Sunday, 29 July 2007

Jam and Jaywalkers

This weekend has been very busy and also very productive. Saturday we all went to the allotment and were joined by Di to pick berries ready for jam making. The red currants are the most abundant again this year and also tricky to de-stalk. The black currants have done well this year but I am most pleased with the white currants. We only planted them two years ago, but the bushes have established themselves well and have produced a significant amount of fruit. Di then came and spent some time with us. We had intended to make the jam then, but two local supermarkets did not have preserving jam. What is the country coming to? I feel like writing to the Women's Institute about this. I thought jam making was a national pastime. Last year I bought my sugar at Coop, but the guy told me they had stopped selling it. Instead of making jam Ezzie, Shona and myself went to Pizza Hut. Judging from the queues there, going to this restaurant is a national pastime. I stress this was not our first choice, but unfortunately our favourite restaurant, Ceres, was closed and this was the nearest child-friendly place we could think of.

Today Ezzie went to the allotment while Shona and I went to get food for Di's leaving picnic in Hillsborough Park. There was quite a gathering, though I'm not surprised because Di is a popular gal. I am really sad that she is moving to Australia but it's the right decision for her and we wish her well. Kin joined us as well and afterwards we went to Nonna's for a coffee.

When we returned it was time to make jam in earnest. I don't actually like jam, but I love making the stuff and giving it away. For those of you also worried about the preserving sugar crisis, Waitrose came to my rescue and had a selection of two. There is hope for the nation afterall. Here is Shona and the fruits of her labour. She has been very helpful and has cut goodness knows how many cucumbers and gherkins ready for tomorrow's pickling.

From the photograph the jams look the same colour, but from left to right they are black, red and white. I am amazed by the white currants; they have turned a rosé colour.

Anyway, back to the knitting. I continued to knit the Jaywalker sock for a while and had even completed the heel, when I decided enough was enough and it had to go. Even my mother's thin pins wouldn't have got into it. It would seem I am not the only one having problems with this particular pattern. Read here for more details. I have asked people on the Sheffield Forum for an alternative sock pattern. Caroline has suggested Toe Up Socks and I think this is the best idea because I can use all this beautiful yarn. I will have to learn some new techniques, but that's no bad thing.

The throw is only two rows from completion and I have started knitting with the Popsicle yarn. Ezzie likes the colours and so they are for him. He is due another pair of socks. Shona and I are waiting eagerly for the Opal Uni yarn in Camel ready for dyeing. Shona tells me she will be dyeing her sock yarn purple, green and orange. I'm still not sure what I'm going to have but I want bright!

Thursday, 26 July 2007

School holidays are great!

For two weeks in July and four weeks in August I know why I am a teacher. School holidays are fantastic, and even though I love my job loads, I love the holidays more. I am so lucky to have these regular gaps to please myself and pursue my hobbies. Ezzie keeps joking that this is my busy period, and in terms of my hobbies it is. There are berries to pick at the allotment, which then need turning into jam. Shona's with us and after Playscheme we are busy (at the moment we're waiting for two cakes to bake). I am catching up on my reading and have been to the gym three times this week. Tomorrow I have a Spanish lesson and of course there is lots of knitting to do.

I hope to see Rachael on Monday and give her the finished socks. They are the traditional Opal pattern, but I never tire of faux fair isle and I've done a good job at making them identical. They're especially not bad when you consider they were knitted predominantly on the German Autobahn and finished on the M1.

The Brioche throw is coming on nicely and is modelled beautifully by Shona. A repetition more and I think it will be done apart from weaving in the ends and adding some tassles. Last night there was another get-together of the Sheffield Forum at the Wool Baa and Jill has finished her first Brioche throw and it is beautiful. She has now started a second one, but only in three colours and this is even more beautiful, a combination of pinks and browns. I bought the remainder of the Giotto in Gaugin which will be my next throw.

I ordered some KoolAid which came swiftly through the post. I then bought some from Jill last night, which was a lot cheaper and she had all the colours I had bought over the internet. I think I have sufficiently covered the spectrum. I now need to purchase some plain Opal sock yarn and get experimenting. This is surely a slippery slope because dyeing your own wool is then only a step away from spinning your own yarn. They look so adorable put out like this and I have a perverse desire to make some drinks and taste the stuff, even though I know it is full of rubbish and that anything which can permanently dye yarn is surely no good thing to have in your body. It must be the devil in me.

