Monday, 21 November 2011

Mushroom and cashew nut roast

I used to make this years ago when I was vegetarian but then I lost the recipe. It was my favourite nut roast because it's moist and full of flavour, plus it's simple to make. I've reconstructed it through guess work and I'm so pleased with the result that I'd like to share it with you. This recipe makes enough for four portions on a full roast dinner. I like to eat it cold with salad or veg as a filling work lunch too.

200g Mushrooms
100g Unsalted cashew nut crushed in a food processor or bashed with a rolling pin whilst still in their bag
1 onion
1 parsnip
80g breadcrumbs
1 tsp yeast extract (such as Marmite) dissolved in 100ml hot water
1 tsp mixed herbs
A little milk and butter (leave out for a vegan version)

Place a shelf in the middle of the oven and heat to 180C/356F/ Gas Mark 4.

Chop the parsnip into small chunks and boil until it's soft then mash it together with a little milk and butter.

Whilst you're waiting for the parsnip to cook, finely chop the mushrooms and onion and fry until soft.

In mixing bowl mix all the ingredients together well. Lightly oil a loaf tin and squish the mixture in. Bake for around 15 to 25 mins until crisp on top. If you want the rest of it to crisp up turn the roast out on to a baking tray and put it back in the oven for a few more minutes.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Easy White Bread

I'd like to share my everyday bread recipe with you. It's easy to make and takes about 2 hours from mixing the ingredients to taking it out of the oven. The recipe is based on various ones that I've tweaked and has a low amount of salt and sugar.




To make one full sized loaf or 10 to 12 baps you'll need:


700g strong white flour (bread flour)
1/2 tbsp salt
1 tsp caster sugar
25g butter (leave out of the fridge to soften for awhile)
1 x 7g sachet of fast action yeast
150ml milk (skimmed, semi-skimmed or whole - any is fine)
300ml warm (not hot!) water


Sift together the flour and salt. Rub in the butter. Mix in the sugar and yeast.


Make a deep well in the centre and pour in the milk and water. Mix together until it's all clinging together but still looks like a bit of a mess.


Lightly flour a work surface and turn the doughy mess out onto it. Knead it for 5 to 10 mins, making sure your work surface is always covered in flour otherwise you'll have bits of bready goo stuck to it. This bit is satisfying and, I think, quite relaxing, as you push and squeeze the dough and it becomes firm, bouncy and smooth. Kneading distributes the yeast and gluten through the dough so it's important to be thorough.


Now oil a large mixing bowl (I use spray oil as it's not messy and gives just a light layer of oil), put your dough into it and cover it with a clean, damp tea towel (recipes tend to say to cover it with oiled cling film but how the hell do you oil cling film?! For me getting it off the roll and over a dish is an achievement). Now leave it somewhere warm to rise for 1 hour. I put the oven on it's lowest setting for 5 mins whilst I'm mixing the dough then turn it off and put the dough in there to rise. If you do this don't use a plastic bowl and make sure the oven's off. Here's the dough before it's first rising:



 And here it is after rising for an hour, doubled in size and spongy:






Lightly flour your work surface again. The dough will be a bit sticky on top so sprinkle a little flour onto it before turning it out onto the work surface and kneading it again, though more lightly this time and for just a couple of minutes. This pushes out all the air that's been caused by the yeast fermenting and gives the yeast access to fresh nutrients to get stuck into. It will smell yeasty and lovely by now.


Shape the dough into rolls or a 'rustic' type loaf on a lightly oiled baking sheet or oil a 900g loaf tin and place the dough in. Cover again with the damp tea towel.


