Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday baking

I always try to bake on Friday, something good to greet the children from school and herald the start of the weekend.

It might be fair to say that I can be guilty of repeating the same baked repertoire over and over so once in a while I get out the books and look for something new to try, occasionally the new recipe is good enough to work its way into the regular menu and on other occasions it is agreed good but not to be repeated perhaps for reasons of awkwardness or lack of flavour.

These cookies were new to me but came from a much thumbed book, Rachel Allen's Favourite Food for Friends. I have used this book many times and several of the recipes are very regular features on our table but this one was new to me, White Chocolate and Cranberry Cookies.

I did not use white chocolate. Surprisingly, I don't like it, I used a combination of darkest chocolate and good milk chocolate (The Technical Advisor is not enormously fond of dark chocolate so I often mix them, of course the great thing about his lack of taste refinement is that I don't feel so guilty about not sharing my secret stash of Green & Blacks with him.

These are good, really good, the burst of sourness from the cranberries perfectly counteracted by the sweetness of the chocolate. The addition of ground almond and oats make for a soft, crumbly texture.

The recipe suggested the quantity would make 30-40 and I considered freezing half the dough. I changed my mind and it's a very good thing I did because they are going fast.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Return of the mojo

If September was slow and gentle then October has been rowdy and rushed. Perhaps it is because I lost so much time being ill but this month seems to have raced along leaving me behind in a swirl of debris much like the piles of leaves in my garden which are stirred and blown by the recent gales. I twist and turn between panic at the time which is going too fast and all the things that need to be done and total calm as the golden rays of the fading sun suddenly illuminate little corners of my world, making me want to slow down and enjoy the moment.

My mojo, which had waned with illness, seems to be returning and my head is brimming with ideas, wishes, wants and plans. I continue to ripple my way through the evenings and the crochet blanket is grows day by day.
Yes Kim, the "dark side", but don't worry, knitting will always be my first love.

The pieces of the Habu jacket are complete at last and I have begun the somewhat laborious process of seaming those tiny stitches together. I opted for mattress stitch and it is on the slow side to be sure. The darkness of the yarn requires plenty of light and patience to stitch and it is all to easy to lazily abandon it in favour of the satisfying simplicity of the
ripple but I have promised myself to buckle down and get it done, I really want to wear this piece soon.

I leave you with red shoes. And why not? Ah Ebay, you have so much to answer for. I need something to wear with them now!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Something about Eloise

Thank you so much for all of your kind comments and good wishes for recovery, I was amused to read how many of you are of a similar "smugly healthy" bent. I turned out to be much sicker than I thought, indeed too sick to even pick up my needles and knit! After several days of a raging sore thoat and a temperature which soared up and down I was forced to give in on Tuesday and visit the doctor who promptly prescribed antibiotics. Well at least I tried to beat it on my own and a couple of days into my antibiotics and I feel one hundred times better I can tell you.

So only one week later than intended, I am going to tell you about Eloise. I first came across Eloise Grey during the BBC's first showing of the excellent but small series on Savile Row which ran some months ago and I believe is currently being repeated. I had missed an episode and was googling the title to see if I could catch it again somewhere, through the search I came across a related post on Eloise's blog and was quickly sidetracked into reading through her archives whilst beginning to nurse an unhealthy obsession with owning one of her beautiful coats.

At that point Eloise's collection consisted only of coats, but my, such beautiful coats. Gorgeous Scottish tweeds and elegant but quirky cuts with the most wonderful names. I am sure that wearing one of these coats would easily transport me to that world in my head that I like to escape to, you know, the one that is set earlier last century where you live in a sort of Brideshead/Atonement type location and spend your days immersed in embroidery, knitting, visiting and swapping staff stories with the ladies of your circle. Expensive, yes, but these are coats that will stay in your wardrobe year after year, investment pieces made from quality materials and finished to a very high standard, as fits with Eloise's excellent philosophy.

Her green credentials are impeccable, indeed she even turned down a trip to New York to collect an award in favour of a trip to her weavers on Mull and her blog is a fascinating glimpse into her industry and very refreshing way of working. It is good to see someone who is committed to a better way of producing in a society where people think nothing of buying a tee-shirt for £4-00, wearing it once and throwing it away the following week. Given the current ecconomic climate it seems more important than ever to have real value for money and I firmly believe that saving up for something special and wearing it again and again, perhaps altering and repairing over the years when necessary, has to better than constantly disposing of money and "things".

