A cold and wet weekend.

I blame the chickens, its all their fault, the reason why my Kenwood Chef has died, which was the first Kenwood Chef that was made in 1953 has departed from this world with quite an explosive pop.  The first time it happened we changed the fuse and she came back to life for a couple of minutes but soon decided enough was enough with a bang and a flash of light and just a little bit of smoke.  I quickly unplugged her whilst hubby went off to reset the fuse box again.  At the moment she has her guts hanging out whilst the engineer takes on a diagnostic role, the trouble is her motor isn’t made anymore.  I may need to have a nurse wipe my fevered brow whilst I contemplate life without her.  We were good friends the Kenwood and I and made many people happy when we whipped up magnificent Pavlova’s and cakes for parties, let alone the number of times she was brought into action for simple mixes for pancakes and drop scones, and I will be at a complete loss when it comes to mixing my Christmas cake.  

It all started with those pesky chickens who have been laying like the clappers, if you want reliable hens buy White Stars, their productivity is quite astounding. So first of all I made a couple of quiche’s with the eggs, a piece of Stilton I rescued from the back of the freezer and the first of the asparagus.

And one with a few tomatoes that were lurking in the fridge which was popped into the freezer. 
And a few jam tarts that were made with the rest of the pastry.  Actually the flour that I used was self raising not having any plain in the house which made them quite puffy and soft, which was quite nice and the jam is a blackcurrant jelly that I made from our own bushes last autumn. 
The quiche was very tasty. 
And then hubby found more eggs so I made a Queen of puddings from left over bread in the freezer  more of the Blackcurrant Jelly. 
Not quite authentic, but very good. 
And realising that I wasn’t going to get to go to Wonderwool because the weather was going to be very bad on Sunday, I cast on a sock in Opal, hand dyed.  I am loving it and it was just the sort of pick me up I needed, as I was a little bit sad that I wouldn’t be going.
On Sunday I played with pretty fabrics, 
I am well on the way to making Mum’s quilt (it was place mats!) for her 75th birthday. 
And then the chickens laid more eggs and I was able to make a Chocolate cake. 
With a chocolate frosting which is boiled and then whipped until it is cool where upon it takes on a fudgey consistency and is absolutely gorgeous.  But which proved too much for the Kenwood. 
Apart from the Kenwood (did I mention the Kenwood?!) I’ve had a lovely weekend playing with ingredients to get the best out of them and not going to the shops once. Today we had pigs cheek casserole that was left over from Friday with a few fresh vegetables and mashed spuds, it was yummy.  Not bad for a make do and mend weekend.  (lets hope hubby can do the mending bit of this equation) 
I am off to knit a sock. 

Day 6 of Sewing for 30 days.

Sewing everyday is far easier than going to the gym everyday, but you knew that.  What have I been up to, well, I am making placemats for  my Christmas table and at the same time making Mum some as well.   They are going quite well,  and I am really enjoying making them. 

Did you notice those points, well just in case you couldn’t quite see,

not bad.  Mind you, I haven’t shown you the previous two, they are not as pretty as this one.

Anyway, I ran out of black fabric yesterday and needed some more to finish these placemats so I took myself off to Warwick to visit Anita at The Quilters Den, to spend a very enjoyable hour and a half choosing fabrics.  I’d only popped in for a couple of items when an idea that had been ruminating came to fruition after having seen these fabrics.

I think they will make very pretty placemats for Mum to use in the garden and will become the perfect 75th birthday present that I have been searching for.  I’d best get crackin’ .

What I learned today..

In the scheme of all things related to the sewing machine, items that require a ten digit code to verify that you do indeed have the right part to use, to do the job you wish, an item that will work on the machine that you have safely installed in your home,  never trust shop assistants.  I have just found to my cost that I have been sold the wrong free motion bobbin for my machine.  It is like a game of snakes and ladders, and I have gone back five spaces.

