Wednesday, 30 April 2014

very dead, definitely not an evergreen

About this time last year I bought two kits from Jared Flood.  The first I made as a Rosebud hat a present for one DIL.  I liked the pattern but did not like the wool  It was splitty and full of vegetable matter and seeds.  I doubt Australian Customs would have been impressed if they had inspected.  Their policies are very strict, as they ought to be.  The second was for the Sempervivum shawl which I wanted as something to concentrate on.  As things turned out, I didn't use it and took it out only a week ago.

Now I've used patterns from there before.  They are attractive garments, patterns are well written and illustrated and easy to follow.  But not this one.  For almost all my life I was a very verbal person, quite happy to follow written instructions in knitting patterns.  About ten years ago, I made myself learn how to read and work from charts and much to my surprise, I like them.  Since then, I use charts and like seeing how things develop by checking the chart.  Not this time.  There were charts, four of them.

One chart was very large and had been reduced in size to fit on an A4 sheet of card.  It was almost impossible for my eyes to read accurately and I knew I would be tearing my hair out trying to follow it. So I ripped out what I had done and spent a lot of time looking for something else to suit yarn and the amount I had.

Their kits come only with written patterns.  I for one, would appreciate a password protected site where a pdf of the pattern could be downloaded after purchase.  I transfer pdfs to Evernote which runs across my computer, iPad and iPhone.  I always have access to the pattern.  When I use them in iPad or iPhone, I can enlarge the page view with a simple swipe.  So easy and so convenient.  I have taken a photo in the past and put that on Evernote, but it did not seem to work this time.

So what did I find?  I decided to try Mairi because of the different techniques used in it. Here's a  link.  The lacy edge is based on fourteen stitches and a twenty row repeat.  Halfway along the length, a series of short rows forms a turn, and after the remaining edge is done, stitches are picked up for the body of the shawl.  Four stitches are decreased every second row for shawl shaping.  Obviously my picture shows a work in progress and it should open up with some blocking.

Two sons had a quick trip to Melbourne on the Anzac Day long weekend.  They rented a furnished apartment and seem to have spent most of the time eating, drinking coffee and listening to live music.   They had a great time.  They returned Sunday, in the daylight because of work the next day.  At Euroa they had a pot of tea in a cafe and bought local jam, quince for me, fig and ginger for them although I like that  too.  Just out of Euroa, they bought a tray of free range farm eggs, twenty.  I already had eight at home, so had to think of a way to use some.  I like frittata so decided on that.  Mine are always passable, but DIL makes better.  So I looked for a recipe to suit what I had.  I found asparagus and onion frittata to serve four.  I substituted leek as son here loathes onions unless they are chopped so finely they cannot be seen or felt.  I even had cream and goats cheese and a fresh block of parmesan, ready to grate.  Recipe said it serves four.  If served in one  go, I think there could be more serves with extra vegetables.  We had it with farm mushrooms and son had a large piece of leftovers for lunch next day.  My piece was small but I added salad.  This was easy to make and delicious.  By far the best I have ever made. Photo shows it just after top was grilled.

Good news for Miss M.  The doctors have suggested she try some school in the off week when she is not in hospital for chemo.  They suggested a couple of half days to start with but she was very excited on Monday morning when son picked up her siblings.  Uniform on, uniform hat on, huge grin on.  She stayed the whole day but has been too exhausted to return.  However, it's a step forward for her and she needs to see her friends and be in some sort f routine other than daytime TV. Especially since one person she has met at hospital lost his fight agains leukaemia yesterday.  I know the success rate for cures is very high, but it's not 100%.  This is the second death in a week I have heard of and I was saddened depute her progress.  I try not to think of that small percentage not cured.

Monday, 21 April 2014


I like gnocchi but have never made them.  Some homemade gnocchi which I have been given have had the consistency of semi-solidified Clag glue.  I have heard this comes from overbeating the potato mix so the texture is modified.

I found a recipe for pumpkin gnocchi and tried it at the weekend.  Not having pumpkin, I substituted sweet potato.

This is to make four servings.

250 gm sweet potato or pumpkin and 500 gm ordinary potato.

Scrub well but do not peel.  Place on baking paper on tray and bake in moderate oven  till soft.  Mine took about 50 minutes but shape of potatoes will influence time.

Allow to cool and then peel and place both types of potato in a large bowl.

Mash, using a potato masher or solid fork.  Do NOT add butter or milk and definitely do not use any mechanical means of mashing.  Make sure the two types of potato are mixed together.

