I just want to say thank you to everyone that sent all good wishes and those that prayed for our son. All I can say is, it worked. I thank you from the deepest recesses of my heart. I also thank the good woman that sent cake and preserves. We were absolutely shattered had very little in the way of ready food and were just about to head out the door again. That sugar boost was most welcome.

The boy does well. He came to knitting today, no amount of persuasion will convince him that knitting is indeed a fine hobby and one he should take up immediately if not sooner. Shame really because he has such a good eye, that if he were to take it up I am sure he would be brilliant at it and probably become one of those famous designers we would all like carefully tucked away, just there to answer questions or give us inspiration.

Then we hopped onto a bus which took us the few miles to our nearest City and had lunch at the Noodle Bar, huge portions, he managed his better than I managed mine! Bought books at Waterstones, and hopped back on a bus which brings us straight back to our very own door. It was peeing with rain for most of our trip and I swung from being absolutely giddy with delight to having the odd break down and sobbing in the street. The flashbacks from everything that has gone on are vivid, the what if’s and images of nursing and letting go of a dying boy are particularly vibrant in colour in my imagination. When I sleep my dreams are full of hospitals, operations and images of the pain the boy was in. Its awful, not as awful as it could have been, but pretty bad, I am hoping it will get better. Maybe more trips out with the boy are what is needed.

Thank you all again,

love Mandy.

Mixed Blessings.

Son no.2, hubby and I have been to see the specialists today and it has been confirmed that it is not cancer, turns out it was auto-immune pancreatitis. Even though they tested for auto-immune pancreatitis, the decision came back it was cancer, it was not. We have been reeling and have been reeling for a couple of weeks but didn’t dare say anything until we had it confirmed today. We are Very happy that he doesn’t have a cancer with such a low survival rate, but are still stunned and wake up because of nightmares of just what he and we have been through, watching your youngest child go through such major surgery is deeply shocking to your very soul.

We get to have our boy back, for that we are grateful.

National Baking Week – 1st Try.

I was dreaming of fruit cake and wondering why we had to wait until Christmas to enjoy a nice fruity slice long before I spotted Carie tweeting that it was National Baking Week. It was all the excuse I needed and decided to try a new recipe for fruit cake.

Son no.2 and I weighed and measured and beat and mixed and sieved and grated and greased and lined in happy companionship and then gaily put the almonds on the top together before popping the cake in the oven for the required time.

And I tested it and then I gave it another half an hour, and then thought it was done.

And took a photograph whilst the cake was cooling down.

And then as I was trying to get the cake out, it all fell apart. And at that point it became evident that there was a half an inch base that wasn’t cooked but which hadn’t revealed itself to my skewer. I saved the cake part of the mixture, the boys picked whilst dinner was being cooked and

hubby dashed to shop for custard, (it is one of our sins, we do love Waitrose’s custard) and all was well in our world again. The cake is extremely rich, this small portion defeated me and hubby had to help me out.

I shall try again soon.

Making meals week 2 – Sushi.

I have been waiting for inspiration on what to teach the boy this week, first there was the idea of muffins, then the idea of a steak and kidney pudding as the boy insisted that nothing savoury could be called a pudding, and then there came the attack of the munchies in sushi form, which the boy was wolfing down. I thought Sushi would be a good thing to teach the boy, not least to save himself and I from bankruptcy because of the price of it ready made.

The boy especially likes Maki, and the last time I made those I couldn’t get the rolls to stick together, since then I have been watching the masters at Yo Sushi and realise just how much they press the rice firmly onto the seaweed, it seems that was the magic trick I was missing.

We have also bought a rice steamer, which makes the rice soft but not soggy and we use the correct Japanese sushi rice, which is sticky and sweet. You must make sure you season the rice with Sushi vinegar after cooking, either home made or already mixed in a bottle.

There are no vegetables in the making of this Maki, the boys just wanted fish and rice, I think a little grated mouli on the side just to lift the palate makes a lovely addition, we served the Maki with pickled ginger and wasabi.

Ingredients at the ready,

and I am off to a good start.

Rolling complete and

now sliced. Over to the boy,

Doing an excellent job of placing the rice on the seaweed,

He has a very nice knife action. You need a knife with a good sharp blade, these are very old knifes with a carbon steel blade, they rust like buggery but are worth it, because you can hone them to a really sharp edge, simply not achievable with stainless steel knives – which you will notice we tried in the previous pictures before settling on this knife.

Rather excellent for a first timer don’t you think? One more tip, if the knife starts to stick and drag, wet it.

