Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Dinner at the Boganville Hotel

I had the dubious pleasure of dining last week at one of Melbourne's suburban hotel/pokies/childcare centres.  It was specifically selected by my friend because there was a play area for her five-year-old.

It scares the hell out of me that I may in a few years see this an acceptable dining venue.  I doubt it but...


I have a lot of ethical problems about supporting suburban gambling venues but didn't want to argue with a worn-out parent.  There was only a moderate amount of stale cigarette butts at the entrance but once we stepped into the foyer it smelt like it hadn't been aired out since smoking was outlawed in food venues.


The family-friendly bistro was separated from the pokies room by a bar where one could order meals, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages.  The annoying sound of the poker machines was well and truly drowned out by the sound of kids screaming.  The presence of kids in such a venue disturbed me even more than the existence of suburban pokies.  The place was packed with young families having a 6pm dinner.


Besides the play area, wall of pictures that had obviously been coloured in by young children and the fact that kids could scream with abandon, it wasn't really that family-friendly.  One had to go up to the bar to order and pre-pay which meant each party had to include at least 2 adults – one to order the meal and one to supervise the kid(s).  Or they could just let their kids run wild unsupervised (a number of people seemed to have taken that option).  Drinks had to be ordered and paid for in a separate queue. The meals came quickly and were generally of an acceptable quality (although the frozen chips could have done with another 5 minutes in the oven to ensure they were thawed properly).  The prices were comparable to those charged by a small family-run suburban restaurant that in my experience generally provides a much higher quality meal (and ambiance).


For the first time in my life I could understand the perspective of inner-city yummy mummies who take their babies and toddlers to trendy cafes and annoy the crap out of non-parents.


Surely there has to be a better alternative for young families than these two extremes.  Is it too much to ask for a family friendly restaurant that offers a safe play area, full table service and a decently cooked meal for both adults and kids?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Pregzilla - or just standing up for myself?

Well, I finally have an explanation for all the lethargy that has led to a constant need for sleep and huge difficulty in knitting, writing, getting out of bed - it's called an iron deficiency. A common issue in pregnant women (31 weeks now) of all ages, shapes and sizes but one that took a while for the doctors to pick up because don't-you-know, a pregnant woman of my size and age will of course feel more tired than usual.

Did I mention that I stopped driving about 2 months ago following a minor bingle because I was so tired I lost focus at 3 o'clock in the afternoon? Alert to all people, pregnant or not - this is NOT normal and should be taken seriously (by yourself if you can remember) and certainly by your doctors. I've been on iron supplements for less than a week and already feel infinitely better.

But pregnancy has definitely made me more grumpy and sensitive than usual - and I have never been known for my patience - and I find my ability to tolerate stupidity, thoughtlessness, selfishness, pointless meetings, etc is at an all time low. And the volume of all the above seems to have sky-rocketed over the past few weeks.

Am I being unreasonable in saying that a suggestion to have dinner, starting at 8pm at a restaurant 40km from home on a work night is just not on in my condition and state of tiredness?

Or to be deeply offended that someone wants me to use my valuable and limited time and energy to respond to a complex question in an area I have no expertise in for the friend of a friend that he has lost touch with? (Let's not even go into the fact that they couldn't even provide definite contact details).

You know the most annoying thing about that second example - the person involved didn't even understand why I thought this was a completely unreasonable request! (At least in the first case it was quickly conceded that I had a very valid point and we had a lovely earlier dinner on my side of town.)

I want to get a t-shirt made up: "I'm pregnant: It's my turn to be the prima donna".

But now I'm wondering if it's more a case that I have spent too much of my life accommodating others and being helpful, and it's only now that I am in a position that I must say 'no', that I realise how much certain people have taken me for granted.

I thought I had found that balance - between being helpful and being used - but the events of the past few weeks have forced me to re-look at and reassess my relationships with some people. If they can't or won't consider my position now, I am dammed if I will be going out of my way for them in the future.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Secret project revealed

It's been quiet. Too quiet. Mainly because I've been working on a secret project that has been quite tiring. The sort of project that takes 9 months to mature.

After a miscarriage last year I've tried not to get too excited and hopeful but I hit 23 weeks on Tuesday and am well over half-way. No guarantees of course but all the scans and tests suggest things are progressing as they should and it is ridiculous to think that just by typing a few lines on my blog I am going to jinx it.

Besides, I already have my jinx project. The Debbie Bliss Alphabet Blanket. I'm only 5 rows in and already have to tink back a 187 stitch row to correct a mistake.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Bendigo Sheep & Wool Show 2009

July 16-18, 2009

I went on Saturday, 17 July with my friend Kris of whom I forgot to take a single photo -argh! Bad friend (me),

So only a month late, I decide to upload some photos that were taken on the day.

Eat your heart out J - woodfire pizza

With Charly of ixchelbunny fame

The cutest ugg boots on sale

How can I resist???

My haul from the day - fairly modest in the end!

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Ravelry is eating my blog

A common issue I believe.

Some recent finished objects:

Giant Peach Dress

Knitted out of Dream in Color Classy 'Giant Peach' for a colleague expecting a girl this September. I knitted the 6 month size but using 10ply instead of 8ply wool, so it should be good for next winter.

Heart washcloth

For one of the many, many swaps I seem to be doing now. Knitted out of 8ply Bendigo cotton in Antique Rose, it is much pinker in real life.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

My child would never...

I am not going to engage on Ravelry but this is my blog and I can write what I want. Most of the time I can let things go but this really pressed all my buttons:
The same store owner was also appalled that I had brought my two-year-old in. She didn’t touch anything except a book, but was given the stink-eye the whole time we were there .I understand that some kids don’t know how to behave in a store, but my little one knows that she is not allowed to touch yarn unless Mommy specifically gives her permission.
Now unless this two-year-old is some freak of nature that doesn't drool, get bored, lick her fingers, isn't attracted by bright colours and soft textures, etc, this is nothing short of delusional. Even if little darling only touched a book, I'll make any bet that she left bent pages and/or sticky fingerprints behind - not because there is anything wrong with her but because she is a kid.

