Wednesday, September 30, 2009

my new favourite blog

Drawn! The illustrating and cartooning blog. This brilliant portal has already provided me with my new favourite toy, odosketch and a highly amusing 'toon based on the quintessential jam making song (which has been sung in this house quite often of late for obvious reasons).

Even more delights though - yesterday featured the video for the Department of Eagles "No one does it like you". Produced by the Directors Bureau, directed by Patrick Daughters and Marcel Dzama, and featuring costumes and sets designed by Dzama. This is so cool I've even gone to the trouble of embedding it.

my new spiritual home is going straight to the 'inspiration' links on the right ---->

And incase you were wondering, the brilliant drop caps were also found through Drawn, and are from Jessica Hische's site Sadly the drop caps aren't looking quite as sexy as they could because of my mini paragraphs. Let's stick a bit of something extra on the end to improve the aesthetics of this last one. Quisque suscipit congue neque id adipiscing. Vivamus ornare nisl id lacus egestas quis varius dolor vehicula. Cras ac lacus in massa sagittis sollicitudin quis in lorem. Aliquam et diam ac massa convallis tincidunt. Aenean convallis consequat tincidunt. Vestibulum lobortis, nibh at sodales eleifend, nunc lorem sodales arcu, sit amet sodales diam felis ac nisl. In hac habitasse platea dictumst. In arcu ante, adipiscing nec pharetra ut, cursus vitae lorem. Nam eget mauris eget neque sagittis vulputate. Vestibulum ante ipsum primis in faucibus orci luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia Curae; Donec diam enim, pretium iaculis elementum id, faucibus non lacus.

Monday, September 28, 2009

more jam

I was so pleased with the co-ordination of the Jam picture with my banner that I had to immediately go into the kitchen and take another shot of the damson jam to highlight it's Wallace and Gromit nature, whilst spread on some home made brown bread (okay, I'm just showing off now...). A side affect of this was that I did unfortunately then have to eat the bread and jam so it didn't go to waste...


So, critical work mass meant I stopped writing blog, because I didn't have time or energy. Finally the work poop was over (wahoo!! resubmission dance) almost a week ago exactly and then I was too busy having fun. Now I'm supposed to be working again, so procrastination ahoy!

First up jam. Having read the preserves handbook Dan and I ventured into the world of jam with a straight up blackberry jam using the glut of fruit from the garden. I'm trying to keep these first jams simple, a single kind of fruit and sugar, while I get my bearings on what the hell actually happens during this process.

Dan and Ali's 1st Blackberry Jam, September 2009

Turned out pretty well. Very firm set, I think because all the sugar I used was the Silver Spoon Jam Sugar with pectin in. Next time I would substitute some of it for regular sugar, or use cooking apples for pectin as I've seen recommended. Recipe (if you can call it that!):

  • 800g blackberries

  • 1kg Silver Spoon Jam Sugar (with pectin - not the preserving sugar, which doesn't have pectin in, but IS apparently the optimal grain size for dissolving)

  • knob of butter

  • about 5 clean sterile jars

Following the success of blackberry jam, we moved on to damson jam. Our friend Laura very kindly brought back a heap (1.5kg to be precise) of damsons from her family home in the english country side. Apparently she was as excited about the jam making as I was, so we set to work enthusiastically on Saturday afternoon for batch number two. Several more lessons were learnt with batch 2 (quite glad I opted for simple jams to start with!). Firstly, my current afore mentioned bible of jam making said damsons were high in pectin and acid and so I decided to go for regular sugar rather than the pectin added stuff. However, due to afore mentioned work poop I was forced to freeze the fruit because I didn't have time to deal with them on the hour of their arrival and Laura thought they might be on the turn. I can't remember where I read this (probably in the Preserves handbook), but apparently freezing damages the pectin levels in the fruit and I didn't compensate for this. To cut a long story short the damson jam is very runny. Delicious, but runny. It looks a bit like the jam in Wallace and Gromit. Anyway, recipe:

  • 1.5kg of damsons

  • 1.25kg granulated sugar

  • 400ml of water

  • knob of butter

  • about 8 clean sterile jars

This was based roughly on the plum recipe in that same book on the grounds that it was stone fruit. Conscious that we needed to soften the skins we cooked over a lowish heat while we stirred and tried to pick out the stones floating to the top. Error! This took forever, and then once we'd decided they were cooked enough and started stirring vigorously as we added sugar all the ones we'd missed came up. Next time - cook, add sugar, stir like a maniac, then the stones float neatly to the top without any fiddle. Dan came in to help with the pouring into jars (because he can actually lift a pan of jam and doesn't possess my unique talents for knocking things over). I agree with The Cottage Smallholder on this point too - the jam funnel with the kit is a must!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Autumn in, Summer out

So, yesterday it rained basically all day, becoming steadily more torrential. So torrential we we're in danger of flooding for a moment there. I attempted to capture this torrential downpour in photo's, but rain doesn't really capture so well. The best indication is the amount of reflection coming off the concrete next to the new cyclamen (waiting to go in some earth).



