Sunday, 27 January 2013

Back Again!

It has been over two months since I put an entry on here. (Sounds as if I in a confessional box!  It had become something of a chore rather than a pleasure and now I intend to write only intermittently.  Those who read it, know that I put an alert on Facebook and Twitter when I update.

Just a few items this time, 1) Convertible scarf/cowl with pattern, and 2) a Kindle mention. 3) podcast.  4) Its done at last! 5)Something to be grateful for.

1)What is it?  Well, a stash buster for a start as granny squares lend themselves to that.

Well, I made it with the original intent of it being a cowl, but discovered I liked the idea of it being a scarf.  To overcome the dilemma I made two chain cords, and laced the ends together securing with tie bow.  This way I can simply remove the cords and revert back to a scarf. 

I used size 4.00 hook and double knitting yarn.  I then joined 12 granny squares in a line, and then did four rows of trebles clusters of 3 trebles each (doubles in USA) round the length, putting 2 clusters in each corner. 
For those who are not sure how to do granny square there are good instructions on sites like this
Remember USA and UK abbreviations and stitch names are slightly different but sites like this give conversions at a glance
The two chain cords were threaded through the chain gaps.

2) Free Kindle Books, I have been watching the Father Brown series on tv (yes, daytime tv!  A girl has to do something while sitting with feet up!), and found that there are a number of free Kindle books by the original author G K Chesterton on Amazon.  I have enjoyed so far what I have read, and love the detail and descriptions written.  It was also pleasing to see that the tv series had well depicted the central character unlike when televising Morse. So here on Amazon is a GK Chesterton link showing the free ones first.

3) I continue to enjoy the podcast “Stuff your Mom Never Told you”, The “stuff” podcasts are easily found by just putting “Stuff” in the itunes search, and other good ones are “Stuff you Missed in History Class”, “Stuff to Blow your Mind” etc etc all emanating from the site

4) Finished at last the Rowan Ariadne . 
 This project seemed to take forever, and I will not be knitting again with the yarn Creative Linen as I found it to be “splitty”, and weighs a ton when knitted up into a garment.  But the garment looks OK I think 
5) What is it I am grateful for?  For the fact that when I walk in the snow it doesnt come up to my tummy like it does for Oliver 

Friday, 23 November 2012

Just Dont Say the "C" word

This week, I shall be a) moaning, b)2 positive comments, c) sharing a recipe, Kindle book review, d)rustic recipe, e)Added to my Ravelry queue knitting suggestion

1) Moan
I wish everyone who celebrates the Yuletide/Christmas a very happy festival.  But I am reaching saturation point with the whole thing already!
Probably because I do not actually celebrate Christmas in the usual way.  But our local supermarket was the first in the UK to decorate the store in October (apparently as an exercise for other stores in the chain to study), and it seems to have heralded the December festivities for a lifetime now.  Meanwhile now I am getting older, I am not in a hurry for another year to pass!

Vegetarians and vegans who want a “traditional” Christmas are faced with some interesting prospects today compared to when I had my first meat free Christmas back in the early 1970s. In fact those of us who are no long omnivores have no difficulty in finding plenty of convenience food all year round.  Which leaves the person responsible for “catering” with lots more free time to indulge in favourite hobbies. But on the down side  I just wish more restaurants would realise how interesting vegetarian food can be and afford more choice.
The reason I no longer eat out, is that I do not wish to see a menu four pages long for everyone else, and a line at the bottom saying “vegetarian option available, please ask”.   Without asking I know it will be based on the premise we all eat nut cutlets.

2) Positive comments.
I was really pleased to see in the Morrison’s Supermarket free magazine, that they used women of normal proportions as models for the clothing article.  At last.  Realistic article without catwalk model types.  I hope this trend continues.
I went to Currys and bought a dry fryer, and politely and  tentatively asked if that was the best price they could do.  (It was cheaper than anywhere else! I had checked before going shopping)
The nice assistant gave me 5 per cent off!!  Couldn’t believe it, I have never haggled in a shop like this before.

