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Archive Entries for September 2009

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Wednesday September 30, 2009

Books in September

  • T is for Trespass by Sue Grafton [Read by Liza Ross]
    Trespass.jpg A frightening tale for all of us who are "getting on a bit" - though I am not in possession of any substantial material wealth in the shape of jewellery or real estate, so maybe I don't warrant the attention of con men (or women). Lets hope.
    I see there is a version read by Lorelei King, who I think is an excellent reader and would very much like to hear her as the voice of Kinsey Millhone. I find Liza Ross a little whiny - partly this is her accent - but it has to be said that the character is a little whiny so I am not overly critical of her style!

  • Saving Fish from Drowning by Amy Tan
    SavingFishFromDrowning.jpg This is a strange novel in that it starts with the premise that the narrator is dead - in that context I suppose it has some ethereal features in common with the Penelopiad. Even though the plot is fantastic in the true sense of the word, it is utterly gripping in a very much down-to-earth sense; you are right there with the characters, fearing for their every stupid move. Right up to the last few pages I feared for the outcome for the unworthy western heroes, which seemed would inevitably to end in tragedy. And I suppose if I had proper consideration for all the characters rather than just the western ones - it really did end most tragically. As usual, a very poignant (and political) story, even if told with a slightly more fantastical air.

  • End Games by Michael Dibdin
    EndGames.jpg This book is regarded as a return to form - it has a less glum feel about Zen's health and personal life. The plot however does bring us back to the usual deeply depressing view of a corrupt society - and the rather gruesome black humour.
    I think Peter Guttridge's article from 2007 provides an excellent review of both this book, and Dibdin's writings. [The reference to tomatoes in the title of the article refers to Zen's apparent dislike of their constant use in Calabrian cuisine]. I note that the first book, the Sherlock Holmes pastiche, which I found so very remarkable, has been "constantly in print in the UK for 30 years".
    It's hard to adjust to the idea that this really was the end of the game.

Posted on September 30, 2009 at 11:43 AM. Category: Books of the Month.

Wednesday September 23, 2009

Squash anyone?

Everyone has been awash with courgettes and squashes. We enjoyed a number of Lloyd's while we were in France, Janet gave us some of hers, and we even had a couple of our own (that's how easy they were to grow!)
Here's a great vegetarian recipe that uses them. I did not realise that Tian is basically a Provençale vegetable stew and this is not an especially common variation of it. However the flavours and texture blend well. You can eat it on its own, or (a smaller portion!) alongside a meat or fish dish.

[One time, I cooked the spinach - in the microwave - but then forgot about it. So I can vouch for the fact that the Tian tastes pretty good even without it - just for all you gout sufferers out there.]




  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion or shallots, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 8 oz cougettes, chopped
  • 4 oz spinach, cooked, drained, and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons brown rice, cooked
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 oz Gruyère cheese
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of mixed wholewheat breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese

Serves 2


  1. Fry the onion in the oil until soft.
  2. Add the garlic and courgettes and cook for about 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in the spinach, rice, eggs, Gruyère cheese, salt and pepper to taste, and mix well.
  4. Turn into a greased earthenware gratin dish and sprinkle with the breadcrumb/cheese mixture.
  5. Bake in a preheated oven at 170 degrees C, or Gas Mark 4 for about 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Posted on September 23, 2009 at 4:26 PM. Category: Kitchen and food.

Saturday September 19, 2009

Domino Workshop

The final workshop of the year was on Domino knitting. A name, so we are told, apparently chosen at random. More aptly called patchwork knitting, it uses a technique of increasing and decreasing to knit little squares, and then cunningly picking up stitches, so that you avoid all seaming - brilliant.
Our tutor was Fiona Morris, seen here modeling her Domino waistcoat.


We were aiming at producing a cushion cover, (in the foreground of the photo). Fiona has made this one using a variety of samples from a natural dye study.


Here is my sample effort.


I have previously made Vicki Sever's "Heart Sachet" which is based on this technique, and Fiona also had examples of little baby bootees - all shaped from squares, joined together with no sewing.

