Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Early bulbs

I do love to have early flowering bulbs in the house straight after Yuletide. The bright fresh colours, and clean smells give promise of Spring, and the possibility of new experiences. While I love the paperwhite narcissus, Best Beloved favours forced Hyacinths. The deep blue are his favourites. I hope to have some ready as the paperwhites go over.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014


Midwinter / Yule
Sitting at the opposite end of the year to Midsummer, this is also part of that older tradition I wrote of then. The Oak King, having defeated him in a fight reminiscent of rutting stags, now takes over from the Holly King, as consort to Mother Nature/Nature Goddess.
 The Lady, of course, is constant. Having presided over Samhain as the Crone, she retired to sleep away the winter, returning to the world rejuvenated, as a Maiden, in time for Imbolc, and bringing with her all the new growth in plants and animals.
Now, though, we heap the fires, and feast. Every culture has their own version of this middle-of-the -winter-dark festival, to remind ourselves that it will end.

     May your Yule celebrations be well blessed.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Small treasures

A little walk around my garden, last evening, yielded a small posy. Some of the flowers are supposed to be out now, the others don't seem to realise that they should have given up long ago. The posy consists of:

Two small buds of Rosa 'Joie de Vivre'
A sprig of Orlya
Five Erigeron
Four white Viola, ( these should all be over by now)
Two stems of Viburnum fragrans,
Two stems of Viburnum tinus,
One stem of Viburnum plicatum
Three stems Lonicera fragrantissima,

but no winter Helleborus, or Chimonanthus praecox ( wintersweet) as yet. They are small joys to be looked forward to.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Knitting for calm.

Despite all the uproar surrounding my baking disasters, I am calmly knitting on. A few days after completing the Icelandic cardigan, I cast on for an Aran cardigan. There is a little story behind the design, and another behind the yarn.

In the late 1970s, I bought a really lovely second-hand Aran cardigan at a church fete. It was short, for the time, not quite hip-length. A very simple pattern, some cables and twists, with one lobster claw braid either side of the front. Natural white, with neat square leather buttons. I loved it, and wore it to death. Despite always looking, I have never been able to find a similar pattern

In 1996, my Mother bought some Aran yarn for me. I started to make a long (thigh length) cardigan. The back was straightforward, and quickly completed. The front, however was a different matter. I must have got as far as the armhole six or seven times. Each time, I unravelled it, thinking I had misunderstood the instructions. In the end, it all went into a cupboard, under miscellaneous junk.
This spring, I unearthed it all, and read through the instructions. Ah, the difference experience makes..... the instructions for the top part of the left side had been transposed with the right. I would never have been able to complete the thing!  Anyway, I unravelled the whole thing, wound the yarn into skeins, and washed it.
So, with the reclaimed yarn, now almost vintage, I am trying to recreate the church fete Aran cardi. I am working purely from yarn swatch stitch counts, and intuition.
There was the slightest panic, when I realised that I was missing a gift for a loved relative. Some John Arbon Organic Merino Aran was quickly purchased in Dulverton, at Nimble Fingers.  An ''Intuition Cowl '' was cast on, and  two evenings knitting later, a seasonal-panic-knitting gift completed!

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Baking Disaster!

Three ruined cakes in four days!
I have always enjoyed baking, and have not been too bad at it. We have a tradition of giving home-made cakes to friends for Yuletide gifts.
So, I made the first Dundee cake. Good. Then the second - not good. Burnt. Hmm. So I made the first Ginger cake. It sank! I hadn't opened the door during the baking, so what was going on?  I have bought a new oven thermometer, and checked the shelf position. The third Dundee was made, and put in... and that sank too!
I am really cheesed off, more than a little bewildered, and not baking for the foreseeable future.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Home, Sweet Home.

Every year, Best Beloved and I are invited, by certain friends, to a 'making' party. This year it was assembling and decorating Gingerbread houses. Fantastic fun, and a real sugar overload.
 The first picture is about halfway through the evening. At least another half-dozen houses were added to the 'village', later. Some were very restrained and elegant, others were notable by their exuberance.

 Our own effort was heavy on Liquorice, and chocolate. It was surprisingly difficult to find 'Walnut Whips', for the topiary. Once we had tracked some down, we then saw lots of something similar in Marks & Spencer! Ah, well. Note the chocolate 'log' store, and the  'Matchmakers' 'solar panels'.

