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Tuesday, 28 February 2012

New Grannie!

Just heard from my friend Sarah (also one of my followers) that her daughter gave birth to a 6 lb 3 oz baby boy last night in the UK.

Here he is at 40 minutes old with Suzy, his Mum.  Welcome to the world Alfie (named after their first goat - typical!)

Apparently they're both doing well, and Sarah is going over tomorrow to spend some time with them.

Have fun Hun!! - and don't forget to come back!

Rowena's Houmous

This is a recipe given to me by my friend Rowena, and I think it's the best houmous I've ever tasted.  I made some last week when we had friends round, and I've made another lot since.  The recipe has been passed far and wide since Rowena gave it to me.

2 cups cooked chickpeas (reserve a little of the fluid in case it's needed)
1/3 cup Tahini
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tsp salt
+/- 2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp olive oil
Paprika and parsley to garnish

Blend the first five ingredients until smooth.  If the mix is too thick, thin it down with a little of the chickpea fluid from the tin.  Spread into a flat-bottomed dish, garnish with paprika and parsley, then drizzle with olive oil.

Easy peasy!  And much better than the houmous you buy in the supermarket.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Steve Walton Band Rocks!!

Saturday night was the debut performance of the new band Eric is playing in.  The Steve Walton Band was formed in the latter part of 2011 and they've been practicing like mad ever since.

The band consists of Steve (centre) who sings lead and plays rhythm guitar, JB (Jeff) who plays a mean bass, Geoff on drums, and Eric, also singing lead and playing lead guitar.

Unfortunately, they were drummer less on Saturday as Geoff has had some health problems recently and was just too ill to make the gig.  I imagine he was pretty sick about that too, because music is in his veins and he would never normally miss a chance to play.  Get well soon Geoff, we missed you!

I tried to get individual photos of the three of them, but as you can see, they're not brilliant.  Those lights were in the wrong place.

He looked away, just as I took this one.  Nice shirt though!!

Next time someone points a camera at you all, KEEP STILL!!

I took some short videos on the night which I'll try and upload, but I haven't been very successful with that in the past.  I think the files are just too big.

No, it rejected them straight away.  Have to do a bit of research on that.  In the meantime, you can always visit their website : where you can listen to a sample of their music.

Sunday, 26 February 2012


Just realised it's 2 weeks since I last blogged.  I must have a very boring life - no, I just haven't done anything much that you'd be interested in.  But, today is Sun-dye!

I found these interesting-looking fungi growing on some dead logs on the wood pile and they looked as though they might give a bit of colour, so today I gave it a go.

I've tried to id them online, and also in my mushroom and toadstool books, plus my dyeing books, but still haven't a clue what they are.  They looked like little cushions sitting on the wood and were stuck pretty well.  It took a while to prise them all off.

Lots of colour on this one

I collected about 200g and broke them up into small pieces for the dyepot - they look a bit lot like Jak's biscuits!

I covered them with water and set them on the gas ring to heat.  After they'd been simmering for about 15 minutes, I added some ammonia which raises the ph and gives a stronger colour.  It didn't smell very nice, but wasn't too strong.  Another half hour of simmering released a lot of colour.  It looks a bit reddish when stirred, but there's a lot of yellow in there.  I'm hoping to get a strong yellow or maybe an orange.

I'm leaving the pieces to sit in the dye overnight and then tomorrow I'll strain them out.  I think there's probably still colour in them, so I may boil them up again and see what I get.

As for dyeing the wool, tomorrow I'll get some fleece washed and then mordant it (with alum and cream of tartar) and probably dye it the next day.  I'll report back soon - keep your fingers crossed.

Oh, and if anyone knows what these are, please let me know.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Projects Progress

Just in case you think we're just sitting here idle since we've been iced-in, you wouldn't be far wrong.  But there has been knitting, and spinning, and planning.

Firstly, I spun the first skein of mohair/silk for my Rowan cardigan.  I weighed out probably a bit more than 100g (70g mohair and 30g silk), and have ended up with 95g, giving me 694 yards (640m).  The cardigan needs less than 1,374 yards, so I reckon if I do another skein of the same weight, I should have enough.

