Sunday, December 23, 2007

Medical notes (part 2)

The one thing you don't want to hear when you are being wheeled in for an operation:

"We aren't ready for her. We need to test the machinery; the first lot wasn't working."

Not surprisingly I sat up and told them to take as long as they wanted to test the machinery because I wanted it working perfectly before they started operating on me. I may have got a little bit on the hysterical side and they decided that it would be a good idea to sedate me while they were testing their machinery.

Obviously I have lived to survive the tale. Apparently my gall bladder was packed with stones. Unfortunately they couldn't give me the contents in a little jar due to infection control policies but I was assured it was an impressive sample.

They certainly turn you around quickly in our hospital system. Within 24 hours of being put under a general anaesthetic and having part of my insides ripped out, I was discharged and waiting to be picked up. Lord knows what happens to those people who don't have family and friends to care for them in the days after an operation. Plenty has been written about the problems of Australia's public hospital system; my experience was both better and worse than I expected.

The doctors clearly believed I needed my gall bladder out and scheduled my operation within a week of diagnosis, which is very impressive for an 'elective' (non-emergency) procedure. It made sound economic sense - if I'd had another attack of pancreatitis, I could have easily been back in hospital for another week using up scarce resources - but there are plenty of examples of people having to wait months for so-called elective surgery. The strain on the hospital resources, however, was evident every step of the way. I was originally booked in as a public patient but on the day I was admitted I was strongly encouraged to sign in as a private patient. "It's a way of fundraising for us," a rather desperate-sounding ward clerk told us. "We bill your health insurance company instead of the government. We waive all the gap fees, so it won't cost you anything or make any difference to how you are treated but it helps us out A LOT."

Well, as long as it wasn't costing me anything extra... and they weren't kidding about not being treated any different to the public sector patients.

I felt like I was on a well-organised but over-stretched conveyor belt, moving from one docking station to another. Every part of the hospital showed signs of wear and strain but the staff were unfailingly professional, knowledgeable and capable. They just didn't have the capacity to provide anything - time or resources - beyond exactly what was needed. The bean counters would have been proud. It was just terrifying to consider what might happen should something go wrong, should a staff member fail to turn up to work or a piece of equipment fail - there did not appear to be any capacity to cover any gaps.

A cynic might suggest that the post-operative ward was designed to encourage people to return home and not linger beyond their absolute medical need. 16 beds for patients of both genders - divided by curtains - with one toilet, one shower and two nurses for all to share. The nurses were kept busy monitoring our vital signs and dispensing medication. Most of us were on drips and sedative painkillers, which made even the simplest tasks a challenging process. At one stage in the middle of the night I was standing on the side of the bed with my drip somehow tangled in the side rail, desperate to pee and wondering if I should press the nurse button because I could see how stretched they were. (In the end I untangled myself but needed to call for help to get back into bed.) And I had it much better than most patients - my husband was there during the day and was able to help me change into a clean nightie and walk me to the toilet but he was not allowed to stay the night. I found it hard to believe the nurse who said I would be fine to go home by 10am the next day.

The next morning, the nurses unhooked me from my drip, gave me another dose of strong pain killers and showed off my scars to the consultant surgeons. Before I knew it, I was in the discharge chairs, waiting for J to come and take me home.

The doctors gave me a script for Panadine Forte, which left me sleepy but helped me control my pain for the first few days. J channelled his inner Yiddishe Mama and made me home-made chicken soup and jelly while I was recuperating. I alternatively slept, ate chicken soup and watched Babylon 5 on DVD while contemplating some very simple knitting.

A visit to my local GP confirmed that the scars were healing well although I had a very slight surface infection that we should watch. But even that appears to have cleared up now. I am feeling much better today, although I still cannot lift anything heavy.

J, however, has picked up a nasty cold that he is blaming on the visit to the hospital. Lucky there is some of his left-over chicken soup for him.

Stash busting projects

I've been a bit naughty, buying myself some early birthday presents including a lace-blocking kit and some 2-ply silk/wool Zephyr from Yarns Online (I am definitely going to try a shawl next year, maybe the Swallowtail Shawl) and ordering Knitting from the Top and Crazy Aunt Purl's book from Amazon. Then an old colleague sent me two huge bags of yarn for Christmas (mostly a blue wool blend from a Spotlight sale several years ago). The stash is getting way out of control, so I decided that while I was resting up from the op and needing some very simple knitting to keep me occupied, it was time to engage in a couple of stash-busting projects.

Item 1 - roll-brim hat

An adult-sized roll-brimmed hat knitted from some rainbow variegated yarn in my stash. Maybe 80 grams? Slightly thinner than 8-ply, knit on 3.75mm needles. I had no idea what my gauge was or how many stitches to cast on so I knitted this from the top down, using the figure 8 cast-on. I ended up with 112 stitches all around. It fits me well but yellow is not my colour. It will probably end up as a gift for a friend.

Item 2 - simple ribbed mohair scarf

My eczema had cleared up, so I decided to take my life in my hands and use up some soft grey/blue mohair-based yarn in a simple 4X4 ribbed scarf on 5mm needles. I cast on 34 stitches, slipping the first and knitting the last stich in every row. There were about 2 1/2 balls of indeterminate weight and size, more than enough for a 150cm (60 inch) scarf plus fringing.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Coffee plunger cosy

Maybe it was the stitch markers, maybe it was my eczema calming down to mere dry flaky skin, maybe it was five days of bed rest, maybe it was many hours perusing Ravelry but I finally started knitting again.

I've been looking at all the tea cosies and thought I might use some of my left-over Zarina to make a second cosy. Initially I thought I'd send it to my tea cosy pal but it ended up too narrow and more blue-ish teal than green. So it's ended up on my own coffee plunger. I made up the pattern as I went; a few rows of garter stitch with eyelet holes; a cable twist, then ten blocks of basket-stitch pattern, a cable twist and the garter stitch eyelet border. A nice and relaxing return to knitting. I'm now using some other left-over yarn to make a beanie.

As with every swap, a lot of people are going over the top. We signed up to make one tea/coffee cosy and send some tea/coffee and bickies. The number of people sending extra skeins of expensive yarn, mugs, multiple cosies, chocolate, dishcloths, stitch markers and more is a bit overwhelming. I feel like the goal posts keep moving. I wish there was a happy medium between the people who go OTT and those who pike completely.

In my package I included the tea cosy pictured below, some Fair Trade Earl Gray tea, a tin of Oxfam Ceylon tea, a packet of shortbread biscuits and some Clover DPNs (from the promotion kit I bought earlier this year). So my pal shouldn't feel too ripped off. I also found a nice card featuring Labrador puppies which looks like her sort of thing.

I think I'll pass on the next Australian Ravelry swap (knitted bags) but I have until the first week of January to make up my mind.

Cute stitch markers

I returned from hospital to find a package from the UK. Crafty Librarian, one of the organisers of ISE5 had sent me the butterfly stitch markers as a prize for a competition she had run on her blog. I pinched the photo from her blog as every photo I tried to take of the stitch markers came out blurry. They are even prettier in real life. Thank-you Charlie!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Medical note

Apologies for the long time between postings but for once I actually have a decent excuse. I've been in hospital for half the past week.

The story began when I woke up last Saturday night (or rather Sunday morning, 2.30am) with the most excruciating abdominal pain imaginable. I was lying in bed when it came on really suddenly and it got worse and worse and I woke up J and said "I have really bad abdominal cramps and I think I have to go to the hospital." J tried to get me to drink some water but I couldn't even lift the bottle. Then he said "Can you dress yourself?" and I realised I was stark naked and couldn't go out even to the hospital like this. So I staggered around trying to find my baggiest underpants and my loosest top and skirt.