Delusional parents really piss me off.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Travelling scarf

Because I can never resist a swap, this is the first part of a 'travelling scarf' that will be winging its way around Australia and New Zealand and (hopefully!) making its way back to me. The idea is that everyone knits a section and everyone gets their own multi-coloured, multi-styled scarf.

I used 8-ply Marta's Pure Merino yarn, 4.5mm needles, 27 stitches. All rows are [P1, yo, K2tog] repeat. Simple but effective.

Because I can

Another 'scrap-yarn' hat to use up the last of the 'Earth and Fire' yarn in my stash. Off to one of the many charities I support.

Baby Surprise Jacket (take two)

The heart-shaped buttons work much nicer

And here is another version, in hand-dyed blues and with little fire-engine buttons.

(Half the girls at work are pregnant at the moment so it's a good excuse to play with this pattern)

Monday, June 15, 2009

Nemo's Garden Hat

I bought this amazing bright handspin from a Tasmanian spinner on Ravelry. It's one of those yarns that looks amazing on the skein but it's hard to knit up nicely.

I improvised a roll brim hat, knitting solid-colour garter ridges between the plain stocking stitch. I'm quite pleased with how it turned out.

It's going off in a belated swap package to the US.

Rainbow Baby Surprise Jacket

One thing I love about the EZ Baby Surprise Jacket is how a messy bit of garter knitting

folds elegantly

into a cute little jacket.

This is far from the best example of a BSJ. I love how the rainbow colours came out but had trouble sewing up the top of the sleeves neatly. I also used the wrong 'M1' - note this is what happens if you pick up a stitch between two stitches instead of doing the backwards loop.

The jacket is knitted out of out of odd balls of DK in my stash for the baby of one of my currently pregnant colleagues. Will probably replace buttons as I think the bees are a bit too much.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Happy 3 month birthday

On 5 March, 2009 Marti Aaron came into the world, six weeks early. The doctors had finally realised that his mother Jess, who had been sleeping 18 hours/day for most of her pregnancy was not simply tired or even depressed. She had a massive brain tumour and Marti had to come out then and there if either of them would have a chance of survival.

From the very beginning, Marti refused to behave like a normal premature baby. He was far stronger and healthier than all the other babies in the special care nursery and definitely preferred being fed by dad Phill, rather than via a nasal feeding tube that the doctors had inserted. If his mum wasn't recovering from brain surgery in the same hospital, the doctors would have sent him home much earlier than 3 weeks after birth (usually premature babies have to stay in hospital until their due date).

Three months on, Jess is recovering well from her second round of brain surgery and undergoing rehabilitation treatment. The surgeon said the tumour, although large, was not malignant and he was able to get it all out.

Dad Phill, who is on maternity leave from work (the HR department told him that the leave would be renamed next year to primary carer's leave) looking after Marti and big brother Josh, takes Marti to visit mum every day.

Jess is due home in a fortnight.

Marti is modelling a Elizabeth Zimmerman designed Baby Surprise Jacket knitted by the writer of this blog.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Earth and fire hat

Earth and fire hat

I made this hat as a way of using up some leftover NZ Shepherd Lambswool Felted 12ply brown - and an odd orange-brown worsted ball sitting in my stash. I made up the pattern as I went and am very pleased with the result. The dark brown really frames the variegated orange beautifully,

Swappers make plans – and God laughs

I thought I was so well prepared for the green swap (on Ravelry Aussie Swappers board). I had bought a lovely skein of super soft bright green Malabrigo worsted and had two balls of more subtle olive green DK cashmerino in my stash. I even had some super-fine forest coloured 2ply merino which would be perfect if my partner was into knitting lace. I had all my bases covered.

Or so I thought.

Then I received my swap partner. A lovely girl. Who happens to be allergic to lanolin. Which is in all yarn that comes from sheep and goats (including cashmere , mohair and merino).

So much for sending her one of my three lovely stash yarns!

I knew I could just pop into Spotlight or Lincraft and buy one of the many relatively cheap cotton/bamboo/acrylic yarn blends but this seemed a little boring. And I didn’t want to purchase any more expensive yarn – I have a whole room full of expensive yarn to choose from. Surely there would be something appropriate in my vast (albeit mostly lanolin impregnated) stash.

Then I noticed something – apparently alpaca fibre is lanolin-free. Unfortunately most of my alpaca yarn was blended with rash-inducing sheep fibre. My only pure alpaca was black – meaning it couldn’t be over-died. But it set off a trail of thought. What about bunny (angora) yarn?

Some quick Googling, an email to Ixchelbunny confirming that not only was angora lanolin-free but her angora yarn had been plied with silk, rather than merino. So it was perfectly safe to send to my swap partner.

Ixcel angora

Ironically, a week earlier she had convinced me to take an extra skein of bluey-green ‘Turquoise Turtle’ angora. I am now feeling less bad about that excessive purchase.

I also made her a lanolin-free sheep. Out of acrylic yarn.

Sheep 01

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Connex Sucks (part 2)

Pure coincidence but the day after I made my last post The Age opened up the can of worms about Connex and their thuggish ticket inspectors.  What really struck me was the number of people who, like me, have been zealously over-penalised for making an honest mistake and now have no desire to deal with the public transport providers.  I dont understand why there isnt a warning system where the department has the authority to issue a warning letter to someone who has made an honest mistake with the additional caveat that if they are caught again within 12 months with an unvalidated ticket, etc they receive a penalty.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Connex sucks

Normally I don't bother whinging about Melbourne's public transport because, well, it's just too easy.  Everyone does it and I don't want to be like everyone.  And because at the end of the day I do love public transport and my train into work; I just wish there were more trains and they weren't so overcrowded.

Sadly I don't think we will ever return to the days of public ownership of our public transport because I'm sure it suits the government no end to have commuter anger directed at the faceless corporation Connex rather than having to take responsibility for decades of chronic underfunding of the system. 

But Connex, those masters of unreliability, those servants of customer non-service have outdone themselves this time.

On Friday May 1 I received a letter and free daily ticket as "compensation" for the trains running late - in January.  Yes, it only took those speed demons FOUR MONTHS to send that out. I can't wait to see when my compensation tickets for February, March and April arrive!

