Thursday, 10 July 2014

caressa small head

My youngest son is now in late 30s.  Before he was born, a friend made for him a set of leggings and a top from blue Patons Caressa.  They wore and washed well.  A few years ago, I found Caressa was still on sale and I bought a couple of balls.  I have no idea if I used them or what they made but I found some more in a box of 8 ply the other day.

I have been making chemo hats, hat after hat.  It helps my state of mind and I like to think that every hat made is another little head warmed.  My son tells me that hats are always in demand at Westmead Children's oncology, and it's a way to show gratitude for Miss M's treatment.

I use only good yarn, with alpaca, merino, cashmere, silk etc as part of the mix.  Miss M had tried some hats on but said they were scratchy.  However, she approves of mine.

I made a couple with the Caressa and they felt fine.  I was surprised to see that it was still available.

Here are some of them.  The grey/blue mix near the bottom is Caressa.

My eight year old grandson unexpectedly spent a few days here last week.  He was impressed with the hats and went through the pile.  "This is for a teenager, this one is a toddler, I would wear that one," and so on.

My son took around twenty hats to the hospital today.  Winter has struck here and today has an icy wind blowing, so hopefully  they will all warm some bare little head soon.

Life has been humdrum here and at times unpleasant.  I have not been sleeping well some nights and seem to have pulled a tendon or ligament in my groin.  I thought at first it was hip trouble but have observed symptoms closely.  Exercises will help but are unpleasant to do.  They are to strengthen muscles to help hold everything in place.  Walking is slow and sometimes painful. Sudden movement is painful.  Stairs are very painful and I am grateful for a lift in this building.  Sitting is just fine but exercise is also needed.

I had more than I really wanted last Saturday.  Miss T, big sister to Miss M, turned 12 the week before.  Her mother had not had parties for any of the children for several years, so her Dad decided he would have one this year.  It was held at the Armory which is on reclaimed river land beside the Parramatta River, a mile or so upstream from where I grew up.  There are lots of pieces of play equipment and BBQs etc and it is very popular.

We invited friends from school and other areas of her life and had not only cousins and uncles and aunts, but over twenty girls attend.  It was freezing and we walked across quite a large area to get to somewhere with just a bit of shelter.  We had pass the parcel which was very popular but otherwise they preferred to play on equipment.  Lots of lovely presents and she had an absolute ball.

That night he took her to Luna Park for some one on one time.  Again she had a great time and we  have a beautiful picture of them both on a ride.  Life has been tough for her lately and unpleasant for us.  Lots of passive aggression from her mother and resistance to  any arrangements being made.

Miss M has about six weeks left of the last, hopefully,  aggressive chemo.  After that, it will be checkups at the clinic and chemo given there.  This lot is making her very lethargic.  The big black circles have gone from her eyes, but her face is pale and the eye stand out in it.  She is back in the wheelchair and stayed in it all through the party, well rugged up.  The diabetes and pancreatitis is back, but hopefully will go.  She looks pretty bad but are assured her results are just what specialist wants, so have to accept that.

What was good at the party was that there was a school mate of Miss T's there.  She has just been officially declared in remission and her hair has grown back in beautiful ringlets.  It was encouraging for all of us to see her, although she has some issues with bone density caused by the chemo.

My mother had a magic touch with African  violets and they bloomed well for her.  She loved flowers and a pretty garden but was not a gardener.  However, African violets thrived under her care. I do not have that touch passed down to me.  This plant was part of a birthday present given to my eldest son several years ago.  He passed it straight over to me and it has bloomed on and off in the years I have had it.  However I had not had any flowers on it for the best part of a year and I wondered if it needed repotting or was on its way out.  Then suddenly, these flowers appeared.  There are more flowers coming.  It may be a swan song on the part of the plant, but I am enjoying them.

I have decided not to do any hats for a while.  It may be because I packaged them up to go to the hospital.  Who knows?   Last night was disturbed by a recurring stupid dream where I was making a new hat and writing the pattern down.  Over and over, I would knit in my dream, then rip it out and try something different.  I think I will go back to a  shawl for a while.  I have an Aestlight on the needles and am still on the garter stitch section.  I have made several of these and am planning on giving this to a friend from Adelaide in September.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

fraternal hats

All these three hats come from the same ball of Bendigo alpaca.  The difference in colours is due to the light.  I possibly have enough left on the ball to make another small sized hat, but am now knitting yellow for a bit of a change.  My son asked for some smaller hats to be made as well as those with around 80 stitches in a thicker yarn.  One little mite whom they knew at the hospital was diagnosed with leukaemia at three months old.  She didn't quite make her third birthday, although an early party was held for her.  The bottom hat is a downsized version of Odessa which I originally downloaded way back in 2003.  I've made several of this pattern over the years, easy, attractive, quick.  I've even done one with beads but don't think they are suitable for a chemo hat for a sensitive scalp.  The top hat is slightly flatter across the decreases than the second.

Miss M starts the last of the intensive chemo in this original blast of treatment in a few days.  It will probably trigger another bout of diabetes.  Hopefully, that will go in a couple of months when this cycle ends.  She's pretty brave and pricks her fingers for blood sugar level tests every couple of hours.  Not up to doing the injections herself and I hope it disappears before she is old enough for that.  Chickenpox is still doing the rounds at her school, so she has not been attending there.  Her resistance is very low to pretty well anything, and even a cold is a major illness for her.

I don't mind making hats in different sizes.  It's a bit of variety in the knitting.  Heads come in different shapes and sizes and what fits one, won't fit another.  The current knit has eighty stitches and blocks of alternating purl and plan stitches.  I'd like  to do some lace patterns and think they would probably be OK.  Son is not so sure, as the chemo makes the skin very sensitive to sunlight and the scalp can burn easily, even in winter.

It's finally turning to winter.  The nights are getting decidedly chilly and the other morning it was only 4° C here, which is cold for close to the sea in Sydney.  I have seen it colder but not often.  Today is beautiful, very sunny although the morning was cold.  We've had some needed rain as well.