Posted on September 19, 2009 at 8:28 PM. Category: Knitting.

Saturday September 12, 2009

Home Grown

We had to dig up the potato. I say THE potato. We had only one plant, and along with all other related species in the garden, it got blight, so we dug them up before anything worse happened. I did find it very helpful that the Gardeners World team showed us all their blighted potatoes (it was common throughout the UK this year), and offered advice on how to deal with the results, and crop what you can.


We did not feel that our haul was especially mighty, but they were Desirees which should be "lates" - so it was a bit early for them (!), and it rendered enough for 2 meals for us.

Overall we have done very well with our other vegetables. Not certain it has been very economic overall, but for weeks now we have not had to buy any vegetables - though our diet has been restricted to eating only carrots and beans.


We had a few courgettes - but they are very easy to grow and we should have done better. We had lots of lettuce and rocket, and my fennel was very successful - almost too embarrassed to show photos as they did not develop good bulbs, but were very good in my fish soup nonetheless. Here is a group photo showing the beans, fennel, lettuce and tubs of carrots in the distance.


Our brassicas have all bolted - the brussel sprouts may be producing nodules about the size of peas, so we'll have to see, and the butternut squash - I planted four very late and one of them produced a tiny squash, which a squirrel has done its best to consume, but not altogether successfully!

Posted on September 12, 2009 at 8:11 PM. Category: The Garden.

Friday September 11, 2009

I Knit London Weekender


After meeting with a client in London, I went to the I Knit Weekender.

There was a lot to look at - not a huge venue but that made it quite relaxing. The vendors were high quality and more focused (on knitting and fibre) than at Ally Pally. I was delighted to see Jane Waller's vintage book "A Stitch in Time" had its own display on the Arbour House stand. I spent some time chatting to the people there and checking out the vintage knitting examples on show.


I bought one or two items and was very pleased with myself as they are all things I need - maybe! - bargain sock wool for Terry's what-is-now-traditional Christmas socks, "Herdy" mugs** (one for me, and others for gifts), and a bargain skein of silk/mohair from Knitwitches. It was great to see the Nichols button collection in the flesh - though I could not persuade myself to buy any right there and then (no suitable current projects); I did however find an excellent button seller - Textile Garden - really nice people and really nice-looking buttons that did not break the bank - and I bought a couple of sets of buttons for my cardigan projects, plus some that I simply "liked" to send to Alison.
I also bought a pattern for a remembrance day poppy - proceeds to the poppy fund. I thought this was an excellent idea but I can't see myself using it on the day - have to keep explaining to people that although it does not look much like a memorial poppy, it was sold in aid of the fund.

As well as things to buy there were fashion shows, workshops, and opportunities to meet other knitters over a nice cup of tea (and a sit down).


** At the show they had Herdy piggy banks, which were very appealing, and I see that I Knit now have a limited edition version available in yellow.

Posted on September 11, 2009 at 7:40 PM. Category: Knitting.

Wednesday September 2, 2009

Just a Lightweight

MansPinkCardigan.jpgMore on G's light-weight cardigan request and the "irresistible man's cardigan from the 1970s" (shown on the right - I left the moustache in the pattern picture just to demonstrate the gender of the model, but I now realise this is simply more gender stereotyping for which I profoundly apologise). You can see the charm of the original colour - disturbingly, I think I have some of the correct brand of wool in that exact colour in the attic - however after a great deal of thought (about 1 nanosecond) I settled on a light grey instead.

I finished the patterned part of the knitting on holiday in Norfolk and easily completed the main sections on the newly refurbished knitting machine. I took it all the pieces with me to France to hand-knit the button bands, and then sew it all up.


At last it was done, and George was finally able to wear it in France (my! - he's so handsome!) - although there are not really any summer evenings any more. They seemed to stop around mid-August.


[In case you are wondering, he is trying to emulate the spirit of the era using what little he remembers of the 1970s, along with the guileless expression of the model in the pattern.]

Posted on September 2, 2009 at 9:42 AM. Category: Knitting.