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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Recent Events....

Christmas came and went in the blink of an eye this year but here's a brief summary of events ~

Boxing Day brought us yet more (strong) earthquakes and more damage.

I made salted caramels that were so yummy they were eaten in less than 12 hours!

I didn't cook at all on Christmas Day, as promised.

Winter arrived here yesterday ~ just 10 degrees all day and only 5 this morning, I'm sure it's supposed to be Summer.

Santa was very kind to me this year, he brought: The Fry Chronicles, a red leather handbag I have been coveting for the longest time, Alan Bennett's Talking Heads audio book, Thornton's Chocolate, 6 skeins of Malabrigo Lace ~ 3 of Hollyhock and 3 of Azul Profundo, and a new Pandora bead for my bracelet.

I've been playing with my new drum carder and haven't knitted a stitch for more than a week.

I joined a KAL starting very soon and need to dye some yarn for it.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Turkish Delight....yum

I made Turkish Delight for the very first time ~ I didn't realise how time consuming it would actually be.

I followed a recipe by Rachel Allen, I still can't understand why it uses both corn flour and gelatin as the thickening agents, all other recipes I looked at used one or the other.

Basically you start by making 2 things in separate pans: in the first pan you make a sugar and water syrup which you cook for around an hour until it reaches 125 deg on a sugar thermometer, the second pan contains a mixture that resembles cow gum glue and smells totally disgusting. In fact I nearly stopped at that point and sink-erated the whole lot. However, I persevered - the thoughts of sickly sweet rose scented and flavoured cubes of pink prettiness swirling around in my mind.

So, after the sugar reaches the correct temperature you throw in a bit of lemon juice whilst standing well back from the pan as the molten lava - like sugar spits everywhere when you do this. Then you slowly add the  boiling hot syrup to the pan (while trying your best to keep a steady hand) of white glue like stuff (which is a mixture of the gelatin, corn flour and water which is cooked until thick) while whisking furiously. It's then cooked for around another hour until it's a deep golden colour. At this point it still smells absolutely awful and resembles wallpaper paste. I then added rosewater and a few drops of pink colouring and voila... Turkish Delight. I tipped it into a well oiled tray (and yes it still stuck!) then left it to set overnight. It had stuck in the tray so I had to slice it in half and loosen it all the way around and underneath with a large spatula, then it got tipped out onto a pile of icing sugar and I hacked it into cubes with an oiled knife, generously rolled it around in the icing sugar and put it into an airtight container.

Here it is:
This is just a small amount in the picture, the recipe makes oodles of the stuff.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Post Lady delivered ...........


I sometimes forget that I will receive a package when taking part in swaps, I become anxious about seeing if the package I have sent has arrived at it's destination and I forget one is on the way to me.

Anyway, my CSW9 package arrived today and it travelled all the way from Ramsgate in England. I loved the contents ~ my spoiler Sharon must have stalked me very well indeed!

My requested colour/theme was way out of my comfort zone this time but I am starting to run out of colours and thought it was time I tried something different to my usual red/plum/purple. I asked for a combination of cream, pale gold and hot pink and either a Cupcake or an Oriental theme if possible.

I received 2 skeins of the most lovely fingering weight yarn, a hand made needle roll with a matching notions purse (funny, I occasionally make these for my shop but have never made one for myself). Also included were Knit Picks DPN's and needle tips (in a size I keep losing/breaking), a great needle gauge, a pretty Union Jack purse containing an English coin, English magazines and recipes, cupcake cases, cupcake wet wipes, Options hot chocolate drinks, hand made doggy themed stitch markers, floral peg clips. My spoiler hit both my colour choices and themes which I was not expecting, here are some of the goodies:

On the knitting front I dyed a skein of yarn I received in another recent swap, this was an organic merino/silk blend from Ellen Norway. I dyed it in deep red/berry tones and have finally decided that I will use it to knit myself a Pettine shawlette that I will cast on today. I seem to have been in a bit of a knitting tiz lately and cannot decide what to knit next. I think my problem is that there are so many things I want to knit I can't put them in any logical order lol.

In my swap package was a recipe card from Tesco's for cheddar & cornbread muffins, so of course I had to make them didn't I? We take our own lunches to work and I think these will make a nice change to wraps or sandwiches. I made a couple of changes ~ I added some finely chopped spring onions, red pepper and sweetcorn kernels which I lightly cooked in a teaspoon of olive oil. I also added 25g of freshly grated parmesan cheese along with the cheddar to the mixture:

Cheddar Cornbread Muffins

50g butter, melted
150g strong cheddar cheese coarsely grated
300g cornmeal or fine polenta
150g self raising flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
280ml buttermilk
175ml milk

Preheat the oven to gas 5, 190 deg, or 170 deg fan. Use a tablespoon of the butter to grease a 12 hole muffin tin.

