Friday, December 31, 2010

Last day of a fun packed busy year

How fast time goes by.

It does not feel as though 12 months have passed since I started this little project.  I have been so pleased to have achieved so much, from new recipes, to new clothes, to new friends.

I have really enjoyed the whole process, even when the only thing I got done in a day was to deal with some complicated paperwork at least the project gave me the focus to start and finish a variety of new things, attain some new skills and to stop procrastinating and shoving that complicated paperwork to the back of the to do piles building up on my desk.

And now on the last day of 365 projects over 365 days, there is just one last thing to do.

To work out what my project for next year will be.

Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Another Olympic entry

" - what on earth do you think you are doing now?"

Chicken tickling.

Take one leafy branch - not easy to come by in the middle of winter but I found one.

Then with branch in left hand and right arm outstretched attempt to round up eleven stubborn chickens into their new coop.

Fingers of right hand must continue wriggling throughout the manoeuvre and "tickle tickle tickle" must be recited in high pitched tone.

Branch is not allowed to touch the ground nor any chicken.

Picking up of chickens means instant disqualification.

Event is timed.

"- come near me with that stick - I dare you!"

Just enough light this evening to finish my crochet shawl, photos to be posted tomorrow hopefully.

I also managed to get the first stage of the costumes for Friday's murder mystery party sorted out. For everyone but myself. My wardrobe currently consists of two red feather boas. I think I need to add something else to that.
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Preparing ducks for the freezer

The photos below include images of dead waterfowl.

If you are easily distressed - don't look.

Yesterday dawned bright and clear and for some reason that inspired me to get on with culling some of my ducks ready for the freezer.

I have kept these for too long really, well beyond growing on and into money pit levels, with them eating and eating despite having reached their peak weights.

With the chicken shuffle around the other day it just seemed to be the best time to get on with it.

They are Mulard ducks, which here means a Muscovy also known as a Barbary crossed with a Pekin, resulting in a big, sterile, predominantly white duck, hardy with thick plummage, fast growing and large areas of breast meat.

Long ago I gave up plucking ducks, except for the odd one or two for when I actually want one for roast duck and to conserve the fat.

My favourite technique for preparing them is to pluck a line along the breast bone, then slit the skin at the breast bone, peel back and expose both breasts then trim the meat from the bones.  Following the line of the meat, cut free the legs and pull back the skin then remove the feet either with a cleaver or snap the joint back and cut the tendon (the feet are the bits that the dog waits for and delights in most).

At this point you will be left with a skeleton with wings, head, tail and feathers attached and a full body cavitity.  If you want to recover the liver, this is easily done by breaking the rib cage open and scooping out the entrails to free the liver.

The other advantage to this way of preparing a bird apart from not having to pluck it completely is that you then do not have to cut around the vent and attempt to remove it and the fecal contents risking nicking them and contaminating the flesh.

 8 very large duck breasts and 8 large duck legs, skinless and ready for use.

Whatever method of dispatch you use, the birds have to bleed out.

I hang the birds by the feet and break their necks by pullling down and back sharply.  Death follows swiftly and a sharp knife ensures that they bleed out fully before starting on plucking.

They can also be more easily dispatched with a .22 pellet through the fontanella but will still need their throats slitting to bleed out fully.

They will flap madly in their death throes so a bit of baling twine at the wing joint helps minimise this.

Plunging into hot water can make plucking easier, but to be honest I find that doing it while the bird is warm is the best time and the quills are at their easiest to pull out freely.

I am now left with 3 geese of which one should already be in the freezer and another 2 ducks to be done.

But the surfeit of rabbits is next on the agenda.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Feeling a tad apprehensive

Our birds are split into two separate flocks who spend the day together.

The white meat birds who also live with the pet Orpingtons, and our older egg flock.

Tonight is the first night that they will all sleep together.

It only took an hour of trying to entice the meat birds into the big coop with the egg flock, before I gave up and carried them to bed one by one, jostling for space on their behalf on the perches.