***If you want to freeze any of the dough now's the time to do it (it freezes and defrosts very well). There's only two of us in our house so unless we're having guests I split the dough in two, oil a plastic tub, drop in half the dough and freeze it. To defrost it I take it out of the freezer in the morning, put it in an oiled mixing bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and leave it a room temperature. By late afternoon it's defrosted, then I shape it into rolls or a loaf and continue with the rest of the process as normal.***


A batch of dough divided into half for baking now and half for freezing


Turn on the oven to heat to 220C/gas mark 7/425F and leave the dough to rise for 30 mins. Bake for 10 mins for baps or 30 to 40 mins for a full sized loaf. Relish the irresistible bread smell filling your home. Once cooked put on a wire rack to cool and enjoy knowing that you've got fresh bread with less salt, sugar and rubbish than a shop loaf, that hasn't been wrapped in plastic and has cost a fraction of the price.


A half batch of buns

Friday, 11 November 2011

The Bees Knees


Part of Down To Earth's 'On my mind...' post.

After reading about 'The new complete book of self sufficiancy' by John Seymour on A Journey To A Dream I had to find a copy and, lucky me, my local library happened to have it. It's quite a book, a real 'bible' for people seeking to be more or entirely self sufficient. It's straightforward and written in a down to earth way with a good dash of humour too and I'm finding it thought provoking as well as useful. I showed the book to Mr Crafty Blueberry, we got talking about the section on bees and I found out that he's keen to have a hive, which was a grand discovery. It's now high up on the agenda  for when we own our own house and would be a great addition to our garden as we want to be as productive in fruit and veg as possible, so bees would help with pollination. And can you imagine how good it would feel to have your own harvest of honey to cook with and add to home made soap, not to mention beeswax for candles? I'm continually amazed by the amount of things that can be produced at home. Before reading this book it hadn't occurred to me that we could keep a hive in an average sized garden. There's so much to learn when it comes to making things for yourself, I love all these discoveries and the fact that there's so much to learn.


I'm revelling in the joy of starting a new crochet blanket. This one is Attic24's Granny Stripe in various shades of pink, lilac, grey and navy. So far I've done 3 1/2 stripes and I'm very much enjoying it, it's a simple and satisfying pattern. It's part of the crafty healing process after the failed chunky cardigan (which is still bundled up and hidden from view in a basket - I'm not ready to face it yet, we still have issues).

I got a pretty charity shop bargain today...


...this sparkly candle holder for 50p. It needed a quick wash to get rid of a bit of dust and I think it looks very cosy and festive in it's little nook with my jug and favourite quartz crystals.

Well I'm off to do the laundry, wash the dishes and have some snuggly crochet time on the sofa.

Wishing you a lovely Autumn weekend.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Sweet Treat

I couldn't resist doing a bit of baking this evening so I made some scones and they turned out lovely and light. We ate one each straight out of the oven with butter and ginger and apple jam, oooo they hit the spot.



I keep thinking I should reign in the baking of sweet things a bit (I've, er, put on a bit of a 'Winter coat') but is it really that bad for me compared to the sweet stuff I'd buy if I didn't bake and wanted a treat? At least this way I'm doing something I enjoy and eating food that's free of preservatives and additives and where I can see exactly how much sugar, fat and salt's going in. It's not healthy but I think it must be better to have a home made scone with butter and good quality jam than a chocolate bar or ready made pudding. And this is more fun that nipping round to the shop for something sickly sweet and wrapped in plastic.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Saturday and Brack 'Lite'

I love Saturday mornings as they've become a productive and enjoyable time when I really feel like myself. On Saturdays I wake up without the alarm and, usually at about 9am, make a pot of good coffee and drink it in bed with Mr CB. We have breakfast and chat then he heads off to work for the morning and I roll up my sleeves, open all the windows and do a couple of hours of sweeping, tidying, washing and wiping until the house is looking comfy and clean again after a week of only the small daily chores being done as we both work full time. By the time lunch time comes around he's back from work and I've finished my routine and we're both ready to go out and enjoy the rest of the weekend. 


I often bake on Saturday mornings too, as it fits in well with all the other bits I'm doing, not to mention it makes the house smell great. This morning I've made Brack as my Dad likes fruit cake and I'm visiting him today.  This is my own version and I think of it as Brack 'Lite' as it's not as dense due to having less fruit. I also add cinnamon and nutmeg to it too for a bit of extra oomph. Here's the recipe, enjoy.



