Sunday, 30 November 2008

Christmas puddings.

If I'm going to make Christmas puddings I always make them in November. Sometimes, (look away Delia) I buy a ready made shop version, it really does depend on my mood and inclination.

Mostly I've made more than I've bought. Some years when the boys and hubby have taken a shine to them, I've made seven or eight, as they've been eaten nearly as soon as they have been made.

I follow Delia's recipe for Christmas puds, Delia was my guiding light on how to cook when I first got married, her recipes always seem to work out and she doesn't seem to have any odd taste buds that match up slightly weird items. Just plain, simple, tasty cooking. And the other reason that I continue to use Delia's recipe, is that it is simply gorgeous, so why mess around trying other chefs recipes when you have the most perfect recipe to hand.

I use my preserving pan to mix the ingredients in. Personally I think making Christmas puddings is far easier work than making the Christmas cake. My muscles really get a work out mixing the cake up, its far easier to assemble the ingredients for the pud and give it a mix.

Two 2lb pudding basins filled to the brim.

Ready for eight hours of steaming.

I would just like to say, thank you for not leaving too many rude comments whilst I underwent the marathon of NaNoBloMo. Today, is the last day. (thank goodness!) Will I be doing this again? I very much doubt it, although I might. I enjoyed Having to fill my day with something that I could blog about. So in that respect it was good. But then spending as much time as I have in front of the computer, that's not so good. Overall it was enjoyable in a 'eating one chocolate bar is enjoyable', but nearly side tracked into the 'but not if you continue to eat the family pack!'.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Christmas socks and hubby's scarf.

I'm still suffering from a miserable headache, although I am going to venture out in a little while to see if that will clear things. I will be well wrapped up, especially my head.

I thought you would like to see all of these together. My Christmas knitting, 9 pairs! All of the wool came from Web of Wool, Anna has such a lovely choice, you can literally get lost for days in her shop.

I have just photographed hubby's scarf so he can wear it. I made this from Toft Alpaca in a Grey DK, it took 2 balls and it is lovely and soft. Kerry has some gorgeous items in her shop, its certainly worth a trip out if only to see the Alpaca's. The stitch comprises of casting on a multiple of 3 stitches and then knit 2 purl 1. What happens is that you get nice columns which slightly pleat and look Very smart and its completely reversible.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Friday is...

Sweetie Day. This was a wonderful treat. (and there were real sweets included.)

Hubby is at the plot, digging and Mandycharlie has been curled around a Golden Retriever suffering from a dreadful headache, all day! Unfortunately I have been remiss in his training as the Golden Retriever has not yet learnt how to use a kettle.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Warwick Victorian Evening.

Hubby and I ventured out in the pouring rain to Warwick's Victorian Evening. Fortunately it stopped raining and the evening dried out. So many of the shop keepers and stall holders really get into the spirit of the occasion and dress up in full Victorian regalia.

We bought cake and books and hot chocolate, what could be more perfect.

Morris Dancers.

A beautiful Carousel.

I just had to take a picture of this particular nag!

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

When life sends you lemons

you make cake.

'We' were meant to be spending some quality time together, the office had other ideas. 'nough said.

So bitterly disappointed and quite upset really I needed something filled with carbohydrate, sugar, fat and chocolate and I could not be bothered to stomp up to the town.

So I threw (have you noticed the expressive words I am currently using...) butter, sugar, self raising flour (without sifting!) eggs and coco powder into a bowl and mixed. Decided that the globules of butter that hadn't incorporated wouldn't be that important. Added 100g of chopped up chocolate, decided that wouldn't be enough, threw in the rest of the bar. Then added 100 g of glace cherries, decided I might as well finish the tub.

By this time the oven had heated up nicely and I threw them in the oven. Well actually I tried to carefully place them in the oven but I have photographic evidence that even though my mind was saying, 'carefully does it', my sub conscious was obviously still in F... it mode.

What amuses me is that it didn't leak!

Cake before cooking, there was a moments hesitation as to whether I should cook or just eat the mix raw.

