Author Archives: katedorcas

Hugh FW’s focaccia

We’ve been stuck in a food rut lately. Turning out the same 10 or so meals on rotation. I know why we do it – once we’ve found something everyone likes it’s too tempting to keep serving it up. It’s getting pretty dull though.

(Our standard family meals at this time of year are: soup & bread; macaroni cheese; sweetcorn fritters; pasta bake; veggie hot dogs; pizza; risotto; potato wedges & dips; tortilla chips & salsa & guacamole; fritatta omelette.)

So, to liven things up a bit, we’ve been trying a new recipe every week or so. This week it was Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s Blue Cheese, Red Onion and Walnut Focaccia from the Guardian (UK newspaper).

Blue cheese, red onion and walnut focaccia

I loved it, it was great with a bit of salad & would make a really substantial meal with a bowl of soup.

The littl’uns cheerfully eat gorgonzola and walnut tortellini so I did think this would be a winner. Sadly being able to actually see the blue cheese (ew! mould!) was a step too far & they don’t want it again so it’s not going to make it into our regular menus. Never mind, there’s plenty of lunches when they’re at school that I can eat it. All the more for me. Yum.


Not a chuffin puffin in sight

I went off on a little morning jaunt to a local seabird breeding ground with the aim of trying to spot me a puffin. I’ve been every year for the past 3 years; not seen one yet but I like to persevere. There are thousands of other breeding birds to entertain even if the puffins don’t make an appearance, plus the prospect of spotting dolphins at sea (none this year but a pod last).

The only downside is it is a bit pungent, but you do get used to the tang of ammonia after a while. The scale of the cliffs gives me the willies every time, I’ve never been a lover of heights and these are huge. Probably not such a good idea to get used to them, it would be all too easy to walk off the edge.

Although there must have been thousands of pairs, there were decidedly fewer birds than previous years. I wonder if the weather is to blame. ¬† We’ve not had a hard winter in our bit of Scotland but the rest of the UK has had it worse than usual and it’s certainly gone on and on and on.

I’m starting to give up hope of ever getting a glimpse of a puffin. There was a sign up in the hide at the end of the cliff path.¬† ’20 puffins seen 9th May – elusive since then’. Oh well, maybe next time.

How big are your hands?

I have absolutely no idea what happened to the last fortnight. I suspect some sort of super-local warping of the space-time continuum. I’m certain all the days happened, in their proper order, for all the things which I was meant to do on each day were, indeed, done; but spare time there was not.

We visited these shaggy beauties on my friends’ farm. I asked all the correct knitterly questions (breed etc) but none of the answers have stayed in my head. For want of a better picture, here are said sheep.


Since making our fingerless gloves, I’ve been pondering on the size of hands. It’s rather easy to find standard size charts for other parts of the body (eg here), but I couldn’t find anything for hands. I’m sure they must exist, just not in my personal library or on the corner of the internet I searched.

I did a completely unscientific analysis of the top 50 free fingerless glove patterns in Ravelry to get a feel for the sizes out there. A surprising number had no size info at all. Many of those that did give an indication of size were one-size-fits-all (women) and where there was a measurement it was 7 inches circumference. In very loose terms, ‘small’ is between 6 and 7 inches , ‘medium’ between 7 and 8 inches and ‘large’ 8 to 8.5 inches.

The most surprising thing (to me) was that I have always thought of my hands as being small. I’m pretty compact overall (others have used words such as ‘short’ or ‘petite’) and my hands seem in proportion to the rest of me; so, I’m small = my hands are small. Turns out they’re decidedly average – 7 inches – so I’m medium, not small after all. Who’d a thunk it. I suspect though that I might have stumpy fingers, but given that I have no standards to compare them to, I can’t be sure.

In the interest of science knitting, I am going to take my trusty tape measure and measure as many hands as I can persuade to be measured. (That’s a whole lot of measuring just in that sentence.) If anyone would like to help me out, I will be recording the following (preferably in centimetres; I am of an age that uses a hotch potch of metric and imperial – lengths are centimetres and metres except for human heights which are feet and inches; distances are miles. I know, it’s illogical but there you go.):

  1. Circumference, on the dominant hand, measured at the widest point, inside the thumb.
  2. Total hand length, from a point level with base of thumb to the tip of the middle finger
  3. Middle finger length
  4. Gusset height, from base of thumb to inside thumb
  5. Gender and age (ages in children, just ‘adult’ will do for the rest of us).

Hand measurements

My personal measurements are:

  1. 18cm (7in)
  2. 16.5cm (6.5in)
  3. 7cm (2.75in)
  4. 7cm (2.75in)
  5. F adult

If you’d like to help out by leaving your measurements in the comments, that’d be great. I promise to share the results.

*I recommend getting a helper. Measuring your own hand is not as easy as you might think*

We went to see the Queen

Well, we went to the Queen’s house anyway. She wasn’t there. I imagine she makes herself scarce when the hoi polloi have been given license to roam the grounds.

There’s an annual running event held at Queenie’s Scottish pad (Balmoral) which we’ve been to for the past few years. It’s a rather scenic spot; I can quite see why the royals like it.

