Archive for January, 2011

Weekword: Transition

John was new to Weekword last week and is in at the deep end hosting this week. He’s picked a stonker of a word, though! There’s so much we could say about transition – it’s such a big concept. But I’m going to keep my compass quite narrow and talk about a small, but very pleasing, transition I’ve gone through recently.

I knit. I love knitting. I learned about five years ago and since then, I’ve gradually increased in confidence. I substitute yarns with reckless abandon. I modify collars and add buttons. But generally speaking, I follow the rules and stick, more or less, to the waymarked path. Well. You may remember that a while ago I posted about a forthcoming knitting project, freeform knitting. Freeform is about taking a simple stitch pattern (in this case, feather and fan, a four row lace pattern) and then just… playing. Using whatever yarns you like, even if they’re ‘wrong’ for the size of needle. Not planning ahead, just going with the flow. This is not how I rock, generally. The booklet I bought gave an outline and some suggestions, but very breezily said that my garment would come out nothing like the author’s (but would be ‘just as gorgeous’, she added confidently). Well, she was certainly right on the first count. My shawl looks nothing like hers. At all. For one thing, it’s huge. But I do think it’s rather gorgeous. In a very pink and slightly crazy sort of way.

And it has begun a process of transition. Because there was minimal instruction for this – just sticks and string. So I had to think – really think – about what I was doing. And although it didn’t come out as I hoped, I understand why. I now know what I need to do to get the fabric the way I want it. So even though this thing took hours on end, before it was even finished, I was thinking, ‘Next time…’ I decided that it needed ‘finishing’, so I crocheted an edge. I am a bit of a crochet novice – in fact, I have crocheted one square and the edge to a cardigan. And that’s it. So I crocheted a sort of freeform edge, with shells (which I made up and aren’t actually how you’re ‘meant’ to do shells) to keep the waviness. Can you see the transition I’m talking about? I decided what I wanted to do. I worked out how to do it. I did it. It didn’t even occur to me to consult a book because I could see how I could get the effect I wanted. This is not something I would have done in November.

And then I found that I was really enjoying crochet. So I made this:

My first ever proper crochet project. And here’s a mark of how much I’ve changed. I made it shorter than the pattern said. And when I’d crocheted the number of rows the pattern said, I decided it was too thin, so I did some more. Even though I can do only a few crochet stitches, that feeling of control – of taking the string and the hook or the sticks, and just doing what I need to do to get them to look how I want – is still there. So the freeform shawl has been the first step on a new journey – the start of the transition from pattern-follower to independent yarn-wrangler. And I love it.

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List it Tuesday: Insomnia

I woke up very early this morning and couldn’t sleep. (One of these is due to my reading material – check out the ‘bookshelf’ page!)

I offered to take over the hosting of List It Tuesday from Aimee at Artsyville, as I’d only just started. So, if you’ve made a list today, put a link in the comments!

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Weekword: Mercurial

Carmen chose this week’s word. ‘Mercurial’ means ‘pertaining to mercury’, and can be used to describe the metal, the planet, or the god, and also things that are changeable or lively. It’s a word we use a lot, usually to describe the Little Girl, who has many moods, none of them long lasting. She can be happy, tearful, gleeful, angry… all in the space of five minutes.

There are some weeks when the Weekword fits exactly with something in my life, or sums up how I’m feeling. This week, not so much. I am listless. I’m tired and under the weather. The winter sky is grey – but like lead, not like mercury. There is variety, of course, there always is, but at the moment, everything seems very muted.

But that’s OK. Vibrancy is wonderful, but so is restraint, in its way. Company can be wonderful, but so is solitude. Change is good – but so is a rest. Like light and shadow – neither one is enough on its own and each helps us appreciate the other.

And so today I have enjoyed the calm, quiet pleasures of the slightly unwell. Several cups of tea. Reading a romance novel in the bath. Tomato soup for lunch. A spot of crochet. And I’ve realised that sometimes being a bit under the weather is a silent blessing. Being forced into the slow lane for a bit, to watch the busyness, the activity, the bustle, without having to be part of it.

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I went for a walk today as it was beautiful out – one of those crisp, sunny cold winter days. There was frost on the ground, and it made everything crunch as the crystals were huge.

As I walked over last year’s dead leaves with their glittery coating, I stopped to take dozens of pictures, as the contrast of the dull and dead with the sparkly really appealed to me.

