Monday, 21 July 2014

Envisage, Action, Enjoy, Repeat

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With tears of joy streaming down my face, I watched my son's dreams come true this weekend. It wasn't just parental pride, it was so much more. When your child is diagnosed with autism there are certain things you think you won't ever see or experience and, if you'd asked me four months ago, I'd have said that my child playing in a major part of a theatre production was definitely one of those things.

As I watched Cameron stride around the stage with confidence, recite his lines word-perfectly and with humour and emotion, gaining cheers and laughs from the crowd and working as part of a team in front of a large audience I could not have been more proud.  His first drama lesson was only in May and now his first production is already behind him.


At the end of December I wrote a post about goal setting which seems really poignant today.  I wanted to inspire Cameron (and anyone reading...) to find something he was passionate about and then take action beyond the dreaming stage, taking control and working for his own success and, in the space of just ten weeks, that is exactly what he has done.  Buoyed by his own achievement he is already setting new brave goals this morning and we're both beaming about it!

What a great lesson well observed - Envisage what you want to achieve and how you want to feel, take Action to make it happen, Enjoy your success and Repeat. 

Inspirational.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Courgette Relish and why you should save recipes you like from the internet

Good morning lovely people!
Do you have favourite recipes on websites that you go back to year-on-year to get the details?  I urge you to save them - print, screenshot, copy and paste, whatever you prefer but do save them. Lately several of my faves have vanished from the internet as people have abandoned their sites including a knitting pattern that I was half-way though.
I have been getting a lot of emails lately about the courgette recipe I use - it wasn't my recipe and the blog I found it on has disappeared. Luckily I managed to find it scribbled down in a notebook and so I'm sharing it here but it's an important lesson, I think. Get those recipes saved!

Courgette Relish 2


Courgette Relish

1.5kg unpared courgettes, grated 
250g onions, finely chopped 
5 tbsp salt 
625ml cider vinegar 
1kg caster sugar 
1tbsp grated nutmeg 
1tbsp dry mustard 
1tbsp tumeric 
1tbsp corn flour 
1/8 tsp cayenne 
1 green pepper, chopped,
1 red pepper, chopped 

Combine the courgette and onions in a large bowl, sprinkle with the salt and leave to stand overnight. Drain the juices that have collected in the bowl, then rinse the vegetables in cold water and drain once more. In a large pot combine the courgette and onion with the rest of the ingredients and bring to the boil, stirring. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered for about 40 minutes until the mixture has reduced and thickened. Sterilize six jars of 500 ml capacity and spoon the relish into them while hot. Cap and seal tightly.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Yarndale Workshops 2014

After my wonderful experiences at Yarndale last year I was thrilled to be invited back to run more workshops for 2014. I've been bursting to tell you about it for months!

Learning from being a victim of my own success last year I'm doing things a little differently this time around - instead of drop-in workshops I'm offering limited pre-booked spaces which means that the people joining in will get more of my attention (and also I'll get a moment to eat lunch and take a little break!).

I thought long and hard about what skills I wanted to share and eventually came up with two very different workshops - both aimed at a similar skill level.  These skills were ones that I found opened the most doors in terms of crafting options.  

I think a lot of people learn to knit but get stuck at the point of knitting and purling and would like someone to show them face-to-face how to progress further. My aim is to nudge knitters out of that comfort zone and see them discover that more complicated knitting is not out of their reach.

So without further ado...

On both Saturday and Sunday mornings I will be offering an Introduction to Cable Knitting:

yarndale cables photo 1 - cropped

Unravel the mystery of knitting cables with the Introduction to cable knitting workshop from Hannah at theknit.co.uk


After mastering the basics there will be an opportunity to move on to a slightly more challenging level for those that feel ready.

TIME: 11:00 – 12:30 (1.5hrs) 8 places available.
LEVEL: This workshop is perfect for those who have mastered knit and purl stitches and want to progress to something new.
Materials: The workshop kit will include everything you need to make a sampler swatch (that can be made into a mug cosy) including knitting and cable needles and premium hand dyed yarn as well as written instructions for you to take home and practice your new skills.


