Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year

Our fortunes have definitely been mixed this year, but I think it's safe to say that good has always come out of the bad in the end. It seems somehow appropriate, therefore, that we spent the morning of this, the last day of what's been a tough year for many, getting our first glimpse of this little fella or gal. All being well July next year will mean another change for our family, only this time we had a bit more influence in making it happen. Happy New Year everyone!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Baby it's cold outside

We've had a great festive season. This included some time spent at the farm, which thanks to an impromptu blogging session you can now read about here. The festive weather continues and although there hasn't been any snow it's still very chilly. The pics, then, are to try and engender a cosy feeling. We found this pattern book when tidying up today- I made the men's sweater for him indoors a few years back (minus the bobbles!) and in pure wool it's a warm up and a workout in one to wear! Meanwhile, I'm back on the Fairisle again, having forgiven myself for the misread pattern debacle.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

23rd of Advent

What with travelling to see friends and relatives, preparing food in advance and decorating the house, it's been a lovely, hectic few weeks. The last thing I expected was to feel sad at the little lull that's happened early this week: C being back at work, our usual pals having gone away for Christmas and nothing really much to do. It was twice the good news, then, when I got an unexpected call from an old friend, who is currently staying (as she described it) 'halfway to where you are compared to when I'm in London'. That's still five hours drive in some nasty weather, but she insisted that she wanted to take advantage of the fact and come and see us. Now that's friendship- all that travelling for an overnight stop!
It was tempting, with the sun shining, to try and go up to the Lakes. However, I've learned now that a few miles and a bit of altitude makes a lot of difference, especially in winter weather, so we stuck close to home and went back to Conishead Priory. The woods were magical in the frost-crusted snow, made more so by the decorated pine tree near the beach. It was covered in messages from whichever elves bring baubles and tinsel into the woods- presumably those who work at the Priory.
The shingle beach was transformed by its snowy blanket and the bay as still as I have ever seen it. Even with the wide selection of joyful dogs we met and a fascinated toddler it was icy tranquility. We rounded it off with lunch at the ever-wonderful Gillam's Tea Room before our intrepid explorer set off on her homeward journey.

Monday, December 21, 2009

21st of Advent

Christmas- or at least the Christmas fruit and veg box- came earlier than expected today.Brussels sprouts on their stalks, chunky carrots and parsnips, fresh thyme and rosemary, organic oranges and lemons and much more. Not to mention some Creamy Lancashire and Cheddar cheese. Howbarrow Organic has done us proud. This being the first time I am not just cooking but also hosting at home for Christmas last night I wrote a plan, with timings, for the big day. Not including the list of things to get out of the freezer and other preparations on Christmas Eve there are nineteen separate instructions. NINETEEN! And somewhere amongst this I need to open presents and be of good cheer. Actually I'm really looking forward to it and now that I've got it all worked out I'm pretty confident it will all go fine, just as long as I don't chop any more fingers between now and Christmas day...

Saturday, December 19, 2009

19th of Advent

The food is sorted (apart from the veg box which arrives on Wednesday) and squeezed into the fridge and freezer- although with the temperature in our kitchen we could just keep it on the floor! The presents are bought/made and (mostly) wrapped. The cards are posted. The house is decorated. All this meant that today, instead of braving the shops at Christmas we could escape up to Coniston for one of our favourite walks to Torver jetty. It's the first time we've been walking properly since the floods and know that lots of lovely walks have been damaged or swept away altogether, but thankfully this one is unaffected. It was mighty cold so we ate lunch huddled in the car, but the weather meant we got to park in the free spaces and had the place almost to ourselves, save a few brave dog walkers and swans. Then to top it all off- snow! We've missed out on this particular brand of winter magic so far, being the wrong side of the country, but now we feel Christmas really is on its way!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Advent update

We've been doing some early Christmas visiting so preparations in own household have got a bit behind, but today the Festive Season really arrived in our home. With handmade contributions from various members of the family and a pot-grown tree which we hope to keep alive for at least a couple of years, we're keeping the cold out and the good cheer in. It seems that despite our moving so far North everyone else in the country has snow apart from us- but fingers crossed!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Ninth and Tenth of Advent

