Saturday, 31 October 2009

in and out and stash it all about

I'm writing this early as I'll be up the coast babysitting all weekend. I hope it's fairly accurate and I'll try to edit it before I leave.

October details:

In:  I really wanted to knit from stash only all Blogtoberfest.  No real reason to do with the blogging, just a thought I had.  All was going well till I visited the op shop in Hornsby to look at sheets etc for bags, linings, whatever.  I saw some knitting related stuff and had a poke through  Urrk! Lots of feathers and bobbles all twisted and knotted together.   Hang on!  What's this?  A ball of Cleackheaton 8 ply in a lovely soft grey.  Ballband still on and it was  obviously untouched.  Now my guess is that few knitters would have left it there, despite ideas os stash reduction.  I took it to the counter.  It was hugely expensive.  Not.  The attendant said, "50 cents please."  Deal done.  A hat for a child's chilly head for 0.50cents?  How could I leave it there?


  • 1000 gm  (1 kilo!!!) Cleckheaton Country      Pi shawl, more like rug, huge.     FO
  • 200 gm Wendy DK Supreme Cotton.  T-shirt for granddaughter present.  FO
  • 150 gm Jaipur cotton.  Top for another granddaughter.  WIP
  • 100 gm Heirloom Merino scarf for present box.   FO
  • 100 gm Colinette mohair.  Very long scarf for friend moving to cold part of Victoria.  FO
  • 120 gm Bendigo Luxury 4 ply.  Travelling Woman shawl.   FO
  • 108 gm Bendigo Luxury 4 ply. Shetland Lace Triangle.  Gift.  FO
  • 200 gm Naturally Harmony 8 ply.  Shetland Lace Triangle.  WIP now but probably FO by weekend.
That's just on 2 kg knitted up.  Busy fingers indeed.

Friday, 30 October 2009

long lacy summer

I've been poking around in my patterns and books and on the net for a start to my long lacy summer  hosted by Bells.  As I said in yesterday's entry, I had a bad case of the blahs then.  It's amazing what some good news re house purchase and a decent sleep can do.  Today I opened up my Victorian Lace Today* and was overwhelmed by options there.

I've chosen this one which, for those of you with the book, is on page 104.  It has some detail to keep my interest  as I watch the outside border of diamonds taking shape.  The inner part is really only eight stitches wide, although there is a caution to be careful in the two row repeat so the insertion alternates properly.  The pattern is marked for experienced lace knitters while others are for intermediate and seem more complicated.  The picture is a bit blurry from teh extremely glossy page it's printed on and I was also trying to avoid showing pattern notes.  My background makes me wary of violating copyright!

I find an easy way to mark the right side and therefore row 1 of that inner pattern, is to use a different stitch marker at the beginning of that row.  Either a different colour or even a totally different marker to the others used.

I love this book.  When I get my own place, it's likely to end up as a coffee table book to sigh and drool over the beautiful photography.  Bells' photos of her Myrtle shawl are a take off or spoof of the  photos in the book.  Actually, I'll say her photos are modelled on the book's.  Her Myrtle shawl is absolutely beautiful, nothing like  a spoof.

That was close.  I opened the book to get publication details and out fell my copy of the errata for the book.  That design is mentioned, so I'll amend my photocopy of the pattern.  I hadn't thought to check.

*Victorian Lace Today, Sowerby J., XRX Inc., South Dakota, 2006, 2009

Thursday, 29 October 2009


This entry is little more than a placeholder.  There are three days left till the end of the month.  As I'll be away at the weekend, I've already scheduled a post to appear, like magic, on Saturday, October 31st.  So that just leaves today and tomorrow.

However, today I have woken with a case of the blahs.  I think a large part of this is due to the lack of sleep last night.  I woke up just forty minutes after I'd gone to bed and was wide awake.  Got myself some warm milk and honey, first time in years for that, and went back to bed.  I spent the next few hours alternating 30 minute naps and 30 minutes being awake.  Then, when I normally fall soundly asleep if something like that happens, I woke right up.  I acknowledged defeat and had a shower at 6:00.

Unfortunately I don't think my second Shetland Lace Triangle will be finished for the weekend.  There are just  a few rows to go on the last pattern repeat and then sixteen rows of border knitting.  I've been picking it up and knitting in a desultory manner all morning.  It was when I saw I'd done almost a complete row, over 200 stitches, and had done original increases but no pattern all across the row that I thought I should put it down.  I did tink back that row.

I've been looking at my lace books to see what appeals for another Lacy Summer.  However,  the blahs have spread there too.  An early night is in order.

We've been busy here packing and sorting.  Son and DIL want to buy.  Their own home is rented on a long lease and they are happy with that, but they don't want to rent.  Ideally they want a large converted warehouse or else something which would be good for a couple of years and then used to add to their investment properties they already have.  DIL has been looking for ages.  Some places are almost beyond belief.  Extremely expensive, absolutely appallingly presented or both together.  In several places she looked at last weekend, she had to pick her way over dirty underwear on the floor!  YUK.

Then we found one, well designed, good use of space, very good condition, nothing needed to be done to it.  Underpriced for a quick sale. Thanks to some bungling by an unethical agent walking a hair's breadth on the right side of the law, they may have lost it.  We'll probably know late this afternoon.  She has turned up  two others, but neither is as good as this one.  While it appears to be a townhouse, it is Torrens title, not strata.  It's over 4 levels which sort of interleave over each other.  Bottom layer is a very big garage which would mean she could have a studio down there and still have parking. Separate toilet there.

