Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Note to Self!

We're having our first Snow Day. My daughter was sad to miss preschool but is excited about the snow and playing games and waffles for brunch! I added some grated cheese (maple smoked cheddar) and some chopped up ham to the last of the batter as an experiment. I ate the ham and cheese waffles with extra cheese on top and maple onion baked beans. Very tasty (no photo though since by the time I'd finished cooking I was sooo hungry - everyone else had already eaten).

Now I'm planning to cook up a whole batch of cheesy ham/bacon waffles to freeze for quick breakfasts (waffle in toaster and go, or with a few more minutes at hand waffle in toaster, beans in microwave sit and eat). So that's the note to self since that particular project will need to wait for new year since we won't be home much the next several weeks.

Next -- snowtime!

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Busy Doing

Well I keep thinking of posting here but then finding another thing to do instead (not that the thing I find to do isn't often a version of time wasting if I'm completely honest, but I'm starting to feel more productive again which is wonderful).

I've managed some sewing recently which tends to be the most difficult thing to fit in. I made a new skirt for myself from a thrifted sheet which I have not managed to get a good picture of. I used some of the same sheet to make a skirt for my daughter which she picked out to wear the other week to the farmers market so I took a picture of her balancing along the edge of a flower bed to capture it. You can't tell that there's a band of pink at the top of the skirt because on this particular day my girl decided to pair the skirt with a yellow with little black polka dots dress that I made back in March and never blogged about (it's from a nice simple and free pattern at BurdaStyle, can't find it now since they've redesigned but it's called the Vivienne I think if you find a project made from it you might be able to download the pattern there). That's my girl, that outfit made me feel so happy!

The thing that I've been doing a lot in the evenings (which is the time I use for blogging when I manage it) is canning. Mostly I've made several kinds of jams, the most recent being the Apple/Blueberry/Blackcurrant jam last night.

Now that we have a ridiculous amount of jam I thought maybe I should try something else and have made my first attempts at pickles. So far I've made a few jars each of pickled green beans and cucumbers (I added some red onion and carrot to the cucumbers as I didn't have as many as I'd thought I would and needed extra in the jars). I had some cucumbers that weren't going to work for the kind of pickles my husband and daughter usually eat so I looked around at some recipes online (cucumber relishes and some Branston style sandwich pickles) and came up with my own version. (I won't post the recipe until such time as we've found out what it tastes like and determined whether it's edible!)

There has also been some knitting but I don't have photos to share of that, and also I need to be asleep in bed, so goodnight all!

Monday, 13 July 2009

It's good to be home

Back home after a week of singing, fireflies, new and old friends, dancing, talking... all bookended by lots and lots of time sat in a car. It's good to be home but I'm looking forward to trying this taste of North Carolina given to my husband by a fellow singer just before we headed back to New England.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Scali Bread

I've been following KingArthurFlour on Twitter for a little while now and noticed a mention of Scali Bread which intrigued me:
Scali bread. This shiny, mahogany-brown loaf, coated with nutty sesame seeds, creates lots of Buzz; it's a beauty, too.

Sounded good, and I'm a big fan of sesame seeds, so I clicked over to this blogpost talking about (among other things) what it is and how to make it (step by step with photos). So I printed off the recipe (find it here) and mixed up the starter and left it overnight. As some people noted in the comments the starter seemed really dry, I did add a tiny bit more water than the recipe gives to wet all the flour and hoped for the best.

Next morning the power went out which made me nervous but the starter was looking just as it should. The power came back and I mixed in the rest of the ingredients and set the dough to rise. I think next time if I add a little extra water to the starter maybe I should correspondingly add less liquid when I add the rest of the ingredients since the dough was more sticky and wet than was easy to handle (and I use the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day recipes usually which are very moist). Still it all came together in the end and before it had cooled all the way my daughter and I had pulled some pieces off from one end and buttered and eaten them.

I did make a few slight modifications -- I subbed in a little whole wheat bread flour (I think 1 cup, I couldn't help myself and it seems to work) and when I went to get the sesame seeds I found I didn't have nearly enough so I added in poppy seeds too which I might just do next time I make this bread too.

