Saturday, March 17, 2018

Vegetable Soup

30g/ml butter or oil 
2 large onions
I large leek
3 carrots
2 potatoes
2 cloves of garlic 
1 litre of stock
30g plain flour (I use Dove Farm's Gluten-free Flour)
a little water
a handful of peas
a handful of sweetcorn

Heat the oil or butter in a large saucepan. Add the chopped vegetable and saute for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and continue cooking for 2 minutes. Add the stock and simmer for an hour. Mix the flour in a little water to create a thickening slurry. Slowly pour it into the soup whilst stirring. Check the seasoning and adjust as desired.


I was searching for an image of vegetable soup that resembled mine, but couldn't find any. A crazy thought popped into my head, "Why don't you make the soup and take a photograph?" Given how cold it is today, this sounds like a really good idea!

Friday, March 16, 2018

The Laxey Wheel Keeps Turning

Laxey Wheel, the world's largest working waterwheel. It's big! The wheel is powered by water held in a cistern, fed by several streams in the hills above Laxey. It was built to pump out the mine in the hills. A wet day, like today, provides the raw material (water) for this wheel to keep turning.

The Zig Zag Blanket is coming on nicely. I would have been ready for a return trip to Laxey to buy more yarn on Saturday, but The Beloved has a training course. The Younger Offspring and I decided we would take the bus, and bring Da Hound too. 

It was her first time on a bus, and whilst she was well behaved, she was a little unsettled. She perked up during her walk in Laxey, sniffing the new smells and wagging her tail at random people. She also enjoyed staring at the de facto JJ Ribbons shop cat.  JJ Ribbons is a craft shop, curtain makers and little cafe. Many people think the cat is the craft shop cat, but she's really just a visitor. She belongs to one of their neighbours, and the cat keeps coming to visit. She likes the company. 

The journey back was interesting as the open spaces on the bus were taken up by a sleeping baby in a pram, and an older man with a walker. Their needs trump the needs of a crafty person with a dog. One of the passengers suggested sitting in the seats above the wheel arches. The seats there face each other. It worked really well. Ava was more settled on the second journey. We have decided to try to take her on a short bus journey each week. 

I can't quite believe I bought 10 balls of yarn today. In my very slight defense, they were only 50g balls. However, I would not have had enough yarn to keep me going until a week on Saturday, and I so didn't want to stop. Putting the work down can often mean it doesn't get picked back up, especially if another project has been started.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Peppermint Slice

250g digestive biscuits
50g butter
3 Tsp golden syrup

500g icing sugar
5Tsp water
peppermint essence
green food colour

100g chocolate

Crush the biscuits. Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the syrup. Boil for 2 minutes. Add the crushed biscuits. Flatten into a buttered swiss roll tin. Do not remove from the tin until the peppermint slice has been fully assembled.

Mix the icing sugar with the water to make a stiff paste. Add a few drops of peppermint, and as much or as little green colouring as you want. Spread over the base and leave to set for 1-2 hours.

Melt the chocolate and gently pour over the peppermint layer. When the chocolate is cool, but not completely hard, cut into squares or slices. Alternatively, add a little cream or butter to the melted chocolate to prevent it hardening completely. This gives a softer topping and allows for easier cutting.

This can be made gluten-free by using gluten-free digestive biscuits. Other biscuits of a similar texture can be used, eg shortbread.

Decluttering Recipe Books

At the end of January last year, the decluttering task was to weed out the unused recipe books. This was done, but I suspect I may have some more that can leave the house. There are a few books I haven't touched since completing the task last year. 

I'm a good home cook, and I don't use recipes a great deal. Generally, I use recipes for baking (apart from pancakes, sponge cakes and shortbread). Getting the proportions right is vital for good baking, although I do experiment quite a bit. When it comes to savoury dishes, the exact amounts aren't generally so vital. The last time I used a recipe for a new savoury dish was a month ago, and it wasn't from a book, but on-line. 

Way back in 1991, I start compiling my personal cookery book. Twenty seven  years later, the book is falling apart. Some of the tried and tested recipes of a quarter of a century ago aren't tingling my taste buds in the way they were. There was a lovely dish, Orange Glazed Chicken, which used marmalade as the basis for the glaze (with added orange juice, garlic and ground coriander seeds). Sadly, it's too sweet now. It's time to edit and purge my collected recipes and move them on-line. It is also time to have a look at my recipes here and on Pintrest and whittle out the ones I don't want any more.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Zig Zag Blanket: Progress Report

A progress photograph of my Optical Illusion Zig Zag Blanket. I bought the yarn on Saturday and played around with various ideas. Then on Monday I actually started work on it. 

I'm working at about 5 rows per day, and this takes me through one cycle of colour. This is pace is to protect my shoulders, hands and wrists from being over-used. 

Each row is made of but one colour, and every tenth stitch dips down to two rows below. This gives a rather interesting optical illusion of zig zags where there are none.

When I started this blanket it hadn't fully clicked that I would only be working from right to left, and the yarn would be cut at the end of each row. This results in a huge number of ends. Thankfully, I've found a way to crochet in the starting end at the right hand side, so there's now only one end per row to deal with.

Mistakes from the past have been noted, and I have learned! The ends are being woven in very promptly. Three cycles of colour have been crocheted through, and there's only one end to be woven it. It will be easier to do this when it isn't the top row. I'll weave it in tomorrow when I've worked a few more rows.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Licorice Allsorts

On Saturday, we took a small jaunt to Laxey and visited the lovely JJ Ribbons.  In addition to the yarn, I bought half a metre of licorice allsorts fabric, and two metres of 20mm black satin ribbon. 

The results are a large drawstring gift bag, a handkerchief and a small gift bag. All of the ribbons and fabric has been used. 

Parli Italiano

Last week, I started learning Italian from a native of Rome. The approach to learning is quite, quite different! Instead of "Hello, my name is..." we learned about the sounds 'c' and 'ci' make. The sounds are different depending on the vowel that comes next. If 'c' is followed by an 'a', 'o' or 'u', then it makes a hard 'c'. The way to remember is 'cat, cot, cut'. With 'ci', there's a softer sound, like the start of 'church'. There's similar rules for 'g'.

Next, we learned of Italian genders, everything is either masculine or feminine. Usually, masculine words end in 'o' and feminine in 'a'. But, 'usually' don't mean the same things as 'all the time'. 'Problema' is masculine singular, but ends in 'a'. 'Foto' is femiinine singular - it's a contraction of 'fotographia', which is feminine and ends in 'a'. 

In English, a huge number of words can be pluralised by adding an 's'. In Italian, the general rule is words ending in 'a' are pluralised by changing it to an 'e' (if the word if feminine'. If it's masculine, it becomes 'i', along with the word ending in 'e' or 'o'. There's also a rule for when a word ends in a stressed vowel.

It was all feeling to be rather like decryption algorithms. In addition, I've started learning an Italian alphabet song. It starts "Cari bambini come sieta la lettra A". I've been listening and singing along morning and evening. When out walking the dog, I go through the alphabet and try to find a word for each letter. I'm trying hard not to use the same words over and over, but as I learn new vocabulary to include these new words in my alphabetic walk. As might be anticipated, I am desperately in need for new X-words and J ones too!

It's great fun to be out meeting some new people, and learning something fresh!

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Goodbye Dead Trees

As a child I was taught to be very careful with books. Some children might tear pages, or scribble with crayons, not me. Never were pages dog eared. Books were almost sacred objects, treated with reverence and care.

When the Elder Offspring was in school, she had an art project to ... now I'm having problems, the only way I can describe it is 'deface a book'. It was cut, painted, moulded, scratched and abused. 

Eight years later, I'm still thinking in the same words, but my reaction is 'It's just an object, and something without intrinsic value.' We're not talking about first editions, but mass market, mass produce books. They are as unique as a bottle of Coke. I'm happily giving away my paper books (dead trees), and using e-books instead. It's not the object that's important, but the ideas contained within.

The books pictured above are rather lovely to look at. They are lovely in the same way old bobbins are lovely, or other antiques are lovely. There role is not functional, but to be beautiful and convey a sense of age. 

For me, e-books win hands down over paper. The typeface and size can be changed at will. The book can be read to me, or I can read it in the dark. It's so much simpler taking a library of books (a Kindle) on holiday than packing several kilos of paper. 

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Optical Illusion Zig Zag Blanket

Yarn: Red Heart Lisa DK
Composition: 100% acrylic 
Colour: Violet (08303)
Colour: Glacier (08363)
Colour: Petrol (08195)
Colour: Pink Marzipan (08367)
Colour: Lilac (05691)
Pattern:  Groovy-ghan
Hook: 5mm 
Amount used: 
Started: 10th March 2018 

My Mam and Grandma taught me how to knit when I was 4 years old. Everyone in my family could knit, and I do mean everyone. It seemed like an interesting thing to do, and obviously (well 'obviously' to my 4 year old brain) it was something I'd need to learn at some point. I would describe what I wanted to do, and my Mam and Grandma would teach me how to do it. It wasn't until I was about 12 or 13 that I learned to use a pattern.

Surprisingly, I was not taught to crochet. I'd pick up a hook and yarn, wibble things around, and make it up as I went along, and this worked rather well for me.

A couple of years ago, I tried to follow a crochet pattern, but it proved to be rather tricky as I didn't know the name of the stitches, and the one that fell under my fingers was a very rarely used stitch. Instead, the pattern of increases and decreases was explain and I ploughed on making a star-shaped baby blanket.

This is the very first crochet pattern I have followed. Through the wonders of youTube, I have learned single crochet (US) and double crochet (US).  It's working! The hardest part is counting to 10.