Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Moving house!

Guess where I am!

I've fledged and now have my own server. If you are among my faithful readership (hi Mum!), then please don't be scared. Just pop on over to that there URL and check out my new digs. I think we'll be happier there.

See you after the jump!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Old and New

I said I would finish things, didn't I? Here we go: a pair of cashmere footlets. This is part of my 2008-Let's-Make-More-Socks campaign (I'm looking for a catchier title). Also, I know I used this pic before, but taking pictures of my feet is a bit too difficult for tonight. Maybe later, darling.

And let me tell you, bub, these were extreme knitting to the end! The first sock ended without incident, but the second one was so short of yarn that I had to find my Little Blue Box, in which I kept scraps from the Kitchener bind off (from when I made the Desert Monkeys). I used some sneaky yarn attachment techniques and didn't cock up the colour pattern, and only just had enough to finish. See how much I've got left? See that?

That's hardc0re knitting: I didn't think I was going to make it to the end, I thought I was going to crash and burn and have to frog both socks to reduce the length and make them match -- but dudes, I totally did it.

Yarn: The last of my Jojoland Quartette, in desert colours with a hint of sky blue. I'm sure the colourway has a less lengthy title, but that's good enough for me.
Pattern: A simple toe-up sock, on DPNs; I used Judy's Magic Cast On, which is just so fantastic I can hardly stand it. Worked the length of my foot, worked a short row heel, then some simple stockinette, ribbing and a Kitchener bind off. It's really worth doing the Kitchener bind off on toe-up socks; I haven't seen its equal for springiness and smooth prettiness.
Verdict: Delicious. I'm wearing them now, and they're infinitely better than any other sock in the world.

One thing off the needles means one thing on:

While tooling around trying to find a pattern that would do justice to my newly-dyed, now-ruby-and-amethyst Angora Supreme, I remembered that I had a few balls of white Angora Supreme in the stash. The idea of a contrasting pattern entered my tiny brain, and, a quick Ravelry search later, I decided that Exchequered was for me. I loved this scarf when it first came out, but put it in the 'too hard' basket -- so strange to think I used to have one of those.

It's double knitting, which is so clever and cool that it makes me feel like a genius while I'm doing it (the feeling fades as soon as I put my coffee cup down on the edge of the coaster and it falls over and spills everywhere, but never mind). Put simply, you're working two layers of fabric, back to back -- a tube, essentially -- on straight needles, by working the stitches with alternate balls of wool. This is a really good pattern to learn on, for two reasons: one, you're working with contrasting colours anyway, which makes it really easy to keep track of which stitch belongs to which side; and two, because it's a scarf, it's not the end of the world if your two layers of fabric end up stuck together. (Apparently, it is possible to work two socks at the same time using this technique, but if you make a mistake, or twist the two balls of yarn, they're stuck together and you have to rip out both of them.)

Good old Ravelry: I love that pattern search facility, and I nearly always find something that delights me, excites me, or generally has me in a knitter's foam. I did a little bit of extra research after I decided to cast on Exchequered, because I wanted to learn a bit more about double knitting, make sure there's no pitfalls I hadn't thought of. There's a Ravelry group on double knitting (natch), which was of tremendous interest and use.

And good old Knitty, too. I love Knitty. It really got me hooked on knitting, back in the day, by offering fantastic patterns -- not just the ones I wanted to make, but patterns that inspired me and got me thinking -- and all for free. I still get excited when I know Knitty is due to come out, checking every couple of hours. I have resisted signing up for their mailing list for ages, because I prefer to stalk it in the wild, but they had such a fantastic competition earlier this year (oh my GOD the prizes were unbelievable) that I caved in. Sometimes an issue contains more patterns that aren't to my taste than patterns that are, and that's always a shame -- but lately, I've found that I rediscover those patterns on Ravelry and think "wait a second, that would be perfect for so-and-so" or something like that. It rocks.

It never ceases to amaze me that people, when given an vast resource like the Internet, will create such fantastic things to share with people, out of passion and intellectual drive.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Why My Life Rocks (an essay with pictures)

One of the finest, most pleasurable things in my life is to come home in the chilly evening and hear the noisy whir of the fan in the oven. I get home early, and if M's home and the fan in the oven is whirring away, that usually means the oven's being pre-heated for pizza. The oven will be cranked all the way up to eleven, for maximum tastiness.

M's pizza-making skillz are elite. He obtained a couple of pizza stones a few years ago, and has been gradually refining his technique. We make batches of dough in the breadmaker, and when a batch has risen, take it out, divide it up and freeze it. They freeze really well. When the oven is really, really hot, we take a ball of dough and roll it out very thinly; you don't quite want a cracker for a base, but nothing too bready either. The base is then cooked briefly on its own:

In this pic, you can see the base has been briefly sealed, then flipped: that way, there's a slightly cooked surface directly under the sauce when it's put on, which slows down how much is absorbed by the dough, which reduces sogginess.

When this is just cooked, pop on the lovely tasty toppings. We've only got four here, including the sauce, and I don't want more than that. Actually, the most delicious pizza I ever had was sauce, cheese and olive oil drizzled over the top. The key concern is not an abundance of toppings, but high quality ones. If you use fantastic sauce and good quality olive oil, you're pretty much set. The pizza, suitably topped, is then slid back into the oven and allowed to cook further: it doesn't take long, because all you're really doing is heating the ingredients through and browning the cheese.

