Cooking · Gardening · Own designs · Spinning

You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep spring from coming.

Pablo Neruda

1-P1000973
Miniature Daffodil

It’s been too long.  I’ve been trying to get a post together for weeks but I just haven’t got here until now.  I started the month off sort of unwell – again.  I have a very tiny lump on my temple, had it for ages, and it was so small that the only time I knew it was there was if I ran a finger across my temple and I could just feel it under the skin. Some time last month it decided to flare up, as apparently they do, and it became very large and angry. To cut a long and rather gruesome story short, after a few weeks of trying to deal with it myself (don’t say anything!) I woke up one Sunday morning to find the whole of one side of my face rather larger than the other. It’s quite interesting being able to see two different people in the mirror at the same time; but perhaps not quite as much fun as you would think! It was another 24 hours before I could see a doctor, (our local drop in centre is to be avoided unless you are in immediate danger of death as far as I’m concerned) who put me straight onto a heavy course of penicillin/antibiotics.  We discussed what it may do to my weak digestive system, but in all honesty I had no other choice but to take the course. As my Dr. kindly pointed out, it was either that or be admitted to hospital where they would do the same anyway. I still may have to have the lump removed but at the moment it is all healing nicely and apart from a small mark, has all but disappeared once again. The drugs did make me very ill, as we knew they would, and have upset my system to such an extent that I am now back to where I was six months or more ago as regards to digestive health. I know from tests that I have already lost two types of beneficial bacteria that I should have in my system, ones that aren’t so easy to replace, now I don’t know if I’ve lost any more following this course of treatment. The good thing is that I’m starting from a much stronger point. I heal much better than I did, and at least now I know what I need to do to give everything the best chance of recovery. I’m hoping that, as with a lot of things, experience will make things much easier second time round. It’s frustrating, but it is what it is.

So, that is why I haven’t been around for a bit. Enough of the doom and gloom, since I have recovered some of my energy back I haven’t been sitting around.

Spring has started to, well, spring around here.  The blueberry is starting to make moves toward flowering.  Last year was a poor year, as far as this plant was concerned, so I fed it well all through the summer and am hoping that it shows its’ appreciation this year by giving us a bumper crop, weather permitting.

Blueberry 1
Blueberry buds

I’ve been spinning a little too.

Norwegian Tops
Norwegian Tops

A few years ago now I purchased two of these beautiful Norwegian tops from Wonderwool Wales. A natural humbug mixture. I’ve started with the white and plan to keep the colours separate, hoping to use them in something together, perhaps a pair of socks with different coloured heels, leg and toes.

Norwegian Tops
Norwegian Tops

I love handspun socks and have recently worn out a pair I made about 5 years ago, they lasted well so maybe it’s an ideal time to get back into a bit of spinning and replace them at the same time.

While I was taking the drugs it was all I could do to make it to work and although I wanted to knit, I just couldn’t settle to anything. I started things, ripped and started something else, then ripped again, but over the last week I’ve got back into a couple of projects that I had already on the go but suddenly had no enthusiasm for.

One is a cardigan for myself, started when the weather was very miserable and I felt in need of something big and warm to wrap up in.

Textured cardigan
Textured cardigan

Back a month or two ago I started a top down raglan, adding a simple textured pattern to the sleeves.  Basically making it up as I went along, I’ve ended up really pleased with how it is turning out.  I wanted it oversize so I could put it on over a couple of layers and snuggle up into it.  I’ve also knitted it much longer than I normally like my cardigans and have a plan to add big patch pockets to it when I’m done. I wanted to knit it in blue but just couldn’t find a colour that I really liked so I dug out this natural grey from the stash and decided to try it out in this. If I like it enough to knit two, I’ll look for something else next time.

Texturedsleeve2
Front and sleeve view

It only has the one, almost finished, sleeve so far. It’s been sitting like this for weeks so I’m hoping if I tell you about it, it will give me the needed push to get it done.  While I finish the second sleeve I’ll try to decide whether to put a collar or a simple ribbing around the neck. I think a collar would look best at balancing the chunkiness of it all but, well, I’m not always keen on them as they do add to the bulk around the top. Time to decide yet anyway.

