Pinning Dinner – Olive, Caper & Tomato Dressing

unnamedI have a real weakness for Pinterest.  It keeps my over active mind engaged in the evenings especially at the moment when there is little on television apart from sport.  I rarely pin recipes as many of the Pinners I follow are in the US and the recipes are often hard to translate due to their different measurements and with ingredients I can’t find.

However, the other day on a particularly warm evening I came across this recipe, Chicken Escalope with Olive, Caper and Tomato Dressing, which was just the right thing to cook on a summer’s evening when the thought of another salad or BBQ was too much.  The recipe, is on the Simply Delicious blog written by Alida Ryder.  It seems Alida was trying to come up with a recipe to use some Calamata Style Olives which she had to develop a recipe for.

The recipe is wonderfully simple so requires little time in a hot kitchen.  You escalope the chicken breast, flour it and fry in some oil.  You make the dressing with cherry tomatoes, olives, capers, parsley, olive oil and lemon juice – you can access the actual recipe here.  The dressing is the star of the show – the combination of ingredients gives a nice blend of sharp, salty, bitter and fresh taste. It is very refreshing.

unnamed dinnerI added some new potatoes and yes I know I will win no prizes for presentation, there is too much dressing on the chicken and possibly too many potatoes but the meal was only for me so it doesn’t matter.  I have  made the dressing again already this time to go with some pork escalope.  I think it might also go well with oily fish such as mackerel or sardines – maybe I will give that a go next week.

 

At last the Blanket is finished

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In a bid to finish some projects in order to justify starting something new I have made myself finish the Sample Blanket.  I started this in a bid to learn to crochet and it has been successful in achieving that goal.  I am fairly confident on most of the basic stitches now so the next step will be to master shaping.

The blanket is more of a lap blanket as I ran out of enough wool to do any more rounds of squares. I didn’t have any instructions for finishing off the blanket as I unsubscribed from the magazine too early but I decided that I should use the wool I did have to do some rounds of double crochet and I am so pleased I made this decision as it has really bought the blanket together not only strengthening the edges but also making it look more finished.

2013_12180010The next project is some finger less gloves with wool I have in my stash.

I am also planning to finish some other non-crochet projects over the next week such as my eldest’s pyjama bottoms and making some tapestries into cushion covers – I have a new embroidery kit which I am desperate to start so this should motivate me.

Progress on Sample Blanket

Sample Blanket
Sample Blanket

After a couple of weeks when I have been nothing more than a vegetable in the evenings after work and have spent my time staring at the television not really conscious of what I was watching I am now back to my old self and my itchy fingers means that I have picked my crochet hook up again.

I need to finish some projects as I hate having things half done and so I’m trying very hard not to be distracted by more ideas on Pinterest.  First up was sewing as much of the Sample Blanket together as I can.  I have said before how I started this to teach myself to crochet with the aid of The Art of Crochet but I have now cancelled my subscription so it is a case of seeing how far the wool I have will stretch.

I think I can get one more round out of the wool which will be a reasonable size lap blanket – however I also want to crochet some more snowflakes for Christmas decorations and to send to my Japanese penpal so no doubt the blanket will be on the back burner shortly again.

Snowflakes

Crocheted snowflakesI haven’t been able to do any sewing or crocheting over the last couple of weeks as I have been just so tired due to the stress of work and long hours but this evening I had twitchy fingers and felt in need of something to occupy my hands.  In my project bag was a free crochet kit from Simply Crochet with some sparkly yard and instructions to crochet a snowflake or two.  With the weather turning colder and Christmas around the corner I thought this was just the thing to get me in the mood.

To date my crocheting has been very square or oblong – granny squares etc nothing fiddly looking but I am aspiring to do the more intricate patterns.  My aunt is a very clever crocheter and knitter, she even crocheted her own wedding dress back in the 1950s, hooking a motif each way on her way to work and then sewing them all together.  I would love to be able to have her skills and to crochet the dainty crocheted dollies such as my mother has gracing her dining room table and sideboard.  I think they are quite beautiful.