Here's the finished result: it's not the best photo ever, chiefly because I was seizing up with delight over my forthcoming meal. Although in this picture you can see a freshly-toasted pizza, still sizzling as the cheese bubbles and the oil on the olives spits, you can't see M hovering over the breadboard, pizza cutter in hand, insisting that I hurry up so he can cut the pizza and we can finally eat.

And that's why my life rocks. Sweet-arse pizza. (Which is infinitely better than sweet arse-pizza, let me tell you.)

The Great Dyeing Adventure, Part 3

It's been a while since I touched on the Great Dyeing Adventure, and I don't quite feel like I got to wring all the juice out of that particular episode. Actually, this has been a string of episodes; a saga, if you will. To be honest, it's still going: right now, there's a big pot on the stove, with yarn cooling in it. Tomorrow I'll drain it and see what it has brought me.

The dyeing that we spoke of earlier, where I dyed Peach Twist and Cream Twist so that they came out a hideous zombie khaki. Remember that? Ugh. Yeah, we all remember that.

Well, the reason that all this dyeing came about was that I bought some Angora Supreme on eBay. I bid fiercely and won eight balls of purple, and five of white. The purple, when it arrived, turned out to be too...too, as the saying goes. It was too something, and I didn't want to wear it all over me as a sweater. The realisation that I had a buttload of yarns I didn't want to wear got me thinking, and I decided I would either have to swap it on ravelry (eh, too much hard work to get to the post office) or adjust the yarn to suit my taste. Here's a pic of the yarn, pre-dyeing.

My first goal was towards the blue spectrum: I thought I could deepen the purple and move it into the indigo spectrum through the judicious application of blue dye. So I skeined up two balls, and into the pot they went. Then, after a strangely lengthy conversation with M about the values of teal as a colour, I decided I would try to push some purple yarn in teal's direction, as well: into a pot of green dye, with just a little blue to bring it closer to the purple yarn. Here are the results, side by side:

Pretty, but still not quite there for me. I love rich, gem tones, not cookie-monster blue and vaguely-darker purple (the purpler one on the right is the 'teal' dye job -- yeah, I know, really green, huh?).

I then decided it was time for some hardcore dye. My Mum, a childcare worker (Hi Mum!) suggested Edicol, a heavily-concentrated food dye powder used by childcare staff to make playdough, paint, and other craft supplies. Completely non-toxic and damn near impossible to get out of your clothes. Seemed perfect. Thusly equipped, I thought about pushing the purple angora in the other direction, towards the red end of the spectrum. I used a full bottle of red dye, as well as a few generous spoonfuls of red Edicol powder. Et voila! Isn't it gorgeous? I urge you to click in order to embiggen the picutre, because there's a whole lot of awesome red/purple variegation that really tickles me. So cool.

Actually, I was so pleased with the intensity of the redness in this dye job, that I'm now redyeing the skeins that I had previously overdyed with blue. I think I should be able to push those blue skeins from spring blueish-purple to a full indigo, which will be very, very pretty indeed.

The Angora Supreme says 'hand wash' on the label, which means I've been very careful about not shocking the yarns when moving them between waters. Well, sort of. The first few skeins, I made sure the washing water, the soaking water, the dyeing water and the rinsing water were all about the same temperature. The next few, I was a bit more lax. The skeins cooling on the stovetop, er, may be felted: I actually forgot they were there, and they reached a pretty cheerful boil before I remembered. Still, I'll see how they look tomorrow. I'm letting them cool slowly, gently, overnight.

And if they come out the deep indigo that I'm praying for...well, I'll have a crack at overdyeing the other skeins, the ones I had planned to come out dark teal. If I can get a pretty, variegated, dark teal with undertones of purple, I'll be one very happy snail.*
* Rule Number 84 of the Internet: Don't tell people the wistful hopes you have, especially when you know you'll have to blog about the outcomes later.

Friday, May 30, 2008

On Sammiches Part Deux

Yesterday I wrote passionately (nay, poetically) on the issue of sammiches. I would like to add a little epilogue to my post, in praise once more of the sammich.

Picture this if you will.

After writing my last post, I went home and cooked a fantastic curry, worked on some uni things, played some percussion and then had a glass or two of fine wine.

Then I decided to make my lunch. Thus violating one of my firmest rules: never make a salad for the next day's lunch when you're a few sheets to the wind. I had to implement this law after a few very depressing lunchtimes. Nothing quite sucks all the fun out of your lunchbreak like the discovery that your chickpea/kalamata olive/red capsicum/marshmallow/cucumber salad really is nothing more than soggy cold things in a box. But I digress. My plan was to make a boiled egg salad, with rocket, cucumber, dill mayonnaise, maybe some chopped capsicum and gherkins. Tasty! While my egg simmered, rummagings into the fridgermerator revealed an eclectic yet disparate selection of ingredients: a single passionfruit cupcake, past its prime; a large jar of minced garlic; half a purple onion; a pumpkin; several Lindt chocolate bunnies, whose neck bells tinkled merrily as I pushed them aside in search of cucumber.

My salad was doomed. All I had was rocket, egg, tomato and purple onion. We didn't even have any mayonnaise. The next morning, I had the presence of mind to check my salad before packing it to take to work: while nowhere near as grim as some of my previous late night salad specimens have been, it certainly lacked inspiration and, well, zazz. And then I remembered the delight of the sammich.