J drove me to the local hospital which fortunately was only moderately full for a Saturday night. I must have looked as bad as I felt as the triage nurse gave me a trolley to lie on right away. I listened to J filling in the admissions paperwork. The nurse asked me to rate my pain on a scale from 0 to 10, with 0 being no pain and 10 being the greatest pain I could imagine. "10," I croaked.

It was a long night. Eventually I was pushed from the hallway into a little room in the emergency department. Various nurses regularly took my blood pressure and heart rate but it was a long time before a doctor arrived. I asked a nurse if there was any chance of getting any pain killers. Eventually I was given a couple of Panadine Forte for the pain and some other medication to settle my stomach.

The doctor when she finally arrived was nothing short of brilliant. She was so thorough that she picked up a couple of minor unrelated health issues, as well as diagnosing me with pancreatitus (inflammation of the pancreas). Once we established that I barely drink any alcohol (excessive alcohol consumption is one reason for this disease) I was sent for an x-ray and ultrasound.
It turned out the pancreatitus was caused by gall stones and there are a fair few of them still in there. And the only way to get them out is to take the whole gall bladder out (it’s kidney stones that get laser zapped). The doctors claim that one can live a perfectly normal life without a gall bladder and the risk of complications from this surgery is much smaller than the risk of having an even worse and more dangerous attack of pancreatitus in the future if I don’t have my gall bladder out.

I spent the next day on a drip, eating ice, and two days on a clear-fluid diet to settle down my pancreas. Once the pain went, I felt fine. I slept and read and had visitors. J was fantastic, bringing me in fresh clothes and mint tea bags and ensuring I had a constant supply of reading material. And had my blood pressure and heart rate taken on a regular basis. To my great delight, I discovered that the few kilos I've lost this year and exercise have already had a profound impact on my health - I no longer have borderline high blood pressure; every single reading was well within the healthy normal range. On the fourth day I was allowed to have real food and when that passed without incident, I was permitted to return home to rest until the operation.

So on Monday I return to the hospital for the operation. It will be keyhole surgery, which means minimal scarring, and is apparently a very common and straightforward operation. Several people I know including my father-in-law and a close friend have had the operation and returned to a normal life. But any operation is scary.

I'm under strict instructions to eat a very low fat diet until the operation.
The gall bladder stores bile which is released when digesting fat; It turns out that eating a slightly fatty meal after a month of eating a very low fat diet (damn J's birthday dinner!) almost certainly triggered the attack - as the bile was released, so was a gallstone. But with the number of gallstones I had, an attack was probably inevitable. I've had mixed reports about whether my diet will be restricted after the operation but to be on the safe side, I will stick to the low-fat regime. I need to loose the weight anyway.

So that's been my excitement for the week. I'll do another post about returning to knitting.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Indonesia's revenge

I don't know the real story behind Kopi Luwak, the world's most expensive coffee ($50 per cup!) made from coffee beans that have been swallowed and then excreted by the Indonesian Asian Palm Civet (for real... I couldn't make this up if I tried) but I would like to think it goes something like this:

One day a couple of poverty-stricken Indonesian locals were walking in the forest. They were particularly grumpy from a day of working in a hotel catering to rude Western tourists for a minuscule wage. One of them spots a pile of Asian Palm Civet excrement and says: "You know, I bet you that I can not only make those rich bastards eat shit but pay for the privilege too..."

Thursday, November 29, 2007

EZ bargain

I'm very excited.  I received my copy of Elizabeth Zimmermann's Knitter's Almanac from The Book Depository today. This is an amazing UK company that ships free worldwide so I have no idea how they make any money.  But they are legitimate.  I had heard good things about them on the Melbourne S'nB email list so I swallowed my skepticism and placed an order.  Thanks to Australia's appreciating currency, the book came to less than AUD$9, which I suspect barely covers the cost of airmail from the UK. 

Three weeks later I thought I had done my dough as no book had arrived.  But the company responded really quickly to my email query, advising they had shipped the book by airmail 3 weeks previously and offered to send out another copy or refund my money.  I decided to wait until the end of this week to take them up on their offer as the post can sometimes be a little dodgey. And today Australia Post delivered!

So at least I've got some good reading until my hands are ready for knitting.

In other news, along with more than half of Australia I am celebrating the return of a Labor government that has already committed to repealing the most draconian of the workplace laws, signing the Kyoto agreement and apologising to indigenous Australians for ripping apart families and destroying their culture.  I hope they can make the next step of actually doing something to improve the health and life expectancy of some of the poorest and most disadvantaged in our country.

The election was so decisive that our former Prime Minister of 11 years actually lost his own seat.  The most senior Liberal in Australia is the mayor of Brisbane, Australia's third-largest city.  I'm glad the Liberals are out of power - this is the direct result of their own appalling decisions and governance over the past 11 years - but I'm not enjoying their self-implosion and decimation half as much as I thought I would.  I'm acutely aware that all countries, including Australia, need a strong Opposition.  We've put a lot of faith in Kevin07 Rudd.  Let's hope he can now deliver.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Scarf received

Amanda from the UK sent this lovely l-o-n-g soft scarf with cute flowers all the way from the UK. I would never have made anything like this for myself, but I love it! She also included some proper English tea in cute London tins and sweet sheep-themed accessories.

I am overwhelmed by her thoughtfulness and hope she received as lovely a scarf as I did.

Non-knitting news

I still haven't been knitting. I hate eczema.

My "not over-eating" project is going well; I've lost 2kg to date. On the one hand I'm overwhelmed when I think about the challenge ahead (10-15kg is just the interim goal); on the other hand I really feel that this is 'it'; a switch has been flicked inside me and I am going to lose the weight this time. It's not a case of want or hope any more; it's the certainty of knowledge.

Last night J and I found not one but two different poisonous spiders inside the house; a white-tail spider on my couch and then, when we were taking it out of the house, a wolf spider was found just inside the back door. We're still freaked out today and hope there aren't any more surprises hiding indoors.

Finally, here is a picture of my cat Smudgey looking very cute.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Summer has arrived with a vengeance

I'm going to have to change the name of this blog. It's 36 degrees Celsius, my hands are swollen and covered with eczema and I cannot conceive how I will bring myself to knit again until after summer is over.

Mind you, I knitted a woollen afghan in the burning heat of last January, so anything is possible once the eczema dies down.

I am SO GLAD I finished my ISE 5 knitting - my pal, Michelle, has received the scarf and posted pictures on her blog. My other pal has emailed to assure me that my scarf is on the way, she just can't face pulling out the iron for its final blocking (which is something I understand way too well).

My current 'project' is losing some weight, which I know is the most boring thing to write about. I lost a net amount of 7kg earlier this year and have plateued ever since. I have to seriously lose about 10-15kg more sooner rather than later. (I need to lose even more, but 10-15kg is the immediate goal). Last Thursday, I decided the best approach use the same technique I used for getting my finances under control. The reality is that I have to eat less calories than I burn each day, so I budget them. I'm determined not to waste my limited calories on 'crap'.

I'm not doing a formal diet as such; it's more a constant evaluation of "Do I really need to eat this? Am I really hungry? Where does this fit into everything else I’ve eaten/am likely to eat today?"

I’ve totally eliminated sugar and also all the diet drinks (because they can give me cravings) and am trying to focus on having the right number of portions of everything – the hardest thing for me is minimising the bread/carbohydrates. I’m also making sure I have a reasonable amount of lean protein because that fills me up, a couple of low-fat yoghurt tubs a day, lots of vegies and fruit. As far as possible I’m minimising the processed stuff. So although I’m being fairly strict, I’m being careful to make sure it is balanced in all the stuff I need. It’s not that I’m saying “all sugar forever and ever” is bad for me; it’s just I know I have to drop a reasonable amount of weight relatively quickly and this is the easiest and safest way to do it in the short term.

For too long I’ve been an emotional eater and it’s just not possible for me to be that right now; I’m trying to switch the attitude in my head, seeing food as fuel – emotionally neutral – and making sure it’s the right mix for me now.

