Thursday, May 31, 2012

Getting ready for the weekend

The queen and her family are, I'm sure, busy as anything picking out their outfits for the weekend festivities.

The ladies are checking out hat options. Big? Small? Tilted? 

And the bell-ringers are practising like crazy!

Here at our house, we are also getting just as busy. We are having our block party, and since it is on the same day as HM's procession down the Thames, I decreed that we should all wear royally excellent hats. I don't know if anyone else on the street will follow my suggestion/ decree, though.

I got the turquoise straw hat at Ardene, and since they were 2 for $15, I got a green one as well, which I think Elaine will wear. Two big hair-clips/ brooches were attached to a piece of lace I sewed around the brim. The pale blue butterfly beads were part of an artificial flower thing I got at the thrift shop, but it was all on wires and was too heavy and unmanageable to attach easily to the hat. So I removed the beads from the wires and sewed them on the hat to add that subtle, elegant touch. (Two leftover beads will appear as earrings on the big day.) And the green feathers, I think, make it all just perfect!

Now I just have to make three salads, and cross my fingers for the weather. I wouldn't want my chapeau to get rained on!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Sunday's divine roast lamb

This is the lamb I bought when I went to pick up a ton of tangled red acrylic yarn.

And this is some potato, carrot and rutabaga.

And this is perhaps the most divine part of the whole meal: the sauce! Pan juices, stock, capers, mint and a splash of vinegar.

This all adds up to Jamie Oliver's roast lamb recipe. He appears to have used meat with a bone in, and mine was boneless. He says not to peel the garlic, but I had already peeled it by the time I read the recipe! He also says to serve it with greens; I planned to serve asparagus, and ended up with salad.

I shall definitely remember this for a rather special meal again! The meat did fall to bits with tender deliciousness and the gravy was super, especially all over the mashed veg!

One wee point: I bet the metric version is the original, and the copy I have has been "translated" into pounds and ounces and cups. Now I see the original, I notice that he calls for 2 kg of lamb, and my book says 2.2 pounds, or one kilo! Tsk tsk. I shall check that sort of thing before embarking on another recipe!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Rhubarb and asparagus

I cooked two more things out of Jamie At Home last night. I have not yet got in the habit of taking pictures while cooking, though!

I made the asparagus soup.

My asparagus was local and fresh, and looked like tree trunks. Not the delicate little stuff, for some reason! Maybe I am too used to seeing the stuff imported from Peru in December!

The soup is really easy to make: chop up some veg, add some stock, cook. Puree. Toast bread, poach egg. Done. And it was really good! My eggs weren't runny enough, but that's my fault, not the recipe's. Definitely I would make this again.

For dessert we had rhubarb crumble. Arthur preferred the crumble to the fool I made the other day, but I liked the fool better. This recipe calls for "2 pieces of stem ginger, chopped," which is about as vague as you can get! I used one piece I thought was as big as 2 little ones. 

Now, I see that word "stem." I just used ginger, or as one could say, ginger root. "Stem ginger" seems to mean that it is in syrup. Crazy. I've seen crystallized ginger, and love it, but don't think I've seen the stuff in syrup. 

That would make a difference, I tell you! Now I must seek it out. A quest!

In knitting-related news, today is the Textile Museum's sale of fabric and yarn and all good stuff, so we'll see what happens there.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Socks all over the place

It's time to celebrate!

Arthur's picture of our Victoria Day fireworks
I finished a grey sock! Yay me.

The pattern is an old Patons one: cable and bar. The "bar" is made by doing p1, slip 1, over those 11 stitches, next to the cable bit. The yarn almost lines up its stripes with alternate bars, but the pattern would look much more sophisticated with plain yarn.

And I started a new one! Even bigger yay!

I've now done the cuff and have started the leg portion. 

Meanwhile, the mending pile is too enormous to ignore any longer.

Arthur's tiger socks had such a big hole in them that I couldn't face darning it, so I cut the whole toe off and will reknit it.

I'm sort of sure that darning would have taken less time, but so far, I've spent months avoiding darning, so at least the knitting will eventually get done -- I hope!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Where do I start?

Let's see.