Wait, wait, wait; this picture doesn't do it justice. You can't tell that I spread the bread on one slice with overripe avocado, and on the other with cream cheese mixed with minced dill. You can't tell that I gently mashed the boiled egg onto the cream cheese, topped it with finely chopped purple onion and tomato, then piled high with rocket. Then wrapped it all up and ported it to work.

This picture sums up the poetry, the sheer divinity, of the sammich I had today, may it rest in peace.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

On Sammiches

I have, of late, been considering the sammich. I think I may have misjudged the humble sandwich (or sammich), in a backlash from years of eating them by obligation.

While I was in school/high school/university, I had a sammich for lunch every single day (except on those hallowed days where I bought my lunch). I'm sure of it, because I simply can't imagine what alternatives there would have been.

University was the worst: I made myself a peanut butter sandwich for lunch nearly every day, because it was a lunch that was cheap, could stand being banged about in my bag as I went from class to class, and didn't have to be refrigerated or kept upright to prevent leakage. After a blood test revealed I had astronomic cholesterol levels for a 20-year-old, I cut out the peanut butter and had things like mashed potato and grated carrot sandwiches. Not so great.

So, after graduating, I avoided sammiches as much as possible. They always seemed like a rushed lunch; one you had because you didn't have time for anything else. Or didn't have time for a "proper" lunch, whatever that is.

Recently, I've been reconsidering my knowledge of the sammich. Sure, I can safely state, with the support of empirical experience, that I don't enjoy peanut butter sammiches that have been kept in a backpack for six hours and forcibly marched around a uni campus; but that doesn't seem like a good reason to rule out all sammiches. Especially now I work in an office with fridges, where I can stash all the fresh ingredients until it's time to make the sammich from scratch. There's even sammich toasters to use.

Consider the following:
  • a crusty baguette, spread with wholegrain mustard and mayonnaise, then layered with baby spinach, tomato, roast capsicum, sliced roast pumpkin and caramelised onions;
  • a pumpkin-and-linseed bread roll, split in two, toasted, and then filled with brie, rocket, thinly-sliced purple onion and a touch of tomato relish;
  • two slices of wholemeal bread around pesto, mozzarella, tomato and roast capsicum, all grilled and sizzley;
  • thickly-sliced, lightly-toasted raisin and fruit bread, with sliced figs, chopped walnuts and blue cheese, toasted lightly to soften.

Oh dear, now I'm all hot and bothered. Look at that list, just look at it! And I'm sure you can think of at least a dozen more sammiches that would satisfy every cell in your being. I would like to announce a reclaiming of the sammich! Embrace your breaded brethren!

Monday, May 26, 2008

In Which We Are Not Dead

My favourite way to begin every day is by not being dead.

Some mornings it takes a few goes to make sure you aren't, but once you're certain, the day is well underway!

On Monday I checked my uni stuff to work out what I had left to do by the end of semester. My final due date for work this semester is the 16th of June, just a few brief weeks away, and there are at least two things due each week from now until then. I was thrilled, as you can imagine, and after a trill of gay laughter, got down to it. So I spent my weekend on an improperly-set up office chair, glued to my laptop, pulling 3,500 words about the Critical Period Hypothesis in Second Language Acquisition out of my arse. (For those of you who have found this blog by googling 'critical period hypothesis', I can only say sorry, try a better website.) The essay itself wasn't too bad: for a change, I had a really clear overview and knew exactly which order to proceed in. Then I just had to sit down and do so. But it wasn't my chosen way of spending the weekend, and I think the office chair did a number on my back, since I could hardly move or breathe by Sunday night. Today I spent lying on the couch with a hot wheat pack, doing more uni stuff, which is due next Monday.

Which leads me nicely to knitting. Remember that UFO parade we had? Yeah, me too. Anyway, so pleased with myself as I was for completing Mother's socks (hi Mum!) that I trotted off to the stash for something to amuse myself with. Perhaps a pair of felted clogs is in order this winter? Tra-loo, tra-lay, etc. Heavens to Murgatroyd, what's that in the ziploc bag?

And that over there?

And isn't there something on the bedside cabinet? When I called my UFOs out to present themselves, it seems some were slower in response than others. Some of these babies had been languishing for months, some for years, and their response times were slower. But I bravely embraced them as progeny of my needles, and have committed myself to finishing them off, one by one, before I start casting on anything new and/or improved. (Except those cashmere socks that I love so very very much, which I cast on using the leftovers from Mum's socks before the needles could get cool.) I kind of like doing this, clearing out the needles and making way for new creations. I'm not sure how many more I can take, though. There will be photos of the UFOs over the next few days, when my camera and I happen to be in the same room and I don't have to get up to find it (oh, the dedication of the artist).

A few other creative interests have been piqued lately, too. I had my sewing machine out in order to hem some jeans, and found myself rather enjoying the sensations: the different needles, the feel of woven fabrics and the smell of dust on the hot light bulb in the machine. I haven't sewn anything creative in years, but just recently I've begun to have a few ideas here and there about what I could do. There's a few other things I want to try my hand at, too, like bookmaking and silver clay noodling. But I think they'll have to wait until after the uni stuff begins to slow down. Until then, I'm just going to concentrate on not being dead. 16th of June, that's what it comes down to now.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Amateur Cocktail Hour Part Two

The other night, I decided to indulge my curiosity and sample a vodka martini. I'm no normally a vodka drinker of any note, nor am I a martini afficionado. M likes them, but he prefers a dry gin martini to a vodka one. We scored some 42 Below vodka on sale, hotwever, so it seemed like an ideal time to test it out. I always wanted to love the martini: they're so clear and sexy looking. I don't mind the first few mouthfuls, but I get bored with them pretty quickly. I know I like them as dry as possible, and with a lemon twist rather than an olive.

