Monday, 31 May 2010

KnitWitch Lace

Today, I decided that I am bored with socks, having finished the third pair owed to the BF, (see below) and started using up some left over yarn on a pair for Number 1 Nephew.

Second Sock Syndrome struck so I hit the Stash cupboard and pulled out this beautiful skein of "KnitWitch Yarn" pure cashmere heavy laceweight ('Burgundy Lights'). I bought it and the pattern ('Lacy Rib Ladders') at Ally Pally in 2007 and I think it's about time I tried my hand at lace - especially if it's simple.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Dunham Massey

My 7 year old niece has been visiting for the weekend, with her Nana (my Mam). This was the first time she has visited so I have been a bit nervous - what do you do with girly seven year olds? (In case, anyone hadn't noticed, I am not noted for my maternal instincts. When confronted with babies I usually ask "when will they get their upgrades and start doing something interesting?")

However, the solution turned out to be quite simple: Dunham Massey - specifically the deer park. Despite the rain, we had a great day (followed by a very nice pub lunch at the 'Axe and Cleaver'). Oh, and we have the two cats. I never need to entertain anyone ever again. I just put them in a room with the cats and then go and make a cup of tea.

("They can break a man's arm, you know". The first thing that anyone ever says about swans).

Meanwhile, my Mam and niece manage to get very close to a deer or should that be: one deer managed to get incredibly close to some very excited humans?

After kicking my backside at Mario Kart my niece cried when she had to go home. I was quite choked.

Thursday, 27 May 2010


I have got my grubby little mitts on not one, but three skeins of Wollmeise. Hahahahahahahahaha.

Those were happy giggles rather than hysterical and/or maniacal laughter.

I spent Saturday stalking eBay and then stumbled across a very kind person's sale on Ravelry (which had only been posted 20minutes earlier). Despite my apparent speediness, I was only successful in buying one skein (WD Merlot) - not that I was ungrateful. However, the very kind seller told me that she was possibly putting up another haul later this week... So, she agreed to PM me first and I got first looksies at the stash and have bought a skein of Sabrina and Turkise Markise.

You can ogle the loveliness below.

I am very excited. Now, what to make? :-)

I also bought some "Regia" and "Opal" solid colours in blue and pink. These are actually intended to help use up sock yarn for toddler and child socks. However, I am strangely excited about knitting socks in plain colours.

It's been a great week for post.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

On Cake...

...specifically using oil instead of butter. We were discussing cake (a favourite topic, obviously) recently and the consensus was, as far as ingredients go: "Butter = Good; Oil + Bad". I disagree - in certain circumstances, specifically with this chocolate cake recipe (Moist Chocolate Cake) from '1001 Classic Recipes'. So, here is a step-by-step look at it.

Instead of butter, the recipe uses 150ml of oil and the result is a very runny cake-batter mix. So runny it drips.

When you pour it into the pan, there is no need to flatten it out, it just levels itself.

And the finished cake lifts so cleanly out of the pan. There will be very little scrubbing needed here.

The cake lifts out of the pan and it is so light and airy - look at the bubbles. The Millenium Dome-like appearance is all my fault... I cooked it on too high a temperature.

...and the finished result:

It's actually better the day after baking. It's becomes more moist.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Project: Garden 2b

Quick Update:

I finished cutting the grass just as the lawnmower broke - how lucky was that? I put the seed down and I was looking at the lawn, I realised that some of the last attempt's seeding has worked. The paler green patches are new growth.

There is still a lot of lawn-pattern balding going on, however.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Project: Garden 2

On a lovely sunny weekend, what could be better than getting some of the remodelling work done?

We were quite excited until 9pm last night. There has been a change of plan. The BF had to shoot off to Lincoln this morning to look after his Mum who just came out of hospital following an operation this week. Where's his Dad? He has had to go to London to visit his Mum who is currently in hospital. It's not good.

Why didn't I go to Lincoln? The BF doesn't want to make a massive fuss as his Mum is very pissed off with being treated like an invalid. Fair enough. We also couldn't get someone to look after the furry little hooligans at such short notice. Speaking of whom, I bought them a kennel last week, so that they can have some shelter in the garden if they've chosen to stay there while we're out.

So, the gardening project ambitions have been scaled back and I am going to satisfy myself with cutting the grass and putting more seed down to attempt to repair the myriad of bald spots.

