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Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Old favourites made at home...

I am sure we all have our favourite dishes that we all adore, especially from the takeaway. I mean, who doesn't. This topic came up in our house because the husband is came down with a cold, and then passed it on to me, because he's a lovely kind sharing husband like that. And who doesn't want comfort food when you have a cold. Especially soup. We all dive for soup in the cold when we're not well. 

One such soup that has been a staple for me and my husband since we were children was the chicken and sweetcorn soup that it always on the menu at any chinese takeaway, and we often have as a starter. Its been something we have always wondered about eating as a meal, but where do you start? 

Anyone who has ever attempted to recreate a takeaway knows it is easier said than done. I mean, take out Indian food compared to the supermarket ready meals anyone? Precisely. It just doesn't seem to work. 

However, recently I stumbled on a recipe that seemed to meet the needs just right, and I gave it a go. My husband can't tell the difference, but him being the spicy food lover he is, you can't really trust his tastebuds ;) In my opinion its incredibly close, and possibly even nicer than the real deal, so I thought I would share this gem.

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For two bowls of soup you will need:
1 tablespoon of oil to cook
1 clove of garlic finely chopped
100g of fresh skinless chicken breast (can be substituted with the cooked sliced stuff perfectly well)
A 1 cm piece of fresh ginger, finely chopped or I find ground ginger powder tastes just fine
1 tablespoon of cornflour
600ml of hot chicken stock
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
1 egg
and to cook:
1. fry the chicken (if not already cooked), ginger and garlic in a deep pan using the oil for 3-4 minutes without browning. 

2. Add the sweetcorn and the stock, saving a little back to blend with the cornflour, adding this to the pan and bring to the boil stirring continuously till it has thickened. Then cook for a further 5-7 minutes or so.

3. Beat together the egg and the lemon juice, and slowly add a little at a time to the hot soup, using a chopstick or other implement to pull the egg into long strands

4. Season to taste and serve.


You could quite easily add noodles for a heartier meal, season with sesame seeds or a few drops of soy sauce. Or even some shredded spring onions. Whatever suits your fancy!

What about you? What takeaway favourites have you managed to successfully recreate at home?

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Deep Sea Bird of Paradise

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It seems I am doing a fair bit of knitting for other people at the moment, people who need a cheer up. In this case for a Ravelry member who was given very bad news about her sight. Basically she had an awful lot of very lovely yarn and patterns she'd love to knit with it, but she was never going to be able to. So a call for knitting volunteers went round, and yours truly did indeed volunteer to knit the Bird of Paradise pattern. Lovely bottom up shawlette or scarf.

So I am sent the yarn and pattern and it came through and I am thrilled to find its an easyknits.co.uk Sushi Sock Roll. I can confess I have wanted to knit one of these ever since I heard of their existence. Long graduated colours hand painted up a pair of 50g sock blanks for a unique effect in whatever you knit. Obviously, socks are one use. But I have been interested in this kind of preparation of yarn and was over the moon to get the chance to knit with some, and see how they knit for myself.

They arrive looking like this:

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Much as the name suggests, a lovely roll of knitted fabric made from scrummy BFL yarn. This is the Deep Sea colour way (see why the title now?). All squishy and fun. And then you undress it to this:

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Now its possible to knit straight from the fabric, unravelling as you go, but I wanted to knit from dark to light, as this pattern is knit from the bottom up, and they didn't want to unravel that way, so they got balled up for knitting purposes. And doing that was rather fun, as my toddler son was fascinated by the kinks in the frogged yarn. He says its 'bumpity bump', as his favourite TV character says.

I did do some pattern tweaking. The pattern is written for a minimum of 300m of lace weight and this of course is sock weight yarn, and on the very edge of the yardage requirement, so I opted to shave off a couple of the pattern repeats, because going down a needle size for comfort wasn't something I wanted to do with an already thicker yarn than called for.

I have to say, by the time I reached the end of the lace section of the pattern I was utterly in love with the colours and the colour changes. And the colours are wonderfully vivid and luminous to say the least! And the adjustments I made to the pattern have made the colour changes fall so beautifully. Its been such an enjoyable process, knitting such a beautiful match between yarn and pattern. I can't even take the credit for the choice of yarn and pattern together. But its knitted up into a piece that I am truly proud of.

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So that's another project done, now onto my more longer term projects and given them a good push for a bit. Till next post!

Saturday, 28 January 2012

What's on the Spindles?

January 2012 edition!

