Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Think purple!

Why is it that purple vegetables always seem that bit more exciting? I never get excited by green beans and even though these purple beauties turn green as they cook... they're just more fun. There's been a quite good crop this season all things considered and the garden is replanted with my favourite herbs, including lemon thyme and tarragon... and purple basil. Mimi did attempt to dig it all up, as well as eat all the ripe blackberries. As a result of her crimes, she is now imprisoned in the new coop.

Who says old window screens can't be useful as doors to hen coops? Mimi and Coco are trying to break out of the new residence. And there was a time when I had to plant the marigolds thrice because she kept pulling them up, even though she was on the other side of the wire. Lola and Fifi came out for the photo, though they are spending most of their time indoors as they are losing feathers at a remarkable rate. I could fill a duvet. I'm trying to refrain from calling them self-plucking hens.

My new stole has just been cast on... but we're talking serious chartage here. This will take me a little while to get used to.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Sock Swap Antics

Thank you, sock swap pal! Can anything be better than hanging out, talking about knitting, and swapping socks in person rather than by mail? And how did you know that I loved Scarlet Fleece in Cottage Garden? This is like my dream yarn - all pink and green! I can't wait to start the second Firestarter!

And I'm so relieved and glad you liked the Caledonian Mist sock in Socks That Rock Little Bunny Foo Foo! Truly a fantastic pattern for those yarns that just want to stand out on their own and I know you'll find it dead easy to knit up.

And the cookies lasted all of... oh... one night. There's still a bit of fudge and marzipan though!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Frosty would definitely melt

It's hot... but is it too hot to wear a shawl? Like, perhaps my Woodland Shawl (Nikol Lohr, Thrifty Knitter) in Bellamodern's The Lord of the Rings colourway?

This is my first shawl and my first attempt at serious blocking and I love the result! Yes, the shawl is dainty, but it drapes around my shoulders nicely and, without the excess drapage, is really actually very practical as well as gorgeous. Just the thing to whip on over a plain white T-shirt for a walk in the woods! The colours are incredible and the leaf pattern, as you can see, really comes to life once blocked. The beauty of the shawl, of course, is that it can be knitted up out of a skein of sock yarn and after a while, the logic of the pattern works into your mind and you can knit away happily while watching Miss Marple or Doctor Who. I practically began this blog with this shawl... so, yes, this is just what Arwen would wear! It is Arwen's Shawl.

I'm just deciding on what to knit the Sherwood Stole in now... I am tempted to use my skeins of Fleece Artist Twilight... just the thing for Maid Marian to wear when rendevousing with Guy... oops, I mean Robin... in the middle of the night in the depths of Sherwood Forest...

Of course, Papa has this odd idea that I should finish up his second sock first. Yes, I did give one gift where the needles were still in the project! I told Papa it was so he could learn to knit. He is not buying it. But is it my fault men have such huge feet?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

'Tis the day before Christmas....

... And I'm looking for a couple of hooks for my blue tea caddy/dispenser, which is gorgeous and for which I have a certain blogger to thank! She generously allowed me to run away with it. Check out her own Caddy-matic.

And see... the marvels of tea cosies down the decades! I was checking out some vintage pattern books VCM located for me and on the back of one, an advertisement for "Madame Weigel's Booklet of Cosies". They're marvelous and I just wonder what would happen if I did send in for a copy... does anyone have a spare eightpence in stamps? They instantly made me think of Loani Prior's book!

And I purchased the yarn for my Cardigan for Arwen. I was going to find a substitute, but the yarn that it asks for is so amazingly soft. I am now very close to finishing my Woodland Shawl aka Arwen's Shawl, so I'm allowed another LotR project. Mind, the shawl is looking small. I did, however, read about it on Ravelry, so I'm going to take deep breaths and wait to see what I can achieve with some blocking before I panic.

And, on a final note, this year, the parrots have descended upon the plum tree. I love watching them. They pick up a plum with one claw and delicately sample it. They eat about half. They look at it thoughtfully and then carelessly let it drop to the ground and go and select another nice, juicy specimen. I may love to watch this process, however, I do not like cleaning up after it.

And so, to all, Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Deck the Halls with Lots of Sock...s?

At around 11:30pm, I finished the Spring Forward Socks in Crystal Palace Fern. They're a gift and currently blocking - and I'm racking my brains to figure out where to hide two wet socks from the recipient. Any suggestions? This is a wiley recipient who will investigate every nook and cranny.

The photo shoot occurred around midnight. I was going for an action shot on the treadmill, but... well, it was midnight? And, seriously, it wasn't like I was really going to go on a 3K walk at midnight. Instead, I cast on the second gigantic sock (men's socks... they're always so big!) of the other pair that will supposedly find their way under a tree. I'm not even through the cuff, but I'm driving with some friends to an antique market today, so I'm figuring that between time on the road and time sitting having lunch... I might at least get to the heel? Maybe?

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Raven Lands!

You know the sock. You see a picture of it and it just blows you away. You think nothing can be quite so wonderful as that sock. You think life would be perfect with just that sock. You think life will never be the same again now that you've seen that sock.

That's how I felt when I saw Lenore.

Unfortunately, the moment I saw Lenore, the dollar plunged. And I'm really resisting the urge to sob 'nevermore'.

Fortunately, Blue Moon Fibres had that barn sale which meant that I could just about wriggle the excuse that it evened up the fall in the dollar. I mean, honestly, since I had already realised that the Socks that Rock Club for 2009 was out of reach...

