Sunday, May 25, 2014

Cooking: Girl called Jack recipe book

I've been reading the Girl Called Jack blog for ages, and really admire what she's done in her campaigning,as well as cooking, but I'd never really tried her recipes before as they're on her blog, and I don't have a tablet and never remembered to print a recipe off to try. But then her recipe book came out, and it's brilliant!

I've been enjoying trying the recipes out, and they're particularly good for us, as there are a lot of vegetarian ones (this is budget cookery, after all), including some involving pulses, which I'm trying to include more in my weekly menu plans. Yes, I plan what we're going to eat a week at a time - it's cheaper that way, and means I can plan around what is due to come in our veg box that week (plus fortnightly meat box for the OH) and then go to the supermarket with a shopping list.

These are several photos showing the process of making the carrot, cumin and kidney bean burgers (which apparently can be made for 9p each, although I doubt mine were as the carrot came in the veg box and the kidney beans from Waitrose!).

They were really very easy to make, although created quite a bit of washing up!

Although I did enlist the food processor to help at one point.

This is the finished version, just before I cooked two of them (I froze two to eat later in the week). Of course, I then forgot to take a photo of the cooked burgers, but they were very tasty and held their shape well. I think this is something I'd make in a bigger batch next time and freeze more of them.

This is the sausage and lentil one pot dinner, which I made using vegetarian sausages (Cauldron Foods' Lincolnshire ones). It made enough for three portions so one went in the freezer. I can't find that recipe on her blog, so perhaps it's only in the book?

Oh, and this is Use-me-for-anything tomato sauce, which I made to use up some odds and ends. Another good one for the freezer!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Knitting small things

As part of the great knitting up some of my stash plans, I've done a few small projects, as well as the bigger ones that are currently on the go.

I needed to make a second Bobble Man to go with the first, which I finally got done. That used up some more oddments of DK.  The pattern is really very easy and removes the need to sew on lots of fiddly little bits, something I've always hated when knitting toys! I've also discovered that the easiest way to do the hair is to do it at knitting group, as it's easy to do at the same time as chatting, but not so easy as the same time as watching TV.

After finishing one of the Puerperiums, I still had a chunk of the yarn left over, and it's an American brand so I'm unlikely to find anything else in my stash in the same weight to use it up with. So a little baby hat seemed like a good plan. I  will either send this off to a charity knit, or add it to the pile of knitting sold on a stall each year at our church Christmas fair.

The pattern is just the basic hat pattern from Ann Budd's Knitter's handy book of patterns, which is a really useful book to have around.

I've also used up a ball of Cashmerino Aran making a pair of Fetching fingerless gloves for me, but they're waiting to be blocked so I haven't photographed them yet.

My Lima cardigan knitting is also complete and waiting to be blocked before I sew it together, so I should soon have another couple of finished items to show off!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Many Puerperiums

Knitting recently has been dominated by the Beyond Puerperium pattern by Kelly Brooker, mainly because it's a great pattern (clearly written, for a range of sizes and different yarn weights) and I know loads of people with babies on the way! I'd already knitted three in previous years, plus another one in January, but another four have been added since then.

This one I got on with early as it was for a friend in the US who was due in March, so I needed time to post it too. In the end the baby wasn't born until 1st April! This one used Rico Classic Baby DK, which is nice and soft and machine washable, and

I found some cute duck buttons at Tatters.

I usually knit baby stuff for friends in the order of the babies' due dates... except then a friend's husband got in touch to say he was organising a surprise baby shower and would I like to come? I'd never been invited to a baby shower before, and I usually just knit for when the baby's due. The invite came 2.5 weeks before the event. I couldn't make it to the baby shower, but thought I'd try and get the gift done for the day anyway. Oh, and did I mention that she's expecting twins?!

I thought aran might be a better bet for a speedy knit, and went with a similar-but-different appearance, using a different yarn for the borders. The buttons again were from Tatters, ladybirds on one and pencils on the other. The yarn is Sirdar Supersoft Aran, which I know wears well as I've already used it for some garments for the nephews.

Amusingly her husband offered to come over to pick them up one evening, but they were only just finished that day and in the washing machine at that point so I had to decline. Did manage to get them there in time though, and apparently a good time was had by all. I tried looking for a baby shower card in several card shops, but such a thing doesn't seem to exist (I was rather relieved to discover).

