Friday 30 October 2009

The K1P1 Virus

So, as predicted, I didn't go out last night. Instead, we had a takeaway pizza (dang those non-Jalapeno wusses that are my female relatives) and changed into our jammies; since my sister was involved, we drank alcopops rather than wine, but hey, I'm not too fussy where alcohol is concerned.

I found myself sitting next to Rebecca, the niece who'd said she wanted to learn to knit; stealthily I found a remnant ball of yarn, and handed it to her with a pair of 4mm needles. I showed her how to cast on, andthen how to knit; I said I'd show her how to purl when she told me she was happy with knitting. However, Rebecca is a southpaw, and I think this is why she has an interesting way of adding accidental extra stitches - winding the yarn to create a stitch anti-clockwise goes against how she'd naturally do it, and somehow she is yarn forwarding sometimes, thus creating the extra stitches.

Then my niece Annie came in from playing Crash Bandicoot on the PS2; she sat in the corner of the sofa watching her sister knit. So I sneaked out a second remnant ball of yarn, plus another set of 4mm needles. I showed her how to cast on and knit; then after a few rows of garter stitch, how to purl. That's it, she was off and away, quite comfortable with her new skills.

My sister came in. I chucked her yet another remnant ball, plus a set of .... you guessed it... 4mm needles. She cast on. I looked at her stitches, and asked her how she'd done it. She showed me - she was knitting through the back loop, which was making all her stitches slant to the right. In spite of my insistence that that was fine, as long as it looks like knitting at the end it doesn't matter how you do it, she asked me to show her how I got upright stitches, so I did. She was very happy with the result, and has completed a good 3 inches of ribbing, and about 4 of stocking stitch ... it's intended to be a scarf for her dog Charlie. He's a scarf-wearing kinda dawgie.

However, middle niece Serena was unpersuadable. She'd rather go do something 'dramatic'. I think she watched 'The Nightmare Before Christmas' with my kids.

DD was also missing, as at the age of 6 1/2, she is not allowed to drink vodka, which my sister apparently thinks is a necessary part of the knitting package. Who am I to disagree ?

So they are all in town now at Franklins, buying 4 mm knitting needles. And pretty yarn. No doubt my father will receive more emails like mine, begging for nice, inexpensive American yarns like Bernat, for the next time he's in Tenessee and fancies a 50 mile trip to Memphis to Jo-ann's.

As an infection vector for the K1P1 Virus, I believe my job here is done.

cropped for shy people

This is supposed to be a WYSIWYG platform, so why am I having issues with formatting ??

Wednesday 28 October 2009

The Halcyon Visitation

So my baby sister is coming to visit with me today, with my three nieces, and taking DD away for Hallowe'en weekend. This is all cool, as I actually quite like my sister, and I guess her girls are OK too.

What is not cool is that she has decided that not only do I need to get a life, I need to get out more. She tells me her girls are going to babysit, and that she has formed the intention of dressing me in her idea of going-out clothes and dragging me out for a night on the town. I love her dearly, but she's a Bling Ho', and I'm a Laura Ashley (on those days when I can kick my Frumpy Mummy alter-ego under the bed): no way on this earth would I wear her kind of clothes, let alone be seen in public in them. OK, it is Hallowe'en, but her costumes don't come with a mask, and I don't want to be asked for my tariff.

In vain have I protested that if she wants to make me really happy, take me out to eat, although I'd be content with a takeaway pizza. If you want to make me really, really happy, come with me to the local knitting group that I can never go to because I don't have a babysitter. And then, what would be great, would be to come back with a couple of bottles of wine, a crappy chick flick, and to sit and chew the fat with her and my nieces, of whom I see all too little. If you want to make me ecstatic, falling-down-talking-in-tongues happy - take both my kids for the weekend, not just the one I don't get enough time with already, and let me have adult time with my DH uncontaminated by any child.

Unfortunately, my sister is almost as stubborn as me. The key word there is almost. So I'm looking forward to a cosy girls night in.

Tuesday 27 October 2009


I finally figured it out. One of my favorite SILs gave me a coffee mug a couple of Christmasses ago, and on it was ''I only have a kitchen because it came with the house'' - she obviously has a pretty good handle on me. I don't cook.

