Sunday, 23 December 2007

Christmas message.

Every year in the UK the Queen makes a televised speech on Christmas Day. Many households watch ( many like ours completely ignore her, I'm afraid ) and many more fall asleep in the middle. This year the Queen and her Christmas Message will also be on You Tube, which is just asking for trouble. Next year she'll be wanting a skateboard.

Obviously, I couldn't possibly compete with Her Maj so I have chosen one of my favourite poems as my festive gift to Mogblog visitors. Along with some photos I took on a walk around the village and the woods this afternoon.

Putting Out The Ashes

A night such as we have never known,
millions of stars, shooting stars, a moon.
I stand and breathe the sky. It is breathing.

The supernatural light rests on the bin

freezing it to a palpable brilliant vase

from Greece perhaps, though it is packed with waste.

This is a marvellous spendthrift universe

a poet throwing off verse after verse.

Iain Chrichton Smith.

However you celebrate this marvellous universe, I hope you have a wonderful time.

Friday, 21 December 2007

Chilliness and finished things.

I'm a bit late in blogging this week on account of a slight hangover. I'm rubbish at drinking these days. I was the most sensible ( it's all relative ) person on the night, in terms of my alcohol consumption but I always feel rotten regardless. There might be a lesson there....

It looks like being a boozy time though - a delivery man appeared this afternoon with a case of six bottles of wine for us. Another of my mum's prize winning efforts. Lovely New Zealand white wines and sparklers. And last week we had a letter to say that we had won a three night stay at a distillery with a tour, a whisky tasting class and the chance to bottle our own tipple.

Things have been finished chez Mog - Nell's roar and the accompanying cuddly item for Es has been sent off and I finally sewed up Archie's 1960's Vogue sweater. I was morally obliged to on account of the temperature here going down to minus 8 degrees. It was a faff to sew and I'm not entirely happy with one of the shoulders, however it really suits him and it is super cosy.

We had a gorgeous day on Monday walking in Glen Esk, it was too cold to go far but the landscape was stunning. Some places hadn't seen the sun at all that day and there was thick frost on the ground and ice on the river. As you can see - I took the opportunity to wrap up warm even though I do look like a demented elf. The orange and yellow gloves under my fingerless mitts were knitted when I was 21 and living in, of all places, New Zealand. I had a much greater alcohol tolerance in those days and no taste for fine wines. How things have changed !

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

This one's for Mary Jane !

I let my fellow blogger down yesterday. I had posted a picture of some chocolate mousse on Flickr and poor Mary Jane came over to the blog for more details. What did she get? A picture of Magnus modelling the latest line of plastic bag couture. I will now make amends!

I recently bought a snazzy grinder/blender called The Tribest Personal Blender in a fit of enthusiasm after reading about raw food. Every morning since, I have been drinking home made hemp milk and trying to up my veg and fruit content. Here is one recipe that sounds odd but is quite honestly a tasty thing. It contains cocoa nibs which if you haven't tried them before, are worth a go, if only as a science experiment. Eaten on their own they taste a bit like dust with a slight cocoa undertone. Add any sweetness, a date for instance or a dried apricot, and you get the taste of chocolate. Proper chocolate too, not the wierd milky stuff that the UK is used to, the real 70% cocoa solid stuff. This mousse is a variation of one I found in Raw Food Made Easy by Jennifer Cornbleet.

Chocolate Mousse

Two avocados - very squidgy, blended till smooth.
1/4 cup dates soaked for two hours or so.
1/2 tsp vanilla ( optional )
1/4 cup of the best cocoa powder you can lay your hands on.
1/4 cup of the date soaking liquor
Chopped macadamia nuts
dried sweetened cranberries
cocoa nibs.

Add the dates to a blender with the water and vanilla. Blend till as smooth as possible. Add avocado and cocoa powder and continue blending till smooth. That's it - mousse. Taste and check if you want to add another sweetner, I didn't but you could add agave nectar, maple syrup, concentrated apple juice....

Layer a glass or bowl with some mousse, then follow with some nuts, cranberries and nibs. Continue layering till everything is used up. Go easy on the nibs, you don't need too many as they are strong. maybe a teaspoon in total. You can never have too many cranberries and macadamia nuts.

I'll admit, you can tell that avocado is one of the ingredients, in the beginning, but then your tastebuds latch on the the cocoa/nut/cran combination and all else is forgotten.

Monday, 10 December 2007

A cat in a bag.

