Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Star Sweater Complete

What a lovely pattern, and with the softest of yarn, this will keep Baby W cosy and warm. Small babies having really large heads in proportion to their bodies. With the small star buttons in yellow, at both sides, this jumper will be so easy to put on. When my son was small I remember having to unpick a jumper, and re knit a much looser neckline because it was so difficult to fit over his head.

The small yellow shells were gathered many years ago, when Mr S and I had a week's holiday on Guernsey. I love to bring a little memento back, and when we walked all along St Ouen's Bay, these little shells were so very numerous there. I'm not sure whether the smaller darker ones came from there, but they are just the same shape, but arranged in size order, the colour changes gradually.

Butterfly Garden

This year our garden has been host to a really wide range of flying creatures, birds, insects, and the odd bat. In the insect category, from early in the year it was the bees on the snowdrops, later we had red mason bees in numbers, as well as a bumbles bees of various sizes and patterns.

Lately we have had butterflies. From the conservatory, one can spy them flying around, coming to land on wall, stones and flowers. They seem to rest in the warmth again the bricks of the house. These are real ones and they remind me of the large copies which some people attach to the walls of their houses as ornaments.

In the sunshine, several fly up together in a vortex of euphoria, completely oblivious to any predators. I have seen no predators, are there any for the butterflies? When I walk into the garden they rise and fill the air with streaks of bright colours. The peacocks even make a noise as they vibrate their wings. I stalked these and waited patiently, close up t0 them with the macro lens, and was amazed by the noise they make. Is this noise caused by the very fast vibration of their wings used to attract a mate, or warn off rivals, or is the vibration a way of dispersing pheromones? To think of a butterfly making a noise!

With my Collins guide to the Insects of Britain and Western Europe in my hand, I patiently watch and try to identify the butterflies: peacocks, painted ladies, commas, red admirals, and small tortoiseshells, then lots of different sizes white butterflies.

As soon as Mr S is off to work, I spend a few minutes of contemplation on the garden, often still in my dressing gown. Sometimes I spend a few minutes planning my day, or just sniffing the flowers, watching the insects and gazing at the clouds. This butterfly seemed to doze on my shoulder, without my noticing until I got back into the house. After taking the picture, it was reunited with the others.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Star Baby Knitting

This little jumper knitted in Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino Yarn, is a quick and easy knit from Debbie Bliss's Book No 3. This Star Jumper is the first knit for Baby W.

I love stars. I'm not a connoisseur of stars, but love them for many reasons, firstly because my Dad used to show me the stars in Mauritius, where one can really see the Milky Way as a band across the night sky. There were still very few street lights when I was young there, and after cyclones when we had no electricity at all, and the skies were clear, it was almost impossible to find a small piece of sky with no stars. I remember when I my mother and sisters were away in the UK, my father used to take me out for walks at night to watch for falling stars. He always seemed to know when to look out for them, and we used to sing Catch a falling Star together, when no one else could hear us....thank goodness for that I can hear my sister Lizzie say. She has a lovely voice, and very generously she has remarked that perhaps I am improving. I wonder whether there is a local choir that takes people who ought to have singing lessons?

Mauritius is also known as 'The Star and the Key of the Indian Ocean'.

I love the allusions to stars in Poetry and Prose. Is that the word I mean?

More Serendipity: In a knitting stitch book, the star pattern is called the Humber Star, and guess what, my mother's grew up on the banks of the Humber!

More tasty dishes

Kenilworth weekly market continues to provide us with excellent produce. Sometimes I buy just because the fruit and vegetables look in their prime. Then when I get home, inspiration is called on to provide uses.

Recently there has been excellent asparagus. I bought two bunches, steamed them. The first eating was hot out of the steamer with breast of duck etc., the rest was put to chill in the fridge. We love soups, and a summer favourite is asparagus. When I steam the asparagus, I put all the washed tougher bits in the water, which is then strained off and used in the soup.
The spears too are trimmed to give shorter tips, similar to the highly packaged and expensive ones in Waitrose etc. All I am left with, after my wormery is fed the bits in the paper bag, is an elastic band, which is used elsewhere.
With the trimmings going into the soup, and only two of the shorter tips used to garnish the soup, a couple of bunches of asparagus was be used in three meals for us. In the batch of soup, started off by gently sweating a few spring onions in some butter, I added a good two handfuls of peas, and from now on asparagus and pea soup will be a summer favourite. The colour, texture, and taste were very good. To finish it off, I gently drizzled the top with some double cream, and a small shake of cayenne pepper.

Since watching some programmes where Chef's do what I call the equivalent of assembling ingredients, and remembering that my mother already had cooked items in the fridge ready to eat, I have found such half prepared items lead to quickly assembled dishes.

I had poached some excellent ripe and tart apricots in some fruit juice, and as they were in the fridge was able to come up with an impromptu desert. After blitzing the apricots , some of this was folded into whipped double cream, then layered in some old deco desert cups, the Amaretti soaked in Disaronno Liqueur was my spin on sherry soaked sponges in a trifle .
Mr S's request for pudding was well and truely satisfied, and so was mine!

Fushia Show Evening

Kenilworth has many societies and organisations. Having been on the Wroughton Horticultural Club Committee and having been Assistant Show Secretary, one of the first clubs I joined when I moved, was the Kenilworth & District Horticultural Society.