Weather permitting, I’ve been planting seeds. I’ve got some tomato and pepper seeds in and have sewed the first of the carrot seeds up at the allotment along with the onion sets. These little seedlings I’m especially proud of though.

marigold seedlings
marigold seedlings

They may not look much but I collected these seeds from plants I grew myself………………  wait for it……….. Five years ago!  I picked off the seed heads and put them into an envelope at the end of the season, threw them into an old shoe box in the cupboard where I keep my seed packets and just really never got around to sewing them.  This year I went through to box turfing out all the old out of date seed packets to see what I needed to buy this year and came across the collection of envelopes with seeds I have collected myself. On a whim I decided I had nothing to lose and, well here they are. Who says seeds don’t keep well for more that a year or two. I don’t know what the final germination rate of these will be of course, they’ve only just started to pop up, but if I get half I’ll be more than happy.

I have also spent some time cooking, as usual, and have a great recipe that I adapted for a gluten and dairy free Manchester Tart. A Manchester tart is a pastry case spread with jam and covered with a custard filling topped with toasted coconut.

Manchester Tart
Manchester Tart

This one also has a little something extra inside!

Recipe to come.

Mindie

Advertisements
Cooking · Gardening · Just life · Knitting

A walk in the garden

If I had a flower for every time I thought of you…I could walk through my garden forever.

Alfred Lord Tennyson

My health has not been as good this week, I am not sure why,  I’ve learnt to go with the flow over the last year;  I don’t like it, but have learnt to go with it.  I am trying not to let this latest setback bother me too much although truth be told it frustrates the hell out of me. As a result progress on most things has been slow or at best erratic. The new design has sleeves and is progressing up the yoke.  The Menet pattern is so close to being done that I should just publish it but I can never let go until I have read, re-read, walked away for a day or two and then read again. Even then, from past experience I know that you almost always miss something. The good news is that the test knitters are very happy with the pattern and design and have commented on how easy but effective the yoke is to knit. They also like the fit which is something I fretted about a great deal so I am very relieved about that. If I can get things together I am hoping to have it nailed over the weekend.

With an absence of visible knitting progress I thought that we would take a walk through my garden and have a look at the flowers that have been hanging on till the last.

Antirrhinum 3
Antirrhinum 
Antirrhinum 2
Antirrhinum 
Antirrhinum
Antirrhinum

These Antirrhinum, or Bunny Rabbit flowers as we called them when we were children, are great self seeders in my garden.  They pop up all over the place quite often in unexpected places but I let them do as they will.  Some small seedlings were given to me by a neighbour and some I grew years ago and they have been here doing their best ever since.

Honeysuckle - (Lonicera)
Honeysuckle – (Lonicera)

The Honeysuckle has been feeding the bees all summer and is still flowering its’ heart out. To appreciate the scent though you need to wander into the garden at dusk when it is at its best.

Perennial Sweet Pea
Perennial Sweet Pea

This poor sweet pea plant is a real fighter.  I grew it from seed some ten years ago and since then I have moved it at least three times.  Each time it takes a deep breath and re-establishes itself within the season, flowering until the first frosts.  This year I had to hand the grass cutting and strimming over to DH and found that he had been strimming it to the ground each week thinking it was a weed!  Once I pointed this out to him though it was only a few weeks and this plucky little plant was back as usual holding no grudge whatsoever.

 

Clematis Nelly Mosser
Clematis Nelly Mosser

Similarly, this Clematis has had several homes over the years but still manages to pull through.  I have no idea how old it is as it was here when we bought the house over ten years ago.

Green Tomatoes
Green Tomatoes

I am hoping that these will manage to ripen before the end of the season but am not holding my breath.

Spring Greens
Spring Greens

Finally, these spring greens should be in the allotment by now, the ground is dug for them but I just haven’t been able to go.  Hopefully they will go in next week in time to establish properly before the winter.

These two suspicious looking characters joined me in the garden today for my walk.  I think they were hoping I would stay a while.

Morgan
Morgan
Trilly
Trilly

Well I think that is about it.  I’m off for one of these,

Chocolate Chips Cookies
Chocolate Chips Cookies

I may just have nailed the chocolate chip cookie thing (and you thought I’d given up – not a chance!). I need to taste a few more before reporting though, just to make sure!

Mindie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gardening · Just life · Knitting

Hathor

Hathor is an Ancient Egyptian goddess who personified the principles of joy, feminine love, and motherhood. She was one of the most important and popular deities throughout the history of Ancient Egypt and was often depicted wearing a Menet necklace.
I think that perhaps because of this I thought it only right to call the adult version of Menet, Hathor.

