Friday, 16 December 2011

Its that time of year


I wish everyone who reads this a super Christmas if they celebrate it,  and a Happy New Year, and I will be back in January. Most people I know will be busy at this time of the year so my entry today will be minimal, and just includes an observation at the end and  3 simplest ever festive recipes to help use the inevitable surplus from the traditional foods most buy at this time of year.
1) Choccy fruit
2) Orange Date and Carrot Salad
3) Stuffed Dates
4)  The coming festivities

1) CHOCCY FRUIT
Simplest way of creating a sweet everyone will want and welcome change from Christmas Pudding
You need: 1 block of decent dark chocolate
Segments of tangerines/satusmas/grapes/bananas of whatever comes to hand.
Carefully melt the chocolate in microwave or on stove top, and dip at least half of each piece of fruit in the melted chocolate.  Even immerse it and retrieve with a spoon. Place the fruit on non stick paper on a plate and put in the fridge to set. Of course there are some people who will never actually get it into the fridge as they cannot resist the temptation to try them immediately.  

2) ORANGE DATE AND CARROT SALAD
Ingredients:
Half of a crisp lettuce shredded (Iceberg will do – but don't expect me think what to do with the other half!)
2 carrots - grated
2 oranges – peeled and segmented – messy but unavoidable
4 oz dates – stoned and chopped (if you don't take the stones out first it will play havoc with your kitchen knife)
Some shelled walnuts would be a nice addition if to hand
Dressing:
2 tbs lemon juice
1 tsp sugar
Now don't panic because you can get this from the chemist – 1 tbs rosewater. Actually the chemist won't sell you 1 tbs you will have to buy a bottle.
Combine lettuce, carrot, oranges and dates
Combine ingredients for the dressing and sprinkle the dressing over the salad. I mean sprinkle, this salad does not need to be drenched to make it palatable. It is very aromatic.

3) STUFFED DATES
You need all the dates that haven’t been eaten, and a block of marzipan.
Just remove the stone from each date and replace it with a piece of marzipan

4) THE COMING FESTIVITIES
It was with interest  that I read on a blog I follow: http://musingsofaseniledelinquent.blogspot.com/   the entry “I don’t really “do” Christmas, because  as my friends know I also don’t “do” Christmas.  I have become disillusioned with the commercialism and the fact that the reason for the festival has become lost in a materialistic overkill.  I do not begrudge anyone a really happy Christmas, but it is with immense relief that I have “opted out” and am no longer on the stressful treadmill that this time of year had bought.

Friday, 9 December 2011

YEAH WHATEVER


This week it is 1) musings, 2) recipe 3) knitting Sock it to me 4) Rant
Apparently age brings its compensations so the saying goes.  What is also brings is hard decisions on what is suitable attire!  I don’t want to be seen as “mutton dressed as lamb”, but there again I don’t want to appear as if I have been in a fashion time warp since crimplene hit the market. .  But it is a fine line I walk.  Then it suddenly occurred to me that being somewhat aged, I should be becoming invisible to others, so what the hell does it matter?   And it also seems a bit arrogant to assume anyone would notice me anyway! I base the invisible theory on not very scientific experiments that have been conducted  such as the page 3 Peta Todd’s experiment http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/features/3696565/Page-3s-Peta-is-undercover-OAP.html
I have decided to at last just wear what I want.  For years I was confined to a dress code whilst at work.  This came in during my career, and I never understood how a person when not facing the public should be banned from wearing good work clothes like jeans.  (Except on “dress down days”)  How come I would not be professional in jeans unless it was “dress down day”, in which case apparently I would perform professionally?.  I refused to play this game and never “dressed down”.  If it was not acceptable on say a Thursday, why was it on a Friday? 
So if you see this geriatric in bizarre clothes, it is because of choice and not because due to senility I am not aware of what I am wearing.  But I am mindful that I do not wish to embarrass family members, so may remain a little more conventional if venturing out with them. 
So am off now, to don a snazzy black mini stashed in the wardrobe, and I DON’T CARE what anyone thinks.  Freedom!!!  I never ask “does my bum look big in this?” if one has to ask, then it does, and should not put friends to the no win test.  If they say “yes”, it is hurtful, if they say “no”, they are lying and their trust for the future could be doubted!

