Month: October 2017

Local Produce…

I love my food and I love growing vegetables.  I grew up in the country and worked on farms, and I had a career in the agriculture industry, or to be more exact, everything from the ground to the mouth.  But never have I been able to grow a pumpkin like this bad boy.  This was at our local Booths which is a Northern supermarket that only sources local produce and is incredibly green and ethical.

Needless to say, the products they have are delicious.  My all-time favourite is their store baked Mince Pies, which has crispy pastry and the mincemeat inside is amazing.  I have never really liked mince pies and found the Christmas tradition of eating them something that I turned my nose up at, but Booths, WOW.  I bought 8 of them and will be enjoying them later with some extra rich Jersey cream.  I also bought a rather large custard tart, lemon cheesecake and a strawberry cheesecake so it will be a sweet night.

Happy 17th Birthday Lilu

Today Lilu would have been 17 years old.  We always took her to McDonalds for a cheeseburger (no onions of course) to celebrate, that and a lot of treats and toys.  As my readers know, we lost Lilu just over a month ago.  However, we decided to carry on with tradition and went to McDonalds, bought 2 cheeseburgers with no onions, one for Harper and the other as a symbol for Lilu.  Even though she was not there in physical form, we hope that she was with us in spirit and enjoying her birthday.

Happy Birthday sweetie x

Christmas looms closer…

dear-santaWith that, I have started buying my Christmas presents.  I have bought quite a lot, and have wrapped them already.  I am only buying for M, Harper, Mum and her hubby and my niece and nephew.  My siblings and I decided on my suggestion that we do not buy for each other.  I decided to WhatsApp chat with them all to suggest this as each year we buy each other gift cards.  A few years ago I went out of my way and spent a fortune one them all, and did not receive a thanks or anything else for that matter.  So, I decided why bother.  With the loss of our wee dog, things gained perspective, and I was glad I made that decision, there is no love lost between us all, and true colours over the years have all of a sudden become blatant, so I will not regret, or have to sit there thinking about what to buy, and if they liked it.  It makes Christmas easier to deal with.

I enjoy buying for M, and each year I have gone totally overboard, but this year we said that we would stick to a £50 limit.  M questioned this limit the other week, and I said I was more than happy to stick with it, after all, I do not need anything at all, and want for nothing, hell I even have a framed picture from North by Northwest complete with Cary Grants signature, I literally have everything I want, well, apart from a new Range Rover and a new top end iMac, and maybe the new iPhone X, but apart from that I have no needs.  Even the things I would love to have are not needed, I have a new car bought only in January, I have a perfectly good MacBook Pro that I bought myself last year along with a new iPhone, so all told I really do not need anything.  Not even knitting stuff.  I have a stash of yarn that if unwound and tied end to end would circumnavigate the earth several times.  Maybe I am missing a few extra long circulars, but being honest, if a pattern calls for it and I do not have it, I will just order one from Amazon.  One of my many traditions of Christmas wrapping is that I go totally mad, one year cost me about £70 to wrap them, not because there were many to wrap, although there were, it was due to the things I used, including hand-carved wooden deer, stag and Santa tags, handcrafted organza ribbon that was beautifully decorated, and other things, not to mention the paper.  This year we have stepped it down a few notches, okay, quite a lot of notches so far.  The paper that I have is a frosted blue with deer and rams on it, very festive, but I need to find bows and ribbons, and of course, name tags.  Yes, lots of them are wrapped, but not completed until I find the perfect additions.

Down to one dog, so no doubling up on each thing.  Lilu taught Harper to open her presents, the first year Harper was bewildered, but she was only just over four months old.  The year after she watched and copied her, and last year as soon as we took something from under the tree and placed it in front of her she tore apart the wrapping and had a wild time, usually with the wrapping as she has a thing for ripping up paper and cardboard.  Again, she does not need for anything.  I have just bought her a new winter coat, she has a sturdy police harness, and she gets toys and balls all the time, however, I will make sure she has lots to play with.  We have bought her one thing so far, a talking ball that taunts her with sayings like “I’m gonna get you”, “Hey Puppy!”, “Woof, woof woof”, and more besides.  She has one already that we bought from Ireland and she loves it, but being a Staffy, she chews through everything, no matter how tough it is.

Purchasing for parents is a bind too, my Mother changes her hobbies at a rate of knots, one year gardening, next knitting, the next painting (even went as far as having a studio).  Her Hubby is easier as he likes to make things from lego to 3D puzzles.

My next task will be to decide on the menu and to make a Christmas cake, the latter will be started in the next week or so and of course full of cognac which I inject into the cake to “feed it”.  Mmm, I fancy some cake now.

The last few days…

I cannot believe it is Friday already, the week seems to have flown by, and I feel I have abandoned you all by my lack of updates.

My sweater is coming on well and I have nearly finished the back, but due to the instructions, I have had to have moments of contemplation to make sure I am doing it right, especially when it says to knit till 80cm, then talks of reducing by 2cm, which did not make sense, so after putting it all down and reading it many times, I sussed out that it meant 2cm from top of the finished front measurements, which meant in essence, knit till it is 80cm.  Pointless instruction really, but I am past that quandary, so the back will be finished this weekend, if not tonight and the arms started.

