Monday, August 25, 2014

Crochet, cats and courgettes (with a bit of knitting thrown in for good measure)

First we have the basis of the crocheted side panels for my next chair-back drape.

I've used the triangle motifs from the 2013 crochet club and jiggled them around to suit. The one at the top of the photo has been blocked and you can see the difference blocking makes when you look at the bottom one which is all wavy and out of shape. They are actually the same size but the camera angle makes the bottom one look bigger.

Now I've got to devise something to make them the same size as the centre motif and I'm thinking of using flower squares and some zig-zag strips. I'm still playing around with ideas on that though.

I was quite excited the other day when the post arrived with a large packet all the way from Japan.

It contained this beautiful magazine, Keitodama, for whom I did an interview a few months ago.

The interview was about how I've used my crafting to draw attention to the need for more funding into dementia research and I was delighted that they'd included a photo of my mum as well as she's the reason I do all this. Unlike UK magazines, it is read from the back to front which was interesting.

Kitty bits

Now for some kitty cats. First we have our beautiful lady, Tilly, enjoying a morning nap in the sun - I love the way she's roughed up all the cushions around her before settling down. 

She's a real sweetheart but is still not confident enough to go outside, which leads onto this little fellow who's been pottering around in the garden for a few weeks. I was outside doing some tidying in the front borders when I heard a rustling and out popped Simba, from down the lane. He's twice the size of our little lady and has massive claws!

When I stopped for a cuppa he followed me into the gazebo for some fuss.

Then he tried to get more attention by rolling around and looking cute.

I miss having a feline friend helping me in the garden and I can't wait for Tilly to find her inner lion and come outside with me.

As for the courgettes, we have sooooooo many. I only ever grow one plant because we can barely keep up with their abundant crops and there's only so many we can eat before we get bored of them. 

We both prefer the yellow variety so I always choose that and it grows quite happily on the compost heap. See that great big one underneath? That was pencil thin and only 6cm long on Wednesday last week.

By the time I picked it yesterday it was 30cm long! I fancied making some courgette fritters so I thought I'd share my recipe here.

Spicy Courgette Fritters


1 large or 2-3 smaller courgettes
1 green or red chilli (leave out of you don't like the heat!)
1 medium sized onion
Coriander or parsley leaves to taste (fresh leaves are always better than dried). I use about 2 tablespoons
Salt and black pepper to taste
About 150g Gram flour (I've tried making them with self-raising and plain flour but prefer gram flour as I think it suits the spices I use better than the other flours)
Spices: I use a mix of spices such as ground coriander, cumin, turmeric, amchur and fenugreek but you could use a couple of teaspoons of Garam Masala or even just one spice of your choice instead
2 eggs and a few tablespoons of milk to make the batter
Oil for frying


Grate the courgette onto a tea towel using the coarse side of the grater. There's no need to peel the courgette.

A tea towel? Yes, because you need to wring out the excess moisture from the courgettes and this is by far the easiest way of doing it - I've tried blotting with paper towels and weighting it down in a colander but this is by far the quickest. 

Now wrap the tea towel around the grated courgette and form a sausage shape so it looks like a Christmas cracker and squeeze it over the sink. You'll be amazed at the amount of liquid that comes out! The tea towel will retain lots of courgette bits so you need to shake it around outside afterwards to get rid of them. Put the grated courgette into a bowl.

Chop the onion really fine, or grate it if you prefer, and add it to the courgette together with the chopped chilli, coriander (or parsley) salt and pepper then sprinkle on your chosen spices and give it a good mix around - I use 2 forks.

Make the batter by beating the eggs and milk together then add the gram flour until you have a firmish batter. It looks a bit like custard! 

Then add the courgette mixture and give it another good stir so everything has a good coating of batter.

To cook, you just shallow fry them in hot oil in batches. Put 2 heaped tablespoonsful of the mixture into the hot pan and squash flat with a spatula. I can get 4 decent sized fritters into my pan. I don't eat much fried food and so I use as little oil as possible as you can see. 

Cook until the bottom is nicely browned then flip it over and do the other side.

You can serve them warm or cold and I like to serve them with mango chutney and a few salad leaves. When hot the batter is really light and crispy. When cold they are great finger food for picnics.

Knitting snippet

Mike needs a new cardigan and after much searching has settled on this pattern I've ripped from a magazine.

I showed him lots of yarns and he was quite restrained in his choice, eschewing the expensive yarns I showed him and settling for this dark green shade of Stylecraft Life chunky.

