More Yarn Will Do The Trick

Thursday, 28 June 2012

York Grand Tour

Been meaning to tell you about a fabulous show that's in and around York at the moment. The York Science & Innovation Grand Tour  is all about the global and ground-breaking contributions people, businesses and organisations have made in York and their impact on the city. Sixty diverse images, each with its own message, are displayed until the end of August and I'm lucky enough to pass quite a few of them when I walk into town - certainly helps brighten up the grey rainy days. 
Love this fractal image, by the entrance to St Michael in the Belfrey church. Here's what's on the label: Fractals, like this Mandelbrot plot, are self-repeating patterns found throughout nature, in plants, lightning and even coastlines.  Early work on fractals was pioneered by Lewis Fry (of chocolate fame I assume) Richardson, who went to Bootham School, York 1894-98.
This red cabbage definitely caught my eye - I'm a sucker for any kind of in-your-face colour. Interesting stuff on the label:
Nestlé uses only natural colouring foodstuffs such as Red Cabbage in Smarties ® and explores innovative technologies to make sure they keep their bright colours.

Apparently there are eight different coloured Smarties, each getting their hue from veggies and other plants such as black carrot, hibiscus, safflower, radish, lemon and Spirulina. 

I'm very happy to hear that. I was very unhappy when Nestlé took over the Rowntree chocolate factory in York. I'd boycotted their products for years after learning about their exploits in Africa, allegedly trying to persuade mothers that the bottle was better for their babies than the breast. I do happen to believe this, but it's not the issue here, I just found it unthinkable that a global company could be so unscrupulous, placing profit before lives in countries where women can't afford to feed themselves, let alone pay for a commodity that they already have on tap. Surely the answer was to feed the mothers, then the baby milk will flow free.  Sorry to rant, but it's taken me years to accept that Nestlé is a part of York and I'm pleased that they seem to be cleaning up their act.
Couldn't pass this one without stopping, all about pigments... opposite the Minster on High Petergate:
Colouring agents used by medieval glaziers to create stained glass windows in York Minster have been found to contain tiny gold and silver fragments now known as nanoparticles.
It goes on to say that nanoparticles are now used in chemistry, medicine and biology amongst other fields.

Such an interesting concept, carrying innovation through to the end user - if you've got a smart phone you can enter an image's QR code and instantly get everything you want to know about the image - amazing!  
© Lisa Blackwell
Another glorious image on Blake Street:
Shells of pollen and spores can help preserve and deliver medicines, food supplements and cosmetics, enables by patented Sporomex technology.

If you'd like to see the other fab fifty-six images the best thing is to wander around York and see them in situ, but failing that take a virtual stroll online.
PS Been having a lot of fun on my ipad recently making my own fractal-like images.  If you haven't already, check out Uzu (means whirlpool in Japanese), a great app, mind-blowing for design ideas!

Monday, 25 June 2012

Street party

More doom and gloom on the weather forecast, so everyone was wondering if our annual get-together was going to happen. However, yesterday we escaped with only a slight sprinkling of rain - it would take a lot more than that to dampen our spirits!
The kids had a great time chalking on the pavements
Reckoning that strawberries and cream are always a good bet, especially at the start of Wimbledon week, P and I took Izzi Ava to the local pick-your-own in the morning. Here we waddled and waded through the drenched straw between the rows like a family of ducks. Sometimes up to our ankles in mud, it was almost a relief when the heavens eventually opened and we ran for cover with the booty.  By that time though we had three baskets of beautiful plump berries for the party, and the girls had the telltale pink stains around their mouths indicating they probably ate as many as they picked! This wasn't as many as it might have been, as the wet made it very difficult to stay on your feet - every time they had a decent number in their baskets, they'd fall over and spill them and have to start allover as the mud greedily gobbled the strawberries too!
Ava eating one of her hand-picked strawbs
There was just enough time to prepare the strawberries and throw together a big taboulleh salad, before getting ready for the party. Glad rags were donned and the girls decorated with gorgeous glittery tattoos - butterflies, dragonflies and fairies. Once in the swing it was all P could do to disuade me from having a few myself.
Not my taboulleh but you get the idea

It was great to see all the kids out on the street having such a fantastic time. Sadly, this is becoming rarer and rarer as parents become ever more vigilant and protective of their kids. In recent times parental anxiety seems to have snowballed, especially after the abduction of little Madeleine McCann. 

Our street is a Home Zone (a project reclaiming our streets for communities) and I remember Felix playing outside with the other children from when he was about eight years old, which encouraged a lovely sense of community and camaraderie amongst them.  But now many parents feel they can't  let their children out of their sight, and whilst I totally understand why,  I can't help feeling that our children are much poorer for this.  
Summer gets a drumming lesson from her Dad.
Is this a girl band of 2022 in the making?
The grown-ups are at it too - blue grass on the street! Meanwhile the younger ones had found something very interesting...
...hmmmmm, what could it be?
Ruby's wondering if there's anything inside?
Just what's needed with the wet weather we've been having - a Noah's Ark!
It was a lovely chilled day, despite the dire weather forecasts, finishing just in time to watch England put on a gutsy but fruitless performance against the Azuris in Euro 2012. Of course we were all hoping for a different result but being typically British I have to admit that the best team won, even tho it did come down to penalties.
New day today though with the start of Wimbledon and even if you're not a tennis fan it's sort of exciting just to watch the spectacle - the All England Club, the Ralph Lauren officials' uniforms contrasting with the hi-tec tennis gear of the stars, the histrionics of some of them, as well as at times the awesome tennis. If I didn't have a very imminent deadline this week I'd use it as a great excuse to just sit and knit along.  Later in the week though...

