Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Trekkie knitting

I am so excited.  My partner for the 3rd Australian knitters swap is a genuine Trekkie.  In her "information about myself blurb" she talks about knitting her way through 5 years worth of Farscape over an eight week period (while waiting for her son to be born).  And that she thinks Captain James T Kirk is a hot spunk.

I have twice now knitted my way through 5 years worth of Babylon Five watched over a very short period.  I think I've been granted a kindred spirit.

So I've been downloading Star Trek graphics and am considering how to turn them into knitting charts.  I know this is one partner I can make the perfect knitted gift for without spending a lot of dosh.

I really enjoyed the first Aussie Knit swap; with the second I think neither myself not my recipient was overly-enthused with what we received (I still have to rid my house of the novelty yarn sent with the crocheted bag) and I was umm-ing and ah-ing about whether to join swap number three.

I'm glad I did.  If I can work out a decent pattern of a communicator or the Star Fleet insignia, I will put it up for other fans to play with.

And we will all be very very happy.

In the beginning... there was an original and thought-provoking novel

I heard New Zealand author Bernard Beckett being interviewed on ABC National radio about his novel, Genesis, and knew I had to read it.  I have always loved good, speculative "what if" science fiction that forces us to explore who we are in a universal sense of the word.  And this sounded like an excellent example.

I was not disappointed.  The nearest comparison I can make is John Wyndham or Ursula le Guin.  I don't want to write what it is about because I could not do justice to the story, nor do I wish to give away any of the twists and turns.  This blurb is as good an introduction as any.

Genesis is a thriller that asks the big questions: What is it to be human? What makes a soul?

I am not surprised that the novel won the Young Adult Category in the 2007 NZ Post Book Awards for Children & Young Adults. In 2008 it deservedly made publishing history when the UK publisher Quercus Books offered the largest advance ever put forward for a young adult novel in New Zealand. I am delighted that the novel, also published in Australia, is to be released in the UK as two separate editions: adult and young adult, and is also to be published in the US, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Canada, and Finland. 

It deserves a wide audience.

Monday, May 19, 2008


Aussie dollar hits 24-year high
The rising Aussie has doubled in value against the US dollar in seven years, consistently defying expectations of a levelling off....
The Age, 19 May 2008, 12.02pm


Knitting New Scarves: 27 Distinctly Modern Designs
Including FREE international shipping
The Book Depository, UK

I hate eczema

I don't know whether it is the chemicals on the machine washable wool, a slight cold or the change in the weather but my eczema has broken out again.  This time only on my right hand, on the thumb and three middle fingers.

I have lost so much skin that my thumb surface is cracked and bleeding.

After trying a range of expensive over-the-counter and prescription creams I have discovered that the best treatment is the relatively cheap (less than $10 for a 375ml pump bottle) Vaseline Intensive Care aloe vera replenishing moisturiser.  It has so few active ingredients that even the supermarkets can sell it.

J is insisting that I put aside my knitting until my hands heal, which is a sensible suggestion.  However I am a knitter and not always sensible.  I have put on bandaids and discovered that knitting with the expensive cashmere blend yarn is not aggravating my hands.

I knew there was a good reason I should buy it.

Knitting butter

Now I know what other knitters mean when they say cashmere is like butter.  Noro Cash Island is 30% cashmere and it is the softest yarn I have ever encountered.  Knitting it is like sinking your fingers into rich, high quality butter.  Minus the greasy oily feel.

There is very little stitch definition - I suspect cable and lace stitches would be lost in this yarn.  I'm also interested to see how hard wearing - or not - the fabric turns out to be.

I tried knitting the Head Huggers Spiral Knit Cap as I thought it would showcase the colour changes of this yarn.  I should have followed my instincts that said that casting on 30 stitches was simply too few to make an adult-sized hat.  I can just squeeze the hat over my head, but it is really child sized.  I am also far from impressed by the look of the asymmetrical join.  I will be passing this hat onto my favourite four-year-old who will not appreciate the yummy expensive goodness of this yarn but will hopefully enjoying wearing it in all its soft glory.  At least I only used up one ball of yarn!  (Pictures to be added later)

If I knit this style again, I will probably cast on about 45-50 stitches and knit about 100 rows.  I'll use a provisional cast-on and join using the Kitchener stitch.

My next use of this yarn will be for the ZigZag modular scarf.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Materialism gone mad

No pretty pictures today but lots of links (I'm blogging remotely).

I'm still working my way through the patchwork scarf.  It looks great but I'm dreading weaving all the ends in.

As usual, I am acquiring yarn faster than I can knit it.  I obtained 5 lovely skeins of Noro Cashmere Island in the purples/greens/greys/black colourway from www.yarnandfiber.com  A strong Australian dollar combined with free international shipping made this one bargain I couldn't resist.  And then I couldn't resist buying 5 skeins of a royal blue/purple Noro Cash Iroha that were on sale on eBay.  Damn Ravelry and all the users who point out all the yarn bargains.

