Simple, quick knitting

Finished my other scarf in the Fyberspates Scrumptious, and once again, have worn it a bit before taking a picture :

Yes, that’s one of my cats, and weirdly, that scarf does make him look fat (and he’s not, he’s a wee thing). Made up the pattern – cast on about 42 stitches (I think), and it was a basic k5, p5 pattern, except for two extra knit stitches, one at each end, to keep the edges tidy.

I also had a look at the new Debbie Bliss book, The Knitter’s Year, sent to me by the Amazon Vine programme. Review will appear on Amazon soon : here’s a preview :

“… if you like knitting the sort of things that are in this book, you’ll like this book. I personally don’t like tea-holders, or lacey shelf edgings, and no, I don’t like knitted plant pot holders ! However, there are some lovely, practical things to knit in here – scarves, gloves, babies’ clothes, bags, cushions…As the concept behind the book is small items that can be completed quickly, there are no jumpers, cardigans or even tanktops, which makes the book feel uncompleted. But again, if that’s your thing, you won’t be disappointed. The book is beautifully laid out, though I don’t understand why it had to be hardback – so many craft books are moving towards spiral binding and it makes life much easier.
There are two reasons for my rating. Firstly, I’ve made LOTS of socks and never have I been told to cut the yarn when turning the heel. There is no need for this, especially when each sock in the pattern given, uses three balls of wool. There’ll be enough sewing in of ends without adding more. I hope no newbie sock knitters try this pattern as they’ll mistakenly think that sock knitting is as complicated as Ms Bliss makes out it is. Why the socks couldn’t be completed using sock yarn, I don’t know…”

Am trying to finish the toe-up socks and hopefully the Venezia cardigan. I will then probably concentrate on the Rowan Large Collar Jacket – I’m still the only one making this on Ravelry… I also should be starting on Christmas presents by the end of the month. I think I have three projects planned, no scarves to be seen !



“Fabulous Nobodies”

Sometimes I would like to be so interested in clothes and fashion and style, in the same way as Really in the above-mentioned novel by Lee Tulloch. And then I remember that it’s really hard work and the reason I dress the way I do (jeans, bright t-shirt, dark jumper or cardgan) is because it’s SO easy.

But it seems a shame to have all this fashion knowledge and interest and not use it for anything. Obviously I can’t advise anyone on how to dress (although that girl on the train who dresses like a cliche of a Japanese schoolgirl OBVIOUSLY needs my help !) but I do take an interest and I know a little bit about what I’m talking about.

A long way of introducing my latest day out – to the Fashion and Textile Museum, and the Horrockses exhibition. Ooh, who knew Bermondsey (sorry, Bermondsey Village) was so quiet and fashionable. As my friend F said “It’s like a little village”. Not that we wandered too far, as the museum has a nice little cafe where we had a pre-exhibition drink and a post-exhibition lunch.

Ooh, pretty dresses everywhere ! I don’t know why I had it in my head that Horrockses were a sewing pattern company, but they most definitely weren’t – these were quite expensive dresses but very well-made and using own-brand fabrics – they had a number of designers signed to them. Anyway, pictures were taken…






Oh, that last one ? Here’s a close up on the fabric used :





Isn’t that lovely ? I’d have done more close-ups but there were some outfits behind glass, and I didn’t want to get too close in case the museum attendants shouted at me. Pity, as I should have taken a close-up of this housecoat :

You might be able to just make out that the splodges are the British Isles. What you couldn’t tell (and I didn’t, until F pointed it out) is that the swirly lines are quotes from Shakespeare. Again, this is fabric from the 19050s, 60s and 70s – how cool is that ?

And we should bring back the word ‘housecoat’. I used to have one as a kid and it was only when I became a teenager that I started using the phrase ‘dressing gown’. Housecoat just sounds more glamourous in my mind, I don’t know why…

Actually, THAT’S why !

Catching up – knitting

And now to the crafts…

Haven’t done oodles of knitting, as I was reading so much. The pink, dropped stitch cardigan I was doing is still at the same point. I started a scarf using Fyberspates Scrumptious, very plain, knit 3, purl 3 rib, good for knitting while watching TV or films. I then started Clapotis using another shade of Scrumptious and finished that AND have already worn it (hence the pics don’t look as professional as they could). Here is a shot of it as it would have been had I blocked it :

But as lovely as that is, it’s not very practical to wear, as it makes it more of a shawl. So instead, I wear it more scrunched up, using that weird city-girl style (folded in half, and the two ends poked through the loop) or wrapped twice around my neck and then knotted. Yeah, it’s quite long – I used three hanks of the stuff but then, the Young Chap was paying… Anyway, the ordinary shot :

The colour’s almost spot on, but having a turqouise bed cover throws it off a tad. It’s a slightly deeper lilac.