Today we celebrated the exhaust being checked by the garage - honestly, the mechanic just looked at it and the damn thing fell off - by going out for lunch and a small trip to the local charity shops. Lunch was a huge turkey and ham salad at The Castle Club in Forfar. The Club has the strangest decor, hand picked from many eras in history. Fake medieval tapestry and exposed beams, Art Deco lamps, Shaker style roof tiles on the bar and Victorian portraits of famous Scots. Crackers on the table as well. We refrained from crackering but there was a nasty moment when the table next to us pulled theirs and a pencil sharpener from inside a cracker flew past Archie's ear, narrowly missing his christmas pudding.

The charity shops were much safer and we came home with a 1948 copy of Practical Home Needlecraft in Pictures and a pair of soft grey curtains which are already hanging in our living room. I'm hoping that the creases fall out with hanging otherwise I might have to use the iron.
The big bag the curtains came in was an instant hit with Magnus and we had hours of fun rumpling the plastic and waving it at him in the manner of a bullfighter.

We had chums around on Saturday night and we sampled last years bramble vodka and plum gin. They really do benefit from a year's worth of maturing. The plum gin was a revelation with a wonderful prune flavour. I'm hoping the sloe gin is as good if we can hold off till next year. In case you thought we were stingy with the gin, another half a litre was added after a trip to the shops!

Friday, 7 December 2007

Handspun and flatworms.

It's a lovely peaceful Friday afternoon in Mogland, Molly the dog-on-loan is snoozing in front of the telly and Magnus is asleep in front of the fire. Cats always get the warmest bit. The Christmas light count in the village has gone through the roof and believe me, if the householders could get onto the roof, there would be even more shiny stuff. Some have put lights around their chimneys which in my mind could cause a tripping hazard for anyone trying to climb down on Christmas Eve.

Today is my big brother Tom's birthday so I hope he is having a good one and that many presents have been forthcoming. Me, I'm awaiting orders as to what present he would like although I do know of a knitted Dalek pattern......

The Knitting Bee was great fun except that my carding advisor couldn't make it so I will have to live with grazed knuckles for a while longer. The Bee hostess, Marianne made the most spectacular squidgy chocolate brownies which were gone in seconds. I spun some dyed Wensleydale and it turned out fine. Not sure what to do with it next though. Nell's thing that requires a roar has finally been finished - see above for details. It's very good for making funny faces with and I'm sure the roaring will be load and scary. All I need to do now is finish her little sister's bird and my holiday knitting will be over.

The icky worm picture is a true horror story - New Zealand Flatworms are living in my compost. This is a very bad thing as they eat earthworms by curling around them and disolving them with stickiness. I had to report them to the Scottish Crop Research Institute to help them to map out how widespread they are in Scotland. As the name suggests, they are not a native species. Apparently the best thing to do is to boil the buggers by pouring a kettle of water onto the compost. It might sound a bit medieval but the earthworms need revenged!

Tonight a man is coming to our house to collect a juicer, some hair dye, some Jiffy bags for posting and a couple of DVDs. I put them on Freecycle yesterday and he was the person to write the nicest email. It will clear a bit more unwanted junk from the house and hopefully improve my Karma after the Flatworm boiling incident !

Saturday, 1 December 2007

Adventures in colour

I've joined two groups on the Rav this week - the Greenies 2008, and the Stash Knit Down 2008. Forward planning at it's most enjoyable. The Greenies aim to buy yarn that is socially responsible and for me that will probably mean not buying any ( that's the most responsible thing to do anyway. ) I have tons of yarn in Knitting HQ which is waiting to be used up and that fits neatly into the Knit Down plan. Spinning and the possible purchase of spinning equipment will continue and I am going to do my best to buy UK fleece. I bought some carders this week and had a mini tutorial in how to use them. I have great plans to dye my fleece and blend the colours by carding. Next week is Bee week so I will bring the carders along and get the experts, aka Julie and Kit, to help me out.

I dyed a couple of things for practise - a whole 80 odd grams worth. I used the Ashford Acid dyes and the same dye bath for all three. Scarlet and blue, with slightly more scarlet than blue. The blue must have taken up mostly in the first dyeing. I dyed the last lot as fleece to make sure I could do it without making felt. Not that I don't like making felt, it's just a bugger to spin.
Molly was here for dog sitting so I asked her to model the finished skeins. Like any other highly strung supermodel, she doesn't always follow instructions so things got a bit blurry.

The weather here is awful, sheets of rain and misery falling from the sky. Just the right time for the village Christmas lights to go up. We heard the sound of a brass band on Thursday evening and lo, the tree was up outside the church. In November? When I was a lass our decorations didn't go up until the seventh of December which is also my brother, Tom's birthday. Never in November, it's too soon. Sorry to those who love the festivities, I seem to naturally err on the side of Humbug.

