Sunday, 29 April 2007


My Beloved is back in the country (but still in transit), although apparently his luggage is not, and Pirate Jim is tucked up in bed, and we have somehow, miraculously, survived another day.

I feel very guilty about two emotions that I have had over the last week or so: apprehension at spending three whole days alone with PJ - will we both survive? And impatience, watching the clock and counting the hours until he's in bed and I can get something done. (I don't mean anything of note - the dishes, for example, or vacuuming, or putting away the clean washing). Not very motherly emotions. Nor is it very motherly to look forward to Monday when I go to work and will have 8 whole hours without standing in spilt juice or rescuing the cat or saying "no" a gazillion times.

Right now PJ is of an age where he needs someone's attention all the time. And especially with his Papa away, that someone has been me. He is the sweetest little boy, ambushing me for "cuddle" when I least expect it, batting his eyes while saying "please" and getting excited about the simplest things, but damn he is wilful. And explosive if he doesnt get his way, which happens every 5 seconds some days, or so it seems.

I know I'm not the first parent to discover this, and certainly not the last, (the "terrible twos" apparently) but I am just so TIRED. He's just one child, for heaven's sake! Why does it feel like I'm wrangling a 800 kg bull sometimes instead of a toddler?

Having a baby changed my feelings and perspectives on more things than I could possibly have imagined. I now have a huge heartfelt amount of respect for parents who stay home with their kids full-time and don't have so much time in the "adult world". Even though my Beloved takes a very active role in parenting Pirate Jim, I frankly don't think I would manage being at home with him every single day. I can't imagine how I would have coped just a generation ago - my dad worked shift work, and when my younger brother was born, was working 2 shifts out of three in a 24-hour period. He was barely home, and my mum managed almost entirely on her own (and without a car!). Have you read the widely circulated "tips for the housewife" from the 1950s that included having the children fed and neat when their father came home, and being lipsticked and fresh yourself, with dinner on the table and a willing ear for his problems? I'm amazed there wasnt wholesale insanity - actually, probably there was, but one didnt talk of these things.

How single parents manage to raise their kids, keep a house running and in many cases further themselves by studying for example, is beyond me. This week I feel as if I have barely keep this place from burning down or blowing up, and have a mental list that reaches to Alice Springs of "things I'll do when it's back to normal". If I was on my own, I'm not sure I'd get around to cleaning the bathroom for another 5 years, let alone cleaning out the pantry or having a haircut.

So, total respect to anyone who can keep their ship upright and perhaps even sailing when it's crewed by under-18's!

That said, there have been some pretty fun times in the last two weeks, like when Mum cooked us roast chicken, and Pirate Jim helped out.

First, inspect the chook:

Make the stuffing:

Then, stuff the chook:

Sorry, no pics of the finished dish, but damn it was good! Even Pirate Jim enjoyed it (I mention that because eating "meals" is not an easy thing right now).

And of course it wasnt all that bad, since I made it to SnB on Tuesday last, and got a bit of knitting done here and there. We had a really lovely day today, only a couple of small tantrums and some fantastic cuddles.

I'm quite postive we'll come out the other side of toddler-hood in one piece, as everyone else does, and look back on it fondly. Its just that my pantry will probably be in need of a damn good clean out by then.

G x

Friday, 27 April 2007

Performance under pressure

You may recall I somewhat rashly promised the recipient of the Commission Beanie a scarf in the same yarn by a fairly tight (for me) deadline - tomorrow.

It's amazing what a deadline can do. Ta-da!

Drop-stitch scarf (thanks Taph, Jejune and Othlon for the inspiration at SnB on Tuesday night) knitted in Rainbow Wools Popcorn in Ice Blue on 10mm needles.

It's hardly a pattern, and certainly not original, but this is what I did:

Cast on 12 sts. Work 3 rows garter stitch.

Row 4: Knit 1, *yo, K1*

Row 5: Knit, slipping all yo loops off without working

Row 6: Knit.

Repeat rows 4 to 6 until scarf is deisred length, knit 3 rows and cast off loosely.

