I give you blood orange

First there was Spring Onion, now I give you Blood Orange.

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It’s a quiet weekend and I thought I was getting over the last of a nasty virus (I was wrong, it came back for a second wave last night) so I thought a quick visit to see Lucy at Woolaballo would perk me up.  It most certainly did – I had turned up in time for an impromptu dying session.

Dying with food dye is easy and offers such a huge potential for colour experiments.  Sadly I had come out without my phone so the photos are from the session I did with Lucy last year (the one that produced Spring Onion).  Lucy offers regular dying sessions,  so if you are in the area give her a call.  If you are a bit further afield, here are the instructions to make your own personal yarn.

You need

  • warm water
  • white distilled vinegar
  • food colouring gels (I used Wiltons) they are stronger than most liquid colour
  • dropper (the ones that come with liquid paracetamol are perfect)
  • Wide paintbrush

The first step is to soak the yarn in a white vinegar and water mix (1 part vinegar to 4 parts water).  Food dyes need an acid environment to fix the colour and prevent it running off in the first wash.  It doesn’t need long,  15-30 minutes is fine.  Remove and squeeze out the excess liquid.

Now comes the fun, and the messy part.  Dissolve your chosen food colouring in warm water.  Add colouring until you get the strength you want, test by dropping on a piece of kitchen paper or an old white cloth.  Then start painting your yarn.

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Both Spring Onion and Blood Orange were dyed in solid blocks, but you can get a lovely  mottled effect by dropping dye on the yarn using the dropper/paracetamol syringe.  If you are going for the block colour look you will need to turn your yarn over and ensure that you have covered it entirely with dye.

Once you are happy with your yarn you will need to set it.  You have two options.  Either roll up and place in a steamer on the oven top for 45-60 minutes.  Or if time is limited you can microwave.  The latter works just as well but you must be careful not to overheat or you will felt your yarn.

If you are going to microwave you will need cling film (personally imho a good reason to go for the stove top method which doesn’t require plastic) but everyone has different needs and in a workshop or perhaps a birthday party, the steamer method might not be practical!  Wrap up your yarn into a long sausage ensuring that there are no gaps or holes where water or steam can escape.

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Then roll up like a multicoloured Cumberland sausage.

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This is where you need to pay attention.  Place in the microwave slightly below top temperature (about 75% depending on how fancy your microwave is – mine is extremely basic).  Heat for 60 seconds and remove,  let it cool until you can comfortably touch it and pour off any water that has escaped.  Repeat until the water you have poured off runs clear (usually three goes).

Leave to cool, unwrap the cling film and leave to cool again until you can comfortably hold the yarn.  Wash in warm water with a little washing up liquid.  Rinse in warm water (not cold).  Squeeze out the excess liquid and hang up to dry – or give it a go in a salad spinner!

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Bespoke yarn 🙂

Thank you to Lucy for introducing me to dying with food colouring.  Now I am going to take Blood Orange and have a root through Ravelry for the best pattern to show her off.

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Love Gillie x

mint and roses

At last, we have sun!  I have been itching to harvest the herbs and flowers in the garden and hedgerows but it has been far too wet.  So today I am in overdrive and the house smells divine.

First was the rosewater (recipe here)

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The roses are heavy with flowers and there are plenty more buds so I picked about 200g and the kitchen is filled with Radio 4 and the smell of rose petals!

Next was the mint.  I have peppermint, spearmint, apple mint and chocolat emint.  First was the peppermint

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I have already made a large jar of mint sauce and have one jar dried.  But that won’t last the winter so in went another batch and I had a cup of tea as well.

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The meadowsweet it out, there are fresh nettles growing around the hen house and the lemon balm is going wild as well …

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…but there is only so much I can get in the dehydrator.  However lemon balm is a good insect repellent, as is basil, which is also going rampant.    Their insect repelling action is due to the presence of citronellal (in lemon balm) and citronellal, estragole, limonene and nerolidol, all of which affect the pesky little biters’ sensors and their ability to find their target – namely us.

So while I wait for the mint to finish in the dehydrator here is my very simple insect repellent recipe:

  • jar
  • vodka (or witchazel)
  • Lemon balm leaves
  • Basil leaves

This is just a basic tincture recipe, and I would normally used vodka to make tinctures and make separate tinctures (simples) and mix later. However, as this is a predetermined mix which  will be sprayed on the skin and witch hazel has a soothing effect on the skin I have opted to used it instead of vodka and mix the herbs in the jar.

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Pack the herbs into the jar, cover with witch hazel, seal and label and date (you will not remember what it is, I promise you) and leave for two weeks in a cool dark cupboard.  Then strain and keep in a dark jar.  When needed fill a small spray bottle half full with the herb tincture, top up with water, that is it!