The vodka martini was delicious, but I couldn't drink all of it. It's probably pyschological, but I always seem to get sick of them about 2/3rds of the way through, and give the rest to M. But 42 Below is wonderful stuff.

M tried something different for the garnish. Alert readers will observe that, in place of the more traditional stuffed olive, M has opted for a Ferrero Rocher chocolate on a toothpick, adding a dessert twist to a pre-dinner drink. He said it was lovely, actually.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Desert Monkeys

Presenting: The Desert Monkeys.

When I got this yarn from eBay, I surprised myself. I'm not really one for the orange-russet palate, and I don't really like light blue with anything even vaguely warmish. And I'm not really into cashmere for socks, as decadent as it is (actually, that's probably it: I'm probably discomfited by decadence). But the colours are my mother's palate: she loves autumn colours, and this yarn suits her to a tee. So I bought it with the intention of knitting her some luxurious socks. These are they.

I can't believe how much I have loved knitting these socks.

Yarn: Jojoland's Quartette. Now, alas, discontinued, but I shall be haunting Ravelry's destash and swap groups, just in case.

The yarn is bliss: it's springy, buttery, and so, so soft. Working with this yarn is such a textile delight that I would probably sleep with it if it asked me. As the lace emerged, the colours made me think of the blue sky over the desert, hence the name.

And the pattern was fun, too: I have, in the past, found myself working on socks out of obligation, searching for the groove that I see so many other bloggers getting into with their socks. And this time, I found it. Cookie A's Monkeys, worked from the toes-up. I have decided I love toe-up socks; they make a lot of sense to me and seem like the best way of making socks. The short row heel was a delightful pirouette, and has, for a change, provided enough space for one to slide one's foot into the sock -- I've had trouble with short row heels before, where they've been far too tight. Not these babies.

As well as being a delight (a bliss) to knit, these socks have brought a little drama and excitement with them. Readers who have been paying attention will have realised that these are the very socks that M became involved in, during the fateful incident involving a needle and the fleshier parts of his foot. These are socks baptised with blood.

And so, they have been bundled up into a little paper sock sleeve, with a short biography and care instructions, and they will be shortly winging their way towards their new owner, my Mum. She'll love them, I'm certain.

(I had to cast on a pair for myself with the leftover yarn to ensure I could bear to part with these. I don't think this is a problem, provided I don't run out of yarn too soon to complete a pair of footlets for myself. If I do...I'm not above swiping them while Mum's back is turned.)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Cracking the Whip

UFOs, ten-SHUN!

From the right!


Yarn: A gorgeous baby alpaca/silk blend I picked up during our trip to Adelaide last year. Black and soft, soft, soft.

Pattern: Sahara, by Wendy Bernard from Knit and Tonic.

Beautiful design, fantastic sleeves. I can't rave enough about those sleeves; that sleeve cap (pictured, poorly, right) is genius. Body completed; one and a half sleeves and the lace neckline remain. My Sahara isn't going to be as deliciously slinky as the ones pictured on Stitch Diva, but it's going to be soft and floaty.

Fell to the back of the queue when a jaunt to wintry Europe demanded scarves, gloves and hats galore. Then got shoved in a bag and into the stash cupboard when I needed to tidy the knitting shelf. Here's a close-up of the hem:
It was a grand day when I discovered the macro function on my little camera.

Purple Olive

Yarn: Paton's Merino Supreme, in Eggplant

Pattern: The Olive Branch Yoga Hoodie. (It's the green one at the top).

Not sure where the Yoga comes into it, unless it's the cabled symbol on the back. If that's the case, where does the Olive Branch come into it? Doesn't matter. Gorgeous pattern, and an easy knit; easy to fit to size, too, since it's knit from the hood down.

Hood and most of the sleeves completed (sleeves haven't been cast off, because I'm not sure what I'm going to do with them -- also I may narrow them if I get desperately low on yarn again.

I've been pretty good with this one; lost momentum when I got sick and again when I ran low on yarn and got too scared to keep knitting it in case I ran out and had to face frogging the hood (which I've said I'd do all along, if I ran out of wool...I really don't want to). Now that I've received a yarn infusion, and I'm not really sick anymore, there's nothing stopping me charging ahead.

Desert Monkeys

Yarn: Jojoland Quartette, from eBay

Pattern: Cookie A's Monkeys

Oh, how I love these socks. We won't go over all that again, you can go back and read the post if you want. But I love love love them. One sock completed, the second sock simply requiring three more pattern repeats, ribbing and a kitchener cast off. I hope to have them finished by this weekend, which will require an evening of sitting and working diligently. I'm sure I can carve that out somewhere. I'm not even going to post more photos of them, because I know you can look at the previous posts on the matter.

Company AT EASE!

I feel pretty good getting this list down, since it makes me realise I'm a bit more on top of things than I feel. I really want to finish both Sahara and the Purple Olive, because they're awesome patterns and I want the finished products. (Oops, I just remembered there's one more project in the UFO brigade, but I'm not going to blag about because it's a gift for someone -- but there's a looong way to go on that one. That one mayn't even survive to adulthood. Ergo, it doesn't count.) So it's time to push on and finish these puppies; get them off the needles and into the world, and make room for some new projects that I'm trying not to get distracted by.

