Monday 29 November 2010

What's the Buzz ?

No blog posts since last week ! And I can't even blame NaNoWriMo, as I didn't take part, but only instigated the crime that Sara, Ania, Kristina and Alison committed; I waved virtual pom-poms from the sidelines instead, offering random plot twists, methods of delivering poison, and vocabulary, as their novels moved from beginning through 50,000 words until the end .... well done, ladies !

I have been feeling overwhelmed, and DH told me it was because I had taken on too much again. He was right (no, of course I didn't tell him that) and so now I am refusing to panic: it will be what it will be. Packaging is so not the fun thing it used to be: I just cannot get the hang of cellophane, and so I have scheduled tomorrow afternoon for my ripitallapartandtryagain session. The problem is soap gift baskets for a very small craft fair thingy at the weekend.
Hints and tips welcomed ....

Destructo Boy needs some 'Festive Cakes' for the 'Winter Wonderland' after school on Friday, as well as a raffle prize. I don't even know what the 'Winter Wonderland' is, but I shall drag my carcass along regardless. I need to finish putting up bookcases at my father's house, where the carpet cleaning firm has been booked, the Asda booze order done, the butcher yet to go. Destructo Boy has a party to attend on Saturday ... at the same time, I need to photograph and list my new soaps; housework is always there, lurking like a dead mouse decomposing behind a radiator on full. Not that I would know what that was like. Not at all. And on top of all this, the cold temperatures just close me down physically: I was hoping that the weight gain would render me more immune to the cold, but no luck so far.

In good news, DH and I have been discussing getting another dog, as it's been about a year since Maxie went to Dog Heaven. I want a dog, and DH doesn't: so we have come to a compromise - we are getting a German Shepherd from the lovely people over at the Sussex German Shepherd Rescue; it is my combined Christmas and birthday present, as the cats were last year. We passed the homecheck, and now have only to wait for the Right Dog to turn up. Actually, DH likes GSDs - we have both owned one before; and so this is also my reward to myself for having quit smoking: what I would have spent on cigarettes per week, means that I can persuade myself that we can afford to feed and insure a dog.

We also have a visitor with us this week. Meet Cuddles the Monkey:

who has come home from school with Destructo Boy for a week; I believe everybody gets a turn, and from the travel journal that accompanies him, I can tell that not only Cuddles, but several children in Destructo Boy's class, are seriously spoiled, and I am going to have to be at my most inventive and innovative to surpass Cuddles' previous experiences. Not that I am Howard Hughes, but Cuddles' first experience in our household will be a bath .....

and after that, I may have to ignore the ominous looming of self-imposed dread that is the SoDMk2 in order to knit Cuddles some raiment ... perhaps a scarf and a snazzy tank top, against the winter snow ....

Monday 22 November 2010

Free Pattern: Cabled Hot Water Bottle Cover

Isn't it a crying shame that through the etheric medium of the interwebs you cannot distinguish exactly quite how incredibly pleased and satisfied with myself I am ? Which, on a scale of 1 to 10, today is about eleventy-twelve.

I took a notion that I wanted to knit a hot water bottle cover/cozy for my MIL for Xmas from the lovely yarn I picked up from Twist recently .... however, do you think I could find a pattern for what I wanted ?

Well, as it goes, I could - in some Patons booklet that I could not work out how to buy/download since it didn't like that I am not American. I believe most of the world, indeed, is not American. Google informs me that only 7% of the world's population lives in America. I do love some individual Americans, but as a nation, sometimes they frustrate me beyond belief with their egocentricity, and apparent insistence way past rational, that nothing 'real' exists beyond their borders.

Still, let's abandon that somewhat grumpy digression and return to the fun stuff: a new pattern by Me, an example of necessity being the mother of invention.

It's for Aran weight yarn, knitted on 5.5mm (US size 9) needles; I think I used approximately 210 yards/ 192 meters. Gauge is not awfully important, as long as your pieces when sewed together, fit over the hot water bottle - and remember that blocking can be your friend here.

I made mine stripey, because I could: each wide stripe is 16 rows, each narrow stripe ie. at the bottom and top, is 8 rows. I used 2 and a teeny bit skeins of Rooster Almerino Aran in shade 303 (rose pink - Strawberry Cream) and shade 301 (cream - Cornish). This Peruvian yarn is 50% baby alpaca and 50% merino wool, which equals 100% soft and squooshy; I paid £4.35 per skein, which I thought was reasonable value. The yardage is 103 yds/ 94m per 50grm skein.

