More Yarn Will Do The Trick

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Veggie Christmas Pie

Every year we have a veggie pie on Christmas Day and this year I posted a pic of it on Facebook. Several friends asked for the recipe, but as I never make it the same twice I knew I'd have to think very hard about what actually went into it, especially as I have to confess to being a tad merry when I was cooking it. So I promised I'd post it as soon as there was a lull in festivities, which would give me a chance to try to remember the ingredients. So here it is... for a large pie as in the pic:

Either make your own puff pastry or do as I did and buy some - life's too short, especially over the holidays. Grease and line the pie dish with the pastry, saving any leftovers for the shapes on top. Prick the pastry with a fork all over to let out any trapped air, then pre-bake at Gas Mark 5/190C for twenty minutes.

Cut into cubes 1 packet of smoked tofu and lightly fry in olive oil with black pepper and about a tablespoon of grated ginger. Turn the tofu a few times so that all sides get cooked, and just before it's done, pour shoyu over the cubes and leave to reduce for a couple of minutes.

Then saute all the vegetables in olive oil with salt and pepper to taste (if you don't have exactly these ingredients, providing you have the onions, you can just use a combination of what you have :
2 chopped red onions
1 chopped white onion
2 chopped leeks
1 diced courgette
1 chopped carrot
1 chopped stick of celery
2 red peppers
7 chopped cloves of garlic
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon of veggie bouillon
1 large sprig of sage, chopped finely

Mix the tofu in with the vegetables, put a lid on the pan, turn the heat down low and while this is cooking, make the sauce:

Saute four large chestnut mushrooms in olive oil, add salt and pepper and pour liberal splash of red wine over them as they cook. Mix 1 tablespoon of cornflower with a cupful of cold water and add this to the liquor, stirring constantly until it thickens (you may need to add a little more water here depending on how much of the oil and wine went into the pan initially). When the sauce is a gloopy consistency, remove pan from the heat, leave to cool for a couple of minutes, then stir in1 tablespoon of tahini, replace on very low heat stirring continuously until the tahini is totally absorbed (take care the sauce doesn't boil as the tahini will then separate).

Fill the parbaked pastry case to within a couple of centimeters of the top with the vegetable/tofu mixture, then pour the mushroom sauce over it evenly so that the case is packed to the brim. I seem to have unknowingly perfected the art of gauging how many vegetables to do,  but if you find yourself short, just saute another onion or if you have it a bit more tofu.

As the pie is quite rich, I usually decorate the top with seasonal shapes to make it less stodgy. Every year I use different cutters from a selection of angels, stars, holly, Xmas trees, or as in this year's pie, reindeers and hearts.

When you've decided on a pattern for the top of the pie, roll out the remainder of the pastry, cut out the shapes and add to the top of your pie. Finish by brushing each shape with a little milk.

Return to hot oven Gas Mark 7/220C  and bake for approximately 45 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

Serve with roast potatoes, roast root veggies, Brussels sprouts, sage and onion stuffing, apple sauce and red onion gravy and ENJOY!  I know it's not a quick and easy recipe, but it's certainly packed with flavour.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

My Xmas Carol

I'm not religious, I prefer to believe I'm spiritual, as this embraces all religions. As you probably know, I love festivals and celebrations, so though I may not always agree with the sentiments, I'd be the last one to miss out on the chance to sing Xmas carols.
Last week my guitar mentor taught me the tune of Gustav Holst's beautiful carol In The Bleak Midwinter. I just love it and can't get it out of my head, but when I looked up the lyric I knew I couldn't sing it with any sincerity and eventually my own rather different version started to kick in. 

Here's a lovely rendition of the original:

So here it is, with apologies to Christina Rosetti, as the original lyric is based on one of her poems written in 1872. Haven't had a chance to record it yet so you'll have to use your imagination:

In the bleak midwinter
Angels come to play
Bringing light in darkness
Peace on earth they say.
Hark the herald angels
Proclaim their news on high
Glad tidings for the future
As New Year draws nigh

(Sung after every verse)
We all know the story
What can mere mortals do?
What happens to the glory
Once the year is new?

Comfort, joy, goodwill to men
And even women too
Love thy neighbour even if
She's gay, black or a Jew.
Ditch the new world order
The pyramid of power
No place for Rupert Murdoch
Pull down his ivory tower.

Lucifer is waiting
With open arms for you
It's much more fun down under
All you have to do
Is rape and pillage and plunder
Lie and cheat and steal
Don't worry about the planet
It's all in the Devil's deal.