Let's set aside the fact that the "compensation" is only available to monthly or yearly ticket holders (who would have the least use for a daily ticket) and that one has to fill out a friggin bureaucratic form to get the damn ticket - which means that the majority of people entitled to "compensation" will never bother getting it, nothing says "we are slowpoke losers" like a corporation that takes four months to send out a letter.

Nonetheless I managed to hold it all together until I got to Hurstbridge station at 7.30pm last night.  There were at least half a dozen ticket inspectors - far out numbering to number of passengers getting off at the end of the line - waiting to pounce on any poor sod who had forgotten to validate their ticket that day.

These ticket inspectors had no room in their life for a smile.  Normally when I flash my monthly card I get a "we can see you are doing the right thing, thanks" smile.  The woman who closely inspected my ticket, probably checking for forgeries merely grunted as she gave it back.  I felt like a criminal who had somehow slipped under the radar.

In the olden days when I was a child, there was no such thing as a ticket inspector.  Instead we had conductors who SOLD tickets to passengers, who made us feel good about catching public transport,  whose presence dissuaded the majority of graffiti vandals and who could intervene - or at least radio for help - if violence occurred on public transport.

Apparently it cost too much to keep employing these conductors and the last lot were made redundant in the 1980s.  Passengers had to buy their tickets from machines (which were often vandalised or broken) or inconvenient 'central' locations.

Surprise, surprise, fare evasion soared.  So were the conductors reinstated?  No.  Instead we got the ticket inspectors whose job was to strong-arm anyone trying to scam a $3 free ride, arresting them and tackling them to the ground if need be.  They were given no discretion to apply common sense - with 16-year-olds in school uniform but no concession card, the intellectually disabled and the poor sod with a half-used multi-trip card that hadn't been validated all being targeted.

In the last example, the inspector would confiscate your ticket as evidence (for the $140 fine that came in the mail) and give you a slip of paper to complete your journey.  How someone in outer suburbia who was not within walking distance of a train station or "convenient central location" was supposed to buy a ticket to get into town the next day without getting a fine for travelling without a valid ticket was never explained.

I want to support public transport.  I don't want to hate Connex.  I don't want to have to drive because public transport is overcrowded and unreliable.  I can't think of anything more stupid and wasteful than thousands of people all driving in their individual cars from point A to B when we have this big beautiful train line screaming out for more people to love it and take care of it and add a few more carriages during peak time.

What I want is a change of attitude from both the government and those running the service.  I want my public transport to be run by people who care for it and the passengers they move around, who invest in the extra lines and carriages and staff required to make it a pleasure to ride and support.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Moebius Hug

Blogging remotely but can link photo of what I am calling a Moebius Hug (Rav link).

Other people may call it Cat Bordhi's Purl Ridge Moebius Scarf.

A Moebius Strip is a weird mathematical shape with only one boundary and one side - the purple edging along what looks like two sides was just one continuous i-cord.

I cheated by turning my scarf around every three rounds so I could knit the entire thing (even though it is called Purl Ridge). This caused a slight mess at the turn point but nothing that couldn't be sewn over and hidden in the folds of the scarf.

The main yarn is Parrot Pants BFL Aran Aquamarine. The BFL is SO SOFT and I've received many admiring comments about the yarn colour.  The purple is Dream in Color Classy - Visual Purple.

It is very warm and sits nicely around the neck.  I'm very tempted to keep it for myself but it's a belated birthday present.

Knitted Village for sale

From the BBC:

A knitted replica of a Kent village with 100 features including teenagers smoking in a bus shelter has been put up for sale.

The model of Mersham, near Ashford, has been knitted by members of the village's 40-strong Afternoon Club over the past 23 years.

The group has raised about £10,000 for their village hall by exhibiting it.

But the creation is now to be split up and sold off because it has become too large to be transported.

I am split between admiration for the knitting and sadness that it is going to be split up and sold.  This sort of artwork should be retained together and on permanent exhibition.  I really hope an art gallery or museum picks it up; it's of historical as well as artistic significance.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Spotted today

A Big Issue vendor wearing one of my knitted hats. I was so chuffed to see it being used and obviously appreciated - it was very chilly this morning.  It reminded me that I need to cast a few more on.

Knitting stuff

Oh yes, I still do knit. My current project is a Moebius scarf/cowl/headwrap thingermebob knitted sort-of following a pattern from Cat Bordhi's A Treasury of Magical Knitting

By "sort-of" following a pattern it means that I used the book to learn how to cast on moebius-style, knitted a round and then started making it up as I went along. I liked the look of the ribbed scarf, where one does three rounds knit and then three purl but I hate knitting purl. So every three rounds I simply do a wrap and turn, and then turn around my work and start knitting in the other direction. I thought myself very clever but I have to admit that the turns are not as nice and neat as I would like.

There's also the odd holes and odd twisted stitch - it's been years since I've had such a messy piece of knitting.

Yet I have no desire to frog this work. The folds of the rib hide the worst of it and I am planning to sew up and over all the holes. If it is still a bit messy I may add in the odd crocheted star fish. I'm using a very lovely sea-coloured (blue and turquoise) BFL wool yarn from Parrot Pants.

I'm very tempted to keep this for myself but it is supposed to be a belated birthday present for a very knitworthy friend. I asked her what she wanted and she decided (yet another) of my scarves in a "quirky" rather than classical style; with a blue base but multi-colours. So if an ocean themed moebius scarf/cowl/headwrap doesn't meet the criteria, I'd love to know what does! Photos to come once it is off the needles - it just looks like a pile of squishy wool at the moment. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

Remembering those we love

It's been more than 5 years since my mum died but I still have to catch myself sometimes thinking "I must tell her..." Most of the times I am quite happy having conversations with her in my head - she is so alive there that I almost don't feel like she is dead, even though intellectually I know this is the case - but the oddest things can set off a wave of realisation that she is truly gone. Like this week's football ladder (reproduced below).

OMG - not only is St Kilda at the top of the ladder but they haven't yet lost a game this year. Zaida (my mother's father, my grandfather) will be so excited... oh... umm... that's right. Zaida is dead too. He died the year before my mum.

