Thursday, April 28, 2011

April's C of Creation - Bobble Cowl

A couple of weeks ago I had a great swappsie with my neighbour - some of our lovely fresh eggs for a yummy yoghurt cake and 4 balls of left over yellow wool.

It took a while to decide what to make with my 4 balls, not enough for a shawl, just right for a thick long scarf but honestly how many scarves does a person need - I do have them in every colour and length now!

So I decided to have a go at a pattern I had seen recently for a bobbly effect scarf, but feeling a bit adventurous I thought I would adapt the pattern to a cowl instead.

You will need 4 x 50g balls of wool and size 6.5mm needles - long ones!

Bobble stitch:   knit 1, purl 1, knit 1, purl 1, knit 1, all in the same stitch

row 1 of pattern: slip first stitch, *purl 5 together, bobble in next stitch*, repeat from * to * until you reach the last from end stitch, knit last stitch

row 2 of pattern: knit every stitch

row 3 of pattern: slip first stitch, *bobble in next stitch,  purl 5 together*, repeat from * to * until you reach the last from end stitch, knit last stitch

row 4 of pattern: knit every stitch

Cast on 168 stitches loosely, you will not need to worry about gauge in this pattern.

Purl the first row to create the edging
Work in the 4 pattern rows until the cowl measures about 25 centimetres from the beginning row
End in pattern row 2 or 4
Purl a row to finish the edging

Cast off loosely, knit wise.

Then just sew together the edges - the slip/knit ends of each row make this much easier.

Just a word of warning though - when you do the knit rows in the patterns remember to knit VERY loosely - otherwise the stitches will be too tight to purl 5 together and won't accommodate the bobble stitch either.

The cowl is long enough to be looped twice around your neck for a snug warm coat collar filler, or worn loose over a plain top to add a splash of colour and texture.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Week 16 - Favourite Things - 52 images for 2011

Another last minute photo shoot this week - at least my models were cheap if a bit impatient for their salary - paid in dandelion leaves.

They are one of my most favourite things - every year we say - no babies - we have way too many rabbits - and every year I time it wrong and end up with at least two pregnant rabbits.  This year just two mummies with 5 babies between them, but as I am still trying to cull last year's litters 5 is about all we need.

Since moving to our little small holding here, rabbit has become my favourite meat.  It is fantastically versatile, you can roast it, barbeque it, use it in stews, pies and currys, very lean and very good for you.

Finally a bit of rain

After weeks and weeks of unseasonal heat and even longer without any rain, we are finally having a shower. But that is all it is - 5 minutes of loud thunder and the storm clouds gathering overhead, and a beautiful rainbow.

I just love the way that the sky is cut in half here, dark stormy clouds one side and lighter sunnier skies on the other.
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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Weebles wobble but they don't fall down....

Inspired by a Facebook friend's success in recently fitting into her size 10 shorts, I decided to get out my nemesis skirts.

With my recent forays into the depths of the countryside walking kilometres and kilometres I am being to feel that my weeble days may be behind me.  So I thought I would try on my secret stash of clothes that don't fit me but have been stashed away just in case one day they might. 

In amongst that stash are two skirts that I bought because I utterly adore them. 

My Nemesis skirts.

First is a Lypsy sequinned full circle skirt in purple, size SMALL.  I have never worn this skirt, it must be 10 years old now, still with its labels attached.  I have packed it and moved house with it several times and it has never take up residence on a hanger in my wardrobe.  Every now and again I would take it out and stroke it lovingly, and if feeling particularly good about myself I would attempt to slip it on.  Most times it would reach the tops of my tighs and there it would remain.

Second is a skirt I bought on ebay about 5 years ago.  I bought it on a particularly thin day, thinking that a Next Petite size 12 was not impossible.  It proved not just impossible but improbable.  But I love the material, great big blue and purple 60s inspired flowers on a half box pleated skirt.  Now this I have previously managed to wiggle all the way up to my waist and even managed to get fastened - however never so that I would want to be seen in public - more muffin top than Greggs.