Last week I bought a large rug online for a very reasonable price.  It is to go in the lounge room and is 2.5 by 3.3 metres.  It will cover quite a bit of my plain grey carpet which was the original installation.  Today is Wednesday.  Last Friday I had an email from the courier company that it would be her yesterday.  No rug, no email, no phone call, no message.  Not happy Jan.  That is quite a few days to arrange the delivery and the courier firm had it in their possession on the Friday.  I will give it till later this afternoon before I make a call.  I hate chasing stuff up.  This company is not the one run by Auspost which has a very bad reputation, but  is not much above it.

I am a grammar and spelling pedant.  I make typos, but try to find them, but spelling mistakes are another thing altogether.  It seems that there is very little proofreading done these days.  I guess many of the sub-editors on the Sydney Morning Herald have been pensioned off or just sacked.  The grammar and spelling there gets worse, almost every week.

My son sent this picture from his local Central Coast train station which is being upgraded.  There are many notices around, most warning of danger of glass, equipment etc.  The Transport Minister is known here as Our Glad.  She is fussy about such things as train guards wearing trousers and not shorts.  She does not like knobbly knees.  Trains running on time or cancellations do not seem to be as important to her.  However, any way one looks at this photo, something is wrong.  No proofing apparently.  I am surprised that "maintenance" has been done correctly.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

hats for the hydra or... four heads are better than one

I have been working on chemo hats for the Children's Oncology wards at Westmead.  Three wards, each with baskets for donations.  My son can drop them off in the afternoon even if Miss M is not an inpatient, as he works nearby.  Hats are always needed, they treat many hundreds of children with cancer a year.  Miss M was  reluctant to try my hats at first as she had tried the donations and many were knitted with yarn which felt scratchy to her.  She wasn't keen on the acrylic either.  However, she knows I use good yarn and is happy to wear what I made for her.  She's also happy that any I donate are made  from good quality yarn too.

They are a great way of using up stash yarn.  Heaven knows I could knit hundreds and not need to buy yarn.  I find that knitting a variety of hats makes them less boring.  So there are stripes, ribs, some lace, different styles.

The yellow and grey are made from Bendigo five ply and are quite soft.  The yellow is a beret style with a picot edge.  The grey is the pattern Coronet which is free on Ravelry, although my pattern was downloaded well before Ravelry in 2003.  It's originally for 8 ply but using 5 ply downsized it automatically for me.  I'm going to make Odessa for the next hat.  Again, it's an old pattern to me and I have made quite a few.  No beads though, I don't want a tender scalp to be irritated by them.

The other two  are made from Quince and Co in Owl or Owl Tweet.  That's an Aran weight.  I cast on eighty stitches, knit till it looked around the  right length and decreased.

There is one more hat with a pink strip around the edge from the Powderpuff Suzyhausfrau Aran.  However, I can't find a photo of that.  It was dark green with  a narrow strip near the border which used up the very last of the oink from the Acadian shawl.

This photo of the Acadian shawl was taken a couple of days ago when it was straight off the needles and as yet unblocked.  There was a break in the grey light outside, so I took advantage of that.  The pattern is free on Ravelry, easy to do.  The yarn is lovely to work with, soft and pleasant through the fingers.  It's also very warm.

The wrap is still unblocked.  The weather has been damp.  when it wan't damp, it was wet.  The yarn is thick and I didn't want it hanging around for days to dry.  It will be snug and cosy now that winter seems to be finally arriving.

As always, clicking on the image will enlarge it.

I said that I was going to try for two hats a week.  This is four hats over three weeks.  Arthritic fingers and other joints didn't help.  However, I can't let it bother me if I don't keep up.  My knitting is not meant to produce anxiety for not keeping to the standards I originally set.  Any hat is another little head kept warm and is better than no hat at all.  Knitting is a means of relaxation and meditation for me and it isn't that if I worry about keeping up.

I have been using my swift a lot lately.  I love it and it has made winding yarn ever so much easier.  I used to use one end of the rectangular table on the balcony to hold the yarn but this is so much quicker and I now have a different table.  The ball winder is great, but it slips a bit on my glass table.  I think I will try a bit of non-slip rubber on the top as well as the base of the clamp.

Miss M seems to be well and is certainly enjoying three weeks without being admitted as an inpatient.  Next week sees the start of the last few weeks of the intensive chemo which started on New Year's Day with the diagnosis.  That is another  eight weeks.  If all goes well, there will be clinic administered maintenance doses and regular testing after that for a very long time.  Some years.  If she becomes sick with any infections, she has to be taken straight to hospital for monitoring as an inpatient, as the body has little to fight infections.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014


I have been making steady progress on the Acadian shawl.  It will block to perhaps more than a wrap but not really a shawl.  I have done 13/23 repeats of the diamond edging, so am over halfway to the finish.  I have only three more repeats before I start the decreasing in the body of the knitting.

The Aran weight yarn is lovely to knit, soft on the fingers and I am enjoying the pink which is not a colour I would normally choose for myself.  I am wondering just what I am going to block this on.  The picture shows less than half of the knitting and it will be bigger when blocked.  Now if my spare bed were available it would be good.  However, son now sleeps in that room, so I can hardly take over his bed with a wet piece of knitting.

I just realised he'll be away from Friday morning till late Monday of this coming long weekend.  If I get a move on and finish the knitting, I may be able to use his bed to oread out the knitting on a blanket.

It's finally beginning to cool down.  Still too warm in the middle of the day but the nights are getting colder.  It was 6° here yesterday morning around 7:30.  The colder night gave me a wonderful sleep, eight hours without stirring.  I haven't slept as well as that for a very long time.  It was lovely to wake and see how long I had slept without waking even once. A little bit warmer this morning but still chilly and beautifully sunny.  The sun fills most of my lounge room early theses days as it's low enough in the winter sky to come straight in under my balcony roof.  Very pleasant it has been too, to have my second  cup of coffee in the sunshine.

It's a bit weak looking here but it's not long up and there was some fog outside.  While it's been a bit nippy, I haven't had the heater on much at all this year yet, perhaps just twice in the evening.  Gas costs have risen enormously, so if I cam make do without the heater, then I will.  I've been fine with an extra layer on at night but won't hesitate to turn it on if needed.

