Friday, August 28

Liesl - slightly 'armless

As promised - pictures of progress. Liesl came along very nicely during 20+ hours of flying time in the last ten days (plus of course the boring nights alone in hotels along the route. The glamour of business travel!)

I found the pattern very easy for most of the time, although when attention waned I did have to pull it back a few rows here and there. In its current form it is close fitting, but from experience I know that this yarn relaxes quite a lot when washed, so hopefully it will end up not having to stretch too much across my voluminous bosom.

Just got one sleeve to finish, and buttons to buy. And then wait for The Curse's presence to get a proper photo...!

Thursday, August 27

Green and brown

The green is this lovely Aran Donegal yarn which is waiting to be turned into something special - I think perhaps some felted mittens might do the trick.

And the brown/black is these fabulous muffins that I made just before I went away and I'm now enjoying the last few which I've exhumed from the freezer.

Believe it or not, the muffins are courgette and chocolate - the leftover chocolate from the choc-dipped orange peel and half an oversize courgette from Caterina's garden.

I used this recipe, but left out the cherries. They are truly divine; just chocolatey enough without being too dense and sickly.

In the intervening period I have been enjoying architecture in New York and San Francisco - in between working very hard, I hasten to add!

Liesl has been progressing almost to the point of completion, thanks to about 23 hours of flying time in total; in New York, however, I understood exactly what the Americans mean when they say it is too hot to knit! There will be pictures of progress as soon as I get some daylight for photography!

Saturday, August 15

Liesl/why I love Ravelry

So, with a week to go before my 10-day tour of the US (New York, San Francisco - yay! although I hasten to add it is business and I won't get a lot of free time...) I decided that I really should have a larger project to take with me as well as the usual travelling sock project.

There followed some browsing and looking at online yarn suppliers and humming and hahhiing and then I decided that I probably should do something like either Liesl or Hey Teach - a lacey summer cardi that would probably be finished just in time for the autumn... :-/

I started thinking about what kind of yarn to get, and of course it's always good to look on Ravelry and see what everyone else has used, especially when the recommended yarn is expensive, difficult to get hold of and/or you don't have much time to think about it.

I came across a bit of a problem - my usual online supplier was on hols, and getting yarn from them in time would be a push.

And then the revelation came - I saw that someone had used Jaeger Extra Fine Merino for one of these and I thought 'WOW! Don't I have about 15 balls of that in my stash that I have been trying to use for something for ever?!!'

It's one of those sale purchases that was made on the basis of the colour but without any particular project in mind. It's been the start of a jumper (frogged), a shrug that I don't really like and a scarf that I gave away. And I still have about 15 balls left! I'm pretty sure that the tightly-spun yarn will show off the pattern nicely, and that its weight will give it the right drape when finished. Plus I am knitting from stash. How smug do I feel?!

Of course the real proof will come in the wearing, so if you never hear of this project again, assume the worst....!

This photo was taken before the first frogging (and the second). I am now some way further on, and have learned that special attention should be paid if you follow the instructions for the buttonholes. Make sure you do the yarn over BEFORE you start the buttonhole instructions otherwise you will be one stitch short and your pattern will be all over the place. If you have tried this pattern before, you may have been there already...!

I'm off tomorrow - sadly I have little time for shopping in NY, although I may succumb in San Fran. But I'm going to try and keep travelling in the same direction with stash reduction, so might just hire a bike for the day and go out to Soselito and beyond, far away from yarn temptation.

See you in a while!

Thursday, August 13

Home-grown dinner

On Monday evening we dined on some wonderful home-grown goods. Considering we only have a small balcony, I think we did very well!

Cherry tomatoes for the salad and a chilli to go in with the potatoes, ginger, spring onions and garlic.

Salad leaves (minus Mr Shield Bug, who seems to be in the leaves every time I pick them, and usually emerges just before the washing phase!).

Basil, parsley and oregano for the salad.

And just to prove that I still knit, and this has not become a foodie blog, here's my latest socks. Plain toe-up socks with a half-price skein from the Yarn Yard.

Saturday, August 8

Chocolate covered orange peel

For someone who hated candied peel as a child, I have made great strides over recent years. I must stress, however, that this recipe produces candied peel as different from the candied peel you are used to as fresh-squeezed orange juice is different from Just Juice orange juice!

Four oranges
8oz sugar
8oz water
approx 8-10oz dark chocolate (as good quality as you like - I used a combination of Lindt 53% cocoa solids with sea salt and a 47% chocolate with roasted cocoa 'nibs'. Very tasty!

1. Slice top and bottom off the orange, then score skin into four quarters and peel it off the orange, along with pith

2. Cut the peel into long thin slices

3. Drop into a pan of boiling water and simmer for a few minutes. Drain, rinse in cold water and repeat.

4. Combine 8oz water with 8oz sugar, bring to boil, drop skin into it and cook for about an hour, checking occasionally to ensure it has not boiled dry.

5. Dry the peel (in a cool oven if necessary)

6. Melt chocolate in a dish in large pan of water.

7. Dip half length of peel in chocolate, then place on greaseproof paper and put in the fridge to cool.

Impress friends and relatives

Thursday, August 6

Rhubarb and ginger jam

On a recent episode of Cast On by Brenda Dayne, she talked about wanting to make jam, inspired by a glut of soft fruit. With the theme of the podcasts being 'make do and mend', I was shocked to hear her say that she was intending to send off to the USA for jam-making equipment - jam pan, special jars, etc etc. My mum always makes jam in her copper jam pan (I think it was inherited from a relative or something) but I find it works ok in a large pan from my normal collection. From the comments you can see that I was not the only person who does this!

Here's what I did in my lunchtime last week.

Two kilos of slightly scabby rhubarb bought from Deptford market for £1 (after all the grotty bits have been cut off, makes 1kg)
One kilo of pectin-enhanced sugar (a surprise find at Housewives Cash n Carry, about £1.50). Regular sugar should be fine, since you have the lemon juice
Chunk of root ginger from the fridge drawer
Lemon (found at home)

Cut scabby bits off the rhubarb, cut into chunks and put in a large pan with juice of one lemon, and a chunk of root ginger, peeled and finely chopped. You might need a splash of water (just a splash, mind!) to get it going.

Cook until the rhubarb is just falling apart. Add the sugar.

Boil gently for about half an hour, until it starts to set. Meanwhile, put your recycled jars and lids on a tray and place in a low oven (gas 2) for about ten minutes to sterilise.

Skim the worst of the scum off the top of the jam as it boils, and cook till it reaches setting point.

To check this, take a chilled saucer out of the fridge and blob a bit of jam on it. Wait for a few minutes, then push it with your finger. If there's a skin on it, it's ready. Decant into the jars and put the lids on while it is still hot.

A few points to remember:
- adding the sugar stops the fruit from breaking down, so if you want your jam chunky, add it sooner. Also if you want it more like jelly, without seeds etc, strain it through muslin.
- having sterile jars is very important, so make sure they are clean first, and don't miss out the oven bit (or use the hottest cycle in the dishwasher)
- don't boil too hard, otherwise it will stick to the bottom and burn. This is particularly true if you are using a normal pan rather than a jam pan.