I cook for the children, but fish fingers isn't real cooking. I might cook a proper meal once a month. I cooked my DH an English breakfast a couple of Sundays ago; he was still in bed, smelled the bacon etc. cooking, and thought it was the people next door having a cooked breakfast. It didn't occur to him at all that it was his breakfast, the poor deprived man.

I faced the Inquisition as to why ....was I trying to tell him something about the milkman's regular visits ? Had I broken something priceless ? Had I spent lots of money on something I shouldn't that we couldn't afford ? I don't drive, so he knew I hadn't crashed the car. It wasn't his birthday, Father's Day or our anniversary; he still views the whole event with deep suspicion. So much for being nice, huh.

Well, my fragrance oils arrived yesterday, and now I'm itching to make soap (qv: impatience); however, kids and caustic soda are a less than ideal combination, so it will have to wait. I also need some coconut oil - the price of which seems to have shot up in the last few months, but if I want good bubbles, I have to have it. While I was waiting, I was thinking, why don't I like to cook ? I like to make things - embroidery, patchwork, soap, knitting; I even do some things that might be considered nurturing, like gardening, houseplants, and tarot. Oh yes - and raising children. They all involve time, effort, and some degree of skill and/or talent. But, so does cooking. So why don't I like to cook ? It's creative, productive, tasty, and practical.

The thing is, cooking is transient. A couple of bites and it's gone. The ephemeral flow of tangs and flavors across the taste buds just has no longevity, even in memory. In this, cooking reminds me of housework (qv). When I make something, I want it to last a little while at least, not be gone in 60 seconds. Or less, when we're talking clean floors. Lucky for me I'm married to someone who originally trained and worked as a chef, and uses cooking as therapy to relax with - otherwise I'd either starve or OD on the additives in junk food - I'm eating one of his stuffed baked apples (a Bramley from my father's garden) right now; obviously, food cooked and washed up by someone else is always the best food, but I think it's the hint of triple sec that makes this particular culinary delight so extra-delicious.

So now I feel cleansed, even
righteous, having found a
philosophical and therefore profound and socially acceptable reason for not cooking that far surpasses my previous excuses of laziness, miniature badly lit kitchen, electric stove, lack of time, being a bad wife ....

Epiphanies are a Good Thing.

Patience is a Virtue

Unfortunately, not one that I possess in any significant quantity. When I've thought of something - or, even worse, decided on something - I want it NOW. Not tomorrow or a couple of days time, but instantly. The current postal strikes are testing my limits - having ordered the fragrance oils I wanted, they were despatched yesterday, but really I have no idea when I'll get them.

I think when I was younger, my impatience wasn't such an issue, as I pretty much only had myself to please. If I wanted to do something, I got up and did it. Having a husband ought to affect that. Having children does affect that totally. Everything depends on their schedule, and has to fit in with their schedule, or else the world as we know it will end.

This week, the schedule is light, as it's half-term. We have a dental checkup this afternoon, friends coming to play tomorrow, my sister visiting on Thursday and taking my DD away with her on Friday for the weekend. However, I am finding that I still need patience - because I can't get on with some of the things I want to get on with, as the kids insist on trivial things like meals and clean clothes; and also, patience because DS is being Demonspawn this week. We're not quite at the stage where we need Supernanny or Nanny 911 (in fact, we already use many of their methods) but it feels like it's getting close .....

In spite of the offspring, I managed to complete
the pink baby cardigan referred to here. It's the second time I've knitted this pattern - the first time was for my Auntie Celeste's Texan grandbaby, but I picked a pretty yarn that didn't show the pattern detail.

And thanks to some help from my fellow Ravellers, the baby hoodie is going fine too - in attaching to the neckline, I needed to work some increases, but picked the wrong increase. Now I have learned to do the KFB (knit front and back) increase - yaaaay, me.

In other news, I seem to be being sucked back into the teaching side of TABI. They are short on teachers right now, and I seem to have time to spare. I only have time to spare because housework is so low on my list of priorities - life is far too short to waste on something so repetitively futile. In fact, I would recommend children and pets as THE way to illustrate the absolute pointlessness of housework - with monotonous regularity, no sooner has the floor been mopped (sometimes it hasn't even dried completely) than either the dog has left a trail of pawprints, or, more likely, DS has spilled his juice ....again. Or I vacuum, only for DD to decide that she simply must make something that uses glitter .....and then she sneezes. I think you take my point. Besides, aren't dust bunnies a lifeform ?

