We took a trip along the coast last weekend, firstly stopping at Southend.

southend oneThe longest pier in the country, it even has it’s own train to get to the end.southend nine

I played on the 2p shoves.  I do love these, I’ll always love them.   southend two

We trundled along to Leigh-on-Sea and ate the best cockles I’ve ever had, but the wind was fierce and soon we went home.

The next day we came back to explore Westcliffe-on-Sea and Thorpe Bay

southend four

It was lovelysouthend threesouthend seven

and peaceful and definitely not London or landlocked Warwickshire. southend five

I taught hubby about the wonders of seaglass and once explained he was off like a rocket picking up pieces as he walked, although once I’d got my eye in, I was able to keep up.   You should have seen how pleased he was with himself when he handed me the tiny blue piece of sand worn glass.  southend eight

And as we walked back to the car, the beauty of the beach huts.  Tiny huts and wider huts, new huts and old, painted in seaglass whites, greens and blues.

Flavoursome Friday – Barbecue Pork Rice Balls.

Hubby and I seem to be living in a bit of a pork fest at the moment.  Tales of beautifully cooked shoulders of pork, cooked for upwards of five hours that melt in the mouth with the crunchiest of crackling abound from Warwickshire.   Although when asked if leftovers could be brought to London the phone seems to go quiet and the direction of the conversation is swiftly changed.

So I have had to cook my own or otherwise be left in a state of constant desire for sticky porky loveliness. Pork 1

These are the left overs, I bought the biggest shoulder I could find, if your going to have the oven on for that long, you might as well make full use of it and have the basis for more meals.  I would have preferred it on the bone, but the Chinese supermarket had sold out and the big supermarkets in the UK seem to think we all want boneless items that are easy to carve.

I would have shown you the dinner, but we ate it very quickly, it was delicious.   Sticky dark amber roast potatoes, slightly bitter savoy cabbage, young carrots and a few spears of purple sprouting, it was everything it could have ever been and the gravy, oh the gravy, it was magnificent. Pork 2

So I cut a few slices of pork off and chopped them up finely, added some Jamaican Jerk barbecue sauce which was very tasty and chopped up a few sprigs of coriander and mixed them up.  I’d cooked some Thai rice off which had gone cold, slightly stickier than a Basmati, I probably could have done better with a Japanese sticky rice, but it all worked fine.  Making sure to wet my hands to stop it all from sticking I made some rice balls stuffed with the barbecue pork. Pork 3

And then left them to chill in the fridge for an hour. Pork 4

Next I pan fried them for a few minutes until they were crunchy on the outside and then finished them in the microwave – I didn’t want them to burn but wanted the filling hot and sticky.  You might call it slow food with a quick finish!   And of course, they were gorgeous.

Thursdays Knit and Natter – Dads Christmas socks.

One pair down, four to go.  It is at this stage that I wish I had given birth to dainty girls with size 4 feet.  Fortunately I have one pair to knit of that size, my Mothers, the rest vary from a mens 9 to a whopping great big 11 which happen to be extra wide as well.  Socks of this size tend to take me a good few days, I think there is about twenty hours in a pair, more if you happen to get side tracked by the film one is watching.

So why do I do it?  Because the joy of putting on a pair of hand knit socks, knit to your size, with a kitchenered toe (seamless) is one of life’s simple but greatest of pleasures, one you never knew you needed until you tried your first pair on. And as you squeal with delight as your toes explore the delights of the wool and the hitherto unknown space available to move and flex, you know there is no going back, socks will never be the same again. Dads Christmas socks 2014 1

Dad loves his socks.  He especially loves the brightly coloured ones on the days he has had to see his foot nurse, apparently they have a lovely conversation about them, the colours, the wool and the seamless nature of their construction is talked about and how beneficial it has been for old feet. Dads Christmas socks 2014 2

And when he saw new doctors for his poorly toe, one can imagine just how carefully he perused his collection of hand knit socks, to pick the perfect pair for maximum effect.  I wonder did he go for soft and comfortable or did the comedy in him lead him into picking the brightest stripey pair to get the most laughs.

But one thing can be sure, Dads Christmas socks 2014 3

they were all kitchenered with love and what more can a Father hope for from his daughter.

Stitchery Tuesday – Pattern Cutting

As with all things, the key to success is practise, practise, practise.  So when the opportunity to take part in a trouser pattern cutting class which was held in my home town came up I jumped at the chance.  I came trundling home, cat in tow, she did very well by the way, and spent a wonderful two days immersed in mathematical equations, paper, set squares, french curves, tape measures and sharp pencils.   I was attuned to the insights of the tutor and welcomed the opportunity to look through the books she was using.   And the best part, being able to relax and study and absorb, luxuries that are sometimes lost in the hurly burly of uni life. pattern cutting

It was worth it, I just have to draw up a pair for me now, which might be the ultimate challenge…

Meatless Mondays – Sweetcorn and Ginger Soup.