Little sis was enthusiastic about our house, so I decided to make a little 'Water Mill' for her and her other half.
The Waggon Wheel is obviously standing in for the waterwheel!

                   And bobbly liquorice rounds for drive nuts. Yup, quite bonkers. Good fun, though.

Last word on Wovember ( this year! )

Very proud to have been given the Ewe-sain Bolt Award for my Icelandic cardi.

For lots more about Wovember, the awards, and working with wool, go and have a look at

Monday, 1 December 2014


Wovember Icelandic Cardigan....  cont'd.
The matching button-hole band was picked up and worked to match the first band. Praise be, it actually matched. Then, an applied I-cord was used to make the buttonholes. Then the whole thing was washed and soaked in conditioner, and pressed to shape on a towel and left to dry.
 In order that the whole of the Wovember Icelandic cardigan was handmade, I followed Kate Davies' instructions for making woven wool buttons. Despite being my first attempt, I am quite pleased with them. They were made from scraps of wool from the cardigan.
Here in place, there is one button in the green, and the lower four in the oatmeal. (The applied I-cord can be seen quite clearly, to the right of the buttons).
Although it has taken a few days to get photos taken and uploaded, the cardigan was completed within the Wovember timescale. I hope to wear it to the next Knit Night.
Hmm. Now, what to make next.......?

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Icelandic, continued

The Icelandic cardigan continues..........
I have been happily knitting the cardigan, there not being much else I can do, at the moment. Once past the division for body and sleeves, it all went very quickly. Then I thought ''that seems awfully
big'', so I measured across the chest. Five inches bigger than I wanted, or intended!
I checked my gauge, and then the instructions. I can only think that where it says increase twice under each arm, it means decrease. So, I unravelled about eight inches, and did decreases instead of increases. Then the cardigan grew quite quickly. I did about nine inches of length, and then the recommended length of rib.
Then it was time to make the reinforcement for the steek. The tutorials posted by Kate Davies, and the video posted by Ragga Eiriksdottir, the designer of the 'Idunn' pattern, gave me enough courage to get on and do it.

                                              All ready to cut!

So, the steek was cut. Then a small matter of picking up stitches along the reinforced sides, and knitting the bands to make the sandwich. Here, one side is done. Phew!
More to follow.....

( the second photo is the most accurate colour. The weather is such that the light is awful for taking pics).

Monday, 17 November 2014

Knitting on...

The plaster cast has come off. Relief! But of course, I have to get used to walking again.
The Icelandic sweater is coming on nicely..... The pattern is simple and well written, the slight problem is in the sizing, and the different understanding of knitters' expressions. Not that it will be a great problem, I will unravel a little of the main body, and put in some ( or a lot of ) decreases.
Apologies for the lack of photos - the weather is so overcast that I can't get any decent ones. If tomorrow is brighter, I will remedy the lack.
( cartoon by Jacky Fleming.)

....... Or am I just being unreasonably cynical?

Monday, 3 November 2014


I have been following the 'Wovember' blog since it started a few years ago. ( go and have a look Here )
This year I was determined to enter into the spirit of the thing properly, so I spent time and effort choosing a suitable project, downloading the pattern, and sourcing the yarn.
The pattern is Idunn,  a top-down Icelandic cardigan, although there will be modifications. The yarn is Istex Letlopi, which is the recommended yarn.  The colours I have chosen are light beige, and sage green. I bought it from Deramores, who were incredibly quick in fulfilling the order.
 This yarn, actually I can say 'wool' in this case, is an Aran weight, so I am using 4.5 mm needles. Cast on late on Saturday, I have done a couple of inches already. The yarn feels a bit rough, at the moment, but I know that once washed and conditioned, it will alter. I also know from experience that Icelandic wool hand-knits go on forever.

Friday, 31 October 2014


Samhain. Commonly called Halloween. The last day of the Pagan year. The time when the veil between the worlds thin. After dark, there is the possibility of tenuous contact with the Dear Departed. Such  time is celebrated in many cultures, respect paid to those gone before. Sadly, these things are feared in our own culture, due to the ridiculous stories and half-truths promulgated by those who do not understand, and do not want to.
 Among the many vegetables that grew madly this summer, were these pumpkins. Which I had to do something with, as we don't eat them! (Although we do eat a lot of Squashes.) I was quite pleased with how my carving turned out.