Makes about 10 slices

225g sultanas
175g caster sugar
150ml hot tea
1 egg
225g self raising flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
(OR use 1tsp allspice if you don't have cinnamon and nutmeg)

The night before baking mix together the hot tea, sugar and sultanas and leave to soak over night.

Next day grease a 900g loaf tin and line the bottom of it with greased baking parchment. Pre-heat the oven to 160 C/gas mark 3 and place a shelf in the middle of the oven.

Add the egg to the sultana mixture and beat together, then mix in the spices. Sift in half the flour, mix, then sift in the other half and mix again.

Spoon the mixture into the loaf tin and bake for between 1 and 1 1/2 hours, until a skewer or sharp knife pushed into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Let it cool in it's tin for five minutes then turn out onto a cooling rack.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Lotherton Hall

It was a beautiful day here so after a lovely long lie in (or knit in in my case, as I usually end up knitting for a couple of hours whilst Mr Crafty Blueberry snoozes) we filled a Thermos with soup and went to Lotherton Hall. It was a fun and cheap day out because for £3.70 (paid for parking) we visited the large Bird Garden, the 12th century chapel, the deer park and walked around the estate and gardens. It was a fine Autumn day and I enjoyed having a slow, easy stroll around.




There are deer there in the distance, honest
With all the warm weather lately I'd almost forgotten how stunning Autumn is, and I'm uplifted by all that there is to see, even when I'm just walking to work. I'm apprehensive about Winter though; the cold, the dark and the ice...so I'll be buying ice boots and following this series of posts on Thrifty Household with interest.  I try to see the good things about Winter every year, and as I result I get through the season more cheerfully than I once did, so I'm on the look out for any resources that can help. If only there wasn't so much ice though - it makes living on top of a hill rather tricky!

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Hodge Podge

Today's post is a bit of a hodge podge of things as my posts have been few and far between thanks to first the laptop then the laptop charger being broken. Not using the internet at home for a while has been enough to break my bad habit of spending ages online doing very little and forgetting the time. So even though the laptop's been up and running for a few days I've not used it until now. Mr CB feels the same so hopefully we can change things from now on, for the better.


So, nice things that I've done recently; I've found a stall in the market that sells cheap bunches of fresh flowers and have enjoyed having a big bunch of flowers in the living room now that Autumn's setting in and things are getting grey.


Me and Mr CB ran our twice yearly charity cake stall for Hope Pastures horse, pony and donkey sanctuary the weekend before last and raised £65. I came home laden with lovely bits and pieces, like a cashmere sweater for 50p, a vintage plate (perfect for tea time biscuits) for £1.50 and the old jug in the top picture for £1. I also got a jar of renowned Hope Pastures preserve. One of the volunteers there makes lots of great marmalade and jams, and this apple and ginger jam is to die for.


I've got into making bread once or twice a week so that it's been a while since we've bought a loaf of bread. I'm enjoying bringing a bread roll and home made soup to work most days, it's comforting in the middle of a stressful day.

I've been busy at home and have finally cleaned up the cellar, which I've been meaning to do for about 6 months. Here it is before...


...and after...

I chucked out masses of rubbish and a couple if bags of things for a charity shop, rearranged things a bit and the result is a more useful, usable space. The house feels very homely and comfortable right now, although the boiler is broken but should be getting fixed tomorrow. On the plus side this has led to me putting the portable halogen heater on, which has resulted in this:
A very happy kitty


Friday, 21 October 2011

Internet time

It’s been strange not posting for a while but it’s taken over a week to get the laptop repaired and now we’re waiting for a new charger to arrive as that broke too. I’ve missed the convenience of being able to do things like look up coach tickets and things, and I’ve missed posting here and keeping up to date on the blogs I follow, but not having access to the internet at home has had unexpected benefits too.

