February already?

It’s funny how January just slips away from you isn’t it? Perhaps really, every month is the same which is why we always find ourselves saying ‘where did the last year go’, or I know I do. Maybe though, with the early months in the year when the days are dark and dreary and the nights still far too long, we are glad for it to be gone.

The last week, or perhaps two really, has just got away from me. Some days I feel like a conductor. I’d like to say an orchestral conductor, far more glamorous, but I fear it is probably more like a bus conductor. Finding this, sorting that, cooking and washing; conducting the background to the lives of the people around me as they come and go through their day and mine.

Still, I have had time to take a few photo’s along the way.

Blueberry Muffins

Blueberry Muffins

The blueberries are last years’ crop from the freezer. The recipe is an adaptation of the one I used to make with wheat flour.

Blueberry Muffins 2

Funny how your tastes change when you change your diet. Several years ago these would have been my absolute favourite muffin. It’s why I planted a blueberry bush in the garden, just for making muffins with. But, since I have changed my diet, they somehow just don’t cut it for me so much any more. Luckily, I’m the only one that feels that way so they do get eaten.

Bread 2Bread 1

Gluten, Dairy, Corn and Yeast free bread

I make a loaf of this bread most weeks.  It is a recipe from Celeste’s Best cookbook with several modifications of my own. Great bread which actually isn’t bread at all, technically. I find the original bread rises far too much, if you can believe that, and is a little too moist for my taste so over the last year or so I have gently modified the recipe to suit. It is brilliant and do recommend it if you need an allergen free ‘bread’.

Spring?

Not really spring, but some of my plants thing it might be.  Our weather has been consistently miserable but mild and the plants are confused. The daffodils in my neighbours garden came up and bloomed in January.

Pizza Cheese DF

I finally got to try some Violife pizza cheese. My local supermarket stocks the ordinary sandwich cheese and the cream cheese (which is great in a sauce) but the pizza cheese has proved more elusive. I managed to track some down on line at VeganCheese.co.uk. I must say that their delivery was fantastic. I ordered one afternoon and it arrived the next morning in plenty of time for some melty cheese on toast for lunch and my first proper pizza in years for dinner. More on that another time.

As you can see, my week contained a fair amount of baking, which is nothing new. I have been writing up the new pattern, which has taken most of my spare time. I have something new on the needles which I will show you next time but now, I am off to cook some lunch.

EU Vat Law on digital downloads

Yes I’m still here! Just been a little busy but do hope to get back soon.

Meanwhile….

I don’t think that there are many people who buy digital downloads, (for our hobbies, interests or otherwise) who have not heard of or been impacted by the recent EU Vat law which came into force on the 1st January. If you have missed all the fun, Google it, there are many good articles out there.

Firstly I would just like to say that my personal opinion on the vast majority of this new law, the whole zero threshold bit, is that it is beyond stupid it is ill conceived and will impact on many people who, while they may not be a major contributor to their countries’ economy, nevertheless count. Count in more ways, more important ways, than many large companies. Don’t get me wrong, but …. ah perhaps another time, I could go on but I have a soft heart and an aversion to hate mail (there will be some).

All that said, and even though I try to be non-conformist some things you just can’t beat and although I have been slow in implementing things I have now had to configure my sales to accommodate this farce legislation. So, if you are outside of the UK but within the EU, I apologise for the fact that you will now have to pay tax at your countries’ rate on my patterns. Please read below on the purchase options for you. If you are in the UK or outside of the EU, this does not apply to you.

If you purchase any of my patterns and are liable for tax you will be taken to my Etsy shop where you will see the price of my patterns including the applicable tax for your country and have an opportunity to purchase. Buying through Etsy will give you an automatic download but will not place a copy of the pattern in your Ravelry library. If you wish this I am more than happy to place a copy there for you if you contact me with your purchase details.  Alternatively, if you would rather pay the normal ex-vat price for my patterns you can do this by contacting me using the email address you use for Paypal and stating the pattern you wish to purchase.  I will then send you a Paypal invoice for the amount.  When this invoice is paid, I will attach a pdf file of the pattern to an email and send it to that address.  This is not an instant download and as such does not incur Vat.  However, please be aware that this is a slow process and I am not always at my computer so it could take up to 24 hours for you to receive your pattern.