I don't pick them up to carry them around on a daily basis but tonight really highlighted the weight difference between meat and egg birds. The Orpingtons are a month younger than the meat birds give or take but weight wise there is probably a kilo and half if not more between them.

The perch peck-a-thon is over (I hope) and, fingers crossed, not too many bloody combs and wattles in the morning.

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Pixies stole my marbles

There are days when I am sure I am losing my mind.  I am sure it leaks out in gloopy dribbles during the night onto my pillow (no that is not drool!).

I am stuck in the vicious of list making - which looks like this:

(click to enlarge)

Today is a good example.

For four days I have been intending to charge the battery in my camera.

For the last 24 hours I have been loath to admit that I have mislaid the battery in its charger whilst roaming around the house trying to find a free non Christmas fairy light bedecked plug to plug the charger into.  This morning I re-found the charger (in the laundry hamper - don't ask).  I also found a free plug in the pantry.  This afternoon I went to take the camera out so went to replace the battery.  No battery in the free plug.  No charger in the free plug.  In fact no battery nor charger to be seen anywhere in the pantry.

Back to hunting the battery and charger.

And no this time it was not in the laundry hamper and thankfully not in the washing machine either.

Going down the garden to beg the pixies to give me back enough marbles to allow me to get through the day.

Monday, December 27, 2010

All over for another year

Christmas is over for another 12 months. Everything drops back to normal instantly.

There is an anticlimactical air to this post Christmas period. Never really having been one for big New Year celebrations, Christmas is my personal big event, and once gone it all feels like a bit of a wind down before gearing back up towards spring and the first bits of gardening.

Especially so in France, as here bank holidays do not carry over into the working week, therefore today is just another Monday work wise, and Boxing Day is not a celebration at all.

In that spirit of Monday bleurgh and back to work, Thea and I set to a bit of cleaning up around the chicken house, sorting out some fresh hay and straw for the rabbits, attacking the piles of washing lying around, tackling the mounds of leftovers and a general air of putting away and tidying up around the house.

We finally found the stash of eggs hidden in the upper barn, from one of our meat birds who has decided to be a house chicken and is laying like mad in an endeavor to endear herself to us and preserve her life. Unfortunately the -18°C the other night froze the eggs solid and they have all cracked. Eggy popsicles for the dog though who was quite happy with them. Dread to think what effect that is going to have on his guts later this afternoon.

With my freezer now refilled with left over turkey pie and a left over lamb pie and a lamb curry bubbling away ready for tonight now, I have a sense of achievement. The sun is out and the snow is glistening so may even get to take the dog out for a post Christmas 10km stroll.

Or perhaps I may just relax with my new Kindle.

Very impressed with the screen on it, (even if it did take me an hour on Christmas day to pair with the internet modem and get it to perform its WiFi functions), so impressed in fact that I have even bitten the proverbial bullet and bought some books for it.

From the BBC 100 greatest books - I am going to try to work my way through the unread books on the list, but I was quite surprised how many of these I have not only read but stand well thumbed on my bookshelves.

1. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
3. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
4. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling
6. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
7. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne
8. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell
9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis
10. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
11. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
12. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
13. Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks
14. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
15. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
16. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
17. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
18. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
19. Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres
20. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
21. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
22. Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone, JK Rowling
23. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, JK Rowling
24. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, JK Rowling
25. The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien
26. Tess Of The D'Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
27. Middlemarch, George Eliot
28. A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving
29. The Grapes Of Wrath, John Steinbeck
30. Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
31. The Story Of Tracy Beaker, Jacqueline Wilson
32. One Hundred Years Of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
33. The Pillars Of The Earth, Ken Follett
34. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
35. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
36. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
37. A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute
38. Persuasion, Jane Austen
39. Dune, Frank Herbert
40. Emma, Jane Austen
41. Anne Of Green Gables, LM Montgomery
42. Watership Down, Richard Adams
43. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald
44. The Count Of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
45. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
46. Animal Farm, George Orwell
47. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
48. Far From The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy
49. Goodnight Mister Tom, Michelle Magorian
50. The Shell Seekers, Rosamunde Pilcher
51. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
52. Of Mice And Men, John Steinbeck
53. The Stand, Stephen King
54. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
55. A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
56. The BFG, Roald Dahl
57. Swallows And Amazons, Arthur Ransome
58. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell
59. Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer
60. Crime And Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
61. Noughts And Crosses, Malorie Blackman
62. Memoirs Of A Geisha, Arthur Golden
63. A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
64. The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCollough
65. Mort, Terry Pratchett
66. The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton
67. The Magus, John Fowles
68. Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
69. Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett
70. Lord Of The Flies, William Golding
71. Perfume, Patrick Süskind
72. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Robert Tressell
73. Night Watch, Terry Pratchett
74. Matilda, Roald Dahl
75. Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding
76. The Secret History, Donna Tartt
77. The Woman In White, Wilkie Collins
78. Ulysses, James Joyce
79. Bleak House, Charles Dickens
80. Double Act, Jacqueline Wilson
81. The Twits, Roald Dahl
82. I Capture The Castle, Dodie Smith
83. Holes, Louis Sachar
84. Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake
85. The God Of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
86. Vicky Angel, Jacqueline Wilson
87. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
88. Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
89. Magician, Raymond E Feist
90. On The Road, Jack Kerouac
91. The Godfather, Mario Puzo
92. The Clan Of The Cave Bear, Jean M Auel
93. The Colour Of Magic, Terry Pratchett
94. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
95. Katherine, Anya Seton
96. Kane And Abel, Jeffrey Archer
97. Love In The Time Of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez
98. Girls In Love, Jacqueline Wilson
99. The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot
100. Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie

Sunday, December 26, 2010

I love Christmas

Everything about it.

From our traditional champagne breakfast, to the pressies and all the wrapping paper strewn across the floor, to preparing the veg, cooking the meat, choosing pretty things to scatter across the table to flopping on the sofa for a game afterwards.

And yesterday was another great Christmas, spent with good friends.

Our menu for our final Christmas day of 2010 was:

Selection of starter nibbles including olives, a meat platter, tomato and mozzarella.

Slow roasted leg of Ernie Bastard (also known as lamb), roast turkey and garden vegetables.

Selection of cheeses

Chocolate mousse served with Chantilly cream.

Once again dinner took a number of hours, another thing that has become quite traditional for our Christmas, I aim for a course an hour now, which is one of the reasons that we have a starter selection, we sit and drink and nibble for an hour, then eat the main, then usually go off and play a game, I get a chance to clear the table (and a sneaky Christmas cigarette) then we have cheeses (before the dessert in the French fashion) before finally finishing off with some dessert and choccies.

I have bowed to family pressure this year and not served any brussels sprouts, in fact I did not even grow any this year.  But I did make chestnut stuffing.  Another thing that once upon a time I would never have done from scratch, out would have come the box of Paxo and I would have considered it job done, but with chestnuts in plentiful supply every autumn (over 5 kilos this year thank you Brendan!) it has become another tradition.

Chestnut and potrine stuffing.

Potrine is what we have in place of smoked bacon, it is a thick smoked slab of pork belly, and very yummy.

In a food processor, whizz up a couple of handfuls of cooked chestnuts  - cook and peel these then freeze prior to Christmas and this way you are not doing fiddley bits at the last minute, just take them out of the freezer the day before and allow to defrost.

Add a couple of slices of smoked bacon or potrine, cut into lardons.

Add a medium peeled onion, salt, pepper, and a couple of teaspoons of dried sage leaves.

Toast 4 thick slices of bread, or dry in the oven and crumble into the food processor.

You should now have a gloopy mix that does not quite stick together but is a bit wet due to the lardons.

To stick the stuffing together either add butter, or as Brendan does not eat butter I add a little bit of grape seed oil (flavoured with sage).  Add it to the mix while it is whizzing around drop by drop until the mix sticks together into a big ball.

Flour your hands and roll the mix into little balls on the palms of your hands, spread out on a baking dish and pop in the oven alongside your meat for an hour.

This year's Christmas main meat was a lamb leg from last year's hogget, Ernie - or to give him his full name, Ernie Bastard.  