Put a heaped tablespoon of the cheese to one side for the tops.

Mix all the dry ingredients, including the grated cheese in a large bowl.

Mix all the wet ingredients, including the melted butter together in another bowl or jug.

Pour the wet into the dry and lightly mix together until just combined. Don't over mix. Spoon into the muffin tins and sprinkle with the reserved cheese.

Bake for 20 minutes until risen and golden.

Transfer to a cooling rack. Serve split in half and filled with sliced cheese, tomato chutney and salad leaves. The muffins can be wrapped and frozen for up to 3 months.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

December Already!

I can't believe it's been so long since I last wrote anything here and that it's actually December!
Where on earth did the year go? Today my house smells just like Christmas ~ I'm making mincemeat.

We won't be having a traditional Christmas lunch this year and I won't be making a Christmas cake or a pudding either (shock, horror, screwed up faces when I announced this to my family). The reasons being:

It's too hot here on Christmas Day to have the oven going or to eat a hot meal so I made the decision to order a gigantic Christmas Ham from Mr Heck the German Butcher and I'll make some nice salads to go with it from our veg garden. If the men feel the need to put the BBQ on then so be it but they will be the ones doing the cooking. I will be sat in a shady corner knitting hopefully :-)

Christmas cake ~ this will be the first year in forever that I haven't baked one. After tidying out a storage cupboard after the earthquake where I discovered ~ sealed in a cake container ~ the cake I made last year totally untouched. I seem to remember this also happened the year before when I found half a christmas cake in the back of the pantry in the middle of Winter.

I think because it's the middle of Summer here you don't get the urge to eat things like this, maybe a mince pie is now my absolute limit and I thought I would never say this but I much prefer a fruit platter now ~ the berries are all in season at that time of the year. I can tell you that no one else in the house was happy at these new fangled ideas of mine because for years they have all been so terribly spoiled! Yet as much as I love our traditions I feel that now we live here we really need to try to change some things to fit in with this seasonal topsy-turvyness. 

This will be our 4th Christmas in New Zealand yet each and every one of them have not felt 'right', not Christmassy at all, maybe the lack of family members and the weather have a lot to do with that, I'm not totally sure. I used to love Christmas when we lived in England but now I don't care for it at all because it only reminds me of what I am missing back home. 
However I do have a christmas wish list that goes something like this:

Ashfords Drum Carder so I can work my way through the many boxes of fleece I have stored away.
A new Knit Picks yarn winder
2 skeins of some utterly scrumptious yet frivolous yarn that I would never dream of buying for myself in a colour that I wouldn't normally choose but that I would love
3 Merino sheep
3 Alpacas in Cream, dark brown and ginger colour

So today I tried to get into the christmas feel and made mincemeat ~ a recipe I have owned for many years but have never used. I cannot get suet here (traditionally used in mincemeat) so 2 years ago I made a recipe with no fat and a pint of brandy as the preserving element, nice but a little toooo boozy for my tastes. Last year I found a jar of Robertson's traditional mincemeat in a shop here and stupidly paid an extortionate $20 for it (it was a small one too). This year I decided to used a recipe that was from my Mother In Law (strangely she made it herself for the first time this year too), it's from an old Women's Institute cookery book from Northern Ireland in the early 70's. 

I changed the recipe a little, I like to add dried cranberries and changed the spices by adding a little freshly ground nutmeg, ginger and cloves and reducing the mixed spice. I used a rind parer for the zest, it gives those nice long thin strips which after cooking look translucent and slightly candied. I used a mixture of half brandy and half rum as the alcohol.

Mincemeat Without Suet
6 oz unsalted butter, cubed
24 oz apples, peeled, cored & finely chopped
12 oz raisins
12 oz currants
12 oz sultanas
12 oz brown sugar
4 teaspoons mixed spice
rind and juice of 2 oranges
rind and juice of 2 lemons
4-6 tablespoon brandy, rum or whisky

Mix all the ingredients except the alcohol together in a large saucepan. Heat gently and simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour until the apples are nice and tender and the juice has reduced to a thick consistency.

Add the alcohol and put into sterilized jars (wash jars in warm soapy water, rinse and place in a pre heated oven at 140 degrees c for 15 minutes, fill while still hot and seal carefully). This filled 5 medium sized jars.

This is best if made at least 3 weeks before using and will keep indefinitely if jars are properly sterilized and sealed and stored in a cool, dark place. Once opened store in the fridge.

On the craft front I have recently mailed out my final 2 Ravelry swap packages of the year and have hardly done a stitch of knitting of late! Seriously, I can't seem to get the time at the moment. I knitted a Norrie hat from my new Shetland Trader Book which arrived this week ~ I am so happy with it and can honestly say it's the first book I have ever owned/seen where I know I will eventually knit every pattern in it. I have yarns on order for Shalder and a few other projects which seem to be taking an age to arrive.

