The new year found me in Indonesia guiltlessly munching on fried foods and ice cream- I was on holiday after all. However, I couldn’t resist the call of January to lose weight, get fit, save money and generally become a perfect human creature.
I decided that the first step would be to start having green smoothies for breakfast. 2015 was the year I discovered green drinks in all forms. A well made green smoothie not only gives you a sense of smug self-satisfaction, but actually tastes good. I had developed a worrying dependency on the guy who makes smoothies outside Sourced Market at St Pancras station, sometimes travelling there specifically for a hit.
I decided to break the cycle, cut out the middleman, and make the smoothies my damn self.
Green juice purists might disapprove of how I make my smoothies. I add a little dried fruit for sweetness and fibre. I use fruit juice rather than water, and have banana as well as some frozen berries. I sometimes even add a touch of honey if my smoothie tastes a bit too virtuous.
I use my electronic scale to help keep my measurements on track.
- A small handful (about 20g) oats
- A small handful (10-25g) almonds
- A little dried fruit- I use a dried fig or a couple of apricots depending on what I have on hand
- 200ml apple juice or water
- 80g avocado- this is half a small avocado or a quarter of a large avocado
- 80g (1 small) banana
- 80g frozen spinach
- A small handful (about 40g) frozen berries
- 80g (1 stalk) celery
- 80g cucumber
- 1tsp (about 10g) fresh ginger
- 1tsp spirulina (optional)
- Ice or water to bring smoothie to desired texture and temperature
- To save time in the morning, I often soak the nuts, oats and dried fruit in the juice overnight, along with the unfrozen veg. Since my smoothie machine came with two bottles, I prepare two in the same evening
- I sometimes chop up bananas and keep them in the freezer as a further time saver (it means I don’t have to run to the shop for bananas every three days)
- I do the same with the fresh ginger, buying large fresh pieces when I see them and storing them prepared in pots in the freezer
- This recipe is super flexible. You can substitute most ingredients for whatever you have on hand.
- Don’t drop the blade of the blender on your foot. It hurts.
For me this smoothie is really balanced. It’s fresh with a lovely zing from the ginger. The avocado and banana give a nice smooth texture. I don’t know what spirulina is meant to do, but it makes the smoothie a nice colour and helps me feel like I am taking care of my body as I prepare to exit my twenties.
I took a massive hiatus in knitting this hat after initially being thrilled with the result. The problem was that the beautiful pattern stretched out on my big melon head and it slightly spoilt the effect for me.
If you are not an insane perfectionist, lucky you! You will not notice that the pattern looks less poppy and vibrant when worn as opposed to when flat. I envy you.
My wish to make the best version of this hat I could led me on a fascinating fact-finding mission in which I learned a lot about self-striping yarns and pooling effects. I also learnt that there was no way I could re-knit the hat to be bigger while maintaining the pattern. The only option left to me was blocking.
I grit my teeth. I sewed in the million ends I had because I wanted to maintain the colour blocking in the crown of the hat. Did I mention that I am crazy?
I also went and purchased a balloon. I have always blocked hats flat in the past. Well, I really seldom blocked them, but on the rare occasions I did, they were flat. I measured my head (I think it was 23 inches in circumference for anyone who is interested, which should be no one). I blew the balloon up to 25 ins. I thought it might be better to overshoot, and also balloon geometry meant that it worked better- the balloon is spherical while the human head is an elongated spheroid.
I think I made the hat slightly too big, but I can’t be bothered to try and fix it again. Lesson for next time. I also should not have blocked it with the brim folded. However, I am happier with the look now.
Overall this hat has been a reminder of the way in which my perfectionism can prevent me from taking pleasure in the things I make. Although I’m trying to work on this trait in myself, it continues to be a problem.
Pattern: Classic Cuffed Hat (free)
Yarn: Sparkle DK in Princess of Power by The Lemonade Shop
I finally got the chance to do my first from-scratch bake of the year, and decided to make these brownies with a cherry cheesecake topping. I spent some time on Pinterest last year looking for recipes to use up the 400g glace cherries I inherited from my old housemate. This was the recipe I settled on.
I think these brownies were really tasty, though I think the balance is a little off. I would have preferred slightly less brownie and slightly more of the baked cream cheese topping. It’s so good. Maybe if I made these again I would try and do three quarters of the stated amounts for the brownies. It would probably be safe to freeze some of the batter for future midwinter sugar cravings. I liked how simple the brownie recipe was, though I do think other brownies I have made in the past were nicer.