2)Recipe:  Tasty Roasty Veggies.
I used chunks of peeled potato, sweet potato, and acorn squash and quartered onion..  I see no reason why parsnips, carrots etc could not also be used.  I then put into a polythene sandwich bag two tablespoons of decent cooking oil (olive oil would be ace), 1 or 2 tablespoons of honey, handful of dried mixed herbs, good pinch of salt, and a mighty grinding of black pepper.  Rubbed  the bag vigourously in the hands until the contents mixed well.  Then added the vegetable chunks and ensured all well coated.  Put them on a tray that is lined with non stick baking paper or greaseproof paper (Well this reduces the washing up afterwards!).  No 4 for about 40 mins.

3) Sock it to me
 Never judge a sock by its shape!  They can be deceptive. Last week I mentioned socks that were knitted in a ribbed tube and so here is the pair I knitted this week.  Tube socks are really comfortable for the wearer, look normal once on the foot, and of course the heel never wears out because the sock is put on differently each time so wear is even.    I used King Cole Yarn and liked the colours as they said Fruits of the Forest to me.  Don’t know what colour the manufacturer has stated!   I also knitted a conventional pair from same yarn and have to say it does go a long way.

4) Rant.  I asked Specsavers why I had to wait 2 weeks from test to receipt of new glasses and was told it depended on the complexity of the lenses.  Well, hitherto I have had the same lense and had glasses dispensed within a week, (from the same store), and also why do I have to pay up front?  Apparently all customers even those who have been loyal for years and never breached contract with them, are having to pay up front because some customers have reneaged on the deal.  Like keeping all the kids in after school because of one naughty child in the class.
I asked Tesco why the alarm goes off when I enter and leave the store.  Got standard response of how disappointed they were to learn I had a problem, (not as disappointed as me), and they will tell the deputy store manager.  Because it was a standard response they have failed to tell me why the alarm goes off.  Effective communication?  I don’t think so.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Oh yes you can!

This week has not been a good week and if you want to know the ins and outs I will put it as the last entry, so if you dont want to hear unadulterated misery then you dont have to!  But unfortunately I have not been able to prepare a lot for this week, so it s confined to 1)"Yes you Can", which is aimed at knitters,2)podcast recommendation of a podcast that is brand new and  3)my week

1) Yes you can.
 Sock knitting is growing in popularity in Knitting World. Many knitters are wary of trying sock knitting as it sounds complicated when they hear phrases like wrap and turn, short row, turn heel etc.  Sock knitting is like any other knitting in that there is a hard way and an easy way, and as an introduction it pays to try the easy way to help boost confidence.  In case you are wondering why on earth someone would want to wear hand knitted socks, then the answer is they are so comfortable, and well worth the effort. 
So it is worth considering trying to knit a sock that has none of the complicated technicalities involved.  This is achieved by basically knitting a tube which is open one end and closed the other, like a bag.  But if it is done with some ribbing it envelopes the foot snuggly and doesnt sag.  There are two sites which have splended patterns showing how easy these socks are. 
The first is http://knittingbunny.blogspot.com/2007_04_20_archive.html and this link is to the very comprehensive pattern.  The second is http://patonsyarns.com/index.php which is splendid as a knitting resource for loads of free patterns of all sorts. Put in their search "spiral socks" and see the pattern, you may have to register it is free, but it is a good site for other purproses besides socks.


2) Recommended Podcast.
  This week it is a brand new podcast that I am recommending and can be found http://www.voxpopnj.com/2011/11/blog-like-its-the-end-of-the-world/ and is a vegan podcaster with kniting featured.


