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.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Typical knitter

The chill in the air this week saw me looking for a sweater on my lunch break yesterday as, for someone who spends much of her spare time playing with wool, I have a woefully under stocked Autumn/Winter wardrobe. Here’s my thought process as I looked around the shops:
           
1)      Millets – warm fleecy sweaters in my price range but not very interesting.
2)      Primark – fashionable acrylic monstrosities within my budget. No.
3)      Charity shops – very little cooler weather stock on the rails.
4)      Hang on, I’m a knitter. Maybe I could make myself something instead…
5)      …but it would take a while.
6)      Not if I use chunky yarn.
7)      And I need a project to work on when I go away over the weekend for three days since my granny square blanket is now far too big to lug around with me (yes, you spotted it – the birth of an excuse to buy yarn).
8)      The yarn shop – seven balls of Sweet Briar chunky and a pattern for a long cardigan.
9)      Back at work – one of my colleagues pointed out that it’s cold now, so even though it’s a fabulous colour I may have been better off bypassing the yarn and buying a sweater I can wear immediately. She had a valid point – but non the less I have a big bag of yarn and I’m happy.