Friday, 29 January 2016

Maize Mitts

Maize Mitts made for my friend Kevin are just the ticket for keeping his hands warm whilst in the workshop and gardening.  We were chatting on Facebook on Monday, and Kevin asked if I had seen Countryfile on Sunday, at there was a piece about wool.  Of course I watched it on i player, then we continued chatting about things woolly...and it ended up in my offering to knit him some finger-less mitts in pure wool, to keep his hands and wrists warm whilst he worked on this cooler winter days.

If they were purely for playing the piano they may have been fluffy and perhaps more stylised with cales and motifs, but he said he wanted them for working in, so some not so fluffy yarn was called for this straight forward sturdy pair.  I found just the yarn from my stash...some balls of Australia Sirdar Double Crepe brought by my sister Lizzie from Australia a few years ago.  Its sure to be vintage as there are no washing instructions and the weight is 1oz...remember the days?

These are amazingly simple to knit, and the pattern is free

I used the magic loop method with a long fixed circular needle, which was much easier to use compared to the short double ended needles, though I did revert to these for the thumb.  I already had the needle in my 'workbox', but lately I have been knitting socks using two shorter circular double ended needles and have found a very good supplier, where they are dispatched and in my experience arrive next day...what a service: from Woolstack.

Finished by Wednesday evening, they were popped them in the post on Thursday, and he got them today: Friday!

Whilst I was knitting them, I got my hero to try them on, so that I could gauge the he wants a pair, and am on the second mitt already.  That will be nearly all that yarn used am doing well on knitting through my stash.  I think I shall make some more pairs of mitts in more frivolous yarns, with dainty patterns.

Kevin is a wonderful gardener as well as being good at other things.  He writes beautifully and very knowledgeably about orchids on his blog.  He also grows his own veg, and knows a lot about succulents.  A few years ago me brought me a very little Crassula Buddha's Temple succulent plant, and I have since propagated them, and here are three of the latest posing with his gloves.

Monday, 25 January 2016

In a Vase on Monday - Snowdrops

Before I start, I must mention that when I opened Cathy's contribution this week, I beautiful: a real gem, so do go and see what the one whose brilliant idea this weekly meme was, has created.

Its warm and sunny today, not quite like other 'normal' winter days.  Looking back at when I have posted about the snowdrops in the garden, I would say that the snowdrops are about three weeks early.

I picked a few of the double ones for this vase.  I don't think they are anything special variety...I did not pay a King's ransom for these.  The doubles are a little more advanced than the singles, and the flowers are appearing before the foliage. I planted them the first Spring we moved to this house, and I loved the comment on Gardeners Question time that year explaining that Snowdrops should be split every four years, and by and large I have done this every leap year.  There are several really good clumps in the garden, and I have been able to give bulbs to friends too.  I also plant seeds, so the clumps keep coming up.  I wonder whether the squirrel is moving them around?

They needed a little foliage and chose some inky purple leaves from Ophiogon planiscapus nigrescens and the variegated ones from planiscapus Little Tabby, which I bought last year from Cotswold Garden Flowers.

Close up the little green horse shoe shows up really well doesn't it?

Sharing the window sill today is my little vase which held the spring flowers last week, my miniature pottery hen, which holds my dried chilies, and the pewter tea caddy.  The hen came from my Aunty Prue.  She collected the china hens and had a vast collection, well over thirty, and on a visit many years ago she offered me one...but my eye was caught by the very little one!  She was slowly giving them away, and very often was asked by her Village to donate one as a prize for the Local Village Show.  Aunty Prue is no longer with us, but each time my gaze falls on my little hen I think of her!

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Where did we go yesterday?

Have you guessed yet?

It was to the City where Worcestershire Sauce is made.  It is still made there but sadly I understand that it is part of the Heinz Group now, so no longer British Owned.  I have always loved Lea & Perrins Sauce, maybe because my Daddy loved it too, adding it to his cold lentils with a little dash of olive oil, with sea salt and grindings of black pepper!