Friday 16 October 2009

Christmas Plans

So I need to get all my ducks in a row - if I don't want my Xmas gifts to look like something from Blue Peter, I need to plan now, and get making right after that. For the last few years, we have given largely crafted presents, owing to poverty. So far, we have done jams, chutneys, a selection of fudge, soaps, a selection of Czech biscuits from my Babicka's recipes (sorry, have no idea how to do the thingy above the 'c'). All seemed to have been received with enthusiasm.

First on my list is my soaps. I asked for suggestions of Xmassy fragrances from my friends, and have pretty much decided on frankincense & myrrh (professional soapers get really bored with this one, but it's new to me), evergreen/pine, orange & cinnamon, and either mint or maybe a mulled wine fragrance, which I shall get from Jo at Sensory Perfection. The F&M and orange & cinnamon will be orangey colored - I'll use non-refined palm oil for them; evergreen I shall color with French Argiletz clay, and the mint one I shall experiment with titanium dioxide. I may repeat the layered Turkish Delight soap I made last year - colored with pink clay and French Argiletz clay.

If I'd known chemistry could be this exciting and interesting, I might have stuck with it at school ....'you mean you add these crystals and it then heats up on its own ??'.....'and it can do this to you if you get it on your skin ??' (I can't bring myself to post pics, just Google 'caustic soda burns')

And while I'm in soapmaking mode, I shall probably sneak in a batch of lavender (the alkanet root to color it is steeping as we speak), as I've been requested for some, and a batch of my personal favorite, Vanilla & Chocolate (which contains plenty of decadent cocoa butter, and real cocoa). I'm not usually a vanilla fan, but there's something about this I really like. I wish I had more molds - Somebody said he'd make me a couple more, but he ran out of time (you know who you are, Dad).

One of my SILs is expecting in February; I have
completed one baby cardi in Sirdar 3 ply gifted from my Shetland SIL; on the needles I have a 4 ply hoodie, and on yet another set of needles, a feather and fan baby blanket in a great marble yarn from JC Brett (scroll down). Everything is neutral colors as they don't know the sex of the baby.

In addition, on a recent visit to Taverham in Norfolk with my father and sister, I bought some fabrics to make a baby cot quilt. I made one for my eldest niece (now 18!), my daughter, my son, and my DH's friend Samantha's DS Benjamin when they were born (pics below). This time, I have somewhat departed from my color comfort zone, picking brights rather than pastels; I feel they're a modern, trendy couple that would prefer these colors more - I hope I'm right !

DD's cot quilt

DS' cot quilt

Ben's cot quilt (reversible)

bright colors for the new cot quilt

None of my extended family seem hugely into the internet, so I feel I'm fairly safe in this continuing to be a surprise.

On top of that, I need to knit DD and DS something for Xmas; I already have the pattern for both of them, and the yarn - for some reason I've forgotten, I seem to have shedloads of bright red yarn. Lucky for me DS' nursery color is red, and the dress I'm planning for DD (see earlier post) is red polka dots. The Universe works in wondrous ways.

So .....guess I better quit gabbing and get on with doing !

(apologies for the not-great photos & the formatting seems to have gone odd today)

Monday 12 October 2009


This Saturday was my DS' 4th birthday. He is now fully Ben Tenned up - pyjamas, sports bag, watch, action sticker book, monster illuminator thingy, and, of course, the birthday cake itself - thanks to his aunties and uncles and our excellent neighbor Su. He also received lots of army stuff - little plastic men, tanks, missile launchers etc. Stereotype, much ?

He was chuffed with his Ghostbusters outfit, complete with inflatable proton pack, even though he broke it within 10 minutes of putting it on. He had one friend to play, and his sister had one friend to play, which meant the kids amused themselves while the adults drank wine, lots and lots of wine. I think we'll follow this format again.

My father flew back out to Tennessee, where he'll be for about a week before heading back down to Honduras. While we have the central heating on, he may just have to put on a light jacket if the evenings get cool .... His English house is completely rewired, a brilliant job done quickly and neatly by the electrician Andy Smith.

