Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Knitting during that in between time

After seeing the scarf at Upton House, and ferreting around in my stash, I came across a ball of Mille Colori Socks and Lace yarn in autumnal colours, which was just the right gauge for a fine scarf, and I am using 3mm needles.  Having found the pattern on line at the V & A, and as it is an ancient pattern devised for 'knitting for the troups', here it is in case you have problems downloading this free pattern.


Materials: 4 oz. of Jaeger "Super-Spun" ("J.S." Quality)
Fingering, 4 -ply, (9d. per oz.), and 1 pair of No. 7 Jaeger knitting needles. Measurements: Length, 50 inches; width, 9.5 inches.
Tension: 6 stitches to 1 inch in width, and 15 rows to 2 inches in depth.
Abbreviations: K. = knit; p. = purl; sts. = stitches; rep. = repeat.
Casting-on: If you cast on with two needles work into the back of all cast on sts. to produce firm edges, but if you use the thumb method this is not necessary.

Begin at the lower edge. Cast on 58 sts. using No. 7 needles and work in pattern as follows: 1st row - * K.4, p.4. Rep. from * finishing k.2. This row forms the pattern. Continue in pattern until the work measures 50 inches from the beginning. Cast off.
Press the work on the wrong side with a warm iron and damp cloth.

Its a very easy pattern, and is quite the thing to knit and watch TV, or chat and wait for that cup of coffee to cool etc, and in between Christmas and the New Year.  Here it is about three quarters knitted up.  When it is washed and flattened out, it will of course be wider, but with the just the right hint of pleating which I so admired in the original.

The succulent is my 'pleated' one called Crassula falcata x pyramidal Buddha's temple.  I had taken cuttings from my original plant and now have three plants in one pot.

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

In a Vase on Monday - Paradox?

Cathy is runs this meme was still up for this despite being away from home.  Her entry is really beautiful and reminded me of the pale moonlight nights we have been enjoying.

This word: Paradox has been like a word worm in my head every since Christmas Eve...maybe my mind is in a bit of a scramble, and I haven't quite used it right, but with the other wormword: dilemma, I have reached the situation, where I shall post late ....

Whenever there is a full moon I seem to feel a little 'strange'...and surely I felt that the night was not quite right as I wondered to the back of the house and looked out, and saw the garden absolutely bathed in light, with strong moon shadows.  A huge clear moon was in the sky. Probably the most rational explanation is that when there is a little light around I don't seem to sleep so well.  But I have felt really well, full of energy, happiness and have been out for lots of walks.  I do have really thick curtains with blackouts, but I just seem to sense the light!

Then there is the warm weather...when its my birthday it is really supposed to be cold and frosty...but it is so warm, that we have had to remove the winter duvet and revert to much lighter bedclothes.

When its my birthday the florists are still usually closed if a bank holiday is declared in lieu, and I have no flowers at all...but there are roses still in the garden.

I could have posted this yesterday....but I had other things to do.  I had thought of having a 'holiday'...its such a strange time.  Everyone seems to be 'resting' up after the big today I went out and cut some roses, again a couple of stems of Grace, and there are similarities between my arrangement and our meals...using left overs, and adding salady things etc.  I added some white crocheted 'snowflakes' when the vase was in the living room to remind us of what it ought to be like outside.

So I give you my Paradox:  Roses in the middle of Winter from a British Garden together with the left overs from last week's arrangement.  I use the meaning of Paradox as 'combining contradictory features or qualities':  Summer Roses with winter berries and heathers, here with the Christmas Tree in the foreground, just to prove that this is not a joke picture taken in the summer with red plastic berries.

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Christmas Book Worms

Isn't is just wonderful to see children enjoy reading for themselves!  Yesterday we spent a wonderful day together, and a peep into Izzi's room gave this great view of the reading corner.

In the weeks and days leading up the Christmas the household had been preparing...Izzi took me into the garden and showed me where the door was in the fairy house at the bottom of the pear tree..and the theme continued to the table decorations.  This lovely one Veronica had made by painting a twig and hanging on more fairies.

