Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Why shouldn't you get into the Christmas spirit in the bedroom (oh, stop giggling in the back there)? Mum made me up some wonderful Christmas pillow cases, including these natty owls. If you look closely, the brown on the owls? It's in a knit pattern! Perfect.

Alas, Lola has the pox. I discovered this a few days ago. I have been doing much research, but apparently you just wait it out and keep an eye on the pox victims. So far, she seems fine. In fact, the other evening, she became an escapee and flew onto the coop roof (say that quickly five times). She eventually decided to go back inside through the little window you can see there - possibly having realised that Wee Davie was waiting below with his ball.

Wee Davie has become obsessed with playing ball. Whenever you step outside, the ball magically rolls to your feet. If you don't kick it immediately, he puts his little paw up on it and tells you to kick it... just in case you've forgotten the deal. Yesterday Mum and I were hula hooping in the back yard and mid-hula, a ball would land at our feet and the hoop would clatter to the ground. Oh, okay, the hoop did spend more time on the ground than around our waists, but it was fun! (Yes, I did get inspired by Ysolda's efforts in snowy Edinburgh, so when I saw a hoop - while buying a soccer ball for the pup - I couldn't resist trying it out.)

We went shopping for Christmas food. Mum thought I was joking when I said I didn't really care as long as I had cereal!

Actually, I didn't buy all this yesterday... just the Cookie Bitez. One of the oddest things about going gluten free is that you develop random, ridiculous cravings for food you never ate when you could eat everything. Lately, I've been craving silly, childish cereal. Fortunately, they've started releasing gluten-free options and... I've gone a little nutty.

More sensibly, there is finally more progress on the Netherfield sock. Watch this space. In the meantime, I hope everyone has a brilliant, incredible Christmas (or holiday of some sort)!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

It's Getting To Be A Lot Like Christmas

While I was trying to come up with clever things to say about glass slippers and magic mirrors, Christmas snuck up on me.

Christmas, of course, in part means there's lots of Christmas Specials on television - specials from To the Manor Born and One Foot in the Grave, for example. These are excellent knitting programmes. So I whipped off the second Strider sock and they're done and they're beautiful! I've already mentioned the details on the blog (they're also here on Ravelry), but... wow. I love this pattern! There's a couple of little errors in the pattern (also noted on Ravelry), but once you get the gist of the pattern, they're dead easy to spot. Unfortunately, photography just doesn't do them justice. They're three-dimensional socks. They must be seen in all three dimensions. So, thank you again BKFF, who is currently, I believe, bopping around Wellington!

And today, more sock inspiration... although I am trying to promise myself to finish off my Netherfield socks, particularly now that I've successfully finished this toe-up pair (yes, I've been knitting the Netherfield socks since I was sitting in the sun at Lyme Park patiently waiting for Mr Darcy to come out of the lake in his wet shirt... it never happened, which I think jinxed the socks). Aside from that digression... who doesn't love a new Cookie A. book? The photography is to die for! So are Lissajous, now handily available in the book. And I also picked up cards from one of my favourite Etsy artists, The Mincing Mockingbird, because there were finally cards of the print, Moments When My Eyes Go Vacant. I seriously love the print.

Since it's Christmas, there have been treats, like little tiny macaroons (the passionfruit ones are best!), and SFX Magazine's Doctor Who issue.

So, I guess it's time to finish up now and get a little more written about the cat's boots so that I can enjoy a guilt-free Christmas. I'll leave you with merry wishes and a little pup who has also found things to like about Christmas.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Taking a Writer's Block Break

It's not really writer's block. It's more 'I'm tired of revising this article and while I know perfectly well what I have to do, I can't quite make myself just tap away until it's done' block. So I've been doing lots of useful things, filling out paperwork, updating a bibliography, wrapping a few presents, doing a load of laundry...

But it still isn't getting the revisions finished.

On the bright side, a parcel arrived today, travelling far from snowy places.

I love a parcel that is wrapped with care! We used to have a fabric store that would wrap the fabric in printed brown paper and string and I never wanted to open the parcel afterward. Strangely, one of the sales assistants told us most people preferred their purchases in a paper bag. They didn't like waiting the extra minute or two. I could never understand that. One of the reasons I love shopping through Etsy is that many of the sellers are amazing in terms of how they package up your purchases. But before I lose myself in this parcel-obsessed-tangent, inside today's parcel...

