Alice prescribed a bit of buffing, so I've done my desk today, taking everything off to give it a thorough dust and polish, admiring the sheen, and then - sorry DP - putting most things back.
We've talked about desks before and I've said that while mine is always pretty tidy, it is also always well populated with 'stuff' - the essential, the decorative, and bits and pieces to which I have a sentimental attachment. These features of the working landscape (which change from time to time) don't get in the way or distract me, but seeing that clear expanse of oak and leather may just prompt a further edit.
"Nesbit indulges her own visual tastes in The Lark; her love of flowers, fabrics, glass, china, old pewter, well-made furniture, 'mellow Persian carpets', 'the dusky splendour of old calf and morocco', with 'gilded lettering like rows of little sparks', enriches every page."
As stout soups go, this one takes on all comers. I make it often and always double the quantity of beans and pasta (I use orzo instead of spaghetti). The parmesan crisps are fine if you're being fancy, but today we had it with Hugh's soda bread: nothing more needed.
Balsamic onion soda bread from Flora Shedden's Gatherings. I'd put it in the oven before I realised that the recipe does not include salt, so I whipped it out and in a 'better than nothing' gesture sprinkled some of Maldon's finest on the top.
The inclusion of yogurt in the dough and the flavours of the balsamic vinegar-enhanced shallots meant that it wasn't as lacking in taste as I'd feared, but bear in mind the omission, should you make it, as I found on my second go that a little seasoning does help it along.
The bread has gone down well here, partnering variously chestnut soup, the baked eggs with chard (or in our case, kale, as there was no chard to be had) which also comes from Gatherings and which we've now had several times, so quick and good is it, and finally as part of a 'deconstructed' bruschetta type of thing with avocado, tomato, mozzarella, salami, and rocket.
If the pictures suggest it's a small loaf, it's not - the end bit was all that was left to photograph, and even it disappeared sharpish.
A visual feast it certainly was, however, as the film took in other works by Vermeer, together with - as its title suggests - many more of the Girl's companions in the Mauritshuis from The Goldfinch to Rembrandt's The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp (note the theme developing here as all these paintings have featured in novels). Hugh Bonneville provided some of the narration, Tracy Chevalier herself was in it, and art historians many and various gave expert commentary. Although this review is a bit sniffy, I think it's well worth seeing if you get the chance.
This Dandie Dinmont is called Callum; (the rodent is unidentified). Painted by John Emms in 1895, he hangs in Edinburgh's National Gallery where you could easily walk by and not pay him much attention, but he deserves a second look because it's on account of this 'wee dug' that the gallery got a big legacy:
"Callum was [...] owned by Mr James Cowan Smith who bequeathed £55,000 to the National Gallery of Scotland in 1919. This enormous amount formed an important trust fund for acquisitions. His bequest had two conditions: the first that the Gallery provided for his dog Fury, who survived him; the second that Emms’ picture of his previous dog Callum should always be hung in the Gallery. Both conditions were fulfilled, and although Fury is long since dead, Callum still hangs in the Gallery in memory of his owner."
Anne asked the other day if I had any recommendations for sources of sock yarn, and I'm very glad to oblige. Many of the dyers whose wares I've used are listed in two posts from a while ago, here and here, but it's a good idea to bring that up to date.
I'll preface the list by saying that while in most cases I have used wool I've bought from a given dyer, in others it's still waiting to be cast on, so I can't comment on how well it wears or washes. Regarding non-UK dyers, customs charges, fluctuating exchange rates and shipping costs mean that sometimes their wool is affordable and sometimes it's harder to justify - I try to use my common sense, but occasionally have a splurge.
In no particular order, then:
Viola - Emily's yarns have a bit of a cult following and fly off the shelves. Her subtly speckled skeins (such as those shown above) are beautiful.
Elm Tree Yarns - Dianne's prices seem very reasonable; I bought a spruce green alpaca/silk/cashmere recently which was a snip.
Norah George - Harry Potter-themed yarns, Mrs. Weasley's knit club, colourways inspired by great characters from literature... Tracy has all this and more.
Meadow Yarn - a small online yarn shop with a good range and speedy service.
To end, two shops I've recently discovered, haven't yet bought from, but have my eye on:
Tuskenknits - Maria's colours are lovely and she sells out fast, but one of these days I'll be awake at update time (she's in NW America), shall say 'hang the expense' and buy a skein. You can get a feel for her work on her lovely Instagram gallery.
In her comment on yesterday's post Grace asked for suggestions or tips for having a go at sock knitting. This post pretty well covers the subject, but I might add one or two things:
you could try using DK yarn for your first pair as that would mean you'd be working with fewer stitches (say 48 for the women's size) and slightly larger needles which you might find easier to manage; here's one I made earlier;
you could make very short socks such as these, eliminating the slightly tedious ribbing and getting quick results;
for techniques you're unfamiliar with, Youtube has many, many videos to show you how to do the various stages, so that's a great resource, as are Craftsy classes such as this one, by the look of it (NB I've never taken a Craftsy class but I hear good things of them).
As I've said before, if I can make socks, anyone can, so be not afraid and have a go.
This hellebore-hued wool is from Fondant Fibre and is called 'Ganache'; the contrast is 'Reflection' from Mellifera Yarns (though unfortunately Mel is not dyeing at the moment). The pattern is Vanilla Latte Socks by Virginia Rose-Jeanes, and for yarn comparison purposes there's a slightly wilder pair here.
I've just come upon the short films of photographer Alun Callender, video portraits of artists and craftspeople. If you're fascinated by the magic of making, or simply want to brighten your day with a series of pleasing images and sounds, do take a look - they are a quiet joy to watch. I've posted a couple below but if you follow the first link above you'll find more.
Whenever an Ehrman needlepoint catalogue or brochure arrives, I delight in choosing - if not actually buying - future projects, and they'll be a long way in the future, if my rate of progress on current canvases is anything to go by ... Anyway, among their current sale kits are several by Raymond Honeyman whose use of strong, stylised flower motifs (as in Irises, above) and repeating pattern appeals to me. This post includes a video in which he talks about his influences and working methods.
Flora Shedden was the youngest ever contestant when she took part in the 2015 Great British Bake Off. She comes from my parents' neck-of-the-woods in Perthshire, so as the local girl we were cheering her on. She reached the semi-final in fine style and impressed everyone with her skill, creativity, and flair under pressure.
Flora's first book, Gatherings, is out today, but I was able to pick up a copy in Topping & Co., St. Andrews at the weekend so I've had a good look at it already and it's excellent - full of delicious-looking, easily-made food. Thus far we've made the Slow Roast Pork Belly with Mustard Mash and Onions, and the Greens, Quinoa and Black Onion Seed Salad, both dishes worth repeating soon.
The book is subtitled 'Recipes for Feasts Great and Small', and described as "a mixture of modern dishes, staple snacks, salads and sides, interesting bakes, and puddings perfect to end a feast with. Nothing overly fussy or complicated, just tasty, pretty plates of food." Visually it's a delight, but it's a work of substance as well as style, a book I'm keen to cook more from.
Well done to Flora for her debut, and good luck to her for the forthcoming opening of her shop in Dunkeld - I'm looking forward to being a customer.