Friday, 22 June 2012

Indoor BBQ

Discovered a quick and easy way to throw together a meal in a moment.  With all the rain this year we haven't had a single BBQ and I suppose I was having withdrawal symptoms. So the other day, whilst rummaging around in a kitchen drawer I came across some sad looking skewers just asking to be taken out and put to use. 

My mind started to cogitate on the idea of an indoor barbecue, so I looked in the fridge to see what was available.  The best candidates  were baby tomatoes on the vine and haloumi, so out came the skewers and on went the tomatoes and haloumi, with a splash of balsamic and olive oil, then sprinkled with sea salt, black pepper and oregano.  
As there were only two of us and also the cupboard was quite bare I decided to put whatever else I could find in the roasting pan - don't you just love make do suppers, the idea of making something from nothing? It appeals to the scrooge in me, although P would say this is the only way this side of my character manifests itself!  

I found several cloves of garlic that I threw in whole, a green pepper got cut into rings and the last couple of tofu burgers were sliced in half, then everything was tossed in the same marinade. If I'd had them, a few whole mushrooms and a couple of small red onions in their jackets would have gone in too. Forty minutes later they emerged from a hot oven ready to eat.  Don't they look scrummy? With a couple of slices of P's wholemeal bread, which can be dipped in the leftover marinade, this made a hearty, no fuss summer supper for two.
Whilst on the subject of food, we had the little girls for a sleepover yesterday and I'm always looking for ways to get them to eat up. Patterns fascinate them so I'd been making different types of repeating patterns with veggies to jazz up their pasta. It's funny how the mind works, it had never occurred to me to branch out and do something figurative, but the lightbulb moment eventually happened and Izzi got the pasta kitty for tea. It does leave a little to the imagination as we still haven't been shopping and I'm limited to what's in the fridge, but the idea's opened up a whole new world of culinary possibilities for me.
Thought I'd finish with this pic of Arlo, taken on his first birthday a couple of days ago. He can never resist an empty yarn box, especially when he's returned from a night on the tiles -much prefers it to his soft and fluffy basket.  Somehow he's picked up a pink ribbon on his travels to celebrate. Happy birthday little Arlo!

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Winner of Coronation Knits giveaway

Da, da, da, da dada... can you hear the fanfare? Today I'm delighted to announce the lucky winner of Coronation Knits.  Many congrats to Joanne, who left the penultimate comment, this lovely book is sure to provide you with many hours of fab fifties knitting. Please send your contact details to me by email. At the moment Susan Crawford is away at a show, so you'll be receiving your copy around the end of next week when she gets back. Enjoy!

Just in case you're wondering, as you do, why there were thirty-four comments and only thirty-two went into the draw, the reason is one of the comments was mine and one person left two comments. Just want you to know that it's all scrupulously fair.

Thanks to everyone who entered the draw, it was SO interesting to read all your lovely comments and also to read the consensus on your fave project and design era. Turns out that it was a tie between the Diamond Stole and the Crowning Glory Hat - they won by a whisker, with the Embassy Gloves and the I've Been To London To Visit The Queen coat close behind. 
Mike Brown's book on wartime chic
Intriguingly, many of you love wartime chic. Not sure whether this reflects the demographic of the blog or the fact that we're now in a similar period of austerity, when ingenuity flourishes and we all have to think harder about how to make the most of scant resources - make do and mend.  Rationing, although limiting the diet, had the positive effect of making people healthier as temptation was hard to come by. Forties women, including the wonderful Land Girls, looked great in clothes with their hourglass figures, tanned legs (either naturally or with old tea when the nylon stocking coupons had run out - or so my mum told me), stylish waves and siren red lippy.

Before I finish I wanted to thank you all for your helpful comments on the polecat question. P and I have done a lot of research and can't actually find anything that looks like what we saw in terms of being jet black allover including the head.  The only conclusion we can come to is that maybe, as one of you suggested, it was some sort of hybrid, crossed with a domestic ferret, but still not entirely sure.  Hoping to catch another glimpse of it soon so we can check it out again.

Friday, 15 June 2012


Quick post as I hadn't planned to blog today but I'm so excited by the polecat just spotted scurrying along outside the house. I think it was a polecat although at first I thought it was a pine martin, but on doing some research it seems it's more likely to be a polecat. It was the most beautiful sleek jet black creature, behaving almost as if it was tame.  When I hysterically called P to come and see, it seemed oblivious and completely unbothered by my excited whoops, and blithely continued to go about its business.  It circled the house about three times before we eventually lost sight of it under some conifers.