Who doesn't need more project bags?

This also made me giggle. But then, so do Bendigo Woollen Mills' big balls of yarn. I am twelve.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

With no knitting

I admit it. I've been a bad knitter. I'm working on my second socks and I just broke the tip of the needle on my new Charm Wrap. Everything knitting related is going very slow.

But more cheerfully, my new favourite earrings arrived.

Okay, how many people have clicked and realised what they reference? Need a clue? Seek out the source. I think they're pretty cunnin'.

Then Vintage Purl was a just a bit inconsiderate and went and named a lace yarn "Kingdom of Aragon". As if that wasn't going to be finding its way into my stash...

Beautiful, isn't it?

The silly season has, of course, inspired more than a little silliness around here. After a chat to one of my BKFFs, this... ah... happened...

Me: It's a screwdriver.
Wee Davie: It's sonic.
Me: Yeah, I know.

Wee Davie: Allons-y!

Well, a little silliness is a good thing.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Nature - with socks and collars

I finished a sock! Okay, it's just the one sock, but this is a tricky sock pattern! This is the Sole Mates kit that BKFF gave me. There's a couple of errors in the pattern and I haven't quite worked them out, but while some find such things frustrating, I'm increasingly delighting in the things I learn from these opportunities... and let's face it, what oak leaf ever looks perfect? The sock is still utterly amazing (and I did write up my notes in progress on Ravelry). It gets bonus points for surviving Wee Davie, who discovered the ball of yarn in reach and consequently began to toss it about the room and wrap it around the stereo.

Aren't those cables a thing of beauty?

Speaking of Wee Davie, however, his wardrobe has expanded.

Is it bad that I'm having a ball dressing him in different collars? I haven't yet started to colour coordinate him with my own outfits, but I suspect this is merely a matter of time.

And finally, they aren't pretty, but I improvised chilli chocolate and pumpkin swirl cupcakes (there's a couple of recipes that I bounced off here and here). The catch was... the chilli chocolate mix was far too thick and sort of 'plonked' in the middle of the cupcake. For all that, however, they're delicious and I'm about to wander off, make a cup of tea, and eat one while I watch Bones and think about that second sock.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Presto! I have a laptop again!

Today has not been productive. At least, not as productive as I'd have liked.

However, it has ended well. My package from ThinkGeek arrived super fast, bringing with it a very neat iPad case with keyboard. Seriously, this is brilliant. I love my iPad, but the other night, I realised I did miss having a laptop to work on in bed (because the best writing does get done in bed). I don't mind the onscreen keyboard, but it's not really useful when you're writing more than an email. ThinkGeek came to the rescue. This case allows you to slant the iPad perfectly and the keyboard is synched and has iPad specific keys. The whole acts like a laptop AND iPad, but is still lighter than the MacBook Air! How amazing is that?

I also tossed a Crayon pen on my order, because, seriously, I love a pen that looks like a crayon! I had hoped for a yellow one, but they only had red and black.

In the photo, you can also see that I finished one Mystery Sock. And that I've added to my collection of vintage needlework magazines. This is a 1918 French magazine and I was sold on the cover featuring the spinner, but also on the fact that the magazine includes the original transfers of the embroidery designs.

Okay, now I'm going to reheat my pumpkin lasagna (one of my new favourites - this is the second time I've made it and it's delicious - I just add a little nutmeg and only put the 'fake cheese' on top) and convince myself that I can revise this article.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Big Bang Theory Tangerine Chicken

It's a working supper. I've dubbed it 'Big Bang Theory Tangerine Chicken'. I saw 'The Tangerine Factor' the other night and have been obsessed with Sheldon's dinner choice ever since! Fittingly, this is not really tangerine chicken. If you're not familiar with the episode, Sheldon is convinced the restaurant is using oranges, not tangerines, so, since tangerines aren't in season and it's apt... this is really orange chicken.

I've never posted a recipe before, but I want to remember how I put this together, so here goes! Just keep in mind, I riffed off a few online, orange chicken recipes that I found (like here and here) and I've never been very good with precise measurements (you'll notice that!). I can't guarantee results, but you'll get the idea at least.

4 chicken thighs
Corn flour for dusting
Sesame oil
Sunflower oil

1 teaspoon orange rind finely grated
Juice of one orange
Splash of soy sauce
Splash of rice wine vinegar
Finely grated fresh ginger - about 1 teaspoon
1/2 teaspoon chili paste
1/2 teaspoon raw sugar

1 carrot, sliced
1 stick of celery, sliced
1 spring onion, sliced
1/2 cup of peas
Handful of chopped raw cashews (oops, forgot to add them on the original post!)

It's pretty self-evident and I'd encourage tasting as you go along to be sure the flavours work. You cut up the chicken thighs and dust them in the corn flour before pan frying them in the mix of sesame and sunflower oils. Meanwhile, mix together the sauce ingredients. When the chicken is browned, add the vegetables. Once everything's cooked, add the sauce. Serve with jasmine rice.

It's delicious! I'm having a little cold, pink grapefruit sago pudding with cream later for dessert. I don't often order take-out, particularly since going gluten free, but I love recreating take-out food. I do a killer sweet and sour pork (add a little vinegar to sweet chili sauce and it's so much nicer than the bought sauce). I think it's my grandmother's side coming out in me. She'd always leave a restaurant, go home and attempt to recreate the dishes, adding her own individual spin. She also never ever measured anything or followed a recipe properly. Like grandmother, like granddaughter.

Incidentally, I just got my copy of Cooking for Geeks and it's brilliant! Naturally, it encourages experimentation too.

In the meantime, Wee Davie is enjoying his new haircut. He's much cooler these days. In both senses of the word.

And I couldn't resist casting on my second Charm Wrap now that I finally have the pattern again (I found the CD of the magazine at Tangled Yarns - and on sale!). I'm trying out Bendigo Woollen Mills Silk Supreme in Jade and so far... loving the yarn! The colour is glorious, the stitch definition is brilliant, and I like the touch.

The other day, though, I woke up with this vision of a hooded cardigan in bright yellow with white clouds and big buttons. I think I've found a pattern option to make it happen and Silk Supreme comes in a gorgeous lemon.

Does anyone else wake up with visions of knitwear?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

That's What Friends Are For

Best Knitting Friends Forever - BKFFs - are those who, when they get their latest Sole Mates package, take one look at it and declare that it's meant for you. And they give it to you. And it is meant for you. You love it.

Thank you.

Oh, and that little stitching project? All done! I used the Mochimochi pattern, 'Forest Friends.' Once I have a little more time, I'll divvy up the images and patchwork them into a bag, I think. That's the current plan. It may change.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Sunny Day

The hens are out sun bathing.

The puppy is entertained.

I love my latest vintage find. Butterflies and bullets. Genius.

And what's this? I'm doing something other than knitting?

Actually, I do a lot of other things than knitting. Most of us do. Lately I've been grading a lot of papers (and resisting the urge to smear them with peanut butter in order to tempt certain wee ones into unspeakable acts of vandalism). I've been rewriting CFPs and taking in grant applications and writing references and all sorts of fiddly stuff that shouldn't take a lot of time, but inevitably does. I've been gathering books together on filking. For research that I keep telling myself I can really get into next week. I've been finishing off books I've been meaning to finish off for ages. Like Byatt's The Children's Book. Her editor should have been meaner. I've been trying to shake this 'flu, which has so far been resoundingly unsuccessful. I've made lemon sago puddings and basil and cheese scones and sweet potato muffins to convince myself to feel better. And I've been doing some other stuff that I can't really talk about.

So it's nice to stop and look at the sunny day and think, 'I should grab Wee Davie's lead and go for a walk and afterwards, maybe I'll pick another handful of broad beans for dinner and check on the progress of the first mulberry crop.'

I love mulberries. They remind me of the tree we had in the back yard when I was growing up. Mum remembers trying to get the mulberry stains off the floor.

Now, about that lead...

Well, first maybe I'll change out of my pyjamas...

Monday, November 1, 2010

Something Silky

Lemsip: check
Warm sweater: check
Puppy walked: check

Now I just need tea and sympathy! Why do I always catch the flu when I'm marking papers?

