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Sunday, 12 July 2020

July already!

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. 

A half-knitted sock in shades of turquoise, black and purple yarn.  The ball of yarn is to the left of the sock, and a completed sock is to the right.  They are all resting on a stone paving flag.

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 ...

A brown baby rabbit hiding behind a terracotta water butt

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 ...

Bread dough rising in a glass bowl

and rise ... it was like something out of a fairy tale, I thought it was going to take over the whole kitchen! 

A very full bowl of bread dough which has risen to the top of the bowl

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 ...

Twelve bread finger rolls lined up on a wire cooling rack

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!

Bread rolls with white icing on top of each roll

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!

Crimson poppy flower against a background of green leaves

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!

Pea pods against a background of green leaves.  There are raindrops on the leaves, and the pods are quite flat

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!

Curly kale leaves in shades of green - bright yellowy-green for the young leaves and dark green for the older leaves

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.

Yellow evening primrose flower against a background of green leaves.  There is a small fly inside the flower.

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!

A vegetable patch full of potato plants: green leaves with white and orange flowers.  There is a crimson poppy flower in the foreground

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!)

White star jasmine flowers against green leaves and a brick wall background

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.

A pale pink Astrantia flower against a background of green leaves.  The petals are quite pointed and look sharp, but they aren't

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.

A white Catananche flower, with a purple centre and yellow stamens

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!

A garden border with plant pots of flowering plants.  The border is rather overgrown and the grass in front of the border needs cutting

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.


14 comments:

  1. My 4 yr old little tabby brought in a CROW the other day, took it up to our bedroom. Luckily we saved Mr Crow and he flew out the window. Cat is now getting a collar and a bell!

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    1. A crow!! Flipping heck, they're massive birds, all credit to your cat for catching it and to you for getting it back out again! xx

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  2. Hi Christine, when I was in my early teens, we lived in a bungalow and had a wonderful cat who was a superb hunter. I slept with my bedroom window open in all weathers (still do!) and "Timmy", the cat, would climb in through the open window, any time, day or night with his "gifts". Many's the time I have looked under my bed to see him playing and then, when bored with that game, chomping away on whatever it was he's brought in, usually head first! Cats can be the most adorable, enchanting but totally cruel creatures all in one package! Oh, how I loved him and was mortified when he passed away!

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    1. Oh that's not the kind of early morning wake up call you want - urgh! I think we have to take cats as they are, hunters and all - but that's the very reason we don't have a cat flap! :) xx

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  3. Congratulations to big daughter, a sensible decision to get her Masters over and done with. As a child I rescued mice from cats with my hands until an ungrateful mouse bit me. Currently living in a rented gardenless flat with plans to buy thwarted by lockdown I envy your garden and have to console myself with crocheting blankets designed by Lucy (Attic24), socks inspired by you and various garments for Birthday and Xmas presents for all ages. Happily retired I don't have to worry about work but those who do are in my thoughts and prayers.

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    1. I hope you can manage to move soon now that restrictions have eased over house moves. With any luck, you'll still have enough of the summer left - but if not, next year is a whole new season! xx

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  4. Just came across your site by accident and i love it. You're now on my favourite tab and I'm now reading your past posts while knitting my son a pair of socks using my late grandmas dpns x Knittyhelen x

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    1. Hello Knittyhelen, it's lovely to see you! xx

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  5. What a lovely post! Hooray for big daughter. What an accomplishment!!! And for you, mum, for supporting her all these years :)
    Rain sounds lovely to me. We FINALLY got some rain and cooler weather. We had a couple weeks of extreme heat and humidity. Happy to have a little break before it comes back on Wednesday. Have a wonderful week!

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  6. Hi Christine, love your pictures we only have grass and weeds outside not Gardner’s but your pictures are beautiful. Thing about knitting another pair of socks but I do want to knit JoJi Locatelli’s boxy just got to send for the needles.
    Well must go shopping today I did want to go early 8.00 -9.00 OAP at Sainsburys but was late getting up so I hope it’s not too busy this morning
    Look forward to your next blog as always
    Regards
    Margaret

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  7. HUGE congratulations to big daughter. One of our cats (both sadly gone now) once caught a swift. The swift's claws were clamped into the carpet and I had to use a scalpel to carefully cut the tufts away. Not quite sure how he managed to catch it, as swifts don't land! He also once brought me a present of a frog. It was unharmed, and released back into the garden. I love poppies, and have actually got one solitary Flanders poppy growing, despite scattering the seeds everywhere! xx

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  8. Congratulations to your big daughter. I have been growing curly kale and black kale in planters, it is so much tastier than shop bought. I like being able to step outside and pick what I need for dinner. I started off more seeds yesterday so I will have fresh kale in the winter. My potatoes have started to flower, they are in felt buckets, I will need to check them. Catherine x

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  9. Great buns! 😂 Seriously they look as good as the ones at the bakers. I prefer them without the fruit in. I love old fashioned Chelsea buns - that's given me an idea.....

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  10. In Liverpool we like to cut our iced buns in half, butter both sides, put both halves back together, and eat it like that. So delicious with good butter. Love your flowers x

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