Izzi had been watching Junior Bake Off, and is maybe one of the youngest fans of Mary Berry...and had followed her suggestion of making place names for everyone.

The buns for tea were freshly made, with Izzi's own choice of varied seed toppings..enough for today and the second large batch of guests expected on Boxing Day.

Izzie's present to me, and one she bought herself was one of Mary Berry's Books:  Cook Now Bake Later...and guess some of the presents going the other way!  Book of Buns by Jane Mason to Veronica, and Baking Bread Together  for Izzi, from me.

And now, I am ordering a book for myself.

Liz lent me this really lovely book a few weeks ago, and I have been snatching a few paragraphs at the end of each day from The Morville Hours by Katherine Swift, and enjoying it so much.  Its a book that I would want to read many times..anyone who loves history, stories about gardening, the countryside and wildlife would love this one.  By all means borrow it from the Library, which I would have done, if Liz insisted on having her book back in a timely fashion, but this is one I want to keep on my shelves, keep dipping into again and again.  After all if Liz has it back now, it will be there for her to lend out and allow some else to become beguiled!  I want to be able to write notes in mine...

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Just in time..Socks ready for Christmas are my socks finished last night, started last Thursday at Knit and Natter at the Almanack!  Knitted from West Yorkshire Spinners special Christmas yarn, but using my standard 'can knit them with my eyes closed nearly' pattern!

After all an easy pattern is needed for nattering, chatting to hubby, catching up with some of the TV we have recorded, and sitting down to celebrity University Challenge, whilst at the same time having a deadline to meet: New Christmas Socks for my feet on Christmas Day.

Thank goodness they have brought on the oldies for the mini series of University Challenge, and have backed off some of the very difficult mathematics and science questions, so that now we are getting relatively high scores, and so finishing with a more upbeat feeling!

As I took these out to the conservatory to photograph this morning, the story of the Iceland Yule Cat came to mind.  I was introduced to this story by our entertainer at our Horticultural Club Christmas Party, and he haunts those at Christmas time, and eats those who don't get new clothes.  Quite a gruesome story, and probably not one for the Children!    So now the Yule Cat will avoid me at all costs, when I wear my new Christmas Socks!

To counteract this frightening story I offer the lovely WI custom at our group, to offer the Birthday 'Girls' of the month, a posy...this month is my birthday, no surprise there..and I was the only one this month.  Kaye presented me with this lovely little Christmas Tree, which she had very nicely decorated with  mini bunting in the same colours as the bunting we made for our WI Christmas Tree marking the WI's Centenary.  There were the tiniest of stitches catching the smallest of pennants...Thank you so much Kaye, I shall treasure this little tree and in a few days time after my birthday it will be planted in the garden.  When I was born my father planted a lovely Christmas Tree in the garden in Mauritius, and it grew and grew, until sadly one year it was blown down by a cyclone.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Inspired by Friends

One of the blogs I follow is Daisy Deb's.  A few weeks back she posted about making a lovely wreath from material from her garden.

Just as I had decided to focus on a more simpler Christmas, I was also starting to feel that I was missing out by not being sucked in by all the media hype:...lets be will lots of friends and family each of the days, lets spend lots of money on expensive gifts, lets spend and decorate the house with the latest 'good taste' decorations..which oddly change dramatically each year!  I have received gifts and ideas from friends and family in previous years, and somehow I feel completely blessed by them, and they come back each year to make this time of year special for me.

I walked out into the garden and surely with the little bit of sunshine, and the birds flitting about in the garden, I started once more to feel at ease.  With my secateurs in hand, I snipped at long vines of wild dark green ivy growing over the fence from adjacent gardens, then found the bag of holly which I had cut a few days back in the shed, together with some lovely aromatic conifer snippings, and a bit of spare gold ribbon, made up this wreath.

It is just made by twisting the ivy round and round, then weaving other bits in.  There is no wire or the whole thing, minus the ribbon,  and crocheted snowflakes by Cynthia, can be tossed into the recycling bin, when the twelve days of Christmas are over.

All I need to do now is find that hook, and ask Mr S to climb up the ladder and fix it to the Apex of our porch.  Thanks so much to Daisy Debs....Happy Christmas to you and to all my family and friends.