I have seen a number of patterns for snowflake on Pinterest and they seemed to be made up of fairly simple stitches.  I have to report that this kit was so simple that I quickly crocheted two snowflakes in less than an hour and the only thing that stopped me doing more was that I ran out of the sparkly yarn.  I think I will get some more and crochet some more snowflakes to use for Christmas decorations.

Crocheting this kit has given me the confidence that I can try some more complicated looking patterns and I no long have to stick to straight lines!

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PJ Bottoms Finished

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I am rather pleased as I have finished my youngest son’s PJ bottoms rather quicker than I anticipated.  I think my biggest problem, as I said in the last post, is bringing myself to cut the material as I worry about cutting it wrong and material isn’t cheap at all.

The pattern couldn’t have been easier which is good as I am trying to get my confidence back when it comes to dress-making.  They probably only took about 5 hours maximum to sew together although I did them over a number of evenings this week.

Despite taking it quite slowly and reading the instructions carefully I still managed to catch one of the pockets in the top waistband, as I was meant to, but so that it faced backwards!!!  I didn’t realise I had done this until he tried them on. He kindly said it didn’t 2013_11010002matter and that I wasn’t to unpick the waistband, according to him the fact that the pocket faces backwards as this is ideal for his iPhone – I think he is being very polite.

Anyway, they are made and he loves them.  The material a lovely soft cotton flannel has been a joy to work with and he is excited about them as they should keep him warmer in his student house.  When your room is on the third floor of a Victorian terrace near the top of a hill keeping warm becomes quite a priority.  Apparently the PJ bottoms are very on trend; and there was me thinking how old-fashioned they were.

Needless to say there has been a request for a second paid, so he must really like them. But first I have to make my eldest son a pair.  I suspect that by Christmas I will be a little weary of making PJ bottoms but at least they are really appreciated.

 

The First Cut is the Deepest…

2013_10240006….well maybe not the deepest but definitely the hardest and most challenging for me and I suspect it is the reason I don’t do much sewing.

Apparently when I made myself some Pyjama bottoms (see link on my other blog) I said I would make my sons some.  It was one of those throw away lines which I assumed no one was listening to.  But no!  They were listening and who would have thought it but both my sons (in their early 20s) have asked when I will be making them some winter PJ bottoms!  At least its only the bottoms as they will wear T-shirts on the top.

Procrastination has gone on for a few months.  The pattern, New Look 6321, was bought on-line and is about as simple as you can get.  I spent ages surfing the net looking for checked cotton flannel which apparently isn’t that fashionable, if you want ditzy flowers you are spoilt for choice but checks forget it.  It hard enough finding companies/fabric shops that do dress length rather than quilting fat quarters but checks forget it.  Anyway, I finally tracked some down at Truro Fabrics, which 2013_10240005my sons helpfully pointed out, we had walked past several times in June when we were on holiday.  They have a sample service so I ordered a couple of samples and the boys choose the one.  So not only do I have to make two pairs of PJ bottom but in the same fabric, at least they are the same size.

Two weeks ago I stopped making excuses and cut out the pattern pieces.  I find this incredibly intimidating as I worry that I am cutting the wrong size and I have no confidence when it comes to altering patterns at all.  Luckily men’s PJ bottoms have little shaping and so I went for the basic S size.  The 2013_10240001pattern and material have sat on the table for the last two weeks making me feel guilty.  However, my youngest is home from University next weekend and I would love to be able to give him his PJ bottoms to take back with him to keep him warm in his drafty student house.

Tonight I have bitten the bullet, moved the coffee table back and tackled laying out the fabric and pattern.  The material is checked and I have lined up a couple of key points on the cross of the pattern in a vain attempt to line up the pattern but I’m not too worried about it.  I get very nervous about cutting the material out more so than the pattern, I love the fabric and dread that I am going to cut it wrong or some other disaster.  I did plan to cut both PJ bottoms out this evening but it took me just over an hour to do the first pair and quite frankly crawling around the floor for that long is enough of a work out for me.

