Sunday, 24 April 2011


new boots
I'm feeling especially grateful for the Easter break this year. So many school holidays are a juggle of maintaining regular obligations plus having kids to amuse and increasingly I'm taking my work breaks in bite size chunks to plug holes in the caring roster. And it seems like every 'big' holiday we plan gets delayed or abandoned altogether for one reason or another.

So at the end of two weeks of school holidays and Amy coming to work with me to go to vacation care, I decided to take a wee road trip. I packed a few small craft tasks suitable for working on at a kitchen table whilst talking one's head off, a change of clothes and a jar of home made jam and the girl child and I set off.

Now I'm new enough to driving that such a venture, while not exactly terrifying is still a bit of a stretch. I am very conscious, in some ways even more so now than when I very first took to the wheel a few years ago, that driving and the freedom it affords is an enormous privilege but also a responsibility. But everything went smoothly, and even a major rain band that took away all visibility and pushed and pulled the car about was managed.

As we headed north the temperature started to drop and by the time Ms Ric Rac opened her door to welcome us in to her lovely home it was bloody freezing outside. Just perfect for appreciating a large array of hand knits. All at the same time. And wishing our car had a heater, or was at least a little draft proof.

We got to meet the whole Ric Rac clan, four legged, winged and stuffed creatures included, who all generously shared their space with good humor (except the cats who definitely would have been happier if we'd stayed home). There was delicious cake and tea, the completion of the fourth row on the retro blanket, some of Tania's Easter chicks, a finger puppet or two and some more rows on the grapevine.
grapevine wip

And through all this, the girl child behaved in a way that made me not only proud but finally able to imagine a time when she will be less a responsibility and more company. She stitched (like a pro!) and wandered in the garden, ate cake and had nice manners and told funny stories and was generally both self sufficient and entertaining. As much as you can hope for from any friend.

And Jodie and I talked and laughed in that relaxed and warming way that friends do, the way that makes you feel very lucky indeed to have others share the journey. Especially when they bring the cake and some black felt to replace a tiny finger puppet wing somehow lost along the way. So nice to be hosted it must be said, made me feel a bit princess like.

On Saturday we headed off to Daylesford for the Makers Market, along with approximately 50,000 tourists who clogged the roads, ate all the good bread before we could get to the bakery and sat on all the cafe seats. Really, it was so extraordinarily busy I was quite aghast. But we valiantly pressed on, allowing stall holders to greet Jodie loudly, press wee chocolate eggs in the girl's hand (the privilege of being cute) and tempt me with beautiful handspun yarn. (Already on its way to becoming a looped cowl).
A very satisfying holiday (thank you so much Jodie!!), it felt like a real break and on the drive home I kept thinking blergh, work tomorrow then Oh! Yay! No work tomorrow! So instead I thought about the to do list while the girl child played DJ with the iPad.

new boots
First up, there's wearing in of new boots to be done. Hard and important work. Mostly to establish beyond doubt that they were not 50% off because they are hideously uncomfortable or otherwise stupid.

There's 2 new long sleeve Ts for the bloke to sew. I'm keen to get these done quickly and well. Its a fairly new thing for D to ask for clothes, especially the sort of everyday wear he'd normally pop out and get on his own and I figure if I can deliver it will give him renewed respect for the whole making not buying thing, not to mention feel more inclined to pick up the domestic slack if I am off doing stuff that's just for him. And a quick win before the long hard yards of the upcoming hand knit hoodie may do me well by the making gods.

I am awaiting the arrival of yarn for said hoodie, and while normally I would be literally hanging off the letterbox in anticipation I am keen to get at least one or two things off the needles before I start another since I am the kind of knitter who prefers monogamy and find that when I stray I am haunted by a low level anxiety I simply can't shake. Between the blanket, the long suffering Ishbel, the loopy cowl and the grapevine I just can't imagine space for a new project, let alone a great big blokey hooded thing. In yellow. So I am knitting and plan to keep knitting. Lots.

I've also been thinking about a new cardi style wrap for myself made out of some of the really exciting new 'aspen' fabric from Tessuti. How is that RED?! LOVE. It's really similar to the hotwire I made tops with last year But I need time to experiment to really make the most of it.


And I need to seam and perhaps play about with the machine knit vest I knocked out before I went away. I'm not sure the gauge is as I thought, or my math may be bad, but this is perhaps a tad large and odd. The colour is also a major leap for me, but a little challenge to my colour palette may be well overdue.

There's also hot cross buns to make, left over roast to be turned into shepherd's pie, a manky fridge to clean and restock and more than a little tidying needed in the workroom. Oh and children to amuse.

So, right. To it.