I was very careful not to put too much twist in this while spinning, because I realised it would have to be a single strand, not plied, and I didn't want it to "lean" to one side in the knitting.  When taking it off the bobbin though, I did have 3 or 4 places which were too thin or didn't quite have enough twist, so I ended up knotting those together.  I'll deal with them properly when I'm knitting the cardigan.

The wool has a nice sheen from the silk (which shows up in the second photo), and a bit of fluffiness from the mohair (which you can just see on the first photo) and should be nice to wear next to the skin.  This still has to be dyed, and I'm a bit undecided on the colour.  It will either be blues or pinks, two of my favourite colours, but I just don't know which to choose.

Before I can finish this though, I decided it was time to do some knitting.  I've been promising Sarah (from the Camel Farm) that I'd knit her a camel wool sweater using the wool from her own camels.  As winter is (hopefully!) almost over, I thought I'd better get on with it.  Otherwise she won't get to wear it until next winter.

The wool is spun as chunky, and she decided she wanted a long, baggy sweater with a deep rib and v-neck.  I only had enough wool if I used mainly camel but with alpaca and llama mixed in.  Since these were different colours (Brewster is a bit of a ginger nut, and Tallulah is dark grayish brown), we decided it was best if I spun some more camel and knit it all one colour.

This is as far as I've got so far - 17.5"/45cm, and am almost ready to start the neck decreases.  I have two balls of wool left, so this afternoon's job is to spin this lot :-

which will give me another ball of wool just in time to carry on knitting.  There may be a slight pause while I spin some more though.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Snow Joke!

OK, enough's enough.  When is this snow going to go away.  It's not particularly the snow that bothers us, it's the ice it's turned into.

Today was the first time we'd ventured out in the car since the snow arrived last Sunday. We live at the top of a hill which has now turned into a steep ski slope of ice.  The post hasn't been delivered all week because the post van can't make it up the hill, and we were running short of food.  Soup and pasta is great, but not every day!  Something had to be done.  So today Eric managed to fit some chains to the wheels of our car, quite a feat as they are actually for a smaller car.  Anyway, it enabled us to get down the hill and into town to stock up.

The problem came when we tried to get back up the hill!  He put the chains back on at the bottom of the hill and we inched our way up the slope.  Three quarters of the way up, at the steepest part, we lost one of the chains which had wrapped itself round the axle. Luckily, he'd had the foresight to put some spare chains in the car (which also didn't fit!) and spent the next 20 or so minutes trying to fit those as it got darker and darker. Anyway, we managed to get the rest of the way up and put the car to bed.

We're now fully stocked with food, we collected the post, delivered provisions to the neighbours and look forward to the end of the cold snap.  That was until Eric phoned a friend tonight who calmly informed him that we've got more snow forecast on Monday!

The daft thing is, we only got about 3 or 4 inches of snow - when we lived in Scotland we usually had 2 or 3 dumps of snow at least 18 inches deep each year and had fewer problems!  Mind you, they were quite good at clearing the roads there.  They don't seem to bother here.

So, if we can't get out for a while, it's a perfect opportunity for sitting in front of the fire knitting and spinning.  Nothing's as bad as it seems is it?

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Colour Blindness

I think I may be colour blind.  No, not my eyes, I can distinguish colours perfectly.  I think it's my memory that's colour blind.  Is that possible?  I just don't seem to be able to remember colours.  Not just shades, colours.

The first time I noticed it was quite a number of years ago when I met my friend and her daughter in the local supermarket.  The next day I spoke to her on the phone and said "that was a nice pink and white dress Ruth was wearing yesterday" . . . silence on the other end of the phone until Margaret finally said "you mean the blue and white striped one?" - ah, yes, that would be the one!  (It may have been the other way round, I still can't remember what colour it was).

I've always known I wasn't good with matching different shades unless I had a sample with me, but it's never really been a problem because Eric is really good at that sort of thing.

Then the other day it struck again (not that it hasn't many times in between, but this one seemed particularly significant).  We decided to go for a walk in the snow, and I said I'd go and get our snow boots.  Eric then asked which ones I meant, and I said the green ones that we bought about 10 years ago.  Oh, you mean the blue ones with the green lining?  Ah, yes, they would be the ones!

My memory is definitely colour blind!

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Winter at Last

OK, so today we got the real thing.  No messing about with light salt pot dustings, today we had snowballs falling out of the sky.

