28 February 2014

Reading Challenge - February Update

This month I have read a lot less than I did in January, but I have still managed to squeeze in a reasonable amount of books. Mostly, I have been crocheting this month and wrote about that in my last post and I have multiple other crochet projects on the go as well.

I started a cushion cover last night, after having crocheted a large granny to make the basis of the blanket the Guides are doing as part of their latest challenge. The large granny I designed to look like our company necker, which did make it a rather boring/tedious make as it's pretty much all burgundy...

It's already got a couple of friends, but eventually will be part of a cushion cover. Really love the colours together!

Anyway, back to the books. This month's book from The List was The Shipping News by Annie Proulx.

Now, this is a bit of a slow burn of a book. I ended up really quite enjoying it, but it does have one of those annoyingly long preambles before the good stuff starts happening. The main character is a bit of a wimp of a guy as well. One of those anti-hero types. The action takes place in a remote part of Newfoundland and mainly centres around a tiny community newspaper being run on local issues. 

The shipping news is the section of the paper our hero writes and it leads him to many different stories about the local fishing heritage, the boats and the culture of a place that is slowly changing and modernising. It also features a lot of people eating cod cheeks. Ick.

It kind of is a bit like a written soap opera as it is about the daily life that surrounds you. The things that make up the everyday can be the things that are the most interesting. The story, obviously, is driven by the series of events that happen around our central figure. He seems to be one of those people always in the wrong (or right, in terms of the story) place at the wrong time. 

He becomes involved in a murder mystery, he is part of an ancient dispute with members of his own clan, he falls in love. It's all told gently and over a period of time. And I quite liked the way it flowed. I can also see why you might completely hate this book. The main character is not really that likeable, it is set out right on the first page.

I'm not sure that I have become a devotee of the book, or even that desperately keen to read other books by the same author, but I liked it. It was worth the time.

I have also read a Georgette Heyer for my sort of subsidiary challenge and really enjoyed the one my mum picked out for me! She does know my taste so well. I think I even preferred this to last months. I found it really quite funny and it had a mystery running through it which is always right up my street. Really recommend that one if you haven't read it. 

I have a much shorter list of books read this month, but here it is in full:

1. The Shipping News by Annie Proulx - 31/1/14 ~ 11/2/14
2. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins - 28/1/14 ~ 6/2/14
3. The Colour War by Jodi Picoult - 7/2/14~7/2/14 (really short book!)
4. The Reluctant Widow by Georgette Heyer - 12/2/14 ~ 26/2/14

And that was it! Though I have been reading 12 Years a Slave for what seems like forever too... That'll show up on next months list. I have chosen next months book and am looking forward to starting it as I've read and enjoyed the author before. I have next months Heyer picked out too...

My Reading Challenge is inspired by essbeevee's books are amazing monthly feature. This months is all cook books! Heaven.

27 February 2014

Raspberry Ripple Crochet

This month, although I have still been motoring on with my reading challenge I have also been getting on with some crochet for myself. I got hold of some lovely yarn in Boyes the other week with the intent of making myself a new scarf. The yarn is King Cole Galaxy DK in Pink Tourmaline and is lovely and soft and sparkly. 

Not entirely sure why I chose such a bright shade of pink, but the black helps to make it less in-your-face and I am glad of the cheerful shade on miserable days. 

I spent ages on Ravelry looking at scarf patterns and found one I quite liked which had been invented from a hat pattern the writer had previously made! I did look at making it and then at the last moment spotted a pattern in Simply Crochet issue 4 called Raspberry Ripple which just seemed the perfect thing to go with the yarn.

I got out hook and yarn and set to it straight away. I found the project grew quite quickly, but getting through 2 whole balls of yarn still takes time. The pattern is a pretty fan and mesh design which, when I finished, I decided to add tassels to the ends of. 

I was so pleased with it and still had two balls of yarn leftover, so I decided I could make a matching hat. Going back to Ravelry I came back to the original hat pattern that had inspired the scarf I liked (this is so much more complicated to explain that it is in practice!)

The pattern, Urban Jungle, is finished off with a rather cool star shaped top and it made me think if I could maybe use the pattern but with the fan and mesh design rather than the puff stitches of the original. 

Are you keeping up with all this at the back? Not sure I am anymore...

Anyhow, I cast on, using a slightly smaller hook than recommended as I had a lighter weight yarn than suggested. I crocheted the band exactly as stated in the pattern and then, after crocheting a foundation row of DC (SC to our American friends) moved in to the mesh and fan design I had used for the scarf. I had somehow managed to make the hat exactly 3 times the pattern of the scarf. Genius. So I crocheted away, joining my rows, but turning each time to keep the pattern correct. 

I have ended up with a slightly weird bit up the back, but as my rows started and finished on the back seam, which you don't see when the hat is worn, I just went with it. 

The other adjustment I made was to not make the hat quite as long as the stated pattern. It says to crochet until 12" from the bottom of the band, but I stopped at 10" as I was happy with the amount of slouch that gave me. I then had to make a solid band around the top so that I could use the star shaped closing that I was after. This meant I chained and slip stitched all the way around once and then did a row of DC into that.

Yes, this is really out-of-focus, it's not your eyes!

I then followed the pattern to the best of my ability (it's a bit fiddly/confusing to me at that point) and have indeed ended up with a star closure :)

Sadly, it doesn't show up terribly well on the photos I took... 

