Saturday, 23 August 2008

Tartan Scarf.

Many moons ago, my knitting friend Carie who is a knitting genius and most recently a medal winner of the Ravelympic event organised by Ravelry made a beautiful, beautiful scarf from an original pattern, called Tartan Scarf, designed by my friend Anna who owns Web of Wool. and published by Rowan. (book 42 if you would like the pattern) I longed for such a beautiful scarf, but at that time, I knew it was beyond my newly established knitting skills. The memory of that beautiful, beautiful scarf never left me though and I knew I would try and knit it as soon as I felt competent enough.

At Tuesday night knitters, Rachel (who is a guru on colour) and I went on a colour party, it was great fun. My original thought was to stick to my colour palate of reds, browns and greens, but although we had every ball of the correct wool for the scarf scattered around in Anna's window display, we could not (to our satisfaction) make the colours work. When, Rachel spied a certain colour combination that made her squeal (quite literally!) with delight. The colour combination is truly beautiful and one that will make an excellent and very fine alternative to the stable of red, brown and pink scarfs I have already knitted. The delicate background is Rowan Kidsilk Haze in Trance 582, with two stripes of Rowan Tapestry in Moorland 175 and the horizontal lines are in Tapestry Lakeland 180.

I seem to get myself tangled up on nearly every row and I'm not sure If I'm meant to be tracking back (in some way) the wool that makes the horizontal lines or if you do in fact cut them and have to darn them in, but as you can see I am making good progress on it.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Thank you and the boy did good.

Thank you all so much for your lovely messages, they made me smile. No improvement as yet, but its early days.

Son no.2's GCSE results today, as the financial incentive I had put forward was heavily weighted towards achieving A's, I'm not actually bankrupt. We are still waiting for one result and are not sure why it was not included. So far, he has 2 A's, 4 B's, 3 C's and an E (in a subject he detested) We are all very happy with that, its a nice result for a boy that is bright enough that he feels he doesn't Have to work. Oh, how his teachers and I disagree..

I wandered up the plot earlier today to water the tomatoes, to find disaster had struck. The tomatoes well and truly had blight. Which doesn't surprise me as we seem to have been in a Smith Period for most of the summer. As much as I hate to spray there is no choice, its either that or lose a years work, hubby has sprayed them for me this evening.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

A certain Irony,

In so many ways,

Remember me, the girl without hair, ... Well.. she has a rather large cyst, in a rather delicate region... which apparently... is caused by hair growth.. how me and my doctor did laugh when I whipped off my wig. (my doctor who was lovely, had not noticed).

Which is why, I delicately perched and ooh and arrahed and said it was my back on Tuesday night knitters..

There is a certain irony that I have not a hair on my body, yet one of the little upstarts causes this much grief.

A weeks worth of antibiotic's have been prescribed.

My fingers, toes and knitting are crossed.


Yesterday whilst hand weeding the leeks, back breaking work at the best of times without the added pleasure of a damp and rather cold August breeze. Grumble, grumble, moan, moan. I stood back just for a moment to admire our tomatoes....

We need some sunshine before Autumn is here. Otherwise there will be an awful lot of green tomato dishes and chutneys..

Monday, 18 August 2008

Miserable Weather

I am so tired of this weather. Giddy with a new plan that came to me in the middle of the night for winter carrots.. (watch this space) I'm up, Okay, not dressed but up and... Its raining... again!

I remember the summers as a child and my most abiding memory is that summers were Bright and that they were Blue. Not the dark, damp, Grey days we seem to currently have. Mind you, we did have some excellent winters then too.

Personally, I'm praying for a good, harsh winter (for at least a few days) this year for many reasons. Firstly it would do the plot good as the cold is a good cleanser against molds, bugs etc and secondly it will give me the opportunity to wear my beautiful, hand knitted by me, exceedingly warm cardigan that I have just started the arms to. Photo's will follow.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Tuesday's Dinner.

As it stopped raining for a couple of hours this afternoon, I headed up to the plot to see how things were. The runner beans and french beans had come on in abundance, so I picked these. I noticed the potatoes were suffering from blight so removed the haulms and emptied out the worst affected which proved to be Red Duke of York.

I always find harvesting potatoes very exciting as you never know just what to expect and when these brilliant crimson jewels revealed themselves from their surrounding compost, I became giddy with excitement.

I then harvested one of our cabbages, it all made a fine dinner for Tuesday. Whilst preparing dinner I blanched five pound of runner beans before heading off to knitting.

Busy, busy bees.

This evening hubby and I have been processing more of our produce. I have finally used up the courgette, runner and french bean glut, although I fully expect for that situation to have reversed within a few days.

We made a sweet piccalilli, which hubby loves and has been known to hide the last jar so that he can eat it as secretly as possible and not have to share with his pickle loving wife!