 Next level opens to outside front and back and has biggish dining and living areas and a very good kitchen. All double glazed.  Up a level to two big bedrooms with a small sunroom off one of them.  An ensuite to that bedroom, a separate laundry and another full bathroom.  Top level is master suite with an ensuite and a dressing room as big as one of the bedrooms below it.  That opens onto a large terrace with privacy screens.  Again, all double glazed for quiet and all bedrooms also have built in wardrobes.

Area fills all their conditions and is close to all they want.  So here's hoping we still get it.  I think stress over this is probably behind the poor sleep and the blahs.  So I've actually put the knitting aside today.

Later:They got the house they wanted.  Here are some pictures.  As it's now been marked sold, i don't know how long link will be active.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

sale purchases


Morris and Sons (Tapestry Craft) has their sale on again.  I wasn't going to indulge but surely I needed more Harmony needles?  Why yes, I really did.  Really, really did.  I left home just before 9:00 today and was in the city at 9:30, thanks to a train which skipped some stations. Home again by 11:30 and that included a cup of coffee.  I didn't look around much in the shop as I didn't want to be tempted too far.

I was surprised.  I was the only customer in the shop when I arrived.  When I left a few minutes later, one other had walked in.  I had planned to go on Monday, but it was very wet, blowing a gale and  quite cold here so I stayed inside.  We even turned the heater on that night we were so chilly.

As can be seen from the photo I bought three sets of needles, 3.75 mm, 4.5 mm and 5.0 mm.  I have a set of 4.5 mm already but seem to use them quite a bit so bought another lot.  These cost $7.63 each,  down from $10.90.

I've been making a little top for youngest granddaughter and using some Bendigo cotton which I already had.  My plans were to knit entirely from stash during Blogtoberfest.  However the  top I'm making was just not working in what I had.  So does it count if I buy more to replace something I had??  It will be put to use very shortly.  It never even made it to the stash and the Bendigo cotton will be returned to stash.  This particular lot seems ill-fated.  I was making each of the girls little ballet cardigans.  Two have been given and were liked.  The third was to be made of this cotton.  I've done one front.  However, I made another cotton top for that little girl so started  something for a Christmas present.  My brain was totally fried with stress and a headache that day and I ripped it three times because I could not concentrate on the arrowhead yoke pattern.  Since then I've struggled with it and it just wasn't working in my mind.   I was tired of the pink, somewhat insipid.

This Jaipur cotton seems crisper and I think it will work better.  It's certainly not insipid.  It's shown here on my pink Moleskine knitting notebook.  It has some zing and zest to it, and is a pinky, cerise colour. It will suit little Miss Blonde well.  I might even get the yoke pattern right first time around, it's not difficult, just requires some concentration.  The pattern is LLani by Katya Frankel  here. The pattern covers sizes 2-12. This cotton was also $7.63/ball.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

not much longer to go

Today is the 27th October, almost the  end of the month and of Blogtoberfest.  It's not been always easy to post every day, but the end is in sight.

I'm working on a second Shetland Triangle Shawl, this time in 8 ply in Naturally Harmony from NZ.  The thicker wool totally changes the character of the shawl.  This will be very warm and snug and may well go to the DIL whose birthday is in June.  It's a lovely silvery grey.  I like the wool, pure merino and it's easy to knit.

Yesterday was the wettest Sydney day for ages and the wettest October in years in Sydney.  It's been freezing up here with the wind quite strong and very heavy rain.  I turned the heater on again late yesterday afternoon as the house was very cold.

No pictures as yet because there's not much done but I started another pair of socks in some old black/grey Patonyle.  I thought we'd just about reached the end of sock weather here but obviously was mistaken.  Now these won't be ready for some time but at least I made a start.  It's certainly sock wearing weather at the moment.  Yesterday I had to dig around in the drawer to find some to put on.  Not only had I done the seasonal swap-around of clothes here, but since we're moving in a few weeks, I'd packed quite a lot of things away.  Fortunately I've kept out some warm tops or I would have been a frozen lump of ice.

Monday, 26 October 2009

long lacy summer

In the two years I've been here, I haven't seen this bush orchid flower before.  It sits beside the second half of the steps to the front door and quite possibly doesn't get quite enough  sun.  It's not ours, it belongs to the house owner.  I was going to repot it, it's sadly overdue for fresh soil, but as we are leaving here soon I won't risk it.  It grows in a cheap plastic pot which is perishing and breaking away.

There are loads of similar flowers here and a few weeks ago the orchids in pots on the balcony off the dining room were superb.  Huge sprays of beautiful flowers in an array of colours.

I'm seeing this as a prelude to summer.  I hope this summer does not have as many excessively hot days as last year.  Where son and DIL are looking to buy is back down on the Sydney plain.  It's much warmer down there than up here and they remark on the difference anytime they return after being in the inner west of Sydney.  Still, that area is very much more convenient for their lives than up here and it's really none of my business.

So all this is a lead-up to what I'm planning on knitting for summer.  Last year I joined a group knitting lace for the summer.  I'd done a few lacy scarves before but was by no means an experienced lace knitter.  I enjoyed the time and encouragement and learnt a lot.

I'd always approached lace knitting with some trepidation.  It was out of my comfort zone and I had vague feelings of disquiet about knitting lace.  Still, I grabbed the opportunity to be part of a community all knitting lace for summer.  Comments gave encouragement and suggestions.  While I left one work and actually cast  off because that particular  lace weight yarn was making my fingers ache, I did produce some pretty lacy socks and several scarves which I used as gifts  which were well received.