I've survived the first five days and dropped a kilo; hopefully this eating regime, like my adjusted attitude to money and consumerism, will become habit and easier (and even enjoyable) as time goes on.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Yarn dreaming

I have to start knitting again. I had a dream last night about yarn.

I dreamt I was in the perfect yarn store. Every hank was a beautiful top quality yarn. I was gazing at and touching a gorgeous silk merino blend, that was available in the richest sea-blue and royal purple colours.

The prices were absolutely amazing and on top of all that, there was a 20% off sale!

I had plenty of money that I could spend guilt-free on yarn BUT I was walking around thinking "I don't really need any more yarn. I'm just enjoying looking and touching."

I'm not sure I want to know what that means.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I'm frugal, she's cheap...

(Knitting is still on hold; non-knitting rambling ahead)

I ran into an acquaintance the other day who had given herself a very bad home hair-dye.

"She was always cheap," I thought to myself.  "It doesn't look like she's even bought a decent home hair-dye kit."

Later I thought, "Who am I to talk?  I go to the hairdressers maybe twice a year.  Doesn't that make me as cheap as her?"

The answer, I think, is no, because there is a very big difference between being frugal or thrifty and being cheap.  At least when I go to the hairdresser, I go to a good one who puts in quality colour 'tips' (which last longer than an overall hair-dye job) and cuts my hair in a style that will last for months, rather than weeks.

When you are cheap, you buy things specifically because they are low in price, without necessarily much consideration of quality.  You sometimes avoid buying things you really do need or you buy a lower quality version than you really should because you can't bare to spend the money on what you really need.

When you are frugal, however, you carefully consider whether you really need to spend money on an item.  You question whether you really need it or if there is some way of adapting what you already have for what you need.  But then if you decide you do truly need an item, you buy the best value version that you can afford, which is not necessarily the one with the lowest price tag.  You consider quality and longevity over showiness and brand name.

Cheapness and frugality are attitudes and not necessarily linked to income.  And it can come out in the most unexpected ways.

We aren't the wealthiest people but whenever we visit a certain family, we always buy them a decent-quality bottle of wine for dinner, bought with their specific tastes and preferences in mind, rather than our own.  A few months ago they visited our place for dinner and as a hostess gift brought two little packets of Twinings tea.  The sort that are picked up in the supermarket for less than $2/packet.  Now I know it is the thought that counts, but given their income is at least four times ours, I thought it was, well, a bit cheap.

Later that evening I discovered just how much thought had gone into the gift.  I was making cups of tea and coffee and offered them the blackcurrant tea they had brought, thinking maybe they had brought it because they had a specific preference for this drink and thought we wouldn't have it in the house.

"Oh no, I really don't like fruit teas myself but I know a lot of people like them, that's why we got them for you. Tee-hee-hee."

"Bullshit! " I didn't say, but thought. "This was some unwanted tea in the back off your kitchen cupboard that you figured you could pawn off as a gift to your poorer acquaintances because we weren't worth the effort for you to go one miserly little step out of the way to buy something we might actually like."

Now that is really, really cheap.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The light at the end of the tunnel

What are those strange stains on the worn-out carpet? On second thoughts, I don't want to know.


J repairing a bodgey floorboard. Note our books piled in the room behind him.


We still need to add a final layer of floor varnish, sand and paint the walls, decide what to do about window coverings (I am so tempted to leave them bare but we have to consider some privacy) and move everything back in... but there is light at the end of the tunnel!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Coffee plunger modelling a tea cosy

This is my coffee plunger modelling a tea cosy I made for the Australian Knitters tea cosy swap. It's just a basic rib with holes for a handle, sprout and plunge (which apparently my pal's teapot has). Rib may be simple but it solves all sorts of fitting issues. The yarn was from my stash. My pal is apparently enamoured with all things green.

In floor polishing news, despite Weekend torrents fill Melbourne's dams to a year high (our dams are now at 40%) we have managed to get the first coat of varnish down. The cats are most indignant about being kept outside.

I'm thinking of buying shares in Bunnings. We've made 3 visits over two days and spent nearly $500 so far. Still, within budget and I think there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

My philosophy of yarn buying

Most of my knitting yarn is buried in the spare bedroom while we fix up the back of the house. So instead of knitting, I've been philosophising about knitting.

I've been thinking a lot lately about consumerism and the differences between wants and needs, bargains and value-for-money, frugality and cheapness.

Interestingly, it's been knitting which has really brought home to me the lessons about quality over price and substance over showiness.

It's easy to buy cheap yarn that looks pretty in the ball. But if it doesn't feel right, it's no fun to knit and the project is often abandoned to accumulate dust and space. And even if one finishes a project made out of poor quality yarn, the finished object usually piles or sheds or loses its shape, undoing all the hard work one put into knitting up the item in the first place.

So that is my rationale for only buying good quality yarn and ridding my stash of anything below par. Cheap yarn is usually just a waste of time, money and space.

We need the rain...

Australia has been in drought for so long that it is considered blasphemous to complain about any wet weather, no matter how much it inconveniences one.

So I am very virtuously uttering the new motto for Australia in the 21st century "We need the rain..." and uttering the prayer embraced even by atheists "Please God let it be falling on the farms and dams and not just me" and wondering if J & I should be taking responsibility for the current break in dry weather which coincided with us ripping up the old carpet and sanding the floorboards. We can't start to apply the varnish until we have a dry day.

And it would be positively unAustralian to wish for one of those right now.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Non-knitting project

J & I have decided to polish the floorboards at the back of our house. The first task was to empty out 10 bookcases... only part of the contents are pictured below.

The library should re-open by the end of November.

ISE 5 scarf posted

I can't get over how expensive international postage is! The above items (total weight 300 grams) cost $16 to send by airmail to America. Aside from the scarf, I included an Australia/America friendship pin, a packet of "Hand knitted for you" tags, a little Australian flag and 4mm circular Clover knitting needle in a little bag which is just the right size for carrying a sock project. I wrapped it in Christmas paper designed by a local Melbourne artist Michael Leunig and packed it in a special Australia Post Christmas post pack.

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Movie Meme

I picked this meme up from Beth.
SUPPOSEDLY if you've seen over 85 films, you have no life. Mark the ones you've seen. There are 239 films on this list. Copy this list, go to your own blog, paste this as a note. Then, put x's next to the films you've seen, add them up.Have fun!

I scored 72 which I think is more a reflection on the movies in this list than my life.  For instance, there would be a very different score if the Star Trek movies were included.  And what movie list would include Sixteen Candles but not The Breakfast Club produced around the same time?
J picked up The Breakfast Club on DVD for under $10 and we watched it again last weekend.  It's still brilliant.  I wish the makers of films today would realise that a good plot/dialogue/charachter is more important than OTT special effects.  Special effects can augment an already good movie (such as Narnia, Total Recall, etc) but are no substitute for a plot (remember Batman Returns?  No, neither do I).
We also saw Death at a Funeral at the movies.  It's really funny but I would wait for the DVD - I don't think it needs a big screen to be appreciated.