Secondly the reason that these little jobs on the sewing machine take so long is because of the designer of the machine.  You see the way I see it in my mind is that all of the little feet are stored on the top and all of the bulky feet with attachments are stored in the nicely designed draws at the back and front of my machine.  Simples, so when I looked for my free motion quilting foot, I found it wasn’t there.  I checked my machine three times, searched the room, scrambled under the desk amongst the bits and pieces of fabric that had fallen there, imagine my happiness when I did find a foot, not the right one, but a foot it was, I must be on the right track.  I came back out dirtier but without the required foot.  Then checked my machine again, opened the draws and glanced over the top, nope the free motion quilting foot wasn’t there.

Then I thought have I put this foot in my older machine.  Managed to unearth it under a pile of magazines, pillows (stuffing to you and me) and fabric only to find that it uses a completely different foot and no the foot I was after wasn’t there.  Cursed under my breath and considered buying another foot whilst desperately trying to think of a way to get this under hubby’s radar.  He would blame my housekeeping abilities which we know are well down on the list as to why he loves me.

I decided to search downstairs, just before glancing once again at my machine. And then, just out of the corner of my eye, I see the large quilting foot I want, perched safely in its hidey hole that the designer has so carefully placed on the top, next to the small feet.  It shouldn’t be there at all, it should be tucked into one of the draws, any self respecting seamstress knows this.  Mandycharlie quickly checks her peripheral vision which is fine and can only determine that it all stems from a knock on the head sometime soon after birth.

Manic mode, averted, it would have been ugly.

Day 1 of using the sewing machine for 30 days.

After a couple of hours I had sewn down the curves on my triangles. 
They looked pretty good, until I realised, 
 that I had forgotten the extra triangles on the corners, 
 At which point my sewing machine made a few weird crunchy sounds, which had an awful lot to do with the fact that I was using invisible thread on both the bobbin and the reel.  Apparently your not meant to do that, 
 and my machine was filthy as I have just finished a large project for my Mum. I decided to strip it and clean it.  I am woman, have screwdriver, can travel. 
 And soon it looked all shiny new again.  Tomorrow I am going to change the needle – listens to ooh’s and ash’s from the crowd.  (your meant to change your needle after every eight hours sewing!) 
And this was the muck I collected.  If only housework was so enjoyable and simple. 

How did the 30 day challenge go?

I hear you ask.

Well its been well over the 30 days, I think its about 48.

The first two to three weeks went extremely well, then I caught a tummy bug (probably from the Sewing for Pleasure jaunt) and that took me off my feet and meant I stayed very close to home for a few days.  I felt quite weak after that but managed to recover enough for our day out in London (which was blogged about some time after the event) and caught the chills on the way back which went into a cold and then a mild lung infection (green gunk and the shivers), but fortunately recovered from that without medical intervention.

So what I am trying to say is I veered off course.  I am building myself back up, although heading back to Curves when a Zumba class was just about to start wasn’t the best plan for the first day back.  I rather over did that, and needed a couple of days to recover.  Thankfully I am now back to my usual workouts and am feeling fine with that.

Well, what have been the benefits?

Well for a start even though I caught a cold, my muscles weren’t screaming at me the way they normally do when I am having a day out in London, (we do pack a lot in) there were times that I was positively bouncy (although that may have been the Turkish coffee) and I felt that my gait had changed, my stride has lengthened and I felt that I was stronger.

And, I’ve lost a couple more pounds, it would have been more, but colds always leave me ravenous for some reason and not always for the healthy options.

It is good, I am glad I tried this challenge and I think Curves is going to be part of my life for a good while yet.

It is time to move over to another 30 day challenge and this time I want to explore the way I use my time to play.  I spend far to much time on the computer, its true! And because of developing the social places that I go to, let alone the fascinating blogs that I find along the way, my time in my day runs away with me and its all too easy to accomplish less and less, whilst all the time wanting to do more and more creative projects.  So, rather than saying that I am going to limit my computer time and suddenly be faced with a void, which could make me grumpy until I turn on the computer and click onto my social places to see what is going on in the world, I have decided to tackle my time issues from a different angle.  I am going to do more, that right, more.  Crazy isn’t it.  But it just might work, so, for the next 30 days I am going to play with my sewing machine every day.  Even if its just for a few minutes. Every day, for 30 days.

