New website – smurfpop.co.uk!

As part of my New Year goal to get more involved in blogging, I’ve gone for it and migrated my blog to its own domain! I’ll now be posting at smurfpop.co.uk, and I’ve already got lots of post ideas lined up!

Don’t forget to update your bookmarks and feed readers!

www.smurfpop.co.uk

See you there
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2014

Happy New Year!

As usual, I’m a liiiittle bit late with my New Year post!

1. Beanie hat, 2. Mittens, 3. Mini Christmas stockings, 4. Fingerless gloves, 5. Vanilla syrup, 6. Mittens, 7. Ishbel shawl, 8. Bias-knit scarf, 9. Avocado + Beetroot Tartare

I’ll be honest, 2014 hasn’t been a good one. House purchases have fallen through, jobs have been lost and there’s been an awful lot of stress and ill health. My resolutions for 2014 have not gone well either. I didn’t graduate as anticipated, I’m finishing the year without a job and I’ve not read a single book this year. All in all, I’m really quite glad to see the end of 2014.

Onwards and upwards, however, and I shall still set myself goals for 2015.

  • Take better care of myself, both physically and mentally – Top of my list is to work on my health. It affects every area of my life and I need to take control of it. I plan on getting more exercise and trying yoga for a start.
  • Get more involved in blogging – I find that blogging (both reading blogs and writing them) sparks my creativity and encourages me to try new things, so I definitely want to blog more. Which leads me to…
  • Create more – whilst I’ve been knitting a lot in 2014, I really want to try creating different things. Whether I dust off my sewing machine, try something like hand lettering or even give a bit of woodwork/DIY a go (!), I’d definitely like to broaden my skills.
  • Graduate – this one appears again this year out of sheer stubbornness rather than anything else.

Come on 2015, let’s do this.

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FO – Mini Christmas Stockings

Mini Christmas stockings

If you follow me on Twitter you’ll have seen me tweet about mini Christmas stockings. I’ve been thinking of making these for a while but as I’m not used to knitting socks and am quite the perfectionist, it took many many many attempts before I came up with a pattern that I was happy with. And when I did, I knit. A lot.

Mini Christmas stockings

I think I’m a convert to socks – miniature ones, anyway. I can certainly see the appeal of knitting socks, but trying to make a full-sized matching pair that will properly fit actual adult human feet is still well beyond me. No, I’m happy to stick with the miniature. They’re FAR more adorbs, anyway (I won’t admit to how long I spent squeezing stacks of these stockings, squealing at how utterly cute they are, but it was a loooong time).

These, as well as a selection of mittens, scarves and fingerless gloves are now available in my Etsy shop :)

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Recipe: Vanilla Simple Syrup

Calling this a recipe feels very, very wrong as it is (barely) three ingredients and takes 5 minutes to make, but that’s how I roll.

I love this in coffee (I’m one of those terrible people who can only drink coffee when it is a syrupy latte; please don’t hold it against me) but it would be equally good in cocktails or drizzled over fresh fruit for dessert.

Ingredients (makes approx. 250ml)

  • 200g/1 cup sugar
  • 250ml/1 cup water
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract

Method

  1. Add sugar and water to a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring continuously
  2. Once the sugar has dissolved, add the vanilla extract and reduce heat slightly, to a gentle boil. Keep stirring.
  3. After a couple of minutes, remove from the heat and allow to cool.

A couple of points about this; granulated or caster sugar works best, and only use really good vanilla extract for this (I always use Neilsen-Massey – vanilla ‘flavouring’ or ‘essence’ isn’t real vanilla).  I find this keeps in an airtight container in the fridge for a good couple of months, although it’s never normally around that long :)

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FO – Ishbel

Ishbel shawl
Yarn: Malabrigo Sock (100% Merino), Violeta Africana

I’m not a shawl person. Shawls strike me as being rather lady-like, and a lady I ain’t. But I couldn’t resist knitting another Ishbel, taking into account changes I wanted to make to previous projects (mainly, using a softer yarn and making the larger version). I much prefer to wear scarves wrapped round my neck rather than dangling loosely, and I’m no different with shawls, so the bigger version is much more practical.

