Preserving the sunshine

It’s funny how quickly your view about the weather can change. Last year I would have said that anything below zero Celsius was too cold for me to venture out for long and a good reason to jump into the car for the school run (ok, I pretty much drove all of the time, no matter what the temperature was). This year, having survived temperatures of -20, ice on the inside of the windows and about 2 feet of snow for well over a month, I’m saying things like ‘It’s really warmed up’ when its anything near 0!

The warmer weather has already got me thinking ahead to Spring and Summer and making sure that we make the most of the sunshine and all that it brings. I’m looking at planting a lot more this year. Vegetables, fruit and flowers and I’m planning to do a whole lot of preserving.

When we lived in England, I made a lot of hedgerow jams, windfall chutneys and jellies out of whatever I could get my hands on. I’ve always enjoyed preserving and was sad to leave all of my preserving books behind, not to mention my jam pans. I knew though that my preserving journey would continue in Canada. I looked forward to canning, pickling, drying and last Summer didn’t disappoint.

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When I posted this picture a few weeks ago on Instagram of some fruit leather I had made, Lynda (sultanabun) and Christine (Winwickmum) was asked if I would write up the recipe, which I’m more than happy to now, although it’s not really a recipe at all.

I’ve made fruit leather before and always used the same principles for pretty much any fruit. The fruit leather above is plum but I have made apple and blackberry before too.

To start, I chop up the fruit, remove any cores or stones and put it in a big pan with minimal water. Really juicy fruit doesn’t need any water at all.

 Heat it up and when it’s just softened, so not for long at all,  remove it from the heat and puree the mix with a handblender. At this point the mixture can be sieved to remove little seeds or any skins but I didn’t sieve this plum mixture. At this point I taste for sweetness and add sugar to taste along with a squeeze of lemon. Return to the heat for about 5mins. (I have read that you should use honey and not sugar as the sugar can cause the fruit leather to be brittle but I’ve not found that to be a problem).

The mixture is then poured into shallow trays lined with cling film (microwave safe) or silicone sheets. You don’t want to make it too deep otherwise it takes ages to dry out. If you have an oven that has a light you can leave the trays in the oven with the light on. If not, on its lowest setting with the door slightly open. Or you can dry the fruit leather in the sun (if you are lucky to have some). I left mine in the oven on 110F (43C). You do not want to cook the leather so I check mine regularly and rotate the trays if I see one side is drying faster than the other. Basically the leather is ready when you can touch it and it is no longer sticky, about 8 hours later.

Once its cooled completely, peel off the cling film and cut the leather into strips and lay on parchment paper and roll. I made a lot of fruit leather last summer so I froze whole sheets rolled up and this seems to have worked fine.

There are lots of recipes online for fruit leather. Some use spices or honey or both, try whatever you fancy. I’d love to hear what you make if you have a go.

I didn’t just make fruit leather last year. There was also this

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and this

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and pickled walnuts, cherry rum and a lot of dried fruit (grapes, cherries, plums).

This year we will definitely be making a lot more pickles and juices as well as more of the above. Roll on Summer!

x

 

 

 

Season’s Greetings

I’m not going to pretend that I’ve been great at blogging recently. If you follow me on Instagram you will know I have not been idle when it comes to making ‘stuff’ but I am still struggling to find the time to write full blog posts and not happy with my photography at all. In the whole scheme of things neither are particularly important just slightly irritating!

So we are about to spend our first Christmas here in Canada. It’s cold, there is snow everywhere and it’s more beautiful than I could ever have imagined. The lakes and creeks are frozen and everything is quiet (if you listen very carefully). 

Apart from gift making, I’ve been busy baking and making ornaments with my boys. We came here with just 4 suitcases, so no room for decorations. Every day since the 1st we have made a new ornament and the tree is looking great already, I think you’ll agree.

That just leaves me to say, I’ll see you after Christmas. Have a good one.

X

A year on …

Some of you may remember this post from exactly a year ago all about a trip to the North York Moors, celebrating Halloween and learning to make socks. Back then, I had all but given up on knitting as a possibility. I’d admire other people’s work, sigh, then return to my crochet. One day, however, I walked into my then local wool shop, The Wool Stop and the lovely owner, Jen, was knitting socks in this colourway and I just knew I had to learn to knit socks so that I could use the gorgeous yarns.

I never looked beyond the possibility of knitting socks at all and yet everyone I spoke to said, ” If you can knit socks, you can knit anything” or experienced knitters would say they couldn’t make socks, so I began to wonder. Maybe I could knit something other than socks.

I was very lucky because all along I had so much encouragement from other bloggers and readers of my blog and from Jen at The Wool Stop. It was exciting! I was inspired by ErickaEckles and her knitting journey (read all about it here) and all of the amazing things that she was making and the knitting designers she would refer to. So I asked Jen to give me some knitting lessons to help me get started. She is a great teacher and gave me the confidence to try new techniques like colour work, cables and lace work. I definitely made the most of those lessons once I knew we were moving to Canada!

Which is where I am now. I had no idea that I would be writing this in Chase, BC, when I took that sock lesson. We had applied to move here but it seemed such a distant goal that we never thought about it much. I certainly didn’t think I’d be about to share my most exciting make yet.

Yes, I have completed and blocked and worn for the first time today, my Ishbel shawl and to say I am delighted would be an understatement. If you follow me on Instagram, you will have seen this hint of the finished product. If you’d like more details about the yarn I used etc, I’ve written it all up in my Ravelry notes. Before I show you a picture, I’d just like to say that this shawl would still be something I dreamt of making, if it hadn’t been for Lisa (erickaeckles) encouraging me to start and for keeping me going along the way. We both started an Ishbel (her second) at the same time and it really helped to have a friend to knit with, even if we were on opposite sides of the planet!).