So in the bleak midwinter
When angels fly to earth
Wouldn't it be wondrous
To heed their glorious words?
No more greedy bankers
No more corrupt MPs
No more hate and bigotry
All peoples walk in peace.
A very merry Christmas with friends and family to you all and thanks for reading my ramblings xox

Monday, 2 December 2013

Pattern discounts for a Happy Advent!

To celebrate the advent of the festive season, if you join my Ravelry group, there's a voucher code to get 20% off any of the 150 patterns in my Ravelry store. Offer runs until midnight on 24 December.
Happy Advent knitting everyone!

Saturday, 30 November 2013

A lot to be thankful for ☺

My American friends have been celebrating Thanksgiving - a time for reflecting on the things in their lives that they're thankful for. Got me thinking it might be good to consider this every day, so starting with today...

... I'm thankful that P's hernia op went well yesterday and that he's home and not in too much pain this morning

...I'm thankful to celebrate Rowan's birthday today - and to remember his birth all those years ago on a foggy and frosty November night when we'd been out until after midnight visiting friends in an old banger car. As soon as I got into bed my waters broke and four hours later he was born - the speediest birth and at 9lbs the heaviest of my babies. I'm one of those lucky women who gives birth easily and with minimal problems or interventions. I can almost say I enjoy it -  but I suppose people say you always look back through rose tinted glasses, otherwise you'd never have another baby. However true that might be, the births of my three sons were definitely the three best days of my life.

...I'm thankful that my wrist is healing and I can play music again. Playing guitar is food for my soul and never fails to lift my spirits. Me and my guitar have been through a lot together, so it was hard not to be able to pick it up, let alone play it for three months.

Malabrigo lace weight yarn
... I'm thankful I can knit again and looking forward today to swatching a new idea I've had brewing for a couple of weeks 

...I'm also thankful that I taught myself the Continental method, as I still haven't got the grip to knit English style.

That's enough for one day. I think I need to do this every week as a reminder to focus on the positives in life.
Getting out the advent tree is the start of the Christmas festivities for me
Hope you're all enjoying this yummy time of year. I love how the year's passing is punctuated by the celebration of festivals, and I'm looking forward to searching out the advent tree for tomorrow.
New York's fabulous Chanukah celebrations
It's also the fourth day of Chanukah today, so wishing you all a happy and healthy one - let there be light throughout the world xox

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Let there be light!

November has flown by, barely time to catch my breath. I love this time of year tho, starting with bonfire night, then my birthday. I'm fortunate in having lots of lovely friends, and am still basking in the golden glow of all your birthday wishes. No dirth of prezzies either, this bowl was one of my faves, brought from Kalamata in Greece by Kate, along with a lemon from her garden.
We somehow had to fit in a trip to Wales, to sweep up the leaves and put the garden to bed for the winter. Not that this is a chore, I love being in the garden and find constant inspiration in the changing seasons. Over the past few months, with my broken wrist, the garden was in need of a healthy dose of tlc, so it felt good to be able to give it just that - I'm always amazed at how quickly you can knock things into shape.

When we got here a few days ago it was pitch black and ab-sol-ute-ly freeeeeeeeeeeeezing! So all systems go to get the heating on, Rayburn lit, wood stove burning and some leek and potato soup in the pot for later.
The house is made of stone so always takes a while to heat up, so while we still had the hot glow that comes from being on the outside of two hearty bowls of soup, we decided fill a few hot-water bottles and have an early night.
Woke up to the most gorgeous morning - clear blue sky, pale wintry sun making the frosted plants sparkle like diamonds. I dashed out to look at the garden, then realised I couldn't take any pictures as I'd left the lead for my phone in York and i-cloud only works when it pleases here... arrrgh! So I consoled myself by picking the last few hydrangeas to bring indoors. I love it when they decide it's their last chance to stay alive and put down roots into the jug, so you get the bonus of having new plants too.

I can never manage for very long without being able to take pics, so a mercy dash to Aberystwyth to get a lead was high on my priority list.

Back by coffee time to witness the amazing light being cast around the kitchen by the crystals at the windows. The rainbows they create always cheer me up, but at this time of year when the sun is at a very low angle, they're at their very best, so you can imagine my delight to have my phone up and running again to capture them.