I think that just about covers it. Any queries or problems with the new system please let me know and I will sort things out for you.

Hope to be back soon…

A beginning ends what an end begins

– James Richardson

Happy New Year!

I know it’s a bit late and I do feel a little guilty that I haven’t popped in and said it before but I’ve been a bit slow getting started after the holidays. I have an excuse.

I came down with an awful cold on Christmas eve, which has refused to leave completely (as is normal for me now) and I am still struggling with the tail end of it. But, I did manage to ‘do’ Christmas. We had a good feast, completely food friendly for all concerned. It really wasn’t that difficult although I did end up spending a huge amount of time in the kitchen, especially considering I felt so bad, but it was well worth the effort.

Mini Christmas Cakes

Mini Christmas Cakes

I even managed to bake two dozen of these little gems.  Mini Christmas cakes, complete with marzipan and icing (and a little alcohol for good measure). I used a gluten & dairy free Christmas cake recipe but simply spooned the mixture into little fairy cake cases instead of one large cake tin and baked them for about 20 minutes. They came out great, not dry at all, which I was a little worried about, and made just the right size cakes to have with a drink when guests arrived. They were a little sweet for my taste, which was actually more to do with the dried fruit than the icing strangely enough but as they were only small, I did manage to force down a few!

Did you make any New Year’s Resolutions? Even secret ones? I always do, although I prefer to call mine ‘goals’ or ‘changes’ rather than resolutions for some reason. Perhaps it’s because I find it difficult to be completely resolute about anything, always preferring to take the more laid back, perhaps humorous line! More of a ‘this schedule is subject to change’ rather than ‘this is the way it’s going to be’ sort of thing. Don’t get me wrong, I take all my ‘changes’ very earnestly, but life is just too unpredictable, I find, to be unwavering. Anyway, I have a few changes this year which I’ll probably mention as time goes on. This resolution or changes idea did cause a bit of an argument on New Year’s Eve though. Must have been because I was feeling ill as I never usually take such a strong line, but I did get a little stroppy with my Brother who feels it totally unnecessary to make any changes to his life, ever. hmm.

My knitting projects are going well (part of my New Year thing is to find much more knitting time) although I don’t really have anything that I can show you today.  I am working on a blanket for a friend who is expecting a baby in February. I can’t show you though as I want it to be a bit of a surprise and she might see it if she passes by here, which she does sometimes. I noticed a small mistake in it last night, about 40 rows below where I am now. Do I rip out and start again? Or, do I just ‘not notice’? I haven’t decided yet. Although I hate to leave mistakes in things, I equally dislike ripping back what is probably 4 or 5 nights worth of knitting. I’ll have another look tonight and see if I can live with it. Other things are also coming along. The Ranger cardigan is almost to the point of joining the body and sleeves, just a few short rows to put in on the back, then I should be on the home straight. I also have a boy’s sweater on the needles, one that I should have finished before the Christmas break but is only now coming together and a lacy cardigan which I sneaked and started quickly before I could object that I had too many things on the go! The cardigan is from stash yarn, something else I have promised myself I will use some of this year. I should have some pictures of both of those by next week but for now neither things look very exciting.

Well, I suppose I should get back to doing our Tax Returns. I always leave them to the last-minute so it serves me right really. This coming year will be different though – I have resolutions changes!

What we think…

we become.

Buddha

I have some shop bought sweaters (I know!). I buy them, but then hardly ever wear them. They are like those cheap earrings I like to buy even though I know they will make my ears swell. I see a sweater I like and think it will be far easier and quicker to buy it rather than make one. It always seems like a good plan to me and I never learn. When I get it home and start to wear it I am never pleased. There is always something wrong, the fibre composition, the fit, the feel – always something.  If DH is with me, he stops me in my tracks the moment I head towards the sweater rack in the shop, saying things like  “You don’t want to do that.  You know you won’t be pleased with it in the end.”

Don’t you just hate it when people are right.

Last year I saw a lovely sweater on-line from a well-known shop. They didn’t have it in the colour-way I liked, so I waited.  Then they came up in the sale but of course only in the ‘not so popular’ colour.  I bought one anyway. The fact that it was shop bought and in a colour that I wasn’t too happy with seemed to escape me. It actually turned out to be a little tight as well just to add insult to injury. But – I had finally bagged myself one and I had saved 50%! I was pleased. Don’t say a word, you know you have done it too (and if you haven’t, I don’t want to know). Of course, you also know that I was sorely disappointed. The yarn is squeaky, the colour-work doesn’t match up properly and is also a slightly different gauge than the rest of the sweater and for some reason it is far from comfortable in any way, shape or form.