Friday, 19 June 2009

bread and jam for me

When I was trying to decide what kind of bread to make yesterday (my daughter being in a toast phase and there being no bread in the bread bin) I noticed that right above the oatmeal bread recipe in Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day it recommends eating it with marmalade. Well, that decided me since it gives me a chance to try some of the rhubarb orange jam I made at the weekend. I can now report that they go together very nicely. Maybe for tomorrow I could make my own butter too?!

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

wedding quilt

I've been meaning to share this for a little while now. When my mum came to visit recently she brought with her the wedding present she has been working on for me and my husband (our 10th wedding anniversary is coming up in November). All hand pieced and quilted mind you. A lot of the fabric was bought for the quilt, some was fabric from my mum's fabric stash (and from those categories fabrics which relate to me and/or my husband somehow) but there are also lots of pieces that come from old clothes (mostly clothes my mum originally sewed for me - I tagged a few in this closer photo at flickr)! So it's a wonderful gift which is now on our bed making me happy. Thanks mum.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Jam and Knitting (sort of)

Well I completely failed at WWKIP day since I did no knitting on Saturday, nor did I really leave the house. I did, however, make jam and have photos of some recently completed knitted items to share. (And I did knit in public at a contradance this evening!)

First the jam. Last year I had a go at a little jam making with a small batch of strawberry rhubarb jam which got rather over cooked and is tasty but not the most easily spreadable stuff! The lesson I learned from making that was not to rely on my candy thermometer and use the jam on plate in the freezer for a minute method to check for readiness. (That and that if the jam is turning to jam consistency in the hot pan you may have cooked it longer than you needed to already.)

When we went to visit my parents last autumn my mum let me bring my great great grandmother's recipe notebook home with me. I've looked through it (it's full of hand written recipes, some perhaps by one of my great great aunts, along with pasted in cuttings of recipes and housekeeping tips) but still hadn't used any of the recipes until now. There's a recipe in there for rhubarb orange jam which I'd been eyeing and since I had several pounds of rhubarb from the farmers market waiting to be used it seemed as good a time as any.

I followed the recipe mostly as written (supplementing with some other jam making instructions not having done this much before) although I did throw in some strawberries that were past their best. It is pretty sweet, I'd probably reduce the sugar a bit another time, and very orangey.

I'm not a big fan of peel in my jam so I used a vegetable peeler to get strips of orange peel and tried to remove most of it as I was putting the jam into the jars so now I'm wondering whether I'd like the peel dipped in unsweetened chocolate as it is I like the texture but the citrus hit is a little much for me even with the sweetness! A possible experiment for the coming week.

Now for the knitted portion of the post. Two projects, one I have blogged about before and one that I have wip photos for which have been languishing without much explanation in my flickr photostream for months.

Here is my daughter modelling her new knitwear. She selected the yarn (at the yarn store) and the pattern (from a selection of ravelry pages) herself so I hope she's happy with the outcome. I haven't actually found the right buttons for it yet so instead it's held together with a flower badge/pin my dad sent which happens to coordinate beautifully.

Pattern: Cowgirl Butterfly Astronaut Vest by Fawn Pea from f.pea
Yarn: Lamb's Pride Superwash Worsted by Brown Sheep - Blueberry Sorbet and Plum Crazy
Ravelry Project Page

I need to knit this pattern again because I made a mess of the stitch pattern of the upper body. Not sure why exactly I messed up but by the time I'd admitted the problem I was past the point where I was willing to rip it back since I think it still looks nice.

My daughter is almost three so I started out knitting size 4 but took a second look at the measurements and decided the 2 would fit my skinny girl better. I liked the idea of a slightly fuller bottom section though so I carried on with the size 4 until the end of the ribbed section and then decreased down to the size 2 stitch count at that point.

The sleeves keep rolling some even after blocking. Perhaps I went down to many needle sizes for them? I wonder whether some crochet edging would help, or perhaps they're fine as they are.

