Wednesday, 30 May 2007
But these boots were a complete ripper. You open them and slip the foot in through an velcro opening in the back. Couldn't be easier. When these wore out I looked in vain for a larger size. It was the idea of copying these shoes in a larger size that first prompted me to buy a whole hide of purple leather. And we all know how that turned out.
After my recent successes in felt I'm thinking of pulling out those leather scraps and giving these a go for Wil. I think they'll look rather fetching on a primary plastic low rider, don't you?
But right now I'm hot on knitting. This vest is just a delight, so practical and soft and I love the colours. I was worried about having enough wool so I knitted it too small so I'm rushing to get out another in a larger size as quick as I can. I am finding it a very practical and stylish garment for this time of year, and loving the way I can use up all those bits of yarns that are hanging around and making my stash look so much more indulgent than it really is.
Pattern - Bob from Rowan Junior
Yarn - Zara scraps, a total of 62 gms
Size - As I was using a lighter yarn and smaller needles (4mm instead of 5mm) I knitted the 1-2 year size in stitch count, but the 6-12 month size for length. It just fits Wil at 4 months.
Variations - I knitted both the arm and neck bands in the round after finishing.
And people? I'm still waiting on some sock pattern recommendations. I suck at toe grafting so I figure it's time I try toe up.
And I've got to say I was thrilled with the responses to that last post. Of course I understand the millions of reasons why people don't comment and I wasn't meaning to try and put the proverbial gun to the head or anything. I appreciate especially those of you who braved it and de-lurked - I wish you'd left me email addresses to thank you personally. It does help to have some idea that you are out there, enjoying what I write and not just visiting because Google told you that if you came here you'd find 'picture of hard to see or weird things' (I kid you not).
But I remain interested in the question of what it is in a blog that invites comment. And of course my interest extends beyond the blog and into the realm of life - why some lives invite others in and others just sit and get observed or admired from afar. I've turned to this question more than once over the years so your thoughts are always welcome.
Last and likely least
number 7. From over here. I've run out of stuff to say about Anzacs for now. These are good, but there's only so many things you can say about a biscuit.
Saturday, 26 May 2007
Meaghan's comment on a few posts ago solidified this thought in my mind. As did a recent post I read somewhere (where was it? if it was you, please tell me!) where the blogger said she was always being asked how she fitted so much in and she said there's no secret, she does stuff when she can and doesn't take photos of the mess she leaves behind. Or words to that effect.
I can only agree. I'd add in that a lot of the fun stuff I do is done whilst sitting on the couch watching TV. I don't take time out from gainful activity, it just means that if I'm watching Lost, it only gets about 40% of my attention. Which really is all it deserves.
And I believe that any old day holds lots of little snippets of unused time. Having a stack of projects waiting to go and having tools and materials easily accessible allows those snippets of time to be made use of. I used to pack my sewing machine away into a cabinet, but then I almost never got to use it because of the time it took to get ready to do something. Now it lives out on a table so I can use it anytime. Of course, to make space I have the table in my wardrobe, and I often sew standing up, but I definitely sew more.
I used to work for a really fabulous high-powered career woman who also happened to be a very devoted mother of two young boys. I've never met anyone before or since who has done such an amazing job of fitting in both. And doing both well. When she was interviewed by some people for an article they asked her something banal like the secret of her success and without missing a beat she said good storage. I think they thought she was joking, but we knew she was completely serious. The ability to find and get stuff quickly and easily allowed her to really use her time to do rather than prepare to do.
I'd add that I also let myself do some stuff badly, or not at all, to make space for the stuff I love and the stuff that makes me feel happy at the end rather than grumpy for wasting my time on it.
So just to let you know I do not have access to some great big secret here's a list of just some of the stuff I do badly or not at all.
- Cook consistently. We eat a lot of take out food and spend a lot of time in cafes and pubs.
- Remember where I read stuff in blogland and I don't do the necessary research to work it out.
- Stay in touch with blogs. Sometimes I just look at the pictures. And sometimes I don't even do that.
- Clean. I don't even own a working vacuum cleaner except a dinky dust buster.
- Iron. Except when I am sewing of course.