I made no changes to the recipe as stated except improvising my own ‘cherry pie filling’
- 200g glace cherries* **
- Two tinned apricots, or dried apricots that you have soaked until soft
- Lemon juice (to taste)
- Red food colouring (optional)
*I think this would be nicer using tinned or frozen cherries, but I had glace cherries on hand so that’s what I used
**Eagle-eyed readers will notice that I had 400g cherries but specify only 200g here. I did use all 400g cherries but it made too much cherry sauce
Combine all ingredients in a food processor until you have a thick sauce consistency. Add the lemon juice to taste. If you do use tinned or frozen cherries, taste and add sugar if needed. The sauce should be sweet, but balanced. Add a teaspoon of water at a time if your ingredients are not mixing well.
Check out this brownie cheesecake GIF.
As always when knitting garments for hands, I was reminded that fiddling with the fingers and mitten shell is by far the most time-consuming part. However, for me it’s also the most worthwhile as it creates a very practical item that is less likely to be dropped and lost.
I made a few changes from my last Smartphone Friendly Mitts, creating a size in between the medium and large for a wonderful fit. I was amazed at the difference in gauge you get between knitting on 2.75mm and 2.5mm needles. These mittens, which are knit on the smaller needles, are noticeably warmer than my old Broad Streets. I really loved the last pair of mittens I made even though they are the tiniest bit tight. This new colourway should also go better with my red coat.
It was so interesting to read my notes on the Broad Street mittens I made. Just under three years ago, these were probably the most fiddly item I had ever made to that point. I certainly remember puzzling over a few things in the pattern. It’s nice to be able to see my progress in craft through this blog.
How I made my mitten shell:
CO 32 sts. I recommend tubular (great tutorial here) but long tail would also work.
K 11 rows
Divide onto two needles
Pick up 30 sts across knuckles of mitten. Be careful to make sure you pick up starting from the centre of the pinky or your shell will not hang straight.
With working yarn from ribbed flap, K across picked up stitches, dividing onto two needles as you go.
Knit across the stitches you just ribbed, joining to work in the round.
Increase one stitch in the ladder before the picked up stitches. K30. Inc 1, K to end. Place marker for beginning of round (64 sts total)
K for 32 rounds. Try on. You don’t want to start the star decrease before you’ve knit just past your pinky.
K6, k2tog around (56 sts)
K 1 rnd
k5, k2tog* *rep to end of rnd (48 sts)
K 5 rounds
k4, k2tog* *rep to end of rnd
K 4 rounds
k3, k2tog* *rep to end of rnd
K 3 rounds
k2, k2tog* *rep to end of rnd
K 2 rounds even.
k1, k2tog* *rep to end of rnd
K 1 round
K2tog* *rep to end of rnd
Graft remaining 8 sts together
Then sew in the million ends.
Here’s how they look with the matching scarf.
Every year there seems to be a very dull debate about whether it’s right or wrong to have new years resolutions. I try my best not to view things in black-and-white terms. I like the fact that the new year provides a punctuation, and encourages reflection on the past in order to build on positives for the future. I won’t share all of my goals for 2016 here, but here are some of the things that you might notice me working on.
- Win Olympic Gold medal for knitting.
- Continue to improve my sewing, and make some garments that I am happy to wear
- Read more books written by women and POC
- Work on finding balance
- Focus on health. Eat well and be active in ways I enjoy
- Take more and better photographs
Specific project goals
- Fix Orza
- Finish Princess of Power hat
- Finish crocheted baskets
- Add belt loops to Cigarette Pants
- Make something out of my beautiful Indonesian silk
I haven’t got any specific knitting goals in mind at present. I spent a lot of time and energy developing my skills last year, and I think I’ve burnt myself out slightly. I also became increasingly aware that I was using knitting as an avoidance strategy from other things in my life. Hence my decision to take a break from the Harry Potter Knitting and Crochet House Cup.
However, I did recently spy a new Brooklyn Tweed pattern that may reignite the woolly fire within. I must have this! I’m thinking of making it up in the same yarn I used for my Totoro jumper.
I think sock yarn projects are ideal for travel knitting. Part of my holiday planning is always choosing a plane project. I feel like I have enough hand knit socks at the moment, so I decided instead to replace my old Broad Street Mittens with some snazzy new ones.
Here they are in Hong Kong after I cast on during the twelve hour flight. I’ve divided for the thumb and pinkie. I did this while watching Jurassic World, Mr Holmes, Johnny English, some episodes of Louis and one dreadful episode of Glee. I loved that show when I was younger.
On my second, shorter, flight I finished a couple of fingers but became stuck because I couldn’t remember how to do a tubular BO. I also destroyed my emotions with American Sniper and needed a nap afterwards. Being on planes makes me much more emotional than usual, but it was an interesting film.
Pattern: Smartphone-friendly mitts
Yarn: Bad Day Might Sock by the Lemonade shop
Ravelry project page