The teeny tiny stocking represents success- the first thing I've knitted since the finger incident. Casting on was actually the hardest thing but luckily it only takes 25 stitches.
What do you mean you don't know what the heck the other thing is? It's Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer rendered on a polystyrene cup of course! Don't worry, I haven't been on the painkillers, this is all the boy's work. According to nursery he even stuck the googly eyes on himself, which may explain the Picasso style. Funnily enough, I was just saying the other day that we needed something special to top the tree...maybe we've just found it!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Eighth of Advent

Not a great picture I'll admit, but Christmas preparations, if not normal service, has been resumed. Our wrapping paper this year is a joint effort, stamps placed by me, original silver crayon designs by our little boy. I've got some lovely fabric ribbon with snowflakes on to go with it and I think it'll look really special.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Seventh of Advent

Just a small slip of a bread knife. Oh dear. Haven't tried knitting since my return from A & E as it's still a wee bit sore, so for now Christmas preparations are a little curtailed although there are a few festively coloured smears around the place!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Fifth and Sixth of Advent

Happy St Nicholas Day! The joys of childhood illness have made the weekend a bit tough, but the festive spirit is not beaten yet- we're just getting the bugs out of the way early, that's all. Taking a break from meeting the ongoing demand for Union Jack teacosies (!) by knitting these little stockings, from a free pattern on Ravelry. I'm planning on making a half dozen or so to make a garland for our mantlepiece. They knit up gratifyingly quickly (e.g. in an evening in front of 'Strictly Come Dancing'), even when the knitter is struggling to keep her eyes open due to baby-related sleep deprivation!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Fourth of Advent

Homemade mince pies (and that's homemade from the filling to the pastry, people! If a job's worth doing...) and stuffing with sage, onion, pine-nuts and lemon done and ready for the freezer. Red cabbage is braising in the oven, because, although I had to switch off when St Delia started to give instructions on how to stir (!) she did mention that it freezes well and it's good to have a nice, colourful veg ready to go on the big day. Also, I'd been feeling every time I opened the fridge and that cabbage was looking at me, all its friends from the last organic box gone away...
This preparation for Christmas has been quite enjoyable, although hard work in the tiny kitchen. Tomorrow I'm after another tiny kitchen (of the toy kind) which means tackling a certain huge Swedish furniture outlet on what's predicted to be the maddest shopping day before Christmas. Oh dear.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Third of Advent

Although I know you can't put a value on bringing up your child, but when Christmas is coming up, it's tough not bringing any actual money into the household kitty. It's therefore been a surprise and a delight that following my shop being featured on the front page of Folksy (along with other tea and Britishness themed items), I sold three items- two teapots with cosies and an extra tea cosy! Typical that the labels I ordered a few weeks ago only just turned up in time to go on the last cosy I shipped, but so exciting to have earned money and nice feedback for my handiwork. Only problem is, now my shop only has one lonely teapot in it- yet more knitting to do then.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Second of Advent

As I'm hosting my first at-home Christmas with guests this year(it was just us three last year and before that always with family) I've decided I need to get ahead with as much as I can, not least because we have a teeny-weeny kitchen so the traditional turkey and trimmings job is going to be a challenge. This afternoon then it was radio on, boy playing round my feet (mainly with a carrot which entertained him for at least half an hour) and I filled the kitchen with wonderful seasonal smells: orange and lemon zest, port, cinnamon, cloves, sage and chestnuts among others. I've read somewhere that the smell of oranges is meant to be a pick-me-up and I'm sure it's true. The alchemy of jewel-like cranberries melting into sauce and the luxurious thickening of dried fruit into mince-pie filling when simmered in sugary, boozey syrup does a pretty good job of cheering the heart as well, not to mention the satisfaction of having a seriously well stocked freezer.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

First of Advent

Wow, it's been a crazy week, hence no posts. Think I'm getting on top of stuff again now, and trying to plan ahead to maintain calm. However, we're allowing a little excitement in with that calm, as Christmas is definitely on the way. It's lovely to discover the special things that our new community does at different times of year- in September we enjoyed the Lantern Festival in Ulverston and on Sunday we found out that our own little town has a big tree lighting parade to mark the start of Advent. The tree in the town square is lit, then Father Christmas and characters from the Nativity story parade along the main street. As we have a zoo up the road this parade includes real camels and donkeys! Everyone processes up the hill for carols and more lights going on. All the local businesses and people living along the main street make a real effort to dress up their windows and at the church near where the procession finishes they have a tree festival, where local charities and organisations each dress a tree. We're going to check that out later this week.