- Sleep. I am an insomniac and have been since I was in primary school.
- Drive. I haven't put in the time and energy to conquer my fears and learn...please if there is a secret on this, I'm all ears. Just so you know I can't ride a bike either.
- Parent strategically and selflessly. I yell and nag a lot more than I should and let stuff happen that I shouldn't.
- Say please and thank you and make polite small talk.
- Think about my appearance or stuff to improve it.
- Crop and touch up photos.
- Do things for other people I really don't want to do, if I can get away with it (though I will gladly and generously do stuff for other people when it suits me).
- Always answer the phone, and if I do and it's a stranger wanting my money or brain space I (politely) say no really fast and hang up.
- Perfect things. 80/20 rule all the way. If I'm half way to disaster I cut my loses, if it's mostly good, it's good enough.
- Feel good enough about myself to think it's OK to just be. Production is a big part of how I justify my existence.
Friday, 25 May 2007
I finally finished my back pack to go with the baby bjorn front pouch. I can now leave the house for a full day of adventure without a pusher have my hands free and be able to get to my wallet and phone with short notice. Not to mention looking super stylish.
I just love Kristen's Mollybirds fabric!
The bag is a variation of the same idea that Amy has used here - she's done a fabulous tutorial but here's a quick run through of how I did mine.
The front and back are two plain rectangles, mine are roughly 30x35cm, but you can use any dimensions you like. I used patterned linen for the front (Mollybirds from Kristen Doran - gorgeous!) and matching plain linen for the back, base and handles. I used a piece of plain stone coloured cotton for the lining (an offmcut from when I turned a flat sheet into the underside of a doona cover).
The base is an oval, but you can use a circle if you don't mind the pack protruding from your back more. I made one that was a guess on size - start bigger, pin on and cut down if necessary. If you are good at math you could probably work it out but I'm not - trial and error all the way! ;-)
I then added interfacing and a single layer or cotton wadding to the base using some decorative stitching.
I made long flat tubes of fabric and sewed them flat with decorative stitching for the handles. Some padding would have been nice but I was trying to keep things simple. Leave the top short end open to add the lacing later.
I inserted the tubes into the side seams of the outer layer, angled up at approximately 45 degrees. and sewed them in. Next I sewed the base to the sides. I used the same steps to sew the lining. I then pressed a turn over around the upper opening of both the inner and outer layers and put the lining inside.
Next I made 10 little loops for the top. I made another long and very thin loop like the handles and cut it into shorter lengths and doubled them over. Pin the loops into the seam between the inner and out layers, leaving the space above the side seams loop free. Run one or two rows of top stitch around the top to secure the loops in place and attach the inner and out layers to each other.
Next choose something for threading the loops shut - I used a very thick cotton webbed shoe lace, but any kind of string, ribbon or cord would do. Cut two lengths, each just long enough to thread through all the loops. Starting at one side seam, thread all the way through the loops and attach the ends into the open end of your handle and sew down. Do the same on the other side.
Of course, you can add pockets and various embellishments inside and out for a more comprehensive version.
And Amy's new beret turned out surprisingly well given that I totally guessed that knitting the large adult size in 4 ply instead of 8 would provide the exact right size for her. Could have been very wrong, but was in fact absolutely right. Thank you oh knit gods. And I love the diamond rib detail!
Pattern: Interweave Knits Tweed Beret (Winter 2006)
Yarn: Cleckheaton bambino merino 4ply - 33gms sans pompom.
Needles: 3.25 dpns
Some lovely gifties for me from the gorgeous and ever generous Justine and from Jade as part of the Flibbertygibbert fabric swap.
And a couple of wee gifties from me
for recipients yet to receive.
Tuesday, 22 May 2007
Don't tell me you thought I had forgotten?
Let me introduce you to #6 It is a bit unfair of me to judge these ones, seeing as how I had them in the oven before I remembered about adding coconut, but judge them I will. I don't care for the addition of cinnamon. I tried, but no. The flavours just didn't blend for me. It was also weird that when I made them a few things happened.
