Saturday, 16 May 2009

Socks, books and hogs

Two posts in one week? Gosh, that hasn't happened for a long time.

I thought I'd give you a bit of an update on what I've been knitting since being in London. Mostly socks actually. Inspired to take more steps into the world of sock making after my first pair, I cast on with another ball of Regia Kaffe Fassett yarn as my travelling project whilst going backwards and forwards from the Ideal Home Show on the tube. I'm not shy about knitting in public normally, but for some reason I found it a bit strange knitting on the tube in such close proximity to other travellers. I certainly felt conspicuous amongst everyone else with their books and newspapers, especially when (on my first sock-knitting tube journey) someone decided that the sight of me doing it was worthy of taking a photo!!

The sock progress is a good illustration of how tired I actually was, because it took me an entire month of tube journeys to do about 2/3 of the first sock. Since coming back to London and doing my office work for Taste, I've completely finished the pair in no time at all even though my train journey is much shorter. Annoyingly, one seems to be somehow a bit shorter than the other, so I may have to go back and re-do the toe decreases once I've added in a few more rows. But here they are for now, let's call them 'finished'.

Also during my last London trip, I made a start on some fairisle fish socks. They are not with me this time however, so progress is currently halted at around 70% done. I've knitted both cuffs, and have just started the toe decreases on the first foot. I'm using Twist Fibre Craft Studio's basic sock pattern, plus a simple fish design:

Never one to concentrate properly on a sensible number of projects, I have cast on for another fairisle pair of socks. Lizards this time: on ravelry here and on the net here. The lizards have been named Gary and Dave by their future owner. I've knitted Gary's head and one of his legs so far, although I may have to go back and make them smaller, these are looking like the biggest socks the world has ever seen.

(sssh, whisper this bit.... I'm knitting a pair of the ubiquitous Grumpernia jaywalkers as well. There are literally thousands of them out there on ravelry. Any self respecting sock knitter should have some. This is my train travel project, although the double decreases have led to a few near-stabbing incidents on crowded trains due to the tricky angles!)
And while we're whispering about furtive knitting exploits, I'll show you the two pieces of my bodge-job make-it-up-as-you-go noro cardigan. A flared bottom bit knit sideways so the stripes are vertical, and a raglan top-down top bit. Quite how the two will ever meet is currently a mystery to me. More news to follow on that one.

In other news, I've recently acquired some birthday books: Jun Tanaka's Simple to Sensational, and John Wright's River Cottage Handbook on Mushrooms. Lovely stuff! I've admired the River Cottage Guide series since John kicked them off with his very informative guide to Britain's mushrooms. There are now a further 4 books covering preserves, bread, veg and the edible seashore (the latter being another of John's masterpieces), all of which are worth a look.

I've been waiting for the release of Simple to Sensational for a good while, and wasn't disappointed with the result. Jun takes a collection of straightforward delicious dishes and offers a 'sensational' transformation by introducing a few more techniques or twists. I've seen this concept labelled as a gimmick in one review, but I actually think it's rather clever, and a fascinating insight into the kinds of things that might happen in a resaurant kitchen to take simple dishes to another level. I'm getting very interested in how to present food in a more professional looking way lately, so this book comes at a perfect time. The photography is stunning, worthwhile purchase for that alone, but I can't wait to get my teeth into some of the recipes too.

Completely unrelatedly, I went on a lovely outing to London Zoo today. Of course there were loads of exciting beasts to see, but I was quite taken with a couple of types of pig that I've never seen before: the bearded pig and the red river hog. Look at these fabulous beasts!

Despite never having been a fan of pork in any of its forms, I couldn't help wondering how these guys taste compared to their more every day brothers...

MiMi - thankyou for the fabulous meemalee's kitchen virtual birthday baking. I love that photo, yum.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Tasting London

Yes I am useless. Yes it has been ages since the last post AGAIN. Insert all the usual excuses. Ok now let's move on.

That previous post about my Noro skirt seems like a hundred years ago. Since then, I have spent a very hectic and surreal month in the demonstration theatre at the Ideal Home Show. So much fun, very hard work, and lots of lovely people. Here is my Ideal Home family (thanks for the pic Laura).

In some ways the time flew by, but in other ways it was nice to be a bit more moved in and settled compared to the shorter shows. I got to know the suppliers really well, and very much enjoyed my early morning trips to Turnham Green to visit the wonderful guys at Andreas Veg, Covent Garden Fishmonger and Macken's the Butcher. I think it will be quite some time before I feel like making another smoked mussel tart (I'm estimating that we did about 20 in total), but there were plenty of other tasty things to experience every day. mmm chocolate mousse...

I briefly went home for about a week and a half, during which time I slept a great deal, then it was back on the train and down to London again for a month's work on preparations for the Taste Festivals 2009. I'm starting to get very excited about it all, and can't wait to be back in Edinburgh for the first show opening at the end of May. Truly the best way to celebrate the start of Summer, hopefully without the wellies this year. (PS can you spot me in one of the promo shots for the London show??)

So I'm trying to make an effort to explore London a little while I'm here with time to spare. I'm warming to the place I think, but it's so easy to spend loads of money... must try harder to stick to the parks and avoid the shops! Yesterday I went to the Real Food Festival with MiMi and Simon, snacking my way round all the stalls and looking at lots of delicious produce. Plenty of cakes, plenty of chocolate, plenty of chilli sauces. Oh, and some rather rude-looking lime daiquiri sorbets, hmm.

...and a spaghetti tree!

I'm a big fan of London's markets, so this morning I was up early to go to Spittalfields. It was somewhat different to what I had imagined, but not at all in a bad way. Lots of beautiful clothes and accessories, and some very tempting food stalls too. I had a hot and spicy west indian wrap stuffed full with colourful salads and sprouting shoots, but somehow managed to resist the baked goods on the stall next door.

I treated myself to an early birthday present too - a bright orange felt jacket from Italy. I think I'll have to wait a litle while before it gets cold enough to wear it but it's fab. And yes, I am still a bit too in love with my over the top shades I also bought this week. I really must make some effort to remedy that I've-just-spent-a-month-indoors complexion. I'm off to the park for a spot of alfresco knitting...