Well this post is a case of exactly what it says on the tin. This is a check in of what I currently have on the go at the moment. As we speak I have two of the six spindles I own in use. I am trying not to load the other four. I already have too many projects on the go one way or another! But what crafter doesn't have a tonne of things to hop between depending on what pricks their interest? 

So, spindle number one:

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This is my tiny glass whorled spindle that the Royal Mail hoarded over Christmas. Bad postal service, no cookie for you! Yes it had to come from the US, and yes there was Christmas in between, but items ordered nearly three weeks later from the US arrived first!

Anyway, all that aside! The spindle is from Butterfly Girl Designs. It weights just 25g, and the whorl is teeny, but because of it, it spins like a little demon! Which of course makes it perfect for the silk I am spinning. Its a space dyed silk brick from MandaCrafts. This is a long term slow project for me, seeing as I have a lot of silk and am spinning fine. So I do a handful now and then, and eventually I will have lovely yarn! Not sure whether to self ply it or not. I suppose I will make a decision when the time comes.

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I find silk hard on the hands, but sooooo worth it for the lustre and shine, and it is so very soft too.

Spindle number 2:

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This spindle is what I spent my Christmas money on. It was relatively inexpensive in the terms of a good quality spindle actually. Its hand turned by TexasJeans and a lovely addition to my collection. A purpleheart whorl with maple burl in lay and a flamed maple shaft weighing 36g. Speaking of which, its an astonishingly long shaft, which I love, and a fab spinner.

The fibre is one I won in the Tour de Fleece last year. Aptly the colour is named Paris! Its a beautiful BlueFaced Leicester/Silk blend from Wildcraft, and admittedly had I seen it in a shop, I probably would not have gone for it. But that's because I am drawn to the same things over and over, and rarely hop out of my comfort zone. But it is exceedingly lovely, and I really am enjoying spinning it. I am glad it has made me jump out of my comfort zone. The water over here is pretty nice! 
 
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I have split the roving lengthways and will be two plying this one. I am letting it spin itself. It will tell me what it wants to be after that. 

I will confess that I have two Wildcraft resin whorl spindles too, that are generally my workhorses. I just happen to be playing with the new toys at the moment!

So that's it for this round up. What have you got on the go if you spin? Till next post!

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Fuzzy Wuzzy was a.... Goat?

I have another project off the needles. That makes me happy as I started the year with far too many things on the go. This particular project started as a Christmas present from a very dear friend in Canada of this yarn:

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Six 100g skeins of it in fact. Its Mountain Colours Mohair yarn in the Granite Peak colour way. With 78% mohair, 13% wool and 9% nylon, its a lovely luxury yarn and so very, very soft. Well this of course is because mohair comes from the most adorable angora goats. So silky and fuzzy and soft! This picture doesn't really show all the lovely hand painted colours either, but you will see those later. In any case, I have over 1230m of this yarn!

Before Christmas I made a beautiful Gilet court d'été using some of my own handspun, and some lovely petrol hand dyed yarn in my stash. Its a lovely pattern and the resulting cardigan was on my back most of Christmas day, and has been worn several times since. But there were some things that I knew I would change if I redid the pattern, particularly the sleeves. So when this yarn came along, I knew I wanted another.

So I cast on with more stitches for the front, crunched my gauge down,  and with the supporting maths got cracking. I tried on as I went, added markers at the middle of the underarms when I separated for the sleeves, and being a curvy girl, when I reached my waist, added some increases to help it fall over my hips better. It proved to be quite a quick knit, but that's largish needles for you. And I stopped when I felt the cardigan was long enough. Added short sleeves and voila, one more fitted version of a lovely cardigan. One so fuzzy and soft its quite tempting to stroke. 

Though if a stranger in the street tries it then it will hit the news headlines ;)

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As you can see from the two photos, getting a good picture is hard, even in this winter light. But add a little more blue into the finished picture and you're there.

In the end it took a little over 500m of yarn to make myself what I feel is a lovely piece and I shall happily layer up with in the cold. This of course leaves me with three and a half skeins left over. However, the friend who gave it to me confessed that she'd like to see me make a shawl to hug me when I am cold and she isn't here, so I hit the fabulous Ravelry pattern search and quickly came up with the answer. The remaining yarn will become a big and snuggly Dragon's Rest shawl. But that's a project for another day.

I think I shall spin for a day or three as well as work on my gold shawl and the shawl come cape and resist the urge to cast on something new for a few days... it won't last ;)

Monday, 23 January 2012

Something warm in your tum!

