An Early 2014 Catch Up …

Looking back through photos taken since the start of the year, I realise how little I’ve blogged recently, hence the catch up.
Brush:
This recent picture, similar to a watercolour that I painted a few weeks ago, was done with brush pens and ink. I’m still trying to decide which one I prefer:

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Needle:
Both knitting and sewing needles feature here. First off, I spent about 6-8 weeks knitting my latest blanket, combining my favourite colour combinations of purple, dark pink and green. This is a wonderfully stretchy blanket, it was knitted on a pair of size 20 circular needles and it’s huge!!

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Sewing needles arrived earlier this week in the form of a sewing machine. Sewing has always been something that I wished I could do, neatly and well, however I’ve never really managed it. My husband very kindly bought me my lovely machine and I’ve already made something, can you tell what it is?!

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Yes, it’s a bag for my sewing machine pedal and plug!
I have a few other projects in mind for the coming weeks and I’m really enjoying learning how to use my sewing machine. I hope that once I’ve had lots of practice and no doubt loads of advice from my mum (who used to create amazing things on her sewing machine), I’ll be able to attempt to make some new curtains for our dining room.

Whisk:
Last week we celebrated Chinese New Year by having deliciously crispy duck with pancakes, hoisin sauce, plum sauce and prawn crackers. We went to our local Chinese supermarket, I’m ashamed to say for the first time in 13 years, and it was incredible. There were dragons parading outside and inside the shop was a complete riot of colour and noise. It definitely won’t be another 13 years before we go there again:

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Before I go, I’ll leave you with the additions that we’ve made to our shed/studio (or shudio, if you prefer) – our current weather has made it really difficult for me to get out there without getting covered in mud, however, these concrete slabs, cleverly designed as logs mean that I can get there and back without walking mud through the house:

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Feeling the need to make my art space a little more cosy, I’ve added some cheery lights. I must have spent over 30 minutes faffing about with these before deciding to clump them together in the corner:

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and yes, that is a set of wool & fur covered headphones hanging up there too – they are incredibly warm!!

The Colours of Autumn …

Autumn is possibly my favourite season of the year – the colours, the sunlight, the long shadows all combine to produce an abundance of beauty, that is, when it’s not raining! We have just returned home from a week in Northumberland where the autumn colours were showing off to stunning effect. We were really lucky with the weather and managed to miss out on the ravages of the recent storm. I’m looking forward to painting later on today but will leave you with an image of my ‘holiday scarf’ – the colours of the wool are absolutely gorgeous, these were the colours of our holiday:

Dill-lightful dishes and other things …

My oldest returned from a 5 day camp yesterday afternoon and it has now become traditional for me to cook him a meal of his favourites on his return. We therefore had a delicious meal of steamed salmon served with green salad, potato salad (with crème fraîche, horseradish sauce, dill and seasoning) and a freshly baked milk loaf. To follow we had rocky road cupcakes:

He was a very happy boy and an added bonus was that there were lovely left overs for our tea today!

My first attempt at knitting ‘lace’ was completed yesterday. It has taken me about 4-5 weeks from start to finish and whilst it was the easiest of patterns, I’m really pleased with the result:

I think I’ll try a more complex pattern next time – I may try a few practice samples first though.

Last but not least, I painted some tulips this afternoon. I really tried to focus on creating proper leaf shapes, to the detriment of the tulip flowers however I am still fairly pleased with the result:

Food, Flowers and Photographs …

Heston Blumenthal is a chef who’s programmes I enjoy to watch but who’s food I would never dream of attempting, that is, until I bought a copy of his ‘Heston Blumenthal at Home’ book. There are very few gadgets that he recommends that a home cook would not ordinarily have at their disposal. Some of his ingredients are however a little trickier to nail down.

I decided to choose a couple of simple dishes to begin with. Even though these appeared simple, there were an unbelievable number of steps to work through. I really tried to do exactly as he said and on the whole, it all turned out quite well.

We began with a Sea Bass and Vanilla Butter dish, served with mashed potato, steamed broccoli and slow cooked Butter Carrots:

Sea Bass and Vanilla ButterThe vanilla butter was not at all sweet and it didn’t overpower the taste of the sea bass. We could have licked our plates clean at the end, it was so tasty!

To follow, we had a Lemon Tart. I never knew that pastry could be to complex both in terms of its ingredients and its method (various chilling and freezing steps along the way). The taste however was incredible:

Lemon TartHeston’s recipes are a real treat, a feast for the the eyes as well as the stomach. Definitely a recipe book for lazy weekends where there is nothing planned other than to cook.

Mushroom Risotto is a real favourite for both myself and my husband, it is however something that our boys look upon with absolute horror! The boys had a friend staying for a sleepover last night, so I decided to cook twice – pizza and chips for them, delicious mushroom risotto for us:

Mushroom RisottoRecycling is very on trend at the moment and I sometimes look enviously at how people have managed to up-cycle items that would otherwise have been thrown away. My very small attempt at up-cycling this week was to use coffee tins as pots – one for flat leaf parsley and another for daffodils, given to me earlier in the week by a friend:

The cardboard seed trays contain chilli seeds – I’m not at all good at keeping chilli plants alive but so far we have 9 seedlings, hopefully a few more will appear and from them I hope to get at least one to ‘fruiting’!

The daffodils that yesterday were all in tight buds, are now just starting to open:

Sunlight streaming through the windows this morning, beautifully diffused through these paper hearts that hang from the light in our dining room:

Knitting in front of the tv in the evenings has become a bit of a habit, my boys are rapidly getting used to the sounds of their favourite shows being accompanied by a rhythmic ‘clackety-clack’. I’m currently knitting yet another scarf (or maybe snood), however, this is one that I started at the beginning of the week and it will be ready for me to wear next week, at a friend’s funeral. The wool is black, grey and teal, the latter being one of her favourite colours, I will post about it (in colour) once it’s finished:

This final photo makes me smile. Even though we don’t ‘do’ Valentines Day, me and my husband both managed to buy each other the same valentine cards:

Waste no Wool …

I had been thinking for a while about how I could use up the various scraps of wool that I have left over from different blankets, scarves and snoods. I have tried crochet but have not succeeded  with it yet. I am persevering with it but I have to be in the right frame of mind to tackle it. What I was after was something that wouldn’t be too taxing, that I could do in front of the fire & tv in the evenings. Suddenly, it occurred to me – bunting! Yes, maybe life is too short to knit your own bunting however, I think it’s a great use of leftovers. Here’s what I’ve knitted over a couple of evenings this week:

Knitted bunting!Hopefully, by the time I’ve used up my leftover wool, I’ll have a length or two to hang up somewhere.

A New Idea for a New Year …

I don’t usually do New Year Resolutions but I’ve decided to have a go this year with reference to my blog. I will attempt to post at least 3 times per week, once about painting, once about food & cooking and once about knitting and/or crochet.

So, here goes. I have spent the past couple of evenings knitting a small blanket/throw. I was tempted by the beautiful colours in this wool. It is a wool that is normally used for knitting wavy scarves but I wanted to see if it could work as something flat :

The stitch was as follows:

cast on a multiple of 2 plus 1

first row: p1 *k1, p1*, repeat from * to *

second row: k1 *p1, k1*, repeat from * to *

row 3: purl

row 4: knit

keep knitting till you have something the size that you want it, or until you’ve run out of wool, as I did!

I used size 20mm needles which are fab at enabling me to create something very quickly.

It’s Snood Time …

I knew the temperature was due to drop towards the end of this week but I had no idea that the snood that I started knitting on monday would be ready in time.

I love knitting with BIG needles, the knitting quickly grows and the end result is usually so soft and warm. My snood took just 3 days to complete with 32 stitches per row and each set of rows being either garter stitch or stocking stitch. There was a fairly random pattern of 10 rows garter stitch, 10 of stocking followed by 8 of each then 6 of each etc. I say the pattern was random because I did go wrong a couple of times!

Anyway, here it is – and it is incredibly warm:

 

Four 100g balls of Rowan ‘big wool’ (100% Merino Wool) were used.