And here we are, past mid-summer and rushing our way to the school summer holidays … even though if you have school-aged children like me, they might have thought they’ve been on holiday since March!
How are you doing? Are you still OK, safe at home and perhaps venturing a little further these days? We’ve been out and about a little bit, but not much; it still feels strange after all this time that it’s becoming acceptable to do that and of course, we are still very wary as this virus hasn’t just gone away. I think it will take us a while to feel that it’s OK to be outside again.
We’ve mostly been carrying on as before – work from home for my husband and me, studying from home for small daughter and big daughter has spent most of the last week on Cloud 9 …
we’ve been celebrating as she has graduated from university with First Class Honours! We are absolutely delighted for her as she has put so much work into her studies and really deserves the grade. She was hoping to go travelling in September but that’s been put on hold now so she’s going to start the Master’s degree that she was intending to defer … so many plans have changed for so many people … and she’ll see how the world is faring after that.
It seems very boring after that to tell you that I’ve been knitting a sock! It’s the second sock in the Novita Aran yarn that I started a while ago and then put down as I had other things to get on with. I’ve still got other things to get on with but I picked this sock up again last night whilst my husband and I sat and watched an episode of Jack Taylor on TV.
I used my 8ply (DK) pattern as the stitches per inch is very similar with Aran and I’ve used the same size needles, but I will need to make some adjustments to the toes as they’re just a bit too boxy for me using the DK pattern. I’ve finished one sock so it will mean unpicking the Kitchener stitch but I’d rather do that have a sock I’m not too comfortable wearing. I’ll let you know what adjustments I make when I’ve finished it in case you would find them useful.
I promise that I haven’t forgotten about the shortie sock pattern – my working from home time has been filled with commission work which has mean that every spare moment is spent making sure I hit my deadline (looming faster than I’d like) – although I will be able to tell you all about it hopefully in the not too distant future and I can’t wait! I picked up the Aran sock as it was close at hand and didn’t involve too much thought whereas I need to cast on another cuff version of the shortie socks and all my sock needles are currently in use.
It’s been easier to stay inside making the sparks fly from my needles just lately as it seems to have done nothing but rain for the last couple of weeks. Gone is the wall-to-wall sunshine, although hopefully not until next Spring as has been the case in previous years!
One of our cats has been using his outdoor time to bring us presents in various stages of life … he did his party piece the other day and brought a live mouse in only to drop it and watch it scurry under the bookcase – and then head off outside again, leaving big daughter and me to try to get it out. The last time this happened (oh yes, more than once, you’d have thought we’d be ready for this!), I mentioned it on Instagram and someone commented that a fishing net was the way to catch the beastie – it worked a treat so I went to get the net and sat on the working top out of the way until the mouse popped out from it’s hiding place. Sadly, it wasn’t quite so easy to get down off the working top in time to catch it (blimey, they are fast!), but with some help from big daughter, the cat (who decided that perhaps he should help after all), a large box and lots of shrieking (not obligatory but we couldn’t help it), we managed to get the poor little thing back outside. Phew, I’m glad the cat doesn’t do this every day!
This was the beastie he brought back next …
Luckily, I heard the commotion outside before he was able to do the baby bunny any serious damage and I left it hiding behind the water butt for a few hours until it managed to get itself back out of the garden and to where it belonged. There are a lot of wild rabbits near to where we live so this also isn’t an unusual gift from the cat. I suppose I should be glad that a 15-year old cat is still agile enough to be hunting, but I really don’t like it when he kills things!
Let’s turn our thoughts away from hunters and hunted, and let me show you instead what I have been up to in the kitchen. Inspired by a post by a friend on Instagram, I decided to have a go at making iced buns. I don’t know if these are something that’s regional, or even specific to England or the UK, but they are basically sweetened bread rolls, sometimes with raisins in, sometimes with cream and jam in, with icing on the top.
I like the plain version best; they remind me of being little and going into our nearest town on the bus with my Mum to do the shopping at the market, and my treat would always be to go to a particular bakery to buy an iced bun for the journey home. Sometimes the icing was white, sometimes it was pink and sometimes it was yellow, but those iced buns were the highlight of the trip to town!