The other project I’m working on at the moment is my first ever toe-up sock. I’m using a pattern from Wendy D Johnson’s book “Socks from the toe up“, and it was very quick. I cast off the first sock today, having only cast on on Tuesday night. I cast off last night, on the train, but when I tried it on, it was way too tight, eevn though I tried the double needle technique. So I unpicked it, and went to the book for help on casting off more loosely, and found it – the sewing bind-off. The author is right, the top of the sock doesn’t look so good with this one, but it’s better once it’s worn and it allows the blood to circulate, a very important factor in fit…

Sock in its glory :

Yes, that’s a kitten’s tail next to it. The cats were thrown out of the room two minutes after this photo was taken.

And a close-up :

A very simple pattern (Van Dyke) for my first go, and I can’t imagine I’ll switch over to toe-ups exclusively, but now I’ve mastered the Magic 8 cast-on technique, I won’t be quite so hesitant to try a toe-up in future. Plus, I bought both the Wendy toe-up books, so I have plenty of other patterns to get through. However, I quite fancy one of the socks from Knitted Socks East and West.

I also bought two new books, to encourage me in my crocheting, as I don’t really do much of this. I bought Crobots (what an inspired title, it still makes me giggle) and Amigurumi. From the same publishers as the second I also bought Coffee Cozies, though I really wanted the Mug Hugs too… I started on a mouse amigurumi, but did the body before the ears and got confused, and then the cats started playing with it before it was finished so it got unwound and. Anyway, haven’t made anything yet, but will.

And speaking of the cats, one cute little pic of them NOT fighting, NOT playing in their litter boxes (bleurgh) and NOT running round at 60 mph :

Catching up – cooking

Have made OODLES of stuff since I last checked in.

Firstly, the Young Chap and myself had a project of making each burger in a Sainsburys Magazine feature (take one recipe, and then tweak it a million ways to make others on the same theme). We have had Spanish (VERY successful, even with the manchego cheese), Italian (not as nice) and Vietnamese (lovely, but too many topppings). We still have Indian, Mexican and Moroccan, as we’re not bothering with the original ‘plain’ burger.

On the same trend, we also had a lot of picnic loaves. The main recipe was lemon and poppyseed (came out quite greasy but my butter wasn’t soft enough, so maybe that’s what made it so buttery and slightly unpleasant). I then made the onion, bacon and thyme variation (nice, but ever so slightly dry), the corn, pepper and cheese (lovely but needs more cooking than the other kinds) and chocolate and vanilla (perfect). I think I might skip the pesto and goat’s cheese one, and save the rhubarb and ginger crumble, and the almond, lemon and blueberry for a more cake-y day. Having four of these in one week goes some way to explaining how we managed to use up 21 eggs in a week – each recipe uses four eggs !

And again with the seven variation theme – pizza. I used the ciabatta mix for the base, whcih made two large pizzas, enough for four people in all. The toppings aren’t anything special but the ciabatta dough was something I’d never thought of, so worth saving the recipe.

And now to my current project – the new Nigella book. So far I’ve made :

  • Crustless pizza. SO quick and easy though the base is a bit weird, there’s no getting away from it.
  • Cheesy chilli. Hates this, it was NOT spicy and I think if I made it again, I’d swap the oregano for hot chilli powder. The Young Chap liked it and is having the leftovers for dinner this week.
  • Turkey meatballs in tomato sauce. The sauce was nice, but the meatballs weren’t pre-cooked/grilled so they were really soft, making the consistency overall rather off-putting.
  • Tarragon chicken – it says ‘lovely !’ in my copy of the book, so I guess I liked it, even though we eneded up eating it at 10pm due to being overworked by our employers !
  • Speedy scaloppine with rapid rostini – SUCH a good idea with the gnocchi, and the escalopes were lovely (we used turkey, but am sure the pork version would be good too).

Tonight I’m making chicken ratatouille, from a budget meals cookbook. Am also making a vegetable soup, as I bought one of those mixed veg packets from Waitrose – £1 for all the veg I need, plus I can use up celery and beans that I had in the house.

And finally – I discovered that there’s a Czech/Slovak restaurant near where I live, so I’ll have to go and visit. They advertise themselves as having brynza and halusky – not something I’d boast about, not when there are much nicer foods from the Old Country, but it is very traditional. Looking forward to visiting there, as well as the Czech Club in a couple of weeks’ time.

