Saturday, August 14, 2010

Season of Misty Yarns And Mellow Blackberries

One minute it's high summer, the next everything is ripening and it's inadvisable to leave the house without at least three plastic bags tucked in your back pocket. Long days of simmering, stewing, potting ahead. That's nice. Entirely the right thing to do as the circle of seasons rotates and we move towards the Celtic New Year on October 31.

While I think of it, if anybody knows a really good recipe for grape jelly that doesn't demand peeling the skin off every single tiny grape first, please let me know. Life is a bit short for that kind of thing, and you stew the skins anyway, before sieving the lot, so why, why, why? We look like having a bumper crop of sweet black grapes in the conservatory this year, and although the good folk of Macroom are now accustomed to receiving bunches at their desks, counters, front doors, there is still more than enough to make jelly. Home-made preserve surely has to be nicer than that over-jellified paste you get at breakfast stops in North America.

Had a birthday last week, and celebrated by dyeing up a whole new bunch of yarns to put up on eBay. They're up there right now if you want to go look.

One is such a gorgeous cashmere/silk laceweight that I'm rather hoping none of the watchers buy it, so I can use it myself. I called it Faery Hosting, because it's the kind of yarn the Queen of the Good People might commission to make a truly dramatic shawl for a midnight ball.

Here they are, drying in the sun...


...and here are some of them with Sophy on guard, in another location in the garden. I took this one to keep on my phone, and it shows up whenever DH rings me from home. That's nice, if I'm somewhere busy and noisy and crowded. Reminds me of the quiet serenity and green calm of Inshinashingane.

Oh that phone. Decided it would really be a good idea to have one that received emails, so went for this trendy thing called the HTC Desire. 'It's absolutely state-of-the-art,' said techie DH enthusiastically. 'Everybody is looking for one of these!'

'Can it make good phone calls?' I enquired cagily.

The shop assistant joined in. 'Look, you can link up to Twitter and Facebook!'

'Don't want Twitter and Facebook. Does it make phone calls?'

'And look at this, you can download all these apps...'

'What on earth are apps? Does it make phone calls?'

'Now this turns into a spirit level. See, you can use the phone to check that shelves are straight!'

'And this, show her this one. You can set up a mosquito repellent!'

'And the flashlight, show her the flashlight.'


Yes, dear reader, I gave in and got this trendy cute little thingy. And have discovered totally new levels of stress since then. Oh I can push across from one brightly-coloured screen to another. I can check the weather in Beijing and Tapei. I can go from Google Earth to in the flick of a finger. Or I could if I could work out how to get online.

Phone calls continue to be a bit of a problem. The numbers are all there, transferred from Old Faithful. In fact they're all in twice, for some reason into which I have not dared to delve. But try to choose one, and nine times out of ten you choose its neighbour, and find yourself ringing Great Aunt Matilda in Ulan Bator instead of the newsdesk. Really useful tricks like speed dialling your nearest and dearest has now morphed into 'who the heck is this and why have I just rung you?'

Oh technology, oh progress, leave me be. Let me go back to the woods with my hand-carved knitting needles.

Which I did. Or to Gougane anyway. Took Sophy Wackles down to see the little stream running through the woods of holly trees and venerable oaks,

and told her she was paddling in the upper reaches of the mighty River Lee.

Sophy said that was grand, and where was lunch?

You may notice that these two pictures aren't quite as good as former ones. That's because I used the phone's own camera, dear reader. 'Gosh, you've got a really neat camera on here, look it's easy, you just...' At least I now understand (or think I understand) how some of you clever clogs on Sock Madness managed to get your pictures to the moderators while on flights, on the road, in the labour ward, whatever. I couldn't do it myself, mind you, or not yet at least. But I dimly perceive that technology has moved on to assist sock knitters (that is why it moves on, isn't it? Saw an 'app' on Ravelry the other day which made it possible to design new knitwear on your phone. While waiting for a UN conference to start, presumably, or sitting through a boring lecture.)

Where was I? Oh, in Gougane. DH, bless him, took me there for the birthday dinner. It was as divine as before, and they even put a candle on the dessert plate.

It's lemon creme brulee with a lime madeleine (be-candled) and a scoop of Murphy liqueur ice cream. What a lovely evening. Thanks, dear heart. Life is good with you.

Got an unexpected birthday gift from my mother too. My brother arrived out to the house with something tiny that he'd found while clearing out one of the rooms at the ancestral home.

At first I couldn't think what it was, and then I tried it on a piece of paper and remembered. It's my mother's buttonhole scissors that she used for all her dressmaking and machine knitting. Any good suggestions on how to restore it to usefulness once more? I know I'll lose the silvering, and I'm not worried about that, but I'd like to use it. Carrying on the tradition. Now are you going to tell me that she didn't put it there for my brother to find? Of course she did.

Is there any knitting content to this post, I hear you cry? Well of course.

The cabled crop jacket in Elann Peru Soft got FINISHED! Yes, it did, it did, and let no-one say Celtic Memory is a hopeless WIP and UFO-er, 'cause she's not. Give her time, that's all...

Here's a closeup showing the cable and lace pattern and also my pride and joy, genuine handmade Dorset buttons! I always knew how to make these, but it only occurred to me when finishing off the crop jacket that they would look very nice on it. The Peru Soft would have been too thick for the buttons, but some leftover Panda Silk was idea. Aren't they ideal? I'm going to make lots more. Maybe shank them together, so I could interchange bright buttons on jackets? So many possibilities.

Oh gosh, I have to dash. I'll have to tell you about Knit Nation and all the fun there, in the next posting. And the new shawl on the needles. And the Tristan and Isolde socks with pearls...


