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Tuesday, 29 November 2011

. . . and there was knitting!

Finished the knitting just in time.  Tonight we had yet another band rehearsal; actually, as it was Petr's birthday, it sort of degenerated into a celebration night and we didn't rehearse at all.  Coincidentally, tonight was fish and chip night!  Once a month we get a fish and chip van, run by an English couple, visiting a local town.  It's a very nice treat once a month, and tonight was the night.

Here are the fish and chips - hungry?

Battered cod and chips with home made mushy peas (apologies to German readers, but they really are called mushy peas! - apparently mushy isn't a nice word in German).  Food is about as photogenic as I am, it never looks as good when it's photographed.  It was delicious though.

Here's the birthday boy wearing his present (handspun camel with sheep's wool stripes) :-

Sorry we didn't have enough candles Petr . . . fire regulations and all that, you know?

Perfect fit!

And after a perfect night, I'm off to bed.  Goodnight all.

Monday, 28 November 2011


I love bread, don't you?  Especially ultra-fresh home made bread.  For the last month though not a crumb has passed my lips, and I miss it.

I'd been feeling a bit "off" sometimes after meals for some time and it was gradually getting worse - uncomfortable stomach, bloating and, more recently, acid reflux - not nice. After a lot of thinking about what I was eating when it happened I realised it was only after meals where we'd had bread.  Not knowing what it was that was affecting me (wheat, yeast or the additives commercial bakers use) I decided I had to cut it out of my diet for a while.  Result : symptoms disappeared and I had more energy, I'd been feeling quite sluggish too.

A month later, I'm really missing bread.  So, I decided that to get to the bottom of this I have to do a few experiments.  Firstly, I need to see if it was additives in commercial bread (apparently they use flour extenders and stuff that makes it rise and cook faster), so the obvious test was to make my own bread. Yesterday was baking day as well as dyeing - flour, a little salt, fresh yeast mixed with a spoon of honey, and water, it doesn't come more basic than that.

Today, for lunch, I'm having one of these - fingers crossed it doesn't affect me.  If it does, I'll have to make some unleavened bread, without yeast, and see how I get on with that. Actually, a few weeks ago, a friend who's a wheat expert suggested I try making pancakes to see if that affects me because if not, I could probably blame the yeast.  We did try some that same lunchtime and although my stomach felt OK, I did get acid reflux afterwards.  So, a bit inconclusive.  The final test will be to make bread with something other than wheat.

I know this is not an allergy, it's an intolerance to something.  The fact that it crept up on me tells me that.  I'm really, really hoping it's additives, I've no problem with baking my own bread for the rest of my life!

Fingers crossed X

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Today I Dyed!

What more can I say??

Alpaca cooking in the pan :-

Steamy Merino :-

Alpaca drying :-

Merino drying :-

These are, however, acid dyes.  I still haven't managed a good green from nature, unless it's using two colours, i.e. woad over dyed with yellow.  The last photo reminds me of cabbage!

Tonight I'm knitting . . . photos tomorrow.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Final Cotton Update 2011

OK, I give in, the cotton ran out of sunshine this year.  It got quite a long way, but in the end just didn't happen.  The seeds didn't go in until the last week of  June and germinated 5 days later in early July, so it's hardly surprising really.  Two of the plants are still alive and well, mainly because they're protected by glass cloches, but without lots of sunny heat there's not much chance of them progressing any further.

This morning, being of the grossly impatient type, I cut off one of the seed pods (not the oldest and largest) to see what was going on inside.  It obviously had quite a lot of growing still to do, although the seeds were starting to form.


Obviously not fluffy cotton wool, but still quite fibrous.

Oh well, I've still got some seeds left for next year, so we'll see what 2012 brings.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Nightmare Night Out II

Saturday night was party night at Colette's local village hall - a fund-raiser for her art for development association.  This was a follow-on from one she ran last year which was very successful.