I tried a 2 yo pattern but it was too open; I'm much happier with this. If I had of been concentrating I would have done 2 straight knit rows between the yo and slip off rows, to give it a bit more body. But when I tried it on (felt kinda guilty, since its a commission, but I needed to check it was actually wearable!) it was quite bulky enough.

Now if only the deadline thing worked for my outstanding essays.....


p.s. I'd like you all note I'm lifting my game with respect to my photography. Other bloggers do such a fantastic job of photographing everything from FOs and stash yarn to biscuits and earplugs that I felt the lounge room floorboards just didnt rate any more!

Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Clearing the backlog.

I love to knit, I love to try out new things, I love to talk about knitting, I love yarn, I love patterns, but there's one thing I dont love.....finishing.

Can't do it, have never been able to ge the hang of it. Picking up stitches for a neckline, mattress stitch, lining up rows....I tell myself I'm physically and mentally incapable of doing it, but then a little part of my brain (I think its the same part that says thing like "if you put your hand in there you might not get it out") pipes up and reminds it just becuse my wonderful Mum is such a gun finisher and sewer-upper-er. She does a much better job than I could ever dream of doing.

So really, why learn when I can just farm it off to her??

With my Beloved overseas for 2 weeks, my mum has come to stay with me and Pirate Jim and keep us from self-destructing. 2 weeks alone with a 20-month-old who is going through a tantrum phase is pretty hard work (as Im sure many of you know), and I find after a few days without a circuit breaker things start to come apart at the seams. Any politician (actually anyone, really) who complains about single mothers on benefits who are "just doing it for the money" or suggests that women are having babies for THREE THOUSAND MEASLY DOLLARS has clearly never spent more than 15 minutes alone with anyone under the age of 16. It certainly aint all sunshine and puppy dogs. (I adore PJ and I adore being a mum, but I don't think anything can prepare you for How. Much. Work. It. Is. to rear children. And remain sane).

Righto, rant over.

Mum loves any excuse to have a holiday with us, and I love having all my sewing up and finishing done, so I save it all up for her, because she does such a brilliant job.

Behold, then the Finished Objects:

Zoe Mellor's Little Star Sweater from Adorable Knits for Tiny Tots, knitted in Heirloom 8 ply cotton. Admissions: neck band and sewing up done by Mum. Issues: the cotton is very unforgiving tension-wise and any loose stitches really show up; although very simple, this was fiorst intarsia and I had trouble following the chart, so I would write it out next time; putting the sleeves in was tricky (so mum says!). Next time I'll try it in 8ply wool I think. I do love the details like the half dozen ss rows before the rib on the cuffs and the differet colour rib.

And, gratuitously, here it is being modelled by the recipient and the gun sewer-upper-er:

Next up, Anouk from, knitted in Patons Zhivago (needs buttons and a press though):

The flash glares off the yarn and gives it a white fleck throughout. Admissions: pockets, neck and those little tabs done by Mum. Issues: the neckline is a bit of a cow, and the pattern calls for casting off the stitches across the middle - next time I'll just put them on a holder. Pattern is also very confusing about left and right shoulders for the grafting of back and front shoulder seam on one side, and for knitting neck edge.

Finally, a Mason-Dixon baby kimono, from Mason-Dixon Knitting, also in Zhivago:

This is a dead-easy pattern, all one piece, and I will certainly make it again in many different styles. I've become a bit obssessed with baby wrap-style tops, so there will be many more to come.

I'm playing around with the commission Rainbow Wool scarf and will post progress as soon as I settle on a pattern - thanks everyone for your suggestions here and at SnB last night (how much fun was that??)

G x

Monday, 23 April 2007

A call to scarves

While basking in the success of my first commission beanie, a gift for a friend's birthday, I recklessly agreed that I would, with the 120g or so of remaining yarn, whip up a simple scarf to accompany it.

It needs to be done by Saturday coming, but I am seriously time-poor at the moment, with my Beloved overseas (Montpellier in France, but I'm not bitter, noooo, not me) and 2 essays due for my grad dip in the next few weeks. So I don't want to venture off into innernet land to cruise pattern sites and get lost for hours.

