Friday, August 21, 2009

These last 6 months I have been mainly...

Warning - picture heavy post (and very few words) well, don't they say a picture says a thousand words?!?

Since early February I have....

Survived the heavy snow we had... the picture with Carter shows the main lane at the top of our track, totally impassable.

I have learnt to weave on my mother's old Weavemaster 2 shaft loom.

Tried to learn to spin using a scrummy drop spindle I bought (made from walnut and wild olive, mmm the smell!).

Bought an old Ashford Scholar spinning wheel from a woman at my weaving class. They're all enablers, I tell you :)

Knit my first ever shawl - this is Ishbel knit in Cariad Flimstone Bay (aka Posh Yarns Emily) 4ply.

Been over on a solo trip to Normandie to check on the barn...

It was hip high in nettles and thistles - all three quarters of an acre!!!

Taught sock knitting classes at my LYS, Fiddlesticks in Honiton (there's the lovely Barbara in the far right opposite where I'd be seated).

Met Isla, my new great-niece-in-law!

Spent a week with my fossils out in Spain...

... and I cooked too! See, evidence above :)

Whilst in Spain I went to a little museum dedicated to Miro, not very far from my parent's place. It was lovely, and very inspirational seeing his earlier work before he went totally surreal.

I've been growing potatoes...

... and tomatoes in the new little greenhouse (Freecycle is a wonderful thing!)...

... and all sorts of other veg in our raised bed.

I've spun my very first little ball of yarn, this is it all bright an green after I plied it.

Knitting more socks, of course.

Taking this lovely roving (from Wildcraft) and turning it into a couple of bobbins of this...

which I will eventually ply together.

Using my little Scholar (named Maria which I thought apt as it was the name my maternal grandmother was known by - mainly because her first name was very old Polish and chosen so that it wasn't easily pronounced by the occupying Germans in the late 19th century! I also thought Maria was a good solid name with historical roots that just felt right for my first wheel) to spin some lovely BFL/silk roving into a hank of singles which I will use for weaving.

More soon!

Monday, February 09, 2009

Marmalade... no, not the cat!

I've always loved the colour of marmalade: gorgeous tones of orange ranging from silken yellow through vibrant ginger on to scrumptious sienna. Perhaps that's why I adore George so?!

I decided to try my hand at making some Seville Orange marmalade recently, never having made use of my preserving pan in the 4 years I've owned it, I thought it was high time. I've come across a fabulous book from the River Cottage handbook series focusing purely on preserves. This is a great source of information and recipes for all kinds of jams, pickles, sauces... and fruit liqueurs (including my beloved Sloe Gin) so I think I will need to buy my own copy of this and hand this one back to the library for somebody else to enjoy!

For my first attempt I opted for the sliced fruit method where all the chopping is done at the start of the process (squeeze the juice from 1kg of oranges and slice the peel including all the pith). The peel is then soaked overnight in the juice plus 2.5 litres of water and then simmered in the preserving pan until tender: about 2-2.5 hours (until pan contents are reduced by about a third). Add 75ml of lemon juice (I cheated and bought bottled) and 2kg of demerara sugar (although white sugar will do, I like the darkness the demerara brough to the mixture). Simmer until all the sugar has reduced - if you don't the sugar will stay granular within the marmalade I am expertley informed - then boil rapidly until setting point is reached (about 20-30 minutes but could be more). Et voila - marmalade.

And it tastes yummy :-)

I then went on to try the whole fruit method where the chopping is done after you have simmered 1kg of fruit for a couple of hours. But I made the mistake of trying to cook Sunday lunch at the same time and missed the setting point and ended up with a preserving pan of black treacle which had burnt to the bottom. Not good. I've soaked and soaked the pan, to no avail, Steve very kindly used his engineering prowess to sand it all off and regain a nice shiny bottom (the pan of course... not me!). I was going to add some whisky to this second batch but I may drink it now instead as I think I may have missed the Seville season now for this year. Well, there have to be some perks!!

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Minimalist Monochrone or Characterful Colour?

I am always surprised at how a few hours can change your outlook - here, our vista: look at how the landscape has changed in just the space of 7 hours. The picture of Carter by the dilapidated garage was taken at about 9.30 in the morning yesterday, and the following image was taken at about 4.30pm the same day. Such colour in the second one as opposed to minimalist monochrome of the first.