Wednesday I decided to take M and Harper to Blackpool for the illuminations as the weather had finally settled and we had a day without rain.  I have been going to Blackpool Illuminations since I was a kid, not every year though.  We took my mum last year with us and the two dogs after spending the day in the Lake District (boy was that a long day).  I thought it was a good idea, but, and there is always a but, the traffic was terrible.  All the kids are off for half term and it was like the whole of the UK had come to the seaside to see the same thing.  The tower was not too far away, and we saw the light switch on at 6:30pm.  We then sat in traffic that just seemed to move at a snail place, and it was close to 8pm by the time we had got to the tower.  We headed north and then turned about to go the full stretch and see all the lights.  Now, this should have been easy and free of congestion, but no, it was almost standstill.  The illuminations are 6 miles long (10km), but rather than taking about 30 to 40 minutes to drive the length and see all the lights it took us 3 hours.  Yes, three long hours to do 6 miles.  So you could image the frustration of just sitting there, hoping for movement.  We had hoped to park up and get fish and chips, the staple of any seaside visit, but alas, this did not happen as we just could not see anywhere to park until we got close to the end of the lights, but all the chip shops had closed.  We arrived home about 20 past midnight, a little exhausted and of course, starved.  I thought I would treat you all to the view I had for three long hours, the back of this blue car that constantly had their brake lights on.

My aquarium levels have settled and I have new life in there.  Some of my fish have been breeding and as a result, the babies have managed to get into the weir through the little grills, then swept through the pipework into the sump where they are having a great time.  The first batch of babies are about half an inch long, and the new ones are only a one or two millimetres long.  Not sure how many we have in there as it is not very bright in there, which is good as I do not want the larger babies to eat the tiny ones.  My reedfish, which is like a snake is getting longer, and s/he is out all the time and has given up hiding in the big giant head.

Apart from all that I have been having sleepless nights again with full on insomnia, and when that is not in full swing I have really bad nights sleep, restless and mostly snoozing and not much proper sleep.  I am used to it, as I have been like this for 20+ years, but sometimes this really does tire me out, this week is no exception.

 

 

Best Friends…

As you will know, Lilu passed away on 27th September.  Even though it is just under 4 weeks since her passing, it is still quite raw.  M and I were looking at photos and videos of her the other day, both smiling and remembering the good times we had with her, and that she was such a happy little lady.  Each week gets a little bit easier, but there is always a part of each week when something makes the loss of her feel as though it has just happened, and it is hard to fight back the tears.  Last Friday when I was at the supermarket I saw a friend who works there, and it brought it all back as she was the first friend I saw after Lilu passing (Lilu passed Wednesday night, and I saw N on Friday), and she told how sorry she was and hugged me.  Seeing her in the same place just made it all so raw again.  Not that it was N’s fault, it just happened to be like going back in time.  (Hope I am making sense.)  Some friends do not understand these feelings as they say it is only a dog, but to us, she was part of our little family.  I could cope happily with the loss of my human family as I am not that close to any of them, but our dogs are our life.

One who is missing Lilu is her best mate Harper.  Harper came into our lives when she was 5 weeks old back in 2014.  We went to a little place north of Preston and the lady had two puppies left, both identical, both pop bellied beauties.  One was running about having a wild old time, and the other just sat watching the other, and came over to me sitting on the floor, plopped herself down next to me, stared at me, then waiting for a belly rub.  Needless to say, that puppy was Harper-Lee, and she came home with us that evening.  Lilu was a little “what fresh hell is this” as this tiny bundle ran about the house exploring.  Lilu got into her bed which we put in the lounge whilst we were sat there, quickly followed by Harper, who snuggled in and fell fast asleep.  From that point on they always snuggled in with each other.  Lilu would mother her, lick her clean, play, and generally show her the ropes.  For just over three years they were side by side, no matter where they were, or what they did.

Partners in Crime?  Maybe.  Best Friends?  Definitely.

Lilu & Harper

Lilu & Harper

We have a winner. GAAA

Thanks to lovely K at Nothing But Knit for finding The Great American Aran Afghan for me.  I have just bought it and downloaded it, and cannot wait to get started, as we knitters do.  However, I will finish my Admirals Knot Sweater before starting this project.

All I can hear in my head are the words of Anna Madrigal “You always get what you want, you’re a lot like me.”

Baking – Soda Farls

My Hubby is Irish, so many many years ago I learned how to make proper Irish Soda Bread, Wheaten Bread & Soda Farls.  Since winter is well and truly on its way, and it is lashing with rain outside I thought I would make us some.  I thought I would share my recipe and do a show and tell.

Ingredients

  • 250g Plain Flour
  • 1 teaspoon of Baking Soda
  • ½ teaspoon of salt (I use sea salt)
  • 250ml Buttermilk

 

Place all dry ingredients into a bowl and mix.