So today I went to the post office to pick up Lenore. Lenore is just as gorgeous as I imagined. Lenore is quite different to the usual colours I knit. Yes, I tend to be a little on the - ah - bright side. This is obviously a subtle reassertion of my non-existent gothic side (although, I do have that long black skirt with the spider web). Lenore is glorious. I love Lenore.

Yes, I also love the Rivendell socks. I have some Sheep Paints yarn just waiting in the wings to knit them up with. I'm just a little... ah... behind.

Speaking of which, I think there's a bathroom ready for the pre-Christmas spit and polish. Sigh...

Oh, just a side note, the Yarn Harlot was hilarious today and it made me think... how criminal is it that she isn't living in a castle full of yarn with servants to see to her every need when you read about some of the people who have been earning the big dollars? I'm just thinking... if only the economic crisis would bring on the right kind of balance. The people who genuinely make life better for you, whether they be writing about knitting, putting out fires, dashing to the scene of a road accident, teaching nine year olds, smiling when they help you out choosing cold cuts, or anything of that sort, should be earning a good income. I'm still not sure why the people who just seem to play with money often have more of it. Maybe I'm just naive.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Deck the Halls with lots of Duckies...

I had all my ducks lined up in a row! They're lemon curd cookies. I made them up. Just a mix of plain flour with a little baking powder, rubbed in some butter and a couple of spoonfuls of a pretty decent lemon curd. Delicious. Not sweet - nice bite. Super easy. Possibly someone else has a recipe somewhere - but I was nibbly, I had no cookies and couldn't figure out what to flavour the cookies with until I noticed I had some lemon curd in the fridge. Hence, lemon curd ducks!

On the side of the plate, one of the iPod cosies I made. I've made lots. Quick and again, super easy. It was great practice for me as I'm still a cable novice, but I have plans to tackle the Cardigan for Arwen in 2009 - to wear when I'm investigating Sherwood Forest if all goes well! I also have my eye on Vivian from the Twist Collective. Sweaters with hoods are one of my major weaknesses.

Speaking of travel, I, alas, used the last of my Quebecois maple syrup on pancakes tonight (I had a healthy lunch - I had an urge for pancakes for dinner). I will miss that maple syrup. It has served me well all year. Even if it did weigh a ridiculous amount as I travelled around Quebec and nothern North America!

I have noticed lately that lots of bloggers are despairing of Christmas commerciality, which is totally understandable. I'll just say, I'm not despairing though. Of course it's out there - and I was kind of alarmed to note that right beside Santa's chair at the local mall were tables set up with all kinds of toys for parents to buy - but it doesn't bother me generally. As a kid, one of my favourite ever Christmases was made wonderful by my grandfather sleeping under the tree waiting to 'catch' Santa and all the dolls' clothes my mother made for me. Little dresses and sweaters and shoes that I could dress my precious dolls in! One of my cousins was horribly spoilt that year and all I remember is him sitting in the midst of his presents, saying, 'what a load of junk.' It made me smile, because my dolls' clothes, on the other hand, were absolutely gorgeous. I still love presents. I love it when Mum phones and says she found something for me for Christmas and I then spend half an hour trying to get her to tell me what it is. This year, she has surpassed herself. She is now keeping her present and Papa's present secret from me. They both know what they're getting - apparently, someone has to still be surprised! I've enjoyed knocking out knitted presents this year. I can't wait for Mum to see what I found for her! It's going to be a good Christmas. Peace and goodwill - that's the most important thing about Christmas. That one day of the year when that's the ideal and I think if we don't let the ideal overwhelm us, we can all achieve it in some measure.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

With stitchmarkers on the side

I made a smoked trout salad for lunch of which I'm kind of proud - tasted lovely too! You can see my pea stitch markers on the side - they wanted in on the shot! Each pea has their own expression. Mostly all smiles. Smiley peas.

While eating my smoked trout salad, I caught Oprah (one of the joys of working from home is the occasional TV break). It was a show about free range versus factory farming of animals, related to Proposition 2. I couldn't believe it when the factory pig farmer declared that he thought his animals were happy, but that you can't tell with pigs! Seriously? Has he never seen a pig living a normal pig life? Because if you did, you would be able to tell that pigs are very expressive about their levels of happiness. His pigs had been penned for their whole lives... and in tiny pens. No wonder they didn't express anything!

My two bantams, Fifi and Lola, have never known a caged or barned existence. They are sometimes grumpy, sometimes irritating, sometimes cheerful, but they are incredibly expressive about what they think and feel. They have distinct calls for everything from "there's a cat!!!!" to "when on earth are you coming to feed us?" When Mimi and Coco first arrived, beaks clipped, they had sort of dead eyes and were kind of freaky. I can only say they looked like caged animals. After a few weeks, they turned into rather greedy, mischievous, bossy hens who love to run across the lawn to see if I have something to eat handy. When Mimi doesn't want to go to bed in the big hen house, she has this look in her eye of ultimate sadness and despair. When I get home, they range at the gate, appealing to me to let them out. They are all proper hens now.

Although... it's getting difficult to make sure Lola and Fifi get any treats when two big hungry featherballs descend...

