A Recipe and a Ramble

Hello!

Several of you have asked me for the recipe of the apple-and-blueberry pie I baked at the start of our autumn break. Your wish is my command (sometimes), so here it is. (For those of you not interested in recipes, just scroll on for a ramble and a tiny bit of knitting.)

Apple-and-Blueberry Pie

For a 24 cm/9½” ø spring form cake tin
Makes 8-12 slices

Ingredients

  • 200 g unsalted butter
  • 200 g sugar
  • 1 medium egg
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 200 g plain flour
  • 200 g wholewheat pastry flour
  • 12 g baking powder*
  • A pinch of salt
  • 2-3 apples (depending on size)
  • 150 g blueberries**
  • 1 level tsp cinnamon

* I like making my own half-and-half mixture. Instead of the two types of flour and baking powder you can use 400 g of ordinary or wholewheat self-raising flour. (Voor mijn Nederlandse lezers: ik gebruik een mengsel van gewone bloem, gebuild tarwemeel en wijnsteenbakpoeder i.p.v. zelfrijzend bakmeel)
** When using frozen blueberries, the pie may take a little longer to bake

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 200 ˚C/400 ˚F (180 ˚C/350 ˚F fan oven) and grease the cake tin
  • Cream the butter with 175 g of sugar
  • Mix in the egg and the vanilla extract
  • In a separate bowl mix the flours, salt and baking powder. Sieve these dry ingredients and gradually mix them into the butter, sugar and egg mixture to a slightly crumbly dough
  • Peel, core and slice the apples. Mix the apple slices with the blueberries, cinnamon and remaining sugar
  • Cover the base of the tin with two-thirds of the dough, pressing it in evenly
  • Pour in the apples and blueberries
  • Cover with the rest of the dough, crumbled coarsely
  • Bake the pie for about 40 minutes
  • Leave to cool completely before removing from the tin

Enjoy!

Now, let’s go for a ramble. It’s early Sunday morning in one of our favourite places. There has been a slight ground frost and the light is hazy.

This is a small-scale landscape with a meandering brook, some open marsh and farmland, and some woodland.

When it is getting a little lighter, the sun slants across a hillock, showing a strange sort of white veil on the top. What is it?

Zooming in it becomes clear that the grass and fallen oak leaves are covered in spiders’ webs.

A slightly eerie but beautiful blanket of spiders’ webs.

There is some heather as well, although it is partly overgrown with purple moor grass. A small group of sheep is grazing quietly. Not a sound to be heard. The highland cattle that also help keep the heathland open are nowhere to be seen today.

It is getting lighter, but the sun is still low, casting elongated shadows.

Towards the end of our ramble, the sun is fully out, giving the hay and wood in a barn a golden glow.

Time seems to stand still here.

Not so at home. On the knitting front, I’m in the finishing stage of all kinds of things. I’ve just finished another pair of socks. Now there’s only the ends to weave in and then I can try out my new sock blockers.

And what’s that hanging over the back of my knitting chair…………?

Take care and see you again soon!

Not So Tiny Anymore

Hello!

Every time I start writing a blog post, I close my eyes and sit quietly for a while. To focus on what I want to show and say, but also thinking of you reading it. Sometimes it’s hard to find the right words.

Over the past two weeks I’ve been watching BBC’s Autumn Watch. At the start of this year’s series, presenter Chris Packham said that they hoped their nature images and stories would be like a warm and colourful blanket for viewers in these difficult and uncertain times. I don’t remember exactly how he phrased it, but that was the drift.

I hope that in my own modest way, I can do something like that here, too. I can’t offer you spectacular footage of badgers, seal pups or otters. What I can offer is a colourful and comforting story about a yarn shop. Do you remember the tiny yarn shop we visited in July? Well, it has grown. Look!

