Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Morning Time on Northern Line

Not to brag, but I've somehow managed to get this far in my adult life without having to deal with an awful commute. I can't say it is entirely planned, but I seem to end up living within easy walking or cycling distance to work, the idea of spending hours in a traffic jam or on buses every day really does not appeal. I'll take the wind and the rain any day! Chilly winter mornings wake me up and make me feel slightly more alive, and I have the added bonus of a rather scenic route, complete with good views and photogenic trees, and sometimes even friendly cows! Can't imagine why, but Bath does not feel like a real city...

Saturday, 31 January 2015

Bright Spots

I seem to be filled with a certain inertia when it comes to blogpost writing these days. I can't decide whether to keep plodding along with this, talking to just the few of you who stop by, or whether to try something new. The dying days of my PhD studies are taking up plenty of brain-space at the moment too. When I started blogging I certainly never had any aspirations to be A Famous Blogger, but I'm not sure what my motivation is any more. Anyone else out there blogging to no one for no particular reason?! Perhaps I just need some more fun in my life so I feel like I actually have something to talk about...

Well, for now, I shall leave you with some pretty pictures from my recent visit to the beautiful Kew Gardens in London. If you're in the big smoke between Feb 7th and March 6th get yourself there for the Orchid festival, which will be full of gorgeous colour to distract from the dreary grey winter outside (and look out for the resident iguanas too!).

And we'll see if I manage to post more than once in February!

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

A Year in Photos 2014

Happy holidays to you all! Slight unplanned blog holiday there, that life thing getting in the way once again. Inevitably, I of course resolve to blog more in the new year, but with a thesis to write, we'll see how that goes... Anyhow, here are my favourite photos (from on and off the blog) from 2014, here's to a good 2015!

The year started with some epic weather, but beauty can be found in the wintery Dorset countryside

Crisp bright days in Febuary

Company from a black panther on a domestic March afternoon

New life in spring

An early summer day looking down the spine of Dorset

Posers on the sands

Time to disappear...

Pirates in Portugal?

Trying to make the most of the autumnal bounty

The benefit of shorter days in October - capturing the sunrise at the highest point of my commute

A return to the delights of Kew, nice to hang out in the jungle again and forget about the November chill

An excellent reason to get out of bed - probably the best sunrise I have ever seen

Happy New Year one and all!

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Basket Case

The sudden drop in temperatures has really encouraged me to spend my evenings knitting instead of sewing, it must be some sort of craft-related hibernation preparation! I promised myself that I would reduce my over-sized yarn stash before I made any more expensive knitting project purchases, so I decided to knit up a blanket to snuggle up in in the evenings. It is a nice easy basket-weave design, so plenty of mindless TV knitting. I quite like the slightly random outcome of the stripes, using up all my chunky acrylic yarn.

Here is the pattern, free to you my good friends, hopefully it all makes sense! Modified from my brilliant 1981 Reader’s Digest ‘Complete Guide to Needlework’, which has the best stitch guides, and is delightfully retro ;). I decided to use stockinette and garter stitch, as although this means there is a back and a front to the blanket, the basket-weave lies flatter as the weaves are a bit looser.

I knitted with chunky/bulky yarn on 6.5 mm needles, the finished size is approx. 50 in x 42 in (127 cm x 106 cm). The final size could easily be modified by changing yarn, or adding in more sections. I used about 8 balls of acrylic yarn (mostly Hayfield bonus chunky 100g), which is roughly 1,200 yards (1,096 m).

k = knit stitch
p = purl stitch
RS - right side
WS - wrong side

Cast on 160 stitches (to make the blanket larger, increase cast on in multiples of 8)
Knit 15 rows of garter stitch (knit every row), ending on a RS row - Forms first border

To form basket-weave:
Section A (repeat for 16 rows):
WS - k8, *p8, k8, repeat from * to last 8 stitches, k8
RS - k to end
Section B (repeat for 16 rows):
WS - k8, *k8, p8, repeat from * to last 8 stitches, k8
RS - k to end

Alternate sections A and B until there are 16 sections in total (or desired size)
knit 15 rows of garter stitch - forms border. Cast off. All done!