To cook the leg, once defrosted I removed the thicker layers of fat from it because I don't think that the fat is particularly nice on lamb, then scored the meats, seasoned and studded with whole cloves of garlic unpeeled and sprinkled with some dried rosemary.  

I put the bits of fat I cut off in the bottom of an oven dish, then put a grill above it and placed the meat on the grill.  This way the fat cooks and helps to keep the meat moist without flavouring it.

Loosely cover with tin foil and cook on a low heat (in my Rayburn that works out to about 120°C to 150°C) for about 4 hours, don't turn or baste or anything else, just leave it in the bottom of the oven for a long time to slowly cook.  The leg was so tender, the meat was falling off the bone.  Just uncover the studded top for the last 20 minutes to brown the meat off slightly on the top.

Now it is Boxing Day, Brendan is pleased that no more snow fell so he gets to lie in bed rather than drive the snow plow around, I'm off to work shortly, and then going to try out my new Kindle.

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Friday, December 24, 2010

Mrs Claus

I have been outside in the snow playing Santa today.

We took a walk around to our neighbours dropping off little gifts for Christmas, crackers for those with family visiting, mince pies and knitted hats for everyone else.

We don't have that many neighbours - which is not a bad thing considering that we have been stopping for a little apero with every neighbour too.

Rolling home down the lane by 1.00pm full of tawny Port.  Christmas cheer is here!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

We are addicted.

There is no easy way to say this.

My name is Monika and I am addicted to crochet.

The cat's name is Ferguson and he is even more addicted to crochet.

I spent a couple of hours yesterday evening cruising free patterns to find my next crochet projects - bearing in mind that I already have my next shawl underway.

Of course it would be more underway if Ferguson would stop lying around on it.

Crrrrrrochet. It just rolls off the tongue so easily.

My fingers itch when I don't have the hook in my hand. I have already crocheted one 100g ball of wool on this shawl this morning.

I think I may need help.

Free patterns available here:

my current favourite: the patterns are well written, easy to follow, rated for ability, the wool estimates are spot on, and best of all there is a good range of free patterns to choose from sorted by project style.
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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

What has happened to common sense?

What has happened to good old fashioned common sense?  Where did it go?  How has it come to have vanished from one generation to the next?  Or is it a geographical thing?  Is it a casualty of modern life?  Do people no longer feel they need common sense and so the latest generation have evolved beyond it?

Am I so archaic to still have a vestige of common sense?

I seem to have spent the whole day dealing with issues directly relating to common sense.  Or lack thereof.

It has been an exceptionally frustrating day.

I have been threatened with solicitors letters for something that I cannot control, i.e. the date of Christmas.

Put quite simply, shouting and ranting at me on the phone will not alter the fact that I cannot get a contractor to work on Saturday because it is Christmas Day.

Nor can I change decades of social policy in the UK and alter the fact that the following Monday will therefore be a Bank Holiday, and so the majority of contractors and financial institutions will also be either unavailable or closed.

Now factor in the inclement weather currently being experienced across the UK and ratchet that rant up by 10.

How can I possibly hope to combat the snow on a personal level?

Silver lining - hopefully the person ranting and raving has now managed to get the stress out of their life, and I know that tomorrow is another day and unlikely to be as horrid as this one.

Time for dinner, and a cuddle from my family, then a couple of hours of kitten fussing.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


I did have to add in some black to finish the edges.

I ran out of the pink even with some alterations to the pattern to try to finish it off without changing colour so went and raided the project cupboard and found a mohair style fluffy thin wool and a thicker plain twist, then ran both together to get the extra thickness to match it to the pink felty wool.

I am quite pleased with the contrast actually.

And the big pineapple or shell pattern has come out well even with the thickness of the wool I used.

Have even managed to find my next project but because it is another new crochet stitch I am practising on some scrap wool before starting the new shawl.

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Sucked in... an ever increasing degrading spiral of Christmas themed shows on TV.

In fact they only have to have the eponymous C word in the title and I'm wedged in front of the goggle box looking for yet more knit it yourself turkey dinner hints and tips.