First, the froth thing was frothier than in previous versions. Damn near overflowed onto the bench. Why this time? Perhaps the larger quantity of water? Perhaps the melted ingredients were hotter? Anyway, the whole effect substantially changed the texture of the mix in what I took to be a very good way. Much more aerated. Of course the absence of coconut would have played a part too. They spread in a very satisfactory classic Anzac kind of way and with the longer cooking time were a lovely dark brown and almost crisp. Fresh from the oven were really quite nice. Somewhere between #2 and #3 so both D and I were happy.
But when fully cooled they turned so soft as to seem almost wet again and the cinnamon hint developed much stronger and well, they were really pretty average. So sorry my flour manufacturer, your version gets the boo hoo.
Then on Sunday when we had no bread from breakfast I chucked out a quick damper and regaled Amy with stories of how mummy and daddy used to go bush for long stretches, away from towns and shops and people and even roads sometimes. And how mummy used to make damper on the campfire when there wasn't anything else to eat. But out of the oven it tasted pretty much like a great big scone and made me all sad and nostalgic.
And motivated me to try the no-knead bread I'd read about recently.
When Amy and I discussed our favourite foods while she was tossed up between chocolate and lollies (of course), for me bread was the clear winner. A good solid loaf, moist and fresh, preferably organic. Something with flavour that requires chewing. I could happily consume it for three meals a day. Oh I could go on.
One of the real disappointments of where we live is that the proliferation of bakeries in our vicinity includes not one decent bread maker. They all pump out those light fluffy loaves like you get in the supermarket, with no substance and no flavour. I'd rather eat newspaper.
I've been a long time bread lover. As a kid mum baked our wholemeal bread. For years I baked sour dough loaves almost every week from my home made leaven kept in the back of the fridge and pretty much every year I bake bread for our family Christmas. It's the closest thing to tradition I have. I've made loaves with fresh and dry yeast, using no yeast leavens and partially fermented bigas and with every kind of flour you can buy.
But I've never produced a standard loaf on par with my favourite bakers, such as the genius folk at Irrewarra. I have never made a bread that was like the shop kind in the crumb department. I've made some good bread, but not like them.
Well, now I have. This recipe is a bloody ripper. The proving in between cloths is a tad messy I grant you, but well worth it. And given that I used yeast six months past its use by date I got an excellent rise. Next time I'll use a smaller dish to get a higher narrower loaf, and I will definitely be on the lookout of for a rectangular lidded Pyrex in op-shops for the convenience of our toaster, but either way, this is great bread. Go make some. Really.
In non-baking related news,
I got my favourite top out of the drawer (isn't the screen printing lovely?) and was shocked to discover this had happened to the sleeve. No, we have no pets or wild animals or even mutant giant silverfish in the house. Nor do we have an aggressive dysfunctional top loading washer.
How did this happen, and more frighteningly, how could I have put it away from the wash without noticing??
I just finished this to keep D the builder's head warm.
It's the Monmouth cap, knitted in double strands of Zara wool left over from the cowl I did last month. It took 1.5 balls (75gms).I like the rim up more than down and I hate photographing hats on my own head. I had to mess with the pattern a bit (only 72 stitches) and made a few mistakes (like not slipping the marker each round) but hey. I like it and it's warm.
Now am onto this beret for Amy. 4ply for a hat is MADNESS.
Amy is advertising our drinking habits through her Art. I'm not sure how to respond. Except to admire her creativity and hope to god no psychologist ever gets a hold of and analyses it.
And is anyone else planning on going to the Brunswick wool expo on June 3?
Sunday, 20 May 2007
Come one come all
If you're a blogger and in Melbourne on Sunday June 17, would you like to meet a few other bloggers? The (almost) no rule Meet Me in Melbourne bloggers gathering will be in the Flagstaff Gardens in the afternoon from 2pm onwards in the vicinity of the kids' playground, near the junction of Peel, William and Franklin Streets. You can come in any guise for as long or short a time as you like. BYO picnic paraphernalia if you so desire - perhaps some afternoon tea to share.
The only rule? A name tag with who you are and the name of your blog.
And no excuses, like you don't know anyone or are worried your type of blog won't fit in. It's the perfect opportunity to get in touch with some of your on-line acquaintances and plan to meet up. We all share the desire to connect to each other through our blogs, so I'm sure none of us are too scary in real life.