(X) Rocky Horror Picture Show
(X) Grease
(X) Pirates of the Caribbean  (X)Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man's Chest
( ) Boondock Saints
( ) Fight Club
( ) Starsky and Hutch
(X) Neverending Story
(X) Blazing Saddles
(X) Airplane
(X) The Princess Bride
( ) AnchorMan
( ) Napoleon Dynamite
(X) Labyrinth
( ) Saw ( ) Saw II
( ) White Noise
( ) White Oleander
(X) Anger Management
( ) 50 First Dates
( ) The Princess Diaries
( ) The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement
( ) Scream ( ) Scream 2 ( ) Scream 3
( ) Scary Movie ( ) Scary Movie 2 ( ) Scary Movie 3 ( ) Scary Movie 4
(X) American Pie ( ) American Pie 2 ( ) American Wedding ( ) American Pie Band Camp
(X) Harry Potter 1 (X) Harry Potter 2 (X) Harry Potter 3 (X) Harry Potter 4
( ) Resident Evil 1 ( ) Resident Evil 2
(X) The Wedding Singer
( ) Little Black Book
( ) The Village
( ) Lilo & Stitch
(X) Finding Nemo
(X) Finding Neverland
( ) Signs
(X) The Grinch
( ) Texas Chainsaw Massacre ( ) Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning
( ) White Chicks
( ) Butterfly Effect
( ) 13 Going on 30
(X) I, Robot
( ) Robots
( ) Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story
( ) Universal Soldier
(X) Lemony Snicket: A Series Of Unfortunate Events
( ) Along Came Polly
( ) Deep Impact
( ) KingPin
( ) Never Been Kissed
(X) Meet The Parents (X) Meet the Fockers
( ) Eight Crazy Nights
( ) Joe Dirt
( ) A Cinderella Story
(X) The Terminal
( ) The Lizzie McGuire Movie
( ) Passport to Paris
( ) Dumb & Dumber ( ) Dumber & Dumberer
( ) Final Destination ( ) Final Destination 2 ( )Final Destination 3
( ) Halloween
( ) The Ring ( ) The Ring 2
( ) Surviving X-MAS
( ) Flubber
( ) Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle
( ) Practical Magic
(X) Chicago
( ) Ghost Ship
( ) From Hell
( ) Hellboy
( ) Secret Window
( ) I Am Sam
( ) The Whole Nine Yards ( ) The Whole Ten Yards

(X) The Day After Tomorrow
( ) Child's Play
( ) Seed of Chucky ( ) Bride of Chuck
( ) Ten Things I Hate About You
( ) Just Married
( ) Gothika
( ) Nightmare on Elm Street
(X) Sixteen Candles
( ) Remember the Titans
( ) Coach Carter
( ) The Grudge ( ) The Grudge 2
( ) The Mask ( ) Son Of The Mask
( ) Bad Boys ( ) Bad Boys 2
( ) Joy Ride
( ) Lucky Number Sleven
(X) Ocean's Eleven (X) Ocean's Twelve
(X) Bourne Identity (X) Bourne Supremecy
( ) Lone Star
( ) Bedazzled
( ) Predator I ( ) Predator II
( ) The Fog
( ) Ice Age( ) Ice Age 2: The Meltdown
( ) Curious George
(X) Independence Day
( ) Cujo
( ) A Bronx Tale
( ) Darkness Falls
( ) Christine
(X) ET
( ) Children of the Corn
( ) My Bosses Daughter
( ) Maid in Manhattan
(X ) War of the Worlds
( ) Rush Hour ( ) Rush Hour 2
( ) Best Bet
( ) How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
( ) She's All That
( ) Calendar Girls
( ) Sideways
( ) Mars Attacks
(X) Event Horizon
( ) Ever After
(X) Wizard of Oz
(X) Forrest Gump
( ) Big Trouble in Little China
(X) The Terminator (X) The Terminator 2 (X ) The Terminator 3
(X) X-Men (X) X-2 (X ) X-3
(X) Spider-Man ( ) Spider-Man 2
( ) Sky High
( ) Jeepers Creepers ( ) Jeepers Creepers 2
( ) Catch Me If You Can
( ) The Little Mermaid
 () Freaky Friday
( ) Reign of Fire
( ) The Skulls
( ) Cruel Intentions ( ) Cruel Intentions 2
( ) The Hot Chick
(X) Shrek (X) Shrek 2
( ) Swimfan
(X) Miracle on 34th street
( ) Old School
( ) The Notebook
( ) K-Pax
( ) Krippendorf's Tribe
( ) A Walk to Remember
( ) Ice Castles
( ) Boogeyman
( ) The 40-year-old Virgin
(X) Lord of the Rings Fellowship of the Ring (X) Lord of the Rings The Two Towers
(X) Lord of the Rings Return Of the King
(X) Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (X) Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (X) Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
( ) Baseketball
( ) Hostel
( ) Waiting for Guffman
( ) House of 1000 Corpses
( ) Devils Rejects
( ) Elf
(X) Highlander
( ) Mothman Prophecies
( ) American History X
( ) The Jacket
( ) Kung Fu Hustle
( ) Shaolin Soccer
( ) Night Watch
(X) Monsters Inc.
(X) Titanic
(X) Monty Python and the Holy Grail
( ) Shaun Of the Dead
( ) Willard
( ) High Tension
( ) Club Dread
( ) Hulk
( ) Dawn Of the Dead
(X) Hook
(X) Chronicles Of Narnia The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe
(X) 28 days later
( ) Orgazmo
( ) Phantasm
( ) Waterworld
( ) Kill Bill vol 1 ( ) Kill Bill vol 2
( ) Mortal Kombat
( ) Wolf Creek
( ) Kingdom of Heaven
( ) the Hills Have Eyes
( ) I Spit on Your Grave aka the Day of the Woman
( ) The Last House on the Left
( ) Re-Animator ( ) Army of Darkness
(X) Star Wars Ep. I The Phantom Menace (X) Star Wars Ep. II Attack of the Clones
(X) Star Wars Ep. III Revenge of the Sith (X) Star Wars Ep. IV A New Hope
(X) Star Wars Ep. V The Empire Strikes Back (X) Star Wars Ep. VI Return of the Jedi
( ) Ewoks Caravan Of Courage ( ) Ewoks The Battle For Endor
(X) The Matrix (X) The Matrix Reloaded (X) The Matrix Revolutions
( ) Animatrix
( ) Evil Dead ( ) Evil Dead 2
(X) Team America: World Police
( ) Red Dragon (X) Silence of the Lambs (X) Hannibal

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Tea Cosy Swap

Now that the knitting for ISE 5 is out of the way (I still need to pack and post the parcel), I can concentrate on the next swap - the Australian Tea Cosy swap. We've been asked to post pictures of our teapots, which in my case is a coffee plunger. The only teapot I have is a very tall stately one which doesn't lend itself to a cosy, so I decided to ask for a coffee plunger cosy instead.

In this swap we're being encouraged to knit from my stash which I think is a very good idea. The one thing I know about my pal is that she is obsessed with green, so I've pulled the above odd balls out of the stash. I'm envisioning something very bright, but with a green base. She hasn't posted a picture of her pot yet but I know it is 36cm round and 15cm high. I just need to work out a pattern.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

De-stashing de photos

I used to think that it was sacrilegious to throw out a photograph.  Photographs are memories and aids to memories.   Once they are gone they are gone.


I have boxes and boxes of unsorted and mostly unlabelled photographs from my childhood.  Yesterday J & I faced the mountain.


It wasn't a harsh cull.  I mainly tried to sort them into groups – family, friends, moments in time.   Then I noticed that some photos were so dark or blurry I couldn't even work out who was in them.  But they were in the collection because in the Dark Ages BDC (Before Digital Cameras), every photo got printed up.   Often twice, as double prints cost only a little more than single prints and there was often at least one photo that needed to be shared.  So out they went, those indecipherable dark and blurry space stealers.


Then there were the animals.  As a kid, I'd go to a farm or the zoo and take pictures of the local wombat or rooster or (in one case) albino peacock.   Did I really want those photos?  Did they mean anything to me? Toss, toss, toss.


And who were the photos of anyway?  I faithfully kept all photos of family or friends of my parents, even snapshots of my late mother's workmates.   But with my own pictures I could be harsher.  25-year-old photos of people I had met once on camp and never kept in touch with?   Gone.  Six nearly identical photos from a school reunion (obviously someone had snapped the camera 3 times and I had ordered doubles) I culled down to one memory.   Pictures from a hideous trip with nasty people I had attended for work purposes in my 20s – good-bye and good riddance to most of them.