On the shop front it's been very busy throughout November, I've been dyeing almost every day. I'm dyeing lots of new floral themes inspired by my garden. Yarns are taking an age to dry because we seem to have had very high humidity over the past week and we have our dehumidifiers on constantly. I have a large order of yarn bases due in any day now including a couple of new ones ~ a new silk sock 50/50 silk/merino blend and a MCN sock yarn (merino/cashmere/nylon) which are both totally gorgeous. I've decided not to continue buying in the sublime sock yarn base I have been using - the last batch I received were rather knotty skeins and I dislike knots and don't like sending them to my customers either.

 Pink Roses
Peach Roses
 Magenta Rose


Tuesday, October 19, 2010


After getting up at silly o clock with a migraine I took some pills and went back to bed to sleep it off. 3 hours later I was much better but was at a bit of a loose end - I didn't have any plans for today and was still feeling a little flat. A quick decision was made to bake some easy oatmeal and raisin cookies - my favorite flavour.  I got the recipe from David Lebovitz -
These cookies are just what I was after, chewy and soft with golden crisp edges and a hint of spicy cinnamon and nutmeg. Another plus is that they are man sized. They are the kind of cookie that you hope to find in your lunch box.

I have tried lots of different recipes for Oatmeal and Raisin cookies but have never found the recipe I have been looking for......... until now. I used quick oats although the recipe says not to - simply because I find the oats available here in New Zealand are very coarse and hard compared to the ones I would buy if I were in England or Europe. We never buy biscuits here because we find they are all very hard so homemade ones are a nice treat.

A new yarn in my shop today - Iris - inspired by my garden. I'm loving these Spring blooms!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Spinning Progress..

I have done a couple of hours for the last 2 evenings and managed to fill one bobbin. I've just started on the second one. The coin in the photograph is a 20 cent NZ coin.

Another new colour of sock yarn added to my shop, this one was inspired by our highest mountain, Mt Cook - it's called Cloud Piercer.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

More On Spinning....

I haven't knit a stitch for a couple of days which is quite unusual for me, but I do get times like this very occasionally. It's nice to be able to put things to one side and work on something different, a change is as good as a rest so they say.

I wanted to talk a little more about my spinning, I don't do any often enough. I don't even know if I do it 'right' because I'm self taught but the way I do it works for me.

I started out with a drop spindle - I just couldn't get the hang of it (then afterwards I wondered if it was because I was using combed top that I didn't like working with, it was like rope). I bought my first wheel, an Ashford Traditional and tried with that, I still couldn't do it properly. It was put it in a cupboard where it sat for over a year and one day whilst having a clear out my Hubby said that if I had no intention of using it then maybe I should think about getting rid of it. I decided then that I would try again. I bought a kilo of merino combed top and practiced until my knees hurt. I bought a couple of other fiber blends - merino/silk etc and tried those. I came to the conclusion that the combed top I had first started out with (I think it was Romney) was not my cup of tea and wasn't the easiest of fibers to work with (although I had been told that beginners should start with this). I had great success with the merino - it was like spinning butter after using the Romney.

I love preparing the combed tops ready for spinning, nice to do while watching tv. Last night I remembered I had a decent amount of Blue Faced Leicester so I sat and made these little clouds. This started off as a braid and weighed approx 125g.
I draft the fiber into very fine strips then draft the strips by gently pulling and letting the fibers glide over one another - working my way down the strips - then I loosely coil them up into little clouds. Doing it this way means that I don't have to mess around trying to draft it too much whilst I'm spinning. These are fairly big baskets in the photo so you can imagine how much volume there is. This is a lovely blend of pinks, purples and grey. I plan on spinning the singles as fine as I can get and then I will decide on how I will ply it.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Another Sample......

Here's the sample of BFL top. I loved spinning this and managed to get finer singles with it. Again I Navajo plied it to get this:
This is sport weight but a bit finer than the first sample.

A Surprise in the Mail Box

I had a lovely surprise in my mail box this afternoon, my Amazing Lace Swap package from Tanya in Nevada arrived.

I received some really gorgeous yarns - Skacel Merino Lace weight, a skein of my beloved Malabrigo Lace and a skein of Misti Alpaca Lace which I have never seen in real life before and can now say it's really lovely stuff. I was also lucky enough to get some hand knitted spa cloths which are gorgeous.

Here's a new yarn that I have listed in the shop, my garden was full of daffodils and Lilac blooms and is what inspired me to dye this, it's called Daffodil on Lilac, and is on my Merino Twist base.

Spinning Samples

I spun up one of my fibre samples yesterday, in fact I did 2 but the other one is still drying.

