Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Procrastination and Bad Timing

Life is a whirlwind of activity at the moment. Apart from the times I’m asleep, it seems that I’m rarely in the house for longer than a couple of hours at a stretch. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the coming weekend doesn’t get booked up between now and its arrival, to give me an opportunity to get a few things done.  I’ve ordered some more seeds today that need to be sown, the garden definitely requires some further attention before it’s usable, the windows are in desperate need of a wash and I’ve got a pile of vintage dresses to be taken up and/or in before dress wearing weather arrives. I also must, must, must complete the census and get it off before the looming deadline.

I’m exhausted just thinking about it!
This is before we turn to the pile of WIPs that actually seems to be growing instead of shrinking. How does that happen?
Actually scrap that, I know how it happens. Allow me to illustrate. These are the socks I’ve pulled out from the drawer, with the good intention of finishing the second one...

And this is the ball of lace weight mohair I’ve been considering since the weekend. It’s going to happen sooner or later. I’m thinking something beaded.

In the front of my little moleskine diary that I have each year, I put a fresh post it note at the beginning of each month. On this post-it note I write a list of the things I’d like to accomplish that month. Bearing in mind existing commitments and my tendency to procrastinate, I keep it realistic and limit it to 10 things. If by some miracle these ever all get done I can always add more. For March, my entirely reasonable list read:
1.       Complete 2 more blocks of yellow quilt
2.       Finish Aqua quilt (needs a border, quilting and binding)
3.       Finish big grey cowl
4.       Paint hallway
5.       Buy birthday present for Dad
6.       Buy birthday present for Brother
7.       Take up polka dot dress
8.       Take up a long cardigan/coat for my Grandmother
9.       Lose 5 pounds
10.   Frame 2 pictures
I ticked off numbers 6, 5 and 3 only. If I give up sleeping and eating I may get a couple more done by the end of March. I did get a picture of number 3 -  the big grey woolly cowl knitted in time for the lovely spring weather, modelled here by Celeste:

It’s lovely and warm. Going by my current record I’ll finish both quilts just in time for a heat wave in August.
Because procrastination is always better when it involves food, I’ve spent the last half an hour looking for recipes online. I’ve got a bag of lemons sitting in the fruit bowl that need using up, so I’m currently thinking up nice ways to use them tonight. Perhaps this or this?

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Weekend De-Brief

·         This Saturday City Boy and I visited my parents to celebrate the birthdays of the male members of my family –my dad’s and my brother’s birthdays are just a few days apart. This event obviously called for pink sparkly cupcakes.

Not fantastic photos, as they were taken in a last minute rush before we walked out the door. As organised as ever.

Saturday evening was spent enjoying my mum’s cooking, drinking lots of wine and playing games with family.

·         We took the bikes with us to my parents and the following morning, after a brunch at the local gardening centre, we cycled off to Windsor Great Park. It was such a beautiful spring day and the blossom was stunning.

·         We arrived home worn out on Sunday evening to  a present on the chair

And the culprit sprawled out in the bedroom in a very un-ladylike fashion, clearly exhausted from all the digging for worms.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

A Present to Myself

Last week I ordered a new stand mixer, which arrived at the weekend. As much as I would love one, it unfortunately wasn’t one of those well-known and very expensive stand mixers ending in ‘aid’.  I didn’t think City Boy would appreciate the irony of having a top-of-the-range stand mixer and subsequently only being able to afford to eat beans on toast for 3 months.
Meet Sir Mix-a-Lot:

I did a bit of research on mixers within my budget and this one has good reviews and was very reasonably priced on amazon – it’s the Breville SHM2 twin mixer. Judging on the limited use it’s had so far, I’m very pleased with mine. It mixes stuff, it stands, and that’s generally what I require of a stand mixer. In fact, it even detaches from the stand to become a hand mixer, which I feel is above and beyond the call of duty.
So far Sir Mix-a-Lot and I have churned out:

Banana Pudding

And some blueberry muffins. I don’t have a picture of these because they sunk and weren’t very pretty. Although they tasted fine. I let the team down with this one – Sir Mix-a-Lot performed his part admirably.
I’m visiting my parents this weekend as it’s my dad’s birthday, so I’m going to take a cake if I can find time to make one. I would be more likely to have time if I stopped browsing baking blogs with the excuse that I’m looking for inspiration and attempted a few things on my to-do list instead. There are a whole lot of beautiful cakes out there to distract me.
And, just because I’ve reminded myself of this cake I baked a few weeks ago, and because I’m quite proud of it, here’s one I made earlier:

Signs of Spring at the Littlest House

Cats enjoying the morning sunshine

Jasmine and tulips appearing in our little outside patch

Alstroemeria  brought home by City Boy. Not technically a sign of English springtime, but I'm going to run with this one. On being asked why I deserved flowers he told me it was because I’d been working hard. I’ll forgive anyone patronising me if they bring yellow flowers.