The finished product. I've eaten three, (well four if you count the two stuck together!)

I feel sick.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

My Cardigan.

This is why I have barely spoken to my family for the last three days.

This is why I am still in my jim jams and dressing gown at 4.30 p.m.

This is why my children are getting oven chips again! (for the 3rd Tuesday running)

and that is why your getting a quick snap and not some glamorous photograph as I put the oven on to warm up and run to the shower..

Monday, 24 November 2008

Nothing new to report.

What was this thing I'm doing called, Oh I remember NaNoBloMo (or something like that).

Please direct me to the person responsible for the original thought. I'd like to thank them personally, no I don't have any sharp implements about my person, honest gov'ner.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Cardigan.

No piccies, not today. I'm in the middle of a cardigan that was put to one side for the Christmas knitting which I have finished. (if I stop at socks, but I'm sure Mum would like a hot water bottle cover) Photo's will follow.

So I need to concentrate, and.... it takes me about twenty minutes or so to knit one row. Which I suppose is better than when the pattern changes it takes me 30 minutes to understand what the pattern wants me to do!

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Just in Time

As the temperature has already dropped to just below zero degrees Celsius this evening. I am very glad I have just finished my snugly hot water bottle.

This is the best photo I can get in the dark, the colour is about right, but as the shutter speed was one second, without getting the tripod out this is the best I can do. This involved perching on the floor and using the arm of the sofa as a solid wall to balance the camera on, except its not really solid is it, its stuffed and just that little bit of movement threw things out a little.

The yarn is Lamb's Pride worsted by Brown Sheep Company in Mulberry which is 85% wool and 15% mohair and I used 5 mm needles. The pattern is BAWK (Bottleneck Avenger Who's Knit) which is also known as Rachael's Hot Water Bottle Cozy which I found on Ravelry.

Oh, and I love it.

Friday, 21 November 2008

A Trip Out.

I live in a very quiet town in Warwickshire which I love, but there are times in the year that I love to try new things. Sometimes new things come to you in mysterious ways, one of which was reading Knitted Bears blog last year when she told us about the German Market in Birmingham, which from her photo's looked wonderful and on further investigation I loved. The atmosphere, the lights, the stalls selling pretty things, and the smell of buttercake, lets not forget the mugs of hot cherry brandy. I have been without gluten for a year so at that time could not partake of the butter cake but the memory never left me. (The smell of different foods can instantly transport me to time and place).

Hubby has been a rather busy bee at work, I've hardly seen him for months apart from to direct him to where his wrinkled up supper is before he drifts off to bed, (a fifteen minute conversation between the two of us, per day is not unusual) so when he came home early yesterday just to take me out, I was quite surprised.

We parked at the Bullring and walked along New Street until we came to this. We knew we had arrived at the right place.

We quickly found a stall selling buttercake and had a very large slice each... Oh it was devine..

Then I found a stall selling slipppers, hubby carried on walking whilst I gawped at the sheepskin slippers. Anything to do with the comfort of feet grabs my attention, hubby came wandering back and must have been feeling in a rather generous mood, (I put that down to the buttercake!)

and bought me a pair.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Lamb

I like meat, when I was a vegetarian for three years I really missed beef stews and steak and kidney pies. So, understanding the problems of raising animals (and eggs) intensively I try whenever possible to have gently raised meat on my plate.

These lambs (there are two residing in my freezer this is just one) have been raised as gently as is possible. They are a Southdown, Texel cross, Southdowns have the flavour but are a small sheep, carcass weight 12-18kg where as Texels are much bigger I think their carcass weight can go up to 30 kg, generally I think they are slaughtered at about 23 kg. They also both have wonderful conformation, if you notice there is not much fat on these lambs. Both my lambs came in at 18.5 kg.

They have been born and raised on a small holding in sunny and rather wet Warwickshire, with plenty of space per lamb to eat as much of the lovely lush grass as they want. And they have travelled less than three miles to slaughter. I may have forgotten to mention they taste absolutely wonderful, like lamb used to taste when I was a small child, they are incomparable to what one buys from the local supermarket these days. (however much you pay)

And I was given more apples yesterday.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Frogged.