                                                            ......especially the Owl.

The clocks going back to British Meantime has meant the nights drawing in earlier. The leaves falling from the trees remind us that we are falling into Winter.
All of these things make me start to feel like baking again. One of Best Beloved's favourite things is Cherry Brownies. As they also look suitably dark, they are perfect for tonight's Trick or Treating. Having said that, they will probably be unaccountably missing, if anyone should knock on the door!

  Melt 190 grams of butter and 190 grams of good chocolate ( minimum 80% cocoa butter) together, gently. Weigh out 115 grams of plain flour, and add a pinch of salt. Whisk together 3 eggs with 250 grams golden caster sugar. Line a 6'' x10'' tin with baking parchment, and scatter 80 - 100 grams of dried cherries evenly over the base. Beat the egg mixture into the cooled chocolate, then carefully fold in the flour. Pour evenly into the prepared tin, and bake at 180 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. It is done when the top goes lighter and flaky. Keep an eye on it, as it is easy to overcook.  Five minutes is the difference between cooked and melting, or overcooked and dry. Allow to cool before removing from tin. Cut into 16 pieces. Yum!

Thursday, 30 October 2014


Before I do anything else, I must apologise for my protracted absence. The last post was made just before Best Beloved and I went on holiday. The intention had been to write the next post from our rented cottage, enthusing about the location. Unfortunately, the broad-band connection lasted for thirty seconds at a time. Hopeless. Then, I slipped in Port Isaac, and broke my leg.
So, halfway through the holiday, we came home. Since then, we have had a round of Hospital appointments, lots of me sitting still with my leg elevated, and a topsy-turvy house due to the presence of our builder. We had a long-standing arrangement with Kenny, that he would come and finish our utility room, and the terrace behind the house, on our return. As he retires at Christmas, we were not going to put off the most reliable builder known to Man!
The enforced rest has been productive of knitting, however. I had started another Annis back in April, but only managed three rows. It is now finished. The photo below shows it being blocked.
Annis by Susanna Ic, in 2/3 ply Alpaca and nylon, from John Arbon. Colour- Rust.
Another project that has been hanging about since early May. A pair of plain socks in fivemoons Luna Plus. Vintage Herb for the body, with Pumpkin for the contrast toes and heels.

These saucy little wrist warmers are Mrs Beeton  by Brenda Dane. The body is in  Rowan Angora Haze, in black, with the contrast lace in Rowan Kidsilk Haze. Colour - Blood. This was a very quick project. One evening knitting the lace inserts, and two evenings knitting the rest. No sewing required! ( Other than weaving in ends! )

The one thing I needed to make, was some sort of sock, to cover the plaster cast, and keep my toes warm. Luckily, I had a skein of mohair and wool, which Alchemoonist ( of fivemoons ) had dyed from a bilious lime green to a wonderful deep beetle green.  I just cast on, and made it up as I went along. So .......  the Munster Sock!
And, actually, Cornwall was wonderful, despite everything.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

A Year in the life.....

There are many writers whose style I enjoy, and look for. Susan Hill is a popular and admirable author, but not one I generally read. The first Christmas after our marriage, Best Beloved gave me 'The Magic Apple Tree'.  I absolutely fell in love with it. It is very much a calendar of the country year, much in the tradition of Flora Thompson or Frances Kilvert.
This is a book which I come back to, and read regularly. It never fails to cheer me, when I am in low spirits. It is full of the gentle delights of small, homely things. So, although I don't read many of her other books, Susan Hill is one of my favourite writers.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014


Today is the Autumn Equinox. Balanced halfway between the end of Summer, and the beginning of Winter. Light and dark ( day and night ) of equal measure.
It has been an extraordinary year. An unusually wet winter, followed by an unusually dry Spring and Summer. We had two days of almost torrential rain, and then plunged into an Indian Summer. ( I am writing only of the local experience - other areas have been very different.)
I have heard that many people, having experienced bumper fruit crops last year, have fared less well this year. We have been lucky. Our apples have produced similar crops to last year. The pear tree, having been caught by a late frost, produced no ripe fruit last year.  This year, we had more than we can eat. Such a joy to be able to preserve some, and share some with family and friends. The plums did well, too, but went from ripe to mouldy  almost overnight, if not watched. The damsons are still being picked. The mulberry tree has produced a pleasing crop, too. We have to keep checking, and then picking when we see some ripe fruit .... the Blackbirds have discovered them, and will gorge themselves and take everything if they can.
In our hedgerows, the fruiting trees are looking good... Spindle Tree, ( above ) will split the calyx on the seeds soon, and the seeds will shine a bright orange though the pink shell.
In this picture, the fruit of the Dogwood look like blackberries, but the sprays of fruit are half the size of my hand.
These Sloes ( fruit of the Blackthorn ) will be ready for use after the first hard frost. The frost is necessary to produce what little sugar is available in the flesh. ( precious little! )