Yesterday at the Sheffield Forum meeting I started my first Jaywalker sock with the posh Anne Schaeffer yarn. This yarn is superior sock yarn and you notice the difference when you are knitting with it. The trouble is, the Jaywalker pattern has a tighter tension than plain sock knitting. I have kept to my traditional 60 stitches, but put next to another sock with the same number of stitches, it is noticeably thinner. I am worried about this because I want to be the recipient of these socks and I'm not sure I'll be able to wear them. I could rip them back, but this is something I am loathed to do, especially as it is particularly neat. I have a feeling these socks may end up with my mother who has exceptionally thin legs and ankles (she claims to have Royal blood!) She had a special birthday on Monday, so I could perhaps part with them on those grounds. The colours are beautiful because although there is a variety of colour, they compliment one another nicely.

The Anne Schaeffer yarn's subtlety and sophistication is the exact opposite of another recent yarn purchase. I love the vibrancy and luridness of this Jitterbug yarn in Popsicle.

I think that just about makes the blog up to date. Before I finish, good luck to Ezzie in the allotment competition. The judge came around today and I think he was pleased with our allotment. Judging continues tomorrow. Whichever way, Ezzie is a winner because he has made the allotment fantastic in a very short time. Also, Shona would like to post this message to her mum:
Goodness! Is that the time? The cakes should be ready now.

Sunday, 22 July 2007

Back in the land of blogging

I got back from Germany today and I am glad to report that all 27 children returned safe and well and had a great time. I had a great time and ate very well, but it's nice to be back home. The school trip to Germany is actually an exchange and Ezzie and I stayed with Klaus-Peter and Ursula, who are lovely, but it is so strange because for a week we don't have a key, don't drive, don't cook, don't watch tv and are busy every waking hour. We have travelled miles and walked miles and it has been nice doing nothing but knitting this evening.

I managed to complete Rachael's second sock on the coach back from Heathrow, but I didn't get as much knitting done as I anticipated. I just haven't had the time. I managed all my knitting on coaches and trains; there was no time in the evening because we were dining out here, there and everywhere.

I had a look in a couple of yarn shops for goodies, but they were rather dull and there was nothing there that I couldn't have got in the UK. On the knitting and yarn front, it wasn't great, but apart from that Germany was fantastic.

This evening we have been to see Grandad in the hospital and pick up Granby from Ezzie's Mum. Grandad seems a lot better, which was a relief, and Granby seemed pleased to see us. He's been fine at Lynn's and has coped admirably with Pippa (her dog), but he seems glad to be back home and is already the Top Cat again. I've spent a couple of hours knitting Brioche and I'm back into the swing of that. That has to be finished these holidays.

I have had word from Jill at the Wool Baa that the Giotto Gaugin yarn I ordered has arrived, which is great news as I want to make the Camomile throw. I am also informed that her Jitterbug sock yarn has also arrived, so it's really no bad thing that I didn't get anything in Germany. There is a Sheffield Forum meeting on Wednesday, which I will be attending and I'm going to buy some plain sock yarn because I want to dye it with Shona, who is coming tomorrow. Martina, one of my friends in Germany, has a daughter, Sophie, the same age and I thought I would knit them the same socks and it would be nice if Shona were involved in choosing (and dyeing) the socks. It's a brave thing to do, and I know there are plenty of beautiful yarns out there, but I like to faff in the school holidays and this is a perfect excuse! It seems last week was not too great with knitting, but this coming week is going to be awash (no pun intended for the floods) with yarn, knitting and faffing.

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

This is a quick update on what's been going on because I haven't had time to blog for ages.

Firstly, car is back with me and I didn't have to pay a penny! The garage said the work was free because of my inconvenience. So happy about that.

Secondly, had an internal interview at work on Monday and got the position. Now responsible for Citizenship amongst other things. A lot of work to do, as the Head has warned me, but I think it's a good role and I'm looking forward to getting my teeth into it.

Thirdly, it was Knit Club on Friday at my house. We had a great time. We were Lucy, Esther, Barbara, Jeanette, Mary, Di and Joanna, and of course myself. Ezzie and Grandad were there for a little while, as Grandad had come around for tea, but then all the women overwhelmed them and they left.

Fourthly, Brioche has made great progress and is really quite big. It is lovely, though I've not touched it this week because I have been too busy,

Fifthly, we go to Germany with the 27 kids on Saturday. Really cannot wait, and hoping to do a bit of sock knitting. Unlikely I'll be posting for a while, but my next post should have some photos of my adventures. German knitters are aficionados of sock knitting, so I'm on the lookout for sock yarn that I can't get here.