I'm starting to realise something very important, I think I may have a touch of type A personality. I never thought this possible, I certainly don't have it with my housekeeping skills, my family can testify to this. My parenting skills are firm but fair, the boys know where the line is, but I also have conversations about 'anything' with them and in that regard I have hippy tendencies. Mostly I live and let live and have a "Manyana" attitude to important household tasks such as ironing, window cleaning and other essentials that I simply do not find that important.

So having type A within me has come as a little bit of a shock. (although there was a slight indication of this when as a mature student I was invariably top of the class, but I just put that down to my being a genius, not the hours and hours of study that I was putting into it!)

Note, the nearly finished hot water bottle cover. Another hour and it would be done. All sewn up and ready to cozy up to tonight. Its not 'right', it does need to be looser to get that really cuddly factor that I so want.

So, son no.2 'was' right, when he poked fun yesterday. He has the mathematical ability to be a brilliant knitter, he obviously has the eye, he can choose colours that compliment very nicely when choosing clothes, and he 'always' (out of the three men in my life, the other two don't even notice!) tells me that I look nice when dressed up to go out for an evening. Unfortunately he shows no interest in the area of wanting to learn and has hands the size of dustbin lids. Maybe one day, I haven't lost hope yet.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Phew!

I started as I thought I would the hot water bottle cover late last night, far to late to want to swatch and I really thought it would not be necessary, after all its only a hot water bottle cover. My gauge always seems to be roughly about right, what harm can it do on a small project.

And when son no.2 came home for lunch and literally laughed and poked fun at my far too small hot water bottle cover, I became quite panicky and upset as up to that point I had rather enjoyed the idea of my own hand knitted hot water bottle cover (with hot water bottle inside) keeping my poor little tootsies warm. It does look small doesn't it.

One found under a bed hot water bottle later...

It fits, quite nicely, (although I may need to find a matching colour hot water bottle)

Phew!

Monday, 17 November 2008

Startitus, I can feel its presence.

Ooooh, as the last sock is continuing its journey on my needles, I can feel the excitement of finishing my Christmas knitting and the joy of being able to knit just for me. (Hubby has serious doubts that this will happen as he knows what I'm like and I've already mentioned that my Dad needs some wrist warmers. ) I should get back to the cardi that I started or the gorgeous tapestry scarf, but no I'm looking at hot water bottle covers, complicated (for me) sock patterns, scarf patterns, three or four other cardigans, a waistcoat, the list goes on.

I know I'm a gonna, because I've promised myself that I can start on the hot water bottle cover tonight, because I can save the sock for Tuesday night knitting.

There is no hope, Hold On to my Ankles, I'm Going In!

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Today was just like Christmas...

The excitement, the sleepless night, the getting up very early and the constructing of goodies from the crack of dawn.

Yesterday evening I received a phone call of our allotment Secretary, telling me that the plot would be mine all mine and he would like to meet me tomorrow to walk me through my plot. Oh how my tummy tensed, I've been waiting for this for a long time.

I was already awake before son no.2's alarm went off at 5.30 a.m. I ignored as best I could his clod hopping around the house, breathing a huge sigh of relief when he finally closed the front door as he went out to work, hoping for another hour or two of blissful sleep. I tossed and turned, turned and tossed until, I finally gave up and got up. I had nearly four hours to kill before my arranged meeting. What to do? (Ironing never comes into this equation, knitting yes, ironing no)

After a nice cup of tea and a long chat with hubby who is, I have to say, as excited as I am, my thoughts turned to other things.

We were out of bread, so that was my first call, I prepared a batch of dough and left it to rest. Then glanced around the kitchen. A couple of bananas were giving me the eye, well they would have been if they could actually see out of there very darkened skins. A quick flick through the pages of the net gave me a recipe for banana muffins.

Twenty minutes later they were in the oven, time ticks on but not nearly quick enough.

