Thursday, October 23, 2008

cakey goodness

Oh my lord, it's so blustery today. I almost was blown away waiting at the bus stop on the way home. But not quite. The wind keeps rattling down the chimney, so I'm glad I'm tucked up inside now with a fire and a cup of tea.

So, remember that fruit I was soaking the other week? Well, I finally got around to mixing it into a Christmas cake on Friday
afternoon, or rather 3 Christmas cakes. I always feel like it's 80% fruit and 20% cake every year I make it.

Mixing Christmas cake by you.

It's been one of those things
waiting patiently on my to-do list for far too long. At first I managed to rationalise this to myself
quite sucessfully because although I've
made this cake numerous times over the years, this is the first year that
I've made multiple cakes to gift. In my mind, this seems to add so much more pressure to making the cake absolutely perfect, and since I had only one 8" cake tin, I had to set about on a quest to find another that wasn't absurdly expensive or paper thin. TK Maxx to the rescue. Also, I'm making one for my aunt this year, and since she's on her own a full sized cake would have been far too much, so I had to third my grans recipe (and oh what fun thirding and old imperial recipe is) and of course I didn't have a cake tin that was large enough, so ended up improvising using some kind of foil tin we had lying around the kitchen. Ironically, since I was most concerned about over baking the smaller cake, this one took the longest and ended up making me late for an engagement party I was meant to go to. But at least the cakes are finally made! They smell deliciously of Christmas spices, and I fed them their first dose of brandy yesterday.

Also, after dropping my mum off at the airport on Wednesday, I was left with a huge amount of bananas. They were reduced to 10p a bunch and were still quite firm, and my mum just can't resist a bargain! I knew I wouldn't finish them all so I decided to bake up some delicious banana nut bread too.

Banana nut bread by you.

I sprinkled some extra brown sugar and chopped nuts on top on top, which caramelised nicely in the oven while the bread baked.

Banana nut bread by you.

It was so yum warm and straight out the oven, but is also delicious lightly toasted with or without butter and a cup of tea. It's almost all gone now, but I still have bananas so I think another batch is needed pretty soon!
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Thursday, October 09, 2008

11 weeks to Christmas

After this rather frightening realisation I realised I'd better get a move on on my Christmas cakes! I try and do one every year using my grandmothers recipe, but this year I'm making 3 - one for us, one for the Boys family, and a little one for Aunt M. I've been meaning to get my arse into gear and start soaking the fruit for weeks now, but have successfully managed to procrastinate (why admonish my greatest skill?!) for long enough, so this morning I pulled out the jars of raisins, currants, peel and cherries and finally started weighing.

Soaking fruit for the Christmas cake by you. Soaking fruit for the Christmas cake by you.

Now, three beautiful bowls of dried fruit and glacee cherries are languishing in French brandy until they're suitably alcohol infused to bake into a lovely traditional boozy Christmas cake. I love how the brandy mixed with the sugar from the fruit makes it all look so glossy and jewelled, especially in that autumn morning sun.

It took me shamefully longer than I would have liked to work out one third of the original recipes imperial measurements for the mini cake, but I managed to scrape together just enough fruit for the three cakes without needing to go to the supermarket to make up any shortfalls, although I do need to restock the cupboard with a few odds and ends now. I did however run out of whole almonds for the second of the larger cakes, but I figure that the nuts aren't going to soak up any booze so they can wait until to tomorrow when I shall motivate myself in the direction of the supermarket.

Secondly, I had my interview with the Citizens Advice Bureau on Tuesday morning, and got the call later on that day to say that I'd been accepted, so big yay that I'm doing something constructive with my time this year that'll hopefully help me to get a job! I start my induction on Monday, and should hopefully be advising by around February time.

I had a few hours to kill after my interview before I was meeting Danielle, so wandered around the John Lewis and Fenwicks yarn deptartments to oggle the yarn. Picked up a whole load of yarn in John Lewis thinking it would make quite a nice argyle-style vest, but relented and in the end put it all back. I also saw a rather cute idea in some variagated Wendy Happy 4 ply sock yarn. Each colourway is named after a different star sign, which quite an adorable idea! Unfortunately, after much googling today it seems that for some reason, all the stores I've found that stock the range only have 8 different colourways. I'm not sure whether that's because that's all that Wendy have made (which would seem rather odd) or whether the other 4 are just shockingly rare, but I would have liked to knit my own star sign socks, but it seems that my own Saggitarian sign is most definitely missing. I am quite drawn to the Pisces colour though, so maybe I'll cave in one day.