Perhaps the best thing about last year's Lacy Summer was that I finally came to terms with charts.  Now I had done most of a mystery shawl KAL some years ago, but I struggled with the charts.  Charts gave me more problems then than the knitted instructions which were  in my inexperience a frustration at getting pattern repeats right.  Mind you, I did not then realise the helpfulness of stitch markers!

I'm a verbal person.  I've done and done well teaching.  I've lectured, spoken at conferences, preached, as well as  the original teaching.  I've written study notes, short essays, articles and more.  Words are my stock in trade.  Unlike others in my family, my ability to draw to my satisfaction is low.  I was told that lessons would help but I really am not interested in that sort of thing.  My creativity manifests itself in other ways.

Charts frightened me.  I  would take one look and part of my brain would instantly turn itself off.  Symbols  flashed meaninglessly before my eyes and I'd look back to the written instructions with their abbreviations and asterisks for repeats and often their cramped layout in printing and work from there.

I decided I had to confront this somewhat irrational feeling, so I took myself in hand.  I found some simple charts of patterns which I already knew and practised  doing these from just the chart.  I worked my way around difficulties and became more accepting of charts.  By the end of the summer I felt much more comfortable in dealing with them.

Over autumn and winter I have done seven triangular shawls and used the charts only for all of them.  I'm now on the eighth.  Ishbels and Ishbel beret, Aestlights, Travelling Woman,Milkweed,  Springtime Bandit and Shetland Lace Triangles.  There have been some lacy scarves, cowls and neckwarmers too and some lacy socks as well.  I find that now when I am considering a pattern to do, I automatically look to see the chart.  My brain has gradually been re-trained so that what was once beyond considering is now well and truly accepted.  I'm still not what I would call a visually based person, but I can now do charts.

All this is really a lead-up to Bells' announcement that there will be another Long Lacy Summer this year.  If you are at all interested in lace, why not give it a try?  There's no compulsion and we knit what we choose.  I haven't quite made up my mind what I will concentrate on this summer.  I do know I now enjoy lace knitting and find it a great way of switching off my mind from some matters so I can concentrate on the lace.  I'll definitely be using charts again too.

The same post has a link in it to the Southern Summer of Socks which is running again this summer.  Bells and Rosered have decided to continue this summer.  Those from the northern hemisphere are welcome to join, it's not restricted  to us from down here.  Again there's no set formulae to follow.  Proceed at your own pace and comfort.  Perhaps you could do as I am and combine lace and socks.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

a blatant bit of advertising

It's said that the best advertisement is a satisfied customer.

We have really missed having a BBQ here. The balconies make ideal sheltered, private places to enjoy the summer weather. Son had a plumbed in gas BBQ at his old house as did I, and we miss the quick availability of the BBQ. However, we really could not have had one conveniently here.

I saw an advertisement in the ABC cooking magazine delicious last month and was taken with this Cobb BBQ. I showed it to DIL and bought this model. This is stainless steel although there is a cheaper model in ordinary metal. This was the only one the stockist had. If you are lucky enough to have a boat, there is a bracket to attach it to the railing over the water.

We find the size is quite adequate for the three of us. We've had a couple of BBQs using it and I used it to roast a piece of pork neck which turned out very well indeed. A cup of liquid, wine, stock or beer, can be put into the moat for added flavour and moistness.

You can see the moat here. Not washed after the last use. It's easy to clean as is the grill which sits on top. It's definitely non-stick. Any fat from the BBQ drips into the moat and is nowhere near the flame, so there are no flares. Wrapped in foil, vegetables can also be placed here. Not only are there no flares, but the whole thing does not seem to spit, which is just as well as I left some knitting near it last time we used it.

The fuel we used is made from compressed coconut shells, although ordinary heat beads can be used. You can see the remains of half a cake of the coconut fibre. Ash can be put into the compost when cool. It has to be lit outside but can be taken in once lit. A huge advantage of these cakes of fibre is that once lit after placing them on some paper, they are ready to use in about two minutes unlike heat beads which take ages to burn down. There's a sturdy carry bag to use for picnics etc. The other thing we really liked is that the BBQ itself is cool to the touch, The metal mesh at the base is quite cool even though cooking is going on. Because there are no flare-ups it can be moved while burning. I said it was cool. We have cooked with it on this table without any damage or even a mark left on the table.

All in all, we are satisfied customers.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

artist's way

I mentioned this book a few days ago. I've always been interested in writing non-fiction and have a blog where I do a lot of this. Open only to my eyes, at the moment, partly because some of it definitely would need editing before going public and partly because some of it is quite private to me. I have some plans ahead for when we are settled again. A few months ago I bought a program for writers, Scrivener .which is available for Macs only. It has many features including storyboards, different folders, easy edits, very easy imports from other things on my computer or from links and much more. It was about $70 AUD when I bought it, but would be cheaper right now with the Aussie dollar over 90 cents.

Julia Cameron's book has been around for many years. She speaks of recovering such traits as identity, power, possibility, integrity. Her principal premise is the absolute need to write everyday. She suggests three pages of handwriting material be produced every day. Now I type. It's better for my fingers. I don't re-read what I've done and I rarely start out with a particular thought in mind. Occasionally I find I have written something like a stream of consciousness.

She believes that just the act of writing like this helps get rid of log jams in the mind and gets creative juices flowing. I find she's right. I also find that this idea carries over into other fields of creativity. The more knitting I do, the more I do and the more ideas I have of what to do. If I leave things for a few days, I find it hard to get into the swing of things again, and my ideas of future creations dry up. I'd be interested to know if others, knitters and other artistic people find this to be so for them.

