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Monday, November 30, 2015

Hanging Baskets

I'm really pleased with my hanging baskets this year. I grow the flowers from seed in my greenhouse and plant up the baskets when the seedlings are big enough. Then the baskets are hung in the greenhouse for a further 2-3 weeks until the plants are almost ready to bloom. As usual, the day after I hang them outside the Nor'Wester comes and batters them to within an inch of their lives, but the one that is in the most sheltered spot always looks the best all year round:

This basket is planted with trailing lobelia in mixed pinks and pink trailing petunias.

The trick to getting a nice full looking basket is to simply over plant the basket, (I used 6 of the lobelia plants and 3 petunias), water twice a day and feed every week. Pick off dead flowers every few days. After about 6 weeks of blooming, the flowers will start to look straggly and past their best - chop the whole lot back so the plants are just a couple of inches high (you have to be ruthless), then continue the feeding and watering regime and the baskets will soon give another flush of flowers.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sunday Baking...

A Sticky Orange Marmalade Cake.

Today's recipe is for a very classic British cake, it's essentially a Victoria sponge cake with the addition of marmalade. The topping is what takes it to the next level.

But first a few tips ~ using Seville Orange chunky marmalade, if you can get it, makes a big difference - the regular orange marmalade just makes the cake overly sweet. I make my own Seville Orange marmalade but I have seen it available in New Zealand, usually on the International isle in the supermarket. Duerr's and Frank Coopers are both good brands. Seville Oranges have a very bitter but strong orange taste.

The cake will seem to brown quite quickly, use a sheet of baking foil laid loosely over the top of the tin if you feel it's starting to go too brown. The cake is supposed to be a nice deep brown, but not burnt.

Whenever I'm baking I try to fill the oven as I'm too Yorkshire to put it on for a single item, that's why I often make 2 things at a time. It's no trouble to double the recipe and freeze the second cake or gift it, or bake something else at the same time that requires the same oven temperature. But that's just me!

When beating the butter and sugar together, beat it for a few minutes longer than you think it needs, this gives a very light and airy cake. The cake will rise up while baking into a high dome, but will then fall flat again (which is a sign that it's almost cooked).

For the Cake:
175g unsalted butter, softened
175g caster sugar
3 large eggs at room temperature, beaten
175g Self Raising Flour
1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons chunky Seville Orange Marmalade
2 tablespoons milk

To finish:
3 tablespoons Seville Orange Marmalade
50g Icing Sugar, sifted
Water to mix

Preheat the oven to 180 degC, gas mark 4

Grease a 9"cake tin and line the base with non stick baking paper.

Cream the butter and sugar together until light, fluffy and pale in colour.

Gradually beat in the eggs a little at a time, beating well after each addition. Add 1 tablespoon of flour with the last of the egg.

Sift the remaining flour with the baking powder and salt and gently fold into the cake mixture with a large metal spoon, then gently stir in the marmalade and milk.

Spoon the mixture into the tin and smooth the top as evenly as you can.

Bake for 50 - 60 minutes or until nicely browned and firm to the touch. remove from the oven and run a flat bladed knife around the inside of the tin to loosen. Leave to cool for 15 minutes then carefully turn out onto a wire rack to cool, right side up.

Warm the marmalade (this can be done in the microwave on low power) and gently brush it over the top of the cake. Allow the cake to cool completely before icing:

Add a little water to the icing sugar and mix to a smooth and runny consistency. Drizzle it over the cake allowing it to run down the sides a little. Leave it to set.

This cake will keep in an airtight container for up to 5 days, but I bet it doesn't last that long.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Green Leaves Socks...

I haven't had a chance to write anything over the past week or so, but as usual I have been busy knitting away:

The Yarn is Shibui Knits Sock in Wasabi and the pattern is Golden Leaves by Cookie A.

I loved knitting these, the pattern is interesting but easy.

I knit the pattern as a mirror image on the second sock instead of knitting them both the same (as they are in the pattern). I also altered the rib, in the pattern it's a complicated mix of Knit tbl and purl, but after I looked at the graph I realised that knitting plain old K1 tbl, P1 would line up with the twisted stitches in the pattern, I prefer K1 P1 or K2 P2 for sock rib as it gives a more snug fit.

I'm really happy with these and will knit this pattern again.

