carpaccio, halibut, creme brûlée and bears

Inverness has changed a lot since I was a child and one of the greatest improvements is The Rocpool Restaurant.  I don’t think anyone will disagree with the observation that eating out in the Highlands during the sixties and seventies was more of a miss than a hit affair.  Tinned tomato soup was usually the safest option for dinners in draughty castles where the staff were understandably as miserable as the customers.

Stephen has changed all that and The Rocpool is quite my favourite restaurant anywhere, not just Inverness.  We have tried and failed to work out how many meals we have enjoyed there, but suffice to say Eloise was about three the first time she ate there.  This was her on Saturday.

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That rather tasty cocktail’s name now escapes me, it was essentially gin and bramble puree, here is a close up of it in all its deliciousness.

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Neither Bea nor Susie were able to join us, so we very kindly sent them some pictures of our meal.  I’m not sure quite how much they appreciated our generosity, I could feel the breath of the green-eyed monsters sitting on their shoulders!

As usual the choice was difficult.  Eloise was really struggling and opened the bartering process with some subtle hints about what other people might want to order.  Scotch fillet of beef carpaccio with crisp fried artichokes, fresh greens and shaved manchego cheese with gremolata was my opening gambit and I can confirm, was an excellent choice.

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After our recent visit to Shetland and Stuart’s fish bothering exploits it seemed only reasonable to try the Shetland halibut with curry spiced cauliflower, spaghetti of courgettes with roasted pine nuts, golden sultanas and brown shrimp with hot buttered new potatoes.

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It did not disappoint.  For me the choice of pudding was a no-brainer.  It had to be the excellent creme brûlée,  thick vanillary cream with a satisfying spoon bashable top.

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This was the one course where Eloise had no difficulty at all.  She can recite the full Lemon meringue pie entry on the menu from memory (including the bit about the 10 minute wait!).

We had worked up our appetite with the traditional Bear Walk.  Its real name is Raven’s Rock Gorge.  But Bear Walk makes more sense to us.

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We have been walking here since the girls were tiny and have taken a photograph at least once every year.  The bear seems smaller now even to me!

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And last week with Poppy on only her second Bear Walk.

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Sadly the storms of a few winters back have heaved out the pine trees and it is no longer possible to walk the full circular path, instead you have to do one walk to the view point and another to the Bear.

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We did venture quite a long way back from the viewpoint but eventually had to concede defeat.

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It was excellent mushrooming though and we came back with plenty of oyster and hedgehog mushrooms and spotted a few chanterelles.

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Eloise fortunately did not repeat the great dunking of 2009!

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Autumnal glory.

Love Gillie x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

oodles of colour

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Don’t you just want to dive in?  Delicious Batt from Sealy MacWheely  This was just a tiny fraction of the colour explosion that is Loch Ness Knit Fest .

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Not everything comes in skeins or balls.  Sometime you need to buy a socking great cone from Kincraig Fabrics.

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We were practically queuing up to photograph this wonderful top and take down the name of the pattern (Sashiko btw).  Discovering new patterns, yarns and designers is part of the fun.  Everywhere you turn there is another piece of stunning knitwear.

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Time for a break maybe? The Singleton

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A friend from closer to home.  Love Handyed from Stanhope.

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The lovely Claire from Cookston Crafts holding the yarn that will (eventually) the Ranunuculus.  I do love a burst of colour!

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The burst of colour that is Katie from Sealy MacWheeley     She did explain the construction of the jumper but she lost me after the instruction to block the Japanese lacework and pick up the bust stitches!  It is pretty impressive and I will look it up as I rather fancy having a go …. goodness knows when!

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The guilds that provide advice, helping hands, support, tea and sympathy and everything else required to introduce weaving, spinning and dyeing to the uninitiated.

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If you didn’t dive in at the beginning, feel free now!

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And finally.  This is the face of the future of knitting.  And she is a jolly good Roadside Beanie model too.

Maybe I’ll see you at Loch Ness Knit Fest next year.

Love Gillie x

 

 

 

 

puppies, trains and slip, slip knit …

It ain’t over yet …. !

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Poppy unpacking her toys as fast as I try to pack them.  I have rather tortured memories of packing to go on holiday with three toddlers and this was a momentary throwback upon which I would have been happy to pass.

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Eventually I managed to pack everything (well not quite, I forgot our coffee cups and my water bottle …) and once again there appeared to be some fishing in the offing.

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And we were finally ready for the off.