The dog roses and eglantynes have been wonderful, so the hedges are covered in these hips, really splashing the dulled green of late summer foliage with some life.
My first foray into growing Dahlias has been a great delight. I have had flowers from all the plants I started. Not many from some, and lots from others.
I can only remember the name of one. The amazing bloom above is from a dahlia called Nick Sr. It is the size of my hand with fingers spread out, like a star.
And this last one is actually much darker than the picture shows. A really rich, intense colour.

Saturday, 2 August 2014


Yesterday was Lughnasadh, the first day of Autumn.
 It signals the move from the growing season, to the Harvest season. So saying, today was spent in the garden. Best Beloved, Nicky and I lifted all the potatoes and dug over the bed. We also took down the fruit cage we had erected over the strawberry bed. B.B. then tended the glasshouse veg, while Nicky and I weeded the strawberry bed, lifted and potted four dozen strawberry runners, and trimmed all the plants of their extraneous greenery. Four wheelbarrows full of material was then taken and added to the compost bins. A good day's work.
Later, we went and picked peas, at the invitation of a farmer friend. The field had been picked by a commercial gang, but at the end of the day a good many were still unpicked. With several bags of them put into the freezer, there were still plenty of peas left in the bowl for supper. 

Monday, 28 July 2014

Joys of Summer - no 2

                                           Home-made Strawberry Ice-Cream.

Friday, 25 July 2014


Best Beloved and Nicky worked hard at establishing the vegetable garden this spring. While they were digging over the bed intended for the squashes, Nick dug up a Bumble-bee nest. ( Most Bumble-bees nest underground, often in an old mouse nest. That is how they become prey so easily, to predators like Badgers.) Luckily, she did not damage it, although the bees were not overjoyed.  Best Beloved then rushed around to find something to put the nest into.
 He came across a bird nesting box, awaiting repair in the woodshed. Perfect! Having donned his beekeeping suit ( how lucky that we still have it!), BB carefully lifted the nest into the box. A slate was weighted down on the roof, and all parties retired, to await developments.
It was not long before it transpired that the bees had not missed a beat. They were flying within an hour, and bringing pollen into the nest soon after.
                                          And there is always a guard on the door.

(Please excuse the low quality of photos.....lying full stretch on one's front is not an ideal position to work from).

Thursday, 24 July 2014

More hoard

Some more of the treasures, discovered whilst unpacking the hoard.
  My brother was planning on getting married, during the period that Best Beloved and I were house hunting. My mother, Nicky and I had decided to make my brother a patchwork quilt, using remnants from our many sewing projects. The remnants came from skirts, bridesmaid dresses, baby clothes, and the like. We also took pieces from worn-out favourite shirts and nighties. Even a pillowcase. Many hours were spent measuring, cutting, and painstakingly hand sewing the hearts onto plain squares. There were roughly two hundred, in twenty different fabric designs.
 We sold our house quickly, and once we decided to buy this house, things moved swiftly. The remainder of the household had to be packed up in short order, and ended up being stored indefinitely.
 The box of fabrics and squares were in extremely good condition, when I unearthed them. I had forgotten just how pretty the fabrics were. Still are.
After such a long hiatus, Nicky and I decided, that instead of making a large quilt for someone who has now been married almost seventeen years, we would divide the pieces between us, and make a quilt each.
Although the project is likely to proceed at a reasonable pace, I wouldn't suggest anyone hold their breath until we finish!

The fabrics are all 100% cotton. The hearts are a light dress-weight. ( Some of them are Liberty Tana Lawn, and the others are matched to that.) The colours are predominantly Rose pink, and a mid Willow green. Tones of these two, and a little mid-blue to add depth.
The squares are sheet weight plain ivory. The backing will be the same.