Scones, that's what I thought, scones are good, if we are going to be working down the plot, scones would fill a hole in an empty tummy. So I put together a batch of cheesy scones, with lots of cheese in. That took another twenty minutes.. So I read, reading is good..

and after reading, attempted my first ever batch of Fougasse, they must have been alright, because when we came back from the plot, they had taken a severe bashing.

and when a loaf for tomorrows sandwiches came out of the oven, I left the house immediately because by then we were running a little late! Would we be in time to meet up with the Secretary?

We were, Just! Wouldn't that have been awful to have missed him by minutes, just because I was I was so excited.

This is it.

Its wonderful isn't it?

I can see that your not nodding.

Trust me, give me a year and I'll make it into a wonderfully productive plot.

And just because... visitors on plot no.1

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Do you know what this is?

No, not even a little guess...

This...

Is the very last cast on for the rib, of the very last sock, of my Christmas knitting. (9 pairs!)

Friday, 14 November 2008

Friday Is (without a doubt) sweetie day.

I have been a very naughty sock wool stash enhancer.

I'm blaming Ravelry. People talk about things, I listen, ... and then look and then find a UK knitter who is Selling, (not swapping) a little of her Wollmeise stash.. And I know it was expensive and I know its all hyped up, but then If I can call every toy purveyor in the land for a Tracey Island for son no.1's birthday, eventually finding the last but one Tracey Island for sale in the land at Hamleys. (It was in the days before the net, you used yellow pages and directory enquiries) then I can treat myself to a little something for me. All in agreement say Aye.

And yesterday I came across these at the show. The sweets are hubby's he loves sugar mice.

Could life get any better? No, I don't think so.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Stained glass and other witterings.

Wednesday evenings are stained glass evenings. We arrived a few minutes late, (it always seems to be a bit of a rush) which meant that we were on separate tables. Which actually was quite good, its hard to explain but when you have been married as long as we have (almost twenty years!) its quite nice to chat with other people. I had quite a giggle with the girl opposite me, we seem to be on the same wave length.

After I'd successfully managed to ruin two large pieces of glass for no. 12, so it was my third attempt!, it came good, its the one above 11 the flash takes the number out. Then I made a mess of the other large piece of glass that is not numbered, (I've only just noticed that I haven't numbered it) next to 8 and 25. Just the tiny tip has not run true and I'm hoping, in a crossed fingers and toes kinda way that the leading will hide my mistake. No. 24 came good though... until I started to nibble the edges to make it *perfect* and then I lost a large tip of it! I'm starting to believe that anger and frustration is a good thing in cutting and breaking glass, because after that, I thought 'trollocks' and changed my technique into a much more aggressive stance and 24, 20 and 21 came out exactly as I planned. I was firm with the glass, I was going to Rule It, not the other way around... (yeah right)

Towards the end of the class our teacher came around to look at my work, and she likes it. We both raised our eyebrows and nodded simultaneously, although I'm not sure if we were both thinking the same thing!

Hubby on the other hand has started to lead his up. Looking good isn't it?

Some have nearly finished there stained glass windows, me, I may need another term.

Today I was a very brave soldier and ventured forth on my own to the Hobbycrafts and Crafts for Christmas shows at the NEC. I wondered whether I would be okay on my own, but I became so engrossed about how women could spend so much money on card, glue and glitter that I was fine! Seriously though, if I was into that sort of craft, I can imagine how wonderful an arena this event would be. There were huge choices, most of which passed my brain and me by.

Just when I thought I would pass out from the heat and humidity, I came across Web of Wool which is always (to me anyways) a place of wondrous gorgeous wool. After having walked around for such a long time (five hours without a stop, I was becoming dehydrated!) seeing Anna's cheery face was most welcome. I rummaged through her 6ply (dk) sock wool, finding treasures that I must have missed in her shop. Giddy at having found 6ply treats to be made into seriously keeping your feet warm for the plot I wandered homeward bound, although there may have been a little sideways maneuver towards the food hall to buy some treats for hubby.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Biscuits and Caraway Bread.