Make a well and add the buttermilk, although do not add it all as you can keep adding whilst mixing rather than make it too wet.

Mix and knead the dough on a floured surface, but be gentle, you really only want to knead it into shape.  Slice a cross into the top with a sharp knife that has been floured.

Pop the farl onto a hot griddle pan, or if you only have a frying pan, that will work nicely, but again, be gentle, don’t go in at too high a temperature or you will end up with a crispy dough ball.  I use a tepanyaki grill plate to make mine and have the temperature about 150c.

Partway through cooking flip it over and cook the other side.

Again flip it over, and tap the base to see if it is cooking, it should make a hollow sound, and if not carry on cooking.

As you can see the farl has split where the score marks were and have browned nicely.  Finally, when you are happy with it, wrap it in a tea cloth and set aside, this will ensure that it finishes off cooking and traps moisture, and makes it chewy, and brings out the subtle soda taste.  I used to use a proper Irish Linnen tea cloth, but alas it bit the dust some time ago.

It should take about 20 minutes to cook through.

Once it has cooled split it into four, then slice through the side horizontally, so you end up with 8 quarters if you cut it all at once.  Toast and enjoy with lashings of butter and a slice of mature cheese like cheddar.  Also delicious with bacon and egg.

 

Not So Great Afghan…

The Elusive Great American Aran Afghan…

Well, this is becoming more and more interesting as I search for this book or needle in a haystack as it is becoming. So far I am not doing very well, usually shipping is about $45 to $60. One lady on Ravelry had it for sale then when I messaged her she had “given it to a friend”, so that is a closed door on that.

I read on Knitting Paradise that a lady bought it from WHSmiths here in the UK for only £6, I thought WOW, that is a hot lead, but alas on WHSmith site, it does not exist, and she only bought it last year, WTF!.  I have called Waterstones and the lady just could not find it because I did not have an ISBN number, god forbid a boolean search on the site.

In the town, there is a second-hand bookshop that holds vast stocks of old books and magazines, but even he could not get it.

I still have hope, and will keep looking as I am not one to give up easily, and K at NothingBitKnit has been keeping me on my toes with loads help.

The Great American Aran Afghan…

I really want to make this afghan. I have looked high and low in the UK for it at a reasonable price, however, I can only find ones that are priced way out of my budget.  The cheapest was £57.05 plus delivery, which is outrageous.

I have tried Ravelry, and LoveKnitting, but to no avail.  eBay I see again silly prices, and most of the time they are only in the USA, which means on top of the silly price customs charges are added on delivery which is an extra 20% then handling charges for the courier because of the customs charges, so it just keeps getting more expensive as the day goes on.  I know that items can be marked as a “Gift” and there are no customs charges and extras, but getting a seller to do this is hard work.

I even tried the county library and nothing.

Looks like this will be a pipe dream knit that always manages to elude my grasp.

Tuesday Catch Up…

So we survived the backlash of Hurricane Ofelia which being honest for us up North (53.6°) it was just another day of autumn, although with all the Sahara sand in the air, mixed with the smoke and fire dust from Portugal made for interesting skies.  It was as if the world was coming to an end, a little like in Flash Gordon, all we needed was Zarkov and it would have been complete.  With the so-called storm came two claps of thunder, 17°c (very warm for us), a black sky turning red and 70mph winds.  The red sky lasted for about 6 hours, then the sun came out and normality resumed.

WIP – Admirals Braid.  I have finished the front of the sweater, and the middle 13 stitches for the neck braid are on a holding needle awaiting the completion of the rest of the garment in order to pick up stitches and do that.  So the next part is the back, which, apart from doing the 3×3 ribbing on 7mm, is now standard stocking stitch on 8mm, and as you could imagine, boredom sets in quite fast just knitting a row and purling a row continuously.  However, I am determined to get it finished soon as the cold weather will be starting soon, and zero on the thermometer will soon be here.

This morning we decided to go for a walk in the woods.  If you have read my other posts on morning walks you will know that we have 22 miles of coast and approximately 5 square miles of pinewoods, so lots to explore.  Today was no exception.  We started off in a place that we knew, and all of a sudden were off the beaten track and into wooded areas that we had not been in before.  Lots to see, and discover, including this rather charming little house right in the middle of the woods.  I say charming, but who is to say that Leatherhead is not in there carving up bodies for his next Hallowe’en outfit?  If it was not for the car on the drive I would have guessed at it being an abandoned house, but looking through the windows, from where I took the photo that is, I am not going to tempt fate and end up sewn into a mask or bodysuit, it looked lived in, just.

The walk off the beaten track ended up with us walking 4k, yes we did get lost, and only for GPS on my phone got us back to the car.  Harper must have walked twice that distance, let’s face it, dogs just cannot walk in straight lines.

One great positive from the cold weather, I was able to wear my knitted socks, they were so warm and comfortable and I could have kept walking for hours.  If you have not seen them in previous posts, these are the ones I wore today.

 

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