Waste not, want not, take two.  I darned a pair of socks a few weeks ago and went to wear them again today.  They are old, absolutely nothing fancy but I have always liked them  They are made from Lionbrand Magic Stripes yarn which came from an online shop in Melbourne at least twelve years ago if not more.  As I said, nothing fancy at all.  It's called sport weight.

There was another hole in them,  Nothing surprising, you say, considering their age. Perhaps not but this hole was in a strange place and I think that somehow I must have pulled a thread.  It was in the middle of the top of the instep, right before the cuff of the leg.

So I sat down just after breakfast in the sun which was just coming in then.  What a virtuous feeling darning produces!

I pulled out my cowrie shell which was always used for darning.  I think there was a larger one, but this size works too.  I know people who used an old light bulb or even an orange to slip into the sock to stretch out the hole for easy darning.

My grandmother taught me to darn, very many years ago.  I am very much out of practice but want to wear these socks as long as possible.  I remember when Woolworths and Coles as variety stores selling hanks of  multi-coloured strands of darning wool.  There were hanks in grey tones, brown tones and blue tones.  That's a long time ago too, well before the advent of nylon socks or other mixes of yarn,

I split some very dark grey yarn into its plies. The aim was to match the thickness of the thread  to the thickness of darning  yarn as well as possible.  This makes a smooth, non-lumpy darn. I was not worried about the colour and had nothing to actually match the sock.  After all, who will see it apart from myself?

I ran a thread of small running stitches in a  square right around the hole.  Just into the solid knitting.  This stabilises the material and forms a good base for the darn.

I then criss-crossed the hole with yarn from one side of the square to the other, catching in any stray actual stitches possible.  Threads should lie as closely as possible together.  Picture shows this in progress.  My grandmother  could place threads so closely together that they looked like solid material.  I was never able to get them as close together as she considered necessary.

When the hole has been filled, turn the sock around 90 degrees.  Work the needle under and over the base of threads which now lie at right angles to your work.  extend the dar into the solid part of the sock and again, place the threads as closely together as possible.  Keep an even tension and don't pull tightly on the yarn as this will cause uncomfortable lumps int the dar, which will irritate the foot.

Weave in the ends and voilà your sock has been mended.  As I said, it gives a virtuous feeling of making something useful again.  After all, the socks took a lot of time and effort to make.  Why not mend if possible?

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

on a roll

I'm on a roll.  Another chemo hat finished and washed and I'm planning on a ribbed hat for a boy for the next.  Perhaps even one with a pompom. On such a roll that I had better be careful not to fall over.  It's happened before.

This is a child's beret.  I'm sort of happy with it but was decidedly unhappy with the pattern and won't link.  It wasn't originally written in English and it has the feel of having been translated in Babel fish or similar.  It was very stilted.

Now I'm experienced in doing hats, in knitting in the round.  There were times I had  to peer closely at the picture to work out what the instructions were really saying.

It's a bit over the top too.  Picot edge where hem is done later.  No mention of knitting the hem which makes a much neater and stronger finish than sewing it.  A twisted rib, lace and the pattern called for more decorations to be handknit and then sewn on.  I think not.

Renae at Suzy hausfrau is expanding her range to include her own label of sustainably produced merino.  She introduced it at the Old Bus Depot Markets a few days ago.  I didn't get there, wasn't even aware they were on, although I've now remedied that in my calendar.  Roll on next year! She started with several colours in an Aran weight and will introduce more and hopefully other weights in her online store from the beginning of June.  She had just a few skeins left over after the markets and I managed to get three in a colour called powder puff.   I am not really a pink person but this is lovely.  A soft dusky pink with some white through it.  The wool itself is beautiful to use and it flows easily through my fingers.  There are also pictures of the  wool on her Facebook page with a link from the shop site.

So what to make with this?  I decided on the Acadian shawl/wrap from Ravelry.

It's a free download from Ravelry.  The stocking stitch section increases by a stitch on every knit row and the motif is an easy sixteen rows.  There are  seven motifs in the first section and I've now done four.  Nine motifs make up the middle section and there are another seven motifs decreasing back to the original seventeen stitches.

That's not a nupp in the middle.  Instead, it's three stitches which are wrapped  four times in a similar way to making a  short row.  It looks quite effective and is easy to do.

Now for some lunch in the sun and unseasonal warmth outside.  After that I will cast on another chemo hat, this time for a boy.  I have plenty of Bendigo five and eight ply in my stash in a variety of colours.  Enough to keep me going on these hats for a long time.

Monday, 26 May 2014

a yarnover too far

I had two granddaughters here for most of the weekend.  Social creatures as they are, they each had a birthday party to go to.  Fortunately at much the same time and in neighbouring suburbs so son had only one trip for them.

Last time there was MESS! everywhere.  They are messy at home, but it won't work here.  Not enough room and too easy to leave things here.  Then their mother is annoyed when only one sock of a pair makes it back.  I kept a a fairly tight rain on such things and we even managed to get a load of washing done and dry to go back home.

While they were out socialising, I spent quite a bit of time on one of the chemo hats.  Beret style, with lace.  For a long time I  could not work out why the pattern was astray, not lining up.  I finally realised there were two stitches too many in the row, two errant yarnovers, which threw everything out.  The beret is now about half finished.  It's 5 ply in some yellow Bendigo wool I have had for quite a while.  Still lots of stash to use up and chemo hats are quick projects.  Next one will be more for a boy.

Miss M was very happy to be well enough for a party.  She looks quite reasonable although she has dark circles around her eyes.  She's very independent, hates the thought of having a rest, insists on pumping up her airbed.  Independence is a good thing in attitude to overcoming leukaemia, but she needs to learn that sometimes a rest for 30 minutes is necessary.

Yesterday my son taught the two of them how to make scones.  Their mum does not have the patience to teach them cooking, just as their cousins' mum won't bother.  However, both their dads are good cooks and are teaching their children how to cook, both meals and snacks. Actually my three sons are all good cooks.  I started early with them.

