Monday, 29 March 2010

Catalonia (don't call it Spain)

Last Monday I left my surprisingly Spring-like home in England to come to Barcelona to visit family and soak in some sunshine. After intense fears that it would rain the entire time, I haven't seen a drop, but I hear it's supposed to snow in Cheshire on Wednesday. Take that, weather.

Spain Catalonia has been a mixed bag for me. While it's gorgeous and interesting and culturally different (though still intensely reminds me of my visit to Rome), some of the cultural differences are a bit extreme. Like the caged pet stalls on Las Ramblas where birds are a dozen to one small cage, and everything from roosters to pigeons and tortoises are kept in very close quarters, overnight, or the prostitutes that stand on the side of the motorway (more coming on Stop the Traffik next week). And (this coming from a vegetarian) the cebo legs hanging from the wall at the supermarket aren't exactly appetizing.

But it has some good points. Very little litter. Very good recycling. My family. The sunshine. And while the bad points reveal some extremely iffy legal issues, I feel that I have to embrace the good I find, and campaign about the rest.


Anyway, on to the pretty. (You can click on the pictures to make them bigger).

The Mediterranean



Monument to Joan of Arc on Montserrat


Tiny Daffodils from Montserrat

Votive Candles at the Monastery

Sagrada Familia

Cactus Flower


Next up, All You Knit is Love, the LYS. Can't wait!

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Bread Machine Soft Pretzels

I'm a sucker for soft pretzels. I've made a few different variations, starting with a version with plain (unbleached all-purpose) flour, to strong white flour, to this version, with a 50/50 cut of wholemeal (wholewheat) and white bread flours. These are the softest I've made.

Use the 50/50 recipe given here for a healthier, slightly sweeter pretzel, perfect for cinnamon and sugar toppings, or tempered with a dash of kosher salt, or substitute your own bread machine dough recipe with your preferred mixture of flours.

You'll need:
Ingredients for dough
Extra oil/butter for keeping hands ready to work dough
25g of butter for brushing on pretzels, melted
1 tsp sugar dissolved in a shallow bowl of water
Coarse (kosher) salt (optional)
Toppings (optional)

Part 1: The Dough.

50/50 Wholemeal Dough (from recipe book for Panasonic SD-255; I recommend checking your manual for order instructions and recipes specific to your machine)

1 1/4 tsp instant yeast
275g (10oz) Strong Wholemeal (wholewheat) Flour
275g (10oz) Strong White Flour
2 tsp sugar
2 tbsp oil
1 1/2 tsp salt
340ml water

Put into bread machine in specified order and set to whole wheat-dough cycle and leave to finish.

Part 2: Baking Preparations
Note: You'll want to keep your hands oiled for this

Preheat the oven to 230° C (450° F).

After your bread machine has finished with the dough cycle, separate resulting dough into 8-12 rough balls. Let rest, uncovered, for five minutes. Keeping hands oiled, roll each into ~18in length, shape into pretzel shape (as you can see, it's hard to get them perfect with dough that rises this much, so I wouldn't worry too much about it). Dip pretzel into sugar-water and set on greased baking sheet (parchment paper works great, as well). You may want to shape all pretzels before dipping them into the sugar water, to keep your hands from diluting the flour and the dough sticking to your hands while you roll them.

Sprinkle pretzels with coarse salt, if desired, and let pretzels sit for 10 minutes.

Part 3: Bake and Decorate

Bake for 8-10 minutes. The edges should be slightly golden brown (more pronounced if using white flour). Immediately take pretzels from oven and brush with melted butter. I usually put 2-3 coats on mine. If desired, sprinkle desired toppings (cinnamon and sugar is a favourite) on to pretzels and transfer to a wire rack to cool.


Friday, 12 March 2010

Butterfly Forest Shawls

Just thought I'd feature a few Butterfly Forest Shawls that have caught my eye over the past couple of weeks!

Esmerelda made this lovely shawl from Wollmeise 100% Merino Superwash in colour Spice Market.

From her flickr page.

Landers has made a stunning rendition in deliciously pink Posh Yarn Lei, in colour Hearststrings. I love how she used to the snow for her photography, using it to reflect light back on and highlight the lace. It's always so hard to photograph, especially in this colour, and she did it perfectly!

And from Minstrelspinner, we have a gorgeous piece made from her own handspun.

I am in awe of her spinning skills. It's so even!

Close up.

One of my favourite things is seeing so many people from around the world posting their completed projects. There are lots more beautiful projects in the Project Gallery on Ravelry. I can't wait to see more!

Monday, 1 March 2010

Yarny Yarn Yarn!

I despaired in January when I gave up buying yarn until July so I could buy a new camera. But my self-control has been rewarded; I was amazingly lucky enough to win a yarn haul a few weeks ago, on a raffle on Ravelry where proceeds went to send a Raveler to do dental work in Senegal.

I don't usually win things, so it wasn't a surprise that the package took so long to get to me, cost me 22 pounds to get out of Customs limbo, and then floated around the post system for nearly a week before I biked to the sorting centre and got it myself. But I have it! And it's beautiful! Thank you so much, Bradymom29 for organizing this and for all the helpers and volunteers.

And now for pictures.


Gorgeous Malabrigo Sock in Abril

Yarn Pirate Superwash Merino Sock in Hard Cider

Classic Elite Inca Alpaca in Rio Red (on my husband's knee)

Flydesigns Monarch in Myst

Textiles a Mano Vail in Autumn (destined to be a pair of husband socks)

And a cute sheepy pendent!

Also a lovely skein of Colinette Jitterbug in Oyster Blush (which didn't make it on to the camera I'd given up yarn for before I forgot my memory card at home and the internal memory was full). To top it all off, it was a gorgeous first day of March and we spent the late afternoon in the park. So in celebration here's a bonus squirrel:

Happy almost Spring!