And so it begins…

I have two major projects on the go at the moment, having watched other projects slowly sink to the bottom of the pile.  The first on the list is our allotment, spring seems to have come very quickly this year and normally by Easter we are much further ahead.  (although I know that Easter is a movable feast)
 So I was very pleased that out of all the seeds that I had planted last weekend the Mitzuna had germinated. I first came across this leaf in an organic veg box and instantly adored it so I was very pleased to find the seeds last year.  It is a spicy accompaniment to a mixture of leaves or lovely as the only leaf in a meat or cheese or egg sandwich. 

I find using pencils are the best way to prick out, I hold the leaf, never the stem, no matter how gentle you are you risk damaging the plant if you grip the stem.  I use the pencil to lift the plant and its roots gently from the soil (no pencil in this shot as I was taking the photo with the other hand)

And then wiggle a hole to carefully place the young plant in, then gently water in and the hole will fill in on its self.

All done, one tray of Japanese Mitzuna’s. 
Hubby is trying a different method for the tomatoes this year.  Rather than using grow bags he is building raised beds in the greenhouses and filling with our own home made compost.  We will have to see what happens.  This year we are using a combination of tomatoes grafted onto vigorous root stocks and tomatoes which are not. We couldn’t get grafted large plum tomatoes so we decided on the usual plants.  I’ve found that these are the most delicious when pulped down for cooking and the easiest to pick, much quicker than picking the tiny tomatoes and the quickest to blanch, skin, chop up and cook.  
And I at last get to sit down with this…  The latest Mystery Blanket by Debbie Abrahams,   I have probably knitted this square about five times now.  I think I have mastered the twists and turns of Intarsia now, but my biggest fault is enjoying the knitting.  So what happens is I am in deeply cheerful mood thinking it will be all right and it then turns out I made a mistake a few rows down and its throwing the whole thing out.  And you all know what a perfectionist I am, so I have to tink or frog it back to find my mistake. 
I think I will finish this square tonight and then I am onto a couple of squares with beads, so pretty.  

Cheap day out in London. (picture heavy)

Hubby was mooching around the train prices to London and found an excellent deal for us to whiz into London and come back out again for the princely sum of £6.60 each.  That’s right £6.60 for a return, that is less than a cup of coffee and a sandwich in some establishments.  The only downfall was getting up at the crack of dawn and then leaving London by 4.30 p.m.,  but it did give us a last chance to see David Hockneys work again and play at being tourists with a packed lunch in tow.  

So, there we were at the train station before 7.00 a.m. bleary eyed and yawning listening to the cacophony of the birds morning chorus getting louder and louder as the day became brighter and brighter.  Soon the train arrived and it was really nice waking up to the wonderful views of the fields, hedges and trees just springing into life with their new growth of acid green as the sun slowly warmed the earth.  Having seen David Hockneys work quite recently (and eager to see it again) it has given me a new insight into his use of colour when visually describing the colour of hedges and trees.  He uses a lot of purple and to start with I thought I hadn’t seen those colours in hedges but sometimes when the light is just right or we happen to come across the same species of hedge I see exactly the same colour that David Hockney chose to use.  Its very interesting.  Although I am not convinced of the colour he chose to use when painting May in full bloom, I see it as a much brighter white than the creamy colour he has chosen.  However, I am waiting to see if it changes to that creamy colour just before it goes over and is lost again for another year.  And then when I see it, I will doff my cap to the master and apologise for doubting him.

We arrived just before 8.30 a.m. and decided to see what Borough Market had to offer on a busy Saturday morning.  I hoped we would be rewarded with a show of great magnitude and rewarded we were. Oh to come shopping on a Saturday morning and return home with sumptuous goodies that would be perfectly unspoiled after carting them around London for the day.  One can dream, but until that day, we have photographs to tempt us.