I always have a bottle somewhere mainly as a reminder of my time when I was with Dad, when Mum and sisters were abroad.    He and I played at 'gourmets'...and Worcestershire was part of the game all those years ago in Mauritius, used as a condiment on starters of artichokes, salsify or scorzonera, together with cooked cold pulses, and other salads.  I remember his showing me how to make real mayonnaise too.  I think that now we would mostly use Balsamic Vinegar but I had not tasted it then, and I am not sure that Mauritius would have imported it.  I wonder whether Dad had it when he was in Italy during the War.

The board  about Worcestershire Sauce was in the hallway of the Tudor House Museum on Friar Street. It is along  Friar Street, so  it is worth veering off the main High Street to explore.

We were told about this at the Tourist Information office at the Guildhall.  There were a couple of places we would have visited, except we were told they were closed during the 'quiet season'.  Anyway, we had plenty to see, and shall of course be returning again.

The Guildhall was open and visitors welcomed in.

Each side of the main Entrance are statues

and inside the rooms are still used for functions

There are some lovely paintings, and the long windows look as if they still have mostly original glass, and peering down I could see that it was nearly time to look for somewhere to have lunch.

We had a delightful lunch at G & Tea, I had coffee and I shared my sandwich with Mr S and he shared his scone from his Cream Tea!  Elegant Sufficiency!

We spent quite some time looking round Worcester Cathedral, and next time, I shall get a photography permit...Afterwards we found steps down from the Cathedral leading down to the river, which gave us a nice walk as the sun went down, back to our car, avoiding all the traffic and hullabaloo of the City.

Friday, 22 January 2016

Milk Buns from Japan

The Facebook group baking from Jane Mason's The Book of Buns current challenge is Milk Buns from Japan, on page 63.  In the northern part of Japan they do keep cows and have milk, and this very light fluffy bread is a great hit there.

You start with a roux made by pouring boiling water into some of the flour, then incorporating it when it is cold into the rest of the ingredients.  For the 350g flour there is 50g sugar and 50g butter, an egg, salt, milk, and or course yeast.  This is in addition to the roux mixture which has 50g flour.

Jane Mason explains the technique of rolling out the dough and shaping it very well.  I'm not sure whether I managed to follow it exactly, as I can't remember whether I flipped over each bun between the folding.  I did the first roll out of all the eight pieces of dough.

Finally they all went into my longest loaf tin, given to be some time ago by Penny.

Its rather cool at the moment, and I knew that these were meant to to light and fluffy buns.  I watched to see when I thought they were ready to go in the oven, and it took nearly two hours for the last prove rather than the 1 hour given in the recipe.

Being part of the group, and with other people sharing their experiences,  by seeing what other have managed, you learn...and I realised that I would have to watch these buns carefully.  I put the light on in the oven, and could see than even at Gas No 6 they would scorch, so at 20 minutes, turned the temperature down to Gas No 5 and balanced a piece of baking parchment over the top.  The buns were really thoroughly cooked after 30 minutes, rather than the 45 minutes given in the recipe.

Friday must be bun day here...and we even have some 'spares' in the freezer, just in case I cannot for some reason or other rise to the occasion of baking a special batch.

Mr S was delighted by the sight of what he called 'catterpillar' bread, when he came in from work.  So after our walk, we sat down to tea and a bun.  The bun, which is more like a tear apart 'doorstop', is delicious.  It was light and just ever so slightly warm.  Mr S had his just like that, but decided a little butter, as he spied that I had mine with butter and my homemade cherry jam.  We shall enjoy this for breakfast over the next few days!

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Laverne Socks finished

With my last project completed, yesterday I was rooting around for another knitting project, and looked through my stash of yarn.  I have a couple of skein of Colinette Jitterbug which I have had stashed for a few years now.  I bought it from the Web of Wool knitting shop in Leamington, where I used to go regularly to the little soiree organised by Anna the Shop Owner, and must have fallen for it one evening.  The shop is now closed.

I have decided to use up the oldest wool first, so started with this gorgeous mainly green one, hand painted from Wakes.  I had read previously that the yardage was a little tight and was a little apprehensive, so with digital scales wound off half, to make sure that I got two socks!