Nominally I still barrack for St Kilda but with my mum and grandfather gone, it just isn't the same. I can just imagine the conversation with them, getting so excited over St Kilda's success, wondering when the team will fall flat on its face this year, hearing for the umpteenth time about St Kilda's one and only grand final win - on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar (with so many Jews praying for them, how could they lose?), the rabbi breaking the rules and spirit of that solemn day to announce from the pulpit that St Kilda had won by a point over Collingwood...

I have trouble believing in an afterlife but I do believe that a little bit of the souls of those we loved remain with us as long as we remember them. So in my head my mum is drinking weak white tea with my grandfather who is having a mug of warm water and milk and they are having fun filling in the tip sheets for the next game of the season, wondering whether 2009 will be the year that St Kilda reigns again.

Rank Club Played Won Lost Drawn For Against % Points
1 TeamSt Kilda 5 5 0 0 555 262 211.84 20
2 TeamGeelong 5 5 0 0 598 402 148.77 20
3 TeamCarlton 5 3 2 0 581 457 127.14 12
4 TeamWestern Bulldogs 5 3 2 0 520 471 110.41 12
5 TeamPort Adelaide 5 3 2 0 480 468 102.57 12
6 TeamEssendon 5 3 2 0 441 447 98.67 12
7 TeamAdelaide 5 3 2 0 400 435 91.96 12
8 TeamCollingwood 5 2 3 0 476 442 107.7 8
9 TeamHawthorn 5 2 3 0 490 494 99.2 8
10 TeamSydney 5 2 3 0 459 473 97.05 8
11 TeamWest Coast 5 2 3 0 447 488 91.61 8
12 TeamKangaroos 5 2 3 0 362 421 86 8
13 TeamBrisbane Lions 5 2 3 0 401 488 82.18 8
14 TeamRichmond 5 1 4 0 401 523 76.68 4
15 TeamMelbourne 5 1 4 0 355 508 69.89 4
16 TeamFremantle 5 1 4 0 394 581 67.82 4

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Irish Hiking Hat

Monsoon - Purple Rain

Well officially it is called the 3AM Cable Hat by Smariek but due to the cables being identical to those used in the famous Irish Hiking Scarf, it's better known as the Irsih Hiking Hat.

It's a lovely design but it is definately a little firm on my head (I'm a woman's average) so I wouldn't recomend it for someone with a large head.

I knitted it out of Corriedale 8ply, colourway Purple Rain, hand-dyed by Vanessa at Monsoon Designs who happened to be my partner in the recent Magic Yarn Ball Sock. The yarn is one of those that looks infinitely better knitted up than in the ball. On the left are all the "goodies" that were tucked in the ball including 5 stitch markers, a shawl pin, several row counters, darning needles, butterfly pins and scissors.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Bunny Paws!

Here is a pair of fingerless mitts I made up in angora/cashmere yarn from Ixchelbunny
(colour - Berry Reef). They are so soft and cuddlesome; I don't want to take them off.

I used the left-overs to edge another pair of mitts made entirely from stash scraps.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

A different night

If one is not religious and lives both geographically and spiritually some distance from the secular Jewish community, what is the point of taking part in the annual Pesach (Passover) Seders?

"It's for the kids!" my parents used to say. But what happens if you don't have kids?

"It brings the family together!" others say. But what if you don't have a family or are geographically or otherwise cut off from them?

I loved the Seders of my childhood. But as we got older and particularly after my mother died, they became more and more meaningless. (Which is kind of interesting given that my mum was an avoid atheist. But she was the glue that held our family together.)

My faith (if that is the right word) was restored this year when J & I were invited to a Seder with some family friends. It turned out to be one of the most enjoyable and, surprisingly, one of the most meaningful Seders of my life.

These friends were not religious. Far from it, in fact. But after their grandmother, who had been the religious glue of the family, passed on they had got together and decided that if they were going to have a Seder, it had to be the right Seder for them.

They use a Haggadah called A Different Night which intertwines dozens of fascinating articles and drawings which explore may of the issues raised by the story of Pesach, with a full traditional Orthodox Seder. They freely and apologetically skip the "boring bits" but add in their own quizzes and discussions and songs. There were plenty of laughs as we read the Marxist interpretation of the oppression of the Jewish slaves by the Egyptian pharaohs. But mostly there was a complete relaxation as we could just be who we were and discuss what we wanted without any stress or negativity or judgements.

There were no children (at 38 I was the youngest in attendance) but this didn't stop us playing "Pesach re-enactment" or my friend stealing the Afikomen from her father and demanding a DVD as ransom.

The following night my friend came to our house and we had a tiny 3-person Seder, followed by watching The Prince of Egypt animation.

It was not a traditional Seder. But it was certainly a different night.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

For those who know me in real life and may be concerned about my brother, I have received a text from him stating that he is safe and well and returning to Australia.

I have no additional information and no desire to discuss it any further with anybody.

As those who know me know, I love my brother and am proud of his achievements but I don't always agree with everything he does. I believe he feels the same way about me.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Too many projects, not enough time

As anticipated, the Politically Correct Banana Silk Purple Girlfriend Market Bag went down an absolute treat with my politically correct purple-loving inner city greenie girlfriend (who is a friend-girlfriend not a girlfriend-girlfriend, not that there is anything wrong with that, as Seinfeld would say).

I have approximately 12 items on the go and at least as many in my queue of things I would like to make.  I have more yarn than I can knit in my lifetime and more yarn on the way.  I am weak.  The moment anyone raves about a particular yarn on Ravelry, I want to try it for myself.  This week's yarn is Pear Tree, an expensive but exquisite Australian grown and spun wool that definitely lives up to its reputation for softness.  I bought a skein of the 12-ply on 'clearance' ($18 instead of $26 for 100 grams - plus postage) and started knitting a hat but I have more hats than I know what to do with.  It is so soft.  I am tempted to make a cowl like everyone else is but cannot shake off my initial prejudice against them.  A short scarf? Fingerless arm-warmers?  Inspiration will strike.

Also on the needles :
'Amused', a V-neck jumper for myself designed by Jordana Paige for Knitty; I am convinced that this will actually be a flattering jumper on me if I get it right.  With the sudden influx of cold weather, I need to get going on this.