Lastly, my tickle in the throat on Tuesday has developed into a full blown cold, despite all my efforts to ward it off, so I'm off to snuggle up in bed and try and sleep it out. Just one last picture of my (slow) Thermal progress...

Thermal progress by you.

Hopefully it'll be finished by Christmas!
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Saturday, October 04, 2008

Catching up

I swear this week has completely run away from me, I really can't believe how quickly it's vanished.

Lunch by you. Lunch by you.

Thursdays lunch was yummy leftover Pizza Hut pizza from lunch on Wednesday (2 slices of my medium make-your-own concoction of jalapenos, chorizo, chicken breast, spicy pork and red onion, and one slice of the Boys large meat feast) with some leftover garlic ciabatta from earlier on in the week, and some home grown salad leaves and avacado drizzled with a bit of sesame oil, soy sauce and balsamic vinegar. Truly scrumptious.

Most of Thursday was spent filling in my new botanic filofax (you can just about see it in the top left corner of the pizza pic) which I've been lusting after for months. Luckily, we wandered over to Borders after Wednesdays pizza lunch found out that Paperchase was having a 20% off promotion, so I caved in and treat myself to it. It's so so pretty, I spent most of the car journey just looking at it and grinning like a loon! It's such a great feeling to save up and get something that you've wanted for while, I think today's disposable society with so many shops having such a quick product turnover have spoilt us for going after impulse buys.

Anyway, after getting everything up to date and organised I dug out my drop spindle and roving, and tried to rediscover my (somewhat rudimentary) spinning skills. I'd had a smallish ball of cream coloured merino singles lying around for the better part of a year as I didn't have time to knit much, never mind spin last year, and this seemed like a perfect time to try and spin up another single and ply it. After spinning another 3 singles, I plyed the shorter one with the old single, but completely messed it up by putting far too much spin into it! It ended up a completely overtwisted mess, and altough I soaked and dried it to take out some of the twist, Friday evening was spent catching up on episodes of Secret Diary of a Call Girl on ITV catch up whilst rewinding The Hideous Overtwisted Hank with the aid of some scrap material and a trusty peg to take out all of the overtwist. I soaked it again, and it's still damp but seems to have worked.

handspun drying by you.

It's a bit uneven, running a bit thick and thin, but it's a pretty good improvement on my first attempt, and seems to have calmed down into a small but passable length of Real Yarn. Thankfully I learn from at least some of my mistakes, and the remaining 2 singles were plyed together into an even longer and slightly more even length of Real yarn. Spurred on by this apparant success, I've started spinning more inky blue singles. I'm on the hunt for some lime green merino which I think would look rather nice plyed together with the inky blueness.

Also, I finished Dani's neck wrap during the week. I found some lovely small wooden buttons in Fenwicks which look rather lovely with the cream colour of the yarn.

Dani's neck wrap by you. Dani's neck wrap by you.

Improvised pattern
Yarn:Patons Australia Smoothie DK

It's about 3 months late for her birthday but I needed a little something extra to bulk out the presents I already got her, and anyway, better late than never! I saw a similar neck wrap in a little Vogue knitting book in Borders back in September, but wasn't willing to buy the whole book for one pattern, so I decided to improvise my own. It's essentially a mini scarf knit in a simple brioche stitch (or maybe it's honeycomb... I forget) for about 26 inches, with buttons sewn on at one end. I love how versatile the different ways that you can button it up make it, because the stitch is loose enough so that the buttons can just pop through at any point that suits you. I did put little YO buttonholes in at one end, which the above pics are buttoned up to, but you can essentially wear it however you please, using both buttons, or just one.

Dani's neck wrap by you. Dani's neck wrap by you. Dani's neck wrap by you.

I'm not much of a cream/white wearer, but I really love the way the wooden buttons sit against the cream. In fact, I'm so very tempted to knit myself one of these bad boys sometime soon, so long as I manage to wean myself off the long lengths of scarf ends that I'm oh so acustomed to.

Dani's neck wrap by you.

The patten was a bit monotonous (too much purling for my liking) but the end result is pretty worth it, especially for a quick bit-on-the-side knit. One thing I do have to say however, is how much I detest this yarn. Yes, it's soft, and a pretty colour, and budget friendly, but my god does it split. It is by far the splittiest yarn I have had the (dis)pleasure of working with yet, which made it really unpleasant to work with. Having had a little nosey around on Ravelry however, it doesn't seem to be as despised as I would have thought following my experience with it (it's rated 3.5/5) so maybe I just got a bad skein. Still, I won't be rushing to buy it again.

And now bed, and the second half of Westworld beckons.

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