A Doughy Christmas

I really love baking, and baking bread is a passion of mine, not least because I love yeasty aromas and the huge range of breads I can make at home.  My great Friend Vicki whom I met over 10 years ago, really got me going once more on my bread baking journey, after I had taken a break after a solid 7 years of  bread baking in my younger days.

One Christmas I received a lovely present from Vicki: Bread from ciabatta to rye, by Linda Collister.  So I am very much still enjoying that Christmas Present.

Vicki and I were only discussing various baking books recently and mentioned this author, so when Mr S asked for a white loaf for this week, it was to that book I turned, and the Challah loaf.  Yes I have listened to Mr S who really prefers his white loaf without seeds, so I omitted the poppy seeds..but for a little change to the norm opted to use oil which is suggested as an alternative to the butter which I have always used in the past.

I used my cold pressed extra virgin Yorkshire Oil Seed Rape Oil, and the result is still as good as when made with butter.  With 700g flour and three eggs as well as the oil, it does give a rather large loaf.  Usually I make two plaits, but as I am in my phase of practising different shaped rolls and I am also playing with my new ingredients of very small sugar nibs...

I give you a special little bun for Christmas Day Breakfast to have with the lovely Mulberry Jam made in the summer from Janice's Mulberries.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Visit to Upton House..Preparing for Christmas during the War...Pleated Scarf

It almost an Christmas tradition with us now...the visit to Upton Park very close to Christmas.  Mr S itches to go every year after seeing the house decked out for visitors with lovely floral arrangements, glorious pictures, trees decorated, and a roaring fire in the grate with arm chairs around, several years ago.

We had lunch early on Saturday and set forth in eagerness...there was a break in the wind and rain, as we walked up to the house.  However, I could feel an air of despondency fall from my dearly beloved, as he gazed over the sandbags and other items left about.  He could see that they were holding the damp against the stone walls of the building and was not at all happy as to what that may be doing to the fabric of the building!

The House felt completely different to what it had done in previous visits with the house 'dressed down' giving a feeling of austerity and frugality but non the less giving out the feeling of defiance to help to uphold morale.  Upton House became a bank during World War II and staff moved up from London leaving their families behind.

I had a go on one of the old type writers, similar to the very old ones we learnt to touch time on in the basement classroom at Claremont.  I typed on old Headed Paper...but could not remember how to set the tabs...and its a good job I did not have to replace any ribbon!

The staff from the bank were put up in dormitories, and I enjoyed looking round one of the bedrooms.  It reminded me of boarding school.  There was some interesting knitted garments, and I really took a fancy to this lovely scarf.  It is knitted in fine 4 ply wool and isn't the pleated effect just lovely.

I was soon having a very close up look and trying to figure out the pattern

Back home I did some research and found the pattern available of line from the Victoria and Albert Museum.  The pattern was part of a leaflet of knitting: Pleated Scarf  in Essentials for the Forces,  produced by Jaegar.  I shall certainly be having a go at this!

The handknits neatly stacked in the tallboy had me very nearly pulling them out to have a look...instead just this picture of beautifully folded garments.

On the bed there was a hank knit blanket , and in other places cushions covered in sewn up squares, but sadly some man made fibres squares spoilt the effect for me!  But the blankets were sewn up from squares sent in to the NT by volunteer knitters, so I shall in the 'spirit of Christmas' step back and say that looking at the bigger picture  the 'mis en scene' was worth while.

And just in case they run out of real mistletoe, there was a knitted version!  This year Mr S and I have plenty of the real stuff, but we still had a kiss under this bunch!

As we left, I caught site of this banner!

Monday, 21 December 2015

Grittibanz from the Book of Buns

My dough made with 250g flour, milk, 2 eggs and 100g butter, yeast, salt, and just a little sugar yielded five lovely little St Nicholas's.  Through William's, a fellow member on the face book page of the Baking from the Book of Buns group,  link I had a lot of help with the shaping.