This has never happened to me before.

Even as recently as last year I only had to hear those dreaded words that signalled another trip into the lastest dish of the day chef and their pseudo kitchen eating some undercooked poultry with the best extras that Rent a Friends R Us could find on short notice, and I would be cruising the channels for something more interesting to watch - like One Man and His Dog.

But 2010 - oh yeah - this year, I even have TV reminders set for Kirstie, Jamie, Nigella, Gordon, Kirstie again, Kirstie and Phil, River Cottage and bliss of blisses they all get repeated on a Sunday!

I am officially old and officially a saddo - I have square eyes and reams of tips and hints scribbled on the backs of envelopes shoved down the side of the sofa cushions.

In the meantime at least my shawl is nearing completion - it shouldn't be because I have only done half of the pattern, but I am running out of wool.

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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Third Christmas dinner - a little bit more traditional.

No photos - because I forgot to charge the camera battery.

Today we had creamy mushrooms and a couple of pieces of left over chicken in some puff pastry castles, followed by a roast chicken with some garden potatoes, carrots and cabbage, finished with some traditional mince pies with cream.

For the starter, fry a handful of chopped button mushrooms with a piece of leftover chicken, season with salt and ground peppercorns, then add a splash of chicken stock, about a cupful, then half a cup of cream.  Leave to simmer until the sauce has reduced and thickened, then leave to cool.  I am using some ready made puff pastry castles like these:
 just spoon in the cooled filling, and warm through in the oven for 15 minutes at 150°C before serving.

My roast chicken was simply seasoned, with an added pinch of paprika on the crispy skin.  I added flavour with some thyme stalks from the garden - found this morning when the sun came out and melted away some of the snow.  Just pull the skin away from the breast and push the leafy sticks in the gap.  Drizzle over a little olive oil before roasting to give your gravy a richer finish.

I am pleased to find that my carrots and potatoes have kept well in their new place in the garden garage rather than in the barn like last year.  Although some of my pumpkins are showing signs of rot now, so the chickens got those as a bit of a treat today - did you know pumpkin flesh turns chicken poo orange?  Well it does.

Finally we had some mince pies served with a bit of double cream.  A rare treat this, and a very traditional finish.

If only.

After mince pies we had choccie biccies with coffee.

Hmmmm - be glad when the snow melts - I think a few 7 km walks before Christmas may be in order to fit into my clothes!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Second Christmas dinner party menu and recipe

Had our second Christmas dinner of the season last night and very seasonal it felt too. Snowy weather, fires lit and Thea broken up from college.

Last night's menu:

Selection of nibbles including spicy olives, tomato and mozzeralla, charcutrie platter, tuna and bean salad, squid in spicy sauce and pickled anchovies.

Mexican Lasagne served with corn bread

Fruity jelly with Creme de Cassis

The slightly South American theme came in a flash of inspiration thanks to Nigella Lawson and her Mexican lasagne on the box the other day. Her recipe is here. Mine follows below.

For the sauce:

4 turkey breasts cut into small cubes
2 medium onions roughly chopped
1 yellow pepper (I used some of my preserved peppers under oil and did the frying in the flavoured oil from the jar)
3 cloves of garlic
1 fresh red chili

Fry the above in olive oil together with a teaspoon of ground coriander.  Add more chilli if you want a hotter sauce.  Season.

10 large ripe tomatoes roughly chopped
4 tablespoons of tomato puree
500ml of water
1/2 teaspoon of sugar

Add to the turkey and leave to simmer for about 20 minutes until the tomatoes are soft.

For the lasagne layers:

1 x 400g can of black beans drained
2 x 250g of sweetcorn drained
250g of cheese - I used an emmental style cheese
several lasagna sheets

(I did try to make my own tortillas but they were a dough disaster - hence their metamorphosis into corn bread and substitution with the bog standard pasta sheets)

Mix the beans and corn with cheese and layer with the tomato sauce into a large oven dish.