For the last week I’ve had more time in the evenings. Time that would usually be spent browsing online, often aimlessly, has been spent talking, knitting, baking bread, and reading. Me and my husband have given each other more time and attention and that’s benefited both of us. My evenings after work have seemed longer and I’ve slept better as I’ve not been taking in loads of information just before going to bed.

So much for the benefits, but what will happen when we get internet access at home again? We’ve discussed it and agreed that we don’t want to fall into the internet attention and time sucking trap again, but how do we stop it from happening? I havn’t figured that out yet but it is certainly on my mind. I think the best we can do is just keep an eye on ourselves and be aware of the issue. Sometimes recognising that something is happening can be enough to alter things.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Onion Soup


I came up with this recipe on Sunday when I realised I had nothing in to make lunch for work on Monday - just lots and lots of onions. It's very simple to make and full of flavour. I'm not sure what the cost works out as but it's not much. Unfortunately my laptop’s broken so I’m using public computers and can’t upload any pictures.

Makes 2 portions

300g onions, chopped (this is around 2 decent sized onions)
250mls milk
200mls veg or chicken stock
Half a tsp nutmeg
4 to 6 tbsp instant mash potato powder
Black pepper to taste
A generous chunk of butter to fry the onions in

Melt the butter in a large saucepan and add the onions. Fry on a medium heat until the onions are soft.

Add everything except the instant mash powder. Bring to a simmer. Add the mash powder a bit at a time until it's a thickness that you're happy with. Simmer for 30 mins.

Serve with crusty bread or, if you're bread's past it's best, cut it up, drizzle it in olive oil, toast it and have it as chunky croutons.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Dahlias and home brew


I got these lovely dahlias on my way back home through a trail of Lincolnshire villages. They were on sale outside someone's house for £1 a bunch and I couldn't resist getting two. They're a bright, though temporary, sunny souvenir. All week I saw lots of home grown produce for sale on little tables outside houses - flowers, apples, vegetables and eggs - and it felt very bountiful and autumnal. I loved that people were selling things they'd grown themselves.


Speaking of home made, today is the beginning of my Homebrew Experiment. I've been wanting to try it for awhile so today I got a 'U Brew' 7 day white wine starter kit and got it going. The boozy experiment is now sitting on a tray on the coffee table, fermenting and looking totally out of place, but it's the best place in the house to keep it at room temperature; the cellar and spare room are too cold, it would be in the way wherever I put it in our bedroom and the kitchen is tiny.  In seven days I'll have six bottles of something...I just don't know if it will be drinkable or, er, something else.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Back From My Hols

I got back from the seaside yesterday and although we were only away for four nights we packed a lot in. Whilst in and near Mablethorpe we experienced great weather...


...local heritage...


..and unusual beauty spots...


The beaches in that part of the Lincolnshire coast are beautiful, a mixture of seaside postcard and more natural. Whilst strolling along the sunny beach in Skegness we saw a wild grey seal popping it's head out of the water (it vanished back down again every time I tried to take a picture). There were loads of hares in the caravan park so it was great seeing them, and we met a very friendly, soft and fluffy beach donkey in Cleethorpes that tried to nick our greasy, sugary doughnuts. We visited the Mablethorpe Seal Sanctuary and oohed and ahhhed at rescued baby seals.


We enjoyed cooking good food in our cosy caravan each night then snuggling up to drink wine and watch a vast amount of 'Carry On' films. My finished granny square blanket came in handy on the last night when the temperature dropped more than it had all week.

I finished the socks I was working on and the leg of the first sock of one of the Christmas pairs.I made progress on the long cardigan but I'm finding it a bit of a slog.

We both picked up second hand bargains whilst we were away. I got these two big glass jars for £1 each to put my flour in so I don't have to have scratty flour bags sitting on the kitchen shelf, and Mr CB purchased a fine pipe for £4 from Ye Olde Curiosity Museum -  a packed, bizarre and fascinating cross between a museum, a shop and an attic full of miscellaneous treasure and nonsense.