And then the boy experiments with how much fish can he put into one roll. (I am not sure the Japanese would have mixed their fish, but it was yummy none the less)

Ta da, two big plates full of Sushi,

enough for supper for all of us and a midnight snack for the boy. They were lovely.

I learn a new thing every day.

Who knew that having a Whipples would impact upon the tastebuds of the boy. Apparently its quite common for foods to taste quite different after this procedure, who knew!

The boy is doing very well, the drain site has just about healed up now and he hasn’t been sick for a while and is maintaining his weight, mostly through a never ending supply of fruit juice, milk and sushi – he simply craves it, we are making our own this evening. Because of the change in his taste buds he has gone off eggs! Which has completely foxed the chickens who had between the three of them been doing a gallant job of keeping up with our families needs all summer. Normally as the days darken chickens go through their moult and have a few weeks of haphazard egg laying and then stop, and you won’t see another egg until well after the new year. But these being a hybrid called White Stars, well it looks like they are determined to keep going, at present we are still seeing three eggs a day.

So, earlier this week I was sat looking at nearly 2 dozen eggs, just over a weeks supply and started to look through ideas on the net, a few ideas appealed, such as curds or baked custards or ice creams, but they would all take more effort than I really wished to put into preserving them at that moment, when I came across the idea of freezing hens eggs. I thought that was quite a brilliant idea, and then I can use them in my Christmas cake or a Victoria sponge. So I beat them and bagged them in batches of 3 eggs, they may not be as wonderful as fresh eggs, but come mid December when the hens will undoubtedly have stopped laying, they will still be more of a treat than anything I can buy in the supermarket, and you never know the boy may start to enjoy omelets again.

And later on in the day I heard some very good news. A friend of mine is having a baby, which was wonderful news, and as a knitter it is doubly good news, as we get to dabble in baby knitwear. When I first became a knitter I came across the pattern of The Baby Surprise Jacket by Elizabeth Zimmermann. It all ended in tears, I simply couldn’t follow the pattern well enough, but this time there are tutorials on youtube from Lorilee Beltman at Knitting Nuggets and a Wiki Page on Ravelry which supplies you with more information than you could ever imagine possible for one little baby cardigan. And somewhere along the line in my knitting career I had already come across Dawn Adcock’s notes so printed those off. So I sat and watched the video’s, rummaged through my commercial sock yarn box, of which I found DK wanting, but then found a beautiful yarn from Regia and cast on yesterday morning.

I think I have cracked it!

(I would have tried this pattern for Kitty, but her Mum could teach masterclasses in this pattern, so I decided it would be best if I chose something different)

Ally Pally 2011

I had a wonderful time at Alexandra Palace Knitting and Stitching show yesterday, this show just gets better and better. There was more yarn here than in any previous year, I was really spoilt for choice. I had such fun squeezing all of the different yarns and my head is simply spinning with new ideas. But I also knew I was on a budget as I was a very lucky girl to be here in the first place what with the expense of the last few months, but my husband and son no.2 (Mum, just go!, go!) decided I needed a treat, I am spoilt, what can I say. So dosed up with paracetamol and hankies at the ready, due to a pesky virus and a babysitter organised for son no.2, a quick check on him at 7.30 a.m. and he was fine and off we went. We arrived at 9.30 and bought our tickets and waited around and then all of a sudden we were in, it was amazing, as you enter the hall the number of brightly coloured stalls takes your breath away. Hubby wandered off to find coffee and cake whilst I enjoyed the quiet of those first few moments and started to shop.

I was tempted in many directions, Fyberspates had some gorgeous purple creation that was creating a serious temptation and The Crochet Chain had some very gorgeous (and cheap!) Drops Nepal that was calling to me in my acid greens. There was yarn to cover all types of yarn emergencies, in various ranges of price, colour and fibre.

Eventually I settled on a kit from Colinette,

I have been resisting their kits for three years and I firmly believe that if something has been continuously calling to me for three years, then I probably should have it and just had the problem of choosing the colour. After two attempts, once in the morning, once in the afternoon, I eventually settled on….


I know you are laughing, because anyone that knows me would have been able to walk up to that stall and it would have been the first one they would have picked for me. Trust me, when faced with so much beauty, it is really tricky to make sure you have picked the one you love the most.

I also spent a fair bit of time looking at Jamieson’s of Shetland wool and kits. And in the end decided to settle on their

colour chart. I can imagine some lovely evenings putting together creations of mittens and hats from this.

Hubby is cooking the dinner, I have wound the yarn into cakes and as I am still pretty tired I am settling down for the evening to gently cast on a few stitches and see where the pattern takes me.

