From snow to snails

This has been a glum weekend. We were supposed to be away celebrating a birthday, but we couldn’t get out of Wales…

Usually I would be only too happy to stay at home, but missing spending time with my family, having posh afternoon tea, eating at a lovely brasserie and going to the theatre has put an enormous damper on my mood. Often I cheer myself up with creative activities, but it’s been hard this weekend. I have forced myself to start a new knitting project and to return to yet another long-abandoned crochet project, but progress has been slow and my mood has been low. It’s certainly not been helped by the weather improving, such that two days later, there would be no problem travelling.

Anyway, I have a pair of Nordic socks underway The pattern is Starry Night Socks and I’ve only modified it a little bit! I’m mostly using the wool I bought in Norway a couple of years ago, half of which was used for another pair of socks.

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warm socks now it’s warming up again

The ‘old’ project is a cardigan that I wanted to wear for a wedding 18 months ago! The wedding came and went and the cardigan was not finished. Then I discovered that the pattern was very poor and didn’t properly describe how to align the little flower motifs in the border – there being a point where the flowers up the front simply didn’t line up with the flowers up the back (they are off-set by a third of a flower and it would only get worse when you add the next row and the final third row):

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this is where I stalled – any additional flower would be in the wrong place in relation to one of the existing rows (both correctly placed according to the pattern)

I contacted the designer to get advice and she was unhelpful, basically telling me just to fiddle around with the flower motifs until they fit. I was so fed up that I put it to one side and didn’t pick it up again until a few days ago. By this stage I had decided not to follow the pattern (what there was of it) and instead to do my own thing. Since I was already glum, I started by removing the row of flowers up the front and weaving in all 248 ends that remained, then I added a simple border along the fronts and back of the neck that would be easy to attach other things to. Once these tasks were done, I felt a little better about the project.

As you can see, I left the row of flowers up the centre of the back, but I don’t plan to repeat them for the borders. So, it was a case of playing about with what I actually wanted. Initially I thought about paisley motifs and combining these with some free-form crochet, but then I had an idea: snails! Why not make it a snail of happiness cardigan? I’ve only just started, but I think this sort of thing might make a splendid border:

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a cluster of snails

I can join them as I go and shape the border easily… and it will be both unique and very personal.

So, the weekend is drawing to a close and although I’ve wasted lots of time being sad, I’ve also made some things and I’m feeling happy about a project that, until now, was something of a millstone. I hope you have been having a happier time than me.

 

Three Things Thursday: 16 February 2017

*three things that make me smile: an exercise in gratitude – feel free to steal this idea with wild abandon and fill your blog with the happy*

Inspired by Emily of Nerd in the Brain here are my Three Things Thursday…

First, a little bit of snow. On Saturday it snowed in Birmingham – it was lovely to open my curtains and see a dusting of white. I find snow a bit stressful if I have places to drive, but since I just had a short walk from my hotel to the meeting venue, I really enjoyed the sight. In fact it didn’t last long, but it was beautiful whilst it was there.

Morning snow

Morning snow

Second, a good night’s sleep. I’m always a bit concerned about the comfort of a strange bed. At home we sleep on a natural latex and wool mattress, so normal sprung mattresses feel a bit odd in comparison. However, I need not have feared: the hotel I chose for the weekend had lovely comfy beds… and snailvaark and Iolanthe agreed…

Nothing like a comfortable place to nap

Nothing like a comfortable place to nap

Third, coming home. It’s enjoyable to have a trip away, but it’s always good to be back home. After two consecutive weekends on my travels, it was lovely to return home to Mr Snail and the pups.

Mr Snail and the pups at our own front door

Mr Snail and the pups at our own front door

So, those are three things making me smile this week – what about you?

free food for rats

not instructions on feeding rodents!

Don’t be mislead by the title… this in not a post about encouraging vermin!

If you read my ‘about’ page, you will know that I am a scientific editor, but what it doesn’t mention is that I also occasionally edit other books. Sometimes it is a real struggle to stay awake through them, but sometimes I’m asked to work on a book that I really enjoy and am subsequently delighted to own.  free food for rats ** (published by Black Kite Press) is one such book. It is mainly a cookery book, but also includes anecdotes about family and travel, plus some lovely photographs of the food and a variety of illustrations and paper cuts all done by Anja, the author.

Anja has a German mother, a Welsh father and has lived in a variety of countries during her life… and all of this has influenced her cooking. In what other cookery book could you find recipes for Glamorgan Sausages, Waffeln mit Haferflocken (German waffles with oats), Rempeyeck Kacang (Indonesian crispy peanut wafers), Zhurou Chao Huanggua (Chinese pork with cucumber) and Bitterballen (a Dutch beer accompaniment)? And all written by a cook who has lived in all those countries?

One of the joys of the recipes is that they use ingredients that you are likely to have in your store cupboard (with the exception, in my case, of Marmite!)… so none of that getting excited about cooking something only to discover it contains some obscure ingredient that you will have to seek out specially. In addition, the recipes were tested out in Anja’s own kitchen (or her mum’s) and photographed there, so there have been no food stylists involved to make the dishes look any better than they really are – what you see is what you get.

I must confess that I have known Anja and her mum, Eveline, for many years and have enjoyed many a great meal in their respective kitchens… often over a glass of wine or a game of Mahjong, so I am a little biased. But, nevertheless, I love the book and will be cooking recipes from it for years to come.

NEWSFLASH: The book is now available to buy from two shops online: The department of small works and 80 20

-oOo-

** The name comes from a sign that appears in a picture in one of Graham Oakley’s Church Mice books… possibly The Church Mice Adrift

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