With all the trips to the beach, exploring, seeing new things and spending all our time together it's been a fun, cheap and very cheerful holiday and we both had a great time.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Holiday, socks and crumpets (again)

This will be my last post until next weekend as - yay! - I'm going on my hols. Me and Mr Crafty Blueberry are going to stay in a caravan at the seaside and are both looking forward to in immensely.  The granny square blanket is very nearly done so it can join us on our jaunt. I'll be using all the time in the car to finish a pair of birthday socks and start knitting socks for Christmas (3 pairs this year) and I'm bringing the long cardigan to work on too. Today we'll be packing then tomorrow morning we'll be off to the sea.



I made my third batch of crumpets yesterday and, after changing the recipe based on the two batches I've made so far, they came out just right. The only issue was that I didn't grease the crumpet rings enough and they came out very ragged around the edges so despite having inner beauty they look terrible, thus no piccies here today. We had a barbecue last night (I can't believe how warm it was) and toasted the crumpets on it at the end; buttery barbecued crumpets really work. A friend put chocolate spread her's and Mr CB followed, but I don't know if I'm open minded enough to embrace this modern approach to crumpetry yet. 

Farewell for now, I hope to return with pics of the finished granny square blanket, progress made on the long cardigan and feeling refreshed and full of sea air.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Innocent Bear



Here's the last of my three patterns for Innocent Smoothies Big Knit 2011 - the other two patterns are Innocent Cupcake and Innocent Apple.


Innocent Bear is another fast little knit that needs very little yarn and is straightforward to make.


Materials:

4mm needles
About 5g brown double knitting yarn (or white for a polar bear!)
Very small amount of black double knitting yarn to embroider the bear's face

Hat

Using brown yarn cast on 28 sts.

Knit 18 rows in garter stitch.

Decrease for the top:

Rows 19 and 20: K2tog across the whole row to the end.



Cut yarn, leaving an 8 inch tail, thread through live stitchess and use to sew up the side seam.


Ears (make 2)


Using brown yarn cast on 6 stitches.


Knit 4 rows in garter stitch.


Row 5: K2tog, k2, k2tog.


Row 6: Knit


Cast off




Finishing:
Sew the ears to the top of the hat and embroider the facial features as shown in the photo.



Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Mini Harvest

Seeing as the weather's been unusually good today I say on the front step earlier and was looking around my garden. As I looked at a pot I'd been growing lettuce in I remembered that I'd planted garlic lower down in the pot. I had a root round and found these little lovelies -



Then I noticed that the rosemary had shot up so broke off a couple of sprigs and added them to the sweetcorn chowder I was making (it's simple and filling and very yum - I want to post the recipe here but need to weigh out the ingredients first and time it cooking, as I usually do it by sight and guessing). 'Twas blissful in a soily, garlicy, rosemary kind of way.


I also made bread. I havn't done it after work before but I found it relaxing to mix together the ingredients, knead the dough and enjoy the slow transformation over the evening from this...

After the first rising
...to this...
Bready bread
The recipe is straightforward herby bread (I added two tea spoons of dried chives to this one) and is from a cook book I have so I can't post it here, but I've found this one which is very similar if you'd like to give it a go. I think it's worth making bread at least once; it's slow and you may not make it often, but it's satisfying and pleasing to make. With this batch I've frozen half the dough after the first rising to see if it freezes and defrosts well. The loaf pictured is made with half of the batch of dough and is enough for three or four people with a bowl of soup or stew.

I was also pleased to find that my pjamas match my tea towel, and that both tie in nicely with my apron.



Monday, 26 September 2011

Thanks Down To Earth

I read this blog post today on the Down To Earth blog and whilst it was all useful, tip number nineteen has stuck in my head - "Make your home the kind of place you want to spend time in. Invite friends around instead of going out for coffee or drinks."  Simple but I found it inspiring - how many of us have homes that we really do enjoy spending time in? And how can we make it happen? It's something I've been aspiring to and feel that after much cleaning, sorting and conscious effort I'm finally getting there. The last two places I've lived in felt terribly impermanent and I can see now that I made a mistake in not putting the effort in to make them into my home, even for a short while. I love the little house I'm in now - it's sunny and snug and I've felt motivated to take care of it and make it mine, but really I could have felt much happier and more comfortable in the other two houses even though they weren't very nice if only I'd chosen to do something about it rather than leaving them sadly neglected.