The yarn shop is housed in part of a former farm building. Until recently, the rest of the space was taken up by a bicycle shop. When that closed Saskia grabbed the opportunity to enlarge her premises. Originally her shop was only 15 m2, now it has almost tripled in size. It still isn’t huge, but it is not so tiny anymore either.

A few days before our Autumn Break, I was on the doorstep early in the morning, just before the shop opened, hoping for a quiet moment without other customers. I was lucky and had the shop to myself for a bit, so that I didn’t have to choose yarn in a hurry and also had the time to take pictures.

Wol zo Eerlijk still specializes in organic, sustainable and fair-trade yarns. The main components of these yarns are wool, cotton, linen or alpaca. But some contain more unusual fibres, such as yak, nettle or hemp. The sock yarn below is a blend of wool, biodegradable nylon (huh?!) and hemp.

The beautiful colours are a feast for the eyes – some really autumnal:

This is an organic wool-and-cotton yarn from Portugal.

There are also many yarns in lovely neutrals. As my own colouring is becoming more and more ‘neutral’, I don’t wear these shades anymore. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t like them.

This is a very soft blend of organic cotton and alpaca:

Among the shop samples, there is also a stack of sweaters in off-white and grey.

And next to that is a mannequin wearing a sweater with a very interesting neckline.

While I am browsing around the shop, Saskia is processing online orders. You can see her at work in the background, over the top of this vegan yarn composed of cotton and Lyocell.

On the other side of the display is this rainbow of colours. It’s a new yarn called ‘Balayage’ – a very soft wool-and-alpaca blend and one of the reasons for my visit.

Beautiful, isn’t it? It’s so nice to be able to browse around, see the colours in person and have a chat. It feels surreal and uncomfortable that there is a plastic screen between us at the till and we are both wearing face masks. I don’t go out enough to get used to that, but if we can keep the virus from spreading this way and keep ‘non-essential’ shops like these open, you won’t hear me complaining.

After my visit to the shop, I had a quick stroll through the old part of the village. (Is there such a thing as a quick stroll? It was quick because it was raining and I needed a loo. That can be a bit of a problem with all restaurants and cafés closed.)

Unlike some other villages, Vries still has a good range of shops, with two clothes shops, a supermarket, an antiques seller,

a butcher,  a baker,

and a flower shop with a lovely display of crysanths and pumpkins outside.

And best of all a not-so-tiny-anymore yarn shop!

This is what I came home with:

  • Several balls of purple wool-and-alpaca yarn for a scarf that knits up quickly and is almost finished now.
  • Two 25-gram balls of red wool from Yorkshire for a project that is nothing but an idea yet.
  • Sock blockers in two different sizes that have been on my wish list for quite a while and will be tried out as soon as I finish my current pair of socks.

More about these over the coming weeks or months. All the best, stay safe, and see you again soon! xxx

Autumn Break

Hello!

This week, we’re having an autumn break and I’m greeting you from our holiday cottage. Well, it’s our own home, actually. But we’re acting as if, saying things to each other like, ‘It’s a lovely holiday cottage, isn’t it?’ ‘Yes, it is. Not as tidy as I would have liked it, but it’s reasonably clean and the bed is very comfortable.’

Other holidays usually involve a Konditorei or a Patisserie, but as we’re staying home and don’t have any of those around, I also play acted at being a pâtissier and baked an apple and blueberry crumble pie on our first day off.

I’m sending you a virtual slice. Can you smell that sweet, warm, comforting apple and cinnamon aroma?

We’ve been working all through the summer, and the main aim of this week is to rest, relax and recharge. For us, some of the best ways of doing that (apart from eating apple pie) are going for walks, reading,

knitting (that’s just me),

and generally loafing around. My knitting is all purple this week – my umpteenth pair of socks and a scarf. More about those soon. Now I really want to share some of our walks with you. They are in some of my favourite places. But I don’t want to spend too much time at the computer, so I’ll mainly let the pictures speak for themselves.