Lastly, now that it's all warm out I've finally got around to finishing the felting of my fuzzy feet slippers. I knit them ages ago(they knit up really quickly) and felted them by running them once through a full laundry cycle, with bath towels, and also a dryer cycle. They were still ridiculously big though so I haven't really used them. Finally this week I remembered to throw them in with my dark towels again, once more through the wash cycle and I think they're about right. Hooray!
Before photo (see another here of my daughter using one as a pirate hat):

And after:

Pattern: Fuzzy Feet by Theresa Vinson Stenersen from Knitty, Winter 2002
Yarn: Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride Worsted - Bing Cherry
Ravelry Project Page

Thursday, 11 June 2009

waste less, eat cake

Today, running more than usual on not enough sleep, I've been spending too much time sitting on the couch wasting time with the computer and tv. I watched some of an Oprah show on recognising waste and challenging oneself to waste less.

I've been trying to push myself a little at a time to waste less and do more. Still a long way to go for my idea of what I could be achieving, but watching Oprah made me feel positively virtuous at times (if the families they were following are representative of average middle class America anyway). Setting the heat to run at 75 on a warm day? Trashing still edible food to make space to go grocery shopping? Why would you do these things?? I also can't imagine sleeping with the tv on all night but then I've never had a tv in the bedroom - I do like falling asleep to an audio book and using the radio to wake myself up but I don't think I'd sleep well with the tv on all night. I am definitely guilty of watching too much tv, spending too much time at the computer and of allowing my daughter to watch way more tv than I ever thought I would (especially at her age). I noticed several people on the show (children in particular) saying without those technologies there's nothing to do. Once again my mind boggles. I kick myself for wasting my time with these things because there are so many other things I want to spend more time doing. I don't want my daughter to develop that attitude (I don't think that's likely to happen any time soon thankfully).

Later in the show I caught some of a woman who had challenged herself to consume more mindfully and was thinking about only consuming her "share"; what she needs rather than over-consuming because there's so much on offer out there. That struck more of a chord with me it is an issue I think about a lot. I've been so happy lately because we finally got a compost bin. I try to always bring containers to our coop for my bulk items, and cloth bags for shopping. But thinking, globally, about what my share of the earth's resources always makes me uncomfortable because even though I don't consume as much as the guests on Oprah's show today I do still waste and I do still consume more than I would if resources were shared more equally across the world (which would mean many of us consuming much less of course since the world resources are limited - check out this "game" where you can see what the world would look like if everyone lived like you).

I don't know how much of that I am willing to change in the near future but I do want to challenge myself more. I'd love to live more of a Slow Life but how much my husband would go along with I'm not sure. Little by little though perhaps we can move in that direction. I'm not going to be Riana any time soon (she's certainly one of my sources of inspiration though).

What I did do was turn away from the computer, switch off the tv and spend time with my daughter. We checked our plants outside (we're growing some peas, beans, tomatoes, greens and herbs in containers this year), read a few stories, talked with my parents (using technology to tune in rather than switch off), did a jigsaw puzzle and prepared food.

I've had some over ripe bananas which I've been meaning to make banana bread with for several days and have not quite got around to the baking. So rather than let them get to the point of no return I decided to bake a cake. My daughter liked this idea but wanted to make a smoothie first (there would have been 3 bananas in the cake). By that time we really needed to get on with dinner so I put softened butter and banana into a bowl and gave that to my daughter to mash up while I cooked adding new ingredients for her to work in at intervals.I was going to make banana bread but in the end made a somewhat lighter textured cake. We ate some for our dessert before bedtime with cocoa (which I also sweeten with molasses) and my daughter announced she's having this cake for her birthday. It's just as well I made notes as I went along so that I can recreate it.