While I'll never be vegetarian - because, basically, I accept that the natural world is full of animals eating and being eaten! - I do like to try to ensure that animals have a happy, relatively natural life and that they aren't treated with cruelty or ignorance. I'm intelligent enough to know I don't have to do that. And if it means I eat a little less meat or that fast food joints go out of business... can't say I'm really all that sad about that. Not if it means a pig can give a piggie grin in the middle of a muddy field!

And on that note, aside from the arrival of a batch of Peaches & Cream with which to knit dishclothes, that's all folks.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Waiting for the berries to ripen

I've discovered something. It's difficult to hide blackberries from chickens. I swear they're watching as the berries turn progressively more purple than green. On the bright side, they did, after all, leave me some broad beans which I plan to pick tomorrow.

And I have some new treats for my knitting from Scary Merry. Hams and Cheese! Yes, there is something so wrong about that... but so, so funny!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Will knit for cookies

I'm going out to dinner tonight. Not being much of a drinker myself (about two glasses of wine a year is my average, although this year, I think it was a margarita and a glass of wine), I find it difficult to choose a bottle of wine to take, so I thought I'd bake some cookies instead. I tried to be a little creative in bundling them up... I think I need another bit of yarn in the bow. The little sock, made from some left over Knittery yarn, is because my host has always been really excited when she sees what sock I'm knitting and she loves the yarn. I don't have time to knit her whole socks, so I figured the little sock would have to do.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Trying now to stop humming 'Last Christmas'

Today while I was busy grading a last, though reasonably considerable, piece of work, Fifi and Lola were out enjoying the intermittent sunshine. I just love it when chickens lie on their sides with their little chicken feet stretched out! Next to them is the dirt bath that just keeps getting deeper thanks to the combined efforts of Mimi and Coco. They'll be in China soon.

And can you guess what all this is? I thought I'd take a photo of 'indiscriminate bits' of Christmas knitting. Almost all done! Well, once I get two final second socks off the needles and stop thinking about that new idea that would be just perfect for a friend. Shhh... I didn't just go and get the patterns for it!

But tonight, with Top Gear and Bones to entertain me, I'm thinking of spoiling myself and casting on the back of the Molly Ringwald. I'm itching to work on something a bit more substantial than all the little things I've been working at.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Christmas is coming...

Still Christmas knitting... well, I did finish the front of the Molly Ringwald, but endless photos of that one project in progress would be dull.

Meanwhile, I was tagged via Life in the Dome - 8 things about Christmas. As usual, I am very bad at passing on such tags, but, ah, let's see...

1. Chris Isaak's Christmas CD is my idea of the best ever Christmas CD. Plus, I love the photos of him spending Christmas on the beach with his band and his little white dog, Rodney.
2. Having said that, I still get all sentimental about Wham!'s 'Last Christmas.' So sue me.
3. I love real Christmas trees, although I do feel guilt about cutting them down. I have a moral crisis every time.
4. I've spent Christmas in England and Austria, too, borrowing families for the occasion. I loved the oranges in our stockings in Chelmsford and I loved standing around the tree in Baden singing carols... well, I kind of 'ummm...la...ummm'ed because my German isn't that good!
5. I fell in love once on Christmas Eve... it didn't last beyond New Year's. Sigh...
6. One of my other favourite Christmas Eves was spent with South Africans - far from home like myself - in a small flat in Oxford, making mulled wine, listening to them play guitar, and eating... ah... can't say. The hens are just outside the door there...
7. When I was seven, I swear I saw Santa having a nap on our sofa at 6am Christmas morning.
8. I admit it - I love presents on Christmas Day!

And this weekend I fully intend to decorate the house. It's been a long week.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Doing the Molly Ringwald

It just sounds like it should be some kind of retro 80s dance. But work on my Molly Ringwald, in between Christmas projects, has progressed to the stage where there's actually something other than ribbing going on.Yes, I'm almost finished the neckline of the front! I was happily knitting away as everyone settled down for our big meeting yesterday. I got three rows done and fielded a variety of questions about what I was knitting, how people who knit never seem stressed out, and how people used to knit (I just resisted sending them all cute patterns after the meeting to reignite their interest). I love putting knitting in new environments to see what people do! And I think my knitting stirred more discussion than any of the agenda topics.

Then I came home and found my Pride and Prejudice sock club had arrived! I just got the one month back when the Australian dollar made everything in the US uniquely affordable and now I kind of wish I'd splashed out just a bit more. Jane and Bingley are gorgeous (they're my favourite couple - as much as I love Lizzie and Darcy, you just know in the long term...). A beautiful yarn base and she got the colours just right. Oh well, I have her Cinema Sock Club to look forward to yet! And one of my months for that is Pretty in Pink. Can you credit that I never saw the film? I've just got the DVD. I'm a teen of the 80s, but I missed some of the definintive films. I think it's because at the time I was trying to recreate Sarah Brightman's days in Hot Gossip and was singing late into the night with my girlfriends about diesel trains and Rum Tum Tuggers. Oh well, at least I didn't miss Dirty Dancing.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

B-a-a-d Sheep At Work

Still working on Christmas knitting, but you can see my B-a-a-d Sheep doing their job marking an... ummm... gusset of some sort. This little item is destined for the other hemisphere. It's almost done now. While working away at Christmas knitting, I've been discovering amazing toy patterns. Alan Dart now sells his patterns online here, there's the Mochimochi Shop (check out these sofas too), and I'm a big fan now of Ysolda's designs (she also created the Vivian cardigan from the Twist Collective that I fully intend to knit, the Coraline sweater and is going to work on a pattern to celebrate Susanna Clarke's Ladies of Grace Adieu, which I simply can't wait to see).

