Monday, 31 January 2011

Project Umms

I had determined that this year was going to be The Year. The Year where I not only remember everybody's birthday, but get a present to them in time. So far I am going great guns, starting with one of my 6 SILs on last New Year's Eve. I posted another SIL's present a full month in advance, having written the date in the wrong month entirely. I have all the remaining four February presents all either bought or knitted, ready to wrap and post. I have no birthdays (apart from Mini Diva's) to prep for until the five due in April.

So, my dilemma is what to do now ? I know I will most likely be casting on for Mini Diva's aran coat, using Stylecraft Special Aran with Wool in Blackberry, but I don't anticipate this being a birthday knit, so have no deadline for completion.

I feel I really ought to use some of the fabulous posh yarn I've accumulated recently to knit something stunning either for no reason or for myself. I would take a photo of it, heaped artistically in a wooden bowl against a trendily out-of-focus background or something, except my trusty digital camera has given up the ghost - it still takes pictures, but you can't tell beforehand of what, as the display screen thingy remains obdurately black. Which makes taking pictures kind of interesting and mysterious, but not in a good way.

It also means that I have three FOs to show off, but cannot be bothered with the guessing game of photographing them; especially when we add in the challenge of natural winter light - or lack of.

Still, it is my birthday this week, and as you well know, hope springs eternal ....

Wednesday, 26 January 2011


I haven't had a proper dog since my ex-husband took mine (a beautiful Alsatian named Jezebel) in the divorce; of course, we have since owned the much-loved and missed Maximus Pratticus, but he was a stately old gent who, when outdoors, was occupied with sniffing and creating scents above all other things.

Not so Sebastian. Sebastian is a fiend for a ball. He doesn't give them back, of course, but will drop it within a 10 foot radius or so if one is sneaky enough to have brought another ball to distract him with - otherwise he goes off a ways and chews it to rubbery smithereens.

Sebastian did not used to see the squirrels, the grey ones that plague the park: he was focussed too much on his ball. Until early last week, when a dozy one didn't move quite fast enough and was in the path to the ball. Sebastian gave chase and - much to both my surprise, and his - caught it. Never having had a mouthful of warm mobile fur before, he dropped it almost instantaneously, in shock. It scrambled desperately up the nearest tree while Sebastian circled the base regretting his accidental act of mercy.

Ever since, he makes sure to give a good snout to all the squirrel-laden trees in that section of the park, but has not managed to get anywhere near to another live squirrel. Note the word 'live'.

Because while Mini Diva, her friend L., Destructo Boy and I were out walking the dog in the park on the weekend, some other canine predator had managed to capture and kill a squirrel. The other dog's owner had generously left the spoils of their successful Alpha for someone else to find - and deal with. Oh joy.

Persuading a stubborn dog who has learned his lesson all too well from his earlier mistake, to drop a succulent mouthful of still-warm bleeding prey is absolutely impossible. Sebastian only had the bottom half - who knows where the rest was - and that was bad, bad, bad, since even the most stoic amongst us, ie. me, blenched at the sight of squirrel guts draped all over the undeservedly proud dog's muzzle.

It seemed that my predicament attracted almost every other dog owner in the park - except for the perpetrator's owner. Or maybe they also returned to the scene of the crime just to quietly snigger up their sleeve. We received much sympathy, and comfort in the form of 'don't worry, the park-keepers like it because the squirrels are such vermin' as well as undeserved congratulations for our shameless dog who is obviously a cad amongst dogs, happy to garner a hunter's reputation from someone else's work.

Seeing as how I hadn't brought my phone, DH was in blissful ignorance of the havoc, which meant I had to choose the lesser of two evils: let the dog carry the bloody remnants home through the streets or somehow prise him from it. We found a secluded corner, and I straddled the dog, forced his jaws apart just enough for the squirrel carcass to plop wetly onto the path, while I screamed like a fishwife at Mini Diva to pull the damned dog away as hard and fast as possible.

I haven't seen L's Mum to talk to since, and I will totally blame any mental trauma that may be suffered by L on DH: it's his fault because he should have been there; he also should have reminded me that now we own a proactive young carnivore, not an soft old cushion of a dog.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Cod Liver Oil

Sunday and today have been the only sunny days we've had in about 2 weeks or so: the torrential rain and cold greyness has been depressing and miserable, to say the least. Hibernation would be mental salvation. However, on both decent days Mini Diva and I took the dog to the park, where I enjoyed them running round using up energy and tennis balls: I doubt I would have done this if we had been dogless.

I am feeling restive, yet unable to commit to anything because I desperately need to springclean - a Herculean task akin to cleaning the Augean stables - during which process I have decided that I will jettison lots of 'stuff'; our house is tiny with little storage space, and the things that live in boxes and cupboards that haven't seen use in a year or so is obviously not needed, and therefore can go for recycling, whether via a charity shop or otherwise. I know I can be this harsh, I have done it once before (after my divorce) but I am not looking forward to it.

An additional challenge is that because the house is small, it will have to be done somewhat like a magic square:
It will also have to be done when I am on my own, or else I get really grumpy. Which means that I am going to have to be very self-disciplined, and manage my time far more effectively. What joy. Usually you can camouflage vile things that are good for you with something else, eg. cold liver oil in capsules, or maybe find something equally good that balances the evil, eg. finding one of these:

Chippendale chair

or these:

Ming vase

But after all our moves, and given that the access hatch to our loft is mouse-sized, I feel it is somewhat unlikely ....

Wednesday, 12 January 2011


So I was meandering aimlessly round the house today, having taken the kids to school, when I came across the Inky cat washing and preening himself. He's always up for a cuddle, so I heaved him up (he is somewhat of a porker) for a stroke - only to feel a lump on the back of his neck.