Home, even when it's rented and temporary, is the base you retreat to at the end of the day. It should be somewhere to enjoy being and I think when we don't, for whatever reason, feel love for our home it has a knock on effect and can actually make us feel quite insecure, almost as if you've got nowhere to go back to. 


So I pledge to continue to strive to make my home somewhere I want to be, more than just a place to eat, sleep and keep my stuff - a special, loved and cared for place.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

The Weekend

I've had a productive and fun weekend. I slept badly and woke up early on Saturday morning so got up and, wearing my pyjamas and apron, did all my weekend cleaning. By 7.30 I was done and was sitting with a cat, a blanket and a piece of knitting on my lap, with the front door wide open for the fresh, rain in the night air. I took the opportunity to work out the shaping on the long cardigan I'm making for myself, which I got stuck on earlier in the week. The answer came to me in a dream! In my dream I remember picking up the unfinished left front and thinking "Ah ha, it's like raglan shaping". So when I woke up I knew what to do.


At 9.00 Mr Crafty Blueberry woke up so I made a pot of good coffee and we drank it in bed whilst talking and knitting. He's making me a scarf to go with my new red coat and he's become a neat knitter and a competent one, sorting out any little mistakes that crop up. I'm proud and also excited that someone I taught to knit is making something especially for me.


Once I'd worked out the cardigan shaping I finished off the left front but remain baffled by it; the shoulder shaping is like nothing I've ever seen and I don't understand why it's the way it is. I'm trying to trust that all will become clear when it comes to sewing all the pieces together...but I'm not so sure. I would have taken a picture of it to post here at this point but it's irritated me so I'm ignoring it for a couple of days. So let's just pretend that I have posted a pic here and that it looks baffling.

 As well as the cardigan I made good progress on a pair of socks for my niece's birthday in a couple of weeks, finishing the first one and casting on the second. I worked furiously on the boarder of the granny square blanket (one week until our holiday and I want it finished for chilly evenings in the caravan) and also made a tea cosy.  I didn't need to make a tea cosy - it's a Christmas present - but I had the idea for adapting a design in my head and had to make it. It's knit in chunky yarn so it knit up in a couple hours. Now I need to put it on a teapot to make sure it fits before sewing it up and embellishing it.

Further productivity came in the form of de-cluttering. I got rid of another foot high stack of magazines and a couple of feet of dvds, cds and books. Most of them, along with the knitting magazines, will go to a charity shop, but I've got a few to sell. I also cleared the pin board of all the out of date leaflets, coupons for things we'll never buy and masses of takeaway leaflets that we never use. After that I pulled out the overflowing medical box (ok, the big biscuit tin with all our paracetamol and stuff in) and chucked out all the out of date things, of which there were a worryingly large amount. Then I cleared off the top of the microwave (why were there so many tools on top of it?) so I'd have somewhere to keep my snazzy recipe box and the bread. We live in a small house with a tiny kitchen so finding space for such things as a loaf of bread and the kettle takes the skill of one hundred dedicated Tetris players. I don't have this skill but I'm attempting to learn it.

Today was a far more chilled out affair. I sat in bed and worked on the granny blanket for absolutely ages whilst it chucked it down outside. We went to Manchester in the afternoon so I scored ample sock knitting time on the way there and back. Sometimes I love not being able to drive.

And finally, I picked these wee little sweet tomatoes from the plants growing by my front door, which are fruiting extravagantly now that Autumn's arrived. They've taken an age to ripen and I was worrying they never would, but it turns out they were just teasing me.