And on both Saturday and Sunday afternoons we will be Making Mittens:

Yarndale mittens with text


Keep your hands toasty warm this autumn and winter with handmade mittens! In this workshop from Hannah at theknit.co.uk we will be learning how to knit in the round with double pointed needles and how to increase to create a thumb gusset. 
TIME: 13:30 – 16:00 (2.5hrs) 8 places available. 
LEVEL: Intimidated by all those needles? Don't be – this skill is easier than it looks and will open up a whole new world of knitting possibility for you. If you can confidently knit and purl then this workshop will gently guide you through the rest.
Materials: The workshop kit will include everything you need to make a pair of mittens including a set of double pointed needles, 100g premium hand dyed yarn, stitch markers and exclusive pattern which has three different sizes so that you can knit mittens for everyone you know!


Places can now be booked! Simply follow the links above or visit the workshops page.


I really hope to see some of you again at Yarndale this September. Are you planning on visiting?

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Bittersweet

It was bittersweet to be spending the weekend packing up my office in town. I had such high hopes for this space but it wasn't meant to be. 

office in town

I had daydreams about inviting you to visit this space so we could chat and share skills but, five months on, there are still wires hanging from ceilings and other health hazards as well as no toilet fitted and unfortunately the letting agent is in no hurry to fix things. 

Mixed with several other issues in the building which have meant that the space isn't really paying for itself I have decided to throw in the towel and bring my work back home again, which actually makes more sense now that Cameron is no longer in school.


midway view

As the months rolled by, I wished and hoped and pestered the relevant people to fix things but as I got more and more frustrated with the situation, my daydream began to be working at home again and so I've been envisioning ways to make things tick along from our tiny box room.  

desk area

There is going to be a lot of shuffling in the near future while I find a place to fit everything back into the house but I'm looking forward to drawing a line under this experiment and moving forward.

sewing and cutting table

One day in the future, perhaps, another opportunity will come along that will work out and despite the sad outcome I'm glad I took the risk and tried.

winding and skeining area

I thought I'd take a few pictures before I packed everything up so I could remember how nice I'd made this space from it's rough beginnings.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Apricot and Strawberry Curd

I've made no secret over the years that I'm not a huge fan of summer but I'm coming to realise that actually what I'm not a big fan of is the heat!  Summer has so many delights to offer and, being a foodie, all of the fresh produce in season is definitely a highlight for me - both for growing and cooking (and eating!).

new season apricots


As the months roll by I'm constantly making a little mental note to change things up in my meal plans - old favourites come back into rotation and new ideas are plucked from my Pinterest boards and books to have a go at.
When the apricots come into season my first instinct is always to make apricot curd - I absolutely adore it with the vibrant colours and strong fruity flavour mixed with the smooth, cool sensation when it comes straight from the fridge.

simmering the fruit

Fruit curds can be used in several ways just for spreading or cake fillings but you can also mix a batch with some whipped double cream for a fruit fool or freeze that same mixture and make a simple ice-cream (or lollies!).  I have to admit that my favourite way is simply on toast from a home baked loaf of bread.

making apricot and strawberry curd - before adding the eggs


This week I filled the fridge and the fruit bowl with luscious fruits from the market and combinations have been swirling around my head (and my yoghurt bowl) and I came up with the recipe below.  If you could bottle the taste of summer, this would probably be it and it's so easy to make!

apricot and strawberry curd


Apricot and Strawberry Curd

Makes approximately 1 pint, depending on how juicy your fruit is.

450g soft fruit - apricots and strawberries in this case but they could be substituted - use what you have
225g caster sugar
50g butter
3 fresh eggs, beaten
zest and juice of a lemon (it works without this if you don't have a lemon handy)

Wash your fruit. Hull the strawberries and de-stone the apricots. Add them to a saucepan (no need for chopping) with a splash of water to prevent sticking and simmer for 15-20 minutes until very soft. Your kitchen will smell more divine than you have ever experienced it before!
Blend the fruit mixture - I use my immersion blender straight into the pan. Look at the vibrant colour!
In a bain marie (bowl over a saucepan of hot-simmering water) add the fruit puree, sugar, lemon and butter and stir gently until the sugar is dissolved. This should happen quite quickly and you don't want your mixture to get too hot or your eggs could scramble when you add them!
Stir in the eggs and keep stirring the mixture until thickened enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon (about 20 minutes).
Transfer your fruit curd into a sterilised jar. Leave to cool to room temperature and then store in the fridge until you're ready to use it. Expect the mixture to thicken further on cooling.
Fruit curd lasts for up to a month in the fridge but trust me - it won't take that long to reach the bottom of the jar!

Look at the colour of it!  I am in love with the combination curd idea, why have I been sticking to just one fruit all this time?!

