More rainbows

I finished the socks that I promised my friend I’d finish off for her. These have gone off to her Dad to see if they fit before I knit the second pair I promised. The pattern is the Winwick Mum contrast heel, toe and cuff pattern, incorporating a garter rib stitch pattern from Sensational Knitted Socks. Yarn is WYS signature 4ply in spearmint and kingfisher.
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And I’ve finished the shawl of doom pattern. This is the Stylecraft Head over Heels sawtooth edge crescent shawl. You may have noticed that it doesn’t appear to be a crescent. I HATED this pattern so much. It is very poorly written and, with hindsight, it was a mistake to choose a pattern which so few people had knitted and those who had seemed to have had problems with it. I haven’t darned in the ends yet or blocked it as I haven’t decided whether it’s even going to stay like this, or whether just to unravel the whole thing. Disappointing.
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But I have cast on for an exciting new project. A friend is expecting a baby and I wanted to make her a blanket. After much indecision on my part, Greensideknits suggested this Gansey Afghan pattern, which I really like, so have gone with that. It is much better written than the shawl above! 😉 I decided that I wanted something brighter but appropriate for either gender and that I’d get bored if I knitted it all in one colour, so decided on doing a rainbox, having seen one like that in the existing projects on Ravelry. Much cogitation about yarn then occurred, but I eventually settled on Paintbox yarn cotton aran as it offered me a whole range of lovely colours to choose from. These are the colours I eventually went with granite grey for borders and garter stitch sections, possibly a lighter grey would work better? The rainbow colours are:  red wine, Seville orange, buttercup yellow, spearmint green, marine blue, royal blue, rich mauve.

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These were all ordered from Love Knitting, who delivered really fast! I am pleased with the yarn as it not only gives the shade number but also the name on the ball band – I hate having to try and work out which shade is which with only a number to go on. This is a big project – the baby is due in June – but hopefully I’ll have enough time. I don’t have anything else on the needles at the moment other than maybe that second pair of socks – which will become my portable project once the blanket becomes too big to take outside the house.

Oh, and stash update so far this year. Well, the socks don’t count in my stash tally as the yarn wasn’t mine. So, so far this year:

Yarn in: 1530 metres

Yarn out: 500 metres

So, a high yarn in total at the moment, but that was the yarn for the blanket, so most of that will get knitted up!

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Packed lunches

I don’t have time to have breakfast at home on work days, and LO has breakfast at nursery, so I take both a packed breakfast and lunch with me on those days. This is what last week’s looked like. The breakfast is almost always the same, but the lunches vary a bit more 😉

Both are packed the night before, because getting both of us out of the house by 7.40am is enough of a whirlwind without adding in extra complications.

This is my breakfast – 3/4 cup of muesli (I make my own now that the supermarket has discontinued the one I like – it is three cups of oats, one cup of mixed nuts/seeds and one cup of sultanas shaken together) and put into my Sistema breakfast pot. Then I pour orange juice on top until the muesli is just covered. In the upper layer, I put about seven frozen cherries (these defrost overnight) and a dollop of Greek yogurt.
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Put the upper layer in, lid on and in the fridge overnight. Once I get to work I pour the top layer into the bottom layer, mix it together and YUMMY!
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And here’s last week’s default lunch. I had leftover salad to use up, so opened one of those  pouches of quinoa that are ready to eat. A third of this per day, mixed with salad leaves, pepper, cucumber and tomato, plus some salad dressing is really nice. In the top layer of my lunch box is an almond butter sandwich, cut up into chunks, and a cat-shaped cheese straw, made when I did some baking with LO and now in a bag in the freezer ready for snacking and lunches. The three little pots are all salad dressing – I get them all ready in one go then just pop one in with my lunch each day.
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And it all fits in my super duper sheep insulated lunch bag, along with some fruit, little pot of almonds, and a Nakd bar to eat on my way to the car park at the end of the day.

What do you take in your packed lunch? I’d also love to hear other people’s ideas for breakfast on the go too.

Slow cooking

I’ve tweaked the type of blogs that I read – I still read knitting, crafting and gardening blogs, but now I read parenting ones too! 😉 This has led me to find various recipe ideas which I’ve been enjoying exploring. I’d like to use my slow cooker more, so have been trying out some recipes from the Organised Mum blog. My slow cooker is small (1.5 litre capacity) so tends to make enough for 2-3 portions. This works fine for my family, as we are a veggie, a meat eater who doesn’t eat rice or anything spicy and a toddler who eats everything but in toddler-size portions. So, I quite often only want 1 -2 adult portions of anything, and then have an extra portion or two to put in the freezer. I also don’t have a huge freezer – just four freezer drawers, so producing huge quantities of batch cooked meals wouldn’t work for us. This way, we get a couple of batch cooked portions of a variety of things. As the days I work end up being rather time limited in terms of cooking (I start cooking at about 7.45pm on these days, and would prefer it if we started eating by about 8.15pm!) batch cooking is the perfect solution.