The yarn is Rainbow Wools Popcorn in Ice Blue, and I knit the beanie on 8mm needles.

The request is for something narrow so it can be nicely looped (you know, where you double the scarf then put the ends through the loop), but I was thinking garter stitch might be a bit plain.

Can anyone help me out with a quick pattern that will give a scarf a bit of oommf but not detract from the yarn?

G x

p.s. Lots of FOs to blog (my mum has been helping out while she stays with me this week) but no way to get pics off the camera right now - hopefully tomorrow. Watch this space.

Tuesday, 17 April 2007

High on the hog

This weekend was the second in a row that we packed up and headed down the highway to my parent's place. To celebrate Dad's 60th birthday for the second weekend in a row. For someone who is not big on getting older, he did a pretty fine job of celebrating! This time it wasn't a surprise, but a planned gathering of some of his oldest friends for a weekend of eating, drinking and reminiscing.

It was kinda weird for me to meet up with these people again after what I realised was more than 10 years. They are, after all, my parent's friends, and when one heads off into the wide blue yonder (in my case, Darwin) as a 20-ish young thing with all her possessions packed into the back of a 15 year old 4wd (but it was red and it was soooo cool!), one doesnt tend to look back and keep in touch with parental friends. I barely kept in touch with my parents!

But I have known these folk since I was born, and it was surprisingly easy to pick up the threads of our old relationships. Like there wasnt a decade or more between chats. It was great fun to sit and chat, find out how their kids are, learn about new grandchildren, their latest travels. It reminded me why they've been friends with my parents all these years, and I realised that without exception, if I needed to, I could have called any one of them at any time to ask for help. Really wonderful folk, and so I really enjoyed the weekend. Apart from when they rolled out all the stories of my childhood and misspent youth, much to my Beloved's amusment.

That, and one of them - K - has a great big spanking Harley Davidson motorbike that he took me for a really long ride on!

How much fun was that! Pirate Jim was totally freaked out by Mama in the helmet, and wouldnt go near K for the rest of the weekend, but now he tells everyone about the "bike" and how it goes "BRUUMM BRUUMM". Very cute.

Still no knitting to blog, I'm afraid.

Sunday, 15 April 2007

Performance anxiety

Ok, I admit it....I'm suffering from blog anxiety. I was initially really excited about starting my own blog, having my own little corner of the innernet and using it as a lens to magnify the joy of the daily minutae that constitutes my life. That, and having somewhere to show of stuff that I've knitted or cooked!

For ages I've been a lurker. I never commented - why would a stranger want to hear what I think about their life? - just lurked and read and enjoyed the frisson of guilty voyeurism that comes from peeking into someone else's life. Some of the blogs I frequent are friends (one in particular who got me started!), and I love to keep up with what's going on in other areas of their lives that we wouldnt always talk about in person. I can keep up with them when I might not have time to compose an email. Others are total strangers on the other side of the world, whom I'm stumbled across in a quest for patterns for baby jumpers or beanies or the perfect yarn. Two of my regular reads have just had babies - I found myself checking hourly for news when I knew they were due! - and I was as thrilled to hear about the new arrivals as if they were old friends. Still didnt comment though.

I decided I needed in on this action - at the very least I could blog a bit of news and my friends and family might want to visit every so often. I canvassed opinions for funky blog names, composed posts while I was hanging out the washing, debated the pros and cons of putting my personal stuff out in the big wide PUBLIC world for everyone to see. Yeah, I can do that.

Then a new aquaintance wrote about her first year as a blogger and I was stunned by her eloquence and thoughfulness. I started to think a little more deeply about this whole blogging business. Expand my blog circle and read more closely. And I started to leave comments too.

And I've got cold feet. Lost my bottle. I can't write stuff that people want to read.

This is a personality trait that pops up quite often - if I can't do it perfectly, I'm not gonna bother. Can't hack the pressure. Not big on setting myself up to fail. There are so many beautifully crafted, fascinating, thought-provoking blogs out there, that in the face of them all I've lost my nerve and all those witty and insightful posts composed while pegging my smalls have vanished. Yay brain, way to go.

