About mrspao

Knitting, cats, and a pao.

The summer of finishing off – Part 1

It is ridiculously difficult to knit with Claude and Katerina around. Whenever, I get knitting out, a weird crazed expression comes over their faces and they cannot leave me alone. Trust me, I’ve tried. So knitting has been difficult and blocking more so.

I’ve had to resort to saving my knitting activities for a cat sitting stint. Ironic? Yes, I know.

I started this Textured shawl in 2013 and I loved the spinning of the yarn, the plying and the knitting. I had one bobbin of yarn left and worried a little about if it would be big enough or there would be yarn enough. Of course, the bobbin and yarn were like crack to those kittens. It was the worst sort of yarn as the kittens are quite keen on the natural fibres.

I got to a stage where I was finished as far as I was concerned as I didn’t want to spin any more yarn as that would be a whole new adventure for Claude and Katerina.

I have been looking forward to seeing what the blocked version was like. If you’ve been on Instagram, you would have had a peek at this detail.


It was great to have the space and absence of pesky kittens to get this blocked properly.


The yarn really opened up and despite the little curls, I thought the shawl looked pretty wonderful.


I managed to get a little photo shoot in my friend’s garden


And my friend’s cat Hugo came for a look at what I was doing but not a paw touched the shawl. I was impressed.

Caturday Katerina


Out of the two kittens, Katerina is probably the most yarn loving. She growls when she steals and won’t let go of any purloined yarn.


She is very good at looking sweet and innocent.


We know otherwise, don’t we?

Pillow Talk

I got with modern times last week and got a cheap Singer sewing machine which was considerably reduced and had great reviews. As much as I wanted a Janome or Bernina or other delightful powerhouse, my budget wasn’t going to stretch that far right now and I wanted to celebrate a little since I’ve got another part-time contract – this time for 11 months but I get all my worker’s rights to go with it rather than the temp contract I’m on now.

Louise very wisely brought me a pattern for pillowcases when I was learning with pao’s grandmother’s handcrank Singer and I figured that it was the best way to try out the new machine. I loved these pillow cases I’d made before.

I confess my heart had gone out of the idea of sewing after this little guy died as I knew how much he’d enjoyed himself and entertained me.

So on Sunday, I had an unexpected afternoon of leisure, I thought I’d see if Claude would step into Sirius’ pawprints as Most Helpful Cat Ever (Not with scissors).


He was fairly interested but the noise was a reasonable device to keep him from straying too near.


He liked to sit on the table with the fabric etc but wasn’t too bothered about cutting (phew). He is better as a paws off supervisor.


I’d had these three fabrics in my little stash for a while but no motivation to make something so they jumped out at me. I had been saving that little waving cat for a special project.


And here it is! I am very happy with the machine and how smoothly it runs. Time to put the sleeves on my dress now! (Yes, I know 2.5 years is a long time to procrastinate about sleeves but 2017 seems to be about finishing)

Savoury bread pudding

I had quite a collection of odds and ends of bread cluttering my freezer and I wanted a nice way to try and use them up. I like bread pudding and wanted to make something savoury this time. I found this recipe for a savoury sausage and cheddar bread pudding and wanted to make something similar. It makes a lovely brunch dish and I served it with a pepper sauce. You can make this the night before, then you can pop it in a cold oven and after an hour lazing in bed with your Sara Paretsky and a cuppa, you’ll have a great brunch ready.

1 small loaf stale bread or around 500g of bread odds and ends (I used a wholemeal seeded loaf)
1 medium onion
3-4 rashers of bacon, chopped
1 medium courgette, chopped
1 package of sausage meat (around 300-400g) – you can cut off the skins of sausages if you don’t have sausagemeat
Sprigs of rosemary
2 large handfuls of cheddar cheese
12 or so cherry tomatoes
2 cups milk
6 eggs
Butter for greasing casserole dish.
Salt and pepper (but if you decide to use some peppercorn sauce then leave this out)

Soften your onion in a frying pan with a little oil or butter. Add bacon and fry until crisp. Add chopped courgette to soften.