On the way home, because I was starting to feel a bit cold, my thoughts turned to baking. And so I made some winter walk cupcakes. I wanted something dark to suggest the earth and leaves, so it had to be chocolate. But I wanted depth and earthiness. I looked for Chinese Five Spice, but somehow I have managed to run out, so I used pepper, cloves, aniseed and ginger. I had a bit of creme fraiche in the fridge, so I used that instead of milk to give a deeper, earthier taste.

Winter-spice chocolate cupcakes

* 200g self raising flour
* 150g caster sugar
* 1 teaspoon baking powder
* 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
* 50g cocoa
* 175g butter
* 125 ml sour cream (I think – it was about half a tub)
* 2 large eggs
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* spices (as above)

I mixed the whole lot in a food processor, but you could make this the old fashioned (sugar into butter, add dry ingredients, add the rest) way. Then it went into muffin tins and into the oven at 160C for about 15 minutes.

When they were cool, I added a cream cheese and lemon frosting – I wanted something a bit sharp, to suggest the frost. And then, of course, I had to add some glitter. I had some white edible glitter just made for these cakes.

Yum yum!

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List it Tuesday

I have decided to rest the Tuesday Ten and instead, join in with the project hosted by Aimee over at Artsyville. It’s called List-it Tuesday, and all you do is post a handwritten list about anything, and let Aimee know you’ve done it. With unerring timing, I decided to join in just as Aimee decided to stop. But I like the idea so I might just run with it myself for a while.

So, here’s my first list:

I have some ideas about how I can do most of these (and I have had an offer of help with one of them…). What I wouldn’t give for an extra hour in the day…

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And oh, boy, there has been rain. The river is high, and brown and flowing very fast, the garden is a mudbath, and there are dirty foot- and pawprints all over my kitchen floor no matter how often I mop it.

But where there is rain, there are opportunities to take pictures of water on plants. Regular viewers will know that I am very keen on this.

I liked the brown of these sycamore keys – the ones that never managed to fall. But when the rain clings to the end of every twig, it makes a lovely contrast – the dull browns and ochres and the glittering jewels of the raindrops.

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Elisabeth chose ‘recycling’ as this week’s word, which flows on nicely from last week’s ‘simplicity’. I do like it when the weekwords lend themselves to a stream of thought!

So, recycling. It’s something I try to do as much as I can, and have boxes for paper, card, plastic, glass, batteries, tetra-paks… but I also try to reuse and ‘upcycle’ as well as sticking things in the bin. So peanut butter cartons become scoops for animal feed, the brown glass jars the hot chocolate comes in are great for spice mixes and other things that need protection from the light, yoghurt pots become modules for planting seedlings.

Nowadays I buy washing powder in bulk, and it comes in huge plastic buckets. Now, plastic buckets with lids have no shortage of uses, but before the plastic buckets, my washing powder came in boxes like this:

Big ol’ boxes, made of chunky cardboard. But according to the packaging:

So I hung onto them because I couldn’t bear to put them in the bin. This happens to me a lot, and is partly why I fight clutter. Another reason is the constant supply of magazines, especially gardening ones. I am quite good at the tearing articles I want out of magazines and recycling the rest, but I can’t tear up gardening magazines. And I subscribe to two gardening magazines, which both come monthly. But where to keep them? Well – I had some big ol’ cardboard boxes that were just the right size for magazines. So I cut them to a ‘magazine file’ shape, glued on some white scrap paper to hide the printing on the box (paint would work too, if you had some handy), and then covered them with some scrap fabric. I lined the insides with some scrap sugar paper.

So now I have somewhere to put my magazines, and two fewer empty boxes taking up space!

I had a similar, ‘I can’t bear to throw this out, what can I make with it?’ moment today, when confronted with a huge can which once had fruit in it. So I washed it out, scrubbed it a bit with wire wool and then got busy with a pointy thing. I don’t know what it’s called, I just asked Mr S&S for a pointy thing to make holes in a can and he gave me this:

Is it an awl? Not sure. Anyway, I punched lots of holes in the can with the pointy thing. To get the holes around the top and bottom evenly spaced (as I have no eye for this sort of thing) I sellotaped a tape-measure to the can, and for the shapes, made a template using a cookie cutter which I then taped on. I added a candle and I think it looks rather nice in a rustic sort of way.

Come summer will be very useful for the citronella candles because it is going to protect them from the wind; plus the shape will mean that it’s harder for children and dogs to knock it over.

Pop over to Elisabeth’s blog to find out what others are recycling…

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