Eloise was kind enough to send me some of her off-cuts to play with, I was overwhelmed by her kindness and thrilled when the fabrics arrived. Such lovely soft woven fabric, the muted colours so gentle on the eye. I spent a few weeks gazing at them in the window and then put them carefully away waiting for inspiration to strike.

As always I suffered from that fear of cutting that overcomes me when faced with something lovely but as the leaves outside began to colour and the air began to cool I found myself bringing them out again, looking and touching,thinking. I thought about little purses, and soft toys but I really wanted to wear them, not quite an Eloise Grey coat of course but something to remind me of what to save for. I remembered seeing all the Denyse Schmidt Quilts: 30 Colourful Quilt and Patchwork Projects
inspired scarves appearing on blogs last year and immediately knew that was what I wanted to make. Pairing fabrics was easy, everything in my basket was jostling to be placed with the tweeds, they are so easy to work with and love to be combined with brighter prints. It was such fun to use this very undisciplined technique with the tweeds and now my mind is a-buzz with more ideas for them.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

The shortcomings of my smug healthy lifestyle

I am sick today. Sick and cross. Cross because
I hate being sick. It began yesterday, my legs felt the way they do after I have done one of those awful Davina work outs but there had been no workout, by evening my throat felt full of knives and my head was aching and today I woke up feeling steam-rollered.

I am not good at being sick, it really does not suit me and I have something good to show you, something completed just before sickness overtook me yesterday, something I am really happy with, but it must wait now, wait until I am happy and bouncy again. I am afraid that I am something of a smug healthy living type, I eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, I drink very moderately, I practise yoga daily and always take the stairs rather than the elevator, all done in rather "pleased with myself" manner. I frequently preach to the The Technical Advisor on all the benefits of my healthy lifestyle and given his own attitude of indifference to such things I get to feel as wonderfully smug and virtuous as I could possibly wish. Therefore, when I get sick, that smug smile gets wiped off my face and I feel utterly let down and cheated upon.

So, I am off to sit on the sofa, consume chocolate and sweets, drink hot whiskey by the tank load and perform no exercise other than the casual flinging of yarn over a needle because look where all my healthy living smugness has got me.

While I am sitting, I will be flicking through my new book, Custom Knits. It's good, very good. Knit and Tonic was one of the first knitting blogs I came across and I have always been an admirer of Wendy's knitting and wit. The book contains a very generous quantity of patterns, a chapter on understanding how to knit things which really suit, containing instructions on how to make your own duct tape dress form and an excellent chapter on how to alter patterns or even write your own with a good explaination of the Elizabeth Zimmerman % system.

I am off to be ill now. I hope to be back tomorrow with something good to show you and rather less moaning.

Friday, October 03, 2008

My stolen heart

I have long nursed a desire to crochet. I have dabbled in the past and can just about crochet an edging or a hem but anything greater has alluded me and it's not as if I haven't tried! Every once in a while I get out my crochet books and spend the next week walking around with a hook constantly in my hand. You see crochet, or at least not being able to crochet, is addictive. I become obsessed for that week, I go to sleep hooking in my mind, I awake and hook a little while boiling the kettle, stirring the porridge. At the end of the week I admit failure, none of my squares look like the ones in the book, the ones in my mind and in disgust I tuck it all away and pick up my knitting with a sense of relief.

Nonetheless, at the back of mind, that crochet hook taunts me. Finally I will forget all about crochet and then months later I see another beautiful crochet blanket and that burning obsession returns. The focus of my crochet ambitions has for so long been a glorious afghan made up of dozens of squares. My recent reignited obsession began with Babette's Blanket. I really wanted this blanket and so my week began, I obsessively hooked solid squares, I consulted books, I watched U-tube tutorials, I hooked and hooked, rejecting square after square and eventually I began to admit defeat and wonder if squares where never to be my thing but yet I could not quite give up my crochet dreams. Suddenly I had a flash of inspiration, maybe I needed to forget about the squares and try ripples instead.

I began to ripple and ripple and ripple, I obsessed and rejected, obsessed and rejected and then by jove! I think I've got it!!

Oh joy, oh addictive, compulsive joy. Excuse me now, I need to get back to my hooking.