But, there you have it. My new hat and scarf set :) Now, I am just working out if I could get some mitts out of what I have leftover...


21 February 2014

Pearl's Pantry ~ Recipe 1: Cheesecake

I have been talking to one of my very best friends about doing a tutorial for my cheesecake recipe for the last few days and have decided to use the opportunity to make a little feature for the blog! So, here we are, this is the first entry in to what will be a periodic feature I am calling "Pearl's Pantry" (see what I did there?)

My cheesecake is something I've mentioned before but I shall now give you my photo tutorial! The recipe came from an advert I saw in Heat magazine ages ago and I did not invent it.

To make 1 cheesecake you will need:

100g melted butter
200g crushed biscuits
397g tin condensed milk
300g soft cream cheese (full fat)
2 lemons.

1. First of all you need to crush up your biscuits into crumbs. I used Ginger Nuts this time (which were jolly hard to crush up, I can tell you!), but use whatever you like best. I have done bourbons in the past for a chocolate version...

2. Melt your butter and mix it in with the biscuit crumbs and then tip it in to your tin - mine is a 7" deep sandwich tin with a loose base - and press it down firmly. Then put this in the fridge to set up whilst you make the filling.

3. Put the cream cheese in the bowl and give it a bit of a mix to loosen it up a bit (a). Now add in the condensed milk and stir it all in, I use a fork to give it a bit of a whisk and make sure there are no lumps. It goes really quite runny at this point (b).



4. Juice your two lemons (a) and add in to the cheese and milk mixture (b) (it looks like you've curdled it and made a dreadful mistake, you haven't). Then the magic bit, mix it in and watch as it turns glossy and thick and unctuous (c). Good word that, unctuous...




5. Pour this mix over your chilled base and smooth over the top. Then put back in the fridge for at least 2 hours to give it time to set properly.

You can serve it just as it is, but madam and I like to put something fruity on top. We decided to make blueberry compote this time as we had ended up with loads of blueberries that needed eaten up.

We shoved the blueberries in a pan, added some water and sugar and then boiled it down for a bit (kind of like making jam, really.)

And then: dollop of compote on top of your slice of cheesecake = perfection.

And there you have it, one really simple cheesecake to try :) Do let me know if you give it a go, I'd love to hear what you do with yours!

Love, Pearl.

11 February 2014

House Clearing For Pleasure!

I have been ridiculously busy for what seems like ages. I have been on this course for the job centre and on days when I wasn't there I have been having a clearout in my house with my mum.

This means that finally I have got it done properly. We have thrown out so much stuff I couldn't believe it even fitted in. Well, it didn't. That was the problem. We have one final room to finish (mine) and then I might (might) finally be on an even keel. I am really loving having some actual space in the house at last too. I also found an old friend (I am still a student/hippie at heart.)

Rainbow coat!

The trouble was all the stuff I have been holding on to for years with that foolish belief that I either need it or want it. I don't need it. My mum has helped me say goodbye to things I was holding on to merely out of sentiment. Though she did stop me from putting my wedding dress in the recycling. 

I have instead put it away again and hopefully will eventually get around to using the material to make something else that I might actually wear. It is a beautiful colour and it would seem a shame to waste all that fabric. I quite want to make it into a 50's prom dress style. But then I have nowhere to wear it, so why bother...

I have also started being more proactive and thorough with my job searching. I am trying to apply for something every day though this is not always possible (unless I do go for that butchers job Universal Jobmatch is convinced I could do). I also have refused to apply for the jobs as catalogue distributors that abound on there.

I have finally got a bite and have an interview for a Teaching Assistant role. Unfortunately it is on a voluntary basis, but it would give me great, up-to-date, experience which I think is lacking from my current CV.

To this end, having thrown out tonnes of my old clothes, I have been shopping! I bought a waterfall cardi and some new leggings the other week but really wanted to buy a lightweight jacket that I saw in the shop. The no money issue raised it's ugly head though.

So I waited for my next Jobseekers Allowance payment (which is the one I get to do stuff for me/madam with (the other one just goes on rent)). I went back and bought the jacket as I really think having a smart jacket is an investment in lieu of the job I want to get. I also saw a lovely, smart winter coat which would mean I could stop wearing my incredibly dull but practical anorak. And smart enough to wear as an overcoat when going on interviews. 

Smart. Though having to take the photo in a public toilet with the sink getting in the shot is less glam than I hoped for!

My mother very kindly paid for it and I gave her half the money and will give her the other half next month. I really can't re-iterate enough how lucky I am to have such supportive parents. Madam and I would struggle so much without them. And I wouldn't have a washing machine, still!

As part of my Fast Track 2 Work course from the job centre I did a mock interview, which was tailored for a TA role, this was great as it made me do a proper interview but in that controlled, safe environment. It was conducted by people who work for the local council and they gave us really great feedback on the answers we gave. I still hated it though! I was so nervous before I went in and did waffle a bit. But I did ok, and I felt more confident on the answers that I had prepared.


My interview was originally scheduled for Wednesday last week (5th) and has now been moved to Thursday this week (13th). So I am also getting the chance to get my nails done properly before I go. I have told Becky at my favourite nail place that I am having to be sensible this time and she was sad as we usually try and make my nails as fun as possible. It's £15 which is not *that* much given it lasts a minimum 3 weeks and I do want to look as professional as I can (chipped polish is a no-no!)

So, um, yeah. Think I have rambled on enough for today. Hope you're having a good week!