Autumn Knitting.

I have been knitting a lovely cloak since the start of August called Liv by Martin Storey published in Nordic Knits: 29 stylish small project (wonderful book, I recommend it, it really is lovely) It has been very easy knitting as once the cable pattern was memorised it was ideal to knit without thinking whilst everything has been going on. I have carted it with me everywhere, it was reassuring in a world that had become and still is intense, confusing and often very crazy. It was only later that I realised I had picked a pattern called Liv, I think there was some sort of cosmic wit in that especially as I chose to knit it before our world became a series of consultations and hospitals.

I thought you might like a quick update, the back is finished and I am on the homeward jaunt on the front.

I am falling very deeply in love with it, I chose to knit it in Rowan Scottish Tweed aran in Lewis Blue.

This is the back and I am not sure where I am going to block it, its huge.

But today I shall continue with the knitting, the barometer says change, the cats are in and dozing gently on beds and I can see rust coloured leaves floating down from the trees in the wind, I must knit faster.

Jane Brocket comes to Warwick.

I know, Warwick, wow. It was Carie that spied this on Jane’s blog Yarn Storm and conveyed this information to us at our knitting group with much excitement. I was stunned that such an important blogger and writer to us had decided to come to our county town of Warwickshire to speak to us, and immediately said, ‘ooh yes, I’d love to go’ so the date and tickets were booked and only later did I realise tea and cake would be involved – this had no bearing on my decision making what so ever!

Carie gently reminded me of the date last week and at that time I wasn’t really sure if I would make it, and at the weekend I began to doubt even more, but the boy had brightened up by this morning and when I left him early afternoon he was bright and active so I felt less troubled and went off to enjoy what I can only describe as a delightful afternoon.

Firstly we had lunch at Merchants which is a lovely restaurant and where Carie and I have spent many a happy lunch time enjoying one of their lunch time deals for a Fiver, whilst catching up with each others news and knitting and quilting adventures. Todays special was a generous portion of gammon, fresh pineapple which was caramelised, home made chips and a side salad, it was lovely lunch and then time being short of time we marched quickly to the Lord Leycester Hospital where this event was being put on by Warwick Words

On entering I started to pick out people in the crowd firstly Anita who is The Quilters Den, and then fellow knitters from Kenilworth Knit and Natter D and N and J and we all happily sat together on one big table.

Quite quickly afterward Jane Brocket was introduced and we quickly fell under her spell, she spoke with passion about her background, crafting and writing whilst at the same time giving us little insights into her working day. The room was silent whilst we were absorbing every word, it was a real treat to hear her speak, what with her voice only being heard before through print. There were two areas that I really identified with, the first about needing to craft in whatever form every day, I feel that and feel a little bit lost if I don’t. And the other the fear of writing, and how sticking your head above the parapet can be extremely frightening, and how people will often target you for doing so. Not being a very good writer, I often feel like this. But then Jane explained how in whatever format we should just have a go.

It was wonderful to see her quilts in person, quilts that had gently glimmered in her quilting book, simply shone with their beauty in real life. Knitting that was beautiful in print really came alive once seen. It was wonderful. I shouldn’t really tell you this but Carie was quite giddy at one stage, she was enjoying every moment, as I have to say, so was I. And by the conversation whilst we were enjoying our tea and cakes everyone had been inspired.

Jane allowed me to take this photograph of herself, it was under duress though, I mean how many bald women can you say no to?!! She knows its going on my blog, and I must have said something extremely funny although I can’t remember what just as I clicked, I do thank her for her generosity.

And then Carie, D and I wandered to Warwick Wools to have a wander around and all too soon it was time to go home.

I have to say I had a wonderful afternoon.

And just before hubby drove me home,

I realised we had entered my very favourite time of year.

Happy Autumn everyone.

Making Mondays

Whilst chatting to son no.2 when he was laid up in hospital we came to the conclusion that university was going to have to be postponed for a year so we came up with a few ideas which would we hoped allay the isolation from his uni friends and at the same time give him some new skills. One of these plans was to have a regular Monday cookery slot, hopefully to teach him some new skills, although to be honest he does okay and can provide a reasonably balanced meal for himself when he wants to put the effort in.

At the moment he’s not really up to cooking proper meals, but heating and mixing ingredients into a batter he could do. So we put together a gingerbread cake, which smells lovely and is taunting us with its gingery treacly scent. I think he did a lovely job and now realises just how quickly a cake can be put together. I am not sure if this is a good or a bad thing, but as he has lost nearly four stone since the start of all this and is still losing three pounds a week, I don’t think it will do him any harm.