They are usually made and eaten all over the German speaking part of Switzerland to celebrate the feast day of St Nicholas on 6 December..but Little Daniel was coming to visit today, and now is getting used to being served up with 'bun'...

I delivered two for the Children next door, and a couple are being held back in freezer land ready to take down for Izzi.

In a Vase on Monday - Luck comes my way

My mother always used to say...think of something you want, and you shall have it.  Not necessarily in the wishing for presents and getting them..more wishing good things.  I have practised this over several years and many good things have come my way, and I feel particularly happy when this occurs.

A few days ago I went to have lunch with a friend...Roz gave me soup and cheese, and I provided home baked bread and chutney.  I had been wondering at the same time, quietly to myself, about what I would put in my vase this week.  Just as I left, Roz kindly gave me a few small twigs of what she called Winter Sweet.

Today I even thought that my recycled twigs and holly and Winter Sweet may not be quiet enough..but I still kept up this thought that something would come, and then I saw White Heather out in Bloom in the front garden.  As white heather has the tradition of bringing Good Luck, it is the main flower in my arrangement.  A little Variegated Holly, aromatic Bay Leaf  with tiny white flower buds about to burst open, and twigs of Cornus Sanguina recycled from last week.  Dangling from a twig is a home made Christmas Decoration, made at our WI, mirroring the Decorations at Upton House.  The card is my Little Grand daughter's which arrived in the post a couple of days ago.

No doubt you will enjoy Cathy's Post...

To all who read this A Very Happy Christmas.  I leave you with this..taken at Upton House on Saturday, where the house was recreating the Christmas during the War when the Bank Staff had been moved to the Country House, but non the less prepared for Christmas.

Friday, 18 December 2015

Sock Knitting and other seasonal crafts.

Sometimes you just have to thread a project onto a slip of wool and start another one.  Its not often that I do this, but when Kay asked if I would knit up some yarn she had, I was more than pleased and wanted to make sure she would have some cosy socks as soon as possible.  Kay had learnt to knit with long needles which she tucks under her arms, so she is a very competent knitter, but just could not get on with short needles.  Kay is the leading light of our WI and runs our craft I deemed it an honour in deed.  Here they are made to measure...standing on the tissue paper to draw around and measuring with a tape measure at our sewing group got us giggling.  So here they are, finished in less than 2 weeks.

And here are the socks which were temporarily put on hold, but again finished a couple of days ago from another ball from West Yorkshire Spinners.  They give a needle size for 3.25mm.  For socks one uses 2.5mm, so that there is a firm fabric, which is comfortable to wear.    There is usually a problem with the colours after you have turned the heel, such that you almost get a strap effect...and I suddenly got inspired to remove some of the yarn so that the colours continue down the front of the foot in the same sequence, the bands are a little narrower at first since the rounds are longer at the instep, but I am much happier with this.

Sadly our WI is getting smaller and smaller, so are we going to have a big recruitment drive after Christmas.  This didn't stop the committee coming up with some great ideas for our December get together.  Instead of giving each other Christmas Cards, and also have the old Bran tub £1 present, this year we had a lovely range of hand made Christmas Decorations worked on by some members, and we put in a donation which is going to a local Charity. Pat also read a cherry Christmas Poem which had been read at the group meeting.

As well as news of our members who have moved away, or were absent, we sat in groups and had fun time making a hand made Christmas Decoration.  The Room which we share with many other groups is just the right size now after we were in the much larger hall.  We had bunting up marking our 100th Anniversary.  

Our craft group had embroidered pennants with each year date, and each decade was a different colour.  It had decorated the Christmas Tree which our WI group had entered into the Christmas Tree Competition at St Nicholas Church in Kenilworth.  Kay who came up with the inspired theme, and led us in our efforts and Irene had set up the tree.

Just how much glitter and which colours to of our member is driving down all the way to her French Home for the Christmas Break, with one hanging from her car mirror!

Some of us who had remembered to bring our Autumn Craft group projects, set up our Christmas Trees.  We had painstakingly made up the Christmas Tree boxes under Kay's direction...all starting with  shapes of card which we cut from cereal boxes, then with fabric, glue and curved needles covered the boxes and added some embellishments.

