Making…er…Tuesday…

Okay, so I lack an alliterative title, but my excuse for late posting is that I was working crazy-hard on something with a deadline. Thanks to some marathon sewing, it’s done, and I can show you this sneak preview:

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Yes, okay, technically those are the cut-off scraps that I’m turning into the world’s biggest pile of squares. For what, I have no idea, but I know I’m more likely to use them if they’re sewn together rather than leaving them as just triangles. I’m sure I’ll think of something.

Food-wise, it’s been rather a dull week:

Monday: Paella. All the paella. Seriously, more than that.
Tuesday: Paella. See above.
Wednesday: Paella. Yes, again. Yes, there was still some left over. Yes, I took it for lunch on Thursday.
Thursday: Pineapple Jalfrezi.
Friday: Nyonya Quorn (Rick Stein)
Saturday: Leftover Jalfrezi
Sunday: Slow-cooked pork with ginger (Rick Stein)

On the original menu, we’d planned to have risotto on Thursday, but I decided that I really, really couldn’t handle another rice + vegetables dish and made a curry instead. With vegetables. And rice.

On the plus side, the paella was really, really good. Just as well, considering how often I ended up eating it. I tend to start with a recipe from a website, then veer off it halfway through, coming back for the spice list, then throwing in anything else that seems good at the time. When we were in Menorca, we found that the secret to the excellent paella we’d been eating was the paella spice mix that you could buy in most greengrocers. But given the age of the stuff we bought, I went with individual spices instead, including a little cayenne pepper, which gave it a lovely lift.

If you have the Rick Stein book, I heartily recommend the slow-cooked pork, which was wonderfully sticky and gingery. And if you make the Nyonya chicken, definitely use chicken, not quorn. Something went a bit wrong, and although the flavour turned out okay, it looked very strange – yellow and rather unappetising, not at all as yummy as the chicken version had been. Apparently some substitutions can be done, others should just be left alone!

We’re away this coming weekend, so I’m in ‘basics’ mode for food this week. Bolognese last night, with leftovers tonight, and probably sausage and chips tomorrow. Hopefully we’ll make up for it with the food while we’re away – I’ll report back next week!

To make up for the dullness of ploughing through all my to-do lists, I took some lovely sunny photos by the river last week. One a gloomy, rainy day like today, it’s a nice reminder that we do get good weather sometimes!

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Have a good week, everyone. I shall report back from sunnier climes next week!

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FO Friday: Perfect Phoenix

Every now again as a maker, you finish something, step back and find yourself thinking, “wow, did I do that?” When you’re in the middle of a project, you’re caught up in the process. Maybe it’s fun, maybe it’s a little dull, maybe it’s going too fast or too slow for you. And every so often, even when you do finish, you’re a little underwhelmed by what you’ve made.

But every so often, you surprise yourself.

Presenting my current all-time favourite project at the moment: My Phoenix Shawl!

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I will not lie to you. Making this shawl was a long haul. If I hadn’t had three days at home with a nasty cold, it would probably still be a work in progress. But as I couldn’t really do much but stay under a duvet and close to a box of tissues, I found the long rows towards the end strangely soothing. Even so, this is something of a challenging project.

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Like all triangular shawls that are made from the point up, the first few rows seem short and fast, lulling you into a false sense of security, because by row eight or nine of this shawl, I realised that I’d started a marathon, not a sprint. I’d already made the Phoneix Hat, so I at least had the stitch pattern in my head, but even so, I had to keep up a strict stitch marker regime to keep my place in the pattern. If you take on this sort of project, I really recommend using 2 stitch markers in the pattern repeat sections. Put the first one at the end of the first repeat, the second one at the end of the second repeat, then move them over each other each time you finish the next repeat. It’s a bit of a faff, but much less annoying than ripping out whole rows because something went wrong in the middle.

Back view

Then there was the edging. Oh wow, the edging. I absolutely love it, but the reason it curls is that it has extra stitches in there, so it really does take longer than you think. Still, it’s one of those things where you just put something good on the radio/TV and plough on, because you know the results are going to be worth it. And wow are they worth it.

Worn forwards

The yarn was an absolute joy to work with. It’s Fyberspates Vivacious in Mixes Magenta, and I ended up using 2.5 skeins, which is pretty good for something this size. It’s one of those springy-soft yarns that manage to have body without being stiff and softness without pilling. I’m a little in love with it, and wondering what I can put with my remaining half-skein to make sure that every yard gets used up.