Love Gillie x

 

 

 

 

 

 

pudding for main course

I love bread and butter pudding.  If there was no other pudding on earth I would be content.  I can take queen of puddings at a pinch, but find the breadcrumb base a bit namby-pamby compared to the thick crusts of a hearty bread and butter pudding.

So for supper the night before we left for our trip to the deep south of London and Brighton we had this.

Savoury bread and butter pudding, or more honestly fridge bits bread and butter pudding.  It was quite as delicious as it looks.

I don’t like to leave stuff in the fridge to go off whilst we are away.  So armed with:

  • an elderly sour dough loaf
  • butter (homemade no less)
  • tomatoes
  • half a red onion
  • milk
  • an open tin of anchovies
  • an open jar of tomato jam (from the Azores, keep an eye open for it, it’s very good)
  • the heel of an elderly chunk of strong cheddar
  • 3 eggs
  • an open jar of dijon mustard
  • an open jar of olives
  • an open jar of capers

I created a main course from my perfect pudding.  This made a hearty meal for two hungry people (one had been fishing all day).

There is no real recipe, it’s a make do and mend meal, as long as you have the basic ingredients (bread, butter, milk, eggs) it’s not unlike making a pizza, add what you have/like until you are content with the balance.

  1. Slice the bread thickly, I always keep the crusts on.  Spread with butter and tomato jam (you could use chutney or leave plain).
  2. Slice and soften the red onion in olive oil over a low heat for a few minutes.
  3. Beat the eggs into about 400ml of milk.
  4. Add 1-2 tbsp of mustard to the milk mixture and beat in well.
  5. Layer the bread and the rest of the ingredients in a greased oven proof dish.
  6. Pour the milk mixture over the bread and leave to soak in for 10 minutes or so.

 

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7.  Grate the cheddar over the top.

8.  Bake in a medium oven (180C) for 30 minutes until the top is golden and crusty.

You could serve with a lovely crisp green salad, or you could be greedy and lazy like us and just eat a great big dollop on its own!

I don’t make any claim to this as  my own invention, there are varieties of bread and butter pudding all over the internet, but this was particularly delicious and cleared out our fridge as well as filling up our tummies!

Love Gillie x

 

 

 

photo quiz

Whilst the girls have been away I have taken to sending them a montage of photos, they have to guess what we have been up to.  This was Thursday’s collection

I was astonished when Bea came back quick as a flash “London” , apparently the seat on the platform at South Ken station gave it away.

Thursday was the beginning of a lovely, albeit somewhat exhausting weekend.  In true British fashion I had been checking the weather on multiple sites and the packing plans were changing on a daily basis.  Fortunately the doom and gloom at the beginning of the week gave way to this.

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and then this

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Yes that’s Andy Murray!  We had a fabulous day at Queens, superb tennis.  More match points and tie breaks than I can remember and of course this.

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All rounded up by an excellent meal and deeply comfortable bed at The Malt House in Fulham.  Fired up by breakfast, any place that offers Eggs Florentine on their breakfast menu is a winner in my book, we headed to Victoria for the next stage in our southern trip.

Love Gillie x

knitting in a not quite summer

Despite purchasing a pair of splendid summer shoes, summer has failed to turn up in our corner of the UK.

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The upside is that the garden is wild and lush, a northeastern jungle.  Unfortunately it is too wet to actually sit in it and enjoy the smell and sounds.  We have to admire it through the window.

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However, it does make for excellent knitting.  At this time of year I am usually more inclined to sew or embroider, knitting in hot weather can be a little hard work.  But this year the productivity rate is soaring.

These came along with me on our trip to London a couple of weeks ago.  I dyed the yarn using Wilton’s food dye on a wonderful Saturday morning with Lucy at Woolaballoo.  There is definitely a yellow and green theme to my wardrobe this [not quite] summer.

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Unfortunately I forgot the stitch holder and the yarn shop I found only had large ones ,  too big for my socks.  So I had little option but to put them aside and purchase a replacement yarn.  I couldn’t spend the entire weekend without something to knit!

I discovered The Village Haberdashery was only a hop, skip and a jump from our Airbnb and I was persuaded to step back from the yellows and greens so plumped for this gorgeous colour combination, Almond Rocks from Knit the Bed.

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Meanwhile back at home (too big for a weekend away project) The Boxy by Joji Locatelli is coming along well.  The yarn is The Barber by Uschitita.  I originally read the name as The Berber, which explained why I failed to find any examples of what it looked like knitted up!

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However, I am feeling the urge for something a little more challenging.  So I intend to finish the socks this weekend and start on The Roadside Beanie so I am ready for Shetland Wool Week.  I think that will play along nicely with the Boxy, something to think about and something I can knit on autopilot.  Perfect.