Next week is filled with excitement, Tuesday we go to see Scottish singer Jackie Leven playing the Montrose folk club and then the Bee on Wednesday. I'd better start practising my carding.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

There's a man at my window and I'm on the first floor!

This has been the year when everything broke. From the freezer to the dishwasher to the sink to the ominous springs in the mattress. This week the roof decided to let us down. It had rained heavily and the sound of water dripping in the kitchen made my heart sink to my mouse filled boots. If I tell you that our kitchen is an extension and the dripping is between the new and old bits of the house in the walls, then you will know how sunk I am. Hence the face at the window. The local roofers are on the case, they should have started yesterday but apparently they can't fix leaks if it is raining. Hmmm. The good news is that the damage is minimal and should be fixed today.

The weather has been truly awful so there has been a lot of lying about a la Magnus. I'm on sleeve two of the Vogue Sweater and Nell's thing that involves roaring is coming along nicely. The Twist Fibre Craft shop was on my to do list this week but that was derailed on account of the dripping. Luckily they do very quick mail order and a parcel of fleece and dye should be in the post. I have been gazing at Pi Shawls on Ravelry and I feel an itch in my DPNs. Maybe after the big handspun wrap that has already been planned I will start spinning for a shawl. The dyeing is brand new to me and I don't know whether to colour the Wensleydale fleece tops or spin and then dye. Any advice? I have a leaning towards dyeing the fleece and then blending when spinning but I could be persuaded either way.

The mouse filled boots were actually a single shoe. I came upon Magnus in our storeroom with a paw inside one of my trainers and having lured him away with the promise of milk, I checked inside only to find a harvest mouse. This fellow was unharmed and hanging on by the paws to my shoe. He was taken outside and persuaded to stay under the shed until Magnus had forgotten about him. He should be fine, which is more than I can say for the bird that went behind the washing machine on Tuesday, but that's another story!

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Noggin Problems

It's been very quiet here at Mog Towers. The only thing of note to report was a medical first, although not one I'd recommend to anyone else. I had a six day migraine which left me lingering under the duvet for most of the week. The doc tells me it was a cluster migraine and she has given me very strong pills in the event of it ever coming back. I spent many hours spinning and trying not to feel pain. The spinning worked out well though. The fleece I was using is pretty close to the colour these sheep are wearing in a photo my father took on one of his weekly walks. Next time I'm going to ask him to carry shears.

I'm almost at the end of the first sleeve of Archie's 1960 Vogue sweater and the anxiety is creeping in. It's a funny one, the sleeve is shaped and then a saddle of 24 stitches is knitted to the same length as the back shoulder and when sewing up occurs, it will be sewn between the front and back. The back shoulder measurement seems to be longer than the front due to neckline shaping and I'm a little unsure as to how it will turn out. I've seen similar patterns and I'm hoping that when I come to the sewing it will all miraculously make sense.

A glorious thing making no sense whatsoever has returned to UK telly. The third series of The Mighty Boosh started on Thusday. I'm not going to try and explain the allure of this show, just have a look at and see if it makes you laugh. Most of our family are in love with Noel Fielding, seen here on the right wearing lightning.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Hurray, I can have a bath!

This post celebrates the end of possibly two or three months of bathroom disturbances. First the leak from our sink onto the neighbour's ceiling. Then up came the floor, then down came a bit more of the neighbour's ceiling as the soggy insulation was scooped out. Then the insurance guys, then trips to choose new flooring and phone calls to plumbers. This week saw Archie make beautiful tongue and groove panels for the bath and paint the walls before the lino man came yesterday. Now it is all over and I can wallow in my bath without worrying about not having a floor, a functioning sink or angry neighbours!

I have been spinning some leftovers this week. In my enthusiasm, last time I was at the Twist Fibre saloon I bought Icelandic fleece instead of merino. It is too scratchy for my tender flesh so it will eventually be felted into a bag. Till then I have been having fun with the mixing up of colours and spinning. It is easier to spin than merino which I'm putting down to the coarseness of the fleece. I would never have put those colours together without the benefit of serendipity but I'm pretty pleased with the results. Note the lone Christmas stocking in the photo, I think this should have been sent to a deserving child last year. So much for forward planning.

I have also been working on Nell's thing that involves roaring. It is coming along nicely and will be photographed in due course. I have been completely avoiding Archie's 1960 Vogue jumper and I think it is because once it is finished I'll have to SEW IT UP. Last time I tried that was the disaster that became the Placed Cable Aran. Fear is the greatest aid to procrastination. I will persevere - Face the sleeve and do it anyway!

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

A new face in Knitting Headquarters.