3) My Week
Started with a shock on Monday when Ian and I went for routine eye tests, and it was revealed that Ian needs further investigation and may have glaucoma, and on my part cataracts have appeared.  The last time my eyes were tested was only last February when I had sunglasses prescribed for the times my reactolite lenses were inadequate.  On Wednesday we realised Hamish our sixteen and a half year old British Short Hair cat was not coping with his condition and I took him to the vet and returned home without him.  Hamish is now with his brother Maurice in Cat Heaven. This knocked me sideways somewhat and I am still walking around his feeding station which is no longer there.  The pics at the top of this entry are of chocolate point Maurice in colour and a monotone pic of Hamish who was blue point.  Unfortunately I do not have to hand on my laptop better pics.  So not the best week and one of the reasons this blog has not got much content.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Whoosh Another Week Has Flown



Busy, busy busy
I have been knitting/crocheting my fingers to the bone this week and so have little material for the blog.  I have started a shawl for Kat and Al’s expected baby.  327 stitches in a row……phew, even the cast on was time consuming.  But it is a pattern Kat has indicated she likes and I hope I do the picture in the pattern justice.  It is a fine line between churning out gifts the knitter likes themselves, and the recipient having the same taste.  I think we have come to a nice mutually acceptable pattern.

It comes as no surprise to most of us as it is an annual event, but Christmas is looming. I have hang ups about materialism attached to it and wont go into a diatribe about it.  But the gifts I give are often ones that I have spent time making.  At least the recipient then knows I think enough of them to be prepared to spend time making something unique for them.
So this week, I have made the scarf at the top of here  for my sister in law.  The scarf…..ok it is only a scarf, but it is totally unique in that I “designed” it.  I am not experienced in producing anything original being a strict follower of patterns, but had a go and made this and a shawl for my mother using the excellent shawl creator pdf I shared last week http://www.laylock.org/blog/2011/05/free-shawl-knitting-cheat-sheet/  
 This sheet enables one to create unique shawls by giving basic instructions to obtain the desired shape, and leaves the knitter to use own stitch patterns and colour scheme.
If anyone wants to know the basic pattern for the scarf let me know.

Went to Burton this morning to get yarn for another present, but in case the recipient reads this I am not saying any more!  But startitis has hit this crafter big time this week.

So for the remainder of this entry, 1) recipe, 2) podcast review, 3) a suggested site to visit.

1)   Standby Salad

Standyby?  Because it can be made now to eat later, because many of the ingredients will be “standing by ready to use” in the larder.   As always the ingredients are mainly suggestions, feel free to add or subtract ingredients according to what is to hand.  Except for the rice, but at a push you could substitute cous cous.  So mix up all the ingredients you choose in a bowl; as an example I used: 1 pkt microwave Basmati rice (long grain is fine), 4oz  cooked soya beans (frozen are easiest), 4 small tomatoes chopped, 5 spring onions chopped, 6 dates stoned and chopped, 1 large red pepper grilled and skin removed then chopped, 12 grapes halved, chunk of cucumber diced, handful of cashew nuts, handful mint leaves shredded. Chopped "Pepperoni slices".  I used vegan substitute.  Seasoning and dressing to taste, today I happened to use a balsamic vinegar dressing, but rosewater would do nicely to complement the dates. 
                 
2)   Podcast review
 http://itunes.apple.com/podcast/a-little-bit-of-history/id335192273 Dan Brown (NO! not THE Dan Brown!!) has done some interesting podcasts on events in local history, and they are pleasant to listen to.  Not recorded much lately, but as the content is history it is not important that they were recorded last year.   A taster of Dan can be seen on here http://sortofinteresting.com/?p=814
3)   Site to check out this week:
 someone sent me a recipe link once from this site, and I have been back on several occasions to have a browse around.  http://www.realfood4realpeople.com/  budget conscious, easy to search, good recipe resource.     