I’ve been meaning to start blogging about my foray into the world of meatless meals.  During my youth I was a vegetarian for about three years and truth be told one part of me would have liked to drift back into that way of eating, but the other part finds meat is yummy and fish in particular seems to make me feel better when my world is spinning around.  But what I have been doing is just dropping the odd meaty meal for one filled with beans and rice – or potatoes and cheese –  it depends on what the day has been like. It’s the August bank holiday today and of course it has rained heavily all day, more so than on an average bank holiday, where one can be certain that it will rain between the hours of 11a.m. and 4 p.m., just enough to take the shine off whatever one had planned.  Today has been a Noah’s Ark sort of rainy day, I am sure I could hear wood being sawn and nails being hammered in the distance as the rain drops grew heavier and heavier from morning until night. And it has grown colder, and as I gazed into my fridge full of lovely locally grown produce my eyes settled on these, corn on teh cobwhich ordinarily would have been cooked and eaten with lots of butter in the sunshine.  But that wasn’t going to happen today.  Then my eyes settled on a nice big piece of ginger perched in the door of my fridge and an idea sprang into my mind. I prepared a generous two inch piece of ginger into julienes and started to saute that in a pan, then added about a pint of water and let it come to the boil whilst I slid my sharp knife down the corn to release the kernels. corn on teh cob 2 Then dropped the juicy kernals into the water, whilst popping a few raw escapees into my mouth, they were lovely and sweet.  I added a tablespoon of sugar, a scant level teaspoon of salt, a good shake of white pepper and half a pint of milk.  I let it cook for just a few minutes and then whizzed with with my hand food processor (the type that you pop into the pan to break the soup up)   I cracked a couple of eggs and added a little soy to it, I would have added sesame oil but I didn’t have any and stirred the egg mixture into the hot soup and watched as it formed that lovely eggy mixture so beloved of Chinese soups.  I found this recipe through Ken Hom many years ago, I haven’t read the original for years, so I don’t know how true it is, I just know it is delicious and I make it regularly.  I normally make it with chicken stock, but it is such a good soup that one can make it with water and not suffer unduly. And just within the space of ten minutes, you have this. corn on teh cob 3 A bowl of comforting, hearty, delicious soup, the perfect companion on a rainy bank holiday.

Ikea does it again.

I think one used to be slightly judged if you loved anything that came from Ikea, well twenty odd years ago you were, how times have changed.  Now it has a following of which I am one who approve of how they manage to design reasonably priced furniture that, it has to be said, as soon as you get out of the price bracket of Billy the bookcase is starting to look quite good.  And whats more, the design, according to hubby who just built the last bookcase is a marvel to behold,  he told me in great detail how the bookcase, which is as sturdy as any pine creation made by hand, just clicked together.

But what I hadn’t bargained on was their eye for plants.

I bought this over a year ago.

Ikea flower 1

An Orchid, a Phalaenopsis apparently.  It was cheap, less than a fiver, there were lots of colours to choose from and I chose this one for the deep velvet purple and that the stem with the flowers on had split into two, so double the blooms.  And then it flowered for ten months, it was amazing, it went on and on and on.  Just when you thought it was going to stop flowering, a few more flower buds would form and off it would go again.

So when it stopped flowering I popped it onto the kitchen window sill and it seemed to like that space too and promptly shot up a couple of flower spikes.  After two months of no flowers its in full bloom again.  I’ve not fed it, I’ve not done anything apart from not kill it. Its dried out plenty of times, but apparently they like that.

Ikea flower 2

And the best part, its already sending out two more flower spikes.

Such a glorious plant, from Ikea, for less than a fiver.

Who’d have thought it.

‘Tis time to start the Christmas knitting.

Yes, yes, I know its August.

I know I did mention on my last post that I thought Summer may well be broken.  And perhaps that was a bit presumptuous,  but on further inspection I find myself wearing these to keep my tootsies warm as well as dragging a hand knit cardigan out of its summer resting place to put on.  Perhaps its the lack of hair, but I feel the shivers long before everyone else seems to.

socks me 2014

I knit these along with another two pairs last year to go in my ‘new for me knitted socks pile’ – I’ve no idea what yarn they are, I don’t tend to keep track of sock yarns like I used to.  Its German, its probably Opal, 4ply,  I would have knitted them on a 60 stitch round with 2.5 mm needles with a heel flap design, a 15 row 2 by 2 rib and 60 row stocking stitch leg with a 48 row foot in between the instep and the toe.

And so it was it got me to thinking, I haven’t knit my family a pair of socks for two winters and I must try and remedy that this year, before the moans for new socks becomes ever more urgent.  We have discussed before that one should never give a person hand knit socks unless they truly love them and are willing to be their sock knitting slave for the rest of one’s natural born days.  At the moment I have five such people on my list, and I fight the good fight to prevent any more joining, its sometimes a tough struggle and people have been known to get grumpy when told the sock knitting list is closed, definitely closed, yep absolutely closed.

And so it was at three this morning, in the grips of the worst insomnia for quite a while, I sorted out piles of sock yarn, found needles and cast on a pair for my Dad’s Christmas box,  (he doesn’t read the blog)  and managed many rows of rib before drifting off.

And this evening I am swiftly heading for the turn of the heel.

socks Dad 2014

This is a 68 stitch round with an 18 round 2 by 2 rib on 2.5mm needles in 4ply Regia Galaxy Jupiter 01555.   I’m really liking the way they are coming out and I know my Dad will love them, the colours are just so him and I know that he will love that I took the time to knit him a pair and his toes will be lovely and warm all winter just by wearing his collection of hand knit socks.

Retriever Cat

Toile enjoying her morning retrieve.  She’s definitely more dog than cat.  (excuse the heavy breathing, I sound awful)

This all started with her chasing a foam ball that we threw to the top of the stairs which she chased to the bottom and then she started to bring it back, this tiny dot of a kitten, sat at your feet with a ball carefully placed by them.  The first couple of times we were, ‘yeah right, thats just a bit of an accident’ but then we realised, that she knew what she wanted, and she wanted us to play.  So we have been trained by the cat, to throw and play fetch and a really good job she has done of it too.