More of an old face really, but a welcome addition to KHQ . This is my maternal grandmother, Eleanor, possibly taken at her nursing graduation. I'm not sure of the date and I'm counting on someone to be more specific. I have the worst memory in the family, Tom my brother knows everything - every time, date and event in our childhood whereas all I can remember are little flashes of recollection, like the smell of hot water in the bath, or the fear of mantraps in the park on Bonfire Night. In defense of the Bonfire organisers of Inverness, the likelihood of mantraps was very slim. That wasn't what the bad boy in my street told me though and I was only about 4 and a half. I managed to lose the sausage out of my hotdog that night too, I was looking down, checking for traps and lost my grip on the bun. That's how family legends are born. The same horrible boy told me that the planes flying overhead were German bombers aiming for my house and the sound of flight still makes me shiver.

Anyway, on to my grandmother, the reason she fits so well in HQ is that she was the first knitter I knew. I have vague memories of her teaching me, in fact, she is the only teacher I remember at all, but the right hander/left hander divide made things a bit tricky. I have better memories of receiving knitted gifts like the huge rainbow cardigan that kept me warm in many a heat starved student flat. We have old copies of cine film and video and there is some great footage of my Gran sitting in her living room surrounded by guests, knitting away on a neckline with four needles, no notes and no pattern. I have a lot to live up to. It is lovely to look up from my own knitting and see her beside me.

Another much younger spirit has been on my mind this week as well. Three in the morning on Monday found me awake with the sick feeling of something forgotten about. I made a cup of tea and settled down in the living room with the laptop and Ravelry, the insomniac's friend. Looking through the knitting projects of complete strangers helped remind me that I had an important job outstanding. Christmas gifts for Nell and Esme, the small glorious children belonging to my good friend Gill. This year we have decided not to give presents or recieve them on the understanding that we aren't Christian folk and we don't really celebrate any other religions' festivals and expect to get gifts so why do this one. But Nell, Nell thinks that I am an artist who can make Critters and clothes for Barbies and I can't let her down now. So I am in the middle of a project for her and I have plans for her little sister too, I think Es will need something to be tucked under her arm and cuddled. Nell will get something with a bit of interaction, possibly involving roaring noises. So far it looks like the photo above.......

PIF people, please email me with details of colour likes and adresses and anything else I might need to know. I think you can find my email on the blog profile. Failing that, leave a comment and I'll get in touch with you instead. I have plans for you too!

Friday, 26 October 2007

Weddoes and well dressed skeletons

Saturday saw me in knitting heaven at the Twist Fibre Craft shop in Newburgh, Fife. I know that many people in the states go to knitting and spinning conventions and I have seen so many photos of Rheinbeck to make me positively sick with envy. We do things slightly smaller over here. Debbie Bliss had been booked to talk at a fundraising day in a hotel next to the shop but she was poorly and we valilantly made do with a room full of yarn and samples instead. Never have I witnessed so many women stroking themselves with cashmere and angora blends. What a chance to try on samples of garments and see them on people of normal, ie, varied sizes. I spent too much on merino tops as usual and have been spinning like a dervish ever since. I also met a couple of people who read the blog which was a complete surprise ( hello Di ).

My companion for the day was my SIL, Babs and we had fun with woolly stuff while our partners, actually, I don't think I ever found out what they did, I was too busy with the yarn stroking. Anyway, we met up again on Tuesday in Stirling to watch The Wedding Present.
The venue was a very warm, or that might just have been the glow of pride coming from our side of the room. The drummer of the Weddoes you see, is none other than Archie's nephew Graeme, son of Babs and Archie's brother Donald. This meant that we got in on the guestlist and I had permission to take photos. I've always wanted to be on a guestlist ( I know, very sad ) and felt slightly more hip than usual with my special wristband on. The gig was brilliant and reminded me that I should go to see bands more often.

The post this week brought me a very odd prize, my mum enters me into competitions and I know nothing of them till the phone rings, or a letter arrives. So I was a little perturbed to find that I'd won £800 of laser tooth whitening. Luckily the other parts of the prize are more my style - First Class travel to Manchester and a champagne lunch with a jewellery designer who will then make me £500 worth of bespoke jewellery. Hopefully someone else will want a grin like Tom Cruise, or Gordon Brown for that matter, apparently the PM has had his teeth lasered.

We'll miss Halloween in the village this year as we are off to the Highlands, to a cottage near Glen Affric. Lots of yarn, fleece, books, and a real fire. I'll leave you with that image, as well as the scary skeleton that lives in Sylvia's house. You might recognise her as my knitting model. With her wig and lipstick she looks a lot like one of Tom Wolfe's Social X - Rays.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Pssst - Pass it forward.