I'm thinking George the cat doesn't like snow! This may be the first time he has experienced it - actually, I'm pretty sure it is as he was about a year old when we homed him last April and snow hasn't been seen down this part of Devon for a few years. Poor chap, he really hates it when I launch him into the white wilderness a couple of times a day to do what he has to do... and then shut the door quickly so he doesn't come back in (bad, bad mum!!) - I'd rather that than a litter tray in the house (or worse).

This morning, much has frozen so it is becoming lethal underfoot - we may still be housebound for another day.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Striding on...

Yes, I have finally tidied the mess that is my head - aka my studio! Just didn't quite get round to posting the pics. What do you think? I certainly feel much calmer and more organised now my surroundings are less of a tsunami.

We had a little snow earlier in the week and I bemoaned the fact that it wasn't enough. Well, it is said that best you be careful of what you wish for... we've been hit four square here in our little corner of East Devon. We are well and truly snowed in as even the 4x4 cannot get up the track onto the main road (ha - the lane we call the main road is nothing like a good old council cared for A or even B road and will never see the flashing lights of a snow plough!).

Yesterday evening, driving home at around 11.30pm from work, the journey took me 50 minutes rather than the usual 20. I decided to take a different route that usual to avoid the high road from Sidmouth to Honiton and drive via West Hill and use the A30.

After spinning the car around before even getting to the A30 (and then deciding I had best lock the front hubs to get full 4x4 - doh!) I gracefully allowed a snow plough to take the slip road onto the A30 before me, being the generous soul that I am ;-) Even he had trouble. The entire 12 mile journey was done at between 10 and 20 mph from door to door and I have never been more grateful to have the old jalopy as I was last night.

Home safe and sound, thank goodness.

But it's excitement! Luckily we have electricity (better than about 22,000 homes in Devon today I gather), heating oil, wood for the stove and food in the freezer - and hiking sticks to use whilst walking the dog, who is loving every chilly minute of it!

Enjoy these images....

Looking back down our track towards the house:

Where our track meets the 'main road':

Carter loving it - and standing in the middle of the 'main road'!

Friday, January 02, 2009

Disorder & Chaos

You know how you feel when you've had a good sort out at home or in the office and everything has a home and all looks nice and welcoming? Well, this is my chaos at the moment in my office/studio....

World War III, in Devon! Although, I hate to admit it, but it has been worse. No wonder my mind is in such a mish mash with a real lack of inspiration or true creativity. I daren't show you the picture of the doorway, as it has all the washing hanging on airers to dry - oh, okay, here goes... Well, actually, Blogger is so blown away by the mess that it won't allow me to put up another image!!

Plan for the weekend: sort out the studio and bring some calm to the whirling in my mind (or at least attempt to) ... working towards my hopes for the year.

How is your head and the resulting chaos or calm?

Thursday, January 01, 2009

New Start :: 2009

Well, the start of a new year brings with it many new ideas, hopes and thoughts.

Being inspired by Project365, where a photo is taken every day and posted online (either Flickr or a blog), I didn't want to be tied down by this and will take the concept and rework it into something that suits me. Perhaps that should be my aim for the coming year: don't try and change myself to fit into other people's expectations but allow me to come to terms with my own character and let it shine.

I plan to use my blog far more this coming year, not by giving myself the challenge of daily blogging, but you never know how it will turn out!

My hopes for the coming year...

... develop my writing outlets and have more work published in magazines...
... enjoy my many skills: cooking, sewing, knitting, painting, languages, animals...
... see our project in France develop into something resembling something more than a barn...
... try to maintain (and better) my health, both physical and mental, and not wallow in self pity that I haven't achieved unachievable goals (have you spotted that none of these are stated as resolutions for 2009?)...

Let's see how these outlines shape themselves in the coming months.

First finished project for 2009: Winter Cottage Mittens, my very first pair, from a kit purchased from Posh Yarn, hand-dyed scrummy yarn and pattern developed by the lovely Dee from Posh. The pics are of the just finished mittens, not blocked so a little lumpy until I pull them off my hands to wash and block them!

I love mittens. I recall a bright red pair, with a cable down the front and a crocheted string to hold them in lace attached to my coat, from my childhood. I loved them and, in a recent conversation with Mamo, found that I was very young when I had these (knitted by her fair hand) so they must have struck a cord to stick in my memory like this.

I feel these won't be my last mittens this year - any pattern suggestions?