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A casual observer would think that we were preparing for a fishing trip.  A more experienced knitter would understand that this was the luggage required for a knitting festival.  One dog and plenty of fishing paraphernalia is all that is required to occupy and distract the non-knitter.

Shetland Wool Week was a wonderful experience, not just the yarn, not just the classes, not just camaraderie, but the island, the people, the scenery, the air, the light, the craic.  I didn’t expect to be able to follow that up with a long weekend in Inverness at Loch Ness KnitFest.  But never underestimate a Scottish fisherman with the opportunity to head home for a weekend and bother a few fish at the same time!

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Poppy is a seasoned rail traveller, a quick hop to Newcastle on the Transpennine Express, and then a more leisurely ride up to Inverness.

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Initially Poppy was happy to help with the yarn holding for the Susan Crawford Twageos Tam.

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But after a while all that adoration from the LNER crew was a bit overwhelming and she was happy to nod off.

Up bright eyed and bushy tailed and who should I meet at the door but Anne Stevens Frost.  Known to many as the podcaster  I thought I knew how, although known to Stuart as the knitting wife of his new Shetland fishing buddy.

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Note the knitwear!

First up class wise was Brioche with John Glen aka The Beardy Cheil.

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This was the last chance saloon for me as far as Brioche was concerned.  If John couldn’t make me and brioche see eye to eye then I was prepared to walk on by.  And forego the chance of ever creating a thing of beauty such as this.

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Or even this.

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Reader, forget the croissants, it’s brioche all the way now.  Very similar to Fisherman’s Rib (the method is slightly different although the result is pretty much the same) brioche is a wonderful soft squishy rib.  Increasing and decreasing is not subtle but, particularly when using two different coloured yarns, produces beautiful zig zags, waves and tree like designs.

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The afternoon was all about the tippy toes.

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I suffer from second sock syndrome.  I have yet to resort to chopping off the legs of family and friends, but I do struggle with starting the second sock. The joy of finishing sock one is immediately dampened by the need to start sock two.  So signing up for Deborah Gray’s Two Socks at a Time workshop was a no brainer.  Well the signing  up was…

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The set up was a tad fiddly…

But once we got going it was all smiles.  The advantage of toe up socks is that you can try them on as you go along, both socks will be the same size (assuming you want them to be), there is no risk of playing yarn chicken (will I have enough to make it to the toe?) and you can really play around with the toe design, creating an asymetric toe that is in line with the shape of the foot, or perhaps a separate big toe for socks to wear with flip flops if that rocks your boat.

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This method is also good for any pair of circular knitted items.  Sleeves, mittens, gloves.  I imagine somewhere there is a hardy soul with giant circular needles who has tried to knit two jumpers at the same time, but that won’t be me!

It may be a while before I am knocking out a pair like this.

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But practice makes perfect, and now I am going to leave you and get on with a spot of practice!

Love Gillie x

 

 

 

 

 

 

shetland sunday tea

I live in a small village in the north east of England where baking is competitive sport played at Olympic level.  I am on the coffee morning rota and when I’m on duty I have some serious baking anxiety.  It has to be easy to bake in bulk, easy to cut up, not require any obscure ingredients or complex baking techniques, not messy to eat, and finally pretty foolproof – I cannot start again at 9am on Wednesday morning!  For those who find themselves in a similar fix I usually go for Lemon Drizzle Cake, Brownies, Date flapjacks or chocolate fridge cake (a million variations).img_6571.jpg

There are some one-off events where the ante is upped, soup recipe induced paranoia anyone?  But I digress.  Back to baking.

For anyone who has not visited Shetland let me introduce you to Sunday Tea.  This is not merely tea that happens to be held on a Sunday it is an Event with a capital E.  Usually fundraising events, they are held in community halls and comprise bountiful cakes and savouries, tea (of course!), often music and crafts for sale.  For the small price of a ticket you can spend an afternoon of pure bliss eating, shopping and tapping your toes to the music.

First obtain a copy of The Shetland Times,  consult the small adverts for the listings of this week’s Sunday Teas and plan your day.

I went to my first Sunday tea last week at Brae in the northern mainland.  Stuart’s eyes practically popped out of his head as he surveyed the bakes on offer, this man was in business and he disappeared at high speed towards the rolls and sandwiches, planning his savouries whilst eyeing up the cakes at the other end of the enormous table.

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Meanwhile I headed into the knitting display.