I seem to have the baking bug. I have many cookbooks as you might imagine, as someone being interested in food and having a family to feed, most are flicked through a couple of times, a mental note of who does what best for reference, a few of the recipes are tried and then they are placed on the bookcase to be referred back to as and when. At the weekend I picked up this simple book, 'Easy Baking by Linda Collister' and I haven't been able to put it back down. When its says Easy the recipes are very easy and most of the recipes have a lovely big photograph of the finished item which appeals to my inner child.

The day before yesterdays bread was taken from there and yesterday I made biscuits for the Girls at Knitting. These are Demerara Shortbread...

and these are Almond Biscotti. They seemed to like them.

And then late last night, I was thinking about bread, the boys had complained that even though I had made them lovely savoury rolls, which are nearly all gone, they have nothing to put there Nutella on. A memory surfaced about Seed Cake and the lovely smell of caraway seeds. When the boys were young and I was walking them past that sweetie shop twice a day, they needed a quick pit stop when they got home. I didn't want to laden them down with too many fats and sugars but they still needed something more than an apple, I became obsessive about seed cake, baking it constantly for months on end. My favourite recipe at that time was Mary Fords Orange Seed Cake, I just loved the smell of the orange and caraways seeds mingling, it was truly a hypnotic experience. I eventually moved on to other recipes, but the smell of caraway seeds still haunts me in a rather beautiful way.

Then, the Poppy seed bread that looks so inviting in Linda Collisters Easy Baking book became intermingled with my memory of caraway seeds, along with the need for the boys to have a bread suitable for Nutella spreading and so this idea was born. Linda's poppy seeds were swapped for caraway seeds (although only one and a half tablespoons, not the full forty grams, that would have overpowered things) , the rest of the recipe is the same.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Bread

It was raining yesterday, all day.

A perfect day for bread making. These are Cheddar and Spring Onion Baps.

And these are Garlic Knots.

Monday, 10 November 2008

"She must be mad, mad I tell you"...

Probably.

This morning I received a phone call from the allotment Secretary to inform me, that yes, my bleating and whining for the last eight months had at long last paid off and he has another plot for me.

He has to measure it out on Thursday and then shortly after it will be mine all mine.. *rubs hands together in a rather greedy way*

Now I know this plot, I've been looking at it from afar in a rather dreamy way for the last eight months, its several feet high in weeds although I don't think there are any brambles on it, which is a good sign. I suspect its thick with mares tail and it will probably nearly finish me off getting it into some kind of workable state for spring. And off course it would have been nicer to get the plot when we had our lovely October, so I'm going to be battling against the weather at this time of year.

But even with all of this I am Giddy, Giddy with excitement. I'll be able to plant winter cabbages, Italian black Kale, potatoes (in the ground!) and have autumn fruiting raspberries and an asparagus bed along with room for the exotics such as mooli, fennel, various lettuces etc etc. . Then I'll be able to have another greenhouse and... another Shed!

I have a master plan for a third plot, so I can plant an orchard. But that will have to wait for another time.

Anyone know where there are any pallets lying around? I will need lots for compost bins.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Silver Darlings

I spied some extremely fresh Cornish Herrings otherwise known as Silver Darlings on the fish counter this week. I can remember Herring was over fished and then a ban from fishing them was placed in the late seventies. By the time the ban had been lifted what was a supper time treat had been forgotten about. Which is a shame as when as fresh as these were, its a lovely tasty treat, cheap (£1.57 for these two) and has lots of lovely fish oils.

And apart from anything else, its rather a beautiful fish, wonderfully adorned with the finest of silver leaf.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

A Parliament of Owls

Hubby had intended to surprise me and take me to Batsford Arboretum yesterday afternoon but unfortunately his conference call took longer than intended and when we arrived it was damp, cold and getting dark. It was too late for a nice long walk around the woods, however it was not too late for a quick look in at the Cotswold Falconry Centre. My photography is not very good and I think this must simply be because I was feeling so cold.

I love this, a Bengal Eagle Owl with rather fluffy britches.