Monday, 18 April 2011



Stir fried chicken with cashew nuts like pad thai is one of those Thai dishes you see in every take away and tourist cafe. It can be bland and soggy, like the worst kind of Chinese food. But at it's best it's a lovely mellow dish, quick to make and easy to eat, well complimented by some steamed or stir fried greens or a crunchy cabbage salad.


You can take this dish from completely chili free right up to chili laden, depending on your preference. With kids in tow I usually make this dish with capsicum rather than chili, then toss in a few whole dried chilies which don't really add heat, just flavor and are easily avoided by the smalls. If I had miraculously cryogenically frozen the kids I'd use loads of fresh mild green and red chilies (or a moderate amount of the hotter kind cut in smaller slivers) as well as a handful of the dried kind.


The whole dish is greatly improved by using fresh roasted cashews. Stale nuts are a blight on the kitchen and since the nuts are a central ingredient here it's important they taste good. If you buy them unroasted (or if you like them extra crisp) toss them in a dry pan till they are nicely browned just before you start cooking. It is fine to use salted nuts.

Stir fried chicken with cashews

2 tbs peanut oil

1 onion, sliced

3 or 4 cloves of garlic, smashed or roughly chopped (not too fine!)

400gms of sliced boneless, skinless chicken - I prefer thigh but breast works well too

Sliced or diced capsicum or chili or a mix of both - say half each red and green capsicum or 2 large mild chilies or 2 small hot chilies

4 or 5 spring onions cut in 3cm lengths

3-4 dried whole chilies

2 tbs oyster sauce

2 tbs soy sauce

2 tbs water or chicken stock (if required)

1/4 cup roasted cashews

Heat the wok on high then add the oil and then the onion and garlic. Toss briefly until garlic starts to brown.


Add chicken and stir until browned.

Add capsicum and/or fresh chili and toss for a minute or two.


Add spring onions, dried chilies, sauces and a little stock or water if you like more moisture. Mix well until sauce is boiling.

Remove from heat and toss cashews through.


All photos in this post kindly supplied by Ellen!

Saturday, 16 April 2011


Whilst doing my best to follow the rules, I have been furiously making in the slivers of time that work and school holidays allow. The making is most definitely for sanity as well as practicality in a house of rapidly growing children and rapidly approaching cold weather.

i like traffic lightsi like traffic lightsi like traffic lights
The hoodie for Wil which started as a 'rainbow' jumper and was downgraded to a 'traffic lights' jumper is done. The boy seems pleased, though is yet to wear it for anything other than a photo shoot so we will see. I figure at the very least the super soft and snuggly malabrigo yarn will draw him in when the weather gets really cold.

This is the third time I've knit this pattern and it's lost none of its charm - quick, easy and a very well fitted and comfortable garment at the end. I used an applied icord edging to the hood instead of having a casing and draw string and I added a pocket to the front for Wil's frozen hands on walks to the tram stop on cold mornings.

This is the first time I have knit a garment from malabrigo and I have no complaints at all. It is stronger and better behaved than I would have expected from a single and the softness and fuzzing up make it a very appealing winter yarn. I have enough left from this project to make myself a cowl and I think I will.

sublime vanessasublime vanessa

I also finished this felicity hat in gorgeous sublime yarn I received in a swap with Ms T last year. The yarn is aptly named - quite an experience to knit with and the finished product has luster and drape and weight and excellent stitch definition. I will be using this yarn again. The hat is not for me, but the recipient won't be getting it just yet. I immediately cast on a second, also not for me, from the red malabrigo I used on the hoodie.

brew swatch
The hats are a distraction from the much bigger task I have of swatching and planning for a new top for me. I've looked at loads of patterns, and none of them are quite what I want so I think I have to design my own. This is both exciting and daunting. Hence the hats.

one piece machine knit cardi sampleone piece machine knit cardi sample
The knitting machine has been fairly quiet, though I was very excited to test out this little idea. I had been wondering about the possibilities in relation to seamless construction on the machine but couldn't fully grasp in my mind how it could work. I decided that rather than wallow in my own lack of conceptual design skills I would just try it out. For Wil's teddy bear. Of course the sizing was super wrong (see that fold in the back?), but basically it worked. One single piece knitted and shaped using short rows and cast off cast ons. Also a good sized swatch of a kilo cone of fine denim yarn I picked up super cheap. Now to turn the concept in to garment...

retro wip
Progress continues on the retro blanket. 3 and a half rows of 23 hexes, only 16 and a half to go! Woot!

Sewing has been focused on kitting up the taller and lankier girl child who has seemingly either out grown or worn out every cool weather item she has. I am enjoying her emerging sense of style and we now discuss shape and fabric choices in a much more sophisticated way when I am making her clothes. Joy.