This was my first attempt at an Organised Mum recipe – slow cooker lentil bolognaise. Before:

And after:

The bolognaise was really tasty and made enough to freeze a portion too so I’ll definitely be making this again.

One of my Christmas presents was a book about slow cooking – not just with a slow cooker, but the sort of recipes you can bung in the oven for a while whilst you do something else!

This is my first recipe from this book – Turkish halloumi bake (meant to be served with ciabatta but I did garlic bread instead). It is basically roast vegetables (I did sweet potato, peppers, aubergine and courgette), then add 150g lentils and a pint of stock to the roasting tin and cook for another 25 mins, then put halloumi slices on top and grill. This was so tasty and I’ll definitely be making it again.

It made enough for a meal for the three of us, with some lentil/veg mixture leftover. I added some stock to this and turned it into two portions of soup to use in packed lunches.

Last week I tried this veggie chilli recipe, also from the Organised Mum blog. I halved the ingredients and it fitted perfectly in my slow cooker. Because there is so little prep (you literally pour all the ingredients into the pot, stir and turn it on) I actually got this one going before going out for a play date with LO and left it cooking for eight hours. First time I’ve done that.

Again, this one was easy to make and tasty, although, for our family, I’d put less chilli in next time. I really liked the way there was so little prep and that it cooked for a long time – I’ve never really understood how slow cookers are meant to help when you’re at work all day as I don’t have time to start chopping and frying before going out in the morning, and, in the recipe book that came with the cooker, all the recipes take 4-6 hours, whereas a day at work means being out of the house for at least 11 hours.

Knitting plans 2018

So, we’re already well into January so I’m a bit late to this! I have a few priorities for knitting this year. One is to sort out a few already-finished projects which need darning or mending in some way so that I can carry on wearing them. One of these is my Owls jumper, which has sprouted a hole just below the neck ribbing. I think this is from pulling it over my head (I am particularly prone to doing this whilst still wearing my glasses…) but a little bit of darning should sort it out. I am about 99% certain it isn’t caused by moths.

I’d also like to finish off the Hey Teach which I almost completed last year, but the sleeves turned out to be too tight at the armholes, and I lacked the enthusiasm to do something about it then.

I need to finish off the two pairs of socks which I mentioned in my earlier post about 2017 knitting – the ones I promised my terminally ill friend that I would finish for her. So, I still have 2.5 actual socks to knit for that. The yarn for the second pair is already wound into two matching balls, as I wound them up for her and dropped them off to her at the hospice, but sadly she could no longer knit for the last month of her life. The yarn is the West Yorkshire Spinners 4 ply signature sock in the Marie Curie colourway. This is the first sock of the first pair for her – using the WYS 4ply signature sock in the kingfisher colourway for the cuffs, heels and toes.

I’ve also realised that I need to have a sort out in my sock drawer, after I ended up washing 18 pairs of handknitted socks last weekend! I have a pile of about four pairs waiting for some kind of mending, but my sock drawer is now at capacity, so I need to have a think about whether to get rid of some of these socks – there are some early examples that don’t fit particularly well (in the days when I didn’t know which type of heel worked best for me) and there are others that have worn holes, and I need to make a decision about repair or not. What do you do about repairing knitted items? Do you always repair, or do you get rid/frog?

And, of course, there is the yarn I got for Christmas which I’m looking forward to knitting up! I think all that will keep me busy for a while.

Garden January 2018

I’ve been doing some thinking about my blogging and have decided to make a few changes. I enjoy blogging – both writing mine (which has become a lot easier since moving to WordPress) and reading other people’s, but my time is much more limited these days, so I’m usually behind with reading blogs (having dramatically pruned the list I do read) and I rarely comment now. I ended up so behind with Garden at the Beginning of the Month posts that there didn’t seem much point doing it, but I like taking pictures of my garden through the year, so have decided to carry on and blog as and when. Ironically, this is likely to mean more  pictures of winter gardening than the rest of the year, as the rest of the year I actually have to find time to fit the gardening in…

There are just a few pics I quickly took in the garden during January. The first snowdrops are beginning to appear amidst the raspberry canes.

My original plan of having something flowering in every month of the year has paid off – this is Sarcococca Confusa (Christmas bush) which has these funny little white flowers and a lovely scent, as well as berries for the birds to eat. I have planted this and the Daphne near our front garden wall, so you get a lovely waft of scent as you walk past on the pavement. I frequently stop with the pushchair when I’m on my way in or out and admire them!