I've also discovered that the Winter killed off my ladybirds - the evidence being the infestation of green fly on the roses. This lot are in for a shock. The ladybirds are on their way. Ha!

Fortunately, my rhododendrons are looking quite happy.

And I had to buy more sock yarn when I popped into "Hobbycraft" for sewing needles. Ho hum. It leapt into my arms.

Friday, 21 May 2010

And they're finished...

Here is the "Sirdar - Escape" gloves and scarf set for Alayne.

I'm quite pleased.

Sunday, 16 May 2010


As mentioned, my colleague Alayne is escaping. I'm making excellent progress with her leaving present - I've finished the gloves and the scarf (in feather and fan) is coming along nicely. Feather and fan seems to be my new favourite pattern, but then, when your repertoire comprises of stocking stitch, anything is a novelty!

'Sirdar- Escape' is a DK yarn so I dutifully followed the ball band recommendation of using 4mm needles. After four pattern repeats I realised I wasn't getting a soft drape and I don't think scarves should be noted for their ability to reinforce scaffolding. So, I frogged it and resumed on 5mm. Much better.

You'll have to take my word for this at the moment, as I can't find the camera's battery charger. If this were an audible website, I'd leave you with some hold music. "Green-sleeves" maybe. Or for Star Wars fans...

Saturday, 15 May 2010


It's been another week of not very much knitting. This week, I have mostly been marking assignments.

And it has been bloody annoying too.

I volunteer on a project delivering public health education and it is assignment week. 13 have been submitted. 2 were bounced straight back to the students because 1/4 to 1/3 of work had been pasted from another report. Five other students have rewritten work from the same website. I am now at the point where I could recite this website for you.

There are plenty of things that infuriate me about plagiarism - it's cheating; it's morally reprehensible; it's lazy; it leaves you to wonder if the student understands anything that they are writing about, but I think the thing that really winds me up is that they seem to think I won't notice.

To say that they don't even attempt to hide it isn't quite true. Sometimes, the only difference is that they substitute the author's name with their own, but the plagiarism I am often presented with takes laziness to new extremes.

Sections of text will be pasted in, in one font, and you may find that a sentence suddenly merges into another format without any reason for this, before switching to another one. This shoddy approach is usually one of the early warning signs of a cheat.

Why students think that this will not be noticed is beyond me, but I don't want to point it out to them as it could be interpreted as a how to plagiarise guide.

And, no, I didn't draw this cartoon, but I'm not pretending that I did.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Bits and Pieces

Bit of a mish-mash of a post today. I haven't done any baking and I have left my tortured garden alone this weekend - I've had to bring work home from work. Yuk! Knitting-wise, I'm doing lots of bitty projects - nothing to really get my teeth into.

I've finished a pair of socks for the BF - worn, and in the washing machine before I got a chance to photograph them... but you've seen enough pictures of non-patterned socks.

At the last couple of knitting group sessions I've been knitting Shaun the Sheep for Niece No 2. As you can see here, he currently looks like a couple of oddly-shaped dish cloths. This would probably knit up in a couple of days if I wasn't being a knitting tart and starting other projects.

Such as these "Sirdar - Escape" gloves from "TFS" book for my friend and colleague Alayne. I may have mentioned in other posts that I have spent five years in training to be a Consultant in Public Health. Last April, I was appointed to my first post (exhilarating and terrifying at the same time) and I actually started work in August - notice and HR.

When I started I was delighted to discover that Alayne was working there temporarily (we we short-staffed) and I was sharing an office with her. This was brilliant news - I worked with her over ten years ago on a couple of projects so there was that familiarity combined with the fact that she is an excellent Consultant. This took a lot of the fear away. :-) I have learned a tremendous amount from her and to be fortunate enough to have worked with her in my first year, in my first year has been a privilege.

We now have a full complement of staff so Alayne is escaping (despite our plans to barricade her in) and "Sirdar - Escape" seemed to be an appropriate yarn. The gloves rattle off very quickly so these will be accompanied with a scarf in some kind of (simple) lacy-ish stitch.

In other news... the cats finally went out last weekend. There is an end to litter trays in sight. However, they haven't been as enthusiastic as anticipated. I thought I'd open the doors and they would tear off over the fences. No such bloody luck.

Bandit, having been the intrepid explorer, will only go out if I leave the door open so she can race back in.