The other side has alternating stripes to the first side - again, simply because I felt like it.

There is one other, minor, difference, that I improved for the second side (1st photo).

So without further ado:

C6F : place 3 st on cable needle to front, knit 3 st, knit 3 st from cable needle
C6B : place 3 st on cable needle to back, knit 3 st, knit 3 st from cable needle
T5F : place 3 st on cable needle to front, purl 2 st, knit 3 st from cable needle
T5B : place 2 st on cable needle to back, knit 3st, purl 2 st from cable needle
WS : wrong side
RS : right side

Materials: approx 210 yds/ 192 m aran/worsted weight yarn
1 pair 5.5 mm (US size 9) knitting needles
and do not forget, the hot water bottle itself

Cast on 55 stitches.

Foundation Row 1: P4, K6, P2, K1, P2 [ K3, P4, K6, P4, K6, P2] P2, K1, P2, K6, P4
Foundation Row 2: K4, P6, K3, P1, K3[ K2, P6, K4, P6, K4, P3] P2, K1, P2, K6, P4

Row 1: P4, K6, P2, K1, P2, [ K3, P4, C6F, P4, C6F, P2] P2, K1, P2, K6, P4
Row 2: K4, P6, K2, P1, K2, [ K2, P6, K4, P6, K4, P3] K2, P1, K2, P6, K4
Row 3: P4, C6B, P2, K1, P2 [ T5F, T5B, T5F, T5B, T5F] P2, K1, P2, C6F, P4
Row 4: K4, P6, K2, P1, K2 [ P3, K4, P6, K4, P6, K2] K2, P1, K2, P6, K4
Row 5: P4, K6, P2, K1, P2 [ P2, C6B, P4, C6B, P4, K3] P2, K1, P2, K6, P4
Row 6: K4, P6, K2, P1, P2 [ P3, K4, P6, K4, P6, K2] K2, P1, K2, P6, K4
Row 7: P4, C6B, P2, K1, P2 [ T5B, T5F, T5B, T5F, T5B] P2, K1, P2, C6F, P4
Row 8: K4, P6, K2, P1, K2, [ K2, P6, K4, P6, K4, P3] K2, P1, K2, P6, K4

Rows 1 - 8 set pattern.
Repeat rows 1- 8 a further 7 times (8 repeats altogether) or until length required. End on WS.

RS facing. Cast off 15 stitches.
Commence 2 x 2 rib: [P2, K2] for 24 stitches.
K or P as required in pattern until end.
WS facing, cast off 14 stitches. 2 x 2 rib as set on previous row for remaining 24 stitches. Continue until long enough to cover hot water bottle neck, approx. 12 - 14 rows or 6cm/ 2.5ins
Cast off in rib.

Repeat instructions to make 2nd side.

Weave in ends.
Wash gently and block gently to size.
When dry, sew bottoms and sides together; fit over hot water bottle, oversew shoulders and neck sides.

I feel that, in my ignorance, I may not have used some standard knitting patterns terms/conventions etc - do please feel free to comment below and educate me ...

Thursday 18 November 2010

Children in Need 2010

Well, it has rolled round again, and in company with several other of my TABI friends, tomorrow I shall be offering 3 card tarot readings for a £5 or more donation via TABI's Just Giving page.

All you have to do is donate on the Just Giving page and leave a comment on this blog post, so I have somewhere to send your reading ....

Sponser Today!

Tuesday 16 November 2010

Car Comparison

I had a letter recently that had a slight scent of 'scam' about it, even though it did not originate in Nigeria, and did not require me to pay anything in advance, I had merely to agree to a chunky percentage of 'commission'.

Google is my friend, which resulted in the discovery that I indeed have a little windfall coming my way, and one that also didn't require me to pay any commission to anyone. A perfectly-timed lovely little windfall that allowed me to partially pay some bills in advance - a nod to adulthood and responsibility a.k.a Boo Hiss Sucky - to book an appointment at the hairdresser (the first for 18 months), and also to book DH's 40th birthday present.

And since he doesn't generally read this blog (and I'll post again this week to drive this off the front page for just in case) I can share with you my self-congratulatory glee, pats and hugs: firstly, that I thought of it, secondly, that the windfall meant I could pay for it, and thirdly that Nanny (my MIL) will come to look after the kids for a couple of days so I can go and watch too ...

