Saturday 27 October 2012

Split Pea and Carrot Soup

Well it's another soup recipe. I know, it's like I don't have teeth or something. It's all soups and compotes (I need to write up the compote I just made- it's amazing). But come on, who doesn't like soup?!?!?! Especially as we enter autumn and winter coldness, soup wins everytime.

Here's a winter warmer I knocked up the other day and have since devoured. 

Split Pea and Carrot Soup.

2 cups chopped carrots
1 cup cooked Split Peas 
2-3 cloves garlic
1 large chopped onion
3 chopped celery stalks
1 chilli, diced (deseeded if you don't like things too spicy)
1 tsp of fresh diced Ginger
1/2 tbsp Ground Coriander
1 litre stock, veg or chicken (I used veg) 

To Make:
1. Take a good size pan, slosh some olive oil (about 2 tbsp) in and heat.
2. Saute the onions, celery and carrot for about 5 mins, until starting to soften. 

3. Add chilli, ginger, coriander and garlic, stir and cook for another 2 minutes or so.  
4. Season, pour in veg stock and reduce heat once it starts to simmer. Pop a lid on and leave for about 25 mins or until everything is nice and soft. 
5. Add cooked split peas (You don't have to do this seperately but I find it makes it less dominant if I do so). Warm through.
6. Blend to preferred consistency and pop back on the heat to warm through again a little, adjusting seasoning if necessary. 

Serving suggestion: amazing sour dough bread from Brick House Artisan Sourdough Bakery that I just discovered. It's amazing.

Wednesday 24 October 2012

What to Knit When You're Expecting: A Review

While I was recovering in bed over the last month or so, a rather lovely new book was delivered to my house that made me quite excited to say the least. I'd been contacted by the author Nikki Van Der Car via Ravelry as she knew I was expecting and we discussed reviewing her new book. I will admit when she told me the title I was intially concerned as I'd not got on with the book 'What to Expect When You're Expecting' AT ALL (for those interested I have no desire to be told what to wear that is slimming or why I should worry about my weight pregnant or otherwise). 

What dropped through the door though was nothing short of wonderful. I peeked inside at the beautiful photography and saw lush knits that I would actually want to knit. I often don't want to knit baby or children's patterns as they're not the kind of thing I've been motivated by but here were textures, lace, cables and yummy yarns on some very cute wee ones. I dived in....

'Baby Cozy', (c) Claire Richardson
The book is broken into 3 'trimesters', staggered so the more complex knits that would take longer come sooner in your pregnancy (if that's when you're actually knitting) and the quick, impatient knits are located towards the end when you're a little frazzled and impatient. I liked the idea and the variety that this offered in terms of choice: tv knitting or something I could sink my teeth into. Marvellous. Great for long term knitting as well as last minute gifts for friends who are expecting. 

'Honeycomb', (c) Claire Richardson
The yarns are widely sourced from Rowan to Madelinetosh and Debbie Bliss so there's a mix of affordability, durability and luxury. I liked the choice of yarns offered and the fact that there were gendered clothes in here but also a good mix of non gendered. Even the gendered clothes were not in the usual boring boy blue or princess pink that's become baby uniform in most shops I've visited. I mean, look at this girl's dress, isn't it adorable? 

'Emily Dress', (c) Claire Richardson
The sizes remain within the first year of life which means that this has a relatively short shelf life if you're knitting for a little one but I could easily see this being used as a treasury of gift knitting too so I'm still sold as far as this book goes. I really hope Nikki makes a follow up for toddlers and children as her stylish and homely knitting will be very welcome in this family without a shadow of a doubt. I especially loved the fact that instructions were clear and knitting in the round was an option on garments. For reasons I can never understand, so many children's knits are worked in pieces. This is how I knit and so I trust that I'll get the result I want from my knit. 

'Ike Sweater Vest', (c) Claire Richardson

What am I working on from the book? Well you'll have to stay tuned to find out...... ;)

A huge thanks to both Nikki and the publishers, Running Press for giving me the opportunity to review this book. If you'd like to grab a copy, check out Amazon or check out Nikki's lovely blog for more information.