DH has never said anything about this episode. Which is actually more annoying as it turns out.

I still wear it from time to time though in an attempt to prove that I like it. But in all honesty I only manage to wear it once before consigning it back to the wardrobe and I don’t think I’m fooling anyone. Yesterday was one of those days and after not wearing it all summer I had forgotten just how damned uncomfortable it is.

Today I have gone back to this one.

Arya

Arya

This was what I thought of when I wanted a squishy, comfortable sweater and put it together as I went along. The neck-line needs a little tweaking and will change on the next one, but on the whole I am quite happy with it. Above all it is warm and comfortable.

Arya -collar-

Arya collar

I put in short rows to shape the neck. I worked this one in the same way as I have done for others and put in short rows to bring the back neck up while working the last few raglan decreases. It worked fine, but just made the neck a little too small and high, which wasn’t quite what I was after. I wanted a slightly wider, deeper neck, so next time I am going to bind off/cast off some neck stitches as I go and pick them up again to work the collar.  I also should have used Japanese short rows as these conventional wrap and turn ones still show in this yarn. But, regardless of my ‘picking’ at it, this sweater is far superior than the one I was wearing yesterday. I still won’t learn though!

Pocket

Pocket

I love this textured stitch. It is too fiddly to use all over but gives the pocket some interest and firms it up a little so it doesn’t sag too much when you have the weight of your hands inside. I tried the pocket with an I-cord edge so that there was no need to pick-up stitches and add the rib edge, but it didn’t look as ‘finished’ as this one so I dropped that idea.

I put the textured stitch on the fold over collar as well to balance the design and used purl stitches on the raglan decreases so they look similar.

Arya - Raglan

Arya – Raglan

This one is in a wool/alpaca mix yarn but I am trying it out in a pure wool yarn too.  At the weekend I was told that it would be nice in grey and blue.  When I replied that the one that I am knitting now is in natural grey and dark grey he said,

“Yes, but after that, grey and blue but in a much larger size would be nice.”

I think I get the hint! Lucky Arya is a unisex name then. I will probably be putting a pattern for this together when I have ironed out the neckline issue as it looks like I will get plenty of practice knitting them!

-Arya-

-Arya-

Mindie.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Failing miserably

Now, I know that I said that I would have the start of a new design to show you by this week – well I was wrong. I have been a little side tracked and just don’t know where the time has gone, really, it feels that this week has only had three days, where the other two went I have no idea.

Firstly:  I had a birthday this week which, unusually for me, took up a whole day.  Oh, that sounds odd doesn’t it.  Birthdays do last for a whole day, obviously.  I should explain.  I am very ‘relaxed’ about birthdays. We celebrate them with presents and a cake, lots of smiles and hugs etc. and sometimes a special meal but we don’t go overboard.  I know people whose birthdays seem to last all week – something special going on for days – I can’t do that I don’t know why, something in my upbringing that has stuck fast I suspect. Plus, due to unusual circumstances here with other things taking priority, I haven’t actually celebrated one for the last two years. So this week I was treated to a day out and a lovely meal in a pub to round the day off (one that serves gluten free meals). Lovely.

Secondly: I have also become a little side tracked with chocolate chip biscuits/cookies.  I am trying to find my perfect one.  I like my biscuits to be crunchy, not chewy; flat and relatively thin not thick and mounded; like the size and shape of the ones that come in packets, but a whole lot better obviously. Oh, and pretty allergy friendly. I can’t buy gluten free biscuits because they always have other things in them that I’m intolerant to such as corn or maize flour and besides, I mostly made my own before anyway as they are so much better for you so I don’t see the need to change this.