I am still working on the final details of the pattern. Juggling figures to get sizes from 32″(81cm ) to 42″ (106.5cm ) finished chest size is making my head spin just a little. I want to offer an option for long sleeves and as such want to add enough room in the sleeves for ease so that if they are long you could wear something underneath but on the other hand I don’t want them to be baggy at the top if you knit the short/no sleeved version. Does that make sense?

Here is my first yoke done for the sample short sleeved version.

-Hathor-
-Hathor-

As usual I have gone for earthy tones.

Hathor Yoke

 

But I have yarn for a slightly more lively version too.  The yarn I am using is Drops Karisma.  A DK/light worsted weight yarn in 100% wool, 100m (109yds) to 50g (1.75oz)  that knits up to 5.5 sts per inch (2.5cm).  This makes a fairly standard 22 stitches per 4″ (10cm) which is slightly heavier than the children’s Menet version at 6 sts per inch (2.5cm). I nearly went to 5 sts per inch (2.5cm) the standard worsted weight but it seemed just a little too heavy for this. The 6 sts per inch (2.5cm) would have been great but I know that it means quite a lot more knitting for a large adult size so I compromised. Yes, the 1/2 stitch per inch does make quite a lot of difference overall.

A quick example of gauge in this context.

A 40″ cardigan knitted at 5.5 sts per inch (2.5cm) has 220 stitches but knitted at 6 sts per inch (2.5cm) it has 240 stitches. An extra 20 sts each and every row. Obvious I know, but if I put it another way –  if you start with 220 stitches and your gauge is 5.5 stitches per inch you get a cardigan that measures 40″(101.5cm) -but- if your gauge measures 6 sts per inch (2.5cm) only half of one stitch difference you get a cardigan that only measures 36 1/2″ (92.5cm ). Quite a bit of difference in the amount of knitting which can make or break it for some people and in larger sizes this cardigan can take the slight extra thickness that that 1/2 a stitch makes without compromising the feel or drape.

That is how important it is to get your gauge right, boring I know, but it does make all the difference;  to the knitting, to the feel of the garment and to the size you end up with. So, always measure you gauge! I nearly always do!

To keep me going I’ve been eating far too many of these mini quiche.

 

Quiche

 

And far too much of this banana cake. (gluten and dairy free of course)

banana cakeI can’t recall now which recipe I used but you don’t need to look very far on the net to find a good gluten free version of this popular staple, banana bread.

I’ve also been trying to find time in the vegetable garden.  I have far too many cabbages, kale and broccoli plants to go in for the autumn / winter veg season this year. It is getting late for transplanting them and I need to do a fair bit of digging yet.  I love digging, strange I know but I find it satisfying in the same way as knitting.  The only problem is that since I have been ill, I still love to dig but my body doesn’t and rebels violently.  This I have learnt much to my cost over the last couple of nights. So, now I have had to give in, learn my limitations, as much as I hate it, (I can be quite independent and stubborn- something I have also learnt) and find me a willing victim helper to do it for me. I may be baking a lot in the near future as I’ve also learnt that cake always, always helps if you need a favour!

 

osteospermum
osteospermum

Have a great weekend and thank you to all those people who have offered to test knit Hathor, the pattern should be with you shortly.

 

 

Cooking · Gardening · Knitting

This week..

Starting off this week with this picture of one of my favourite plants..

P1000017

This is a Wisteria that I planted some years ago.  It was just a stick 12″ (30cm) tall when I bought it.  OH and his friend sat in the garden and laughed when I told them that they typically grow as high as 65 ft (or 20 m) and can spread out as much as 32 ft (10 m).

‘What, from that – you’ve been conned’ they both said.  Well, they’re not laughing now.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This picture shows it growing over an arch above my head – which isn’t difficult I admit as I am barely 5ft tall – but I assure you the arch is well above my head.  I am cheating a little as this picture is from a week or so back, the flowers have just about faded this week and the leaves are taking over.  It flowered for a good three weeks or so this year; it was beautiful and the scent just filled the garden.  Last year with all the rain and cold weather we had, a good deal of the buds just rotted and dropped off.  I thought it may happen again this year with it being so cold this spring but ‘the stick’ (as it has become known in our house even though it is much more than that now) made it through.