Our first walk takes us to Vollenhove, the lovely little town where I sometimes come to buy a pair of good, old-fashioned, sensible shoes. Vollenhove is a former seaside town now surrounded by land. There is still a small harbour for pleasure boats.

It has a rich history, with some old houses beautifully maintained…

… and others a little less well kept.

Vollenhove also has a really, really beautiful walled garden. Maybe we can come back and visit that in spring or summer next year.

Our second walk is a walk down memory lane, outside the dyke on the Frisian coast.

It’s cold, wet and windy and I’m so glad I’m wearing my warm winter coat.

There is nobody around but us…

… and birds, many, many birds.

Ahhh, all that space, fresh air, invigorating wind. We’re outside the dyke here, a part of the country that gets flooded from time to time.

Looking back, you can see a church spire behind the dyke. That’s the village were we lived for 15 years when we were just married and where our daughter was born.

Somebody has painted words on the dyke.

In Frisian:

It lân fan moarn
Freget
De moed van hjoed

Translated:

Tomorrow’s country
Needs
Today’s courage

Hmmm, something to ponder.

Now, on to our last walk. This is just outside the village with the Tiny yarn shop I wrote about a while ago. There is some news about that and I’ll come back to that soon. For now, here is an impression of the area.

Don’t you just love that golden autumn light?

Well, that’s all for today. I hope you’ve enjoyed this virtual autumn break. I’m going back to my knitting now and hope to see you here again next week for a yarn-filled post. Bye!

Nuts and Knits

When we moved here 18 years ago, friends gave us a walnut tree. Or rather a tiny sapling that had sprung up in their garden. It has grown, and grown, and grown, and now provides a shady spot for lilies of the valley, ferns and wood anemones.

It also provides us with nuts. Last year, many were shrivelled up inside their shells. 2020 is a much better walnut year. Still, our harvest isn’t huge. It’s the magpies, you see. They love walnuts, and this year there is a large magpie family to feed. Fortunately they are generous enough to leave us a few, too.

This is our share of the walnut harvest this year.

Our big old pear tree has also done very well. Last year, it didn’t give us a single pear, but this year it produced masses. So many, that we couldn’t possibly eat even a tenth of them. So one evening, I loaded wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow with pears to share with everybody in the neighbourhood who wanted some. A great opportunity to catch up on all the local news, too!

And then there were still many left on the tree to share with a big and noisy travelling band of starlings.

Now, the tree is dropping its last few pears…

… and also starting to shed its leaves, now a dull brown. Among the pear leaves, there are some fiery red ones blown over from the Amelanchier, like chili peppers in the grass.

It is really starting to feel like autumn. The temperature is dropping, and it is getting dark soon after our evening meal. Although I knit all year round, for me this time of year always feels like the start of the ‘real’ knitting season.

I realize that I tend to write about my knitting projects mostly when starting and finishing them – the most interesting moments. Now, for a change, here are two of my knitting projects in progress.

Here is my Indigo Sea Shawl on the needles.

I’ve thrown it into a corner taken a break from it, because one of the skeins was colouring my hands and the white blouse I was wearing blue. Aaaargh!

After a while I ripped the offending part out, washed the yarn, rinsed it, gave it a vinegar bath and rinsed it again and again, until it (almost) stopped bleeding.

Now I’ve picked up the needles again and have almost finished it. I’m thinking of a slightly more interesting edge than just an ordinary bind-off.

I’m also still knitting on my Panel Debate cardigan. Progress is slow. For one thing, yarn and needles are very fine. For another, I’ve been knitting socks and other small items in between.

I’m now determined to speed the process up because I want to wear it. And also because I feel like starting something new – something warm, cosy and woolly.

Unfortunately, I can’t literally share our nuts and pears with you here. But I can share a recipe using them. Here is my simple Pear & Walnut Salad recipe.