I chose a nice pattern, and got started on that...but then had cold feet....I think quite the right pun here.  The twist is strong and the yarn was not doing justice to the pattern, and the pattern not doing justice to the yarn.  So I have pulled out what I had knitted, and am just making a plain pair.

Seville Marmalade

Yes, the preserve is now potted up...and I am wondering whether to make a second batch this week!  I know my son wants a couple of jars, so will there be sufficient for a year?  Oh yes, and one jar will be entered into the marmalade competition at the Kenilworth Horticultural Club Spring Show in April, and one jar needed elsewhere...yes I think another smaller batch is called for.

I've had the windows open a little today as we had had some lovely sunshine, and with the smell of marmalade..there is a lovely fresh smell in all the rooms. Well nice if you like marmalade!  However once you are immersed in the smell you don't seem to notice it, but after a little time outside when you come in, it is very noticeable.

Monday, 18 January 2016

In a Vase on Monday - Small can be beautiful

Maybe I ought to have said small is beautiful, certainly in the case of these flowers.  After wind, ice, and snow, and marauding slugs and snails, I am really happy to have just these few little blooms from the garden to present today.  The  vase is a small cut glass bowl, a little Christmas Present from my dearly beloved, in recognition to my recent fascination, and inquisitional forays round the local Charity Shops, and this one came from a local one too!

Cathy who hosts this meme, this week has a very posh vase..and has very cleverly used the snow as a backdrop which brings a wonderful light to her arrangement.  Do go and have a peep there

It was quite tricky to arrange the flowers...I added some shingle to the base of the vase, and tied some wires from some of the blooms, which got covered with the pebbles so as to get the blooms to stand up!

The flowers and foliage:
Common/wild/native primrose...just two of several but the others have been nibbled.
self sown cyclamen
Tiarella which has had a bloom or two or three all winter
White heather
Snowdrop one double and one single
Leaf from Arum Italicum

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Seville Oranges: the season's markers

The bitter Seville oranges best loved by Marmalade makers have arrived in shops and supermarkets.  This is a bitter fruit, full of pith and pips, quite light in weight compared to juicy sweet oranges.   The skin however is a lovely rich orange colour and is full of delicious aromatic oils, giving a lovely colour to Seville Marmalade, and the pith and pips are rich in pectin.

I missed making Seville Marmalade last year, as I still had quite a few jars left in the cupboard, and also love making other marmalades. This year however we are ready for a few jars. I suppose I could freeze the oranges as I have done in the past, but it is lovely to use produce in their right season. With not too much going on in January, how nice to have something that is truely a marker of this time of the year.  Lemons and other citrus fruit are good at the moment too.

 I love to make the Marmalade the slow way, which means making it over three days, thereby gaining the advantage of spreading the work around other things going on, and also has the great benefit of allowing much of the pectin to flow out of the peel and into the liquid giving a lovely jelly consistency to the preserve.   I do however have some 'speedy' elements in that I use the pressure cooker to soften the fruit.

I checked my entry  on my other blog Mrs Mace Preserves, for my 2014 batch of Seville Marmade, and feel that I shall follow that method.  Today I have simply prepared my fruit by cutting it into largish pieces and put to soak.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Portmeirion Socks

I was just checking through my special pillow case which contains some of my new knits, when I came across this lovely pair of socks, which were knitted in 2014.  I had quite forgotten about them as they were in my pile of possibles for competitions etc.  Again these were knitted in a really soft yarn in one of my favourite colours.

The pattern for Porteirion Socks just reminded of the lovely ferns I had seen growing wild in Yorkshire...and come to think I have been in some lovely woods in Wales not far from Portmeirion where the fern grew amongst the mosses under the oak trees.

I have started to grow more ferns in the garden, their forms are so numerous, and they do very well in the shady part of the garden, both in pots and in the ground.

Monday, 11 January 2016

Laverne Socks continued

I can usually spot a good design, and being a fairly experienced knitter love a good challenge.  The Laverne Socks looked like just the right design for my 'competition socks'.  As you can see I am knitting them on two fixed ended circular needles.  I really enjoy using the Knitpro fixed circular knitting needles, and the wooded tips are both sharp and smooth at the same time.  