Impractical ruffley new shoes

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Weekend De-Brief

·    Friday night I went out for dinner, drinks and dancing with my best girlfriends. Always lots of fun to see them, but had maybe several  one too many glasses of wine. Arrived home about 2am and met City boy, who’d been out himself, on the sofa to watch the end of Comic Relief. At some point during proceedings I called him a very rude name (I think deservedly but he feels not) and flounced off to bed. City Boy took great delight in teasing me about this in the morning.

·    Saturday morning I baked blueberry muffins for breakfast, and then popped out shopping to find a new dress for the evening. I didn’t find a new dress, but I did come home with a skirt for spring in a pretty pattern.

·    In the afternoon I managed to squeeze in a bit of gardening. The shrubs currently all look like sticks, so I very carefully labelled them to keep track of what I had planted where.

3 labels have already been chewed off.

·    Saturday night City Boy and I trekked over to Old Street for a friend’s birthday. It was lots of fun, but I’m definitely getting a little too old to be out drinking and dancing two nights in a row without terrible consequences.

·    Sunday afternoon we went for a pub lunch with our neighbours. A bottle of prosecco was ordered, and then it was suddenly 5pm and we were still in the pub. The cumulative effects of all the alcohol consumed this weekend may or may not be the reason why I was tucked up in bed by 9.30pm last night.

·    We watched a film in front of the fire and cooked this delicious sweetcorn chowder with spiced butter for supper.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Cats 1, neighbours nil

The neighbours have rigged a system of poles and netting obviously designed to keep the furry delinquents out of their garden. That's fine, although I was a little concerned about the rows of pointy bamboo sticks that appeared originally. It's since been redesigned to look a little less like something that was intended to impale my cats.

I have no doubt in my cats' abilities to circumvent their defences. These guys can get to the top of a 12 foot bookcase with minimum effort.

This morning I discovered that they hadn't in fact circumvented the system.

They'd pulled it down.

In the half an hour they'd been out after breakfast. It took the neighbours 3 times that time to build it.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Weekend De-brief

  • It happened without me realising. I woke early on Saturday and starting pottering around in the kitchen, loading the dishwasher and wiping down the hob. Then I found myself scrubbing the oven. City Boy surfaced at about 9.30 to find me with the sofa pulled out, everything off the shelves and a manic gleam in my eye. It makes me think that there's something inbuilt that triggers the yearly spring clean.

  • I refused to leave the house for the rest of the weekend, except to venture to the garden centre to choose some plants. I have an incredibly busy week looming, so I wanted to take the opportunity to relax.

  • We planted jasmine, rosemary and a couple of shrubs. I'm also attempting to grow some seeds; we'll see how that works out.

  • I knitted an enormous warm cosy cowl, just in time for the lovely spring weather. I'm wearing it today regardless. I'm stubborn. I did want to add a picture here, but I don't have one yet, so have a cat picture instead:

  • I baked about eight hundred chocolate chip cookies. We've been eating them all weekend and I sent City Boy to work with a batch this morning.

  • We made this Mushroom Barley Risotto for supper last night - it was delicious and so simple to make. Even City Boy, not normally a risotto fan, approved.

  • We're down to one working laptop between us at the moment, and that is City Boy's work one. Needless to say, getting to use it involves protracted negotiations and quite often bribery (hence the cookies). So updates here will be sporadic for a little while.

Helping me with my reading

Monday, 7 March 2011

Weekend De-brief

Friday night I was feeling a bit achy and wanted to snuggle with a hot water bottle. However, I couldn’t find a cover for it. So while City Boy and I watched The Departed (very good), I knitted one.

 I made up a very simple pattern using bulky wool, with a ribbon threaded through yarnovers to take it off and on to wash and an opening at the top to allow easy refilling. I didn’t want anything fussy with the stripes already going on. I’m pretty pleased with it – I’m thinking about making a few more for little Christmas gifts. Perhaps with matching chunky socks.

