Wednesday, 28 October 2009

On the needles - WIP ... now completed Elmer for Christmas

sneak peek

This was a post I was going to do a couple of weeks ago as a work in progress, but I never got around to finishing the post, so now it is a completed project. I'm having to be careful about posting this and the picture as it is a gift for Imogen. It's not really a Christmas present so I may give it to her the week before the holidays.

The bag of wool for the project

So what is it then? Well, in this house there is a lot of affection for a colourfup elephant named Elmer, and many months ago I had the idea to try and make one. I have seen fabric ones in shops and even the fabric to buy ... but oh no that was too easy, I wanted a challenge. So I decided I would knit one. I found a pattern for an elephant in a book of knitted toys but didn't like the tail so I just adapted the pattern, so it's a bit of my own style.

I am so pleased with how it has turned out. I used some grey felt for his feet and he stands up perfectly. I had a lot of fun making this, even if it was a little frustrating working with up to 6 colours at once. I can't wait to see Imogens face when she sees him, she's always so happy to get something that Mommy has made for her which is really heart warming.

Elmer standing

So what do you think? Would love to hear your thoughts.

Handmade gifts for Christmas

We are in a position where we don't buy lots of gifts each year for lots of people, and I'd like more and more of what we do give to be homemade. There will probably always be exceptions though.

As well as gifts, I like to make our own decorations and plan to make some more bunting with some seasonal fabrics to add to those made for Imogen's birthday which will look good over the festive season too. I knitted several things for the Christmas tree last year and will add to that this year, and some bits and pieces for Imogen to play with too of course.

In the run up to Christmas I shall be finding things to do with Imogen too - some snowflakes, some clay ornaments, felt creations and whatever else we can think of. I have lots of fancy wool (and other wool) so will think of things she can have a go at with them.

So for now I need to settle on what I'm going to make - a couple of things are in progress, with more to follow including a woolly hat and scarf for Imogen from my handspun wool, something she has been asking me to make for her.

Will start posting pictures of either inspiration or completed projects as I go along. I do like Christmas time, I love to give things to others and see the joy in their faces.

Monday, 26 October 2009

.. and back again ...

Feeling better finally, after a month of feeling really low from seasonal colds (we assume), and thus a lack of energy.

Anyway, my energy feels like it has returned and this afternoon, Imogen and I have been sowing seeds to keep a continuous supply of lovely greens through the Winter months and into early Spring. We are still picking Chard, Spinach, Kale and Cavalo Nero planted in the Summer months, so these were to replenish those stocks when they stop producing - although that doesn't look like it will be for a while with the mild weather we are having.
Today, we have sown seeds for:
Spinach - Giant Winter
Cabbage - Wintergreen
Cavalo Nero
Winter Lettuce (can't remember which variety right now)
Good King Henry
Wild Rocket
Green Mustard - Green in Snow
Winter Radish (large type for casseroles, etc)
Turnip Greens

Imogen also wrote many of the labels with me spelling out the names for her.
I think that was all for today.

Last week Alex planted out more Garlic and some Broad Beans as they did well last year from an Autumn planting (even despite me planting them twice as deep as I should have - oops).

So Imogen had a great time planting and learning again about what seeds need to grow. We also planted some acorns, sweet chestnuts and horse chestnuts - well the world needs a few more trees, just not in our garden so there may be a bit of Guerrilla gardening going on if these shoot and grow, of course we will nurture them for a while first.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

I want to hibernate ...

Since Imogen's 4th birthday both Imogen and I have had colds, coughs and been generally unwell. Sometimes one of us has shown signs of recovering only for it to return again. Now we have both had enough and we're fed up. So I was thinking of hibernating until our good health returns.

I've got things I want to update on here - post birthday pictures and fun, and craft projects in the making but I have not got the energy to sit here and type it all up, so for now a short post.

Imogen is going to tell us a story she has been thinking about all day about penguins, and they needed a fish pie made so we mad a fish pie out of a cardboard box and some foam sheets. This inspired me to also make a fish pie for tea. So in the oven is a "pie invention" of mine that we make reasonable regular as a big pie so we can freeze lots of portions for other nights. It's basically salmon and mashed potato with some grated Applewood cheese and a topping of creamed spinach (from River Cottage - HFW - have you noticed I like a few of his recipes :-)), all encased in a lovely pie crust. It's absolutely lovely, especially on a damp evening that today has turned out to be.

Hopefully I'll be posting more soon, with more interesting posts of things we've been up to, when I feel more awake and human again. In the meantime, lots of knitting and craft ideas swimming around in my head or on the needles awaiting attention. Back soon.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Pumpkin festival fun

For Imogen there were a few craft things to do, and fun on the bouncy castle "Jungle Run". I love sequence shots on the camera for times like this.

Getting ready



and flying!

Photo's of the pumkins on previous post.

Pumpkin festival photos

We spent a fabulous day at the Royal Victoria Country Park for the pumpkin festival mentioned in a previous post, it was really hot and sunny and not at all windy (usually is quite windy there in the Solent. Anyway the pictures tell the story of the pumpkins, there was also lots of entertainment and some crafting to be done. A fun day out ...

The winning pumpkin weighed 1314lbs (596kg)! And here it is

Ian and Stuart Paton win again

Weigh in board

Carved pumpkin by David Loh

Gigantic pumpkins (Imogens phrase for the show)

Enormous Cabbage too - that's a flatbed trucks wheel behind it!
Weighing in at 107 lbs (49.5kg)!
Cabbage soup anyone?

My favourite picture

Monday, 12 October 2009

Pumpkins and baking

Pumpkins, pumpkins on the vine
Growing big - taking their time.