(drumroll please)

The Lypsy skirt is still a little on the tight side, but does up, won't be long now fingers crossed and I will finally be able to cut the tags off and wear it -it will only have taken 10 years but as I am a trained hoarder extrodinaire that is not bad going.

The Next skirt fits - I mean it really fits - all the way round - without unsightly buldges (except when I sit down, so as long as I am only going to an all day standing up do I can actually wear it!).


Although I am not quite there yet in terms of venturing out in either of these skirts, I have now hung them on the wardrobe (not inside but outside) and they are there to be my inspiration and motivation whenever I think 'oh I won't bother today', or 'I can't be arsed to go out today'.

So thank you FF for your inspiration - and thank you lovely Spring weather that has made me leave the house and get moving.

PS and a thank you to the Wii fit male fitness instructor who says 'Your posture is fantastic' and 'You move beautifully' whenever I manage to stay upright on the balance board long enough to do the Yoga poses first thing in the morning.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

French onion soup with a Tuscan twist

OK - so the photo does not do it justice. In fact it looks pretty awful. Good job it tastes totally yummy.

I call it a French onion soup with a Tuscan twist - because it has cured ham in it - and apparently that is a Tuscan touch to a traditional French recipe.

So here is the recipe and my economical cooking method.

French Onion Soup with a Tuscan twist

4 large white or yellow onions
1 red onion
2 rashers of pancetta cut into lardons
2 litres of chicken stock
1 large baking potato
3 tablespoons of dried parsley

Use a heavy bottomed, cast iron pan with a lid if you have one.

Chop the onions thinly, then fry in a tablespoon of olive oil, with some generous twists of pepper and the lardons.

This is not a lot of oil, but the fat from the lardons will help the frying, when it starts to dry out in the saucepan, add a bit of water rather than any more oil, cover and leave the onions to sweat for a couple of  minutes until they are starting to become translucent and soft.

Add the stock and bring to the boil - taste and season if you need to, but the pancetta is quite salty so go carefully if adding more salt.

Cut the potato into small cubes, less than a centimetre, without peeling, then add to the soup and just bring it briefly back to the boil.

Then turn off the heat and cover the saucepan with its lid - then cover again with a layer of aluminium paper.

Leave to stew in its own heat while you go off and do something more interesting - I went for a 5km walk with the dog and came back starving.

To serve, just heat up - the small cubes of potato will have cooked in the residual heat in the pan and their starchiness will thicken the soup, throw in the parsley, stir through and munch a bowlful with some home baked bread.
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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Wow - that's a week gone by in the blink of an eye

I have posted nothing this week but can't believe that this week has already gone by.  In fact the shocking thing is that I need to do a photo for this week's image - and it is nine o'clock in the evening already.

So what have I been up to all week - gardening, gardening and gardening, then some more gardening.

We had a lovely dinner party on Friday - with more hand made pasta - I feel a bit of an obsession coming on.

We were up at the crack of dawn to head off for a car boot sale today, then had a lovely day in the sun messing about with the new timber for the terrace, then a surprise visit and drinks and nibbles in the garden with friends this afternoon - and in between I have been chasing down my pantry mouse - who has developed a real taste for noodles.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Week 14 - Curves

It can't be wrong to make something to photograph for this week's theme, when it tastes this good.....

Pasta lovingly made by hand, photographed then scoffed by the starving hordes for dinner!

3 in 1 activity

1. Dinner made - home made pasta courtesy of the pasta machine bought me by some friends.

Home made pasta is easy peasy - one cup or mug of flour to one egg, for three people use two cups and two eggs. Mix well together to create a dough, as your hands warm it up and you work it, it should become smooth, if it stays a little crumbly, then wet the tips of your fingers and work again.

Wrap it up in a bit of plastic wrap and leave to one side for about half an hour.

Then either roll with a pin and cut into strips with a knife to create pasta strips or cut into circles or squares for ravioli.  
Or pass it through a pasta machine.

Once cut, sprinkle a little flour over it and coat the sides of the pasta with it to prevent it from sticking, and leave for a few minutes to dry while you bring a large pan of salted water to a rolling boil, then throw in the pasta for 3 minutes to coik, drain well, and add your sauce of choice.