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Tam

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When I finish my tam I have a vintage cardigan pattern waiting (and the wool already from Jamieson and Smith)  it is this to which I aspire.

These lacework pieces are things of true beauty and if you could only touch the whisper that is the wool you too would weep with joy.

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A simple short row becomes a shawl that is almost alive.

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Weaving the landscape into pieces of art.

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Back in the hall the teas are going down well.

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Even the World’s Fastest Knitter, the wonderful Hazel Tindall  puts down her needles and mucks in.

The band is getting toes tapping across the hall.

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Eventually we had to tear ourselves away and head down to the harbour to take the ferry home.  But my first Sunday Tea will stay with me …. until my next one in June!

Love Gillie x

views of shetland

Contrary to the evidence shown in this blog over the past few days there is actually a lot more to Shetland than wool and knitting.  I saw only a fraction of it (which is why we are planning to return in June … as well as Wool Week 2020) but here is a taste of the non-woolly beautiful world that is Shetland.

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The view from Da Peerie Hoose as I stood outside in my pjs with my cup of tea and appreciated the magical morning light.

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Channerwick south of Sandwick.

 

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Birthday dinner at The String.  Cannot recommend it highly enough though you will have to book (even if you aren’t there during Wool Week!)  Live music upstairs to round off the evening.  I started with scallops and belly pork.

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Followed by Shetland halibut

And rounded off with one of the best cheese plates I have seen in a long while.  Proper homemade oatcakes and a chutney good enough to eat on its own.

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Memorial in Scalloway to the men who died on the Shetland Bus bringing agents and supplies in and out of occupied Norway during WWII.

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Boat carving in the Delting Galley Shed.  The Delting Up Helly Aa began  in 1970 as a Senior School Festival and is now a huge festival including the communities of Voe, Mossbank, Muckle Roe and Vidlin.

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The bill heads are attached to the ceiling but the sunlight streaming through the skylights  made it impossible to photograph them.  Here are some of the stunning shields.

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Blue on blue.  Small boat in Hay’s Dock outside the Shetland Museum and archives.

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Waiting for a plane to land at Sumburgh airport in the south of the Mainland.

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And here it comes

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This is the view just to my left …  note the beginning of the runway!

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Looking down at the rocks below The Sumburgh Head Lighthouse.

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While pretty northerly, the title of the most northern lighthouse in the UK belongs to Muckle Flugga lighthouse.  The fishing up there is quite good too.  This is Stuart’s 40lb cod.

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View of TM Adie & Sons in Voe,  for over a century one of the largest employers in the north east mainland of Shetland.  Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay wore jumpers woven by Addie when they scaled Everest in 1953.

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And finally, thank you to NorthLink Ferries for making the journey there and back so pleasant (even if everyone else did look a little green the following morning!)

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See you in June Shetland.

Love Gillie x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

flock book and puffin hats

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There is so much more to Wool Week than knitting.  It may seem that everybody spends dawn to dusk with various needles (straights, circulars, sock dpns, long dpns with a makkin belt … ) tucked about their person, but you only have to scratch the surface a little to find a wealth of other activities and tours.  Granted, they may have a knitting bent, and there may be plenty of knitters clicking their needles, but that isn’t the main event.

The Flock Book Prizegiving evening at Tingwall Hall was just such an event.  A flock book is pretty  much what is says on the tin, a record of a flock over a period of time; pedigrees, numbers, registration details, movement etc.  This evening was the prize giving following the Flock Book Show and Fine Wool competition.  Tingwall Hall was full to bursting and that was just the food!  The ladies of Shetland excelled themselves with plate upon plate of sandwiches, cold meats, dips, rolls, cakes, sweets as well as hearty soups and of course endless tea, coffee …. and the bar!

Then just as we thought we could eat no more, the band stuck up and the dancing began. There is nothing like a couple of rounds of The Gay Gordons to aid the digestive process! and yes I know this is not the Gay Gordons, I was too busy dancing to record at that stage.  I think this is a two step but am ready to be corrected as I am not an expert at all!

Finally it was time to award the prizes.  We had already been to have a feel and a sniff of the fleeces in the back room.  I love raw fleece, I love the smell, I love the feel of the lanolin, I love the crimps scattered through the fleeces.

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I would like to point out that I was not the only fleece sniffer, and not one person seemed to think that is was a strange thing to do 🙂

 

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Winning fleece

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And owner of said fleece receiving his award from Oliver Henry of Jamieson & Smith (the Brokers) and this year’s patron of Shetland Wool Week and designer of this year’s beanie (or toorie as it’s know in Shetland).