Monday 22 October 2012

Episode 38: Time is a Healer

A Playful Day is kindly sponsored by Superknits. Please show your support for our playful friend by clicking on the link above- go on, spoil yourself!!!.

A Playful Day is also kindly sponsored by NorthboundKnitting, uniquely hand dyed yarn, spinning fibre and modern knitting designs. Please show your support for our playful friend by clicking on the link above.

A Playful Day is proudly sponsored by Candy Skein, hand dyed yarns sweet enough to eat! Please support our playful friend by supporting the banner above.

Show notes:

Thank you to the many well wishes and plenty of chatter that kept me sane whenever I could log in.

Come join 'The Night Circus Along', entirely hosted by lovely group members and making me smile everytime I swing by. 

Off the Needles 
Attending the blocking party were: Annular by Woolly Wormhead using Artist's Palette Merino Cashmere DK, Dry Stone Cowl by Dani Sunshine in BC Yarnings DK SW in the 'charcoal' colourway and a random cowl self designed from leftovers of the BC Yarnings DK SW and Sanguine Gryphon's Skinny Bugga held double in the Katydid colourway.

Linnie by Justyna Lorwowska using Northbound Knitting Superwash Merino Fingering Weight in the 'Moonstone' colourway and Sundara Sock Yarn in the Brown Sugar over Buttermilk colourway.
A matching new born hat out of the fumes of these leftovers. 
Poppy hat by Justine Turner in Tactile Fibres Occidental DK in Meyer Lemon colourway.

On the Needles
Magic Coffee Baby Hat by Tracey Kay in leftovers of the Artist Palette and BC Yarnings DK.
Scylla by Fiona Lucas in a mystery sock yarn. 
Plume by Lisa Mutch in The Uncommon Thread in The Uncommon Thread Posh Fingering in the 'Nimbostratus' Colourway and Silky Merino Fingering in 'Cerulean' Colourway.

Munch Burp, Schlurp
I pull out the casserole dish and treat friends and family to Boozy Beef Stew. 

1. Take diced steak or a preferred cut (it can be a cheaper cut due to the cooking time) and coat with seasoned flour.
2. Brown off in the pan before adding onions, celery and carrots or any other roots you feel like that have a longer cooking time. 
3. Add more vegetables you like. I went for mushrooms and green beans and added garlic here. 
4. Add a dried bay leaf and a bottle of red wine....
5. Stire in a little cornstarch mixture to preference, season and reduce heat or pop in the oven on a low heat for 2-2 1/2 hours. 
6. Take off the lid and return to a higher heat on the stove for 10- 15 mins, stirring occasionally. Add any aromatics at this point: fresh herbs such as rosemary or basil and zest of citrus (lemon works very nicely with rosemary)

Fly, Fly, Fly by Adrina Thorpe, available on Music Alley
Underdogs by Jen Foster, available on Music Alley .
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Thursday 18 October 2012


I feel I should point out something before I launch into this post: I am not a fan of the videocast. I have tried. I swear. I want to like them. I do. I appreciate the effort, the access, the welcoming community but I just can't get behind them. I have often wondered why it is I'm not drawn to the many, many out there in the same way I am audio podcasts. 

I have a few theories that I've come to realise over the course of the last few weeks as I have found myself watching about half a dozen quite a lot. This is new for me and it made me wonder what my original problem was with the videocast. I realise it's a lot about your viewing/ listening habit. I'm a traveller. I found the podcast scene when I racked up hours and hours of commuting a week and they kept me company on nights of insomnia without bothering anyone else in the house. This is when I would access podcasts and I listen to dozens and hungrily devour back episodes. I don't watch tv so the habit of sitting in front of the a programme in the evening after work, videocast or other, just doesn't resonate with me. I'd rather switch on a podcast while I cook or potter around.

