Monday, May 30, 2011

Bank holidays # three

We didn't do as much this bank holiday weekend. For a start, it was shorter (only three days, unlike four last time round. Humph), and we're going on holiday soon, so there wasn't quite such an urge to go out and see things. We had a nice time though, pottering around the garden (update coming soon with Garden at the Beginning of June), some reading (update coming soon), a bit of wandering round Staines, and a visit to Weybridge and Walton-on-Thames. Neither was wildly exciting (!) although I liked Fabric Warehouse at Weybridge and there was a nice church to wander round. Of course, as is usual with bank holiday Mondays, most places were shut. Including the tile shop where we'd wanted to go and choose tiles for the downstairs loo.

I've got a couple more blanket squares done, which  means I'm up to date (I think?) with where I should be on the KnitALong. This is the May square, which I've done partly in Jamieson & Smith Shetland Aran, which I ran out of near the end, so the rest is in North Ronaldsay wool, purchased several years ago from the Woolclip in Cumbria.

and I used the rest of the ball of North Ronaldsay for the April square. This one hasn't been blocked yet!

I also got started on the jumper for the OH. It's the Neck-down pullover by Diane Soucy, and so far I'm really pleased with the pattern. The yarn I'm using is Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran, which, as always, is nice and smooth and squooshy to knit with. And it's going really fast - I've already knitted up 3 balls so only 9 left to go. Considerably faster than knitting with 4ply.

Knitting group is always dangerous for new patterns and at the meeting last week Wannaknit was giving away some she didn't want any more. I picked up this one, which uses Patons Fusion (bizarrely Ravelry says this yarn is discontinued, yet I can find it for sale on several websites with no mention of that?!). Anyway, I thought it would be a good jumper to have around in summer, to pull on in the evening when it's a bit cooler. The official yarn is an acrylic/rayon mix so I may attempt to sub with something a bit more natural...

And this jumper in Sirdar Peru. OK, so I am unlikely ever to be seen outside in snow leaning against a tree whilst wearing sunglasses, but I like the jumper. I can't find the pattern on Ravelry, but I often find that the patterns you get on British pattern leaflets don't seem to appear on there, or else hardly anyone has made one and posted it on Ravelry. Apparently the yarn for this is discontinued too, although this time I found this on a website and it doesn't say it on Ravelry!

And I like She's Electric in the Knitty surprises too. Of course, I'll never have time for half of this!

I've been trying out new things in the kitchen too. Last weekend I roasted a chicken for the first time. It was deeply traumatic, once I realised that the thing actually resembled a dead thing when I got it out of the packaging (yes, I know it's a dead thing, but most lumps of meat look fairly anonymous, whereas chickens have legs and wings and bones and stuff). So I cautiously bunged it into the roasting tin. It came out OK but that left me with the problem of how to remove the legs from the body. This involved bones and I was far too squeamish. The OH doesn't like chicken legs anyway, so I just left them attached and ended up making soup from what was left on the carcass including the legs the next day. I did however, also produce a chicken pasta bake that I was rather proud of. Recipe adapted from this one on All

And this is a carrot and mushroom lasagne, from a recipe from Riverford veg boxes.

Well, I think that's all for now. I have various posts planned about gardening and books so watch this space!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Knitting progress

I got the tank top blocked, and I'm feeling rather pleased with it now. And it's in good time to be parcelled up ready for posting off to my nephew.

I've also made some progress with Isabella - got the back and the front done now, and have three-needle-bind-offed them together. Still think this is impressively fast considering it's 4ply yarn. I love the stripes and the way the colours work! Just the sleeves to go now, but I might put them on hold for a while whilst I tackle some other project(s). I've used almost two whole balls of the yarn now, so have one ball left to do the sleeves. Not sure if this will be enough or not (the whole jumper was supposed to take 300g for my size, but I have made the body slightly longer). But, I'm not overly keen on long sleeves, and I'm thinking about using my kitchen scales to divide the ball in half before I start them, so it will probably be OK. This is why I did the picking up stitches and knitted the neck already so I knew I just had the sleeves left to knit.

And my summer 2011 copy of Interweave Knits has arrived. Some really nice patterns this time.
 I've realised that although I often admire the IK patterns, I've never actually knitted one. Possibly because it's harder to get the yarn called for in the pattern over here, and although I don't mind subbing, it's harder with an American pattern because sport/DK/worsted/aran tend to not quite match up. I have bought some yarn in the past for IK patterns, just not knitted it up yet though, so I should probably do something about that. (The yarn was for the Essential Cardigan, bought whilst we were on honeymoon, oops nearly a year ago now!).

Anyway, this time round, I really like the Coral Cardigan and Greenhouse Tank.

And the Adriatic Cardi.
The Dockside Cardigan is really cool.

And I also like the Pebble and Reed Tunic, but forgot to take a photo. The Swirl Skirt is cool too, but I'm not sure if I'd wear a knitted skirt?