Time to crack the whip.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Amateur Cocktail Hour(s)

I found a can of passionfruit pulp in the fridge tonight, and that can only mean one thing: amateur cocktail hour! Vodka, Cointreau, lemon juice and passionfruit pulp, shaken roughly over ice cubes and strained into a glass. Perfect. I didn't put lemon juice in the first one, but M tasted it and swiftly identified its single failing: absence of lemon. So the second one was vastly superior.

I'm pretty sure the passionfruit pulp was left over from the Pavlova Incident over Christmas, so I cracked it open. I only use about a teaspoonful in my cocktails, so I'm not quite sure what to do with the rest. Perhaps some sort of delicious breakfast is in order? Passionfruit pancakes, perhaps with lemon curd? Maybe a passionfruit souffle? Actually, that sounds pretty freaking sweet. Hmm, maybe some passionfruit cupcakes for morning tea at work on Friday? So many choices!

Tonight the mood was upon me to bake cakes and muffins and similar tasty, fluffy items. But I hardly eat them. I wouldn't like to say never, but it wouldn't be too inaccurate. I appreciate cakes and whatnot, I just don't want to eat them. Biscuits, brownies and other cakey treats tend to fall into the same category, and it's a real shame, because I love cooking them. They're simple and satisfying to make, them make the house smell good, and you can get away with all sorts of experimentation and ingredient substitutions. But they don't do much for me when they're done cooking. I tend to only make them when I need to take something (like to a work morning tea, or a lunch with family).

I restrained myself and didn't bake anything. It was a near thing, though: I had to promise myself that I would bake the passionfruit cupcakes for Friday morning tea, tomorrow night. I'm really looking forward to it, actually. I think I'll make some ratatouille as well, since I feel the psychological need for a hearty hot meal, but not really the physical need, if you catch my weighty drift.

Outclassed by my yarn.

A present? For me? How delightful! My yarn arrived from o'er the seas -- traveling first class, no less!

The first class bag of yarn that arrived for me was a result of my panic regarding running out of yarn for Purple Olive. I did a search on Ravelry's Yarns database, and found another Raveler who had a single ball, in my colour, available for sale or trade. A few messages and a PayPal purchase later, and a lone ball of Purple-Olive-to-be was winging its way towards me by the end of the following day.

Good ol' Ravelry. I know I'm hardly the first person to mention that site, but seriously; I mean seriously. That's an awesome site. Jess and Casey, the couple who kicked the whole thing off, have clearly got brains and business sense, and they've created a magnificent tool for knitters and crocheters all over the Interweb. Every time I discover something new about it, it blows my mind all over again. Those guys deserve bags and bags of success.

I can never work out if the best bit is cataloguing all my stuff, or the groups, or the patterns database, or the yarns database...there's just so much to it that it's incredible.

Sunday, May 11, 2008


So, the other night, I posted about the vibrant, glorious success of the Desert Monkey socks. Remember? Do you need a minute to go back and read that post, so we can all recall how happy I was with the whole thing?

So I cast on the second sock. Had the toe completely worked, and had just begun to work the lace pattern over the instep. I left it on the floor while I had my dinner.

M came in, carrying a delicious bowl of hot pumpkin soup for me. He gasped, stumbled, and held up a foot with a DPN embedded inches deep.

See that bend in the DPN there? That's the part that was inside his foot. It's a miracle he didn't hit any arteries or tendons or something.

He took care of the removal of the DPN while I looked away, and I gathered gauze (I did a first aid course a year or two ago, and have a weirdly huge supply of gauze on hand) and tamped it onto his poor, abused foot to stem the bleeding. There was a lot of blood at first, but then it stopped, so we decided not to go to Emergency; we cleaned it up, disinfected it and put a fresh wad of gauze down and I bandaged his foot.

I feel awful. My poor, croissant-baking housemate. I keep offering to make tea and fluff pillows. I know it's not like I stabbed him myself, but I still kind of feel responsible. Sorry M.

Collateral damage: the DPN he had wedged into his foot was a live needle, with 16 merry stitches that suddenly found themselves orphaned. I was able to rescue them, although the use of gauze was not required for that first aid. The second Desert Monkey continues unhindered, although I feel a little guilty for how much I love it, considering all the blood loss it caused.

Sock Love

This is the best sock I've ever knitted. Nothing about them went wrong. The toe is smooth and snug, the pattern gorgeous, and the bind-off elastic and springy. They're magnificent. I couldn't take a picture of them on my feet that would do justice to how excellent these puppies are, so you get a rumpled, tousled 'on-the-needles' look instead. Kinda sexy, no?

I don't think that's overstating the matter, although I could be jinxing things by discussing the matter out loud. Due to some pretty rad dedication on my part, the first sock was finished by Sunday morning, the ribbing finished while M brought another hot batch of croissants out of the oven for his family to celebrate Mothers' Day.

I secretly hoped these socks would be ready as a Mothers' Day present, even though I haven't seen my particular mother today. (Hi Mum!)

They're perfect in every way. My Mum has the same sized foot as me, so I tried them on as I went. The pattern is actually based on Cookie A's Monkeys, but the combination of toe-up and the yarn I'm using kinda changes the impact of the pattern. That's okay, though, because I think it still looks pretty good. I'm calling them Desert Monkeys; the colourway makes me think of the desert and the broad blue sky.

