Friday, 13 October 2017

Weaving rugs, spinning and a bit of cattiness

The Bluefaced Leicester is plied and skeined.  There are 2 skeins of it and some sliver left to spin.   The plying went super quickly.  I was listening to some Bela Fleck and those singles just flew out from my fingers.   Seriously though, if you've never heard of Bela Fleck, check him out on YouTube.  The guy is amazing!  Sometimes a bit weird I'll give you, but none the less amazing.

I had this white sheet with roses on it.   It was making a lovely rug.   Then I realized that I was running out of weft.  It turns out my double sheet was a twin sized sheet.   I worked the rest of the yardage out and I was definitely short.  My rug would have been lucky to be square and definitely not the rectangle mat I was aiming for.   I wished I'd had some green to add to it, but only could find red or beige with large black figures.  The beige wouldn't have worked at all, a way icky combo but the red didn't look awful.  The white became stripes and I finished the rug off quickly, thankfully unweaving went really fast.

This is the finished rug.  It looks pretty good finished and the red is a deeper tone of the pink used, so it fits together.

4 cats are a lot of cats!  I've finally gotten a morning feeding routine.  We've had to change up a few things as we can't demand feed anymore or Dion who has gained 3 lbs in short order, just keeps eating.   He is so happy to have food, he just scarfs it down like he may never be fed again.   I've had to leave a bowl of the cheaper food that they don't like as much out, just so that he always has food but only put the good stuff out at regular feeding times.   The first time I did this, he dug through the cheaper food, looking for tidbits of the good stuff.    What a mess, with those little nuggets flying around as he was mining for treasures in this tiny little bowl... lol.
Phil looking regal, sweet and calm, hiding his inner crazy cat!

Phil spends his mornings flying around the house, bouncing off furniture and playing with everything from plastic bottles to his tail.  I've had to hide all my pony tail elastics for fear he'll swallow one.   He spent over an hour yesterday playing with a plastic bottle top  - big enough for him not to eat, but light enough for him to bat  around the house.   He has a lot of crazy cat in him.   Then he settles down for a nap and is so sweet, with his little sighs and mews.
 Our old cat isn't quite so happy and accepting yet.   Last night he chased Phil off my lap and then chased Dion, who was sleeping quietly on a chair.  It happened to be the chair I normally use.   We figured the old guy was just making sure that they both knew he had claimed me first.   It was kind of amusing, except for the hissing and swatting which took place on my lap.

Monday, 2 October 2017

Shawl Progress

I've been knitting away at the Godey's Ladies Book Shawl (Nov 1864 issue).  The border calls for 2 colours, contrasting to the main colour.   I've seen the whole shawl elegantly done in just 2 colours, but the original was described s the main part being violet and black varigated, with a gold and black border.   I wasn't sure I had enough blue to do the border and the fringe, which is tied on after the shawl is finished.   I have 600 g of the blue, 400 of which were used for the main body.   I had 250 g of the brown and I had 300 g of the white tweed that I could dye up for the third colour and 200 g of a grey marl, which I'd tried first and it was pretty wishy washy and unattractive.   I saw a photo using the deep blue, brown and gold, which was spectactular, so I chose that as a colour scheme.   To say the least, it is indeed a bold choice.  The gold was dyed with weak acid dyes, using warm yellow, black and a little bit of magenta.

Instructions state to use a safety pin to mark increase row 

I used 4 skeins for the blue.  It wasn't as long as I'd done the math for, but draping it on myself showed it was going to be long enough.   The border is 4 rows colour A, 6 rows colour B, 4 rows colour A, 6 rows colour B, 10 rows colour A, 6 rows colour B, 4 rows colour A, 6 rows colour B, 4 rows colour A.   I almost stopped halfway through the border.  

Not only was it plenty big enough, but each 2 rows increase the total stitches by 4.   It is taking me about 1/2 hour to knit one row.   I'm quite ready to cast off.    However, by the time I'd finished the centre section of the border, I realized that I was now on the count down, so I kept going.   I have 14 rows left to knit.

The gold and brown border is  bright and hardly subtle.  I think it is a good choice for the time period and  it is well within the colour suggestions of the original pattern.

This baby is going to be warm.   It already weighs close to 600 g.  I'll need to use part of the second skein of both gold and brown for the rest of the border.  There are 2 skeins of the blue left, which will be used for the fringe.   I don't know how much I'll need for that.

When I start getting a bit overwhelmed with the knitting, I choose to knit 4 or 5 stitches.   Then another 4 or 5 and so on.   Usually it's just 4 stitches, and by doing that, in no time, I've completed a row.  I've only had to resort to that trick a couple of times though.

I am already thinking about my next project, which will likely be a) smaller and b) incorporate a stitch pattern other than garter stitch.  The only thing good about that much garter stitch, is that I don't have to look at it very often while I'm knitting, so I can talk, read, entertain the cat etc..