First up some slightly oversized flares. I admit to shaving down the width a little and adding elastic to the waist but otherwise these are unchanged from the Ottobre pattern Sarita (1/2009 size 128cm). They have a super chunky hem which I quite like and she loves them. The elephant on the pocket is by the ever generous Ms Ric Rac, the left overs of the great undie print run of 2011. The denim is a very heavy weight bought at the op shop for $2 and already half used to make my overlocker carrier. Damn fine value.

new Tsnew Ts
new Tsnew Ts
Then two long sleeve Ts also from stash fabric. The cartoon print came from a destash over at Twiglet's studio and the plain light grey was from spotlight (a surprisingly thick and soft quality jersey). This one is decorated with iron on transfers Amy got for Christmas. Both made using the same basic fitted T pattern from Ottobre's creative workshop in size 134cm with a little shaved off the shoulders.

And it isn't new but I am nonetheless very much re-enjoying last year's prize knit, the enormous stonewall shawl. I'm also deeply impressed with how well this yarn has held up to an enormous amount of wear - not a single pill in sight - which I think for a silk merino blend is quite the miracle.

There's Thai food too - but I'll save that for it's own post (photo courtesy of Turning Japanese).

Friday, 8 April 2011


In an unstable environment take nothing for granted. Even good people do dumb stuff when the very definition of normal is up for grabs. Be shocked, be appalled, be angry, be sad but don't be surprised.

When people feel threatened they will act out of self interest. They quite likely don't realise it so all the more important that you do and make an independent judgment.

Going with the flow can take you a long way from home. Once you lose your bearings the only thing that counts is keeping your head above water, and all possibility for something more meaningful is lost.

If you are in a situation where you cannot behave in a way you feel proud of, you are in a bad situation and should leave.

Don't stay when you know you should go. But don't expect leaving to be painless. Just because its right, doesn't mean its easy.

You can't control what other people do, only try to control your own response.

It doesn't matter how wrong or outrageous someone else's behaviour is, you need to think through the consequences of your own reaction on them - in the end if you paint someone into a corner, they will come out fighting.

Life is too short to always take the safe or easy option. It's also too short to go from one knee jerk to the next.

* these are my rules, and a reminder for me. They are all obvious and trite, but it seems I am nonetheless good at forgetting them. I am making no claim to universal application rule writing status, so no need to tell me I am not a zen master.

Saturday, 2 April 2011


I couldn't really call two posts in row weekend could I? And yet, really that's all I seem to have to say. Week end.

Another went by.

More days at the spanner works experiencing the deepening craziness. Part farce, part high drama.

A day at the hospital while Amy had her brains scanned for weirdness. An anticlimactic and yet thoroughly draining exercise.

Another knitting machine class, more homework to do.

Joined pintrest and now have a whole other vice to not overindulge in.

Dreaming of making myself a jacket with a hood. And a big standing up kind of rim/collar. Possibly in silver. I have no idea where this image is coming from but it is compelling indeed.

Another round of gai yang, and resulting left overs salad the next day eaten in the sun in the tiny park beside parliament. The best I have made so far. I even remembered to take photos of the finished dish and go back and add them in to the post with the recipe. On fire, eh?

Progress in Wil's hoodie - just the hood to finish and it is done. Starting to wonder what to cast on next and with what yarn.

Progress even on the crochet blanket. While it is still only drops in the ocean I am not yet jaded enough to not do a wee little happy dance on the inside as I say another one done. That's 9 down and 403 to go! Yay! I've also worked out a better sorting and carriage system which means I can transport it without needing to take it all.

I have been following the case of Arthur Freeman and have had some illuminating discussions on legal definitions and insanity. I can't tell you how deeply I've felt this, as I know many have from over here on the side lines. I simply can't begin to imagine the horror of that happening anywhere real and close to me. When I read the lines of Darcy's mother's victim impact statement about still feeling her child's hand in hers, of cuddling her at night I had an inkling. Enough to scare the living daylights out of me. There's been some extra hugs for the rascal lad and sparkly girl. Much admiring of eyes and smiles and shiny hair.

And I am also going to out myself and say I am listening to the audio book of eat, pray, love and despite very low expectations and a lingering image of Julia Roberts I would rather not have, I am really quite enjoying it. I know! I think the author is an excellent narrator and I can say with absolute certainty that I never want to see the film, because all that I do like about the book - the musings and language play - would be totally lost in the drippy scenery of romaticisim. I have had more than a few yearnings in this last week or so about returning to India, about taking a bit more time to think about things. Not in a wanky hippy way you understand. Anyway, pleasant to be surprised.

And now I'm off to set all the clocks back to kiss off another year of daylight saving. Just so the kids can get up at 5.30 tomorrow morning.
take me to Rio