This was about 10 o'clock this morning, and it's continued snowing since then.

Look at the sky!  We don't often get them like this :-

A little bit later, and all my footprints had been filled in, the cat refuses to go outside, and the washing machine won't work because the water supply feeding it is frozen.  We have two log burners in full swing, so we're keeping warm inside.

So, now that we've had winter, can we have spring tomorrow please?

This afternoon has been given to spinning my mohair and silk - it's too cold to do anything else.  I'm having to wear a face mask while I'm spinning though because otherwise it gets up my nose and down my throat.  This is as far as I've got, it's taking a while.

It looks thicker here than it actually is (honestly!) but it's spinning up nicely with a lovely soft halo which doesn't show up on these photos of course.

Will it be too thick for that cardigan?  Probably a bit.  Am I giving up on it?  Not a chance, I'll adapt the pattern, and anyway, I've got a reputation to keep up :-

Christmas present from Katharine, I think it's a napkin, but I'm not sure!

Friday, 3 February 2012

Spinning Challenge

For Christmas, I was given a really nice knitting pattern book, Rowan Studio Knits, designs by Sarah Hatton.  I immediately fell in love with one of the patterns, a pretty cardigan with a bow at the front.

There are actually several designs that I want to make, but this one has to be first.  So, off I went to find the wool (Rowan Kidsilk Haze), and was rather shocked to find that it was going to cost nearly £50 to make it - it was £8.25 per 25g ball.

Luckily, in the back of the book, they listed each of their wools and gave details of the make-up, i.e. this one is 70% kid mohair and 30% silk, plus how many yards/metres you can expect per 25g ball.  I had just bought 200g mohair (not kid, but we'll give it a go anyway), and some tussah silk, so I thought I'd have a go at spinning my own.  This yarn is ultra-fine, almost as fine as sewing thread, so it's a bit of a challenge.  I do like spinning finely, but I think this one might just be a bit beyond me.  It's going to have to be spun as a singles, because there's no way I can spin two strands fine enough to ply together.

Anyway, being housebound with this cold for a few days gave me the perfect opportunity to get started.

Two days ago I blended the mohair and silk on my drum carder, and yesterday got started with the spinning.

Oh, something else I'd never tried before.  I've never thought of buying a diz before to make my own roving because I don't have wool combs, but then I saw on the internet that you can actually use one with your drum carder.  Also, that it was possible to make your own with a milk bottle top.  It works!

One milk-bottle top diz!

Here you can see the roving collecting on the floor.

And here it is made into "nests" by winding around my hand, all ready to spin.

I'll let you know how I get on with this, and if it does turn out thicker than the real thing, I can always make the smallest size!

Thursday, 2 February 2012


It's snowing!!  OK, so maybe the photos below aren't that dramatic, but it is snow. Probably not even enough for a snowball , never mind a snowman.  But there's more due over the weekend.  And it's -4 deg C today.  Chilly!

That might look like just frost to you, but I saw it falling out of the sky - definitely snow.

Pathetic isn't it, getting excited about a vague dusting of snow at my age!

The borage picked a bad day to decide to flower :-

As for us, we're huddled in front of a log fire keeping warm (no central heating), especially as I started with a cold on Monday as we were travelling home.  Lots of hot toddies for me!! (plus the occasional sherry).

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Goodbye Ecosse

We're back!  We had a lovely 10-day holiday in Scotland and managed to catch up with all available family and a few friends as well.  What could be better.  We didn't have so much as a flake of snow, although it was pretty cold, especially as Dan's central heating died four days into our stay!  Hopefully it's been fixed now, but we did shiver a bit.

We did lots of shopping (goodies from my two favourite shops, White Stuff and Fat Face in particular), and walked nearly everywhere because we didn't hire a car and thought it would do us good to get a bit of exercise.  Quite a few meals out and lots of alcohol disappeared too.

Rogues gallery :-

The Boys
The Girls


Unfortunately, I didn't get good photos of the three individual couples, but I did get a good one of Dan and Fiona (new girlfriend).

So, that's it.  The next time we'll meet up is at Ben and Sam's wedding in Devon at the beginning of June.  Looking forward to that, but do I really have to wear a hat??