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.