The two little miniature nativity scenes are so sweet.  Mine is the green one covered with mistletoe inside.  I had decided to use only material and bits I already had, and did a little ribbon work and sewed on some sequins.  To think that before I had joined this group...I had hardly done any sewing crafts!

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Its starting to smell a lot like Christmas

Its the little things about Christmas that I these little red shiny berries.  These are not quite so little, but when they start to come into our local market and Vegetable Shops I start to think about what preserve I shall make.

In the last two years I have made 'Chutney' type relishes, but this year I have chosen a more straight forward cider vinegar, no salt, no pepper, but with just a little twist of rosemary and juniper berries. Since it is so easy and quick to make, and making just a little more than needed, it makes a lovely present to give to your friends.  I have posted the full recipe and technique on Mrs Mace Preserves, with links to the two relishes.  Its just the time to make it now, and store in time to bring that zing of flavour and colour to the Christmas dishes.

Monday, 14 December 2015

In a Vase on Monday - Now it is Grace's Turn

Last week it was Princess Margareta's turn...this week it is Grace's.  Grace would have looked really elegant on the catwalk...and she did become a Princess.

I have been watching the rose bush Grace, in the bed just by the patio, and have been wondering for the last few weeks, whether it was time to do a first prune.  That is the prune to cut longish growths that when caught by winds tends to cause the rose tree to loosen in the earth.  Our garden is very well sheltered, and I have been hanging back on this.  Now I am rewarded..those rose buds are starting to open, and today I have three stems for an arrangement.  I can hardly believe is so close to Christmas.

Towards the end of the garden I have a Cornus Sanguina Midwinter Fire, which has bounced back from its severe pruning this spring.  I have since read that it is advisable not to overprune this one!

When I got in inside I realised that the stems are both red and yellow..I think they are red on the lighter side of the shrub.

Then I added the three stems of Rose Grace

and as I zoomed into the picture found that I had brought in a ladybird.

Then just to prove that it is really winter...added some of the Variegated Holly

Cathy who hosts this meme is casting her spell again, so do go over and have a peep!

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Baking for a friend

Most weeks I take a loaf of my home made bread for Roy.  Last week when I was dropping off a still warm from the oven loaf, Julian asked me if I would bake him a cake.  He had seen Orange and Almond Cakes at a recent fete and explained that he had waited around to see if someone would sell him one, but to no effect!  He is a Coeliac and also finds any baking powder a problem.  From time to time I have taken 'remains' of baking sessions when I have baked for a visiting friend.  Usually the bakes have been based on gluten free flour.  I was searching and was really pleased to find a recipe for Spanish Orange and Almond Cake which has no baking powder at all.  If you want the recipe do have a look at Norma's Recipe  which is easy to print off, which I have done.  I made this as an early Christmas Present for Julian, not that I have ever given him a present before!  But I have received some lovely apples from him in the past.

I bought some lovely organic oranges, and decided to cook all five, and have a ready processed portion in the freezer for a second cake some time soon.  From one of the oranges I removed some of the peel and boiled it with some sugar, finishing it off to make some fine candied peel to decorate the top of the cake.

Julian called me to say that the cake is delicious, and he is finding it hard to make it last!  I had a hard time stopping Mr S from trying to have a little bit from the side...He did resist..but it reminded us of the problems of leaving cakes around.  We have so enjoyed watching the programmes currently being shown on TV about five and six year olds, and the tales they tell when they are unable to resist a cake left 'unattended' in their play area.

Baby Buckingham Blanket

Its over five years since I last designed and knitted a baby blanket.  For my very special one, I designed a blanket in 3 ply pure wool, and I must have overestimated the amount I needed by a long way!  As the wool was so very soft and beautiful, I kept what I knew would be sufficient for a second blanket.

A few months ago, we were delighted to hear that one of Mr S's team was expecting his first baby..and it for their first baby that I have chosen to design and knit this second baby blanket.  I looked up baby blankets and found that the standard size is 100 cm by 75 cm.  I also wondered whether young parents would want a lacy design...In the end I designed a geometric pattern, made up of squares of stocking stitch and moss stitch,  with a garter stitch border.