Sea said...

The yarns and knitting are beautiful. Is your phone a touch screen one by any chnace? Mine is, and when I first got it kept calling the wrong person. Once I realised the scroll button on the side would do the same job as stroking with my finger I made less boo-boo's. However, when I'm due a new one it will be a sliding one again. The touch screen is a nuisance when getting a automated menu, before speaking to a person, as it can't display the dialing pad when being used in a call. Plus, my older samsung slide phone, had a much better camera. :D

Sally said...

Dear CelticMemory! What a lovely post...the yarns are amazing, as usual. Your knitted jacket is truly beautiful - would that I had the courage to make something other than a scarf or socks! A belated Happy Birthday (she said shamefacedly - is that a word?) Much hugs from across the sea.

knitski said...
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knitski said...

Happy Birthday, Great yarn, and best of luck on the new phone!

I have never made real jam in the glass jars, with a pressure cooker and all of that . . . I do make a freezer jam out of the tundra blueberries here. In the states we have packages that have a mix, you add sugar to the mix, crushed berries, add crush berries (or crushed fruit) to the mix with sugar, let the mixture set, and you freeze it after it sets up. I am sure you could use it for grapes. It might be worth looking into.

Thanks for the wonderful post and best of luck on the phone.

Anonymous said...

This is specifically for concord grape jelly, but I imagine it would work for just about any member of the vitus family.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I am trying to get this link to post properly:

I suspect you will have to eliminate the returns I had to stick in to make it fit -- but it's about restoring scissors, which is somewhat labor intensive, but they ARE from your mother.

Angeluna said...

I hate new phones! Glad to hear your experience. Think I'll hold onto my old functional one a while longer. It makes GREAT phone calls.

You look absolutely lovely in your birthday photo. And happy.

Your jacket is amazing. Go, Jo! A perfect fashion statement. Kate would love it.

How wonderful that Marji found a recipe for restoring scissors. You could always have them re-silvered. And of course your dear Mother arranged it all. No doubts at all.

Does Sophy know how famous she is? She poses like a cover girl.

Anonymous said...

I'm with you - phones should be able to make calls!

Happy Birthday to a fine knitter. I'm glad I can read about your adventures. Wish I could have been there for some of that yummy birthday dessert. It sounded every so much more lovelier than chocolate cake.

danielle said...

Took some scissors I bought cheaply at a garage sale - very good shears - to a knife sharpener and he not only sharpened them - he cleaned them up and appraised them for me!

steel breeze said...

belated birthday wishes, good to see your post< and how is the knitting machine? still working I hope! :)

LaurieM said...

Happy Birthday! I'm glad you had such a wonderful time.

Very hard to buy a phone that just makes phone calls these days. Whacha gonna do?

T said...

Happy birthday Celtic Knitter! The yarns are exquisite - what color - and the sweater is lovely!

Anonymous said...

Jo, the booklet I have tells you to wash the fruit, remove seeds and crush and then strain through a cloth bag (cheese cloth)
Then you take the juice and make your jelly.............good luck!!

Anonymous said...

Re the grape jelly, I've never skinned nor de-seeded the fruit, just cooked really slowly to get really softened, then put the whole lot through a straining bag (much finer than a sieve) and let it drip for a day or so. Then use the juice to make a jelly with sugar. Never failed.

SharonO said...

I would clean your scissors with some fine steel wool to take off all the rust. Check out the screw where you adjust for the size of buttonhole. Then rub them with the oil you use for your sewing machine. Let is sit for a bit then rub off the excess. After that you can sharpen them. If you sharpen them yourself, remember to only stroke the stone on the outside of the blades, never the inside.

pacalaga said...

Happy birthday! Those photos are lovely.
Here in the US, back in the day, Sprint used to advertise the clarity of their land-lines with the pin-drop thing. No one advertises the clarity of mobile phones in making phone calls, anymore.

Dez Crawford said...

When I was growing up, I always had a red bandanna in my back pocket and one of its best uses was for "found" fruit, especially kumquats, grapes, oranges and blackberries. You tie the bandanna a certain way and it makes a nifty little basket. So many people in New Orleans have fruit bearing trees overhanging onto the public side of their fence, so it's fair game. :-) I still carry a bandana with me at all times as an adult. I'll have to see if I can find my grandma's recipe for grape jelly for you! The yarns are lovely and the jacket is stunning.

Penny for Your Thoughts said...

Happy Birthday!
Another way to get the skin off the grapes after stewing would be to put them through a food mill. The skin and any seeds will stay behind in the mill, with the pulp in a bowl below it. I make a simple applesauce this way every year, and it works every time.

bunches of yarn said...

Re grape jelly: I crush the grapes in a food processor or blender--whatever gives you a finer crush. Then, strain through a cloth for a day or so. Using the whole fruit will give you a powerhouse of antioxidants. I use cane sugar instead of the common and GM'ed beet sugar.
Re scissors: Same a Sharon said, and also I rub castor oil on all the metal parts, let it 'soak' for a few hours, then wipe off the excess with a soft cloth.
No comment about the multi-tasking-so-called-phone. ^__^

Mady said...

How wonderful to be able to make your own grape jam! But I think you need to upgrade your breakfast stops in North America! You could carry your own jar of jam, purchased from a N.A. supermarket :)
The scissors are a treasure. Please post a photo when they are working. Some readers posted excellent suggestions.
Many happy returns for a Happy Birthday!

Audrey A said...

Happy belated birthday. In regards to those lovely scissors, have you considered visiting a jeweler to see if they can be cleaned and replated?

Lisa said...

So good to see a post from you! I always giggle when I read your blog. Lovely sweater!