Naughty little teasing tomatoes.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Innocent Apple



This is my second pattern for a hat for Innocent's Big Knit 2011 (the first is a cupcake hat and can be found here). It's an apple hat, complete with a leaf and a stalk and it's very easy to make. All hats have to be sent in by 14th October 2011 - sorry for posting this pattern so late in the game!

Materials:

4mm needles
About 5g red double knitting yarn
Very small amounts of green and brown double knitting yarn

Hat

Using red yarn cast on 28 sts.

Row 1: K1, P1 to end.
Row 2: P1, K1 to end (this gives you two rows of moss stitch)

Change to stocking stitch and work 12 rows.

Decrease for the top:

Row 13: K2tog to end (14 sts)
Row 14: P2tog to end (7 sts)

Cut yarn, leaving an 8 inch tail, thread through live stitchess and use to sew up the side seam.

Leaf


Using green yarn cast one one stitch.
Row 1:  Increase once into this stitch (2 sts)
Row 2:  Increase once into each stitch (4sts)
Row 3:  Knit
Row 4:  K1, increase in next 2 sts, K1 (6 sts)
Rows 5 to 7:  Knit
Row 8:  K2, K2tog, K2 (4sts)
Row 9:  Knit
Row 10:  K2tog twice (2 sts)
Row 11: K2tog then cut yarn and pull the tail through the last remaining stitch to fasten off.

Stalk


Using brown yarn cast on 6 sts then cast them off again.

Making up


Sew up the back seam of the hat then sew the stalk and leaf on top as show in the picture. Done!

Monday, 19 September 2011

Detox

My head and body have been feeling sluggish recently so I've decided it's time for a detox. As of today myself and a colleague are trying a week long detox to clear out the rubbish and start afresh. It's going to be hard as I'm in the habit of snacking but a week of clearing out toxins and breaking away from bad habits, such as munching through biscuits when bored at work and thinking that healthy is having just one cake a day, will do me good.

To keep pace with the physical detox I also 'detoxed' my craft cupboard on Saturday, following a big success last weekend clearing out food cupboards. Here's what it looked like before clearing it out:


And here it is after the clear out:


I cleared out lots of old leaflets and cards for recycling and a large stack of magazines and a bag of bits and pieces for a charity shop. Oh the novelty of being able to see what I've got and get to it without everything falling out of the cupboard. Next I'm going to attempt another cupboard and (shudder) the wardrobe.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Car Boot Gold

I went to a massive car boot sale today and, whilst lots of browsers sheltered from the cruel driving rain, me and Mr Crafty Blueberry plodded on, examining the damp goods on display. I was rewarded for my damp devotion to car booting with this rather kitsch 1970's recipe box for £2:


Here it is posing in the afternoon sun with my set of Ladybird coasters - they match so well:


I love the pictures of over elaborate '70's dinner party dishes on the front and, inside, a cheesy, cheesy, cheesy 'Recipe For Preserving Children':


Ewwwwwwwww, wholesome.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Moments

Lately I’ve been focusing too much on what I don’t have rather than on what I do have which, when I stop for a moment to think about it, is a hell of a lot. I’ve been thinking about what I want that I havn’t got – a home of my own, a career I enjoy, money to do more – rather than wanting what I already have. Over the past 18 months  I’ve cultivated love and interest in the simple pleasures of life but at times it’s felt like I’ve used them to build a flimsy wall against reality; inevitably, it got knocked down.

When this happened I felt crushed – all the bright things I’d hidden behind felt empty and worthless. After a couple of months of feeling wretched I began to feel an interest in the little things again, only second time around it was different. Rather than building up lots of little, separate moments and activities, like bits and pieces thrown into a drawer, I began learning to connect them all together. All the things I took pleasure in had become the lifestyle I wanted, gradually and without me noticing.

It’s hard to truly appreciate what we have in our lives that is good; it’s too easy to buy into the attitude that we always need something more or something different, that life now isn’t enough. Most people want things that they havn’t got; I want to learn to want what I’ve already got and to enjoy the time I have now rather than wishing it away for something better. Life isn’t perfect but I have so much that I should appreciate. One of the reasons I started this blog was to highlight all the simple pleasures to myself, to truly see them rather than letting them pass by, taken for granted.  Every now and then I need to remind myself that they’re more than just little moments, small pursuits taken up to pass the time, because they’ve become part of who I am and of the life I enjoy now, not of a (potentially unattainable) future.