Friday, 18 November 2011

AND HERE IS ONE I MADE EARLIER


No more soggy bottoms
 Being a sucker for gadgets it was inevitable that having watched the Junior Apprentice this week that I should buy a pie maker.  Well, I haven’t indulged in a gadget since………….last month when I bought a Kindle!!  I justify these purchases to myself by remember I buy few clothes and don’t go on holiday, and and and.
And I have to say it does what it says, pies are cooked in 10 mins, and if one buys ready made pastry the time to produce the pies in minimal.  Best of all is the way the base of the pies are cooked same as the top so no soggy bottoms!  Yay!  I hate soggy bottoms.  The ones in the pic are “chicken” and mushroom and the recipe is further down.  Obviously they can be done in conventional oven too!

This week then, there is 1) the recipe, 2) podcast review and no groans when its identity is  revealed, and 3) three  sites worth checking out, the second and third ones reveal a mystery of the Universe!.

1“Chicken” and Mushroom pie. 
The reason “chicken” is in inverts is because being vegan I have used a chicken substitute, but for non veggies ordinary cooked chicken pieces will be fine.

You need: 1 pack Jus Rol short crust pastry (makes about 6  medium or 4 large pies)
6oz  of cooked chopped chicken . or better still Redwood meat free chicken style pieces http://www.redwoodfoods.co.uk/index.php?option=com_virtuemart&page=shop.browse&category_id=16&vmcchk=1&Itemid=1
4 oz mushrooms chopped, 1tbs flour, quarter pint milk, knob of margarine. Kettle of boiling water
Method, sauté mushrooms in margarine, add flour and stir in well, add milk so nice thick mushroom sauce achieved. Put saucepan in bowl of cold water for contents to cool.
Roll out pastry and put base in tin/mould/pie maker. Add chicken pieces to mushroom mix, and season mix.  Add mix to bases. Put tops on and seal well, brush with soya milk or ordinary milk to achieve a glaze. Bake at number 6 till golden brown.
Where does the boiling water come in?  Well you have earned a cup of tea or coffee to drink while they bake!

2. Podcast Review
and I repeat “no groans”, but this week I am suggesting the BBC Radio 4 series The Archers http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/archers  The world’s longest running soap, but…..it does raise awareness of many social issues, and at the moment there is an ongoing story line of whether to set up an intensive dairy production system where cows will be kept indoors all the time.  There are many other social issues this programme doesn’t duck.  Look at the site and see if you think it will appeal.

3 Site recommendations. 
Knitters and crocheters often make scarves, but do not always wear them to their best advantage.  Well, this knitter doesn’t!! 
On a previous blog I put up a utube “how to wear a scarf”, and have since found this site which has static pics and might give the scarf wearer a few more ideas on how to wear this accessory   Once a style is selected by clicking on the picture, there are easy to follow instructions on how to achieve that particular look.   http://www.scarfqueen.com/how-to-tie-a-scarf/.

The other sites are ones I wish I had taken more notice of this week when I was taking the laundry out of the drier. These sites reveal what to me was a mystery of the universe.   It is the old problem of how to fold fitted sheets for storing in the airer.  Mine end up jumbled and sometimes stuffed in a pillowcase, which means the set of linen is not looking its best when required. Actually I did find a Youtube video showing my method!!  So for easy explanation of how to fold fitted sheets and achieve nice neat effect look at these and select the one you find easiest to follow:
 if you are tall then you can do it like this bloke http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qfBRS8NTDJ0&feature=related

Friday, 11 November 2011

Finally its done!