Pear & Walnut Salad

Serves 2 as a side dish or starter

Ingredients

  • 50 g mixed salad leaves
  • 8 walnuts
  • ½ pear

For the dressing:

  • 1½ tbsp (olive)oil
  • ½ tbsp good white wine vinegar
  • ¾ tbsp honey mustard
  • A pinch of sea salt
  • Some freshly milled black pepper

Method

  • Roast the walnuts in a dry frying pan and leave to cool
  • Rinse the salad leaves and gently pat dry with a clean tea towel
  • Halve the walnuts. Leave some halves whole and chop the rest coarsely
  • Whisk all the dressing ingredients together until they form a thick and smooth sauce
  • Mix the salad leaves with the chopped walnuts and arrange them on a plate. Distribute blobs of dressing over it
  • Peel and core the pear. Cut into thick slices and arrange on top of the salad leaves
  • Finally, add the walnut halves

Serve immediately and enjoy!

Ordinary Autumn Days

Most of my days are ordinary days. And November is, perhaps, the most ordinary month of the year. Nothing special seems to be happening.

I’m fine with that. It makes me appreciate the little things in life more. Like the meadow saffron on our window sill.

The bulb was a birthday gift from my BFF, and it has given me flowers for over two months. It’s finished flowering now, and we’ve planted it in the garden, along with many other bulbs – snowdrops, miniature daffodils, crocuses, winter aconites and purple and yellow dwarf irises.

The garden work is done. All we can do now, is wait for spring.

My days are filled with ordinary things, like computer work, housework and reading. This is the book I’m reading now – Circe (translated into Dutch under the same title).

Greek mythology told from the viewpoint of a woman (well, Circe is actually a minor goddess, but still a female). It’s a great read. As far as I know, the ancient Greeks and their gods didn’t knit, but there is some weaving in it. Spell weaving, but also actual weaving on a loom, made by Daedalus.

There’s some knitting woven through my days, too, of course. At lunch time, I knit a few rows on an ordinary sock.

It’s a simple pleasure, easy to pick up for a few minutes and put down again until later.

As I work from home, it’s tempting to stay indoors all day on dark, rainy days.

But I make a point of going out every single day, to get as much fresh air, exercise and daylight as I can, no matter what the weather. Sometimes, when I think of it, I take some pictures of ordinary things along the way.

Now and then, in between the gloomy and overcast days, we’re treated to a day of glorious sunshine. It’s an extra treat when this happens on a Sunday, when we’re able to take a longer walk…

… and enjoy the sun illuminating yellowed moor grass along the water’s edge…

… tufts of moor grass growing in the water…

… and the still surface of a small lake mirroring some birches.

It gets dark early and the evenings are long. Every evening I add a few centimetres to the simple cardigan I’m knitting.

And I finally find the time to weave in the ends of some dishcloths that I knit a while ago.

Ordinary things. Simple pleasures. Nothing special.

Having said all that, I do have something special to celebrate next week. I hope you’ll join me again then.

Autumn Colours

Autumn is mushroom time. It’s a terrible cliché, I know, but it’s true. As soon as it was officially autumn, mushrooms started springing up like, well, mushrooms in the woodland on our doorstep.

Or perhaps I should say mushrooms and toadstools. I keep having difficulty with the distinction. In Dutch we call them all paddenstoelen, which literally means toadstools.

I’ve been taught that mushrooms are, on the whole, the ones you can eat, while toadstools are the poisonous ones. But what if you see a beautiful specimen and don’t know if it’s edible or not? What do you do then?

‘Look, what a beautiful… errr’

‘Hang on a minute, I need to look it up in my field guide first. Yes, here it is – I think it’s a blusher. That’s edible, so, ‘What a beautiful mushroom!’ (Or, wait, it may be a false blusher, which is poisonous, so…)

Maybe other people aren’t bothered by this, but I am. I may have left the translation world last year, but the translator inside hasn’t left me. I’m still very much focused on words.

It’s not just the mushroom/toadstool distinction that’s bothering me. It’s also the word toadstool itself.