Last night was even colder - we had a delicious supper with our dear friends Toej and Wyck and on the way back the temperature was -2 and falling.  We thought nothing of it that Django wasn't here on our return as both cats often go out hunting at night. We went off to bed, thankful for a lovely evening and that the house was warming up at last.
Another glorious morning - I opened the window and took this shot as I was getting up, then got so excited by the light across the garden that I went straight out in my pyjams to take a few more.

At this point it hadn't occurred to me that I still hadn't seen Django, but on coming in to feed the cats I realised that Arlo was still on his own. I reckoned Django would be back soon as he rarely misses a meal, so wasn't too bothered by his extended absence.
After breakfast I got sidetracked by this wonderful little rose, newly planted this year, that was not only blooming but also had the intention of continuing with many more buds.
Where are you Django?
By coffee time tho I was getting really worried about Django's no-show (altho if you follow this blog, you'll no doubt realise it's not unusual for him to disappear). Our house is about half a mile from the next house, so I rang the neighbours to see if they'd seen him or whether he'd got locked in one of their sheds, as has happened before with Django. No luck. I then searched house and garden along with Arlo, before driving up to our other closest neighbour, only to find out they hadn't seen him either.
Come out, come out, wherever you are
This is no fun now Django, please come back!
I give up, see you at teatime
So it's now 24 hours since we saw him and we've done everything we can to find him. I can't bear to think he might be injured somewhere but know that he'd come home if he could, so this is not likely. We'll just have to wait with everything crossed, hoping he turns up this evening.
Latest news on Django: A couple of hours after I posted this, Django swanned in through the cat flap looking a bit bedraggled, but completely unfazed and looking for his dinner.  No idea where he's been for the past day, but he's now had an extra large meal and is fast asleep in front of the wood stove dreaming of his travels.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Happy Samhain!

From sunset on the 31st October till sunset on the 1st November, the Gaelic festival of Samhain is celebrated. It marks the end of the harvest and all the preparation for the cold, dark months of the year, and the beginning of the winter.
Samhain Jacket from Knits for all Seasons
I love the rhythm of the seasons, especially this time of year. In fact nature's constant cycle provided the perfect inspiration for my second book, Knits for all Seasons, way back in 1993, featuring the Samhain Jacket in the November chapter.

No surprises then that I'm pretty keen on Halloween.  Ever eager to get as many reasons to party as possible into the calendar, from the very moment that an American friend introduced us to trick-or-treating when the kids were little, we've had some gloriously memorable celebrations.  So when the grandlings started to arrive a  few years back, I was more than happy to rekindle the tradition.

We take pumpkin carving very seriously in our family, so in the afternoon we started work. After deciding the larger one should have a traditional face with a few moons and stars on the back, Tristan reckoned the second one should be a tad more interesting and mentioned a design he'd seen bearing a cat. This got the creative juices flowing and we too eventually decided to go for a more radical design. Pumpkin carving can be a stressful occasion, but this year we all collaborated rather well on a joint effort - I drew it, Tristan carved it and Philip photographed it!
Witch on the front...
...and a cat on the back
Isabella, Ava, Lyra and Louis quickly got into the spirit -  their costumes, hair and make-up immediately transforming them into fully-blown witches, ghouls and vampires. 

Ava starting the transformation
Before ⬆ and after ⬇pics  at the hair and make-up session - purple lips, blue hair, with green faces for the witches and an alabaster one for the vampire...

Luckily the rain held off, so we made a jolly round of the street, scaring our tolerant neighbours with blood-curdling cries of trick or treat as soon as they opened their doors!
It was one of the scariest nights ever for visiting trick-or-treaters - we were relieved to hand out the treats to this spooky crew!

Couldn't bear to waste all that lovely food inside the pumpkin, so we nibbled on delicious roasted pumpkin seeds, followed by pumpkin soup for supper.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Ghost of Halloween

Whoo... ooooooOOOOOoooooo, guess what I've got for for you today?... got it in one... a pattern for a knitted ghost... scary no!?!

A couple of days ago a chance meeting with Susie, a neighbour, fellow knitter and guitar picker, led to talk of Halloween. Susie mentioned she could tell me how to knit a quick and easy ghost, so as I've been signed up for trick-or-treating with my three little grand-daughters, my ears pricked up.

I couldn't wait to get back home to try it and I even had plans to make three at first, but as I'm not a particularly fast knitter, and my wrist is still not up to speed either, I decided I'd be satisfied with one.