I can't believe how much I love these socks. I've already weighed the yarn to estimate if I'll have enough for a pair of footlets for me when I'm finished Mum's socks (I will). That short row heel at the back there is a work of art, ART I tell you! I've had some bad luck with short row heels, where the heel is too snug to even slide up the foot or is twisted weirdly to one side. But not this baby. Seriously, the pictures don't do this sock justice. It's soft (20% cashmere, that's how soft), springy and light, with excellent stitch definition and colours that glow in the sunlight. I couldn't ask for more for a present for someone as lovely as my Mum. I'm not sure she reads the blag, so I'm going to write up a little scroll or sock casing with the sock's biography, raving over its many virtues and urgently reminding her that it must be hand-washed.

One of my Mum's finest qualities is that she appreciates handmade gifts. An avid and extremely talented seamstress herself, she knows the tears and love that go into a handcrafted accomplishment. I know she'll take the time to hand-wash the cashmere lace socks I've knitted her, and she'll love them every time she slips them on. Onya Mum, and thanks for all the fish.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Make with the socks, already!

There are some really, really awesome socks out there, and I can't understand why I don't knit more of them. After all, socks are great: they're useful and comfortable, and hand-knit socks keep my chilly feet far warmer than any of the cheapo cotton ones that currently line my drawer. There's such a massive range of patterns available that I hardly know where to start, and if I don't want to choose a pattern, there are so many self-patterning yarns that I needn't bother.

My stash is full of sock yarns, my skills are up to the challenge, and I have half a dozen pairs of KnitPicks' delicious slippery DPNs in sock sizes. So what's wrong with me?

I'm probably one of the few people who has sock disasters. Too big, heel in a weird place (on top of the instep, for example, or maybe halfway up the thigh?), too small, too difficult to actually put on, too long, too...pooling weirdly. I've actually had sock setbacks.

I'm not about to dwell on these. Today I cast on (using Judy's Magic Cast On, the only one I can bear to use) a pair of socks. First time in months, and months, and months. I love to work my socks toe-up, since I can try them on as I go.

Interesting (or not) facts about these socks:
  • I won the yarn on eBay. I was the only person who bid, but I consider it a win and celebrated accordingly.
  • The yarn is 20% cashmere, which is about as much decadence as I can bear for socks at this time of life.
  • Judy (of cast on fame, see above) was my third word. We had a beautiful orange cat called Judy, and after "Mummy" and "Daddy", my third word was "Judy", which was usually sung out as "Ju-dy, Ju-dy, Ju-dy". I still miss her.
  • Judy is also the name of one of my favourite cartoonists, Judy Horacek.
Those are all the facts I have about these socks at this time. Hopefully more will come to light as I work on them.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Stuff it!

Dolmades, oh-oh!
Cantare, whoa-oh-oh-oh!

I made stuffed vine leaves last night, which were fantastic. I'm beginning to suspect I'm awesome, although after M's croissants on Sunday morning, it's hard to say (I think he's set the bar, you know what I'm saying?).

Anyway, yes, vine leaves. We bought a packet of them in brine a few months ago, and they were still preserved and still tasty, so I thought "I'll do that". It was a lot of fun, and I regret not taking more pictures of the process in order to adequately convey their (and my) awesomeness. On the other hand, they're not that photogenic. First you have a big pot of cooked, spiced rice; then you have a pot full of stuffed vine leaves; so photos are hard to make the whole affair look appetising.

bethini's awesome-stuffed leaves
  1. chop up a brown onion. Seek help as necessary. Fry the onion in quite a lot (about a 1/4 cup) of good olive oil. After the onion starts to look pretty and translucent, throw in around 2/3 of a cup of short-grain rice. I used arborio because that's all we had and also because I'm awesome.
  2. While the onion and rice are sizzling, add some salt and pepper, some cayenne pepper, some ground cumin and cardamom, a teensy bit of cinnamon, some finely chopped (or minced) coriander and mint, and some pine nuts and raisins. By now, your rice and onion should be hissing fiercely, and if you're anything like me, you're awesome and you're not going to stand for that. Deglaze with a splash of white wine and top up with about a cupful of water. Let it simmer until all the water's absorbed -- you're not trying to cook the rice here, just get things started.
  3. Wrap! I haven't the faintest idea on the actual process of stuffing the leaves. Use a generous teaspoonful of the rice mix, and aim to wrap the vine leaf around it into a fat cigar parcel, with ends tucked in. Then let me know the best way of doing it. It must be hard, because I'm awesome and I'm still not sure on the best method.
  4. Get a nice big saucepan and line it with vine leaves. Place all your little cigar packages into the saucepan, packing them quite tightly and each one resting on top of its 'seam' where you rolled it up -- that helps them seal. When you've got them all in there, add about a cup of water, a generous squirt of lemon juice and about half a cup of olive oil. Grab a breadplate and squish it down on top of them all, and then cover and bring to a simmer.
  5. Simmer for about an hour, and in the meantime, do something awesome.
  6. Turn off the heat: ideally, you want to let them sit for a fair while, in order for the awesomeness to truly soak in, but we ate ours right away.
I made some baba ganoush and some yoghurt sauce (although I don't think I can truly call it tzatziki because I didn't actually have any cucumbers in it, which is part of my awesomeness), and served up some crumbled goat's cheese and feta in little bowls. Plus I had some hummus and beetroot dip lying around the fridge, so I pulled those onto the table as well: some hot bread and voila! Awesome!