Unfortunately I was too excited to get my camera, but just looked it up and apparently polecats were more or less extinct in Wales until conservation efforts re-established them. Here's a pic I found online. Seems to fit the bill except for the white on the face and ears.  I saw no white and wondered if maybe if it could be a young polecat, as I know some animals start off dark and get paler as they mature. Any polecat experts out there who can help me out with this?

Before this we were drying off from a wet and windy walk on the beach.  What a day it's been, the rain only started to let up about ten minutes ago for the first time today. The forecast is for another month's rain in the next twenty-four hours.  I hope they're wrong as on the way to the beach we passed through villages that were flooded last week and it's had a devastating effect on some residents. Ruined furniture piled outside their homes, such poignant and telling images  - the last thing they'll be prepared for is yet another flood. It must be devastating to be at the total mercy of the elements, especially shocking when it comes out of the blue and wrecks everything you own.  My heart goes out to them.

The estuary was looking moody with stormy blue light, which made the sand dunes seem to glow an eerie fluorescent green.   

Further along the surfers were out in force, taking advantage of the high waves. Very brave, I'm not a water baby - I would be terrified - but a lot of fun for some.

The light changes all the time even on a grey day like this. After a cup of tea and warm up in a local cafe things were looking slightly more rosy, though the rain hadn't stopped. 

On the way back, the river through our valley was looking angry again with white water exploding over the rocks dramatically on its way downstream. No flooding yet though so fingers crossed...
Off to see if I can spot the polecat again before the next downpour!

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Life in Wales

Had to do a bit of a detour on the last leg of our journey here as the main road was completely flooded. So glad though that we managed to find an alternative route via a tiny track over the hills, as this part of Wales truly is God's own country when the sun shines. The weather changes often, sometimes from hour to hour, torrential rain one moment and the next there's a rainbow, bathing the valley in sunshine and bringing everything in the garden to life in fabulous technicolour.

It's amazing how a couple of hours with a strimmer can work wonders, bringing everything into focus again. When we arrived the grass was knee-high in a sea of green - ok this can be quite attractive, but not desirable if you've spent ten years cultivating colourful perennials.
Had to run for cover when the rain came sheeting down the valley
Had a lovely evening with friends yesterday to celebrate P's birthday.  Had thought we might brave the midges, try and fight them off by smoking them out with the chimonea and start off outside on the terrace. Sod's law though, just after we started to get things out, the heavens opened and we were rained off.
Practising with my new ipad
Apple and blackcurrant birthday cake
It's just one of the best things being outside in the summer, watching the sun roll down the hills opposite, until it drops off the end and eventually disappears into the sea in the west. Also the garden is usually in full bloom in June, when the trees are festooned with rambling roses and the beds packed with perennials. However, with all the cold wet weather, everything's behind and the roses are only just coming into bud.

The little stream that runs beneath the barn and feeds the natural pond further down the hill is like a gushing torrent - was going to say raging but that would be a little too much hyperbole even for me - but you can guess what I mean. The pond has burst its banks and it's hard to get close now as all around is truly a bog. The gunnera though is very happy with her feet in deep puddles and is growing at a rate of knots. Had to cut off a leaf that was at least five feet across and blocking the path a couple of days ago.

The bog garden is a favourite place with the irises, gunnera, hostas, rodgersias, astilbes, willows and dogwoods, all good doers who don't demand a lot, but put on a spectacular show every year.

I also adore the hidden highlights in the garden that you need to look for, like the succulents in the top of the dry stone wall, which lift my spirits every time I walk past. The rain seems to have put most things about three weeks behind, all except for the fig on the terrace, which unusually has a full cargo of plump(ish) fruit this year.

The cats love it here and my only regret is that Django still can't be let out to enjoy it. Arlo is doing his best to make inroads into the rodent population, catching a rabbit yesterday and so many little voles, shrews and mice we practically need a graveyard for the bits he doesn't eat.

Django sulks around, wanly looking out the window, poor thing just doesn't understand that his leg has to heal completely before he can resume his life as Arlo's partner in crime. Sadly his lampshade collar prevents him from grooming, so last night just before bedtime he decided that he'd do some compulsory grooming of P's hair, which is a similar colour to his own. We nearly fell off the sofa laughing, he just wouldn't leave P alone - maybe it was his way of saying happy birthday?

Today I'm being good, the garden calls but I've resisted and have been choosing yarns for the second half of my next book, hard life I know :)

So I'll end with a few pics I took yesterday of some fave plants. The red border is looking good with big stands of Euphorbia Fireglow, red hot pokers and golden oats...
Euphorbia Fireglow
...I love poppies and this common and garden red one always makes me stop and look...
...I've never noticed the starry shape of this hosta bud before - strangely more interesting than the fully open bloom.

But my absolute fave at this time of year is the fabulous foxglove, just glorious the way it seeds around and comes up in the weirdest of places - I haven't the heart to pull any of them up.

Would love to hear what's blooming in your garden at this time of year. And don't forget, if you haven't already and would like to win a copy of Susan Crawford's new book Coronation Knits, just leave a comment on the blog tour post - I'm really enjoying reading all your comments about your fave design eras.