Why "Nightmare Night Out II"?  Well, last year one of the "guests" was an English journalist who very kindly published a report on the night afterwards.  The "English kids" were unruly and totally out of control (actually some of them were French, and the French like to include their children in anything that's going on, and they're allowed to enjoy themselves), the French were totally bemused and didn't enjoy themselves (so why did they come back this year?) or the English food (bangers and beans - actually the sausages were English), and the band were terrible - that's us (Dolly Blues) in case you didn't know.

Needless to say, she wasn't invited back this year, but we thought the title was quite apt!

Anyway, this year there was chilli con carne and a veggie chilli for non-meat eaters, plus all the accompaniments - creme fraiche, tortillas, chill sauce etc.  Colette had organised an art competition for "les infants terrible", with a medal for each child and prizes for the best pictures.  She had also organised a raffle with lots of prizes, and the awful band played until 1 a.m. (without being booed off!).  Another successful night.

Ready to rock
Lionnel, our French bass player, showing off his new jacket
The lovely Colette!
Wilco, alias "Animal"!

Dolly Blues
Now where do I put my fingers again?
A big thank you to Colette and all her helpers who worked really hard to make the night work.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Happy Olives and Happy-Ending Wool

Happy, smiling olives in brine, just waiting for the time when we can eat them - 10 jars! They'll need to be soaked in clear water for 24 hours before we add herbs or garlic and olive oil, and we're really looking forward to sampling our own home-grown olives.  I tasted one before I bottled them and they were quite peppery with lots of flavour.  Apparently they need to stay in the jars for between one and two months before they're ready. Clock's ticking!!

Remember the alpaca Jak was helping me to card?  I spun a bobbin of it, navajo plied it (for non-spinners, that just means that instead of plying the wool from two bobbins which gives two strands twisted together, this was done from one bobbin in a sort of chain - one strand is continually pulled through a loop to create 3 strands twisted together) and then washed it.  I thought it would be a really nice white after washing, but actually it just looked dirty.

No problem, I decided to dye it.  A friend had just given me some pomegranates so I chopped them up and dyed the wool.  It should have come out a nice muted yellow colour . . . but all that happened was that it just looked a little bit dirtier.

OK, still not a problem, the pomegranate acts as a mordant because of it's high tannin content (which helps the wool absorb the dye and makes it "fast" - in other words, it's not going to wash out) so I decided to throw it into another dyepot, this time carrot tops. Again, it didn't quite turn out as planned, in fact it just looked dirtier still!

By this time I was getting a bit fed up, so I left the wool in the pan, drained off most of the liquid, and randomly poured in some red dye and also some hot pink.  After half an hour on the heat, this is what came out :-

which I was really quite pleased with.

Unfortunately, or fortunately as it turned out, after all that activity - wash, dye, dye, dye, wash - it had started to felt and the strands stuck themselves together.  It took a bit of separating whilst I was making it into a ball, but the nice thing is I ended up with really soft, floofy wool.

Nice little tufty bit!

Now, my last problem is, can I repeat it and make another ball?

Friday, 18 November 2011

Dodgy Phone Line

Just a very quick note to say we're having trouble with our phone line, yet again!  Which means no internet.  It's just come back on briefly but don't know if there'll be time to post this message.  It comes on for a few minutes then it's off for hours again.  Needless to say, France Telecom didn't replace our phone line the last time we were having trouble.  Ah well, c'est la vie say the old folks!

Hopefully they'll fix it on Monday, in the meantime things might be a little quiet on here.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Made with Love in France . . .

Hey, I finished something else!

A few weeks ago, a friend asked me to knit one of these :-

Sorry about the model, she was the only one available at the time.  Must speak to the agency!

I only realised afterwards, it looks rather odd with my plait hanging over my shoulder as well.  Too late now, the hat was delivered this evening, so can't take any more photos.