If you are interested, the book is readily available in libraries and retail outlets.

Friday, 23 October 2009

hello, possums!

This is still my blog, not Dame Edna's!

The possums have been active and noisy now that spring is here. It's been quite cold, so the bathroom window has not usually been as open as this photo shows. I'm actually standing in the shower recess to take this. We enjoy the window open and the view onto trees, and it's actually quite private. This view is one of the things we will miss when we move as the places on the shortlist of purchases are quite different to this.

However, we have to remember to close it at night. Otherwise it's a highway for possums who think there could well be something good in the house.

While sitting on the balcony eating my cheese and salad sandwich for lunch yesterday, a currawong flew down next to me and demanded a share. We don't feed the wildlife (of any variety) intentionally. It's not good for them and there's plenty of bushy areas around for food, along with Lane Cove National Park. Then i noticed two more in the jacaranda a metre from the balcony and soon there were three kookaburras as well. Again, nothing for them. They did not do their usual call but a different one, softer and almost saying, "Tch, tch tch! Where's our share?"

Sorry, just noticed I didn't rotate the photo! You'll need to turn your head sideways.
The roof below is part of the kitchen. We've never seen just what route the possums take to get in. They can get onto this roof quite easily but it's an awkward jump on an angle to get through the window. There's a large drainpipe on the wall outside and perhaps they climb up that. However possum mums are not always good at taking care of their offspring. Fortunately the shower screen door was shut when the baby ringtail climbed in! A chair was again put in the shower, there was no way of easily catching the little thing, and we closed both shower door and bathroom door and left the baby to find its own way out. Then back to bed.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

shetland shawl and yes, jacarandas

Rosered and I have been bewailing the lack of jacarandas up here in our neck of the woods. I glanced out my window this morning to see a few, a very few flowers and some buds. I think yesterday's heat must have finally triggered a response from the tree. It's hard to imagine that in a couple of weeks, these few lonely flowers will turn into a tree totally covered in thousands of these deep purple blooms. The tree is huge with a spread of at least forty feet or more, or about 15 metres. It's tall and we have several like it in this garden and a huge gum tree even bigger as well. They say that spring is here, although yesterday was summer in temperature. After the blooms will be a feast for the bees next door as the flowers fall and carpet the ground. By then, most of the new leaves will have appeared.

Well, who would have thought it! Actual knitting content on a knitting blog during Blogtoberfest! Seriously, there's a limit to the speed my fingers can knit and it can be a low limit if they are sore from arthritis. I've had a couple of spells of swollen, puffy fingers lately and have been diligent in using the Difflam gel which, by the way, is heaps better than the gels available in supermarkets. Difflam is available only in chemists and if you use it, stick to the directions or skin will peel.

So much for the quick cures. This is the Shetland Lace Shawl from Evelyn Clark, the designer. More detail is shown if you enlarge teh photos by clicking on it. Despite my comments above, this is actually quite a quick knit. This shows it from the right side, but unblocked. It looks even more like an alien space landscape from the wrong side. The designer said it would pucker and it certainly did.
I went down from 4.5 mm needles shown a few posts down and used 4 mm needles. The larger needles produced an unattractive stocking stitch which I didn't like. This is fine.

It's amazing the difference blocking makes to lace. First there's a crumpled mess as shown above, then a soak and some pins and effort and voilĂ  - just look at the difference. All those puckered lumps have suddenly smoothed out flat.

The shawl is a quick knit. There are ten rows to a pattern repeat and ten stitches in each repeat across the row. The actual pattern is easy to memorise and stays the same in the shawl. Every ten rows of pattern produces another pattern repeat of ten rows in the breadth of the shawl. So the first row of the next ten also sees a new repeat started across the shawl. That means each new pattern is offset to the ten rows below. Provided the first few stitches are correct, the rest flows almost mindlessly.
Here's a close-up of the pattern. Quite effective once blocked. This is in Bendigo Luxury 4 ply and the colour is called "Ice." I used 108 gm of the 200 gm in the ball, so still have quite a bit left over. The colour in the blocked photos is much more accurate than the first picture. I was planning to overdye this, but will think again about it. It's for a Christmas present for middle DIL and I'm not sure what she'll wear it with. The colour, Ice, looks like the slightly blue colour of an iceberg. It's a fairly pale colour, not white, not grey, not silver.

I'm going to count this as an early start to Bells' Long Lacy Summer II. It's nearly November now, not long to go. I have some Naturally Harmony in a silvery grey which is lovely and I'll make this pattern again in that.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Tuesday, 20/10/09

Twenty days of blogtoberfest gone. Nw I'll have to think some more about posts as I had over a week's worth booked up to post automatically. It's been good as things are on the move here and time is tightening. DIL is determined she will not move some of her things for the third time. We've been sorting. Some has gone on ebay. Some will be dumped and some will be given away.

My books have been packed for a long time. She's working her way through her many thousands and removing things she can get rid of one way or another. So far she has culled probably two hundred. I would not call her a hoarder but she keeps things for the many children's activities she does. She also recycles lots and frequents Reverse Garbage in Marrickville for bargains. so lots of her bits and pieces are just that, bits and pieces and awkward to pack. However, we are getting there. Now to decide where we will move to.

Blogtoberfest has been good. I've spread my reading around and found lots of great blogs by other crafters.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

julie and julia

I went to see this film at the weekend and enjoyed it, as other knit bloggers have done. I enjoyed all the acting, not just that of Meryl Streep who played Julia Childs for all she was worth at times. Julie's and Julia's stories segued fairly neatly from one to the other for most of the film. Both true stories, both adapted at times and some fiction added in made an enjoyable film.