It was possibly the most emotional declutching job I have ever done and it is barely one third over. I could have done a much harsher cull and maybe one day I will.   There are still probably hundreds of duplicates – not the least being generated by my American in-laws who sent multiple copies of expensive professional photos of our niece in America .  Why on earth did they think we'd want or be able to use six identical pictures of her in each pose?  


The pictures are currently organised into only the vaguest sub groups and most still need labels.  Speaking of which, I ended up throwing out a number of photos of babies that had been sent to me by friends and acquaintances in the 1990s.   I had no idea who they were or how they could be identified.  "My sweet little angel aged 2 months" does not help me identify which 10 year old he/she is today.  

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Knitting for kids

For someone who doesn't have kids, I knit an awful lot of kid-sized stuff. Part of it is the fun of trying new patterns or ideas on pint-sized items and the satisfaction that comes with completing projects relatively quickly. Part of it is the lack of sizing stress when knitting for kids - it doesn't matter if something is too large for the kid to wear now; they'll eventually grow into it. And part of it is the satisfaction which comes from giving a present which is completely unique. I can't and don't want to compete with those who purchase expensive designer outfits, and I don't want to be looked on as lesser than because I buy something from a chain store - even though I know these items are often the most used by parents.

A few years ago I knitted a jumper for a child with his name emblazoned on the front. He loved it and the parents loved it but they've made a request; no more garments with his name on it. Because he is a very friendly kid and they worry he might wander off with a stranger who knows his name because it is written all over his jumper.

I totally understand this but part of me rebels. Maybe I could do his name in a foreign language. How many people know Hebrew?

You see I want this jumper to be unique, just for him, something that can't be passed down to another child. And I realise how selfish and impractical this sounds. But it is how I feel.

And it's no more impractical than the person who buys a dry-clean only designer white outfit for a six-month old child.

The scarf which grew

Above is a picture of part of wave and shell blocking. Ignore the less than straight sides please. This scarf went into the washing machine at 58 inches and somehow came out measuring more than 72 inches. Which is my idea of the right length for a scarf but probably a bit long for my pal.

Which means I probably should have stopped knitting at the end of the second ball but I didn't want to be skimpy and cast on the start of the third ball for an extra pattern repeat.

I also learnt that one should never try to knit lace when sleepy - I spent a good hour knitting backwards to find a row which had the correct number of stitches on it. But all in all I'm very happy with how it turned out and hope my pal is as well. I'm on the hunt for some lightweight goodies to send with it over the seas. Tim Tam may be quintessentially Australian but they are relatively heavy to send airmail and I'm terrified they may melt en route. I'm hoping some lovely lightweight Clover products in their original wrapping might be appreciated. So far the only items I've used is the click counter. How many needles in duplicate sizes does one really need?

Decluttering de stuff

Thank-you to the people who have warned me about the dangers of spinning. I'm sure it is only a matter of time before I succumb but hopefully AFTER I have catalogued all my yarn on Ravelry and faced the reality that is my stash.

I was looking for some pins today and opened a random box in the stationary cupboard. Inside was a bag of pale grey mohair and some 12-ply maroon Cleckheaton Country that I had forgotten that I even had! I also found the much needed index tabs for the filing cabinet that I had been searching fruitlessly for last month. And a working stapler which means I don't have to buy another. The pins were in the bathroom. Don't ask me why or how they got there.

I have to get my life in order.

We are far from the wealthiest people I know but I am convinced that our house contains nearly everything we need - if only we could find it! Did I mention that earlier this year I found a nearly new fine merino NZ jumper that I had bought on my honeymoon and never worn despite a distinct lack of suitable winter clothing to wear to work?

I am feeling very inspired by Taphophile who is doing the 'Seven Things' project, where one aims to have a net reduction of seven items in the home each week. Through her, I found BookCrossing which is a way of sending unwanted books out into the world and having a hope in hell of discovering what happens to them afterwards. (I have a close friend who is very into geocaching; this is a literary version, without the numbers.) I did a major book cull earlier this year but think I am ready to do a second cut. I know some people manage to make money on eBay but I haven't had much luck trying to dispose of books this way. Taking into account the time it takes to list books, the fees, the problem of postage, etc, it hardly seems worth the bother. But this looks like a fun alternative to merely dropping off the books at the local op shop, although no doubt I'll do that to.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Don't tell me there is a stage four around the corner!

Stage One
Wow!  Look at all that pretty yarn.  I love those lovely soft feathers.  And that faux fur is so silky and nice.  Wouldn't it be cool to have a jumper made out of all those pretty colours and textures?  Maybe I could start with a scarf.  That doesn't look too hard.
Stage two
What on earth was I thinking when I bought all that crap?  Feathers is such a bitch to knit with.  And I can buy 100% pure natural wool for less than the cost of all that nasty acrylic novelty yarn.  It might look pretty in a ball but it is butt-ugly knitted up.  I have no idea who buys all that fancy imported yarn.  Who in their right mind would spend more than $10 on a single ball of yarn when you can get 100% pure wool for less than $5/ball?
Stage three
That Noro is so gorgeous.  I know it's expensive but it is worth it.  Nothing else is quite like it.  Those colours!  I also never realised there was such a difference between merino and regular 100% wool.  Merino is so much softer.  It might be a bit pricier but it doesn't pile so much.  And I seem to knit it up far faster than the regular Patons/Cleckheaton/Bendigo wool in my stash.  I can't resist that Jo Sharp Silk Road Ultra either.  It's amazing what a little silk and cashmere in the wool blend adds to the garment.  And kid mohair is so much softer than that nasty itchy regular mohair.  I can't believe there are people who knit a whole jumper out of cashmere and silk yarn.  Don't tell me there is a stage four around the corner!

My love affair with Zarina

Zarina extra-fine merino!  How do I love thee?  You put up with being squished in my backpack, knitted and unravelled adnauseum, poked and prodded, yet still look as fresh and new as the day I picked you off the shelf.  You sum up the reason why one should buy for quality, rather than price.
I'm about 27 inches into the wave and shell scarf (unstretched and unblocked - no doubt it will block much longer) and have only just started my second ball of yarn (Oh Zarina, your yardage is just so generous!  184 yards to a 50 gram skein.)  I most likely could have got away with buying just two balls for my ISE 5 pal's scarf but with 3 balls I know there will be no skimping on length or quality.  And hopefully there may be enough left over for a little project for myself.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

ISE 5 - Take 3 - Wave and Shell

I ended up frogging Midwest Moonlight and went and spent a ridiculous amount of money on some extra fine merino (so much for knitting from the stash!) and am now knitting something completely different. But I'm in love with the new wool (Zarina extra fine merino, 4ply) which is so tactile and soothing. It is seriously probably the best quality yarn I have ever used and tolerated numerous re-starts with no fraying or piling.

My pal says she loves blues and jewel tones and I think this was the nicest colour available in the LYS near where I work.

Part of the problem was that my scarf pal wanted a wide scarf, about 10 inches across, that she could pull over her head (not sure if she was hinting for a shawl which I have never made), so I really needed to make something lighter and lacier than Midwest Moonlight was turning out . After frogging a few more complex lace patterns, I decided on Wave and Shell, a version of feather and fan which I think is turning out very nicely. I'm only doing 2 pattern repeats on 5mm needles which I think will create a 10-12 inch scarf once it is blocked. And I can knit on the tram or in front of the TV without stuffing up! I'd happily wear it myself which is always a good sign - unlike Midwest Moonlight which for some reason was beginning to really annoy me.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Now I hate Midwest Moonlight

Is this yarn too chunky? Is the colour wrong? Should I have gone down a needle size? Am I just being fickle?