Today I wrapped it up, together with a ball band and washing instructions.  It is washed and ready to use.  Folded it will be a multiple layer blanket for a carry cot, it is also large enough to act as a shawl to wrap the little baby in, and later on a cot.

Monday, 7 December 2015

In a Vase on Monday - Princess Looking good in her Little Black Number

I can't believe that after all the rain and winds over the weekend, that there are still two stems of Crown Princess Margareta to pick.  In truth, they are a little worn, but not faded...and look really elegant in The Princess's new little black number.  Cathy's roses are ready for bed...she always comes up with wonderful stories and props so do go and see her post.

The light is so very poor this morning that again I have had to pose the Princess in the conservatory, rather than on the red carpet.

Last week, I popped my head into a couple of the charity shops in Kenilworth with nothing in particular in mind.  I have been looking for just the right black and white vases, as I have so admired the way they show off the flowers on other blogs.

The moment I saw this one I knew it was it.  I did not even look at the price tag!  I recognised the Robert Welch Signature on the base and the name was also imprinted below the glaze.  But it was the shape and the elegance which appealed to me....I would describe it as 'High Couture', simple elegant and 'well cut', and craftsman made.

 Of course when I got home I tried to find out more about it, wondering when it was made, and as part of what range.  If anyone out there knows more, do let me know.

I have not been able to find anything about it so far.  I even called the main outlet in Chipping Campden and an email and photograph will soon be looked out by their archivist.  I'll update this entry should anything more be learnt about this vase.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Piragi from the Book of Buns

What a great bake for these cooler darker days.  These tasty little packages of bacon and onion and wrapped up in soft golden buns are just the thing to have with some soup, or with a glass of beer.  The recipe for Piragi is on page 40 of The Book of Buns by Jane Mason.  She had enjoyed eating baked goods on one of her trips to Estonia, and I have also read that these buns are really very popular in Latvia too.  When we go on holiday I too cannot resist trying out the local bready specialities, and having tasted this one, I shall put the Baltic on my list of places to visit!

I found the dough quite dry compared with some, but this is necessarily part of the production of a firm 'pastry' like envelope.  Just after I had kneaded but yet to arrive at the other phases, I posted up a plea on the face book page, and received the reply that indeed this needs to be a firm dough.  I did need to add just a little bit of water to get the ingredients to bind.  As the recipe asks for plain wheat flour I used some of my Duchy White Organic Flour from Waitrose.

For the filling, I used the 670g Cooking Bacon packs of mixed smoked and unsmoked bacon  from Sainsbury's, which my son had introduced me to some time ago.  Of course this is more than is needed for this recipe, but the remainder is being used in various other dishes.  This is a real bargain and with chunky pieces, it is easy to cut them up into even sized pieces for soups, casseroles etc.  Just the smell of the bacon and the onion cooking off was a sufficient promise of the delicious buns we were to enjoy later.

With a little sour cream which I had to make by adding some lemon juice to some goat's cream, butter, and goats milk, added to the flour, yeast and salt, the dough gives a tasty dough which contrasts beautifully with the filling.  The recipe does give standard milk and soured cream, but substituting goat's products which suit us better, in no way detracts from the quality of the end product.  I was tempted to do my thing and add some herbs, and spices...but for this Book of Buns bake on page 40,  I needed to keep to the recipe.

When the shaping was called for, Jane's clear instructions makes it easy to prepare the small parcels.  With 30g dough per ball, and just what looked like the right amount of cooked filling, I soon had a mini production line going.  The part rolled thin circles of dough waited their turn under my cloth, and filling between 4 and 5 at a time worked just right for me.

When they were ready to go into the oven, they got a double glaze...after I had glazed the 25 buns, I just went over them a second time, to use up the egg wash.  After about 10 minutes of the 15 minutes baking time, I swapped the baking trays around in the oven, to get an even bake.

Mr S wondered when he was going to eat some...we had a couple each shortly after they came out along with a lovely bowl of steaming home make soup...delicious!  Needless to say most of the remaining ones went into the freezer.