I had forgotten about the paranoia of Macarthyism. Reds under beds and much more. Lucille Ball from I Love Lucy and her husband Desi Arnaz were among many show business people who were investigated at the time.

Aaargh! the smoking, even at the dinner table. I hate the smell of cigarette smoke and can't imagine what all that much smoke must have done to the beautiful food she made. I remember lots of people smoking, it was culturally acceptable then. My dad smoked for many years. However, I do not remember anyone ever smoking at the dinner table.

I became engrossed in the film. It was a shock when I emerged into bright spring sunshine and I realised I was in neither New York nor Paris, but in the street outside Hornsby Westfield. That feeling pretty well sums up all I felt about the film. I did enjoy it and I did become absorbed in the character and the story line.

Monday, 19 October 2009

around the traps

Just a few things around the place.

what's hot

neatly rolled ball of wool

Good risotto

shiny hair

echidna in the garden

what's not

tangled mess from badly skeined wool

lentil leftovers

change of season psoriasis flare

dead possum (runover by car) in driveway

A friend who's lived in Queensland for many years is starting a new job next year in a beautiful rural are of Victoria. She's down in Sydney at a conference and I'm meeting her for lunch so have made her this scarf. I figure she may well be feeling the cold next winter. It's Colinette mohair from Wales and is very soft. I had a terrible job to get the colours in the photo to match what my eyes see. In the end I gave up on the task.

Here it looks red and black. Fire engine red in fact. It's nothing like that. It's a crimson and what seems to be black is actually flashes of purple. Super easy to do, almost mindless. Knit three rows garter stitch. Next row, wrap wool around needles twice for every stitch to make the dropped stitch effect. It knitted up very quickly, helped by the fact that there are only twenty stitches per row.

This is the set up few rows and first couple of pattern repeats for Evelyn Clark's Shetland Triangle shawl. Again it's a very simple pattern and I really only need to check the first few stitches of the row. She remarks that the pattern causes puckering as it pulls in a lot. She also suggests using a bigger needle than might otherwise be chosen.

This is Bendigo 4 ply luxury. Colour is called Ice which will probably be overdyed. Suggested needle size is 3.25 mm and I'm using 4.5 mm here. Puckering can definitely be seen. However, I'm going to rip it out and use 4 mm. I'm not happy with the sloppy looking stocking stitch and I'll give the smaller needle a try. If it looks as if the puckering will block out, I'll stick to it. She suggests heavy blocking. I've seen lots of this design photographed and they look fine after blocking. This is to be a present for one DIL so it's fortunate it's an easy pattern and quick to do. There's a lot going on in this household before Christmas. Repeats are ten rows long and the edging last few rows can be started after any ten rows are finished.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

creative space

This house is not only large but it sits in a very big block. The garden is quite overgrown and bushy, although since I've been here, I've tamed it a bit using secateurs and pruning saws. We have several enormous jacarandas, a couple of big eucalypts, loads of other bushy shrubs and tree ferns, azaleas and gardenias. There's also quite a pile of rubbishy stuff there too and it's that which I've been hacking at. Plenty of space for our small echidna to hide and plenty of leaf mould and rotting pieces of wood to provide it with ants and insects for food.

The big trees make the place quite shady and there are few biggish spots which get enough sun to make planting any vegetables worthwhile. Not only that, but gardening means contending with the local wildlife. Last summer, I planted out a punnet of rocket in a tub on the path. Next morning all were gone, eaten to the ground by snails which I hadn't actually seen here before then. Local currawongs and magpies fly in onto our middle floor balcony or sit on the balcony rail and scold us for not feeding them, along with several kookaburras. Tiny tomatoes have only to show the slightest tinge of pink and one of these snaps them up. Tomatoes outside in the garden would be eaten by the possums which can prise open the lid of the compost container and give someone a nasty fright when they go to empty the compost scraps. Did I mention the leeches which inch across our front tiled porch having come out of the leafy garden next to the steps. Not that these eat the garden stuff, but they are part of our wildlife.
I planted these tubs about three weeks ago. The top shows some oakleaf lettuce which has grown enormously. I can pick these by the leaf, so hopefully the harvest will go well for quite a while yet. We've had one salad from them, The taller plant is a chili. We eat loads of the pungent small ones here, the bright red, very hot chilies about 10 cm, 2" long. I've always liked and used these but my tolerance and liking for them has increased greatly since moving here. We use about 5-7 in a normal stirfry and they go in lots of other things as well. I plan on going to Hornsby one Thursday soon and getting a couple more plants so we have a plentiful supply. Local markets are in Hornsby outside Westfield every Thursday with plants, good bread, ethnic food and more. Organic meat and vegetables available too.

The second picture shows baby spinach almost ready for its first picking. I'll try some more rocket too and put it with these other pots on the balcony wall.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

relay for life

I read about this at Bellsknits. A group of knitters in WA are taking part in the Cancer Council's Relay for Life to raise funds for the Cancer Council's research. They'll be knitting as they walk. How cool is that!

This group has also organised some wonderful prizes for knitters who donate. You can see the prizes, including some Wollmeise, and find out the details here.

I have donated to the Relay for Life every year now for some time. One of my sons and his wife take part every year and the other two grow beards, shave heads etc. for similar causes. However, so far this year, I haven't heard if they are doing it. So this was my opportunity.