Fold in 3/4 cup plain flour.  Be careful not to  be too energetic here.  Use  something like a wooden spoon.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Place on lightly floured surface and knead till smooth, again being gentle.

Divide dough into four and roll each portion out into a long  roll about 2 cm in diameter.  Using a floured knife, cut dough into slices about 2 cm thick.  I found this was too thick and suggest making them a bit thinner.

Roll over the back of a floured fork to give s slightly rounded shape and the impress of the fork onto them.

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil and add about a quarter of the gnocchi.  Cook about two minutes or until they float to the surface.  remove with a slotted spoon and keep warm while cooking remainder.

Serve with leek and basil butter sauce.

Sauce recipe: Melt 40 gm of butter in pan.  Add a finely sliced leek and a long red chilli, deseeded and chopped finely.  Cook in butter, being careful not to let it burn.  The recipe said one long chilli but I used two as we both like it.  It gave a good tang without being overbearing and was great on a  chilly night.  Just before serving, stir in a handful of fresh basil and spoon sauce over the gnocchi.  Serve with additional salad.

We enjoyed them.  The recipe was easy.  It was a bit fiddly, so I may not make it often but it was  something quite different and was also another recipe for a meatless meal.

Monday, 14 April 2014

happy birthday, mum

I've seen many posts from others about missing parents who have died.  I still miss Mum and she's still very often thought of and referred to by other family members.  The youngest great grandchild does not have strong memories but the others all remember.  The sayings which came from her have passed into family talk.  Not clichéés, but things which were funny at the time, either by circumstance or tone. "I just fancy a boiled egg," and my sister and I immediately hear the pathetic tone in which this was said.

The fourth anniversary of her death was just a few days ago and today was her birthday.  She would have been 94 today.

My sister from well up the coast is in Sydney and came to lunch on Saturday found this photo.  It was only a small one, taken by a street photographer.  She had it enlarged and it has come up very well indeed.  It was a (very) early birthday present for me.  I think it was taken in 1941 and Mum would have been 21.  She's beautiful and looks lovely here.  I'm very glad she had it enlarged and clicking on the picture here gives a much better view of her.  It's not really pink, it's the early morning sunshine causing the strange hues here.  Still after the rain we have had, the sun is very welcome.  The weather bureau reported rain on 22 days in March and April is going the same way.

As we looked and then looked at pictures of her father, we could see the resemblance even in her great grandchildren, especially in the eyes.

My sister brought the roses from a rose farm out near where she is staying.  She brought a big bunch of pale pink roses for me and two of these smaller bouquets  for my two small granddaughters who were here for the weekend.  They were amazed someone should give them flowers.  Miss M could not have flowers when she was in hospital and so sick, so they loved these.  Unfortunately they forgot to take them home so I get the pleasure of looking at the roses a while longer.  The vase is very old, well over a hundred years.

Miss M had more time in hospital from  Sunday a week ago till Wednesday afternoon.  This was for the usual procedures and monitoring the start of the third lot of chemo.  Unfortunately, the effect of the anti-nausea drug did not last long enough and she spent some hours constantly throwing up and had to be re-admitted.  She was well enough to come to my place but had extra medicine which was fenced about with times and regulations.  We coped and she and her sister had a good time here.

To compound the noise level, the 15year old older brother arrived yesterday.  I remember annoying my mother by reading, stretched out flat on the floor.  She could not understand why anyone would read like that. This photo shows him on the sofa bed.  He lay like this for an hour watching a replay of an English soccer match on my iPad.  One knee is on the floor and the iPad is in the corner of the lounge.  I am sure being stretched out on the floor as I used to be is more comfortable than being like this.

It's a while since I have seen him.  At Christmas he was about my height.  He is now well and truly taller than I am and is on the verge of being taller than his dad.

He is noisy and teases his sisters who of course react.  In a way it's reassuring to hear Miss M reacting to what he says or does.  In reality it was unpleasantly loud in a small apartment.

His dad took them home in the early evening last night and I must admit I'm relishing the quiet.

I made one glove for Master 8 who lost the pair I made last year, or perhaps they disappeared in the moves their parents made.  I'm shortly going to find some knitting and sit and concentrate.  I'm thinking of something more than a fingerless glove, perhaps the Stephen West shawl for which I bought both pattern and wool quite a while ago.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

famous last words

I hope these are not another case of famous last words.  "I have finished with hats for a while."  I really  hope
so.  I have done about nine or perhaps more since February and I need a break.  This is for my eldest son.  Each has his annual new warm hat now.  Again in Quince and Co, Owl.  Colour is huckleberry.