Monday, November 23, 2009

A break in the clouds

After looking at how many times the weather has been mentioned in my blog recently, I vowed I wouldn't go on about it this time...but it has figured pretty large in our lives recently so I'm afraid the vow is broken already. Still, today it's about a bit of a break in the clouds which meant we could get out for a much needed bit of fresh air. We returned to Conishead Priory, where the view across the Bay was very different given that there was even sunshine (remember that!)
Still blooming cold though, so it was nice to be back by the fire. As you can see, I'm now 50% into the socks, so one foot at least can be warm. I'm not very good at doing the same thing twice, but I've deliberately rushed into starting the second one so that hopefully it will be done before I have a chance to get distracted by other things!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Rainy Day Recipe

We're officially in the middle of a weather warning here, although it's not so bad right where we are. We did have to get the train to Lancaster yesterday as the roads were flooded, but no that isn't flooding in the picture, we were going across Morecambe Bay!
Times like this call for good food. Now, the recipe I made tonight could be described as 'wicked' or 'naughty' as there are some high fat ingredients in there. But I hate the habit of calling what's basically good, honest food by negative labels. Bad food is surely over-processed, low nutrition rubbish. Okay, so this food isn't something you should have every meal if you want to care for your heart, but every now and again, why not? Anyway, rant over, the recipe was inspired by a surfeit of leeks and potatoes, which suggested soup, then maybe dauphinoise potatoes. It's holy eye, so the amounts are very much guidelines:
600g potatoes, sliced very thin
600g leeks, washed and sliced
300ml single cream
garlic and herb soft cheese (I used a round of Boursin)
grated cheddar cheese to top
a little milk if needed.

Melt a little butter in a saucepan and add the leeks. Stir, cover and leave to soften over a low heat for around 5 minutes.
Meanwhile slice the potatoes as thinly as you can and lightly grease an ovenproof dish.
Put a layer of potatoes into the dish. Crumble over about a third of the soft cheese, then a third of the leeks. Pour over a third of the cream.
Repeat this twice more. Add a little milk if you think more moisture is needed.
Top with cheddar cheese, cover dish with foil and bake in a medium oven for an hour and a half or so- until the potatoes are tender. Remove foil for the last 20 mins or so of cooking so that the top browns.
We ate ours with simple boiled carrots. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Back to simple

Isn't this just what childhood should be about? Splashing in puddles, kicking through leaves, scrunching on a pebbly beach and finding treasure (well, interesting pebbles at any rate!) Today we celebrated a few brief breaks in the clouds with a walk at Conishead Priory. Okay, so it rained a bit and we got a bit chilly but oh, that fresh air made coming home for a cup of tea so satisfying. Simple pleasures indeed.
More back to simple with my knitting. I just couldn't face the Fair Isle after my pattern misreading stupidity so I'm having a break with more needles and less balls (!). Now that I've got going this sock is growing gratifyingly fast and I love the colours- they remind me of Fruit Salad chews from when I was little!