Double Chocolate Banana Cake

2 over-ripe bananas mashed
1 stick/4oz butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 egg
a glug of walnut oil
1/4 milk*

1 cup All Purpose Flour
1 cup whole wheat cake flour
1/4 cocoa (sieve)
1 rounded tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp nutmeg (one could also use cinnamon or no spices according to taste)
3/4 cup chocolate chips

  • mix together wet ingredients in a large bowl and dry ingredients in a smaller bowl
  • add dry ingredients to wet and mix to combine
  • pour into prepared 8"x8" square pan
  • bake in 350 degree oven for 35-40 minutes

*I actually added the milk in at the end because I wanted the batter a bit wetter

Monday, 25 May 2009

more sheep and yarn

Yesterday afternoon we had a fun few hours at the Massachusetts Sheep and Wool Festival. Once again my daughter had a wonderful time looking at and petting sheep (plus a few friendly sheepdog puppies).

She really didn't want to leave, and when she woke up from napping in the car on the way home was ready to turn around and drive back. I said maybe one day we'll live somewhere that we can keep sheep to keep our grass down and she can be in charge of taking care of them, she liked this idea very much! Maybe she'll end up on a farm sometime in her future like her uncle and other antecedents.
Once again I was restrained and came away with just one skein of yarn (I almost bought nothing but this caught my eye after my husband encouraged my mother and I to wander the sales tables which was just asking for trouble). It's 8oz of this fingering weight 65% superwash merino, 35% bamboo in Smoky Plum from Sliver Moon Farm. I also mentioned to my husband that at some point in the future a spinning wheel would be a good gift for me and he picked up the card of a man right in Vermont who makes cute little spinning wheels that fold up and fit in a tote bag so one day...

Really I have enough new yarn stash now to keep me busy for a long time because we did also make it to the WEBS tent sale last weekend. Here's a basket with a taste of my purchases; it's nice to shop with another knitter except for the way you end up enabling each other to spend much more than you should or otherwise would (or perhaps that's one of the nice things). I'm working on a post with the details of my yarn purchases and my ideas of what to make with them in an attempt to focus myself and get to knitting.

Before casting on anything new though I've promised myself to finish up a couple of projects I've been working on for my daughter. They've both been mostly done for a while now so it's just a question of sitting down and getting on with it. I used some of Sunday's driving time to work on the borders for the Cowgirl Butterfly Astronaut Vest. I was taking a new wip photo (for the ravelry project page) this afternoon and when my daughter came over to see what I was doing I had her put it on. Clearly it needs some blocking, buttons and ends sewing in; I have knitted the neckline since the photo was taken.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Livestock and Fiber

So much for back into the blogging thing soon. Ah well, such is life I suppose. Spring, (and also having more of a delve into the Twitter universe perhaps - I added a twitter feed in the sidebar) is making me want to try again again though so I thought I'd try and get a start on that while my daughter is focused on her Grannie (who is visiting from England for a few weeks).

I spotted on ravelry that the NH Sheep and Wool festival happens on Mothers Day weekend so I mentioned it to my husband and he said lets go, so we did! We got our usual ridiculously late start, and had a detour on the way due to a bridge that was closed but not signposted well (we saw the detour signposts AFTER the detour started having driven all the way to the bridge and back...). We got there eventually if only for the last few hours of Saturday afternoon. All my daughter wanted to do was look at animals (and pet them if at all possible) so we spent a lot of time walking around the sheep barns until we could drag her away to get some late lunch! We also watched some of the sheepdog demo (having timed things badly enough to the actual sheepdog trials).

When we left I felt slightly as though I'd just skimmed the tip of the iceberg in terms of looking at the actual fiber offerings. I did manage to come away with a Mother's Day present I appreciate more than flowers or chocolates:

Pretty yarn (from Maple Creek Farm - rav link as their website seems to have gone away) and time with my family doing something fun.

I also bought some roving from Ewe & I Farm. My mum got me a drop spindle a few years back which I never got round to using so I thought it's about time to give it a go. It's so long since I've used one though, need to check out some of the helpful videos online methinks.

Next on my craftiness list is going through my ravelry queue and finding a project for that pretty yarn, and also reordering and making notes of yarn requirements for projects because hopefully we shall enhance my mother's visit by taking in the WEBS tent sale this weekend. We may also try and make a visit to the MA sheep and wool festival the weekend after since my mum will still be here, and my husband and daughter had a good enough time in NH to want to do it again. Budgeting, budgeting, budgeting...