I discovered that all going well, I'll be heading over to the UK for a conference next year! Would it be bad to plan a knitting crawl around that conference?

Lola had a bout of broodiness the other night. The problem is, she got broody in the big hen house, so when it came time for bed, I had to lift her out and put her in the little hen house. Lola went a bit ballistic. She literally climbed the walls, a frantic and desperate ball of feathers. So I pulled her out. She gave me the evil eye and returned to her nest. Hmmm... I couldn't leave Fifi alone in the little hen house, so I let Mimi go inside as she always seems to wish to. Then I tried to convince Coco to stay with Lola. Lola snapped at Coco. Coco looked at me: "Do I really have to stay in here?" No, okay... Coco goes into the little hen house, which is now filled to the brim with fluffy chicken. I had to check they hadn't engulfed Fifi. Lola meanwhile looked entirely self-satisfied.

Of course, in the morning, she came out, all broodiness gone. I think she did it on purpose.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

It's Hot, But I'm Thinking Socks and Mittens

My Yarn Cafe yarn arrived! You should be able to tell the Dalmation colourway from the Tiger Cub! I wasn't going to order it, but the colours kept popping into my head. You know how that is? And then one morning I woke up: "I could make matching Dalmation mittens and socks and matching Tiger Cub scarf and socks... or any of those combinations really!" So, despite the heat, I'm thinking... mittens, socks, scarves... lions, tigers, bears...

The really fiendish thing? I was pushed over the edge last time because the Tiger Cub colourway I was loving was on the postcard with my Kiwi and Passionfruit yarn. Well, the next favourite colourway for which I've been just inches from clicking 'buy'? On the postcard with this order. It's like she knows...

Pigs Flying Before the Storm

My custom ordered flying pigs, "socks rule" knitting gadgets arrived today from Karastix. Aren't they wonderful? With additional stitchmarkers! They'll be used a lot.

It's into Christmas knitting time, so I can't show anything (although, there is something peaking into the above photo just because I thought I should have some photographic evidence). It's also coming towards the end of marking time, which I'm going to be very relieved to see the end of. My head is spinning with numbers and percentages.

We're hoping for rain later today - they do say there'll be a storm. Yes, I'm blogging about the weather...

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Cubist Socks

Via Princess Pea, I found this art quizz. It was a little different, so why not? Turns out it unearthed my teenage passion for cubism, one I thought quite latent, particularly since I went a little nutty at the Pitti Palace. Apparently not, though. I'm still more attracted to cubism than anything else, which means...

Huh - I'm extroverted, progressive and intelligent. Who knew? Here's what it said in full.

"People that chose Cubist paintings as their favorite art form tend to be very individualized people. They are more extroverted and less afraid of speaking their opinions then other people. They tend to be progressive and are very forward thinking. As the cubist painting is like looking into a shattered mirror where you can see different angles of the images, the people that prefer these paintings like looking at all angles of a problem. These people are intelligent and they are the transformers of our generation. They look beyond what is seen into what things could become. They are ready to leave the ideas of the past behind and look at what the future has to offer."

I'm quite happy with that, even if it totally contradicts much of what my teachers said in high school. And then it occurred to me. My favourite sock patterns are Cubist!!! This is why I like Cookie A.'s patterns so much. Socks like Trystero. I love a day when you discover something about yourself.

Friday, November 7, 2008

A Soggy Day

Just the one mystery sock

Okay, so I wasn't quite right about Knotions. The new issue is up just as soon as technical difficulties are fixed. I was looking at the last issue. Ahem. But I have rounded the heel of three socks in the past few days. The Mystery Sock is finished... okay, just one is finished, but it's a start. I'm knitting the toe of the blueberry sock and the fern sock is progressing quite nicely. I just need a tad more knitting time and a tad less marking time and I'll be fine.

"What's this wet stuff?"

But it's raining! Actual, proper rain! This hasn't occurred in ages. Rain has not deterred the hens from being out and about, although, as you can see from Coco's expression, they aren't completely sold on the concept.

Yesterday I spent an hour chasing Mimi out of the vegetable patch. No matter how often I picked her up, patiently explained that the vegetable patch was no place for chickens and that if I found her back there again, I'd turn her into stock, she'd ruffle her feathers, turn, and run straight back in among the beans and potatoes. It'll be a miracle if I have any broad beans left.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Election excitement

So, all over the world, I think we're jumping up and down, waiting to see what happens in the States and bugging everyone we know over there to go and vote. I think this is pretty hilarious and wonderful. I also think the latest blog post at the Panopticon is. Particularly notable - Dolores and the hens and Dolores and Sam West!!! Sam West is one of my favourite actors.

The new Knotions is also up. I can't wait for the Winter issue which has those amazing socks, but the Oak Leaf socks are pretty neat as a starter!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Cookie A.'s new book and tigers

Why won't these hens play with me?

You've dropped this TV remote a few times, haven't you?
How do I click it to get
Big Cat Diaries on?

My adopted tiger, Malu Pothi, arrived yesterday. I adopted her from the WWF and yes, I got the deluxe adoption kit because I did want the plush tiger! Having just ordered some Tiger Cub colourway from The Yarn Club, I felt it appropriate to support the real tigers out there. And the WWF has the best logo - you just know they're doing good work out there.