And I havent had time to knit, so I can't even blog a groovy finished object!

So I've thought all week about what I wanted my blog to be, and I think its best captured in the name I picked. I wanted this to be a virtual extension of my kitchen table, where there's always a fresh pot of tea, hopefully a nice little smackeral of something to go with it (time and toddler dependant of course), and you can pull up a stool and chat while everything just goes on - dinner gets cooked, we discuss the recipes, Pirate Jim draws, the new yarn order is shown off, someone helps me pick up those damn dropped stitches, we solve the problems of the world.

In that vein, I thought I might try and overcome my writer's block and performance anxiety by posting a couple of recipes (not my own) inspired by dinner for my Dad's birthday on Saturday night (this is the on-the-off-then-on party that will be the subject of another post if I get my nerve back!). We had Sticky Date Pudding - yeah, I know, how 90's. I'm not going to write that one out again.

But the sauce, now that's another matter. Might even go so far as to call it "timeless".

Butterscotch or caramel sauce is brilliant over Bill Grainger's Ricotta Hotcakes. Or any pancakes. Ice cream, natch. Baked pears or bananas. Straight off the spoon if no one is looking. Porridge, so I'm told (I dont do porridge. Long story).

I have 2 fantastic recipes, depending on how much time I have. The first is super fast and dead easy, the second takes more time and care but has a superior depth of flavour.

Caramel sauce (from Super Food Ideas July 2004 p 49)

1 cup brown sugar
300ml thickened cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
60g butter

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring often, until sauce comes to the boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for 2 minutes.

Butterscotch Sauce (from The Cooks Companion by Stephanie Alexander, Penguin Books 1996)

3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup boiling water
50g unsalted butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
few drops pure vanilla
100 ml thick cream

Dissolve sugar in a saucepan over gentle heat until a deep gold. Carefully pour on boiling water and stir until smooth. Remove from heat and stir in butter and bown sugar. Return to heat and stir until mixture is smooth and brown sugar has dissolved. Stir in vanilla and cream.

Both these recipes can be made ahead and reheated in the microwave - they keep in the fridge for a few days (unless your husband likes it on his cereal, then it has a much shorter life-span).


Tuesday, 10 April 2007

What a way to make a living

I did plan to blog the work-in-progress, but then I turned into the home straight and got a sniff of the finish line last night, so here is the finished article:

My first ever commissioned work: roll-edge beanie in Rainbow Wools Popcorn in "ice blue" (used approx 80g). Knitted on 8.0 mm dpns. The yarn is thick-and-thin and the decreases at the crown went a bit bulgy, but I couldnt get them to sit any better.

The yarn has knitted up much more blue than it looked in the skein, and the commissioner was very happy with it when I handed over the goods this morning. I believe he used the words "clever" and "wow" several times, but then he may have been talking about the newspaper or some such. ahem.

These muggles are very easily impressed.

Sunday, 8 April 2007

There and back again

We are newly home and collapsed in various states of exhaustion after a long weekend at my parent's home in Corowa to celebrate my dad's 60th birthday. My dad is not known for embracing the aging process, and has in the past chosen a either good sulk or complete denial as the preferred method to see in a "round" birthday. So when he announced at xmas he would like to have a bit of a do for his 60th, we were collectively stunned. And equally collectively not surprised when he announced some weeks later that perhaps it wasnt such a good idea after all.

The tyranny of distance means we don't get together as a family very often; my brother Glenn has a demanding job in Melbourne and girlfriend who lives 300 kms away (and not direction Corowa), and mum and dad run a service business that requires on-site attention 24/7, and "25/8" as my dad puts it over holidays such as xmas and easter. It's become especially hard since Pirate Jim arrived, being grandchild numero uno - they only get to see him every few months (and I don't have any access to Grandparent R Us free babysitting service). This was our first trip to Corowa since moving to Canberra, and took us 4.5 hours, a vast improvement on the 8 hours travel time Sydney-Corowa.