I like the effect of the twisted rib against the plain purl background, but I was heartily sick of twisting every plain stitch in the hat.  The colour here is fairly accurate, a deep rich blue but I put the hat on a paper serviette as a background to show off the blue.

The pattern was for a child but the hat circumference went to an adult size and I adjusted the depth of the hat before doing the crown.

It's been a busy weekend here.  I was down south yesterday and returned to find youngest son and my eight year old grandson.  He had the chance of hearing a band he hadn't heard for eighteen years.  Could I mind my grandson and could they both sleep overnight.  We sorted out some times and off he went to Enmore Theatre with his older brother.

The son who now lives with me returned and said there was a free concert  at the Opera House forecourt, so he took Master F and off they went.  They both had a wonderful time listening to Australian and Maori indigenous music with some Scottish singers thrown in for good measure. He took Master F around to the Harbour Bridge and down to the Rocks area.  He had a great time looking at plaques and working out dates from them.  They were late back, too late really for an eight year old, but there was an extra hour sleep because of daylight savings ending.  We sorted out sleeping arrangements, got him to bed, other son arrived and we had a nightcap on the balcony.

Youngest son spent some time doing some housekeeping on my commuter this morning.  I keep things fairly tidy, but there are areas I will not touch.  I know my limits, so he sorted  stuff out for me.

They all then went their separate ways and I had a pleasant lunch of just ripe pears, some blue cheese and some walnuts.  Very good it was too.  Before they left Master F announced he had lost his gloves I made last year, could I do more?  I suspect they may have been a casualty of their moving.  So he drew a tracing of his hand and I'll use some of the leftover Quince and Co Owl 10 ply.  They'll be striped but I think that's OK with him.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

find a wheel and it goes round and round...

When I was in the second year of high school, there was a song with those words in it.  I was never much into peer pressure as I had grown up at the same school as Dad taught at and I was used to ignoring remarks of any kind and jibes.

However, even at High School I was well up near the top of the class in most subjects.  We won't mention maths.  I was regarded as a swat.  When that song became popular, I badgered my parents for it as a birthday present.  I am sure they didn't know what was happening.  It wasn't the sort of music I was interested in at all.  However, they bought me a 45 rpm recording and if I think hard, I can still hear the wretched thing.

Life is a bit like that recently, or perhaps I should say still.  Miss M had yet more bone marrow biopsies and lumbar punctures yesterday.  This was in preparation for the third round of chemo which was to have started a  week ago but will now start next Sunday night.  It is nasty indeed and requires fur days hospitalisation every two weeks.  That cycle will go round and round  for the next eight weeks.

We managed to get them last Sunday for a while and the picture shows Miss M and big sister Miss T doing craft work some lovely knitter sent.  Miss T's right arm is definitely broken, probably in two places and is still painful despite a full cast from finger tips to upper arm, almost the shoulder.  Her dad found a T-shirt in a shopping centre which said, "Keep calm and break arms," so she now has that.  It was late Sunday afternoon and a heavy thunderstorm was rolling in, so light was poor.

That's another thing going round and round.  Their mother really needs help as she cycles through various moods.  On Sunday she was being charming, possibly helped along by other people being present.  Yesterday she was rude and arrogant and actually just plain wrong.

My fingers have been going round and round too.  I finished a hat in Quince and Co, Owl, for youngest son.  He likes philosophy and ancient history and has spoken to me of Socrates many times.  It will tickle his fancy that the colour of this hat is named hemlock.  I made an adult size version in cranberry of a hat already made for Miss M.  It's much darker than photo shows.

I'm making yet another hat and my fingers are going round and round and round.  Also in Qunice and Co, Owl, in blueberry.  It's for my oldest  son and it has a fancy twisted rib pattern.  I like the effect, but  every knit stitch is through back of loop and I'm getting tired of it.  That will be the last hat for a while.  I'm thinking about a complicated shawl so I really have to concentrate on the knitting.

My vegetable box had a bunch of cavolo nero, or Italian cabbage in it.  I've used it before and really like it.  I steamed it with the water on the leaves from washing it and a tiny bit of butter.  To this I added garlic and chilli.   Son had never had it but enjoyed it.  I discovered that when he had washed up, he had put the small amount of leftovers into a container.  I put it into a shallow pie dish, added a bit of Dijon mustard and two organic eggs.  I baked it till eggs were done.  Leftovers going round and round were a very pleasant and innovative lunch.

So life goes on or goes round and round.