Close up - complete

This is a big shawl, enough to wrap around and keep me properly warm, and I’ve actually been a bit disappointed that the change in the weather came so soon after I finished it so I haven’t been able to wear it as much as I wanted! It’s going to be a real staple in my wardrobe for years, I’m sure.

To see if everyone else is as happy with their finishes this week, head over to Tami’s

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Comfort Eating: Librarian’s edition

For all kinds of reasons, this week has felt like very hard work, and on Tuesday night after work, what I really, really wanted was a huge coffee and a chocolate croissant. The only problem was that I try not to drink coffee (even decaf) after about 4pm and I avoid gluten as much as possible as well. What I really wanted, of course, was something comforting. Something reassuring and familiar and warm to bury myself in.

So I did what all good librarians do in my position: I went to the library.

Pile of books

It’s possible that I may have got a bit carried away. This tends to happen when I visit the library in that sort of state of mind. Books! Free books! What’s not to like? Sometimes in this sort of mood, I end up with a lot of things that I feel I ‘ought’ to read, and I end up returning them unread. Often they’re unread and late, at which point my ‘free’ books become a bit more expensive (I can’t be the only librarian who constantly owes library fines, can I?)

This time, I chose things specifically for their comfort value. Old friends of titles and authors that made me happy even as they made my shoulder hurt. I can’t wait for someone to invent lightweight paper!

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This is the title I chose to kick off with (propped up against the sort of weightier tomes that I’m more used to dealing with!) It’s a light-hearted romp of a detective story, very knowing, well-written and incredibly easy to read. And the best thing is, there are at least 4 more in the series!

Definitely cheaper and better for me than a visit to my favourite cafe. Anyone else have a favourite comfort-read?

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WIP Wednesday

It’s been one of those strange days where everything feels like it’s only half-started, so I suppose Wednesday is an appropriate day for that kind of feeling. Even the weather feels half-done, with quite a chill in the air this morning and glorious sunshine this afternoon. Perfect for taking project pictures!

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I’ve found lately that although I need to have multiple things I could work on, I’m very happy just plodding away on one thing at once. After struggling away at the cardigan that I swear I will finish one day, I wanted something easy for carrying around. After filling my Ravelry queue with far too many things, I finally settled on Solas by Aoibhe Ni. The Tunisian Lace technique is one I’m pretty comfortable with now, and even better, this shawl is modular. No enormous rows to get through, no having to rip back too much if you go wrong. The joining is done as you go, so you can see it growing, and it’s the perfect ‘mindless’ project. Until you know you’re getting near the end, you don’t even really need to count.

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Having said that, you do need to check that you have an even number of stitches in each row. I can’t tell you how many times I found I’d skipped something and ended up a few stitches out! The yarn is Moondance by Natalie at The Yarn Yard and is very forgiving, fortunately.

After being busy all morning and most of the afternoon, it was lovely to grab five minutes with a coffee in the sunshine. The flowers are showing off in this kind of weather, and the College stones were practically glowing. Just what I needed after hours of concentration!

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I’m linking up to Tami’s as usual, so don’t forget to have a look at what everyone else is working on at the moment.

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Making Monday: All you can eat

Cookbooks

Now that I have the main responsibility for cooking dinners, I’ve been finding that I want to keep better track of what we’re eating. Sometimes we get to the end of the week with the impression that we’ve eaten really well, or really badly, or that it’s been boring, or exciting and lots of other things that I’ve completely forgotten about a fortnight later.

We both forget what we ate, and how much we enjoyed it, so I decided that I’d try turning Mondays into a bit of a foody day, in the hopes that I’ll have inspiration in a month’s time when I can’t remember what that great thing I cooked was.

In case you think I’m exaggerating, here’s a typical conversation from this week, about the aubergine and lentil dahl I’d put on the meal planner:

Me: It’s the one we had before.
Him: Are you sure?
Me: Yes, because I gave it to [person]
Him: I don’t remember making it.
Me: That’s because I made it!
Him: I don’t remember eating it.
Me: It’s the aubergine dish we were trying to think of the other day when you asked me what we’d had lately with aubergines and neither of us could remember what it was apart from the fact it wasn’t the horrible one from that cookbook.
Him: …. Oh.