I love shellfish, 
especially scallops 

and squid.  This fish stall took my breath away.  I have seen it before in the week, never on a Saturday morning. Those Londoners don’t realise how lucky they are to to be met with such an abundant stall supplying the freshest of fish. I wish our fish markets were as lively as this one. 

Tomatoes, I have an excellent recipe for squid, tomatoes and red wine slowly braised in the oven for an hour or two, which is served with pasta and more red wine, its lovely and is a wonderful pick me up when the weather is miserable and the nights are long. 

It uses garlic, we bought some garlic, I thought that would stand the rucksack test. It did. 
Mushrooms and herbs were abundant, garlic mushrooms on toast anyone?  It made you hungry to walk around these stalls.  

Richard Haywards Oysters, these are lovely we have had them before at The Royal Show, but this was not a day for Oysters for breakfast, we were looking for a coffee. 

Oh the bread, how lovely it smelt as we walked past. 

I spied a Turkish coffee bar, now if there is one thing that can tempt me away from my decaffeinated regime of drinks it is Turkish coffee.  It is very rarely seen in our parts unless you happen upon a Turkish restaurant.  I had a Greek boyfriend who introduced Turkish coffee to me many years ago and as you know the Greeks/Turkish relationship is a bit tricky but all is forgiven by the Greeks when faced with a Turkish coffee.  It is so delicious, and as I was wittering away to hubby saying ‘Ooh look Turkish Coffee” hubby admitted he had never had one.  I looked at him aghast,  he the drinker of all strong coffees who slips in an espresso when he thinks no one is watching.  So we sat down and ordered two coffee’s which came with a piece of home made Turkish delight and a drink of water, how very civilised. 

Which is where I met A, who was serving us. I recognised a comrade in the alopecian stakes immediately and whipped my hat off as a way to say hello.  We had a really good chat about all things alopecian.  I was quite surprised to hear that even though A works in a very busy place in London, he had never had the opportunity to talk to another alopecian.  We are a very rare bunch.  I’ve only met a couple of others myself. It was great to talk to him and to share our stories of how others treat you, it made us feel normal!  He was a lovely lad, I hope he does well in life. 
And then it was time to rush off to see the David Hockney exhibition, which was wonderful.  After that we crossed the road to Fortnum and Mason to see what they had to offer in the way of tantalising treats and an Easter gift for my goddaughter Kitty. 
The eggs are pretty, 
but not at that price!  
But there were some pretty things that were much more sensibly priced. 
And I really did like this bull, if only I had the space. 
And then there were cakes 
and so it goes on. I will let you drool over the pictures.
I loved the icing on these biscuits. 
And then it was time to dart over to Loop in Islington.  And look what they had in the window. 
Loft by Brooklyn Tweed and I knew they would have some Shelter inside.  We have been waiting for Brooklyn Tweed to come into Loop for what seems like months, Loop are the first to stock it in the UK.  So we are very lucky indeed. 
I know you have the glare of the flash, (sorry about that) 
but you can still see the delicacy of the colours. 
And look what else there was.  That might give you a clue as to what was going to happen next. 
After much deliberation I settled on the mustardy rather than the green to test drive the Shelter as a winter hat and found a comfy chair, to wait my turn, 
to say hello to Kaffe Fassett and Brandon Mably.  Who btw really liked my collar on my cardigan. 
So whilst I was chatting to them I explained to them about our knitting group and was wondering whether they would like to come and give us a workshop?  
And they said…. Yes, they would love to. (which nearly knocked me sideways!)  I will have to find out more details but watch this space for an event next year.  (I can’t wait!) 
And a shot for the album.  Really nice guys, it was a pleasure to chat to them. 
And just for those that would like a close up. 
So then, we had just over an hour before our train was due to take us home.  Not enough time to see an exhibition but just enough time to visit another shop.  We ummed and arred as we walked to the tube and then I remembered the silk shop that Carie had talked about on her blog and desperately tried to find it on her blog.  Eventually I found it and off we trotted to Broadwick Silks. 
Oh Wow. 
Just Gorgeous. 
Deep Sigh. 
A perfect end to a perfect day. 
Two things, can’t wait to see Carie’s finished quilt (although I did get a sneaky peek of the quilt in progress the other day) and must start to think about a quilt for myself.  (maybe next year) 

The joy of knowing other knitters.