They really were tasty, and I will probably make them again sometime. Maybe next time I've got something on where I want to show everyone how awesome I am.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Dis. Aster.


Spent the day working on Purple Olive, which is going beautifully thank you very much. I'm a bit worried the sleeves are going to be a little baggy after the elbow, so I haven't cast them off. But I was tidying the stash today, and happened to pull out the bag containing all my Purple-Olive-To-Be yarn, and...
...bugger. That's a ball and a half, and I've still got the entire lower body -- that is, everything after the armpits -- to do.

Luckily, I found some skerricks of yarn in some old swatches; I've unravelled them and washed them. They'll be ready to work up tomorrow. And I've found someone on Ravelry who has a single ball for sale, so hopefully I can get my hands on one last ball. If the worst comes to it, I'll unravel the hood and turn it into a collared, zip-up jacket rather than a hoodie.

Making croissants

Guess what we did this weekend? I'll give you a hint: ooh la la! We is cooking French-style!

M has been indulging in the preparation of croissants, from the ground up. Inspired by some Food Safari, and VideoJug's How To Make Croissants, M was charged for some French cuisine. We're even tossing around an exciting word that begins with S and rhymes with 'oof-lay'.

So, croissants: they begin life as flour and lots of yeast, and other assorted things. After the dough has risen, that's where the butter comes into things. It's like the dough does all the work, and then the butter sashays along with its awesome taste and softness to make things magical.

One of the special things is that you take a huge lot of butter and roll it out between two layers of Glad Wrap and make it into a huge butter-rectangle. Then you lay it in the middle of the flat dough and fold it around the butter like a loving parcel. And roll it out nice and flat again, and wrap up and pop in the fridge for half an hour. Then you take it out, fold it up into thirds and roll it out flat again. You do this a few times, in order to get heaps of thin layers of pastry and butter. The first time, when you wrap the pastry around the butter-tangle, you've got a layer of pastry, then a layer of butter, then a layer of pastry. After you let it rest in the fridge, you take it out and turn it around ninety degrees, then fold it up into thirds again. Then you've got, what, nine layers? Pastry, butter, pastry, pastry, butter...well, you get the drift. And then you do all that again, and you end up with heaps of thin layers of butter and pastry. Yummo. Then let it rest in the fridge overnight.

Then, all things going as planned, you roll it out very very very flat and cut out triangles of pastry, which get rolled up into croissants and left to rise for a while. And then. And then. And then baked into rosy, flaky, moist delicious pastries.

So, this morning, M arose at approximately 7am, which is quite early for a Sunday, and prepared these babies:

Those are the soon-to-be-croissants, having a little rise before they get baked. They're puffing up beautifully, getting plump and tasty. And then it's straight into a hot oven and baked for breakfast.

You know when they're ready.

This is our Sunday morning breakfast table, as prepared by M.

There are not words for how flaky, soft, buttery and perfect freshly-made croissants are. I'm reluctant to compare them to the ones we had in Paris, but believe me, these would be worth a 25-hour flight to enjoy. They were perfect heaven.

I have way more photos of these babies. Close ups, glistening with butter and heat, ready to be munched on; ready to be split and filled with jam or cheese. Oh, my,yes.

In fact, I'm going to show you these photos, and you're going to be so jealous:

Fresh and hot.

With fillings on standby.

Sunday breakfast. Oh yes.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Grand Dyeing Adventure: Part 3

What, you thought this was over? We have hardly brushed the surface! I don't know what seized me with such passion for changing the colours of things, but there we have it; it turns out there's a lot to document here.

Peach-before-dyeing-3So, when we last left our intrepid dyer (me) we had finished the first round of dye on Peach Twist. That's her on the left, before any of this began. A lengthy soak in green dye resulted in...what? Yes, you up the back: that's right, nothing! So, that left us (me) with the conclusion that what we were dyeing was not an animal fibre, but either a plant or man-made fibre. There's probably all sorts of complicated reasons as to why this fibres work differently with dyes, but I don't know what they are. I thought to myself, I thought: bethini my girl, you're going to need something a little more hardc0re for this stuff. A rendezvous later, and I had in my hot little hands some Dylon dye, in a muted forest green.

Perfect. So I got the dye pot out, grabbed a pair of disposable chopsticks for stirring, and set to work. Was Dylon always this fiddly? I don't remember having to dissolve shit separately and add salt and what-have-you. Oh well, let's persevere. Give it plenty of time - a few hours, really.
Dudes, you can totally tell where this is going already. I'm not even going to explain it all to you. It's so freaking ugly. Yep, that's it there on the right. A hideous combo of khaki and peach that I can barely stomach.

Wanna see a close up? Don't be deceived by the soft lighting in this pic, this is a seriously unattractive yarn. Take a moment to cast your eyes back up to the top of this post, and drink in the pleasant loveliness of Peach Twist before I started dickering about with dyes and gloves and mordants and whatever-the-hell-else is up with dyeing.

Peach-after-close I just don't know what to do. It's so freaking ugly and I have three balls of it. If I could get my mitts on some hardc0re acid dyes, I'd give that a whirl. Seriously, I'm getting in way over my head here.