Still, I nipped out to smell the roses, so to speak, and snap a quick couple of shots of my finished scarf. I'm rather proud that I knocked over one of my Knitabulous-startis projects so quickly! On the other hand, the Summer Shimmer Scarf (The Purl Bee) is an awfully quick knit and in Knitabulous' Fifty-Fifty ("Persimmon") comes out fabulously light and silky. I did add an extra 10 stitches for further width, but otherwise, here she is:

While taking these shots, there was an energetic puppy at my feet, begging me to kick his ball.

Don't worry, as soon as I stashed the camera in my pocket and wrapped the scarf back around my neck, I kicked a few balls for him. He's looking terribly shaggy. I'm just about to look into his first hair cut. It's very difficult to tell he's a scottie right now...

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Snails and Puppydog Tails

To balance the Knitabulous Startitis, here's some Spacefrog FO-is. That doesn't quite work, does it? Nonetheless, my "Yellow Crayon" socks in "Primary Colours" Spacefrog colourway are all done. Just your usual vanilla socks with the star toe. I'm really enjoying the star toe - that little swirl to finish off the sock really makes my day.

The name is a Buffy reference: "First day of kindergarten you cried 'cause you broke the yellow crayon and you were too afraid to tell anyone. You've come pretty far, ending the world... not a terrific notion. But the thing is, yeah. I love you. I loved crayon-breaking Willow and I love scary, veiny Willy. So if I'm going out, it's here. You wanna kill the world, you start with me."

I always thought Xander had some of the most amazing speeches in Buffy. I also loved his speech to Dawn: "They'll never know how tough it is, Dawnie, to be the one who isn't chosen. To live so near to the spotlight and never step in it. But I know. I see more than anybody realizes, because nobody's watching me. I saw you last night. I see you working here today. You're not special. You're extraordinary."

In the meantime, my extraordinary puppy has developed a passion for crunching snails. Yes, you're right. "Ewwwww." At night, he comes bouncing inside, tail wagging, jaw crunching. I haven't a clue how to put a halt to the snail homicides occurring in my garden.

Friday, October 8, 2010


I came down with a serious case of Knitabulous-startitis last week.

It all began when I found these cute Chainmaille earrings from Unkamengifts on the same day I spotted "Persimmon" in Knitabulous' Fifty-Fifty. These were made for each other, don't you think?

And I'd been long wanting to knit up a bright and breezy Summer Shimmer Scarf (The Purl Bee).

Plus, the yarn was a perfect to inaugurate the use of my new project bag from Good To Be Girl. The knitting witch just reminded me so much of Nanny Ogg.

But that started something.

I then cast on Melanie Gibbons' 'Chick Flick' socks from The Joy of Sox, one of my very favourite sock books. I just love looking at this book. It makes me love socks all over again. I cast on in Knitabulous Softsock in 'Sari Pink'. Girlie socks, definitely.

Then I remembered... Through the Loops does a mystery sock in October and last year I didn't get to do it because work was a nightmare. Work is still a nightmare at this time of year, but, one, I loved last year's sock so felt bitter disappointment, and two, work is always going to be a nightmare at this time of year. So, I'm sure the following image doesn't really give a thing away - other than the sock being top down - here is the mystery sock being started in Knitabulous's Merino Sock in 'Purple Palace'.

And before you think it, the last two were stash busting efforts! I felt quite proud of myself at that point... until I noticed the number of WIPs I suddenly have.

Oh well. Last night I was trying to get some writing done. Hellboy was on TV. I sat and stared at my computer screen. Then I got up and made pumpkin pie cupcakes with maple frosting.

Oh my. They are awesome.

They are so awesome that after a late breakfast, I had an early morning tea.

There's just one catch. I invented the recipe with one eye on Hellboy saving kittens and one hand grabbing whatever spices etc I thought would make the cupcakes interesting.

I might try to recreate it today. Because, seriously, if I do say so myself (and I do), these cupcakes are mouth-meltingly good.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Perfect Saturday Afternoon

It was one of those perfect, sunny, Saturday afternoons. Mum was flying home in the evening, so we celebrated her upcoming birthday a bit early.

With cupcakes.