These scones turned out well and made a delicious Sunday afternoon tea with a cup of Irish Breakfast for me.  I use a very basic recipe, flour, salt and milk.  This was along the same lines.  I would have made them a bit browner on top, but they were cooked through.  I don't usually like gluten free products.  These were a good exception.  Self raising  gluten free flour, a pinch of salt, about half a teaspoon of additional baking powder to what was in  the flour.  Thickened cream to mix and make them rich.  They had fun cutting them out with fluted scone cutters and we had a pleasant afternoon tea.

Friday, 23 May 2014

chemo hats again

My son took the two hats I finished earlier to the hospital even though Miss M was discharged from the round of chemo  on Wednesday afternoon.  He met the mother of another little girl patin who knew Miss M wasn't there and asked why he was there.  He showed her the hats and said he was just dropping them off into one of the several baskets each of the three oncology wards has sitting around.  She felt the hats and commented on the softness and quality of the yarn.  He told her, "Mum doesn't use cheap and nasty yarn in anything," and asked if she would like one.  She chose one of the two and then cried that someone might make things like that from expensive yarn just to donate.

Even before all this leukaemia business erupted into our lives, I have always had a policy of not giving presents which I would not like to receive  or anything cheap and shoddy.  She recognised the good stuff and I was pleased I had used it.

I'm now working on another two hats.  One I could do with my eyes closed, in a thickish alpaca.  The other is more of a lace beret in a finer wool and I will need to follow the pattern for it.  Just a way of gratitude for the care taken of Miss M these last few months.

This lot of chemo is the last in this cycle.  She actually gets two or three weeks before the next lot of tests and chemo.  I think that round can be given in the clinic each week without a full admission unless she picks up an infection.

We will have at least the girls here this weekend.  Not sure about the Teenager.  My son wants to take the wheelchair and take them to the city for the first night of VIVID the light festival on Sydney Harbour.  Lots of beautiful lights and ethereal shapes.  A lot will depend on Miss 12 who has been in  Canberra all week with her class.  She is not a night owl and is perfectly happy falling asleep wherever she is, so she may not have missed too much sleep.

I was minding them all one night at their aunt's place.  Miss 12 disappeared during a game of hide and seek.  I think she was Miss 8  sat the time.  She was found after some searching in her hiding spot under the big dining table, fast asleep on the floor.

Now, because it's Friday, a recipe from Gourmet Traveller, I think.  It was nice as the bacon I used is well smoked by a small supplier to my fruit and veg guy.  The original recipe called for m ashes pumpkin on top if puff pastry but I used sweet potato as that was what I had.  Spread the mash mix to within  about a centimetre of the edge of the pastry.  Cover with strips of bacon and using about a tablespoon of good maple syrup and a pastry brush, brush the syrup onto the bacon.  Cook in a hot oven.  It was different and good and an easy way for another vegetable serve.  It doesn't need lashings of syrup.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

waste not, want not

So the saying goes.  Or perhaps, "use what's to hand," only this time it applies to yarn, not the leftovers in the fridge.

Like many of us, I have lots of small balls of wool, often expensive stuff.  This time I had various bits and pieces of the Quince and Co Owl, a 10 ply.

I have made Miss M six different style and weights of chemo hats.  She also has a straw hat her mother bought.  She doesn't need more.  However, I am starting on hats for the three oncology wards at the Children's Hospital.  The hospital treats several thousand children a year. My son tell me they each have several baskets for donations.

Both of these are the Quince and Co and were quick knits.  The green has been washed, the other needs to be washed before sending it out.  It feels good to have done them for donation and feels good also that I have perhaps two metres of the blue and three of the red left and that's it.  I do have more free, as I bought more in case the cowl for DIL needed it when used double.  I'll look and see if I can find something to use as a contrast.  The red hat is nowhere near  as belled out as the picture would suggest.  I think it's the angle the phone was held at which gives that impression.

It's Sunday morning here and son has just left for the hospital.  It's Miss M's several days in for the intensive  chemo.  Last time she was in an extra couple of days for the chemo to leave her body.  He won't be back till late Tuesday evening, although he will be at work on Monday and Tuesday.  The night shifts are tiring as she has observations done every two hours and he is awake for them.

This is the last session in this round of chemo and it has been an intense, often unpleasant time.  I don't know  what's next.  We do have a schedule but as the names mean little to us, we wait till we are told more by staff.  What we do know is that the doctors are pleased with her progress.  We can't really go beyond that, although I see how tired she still is, how the chemo affects her concentration and similar.  Still, they say they are pleased, so I have to accept that.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Boston cowl

One finished Boston cowl which still needs blocking to increase its length.  When I finished it last night, the light was too poor for a photo.

Blocking will give it several inches more in length.  DIL loves it and will look for a fabulous button for it.  I could probably find one she likes as we have similar tastes, but I'll let her choose it and have made do with a shawl pin for the photo.

It's made from my current obsession, Quince and Co Owl, colour bog.  The Owl is ten ply, worsted weight and it was done on 10 mm Addi clicks.  It took me quite a while to get used to such enormous needles and at first I could do only a couple of rows at a time as my fingers hurt.  The yarn is used double to get something  approximating  super bulky.

The pattern is very easy and comes in several sizes.  DIL bought it but I would have just winged it and made up my own.  It is really nothing more than a rectangle with a buttonhole in top corner and then a button sewn in middle of opposing side.  She does knit, but hasn't reached the stage of being able to see what was done to construct something.

While we are looking at my red cabinet, here's a picture of the present Miss 11 bought for me from her school's Mothers' Day stall.  It has springs for legs so wobbles.  She took the picture. The first was poor as there was little daylight so she turned flash on.  It really needs more ambient light as well as the flash.

Mothers' Day stalls have certainly changed.  When my sons  were in Infants and Primary, parents sent a gift to the value of $5 and then sent $5 for child to buy a  gift.  Somehow, I never seemed to get anything approaching the value of what I had sent.  I do remember opening a present one year as son looked on with excitement in his  eyes. It was the lid of a large aerosol can, filled with plaster of paris, plastic flowers around the edge and a cheap  candle plonked in  the middle.  Of course, I made the usual responses about it and thanked him profusely.  I then moved on to the present from his brother.  I could hardly believe it and didn't know whether to laugh or cry as I opened an identical present.  I kept them in the sideboard cupboard for very many years, a fact which they both remembered last Sunday.