So we hatched a wee plan that had us all in Corowa on Thursday last to surprise dear old dad and take him out to a bang up dinner. And surprised he was, when he returned to the office to find Pirate Jim sitting at the desk merrily drawing all over the bookings diary.

Just to make it more fun (and poor Mum's life just a little more stressful re sleeping and eating arrangements!) two friends from Holland, Willem and Ellen, who were in the country "dropped in" for the weekend.
This was the first time I'd met the dutchies. They're great. They have houses in Amsterdam and Malaga in Spain. We have their phone number.

Here we all are at dinner:

That's Willem on the left, then Ellen, Dad, me, Glenn, Pirate Jim and Mum. Good food, great wine, lots of laughs and PJ was fabulous given how late it was.

Friday and Saturday involved more food and wine, and preparation for consumption of both, and I think Dad might have enjoyed himself just a little.

The drive home today was quite lesuirely and almost enjoyable. Pirate Jim was brilliant, but tonight he bounced from tantrum to tantrum until he collapsed into bed. Grandparents sure take it out of you!

Since we hatched Operation Easter Surprise, dad reinstated the party idea, so next weekend we get to do it all over again.

Speaking of Easter, we had a bit of an egg hunt for Pirate Jim this morning. He caught on pretty quick and I had to keep raiding his basket and re-hiding the eggs for him to find, he was having so much fun. Good thing he can't count yet!

And it seems he reaches chocolate saturation after eating only two eggs too - how good is that! You know how quickly easter chocolate goes off, gotta eat it straight away....

I'm still getting the hang of blogging, so thanks for bearing with me. And thanks to my SnB pals for comments to get me started too. More knitting content next time - I did find time to cast on the commission beanie in Rainbow Wool, but 8mm dpns are proving a little challenging and progress is slow.

To bed, perchance to zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Tuesday, 3 April 2007

What the world needs now......

Yes indeed, the world and the innernet needs yet another blog. I've always been a bit slow on the uptake, but having recently moved cities (yet again - sorry Mum), it suddenly occured to me that a blog is a nice way to keep everyone up to date while not fretting on how behind I am in my emailing. Like I said, slow on the uptake.

So welcome.

Since my first visitors will probably be my knitterly associates, I thought I'd share the two very nice parcels that were delivered by my lovely friendly postie this week.
First, my order from the fab folk at Bendigo Woollen Mills:

This is 12 ply Rustic in Graphite. Its for a "commission" (yikes! performance anxiety!) to make a vest for my lovely collegue. Its actually a very dark blue-grey, with a tiny light-grey fluffy thing going on - already innoculated with dog-hair, as the commissionee puts it. I immediately cast on a tension square, blocked it.....gorgeous.

This is 8ply rustic in elm , for a zip-up vest for my husband. It matches his eyes (awww). Ditto blocked tension square....also gorgeous.

Since I was ordering, I thought I may as well just add another ball or two (did I mention theyre 200g balls? and at an amazing price??):

From top left corner: woodrose 10 ply, port 8ply classic, colonial 8 ply (cocoa and indigo), classic 5 ply in venetian, classic 8 ply in spinifex and classic 8ply in bluberry. Not sure what they want to be yet, but I'm sure they will tell me in their own good time.

Then the very next night, the postie was back with a parcel from Rainbow Wools :

The two skeins on the left are Popcorn in ice blue (another comission! a beanie), then top right is Popcorn is rose garden, Raindrops in blue haze and Raindrops in Pebbles. This yarn is just so soft and amazing. I took the skein of rose garden to work today, where it sat beside my keyboard where I could gaze upon it. Ok, maybe I stroked it once or twice. Much to the amusement of my cubicle-mate.

We are off to my parents in southern NSW for the long weekend and to surprise my Dad for his 60th birthday. Better pack....Pirate Jim (our 19-month old son, in case you happen to be apoor lost surfer who stumbled along here) doesnt make these things easy when he's awake, and bless his cotton socks, that's usually 6 am these days.

Enjoy the long weekend!

G xx