Recently I have gotten really into using what was a wedding anniversary gift from my parents almost a year ago. We were given one of these Jamie Oliver Multicookers. Its a pressure cooker at two different pressures, it browns, fries, boils, simmers, steams and keeps things warm. Its a fantastic piece of kit for one put cooking. And when you are done, you pull out the non-stick liner and sling it in the dishwasher, job done! It was also an incredibly handy piece of kit when I had not usable kitchen for two weeks when ours was ripped out and redone!

Mostly these days it is being used as a one pot soup cooker, and boy does it do the job well. I have been trying out a few recipes, much to my husband's delight. And there really is nothing like warm soup with a fresh bread roll on a cold day. admittedly I cheat with the latter, and use the supermarket's part baked bread rolls, but they come out lovely all the same.

The current favourite in this house, mainly because my husband loves spicy things, is a red pepper soup. Its full of lovely ingredients, and just that little bit of zip of chilli to make it such a good warmer. So I thought I would share my recipe.

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See, doesn't that look just so warm and yummy? It very much is. So for the soup (and you will get 4 bowls from this recipe), you need:

4 red bell peppers
1 good sized onion
1 tablespoon olive oil/ equivalent fat for frying
3 tablespoons tomato puree
900 ml or one and a half pints of chicken stock
1 clove of garlic
1 small red chilli
1 lime

Its easy as pie to make too.

1. Deseed and roughly chop the peppers and the onion and fry in the fat of your choice for five minutes to soften

2. crush the garlic clove, chop the chilli and add to the mix with half the stock.

3. add the tomato puree.

A note here. If tomato puree is not something you have in your cupboard, or perhaps, like me, you forgot to buy it (yes, I was a twit), there is something most people are likely to have in the house that works just fine. I know, its tried and tested, and you can't taste the difference. If you are short, then grab that bottle of tomato ketchup and sling three good tablespoons of that in instead. Everything really does work with ketchup it seems ;)

4: simmer for ten minutes then allow to cool, before blending smooth with your favoured implement.

5: zest the lime and squeeze the juice into the remaining stock.

6: Add stock, lime juice and rind to the soup and bring to the boil.

Season and serve with fresh crusty bread and enjoy. Would be wonderful with a swirl of single cream on top as well.

Hmm, now I have a bowl full in my tummy keeping me warm. What's keeping you all warm at the moment? Till next post!

Saturday, 21 January 2012

A Little Hug


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I wanted to start this blog with something a little special. I am sure we have all had those moments when crafting, when you look through your materials, and you suddenly know exactly what the thing you have in your hand should be. Inspiration truly hits.

This last weekend, it happened to me. I was going through my spinning fibre, and had this fibre sample in my hand, and it hit me like a tonne of bricks, no kidding. I knew it was meant for a friend of mine. A friend who has been going through some incredibly tough times lately. Someone who could do with a hug, but someone I could only hug virtually through the internet. Unless....

I knew this sample was not going to make much yarn. So I was going to have to get very creative. It was this lovely length of pink with white silk running through it, and gold firestar. Most people who know me will know pink is NOT my colour, but I could appreciate how pretty this bit of fluff was. I got out my tiny lace weight spindle and spent what time I could spare around the usual chaos that is a weekend, spinning singles. As I spun, I thought of my friend, wished her well, and put all of the good vibes into my spinning as I possibly could. I plied and set the twist Sunday morning. Then, plan made, I cast on Sunday night.

It was going to be an Annis. Now I only had 92m of this pink yarn when I was done, but in my handspun drawer, I had a mini skein of 130m of cappuccino alpaca lace weight yarn I spun during my first Tour de Fleece last year, which had been quietly niggling at me to make something with it. And I cannot think of much nicer round your neck than soft alpaca. Still, it was less yarn than the pattern calls for, so time for some maths.

Annis is a very open little thing, laceweight yarn on very big needles, so I instantly dropped needle size, and then the number of lace repeats. Its knit from the bottom up, and I wanted the pink to run out after the lace. Well it quickly became clear as I was knitting Monday that I was not going to be able to knit the nupps in the pattern and have the pink go far enough. So what on earth was I going to do? Well bead was the obvious answer, but did I have 150 beads of anything in the house? It just so happened that I did. What's more, I had rose quartz chips, perfect for with the pink.

So to the fiddly job I went. One tiny crochet hook in hand, I spent most of the day beading. And the pink ran out just after the lace. Perfect. Joined in the alpaca, and Tuesday was spent finishing it. I also added a row of eyelets at the neck since I had enough of the alpaca to do it, because it is a design that can roll, and it just helps that.

There was this lovely moment in the evening, when the knitting was done, cast off and downed tools, that my husband got curious. So much so he picked it up and started to look carefully at this curly bit of fluff.