On one of our recent walks I nearly stepped onto a toad.

Can you imagine it sitting on one of these fragile stools?

Or on one of these?

It would never work. The only fungus that would hold a big fat toad without breaking that I can think of, would be a cep. But that’s a mushroom.

It’s all very confusing.

It’s the same with some knitting-related words, like sweater, jumper, pullover and jersey. Very confusing.

Ravelry, the big online knitting platform most of you will be familiar with, helps a little. In its vast pattern archive it uses ‘sweater’ (124,663 patterns!) as an umbrella term, and in that category distinguishes between ‘cardigan’, ‘pullover’ and ‘other’. But what about jumper and jersey? And why are sweaters called sweaters?

I don’t know. But there’s one thing that I do know, and that is that it’s sweater weather again. Looking for some inspiration, I bought Kim Hargreaves’ new pattern book – Covet.

Kim Hargreaves started out as a designer for Rowan, but has been working as an independent designer for many years since. I like her designs a lot because they are timeless classics with great attention to detail.

There are 12 designs in Covet: 5 cardigans, 5 pullovers, 1 dress that can be shortened to a pullover (which Kim calls a sweater) and 1 granny square crochet wrap in a bulky yarn. No hats or scarves this time.

I love the cable designs and also the seemingly simple ones in stocking stitch. I’m not a big fan of the new bell sleeves, though, and I can’t see myself or anyone I know wearing the figure-hugging knee-length dress in a very warm wool and alpaca blend knit on 6 mm needles. With a polo neck. Just thinking of it makes me break out in a sweat. Taken literally, sweater would be a better word for this design than dress.

A design that drew my eye immediately was ‘Devote’, a cardigan with a stunning shawl collar.

Beautiful! And it also has some lovely decorative decreases on the sleeves, too. But the shape is not suitable for me, alas. Too short and tapering down to a narrow waist. I could probably adapt it, but this time I was looking for something to knit straight from a pattern.

So I got out some of her older books. Even books from years ago don’t look dated – that’s quite an achievement. Earlier this year, Kim let us know that some of her books won’t be reprinted anymore, so if you’d like to add some to your knitting library, don’t wait too long. You can find them all here on her website.

One of my favourite Kim Hargreaves books is Pale, which was published in 2018. There are several patterns in it that I’d love to knit. To start with, I’ve chosen a cardigan pattern called ‘Fair’.

It’s a simple little cardi in stocking stitch, but with a great fit and lovely details, like integrated pockets with rolled tops, a neat button band and side vents. It’s designed for a new yarn – an airy cotton and alpaca blend – that I’d like to give a try. It’s called Alpaca Classic and it looks very light and soft.

Now to choose a colour.

Autumn is the season of oranges, yellows and reds. I love these bright spots of colour in gardens and woods at this time of year.

The brightness of the yellow stagshorn (above) is a sight that makes me very happy. And it’s the same with the orange lanterns of the Japanese Lantern.

And then there’s red, from the bright red of the fly agaric at the top of this post to the deep dark red of these beautiful heart shaped leaves.

These are cheerful accents in a world that is gradually turning brown, but… apart from some shades of red, I never wear autumn colours. They just don’t go with my hair and skin tone. Fortunately the yarn for the cardigan I want to knit comes in many shades. I dithered between several, but finally chose blue (again – it’s my go-to colour).

The yarn producer, Rowan, calls this shade ‘Peacock’, but I don’t think it looks like peacock feathers at all. To my eye, it is somewhere between turquoise and sky blue. Could I call it ‘Autumn Sky on a Sunny Day’? I’m looking forward to knitting with it.

Coming back to the ‘real’ autumn colours, although I will never wear them in large doses, I can see me using them in small quantities, as accents in combination with other colours. I’d like to get out of my colour comfort zone a little and to experiment with them in that way. So last weekend, I chose a few small balls of yarn in autumn colours to play with.