This one:

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And whilst we are on the subject of winners and hats.  Stuart won a puffin hat in the raffle!  Apparently it is going to be his new fishing hat, assuming it doesn’t scare them off!

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Love Gillie x

the craic was 90

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It’s not all about the classes.  As any knitter will know, whether you are just learning to cast on your first row and filled with disbelief that this row of irregular knots on your needle can become a beautiful scarf or you can knock out an Italian twisted cast on and twenty rows of dual coloured brioche whilst holding an in depth conversation about the state of the economy, knitting is about the craic.

I will knit anywhere, I always have a small knitting bag with me.  I have knitted in long queues, polling stations, every conceivable form of transport, school parents’ evenings, cinemas. I’ve knitted socks dressed as an Edwardian for a WWI re-enactment (and put a stainless steel knitting needle through my hand, be careful, your granny’s needles really are dangerous weapons!).  I’ve knitted and even spun on stage (did you know Joan of Arc’s mother was a spinner, when I played her she was!). I can’t imagine hanging around somewhere without my knitting to keep me busy, and when you whip out your needles people start to talk to you.  A lovely lady and I caused a state of panic on the tube from Kilburn to Baker Street.  I noticed her fine yellow cable socks, clearly hand knitted and she noticed the needles sticking out of my back pack.  Reader we started a conversation.  Two strangers on the tube,  the rest of the carriage was aghast!

The best yarn festivals have a knitting area.  Key elements for a good knitting area are:

  • lots of space, not everyone knits on circulars and needles can be a weapon (see above!)
  • A mixture of seating.  Some people want comfy chairs, some people like to curl up on a sofa, some people, particularly if they are doing a complicated lace pattern or colourwork, want a table on which to lay out pattern and yarns and of course the essential tea (or coffee)
  • Seating arranged in areas conducive to chatting and making new friends.  No lines of tables and chairs please.
  • Occasional tables.  We will be drinking tea (or coffee) and we have big bags full of our classwork, exciting new purchases and the jumper we promised ourselves we would finish this week.  We don’t want to put our drinks on the floor.
  • Good lighting.  We don’t care for mood lighting and we are not remotely interested in the interior design.  We want to be able to see what we are doing, especially when we were having such a good time that we have to undo the previous two rows.  Lights and lots of them please.

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We came from all over the world.  Even Antarctica!

  • Easy access to tea and coffee.  Getting up and leaving our knitting and our new friends is something we only want to have to do in extremis.  Please don’t make us walk upstairs to get a cuppa.  On the same basis, loos nearby are good too.  That tea doesn’t half run through you.
  • Food.  And as above, we don’t want to have to go a long way to find it.  Maybe not in the knitting area (though I have been to festivals where the two are combined and haven’t seen a chocolate cake/fine lacework disaster yet).
  • Information.  We don’t always remember our festival guides and when somebody mentions a really interesting workshop it would be good if we could borrow a guide  or see a timetable on the wall.  Information about other local events (heaven forbid even non-yarn ones!),  a list of local restaurants, taxi phone numbers, bus timetables etc. are all really helpful to the stressed knitter who has been knitting right up to the wire and now has precisely 15 minutes to get something to eat and cross town for their next workshop.

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Samples of the patterns available in this year’s Wool Week Annual

  • Entertainment.  Talks, music, demonstrations.  I discovered Mawatas when Katie Seal of Sealy McWheely gave a talk at Loch Ness KnitFest.  I also had my first spinning lesson with her a few months later.  You never know what you will learn or which new musicians you will discover.

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These were just what was on offer in the Hub

I can confirm that SWW achieves all the above with bells on.  The hub is a knitters dream.  Even Stuart quite happily came and sat with me and chatted to people, admired knitting and tapped his toes to the bands.

That was of course, when he was not bothering the fish at Muckle Flugga.  The record catch, a 40 lb cod.  Fish and chips will be on the menu in several friends houses this weekend!

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I have made new friends from all around the world.  I have laughed until I could hardly speak.  I have watched in awe as knitters create the most beautiful work. I have discovered new yarns and new patterns.  I have learned to knit with a makkin belt.  I have watched spinners turn wool into gold (Rumpelstiltskin eat your heart out).  I have listened to the most talented young musicians and I have enjoyed just being somewhere where I felt so utterly at home.

Enjoy your weekend

Love Gillie x