3) Kindle book.
I downloaded free a book called Midwife: Liza by Valerie Levy. First and foremost that makes me like this book is the last page! There is a proper ending.  Nothing left in the air.  I hate books that leave the ending untidy.  The author writes midwifery textbooks, but has also written this fictional account of a midwife in 1339. Well written book and I will be reading her next book in the series.  Well written and informative of the trials and tribulations midwives and their patients had in the 1300s.   The one I read wasfree on Amazon
Being free I have not lined their non tax paying pockets! 
 But if it is not free when checked out, visit another time as books are offered free periodically but for short periods.
Rustic SunnyTomato flans/plaits

 Why are they called “Rustic”?  Well, one look at the pics shows I have a somewhat rough and ready approach to baking and so it is a cop out to suggest they are rustic in origin.  If anyone can make them looking more palatable (which shouldn’t be difficult), then another posher name can be given.
1 packet puff pastry
Sun dried tomato paste
Cherry tomatoes
Optional sweet pepper roasted, peeled and cut into strips.
Optional grated cheese or vegan cheese substitute

If a suitable shallow container is available like a flan dish then that can be used, otherwise roll the pastry into squares and press the sides upwards to form a shallow container.  Prick the base and spread base with the paste. Add sliced tomatoes and pepper if used.  Also if grated cheese is used this is added.
Oven number 7 for 13 to 15 minutes.

Plaits are made by rolling into oblongs, spread centre with paste and add tomatoes, cut slanted strips down each side from centre to edge and then fold the strips alternatively over the centre. Seal the ends.  The pastry can be brushed with milk or soya milk to get nice brown shiny glaze.

Can be eaten hot or cold. 
5) Knitting suggestion
I like the idea of "convertible" garments, and Lion Brand have come up with a free pattern that fits the bill. (There is also a crocheted version).  It is a good stash buster too.  So this pattern is in my Ravelry queue, and is called Snapped Convertible Cowl Shrug

Sunday, 28 October 2012

 A different entry today, not craft/podcast/kindle/recipe related.  So you have been warned!

 Have you turned it off and on again?
How often have I groaned when hearing that solution offered to technical issues with the computer!  Well, my iphone went on 3g strike and would happily make calls and texts, but decided not to surf.  I rechecked all the settings.  I read forums with various bits of advice, and still the recalcitrant gadget would not strut its stuff.  Until we were in Comet waiting tor out internet order to be sorted, and I had to tell the salesman I couldn’t show the email as required due to …….  He then stated the dreaded phrase.
So I did.
So it does work sometimes.

Clocks have gone back and to me that is the harbinger of winter approaching.
Winter usually means I spend more time indoors.
More time indoors means I spend more time knitting.
Knitting more, means I buy more yarn.
I think you can see where this is going……
To fund the habit, I like to see where I can be a bit thrifty but invisibly so.  I am not into leading an austere life totally bereft of pleasure for the sake of a ball of wool.

I am not about to melt scraps of soap and mould them into a “new bar” of soap (I use liquid soap anyway!).  But I have begun to realise how wasteful I am with shampoo, washing up liquid, laundry liquid etc.  I cannot believe how little shampoo I now need to get a full lather.  Hitherto I was using copious amounts and therefore buying shampoo of a near weekly basis.  I have realised too to notice if the washing up liquid I am using has the word “concentrated” on the container.  Otherwise I liberally disgorge a  good dollop, (I know bubbles per se have no cleaning properties, but I do so like a bowl of them!).  Laundry liquid manufacturers must love consumers like myself.  I hurl in a stack of liquid and then another squirt for good measure.  The other day I actually dispensed the recommended amount and found I had…..tarara… clean washing!  So I have been pouring money into my washing up bowl, and washing machine, and losing valuable yarn money in the process.

I have, however, “upset the apple cart” with my well meaning measures.  I will not forego decent toilet paper, but read somewhere that if the roll is squashed to an oval before being put on the holder it would not roll so freely and therefore the user would have more control.  This did not go down with a certain person who thought this was a step too far.

(Off the topic of frugality for a moment, but another instance where bog roll got me into trouble).  Many years ago when working for a public body that was undergoing expenditure cuts, on 1st April I put a notice on the staff notice board, stating that due to the cuts in public expenditure, only one sheet per visit to the toilet was permissible and if staff wanted more they must bring it from home.  How was I to know that the Big Boss was coming to the staff room for a meeting that very morning?
It was not appreciated!!

Back to domesticity.  I also like “handy tips” that make daily life cheaper and more importantly easier. My best email friend sent me an email this week containing a list of them, and some were really clever I thought.  (thanks Viv).  Like the one where a pull ring from a drinks can, is slipped over a metal coathanger hook, and then another hanger can be hung from the ring thus saving room on the rail and making a wardrobe accommodate more clothes.    I also liked the idea of using a staple extractor to hold a key ring open when putting on another key, this saves damaging nails. Or using a tin opener to get inside blister packs designed to keep the user out.

The problem with some frugal living solutions, is that the amount of effort needed to achieve a saving is off putting.

I make bread which is cheaper than shop bought, but only because I enjoy making bread.  I am not about to become a domestic slave for the sake of a penny or too.  But I am also not happy to knowingly waste money. 

So if anyone has any pain free tips I will receive them gratefully. The trouble with some “tips” is the idea seems novel but however clever they are, does the item made in the Blue Peter style ever actually get used like this one or the little cord holder?

Friday, 5 October 2012


This is a short entry as keyboarding is rather problematic at the moment due to carpel tunnel syndrome!  Great, another syndrome to add to my Holmes Adies syndrome.  I really would rather not go through life collecting syndromes as I age. This has meant my knitting activities are severely curtailed and I can only knit for short periods of a time. Also my cooking is reduced as chopping and cutting is not a joyful experience to say the least.

This week the knitting chat is about gloves,
Knitting can be an expensive hobby but not when such projects as these are made.  Time consuming and yet not yarn eaters, so they are more than affordable.  But more importantly they instill a great sense of satisfaction upon completion.  Also they do not weigh much on the needles!  I particularly like these sort of projects that are steeped in history and tradition.  These gloves above I made last week are made from a pattern currently sold at,  or the Winter 2011 edition of Knitting Traditions.  They are in the Dales tradition and called Mary Allen's gloves. So far on Ravelry there are only 7 projects which surprised me. 

Once I had completed the Mary Allen’s gloves, I started another pair with my own design on the back of the hand and deviated from tradition by continuing the pattern up the length of the fingers.  It is only now after decades of knitting that I have the confidence to “do my own thing”.  Hitherto all patterns have been carved in stone.  Here is the result:

The project has yet to be named so if anyone has any ideas what these gloves should be called I would welcome the suggestion.

The recipe is a minimum fuss, quick make, lunch and a leave it alone as long as you like casserole till you want to eat it!
The quick one:
Roasted veggies on warm baguettes - makes a change from pizza!
I find the bake at home baguettes ideal size for this.
Ingredients: baked baguette, from the following use one or any or all tomatoes, sweet peppers, mushrooms, onions.
Garlic and decent olive oil.  No cheating on the oil, if it is crap oil it will ruin this entirely.  Prepare the veggies used by halving the tomatoes, cutting onions into chunks, halving peppers and removing seeds, clean and slice the mushrooms.
Method: half baguettes lengthwise and lay crust down on baking tray.  Liberally spread oil over the surface and rub in crushed garlic.  Arrange the veggies used over the bread and drizzle over olive oil.  Bake number 6 for 15 mins.  Check and ensure veggies cooked. 

The casserole can be cooked on the stove top and eaten immediately or it can be put in a slow cooker/casserole dish and slow cooked for ages.  So it is a good dish to prepare say before going shopping and then on home coming it is ready to eat.

Home Coming Casserole

In the picture it can be seen that there is pasta, but this is an optional extra and not totally necessary.  400g tin of chopped tomatoes, 1 tbs tomato puree, 1 tsp sugar, 1 clove crushed garlic,  large onion chopped, 1tbs olive oil, seasoning,  4 oz dried pasta cooked as directed on the packet. Veggie meat free  Meatballs from Asda  or Redwoods

Saute onions in the oil and garlic, add the chopped tomatoes, puree, sugar, seasoning. When well combined add the “meatballs” and pasta if used, and thoroughly heat, or cook in the oven.

Friday, 31 August 2012

I did it myself

This week: knitting, recipes, kindle stuff

I have at last developed a measure of self confidence to try to create rather than slavishly follow patterns and recipes.  Obviously some efforts are not as successful as others, but this week my two creative efforts were successful
In last blog entry I mentioned discovering after heel socks.    After thought heels on socks are widely known as a type of heel, but all the patterns I came across said either waste yarn technique, or cutting was involved.
I like the look of the heel and it is created easily and no gussets etc, but wanted to incorporate the heel as I went along rather than go back when the sock was completed.
My method works on cuff down or toe up socks.