So the pieces are cut out and now I have to crack on and sew it up.

The Cowl is Finished

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The Cowl is finished and my manic expression doesn’t indicate that it was a hard pattern more that I was trying to take a photo of myself using an iPad and discovered it really was quite hard to do plus I hate having my photo taken so I shall stick to things I don’t have to model in future!

Anyway, I really enjoyed crocheting the Cowl. The pattern was very simple just double crochet with a chain in between and then on the following row you double crochet into the chain gap etc. I had to do some shaping which was new for me but I think it went OK and the cowl bit itself was simple as with crochet it is easy to go round and round and make a tube, much easier than with knitting I think.

The pattern for those interested was from Simply Crochet and by Sara Huntington, I decided to omit the teddy bear ears. The wool is Rico Basic Super Big Aran in stone grey.

Now to find another project which I won’t have to model!

Starting to sew together the Throw

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I have been subscribing to Art of Crochet in order to teach myself to crochet.  However, I think it is a little expensive and there are just so many wonderful books, magazines and blogs out there that I think I am ready to cut the ‘apron strings’ and go solo.  So I have cancelled by subscription to the magazine.

This is all very well and good but part of the subscription includes instructions and wool to crochet a throw.  By cancelling the subscription although I have the instructions to complete the throw I won’t have enough wool and it is branded for the magazine so not easy to match.  Therefore I have had to hatch a cunning plan.

Using the photographs in the magazine as a guide I have decided to work from the middle outwards so whilst I won’t end up with the same size throw as the photographs I will hopefully have a nice lap blanket or small picnic blanket.  The piles of squares have been building up so as a distraction I have started to sew them together.  This will also give me some encouragement to keep going and finish this project.

I do like the four white squares which make up the centre square (see above).  There are then traditional granny squares running out along the diagonals and a variety of other stitches filling in.  I have to say that whilst I have really struggled with these various patterns at times but by persevering I  have realised that I have learnt quite a variety of stitches so now I feel more confident to try something more advantageous.

Starting a Wool Stash

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I have noticed more and more that crochet and knitting bloggers have secret and not so secret wool stashes.  I have also noticed that the sewers are the same with fabric stashes.

This is an alien concept to me.  I have always bought wool for a specific pattern as opposed to buying wool because I like the look of it.  I don’t, yet, go to craft fayres so these temptations haven’t really come my way.  However, as anyone who reads my gardening blog will know I have a real plant weakness and buy plants at the drop of a hat with no self-control so I am sure its only a matter of time before this approach filters through to my new interest in crafts.

Today, I went to the local flea market with my eldest son.  I had a mental list of things I was looking for particularly with a view to upcycling.  This is a concept that is new to me and requires me to rethink lots of things.  I keep seeing wonderful things on Pinterest and think I could do that.  Instead of things that needed lots of work on them, as intended, I ended up buying a beautiful Victorian mirror which just needs a clean for the downstairs toilet and lo and behold 10 balls of wool – a mix of Jaeger DK and Sirdar 4 ply.  My son spotted the wool and encouraged me to have a look and choose the wool I liked the look of and which I might find a pattern for in the future.  I’m still  not convinced but the wool stash has started!

Stripey Bowl

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While I am faffing around with wool crocheting multi-coloured squares my eldest son is up the garden in his workshop playing with wood.  I really shouldn’t say ‘playing’ as the wood-turning he does is very skilled.  He is self-taught and learning slowly having been given a lathe nearly two years ago.  He works as a cabinet-maker so has access to various off-cuts of interest wood and above is this weeks creation which I am incredibly impressed with.

The get the stripey effect he makes a blank by glueing together layers of wood offcuts and then he turns the bowl.  He is pointed out all the faults to me – essentially it isn’t as smooth as it should be and if you are being very fussy you can feel the joins of the wood layers but I think it is very pleasing.

 

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