Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Baking for sanity
A sure sign of my anxious state of mind must be the amount of baking that has been going on around here. When my head is shaken and stirred the kitchen beckons and I sooth my thoughts with familiar actions of weighing, sieving, whisking and folding. When baking for therapy the less machine inte
rvention the better, there is no desire to hurry on these occasions, the end result is just a bonus and it is the process that is important.

The promise of a school fund-raising evening led to a flurry of fairy cakes last week, eagerly decorated by Tilly who certainly cannot be said to skimp when it comes to cake decorating.

There is always bread and in the last week or so we have been amply supplied with wheaten, granary and crusty white loaves. Flapjacks, chocolate chip cookies and ginger snaps are regularly rotated and make welcome lunch box additions.

Of course, it will be no surprise dear reader, all this baking necessitated a new book, because when you are not actually baking there is still plenty of therapeutic pleasure to be had from turning pages and thinking of baking.

Rachel Allen's Bake book. The 30 day muffin mix is a revelation I tell you. You simply mix up a large batch of her muffin batter and keep it in the fridge for up to 30 days. Take out a quantity, add any extra ingredients you fancy and bake at wish. I was very sceptical about this, I didn't see how it could possibly work as muffins normally require baking quite quickly after mixing but it does work and it really is a brilliant idea, almost as good as freezing half your cookie dough. The day I mixed the batter I made the rhubarb and strawberry muffins which were pronounced splendid. The recipe contains wholemeal flour and bran which makes a rather more wholesome muffin than I normally bake but this certainly does not detract from them at all and indeed made me feel a whole lot more comfortable about serving them for breakfast. I added chunks of apple, rhubarb and cinnamon to the breakfast batch and they were so good. I realise that making muffins for breakfast isn't a huge stretch, but to be able to come downstairs, ladle out a batch of this ready-mix, chop up a bit of fruit (or instruct a small child to chop up some fruit) and then sit back and browse through the paper whilst your kitchen fills with the warm scents of cinnamon and coffee really is a good way to start the weekend.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Conversation with estate agent today

agent: "'ello, 'ow'ed your husband get on with the viewing last night"
me: "I'm afraid it wasn't suitable but thank you anyway"

agent: "Oh, why was that then?"
me: "it just wasn't right for us, the lay-out, room size, situation etc."
agent:"OK, bye then"
me: "do you have anything else that might be suitable?"
agent: "yeah, sure, I'll have a look, bye then"
me: "wait, would you like to know what our requirements are?"
agent: sighs, "oh, all right then, go ahead"

At this point in the conversation I absolutely know that he is making no attempt to take these details down, if he does send anything I can almost guarantee that they will be garden-less town-houses with no a "no pets" policy. But you never know, maybe, just maybe.

House hunting from a distance is a frustrating experience! The 300 mile commute is taking its toll, at this point we have not seen the Technical Advisor since May bank holiday and it is just too long for all of us. We have decided to start looking in earnest for a suitable property to rent and I am split between the excitement of going to a new area with new adventures to be had and abject terror at the thought of sorting and packing all our junk and finding somewhere suitable from 300 miles away.

So if anyone knows of a lovely property to rent in rural North Essex, South Suffolk that will take, horror of horrors, dogs and children, I'd be much obliged.

My mind has been whirring and my eyes are square from gazing at houses on-line, I am waking at night in a cold sweat unable to sleep without going to check that the house I saw somewhere or another had a garage, or a garden, or a bathroom....

Dorset Cereals little awards

In the mean time, an email from Caroline, a reader in London, put a huge grin on my face today, she has nominated me for a Dorset Cereals Little Blog award and I am thrilled to bits. Now, I feel rather shy and self-centred to say this but, if you would like to vote for me (blushes and feels mortified) I would be most very grateful.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Yarn interlude

There is a lot of sewing going on at the moment but there is still plenty of yarn in my life. I am still very much a learner in the crochet world but emboldened by the completion of my ripple I began another crochet blanket a few months ago.

This one is the Bon Bon Blanket from the Crochet Designs for Kids: 20 Projects to Make for Girls & Boys I do love this book, incidentally, Lucinda Guy's patterns are bright and playful and there is a little coat with is just too sweet for words.

I did like the original colours in the book, dominant reds and pinks but for some reason I decided on brown and pink and truthfully I am still unsure, some days I like it, some days I don't. I do know for sure that it will be a popular blanket for the ripple is the most loved and fought over blanket in the house, a crochet blanket seems to be the absolute perfect weight for snuggling under on the sofa.

I also know that when I finish this one there will be another ripple in my future. The circles are fun and I would love to make hexagons but the sewing together kills the joy. The ripple provides the perfect lazy project, an easily remembered pattern which can be rhythmically worked whilst your mind is elsewhere, the ends neatly worked over as you go, the colour changes spurring you on as you go.

