Sunday, 27 April 2008

Clapped out

I have been feeling extremely delicate today after having rather overindulged on the merlot last night at my birthday party. I feel it is grossly unfair that my headache was so bad this morning that I was driven howling from my bed at 7am on a feverish and mercifully successful search for ibuprofen, feeling every one of my wretched, soon to be 27 years. Probably more like 72 in fact.

The venue was the Island Queen, an excellent pub in Islington. Thank you to everyone who came along, and especially for all the lovely presents and for letting me open them even though my real birthday's not til Tuesday. Knitting present-wise, Ting spun me my very own Ginger Lucy yarn, from brown Falkland fibre washed in ginger and orange, and also gave me some gorgeous Posh Yarn Helena in Vamp; Gail made me a little sock bag out of sushi-covered fabric and gave me the Vogue Ultimate Sock Book. Thank you both, you are so clever! I also had a knit-your-own Shaun the Sheep kit from A, which is terribly cute. The lovely Lotta bought me some eyebrow-raising Nippies so that I don't fall out of my corset next time, and some fab chemistry-influenced salt and pepper pots. I also had theatre tokens, body creme and books from my wonderful generous friends.

All birthday parties need a cake, and who better to ask for one than our beautiful Anna from Rate My Cake? The challenge I laid down for the baking goddess was to make me a dark chocolate cake with white chocolate mint icing. I wish I'd taken a photo of the delicious, perfect creation she constructed, but we were far to eager to eat it, so I can only display the remnants:

Yum! You are truly the Mistress Baker, honey. And thank you all again!

So it was well worth the hangover today, although I may have been less patient with all the children in the butterfly house this afternoon than I should have been. At least I got to sweat out some of the toxins.

I've also finished knitting my giant green clapotis! There is still plenty of work to be done in running down the dropped stitches in the sticky yarn I've used, sewing in ends (seven skeins plus several knots = lots of ends) and blocking, but it may even be done before Friday's departure to Ecuador. It's only taken me since July. Pictures to follow as soon as it's done...

Friday, 11 April 2008

Gone to the dogs

My blogging really has gone to the dogs recently, hasn't it? I have a shameful four previous posts to fill in which are currently only titles, and I haven't written up my New York trip at all. I've had the time, surprisingly, but not the inclination. Perhaps I am just overwhelmed by the number of photos to process before I get it all done. Perhaps I am just too distracted by Ravelry and all the sagas of MCY, Magknits etc. Perhaps I am just a lazy cow. I see many blogs go through lulls so I don't feel all that bad, but it does weigh on my mind that it's not getting done. I will get it all patched up before I go on holiday next month.

I have been knitting though, and have finished one sock today (the first of a pair) and the end is finally in sight on the huge green Clapotis. I still have plenty of boxes to tick on my "clapometer" grid before I'm done, but I'm decreasing and so every row is quicker than the last. I love decreasing, I do. The sock knitting has been boosted by the fact that I am finally brave enough to sit and knit at work at lunchtimes. My colleagues and I always lunch together and generally sit around chatting in the canteen afterwards, so why not knit? The reaction hasn't been as surprised as I'd feared actually, and it really is upping my sock productivity no end.

I did really go to the dogs this week too though, to Walthamstow Stadium to be precise. I'd been to greyhound races before but not this one, which is probably the most famous in the UK. Unlike the gee-gees, dog racing in the UK at least has more working class origins, and is still rather less formal and significantly cheaper. Being really quite risk averse (I don't do the stock market) I like the fact that the minimum bet is 10p, and I stuck to betting anywhere between the minimum and a stonking 60p on each race of the evening. My strategy paid off - I ended the evening a whopping SEVEN WHOLE PENCE in profit! Hoorah! Perhaps it would have been better if my stakes had been higher, you know, earning me something in the pounds rather than pennies, but I'd have been too frightened to do it. At one point I was £2 up which would have paid for my morning soya latte, but I lost it all, sigh.  Never mind.  Low risk/low reward, that's me.  At least I didn't make a loss!

Here are some lovely sleek dogs preparing to madly chase the bunny:

They all looked so happy at the end of the race - they hadn't caught the hare but they were given a biscuit and their tails were wagging.

Walthamstow Stadium has a gorgeous art deco frontage with the neon sign that you'll see on their homepage, but inside it was the most 80's-tastic place I'd been to for ages, particularly the menu in the bit where we were sitting. We started off with avocado and prawns, and it went downhill from there (stylistically that is, it was actually quite tasty) to the finale: the Caribbean Pineapple:

That's right, a huge quarter pineapple, scooped out and filled with pineapple ice-cream, topped with two whole wafers. You don't get that sort of thing in central London any more, and it's a sadder place for it. Walthamstow Stadium, I salute you and your comedy puddings.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Saturday, 5 April 2008

World famous

It was the boyfriend's birthday yesterday (happy birthday darling) and his special request was that I bake the obligatory cakes to take in for his colleagues. I don't know why it has become de rigeur these days in offices, at least in London, for the birthday boy or girl to bring the cakes rather than being supplied with cakes by their adoring coworkers, but we must work with modern mores as we find them.

So how to prove to a whole office of people you don't know that you are the champion of cakes? No ability here to warm them up with lemon syrup, chocolate peanut butter icing or any of the other delights with which I have wooed my own colleagues. No, we needed to get hardcore. We needed to get serious. We needed Lucy's World Famous Triple Chocolate Brownies.

The above are some of the few I managed to annex for my own office. As you can see, they are chocolatey in the extreme. The recipe is a jealously-guarded secret from most people, but the batter is made with a lot of finest quality, high-cocoa dark chocolate, and large chunks of milk and white chocolate abound (the white being most obvious in photos). They are a heart attack on a plate, but I guarantee you'll die happy.

Why "world famous"? Well, I've certainly taken them as gifts all over Europe (America won't let me in with them, the fools), and they've been dispatched all over the UK by post. But this really stems from when my dear friend N was out teaching in a remote village near Kathmandu for several months, eating nothing but lentil stew for every single meal. N, already a fan of the brownies, told his fellow teachers and they begged me to send them some as respite from the horrors of yet more pulses. I tried, I really did, but the cheapest courier that would have got them there before they went funny was about £80, and we were all penniless students at the time so no deal, but I did send out batches to any of them who asked when they finished their travels.

Enough blowing my own brownie trumpet, although I heard the boyfriend may be in line for a promotion as a result. To celebrate further, we went to Shunt (again!) and were pleased to discover a bucolic scene filling the club, with real grass, flowers, birdsong, basins of wet sand to make sandcastles, and giant swan carriages. The boyfriend's alter ego, Dobin TheHorse (note spelling) came too, and we all had a go. Here's me as Dobin offering a ride to a random bloke who engaged Dobin in conversation. He didn't seem to mind at all, and Dobin thought it was excellent training for today's Grand National.

Hangover notwithstanding, today marked the first real progress in the Great Knitting Versus Climbing Challenge, with Gail making it to the climbing wall! Now just have to get him to start his scarf...