So here is my heel…

For cuff down,  It is achieved by putting half the stitches used onto a holder and then casting on the same number of stitches just put on a holder.  Start knitting in the round again for three rounds and then decrease as if knitting a toe.  When the decreasing has reached the desired number then either Kitchener or turn inside out and three needle bind off. 
To continue the sock put the needles held on the holder on to a needle and then pick up stitches from the cast on edge of the heel and continue in the round to the toe.  So if the sock starts with 60 sts, 30 are the amount put on the holder, and 30 are the amount picked up from the cast on edge of the heel.  If anyone wants more explicit instructions with pictures just contact me.

Recipes this week are “cheesey bread rolls” and “creamy sauce” which is base for a number of dishes.

Cheesey bread rolls:
12oz strong flour (white or brown or mix the two)
3 oz margarine
1 sachet of easy yeast
½ pt milk tepid
4 oz cheese or vegan cheezly grated
1 tsp sugar and 1tsp salt

Add yeast, sugar and salt to flour
The margarine can be added by rubbing in, or by melting it and adding with the milk
Knead for 10 mins and set aside to double in size covered.
Knock back the dough and roll out into 4 large or 6 smaller oblongs.  Put grated cheese in centre third of  each oblong and fold over an end piece of dough.  Add more cheese to the folder over piece and then finally fold over the remaining third.  Then roll out the dough to an oblong. Sprinkle top with cheese
Put aside to rise and 20 mins later put in oven 7 for 10 mins.
Cool on a rack

The creamy sauce recipe is versatile as it can be used as sauce to go with pasta, or if cheese is added it can be used as a base for a macaroni cheese type dish as in the pic.
Creamy Sauce
2 onions, 4 medium or 2 large cucumbers peeled, carton of single cream or vegan equivalent, 3desert spoons of  margarine
Remove seeds from cucumbers and sprinkle with salt and set aside for an hour.
Rinse cucumbers and cut into chunks
Saute onions in the margarine and add cucumbers.
Put lid on saucepan and leave on very gentle heat for about 45 mins, incorporate the cream and stir well.
This sauce is then ready to pour over pasta.
Saute onions and cucumber as before, but instead of cream add a cheese sauce.  Then combine the mix with cooked pasta and bake in oven 5 for about 25 mins.  I topped mine with cherry tomatoes and sprinkled more grated vegan cheese on top.

Decided I would read about its famous son Samuel Johnson who wrote the first English dictionary and whose birthplace is in the centre of town  So downloaded free book
Bit heavy but interesting biography, and gives interesting glimpse into the period of the time. 
Another book I have dipped into this week is Behind Jane Austen's Door by Jennifer Forest
Again a free book when I downloaded it. The book visits room by room a Regency house and delves into what life was like for the residents, it draws on the Jane Austen characters and their dwellings.

Friday, 17 August 2012

If I had known that before!

Life could have been so much easier if hindsight was clutched in my fist the day I was born.  But then maybe I would have missed out on some interesting episodes on various journeys to achieve goals.  So lesson number one is “modernity doesn’t always equate to easiest/best”.  I like to think I am not a stick in the mud, but sometimes Granny knew Best.  So the remainder of the blog is based on the idea that Granny Knew Best.  (knitting, recipe, ebook etc)

I have a collection of knitting books, some of which are over 100 years old, and yet I have chosen to ignore some of the techniques in them in the mistaken belief that more modern must mean better!  Such a case is the “After thought heel”.  I have been knitting socks for years now and thought I had developed the easiest format in the universe to make them.  I then found modern references to  what is now known as “After thought Heel”.  It is simplicity itself and produces a good heel very very easily.  I then found this method in a book printed in the 1930s, and realised it is not a new technique at all, even though it was not known by the name “After thought heel”.
It is versatility personified, works fine with cuff down or toe up patterns, and no little holes where adjoined to the foot.  I always do reinforced toes and heels and this method lends itself to that too.  Yes, I am a convert!  Loads of instructions are available for free and a quick google will show the way.  If anyone particularly wants the method I use please contact me.
Granny was not afforded the year round choice of fresh vegetables that are available today and made use of seasonal vegetables, and also most of them were locally produced if not produced in her own garden.  Although this recipe is not totally local it is seasonal.
 Fruity Crunch
A salad full of textures with a really tasty dressing
The word “shredded” can be grated for softer texture, or cut into matchsticks
Main ingredients are: 1 large raw beetroot peeled and shredded, Raddichio leaves, 2 large raw carrots shredded, 5 sliced radishes, orange segments or tangerine segments, Additional ingredients all of which can be added or just one or two:  sunflower seeds, alfalfa, dried cranberries,  sliced bananas, any salad leaves.
Dressing: Mix well together: 3tbs best olive oil, juice of a large orange, half tsp mustard powder, salt, pepper, 1tsp sugar.
Mix all ingredients and toss in the dressing.