Bake in the centre of a preheated oven at 180°c for 40 minutes ( or equivalent length of time in the Rayburn - 1 hour or until sufficient of the starter has been consumed and several glasses of bubbles drunk!)

It is snowing again nicely, and we have leftovers for lunch - yummy.

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Friday, December 17, 2010

My suggestions to the Olympic committee

for new events.

First up - Competitive freestyle cat stroking.

Second - The speed stack.

And finally - The old biddy dead lift.

take one of these:

and assume the position:

I think I stand a good chance of gold in any one of these events and so I am championing their inclusion for Rio in 2016.

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

First Christmas dinner of the season

Complete with crackers, plastic toys, glasses of wine and snow.

I love Christmas.

Last night's menu was very French:

Charcuterie platter
Guinea fowl in creamy pepper sauce
Celeriac mash
Chocolate Creme Brulee.

Creme Brulee is not that hard to make, the biggest disaster is if you cook the egg yolks too quickly, they will curdle if the cream is too hot.

500ml double cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
75g caster sugar
25g vanilla sugar (I just have a glass jar of caster sugar with a vanilla pod in it)
6 egg yolks
4 chunks of rich patissier chocolate

Preheat the oven to 150°c

Break the chunks up and place on a plate in the oven while it preheats to soften.

Bring the cream and vanilla to the boil in a saucepan then reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

Beat the sugar and egg yolks together in a large heat proof bowl until light and fluffy.

Heat the cream back up to just short of boiling, then pour over the sugar and egg mixture, whisking continuously until it starts to thicken.  For a super smooth creme brulee, you can seive the mixture now.

Pour the mixture into 4 ramekins and place in a bain marie (an oven tray with hot water upto about half way on the ramekins), drop a chunk of chocolate into each ramekin, stir with a skewer to swirl the chocolate through the mixture.

Bake in the centre of the oven for about 40 to 45 minutes until the custard is set but slightly wobbly.  Leave to cool or refridgerate until about to serve.

To finish, sprinkle with caster sugar - and this is where my recipe fell apart last night.  I don't have a chef's blowtorch (Brendan offered me his plumbing one but I declined).  I tried to do the grill version of caramelising the sugar, but it just left the set custard runny.  So looks like a blowtorch is on my wish list now.

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Crochet confusion

This is by far the most complicated thing I have ever attempted but I am enjoying the challenge.

I found the pattern here:

via which also has a directory for knitting patterns too.

I think perhaps it would be easier if I was using the wool recommended instead of this thick felted wool, but I just adore the rich cerise colour and the felty feel of it. (Katia Mystery, shade 7655)

Each day I attempt at least the next 3 rows, and slowly but surely it is advancing. I do have to have complete silence so that I can count out loud and have several little reusable stickers that I can attach to the pattern to mark my place in the counting.

yesterday's rows

today's rows added

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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Too cold to go out

Tried to let the chickens out this morning while it was still -10°C, needless to say they had no intention setting foot out of the coop, not even with the temptation of some nic bread left overs and some cake crumbs.

Everything pool of water is frozen solid and it takes forever to get the rabbits watered with endless trips inside with the watering can.  But funny to watch the ducks and geese break through the frozen top of the pool for a splash around.

With the decorations up, the fires lit, all the lights on because it has been so foggy all day that we can not seen the end of garden, I have managed to get quite a large part of my Lesley Anne Ivory cat cross stitch done.

Large part relatively speaking for a 16 count aida and tiny tiny tiny cross stitches.

This is the one I would really like to do if I could find it on sale somewhere, for mounting on a patchwork quilt.

 Having just googled Lesley Anne Ivory cats, I never realised quite how many pictures she has created.

And then a lovely visit from a neighbour and her new grand daughter, Emma is only 5 months old, and utterly adorable, baby talk in French is a new one on my though, at least goo goo and ga ga sounds the same in any language.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Recycled material bag - crochet pattern

I did say when I finished this bag that I would write up the pattern - so here it is.

No gauge or needle size instructions as this is for a recycled material bag, so these are dependent on what material you use. I used an old frogged jumper, two strands at a time because I wanted a thick pattern and a sturdy bag, and needle size 8mm.