Friday, October 05, 2007

Midwest Moonlight progress

With the Midwest Moonlight, there has been both good and bad news.  The good news is that I've found an extra ball of the Cleckheaton Country.  I've also found an odd ball of Noro Kureyon in complementary colours which I may incorporate (somehow it has escaped being incorporated into a previous projects).  So I will definitely have enough yarn for a full-length scarf.
In bad news, my brain took a holiday while knitting over the past two nights which means I have now unravelled almost as much as I've knitted. :(
Currently remotely blogging - pictures to be uploaded at a later date.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Not shopping, just enabling

And in this week's Not Shopping achievements I have resisted:

Beautiful, chunky hot pink Katia yarn, 100% wool, half-price at Lincraft Melbourne CBD - $7.49 for 100 grams. It would be perfect for felting. Except I've decided that I hate felting. It would also be great for a beginner's scarf. Except I am no longer a beginner.

It's also available in a lovely dark rich brown, variegated blues and a rough variegated hot pink and purple. Just in case any other Melbourne knitters need enabling.

Lincraft also have a cool bamboo/cotton line, only $3.99/50 grams. Slightly limited colour range. I will not buy it until I decide what I want to make with it, so I buy the right amount.

Corningware have also released an '8-piece' (they count the lids as pieces, so it is really four containers) white set which I've seen for as little as $84.95 (at David Jones). It's a real bargain. If one actually needs Corningware. I was so, so tempted. We need to replace our broken very large Corningware dish. But all four containers in this set are smaller than what we need and we already have two small Corningware containers we hardly ever use. And where would we store it? We resisted. And I went home and sent an email to a friend who has recently moved into her own place and might actually be able to use it.

Instead I bought a new pair of black walking shoes and pink cotton t-shirt. Both of which I actually need. And have already used.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

I hate mohair

It's official. After about 8 starts of the so-called simple lace mohair scarf where I managed to stuff up by the sixth row each time, I decided to abandon the pattern. At the same time I decided that mohair was the most irritating yarn to knit with (well, except for feathers novelty yarn), it wasn't that soft and what the hell was I thinking when I knitted an entire jumper out of double-12-ply mohair.

So, back to my stash to examine the options. My ISE 5 partner loves natural fibres, soft yarns & purples. I have four balls of a lovely bright purple 8-ply Cleckheaton Country. I cast on the Midwest Moonlight scarf. I've done one repeat and it is looking OK. My only worry is whether 4 skeins is enough (it is a very wide pattern). Do I have another skein buried somewhere?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

ISE 5 contact made and stash thoughts

ISE 5 - contact made

I've made contact with my secret pal for ISE 5 and received the very good news that not only does she love purples but she doesn't have a hatred of mohair (so many people do!) This means that with a totally clear conscience I can knit her a scarf out of the purple Naturally 12-ply mohair I have in my stash.

It's a great quality yarn and a gorgeous colour. I originally bought 10 balls(!) to knit a poncho out of. Because nothing looks better on an overweight woman than a bright purple fluffy poncho. My only excuse is that it was early in my knitting career and I had the sense to abandon the project before I wasted all the expensive yarn (probably after I had finished and worn the pink and purple mohair jumper that used $240 worth of yarn and made me look like a giant furry berry...)

Mohair is a bitch to unravel and I'm trying to work out if I can salvage what I've already knitted up to use as a scarf for myself or whether to throw the knitted part away so I no longer have to look at it. But I will use the lovely untouched virgin balls for my secret pal. I'll probably use this pattern, a simple lace. My pal wants a big wide scarf she can wrap over her head so I think a light but warm lace mohair number should do the trick.


I've joined the Ravelry Stash Busters group. I haven't yet had the courage to catalogue and list my stash but I know it is bigger than I would like to admit. I should photograph and catalogue it because this means I will have a way of keeping track of what I have and can plan appropriate projects.

I've noticed that a lot of knitters have very large stashes; we buy faster than we can knit; we can't resist a bargain or a beautiful yarn; we buy to make ourselves feel better and end up weighing ourselves down with stuff we don't really need.

A classic example for me was recent 'bargain' Clover promotion pack I picked up. It was fabulous value for money if you actually wanted or needed some of the items but so far everything is sitting unwrapped in my knitting case because I don't actually need any of them. I'll probably end up giving away many of the items as part of the various swaps I participate in. Maybe that is the unspoken reason for the popularity of so many secret pal swaps in the knitting universe. It's a way of getting rid of valuable but generally unwanted knitting stuff one's bought and experiencing the joy of getting a present in return.

I never considered myself materialistic but for many years I couldn't resist a 'bargain'. After a while I was surrounded by cheap books I never read (because they just didn't interest me) and clothes I never wore (because they didn't suit me) and yarn I didn't knit (because novelty yarn never looks as good knitted up as in the ball) and I knew I had a problem. I'm proud to say that, barring the odd slip, I've pretty much cured myself of the 'bargain' shopping that cost me so much money and time and space and have donated a lot of my unwanted 'bargains' to charity or the trash. I've cleared out all the cr*p from my yarn stash and given away a fair few of my duplicate pairs of needles (especially the poorer quality ones) but still have a heap of decent quality yarn cluttering up the spare bedroom.

Originally I set myself a goal of having to knit two balls of yarn for every one I bought. And I was only allowed to purchase really good quality yarn in colours I liked no matter what other bargains were around. I haven't been perfect but I've pretty much stuck to my goals. I think I can last out the rest of 2007 without buying any more yarn.

Other de-stashing

In non-yarn de-stashing, I joined the library which has proven to be much better value than buying a new book every week. I decided that after 6 months I could reward myself by buying the latest Jodi Picoult (all her books have a huge waiting list at my library) but it's now been 9 months and I haven't wanted to because I am busy enjoying reading the slightly older sci-fi and detective books that I can get for free.

I haven't bought too much in the way of clothes since I started de-cluttering because I am determined to only buy items that fit me and are comfortable and are better than what I am currently wearing (this is a very depressing part of the project).

I've found that I've actually started to enjoy not buying stuff. I used to buy lots of my books for only a few dollars each second-hand, guilt-free from an Opportunity shop that raises money for charity. It was a way of weaning myself off regular bookstores. But the last few times I have visited, even though there have been books I wouldn't mind reading, I found myself able to resist the bargains. I still have a heap of books I haven't read at home and I really don't want to fill up my place with any more crap. I'll buy the classics or the really good books I'll know I read again. Otherwise I am scarily content using the public library instead.

Recently, three things have convinced me that I am on the right path. One was this article that very eloquently explains why spending is no path to happiness and can lead to more unhappiness (there is no religion or psychological babble in it - it's written by a down-to-earth atheist). I love one of the final lines: Happy is the woman who needs only one pair of good shoes and a library card. That's me today. I don't know if I'm happy but I'm happier than when I always wanted more and more and I get a certain level of contentment knowing there is a hope in hell that my home will be paid off before my retirement.

Another was hearing stories of a girl I know who recently achieved her life's dream of marrying someone who is seriously rich. She dresses her one-year-old in designer outfits that he throws up over and quickly grows out of, spends $500 on a skirt and considers buying a $400 handbag instead of a $2000 one a serious budgeting exercise. But she still feels inadequate because she is the "poorest" person whose child attends a certain exclusive childcare group. And she suffers having to drive a brand new 4WD Honda because a 4WD Lexus is out of her price range. I have no doubt that when she eventually achieves the Lexus she will find something else to lust after.

The final thing was talking with someone who cannot enter into most of the rooms of her home because they are so packed with unnecessary stuff she bought to fill the hole in her heart. She cannot even reach the boxes of stuff that other people have offered to pay good money for - if she can ever get to them.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Monday, September 24, 2007

ISE 5 underway

I received my emails today from both my upstream and for my downstream pals.

I think they did a great job matching up people because I got a pal who had identical likes and dislikes in terms of colours to me! For a moment I thought they had sent me my own questionnaire back. Obviously we are all in the "Love purples/blues hate orange/yellow" group.