Monday, 9 June 2014

June Daze

homemade granola with strawberries

Abundant kale in the garden

blueberry chia jam

home grown radish

surprise inside radishes

beginnings of cherry clafouti

a knit break

packing parcels of yarn

knit and crochet mandala

kale from the garden

hand dyed merino


I've lost my blogging sparkle lately. It's not from lack of activity - as you can see from the photos above, it's all still going on. Cherry Clafouti, Blueberry Chia Jam (I used maple syrup instead of agave), abundant new season kale from the garden, radishes with a surprise inside. I'm dyeing, knitting, crocheting, reading, exercising(!), packing parcels and so much more. I'm cheerful and giggling and having a nice time but I'm feeling a bit lack lustre about the blogging world.

Every day I delete at least one blog from my feed reader because it has become a constant stream of reviews, advertising, sponsored links and competitions.  I miss the old days of blogging where we weren't all scrabbling for the latest free thing and attributed our projects to their original source rather than rehashing something from Pinterest and calling it a new idea. Sharing our stories for the sake of sharing rather than to fit in with a sponsored link theme (when I get to the bottom of those I always feel cheated - the story loses all emotion when you know the motivation is money). 
I know I've been sucked into it at times (free stuff is appealing!) but it's rare to find me plugging anything for money on here nowadays and even when I did it was only things that I would genuinely be interested in.  I yearn to see a bit more integrity. Perhaps I'm looking in all the wrong places and I need to find some new haunts.  

What are your favourite places to visit in blogland?

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Relay Knitting, Whovian Style

Remember in 2008 when one of my 101 things to do in 1001 days (oh, I have such warm and fond memories of that list!) was to knit Cameron a Doctor Who Scarf?  

doctor who scarf 2008 1


doctor who scarf 2008 2


Who else is cuted out by those photos?!!!
It was the first item of clothing I ever knitted and it was well received and used but last year - a little small and a lot worn - it retired when we packed up to move house.

Cameron has been resisting hand knitted items for the last couple of years but last month he mentioned that he'd like to try knitting a Doctor Who scarf.  He wanted it to be very accurate and I found him sat counting the rows on the plastic scarf on his Tom Baker action figure!!  I suggested Google might be a better option and we stumbled on this fantastic website - Witty Little Knitter (which is currently down at the time of posting but I'm hoping it's just a glitch). 

Did you know that there were in fact eight different Doctor Who scarves, even though we only really remember one iconic scarf? There are different lengths and colour combinations and one of the scarves used onscreen was in fact made of two scarves grafted together after they'd been damaged. Fascinating stuff - it even tells you which episodes the scarves appeared in!


Cameron's scarf colour choices

The site has instructions for all of the scarves and specific suggestions for achieving a screen accurate scarf with modern yarns - we chose the Stylecraft option as we knew they'd be easy to get hold of in the UK. We made a couple of substitutions which you can find on our Ravelry page.  I think in hindsight Cameron would have gone for a more mustardy yellow and a darker blue but the names of some of the shades have changed.


doctor who scarf 2014 beginnings


Because 9ft of knitting seemed a bit daunting to a beginner knitter, I agreed to collaborate on this project and so we've been relay-knitting!
Those garter stitch rows work up quickly and are quite addictive!  Because we're taking turns, it means there are more knitting hours in the day.
We're working on 4.5mm needles as Cameron's knitting is often a little bit tight and this method is working a treat - as you can see from the photo below, our tensions are mixing quite nicely and apart from the odd accidental yarn over, you'd be pushed to tell who knit which bit.


doctor who scarf 2014 - just over half way

Today the scarf is about my height - 5 ft 8 inches.  I think we're probably going to be finished well before the weather calls for a nine foot scarf and I can't tell you how much fun it is to share a knitting project with Cameron.


What's on your needles at the moment?

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Still here

I have become a rather lax blogger - sorry about that.
The pace has really picked up this spring and instead of overwhelming myself I'm just taking things one at a time and trying to be in the moment which is much more relaxing than my usual busy>burnout routine but not great for advance organisation or blogging!

african flower hexagon table runner


Our days are filled with work and joy, gardening and cooking, walking and talking, crafting and socialising.
I am grateful to have enough work to keep food on the table and to be able to muddle through things like pesky long division at home with Cameron at his pace. 