Dil was here for a pleasant Mother's Day lunch on Sunday.  She loved the hat I did for her as shown in previous blog entry.  I guessed the size and it was just right.  We had a pleasant time and my sons did the baked chicken lunch with chicken and vegetables cooked slowly.  Another son made his famous gravy and we had a very relaxed time.

Having  Miss M, her brother and sister here over most of the weekend was noisy, messy and chaotic.  They went home to have lunch with their mother on Mothers' Day, so a relaxing meal was just what was needed.  Miss M had been in hospital six days instead of the usual four and was tired from being woken every night several times for observations.  Not only was she  tired,  but she was cranky with her brother and we had several very noisy tantrums from her.  Stamping, screaming, yelling and a total meltdown.  She used to throw them regularly but I hadn't seen one for several years.  The illness has brought a sense of entitlement with it.  Certainly not fostered by hospital or family, but part of the whole process I guess.

Here she is teasing her big sister by trying to tickle her feet under the blankets of the sofa bed.

She loves her onesie, although it looks to me to be uncomfortable to actually use.  It's made of some artificial material and I would not like  the feel of it.  It's not the usual fleece but is soft and feels totally artificial and clammy to me.

Miss 11 has rejoiced in having the use returned of both her arms.  The casts have been removed and she has resumed playing Saturday soccer.  I wonder about the wisdom of this, but trying to shield them from every danger is not a possibility.  She is a bit of a model as can be seen from the photo.  I asked her how she was going at school, as she is bright but has had a very disrupted year with Miss M's illness.  She told me, "real good."  I automatically corrected that to, "really well," and she looked at me puzzled.  I think that's par for the course in her area.

Friday, 9 May 2014

something actually finished

Finally, some finished and blocked objects to show.  However,  first a word from our sponsor of warning.

When weaving in ends of  wool, be careful not to let any scraps fall on the  floor.  They play havoc, big time, with the roller brush on the vacuum cleaner.  Just saying.

So what is done  and blocked?

First up are gloves for my grandson.  He lost the pair from last year and asked for more.  He has since found them, out of place after a move, but I have made this pair from leftover yarn and made them with a long cuff to do next year.  That is, if these don't get lost too.  They are from Quince and Co Owl.

They look peculiar with the extra long cuff, but he likes them and they fit quite well.  Hopefully they will still fit his hand next year and the extra length will be fine on his wrist.

I have possibly enough left over to make still another striped pair but think I will put it away till next year.  The Quince and Co Owl worsted is very cosy and knits up well.

More Quince and Co Owl in this hat.  This time it is a new release, Owl Tweet.  Worsted weight again, but with a tweedy nubbly finish.  Colour is sooty and again it is from the  Australian distributor Suzyhausfrau  It is very pleasant to knit.  This is for the birthday next month of one daughter in law.  I usually knit something but this time she asked  me to knit a cowl and a hat and provided the yarn.  Hat was quick, and I have started the cowl which is very basic but just the sort of thing she likes.  I think I started it after lunch one day and it was finished after lunch the next.  No, I did other things than knit as well.

My final finished object is the Mairi shawl.  Link in post below this one from Ravelry and it as a free download.  The border is knit first, then filled in at the corner with short rows in the pattern and then the second half of border is done.  Stitches are picked up along the border and  the shawl is then knit with four decreases every second row.  My sister is not a shawl person whereas I am.  However, I think it might be for her  birthday in a few months.  She often complains of being cold across the shoulders when watching TV at night.  This is light and warm and should be cosy.

Now I must  away and make sure the place is suitable for two young granddaughters.  Miss M is doing  well and the doctors are happy with her progress.  This has been the week for chemo.  She went in last Sunday and normally would be out on Wednesday afternoon or Thursday morning.  She is still there as she is not allowed home while there is any trace of the chemo in her body.  I am assuming she will be here with her sister for the weekend.  She will hopefully be able to attend school at least some of next week.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

very dead, definitely not an evergreen

About this time last year I bought two kits from Jared Flood.  The first I made as a Rosebud hat a present for one DIL.  I liked the pattern but did not like the wool  It was splitty and full of vegetable matter and seeds.  I doubt Australian Customs would have been impressed if they had inspected.  Their policies are very strict, as they ought to be.  The second was for the Sempervivum shawl which I wanted as something to concentrate on.  As things turned out, I didn't use it and took it out only a week ago.

Now I've used patterns from there before.  They are attractive garments, patterns are well written and illustrated and easy to follow.  But not this one.  For almost all my life I was a very verbal person, quite happy to follow written instructions in knitting patterns.  About ten years ago, I made myself learn how to read and work from charts and much to my surprise, I like them.  Since then, I use charts and like seeing how things develop by checking the chart.  Not this time.  There were charts, four of them.

One chart was very large and had been reduced in size to fit on an A4 sheet of card.  It was almost impossible for my eyes to read accurately and I knew I would be tearing my hair out trying to follow it. So I ripped out what I had done and spent a lot of time looking for something else to suit yarn and the amount I had.

Their kits come only with written patterns.  I for one, would appreciate a password protected site where a pdf of the pattern could be downloaded after purchase.  I transfer pdfs to Evernote which runs across my computer, iPad and iPhone.  I always have access to the pattern.  When I use them in iPad or iPhone, I can enlarge the page view with a simple swipe.  So easy and so convenient.  I have taken a photo in the past and put that on Evernote, but it did not seem to work this time.

So what did I find?  I decided to try Mairi because of the different techniques used in it. Here's a  link.  The lacy edge is based on fourteen stitches and a twenty row repeat.  Halfway along the length, a series of short rows forms a turn, and after the remaining edge is done, stitches are picked up for the body of the shawl.  Four stitches are decreased every second row for shawl shaping.  Obviously my picture shows a work in progress and it should open up with some blocking.

