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Saturday, 6 September 2014

Tiny knitting

Since learning that I was expecting a little one of my own, I may have gone a *little* to excess on the knitting front. So far booties and tops have been the order of the day, although I do hope to add some random cuddly toys to the mix too.

Now these actually are winging their way to P in the US for her new little boy:

This was really just an excuse to use some pretty butterfly buttons which had been hanging around:

Ok, so this came out a little large.. Still, should fit by the time he's, um, 3 or so.

Hardly the most practical with all those buttons, but hopefully the sheer cuteness will prevail, at least for a couple of wears.

Oh and this fabulous baby blanket and even more fabulous octopus is from the very talented G:

Octavia (the octopus) will hopefully be joined by a couple of buddies soon. Currently I'm particularly keen on a three-toed sloth and narwhal

Also in the pipeline is the endless quilt which has been going for just a little bit too long. Only downside is the at the %(^&*$&^%* sewing machine has just chosen to give up, despite all coaxing. At some point I will just have to accept that it won't fix itself and make an effort to sort..

Monday, 14 July 2014

Time to Unwind

Brighton! It's been such as long time since I was there. It holds some particularly fond memories for me, so really I don't need much of a reason to visit - especially as I've now discovered that it's only about 45 minutes train journey from Clapham Junction! Only 45 minutes to a mini seaside holiday..
And the only thing better than a mini seaside holiday? A mini seaside holiday with YARN!

Unwind Brighton featured masses of the stuff, along with informative talks and lessons on all manner of knitterly topics. They also sold very pretty bags:

Being something of an Iceland-o-phile, I chose a talk by the inspiring Ragga on Icelandic knitting. I wasn't really sure what to expect, but even with technical challenges (screen was not Mac friendly) Ragga proved a true professional and wowed us all with her knitting passion as well as dropping in some unusual snippets to keep us entertained. For example: did you know that she's also Iceland's premier sex educator and has a book coming out on the subject? The woman has many talents..

After a quick visit to the 'marketplace' I'm pleased to say that I managed to keep to my pre-planned list of requirements, rather than going crazy on random pretty yarn (this may have happened in the past).

The only stall I allowed myself to go a little greedy on was buttons. Yes, I love buttons. Especially when they are as cute as these:

Here's the rest of the haul which will in turn become a couple of baby cardigans and baby scarf/hat set. Note the magazine which was a freebie bonus - always worth hanging around until the very end ;)

Also worth a big mention is Helen's winning shawl design Pebble Beach, modelled here by yours truly (thanks for the pic Helen!):

In addition to the honour and a small prize, Pebble Beach was also featured in the Unwind programme:

A worthy winner indeed! Read more on Curious Handmade or nab the pattern on Ravelry from today!

Ah Brighton, we may be seeing each other again very soon..

Friday, 4 July 2014

By the pricking of my thumbs..

So how do you like to spend your Saturday night? How about in a foreboding council block in the East End, surrounded by witches, power-hungry usurpers and borscht? No? Ok, you might want to stop reading now.

We were lucky enough to nab some tickets to RIFT’s epic production of ‘Macbeth’, set within the monolith that is Balfron Tower. We are also lucky enough to have friends who are willing to join us on such daft adventures, so at 8pm sharp our motley crew of 9 assembled on a patch of astro-turf in the shadow of the Tower. 

We happily signed our lives away, exchanged some pounds sterling to ‘Bordurian Rand’ (in order to purchase beverages within the building) and waited in anticipated for our guide Uri to check that our visas were in order.

After some banter with Uri, he lead us down to the entrance into the bowels of the building. I think we were all feeling a little nervous at that point – this is the building they used when filming ’28 Days Later’ after all! As our eyes adjusted to the darkness of the underground carpark, witches seemed to materialise out of the gloom and stalk a couple of the more unfortunate members of our party. Assembling around a burning oil drum, Macbeth and Banquo soon joined us and the action began in earnest.

Some six hours later we emerged from the same building shiny-eyed and drunk on adrenaline. So what happened in between?!

It’s tempting to say: 'well go and see for yourself' but I guess that would be a bit mean seeing as the tickets are now broadly sold out. And anyway, I wouldn’t want to give too much away. Although I will say that we were mainly based in ‘our flat’ with action going on around us, in a couple of ‘bar’ areas and a few other flats around the building.

I think it may suffice to give you a couple of glimpses into scenes from the evening:
  • Flattening myself into a dowdy armchair in our tiny living room while two men fight with knives approximately half a metre away (ok, don’t panic, they were realistic-looking plastic knives!).
  • Being singled out and pulled into bed with a pleading Lady Macbeth. Having to be prised away from her convulsive sobbing by one of the guides.
  • Feasting on borscht, rosti, cabbage and chocolate trifle at the banquet scene, before having a large pot with a severed head placed on our table to be incorporated into the action.
  • M falling off an armchair and almost kicking Lady Macbeth in the face as she burst in through a door unexpectedly.