I've just put a comment on Miss Frugality's blog in the hope of getting a little something in the spirit of Pay It Forward. I don't do swaps or secret pals because I'd hate to sign up to something and forget/run out of steam/money.....

However, I think I can manage three things and it would be nice to send something off into the wild blue yonder. Please bear in mind that if you get picked, there has been a postal strike in the UK and things are still a bit wonky.

Here is the blurb for the PIF.

"I will send a handmade gift to the first 3 people who leave a comment on my blog requesting to join this PIF exchange. I don’t know what that gift will be yet and you may not receive it tomorrow or next week, but you will receive it within 365 days, that is my promise! The only thing you have to do in return is pay it forward by making the same promise on your blog.

It would be great to hear from you.......

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Oh no, early Halloween!

Just realised that if you blow up the picture of KHQ in the last post then Magnus looks like a vampire. Doesn't bode well for household harmony.......

Can Karma work backwords?

Doom happened to me this week. On Monday to be precise. I killed my Placed Cable Aran sweater. I had finished a front, a back, two sleeves and knitted the floppy collar on circular needles and then something slipped in my concentration. I sewed the top of the sleeves onto the shoulder parts - twice. Both tries went wrong. Instead of following my instinct and putting the knitting in a bag till the morning, I kept going. The third sleeve attempt went wrong and as I unpicked the sewing I nicked a stitch and it just unraveled from there. I managed to botch the thing so badly that I couldn't see a way for it to be salvaged. There isn't a photo on the blog so you'll just have to look on my Ravelry notebook. I haven't updated the status from WIP to ITB and yes, that does mean In The Bin. I just hope I can find an emoticon that manages to express the sheer waste of time and effort, not to mention bad language that accompanied the demise of the sweater.

So I was wondering about Karma and what I might have done to deserve this and I've come to the conclusion that Karma works on a different timescale to the rest of the world. You see, I didn't do a really bad thing until today, six days later and boy was it bad.

Readers of the Mog archives will know that what other members of the family call the Spare Room ( or Spare Oom, if we happend to live in Narnia ), I refer to as Knitting Headquarters. Actually KHQ only takes up half of what is an obscure attic shaped 8ft by 30ft space. The other half has always been taken up by blankets, bits of tent and other stuff with nowhere else to go. This week it has been transformed into Writing Central for the sole use of Archie the other half. Archie has spent many many hours fixing up an old computer to use in WC and was almost at the point of success when some stupid woman walked over to the plug and switched it off. Right in the middle of rebooting or something equally important. In my defense, for I was that stupid woman, the plug was in an extension with other plugs and I always switch it off at the wall if I need to re-set the broadband thingummy. I was somehow oblivious to the computer wheezing away next to me and that is how it became the second thing I killed this week.

It took many many many more hours and different disc downloadings and frownings and reading the paper while things loaded and wheezed then the computer coughed back to life. Fingers crossed it is still working. And I am very sorry.

I have sworn off knitting for the rest of the week and concentrated on spinning this Jacobs Fleece from Twist Fibre Crafts. It was a little rough so I think it is destined for a felted bag rather than a garment. In the present state of Karma, I think it's the safest option !

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Spinning and reminiscing.

I left home again last week and moved into Sylvia's for cat/cat/cat/house sitting. This time the dog went to her parents ( Sylvia's parents that is ). I brought some spinning and three different knitting projects and came home with them all unfinished. The cats were fun though. There is a lovely wood burning stove in the living room so I spent most of the time trying to light the damn thing and keep it going.

Lots of family stuff - my big brother came home from California where he lives now and there was the usual round of meeting, eating and catching up. Tom and I also went on a tour of old Fife venues so that he could take photos for his website about Kirkcaldy punk bands. It is a sad case of affairs when at least three of the venues have now become residential homes for older people. So much for Punk's Not Dead. Part of my enthusiasm for the trip was the chance to drop into the LYS and get even more fleece. I came in looking for reds and purples and came out with orange and green. Blame it on the autumn air. I have plans to knit a (possibly lacy ) long rectangular wrap so any pattern ideas would be most welcome. Another advantage was the visit to Pillars of Hercules which is an organic farm and cafe. They do the best cheese toastie ever. We had a great day remembering what it was like to grow up in small town Fife in the 1980's. If you want to know more, have a look at the site at

Knitting Bee last week was a salutary lesson in FINISHING STUFF. I can't emphasise too clearly the sheer horror of the box Helen, one of the Bee-ers brought with her. It was full of unfinished garments, there were hundreds of them, and they all belonged to the same person. Unfortunately this person had died and it fell to her family to untangle all the knitting leftovers. I think it would be fair to say that we all looked into the future and imagined our own families plowing their way through half done jumpers, orphaned socks and fingerless gloves. All of us except Grahame of course, he makes tapestries and always finishes them. You can see one in the left hand corner of the picture. We all went home vowing to finish every last bit of knitting that was hidden in bags all over our houses. It's only fair to those we leave behind.