Last Monday I was pottering around the internet as you do, when I came across a comment from dearest Lucy telling us all about the new arrival of Baby B, ‘ TWO’ months early, Eeek!  He weighed in at a grand total of 3 pounds 7 oz.  Well there was only one thing to do, put a call to arms out to other knitters that I know and cast on.  The poor girl had had an emergency caesarian and was in no fit state to do anything other than look after her beautiful son and having had friends that have given birth early I knew only too well how difficult and expensive it is to clothe a tiny dot such as that.  By Tuesday morning several of them had cast on!  Aren’t knitters wonderful, I didn’t have to explain everything that I have just done to you, I simply said, “she’s had a baby, he’s a dot, which is interrupted by them talking about which item to cast on.  There are some other items in the pipeline but this is what was sent to Lucy today. 

 These were knitted by me and are all preemie size , two cardi’s, two hats.

 and this is a preemie size next to a first born size.

 A couple of photographs of the detail of the ladybirds on my first completed and finally understood Baby Surprise (he sure was!) by Elizabeth Zimmermann.

I do like ladybirds.  They are my favourite bug, they eat all of the greenfly and they are pretty, whats not to love.

 Noelle sat up most of the night knitting this so she could get it in the wash and dry it off for Thursday.  I think red is such a lovely colour on a baby.

 Another lady (Barbara?) at knitting gave me this to keep Baby B’s head lovely and warm.

 There was a lovely matinee set by Kay, which is absolutely dreamy the wool is so soft,

 and this was knitted by Kay too and tickled me to bits. I love it and I sure Lucy will too.

I really am very lucky to have such wonderful friends, thank you so much for all your hard work, I know it will be much appreciated.

Baby B is doing very well and had most of his tubes removed yesterday, its all going as it should. There will be a piccie of Baby B, but I am putting him in Ravelry for a little bit of protection, message me if you would like his whereabouts, he really is beautiful.

One a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns.

Happy Easter everyone.

 I decided to try my hand at hot cross buns this year, mainly because I have been thinking about them for the last couple of months and thinking what an ideal vehicle they would be to use up some dried fruit that has been sitting in the cupboard since Christmas.

I assembled the ingredients and found that I only had wholemeal bread making flour and being too lazy to walk up the town and lug a bag of white bread making flour back, I decided to go ahead and make them anyway.

Which resulted in hot cross buns that if you threw one hard enough you could probably take out a rhinoceros, and you have to check how strong you are before picking one up, they would make great paper weights (really selling them aren’t I?!) but they taste delicious.  They taste nicer than shop bought,  as well as the dried fruit I put a good quantity of mixed peel and spices which has added a really nice flavour to them.  They are proving very moorish and the two dozen I made are being demolished quite rapidly.  (I have a small secret stash in the freezer for Easter Sunday)

Quilting with Jennie Rayment.

I was lucky enough to attend a workshop recently at The Quilters Den in Warwick with Jennie Rayment.  I had a wonderful day learning her latest design called Scrappy Zappy Do from her book Foldy Rolly Patchwork Pzzazz.  I had many compliments on my use of Christmas fabric which Jennie had not seen used in this design before.  In her book there is a tutorial on quilted circular place mats using the same triangles that are gently folded on there bias, (I haven’t got that far yet!)  so I think I will turn this into a Christmas runner for the table with a matching set of place mats  (which won’t be for a while as I am snowed under at the moment) 

 I’d love to have another workshop with Jennie, she was a very good teacher, leaving very little room for her students to make mistakes.  Her humour is lively and she entertained us beautifully.

Jennie in front of her own Scrappy Zappy Do.