Of course being Melbourne, the weather is something of a lottery.
Please check on the morning of the meet for latest details and weather contingency plans at any of the following blogs
If you'd like to help us spread the word (even if you can't come in person) please copy and paste this post to your blog. We're working hard to bring you one of those groovy badges so stay tuned.
Thursday, 17 May 2007
But I digress.
Each person tagged gives seven random facts about themselves. Those tagged need to write on their blogs seven facts, as well as the rules of the game. You need to tag seven others and list their names on your blog. You have to leave those you plan on tagging a note in their comments so they know that they have been tagged and need to read your blog.
1. I drink builder's tea. That's strong with one sugar and lots of milk. And I drink a lot of it, but I always go off it when I'm pregnant.
2. I used to look like this
3. I hold my crochet yarn with my right hand and hook it over like I do when I am knitting. There are some people in my life who think this is a perversion on a par with ...well, really unnatural and scary acts.
4. I've just gone back to Tai Chi after a break of quite a few years. It's weird to have a muscle memory just like my post natal short term memory. I constantly feel like I know what the next move is, I just can't summon it to my frontal lobe right now.
5. I don't drive and I can't ride a bike, I'm terrified of flying and I get sea sick. Which would all be fine if I didn't like to travel so much.
6. I've been in a few reasonably high impact car accidents and in a crash landing on a 747, but I haven't been hurt in any of them. The former definitely made me a nervous passenger for a long time, but strangely the latter improved my relationship with planes. A bit.
7. Since I've been old enough to have a say in the matter I've spent most of my life trying to convince hairdressers to cut my hair shorter than they are comfortable with. For a while there I used to cut it at home with clippers. Now that I have grown it half way down my back my daughter describes me as someone who looks like a girl with short hair. Go figure.
I'm tagging the following souls in a very gentle kind of way. No one has to do anything they don't want to.
Wednesday, 16 May 2007
I'm also generally not a fan of knitting cottons and although I liked the look of this project I had my doubts for almost every step of the way. Perhaps I should have used a smaller needle. Perhaps I should have made them smaller. Perhaps I should have made them out of wool. Perhaps it will never soften and stay too scratchy.
I was wrong wrong wrong. Not about the inconvenience of knitting, that was real I tell you, but about my doubts on the garment. A hot wash and a turn in the tumble dryer has totally transformed these into thick soft jeans, exactly the right size. So very glad I (mostly) did as I was told.
Pattern - demin drawstring pants from Last Minute Knitted Gifts, size 3-6 months.
Yarn - Freedom denim shade 102, 2.5 balls, 125gms.
Needles - 4mm circs and dpns. All metal baby.
Pattern variations - I added an itty bitty gusset in the crutch. Not sure if it will make much of a difference, but I just couldn't have back and front the same without a gusset. I think it was only my first or second ever sewing outing that taught be you just can't make pants with matching fronts and backs. People just aren't made that way. Time and wear will tell me more. Also, I added elastic in the waistband for comfort and used a plaited string rather than an I-cord because, quite frankly, I couldn't be fagged.
Monday, 14 May 2007
When Di took this photo of my embroidery floss I figured you might also be envious of this. The sickness.
D's working so hard. He's my hero.
And he, er Wil, got me this for mum's day.I love this project and this one almost makes me contemplate cross-dressing for Wil.
From Amy, a few things you didn't know about me. Nor I about myself if truth be told.
Sunday, 13 May 2007
Please let me know if the blog has gone all wonky, the colours are hard to read or the photos take ages to load.
Mothers day=hosting 2 families in series=more Anzacs. This time Suse's chocolate Anzacs. Please don't bother with the hate mail. I know there is a legitimate point of view that says an Anzac bic can't contain chocolate and shouldn't be without coconut but hell, we needed a change.
Besides the real original Anzacs didn't have oats or golden syrup or coconut or bicarb. So what's in a name I say?
And what do I think of the chocolate kind? Eh. I'm not crazy about chocolate biscuits except the kind that use real chocolate, but within this (admittedly rather fundamental) limitation these are quite good. I am surprised to find I like to combination of oats and cocoa. I'm tempted to try them again and add coconut, since I think coconut and chocolate make excellent bedfellows.
