Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Zigzag City

I've recently finished two patterns using the same combination of increases and decreases to create zigzags in the knitting. First, the previously alluded to jaywalkers (pattern by Grumperina), in a greeny bluey shade of Trekking XXL. I like how the colour changes show off the zigzags, and I am especially pleased that the patterning on each sock is pretty darn close to an exact match even though I wasn't trying - honest! I'd have no problem with completely different stripes on one compared to the other, but I don't think I could ignore it if they were a centimeter or two out from each other so I'm really glad this one turned out so well.

Second zigzag project is the chaton minet felted basket pattern from sock pixie. I used three colours of lopi roving from Twist Fibre Craft Studio, and added a few pattern repeats to make the basket bigger. Dilly seemed to go for it even before it was dry, so I'm counting it as a success for now. It remains to be seen how long before she returns to her penchant for piles of clean washing instead...

Monday, 13 July 2009

Chocolate and Cheese

This weekend marked the end of the Taste Festival season, with a trip to Birmingham's Cannon Hill Park. True to form for Taste of Birmingham the wellies were put to good use, but thankfully we didn't see a repeat of the previous two year's Glasto-Taste mudbath!
...umm, there might be a spot of rain on the way.....

Still, a good time was had by all despite the weather, and it was even fun to have my mum on board as the unofficial kitchen porter for the chef's theatre - she definitely earned her share of the demo dishes!

After the madness of Taste of London, it was luxuriously laid back in Birmingham. So much so that I had time to nip around the producers market and pick up a few bits. Few producers inspired me to part with my cash, but I did very much like the hand made chocolates from Gorvett & Stone.

Absolutely beautiful to look at (not too perfect... in a good way), and delicious. They had a lovely range of flavours - different enough to be interesting but not odd for the sake of it - and spot on with the texture. The milk chocolate truffles with sea salt were mouthwatering yet creamy, and the dark chocolate with chilli was perfectly balanced to give rich fruity cocoa followed by an addictive chilli tingle. My favourite was the strawberry with black pepper: a good hit of dark chocolate and strong strawberry with just enough pepper to make the strawberry sing. Yum. I'm still struggling slightly with the white chocolate with green tea however. I love both of those things, but remain to be convinced that they can be successfully combined in truffle form.

Gorvett & Stone's flavour name of strawberry with black pepper was correct in that it was strong on strawberry with the pepper playing a supporting role. On the other hand Berry Scrumptious, who were at Taste of Edinburgh, need to swap around their name to black pepper with strawberry!

Bitter dark chocolate, very hot full on black pepper at the back of the throat, and tiny flecks of freeze dried strawberry. I'm not at all questioning the classsic combination of strawberry and pepper, but when you've got that much of a cocoa and black pepper slap in the face, the strawberry gets a bit lost. This one would be just as delicious, and slightly less confused, if the strawberries didn't make it into the chocolate at all. I love the hot spicy kick of the pepper in their dark chocolate, good on them for not being afraid to use a decent amount of it. It reminds me of an unexpectedly fantastic meal I had in Sicily a few years ago with some very good friends.

On the long drive home from Birmingham, I made my usual pit stop at Tebay services on the M6 in Cumbria to visit Westmoorland farm shop. Tebay is the only small locally owned motorway service station in the country and it is a crime that there are not more like it. No KFC, no Costa Coffee, no minging burgers and soggy sarnies. They serve honest home-cooked food using local produce including beef and lamb from their adjoining farm (they do a mean curry by the way), and always have an irresistable selection of cakes. The farm-shop is also excellent although increasingly they seem to be stocking gourmet products from all over Europe, which is no bad thing, but somewhat detracts from the local angle that they are keen to push.

The things that keep me going on the long journey to Tebay are this...

1) A first-rate cheese counter in the farm shop. I always get a good hunk of Swaledale, and whatever else looks nice. I could easily spend 20 quid on cheese!

2) The cakes. Home made, interesting selection, huge portions, reasonable prices. What's not to like?? The coffee cake is exceptional, and pretty much a meal in its own right. Today I tried their baked cheesecake and found it rather good - high praise indeed from someone who is usually very disappointed by commercial cheesecake encounters.

3) The coffee. I don't know what beans they use but they make a mean macchiato. Just the job to keep me going for the final three and a half hours of the drive.

4) The views. And the ducks!

And so another foody trip comes to an end. I'm not sure what's next on the horizon, but in the mean time I've got no small amount of leftovers to eat! And my Westmoorland cheese, yum...

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Summer Skirt

Here's the latest creation to come off the needles... or should I say the hook, for it is indeed a crochet project this time. I have made the 'walking after midnight' skirt from Doris Chan's Amazing Crochet Lace. Ravelry users check it out here.

I used the lovely Hempathy by Elsbeth Lavold, with 34% hemp and 41% cotton it's great for the hot weather, and has a nice soft but weighty feel which is ideal for this kind of project. Unfortunately it's not that readily available here in the UK, so it was made in Italy, shipped to a yarn shop in the states, then shipped back across the ocean to me. Let's not think about the air miles on that one.

I started this project way back in November when I went on a trip to Argentina to take part in Total Wipeout, thinking that it would be a good one for a long plane journey. I then let it sit for ages until I went on a trip to Spain in February. Another long hibernation period followed, before the final push which saw me finish just in time to wear it to Woolfest (thanks to Laurence for taking some pics!). Here I am just getting started in the dust and heat of Buenos Aires:

For most of the time I was working on it I had a feeling that it would be slightly disappointing when finished, hence the lack of pace. But as soon as I'd woven in the ends and given it a good steaming I was very happy. The underskirt is not attached by the way, and I quite like that, because it means that I can change it for a brightly coloured one to match whatever pair of silly high heels I feel like wearing...