Ironically, I can’t actually remember what we had on Monday and Tuesday, but for the rest of the week I know we had slow-cooked Rogan Josh (yummy), Mushroom Penne (needed more Quark and more mushrooms, but pretty good), Lentils with pork (better than it sounds! both from Rick Stein’s Spain cookbook), the aforementioned dahl (very good, especially re-heated for lunch!) and Soupy Rice (the Spain book again) as shown in the picture (and yes, that’s how I normally cook – pan, recipe book, iPad :))

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I was instructed to call this “Chicken and rice casserole”, because apparently the name in the book was rather off-putting for some of us. It was very hearty and tasty, and is definitely going into the regular rotation, although next time, I’ll cut the chicken into smaller pieces. I left the legs whole and on the bone, but with only about 25 mins in not-that-much liquid, J’s didn’t cook all the way through and we had to stick it in the oven.

We try to have at least one new recipe a week to keep things interesting, but since 4 meals this week were new to us, I’m giving myself a break this week! Instead, along with old favourites, I’m revisiting a dish that wasn’t a complete success last time. It may have tasted good, but thanks to a few too many chillies, what we could mostly taste was “OH GOOD GRIEF SO HOT.”

I’ll report back next week, assuming I survive!

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FO Friday: Epic All Shawl

I’ve got quite a little queue of things that I’ve managed to finish lately, but being out of the habit of blogging, I’m rather behind with my photo-taking. Fortunately for me, the sun is out today and I managed to get a few nice shots.

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This is the third All Shawl (#1 is here, I didn’t get pics of #2) that I’ve made, and I love it just as much as the others. It’s a brilliant, easy pattern, infinitely adaptable and works in any gauge and any yarn. Be warned if you decide to print it, though, that the instructions make a small book, because Doris gives you lots and lots of advice on how to make it *yours*. It’s a great project for beginner crocheters who want to try something different, rather than simply following a pattern, but with the safety net of clear instructions to fall back on. You can choose your permutations of yarn, hook, body and edging to make exactly the sort of thing you want.

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I made this one in a few days over Christmas. The yarn is an aran by The Knitting Goddess in a really beautiful mottled black and purple. It’s soft and springy, and with a 9mm hook, this shawl worked up in no time at all. I didn’t worry about blocking it, because it’s big enough as it is, and the yarn hangs really nicely. It’s grown about an inch just since I finished it, and I’m sure it will keep going for a while yet. Overall, I used about 4 skeins of the wool, which is almost 800m (Rav project page here) and is just right to keep me warm.

Wearing shawl

For all that I loved just making it, I did have one purpose in mind:

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My office got absolutely freezing cold this winter, and while it would have been lovely to just wrap myself in a quilt for three months, that’s not exactly practical. But wrapping myself in thick, warm wool? Much better. It lives on the back of my chair, so I can throw it on if I need to pop across college, but it’s too cold to go without a coat. Perfect!

There’s no linky post up as I’m writing this, but I’ll join in at Tami’s once it’s there!

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Ask a busy person

The theory goes that if you need something done, you should ask a busy person to do it. Recent evidence suggests that if that thing is blogging, a busy person is not going to have time for that as well! I’ve thought about posting a lot over the last few months, but things are busy at work, and the dark weather has played havoc with my mood and energy levels. When you are just about making it through the things you have to do, adding things you want to do seems an unattainable luxury.

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On the other hand, I’ve managed to finish a few projects, which I’ll post about in coming days (as I try to find time to take pictures of them!) and I’ve got quite a few on the go again. This was something I did at Christmas as well, and I found it worked quite nicely. Even if I’m working on just one thing, I like to have the illusion of choice. If I’ve only got one thing on the go, it takes on the feeling of *having* to do, which makes it a chore rather than the fun project it’s supposed to be. At the start of March, I found myself back in that situation, and immediately had a wade through my stash, my craft books and my Ravelry library to see what I could do remedy it.

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I don’t know if others do this, but I use my library for things that I want to make, as well as patterns I actually own. Otherwise, I find myself having to look in too many places for the patterns I want. Sometimes I’m inspired by a pattern, and sometimes I just really, really want to work with a particular yarn, and generally the only way to solve this is to open lots of tabs, spread skeins out all over the desk, and rummage away until I’m happy!

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The upshot of my happy rummaging is 4 projects genuinely in-progress, and another 4 or so that are ‘pending’. They fit nicely into this adorable case that I bought in the sales.

With the illusion of choice, I find that I actually work quite happily on one thing at a time until it’s finished, which has lead to a surprising number of FOs lately. Very satisfying!

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Of course, I’ll only be properly satisfied once I can get decent pictures and blog about them. Then there’s my works in progress, oh, and the massive stash clear-out that I’ve been doing over the last month or so. That should keep this place busy for a while, I hope!

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