Balmoral castle

The house (castle? palace?) is a bit of a strange one, you’d be forgiven for thinking it had been designed by an English architect who ‘made it Scottish’ by adding a rounded turret at every opportunity. The blinds were firmly shut so no opportunity for nosey parkers to have a peek inside.

Big littl’un would like to know why the Queen has several houses when some folk don’t have any. Answers on a postcard please; I failed miserably.

Run Balmoral has a mix of kids’ and adults’ races. The littl’uns ran first (a mile), then we had a couple of hours wait for the 10k in which the T-boy was running. Enough time for HOT TEA and HOT CHIPS with CHEESE (the food of champions, the littl’uns would have you believe). Very glad for the HOT food as it was a tad nippy, I believe there must have been an unspoken agreement not to mention that it very definitely snowed just a little bit at one point. Everyone just avoided looking at each other for a minute or so, then carried on like nothing had happened.

There was meant to be a minute silence in out of respect for the 3 people killed by the bombing at the Boston Marathon. The T-boy and I were both a little uncomfortable with this. It felt a lot like jumping on a bandwagon – I doubt there were many people at the event who knew any of the people directly affected. I did wonder, if the organisers were determined on showing their respect for something, whether it might have been more appropriate to hold a minute’s silence for the hundreds of people who were killed in the Dhaka factory collapse – I think it much more likely that runners or spectators would have been wearing clothes made in that factory complex, or another very like it. In the end the silence wasn’t particularly well announced and I don’t think the majority of people noticed it happening. I confess we were much more excited by the fire brigade’s demonstration of how not to put out a chip pan fire using water (Flames! smoke! heat!). (In case you happen to be cooking chips while reading, you need to know that you never ever put water on a chip pan fire. Official advice is to turn off the cooker and call the fire brigade. Unofficial advice (gleaned from me Mum) is to wet tea towels, wring them out and put them on the pan. Or the pan lid, if you can remember where you put it.)

My runners were all happy with their respective performances – they’d improved on their previous year’s times, which as we like to remind them, is all that matters. Beating other people isn’t the point.

Finally, to illustrate the oft quoted maxim that ‘money can’t buy taste’, I bring you Queenie’s equivalent of the garden gnome – the life-size plastic deer. There’s another one round the corner so it can’t have been a mistake. They amused me greatly (I am easily pleased).


Dashing from the garden

Far too glorious outside to be sitting indoors at a computer. Big littl’un declares that we’ve missed spring and gone straight to summer, and has been seen wearing a floaty frock. I’m not going that far – the voices in my head sound a lot like my Nanna, who would warn us ‘cast ne’er a clout ’til May be out’ – the inference being that if you were foolish enough to remove a layer and consequently caught a cold, don’t go crying to her about it. I did refrain from passing on those words of wisdom, but I didn’t take my jumper off.

I can’t get enough of my anemones. I thought I’d prefer the white ones (classy and understated, you know?), but secretly the rather garish purple blooms are the ones making me smile most.

The thing that made me smile most of all though was finding this little posy on the bathroom sink. It’s little littl’uns doing. She will be known, for the rest of the day, as Mrs Treasure.

posy of weeds

I have been pondering the size of things, hands in particular, more of which tomorrow if not the next day.


Wedding badger

Some old friends of ours are getting married today. The logistics of getting us all to England for the weekend proved impossible, so the T-boy set off on his own at an ungodly hour this morning.

I’m not an enormous fan of sending bought cards; they can be ridiculously expensive for a start and you know that they’re likely to be duplicated by other wedding guests. So I made our own. I had a phase of paper cutting a couple of years ago when it was all the rage in the online craft community, but haven’t done any for a while. This weekend’s wedding has a ‘vintage’ theme (eloquently described by the groom as ‘bunting and an old dress’) so paper cutting seemed like the perfect fit. I did it all with a craft knife but on reflection it might have been quicker to use scissors for some bits.

I should probably explain that the bride likes badgers.

Wedding badger

Congratulations guys.

Necessity being the mother of invention

It has been the most gloriously spring-like day. I have the aching body and ruddy face which only comes from spending the entire day outside and I am relishing it.

Spring has finally sprung; the snow in the Grampians is melting and flooding down by the river; I saw the first butterfly of the year (a red admiral); my anemones have opened all in a rush.

Mauve anemone

I weeded and cleared last year’s dead growth from my herbaceous borders, tidying up, splitting a few sprawling plants, remembering what I’ve planted in previous years and planning ahead. It always surprises me that I can happily clean and tidy for hours in the garden without getting restless, when half an hour doing housework inside can drive me to distraction.

The only slight irritation was the wet ground from recent rain. My knees were getting decidedly soggy, to the point where I almost regretted not buying a garden kneeler. In what can only be described as a moment of genius, I retrieved big littl’un’s leaky wellies from the bin and with nothing more than a pair of scissors, transformed them into my very own fully waterproof knee protectors. (The hardest part was hanging upside down in the wheelie bin trying to grab the wellies off the bottom.)

I doubt very much I’m the first person to upcycle wellies into kneelers so I shan’t claim to have invented them. Perhaps, to borrow the term from (my knitting hero) Elizabeth Zimmerman, I unvented them. They did the job anyway.