This sample was the braid in my previous post. It was lovely to work with. The blend is Merino & Silk and I added a little Firestar for a bit of sparkle. I spun it into a very fine single then Navajo plied it to make a 3 ply yarn. I'm guessing it's about a Sport Weight:

The second one I spun is the Blue Faced Leicester sample and I also added a little Firestar to that one. I liked the BFL sample - the fibre was so easy to draft and spun like a dream. I'm going to get started on the Shetland one today.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Thoughts of Spring... Spinning Fiber and a Cake....

I was getting so used to the milder weather we have recently been getting, nice sunny warm Spring days with longer evenings as we are now into daylight saving. Then yesterday it all changed and I feel as if Winter as come back to bite us yet again. Most of the tulips and daffodils in the garden have been blown over by the strong winds. Since the quake the house seems very draughty ( maybe because we have a lot of brickwork on the outside missing?), the interior doors and roof rafters rattle every time there's a strong gust of wind and my dog Ruby takes cover under the coffee table or jumps onto my lap in fear. My other dog Molly sleeps through anything and everything.

I was very organised today - up with the larks, tonight's dinner is all prepared and I have the afternoon free - I'm going to get my spinning wheel out. I have some gorgeous fiber samples from my August Phat Fiber sample box that I would like to spin up:

From the back left we have:
Superfine Alpaca, Merino & Bamboo blend

On the right of this is 23 micron merino

At front left is Hand Pulled Clouds of Corriedale Cross wool, Kid Mohair & Angelina

Centre is Blue Faced Leicester Top

Next to that - the black and white one is Black Alpaca, Mulberry Silk & Angora Blend

Front centre is a Shetland & Merino blend

The small braid front right is Merino, Silk & Firestar
The wispy white at the very front right is crab fiber which I find interesting. I don't know which I would choose as my favorite of all, they are all nice in different ways but I think the first one I will spin will be the braid of Merino, Silk & Firestar because it's calling to me.

My newest wheel - I bought this second hand recently and could not believe my luck in finding it. It was well worth the long drive to collect it. It had been used only twice and the owner decided spinning was not for her and sold it on. It's an Ashford Traditional:

That's my Ruby sneaking into the photograph. She can probably smell the Alpaca fiber I was previously spinning - she is drawn to alpaca.I was knitting a cardigan from some last year and every time I got it out she would lay down by the ball of yarn and constantly sniff it over and over. We are seriously considering getting a few alpaca's, there's a place just over the road from us who breeds them and later in the year they sometimes have some up for sale.

Then there's a cake - I baked it early this morning and the house smelled wonderful. It's a Double Ginger Cake (I love love love ginger) - the first time I have made this recipe yet if I was to bake it again I would add more ginger to it. The cake also sank a little in the middle which didn't surprise me considering the amount of syrup in it. In the description Jamie calls it a teatime cake with attitude.
It is lovely - stickily moist, not too heavy and tastes heavenly. I think if I were to wrap it and store it until tomorrow the top would soften right up and go sticky, but I doubt it will last that long with 3 men in the house and a dog who goes absolutely crazy over cake. The recipe is from Jamie Oliver and is made in a food processor:

Double Ginger Cake

8 pieces of stem ginger in syrup drained, plus 4 tablespoons of the syrup reserved
150g soft unsalted butter
200g golden syrup
100g dark muscovado sugar
250g self raising flour
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 large eggs
200ml milk
100g light muscovado sugar (for sprinkling on the top, I omitted this because it's sweet enough)

Preheat the oven to 180 deg C/gas 4.
Grease and line a 20x10cm loaf tin.

In a food processor with the blade attachment chop the ginger pieces finely. Tip this into a large mixing bowl.

Put the butter, golden syrup, ginger syrup and muscovado sugar in the processor and pulse until pale and creamy then add the flour, spices, eggs and half the milk. Process again until thoroughly mixed. Add the remaining milk and blitz again.

Pour the cake mixture into the bowl containing the chopped ginger and stir well. Pour into the prepared tin and smooth the top. Sprinkle over the light muscovado sugar if using.

Bake for 50 minutes until a skewer poked in the centre comes out clean.

My cake took 65 minutes to bake  and my oven is usually a bit on the hot side. The skewer will not come out looking clean because this is a very sticky textured cake. I tested mine by gently pressing in the middle, if it springs back it will be cooked.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A long colour change yarn...

A ravelry friend gifted me a pattern a few days ago - the Sweet Jazz pattern which I really like the look of. I wanted a colourway and yarn base that would really do it justice. So I decided to put my thinking cap on and here's what I came up with:

It's my Seaglass in a long colour change on my bambaroo base which is perfect for the warmer weather.

I skeined up 500 yards of the yarn and dyed in a gradual colour change from palest to deepest Seaglass. The colour is not as grey toned as it appears on the photograph, it's slightly more vibrant. I cast on for the shawl last night and I can't wait until, I get to the colour change to see how it looks!

Saturday, October 2, 2010


So, what have I been doing for the past few days? I've been working long hours at the day job this week so that has left me little time for doing what I like to do best.