My sister is a 12 year survivor of breast cancer although she's had a couple of nasty scares in that time and some dangerous illnesses caused by a compromised immune system. My mother had leukemia and my brother has had two operations for prostate cancer, although he's fine now. His wife died from bowel and liver cancer when their son was 10.

Every $5 donated gets you one entry in the prizes. Details of donation page to the Cancer Council itself and how to enter are on the link above.

Friday, 16 October 2009


Photo heavy post. These were all taken last Monday evening when it was almost dark, about 7:20 pm. I was upstairs and when I glanced out the window, I saw this magnificent sunset. The clouds were being driven by yet more wind comng over from the mountains in the west. There is a distinct line of demarcation in a couple of the phtos. Under the cloud is an icy blue which is clear sky, not water.

I'll miss seeing these beautiful, sweeping sunsets when we move. I'll also miss sitting in the shelter of the large balcony watching the drama of an electrical storm on the horizon.

Thursday, 15 October 2009


Here's my current bunch of keys, small in comparison to last year when I had several more attached to the ring. Since I've stopped working, I have been able to get rid of quite a few keys which I needed there. Three of these keys will be gone shortly too, although new ones will replace them. The owner of this house has just this weekend told us he wants the place back and our last day here is to be December 4th. While son and DIL own quite a few properties, they are tenanted and not really suitable for us unless we were to move to Queensland, a move which is not practical for any of us. So we are starting to pack as from today and also looking. Ideally, they would buy a converted warehouse, somewhere in innerwest Sydney. DIL wants a studio, room to move, open kitchen, living and entertaining areas. We would settle for a large older house in much the same area. We love the trees up here, but there are lots of leafy places around the inner west and we all like the vibrancy of that area. Son wants to be back on the trainline which suits him for work. Currently he's in a government consultancy at Liverpool which is 90 minutes by train from here. He drives and that's 50 minutes away and several tolls on the M7 expressway. Innerwest living would halve tolls, time and train travel. His position is secure there for a long time yet. So we are out looking.
Here's some more random keys from around here. I could have shown several more padlocks here which were left by the owner but have no keys attached. The bigger old back door type key fits nothing here. Actually, there are no locks of that type here at all. The owner is a hoarder, quite unable to throw stuff away. But why would you keep a common key like this when there is no lock around where it could possibly be used? Even the laundry door downstairs has a Yale type lock on it, although we've never been able to find the key to it. As the laundry door blows open in the gales we get here, we've wedged it shut with an old shopping bag attached to the door handle. An unusual lock perhaps, but it's effective. If we don't do this, the wind whistles through the laundry and two floors up, the blast is strong enough as it funnels up the laundry chute to blow open the drawers in the vanity unit in the bathroom!
Just have a look at the size of this key! DIL collects unusual objects from all over the place. I find it difficult to imagine the size of the lock which this key would have fitted. Perhaps it came from a gaol? It's quite heavy and obviously also quite old. Not the sort of thing that could be easily hung from a key ring. Not even the sort of key which a chatelaine of the nineteenth century would have had hung from the keys swinging from her belt. I see it as something like the key the gaoler would have clicked locked on poor Toad when he was in prison! The Wind in the Willows has been a long time favourite of mine since childhood.
All these keys belong to this house although we don't use them much. We have a back and front door, downstairs laundry and downstairs cellar which is used as a cellar with a large amount of wine in it. In addition, there are nine doors to outside balconies. Yes, nine! There are nine balconies here some of which we don't use but we wanted to know the keys for the doors. When we wanted to unlock them when we first came here, it took a long time to find which key went with which lock. The house was built when no-one really appeared to have thought about the convenience of having locks keyed alike. The owner has over the years fitted keyed locks to the windows as well and he wasn't sensible enough to get them keyed alike either.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

a little heart to heart

Fancy a little heart to heart? This is a scarf not a shawl. It is long enough to wrap twice around my neck and leave generous tails on each end. Probably more generous than they were last night when I had just finished it. Photo shows it blocking and it was actually very hard to get even a half decent photo of the edge. I finished it several days ago and will wear it out at the weekend (10th October) to Bowral where it's forecast to be even colder than Sydney has been lately.

The design is called Heart to Heart Scarf and is from Evelyn Clark Designs. I also bought her Shetland triangle pattern in preparation for more of a long lacy summer which Bells is starting up again next month. This scarf is described as a modified triangle. Actually, it looked like a gentle curve till blocking. The increases/decreases are done in the couple of stitches just before the start of the lacy edge. They are gradual, only three times in the twelve row pattern repeat.

The yarn is Bendigo's 4 ply Luxury in black. I've just used DIL's new digital scales and it tells me I've used only 70 gm of the 200 gm in the ball. That means I have more than enough to make another and I have just the person in mind for it. I did use 4 mm needles istead of the suggested 3.5, so that could well be a reason for having a fair amount left.

On a completely different topic - here's little bit of useful information. Disposable razors work much better when the plastic safety cap is removed before use! Admittedly, it was clear plastic, not solid white or yellow, but I must have been more asleep than awake this morning in the shower.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

river ripples

This is my train knitting, so it's taken me a while. It's easy, repetitive knitting which requires very little thought. I usually do it only in the train. It's made from an 8 ply Heirloom merino and I'm onto the second ball. Probably it will be part of a birthday present for one on my DILs early next year.

I've called it River Ripples. I was knitting it in the train on my way to see son and DIL and family on the Central Coast at Woy Woy. As we crossed the Hawkesbury River bridge, I was watching the water underneath. The river was very still and looked like a mirror. A wind gust blew diagonally across the river, and the resulting ripples looked very like this pattern. The scarf is not finished so is not yet blocked, but the lace will obviously open up quite a bit.