I have mentioned before that DH's favorite car is the Aston Martin DB9.

The chances of him owning it are about the same as if we won the lottery: which is when he can buy one. Doesn't matter that I try to tell him it's a fogey car for grumpy old men with too much money - a souped-up Rover, to all intents and purposes. It hasn't worked, he remains convinced it is uber-cool and worth every penny of its approx. £132,000 price tag. All I could do then was to book him this. I could have booked it to be a duo of Aston Martin/Lamborghini

- but the Lambo (classic 80s version, the Countach, shown here) is my car when we win the lottery; or Aston Martin/Ferrari, but Ferraris are ostentatiously vulgar. Hopefully this will persuade him that not only is the following almost within his budget, but is a far more unique and character-building ride:

Wednesday 10 November 2010

The Best Laid Plans

In an attempt to deceive myself into thinking that I actually can achieve stuff, I returned to list-making this week. And really, by the end of the day, I have lots of ticks on the list. Fie on those of you who quibble at 'have a cup of tea' and 'eat a slice of cake' being separate 'to do' items - you can indeed have one without the other, unnatural though it may seem.

One of my best ticks was the result of a friend ordering some soaps and asking me to giftwrap them; usually, I enjoy wrapping, but with my current short attention span, hatred of detail, and total utter lack of the tiniest smidge of patience, it can quickly lead to the air turning blue with cuss words delivered at Billingsgate volume.

So you ask ''Went the day well ?'' and I can answer: sort of. Here are some pics of the custom-wrapped soaps - between really bad natural light (it didn't stop raining all day) and the despised eco light bulbs, I simply could not manage a half-way decent photo ...

In addition, I was chuffed that I noticed before adding to the oils today that something was different about my caustic soda: it was cloudy in solution, and then a layer of crystalline sediment formed at the bottom of the bowl; upon examination of the container, it turns out it is now 'drain cleaner with caustic soda' and not just 'caustic soda' any more. I do wish people wouldn't fix what ain't broke.

Luckily I still had some proper caustic soda, so the batch of Vanilla, Honey & Cinnamon is gelling under cover as we speak; and the Spiced Honeyed Orange awaits cutting. But my brilliantest, bestest Xmas idea has gone irretrievably awry in the making - technical issues that I cannot as yet resolve. So, the 'to do' list being all ticked, I can justify a glass of wine as reward and/or consolation and also an aide to thinking outside the envelope or pushing the box ....

Monday 8 November 2010

New Week, New Yarns

So while I'm waiting for a batch of oils and lye to cool down, I thought I'd dash off a little blog post; after all, if my literary friends can manage the 1700 or so words a day demanded by NaNoWriMo, surely I can reach for the sky and attempt a mere couple of hundred ?

Especially when I can tell you all about the new yarn shop - or more accurately, boutique - that just opened up the road from me, in Woodbridge. DH being his usual easy-going self drove me out there on Saturday, even though I didn't know the name of the shop or where exactly it was (Woodbridge is not a large place, however).

It turns out it is called Twist, and is just by the Shire Hall. It is so new it still smells of new carpet, which itself is still that special kind of new-springy. The lighting is designer-style but still allows one to see the colors of the yarn; the custom-built cubbyholes for the yarn are not so much cubbyholes as cubby walls: of which a good quarter is filled with Noro yarns. The colors are almost as interesting as I had heard, but the texture is also scratchy and harsh, as I'd also heard.

There was lots of Debbie Bliss, some lovely Louisa Harding, plenty of Rowan and Sublime. Somehow, 2 skeins of Debbie Bliss 'Andes' (baby alpaca & mulberry silk)

fell into the posh paper bag, along with the 2 tissue-paper-wrapped balls of Rooster Almerino Aran ... The Artesanos and Manos del Uruguay yarns had not yet arrived; also absent was any laceweight, again awaiting delivery. Already the Rooster is transforming:

The service was friendly and welcoming - a refreshing change when it comes to high-end yarn shops; and the pricing was also reasonable. All she needs to do is instal some unobtrusive background music, a coffee machine and a couple more sofas, and institute a knit morning ....