Plus, Big Cat Diaries (no tigers, but cheetahs and leopards and lions!) has come back to TV. In repeats, but I'll take repeats!

In the biggest news though, Cookie A.'s sock book is available for pre-order at Amazon! My inner Gollum is happily smacking fish. Yes, that is disturbing. But I love Cookie A. sock patterns! I mean, seriously... the woman behind the utterly fantastic Monkeys!!! She has a book coming out!!! I may not be able to focus all day!

Monday, November 3, 2008

I think I'm in love

This is one of the most amazing tops I've ever seen. It's from Kristeen Griffin-Grimes' French Girl Knits: Innovative Techniques, Romantic Details, and Feminine Designs. Doesn't she have a fantastic name, too? From what I've been able to detect, I have to wait till January, but, oh... I'm in love, I'm in love, I'm in love! In fact, I'm coming over all Gollum and reciting 'my precious' every time I look at it.

Or perhaps I've simply been drinking too much coffee lately? And indulging in too many Halloween Buffy marathons?

I love that so many knitwear designers are being really inspired by vintage looks though. Let's face it, some of us don't quite fit into all the actual vintage clothing out there. It's nice to be able to recreate it.

I'm also striving, between piles of marking and far too many meetings, to unofficially take part in NaNoWriMo. I enjoy writing. I no longer worry about ever being published, although I do still send off my manuscripts, a hint of a malicious gleam in my eye as I think of the inevitable slush pile and how I'm defiantly adding to it. One day, maybe, I'll get out of that slush pile. In the meantime, I'll just keep writing. Only, at the moment, my heroines become obsessed with knitting socks. I just wrote an entire scene featuring sock knitting. Sock knitting and a werewolf.

No, I'm not writing the great Australian novel. I'm writing for fun. I discovered long ago that writng about reality isn't fun. Besides, despite my best intentions, heroines would inevitably discover their fathers were rock stars and their mothers were the daughters of English Dukes... okay, I was thirteen at that time, what do you want from me? I was also eternally frustrated by advice in Little Women and Anne of Greengables suggesting I should write honestly about my life instead of writing sensationalist romances. When I grew up, I discovered with delight that Louisa May Alcott didn't take her own advice. Wizard!

It's rainy today. My favourite weather. But the new hens are a little puzzled. Mimi is hiding under the hen house. They haven't been out in proper rain yet. There just hasn't been much about in their young lives.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Today is a good day

The girls are enjoying a pot of yoghurt between them. I was particularly trying to catch that adorable expression on Lola's face as she looks up, beak generously dipped in yoghurt, letting it trickle down her throat...

And that's all sounding so wrong.

No knitting to show today! Still working on all the insteps and soles of various socks. VCM took her birthday socks to work and I seem to have started taking orders.

I'm also trying to resist the Swiss Cheese mice from Scary Merry.

Oh, it's starting to rain - better go rescue their yoghurt pot as they take cover!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Being thrice a heel

Two of these socks are secret Christmas knitting and one is the Mystery sock, so I can't go into too much detail. But I found myself turning three heels at once! What was going on with that?

I took the top sock to o Vanilla today for a work meeting (yes, work meetings in cafes - what could be better?). They had the prettiest, most scrumptious apple muffins. As the waitress delivered my muffin, she gazed at my knitting and gave a gasp of surprise. "Oh, what are you knitting? It looks gorgeous." I think I'm getting a spurt of knitting exhibitionism going on.

And upon request - the new hen house. It hasn't been prettified yet, but I noticed that by facing the two hen houses not-quite-opposite each other, I now have a little 'hen lane'. The hens spill out into Hen Lane in the morning and come to the City Gates, where they stand, willing the Gate to open. Yesterday while I was on campus, the wind blew the Gate open for them, so I came home to find the hens pottering about, dirt bathing, and generally disporting themselves in the wilderness!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Hens' Spa Day

I walked outside and found all four hens in a row (from the left, Coco, Lola, Fifi and Mimi) indulging in dust baths. For a moment, I thought I'd planted chickens!

A friend popped over yesterday and we put together a wooden dog house as the new sleeping quarters of Coco and Mimi, who are now far too large to fit in with Lola and Fifi. The dog house is really cute. It even has a little window you can slide open and shut! I'm so tempted to build a little window box for them!

And today I adopted a tiger!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Six facts

Yes, I was tagged by Chook'r'us to share six random things about myself. And I'll admit up front that I'm terrible at passing along these things as I don't know six bloggers well enough not to feel a little - a lot - terrified tagging them. So I'll pass it into the ether and if you read this and you have a blog - tagged! I'm so chicken (which is kind of appropriate).