Once upon a time, someone offered vintage patterns and some yarn on Freecycle. I said how lovely that would be, and she said she would need to search for some more yarn, but she'd let me know when she found it. And then I forgot all about it for a few weeks... till she e-mailed me saying all was ready! Yesterday I went downtown to pick the stuff up.

The patterns were mainly arans and booklets that I have had at one time or other in the past. Some things ripped out of magazines, like this:

Unfortunately, no pattern; just a picture. All in all, not a great score. I think I will just hold on to a couple of mid-80s books for the pictures.

Ah, but the yarn, you say, maybe that made up for the "vintage pattern" part of the package.

Um, no.

It was stuffed into a canvas bag and I could see it was loose on the top, but little did I know that what I got was a whole bag full of a tangle of yarn! I have wound off a few balls, probably about 150 grams or more, and there is this whole ton still to go! You can see my feet buried in it at the left. 

There is a group on Ravelry called Knot A Problem, and they love to detangle yarn (whatever turns your crank...) so I might just contact someone from there. It is all the same, this red acrylic. It would make a blanket for a child or a lap afghan, but that would be so far down my list I would never get around to it.

However, the day was not wasted. Recently our favourite cheap and cheerful butcher shop closed, and we have been looking for a replacement, other than the supermarket. I was early for the pick-up appointment, and saw a sign for the Healthy Butcher. (Mmm, they have recipes on that site.) I went in and admired the meat (noting that an elk T-bone sells for $66/kilo: not cheap and cheerful at all) and remembered that I could use a lamb shoulder roast. When I asked about it, someone found a lamb shoulder and deboned it, rolled it all up and tied it neatly, and then charged me $43! I clutched at my heart and handed over the credit card.

I'm hoping that since I got disappointing patterns and yarn for free, it's true that you get what you pay for, and my very expensive meat will be super-fantastic.

The reason I wanted a lamb shoulder roast is so that I can make this recipe from Jamie Oliver's Jamie at Home. The book is arranged by seasons, and the Spring chapter covers asparagus, lamb, eggs and rhubarb.

I'd like to do a sort of Julie/Julia thing with this book, and make (almost) everything in it! I might leave out the drink involving rhubarb and cream, for example, or the lamb tartare, which is raw. I'm sure the Healthy Butcher could provide me with lamb I'd feel okay eating raw, but at what price!? I don't think I'd like to eat supermarket lamb raw, for some reason.

(And now we stop to discuss the lack of access to the original Julie/Julia blog. It was there a while ago, but now has been removed from its original place, and from the Wayback system, too. The best you can do is this, I think. Beware: the "read more" links lead to nothing. The book is second-best. The movie is a whole different beast, really.)

So far in my Mary/Jamie project, I have made asparagus (steamed with vinaigrette) and rhubarb fool. The asparagus was very nice. We used mint and I'd like to try it again when my basil is grown. The rhubarb was great, but I wouldn't call it speedy -- once the orange is zested and squeezed, the rhubarb is chopped, and the pastry is thawed, it goes quite quickly, but you can't think of this at 5 pm and whip it up for dessert that night... Unless you keep puff pastry ready to go at all times! Actually, though, the pastry was not really necessary and the tangy rhubarb, orange, yogurt mix was delightful without it.

This has got horribly long. I haven't even started on the knitting that is going on around here, but I'll save that for another day!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Finishing something

Fun structure and easy knitting and colour-changing yarn.

Who could ask for anything more?

This was my bus and meeting and hanging-around knitting for the last little while. I'm glad to get it done, because as you know, I have my eye on a few other things!

This is the multidirectional diagonal scarf. Fun fun fun.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Pre-startitis twitching

