Friday, 27 January 2012


Have returned from a week in the South West and enjoyed seeing my mother, who has continued to improve her mobility and general health, which at 96 is rather good. Even better than one could hope as in September 2010 we were told she would not survive to Easter 2011!!  She has confounded everyone, and is determined to be a recipient of a telegram from the queen.

So this week it is called “musings” as there is not a great deal of content rather more like thoughts and topics are 1) Burns 2) on and off needles and hook, 3) a kindle freebook suggestion, 4)a useless fact

Two burn topics…..1) Burns night when Scots and would be Scots celebrate their national Bard Robert Burns.  Here is a link that gives some background, but for a nice introduction to the festivities Louise of Caithness Craft Collective has started her podcast this week with a Burns celebration and makes nice listening and lately she has been including a whisy tasting session that has proved most interesting and worth catching up on.
For vegetarians and vegans, the “haggis” is no longer a problem as there are excellent vegetarian/vegan haggis sold alongside conventional ones.  In fact see this site about them   and interesting ideas of what to do with any “left over”.  One in four haggis sold by this company is vegetarian which is a figure that surprised me.
If otherwise a homemade vegan haggis is required, then this is a recipe worth considering or vegetarian:

Oh yeah, the second topic of “burns”.  It is now indisputable that I have inherited my mother’s culinary skills.  In one day I managed to burn the bread, and later same day I burned some chocolate I was melting.  So she better watch out that I don’t match her record of 13 rounds of bread burnt whilst making toast one morning.

2)On and off needles and hook

Here is a pic of the baby afghan which pleased me so much I am now doing a full size one for myself! 
I am also embarking on a rather lovely shawlette by Andrea Arbour 
I have got past the boring bit and am on the lacy part now.  Her patterns are good as they afford the knitter both chart and written instructions.
3) kindle book recommendation.
This book is not one that would normally be associated with me, as it is a well known fact to all those who know me that I managed to fail all maths exams I sat.  But this is a fascinating book and worth checking out, if only to astound family and friends with the “the answer is 7” trick.  Have a look on amazon and that is more explicit in the explanation about the book.

4) Useless fact Do you know how many countries there are in the world?  The answer is at the end of this in case you want to think about it.  Yes, Joanne, you will be likely to know because you are Pub Quiz Queen.   I have for ages been  playing words with friends and hanging with friends with Nikki and her Mom Joy who lives in the US. And the messages that accompany the games have given me a good insight into their lives (we had never met prior to playing).  Anyway, Nikki mentioned she was going to Aruba.  “Aruba”??? Never heard of it, so I had to google it.  It then occurred to me I had no idea how many countries there are. It seems to be about 196.  And definition of a country is quite specific but often what one may think is a country is not.  This site explains it

Friday, 6 January 2012

Two for One


Wishing everyone who reads this a Happy New Year.  Though many of you will be jaded from the frenetic activity of the last couple of weeks! 
I am going away next weekend with Dominic to see my Mom, so there will be no blogging for a couple of weeks from me.  Hence the title Two for One as I have tried to put twice the content in this!

I have been busy over the festive period, and completed a nice small afghan for the expected baby, the idea is it can be used as an afghan or play mat. If I cannot get a pic of it this entry I will put one in another time.  It has so got me back into crocheting, although I was only ever a basic crocheter, I have bought the yarn to do a bedspread!  Yeah, I know what I said a few weeks back that I would never do another bedspread.  But I derived so much pleasure from the small afghan that I really want to try a larger project.
With knitting there can be the temptation to keep progressively doing more complicated projects, but I sat and thought “what was one of the best things you ever knitted”, and the answer was “a baktus”.  I will also definitely be doing another soon. I have asked the designer of the pattern I used if I may link on here to here pattern and she has kindly agreed.  See below for more on this.
This week there are recommendations for a knitting pattern, two podcasts, two free Kindle/E reader Books and  two recipes one  for Magic Eccles  Cakes which I learned how to do them from my Mom, (who won prizes for hers) and home made chocs.   And an "hello" from our resident squirrel who eats hazel nuts at an alarming speed.  If anyone knows what else he would like to eat please let me know.
1)    Knitting Pattern Recommendation. My photo does not do justice to this project, and to be honest the reason for this is that I have worn it so much before taking the pic!  It goes under coats without being bulky and affords plenty of warmth.  I have knitted many shawls and scarves but have had more compliments for this than any other.  So thank you Strikkelise for this lovely pattern.  Its well written and not difficult, and a fantastic stash buster as it can be done mono or multi coloured.