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Love Gillie

 

neville’s cross ecofest

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I can’t remember how long the ecofest has been going, but it must be getting on for at leat 10 to 15 years.  Now quite a fixture in the Durham calendar it is a wonderful mix of information, talks, music, food and, like weddings and funerals, one of the best places to catch up with people I’ve not seen in ages.

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First stop Transition Durham where I was helping out on the stand (aka talking to friends).2019-06-16 16.14.39

Right next door to the splendid Abundant Earth, picked up some fruit and veg and locally grown fava beans and stared wistfully at Matt’s beautifully turned wooden bowls, lunchboxes and much more.

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The call of Jo’s baskets was strong but I really don’t need another basket, although these are quite special and I yearn for the one with the wooden handle.

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By now is was time for lunch from the fabulous Refuse, part of the international Real Junk Food Project they turn unwanted food into pay as you feel delicious meals.  If you are ever in Chester-le-Street pop into their cafe.  They are also superb outside caterers if you happen to have an event coming up.

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This was at least the third pan and as you can see there was not a lot left.

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Subscription boxes too.  Why not combine it with a fruit and veg box from Abundant Earth?

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And whilst we are on the subject of food.  Our food choices matter, and we ought to have a genuine choice and even if we are on the breadline, even if we rely on food banks we have a right to know what is in our food, how it has been prepared and packaged, where it came from, how it has been processed.  Which is where Hannah and Peter from Food Durham come in, raising awareness of the importance of food and how it relates to the economy, the environment, health and well-being, and issues of social justice.

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Handmade crafts (the children and adults were swarming over the workshop Erica ran) all made from driftwood and sold to support the camps Erica helps run in Romania.  She also makes exquisite fused glass jewellery and decorations.

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Then perhaps you can clean up with some gorgeous soaps from the Durham Soap Company.

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Fancy a rummage?  Try the Swap Shop your unwanted books could be somebody else’s heart’s desire.

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Talking of books how about a bookcase from Handcrafted?  Handcrafted are based in Langley Moor and “was born out of a desire to see people who are disadvantaged due to crime, alcohol or substance abuse, unemployment, ill health or old age making a positive step and becoming active members of the community again”

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Durham Wildlife Trust (of which I am a member) manage some of the most beautiful wildlife reserves in the county and have masses going on all year round.  You’re not too late to take part in #30dayswild.

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And a quick diversion to pick up a loaf of bread from Sue.

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When it’s all over and you need somewhere to take a break and refocus.

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And finally …..

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Love Gillie x

albanian chai

I don’t drink coffee.  I used to, lots of it, strong and without milk or sugar.  But about 15 or years ago I fell out of love with it and hardly touch it now.  Occasionally, maybe once a month I may have a mid morning coffee with friends, but certainly no  more than one and it is a notable event.

However, tea is another matter altogether.  I start the day like this.  One pot of English breakfast tea (also without milk or sugar).  Always in  my chicken pot and always with my chicken cup and saucer.  I am a creature of habit.  I do vary the tea cosy!morning tea

However, on or around 10.00 am I switch to this.

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On our recent visit to Albania I saw somebody drinking a proper herb tea (i.e. the full plant not dried up bits in a tea bag – I HATE tea bags, but that’s another story). Curious, I asked what it was and ordered a pot with my lunch.  Actually I did that the other way around and drank it first and discovered what it was afterwards!

Sideritis raeseri (not to be confused with Sideritis scardica or any of the other wild Sideritis many of which are at risk of extinction and should not be picked or indeed purchased), also known as ironwort, mountain tea, shepherd’s tea  is the only Sideritis which is cultivated  and has been drunk as a decoction for thousands of years (even mentioned by Dioscorides). It has a pleasant taste and I had it with breakfast every day and frequently during the day as well.  It is a habit I have continued since I returned home.  I brought plenty of the dried herb home with me and though I can replenish my supply through various well known internet sales sites it is not clear that I can be sure that it is the raeseri I am buying rather than one of the endangered species.  So I am trying to track down some seeds.  Unfortunately all I can find from a reputable (i.e. I know that the seeds will be what they say they are) supplier is Sideritis syricia.  So I’ll have to try that out instead.

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The dried Sideritis raeseri

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Ready for the boiling water.

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Brewing.

It is traditionally taken as an aid to digestion and to strengthen the immune system.  Considerable research has been undertaken on this unassuming plant and it has been proven to have anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant action.  As we were travelling I restricted my tinctures to just digestive bitters and left the echinacea I usually take at home.  Whilst we were away Stuart developed a monster of a cold which went straight to his chest.  I drank my Albanian chai every day and remained entirely cold free despite all his coughing and sneezing 🙂

Love Gillie x