So, here she is… My Midnight Ishbel

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Ishbel shawl sock yarn one skein

I wasn’t sure about the black yarn at various points during the knitting of the shawl but it isn’t a solid black. There are flecks of grey and white which I love. The points were much pointier when I unpinned it from the blocking mat but over the course of today they have started to curl so I may need to reblock. I’m pleased with the size, less than 100g used.

And because no post would be complete without some outdoor shots, here you go..

Ishbel shawl sock yarn one skein knitted

Ishbel shawl sock yarn one skein knitted

And one that captures the giggling fits I was having whilst my husband tried to take these pictures for me and maybe also how happy I am with my shawl.

Ishbel shawl sock yarn one skein knitted

I wasn’t sure if I would get much wear out of my shawl in the cooler weather as it is a light shawl but we went to Boo at the Zoo tonight for Halloween and it is warm. Yay!

I’m writing this whilst my meringue bones bake in the oven for a Halloween party tomorrow so I’ll sign off as I did a year ago. Time for a glass of wine and wish everyone a Happy Halloween.

x

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Warm feet

Thankfully the weather here isn’t too cold yet (uhoh, that’s going to jinx it now) but it is cooler and a little while back I found that my feet were getting chilly in the house. I am wearing my hand knitted woollen socks all of the time but the floors get cold and I don’t want to wear my socks out, so I need slippers too.

The great thing about living in a small town is that you get very resourceful. No slipper shop? Not a problem. I have wool, lots of it, picked up here and there, garage sales, thrift shops. And I have Ravelry!

This is the yarn I had to hand

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It is a super bulky 100% wool so good for felting and warmth.

The pattern I used for these slippers is called Felted Granny Slippers (free on Ravelry). Basically the slippers are made up of granny squares that are cleverly joined to make a slipper.

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The slippers don’t need to be felted if the squares are made to a size that results in a slipper that fits. I wanted a denser texture for more warmth so made the squares bigger andĀ felted mine. It is worth noting though that granny squares don’t felt particularly well as they are made up of trebles (UK) and therefore have a lot of twist to them.

Before

crochet felted slippers granny square super bulky

After

crochet felted slippers granny square super bulky

I actually ended up lining the inners of these with felt as I wanted them to be a bit more substantial. I also stitched the sides up a bit for a better fit. They aren’t the most attractive slippers but they are very warm and very comfy and doing their job well. I think I would make another pair in worsted/aran next time and make them to fit without the felting (maybe for spring/summer wearing).

Keep warm.

x

The issue of light

When we were in England I had worked out the perfect places to take pictures for my blog posts so that I was happy with the light and back drop. I’m yet to find these places here and it’s frustrating as I really do want my pictures to reflect my projects and me in a positive light.

Maybe this has become more important to me since I joined Instagram (I’m buttercupandbee). The standard on there is so high.

In the meantime, here are some of my current projects.

Hoping this is finished soon so that I can wear it.

Trying to add pattern to my socks.

And you don’t want to know about these yet!

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Spot the difference

I’m knitting another pair of socks (amongst a million other projects) and they are taking ages. Way longer than any other pair of socks I have knitted.

Why? Well I wouldn’t recommend this whilst actually mid-project but I decided to use this pair to try new knitting methods. All in a bid to knit faster. 

I am normally a ‘thrower’ when I knit, which I understand to be a fairly inefficient method. I was knitting fairly quickly but when faced with a whole leg or foot of stocking stitch, I started wondering. Could I speed things up a bit?

I think most knitters ‘flick’, so I started with that. No faster, although if I persevered I’m sure I would master it. 

So I tried ‘continental’. This is the method recommend for crocheters and I immediately liked it for that reason. Way faster.

To give you an idea of the difference in time. I can knit a round in half the time continental style. I can’t purl continental so rib and heel sections take the same time but overall I’ve been able to knock some of the time off.

Great, faster knitting! Yes but now I have a whole new issue to contend with. Tension.

Look at the leg sections below.

The one on the left has been knitted using throwing and the right is continental. Can you see how much looser  (scruffy?) the one on the right is? 

Lay one on the other and it is really obvious. My gauge has completely changed.

Like I said, I changed methods half way through knitting a sock and had to frog it as the difference was so noticeable. Now I’ll have to reknit the one using my original method, so not so fast after all!

Other implications are that the stitches used to stay on my 23cm short circular needles, now they want to spring off all of the time. 

If I’m going to continue to knit continental for the stockinette section of my socks I’m going to have to reconsider the number if stitches I cast on or my needle size. Obvious to an experienced knitter I’m sure but not to a newbie like me!

What type of knitter are you and have you ever tried other methods? I’d be interested to hear.

Cute little project and a test

I thought I’d share this little crochet project that I made last night and at the same time test writing a post on my phone. Often I don’t end up sharing projects as I have to get the laptop out, get the photos from my camera and write the post. I use my phone for a lot of things, so why not posting? I’d be interested to hear what the rest of you do.

So here is what I made. It’s a little scissor keeper.

I used the green cotton I had left over from my doily and some scrap fabric. the pattern came from a book I bought when we arrived here called ‘Romantic Crochet’. It’s an English book, something I failed to realise until about half way through the flower thinking it was in US terms, doh.

This could be an easy project without this exact pattern, just using a granny square pattern, cotton and a small hook. The inside is just a fabric pouch filled with a bit of wadding.

I was just thinking that little projects like this probably end up on an Instagram feed and don’t have whole posts dedicated to them. Uhoh! I could see me losing a whole lot of craft time if I started an IG account. Ravelry is bad enough!

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