Two sons had a quick trip to Melbourne on the Anzac Day long weekend.  They rented a furnished apartment and seem to have spent most of the time eating, drinking coffee and listening to live music.   They had a great time.  They returned Sunday, in the daylight because of work the next day.  At Euroa they had a pot of tea in a cafe and bought local jam, quince for me, fig and ginger for them although I like that  too.  Just out of Euroa, they bought a tray of free range farm eggs, twenty.  I already had eight at home, so had to think of a way to use some.  I like frittata so decided on that.  Mine are always passable, but DIL makes better.  So I looked for a recipe to suit what I had.  I found asparagus and onion frittata to serve four.  I substituted leek as son here loathes onions unless they are chopped so finely they cannot be seen or felt.  I even had cream and goats cheese and a fresh block of parmesan, ready to grate.  Recipe said it serves four.  If served in one  go, I think there could be more serves with extra vegetables.  We had it with farm mushrooms and son had a large piece of leftovers for lunch next day.  My piece was small but I added salad.  This was easy to make and delicious.  By far the best I have ever made. Photo shows it just after top was grilled.

Good news for Miss M.  The doctors have suggested she try some school in the off week when she is not in hospital for chemo.  They suggested a couple of half days to start with but she was very excited on Monday morning when son picked up her siblings.  Uniform on, uniform hat on, huge grin on.  She stayed the whole day but has been too exhausted to return.  However, it's a step forward for her and she needs to see her friends and be in some sort f routine other than daytime TV. Especially since one person she has met at hospital lost his fight agains leukaemia yesterday.  I know the success rate for cures is very high, but it's not 100%.  This is the second death in a week I have heard of and I was saddened depute her progress.  I try not to think of that small percentage not cured.

Monday, 21 April 2014


I like gnocchi but have never made them.  Some homemade gnocchi which I have been given have had the consistency of semi-solidified Clag glue.  I have heard this comes from overbeating the potato mix so the texture is modified.

I found a recipe for pumpkin gnocchi and tried it at the weekend.  Not having pumpkin, I substituted sweet potato.

This is to make four servings.

250 gm sweet potato or pumpkin and 500 gm ordinary potato.

Scrub well but do not peel.  Place on baking paper on tray and bake in moderate oven  till soft.  Mine took about 50 minutes but shape of potatoes will influence time.

Allow to cool and then peel and place both types of potato in a large bowl.

Mash, using a potato masher or solid fork.  Do NOT add butter or milk and definitely do not use any mechanical means of mashing.  Make sure the two types of potato are mixed together.

Fold in 3/4 cup plain flour.  Be careful not to  be too energetic here.  Use  something like a wooden spoon.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Place on lightly floured surface and knead till smooth, again being gentle.

Divide dough into four and roll each portion out into a long  roll about 2 cm in diameter.  Using a floured knife, cut dough into slices about 2 cm thick.  I found this was too thick and suggest making them a bit thinner.

Roll over the back of a floured fork to give s slightly rounded shape and the impress of the fork onto them.

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil and add about a quarter of the gnocchi.  Cook about two minutes or until they float to the surface.  remove with a slotted spoon and keep warm while cooking remainder.

Serve with leek and basil butter sauce.

Sauce recipe: Melt 40 gm of butter in pan.  Add a finely sliced leek and a long red chilli, deseeded and chopped finely.  Cook in butter, being careful not to let it burn.  The recipe said one long chilli but I used two as we both like it.  It gave a good tang without being overbearing and was great on a  chilly night.  Just before serving, stir in a handful of fresh basil and spoon sauce over the gnocchi.  Serve with additional salad.

We enjoyed them.  The recipe was easy.  It was a bit fiddly, so I may not make it often but it was  something quite different and was also another recipe for a meatless meal.

Monday, 14 April 2014

happy birthday, mum

I've seen many posts from others about missing parents who have died.  I still miss Mum and she's still very often thought of and referred to by other family members.  The youngest great grandchild does not have strong memories but the others all remember.  The sayings which came from her have passed into family talk.  Not clichéés, but things which were funny at the time, either by circumstance or tone. "I just fancy a boiled egg," and my sister and I immediately hear the pathetic tone in which this was said.

The fourth anniversary of her death was just a few days ago and today was her birthday.  She would have been 94 today.

My sister from well up the coast is in Sydney and came to lunch on Saturday found this photo.  It was only a small one, taken by a street photographer.  She had it enlarged and it has come up very well indeed.  It was a (very) early birthday present for me.  I think it was taken in 1941 and Mum would have been 21.  She's beautiful and looks lovely here.  I'm very glad she had it enlarged and clicking on the picture here gives a much better view of her.  It's not really pink, it's the early morning sunshine causing the strange hues here.  Still after the rain we have had, the sun is very welcome.  The weather bureau reported rain on 22 days in March and April is going the same way.

As we looked and then looked at pictures of her father, we could see the resemblance even in her great grandchildren, especially in the eyes.

My sister brought the roses from a rose farm out near where she is staying.  She brought a big bunch of pale pink roses for me and two of these smaller bouquets  for my two small granddaughters who were here for the weekend.  They were amazed someone should give them flowers.  Miss M could not have flowers when she was in hospital and so sick, so they loved these.  Unfortunately they forgot to take them home so I get the pleasure of looking at the roses a while longer.  The vase is very old, well over a hundred years.

Miss M had more time in hospital from  Sunday a week ago till Wednesday afternoon.  This was for the usual procedures and monitoring the start of the third lot of chemo.  Unfortunately, the effect of the anti-nausea drug did not last long enough and she spent some hours constantly throwing up and had to be re-admitted.  She was well enough to come to my place but had extra medicine which was fenced about with times and regulations.  We coped and she and her sister had a good time here.

To compound the noise level, the 15year old older brother arrived yesterday.  I remember annoying my mother by reading, stretched out flat on the floor.  She could not understand why anyone would read like that. This photo shows him on the sofa bed.  He lay like this for an hour watching a replay of an English soccer match on my iPad.  One knee is on the floor and the iPad is in the corner of the lounge.  I am sure being stretched out on the floor as I used to be is more comfortable than being like this.

It's a while since I have seen him.  At Christmas he was about my height.  He is now well and truly taller than I am and is on the verge of being taller than his dad.

He is noisy and teases his sisters who of course react.  In a way it's reassuring to hear Miss M reacting to what he says or does.  In reality it was unpleasantly loud in a small apartment.

His dad took them home in the early evening last night and I must admit I'm relishing the quiet.

