Sunday, 16 February 2020

A Whisper of Spring

The weather continues to be vile with another big storm annoyingly coinciding with a weekend and I'm finding it all a bit depressing to be honest, the wind and rain and low light levels. We were supposed to be going to London yesterday. We'd planned to visit HMS Belfast, go up The Shard, walk along the embankment, but none of those activities seemed very appealing in gale force winds and torrential rain. We went out for breakfast instead, a start of half term treat, and spent the rest of the day hibernating, baking and eating cake. 

My feeling of gloom has been compounded by illness; I've been unwell with some kind of virus over the last week or so and have spent a lot time on the sofa, watching old episodes of Silent Witness and sleeping a lot. Always the world's worst patient, I keep going until I can't any more and then sulk on the sofa in bad grace, annoyed with myself and whatever virus or cold I've caught and life in general. My lovely mum and dad came to the rescue, walking the dog, ferrying children here and there, bringing me tulips and magazines. I didn't really have the energy or concentration to crochet much but I made up for that by buying yarn online. I kept trying to work on my trio blanket but was getting in such a muddle with the pattern, so I unravelled the whole lot and made a swatch, just so I could visualise it.

It's a bit messy but you get the gist. I wanted to work on my Sensum sweater but ran out of yarn, so while that was on order I worked a little more on my cowl and dreamt about crocheting some pretty wrist warmers.

But I am definitely spotting more and more glimpses of spring out there, and am taking heart from it. 

I'm seeing snow drops on my dog walks, blossom on the cherry tree in the garden, daffodils and tete-a-tetes popping up here and there in the flowerbeds and pots. It's noticeably lighter in the evening and apparently the sun has shone occasionally this week - I have evidence.

Dreaming of better weather, I've been buying seeds. I must remember to actually plant them - a job for a dry day over half term.

We've been lighting the fire even when it's not that cold outside, just to dispel the feeling of damp gloominess.

Spring flowers always help.

The seasons are shifting in the kitchen too, as I find myself drawn to brighter colours and flavours.

I've been cooking lots of early forced rhubarb, stewing it to eat with yogurt or porridge, or turning it into a crumble with apples, as I will be tonight. It must be something to do with trying to banish the gloom.

It has rained steadily all day here and shows no sign of stopping. The kids are watching a Star Wars film. John and I will both try to avoid taking the dog out, not that Ziggy is showing much signs of wanting a walk today. 

I might bake biscuits, or read, or crochet. I am currently loving Death Comes to Pemberley - Jane Austen combined with crime fiction - how has this sat unread on my shelf for so long?! I will try to embrace the rubbish weather and enjoy being cosy, because I'll soon be outside and busy in the garden again, trying to keep up with it all.

Monday, 10 February 2020

Hunkering Down

Saturday was calm and sunny. As I walked Ziggy in the afternoon under blue skies, admiring the catkins and magnolia buds, I thought what storm? By Sunday lunchtime though the roof sounded like it was about to take off and at one point the heavy rain being blown against the windows looked like someone was chucking buckets of water at the front of the house. Our dog walk that day was quick and businesslike, Ziggy strangely unwilling to linger, sniffing, over every blade of grass and lamp post as he usually does.

We battened down the hatches and stayed indoors. John had to work but, with the kids occupied and the dog asleep, I set to work in the kitchen, cooking so often my way of dealing with the weather. I turned sunshiney vegetables into soup, roasting squash, sweet potato, onion, peppers and garlic, and then blitzing them with chilli, coconut milk and vegetable stock.

I've been making a few forays into sourdough bread baking over the last few weeks, trying to get into the habit of baking it weekly, thereby saving us the small fortune we spend on nice bread each week. We are a family of sourdough lovers. and the children will choose it over any other type of bread. I love it because it doesn't go soggy when toasted, making it a perfect carrier for toasted cheese, beans, avocado, scrambled egg...

I've had this sourdough starter in the fridge for months and had forgotten about it and was going to throw it out, but you can apparently revive an old starter by throwing away all but a teaspoon full then starting again, feeding it with flour and water daily over a week. It worked, and a couple of weeks ago I made a white loaf.

The whole process worked a lot better for me if I mix the dough at tea time, stretch and fold it now and then over the course of an evening, and then put the dough into a floured banneton basket in the fridge overnight. I made a half white/half rye loaf last weekend and this is how it looked when I tipped it out of the banneton onto a baking tray, ready to be baked.

In the recipe I follow, you bake the loaf for 35 minutes in a pre-heated cast iron casserole dish (dutch oven) with the lid on, then put it on a baking tray for another ten to get a good crust. This is how the rye one looked when it came out of the oven.

I am so happy with how it came out. It's huge - it's not even half finished now and we've all eaten loads of it for breakfast and lunch - and the deep, sour rye flavour is wonderful. It doesn't have the holey centre that many sourdough loaves do which suits me fine, as I find all the butter or jam falls through the holes. 

The crust has softened over the last twenty four hours making it better for sandwiches. 

Other nesting activities have been firmly centred around yarn. Progress on my sweater came to a sudden halt when Ziggy chewed my wooden crochet hook and of course I didn't have another one in the right size. 

The front and back are almost finished. I just need to do the collar and arms then sew it all together. I love it but I think it's going to be very baggy when finished. 

I found myself dipping into this book, Making Winterlast week. It's a real gem, with some gorgeous crochet patterns inside. I spotted this ball of yarn in my local yarn shop at the weekend and something about the variegated pattern made me think of feathers. The pinks, browns and greys are so wintry and are currently being turned into a cowl.

I have also started this Trio Blanket, using three Schepjees yarn cakes which I bought with birthday vouchers almost a year ago.

As you can see I haven't got very far. I'm at the stage where I need to have faith and persevere, remind myself what it was about the blanket which appealed so much in the first place.

I think it's going to be one of those projects that will be satisfying and relaxing when you've got into it a bit and can see the pattern start to grow and the colour changes pool. Right now it's just a tangled mess.

I hope you are all staying warm and dry in this weather. Thank you for your lovely comments on my last post - I am really happy that you enjoyed it and found it uplifting. There's a lot that's good about winter.