Add the sausage meat to the saucepan and fry until browned, breaking up large pieces to a crumble texture.

Cut up your loaf into small squares. Grease your casserole dish and layer with bread, cheese, tomatoes, sausage mix and then finishing up with a layer of bread.

Mix eggs and milk together and pour over the bread mixture. Sprinkle with cheese and put in the fridge for a few hours (overnight if you wish).

Put dish into a cold oven and set to 180C. It will be cooked after about an hour.

I serve it with a peppercorn sauce from a packet mix. It is reminiscent of the breakfasts I’ve had in the USA of sausage and biscuits so the pepper sauce is pretty nice.


Here is the lesser spotted photo of all three cats in the same room. We are making progress!

The Story of Our Quilt

Let me take you back to a day in October 2013, the protagonists being a couple of crazy paos and a kitten.


“Let’s make a quilt,” they said.
“Oh yes, the kitten is very helpful.”


And so, the quilt’s life progresses..
“Sirius is very helpful.”


Especially so as his love, the sewing machine, was out.


“Tamyra is wondering what the bits of post-it are all about.”

And so, the quilt had some edging added to it as we’d got a voucher and John Lewis had put out a limited edition special fabric. The quilt was all pieced together and I cut the back and edging.

But then we had to quilt it.

How should we quilt it?

With what should we quilt it?

What pattern should we use?

…. how do we start?

All these questions swirled in our minds as we contemplated the enormous task ahead of us. As neither of us had a clue what to do, the quilt sat languishly in a bag. There was a wrinkle in the back and we didn’t have floor space big enough to spread it to try and fix the wrinkle

And it languished, being tripped over and sighed over for several years.

Until mrspao had a relevation in 2017. A proficient and prolific quilter friend was showing off her quilts on Facecbook (other social networks are available) and it got mrspao wondering how she was churning them out so quickly as this lady had a full time job after all.

“I sent it away, of course!”
A lightbulb went on in mrspao’s head and she then sought to track this finisher of quilts down. And found her in the village hall opposite the house. Without a moment’s hesitation, she handed it over and said, “Please help. We’re desperate.”

pao and I visited the lady a few weeks later, and she gave us lots of options including, “I can finish this off for you”.

“Yes, please,” we cried.


And so we picked it up a couple of months later, just in time for our special trip for our 16th wedding anniversary.


We went champing!

Yes, that is correct, it really is camping in a church. Some people may say we cheated at the end but we chose everything and the lovely lady had the most incredible quilting set up so it wasn’t a difficult decision to hand over what we had done to get her to finish it. I’m thrilled with how it turned out!

Insta-garden


My new job is terrific. There is something to be said for going to work happy every day. I still experience little frustrations but on the whole, I feel content and happy and I come home the same way. I have another part-time job to as a Learning Technologist which is also great (not as good as my other job but pretty good). It does mean that I have a whole new schedule to live up to. The pace of learning is much greater in my new role which means that I am constantly having to learn new things to keep up with new media. I’m often on Instagram – so quick to post a photo but I do miss my blog and enjoy writing for it. Now I’m writing for a living, too, I have such a lot of pleasure in my week! It does mean that I’m very busy! So I took some time out this weekend and did some insta-gardening – I headed to a garden centre and bought lots of lovely plants already in flower and tidied up my front door area. I’ve already been complimented by my neighbour 🙂


My little kitten love keeps me on my toes. She is naughty, funny, loving, special. Tonight she clamped her jaws round my chicken baguette and tried to make off with it. She then stole the chicken breast I cooked for lunch tomorrow and she and Claude were eating it. It was churlish to scold them so they got a chicken dinner.

Please say hi. I’ve been missing you – I’m going to try a little to keep up with blogs. My next big work project is to do Google Analytics and Hootsuite online training which takes up a chunk of my evenings but I will keep trying to read and comment when I can. I’ve been working there almost 6 months and have loved every moment. I love the creativity and the projects. I read ‘What Colour is your parachute?‘ and this was one of the jobs that matched me. It makes me feel so good that I followed my dream.