Friday 5 November 2010

Friday Frenzy

I love to barter/swap/trade: before now, I've traded tarot readings for reflexology treatments (can we say 'fab-u-lous' ?), scented handmade candles and melts, and I've traded my own handmade soap for tarot decks. Recently I traded a tarot reading for some bath & beauty goodies, all the way from sunny Florida; Celeste, who must be one of the very, very rare people without an online selling site of some sort, also known as The Soap Pedaler, sent me a super box of yummy-smelling stuff:

I'm using the Linden soap right now: small, tight bubbly lather, and again, a great fragrance; Mini-Diva already snitched the organic peppermint lip balm; and I think the Lavender & Rose shampoo and conditioner are really great: the shampoo is harder to lather than the commercial stuff I'm used to, but the conditioner feels lovely and goopy, yet rinses out easily, leaving a fantastic scent that really hangs on, so that you get whiffs of it all day. Thanks, Celeste.

I have completed the front of the SoD2,which I feel is not bad going:

It's actually charcoal grey, not that blue-ish as it looks; but it's about to pour down, so the light today is dodgy. As proven by the also-rubbish photo of my Harebell Stitch lace scarf, which I've made as a Xmas present for our neighbor, Su, using a steel blue shade of Kidsilk Haze on 5mm needles:

I know knitting a scarf for a woman who wears flip-flops in the winter snow might seem a bit odd, but it's just her shade, and very light and fine, and thus may fool her into thinking it's not actually for warmth ...

Now I have to go run round and do lots of things - not least of which is the reading for Celeste - plus, housework; go to school for a scheduled talk with Mini-Diva's teacher, which could be interesting given that the Ofsted report sent home yesterday shows the school has dropped a grade, down to a mere 3; cook dinner, because it's Friday; collect Destructo Boy from his friend's house after tea; buy tickets for tonight's fireworks .... as long as it isn't raining: memories of last year's debacle are still all too clear, and even the promise of hot spiced cider is not enough to get me out in that again.

Wednesday 3 November 2010

Wednesday's Child

... is full of woe. But that's not me, OK, because I've had it with moping around aimlessly. The amitriptyline made me feel sludgy and half-asleep all the time, but did not prevent waking in the night: I ought to have asked the doctor why a sedative instead of a sleeping tablet, but by the end of my appointment I was too weary to argue. So I've had it with that too, and kicked my own (ever-expanding) butt instead.

The doctor's great idea for dealing with my weight gain, by the way, was to exercise/join a gym and change my diet. This was without asking me anything about my lifestyle first, so I just looked at her with my mouth agape, since my diet is pretty healthy (very little fried or fatty food, lots of salads, little meat, no chocolate, few sweeties or cakes) and hasn't changed, and also because I get at least 1 hour of brisk walking 5 days out of 7.

Instead I've had a really productive couple of days ...I listed two new soaps on Misi - but not Folksy, because the listing facility seems to be broken, along with their technical support - and they are lovely, even if I say so myself.

Since asses' milk is proving somewhat challenging to source these days, I used goatsmilk as the liquid in this fabulously rich and creamy soap, named Cleopatra's Delight; shea butter, cocoa butter, a generous helping of calendula petals into the mix, and a fragrance that Cleo herself would have considered decadent - and her due - a combination of musky myrrh, rose, jasmine, and patchouli, and the result is a lightly textured soap with a really luxurious lather and scent.

Also cured and ready to go is my new Caramel Kiss soap: made with the usual lashings of shea butter and cocoa butter, with honey and Maple Syrup added to enrich and provide 'background' for the rich, fudgy, caramel fragrance, Mini Diva has decided it is her new favorite. Smells like sweeties, but none of the calories ...

And in the spirit of embracing new things, I am experimenting with a Facebook storefront that is linked to my business page; here I will have a slightly different offer than in my Folksy or Misi shops .... click the 'like' button and see what difference it makes ....

Monday 1 November 2010

All Hallows Eve

Saturday the kids went to a neighbor's Hallowe'en party: one as a witch, one as a pirate; both with make-up on. The party ended with them trick-or-treating in our street with all the other kids - they looked great and had a lovely time.

They drew faces on their pumpkins which DH then carved:

Yesterday I spent a quiet evening as DH had gone to work, so just an informal small ritual of candles and wine, remembering those close to me who have gone. I completed the Harebell Stitch scarf, so will be washing and blocking that today, and will be able to leave the SoD2 out 'in public' since DH is away: just as well that will speed things up, as my friend Mimi points out there are only 55 knitting days til Xmas ....

Quite a few of my friends are doing NaNoWriMo, amongst whom are Ania, Alison, Kristina, Lori, Sara: the best of luck to you: perhaps I might have joined you, had I been able to think of a plot ......