I suppose I could write down all the yarn requirements and take them with me when we go on our second honeymoon (coming up shortly, to the same place as our first honeymoon!) I might find a yarn shop (or six) to visit? Just like on the first honeymoon! Because that would be really sensible to arrive at a yarn shop knowing how much yarn I might need for a pattern...

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Remarkable creatures

May's reading group book was Remarkable creatures by Tracy Chevalier, and the first group book I can remember which was universally enjoyed - everyone gave it either 8 or 8.5 out of 10. Normally we have massive differences of opinion!

It's a good read. It's about two women in the 19th century, Elizabeth Philpot and Mary Anning, who become friends, despite the difference in their age and class. A lot of the action concerns the fossils they both find on the beach at Lyme Regis, but it doesn't come across as dry and scientific. It's quite exciting as they make discoveries and challenge the status quo - finding fossils that are clearly not currently living creatures and thus challenging both scientific ideas up 'til then and also the idea that God created a static world that didn't change or evolve. Much is also made of the difficulties of being a woman then - neither marries, which to a certain extent gives them some freedom, but both are constrainted by what society thinks is the right way to behave. There are some appalling moments, such as when Elizabeth is refused entry to the Geological Society of London, because she is a woman, yet she and Mary are the ones who have made the discoveries that the men just do not see at first. Men don't come out of this too well! The class divides are emphasised too, Mary's working class family are frequently  not far from being in the workhouse and have a very precarious existence for much of the novel, in contrast to the better off, who are portrayed as rather frivolous (most of them don't have the interest or the intellect to understand what the women have found).

Oh, and the best bit? It's all basically true. Some bits are unknown and embellished to make a good novel, but the basic outline is completely true.

Next month's book is The Help by Kathryn Stockett.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Bank holidays # two... and some knitting

We took advantage of the second four day weekend to have another day out. This time heading over to explore Woking (not exciting, it was just a load of shops and a pretty grim shopping centre like any other town centre with nothing even vaguely historic beyond the war memorial we found outside. I suspect Old Woking may have been more what we were looking for!).

before heading to Hatchlands Park a bit further south.

Where we walked through some park land, inhabited by Dexter cattle

and enjoyed the views. Fortunately it was a bit cooler so we didn't expire walking out in the sun away from the shade. Would have been impossible over the Easter weekend!

And I have been doing some knitting. I've nearly finished both front and back of my Isabella jumper so will post pics of that soon. This is the finished tank top for my nephew's birthday later this month. The pattern is from the Ann Budd basic pattern book and the yarn is Sirdar Crofter DK, about 1.5 balls, plus some leftover blue wool DK to do the ribbing. It was a fairly quick knit, but I still need to block it. I find the Crofter DK a little annoying - it has a tendency to be splitty, although I think it's a great yarn for summer.

 And I have started cooking a Sunday roast each week (except often on a Saturday as Sunday is too busy!). Having never cooked meat before two years ago, I'm slowly enlarging my repertoire. Roasts can be a bit of a problem as we only have one meat eater to provide for, but the nice man behind the meat counter at Waitrose very helpfully found me a very small (300g) lump of dead cow to roast, which did two meals for the OH. I was rather impressed that it all came out looking like a proper roast dinner, and couldn't resist taking a photo.

I didn't take a photo of my plate - but it was much the same minus the dead cow and gravy and plus some spicy beans.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Garden at the beginning of May

And this is the garden actually on 1st May, thanks to Sunday and daylight! It's changed quite a bit since last month, mainly as a result of the things we've been adding to it.

I was sorting out my files on the computer and found this picture from a year ago, so you can see how much it's changed:

I've taken a slightly more scientific approach now (!) and tested the soil after we lost a holly we'd bought in January (I suspect because of the harsh winter it had just been through, but better make sure). The soil proved to be neutral.

Closer in, you can see some sweet peas grown from seed, with a cornus and (new!) holly in the corner. Need to weed this bed a bit more as I have some plants coming in the post this month. Immediately below where the camera is will be a herb bed. But there's only some dill (given to me by a friend at work) in there at the moment as the herb order hasn't arrived yet. The idea is that that section is by the patio and just a short walk from the kitchen door, so it should be easy to nip out and get some herbs for cooking.

I've planted aubrietas along the edge of the raised bed, and also put in some nasturtium seeds, which are beginning to appear too.

On the other side the raspberry canes I planted earlier this year are all sprouting merrily away, and we've already eaten some of the salad leaves I'm sowing at fortnightly intervals.

And I've put in some more sweet peas, the rhubarb is coming along well, and a few other plants that caught our eye at the garden centre.

In the front garden, I've had a lot of compliments from people walking past who've stopped to admire the alliums - Purple Sensation. It's the first time I've grown alliums and I think they're cool! The bees seem to like them too.

And I've been digging up masses of these - the beginnings of horse chestnut trees. We have a lot of the trees near our house and the squirrels evidentally hid a lot of the conkers back in the autumn and then failed to relocate them!

I think that's all garden for now, I will have a knitting update too at some point.