Monday, November 16, 2009


Okay, so to begin with last night I got all the way to to the top of the back of my Fair Isle tank top. I shaped one shoulder, went to cast off the centre stitches and thought 'hmmm...too many stitches, I wonder why?'. It was then that I realised that through concentrating too hard on the Fair Isle and some good old fashioned 'not reading the pattern properly' stupidity, I had completely messed up the armhole shapings. Yes, those shapings that happen about halfway up. Nothing for it up to unravel right back to where I went wrong- and even that isn't easy with stranded colours. Hey-ho.
Then this morning a very rare event occurred, which was my little darling deciding that he was quite happy to stay cuddled up and asleep past 8am, which constitutes a lie in round these parts. Or at least it would have done if it hadn't been for a doctor's appointment at 8.40am. I actually had to wake him up- good grief!
With rain and wind swirling around with the clear message that going out walking was not a good idea, the boy deciding to set the dishwasher off on a highly eco-unfriendly 70 degree wash and our friends being occupied with visiting poorly relatives it was all pretty frustrating.
However, I decided that I needed to embrace the time indoors and indeed embrace my somewhat neglected inner-domestic-goddess. I have learned that cleaning is worth doing, but tidying less so, as anything tidied within a toddler's reach is seen as fair game in the 'you put it away, I'll pull it out again' ritual. That way tears and more frustration lies. Every now and then the sun comes out and I get my hopes up that we could go out for a wander after all, but a more serious look out the window inevitably shows the next swirl of stormclouds approaching. After my scary, night time, flood water driving in the Lakes a few weeks back I'm a bit more respectful of when it's wise to be out and about, especially when it's just me and the boy.
So now it's our somewhat optimistically named 'quiet time' when the boy is in his cot and the idea is at least one of us has a nap. Today it's actually happening- peace has descended, there's a pocket full of sunshine peeping through the window and I have a clean and tidy kitchen. And bathroom. Life's okay really, isn't it?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Ravelry and unravelling

I signed up on Ravelry quite a while back (I'm on there as Annabanna in case you want to look me up), but had never really got into it. I went back on to find a pattern for an earflap hat (the boy just won't keep hats or hoods on so I need one I can tie under his chin!) and got drawn into it- oh, it's an easy addiction to get!
Of course, all this knitting inspiration only led to one thing...more yarn buying.
Like I reeeaaaallly needed more yarn. Okay, no I really didn't, but I couldn't help it- it's cold! I'm cracking on with the Fair Isle and have nearly finished the back, but I also have chilly fingers (when I'm out and about) and chilly toes.
I found this lovely pattern from Ysolda for flip top mittens. I had some flip top mittens before and found them so useful, especially out with the buggy, that I wore through the thumbs! The Artesano is a lovely pinky red and soooo soft, I can hardly wait to make the mittens, but I'm going to make myself wait until the Fair Isle is finished before I allow myself to buy the pattern- it's the only way.
As for the socks- well the last picture shows the result of hours of squinting at a horrendously complicated pattern full of travelling stitches. They were going to be the Diamond Socks from Yarn Forward magazine September issue, but by the time I'd knitted, unpicked and reknitted myself down to the heel, turned the heel and embarked on the foot, I'd had enough! If I even made it to the end of one sock, I'd never have the patience to make the other. So all that work has now been frogged, and this yarn, and the lovely pinky stuff above is going to be made into nice, plain, easy to knit without concentrating socks, hopefully quickly so I can get these toes warm.
And yes, I know those are yet more Brittany Birch needles- but you know, if I'm going to make all these socks, I think it's about time I had some gorgeous feeling needles rather than the nasty metal ones I've used in the past. In fact that might be why the Diamond socks went wrong. I protesting too much?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Small pleasures

Sometimes at this time of year different factors can conspire to close the world in a little. But rather than mourn this closing in, I choose to embrace the warmth and cosiness of small pleasures.
First the spotlit cauliflower! This is mainly here for the benefit of my oldest best friend Kitty Broon, who was all set to drive a crazy number of miles up the motorways when I told her we were having cauliflower cheese tonight. So glad to hear your good news, Kitty, but good thing you didn't come- the cauli was delicious but pretty small (we bulked it out with lashings of garlic bread, mmmm).
Next a small but significant addition to the kitchen. I'm rather into loose leaf tea at the moment, but two different tea-ball contraptions both have the same problem that leaves (especially red bush ones) keep escaping and floating about, spoiling an otherwise lovely cuppa. Sometimes simple is just better, so I've gone back to the old school and bought a tea strainer from Lakeland Plastics which works an absolute treat. Proper tea bliss restored.
Lastly, a visit to the library today sees me embarking on another Phillipa Gregory novel- The Constant Princess. I've just finished The Boleyn Inheritance and I think I'm developing a temporary addiction to her historical fiction, set in the court of Henry VIII. I've no doubt some serious historians would raise eyebrows at how accurate they are, but they're well written and real page-turners as far as I'm concerned- just the thing for a cosy night in.
What are your small pleasures? Do share...