Let's make a list of WIPs.
  1. The grey sock. Still only one, or in fact, a half. But I have been working on it lately, thinking I might give it (and a mate) to someone in June. 
  2. Botticelli. Yeah, that border. Thinking of it.
  3. Sunday Best!! I want it now, but have just that last 75% of the sweater to knit.
  4. I have to either mend socks or knit a lot more. Arthur has gone past the "feet grow so fast" stage to the stage where he can wear through the socks. Urgh. Lucky it is summer and even he rarely wears wool socks in the summer.
  5. I'm sure there are a ton more things waiting for my attention.
  6. One of those things was the Horses in a Meadow scarf. But, the other day I was in the Knit Cafe and I was ogling the Koigu. I had sort of wanted to make something like Charlotte's Web, but although they all look wonderful, it's not a very exciting thing to knit, compared to some shawls one sees out there. So I had my Koigu on the table and was going through patterns in the shop and came across Jared Flood's Rock Island. Oh my heavens above. Of course, I had to then rethink my yarn, because even if I want five colours for the one shawl, I don't really want five colours for this shawl. Lightbulb moment: I have some lovely laceweight at home, in just my colours, with which I have barely started a scarf. So I bought the pattern and came home and frogged my few inches of scarf and am ready to start anew.
  7. Also, I couldn't resist buying some yarn... Hand Maiden Casbah. I decided I would make mittens. Yeah, very summery, I know. I couldn't decide between two colourways till I said to my friend, "Do I want vibrant, yellow, sunshiney mittens, or... " and she looked at my other choice and said, "Gloomy, stormy, dark mittens." Right. So I bought the bright yellow/green/pink yarn and might just make Knotty Gloves.
Meadow, is it golden?
or is it green?

Surely that is enough. So far I have refrained from actually casting on two new attention-needing patterns. For now. I have wound the skein into a ball. Tipping over the edge, though, is only a step away.

Whatever, I'm certainly in a yellowy phase!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Queenly colours

Vogue Magazine knows a style icon when they see one. For bigger images, here's a Daily Mail article.

On our block we are having our annual street party on the same day the queen will be cruising down the Thames a la Cleopatra, and I'm encouraging everyone to wear a queenly hat. This provides loads of inspiration!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

It's that time of the year again, which is... Britain's Got Talent time! I must say I love the whole thing about this show (except the fact that the videos on that page don't play outside the UK). The way they edit it to tug at your heartstrings, the way they put this act on in the first audition show and that one on later... One has gained momentum over the month or so, and the other is fresh in the audience's mind -- who will prevail!? Messing with our heads! This year, it is youth and beauty all the way. Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday: all the winners were 20 or younger! Thursday, one 19-year-old guy and four women in their 20s.

Saturday night is the final and this week I've been silently betting on winners in the semi-finals. (My family wish I would shut up about this, so maybe not so silently...) Oh la!

Your finalists are here. Ones I want to win are bold!

Ashleigh &Pudsey
Ashleigh and Pudsey, a girl and her dog. Really, can anyone beat a cute dog? It's a bonus that Ashleigh is also totally likeable, beautiful, a good dancer. Teenager #1, and w00t, female! (Last year, there was one woman in the final!)

Only Boys Aloud, heartstring tuggers all the way! A boys' choir from Wales -- they always mention the grand tradition of male singing (without ever mentioning Only Men Aloud, their parent choir) and the hard times people are having in the Welsh valleys. Another act where I just have my breath taken away by beautiful youth.

Jonathan and Charlotte were on the first show of the auditions and the presentation was just the same as Susan Boyle's all those years ago. The judges, especially Simon Cowell, were dismissive as the act came on stage: oh, it's a fat guy, this is going to be terrible -- and then, wow, it turns out he can actually sing. Teenagers, and excellent!

Kai and Natalia are another pair of teenagers, who dance. I can't get excited about them, myself. I hadn't picked them for the top three that night, but perhaps I don't know what is hot and what is not. Could that be?

Loveable Rogues
The Loveable Rogues were fantastic and are so fun. Like David Walliams, I would buy their record now if I could. Their song of heartbreak and misery is so catchy and danceable!

The other winner Wednesday night was Molly Rainford, an 11-year-old the judges have called a little Mariah Carey! She is very composed and has a wonderful voice.

Thursday everyone was crap except for Sam Kelly and Nu Sxool. Not really crap, but not good enough for a final of anything. My loves were the dancers, the Sugar Dandies, but they did nothing very exciting, and I bet they didn't choose the music themselves. (Here, in a non-BGT show, I think they are marvellous.)

Sam Kelly
Sam Kelly is certainly one of my favourites of the finalists. Super voice, nice manner, all-round wonderful.

Ryan O'Shaugnessy
Nu Sxool are cute kids who can dance, and the only large dance troupe through! They are the youngest of this youthful group.