I bought these during a visit to two very special yarn shops I’d never been to before. Now I’m in doubt as to whether I should write about these shops – or yarn shops in general – on my blog.

On the one hand, I’d love to, and I think it could be interesting and useful. For me, it’s about more than shopping and buying. It’s also about creativity, colour, inspiration and meeting like-minded people.

But on the other, won’t it seem terribly commercial, as if I’m advertising for these shops? (Which I don’t want to do – I prefer to stay independent). Will people in other countries want to read about yarn shops in the Netherlands (and some in Belgium in Germany perhaps)? Does anyone want to read about yarn shops at all, for that matter?

I’ve been thinking about this for quite a while, but so far have been unable to make up my mind. If you have any ideas, thoughts or opinions on this, I would appreciate your input very much. Thank you for reading. Have a lovely week and until next time!

Buachaille Bunnet & Cowl

Mid-November our first spell of cold weather arrived. One Sunday morning we woke to a wonderfully quiet, frozen world. We often spend our Sundays (or at least part of them) walking or cycling. On this Sunday we couldn’t wait to get outside, and we set out for a walk straight after breakfast.

The thermometer indicated zero degrees Celsius. The fallen leaves were white with frost, the air was crisp and the sky was a clear, pale blue. During the night a thin film of ice had formed on the pools.

Aaahhh, bliss! I love this kind of weather. It makes me feel happy and energized. And what made me doubly happy on this morning was that I finally, finally got to wear the hat and cowl that I’d finished knitting in spring. Here’s the hat:

The hat

For the hat, I used a pattern called ‘Bunnet’ by Kate Davies, a writer and designer living along the West Highland Way in Scotland. Kate tells us that bunnet is ‘a colloquial Scots term for a hat’, and in particular ‘the headgear of an ordinary working man.’

To my mind, Kate’s bunnet is ideal for an ordinary walking woman, too, as it is the only hat I’ve ever owned that actually stays put. I think that’s largely due to the multi-coloured corrugated ribbing in the brim.

Apart from a colourful brim, the hat has a lovely star shape on the crown.

The yarn

I knit the hat in Kate’s own Buachaille, a wonderful warm, woolly yarn. Buachaille. It takes quite a bit of courage to choose a name that is so difficult to pronounce and remember for a yarn. But for me, as an ex-translator, it is an extra attraction. I love the shapes and sounds of words, and immediately delved into this one. It turns out that Buachaille is pronounced something like boo-chal-ya and means herdsman or shepherd. The yarn comes in 11 colours, with lovely names like Moonlicht Nicht (the deep blue main colour of my hat), Ptarmigan (natural white) and Between Weathers (sky blue).

The cowl

When I’d finished the hat, I decided that I would like a matching cowl. So I looked closely at Kate’s pattern and came up with this:

I also photographed the cowl flat, so that you can see the pattern more clearly.

I started and ended with the same corrugated ribbing as in my Bunnet. In the middle I used the pattern from the crown, with diamonds inserted between the ‘arrows’ and the entire pattern turned upside down for the second half.

For a little extra interest I knit one half with dark blue Moonlicht Nicht as the background colour, and the other half with raspberry red Macallum.

You can find more details about the hat and the cowl as well as some extra photos on Ravelry.

For anyone who’d like to make their own Bunnet, the  pattern is from Buachaille: At home in the Highlands, a book with twelve knitting patterns, several Scottish recipes and a route for a walk in the West Highlands.

Walking on

After taking pictures of the hat and cowl we continued our walk. First the path led us through a wood…

Then along a stand of birches, with the bright sunlight accenting the white of their trunks.

On past a majestic pine tree.

And finally across some heathland, where we stumbled on these beauties:

One of our local flocks of sheep. We had an interesting chat with one of the shepherds, but this blog post is long enough as it is, so I’ll keep that for some other time.

Note: This post is not sponsored in any way. I write about things I like just because I like them.