I bought a packet of organic flour on the weekend and it had an Anzac recipe on the back. It's the first I've seen to include cinnamon so that makes ten recipes now, not including the original. It strikes me as kind of spooky that after years of buying the same brand of flour, and every single other packet had a recipe for carrot and walnut cake on it and all of a sudden they're on the Anzac bandwagon. It's copycats all round.
Amy's standing in what is about to become our new shower. Hopefully the garden view will have improved in that time. The floor and framing are starting to lay out some idea of what the space will be.
On the crafty front I chucked this together in a flash on Friday before I flew out the door. When I'm headed out for a day with Wil and I can't take the pram (it doesn't fit on the tram and I don't have a spare grand to chuck away on a fancier one) I somehow have to balance a mighty full handbag over a very unaccommodating shoulder. I've got a backpack planned for carrying the nappies and other paraphernalia, but that's no good for immediate access - the wallet and phone.
I've heard lots of other mothers complain about the lack of pocket on the baby bjorn. And in contrast to the knitting bag, I put almost no time or thought into this. I used scraps I had on hand and put it together in the easiest and fastest possible way (I'm not kidding, 15 minutes max from whoa to go as I was about to run out the door). I figured it could be a prototype before I perfected it but there isn't much I'm not happy about.
It's a rectangle sewn in half with a fold over hem around the top. I threaded two lengths of elastic through the fold over hem in opposite directions and wrapped the ends behind the bjorn front where Wil's arms sit, crossed them over, brought them back out and looped them over the buttons already on the bjorn. I also sewed two elastic loops towards to bottom in the side seams to stabilise the pouch
The elastic in the top of the pouch stops things coming out, but makes things easy to get out. It is unbelievably simple but totally does the job - I can't believe someone hasn't already done this.
And I wanted to post on mothers day about my mum, but time's gotten away from me. Soon.
Oh and yeah, he's still too cute.
Friday, 11 May 2007
I have been visiting this blog post so often I may be mistaken for a stalker. I'm only after your knitting, I swear!
It might be enough to get me over the shudders for old MacDonald.
I have contacted the publisher through their website and back issues are not available. I went to mag nation and missed them sending off their returns by a day. ONE DAY.
So Wil is now finished his fourth trimester and although there isn't much I can point to that marks the milestone, I have to say it feels very much like we're in a new phase. He's definitely more out there than in here.
I hesitate to say anything too positive for fear of jinxing myself, but I feel pretty good about where we're at. Two days this week Wil and I have set out into the big wide world armed only with tram tickets and baby bjorn and a handbag of emergency supplies.
We've had lunch in town where the grown up people are, attended workshops with strangers, breastfed perched on seats without cushions and changed nappies in public change rooms. Both times we've made it home alive.
And we went to kinder with Amy where we were witness to songs and afternoon tea and given gifts with cards which made us (OK, only me) laugh out loud and almost cry with pride (I love you because you tell me the truth, the best thing about you is that you wear pants and I like pants...)
And I looked at Wil and announced he needed to go to bed and D expressed surprise, but I wrapped him up and sure enough off he drifted without complaint.
And hot damn if I haven't felt, for a few moments at least here and there, like a real life bona fide mother. Not in that I have kids hanging off me every moment of the day and there's so much I want to do and I feel exhausted and in dire need of a drink kind of way. More like I think I know what I am doing here, I feel pretty confident we're headed in the right direction and even if the boat is taking on water I don't think we're going to sink.
I can see the distinction between who Wil is and how I am with him. I know that sounds easy but in the hurly burly the lines between mothers and children, or what we do as mothers and how are children are is so often blurred.
Amy is so like me in so many ways that parenting her has too often been about dealing with my own shit. We both talk too much and too loud and are in constant need of the embrace of community. We're both, well, intense, and we both seem helpless to modify that for the benefit of others. We've both just got so much going on, we have our worries and our pride and our insatiable need to make stuff.
Our. Own. Way.
With my first born, the package of first time parenting combined with the experience of parenting myself and the resultant self-reflection has made it very difficult for me to stake out the place in which I am a mother. A place I can fence off and lay some stable foundations and remain confident about what I am doing.