This pattern is an adaptation of one in Lexi Boeger's book Intertwined.  I love this book, every spinner should have one - amazing!  Instead of using the same wool as the hat for the plaits, I used camel wool and just ran some sparkly wool through each strand of the plaits.  The camel wool really does look like hair, and when I've worn mine people have actually thought the plaits were my own (from the front view anyway).

The hat was made of merino with a touch of silk, and some of the colours were hand dyed using plants from the garden (can't remember exactly what was used, but there was definitely some madder in there), and the sparkly wool in the plaits was Sirdar Vegas which I really love to use as an "add-in".  Think it might be a bit much on its own though.

Made with love in France . . . and a helping paw from Jak!

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Al Fresco at Play

Our band, Al Fresco, had a rehearsal today at Ken and Angela's house.  Everyone took new songs, we tried seven new ones, ate, drank, gossiped, took the world to bits and set it to rights again - all the usual stuff.

. . . and there were cats - always a bonus!

Eric Claptout on vocals and lead guitar
Spikey Pipsqueak on cushion
Ken on vocals and rhythm guitar
Katharine on vocals and percussion
Angela on Congas and Cajon

Petr on Cajon
and, last but not least :-

Moi on vocals and percussion; Poppet on my Knee!
Not many words today, but the photos say it all!

Friday, 11 November 2011


What a date - and, if I time it just right, this will be published at 11 a.m.

This post actually has absolutely nothing to do with the time, or date though.  Being a mushroom-oholic I'm always on the lookout for interesting specimens (edible or not), and yesterday, whilst driving to the nearest town on a back road, I suddenly spied a nice sized clump of mushrooms in a field.  I was pretty sure they were parasol mushrooms (edible) so had to stop for a look.  Unfortunately, the field was all fenced off - not sure if it was electric fencing, but the fence was there for a reason, not only to keep animals in, but probably also to keep us out!  Luckily there were three specimens at the side of the road (which didn't stay there very long - I love getting something for free!)

These two were tight round balls last night, so I put them in water hoping they'd open up today, and they do seem to be doing that.  The third mushroom wasn't photographed - we ate it.

Might just have to go back today to see if there are any more.  Mushroom omelette for lunch!

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Colette's Sweater

Well, I finally finished something!  Colette's sweater has now been delivered, and here she is wearing it :-

. . . sexy or what??  Wait till she changes the jeans for a pair of fishnet leggings!

You may notice two differences in the above sweater from what was originally planned.  Firstly, there's no hood.  We changed this because she wanted a slash neck and it was going to be difficult to fit a hood without it dragging the neckline out of shape.  Secondly, there's no slash neck!  The reason for this was that, when the sweater was almost finished, I tried it on and discovered that there was no way she was going to be able to wear it next to her skin - it was just a bit prickly - therefore, she'd have to wear something under it.  A slash neck would have been OK, but it does limit what you can wear underneath it. So, no slash neck and no hood either.  I think it looks pretty good on her though.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

First Olives

I picked my first olives this morning, one or two of them were starting to get pecked by the birds so it was obviously time.  We did have olives last year, but we were away when they ripened and the birds got the lot.  (The year before, we got one!!)

I found a recipe on the internet which explained how to remove the bitterness, and they are now soaking in a brine solution - all 1.75 kg of them!  It may not sound a lot, but should fill quite a few jars.  The olives have to soak in brine for at least ten days, and the brine must be changed each day.  To test if they're ready you have to taste one - if you've ever tasted an olive straight from the tree you'll realise this is not something to be undertaken lightly!

I'm not sure what I'll do with them after that - need to do a bit more research.  The recipe says to bottle them in brine with a centimetre of olive oil on the top, but I think there are ways to add other flavourings too, i.e. herbs, garlic etc.  How exciting to have our very own olives!

I've saved a couple of stones from the ones the birds had pecked so I'll plant those to see if they'll grow.  We're a long way off an orchard though!