My downstream pal wants a big wide scarf which I can totally relate to. I have some gorgeous pink/purple mohair in my stash, so I sent her an email asking if she likes or loathes mohair. Then I start searching Ravelry and decide I want to knit the Midwest Moonlight Scarf which means choosing another yarn completely. I've decided to save Palindrome and the soft grey Jo Sharp yarn for myself.

Of course, by tomorrow, I may have changed my mind again.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Exchanges, exchanges

I've now signed my self up for two swaps before the end of the year. The Australian Knitters group on Ravelry has decided to do a tea cosy/coffee plunger cosy swap. I think we all got excited at the thought of doing a swap where we would be spending less on postage than on yarn. And then, being Australians, we had to take the p*ss out of the whole thing.

Look at the email invite:

The Swap is to celebrate the cuppa, the short black, that mugo'chino, with or without a squeeze of lemon. The celebration of the cosy will begin on Monday, October 15th, with all swaps to be completed by the end of the year. For the moment your gracious hostesses, webgoddess and zephyrama, would like to you to RSVP your intention to participate. All attendees must have an Australian mailing address and be prepared to sit down with a cup of tea and an iced vovo.

How it works: To sign up, simply leave a reply below with your answers to the following questionnaire. Sign-ups will end on October 12th, at which time we'll get busy assigning swappers and swappees. You'll receive your pal's information that weekend (hopefully!). The swap will officially begin on October 15th, and you've got til the end of 2007 to send off your package.

What you do: Basically, you make them something! Once you've been assigned a pal, check out their questionnaire answers to see what they like. Maybe visit their blog to get a feel for their personality. Then get busy knitting or crocheting them a kitchen item, whether it be a tea or coffee cosy, a potholder, or a washcloth. (Note: Knitting from your stash is highly encouraged!) Please do your best to stick to your pal's preferences. Your package should also include a few small gifts, such as tea or coffee, bikkies (maybe even ones you made yourself!), local yarns, whatever you like. There is no minimum spend, but we suggest a target of $20-30 in total. Then send it off to your pal by the end of the year, revealing your identity to your new friend!

Anonymity/privacy: It's entirely up to you whether you want to keep yourself anonymous til you send off your package. If you're happy to reveal yourself, you can send a message directly to your pal to get his/her mailing address. If you'd prefer to build some mystery, you can contact webgoddess or zephyrama and we can ask them for you.


  1. Do you have a teapot or coffee plunger? Would you like a cosy for it? If so, please tell us the dimensions of your pot. Coffee plunger. Height 22cm; circumference - excluding handle 32cm; with handle 42cm. Handle is 2cm from the bottom and 8cm from the top (if you want to include a slit for it to poke out from). Please add a cm or two of ease!
  2. Other than a cosy, what other knitted/crocheted kitchen items would you like? A nice thick pot holder that one can use to pull hot items out of the oven safely would be nice (if you make this please do not use acrylic yarn). Whatever you feel like knitting.
  3. Theme/Style: Do you celebrate Christmas/ Hanukkah/ Yule/ hatever? Would you like your pal to knit you something in that theme? I'm a Hanukkah girl but anything that isn't Christmas-theme is fine.
  4. What colour is your kitchen? Do you like tacky kitsch, classic styles, or something more modern? I don't mind Australiana kitsch but please hold the fun fur. General preference for blues and greys as the base colour.
  5. What is your favourite blend of tea (or coffee)? Are you a sophisticated Earl Grey drinker, a hippy-dippy Chai lover, or a no-nonsense espresso addict? Mint tea; hot chocolate. (My husband is very picky over his coffee so I let him buy that on his own).
  6. What's your favourite type of bikkie? Tim Tams
  7. Any weird food allergies or preferences you pal should know about? Hold off on the strawberry tea and/or jam - I'm allergic to strawberries.
  8. Any weird fiber allergies or preferences your pal should know about? I generally prefer natural fibres over acrylics. I'm not a fan of novelty yarns.
  9. What city/state do you live in? Melbourne, Victoria
Looks like it will be a lot of fun.

Meanwhile, over at ISE5 it appears that matches are being sent out. I haven't received any details to date but apparently we don't panic until Wednesday; I'm probably in a group where the hostess hasn't beaten the starters' gun.

Fortunately with all this swap knitting coming up, I am getting to the tail end of my Dark Mark Scarf. I found the middle plain section very tedious - and so, it seems, did the original designer. It was great mindless tv/travelling knitting though. I have less than 80 rows to the end and suspect they will go very fast.

I'm really enjoying making this scarf and I love how it's come out but I have no qualms about handing it over as a gift. I guess I prefer the more pragmatic thick winter scarves to wear for myself.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Spotlight embraces pragmatic necessity

Australian discount craft store Spotlight, which last year decided to employ all new staff under an Australian Workplace Agreement which forced them to trade away penalty payments, overtime and other benefits in exchange for a pay rise of just two cents an hour, has now decided to abandon AWA's in favour of a union collective agreement.

It turns out these AWA's didn't meet the federal government's so-called fairness test (which has more than a few holes in it) that was introduced after an election-threatening public outcry over the new workplace laws which allowed such exploitation. After Spotlight was advised that 460 AWAs were being rejected by the federal government's Workplace Austhority, they decided it made better business sense to negotiate a collective agreement with the employee's union.

No news yet on what's going to happen to those poor sods who signed AWAs prior to the Fairness Test coming in.

"It's our intention to clean up this industrial issue and really move into a more secure future with our employees," Spotlight chief executive Stephen Carter told ABC radio.

"The advice we've had at this stage (is that) some of the (pay) rates have been insufficient.

You could say that again!

I have deliberately avoided shopping at Spotlight ever since the news broke of their attempts to exploit already badly paid staff. And it's good to know that I can now return to shop there with a slightly clearer conscience. But I am not sure that I will.

The company's attitude towards staff (get the cheapest we can get away with) is representative of the sort of products they are now stocking. Australian-made brands have been abandoned in favour of poorer-quality items from China and other Asian countries (which hardly have a good track record when it comes to employee relations). The last time I went there (over a year ago) I was struck by how much novelty yarn there was and how little pure wool. And when you considered the quality of what was on offer, it really wasn't that cheap anyway.

Maybe it is just part of me growing up, trying to de-crap my yarn stash and wardrobe and house and life, but I am at the stage where I really want quality over quantity and substance over style. And I really don't think Spotlight can meet my needs in that area.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Dark Mark Scarf - first pattern repeat

Obviously this will look a lot better when it is blocked and the ends are woven in. But how cool in a totally geeky way is this??? I love illusion knitting; it is so much fun.

All kudos to designer Lindsay Henriks aka Storm Moon Knits for making this fabulous pattern available free of charge.

Harry Potter on Ravelry

I hope this screen shot is readable. To me this sums up the glorious knitting geekdom that is Ravelry . I particularly love the "Knitters Who Haven't Read Harry Potter Anonymous' group - although I joined the "Harry-thon KAL/CAL Group".

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Happy 5768

We celebrated the Jewish new year this week in the usual manner - big meal and get together with the family. For me it is the start of the annual retrospective: "What have I done with my life and where am I going?" which tends to last until well into the secular new year.

While I really admire and enjoy reading the soul searching of many writers on the Internet, I am acutely aware of the dangers of exposing myself to all and sundry. A casual comment from someone I only had a work relationship with about a knitting pattern I had put up on the Internet, reinforced the fact that I am not just typing into a cyber black hole.

So moving onto the safe topic of knitting... I'm about 1/4 of the way through the Dark Mark Illusion Scarf. I'm really enjoying this pattern - there is something which makes me want to knit "just one more row" or "one more pair of rows" or "one more set of four rows" every time I pick up the needles. It's not the best quality yarn - some very over-stretched reclaimed black Patons 8-ply wool and a sticky mauve Naturally NZ 8-ply wool from my stash - but this scarf is more for effect than warmth and I think it will wash up OK. And it is great to feel like I'm actually burning some of my stash.