HOWEVER..... I have half a dozen I am watching most days recently and catching up on old episodes. I've always tuned in to Round The Twist and The KnitGirllls but now there is CraftStash and 90% Knitting added into the daily cycle. Yarnivore makes me chuckle and I'm hankering to find a few more but I struggle when I do this. I realise the other thing that's left me cold before with videocasts is that you can see. Well, DUH! But seriously, I enjoy the way a good podcaster describes their process/ the yarn or reviews a book. They have to be thorough, they have to tell you all the details and get it right because it's not right there in front of you. I suspect the reason I like these is that the audio and visual is quality both in terms of tech and presentation. They are very good at describing their process and despite wanting my knits and wanting them now, I love to hear all about someone else's process. 

So what do you watch? What would you recommend?

Monday 15 October 2012


Sometimes when entering your projects onto Ravelry, a name seems wholly appropriate. Most of the time I just load them up and am more concerned about the notes to be helpful for other knitters. However, knits that have stories usually get named pretty quickly. This little knit was one of them. 

A few weeks ago I began to go into labour... early. Far more early than I would have ideally liked. I was very ill and my body was irritated and so was the baby it would seem. I was very lucky that I had the comfort of a lovely friend who I've grown closer to over the last year or so that had a baby that was born earlier than expected. Both herself and this gorgeous little lady caused quite a panic but have since thrived and look the picture of health. The family are wonderful company whenever the giant and I see them and when I sent out an SOS text to explain my situation, my friend knew just what to say. 

In those hours and hours of uncertainty, there was the reassurance to be found that not only had a mother as wonderful as my friend managed this but also her baby had come out just peachy and despite being so tiny proved she was ready for life indeed. I was a week on from her arrival, I would be fine. I remembered the picnics in the park, the cuddles, the laughter and used that to remove anxiety from my mind and think about the wonderful things I had to look forward to if my baby really was set on coming early. I calmed myself down, labour signs died down, and the moment of intense urgency passed and instead has become a rumbling background noise to my days.

So when I remembered it was this inspiring little girl's first big birthday and I was sent home for bed rest and told to keep little one cooking as long as possible, I turned to a gift knit for this little ray of sunshine. The family are very funky and love retro things so I settled quickly on the Poppy hat, a great free pattern that is written for 3 weights of yarns and lots of sizes. Perfect stash busting as a result of the weight options so I grabbed a skein of special yarn I'd been gifted and sat knitting with a contented smile. 

The project name was simple: Hope.

Saturday 13 October 2012

Pure Wool: A Blog Tour Post

While I've been keeping the sofa safe over the last few weeks, lots of new books, publications and knitty related wonders have come my way and one of them was a new publication called 'Pure Wool'. I was intrigued and agreed to help out with a blog tour as this was slightly different from other texts I'd seen come my way of late. 

'Pure Wool' is produced by Sue Blacker who is the managing director of Blacker Yarns. This is a company dedicated to British Wool Breeds and the book is a showcase of the knowledge that comes with such a company. Blacker Yarns and Blacker Designs were launched in 2008 as brands of The Natural Fibre Company, which is their specialist wool mill on the Devon-Cornwall border. The mill specialises in adding value to fleece supplied by farmers and turning it into high-quality knitting yarn which they can sell for themselves and generate a new or growing source of income from their flock.Knowing this adds a context to the book as you understand the passion of supporting British Wool and the Campaign for Wool that has been highlighted by Kate Davies, amongst others, in the past and this week for British Wool Week. 

For this post, I reviewed a digital copy of the book and enjoyed finding out about the different sheep breeds, spinning processes and the characteristics of the specific yarns produced. There are a collection of patterns that have been specifically designed to showcase these yarns and their qualities and they are beautifully presented. If you're a photography nut, you will love the images in this book as each page is a mini homage to all things sheepy and woolly. It made me very happy as colder weather began to set in around my perch on the sofa. 

What I really liked is that despite the British Wool focus, there was a lot of comparison between UK and US terminology and I felt that this would be especially useful if you were a novice knitter or spinner, trying to get to grips with the difference between fingering and 4ply. That's not to say this book doesn't cater for the more advanced fibre enthusiast, it really does. There's a good level of information to be found here without it becoming overloaded or dry. 