I've just done a gauge swatch using 6mm needles as specified but its way too big, 2cms each way, even though my tension isn't loose. I'll try another swatch using 5mm needles as I felt that it was too floppy a fabric anyway on the larger needles.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

From my runs

I realised that I haven't posted any photos from my runs for ages which may have lead you to believe that I haven't been running, which of course I have.

In June I had a gentler month and just ran for the sheer enjoyment of it without worrying about my speed but in July I had to start a more rigid training schedule as I still have more marathons to run in the  autumn.

I've had a tough time with asthma attacks in the last few weeks which have really interfered with some of my speed sessions - it's hard to run when you can't breathe properly! On the days when things were going well I've taken plenty of photos so here are a few, not in any particular order:

Tree roots that look like the bunny from Donnie Darko!
An aptly named Magpie Moth
The remains of a feast on this tree stump - some squirrel had dined on pine cones! 
The light in this pine plantation made everything look pink rather like the old photos in sepia print
A glorious hairy caterpillar of the Ruby Tiger moth. I spotted him humping his way across the lane and waited to make sure he got across OK (I didn't pick him up because a lot of the hairy caterpillars can cause severe irritation).
I don't know what sort of fly this is but I thought he was magnificent - his wings look so delicate yet his body looks like armour!
These young female pheasants were running around squawking and flapping as I ran along the path. As I got nearer 2 male pheasants started to swoop at the path and I realised they were chasing a fox away. Don't the females look odd without their tail feathers which they moult in the summer months. 
One of my favourite routes. This year the field has been sown with wheat and it made a wonderful rustling noise as I ran through.
Look how parched the ground was though. We've had a very hot, dry spell here in the UK and the heavy clay dries out really quickly.
The other thing I noticed was a mass of cobwebs all over the field.
A few days later the crop had been harvested and the path looked quite different.
Unfortunately the beans in this field was so tall (up to my waist!) that I couldn't make out where the footpath was so I just had to guess!
These beautiful downy seeds are from a Scotch thistle - if you've seen the film Avatar, they remind me of the seeds of the Tree of Souls.
The next 2 photo have nothing to do with running though. This cactus lives in the porch and has flowered it's socks off this year for the first time.

Next time there will be some knitting and crochet to show.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Fund-raising can be fun

Last weekend we headed off to deepest Surrey for a concert organised by Levine Andrade, a good friend, in a beautiful church. Levine has been organising an annual concert there for the last 14 years, even though he no longer lives in the area.

St Peter's Church, Hascombe
The inside of the church was spectacular and quite unexpected! It was rebuilt in 1864 in Bargate stone in 13th century style and although it is a small church it is packed full of interesting features. Almost every surface is heavily decorated and I tried to capture its splendour in my photos:

Magnificent ceiling
Beautiful ornamentation everywhere
A dove atop the font 
Lovely flower motifs
All around the main body of the church there was a wonderful hand-painted frieze of fish behind netting 
More fish imagery on the kneelers
The concert this year was extra special for 2 reasons; i) they were donating some of the proceeds to Alzheimer's Research UK and ii) Levine commissioned Mike to write a piece for the concert.

We also had friends staying the weekend so it was nice to share it with them too (Hi Phil if you're reading this!). There was a rehearsal beforehand and so we set off in plenty of time to get there for 3pm when Mike's piece was to be rehearsed. Our friends set off at the same time as us but sadly we got stuck in a massive traffic jam following a road traffic accident and arrived 15 minutes late. Mike prides himself on never being late for anything and he was beside himself when he realised that we would be late, poor love. Sometimes things just don't go to plan.

When we arrived at the church I just dropped him off and he ran ahead whilst I found somewhere to park the car.

Rehearsal in full swing
That's Mike with his head down. It looks as if he's praying but actually he's following the score so he can check the players are doing what he wants them to do (speed, intonation etc etc). Levine is conducting.
After the rehearsal we all headed off to the White Horse Pub nearby to grab a bite to eat before the concert.

The church was packed for the concert and it was a lovely setting for it.

Mike had written a beautiful piece entitled 'Adagio for Strings' which was very popular with both audience and players alike. Many people and players came over to congratulate him during he interval and again afterwards. I was so proud of him! 

Mike shaking hands with the leader of the orchestra afterwards
Conductor and composer
I got in on the act too - not sure what I'm doing with the hand-on-hip thing though!
A most enjoyable evening and a lovely way to raise money for ARUK and the church at the same time.