Ok so the last point wasn’t exactly planned, but was none-the-less most entertaining.

The acting was amazing - on the verge of making you feel a little bit like you were actually experiencing some real council estate drama at some points. The fact that the setting and costumes had a 70s theme definitely definitely enhanced this - and strangely didn't seem to clash with the Shakespearean English script.

We could have stayed over in 'our flat' if we would have wanted to (bunks and blankets provided), but we decided to head for the comforts of home at around 2am and forego the breakfast that would otherwise have been served the next morning.

The only problem is, what could we possibly do next to top this?

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Making Good

Sounds a little like the opposite of Breaking Bad right? Well, you wouldn't be far off. I don't think you could get further from dodgy meth dealings than to entrepreneurial crafts fairs - although I suppose the 'entrepreneurial' part could be a slight overlap.. Anyway, enough musings.

A few weeks ago I had the good fortune not just to attend the MakeGood festival, but also help out Helen on her wonderful Curious Handmade stall. Helen has been a busy bee building up her knitting empire, founded on sheer passion, bucket fulls of talent and just a pinch of tireless determination.

So we found ourselves not only able to wander the other crafty stalls to our hearts content, but also help to sell Helen's beautiful pattern designs and generally natter with customers about knitting. It's a hard life.

Also worth noting that Helen won Unwind Brighton's prestigious award for best knitting pattern, as voted for by the fickle knitting masses. I'm currently working my way through 'Pebble Beach' so that I can wear it with pride to the Unwind event itself in just a couple of weeks.
It's been a while since I did any good yarn tourism, so Unwind seemed the perfect excuse. I won't be attending any of the classes, but will be listening to Ragga talk about Icelandic knitting which I'm rather looking forward to - oh and then there's the market place to check out of course..

 Because making things really is good for the soul!

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Food for thought

So I've always been a granola fiend, but always saw it as a bit of a questionably ally when it came to health. After all, there was SO MUCH SUGAR in most of it. No wonder it was tasty. But then it also had oats and nuts and other, much more healthy stuff.. Oh the conundrum.

For some reason I had never really considered making my own, until a newsletter handily plonked a recipe directly in my lap: Sarah Wilson's coco-nutty granola, without sugar.
But surely it's only health freaks and those on restricted diets who make their own cereal? Meh, well I was curious. Mainly because it sounded really good!

So I tracked down my local supply of coconut flakes (Holland & Barrett), assorted nuts and other bits and pieces. The only substitution I had to make was to get agave nectar instead of brown rice syrup, which even the shop assistant hadn't heard of.

So to the chopping:

Here's the final mixture chillaxing on a baking tray:

And the final result! The batch on the left contains cocoa powder, so makes the granola just a little bit chocolatey.

What can I say, it was gooood. So good in fact that I had to make a second, larger batch a couple of days later because the previous supply had gone!

 And the health doesn't end there, oh no.. All hail the kale!

Spurred on by my granola success, I decided the time was right for more oven-related experimentation: kale chips!
I actually first thought about these some months ago, but then kale was difficult to come by as it was the wrong season - apparently kale needs frost? So now it was all over the place so it just seemed natural to give it a go.

I actually followed the instructions in a magazine, but really it's very simple:
- Set the oven to 120 degrees C
- Pour your kale onto a large, lined baking tray and spread out evenly - removing any large stalky bits
- Sprinkle some olive oil over your kale and massage in slightly to get good coverage. Some people also recommend a little salt.
- Toast the kale in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until all crisp
- Scoff and be amazed how great they taste

To me they taste a bit like popcorn which I realise is weird, but I don't care because they are so tasty!
A word of warning though, kale chips don't keep very well if left overnight in a non-airtight container. I decided to be sensible and leave some for the next day, but sadly by then they had lost some of their magic crispness and were a little disappointing.
So DON'T be sensible, scoff while at the peak or crunchy goodness.

Jumper round

Yes it is time to celebrate as I have finally finished my first jumper! Even though I'll admit that it will only fit a seven year old - and yes that was the intention.
The Happy Sweater is yet another creation by prolific Norwegian knitter and knit store owner Pickles who has made so many delightful designs, especially for children. I like the way that the patterns are uncomplicated and the results look wonderfully textured and just a little bit old fashioned. These are clothes for kids, not little adults.
So this little jumper went to M's nephew for Christmas and I believe it has found a good home.

However, M also has a niece so what better than to send her a similar gift but make it in the form of a knitted dress.

This pattern had me slightly riled as it was supposed to be for a 2 year old, but although I followed the instructions for this sizing it somehow ended up humongous. Thankfully I had the bright idea to add the little 'belt' to gather the dress a little and give it a bit more shape. You'll also note that I decided to add buttons the front incase the size was a little too big still, so that the shoulder straps could be crossed at the back if necessary and buttoned in place.

Anyway, it seems it was all worth the effort, and as a bonus I can say that I have officially finished a jumper :)