Marti's jumper - Marti may have been born 6 weeks early but he is growing at such a rate that I fear he won't fit into this jumper (sized for a year-old baby) in a month's time.  I also fear it may be a little OTT and tacky, all embossed with Liz Gemmell Fair-Isle motifs.  I only have the sleeves and neckline to go and he will grow out of it for sure after this winter, so I will continue it.

Blanket squares - I've now decided I definitely want to make a BIG enormous blanket for myself which I've calculated will need almost 200 squares.  On the plus side it is easy brain dead knitting and a great stash-busting opportunity.

Dalek Dishcloth - For a swap; I'm halfway there AND I've learnt that knitting bobbles isn't as hard as I thought. (I now want to make the very cute matching Dalek soft toys - preferably using glow-in-the-dark yarn - and a Dalek hat for J)

Knitting class
I more or less taught myself - or retaught myself - to knit in my early 30s using a book.  I had no trouble learning 'English'-style knitting (yarn in the right hand) and knitted-on or cable cast on but got stuck at this point.  I kept hearing how 'Continental' knitting was somehow faster and better for ribbing but couldn't work out from the books and YouTube videos how to do it.  Thee was also this mysterious "long-tail" cast-on which was supposedly so easy, yet I got myself in knots trying to teach myself.

So when I saw The Thread Room (formerly Marta's Yarn) offering a 2-hour class in Continental (incorporating long-tail cast-on) knitting, I thought it was time to face my challenges.  I went with a friend (blogless Kris) and it turned out that we were 2/5 of the class - which meant plenty of personal attention.  Our tutor was a young man called David Pearce who is currently studying textiles at RMIT.  I have no idea what his artistic skills are like but he is a very good and patient teacher.  He also has beautiful long fingers, perfect for manipulating yarn.  With him pointing out the bleeding obvious to me ("you'll find it easier if you hold the yarn...") I quickly mastered the long-tail cast-on and soon 'got' Continental knitting.  I can see how it will be faster but I need to practice some more.  I've also decided that while I love the process and speed of doing a long-tail cast-on, it's really annoying to try and calculate how much yarn to use - I always seem to end up wasting too much by having too long a tail or - even worse - running out of yarn because I have too short a tail.  Maybe with practice I will be able to judge it better.

And of course I had to take advantage of the 10% discount on all yarn at the classes.  While I find the yarns a bit rough and splitty to work with, they certainly come in the most gorgeous shades - I picked up a variegated purple yarn and some gorgeous green and brown lace yarn.

There's a Fair Isle and Intarsia Knitting class later this month that I'd love to go to but I have to make sure I actually have the time for it.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

A Facebook Haggadah

The Passover Seder, the oldest continuously observed religious ceremony in the world, tells the story of the Jews' Exodus from Egypt. Jewish tradition says that people of each generation must imagine that they personally had departed from Egypt, and the sages say that each generation must tell the story in its own terms.

The sages probably did not intend this.

But hey, in my opinion, whatever works for you.

Paying it forward

The first five people to respond to this post will get something made by me.
This offer does have some restrictions and limitations so please read carefully:
Taken from Heather's blog.

1. I make no guarantees that you will like what I make. (No refunds... no exchanges!!!!)
2. What I create will be just for you, with love from me.
3. It'll be done this year (2009).
4. I will not give you any clue what it's going to be. It will be something made in the real world and not something cyber. It may be weird or beautiful. I may even create something totally unbelievable and surprise you!! Who knows? Not you, that's for sure!
5. I reserve the right to do something extremely strange...
6. I do not continue chain mails (even if I am silly enough to sign up to them) so I don't require you to "post this text into a note/post of your own and make 5 things for the first 5 to respond to it". But I ask you to please continue the karma chain if you respond to this. If you are a knitter, please knit a hat or blanket square for charity; if not, think of something else nice to do. If you are someone I know has already knitted a crapload of stuff for charity (Taph, chocolatetrudi, ozifarmer, etc) you already have a big enough karma credit balance to get something from me.
7. This offer is only available to people living in an area serviced by Australia Post (including Antarctic bases but not the actual South Pole). If you live on the moon, sign up at Heather's blog as she is willing to work something out for you. Email your mailing address to me at theknitaholic AT gmail DOT com

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

New Microsoft Language Pack just in time for 1 April

Klingon Office 2007

Sad but true - the person who sent it to me thought it was a cool new update

Monday, March 30, 2009

Ravelry is eating my blog

Like too many knitters I am spending more and more time on Ravelry and less and less on my blog. Not sure this is a bad thing but I like having some sort of diary of what I've been up to.

Recently completed projects:

9 squares

  • 9 15 X 15 cm squares for a blanket that a group of us is making for a fellow Raveller who is going through a rough time.

    gitlfriend market bag

  • The politically correct Girlfriend Market Bag. Made out of a banana silk yarn made by women in Nepal, dyed bright purple and now hand-knit into a bag which can be used in lieu of plastic bags while shopping. I'm choking on how many PC boxes this ticks. I have an inner-city left-leaning girlfriend who will love it. I think I prefer making this bag out of cotton - too many flaws for me.

    bulky alpaca hats
    3 purple hats

  • A stack of hats. I'm losing count. I made some chunky knit beanies out of Naturally Aspire Super Chunky Alpaca yarn I got on sale. It's lovely soft squishy yarn but I've found I hate knitting with super large needles (10-12mm!) I also made some purple hats out of some Bendigo 12-ply - one for a colleague's daughter, the others for whoever.
News: Hurstbridge Bushfire Relief Centre has now put out the call for woollen beanies, scarves and gloves. I knew they would eventually be wanted.

Blog news: Part of this blog may be immortalised in the Victorian State Library archives. The librarians there are putting together a collection of community writings about the recent bushfires and have asked for permission to archive my entries. Of course I said 'yes'. It's funny to think of future generations possibly reading excerpts from my blog much the same way we read excerpts from the letters of convicts, etc when studying Australian history. Of course that is based on the assumption that we don't kill ourselves off in the next 100 years.