First a seed, then a sprout.
Then, a vine that spreads way out.

Next, two flowers on the vine.
Then, two pumpkins in a line.

Two green pumpkins on the ground
At last turn orange, big and round.

Now it's time to harvest them.
I pick them up and cut their stems.

Two big pumpkins just for me.
What will I do? Wait and see!

One I'll make into a pie
Then eat with whipped cream, that's no lie!

The other one, I'll scoop it out.
Then, turn it slowly all about

And when I find the perfect place
I'll carve out holes to make a face.

Pumpkins, pumpkins on the vine.
Are worth the wait, every time.

A Halloween Story by Jean Warren

So for tea, it's time to bake one of the Blue Kuri Squash grown on the allotment that have been curing in the porch, here

Following a recipe from River Cottage, courtesy of Hugh Fearnely Whittingstall - Whole Pumpkin Baked with Cream. First slice the top off (keep to one side), then scoop out the seeds (saved to grow more next year)

look at that colour - so vibrant

Fill about a third of the cavity with grated Gruyere cheese, pour in double cream to two-thirds full. Add a few gratings of nutmeg, a knob of butter, some ground sea salt and lots of ground pepper. Replace lid and bake until flesh is lovely and soft. The pumpkin may collapse so use a deep dish (although I've never had this happen to us). Bake at 190C for 45 mins to 1¼ hours depending on size of pumpkin.

Very rich and just perfect for an Autumn day, lovely and warming, I served it with some fresh tagliatelle pasta. The Blue Kuri is one of my favourite squash, it's taste is heavenly and it can be used in many ways. Feeling Autumnal goodness. There was pumpkin leftover too which went in a lasagne for another night's meal, that appeals to my frugal side.

Autumn Giveaway

Look at these lovely items at this lovely blog, ready for a new home in an Autumn giveaway.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Catching up ...

We have been quite busy and also a bit under the weather too, so getting my head into the right frame of mind to blog hasn't been easy. So an update post.

Imogen's 4th birthday was lovely (must add some pictures in another post), we spent a day at Marwell Zoo as her birthday treat, taking Nanny and Grandad with us so we could show them all the wonderful animals. It was a great day out and we were all exhausted by the end of it. A real highlight was seeing the Snow Leopard prowling about (he is very rarely seen at Marwell, unless he's asleep), he was pacing up and down and would occasionally stop and stare at a distant animal as if he was eye-ing up a meal.

Her birthday was lovely, we went to Tumblebugs and her friends all sang Happy Birthday to her. Daddy went into work late and came home early so lots of time for the three of us. Imogen and I baked birthday Chocolate muffins which were lovely. She loved her presents, wore her crown all day and did a puppet show from her play canopy through a hanging puppet theatre we had picked up for her and the hand puppets which were part of her present too. She had numerous books (people who know her, know she loves her books), clothes, and some toys/games.

Unfortunately, by the end of her birthday both Imogen and I started sneezing and colds were on their way, and that pretty much sums up what it has been like since then. We are just starting to look like they are clearing but still a bit croaky. I feel we got two colds back to back as we felt better and then got worse after a day or two. Recovering now though.

We have been spending some time clearing out things we no longer need - lots of boxes ready to go to charity shops of books, clothes and general household things accumulated. Next task is to clear out some old toys that have been boxed away but never gone any further, all things that are too young for Imogen now so they can go to a new home to be loved and played with by other children.

Most of my other time has been spent preparing the newsletter for the Spinning Guild for going to the printers, I'm pleased with how it all came together and so was the Guild. I haven't done much spinning, although the Alpaca fleece is calling me sometimes. I have however spent some time knitting - I have a few little projects on the go at the moment, more on that another day. One project is very experimental - using a pattern as the base but then making it up as I go along.

Anyway, it's Friday (well it was when I started this post!) and one of the local libraries has story time later so we are off there via two enormous conker (Horse Chestnut) trees for some autumnal collecting (no doubt some leaves will be gathered too, they always are), then returning home to bake bread.

Autumn Pumpkin Festival

Autumn Pumpkin Festival Saturday 10th October at Victoria Country Park, Netley, Southampton from 12 noon to 5:30pm.

That's where we will be. I'm pretty sure that this is now the biggest pumpkin event in the UK and the growers of record pumpkins live and grow their prize winners not far away in Lymington - twins Stuart and Ian Paton. Last year their winning pumpkin weighed a massive 1457lbs! The European record. Here it is

Other giant veg shows still go on around the UK, but this is purely one for the big pumpkins, and they have made the show into an Autumn themed one.

David Loh, the international chef and fruit artist is finishing carving a 1000lb pumpkin at the show. His work is fantastic, take a look at the Artworks on his website.

Other Attractions include

  • Pumpkin produce to sample and buy
  • Big Draw art workshops
  • Apple tastings, pumpkin wine tasting and beer tasting from Fullers - Honey Dew Beer
  • Delicious food - including pumpkin soup and ‘Prince Consort pumpkin curry’
  • Competitions, with prizes for junior and novice growers, for the heaviest pumpkin and the best pumpkin decoration
  • Bring along a scarecrow for our Avenue of Scarecrows
  • Storytelling, Knickerbocker Glory Appalachian Dancing and Irish Dancing and lots more!
  • Live music from members of Hickory Junction
  • Hive of Activity Marquee - all things bees, honey and beekeeping
Their Scarecrow avenue sounds fantastic, so we can't wait to see that, but the giant pumpkins are certainly the highlight for one little girl in this house. We have several pumpkins at home curing at the moment and she has asked if the ones at the show will be bigger ... oh yes!

We cannot wait, and the weather forecast is good.