Talking of fingerless gloves, here are some mittens I knitted with my handspun. They make me feel so smug. Only problem is, we're having a bit of an Indian Summer here and it's far to warm to wear them. I've also been working on Archie's 1960 sweater, only one and a bit sleeves to do so he might get it this winter after all. What was it I was saying about unfinished knitting.........

Sunday, 30 September 2007

Gooseflesh and fish eyes.

My mum enters competitions, for her it's a cross between a hobby and a way of life. When I was growing up I was the only kid in the playground picking up the sweetie wrappers so that she could get entry forms and there was that time that the cat had to eat dog food for months. It was a Pedigree Chum competition and there was a sticky moment when we went to the local supermarket to collect the prize - a trailer tent, no less - and the Pedigree Chum lady asked us if our dog liked the food. We didn't have a dog. However, we did have a holiday in Italy on the proceeds of the sale of the tent.

Anyway, this competition frenzy has only increased now that mum is retired and I look forward to the post arriving in the morning. This week we won the two Bourne DVDs and dad won £100. The best ever was our holiday to Hawaii. Mum enters us all into competitions which is great as I never win anything by myself. Except this once when I was the 5 millionth ( at least it should be ) visitor to the Gooseflesh blog. Helle, aka Gooseflesh makes beautiful jewelry and my prize was this amazing coral necklace. It has already been admired and tried on by many. Mr and Miss Frugality came over for a flying visit this week and Miss F is truly envious of my prize. My brother is home from the US and I will be wearing it when we all go for a meal out. Thank you so much Helle.

Other fleshy gifts this week came from Sylvia our chum. She is a vegetarian and was looking for somewhere to offload a surplus of frozen meats. We duly took possession of tons of venison, smoked goose and other treats. Next morning I went to see if Magnus was in his basket and happened to glance onto the floor next to the freezer. Horrors! I'd forgotten to empty one of the bags and there on the floor was a slightly ripped plastic bag ( thank you Mog ) with one glassy eye staring back at me. A whole trout had quietly defrosted on the floor overnight. Luckily Magnus does not like fish and other than having a damaged bag, the trout was unmolested. Archie swears that it was delicious baked with lemon and dill. I'm with Magnus, I'll stick to the venison!

I knitted a bit too - pics of my first ever handspun knitting to be posted soon.....

You can find Gooseflesh at

Friday, 21 September 2007

A bad smell.

Harvest mice, originally uploaded by lulubryan.

A slightly morbid mouse update. You may recall in my last post that I threatened our little visitor with trapping should any harm come to my stash. The mousetrap will not be needed now. A bad smell loomed in our storeroom for a day or two and using my nose for dowsing, I tracked the fumes to the back of the freezer. Archie duly moved the freezer and found the mouse, stone cold and smelly. Cause of death? Not sure, but Magnus is saying nothing.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Tardy mouse infested blogger.

I'm behind in my blogging - put this down to an excess of spinning, the arrival of two out of three stepchildren and a general malaise which left me in bed for a while. So not much has happened in the land of Mog this week or so, except:

A visit to Twist Fibre Crafts in Newburgh. After having such fun with someone else's spindle I decided to get my own. I love this place - I had what amounted to a one to one spinning tutorial, a history lesson, bible study ( did you know that the Bible bans the mixing of flax and wool for clothing ? Check Deuteronomy for details ), and the chance to squeeze lots of potential spinning fibres. And then what happened? Peter the shop owner sold me the cheapest spindle in the shop, because it was the one that suited my needs best. That's good service in my book. I also came home with some more merino in lovely green shades, some undyed merino with added silk and some soy. I have already thrown some of the soy onto Sylvia's fire because in my untrained hands, it is super tricky to spin with.

There has been a considerable amount of lying in bed feeling sorry for myself but as this downturn in health co-incided with beginning a fantastic book, things could have been a lot worse. I've been reading The Courtesan's Revenge, by Francis Wilson which is the biography of Hariette Wilson. Harriette was the Mistress of many influential chaps, including the Duke of Wellington and the book often quotes from her own memoirs. It's a fascinating world of intrigue and it seems that even though their position in society was a lot more precarious than the virtuous upper class women, the courtesans had a much freer and more interesting time of things. Until the gentlemen moved on to a newer model of course.

Then there was the mouse incident. This took place on Friday night after Archie had spent the day photographing old newspaper articles, as you do. So the batteries in the camera were spent and I have been forced to rely on memory to create my artist's impression seen above. The mouse sat quite happily on Archie's coat for about ten minutes until I went to get a dishcloth to catch it in. Mouse moved and hasn't been seen since although I half expect it to turn up asleep in my coat pockets one day. It was a thing of great beauty and cuteness but if I notice tooth marks, or worse, in my yarn collection, it will be time for the mousetrap.

The new Knitty has arrived and one of the articles linked to this blog -

As far as I can make out, The Yarn Snob is spearheading a campaign to reduce the stigma of mental illness as well as promoting the use of knitting as a way to feel better and reduce stress.
Knit and Fight The Black Dog is well worth checking out and who knows, if I get really brave, I might post my own contribution.

Sunday, 9 September 2007

It was only a matter of time.....

I was Knitting Bee hostess this week and was all ready to continue with my latest commission - a green goalkeepers outfit for a Panda football player. Sam who is manager of the toy team has been fundraising for strips and I will be paid ten whole pence for my efforts. Julie and Kit, had other ideas though and they came armed with drop spindles and fleece. I had tried my hand at spinning once before but it was in a room full of people all wanting a go and I didn't do too well. This time I was left alone to make as many mistakes as I wanted and it was great fun. So much fun that I haven't really done anything else all weekend. I called up the wonderful Twist Fibre Crafts in Newburgh on Friday and by the next post they had sent me out some dyed merino in various blues, reds and purples, some Jacob tops and some flax. How is that for service - they must have heard the urgency of the newly converted spinner in my voice. The flax is particularly appropriate as our village was built around the flax spinning industry and as it was Dundee and Angus spinners who made the sails for Lord Nelson's fleet, we might even had something to do with winning the Battle of Trafalgar.
It is lovely to take up a craft with such a long, prehistoric even, history. I get a real sense of kinship when I'm knitting but this goes back even further and when I saw a picture of a 6000 year old drop spindle and it was basically the same as mine - just mindblowing. You might argue that prehistoric peoples didn't have access to old CDs and glittery stickers but the design is the same!

Another reason for calling Twist Fibre Crafts was to book some tickets for a day with Debbie Bliss. She is doing a talk and showing samples in October. Should be fun - I get to go with my SIL, Babs (hello!) and she makes amazing patchwork.

Righto, I'm off to drop my spindle again ( that must really annoy the downstairs neighbours ).
If you know any good spinning sites, let me know, I have a feeling that this might be the beginning of something good.

Saturday, 1 September 2007

Bringing the house down

York was a lovely place to visit with lots of history and some amazing places to eat. Who would have thought that tapas and antipasti would be so good in North Yorkshire? Sheepish the LYS is also fab, I managed to visit three times in four days and left with a bag full of lovely deep red Rowan aran wool. One of the shop assistants there was a little concussed. She had recently been hit on the head by a melon. Moral of the story? Don't store melons on the top shelf of the fridge. They don't like it and will let you know by throwing themselves at your head.

We travelled First Class on the train as the tickets were a competition prize. A woman in our carriage looked familiar. When we got home, I checked IMDB the movie database and I'm pretty sure it was Rhea Perlman, aka Mrs Danny De Vito. Further googling showed that she is acting in London at the moment and we were on the London train, and she got on at Edinburgh, home of the International Arts Festival. Could it be? It's almost as odd as the time that a friend saw Rosanna Arquette in the grocery queue in Safeways in Glasgow's Byres Road. That turned out to be true - she was dating a Glaswegian musician at the time, but Carla from Cheers?!

Talking of things Glaswegian, while I was away, my old friend Kevin sent me a link to a BBC news site with the picture above . This is Wilton Street in Glasgow where we used to live as just graduated impoverished people. The room right at the top with the bay window was my bedroom. Yes, the one on the right with no wall left. Yikes! We used to sit on that roof smoking cigarettes and drinking wine while music played and we argued about who was going to climb back in through the window to change the CD.

When we got home we realised that just like Miss Frugality, we have a bumper plum crop so for her and anyone else blessed with abundant stone fruits, here is my recipe for Plums To Put In The Freezer And Eat Later.

Plums - as many as you have
Carton of grape juice ( the original recipe said wine but we never have any left. )
Star Anise ( one flower shape's worth )
A couple of cloves
Some cinnamon bark.

Halve and stone plums and put them face down in a dish. Don't overlap them, just fill the bottom of the dish. Add grape juice but not so much that the plums are covered, maybe just to their middles. Add spices and a couple of tablespoons of sugar to each dish. I make this for my mum who has diabetes and we don't put any sugar in at all and it is still lovely.
Oven on at 170 degrees ( that's about 350 I think ). Cover dish with tinfoil and bake for about an hour. Eat hot or leave to cool. If your liquid is too thin, strain and boil up till it is reduced to your liking. Lovely with meringues, cream, creme fraiche, ice cream, yogurt......

Stick in freezer bags or containers and bung in the freezer. Eat smugly some months later.

If you have any plums left - make jam. I can give you a recipe for that too!

Friday, 24 August 2007

Tomato Frenzy!

I'm sitting in the kitchen overseeing a massive tomato cooking operation. Inspired by Barbara Kingsolver's book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle I've bought tons of toms in order to stockpile the summer harvest. I wish I could pretend that I'd grown them all myself but the combination of a late arriving greenhouse, too small pots, inexperience and a total lack of a Scottish summer has caused my plants to be barren. Not to worry, the local farm shop and Organic Diane who delivers our veg box from her farm every two weeks, have supplied me with enough of the red stuff to keep us going through the winter.
It's a lovely job, making sauce. All you have to do is hang about for an hour or two while the house smells like the best pizza you've ever tasted and then when the tomatoes emerge, blistered and sweet, squish them through a sieve leaving skin and seeds behind. My sauce was a bit too thin for my liking so I boiled it a bit to reduce it some more. Then into tubs and frozen as soon as it cools.
Twelve kilos of tomatoes have been through the treatment this week.

The house organising is almost over ( at least this bit ) and we now have a lovely store-room as seen in the photo above. Yes, that is a bottle of unopened whisky on the shelf. It was a prize and we haven't got round to drinking it yet. Had the prize been gin, the evidence would be long gone. The store room is a funny wee place. About 15 years ago it was a hairdressing salon - one sink and only room for one customer at a time. When we took up the lino a few years back, there was still hair stuck to the floorboards. Many people in the village have been trimmed in my house.

Talking of prizes, we are off to York next week. My mum, the competition diva won us first class tickets and we have booked a lovely sounding B and B. My dad is busy too this weekend, he is part of a relay team doing a 24hour walk/run/stagger to raise money for Cancer Research. More power to his walking boots! Me, I'll be busy sorting out the knitting to take on the train to York. It's a long journey without needles.

Thursday, 16 August 2007

Frogs, broccoli and Hurricane Nell.

We had a severe weather warning for Tuesday but in the end all was calm until the arrival of Hurricane Nell. Nell arrived on the eleven-forty train swiftly followed by Gilll, her mother. A later train was to bring Sam, another old friend so that we could meet up for lunch and more. We had a lively meal in our favourite Italian cafe with Nell greeting the owner in Italian ( it's just a pity he comes from Dundee ). It is amazing how much silliness one four year old girl can cause. I was wearing a top which showed a hint of shoulder and we engaged in a conversation about what might be at the end of my arms. The answer I was expecting was maybe hands or fingers, but according to my companion, at the end of my arms, I have nipples. Hmmm, must check . I think there must be too much Cinderella going on in the bedtime reading as when I asked about little sister Esme ( in truth, at home with grandparents ), Nell explained that she had been given away to an old beggar woman on the train, then had died after eating a poisoned apple!
Luckily for three women trying to catch up on many months of news, Nell loves Archie, in fact she thinks he is more beautiful than all the beautiful things in the world. So, while Archie and Nell enjoyed some mutual admiration, Sam, Gill and I had a bit of a natter.

We also had a visit from our neighbour's daughter this week with the offer of frogs - two large and assorted small ones. Now, our pond has it's own supply of frogs for the first time but we decided that there can never be to many webbed footsoldiers in the war against slugs and gratefully accepted some more. Haven't seen them since though as they are fond of the undergrowth and skulking within. There are now so many frogs around that when Archie mows the lawn I walk ahead of him, like a grousebeater, scaring the beasties back into the pond and away from the mower blades.

Aother gifts this week came from a Garden Club comrade called June. She might be in her eighties but she's a far better gardener than I am and I was so pleased to take delivery of some purple sprouting broccoli plants and some lovely rouge d'hiver lettuce to keep us in greenery over the winter. June is a Quaker and a peace campaigner and a trade justice campaigner and is secretary of our local Friends of the Earth group. She grows her own food and was once spotted wearing a home made Make Poverty History armband. June is great, when I grow up I want to be just like her.

I have been knitting, honest, it's just that we've embarked on a wholescale house organising spree which has even spread to the new potting shed as you can see. I am, however knitting a ballgown for a Barbie. Let's hope it's Hurricane-proof!