 
 
Thought it would never get done

This entry is going to be very brief this week, as I have spent many hours completing my “big project”.  When knitting I tend to have a major project on the go, and knit this interspersed with smaller projects.  The “major” project that has come to fruition after being two years in the making has been a bedspread to fit a double bed.  The pattern is called Wheatear and from Annie Cole.  I had researched traditional bedspreads and bought many books that featured them,  but because it was such a big project I needed to know I had sufficient yarn, so bought a kit. Many of the patterns I found were in late 19th and early 20th century books in yarns that no longer exist.   But didn’t do the edging in the pattern provided as I found one I preferred.  Couldn’t believe the weight when it was all assembled.  Put it on the bed and was pleased with my efforts.  Took pics for Ravelry and immediately took it off the bed and put it in an airtight container.!

So at the moment I have no, zero, zilch knitting on the needles in progress.  This is a state I have not known for many years.  But fully intend to remedy this PDQ.

Craft Site of the week.
There are a number of free patterns for traditional counterpanes and so my site of the week http://www.knitting-and.com/index.html    Where besides a wealth of crafting information there is a section devoted to traditional counter panes. http://www.knitting-and.com/knitting/patterns-counterpanes.htm

Podcast of the week
Brenda Dayne produces an interesting knitting related podcast.  She has a pleasant voice to listen to and the content is consistently good.  Take a look at her blog and see if you would like to listen http://cast-on.com/

Foodie sites of the week.
This time of year when its not quite Winter but Summer has gone can prove problematic when deciding what to eat.   To cheer up the dark nights, we need treats like the Baileys and Chocolate Cream Cake to be found here http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/.    Many folk are also busy thinking of Christmas and have their time taken up with this, so may like the idea of OAMC http://www.realfood4realpeople.com/  (OAMC?  Once a month cooking!)  The site also has loads of more conventional culinary ideas too.

Friday, 4 November 2011

REMEMBER REMEMBER 5TH NOVEMBER


For those in the UK there is no forgetting 5th November as it is Bonfire Night.  There are, sadly, many who do not know its origins http://www.bonfirenight.net/index.php  is a site that explains what it is all about.  
Now there is a modern “Guido Fawkes” who raises awareness of the political goings on, but before you click the link, if you are under 60 please ask your parents to consent to you accessing the site http://order-order.com/

So this week I have included a recipe I made up for Bonfire Night, called Catherine Wheel Soup.  Also as it is getting colder and for those of us who knitted our shawls in readiness, there are suggestions of how to wear them.  But if the shawl is not yet knitted but in the thought stage only, then there is a helpful guide on how to make one.

1) How to wear a shawl or scarf
Shawls have not always been the fashion accessory they are today, and so many women look for suggestions on how to wear them other than just draped round their shoulder.  This video is one of many that gives ideas http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6if41C_iE-M
Scarves have never been out of vogue, but new ideas of how to wear them can be welcome, and this snazzy video has a few suggestions http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5LYAEz777AU&feature=youtu.be

 2)Shawl construction made easy
  For knitters who want to know how to make a certain shape of shawl this wonderful chart reveals all, and the site is well worth visiting to browse its other contents. I for one will always be grateful to the creator of this splendid sheet.
http://www.laylock.org/blog/2011/05/free-shawl-knitting-cheat-sheet/

3) Catherine Wheel Soup
 
When it is not Bonfire Night this is called Roast pepper and tomato soup, this takes a bit of preparation, but well worth the effort.  It can be cooked ahead and reheated when desired.
3 sweet peppers
10 tomatoes medium size or say 7 large ones
1 carrot medium size
1 onion medium size
Squidge tomato puree
1 tsp paprika, salt and pepper to taste, 1 dsp sugar
Soya cream/single cream optional.
Liquid of half milk (or soya milk) and water

Plunge tomatoes in boiling water and put aside.
Either roast or grill the halves of pepper until skin is charred black
Cut onion up finely
Cut carrot up finely

Put onion and carrot in a saucepan and gently sauté.
Whilst this is happening remove skin and seeds from tomatoes and chop them up
Remove skin from peppers and chop them

Add peppers and tomatoes to carrot and onion, add tomato puree and then enough liquid to cover contents of pan. Add salt, seasoning, sugar, paprika and simmer for a few minutes.
Liquidise/zap/blitz/blend with preferred gadget or hand blend through sieve.
Reheat and serve.  Swirl cream if used on top.  And that is how it looks like a Catherine Wheel!  Ok, if that not bonfire enough put a sparkler in the bread roll that accompanies it!