The day was dark and dank from start to finish. The light correction on my camera does not do justice to the grey tone of the light. Summer is over, time to accept and move on. Bye bye summer bunting...

... and hello autumn leaves

I made this garland last autumn. I am wondering whether this year it could be updated with plain leaves in colours similar to our new picture (which we didn't have this time last year). But I was chuffed with this when I'd finished it, mainly because the shadows look so real.


(The darkness of the day is probably best ascertained from the yellowed dim light in these indoor photo's)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Jam delayed

Jam kit is here, but free time isn't


It's very shiny. I think it's *technically* too big for our small London flat, in that it's about the same size as our kitchen. I suggested to Dan that we should leave it out as a 'centrepiece', but I don't think he was too impressed with that idea.


Bicycle clips

My one-woman mission to make bicycle clips the height of fashion among London's cycling fashionistas is not going well. And really, where's the inspiration? Black and functional, but definitely not chic.

bicycle clips

bicycle clips

I bought these originally because my Dad used to have some the same, I remember him putting one foot up on the step stool at home and clipping his suit trousers down before he went off to work. Somehow with formal trousers they look right - jeans though, not so much.

bicycle clips

I think I may have been finally possessed by complete bonkers-dom. Even I doubt the sanity of making knitted covers for my bicycle clips. And then to top them off with pom-poms in an homage to yokoo? Is that my marble over there...?

bicycle clips

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Wind powered knitting machine

I can hardly believe this passed me by, especially as I used to live and work just around the corner from where this installation was - Wind Knitting Factory.

The video at the bottom of the page is completely hypnotising. So now I obviously crave a sock knitting machine above all things, but sadly the Auto Knitter is a little out of my price range on eBay.

Discovered the link on Eline Oftedal's blog after purchasing her lacy leaf capelet pattern (rav link) from Etsy. My hope is that the lacy leaf capelet pattern will be the final final incarnation of the Cocoon wool, together with perhaps some matching ear warmers (another rav link) for my bicycle helmet.


This year has been the second year we've grown tomatoes from seed and only the first time with any real amount of success. We've just recently eaten the first Marmande's and hoping for a little bit of sun to turn at least a few of those trusses of Gardener's Delight.

unripe Marmande

unripe Gardener's Delight

I read on Fennel and Fern at the start of the summer about aster-like
flowers on tomatoes and the production of 'king' tomatoes. I was pretty excited when 5 out of 7 of the Marmande plant's got an aster flower each, but only one survived to produce fruit - and it is indeed very ugly. Can't wait to find out what it tastes like though!

king tom
King Marmande

Mental notes for next year:

  • Gardener's delight grows surprisingly tall - stake better

  • Grow in bigger pots to make watering less of a chore! (The troughs used were probably at least half the ideal size as it turns out.)

  • I definitely want to grow a small yellow variety next year too - either Sun belle or Mirabelle possibly - and one of those groovy black varieties.


in the frogging process

I'm hoping it's going to be third time lucky with this Rowan Cocoon and Alchemy Haiku yarn, because this is the second project I've ripped out using it. I really like the yarn, but the projects were either dull and out of season (the massive scarf, rav link) or not designed for women with breasts (cardigan, rav link). The latter was massively unflattering on and so unstructured that the weight of the yarn just distorted it's shape to something quite ugly. Sadly ripping out was complicated by the fact that I tried to rescue the cardigan into something more wearable after it was finished - crocheting over with the Haiku to add strength and colour and invisible reinforcing under the arms. All to no avail.

There are, however, several positives to take away from this. I like the Cocoon and the velvety plump soft fabric it makes. I like the way the colour of the Haiku is allowed to sing out on the backdrop of the Cocoon fabric - if it was knit in a lace shawl or something similar I think that depth and delicacy of colour would get lost. It is very quick to knit with.

The only major sadness is some of that lovely Haiku had to be sacrificed for good during the rip-out.

Friday, September 4, 2009


A few weeks ago now I entered the Fennel and Fern competition to win a jam making kit from Wiggly Wigglers and I was majorly excited to be told I'd won! The jam making extravaganza will be here (as soon as that kit arrives). I shall be reading the Preserves Handbook for preparation in the mean time...