Of course I had to immediately counter all this stash burning by sticking my head in at Sundspun which is having its winter sale (minimum 10% off all winter-weight yarns) and picking up 5 skeins of Jo Sharp Silkroad Aran for the Palindrome scarf - this pattern looks like it eats yarn! The yarn is so gorgeous and I fear I will want to keep the scarf for myself. We'll see how it goes.

I've joined a couple of illusion Knitters group on both Ravelry and Yahoo but alas there seem to be very few illusion patterns out there on the web. One of the Yahoo group knitters says she is drafting up some Jewish-themed patterns which I am looking forward to trying.

I've spent way too much time in Ravelry this week; mainly reading groups in the forum and cyber-stalking other knitters (only joking). The Internet is amazing and brings home the lesson that there are many universal themes - I clicked on the profile of one of the Israeli knitters and ended up on her blog where she was agonising over whether it was ethical to use the ubiquitous green shopping bags that have obviously now infiltrated every Western country. On the one hand we all want to avoid the single-use flimsy plastic bags because of their impact on the environment; on the other hand these green bags have almost certainly been made by exploited workers in Asia using far from environmentally-sound processes. The answer, of course, is to make our own re-usable bags but most of us, including crafters, just don't get around to this.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Dark Mark Illusion scarf

Now that all the Harry Potter hype has died down, I've finally got around to casting on Storm Moon Knits amazing Dark Mark illusion scarf. (As usual, I'm 6 months behind everyone else).

I had no green in my stash, so I decided to use a pale mauve with the black. I also cast on a few extra stitches to ensure the scarf is wide enough as I am using 8ply/DK yarn instead of the American 10ply/worsted.

One of my friends has been begging for an illusion scarf since she saw the pirate illusion scarf I knitted for my brother. It's very fun knitting and gives an amazing effect for surprisingly little work.

In other scarf knitting news, I've joined ISE 5. I met a really nice partner last time around. And I'm dying to try Palindrome, a reversible cable scarf.

Bargain shopping

I've become much better at resisting bargains but I couldn't resist the Clover Promotion Pack at Cleggs today. For just $14.95 I got
  • 2.5mm 20cm bamboo DPNs
  • 3.0mm 16cm bamboo DPNs
  • 4.0mm 23cm bamboo straight needles
  • 4.0mm 33cm bamboo straight needles
  • 4.0mm 80cm bamboo circular needle
  • 4.0mm/F bamboo crochet needle
  • 4.0mm/F metal/soft touch crochet needle
  • 5.5mm metal crochet needle
  • Mini Kacha-Kacha click counter
  • Assorted notions (needle protectors, stitch markers, cable needles, etc)
Until I saw this pack I had no idea I needed all this stuff. And having just recorded my extensive needle collection on Ravelry, I'm still not sure that I do. But it was such a bargain. I couldn't resist.

Just to ensure I wasn't alone, I posted information about the sale on the Australian Knits group to enable my fellow Melbourne knitters in their knitting stash enhancement.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Lost in the inner sanctum

Well I finally made it into Ravelry and have spent a good few hours wandering around, thinking "This is way too much for me to ever comprehend".

The overwhelmed expression on my new icon probably gives a pretty good indication of how I am feeling. Nonetheless, I managed to track down Beth so I have one friend in there. If anyone else wants to find me, I'm theknitaholic (I can't believe no-one else had already used the name).

I fear I will be almost as bad as everyone else in my lack of description of Ravelry. It is a kind of knitters' universe - very big and constantly expanding. If you've spent a reasonable amount of time looking at knitting blogs and forums and websites and knit-a-longs on the Internet, you'll already know there is almost anything imaginable out there (who would have ever imagined we'd have a Knitting Olympics, Tour de Fleece or Sock Wars??? Not to mention specialised groups for people who want theme their knitting with their reading or other obsessions.) Well in Ravelry, all these groups are available in one place. There is a group for people who want to knit or crochet a thong (g-string) - AND they have 13 people signed up already. Seven people have formed a group for knitters with children adopted from China. Someone is trying to start up a group for people with sleep disorders - I have no doubt it will take off. And there are huge groups forming of knitters who are dieting together, fans of a particular designer, discussing their wool allergies and anything else you can imagine. Less than 48 hours after the Modern Quilt Wrap pattern hit the Internet, there was a group discussing yarn substitutes.

I gather one of the big things is keeping track of one's own projects, keeping a record of potential future projects and showing off/viewing others' yarn-stashes. I haven't got this far yet.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Hmm... I can see who doesn't have to pay for her own yarn

Sandi at Knitting Daily has been waxing lyrical about the gorgeous Modern Quilt Wrap. There is no question that it is an effective pattern, particularly when knitted in the 9 selected colours featured. I was tempted. But let me see: 9 skeins of Rowan Kidsilk Haze at AUD$18.60/skein comes to $167.40 for a scarf!

Yes it is gorgeous and probably an heirloom item. Yes I did spend (mumble mumble) on Noro Kureyon yarn ($14.50/skein) for my Lizard Ridge afghan.

Today, however, I must be more fiscally responsible and admire from afar. And remind myself that I have a stash full of yarn to satisfy my knitting urge.

Monday, September 03, 2007

BSJ convert

OK, now I get it.
Look how this:

Becomes this!

And now (with buttons) this!

What I would do differently next time.
1/ Use a finer yarn (10-ply is way too heavy for a baby)
2/ As described in the excellent KnitWiki, change the pattern to avoid picking up stitches on the wrong side.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

21 people from Ravelry invite

Found you!
  • You signed up on June 25, 2007

  • You are #10970 on the list.

  • 21 people are ahead of you in line.

  • 19095 people are behind you in line.

  • 36% of the list has been invited so far

By the time you read this I will probably have finally received my long awaited Ravelry invite and will have made it into the inner-sanctum.

I have no idea what it is all about, how it is supposed to work and the little cynical inner core of me is wandering "Is this some kind of virtual cult for knitters?" and "How can anything live up to this level of hype?"

There is nothing in Wikipedia yet which is a bit disconcerting, however I found an intriguing description on Talullah's blog.

I think Ravelry is meant to be a kind of MySpace for knitters, but as I don't know how MySpace works, that isn't very helpful. I really will try and do my best to explain what Ravelry is, once I'm in there. Providing I haven't been taken over by a Stepford-style cyberbot that is only capable of saying "Ravelry is the coolest best thing ever for knitters and you are so out of things if you are not in there".

My husband has assured me that if I am sucked into some kind of knitters' cult he will send his troops from World of Warcraft (which of course is not an addictive cyber-cult) in to rescue me.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

If this works out I will be very surprised

I am only about 20 rows from the end of this Baby Surprise Jacket and for the life of me I do not know how it is going to magically fold into a jacket shape. I guess that is the surprise.

I hope the slabs of colour look OK when it is finished.

I've really enjoyed this from a knitting perspective - it's a fun project - but I think I'll enjoy the next one more when I "get" how it works and where the stripes end up. I'm trying to reserve judgement but I think 10-ply (worsted weight) yarn is way too thick and heavy for baby clothes - even 8-ply would be pushing it. This little bit of knitting weighs a tonne - all I want to do is cast on a nice lightweight 4-ply sock next! The poor baby! Maybe it will be a good blanket alternative for next winter.

My colleague S safely delivered a little girl last night. Apparently the labour went for 30 hours. Counting backwards it means that labour probably started within a few hours of her finishing off work and finally going on leave. Months ago we were joking S would still be working while pushing out the baby; earlier this week we realised it was getting a bit too close to the truth.

I'm sending up the little sock-yarn jacket to her tomorrow (she's in another state); if the BSJ works out, I'll post it next week.