I realise now that I ought to knit the two socks more or less as the same time, since when I get to fiddly bits, I do a bit of 'finessing', but worry that I will do exactly the same thing on the second sock. Of course normally I wouldn't worry too much, but you need to impress judges!  I will knit each sock up to the fiddly bits separately, do the fiddly bits on each, then continue etc.  Each sock in the pair would then be finished more or less at the same time.  I had this eureka moment during this pair of socks, so will be sending off for another two needles!

This is definitely the easiest way to knit socks, compared to the four or five needles.  I have quite a few pairs of bamboo and birch short needles.  With the two circular needles you never loose them whilst knitting!  It is also very easy to position batches of stitches for a pattern area on one needle, and plain stitches on 'the sole needle'.

As soon as I had started the foot part of the sock, I realised that there were multiple errors in the pattern.  I had corrected them on my enlarged chart, where I marked them with my highlighter, but I was concerned that other knitters may waste some time over these and end up 'frogging' their project, or in desperation consigning their project to the bin!  Isn't it wonderful that with the internet, it is so easy to send queries that can go straight through to designers and publishers.  Yes I had spotted all the errors which I had highlighted on my working sheet, which had occurred when they had transcribed the authors pattern into a chart with their standard house style.  They have now posted an updated version.

This yarn comes in two balls...and even when I am knitting one pair of socks from a 100g ball, I often worry about whether I shall enough, and sometimes my digital scales come out.  As I have increased the length of the rib section, and increased the number of motifs from five to seven, I was getting a little anxious.

Here is my sock nearly finished and just being tried on, so that I can judge when to start the toe, to make it a perfect fit.

I arrived at the end, and had just a comfortable amount left, and was ready to sew the ends together using the  Kitchener Stitch which looks just like knitting and leaves no ridge or lump or bump.  I sat in a sunny conservatory where the light was much better to do this last bit.

So one sock is finished...and now the second one is being knitted up!

If you are knitting this pattern, or any other sock, and would like to link up with yours, please leave a comment, and if you are posting on your blog, please mention mine.  Happy Knitting....

In a Vase on Monday - Plain and Simple

I am quite amazed that in sheltered gardens, as in Cathy's there are sufficient little blooms to make up a vase.  Make yourself a cuppa, settle down and go see how Cathy has presented her colourful little arrangement this week.  Then continue and see what others have come up with.  Then if you would like to, why not join Cathy's blog for the rules.

Here there is very little in the garden, but I have 'acquired' this nice little pebble like Vase.  In one of our many Charity Shops in town I found this little vase just after Christmas, and for a few coins the golden ones, this vase still with the original label 'Chessel Pottery' and an impress in the pottery came home to join my growing collection.

Very little is coming up in the garden yet...we have a very cold situation here: we can have a couple of inches of snow over the garden and road, and just a few hundred yards away it is clear.  It has become much colder, so I shall have to be patient.  There are several spring bulbs trying to force themselves through the damp and very soil, but I shall have to be patient.

 Again on another walk, a few twigs and sprig of ivy with its fruit caught my voila...

I look forward to having some knowledgeable description of the type of pottery and glazes from other members of Cathy's meme In a Vase on Monday, for I know that there are potters amongst them. So another side ways view of the vase.

I am very happy to report that the blossom on my twigs from last week is starting to open.  I went back to look at the tree with the broken branch on the ground, but it had been cleared up, so I shall just have to cherish what I already have.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Sfeeha from The Book of Buns

These are little meat buns from the Middle East.  Of course there are many variations and ways of folding the dough...and no doubt I shall explore these in the future.

For the first challenge on 2016 from The Facebook page, we have Sfeeha.  I followed the recipe exactly, but made twice the filling, since my minced lamb came in a 400g packet, and the packet of pine nuts was 100g, when the recipe has 50g, and the green pepper need not be halved, it was begging be be made double the quantity.  