You'd think this would put me off dyeing, wouldn't it? I can't wait to do more. My mum has loads of catalogues from suppliers of craft stuff (she works in a childcare centre) and has promised to obtain me some Edicol, a thick, concenctrated food dye. I'm looking forward to getting my fingers dirty with that stuff, oooh yes. I'm thinking about trying to get hold of some white or cream superwash wool, and have a bash at striping, or even just mottling or variegating. I think I know how it's done. I think.

Meanwhile, what colour did I intend Peach Twist to be? Peach-dyeing-tiesHere's a shot of the skein ties I used, resting against the gentle background of some white Cascade 220. It's pretty, isn't it? Kind of like late spring in the heart of the forest or something. And then you see what Peach Twist became and think "well, I seriously screwed up right there".

Still, I don't think it's all my fault. Well, it is, but not like that. I mean, it's out of ignorance: the Peach in the Peach Twist is clearly not dye-taking-up, and if I had ball bands for any of it, I'd probably have been able to estimate how it was going to react to dyeing. But I just plunged straight in to see what would happen. It was a lot of fun, though. And one day, I'll set Peach Twist right.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Random Wednesday!

{Random 1}

I had a flu shot on Monday, and it's knocked me about a bit. One of the things you're supposed to learn with Addison's is to support your immune system consciously. Normally, after a vaccination, your immune system starts chugging away, making the required antibodies to make you immune to whatever your shot was against -- in order to this, it needs a little extra cortisol. The adrenals normally step up to the plate on this one and provide, but mine are stuffed and I have to take extra tablets. I didn't yesterday, and consequently drifted through the day like an irritable noodle.

Today I managed to pull it together and took some extra, and I feel much more alert and useful, but generally cranky. As if it's an insult for people to dream of asking my help (or, you know, expect me to do my job or make my own lunch) when I should really be getting on with...well, I don't know. Staring at the keyboard, there's a job that needs doing.

So! A random post! I wasn't sure how long I'd hold out in the blog department before I resorted to one of these, so that's that question answered (churning through 'em!).

{Random 2}

My Bendigo Wool Mills order arrived, huzzah! This was awesome: following the shocking realisation that I didn't have that much yarn (shut up) available for whim and impulse, I made a few sizable purchases. My Cascade 220 order we've already admired, and now it's the turn of my Bendigo Babies. Look at those balls! Massive! I love those big balls! (That should scare up a few more Google search results.) There's between 800 and 1000 metres of each colour, so that's enough for some little, snug-fitting sweaters for yours truly, which is nice.

I love it when Internet shopping arrives. I love it even more if it arrives one afternoon, after a tiring day at work, the house is just starting to warm up and the Autumn wind is blowing...

{Random 3}
Now that Wintergreen has made her triumphant debut, I'm realising that a scarf does not a winter wardrobe make. I needs me some woolly tops! And that means it's time to turn my attention back to the Purple Olive, who has been resting while I waited for the appropriate DPNs for the sleeves to arrive. And now they're here, and Purple Olive sleeves are zooming ahead.

I'd forgotten how buttery soft this yarn was, how deliciously smooth plain stockinette is, and how springy and light this hoodie will be when I'm done. Feeling the love.

{Random 4}

Turning my thoughts to socks: there's a lot of sexy sock patterns out there, and I'm not knitting enough of them. I suspect this is part of my recent "I don't own any handknit garmets! Holy CRAP how did that happen?!" moment, because the fact is I am wearing through my cheap socks at a rate of knots, and I would like some woolly goodies for cold toesies.

{Random 5}

I am craving sushi like there is no manana. Unfortunately, in order to obtain said sushi, I have to either (a) go into Woden plaza, which is a personal purgatory; or (b) walk to the shops in my lunchbreak. That's been out of the question this week (see Random 1) and so my life is still, tragically, sushi-less. Sometimes life is so, so hard.

{Random 6}

Today is the first day since I got sick that I'll be doing this:

And I'm a bit nervous. I haven't touched her for nearly 9 weeks, and I'm feeling her reproachful glances.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


May I present: Wintergreen! (Modelled here on the ever-photogenic Mozart.)

This is probably the fastest thing I've ever completed. It's beautiful. I cast on Thursday afternoon, worked pretty steadily on it over the ANZAC Day long weekend -- a day of loafing about with my parents followed by a day of loafing about with M's parents turns out to be the ideal knitting scenario -- and finished it Monday night. I love her to pieces; she's so soft and light and fluffy on my neck. She doesn't itch, doesn't shed and doesn't go all saggy looking.

When I first cast on, I was a little hesitant, because the yarn looked like it was going to stripe terribly, so much so that it would be a defining characteristic. "Can you pass me my green scarf?" I'd say, and my friends would say "Oh, you mean the stripey one?" But it all came out nicely in the end, didn't it?

I haven't blocked her yet, because I badly, badly wanted to wear her today and feel warm and cheerful at work.

FO Report

Pattern: My So-Called Scarf -- I like this pattern; very simple and easy to memorise, but very effective.

Yarn: A handspun merino I picked up at the Gorman House Markets in March. It was a warm, sticky day and I was eating gelati; the cool greens appealed. Now they remind me of spring.

Mods: Yarn substitution. Thought about a fringe, then decided there was enough happening visually without it.

As a bonus, to celebrate Wintergreen's completion, I present an essay in pictures called The Life of the Centre-Pull Ball.




Old Age: