Archives For author

Emily! I bring unexpected news: I made shit up and it was good.

A cucumber in my fridge was looking really sad the other day, and I had these other ingredients available (through no actual planning of my own). It was fabulously creamy and delicious, so I thought I’d write up the recipe for you. I’m going to write exactly what I did, although I’m pretty sure that cutting down time by using fresh ingredients where I used marinated would work too. I hope you won’t mind if there’s no photo to illustrate it… yet.

I happened to have had, that day:
* a finely sliced onion in a bowl, marinating since the day before in a red wine vinegar + olive oil vinaigrette (the remainder of a sauce I made for greens)
* a pan of oven-roasted tomatoes (cut your tomatoes in two, put them in an oven dish cut side up, add salt, pepper & olive oil, roast for 45mn at about 180°C) (I had roasted them to eat as a side dish, not become an ingredient, but what the hell)
* an old decrepit cucumber
* some frozen garlic cloves (I bought a pound bag of them in an Asian grocery store a while back, SO HANDY)
* a jar of preserved red bell pepper (in brine)
* a few fresh leaves of basil

After cutting the tomatoes up in quarters, peeling and dicing the cucumber, and detailing the red bell pepper strips into smaller chunks, I put all of this together in the blender and hit WHIZZ.

I was expecting to have to adjust the taste (vinegar, oil, salt and pepper were all at complete guesstimate levels) and was a little scared on the acidity front, but the bell pepper – I had slightly more bell pepper than tomato, which is really unusual for me – made it really sweet, which balanced the vinegar perfectly. It was *amazing*, to me anyway, especially for something I just threw together because I had no clue what to cook.

I know it’s winter where you are, Emily, and I hope you won’t begrudge me my extra-summery recipe, but it’s been so hot here lately that a cold soup was exactly what I needed.

I made a delicious paëlla, for the first time ever! (probably not deserving of the name, frankly). I used stuff I happened to have around the house, with the exception of an onion; I was out and had to go get some from the store.

paëlla close-up
(Sorry for my terrible phone pics)

It was so easy, the reward so high for my efforts, that I thought I should share… So here goes.

Read the rest of this entry »

Dear Emily,

I thought I would finally update you on my experiment in natural dyeing conducted earlier this autumn. Here’s the yarn I decided to dye. I used blackthorn berries I had picked myself not far from home (the hedge in front of the new cemetery, which is close to that field where we saw the golden cows, in case you remember), and made a dye “soup” from them by crushing them and simmering them for an hour. I was using the book Wild Colour by Jenny Dean to guide me through the whole process and tell me what to expect. I used a little under 600g of fresh berries, because I meant to dye 500g of yarn.

The book said to strain the dye obtained by simmering, and that it could be used to cold-dye animal fibers. It showed that a pale-ish dusty pink should be the result, which could then become a darker violet if the yarn was saddened afterwards– that is to say, soaked in iron water.

I had prepared iron water beforehand, by dropping rusty nails in a solution of water and white vinegar, and waiting 3 weeks for the liquid to turn a pretty copper colour (copper water turns blue, but iron water is copper coloured. I find it amusing). The iron water’s effect is to darken the shade, but also increase the light-fastness and wash-fastness of the colour.

Long story short, I never got any pink in my yarn. I let it soak in the cold dye bath overnight, and because it didn’t look much better than grey-ish, I tried heating it up too (the book said I could). I had two batches and tried several things, but no matter what I did and how long I let the yarn soak (I even dyed some of it twice), in the end I could only get this greenish grey.

I suspect that the colour of the yarn is due more to the iron water than to the blackthorn berry dye bath. Perhaps they weren’t good berries. He’s a before-and-after picture.

I might attempt to overdye this yarn in the future, if I can forage for another source of natural dye, but all in all I’m not actually displeased by this colour. I’m disappointed that I couldn’t get the purple shade I saw in the book, yes, but as ever with natural dyeing, there is a depth to the colour that is very pleasing. Perhaps I’ll just look for a yarn to pair with this one to make stripes; I have a feeling this grey could be a perfect complimentary tone.

Hello, poor neglected epistolary blog!

Dear Emily,

I’m so sorry that I haven’t been able to hold up my end of this bargain and to keep you abreast of my crafty activities. There was a lull in my knitting for a bit, but things resumed soon enough, and that is absolutely no excuse at all.

I shan’t attempt to catch you up with my backlog of achievements (big word for little things, really), because it’s partly the mere thought of having to do that which lead me to avoiding my blogging duties int he first place! What can I say, I am slightly neurotic.

Instead, here are a number of things fresh off from this weekend:

1. My friend MC (who has a lovely blog there) is hard at work washing and hand-carding fleeces that she was given a while back. I have discovered that I find hand-carding a very soothing activity, and quite addictive too. Yesterday afternoon she decided to hand-dye a big batch of batts with food dye. Fun AND gorgeous!

colours, colours everywhere

2. I frogged my budding Pogona shawl. In the taupe coloris of Pierrot’s Teori yarn, which i find disappointing, it is a project I never even entered into Ravelry, such was my reluctance at handling it, knitting it – everything. I finally came to my senses and decided to admit it was DOA. Winding the yarn back felt good.

Then I started swatching two silk laceweight yarns together because I realized that these two tones would look interestingly faded/precious together, and reminded me of a 17 or 18th century brocade. I thought maybe I could do an interesting scarf with double-knitting colorwork, but I think that the two hues are too close; most easy patterns I was considering would end up looking muddled (you can perhaps see what I mean there, even if there are only a few rows of actual colorwork right on top of my swatch.

Here, I shall put the two pictures next to each other (click for embiggening on Flickr):

swatching two silks swatching two silks

My dear Emily, sorry for having neglected you for so long.

I don’t really have a proper excuse or explanation for it; you know how these things sometimes happen.

Over the Christmas break I had friends here at home (as well as some family – the whole thing was kind of.. ‘revolving doors’ for a bit) and as a result spent many hours of happy domesticity cooking with people, watching Jamie Oliver shows with people, and of course, eating too much in the company of people. I must report that I we used the recipe I gave you for mulled wine to make mulled cider: it was a treat. Read the rest of this entry »

Hullo dear!

I thought I’d kick things off with a picture of a piece of my France, and even better, one taken in your company when you last visited me.

October outdoorsiness

It is from a year ago and from October at that, but I have always found it very Winter, very… December. Don’t you think? I suppose the impression comes from the stark contrast of the black, white and RED.

I thought it would be a good way to illustrate the first post of the month (who am I kidding: of the blog itself, too!), especially since you expressed the desire to have me write on a topic so very seasonal to me here in  Northern Europe:

~~ mulled wine ~~

Admittedly I am a little puzzled as to why you, from the depths of your Southern hemisphere Summer, are curious about my mulled wine recipe… but who cares. You wanted to know, so I’ll tell you.

Read the rest of this entry »