Off to make lnch now, I’m starving

Catching up – books

Ooh, it’s been a while, hasn’t it ? Have been very busy at work and too tired to switch on the computer. But have been doing stuff so will write a few catch-up posts.

The list. Hmm, still not finished. I have done an awful lot of non-List reading but really, the piles of books have not diminished much. I’ve resisted buying books when volunteering at the charity shop but I got given a book token out of the blue and what with special offers, 3 for 2 etc, I ended up buying five books. Then the Amazon Vine programme has sent me some corkers, so I’ve read a LOT, just not much I can cross off. I am not going to do an autum reading scheme as it would be 80% the same as everything else, plus the new books. Instead, I will aim to read a book a week and then comment on it. That’s slightly more engaging for me (and the handful of readers I have) than just crossing something off a list.

I am currently reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and I have Good Soldier Svejk started, but I’m not sure it’s something I’m going to like. Like Dickins and P G Wodehouse, it feels like a book I should read, and that everyone raves about, but that I’d rather HAVE read, than have TO read, if that makes sense.

I’m also enjoying the history of London Zoo that I’m reading, all about the buildings and architecture. I skimmed it first but now will read it through properly. And I also have Lionel Shriver’s So Much for That to read before Saturday (library book).

Tomassi’s, eat your heart out

A very cook-y weekend. Am waiting for my chocolate icing to cool down so I can ice some mocha cupcakes I made (more chocolate than coffee). The Earl Grey cupcakes have been iced with a very citrus-y icing (lemon juice, lime juice and icing sugar) and decorated with pink rabbits. Have put away the seconds of the spinach, ricotta and tomato cannelloni that we had for dinner (OMG, SO good !). And yesterday we had Vietnamese burgers, which were delish, though next time I’d avoid the sweet chilli sauce on top – it overpowered the delicate lime, ginger and coriander flavours and made the carefully shaved vegetables into mush.

Am going to sit and think about the lovely cannelloni I made and ate. A lovely ending to the week. Well, that and the yummy cider I’m drinking and the new scarf I’m making (Clapotis, in Fyberspates Scrumptious). Yes, the second scarf I’ve started in 8 days, both with the same yarn. They’re BOTH gorgeous…

Cookery books

Oh, my blood is up ! Have just taken a look at the top 50 cookery books, as voted for by Observer bods, and I’m gobsmacked. I know there are an awful lot of cookery books out there, and my own personal preference for books that have photos of the final dish may skew my choices but their list is a mystery. I’ve heard of less than 10 titles, have read maybe four and do not possess a single one of their top 50.

Judging by the comments, a lot of people feel the choices were quite limited. No vegetarian books, no Indian books and the French cookery books were written by a British writer and an American writer.

Here’s my top 10, based on what I use most in the kitchen :

  1. Good Housekeeping new step-by-step cookbook
  2. Jamie’s ministry of food
  3. Cook in Boots
  4. Cupcakes from the Primrose Bakery
  5. 30 minute cookbook
  6. Nigella Express
  7. Real Fast Food
  8. Keeping it simple
  9. The bean book
  10. Baking

and there are loads of books that I don’t use as often but I’d never be able to give them up – the Larousse Gastronomique, How to be a domestic goddess, Miss Dahl’s voluptuous delights, Bowl food (and the sister companion, Fast food), the Mexican food made simple that I just got and The new English kitchen, which I don’t follow slavishly, but which gives me a good idea on what to do with leftover ingredients.

I can’t believe I seem to be so out of step with what the Observer judges think. Some of the commenters mention books that I’d like to get (The Joy of Cooking, but now I have I Know How to Cook, it might be superfluous) but there isn’t one I can think of on the top 10 that I’d want, and very few on the top 50.

I’d like to see what other people would recommend as a fail-safe cookery book. I know people swear by Delia but the only one of hers that I bought was the Frugal Food one and I only used about four recipes from that (though her toad-in-the-hole recipe is FAB). I may still have her book from the 70s about cooking for three or more, but I only ever made the biscuits from that. I especially don’t like the Nigella Lawson How to Eat,which is strange, as I’ve bought practically every other one she’s done, and am looking forward to the new one. I know a lot of people seem to think it’s a classic but I just couldn’t see enough meals I’d like to make, to warrant buying it.

ETA : The links go through to my version/edition of the book – there may be much more up-to-date versions now.