I realise there is very little original in much knitting, so although this is something I've made up, I am sure there are probably other patterns like it. This is not based on anything I've seen.

The pattern is basically a blueprint rather than a set piece. It's in 8 ply here, but could easily be made quite different with different size needles and a different weight wool. Free for gifts, personal or charity use only.

River Ripples Scarf

Needles: 5.00 mm

Yarn: I've used two 50gm balls 8 ply Heirloom Merino.

Tension: Adjust your needle size to obtain the feel and drape you want with the yarn you have chosen. Lighter wool will require more stitches and finer needles than I have used. I have kept a 5 stitch border of garter stitch each end.

Cast on 37 stitches.

Row 1:Knit 5, *(purl 3, YO, knit 2 tog. knit 3) Repeat from * three times, purl 3, knit 5.

Row 2 and every even row of pattern repeat. Knit as stitches present themselves but maintain the garter stitch edge at each end of scarf.

Row 3:Knit 5, *(purl 3, knit 1, YO, Knit 2 tog., knit 2) Repeat from * three times, purl 3, knit 5.

Row 5: Knit 5, *(purl 3, knit 2, YO, knit 2 tog., knit 1) Repeat from * three times, purl 3, knit 5.

Row 7: Knit 5,*(purl 3, knit 3, YO, knit 3 tog.), purl 3, knit 5

Row 8: Knit as stitches present themselves.

Repeat pattern till scarf is required length and cast off. Block to open up lace pattern.

Monday, 12 October 2009

creative space

This little cotton top is for Miss 7, my middle granddaughter. She's very skinny and quite tall for her age so I've made it longish. It can be worn over leggings or shorts. An easy knit, top down so no seams. The yarn is Wendy Supreme DK cotton. Stash yarn again! Yay! The bottom row of eyelets was done to match the top row, just after the ribbing yoke. The yoke is actually YOs to double the stitches while the bottom row is YO, knit 2 together. This was a last minute thought. If I did it again, I think I'd put a couple of such rows, but several centimetres higher.

It's fairly easy to knit on my fingers but I was not impressed with knots in it. The first ball had three knots in it. Not happy, Jan, to quote the saying from the advertisement.

Actually I just looked at this photo properly. The saying is that cameras don't lie. Well mine often lies about the colour and it must be the angle of the photo which is wrong here. While I have made it longish so she can wear it over tights or leggings, it nowhere near as elongated as this picture makes it out to be.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

creative space

I love soup. I make litres of it every year. It's nourishing, comforting, easy, economical, healthy and delicious. I took this photo a few days ago when the weather was wet and chilly. I loved the rain and it was needed. Our garden was showing signs of being stressed. Leaves were curling up because of water lost from the fierce winds we get here. However, it made the weather unseasonably chilly and soup was needed for a casual meal.

As is obvious, this stock will turn into pumpkin soup. There is little wasted in this household and chicken carcases, lamb bones etc are put in the freezer for later use. I took out a chicken carcase and put it on for stock. Some onions, the pumpkin and most important for pumpkin soup, some nutmeg. I really don't like nutmeg, but somehow it makes pumpkin soup taste better than if it's omitted.

Later: The soup was delicious. I blended it with a stick blender. Cut some chunky bread which I spread with garlic butter, I'd just made. Topped that with freshly grated good parmesan cheese and put the slices in a slow oven, about 140° for about 40 minutes. Cheese melted and bread was crunchy. Very nice indeed and enough left for a couple of serves.

The photo is a bit blurry. Sorry. My camera has been used a lot lately, and I didn't realise how low the battery was till I tried to use the flash for this photo and it refused.

Do you like the spoon rest? It's glass and is a flattened Redback beer bottle. Being glass, it's easy to clean and being made from a beer bottle is a bit of a talking point for visitors.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

my creative space

I found a link to this little top at Corrie's blog. She has a couple of these little cotton tops made for her little girl, Keira. It's an easy, top down knit and will be a present for one of my granddaughters. This one is made from Wendy Supreme Cotton 8 ply. It's a 'crunchier" cotton than that from Bendigo but is still easy to knit. The morning was fairly dark. The colour is a pretty colour, light blue with an aqua tinge to it.

What is even better is that this is stash yarn. I found two balls of it in amongst my cottons. 100 gms each, 219 metres. I bought it at Greta's I think, or perhaps at Hornsby quite a while ago. It was reduced from almost $11 to $6.45, so it's a cheap little top which will be added to Christmas presents.

Friday, 9 October 2009


Badskirt has a list of possible topics to help out if needed for a post a day in October, blogtoberfest. Some bloggers are treating this as a calendar and following day by day, others, myself included are using it for suggestions. So here is "rocktober."

This house is built on Sydney sandstone. It is an art deco design, built about 1929-30 and is built on a steep slope. The picture shows some of the massive sandstone foundations. Parts of the foundations are higher than this wall. This area is over three metres high and is made from huge sandstone blocks. The back steps, over twenty of them, are concrete, but the outside of them is sandstone. Front steps are a massive, sweeping curve of more sandstone. Some of the window sills are yet more sandstone. Most of the garden edges are sandstone set in the ground. Some of this is covered by grass as the shape of the beds has changed over the years. Many of the paths are sandstone flagging and the steep drop from the footpath along the Pacific Highway has several terraces banked by more sandstone.

