Wednesday, 5 August 2015

My (Not So Secret) Secret

Well, as you might have noticed, things have been quiet around these parts. I've actually taken my biggest ever break from writing Knitting on Trains since starting the blog almost five years and exactly 510 posts ago; I shared some pictures of our new teeny-weeny baby bunnies back in April (when they were about a million times smaller and fluffier than they are now) and haven't blogged since. 

So what's my not-so-secret secret? I've basically abandoned Knitting on Trains. Let it go to seed. I haven't even logged onto Blogger in three months and Bloglovin in almost as long. My unread blogs list is hundreds and hundreds of posts long. And you know what? It's been great. 

Before this break, I posted just twelve times in the first four months of the year (compared to up to 3 times a week when I was really enjoying blogging). Every post felt like work. Thinking of recipes to bake and photograph felt like a chore. Remembering to take my camera out with me felt like a burden. So one day, I just... didn't. I stopped worrying about making time for this blog - and it was such a relief. 

Instead, I've found my creative side satisfied through other outlets. I'm about as late to the party as you can be, but it turns out that I really enjoy the kind of low-stress, micro-blogging experience that Instagram provides (I'm a regular poster - you can find me here). I've been enjoying spending time with my friends, boyfriend and bunnies, away from a computer screen. And I've found a huge new passion: roller derby. 

Since trying out for Croydon Roller Derby's rookie programme back in early March, I've gone to practice every Friday night: week in, week out. I've watched live roller derby, volunteered at bouts, gone to an outdoor extreme sports festival, bonded with my fellow rookies and passed probation, becoming a full CRD league member. Oh, and I kinda sorta maybe started a roller derby blog.

I know starting a new blog to get away from feeling over-stretched by blogging might sound counter-intuitive, but weirdly it's made sense for me. Roller derby has really sucked me in - I love going to practice every week, and I also love everything else that goes along with it: reading the blogs; watching game footage and skating tutorials online; following discussions on Facebook. I've saturated my life in roller derby, and it feels good to be really curious about something again. Starting a blog to chart my journey from clueless rookie to (hopefully, one day) a card-carrying derby player, and everything I learn along the way, just kind of made sense. Most importantly, since I want (and need) to do a bunch of ongoing research around the sport anyway, blogging about it doesn't actually take that much extra effort - perfect! 

I won't be taking Knitting on Trains down. This blog still gets a few hundred hits a day, so I guess the various recipes, tutorials and guides stored here are still proving useful to people. I may reconsider next time my domain subscription renewal comes around, but that's a long way off yet. Who knows, maybe some day the food/craft/travel blogging bug will bite me again and I'll start posting here again in earnest. But for now, there likely won't be new posts on Knitting on Trains for some time (sorry). If you think it could be your kind of thing, check out my roller derby blog and find me on instagram.

I'm so grateful to everyone who's read and commented on this blog over the years. May the universe bless you with crisp, ice-cold beers and brownies as dense and squidgy as fudge.  

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Meet Our New Baby Bunnies Franny and Zooey

Guys, meet Franny and Zooey: our new baby bunnies! Did you know baby bunnies are actually called 'kittens', or just 'kits'? I didn't until we started investigating getting some rabbit room-mates. 

Franny and Zooey are a pair of girl Netherland Dwarf / Lionhead Dwarf crosses. They're about 12 weeks old, which - as rabbits live about 10 years - makes them a bit less than 2 in human years. 

We met their mum and dad when we bought them, and they seemed like cool dudes. Their dad was an ex-show rabbit, pure Netherland Dwarf, and their mum was a 50/50 Netherland/ Lionhead cross.

They are teeny tiny at the mo - really just a handful - and almost unbearably cute. Like human babies, their style of investigating the world is pretty mouth-oriented. When they discover something new, their first instinct is to nibble it. Books, carpet, socked-feet - all are equal in the nibble-first, ask questions later approach to life. 

We've already noticed that they have quite distinct personalities. Franny (grey) is by far the bolder of the two, despite being about a 1/3 smaller than Zooey. She's a voracious eater and will climb all over you to get to a piece of basil. She will also happily nibble any piece of your clothing she has access to. Zooey, on the other hand, is a little shier. She alternates zooming around the room at top speed - interspersed with these hilarious little lamb-style jumps - and naps. 