Friday, 28 October 2011

Give for free


This entry has
1) Charity: Can you click your mouse? You can donate for free!
2) Sundried and tomato Bread Recipe
3) Knitting Myth Buster
4) Site seeing
5) Podcast of the week

1) Charity: Can you click your mouse? You can donate for free!

Came across this amusing spoof http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5dMlXentLw
Which as you will see is part of Comic Relief.  But that only happens once a year, and it is possible to continue to give to good causes throughout the year For Free!!!   So consider visiting such sites as these, where “clicks” benefit a charity.  Some of them are one off, some could be visited more frequently, and for those who like puzzles they are catered for too, here are some examples:-


Sun dried tomato and olive bread rolls

If anyone wants to do these and not used to baking breads, and finds my description not in enough depth, just contact me via comments and I will help.
12oz strong white bread flour,
 packet of easy blend yeast,
1tsp salt
1tsp sugar
About 4tbs dried sundried tomatoes cut into small pieces
6 (at least) stoned olives cut into quarters
 tepid milk/soya milkwith 3tbs olive oil and squidge of tomato puree to make half a pint liquid.  (need not be all milk it can be half milk half water)
Add the easy blend yeast to the flour, and then all other dry ingredients.  Adjust the tomatos and olives quantities according to personal preference.
Add the liquid slowly until a good soft dough is achieved.  If the dough remains too crumbly add more liquid, if the dough is too sticky to knead add some flour.
Knead dough for about 10 mins by hand or 3 mins in a Kenwood Chef type mixer.
Leave to rise till doubled in size, I put mine on the top of the stove, (freestanding stove), and put the oven on, this accelerates the rising and the dough ready in an hour.
Take the dough from the bowl and divide into 6 or 8 pieces.  6 makes nice larger size baps, 8 makes smaller ones!
Form the pieces into round balls and knead into flattish shapes, and place on baking tray.  Dust the baps with light covering of flour and put to rise again for about 20 mins so double in size again.
Oven number 7 for about 9 mins.   To ensure they are cooked tap the base and the bap should sound hollowish.
Put on a rack and cover with clean cloth to cool. 
Sit back with smug glow at how clever you have been 

3) Knitting Myth Buster
Unbelieveable though it is, there are still people out there who think knitting is old fashioned, “something my old gran did”, fuddy duddy etc.  So to nip this misconception in the bud……
The name Vogue has always been associated with stylish dressing, and Vogue knitting site is not deviating from this concept.  The link here is for their free patterns, but do look at the main stuff as well.  But I give the free pattern links as starting points, as there is also the conception that "designer" knitting is too expensive. One doesnt have to use the yarn suggested, more budget priced yarn can be substituted if the original is too expensive. .
http://www.vogueknitting.com/free_patterns.aspx
Another site with a modern approach is http://www.knitonthenet.com/free_patterns/
There are others which I will mention in future too

4)Other Site Seeing
This week satirical magazine Private Eye celebrates 50 years.  Current editor Ian Hislop is known to most as panellist on “Have I got news for you”. 
The site is:http://www.private-eye.co.uk/ gives a good indication of  the excellent value magazine.
For intellectuals who are not after satire but political awareness, then perhaps New Statesman should be the destination http://www.newstatesman.com/ but personally it is a bit heavy for me at times, but it is a thought provoking site.

 5)Podcast of the week
For potted biographies of an eclectic mix of people, try http://www.oxforddnb.com/public/podcast.xml
Some of the subjects are modern, some from history, but many interesting ones.  I like to think of these as “tasters” and then decide if I want to go on and read more about that person. Check out the site and see for yourself the enormous choice of biographies from which to choose.