Monday, 12 September 2011

Crumpets and Crochet

I made my second attempt at crumpets at the weekend and they turned out much better than the last ones - more bubbly on top, squishy in the middle and with a spot on flavor. This time around I used this recipe which is written with true crumpet loving zeal. It's the sort of thing where they're tricky to cook in just the right way, but I'm getting better at it. I would have taken a picture but they all got eaten with masses of butter and a great deal of employment.

I took advantage of the last bit of Summer weather to do some crocheting in the sun.


All the squares on my granny blanket are joined together now and I've started the massive boarder. I decided to make the blanket larger, seeing as I had plenty of yarn in my stash, by making it 12 x 14 squares rather than 12 x 12, so that's 168 squares altogether. It's been a yarn guzzling beast, and god knows what it weighs even without the boarder. Sewing in all the little fiddly ends of yarn is a pain in the bum but I'm just doing it a few squares at a time so it's ok.  I keep laying it out to admire all the colours together and on each occasion the cats have given it their blessing by attempting to sleep on it.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Room To Grow Baby Sweater







This is a generously sized sweater knit in stretchy garter stitch, increasing the length of wear on fast growing babies. The arms and neck are wide to help parents with the challenge of wrestling clothing onto a wriggling baby. It’s easy to knit, simple and practical and the garter stitch also makes it rather cuddly. I designed it last year when I knew loads of people who were expecting babies and wanted to knit them something they could use that wasn't really fiddly. I've made six or seven of these, it's become a reliable stand by pattern for me.

To fit 0 – 3 (3 – 6) months
4mm straight needles
100g (125g) double knitting yarn
2 buttons
Crochet hook sized between 3.5mm and 4mm (optional)
Gauge: 20 sts to 4 inches of garter stitch. Row gauge isn’t necessary for this pattern – woo hoo!

WORKED IN GARTER STITCH THROUGHOUT.

PATTERN

Left arm

Cast on 32 (40) sts. Knit until arm measures 5 1/2 (6 1/2) inches, ending with RS facing.

Cast on for body

At the end of the current row cast on 30 (33) sts. 65 (73) sts in total.

Knit across all sts and cast on 30 (33) sts at the end of the row. 92 (106) sts in total.

Work on all 92 (106) sts until body measures 1 ½ inches, ending with WS facing.

Separate for front

Knit 46 (53) sts, slip the remaining 46 (52) sts onto waste yarn to be worked on later.

The 46 (53) sts on the needle will be the front of the sweater. Knit until front measures 8 (8 ¾) inches, ending with RS facing. Break yarn and slip the stitches for the front onto waste yarn.

Re-join for back

Slip back sts off waste yarn and onto a needle ready to be worked. Re-join yarn and knit until back measures 8 (8 ¾) inches, ending with RS facing.

Finish body

Slip front sts off waste yarn and onto a needle. Knit across front sts so that the front and back are now joined together. Knit on all 95 (106) sts until the front and back measure 9 ½ (10 ¼) inches, ending with RS facing.

Cast off for right arm

Cast off 30 (33) sts at the beginning of the next two rows. 32 (40) sts remaining.

Work on these 32 (40) sts until arm measures 5 1/2 (6 1/2) inches. Cast off.


You’ll have a piece of knitting that looks like this:

Finishing

Weave in loose ends securely. Fold sweater in half into a ‘T’ shape so that the front and back are against each other and the arms are folded in half. Sew side and arm seams. Use a crochet hook  to make two 1 ½ inch lengths of crochet chain or just make a loop out of a length of yarn. Sew each chain into a loop and attach 1 inch in from each neck edge. Sew on a button on each side to correspond with the loops. Wrestle onto a baby.