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.