I can't believe how much I love these little guys already. They are basically the bosses of the flat after less then two weeks. If you fancy a regular dose of cute, feel free to follow my new Instagram account which will probably (definitely) feature an unhealthy amount of these fuzzballs.  

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Bakes for Mum #1-4

If you're a regular reader (if I even have any of those!) you might have noticed that I haven't been posting as often recently. One thing that's been keeping me busy, and away from the blogging world, is a charity fundraiser I've been undertaking. I'm not sure that I've ever mentioned it in this space, but my mum died of cancer when I was 17. That was 10 years ago last month, and I felt like I wanted to do something to mark that passage of time, celebrate my mum and raise some money for charity.

I applaud people who do athletic feats for charity but, as anyone who knows me will attest, baking is more my style. So, from the beginning of March, I've been home-making different baked goods and delivering them into the hands of friends. Random acts of cake, as it were. I'm managing a rate of about one a week, so I suspect it'll take me a few months to get around everyone. It's been great fun so far; giving people unexpected edible goodies, baked especially for them, gives me the warm and fuzzies, as has my friends' response to the fundraising idea. All in all a lovely experience.

I'm raising money for Nottinghamshire Hospice, a charity which provides free palliative care for adults with life limiting illnesses and support to their carers. Check out my Just Giving page if you'd like to know more. 

Without further ado, here are my first four bakes...

#1 Mars Bar Chunk Cookies (for Sarah H)

For this bake, I adapted this chocolate chunk cookie recipe from Averie Cooks. I used only white sugar, not white and brown, plain flour (not bread flour) and switched out the chocolate for pieces of mini Mars Bars. They were delicious and had a great chewy texture. 

#2 Coffee and Walnut Cake (for Tom)

For this bake, I used one of my own recipes from way back in 2011. This is my go-to coffee cake recipe that I can always trust to turn out tasty. This time around I made the recipe with three eggs instead of two, which made for a nice big cake. 

#3 Blueberry and White Chocolate Blondies (for Harriet)

I've never made 'blondies' before (a pale tray-cake which has a dense texture like a brownie) and I was really happy with how they came out. I adapted this recipe from The Cozy Apron, using blueberries instead of raspberries - SO GOOD! I'd really recommend making blondies if you've never baked them before.

#4 Whisky Pecan Cake (for Jack)

Another new recipe for me, and somewhat of an experiment. I didn't use an existing recipe for this one, but my improvised approach actually worked out really well! 

First I made a basic loaf cake (2 large eggs, then the same weight as the eggs (in shells) of butter, sugar and SR flour, plus 1/2 tsp baking powder and pinch salt) which included a handful of chopped toasted pecans, then created a glaze by mixing icing sugar and whisky to give a medium thick, pourable consistency. I put lots of holes in the cake with a skewer then poured over the glaze until it wouldn't soak up any more. For the topping, I made up some thicker but still pourable whisky glaze, then used this to stick on a pile of lightly toasted pecans. 

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Goals for April

12 hours of training. Now that I've started Roller Derby rookie training (more on this to follow!), I’m keen to get my fitness levels up as quickly as possible. Practice is 2 hours a week, and I plan to supplement this with spinning classes and squash, and extra skating where I can. I’m really enjoying being more active and I want to push myself to keep it up in April.

4 hours of Spanish. I've really let my Spanish studying slide since coming back from Costa Rica. I’d hate to just lose all the progress I made in that 6 weeks, so this month I want to get back into it. I’m aiming for at least an hour a week.

4 new bakes. I’m currently doing a baking-related charity fundraiser (more to follow on this too!), and to keep on track I want to bake four different recipes in April.  

2 new books read. I know this won’t sound very ambitious to most people but I feel busy busy busy at the mo and so I’ll be happy if I get my two book club books read!

1 finished knitted scarf. In March I started my first knitting project in about years, and I am sooo out of practice – I basically had to teach myself to knit all over again! If I can get the scarf finished this month I’ll be happy.

1 optimistic Easter Sunday BBQ and Labyrinth screening with friends. Come on sun, do your thing! 

Do you have any goals for the first month of Spring?  
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