Monday, November 9, 2009

Glorious mud

The weather has definitely turned and although it's very cold today was clear and sunny, so we headed to Broughton in Furness to walk along the old railway line. Tried putting P in a padded all in one suit that someone donated second hand. Bless him, he was cosy but it wasn't exactly flattering! Perhaps it was revenge then that made him decide that today was the day to fully explore mud and puddles. Of course mummy had cleverly decided to leave his wellies in the car... still, as Meg on Sew Liberated said in her lovely recent blog isn't that just what you're meant to do when you're little like him?
The last pic is just a little update on the Fairisle. So far, so good as far as tension is concerned (both across the back of the knitting and my own!). It certainly isn't the sort of knitting you can do with your mind or your eyes on anything else, as several unpicked rows can attest, but I love seeing the pattern emerge.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Wet weekend

Well, we've probably been fairly lucky with the amount of good weather we've had this autumn, but now the rain is here, it's really here! We went up to Grizedale Forest today and managed a long time in the (very nice) coffee shop and a short time outside in the pouring rain.
It's always been something of a habit for us to end up having a pub lunch of a Sunday, although before P came along we usually didn't end up eating until mid-afternoon. Today though we continued the habit, but at the right time of day. The Eagle's Head had all that you want from a country pub on a wet day- open fires, locally brewed beer (for him), lovely food and surely the hardest working landlord in Cumbria- he was serving at the bar, taking and serving food orders and setting up for a band that night simultaneously. With a smile on his face!
We retreated back home and soon I was faced with what I think will be a familiar sight as time goes on- my husband and my son completely engrossed in fiddling about with a bike wheel. I'm not entirely convinced that P was exactly helping this time, but as I've mentioned before he definitely seems to have inherited the grease-monkey gene so I don't think it'll be long.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Knit, knit, knit

So here is the birthday request that took all that cabling. I prefer to think of it as an homage to the Burberry version, rather than a rip-off! I'm really pleased with how it came out. The cabling pattern was from the 'Helsinki' wrap in Rowan magazine 42 and I made it using Sublime organic merino- so soft! Apparently the birthday girl is pleased, and I'm looking forward to pics of her modelling it.
Next up was the hat promised to my brother. If you're reading this T I'll get it in the post tomorrow! The request was for dark colours and stripes. I know red is a bit of a bright, but the tones of Rowan Felted Tweed (I know, again! And wait until you read on, you'll think I'm sponsored by them or something!) are quite soft and subtle and it knits up very soft but with a sort of...integrity I suppose, certainly a good structure. Any way, hopefully it will fit and will please the wearer to be.
So then I should be cracking on with the tea-cosies I've been planning for oh, ages then? Well yeeeesss, but noooooo. The thing is, the red of the above hat was so lovely, but I had quite a lot left over. Then I got to thinking that I was pretty sure that the slipover that I really liked in Rowan 42 had some red in it and I was fairly certain it was in Felted Tweed. It was, so somehow on a dark and dreary night I found myself ordering a rainbow-ette of other colours and then a few days later scooting out to Williams Wools in Kendal for some new 3.75mm Brittany needles and before you know it, I'm tackling some serious fairisle. Well, I haven't knitted anything for myself for ages, so those little brown teapots are just going to have to stay chilly for a bit longer!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Wild and woolly

The weather continues to throw itself wildly against our little corner of the world at the moment, but having finally found the boy's waterproof suit (AWOL since the move) we went out nonetheless. A short and very windy walk by the sea at Walney Island gave us an appetite for being indoors again, so while P found new and ingenious ways to endanger himself by climbing on various pieces of furniture I did some phone work on a writing project I'm doing at the moment. Also managed a tiny bit of knitting, although most of this was last night's progress.