Firstly, I dyed a brand spanking new colourway on my new yarn base and the first few skeins have flown out of my shop already.

I'm really in love with this colour, I dyed it using the monochromatic method - the shades go from barely there to deepest Seaglass. It's a nice restful shade, very easy on the eye. It's slightly more green toned than I can capture with the camera.
I see myself knitting a nice 1 skein shawlette with this, I think it's much too pretty a colour to hide it away on feet!

Secondly, I decided I would like to try my hand at dyeing with natural dyes, namely Sticta Coronata. This is a lichen that's unique to New Zealand. Strange stuff. First I had to separate the lichen pieces into parts containing spores and non-spored bits, easier said than done! The two produce different colours so I think I must have got it right. The spored lichen made a deepish red looking liquid which came out as mauve and purple on the roving I was dyeing, the non spored came out a nice silver grey. Then I added ammonia to the red liquid and the dye turned pink. I really enjoyed doing it but I don't think I'm going to be retiring my acid dyes any day soon, the lichen method was quite time consuming and I only extracted enough dye solution sufficient for about 100g of fibre. Here's the Sticta Coronata after I had soaked it, all plumped up:
Doesn't look very nice does it? According to the information I have, once the purple colour is exhausted from the lichen you can tear it into pieces and re process it to get yellow toned dyes. I would need a ton of the stuff to extract enough dye to get a deep shade. I was fun dong it and next week I may try to get the yellow tones from it.

Here's the roving I dyed with it, I'm calling this one Ethereal. It's a nice blend of Silver grey, pale pinkish mauve and has touches of quite deep mauve, I may list it in my shop:
Something that's really irking me today - GST went up in New Zealand yesterday from 12.5% to 15% so we expect a price increase on most items of 2.5%, correct? Seems not. I have been out today and bought a few items that have risen in price since 2 days ago of between 8 and 11%. The prices here are high enough without shops trying to rip us off even more.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A little less progress and a new yarn base.

So much for making progress on the mitts. I ended up going back about 30 rows because I noticed I had made a mistake on the palm side.

My new yarn base arrived today and I am thrilled with it. It's a 80% superwash merino & 20% nylon base but it has a nice cabled twist which is like the Cherry Tree Hill Supersock Select base that I stock. The new base is wonderfully soft. I dyed 2 skeins of my Two-Lips colourway on it today just to try it out and I think I'm smitten:

I will have more new colours to put in the shop over the next few days :-)

Monday, September 27, 2010

A little bit of progress........

I made a little progress on my mitts and thought I would show you. My stitches are a little uneven in a few areas, I'm finding it difficult to keep my tension spot on working with 2 colours of yarn but I'm hoping a good soak and light blocking will sort that out when they are finished:

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Colourwork Komi Mittens.

I received a fabulous book for my birthday last month that I had been wanting for a long time. It's Mostly Mittens by Charlene Schurch. I was not disappointed by it. There are so many patterns inside for the most lovely mittens I have seen. I have chosen pattern number 27 to start with. This is the first pair of colourwork mittens I have ever knit.

The book tells the fascinating history of the Komi People from Russia. The Komi were in Russia by 1000 to 1200 AD. They were migratory deer herding people and established a life dependent on farming, fishing and hunting reindeer around 1700. As late as the mid 1950's the Komi were still living in village type communities. Today there are only around 285,000 Komi speakers. Russia considers the Komi as one of the 26 recognised ethnic minorities and they form an independent republic.

The chapter I found most intriguing was on Komi dress. The women would spin flax, hemp and wool from plants and animals they had raised. The men would carve spindles from wood for the women to spin. Before they could marry Komi girls were expected to weave at least 2 dozen towels and 100 yards of cloth as well as make 3 dozen pairs of stockings, the same amount of mittens and 1 or 2 dozen shirts! In order to fill this order the girls began these preparations at the age of 10. All these goods were presented to the family of the bridegroom at the wedding. 

I cast on last night and completed my first 2 colour rib, I used 2 half skeins of my hand dyed sock yarn that I had left over from recent projects in Jet and Pacific Blue, I love this effect:

I put it on my Ravelry project page and I don't know why but the mittens I am knitting are not the No 27 mittens on Ravelry, the ones shown are different, they are No 26 in the book I have.

Monday, September 20, 2010


I'm sorry about the delay in announcing the winner of the sock yarn, life has been far from quiet here over the past 2 weeks to say the least.  I have spent most of the time trying to get the house put back into some sort of order after the quake and on top of that feeling a little under the weather.

The true colour of the socks (although they do look a little darker in the pic than in real life):

The colour is Marmalade Semi Solid, one person got the color exactly right and the winner is...Sara!
I was surprised that you guessed so accurately Sara, well done.

I will be having a regular giveaway - the next one will run in October, I will post details here at the end of September.