So here's the pattern:

Size  approx 7in[18cm] x 7in[18cm]

I used Rowan Creative Linen (200m/219yds per 100g)
Scraps of black yarn (I used Rowan wool/cotton) for eyes and mouth

pair 5mm (US 8)
4mm (US G6) crochet hook
tapestry needle, darning needle
1 ping-pong ball

To make
Cast on 32 sts and knit 2 rows.
Next row knit
Next row k2, purl to last 2 sts, k2

Repeat these 2 rows until piece measures 6.5in[17cm], ending on knit row, then knit a further 2 rows and cast off.

Leave the tails at cast-on and cast-off edges to be incorporated into tassels.
Tassels - make 4
One for each corner, each measuring 3.5in[9cm] when finished. Measure out 16 lengths of yarn, each 9in{23cm) long and separate into 4 groups of strands. Insert crochet hook from back of ghost and pull one group of four strands through to WS, then put the ends through the loop this creates.

Press the piece then thread tapestry needle, insert ping-pong ball in centre, gather up underneath and do a running stitch around the base of ball. Gather stitches as tightly as you can then secure.

Then thread darning needle with black yarn and embroider eyes and mouth onto head.

Ta dah! With many thanks to Susie, I'm pretty pleased with my Halloween ghoul.

Arlo says 'Come on, what're you waiting for, it's Arloween!' :)

✺✺✺♥♥♥***HAPPY HALLOWEEN!***♥♥♥✺✺✺

Saturday, 26 October 2013

River reflections

Sometimes you just don't appreciate what you've got on your own doorstep. A couple of days ago when I was feeling at a really low ebb, I decided to put on a brave face and get some fresh air.  It was a beautiful day, not a cloud in the blue sky, with just a slight chill in the autumn air. So I persuaded P he'd also like a hike, swathed myself in my woolly creations and off we went for a walk along the river.

The Ouse is only a few hundred metres away, so we were quite surprised to see it was already threatening to flood after the recent heavy rain. York has spent much time and money on flood defences, so to see the river so high after not really a lot of rain was quite shocking.
There's a wide tow path, then usually a steep 2m/6foot slope to a narrower path and the river. But as you can see the lower tow path is completely submerged.
Good weather for geese though. I know they're a nuisance, but Canada Geese hold fond memories for me - when Izzi and Ava were tiny, we used to bring them down to the river to feed the ducks. The ducks didn't get a look in what with the geese and sea gulls, but the girls would whoop with delight when I tried to shoo them away.
Love the reflections of this medieval keep, coupled with the crisp autumnal colours...

... especially the ripple around this particular goose.
This is the view the other way, back to Clifton bridge.
And here's Lendal bridge, where we planned to leave the river and get some veggies in the market. In typically Victorian Gothic style, it sports an ornate parapet featuring the white rose of York, the crossed keys of the Diocese of York and the Lions of England.
The first bridge was designed by William Dredge in 1860, but in 1861 the bridge collapsed during construction and five men were killed. Thomas Page, who designed Westminster Bridge in London, was brought in to redesign Lendal Bridge, opening in 1863.
Before we left the tow path we were surprised to find that since we last passed this way, a new restaurant had popped up.  This was not just any old restaurant, but an impressive construction with raised terrace overlooking the river (suppose it would have to be to avoid the floods) - a fabulous meeting of old and new architecture.
Located in the old Engine House, lovingly restored by Andrew Pern, chef/owner of the Star at Harome, the new extension tastefully complements the older building, opening out onto a wooden deck overlooking the river towards Lendal bridge.
The menu uses the best local produce God's own country has to offer, served up with a large dose of all-important Yorkshire hospitality.
©York Mix
Back entrance through the city walls.
When we eventually dragged ourselves away, we wandered on to the market where the Food Festival was in full swing. Was rather taken by this Italian Choco Passion stall, until I saw that many of the chocolates came in the shapes of guns, knives, handcuffs and skulls - not my taste at all in chocolate!!
After buying some gorgeous black kale and purple sprouting broccoli we set off back past these lazily parked bikes that abound in York.
The Minster was looking suitably grand and imposing, bathed in the mellow autumn sunshine.
Rose Window was looking good too.
By the time we got back home, I'd shed some of the cobwebs and we were welcomed by two hungry cats reminding us it's teatime. We just had time for a refreshing cup of Earl Grey in the garden before the sun went down...
... admiring the pumpkins waiting for Halloween.

Maybe things aren't too bad after all :)