Jess update: It's hard to believe my friend was literally at the point of death just 3 weeks ago. She is now in a rehab hospital close to home and her baby has been sent home with his dad and big brother. Big brother is totally in love with the baby and wants to visit and cuddle him all hours of the day and night, get involved in feeding and even changing the nappy. It's too cute for words. Jess has regained her speech and can read and walk short distances. She still gets incredibly tired and still has another big operation ahead of her but compared to that terrible day when we feared losing both her and the baby, the change is just amazing.

Monday, March 23, 2009

It's good to know that it's not just me

Yarn Harlot on her attempts to knit an Estonian Lace Shawl

Not that I would ever be so ambitious to do anything that required the casting-on of more than 300 stitches, let alone the reading of lace charts, etc.

I'm not one of the Harlot's devotees but a friend pointed me to this post and it all just seemed a little too familiar.


OK, maybe every other knitter in the universe knows this and I was the only daft one to not get it, but just in case my counterpart is out there is cyberspace banging her head on the wall...

One of the reasons I HATE knitting hats, etc from the top town is because I find it way too awkward to spread just six stitches over 3 DPNs. I'm just not that graceful. I've fumbled my way through the Figure 8 cast on for socks (as it makes so much more sense to knit toe-up rather than cuff down) and I've even managed to do the famous Emily Ocker crochet loop cast-on - but both of these usually involve numerous (as in getting into double figures) false-starts and mistakes.


1/ Cast on 3 stitches onto one DPN (I use the cable cast-on as I think it is the strongest)
2/ Using a second DPN, knit forward and back into the first stitch. You now have 2 stitches on that DPN
3/ Using a third DPN, knit forward and back into the next stitch. You now have 2 stitches on that DPN
4/ Using a fourth DPN, knit forward and back into the last stitch. You now have 2 stitches on that DPN and no stitches left on the first DPN.
5/ I find that the six stitches created this way seem to hold onto the needles much more firmly than just cast on six stitches and trying to slip them two by two onto DPNs, making it easier to join in a loop and knit around.

(Obviously this can be adapted for 8 stitches and five DPNs)


Yay! I can move my arm.

Double, triple, yay - my friend with the brain tumour can now walk short distances unassisted and it looks like she'll be starting official rehab any day now.  Her son (still officially minus four weeks - as he was delivered six weeks premature) is on the point of being kicked not only out of special care but also out of the hospital.  Which is causing all kinds of logistic problems, but in a good way.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Jinxing myself

Previous post
To be able to get up in the morning, move around freely, knit a hat and read a good book is a wonderful thing. Everything else is trivia.
I sometimes wonder if I am going through life jinxing myself. I slept very badly last night due to a sore neck and back and by the morning could barely move my right arm. No work for me today. A trip to the chiropractor confirmed my suspicions, I had somehow got my neck out of alignment, pinched a nerve and most of my upper right back muscles had seized up in protest and pain.

He clicked my neck back into alignment and told me to avoid turning my head to the right today - an instruction easy to follow as I physically can't at the moment. The problem is exacerbated as I'm not allowed to take anti-inflamatories at the moment. So no knitting, no work and virtually no reading as I'm too tired from lack of sleep. Paracetamol is a poor alternative to anti-inflamatories for this problem but it's my only option at the moment for pain control.

Of course all of this is minor, compared to X who is now learning how to use a walker in the hope she may soon be able to go to the toilet with minimal assistance. A 33-year-old in a walker. I want to cry. Even as I realise what a huge achievement this is, compared to a fortnight ago.

I got an email from another friend who had been allowed to visit today. X looked great and was up and talking, she reported. I think she thinks I was making up how bad things got. I speak to X's husband who tells me that the change today has been amazing. Last night X struggled to remember her parents' names. Today she could recall the names of friends' children. The brain truly is an amazing organ.

I'm hoping that a bath and a good night's sleep tonight will fix all my problems. And that I haven't jinxed it by typing this :)

CFA/CFS Thank-You Beanie

Carol at adapted the SES hat to create a beanie to suit the CFA volunteers in Victoria and the CFS volunteers in South Australia. Pattern posted on my free pattern site at her request. Take a look and knit one to say thank-you to our hard-working volunteers.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

How life can change in an instant

I've been offline for a couple of weeks due to some very serious stuff happening in the real world. It has taught me (yet again) how life can change in an instant and that we shouldn't take anything for granted.

One of my friends (X) who was 33 weeks pregnant had been incredibly lethargic and "out of it" for most of her pregnancy. She couldn't seem to concentrate on anything for long and struggled with the most basic day-to-day activities - like getting up, getting dressed, making meals, etc. Something was clearly very wrong but nobody including her family and doctors knew what to do. I assumed that she was in a deep depression, although she kept on insisting that she wasn't. She developed severe gestational diabetes but wouldn't (or couldn't) remember to do the regular (four times a day) blood sugar tests without extreme prompting from her husband.

Finally she was convinced to check herself into the maternity hospital for a few days "to sort out some of her health issues" prior to the birth of her second child.

That night (a Monday) I had a terrible call from her husband. X wasn't depressed. She had a brain tumour. She could no longer remember her parents' names, her husband's job or her own phone number. It could be terminal. X & her husband are our closest friends, closer to us than much of our family. I was so sick and stressed by the news that I took the following day off work, unable to function.

Tuesday, an MRI confirmed the brain tumour but it looked more likely to be benign rather than cancerous. A tiny glimmer of good news.

Wednesday, the neurologist and obstetrician debated the risks and merits of operating on her brain while she was still pregnant (and possibly causing distress to the baby) or inducing the baby six weeks early (which had its own risks) and allowing the tumour to keep growing at its alarming rate while her body recovered sufficiently from a Cesarean before conducting the brain surgery.

On Thursday the decision was made to take out the baby. Friends and family waited tense for news knowing there was a real possibility we could lose either or both of them. Finally the news came that she had had a healthy boy. Two hours later we got the good news that she had survived the operation. We could start breathing again.

Friday, Saturday, her body was recovering. J & I were one of the very few non-family members allowed to see her, when we came to pick up her husband from the hospital. We were glad we did. Maybe she couldn't talk and maybe she was very tired but through gestures we could see that it was our friend X in there and she wasn't completely gone.