Podcast Recommendations   The two podcasts this week that I am recommending, are both video rather than audio.  I first watched the Apple Blossom and Ewe and for a while this was the only video one I subscribed to, and can be found here second is  They both have similar ways of presenting, both being chatty and informal.  Both of them have Ravelry groups to which the viewer can belong and feel part of the action.  They both do comprehensive reviews of fibre and yarn and patterns. Both have also done generous giveaways!

3)  Free ebook Recommendations:.  One modern, one historical.  Both of these are free and legal.  The first is More Blood, more sweat and another cup of tea by Tom Reynolds.  I got my copy from  Written by an emergency medical technician who works for London ambulance service. I have downloaded this book on recommendation.
The second is the evergreen Forsyte Saga which is also on  This is such a good work of fiction that it has twice been serialised on tv.  The depth of the characters are such that new nuances are gleaned each time the novel is read.
3) Two Recipes.  As always my recipes are suggestions rather than "instructions", but if there are any queries I will do my best to help. 
Magic Eccles Cakes  These are relatively simple to make especially if the pastry is bought ready made.  You will need: 1 packet of puff pastry (the block is better value than the ready rolled), 10 tbs or 8  handfuls of dried fruit, 2 tbs sugar (any kind), 1 heaped tbs of butter or margarine.   Put oven on number 6
Put the fruit,sugar and margarine in a saucepan and heat thoroughly stirring until there is no sign of the margarine and the sugar has virtually dissolved.  Put the saucepan in a bowl of cold water to cool the contents.
Roll out the pastry into 8 rounds, and onto each round put a portion of dried fruit, moisten the edges of the round and fold the edges over so that each cake is thoroughly sealed.  Turn them over so the edges are face down and across the smooth top cut a vent with a sharp knife.  Put the cakes on a baking tray which is either greased or covered in non stick paper.  Brush tops with milk/soya milk and sprinkle liberally with sugar.
Bake number 6 for about 12 mins.  Check and if they are golden brown they are done.  If not done, keep in oven till they are golden brown. 
Put on a rack to cool.  By the time it is tea time and you are ready to serve them you will have observed there are no longer 8 on the rack!  Well who could resist as they smell so nice.  That’s why they are “magic”, they disappear!
Yummy chocs.  My best friend Jo, is to blame for my new found delight in making chocolates at home.  She bought me a kit.  I have used a third of it, but since the chocolate is really special in it, I have decided to experiment with lesser chocolate so that eventually I will make really super ones with the remainder of the kit. The chocolate making took me back to childhood when my father would make Easter Eggs for every kid in our street, he would buy a huge brick of chocolate and he had a mould he had to use over and over.  But I knew from this that it doesnt have to be too technical.  So far I have made ginger clusters (in the pic they are the ones in paper cases), and soft centred ones. For both I melted chocolate I had bought in a block (any chocolate including cooking choc will do for this), and the best way is in a bowl over hot water, or if you in a hurry then hurl it in the microwave and keep an eye on it. 
To make the ginger ones I bought a tub of glace ginger pieces (the sort that goes in cakes and comes in tiny chunks), and stirred them into the melted chocolate and spooned the mix into the little cases.  Popped them in the fridge for a minimum of half an hour, and they will keep a while unless the temptation is too great to eat them.
To make the soft centred ones, I melted the choc and to make the centres I mashed banana and peanut butter together till really soft (microwave a few secs if necessary to warm the peanut butter and then add mashed banana).  I put some melted choc in the moulds (paper cases are fine), and then spooned a little into the centre and then filled the mould or case with more choc till mould full.  Again place in the fridge for a minimum of half an hour.  I thought that releasing from the mould might be tricky but it wasn’t at all.    The moulds are easily available and look like these   If not one can use ice cube trays or paper cases