Monday, 18 September 2017

Colours of the end of Summer

Fall Aster
Fall Crocus
The leafy show of colour increases each day
A huge red sun each evening, instead of a sunset.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Gooseberry Jam

This year I actually got to the gooseberries before the Orioles and the Red Winged Blackbirds ate them all.   I've had the gooseberry bush full of berries, just starting to ripen one day and the next morning, the bush has been stripped clean.  These are green gooseberries, from an ancient bush which probably needs to be replaced.   They are quite small and the the bush quite prickly.    I'd like to replace it with a modern hybrid with those big, fat, juicy berries!     However, I was able to pick 932 g of berries, just starting to ripen, with a few of them even deep red and quite ripe.

 I topped and tailed them, cleaning the blossom and stem ends from them, rinsed and tossed them in the freezer for future use.    This past Sunday at Westfield, I made gooseberry jam on the Happy Thoughts Range, wood cookstove in the Misener house.    I found an old advertisement for the Happy Thought Range model, similar to the one in the Misener house.   The stove in the Misener house is from 1890.   It has beautiful scroll work and details on it.   This model with the water reservoir sold for between $65 and $90, depending on what sort of details you wanted.  

Victorian Gooseberry jam recipes call for anywhere from 3/4 lb of sugar per lb of fruit to 1 1/2 lbs of sugar per lb of fruit.   I pre-measured 932 g of sugar and then in a separate bag, had another 415 g of sugar, in case it was needed.    The instructions say to cook the fruit with a little water for about 15 minutes.  Then add the sugar (stirring to dissolve it completely) and cook until when a few drops on a cold plate leave a trail when your finger runs through it.   

Since gooseberries, like currants, contain a lot of natural pectin, this was a fairly fast process.   I made sure the stove was loaded up with wood before I put the jam pot on.   The berries were added to the pot with 500 mls of water and cooked for about 15 minutes, coming to a boil.   They softened and were easily mashed, releasing the little black seeds and crushing most of the berries.   A few berries remained whole, which looks lovely in the jar.
The sugar was added, stirred well.  Adding the sugar not only increases volume but draws out liquid from the fruit, reducing the pulpy look to the jam.   The jam was brought back to a boil and after another 10 minutes or so, I did the cold plate test and it was almost ready.   The next check was 5 minutes later, and the jam was perfect. 

I let it cool for a few minutes because if you bottle the jam too hot, the fruit will rise to the top rather than be suspended.  From start to finish, it took about 45 minutes to have lovely, bottled jam.  

Results:   This is amazing jam.   It has a great texture and it is so very tasty.   It is slightly tart and very fruity.   It is also a very pretty jam.  I can imagine how lovely it would look if I had more fully ripe berries.

  I highly advise people to plant a gooseberry bush in their yard.  They require little care other than occasional feeding and pruning.   It's not like you can run out to the market and pick up a basket of gooseberries around here, so it's the only way to get your own supply.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Spinning, weaving, crafty stuff and never ending cat sagas.

Two for one photo here!   The second blue rug with the painted warp!  I've about 1/4 of the rag strips left to weave.   This rug is really pretty.   This area of the warp is greens, yellows and blues which show up nicely.   The next rug will be in a  part of the warp which is mainly reds and purples.   I am considering what colour weft would look best with that combination.   I wish I had some grey to use, but I don't have anything remotely grey in enough yardage to work.

The skein is the merino I've been spinning.    It turned out quite nicely.  I've gotten two skeins plied and need to decide if I'm going to finish spinning this merino or set it aside for now.   It's a lovely, soft, slightly springy yarn which would be nice for a shawl or scarves.

I'd been looking for a inexpensive wreath form and couldn't find anything locally for a reasonable price.  Finally, I grabbed some clippers and went to town on some of the many vines growing around here.   I started with some Bittersweet vines.  They aren't actually thorny, but they have these little sharp bits that look like leaf or berry nodes.   After cutting and trimming two vines, and then pulling several of those sharp bits from my skin, I decided that the abundant Virginia creeper might be a better option.  

Indeed, it was much easier to work with.   I wound the vines into a circle and wired them together.   Lots of instructions on the interwebs suggest just winding the vines in and around themselves.  However most of the vines I was able to harvest were only 4 - 5 feet long, so wiring seemed to be more secure.   The vines are green and need to dry.   There is a risk of them warping somewhat as they dry.    I let the wreath dry a couple of days.  It started to warp just a bit, so I wired on the decorations.   I hung it inside for a few more days drying and then tossed it on the front door today.    It's maybe a little too early for autumnal decor, but Labour Day weekend has always felt like the end of summer to me.   I managed to accentuate the warp by loading too many silk leaves on the inside, instead of the outside, but still, for a crafty wreath which cost less than $10, I'm pretty happy with it.