Saturday morning I popped to the farmer’s market for a few bits and pieces. I now find myself with an enormous bag of pak choi. No idea what we’re going to be eating this week, but it will involve pak choi.

I also picked up a pot of little Tête à Têtes. So spring-like! I repotted them in this new-to-me vintage planter that I picked up for a few pounds on ebay recently. They make me very happy, it’s like a little piece of spring in my living room window. Although I have to sweep up compost daily after the cats have completed their morning routine of destruction.

 On Saturday afternoon City Boy went off to watch football and I stayed home to make a mess in the kitchen. I baked Rosemary and sea salt pretzels, which were so popular with City Boy that I didn’t even manage to take a photo. I’ll be making those again shortly.

I also managed to get into the back garden to tidy up a little in preparation for spring. It’s nice to see that a few of last year’s plants have survived both the snow and the cats. We moved into the Littlest House in June last year, so after a few weeks of unpacking and a flurry of repainting, when our attention finally tuned to the garden it was a little late in the season to get much done beyond tidying up. This year I intend to get started in time to get some herbs and tomatoes in the ground at least.

Saturday night we went out for dinner and cocktails in Soho with some friends we haven’t seen since before Christmas. Lovely company, mediocre food, fantastic martini.

Sunday was so lovely and spring-like that we went for a bike ride round Richmond Park. Lots of deer around, the birds were singing, the sun was out and the daffodils are starting to make an appearance. I would probably even say it was worth the pain I currently feel in my backside.

Back in time for homemade mushroom soup for lunch, a nap to recover and later an evening in front of trashy tv.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Identity Crisis

He growls when he plays and he fetches sticks for me. The other cat gives him a wide berth and a slightly concerned look.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Flower Earwarmer

Recently I've been doing a bit of knitting for other people. The first item was following the kind of request that every knitter loves; my Grandmother phoned to say that she really loves the cowl I made her a couple of Christmases ago, wears it all the time, and would I possibly consider making her one in White for her birthday.

No problem Grandma! said I.

In hindsight my first mistake was leaving it until 4 days before the date it had to be posted to start looking at patterns.

if I'd chosen something sensible, like extra bulky weight yarn, that would have been fine, but my second mistake was to select fingering weight yarn.

The third mistake was to knit Pretty Thing (Ravelry Link). On looking at the finished item I concluded that it was indeed an incredibly pretty thing, but somehow I couldn't picture my dog-walking, country-loving, welly-wearing grandma wearing something quite so lacy and pretty.

So I started over, and sort of made up a pattern. Fourth mistake. It was more what I was after, but you could have fitted three grandmas in there.

By now, I was in a bit of a rush, so I got out the sewing machine, sort of sewed it in half and cut away the excess, blocked and dried it with the hair dryer and off it went to Grandma. With no time for photos. Not my finest piece of work, but I think it turned out ok.

The second request was via my mum. A family friend had admired the ear warmer I made my mum - mum was going to stay with said friend this weekend and would I make one for her to take as a gift?
This one was much easier. And I even finished it in time to take a photo.

I'm sure anyone could figure his out for themselves, but here's what I did:

Disclaimer: I'm not a knitwear designer

Yarn: Rowan Cocoon
Needles: 5mm
Gauge: 4 stitches per inch in stockingette

Cast on 60 stitches using a stretchy cast on method, join to work in round and place a stitch marker.

Rows 1 - 6: (K2, P2) repeat to end.
Row 7: (K1, m1r, K3) repeat to end
Row 8: Knit
Row 9: (K1, m1r, K1, m1L, K3) repeat to end

Row 10: Knit
Row 11: (K1, m1R, K3, m1L, K3) repeat to end
Row 12: Knit
Rows 13 - 18: (K2, P2) repeat to end
Bind off with a stretchy method - I used the sewn bind-off and weave in ends.



CO 105 stitches
Row 1: K1, *k2, sl1, k2tog, psso, k2, YO; rep from *, K1
Row 2: K1, *p6, YO, rep from *, k1.
Row 3: K1, *k2, sl1, k2tog, psso, k2, YO; rep from *, K1.
Row 4: K1, *p6, YO, rep from *, k1.
Row 5: BO knitwise.

Coil up the bound off edge and stitch in place so it looks like a rose.
Sew flower to headband. I sewed it to a broach pin so the recipient can decide whether to wear it with a flower or not.

Wear and enjoy warm ears!