We seem to have escaped the clutches of the severe storm that was forecast for the weekend although I believe parts of the North Island had it bad and the snow down in Southland looks quite heavy, very winter wonderland. I think we in Canterbury have had our fair share of the bad stuff. We are still getting aftershocks although they have decreased in number thank goodness.


Monday, September 13, 2010


We were hit by a 7.1 earthquake on Saturday 4th September, it was 4.35 a.m. and was the most terrifying thing I have ever experienced. We were so very lucky that no one was killed, our home is just a few kilometers from the epicenter and we have damage to the structure of our home plus just about everything inside it is smashed to bits. There are a lot of people worse off than us through this, at least we still have a roof over our heads albeit a damaged one.

The worst part of it all for me was that it happened in darkness, and where I live there are no street lights or such, you cannot see anything at night. The noise was so deafening, I honestly thought a 747 had crashed into the house. Then we had to get down the stairs because we knew we just had to get out and I really thought that there would be no stairs left. We got downstairs and grabbed my Nephew and Niece (who happened to be staying with us for the weekend) from a downstairs bedroom and we all got outside. It was freezing, icy and frosty and totally black but we stayed out there for hours until first light in just our pyjamas.

When daybreak came it was awful to see the destruction, we have brick walls missing, large cracks going through the house from bottom to top but surprisingly no windows were broken! Every room looked like a tornado had ripped through it, lots of china and broken glass everywhere. Furniture reduced to piles of sticks, my younger Sons room was the worse affected, his large strong wooden bed is now in pieces, all his furniture was completely up-ended. The force must have been immense to move some of that furniture, it's all well made heavy stuff. The trees in the garden are no longer straight, they now lean in different directions.

I have spent all week sorting through the rooms, trying to salvage what I could. We are living and sleeping in the lounge which we feel is the safest place. We have had hundreds of after shocks which are awful, very un-nerving and it makes you wonder if the rest of the house is going to come crashing down.

Through the first few days we had no power, phones or water but we had a radio that worked, and all we heard on the stations was that we were to ring this number or go to this web site. I think people had forgotten that many folk didn't have internet or phones and that was very frustrating. I think in situations like that they have to presume that no one has access to these facilities.

So we are slowly trying to get our lives back to normal, hoping that this never happens again, but the fault line is a new one that no one was aware of and apparently hasn't moved for 16000 years.

I am still standing by my win a skein of yarn post, my partner messaged me to say she had received her color swap package and I will announce the colour and winner in a day or two.

Amidst all that has happened this week Mother Nature is still doing her thing, beautiful blooms are appearing in the garden:

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Signs of Spring

Dare I hope that Spring is finally here? I'm not so sure because the weather here has a nasty habit of changing very suddenly. My garden is full of blossom, buds, and baby birds and the Fantails have returned, noisily flitting here, there and everywhere gathering materials for their nest (I put little bits of roving in the trees for them to take). The surrounding fields are home to new lambs and in the distance I can still see snow on the Alps. I love the sunny yet cold, sometimes frosty mornings and the bluest skies they bring.

On the knitting front I finished my baby cardigans, the recipient was born nearly 2 weeks ago, shame on me. I also knitted a cute baby bonnet. I joined a KAL with the MOHS group on Ravelry and my project is a Jane Thornley capelet/wrap so I have been sorting and choosing yarns for this upcoming project.

I baked Sponge Drops: very simple soft, light discs of golden fatless sponge sandwiched with homemade raspberry jam and whipped cream, if it was berry season I would have put plenty of juicy raspberries in the middle too, but that's something I can only dream about for the time being. Good thing I took this pic straight away because they had gone within 15 minutes.

Sponge Drops:
2 large eggs
75g caster sugar
50g self raising flour
25g cornflour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 baking sheets, greased or lined with non stick paper.
for the filling:
150 ml cream, whipped
6 tablespoons jam

Preheat the oven to 200 deg C/gas 6.
Lightly whisk the eggs then add the sugar and whisk again until the mixture becomes pale and creamy and leaves the trail of the whisk.
Sieve in the flours and baking powder and fold in gently but thoroughly with a large metal spoon.

Drop dessertspoon sized drops onto the prepared trays leaving room between them because they spread quite a lot. You should get about 16-18 drops in total.
Bake for 5 mins then remove them straight away to a wire rack to cool

Sandwich them together with your choice of filling, dredge with icing sugar and serve.

Friday, August 27, 2010

I'm Giving Away a Skein of Sock Yarn ....

I thought this would be a great time to have a sock yarn  giveaway because I'm right in the middle of a Colour Swap on Ravelry at the moment. This is a swap I have taken part in for a long time and it's my most favorite of all swaps. For those of you who don't know the rules - you are assigned a secret spoilee who nominates a colour in their sign up questionnaire, then you have to put together a package of items including at least one handmade gift in their chosen colour.