A pair of Tawny Owls, these are my favourite Owls because of their hauntingly beautiful calls.

A Snowy Owl, who seemed quite comedic.

A barn Owl.

A Great Grey Owl.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Friday is Sweetie Day

When my boys were very young and I walked them past a sweet shop twice a day to and from school, the phrase, "No darling, Friday is sweetie day" came from my lips several times a week. This plan had two effects, firstly, they learnt the days of the week and which order they fell in extremely quickly and secondly, soon after learning the days of the week, they stopped nagging.

I don't see why I shouldn't resurrect Friday as sweetie day for me. Its seems like a plan and a good one at that.

I heard a whisper about a special treat that some sock knitters had become just a little bit giddy about. (although I am probably in reality one of the last to know about this). So I had a little bit of a slow trawl around the Internet and found what I was looking for.

We do like pink packages, with Socktopus written on them, don't we girls?

This is Malabrigo sock wool, which is in a superwash merino. (which to Mandycharlie is of extreme importance after hubby shrunk one of her hand knitted socks) There are so many gorgeous colours to choose from I had real difficulty (life is so tough!!) choosing which to have but eventually settled on Persia and Velvet Grapes. They are as scrumptious as they look.

And then I thought, I've got to fill this blog post up with something else, two piccies, one of a package, a very nice package, but still a package and the other of two skeins of wool is not really making much of an effort.

I am taking part in (and I'll get this the wrong way around) NaNoBloMo, for the first time, which means to the uninitiated that you blog every day in the month of November. Its quite, not in a child birth way, but quite draining. I'm not the greatest of writers or the greatest of wits, I have no fundamental knowledge of the arts in any form or any great political stance and mostly the things I know are what I have struggled to learn without tuition (apart from the use of books and the Internet) for myself. I think, although I could be wrong that my blog is more of a gentle chatter that is accessible. So if I struggle over the next few weeks, and there are just one or two posts too many about food or the plot, please forgive me. I am trying to make this month varied and interesting, but I can see that I will probably fail at that.

As I was sorting through my stash I came across these (along with some other treasures) that I haven't blogged about. They are Wildflower Socks by f. pea knit on 2.25 mm needles. I altered the pattern just slightly and knit it smooth under the foot. Son no.2 bought me this yarn, last year he asked me what I would like for Christmas and I pitifully cried that I would like some Lornas Laces Shepherd Sock in Gold Hill and that I couldn't find any (in that particular colourway) in this country. So I found some in America and had it flown over, not very green, but very necessary and son no.2 was most pleased that he had bought something that his mum loved and adored.

And although I should be knitting lots of Christmas socks, I have taken time off recently to knit dk socks for me! I love the way these have knitted up, they are nice and thick and quite dense, they are 56 stitch,56 row by Nancy McGlynn. using Country 2529 Limbo Schoeller & Stahl on 3mm needles. I always put two needles together when casting on to make sure the cast on isn't too tight and I've also given them a longer length in the foot than I need, so that I can fit another pair of socks underneath.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

"Can you tell what it is yet?", said in Rolf Harris tones.

Having missed a couple of weeks of our stained glass window course, for one reason or another, we finally got there last night. Hubby was already ahead of me, as I seemed to spend longer than he did on finalizing my design. I don't know why really, because his and my design were essentially copied from patterns, we just made a few changed to make things slightly easier for us as beginners. Our teacher likes hubby's design, but keeps frowning at mine, I think she thinks its a little complicated for a first effort. "Oh well, never do anything by halfs" that's what I say. Although now I have started to cut the glass she seems to have lightened up a little.

Last night was the first time I had cut my pretty, (aka quite expensive) glass and I was quite nervous. Piece no. 25 took three attempts. Not because I was inaccurate, but because of the nature of the glass with its rippled effect, it took the break the wrong way. I was running out of that type of glass when I finally got it right.

I know there is somebody in particular who will laugh out loud and probably clap her hands together in glee when she sees hubby's design.

Its certainly tickled our teacher and other members of the group.

I wonder what the allotment holders will say when it becomes part of the greenhouse!