Wisteria can take many, many years to flower and I didn’t expect to see too much from this one for a few years but it showed a couple of flowers in just the second year. I now know that if the plant has been grafted it flowers much sooner that ones grown from seed, which I am glad about.  I also read that in some parts of the US it is considered invasive, I guess that the climate here stops them escaping into the wild and becoming a problem.

Also this week, finally I have some of these..

First lettuce of the year.

Very late for a first lettuce I know.  I was rather slow in getting these started this year, partly because the weather here was so damn cold – I just didn’t think they would grow before the slugs got to them – so I left it later than I have before.  They soon catch up though.  We should be eating these in a week or two’s time.

On the cooking front, I’ve been trying a new recipe for these..

Mmmm.. biscotti

These little gems are gluten free chocolate chip biscotti (without the chocolate chips!) from http://www.artofglutenfreebaking.com/. Jeanne’s recipes are truly wonderful. She is a genius as far as I am concerned.  I have her book and each time I try one of her recipes I am more in awe.  They work and are good to eat. So good to eat, even my youngest, who is always suspicious of anything in the kitchen nowadays (because things in my kitchen aren’t always what they seem) will eat them.  In fact, everyone in our house eats Jeanne’s recipes, allergies or not. So much so that they never hang around long and I quite often end up cooking more just so I can get a look in. The recipe for the biscotti along with a myriad of others all as equally delicious are on Jeanne’s site.

The only down side that I could say about Jeanne’s recipes is that a lot of them use eggs.  In my opinion, you do need eggs in a lot of things, especially gluten free, to make them work.  Eggs make baked goods bind as well as rise and do good things for the texture.   Now, this can be a bit of an issue for me. I can and do eat eggs.  I am not allergic to them, just mildly intolerant. I used to have more of a problem than I do, now, on the whole, eggs just make my eyes a bit puffy and baggy. I know, at my age how can I tell! Let’s just say they look worse than usual then shall we? And although I know a time will come when I’ll probably look like that all the time, I would like that time to be as far away as possible. There is another issue to be considered and that is one of irritation and inflammation.  For those of you who know anything about food intolerances caused by leaky gut (which is what I have developed) it is not good to cause your body any more problems than is necessary in an attempt to let it heal. So, although I do eat eggs occasionally, I try to limit them to main meals on the odd occasion when the meal just wouldn’t be the same without.

In that vein, I have tried Jeanne’s recipe without eggs.  I replaced the eggs with flax eggs.  Flax eggs are used in allergy and vegan recipes to replace eggs, mostly with great success. You simply mix one tablespoon of ground flax seed with three of water for each egg you wish to replace.  The picture below is the same recipe but with flax eggs and chopped walnuts.

Gluten Free, Egg Free Biscotti

The result… OK, but not nearly as good as the egg-ed version.  As you can see the biscotti are more dense than the ones with eggs.  They are also less crunchy than the original version and look slightly undercooked.  Also, somewhere along the line they have developed a slightly odd taste that is a little like artificial sweetener.  I can only assume this is from the flax, although I haven’t experienced it before.    They are edible though and won’t be wasted.  Next time I think I’ll try a powdered egg replacer and see how that turns out.  If not I’ll just make them with eggs as they are too good not to have in your biscuit tin!

Knitting then..

As I said last week, I have been working on a couple of new patterns.

This is my current design project and one that is giving me a few problems.  I am getting there though and hope that by the end of today to know whether the whole thing is going to work out.  That’s the problem when you have a vision in your head as to how you want something to look. You can sketch and swatch as much as you like but until it’s knitted up, you just can’t tell if it’s worked or not. Well, I can’t anyway. It takes time.  Sometimes when you embark on a new project and are only a little way in it all looks a bit unlikely, then further on it starts to come together and somehow transforms into something much better.  It is easy to give up too early on a knitting project thinking that you don’t really like it when actually, once the piece gets to a better size, it improves hugely.  This can happen the other way round though, where you can be in love with something right up until the end when somehow you suddenly can’t see what attracted you to it in the first place.  A bit like some people really!  I think this scenario happens with some patterns when the item is cleverly marketed on an attractive model in a beautiful setting. You fall in love with the feel of the garment rather than the garment itself.  Once knitted, it looses its’ appeal.

By next time I hope have a picture of the completed item – unless I fall out of love of course!