I carefully used only half of the finished 'stew' of lamb, peppers, onions, tomato, herbs, spices and pinenuts.  It is so very delicious that I will use the remainder to stuff and roast a butternut squash.  I have never used this combination of spices and with the lemon zest and juice it tastes superb!

The dough is pretty firm, but after previously asking about firm dough on the Facebook page, I knew to persevere.  I now have 10 very large buns and completely agree with Jane Mason the author about their being "like lamb pizza, only better".

Monday, 4 January 2016

In a Vase on Monday - The Bare Necessities

That just about sums up my contribution this week...A Vase and Something to go into it: the bare necessities.  On the other hand Cathy has come up with a lovely montage with spring blossoms.

The garden is just too wet to walk down...I  spy a few roses still, they have really had their day though.  Feeling penned in, I have just had to go out most days over the Christmas for walks, often leaving the dearly beloved behind.  I have kept to pavements, going out sometimes very early in the morning, and sometimes late at night.  Time to reflect and time to ruminate, and sometimes nearly trip over branches which have been brought down by the strong winds.

This time of the year with deciduous trees denuded, we can admire their bare bones, their structures and the way these have been further altered by the elements, or in the case of street trees shaped by passing lorries and buses!

Just made up of the 'bare bones' ...the bare twigs in my vase are an Alnus, exactly which variety I do not know, but the road is planted up with them for about 200m each side, and Summer and Winter I often stop to admire their structure with catkins in the spring, and later the cone like fruits, and pick up pieces of it from the footpath or grass verge.  We planted a golden Alnus with cut leaves in our last garden which performed beautifully, and if we have to plant another garden tree it may be this one again!

The second set of twigs were prized from a much larger branch torn off from flowering cherry tree by strong gales.  Round about the house, the roads have wide grass verges, and often I chunter under my breath about people who park up and gouge large chunks out of the soft earth: for sure they are not gardeners!  Each street seems to have different flowering cherries...and maybe, just maybe, in a couple of weeks time I may have a peep of blossom from these twigs...who knows?

The runner which my mum used to have, normally rests in my linen chest of drawers, and it was when I was hanging up some crochet stars, that the idea of bringing this out occurred to me.  I have had it for years, and this is its first outing, except for its yearly wash and press!

Friday, 1 January 2016

Laverne Socks

My new knitting project: Laverne...a pair of socks, with lots of special stitches...and the need for my little rosewood cable needle.  Several years ago my dear knitting friend Judith gave me three beautiful rosewood cable needles, so whatever project I am working on with cables, there is always just the right one!  I chose this pattern by Rachel Coopey, and is came as an addition to my recent Knitter magazine.  A little more complex than most patterns, as each row is patterned, hence the bite!

I am hoping when they are finished that can be entered later this year, if any local shows are looking for knitting entries.  I entered a pair last year at the Leek Wootton Show.  For the yarn I found a couple of balls in my stash of a really soft sock yarn: Regia Angora Merino.

Winter Walk to Ashow

Yesterday it was lovely sunny warm morning, and I was just itching to go somewhere local for a walk.  We walked to Ashow, across the footpath over the roaring dual carriageway, which quickly dips below an old stone bridge, then on quietly to the little village of Ashow.  The footpath I believe follows an old road and is called Rocky Lane, it has steep banks, with some wonderful trees where the roots are exposed, and where ferns dripping with moisture seem to be in leaf both summer and winter.  The Lords and ladies were already piercing the leaf mould, and on a shady bank a whole area of white blooms from some comfrey.  I'm not sure if it is wild or maybe has grown from some flytipped.

Through the village, I spied various very early flowering plants in front gardens, but we continued past the locked church, to the path over the swollen river, and walked a little way along it just to check whether any of the small islands of reeds had been washed away.

On our way back, we found that the Church of the Assumption of our Lady, which dates from the early Norman period was open.  We usually have a sit on the bench and enjoy a little rest there.  On our many walks past, this was the first time the Church was unlocked, and decided to have a little visit. Mr S read the history notes, but I just had a peep at the various wall plaques and simple but very effective arrangements of holy and ivy with white candles..

and then on our way out, amongst various notices I found this one..someone has a great sense of humour!