The picture also shows, although not very clearly, the dryrock wall, more sandstone which hides the rubbish and recycling bins which I've cut from the picture. This is not a professionally built wall as can easily be seen in real life, but it does the job.
My youngest son had a passion for rocks and stones when he was young. I wondered if he might become a geologist. No, he's involved in computers in a a particular area in which few people work in Sydney. However, as a child he always brought home rocks and stones when we went visiting, or on holidays or picnics. My washing machine would not empty once many years ago. Out came the repair man who was there nearly two hours trying to fix the problem. Or at least, trying to find the problem. We eventually located it. A largish stone, which had obviously been in one of Tim's pockets had become wedged in the hook of the outlet pipe, right where it hung over the tub to drain. That was a very costly souvenir stone.

This is another of his souvenirs. We used to have a holiday property, forty acres, at Wollombi near Cessnock. Exploring up one of the creeks one day, he brought this lump of rock back. More sandstone, but looking almost as if it had been scooped from a larger rock by a gigantic melon ball gadget or perhaps an icecream scoop. It's flat on one side, but very nicely rounded and shaped on the other. I use it as a doorstop now.

Thursday, 8 October 2009


Over at badskirt is a list of possible titles for posts for this month. So here is "clocktober." All of these are personal, I haven't gone looking for other clocks etc through the house. I'm not a great stickler for absolutely exact time. My life doesn't run clockwork smoothly, pun originally not intended but apt nevertheless. Provided I don't miss any train I want, I'm happy. This is my everyday watch which I've had for some years now. I have an allergy to nickel so had to pay extra for this one. When I first bought it, it ran slowly even though the battery was replaced. When I took it back under warranty, I found the whole movement was replaced with a new one which just slotted in, as this was cheaper and easier than tracing a fault. However, since then, I've had no problems with it, other than needing a new battery.
It was while I was waiting at a jeweller's to have the above battery replaced, that I found this watch which is on one of my Moleskine notebooks. It's silver too, which I prefer to gold jewellery, a trait I share with two of my daughters-in-law. It's a Skagen by brand, a Danish design. I loved the clear Scandinavian simplicity of the face which was very easy to read. When I found that all this brand's watches are nickel free, I bought it. It was not expensive as watches can be, but it was more than I really had spare at the time. However it was more than a treat for me. It marked the first anniversary of leaving an abusive marriage. Not physically abusive, although that came close several times, but abusive in many other ways. In the year since I had left, I'd been doing a lot of thinking. Still am actually, and am still recognising many more aspects which were not healthy. It's not that I brood at all. It's just that sometimes some memory is dredged up suddenly and I see it clearly for what it really was.

In that year, I'd had to face many things by myself. Opening new accounts, closing others, seeing Centrelink, getting credit for a phone etc in my own name. I was reassured to find that a check showed nothing untoward which would have stopped this, although my husband did not always pay accounts, rates etc on time. All in all, a weight had been lifted - a weight I had never really recognised as being as heavy as it actually was. A year to celebrate and this was how I did it.

I've had this clock a long time. All it needs is a new battery from time to time. When my sons were young, I studied agriculture part time at night with practical work on many weekends. This was 15 hours/week, spread over three nights. Quite a different subject to my Arts, teaching and theology degrees and diplomas. The clock was the prize for topping a particular couple of subjects one year. I topped others too, but they had no recognition.
This last has sentimental value for me. It's out of place in many décors today with its faux woodgrain plastic finish and it's chunky, definitely not funky, design. It was my dad's and that's why I've kept it. He died eleven years ago and was in a nursing home suffering from Alzheimer's for seven years prior to his death. He'd had it quite a while before entering the home. It works just fine, although I almost never use the radio or alarm functions. It's shown here with pictures of my two youngest grandchildren. Middle granddaughter's photo is out of focus in the backgound shadow.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009


I was wondering how to handle doing a post every day. I know I could not cope well with doing knitting to be paid for by someone. It would put me under pressure to get it done. I don't usually join swaps or KAL's for the same reason. I don't mind doing the work and it will often be done well and quickly but I don't want to "have" to do it to fit in with someone else's rules or expectations. I remember refusing to join groups which said members pledged to lose xxx kilos by Christmas or whatever. Not for me.

However, I seem to have found a system. I'm still writing practically every day but I've taken the pressure off myself. In my drafts folder are a couple of posts with ideas for future postings. There are also a few lists around the blogosphere with similar ideas. Not only do I have some suggestions lined up for when the well of inspiration runs dry, but I also have posts written in advance and set to automatically publish at a later date. As I said, I'm still doing stuff daily, but have a backstop in place in case something happens and I can't do one on a particular day

I have to be careful here. I can't talk about today's weather or whatever and then publish the post, setting it a week or ten days ahead when things may be entirely different. So I'm feeling more confident about posting every day in October.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

belated birthday present

My brother, who lives fairly close to me, arrived last night with a belated birthday present for me from my sister who lives on the mid-North Coast.

Isn't this cute? I've never seen anything like this before, although obviously such designs are around. (Added later) Shows I haven't been to Sp*light in a long time. MY sister just told me she bought it there in the shop in Taree.

The pretty box was not only very strong and protective but was also an indication of the contents. Pink ribbing all over the box. It's labelled, "Knit one, Sip one."

The mug also is pink ribbed. There's a small logo inside the top lip and the handle has the same words written vertically. I'm fussy about mugs as sometimes the top is too thick for me to enjoy drinking from it. This hwever is just right. The mug is a good size and the handle is easy to hold.

I've emailed her my thanks and asked her where she found it. Sp*tlight, apparently.