Meanwhile, I make myself sew a few circles together each night, I regret not doing this as I went along and I long to see it finished and doing its job of sofa snuggling sometime soon.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Another cook book

Regular readers will know that I have a weakness for recipe books. I am forced to admit to myself that even if I live to one hundred I will never manage to cook every recipe from my rather large collection and I am equally certain that I will never, ever manage to knit every pattern I own. There just are not enough hours in each day.

These certain facts in no way dissuade me from adding to my collection because I like nothing better than a browse through a recipe book, sometimes I even take them to bed. So although they may not all be cooked from they are certainly all well read and often browsed.

This latest acquisition, The New Family Bread Book, had been in my radar for a while, I had often noticed it in Cornflower's sidebar but I kept putting it in my virtual shopping basket and then removing it for in fact I already own several excellent bread books, including Dan Lepard's excellent and beautifully photographed, The Handmade Loaf and yet I only really make my own versions of Granary, White and Soda Bread over and over again. I did, briefly, sally forth into the world of sourdough some months ago and I'm afraid there is still a jar of something nasty fermenting in the back of the fridge, I no longer feed it but cannot bear to turn it out, it is almost one of the family I fear.

Still, my conscience is easily salved and when I spotted Family Bread in a bookshop recently The Technical Advisor offered to treat me. This book is excellent, I really am very sorry not to have owned it sooner. It is simply chocked full of really useful recipes which can easily be worked into the normal person's life and the author may even persuade me to part with my fermenting jar and give sourdough another try.

I started with Chocolate Brioche and I think anyone would be foolish not to. My, they were good. On Ursula's suggestion I mixed and kneaded the rather sticky dough the night before and left it in the fridge to rise slowly overnight. Doing it like this makes it a really feasible weekend breakfast option as in the morning it was just a matter of shaping the dough around little chunks of chocolate and leaving them to prove in their tins for 30 minutes or so and then 15 minutes in the oven.

I felt at the very height of Domestic Goddessness when I called the family to the breakfast table. All were very impressed, although to be fair, offering my children chocolate at breakfast is pretty much guaranteed success.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

When knitting meets Sci Fi

I have been meaning to post on this knit for ages but somehow here we are in May and I am finally sharing the completed Kit 24. It began way back in late August-early September, was completed in November and has been worn often in the months since.

If I am to explain the title of this post I need to go back a little in time, so let us enter the time machine and hurtle back through the months to early Spring, 2008. A good friend mentioned that he was off to America on a book tour and would be spending some time in New York, he foolishly asked if there was anything I wanted bringing back....

Good golly yes! My mind began to take a virtual craft tour of New York, noting shops and making lists along the way but I think I really knew all along, I knew the one thing that I absolutely could not get over here and desperately wanted from over there.

Habu Kit 24

I knew that that I could not purchase my kit on-line at that time and that it would be difficult to place an order by telephone. I knew that I really, really wanted that kit. Once the idea had been planted in my mind it swam lazily around my head all day long, I obsessed upon it, I had to have it.

I am afraid that I must also confess that I suspected it may not be the most straightforward of shopping expeditions. I knew that the Habu shop was located upstairs in a building, somewhere in the Garment District. I knew that it was not quite like asking someone to pick me up a few skeins of yarn whilst passing John Lewis but I didn't tell my friend this, I didn't want to put him off. Besides, he is an author, surely all experiences are valuable?

So this is how, sometime last Spring, an internationally popular Science Fiction author from a small, sleepy village in Rutland found himself in the bustling Garment District of New York, clutching a piece of paper with the mysterious instructions: Kit 24, both cones in silk stainless steel, darkest blue. He was accompanied by his editor and publicity manager who must have been equally bewildered and I am sorry to say that as far as I am aware the experience has not encouraged any of them to take up knitting.

The transaction was not without incident. It necessitated a telephone call, he had to come out of the building and go back in and I had to speak to a lady on the phone. The yarn had to be ordered and posted on to Peter in England. I salute your bravery Peter, it is not every non-knitting man who could venture into a yarn shop with seemingly nonsensical instructions and emerge victorious. Thank you.

Eventually, he found himself handing over what must have seemed a shocking amount of money to a man who does not knit, nor live with a knitter; receiving in return a rather tiny package of thread. I think that dear Peter was a little concerned. He questioned that this could become a garment, he questioned that this could really be the Holy Grail of knitting. I think he was a little worried that he had done something wrong and he anxiously watched as I opened the package. I guess it all seemed rather stranger than fiction.

I have written previously about the experience of knitting this kit. The oddly meditative process of slowly turning thread into stitch, the surprising peace gained from knitting slowly and carefully, so I shall say no more about the making for now.

It's just Kit 24, comfortably crumpled by day and shimmeringly glamorous at night.

And I suppose, given the definition of mithril, the story of how my Kit 24 came to be is rather fitting.