The patterns are presented in a really fun way too: each breed has a kind of 'ID card' or fact file, explaining the characteristics, uses etc. Then the pattern follows with written instructions and a full picture. I liked this as I understood why a particular breed worked especially well for crisp cables etc. The patterns themselves are gloriously rustic and simple. Instructions are written and information and notes are at the start of the pattern so you know what you need before you start. Needless to say, Blacker Yarns are the featured yarns and their natural palettes really help the cosy feel of this publication. There isn't a massive choice on sizing for the garments however so you'd need to make adjustments for fit. 

If you'd like to get your hands on a copy, visit the website here for more details. A huge thank you to the publishers at Bloomsbury and Blacker Yarns for letting me be part of this tour.

Friday 12 October 2012


Oh boy I hate missing deadlines. By deadlines, I largely mean those I set myself. I am something of a perfectionist about certain things- perhaps you've noticed? I want things done a certain way to make ME happy and the podcast and blog have always been a few of them. The fact that other people like them too is just brilliant and now I feel I have to keep a certain momentum going.

The last few wobbly weeks have meant the recording schedule got all kinds of squiffy which is not a problem for some folks but is for others. I can only apologise and reassure you that it's driving me mad too. I suspect what is going to happen is the blog will become a little busier as I move news over to here and recording becomes once monthly. I'm not sure. I know this Sunday's won't happen as I am recovering from the third infection, a chest infection, and sound like a snot monster. I am a snot monster though so that makes sense. 

So what I'm rambling on about is the fact I don't have a set schedule for the podcast anymore but I do LOVE to podcast and blog so I'm not fading. Just taking a little more time to get to the end destination that I wanted. Features and episodes will happen, when they happen. They make me happy when they do and hopefully it'll be an added bonus to whichever day they fall on for you. This is something I can maintain with little one's arrival too so it's kind of a good habit for the moment: each day as it comes. I'll let you know when things get more settled and I feel able to say 'THIS IS A PLAN'. I like a good plan, especially if it involves gin, cake or knitting.

So stay well and keep playful! Also, keep an eye on here over this weekend for a post about a rather yummy book I'm reviewing as part of a blog tour..... it's a goodie!

Wednesday 10 October 2012

Block Party

So the builders have finally retreated and as the dust literally settles, I am faced with quite a task: catching up on two months of chaos and getting ready for an impatient arrival. More over, I have knitting to sort. 

I've cast on many things over the last few months and finished quite a few. I've lived off the fumes of stash and I've worked hard to create loving knits for friends, family and the previously mentioned impatient arrival. Of course now I have to block everything and weave in ends. The pile currrently stands at this:

Then there is a few more knits soon to be off the needles and a pile of hand made socks that need soaking. I should be concerned about getting the house ready but I'm mostly concerned about getting these finished, photographed and ready once and for all. That's totally normal right?


Saturday 6 October 2012

It's the Little Things

Things I have loved over the last week: 

Watching a spider knit its' beautiful web. It was a good spider and a good web. Both were fantastic shapes and colours in the morning sun. I could have watched for hours. 

Autumn came while I was tucked away, recuperating inside.I ventured out for a little walk around the garden and there were colours and smells in the air that I adore. I love Autumn and I was sad I wasn't outside when she truly arrived but I liked the presents she left like leaves scattered on the green grass and the waning rays of the sun on my skin as I inspected them.  

Testing my ability to truly get every last bit out of a skein that I can. Emergency knitting needs to be cast on to ensure that I don't have the dread of running out of knits ever again. However, lingering on the details of those last few scrap of skeins was quite decadent and I feel very virtuous now. 

The giant. He's perfect and kept watch over me and little one so well that we stayed safe. I couldn't do this without him. 

My knit best friend. She understood I needed time and some chatter and she was there, as she always is. 

Friends and family. You really do find out how lucky you are when you put the call out for help and so many respond. I am overwhelmed and eternally grateful. Even in the global community of Twitter, people sent messages and well wishes and they were so important to keeping my mood bright. I came out of my shell where I'd hidden out of fear and just embraced each contact. I forget to do that sometimes. 

A new book that fills you with wonder. The words on each page, the characters, the hours lost as you come round and remember you're own setting. 

Safety. A feeling of safety. Nearly there...