I tried out the Cherry Bomb Cupcakes from Cupcake Bakeshop. We nipped off to the supermarket for the ingredients and then the baking began. My BKFF tried these just a day or two ago and assured me they are 'the most awesome cupcakes ever'. I'd initially been intrigued since, yes, they're gluten free! Plus, chocolate and chilli, one of my all time favourite flavour combinations. You just can't get better.

After the initial bit of baking, I popped in the cherries and they were already looking scrumptious.

They have a meringue frosting. BKFF hadn't tried the meringue frosting, so I take this opportunity to assure BKFF that it is worth the bother. Since I was on a roll, I adjusted the colour of the frosting a little bit...

A pink and brown cupcake simply tastes better!

Mum's verdict? Best birthday cupcake in the world. This is something. Mum doesn't like meringue. Mum asked what the light, fluffy frosting was. "Meringue." "No." "Yes." "No." "Yes." "But it's not sweet and icky." "No."

Afterwards, we sat on the back steps with cups of coffee, occasionally getting up to play ball with Wee Davie. Mum had earlier devised a clever new aspect of the hen - yes, we acknowledge this - mansion. She put up a little fence and we can use the coop door as the gate to the new coop extension, as well as to the mansion itself. So now the hens can pop in and out and scratch in their old haunts without fear of Wee Davie invading (although he has been testing out the structural soundness of the mansion and fence with his ball).

Only, as I was photographing the cleverness of the multi-purpose door, Wee Davie thought there was something lacking in the photo...


Thursday, September 30, 2010

Life is better with a big pink ball

Last night Wee Davie had a bright pink ball to play with. This was the best present EVER. I mean, 'in the history of the world' ever. And I thought, as I stood at the door watching him running and jumping and panting and running and jumping all over again with his ball...

Oh, if it only took a big pink ball to make me feel that happy. How good would life be, then?

Mind, it's not exactly bad. I finished 'A Country Walk with Mr Beaumaris' (aka Arabella by Beautia Dew) in Cascade 220 and this is the best fitting sweater EVER. Perhaps not quite 'in the history of the world' ever, but close enough! Apart from the extra inch I should have knitted at the bottom. I already added an extra inch, but as my very clever mother reminded me, I seem to have been blessed with a long torso and she has to add two inches to every dress she makes me, which drives her slightly insane.

I think the colour and the design simply compliment each other. The neckline is perfect too, which is unusual with me. I also have narrow shoulders. Aunts who once made my one and only off the shoulder dress cursed me for weeks.

The success of this sweater made me very conscious of knitting sweaters that fit and flatter. At which point, I pulled on my very favourite knitted cardigan and looked sadly at the matted yarn and general wear on the lace. This is the cardigan that has always fitted well. That feels good. That looks good... or at least did till the yarn gave up the ghost, so to speak. Problem was... I'd lost the pattern and this was before I knew about Ravelry. I thought all I had was this photo to memorialise the best cardigan pattern EVER.

But then, as I was looking through my photos, I unearthed a photo of the cardigan in progress and there, underneath the knitting, was the pattern. I zoomed in excitedly. It was the Charm Wrap by Mary Jane Mucklestone. I Ravelled it. It was indeed a free Knitting Daily pattern once... several years ago. It's no longer available online. Now I just have to figure out how to find a copy. Is it really bad form to ask one of the people who have knitted it if they still have a copy? It is from a magazine, but it was offered free and that's how I found it, until I lost the file during various laptop upgrades. Hmmmm...

In the meantime, the hens have new digs! Mum and I put this up in an afternoon without the aid of the incredibly helpful instructions (I'm being ironic about the helpfulness of the instructions - there was a diagram of what the house should look like with a lot of arrows and letters that were all scrambled up), but with a surfeit of screws, all in the wrong sizes. Nonetheless, and despite a nesting box lid that doesn't quite fit yet, it's up and it looks good. The hens can now watch Wee Davie going rather nutty over his pink ball from the comfort and security of their new coop.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Tea and Mice

Want some tea? While I wish I could claim this was one of my own FOs, in fact, it's one of Mum's... but I swear the tea does taste better now the pot is so cosy! It's a fantastic little pattern by Debi Berkin.

Oh, and the little cups come from Mie Kongo Studio.