Sunday was the brain operation. The neurologist opened up her head and discovered that the tumour was twice as large as he expected. During a marathon 8 hour operation he removed about half the tumour & cutting the blood supply to the other part of the tumour before stapling her head back up and deciding to let her body recover further before going in on another angle in 6 weeks time.

Everything is relative. The neurologist is pleased with his work. The pathology has confirmed that the tumour is benign. Every day X has got a little bit better, is remembering more and is slowly, very slowly, regaining some of her motor skills. She is exhausted - even sitting up was hard work during the first few days.

Meanwhile her new son, thank God, is continuing to thrive. He will be out of the special care nursery and back home, long before his mother.

X's husband's life has been turned upside down. Even in the best case scenario he will be the primary carer of their two children (one of them a new born baby) and her for months. A long- fought for promotion has been put on the back burner. He is off work on compassionate leave, sick leave, primary carer leave, annual leave, long service leave - whatever leave he can find. He is better off than most people in this situation - it looks like he has the better part of a year's worth of accrued leave he can access - once he sorts it out with the HR Department. Which he doesn't have the energy for at the moment.

His family and in-laws are intelligent, educated and connected people. But even they are struggling with the bureaucratic red tape that is Medicare, health insurance and the various government allowances and payments that the family might be entitled to - if they can ever work out how to fill in the forms. Even the social worker assigned to the family can't help them completely. How less educated people or those for whom English is a second language manage, God only knows.

For the first fortnight everyone was running on adrenalin, wanting to help but not knowing what to do. X's freezer is over-flowing with food and her room looks like a florist shop. But adrenalin only lasts so long. We have to create a new normality that incorporates the reality of X's illness and long-term recovery. There is a good chance she will recover - but this could take months or even years. And there is the very real possibility that some functions may be impaired forever.

J & I are having some friends over for a BBQ on Sunday. I mentioned this casually to X's husband, expecting he wouldn't be coming. He asked me to keep reminding him about the BBQ all week because he wanted to, needed to, get back into some sort of normal life - including going to a Sunday BBQ even if he had a wife and child in hospital.

The whole event has, yet again, underscored for me what is important in life. To be able to get up in the morning, move around freely, knit a hat and read a good book is a wonderful thing. Everything else is trivia.

Extreme sheep

OK, this is a viral marketing video - but at least it is a very funny one and appropriate for a knitting blog. Via CraftyScience on Ravelry.

The only problem? Having put so much effort into creating a great funny viral movie, the web address advertised for more information isn't yet an active page! Silly Samsung.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Good news

Snoopy's tests came back all clear - looks like he had a spare life after all. But apparently it's nearly time to put him on" seniors'" food. The concept of Snoopy and seniors does not compute. He has the most adorable kitten-like attitude, even during this difficult patch. He's only 9 but apparently he's got very early-stage kidney problems. So he and his brother are to be weaned off the "McDonalds" of cat food (apparently that is how the vets describe the most popular dry food sold in Australian supermarkets) and put onto the (far more expensive) "Science Diet". I can't even accuse the vet of having a vested interest as he doesn't sell it himself.

I've also been stash busting, knitting another hat (or two)

This is a simple top-sown hat made using about 1 1/2 skeins of Jo Sharp Ultra dark brown that I picked up for about $6 on Ravelry.

Plus another Israeli soldier hat

Friday, February 20, 2009

So you want to craft for bushfire victims...

For those not on Ravelry (why not??? Go sign up for an invite.  You only have to wait a few days; I waited months for my invite)...
  • Blankets of Friendship (knitting or crocheting 30cm/12" squares to be sewn into blankets for survivors of the bushfire) have their own blog and yahoo group (international participants welcome)
  • For those in Melbourne, Meet me at Mike's has a list of local businesses that are accepting and storing handmade items until the relief agencies can arrange appropriate distribution.
  • Handmade Help is focussing more on sewing projects and making up hip and colourful bags of supplies for kids who have lost everything.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

3 Calorimetries Full

I love knitting Calorimetries - they are a fast, fun knit that is great for stash busting - and fun and useful to wear too.

I've knit my first Calorimetry for a swap partner who likes the colour blue and things that are both quirky and useful. I used some left-over Merino Supreme, the softest wool I've ever encountered that is unfortunately no longer being made, and finished it with a little sheep button I acquired during a recent swoop at Clegs. If that's not both quirky and practical, I'd like to know what is.

I was happy how it turned out, and I had some wool left over, so I cast on for another swap I am taking part in. I even found a second identical sheep button.

I STILL had some wool left over and managed to find YET another identical sheep button, so I decided to make a Calorimetry for myself.

So there you have it. 3 identical Calorimetaries, each adorned with a sheep. Three bags full.

Snoopy: The economic stimulus cat

Snoopy is doing his bit for the economy, with every cent of our up-coming economic stimulus payment earmarked for the local vet.

For once he isn't directly or indirectly responsible for the loss of one of his 9 lives.

Since the move, Snoopy hasn't been his usual perky kitten-like self. We thought he was stressed and depressed from the move but last week J found a lump on his front paw. We thought it was a cyst but the local vet found that it was a solid lump.

We made the decision to allow the vet to remove the lump, which also entailed removing a toe. Domestic cats can live quite happily minus a toe - and the loss of a third of Snoopy's ear some years ago doesn't seem to have impacted negatively on his life.

The lump is currently being tested. Hopefully it is benign. If it isn't benign, hopefully the vet got the whole mass and his blood tests are clear for cancer markers. If they aren't, we have some serious decisions to make. We are adamant that we won't let him suffer.

Fortunately Snoopy seems to be quite relaxed and pain free now. He hates the cone but we can't risk him getting to his wound. We can only hope for the best. Snoopy has stared death in the face many times before; hopefully he still has a spare couple of lives to get through this one.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Dispatches from the front line

My friend who volunteers for the SES has returned from one of the main bushfire relief stations and given me a new perspective on why the aid agencies are asking people to hold off on their donations of food, clothing, furniture and basically everything but money and blood.  The simplest answer is, "there is nowhere to store it yet". 