Right, what you need to do to have a chance at winning the yarn is to guess the real colour of the socks in the photograph by leaving your answer in the comments section below. I won't be able to name the winner for a couple of weeks (until my swap recipient has received their package from me - it's a surprise swap). The prize is a skein of my hand dyed sock yarn in the same colour as the socks below (and it's a very nice colour). I will post a colour picture of these socks here on the day that I name the winner.

In the case of more than one person guessing the right colour of the socks it will be names in a hat time which is the fairest way I can think of, and if no one guesses it right then all names will go in the hat  :-)

I baked Carrot Cupcakes today but I'm not sure what I think of them:

This is a Nigella recipe but I don't think I'm all that struck on these, it's the first time I have used this particular recipe. They are cakey yet have a strange kind of texture and they didn't rise very evenly, they looked more like a muffin when they came out of the oven, uneven and cracked on the top. I dislike the cream cheese frosting given in this recipe because it's just way too sweet for my liking and makes enough to frost double this amount of cupcakes, again, I've never made this particular frosting recipe and I'm now wishing I had stuck to my old faithful recipes for both.

Updates in my Etsy shop:


Wednesday, August 18, 2010


I have always loved colour and think I have a good eye for it. I can go out and randomly buy things for a specific colour scheme without taking along swatches, paint chips or pictures and from memory I know if it's right or not. 100% of the time I'm spot on.

Onto colour and yarn..... The main reason I started dyeing my own yarns was largely due to the lack of choice/availability here in New Zealand. It's hard enough finding a nice yarn base then when you do find one it doesn't come in the colour you are wanting or you cannot get the yarn weight you are after etc etc, which really surprised me because before we emigrated here I had visions of the country being a wool lovers/knitters paradise. I thought I would be in yarn paradise.
So on the internet you go to order something from overseas and most of the time I have been totally happy with my yarn purchases, but there has been the odd occasion when the colour I received only slightly resembles the colour that was seen on my monitor.

It's my birthday tomorrow and I received a gift from my dear friend Nichole in Nova Scotia. Now just look at the colours on this yarn she sent me, I am in love. I've had it by my side every day and keep giving it a pat and a squeeze:

I love these bold peacock blues and purples, it's the way they really stand out over the deeper earthy tones that appeals to me. The yarn is Trail Sock by Fleece Artist and I cannot wait to start knitting it up, however, I have to decide what I am going to use it for. As much as I want to make socks I don't want it to be hidden away in my shoes so it may become a shawlette of some kind. Hugs to you Nichole if you're reading this, it's beautiful and you could not have chosen better for me :-)

Another favorite yarn I've been dyeing is Precious Metal. I'm loving using the natural colour palette at the moment, maybe that's a seasonal thing? Every time I put a skein of this in the shop it runs right out the door, not that I'm complaining.

I dyed this same colourway onto a bamboo base yesterday, I will post a pic when it's dry to show how the colours differ due to the base yarn differences.

Another few busy days here, I've been dyeing new yarns for the book launch on Saturday at the Dux De Lux 12.30 - 2.30-ish.

Recent updates in my Etsy store:

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A baking day....

I made bread today, real homemade stuff -  the kind with a crisp light crust and a soft inside. This is my fail safe loaf when making it by hand rather than in the machine, sometimes I want to mix and knead myself and remind myself how therapeutic bread making can be. I vary the shape nearly every time, today I fancied a plait/braid and wanted sesame seeds on top, I love their nutty taste and smell when they are toasted. This recipe only requires one rising, no proving at all so it's a quick bread to make but you must use fast acting (instant) dried yeast, the dried regular bakers yeast and fresh yeast just won't work here.

Basic White Bread

500g strong white bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 x 7g sachet of fast acting (instant) dried yeast
15g soft butter
300 ml warm water (100ml boiling and 200 ml cold)

Because it's cold here at the moment I warm the bowl first. I put the flour, salt and sugar in a bowl and mix then pop it in the oven set on the lowest setting for about 5 mins. If it's warm weather I skip this process.

So, mix your flour, salt and sugar together, then stir in the yeast. Cut the butter into tiny pieces and rub it into the flour until it disappears. Then add the warm water all at once, mix it into the flour mixture, clawing at it with your fingers until its pretty evenly mixed. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for at least 10 minutes. It seems never ending but you must make sure you knead for at least this time if you want your bread to have a lovely fine texture. Cover with a damp tea towel and let it rest for 10 minutes.

While it's resting I prepare my tray/tin. If I'm baking on a tray I use silicon paper to line it, if I'm making it in a loaf tin then I grease the tin thoroughly with a light coating of butter or oil.

Shape the dough into whatever shape you desire, I braided mine but I often just make it into a cob loaf by making an elongated oval and slashing it 3 times diagonally across the top. Then cover with either oiled cling film or a damp, warm tea towel and put it in a warm place to rise for about 45 minutes until it's doubled in size.
Remember to preheat your oven, I do this about 30 minutes into the rising time. You need it to be at 230 deg c.