I would like to say that I grew those cauliflowers, sadly I did not, cauliflowers seem to be a bit of a problem, its something I am going to concentrate on during my winter reading, I aim to have nice big cauliflowers next year.

There was a lot of fiddling and faffing of the recipe with last minute adjustments but it seems to have worked out nicely, we made about 12 pounds. I shall write it out and put it on Utterly Good Grub.

Then we needed a recipe that wasn't too labour intensive and having found a 2 pound bag of frozen tomatoes from last years crop, we settled on a bean and tomato stew with plenty of olive oil and garlic which made six containers. It was a joint decision to mix the runner and french beans together, its probably something I would not present to guests, but for us lot, its going to be absolutely fine with a pork chop and plenty of mashed potatoes.

And then the shallots and button onions were calling to us, so I mixed up a sweet and spicy white wine vinegar mix and prepared a few shallots and onions for Christmas. I don't bother with brining, I have done this before and every time I have the onions have gone soft, so I don't bother now.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

The Glut continues..

There are two traits that are very useful when dealing with this time of year as an allotment holder. Tenacity and inventiveness, I think both are required in equal measure just to keep up with the onslaught of a huge amount of produce maturing at the same time. After all, we all want something delicious to eat in the middle of a cold, dark and damp winter. The freezer is a wonderful tool, one I made good use of last year, mostly just blanching and freezing, but this year I'm trying to aim to have something a little more tempting at my fingertips than blanched runner beans, as tender and tasty as they were.

I am still working hard on my Courgette glut, from only two plants!

Today I thought of goats cheese, young and fresh with an acidic bite which might work with lovely homegrown sweet onions and courgettes. And then, Soup, flew to mind, I love homemade soup, in any guise, I may have mentioned this before!

Courgette and Goats Cheese Soup

(makes rather a lot, a dinner party for sixteen would not be out of the question!)

2 kg Courgettes, diced
750 g Onions, peeled and sliced.
750 g Potatoes, peeled and diced.
300g of a young goats cheese, crumbled.
90g of butter.
20 g or 6 cloves of garlic, sliced.
1 heaped tsp dried oregano
1500 ml of chicken stock
750 ml of milk (in this case skimmed)
284 ml double cream
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp of freshly ground black pepper

Melt the butter gently in a large pan, add onions, gently sweat them until translucent, add garlic and cook for another minute, then add courgettes, potatoes, milk, chicken stock, cream, oregano, salt and pepper.

Simmer until cooked. Blend soup with a hand blender, add cheese and stir well. Check for seasoning and serve.

It is a success, (would I publish it, if it wasn't!) It has just the right bite of acidity against the fresh sweetness of the courgettes and onions, with just a hint of garlic which allows the true flavours of the ingredients to shine through. Its only fault, which may not be a fault to some is it is perhaps a little rich, I think I will try it with half the amount of double cream next time.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Spicy Courgette Chutney

On a damp and dreary Saturday when there is no possibility of doing anything constructive up the plot and along with having a glut of courgettes, my attention turns to chutney. Being gluten free these days, it is nearly impossible to be able to find ready prepared pickles that are made with something other than malt vinegar.

One of the recipes that I came across on the net was Glutney Chutney written by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Having made Chutney before, I knew how to alter this recipe to suit my own tastes, Cloves... Yuck.. Cumin,, yum. That's the beauty of Chutney recipes, most of them, are not written in stone and you can add and subtract as you wish.

Mandy's Spicy Courgette Chutney.

1500 g Courgettes, diced into small pieces
750 g Onions, peeled and diced
1350 g Tomatoes, both green and red., diced into small pieces (you may skin as well if you wish)
1000 g Cooking apples, peeled, cored and diced.
1500 ml White wine vinegar
750 g Light brown muscovado sugar
750 g Sultanas
4 inch piece of fresh ginger, finely chopped
3 heaped tsp Dried chilli flakes
3 heaped tsp ground Cumin
2 heaped tsp Coriander seeds, which you then crush.
1 1/2 tsp black pepper, which you then crush.
1/2 a freshly grated nutmeg.
1 1/2 tsp Salt.

Put all the ingredients into a preserving pan, bring to the boil then simmer very gently, uncovered, for several hours stirring from time to time. You will need to stir more frequently towards the end of cooking time as this is when it is most likely to stick. It is ready when the mixture is thick and when a wooden spoon is dragged through it should form a channel which doesn't immediately fill with liquid.

Pot into warm sterilised jars, making sure if they are recycled jars that the inside of the lids are plastic coated, otherwise the vinegar will react with the metal. Label when cold and best left for two weeks to mature.

Nearly ready to start, all vegetables prepped.

Added Sugar, vinegar, spices etc.

Vegetables start to reduce. Still a very long way to go.

And whilst we are waiting, here is a quick masterclass on how to peel ginger.