But once the baby shower was past, that meant we were then only four days away from another friend's due date. PANIC STATIONS. No time to go yarn shopping, so this one ended up being Red Heart Super Saver yarn from my stash. I like the way the colours have turned out. It's thicker yarn than the Sirdar Supersoft Aran, and I used bigger needles, so it's more like a 6-9 month size, than a 3-6 month.

Of course, that baby then ended up being a week late, so all got done in time. The reason for the tiny picture is that I took a photo on my Iphone and uploaded it straight to Ravelry, then promptly deleted the picture, so I had to get a copy of it off Ravelry. No close up of the buttons, but they are cute little green ones with a picture of a dancing girl on them (I knew this baby was going to be a girl).

Phew, now all of those are done, I've got a couple of small things to knit, and can plan my next big project!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Garden at the beginning of May 2014

Despite not being at work on 1st May, I forgot to take any photos until 4th and 5th!  And then didn't get round to writing a post until 10th! Oh well.

The garden's looking a lot more vibrant now. The lawn is nice and lush, and the flowerbeds are beginning to fill properly with vegetation from the perennials as the bulb foliage begins to die down. I love the bulbs, but I do hate the 6 week or so wait with all the leaves hanging around afterwards!

I've done a lot of sorting out on our patio, including finishing off planting herbs in containers so that they are easy to access from the kitchen (this includes: mint, lavender, sage, rosemary, chives, coriander and parsley plus a bay tree outside, and some basil sown inside for the windowsill). There's also some sweet peas in a container with canes in to provide support, and this year I'm growing salad in containers as it'll be easier to protect from slugs, as well as being easier to cut when it's just on the patio! The other plants are a couple of roses (one a wedding present, one a new home present when I moved into my new house in Newark in 2006), and fuchsias, some of which I've grown from cuttings. When it gets a bit warmer I'll also be growing tomatoes on the patio.

Which herbs would you grow? I think those I've mentioned above are all the ones I use regularly in cooking.

This is one of the plants I bought on the day out to Clandon Park. There are already tiny gooseberries growing! I hadn't had gooseberries in years, but I was inspired by some we picked and ate in a crumble when I went to stay with Mostly Knitting last summer.

This is one of the first borders in the back garden that we planted up when we moved in four years ago. I think we did this border about three years ago (we didn't do much in the first year as we wanted to see what came up where and when). These plants were chosen to be very drought-tolerant, which is a bit ironic considering what the weather was like over the winter. There's a hebe, which actually used to be in a pot in the front garden. The convolvulus has never flowered as much as this before, I think it likes the warm weather we've had this year. Behind it there's a couple of ornamental grasses.

These are the English bluebells, which we planted about three years ago as well. The rest of the garden has been colonised by Spanish bluebells, which I dig out every time I find some!

First flowers on the strawberry plants!

The clematis is covered with flowers this year too. This one is "The President", the same variety I had at Newark as well. This one was from an offer in Gardeners' World magazine.

And cherry tomato plug plants potted up.

Monday, May 05, 2014

Days out: Waddesdon Manor

We decided to take advantage of having a four day Easter weekend (well, actually mine was a seven day weekend, but the OH only had four days) to have a day out to Waddesdon Manor, up in Buckinghamshire, not far from Aylesbury. We realised it would be really busy so we probably wouldn't get tickets to go in the house by the time we got there, so we stopped off on the way and had an early lunch in Aylesbury.

At Waddesdon they had new, slightly crazy, car parking arrangements - you park on the far end of the park land in a huge mega car park like something on an industrial estate, then queue for a shuttle bus to take you over to the house. It's probably great on a weekday, not so great on a bank holiday weekend when there are a lot of people visiting...

Anyway, we eventually made it over to the house. Which isn't that old, it was only built at the end of the nineteenth century, and has all this towers and turrets all over the place.

I liked the criss-cross ivy they'd got growing up one of the towers.

It must be a bit colder up in Buckinghamshire, as their daffodils were mostly still in bloom (ours were over by the Easter weekend), and formed a spectacular show in front of the house.

This is a bird planted with bedding plants, which I'd seen on Gardeners' World and wanted to see for real. I bet it looks amazing in a couple of months' time!

This ornate structure, believe it or not, is an aviary, where originally exotic birds were kept for pleasure, but which is now an important conservation breeding centre for rare species. Each section is a separate enclosure with birds from different parts of the world inside.

This little chap is very rare indeed. He's a Bali Mynah (also known as a Rothschild Mynah) and, in the wild, this species is hovering not far off extinction.

We got away from the crowds by walking through the woodland, where bluebells were beginning to emerge.

And some beautiful views over the surrounding countryside from the more open park land.