Last week I went to Sydney for work, so of course I had to visit Tapestry Craft and see it in its yummy tempting best.  I managed to keep my purchases to a mere 2 balls of purple Zara (are we seeing a colour theme here?)  It turned out that I could buy the same yarn, even in the same colour, for $2 less a ball in Melbourne (at Clegs) but I met the lovely beckar who's on Ravelry.  One must be polite - and at least this is one souvenir I am confident of using.  Or at least petting and looking at  with pleasure.

Speaking of Clegs, I went in to buy some 4.5mm circulars (40cm and 80cm) for the Noro yarns and somehow a few balls of Cleckheaton Machine Wash in discontinued colours (pinks, blues, greens and brown) fell into my shopping basket.  They were only $2.50/ball.  And I really have to knit another jumper for my favourite four-year-old boy.

I had just resolved to STOP SHOPPING when news broke of a 30%-off clearance sale at MySize.  I forwarded the news to all my size 14-26 friends but unfortunately they hadn't cleared out the store by the time I arrived.  I found my favourite hot pink tops reduced to $15.95 each (from $50) - so I bought all 4 in my size); 2 black dresses that were 80% off and actually fitted me, and an assortment of other pink, black and purple tops.  In the end I spent $221 and bought 11 items.  They were genuine bargains and clothes which I would actually wear (in fact I'm wearing one of the new pink tops today) and I did resist buying some other items that I wanted but didn't need.

At home I decided it was time to toss out all my old clothes that were so scungy that I didn't even wear them as 'slobbing around the house clothes'.  It felt so good to bundle them up in bags and replace them with lovely comfy new clothes.

On Ravelry I received a message from another knitter who wanted to trade for the 11 balls of Merino Spun that I bought earlier this year and then regretted, because although it was a great bargain, it was far too bulky for a jumper for me.  I'm getting 4 100-gram skeins and hand-dyed DK yarn in return.  At the very least it will take up less space.  And I am more likely to actually use the yarn.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

I'm dreaming of a white May...

Believe it or not, this photo was taken at noon in suburban Melbourne, Australia on Friday 2 May 2008. It's hailstones, not snow, from a fairly severe thunderstorm. Being Melbourne, within an hour the sun was shining brightly and the hail had mostly melted away.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Learning to trust my own instincts

One of the reasons that I am doing a special healthy living program at the Royal Women's Hospital is that I tick a lot of boxes for potential health problems as far as the medical profession is concerned - particularly Type 2 diabetes and its associated complications .  I am significantly overweight, my mother died young (58) of a diabetes-related heart attack, her mother (who was underweight but had a cholesterol reading of 12) died suddenly of a heart attack (in her early 70s), my dad's mother died young (58) of breast cancer and I am hoping to have children despite being over 35.

Yet - and this is the good thing - I appear to have relatively few indications of physical health problems.  Both my blood sugar and cholesterol levels are well within the normal range, I have no problems exercising regularly and, as far as can be seen, I appear to be ovulating normally.  The only signs of potential problems on the horizon are elevated insulin levels which indicate a very early step on the way to diabetes - but one which can be still nipped in the bud with proper diet and exercise.

Last week I attended a seminar on Type 2 diabetes and heard about some very interesting research from overseas.  A group of people who were considered at high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes (like me) were encouraged to undertake some lifestyle changes.  Of those who did the following, none developed diabetes (compared to nearly half of a control group).
  • Lost 5% of body weight (from whatever point they were at - it made no difference if they were 80 or 100 or 200kg to start with)
  • Exercised moderately for 30 minutes a day; it could be in 3, 10-minute lots (say from walking to and from the public transport between home and work)
  • Ate at least 15 grams of fibre (2 fruit, 5 vegetables plus wholemeal grain bread each day does this easily)
  • Obtained less than 30% of their daily calories from fat and less than 10% of them from saturated fats
Without knowing about this research I did all the previous last year.  And I haven't developed diabetes either.

I'm also willing to bet my insulin levels are back under control as I've been feeling healthier and more energetic since starting the program and beginning simple weight resistance training (with 600 ml water bottles) - but I have to wait another month for the confirming blood tests.

I have to learn to listen to myself and trust my own instincts.  I obviously know what is best for me.

Doing this program has been so positive - although not necessarily in the ways I expected.  I haven't lost anywhere near the amount of weight I hoped to but I've made other, less tangible but still important gains.

I may never see size 12 again, others may continue to judge me on my appearance, but I know I am much healthier and smarter than I ever gave myself credit for.  Understanding this and accepting myself for who I am his probably the most important lesson of all.