Chain 22.

The bag is worked round and round to create a seamless pattern.

hdc = half double crochet

Stitches used: half double crochet, single chain, slip stitch

row 1: hdc in 2nd chain from hook, then in each chain stitch to end. 2 hdc in the corner end stitch, turn.

row 2; hdc in each stitch to last 2, work 2 hdc in the two end stitches, turn.

row 3: hdc in each stitch to last 2 stitches, work 2 hdc in each of the two end stitches, turn.

row 4: hdc in each stitch to last 3 stitches, work 2 hdc in each of the three end stitches, turn.

row 5: hdc in each stitch to last 3 stitches work 2 hdc in each of the three end stitches, turn.

This is the base of your bag. If you want it bigger because of your plans for the bag or because you have enough material, just continue rows 4 and 5 until you have the base size you want.

To start working the body of the bag, work the following row in the front loops only.

row 6: hdc in each stitch, work 2 hdc in the end stitch, then hdc back to the other end, work 2 hdc in the end stitch.

Work again in both loops.

row 7, 8, 9: hdc in each stitch down to end, work 2 hdc in the end stitch, work 1 hdc in each stitch back to the other end, work 2 hdc in end stitich.

Repeat the above until you get the height you want for your bag, I worked these rows three times to get a taller basket type bag.

Switch to your contrast fabric or ribbon at the side of the bag. (Unfortunately this did not work so well as I only had enough ribbon for one round, so I finished my embellishment round in the main bag fabric).

row 10: work hdc in each stitch around

row 11: work hdc in each stitch around

OR - ALTERNATIVE ROW 11 - using the main fabric of the body or your contrast fabric - ignoring the last coloured row, single chain in one loop of each stitch of the main body fabric as it joins to the embellishment fabric. (This creates the row that stands slightly proud of the main bag body as per my bag in the photo).

Switch back to your main bag fabric and work through both loops of each stitch again.

row 12, 13, 14, 15: hdc in each stitch around for these 4 rounds and end at the side of the bag.

Optional variation if you have enough contrast fabric. Switch to contrast fabric for this one row, starting on the same bag side as the previous contrast rounds.

row 16: hdc in each stitch of this round.

Switch back to main material.

row 17: hdc in each stitch of this round.

row 18: starting at the side of the bag, hdc in each of the next 7 stitches, chain 20 for the handles (you can chain slightly longer if your bag is small and light, but this is not designed to be an over the shoulder style of bag).
Join the handle chain back into the bag with a single chain, leaving approximately 14 stitches unworked in the centre of the bag - this is an approximate number, fold your bag opening in half at the sides and simply ensure that you have your handle centrally positioned.
Work hdc into the remaining 7 stitches of that side of the bag.

row 19: hdc around the other side of the bag for 7 stitches, chain 20 and join with a single stitch into bag, leaving approx 14 stitches unworked under the handle. hdc for the remaining 6 stitches. Fold your bag opening and check that handles are aligned with each other and centrally positioned for the bag.

row 20: hdc in each stitch of the bag around to the handle, then work 2 hdc in the stitch at the base of the handle, and hdc in each stitch around the handle until you reach the end stitch to work 2 hdc again, hdc in each stitch round to the second handle, work 2 hdc into the stitch at the base, hdc in each stitch of the handle, then work 2 hdc into the base stitch, work 1 hdc into each stitch back to the side of the bag.

For an alternative finish - using contrast fabric or leather strips.

row 21: single chain, slip stitch in each stitch of the round to create a smooth bound edge. I would really have liked to do this even with the main material of the bag body, but I just did not have enough frogged jumper left.

Fasten off and weave ends under on the inside of the bag.

This is another easy but rewarding project, quite quick to do and one that can be done on the sofa watching TV, as there is not much counting or pattern following required. Plus you can use pretty much any fabric or yarn you have so it would be a good catch all project for tidying up your left over scrap fabrics. I am saving my left over hat and shawl yarns ready to make the next bag - which is going to end up a mish mash of colours and textures.
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