You can still buy them now (they’re often called iced fingers) and I do still like one from time to time, but after seeing my friend make them, I decided that I definitely needed to give it a go! She told me that she used the Paul Hollywood recipe from The Great British Bake Off (I think it’s called The Great British Baking Show in the US) and it was on their YouTube channel – the link is here (it’s in three parts), and the recipe is here.
It’s taken quite some time to get hold of fast action yeast again which is what the recipe uses, but it just so happened that I’d spotted some during my weekly shop. It was very easy to put the dough together, and then you leave it to rise …
and rise … it was like something out of a fairy tale, I thought it was going to take over the whole kitchen!
Then comes the fun part as you make them into finger roll shapes and bake them. These are the buns as they came out of the oven …
And here they are with the icing on. Oh, they were sooo good! Just as I remembered them, and so much nicer than any I’ve eaten recently. I think we managed to make them last until the day after, but then they were gone and I haven’t got round to making any more yet – although I definitely will do, they were fabulous!
The constant deluge of rain has been good for the garden. The vegetables have shot up – and so have these very pretty interlopers which were definitely not planted along with the beans! There was no way I was going to pull it up, though; there’s always room for poppies in my garden! I think this one is Papaver somniferum “Cherry Glow” which I planted from seed a few years ago. Typically, I didn’t get much in the way of flowers the year that I planted them, but poppy seeds are famous for lying dormant until the ground is disturbed (that’s why there were so many poppies in the World War 2 battlefields) so I am not surprised to see them. I’m not quite sure how they got there, but I’m not complaining!
I’ve got peas as well! I didn’t plant many pea plants this year because they do take up a lot of space for not much in return, but these were at the farm shop and I decided that a vegetable garden without any peas would be just sad. We’ll probably get a handful of pods from these plants; none of the peas are likely to see the inside of the house, let alone a pan of water, but as peas are best straight from the pod anyway, that’s fine by me!
I’ve grown curly kale for the first time this year. My husband LOVES kale and I have to say, I have never seen the attraction, but oh my life – homegrown kale is amazing! We’ve been eating the bright green young leaves (or at least, the ones we can get at as it turns out that wood pigeons REALLY like kale too) and they are lovely. Not at all like the older, stiff, leaves that we get in a bag from the supermarket – I’m definitely a convert now, although I’m not sure I’ll want to eat the kale that we have to buy now I’ve tasted our own homegrown!
More flowers in the veg patch. This is an evening primrose, so called because it releases it’s scent in the evening to attract moths and other night-dwelling insects. I’ve tried to make sure we’ve got more flowers in the garden this year for nectar-loving insects, although I must say that I haven’t seen too many around just recently. I saw lots of bees in the Spring but now I come to think of it, not many at all lately. No butterflies either, despite the Buddleja being in flower now – perhaps the rain has kept them away and they’ll be back once the sun shines again.
The potatoes are doing well – now that they’re flowering, I can dig them up to see what they’re like and whether they’re ready to eat (must do that soon, actually, or I’ll be off to the farm shop for potatoes for tonight’s dinner!) and yes, that’s another poppy plant there. I’ll need to cut the seed heads off before they scatter everywhere, and then I’ve got some control over where the seeds are going to go. Although having said that, I’m really good at spotting when the seed heads are ready to be cut … after they’ve already burst and spread seed. Ah well, it’s a good job I like poppies!
Oh, is that another photo of my Star Jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) outside the front door? I wonder how that got there! (You are going to be bored of photos of this plant way before me!)
I bought some plug plants earlier this year to pot on for planting into the garden and some of them have started flowering. This is an Astrantia, although I’m not exactly sure which Astrantia it is as I bought a few named varieties and then managed to mix up the labels.
I also bought blue and white varieties of Catananche; they have papery flower heads a bit like cornflowers (they are from the same flower family) and the bees love them.
And this is to remind me that I need to plant them out! I’m very good at buying plug plants, potting them on and then leaving them in the pots in the borders for longer than I should do. Fingers crossed we get a bit of dry weather soon (yes, I can do the garden in the rain because I don’t dissolve when wet, but I’d rather it was dry!) and I can get them out into the borders. There’s work involved in preparing the borders which is why I’d rather get a run at it in the dry – and I’d really like to get my sock commissions out of the way too and then I won’t feel guilty if I do something else!
I’m going to leave you in peace now … hopefully the weather is being kind to you on this Sunday afternoon wherever you are, and I hope you have a lovely week.