2. My new kitchen table serves its first worktop function - as a pasta making area.

3. The pasta serves to provide the inspiration for this weeks 52 images for 2011 theme - curves.

There you go - 3 in 1.

Now off to eat my bowl of pasta and pesto.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Ooh - new table

My lovely new table is finished and installed in the kitchen.

Here it is in all its converted loft bed and 40 year old oak goodness.

The top has just been treated with a vegetable oil diluted down with some white spirit, then rubbed and rubbed and rubbed with some cotton and elbow grease.

We had to bring it in, legs first through the door, then the top through the window, once the legs were screwed to the top we could manouver it around the kitchen a bit to find the best spot. 

At the same time, Christalina got a sprucing up too - Christalina being the 50s fridge in the corner.  She was yellow until yesterday, and now she is pretty in pink.  She came from the basement of a friend's house, but didn't work, so her innards were robbed from another fridge Brendan found in the tip, and managed to squeeze into Christalina, then she got a paint job and moved in.  Because her innards come from a bigger fridge than  her original design, she tends to move around a little, making the bottles inside her tinkle when the motor kicks in.  Hence we consider her to be a presence in the kitchen and she got a name.  (Obviously she is a proper fridge - full of bottles of booze, cherries for my martinis, some olives for gin and tonics, and a couple of bits of cheese and bars of chocolate - no room for anything else).

I think the table is perfect, and Brendan has done a great job.  Hard to see the scale here but with six chairs easily tucked in you should be able to work out that it is pretty big, 240 cm length (ish) and 110 cm wide (ish), only ish because they are not straight lines but wibbly wobbly following the line of the bark.
And today was our first BBQ of the year, chicken legs and salad!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Week 13 - Bokeh

Now it took me a while to get the hang of this.

Bokeh essentially means taking a photo with a very shallow depth of field, where the background is aesthetically pleasing.

After reading several websites of info, I found the most helpful thing was to go look at the Bokeh dedicated groups on flickr and read the comments.

So here is my entry for week 13.

I am obviously now looking for a catadioptric lens - ebay here I come!

Don't buy one - I'll make it!

I would like a new kitchen table that will function as both dining table and work top.

I saw one I liked in the shops but did not buy it as I am basically far too tight to spend any money on new stuff in shops, especially when there are two zeros in the price ticket!

But I did go away and think about it - in fact I thought about it lots and lots, and lots and lots, and then lots more.

My problem is I love my old kitchen table so I don't find replacing it an easy task, particularly as it has a bit of family history to it.

Anyway, Brendan has decided to make me a new one. Even though now I am not really sure I want a new one, I now have no choice in the matter.

The new table will be made from Thea's old loft bed from Ikea, cut up and reused to make the table legs and stretchers.

 I am even allowed to paint it white the way I want.  The little dowel pegs sticking out are there to fill in the holes from its previous assembly as a bed and will be sawn off and sanded.

The top will be made from one piece of solid oak.

Obviously this is not as straightforward as it sounds.  For one we had to have a 'little' debate on how the finished top should look, eventually we agreed on a rustic planed edge, with only the two sawed edges being straight, the sides being left curved in line with the planks natural growth.

The first lot of sanding was done today, just the underneath to be smoothed off to finish.  The thickness of this 40year old piece of oak will make a fantastic table top, but it is like iron to work with, and incredibly heavy to move around.

It will, when finished be considerably bigger than our current table, and will have to come into the house in two stages, legs then top.  Looking forward to it now, even though it means that in order to keep my existing table I will have to relocate it upstairs into my office and remodel up there.  Oh dear.  I shan't enjoy that - honest. he he!

First real car boot of the year

...and I bought a basket.

Not sure what sort of basket it is - I think it may be a log basket with a little separate attachment for match boxes, but Brendan thinks it is a sink drainer - but it seems to be too big for that.

Either way it only cost 3€.

Just have to find a home for it now.

I also bought this lovely big cast iron casserole dish, enamelled in this lovely light green. The outer edge may be a bit damaged but it is like new inside.