This week, I shall be struggling to add Google Analytics to my
website, Kismet's Companion. I have the html code, it tells me where to put it; however, as I'm a technical luddite, I have a package which has a sitebuilder (point & click). I can get it to show me the html for the webpage I want, but when I add the Google html code, it shows as html code in the finished version. Hmm. I may try again tonight when the kids are in bed, and I can concentrate without interruptions. Also today, Mozilla Firefox is not cooperating at all nicely with Blogger - I've been trying to do this post since lunchtime, with brief breaks for swearing, nicotine, cup of tea, and trip to collect DD from school. It does not want to upload pictures.

Yesterday, I dug out the sweater I have been attempting to knit for
DH. It's been on the needles since the end of December 2008. Actually, I hadn't realized that it has been quite that disgracefully long! The pattern is a shawl collar sweater from the Lion Brand website. Last time I knitted a sweater for DH, a raglan turtleneck, it was also from this website; I assumed the measurements etc were accurate. It was woefully short, and the supposedly long sleeves were elbow length on my DH. Rather than frog/re-knit black boucle yarn, one of my sisters-in-law was very happy with it - so not an entire waste of £60 worth of yarn, but a total waste as being DH's birthday present.

So this time the sweater is in charcoal, in aran weight; I have diligently measured, and added 17 inches in length to the sleeves, and 10 inches to the length of the body. No, my DH isn't Shrek, I believe it's the pattern at fault again. Everything was going swimmingly - I set in the sleeves, added the panels for extra width - it all matched up nicely. And fitted. Until DH tried to get his arm into the sleeve - the underarm part of the sleevehole was too small. So I chucked it into a corner and we have been sulking at each other ever since. Which is months now.

I have now tinked back several rows on the side panel, and am knitting increases on every row til it gets to an appropriate width, and then I shall decrease like mad also, to hopefully achieve a diamond-shaped gusset thingy for the underarm. And if it still doesn't fit, if he still can't get it on, after that .....Bonfire Night approaches.

Images from the Universal Waite, and the Beardsley Tarot

Tuesday 6 October 2009

Kicking Butt

My friend and talented knitter, the witty Eskimimi, has started a group on Ravelry designed to help people like myself, who lack blogging motivation and self-discipline. I'm interested to see what hints and tips will turn up that will help me improve this blog. Mainly, I'm hoping the group spirit will guilt me into actually posting properly - frequently and regularly.

Of course, these last two weeks, I do have the excuse - I mean, reason - that my father's home from Honduras for a few weeks. He's having his house rewired, and so nearly 30 years' worth of clutter and junk needed to be removed from his loft and then sorted. He hired a skip, and I admit that we were exceedingly wicked ....we were throwing out a lot of books. I'm not sure that there is any greater crime. To balance that, my mother had been the main hoarder of books; she bought many from the ex-library sales. I wish I could ask her why and when did she ''Teach Yourself Persian''. Bizarre, but this is only one example of her random book-buying compulsion. My father tried everywhere to find a home for these books - charity shops, colleges, prisons. Nobody wanted them. OK, I understand why the prisons didn't want her vast array of true crime murder/mystery books. But, have books in general lost their value, their meaning, interest to people ? Surely somewhere there should have been a loving home for ''Certificate Needlework'' and her sisters, the ''Golden Hands'' magazines ? I live in a house designed for dwarves, with no storage, or else I might have rehomed these lost and lonely repositories of knowledge. But, no, we hardened our hearts and turned our faces away from the pleading of dedications made in 1899 or whenever. Perhaps we should have hung onto them until November 5th, pretended we were some kind of revolutionaries, and bonfired them. But that would have been too public an admission of our shame.

So, my routine (such as it is) is completely out of whack. The most knitting I've done was on Saturday, when I babysat for my neighbor's baby. The baby slept through, and so I started and finished the RH front of a baby cardi in pink. The back and sleeves had been sitting there for a while, since I'd run out of the yarn. I ordered a ball of what I thought it was - Stylecraft Special DK in pale rose (scroll down about halfway to see it). It arrived and totally was not the right color. My sister visited, fished around in my on-the-go project bag and found a ballband for this, Baby Rose shade 867, Hayfield Baby Bonus DK (there's no picture of this shade on Sirdar's site, can you believe it ?). So no wonder it didn't match. The importance of keeping one's ballbands with one's projects as opposed to just chucking them straight in the trash is now clear to me. It's not a Mistake, it's a Learning Experience. See, all those Human Resources seminars over the years did have some use ......