I made one glove for Master 8 who lost the pair I made last year, or perhaps they disappeared in the moves their parents made.  I'm shortly going to find some knitting and sit and concentrate.  I'm thinking of something more than a fingerless glove, perhaps the Stephen West shawl for which I bought both pattern and wool quite a while ago.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

famous last words

I hope these are not another case of famous last words.  "I have finished with hats for a while."  I really  hope
so.  I have done about nine or perhaps more since February and I need a break.  This is for my eldest son.  Each has his annual new warm hat now.  Again in Quince and Co, Owl.  Colour is huckleberry.

I like the effect of the twisted rib against the plain purl background, but I was heartily sick of twisting every plain stitch in the hat.  The colour here is fairly accurate, a deep rich blue but I put the hat on a paper serviette as a background to show off the blue.

The pattern was for a child but the hat circumference went to an adult size and I adjusted the depth of the hat before doing the crown.

It's been a busy weekend here.  I was down south yesterday and returned to find youngest son and my eight year old grandson.  He had the chance of hearing a band he hadn't heard for eighteen years.  Could I mind my grandson and could they both sleep overnight.  We sorted out some times and off he went to Enmore Theatre with his older brother.

The son who now lives with me returned and said there was a free concert  at the Opera House forecourt, so he took Master F and off they went.  They both had a wonderful time listening to Australian and Maori indigenous music with some Scottish singers thrown in for good measure. He took Master F around to the Harbour Bridge and down to the Rocks area.  He had a great time looking at plaques and working out dates from them.  They were late back, too late really for an eight year old, but there was an extra hour sleep because of daylight savings ending.  We sorted out sleeping arrangements, got him to bed, other son arrived and we had a nightcap on the balcony.

Youngest son spent some time doing some housekeeping on my commuter this morning.  I keep things fairly tidy, but there are areas I will not touch.  I know my limits, so he sorted  stuff out for me.

They all then went their separate ways and I had a pleasant lunch of just ripe pears, some blue cheese and some walnuts.  Very good it was too.  Before they left Master F announced he had lost his gloves I made last year, could I do more?  I suspect they may have been a casualty of their moving.  So he drew a tracing of his hand and I'll use some of the leftover Quince and Co Owl 10 ply.  They'll be striped but I think that's OK with him.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

find a wheel and it goes round and round...

When I was in the second year of high school, there was a song with those words in it.  I was never much into peer pressure as I had grown up at the same school as Dad taught at and I was used to ignoring remarks of any kind and jibes.

However, even at High School I was well up near the top of the class in most subjects.  We won't mention maths.  I was regarded as a swat.  When that song became popular, I badgered my parents for it as a birthday present.  I am sure they didn't know what was happening.  It wasn't the sort of music I was interested in at all.  However, they bought me a 45 rpm recording and if I think hard, I can still hear the wretched thing.

Life is a bit like that recently, or perhaps I should say still.  Miss M had yet more bone marrow biopsies and lumbar punctures yesterday.  This was in preparation for the third round of chemo which was to have started a  week ago but will now start next Sunday night.  It is nasty indeed and requires fur days hospitalisation every two weeks.  That cycle will go round and round  for the next eight weeks.

We managed to get them last Sunday for a while and the picture shows Miss M and big sister Miss T doing craft work some lovely knitter sent.  Miss T's right arm is definitely broken, probably in two places and is still painful despite a full cast from finger tips to upper arm, almost the shoulder.  Her dad found a T-shirt in a shopping centre which said, "Keep calm and break arms," so she now has that.  It was late Sunday afternoon and a heavy thunderstorm was rolling in, so light was poor.

That's another thing going round and round.  Their mother really needs help as she cycles through various moods.  On Sunday she was being charming, possibly helped along by other people being present.  Yesterday she was rude and arrogant and actually just plain wrong.

My fingers have been going round and round too.  I finished a hat in Quince and Co, Owl, for youngest son.  He likes philosophy and ancient history and has spoken to me of Socrates many times.  It will tickle his fancy that the colour of this hat is named hemlock.  I made an adult size version in cranberry of a hat already made for Miss M.  It's much darker than photo shows.

I'm making yet another hat and my fingers are going round and round and round.  Also in Qunice and Co, Owl, in blueberry.  It's for my oldest  son and it has a fancy twisted rib pattern.  I like the effect, but  every knit stitch is through back of loop and I'm getting tired of it.  That will be the last hat for a while.  I'm thinking about a complicated shawl so I really have to concentrate on the knitting.

My vegetable box had a bunch of cavolo nero, or Italian cabbage in it.  I've used it before and really like it.  I steamed it with the water on the leaves from washing it and a tiny bit of butter.  To this I added garlic and chilli.   Son had never had it but enjoyed it.  I discovered that when he had washed up, he had put the small amount of leftovers into a container.  I put it into a shallow pie dish, added a bit of Dijon mustard and two organic eggs.  I baked it till eggs were done.  Leftovers going round and round were a very pleasant and innovative lunch.

So life goes on or goes round and round.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

you won't believe this

Not quite two weeks ago, Miss T, the older sister of Miss M, fell at school while playing a game of bullrush.  She now has a greenstick fracture of the left wrist and as the swelling had  subsided, a  pink fibreglass cast was put on the wrist on Monday.

That night, she went to a girls club which she has attended for years.  She loves it there.  DIL was horrified to be called and told that Miss T had fallen and hurt her arm.  Apparently the girls were plying leapfrog and using a small trampoline as a springboard.  The leader at the trampoline questioned her because of the cast  but allowed her to proceed.

The inevitable happened and she fell again.  The arm is very swollen and there are marks on the x-rays which suggest a possible break ten centimetres below the elbow and another in a similar position above the elbow.  When the swelling goes down, the diagnosis will be clearer.

DIL has more than enough to do ferrying Miss M to chemo, kidney tests etc., without having to fuss over her big sister.  What about eating?  And as practically everyone has said who has  seen the photo, what about the bathroom?