Smokey enjoys basking in the sunshine which is tremendous as he spent the first ten minutes of freedom with one paw in the house - moving around three legged. Since then, they have met nextdoor's cat Luna - who sat on the fence howling at them. They misinterpreted this hissing aggression and thought she had come to play. They're cute but stoopid. The three of them appear to be having a stand off.

They've also met Sid Vicious (our name for him) the Bengal cat who owns the street, the estate and quite frankly, the whole town. There was a glass door between them and I don't think the next meeting will end well for Smokey and Bandit.

This morning, Smokey was hissing at the fence.

Jake (AKA Baggy-Pants) was staring under the fence at him.

There will be more hissing to follow, I'm sure.

Monday, 3 May 2010

Baking Goodness

WARNING: Picture heavy. If you're on dial up, even if you're not in some cases, you might want to put the kettle on.

I occasionally try to eat fruit. I have no problem eating plenty of vegetables and salad but fruit, well, fruit's boring, unless it's in a fruit salad and I can't be bothered to chop it all and yes, I am too damn lazy to peel an orange. If we were meant to eat satsumas, clementines (or whatever the hell those little oranges are called), they wouldn't be full of all those pips. As for apples, they just leave me hungry and pears are either rock-solid or meltingly soft... i.e. dribbling juice down your chin and leaving your hands too sticky to answer the phone. Melons are just glorified water, pineapples are an endurance test, and as for nectarines, plums, and peaches - well, see pears, plus the fact that peaches are furry. Fur belongs on animals, not fruit.

Bananas are ok.

However, the best way to eat fruit is in jam or better still, in cakes.

In the fridge today were two old bananas, a small tub of newish blueberries, a large box of newish strawberries and five peaches just on the turn...

So, the old faithful bananas-and-chocolate muffin recipe was pulled out and blueberries were added to the ingredients. 2 fruits our of 4 dealt with. That left the peaches and strawberries to be dealt with... which meant a call for help to the Masked Woman of Mystery and Cakie Goodness - the Caked Crusader! Amid her myriad of recipes was this little stunner - Peach and Raspberry Traybake ( which I adapted.

It's a rich recipe - 250g butter melted as a starting point with three eggs, vanilla and sugar, creating a lovely gloopy mess, of a rather radioactive shade of yellow.

As well as substituting raspberries with strawberries, I also adapted the recipe, mixing the fruit into the batter rather than "resting" it near the surface.

The slice peaches are then carefully placed on the top - leaving it looking as though I've tipped some sliced potatoes onto it.

While it cooked, I poured out the muffin mix, but I ran out of cases..., we'll just have to deal with larger muffins. It's a hard life.

And, then the tray bake was lifted out of the oven...

...sliced and, while still warm, placed on plates. It was so moist.

And, while it's hard to build on perfection (thank you, Caked Crusader!), a dollop of vanilla icecream, certainly helps.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Project: Garden

The BF and I moved here three years ago. We have been gradually working our way through the house and were about to start work on the living room... but then we got the cats. So, attention has switched to the garden, which I have been mostly ignoring.

We've decided to lay a patio at the back of the garden and remove the existing path at the front, by the French doors, and lay a matching path. (The patio will be in the large gravel square in the top right hand corner of the garden and in the gravel patch, at the bottom of the photograph, will
be some raised flower beds).

As this is a new house, there is about an inch of top soil - below which is rubble. So, one of today's jobs was attempting to repair the lawn. (It is going to be a while before we get the patio and the lawn is already down to about 50% grass, 50% moss/buttercups/bare soil).

Last week's work began with cutting back the decimated fuchshia to its stumps. The shrub usually takes up the whole of that corner, but it needed Spring pruning. Power saws are the way forward.

At the right side of the garden was a patch of shrubs. This is a new house - the gardens were over planted with tiny plants, which became a mesh of tangles and twists. This bed is in the wettest, shadiest, mossiest part of the garden. So the plan was to cut down and dig it up. I'm nearly there but there are a few root stumps that are proving difficult. Did I mention that power saws are the way forward?

And here's where the branches are currently residing. I did think about transplanting them to other parts of the garden, but I was unable to separate them.

So, last week was all about destruction.

This week I planted two clematis cuttings in the tall pot where the bougainvillea resided last Summer. Last Winter was surprisingly unkind.

And I replanted two hanging baskets - ivy, petunia, impatiens and trailing lobelia.

It has been a good day.