For me mothering has so easily been infected with my doubts about myself, my frustration at not being able to shepherd Amy through the pitfalls I so vividly recall falling into so long ago. Her nature, her needs, could not have been a more difficult challenge for me. Could not have promised more karmic lessons.
And I don't have a problem with that. In theory. Good medicine I am sure.
In reality though I am all too aware that motherhood is a confidence game. A game in which the rules are either hidden or subject to change without notice. Where the goal is obscure, the obstacles frequent and unexpected and the stakes higher than life. Where you have no choice but to play on despite the fear that you can never win and where you must daily pretend to yourself and your children and sundry bosses, colleagues, family members and random strangers that you are not afraid, nay that you are having a good time.
I'm not yet in touch with what Wil has come to teach me in a karmic sense, but for now he seems to be a little voice in my ear that's telling me only good things. Ironically if my parenting of Amy could be defined largely as a battle of wills, my parenting of Wil seems to be defined largely as one of amiability. So far he seems prepared to assist me on my way as much as I am helping him on his.
I am having more than a little trouble getting his smile on camera, which is a shame because a daily dose of it has got me thinking my con is more than a sham.
Who would have thought it?
Thursday, 10 May 2007
I was surprised to see that Janet's recipe for Anzacs was identical to my first one. Seems we both must buy the same brand of coconut.
I like this version, though I think I'm still sold on #3 so far. The extra syrup in this makes them a bit more like #2 - the sticky, chewy, greasy thing is just coming into play. I'm sure the extra coconut carries some of the blame there too. I can really notice the textural difference the extra coconut makes and the lesser quantity of flour - they have definitely lost that cakey feel I got with #3 and are altogether harder.
Suse's comments on the last post has really got me reading and thinking about what it means to become the expert on Anzacs. What started as a folly is becoming a serious project for me. I have drawn up my comparison chart and I am devoting a reasonable degree of brain space to it.
And in part it is because I like being thorough and having a reason to indulge my scary sciencey uptight self, but it is also because it has become an opportunity to learn some answers to bigger questions.
I've never learned much about the science of baking - and don't be mistaken there is considerable science in baking. The reactions of the ingredients to each other, oven temperatures, combining methods and baking times are all elements that change the outcome in cooking. By using all these different recipes which have only slight variances I am getting a feel for what happens when you change the variables one at a time.
If I could be bothered and had the time I'd like to learn more about it and there was a time when I seriously considered becoming a baker in a domain larger than my kitchen. So the thing about this humble little project is I am beginning to learn enough to be able to extrapolate some of what I am learning. And, for me at least, there is no learning like doing.
With only four of my (so far) eight recipes tested, I am getting excited about learning more. I've even decided I'd like to go back and try #1 again since I think I buggered them up be using a fan forced oven setting. I'm also going to try both Suse's coconut free and chocolate versions. Hell I might even be tempted to try the original Anzac recipe - even though it looks completely unappetising.
And what began as perhaps the most attractive aspect of this whole project - the eating - is rapidly becoming more of a chore than doing the washing up afterwards. So I think I might start halving recipes, or I might just become an expert in something I can no longer bear to look at...
Oh and a note on the recipe archives - each photo contains the full recipe. If you click on the full size photo you should be able to read each one. If not please let me know!
Monday, 7 May 2007
Well Anzac #3 gets my vote so far, though D begs to differ (he's in favour of #2) and Amy's just happy that I'm keeping up supply of ANY Anzacs.
Brown sugar is a clear winner for me over the regular white kind and in this recipe the lesser quantity makes them much less sweet. I think the extra water and less coconut also contribute to what I like about them. I'm wondering too if the minor methodological divergence is making a difference - mixing the water with the butter and syrup and then adding the bi-carb to the whole lot. I must consult a chemist...
They are almost cakey once the fresh baked outside crispness has softened. They may in fact be perfect. Perhaps more oats?
Now I'm adding the recipe from here to the list, so now there's 5. Can't believe none of you have added yours to the bandwagon!
And to Shula, who pointed out the obvious to us all, yeah OK, you're right. Leopards don't change their spots, but I can dream...