My son built this cat tree for the boys.  Kevin loves being on the top, but he hasn't actually figured out how to get up there himself.   Phil climbs the scratching post and naps on the bottom two  platforms, so if I lift Kevin up to his perch, they are both happy.  The old cat who is about 13 years old, hasn't even sniffed it.  He's quite happy sleeping in a pile of wool blankets on the couch!

Phil's brother kitty, who we have been feeding and protecting on our porch, with a really nice kitty house, including a heated sleeping pad and heated water bowl is now in the garage.    I found the neighbour's grey cat attacking the poor guy and he was pushed up against the garden fence, with no way to escape.   The grey cat moved away a few feet when I tried to shoo him away, but wouldn't leave.   I scooped up the second ginger kitty and he's now stashed safely in the garage.     He is quite friendly, although not as people needy as Phil is.   He doesn't like to be picked up, cuddled, nor is he a lap kitty.  He does like to be petted though and loves to have people nearby to hang out with him.   I don't want another indoor cat.   I don't think we really have the space for another indoor kitty.  However, we really think these kitties were drop offs and were once someone's pets.   I can't honestly say that I'm happy to leave him out to be picked on by bully cats and eat by the coyotes or raccoons.  What to do?  What to do?

Saturday, 2 September 2017

1909 Carrot Cake

This recipe was a recent challenge on the Westfield Facebook page.  The recipe has been translated for modern usage as well, at about half size.   I used the modern recipe but just realized that the sugar was left at the full amount.  The cake was good, and was sweet enough that it didn't need an icing or sugar coating.  However, I was thinking that halving the sugar would probably make it more of a quick bread, rather than a cake - not necessarily a bad thing.   I will try this next time.

The modern recipe posted  calls for

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup grated carrot
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 cups flour
1/2 cup raisins
1 cup milk

I used vegan margarine instead of the butter.   I upped the spices a bit using a heaping tsp cinnamon, 3/4 tsp ginger, 1/2 tsp nutmeg.    I used just under 2 cups of gluten free flour mixture, omitted the raisins (didn't have any on hand), substituted almond milk for the regular milk.  I also added 1 1/2 tsp xanthan gum and 1 egg.

This cake was really delicious.   I've not been a huge fan of carrot cake, I think due to the heavily oil based modern cakes.     This cake was light and had a great texture.   It had a really good flavour as well.    It is definitely a keeper recipe.   The recipe is simple enough that there is a lot of room to play around with textures and flavours.  The sugar could be reduced a bit.   You could up the spices or leave them out completely as in the original recipe.   What about adding walnuts or almonds?  Yum!
I wonder if you could substitute zucchini for the carrots?  How about replacing 1/4 cup of flour with the same amount of cocoa for a chocolate carrot cake?

One of the things that I appreciated about this recipe is that it was really quick to make up.   The part that took the longest was grating a cup of carrots and that was no time at all.   I used standard quick bread/cake directions -  mixed the butter, sugar and egg.  Then added all the dry ingredients, carrot and milk.   I stirred it all together and poured it into a greased pan.    I used a loaf pan but an 8 or 9 inch pan would work too.    I baked it at 350° until it tested done.    I find that baked good without dairy products don't tend to brown as nicely, but the taste and texture are fine.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

A busy weekend and a full pantry

I'd planned to go to a local SCA demo called Middle Ages on the Green and life decided to intervene.   First, the menfolk decided to start shingling the garage.   I wasn't 100% comfortable about going off to play while they were slaving away on the roof and having to cook their own supper, but I thought I could toss something in the crock pot for them, or make sure I was home early enough to solve that problem.

 Then 50 lbs of tomatoes dropped into my lap on Friday.  I knew that my play day on Saturday was to be put on hold.   After running around doing errands in the morning, I spent the afternoon and part of the evening, canning.   That was blanching, chopping, heating, crushing, bottling and hot water processing all those tomatoes for hours and hours.   Thirty seven jars later, I considered that I didn't think I did quite so many tomatoes last year.    We'll be eating tomatoes all winter!

I also had some blue prune plums, the kind with the yellow flesh and dark purple skins.   I turned them into jam as they all ripened exactly at once.   I wish I had a photo of the before and after of this jam.  The before was this ugly yellow mush with dark flecks.   As it came to a boil though, the dark flecks of the peel, started to dissolve and the plum jam ended up a beautiful dark ruby red/purple colour.  Sooooo very pretty and incredibly tasty too.

I was at Westfield again today.  I was in the Misener house, which has an awesome wood cook stove.   I was going to make gooseberry jam but after all that canning, I was plumb tired of processing.  Instead, I dug up some carrots and beets from the Lockhart garden and tossed them in a pan with a piece of beef and some potatoes.  I brought them home for dinner so that the hardworking shingling menfolk had supper, but I still got to get out and play.   Those freshly dug carrots and beets were so delicious!  It was crazy busy today at the village though, with lots of interesting people out.  The day just flew by.