With the edge of a teaspoon, it really works, try it.


Back to the Chutney, over halfway, (I hope!) If you look really carefully, you will see that we have just slightly caught the bottom of it, thats the little black bit, on the left hand side. Which is rather annoying but these things happen, it still tastes good, which is the main thing.

Another hour later, you can just see that when I draw a wooden spoon through the mixture it does not immediately fill with liquid. I'm afraid to take it any further as although it might be nicer to have it a little thicker, I decide to play safe and pot it on at this point.

Six and a half hours later, you have this. We have tasted it and it still has a little crunch from the ginger, a kick of chilli that wakes you up with a Wow but not enough to blow your head off and the warmth of Cumin. In other words, its good, very good.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Its here...

Our lovely 'puter arrived this morning.  :)

Son no.2 immediately set about unpacking it, whilst I ran around the study with a vacuum, it felt like Christmas, unwrapping presents and vacuuming at the same time, I could almost smell the turkey! 

To say, (once we found the On switch!) we were flying by the seat of our pants, is an understatement.  

Its fab.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

"If I only had a brain"

hums scarecrows song from The Wizard of Oz.

Scratches head, senses the echos from an empty space.

In a few years, when I have more knitting experience I will, (hopefully) look back on this adventure and laugh. At the moment I'm viewing it as a learning curve and I will hopefully move on sooner rather than later or, as may be the case, (because I can be a stubborn old fox or should I say vixen) stay with it for longer than I should.

Yesterday I had a plan, to find a pattern, Oh how I love Ravelry, in my size, which is no mean feat, that I love, 'cause you do have to love what you want to knit, for a 4ply cardigan in RYC cashcotton, which I had acquired, otherwise known as got my grubby mitts on in a sale for a ridiculous price.

I searched and searched, I just didn't find anything I loved,,, but then... Tussie Mussie appeared before my very eyes. I looked at it, admired other peoples work, noticed One person, did I say One, had knitted it in a 4ply, printed off the pattern, looked at it again, saw the problems, added length in my minds eye, etc etc..

And started to swatch, did I know it was meant to be knit up in a DK, it didn't even register.

Actually I got gauge on 3.75 AND 4.00 mm, depending on which way the swatch was pulled!

Looked at my swatch again this morning, pondered about it, PM'd a lovely knitting friend from Tuesday night knitters, (D) without waiting for an answer. Later, we popped over to my LYS only to find D ensconced, how we laughed. She had read my PM and came up with some lovely ideas, mostly too small, but lovely.

During this time D told me my pattern was for a DK not a 4ply. "Oh B...." I thought, quickly followed by another thought of "Oh no, I've done it again!" Which is why ladies and gentlemen I am very lucky to be part of a knitting group, otherwise known as The Tuesday Night Knitters (TNK)

(A) asked me what I thought about the fabric, thats the killer question for me, because I just don't know what a good fabric is and what a bad fabric is and what to look for etc, how dense things should be, how loose things should be, how things would wear and hang, I really am still trying to understand things such as negative and positive ease. Perhaps I should stick to socks!

Anyways, A said I should knit the bobble section of the pattern, repeating three times, which as a good student that always did her homework I have almost finished. A said, this would give me a true idea of what is going to happen. And it has... But because I've never knitted bobbles before.. I don't know if their good bobbles or bad bobbles, and if they are a little bit droopy, will they not match their owner! And is that a bad thing! And.. will the bobbles droop even more when they are washed..

This was meant to be a relaxing hobby, I do so love it really.

I shall continue to swatch and present the TNK, with my swatches, it will be absolutely fine to say, Don't Do It. I shall respect all of you for that, I may need chocolate though, I shall bring some...

Onto other news,

I'm teaching son no.1's girlfriend now known on my blog and this is her idea.. Juicy Lucy, to knit socks! Much to the embarrassment of son no.1 Juicy Lucy is as excited as I am, she is excited about being able to knit such wonderful socks, me, well, did you notice I had boys... its so nice to be able to share my new found knitting skills. I gave her a sock kit, showed her how to cast on, then knitted the rib as she had never knitted purl, then we had a little session earlier today, she did exceptionally well knitting in the round, considering she is left handed, and I don't know how to teach someone left handed knitting so taught her what I know. I have a sock on standby to go through all the different parts of sock knitting with her.

and yet more news..

Son no.1 came home in his first car yesterday. New to him, it really is quite nice for a first car, he took me out, was I nervous? abso bleeding lootly, we went to see his gran and granddad (mum and dad) who because of a wedding today, had two aunties and two uncles enjoying tea. Did they, as proud grandparents, aunties and uncles come out and admire his car.. They did :)
My Dad, as did Uncle W, each hobbled out on two sturdy sticks apiece, stood and admired his car whilst cracking jokes, it was lovely.