1. I was once a temp from Chiswick, just like Donna in Doctor Who. (And I did later pass the Doctor in the street - Charing Cross Road, to be precise. Only, he wasn't the Doctor then. He was 'wasn't that the guy from The Herbal Bed?' But I think he was wearing a brown overcoat. Very odd.)
2. I have a talent for finding four leaf clover. I have thousands of pressed four leaf clovers (and five, six, seven and eight leaf clovers). I can walk down a street and spot a four leaf clover growing by the side of the pavement. I think it's the latent leprechaun in me.
3. I can't drive, but I do love Top Gear (the UK version, I hasten to add) and I would drive if I could have Emma Peel's car.
4. I can't swim, even though my high school produced several Olympic swimmers while I was there.
5. I love the scent of vanilla.
6. Blenheim Palace is my favourite place in the world. Not the palace itself (although it is awfully pretty), but the grounds. When I walk through Woodstock, past the gates and see the lake... the weight of the world is lifted off my shoulders.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Lorikeets aren't popular, either

Ha - my order from Yarns Online arrived today, too! I tried to get the interest of the hens with my Fibreworks 'Lorikeet' lace weight, but they were more interested in the sunflower seeds I'd just sprinkled on the grass. Jumpy bunch today. I think the cat - who was reclining on the shade cloth over their hen house when I went out this morning - has them a little spooked. Coco and Mimi deal easily with the cat, but it must be annoying when there's a bully about who views you as a food staple.

Anyway, the colours are glorious, aren't they? I'm not sure which shawl to make - but I'll figure it out some time! And Yarns Online is quick and efficient with a stunning range (I also got the Noni Year of the Pig bag pattern). The Yarn Cafe is my favourite, though, I think, of all the Australian options. It's just that she does dye her own yarn and it's so gorgeous... tiger cub, tiger cub...


I asked Fifi and Lola what they thought of my new yarn (Coco and Mimi lost interest the moment I explained - with lots of hand gestures - that it wasn't for eating). Fifi shrugged and said she'd like to see something more 'sunflower seed' colour, but I kept Lola's interest long enough to snap a picture.

It's the Kiwi and Passionfruit (yes, Coco and Mimi pointed out that if the yarn was going to be named after food, they should at least be able to sample it as food) that I bought through the Yarn Collective from The Yarn Cafe. I can highly recommend Yarn Cafe yarn - it's gorgeous, soft, the bamboo shiny, the dye gorgeous. The Passionfruit was bought through the auction function at the Yarn Collective, which was terrific fun and I got a bargain, I think. Just $18! For merina and bamboo! I can't wait to knit it up into socks, but I have Christmas knitting on my needles that must remain secret.

I'm just trying to resist the Yarn Cafe's Tiger Cub colourway - seriously, it makes me happy. Perhaps because it makes me think of Big Cat Diary (okay, they don't have tigers... but...), which is one of my favourite shows *ever*. But she put a postcard of the colourway in with my order, which was brilliant, because it is the colourway I really love.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

In honour of Starbucks stitchmarkers

I posted, then I read the Oct 17 entry from Yarn Harlot. My sympathies overflowed in the moment... my intermittent giggling continues...

Mystery Sock KAL

Don't say I didn't warn you - later in this post is a picture of the sock resulting from the first two clues of the Mystery Sock KAL. I did spot some other knitters blogging their results and since we're well into the week of the third clue, I figure it should be okay - particularly as I know of no readers involved. But so you don't spot it first, I've included a photo of my latest stitchmarkers from my favourite Scary Merry. Those are Ba - aaaa - ad sheep with little skulls on their heads. They rock! And then Starbucks for my knitting - the caffeine kick can only help. I actually don't mind Starbucks. I hardly ever go there these days. I did have a Starbucks spree in London in 1999. I know, because I have the postcard for hungover 2000 New Year's Day revellers to use (pictures of various beverages to which you could point to place an order - rather than having to make sound) from Starbucks. No, I wasn't hungover. I was in Vienna waltzing. I picked the card up later.

I think I'm developing a Scary Merry collection though...

I've been trialing Australian sock yarn sources. I've been using the Knittery for a while (and there's now a very cute baby at Knittery central). Then I discovered the Yarn Collective. I've already picked up some Monsoon Designs from there and am waiting for my next fix. Then I found Yarnomat, that has my favourite Crystal Palace Panda cotton/bamboo blend. It's the perfect sock yarn for summer and the colours are a-m-a-z-i-n-g. They knit up so gorgeous! And Yarnomat has them at affordable prices, now the $A is awful again. I placed my order on Wednesday and had the parcel Friday! Excellent service and particularly good postage. And so, below, with my Mystery Sock progress, using Yo-Yo's Berry Pickin', you can see my new yarn!

The brown is called Pinto and I had to get it in honour of the wild ponies out on the island somewhere in Virginia that a friend and I visited in January (or was it February... oh dear...). I'll see if he notices this mention.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Another flying post

There's new coverage of Dolores' electoral campaign! And I've been busy tracking down Australian sock yarn outlets. News on that shortly. But I told you I wasn't going to let the economy tell me what I could and couldn't stash!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Socks on the Rise

SBS news tonight? Financial report. "Socks on the rise!" See - and you thought I was just being silly the other day.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

One Sock Cheer

All right, it's just the one sock, but I finished it last night! It will, alas, have to wait for a partner, as I've realised I've a pile of Christmas knitting waiting to be done. Socks and scarves and mittens... thankfully, most of my friends do live in cold-weather December climates! Although... this afternoon, I think I'll try a few rows of my Molly Ringwald.

This post from Bunkybobo's blog spoke to me. I think the problem is that the world economy doesn't run on something tangible... like handknitted socks or homemade soup. And I sometimes wonder what would happen if we refused to let Wall Street and all the CEOs etc run our lives for us through money...

Cheering me up, a viral whatsit that is a spoof on A-Ha's incredible, amazing, wonderful (yes, I was and still am a fan) of Take On Me. I found it via the Guardian this morning. Like I was alone in wishing I was the girl...