"How on earth did you get those on there?" He says to me, pointing to the beading.

I grin, reach for my 0.6mm crochet hook, tiny little thing, and hand it to him.

"I don't get it," he says.

Even a brief demonstration of the how doesn't seem to make it any clearer, but in any case he is somewhat impressed.

So Wednesday is blocking day, and being made of very open laceweight stitches, its pinned at midday and dry by my son's bedtime. So ends to weave, and all I have left now is to wrap it up with a note and send it off to its recipient. I hope the hug is just what she needs to make her smile. She most certainly deserves it.

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Thursday, 19 January 2012

What's on the needles?

Okay, a quick round up of what I am working on as part of starting up this blog. We have to start somewhere right? So... I have three main projects on the go at present. Firstly, a mohair cardigan:

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So this is a darn naff picture and I know it. But I really could not get a decent one to save my life! It does not look pretty like this, but the mohair yarn really is so very beautiful. Its incredibly soft and lovely, and so full of colours. And it was a Christmas present from my friend in Canada. Six skeins of! Anyway, I love how its knitting up and its going to be lovely and snuggly to wear when finished.

Second up is an oversized shawl that will be becoming a cape:

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A lovely easy pattern to knit, in fact I chucked the pattern away and started to knit it by feel. As you can see the body is black, but when we come to the end, there are going to be bands of gold, blue and red before a final hem of black. This huge project is for the very same friend who bought me the mohair, done with love because she is a close friend, and because she bribes me every five minutes. This is going to be a project you see in my blog for a while as it grows.

Talking about projects you will see for a while, I present project number three:

IMG_0590 The gold shawl. This piece of complex lace is probably going to take a while, given that it takes concentration and the rows are already long. And I have a toddler. Yeah, you can imagine this one is not going to grow particularly quickly, but it is growing, and is going incredibly well. I am so looking forward to finishing it. I think its going to come with a great sense of a achievement, and is truly the most complex knitting I have attempted to date.

So that's it for now, just a short one, I shall give these projects their due spotlight in turn as time goes on. But this was meant to be a quick overview. So what are you working on?

Till next post!

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

New Year, New Blog

Well yes, I am well aware that we are a way into January, but I am sure I am hardly alone in not having had time to do much other than breathe in the come down from Christmas. I hope everyone had a fab one, I know it certainly was in the Gothy house hold.

So, why the new Blog? Well simply put, because I have not had a focus in my previous blogging, not to mention its been sporadic and generally, not much use to man nor beast. Its just been an outpouring of my mind. And because most of my blogging of late has been about my crafts. So here I am.

So crafts, what about me, and them?

I picked up knitting in July 2009. Not for the first time. I struggled as a child, and never really got the hang of it. But one visit from my grandmother, and some fascinating fashion pom pom yarn and a pair of knitting needles later, and I was on the road to knitting. My mother sat down with me one day and taught me to purl. From then I was absolutely doomed. I have not stopped since.

From shawls, to shrugs, to cardigans to socks... it all goes on. And of course I discovered Ravelry. Oh dear, there was no turning back now. I have made some absolutely fabulous friends on Ravelry, friends I love and treasure.

2011 and said friends all tell me I should try out spinning my own yarn. I'd enjoy it, it would be fun. I resisted... for a while. It didn't last. February I caved. I bought a spindle and some fibre and gave it a shot. By now I have six spindles and a fibre stash I could make a bed from. I am rarely buying yarn now, I am actually spinning my own more often than not. Yeah... resistance was futile.

And this past December, my mother needed a crochet hook to help her with a toy she was knitting for my son. In return for her teaching me to purl all that time ago, I was teaching her to knit in the round with a circular needle. I of course had no crochet hooks, so mum sent my dad off to Hobbycraft and came back with a crochet hook. And when she was done, I was handed the hook and lessons began.

Between my mother and grandmother, by the time they left after christmas I had a growing pile of granny squares I had crocheted. They were soon joined together into a tiny play blanket for my son's toys. And it is well loved. So it seems I have started to fall down the crochet rabbit hole.

So that's me and my crafts. So what can you expect from this blog?

I intend to post about ongoing projects I am working on, sharing pictures and progress. I'd like to highlight sellers of great supplies once in a while, and blog about how I do things. So a little of several things. I can't say I expect anyone to follow my blogging efforts, but at least I feel that now this will be more cohesive, and I can document my progress and see how I grow as a crafter as time goes on.

Well I think that's more than enough for now. So till the next post, goodbye for now!