The members are a very friendly bunch, and the Committee do some wonderful work, which makes for an informative, and interesting evening out once a month. Last night was our Fuchsia Plant Competition. Earlier in the year, members were able to buy for the grand sum of 40p, a small fuchsia rooted cutting. The cuttings have since then been grown on, some with excellent success others having problems either with soaring temperatures in greenhouses, etc., and there were many excuses last night for non production of plants.

My plant was pretty good, probably the bushiest plant there, but I knew it was deficient in flowers, though from the number of buds I'm sure I shall be taking pictures and posting in a few weeks time. I rooted the first pinchings, which have given three plants now nearly as large as the parent. Next year, I shall leave seven weeks between the last pinching and the show. My tubs with geraniums etc are faring poorly in this rain, and I shall repot them up with the fuchsias, which seem to be enjoying this weather.

After the talk by eminent RHS judge Derrick Ford, on Hardy Plants in the Garden, refreshments were served, and then a raffle, with so many prizes.

Kenilworth in Bloom

Here are just a couple of the very many photographs I took. By the way, my lips are sealed as to the results!

Just over a couple of weeks ago, I spent three days judging the entrants for the back garden category of the Kenilworth in Bloom 2009 competition. Together with fellow judge David Gillmore, and Committee member Sue acting as our Secretary, we covered all the entrants. From small to large, from querky to conventional, the gardens were a tribute to their owners efforts.

It has certainly got us thinking on what improvements we would like to achieve here. When we first moved in, we had a general cutting back, and over the next few months, we shall be on the next phase.

Laminaria Shoulderette Completed

This is a great pattern, and even with the hemp yarn which has no give in it, the 'piquant' Estonian Lace stitches, were manageable. The cast off with double yarn, works very well, and I shall use this on other projects with fine yarn.

Having washed it, I played the equivalent of floor based stretches and gymnastics to get this blocked out. Sadly quite a lot of colour ran from the yarn, and when I had finished the stretching on my wires, found that I had pink colour soaked into my white tee shirt.

The neck shawl, which I like to call a tucker, has dried beautifully, and the texture and crispness of the yarn, keep the fine stitch detail.

I took it to the new Knitting and nattering group at the Almanack in Kenilworth this morning. It was great to see many new faces. These knitting groups are great places to make new friends, find new knitting inspiration, and being right in the window at the Almanack, we are certainly on view, so hopefully most of the knitters in Kenilworth around during Thursday morning will soon be popping in.

I was so pleased to hear, yesterday, that one of the knitting groups I used to go to in Swindon, is vibrant and continues to attract many knitters.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Festival of History 2009

At the suggestion of my Daughter in Law, we met up at Kelmarsh Hall on 26 July, to spend an interesting day out together at the Festival of History. The extent and the variety of the events ranging from Roman to Second World War, was more that sufficient to keep us entertained all day. Having looked through the Show Guide, I feel that two days would have been better, and having the Show Guide in advance, would have meant missing fewer excellent events.

Brian, Veronica's father, was particularly interested in the Roman Imperial Army. We watched a large band of soldiers as they demonstrated fighting techniques. The skill of the riders was particularly noteworthy. We watched gladiators fighting with various techniques. In other arenas there were horses, mules and a camel, demonstrating the roles of animals in War. As part of the re enactment of a second world war scene, there was even a flying spitfire.

After spending some time browsing the period stalls, I found a replica brass cloths pin. It was made by this 'Roman Soldier', and his wife was the stall holder. Brian bought some interesting herb plants to add to his collection back home.

As we walked around we found the The New St George Waits playing in a large tent, where there were chairs. They were playing English bagpipes, of which I have been a fan for a long time, hurdy gurdies, woodwinds etc.

We were really lucky with the weather that day, and so must have been the organisers. To have a weekend with two goods days of weather is pretty remarkable this year. On our drive there and back, the combine harvesters were slowly cutting their way through fields of wheat.

Ladies who lunch

Whilst persuading my friend Penny that she ought really to check whether she would get a state retirement pension, I joked that when she did get her pension, which in my experience there would be one, she could take me out somewhere lovely to celebrate.

It really does pay to check out what pension is due, and to remember for parents that from 1978, for years during which family allowance is claimed, credits are given to the parent to whom the payments were made. Also now only 30 years are needed to receive full pension. Penny was truly surprised and delighted with her arrears and her new pension.

We certainly had to mark this and Penny organised a wonderful day out. Although raining, the drive out to Ettington Park Hotel. The house is interesting and the location stunning. Part of the old church remains in the grounds and they also have some striking cedars.

The exterior is clad with a patchwork of stone, not randomly strewn but decoratively set in layers. The French and Italian Gothic Style reminiscent of John Ruskin, together with the interesting carved stone friezes, made this an interesting though rather strange house.

After a lovely lunch in large Drawing Room with views across the lawns, we sallied forth in the rain, and stopped at Compton Verney. There we had a browse round their shop, and tea and shared cake, before heading home.
Thanks for the treat Penny.

Feeling on top of the World

During all the rainy days, when one is more or less housebound, if getting around means getting on your bicycle, it is amazing what little jobs one finds to do. This little Clanger had been feeling a little horse and had been loosing its voice for some time. The sound was so dreadful, I had felt it was terminal.

For ages, I've been popping into any toy shop to ask if they had Clangers. I bought this one for Mr S years ago in Woolworth's in Cirencester. This little Clanger went under the knife, or more precisely scissors, and with a new battery returned to life.

She is now feeling so much better, that she had to pose for this picture.