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

In Progress

I am knitting and baking and getting excited about the approach of Spring. Perhaps I'll get back into the blogging rhythm again soon. My daughter was "knitting" today - wrapping her yarn round and around some circular needles. I took photos of her so she wanted to take some of me:

Monday, 2 February 2009


Well it seems to be February already. I believe this happened last year too. Perhaps for me January is a time to regroup before heading into the new year for real? I've been trying to finish up overdue Christmas presents (not with great success I might add) and trying to figure out how I want to prioritise this new year. Not sure I've come to any great conclusions yet, but I'm getting there.

In the meantime there has been snow play with my daughter. She has discovered snow angels, and decided that snow is not barrier to making "sandcastles"!

Indoors we've also been crafting. While at a holiday crafting event at our local library before Christmas my daughter discovered rubber-stamping and was fixated. So I have dug out my own collection of stamps (from when my own obsession began in high school), got some supposedly washable stamp-pads and there have been some fun times stamping and experimenting with mixed media (painting then stamping, stamping and drawing with crayons etc).

I've done some knitting. This photo is of a pair of fingerless mitts that go up to my elbows using leftover yarn from my Gathered Cardi. I love the cardi, and I was glad to have the sleeves not too long for when working but I do find my forearms getting cold when out and about so this fills in the gap. I tried several patterns before spotting the simpler and gratifyingly quick one I used. I should to a proper finished object post when I've got some good finished object photos.

I also managed my first sewing project of the new year -- an addition to my cloth pad stash made with the off cuts from making pyjama trousers. Love these! I notice there's a new free pattern for cloth pads up at the BurdaStyle site, but I know there are lots of others around and about if you search. I made my own pattern based on pads I already had.

Of course all important at this time of year is the comfort of food and drinks. Tea and toast is one of my favourites. I'm loving these mugs bought at the farmers market (unfortunately this one got broken already, I'm seeing it as an opportunity to support a local business!).

In the cold weather soup and bread is a must. This is some soup made from leftover potato and cheese bake with an onion, turkey broth and some corn added in!

One of my goals, that I've really been working toward for a while as you might guess from previous posts, is to make our bread products with occasional supplementation from local bakeries (the toast with the tea is bought I must admit -- multigrain wholewheat sourdough, yum). It's going pretty well (although I did buy some crumpets at the supermarket last week... I have to try making those again and see whether I can master it).

The bread with the soup is made using the naan bread method found in the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day book -- it's a great way to make a flat bread quickly on the stove. Cut off a small piece of dough, roll it out and put in a warmed buttered frying pan and cook with a lid on flipping part way through. So good.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Christmas Recap (before I start resolving anything)

Hmm. Didn't mean to be gone so long. I got overwhelmed by the whole Christmas palaver and am still trying to finish things, regain my composure and make a new start for 2009 (which will hopefully find me more on time than of late).

I've been baking and knitting and sewing a lot. Some gifts have still to be finished and given so maybe will be blogged about later. Some were gifted without me remembering to take photos (a quick quilt made from an old flannel sheet and some Christmas stocking light corduroy for my niece/god-daughter and a Tudora for my sister-in-law). And of course many things I wanted to make never happened, must start now for next Christmas!

My daughter and I made salt-dough ornaments and spice cookies (using all the Christmassy cookie cutters in the kitchen).

For Christmas breakfast I made sticky buns (with chocolate, cinnamon and pecans).

For dinner we ate Roast Beef with a gratifyingly successful Yorkshire Pudding (and gravy and potatoes and veggies of course).

I made a big batch of mincemeat and then failed to actually make mince pies until Old Christmas was here, but when I did they were yummy. I also made dulce de leche (using the method I saw at David Lebowitz's blog) and used it in this yummy decadent dessert.

The Christmas tree is still waiting to be taken down...

Here's hoping that everyone who celebrate it had a wonderful Christmas (and if you celebrate something else I hope that was wonderful too).

Happy 2009!