Granny did not have to hand a supermarket stocked with a bewildering array of chemical cleaners, but she did know that her larder was stocked with items that were not only culinary but would keep her house sparkling clean too.  Lemons, vinegar, bicarbonate of soda etc.  What Granny did not do was fill her home with chemicals that could sometimes be potentially harmful.  I found this book
Interesting in that it explains the different chemicals used in household cleaners and their effects,  and  then goes on to give recipes for cleaners made out of every day larder items. 
Admittedly I got the book for free as it was listed in
I have their daily newsletter.  But it could be worth checking now and then on Amazon to see if it is free again.  And this site is ace for up to date free ebooks.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Do unto others

This week it is mainly a domestic update. So bypass the boring bits and scroll down for podcast recommendation etc.
 Went to visit my mother on Wednesday who has lived in a Residential care home since 1999.  I hasten to add that she remained there at her own request and likes it.  She now has dementia, but still does have lucid periods and is proactive in participating in all the activities made available.    
She has been adamant for many years now that my father who died in 1958 visits her, and according to her also that he has frequent conversations with the gardener in the shed!
She started a conversation off saying “I haven’t seen much of Frank lately” and that he had not been to see the gardener recently.  I said to her “You do realise he isn’t alive don’t you?”  To which she replied “Of course I know he is not alive, but I cannot tell the gardener that, it might upset him”!  So she apparently still tries to live by some on the tenets she instilled in me of being kind to people.  Well, to other people that is. (There is of course, an exception to every rule). She has no qualms about introducing me to a person to whom I am not known by saying “This is Sandra, she is NOT the clever one”.  (I have a living sibling who can revel in the glory that she IS the clever one)!

My mother is 97 and adamant that when she is 100 shewill be a recipient of a telegram from the queen.  I think it is a good thing we decided she was not to be told as I was, in September 2010 that she had less than six months to live!  At that time she was diagnosed with breast cancer, which fortunately has subsided due to the medication she was given, albeit no chemo or radiotherapy.  She is blissfully unaware of this hiccup in her hitherto robust health record.  Every one at the home has to make their wishes known regarding their treatment in their final days.  She told them she definitely does want resuscitation if the occasion arises, and that she has no intention of dying anyway.  I for one, believe her. She broke her hip a couple of years ago and is adamant that she will strive to improve on her mobility, and has not succumbed to a wheelchair. 

It goes without saying that Riley is exceptional.  I am not a modest Nan where he is concerned!  He now has an infectious grin, and brings sunshine with him when he comes to visit.

Oliver is the DIY cat.  He has had an operation to remove a blockage.  This meant he had a neat row of stitches down the length of the abdomen.  Well “had” being the operative word.  He has assiduously unpicked these stitiches which are not due to be removed until Monday coming.  So besides his post operative check at the vets, he had to go and be checked regarding his diy stitch removals.  Unfortunately because he is deaf he didn’t listen to the vets instructions on how he should be quiet for his recuperation.  I cannot believe how quickly he recovered, and today he is on a mission to gain access to the cable box in the tv cabinet.  Oliver has also shown an unhealthy interest in electrical wires and cables, and now when using my laptop I have to remove the mains lead because he thinks it is part of his diet.  

Podcast recommendation.
I have been listening to some quiz podcasts, and they are a mixed bunch!  Some are cures for insomnia for sure.  The one this week that I have subscribed to and definitely will listen again is
Upbeat and friendly and interesting content. 

The second recommendation this week is not an audio podcast but a thought provoking site to visit. The site does have visual/audio clips and I scrolled down and chose the “I’m an Animal Lover” clip to start