When you have been cooking for many years, you naturally build up a ‘stock’ of favourite recipes.  The important go-to recipes that you like and cook over and over again. From time to time you try new things; some things you only cook once, some are added to your list of favourites and it goes on. I have a good selection of biscuits in my ‘stock’ but none of them now conform to all of my diet requirements, which are quite a lot I know. So, I’ve been on the hunt for new ones and at the moment it is chocolate chip biscuits.  I’ve already tried a few.  All taste good but so far all have at least one thing that stops them from becoming perfect (for me). Trouble is, so far this hunt has been a little hap-hazard in its’ execution.  So for posterity (and the fact that I can’t always remember what each recipe was like) I’m going to document them here. One recipe each week (how many biscuits can a girl eat each week? Don’t answer that, I know) and hopefully I will find my ultimate chocolate chip heaven.  Feel free to ‘chip’ in (oh dear!) if you have a suitable recipe that I could try. (1st Recipe below.)

Thirdly: (note to self) Knitting Gauge. It is an important thing.  Very important if you want something to come out the size you expect it to, even more important if you are trying to mix two very different types of stitches together in the same piece and you would like them to marry together without stretching or puckering.

This is what happened with my knitting. I checked gauge. Then I checked it again and again.  Then I forgot that my gauge differs between flat and circular knitting, not by a lot, but enough, and the whole thing went wrong.  So, I’ve had to start again.

My problem is this.  The picture of the stitch pattern I showed you last week is a yoke.

Yoke

And, unusually, this yoke is more like a big collar in that it doesn’t go all the way down over the shoulders like they usually do.  More on the difficulty of that later. My problem at the moment is that this slip stitch pattern has to marry with an area of stocking stitch that is knitted flat, then joined and knitted in the round. To make them marry the gauge needs to be right. And mine wasn’t.  Strangely, this pattern has the same gauge at the edge that my circular knitting has. Circular stocking stitch- knitting rounds of only knit stitches – quite often gives you a tighter gauge than when you knit stocking stitch flat and incorporate a row of purl stitches every other row.  Not always but mostly. This happens with other stitch patterns as well but here I’m focusing on stocking stitch.  So, although I had measured gauge on the patterned and circular sections, I had not done this for the flat section, forgetting that they can be a little different. Stupid mistake. Still, at least it’s only knitting and can be ripped and re-knitted.  If I couldn’t re-use the yarn for this each time I’ve ripped back, well, I hate to say how much I would have gone through by now. Once again, hopefully, I’ll have a completed item to show for next time!

Chocolate chip biscuits – recipe 1

Free From: Gluten, dairy and eggs

Not Free From: Nuts or sugar

This recipe is one of my own that I adapted.  It originally comes from a very old and out of print book entitled –Readers Digest Complete Guide to Cookery. A huge book covering everything from boning a chicken to making puff pastry; more of a technical book than cookery book although there are one or two recipes in each section using the techniques covered.

INGREDIENTS

150g Gluten free flour, (I used Jeanne’s mix)

1/2 tsp Salt

125g Butter replacement (I used Pure)

75g Caster sugar AND 75g brown sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 egg ( I used 1tsp egg replacer mixed with 2 tbls water)

1/2 tsp baking soda mixed with 1 tsp hot water

125g Pecan nuts, chopped

175g Dairy free chocolate chips

 

METHOD

Pre-heat oven to 374°C/190°F/Gas 5.  Line baking tray with parchment.

Cream butter and sugars together until light and fluffy, beat in egg replacer and

then vanilla and baking soda mix. Stir in the flour and finally the nuts and

chocolate chips. The mixture is quite stiff. Drop small teaspoon sized pieces

onto the baking tray and flatten slightly. Bake for 10 – 12 minutes until golden

brown.

There is a note in the original recipe that says not to underbake the biscuits as they should be crispy. The original looked like this:

Original recipe

Mine however, turned out like this:

My own version

Just a little different looking wouldn’t you say? But how did they do? Well,

On the plus side, these taste lovely.  The addition of nuts in with the chocolate gives them a nice flavour and an added texture.  They were quite solid and not too sweet. However on the down side they don’t really fulfil the flat/thin and crispy requirement.  They didn’t spread much in the cooking at all choosing to stay thick and lumpy.  Now I know that you can’t expect things to just work out if you are changing important ingredients in the recipe as I have.  And these didn’t hang around in the kitchen for very long, everyone ate them, dietary requirements or not so that does say something.  If I try the recipe again though I will need to work out how to make them spread out more.

Back to the drawing board for now. I’m going to try another recipe later today and I will let you know how I get on but for now I think I need to do some knitting.