Ryan O'Shaugnessy, singer, songwriter, heartthrob. It's going to be hard for him and Sam to compete; they have a lot in common and it'll be fun to see how they distinguish themselves on Saturday.

Ryan provided a lot of the gossip this time 'round. He sang to a mystery girl in his audition and he had to get out of a contract with the Voice in Ireland in order to compete in the BGT live shows. Don't tell me no one knew about this conflict from the get-go! Surely the acts fill out a form at the beginning of the whole process with a question like: Is there any legal stuff going to get in our way here?

So far, aside from the choir master from Only Boys Aloud, and one of the guys in the Loveable Rogues, everyone is 19 or under!

AquaBatique is an amazing group of synchronised swimmers who perform in a large see-through tank, doing sort of underwater dancing! Nice to see, and they all at one time wanted to be on the Olympic team, so they have that patriotic/Olympic connection which might get them a lot of support. Also they are not singers, so that might give them an edge if people get tired of all the cute boy singers!

I myself prefer the singers to the rest. Sam, Ryan, the Rogues, Jonathan and Charlotte and the choir all top my list over the dog, the swimmers, the two dance acts and Molly.

There will also be a Wild Card spot in the final. Likely candidates: The Mend, another bunch of singing boyz;  Twist and Pulse Dance Company; or maybe Billy George, who rolls around in a big hoop, which sounds crazy but is quite fun to watch. Personally, I think it'd be criminal to not let the Mend in. But then, I do seem to like the boy singers and maybe someone with a more all-encompassing view of things would like to see more dancers or another variety act.

Fine print: I have linked here to the official YouTube channel, BritainsGotTalent09, but for longer clips, with judges' comments, and for the results -- "The act going through to the final is.... .... .... .... ... ... {zoom to each act in turn}... .... ... .... ...  ..... {someone in the audience shouts}.... ... .... ... .... ...  ..... ..... ... {insert name of act here, finally!}" -- you need to see the videos of 12345djbridger. And of course, I didn't take any of these pictures.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

A hat

I can't remember when I bought this yarn, but it was long, long ago. It still had aged masking tape around it from the sale room at Romni. No label, no idea about it, except that it is sock yarn. And seemed so fun and rainbowy.

But look: it knits up rather... ugly.

This is a baby hat, and all babies are cute, especially in hats. So, I was hopeful it would all turn out well. After all, it was quite nice in pink, in 2006.

I put another sophisticated button on it. What's the point of a miscellaneous button box except to put slightly odd buttons on things?

The colours behave themselves much better when they are knitted in the round, rather than back and forth. This is made like the top of any other hat, but it goes on the back of the head. 

I think it will be fine. I need a baby's head for a proper modeled shot, because it will stretch out lengthwise. The pattern is from an ancient "learn to knit" booklet from Patons. I think this can be called cute, even in those totally weird colours, can't it?

Friday, May 04, 2012

Butterfly brain

If you squint, you can see how lovely this is!  I messed with the colours a bit, because otherwise it's just a grainy cell phone picture.

I took this as I was walking down the street to the subway station, confidently in time for my Very Important Scrabble date. Unfortunately, I was working on Plan A when I knew very well we had switched to Plan B and I was 2 hours early. I got to our rendezvous, had a cup of coffee and was fuming silently at my late friends, when I realised my error. Sheesh.

I did get a few more rows knitted on my diagonal scarf, and I got a program from the Revue Cinema and found that Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is playing there this month, so some good came of it.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

A hat and some flowers

Look at this, a very sophisticated and elegant button on some very sophisticated and elegant seed-stitched Rowan wool.

We soon change, however, to jazzy, sparkly, twinkly sock yarn.

This will fit a little child. The scarf I made a few years ago for Elaine, but she never really wore it. It should have been a bit longer for her, but it'll fit some wee one just fine.

Spring is fully here, I must say. The lilac is way ahead of schedule, and this year we have a ton of blooms. Some years we have none!

And the pansy! I bought a little box of these at the corner store, and they are simply divine!

Arthur's school has been completely disorganized this week (well, I know it is only Tuesday, but it seems to have been going on for much longer!) but I just got a call from a teacher saying they should be back in the building next week -- at least for English class. There will be some continued mess, but we are thrilled that on Thursday they are getting in to get stuff out of their lockers!