Luckily I didn't assume it was a scab from playing/fighting with Jewel, but actually had a closer look; it turned out to be one of these:

I resisted the temptation to instantly hurl the poor cat off my lap as far away from me as possible, and instead placed him gently on the floor. Realizing that to run round the house without an audience shrieking nameless verbal atrocities wildly at top volume would be a waste of both energy and dramatic talent, I ran to my friend Google to check that I knew how to remove a tick: was it ticks or leeches that you burned off with a cigarette ? Would this be the perfect altruistic reason to start smoking again ? Sadly, no. But I brightened up when I read that we would need alcohol.

I collected together the things I thought I would need: 3 cups containing gin; tweezers; babywipes; Savlon. Fortunately, it wasn't Mini Diva's cat Moonheart, who has a Jekyll & Hyde character when to comes to physical contact - Inky is too plump, placid and (most un-catlike) trusting to run when I approach him purposefully and coochy-cooing in my fake baby voice reserved for just such feline emergencies as these.

Having snabbled my unsuspecting victim and pinned him to my lap, the fat furry fool lay purring like a diesel engine while I searched for the tick. Having found it again, I quickly seized it with the tweezers and gave it a firm tug - I was worried it would squish and there would be bug guts everywhere, but obviously they are pretty tough - and it came away cleanly, mouthparts and all.

I threw the tick into the first cup of gin (alcohol kills them), the tweezers into the second (to disinfect them - I've owned them for years and they are my unreplaceable best pair), and gulped down the third. I don't even want to think about if I had got those cups the wrong way round.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Lack of Resolution

Well, I ended 2010 with a completed project - the Sweater of Doom Mark 2 for DH was done in almost plenty of time for Christmas - in fact, it was sewed up, washed and dried by the 22nd. There wasn't even a sniff of deadline panic in the air. He said he loved it, and wore it often throughout the holidays - whether as proof/evidence, or penance for not getting me gifts from the children, I'm not sure.

As you can see below, the shawl neck, even when on a hanger, doesn't hang/fall quite right, and I haven't worked out why; in comparison to the picture on the front of the pattern, the neck starts earlier and is therefore longer/larger: perhaps that has something to do with it. Still, that is one big tick ticked, and now I shouldn't hear any nags about knitting him something for a while, I guess.

My first Finished Object (FO) for 2011 was a return to normal-sized things, a pretty little frilled shrug that is destined for my youngest niece as her birthday present later this month; my sister Auntie Fashion had gifted me 3 balls of Rainbow Glitz yarn

which, although the colors look quite subtle in the ball, has a sparkly silver thread intertwined throughout, and I thought it would go admirably with the Sirdar Denim Tweed DK 2210 pattern that I'd picked up last year sometime. However, I added a ruffle/frill to the sleeves also, because they looked odd without, and also because without some kind of edging, the knitting rolled ...

As you can see, the yarn is self-patterning (and see how clever I was matching not just the sides, but the sleeves as well ?) and the almost fluorescent pink doesn't show it's true jarring nature until the yarn is knitted up.

I am now working on a little cabled sweater for my baby nephew, whose 1st birthday is next month.

So having made such a promising start to the New Year, I wonder how long I shall be able to maintain it for ? I haven't made any New Year's resolutions for some years now - I prefer the relative informality and reduced expectations/pressure of setting goals instead. I achieved 2 out of 2 last year - and quitting smoking wasn't one of them, oddly enough; so I am casting around for a couple or three goals for this year: things that I want to do, that are achieveable, that are not a total drag or completely miserable in their worthiness, yet are realistic: so no suggestions for becoming a nicer/better person, please.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Back with a Bang

Well, the festive period meant a longer than usual blogging hiatus, since both my DH and my father were at home - my father after an unplanned stay in Houston, and then via Schiphol and the ferry to Harwich (without any luggage, as it was all lost in transit - so much for the extra security regulations about unaccompanied luggage) rather than flying in to Heathrow, because of the snow.

It was good to meet my father's fiancee and two of her children, although I did pity them for their obvious sufferings in the cold temperatures here. Santa visited our house and left my children thoroughly spoiled, having received every item they had asked for: but, to be fair, their lists were not extensive, and Mini Diva's did include a request for catnip for the cats ...

And I was also very spoiled - you met my main Xmas present already; and as DH realized far too late (as in, Christmas morning) that he had not got gifts to/for me from the children, the ensuing guilt was much to my advantage, since it resulted in a lunch out and this:

3 skeins of Araucania Ranco Multy in shade 351, bought from the lovely Karen over at Twist in Woodbridge (who also has some lovely Fyberspates laceweight that I managed to resist, as well as some fantabulous Manos del Uruguay silk yarn which I will go back for next time DH has put himself in the dog-house ...)

I don't often spend that much money - even when it's DH's guilt-money - on a yarn, but my friend Ania had gifted me a beautiful pattern, also for Christmas: the Starflower Estonian Lace Baby Blanket, by Hazel Roots; it won't be a baby blanket, but it does deserve some special yarn - hence the Araucania. It may be some time til I start it, as it does involve a couple of techniques new to me, and I am an old dog when it comes to these kinds of things ....

Since we are speaking of special people, and special yarn, the two combined for me this year in this unexpected and delightful Xmas gift from my friend Mimi, which arrived most appositely on Xmas Eve, in spite of snow-caused backlogs:

This 440 yards of 4 ply superwash wool was hand-dyed especially for me, and so, in addition, is totally unique. I can't tell you the buzz that is to me - I imagine it's somewhat akin to having a rose named after you. However, I can tell you that I am filled with a gloating satisfaction when I look at it. I am told it would make a nice pair of socks, but as I have mentioned before, that is an addiction I refuse to engage with.