20 February 2013

saucy knitting and a family memoir

Turns out that lovely wool I bought a couple of weeks ago isn't right for the Varjo shawl I had in mind. Too masculine in colour for the intended recipient. But it was perfect for the very mannish Earth & Sky by Stephen West, a pattern I've been wanting to make for a while.

Apparently it was a mystery knit-along a couple of years ago, marketed using the only remotely saucy knitting photo I've ever seen. (Relax and take a look, it's PG, honest.)

While I think the finished product will be beautiful, I'm not in love with the actual pattern so far. Just the first couple of inches resulted in eleven ends to weave in. Surely it could have been more elegantly constructed to try and avoid that? It means that the reverse isn't going to be bonny, and neither are the edges, and I'm obsessed about edges. For me the finished product is ALL about perfect edges. Indeed, the other weekend (at quite the strangest Chinese New Year clan gathering of ang mohs on the wrong side of the world) I overheard my Mother-in-law and my Granny comparing the Different Lines shawls I made for each of them, and the praise was all in favour of how nice the edges are. That's a warm fuzzy feeling.

During that same weekend, I got a hold of a manuscript that I've been itching to read. The personal account of a journey my Great Uncle and Aunt made in 1949, driving overland all the way from the Middle East to the UK. I'm reading it very slowly and carefully, photocopying the crumbly, yellowing typewriter pages along the way and frantically gleaning all I can from my InDesign class, so that I can have it printed as a proper book really soon. (Seriously, they teach you how to design and create an actual proper book, isn't that amazing?)

Linking in with Yarn Along, the global community of bookworms and wool twiddlers.

19 February 2013

random recipe fail

You know when there's a trend, a consensus, dare I call it a "movement", that you're just not part of for some reason? Well, here's my guilty secret, I'm just not as in love with Nigel Slater as is expected of me. The blether-sphere is ram-packed full of people raving about his Kitchen Diaries, literally RAVING, but I haven't made time to read it. I have it on good authority that it's magical, but I find him so thoroughly unwatchable on tv that I haven't made much effort.

Which is also why I rarely choose to use the one Nigel Slater recipe book we own: Real Food. But you can't cheat on the Random Recipe Challenge, so when my husband picked some numbers at random, Real Food it was, and a recipe for grilled mustard and herb chicken.

It's very simple: a store-cupboard marinade of delicious things, chicken thighs, and a griddle pan.

When you're mixing oil, tarragon, mustard and parsley together, you kind of know that good things are in store. I was willing to accept that my reluctance to join Cult Slater might have been a bit baseless. Especially when he writes things like "They will probably take about eight minutes total cooking time, depending on the size of your thighs (or, rather, the size of the chicken's)."

That did make me chuckle. But it was at that point things started to go a little wrong. My instinct was to flatten the chicken thighs a bit with a rolling pin, or even chop and thread them onto skewers satay-style. But Nigel didn't instruct me to do that, so I did as I was told and just flung them on the griddle. It turns out that lovely organic chicken thighs (unflattened) are too plump to cook through on a griddle in eight minutes.

Mine (or, rather, my chickens') needed more like twelve. And while the recipe states that "There will be much smoke and sizzling", after twelve minutes the outsides were burnt to buggery.

Which is fine. I mean, they were largely inedible, but we had a bigger problem. We live in one moderately small room, by which I mean that our kitchen, sitting room, dining room, and study all occupy a single 8m x 3m space. And Nige was not wrong about the smoke.

After leaving all the doors and windows open for three hours (on a freezing February evening in the North of Scotland) every fibre and pore of our lives is still thick with the smell of burning. Every surface within a metre radius of the cooker is coated with a fine layer of fat, and I've lost the cat. I occasionally hear her miewing in the middle distance, but my streaming eyes can barely focus as I claw my way through the haze.

The verdict from the panel?

"Mummy, I don't really like the chicken."
"No sweetie, neither do I."

06 February 2013

the magical moment when...

The weather here has been unbelievably bad for the past couple of weeks. Howling gales, horizontal hail, sleet and snow. And the kind of driving cold rain that makes my frontal sinus ache on the way home from school. It makes The Boss whimper on the way home from school (because she doesn't know what a frontal sinus is yet but just knows that it's miserable).

I always feel bad for the Posties on days like this. We have two regulars and I wouldn't do their job for the world, yet one of them is always cheery, and the other is always (there's no way around this) hot. The kind of purdee that you almost never discuss with your female neighbours over coffee... very rarely anyway.

Anyway, cheery Postie made my day today by delivering the most magical moment of any project. After weeks of browsing online, humming and hawing about colour combinations and which brand would give me the best result for the lowest price, at last the little squashy parcel of wool from Loop arrived. They always deliver within a matter of hours and wrap it in beautiful apricot coloured tissue, the opening of which, for me, has become a wonderful rite of passage for any special project. The possibilities!

do you know what I mean about this moment? or have I totally lost it?

This time it's for a Varjo shawl by Veera Valimaki, something I've been aching to make for months.

The Postie delivered a magical moment for The Boss too. A lovely wrapped Amazon surprise for when she gets home from school, a belated birthday present from a busy Uncle. She's going to love it (I know what it is!).

And as luck would have it, the sun's come out at last.

Joining in with Ginny and Yarn Along; a global exploration of reading and knitting.

03 February 2013

my child is unique :: just like everyone else's

Everyone knows that their kids are uniquely remarkable.

But it never hurts to get a bit of proof.

The Boss is now six. Which is reason enough for me to get misty-eyed and nostalgic this weekend, but chronic sleep-deprivation and a couple of glasses of celebratory prosecco certainly sped things along.

While I was looking for something totally vital and utterly lost yesterday, I stumbled upon this farewell letter from her Singaporean preschool teacher. It sums up everything we loved about our years there. It was such an affectionate, happy, joyous time, and I can't believe another year has passed!

Watch out blubberers, this one might make you wobble (or maybe it was just my delicate emotional state). It's awfully nice to have someone else say this sort of thing about your child (ignoring the strong probability that she writes the same letter to all the children).
In the past two years you have amazed me with your wisdom and knowledge. You are my sunshine girl who slowly became the apple of my eye. You have matured beautifully this year, more confident and self-dependant. It is indeed a joy to teach you.
You are doing extremely well in the understanding of phonics. I am confident that with proper guidance and support, you will soon embark on the reading journey.
It really breaks my heart to see you leave Singapore. Alas! We will not be able to see our little bud blooming into a beautiful flower. However you will always reside in the core of my heart and we have no doubt that you will be a pleasant addition to any institution you join.
Already missing you immensely, your class teacher, March 2012.

I know. I KNOW. Some teachers are worth their weight in marshmallows aren't they?

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