Syjunta, Syjunta


I enjoyed my last afternoon having a Syjunta that I organised another one for today. I enjoyed tidying up and cutting these beautiful roses I found in the garden, to welcome my guests.


I got a selection of lovely cheeses and breads (and chicken for pao the cheese hater)


and got out the crockery we’d inherited from pao’s mother


and baked a lovely lemon and raspberry cake (I took a leaf out of Jeanne’s cupboards and got a Betty Crocker kit).


It was such an enjoyable afternoon. I worked on my sock surprisingly without any kitten intervention whatsoever (maybe they are growing up?)


One of my guests had given me some beads she’d made at school and I made us both some stitch markers. She is a keen crocheter so I made some with some lobster clasps which she can unclasp easily and I made myself these with split rings for knitting.


Of course, it wouldn’t be Saturday without the cats. Katerina was already sleepy before we began.


Claude was very excited by the roses which sent me straight to Google as he started licking them. Thankfully I can report that roses are not poisonous to cats!

Happy Saturday!

1 x 2


Happy Birthday, kitten twins, Claude and Katerina!

These two babies have been inseparable since birth and they are a joy to live with – such fun, mischief and delights. I’ve only selected a few photos from when they were teeny. I’d picked out 88 out of all the hundreds I’d taken but I figured I’d only show you the few from the first moments and post again at the weekend.

Bacon and roasted vegetable tart

I had some roasted vegetables left from dinner Friday and some pastry in the freezer so threw those together for a light lunch today.

1 packet ready-rolled shortcrust pastry
a couple of spoons of pasta sauce (I used some Dorot frozen tomato sauce I had in the freezer) but any jar or fresh sauce will do
1 packet pancetta
2 cups of roasted vegetables (I used heritage carrots, sweet potatoes, and shallots)
Fresh rosemary – a handful.
Balsamic vinegar

This was the simplest thing to make.
Preheat oven to 200C.

I unrolled the short-crust pastry onto a baking tray and smoothed on the the pasta sauce. I fried off the pancetta with the shallots and drain them onto a kitchen towel. I liberally sprinkled the pancetta, shallots and slices of sweet potato and carrot on the pastry with a sprinkling of fresh rosemary and put the whole lot in the oven for 20 minutes.


I drizzled over a couple of teaspoons of balsamic vinegar and served it up. You could put cheese on it – I had some cheddar which I would have used if pao wasn’t due to eat it but it was nice without. You could have probably put the pancetta straight on without cooking it but I prefer to make it less fatty.

In case you were feeling deprived of kittens. Here they are at 11 months.

Claude is such a big goofball now. Katerina is still very much a cuddler.

Saturday Syjunta


Syjunta is the Swedish word for people getting together to sew, crochet, knit, embroider and socialise. I read about it in a magazine and thought that it was such a good idea, I thought I’d organise an afternoon of syjunta myself. I invited some friends, made some soup and a banana loaf and had a nice hyggelig afternoon.


I invited some friends, made some soup and a banana loaf and prepared some projects to do. I had a lampshade I wanted to pretty up.


I had some pretty vintage lace I’d found at a sale and thought it would create some interest in a new lampshade I’d bought. I think it looks quite nice.


My second project was the Foxy Sox as I got the kit as a Christmas present from pao. The kittens had gotten hold of the yarn when we were away and raced around the house with it (they have form already). It was a huge tangled mess and pao spent hours trying to untangle it. It is quite tricky and I didn’t much fancy the multistranded toe up cast on so I thought I’d do a top down version. I’ve stitched and unpicked it about three times now!


The kittens were ridiculously interested in my friend’s flower arranging paraphenalia.


Claude especially (now.. why does that not surprise me!) I think we all enjoyed our first Syjunta – now I’m planning another 🙂