’ll be hand knitting tomorrow. The variegated sock yarn is for Sam’s ribbed scarf that will be machine knitted later today and the denim yarn is for a magazine commission that’s been lingering around for a while. (I was due to submit it last year but got waylaid by the brain squatters). I’ve loved working with Rowan’s Denim since I was a student and am definitely looking forward to knitting with it again. Not only can you machine wash it at 60ºc but it can also be tumble dried so it’s pretty indestructible plus it ages beautifully with every subsequent wash which adds wonderful character to the garment. This for me makes it a classic and a winner.
The week started off a little wobbly yesterday but I’m hoping I’ll catch up as my diary is pretty full.Thankfully though it’s a good mix of work and play and to get me in the mood I’m going to start by listening to The Mighty Wah! whilst I work
What story will be told by the yarn you’re using this week?
A little late to the party (but who cares) I’ve taken up another monthly challenge for February. This one was devised by Mary Heather & Christina from Ravelry has a yarnie theme. It’s called the #yarnlovechallenge and prompted by a list of daily themes you’re encouraged to post pictures showing your current project(s), your stash, your crafting room, library and….well basicallly it’ll be a month of yarn /craft porn.
The lovely thing about it is that when you ‘sign up’ (there is no formal sign up you’ll be relieved to hear) there’s absolutely no pressure to post every single day which is what made me start even a couple of days in. Not only can you see what every other yarn obsessed crafter is up to following the #yarnlovechallenge hashtag but hopefully also find out a bit more about the non fibre side of their lives. All of this is happening over on Instagram here but don’t feel excluded if you don’t have an account. There’s also a group over on Ravelry where you can join in, share pictures and chat to others taking part.
Right I’d better get back to winding off this yarn.
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.
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;
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.
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.