Let me know if you give it a go, or if there are any horrible mistakes in the pattern!

Monday, 29 September 2014

Hedgerow Pesto

Food wise, I don't think autumn can be beaten. I love big salads and super-fresh tomatoes in the summer, but as the nights start to draw in the comfort food can come out. I've also been exploring what nature has to offer, to pair with some of the more unusual ingredients that are arriving in my weekly veg box. This pesto creation is one of my usual slightly off-the-wall concoctions, but it is tasty so I'll share anyway. It isn't really a recipe as such, as I definitely didn't measure anything!

Tasty fresh ingredients are the key, so lots of fresh basil, which I have miraculously kept alive on my window sill. I used a good couple of handfuls, plus lots of good olive oil, a bit of garlic and some parmesan.

I whizzed everything up in a food processor, not forgetting the key ingredient, foraged hazelnuts. There are absolutely loads round here at the moment, and I think if they are picked when a bit green they work really well as a pine nut substitute. Plus they are free!

I got some beautiful fresh borlotti beans in my veg box, and didn't have much of a clue what to do with them, so I boiled them for about 45 mins until soft, in well-seasoned water with mixed herbs. I then mixed the pesto and beans together with some gnocci, sundried tomatoes, raw cucumber and a little greek yoghurt.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why I will never be a food blogger ;)

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Thirty-six Psychadelic Grannies

Well hello there. So, earlier this summer I made my lovely Mum a quilt for her birthday present, so here is the big reveal! This is the third quilt I've made; see the first here, and the second here. I decided to challenge myself a bit more with this one, so went with a granny square block design, using 2.5 inch squares. I added white borders between the squares, so the quilt fits a double bed and consists of 36 blocks, which is 900 squares in total, thank goodness for rotary cutters :)

There are many proper tutorials out there so I won't bore you with my ineptitude, but the basic idea is, cut out an awful lot of squares...

Arrange them into blocks according to taste, I tried not to be completely random in my arrangement, aiming for two dark and two light patterns in each block. I think choosing fabrics is my favourite part of the quilting process, so many choices! This one seems to have gone slightly psychadelic, I like to think that suits my Mum :)

Square up the blocks, then spend 3 hours trying every possible permutation of block arrangement... (or just be more decisive than me!)

Sew the quilt top together, lay out with quilt back and batting/wadding in a sandwich - I always get a cotton sheet for the backing as it is so much cheaper than buying fabric by the metre, and I don't need to piece it either.

Wrestle with so much fabric and try not to make too much of a mess of the quilting. I would love to try one of those machines that lets you make swirly interesting patterns.

Embroider a date patch, because obviously this will become a family heirloom...

Edge with pink elephants, and done!

Love you Mum!

What block design shall I challenge myself with next?

Monday, 25 August 2014

Make Mine a Port Wine

Working in academia does have some perks, namely that there are many conferences, and they are frequently in interesting (and hot!) places. This summer I got to go to a big one in Porto in Portugal, and in amongst the hours of presentations we did get to have some fun, those Portuguese know how to party! I also seem to have got a dangerous taste for expensive Port wine, that stuff is tasty :)

The old town is really beautiful, if a little dilapidated in places, but there is a big push for regeneration at the moment so you frequently find shiny renovated buildings right next to ones where you can see the sky through the roof. Everything is seemly randomly placed and mismatched, which give the place real charm, and is a bit of a contrast to orderly Georgian Bath! We explored on foot and also got to do a river trip, so plenty of tourist pics for you ;)

View from the town hall balcony

Clérigos church tower, was the tallest building in Portugal when completed in 1763

City centre olive grove
Famous Lello and Irmao bookshop, unfortunately no pics allowed inside

Sea mist rolling up the river, expecting a pirate ship any moment!