After blocking the socks ~ and as I seem to be on a major sock knitting roll at the moment ~ I cast on these mini baby socks:

The yarn is Lorna's laces but I forget the colourway, it's left overs from the first pair of socks I ever knitted which must have been about 14 years ago. I'm using 2 mm needles and the pattern is a free Interweave Pattern.
44 stitches - a mock cable rib for the leg with a short row heel and toe.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

More Hand Spun Sock Yarn

I have been busy spinning another batch of the Corriedale/Nylon sock yarn:

I spun 100g of fibre into fine singles then Navajo plied it for a 3 ply strong sock yarn.

I dyed it my favourite colour, a variegated purple!

320 metres. I think this may become a pair of Simple Skyp Socks for myself.

I've also been spinning some Perendale fleece. The locks were washed with wool scour in a mesh bag, after drying I quickly flick carded them and spun up 2 bobbins of singles. I did a 2 ply yarn this time:

250 metres of yarn, it still needs soaking and drying but I'm hoping that it's going to be a sport weight yarn.

Perendale sheep were developed in Palmerston North, New Zealand by crossing hardy Cheviot rams over Romney ewes. Perendale clip is low lustre and crisp to the touch.
Fibre diameter: 30 - 37 microns
Staple length: 100 - 150 mm
Fleece weight: 3 - 4.5 kg

A good fleece looks bouncy and will feel crisp. The higher bulk fleece has better shape retention and higher insulation properties. If you add a little more twist than normal you will get a rounded and hard wearing yarn, it's also excellent for Navajo plying.

You won't be able to produce a typically smooth and dense true worsted yarn with this fleece as it tends to poof up, capturing the air within the yarn. If you use the worsted technique you will produce a different type of yarn with all the worsted strength and durability, but with reduced weight and added warmth.

Perendale also makes an excellent woollen yarn which will produce a light yet bulky yarn.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A Lovely Memento

My dear Brother sent me a beautiful memento of Ruby and Molly, my two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, sadly both of whom passed away over the last year. I had a lump in my throat when I opened it, the likeness is incredible, it's an ink drawing done by a friend of my Brother from a photograph:

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Apron All Finished Off!

I finished the apron:
I had to rethink the frill at the bottom.
I wanted a fuller and deeper frill but then after tacking it on I realised that because the two fabrics are different weights, (the red is a much heavier fabric) the frill was going to constantly try to drag the front of the apron down. So I removed the frill and cut the depth and width down by 40% then re-gathered it. It sits nicely now and doesn't want to slip forwards. Never mind, I'm happy with how it's turned out even though the frill is smaller than I would have liked.

Leftover Perendale fleece and my brooch from the Highland Spin yesterday. More about that later in the week.

This is what we have been working at on and off for the past few weeks, today my hubby finally finished doing the finicky time consuming bits of painting and I finished the Roman Blind and hung it. Another room completed, we are getting there slowly but surely with the house.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Fast Food.....

I was a child of the '70's and grew up in a small village in Yorkshire where there was no such thing as fast food - as we know it today that is. No high street burger chains, no deep fried chicken shops, no pizza parlours - there was a fish and chip shop and in later years a Chinese take away both of which were a rare treat. Today fast food is everywhere you turn, it's often cheaper to eat out than to cook healthy nutritious meals at home. Food full of bad fats, chemicals and additives and heaven knows what else.

Today I needed fast food ~ after a long day at work and coming home ravenous with only myself to cook for:

Ruffled eggs with asparagus and wholegrain toast.

Preparation time: 1 minute
Cooking time:  4 minutes

No chemicals or additives.
Eggs from my free range hens, asparagus from my chemical/spray free vege garden. The butter on the toast is homemade cultured butter.
That's my version of fast food!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

A Sewn Retro-Style Apron

It's November already!
I spent 2 full days working in the garden over the weekend ~ mowing the lawns, clearing weeds, laying mulch, cutting back the camelias and other overgrown shrubs and planting new things. I love this time of year although the garden does demand a lot of my time.

Because of the above I haven't done much making over the past week but did find a little time to make a start on a secret santa gift for one of my work colleagues. I decided to make a retro style apron as the person I am secret santa for likes to cook.
The fabric is a bold and bright 100% cotton digital floral print (from IKEA) and I'm using a bold red heavy cotton fabric (perfectly matching the deep red roses) for the trim:

The apron, when finished, will have a deep red flouncy frill along the bottom edge and a red pocket.

I love the little details on this particular apron (which is why it appealed to me) it has fully sewn-in and hemmed interfacings ~

A sweetheart neckline with dressmaker pleats down the front and sides ~

Pressing the pleats after sewing them.

I hope to have this little beauty finished in the next day or so.
There is knitting on my needles at the moment, an item for our President's Challenge ~ an annual event the spinning guild hold at our Christmas Lunch in December, so I can't post any pictures of it yet.