A few months ago my boy - who has always avoided such things like the plague - whispered in my ear that he'd like to start drama classes and just a few weeks later he has successfully integrated himself into a new group of teenagers, auditioned and been cast in a main role for a summer theatre production!  It's been a big confidence boost for him and I am bursting with pride. Our schedule is looking very full for the next few months but for all the right reasons.


first radish 2014


Small harvests are beginning to emerge from the garden all of a sudden - mainly salad crops.  I'm growing on a much smaller scale this year but that seems to just make each home grown edible all the more sweet.  I have high hopes for a nice crop of strawberries in the not too distant future if I can keep the snails at bay.  My peas are over a metre tall but I'm still awaiting flowers, let alone pods. My kale is looking really strong and there are some big bunches of basil by the back door that smell divine.

purpleberry dk


The yarn dyeing continues and I'm still adoring the process. More new colours have been added to the shop if you fancy a ponder.

Wishing you wonder-filled days until next time, dear friends.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Spring days


Bluebells 2014


As usual, the months seem to fly by at an alarming rate - it's only six or so weeks until midsummer, can you believe it?

a bluebell walk

We've settled into a nice groove of spring life, stopping as much as possible to enjoy what nature is offering all around us.  Fluffy, new ducklings, dazzling bluebells, the fleeting blossom (especially fleeting with the high winds and stormy weather we've been experiencing).

Remains of blossom

My freezer is now stocked with little portions of wild garlic butter and pesto to enjoy around the year.

Drawstring bag

There has been some crafting - another little drawstring bag to carry knitted socks in progress.  I use this simple tutorial for a lined bag as I find them the best kind for not losing double pointed needles while I'm on the move.

Drawstring bag lining

I'm still pottering around in the garden - perhaps I'll talk more about that next week.

Rarely does a day go by without me working on hand dyed yarns.  Last week I was very much into the blues.

pure shores 4 ply

This week I've been experimenting with purples in a kind of ombre technique, varigating shades of the same colour.

Purple hand dyed yarns

It's all still so much fun, I wish I had more words to explain how perfect a fit this craft is for me.
Some of my hand dyed yarns are available in the shop if they catch your fancy.


I finished my gemini summer sweater which I blogged about over on my other site.

gemini front 1

I've also been making a mandala for the Yarndale global community project this year which I cannot wait to see!  
I adapted the zooty owl granny mini mandala pattern. I say adapted, actually I made a mistake which serendipitously ended up looking much more spoke-like and so is quite in keeping with the tour de france wheel theme of the project.  I used scraps of yarn leftover from my rainbow beach bag and blocked it as Lucy has requested with some PVA glue to hold and strengthen the shape.  I really love how it turned out.

Mandala for yarndale


What do your spring days look like?

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Weekend Project: Resurfacing a Pine Table and Homemade Beeswax Polish

Remember four (yes.. four!) years ago when I was so excited about finding a pine kitchen table? I loved that table but when we moved house (in 2011) it was just a bit too big and so I gave it away to another good home and replaced it with a smaller pine table. 
The new table wasn't as well made and it had been stained with something odd that meant that splashes of things as simple as water made permanent marks. The table looked so tatty that I started using a tablecloth all the time but it made me a bit sad as the whole reason I bought a pine table was to have the natural wood surface exposed.  I had been meaning to resurface it for almost as long as I've owned it but this weekend I finally got around to giving it a face-lift.

table before


I forgot to take some proper before photos (and then I only used my phone camera) but imagine these splash marks all over the surface, as well as ring marks from drinks and bowls etc.

Two hours of sanding commenced and I was starting to regret my choice. It was hard work to remove those marks but then I stopped for a cup of tea and stepped back a moment and realised my work was paying off - the table looked so much better already and I was more than half way through.
I popped some music on to jolly me along and then I sanded with three difference strengths of sandpaper in total and dusted off before getting ready to polish.

homemade beeswax polish

With the help of this easy tutorial for making your own beeswax polish I whipped up a jar of homemade polish using things I already had in the cupboard - beeswax and olive oil, so simple - and rubbed a generous amount into the surface of the table and left it to sit for about half an hour before polishing with a fresh cloth until there was no residue left (the table had absorbed most of it). 
Et voila!

resurfaced pine table after

It looks all sparkly and new and ready for family life, doesn't it?  

freshened table ready for family life


Seeing as I'd bought the sandpaper in 2011 and the beeswax and olive oil were already in my cupboards, all this project cost me was a little bit of time and a lot of elbow grease so it was a pretty thrifty transformation. I'm rather impressed with myself.