Tuesday 23 June 2015

The Bikram Diaries: 5

It has been difficult to get to bikram as regularly lately, what with all the marking and such. However, I've tried to squeeze in at least one class a week and, oddly, I think I am making more progress than when I was managing several a week.

Today was class 31 and it was a momentous day because I managed to finally grab both feet at the same time in bow pose. It only took 31 tries, haha. Laura the instructor came over to try to help me, but then in the end I managed on my own. And I managed a good standing bow pose holding my left leg. Laura said it was gorgeous. I think she was carried away in the euphoria of my bow pose success.

The increased flexibility is making life a bit easier in small and interesting ways. I can sit comfortably cross-legged again now: I haven't been able to do that for years. I had to miss about 10 days due to all the exam board meetings and when I went back to class on Sunday morning, we got to the triangle pose, which many of the instructors refer to as the peak of the standing series, and as I sank my hips down into it I felt very calm and the stretch felt amazing. I was marvelling at how I had progressed from the start when I despised it and how good it felt to stretch my hips after having three day-long meetings in four days. Then I realised everybody else had finished and moved onto the other side. Doh. I had completely zoned out: that would never have happened at the start.

I haven't used my yoga app again yet but, well. Small steps and that.

Friday 19 June 2015

Weekend FO: Tequila Sunrise

It's another tequila sunrise, stirring slowly cross the skyyyyyyyy....

Pattern: Timetable Pullover by Andrea Sanchez
Yarn: Midwinter Lithuanian Linen, heavy laceweight, held double, 4 skeins minus about 2m, 1 x Coral, 1 x Glow, 2 x Cherry (1800m! That has done wonders for my yarn total for the year)
Needle: 2.75mm. I still have the callous on my index finger to prove it.
Mods: No sleeves. I didn't do the short rows and patterning across the bottom; I might have done if I had had the yarn, but instead I knitted 2x2 rib for about 4 rows, continuing the pattern on the sides as set. I did this ribbing for 3 rows on the sleeve edges as well. I think I might have added 2 more sets of increases, too - I just kept knitting until it was clear the yarn was going to run out.

The stripes don't look as I expected: I had planned to have 4 even bands of colour with a wider red one at the bottom. Plans, eh? If I had been really committed to that plan I would have done some actual maths instead of just dividing the length of the garment by 5. Learning curve. Here's what I had left:


I am really very pleased with it, because I knew that detail would really sing in the linen and it really does! This is my third 100% linen garment.

Finished in just over a month; I finished it last weekend when I had to spend the day at the Parents Z's house, because our internet went down on the day of the online marking meeting. Of course. Luckily this meant that nobody else had any computer problems so the meeting was really straightforward for me. And just as well it was finished then, because I haven't had time to put a stitch on anything since then.

Sunday 7 June 2015

Weekend Baking: Chocolate Blackout Cupcakes

I came across this recipe after reading an article decrying the use of cup measurements in American recipes, due to the vagueness of them. Someone else pointed out that they were perfect for a nation that essentially settled in wagons and couldn't carry scales with them, which I thought was a very good point and very well made.

Anyway, the cake. I picked this recipe because it looked sinfully good and I wanted some very chocolatey cupcakes to take for Y11 revision last weekend. These are definitely it. I knew when I saw the amount of cocoa needed that they would be.

For the custard:
175g granulated sugar
4½ tbsp cornflour
450ml single cream
270ml full-fat milk
150g dark chocolate (I used 90% cocoa)
2 tsp vanilla extract

For the cakes:
200g cocoa powder
225g butter
500g granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1½ tsp vanilla extract
350g plain flour
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp baking-powder

Prepare the custard: it needs time to set. Combine the sugar, cornflour, ½ tsp salt, cream and milk in a large pan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Once thickened, remove from the heat, add the chocolate and vanilla. Transfer to a bowl to cool. Later on you'll probably be whisking it so put it in one you can use with a whisk. Press greaseproof paper or clingfilm on to the custard surface. Chill.

Place the cocoa powder in a heatproof bowl. Add 425ml boiled water. Whisk together, and leave to cool. It will look like the most delicious chocolate sauce you have ever seen in your life, but don't try it. Le hub made this mistake and ended up spitting into the sink - and this is a man who has previously tried Brasso.

Preheat the oven to 175°C. Sort out the cupcake tins - this makes at least 24 so if you've only got one tin, you'll need to do it in batches.

Cream together the butter and sugar then beat in the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla. Sift together the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking-powder and ½ tsp salt. Add to the mixture in three batches, alternating with the cooled cocoa mixture and finishing with the flour.

Scoop the mixture into the cupcake cases. Bake for about half an hour, until springy. Once cool, smear with a generous layer of the chocolate custard.

I think next time I might go the whole hog and add chocolate chips.

Weekend WIP

I am still doggedly plugging away at the linen. I have poked a hole in my index finger with the pointy needle. I have had to break out hand cream because the yarn is so rough. I think it's safe to say I am past enjoyment with this now and just want the frigging thing to be finished.

Admittedly, the colours are keeping me going. I think it's going to be impossible to properly capture them - the red is really vivid. In spite of the uneven nature of the stripes, I am really pleased with how it is knitting up. The increase/decrease detailing is so crisp and proud.

I tried it on when I got to the end of the decreases and it is snug. Probably more snug than the designer intended, but not uncomfortable or unflattering. I imagine it will give a little with blocking, too, given my experience with linen in the past. I am mainly hoping it will grow lengthwise because it was not even close to being long enough; although I will have added an extra couple of inches, I will be running out of yarn soon.

Looking forward to adding 1800 metres onto my "knit this year" log, admittedly. It will bring me within two garments of beating last year's total.