Two days after the fires, the community centre was literally overflowing with clothes, food, children's toys and bikes.  A separate giant marquee was filled with household furniture.  The Department of Human Services coordinator was flat out trying to find space for telecommunications, insurance companies, banks, Centrelink and emergency relief agencies to set up their services for the victims.  Every hour literally dozens on well-meaning people came up to him wanting to donate their time or goods but inadvertently causing more chaos.

A farmer who had lost his house showed no interest in the piles of furniture and clothing.  His main concern was for stock that had survived the fire but were in danger of dying of starvation because the bridge connecting his property to the main road had been burnt out.  Could the SES send a team to rebuild it today?

In Judaism there is a prayer said during the harvest celebration of Sukkot asking for the right amount of rain and the right amount of sunshine to be provided at the right times in the season.  A substantial rainfall is crucial while the seeds are germinating but fatal for a crop that's ready to harvest.  Similarly, bright sunlight that is necessary for a mature plant to grow will kill a freshly sown seed.  It's not enough to pray for sunshine and rain; we need it at the right time and in the right amounts. 

The same could be said for donations after a natural disaster.  In a year's time, people who have rebuilt their houses will want and need furniture to put in them.  But in the meantime, while they are staying in friends' spare rooms and crisis accommodation they cannot accept these donations and the furniture needs to be stored somewhere.  The Salvation Army has had to take out a 12-month lease on a warehouse and shop front in Whittlesea to accommodate some of the donations, and this of course costs money that could otherwise be spent on more immediate assistance.

On the day of the fires the police visited a hairdressing salon in a nearby town and asked if any staff could be spared; many of those who had escaped the fires had singed and burnt hair and what they needed before they could even start to consider the future was something as simple as a humanising shower and hair cut.

So at the moment my hats and other well-meaning donations for bushfire victims are sitting in my spare bedroom.  Until I get the word that the time is right for them to help, rather than hinder, the relief efforts.

Friday, February 13, 2009

I can't look at the news any more

Well if you're reading my blog you can probably see I am trying to channel my fear and obsessiveness in a useful direction.  I think the phrase "there but for the grace of God go I" pretty much sums up how I'm feeling.

I can't look at the news any more; it's got to the emotional pr0n stage.  I don't want to intrude on people's suffering and grief.  All I want to know is how is the appeal going, what's the death toll and what can I do to help.  I live 7km from one of the worst-hit areas and I have no desire to go and see what happened - unless it is in the context of me being actually able to help out. 

Oh, and I just discovered we are 20km from Kinglake, not 30km...

They've been burning containment lines and I am very glad this has been well publicised because even knowing this I get very nervous smelling the smoke. Apparently the winds are picking up again and we can only hope and pray things will remain OK this weekend.

We live in a mad country - apparently there are parts of Queensland managing to experience both drought AND floods at the same time.  What the...???

It's amazing how much everyone wants to give; I just hope people realise the help will still be needed in the months that follow, after the media coverage has gone away.  I find myself questioning everyone's motives, including my own, in this outpouring of grief and generosity - there are similarities to the days after Princess Di was killed in the car crash.  Is there something inherent in us as humans that we need to vicariously experience others' pain? 

I figure that as long as I focus on doing practical stuff to help those in need, I can live with whatever my motives are.

There was an article on the ABC website about how Queensland flood victims were donating to the Victorian bushfire appeal.  I found myself thinking "Yes, of course they want to send all their excess water down south!"

I really am counting my blessings; I am well aware that if there hadn't been a wind change last Saturday night, I could have been one of those homeless, injured or killed.

Knitting news
I'm making a Calorimetry for an upcoming swap - my partner describes herself as "somewhat quirky" and I'm tempted to sew a few of my novelty buttons onto it.  If that's too quirky for her, she can always take them off.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Hats away

And I have no idea how this yummy 'Baroness' yarn could possibly have been ordered from Hazelknits :)

Why it is worth knitting for the bushfire survivors

Public relations consultant and writer Liz Tilley who lost everything in the 2003 Canberra bushfires yesterday wrote an excellent article on how to help those affected by bushfires for Crikey.

As a knitter, I was especially interested in this part:

Some of our most treasured items are the ones that were made, with love, by complete strangers. The quilt that was one of the hundreds that arrived from all over Australia, the hand-knitted rugs that my children like to snuggle under in winter. If you make jewellery, make a few pairs of earrings or a necklace. If you make toys, make something for the children who have lost theirs. If you knit, make a winter scarf. If you sew, make some table placemats or a beautiful table runner. If you're an artist, paint a picture or frame a drawing.

I still find it incredibly moving that people cared enough to put time and love into making something that has now become a new family treasure for us.

And if you want any more proof that a single person can make a difference, with one phone call and one email I was able to convince Crikey editor Jonathan Green to mark this article a 'free' read on the site. So you don't have to be a subscriber to access all of Liz Tilley's tips on how to help out the survivors of a natural disaster both now and in the weeks and months ahead.

Knit a hat to say thanks to an SES volunteer

I have also managed to put up a pattern of my SES Beanie for anyone who wants to make one as a thank-you for the volunteers who have given so much of their time and effort. Make as many as you like to give away, and print off copies of the pattern for other knitters - just ensure any copies include my name and the note that these beanies are not to be sold without the express written permission of both myself and SES Victoria.

Donate to the Red Cross and win my Beaded Silk Artyarn

Fellow Raveller Serendipity is running a raffle on her blog with great prizes for anyone who donates $10 or more to the Red Cross Appeal. I've donated a skein of Artyarns Beaded Silk (pale pink colourway) valued at US$34 (AUD$50+ on the current exchange rate!) as a prize. It's gorgeous yarn but not quite the right colour for me and I've been terrified of ruining it by actually knitting with it. In some ways it is a relief to give it away to a good cause (and I have another one anyway... don't ask me how I came to spend so much money on unsuitable but delectable yarn). So go show her how much you've donated to the Red Cross and be in the running for some really lovely stuff.

Still knitting
I have been intending to work on a CFA Beanie (based on the SES Beanie)... but I've been too busy churning out the little Knut Hats for another good cause. It is a most addictive pattern and I am almost relieved that I am running out of suitable yarn to make more. Oh yes, I also have to do some knitting for swaps I am taking part in. Lucky that I am theknitaholic!