I have written to the state secretary of the organisation to say that duty of care and safety trumps being popular every time.  That leader should have made it plain that Miss T should not be anywhere near the trampoline, not matter how much she wanted to jump.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

look who came to dinner

My son took his three children shopping for a birthday present for their mother.  Otherwise they would have nothing to give her.  Miss M was in a wheelchair.  The chemo attacks both good and bad cells without differentiation, so she still has very little energy.  Her mother was very reluctant to let her out of her sight as she believes she is the only one capable of looking after her.  More on  that later.    We were told not to even think about letting her get sick or we would have no contact again.  I'm not quite sure how one "lets" a child become ill.

Miss M chose a large cushion with LOVE, one letter to a quarter of the kitchen.  She wrapped it herself and enjoyed doing something which could be classed as "normal" behaviour.

I had deliberately decided on very simple food.  Baby sausages, normal sausage but the size of a cocktail frankfurt, mashed potato and corn.  All favourites of hers.  She ate quite reasonably and enjoyed everything.

I had finished the Malabrigo silky/merino hat which is a good fit for her and ready for a cooler day.  She loved it and it looked really good on her.  It's very soft and she likes the feel of it.  She told her dad that she doesn't like wool because it's scratchy on her scalp, but likes grandma's wool which doesn't irritate her.  Something to be said for buying quality, I guess.

Then again, I buy decent stuff because my fingers appreciate knitting it and I am then motivated to finish the knitting.  I did an acrylic scarf a few years back for my nephew and could do only a few rows a day as the yarn burnt my fingers, leaving red marks.

The yarn came from Renee at Suzyhausfrau.  Great service as always.

This hat is definitely NOT this colour.  It's a pillar box red.  I find reds difficult to photograph well and the shiny black table top probably did not help either.

It's more yarn from Renee, this time a Debbie Bliss cashmerino  which has merino, microfibre and and cashmere mix.  Again it's very soft, a 10 ply weight so it was a quick knit.

The pattern is called Simonside and is from an ebook of patterns  of garments  for children from head to  toe.  Hats, scarves, cowls, mittens and socks, all in many multiple sizes.  Lots of different styles and the sizing is good too. Ravelry link to book.   There's a link on that page called ALL PATTERNS to everything in the book. I bought this before I knew I would be making chemo hats.

All my family regularly do the money raising for various cancers, relay for life, breast cancer, World's biggest shave, dry July, growing moustaches, Canteen etc.  My son has shaved his head several times but this year there is a very personal reason for it along with his grandmother who had CLL, chronic leukaemia, often found in the elderly and she died of a stroke, just on four years ago.  Last year his target was $500 which he easily exceeded.  He's going for  $2000 this year and is a quarter of the way there after just under two days.  Some people in Melbourne with whom he has contact through work, have put together a group to do this as support for him.  He has only ever spoken to them on the phone.  How kind!

 Last Sunday afternoon, he and I went to another son's place at Daley's Point at Woy Woy.  Lovely afternoon with an unhurried meal and lots of chat on his covered verandah with views over the water.  Lots of sun and it was beautiful.  The picture was taken late afternoon, but shows how restful the view is.  He has steps down to a jetty and his children love to be down there.

Tim has a lime tree on the place and we brought some home.  They smell great as they are so fresh.  I use limes a lot in cooking and also in the occasional gin  and tonic, a great summer drink.

It was a pleasant break in what has been a stressful time.  Miss M's tests show good results and numbers and she had the last of the second round of chemo yesterday.  The third  round goes for two months and will have several hospital stays involved during those weeks.  Lots of tests, more anaesthetics and the main side effect of this lot is very severe, fairly constant nausea.

Some people are just plain selfish.  Last Thursday Miss M had another anaesthetic, central line flushed, lumbar punctures and bone marrow biopsies, then several hours of chemo and a blood transfusion.  That made a rough day for her.  We learnt later that her mother wanted to go see the Rugby League match on that night.  So she went and took Miss M with her.  So much for not exposing her to infection. Apparently even some of her friends whose advice has been of dubious quality protested about that, as they should have.

Must get back to my knitting.  I feel the need to be quietly knitting away.  Son bought a bed at the weekend as the sofa bed is comfortable but not made for permanent use.  He's been waking with headaches.  The last few days have seen a major reorganisation here and my lounge  room now has two lounges in it so the bed can go in the spare room.  Spare no more.  I support him totally, but it's certainly been a shock to the system.  Some boxes of yarn have been dumped in my room.  I will go through them, but they can wait a few days while I recover.

And finally, in what has been a long blog post.  Miss M's older sister fell at school on Thursday and broke her wrist.  As the took her back to the home away from home at Westmead  Children's hospital, Miss M brightly remarked how good it was that Mum could get cheap parking.  Cancer patient parents get a parking card for $20/month.  Casual parking cost almost $30/day.  Her mum was not impressed by her brightness!  There is a back cast and a bandage till swelling  goes down when full cast will be applied.  It never rains but it pours.

Friday, 28 February 2014

organic cotton hat 2

organic cotton hat 2, a photo by Jan2132 on Flickr.
organic cotton hat 2 by Jan2132A much happier Miss M.  The slouchy topped hat was a big success and I'll do more, but in wool.  The glasses came from Mad About Science in Victoria as part of a 3D writing kit.

She has been home about ten days and we are all having a bit of a respite.  Well, home apart from clinic visits for tests and chemo.  However, she has not been an inpatient from side effects of the chemo.

The little suitcase came from a Ravelry friend in England.  Beautifully packed, it was full of tissue wrapped small parcels of craft materials.  She loved it.  I've said it before, but we are continually amazed at the generosity of fellow crafters.  Amazed by gifts, offers of help, prayers, good wishes and so much more.  It has blown us away.

On that group in Ravelry I joined a KAL of accessories.  That was around Christmas time.  I certainly did not expect to be making chemo hats for my own granddaughter.  This one has a rolled edge and I think I'll probably make a bow from i-cord as decoration.  Or perhaps a butterfly, she likes them.

The yarn is lovely, very soft and easy to knit with.  I bought it from Suzy hausfrau.  It's Malabrigo silky merino, 51% silk and 49% merino.  I'm sure she'll love the colour, she likes purple and blues.  The colour is "nocturnal," a good name to me.  I sat on the balcony this afternoon and did about ten centimetres.  It was pleasantly cool and it has been wonderful to have had some rain.