If you want a crispy crust then dissolve 1 teaspoon salt in 4 tablespoons warm water and brush over the top, or dust with flour for a soft floured cottage stye bread, melted butter brushed over gives a nice deep golden crust with a superb taste. Scatter with poppy/sesame/sunflower seeds or whatever you fancy.

Put the bread in the hottest part of the oven and bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 200 deg c and bake for a further 10 - 15 minutes as all ovens vary. The bread will be golden brown and should sound hollow when you tap it underneath. Allow to cool on a rack if you can wait that long!

Here's the same bread recipe but made into something different.  Make the same dough, roll it out thinly then spread it with a little melted butter (about 2 tablespoons), scatter over some strong cheddar, a couple of tablespoons of freshly grated parmesan, some snipped chives and a few slivers of roasted cloves of garlic. Roll it up into a swiss roll type shape, bend it around into a ring and tuck one end inside the other. Make deep slashes all the way around the edge with a very sharp knife, cover as before and rise for 45 mins to 1 hour in a warm place. When it's doubled in size brush the top with a little melted butter and sprinkle over some more grated cheddar and parmesan. Bake exactly as for the bread above. This is lovely served with homemade vegetable soups.

I also made the Everyday Chocolate Cake from Smittenkitchen for the second time this week. I highly recommend this recipe! The first time I was really pleased with it but felt it needed something to top it off so this time I added a chocolate fudge icing:

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

And New Yarn....

There's new yarn in my shop today, the colour is Bobby Dazzler. I also added some new project bags yesterday and have more of these to list over the next few days. I'm going to be concentrating on dyeing yarns for the Christchurch book launch now so I won't be dyeing much for my Etsy shop for a while.

Monday, August 9, 2010

New Socks

I haven't posted here for a while, I've been very busy working full time hours at my day job, however I did find the time to dye this yarn and knit up these socks this week:

These are Sunday Swing Socks and the yarn is my own hand dyed in the She Sells Sea Sells colourway.

The sock blockers were made by my husband, he made 8 of these as a surprise for me yesterday. I have been going on about them for ever, ones for sale here are few and far between yet when I do see any they are generally very expensive.

Monday, July 26, 2010


Last week I dyed some roving for myself, it was nothing to look at really. I kept most of its natural colour and added blues, golden yellows and touches of orange. I haven't spun for about a year, my wheels have been sitting gathering dust.

I had 180g of roving and spun 2 large bobbins worth of thinnish singles and plied them together. Here's what I got:

 180g approx - 300mtrs of worsted weight (approx) yarn.

I like the way the colours play on each other, the yarn is so soft and silky and it could easily be worn next to the skin. I just have to decide what I am going to knit with it.

I had got the spinning bug so I finished off spinning some Ashford's merino silk fibre I have had for ages, it was making me feel guilty that half filled bobbin.  I spun this thinner and then navajo plied it. I was really impressed with the results. Photograph to follow - it's still drying at the moment.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


When I got home from work today there was a parcel waiting for me, from Scotland. It was a swap package from my partner in the World Yarn Swap group on Ravelry. Wow, what a lovely selection of goodies inside.

Starting with the yarn, beautiful Rowan 4 ply, 3 different shades that I am going to put with some Rowan pure wool 4 ply in Eau De Nil that I already have and plan to make a Paper Dolls sweater for myself with it. A beautiful hand made beaded hanging heart which is now hanging from the mirror on my dressing table, gorgeous soap and bath salts from the Isle of Skye, cute angel buttons, and my favorite UK treats - Galaxy hot chocolate and chocolate bar and Jaffa cakes! There was also a neat litle gadet called a Combicut which is a seam ripper and tweezers in one, it will be very useful when I am sewing:

Then there was The Knitter, issue 10. What a lovely magazine, I'm drawn to the sweater on the front cover, I received another issue of this in a previous swap and there are some lovely patterns inside and the quality is great - nice thick pages and really good photography. I'm going to get myself a subscription to this if at all possible. I love the postcards of Scottish sheep and Scottie dogs with Bagpipes:

So tonight will be spent with my feet up in front of the fire, sipping Galaxy Hot Chocolate and nibbling Jaffa Cakes whilst reading my new magazine. Thank you Jane for a wonderful package :-)

On a different note my spinning bug is back again, I dyed up merino roving yesterday for my Etsy shop and ended up dyeing a batch for myself. I have spun a little of it already staying up late last night spinning. Having not done any for a while I had forgotten how soothing and rythmic it is. The roving is beautiful New Zealand Merino, very soft and lofty, really easy to pre draft. I chose to experiment with a different dye technique and was really pleased with the way it came out. I may have hand spun yarn to show off in a day or two so watch this space.

Roving I dyed for the shop: