Wednesday, December 9, 2009

mince pies


I spent last night making mince meat and mince pies. I should have made the mince meat weeks ago but a lack of brandy in the house meant it got deferred to the last possible moment. I prefer it to bought still anyway, even without maturation.


I have honed my mince pie making skills over the years, using my Grandmother's mince meat recipe (with vegetable suet instead of beef suet - there's too many conflicting religious and personal dietary requirements in my acquaintance to make them anything other than vegetarian) and my Mum's short-crust pastry, the way she taught me. Having both of their most used cookbooks out is a warm if slightly emotional feeling. Neither of them are with me anymore. As well as that it's Christmas, so all those associated family memories are at the surface.


The tools of baking are precious to. I always use the tart tin my Mum used to use to make me jam tarts on Sundays (which I ate with top-of-the-milk), because I didn't like apple pie when I was small...


... and my favourite mixing bowl, which was a Christmas present from Dan several years ago now, has also been incorporated into the ritual.


So after my spell of baking I read this post on Milkmoon about the Grandmother memory, so perhaps it's a seasonal thing. Doing things I know they did every year too, makes them feel a bit closer for a little while. These objects are some of the most precious things I own.

December in the garden

It was a relief to know I wasn't the only one battling over-enthusiastic autumn bulb buying in December. I'd had this whole plan for the front garden that involved a barely field with alliums and cow parsley poking through - and then I changed my mind. Really the earth would be better put to vegetables as it was this year, because the patch out the back is not very big at all. I'd already bought the alliums though: 50 drumstick, 10 Christophii, 15 purple sensation and 10 mount everest. Managed to get them in the borders without digging up too many of the tulips I planted two months ago and forgot about.


fushiaOther finds: surprisingly successful fushia's planted last year without much thought

catkinsThe first ever catkins to appear on my contorted hazel (long story...)

peonyAnd most precious of all, some very healthy looking (hibernating) tree peony seedlings

let the yule tide ring


Christmas decs went up round here last weekend. A tad early, but we're going away from the 22nd onwards so we wanted to enjoy the house all pretty-fied for a couple of weeks. I was never allowed to decorate the old family home until at least the 23rd at the earliest when I was little (and not so little) and I can never contain myself to wait that long now I make my own rules. Decorations are a mish mash of handmade, things Dan and I have bought since being together and the odd inherited. The tree is decorated in a true British Imperialist style, but no tinsel. We are not a tinsel household.


This was all achieved with several Gin & Tonics and accompanied by our best Christmas music CD, a bit extravagant perhaps, but I like the Christmas Spirit(s).

I'm sure Kirsty wouldn't agree with our lack of tinsel given last nights episode, but I've always done a homemade christmas and I happen to think mines a lot better than hers. I've been watching her run of shows because they're the only thing craft related on telly at all, but I'm finding her increasingly irritating/patronising with every episode. I spent hours making great bowers of evergreens to hang over the mantelpiece every year, but nobody ever told me how - it was just something I did. Maybe I find this programme patronising because I'm not the target audience, but if I'm not, who is?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Karen O

Needless to say Karen O and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs were awesome, visually as well as sonically. Not seen them live before, so was slightly blown away by the Christian Joy costumes. Various head dresses and capes and the famous leather jacket. This all in one PVC catsuit thing kept reminding me of the Faun from Pan's Labyrinth though... not sure why...

The only place you can buy Christian Joy is on etsy - Awesome :) My favourite piece of the night though was this crazy sheet thing. It was three panels, the red/blue zig zags on either side and green jagged bursts on the back panel (which I can't find a shot of anywhere). It basically looked like just a flat sheet of printed fabric with two vertical slits in between the red and green vertical panels for your arms. It looked like such fun to wear though... I want one.

Other interesting things to keep in mind include the V&A pattern references. There's gonna be a whole series of them I think, these are just the first. As much as the whole set is lovely, I especially like the fifties pattern set. Not entirely sure what I'd ever use them for if I had them, not being a designer or anything, but they're still cool...

Monday, November 30, 2009

Philip Pullman

licking around t'interweb after looking at Philip Pullman's site found this: À Outrance. The battle between the polar bears... The rest is out of my price range well and truly, but I might have to find £50 for a print of the bear fight. I struggle to decide on a favourite character, but Iorek is in the top three, maybe even top two.


Blog has been quite of late, a combination of busyness and lack of
inspiration (laterly), I feel like the inspiration is starting to creep back in though. It's been an interesting couple of weeks gadding about London town. Saw the Brute Chorus at the Bath house, Philip Pullman at the Southbank and Malcolm Middleton at Bush Hall. Tomorrow
nights activity is the Yeah Yeah Yeahs at the Brixton Academy. Malcolm Middleton is responsible for the current desire to make Dan some Red Traveling Socks. Plain red with cables of some description I reckon.

Yesterday I managed to put together a decent attempt at a pattern for gauntlets to match my blue silk Ishbel. The 2nd full attempt with some adjustments along the way, but even so, very quick to make up. They'll need some serious blocking I think, but I'm going to crack on with the second one ASAP. I'd still quite like to develop this pattern further into two-part mittens, but that's not going to be before the wedding in question - there's not really time and I don't have enough blue silk yarn either, and honestly, I think a mitteny version should be woollen.

gauntletmit the first

gauntletoriginal dicey preliminary sketch

Friday, November 13, 2009

And America, Seems an awful long way to go

(It’s so many miles and so long since I’ve met you
Don’t even know what I’ll find when I get to you
But suddenly now, I know where I belong
It’s many hundred miles and it won’t be long)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

more lessons

Continuing the theme: Things I've learnt since yesterday evening.

One, I quite like having bright red nails, almost as much as I used to enjoy having permanently black nails when I was 18/19.

Two, my theory about territorial spraying killing one of my new plum trees (and almost killing the other) proved correct. All my plants in that area have been badly damaged and look sickly. I heard the distinctive sound of foxes screaming at each other last night and when I flicked on the back light there were two of them in the garden looking straight back at me, obviously having an argument over territory which they get into at this time of year. We watched each other for a little while and as they jumped over the wall one of them took a good long sniff of the dead tree. The die back started off as just damage to the leaves but then the whole lot went very quickly not to be recovered. The graft was slightly open and I think their sent marking went into it, killing the top half very quickly. (nails to tree grafts in less than a paragraph, how north london am I....)

Three, The Wedding Date is indeed a terrible film....

Four, my new fabulous boots from Clarks I bought at the start of October are in this months Glamour magazine and are now completely out of stock. I have worn these non stop since I bought them and I'm very glad to have them, spending another winter without vaguely appropriate (waterproof) footwear was not an appealing thought and I've not seen anything else I liked so much as these. Well, except maybe these that I found today... Now, where to find £109 from? *sigh*.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

losing my head


Not entirely sure what happens to my brain when Dan leaves town. I seem to excess on girl things I couldn't usually give a fig about whether I get to do or not. This evening I painted my nails bright red whilst reading Glamour magazine (a guilty pleasure of some magnitude, is it okay if I only look at the pictures? I don't like the words...) and I have chocolate ice cream in the freezer (it's okay love, I am eating properly - yes I know you're reading, you're the only one who does - I had baked aubergine with our tomatoes, garlic and chorizo for dinner but it wasn't as nice as yours and I'm sulking about that). I've an awful feeling the evening is going to end with me watching 'The Wedding Date', no doubt one of the worst films in history, simply because it's on telly.

Last nights evening was somewhat more productive. I finished my Ishbel (rav link) during a marathon of Merlin episodes (which I've now decided I like, but does not compare to the excitement of the new doctor who episode this week) interspersed with an episode of Spaced (not the same watching it without you, love). Sadly the pictures of the finished product are pants because of the terrible light that's been around the last few days. The shawl is in fact a deep bright blue with one row of contrast edging in a sort of turquoise-y shade I don't have a name for.





Two important lessons were learned during this sprint to the finish line. The first: I wanted to wind two centre pull balls to finish this, but my current loo roll method was too slow (very pretty wound balls though). Ten minutes with google yielded the thumb method, so me and my swift got to work. This also has the unexpected side benefit of giving you a giant comedy thumb like a cartoon character. The second: underfloor heating makes your wet blocking dry really really quickly, definite unexpected bonus for wintertime knitting.

ball winding

ball winding

ball winding

Right-O, time to crack open the ice-cream....

Monday, November 9, 2009

links to interesting things

Some interesting things that have caught my eye this morning. Firstly the Persephone Post (the blog of Persephone Books - a great book shop which is situated 5 minutes from where I work and which I am yet to frequent despite reading their blog, and in their own words "prints mainly neglected fiction and non-fiction by women, for women and about women.") had a great picture from the City of Edinburgh Museum and Art Galleries called The Fair-isle Jumper. Dan's been getting into his fair-isle recently, he wants a fair-isle jumper. The hat in this picture is pretty killer too though, those pom-poms are awesome....

Other interesting finds - I had a flick through "blogs of note" on blogger. Last time I did this it didn't yield anything to my taste, but this time I got Darkmatters, a stop motion animation blog which is home to some very cool stuff. Cool in my world anyway, possibly a bit dark and creepy in other worlds, but I enjoyed my visit.

Friday, November 6, 2009

purple spuds


I'm just trying to distract myself from the horrendous (and unjust) bank charges I've just discovered in my bank account (which, rest assured, someone will be getting an earful for on Monday), so I'm going to think about potatoes instead. The front garden of our terraced flat was basically a weed patch. I'd optimistically installed a hawthorn hedge when we moved in (3 years ago), and a few other scraggy bits of hedging have found their way onto the patch since then, but basically it was heavily compacted complete with some serious clods of clay. It annoyed me that the land was wasted (and ugly), but at the same time it was a tough habitat to start with and not very relaxing to work on, being on the road. I concocted a plan...

We spent a considerable amount of time weeding the patch and something had to be planted to keep the weeds down so our work wouldn't be wasted. Because of the compaction though there was really only one candidate - potatoes. They'd break up the soil and hopefully keep the weeds down a bit, who knows, we might even get a crop (not that we got anything out of our new potatoes on the veg patch after the cats dug them up and killed them).

So I went down the new fangled minituber route - grown in a lab. Three varieties: 5 tubers of Fortyfold; 5 tubers of Champion; 10 tubers of Congo. The patch isn't great, doesn't get much sun, and the spuds were almost entirely neglected once put in. No extra watering, no fertiliser of any kind and only one attempt at some half-hearted earthing up. However, surprisingly enough, we did get crop! 2.02kg of Fortyfold (the star performer), 1.16kg of Congo (0.58kg relatively) and 0.85kg of Champion. Unclear whether Fortyfold was so good because of plot position (getting the most sun) or variety, but I'm pretty sure Congo is not a high yielding variety - it's more for the intense purple colour, which runs right the way through.

spudsstraight from the ground.

spudsin the pan, turning the water bright green.

spudsa better view of the spectacular blue-green colour. Sadly my inexperienced clueless dying experiment with a scrap of unbleached muslin (shoved in a pot of the water) yielded no stain.