Although, it did occur to me - she's reading a comic/graphic novel (still largely associated with the male reader). One about motorbikes. For a girl from the 80s, she really did challenge a few gender stereotypes!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Our special spaces

This, apparently, is Mimi's favourite spot. She has managed to dig herself a rather deep dustbathing area between potatoes and broad beans. In between pulling out lettuces and peas. She left all the weeds.

I get home these days to four little hens huddled at the gate of their coop: "We've been locked in all day. We'd like to go play on the grass. Please let us out!!" Looking at their perky chicken faces, I give in. Then four times I drag Mimi out of the vegetable patch... and that's in between dragging Coco and Lola out. By the end, Mimi would look up, spot me, and dawdle out of the vegetable patch with a heavy sigh, plopping down on the lawn just as I reached her as if to say: "you're back."

I can, however, vouch for chasing chickens as good exercise.

This is my new favourite spot - my knitting spot. It is decorated with my new (well, in the sense that I just bought it) 1940s bakelite telephone. On the dial, it has instructions for how to make a call! I love that. And it does work - alas, only locally, so no national or international calls, but at least locally I can pretend to be Lauren Bacall chatting to Humphrey Bogart!

It was a tough day, so I picked up a vanilla bean cupcake too, which you see garnished with my Sereknity 'Cowgirl', my favourite yarn of the moment. I walk about with it, wondering what I shall knit.

I am thinking of pulling out my Maelstroms in Pixie Park... I'm not sure the yarn/pattern combination is working. I was knitting away on the leg of my Mystery Sock last night while watching Doctor Who with commentary, but I didn't get far... obviously not enough cupcake.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Antique knitting equipment

Last night I tried out my 'new' 1940s yarn winder. I was winding up my Berry yarn from the Yo Yo ready for the Mystery Sock KAL last night (I'm half way through the cuff). It was a breeze! If only I had it before the Daisy yarn went all to... knots. I also tried out my Yarn Minder - a red bakelite contraption to hold the yarn ball neat and tidy. This one has an additional stitch guage in the bottom, which is kind of cool.

I also 'rescue' old knitting patterns - I'm still trying to flesh out my 20s/30s collection. So I was very supportive of this entry in 'Life in the Dome'. Crochet Lady is just glorious!

Monday, October 6, 2008


I was away - I was celebrating the birthdays of two absolutely amazing individuals who teamed up to create the happiest of homes. So we naturally celebrated with cupcakes and tarts! The butterfly cupcakes on top have always been my favourite, ever since I was dressed up in pigtails and couldn't reach the floor with my toes when sitting on the dining room chairs. The cake stand is VCM's latest acquisition. It reminds you of afternoons in tea rooms in Woodstock!

Monday, September 29, 2008


"For when you feel rosy and nutty?" asks Loopy

I'm holding off publishing this entry as I write, for the socks above will be gifted to VCM and I just have to wait for her to have them in her hot little hands first! The Crystal Palace Roses turned out beautifully though! They really are glorious looking socks and light to wear. A friend across the country picked up the Crystal Palace Vanilla Cream the other day, so I had to play copy cat. Well, I too will require summer socks! Shhh... you don't know I already have Faded Jeans!

I was trying to wind my Yarn Pirate Daisy up into a ball last night while watching Private Practice. It's gorgeous yarn - sooooooo soft. Unfortunately and rather impolitely, I'll quote - I think - Lime & Violet by admitting it turned into yarn vomit or something very like. It's going to take me forever to sort out the mess! And it wasn't the yarn's fault. I just got impatient at one point and... disaster.

So here's the Knittery's Daisy instead - it's acting as garnish for some Etsy purchases! Scarymerry's stitchmarkers are incredible - so small, delicate and detailed. I got the mice wrapped in yarn for VCM (another reason I can't publish this today!) and the flying pigs for me. The latter were a must-have. I love flying pigs! I was born in the Year of the Pig and every Year of the Pig, I happily go flying about the world (often literally - once I managed London, Vienna, New York, Washington DC, Sydney...), so I inform everyone that I am a flying pig! Don't tell me "when pigs fly" - I'm proof they do!

Okay, now I feel I can safely publish this post before engaging in my favourite activity - herding chickens. I have to go to a talk on campus shortly, which means herding the hens back into the coop. Yes, I actually foolishly let them out for a couple of hours - they guilted me into it! Particularly after I'd cruelly banished Coco back to the humpy for picking on Lola only to discover that Lola and Fifi then proceeded to gang up on Mimi... oh dear.

But for a giggle, check out the latest entry at the Pantopicon. Not only do I love that he loves lime socks and names his blog after a Foucaultian concept, but the campaign with Dolores the sheep is hilarious. Seriously, if you want a woman as president - or vice president - I think you should go for Dolores! Not that I'd be political or anything here...

Washing day

My new knitting pirate T-shirt from Cafe Press. It's similar to the one seen in Gilmore Girls - only, mine's brown, not black. And in the background, you can see busily dustbathing chickens. In fact, here's a close-up...

I could spend a couple of hours just watching chickens dustbathe!

I was knitting on the bus this morning, one of my colleagues sitting just behind me. As we lept off (and, as usual, I'd worked up speed, so inadvertently hopped off before the little old lady and felt horribly guilty - after all, I do always try to let my elders off first, but sometimes I do tumble out of the bus rather quickly and it was either stop and have her bump into me, or keep going), she asked me what I was working on. It was my Indie Dyer's Dazzled vanilla sock. She looked kind of bemused. I don't think Muggles get it...

