Sunday, 27 February 2011

the weekend unravelled

It's been a busy weekend, with an early start on Friday to meet my Mum and brother up in London.  We treated ourselves to a morning coffee break in the beautiful Laduree Tea Room in Harrods before a lovely long walk all the way down the Kings Road and back up the Chelsea Embankment:

I bought Mr B and I a little box of macarons with both our favourite flavours in - Rose for me, Salted Caramel for him.  These were the perfect accompaniment to our CSI boxset on Friday night:

Yesterday, my Mum and I met K and her Mum at Unravel - a local knitting and yarn festival in Farnham.  Mum and I went last year and I couldn't get enough of the beautiful artisan yarn.  Now I'm more confident with my crochet I was able to go with some projects in mind and really treat myself.

Here are the little treasures that came home with me.  First up, an iphone case and pin cushion from Emma Bradbury:

I've been balancing a magnetic needle case that came free with a knitting magazine on the arm of the sofa for some time now - definitely time for a pretty and practical upgrade!  

Next up, three mini skeins and two full skeins from the lovely ladies at Skein Queen:

I coveted the wool on their stand last year, but couldn't really justify it.  This year I have some jewellery in mind for the mini skeins and a shawl for the full skeins - perfect! :)

I had a great time talking to Amanda and Phil from The Natural Dye Studio - they had a fantastic selection of crochet patterns, designed by Amanda, and the most beautiful yarn from Peru.  I bought two skeins of hand-dyed Angel 4-ply - it is the softest, most divine mix of baby alpaca, cashmere and silk and it is currently sitting on my lap whilst I type and periodically making its way up to stroke my cheek...  ooh, off for a little reverie there with my yarn, oops:

Last, but certainly not least in the yarn stakes, I bought two skeins of sparkle sock yarn from Fyberspates.  My photos don't really do the pretty silver shimmer justice.  I really don't know how they manage to keep the yarn so super-soft with all the sparkles.  I always hate it when sparkly wool is spolt by scratchiness, but there are no worries with this beauty:

My last two little buys were fabulous buttons from Textile Garden:

and the cutest little card from tillyflop - this is destined for my desk at work, to help me try to rise above the office politics:

A very picture-heavy post, but it's been a complete treat of a weekend, and I feel like a very lucky girl indeed!  Oh, I almost forgot - whilst we were walking round Mum spotted someone wearing an incredible aran cape.  She plucked up the courage to ask if it was handmade, and it turns out that the very talented Keira of bimblenmooch had designed the pattern herself and it's available from her etsy store!  I'd urge you to try out the Cape Country pattern - I'm hoping I can persuade my Mum to make me one once she's finished hers!

Right, that's quite enough from me for today.  I hope you've had a wonderful weekend!

- Rachel x

Sunday, 20 February 2011

what a sweet surprise!

One of the auriculas in my greenhouse has decided to put in a very early appearance (they don't normally appear until April)!  Sweet little "Kilby" put a real smile on my face today, despite the grim weather outside:

I was really excited to see lots of shoots in the garden today.  I'd been really worried that the long snowy winter might have seen some of my plants off, but even my little dwarf peach tree had furry buds on it!  My "winter corner" of aconites, snowdrops and cyclamen looked really cheery, but I also had the sweet surprise of a flowering pink camelia hiding behind one of my shrubs!

Mr B and I spent the day up in London yesterday.  As we had to pay for the train ticket to go up for his hospital appointment (thyroid function perfect, thank goodness!) so we decided to make a day of it and have a late Valentine's treat.  I had some Christmas vouchers from Liberty so I treated myself to some more Stitch Nation yarn in a really cheerful green called "sprout".  I'd seen a great waistcoat pattern in the latest issue of Crochet Today and thought I'd line it up as my next project... (more on this when I post about my current WIP!)

The real surprise was discovering a new craft section in Forbidden Planet!  Mr B treated me to two little japanese craft books:

I couldn't resist these cute little felt friends!  Now I have to admit I'm more of a cat than a dog person, but this next little gem was full of the sweetest little pups you ever did see - definitely on my "to hook" list:

A bit frivolous, I know, but they were both reduced and I can see the patterns coming in very handy for little gifts.

Quite a rambling post today, but it's been a rambling and blissfully chilled out weekend!  I hope yours has been, too!

- Rachel x

Sunday, 13 February 2011

oh we do like to be beside the seaside...

My best friend K and I had a wonderful day down in Brighton yesterday.  As luck would have it we had brilliant sunshine for the third year in a row for the Creative Stitches and Hobbycrafts Show at the Brighton Centre.

The real highlight for us was the "Above and Below the Waves" exhibition in aid of the RNLI.  Over 2,000 knitters from around the world took almost 2 years to create a giant underwater world of coral and sea creatures, together with cliffs and beach scenes on the exterior walls.

For more information on this fascinating exhibition take a peek here.

It would have been rude not to do a little shopping, too, so I came home with some KnitPro circular needles for my first foray into sock knitting.  I had a great conversation with the lady from Coleshill Accessories who had also just started a pair of socks from Socks from the Toe Up (Mr B bought me a copy a couple of weeks ago) and was delighted to show me her first attempt. 

K and I also spent quite a while chatting to a super-excited Mandy Shaw of Dandelion Designs who had just received an advance copy of her new book - K and I were both completely smitten, and will definitely be ordering this when it comes out at the end of April.

We were both quite restrained with our purchases (much to the relief of the hubbies waiting at home!) as we're off to the Unravel festival of knitting in Farnham in two weeks.  We can't wait to stroke all that beautiful yarn...

We took advantage of the sunshine to have a little walk along the seafront after the show.  The old West Pier looked incredible as the sun began to set:

It was also a lovely surprise when K spotted some guerrilla knitting right down on the seafront, where some creative-type had decided to brighten up the railings overlooking the beach:

What a wonderful day, and how lucky we were with the weather as it's pouring with rain today!

- Rachel x

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

crochet a rainbow

I’m taking a break from the crocheted tunic I’m making for this amazing initiative from the super-talented Sarah London.  Mr B and I visited Queensland on our honeymoon 10 years ago and can’t believe what a terrible battering this beautiful area has taken over the past few weeks.  As a committed hooker, whipping up some grannies is the very least I can do.

I had a stash of 100% acrylic yarn left over from a waistcoat I made my Mum for her birthday in December, so with the addition of a few more super-cheap 100g balls I’ve certainly got a rainbow to choose from!

The granny really is the simplest pattern you can follow, so I would urge everyone to hook up a few 5-round squares for this very worthy cause.

- Rachel x

Friday, 4 February 2011

mmm... banana cake

With three very sorrowful looking bananas languishing on my desk at work since last week it definitely seemed the right time for a banana cake!  Speedy and fool-proof in my trusty Kitchen Aid, here’s the recipe:

3 ripe and squishy bananas
150g unsalted butter
185g light muscovado sugar
2 large free-range eggs
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
A pinch of salt
150ml milk
50g chocolate of your choice
50g chopped walnuts or pecans (for nut-free people like my Mum, just up your chocolate!)

-       Preheat the oven to 180° and grease a loaf tin. 
-       Cream the butter and sugar until it’s fluffy and slightly paler than the mix you started with.
-       Gently beat your eggs together and add them gradually with your mixer on the “stir” setting (much easier to do this in a measuring jug so it doesn’t make a mess as you pour the eggs in!). 
-       Sift in your flour, bicarb. and a pinch of salt, then mix again and gradually add the milk.
-       Mash your bananas with a fork and fold them in along with your chocolate and nuts.
-       Pour into your greased tin and make a shallow well in the centre as this cake will really rise in the middle.
-       Put your tin in the oven and wait for all those yummy smells to start wafting round the house…  Check after an hour with a cake tester – it should come out clean, but this is a very moist cake so I check it in a couple of places to be sure it’s done.
-       Cool in the tin as long as you can bear it.  This cake is amazing whilst it’s still warm (Mr B likes his with a little bit of good vanilla ice cream!), but it’s lovely and firm when it cools, perfect to parcel up for lunchboxes.

Thinking about it today, I may try this with peanuts/crunchy peanut butter next time, as they’re such a great match with bananas and chocolate – I’ll be sure to report on the results!