Here are more flowers and another lovely scent on the Daphne Mezereum. Daphne is toxic which is why we planted it in the front garden, on the grounds that LO wouldn’t be there on her own so wouldn’t be trying to eat this plant. She is actually pretty good already at not eating plants.

Here’s one of the Hellebore I grew from seed before I had LO. These are tucked away in a corner so hard to see, but they like the shade down there and so do much better in this part of the garden. And the insects will be able to find them, which is the important thing.

And, finally, a winter-flowering pansy. I chose all yellow for the containers, and white for the hanging baskets last year, and am now thinking I’d rather they were brighter, stronger colours, such as red, as they all look a bit insipid.

What’s flowering in your garden in January? It is fairly mild here, we’ve had barely any snow.

Knitting round up 2017

2017 turned into a bit of a strange year for knitting. I was trying to knit from stash whilst spending most of my money on childcare. The stash knitting went well, although my stash in/out totals for the year ended up the wrong way round as I was given yarn as presents (how dare they!!)

My last stash bust project of the year was another Beyond Puerperium, 6-12 month size for a friend’s baby. This used up the leftovers of my Rowan Amy Butler organic Aran wool/CottonRowan Amy Butler organic Aran wool/Cotton. I really enjoyed knitting with this yarn, originally purchased half price in the John Lewis sale when I worked in central London in 2011. Sadly the yarn is now discontinued. The recipient’s Mum isn’t a knitter but was very pleased with it!

Other projects completed this year include two rainbow jumpers for LO, one of which is pictured, using West Yorkshire Spinners Aire Valley DK. The pattern for both was Conscious. These have already had a lot of wear, as they are easy to get on and off (there are buttons at the shoulder) and the yarn is machine washable.

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I also did a Beyond Puerperium in the two year size for LO, using Ella Rae Cozy Soft Prints, which again has been really useful and is a nice soft machine washable yarn.

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The third Conscious I knitted was for my niece, who turned out to have a wool allergy (hence why LO ended up with both of the rainbow jumpers!). For this one I used Louisa Harding Noema, which was quite nice to knit with (I don’t normally really enjoy knitting with cotton) and has a slight sparkle to it, which my niece apparently loves!
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I’ve also knitted a few dolls’ clothes. This is a dress knitted for my Goddaughter’s doll using up the leftovers from the Beyond Perperium
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My stash knitting totals have also been affected by a couple of other projects. The week before Christmas I decided LO’s doll would like a hat, so knitted one out of some oddments of DK that someone had passed onto me but which hadn’t been recorded in my stash.

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A close friend died in September, and, before she died, I promised her that I’d finish off a couple of knitting projects she hadn’t had time to finish – which turned out to be two pairs of socks for her Dad, who has size 11 feet! So, I haven’t added this yarn to stash, but it has meant a lot of my knitting time has been taken up with knitting these. She was using the Winwick Mum contrast cuff, heel and toe pattern, and the yarn is WYS signature 4ply, in the kingfisher colourway plus contrast.

So, stash in and out in 2017:

In 7256.3 metres

Out 4588.4 metres

so I acquired 2667.9 metres more than I used in 2017. However, 2660 metres of that was gifted to me, leaving only 7.9 metres over! It is safe to say that, had I been doing all of my own knitting, I’d have used up more than I acquired.

Happy New Year 2018!

Well, it’s been a while since I last posted. Work has been busy, as has life at home with a toddler and there never seems to be time to get on top of things. Plus I’ve acquired some more blogs to read, which means even less time for blogging myself!

I was lucky enough to receive some lovely knitting related presents this year. The first from a friend was a knitting bag with sheep on!

The second, from my brother’s family, nearly matches up my hobby with my career – knitting and rare books/manuscripts! I’m really looking forward to having a closer look at this when I get some time – I don’t go back to work until Wednesday but nursery reopens for LO tomorrow.

Then I had some Jamie and Smith 2ply jumper weight from OH and LO. This is to make Bluebells by Kate Davies. Can’t wait to get started on this, although I have various projects to get finished first… More in another post!

Finally, my BIL gave me two balls of Rico Pompon yarn, which I haven’t used before but looks interesting. I will probably make something for LO with it.

Our New Year was fairly quiet. We stopped staying up until midnight several years ago as we couldn’t see the point, especially once we had a baby and prioritising sleep becomes very important! Today we had a day out to a garden centre with a soft play to burn off some energy (LO, not us!) and lunch out, before returning home for her nap time.

How was your New Year?