But another colleague, now across the country from me, does get it and she left me a sock pattern in my pigeon hole! The student I was meeting that morning (and I was only four minutes - precisely - late) was curious about why I looked excited, so I had to explain to her that we were working very hard on an article about knitting... well, it is true!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Save me from Etsy!

Never go near Etsy when you're having a stressful couple of weeks! There's a few items I can't show you yet, but isn't this yarn pretty? It's from New York Yarns. The top one is Rock Chick and below that is the very bright Boy Meets Girl. Now I just need more knitting time...

The yarn arrived the same day as I picked up two new additions to the backyard family: Mimi and Coco. They'd been raised on an egg farm and the poor little girls already had their beaks clipped at only 17 weeks! Awful. But they're currently in their makeshift 'humpy' and becoming acquainted with Fifi and Lola. Lola has taken to standing on the log to start the newcomers in the eye. You can see her below with Mimi. You can't tell Lola that she's too small to still be boss.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A little vintage, a little yo-yo

I should be revising papers that I have to give this weekend. That's what I should be doing. But last night, after a very very long day, I got home to some lovely parcels!

First, you can see my latest additions to sock stash - straight from the Yo Yo. Already 'Those Old High School Jeans' is looking a little too well-hugged! But so soft! And I loved the colourway from the moment I saw it. Although evidence shows a strong Frankish trend to my socks, this colourway reminded me of the good bits of high school, the bits I haven't blocked from memory. 'All Songs Considered' looks kind of juicy... I know that's an odd remark. But I loved the parcel! And the surprise stitch markers and little note just set the whole thing off. This was a good parcel!

You can also see that VCM has been at work with the needles - a yellow sweater from a vintage pattern and it looks great on. There is something to be said for a sweater that shows off an hour glass-ish figure in all the right ways. There was also a little pink top that I can't photograph as I'm currently wearing it (and apart from my feet, I doubt I'll get around to photographing any other part of myself!). It's very preppy (yes, I was a preppy-wannabe in high school too - I come from that generation) and I'm wearing it with jeans today. I have to go on campus a bit later to help with a talk, but it's not too casual. With the right jacket. And it feels glorious on - something to be said for the bamboo blend yarns. They are so good on the skin.

You can also see the Molly Ringwald progress. I'm almost up to the increases, where I'll have to start figuring out where to start the arm decreases at the same time as figure out where the bodice pattern begins. The slightly nerve-wrecking part of the exercise.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Being Frank

Maelstrom (Cookie A.) and vanilla sock
"Frankly, a lot of socks in progress."

Spring is already getting too warm for me. It was just the other week I was rushing to finish my Sea World socks to keep my feet cosy.

I have a new, red, whistling kettle though and somehow started two new socks. The Maelstroms are in Socks that Rock Pixie Park and for some reason, I seem remarkably talented at losing track of the pattern. It's not that difficult a pattern (and it's a fun to watch take shape), but after successfully ripping back three rows last night and catching back up again, this morning I ended the last row with... one stitch too few. I looked in horror at the sock. What does it do? Rip out its own stitches (there's an image to make one shudder)?

Thinking it must be me, I also started a new sock with Indie Dyer's Bedazzled. I love this yarn! The colour is amazing and turns a simple, vanilla sock into a work of stunning art. I think I might be safer sticking to the vanilla sock until my brain kicks back into action after the symposium next week (yes, there's this welcome speech and a paper I'm supposed to be finishing...).

Although, has anyone noticed how little bright yellow sock yarn there is in the world?

Monday, September 8, 2008

Ending with yarn

Coming home from a full day's teaching, Dusk and Dragonfly were waiting for me! They're from Monsoon Designs and while it boggles my mind that there's someone in the Northern Territory dying yarn, they are very soft and very pretty! It was my first outing with the Yarn Collective. No hitches so far! It's a brilliant concept for Australia. I think half the appeal of yarn stashing is the connection to all the indie dyers and spinners around the world, but finding sources close to home (less yarn miles!) is an absolute bonus. I love buying yarn that isn't 'corporate'. I love the idea that someone was cooking up a batch of colourful string on their stove! I love the idea that I'm connecting with someone as nutty about yarn as I am through a hank of yarn!

Mind, I do find myself getting slightly jittery when I realise that right now, I have no yarn on order...

Sunday, September 7, 2008

A little bit vintage

Glaistig (Robin Melanson, Knitting New Mittens & Gloves)
"Fluff for your cuffs."

They actually turned out pretty cool! As I said in the last post, I'd run out of black and couldn't just pick up another ball, at least, in time for the recipient's birthday. But the novelty purple mohair gives the mittens a rather chic, vintage look - I think?

I then merrily cast on the Molly Ringwald top. Since the opinion on Ravelry seems to be that a little extra length doesn't hurt, I'm adding another inch or so to the bottom. I'm trying not to think about how many WIPs I now have and how close Christmas is... I am just thankful that Glaistigs take no time and that I have plans for lovely, deliciously quick scarves!

And I really want a Molly Ringwald top! And I didn't even see Sixteen Candles or Pretty In Pink! But I do remember in high school, after having my hair cut, a friend said I looked a bit like Molly Ringwald and at the time, that was high praise. I don't think I looked a bit like Molly Ringwald. But does it matter?