Ishbel shawl
Ishbel shawl

The biggest challenge with this, unusually, was the cast off. I did so as the pattern suggests, using a p2tog cast off, and started pinning it out to block it. And then it literally started unravelling. I have no idea how or why, but the whole cast off edge just came undone, starting in the middle. Fortunately I managed to salvage the live stitches and cast off again with no problem, but I’ve never had an issue like that before. I can only imagine that I maybe missed a stitch, but I’m not even sure how that happens with a simple cast off like this! How peculiar…!

Silk and Cashmere ScarfSilk and Cashmere Scarf

And finally, I’ve added the second lot of lace scarves to my Etsy shop, and am currently working on some C******** (I still can’t say the word, it’s only September) items :)

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August Scarves

Well life’s gone and done that thing again where it all goes a bit tits up. My response to this has been to knit. A lot.

My favourite online yarn shop shut down recently (just to clarify, this isn’t what’s gone tits up, but life sure does like to pile it on, right?) and so they had a big clearance sale. And I can’t resist a good yarn bargain.

yarn
I realised when it arrived that there was 4.4 kilometres of yarn here O_O

The Cascade 220 was always destined to become winter mittens and hats, but the Malabrigo and Manos del Uruguay at the back were more of a chance; I didn’t really have a plan for these, other than “really effing lovely stuff”.

The lovely violet Malabrigo has become 95% of an Ishbel – I say 95% because I started it in June, knit my fingers off, and then floundered at the very last repeat. Naughty Smurf.

The Manos lace has become summer scarves. Yeah.

Now I know the idea of wearing a scarf in August probably sounds ridiculous, but I’m British, and sry2say, August does not preclude the need for knitwear. A case in point:

British Summer. Not even kidding.

This picture was taken on the FOURTEENTH OF AUGUST. A good 2-3 inches of hail fell (or rather threw itself violently out of the sky) in about half an hour, the fog afterwards was ridiculous and I could see my breath in the air. It was DEFINITELY the wrong day to sit outside for lunch.

Bias-knit scarf
Bias-knit scarf
Bias-knit scarf

I absolutely love the concept of Manos del Uruguay yarns; they are kettle-dyed by craftswomen in rural areas of Uruguay, working as part of cooperatives to provide economic, social and cultural opportunities for themselves and others. Plus, Manos is certified by the World Fair Trade Organisation, and that can only ever be a good thing. And I haven’t even mentioned that the lace yarn is baby alpaca, silk AND cashmere, and is ergo amazing.

I thought I’d let the yarn speak for itself and stick to a simple pattern, and so I had my first go at knitting on the bias. I think it really shows off the natural colour variations, what do you think?

You can find these scarves, plus more to follow shortly, in my Etsy shop

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Recipe: Avocado and Beetroot Tartare

avocado and beetroot tartare recipe

This recipe was inspired by a recent meal out – I had a similar dish as a starter and it was so simple and delicious I had to try it. The original dish used mosto cotto but balsamic glaze or even regular balsamic vinegar is fine too.

Ingredients (per serving)

  • 1/2 avocado, diced
  • 1 cooked beetroot, diced
  • 1-2 slices goat’s cheese
  • Drizzle balsamic glaze
  • Handful salad leaves

avocado and beetroot tartare recipe

Method

  1. Spread a handful of salad leaves on a plate and place a round cookie cutter/mould in the middle
  2. Dice the avocado and carefully press down into the mould
  3. Repeat with the beetroot on top
  4. Remove the mould, top with slices of goat’s cheese and drizzle with the glaze

avocado and beetroot tartare recipe

So simple but so very tasty! It looks even more elegant when the avocado and beetroot are more finely diced but I was hungry, cooking for myself, and ain’t no-one got time for that. I think this would make a lovely light summer dinner with some buttery baby new potatoes and smoked or baked salmon.

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